Heracles the Great Hero of Greek Mythology
Area : Greek Mythology : Heroes & Heroines : Heracles

I. THE TWELVE LABORS OF HERACLES

Heracles was commanded by the Delphic Oracle to perform twelve labors for King Eurystheus of Mycenae.

First Labor of Heracles : The Nemean Lion
I. NEMEAN LION
Second Labor of Heracles : The Lernaean Hydra
II. LERNAEAN
HYDRA
Third Labor of Heracles : The Cerynitian Hind
III. CERYNITIAN
HIND
 
Fourth Labor of Heracles : The Erymanthian Boar
IV. ERYMANTHIAN
BOAR
Fifth Labor of Heracles : The Stables of Augeas
V. STABLES OF
AUGEAS
Sixth Labor of Heracles : The Stymphalian Birds
VI. STYMPHALIAN
BIRDS
 
Seventh Labor of Heracles : The Cretan Bull
VII. CRETAN BULL
Eighth Labor of Heracles : The Mares of Diomedes
VIII. MARES OF
DIOMEDES
Ninth Labor of Heracles : The Belt of Hippolyte
IX. BELT OF
HIPPOLYTE
 
Tenth Labor of Heracles : The Cattle of Geryon
X. CATTLE OF
GERYON
Eleventh Labor of Heracles : The Apples of the Hesperides
XI. APPLES OF
THE HESPERIDES
Twelfth Labor of Heracles : Cerberus the Hound of Hades
XII. CERBERUS

II. THE MINOR LABORS OF HERACLES

Heracles had many other adventures in addition to the Twelve Labors. The Greeks named these minor labors the Parerga.

Heracles & the River God Achelous
ACHELOUS
Heracles & the Giant Alcyoneus
ALCYONEUS
Heracles & the Giant Antaeus
ANTAEUS
HHeracles & the Cercopes
CERCOPES
Heracles, Prometheus & the Caucasian Eagle
CAUCASIAN EAGLE
Heracles & the Centaur Eurytion
EURYTION
Heracles & the Centaur Nessus
NESSUS
Heracles, Pholus & the Centaurs
CENTAURS
Heracles, Hesione & the Sea Monster of Troy
TROJAN CETUS

III. CULT OF HERACLES THE GOD

Heracles was worshipped throughout Greece in the classical age as a god.

Cult of Heracles I
HERACLES CULT I
Cult of Heracles II
HERACLES CULT II
Cult of Heracles III
HERACLES CULT III

A SELECTION OF CHARACTERS & CREATURES FROM THE MYTHS OF HERACLES

ACHELOUS (Akheloios) An Aetolian river-god. He was defeated by Heracles in a wrestling match when the pair vied for the hand of Deianeira in marriage.
Time : After the Labours (the Aetolian Campaigns)
Location : Aetolia, Western Greece

ALCYONEUS (Alkyoneus) The king of the Thracian giants. He was immortal within the bounds of his land, but Heracles incapacitated him with arrows and dragged him beyond the border to die.
Time : After the Labours
Location : Pallene, Thrace

ANTAEUS (Antaios) A Libyan giant who drew his strength directly from the earth. He challenged Heracles to a wrestling death match but was defeated when the hero lifted him from the earth and crushed him.
Time : During the 11th Labour (the Hesperides)
Location : Libya, North Africa

ARETE and CACIA (Kakia) The goddesses of virtue and vice. When Heracles was a young man they offered him a choice in life and he chose the path of valour.
Time : Before the Labours
Location : Boeotia, Central Greece

ASCALAPHUS (Askalaphos) The orchadist of Hades who was buried beneath a rock by the goddess Demeter. Heracles released him from his prison when he travelled to the underworld in the quest for Cerberus.
Time : During the 12th Labour (Cerberus)
Location : The Underworld

ATLAS A Titan who was forced to hold the sky aloft. Heracles agreed to take on the burden, if Atlas would fetch for him the Golden Apples of the Hesperides.
Time : During the 12th Labour (the Hesperides)
Location : Boeotia, Central Greece

AUGEAS (Augeias) A king of Elis who possessed an enormous herd of cattle. Eurystheus commanded Heracles clean his stables which he did by diverting a river. However, Augeias denied him payment, so after his labours were complete he led an army to conquer the country.
Time : (1) The 5th Labour ; (2) After the 12 Labours
Location : Elis, Southern Greece

BUSIRIS (Bousiris) A King of Egypt who sacrificed foreigners to the gods. Heracles was captured but broke his bonds and slew the king.
Time : During the 11th Labour (the Hesperides)
Location : Egypt, North Africa

CACUS (Kakos) A fire-breathing giant of Latium. When Heracles was returning to Greece with the cattle of Geryon, Cacus stole from the herd, and was slain by the hero.
Time : During the 10th Labour (Geryon's Cattle)
Location : Latium, Central Italy

CARCINUS (Karkinos) A giant crab which inhabited the swamps of Lerna. It assisted the Hydra in the fight with Heracles, but was crushed beneath the hero's heel.
Time : During the 2nd Labour (Hydra)
Location : Argolis, Southern Greece

CAUCASIAN EAGLE (Aetos Kaukasios) A giant eagle which fed on the ever-regenerating liver of the Prometheus. Heracles slew it and released the Titan from his chains.
Time : During the 11th Labour (Hesperian Apples)
Location : Caucasus Mountains, East of the Black Sea

CENTAURS (Kentauroi) A tribe of half-horse men who inhabited the Arcadian mountain of Pholoe. When their brother Pholus was entertaining Heracles with wine, they violently burst in on the feast, but were destroyed by the hero.
Time : During the 4th Labour (Erymanthian Boar)
Location : Elis-Arcadia, Southern Greece

CERBERUS (Kerberos) The hound of Hades who guarded the entrance to the underworld. Heracles was sent to fetch the beast as one of his twelve labours, and captured it with the approval of the goddess Persephone.
Time : The 12th Labour
Location : The Underworld

CERCOPES (Kerkopes) A pair of monkey-men bandits. Heracles captured them in the service of Queen Omphale, but when they amused him with their jokes he let them go.
Time : After the Labours (in the Service of Omphale)
Location : Lydia, Anatolia

CERYNITIAN HIND (Elaphos Kerynitis) A golden horned deer which was sacred to the goddess Artemis. Heracles was sent to capture it as one of his twelve labours.
Time : The 3rd Labour
Location : Arcadia, Southern Greece

CRETAN BULL (Tauros Kretaios) A giant white bull which ravage the island of Crete. Heracles was sent to fetch it as the seventh of his labours.
Time : The 7th Labour
Location : Crete, Greek Aegean

CYCNUS (Kyknos) A bandit son of Ares who murdered travellers passing through Itonus. Supported by the war-god, he challenged Heracles to combat, but was defeated.
Time : After the Labours (the Thessalian Campaigns)
Location : Phthiotis in Thessaly, Northern Greece

DIOMEDES A King of the Edonians of Thrace, who kept of herd of man-eating mares. Heracles was sent to fetch these as one of his labours, slew the king, and fed him to the horses.
Time : The 8th Labour
Location : Edonia, Thrace

ERYMANTHIAN BOAR (Hus Erymanthios) A giant boar which ravaged the countryside around Mount Erymanthus. Heracles was sent to capture it alive as one of his twelve labours.
Time : The 4th Labour
Location : Arcadia, Southern Greece

ERYX A Sicilian king, the son of Aphrodite and Butes. When Heracles was returning to Greece with the cattle of Geryon, Eryx stole the prize bull from the herd. Heracles defeated him in a wrestling match and recovered the beast.
Time : The 10th Labour (Geryon's Cattle)
Location : Sicily, Southern Italy

EURYTION A centaur who coerced the Olenian king into letting him marry his daughter Mnesimache. Heracles, however, arrived on the wedding day and slew the beast.
Time : After the Labours (the Peloponnesian Campaigns)
Location : Achaea, Southern Greece

GERAS The god of old age. He was defeated in a match by Heracles. (N.B. The myth is recorded in Greek vase painting.)
Time : Unknown
Location : Unknown

GERYON (Geryones) A three-bodied giant who possessed a herd of fabulous red-skinned cattle. Heracles was sent to fetch these as one of his labours, and slew the king.
Time : The 10th Labour
Location : Erythea, Western Ocean or Southern Spain

HEBE The goddess of youth, daughter of Zeus and Hera. She married Heracles after he joined the company of the gods of heaven.
Time : After his Apotheosis
Location : Olympus, Home of the Gods

HESPERIAN DRAGON (Drakon Hesperios) A hundred-headed dragon which guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides. Heracles slew it when he came in quest of the treasure.
Time : The 11th Labour
Location : Hesperia, Western Ocean or North-West Africa

HESPERIDES Three nymphs who tended the tree of the golden apples. Heracles encountered them in his quest for the treasure.
Time : The 11th Labour
Location : Hesperia, Western Ocean or North-West Africa

HIPPOLYTE A queen of the Amazons, daughter of the war-god Ares. Heracles was sent to fetch her belt as one of his twelve labours, and slew her in the battle which ensued.
Time : The 9th Labour
Location : Thermodon on the Black Sea, Anatolia

HYDRA A nine headed serpent which haunted the swamps of Lerna. For every head that was cut off the Hydra grew two more. Eurystheus commanded Heracles to destroy it.
Time : The 2nd Labour
Location : Argolis, Southern Greece

LEPREUS A prince of the town of Lepreum in Elis who challenged Heracles to a series of contests, including eating, drinking and bailing water. He was defeated in each endeavour and, taking up arms against the hero, was slain.
Time : After the Labours (the Peloponnesian Campaigns)
Location : Pylos-Elis, Southern Greece

MAEONIAN DRAGON (Drakon Maionios) A giant serpent which terrorized the region around Sagaris. It was slain by Heracles in the service of Queen Omphale.
Time : After the Labours (in the Service of Omphale)
Location : Lydia, Anatolia

MOLIONIDAE (Molionidai) Saimese twins who repelled Heracles' invasion of Elis, but were later ambushed and slain by the hero.
Time : After the Labours (the Peloponnesian Campaigns)
Location : Elis, Southern Greece

MENOETES (Menoites) The herdsman of Hades. Heracles wrestled him in the underworld and broke his ribs.
Time : During the 12th Labour (Cerberus)
Location : The Underworld

NEMEAN LION (Leon Nemeios) A huge lion which terrorized the region around Nemea. Heracles was sent to destroy it by Eurystheus as the first of his twelve labours, and because the creature was impervious to weapons, he wrestled with the beast and throttled it to death.
Time : The 1st Labour
Location : Argolis, Southern Greece

NESSUS (Nessos) A centaur who ferried passengers across the River Evenus. Heracles entrusted his wife Deianeira to the centaur, but he attempted to rape the woman and was shot dead by the hero.
Time : After the Labours (between the Aetolian and Thessalian Campaigns)
Location : Ozolean Locris, Central Greece

ORTHRUS (Orthros) A two-headed dog which guarded the cattle of Geryon. It was slain by Heracles when he came to fetch the cattle.
Time : During the 10th Labour (Geryon)
Location : Erytheia, Western Ocean or Southern Spain

PERICLYMENUS (Periklymenos) A shape-shifting prince of Pylos who challenged Heracles in battle when he invaded the kingdom.
Time : After the Labours (the Peloponnesian Campaigns)
Location : Pylos, Southern Greece

PHOLUS (Pholos) A centaur who inhabited Arcadian Mount Pholoe. When Heracles was hunting the Erymanthian Boar, Pholus hospitably entertained him in his cave. However, during an attack by the other centaurs, he dropped a poison arrow on his foot and died.
Time : During the 4th Labour (Erymanthian Boar)
Location : Elis-Arcadia, Southern Greece

PYRAECHMES (Pyraikhmes) A king of Euboea who made war on Boeotia. He was vanquished by Heracles who had him bound to his own horses and torn apart.
Time : Before the Labours (youth in Boeotia)
Location : Boeotia, Central Greece

SAURUS (Sauros) A bandit who plagued the Elean Ridge of Saurus slain by Heracles.
Time : During the 4th Labour (Erymanthian Boar)
Location : Elis-Arcadia, Southern Greece

SCYTHIAN DRACAENA (Drakaina Skythia) A snake-tailed woman of the Scythian forests. When Heracles was passing through the region she stole his horses, and agreed to return them only if he slept with her.
Time : During the 10th Labour (Geryon)
Location : Hylaea, Scythia

SOSTRATUS (Sostratos) A youth of the Achaean town of Dyme loved by Heracles. He died young and was buried by the hero outside the town.
Time : After the Labours (the Peloponnesian Campaigns)
Location : Elis-Achaea, Southern Greece

STYMPHALIAN BIRDS (Ornithes Stymphalides) A flock of rapacious birds inhabiting lake Stymphalus. Heracles was sent to destroy them as one of his labours.
Time : The 6th Labour
Location : Arcadia, Southern Greece

THANATUS (Thanatos) The god of death. Heracles defeated him in a wrestling match when he came to fetch Alcestis to the Underworld.
Time : After the Labours (the Thessalian Campaigns)
Location : Phthiotis in Thessaly, Northern Greece

TROJAN SEA-MONSTER (Ketos Troias) A monster sent by Poseidon to ravage the kingdom of Troy. King Laomedon offered his daughter as a sacrifice to the beast, but Heracles rescued her and despatched the creature.
Time : During the Voyage of the Argo OR during the 9th Labour (Hippolyte)
Location : Troy, Anatolia


HERACLES IN LITERATURE

The most important classical texts dealing with Heracles are :

1. Pseudo-Apollodorus,
Bibliotheca 2.4.8 ff

2. Diodorus Siculus,
Library of History 4.8.1 ff

3. Pseudo-Hyginus,
Fabulae 29-36

4. Pseudo-Hyginus,
Astronomica

5. Hesiod, The Shield
of Heracles

6. Euripides, Madness of Heracles

7. Sophocles, The Women of Trachis

8. Theocritus, Idylls 24-25

9. Seneca, Hercules Furens

10. Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus

11. Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica Book 1

12. Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica Books 1-3

13. Anonymous, Megara