Friday, September 4, 2009

The stag of Ceryneia in Arcadia

Detail from a Roman sarcophagus.

There are, as always, a number of different versions concerning Heracles labors – this is a main stream version of the third one. It has been suggested that Erystehus understood, after the first two deeds, that the hero wouldn’t be killed by a monster and that another type of challenge was needed. He therefore asked Heracles to catch Artemis stag, a deer with golden antlers and brazen hooves that was faster than any other creature. The hero went out to search for the animal but it was too quick even for him when he tried to catch it and a hunt began. There is no consensus considering the places they passed during the chase but the hero followed the animal for a whole year until he finally got close enough to wound it with an arrow, which made it possible to catch. Then, as he was carrying his pray to Mycenae, Artemis and Apollo appeared and asked him what he was doing (as this was Artemis favorite animal). Heracles somehow explained the situation and was pardoned by the gods and thus succeeded with his third labor.

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