Hercules (Her´cules) was the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. The goddess Juno hated him from his birth, and sent two serpents to kill him, but though only eight months old he strangled them. As he got older he was set by his master Eurystheus what were thought to be twelve impossible tasks which have long been known as the “Twelve Labors of Hercules.”

They were:

  1. First, To slay the Nemean Lion.
  2. Second, To destroy the Hydra which infested the marshes of Lerna.
  3. Third, To bring to Eurystheus the Arcadian Stag with the golden horns and brazen hoofs.
  4. Fourth, To bring to his master the Boar of Erymanthus.
  5. Fifth, To cleanse the stable of King Augeas, in which 3,000 oxen had been kept for thirty years, but had never been cleaned out.
  6. Sixth, To destroy the Stymphalides, terrible carnivorous birds.
  7. Seventh, To capture the Bull which was desolating Crete.
  8. Eighth, To capture the mares of Diomedes, which breathed fire from their nostrils, and ate human flesh.
  9. Ninth, To procure the girdle of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons.
  10. Tenth, To bring to Eurystheus the flesh-eating oxen of Geryon, the monster king of Gades.
  11. Eleventh, To bring away some of the golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides.
  12. Twelfth, To bring up from Hades the three-headed dog, Cerberus.

All these tasks he successfully accomplished, and, besides, he assisted the gods in their wars with the giants. Several other wonderful feats are mentioned under other headings, as Antaeus, Cacus, etc. His death was brought about through his endeavors to preserve Deianira from the attacks of Nessus, the centaur, whom he killed. The centaur, before he expired, gave his mystic tunic to Deianira, who in turn gave it to Hercules, and he put it on, but his doing so brought on an illness of which he could not be cured. In a fit of desperation he cast himself into a funeral pile on Mount Oeta; but Jupiter had him taken to heaven in a four-horse chariot, and only the mortal part of Hercules was consumed.

“Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.”


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