I have really had fun writing these posts, as it has given me a lot to look over in areas that interest me – art (albeit some of it awful), Greek mythology and the actions of people. I have received some great feedback from readers, so if there are other things like this, that you would like to see – just let me know and I will try and work it into the schedule.
So… where were we. We have seen Herc fight all manner of animals and crazed women, and Putin has been putting his best foot forwards, so let’s see what the last three labours hold for both.
The Cattle of Geryon
Seeing as Eurystheus was scared of Herc, it was no wonder that he kept sending him on on extensive journeys just to keep him out of the way. It is said that he had a large gold pot buried so that he could hide from Herc should he need to…
The tenth labour was set at the “end of the earth” or really between Europe and Libya. Herc had to go to the island of Erythia and to commemorate his arrival, he split a mountain (or made two mountains depending which version you read). These were known as the Pillars of Hercules, although they are now commonly known as the strait of Gibraltar.
Getting the cattle wasn’t really such a hard task considering Geryon was a giant with a unmatched strength. The cattle was initially guarded by Orthus, the slightly lacking brother of Cerberus. This dog only had two heads, and Herc easily beat his with just his club. He then took on the herdsmen of Erythia, and most of them met the same end as Orthus. One however did get away and raised the alarm to Geryon.
Storming out, Geryon came to stop Herc, but he killed him with an arrow (told you it was a good idea that he dipped the arrows in the hydra blood, although he does appear to have an endless supply).
Great! Herc has the cattle – what could go wrong now? Well apparently getting them back to Eurystheus wasn’t so easy. On his trip back, two sons of Poseidon tried to steal the cattle, but Herc fended them off. When they were sailing past what we now know as Italy, one of the bulls jumped overboard and swam to Sicily. It then travelled to Italy giving the county its name as the word for bull is ‘italus’. The bull was found by another of Poseidon’s sons and he added it to his own herd.
Herc knowing that he needed to get the bull back, entrusted the rest of the herd to Hephaestus, and hunted down the bull. On finding it with another herd, Poseidon’s sin agreed to give it back if Herc could beat him in a wrestling match. As with all men, they can’t turn down a competition, so the match was on. Herc beat him three times, then killed him and took back the bull.
Nearly home, Hera thought she would mess with Herc a little more and sent a swarm of gadflies to attack the cattle. This scattered the cattle throughout Thrace, making Herc round them up in a true carry on style fashion.
He eventually got the cattle to Eurystheus, who promptly sacrificed the cattle to Hera.
I don’t think Putin had the same issues, with chasing cattle all around the countryside, but In May 2014 Russia and China signed a landmark 30-year gas deal worth around $400bn. Here Mr Putin is credited with a trade victory.
The Apples of the Hesperides
Old VP looks a bit like Atlas here, with the weight of the world on his shoulders, this painting is attributed to the Apples of Hesperides, who were nymphes that were daughters of Atlas.
The apples, weren’t just your regular granny smiths, they were golden apples, which had been given to Zeus as a wedding present from Hera. They were held in a garden on the north edge of the world and guarded by a hundred headed dragon called Ladon and the Hesperides. Hera wasn’t likely to willingly give an apple to Herc either, so his luck really seemed to be out on this one.
Herc had another problem. He didn’t actually know where the garden was. Travelling around looking for it, did not turn it up and he ran in to Ares, who demanded that Herc fight him. They took to battling, but this was broken up by a thunderbolt, and Herc moved on.
He then ran into the sea God Nereus, who knew where the garden was. Herc grabbed hold of him tightly, and although Nereus changed into many creatures to try and escape, he didn’t manage it, so eventually he told Herc where the garden was.
Herc ran in to a few other Gods on his way there, fighting with them and defeating them as he went. As he travelled he came across Prometheus and he killed the eagle that was torturing him. Chiron (the not quite dead centaur also pops up again here and releases Prometheus from his chains).
In gratitude, Prometheus told Herc the secret of getting one of the golden apples. He told Herc to get Atlas to go in his stead, so Herc would take the weight of the world for a while as Atlas hated doing this and would be glad of the break. When Atlas returned with the apple, he told Herc that he would take the apple to Eurystheus himself and Herc could stand there with the world for the rest of time. Slyly Herc agreed, but asked Atlas if he could take it for a moment so that he could put some padding on his shoulder. As Atlas heaved the world on to his shoulder, Herc gabbed the apple and ran off.
Presenting the apple to Eurystheus, he quite rightly told Herc that they couldn’t keep the apple as it belonged to the Gods, so Herc returned it to Athena, who returned it to the garden.
For VP the weight of the world, was actually backing peace in the Ukraine and being one of the strong leaders of the group fighting for peace.
If you have made it this far, well done, you have survived 11 of the 12 labours. but the worst is yet to come!
Cerberus was the three headed dog of the underworld which had a serpent for a tail. All souls went to the underworld, and the treatment you got there depended on how you lived your life.
Herc knew this one would be dangerous as he would be travelling to the Underworld and possibly wouldn’t be allowed back out, as no living soul should be there. With this in mind, he took some precautions before he left to complete this task. Herc went to Eleusis and saw Eumolpus, a priest who began what were known as the Eleusinian Mysteries. The mysteries were sacred religious rites which celebrated the myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone. The ancients believed that those who learned the secrets of the mysteries would have happiness in the Underworld. Herc had to meet a few conditions of membership, but Eumolpus initiated him into the mysteries.
With this done, Herc travelled to Taenarum in Laconia, and through a rocky cliff he travelled down to the Underworld. Travelling through he met with all kinds of monsters, heroes and ghosts. Eventually he found Hades and he asked him if he could take Cerberus back with him to Eurystheus. Hades agreed, but only if Herc could battle Cerberus with no weapons.
Here a great wrestling match between Herc and Cerberus took place. Herc grabbed all three of the heads at once, and while the serpentine tail kept biting him, he didn’t give up. Eventually wrestling the dog in to submission he took it to Eurystheus.
Cerberus was however returned safely to Hades.
In the final labour, Mr Putin is depicted as doing battle with his nemesis – the United States.
Heroic Putin may not actually be, but there is definitely a love for him from followers in his country. If anything, this has made me look through the eyes of Russian people for a while and appreciate why they could feel this way for VP.
It has also made me realise that I am not quite sure why Hercules was deemed so heroic. He seemed to fight a lot of animals, and left a lot dead in his wake. While I appreciate he was set the labours as penance, he wasn’t so upset about killing people he didn’t know, and there seems no remorse for that. Sure he cleared out a lot of monsters and saved Prometheus, maybe I like my heroes with more of a sense of social morality.
I really hope you have enjoyed this journey as much as I have. Why not let me know what you thought in the comments? Even better, why not share the post.