Next, Eurystheus sent Heracles far north to Thrace to steal the famous mares of savage Diomedes. A team of four fire-breathing horses, these were tethered in bronze stables and lived off human flesh. With him Heracles took a small band of companions – a sensible precaution as, when he did capture the mares, the Thracians pursued them
Diomedes’ Mares Gallery Photos
Leaving the horses with Abderus, his groom, Heracles turned to face the enemy. But it was clear that his force was grossly outnumbered. Any battle would be costly. So instead Heracles repeated the ruse by which he had cleansed Augeas’ stables. He cut a channel from the sea, through which the roiling waters inundated the low plain where Diomedes’ army was assembled. The Thracians retreated. Heracles sought out Diomedes, dealt him a stunning blow and dragged him back to where he had tethered the horses.
But Abderus was nowhere to be seen. The mares’ bloodied mouths revealed the truth. They had eaten him And they still had hungry eyes. Distraught, Heracles threw Diomedes down in front of them and soon the horses were replete. Seizing his chance, Heracles muzzled the beasts and drove them back to Tiryns. Sensibly, Eurystheus removed them far away to Mount Olympus before he set them free.