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12 Labors of Hercules (Herakles/Heracles)

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The Labors of Hercules: Labor 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12

Larger than life, Hercules (Heracles) the demi-god surpasses the rest of the heroes of Greek mythology in almost everything he tries. While he became an example of virtue, Hercules also made serious errors. In the Odyssey, attributed to Homer, Hercules violates the guest-host covenant. He also destroys families, including his own. Some say this is the reason Hercules undertook the 12 labors, but there are other explanations.

Why Did Hercules Perform the Labors?

Diodorus Siculus (fl. 49 B.C.) (historian) calls the 12 labors the hero undertook a means to Hercules' apotheosis (deification).

• A later historian, referred to as Apollodorus (fl. second century A.D.), says the 12 labors are a means of expiation for the crime of murdering his wife, children, and the children of Iphicles.

• In contrast, for Euripides, a dramatist of the Classical period, the labors are much less important. Hercules' motive for performing them is to gain permission from Eurystheus to return to the Peloponnesian City of Tiryns [see map].

• More on why Hercules performed the 12 Labors.

What Are the 12 Labors of Hercules?Quiz on the 12 Labors of HerculesAncient Greek Picture GalleryGreek Mythology Picture Gallery

Images 1-12 of 12
Hercules Fights the Nemean Lion. From a Roman Sarcophagus of the 2nd-3rd Century A.D.Hercules Labor 1Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra MosaicHercules Labor 2Hercules and the Cerynitian HindHercules Labor 3Attic Black-Figure Amphora of Heracles, the Erymanthian Boar, and Eurystheus Hiding in a Jar.Hercules Labor 4
Hercules Cleanses the Augean StablesHercules Labor 5Hercules and the Stymphalian birdsHercules Labor 6Hercules and the Cretan Bull. Attic Black-figure mastos. C. 500-475 B.C. at the Louvre.Hercules Labor 7AlcestisHercules Labor 8
Heracles Fighting the Amazons. Attic Black-figure Hydria, c. 530 B.C. Hercules Labor 9Orthrus dead at the feet of Geryon and Heracles, red-figure kylix, 510–500 B.C.Hercules Labor 10Heracles in the Hesperides garden. From an Attic Red-figure Pelike, 380-370 B.C. From Cyrenaica.Hercules Labor 11Hercules and Cerberus MosaicHercules Labor 12
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