Thursday, 23 October 2008

Hercules’ First Labor, the killing of the Nemean Lion

Hercules’ first labor was to kill the Nemean Lion and present the skin to his cousin King Eurystheus. Where did this lion come from? Most quoted sources say that this beast was the offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna. Hera, Zeus’ wife, had the lion sent to the valley of Nemea. This monster terrorized the local population and made their lives miserable. Killing livestock and causing havoc in general.
The lion was enormous and the skin was so strong that spears or arrows could not penetrate it.
When he was 18 years old Hercules was sent to kill the lion and return the skin to King Eurystheus. This was the first of the original 10 labors that were later increased to 12.
So, off went Hercules to Nemea to find the lion. When he arrived at the town of Cleonae he made friends with a poor farm boy, one Molorchus. The arrangement was made that should Hercules succeed in his task they would both make a sacrifice to Zeus on his return. Should he not be successful then Molorchus would sacrifice himself to Hercules, the Hero. (Hercules had to return within 30 days)
There are different versions as to how the confrontation between Hercules and the lion took place. There is consensus in that he was unaware that the lion could not be killed by club or arrow, and had to find out the hard way.
The most popular version of the confrontation is that the lion lived in a cave with two entrances. Hercules sealed one entrance off and then confronted the lion in the cave, strangling it to death with is enormous strength. Little detail is given.
The other version, and the one I like, originated from the translations of Theocritus (300 BC). According to this source Hercules found and confronted the lion on open land. Two arrows bounced off the animal’s thick skin and fell to the ground. While he was setting up for his third attempt, and most probably wondering what was going on here, the lion attacked him. He managed to give the lion a good whacking over the head. The blow was so hard that it split his olive club, and dazed the animal for a moment. Hercules took the advantage and grabbed the lion from behind and lifted him up. He stood on the lion’s hind paws and used his knees to secure the middle part. From behind he put his arms around the neck and strangled him to death.
The next step was to skin the lion. This was impossible as no knife or stone could cut the skin. So what he did was to use the claws of the animal as a knife. Having skinned the animal he returned to Molorchus on the 30th day. Together they made a sacrifice to Zeus.
Then off he went to present the skin to his cousin. When Eurystheus saw him return he became very afraid. He was so scared by Hercules strength that he had a bronze jar made that was buried in the ground. And he used this as a hiding place from Hercules. Hercules kept the skin, and it became on of his trademarks. The skin as a cloak and the head as a helmet.
From then on Hercules was not allowed to enter the city gates and communicated with is cousin via an envoy.
The legend is that after the lion was slain,” Hera placed the lion amongst the stars as the constellation Leo”
Good place to start looking up on the Internet is Wikipedia. Use Hercules and Heracles for search purposes. Lots of interesting stuff to read, and form your own impressions.
Image from Wikipedia


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Anonymous said...

I hear the rumor about this lion, the legend said that gods give generic viagra to this lion and that was the reason because the lion grow until that size.