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The adventures of Ulisses, Calypso
Heracles' 10th Labor-The Cattle of Geryon
To accomplish his tenth labor, Hercules had to journey to the end
of the world. Eurystheus ordered the hero to bring him the cattle of the monster
Geryon. Geryon was the son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe. Chrysaor had sprung from
the body of the Gorgon Medusa after Perseus beheaded her, and Callirrhoe was the
daughter of two Titans, Oceanus and Tethys. With such distinguished lineage, it
is no surprise that Geryon himself was quite unique. It seems that Geryon had
three heads and three sets of legs all joined at the waist.
Geryon lived on an island called Erythia, which was near the boundary
of Europe and Libya. On this island, Geryon kept a herd of red cattle guarded
by Cerberus's brother, Orthus, a two-headed hound, and the herdsman Eurytion.
Hercules set off on for Erythia, encountering and promptly killing many wild beasts
along the way, and he came to the place where Libya met Europe. Here, Apollodorus
tells us, Hercules built two massive mountains, one in Europe and one in Libya,
to commemorate his extensive journey. Other accounts say that Hercules split one
mountain into two. Either way, these mountains became known as the Gates or Pillars
of Hercules. The strait Hercules made when he broke the mountain apart is now
called the Strait of Gibraltar, between Spain and Morocco, the gateway from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
Sailing in a goblet which the Sun gave him in admiration, Hercules
reached the island of Erythia. Not long after he arrived, Orthus, the two-headed
dog, attacked Hercules, so Hercules bashed him with his club. Eurytion followed,
with the same result. Another herdsman in the area reported these events to Geryon.
Just as Hercules was escaping with the cattle, Geryon attacked him. Hercules fought
with him and shot him dead with his arrows.
The stealing of the cattle was not such a difficult task, compared
to the trouble Hercules had bringing the herd back to Greece. In Liguria, two
sons of Poseidon, the god of the sea, tried to steal the cattle, so he killed
them. At Rhegium, a bull got loose and jumped into the sea. The bull swam to Sicily
and then made its way to the neighboring country. The native word for bull was
"italus," and so the country came to be named after the bull, and was
The escaped bull was found by a ruler named Eryx, another of Poseidon's
sons, and Eryx put this bull into his own herd. Meanwhile, Hercules was searching
for the runaway animal. He temporarily entrusted the rest of the herd to the god
Hephaestus, and went after the bull. He found it in Eryx's herd, but the king
would return it only if the hero could beat him in a wrestling contest. Never
one to shy away from competition, Hercules beat Eryx three times in wrestling,
killed the king, took back the bull, and returned it to the herd.
Hercules made it to the edge of the Ionian Sea, with the end of his
journey finally in sight. Hera, however, was not about to let the hero accomplish
this labor. She sent a gadfly to attack the cattle, and the herd scattered far
and wide. Now, Hercules had to run around Thrace gathering the escaped cows. Finally,
he regrouped the herd and, blaming his troubles on the river Strymon in Thrace,
he filled the river with rocks, making it unnavigable. Then, he brought the cattle
of Geryon to Eurystheus, who sacrificed the herd to Hera. The ancients don't tell
us how long either Hercules or Europe took to recover from this eventful jaunt.
This text is cited July 2004 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
As a tenth labour he was ordered to fetch the kine of Geryon from
Erythia. Now Erythia was an island near the ocean; it is now called Gadira. This
island was inhabited by Geryon, son of Chrysaor by Callirrhoe, daughter of Ocean.
He had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but
parted in three from the flanks and thighs. He owned red kine, of which Eurytion
was the herdsman and Orthus, the two-headed hound, begotten by Typhon on Echidna,
was the watchdog. So journeying through Europe to fetch the kine of Geryon he
destroyed many wild beasts and set foot in Libya, and proceeding to Tartessus
he erected as tokens of his journey two pillars over against each other at the
boundaries of Europe and Libya.(1) But being heated by the Sun
on his journey, he bent his bow at the god, who in admiration of his hardihood,
gave him a golden goblet in which he crossed the ocean.(2) And
having reached Erythia he lodged on Mount Abas. However the dog, perceiving him,
rushed at him; but he smote it with his club, and when the herdsman Eurytion came
to the help of the dog, Hercules killed him also. But Menoetes, who was there
pasturing the kine of Hades, reported to Geryon what had occurred, and he, coming
up with Hercules beside the river Anthemus,8 as he was driving away the kine,
joined battle with him and was shot dead. And Hercules, embarking the kine in
the goblet and sailing across to Tartessus, gave back the goblet to the Sun.
And passing through Abderia (3) he came to Liguria,
(4) where Ialebion and Dercynus, sons of Poseidon, attempted
to rob him of the kine, but he killed them and went on his way through Tyrrhenia.
But at Rhegium a bull broke away (5) and hastily plunging into
the sea swam across to Sicily, and having passed through the neighboring country
since called Italy after it, for the Tyrrhenians called the bull italus, came
to the plain of Eryx, who reigned over the Elymi.Now Eryx was a son of Poseidon,
and he mingled the bull with his own herds. So Hercules entrusted the kine to
Hephaestus and hurried away in search of the bull. He found it in the herds of
Eryx, and when the king refused to surrender it unless Hercules should beat him
in a wrestling bout, Hercules beat him thrice, killed him in the wrestling, and
taking the bull drove it with the rest of the herd to the Ionian Sea. But when
he came to the creeks of the sea, Hera afflicted the cows with a gadfly, and they
dispersed among the skirts of the mountains of Thrace. Hercules went in pursuit,
and having caught some, drove them to the Hellespont; but the remainder were thenceforth
wild. Having with difficulty collected the cows, Hercules blamed the river Strymon,
and whereas it had been navigable before, he made it unnavigable by filling it
with rocks; and he conveyed the kine and gave them to Eurystheus, who sacrificed
them to Hera.
1. The opinions of the ancients were much divided on the subject
of the Pillars of Herakles. See Strab. 3.5.5. The usual opinion apparently identified
them with the rock of Calpe (Gibraltar) and the rock of Abyla, Abila, or Abylica
(Ceuta) on the northern and southern sides of the straits. See Strab. 3.5.5; Tzetzes,
Scholiast on Lycophron 649; Pliny, Nat. Hist. iii.4; Mela i.27, ii.95; Martianus
Capella vi.624. Further, it seems to have been commonly supposed that before the
time of Herakles the two continents were here joined by an isthmus, and that the
hero cut through the isthmus and so created the straits. See Diod. 4.18.5; Seneca,
Herakles Furens 235ff.; Seneca, Herakles Oetaeus 1240; Pliny, Nat. Hist. iii.4;
Pliny, Nat. Hist. iii.4; Mela i.27; Martianus Capella vi.625. Some people, however,
on the contrary, thought that the straits were formerly wider, and that Herakles
narrowed them to prevent the monsters of the Atlantic ocean from bursting into
the Mediterranean (Diod. 4.18.5). An entirely different opinion identified the
Pillars of Herakles with two brazen pillars in the sanctuary of Herakles at Gadira
(Cadiz), on which was engraved an inscription recording the cost of building the
temple. See Strab. 3.5.5; compare Pliny, Nat. Hist. ii.242, who speaks of "the
columns of Herakles consecrated at Gadira." For other references to the Pillars
of Herakles, see Pind. O. 3.43ff., Pind. N. 3.21, Pind. I. 4.11ff.; Athenaeus
vii.98, p. 315 CD; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.339 (who here calls the pillars Alybe
and Abinna); Scholiast on Plat. Tim. 24e; Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Orbis Descriptio
64-68, with the commentary of Eustathius (Geographi Graeci Minores, ed. C. Muller,
ii. pp. 107, 228). According to Eustathius, Calpe was the name given to the rock
of Gibraltar by the barbarians, but its Greek name was Alybe; and the rock of
Ceuta was called Abenna by the barbarians but by the Greeks Cynegetica, that is,
the Hunter's Rock. He tells us further that the pillars were formerly named the
Pillars of Cronus, and afterwards the Pillars of Briareus.
2. Apollodorus seems to be here following Pherecydes, as we learn
from a passage which Athenaeus xi.39, quotes from the third book of Pherecydes
as follows: "And Herakles drew his bow at him as if he would shoot, and the
Sun bade him give over; so Herakles feared and gave over. And in return the Sun
bestowed on him the golden goblet which carried him with his horses, when he set,
through the Ocean all night to the east, where the Sun rises. Then Herakles journeyed
in that goblet to Erythia. And when he was on the open sea, Ocean, to make trial
of him, caused the goblet to heave wildly on the waves. Herakles was about to
shoot him with an arrow; and the Ocean was afraid, and bade him give over."
Stesichorus described the Sun embarking in a golden goblet that he might cross
the ocean in the darkness of night and come to his mother, his wedded wife, and
children dear. See Athenaeus xi.38, compare Athenaeus xi.16. The voyage of Herakles
in the golden goblet was also related by the early poets Pisander and Panyasis
in the poems, both called Heraclia, which they devoted to the exploits of the
great hero. See Athenaeus xi.38; compare Macrobius, Sat. v.21.16, 19. Another
poet, Mimnermus, supposed that at night the weary Sun slept in a golden bed, which
floated across the sea to Ethiopia, where a chariot with fresh horses stood ready
for him to mount and resume his daily journey across the sky. See Athenaeus xi.39.
3. Abderia, the territory of Abdera, a Phoenician city of southern
Spain, not to be confused with the better known Abdera in Thrace. See Strab. 3.4.3;
Stephanus Byzantius, s.v. Abdera.
4. Apollodorus has much abridged a famous adventure of Herakles
in Liguria. Passing through the country with the herds of Geryon, he was attacked
by a great multitude of the warlike natives, who tried to rob him of the cattle.
For a time he repelled them with his bow, but his supply of arrows running short
he was reduced to great straits; for the ground, being soft earth, afforded no
stones to be used as missiles. So he prayed to his father Zeus, and the god in
pity rained down stones from the sky; and by picking them up and hurling them
at his foes, the hero was able to turn the tables on them. The place where this
adventure took place was said to be a plain between Marseilles and the Rhone,
which was called the Stony Plain on account of the vast quantity of stones, about
as large as a man's hand, which were scattered thickly over it. In his play Prometheus
Unbound, Aeschylus introduced this story in the form of a prediction put in the
mouth of Prometheus and addressed to his deliverer Herakles. See Strab. 4.1.7;
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiq. Rom. i.41; Eustathius, Commentary on Dionysius
Perieg. 76 (Geographi Graeci Minores, ed. C. Muller, ii.231); Hyginus, Ast. ii.6;
TGF (Nauck 2nd ed.), pp. 66ff. The Stony Plain is now called the Plaine de la
Crau. It "attracts the attention of all travellers between Arles and Marseilles,
since it is intersected by the railway that joins those two cities. It forms a
wide level area, extending for many square miles, which is covered with round
rolled stones from the size of a pebble to that of a man's head. These are supposed
to have been brought down from the Alps by the Durance at some early period, when
this plain was submerged and formed the bed of what was then a bay of the Mediterranean
at the mouth of that river and the Rhone" (H. F. Tozer, Selections from Strabo,
5. The author clearly derives the name of Rhegium from this incident
(Region from aporregnusi). The story of the escape of the bull, or heifer, and
the pursuit of it by Herakles was told by Hellanicus. See Dionysius of Halicarnassus,
Ant. Rom. i.35.2. It is somewhat singular that Apollodorus passes so lightly over
the exploits of Herakles in Italy, and in particular that he says nothing about
those adventures of his at Rome, to which the Romans attached much significance.
For the Italian adventures of the hero, and his sojourn in Rome, see Diod. 4.20-22;
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiq. Rom. i.34ff., 38-44; Prop. iv.9; Verg. A. 8.201ff.;
Ovid, Fasti i.543ff. On the popularity of the worship of Herakles in Italy, see
Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Antiq. Rom. i.40.6, who says: "And in many other
parts of Italy (besides Rome) precincts are consecrated to the god, and altars
are set up both in cities and beside roads; and hardly will you find a place in
Italy where the god is not honoured."
This extract is from: Apollodorus, Library and Epitome (ed. Sir James George Frazer, 1921). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.
Heracles. 10. The oxen of Geryones in Erytheia. The fetching of these
oxen was a subject which, like the preceding one, was capable of great poetical
embellishments, owing to the distant regions into which it carried the hero. The
adventure is mentioned by Hesiod, but it is further developed in the later writers,
and more especially by the Roman poets, who took a more direct interest in it,
as it led the hero to the western parts of the world. The story runs as follows:--Geryones,
the monster with three bodies, lived in the fabulous island of Erytheia (the reddish),
so called because it lay under the rays of the setting sun in the west. It was
originally conceived to be situated off the coast of Epeirus, but afterwards it
was identified either with Gades or the Balearian islands, and was at all times
believed to be in the distant west. Geryones kept a herd of red oxen, which fed
together with those of Hades, and were guarded by the giant Eurytion and the two-headed
dog Orthrus. Heracles was commanded by Eurystheus to fetch those oxen of Geryones.
He traversed Europe, and, having passed through the countries of several savage
nations, he at length arrived in Libya. Diodorus makes Heracles collect a large
fleet in Crete, to sail against Chrysaor, the wealthy king of Iberia, and his
three sons. On his way he is further said to have killed Antaeus and Busiris,
and to have founded Hecatompolis. On the frontiers of Libya and Europe he erected
two pillars (Calpe and Abyla) on the two sides of the straits of Gibraltar, which
were hence called the pillars of Heracles. As on his journey Heracles was annoyed
by the heat of the sun, he shot at Helios, who so much admired his boldness, that
he presented him with a golden cup or boat, in which he sailed across the ocean
to Erytheia. He there slew Eurytion, his dog, and Geryones, and sailed with his
booty to Tartessus, where he returned the golden cup (boat) to Helios. On his
way home he passed the Pyrenees and the Alps, founded Alesia and Nemausus in Gaul,
became the father of the Celts, and then proceeded to the Ligurians, whose princes,
Alebion and Dercynus, attempted to carry off his oxen, but were slain by him.
In his contest with them, he was assisted by Zeus with a shower of stones, as
he had not enough missiles; hence the campus lapideus between Massilia and the
river Rhodanus. From thence he proceeded through the country of the Tyrrhenians.
In the neighbourhood of Rhegium one of his oxen jumped into the sea, and swam
to Sicily, where Eryx, the son of Poseidon, caught and put him among his own cattle.
Heracles himself followed, in search of the ox, and found him, but recovered him
only after a fight with Eryx, in which the latter fell. According to Diodorus,
who is very minute in this part of his narrative, Heracles returned home by land,
through Italy and Illyricum; but, according to others, he sailed across the Ionian
and Adriatic seas. After reaching Thrace, Hera made his oxen mad and furious.
When, in their pursuit, he came to the river Strymon, he made himself a road through
it, by means of huge blocks of stone. On reaching the Hellespont, he had gradually
recovered his oxen, and took them to Eurystheus, who sacrificed then to Hera.
(Hes. Theog. 287, &c.; Apollod. ii. 5.10; Diod. iv. 17, &c., v. 17, 25; Herod.
iv. 8; Serv. ad Aen. vii. 662; Strab. iii. ; Dionys. i. 34; Pind. Nem. iii. 21.)
These ten labours were performed by Heracles in the space of eight
years and one month; but as Eurystheus declared two of them to have been performed
unlawfully, he commanded him to accomplish two more, viz. to fetch.
This text is from: A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, 1873 (ed. William Smith). Cited Nov 2005 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Geryon (Geruon) or Geryones (Geruones). A giant with three bodies
and powerful wings, the son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe. He dwelt in the island
of Erythia, lying in the ocean, in the extreme west; and was the possessor of
a herd of red cattle, watched by the shepherd Eurytion, and a two-headed dog called
Orthrus. It was one of the twelve labours of Heracles to carry off these cattle,
and after a violent contest to slay the pursuing Geryon with his arrows.
This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Nov 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks
- Perseus: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898)
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)
- Geryones: Perseus Encyclopedia
- Geryon: Perseus Lookup Tool, text search