The 12 Labours of Hercules Explained

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The 12 Labours of Hercules/Heracles are some of the most impressive tales in Greek Mythology. The son of Zeus and a descendant of Perseus, Heracles was destined to be a great Hero. He was favoured by many gods of Olympus, including Athena, Apollo and Hermes. However, one Olympian, the goddess Hera, hated him before he was even born and strived to make his life as difficult as possible. Using her magic, she made Heracles kill his family, forcing him to visit the Oracle of Delphi to seek redemption. The Oracle informed him that he would have to carry out 12 Labours in penance, under the service of King Eurystheus of Mycenae.

His labours were the ultimate test of strength and skill. He would fight and kill savage beasts, from the Nemean Lion and Lernaean Hydra to the Stymphalian Birds and the three-headed giant Geryon. But his labours would also require him to travel to distant lands, to capture animals that King Eurystheus wanted to observe. From Artemis’ Ceryneian Hind and King Minos’ Cretan Bull (the father of the Minotaur) to the guardian of the Underworld itself, the three-headed dog Cerberus, who was sacred to Hades.

His strength would be pushed to the limit when he offered to hold up the sky for the Titan Atlas, on his journey to retrieve the Golden Apples of the Hesperides. And his wits would be tested when he was tasked with cleaning the filthy Augean Stables in a single day.

After his Labours, Heracles would continue his heroic journey, setting up the Olympic Games as well as joining Jason and the Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece. However, although Heracles lived an amazing life full of adventure, he would ultimately suffer an agonising death. After causing the death of the centaurs Pholus and Chiron, he would make an enemy of the centaur Nessus. Nessus would eventually get his revenge by tricking Heracles’ wife, Deianira, into giving the hero a poisoned robe, bringing his eventful life to an abrupt and painful end.

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