Geryon

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In Greek mythology, Geryon (Ancient Greek: Γηρυόνης; gen.: Γηρυόνος), son of Chrysaor and Callirrhoe and grandson of Medusa, was a fearsome giant who dwelt on the island Erytheia of the mythic Hesperides in the far west of the Mediterranean. A more literal-minded later generation of Greeks associated the region with Tartessos in southern Iberia.[1]

Geryon was often described as a monster with human faces. According to Hesiod[2] Geryon had one body and three heads, whereas the tradition followed by Aeschylus gave him three bodies.[3] A lost description by Stesichoros said that he has six hands and six feet and is winged;[4] there are some mid-sixth century Chalcidian vases portraying Geryon as winged. Some accounts state that he had six legs as well while others state that the three bodies were joined to one pair of legs. Apart from these weird features, his appearance was that of a warrior. He owned a two-headed hound named Orthrus, which was the brother of Cerberus, and a herd of magnificent red cattle that were guarded by Orthrus, and a herder Eurytion, son of Erytheia.[5]

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The Tenth Labour of Heracles

In the fullest account in the Bibliotheke of Pseudo-Apollodoros,[6] Heracles was required to travel to Erytheia, in order to obtain the Cattle of Geryon as his tenth labour. On the way there, he crossed the Libyan desert[7] and became so frustrated at the heat that he shot an arrow at Helios, the Sun. Helios "in admiration of his courage" gave Heracles the golden cup he used to sail across the sea from west to east each night. Heracles used it to reach Erytheia, a favorite motif of the vase-painters. Such a magical conveyance undercuts any literal geography for Erytheia, the "red island" of the sunset.

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