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Hercules, in Greek mythology, was a hero known for his strength and courage and for his legendary adventures. Hercules is the Roman name for the Greek hero Heracles. He was the son of the god Zeus and a human mother Alcmene, wife of the Theban general Amphitryon. Hera, Zeus’ jealous wife, was determined to kill Hercules, and after Hercules was born, she sent two great serpents to kill him. Hercules, while he was still a baby, strangled the snakes. Hercules conquered a tribe that had been demanding money from Thebes. As a reward, he was given the hand in marriage of the Theben princess Megara and they had three children. Hera, still filled hatred of Hercules, sent him into madness, which made him kill his wife and children. In horror and remorse at what he did, Hercules was about to kill himself. But he was told by the oracle at Delphi that he should purge himself by becoming the servant of his cousin Eurystheus, king of Mycenae. Eurystheus, urged by Hera, planned as a punishment the 12 impossible tasks, the “Labors of Hercules.”
The Twelve Labors
The first task was to kill the lion of Nemea, a lion that could not be hurt by any weapon. Hercules knocked out the lion with his club first, then he strangled it to death. He wore the skin of the lion as a cloak and the head of the lion as a helmet, a trophy of his adventure.
The second task was to kill the Hydra that lived in a swamp in Lerna. The Hydra had nine heads. One head was immortal and when one of the others was chopped off, two grew back in its place. Cancer, one of the Hydra’s guards, bit Hercules on the foot when he came near, and was crushed by Hercules, but she was rescued by Hera. Hercules scorched each mortal neck with a burning torch to prevent it from growing two heads and he buried the immortal head under a rock. He then dipped his arrows in the Hydra’s blood to make them poisonous.
Hercules’ next labor is to capture alive a stag with golden horns and bronze hoofs that was sacred to Artemis, goddess of the hunt.
The fourth labor was to capture a great boar in Mount Erymanthus. Hercules used the poison arrows with the Hydra’s blood to shoot at the Erymanthian boar. One of the poison arrows wounded Hercules’ friend Cheiron, an immortal centaur, half-horse and half-man. Cheiron feared the poison arrow would hurt him for eternity, but Zeus rewarded him for his service to the gods by changing him to Sagittarius the Archer. The boar got killed by the arrows.
In the fifth labor, Hercules had to clean up in one day the 30 years of filth left by thousands of cattle in the stables of king Augeas. He turns the streams of two rivers, making them flow through the stables.
For the next labor, Hercules has to drive off huge flocks of man-eating birds with bronze beaks, claws, and wings that lived near Lake Stymphalus. He shot them with poisonous arrows and killed them.
The seventh labor was to capture the man-eating mares of Diomedes, king of Thrace. To bring back the man-eating mares, Hercules killed king Diomedes, then drove the mares to Mycenae.
For the ninth labor...
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