Last Update: 28 Mar 2021
11. Labor: The Apples of the Hesperides
The eleventh labor of Heracles was to fetch golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides
The Hesperides were four maidens who lived in a sacred garden that was full of trees that bore golden apples. These apples were so precious that they were given by Gaea, Mother Earth, to Hera as a wedding gift. No one was allowed to cut the apples from the trees, so Hera had charged Ladon with guarding the garden - a monstrous serpent with a hundred heads that could speak in different voices.
On his way to the garden, Heracles passed by Mount Caucasus where he found the Titan Prometheus in chains and freed him. Gratefully, Prometheus informed the hero that his brother, the Titan Atlas, would show him the way to the garden. However, he strongly advised the hero to send the Titan himself to fetch the apples.
Heracles met the Titan Atlas in the depths of the West, carrying Heaven on his shoulders, and decided to follow Prometheus' advice: He agreed to take the sky from the Titan as long as he would bring him the apples. But when Atlas returned with three golden apples in his hand, he refused to give them to Heracles, saying he would carry the apples to Eurystheas himself. So Heracles deceived him by telling him to carry the heavens for a moment longer, until he had prepared a base for his head. Atlas consented, laid the apples on the ground, and took back the sky. At that moment Heracles grabbed the apples and disappeared.
Back in Mycenae, Heracles gave the apples to Eurystheas, who immediately returned the apples. Then Heracles gave the apples to the wise goddess Athena, who took them back to the garden, for it was unholy for them to be in any other place.