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Labours of Hercules.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall.

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The Ninth Labour.

Returning from a long journey, the hero undertook an expedition against the Amazons in order to finish the ninth adventure and bring to King Eurystheus the sword belt of the Amazon Hippolyta. The Amazons inhabited the region of the river Thermodon and were a race of strong women who followed the occupations of men. From their children they selected only such as were girls. United in an army, they waged great wars. Their queen, Hippolyta, wore, as a sign of her leadership, a girdle which the goddess of war had given her as a present. Hercules gathered his warrior companions together into a ship, sailed after many adventures into the Black Sea and at last into the mouth of the river Thermodon, and the harbor of the Amazon city Themiscira. Here the queen of the Amazons met him. The lordly appearance of the hero flattered her pride, and when she heard the object of his visit, she promised him the belt. But Juno, the relentless enemy of Hercules, assuming the form of an Amazon, mingled among the others and spread the news that a stranger was about to lead away their queen. Then the Amazons fought with the warriors of Hercules, and the best fighters of them attacked the hero and gave him a hard battle. The first who began fighting with him was called, because of her swiftness, AŽlla, or Bride of the Wind; but she found in Hercules a swifter opponent, was forced to yield and was in her swift flight overtaken by him and vanquished. A second fell at the first attack; then ProthoŽ, the third, who had come off victor in seven duels, also fell. Hercules laid low eight others, among them three hunter companions of Diana, who, although formerly always certain with their weapons, today failed in their aim, and vainly covering themselves with their shields fell before the arrows of the hero. Even Alkippe fell, who had sworn to live her whole live unmarried: the vow she kept, but not her life. After even Melanippe, the brave leader of the Amazons, was made captive, all the rest took to wild flight, and Hippolyta the queen handed over the sword belt which she had promised even before the fight. Hercules took it as ransom and set Melanippe free.

The Tenth Labour.

When the hero laid the sword belt of Queen Hippolyta at the feet of Eurystheus, the latter gave him no rest, but sent him out immediately to procure the cattle of the giant Geryone. The latter dwelt on an island in the midst of the sea, and possessed a herd of beautiful red-brown cattle, which were guarded by another giant and a two-headed dog. Geryone himself was enormous, had three bodies, three heads, six arms and six feet. No son of earth had ever measured his strength against him, and Hercules realized exactly how many preparations were necessary for this heavy undertaking. As everybody knew, Geryone's father, who bore the name "Gold-Sword" because of his riches, was king of all Iberia (Spain). Besides Geryone he had three brave giant sons who fought for him; and each son had a mighty army of soldiers under his command. For these very reasons had Eurystheus given the task to Hercules, for he hoped that his hated existence would at last be ended in a war in such a country. Yet Hercules set out on this undertaking no more dismayed than on any previous expedition. He gathered together his army on the island of Crete, which he had freed from wild animals, and landed first in Libya. Here he met the giant Antaeus, whose strength was renewed as often as he touched the earth. He also freed Libya of birds of prey; for he hated wild animals and wicked men because he saw in all of them the image of the overbearing and unjust lord whom he so long had served. After long wandering through desert country he came at last to a fruitful land, through which great streams flowed. Here he founded a city of vast size, which he named Hecatompylos (City of a Hundred Gates). Then at last he reached the Atlantic Ocean and planted the two mighty pillars which bear his name.

The sun burned so fiercely that Hercules could bear it no longer; he raised his eyes to heaven and with raised bow threatened the sun-god. Apollo wondered at his courage and lent him for his further journeys the bark in which he himself was accustomed to lie from sunset to sunrise. In this Hercules sailed to Iberia. Here he found the three sons of Gold-Sword with three great armies camping near each other; but he killed all the leaders and plundered the land. Then he sailed to the island Erythia, where Geryone dwelt with his herds. As soon as the two-headed dog knew of his approach he sprang toward him; but Hercules struck him with his club and killed him. He killed also the giant herdsman who came to the help of the dog. Then he hurried away with the cattle. But Geryone overtook him and there was a fierce struggle. Juno herself offered to assist the giant; but Hercules shot her with an arrow deep in the heart, and the goddess, wounded, fled. Even the threefold body of the giant which ran together in the region of the stomach, felt the might of the deadly arrows and was forced to yield. With glorious adventures Hercules continued his way home, driving the cattle across country through Iberia and Italy. At Rhegium in lower Italy one of his oxen got away and swam across the strait to Sicily. Immediately Hercules drove the other cattle into the water and swam, holding one by the horns, to Sicily. Then the hero pursued his way without misfortune through Italy, Illyria and Thrace to Greece. Hercules had now accomplished ten labors; but Eurystheus was still unsatisfied and there were two more tasks to be undertaken.

The Eleventh Labour.

At the celebration of the marriage of Jupiter and Juno, when all the gods were bringing their wedding gifts to the happy pair, Mother Earth did not wish to be left out. So she caused to spring forth on the western borders of the great world-sea a many-branched tree full of golden apples. Four maidens called the Hesperides, daughters of Night, were the guardians of this sacred garden, and with them watched the hundred-headed dragon, Ladon, whose father was Phorkys, the parent of many monsters. Sleep came never to the eyes of this dragon and a fearful hissing sound warned one of his presence, for each of his hundred throats had a different voice. From this monster, so was the command of Eurystheus, should Hercules seize the golden apples. The hero set out on his long and adventurous journey and placed himself in the hands of blind chance, for he did not know where the Hesperides dwelt. He went first to Thessaly, where dwelt the giant Termerus, who with his skull knocked to death every traveler that he met; but on the mighty cranium of Hercules the head of the giant himself was split open. Farther on the hero came upon another monster in his way--Cycnus, the son of Mars and Pyrene. He, when asked concerning the garden of the Hesperides, instead of answering, challenged the wanderer to a duel, and was beaten by Hercules. Then appeared Mars, the god of war, himself, to avenge the death of his son; and Hercules was forced to fight with him. But Jupiter did not wish that his sons should shed blood, and sent his lightning bolt to separate the two. Then Hercules continued his way through Illyria, hastened over the river Eridanus, and came to the nymphs of Jupiter and Themis, who dwelt on the banks of the stream. To these Hercules put his question. "Go to the old river god Nereus," was their answer. "He is a seer and knows all things. Surprise him while he sleeps and bind him; then he will be forced to tell you the right way." Hercules followed this advice and became master of the river god, although the latter, according to his custom, assumed many different forms. Hercules would not let him go until he had learned in what locality he could find the golden apples of the Hesperides.

Informed of this, he went on his way toward Libya and Egypt. Over the latter land ruled Busiris, the son of Neptune and Lysianassa. To him during the period of a nine-year famine a prophet had borne the oracular message that the land would again bear fruit if a stranger were sacrificed once a year to Jupiter. In gratitude Busiris made a beginning with the priest himself. Later he found great pleasure in the custom and killed all strangers who came to Egypt. So Hercules was seized and placed on the altar of Jupiter. But he broke the chains which bound him, and killed Busiris and his son and the priestly herald. With many adventures the hero continued his way, set free, as has been told elsewhere, Prometheus, the Titan, who was bound to the Caucasus Mountains, and came at last to the place where Atlas stood carrying the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. Near him grew the tree which bore the golden apples of the Hesperides. Prometheus had advised the hero not to attempt himself to make the robbery of the golden fruit, but to send Atlas on the errand. The giant offered to do this if Hercules would support the heavens while he went. This Hercules consented to do, and Atlas set out. He put to sleep the dragon who lived beneath the tree and killed him. Then with a trick he got the better of the keepers, and returned happily to Hercules with the three apples which he had plucked. "But," he said, "I have now found out how it feels to be relieved of the heavy burden of the heavens. I will not carry them any longer." Then he threw the apples down at the feet of the hero, and left him standing with the unaccustomed, awful weight upon his shoulders. Hercules had to think of a trick in order to get away. "Let me," he said to the giant, "just make a coil of rope to bind around my head, so that the frightful weight will not cause my forehead to give way." Atlas found this new demand reasonable, and consented to take over the burden again for a few minutes. But the deceiver was at last deceived, and Hercules picked up the apples from the ground and set out on his way back. He carried the apples to Eurystheus, who, since his object of getting rid of the hero had not been accomplished, gave them back to Hercules as a present. The latter laid them on the altar of Minerva; but the goddess, knowing that it was contrary to the divine wishes to carry away this sacred fruit, returned the apples to the garden of the Hesperides.


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