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Ceryneian Hind

by Ron Leadbetter
The fourth labor was to capture the Hind of Cerynaea, the hind was known as Cerynitis. Eurystheus bestowed this task upon Heracles knowing full well that the animal was the sacred property of Artemis, that meant he would be committing impiety against the goddess. Artemis found a small herd of five while out hunting, she captured four to harness to her chariot, but the fifth escaped to Mount Cerynaea which borders Arcadia and Achaea. The animal was larger than a bull, brazen-hoofed also with huge golden horns or antlers of a stag.

With the hind being swift of foot it took Heracles a whole year to get close to the creature. He tracked the hind through Greece and into Thrace, (in some versions it says the chase took Heracles as far as Istria and the northern lands of the Hyperboreans). Never daunted by the long chase, Heracles was waiting for the hind to tire, this was not to be, and the hind seemed to have plenty of stamina and agility left.

Heracles knew he must disable the creature in some way, then by chance the hind stopped to drink at a river. Taking an arrow and removing the blood of the Hydra from the tip, Heracles took aim and hit the hind in the leg, making it lame, this made catching the creature much easier. Heracles bound the wound and then set off on his long journey home. On the way to the palace of Eurystheus he was met by the goddess Artemis and her twin brother Apollo. On seeing the Ceryneian Hind, the huntress accused Heracles of sacrilege. Heracles pleaded with them, saying it was a necessity to return the sacred hind to the court of king Eurystheus, as he was bound by the labor imposed on him. Artemis granted Heracles forgiveness and he was allowed to carry the hind alive to the palace.


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