Nemean lion

Nemean lion
Mosaico Trabajos Hércules (M.A.N. Madrid) 01.jpg
Hercules slaying the Nemean lion. Detail of a Roman mosaic from Llíria (Spain).
Mythology Greek mythology
Grouping Legendary creature
Country Greece
Region Nemea
Hercules and the Nemean lion, Gandhara, India, 1st century.

The Nemean lion (Greek, Λέων της Νεμέας (Léōn tēs Neméas); Latin: Leo Nemaeus) was a vicious monster in Greek mythology that lived at Nemea. It was eventually killed by Heracles. It could not be killed with mortal weapons because its golden fur was impervious to attack. Its claws were sharper than mortal swords and could cut through any armor.

The lion is usually considered to have been the offspring of Typhon[1] (or Orthrus)[2] and Echidna; it is also said to have fallen from the moon as the offspring of Zeus and Selene, or alternatively born of the Chimera. The Nemean lion was sent to Nemea in the Peloponnesus to terrorize the city.

The First Labor of Heracles

The first of Heracles' twelve labours, set by King Eurystheus (his cousin) was to slay the Nemean lion.

According to one version of the myth, the Nemean lion took women as hostages to its lair in a cave near Nemea, luring warriors from nearby towns to save the damsel in distress. After entering the cave, the warrior would see the woman (usually feigning injury) and rush to her side. Once he was close, the woman would turn into a lion and kill the warrior, devouring his remains and giving the bones to Hades.

Heracles wandered the area until he came to the town of Cleonae. There he met a boy who said that if Heracles slew the Nemean lion and returned alive within 30 days, the town would sacrifice a lion to Zeus; but if he did not return within 30 days or he died, the boy would sacrifice himself to Zeus.[1] Another version claims that he met Molorchos, a shepherd who had lost his son to the lion, saying that if he came back within 30 days, a ram would be sacrificed to Zeus. If he did not return within 30 days, it would be sacrificed to him as a dead hero.

While searching for the lion, Heracles fetched some arrows to use against it, not knowing that its golden fur was impenetrable; when he found and shot the lion and firing at it with his bow, he discovered the fur's protective property when the arrow bounced harmlessly off the creature's thigh. After some time, Heracles made the lion return to his cave. The cave had two entrances, one of which Heracles blocked; he then entered the other. In those dark and close quarters, Heracles stunned the beast with his club and, using his immense strength, strangled it to death. During the fight the lion bit off one of his fingers. Others say that he shot arrows at it, eventually shooting it in the unarmored mouth. After slaying the lion, he tried to skin it with a knife from his belt, but failed. He then tried sharpening the knife with a stone and even tried with the stone itself. Finally, Athena, noticing the hero's plight, told Heracles to use one of the lion's own claws to skin the pelt. Others say that Heracles' armor was, in fact, the hide of the lion of Cithaeron.

When he returned on the thirtieth day carrying the carcass of the lion on his shoulders, King Eurystheus was amazed and terrified. Eurystheus forbade him ever again to enter the city; in future he was to display the fruits of his labours outside the city gates. Eurystheus warned him that the tasks set for him would become increasingly difficult. He then sent Heracles off to complete his next quest, which was to destroy the Lernaean hydra. The Nemean lion's coat was impervious to the elements and all but the most powerful weapons.


  1. ^ a b Apollodorus, Library 2.5.1
  2. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 327


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nemean lion — n. Gr. Myth. a fierce lion killed by Hercules as the first of his twelve labors …   English World dictionary

  • Nemean lion — noun (Greek mythology) an enormous lion strangled by Hercules as the first of his 12 labors • Topics: ↑Greek mythology • Hypernyms: ↑mythical monster, ↑mythical creature * * * Class. Myth. a powerful lion strangled by Hercules as one of his… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Nemean lion — Class. Myth. a powerful lion strangled by Hercules as one of his labors. * * * …   Universalium

  • Nemean Lion — noun A mythical lion of ancient Nemea that was invulnerable to attack by weapons and was slain by Hercules as one of his labours …   Wiktionary

  • NEMEAN LION —    a monstrous lion in Nemea, a valley of Argolis, which Hercules slew by throttling it with his hands, clothing himself ever after with its skin …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Nemean lion — /nəmiən ˈlaɪən/ (say nuhmeeuhn luyuhn) noun Greek Legend a huge lion killed by Hercules with his bare hands …   Australian English dictionary

  • Nemean Lion —    From Greek mythology, no weapons could hurt him, and killing him was one of Hercules twelve labors. After Hercules stunned it with a blow from a club he strangled it, then wore its skin, which made Hercules almost indestructible …   The writer's dictionary of science fiction, fantasy, horror and mythology

  • Nemean Games — The Nemean Games (Grk. Νέμεα, τὰ) were one of the four Panhellenic Games of Ancient Greece, and were held at Nemea every two years (or every third). With the Isthmian Games, the Nemean Games were held both the year before and the year after the… …   Wikipedia

  • Lion — For other uses, see Lion (disambiguation). Lion[1] Temporal range: Early Pleistocene to recent …   Wikipedia

  • Lion (disambiguation) — The lion is an animal of the species Panthera leo .Lion(s) may also refer to: *Lion (company), a Japanese hygiene and toiletries company *Lion (heraldry), heraldic elements on a coat of arms *LION or LinkedIn Open NetworkerIn entertainment: *… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.