Chapter 23

Everyone trembled when King Eurystheus told Herakles that he wanted him to bring him the mares of Diomedes, who were the strongest horses on earth and could pull a dozen plows at once! The only problem was they became so powerful by eating human flesh! Anyone who accepted Diomedes hospitality was thrown into the horses ' pen the next morning and devoured by the horses! Now, as Herakles headed for Diomedes' palace he pondered what to do. He saw a shadow, heard flapping and a few moments later footsteps behind him.
2 "Creos!" Herakles remarked, "Do you have a solution for this dilemma?"
3 "A perfect one!" Creos answered. "Diomedes has two wicked sons that like to roam his kingdom and ravage every young girl they find. Accept his hospitality. I'll take care of the rest."
4 Diomedes welcomed Herakles joyously. He wined and dined him and gave him two of his daughters for the evening. In the morning the daughters called Herakles out on the balcony to see the sunrise. Herakles knew exactly what was going to happen but played along. When he was out on the balcony the daughters quickly stepped inside. The bottom of the balcony dropped down and Herakles plummeted into the mares' pen! The animals quickly turned towards him, joyous expressions on their faces. At that moment a naked man dropped from the sky and landed between Herakles and the mares. He gained his feet, looked groggily at Herakles, then hearing the noise behind him turned and saw that the mares were upon him! The man gave a hideous shriek as the mares began to tear him apart and devour him. Within moments there was nothing left!
5 The mares then turned their attentions on Herakles, but their appetite satisfied all they wanted from him was affection. Herakles quickly put on their bridles, open their pen, and led them away. But as he neared Eurystheus' kingdom he was approached by a committee of its citizens.
6 "Great Herakles," their spokseman begged, "do not leave these hideous animals with our king, for certainly he will require us to fulfill their apetite and give someone each month to feed them. Show them to him, and prove their great strength, but do not let him keep them."
7 Herakles agreed and took the mares to the palace, showed them to the King and used them to plow a hundred of his fields in one day! Then he took them to Mount Olympus and gave them to Zeus' caretakers. Once a month Creos brought someone suitable for them to devour, and they were not a problem to man again..well anyways, those that were good! They were very unpleasant to some evil ones until their days passed. King Diomedes was rather upset that Herakles had taken his mares, and who had been their last meal. He brought his army to King Eurystheus' Kingdom and said "Either Herakles fights me and my entire army, or you and your army do! Make this one of his labors."
8 "No!" Herakles answered, "I will fight you and your army but it will not be one of my labors. I think it a personal matter."
9 So on the plains before the city Herakles fought the King and a thousand of his men. The battle raged for eight days and nights with Herakles having no rest at all, while half the Kiing's army slept while the other half fought him. But finally the only one standing was Herakles and the King! And they fought for a whole day by themselves until finally Herakles kicked a great stone knocking the king off his feet, and before he could right himself had his sword at his throat. "Yield!" Herakles cried. "I do not wish your life. You have been punished enough with the death of your son. If you will give me your word you will teach the remaining one proper behavior and respect for women I will let you go your way. But be warned! If you break your word Creos is my friend, and your horses still need to be fed!"
10 "I yield!" the King answered. "I will do as you bid. My son will become an honorable man or I, myself, will take him to Mt. Olympus and feed him to the mares!"
11 Herakles dressed his sword. Miraculously, though Diomedes' thousand men were all seriously wounded and most should have died their wounds healed, and they served him for the rest of their lives without difficulty, becoming men of exceptional honor who turned Diomedes' land into one of the most beloved and prosperous in the area! The people began to say "We wish all our warriors were wounded by the great son of Zeus!" This time Herakles' labor had cost King Eurystheus nothing. But it had gained him nothing, either and made Diomedes greater than him which irritated him to no end, and Herakles insisted on another month with his betrothed, which the King had to grant because he was afraid of becoming the mares' breakfast! But everyone still trembled at what Herakles' next task would be!
12 King Eurystheus' next request was that Herakles go to the land of The Amazons and bring back their queen's belt for his daughter, who was sickly and bearing her second child. It was said the belt had magic powers that would aid any woman in distress, and give her strength to bear without problems. Now, Herakles knew that The Amazons would consider it a grave insult if he came into their land alone. So he gathered a band of heroes led by Theseus.
13 They went into The Amazons' land and were cordially greeted. When the queen heard of Herakles' reasons for wanting the belt she graciously gave it to him. But her warrioresses were not about to let a band of men leave their land without challenge! They insisted that they stand in combat Their queen commented that Herakles had recently beaten a thousand men by himself, alone! But the leader of the women, her daughter, Diana, insisted on combat. "They must prove their worthiness!" she insisted. "They cannot leave without hospitality, and they must prove that they are worthy of our hospitality!"

Page 37

Go To The Next Page