Imagine this: you are entering the underworld through the River Styx, and as you make your way towards the gates you see a three-headed dog guarding the entrance. He allows you to pass through, though you will never leave again. This is Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog who guards the gates of the Underworld.
Cerberus was supposedly a gigantic, three-headed dog who guarded the gates of the Underworld, stopping any shade who would try to escape. He is described as a creature who eats raw flesh, having a mane of writhing snakes, a serpent’s tail, and lion’s claws. Some accounts claim he even has fifty heads, though some scholars believe they were counting the snakes as well.
One of the most famous stories regarding Cerberus was the twelfth labor of Heracles. Heracles was charged with capturing Cerberus and bringing him back from the Underworld. There are several versions of this story, however one of the famous ones involves Hades telling Heracles he could have Cerberus, so long as he defeated the animal using only the weapons he had carried with him. According to this version of the myth, Heracles uses his lion-skin shield to defend against two of the heads as he chokes the third, ending with Cerberus submitting to him. Hades says Heracles still could not take the creature, and so Heracles shoots Hades with a stone-tipped arrow and he concedes. In other accounts, the two do battle and Heracles wins.
Whichever version of the story you believe, Cerberus was still a fearsome creature who guarded the Underworld with his three heads and lion claws. Whether he was won, or whether he was beaten, Heracles had performed quite the feat in retrieving Cerberus from the Underworld. I mean, who else could do battle against a three-headed creature?
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