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Oil Lamp Depicting Heracles Second Labor

October 17, 2013

This is a brief post tonight so I can get back to reading Iphigenia in Aulis. This oil lamp dating from approximately the second century AD has a depiction of Heracles second labor, the Lernean Hydra. This is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, indicating that functionality as well as art was important for household objects during the Roman Period on Cyprus. I have provided a summary of Heracles second labor below:


The Hydra had nine heads (one of which was immortal) with venomous fangs. The beast was a menace to the countryside of Lerna and Heracles was tasked with it’s destruction. Heracles had the assistance of Iolaus during this labor and would not have succeeded without his help (Iolaus is not depicted on the lamp). Heracles after successfully drawing the Hydra out of hiding became caught within it’s coils. Whilst trapped and struggling with the beast he found that with every mortal head he cut off two sprang in its place. Iolaus’ helped in defeating the hydra burning the neck of each head after Heracles had removed it to stop new ones emerging. When only the immortal head remained Heracles chopped it off and buried it under a rock.


From → Artefacts

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  1. Heracles and the Lernian Hydra | David Allsop Classics

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