Hercules’ Twelve Labours Mosaic

This III century AD Roman mosaic depicts Hercules’ mythological twelve labours sits today on the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, in Madrid (MAN). The mosaic was found in 1917 in a small Spanish city called Llíria, near Valencia, once belonging to the Tarraconensis province in Roman Times.

The mosaic is 5,5 metres long and 4.5 metres wide (18ft x 14ft 9’’), composed of tesserae (tiny cubes of stone, clay or glass with different colours – in this case, it’s stone) varying in size from 1.3cm to 0.7cm ( 0.51in to 0.27in). It is divided into two sections: one with geometric and one with figurative decoration. The lower part depicts a central motif (Hercules and Omphale) surrounded by twelve images showing the Hero’s famous twelve labours.

Starting at the lower left-hand corner and going anticlockwise:

I: Hercules strangling the Nemean Lion

II: Hercules slaying the Lernaean Hydra

III: Hercules capturing the Cretan Bull

IV: Hercules stealing the Golden Apples of the Hesperides

V: Hercules stealing the Mares of Diomedes

VI: Hercules obtaining the cattle of the three-headed giant Geryon

VII: Hercules cleaning the Augean stables

VIII: Hercules capturing the three-headed hound Cerberus

IX: Hercules capturing the Erymanthian Boar

X: Hercules obtaining the girdle of Hippolyta

XI: Hercules capturing the Ceryneian Hind

XII: Hercules Slaying the Stymphalian Birds

Photo by: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Cut from the photo of: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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