The Hind of Ceryneia
Diana's Pet Deer

For the third labor, Eurystheus ordered Hercules to bring him the Hind of Ceryneia. Now, before we go any further, we'll have to answer two questions: What is a hind? and, Where is Ceryneia?

Ceryneia is a town in Greece, about fifty miles from Eurystheus' palace in Mycenae.

Map of Southern Greece showing Ceryneia and Mycenae

A hind is simply a female red deer.

Deer pursued by hunters
Harvard 1960.390, Boeotian black figure kantharos, ca. 560-550 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of Harvard University Art Museums

You'd think it would have been easy for a hero like Hercules to go shoot a deer and bring it back to Eurystheus, but a few problems made things complicated. This was a special deer, because it had golden horns and hoofs of bronze. Not only that, the deer was sacred to the goddess of hunting and the moon, Diana; she was Diana's special pet. That meant that Hercules could neither kill the deer nor hurt her. He couldn't risk getting Diana angry at him; he was already in enough trouble with Hera.

Hercules with the hind of Ceryneia and the goddess Athena
Toledo 1958.69a+b, Attic black figure pointed amphora, ca. 510 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art

Hercules set out on this adventure, and he hunted the deer for a whole year. At last, when the deer had become weary with the chase, she looked for a place to rest on a mountain called Artemisius, and then made her way to the river Ladon. Realizing that the deer was about to get away, Hercules shot her just as she was about to cross the stream. He caught the deer, put her on his shoulders and turned back to Mycenae. As Hercules hurried on his way, he was met by Diana and Apollo.

Diana was very angry because Hercules tried to kill her sacred animal. She was about to take the deer away from Hercules, and surely she would have punished him, but Hercules told her the truth. He said that he had to obey the oracle and do the labors Eurystheus had given him. Diana let go of her anger and healed the deer's wound. Hercules carried it alive to Mycenae.

Diana with a deer
Mississippi 1977.3.117, Attic red figure, white ground lekythos, ca. 480-470 B.C.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the University Museums, University of Mississippi


To read more about these topics, see Further Resources.

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