Behind the Book: Hercules’s Eighth Labor

Just because Saturday saw the release of The Trials of Hercules: Book One of the Osteria Chronicles (insert raucous cheering), doesn’t mean I’m going to abandon my snarky look into the myths that inspired the book. Looking way back to last week (it seems so long ago), it looks like we’re up to Labor Number Eight, which is a far cry from Chanel No. 9…

For Hercules’s eighth labor, Eurystheus sends him to collect the Mares of Thrace, also known as the Mare of Diomedes. For reference, Thrace was a region that now takes up portions of Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey; Diomedes was the king of Thrace.

The Eighth Labor in Myth

As you might guess from all the other freaky creatures Hercules has battled over his labors, these Thracian mares were no docile old nags. Not in the least. See, Diomedes had raised the fours mares to eat human flesh and the girls could, well, they could eat like a horse when they were hungry.

“Did someone say ‘human?’ My favorite!”

There are a couple versions of this labor, but the essence of the story has Hercules tricking Diomedes into getting a tad bit too close to the mares. The mares devour their owner in a bloody feeding frenzy – perhaps a hidden Greek lesson about being careful what you reap for it may come back to haunt you.

Like that uncle who eats too much at Thanksgiving, the meal calms the mares giving Hercules a chance to bind their mouths and guide them back to Eurystheus.

The myth then turns into a Choose Your Own Adventure book with a variety of possible endings.

In one ending, Eurystheus simply sets the flesh-eating horses free (somehow this doesn’t seem like a good idea) and they run off to Mount Olympus to live out their days.

A second version has Eurystheus offering the horses as gifts to Hera who allows the now peaceful critters to roam around the kingdom of Argos. Again, doesn’t sound like the smartest choice given the horses crave humans.

In the final version, Eurystheus offers the horses to Zeus who was all, “What the Hades am I going to do with these?” Zeus not only refuses the gift, but then he sends lions, wolves and bears kill the horses. I’m going to guess that even with a receipt, Eurystheus is not going to be able to take those gifts back.

The Myth That Keeps Giving

Alexander and Bucephalus

Despite the third version’s outcome, the Thracian Mares don’t die out completely. Not in a mythological sense anyway. The mares’ descendents were said to be the horses that fought in the Trojan War, and Bucephalus, the horse of Alexander the Great, also had a claim to descent from those Thracian girls.

In the Book

In The Trials of Hercules, Herc does trick the horses into attacking Diomedes, but on his return journey with the horses, he works to make the horses friendlier and less ravenous for a human burger. Unfortunately, Eury again reveals his true nature with deadly consequences.

 

Thanks for reading and THANK YOU to everyone who has already ordered the book! Hope you enjoy it as much as everyone else has.

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