The seventh labor of Hercules was to capture the Cretan Bull. The Cretan Bull was in some versions of the myths, the parent of the minotaur discussed in Minos’ Mythology Monday a few weeks ago. That whole myth may just be an early version of the Zeus /Europa myth, but that’s another story.
Anyway, Minos wanted to get rid of the bull that seduced his wife, so he sent for Hercules. Minos offered to help, but Hercules declined in favor of sneaking up on the bull and strangling it into unconsciousness with his bare hands. He shipped the bull back to his king, who wanted to sacrifice it to Hera, but Hera didn’t want anything Hercules killed, so it as set free to roam in Marathon. Theseus (he’s popped up in a few of our myths so far, and we’ll learn more about him later) later killed it and sacrificed it to either Apollo or Athena depending on who told the myth.
The eighth labor of Hercules was to steal the Mares of Thrace (or Diomedes, but I prefer Thrace because of Gattlestar Gallactica), four man-eating horses that belonged to Diomedes, King of Thrace and son of Ares. Also, he was a giant.
Fun fact, Alexander the Great traced his horses lineage back to one of these horses.
The horses had names: Podagros (the fast), Lampon (the shining), Xanthos (the blond) and Deimos (the terrible). They were tied up to a bronze manger and were insane thanks to their diet of human flesh. They also may have breathed fire. In some versions of the myths, Hercules brought a few boys with him to keep the horses occupied while Hercules dealt with the giant. Some versions had only one boy, Abderus, some versions had no boys. The boys that may or may not have come were eaten in the versions of the myths they took part in. Hercules got pissed, and fed Diomedes to the horses.
Eating made the horses calmer, so Hercules bound their mouths shut and shipped them back to his king, who dedicated them to Hera, or Zeus, or set them free, or sacrificed them. Sorry for all the maybes, but there are a TON of Herculean myths to wade through. Either way, the horses descendants were used in the Trojan war.
The ninth labor was by far the most offensive. Hercules had to steal Hippolyta’s girdle. Hippolyta was the Queen of the Amazons, and a daughter of Ares. There are two versions of this myth, one with Hercules alone, and the other with Theseus.
Okay, for Herc alone, Hippolyta was so impressed with him that she gave him the girdle, and went to visit him on his ship. Hera disguised herself as an amazon and got the others all riled up and convinced that Herc was abducting their queen so they attacked, were defeated, and Herc gave the girdle to his kings daughter.
Her and Theseus went down almost the same, except that Theseus may have actually been trying to abduct her or she might have been going with him willingly, setting aside her throne for her love. They got married, and Theseus left her for a chick named Phaedra (some versions of the myth have Phaedra not coming about until after Hippolyta’s death). Hippolyta stormed the wedding and attacked and was killed. But maybe it was actually not her at all, but her sister, as some of the myths claim.
Either way, Hippolyta pops up in Chaucer’s “A Knight’s Tale,” AND Shakespeare’s
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream
married to Theseus.
Hercules is getting just a few more mythology Monday’s, he has many adventures to come. Then I promise, the Hercules show will be over and I’ll move on to other myths.