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Tenth labour- Cattle of Geryon


The cattle of Geryon by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

This labour was for Hercules to acquire the cattle of Geryon, brilliant red cattle that were guarded by Orthrus, his two headed shepherd dog. Hercules, for this task, travelled to the island of Erytheia which lies in the far west. In order to do so, he had to cross the Libyan desert. After traveling for long, he got frustrated by the heat and let an arrow loose towards the sun. Helios, the God of the sun, seeing his “courage” decided to help him and gave him his golden chariot on which he crossed the sea from west to east every night. Hercules rode the chariot to Erytheia, the “red island” of the sunset. On his arrival, he was attacked by the two headed dog, Orthrus. Using his famed club, he kills him with a single blow to the head. The herdsman Eurytion arrived to help Orthrus but fell to Hercules’s club in the same way. Hearing the commotion, Geryon joined the fray, wielding three shields and three spears, three helmets on his shoulders. He was slain and fell to one of Hercules’s poisoned arrows which was shot with so much force that it pierced his forehead. Hercules then had to herd the cattle and take them back to Eurystheus. Hera however, sends a gadfly which bites them, sending them into a frenzy, thus dispersing them. Over the next year, Hercules retrieved them but Hera sent a flood to prevent them from crossing a river that stood in their way. Hercules filled the river with stones to decrease the level and crossed it with all the cattle. On returning to Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.


Eleventh labour- Golden apples of Hesperides


The apples of Hesperides by Remnev, Andrey

To begin this task, Hercules first had to find the island that had the golden apples. In order to do so, he caught the old man of the sea, a shape shifting sea God. In some variations, either in the beginning or towards the end of this task, Hercules runs into Antaeus, a man who was invincible as long as he touched his mother, Gaia (the Earth). Hercules fights him and kills him by choking him in a bear hug while picking him up. Hercules was then captured by king Busiris in Egypt who planned on making him the yearly sacrifice. But Hercules broke free if his chains and escaped. Hercules finally made his way to the garden of Hesperides. On the way, he encountered Atlas who was holding the heavens on his shoulders. Hercules persuaded Atlas to get him some apples because he was related to Hesperides. In exchange, he would relieve him of the heavens until he returned. Atlas on returning, broke the pact and said that he’d deliver the apples to Eurystheus. Hercules conned Atlas into taking his place once more saying that he’d take it back from him after he adjusts his cloak. Hercules doesn’t take Atlas’s place a second time and leaves with the apples. In other stories, he slays the dragon Ladon who protects the garden and the golden apples and then returns to he king triumphant.


Twelfth labour- Cerberus

A statue of Hercules as he subdues Cerberus

The final labour demanded Hercules to capture Cerberus, the three headed guardian of the underworld and return to the king. To prepare for his journey to the underworld, Hercules travels to Athens and is initiated in the Eleusinian mysteries. He then enters the underworld with Hermes and Athena as his guides. In the underworld, he meets Theseus and Pirithous, two companions who were trapped by Hades because they tried to covet Persephone. One tale tells of snakes coiling around their legs and then turning to stone, cutting off their escape. In another tale, he invites them for a banquet but reserved seats of forgetfulness for them. They sit in them and are ensnared as they lose their mission in mind. Hercules frees Theseus but a part of his thigh stuck to the chair. However, when he tries to free Pirithous, the earth shakes, thus showing how much he desires Persephone. Hercules then meets Hades and asks if he can take Cerberus above ground. Hades accepts on the condition that Hercules subdues Cerberus without using any weapons. Hercules overpowers Cerberus, slings it over his back and takes it back to Eurystheus who at first cowers in fear. He pleads with Hercules to take Cerberus away and said that he’d relinquish him of all duty if he did so. And so, Hercules’s debt comes to an end