Labor II: The Lernaian Hydra (page 386 upper)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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Euripides, Ion 191-200

Look! come see, the son of Zeus is killing the Lernean Hydra with a golden sickle; my dear, look at it! I see it. And another near him, who is raising a fiery torch— is he the one whose story is told when I am at my loom, the warrior Iolaus, who joins with the son of Zeus in bearing his labors? Greek Text


Hellenikos 4F103 FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1p. 133, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Herodoros 31F23 FGrHDie Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 220, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Pal 38 Palaiphatos, Peri Apiston, (on Unbelievable Things) Mythographi Graeci 2, pp. 55-58, ed. N. Festa. Leipzig 1902.

It is said concerning the Lernaean Hydra that it was a snake with 50 heads and one body, and when Heracles cut off one head, two would sprout.  Greek Text

Katast 11 – Pseudo-Eratosthenes, Katasterismoi Mythographi Graeci 3.1, pp. 13-14, ed. A. Olivieri. Leipzig 1897.

Greek Text

DS 4.11.5-6 – Diodoros Siculus, Library Of History

The second Labour which he undertook was the slaying of the Lernaean hydra, springing from whose single body were fashioned a hundred necks, each bearing the head of a serpent. And when one head was cut off, the place where it was severed put forth two others; for this reason it was considered to be invincible, and with good reason, since the part of it which was subdued sent forth a two-fold assistance in its place.  Against a thing so difficult to manage as this Heracles devised an ingenious scheme and commanded Iolaüs to sear with a burning brand the part which had been severed, in order to check the flow of the blood. So when he had subdued the animal by this means he dipped the heads of his arrows in the venom, in order that when the missile should be shot the wound which the point made might be incurable. Greek Text

Met 9.69-76 – Ovid, Metamorphoses

how small a part of that Lernaean snake
would you—one serpent be? It grew from wounds
I gave (at first it had one hundred heads)
and every time I severed one head from
its neck two grew there in the place of one,
by which its strength increased. This creature then
outbranching with strong serpents, sprung from death
and thriving on destruction, I destroyed.—
What do you think will then become of you,
disguised so in deceitful serpent-form,
wielding a borrowed weapon not your own. Latin Text

ApB 2.5.2 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

As a second labour he ordered him to kill the Lernaean hydra. That creature, bred in the swamp of Lerna, used to go forth into the plain and ravage both the cattle and the country. Now the hydra had a huge body, with nine heads, eight mortal, but the middle one immortal. So mounting a chariot driven by Iolaus, he came to Lerna, and having halted his horses, he discovered the hydra on a hill beside the springs of the Amymone, where was its den. By pelting it with fiery shafts he forced it to come out, and in the act of doing so he seized and held it fast. But the hydra wound itself about one of his feet and clung to him. Nor could he effect anything by smashing its heads with his club, for as fast as one head was smashed there grew up two. A huge crab also came to the help of the hydra by biting his foot. So he killed it, and in his turn called for help on Iolaus who, by setting fire to a piece of the neighboring wood and burning the roots of the heads with the brands, prevented them from sprouting. Having thus got the better of the sprouting heads, he chopped off the immortal head, and buried it, and put a heavy rock on it, beside the road that leads through Lerna to Elaeus. But the body of the hydra he slit up and dipped his arrows in the gall. However, Eurystheus said that this labour should not be reckoned among the ten because he had not got the better of the hydra by himself, but with the help of Iolaus. Greek Text

Fab 30 – Hyginus, Fabulae 

He killed at the spring of Lerna the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra, offspring of Typhon. This monster was so poisonous that she killed men with her breath, and if anyone passed by when she was sleeping, he breathed her tracks and died in the greatest torment. Under Minerva’s instructions he killed her, disembowelled her, and dipped his arrows in her gall; and so whatever later he hit with his arrows did not escape death, and later he himself perished in Phrygia from the same cause. Latin Text

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

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