Hercules the Hero: Understanding the Myth
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The Tenth Labor: the Cattle of Geryon
To fulfill his next labor, Hercules had to travel to one end of the known earth. He was ordered by Eurystheus to steal the cattle which belonged to the monster Geryon [GER-i-on] who had three bodies joined together at the waist. The creature lived on an island called Erythia where he kept his red cattle. They were guarded by a two-headed dog named Orthrus [OR-thrus], brother of Cerberus, the guardian of the underworld. The cattle were also tended by the shepherd Eurytion [u-RIT-i-on]
Hercules traveled overland from the Peloponnesus of Greece through Italy, France and Spain to the area which we now call Gibraltar. There he erected two pillars, one in Europe and the other in Africa to commemorate his tremendous journey. Helios, the Titan who drove the sun across the sky, gave Hercules a golden water-lily to use as a boat to reach Geryons island. Upon his arrival, he faced the ferocious Orthrus which he struck down with his club. Next, he dispatched with Eurytion in a similar manner. He rounded up the cattle and began driving them to the golden boat. Geryon learned of this treachery and came to rescue the livestock. Hercules was able to shoot a single arrow through all three bodies of the monster and escape from the island. His mission now was to drive the cattle back to Tiryns and Eurystheus. Along the way he encountered many dangers, including more trickery from the vengeful Hera, but true to his nature, he was able to deliver the cattle to Eurystheus who sacrificed them to Hera. At last Hercules had completed ten labors as was demanded of him and he thought that he would be released from his obligation. Alas, he was reminded that neither the slaying of the Hydra nor the cleaning of the Augean stables were accepted because he had assistance during those labors. He still had two more labors to perform.