The Twelve Labors: Evolution (page 382)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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Tr 1089-1100 – Sophokles, Trachiniai (Women of Trachis)

O hands, my hands, O shoulders and chest and trusty arms, you are indeed those noted arms which once subdued with your might the dweller in Nemea, the scourge of herdsmen, the lion, a creature that no man might approach or confront; you tamed the Lernaean Hydra, and that monstrous army of beasts with double form, hostile, going on hoofed feet, violent, lawless, of surpassing violence; you tamed the beast in Erymanthia, and underground the three-headed whelp of Hades, a resistless terror, offspring of the fierce Echidna; you tamed the dragon that guarded the golden fruit in the farthest places of the earth. Greek Text

HF 359-424 – Euripides, Herakles Mainomenos (Hercules Furens)

First he cleared the grove of Zeus of a lion, and put its skin upon his back, hiding his yellow hair in its fearful tawny gaping jaws. And then one day with murderous bow he wounded the race of wild Centaurs, that range the hills, slaying them with winged shafts. Peneus, the river of fair eddies, knows him well, and those far fields unharvested, and the steadings on Pelion and neighboring caves of Homole, from where the Centaurs rode forth to conquer Thessaly, arming themselves with pines. And he slew that dappled deer with horns of gold, that preyed upon the country-folk, glorifying Artemis, huntress queen of Oenoe. Next he mounted on a chariot and tamed with the bit the horses of Diomedes, that greedily champed their bloody food at gory mangers with unbridled jaws, devouring with hideous joy the flesh of men; then crossing the heights of Hebrus that flow with silver, he still toiled on for the tyrant of Mycenae. And at the strand of the Pelian gulf by the streams of Anaurus, he slew with his arrows Cycnus, murderer of his guests, the savage wretch who dwelt in Amphanae. And he came to those minstrel maids, to their orchard in the west, to pluck from golden leaves the apple-bearing fruit, when he had slain the tawny dragon, whose terrible coils were twined all round to guard it; and he made his way into ocean’s lairs, bringing calm to men that use the oar. And he stretched out his hands to uphold the firmament, seeking the home of Atlas, and on his manly shoulders took the starry mansions of the gods. Then he went through the waves of heaving Euxine against the mounted host of Amazons dwelling round Maeotis, the lake that is fed by many a stream, having gathered to his standard all his friends from Hellas, to fetch the gold-embroidered raiment of the warrior queen, a deadly quest for a girdle. Hellas won those glorious spoils of the barbarian maid, and they are safe in Mycenae. He burned to ashes Lerna‘s murderous hound, the many-headed hydra, and smeared its venom on his darts, with which he slew the shepherd of Erytheia, a monster with three bodies. Greek Text

♠ Ais pp. 304-320 R – Aischylos, Prometheus Lyomenos – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 3, ed. S. L. Radt. Göttingen 1985.

DS 4.11-26 – Diodoros Siculus, Library of History

At such a turn of affairs Heracles fell into despondency of no ordinary kind; for he felt that servitude to an inferior was a thing which his high achievements did not deserve, and yet he saw that it would be hurtful to himself and impossible not to obey Zeus, who was his father as well. While he was thus greatly at a loss, Hera sent upon him a frenzy, and in his vexation of soul he fell into a madness. As the affliction grew on him he lost his mind and tried to slay Iolaüs, and when Iolaüs made his escape but his own children by Megara were near by, he shot his bow and killed them under the impression that they were enemies of his. When he finally recovered from his madness and recognized the mistake he had made through a misapprehension, he was plunged in grief over the magnitude of the calamity. And while all extended him sympathy and joined in his grief, for a long whole he stayed inactive at home, avoiding any association or meeting with men; at last, however, time assuaged his grief, and making up his mind to undergo the dangers he made his appearance at the court of Eurystheus. The first Labour which he undertook was the slaying of the lion in Nemea.  Continue reading  Greek Text

HF 17-21 – Euripides,  Herakles Mainomenos (Hercules Furens)

so he, wishing to lighten my affliction and to find a home in his own land, offered Eurystheus a mighty price for my recall: to free the world of savage monsters, whether it was that Hera goaded him to submit to this, or that fate was leagued against him.  Greek Text

ApB 2.4.12 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

Now it came to pass that after the battle with the Minyans Hercules was driven mad through the jealousy of Hera and flung his own children, whom he had by Megara, and two children of Iphicles into the fire; wherefore he condemned himself to exile, and was purified by Thespius, and repairing to Delphi he inquired of the god where he should dwell. The Pythian priestess then first called him Hercules, for hitherto he was called Alcides. And she told him to dwell in Tiryns, serving Eurystheus for twelve years and to perform the ten labours imposed on him, and so, she said, when the tasks were accomplished, he would be immortal. Greek Text

DS 4.10.7 – Diodoros Siculus, Library of History

And when Heracles ignored the summons Zeus despatched word to him to enter the service of Eurystheus; whereupon Heracles journeyed to Delphi, and on inquiring of the god regarding the matter he received a reply which stated that the gods had decided that he should perform twelve Labours at the command of Eurystheus and that upon their conclusion he should receive the gift of immortality.  Greek Text

Athen 13.603d (13.80) – Athenaios, Herakleia

And Diotimus, in his Heraclea, says that Eurystheus was a great favourite of Hercules, on which account he willingly endured all his labours for his sake. Greek Text

Paus 5.10.9 – Pausanias, Description of Greece

Most of the labours of Heracles are represented at Olympia. Above the doors of the temple is carved the hunting of the Arcadian boar, his exploit against Diomedes the Thracian, and that against Geryones at Erytheia; he is also about to receive the burden of Atlas, and he cleanses the land from dung for the Eleans. Above the doors of the rear chamber he is taking the girdle from the Amazon; and there are the affairs of the deer, of the bull at Cnossus, of the Stymphalian birds, of the hydra, and of the Argive lion.  Greek Text

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Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, December 2020

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