Last week we left Heracles just as he had released the Erymanthian boar back into the wild, now a whole year later Heracles awaits his next task, King Eurystheus has had an entire year to think up a cunning and evil task for Heracles and this one was going to prove to be a challenge. The fifth Labour for Heracles was to clean the Augean Stables in one single day, this doesn’t sound too bad at first glance but let me tell you about these stables.
The Augean Stables are home to a herd of over 3000 immortal cattle, because they are immortal they produce a LOT of toxic dung, for 30 years the dung had built up and now it was a complete mess that no one could get anywhere near. The task was not only set to give Heracles a real challenge, it was also given to him to humiliate him.
Heracles arrived at the Palace of King Augeas and told him of his plan to clean the stables in one single day, the King just laughed and said “If you can do that then 10% of the cattle are yours to keep”. So off headed Heracles to the stables, Firstly releasing the cattle into the fields to graze he then knocked some holes into the walls of the stables. Heracles then headed off to the two local rivers of Alpheus and Phyleus and as we see in my balloon sculpture he used his immense strength he diverted both rivers towards the stables, the rushing waters washed the years of dung out of the stables and his job was done.
King Augeas was so shocked that Heracles has succeeded he refused to hand over the cattle, this prompted Heracles to kill the king and hand over the reign of his kingdom to the kings much nicer son. The fact that Heracles was paid for the job would eventually prove to be a problem but we shall get to that in the coming weeks.