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

Description:

This bas-relief is from a pedestal for a colossal statue of Herakles. The original relief was slightly tinted with red and represents one of the twelve labors of Herakles imposed upon by Eurystheus, King of Argos.

Mythology:

In Greek mythology, Geryon was a fearsome giant who dwelt on the mythic island of Erytheia. Geryon was often described as a human-faced warrior-monster with either multiple bodies or multiple heads. He owned a two-headed hound named Orthrus, who guarded a herd of magnificent red cattle.

In the myth of Herakles, the titular hero was required to obtain the Cattle of Geryon as his tenth labor. Upon landing on the Erytheian island, Herakles was confronted by Orthrus, the two-headed dog. With one huge blow from his olivewood club, Herakles killed the watchdog. Eurytion, the Cattle’s herdsman, ran to assist Orthrus, but Herakles dealt with him the same way.

On hearing the commotion, Geryon sprang into action, carrying three shields, three spears, and wearing three helmets. He pursued Herakles, but fell victim to an arrow that had been dipped in the venomous blood of the Lernaean Hydra, shot so forcefully by Herakles that it pierced Geryon’s forehead “and Geryon bent his neck over to one side, like a poppy that spoils its delicate shapes, shedding its petals all at once”.

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