Eleventh Labor - Hercules (Heracles - Herakles)
Apollodorus Labor 11 <Diodorus Siculus 4.26.2> - Apples of Hesperides
This is Apollodorus' tale of the eleventh of twelve labors the Greek hero Hercules performed for Eurystheus. In the 11th Labor, Hercules had to retrieve the Apples of the Hesperides. Originally Hercules had to perform ten labors. This was an extra one because Hercules was considered to have had help or pay for earlier ones, the elimination of the problem of the Lernaean Hydra and the cleansing of the Augean stables. Hercules had to fetch some golden apples located in the Hesperides. To learn where the Hesperides were, Hercules first had to wrestle a shape-shifter, and then when he reached the nearby territory, he had to fight its ruler, a son of the earth who drew his strength when touching ground. Next, Hercules had to escape being offered as a sacrifice, which he did by sacrificing his would-be sacrificer. Some more travels, including a trip in the sun's goblet, and the release of Prometheus, and Hercules was ready to face Atlas whom he tricked into not only getting the apples for him but taking back the burden of the earth, which Hercules was temporarily holding for the titan.
So Hercules got the apples, brought them to Eurystheus, and completed another labor, but like the labor to rescue Cerberus, this was a pointless labor since the apples had to be returned, as task Athena took care of for Hercules.
[2.5.11] When the labours had been performed in eight years and a month,1 Eurystheus ordered Hercules, as an eleventh labour, to fetch golden apples from the Hesperides,2 for he did not acknowledge the labour of the cattle of Augeas3 nor that of the hydra4 . These apples were not, as some have said, in Libya, but on Atlas among the Hyperboreans. They were presented by Earth to Zeus after his marriage with Hera, and guarded by an immortal dragon with a hundred heads, offspring of Typhon and Echidna, which spoke with many and divers sorts of voices. With it the Hesperides also were on guard, to wit, Aegle, Erythia, Hesperia, and Arethusa. So journeying he came to the river Echedorus. And Cycnus and marshalled the combat, but a thunderbolt was hurled between the two and parted the combatants. And going on foot through Illyria and hastening to the river Eridanus he came to the nymphs, the daughters of Zeus and Themis. They revealed Nereus to him, and Hercules seized him while he slept, and though the god turned himself into all kinds of shapes, the hero bound him and did not release him till he had learned from him where were the apples and the Hesperides. Being informed, he traversed Libya. That country was then ruled by Antaeus, son of Poseidon, who used to kill strangers by forcing them to wrestle. Being forced to wrestle with him, Hercules hugged him, lifted him aloft, broke and killed him; for when he touched earth, so it was that he waxed stronger, wherefore some said that he was a son of Earth.
After Libya he traversed Egypt. That country was then ruled by Busiris, a son of Poseidon by Lysianassa, daughter of Epaphus. This Busiris used to sacrifice strangers on an altar of Zeus in accordance with a certain oracle. For Egypt was visited with dearth for nine years, and Phrasius, a learned seer who had come from Cyprus, said that the dearth would cease if they slaughtered a stranger man in honour of Zeus every year. Busiris began by slaughtering the seer himself and continued to slaughter the strangers who landed. So Hercules also was seized and haled to the altars, but he burst his bonds and slew both Busiris and his son Amphidamus.
And traversing Asia he put in to Thermydrae, the harbour of the Lindians. And having loosed one of the bullocks from the cart of a cowherd, unable to protect himself, stood on a certain mountain and cursed. Wherefore to this day, when they sacrifice to Hercules, they do it with curses.
And passing by Arabia he slew Emathion, son of Tithonus, and journeying through Libya to the outer sea he received the goblet from the Sun. And having crossed to the opposite mainland he shot on the Caucasus the eagle, offspring of Echidna and Typhon, that was devouring the liver of Prometheus, and he released Prometheus, after choosing for himself the bond of olive, and to Zeus he presented Chiron, who, though immortal, consented to die in his stead.
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. And having brought the apples he gave them to Eurystheus. But he, on receiving them, bestowed them on Hercules, from whom Athena got them and conveyed them back again; for it was not lawful that they should be laid down anywhere.
SOURCE: Loeb Apollodorus, translated by Sir James G. Frazer, 1921.