I am A Man of Letters. I’ve been reading lately, and I have found some words I would like to share. Today, the seventh through the twelfth labor of Hercules from “The Bibliotheca.” “The Bibliotheca” was published circa 200 AD. Translation by J. G. Frazier.
The seventh labour he enjoined on him was to bring the Cretan bull. […] To attack this bull Hercules came to Crete, and when, in reply to his request for aid, Minos told him to fight and catch the bull for himself, he caught it and brought it to Eurystheus, and having shown it to him he let it afterwards go free. […]
The eighth labour he enjoined on him was to bring the mares of Diomedes […] to Mycenae. Now this Diomedes was […] king of the Bistones, a very warlike Thracian people, and he owned man-eating mares. So Hercules sailed with a band of volunteers, and having overpowered the grooms who were in charge of the mangers, he drove the mares to the sea. When the Bistones in arms came to the rescue, he committed the mares to the guardianship of Abderus, who was a son of Hermes […] and a minion of Hercules; but the mares killed him by dragging him after them. But Hercules fought against the Bistones, slew Diomedes and compelled the rest to flee. And […] he gave [the mares] to Eurystheus. […]
The ninth labour he enjoined on Hercules was to bring the belt of Hippolyte. She was queen of the Amazons […] a people great in war; for they cultivated the manly virtues, and if ever they gave birth to children through intercourse with the other sex, they reared the females; and they pinched off the right breasts that they might not be trammelled by them in throwing the javelin, but they kept the left breasts, that they might suckle. Now Hippolyte had the belt of Ares in token of her superiority to all the rest. […] So taking with him a band of volunteer comrades in a single ship he set sail […]
Having put in at the harbor of Themiscyra, he received a visit from Hippolyte, who inquired why he was come, and promised to give him the belt. But Hera in the likeness of an Amazon went up and down the multitude saying that the strangers who had arrived were carrying off the queen. So the Amazons in arms charged on horseback down on the ship. But when Hercules saw them in arms, he suspected treachery, and killing Hippolyte stripped her of her belt. […] And having brought the belt to Mycenae he gave it to Eurystheus. […]
As a tenth labour he was ordered to fetch the cattle of Geryon from Erythia. Now Erythia was an island […] inhabited by Geryon. […] He had the body of three men grown together and joined in one at the waist, but parted in three from the flanks and thighs. He owned red cattle, of which Eurytion was the herdsman and Orthus, the two-headed hound, begotten by Typhon on Echidna, was the watchdog. So journeying through Europe to fetch the cattle of Geryon he destroyed many wild beasts and set foot in Libya, and proceeding to Tartessus he erected as tokens of his journey two pillars over against each other at the boundaries of Europe and Libya. But being heated by the Sun on his journey, he bent his bow at the god, who in admiration of his hardihood, gave him a golden goblet in which he crossed the ocean. And having reached Erythia he lodged on Mount Abas. However the dog, perceiving him, rushed at him; but he smote it with his club, and when the herdsman Eurytion came to the help of the dog, Hercules killed him also. But Menoetes, who was there pasturing the cattle of Hades, reported to Geryon what had occurred, and he […] joined battle with him and was shot dead. And Hercules, embarking the cattle in the goblet and sailing across to Tartessus, gave back the goblet to the Sun.
And […] he conveyed the cattle and gave them to Eurystheus, who sacrificed them to Hera. […]
When the labors had been performed in eight years and a month, Eurystheus ordered Hercules, as an eleventh labour, to fetch golden apples from the Hesperides, for he did not acknowledge the labour of the cattle of Augeas nor that of the hydra. These apples were […] on Atlas among the Hyperboreans. They were presented by Earth to Zeus after his marriage with Hera, and guarded by an immortal dragon with a hundred heads […] which spoke with many and divers sorts of voices. [He] traversed Libya. That country was then ruled by Antaeus, son of Poseidon, who used to kill strangers by forcing them to wrestle. Being forced to wrestle with him, Hercules hugged him, lifted him aloft, broke and killed him; for when he touched earth so it was that he waxed stronger, wherefore some said that he was a son of Earth.
After Libya he traversed Egypt. That country was then ruled by Busiris. […] This Busiris used to sacrifice strangers on an altar of Zeus in accordance with a certain oracle. For Egypt was visited with dearth for nine years, and […] a learned seer who had come from Cyprus […] said that the dearth would cease if they slaughtered a stranger man in honor of Zeus every year. Busiris began by slaughtering the seer himself and continued to slaughter the strangers who landed. So Hercules also was seized and haled to the altars, but he burst his bonds and slew […] Busiris. […]
And traversing Asia he put in to Thermydrae, the harbor of the Lindians. And having loosed one of the bullocks from the cart of a cowherd, he sacrificed it and feasted. But the cowherd, unable to protect himself, stood on a certain mountain and cursed. Wherefore to this day, when they sacrifice to Hercules, they do it with curses.
And passing by Arabia he slew Emathion, son of Tithonus, and journeying through Libya to the outer sea he received the goblet from the Sun. And having crossed to the opposite mainland he shot on the Caucasus the eagle […] that was devouring the liver of Prometheus, and he released Prometheus. […]
Now Prometheus had told Hercules not to go himself after the apples but to send Atlas, first relieving him of the burden of the sphere; so when he was come to Atlas in the land of the Hyperboreans, he took the advice and relieved Atlas. But when Atlas had received three apples from the Hesperides, he came to Hercules, and not wishing to support the sphere he said that he would himself carry the apples to Eurystheus, and bade Hercules hold up the sky in his stead. Hercules promised to do so, but succeeded by craft in putting it on Atlas instead. For at the advice of Prometheus he begged Atlas to hold up the sky till he should put a pad on his head. When Atlas heard that, he laid the apples down on the ground and took the sphere from Hercules. And so Hercules picked up the apples and departed. […] And having brought the apples he gave them to Eurystheus. But he, on receiving them, bestowed them on Hercules, from whom Athena got them and conveyed them back again; for it was not lawful that they should be laid down anywhere. […]
A twelfth labour imposed on Hercules was to bring Cerberus from Hades. Now this Cerberus had three heads of dogs, the tail of a dragon, and on his back the heads of all sorts of snakes. […] And having come to […] the mouth of the descent to Hades, he descended through it. But when the souls saw him, they fled, save […] the Gorgon Medusa. And Hercules drew his sword against the Gorgon, as if she were alive, but he learned from Hermes that she was an empty phantom. […] When Hercules asked Pluto for Cerberus, Pluto ordered him to take the animal provided he mastered him without the use of the weapons which he carried. Hercules found him at the gates of Acheron, and, cased in his cuirass and covered by the lion’s skin, he flung his arms round the head of the brute, and though the dragon in its tail bit him, he never relaxed his grip and pressure till it yielded. So he carried it off. […] But […] Hercules, after showing Cerberus to Eurystheus, carried him back to Hades. […]
Thank you for listening. For more information about the words I have read and the music to follow, please visit A Man of Letters. amoletters.com.
Until I return, I am… A Man of Letters.