The Nemean lion (in Greek: Λέων τῆς Νεμέας (Léōn tēs Neméas); Latin: Leo Nemaeus) was a monster in Greek mythology that prowled the mountain valley of Nemea.
The Nemean Lion is usually considered to have been the offspring of Typhon and Echidna; other origins state that the lion fell from the moon as the offspring of Zeus and Selene, or that he was born of the Chimera.
Myths and Legends
It is said that the Nemean Lion could not be killed by mortal weapons because of its golden fur that made it impervious to attacks. The creature's claws were sharper than conventional swords and could cut through any armor.
It was said to have had great cunning, further emphasized by its capacity to shape-shift into the women in distress that it kidnapped from other cities, tricking would-be slayers to lower their guard in its lair before devouring them and later offer their bones to Hades.
Battle with Heracles
The lion was ultimately slain by Heracles (Hercules) as his first labor. Having tried to attack the lion in vain with arrows, Heracles soon realized the lion's pelt was impenetrable; instead, he chased the lion with a club and cornered it in a double-mouthed cave. Subsequently, he sealed off one of the mouths, and entering the cave through the other, strangled the lion to death with his bare hands. The hero is said to have lost one of his fingers in the struggle.
After slaying the lion, he tried to skin the lion for its pelt with a knife and a sharpened stone, but failed. Finally, pitying the hero, the goddess Athena told him to use the lion's own claws instead.
The Nemean lion's fur became Heracles' insignia; it protected him from the elements and the weapons of his foes.
Hera later placed the lion in the stars as the constellation Leo.
In Popular Culture
- In Agatha Christie's short story collection The Labours of Hercules, "The Nemean Lion" is the first of Hercule Poirot's carefully curated twelve final cases. In the story, the lion is re-imagined as a rather intelligent Pekingese dog owned by a ring of women who run a dog-stealing scam.
- Nemean Lions appear in Hero of Sparta II. In the game they are enchanted monsters, immortal to direct attacks.
- The Nemean Lion is one the many foes Orpheus must face in the side-scrolling video game The Battle of Olympus.