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Labours of Hercules.
From Myths and Legends of all nations
Start of Story
by Logan Marshall.
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
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
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
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
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
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.