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The 12 Labors 
of Heracles
 

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Heracles
Roman name: Hercules
Ancient Greek
Myths for Kids 


Hercules was half man and half god. His mother was a mortal. But his father was a king - a very special king, the king of all the gods, the mighty Zeus. But Hercules did not know he was part god until he had grown into a man.  

Right from the beginning, Hera, Zeus' wife, was very jealous of Hercules. She tried all kinds of ways to kill him, including sending a couple of big snakes into his crib. Hercules crushed those snakes in a flash! Hercules was incredibly strong, even as a baby! 

Zeus loved his little son. He figured that sooner or later Hera might actually find a way to kill little Hercules. To keep his small son safe from attack, Zeus sent him to live with a mortal family on earth. Hercules grew up loved and noble. But he didn't fit in on earth. He was too big and too strong. One day, his earth father told him he was a god, well, part god anyway. 

The rest of the story of Hercules is a bunch of little stories that together tell the tale of how Hercules earned his way into the heavens, to take his place with the gods.  

As the story goes ..... 

Hercules had a cousin named Eurystheus (Eury for short). Eury was the king of a little village in the city-state of Argos. Eury was an evil man. He thought everyone wanted to steal his crown, especially Hercules. One day, when Hera and Eury were chatting about their mutual hatred for Hercules, Hera came up with a plan - a plan to kill Hercules! 

Hera helped Eury design 12 Labors (missions or tasks) that Hercules had to complete. Supposedly, when Hercules had completed the 12 Labors, he would earn his immortality, or so Hera promised. But really, Hera and Eury were certain that one of their "labors" would surely kill Hercules, probably the very first one. 

Hercules was no fool. He asked the Oracle at Delphi if this was a smart thing to do. The oracle agreed that it was. Actually, the oracle had said, "If you complete 12 Labors, immorality will be yours." Being an oracle, she never explained what she meant by "immortality" - would he live forever in legend or for real? Hercules never asked. (She would not have told him anyway.)

Hercules not only lived, he had great adventures, discovered true friends, and rid the world of some really nasty critters.

The 12 Labors of Hercules:

1. The Nemean Lion

2. The Lernaean Hydra

3. The Wild Boar of Erymanthus

4. The Stag of Artemis

5. The Stymphalian Birds

6. The Augean Stables

7. The Cretan Bull

8. The Girdle of Hippolyta

9. The Cattle of Geryon

10. The Mares of King Diomedes

11. The Golden Apples of the Hesperides

12. The Capture of Cerberus

 

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Can you survive the labors of Hercules (game)

 


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Greek Myth loosely retold by Lin Donn
 Clip Art Credit: Phillip Martin
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