12 Labors of Heracles: Herding of Geryon

The tenth labor of Heracles involves Geryon, who was a feared giant that lived on the island of Erytheia in the Mediterranean. In ancient Greek myths, Geryon had a reputation for being a monster with faces of a human. This article will present what Heracles had to accomplish for his tenth labor.

Depending on the resource you refer to, Geryon had one body and three heads (according to Hesiod), had six hands and six feet attached to a winged body (in Stesichoros’ description) or three bodies (so says Aeschylus). Another account from the mid-16th century depicting Geryon stated that he was winged. Although he had these odd features, Geyron appeared as a warrior. The monster had a two-headed hound (Orthrus) as his companion, which was the brother of Cerberus (who becomes the last labor of Heracles). Orthrus was in charge of herding an impressive collection of red cattle.

10th Labor of Heracles

Heracles is sent to Erytheia so that he could steal away the Cattle of Geryon. During his travels, he crosses the Libyan desert. This part of the trip was rather hot and the hero got frustrated with the climate and actually shot an arrow at Helios the Sun. Helios admired his courage and gave Heracles a golden cup that he used to sail across the sea from west to east on a nightly basis. Heracles uses the cup to get to Erytheia. As soon as the hero landed on the island, he came face to face with Orthrus. The guard dog was killed instantly with one swift blow from the olivewood club that Heracles carried with him. A herdsman who watched over the cattle came to help Orthrus, but was killed in the same manner.

The commotion stirred Geryon and he went to see what was happening.  In his hands, he carried three shields and three spears. Three helmets were upon his heads. He went after Heracles at the River Anthemus but was shot with an arrow that had been dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. The shot came with such force that it pierced Geryon’s forehead. The giant was taken down and Heracles was able to herd the cattle back to Eurystheus.

Hera was always lurking in the shadows , thinking of ways to make Heracles’ tasks much harder. She sent a gadfly to bite the cattle, which caused them to become irritated. They scattered a bit and it took the hero about an extra year to gather all of the creatures. Next, Hera sent a flood that raised the level of the river to the point that Heracles was unable to cross with the cattle. He used stones to make the water shallower , piling them in the river. After reaching the court of Eurystheus, the cattle were sacrificed to Hera.