12 Labors of Heracles: Stables and Birds

From wild horses to fierce birds, the many labors that Heracles was ordered to complete centered on many different animals. In this article, you will learn more about the tasks that the hero Heracles had to complete.

The Augean Stables

Heracles was sent on his fifth task after capturing the Erymanthian Boar, and he was expected to clean the Augean stables. While the other labors that Heracles performed were more elaborate, his fifth task was meant more to humiliate the hero. Also, it was thought impossible that anyone could clean up the stables of immortal creatures that could produce a great amount of dung. The stables had not been cleaned in more than 30 years. There were over 1,000 cattle that lived at the stables. Yet, Heracles solved his task by changing the route of the rivers Alpheus and Peneus as a way to clear the filth that had accumulated in the stables.

Augeus was highly upset that Heracles was able to complete the task in one day because he had promised the hero one-tenth of his cattle. However, he refused to honor the agreement. Because of this, Heracles took his life after he completed the tasks. Heracles gave Augeus’ kingdom to his son Phyleus, who had been in exile because he had supported Heracles against his father.

Heracles was successful in completing his task, but was not counted because it was said that the power and movement of the waters did the work of cleaning the stables. Also, since Heracles was paid for the work, his efforts were voided. Eurystheus announced that Heracles still had six labors to complete. He chose the Stymphalian Birds for his next task.

The Stymphalian Birds

The ancient Greek myths spoke of the Stymphalian Birds, which were creatures with beaks made out of bronze that ate humans. Not only did they have powerful beaks, but they also had sharp metallic feathers that would go after their victims. The birds were sacred to Ares, who was the god of war. Another characteristic of the birds was that their dung was extremely toxic. The birds didn’t also call Arcadia their home. They migrated to the location after they escaped the clutches of a pack of wolves that the Arabs set loose. Once they made it to Lake Stymphalia, they overtook the countryside , destroying the local crops, fruit trees and townspeople.

After successfully cleaning the Augean Stables, Heracles was set to best the birds. One of the things he had to do was cross into the swamp, but he was unable to because he weighed too much. Athena saw that the hero had a dilemma and she gave Heracles a rattle that was especially made by Hephaestus. With the rattle in his hand, Heracles shook it and scared the birds out of the sky. He also used his arrows to finish off the birds. The remaining feathered creatures flew away and never returned to Arcadia. To prove he had finished his task, Heracles returned to Eurystheus with some of the birds that he had killed.