Thursday, November 26, 2015

1st Labour of Hercules: The Nemean Lion

Hercules slaying the  Nemean Lion.
Hercules slaying the
Nemean Lion.
In Thebes, Hercules married King Creon's daughter, Megara. As we saw in earlier post, Greek goddess Hera didn't like Hercules and wanted to kill him when he was young. When he was married with Megara, Hera put madness to Hercules, and as result, he killed his children. Antikyreus cured him with hellebore and then he realized what he has done. After his realization, he went to Oracle of Delphi to learn what to do. However, the Oracle was guided by Greek goddess Hera, who was full of hate against our hero Hercules. He was directed from the oracle to serve and completing any task that King Eurystheus asked. The king decided to give Hercules ten labours. However, the king did not recognized two of his labours because he believed that Hercules cheated. Thus, two additional labours, totaling the famous Twelve Labors of Hercules.

The first labor was to slay the Nemean Lion. The Nemean lion was a terrible monster living near Nemea in the Peloponnesus and it was terrorizing the city. The lion is a child of Typhon (or Orthrus) and Echidna as described in Theogony. In another story the lion have fallen from the moon as the offspring of the ruler of Greek gods Zeus and Selene. It could not be killed with human weapons because its golden fur was impossible to penetrate. The lion had claws sharper than any mortal swords and could cut through any armor. Often the Nemean lion was taking women from nearby villages as hostages to its his nest, for attracting brave warriors. Many warriors from nearby towns tried save the women and slay the lion, but the Lion was tricking the warriors by transforming in a woman. After the warriors rush to nearby to rescue her, the woman would turn back to lion and kill them. It is said that the lion was giving the bones to Hades.

Hercules wandered the area until he arrived to the town of Cleonae.  There he met a boy, Molorchus. There are two variations for what the boy offered. The boy promised that if Hercules slaw the Nemean lion in less than 30 days, the town would sacrifice a lion to God Zeus. If Hercules was not able to return in less than 30 days, the boy will sacrifice himself to God Zeus. Another version says that Molorchos was a shepherd who had lost his son to the lion. He promised that  he will sacrifice to God Zeus a sheep if Hercules come back in less than 30 days. Alternative, he will sacrifice the sheep to the dead Hercules.

When Hercules found the lion, he throw some arrows. However, its golden fur was impenetrable. After some time, Hercules made the lion return to his cave. Hercules blocked one of the two entrances and entered the other. There he stunned the beast to death with his club. Again here there two details that varied between different source: In one version, the lion bit off one of his fingers. In the other version says that he shot arrows in the unarmored mouth to kill it. After killing the Nemean lion, he tried to skin it with a knife. However, the fur was impenetrable. Finally, Athena gave the hint to Hercules for using the claws for the lion to skin it.

Hercules returned on the thirtieth day carrying the remaining body of the lion. King Eurystheus was at the same time amazed and terrified. He then sent Hercules to his next labour to destroy the Lernaean hydra.