We’ve all heard of the twelve works of Hercules, or Heracles, but what do they consist of? Want to learn more about Greek and Roman mythology? You are told here about the twelve works of Hercules, in this full article. To your notes!
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- Tip to remember the 12 works of Hercules or Heracles
- The Lion of Nemea The Hydra of
- Lerne The Dee of
- Cerynia The Boar of
- Erymanthe The Stables of Augias The
- Birds of
- Lake Stymphalus The Bull of
- Crete The Bull of
- Lerne Mares of Diomedes
- The Belt of Hippolyte
- The Herd of Geryon
- The Garden of the Hesperides
Plan de l'article
Tip to remember the 12 works of Hercules or Heracles
Before leaving in detail on the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles, it is appropriate to give you some clarification. Hercules was the name of the Greek hero, while Heracles is his Latin name. He is the same hero who performed the same twelve works, not two different characters from mythology.
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There is also a very simple and playful trick that can help you remember the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles. You only need to remember two sentences in which will be condensed small pieces of sentences that will be as manyclues about the titles of the works of Hercules or Heracles to be reconstituted from memory:
“ The Lyonborn hidthem bichon a hundred ecus ois oisivement tor looted.”
Mares belt nt the flock of the garden I Serbian .
In these sentences you can find all the clues that help you replenish the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles:
Lyon: The Lion of Nemea
Hid: Lerne’s Hydra
Bich: The Deer of Cerynia
Cent: Erymanthe Boar
Ecu: The Stables of Augias
Ois: Birds of Lake Stymphale
Tor: The Bull of Crete
Mares: Mares of Diomedes
Belt: Hippolyte’s Belt
Herd: The Herd of Geryon
Garden: The Garden of the Hesperides
Let us now review the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles.
The Lion of Nemea
The first of the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles is the Lion of Nemea. Eurysthée orders Hercules/Heracles to return to him the skin of this famous lion of Nemea, being convinced that he will not succeed.
In mythology, the Lion of Nemea holds women prisoners in his den. The various warriors in the vicinity try in vain to save these women and are trapped one after another. They enter the den and approach what they think is a woman in distress. But this woman is no other than a lion, and she kills the warriors to offer their bones to Hades, the god of hell.
In this event, Hercules or Heracles decides to attack the Lion of Nemea with the weapons he has at his disposal. Hercules has with him a bow, arrows, a club and a bronze sword . The club was made by his own hands thanks to an olive tree that Hercules pulled out of the ground.
Unfortunately, his meager weapons proved ineffective and Hercules finds himself fighting the Lion of Nemea with his hands and fists. He ends up overcoming the beast by pushing his arm into his throat, which has the effect of choking him and breaking his jaw.
The mission of Hercules or Heracles being to bring back the skin of the Lion of Nemea, he tries to skimp the animal. Impossible: The Lion of Nemea cannot be cut by any sword, tool or even a sharp stone. The goddess Athena intervenes and Hercules received from her the idea of deceiving the Lion of Nemea with her own claws. Hercules manages and adorns himself with the skin of the Lion as armor.
The Hydra of Lerne
Hercules’s second work is to overcome the Hydra of Lerne. This creature lives underwater and has an impressive number of heads. The figures vary according to the versions of the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles that we find in mythology. Lerne’s Hydra, according to the stories, has 5 heads or even several hundred . This hydra is impossible to depict in painting.
The specificity of the Lerne Hydra is to be able to regenerate itself. Thus, every time one of her heads is cut off, it regenerates , making it almost impossible to kill her. Lerne’s Hydra also has poisoned breath. Hercules or Heracles is well aware of these challenges.
In order to overcome the Hydra of Lerne, Hercules or Heracles approaches the creature by covering his mouth and nose. Thus, it preserves himself from the vapors and miasms released by the Hydra of Lerne. He manages to attract the monster by firing inflamed arrows, which has the effect of directing the creature to its den, the Source of Amymona. The Hydra is there makes, Hercules then pulls out a sickle and undertakes to cut off one of the heads of the Hydra. Obviously, this one pushes back instantly.
Seeing that the process is far too fast, Hercules/Heracles asks for help from his nephew Iolaos. He has the idea of cauterizing every wound and neck of the Lerne Hydra in order to prevent the heads from repelling. On leaving Hercules/Heracles has the idea of dipping each of its arrows in the blood of the Hydra, which is poisonous. Thus, the arrows of the bow of hercules/Heracles are even more dangerous.
Eurysthée learns that the hero Hercules asked for help and does not validate this feat , yet accomplished as requested.
The Deer of Cerynia
The third of the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles is to capture the Deer of Cerynia. Eurysthée is of course angry since that he learned that the hero Hercules escaped certain death in the face of the Lion of Nemea and the Hydra of Lerne. But these fearsome creatures will not have been right for the mighty hero.
Eurysthée thinks and eventually asks Hercules or Hercles to go and capture the Deer of Cerynia. It’s not about killing a creature this time. The challenge for the hero will be to catch the last deer of Artemis , which has brass feet. The Deer of Cerynia is known to be so fast that it can exceed the speed of the arrows of an arc.
Hercules/Heracles continued the Deer of Cerynia for almost a year through the regions of Greece, Thrace and Istria. La Biche eventually runs out of running and will find refuge on Mount Artemision. It is then that the hero Hercules/Heracles shoots him an arrow that immobilizes the animal, but not injuring it. He takes the animal and carries it to King Eurysthea on his shoulders.
On his way, Hercules/Heracles meets Artemis and Apollo, who are furious about what Hercules has just done. Hercules is accused of mistreating the sacred animal. Hercules/Heracles defends himself from such accusations and manages to explain to Artemis and Apollo his duties vis-à-vis King Eurysthea . Hercules promises to release the Deer of Cerynia once he has proved to Eurysthea that he has succeeded in carrying out his third mission. Artemis and Apollo let Hercules pass through.
The Boar of Erymanthe
Erymanthe Boar is a creature of my mythology that sows terror among the villagers of Erymanthe, Arcadia. As with the Dee of Cerynia, Hercules /Heracles pursues the wild boar and strives to track him unabated. In the middle of winter, Hercules/Heracles manages to find the den of the Boar of Erymanthe.
He imitates screams that end up not intriguing the wild boar, which then comes out of his den. It was then that Hercules/Heracles decides to pursue the creature through the mountains of Arcadia. In order to trap the wild boar , Hercules eventually dig a huge hole and fill it with snow to make it a trap.
Hercules/Heracles continues to chase after the wild boar. He manages to exhaust the beast and destabilize it by throwing stones at it. The wild boar then falls into the trap concocted by the hero Hercules. Dizzy, the wild boar is then tied up by Hercules and brought back to Eurysthea. Terrified by seeing the animal, Eurysthée hides . Hercules then decided to offer the wild boar of Erymanth to the inhabitants of the city of Mycenae who was then killed in the square of the market.
The Stables of Augias
The Augias stables are the fourth challenge to the hero during the twelve works of Hercules or Heracles. These stables have never been cleaned and Hercules /Heracles has the mission to do this gigantic cleaning. If Eurysthée gives this work to be done to Hercules, it is to humiliate him by showing the admiring people of the hero that the latter is not able to do everything.
The cattle that is sheltered under the Stables of Augias is considered a divine gift. Livestock is immune to all diseases, which makes it unnecessary to clean the stables of Augias. It was thus 3000 animals who filled the stables of Augias with their excrement in the space of thirty years. Augias, moreover, proposes 1/10th of its livestock if Hercules /Heracles manages to accomplish its cleansing mission.
The Hero does not disassemble and think. He has the idea of diverting the waters of two rivers, the Alpheus and Penée rivers. But Augias is furious because he was sure that Hercules would fail in the face of demand. Augias is supported by his sons except for his son Phylée, who defends Hercules. Augias takes his part to fire Hercules from the city.
Hercules is not satisfied with what is happening and decides to raise an army against Augias. Hercules/ Heracles kills Augias and all her sons but decides to spare Phylée. The kingdom of Augias is then offered to Phylée as a thank you for his profound loyalty and support.
Birds of Lake Stymphale
The sixth work of Hercules/Heracles is to go and kill birds responsible for the death of many men . The god Arès, god of war, surrounded himself with these birds in order to have company. These birds of misfortune then settled on Lake Stymphale as well as in the surrounding forest.
Stymphale birds breed at a crazy pace, making it difficult to eradicate. They also destroy crops and invade the premises.
This time, Hercules/Heracles is not alone on its mission. He is supported by Hephaestus and Athena, once again. Hephaestus forged bronze doors for him , which helps Hercules to make a lot of noise and frighten the birds of Stymphale. These fly away, fall into the lake, sometimes drown. Heracles takes advantage of their stunning due to the noise created to uncheck arrows poison birds. This is how the hero Hercules cleared Lake Stymphale of these deadly birds.
The Cretan Bull
For his seventh challenge and work, Hercules was instructed to go and capture The furious bull living in Crete . This bull wreaked immense havoc on the island and became uncontrollable. King Minos, king of Crete, then gave permission to Hercules /Heracles to take away the beast.
Hercules stunned the bull of Crete and brought it back to Athens, the capital of Greece. When Eurysthea heard of the news, he offered a sacrifice to Hera, the wife of Zeus, but she refused the offering of Eurysthea. This came from the fact that Hera hated Hercules and she did not want to receive anything from her glory.
The bull of Crete was then released in Sparta and then in Marathon, where he continued to wreak havoc. It is later told in mythology that Theseus captured him. This story differs according to the stories made, especially concerning the Minotaur.
The Mares of Diomedes
For this eighth work, there are two versions of the mission of Hercules/Heracles. Hercules is asked to capture the mares of Diomedes, then king of Thrace. Eurysthea wants to see the mares of Diomedes and asks Hercules to bring them back alive to Argos.
Hercules owns a lover, Abdere, from whom he gets help at the time of the flight of mares from Diomedes. Diomedes pursues them both: Hercules the fight while Abdere leads the flock. But Abdere falls and is devoured by mares! hercules discovers that these mares eat human flesh.
Hercules then throws Diomedes in the middle of his mares, which instantly calm down. Hercules then brings the mares to Eurysthea, to Argos.
The second version of this same story differs slightly and sees Hercules taking the mares on a peninsula. Hercules kills Diomedes , gives it to the animals, then returns to Argos to see Eurysthée with the mares.
her twelve works, Hercules/Heracles has as its ninth mission to obtain, for the daughter of Eurysthea (Admete), the belt of Hippolytus, who is daughter of Ares and queen of the Amazons In .
It is told in mythology that Hippolytus is intrigued in the face of the muscular hero represented by Hercules and that she offers him his belt by seeing the skin of the Lion of Nemea. Other versions see Hippolytus locked up, or killed by Hercules /Heracles following a madness that seizes him , due to Hera.
The Herd of Geryon
Géryon is a giant monster with the peculiarity of having a body joined by the waist. Geryon then has 2 legs, three trunks, six arms and three heads. The tenth job of Hercules/Heracles is to go to Eritrea to steal the herd of cattle of this monster.
To get to Eritrea, Hercules must cross the Libyan desert. Angry at the sun and the heat it must endure, Hercules /Heracles pulls an arrow towards Helios, the sun . The latter is admiring the courage of the Greek hero and gives him a golden cup, the one used for Helios to cross the East Sea to West every night.
Hercules/Heracles then arrives in Eritrea thanks to this precious help from Helios. By laying foot à terre, he is attacked by none other than Cerberus’s brother , the two-headed dog Orthus. Heracles/Hercules kills the dog thanks to its olive wood club.
A shepherd intervenes, and Geryon himself, attracted by the grabuge, arrives with three shields and three helmets to fight against Heracles/Hercules. Hercules is pursued but sends him one of his arrows dipped in the blood of the Hydra of Lerne, which crosses his helmet and instantly kills the giant Geryon.
Hercules then took all the cattle of the giant Geryon with three heads and returned to Argos to King Eurysthée. Hera is furious and tries to curb Hercules/Heracles by sending a fly in the middle of the cattle. Hercules no longer manages the herd of Geryon, which is dispersing. It takes a whole year to get it back. But Hera does not stop there and sends floods on the way of the Greek hero. Hercules adorns the flood using stones and making a bridge to pass nevertheless.
Upon arriving at Argos near Eurysthea with the cattle of Geryon, the king sacrificed the whole herd to the glory of Hera.
The Garden of the Hesperides
It is necessary to remember that King Eurysthée of Argos did not take into account the validation of 2 of the works of Hercules, the Hydra of Lerne and the stables of Augias. For the first challenge, indeed, Hercules received help, and for the other he was paid. Eurysthée then added two works to Hercules/Heracles.
Among these two new works, Eurysthée asks Hercules/Heracles to bring apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. This garden is the garden of the nymphs of the setting sun , the Hesperides, who are the daughters of Atlas and Nyx. The apples of the Garden of the Hesperides are actually a gift from Gaia to Hera.
Hercules/Heracles has no idea the location of the sacred garden of the Hesperides. He asks for information from the old man Nereus, a primitive god with changing forms. But Nerea remains evasive and Hercules still leaves towards the West , i.e. towards the place where the sun sets.
Arriving in Gibraltar, Hercules/Heracles meets Atlas, the Titan who carries the world on his shoulders. Atlas then led Hercules/Heracles to the Garden of the Hesperides, in exchange for Hercules’s help. The latter releases Atlas from its burden and carries the Earth on his back for him. Hercules then arrives at the Garden of the Hesperides. Atlas will pick apples there while Hercules carries the world.
Upon his return, Atlas suggested to Hercules/Heracles to go and carry the apples himself to King Eurysthée. But Hercules sees the cunning happen and manages to give back the world to Atlas by telling him that he first needs to lean on a rock for his comfort. Hercules took the opportunity, took over the apples of the Hesperides and returned to Argos.
Here we are at the last work of the Greek hero Hercules, also known as Heracles. Hercules must capture the three-headed dog Cerberus, who keeps the door of hell. Cerberus is the dog of Hades, who is the god of the dead, but also the ruler of the hell.
Hercules once again benefits from the help of the divine Athena but also from Hermes. It crosses the Styx River. He crosses the path of Theseus and Pirithoos , who are attached in a cruel and magical way to a siege of oblivion, a kind of stone bench, since their attempt to abduct Persephone, the wife of Hades. Seeing this, Hercules then frees Theseus from his fate, but the latter leaves part of his thighs on the bench, so the magic spell is powerful. Pirithoos cannot be released by Hercules: magic is such that he gives up.
Hercules/Heracles then went to Persephone and Hades and asked them permission to take the dog Cerberus with him. The gods him grant this right but on the condition that they do not harm Cerberus. The dog is not of this and fights against Hercules/Heracles. Hercules manages to stun and chains Cerberus . Eurysthée, seeing the dog coming, was so afraid that he hid again. The Greek hero then sent Cerberus back to keep the door of hell.
Now you know all about the twelve works of Hercules. Many more elaborate versions exist and make it possible to get an idea, particularly illustrated, of Greek mythology. Greek myths and novels about gods continue to amaze us with their imagination, but also by the lessons learned from the relationship between gods and men.