There are many heroes in the myths and legends of ancient Greece, but none are better known than Hercules.
Hercules was the son of Zeus and a woman named Alcmene whom Zeus had made to love him. Zeus' wife, the goddess Hera, hated Hercules from the start. When Hercules was a baby, she sent two huge, poisonous snakes to kill Hercules ... But Hercules was from an early age, no ordinary child. The following morning Alcmene found her son happily cooing in the cot and playing with the two dead snakes that he had strangled with his bare hands. By this first great deed, Hercules had not only saved his own life, but also that of his half-brother.
Over time, Hercules grew into a handsome man of incredible strength. He could handle any kind of weapon, but his favorite weapon was a club carved out of an olive tree.
Originally Zeus intended that Hercules would become King of Mycenae, but Hera had arranged for Hercules' cousin Eurystheus to receive this honor.
Hera had agreed that if Hercules could accomplish 12 special tasks set by Eurystheus, he would be named the immortal god of Mount Olympus.
These tasks were the 12 great achievements of Hercules. Each of these was set in such a way that it was actually impossible to accomplish, because Hera did not want Hercules to succeed under any circumstances.
The first task was to kill the Nemean lion - a lion whose fur was so thick that no weapon could penetrate it -. Hercules first tried to injure him with a sword and his club, but every attempt failed. Finally, he strangled the lion with his bare hands, just as he had done with the two snakes once as a baby.
Hercules then returned to King Eurystheus and wore the fur of the lion as proof of his great achievement. Euystheus was amazed and also a little frightened to see Hercules. He had actually expected to receive news of his death, but not Hercules himself. Instead, the beaming Hercules only asked "And what is my next task, cousin?". "To kill the hydra," said Euystheus, secretly thinking to himself that at the latest this task would certainly be impossible to accomplish. Eurystheus only succeeded with difficulty in suppressing his trimmed grin.
Eurystheus was convinced that the great Hercules would never be up to this great challenge.
The second task:
The hydra was a multi-headed monster that lived in the marshland at the Lernean spring. It was said of the monster that it was immortal, because every time you cut off a head, two new heads grew in the same place.
|To make it even more difficult for Hercules to kill the snake, the goddess Hera sent a giant crab that lurked in the swamps and hit him on the legs. But Hercules had a plan ...|
Every time he had chopped off a head, his cousin Iolas held a torch to the bleeding area of the monster, so that the bleeding stopped and no more heads grew back. Finally, after the last head had been cut off and burned out with the torch, the monster fell dead to the ground.
The third task:
Now, after Hercules had proven to be extremely successful in killing monsters, Eurystheus gave him the task, for a change, of bringing an extremely wild animal to him alive.
He was commissioned to capture the wild stag with its golden horns, which was native to Arcadia, and to deliver it to the court of Eurystheus. It took Hercules almost a year to finally catch the animal. But since it was a sacred animal, Hercules did not want to injure it and tie it tight. So he asked the goddess Artemnis to order the stag to go with him to see King Eurystheus. Artemnis agreed and so Eurystheus had to give the once again successful Hercules another, almost impossible task.
The fourth task:
A boar that was up to mischief on the Erymanthian Mountain was supposed to be caught by Hercules. The beast destroyed crops and killed farm animals, and the people of this region were more than a little scared. Hercules succeeded in doing this too by cornering the boar and ensuring that it was finally caught in an avalanche. So he could tie the boar, which was covered in snow, with a thick rope and bring the wild animal on his shoulders to King Eurystheus. It is said that when Hercules marched into the palace with the boar tied up on his shoulders, the king, at the sight of the mighty beast, left his throne in fear to quickly hide behind a large brass jug.
The fifth task:
In order to successfully complete the fifth task, Hercules had to clean the stable of King Augiah. This sounded very simple at first, but he was given the deadline one day and the stables hadn't been cleaned - possibly never - for years. The stables stank badly and the manure had piled up in mountains. Hercules fulfilled this task in a very extraordinary way. With his tremendous strength, he dug trenches and channeled the water of adjacent rivers through the stable in times that were impossible for humans.
The sixth task:
On the shores of Lake Stymphalia was a gathering of fearsome birds. They had razor-sharp beaks and claws and wings made of metal. They hunted and ate not only the animals that rested by the lake to drink, but also the people who lived there. Hercules seventh task was to rid the world of these creatures.
When Hercules arrived at the lake, he found that he could only kill the birds in flight, because only a small part of the abdomen proved to be vulnerable. The only annoyance was that these birds just didn't want to leave their safe haven in the trees. No screaming or noise he made made the birds leave the safety of the tree branches.
Fortunately, not all goddesses were on the side of the goddess Hera. Athena, daughter of Zeus, gave Hercules a special brass rattle to help him cope with this difficult task. The rattle turned out to be very effective. Whenever Hercules moved them under the trees, the birds startled by the noise fled and Hercules was able to shoot them down. In this way he also fulfilled this task.
The seventh task
Next, Hercules had to lead the Pasiphae bull living on an island from the island of Crete to Mycenae. It was the same bull that Poseidon had given King Minos to sacrifice, but the king had kept it with him. This huge bull was now roaming free in Crete and killing every islander who crossed his path. But this task, too, was quickly accomplished for Hercules. Hercules brought the bull back to Eurystheus, who wanted to sacrifice it for the goddess Hera. But since Hera's great enemy Hercules had caught the bull, the raging goddess wanted nothing to do with it.
The eighth task
This brings us now to the eighth task of Hercules, which is to catch the carnivorous horses of the terrible King Diomedes of Thrace. Hecules killed the king, and while the horses were busy devouring their own evil master, he rounded up the horses and brought them to Mycenae. One thing is for sure. Eurystheus must have been deeply frightened when he saw these terrifying animals.
The ninth task
Hercules proved so successful in fulfilling tasks that Eurystheus' daughter, who longed for the belt of the Amazons, persuaded her father King Euystheus to give Hercules a completely different task this time, namely to deliver this special belt. The belt was composed of bronze plates and was worn by Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, powerful female warriors. It is not clear whether Hercules had to kill her to get the belt or whether she gave it to him voluntarily. What is certain, however, is that Hercules returned triumphantly again.
The tenth task
Now there were only three tasks left. The tenth task was to bring Geryon's cattle back to Mycenae. Geryon wasn't a place, it was a giant and, moreover, not an ordinary one. He had three heads, six arms and a weapon in each hand, but Hercules also defeated them and finally brought his cattle to Eurystheus too.
The eleventh task
Hercules 11th task was to collect the golden apples of Hesperides. On his way, Hercules met the chained Prometheus, who was defenselessly exposed to endless attacks by eagles as punishment by Zeus. Hercules killed the birds, freed Prometheus, and then went on his way. Only goddesses and gods were allowed to enter the garden of Hesperides, where the apples grew. Hercules asked the god Atlas to enter the garden for him and pick up the apples.
It was the Atlas' job to hold the sky high. Therefore Hercules had to take over this task for him for a short time while Atlas kept the apples for him.
On the way back, Atlas said to Hercules:
"I will bring the golden apples to Eurystheus for you. I'm tired of holding the world all the time and I can see you can do it as well as I do."
" That's great"replied Hercules, thinking quickly about the suggestion." But before you go, please keep the world to me again so that I can put cushion on my shoulder so that lifting is more comfortable."
So Atlas put the apples down and took the globe back to himself.
"thanks"grinned Hercules. He quickly grabbed the apples and was up and away. Atlas was furious that he had fallen for this stupid trick.
The twelfth task
If he could prove successful in this task too, he would have the right to become a god. As a last challenge he had to enter the underworld and bring the dog guarding the underworld to King Eurystheus. However, Cerberus was no ordinary dog. It had three heads, a mane of twisting snakes, and a long, extraordinary tail. But even he was powerless against the divine power of Hercules.
|When Eurystheus stood face to face with this dog, he was almost speechless. Pleading with Hercules to hold the dog back, he quickly took flight from the monster.|
Hercules had successfully passed the last task and no one could now deny him the right to become a deity.
Books about ´Greek Mythology´
for beginners I.
for beginners II
The great book of legends it classic
Reclams Lexicon of the Ancients
and their reception