Cerberus (Greek: Κέρβερος or Kerberos) is a dog from Greek mythology, sometimes called the hound of Hades. He guards the gates to the Underworld to prevent the dead from leaving. Cerberus is multi headed (the number of heads varies), but is usually described as having three heads, and sometimes with a serpent for a tail and snakes jutting from other parts of his body. The earliest description of Cerberus is in Hesiod's Theogony, in which he has fifty heads, while Pindar gave him one hundred heads, however, most writers give him three heads. An exception is the Latin poet Horace's Cerberus which has a single dog head, and one hundred snake heads. Apollodorus's Cerberus has three dog heads and the heads of "all sorts of snakes" along his back, while the poet John Tzetzes (who probably based his on Apollodorus) gives Cerberus fifty heads, three of which were dog heads, the rest being the "heads of other beasts of all sorts". Cerberus is the sibling of Orthus, Chimera, Hydra, and Sphinx, his parents and Echidna and Typhon.
To capture and bring back Cerberus was the twelfth and last labor of Hercules, with which he had help from Hermes and Athena. Many versions of the story are told, as follows:
* When Hercules asked Hades for Cerberus, Hades told him that he could take him if he could ‘master him without the use of the weapons he carried’, so Hercules used his lion skin as a shield and squeezed Cerberus around the head until he submitted.
* Early sources include Hercules fighting Hades.
* In some retellings, Hades told Hercules to ‘master Cerberus without shield or iron’, and Hercules used his lion skin as a shield and made stone tips. Some pictures show Hercules attacking Cerberus with a stone, and some retellings state that Hercules hit Cerberus on the head with a club.
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