Earl Staley, "Hercules and the Nemean Lion." Acrylic canvas 120 x 160 cm (1983). Private collection.
Click on image for full size
Image courtesy of Mr. Earl Staley.

The Nemean Lion

More than two thousand years ago, Greeks believed the god Zeus placed the figure of a gigantic lion in the sky with the rest of the stars. This lion lived in the city of Nemea. The people who lived in that region were terrorized by the Nemean Lion. Several times they tried to destroy the beast.

Heracles, the most famous Greek hero, was ordered by the king, Euryshtheus, to kill the Nemean lion. Heracles was an incredibly strong man. The Romans called him Hercules.

Heracles had to perform a number of difficult tasks to show that he was sorry for a crime he had committed years before. The killing of the Nemean Lion was his first task. When Heracles reached the cave where the beast was living, he realized all his weapons were useless against the lion. The lion's pelt was so thick that all of Heracles' arrows and sword bounced back without doing any harm. In the fight against the beast, Heracles lost one of his fingers, but nonetheless succeeded in killing the lion by strangling it with his bare hands.

Triumphant, Heracles took the carcass of the lion to Mycenae to show King Eurystheus. The king was so frightened by the vision of the lion that he forbade Heracles to enter the city again. Heracles used the lion's razor-sharp claws to flay the beast--its pelt as a coat and the head as a helmet, both to be worn in future battles.

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