Hercules: His 12 Quests

Hercules: His 12

Quests

Like Perseus, Hercules was required to
perform the miracu-lous. But instead of having to bring only one mission
to a successful close, Hercules was ordered to complete twelve great tasks,
which are often referred to in literature as "the labors of Hercules."

This is how the challenge came about.

Hercules was the son of Jupiter
and Alcmene, daughter of the king of Mycenae. When Hercules was born, Juno
in a jealous anger sent two serpents to destroy him in his cradle. But

Hercules, even then showing the strength for which he later became famous,
strangled them. Juno\'s hatred, however, was not easily appeased. She waited
until Hercules reached manhood and had achieved some fame; then she placed
a spell on him that made him insane. In his fit of madness he slew his
wife and children. But he was cured by Minerva and saved by her from shedding
more blood. In payment for his crime, for which he had really not been
responsible, he was made the servant of his cousin, King Eurystheus of

Argos, whose commands he was compelled to obey. (Juno\'s hand was in this,
too.) Eurystheus thought up twelve tasks that seemed clearly impossible
of fullment.

The Nemean Lion. Eurystheus first
ordered Hercules to kill the Nemean lion, a terrible beast that had defied
all would-be captors. The combat between Hercules and the lion was brutal
and cruel. .Seeing that his club and arrows were of no avail in the battle,

Hercules grasped the lion in his hands and strangled it to death. He returned
to Eurystheus, wearing the skin of the lion as a cloak and the head as
a helmet.

The Hydra, or Water SerpenL Hercules
was ordered next to slay the Hydra, a many-headed water serpent that had
taken a heavy toll in the country of Argos. The middle head of the Hydra
was immortal, indestructible. Hercules attacked the monster valiantly,
but as he struck off one head, two others grew in its place. Hercules realized
that he must change his plan of attack. With the assistance of his faithful
nephew, he built a huge fire and burnt away the many heads before they
could multiply further. The middle head, which was immortal, he buried
under a rock.

The Arcadian Stag. Eurystheus commanded

Hercules to capture the Arcadian stag, a magnificent beast with antlers
of gold and hoofs of brass. Its speed was far beyond that of the swiftest
beast known. Hercules pursued it in vain for a year before he succeeded
in inflicting a slight wound. Thus handicapped, the stag was captured by

Hercules, who carried it, on his shoulders, to his tyrant cousin.

The Boar of Eiymanthus. Like the

Hydra and the Nemean lion, a huge boar had been laying waste the peaceful
countryside. Eurystheus commanded Hercules to capture the beast. He pursued
the boar relentlessly, finally captured it in a huge net, and carried it
to his cousin.

The Augean Stables. For thirty
years the stables of Augeas, king of Elis, had been neglected. Hercules
was commanded to clean these stables, which housed three thousand oxen.

He succeeded in doing sin a single day. How? He simply diverted two rivers
so that they them. Juno\'s hatred, however, was not easily appeased. She
waited until Hercules reached manhood and had achieved some fame; then
she placed a spell on him that made him insane. In his fit of madness he
slew his wife and children. But he was cured by Minerva and saved by her
from shedding more blood. In payment for his crime, for which he had really
not been responsible, he was made the servant of his cousin, King Eurystheus
of Argos, whose commands he was compelled to obey. (Juno\'s hand was in
this, too.) Eurystheus thought up twelve tasks that seemed clearly impossible
of fulfillment.

The Man-Eating Birds. In Arcadia
there lived a strange flock of birds. Their wings, claws, and beaks were
of brass and they used their feathers as arrows. Their favorite food being
human flesh, they preyed upon the hapless inhabitants of the country. Eurystheus
ordered Hercules to destroy these man-eating birds. As the renowned hero
approached the flock, he made a noise with a great rattle. The birds took
flight, and Hercules, whose prowess as a marksman evidently equaled his
strength, was able to slay them as they flew.

The Cretan Bull. The Cretan bull
was a magnificent but terrible brute owned by King Minos of Crete. When
it got out of control, Hercules was ordered to capture it. Once again,
having used his great strength and skill to advantage, Hercules entered
the halls of Eurys-theus with a huge beast draped over his