Part of the Twelve Labors (in this article):

  1. Augean Stables – an interesting feat that involves washing the stables from toxic cattle excrement given to Helios’ son by his father.
  2. The Cretan bull – the raging bull ravaging everything because of Poseidon’s rage, Hercules catches him and carries him on his shoulders to Tirins.
  3. The Thracian King Diomedes – the feat in which Hercules must steal Diomedes’ man-eating horses.
  4. Queen of the Amazons Hippolyta – the task to steal a belt from the Queen of the Amazons Hippolyta.

Related articles:

Hercules/Heracles Myths And The Twelve Labors – Part 1
Hercules/Heracles Myths and The twelve Labors – Part 2 
Myths of Hercules/Heracles – Part 4 – Cattle, Fearsome Cerberus and the Golden Apples 
Myths of Hercules/Heracles – Part 5 – Siege of Troy 
Myths of Hercules/Heracles – Part 6 – The Death of Hercules

Augean Stables (Sixth Labor)

Heracles diverted the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to clear the Augean stables. Roman mosaic, 3rd century AD

Eurystheus soon assigned Heracles a new task. He was to expel all manure from the stables of Augius, king of Elis and son of the radiant Helios, the God of the sun gave his son innumerable riches. The herds of cattle of Augius were especially numerous. Among his flocks were three hundred bulls with snow-white legs, two hundred bulls as red as Sidon purple, twelve bulls dedicated to the god Helios were white as swans, and one bull, of extraordinary beauty, shone like a star. Heracles offered Augius to clean his huge stables in one day if he agreed to give him a tenth of his flocks. Augius agreed. It seemed impossible to him to do such work in one day. But Heracles broke through the wall that surrounded the barn on both opposite sides and stopped the waters of two rivers, the Alpheus and the Peneus, from flowing through it. The waters of these rivers carried all the manure from the barn in one day, and Heracles rebuilt the walls. When the hero went to Augius to claim the reward, the proud king did not give him the promised one-tenth of the flock, and Heracles had to return to Tiryns empty-handed.

The great hero took terrible revenge on the king of Elis. A few years later, having already vacated his service with Eurystheus, Heracles invaded Elis with a large army, defeated Augius in a bloody battle, and killed him with one of his deadly arrows. After the victory, Heracles gathered his army and gathered all the rich booty near the city of Pisa, sacrificed to the Olympic gods and started the Olympic Games, which have since been held by all Greeks every four years on the sacred plain, which Heracles himself had planted with olive trees. trees dedicated to the goddess Athena Paladas.

Heracles also avenged all of Augean’s allies. King Neleus of Pylos paid especially dearly. When he reached Pylos with his troops, Heracles captured the city, killed Neleus and killed his eleven sons. Neleus’ son Pericles did not escape either, to whom the ruler of the sea Poseidon gave the gift to turn into a lion, a serpent and a bee. Heracles killed him when, turning into a bee, Pericles climbed on one of the horses harnessed to Heracles’ chariot. Nestor’s only son Nestor survived. He later became famous among the Greeks for his exploits and great wisdom.

Cretan bull (Seventh Labor)

Heracles presses the Cretan bull to the ground (engraving by B. Picart, 1731)

Heracles had to leave Greece and go to the island of Crete to fulfill the seventh order given to him by Eurystheus. Eurystheus commissioned him to bring the Cretan bull to Mycenae. This bull was sent to the Cretan king Minos, son of Europe, by the earthquake Poseidon; Minos had to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon. But Minos was tired of sacrificing such a beautiful bull, and he left it in his herd and sacrificed one of his bulls to Poseidon. Poseidon became angry with Minos and infuriated the bull coming from the sea. The bull roamed the whole island, destroying everything in its path. The great hero Heracles caught the bull and tamed it. Hercules rode the broad-backed bull and swam with it to the sea from Crete to the Peloponnese. He took the bull to Mycenae, but Eurystheus was afraid to leave Poseidon’s bull in his herd and set him free. Feeling free again, the raging bull flew north across the Peloponnese and finally reached Attica on the Marathon Field. There he was killed by the great Athenian hero Theseus.

The Mares of Diomedes (Eighth Labor)

After taming the Cretan bull, Heracles, by order of Eurystheus, was to go to Thrace to the king of the busts, Diomedes. This king had wonderfully beautiful and strong horses. They were tied with iron chains to their mangers, as no bukai could keep them from fleeing. King Diomedes fed these horses human flesh. He gave them to eat all the foreigners who, fleeing the storms, stopped their ships in his city. It was at this Thracian king that Heracles appeared with his companions. He grabbed Diomedes’ horses and took them to his ship. Diomedes with his warlike bison caught up with Heracles on the shore. Assigning his pet Abder, the son of Hermes, to guard the horses, Hercules went into battle with Diomedes. Although there were not many people accompanying Heracles, Diomedes was defeated and fell in battle. Heracles saw that the wild horses had torn apart his pet Abder. He arranged a magnificent funeral for his pet, built a high mound on his grave, laid the foundations of a city near the grave, and named Abdera Abdera in honor of his pet. Heracles took Diomedes’ horses to Eurystheus, but he ordered them released. The wild horses fled to the mountains of Like, covered with dense forest, and there they were torn to pieces by wild beasts.

Jean-Baptiste Marie Pierre – Diomedes King of Thrace, killed by Hercules and swallowed by his own horses, 1752

Hercules at Admetus

When Heracles sailed on his ship at sea to the shores of Thrace to abduct the horses of King Diomedes, he decided to visit his friend King Admetus, as his way passed the city of Fera, where Admetus ruled.

Heracles chose a difficult time for his visit to Admetus. Great sorrow reigned in the house of the king of the king. His wife, Alcestis, was to die. Once the goddesses of fate, the great moiras, at the request of Apollo, decreed that Admetus could be saved from death if, in the last hour of his life, someone voluntarily agreed to descend instead of him into the dark realm of Hades. When the hour of his death came, Admetus asked his very old parents for one of them to agree to die in his place, but his parents refused. He did not agree to die voluntarily instead of King Admetus and none of the inhabitants of Fera. Then the young, beautiful Alcestida decided to sacrifice her life for her beloved husband. The day Admett was to die, his wife was preparing to die. She washed her body and put on funeral clothes and jewelry. As she approached the hearth, Alcestis turned to the goddess Hestia, who gives happiness at home, with fervent prayer:

“Oh, great goddess! For the last time, I bend my knees here in front of you. Please protect my orphans, for I must descend today into the realm of gloomy Hades. Oh, don’t let them die prematurely, as I die! May their life here in the homeland be happy and rich.”

Alcestis then circled all the altars of the gods and adorned them with myrtle.

At last she retired to her rooms and lay down on her bed, weeping. Her children came to her – a son and a daughter. They wept bitterly at their mother’s breast. Alcestida’s maids also cried. Admetus desperately hugged his young wife and begged her not to leave him. Alcestis is now ready to face death; with unheard footsteps, the god of death, hated by the gods and men, Thanatos, is now approaching the palace of the king of the king, to cut a lock of hair from the head of Alcestis with a sword. The golden-haired Apollo himself begged him to postpone the hour of the death of the wife of his beloved Admetus, but Thanatos was relentless. Alcestis senses the approach of death. In horror she cries out:

“Oh, Charon’s two-oar boat is already approaching me, and as I drive the boat, the carrier of the souls of the dead shouts at me terribly, ‘What are you waiting for?’ Hurry, hurry! There is no time! Don’t hold us back! Everything is ready! Hurry up! Oh, let me go! My legs don’t hold me. Death is approaching. Black night covers my eyes! Oh, children, children! Your mother is leaving now! Live happily! Admet, your life is more precious to me than my own life. Let the sun shine on you, not on me. Admet, you loved our children no less than I did. Oh, don’t bring their stepmother home so she doesn’t offend them!”

The unfortunate Admet suffers.

“You take all the joys of life with you, Alcestido!” He shouted. “I’ll grieve for you for the rest of my life.” Oh gods, what a wife you are taking from me!

Barely heard Alcestida says:

“Farewell! My eyes were closed forever. Forgive me, children! I’m nothing now. Farewell, Admet!”

“Oh, look at least one more time! Don’t leave the children! Oh, let me die too! Admetus cried with tears in his eyes.”

Alcestis’ eyes closed, her body cooled, she died. He weeps inconsolably over the dead Admetus and mourns his fate bitterly; He orders a magnificent funeral for his wife. He ordered everyone in town to complain for eight months to Alcestis, the best of women. The whole city is filled with sorrow, as everyone loved the good queen.

People were ready to carry Alcestis’ body to her tomb when Heracles arrived in the city of Fera. He goes to Admet’s palace and meets his friend at the palace gates. Admetus honored the great son of the aegis-bearer Zeus. Not wanting to sadden his guest, Admetus tries to hide his unhappiness from him. But Hercules immediately noticed that his friend was deeply saddened, and asked him what was the cause of his grief. Admetus gives Heracles a vague answer, and Heracles thinks that a distant relative of Admetus, whom the king sheltered in her house after the death of her father, has died. Admetus orders the servants to take Heracles to the guest room and arrange a rich feast for him. and the doors of the female half of the house should be closed so that the groans of the mourners do not reach Heracles’ ears. Unaware of the misfortune that had befallen his friend, Heracles feasted merrily at Admetus’s palace. He drinks glass after glass. It is difficult for the servants to serve the merry guest – they know that their beloved mistress is no longer alive. No matter how hard they try, on Admetus’ orders, to hide their grief, Hercules notices the tears in their eyes and the sadness on their faces. He invites one of the servants to feast with him, tells him that the wine will make him forgetful and that he will erase the wrinkles of grief on his forehead, but the servant refuses. He begins to ask the servant what happened to his friend, and finally the servant says:

“Oh, stranger, Admetus’ wife has descended into the realm of Hades today.”

Hercules was sad. It bothered him that with an ivy wreath on his head he was feasting and singing in the house of his friend, whom such a great misfortune had befallen. Heracles decided to thank the noble Admetus, because he, despite the misfortune that befell him, still welcomed him so hospitably. The great hero quickly had the decision to take his booty Alcestida from the dark god of death Thanatos.

When he learned from the servant where the tomb of Alcestis was, he hurried to go there. He hid behind the tomb. Hercules waits for Thanatos to fly to the tomb with sacrificial blood. There was a noise from the fluttering of Thanatos’s black wings, a grave grave cold; the gloomy god of death flew to the tomb and thirstily bit his lip to drink sacrificial blood. Hercules jumped out of his ambush and threw himself on Thanatos. He grabbed the god of death with his powerful hands and a terrible struggle began between them. Hercules exerts all his strength, fights the god of death. Thanatos, clutching Heracles’ chest tightly with his bony hands, breathed on him with his icy breath, and a mortal coldness wafted from his wings over the hero. However, the mighty son of the thunderer Zeus defeated Thanatos. He bound him and asked as a ransom to free the god of death, to bring Alcestis back to life. Thanatos gave Heracles the life of Admetus’ wife, and the great hero led her back to her husband’s palace.

Admetus, on the other hand, returning to the palace after his wife’s funeral, bitterly lamented the irreplaceable loss. It was hard for him to sit in the deserted palace. Where to go? He envies the dead. Life is hated for him. He calls for death. Thanatos stole all his happiness and took him to the kingdom of Hades. What could be worse for him than the loss of his beloved wife! Admet regrets that Alcestida did not allow him to die with her, then death would bind them together. Hades would receive two faithful souls instead of one. These souls would cross Acheron together. Suddenly, Heracles confronted the grieving Admetus. He leads a woman covered in a veil. Heracles begs to leave with Admetus in the palace, until he returns from Thrace, the woman he has acquired after a hard struggle. Admet refuses; he begs Heracles to take the woman to another man. It was hard for Admet to see another woman in his palace when he lost the one he loved so much. Heracles insists and even wants Admetus himself to bring the woman into the palace. He does not allow Admetus’ servants to touch her. After all, Admetus, unable to refuse his friend, takes the woman by the hand to lead her into his palace. Hercules tells him:

“You took her, Admetus! And so keep it! Now you can say that the son of Zeus is your faithful friend. So look at the woman! Doesn’t she look like your wife Alcestida? Stop grieving! Be happy with life again.”

“Oh, great gods!”, Admetus shouted as he lifted the woman’s veil. “My wife Alcestida! Oh no, it’s just her shadow! She stands silent, not a word!”

“No, it is not her shadow,” said Heracles, “it is Alcestis. I won it in a hard fight with the lord of souls Thanatos. She will be silent until she frees herself from the power of the underworld gods by offering atoning sacrifices to them; he will be silent until three times the night changes the day; only then will he speak. And now forgive me, Admetus! Be happy and always observe the wonderful custom of hospitality, consecrated personally by my father Zeus!”

“Oh, great son Zeus, you gave me back the joy of life! Admetus shouted: “How to thank you? Stay with me as a guest. I will order them to celebrate your victory in all my possessions, I will order them to offer great sacrifices to the gods. Stay with me!”

Hercules did not stay with Admetus; a feat awaited him: he was to fulfill the order of Eurystheus by delivering to him the horses of King Diomedes.

The Girdle of Hippolyta (Ninth Labor)

Heracles’ ninth labor was his march to the Amazon to obtain the girdle/belt of Queen Hippolyta. This girdle was given to Hippolytus by the god of war Ares and she wore it as a symbol of her power over all the Amazons. Eurystheus’ daughter Admetus, priestess of the goddess Hera, wanted to have this belt. To fulfill her wish, Eurystheus sent Heracles by the girdle. Gathering a small detachment of heroes, the great son of Zeus set out on a long journey with only one ship. Although the detachment of Heracles was not large, there were many famous heroes in it, including the great hero of Attica Theseus.

The heroes have a long way to go. They had to reach the farthest shores of the Euxine Pontus, as there was the country of the Amazons with the capital Temiskira. On the way, Heracles stopped with his companions on the island of Paros, where the sons of Minos ruled. On this island, the sons of Minos killed two of Heracles’ companions. Angered by this, Heracles immediately started a war with the sons of Minos. He killed many inhabitants of Paros, and others, by pushing them into the fortress, kept them under siege until the besieged sent envoys to Heracles and asked him to take two of them instead of the slain companions. Then Heracles raised the siege and in exchange for the slain took Minos’ grandsons Alcaeus and Stenel.

From Paros, Heracles went to Moesia to King Lik, who greeted him with great hospitality. Unexpectedly, Lik was attacked by the king of the Bebri. Heracles and his detachment defeated the king of the Bebrics and destroyed his capital, and handed over all their land to Lik. In honor of Heracles, King Lik named this country Heraclea. After this feat, Heracles continued on his way and finally reached the city of the Amazons, Temiskira.

The magic girdle/belt of Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons

The fame of the exploits of the son of Zeus had long since spread to the land of the Amazons. Therefore, when the ship of Heracles anchored at Themiskira, the Amazons and their queen went out to meet the hero. They watched with admiration the great son of Zeus, who stood out among his fellow heroes as an immortal god. Queen Hippolyta asked the great hero Heracles:

“Glorious son Zeus, tell me what brought you to our city! Do you bring us peace or war?”. And Heracles replied to the queen:

“Queen, I have come here of my own accord with an army, after a long journey on the stormy sea; I was sent by the ruler of Mycenae, Eurystheus. His daughter Admeta wants to have your belt, given by the god Ares. Eurystheus commissioned me to acquire your girdle.”

Hippolyta was unable to deny anything to Heracles. She was ready to give him a belt voluntarily, but the great Hera, wanting to destroy her hated Heracles, transformed into an Amazon, mingled with the crowd, and began to persuade the female warriors to attack Heracles’ army.

“Heracles is not telling the truth,” Hera told the Amazons. “He came to you with insidious intentions: the hero wants to kidnap your queen Hippolyta and take her home as a slave.”

The Amazons believed in Hera. They grabbed their weapons and attacked Heracles’ army. At the head of the Amazon army was the windswept Aela. She was the first to attack Heracles like a whirlwind. The great hero repulsed her effort and forced her to retreat. Aela thought she would escape the hero with a quick escape. But no matter how fast she was, she couldn’t get rid of it – Heracles caught up with her and knocked her down with his shining sword. Protoya also fell in battle. She defeated seven heroes among Heracles’ companions with her own hands, but she could not avoid the arrows of the great son of Zeus. Heracles was then attacked by seven Amazons at once; they were companions of Artemis herself: no one could compare with them in the art of using a spear. Disguised as shields, they threw their spears at Heracles, but this time the spears passed him. The hero knocked them all down with his mace; one after another they fell to the ground, dropping their glamorous weapons. And the Amazon Melanipa, who led the army in battle, Heracles captured and captured Antiope with her. The terrible women warriors were defeated, their army fled, many of them died at the hands of their persecuting heroes. The Amazons made peace with Heracles. Hippolyta redeemed the freedom of the powerful Melanipa by giving her belt, and Antiope was taken away by the heroes. Heracles gave it as a reward to Theseus for his great bravery. Thus Heracles acquired the belt of Hippolytus.

The myths of Heracles are set out in the tragedies of Sophocles’ “Trachinians” and Euripides’ “Heracles”, as well as in the legends mentioned in Pausanias’ Description of Greece; A. Kuhn