Hercules was brought in front of his cousin, King Eurystheus, to be entrusted with his next Labor. The King's mood seemed to be better that day. "This time, cousin, you are to arrest the Eurymanthian Boar, a huge animal that ravages the land of Psophis. Its strength cannot be bested by any mortal, for the warmth of the soil constantly sustains it. Remember, as always, you must not kill or wound the beast or you will fail your task and the wrath of the gods will fall upon us!"
Although he was a son of Zeus, Hercules knew that he was but a mere mortal yet.
Before beginning his journey to Psophis, he asked for the blessing of the goddess of wisdom, Athena, entreating her to reveal him a way to defeat the mighty beast without killing it. The next day he was on his way to capture the boar. As he reached the area of Pholoe and set camp, a friendly centaur appeared out of a thicket and introduced himself. "My name is Pholos and as you can imagine, I have given my name to this place. Or is it the other way around?" he mischievously smiled towards the hero. Hercules, after many days of lonely travels, felt that some entertaining company was more than welcome. The centaur invited him to his cave for a cup of wine and the hero was very happy to oblige.
As the human and the centaur were enjoying the famed local wine, a band of wandering centaurs caught the distinct smell of the beverage. Their senses were blurred by that smell and a wave of madness overtook them - they charged into the cave and attacked Hercules, willing to punish him for drinking the wine they so much desired. The hero, although fairly intoxicated, managed to defend himself and to kill most of them with his poisoned arrows, which he had drenched in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra a long time ago. As Hercules exited the cave pursuing what was left of the intruders’ party, Pholos curiously raised one of Hercules poisoned arrows and held it high over his head, examining it closely. ‘‘So this little arrow is enough to kill a centaur on his prime?’’ As he was marveling at its poisoned tip, the arrow slipped from his fingers. When Hercules returned from the hunt of the centaurs, he saw Pholos's lifeless body lying on the ground of the cave. Overcome by sadness, he noticed that a poisoned arrow had pierced one of the centaur's feet. The hero then proceeded to hold a funeral for his newly found - and lost - friend.
At dawn, he left the cave behind and searched the nearby forest for tracks of the wild boar. He soon found parts of the lush devastated by the animal's huge mass and so he was soon after its trail. Hercules found the beast resting under the shadow of old oak trees, its huge weight pressing hard the ground beneath it. Keeping in mind that he had to bring it unharmed to Tiryns, Hercules avoided to as much as touch his bow. What should he do? While he was watching the beast, his prayer to Athena was finally answered, as an idea occurred to his mind: He just had to drive the boar from the warm, lively soil of the forest into the frozen rocky moorlands of the tall mountains! Emboldened, he sneaked near the beast as silently as possible and placed himself behind it. After taking a deep breath, he shouted with all the power of his voice. The boar, startled and terrified, stood up with a racket and began running away. The hero followed it with wild shouts and struggled to lead it towards the nearby Mount Erymanthos. In the afternoon, as the beast stepped onto the snow-covered rocks of the mountain, it felt exhaustion for the first time in its long life. With the boar's strength greatly diminished, Hercules proceeded to capture it with a noose without much challenge. He then carried the great animal down the mountains, tamed and humbled. The huge boar was carried and placed in front of King Eurystheus at the gates of Tiryns. Glancing at its huge size and its menacing demeanor, the King quickly ran and hid behind the city walls, leaving Hercules laughing heartily at his cowardice while holding tight the noose around the beast's neck.
The dark veil of night spread over Tiryns and filled the hero's mind with blissful sleep. Soon, Hercules was dreaming. He was standing once again outside Pholos's cave. He felt sadness in his heart for the friend that died so soon. But he thought he heard joyful voices from the inside of the cave. Curious, he entered the cave and saw Pholos drinking his exquisitely flavorful wine while playing with the deadly, poison-tipped arrow. "Welcome, friend! You may join me but you have to be careful – this wine can be a killer!" He laughed heartily and Hercules smiled, sure that this was but a dream again. Then, the look on the centaur's face became solemn. "Never let the wine of life cloud your judgment, for it will be your doom, like it was mine. Taste the nectar of wisdom but do not empty your cup - the gods have no more in store for mortals like you and me. Stay balanced, friend..." As these words echoed in Hercules’s mind, the dream was gone.