| Gods and Heroes|
|by Robert Edward Francillon|
|One of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children. Includes the stories of all the prominent gods and heroes, woven together into a continuous narrative, ending with a full treatment of the twelve labors of Hercules. Ages 8-12 |
MORE LABORS: AND THE CATTLE OF GERYON
URYSTHEUS was getting to his wits' end for work which should keep
his cousin employed. He sent him to kill the man-eating
birds of Lake Stymphalus; to catch, and bring to
Mycenæ alive, a wild bull which was devastating
Crete; to obtain for Eurystheus the famous mares which
fed on human flesh, and belonged to the Thracian King
Diomēdes who used to throw men and women alive into
their manger. In three years' time Hercules destroyed
all the birds, and brought to Mycenæ both the
bull and the mares, to whom he had given the body of
These were the sixth, seventh, and eighth labors, which
had taken eight years. The ninth was of a different
kind. There lived in the country of Cappadocia, which
is in Asia, a nation of women, without any men among
them. They were called the Amazons, and were famous for
their skill in hunting, and for their fierceness and
courage in war, conquering the neighboring nations far
and wide. Their queen at this time was Hippolyta;
and Eurystheus bade Hercules
 bring him Queen Hippolyta's girdle. Perhaps he thought
that a strong man would be ashamed to put out his
strength against a woman. If so, however, he reckoned
wrongly. Hercules had to do his work, whether man or
woman stood in the way; and he won the queen's girdle
in fair fight, without harming the queen.
"I must send Hercules to the very end of the earth,"
thought poor Eurystheus, who grew more and more
frightened by every new success of his cousin. So he
inquired diligently of every traveler who came to
Mycenæ, and in time had the good luck to hear of
a suitable monster named Geryon, who lived in a cave at
Gades, now called Cadiz, on the coast of Spain; very
near indeed to what the Greeks then thought to be the
end of the world. Geryon, so the travelers reported,
had three bodies and three heads, and kept large and
valuable flocks and herds. "That will be just the thing
for Hercules!" thought Eurystheus. So he called from
his brazen pot—
"Go to Gades, and get me the cattle and the sheep of
So Hercules set off for Spain by way of Egypt and that
great Libyan desert through which Perseus had passed on
his adventure against the Gorgons. It was an
unfortunate way to take, for there reigned over Egypt
at that time King Busiris, who had made a law that
every foreigner entering the country should be
to Jupiter. Hercules, knowing nothing of this
law, was taken by surprise as soon as he landed,
overpowered by numbers, bound in iron chains, and laid
upon the altar to be slain. But scarcely had the
sacrificing priest raised his knife when Hercules burst
the chains, and, being no longer taken at disadvantage,
made a sacrifice of Busiris and his ministers, thus
freeing the land of Egypt from a foolish and cruel law.
Thence he passed into the great desert, and traveled on
until one day he reached a pile of human skulls, nearly
as big as a mountain. While wondering at the sight, a
shadow fell over him, and a big voice said—
"Yes, you may well look at that! I have nearly enough
It was a giant, nearly as high as the heap of skulls.
"And who are you?" asked Hercules; "and what are
"I am Antæus," answered the giant; "and the Sea
is my father and the Earth is my mother. I am
collecting skulls in order to build a temple with them
upon my mother the Earth to my father the Sea."
"And how," asked Hercules, "have you managed to get so
"By killing everybody I see, and adding his skull to
the heap—as I am going to add yours."
So saying, he seized Hercules to make an end of him.
And amazed enough the giant was when he himself
 was dashed to the ground with force enough to break any
Antæus, however, though astonished, was not in
the least hurt; so that it was the turn of Hercules to
be surprised. Again they closed, and again Hercules
threw him, with still greater strength; and they closed
And again and again Hercules threw him, but every time
with greater difficulty. The more he was thrown, the
stronger the giant became; he rose from every fall
fresher than before. Plainly, if this went on,
Antæus would be beaten until he became stronger
than Hercules, and would end by winning.
It seemed very strange that the more a man was dashed
to the ground the fresher and stronger he should grow.
"I see!" thought Hercules to himself. "This giant is
the son of the Earth; so whenever he falls, it is upon
the bosom of his own mother, who strengthens and
refreshes her son. So I must take another way."
So thinking, he put out all his strength, and again
lifted Antæus in his arms. But this time he did
not dash him to the Earth; he held him in the air, and
crushed him to death between his hands.
After this he traveled on, without further adventure,
until he reached the far western end of the
Mediterranean Sea, which was thought to be the end of
the world. If you happen to look at a map you will
 find, the exact place—it is where the south of
Spain very nearly touches Africa. When Hercules arrived
there, Spain quite touched Africa, so that one might
walk from one into the other. It is said that Hercules
himself opened out the narrow passage which lets the
Mediterranean Sea out into the great ocean, so that
ships could afterwards sail to Britain and all over the
world. That passage is now called the Strait of
Gibraltar. But the rock of Gibraltar in Spain, and the
opposite rock in Africa, between which the Strait
flows, are still often called the "Pillars of
To get from there to Gades was no great distance; and
to kill the monstrous ogre Geryon and to seize his
flocks and herds for Eurystheus was no great feat after
what he had already done. But to drive such a number of
sheep and cattle all the way from Gades in Spain to
Mycenæ in Greece was not an easy matter. There
was only one way of doing so without being stopped
somewhere by the sea, and this, as a map will show at
once, is by crossing those two great mountain-ranges,
the Pyrenees and the Alps—and for one man to
drive thousands of sheep and thousands of horned cattle
over such mountains as those was the most tiresome and
troublesome labor that Hercules had ever undergone.
He got as far as Italy without the loss of a single
sheep or cow, and was thinking that he saw the end of
his trouble. One morning, however, having counted
 the cattle as usual, and having gone some miles upon
his day's journey, he became aware that there was
something wrong. The sheep began to bleat and the
cattle to bellow in an odd and excited way. And
frequently, from behind him, he heard an answering
sound which at first he took for an echo. But no, it
could not be that, for an echo would have repeated the
bleating as well as the bellowing, and what he heard
behind him was the sound of bellowing
only—precisely like that of Geryon's cows. He
counted the herd over again, and, though he was
convinced that it was all right at starting, he found a
full dozen missing.
Now a dozen was not much to lose out of thousands. But
he had been ordered to bring back the whole herd, and
he would have felt that he would not have done his duty
if he, by any neglect or laziness of his own, lost even
one lamb by the way. So, following the distant sound,
he, with infinite labor, drove his cattle back across
the hills, league after league, till he reached a huge
black cavern, the mouth of which was strewn and heaped
with human bones. His cattle became more excited and
more restive, for the sound he was following evidently
came from within the cave.
He was about to enter and search when a three-headed
ogre issued, whose three mouths, when he opened them to
speak, breathed smoke and flames.
 "This is my cave," said he, with all three mouths at
once; "and no man shall enter it but I."
"I only want my cattle," said Hercules. " Bring them
out to me."
"Cattle?" asked the ogre. "There are no cattle here. I
swear it by the head of my mother."
"And who was she," asked Hercules, "that her head is an
oath to swear by?"
"I am Cacus, the son of the Gorgon Medusa," answered
the ogre, "and I swear—"
But before he could finish his oath, there came such a
bellowing from within the cave that the very cattle
seemed as if they could not endure such falsehood, and
were proclaiming that Cacus lied.
"I am sorry," said Hercules. "I am weary of traveling,
and of monsters, and of giants, and of ogres, and of
liars, and of thieves. I really do not want to kill any
more. You are not one of my labors, and I have had
enough trouble. Still, if you had as many heads as the
Hydra and as many arms as Briareus, I should have to
fight you rather than lose one of the cattle I was
bidden to bring."
Cacus laughed. "Do you see those bones?" he asked.
"They are all that is left of people who have looked
for what they have lost in my cave."
"Then," said Hercules, "either you shall add mine to
the heap, or I will add yours."
 And presently the bones of Cacus the Robber were added
to the heap, and Hercules, having got his cattle back,
at last reached Mycenæ.
Eurystheus almost forgot to be frightened in his joy at
becoming the owner of such flocks and herds. He
listened with interest to the story of his cousin's
travels, and, having heard it to an end, said—
"So you crossed the great Libyan desert until you
reached the ocean which surrounds the world? Why,
then, you must have found the way to the gardens of the
Hesperides—the gardens of golden fruit which the
great sleepless dragon guards, and which our forefather
Perseus saw when he turned Atlas into stone. Did you
also see those gardens?"
"No," said Hercules.
"Then," said Eurystheus, "go and see them at once. Go
and bring me some of the Golden Apples—as many as
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