Cypro-Archaic. Cast of the original in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Limestone, late 6th century BCE.

This limestone relief depicts the tenth labor of Herakles – the capture of the cattle of Geryon. This labor called for Herakles to travel to the island of Erythia where the three-headed monster Geryon kept his cattle guarded by the two-headed dog Orthus and the herdsman Eurytion. Herakles’ task was to capture the cattle and bring the herd to Eurystheus, King of Mycenae.

The scene, created in low relief, represents Herakles’ confrontation with Orthus and Eurytion as he arrives on Erythia. The figure of Herakles stands elevated on the left side of the scene.  Although partially damaged, he is identified by his large scale and by the lion skin visible between his legs. The upper register of the work depicts Orthus as a three-headed dog impaled by an arrow. The lower register of the work depicts the herdsman Eurytion as he tries to evade Herakles. Eurytion looks towards the arriving hero and is poised to throw a stone object at him with his raised right arm. He carries a tree in his left arm. Before him is the large herd of cattle Herakles has arrived to capture. The division of the relief into multiple registers and the use of the hieratic scale shows the influence of Egyptian art.

During the 6th and 5th centuries BCE, Herakles was a popular subject in Cypriot art as was the story of his capture of the cattle of Geryon. By emphasizing the cattle in the depiction of this myth, the artist draws attention to the frequent use of bovine imagery in Cypriot art and the importance of such imagery in indigenous religious rituals.

  • ancient greece
  • bas-relief
  • cast gallery
  • Greek mythology
  • Twelve labors of Hercules