The first labour was to kill and strip the pelt from a monstrous lion, the offspring of the moon-goddess
Selene, which lived in a mountain cave and was plaguing the land around Nemea (between Tiryns and Corinth). With a hide invulnerable to javelins or arrows, it had already wiped out villages and flocks. Surely, Eurystheus considered with a lazy smile, it would be more than a match for Heracles.
Following a trail of bloody devastation, Heracles tracked the lion to its lair and fired off a salvo of arrows. But even Apollo’s shafts bounced harmlessly off the monster’s hide and served only to anger it. Roaring, it sprang on Heracles, its sharp claws clanging on his breastplate. With no room now for subtlety, it was a trial of strength. Discarding his weapons, Heracles locked arms around the lion’s neck, mercilessly tightening his iron grip until the creature slumped lifeless to the ground.
The Nemean Lion Photo Gallery
Clad in the skin of the Nemean Lion and wielding a knotty club, Heracles is shown on this fragment of an Athenian cup, 500470 BC.
Then he heaved the carcass home to Tiryns, where he flayed it with one of its own claws. With the lion’s gaping jaws set on his head like a helmet, he draped the impenetrable skin around his shoulders, snatched up an olive-wood club and sought out Eurystheus. The king was terrified. Trembling, he ordered his blacksmiths to fashion a bronze amphora and set it in the earth, where he might take refuge whenever Heracles approached; and from now on he issued orders only through his herald.