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The Second Labor of Heracles - The Lernean Hydra
The second labor of Hercules was to kill the Lernean Hydra. From the
murky waters of the swamps near a place called Lerna, the hydra would rise up
and terrorize the countryside. A monstrous serpent with nine heads, the hydra
attacked with poisonous venom. Nor was this beast easy prey, for one of the nine
heads was immortal and therefore indestructible.
Hercules set off to hunt the nine-headed menace, but he did not go
alone. His trusty nephew, Iolaus, was by his side. Iolaus, who shared many adventures
with Hercules, accompanied him on many of the twelve labors. Legend has it that
Iolaus won a victory in chariot racing at the Olympics and he is often depicted
as Hercules' charioteer. So, the pair drove to Lerna and by the springs of Amymone,
they discovered the lair of the loathsome hydra.
First, Hercules lured the coily creature from the safety of its den
by shooting flaming arrows at it. Once the hydra emerged, Hercules seized it.
The monster was not so easily overcome, though, for it wound one of its coils
around Hercules' foot and made it impossible for the hero to escape. With his
club, Hercules attacked the many heads of the hydra, but as soon as he smashed
one head, two more would burst forth in its place! To make matters worse, the
hydra had a friend of its own: a huge crab began biting the trapped foot of Hercules.
Quickly disposing of this nuisance, most likely with a swift bash of his club,
Hercules called on Iolaus to help him out of this tricky situation.
Each time Hercules bashed one of the hydra's heads, Iolaus held a
torch to the headless tendons of the neck. The flames prevented the growth of
replacement heads, and finally, Hercules had the better of the beast. Once he
had removed and destroyed the eight mortal heads, Hercules chopped off the ninth,
immortal head. This he buried at the side of the road leading from Lerna to Elaeus,
and for good measure, he covered it with a heavy rock. As for the rest of the
hapless hydra, Hercules slit open the corpse and dipped his arrows in the venomous
Eurystheus was not impressed with Hercules' feat, however. He said
that since Iolaus had helped his uncle, this labor should not count as one of
the ten. This technicality didn't seem to matter much to anyone else: the ancient
authors still give Hercules all of the credit. Even so, Pausanias did not think
that this labor was as fantastic as the myths made it out to be: to him, the fearsome
hydra was just, well, a big water snake.
This text is cited July 2004 from
Perseus Project URL bellow, which contains interesting hyperlinks
Heracles. 2. Fights against the Lernean hydra. This monster, like the
lion, was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, and was brought up by Hera. It
ravaged the country of Lernae near Argos, and dwelt in a swamp near the well of
Amymone: it was formidable by its nine heads, the middle of which was immortal.
Heracles, with burning arrows, hunted up the monster, and with his club or a sickle
he cut off its heads; but in the place of the head he cut off, two new ones grew
forth each time, and a gigantic crab came to the assistance of the hydra, and
wounded Heracles. However, with the assistance of his faithful servant Iolaus,
he burned away the heads of the hydra, and buried the ninth or immortal one under
a huge rock. Having thus conquered the monster, he poisoned his arrows with its
bile, whence the wounds inflicted by them became incurable. Eurystheus declared
the victory unlawful, as Heracles had won it with the aid of Iolaus. (Hes. Theog.
313, &c.; Apollod. ii. 5.2; Diod. iv. 11; Eurip. Herc. Fur. 419, 1188, Ion, 192;
Ov. Met. ix. 70; Virg. Aen. viii. 300; Paus. ii. 36.6, 37.4, v. 5.5; Hygin. Fab.
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
- Hydra: Perseus Encyclopedia
- The Lernean Hydra, as told by Apollodorus
- Theoi Project, a guide to ancient Greek mythology and religion
Amymone (Amumone), one of the daughters of Danaus and Elephantis. When Danaus arrived in Argos, the country, according to the wish of Poseidon, who was indignant at Inachus, was suffering from a drought, and Danaus sent out Amymone to fetch water. Meeting a stag, she shot at it, but hit a sleeping satyr, who rose and pursued her. Poseidon appeared, and rescued the maiden from the satyr, but appropriated her to himself, and then shewed her the wells at Lerna. (Apollod. ii. 1. § 4.) According to another form of the tradition, Amymone fell asleep on her expedition in search of water, and was surprised by a satyr. She invoked Poseidon, who appeared and cast his trident at the satyr, which however struck into a rock, so that the Satyr escaped. Poseidon, after ravishing the maiden, bade her draw the trident from the rock, from which a threefold spring gushed forth immediately, which was called after her the well of Amymone. Her son by Poseidon was called Nauplius. (Hygin.Pab. 169; Lucian, Dial. Marin. 6; Pans. ii. 37. § 1.) The story of Amymole was the subject of one of the satyric dramas of Aeschylus, and is represented upon a vase which was discovered at Naples in 1790.
- A dictionary of Greek and Roman biography and mythology (ed. William Smith)
- Amymone: Perseus Encyclopedia