12 Labors of Hercules

Hercules killing the Hydra

12 Labors of Hercules

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12 Labors of Hercules


History, Facts and Information about the 12 Labors of Hercules

The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about the mythology surrounding the 12 Labors of Hercules. This myth is shared by the Greeks and the Romans. King Eurystheus first set ten labors for the hero Hercules (Heracles in Greek). When Hercules completed all of the tasks successfully Eurystheus claimed that the cleansing of the Augean stables and the killing of the Lernaean Hydra were not completed by Hercules alone. Hercules was therefore set two further tasks bringing the total number of tasks up to twelve. They were forever referred to as the 12 Labors of Hercules. For additional information about the life of Hercules and Roman Mythology please click one of the following links:

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Hercules Mythology - The 12 Labors of Hercules
Hercules has to complete 12 years of penance for killing his children in a fit of madness. Not all the ancient classical authors gave the labors in exactly the same order. The order of the 12 labors described are according to Apollodorus of Athens (c180 BC - c120 BC). The extra Labors of Hercules are numbered 11 and 12. The final 12 Labors of Hercules are described as follows:

  1. Kill the Nemean lion and bring back its skin

  2. Destroy the Lernean hydra

  3. Capture alive the Erymanthian boar

  4. Capture alive the Ceryneian stag

  5. Kill the Stymphalian birds

  6. Clean the Augean stables

  7. Bring the Cretan bull alive into Peloponnesus

  8. Obtain the horses of Diomedes

  9. Steal the girdle of Hippolyta

  10. Herd the cattle of Geryon

  11. Obtain the apples of Hesperides.

  12. Capture Cerberus

Details of all the tasks and how the hero surmounted all the obstacles and completed the 12 Labors of Hercules are described below.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 1 to Kill the Nemean Lion
The first of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to kill the Nemean lion and bring back its skin. The Nemean Lion could not be wounded by any weapon so he strangled the lion with his bare hands.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 2 to Kill the Lernean hydra
The second of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to Destroy the Lernean hydra. The Lernean hydra was a serpent-like sea monster that possessed numerous heads which when cut off two heads would grow in its place. Hercules cut off each of the heads and sealed them with a burning torch to prevent reproduction. Hercules took some of the poisonous blood of the hydra which he kept for future labors. He buried the last,, immortal, head under a rock.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 3 to Capture the Erymanthian boar
The third of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to capture the Erymanthian boar alive. The Erymanthian boar was a great beast that had its lair on Mount Erímanthos. The hero drove the boar into thick snow and was able to capture the beast.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 4 to Capture the Ceryneian stag
The fourth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to Capture alive the Ceryneian stag. This was a stag with golden horns and bronze hoofs that was sacred to the goddess of the hunt. The stag was so swift that it could outrun an arrow in flight. Hercules chased the stag on foot for a full year and eventually captured the stag when it stopped to drink

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 5 to Kill the Stymphalian birds
The fifth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to Kill the Stymphalian birds. The Stymphalian birds were a huge flock of man-eating birds with bronze beaks, claws, and wings that lived near Lake Stymphalus and were the pets of the god of war. Hercules used huge bronze clappers to scare the birds into flight when he shot them down with his catapult.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 6 to Clean the Augean stables
The sixth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to clean the Augean stables in just one day. The Augean stables housed by thousands of cattle and had not been cleaned for 30 years. He diverted the streams of two rivers, causing them to flow through the stables.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 7 to Capture the Cretan bull
The seventh of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to capture the Cretan bull alive and take it into Peloponnesus. It was a mad bull that  the god of the sea had sent to terrorize Crete. Hercules choked the bull into submission and captured it alive.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 8 to Obtain the Horses of Diomedes
The eighth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to steal the horses of Diomedes. These were four man-eating mares belonging to to the giant Diomedes. Hercules killed the giant and fed his body to the mares. After they were fed the mares became controllable and the hero bound their mouths shut and took them back to King Eurystheus 

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 9 to Steal the Girdle of Hippolyta
The nineth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to steal the girdle of Hippolyta. Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, was willing to help Hercules but the goddess Hera interfered making the Amazons believe that he was going to abduct their queen. The Amazons attacked and Hippolyta was killed. The girdle was given to King Eurystheus who wanted the girdle as a gift to his daughter.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 10 to Herd the Cattle of Geryon
The tenth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to herd the cattle of Geryon. Geryon was a three-headed monster with three bodies and a total of six arms. Hercules killed Orthrus the watchdog of the oxen of Geryon. He then killed the outraged Geryon with an arrow that had been dipped in the venomous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Hercules then had to herd the cattle back to Eurystheus. But Hera once again interfered and sent a gadfly to scatter them. Our hero recaptured the cattle and when they were returned they were sacrificed on an altar to Hera.

The 12 Labors of Hercules - Task 11 to Steal the Apples of Hesperides
The eleventh  of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to steal the apples from the garden of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were nymphs who tended a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world. Atlas was the father of the Hesperides. Atlas had sided with the Titans in their war against the Olympians and as a punishment Zeus sentenced Atlas to to hold the Earth on his shoulders. Hercules offered to hold the heavens for a short while in exchange for the apples. Atlas agreed and retrieved the apples. Atlas did not wish to resume his burden, but Hercules tricked Atlas into taking the world back.

The 12 Labors - Task 12 to capture Cerberus the 3-headed Dog
The twelfth of the 12 Labors of Hercules was to capture Cerberus the 3 headed dog  Cerberus was the three headed savage dog with a snake for a tail and snakes down his back like a mane which guarded the entrance to Hades (Hell) and was one of the hellhounds. The god of the underworld agreed to Hercules taking the dog as long as he used no weapons to capture Cerberus. Hercules was so strong that he was able to wrestle the dog into submission.

12 Labors of Hercules
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12 Labors of Hercules

 
12 Labors of Hercules

  • Facts and information about 12 Labors of Hercules
  • Classical Mythology
  • Greek and Roman Mythology
  • Facts and interesting information about 12 Labors of Heracles
  • Pagan Greek and Roman Myths, Legends and Stories
  • The society, culture and life of the Romans
  • Ancient history, facts and interesting information about Roman and Greek mythology

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12 Labors of Hercules