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Classical mythology

Unless otherwise stated, these questions are about Greek (as opposed to Roman) mythology.

See also The Olympians, The Titans, Greek and Roman Gods, Graces etc, and Homer.

The twelve labours of Heracles (Hercules)

As a punishment for slaying his own wife and children (after being driven temporarily mad by Hera), Heracles was advised by the Oracle of Delphi to serve his cousin Eurystheus, king of Tyrins, for twelve years, and perform whatever labours Eurystheus might set him; in return, he would be rewarded with immortality. Hercules loathed to serve a man whom he knew to be far inferior to himself, but he complied, fearing to oppose his father Zeus. Hera, who was allied to Eurystheus, did her best to prevent Heracles from succeeding.

There were originally only ten labours; Eurystheus added the last two later as he didn't accept task 2 (because Heracles had been helped by his cousin Ioloas) or task 5 (because Heracles intended to accept payment for it).

The following table lists the labours as in the Biblioteca, a compendium of Greek myths and legends that dates from the first and second centuries AD. The fourth column (the first of the two blank ones) gives a clue to each task (or, more specifically, its target) which you can use as a clue – or not, if you prefer!

1Kill the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
2Destroy the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
3Capture the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
4Capture the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
5Clean the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
6Kill the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
7Capture the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
8Round up the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
9Steal the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
10Herd the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
11Fetch the Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer
12Capture Click to show or hide the answer Click to show or hide the answer

Other

Changed into a stag by Artemis, and torn apart by his own hunting dogs, after he accidentally saw her bathing Click to show or hide the answer
Killed by a boar after Aphrodite fell in love with him;
Aphrodite then caused the anemone to grow from his blood
Click to show or hide the answer
King of Colchis, gave the Golden Fleece to Jason (in return for Jason sowing the dragon's teeth – they grew into an army of warriors) Click to show or hide the answer
Keeper of the Winds Click to show or hide the answer
Suckled Zeus as a she–goat Click to show or hide the answer
Food of the gods – often said to confer longevity or immortality on anyone who ate it (see also Nectar) Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Cepheus (king of the Phoenician kingdom of Ethiopia) and his wife Cassiopeia, who chained her to a rock as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus, to appease Poseidon's wrath at her mother's bragging; rescued by Perseus (whom she later married) and turned into a constellation after her death Click to show or hide the answer
Flower that sprang from (or was turned red by) the blood of Adonis after he was killed by a wild boar Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta – buried alive by Jocasta's brother Creon Click to show or hide the answer
Roman slave who removed a thorn from the paw of a lion Click to show or hide the answer
God of unrequited love, given to Eros as a brother and playmate Click to show or hide the answer
Wife of Hephaestos and mother of Eros – said to have grown from Uranus's genitals after Cronos cut them off and threw them into the sea; sprang from the foam of the sea, and came ashore on Cyprus. Alternatively, the daughter of Thalassa (the sea) and Zeus Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Zeus and Leto, born on Delos; twin brother of Artemis; the ideal of the beardless youth, 'the brightest and most complex creation of polytheism'. Sometimes said to be the only major god with the same name in both the Greek and Roman traditions – but this may be an over–simplification Click to show or hide the answer
Expert weaver, turned into a spider after challenging Athena to a weaving contest (there are many versions of the story; in some she wins the contest, in others she loses) Click to show or hide the answer
Jason's ship Click to show or hide the answer
Bellerophon, Calais, Castor, Polydeuces (Pollux), Heracles (Hercules), Laertes, Laocoon, Orpheus, Telamon: just some of the Click to show or hide the answer
Fabulous beast of 100 eyes, placed by Hera to guard Io from the attentions of Zeus; slain by Hermes; Hera transferred his eyes to the tail of the peacock Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of King Minos: put in charge of the Labyrinth by her father, she fell in love with Theseus and gave him the ball of thread by which he found his way out; she then eloped with him, but he abandoned her on the beach on Naxos, where she was found by Dionysus (as depicted in a famous painting by Titian) who then married her Click to show or hide the answer
Ram which produced the Golden Fleece Click to show or hide the answer
Twin sister of Apollo; turned Actaeon into a stag after he watched her bathing Click to show or hide the answer
Formidable, beautiful but coy virgin huntress, who declared that whoever would marry her must first defeat her in a foot race; married Hippomenes after he tricked her by dropping golden apples in her path to distract her (as advised by Aphrodite) Click to show or hide the answer
Born from the head of Zeus, who had swallowed her mother Metis, when he asked Hephaestus to crack open his skull Click to show or hide the answer
Legendary island described by Plato as lying "in front of the Pillars of Hercules" – said to have sunk into the sea in "a single day and night of misfortune" Click to show or hide the answer
Condemned by Zeus to hold up the heavens on his back as a punishment, after he led the Titans in their unsuccessful battle with the Olympians; fetched the Golden Apples while Hercules took over his burden; father of the Pleiades Click to show or hide the answer
Mythical creature that could kill with its breath or a glance; gets its name from the Latin word for a royal child Click to show or hide the answer
Corinthian hero who rode the winged horse Pegasus and killed the Chimera Click to show or hide the answer
The north wind and bringer of cold winter air (to the Greeks; Aquilon in Latin) Click to show or hide the answer
Pilot of Menlaus's ship: gave his name to the second brightest star in the night sky Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Vain and arrogant wife of King Cepheus of Ethiopia, and mother of Andromeda: placed in the heavens by Poseidon as a punishment for claiming that she and her daughter were more beautiful than the Nereids Click to show or hide the answer
Twin sons of Leda resulting from her being raped by Zeus as a swan; brothers of Helen (of Troy) and Clytemnestra Click to show or hide the answer
Torso, head & arms of a man; body & legs of a horse Click to show or hide the answer
Three–headed dog that guarded Hades – captured by Hercules as his 12th labour Click to show or hide the answer
The original dark void from which everything else emerged: Gaia (Earth), Eros (love), Erebus (darkness) and Nyx (night), followed by their children Aether (the sky and heaven), Hemera (day) and Nemesis (retribution) Click to show or hide the answer
Ferryman who rowed the dead souls across the Styx Click to show or hide the answer
Kindly Centaur – tutor of Apollo, Achilles and Jason – traded his immortality with Prometheus after being wounded by Heracles Click to show or hide the answer
Monstrous fire–breathing creature with the body of a lion, the head of a goat (or the other way round) and a snake (or serpent) for a tail; defeated by Bellerophon, with the help of Pegasus; its name has come to denote any hybrid mythical or fictional animal, or anything that's composed of very disparate parts, or perceived as wildly imaginative, implausible, or dazzling Click to show or hide the answer
The personification of time (Greek) – not to be confused with the Titan Cronus (Kronos), the father of Zeus (also of Hades and Poseidon) Click to show or hide the answer
Cockerel's head, thorny wings, serpent's tail Click to show or hide the answer
Said to be hatched from the egg of a cock and brooded by toads or serpents
Could kill with a glance, but could only be killed by a weasel
One of Amalthea's horns broke off and became Click to show or hide the answer
Father of Icarus; built Icarus's wings, and also built the Labyrinth on Crete Click to show or hide the answer
Excessively flattering courtier to Dionysius II of Syracuse; (unknowingly) ate a banquet under a sword suspended by a single horse's hair, after Dionysius offered to swap places with him for a day – a ploy by Dionysius to demonstrate the constant fear in which he lived Click to show or hide the answer
Mother of  Perseus: impregnated by Zeus as a shower of golden rain, while imprisoned by her father Acrisius in a bronze chamber, open to the sky, in the courtyard of his palace, to keep her childless, after Acrisius (disappointed by his lack of luck in having a son) was warned by the oracle at Delphi that he would one day be killed by his daughter's son with Zeus Click to show or hide the answer
Nymph changed into a laurel bush to save her from Apollo Click to show or hide the answer
Artemis and Apollo were born on Click to show or hide the answer
Greek equivalent of Noah Click to show or hide the answer
Tree nymph or wood nymph – actually (originally) the nymph of an oak tree Click to show or hide the answer
Half woman, half serpent Click to show or hide the answer
Beautiful mountain–nymph, fond of her own voice; used to distract Hera by telling her stories while Zeus consorted with other nymphs. Eventually Hera discovered the trick and made her unable to speak except in answer to another voice; she fell in love with Narcissus, but he spurned her and fell in love with his own reflection Click to show or hide the answer
Beautiful young shepherd, loved by the Moon goddess Selene: kissed into eternal sleep, guarded by Artemis; subject of a poem by Keats Click to show or hide the answer
Phoenician princess, seduced and carried to Crete by Zeus as a bull Click to show or hide the answer
Name used for at least seven Greek goddesses, including the wife of Orpheus Click to show or hide the answer
Name of the statue with which Pygmalion fell in love Click to show or hide the answer
Carried to Olympus by an eagle, to be cupbearer to Zeus Click to show or hide the answer
Sought by Jason and the Argonauts; found hanging from a tree in a sacred grove in Colchis Click to show or hide the answer
(Greek) name for the Underworld – originally its king, later renamed Pluto Click to show or hide the answer
Female birds with women's faces: stole food from their victims while they were eating, and carried evildoers to the Fates; name means 'snatchers' Click to show or hide the answer
Husband of Aphrodite; made her a girdle that made men fall in love with her Click to show or hide the answer
Greatest of the Greek heroes: son of Zeus by the mortal woman Alcmene; named Alcides by his parents, renamed later to mollify Hera who resented his being the mortal offspring of her husband. At the age of a few months, throttled two snakes sent to his cot by Hera. Eventually driven mad by Hera, he slew his own children and was set ten (later expanded to twelve) labours by his arch–enemy Eurystheus Click to show or hide the answer
Priestess of Aphrodite whom Leander swam the Hellespont every night to court Click to show or hide the answer
Nymphs of the sunset, who tended a blissful garden in a far western corner of the world, where they grew golden apples, three of which were given to Hippomenes by the goddess Aphrodite Click to show or hide the answer
Queen of the Amazons, daughter of Ares; had a magic girdle (given to her by her father) – to steal it was one of the Twelve Labours of Heracles Click to show or hide the answer
Fell in love with Atalanta, the beautiful but coy virgin huntress, who declared that whoever would marry her must first defeat her in a foot race; prayed to Aphrodite, who gave him three apples of the Hesperides, which he dropped on the track one by one to distract Atalanta, and so beat her Click to show or hide the answer
The only thing left in Pandora's box after she opened it Click to show or hide the answer
Beloved of Apollo, Boreas and Zephyr , killed by a discus thrown by Apollo; flower sprang from his blood Click to show or hide the answer
Grew two heads every time one was cut off Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Daedalus, who fell into the sea and drowned because his artificial wings melted when he flew too close to the Sun Click to show or hide the answer
The blood ('blood–like essence') of the gods Click to show or hide the answer
Priestess of the Goddess Hera – a mortal woman – seduced by Zeus and then transformed by him into a heifer to escape detection by Hera (his wife) Click to show or hide the answer
Messenger of the Gods, who travelled to Earth along the rainbow
(originally the personification of the rainbow)
Click to show or hide the answer
Two–faced god of gates, doorways, beginnings and endings, after whom January is named Click to show or hide the answer
Second wife Glauce (glor–see) was murdered on her wedding day by his first wife Medea Click to show or hide the answer
Mother and wife of Oedipus Click to show or hide the answer
Dragon of 100 heads, slain by Hercules Click to show or hide the answer
Young man who swam the Hellespont every night to court Hero Click to show or hide the answer
Queen of Sparta, raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan, thus conceiving either Castor and Pollux, or Helen of Troy (depending on which story you believe; she was the mother of all three, and also of Clytemnestra) Click to show or hide the answer
River of Hades, whose name means 'forgetfulness' or 'concealment' Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of (Titans) Coeus and Phoebe: lover of Zeus, and mother of Apollo and Artemis Click to show or hide the answer
Father of Romulus and Remus Click to show or hide the answer
Enchantress, wife of Jason Click to show or hide the answer
Atlas was turned into a mountain after he looked at the severed head of Click to show or hide the answer
King of Phrygia, granted his wish that everything he touched should turn to gold; given the ears of an ass by Apollo because he preferred Pan's music to Apollo's Click to show or hide the answer
Mythical king of Crete – gave his name to the pre–Hellenic civilisation on the island Click to show or hide the answer
Bull–headed monster, housed in the Labyrinth on Crete; Minos demanded an annual payment of seven young men and seven maidens from Athens, to feed to it (to pay for the death of his son Androgeus) Click to show or hide the answer
Subject of a Roman 'mystery religion' (i.e. one based on a complex system of initiation rites) of the first four centuries AD: originally Persian; the centrepiece of the cult's temples is of him hunting and killing a bull – the so–called 'tauroctomy' Click to show or hide the answer
Rejected the love of the beautiful wood–nymph Echo, and fell in love with his own reflection Click to show or hide the answer
Drink of the gods (in Homer; may originally have been synonymous with Ambrosia) Click to show or hide the answer
The 50 daughters of Doris Click to show or hide the answer
Daughter of Tantalus, turned to stone as she wept for her children slain by Artemis and Apollo Click to show or hide the answer
Mountain nymph – e.g. Echo Click to show or hide the answer
Giant huntsman whom Zeus placed among the stars as a constellation Click to show or hide the answer
Chief representative of the art of song; descended into Hades to retrieve his wife Eurydice, but lost her because he looked back too soon Click for more information Click to show or hide the answer
Bird held sacred to the goddess Athena Click to show or hide the answer
Ears, horns and hind legs of a goat Click to show or hide the answer
The first woman, in Greek mythology – name means 'all–giving' or 'all–gifted' Click to show or hide the answer
Mountain in central Greece, sacred to Apollo and the home of the Muses Click to show or hide the answer
Immortal winged horse that sprang from the blood of Medusa Click to show or hide the answer
Only child of Zeus and Demeter, abducted by Hades to be his wife and Goddess of the Underworld Click to show or hide the answer
Proserpina was the Roman equivalent of
Founder of Mycenae, conceived when Zeus came to his mother (Danaë) as a shower of gold; killed the Gorgon Medusa by cutting off her head; also rescued Andromeda from the sea monster, and made her his wife Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Helios: drove his father's chariot for a day, but failed to control it and was killed by Zeus to prevent disaster; gave his name to a horse–drawn carriage Click to show or hide the answer
The seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione, transformed into a star cluster after their deaths Click to show or hide the answer
Third son of Cronos and Rhea (brother of Zeus and Rhea), giver or possessor of riches (originally called Hades Pluto) Click to show or hide the answer
God of Wealth – portrayed as a boy bearing a cornucopia Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Zeus and Aphrodite, rejected by Aphrodite because of his enormous phallus Click to show or hide the answer
Killed victims by stretching them or cutting off their legs to fit into his bed Click to show or hide the answer
Titan who created mankind and was its greatest benefactor: stole fire from Olympus and gave it to man Click to show or hide the answer
Spirit of the soul; beautiful maiden (according to Apuleius) beloved of Eros Click to show or hide the answer
King of Cyprus who fell in love with a statue made by himself Click to show or hide the answer
Dragon or serpent that guarded the Delphic Oracle (believed to be the centre of the Earth) – killed by Apollo Click to show or hide the answer
Twin brothers who founded the city of Rome (according to tradition) Click to show or hide the answer
Mother of Romulus and Remus Click to show or hide the answer
Young humans with the lower limbs of a goat, companions of Dionysus and Pan – associated with male sexual appetite Click to show or hide the answer
Orion was killed by Click to show or hide the answer
Two or three "bird–women" who lived on an island (exact identity not consistently identified) and lured sailors onto the rocks by their singing; Odysseus escaped by having all his sailors plug their ears with beeswax and tie him to the mast Click to show or hide the answer
Founder and first king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth): punished for his belief that he was more clever than Zeus himself, by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and repeat for eternity. Click to show or hide the answer
River that had to be crossed by the souls of the dead; Achilles was dipped in it by his mother (Thetis), hoping to make him immortal Click to show or hide the answer
Punished by being made to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink it, under fruit that moved away if he reached for it Click to show or hide the answer
Wife of the sea god Oceanus: gave her name to the fifth largest satellite of the planet Saturn, and the ocean or sea that was formed when Pangaea split to form Laurasia and Gondwanaland Click to show or hide the answer
Founder–king of Athens; son of two fathers (one of whom was Poseidon; the other was Aegeus, the goat–man, king of Athens); performed six labours on his way to Athens to claim his birthright; also (more famously) killed the Minotaur Click to show or hide the answer
Anyone who looked into the eyes of Medusa Click to show or hide the answer
Monoceros: Greek name for the Click to show or hide the answer
Guarded the temple of the Roman goddess of the hearth, home and family Click to show or hide the answer
Son of Zeus and Hera, husband of Venus Click to show or hide the answer
The west wind, and bringer of light breezes in spring and early summer (to the Greeks; Favonius in Latin) Click to show or hide the answer

© Haydn Thompson 2018