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:
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