I mean, really, what else is he going to use them for? You can’t ride the damn things, they’ve pretty much only got one purpose.

The Eighth Labor of Heracles, in keeping with his role as pest exterminator of the ancient world, was indeed to capture a bunch of flesh eating horses. The Mares of Diomedes were said to be completely wild, unrideable, and hungry for human meat. While the stories don’t really get into why Diomedes would house such creatures, they do tell us that they became that way because Diomedes regularly fed them people. Some versions of the story even say that this caused them to breathe fire, which is pretty damn cool if you ask me. The cost may be a little too high for that sort of thing, in my book, but still. If you’re going to be the kind of guy that feeds people to horses, you might as well get some fire breath out of it in the deal. That’s just sensible.

For those unfamiliar with our good friend Heracles (or Hercules, as is the more common Romanized spelling of his name) there are many myths revolving around him from his birth all the way to his eventual ascension to Mount Olympus where he became a god to sit beside his father, Zeus. Part of that epic journey was the famous Twelve Labors of Heracles, a series of tasks thought impossible by most mortals that were given to him by Eurystheus, featured in today’s comic. These incredible feats of strength and cunning were given to him as penance for killing his wife and children in a fit of madness visited upon him by the jealous goddess, Hera. Like many demigods, Heracles was born from the sexual union of Zeus and a mortal woman, in this case Alcmene. Obviously, this did not sit well with Hera, Zeus’s wife, and she made it her mission to make Heracles’ life a living hell.

What ended up happening was that, through this adversity, Heracles became the greatest hero in the mythology of Ancient Greece. Through his Twelve Labors, he proved himself a savior of the people and represented the taming of the dangerous and hostile natural world by humankind. It’s no surprise that most of these feats involved taming, slaying, or capturing beasts and monsters, clear metaphors for the forces of nature and the beasts of the wild. Not only that, but throughout his journeys, he was said to have founded cities and towns all over, a further civilizing force on the world.

So what happened with Heracles and the horses? Well, we’ll find out more next week!