Augeas

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This article is about the figure in Greek mythology. For the configuration management library, see Augeas (software).

In Greek mythology, Augeas (or Augeias, /ɔːˈəs/, Greek: Αὐγείας), whose name means "bright", was king of Elis and father of Epicaste. Some say that Augeas was one of the Argonauts.[1]

He is best known for his stables, which housed the single greatest number of cattle in the country and had never been cleaned—until the time of the great hero Heracles.

Augeas's lineage varies in the sources—he was said to be either the son of Helius and Nausidame,[2] or of Eleios, king of Elis, and Nausidame,[3] or of Poseidon,[4] or of Phorbas and Hyrmine.[5] His children were Epicaste, Phyleus, Agamede (who was the mother of Dictys by Poseidon),[6] Agasthenes, and Eurytus.

Fifth Labour of Heracles[edit]

Heracles rerouting the rivers Alpheus and Peneus. Roman mosaic, 3rd century AD.

The fifth Labour of Heracles (Hercules in Latin) was to clean the Augean stables /ɔːˈən/. This assignment was intended to be both humiliating (rather than impressive, as had the previous labours) and impossible, since the livestock were divinely healthy (immortal) and therefore produced an enormous quantity of dung (ἡ ὄνθος). These stables had not been cleaned in over 30 years, and over 1,000 cattle lived there. However, Heracles succeeded by rerouting the rivers Alpheus and Peneus to wash out the filth.

Augeas was irate because he had promised Heracles one tenth of his cattle if the job was finished in one day. He refused to honour the agreement, and Heracles killed him after completing the tasks. Heracles gave his kingdom to Phyleus, Augeas' son, who had been exiled for supporting Heracles against his father.

According to the Odes of the poet Pindar, Heracles then founded the Olympic Games:

the games which by the ancient tomb of Pelops the mighty Heracles founded, after that he slew Kleatos, Poseidon's godly son, and slew also Eurytos, that he might wrest from tyrannous Augeas against his will reward for service done.[7]

The success of this labour was ultimately discounted because the rushing waters had done the work of cleaning the stables and because Heracles was paid. Eurystheus, stating that Heracles still had seven labours to do, then sent Heracles to defeat the Stymphalian Birds.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 14.
  2. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 14.
  3. ^ Pausanias. Description of Greece, 5.1.9.
  4. ^ Bibliotheca 2.88.
  5. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus. The Library, 2.88.
  6. ^ Hyginus. Fabulae, 157.
  7. ^ Pindar. The Extant Odes of Pindar, Project Gutenberg.