Thursday, November 26, 2015

2nd Labour of Hercules: Slaying the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra

The second labor of Hercules was to eliminatet the Lernean Hydra, an ancient serpentine water monster living in lake Lernea, child of Typhon and Echidna It is believed that the Hydra was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. According to the Greek myth, Hydra possessed many heads and, each time one was lost, it was replaced by two more. Moreover, it had poisonous breath and virulent blood making her lethal for any mortal that was unlucky to reach her place.

Upon reaching the lake, where the Hydra dwelt, Hercules covered his mouth and nose to protect himself from the poisonous fumes. Hercules did not go alone to hunt Hydra. Iolaus, his nephew, accompanied him on many of the twelve labors. The pair drove to Lerna, where they discovered the lair of hydra. Hercules shot flaming arrows into the Hydra's lair, a deep cave. He then confronted the Hydra, a sword, or his famed club. The creature's reaction to this decapitation was according to the legend: two grew back. The weakness of the Hydra was that it was vulnerable only if it retained only one head. Hercules realizing that he could not defeat the Hydra in this way, called on his nephew Iolaus for help.

Greek hero Hercules trying to kill the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra
Greek hero Hercules trying to kill the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra 
His nephew then came upon the idea of using a firebrand to scorch the neck stumps after each decapitation. As the did, Hercules cut off each head and Iolaus cauterized the open stumps. Seeing that Hercules was winning, Greek goddess Hera sent a large crab to distract him. Hercules crushed it under his mighty foot. Greek goddess of wisdom Athena, gave Hercules a golden sword to help him. He used it to cut off one head and gather Hydra's poisonous blood. He later used the poisonous blood for his arrows. The alternate version of this myth is that after cutting off one head he then dipped his sword in its neck and used its venom to burn each head so it couldn't grow back.  Goddess Hera, was furious because of the the death of Lernean Hydra from Hercules. She decided to place her monster in the dark sky as the constellation Hydra. She also placed the destroyed crab into the constellation Cancer. Hercules would later used arrows dipped in the Hydra's poisonous blood to kill other foes during his remaining labors.

In another version of the Greek myth, that labors were 10 initially: when the king Eurystheus found out that Hercules' nephew Iolaus was helping him, he didn't accept the completion of the 2nd labor. This, this labor eventually will not count towards the 10 labors set for him. He then assigned him the next task, to capture the Ceryneian deer of goddess Artemis.