Summary of Heracles 1's exploits (LABOURS in red):
Heracles 1 (behind his back he is holding the Golden Apples of the HESPERIDES). 7021: "Ercole Farnese". Reilaborazione di età imperiale. Da originale della II metà del IV sec. a.C. National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Alcides was the first name of Heracles 1 until a Pythian priestess first called him Heracles 1. This priestess told him to serve Eurystheus for twelve
years, and to perform the LABOURS imposed
on him; and when the tasks were accomplished, he
would become immortal. Amphitryon was
married with Alcmena,
and during his absence Zeus took his form and lay with her. Before Amphitryon returned
home from war, Zeus came,
and prolonging the one night threefold, he assumed
the likeness of Amphitryon and made
love to Alcmena. But
when Amphitryon arrived and she told him that he had come the night
before and slept with her, Amphitryon went to Tiresias, and the seer
told him how Zeus had enjoyed her.
1. Eight months old kills the Serpents
When Heracles 1 was about to be born, Zeus declared that a
descendant of Perseus 1, then about to be born, would be king of Mycenae. But Hera, out of jealousy,
persuaded Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth, to
delivery, and contrived that Eurystheus, also a
descendant of Perseus 1, should be born a seven-month child. This is how Heracles 1 lost the throne of Mycenae. When Heracles 1 was eight months old, Hera, desiring his death,
sent two serpents to his bed. But he strangled the
beasts with his hands. And when he was eighteen
years old, he slew the Lion of Cithaeron, which
harried the kine of Amphitryon and
Heracles 1 was taught to drive the chariot by Amphitryon, to wrestle by Autolycus 1, the art of archery by Eurytus 4, to fence by Castor 1, and to play the lyre by Linus 4.
He received a sword from Hermes, bow and arrows
from Apollo, a golden
breastplate from Hephaestus, and a
robe from Athena.
4. Death of Linus 4
For being struck by Linus 4, Heracles 1 flew into a rage and slew him with a blow of the lyre.
5. Daughters of Thespius
King Thespius of Thespiae in Boeotia entertained Heracles 1 for fifty days, and each night bedded one of his daughters with him. The children of Heracles 1 by the daughters of Thespius were called Thespiades. Two of them remained in Thebes, and seven in Thespiae. All the other Thespiades joined Iolaus 1 in the founding of a colony in Sardinia.
6. Death of Erginus 1
King Erginus 1 of the Minyans imposed a tribute to the Thebans after his father was killed by Perieres 2, a Theban. But it happened that Heracles 1 met the king's heralds on their way to Thebes to demand this tribute, and he cut off their ears, noses, and hands, and send them back to Erginus 2. Indignant at this outrage, Erginus 2 marched against Thebes. But Heracles 1, having received weapons from Athena and taken the command, killed Erginus 2, defeated the Minyans, and forced them
to pay double the tribute to Thebes. In this war Amphitryon was
As a prize for his courage, Heracles 1 received in marriage Megara, daughter of Creon 2, and they had several children: Therimachus, Deicoon 1, Creontiades, and Ophites 1 (but some affirm that their children were eight in number).
About this time, Lycus 6, son of Poseidon and descendant of Lycus 5 from Dirphys in Euboea, killed Creon 2, and seized power
in Thebes. It is told that he planned to murder Megara too, but was in time detected by Heracles 1 who killed him.
8. Domestic violence
Hera, still persecuting Heracles 1, drove him mad, and as a result he killed his wife Megara and his children by her, flinging them into the fire. But some assert that only his children were killed, and that Megara later married another man (see below). And others say that Heracles 1 was about to kill Amphitryon too, when Athena threw a stone at
him, and rendered him unconscious.
When he recovered his reason, he decided to go
into exile, and arriving at Delphi, the Pythian
priestess told him to dwell in Tiryns, serving Eurystheus for twelve
years and to perform ten LABOURS (which
10. Nemean Lion (1st
His first Labour was to destroy the Nemean Lion. Heracles 1 shot an arrow at him, but when he perceived that the animal was invulnerable, he broke its neck with his bare hands.
11. Hydra (2nd
As a second labour he was ordered by Eurystheus to kill
the Lernaean Hydra, offspring of Typhon and
Echidna, a monster with nine heads, one of them
being immortal. He chopped all heads, and the
immortal one he buried, putting a heavy rock on it.
12. Cerynitian Hind (3rd
As a third labour he was ordered to bring the
Cerynitian Hind alive to Mycenae. This hind had
golden horns, and was sacred to Artemis. Therefore Heracles 1 did not wish to wound it, but at the end he shot it just as it was about to cross a river. He caught it and hastened through Arcadia towards Mycenae. But Artemis and Apollo met him, and rebuked him for attempting to kill her sacred hind. But Heracles 1 put the blame on Eurystheus, pleaded
necessity, and so he appeased Artemis' anger, carrying
the hind alive to Mycenae.
13. Erymanthian Boar (4th
As a fourth labour he was ordered to bring alive
the Erymanthian Boar, which ravaged Psophis.
14. Death of Chiron
While Heracles 1 was hunting the Erymanthian Boar, he was received by Pholus 1 the Centaur. On this occasion, a jar of wine belonging to the CENTAURS in common was
opened, and when the CENTAURS learned that their jar had been taken, a fight broke up, in the course of which Heracles 1 repelled them. The defeated CENTAURS took
then refuge with the wise Centaur Chiron, and Heracles 1 shot Chiron involuntarily
with his poisoned arrows. The wound proving
incurable, Chiron renounced immortality in favor of Prometheus 1.
15. Augeas' Stables (5th
The fifth labour was to carry out the dung of
the cattle of King Augeas of Elis in a single day. Heracles 1 went to Augeas, and without revealing the command of Eurystheus, said that he would carry out the dung in one day, if Augeas would give him the tenth part of the cattle. Augeas was incredulous, but promised to do so. Having taken Augeas' son Phyleus 1 to witness, Heracles 1 made a breach in the foundations of the cattle-yard, and diverting the courses of two rivers, he turned them into the yard. However, when Augeas learned that the task had been accomplished at the command of Eurystheus, he refused to pay the reward. Arbitrators were then called, and since Phyleus 1 bore witness against his father, Augeas ordered both his son and Heracles 1 to leave Elis.
16. Death of the Centaur Eurytion 3
Mnesimache's father, Dexamenus 1, betrothed her by force to Eurytion 3, but when he came to fetch his bride, she called for Heracles 1's help, and he slew the Centaur.
17. The Stymphalian Birds
The sixth Labour was to chase the man-eating
birds who used their feathers as arrows. Their
place of abode was the Stymphalian Lake in Arcadia. To help him in
this task, Athena gave Heracles 1 brazen castanets, which she had received from Hephaestus. By clashing these on a certain mountain that overhung the lake, he scared the birds, which could not abide the sound, but fluttered up in a fright. In that way Heracles 1 shot them down. Some of these birds were also found by the ARGONAUTS in other
18. The Cretan Bull (7th
The seventh Labour consisted in bringing the
Cretan Bull. Some say that this is the bull that
ferried Europa to Crete, but others affirm
that it was the same bull that Poseidon sent up from
the sea to Minos 2 (see Minotaur). Heracles 1 came to Crete and
requested aid, but Minos 2 replied that he should fight the beast himself. Nevertheless, Heracles 1 caught it and brought it to Eurystheus, who
having seen the bull let it go free.
19. MARES OF DIOMEDES 1 (8th Labour)
The eighth Labour consisted in bringing the man-eating mares that Diomedes 1, king of the Bistonians in Thrace, owned. Heracles 1 sailed with some volunteers to Thrace, and having overpowered the grooms, he drove the mares to the sea, committing them to the guardianship of Abderus. However, the beasts killed Abderus by dragging him after them. But Heracles 1 slew Diomedes 1 and defeated his army, or as others say, he let the mares devour their master. He also founded a city Abdera beside the grave of his friend Abderus. When Heracles 1 returned from Thrace, he gave the mares to Eurystheus. But Eurystheus again let
them go free, and they were destroyed by the wild
beasts in Mount Olympus.
20. The Belt of Hippolyte 2 (9th Labour)
The ninth Labour was to fetch the Belt of Hippolyte 2, queen of the AMAZONS. She had the
belt of Ares for being the
best among the AMAZONS. Heracles 1 was sent to fetch it because Admete 2, daughter of Eurystheus, desired
to get it. When he arrived to the land of the AMAZONS, a fight broke out, and Heracles 1 killed Hippolyte 2, stripping her of her belt. And having defeated the rest, he sailed away to Troy. After
several adventures (see below), he came to Mycenae and gave the
Belt to Eurystheus.
21. Death of the sons of Minos 2
When Heracles 1 sailed in order to fetch the Belt of Hippolyte 2, he came to the island of Paros, where the sons of Minos 2 lived. But on landing on the island, some of Heracles 1's men were killed. Indignant at this, Heracles 1 killed the sons of Minos 2, and
besieged the rest. And when he left, he took the
sons of Androgeus as hostages.
22. Defeats the Bebrycians
In his way to the AMAZONS, he came to Mysia, to the court of King Lycus 3 of the Mariandynians. Heracles 1 was entertained by him; and in a battle between him and the king of the Bebrycians, Heracles 1 sided with Lycus 3 and slew many of the latter's enemies, among others King Mygdon, brother of Amycus 1. And he took much land from the Bebrycians and gave it to Lycus 3, who called it all Heraclea.
23. Rescues Hesione 2 and gives her as a prize
Apollo and Poseidon, desiring to put King Laomedon 1 of Troy to the test, assumed the likeness of men, and
undertook to fortify Troy for wages. But when they had fortified it, the king
would not pay their wages. Therefore, Apollo sent a pestilence,
and Poseidon sent sea-monster that snatched away the people of the plain. But as oracles foretold deliverance from these calamities if Laomedon 1 would expose Hesione 2 to be devoured by the sea-monster, he exposed her by fastening her to the rocks near the sea. Seeing her exposed, Heracles 1 promised to save her on condition of receiving from Laomedon 1 the mares which Zeus had given in
compensation for the rape of Ganymedes. On Laomedon 1's saying that he would give them, Heracles 1 killed the monster and saved Hesione 2. But when Laomedon 1 would not give the stipulated reward, Heracles 1 made war on Troy, and having killed Laomedon 1, he assigned the girl as a prize to Telamon.
24. Death of Sarpedon 2
In Aenus he was entertained by Poltys. And as he was sailing away, he shot Sarpedon 2, son of Poseidon and brother of
25. Conquers Thasos
After Aenus he came to Thasos, and having
subjugated the Thracians who inhabited the island,
he gave it to the sons of Androgeus to dwell in
26. Kills the sons of Proteus 2
In Torone he was challenged to wrestle by Polygonus and Telegonus 2 and he killed both in the wrestling match.
27. The Cattle of Geryon
As the tenth labour he was ordered to fetch the Cattle of Geryon. Geryon lived in the island of Erythia, and had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but parted in three from the flanks and thighs. The cattle was guarded by Orthus, a two-headed hound. When the dog and Geryon's herdsman Eurytion 4 saw Heracles 1 coming, they attacked him, but Heracles 1 killed them both. Hoerver, Menoetes, who was there pasturing the cattle of Hades, reported to Geryon the presence of Heracles 1, and Geryon attacked him; yet Heracles 1 killed him too, and took his cattle away. After several adventures (see below), he gave the cattle to Eurystheus.
28. Killing of wild beasts
While he traveled through Europe to fetch the
Cattle of Geryon he killed many wild beasts.
29. The Pillars
Coming to Tartessus (a Phoenician city near Gades, Cádiz, in Spain), he erected two pillars at the boundaries of Europe and Libya (Africa).
30. Gift of Helius
It is told that Helius gave him a golden goblet so that he could cross the Ocean. Shortly after having sailed in the goblet, Heracles 1 gave it back to Helius.
In Liguria, Ialebion and Dercynus, sons of Poseidon, attempted to
rob him of the Cattle of Geryon, but he killed them
32. Eryx 1
In Italy, King Eryx 1 challenged Heracles 1 to wrestle for the sake of a bull (which he had taken from the Cattle of Geryon, and mingled with his own herds). Heracles 1 killed him in the wrestling, took the bull, and drove the herd to the Ionian Sea.
33. Hera's gadfly
Finally, he had difficulties to collect the
cattle, which had been dispersed by a gadfly sent
34. Apples of the HESPERIDES (11th Labour)
Eurystheus ordered Heracles 1, as the eleventh Labour (because he did not acknowledge Augeas' Stables nor the Hydra), to fetch the Golden Apples of the HESPERIDES. These
apples were not, as some have said, in Libya, but
among the Hyperboreans. They were presented by Gaia to Zeus after his marriage
with Hera, and guarded by an immortal dragon with a hundred heads. Some say that Heracles 1 sent Atlas to fetch the apples, first relieving him of his
burden, but others say that he killed the dragon,
and took the apples himself.
34. Cycnus 2
When Heracles 1 was in his way to fetch the apples, Cycnus 2, son of Ares, challenged him to
single combat near the river Echedorus in
Macedonia, but a thunderbolt was hurled between the
two, and parted them.
35. Meets Nereus
Heracles 1 seized Nereus while he slept, and though he changed into all kinds of shapes, Heracles 1 hold him and did not release him until Nereus told the whereabouts of the apples and the HESPERIDES.
36. Antaeus 1
Next he came to Libya, where the ruler was Antaeus 1, who used to kill strangers by forcing them to wrestle. Antaeus 1 was son of Gaia, according to some, or
son of Poseidon, according to others. He became stronger when he touched the earth, because he derived his strength from it, but Heracles 1 killed him while holding him in the air. And when he had vanquished Antaeus 1, he subdued Libya, which at the time was full with wild animals. He also brought large parts of the desert under cultivation so that it was filled with ploughed fields, and vineyards, and olive orchards. In this way Libya came to know prosperity. Likewise, Heracles 1 punished those who defied the law as well as arrogant rulers, giving prosperity to the cities.
37. Busiris 2
And next he came to Egypt, whose ruler Busiris 2 used to sacrifice strangers. Him Heracles 1 sacrificed, or slew with his club.
38. Prometheus 1 unbound
Then he went to Ethiopia where he killed King
Emathion, son of Eos; and
after that he delivered Prometheus 1. Prometheus 1 moulded
men out of water and earth, and gave them fire,
having stolen it from the gods. But when Zeus learned of it, he
ordered Hephaestus to
nail his body to a rock in Mount Caucasus. Prometheus 1 was
nailed on the rock and kept bound for many years.
Every day an eagle came to him and devoured his
liver, which grew by night. In that way was Prometheus 1 punished for the theft of fire. But Heracles 1 came to Mount Caucasus, killed the eagle, and released him.
39. The Hound of Hades (12th Labour)
The twelfth Labour that Eurystheus imposed on Heracles 1 was to bring Cerberus 1 from Hades (see Underworld for a description of this peculiar dog). Before performing this Labour, Heracles 1 went to Eleusis to be initiated,
and later he descended to Hades in Taenarum in
Laconia. In Hades, he
saw Theseus, who was not supposed to be there yet, and he rescued him. When Heracles 1 asked Hades for Cerberus 1, the god told him to take it provided he mastered him without any weapons. Heracles 1 flung his arms round Cerberus 1's head (one of them!), and though the dragon in the dog's tail bit him, he did not released the beast. Having ascended in Troezen, he showed Cerberus 1 to Eurystheus, and
carried the dog back to Hades. (See also Heracles 1 in Hades.)
40. Megara to Iolaus 1
After the LABOURS, Heracles 1 came back to Thebes and gave his wife Megara to Iolaus 1 (which means that the death of Megara mentioned in (8) was perhaps an exaggerated rumour). Some say that Heracles 1 divorced her on the ground that he had lost the children he had by her (whom he had himself killed). Iolaus 1 and Megara had a daughter Leipephilene, who was as beautiful as the Olympian goddesses, or so they say.
41. In love with Iole
Heracles 1 won Iole's hand through a contest in archery, and yet he did not get the bride (see also 50).
42. Raises Alcestis
The MOERAE had decided that, when King Admetus 1 should be about to die, he might be spared if someone else would voluntarily die in his place. And when the day of his death came, neither his father nor his mother would die for him, but his wife Alcestis did die in his stead. Yet Heracles 1 fought with Death, and brought her
up from the Underworld.
43. Death of Iphitus 1
Not long after, some cattle were stolen by the notorious thief Autolycus 1 (his father gave him the gift of being such a skilful thief that he could not be caught, making him able to change whatever he stole into some other form or colour), and Heracles 1 was held responsible; but Iphitus 1 did not believe it and went to see Heracles 1. And meeting him, he invited him to seek the cattle with him. Heracles 1 promised to do so, but suddenly he went mad again and threw Iphitus 1 from the walls of Tiryns, killing him. Heracles 1 then went then to see Neleus, the founder of Pylos, in order to be purified for the death of Iphitus 1, but Neleus refused. Instead he was purified by Deiphobus 2 in Amyclae. But Heracles 1 could not find peace after this death, and he repaired to Delphi. And not being
satisfied with the answers of the Pythian
priestess, he plundered the temple and carried off
the tripod with the idea of starting an oracle of
his own. And when Apollo opposed him, Zeus threw a
thunderbolt between them.
Heracles 1 received an oracle anyway, which declared that the cure for his disease was for him to be sold, to serve for three years as a slave, and to pay compensation for the death of Iphitus 1. So Hermes sold Heracles 1, and he was bought by Omphale, queen of Lydia. During this servitude, he punished the CERCOPES at Ephesus, killed Syleus in Aulis, buried Icarus, and threw a stone against a statue by Daedalus representing him. And some say that it is after and not before his time with Omphale that he killed King Laomedon 1, rescued Hesione 2, and put Priam 1 in the throne of Troy (see 23.). Some say
also that it is about this time that the expedition
of the ARGONAUTS and the Calydonian Boar Hunt took place. Heracles 1 was one of the ARGONAUTS.
45. Return from Troy
On his return from Troy (see 23. and 44.), Hera sent storms against him, and that is why Zeus, to protect his son, hung her from Olympus. Heracles 1 sailed to Cos, and the Coans, thinking he was leading a piratical squadron, received him with a shower of stones. But he took the city by night, and slew King Eurypylus 4, son of Poseidon.
46. Fighting the GIANTS
Hebe married Heracles 1 in heaven. 0905: Hebe. Bust by Antonio Canova, 1757-1822. Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart.
After all this, Heracles 1 sided with the OLYMPIANS during the
revolt of the GIANTS. His
participation in this war was necessary, because
the GIANTS could not be
killed only by the immortals. A mortal was needed.
47. Uses Augeas' trick as a pretext for ravaging
Now the time came to remind Augeas of his trick (see 15.). He collected an Arcadian army and marched against Augeas. In the war, he killed the MOLIONIDES and Augeas, and then he gave the throne to Phyleus 1, Augeas' son. And having captured Elis, he attacked Pylos. And after taking this city, he slew Periclymenus 1, who used to change his shape in battle. And he also slew Neleus and all his sons,
except Nestor who was too
young (or was away). During the fight, he also
wounded Hades, who helped
the Pylians, and smote Hera on the right breast with a three-barbed arrow, and
wounded Ares in his thigh. Having conquered the Pylians, he attacked Hippocoon 2, who had expelled Icarius 1 and Tyndareus from Lacedaemon, becoming himself king of the Lacedaemonians. On this occasion, he killed all the Hippocoontides because they had murdered Oeonus for having killed their dog that had attacked him. In this war, King Cepheus 2 of Tegea, who was reluctant to go to war, perished in battle together with his sons, helping Heracles 1 against the Lacedaemonians. Having defeated his enemies, Heracles 1 restored Tyndareus on the
throne of Lacedaemon.
48. Debauches Auge 2
Passing by Tegea, Heracles 1 seduced Auge 2, who later hid her babe in the precinct of Athena, whose priesthood
she held. But the land remaining barren, and the
oracles declaring that there was impiety in the
precinct of Athena, she was delivered by her father to Nauplius 1 to be put to death, and from him Teuthras 1, prince of Mysia, received her and married her.
49. Meets his fate: Deianira 1
Heracles 1 and Achelous wrestled for the hand of Deianira 1, daughter of Oeneus 2 and Althaea, or of Dionysus 2 and Althaea, or of Dexamenus 1, son of Oeceus. Achelous assumed the likeness of a bull; but Heracles 1 broke off one of his horns, and married her. Later, Heracles 1 and Deianira 1 came to the river Evenus, at which the centaur Nessus 2 sat and ferried passengers across for hire. Heracles 1 crossed the river by himself, but entrusted Deianira 1 to Nessus 2 to carry over. But he, in ferrying her across, attempted to violate her. When Heracles 1 heard her crying, he shot Nessus 2 in the heart when he emerged from the river. But being at the point of death, Nessus 2 called Deianira 1 to him, and gave her a love-charm mixed with the blood that flowed from his wound and the seed he had dropped on the ground, saying that with its help she would be able to influence her husband.
50. Some of his last exploits
These are some of Heracles 1's last exploits:
He marched against the Thesprotians and took
He met Astyoche 2, who gave him a son Tlepolemus 1.
Feasting with Oeneus, he accidentally killed Eunomus 1, and went into exile to Trachis, where he helped King Ceyx to conquer
Later he met Aegimius 1, king of the Dorians, who had a dispute about boundaries with the LAPITHS, and was helped by Heracles 1 in the war against them. Aegimius 1 adopted Hyllus 1, son of Heracles 1, on the death of the latter. In that war, Heracles 1 killed Coronus 1, general of the LAPITHS, and Laogoras,
king of the Dryopians.
After this, passing by Itonus, he was challenged to single combat by Cycnus 3, son of Ares and Pelopia 3, and he killed him.
When Heracles 1 came to Ormenium, king Amyntor 1 took arms and forbade him to march through, but Heracles 1 slew him. Then he decided to punish Eurytus 4, father of Iphitus 1, perhaps for not having accepted the compensation for the death of the latter that Heracles 1 had offered him. So he killed Eurytus 4, pillaged the city (Oechalia) and took Iole captive (see 41.).
51. Death and Apotheosis
At this point, Deianira 1 learned about Iole and Heracles 1, and believing that the blood of Nessus 2 was in truth a love-charm (see 49.), she smeared a tunic with it and gave it to Heracles 1. When Heracles 1 put it on and proceeded to offer sacrifice the tunic was warmed, and the poison of the Hydra (introduced into the blood of the Centaur by Heracles 1's arrow) began to corrode his skin. Seeing that he was dying, Heracles 1 constructed a pyre for himself and gave orders to kindle it. Nobody would do so but Poeas, who passed by and set a light to it. Heracles 1 gave him his bow, which Philoctetes later
inherited. Thereafter he obtained immortality, and
being reconciled to Hera,
he married her daughter Hebe in heaven.
Others with identical name
Heracles 2 is one of the so called DACTYLS.
Heracles 3, also called Maceris, is a Libyan, celebrated mainly because of his journey to Delphi.
Heracles 4 was born very much earlier than Heracles 1; because both bore the same name, the deeds of Heracles 4, son of Zeus and Lysithoe, were transferred to Heracles 1, the majority of men being ignorant of actual facts, as some have observed. His main deeds and honours, it is said, were concerned with Egypt, where he also founded a city.
Heracles 5 is said to have compiled the sacred books of Phrygia.
Heracles 6, a son of Zeus and Asteria 1, is chiefly worshipped at Tyre.
In addition, an Egyptian Heracles has been presented by other authors. For example, Flavius Philostratus, in his Life of Apollonius of Tyana 2.33, says that it was this Heracles who overrun the Indians together with Dionysus 2. He also adds that it was this Heracles, and not Heracles 1, who marked the frontier of the world at Gadira, erecting the famous pillars at the western end of the Mediterranean sea. He also says (2.3) that Prometheus 1 was delivered by another Heracles, not the Theban Heracles 1. These were the views of Apollonius of Tyana, as reported by F. Philostratus. Apollonius regarded Heracles 1 as an averter of disease, interpreting the labour of Augeas' stables thus:
"… [Heracles] is the wise and courageous god, who once purged of the plague the city of Elis, by washing away with the
river-tide the foul exhalations which the land sent
up under the tyranny of Augeas." (Flavius Philostratus, Life
of Apollonius of Tyana 8.7).