For his eleventh task, Hercules was charged with stealing the golden apples from the Hesperides, a trio of nymphs tending Hera’s garden at the end of the western world. The apples gave immortality to any who ate them and had been a wedding gift from Gaia when Hera married Zeus.
Hera had installed a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon named Ladon to protect the garden from intruders, since she didn’t trust the nymphs.
Hercules first caught the Old Man of the Sea, a shape-shifting sea god, to learn the location of the garden, since no one gave him a hint as to where he should start.
On his way through Egypt, Hercules ran into King Busiris, who wanted to turn our hero into the yearly sacrifice but Hercules escaped by breaking out of his chains.
At some point, he also met Antaeus, a giant who was invincible as long as he was in contact with his mother, Gaia, the earth. Antaeus collected skulls to build a temple to his father, Poseidon. Hercules killed him by lifting Anaeus off the ground and crushing him in a bear hug.
One of the legends state that Hercules tricked Atlas into stealing some of the apples for him by offering to hold up the heavens for a while. I guess everybody needs an occasional break from a monotonous chore.
When Atlas returned, he decided he didn’t want to take the heavens back but offered to deliver the apples instead. Hercules agreed, asking Atlas to temporarily relieve him of his new burden so he could remove his cloak.
As soon as Atlas did so, Hercules took the apples and left. (Atlas sounds like all brawn and no brain, don’t you think?)
On Attic pottery, Hercules is shown blissfully lounging in the garden surrounded by the nymphs, which would go along with the alternate story of him killing the dragon instead of tricking Atlas.
Don’t forget to join us for the What’s Your Chocolate? Blog Hop on September 10th!