These three Nymphs, daughters of Nyx and Erebus, look after the very rare apple tree Golden Immortalitus, not to be confused with Golden Delicious. This shines with the golden radiance of a glorious sunset, which is why the Hesperides are also Sunset Goddesses.
The Golden Apples were given to Hera as a wedding present by Gaia. Trouble-maker Eris stole one, and to preserve the rest Hera planted them in a beautiful garden. A Golden Apple tree grew there, and along flounced some nymphs to nibble at the fruit.
Wagging a warning finger, Hera put a dragon called Ladon on guard duty. The nymphs took one look at his hundred slavering heads and turned over a new golden leaf. From that moment they devoted themselves to tending the tree. Hera tended not to trust them but Ladon was there to prevent any scrumping.
Aegle does the shining, Hespera does the watering (she was also known as Arethusa but took on an alternative name to avoid confusion with the well-known nymph), and Erytheia pores over the best times for pruning and picking. Hestia pops in from time to time to tend the flowerbeds.
The Hesperides are best of friends with Atlas, who is a close neighbor. Some legends even claim he is their father by Hesperis. Other legends give Zeus the credit, and one or two cynical folk claim the Hesperides are simply a flock of golden sheep.
The Labors of Heracles
Episode 11: The Apples Of The Hesperides
Heracles had originally been sentenced to Ten Labors. Returning in triumph with the Cattle of Geryon, he was hoping to take a well-deserved vacation. But the mean-minded Eurystheus claimed two of the Labors were null and void.
“That Hydra business — your nephew did half the work, and there seems to be a head missing. As for the stable-cleaning scam for profit — for which a court case is still pending — no way! Still two Labors to go, laddie.”
Steam came out of Heracles’s ears but he stayed in control and headed off to find the Golden Apples. No-one could tell him where they were, and he floundered around until he came across the sleeping Sea God Nereus. Knowing of his wisdom, he seized him by the beard and twisted both advice and information out of him...
The plan involved using Atlas, who was best friends with the Golden Apple nymphs. To avoid unnecessary delays, Heracles climbed up the orchard wall and shot Ladon the dragon with a Hydra dart, leaving the coast clear for nymph negotiations.
Atlas was holding up the Celestial Globe of the Heavens at the time. So Herc offered to take over his burden whilst the deed was performed. Atlas could not believe his luck. It was such a weight off his shoulders. What a relief!
Atlas certainly took his time hobnobbing with the Hesperides. To the sweating Heracles, he seemed to be gone for years. Finally he sauntered back with three Golden Apples and a big grin. Atlas was in no hurry to resume his supporting role.
“I’ll tell you what, dude,” he said, “hang on in there and I’ll take the apples back to Eurywhotsit for you. It’s no trouble. I’ll be back in a month or two.”
After Ten Labors, Heracles had learnt to match wits with the best. And Atlas was far from smart. “Sure thing, bud. Thanks very much. Oh, before you go, I’m getting a bit of a headache. Can you take over for a sec while I put a bit of padding on my head..?”
Was Atlas that gullible? Yes he was, and found himself holding up the Heavens once more. So Heracles returned to Mycenae with the Golden Apples, which Eurystheus then donated to Athena... who then returned them to the Hesperides where they’d come from in the first place. Heracles may have been heard to use bad language at this point.
Final Episode: The Capture Of Cerberus...
Hesperides Facts and Figures
Pronunciation: Coming soon
Alternative names: Hesperids
Celebration or Feast Day: Unknown at present
In charge of: the Evening
Area of expertise: Evening, Sunset
Good/Evil Rating: NEUTRAL, may not care
Popularity index: 2021
Hesperides RelationshipsFather: Erebus
Member of: Nymphs
Members: Aegle, Erytheia, Hespera
Cite this article
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Article last revised on September 06, 2018 by Rowan Allen.
Editors: Peter J. Allen, Chas Saunders
References: Coming soon.