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The Fifth Labor

Source: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.

Thereupon King Eurystheus sent him upon the fifth labor, which was one
little worthy of a hero. It was to clean the stables of Augeas in a
single day.

Augeas was king in Elis and had great herds of cattle. These herds
were kept, according to the custom, in a great inclosure before the
palace. Three thousand cattle were housed there, and as the stables
had not been cleaned for many years, so much manure had accumulated
that it seemed an insult to ask Hercules to clean them in one day.

When the hero stepped before King Augeas and without telling him
anything of the demands of Eurystheus, pledged himself to the task,
the latter measured the noble form in the lion-skin and could hardly
refrain from laughing when he thought of so worthy a warrior
undertaking so menial a work. But he said to himself: "Necessity has
driven many a brave man; perhaps this one wishes to enrich himself
through me. That will help him little. I can promise him a large
reward if he cleans out the stables, for he can in one day clear
little enough." Then he spoke confidently:

"Listen, O stranger. If you clean all of my stables in one day, I will
give over to you the tenth part of all my possessions in cattle."

Hercules accepted the offer, and the king expected to see him begin
to shovel. But Hercules, after he had called the son of Augeas to
witness the agreement, tore the foundations away from one side of the
stables; directed to it by means of a canal the streams of Alpheus and
Peneus that flowed near by; and let the waters carry away the filth
through another opening. So he accomplished the menial work without
stooping to anything unworthy of an immortal.

When Augeas learned that this work had been done in the service of
Eurystheus, he refused the reward and said that he had not promised
it; but he declared himself ready to have the question settled in
court. When the judges were assembled, Phyleus, commanded by Hercules
to appear, testified against his father, and explained how he had
agreed to offer Hercules a reward. Augeas did not wait for the
decision; he grew angry and commanded his son as well as the stranger
to leave his kingdom instantly.

Next: The Sixth Labor

Previous: The Fourth Labor

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