Labor XI: The Garden of the Hesperides (page 413 upper, with art)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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AR 4.1396-1407 – Apollonios of Rhodes, Argonautika

but they came to the sacred plain where Ladon, the serpent of the land, till yesterday kept watch over the golden apples in the garden of Atlas; and all around the nymphs, the Hesperides, were busied, chanting their lovely song. But at that time, stricken by Heracles, he lay fallen by the trunk of the apple-tree; only the tip of his tail was still writhing; but from his head down his dark spine he lay lifeless; and where the arrows had left in his blood the bitter gall of the Lernaean hydra, flies withered and died over the festering wounds. And close at hand the Hesperides, their white arms flung over their golden heads, lamented shrilly.  Greek Text

DS 4.26 – Diodoros Siculus, Library of History

[2] The last Labour which Heracles undertook was the bringing back of the golden apples of the Hesperides, and so he again sailed to Libya. With regard to these apples there is disagreement among the writers of myths, and some say that there were golden apples in certain gardens of the Hesperides in Libya, where they were guarded without ceasing by a most formidable dragon, whereas others assert that the Hesperides possessed flocks of sheep which excelled in beauty and were therefore called for their beauty, as the poets might do, “golden apples,”​just as Aphroditê is called “golden” because of her loveliness. [3] There are some, however, who say that it was because the sheep had a peculiar colour like gold that they got this designation, and that Dracon (“dragon”) was the name of the shepherd of the sheep, a man who excelled in strength of body and courage, who guarded the sheep and slew any who might dare to carry them off. But with regard to such matters it will be every man’s privilege to form such opinions as accord with his own belief. [4] At any rate Heracles slew the guardian of the apples, and after he had duly brought them to Eurystheus and had in this wise finished his Labours he waited to receive the gift of immortality, even as Apollo had prophesied to him.  Greek Text

Lucan, Pharsalia 9.360-67 

But here were golden groves by yellow growth
Weighed down in richness, here a maiden band
Were guardians; and a serpent, on whose eyes
Sleep never fell, was coiled around the trees,
Whose branches bowed beneath their ruddy load.
But great Alcides stripped the goodly boughs
Of all their riches, left them poor and light,
And bore the shining fruit to Argos‘ king.  Latin Text

Sen: HF 530-32 – Seneca, Hercules Furens

let him bring back the apples from the cheated sisters when the dragon, set to watch over the precious fruit, has given his ever-waking eyes to sleep.  Latin Text

Met 4.631-62 – Ovid, Metamorphoses

There dwelt
huge Atlas, vaster than the race of man:
son of Iapetus, his lordly sway
extended over those extreme domains,
and over oceans that command their waves
to take the panting coursers of the Sun,
and bathe the wearied Chariot of the Day.

For him a thousand flocks, a thousand herds
overwandered pasture fields; and neighbour tribes
might none disturb that land. Aglint with gold
bright leaves adorn the trees,—boughs golden-wrought
bear apples of pure gold. And Perseus spoke
to Atlas, “O my friend, if thou art moved
to hear the story of a noble race,
the author of my life is Jupiter;
if valiant deeds perhaps are thy delight
mine may deserve thy praise.—Behold of thee
kind treatment I implore—a place of rest.”

But Atlas, mindful of an oracle
since by Themis, the Parnassian, told,
recalled these words, “O Atlas! mark the day
a son of Jupiter shall come to spoil;
for when thy trees been stripped of golden fruit,
the glory shall be his.”

Fearful of this,
Atlas had built solid walls around
his orchard, and secured a dragon, huge,
that kept perpetual guard, and thence expelled
all strangers from his land. Wherefore he said,
“Begone! The glory of your deeds is all
pretense; even Jupiter, will fail your need.”

With that he added force and strove to drive
the hesitating Alien from his doors;
who pled reprieve or threatened with bold words.
Although he dared not rival Atlas’ might,
Perseus made this reply; “For that my love
you hold in light esteem, let this be yours.”
He said no more, but turning his own face,
he showed upon his left Medusa’s head,
abhorrent features.—Atlas, huge and vast,
becomes a mountain—His great beard and hair
are forests, and his shoulders and his hands
mountainous ridges, and his head the top
of a high peak;—his bones are changed to rocks.

Augmented on all sides, enormous height
attains his growth; for so ordained it, ye,
O mighty Gods! who now the heavens’ expanse
unnumbered stars, on him command to rest.  Latin Text

ApB 2.5.11 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

Now Prometheus had told Hercules not to go himself after the apples but to send Atlas, first relieving him of the burden of the sphere; so when he was come to Atlas in the land of the Hyperboreans, he took the advice and relieved Atlas. But when Atlas had received three apples from the Hesperides, he came to Hercules, and not wishing to support the sphere< he said that he would himself carry the apples to Eurystheus, and bade Hercules hold up the sky in his stead. Hercules promised to do so, but succeeded by craft in putting it on Atlas instead. For at the advice of Prometheus he begged Atlas to hold up the sky till he should> put a pad on his head. When Atlas heard that, he laid the apples down on the ground and took the sphere from Hercules. And so Hercules picked up the apples and departed. But some say that he did not get them from Atlas, but that he plucked the apples himself after killing the guardian snake.  Greek Text

Leningrad/St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum B1559 (640): Attic red-figure stamnos with introduction of Herakles to Zeus on Olympos

Upper tier: Poseidon with trident, goddess with scepter (Hera?), Zeus with scepter, Herakles with apple, Athena with spear and helmet

Lower tier: apple tree and serpent, god with scepter, goddess, winged Iris with kerykeion/caduceus

Annali dell’Instituto di Corrispondenza Archeologica (1859) pls. G-H

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Digital LIMC

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#Herakles, #Athena, #Zeus, #Hera#Poseidon, #Iris

Literary sources edited By Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2022

Artistic sources edited Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, May 2024

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