In manhood, Hera made Hercules insane by burning down his house and killing his wife and children. When Hercules recovered his sanity, he sought the help from the oracle of Delphi. The oracle told him he must serve his cousin Eurystheus, King of Argos, for 12 years. Hoping to destroy Hercules, Eurystheus set him 12 supposedly impossible tasks, but the hero completed them all. The 12 labors of Hercules were (1) strangling the Nemean Lion that terrorized the valley of Nemea. Hercules killed the lion by thrusting his fist down its throat; (2) striking off the many heads of the poisonous water snake Hydra of Lerna, Cancer joined in on the battle against Hercules; (3 and 4) delivering alive to Eurystheus the terrifying Erymanthian boar and the Arcadian stag, sacred pet of Artemis; (5) killing the man-eating birds of Lake Stymphalis; (6) cleaning in one day the stables of Augeas, King of Elis, which contained 3,000 oxen and had not been cleaned for 30 years. Hercules cleaned the stables by turning two rivers to flood the stables; (7) capturing and bearing on his shoulders to Mycenae the white Cretan bull, sire of the Minotaur; (8) capturing the man-eating mares of Diomedes (a Thracian king and son of the war god Ares) and feeding them the flesh of Diomedes; (9) fetching for Eurystheus' daughter the girdle of the Amazon queen, Hippolyte; (10) killing the three-headed monster Geryon, along with his giant herdsman Eurytion and the two-headed dog Orthrus all in order to capture Geryon's oxen; (11) freeing Prometheus and temporarily bearing the weight of the world for Atlas, who went to fetch for him the golden apples of the Hesperides; (12) descending to the underworld to bring the three-headed dog Cerberus to its master, Hades. After Hercules completed his service to Eurystheus, he took part in the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece. Hercules died when his second wife accidentally put poison on his robe. She thought that Hercules was being unfaithful and poured a magic potion on his robe that was suppose to restore his love for her. The poison burned his skin, causing him great pain. He tore at his flesh but the potion could not be removed.
Greatest and strongest of the Greek demigods, Hercules was the son of Zeus by a mortal woman (Alcmene) and was hated by Zeus's wife, Hera. He began his life of heroic violence by strangling two serpents while still in his crib. The two snakes were sent by Hera to kill Hercules.
Hercules may have been Gilgamesh, the strong-man hero of ancient Babylon. Like Hercules, Gilgamesh killed an invincible lion and accomplished other great tasks. Gilgamesh also explored the seas of the underworld. Here he meets Utnapishtim, a strange sailor who lives on an island in the center of the underworld sea. Utnapishtim is the survivor of a flood created by the gods.