The Twelve Labors of Heracles
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How did the labors come about?
• Heracles was born from the • When Heracles had come of
unfaithfulness of Zeus. age, and already proved himself
• Hera, Zeus’ wife, decided to as a holder of heroic strength, he
take revenge on Zeus because of was nearly driven mad by Hera.
this. • She made him so crazy that he,
• As revenge, she put two snake in a fit of anger, killed his own
ito baby Heracles’ crib. But children.
Heracles had superhuman • To atone for this crime, he was
strength and was able to strangle sentenced to perform a series of
them. tasks, or "Labors", for his cousin
• Hera was even angrier after her Eurystheus, the king of Tiryns
plan failed, and decided that to and Mycenae
make up for her failure, she
would make Heracles’ life
The First Labor
• As his first Labor, Heracles was challenged to kill the
• This was no easy feat, for the beast was supernatural
and it was more of a monster than an ordinary lion.
Its skin could not be penetrated by spears or arrows.
• Heracles blocked off the entrances to the lion's cave,
crawled into the close confines where it would have
to fight the lion face to face.
• Heracles throttled it to death with his bare hands.
• Ever afterwards he wore the lion's skin as a cloak and
its gaping jaws as a helmet.
The Second Labor
• After seeing that Heracles returned, King Eurystheus
issued the second Labor.
• Heracles was to seek out and destroy the monstrous and
• Some said that the Hydra had 8 or 9 heads while others
said it had 10,000 heads. All agreed, however, that as
soon as one head was beaten down or chopped off, two
more grew in its place.
• Heracles sought out the monster in its lair and brought it
out into the open. But then the fight went in the Hydra's
favor. It twined its many heads around the hero and tried
to trip him up. It called on an ally, a huge crab that also
lived in the lair. The crab bit Heracles in the heel and
further hindered his attack.
The Second Labor (continued)
• Iolaus, who had driven Heracles to Lerna in a chariot,
looked on in worry as his uncle became entangled in the
Hydra's snaky heads.
• In response, he grabbed a burning torch and dashed into
the battle. Now, as soon as Heracles cut off one of the
Hydra's heads, Iolaus was there to char the wounded neck
with flame. This kept further heads from sprouting.
• Finally Heracles sliced off the one head that was
supposedly immortal and buried it deep beneath a rock to
prevent it from further regeneration.
The Third Labor
• The third Labor was the • Taking careful aim with
capture of the Cerynitian his bow, he fired an arrow
hind. between the tendons and
• Though a female deer, this bones of the two forelegs,
animal had golden horns. pinning it down without
It was sacred to Artemis, drawing blood.
goddess of the hunt, so • All the same, Artemis was
Heracles dared not wound displeased, but Heracles
it. dodged her wrath by
• He hunted it for an entire blaming his taskmaster,
year before running it Eurystheus.
down on the banks of the
River Ladon in Arcadia.
The Fourth Labor
• The fourth Labor took Heracles back to Arcadia in
quest of an enormous boar, which he was challenged
to bring back alive.
• While tracking it down he stopped to visit the centaur
Pholus and ask him where the boar was. He was not
saying a word. Then, Pholus was examining one of
the hero's arrows when he accidentally dropped it on
his foot. Because it had been soaked in poisonous
Hydra venom, Pholus told Heracles everything.
• Heracles finally located the boar on Mount
Erymanthus and managed to drive it into a
snowbank, immobilizing it.
• Flinging it up onto his shoulder, he carried it back to
The Fifth Labor
• Eurystheus was very pleased with himself for
dreaming up the next Labor, which he was
sure would humiliate his heroic cousin.
Heracles was to clean out the stables of King
Aegeus in a single day.
• Augeas had huge herds of cattle which had
deposited their manure in such quantity over
the years that a thick aroma hung over the
• Instead of employing a shovel and a basket as
Eurystheus imagined, Heracles diverted two
rivers through the stableyard and got the job
done without getting dirty.
The Sixth Labor
• The sixth Labor pitted Heracles against the
Stymphalian birds, who inhabited a marsh near Lake
Stymphalus in Arcadia.
• It was said that the Stymphalian birds feasted on human
• Heracles could not approach the birds to fight them -
the ground was too swampy to bear his weight and too
mucky to wade through.
• Finally he resorted to some castanets given to him by
the goddess Athena. By making a racket with these, he
caused the birds to fly away.
• Before they got too far, Heracles brought them down by
the dozens with his arrows
The Seventh Labor
• Queen Pasiphae of Crete had • The bull was an easy
been “inspired” by a vengeful opponent, as all the hero had
god to fall in love with a bull. to do was overpower it, and
• Pasiphae's husband was then ship it back to the
understandably eager to be mainland
rid of the bull, which was
also destroying the Cretan
countryside, so Heracles was
assigned the task as his
The Eighth Labor
• Next Heracles was instructed • In another, they satisfied
to bring Eurystheus the their appetites on the hero's
mares of Diomedes. squire, a young man named
• These horses dined on the
flesh of travelers who made • In any case, Heracles soon
the mistake of accepting rounded them up and herded
Diomedes' hospitality. them down to sea .
• In one version of the myth, • Once he had shown them to
Heracles pacified the beasts Eurystheus, he released
by feeding them their own them. They were eventually
master. eaten by wild animals on
The Ninth Labor
• The ninth Labor took Heracles to the land of the Amazons,
to retrieve the belt of their queen for Eurystheus' daughter.
• The Amazons were a race of warrior women.
• Heracles recruited a number of heroes to accompany him
on this expedition.
• As it turned out, the Amazon queen, Hippolyte, willingly
gave Hercules her belt, but Hera was not about to let the
hero get off so easily.
• The goddess stirred up the Amazons with a rumor that the
Greeks had captured their queen, and a great battle ensued.
• Heracles escaped from this battle and made off with the
The Tenth Labor
• As his next labor, Eurystheus • Geryon was killed as well,
ordered the hero to bring him and Heracles drove the herd
the cattle of the monster back to Greece
• Geryon had three heads
and/or three separate bodies
from the waist down. His
watchdog, Orthrus, had only
• The hound Orthrus rushed at
Heracles as he was making
off with the cattle, and the
hero killed him with a single
blow from his wooden club.
The Eleventh Labor
• As his eleventh labor, Heracles • These were kept in a grove
was told to retrieve the apples of surrounded by a high wall and
the Hesperides guarded by Ladon, a many-
• The Hesperides were nymphs headed dragon.
entrusted by the goddess Hera • Heracles had been told that he
with certain apples which she would never get the them
had received as a wedding without the aid of Atlas. He
present. found Atlas and Atlas agreed to
help, but only if Heracles would
hold a pillar after he defeated
the dragon with arrows.
• Atlas retrieved the apples, and
whist doing this, he realized
how nice it was to not live with
strain. He was reluctant to come
back, but Hercules tricked him
The Twelfth Labor
• As his final Labor, Heracles was • The greater challenge was
instructed to bring the hellhound Cerberus, who had razor teeth,
Cerberus up from Hades. three (or maybe fifty) heads, a
• Heracles had some trouble venomous snake for a tail and
getting past the Charon the another swarm of snakes
Boatman, because in order to growing out of his back.
enter the Underworld, you had • The creature began to lash at
to be dead and have a coin him, but fortunately, the hero
under your tongue. was wearing his trusty lion's
• Heracles’ fierceness had <>
skin, which was impenetrable.
convinced Charon to take him • Heracles eventually choked
over the river. Cerberus into submission and
dragged him to Tiryns, where he
received due credit for this final
Works Cited List
• “Labor Two: The Hydra.” Myth Web. 19
<http://www.mythweb.com/ ercules/ erch
• “The 12 Labors of Heracles.” Perseus
Project. 2009. 18 Feb. 2009