12 Labors of Heracles: Nemean Lion & Lernaean Hydra

Some heroes in ancient Greek myths went through great tests to gain the reputations that became so celebrated. As for Heracles, he was given a series of tasks to complete by his cousin. Sent mad by Hera, Heracles was responsible for the death of his children. To repent for his crime, he was sent to complete 12 labors. Killing the Nemean lion was the first of Heracles 12 labors that King Eurystheus put into place.

Slaying the Nemean Lion

The Nemean lion was considered a terrifying monster in ancient Greek myths that dwelled at Nemea. Thanks to Heracles, the monster was killed, but it was not an easy task. No mortal weapons could kill the beast because it possessed golden fur that did not fall victim to the attacks. The claws of the lion were sharper than mortal swords and could slash through any armor. The lion was sent to Nemea as a way to wreak havoc on the city.

The lion was said to take women as hostages, keeping them in his lair , a cave situated close to Nemea. The prospect of saving a damsel in distress was attractive to warriors who would come to the cave. Once they entered, they’d see a woman who appeared to be hurt. Once they were close, the woman would transform into a lion and kill the man , eating his remains and giving the bones to Hades.

When Heracles made his way to the lion’s cave, he entered the one that was not blocked. It was dark inside the cave and Heracles was able to stun the lion with his club. He used his strength to then strangle the beast to death. Once the lion was dead, Heracles attempted to skin it with his knife, but this was unsuccessful. He tried to sharpen the knife with a stone, and also tried other methods. Finally, with the help of Athena, she told him to use one of the lion’s claws to skin the pelt. In other ancient myths, they describe Heracles’ armor of being made from the hide of the lion he killed.

Herecles returned and the King was shocked that he was successful. He warned the hero that the rest of the labors would not be so easy and increase in difficulty. The next quest was to destroy the Lernaean hydra.

The Lernaean Hydra

Equipped with many heads, Herecles faced the task of destroying the ancient serpent-like creatures that dwelled in the water. The Lernaean Hydra had a reputation for growing two additional heads for each one that was cut off. It was said to have poisonous breath so deadly that even her tracks left behind a swift end. Herecles had to travel to the lair of the hydra in lake of Lerna to encounter the beast. It was there that the entrance of the Underworld was said to be found and the hydra was the guardian. If you are interested in learning more about how Herecles was able to kill the hydra, check out the article titled, “The Slaying of the Lernaean Hydra.”