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12 Labors of Heracles: Erymanthian Boar

The Erymanthian Boar was known in the highlands of Arcadia as a huge creature that lived in the wild on Mount Erymanthos. At one time, the mountain was a sacred place to the Mistress of the Animals and connected to Artemis , the goddess of the hunt.

In classical times, the boar was viewed as a dangerous creature. In the story of Meleager, a raging boar was sent to the fields to destroy the crops of farmers. Some tales saw Apollo sending a boar to kill Adonis , who was favored by the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Apollo was angry with Aphodite for blinding his son, Erymanthus, who caught a glimpse of the goddess while she was taking a bath.

For the fourth labor that Heracles was expected to complete, he had to capture the Boar. While on his way to kill the beast, he paid a visit to Pholus (a name that translates into ‘caveman’). He was a centaur with a kind nature, and old friend of Heracles. In his cavern, the two shared a meal. The centaur consumed his meat raw, and then asked for wine.

Pholus only had one jar of wine, which was a gift from the god Dionysus. It was a gesture meant for all of the other centaurs that lived on the mountain. However, Heracles convinced his friend to open the jar. When the scent hit the air, the other centaurs were alerted to the wine. When they drank it, they were unaware that the wine needed to be diluted with water. They became drunk and started to attack. Heracles had no choice but to shoot them with poisonous arrows. The centaurs retreated , traveling all the way to the cave of Chiron.

Chiron became curious as to the power of the arrows. He picked one up, but dropped it. When the arrow fell, it stabbed his foot and the poison took hold. The pain that he felt was so great that he was willing to forfeit his immortality. He also offered to take the place of Prometheus, who was chained to the top of a mountain , suffering the daily pain of having an eagle eat out his liver. The same eagle that tortured Prometheus transferred the pain to Chiron. Heracles used an arrow to shoot dead the eagle. This tale was often used to show how Heracles become immortal , by receiving what Chiron had given up. When telling the tale of the 12 labors of Heracles, the story of the centaurs and the freeing of Prometheus often appear.

Chiron played a role in Heracles completing his task of capturing the boar. He asked him how he should catch the creature. Chiron advised the hero to send the beast into the thick snow, which is what Heracles did. He bound up the animal and carried it back to Eurystheus. The king was scared of the boar and hid from the creature , begging Heracles to remove the beast from his presence. This tale has been found depicted in ancient vase paintings.

What happened to the boar? It is said that Heracles tossed it into the sea. The creature was able to swim to Italy, where the tusks were preserved in the Temple of Apollo. After three days had passed, Eurystheus was still living in fear of the boar. However, he managed to send Heracles on his next adventure, which was to clean the Augean stables.