The Augean Stables

The fifth of the Twelve Labors of Heracles.

Eurystheus imposed upon Heracles the task of cleaning the stables of Augeas in one day. Augeas was king of Elis, and extremely rich in cattle. Heracles, without mentioning the command of Eurystheus, went to Augeas, offering in one day to clean his stables, if he would give him the tenth part of the cattle for his trouble, or, according to Pausanias1 a part of his territory. Augeas, believing that Heracles could not possibly accomplish what he promised, agreed, and Heracles took Phyleus, the son of Augeas, as his witness, and then led the rivers Alpheius and Peneius through the stables, which were thus cleaned in the time fixed upon.

But Augeas, who learned that Heracles had undertaken the work by the command of Eurystheus, refused the reward, denied his promise, and declared that he would have the matter decided by a judicial verdict. Phyleus then bore witness against his father, who exiled him from Elis. Eurystheus declared the work thus performed to be unlawful, because Heracles had stipulated with Augeas a payment for it.2

At a subsequent time Heracles, to revenge the faithlessness of Augeas, marched with an army of Argives and Tirynthians against Augeas, but in a narrow defile in Elis he was taken by surprise by Cteatus and Eurytus, and lost a great number of his warriors. But afterwards Heracles slew Cteatus and Eurytus, invaded Elis, and killed Augeas and his sons. After this victory, Heracles marked out the sacred ground on which the Olympian games were to be celebrated, built altars, and instituted the Olympian festival and games.3

Previous labor: The Erymanthian Boar.
Next labor: The Stymphalian Birds.



  1. Description of Greece v, 1.7.
  2. Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 5.5; Theocritus, xxv, 88 ff.; Ptolemaeus Hephaestus, 5; Athenaeus, x, p. 412; Scholiast on Pindar's Olympian Odes xii, 42.
  3. Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library ii, 7.2; Pausanias. Description of Greece v, 1.7. 3.1 ff., 4.1; viii, 15.2; Pindar. Olympian Odes xii, 25 ff.; comp. v, 5, iii, 13 ff.


  • Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.

This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.