12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules: Hercules is one of the most popular and iconic figures in Greek Mythology. He was known for his bravery, masculinity and heroism. Hercules is often regarded as one of the greatest Heroes of Greek mythology. He is famous for his  twelve labours he did while serving his cousin Eurystheus. The Labours of Hercules gave him the status of a demigod and he was also prized with immortality for his brave acts. Let’s take a look at 12 Labours of Hercules which made him the most heroic character in Greek myths.

Nemean Lion

This was Hercules’ first task or labour. Where he was asked by the King to slay a deadly lion who had terrified the people of Nemean. When Hercules reached the town he encountered a roaming lion and shot many arrows at it. Then he realised that the lion’s skin was impenetrable and his arrows were useless. So he decided to take the lion into its cave. He blocked one of his two entrances to the cave, and entered through the other. Hercules then strangled the deadly lion with his bare hands. And later wore that lion’s skin as an armour around his body. 

12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules
12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules (Nemean Lion)

The Lernean Hydra

The Lernaean Hydra was a dangerous nine headed monster that lived in the swamps of Lake Lerna. The hydra had one immortal head and the rest of them were mortal. The swamp was shrouded in a poisonous mist, so when Hercules arrived, he covered his mouth and nose with a cloth. With help of his nephew Hercules was able to cut the 8 mortal heads of the Hydra. At the end he slayed the immortal head of the Hydra and buried it at the side of a road. According to one myth all heads of hydra were immortal, and in place of one head two heads grow, if it is cut. To kill this monster Hercules cut his head and burn the neck, so that it never grow again.

Golden Hind 

The third labour that Hercules performed was capturing a Golden Hind. The Golden Hind was a female red deer with golden horns and bronze hooves. Getting a deer wasn’t a big problem for the Greek hero. But this deer was no ordinary deer, it was the sacred animal of Artemis (the Greek Goddess of hunting and animals). This made the task very difficult for Hercules. As he could not kill or hunt the animal. However Hercules didn’t give up and hunted deer every day for a year. And finally he came across the Golden Hind, he didn’t miss this opportunity and took the deer with him. But on the way he encountered Apollo and Artemis. Hercules told them about his condition and labours. They agreed to let the deer go under a condition that he should bring the deer back unharmed. 

The Erymanthian Boar 

In the fourth task Hercules was ordered to bring a wild boar from the mountains for the King. This wasn’t really a tough task for the Greek Hero. But unfortunately he lost his friend (Pholus) on the journey. While capturing a boar wasn’t a big deal for him, the scared boar ran for its safety but was eventually caught by Hercules. He carried the boar all the way to Mycenae.

12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules
12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules (Capturing Cerberus )

The Augean Stables 

The fifth on the list is the clean up of King Augean’s Stables. And Hercules had to clean up the stables in a single day. The King had huge numbers of cows, bulls, goats, horses and goats. Hercules then made a big opening in the wall of the cattle-yard (where the stables were). Then he made another opening in the wall on the opposite side of the yard. After this Hercules dug wide trenches to two rivers which flowed nearby. The supremely powerful hero turned the course of the rivers into the yard. And the rivers rushed through the stables, flushing all the mess out through the hole in the wall which was on the other side of the yard.

The Stymphalian Birds 

Here Hercules had to defeat “The Stymphalian Birds” and drive them away from the city of Stymphalos. As a huge number of birds used to gather at a lake near the city and some myths even claim that these birds were dangerous man eaters. When he reached there he was unable to drive those birds away from the city. Then Goddess Athena came to his rescue and provided him with a divine noise maker. After this he started clapping the noise maker. When the birds came out of the trees or bushes he shot them with his bow and arrow. 

The Cretan Bull 

The seventh mission of Hercules was to to take on a bull that was terrorizing the residents of Crete. And King Minos granted permission to Hercules for taking away the bull as it was becoming a headache for the King. The Greek hero wrestled with the deadly Cretan Bull and showcased his strength & bravery. Hercules was able to drive the bull away from the city and took it with him to Eurystheus.

12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules
12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules (The Lernean Hydra)

The Horses of Diomedes 

Hercules’ next venture was to bring back the mares from Diomedes (King of Thracian tribe). These were man-eating mares. In this mission Hercules was accompanied by Abderus (who got killed in the act by a mare). While Diomedes got killed by Hercules. Finally Hercules was able to take the mare with him. But before leaving he created a city ‘Abdera’ in honour of Abderus.

Hippolyte’s Belt 

The next labour of Hercules was to obtain Hippolyte’s Belt. Hippolyte was the Queen of Amazons (a tribe of women warriors). The Amazons used to live apart from men and only had female children in the tribe who were trained into becoming warriors. Hippolyte  had a special armour (a leather belt) given by Ares (God of War). When Hercules arrived at the land of the Amazons, Hippolyta came to him and asked the reason for his arrival. Hercules told her the whole story and Hippolyta agreed to give her belt. However Hera (disguised as an Amazon warrior) tricked the Amazons and told the tribe that Hercules was there to take their Queen. Which made the tribe apprehensive and dressed in armour as they confronted Hercules. Hercules saw their armour and weapons and assumed Hippolyta had sent her tribe to kill him. So, Hercules killed Hippolyta and returned with her belt.

The Cattle of Geryon 

This was supposed to be the last labour of Hercules in this cycle. In the 10th labour Hercules was ordered to bring the cattle of Geryon, the monster. Hercules then travelled to the island of Erytheia to retrieve the cattle. On his journey, he killed many beasts in order to locate the cattle. Anyhow, Hercules finally gathered the herd and took them to Eurystheus. Where the herd was sacrificed to Hera by Eurystheus.

12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules
12 Labours of Hercules | 12 Stories of Hercules

Golden Apples 

This is the 11th labour of Hercules, Eurystheus had originally given Hercules ten labours to complete. However, Eurystheus disqualified Hercules for two of his labours. As a result two labours were added in the list, which made it 12 labours in total. In the 11th labour, Hercules had to steal apples from the garden of Hesperides. Hercules travelled the world in search of the apples. Finally Hercules got those apples after teaming up with Atlas (father of Hesperides). For this Hercules had to hold the heavens and earth on his shoulders. Meanwhile Atlas stole the apples from the garden. When Atlas took the heavens and earth back onto his shoulders, Hercules left and delivered the golden apples to Eurystheus.

Capturing Cerberus 

This was the last and final labour of Hercules in this cycle. Here he had to capture Cerberus. Cerberus was the 3 headed dog of Hades (the Ruler of the Underworld). The dog was no less than a monster and used to guard the gates of the Underworld. When Hercules reached the Underworld he asked Hades if he could take his dog with him. The Underworld King agreed but with a condition that he has to fight the beast Cerberus bare handed without any weapon. Hercules had a brutal brawl with the monster but was able to over power it. He carried the dog on his shoulders to Eurystheus. But Cerberus was so deadly & brutal that even Eurystheus got terrified and asked Hercules to take the dog back to the Underworld.

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