How many foes do Hercules and the characters from Percy Jackson and the Olympians share?
Hercules - credits: grunge.com
Hercules (Greek name “Herakles”) was born the son of Zeus and a mortal woman named Alcmene, making him a demigod like Percy Jackson and most of his friends. Even as a child he was known for his immense strength. Because Hercules was an illegitimate son of Zeus outside of his marriage with Hera, the goddess immediately hated him. She even sent serpents to kill him in his cradle, but he strangled them. (She does something similar to Leo Valdez when he is a child, but says it’s to test his strength.)
The Madness of Hercules and the Twelve Labors
Statue of Hercules - credits: pixabay.com
Eventually, Hercules marries a woman named Megara and has many children. This angers Hera, so she strikes Hercules with a fit of madness which causes him to kill his children (and in some versions his wife). Hercules is distraught by his actions after he regains his senses. To atone for his sins, Hercules pledges himself to serve his cousin Eurystheus and complete any action Eurystheus asks of him. Eurystheus devises twelve seemingly impossible tasks to give Hercules in hopes that he will be killed since Eurystheus is worried Hercules will overthrow his kingdom.
The Nemean Lion
Hercules defeating the Nemean Lion - credits: Lucian Milasan/Shutterstock.com
Hercules’ first labor is to slay the Nemean lion. Because of his immense strength, Hercules is able to strangle the beast with his bare hands. He then skins it and wears its skin.
Percy slays the Nemean lion as well in The Titan’s Curse (Percy Jackson book 3) at the Smithsonian museum by throwing nasty astronaut food down the lion’s throat. This causes it to open its mouth wide and Zoe Nightshade was able to shoot an arrow down its throat. Percy wears the skin as well until he gives it as an offering to Poseidon.
The Lernean Hydra
Hercules killing the Lernean Hydra - credits: commons.wikimedia.org
Hercules slays this nine-headed monster with the help of his nephew, Iolaus, who cauterized each head stump after Hercules chopped the head off, preventing more heads from growing in its place.
In The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson book 2), Percy, Annabeth, and Tyson battle a Hydra that Tyson accidentally summoned along with a “Monster Donut” chain donut restaurant. The restaurants are tied to the life force of hydras; every time a hydra’s head is chopped off a new restaurant appears somewhere in the United States. They are saved by Clarisse La Rue, a fellow half-blood, who kills the hydra with cannon fire from her warship.
The Ceryneian Hind
Hercules killing the Ceryneian hind - credits: sciencephoto.com
Hercules chased this elusive female deer for a year through various lands to complete his third labor. There are different versions of how he finally managed to capture it. Most say he shot it with an arrow but did not fatally wound it, only to find he angered the goddess Artemis because it is her sacred animal. However, Artemis agrees to let Hercules take the hind back to Eurystheus after hearing his story.
The Erymanthian Boar
Hercules killing the Erymanthian boar - credits: europeanmint.com
Hercules captures this giant boar by luring it into thick snow, a strategy given by the centaur Chiron, the same one who appears often in the Percy Jackson series.
In The Titan’s Curse, Percy and his four companions encounter the boar. Grover is convinced it is a gift from Pan, the god of the wild. Percy gets it to chase him into a snowbank, similar to Hercules, so they can ride it.
The Stables of Augeas
The stables of Augeas - credits: greek-myth.fandom.com
For his fifth labor, Hercules cleanses the huge cattle stables of King Augeas in a single day by rerouting two rivers to flow through the stables and clean them completely.
Percy cleans stables in The Battle of the Labyrinth (Percy Jackson book 4) in order to be set free by the owner of the ranch, Geryon. He tries to use the nearby river as Heracles did, but the river nymph won’t let him. He summons seawater from petrified seashells instead. Labors five, eight, and ten are somewhat combined in the Percy Jackson universe.
The Stymphalian Birds
Hercules killing the Stymphalian birds - credits: eternalgreece.com
Hercules used a rattle to startle the monstrous man-eating birds so they would fly into his range of shooting.
The Stymphalian birds attack Camp Half-Blood in The Sea of Monsters because Thalia’s poisoned pine tree isn’t protecting the camp. Percy and Annabeth use Chiron’s CD player to play a Dean Martin album, which distracts the birds enough so Apollo’s children can shoot them.
The Cretan Bull
Hercules fighting the Cretan Bull - credits: Bastian Kienitz/Shutterstock.com
Hercules manages to capture this bull and bring it all the way back to Athens from Crete, but Eurystheus is scared of it so he releases it.
The Mares of Diomedes
Hercules fighting the mares of Diomedes - credits: sciencephoto.com
For his eighth labor, Hercules captures the man-eating horses from King Diomedes by feeding Diomedes himself to them. This calms the horses so he can take them to Eurystheus.
The horses in the stables Percy cleans in The Battle of the Labyrinth are flesh-eating, which makes his task to clean them even more difficult. The horses call him “seafood” and threaten to eat him.
The Girdle of Hippolyte
The Girdle of Hippolyte - credits: talesmythology.blogspot.com
The ninth labor was to steal the girdle, or belt, of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons, a fierce tribe of women warriors. Hippolyte at first seems willing to freely give up her girdle to Hercules, but Hera spreads a rumor among the women that Hercules and his men plan to kidnap Hippolyte, and they fight. Hippolyte is killed and Hercules retrieves her girdle to take to Eurystheus.
While not tasked with stealing anything from the Amazons, Percy, Hazel, and Frank meet the Amazons in Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus book 2) and are captured. Hazel explodes jewelry bins and tames the immortal horse Arion to escape.
The Cattle of Geryon
Hercules driving off the cattle of Geryon - credits: commons.wikimedia.org
In order to steal the cattle, Hercules kills the two-headed dog, Orthus, the herdsman, Eurytion, and finally the owner of the cattle, the three-bodied monster, Geryon. Hercules has a very difficult time getting the entire herd back to Eurystheus, but eventually succeeds.
Geryon is the owner of “Triple G Ranch” in The Battle of the Labyrinth. He goes back on his deal with Percy after Percy cleans the stables, so they fight and Percy kills him by shooting him through his three chests simultaneously.
The Apples of the Hesperides
The Apples of the Hesperides - credits: julia kobzeva/Shutterstock.com
Heracles convinces the titan Atlas, who holds the sky on his shoulders, to let him hold the sky so Atlas can retrieve the apples for him from the garden guarded by the Hesperides, daughters of Atlas, and a dragon.
Percy and his friends must get past the dragon, Ladon, to rescue Artemis and Annabeth in The Titan’s Curse. During the battle against Atlas, Percy takes the weight of the sky from Artemis so she can fight Atlas, and eventually, it gets back to Atlas.
Cerberus - credits: greekboston.com
For Hercules’ final labor he retrieves Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the Underworld. Hades agrees to let Hercules take Cerberus to Eurystheus as long as he does it without a weapon. Hercules succeeds, and his twelve labors are finally over.
In The Lightning Thief, Annabeth “tames” Cerberus with a red rubber ball so she, Percy, and Grover can get past him.
Looking at each of these labors, it is no doubt that Hercules was incredibly strong and a fierce opponent to any foe. All but two of his labors are mentioned in some fashion in the Percy Jackson series, which shows that Rick Riordan’s demigods are pretty fierce, too.
Woman standing before the ruins of the Acropolis - credits: NataliaD/Depositphotos.com
Hercules was Greece’s most famous warrior, and there are still signs of this all over Greece. Want to see for yourself? Our mythology tours can be catered to whatever you desire, and our knowledgeable guides give the best tours! Let us know you’re a fan of Hercules, and we will make sure you get to see the best spots related to the great hero. Book with us today!