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What Are the 12 Labors of Hercules?

What Are They?


Hercules and the Cretan Bull. Attic Black-figure mastos. C. 500-475 B.C. at the Louvre.

Hercules and the Cretan Bull

Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons. HerculesConstellation.jpg

Illustrated starchart (by Alexander Jamieson) shows Hercules, The Lyre & Corona Borealis, 1822. Roman Hercules, Greek Herakles, who was the greatest of the Greek heroes and famous for his twelve labors. As an infant Hercules strangled two serpents sent by Juno to kill him as he lay asleep in his cradle. It is suggested that the two serpents represent the the Lunar Nodes. He died on a funeral pyre, became a god, and ascended to Mount Olympus to join the other gods. Engonasin is a Greek title for Hercules, with Roman writers translating it Geniculator or Geniculatus; these terms meaning 'the Kneeling Man'. Engonasi, from en gonasi, 'on his knees'.

(Photo by Buyenlarge/Getty Images)

Question: What are the 12 Labors of Hercules?

Hercules had lots of adventures and a couple of marriages. Among the heroic myths about him, it's told that Hercules went to the Underworld and traveled with the Argonauts on their voyage to collect the Golden Fleece. Were these included in the 12 labors of Hercules? If not, which exactly were the 12 Labors?

Answer: Yes and no. The labors include the fetching of the Hellhound Cerberus, but the stories of Hercules' adventures with the other great Greek heroes are neither part of the 12 labors nor among the most familiar stories about Hercules. For more on them, see: More You Should Know About Hercules and People in the Life of Hercules.

12 Labors Table of Contents contains a numbered list of Hercules' 12 labors with descriptions and pictures. Hercules had to perform them to make amends for murdering his family. The names of the 12 labors are: the Nemean Lion, Lernean Hydra, Cerynitian Hind, Erymanthian Boar, Stables of Augeas, Stymphalian Birds, Cretan Bulls, Mares of Diomedes, Belt of Hippolyte, Cattle of Geryon, Apples of Hesperides, and the Hound of Hades.

Background on Hercules' Labors

Labor 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12


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