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Hercules and Geryon

© J.-F. Peiré
© J.-F. Peiré
The series of the Labors of Hercules is a unique ensemble that is a work from the same workshop where sculptors worked according to common principles from Asia Minor that were diffused in the West.
The challenge that Geryon presents to Hercules leads us to the South of the Iberian Peninsula, in modern-day Andalusia. The hero must bring back from the faraway country the cattle belonging to Geryon, a monster with three heads or three chests who lives on a nearby island.

Here, the giant, curiously represented as a Roman soldier, is on the ground. 
The first head, having been struck by an arrow, is dead and the second one is dying. Hercules holds the third one by the hair. He prepares to kill it with a blow of the sword of which only the pommel remains clasped in his hand.
Contrary to this giant, the hero has the physical traits of a middle-aged man, with a curly beard and hair and heavy, dropping eyelids.
This relief is a little larger than the other panels in this series.

Why give such particular attention to this task?
Two explanations have been put forth. Firstly, it occurs in Spain which could have added a supplementary value to it in the eyes of the owners of Chiragan considering its proximity to the Iberian Penisula.
Then, at the end of the third century, which was without a doubt the period of the series’ creation, emperor Maximian’s army crosses the Pyrenees ending up in the south of Spain and Africa. In this case, Hercules is a direct reference to the emperor at the time when he takes the name Maximian Herculius. All of the labors could have thus celebrated the imperial victories in an allegoric manner; however, Geyron’s challenge links directly to Maximian Herculius’s expedition in Spain.

Hercules is the civilizing hero, victorious against barbarians and monster much like Maximian who fought invasions against German Berbers, usurpers pillaging rebellious peasant and pirates.

The coins from this epic show emperor Maximian as a new Hercules.

Hercules battling the giant Geryon: marble relief discovered on the site of the Roman villa of Chiragan (Martres-Tolosane, Haute-Garonne).
End of third century.
Inv. Ra 281
Lu 1021 fois

Tolosa's gold age | Chiragan | Necropolis