The Beginning
Zeus, the most powerful of the gods, was married to Hera, the queen of the gods. Zeus fell in love with a woman named Alcmene and she became pregnant. Hera was angry, and she tried to prevent the baby from being born. The baby was born anyway, and they named him Herakles (the Romans pernounced it Hercules). Hera tried to kill Hercules by sending snakes into his crib. Hercules was very strong and strangled the snakes before they could bite him. Hera remained angry and wanted to get back at Zeus. She decided to make Hercules' life as miserable as she could. Hercules grew up and became a great warrior. He married Megara and they had two children. They were very happy together until Hera made Hercules go out of his mind and put him into a great rage which caused him to murder his wife Megara and their children. When Hercules regained his senses he asked Apollo to rid him of his evil. Apollo said Hercules must perform ten labors to purify himself, but actually he performed 12 labors. Hercules also had to go to the city of Tiryns and serve King Eurystheus for 12 years while he performed the labors. Apollo said when Hercules completed the tasks, he would become immortal. When he died he would become a god instead of going to the Underworld.
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The Twelve Labors
The first labor was to bring King Eurystheus the skin of an invulnerable lion that terrorized the hills around Nemea. When Hercules began tracking the lion he discovered his arrows were useless against it. Hercules grabbed his club and went after the lion. He followed it into a cave that had two entrances. He blocked one doorway and went after the lion through the other. He approached the lion and grabbed it. Ignoring its mighty claws he choked the beast to death. When he returned, the king became scared and would not allow Hercules to enter the city. Hercules was said to have performed this task at the age of 18.

The second labor was to hunt the Lernean Hydra which is a monsterous serpent with nine heads. It has poisonous venom to attack with. One of the nine heads was immortal, which means it is indesturctible. Hercules did not hunt it alone. His nephew, Iolaus, helped him. They found the Hydra's lair and Hercules lured it out of its den by shooting flaming arrows at it. Hercules then seized the Hydra. It wrapped one of its coils around Hercules' foot and made it impossible for him to escape. Hercules attacked its many heads with his club. Unfortunately, as soon as he would smash one head two more would pop up in its place. A huge crab helped Hydra by biting at his trapped foot. Hercules killed the crab and had a plan to kill the Hydra. He bashed one of the heads and Iolaus would hold a torch to the headless tendons on its neck which prevented them from growing back. He removed all of the mortal heads then finally chopped off the ninth, immortal one. He burried the head at the side of the road and covered it with a heavy rock. Hercules slit opem the corpse and dipped his arrows in the venomous blood. The king was not impressed because his nephew helped. He said it should not count as one of the labors.
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The third labor was to bring the king the Hind of Ceryneia. A hind is a female red deer. This deer was special because it had golden horns and hoofs of bronze. This deer was also sacred to Diana, the goddess of hunting and the moon. Hercules could not kill or hurt the deer. He hunted the deer for a year then finally the deer looked for a place to rest. The deer was about to get away so Hercules shot it with an arrow. Hercules met Diana and Apollo on the way back. Diana was mad because Hercules tried to kill her deer. He told her the story of the labors he must perform and Diana was no longer angry. She healed the deer's wounds, and Hercules carried the deer back alive to King Eurystheus.

In his fourth labor, Hercules was to bring King Eurystheus the Erymanthian boar alive, Everyday the boar would attack people all over the countryside by gouging them with his tusks. The boar would destroy everything in its path. Hercules stopped by to visit his friend Pholus on his way to hunt the boar. Pholus is a centar which is human from his head to his waist and a horse from his waist down. Hercules ended up fighting other centars because they were mad that he drank their wine. Pholus died because he accidentally dropped one of Hercules' arrows on his foot. Hercules left to find the Erymanthian boar. The boar snorted and stomped around which made it easy for Hercules to find him. He chased him around until the boar was tired and then captured him in a net. King Eurystheus was amazed by Hercules' powers.

The fifth labor was to clean the stables of King Augeas. He was a very rich man with more cattle than anyone. Hercules went to King Augeas and said he would clean his stables in one day. Hercules wanted one tenth of his cattle in return. The king agreed to the deal. Hercules brought Augeas' son along. First, Hercules put a big hole in the wall of the cattle-yard where the stables were. Then he made another opening in the wall on the opposite side. He dug trenches from a river and directed it through the hole in the wall. The water cleaned out the entire stable and left through the other hole. Augeas found out that King Eurystheus was behind this so he would not pay Hercules. He denied promising a reward so Hercules took it to court. Augeas' son testified and said his dad promised Hercules a reward. Augeas was mad and bannished his son and Hercules. King Eurystheus said it did not count as a labor because Hercules was paid.

The sixth labor was to scare away a huge flock of birds near the lake in the town of Stymphalos. Hercules had no idea how to scare them away. Athena gave him a pair of bronze krotala made by the god of forge, Hephaistos. Krotala are noisemakers similar to castanets. He climbed to the top of a mountain and used his krotala. He then shot the birds as they flew away.

For his seventh labor, Hercules had to get rid of the Creten Bull. The king of Crete, Minos, promised Poseiden he would sacrifce to him whatever he sent from the sea. Poseiden sent a bull. Minos thought the bull was to amazing to be sacrificed so he kept it and sacrificed another bull. Poseiden was mad so he made the bull terrorize the city. Minos' wife fell in love with the bull and gave birth to the minotaur. Hercules easily wrestled the bull and drove him to King Eurystheus. The king let the bull go free.

The eighth labor was for Hercules to bring King Eurystheus the man-eating horses of Diomedes, the king of a tribe called the Bistones. He drove the men grooming the horses to the sea, but the Bistones sent soldiers to attack Hercules. Hercules fought them and killed Diomedes. The rest of the soldiers fled. He took the horses back to King Eurystheus and he set them free.

Hercules had to bring King Eurystheus the belt of Hippolyte for his ninth labor. Hippolyte was the queen of a tribe of women warriors called the Amazons. The king wanted the belt to give to his daughter. Hercules had friends come along with him because he could not fight a whole tribe by himself. Hercules told Hippolyte why he came, and she promised to give him the belt. Hera, queen of the gods, disguised herself as an Amazon and convinced the tribe to attack Hercules. Hercules killed Hippolyte and took the belt. He and his friends fought the tribe and eventually won. He returned and gave the king the belt.

For his tenth labor, Hercules was to bring the king the cattle of the monster Geryon. The cattle were gaurded by a two headed dog named Orthus. He was Cerberus' brother. Hercules killed him and took the cattle. Geryon then attacked him and Hercules shot him with his arrows. The journey back was tougher. Two sons of Poseidon tried to steal the herd, but Hercules killed them. A bull escaped when they got to Rhegium. It swam to Sicily and then Italy. The bull was found by another son of Poseidon named Eryx. When Hercules found Eryx, he would only give back the bull if Hercules beat him in wrestling. Hercules won, killed Eryx, and took back the bull. Hera then sent a gadfly, and Hercules ran all over Thrace to gather the bulls. Finally, he got the herd and brought them back.

The eleventh labor was to retrieve the golden apples that Zeus recieved from Hera as a wedding gift. The apples were gaurded by a dragon with one hundred heads and nymphs who were the daughters of Atlas. Hercules did not know where the garden was or where the apples were located. He found Nereus who knew the location. Hercules held him tightly until he finally told him the location. Hercules then came across Prometheus who was bound to a mountain by Zeus as punishment. He would get attacked by a huge eagle every day. Hercules killed the eagle and Prometheus told him the secret to getting the apples. He had to have Atlas get the apples instead of himself. Atlas held the earth and the sky on his shoulders. He hated this job so he agreed to get the apples if Hercules would hold the earth while he got them. Atlas came back and said he would take them back to the king himself and ask Hercules to hold the earth. Hercules agreed but asked if he could get pads to help make it easier on his shoulders. Atlas took the earth back, but then Hercules stole the apples and took them back to the king. Since the apples belonged to the gods, Eurystheus could not keep them. He gave them back to Athena.

The final and toughest challenge for Hercules was to bring the king Cerberus, a three headed dog who gaurded the Underworld. Hercules went through the Underworld and found Hades, who was the god of the Underworld. Hercules asked if he could take Cerberus and Hades said he could only if he overpowered the beast with nothing but his bear hands. Hercules found Cerberus and wrestled him until Cerberus surrendered to his strength. Hercules took Cerberus to Eurytheus. Cerberus was returned to Hades so he could guard the Underworld again.
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The Death of Hercules
After the labors Hercules went on other adeventures. He remarried and his wife made him a cloak as a present. A centaur gave her something to spread on the cloak that would make Hercules love her forever. This was actually a poison and when Hercules put it on he began to burn and felt great pain. He thought death would be better then this pain so he told his friends to burn him alive. Zeus told Hera that Hercules has suffered so much, and Hera was no longer angry. Zeus sent Athena to get Hercules, and she took him to Olympus on her chariot where his father Zeus made him a god.