Twelve Labors of Hercules in this article:

  1. Eurytus – the myth in which Heracles is insulted and accused of theft, incited to murder and sold as a slave to Omphala, queen of Lydia.
  2. The Giant Geryon – the task of kidnapping the cows of the giant Gerion, who has three heads and six arms.
  3. The Apples from the Garden of the Hesperides – Heracles first helps Prometheus from his terrible punishment, and Prometheus directs him to the garden guarded by a fearsome dragon.
  4. Cerberus – the last labor, no less challenging, was Heracles to capture and bring out of the underworld the ferocious dog Cerberus.

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 3 – The Stables, The Bull, The horses and The Belt
Myths of Hercules/Heracles – Part 4 – Cattle, Fearsome Cerberus and the Golden Apples 
Myths of Hercules/Heracles – Part 6 – The Death of Hercules

Heracles and Eurytus

The island of Euboea, in the city of Oechalia, was ruled by King Eurytus. The fame of the Eurytus as the most skilled archer spread far and wide throughout Greece. The archer Apollo himself was his teacher, he even gave him a bow and arrows. Once upon a time, in his youth, Heracles also learned from Hebrew to shoot a bow. It was this king who announced throughout Greece that he would give his beautiful daughter Yola as the wife of the hero who defeated him in a bow shooting competition. Heracles, who had just finished his service at Eurystheus, went to Oechalia, where many heroes from Greece had gathered, and took part in the race. Heracles easily defeated King Eurytus and asked him to marry his daughter Yola. But Eurytus did not keep his promise. Forgetting the sacred custom of hospitality, he mocked the great hero. He said he would not give his daughter to the one who was a slave to Eurystheus. Eventually, Eurytus and his arrogant sons expelled Heracles, who had been drunk during the feast, from the palace and even from Oechalia. Hercules left Oechalia. The great hero, who left Euboea, was filled with deep sorrow because he had loved the beautiful Yola. Hiding in his heart his resentment against his offender Eurytus, he returned to Tiryns.

Heracles and the bow, Giuseppe Cammarano

After some time, the most cunning of the Greeks, Autolycus, son of Hermes, kidnapped the flock of Eurytus, and Eurytus blamed Heracles for this theft. The king of Oechalia thought that the hero had kidnapped his flock, wanting revenge for the insult. Only Ifit, the eldest son of Eurytus, did not want to believe that the great Heracles could have stolen his father’s flock. Ifit even expressed his readiness to search for the herd in order to prove the innocence of Heracles, with whom he had the closest friendship. During his search, Ifit came to Tiryns. Hercules welcomed his friend. Once, when they were both standing on the high walls of the fortress of Tiryns, built on a high rock, Heracles was suddenly overwhelmed by a furious rage sent to him by the great goddess Hera. Heracles remembered in his anger the insult inflicted on him by Eurytus and his sons; unable to control himself, he grabbed Ifit and threw him off the fortress wall. The unfortunate Ifit shuddered. With this murder, committed involuntarily, Heracles angered Zeus because he violated the sacred custom of hospitality and the sanctity of friendly relations. As punishment, the great thunderbolt sent his son a serious illness.

Heracles suffered for a long time; finally, exhausted from the disease, he went to Delphi to ask Apollo how to escape this punishment of the gods. But the prophetess Pythia did not give him an answer. She even expelled Heracles from the temple as a man contaminated with murder. Angered by this, Heracles stole from the temple the tripod from which Pythia made her predictions. By this act he angered Apollo. The golden-haired god appeared to Heracles and asked him to return the tripod, but Heracles refused. Between the sons of Zeus – the immortal god Apollo and the mortal, the greatest of the heroes Heracles, a fierce struggle broke out. Zeus did not want Heracles to die. He threw a brilliant lightning bolt from Olympus between his sons and, separating them, put an end to the struggle. The brothers reconciled. Pythia then gave Heracles the following answer:

“You will receive healing only when you are sold into slavery for three years. And the money that will be paid for you, give to Hebrew as compensation for his son Ifit, whom you killed.”

Heracles had to be imprisoned again. He was sold as a slave to Omphala, queen of Lydia and daughter of Jordan. Hermes personally brought the money received from the sale of Heracles to Eurytus. But the proud king of Oihalia did not accept them; he remained, as before, an enemy of Heracles.

Heracles and Deianira

After the Eurytus expelled Heracles from Oechalia, the great hero came to Calidon, a city in Aetolia. Oiney ruled there. Heracles appeared to Aeneas to ask for the hand of his daughter Deianira, as he had promised Meleager in the realm of shadows to marry her. In Calidon, Heracles met a terrible rival. Many heroes tried to get the hand of the beautiful Deianira and among them – the river god Aheloy. In the end, Oiney decided to give Deianira to the one who came out the winner in the fight. All the candidates refused to fight the mighty Aheloy. Only Heracles remained. He had to fight the river god. Seeing Heracles’ readiness to compete with him, Aheloy said to him:

“You say you are the son of Zeus and Alcmene? You are lying that Zeus is your father!”

And Aheloy began to mock the great son of Zeus and insult his mother Alcmene. Frowning, Heracles looked sternly at Aheloy; Anger flared in his eyes and he said:

“Aheloe, my hands serve me better than my tongue! You will be the winner in words, and I will be the winner in deeds.”

Heracles stepped resolutely towards Aheloy and grabbed him with his powerful hands. The huge Aheloy held fast; the great Heracles could not overthrow him; all his efforts were in vain. Aheloy stood like an unshakable rock that the waves of the sea could not move, pounding on it with a deafening crash. Heracles and Aheloy fight chest to chest like two bulls entwined with their twisted horns. Heracles attacked Aheloy three times, and the fourth time, snatching himself from Aheloeus’ arms, the hero grabbed him from behind. He pressed the river god like a heavy mountain to the ground. Gathering all his strength, Aheloy could barely free his sweat-covered hands; no matter how hard he strained, Heracles pressed him harder and harder to the ground. Aheloy groaned, his knees bent and his head touching the ground. In order not to be defeated, Aheloy resorted to a trick: he turned into a snake. As Aheloy turned into a serpent and slipped out of Heracles’ hands, Heracles shouted with a laugh.

“I’ve learned to fight snakes from the cradle! You are indeed superior to the other serpents, Aheloe, but where can you compare yourself to the Lerneian Hydra. Although two new ones grew in the place of each severed head, I still defeated her.”

Hercules grabbed the snake by the head and gripped it like iron pliers. Aheloy tried to pull himself out of the hero’s arms, but he couldn’t. Then he turned into a bull and attacked Heracles again. Heracles grabbed the bull Aheloy by the horns and knocked him to the ground. Heracles slammed him with such terrible force that he broke one of his horns. Aheloy was defeated and Oeneus gave Deianira the wife of Heracles.

After the wedding, Heracles remained living in the palace of Oeneus, but did not stay there long. Once during a feast, Heracles struck Eunomus, the son of the Architect, for pouring water on his hands to prepare water for washing his feet. The blow was so strong that the boy fell dead. Heracles was saddened, and although Architect forgave him for the involuntary murder of his son, the hero left Calidon and went with his wife Deianira to Tiryns.

During the journey, Heracles and his wife reached the river Even. The centaur Ness carried the passengers on his broad back across this raging river for a fee. Ness offered to take Deianira to the other shore, and Heracles mounted her on the centaur’s back. The hero himself transferred his mace and bow to the opposite bank and swam across the raging river. Heracles had just come ashore and suddenly heard Deianira’s loud shout. She called for help from her husband. The centaur, captivated by her beauty, wanted to kidnap her. Terribly cried the son of Zeus to Ness:

“Where are you running to? Do you think that your legs will save you? No, you will not be saved! No matter how fast you run, my arrow will still reach you!”

Heracles drew his bow and an arrow flew from the taut bowstring. The deadly arrow caught up with Ness, struck him in the back, and its blade appeared from the centaur’s chest. The mortally wounded Ness fell to his knees. Blood gushed like a stream from his wound, mingling with the poison of the Lerneian hydra. Ness did not want to die without revenge. He collected his blood and gave it to Deianira, telling her:

“Oh, daughter Oineeva, I was the last to carry you through the stormy waters of Even! So take my blood and keep it! If Heracles ceases to love you, this blood will return his love to you, and no woman will be dearer to him than you; just rub Heracles’ garment with it.”

She took Diana’s blood and hid it. Ness died. And Heracles and Deianira arrived in Tiryns and lived there until an involuntary murder (Heracles killed his friend Ifit) forced them to leave the glorious city.

Hercules at Omphale

Because of the murder of Ifit, Heracles was sold as a slave to the Lydian queen Omphala. Heracles had never before experienced such hardships as his service to the proud queen of Lydia. The greatest of the characters was constantly humiliated by her. One would say that Omphala took pleasure in mocking the son of Zeus. Dressing Heracles in women’s clothes, she made him spin and weave with her maids. The hero who killed the Lerneian Hydra with his heavy mace; the hero who brought the terrible Cerberus from the kingdom of Hades; who strangled the Nemean lion with his hands and held on his shoulders the weight of the firmament; the hero, from whom his enemies trembled only when they heard his name, now had to sit bent over the loom or spin a wave with his hands accustomed to spin the sharp sword, stretch the bowstring, and strike the enemy with the heavy mace. And Omphale, putting on the lion’s skin of Heracles, which covered her all over and dragged after her on the ground, pulling on his golden armor, girded his sword and with difficulty put on the shoulder the heavy mace of the hero, stood before the son of Zeus and mocked him. – his slave. Omphale seemed to have intended to extinguish all of Heracles’ invincible power. Heracles was obliged to endure everything, as he was in complete slavery at Omphala, and this was to last for three whole years.

Heracles drunk and Omphale, antique mural, Pompey

Only now and then did Omphale let the hero out of her palace. Once, when he was outside the palace of Omphala, Heracles slept in the shade in a grove near Ephesus. While he slept, the dwarves creaked in and wanted to take up his weapon, but Heracles awoke just as the scorpions grabbed his bow and arrows. The hero caught them and tied their arms and legs. Heracles threaded a long pole between the legs of the tied cords and carried them to Ephesus. But the Kerkops made Heracles so bold with his grimace that the great hero let them go.

While a slave at Omphala, Heracles went to Aulis to King Oileus, who forced all foreigners who came to him to work as slaves in his vineyards. He also made Heracles work for him. The angry hero uprooted all the vines of Oiley and killed the king himself, who did not respect the sacred custom of hospitality. During his enslavement at Omphale, Heracles took part in the Argonauts’ campaign. But finally the sentence expired and the great son of Zeus was free again.

Hercules Captures Troy

As soon as he was freed from his slavery at Omphale, Heracles immediately gathered a large army of heroes and went with eighteen ships to Troy to avenge the deceived king Laomedon. When he reached Troy, he assigned Oikel and a small detachment to guard the ships, and he himself set out with the whole army for the walls of Troy. It was not until Heracles left the ships with his troops that Laomedon attacked Oikel, killed him and killed almost his entire detachment. Hearing the noise of the battle at the ships, Heracles returned, chased Laomedon, and forced him to return to Troy. The siege of Troy did not last long. The characters climbed the high walls and crept into the city. The hero Telamon was the first to enter the city. Hercules, the greatest of the heroes, could not bear another to surpass him. Grabbing his sword, he pounced on Telamon, who was ahead of him.

Seeing that he was in danger of imminent doom, Telamon quickly bent down and began to collect stones. Heracles was astonished and asked him:

“What are you doing, Telamon?”

“Oh, great son of Zeus, I am erecting an altar in honor of the victor Heracles!” – replied the cunning Telamon and with his answer calmed the anger of the son of Zeus.

During the conquest of the city, Heracles killed Laomedon with his arrows and killed all his sons; the hero spared only the smallest of them, Gift. And the beautiful daughter of Laomedont Hezion Heracles married Telamon, who distinguished himself with his bravery, and allowed her to choose one of the captives and set him free. Hesiona chose her brother Gift.

“He must become a slave before all other captives!”, yelled Heracles. “Only if you give him a ransom will he be released.”

Hesione removed her precious jewelry from her head and gave it as a ransom to her brother. Since then, they began to call it Gift Priam (ie redeemed).

Heracles ceded power over Troy to him, and he himself left with his army for new feats.

When Heracles sailed the sea with his army returning from Troy, the goddess Hera, wanting to destroy her hated son Zeus, sent a great storm. And so that Zeus would not see the danger to his son, Hera asked the dream god Hypnos to put the auspicious Zeus to sleep. The storm took Heracles to the island of Kos.

The inhabitants of the island of Kos considered Heracles’ ship to be a robber, and in order to prevent it from approaching the shore, they began to stone it. During the night, Heracles descended with his army on the island, defeated the inhabitants of Kos, killed their king, Poseidon’s son Euripides, and devastated the whole island.

Heracles saves Hesione, François-Alexandre Verdier

Zeus became terribly angry when he awoke and learned of the danger to which his son Heracles was exposed. In his anger, he chained Hera in golden unbreakable chains and hung her between the earth and the sky, tying two heavy anvils to her legs. Terrified in his anger, Zeus threw out of the high Olympus each of the Olympians who wanted to come to the aid of Hera. He searched for Hypnos for a long time; the lord of gods and mortals would have thrown him out of Olympus if the goddess Night had not concealed the god of sleep.

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