In Greek mythology
: Ἀυγείας), whose name means "bright", was king of Elis
and husband of Epicaste
. He is best known for his stables, which housed the single greatest number of cattle in the country and had never been cleaned until the great hero Heracles
came along. Augeas was one of the Argonauts
. His parentage varies in the sources. He was said to be the son of Helius
and Nausidame, or of Eleios, king of Elis and Nausidame, or of Poseidon
, or of Phorbas
His children were Epicasta, Phyleus, Agamede (who was the mother of Dictys by Poseidon), Agasthenes, and Eurytus.
The Fifth Labour of Heracles
The fifth of the Twelve Labours
set to Herakles
was to clean the Augean stables in a single day. The reasoning behind this being set as a labour was twofold: firstly, all the previous labours exalted Heracles in the eyes of the people and this one would surely degrade him; secondly, as the livestock
were a divine gift to Augeas they were immune from disease and thus the amount of dirt and filth
amassed in the uncleaned stables made the task surely impossible. However, Heracles succeeded by rerouting the rivers Alpheus
to wash out the filth.
Augeas was irate because he had promised Heracles one-tenth of his cattle if the job was finished in one day. He refused to honour the agreement, and Heracles killed him after having completed the tasks and gave his kingdom to Augeas' son, Phyleus, who had been exiled for supporting Heracles against his father.
According to the Odes of the poet Pindar, Heracles then founded the Olympic Games:
- the games which by the ancient tomb of Pelops the mighty Heracles founded, after that he slew Kleatos, Poseidon's goodly son, and slew also Eurytos, that he might wrest from tyrannous Augeas against his will reward for service done.
The success of this labor was ultimately discounted because the rushing waters had done the work of cleaning the stables and because Hercules was paid.