The First Labor of Heracles: The Nemean Lion

The First Labor of Heracles: The Nemean Lion

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The first labor takes place in the region of Nemea in the land of Greece! Some events take place in Cleonae.

Heracles is believed to have lived around 2100 BCE. While the myth began in Greece, the story was later adopted into Roman society.

Heracles was a myth about a demigod born from a union between the god Zeus and a mortal named Alchmene. Zeus tricked alchmene into physical intimacy by taking the form of her husband Amphytrion. Zeus’ wife Hera persecutes the hero from craddle to grave.

There was a curse placed on Heracles by Zeus’ wife Hera. This curse caused Heracles to go mad and kill his wife and children. As punishment or penance for the hero’s violence, Heracles would perform the 12 labors. 

The First Labor of Heracles: The Nemean Lion


As punishment for slaughtering his own wife and children, Hercules had to complete 12 labors. His first labor was to bring Eurysthrus the skin of an invulnerable LION that terrorizes the hills around Nemea. Hercules strangled the lion to death and sacrificed himself and a friend named Molorchus. After discovering the death of the lion, Eurystheus became afraid of Hercules and sent him his commands to forbid him from entering through the gates of the city.

What is the task?

The task is to bring King Eurystheus the skin of an invulnerable lion that terrorizes the hills around Nemea.

What town and who did Hercules stay with?

Hercules stayed with a poor workman for hire, Molorchus, in a town called Cleonae.

What did Molorchus offer?

Molorchus offered to sacrifice an animal to pray for a safe lion hunt.

What did Hercules tell Molorchus?

Molorchus will wait 30 days, if Hercules returned then they would sacrifice to Zeus, however, if Hercules died, Molorchus will sacrifice instead to Hercules.

Where did Hercules lead the lion?

Hercules leads the lion into a cave with two entrance, one which Hercules blocked.

How did the lion die?

Hercules grasps the lion in his mighty arms and choked the lion to death.

How did King Eurystheus react to Hercules completing the labor?

King Eurystheus became afraid of Hercules and forbid him from entering through the gates of the city.

What did King Eurystheus have?

Eurystheus had a large bronze jar made and buried partway in the earth, where he can hide from Hercules if he needed to.

What did King Eurysthe send?

King Eurystheus sent his commands to Hercules through a herald, because he refused to see Hercules face to face.


Labor Twelve: Cerberus

Labor Twelve: Cerberus

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The Twelfth Labor of Heracles: Cerberus


Capture and bring back Cerberus:The final labour that Heracles had to complete was to capture Cerberus, the three-headed dog and guardian of the Underworld. Before going to the Underworld, Heracles decided to be initiated in the Eleusinian Mysteries, so that he would be taught how to travel alive from the world of the living to the realm of the dead and vice versa. He then went to Tanaerum, where one of the entrances to the Underworld lay, and was helped there by Athena and Hermes. The goddess Hestia also helped him with negotiating with Charon, the boatman that guided the souls over the river Acheron towards the Underworld.

Once he reached the Underworld, he met Theseus and Pirithous, the two heroes that had been incarcerated in the Underworld by Hades for attempting to steal Persephone. According to one version of the story, snakes coiled around their legs and then turned into stone. A different version has it that the god of the Underworld feigned hospitality and invited them to a feast. However, the chairs on which the heroes were seated magically caused forgetfulness, thus keeping them there. Heracles pulled Theseus from his chair, managing to save him; however, part of his thigh was stuck to it, thus providing an explanation of the supposedly lean thighs of Athenians. When the hero tried to save Pirithous, though, the earth started trembling; it seems that because he desired Persephone for himself, it was so insulting that he was not allowed to leave.

Heracles found Hades and asked him to take Cerberus to the surface. The god agreed on the condition that no weapons should be used to achieve it. Heracles managed to subdue the dog with his hands and brought it on his back to Tiryns. Eurystheus fled in horror into his jar and asked Heracles to take the monster back to the Underworld, releasing him from any other labours.”

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