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Twelve Labors, The

by Ron Leadbetter
The twelve labors of Heracles were assigned to him by the king of Argos, Eurystheus, who was a weak and cowardly king. His disdain of Heracles was because of his courage and heroism of which the king had none. The reason for these tasks were to appease the guilt Heracles bestowed upon himself after he had killed his children and wife (Megara) in a mad rage, which Hera had infused into Heracles' mind. (This was described by Euripides circa 417 BCE in his tragedy "Heracles" ). Heracles made his way to Apollo's temple at Delphi to seek a way in which he could make amends for his wrong doings. Heracles was told to return to his homeland of the Peloponnese and put himself at the disposal of king Eurystheus for twelve years.

There are many variations of in which order the labors were assigned, some versions use the order in which the metopes (carved stone panels between the triglyphs, which are on the architrave of the entablature) from the "Temple of Zeus Olympia" are arranged. Others are from ancient or classical scholars, but no matter in what order they are arranged they are still the same in content. The order in which they are presented here seems to be the most popular.

  1. The Nemean Lion.
  2. The Lernaean Hydra.
  3. The Erymanthian Boar.
  4. The Ceryneian Hind.
  5. The Stymphalian Birds.
  6. The Augean Stables.
  7. The Cretan Bull.
  8. The Mares of Diomedes.
  9. The Girdle of Hippolyte.
  10. The Cattle of Geryon.
  11. The Apples of the Hesperides.
  12. The Capture of Cerberus.

No matter which version is used the slaying of the Nemean Lion is always the first labor Heracles undertakes.


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