The Nemean Lion lived in the neighbourhood of the mountain called Tretus, which is between Mycenae and Nemea, lurking in a cleft at its base. He then brought the lion to Mycenae where Eurystheus , amazed at the sight, ordered him to leave thenceforth the fruits of his Labours before the gates without entering the city.
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The Hydra of Lerna. This beast which ravaged the country was, as the previous one, a child of Typhon and Echidna. Some affirm that the Hydra had a huge body with nine heads, eight of which were mortal, the middle one being immortal; but others have said that it had one hundred heads of serpent, or even countless heads; and still others, perhaps fearing the large amount of thoughts that so many heads could have produced, say that the Hydra had only one head. The Cerynitian Hind The extraordinary triumph over the Hydra, some may think, could have caused the admiration even of Eurystheus ; but to be pleased was not this king's concern, and therefore he limited himself to issue a third command, which was to bring the Cerynitian Hind of the golden horns alive to Mycenae.
This beautiful animal could neither be killed nor wounded, being sacred to Artemis. The Erymanthian Boar. But if the Erymanthian Boar was dead, as some say, the king's reaction would be unlikely or difficult to understand. The Stables of Augeas The fifth labour that Eurystheus prescribed was to carry out the dung of the cattle of King Augeas of Elis in a single day, without the assistance of any other man.
Augeas, who did not believe that possible, agreed; but when he learned that the task had been accomplished at Eurystheus ' command, he not only refused to pay but also denied that he had promised it. These multitude of birds, which destroyed the fruits of the country, could not be subdued by force because of their great number. Some birds called Stymphalian were said to live in the Arabian desert and believed to be as savage against humans as lions or leopards. They were able to pierce armours of bronze or iron, and wound or kill men with their beaks, or by shooting their feathers at them as if they were arrows.
The beast then, having first roamed to Sparta and Arcadia , traversed the Isthmus of Corinth and arrived at Marathon in Attica, where it pestered the inhabitants all it could. This was the end of that labour.
Now these mares, being very savage, were fed in troughs of brass, and on account of their strength, were fastened by iron chains. These cannot be said to be regular mares; for they were carnivorous and fed on the limbs of the strangers that had been caught by the Bistonians.
Such was Eurystheus ' interest in the practical results of the Labours. The Cattle of Geryon The tenth labour that Eurystheus ordered was to fetch the Cattle of Geryon that pastured in Erythia, an island located in the far west in the river Oceanus, or as others say, in that part of Iberia which slope towards the ocean. Geryon himself had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but divided in three from the flanks and thighs. This hound, some say, consorted with its mother and procreated the Sphinx , which harassed the Thebans until Oedipus discovered her riddle.
Some have imagined that this tale did not involve just three persons and one dog, for that would be a children's tale. And they do not believe in the form of Geryon either; for no one has seen such beings. He trapped the lion in a cave and strangled it with his bare hands. He then skinned it and ever after wore the skin as his cloak.
To kill the monster known as the Hydra who had nine venemous heads and, when one was cut off, two more would grow in its place. With his nephew Iolaus, Hercules cut off the heads and Iolaus then seared the necks with a torch to prevent them growing back.
Hercules then dipped his arrows in the Hydra's blood for future use; since it was so venomous, it killed quickly. Because he had help in this labor, Eurystheus would not count it as one of the ten and assigned another. To capture the Cerynitian Hind who was sacred to the goddess Artemis. Hercules spent over a year trying to catch the deer with the golden antlers alive and finally brought it down with an arrow to the hoof.
Even so, Artemis refused to allow him to take the deer - and would have killed him for hunting it - until she heard the story of his labors and let him go. To capture the Erymanthian Boar. This labor took Hercules to the land of the Centaurs, and the wine he had been given to attract the boar drew the centaurs to him. They attacked him and he had to kill many of them but brought the boar back alive to Eurystheus. It was during this labor that he took part in the adventure with the hero Jason and his Argonauts. Cleaning the Stables of Augeius in a day. Eurystheus felt this side-adventure with the Argonauts was an unnecessary luxury on Hercules' part and so devised an impossible task for his next labor.
The stables of King Augeius were immense and his herd vast, and there seemed to be no way for anyone to clean them in a month, let alone a day. Hercules said he would do it but made Augeius promise him a tenth of the herd if he succeeded. Augeius agreed since he knew he could not lose, but Hercules diverted two rivers to flow through the stables and clean them completely.
Augeius then refused to honor the deal he had made. Hercules felt cheated and swore he would return and kill Augeius once he had completed his labors for Eurystheus. Eurystheus, however, told him he could receive no payment for his labors and that, by trying to profit, he had disqualified that labor and would have to do another to make up for it.
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To drive away the Stymphalian Birds who were ravaging the countryside. He accomplished this with a rattle given to him by Athena. The rattle startled the birds who flew away, and Hercules shot them down with his arrows in flight. To bring back the Cretan Bull from Knossos. The bull belonged to King Minos of Crete and was sacred to the god of the seas, Poseidon ; accordingly, it could walk on water. Minos no longer wanted the bull because his wife had fallen in love with it and, in fact, had become pregnant by it giving birth to the Minotaur , and so Minos happily gave the bull to Hercules who rode it across the sea from Crete to Athens and brought it to Eurystheus.
The bull was then released and would cause further trouble throughout Attica until it was finally killed by Theseus. To bring back the Mares of Diomedes. Diomedes was a Thracian king who fed his horses on a steady diet of human flesh so that no one could come near them. Hercules fed Diomedes to the horses and, when they were full, brought them back to Eurystheus. It was during this labor, either going to or coming from Diomedes' palace , that Hercules stopped to visit his old friend Admetus whose wife Alcestis had recently died.
Hercules wrestled death for the soul of Alcestis and returned her to her husband. To bring back Hippolyte's Girdle. Hippolyte was the queen of the Amazons, and her belt girdle was a symbol of her right to rule. The Amazons originally welcomed Hercules but Hera, disguised as one of them, spread a rumor that Hercules had come to kidnap the queen and enslave them.
The women attacked Hercules and Hippolyte was killed in the fight; Hercules then took her belt and left. In another version of this labor, however, no one dies; Hercules kidnaps Hippolyte's sister and ransoms her for the belt and then leaves peacefully. On his return voyage he has many other side-adventures, which further enrage Eurystheus, but he accepts the girdle as a legitimate labor.
To bring back the cattle of Geryon, king of Cadiz. Hercules had many side-adventures on this labor, including inadvertently building the Pillars of Hercules at Gibraltar and threatening to shoot the sun with his arrows for making him too hot.
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When he finally reached Cadiz Spain , he had many problems rounding up the cattle, including having to chase down a bull the herd had to be complete in order to be accepted for the labor. Bringing the cattle back to Greece, Hera sent gadflies to sting the beasts and scattered them, so Hercules had to round them up again. Then the princess Celtine saw Hercules and fell in love with him.
She hid the cattle and would not divulge their whereabouts unless he had sex with her. This he did and so became the father of Celtus, progenitor of the Celts. He finally brought the cattle back to Eurystheus who accepted the labor as legitimate. To bring back the Golden Apples of Hesperides. En route to the sacred grove where the apples grew, Hercules found Prometheus bound to his rock and set him free.
Prometheus was grateful and told him that the apples were guarded by a dragon named Ladon who could not be conquered, and so Hercules should try to get the titan Atlas , who held up the earth and heavens on his shoulders, to get the apples for him. When Hercules reached the grove, Atlas agreed to help, but Hercules would have to shoulder the weight of the world while Atlas went to get the apples. Hercules accepted the load and Atlas got the apples.
When he returned, however, Atlas did not want to take the weight back and was going to leave Hercules in his place.
Hercules cheerfully agreed to stay and hold up the universe but asked Atlas if he could take the weight again for just one moment so that he could adjust his cloak to cushion his shoulders. Atlas took back the universe and Hercules picked up the apples and left. To bring back Cerberus, the guard dog of the underworld. For the last labor, Eurystheus decided on something he knew would be impossible: to bring back, alive, the three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to Hades.
Before he could enter the underworld, Hercules had to become initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries at the sacred city of Eleusis. He then journeyed to Hades, where he had further adventures in the underworld such as freeing his cousin Theseus from the Chair of Forgetfulness where he had been bound. He also spoke with the hero Meleager , with whom he had journeyed with the Argonauts, who told him that, when he returned to earth, he should marry Meleager's sister Deianira.
Hercules was allowed by Hades to take Cerberus provided he did not hurt the dog. He wrestled Cerberus into submission and brought him back to Eurystheus who was so terrified of the animal that he told Hercules all the labors were done and to bring the dog back to where he'd found it. Hercules was now free to do as he pleased with his life and, after all he had accomplished, it might be thought that he would now be able to enjoy his days in peace; this would not be so.
Whether through the trickeries of Hera or his own temper and lack of restraint, Hercules would endure further troubles. He became the property of Queen Omphale of Lydia who made the hero dress in women's clothing and do needlework with the other ladies of the court.
Omphale eventually took him as her lover and then set him free. He then went on an expedition to Troy which, with the help of other heroes, he conquered long before the Trojan War and then became involved in a war with the Titans of Sicily. The Titans had been defeated centuries before by Zeus but had risen again and, according to prophecy, the gods could only win this time with the help of a mortal hero.
Hercules helped to defeat the Titans and rescued the world from chaos and the gods from imprisonment. He then sailed back to Greece to get revenge on Augeius for refusing to honor his agreement when he cleaned out the stables. Hercules was defeated in this battle because he was still weakened from the war with the Titans.
He left Augeius' land and, after further adventures, landed in Calydon where he met and fell in love with the princess Deianira, the sister of Meleager.