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Labours of Hercules.
From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
The Fifth Labour.
Thereupon King Eurystheus sent him upon the fifth labor, which was one
little worthy of a hero. It was to clean the stables of Augeas in a
Augeas was king in Elis and had great herds of cattle. These herds
were kept, according to the custom, in a great inclosure before the
palace. Three thousand cattle were housed there, and as the stables
had not been cleaned for many years, so much manure had accumulated
that it seemed an insult to ask Hercules to clean them in one day.
When the hero stepped before King Augeas and without telling him
anything of the demands of Eurystheus, pledged himself to the task,
the latter measured the noble form in the lion-skin and could hardly
refrain from laughing when he thought of so worthy a warrior
undertaking so menial a work. But he said to himself: "Necessity has
driven many a brave man; perhaps this one wishes to enrich himself
through me. That will help him little. I can promise him a large
reward if he cleans out the stables, for he can in one day clear
little enough." Then he spoke confidently:
"Listen, O stranger. If you clean all of my stables in one day, I will
give over to you the tenth part of all my possessions in cattle."
Hercules accepted the offer, and the king expected to see him begin
to shovel. But Hercules, after he had called the son of Augeas to
witness the agreement, tore the foundations away from one side of the
stables; directed to it by means of a canal the streams of Alpheus and
Peneus that flowed near by; and let the waters carry away the filth
through another opening. So he accomplished the menial work without
stooping to anything unworthy of an immortal.
When Augeas learned that this work had been done in the service of
Eurystheus, he refused the reward and said that he had not promised
it; but he declared himself ready to have the question settled in
court. When the judges were assembled, Phyleus, commanded by Hercules
to appear, testified against his father, and explained how he had
agreed to offer Hercules a reward. Augeas did not wait for the
decision; he grew angry and commanded his son as well as the stranger
to leave his kingdom instantly.
The Sixth Labour.
Hercules now returned with new adventures to Eurystheus; but the
latter would not give him credit for the task because Hercules had
demanded a reward for his labor. He sent the hero forth upon a sixth
adventure, commanding him to drive away the Stymphalides. These were
monster birds of prey, as large as cranes, with iron feathers, beaks
and claws. They lived on the banks of Lake Stymphalus in Arcadia, and
had the power of using their feathers as arrows and piercing with
their beaks even bronze coats of mail. Thus they brought destruction
to both animals and men in all the surrounding country.
After a short journey Hercules, accustomed to wandering, arrived at
the lake, which was thickly shaded by a wood. Into this wood a great
flock of the birds had flown for fear of being robbed by wolves.
The hero stood undecided when he saw the frightful crowd, not knowing
how he could become master over so many enemies. Then he felt a light
touch on his shoulder, and glancing behind him saw the tall figure of
the goddess Minerva, who gave into his hands two mighty brass rattles
made by Vulcan. Telling him to use these to drive away the
Stymphalides, she disappeared.
Hercules mounted a hill near the lake, and began frightening the birds
by the noise of the rattles. The Stymphalides could not endure the
awful noise and flew, terrified, out of the forest. Then Hercules
seized his bow and sent arrow after arrow in pursuit of them, shooting
many as they flew. Those who were not killed left the lake and never
The Seventh Labour.
King Minos of Crete had promised Neptune (Poseidon), god of the sea,
to offer to him whatever animal should first come up out of the water,
for he declared he had no animal that was worthy for so high a
sacrifice. Therefore the god caused a very beautiful ox to rise out of
the sea. But the king was so taken with the noble appearance of the
animal that he secretly placed it among his own herds and offered
another to Neptune. Angered by this, the god had caused the animal to
become mad, and it was bringing great destruction to the island of
Crete. To capture this animal, master it, and bring it before
Eurystheus, was the seventh labor of Hercules.
When the hero came to Crete and with this intention stepped before
Minos, the king was not a little pleased over the prospect of ridding
the island of the bull, and he himself helped Hercules to capture the
raging animal. Hercules approached the dreadful monster without fear,
and so thoroughly did he master him that he rode home on the animal
the whole way to the sea.
With this work Eurystheus was pleased, and after he had regarded the
animal for a time with pleasure, set it free. No longer under
Hercules' management, the ox became wild again, wandered through all
Laconia and Arcadia, crossed over the isthmus to Marathon in Attica
and devastated the country there as formerly on the island of Crete.
Later it was given to the hero Theseus to become master over him.
The Eight Labour.
The eighth labor of Hercules was to bring the mares of the Thracian
Diomede to Mycene. Diomede was a son of Mars and ruler of the
Bistonians, a very warlike people. He had mares so wild and strong
that they had to be fastened with iron chains. Their fodder was
chiefly hay; but strangers who had the misfortune to come into the
city were thrown before them, their flesh serving the animals as food.
When Hercules arrived the first thing he did was to seize the inhuman
king himself and after he had overpowered the keepers, throw him
before his own mares. With this food the animals were satisfied and
Hercules was able to drive them to the sea.
But the Bistonians followed him with weapons, and Hercules was forced
to turn and fight them. He gave the horses into the keeping of his
beloved companion Abderus, the son of Mercury, and while Hercules was
away the animals grew hungry again and devoured their keeper.
Hercules, returning, was greatly grieved over this loss, and later
founded a city in honor of Abderus, naming it after his lost friend.
For the present he was content to master the mares and drive them
without further mishap to Eurystheus.
The latter consecrated the horses to Juno. Their descendants were very
powerful, and the great king Alexander of Macedonia rode one of them.