Hercules: His 12 Quests Like Perseus, Hercules was required to perform the miracu-lous. But instead of having to bring only one mission to a successful close, Hercules was ordered to complete twelve great tasks, which are often referred to in literature as "the labors of Hercules." This is how the challenge came about.
Hercules was the son of Jupiter and Alcmene, daughter of the king of Mycenae. When Hercules was born, Juno in a jealous anger sent two serpents to destroy him in his cradle. But Hercules, even then showing the strength for which he later became famous, strangled them. Juno's hatred, however, was not easily appeased. She waited until Hercules reached manhood and had achieved some fame; then she placed a spell on him that made him insane. In his fit of madness he slew his wife and children. But he was cured by Minerva and saved by her from shedding more blood.
In payment for his crime, for which he had really not been responsible, he was made the servant of his cousin, King Eurystheus of Argos, whose commands he was compelled to obey. (Juno's hand was in this, too.) Eurystheus thought up twelve tasks that seemed clearly impossible of fu~llment.
The Nemean Lion. Eurystheus first ordered Hercules to kill the Nemean lion, a terrible beast that had defied all would-be captors. The combat between Hercules and the lion was brutal and cruel. .Seeing that his club and arrows were of no avail in the battle, Hercules grasped the lion in his hands and strangled it to death. He returned to Eurystheus, wearing the skin of the lion as a cloak and the head as a helmet.
The Hydra, or Water SerpenL Hercules was ordered next to slay the Hydra, a many-headed water serpent that had taken a...