135. Hercules and the Stables of Augeas

Once upon a time, King Eurystheus of Mycenae and Tiryns, commanded a labor to Hercules, the son of Zeus and Alcmene, to clear out in a single day, the dung from the stables of King Augeas of Elis.

The stables contained a mammoth mass of manure, which had collected over a very long time. Hercules found it unworthy to carry the dung himself, and began thinking of some way to accomplish this insulting labor, without disgracing himself. Arriving at a plan, Hercules approached Augeas and told that in return for a tithe of Augeas’ cattle, he would cleanse the stables within a day. Augeas agreed and his son Phyleus was a witness to this verbal agreement.

Noticing that the rivers Alpheios and Peneios flowed near the stables, Hercules’ plan was to divert the flow of the rivers, so that they flowed right through the stables and in the process, swept all the manure from the stables. With this intention, he made a break in the foundations of the stables, created diverting paths for the water to flood the stables, and an outlet from which the flowing water could again join the rivers. Due to this ingenuity, within a day, the waters of the two rivers cleansed the stables, and Hercules completed this ignoble task without any disgrace.

When Augeas learned that Hercules had performed the labor at Eurytheus’ command, he refused to pay the promised reward to Hercules. Moreover, he also refused that any agreement had ever taken place. Hercules called Augeas’ son Phyleus, as a witness to the agreement, and the justice-loving Phyleus testified that an agreement had indeed taken place. The furious Augeas ordered both Hercules and Phyleus, to leave Elis immediately. Phyleus left for Doulikhion and settled there. Hercules, swearing revenge at a later date, left for Dexamenos in Olenos.

But Eurystheus, noting that Hercules had performed the labor in return for a tithe of Augeas’ cattle, declared it as unacceptable.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani


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