Well we did it, we have finally reached the end of our journey, this is it, the twelfth and final task that Heracles would have to face if he would ever want to be forgiven for the murder of his family. Let's go over the last eleven tasks.
1. Slay the Nemean Lion
2. Slay the Lernaean Hydra
3. Capture the Ceryneian Hind
4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar
5. Clean the Augean Stables in one day
6. Kill the Stymphalian Birds
7. Capture the Cretan Bull
8. Steal the mares of Diomedes
9. Obtain the girdle of queen Hippolyta
10. Capture the cattle of Geryon
11. Obtain the apples of Hesperides
So what would Heracles final task be? Well it would the toughest yet because Heracles would have to go through hell itself! You see Eurystheus wanted Herc to go down to the underworld and take Hades' guard dog, the three headed snake tailed hellhound, back up to his palace. Clearly it will be the toughest challenge that Heracles would have to attempt.
No one is above Heracles
But like many of the tasks he had done before, he had to find a way to get there. So he went to the town of Eleusina to be initiated with the famous Eleusinian Mysteries, a sacred ceremony to Demeter and Persephone that could tell Heracles how and where to enter Hades (and how to do it without dying). It turns out the entrance was at Taenarum, in Laconia.
What are you looking at ferryman?
As he got to the entrance to the Underworld, he was aided by Hermes and Athena to find a way to traverse the entrance. His next challenge was to get the ferryman of the dead, Grim Charon, to take him to the somber palace of Hades. As you all know, in the Greek afterlife you had to pay the ferryman with two gold coins which were placed on the eyes or mouth of the deceased as they were cremated on the pyre. Heracles did not have any coins, but he had the forgotten goddess Hestia to persuade Charon, along with Heracles' fierce frown. After the boat ride on the river Styx, he was about to go inside the palace of the lord of the dead, but spotted two men sitting uncomfortably.
Need a lift?
It was the hero Theseus and his companion Pirithous had been forced to sit on these chairs that ensnared them with stone snakes for many years. After botching an attempted kidnapping of Hades' wife, Hades feigned hospitality and told them Chris Hanson still to have a seat. When they did so, snakes emerged from the seat and coiled around them before turning into stone. So when Heracles saw the hero stuck, he grabbed him and pulled. Theseus was free, but lost some of his thigh (which explains why the Athenians had such lean thighs). However, when Heracles tried to free Pirithous, the world started to shake! For it was he who wanted to marry the wife of a god and for such a heinous crime, he was doomed to forever sit.
Hi, just chillin on my throne
Finally, Heracles met up with his uncle Hades. When Heracles explained his situation to the sullen god, the god agreed that he could take his dog, but on one condition. Heracles would have to subdue the three headed demon dog without his weapons, just his hands!
Bad three headed dog from hell!
It took him a while, but Heracles was actually able to subdue the legendary guard dog, much to the surprise of Hades. He then slung the unconscious dog onto his back and began to carry it out of the underworld. He did not leave the same way he came, but through a cave somewhere in the Peloponnese where he began the journey to Eurystheus palace, no doubt scaring the living daylights out of anyone who saw the hero carry a three headed dog from the pits of the underworld.
Oh gods, not again!
Eurystheus was absolutely terrified when he saw Heracles come from the south with Cerberus on his back. He quickly went to his panic jar, where he hid until Heracles came with the beast. Eurystheus begged Heracles to return the beast from whence it came, in exchange for Heracles' freedom from doing anymore tasks. With his obligations finished and his sins absolved, Heracles returned to the Underworld and handed over the guard dog back to Hades.
And that was the end of Heracles tasks, of course he would face more adventures, but those are tales for a different time.