Last Update: 28 Mar 2021
12. Labor: Cerberus, the dog of the Underworld
The twelfth labor of Heracles was to descend into the underworld and bring the three-headed dog Cerberus to Eurystheus
Eurystheus was disappointed that Heracles had successfully accomplished all the tasks he had set him, so the last thing he asked Heracles to do was something impossible that went against the laws of nature: To fetch Cerberus, the watchdog of the underworld, from his master Hades.
Cerberus was a fearsome dog with three heads, the tail of a dragon, and snakes all over his body. No one had ever managed to escape this monster and the dark realm of Hades.
When he reached the point between the world of the living and the world of the dead, Heracles first gaped at Charon, the ferryman of the dead, who sullenly ferried the hero across the Styx and took him to the underworld.
There Heracles met many souls, including the Greek hero Theseus and Peirithoos, a man trapped in Hell because he had fallen in love with Hades' wife. When they saw Heracles, they stretched out their hands to him, hoping that his power would bring them back to life. Heracles took Theseus by the hand, but when he tried to do the same to Peirithoos, the earth shook and he had to let him go.
Then Heracles reached the kings of the underworld, where he humbly asked permission from Hades to give him his dog. Hades agreed on one condition: that Heracles would win a battle with the monster without weapons, clad only in a lion's skin.
Heracles grabbed Cerberus' head between his arms and strangled him. During the fight, the tail of Cerberus severely injured the hero, but eventually Heracles overpowered the beast and it surrendered.
After his victory, Heracles carried it all the way to Mycenae and showed it to the King Eurystheus. The mere sight of the monster so frightened Eurystheus that he ran away and hid in a barrel. So Heracles returned the monster to Hades.