Garden of Hesperides - Labors of Hercules
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The Golden Apples

man in lion skin behind man tied to post and an eagle
Hercules (on the left) frees Prometheus
(now in the Louvre)

For another of his labors, Hercules had to go bring back three golden apples from the tree of the Hesperides. The Hesperides were the spirits of the evening. The golden apples were a gift from Gaia, the Earth mother, to her daughter Hera, who hated Hercules.

On his way to the garden, Hercules came across the Titan Prometheus, chained to a rock, so Hercules freed Prometheus.

Atlas
Hercules holds up the world.
(Athena is helping him.)

When Hercules got to the garden, he found the Titan Atlas there, holding the world up on his shoulders - it was very heavy. Hercules offered to hold the world for a while if Atlas would go get the apples, and Atlas eagerly agreed. But when Atlas got back with the apples, he didn't want to take the weight of the world back again. Herakles finally agreed to keep on holding up the world, but he asked Atlas to just take it back for a minute while Hercules arranged a pad to be more comfortable. Sure enough, as soon as Atlas had the world back, Hercules grabbed the apples and left, taking the apples back to King Eurystheus to complete the labor.

Learn by doing: act out this story
More Labors of Hercules

Bibliography and further reading about Hercules:

Twelve Labors of Hercules (Step into Reading, Step 3), by Marc Cerasini. Very easy, for beginning readers.

The Story of Hercules (Dover Children's Thrift Classics), by Robert Blaisdell (1997). easy reading, very cheap.

Hercules, by Nancy Loewen (1999). More sophisticated, with a look at how the myth was passed on and what it meant to people, as well as the story itself.

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire. (Look under Heracles).

The Myths of Herakles in Ancient Greece, by Mark W. Padilla (1998). By a specialist, for serious readers.

More about Hercules
Ancient Greece
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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