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Utque fretum recipit de tota flumina terra,
Utque rapax ignis non unquam alimenta recusat,
Sic epulas omnes Erysichthonis ora profani
Causa cibi est, semperque locus fit inanis edendo.
Jamque fame patrias altique voragine ventris 845 Attenuarat opes; sed inattenuata manebat
Tum quoque dira fames, implacatæque vigebat 110 Flamma gulæ. Tandem, demisso in viscera censu,
Filia restabat, non illo digna parente:
850 Et vicina suas tendens super æquora palmas,
· Eripe me domino,” dixit, " qui primus amasti, 115 Eripe me; vox hæc Neptuni fertur ad aures.
Qui prece non spreta, quamvis modo visa sequenti
Hanc dominus spectans, “O qui pendentia parvo 120 Æra cibo celas, moderator arundinis,” inquit,
Sic mare compositum, sic sit tibi piscis in unda Credulus, et nullus, nisi fixus, sentiat hamos : 860 Quæ modo cum vili turbatis veste capillis
Litore in hoc steterat-nam stantem in litore vidi125 Dic ubi sit : neque enim vestigia longius exstant."
Illa dei munus bene cedere sensit et, a se
Quisquis es, ignoscas : in nullam lumina partem
Gurgite ab hoc flexi, studioque operatus inhæsi. 130 Quoque minus dubites : sic has deus æquoris artes
Adjuvet, ut nemo jamdudum litore in isto,
Elususque abiit. Illi sua reddita forma est. 135 Ast ubi habere suam transformia corpora sensit,
Sæpe pater dominis Triopeïda tradit. At illa
Præbebatque avido non justa alimenta parenti.
Vis tamen illa mali postquam consumserat omnem 140 Materiam, dederatque gravi nova pabula morbo;
Ipse suos artus lacero divellere morsu
XXXVII. THE DEATH OF HERCULES.
Hercules was the son of Jupiter and Alcmêna, who was granddaughter of Perseus (s. Introd. XXI.) and daughter of Electryon, king of Mycēnæ. Her consort, Amphitryon, was also a grandson of Perseus, and son of Alcæus, who held the sovereignty of Tiryns. Having unintentionally killed his father-inlaw, Amphitryon, with his wife, was obliged to flee to Thebes, and it was at Thebes that Hercules came into the world (whence Hercules Thebanus or Aonius, v. 9). Jupiter had announced in a council of the gods, that whoever should first be born of the race of Perseus should rule over all the rest : upon which Juno hastened on the birth of Eurystheus, whose father, Sthenělus, ruler of Argos, was another son of Perseus, and delayed the birth of Hercules. Thus the sovereignty fell to Eurystheus, and, at his command, Hercules was forced to undergo the twelve famous labours which, at Juno's suggestion, Eurystheus imposed upon him, with all their accompanying toils and dangers. The first was, that he should slay the formidable Lion of Nemea. As no arrow could wound this monster, Hercules strangled him in his arms (moles Nemeca, v. 95), and afterwards wore his impenetrable hide over his shoulders for defensive armour (spolium leonis, v. 11). The second task was to slay the terrible Hydra of Lerna. It had many heads, and, when Hercules smote off one, two sprung up in room of the one lost (crescere per damnum, geminasque, &c., v. 91), till at last he every time seared the wound with a burning brand handed to him by his attendant, Iolāus, so that no fresh head could grow. The Hydra's blood being the most deadly poison, Hercules dipped his arrows in it, so that every wound given by him became fatal. His third task (or labour) was to bring alive to Eurystheus a hind of Diana, which (as a sign of her untiring speed) had brazen feet. After pursuing this hind through a vast extent of country, he at last caught her in the Parthenian wood in Arcadia, on the border towards Argos (Parthenium nemus, v. 86). For his fourth task he was, in the same way, to bring alive to Eurystheus a monstrous boar, which was making general devastation on Mount Erymanthus in Arcadia (vastator Arcadiæ, v. 90). His fifth labour was, in the space of a single day, to cleanse from dung the stable of King Augeas in Elis (destrum opus Elis habet, v. 85). This king had 3000 oxen, which for a long time had stood in stalls which were never cleansed. Hercules, letting the rivers Alphēus and Penēus into the stable, scoured it out with their abundant streams of water. The sixth task was to drive away the Stymphalian birds. These birds haunted the lake Stymphālis in Arcadia (Stymphalides undæ, v. 85), and caused great mischief among men and cattle. Their beaks were so hard, that with them they could pierce through brazen armour.
Hercules killed them with his poisoned arrows, or, according to others, drove them away with the noise of a brass clapper, which Minerva gave him for that purpose. As a seventh labour, Eurystheus imposed on him the task of fetching the mad bull from Crete (validus taurus, v. 84). This animal Neptune had sent up from the sea, and presented to King Minos. But it was so large, that Minos, from its size and extraordinary beauty, instead of slaughtering it, allowed it to run among his herds. On this Neptune caused the bull to go mad, so that it every where did much damage. Hercules, assisted by Minos, bound it and brought it to Argos.-Diomêdês, king of Thrace, had four horses (Thracis equos, v. 92), which he used to feed on human flesh (humano sanguine pingues, ibid.), throwing to them all the strangers, without exception, who came into the country. To gain possession of these was the hero's eighth labour. He accomplished it, and gave the vanquished Diomêdês to his own horses for food. His ninth task was to bring to Eurystheus the golden belt or girdle (balteus, v. 87) of Hippolýtê, queen of the Amazons, which had been given to her by Mars. Hercules overcame the brave Amazons, and accomplished the task. His tenth labour took him to the extreme west, to obtain the oxen of Gerýón. Gerýon, the son of Chrysāor, and grandson of Medūsa, had three bodies, with three heads, six arms, and six feet (triplex forma pastoris Iberi, v. 82), and possessed in the island Erythia, on the coast of Spain, a herd of purple oxen, which he and a giant named Eurytion carefully watched. Hercules slew the keepers and returned with the oxen to Greece. The next (the eleventh) labour was to fetch the golden apples of the Hesperides, the daughters of Atlas, which were guarded by a sleepless dragon (custodita insomni dracone, v. 88). Hercules performed the task : and on this occasion he for a time relieved Atlas himself of the burden of the heavenly vault, and supported it on his own shoulders (coelum cervice tuli, v. 96). His last (twelfth) labour was to place him amidst all the horrours of death, for he was ordered to fetch up from the under-world the three-headed dog, Cerběrus, that guarded the palace of Pluto (v. 83). This also he accomplished, contrary to the expectation of the hostile Juno and Eurystheus. Besides these imposed labours, Hercules performed many other heroic actions both during his many journeys from east and west, to fulfil the commands of Eurystheus, and after their successful accomplishment he on one occasion came to Egypt, where King Busīris used to sacrifice all strangers on the altar of Jupiter (v. 81).
Hercules himself was carried bound to the altar ; but, bursting the bonds, he slew the cruel king, and thus became the benefactor of the Egyptians by abolishing human sacrifices in that country. It was in Africa also (in Libya) that he met with Antæus, a son of the Earth, of gigantic stature, who compelled all strangers to wrestle with him. Hercules threw him to the ground, but quickly observed, that as often as this son of the Earth touched the ground, he immediately derived new strength from his mother, so at last he held him up in the air, and thus strangled him (Antæo alimenta parentis eripui, v. 82). In Thessaly he was kindly received and hospitably entertained by the Centaur Pholus, but as his host was, at the request of Hercules, opening a jar of wine, many other Centaurs came up, attracted by the smell of the wine, and commenced an attack upon the hero ; but Hercules slew some of them with his arrows, and put the rest to flight (whence, nec mihi Centauri potuere resistere, v. 89). How he wooed Deianira, the daughter of king Eneus, has already been related (XXXV.).
As he was travelling homewards with his new bride (noca conjuge, v. 1), he came (thus Ovid begins the tale) to the river Evēnus, not far from Calydon. And here he let Deïanira be carried over the stream by the Centaur Nessus. But on the passage Nessus, attempting to offer violence to his charge, was shot by Hercules with his arrows, which had been dipt in the blood of the Lernæan Hydra. The Centaur felt that he must die, but out of revenge gave to Deianira some of the blood that was trickling down the fatal arrow, assuring her that it would prove a powerful philtre, or means by which she might rekindle the love of Hercules, if at any time it should be diverted from her. (According to Ovid, he gave her only a garment moistened with blood, velamina tincta, v. 30; according to others, he caught the blood in a vessel, and gave it to her). Some time afterwards Hercules, after his famous conquest of king Eurýtus in Echalsa, wished to perform a sacrifice to Jupiter Cenæus, and as he requested of Dežanira a robe of ceremony for this sacrifice, she sent him this linen garment, imbued with the blood of Nessus, in order that Hercules might not be entangled in love with Iolê, the daughter of Eurýtus. The deadly poison instantly seized upon his frame, and his body underwent a painful death on Mount Eta, but Jupiter raised the immortal part of his being to heaven, where, as a god, he had his abode among the gods.
The life of Hercules represents, according to the ancient myth, the ideal of human perfection ; that is, the greatest bodily strength, coupled with all the intellectual and moral excellencies which the heroic age recognised, these powers being, moreover, all employed in the service of suffering humanity. Through the whole life of the hero there predominates the effort to repress lawlessness and chastise injustice. Perfect virtue can display itself only amidst continual opposition. Hercules, through his whole course, found this in the hostile power of Juno, whose instrument was Eurys.
theus, cowardly in himself, but made powerful by her who employed him to accomplish her ends. Nor is Hercules de. livered from this opposing power, till he has conquered all the terrours of death, till, that is, he has penetrated into the under-world, and fetched up Cerběrus from the realms of dark.
His death, which is the consequence of a long-plotted scheme, destroys in him only the mortality inherited from his mother- the divine and immortal part of his nature mounts to Olympus, where, being reconciled to Juno, he marries her daughter Hêbê (the goddess of youth), and himself becomes an immortal god. “ The Greeks probably have in Hercules laid hold of, and represented in human nature, an ancient deity of the East, and framed according to their spirit an ideal of heroic qualities as triumphing over all opposition."
Jamque, nova repetens patrios cum conjuge muros,
105 Vorticibusque frequens erat atque impervius amnis. 5 Intrepidum pro se, curam de conjuge agentem,
Nessus adit, membrisque valens scitusque vadorum,
Officioque meo ripa sistetur in illa
Tradidit Aonius pavidam Calydonida Nesso, 10 Pallentemque metu, fluviumque ipsumque timentem;
Mox, ut erat pharetraque gravis spolioque leonis -
Nec dubitat, nec, qua sit clementissimus amnis, 15 Quærit, et obsequio deferri spernit aquarum.
Jamque tenens ripam missos cum tolleret arcus;
• Vana pedum, violente, rapit ? Tibi, Nesse biformis, 20 Dicimus, exaudi, nec res intercipe nostras !
Si te nulla mei reverentia movit; at orbes
Vulnere, non pedibus te consequar!” Ultima dicta 25 Re probat, et missa fugientia terga sagitta
Trajicit : exstabat ferrum de pectore aduncum.