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Hercules and Cerberus

Hercules and Cerberus

In classical Greek mythology, Hercules was the son of the god Zeus. He was a mighty warrior who was set twelve terrifying tasks by King Eurystheus. The final one of these was the most deadly of all: find the vicious beast Cerberus that guarded the Underworld, also known as Hades, and kidnap it.

The ancient Greeks believed that after death, the person’s spirit went to the Underworld which was the kingdom of Hades. Hades lay in the bowels of the earth and no living soul had ever returned from its depths. Cerberus was the vicious beast that stood guard at the entrance to the Hades.Cerberus had a strange appearance: he had three heads of wild dogs, a dragon for tail, and snake heads all over his back.

Before the trip to the Underworld, Hercules took some precautions. He went to a priest called Eumolpus, who taught him some mysteries that were supposed to bring happiness to those who visited the Underworld.

Through a deep rocky cave, Hercules made his way into Hades. He encountered monsters, heroes and ghosts. Finally he found Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, and asked him for Cerberus. Pluto agreed to let Hercules fight with Cerberus, but only if Hercules overpowered the beast without weapons. He had to overpower the beast with just his brute strength.

Hercules wrapped his strong arms around the beast. The dragon in the tail plunged its teeth into Hercules, but that did not stop the valiant warrior. Hercules wrestled Cerberus into submission and carried the monster back up to our world.

King Eurystheus was so frightened that he insisted that Hercules should take the beast back to the Underworld. Hercules did so, and his twelve labors were complete.

From this myth has evolved the idiom ‘herculean effort’ or ‘herculean task’ meaning something that involves or requires great effort.

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