The Secrets of the Lion of Nemea

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The First Work of Heracles
-A) The Mission
-B) The Fight
-C) Triumphant Return
The Lion of Nemea as the constellation of the lion
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Today we approach the lion of Nemeaeus in the theme of legendary creatures (in Greek: Νεμέος λέων, in Latin: Leo Nemeaeus), he represented a villainous monster of Greek mythology living in Nemeaeus.

The golden fur of the beast was impermeable to attacks, making the weapons of mortals ineffective. His claws were all the more sharp than mortal swords, allowing him to pierce any armor.

Nowadays, Greek fauna no longer shelters lions. In the past, the Asian lion was found in southeastern Europe. According to Herodotus, the population of lions was present in ancient Greece.

He was represented as the child of Typhon and Echidna, the father and mother of all monsters. Various accounts consider that he fell from the moon with Zeus and Selene as his parents, or that he was born of the Chimera. The lion of Nemea was detached to Nemea in the Peloponnese to terrorize the city.

nemy lion and heracles

Heracles annihilating the lion of Nemea

The First Work of Heracles
A) The Mission
King Eurystheus (his cousin) entrusted the first of Heracles' twelve works to Heracles, his mission was to annihilate the Nemian lion.

When Heracles arrived in the city of Cleonae, he discovered a boy who testified that if he killed the Nemean lion and managed to return alive within 30 days, the city would sacrifice a lion to Zeus. However, if he did not return within 30 days or if he died, the boy would sacrifice himself to Zeus.

According to a different version, a pastor in the name of Molorchos who had lost his son to the lion was about to offer a sacrifice, but Heracles convinced him to delay it by thirty days until he returned from his fight with the lion, allowing him to offer common sacrifices to Zeus.

A third version states that the lion kidnapped women among Nemea, in order to bring warriors. When the warrior saw the woman, she turned into a lion and killed him.


King Eurystheus

B) The Fight
As he went to meet the lion, Heracles recovered arrows to use against it, not knowing that its golden fur was impenetrable. So when he discovered the lion and shot a flock of arrows at it with his bow and saw them bouncing off his skin, he understood the protective property of this fur.

Followed by a few adventures, Heracles turned the lion around in his den. This one was composed of two entrances, one of which was blocked by Heracles. With the help of sledgehammer blows, Heracles managed to stun the beast. However, during the fight the lion tore off his finger. Finally, he finally killed the lion and suffocated it by strangling it with his bare hands.

Once the lion was defeated, he tried to remove the lion's thick skin with a knife, but nothing worked. With a stone he tried to sharpen the knife but in vain. After much effort, the goddess Athena decided to help her by advising Heracles to use the lion's own claws directly to skin the creature.

Heracles and the lion of nemy

Heracles and the lion of Nemea from "Euergides Painter", Tampa Art Museum
C) Triumphant Return
On the thirtieth day, he brought back the dead lion of nemy on his shoulders, King Eurystheus, frightened by the hero's gigantic force, forbade him to enter the city again. In the future, Heracles should deliver his exploits in front of the city gates.

Faced with such strength, Eurystheus pointed out to him that the next tasks would be more and more difficult. Heracles' next quest was to annihilate the hydra the Lerne.

After defeating the lion of nemy, Heracles wore the lion's fur coat, because it was impenetrable to the elements and to all but the most powerful weapons. Other rumours say that the tack of Heracles was actually the skin of Cithaeron's lion.

Some authors attest that Heracles was helped in this work by a snake born on Earth, following him to Thebes and settling in Aulis. Later on, he was recognized as the water snake that swallowed the sparrows and made them metamorphose into stone within the prophecy of the Trojan War.

Statue of Heracles

Statue of Heracles

The Lion of Nemea as the constellation of the lion
Various Greek and Roman writers united the Lion of Nemea with the constellation of Leo associated with the sign of the lion.

Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica 2. 24 (Grant) (Roman mythographer, 2nd century AD):

"Leo (Constellation). It is said that he was put among the stars because he is considered the king of beasts. Some writers add that Hercules' first work was with him and that he killed him unarmed. Pisandrus and many other writers have written about it."

lion constellation

Seneca, Oedipus 38 ff. (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy 1st century AD):

"Titan (Helios the Sun) increases the fires of the canine stars, pressing closely on the back of the Nemean Lion (i.e. Lion the mid-summer constellation). The water has fled the streams and the green grass."

Seneca, Hercules Furens 942 ff:

"Where do so many stars come from that fill the sky in the daylight? See where the lion (Nemean), my first labor, shines in a significant part of the sky (Lion constellation), is all hot with rage, and prepares his fangs. Immediately, he grabbed a star, threatening with his gaping jaws, spitting flames and spitting flames, and shaking his mane on his flaming neck. What the stars will bring back to him, the sickly autumn and the cold winter with its frozen expanses, he will make him jump, attack and crush the neck of the Vernal Taurus".

To finish this overview we propose a stroll in the skies with this Lion Necklace Signed Of The Zodiac allocating a way towards the accomplishment of new work.


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