ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

King Eurystheus in Greek Mythology

Updated on May 30, 2016

Heracles is arguably the most famous figure from Greek mythology, with the importance of the demi-god referenced by the fact that his life was incorporated wholesale into Roman mythology, where the son of Zeus was known as Hercules.

Heracles is remembered for his legendary strength, and is remembered for undertaking 12 Tasks or Labours. Most people though are probably unaware of why the Labours of Heracles were set, or who set them.

Why Twelve Labours for Heracles?

The person who set the Labours of Heracles was King Eurystheus of Mycenae, and his story we will come on to shortly; as to why the Labours were set are in essence an act of penance for Heracles.

Heracles was the son of the supreme deity Zeus, and the mortal queen Alcmene, and the birth of Heracles was a clear sign of the infidelity of Zeus. Hera, the wife of Zeus, therefore did everything she could to get rid of Heracles. One plan put in place by Hera saw the goddess Lyssa dispatched to the home of Heracles; Lyssa was the goddess of raging madness, and under her influence, Heracles killed his wife Megara and his children.

When he came back to his sense Heracles visited the Oracle of Delphi to find out how to atone for his crime, and it was the Pythia who told the demi-god to place him in the servitude of King Eurystheus for a period of time (either 10 or 12 years).

King Eurystheus and Heracles

An Early Prophecy

The lives of King Eurystheus and Heracles had been intertwined since before they were born.

Zeus had made a proclamation that on a certain day a new king of Mycenae would be born from the line of Perseus; and of course, Zeus intended that his new king was to be his unborn son Heracles. Hera though had other plans, and the goddess sought to manipulate the proclamation.

Hera would cause the wife of Sthenelus to give birth early to her son (Sthenelus being the son of Perseus and Nicippe), whilst at the same time, the goddess delayed Alcmene (the granddaughter of Perseus and wife of Amphitryon), from giving birth to Heracles and Iphicles.

Zeus could not change his proclamation, and so from that day forth, Eurystheus was just a pawn indebted to Hera.

The Twelve Labours of Heracles

  • the killing of the Nemean Lion
  • the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra
  • the capture of the Golden Hind
  • the capture of the Erymanthian Boar
  • the cleansing of the Augean stables
  • the killing of the Stemphalian Birds
  • the capture of the Cretan Bull
  • the theft of the Mares of Diomedes
  • the gaining of the Girdle of Hippolyta
  • the capture of Geryon’s cattle
  • the theft of the Hesperides’ apples
  • the capture of Cerberus

The 12 Labours Set by King Eurystheus

When Heracles arrived in Mycenae, King Eurystheus set about allocating tasks for him to complete. Each task was prompted by the cajoling of Hera, and each task was assumed to be impossible and in most cases deadly.

Whilst not necessarily easy, none of the Labours proved to be deadly, and although King Eurystheus would discount the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra and the cleansing of the Augean Stables, prompting two more Labour to be enacted, eventually the 12 year servitude of Heracles came to an end.

Faced with many of the beasts captured by Heracles, King Eurystheus had shown a cowardly streak, and now with Heracles’ penance paid, the King of Mycenae was afraid that he would lose his kingdom to the son of Zeus. Thus, King Eurystheus banished Heracles from the whole of the Argolis region.

Eurystheus Hiding in a Jar

The Downfall of King Eurystheus

Heracles would go on to complete many other adventures, but King Eurystheus was always fearful of his return, and even when news of the death of Heracles reached Mycenae, the fear did not abate. Eurystheus would gather a large army and set out to kill all of the descendents of Heracles (the Heraclids/Heracleidae).

One of the most important of the Heraclids was Hyllus, the oldest son of Heracles and Deianira, and he along with several other Heraclids, fell back to Athens, in search of sanctuary.

When Eurystheus arrived at Athens, the Athenians refused to surrender their protectees, and so a battle followed. It was though the Mycenaean army which was bested in the fight, and at Athens King Eurystheus was killed.

Whilst Hyllus was unable to take the throne of Mycenae subsequently, myth and history would become intertwined, for eventually Dorian kings, claiming to be themselves descendents of Heracles, would take the thrones of Argos, Sparta, and Mycenae.


Submit a Comment

No comments yet.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)