Whether you are passionate about Greek mythology or not, you must have heard about the great hero and demigod Hercules. The son of the god Zeus and the mortal Alcmene, Hercules did many glorious acts. However, there came a darker time in his life when he became insane and ended up killing his wife Megara and their children. After he recovered, he visited the oracle of Delphi where he was instructed to serve king Eurystheus for twelve years. This king was placed on the throne by Zeus’ wife Hera who nurtured feelings of hatred towards our hero. However, Hercules agreed to perform various tasks for Eurystheus in exchange for achieving immortality, and more importantly, be forgiven for his previous crime. Here are the 12 labors of Hercules, which could only be completed by a true son of the gods.
1. Bring the Skin of the Nemean Lion
First of all, the hero had to take the skin of a certain lion from Nemea, who had been slaughtering the locals. His skin had the magical property of being so tough that nothing in the world could pierce it. Hercules had a challenging confrontation with the beast, but in the end he managed to stun and strangle the lion with nothing but his bare hands. Afterwards, he took its skin by using the claws of the beast and he often wore the hide during battles.
2. Kill the Lernean Hydra
The second labor of Hercules involved the Hydra, a much trickier monster than the lion. It had nine heads that could not only bite our hero, but also gravely poison him. Furthermore, if he attempted to cut off one of the heads, another two would instantly grow. Fortunately, Hercules asked for the help of Iolaus who sealed each stump of each head with fire, thus preventing any more from growing. The hero poisoned his arrows with the blood of the beast.
3. Capture the Erymanthian boar
This particular boar terrorized the people living near Mount Erymanthus. In spite of the fierceness of the beast, Hercules managed to drive it into a snowdrift and use a net for its capture. Upon seeing the boar with his own eyes, King Eurystheus was so frightened he hid inside a big bronze jar.
4. Capture the Ceryneian stag
The trials of Hercules also involved capturing Artemis’ beloved deer. Artemis was the goddess of the hunt and wilderness, and the hero had to be extremely careful as to not upset her. It took him a whole year to catch the stag, but in the end he managed to complete the challenge without hurting the beast.
5. Slay the Stymphalian birds
Named after the lake where they made their nests, these birds were true murderers. Hercules had to avoid their sharp claws and feathers which flew like darts. However, he had an ingenious plan: after scaring them from their nests, he slayed them one by one with his special arrows poisoned with the blood of the Hydra.
6. Clear the Augean stables
If until now most labors of Hercules involved him fighting or chasing, this task was quite different. Our hero was ordered to clean the stables of King Augeas, which housed thousands of cows and have not been cleaned in a very long time, more precisely in thirty years. Hercules was given only a day to finish this task. It does seem impossible, even for a demigod. But the hero proved once more his cleverness as he bent the courses of two rivers and made them flow right into the stables, thus clearing them completely.
7. Drive the Cretan bull into Peloponnesus
Another mad beast which left chaos in its way was the bull from Crete, belonging to King Minos. Hercules had to avoid the fiery breath of the mad bull and wrestle with it in order to bring it to King Eurystheus. However, the king decided to let the beast roam freely, and thus the bull returned to torment the people of Greece.
8. Procure Diomedes’ Horses
Hercules also had to capture some bloodthirsty horses belonging to King Diomedes. The mad king fed human flesh to his pets. You might wonder if such an anomaly of nature could be reversed. Well, our hero found yet another solution as he killed King Diomedes and fed him to the horses, which become tame once more. Thus, Hercules was able to take them to Eurystheus.
9. Steal Hippolyta’s girdle
Parlaying with the Amazons was another part of the 12 labors of Hercules. The queen of the fierce women, Hippolyta, asked for Eurystheus’ daughter in exchange for her golden girdle. However, the goddess Hera managed to make the Amazons believe that the hero was an enemy. In the end, Hercules was forced to conquer them and steal the belt.
10. Herd Geryon’s cattle
For this task, our hero had to defeat the monster Geryon, who had three human bodies and wings, as well as his two-headed dog and his giant bodyguard. After a fierce battle, he managed to lead the beautiful red cattle of Geryon back to King Eurystheus.
11. Gather the apples of the Hesperides
If you have ever been interested in Hercules myths, you might have heard that he once held the entire earth on his shoulders. In order to take the golden apples of the nymphs named the Hesperides, the hero had to confront a 100-headed dragon. However, the decided he could finish the task more easily with the help of their father, Atlas. Thus, as Atlas went to gather the apples, Hercules had to support the earth in his place.
12. Capture Cerberus
Lastly, the hero had to bring Cerberus to King Eurystheus. Cerberus was the famous huge, three-headed dog that guarded the realm of underworld, ruled by the god Hades. After making him submit, Hercules took him to the king and later on released him to return to his guard duties.