ATTLE were grazing on a hillside in Greece. The young
herder was lying near on a warm rock. The sun made his
red hair shine. He was singing a merry song in a great
voice. After a while he stopped singing and stretched
out his big arms, yawning.
"O Father Zeus," he said, "this is lazy work. To
think that I am a son of Zeus! Yet here I lie herding
He sat up straight.
"It was not like this in old Cheiron's cave. It was
not like this in my mother's house. Brave men and
warriors were there. But I could beat them all in sword
play and in boxing. Where is my sword now?"
He felt at his side. There was no sword there, only
the leather belt of his short, gray chiton.
 He looked at his fists.
"What are you good for, my fists? Let us see whether
you can work yet."
He jumped up like a deer and ran to a steep bank in
"Now show what you can do," he shouted.
He struck the bank with his fists. Left, right, up,
down! He hit hard. The grass and dirt flew into the
air. He laughed when he saw it. He hit harder and
faster. The sweat ran down his face. His breath came
heavily. The dirt flew faster and faster. He was making
a hole in the bank. At last he stopped and threw
himself upon the grass, laughing loud so that the woods
"You are beaten, old hill!" he cried. "I have not
forgotten how to box. Oh, it is pleasant to feel my
He looked at his fists again and said to them:
"But what good have you done? Were you made only to
pound a hill?"
He felt of the great muscles on his arms.
 "And you, arms! You could squeeze lions to death.
Why are you not at work?"
He looked at his legs. The great muscles stood out
"Lazy legs!" he said. "Take me into strange lands.
Take me where there is work and frolic."
He looked off across the country with its hills and
small rivers. Little wheat fields and barley fields
were in the valleys. Olive groves and vineyards were on
the hillsides. Tiny white houses shone among the fields
"I wonder what people are doing in those little
houses," Herakles said to himself.
Just then he saw a cart moving along in the road
that went past the foot of the hill. He walked down to
meet it. The mule that was pulling it was so poor that
every rib showed. He dragged his feet, and his ears
hung down. A man walked by the cart. Herakles shouted
"Hello, friend! What news?"
"Bad news!" said the man.
 "Bad! Where are you from?" Herakles asked.
"King Thespios' country," the man answered
"You are a long way from home!" Herakles said.
"The farther the better!" the man growled out,
"Why, what is the trouble?" asked Herakles.
"Our country is ruined," the man answered. "No
crops! No hunting! Nothing to eat! We are starving. It
is the lion's fault."
"What lion?" Herakles asked.
The man looked at him in wonder.
"Have you not heard?" he said. "A monstrous lion is
running over our country. He tramples our wheat fields
and makes his bed in our barley fields. He eats our
sheep and cattle. Our people dare not go out of their
houses. If they do, he kills them. I have nothing left
but this mule and cart. The lion has spoiled
everything. I am trying to find work, but nobody wants
 "Why do your people not kill the lion?" Herakles
The man smiled.
"Oh! you never have seen him," he said. "He is as
big as two lions. His skin is as thick as a board. An
arrow will not go through it. We cannot kill him.
Apollo might do it, or some great son of Zeus. We
"How can I get to that country?" asked Herakles.
The man looked at him and wondered.
"Do you think of going there?" he asked.
"Yes!" said Herakles, "I am going to kill the lion!"
The man laughed.
"Why, you are crazy!" he said. "Did I not tell you
how big he is? He has killed all our strongest men.
Besides, you have no weapons."
Herakles held out his arms.
"Are not these good weapons?" he asked.
The man looked at the great arms and then up into
Herakles' face. Herakles'
 eyes were shining. His mouth was smiling.
The man's eyes opened wide.
"Surely you must be a son of Zeus," he said. "You
look like him. I think you can kill the lion. I will go
back and show you the way."
Herakles clapped him on the shoulder.
"Good, my friend!" he cried. "Here we go. Ho, ho!
Now, my arms, you shall have work to do. No lazy lying
in the sun now. Work, work!"
Then he turned to the man.
"But we must first go to the village, friend. I
must send some one to watch the cattle."
So they did. Then off down the road they went,
Herakles singing and laughing. The mule walked behind,
pulling the cart. This cart had two wheels of solid
wood. The body of it was like a big box. Herakles
"Poor starved mule!" he said. "I can pull the cart
better than you can."
He quickly unharnessed the mule and lifted him into
the cart, giving a big, merry laugh as he did it.
 "Lie there," he said. "See how it feels to ride."
He threw the harness into the cart. Then he turned
to the man.
"You, too, are thin and tired," he said. "In you
Herakles' strong arms lifted the man as though he
were a baby and set him in the cart.
"That is better," Herakles said.
Then he took hold of the shafts and ran off down the
"Better things to eat soon, my friends! We will fill
your empty stomachs. Ho, for the lion, the lion!"
They passed through many little villages with
vineyards and wheat fields around them. People always
stopped work and looked at this big man and his cart
and laughed. Toward evening as the strange party came
near a little village, the man said:
"This is in my country. See the wheat fields!"
It seemed as if some big animal had rolled in them.
No people were about. When Herakles and his cart-load
 to the village, there was no one in the lanes. The
doors of the houses were all shut.
"It is as though everybody were dead," said
He stopped before a house. The front wall was of
rough stone, with a door of heavy logs in the middle of
it. Herakles knocked on the door. Nobody came. He
knocked again. Nobody came. He turned to the man in the
cart and said:
"Perhaps nobody lives here."
"Yes," the man said, "but they are afraid of the
Then Herakles shook the great door and shouted:
"Ho, there! Let us in. We are friends."
Then somebody from inside said:
"Who are you?"
"We are friends," Herakles answered. "Let us in."
"Do you see the lion?" asked the man inside.
"No, he is not here. Open the door," Herakles
He heard somebody pulling back
 the great bolt. The door opened a little way, and a man
peeped out. His face was white with fear. Herakles
pushed the door wide open and pulled the cart in,
saying as he did so:
"You are too much afraid. This is no way to treat
The man of the house was shutting the door again.
"We have had no guests for so long!" he said. "The
lion is our only guest."
He was looking at the cart-load. He seemed
surprised. Herakles saw it and laughed.
"Do not mules usually ride in this country?"
He lifted the mule out and set him down. A few
cattle and sheep were in the court. They were all poor.
Herakles walked among them and rubbed their rough
"They do not have enough to eat, do they?" he asked.
"No," answered the man. "It is the lion's fault. I
dare not let them out to grass for fear of him. I
 afraid to go out to the fields to cut oats and hay. So
my cattle are shut up here and are starving, and so are
we. Oh, we are poor and unhappy!"
Then he stopped and looked at Herakles and smiled.
"But forgive me, stranger," he said. "I have no right
to make you unhappy with my troubles. Come into the
house. You seem to have walked far, for there is dust
on your clothes."
He led his guests into the house and called aloud:
"Bring food. We have guests."
A door at the back of the room opened, and two women
came out with faces white and scared. They pulled out a
small, round table and put upon it a big jar of milk, a
basket of bread and a great vase of wine, and set three
large red bowls by the milk. One woman hung the leg of
a lamb over the fire to cook. She stood by and turned
the meat while it roasted.
All this time Herakles was asking about the lion or
telling of his walk through the country.
 "Oh! I do not like these long faces," he said.
"Can we not laugh?"
Then he told a funny story. As the people listened,
their eyes began to shine again and their lips to
smile. It was not so much the story as Herakles' good,
happy voice and roaring laugh that did it.
When the meat was done, the woman cut great pieces
and laid them on the table; for there was no
table-cloth and no plates. Then the man of the house
"Come, friends, sit and eat."
Herakles found his bowl full of milk. He drank it
off in three swallows. He ate great pieces of meat and
bread, and the women brought more of everything.
They said among themselves:
"He eats like a lion. He must have walked far
to-day. And he is very big. He needs much to eat."
And all the time Heracles was laughing and joking.
It made the other people laugh to hear him.
" It is a long time since we have been merry," the
man of the house said.
 At last Herakles put down his bowl.
"Thank you, friend," he said with his big voice.
"I was hungry. The food was good. Now, where is your
"He was last seen in the forest, a mile away."
Then they heard a great noise that shook the house.
All the people jumped.
"That is the lion," they said. "He is roaring."
"Good, good!" he shouted. "He is calling me.
He started for the door, but the man of the house
caught his arm.
"What do you mean?" he cried. "Do not go near him. He
will kill you."
Herakles looked down at his host.
"Do you think he will kill me?" he laughed.
When he said it he lifted the man in his arms.
"See. Do you think he will kill me?"
He set the man down and laughed again. Then out
he strode through the
 door. The women cried when they saw him go, but the
"He has strong arms. Perhaps—"
So Herakles came to the forest and walked among the
trees, looking about.
"Where shall I find him?" he was thinking.
All at once he stopped. There was the lion. He was
crouching, ready to jump. He was snarling and showing
his sharp teeth. He was swinging his tail and glaring
Quickly Herakles took hold of a young oak tree. He
pulled, and up it came by the roots. He swung it like a
club and hit the lion with it many times. But the great
lion crouched on the ground and kept crawling nearer
and nearer. He came so close that Herakles could no
longer use his club and he threw it away. At that
minute the lion jumped. But Herakles was too quick for
him. He caught the beast in his strong arms and crushed
the great ribs and threw
 him to the ground, dead. Then he sat down to take
breath. He was panting, and sweat was rolling down his
face. He looked at the oak tree that he had torn up.
"You were a good club," he said. "I will keep you."
He looked at the dead lion.
"I will take you to the village," he laughed. "The
people will be glad to see you dead."
He threw the great lion over his shoulder and
dragged the tree behind him. So he walked through the
forest and down the lane of the village, singing loud
as he went:
"Oh, ho! He is dead. The lion is dead. Do not be
afraid. Come out, you people; come out and see the lion
The people in their houses heard him. They said to
"That is a good voice. But it cannot be true. Surely
no one has killed the lion."
They opened their doors just a little and peeped out.
Then they shut the doors quickly. Their faces were
 and scared. They said to the people behind them:
"A terrible thing! A lion is dragging a tree. It
They looked again. They stepped out of the doorways.
They called back to those in the house:
"No! It is a man. He has killed the lion. Come
out. The lion is dead."
So all the people ran to Herakles, shouting:
"Hail, hail! brave stranger! Is he dead? Is the
lion really dead?"
They cried because they were so glad.
"How did you do it?" they asked Herakles.
They put their hands on his arms.
"Your arms are strong," they said. "What is your
"Herakles," he told them.
Then they said:
"Let us have a feast for Herakles. Let us have it
out of doors in the sunshine. It is so long since
we played out of doors! But we need not fear the lion
So they had a great feast there in
 the lane of the village. All the people came. They sang
and danced around Herakles and threw flowers at him.
They brought him oranges and grapes and pomegranates
and piled them beside him.
"Eat!" they said. "A big man must eat. A man who
kills lions must eat."
They brought great red bowls of milk.
"Drink!" they said; "surely the hard fight made you
They brought whole legs of roasted lamb and roasted
pig. And all the time Herakles sat and laughed.
"I am glad to see you happy, friends," he said. "But
I cannot eat all this. I have had enough. Get me an ax
now. I will make my club better."
Every man ran and brought an ax.
"One is enough," Herakles laughed.
He chopped off the top of the tree, and the roots,
and made the club round at the lower end. Then he
lifted it and swung it about his head. The people
stepped back; for they were a little afraid.
 "He is very big and strong," they thought.
Herakles saw that they were afraid. So he laughed
"This has been a merry feast, friends. And what will
you do with the lion there?"
"We will give the skin to you, Herakles," they
answered. "It would make you a good cloak. You are like
So they took off the skin.
"Now you must stay with us, Herakles, while we tan
the hide and make your cloak," they said.
"Yes!" one man cried, "stay with me. I have a big
"No," said another man, "stay with me. We want
"Oh, come to my house, Herakles," another pleaded.
And so everyone wanted him. Herakles laughed.
"I see a wheat field over there. It is not all
spoiled. It needs cutting. I will stay with the man who
owns that field."
 So Herakles stayed there for a few days and helped
all the men cut their wheat.
"Herakles can do more work than twenty men," the
people said. "He cuts wheat as though he were killing
At last the cloak was ready, and all the people came
together. They threw the skin over Herakles* shoulders.
The lion's head was like a helmet for him. He tied the
front legs under his chin. The hind feet just touched
the ground and the tail dragged behind.
"A lion walking on his hind legs!" the people
"He has far to go," Herakles replied, "so good-by,
friends! If you ever need me again, send for me."
He threw the club over his shoulder and started down
the road. The people ran after him, shouting:
"Good-by, Herakles! May Zeus love you and help you!"
So Herakles went through the country.
At last he came to his mother's
house. He went
through the gate
and down through
the court and into
the house. His
mother was sitting by the fire
weeping. She did not see Herakles.
He went up to her softly
and knelt on the floor and put his arms around her.
"What is the matter, little mother?" he asked.
"O, Herakles! is it you?" she cried.
She put her hands on his face and kissed him.
"I have been longing for you, my son. I was very
lonely. Your father is up in Olympos, so I almost never
see him, and you have been away so long!"
ZEUS IN OLYMPOS
 "I will stay with you now. We will have a merry
time," said Herakles.
Then his mother noticed the lion's skin and she drew
"What is this, Herakles?" she asked.
"Oh, I killed this lion. Does he not make a good
His mother looked at him with smiling eyes.
"To think that you used to be my little baby, you
killer of lions!" she said.
Herakles stayed with his mother for a long time and
filled the house with his laughter and merry songs. One
day he came in from out of doors.
"Mother," he said, "I have been sitting on a hill,
where I could look far off. I saw men working in wheat
fields with sickles, and other men working in fields
with hoes. Their backs were bent with the hard work. I
saw forests, where I know there are lions. There is
much to be done, mother. Other men work, but I am
playing here at home. I must not stay any longer.
 labor for my big arms. I will leave you with the king.
He will take good care of you. I will go to Delphi and
ask Apollo what to do. He knows everything and he will
tell me what is right. Shall I do it, mother?"
His mother looked at him. There was love in her
eyes. She was proud of him.
"Yes, my son, go. People need you." So on the next
day Herakles went to Delphi.
Delphi was a lonely place among bare, steep
mountains. There was a great crack in the ground where
smoke and gas came out. A house of Apollo was over the
crack. A priestess lived here, and Apollo used to talk
with her. Apollo knew everything and he loved all men
and told them what to do.
Herakles went into the temple. A priest met him.
"Ask Apollo what I shall do," Herakles said.
 The man went into another room and brought out the
priestess in her long white robe. He took a stool and
set it over the crack in the rock. Here the priestess
sat and breathed the smoke and gas. Apollo, up in the
sky, had heard the question and saw his priestess
sitting there. In some wonderful way he made her know
how to answer. She said some strange words that
Her-akles could not understand, but the priest told him
what they meant.
" Apollo says that you must go to King Eurystheus
and do everything that the king tells you to do."
Herakles went out of the temple and sat down on a
rock to think. He had not expected this answer. He knew
Eurystheus well. They were cousins, but they did not
like each other. He thought:
"Must I be Eurystheus' servant? He is a coward. He
is mean. He will scold at me. He will never let me
Herakles thought for a long time. At last he struck
his leg angrily.
"I will not go!" he said. "I will
 wander over the world instead. That will be fun. I
shall see many strange things and meet many wonderful
people. That will be a gay life."
He started off swinging his club. Then he stopped.
"But Apollo knows best," he thought. "He knows what
I ought to do. And why do I not want to be a servant to
Eurystheus? Is it because I am lazy? Am I afraid of his
hard words? Perhaps he has something that must be done
and needs my help. That must be why Apollo sent me. He
knows best. I will go."
And off he went singing:
"More work for you, my arms! Long walks for you, my
So he came singing to King Eurystheus' house. He went
along the path and through the court and into the great
room. There sat the king. He was a little man with
thin, black hair. He always hung his head as though he
were ashamed. His eyes were little and black, and he
looked out of the corners of them. He jumped when he
 saw Herakles in the door. Herakles walked up to the
king and said:
"Well, cousin Eurystheus, I have come to help you.
Apollo sent me. What shall I do?"
"Go kill the hydra!" Eurystheus snapped out.
"A hydra?" Herakles said. "It is an ugly thing, but
I will kill it. Where is your hydra, cousin?"
Eurystheus nodded to a servant.
"Go show him," he said.
So the servant showed Herakles the way. Herakles went
singing down the road, jumping over bushes and running
races with wild rabbits. He acted as though he were
going to play a game instead of to kill a horrible
He walked all day. At night he came to a house and
knocked at the door. A woman opened it.
"Will you take a stranger in?" Herakles asked. "I
am hungry and tired."
"Certainly," she said. "Come in."
She led him into the house. She put a soft cushion
into a chair.
"Sit here and rest," she said to him.
 Then she got a basin of cool water and washed his
feet that were dusty and tired and sore from the long
tramp. After that she pulled out a little round table
and set upon it a basket of bread and a bowl of milk.
Then she said:
"Come, stranger, eat and drink. I cannot give you a
fine feast, for we are poor. We used to have wheat and
wine in our store-room and sheep and cattle in our
barn. But they are all gone now. The hydra lives in the
swamp below us. His breath is poison, and it fills the
air. It has killed all our cattle, and now my husband
is sick from it. He has not been able to cut our wheat,
and it has gone to waste. All our neighbors are sick,
too, and cannot help us."
"So this is where the hydra lives?" Herakles said.
"Good! I came to kill it. Your husband shall be well.
Is he alone now?"
"Perhaps he would like company," Herakles said. "Let
us go and talk with him."
 So Herakles drank the bowl of milk in three swallows.
"Never mind the bread now," he said. "Let us go."
The man was lying on a couch. His face was hot with
fever. Herakles put his big, cool hand on the man's
face and pushed the hair from his forehead. He said
with his great voice:
"Well, friend, do you like your couch so much that
you must lie on it all the time?"
Then he laughed. The man looked up at him.
"It sounds good to hear a laugh," he said.
"You will all be laughing in a day or two," Herakles
He sat by the man for a while and told him stories
and made him laugh. He sang, too, and his big voice
made the roof ring. At last he said:
"Now I will sleep. To-morrow something will happen."
As soon as the sun rose in the morning Herakles was
up. He drank a bowl of milk, then off he went.
 It was a hard thing to kill the hydra. It was like a
great snake with a hundred heads. It lived in deep mud.
All day Herakles fought with it. The hydra bit him, and
the mud held his feet, so that he had to pull and
strike at once. The sun was hot and burned his face.
But at last the hydra was dead. Herakles walked out of
the swamp and threw himself upon the grass, too tired
to stand. He lay there all night. In the morning he was
stiff. His legs, and arms, and back ached. But when he
sat up he saw the dead hydra and he forgot his backache
and laughed with joy.
"Now the sick people will be well. But I must go
back. Perhaps Eurystheus has something else for me to
So he walked up the road. He stopped at the house
where he had slept. The woman came to the door.
"How is your husband?" Herakles asked.
"He is much better," the woman answered. "I thought
you must have killed the hydra. Did you?"
 "Yes," said Herakles; "do I not look like it?"
His legs and arms were muddy. His lion's skin cloak
was dirty. His clothes were torn. His red hair was
rough and damp with dew.
Tears came to the woman's eyes.
"You did that hard thing for us!" she said. "Surely
you must be some son of Zeus. Perhaps you are Herakles
who killed the lion."
"Yes," Herakles said, and laughed in wonder. "Did
you hear about that?"
The woman's eyes opened wide.
"Herakles?" she cried. "The good and brave! Is
Herakles in my house?"
She ran to her husband's bed.
"Herakles is here," she said. "He has killed the
"Go tell the neighbors," she said to her little son.
"Tell them to come."
So the little boy ran.
The woman hurried to the cistern in the court. She
filled a kettle with water and hung it over the fire in
the big room. She pulled out a bronze tub from a
corner and set a red vase of
 olive oil by it. She took the lion's skin away and
cleaned it. Then she got a new chiton and laid it ready
for Herakles to wear. When the water was warm she
filled the tub.
"Come, bathe," she said.
So Herakles bathed and oiled himself and put on the
Soon the neighbors began to come. They brought meat
and vases of milk and wine in great skin bottles. They
cooked the meat and spread a feast. The house was full
of busy people. And all the time they were looking at
Herakles and talking about him.
"Is he not big?" one said.
"How kind his blue eyes are!" another said.
Some sat by him and talked.
"How did you do it?" they asked.
"Oh, I hardly know," laughed the great hero.
"Our people are all beginning to get well," they
Herakles smiled and his big eyes shone.
"Are they? Oh, I am glad!" he said.
 "Let us thank Zeus for that. He always helps me. He
is my father."
So he took a bowl of wine to a little stone altar
that stood in the court. A fire was burning on it. He
poured the wine upon the fire, and other men put meat
on. Herakles raised his hands to the sky.
"O, Father Zeus!" he said. "You helped us. We love
you for it. We burn this meat and wine in thanks to
Then all the people feasted together and laughed and
sang and shouted for Herakles.
"If we are ever sick again," they said, "we will ask
you to help us, Herakles."
"I will come gladly," Herakles replied.
At last he bade them good-by and started back to
Eurystheus' house. It was a long walk. The roads were
dusty and the sun was hot. Herakles grew tired and
hungry. He thought:
"Soon I shall be at Eurystheus' house. It will be
good to feel warm water on my feet. It will be
 to sit on a soft cushion. Hot meat and cool wine will
At last he came to Eurystheus' house. Eurystheus was
sitting at a table eating. He did not smile to see
Herakles. He did not call the servant to wash his feet.
He did not ask him to sit at the table. Instead he
looked at him out of the corners of his eyes and said:
"Are you back? There is a wild stag up north, with
golden horns. Go catch him. Bring him to me alive.
So Herakles turned and walked away.
"Well, my legs," he said, "no rest for you. But
never mind. We shall see a stag with golden horns."
Soon Herakles forgot about being tired and hungry. He
was watching the clouds and listening to the wind in
the trees. He sang:
"Oh, it is great to be out of doors. The sunshine is
good. Oh, ho! oh, ho!"
It took Herakles a year to catch the stag. Then
Eurystheus sent him off to do something else. Herakles
did it and came back. Then Eurystheus sent him again.
And so it was for twelve years.
 Herakles had no time to rest. He was working all the
while. The hard work made wrinkles come in his
forehead. His arms and legs grew stronger. A curly red
beard grew on his chin. But his blue eyes stayed merry,
and the good smile still played about his mouth. He
sang as he walked along the road. He made everybody
that he saw happy.
One day Herakles was walking across a sandy plain.
There were no trees and
 no grass. The sun blazed down very hot. The sweat
rolled off Herakles' face. He held his lion's skin in
his hand and dragged it along the ground because it was
too hot to wear it. At last he threw down his club and
the lion's skin.
"I cannot go on," he cried out angrily.
"It is too hot."
He looked up at the sun.
shouted, "you have no right to fry me. You are too
hot. You want to kill me. Stop it!" He shook his
fist at the sun. "Do you hear me?" he shouted. "I
cannot see you, but you are there."
He was carrying a bow and a quiver of arrows. He set
an arrow in his bow and aimed at the sun and pulled the
string far back. All that time he was talking.
HERAKLES AND HIS BOW
 "It is easy for
you! You ride in a golden chariot. You are up among the
cool breezes. I am plodding down here in the sand. Stop
burning me, I say."
Twang! went the bow-string. The arrow flew into the
sky. Apollo had been looking down at Herakles. He saw
the arrow and laughed.
"Did he think he could hit me?" he said to himself.
"He is a funny fellow. But he is a merry fellow, and
that was well shot. It flew higher than any other arrow
I ever saw. He deserves a good bow."
Apollo took his own silver bow from his shoulder and
dropped it. Down through the air it fell. Herakles
thought it was a flash of lightning. But the bow lay on
the sand at his feet. He picked it up.
"Apollo's bow!" he said. "He has given it to me,"
He stretched out his hands to the sun.
"I thank you, Apollo, I thank you."
Then he thought:
"Perhaps Apollo is hungry and tired
 from his long ride. What can I do for him?"
He saw a big bird flying. He shot it. Then he made a
little mound of sand.
"This shall be Apollo's altar," he said to
A GREEK BOWMAN
He built a fire upon the altar and put half of the
bird into the fire. Then he raised his hands to the
"O, Apollo! I have made here a little feast in your
honor. The sweet smell is going up to you. I hope that
it will make you strong. I send my love up with the
Then he sat and ate the other half of the bird.
Apollo liked the odor from the altar.
"There is a kind-hearted man!" he thought. "It must
be hot down there in the sand. Poor fellow!"
Then Apollo drew a cloud in front of his chariot, and
Herakles walked in a cool shadow all day. And all day
Apollo kept thinking about Herakles and his arrow and
laughing about it.
"He is a merry fellow," he thought.
 So for twelve years Herakles was Eurystheus' servant.
He walked all over the world and did a thousand
wonderful things. At last Eurystheus could think of
nothing else for him to do, so he said:
"You may go. I do not want you any longer."
Herakles passed his hand over his red hair.
"Thank you, cousin," he said. "Then I will rest
He went home to his mother and his wife and his
little children. They cried with joy when they saw him.
"Ah, Herakles," they said, "it is fine, to have you
at home again."
For a while they had merry times together. But
one day Herakles said:
"I must go away again. I have been idle too long.
There still is work for me to do."
So he kissed his family good-by and went away. All
over the world he went singing and working.
 Once Herakles was at a little city, Olympia, resting
from some great deed. He said to the people:
"My muscles are aching for a game, friends. Let
us have some sport."
And everybody shouted:
"Yes, games! Go tell all the people."
So men ran all over the country.
"Come to Olympia to-morrow," they shouted to
everybody. "There will be games. Come show how well you
can wrestle and box. Herakles will be there. Come."
On the next day the plain was full of people in their
gayest clothes. There was an empty space in the middle
of the plain. Herakles walked into it. He had thrown
off his chiton, so the people could see his big
"He looks strong," they said. "How straight he
stands! He walks like a lion."
"Who will come wrestle with me?"
A big man with black hair and beard and fierce eyes
"I will," he said.
 "Dryas, the robber!" the people said to one another.
"Oh, may Herakles win! But no one ever did win against
Dryas threw off his chiton. He and Herakles stood
face to face. One was as big as the other. The people
were very still. All at once Herakles jumped and caught
Dryas around the waist. He tried to throw him down. He
pushed and pushed, but Dryas put his hands on Herakles'
shoulders and stood like a rock. They stood locked so
for a whole minute. Then Herakles' foot flew out
quickly and he tripped Dryas and threw him to the
ground. At that the people shouted:
But quickly Dryas was on his feet and had caught
Herakles. He pushed and pushed, but Herakles stood like
a rock. Dryas struck out with his foot, but Herakles
was too quick. He caught Dryas by the shoulders and
threw him. The people shouted again:
"Herakles! Herakles will win!"
But Dryas pulled Herakles down. The two men rolled
on the ground.
 Each tried to get up, but the other held him down. At
last Herakles jerked himself free and sprang to his
feet. The people cheered.
"Stand up, Dryas," Herakles said.
So Dryas stood up, and they wrestled again. They
worked hard. The people could hear them breathe and see
the sweat roll down their bodies. Soon Herakles threw
Dryas again. Then the people said:
"Herakles has won. He has thrown Dryas three
Dryas got up slowly. He looked at Herakles from head
"You are a better man than I am," he said.
"Dryas, your arms are too strong to be wasted in
robbing men," Herakles replied. "Do good work with
them. There are lions and monsters to be killed. Go
Dryas thought for a minute. Then he raised his head
"I will do it," he said.
And he went away and did it.
Then Herakles looked around.
 "Who will run with me?" he cried.
"I will," and out ran a dozen young men.
They threw off their chitons and lined up for the
start. The people watched them.
"The young men will win," they said. "They are
slender and light. Herakles is heavy and thick. They
will run better."
But they did not. Herakles' legs were long, and
strong muscles were in them. He knew just how to use
his legs, for they had carried him all over the world.
They had chased a wild stag for a year. So now he won
the race, and the people were glad and shouted.
Then there was a boxing match. Herakles won that
easily. Then men threw spears at a mark. Herakles was
beaten at that. The people said:
"Herakles is not a soldier. The spear is not his
weapon. The club is his weapon, or the bow and arrow,
or his good arms. No matter, he does not need a spear."
Then it was time to throw the disk.
 "Oh! Herakles will win this," the people said.
"Look at his arms!"
And Herakles did win. He threw the disk twice as far
as the others.
"Good for Herakles' arms!" the people shouted.
Then there was a jumping match. Slender young men
came out. They threw off their chitons and took the
jumping weights in their hands and swung them and
jumped. The people held their breath. They said:
"It is as though they were flying. It is beautiful."
Herakles1 turn came.
"My body is too big to fly," he said, laughing.
"But I will try it."
So he jumped. People looked at his mark.
"It is the best yet," they said.
Then a young man took the weights.
"He is a fine-looking lad," Herakles said to
himself. "Zeus help him!"
The young man jumped.
"Ah!" the people cried when the boy was in the air.
He came down lightly on his toes.
 "He lights like a deer," Herakles said.
He ran to the young man and put his hand on his
"You have beaten me, lad," he said. "Ah! it was a
The young man looked up into Herakles' eyes.
"Ah, Herakles," he said, "I can jump, but I cannot
kill lions. I cannot walk all over the world. I cannot
help sick men and unhappy men. Only Herakles can do
Herakles smiled at him and said:
"I thank you, lad, for your kind word."
Then the people shouted:
"A crown for Herakles! He has won four games out of
six. He is best."
A man ran to a bush and picked some leaves and made
them into a wreath. He stood on a rock.
"Come, Herakles," he called. "Get your crown."
So Herakles came, and the man put the crown upon his
head. Then all the people shouted:
 "Herakles, Herakles! Winner of the games! Let us
have a feast for Herakles."
They killed sheep and oxen and roasted the meat in a
bonfire. They had wine and milk and honey in black
and red vases. Before they sat down to eat, Herakles
"My father Zeus must have part of our feast. He is
sitting in Olympos watching us. I will burn part of an
ox for him."
So the people piled up dirt and sod for an altar and
made a fire on it. Herakles put meat into the fire
 poured wine upon it. He raised his hands to the sky.
"O, Father Zeus," he said, "we burn meat and wine
for you. May the smell be sweet to you and make you
ZEUS AND HIS EAGLE
Then the people sat and feasted and talked as they
"Let us have games like this again," they said.
"They have been very pleasant, and Zeus will be glad to
watch them, too."
They talked about it for a long time. At last they
"Well, then, we will have them again in four years."
After the games in Olympia Herakles started off again
on one of his long journeys. He wandered about for a
great while, walking in the far corners of the earth
and doing many things, At last one day he said:
"I will go home. I want to see my wife, and my
children, and my mother."
So he started. After he had walked
 for a long time he saw friends from his home. They had
heard that he was coming, and had gone out to meet him.
"Welcome home, Herakles!" they cried. "Your wife
has heard of your coming and she sends you this
They spread out a linen chlamys, white and trimmed
"Ah!" Herakles said. "It is very beautiful. I
will put it on."
He threw off his lion's skin. A man picked it up.
"This is that wonderful lion's skin," he said. "Oh,
I am proud to hold Herakles' cloak."
"But first I will bathe," Herakles said, not
listening to the compliment.
A little river ran near. There Herakles bathed. He
came out clean and shining. He smoothed his hair and
"His hair and beard are like curls of red gold," the
"Now, friends, the chlamys!" Herakles shouted.
 They threw it around him. He fastened it on his
right shoulder with a great gold pin. The chlamys hung
about him in smooth folds. His strong neck showed above
it. The gold in the chlamys shone, but his red hair and
beard shone more. His strong white legs showed below
the cloak. His right arm was bare. He carried his
silver bow in that hand.
The people looked at him, and their eyes opened
"Oh, he is beautiful!" they said. "Zeus must be
proud of him."
And Zeus was proud of him. He
was watching from
 the sky, and so were all the other people of Olympos.
"He is beautiful," they said.
Herakles was talking to his friends.
"It is good to see you again. I am glad when I think
of being at home. But I must thank my father Zeus for
my safe journey. Come up the mountain with me. We
shall be near him there."
He pointed to the mountain with its top near the
clouds. So they climbed it. When they stood on the top,
Herakles looked about smiling and said:
"How far we can see! Look, there is my house miles
away. Do you see the blue hills far off to the south?
That is Olympia. Do you see the forest off yonder? That
is where the lion lived. Oh, this is a beautiful
country. But come, let us build an altar."
They piled up dirt and sod and then built a little
fire on the top. One man carried a skin bottle full of
"Let me take the wine bottle," Herakles said.
He poured wine upon the fire and raised his hands.
 "O, Father Zeus!" he called, "hear us. We love you.
Do something kind to us."
The people were watching Herakles.
"He is not a common man," they said. "He looks
like Zeus himself."
All at once Herakles put his hand to his side. He
frowned and cried out.
"What is it?" his friends asked.
"Oh, a terrible pain!" Herakles said.
He sank upon his knees and rested his head on the
edge of the altar.
"Oh, oh!" he cried. "Surely I am going to die."
"What can we do?" his friends asked.
Herakles did not hear them. He kept crying out and
holding his side. Suddenly he jumped up.
"Oh, the pain, the pain!" he cried. "I cannot endure
it. It is worse than fire. What can I do? Ah! I know. I
will put fire about me. That will not hurt so much as
this. That is a better way to die. And the great fire
will say to Zeus: 'Your son is not afraid to die.' "
Then he saw his friends. He had forgotten them.
"Go away! go away!" he said.
 So they went away and stood far down on the mountain
side and watched.
Herakles broke off a hundred trees and piled them
up. Then he went upon the pile and raised his hands to
"O, Father Zeus!" he cried, "love my children.
Take care of my wife."
He looked down the mountain and saw his friends. He
put his hands to his mouth and shouted:
"Let one of you come up to me,"
A man came running. Herakles said to him:
"Take one of the burning sticks from the altar-fire
and light this pile."
"No, no!" the man cried.
"If you love me you will do it," Herakles said. "I
beg of you do it. Oh, the pain! If you love me!"
So at last the man did it, saying:
"Ah! Herakles, I do love you."
"Thank you, friend," said Herakles. "Take this silver
bow. It used to belong to Apollo. Next it belonged to
Herakles. Now it is yours."
The yellow fire began to show. It leaped with the
wind. Herakles smiled.
 "It is beautiful," he said. "It will cure my pain."
His friends were watching far off and weeping.
"We shall never see him again," they said.
They covered their faces with their hands. All at
once they heard a great clap of thunder. They uncovered
their faces and looked up the mountain. The yellow fire
was blazing high in front of the dark pine trees of the
forest. The people looked into the sky. They saw a
silver cloud dropping quickly through the air.
Lightning shot from it. It dropped upon Herakles. Then
it opened for a minute and the people saw Athene in a
chariot of gold with four white horses. She held out
her hand to Herakles and he stood up and stepped into
the chariot. Then Athene turned the horses, and the
cloud shut and quickly flew up into the sky again. The
people stood still. At first they could not speak for
wonder, but then they shouted:
"Herakles! Herakles! He has gone
 to live in Olympos. Zeus loves him. He has gone to live
They ran down the mountain and along the roads. They
found people standing in the fields and before their
house-doors, looking into the sky and at the mountain.
They said to Herakles' friends:
"Did you see the great yellow fire and the silver
"Yes," Herakles' friends answered. "It was for
Herakles. He has gone to Olympos. No more hard work for
him! He can rest now."
Then all the people shouted for joy, because that
wonderful thing had happened to Herakles.
So Herakles rode through the sky with Athene. They
came to the wall of Olympos. The golden gates opened
and the horses' feet struck the marble floor. Herakles
saw many palaces of gold and of silver with green lawns
around them and beautiful orchards
 near. The horses stopped before a great palace of
shining gold. A man was standing in the door. He was
tall and strong. His eyes moved slowly. He smiled a
slow smile at Herakles.
"It is Zeus, my father!" Herakles cried.
Zeus held out his arms and Herakles ran into them.
"My son!" Zeus said.
His voice sounded like the wind among the trees and
it made Herakles very happy.
"Come into our palace," said Zeus. "The others wish
to see you."
They walked into the great room. There sat a long
table with shining gold and silver dishes on it, and
piles of fruit. Great carved chairs were by the table.
Beautiful people stood by them. They were the wonderful
people of Olympos. They were very tall. Their robes
were soft and long. Their skin was white. Their hair
was like gold.
Herakles and Zeus stopped at the door. The people
 "Hail, Herakles! Welcome to Olympos!"
Their voices were music. The people all crowded
around Herakles and said kind things to him. Apollo put
his hand upon the hero's shoulder.
"I am glad to see you in Olympos," he said. "You
will not shoot at me here, will you?"
Then he laughed.
At last Zeus said:
"Now let us sit and feast. Herakles will sit by me."
So they feasted and laughed and sang and talked.
Zeus said to Herakles:
"We have been watching you all your life. We saw you
kill the lion and the hydra and we said, 'He is strong
and brave.' We saw you chase the deer and we said, 'He
is patient.' We saw how you loved men and we told one
another, 'We must have him in Olympos.' I am proud
of you, my son."
And all the other Happy People said:
"We are all proud of Herakles."
 So Herakles lived in Olympos. He could look all over
the world and see men. He loved them now as much as he
used to, and he still wished to help them. He saw
many people sick.
"What can I do for them?" he thought.
Then he made springs of warm water flow from the
ground. Sick people came to these springs and bathed in
them and were well. Then they said:
done this because he loves us. Let us thank him."
So they built a marble altar there. They poured wine
upon it and raised their hands to the sky, saying:
"O, Herakles, we thank you."
PEOPLE GOING TO AN ALTAR
Up in Olympos Herakles saw them
 and heard their prayer and smelled the wine, and was
glad because he had made these men happy.
The people left the altar and a man to take care of
it. They called him the priest of Herakles. When they
went away they told others who were sick
about this wonderful spring. So every year many people
came there and bathed in the water and prayed at the
altar and were made well.
In Olympia men still kept up the games. People came
from all over Greece to see and to play. An
 to Herakles had been built there. Athletes,
before they began the games, went to this altar and
poured wine and prayed:
"You played here first and won. You are up in
Olympos now, watching. Make me strong and help me to
A CHARIOT RACE AT OLYMPIA
The men who did win were given crowns from a certain
wild olive tree. It was little and old and crooked, but
people were very careful of it as though it was
precious. A boy used a sickle of gold to cut the leaves
for the crowns.
"That is the very tree that Herakles planted
hundreds of years ago," people said. "He brought it
from the far north. He had a long, hard way to bring
it. He climbed great mountains and waded cold rivers.
He had only his lion-skin to sleep on at night. Yet
 he walked all that distance and carried this tree."
At one time people were building a house for Zeus in
"Let us put the story of Herakles
upon it," they said. "Zeus loves him as
much as we do. He would be proud to
see his son's story here. And visitors
who come would be glad to see it."
So they took blocks of marble and cut figures in
them, in bas-relief as we call it. Then they painted
the figures so that they looked like raised pictures.
On one slab of marble Herakles was killing the lion. On
another he was killing the hydra. On another he was |
chasing the deer. There were many more slabs that
showed him doing other things. Men fastened these
pieces of marble high on the outside wall of the house.
People liked to come and look at them and talk of
"Those were brave things that he did," they said.
"And he still loves us and helps us from Olympos."
All over Greece men made statues of Herakles, in
bronze or in marble, and
 put them into their gymnasia, where the young men went
"There," they said. "Look at Herakles and be
So Herakles sat in Olympos and looked all over the
world. He saw his statues. He saw the painted
bas-reliefs in Olympia. Everywhere he saw his altars,
with fires burning on them. The smoke curled up, and
sweet odors came to him. He saw the raised hands and
upturned faces of men and heard their prayers of
thanksgiving. And at all this he smiled happily, saying
"They love me, and I love them."
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics