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Labours of Hercules

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costean
121104.  Sun Nov 26, 2006 6:29 pm Reply with quote

Question: In order to atone for the killing of his family Hercules was told he would have to serve King Eurystheus and complete how many labours?

Twelve? I’m afraid not (klaxons again). It is ten.

The story of the Labours of Hercules does not appear in any one continuous ancient text. It has been pieced together from a number of different sources although scholars agree that he was set ten Labours but completed twelve because two were deemed invalid.

He was told by the Oracle of Delphi what his penance was to be.
Quote:
Go now to [King] Eurystheus, who rules in Argolis, in the high citadel of Tiryns, and serve him faithfully in the tasks which he shall set for you, …

But, he was deemed to have cheated by having the assistance of Iolaus in the slaying of the Lernean Hydra, (the second Labour).
Quote:
“You have cheated!” cried Eurystheus, when he heard all the story. “Iolaus helped you, and your Labours must be completed by you alone. This one does not count, so you still have nine to accomplish. …”

So it is clear that his penance was to complete ten Labours.

His fifth Labour was to cleanse the stables of King Augeas in a single day, (they had not been cleaned for thirty years). This was also deemed not to have counted because Hercules had received payment.
Quote:
Augeas, however, refused to fulfil his side of the bargain, … He did not reap any reward from Eurystheus either, who said that this labour did not count, since Hercules had worked for hire, …

Wiki has a short piece on the subject too:
Quote:
In a fit of madness induced by Hera, Heracles slew his own and his brother's children. To expiate the crime, Heracles was required to carry out ten labors set by his arch-enemy, Eurystheus, who had become king in Heracles' place. Heracles accomplished these tasks, but Hera ordered Eurystheus to give two more tasks to Heracles, which he then carried out.

So ten original Labours, two did not count, two extra – twelve.

Hercules and his Labours

Hercules was the ultimate Greek Hero. He was the son of Zeus (the king of the Gods) and Alcmena a mortal woman. He was destined to be the saviour of the Gods in the final Battle with the Giants and to eventually take his place among the immortals on Mount Olympus – anyone notice a curious parallel here or is just me? He had one major problem, an uncontrollable temper, (madness usually induced by a jealous God/Goddess), which usually led him to go around killing people thus landing him in trouble. To atone for the particular incident listed above he was forced to complete a series of labours set for him by King Eurystheus of Argolis.

His first labour was to kill the Neamean Lion which had a skin impervious all sword blades and arrow heads, so good old Hercules clubs it senseless with a big stick and skins it using its own claws.

Most of the other labours involved killing or capturing assorted lethal creatures and carting them back to Argolis. And Hercules, it has to be said, proved to be the complete hand when it came to subduing dangerous wildlife of which Ancient Greece seemed to have more than its fair share. There was also plenty of time for general villain-dispatching and wrong-righting along the way

His final and most challenging task was to bring back the terrible three-headed dog Cerberus, guardian of the Underworld and the original Hound of Hell. So Hercules toddles down to Underworld and says “What-ho Uncle Hades. Got a bit of problem with this last labour. Mind if borrow the mutt for a while?” And Hades says “Help yourself, old boy. He’s disturbing the peace in the Elysian Fields with his incessant yapping and Charon’s looking very haggard, he can’t get a wink of sleep.” So Hercules marches the brute back to Argolis, no doubt first having attached him to a stout leash. Twelve labours completed, (including the two invalid ones!), eternal exoneration and Hellenic restriction orders lifted.

This is not a strict translation from the Ancient Greek texts and I may have made light of some of the trials and tribulations involved, but you get the idea. For anyone not familiar with the legends of Hercules, Perseus, Theseus, Jason et al, and who wishes to read about them, I would recommend, as a beginning, ‘Tales of the Greek Heroes’ by Roger Lancelyn Green. This is an excellent distillation of all the major events from Greek Mythology into one coherent narrative, from the beginning of Time to the end of the Age of the Heroes. It was actually written with children in mind but stands as an ideal starting point for adults as well*.

*The stories in this book are excellent for children and all of the (many) salacious parts have been carefully edited. Eg Zeus’ sneaking in on and rogering of the sleeping Alcmena on her wedding night is rendered as ‘for it was long before she knew that she was double-wedded on that triple night’.


While the wiki article agrees, Roger Lancelyn Green is a much more reliable source. He wrote his book from the original Greek sources. I really do recommend this book. Just the thing for Christmas!

Sources:
Tales of the Greek Heroes by Roger Lancelyn Green
Myths of the Greeks and Romans by Michael Grant
Ring for Hercules by PG Wodehouse
Bloomsbury - Labours of Hercules
wiki article - Hercules

 
tetsabb
121643.  Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:17 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
Ring for Hercules by PG Wodehouse


Blimey, did he have a phone?

 
Lucwhostalking
121653.  Tue Nov 28, 2006 1:35 pm Reply with quote

tetsabb wrote:
Quote:
Ring for Hercules by PG Wodehouse


Blimey, did he have a phone?


Well he was a half-god i'm sure it was in his capacity to.

 
Felix
124956.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 7:30 am Reply with quote

Why have people suddenly decided to start calling him Heracles? It's worrying; it's like Rumania suddenly became Romania, and Andy Cole became Andrew Cole. These people are just trying to confuse us.

 
costean
125059.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 1:10 pm Reply with quote

Felix wrote:
Why have people suddenly decided to start calling him Heracles? It's worrying; it's like Rumania suddenly became Romania, and Andy Cole became Andrew Cole. These people are just trying to confuse us.


Both are correct, Hercules is simply the latinised form of the Greek name Heracles, or Herakles to be strictly accurate. The Romans adopted many of the Greek Gods and gave them Roman names eg Zeus became Jupiter, Hera became Juno, Ares became Mars etc. For consistency either Greek or Roman names should really be used throughout, but 'Hercules' seems to be the widely accepted form in most texts.

 
96aelw
125090.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:50 pm Reply with quote

costean wrote:
the Greek name Heracles, or Herakles to be strictly accurate


In fact, to be strictly accurate it would be... damn, it seems that my inability to type in Greek letters fatally undermines my attempt to be superciliously pedantic. Anyway, to be strictly accurate, it would be in those. Curses.

While we're here, I know 'k' seems always to be regarded as a more accurate transliteration of kappa than 'c', but I'm not convinced that it is, frankly. I mean, yes it looks like a kappa, but it isn't one. It's a 'k'. Given that no one would pronounce the 'c' in Herac/Hercu-les softly, it doesn't remove any unwanted ambiguity, and I don't see that it really makes a blind bit of difference to any supposed 'authenticity'. Ho hum.

 
masterfroggy
125091.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 2:58 pm Reply with quote

I’m sure that, there is no right answer to this question other than the evidence given to us thought history. the Temple of Zeus at Olympia built sometime around 470 B.C shows twelve labours. The stories tell of the twelve labours

http://www.theoi.com/Text/Apollodorus2.html#5

Apollodorus,( Pseudo-Apollodorus) The Bibliotheca,'
Benedictus Aegius of Spoleto, at Rome, 1555
Translated by Sir James George Frazer

The Pythian priestess then first called him Hercules, for hitherto he was called Alcides. And she told him to dwell in Tiryns, serving Eurystheus for twelve years and to perform the ten labours imposed on him, and so, she said, when the tasks were accomplished, he would be immortal….

[Snip….]

When the labours had been performed in eight years and a month, Eurystheus ordered Hercules, as an eleventh labour, to fetch golden apples from the Hesperides, for he did not acknowledge the labour of the cattle of Augeas nor that of the hydra. 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. .

[Snip some more]

A twelfth labour imposed on Hercules was to bring Cerberus from Hades. Now this Cerberus had three heads of dogs, the tail of a dragon, and on his back the heads of all sorts of snakes. When Hercules was about to depart to fetch him, he went to Eumolpus at Eleusis, wishing to be initiated. However it was not then lawful for foreigners to be initiated, since he proposed to be initiated as the adoptive son of Pylius

Alcides was told he would have “to serve for twelve years”, and “perform 10 tasks.” Who amongst us has not be told by one boss or another that Saturday over time would only be an hour, and yet you end up working four hours. Do you discount the other three hours worked just because right at the beginning you were told only of one? I think not.
The story contains twelve tasks for Alcides to perform and twelve tasks he did.


Last edited by masterfroggy on Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:08 pm; edited 2 times in total

 
suze
125120.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:17 pm Reply with quote

Just to help you out 96, here it is in polytonic Greek (most people ought to be able to see this): Ἡpακλῆς.

I think the main reason why Western society has conventionally transliterated the kappa to the letter c is because Latin did so. So far as I know, works on Classical Greek always ascribe the pronunciation /k/ to the letter kappa, so the use of k is perfectly adequate.

To be sure, the use of c instead is unlikely to lead many to pronounce it as /s/. All the same, to my mind the use of k removes any possible ambiguity and is more consistent - we can use k to represent any instance of kappa without causing confusion; the same cannot be said for c.

 
andymac
125125.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:39 pm Reply with quote

costean wrote:
Question: In order to atone for the killing of his family Hercules was told he would have to serve King Eurystheus and complete how many labours?

Twelve? I’m afraid not (klaxons again). It is ten.

This question is carefully worded, and as such, Costean is absolutely correct - and this would be unarguable on General Ignorance.

The debate is over whether Hercules actually performed 10 or 12 tasks (i.e. were the two which were discounted still tasks). Whether they were or not, Hercules was TOLD he would have to complete 10 tasks, which was the question.

 
costean
125133.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 4:53 pm Reply with quote

costean wrote:
Question: In order to atone for the killing of his family Hercules was told he would have to serve King Eurystheus and complete how many labours?


masterfroggy wrote:
I’m sure that, there is no right answer to this question other than the evidence given to us though history. the Temple of Zeus at Olympia built sometime around 470 B.C shows twelve labours. The stories tell of the twelve labours

masterfroggy wrote:
The Pythian priestess then first called him Hercules, for hitherto he was called Alcides. And she told him to dwell in Tiryns, serving Eurystheus for twelve years and to perform the ten labours imposed on him, and so, she said, when the tasks were accomplished, he would be immortal….


I am confused as to what you are asking.

 
masterfroggy
125146.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 6:07 pm Reply with quote

costean wrote:


I am confused as to what you are asking.


I’m sure that happens quite often when you fail to read the whole of someone’s reply.

 
andymac
125164.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 6:48 pm Reply with quote

masterfroggy wrote:
costean wrote:


I am confused as to what you are asking.


I’m sure that happens quite often when you fail to read the whole of someone’s reply.


OOOOHHHH get you :)

 
costean
125170.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 6:57 pm Reply with quote

masterfroggy wrote:
costean wrote:


I am confused as to what you are asking.


I’m sure that happens quite often when you fail to read the whole of someone’s reply.


I have read your post in its entirety and my confusion results from your appearing to disagree with me and agree with me by turns. If you do not agree with what I have written please say so and I will explain. If I have misunderstood and you are in agreement and are providing corroborative evidence then that is warmly appreciated.

 
masterfroggy
125201.  Fri Dec 08, 2006 8:09 pm Reply with quote

costean wrote:
masterfroggy wrote:
costean wrote:


I am confused as to what you are asking.


I’m sure that happens quite often when you fail to read the whole of someone’s reply.


I have read your post in its entirety and my confusion results from your appearing to disagree with me and agree with me by turns. If you do not agree with what I have written please say so and I will explain. If I have misunderstood and you are in agreement and are providing corroborative evidence then that is warmly appreciated.


Alcides was told he would have “to serve for twelve years”, and “perform 10 tasks.” Who amongst us has not be told by one boss or another that Saturday over time would only be an hour, yet you end up working four hours. Do you discount the other three hours worked just because right at the beginning you were told only of one? I think not.
The story contains twelve tasks for Alcides to perform and twelve tasks he did.

Alcides didn’t only have to perform the tasks; he had also to serve twelve year. Having completed the allotted ten tasks in eight years and a month, he service had not ended. He was given two more tasks. As I said history tells us of the twelve tasks, we choose to forget about the allotted time scale. He completed his twelve tasks in the twelve years of servitude.

 
costean
125811.  Mon Dec 11, 2006 11:15 am Reply with quote

So you do agree. Excellent, I am glad we have got that sorted out.

 

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