Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Just call me Heracles

I have always assumed that readers of this blog are the sort of people who have a good knowledge of the ancient world while at the same time feeling at ease with mention of quantum physics and those hard sums with brackets in them.

Just in case there are a few gaps in your knowledge, can I remind you that Heracles (or Ηρακλης in the Greek alphabet) is the Greek name for Hercules, the greatest of the Greek heroes.

One of the things which made Heracles - let's stick to his original name - such a hero was that he had to complete 12 labours, all of which were horrendous tasks that would defeat mere mortals.

One of these 12 labours was to clean the Augean stables in one day. These stables housed more than 1,000 fully-functioning cattle and had not been cleaned in 30 years. That's a lot of mucking out to do.

A mosaic depicting the 12 labours of Heracles. I'm not sure
which one is him cleaning the Augean stables.

However, Heracles' labour is as nothing to the task we face here dealing with the mountains of droppings produced by the two deranged cockerels - Big Whitey and Eileen the Third.

You may recall these two are the only survivors of the New Year's Eve massacre in which our landlord's flock of chickens was attacked by a dog. Ever since that day they have decided that the safest policy is to stick close to the house and keep crowing, no doubt to make us aware of their continued existence.

The other way they remind us that they are still alive is by defecating copiously. This would not be so bad if they did it hither and yon, after all, nature must take its course. Instead, the cockerels have decided that one of the best places to void their bowels - see how delicately I refer to all this - is on our doorstep. Consequently any trip out on to the terrace must be conducted with great caution if you do not wish to end up knee deep in guano.

Big Whitey and Eileen the Third looking absolutely shameless.
Every day, and often several times a day, we sweep up what the cockerels deposit and every day, and definitely several times a day, the cockerels replace it. Heracles would have broken down and wept like a baby at the magnitude of the task.

Cleaning the Augean stables was the fifth task of Heracles. I'm not sure if it's significant or not, but his sixth task was slaying the Stymphalian Birds. They had to be done away with because they swarmed all over the countryside eating crops and generally making a nuisance of themselves. If that's not a great example of how the classical world still has much to teach us, I don't know what is. Bring me my bow and arrows.

Incidentally, if you're wondering how Heracles cleaned those dung-filled stables, the answer is quite simple - if you're a hero - he diverted the rivers Alpheus and Peneus and all his troubles were over. Heroes, they get it easy.

As we can't rely on Heracles to get us out of this mess, I decided the ideal piece of music to go with this was No More Heroes by The Stranglers. This version has a nifty bit of animation with it and is followed by a brief film, a filmette, in fact.

* Picture of mosaic by Sgiralt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. I have to laugh at this one. Well done!

    1. I laugh at it, but only sometimes. Somehow one of the cats has managed to get cockerel poop on her shoulder. We're besieged!


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