The Fourth Labor
Source: Myths And Legends Of All Nations.
Then Hercules set out on his fourth undertaking. It consisted in
bringing alive to Mycene a boar which, likewise sacred to Diana, was
laying waste the country around the mountain of Erymanthus.
On his wanderings in search of this adventure he came to the dwelling
of Pholus, the son of Silenus. Like all Centaurs, Pholus was half man
and half horse. He received his guest with hospitality and set before
him broiled meat, while he himself ate raw. But Hercules, not
satisfied with this, wished also to have something good to drink.
"Dear guest," said Pholus, "there is a cask in my cellar; but it
belongs to all the Centaurs jointly, and I hesitate to open it because
I know how little they welcome guests."
"Open it with good courage," answered Hercules, "I promise to defend
you against all displeasure."
As it happened, the cask of wine had been given to the Centaurs by
Bacchus, the god of wine, with the command that they should not open
it until, after four centuries, Hercules should appear in their midst.
Pholus went to the cellar and opened the wonderful cask. But scarcely
had he done so when the Centaurs caught the perfume of the rare old
wine, and, armed with stones and pine clubs, surrounded the cave of
Pholus. The first who tried to force their way in Hercules drove back
with brands he seized from the fire. The rest he pursued with bow and
arrow, driving them back to Malea, where lived the good Centaur,
Chiron, Hercules' old friend. To him his brother Centaurs had fled for
But Hercules still continued shooting, and sent an arrow through the
arm of an old Centaur, which unhappily went quite through and fell on
Chiron's knee, piercing the flesh. Then for the first time Hercules
recognized his friend of former days, ran to him in great distress,
pulled out the arrow, and laid healing ointment on the wound, as the
wise Chiron himself had taught him. But the wound, filled with the
poison of the hydra, could not be healed; so the centaur was carried
into his cave. There he wished to die in the arms of his friend. Vain
wish! The poor Centaur had forgotten that he was immortal, and though
wounded would not die.
Then Hercules with many tears bade farewell to his old teacher and
promised to send to him, no matter at what price, the great deliverer,
Death. And we know that he kept his word.
When Hercules from the pursuit of the other Centaurs returned to the
dwelling of Pholus he found him also dead. He had drawn the deadly
arrow from the lifeless body of one Centaur, and while he was
wondering how so small a thing could do such great damage, the
poisoned arrow slipped through his fingers and pierced his foot,
killing him instantly. Hercules was very sad, and buried his body
reverently beneath the mountain, which from that day was called
Then Hercules continued his hunt for the boar, drove him with cries
out of the thick of the woods, pursued him into a deep snow field,
bound the exhausted animal, and brought him, as he had been commanded,
alive to Mycene.
Next: The Fifth Labor
Previous: The Third Labor