Hercules was born son of Alcmene and Zeus. His father Zeus was also known as the kind of gods who married a mortal woman. Hercules married Megara. Zeus’s wife Hera did not however love him so much due to his constant infidelity. It was Hera who caused Hercules to go mad when he was grown up and also happily married. This caused him to kill his children and wife. To cleanse his soul from the sins he committed as a result, he was forced to serve King Eurystheus for a period of 12 years. In each of these years the king will ask him to complete a task which was more impossible to do ordinarily but he accomplished it anyway. This came to prove his physical strength and mental ability. This is what came to be known as The Labors of Hercules.
The 12 Labors of Hercules are basically 12 labors which Hercules had to perform for a period of 12 years as a result of the crime or sin he committed when he killed his wife and kids. The punishment was meted by king Eurystheus. When he was born, Zeus and Alcmene the parents named him Herakles which in roman was pronounced Hercules. This is the name used to date. Hercules in the mythology of Greeks symbolizes great strength and valor. When he was meted with punishment for 12 years he became braver and stronger a character that earned him a lasting place with the gods. When he left mortal world he is believed to have found a place in mount Olympus commonly referred to as god’s dwelling place.
His father Zeus also known as the king of gods was a very unfaithful husband to his wife Hera. His weakness was mostly for worldly pleasures and that is what led to his falling in love with Alcmene then wife of Amphitryon. In the affair Hercules was conceived, something that angered Hera who then tried to kill Hercules. He narrowly survived this first fatal assault by a miracle.
When Hercules became an adult he became a warrior famous and brave and also fell in love with Megara, a very beautiful woman.
Megara together with Hercules conceived children and they were very happy as a family. However things changed later on with Hera still breathing on his back with vengeance. Hera had taken a vow to irritate Hercules in his lifetime. She at one time tricked Hercules into a wild rage and it was in this rage that Hercules slaughtered his whole family – wife and kids just as Hera wanted.
When his normal state of mind returned he started seeing things beyond the remedy of the bad things he had done. He later prayed to Apollo to help him get rid of the crime he had done. Apollo (the sun god) had the ability to read the future gave him ten tasks at first but later became twelve tasks he had to perform to purify the soul.
Delphic oracle did sent Hercules to king Eurystheus territory in Tiryns where he was to serve as a laborer for the twelve years of labor which later became The Labors of Hercules. He performed difficult tasks which he managed to accomplish against all odds. If he accomplished the Labors, Hercules would be immortal like a god as promised by Apollo. However, his greatest problem was Hera who was determined to stick by her promise to make his life miserable and full of suffering. In spite of all these he had help of Athena and Hermes in pulling off these tasks. He did pull off the labors and became a god as he wanted.
It is The 12 Labors of Hercules that made him so special and successful as to become a Greek myth. The success bore him his most desired goal or becoming immortal free from his crime.
What are The Labors of Hercules?
- To slay the Nemean lion and peal his skin with his bare hands. The lion could not be killed with any kind of weapon. The labour tested his mental and physical strength.
- To slay the nine-headed monster of the swamp: Hydra. This was a strange monster that would grow two more heads in place if one was cut. It was considered a result of viciousness of drug abuse. Hercules used a lit torch to burn its neck preventing head reproduction in the process and dipped his arrows in its blood for a later use. This is one of The 12 Labors of Hercules that teaches on smartness and ingenuity.
- To Capture the Golden Hind of Artemis . It actually ran faster than an arrow. This particular task took Hercules a year to accomplish, thinking about strategies and understand the labor carefully and more intuitively and later on found a way of capturing it. This is one of The 12 Labors of Hercules that teaches about perseverance and patience.
- Capture Giant and Dangerous Erymanthian Boar. Hercules accomplished the task by pushing this animal in deep snow as he was advised by one wise centaur. The labor teaches about listening skills and wisdom.
- To clean the Aegean stables in one day. The stables were full of filth that had accumulated over the years. He accomplished the task by diverting two rivers whose waters run through the stables and the water washed the stables clean. This labor teaches about planning, humility and execution.
- To slay man eating stymphalian birds. He did it by showing his arrows earlier – arrows that he had earlier dipped in the hydra’s poisonous blood. This is one of The 12 Labors of Hercules that teaches on thinking ahead and also learning from ones personal life events.
- To capture the Cretan Bull with his bare hands. He accomplished this by running the bull till it got tired or exhausted. This labor teaches about patience.
- To steal mad Mares of Diomedes. In accomplishing this task he used some youths to learn his skills to better themselves. This labor teaches about the notion of “help and you will be helped”.
- To Obtain the Girdle of the Amazon Queen. He accomplished this by falling in love with Hippolita through his good candor and looks and she willingly gave him her Girdle. This is one of The 12 Labors of Hercules teaching on politeness and charm.
- To obtain the Cattle of Monster Geryon. The monster had six legs, one head and six arms. The monster shot many arrows, but got killed with Hercules arrows dipped in Hydra’s poisonous blood. This labor teaches about self defense.
- To steal the Golden Apples of Hesperides. He did it by holding the heavens while Atlas got those apples. This labor teaches about cooperation.
- To capture the three headed monster dog called Cerberus which protected the entrance to underworld. He did it and returned with the animal on his back as promised. This labor teaches about fulfilling promises.
There are many lessons that can be learned from The Labors of Hercules. They include:
1. Accept the challenge.
2. Realize the power bigger than you – God who can restore your mental wellness.
3. Choose to turn your life around.
4. Analyze the encountered situation to understand causes.
5. Create a workable successful plan.
6. Carryout the plan humbly.
7. Discover the hero that is inside you via introspection and prayer.
8. Make amends list.
9. Fulfill amends list.
10. Take personal inventory to self-improvement.
11. Find your inner peace.
12. Help others facing a similar problem.
Not only were The 12 Labors of Hercules made him a hero and role model, but they also made him a legend who is still echoed in today’s world. He still continues to inspire and challenge people both women and men to strive to do good and help others more as well as understand and accept themselves and others. As much as times have greatly changed the 12 Labors of Hercules are still a vivid reminder of who we are. Visit Greece to see the statue of this great legend and read the tales for yourself.