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Greek Myth- Heracles and his twelve labors

Updated on November 25, 2012

Heracles and his twelve labors

Herakles was a greek hero, though perhaps not as we would describe a hero in modern terms, He was a hero in that he accomplished the twelve labours yet he was a destructive and perhaps dishonourable man- in many ways the typical anti hero,

Herakles had faults- he killed his family in a fit of madness and had a reputation for his physical endeavours with women, There was a story that he slept with the 50 daughters of King Thespios in a single nights orgy of love, drinking and gluttony. This reputation led to his death as Herakles wife Deianeira tried to regain his love by giving him a magic potion which was in fact poison and caused him to die. Herakles was taken by his father, who was a God, to heaven and given immortality.

So how did such a foul man become a hero? Herakles was tasked with 12 labours after he killed his family and King Eurystheus was chosen to oversee his attempts at them. The completion of these 12 labors caused the birth of the hero status.

The First Labour of Heracles

The Nemean Lion

There was a massive lion stalking the city of Nemean with a skin so thick that no weapons could penetrate it to kill the lion. Herakles managed to stun the lion with his club and then strangled it. He skinned the animal and thereafter wore his hide for protection because it was so thick and strong,

The Second Labour of Herakles

The Lernean Hydra

The Hydra was a water snake with nine heads who lived deep in the swamps of the Lerna. As Herakles attacked the Hydra he found that for each head he chopped off, two more grew back in its place. Herakles realised that if he cut the head off and cauterised the stump with his torch, then the heads could not grow, In this way he managed to defeat the Hydra.

The Third Labour of Herakles

The Cerynean Hind

The labour involved Herakles capturing but not harming the Cerynean Hind. It was sacred to the Goddess Artemis and was truly an amazing sight with bronze hooves and gold horns. Herakles quietly stalked the animal for over a year and when one day it was quiet he managed to trap the Hind in a net without hurting it.

The Fourth Labour of Herakles

The Eurymathian Boar

This was a vey fierce Boar which Herakles managed to chain. He brought him to King Eurystheus as evidence that he had completed the labour. The king was so scared of the bull that he hid himself inside an urn.

herakles | Source

The Fifth Labour of Herakles

The Augean Stables

King Augeus had never had his stables cleaned and they were piled solid with horse dung and the smell was overpowering, no man could go near them. Herakles was tasked with cleaning the stables out in just one day. In order to get this done he used his intelligence as well as his strength and diverted two nearby rivers to run through the stables and wash the dung and filth away.

The Sixth Labour of Herakles

The Stymphalion Birds

The Stymphalion birds were man eaters with massive beaks and claws and wings of iron. Herakles frightened the birds off the lake by making loud noises by clashing symbols. Once they were in the air he shot them with his arrows.

The Seventh Labour of Herakles

The Cretan Bull

An enormous bull was running around unchecked on the island of Crete. Herakles was able to capture the bull and chain it up- many had tried to capture it but all had failed and were gored to death.

The Eighth Labour of Herakles

The Mares of Diomedes

The God Diamedes fed his wild mares on human flesh asking for sacrifices from his followers. Herakles killed Diomedes and fed his body to the horses who obeyed his command, became very tame and lost their taste for horse flesh.

The ninth Labour of Herakles

Hippolyte's Belt.

Queen Hippolyte wore a special belt around her waist which was given to her by the war god for being such a good warrior. Herakles was told to retrieve her belt. Initially Queen Hippolyte agreed to give it to him, but over night it became clear that this was a ruse to lull Herakles into a less defensive position. Herakles attacked Hippolyte and took the belt and gave it to King Eurystheus.

The Tenth Labour of Herakles

The cattle of Geryon

Geryon was a monster with three bodies, who, with the help of Orthus, his two headed dog, guarded his cattle. Herakles killed both the monster and his dog and drove the cattle home by creating a path through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The Eleventh Labour of Herakles

The apples of Hesperides

Charged to go scrumping apples, what could be simpler? However the orchard was tended by the Hesperides nymphs and guarded by a dragon. Herakles killed the dragon before entering the orchard and stealing the apples.

The twelth Labour of Herakles


Herakles last task was to show King Eurystheus the three headed dog Cerberus who guarded the gates to the Under world. Herakles captured the dog and showed him to the King. As that was all that was required Herakles showed mercy and returned him to the Underworld.


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