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 blood.
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. 30.)
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
Receive our daily Newsletter with all the latest updates on the Greek Travel industry.Subscribe now!