Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Stymphalian Birds: Hercules’ Sixth Labor

Hercules’ sixth labour was to drive out the Stymphalian birds from the marshes surrounding lake Stymphalus in Arcadia. Whether he was sent by Eurystheus to kill or get rid of the birds is unclear. Some sources refer to “destroy” and others to “drive out”.
Nevertheless, where did the birds come from? By all accounts these were pets belonging to Ares, the god of war. These birds were mean creatures. Firstly they had very sharp feathers made of bronze that could be shot out like arrows. In addition they had very sharp bronze claws and excrement that was poisonous.
What made these birds bad? They destroyed virtually everything they came into contact with. Crops, buildings, trees, hand harvests were destroyed on a large scale and terrorized the local habitants. Legend has it that they were fond of human flesh as well.
How did they get to lake Stymphalus? Again, sources differ, some say there was an annual migration from places unstated, and others that they fled from wolves. The living conditions at the lake were so good that they thrived and multiplied into countless numbers.
Anyhow, when Hercules arrived at the swamp he was at a loss as to how to tackle them. There were countless numbers, high up in the trees out of reach, marsh underneath and as so dark they could not be seen. Killing them all was an impossible task.
Legend had it that he then had help from Athena, goddess of invention, in the form of Hephaestus, the smith god, who forged a pair of “krotala” from bronze. By banging the two together an awesome sound was made. (References are made to castanets, clappers, castanets, rattles, and drums)
Hercules ten took up position on a mountain side overlooking the swamps and commenced banging away at his krotala. The noise was such that the birds were forced to fly up and away, never to be seen again. Other sources say he killed them or some of them with poisoned arrows. Images on ancient pottery also depict slings and catapults.
In any event the birds left the swamp and he completed his task

List of the 12 labors and links to other posts on this blog can be found here


Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...


Stymphalian Bird said...

Dont worry i wont be eating anyone im already going on a human free diet but i,ll eat a lawyer becuase their defenetly are NOT HUMAN HE HE HE HE HE

Anonymous said...

When I read stories of Hercules I get so excited, and I have to read more, that's why I like to to take a generic viagra before reading, because I don't feel tired.