DIODORUS SICULUS was a Greek historian who flourished in Sicily in the C1st BC. He wrote a history of the world in 40 books which included large sections devoted to myth, legend and the unusual customs of foreign tribes.
Diodorus Siculus. Library of History (Books III - VIII). Translated by Oldfather, C. H. Loeb Classical Library Volumes 303 and 340. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1935.
Volumes II and III of Diodorus in the Loeb series contain the bulk of his mythological material. Both books are still in print and available new from Amazon.com (click on image right for details). In addition to the translations the book contains the source Greek text, maps, and Oldfather's footnotes and index.
NOTE: Diodorus attempts to convert the stories of myth into factual histories. To this end he concocts a variety of stories to rationalise and explain away the fantastical elements of myth. Many of these are as far-fetched as the original stories themselves. Nevertheless, in spite of these reworkings, his work does preserve many old stories not found elsewhere.
I am still in the process of compiling an online collection of Diodorus' mythologies, beginning with book IV of the Library which is exclusively devoted to these.
LIBRARY OF HISTORY,
TRANS. BY C. H. OLDFATHER
CONTENTS OF THE FOURTH BOOK OF DIODORUS
Introduction on the myths recounted by the historians (chap. 1).
On Dionysus, Priapus, Hermaphroditus, and the Muses (chaps. 2-7).
On Heracles and the twelve Labours, and the other deeds of his up to the time of his deification (chaps. 8-39).
On the Argonauts and Medea and the daughters of Pelias (chaps. 40-56).
On the descendants of Heracles (chaps. 57-58).
On Theseus and his labours (chaps. 59-63).
On the Seven Against Thebes (chaps. 64-65).
On the Epigoni1 of The Seven Against Thebes (chaps. 66-67).
On Neleus and his descendants (chap. 68).
On the Lapiths and Centaurs (chaps. 69-70).
On Asclepius and his descendants (chap. 71).
On the daughters of Asopus and the sons born to Aeacus (chap. 72).
On Pelops, Tantalus, Oenomaus, and Niobê (chaps. 73-74).
On Dardanus and his descendants as far as Priam (chap. 75).
On Daedalus, the Minotaur, and the campaign of Minos against the king Cocalus (chaps. 76-80).
On Aristaeus, Daphnis, Eryx, and Orion (chaps. 81-85).
[4.1.1] I am not unaware o the fact that those who compile the narratives of ancient mythology labour under many disadvantages in their composition. For, in the first place, the antiquity of the events they have to record, since it makes record difficult, is a cause of much perplexity to those who would compose an account of them; and again, inasmuch as any pronouncement they may make of the dates of events does not admit of the strictest kind of proof or disproof, a feeling of contempt for the narration is aroused in the min of those who read it; furthermore, the variety and the multitude of the heroes, demi-gods, and men in general whose genealogies must be set down make their recital a difficult thing to achieve; but the greatest and most disconcerting obstacle of all consists in the fact that those who have recorded the deeds and myths of the earliest times are in disagreement among themselves.
[4.1.2] For these reasons the writers of greatest reputation among the later historians have stood aloof from the narration of ancient mythology because of its difficulty, and have undertaken to record only the more recent events.
[4.1.3] Ephorus of Cymê, for instance, a pupil of Isocrates, when he undertook to write his universal history, passed over the tales of the old mythology and commenced his history with a narration of the events which took place after the Return of the Heracleidae. Likewise Callisthenes and Theopompus, who were contemporaries of Ephorus, held aloof from the old myths.
[4.1.4] We, however, holding the opposite opinion to theirs, have shouldered the labour which such a record involves and have expended all the care within our power upon the ancient legends. For very great and most numerous deeds have been performed by the heroes and demi-gods and by many good men likewise, who, because of the benefits they conferred which have been shared by all men, have been honoured by succeeding generation with sacrifices which in some cases are like those offered to the gods, in other cases like such as are paid to heroes, and of one and all the appropriate praises have been sung by the voice of history for all time.
[4.1.5] Now in the three preceding Books we have recorded the deeds of mythological times which are found among other nations and what their histories relate about the gods, also the topography of the land in every case and the wild beasts and other animals which are found among them, and, speaking generally, we have described everything which was worthy of mention and was marvelous to relate; and in the present Book we shall set forth what the Greeks in their histories of the ancient periods tell about their most renowned heroes and demi-gods and, in general, about all who have performed any notable exploit in war, and likewise about such also as in time of peace have made some useful discovery or enacted some good law contributing to man’s social life. And we shall begin with Dionysus because he not only belongs to a very ancient time but also conferred very great benefactions upon the race of men.
[4.1.6] We have stated in the previous Books that certain barbarian peoples claim for themselves the birthplace of this god. The Egyptians, for example, say that the god who among them bears he name Osiris is the one whom the Greeks call Dionysus.2 And this god, as their myths relate, visited all the inhabited world, was the discoverer of wine, taught mankind how to cultivate the vine, and because of this benefaction of his received the gift of immortality with the approval of all. But the Indians likewise declare that this god was born among them, and that after he had ingeniously discovered how to cultivate the vine he shared the benefit which wine imparts with human beings throughout the inhabited world.3 But for our part, since we have spoken of these matters in detail, we shall at this point recount what the Greeks have to say about this god.
ZEUS AND SEMELE
[4.2.1] The Greek account of Dionysus runs like this: Cadmus, the son of Agenor, was sent forth from Phoenicia by the king to seek out Europê, under orders either to bring him the maiden or never to come back to Phoenicia. After Cadmus had traversed a wide territory without being able to find her, he despaired of ever returning to his home; and when he had arrived in Boeotia, in obedience to the oracle which he had received he founded the city of Thebes. Here he made his home and marrying Harmonia, the daughter of Aphroditê, he begat by her Semelê, Ino, Autonoê, Agavê, and Polydorus.
[4.2.2] Semelê was loved by Zeus because of her beauty, but since he had his intercourse with her secretly and without speech she thought that the god despised her; consequently she made the request of him that he come to her embraces in the same manner as in his approaches to Hera.
[4.2.3] Accordingly, Zeus visited her in a way befitting a god, accompanied by thundering and lightning, revealing himself to her as he embraced her; but Semelê, who was pregnant and unable to endure the majesty of the divine presence, brought forth the babe untimely and was herself slain by the fire. Thereupon Zeus, taking up the child, handed it over to the care of Hermes, and ordered him to take it to the cave in Nysa,4 which lay between Phoenicia and the Nile, where he should deliver it to the nymphs that they should rear it and with great solicitude bestow upon it the best of care.
[4.2.4] Consequently, since Dionysus was reared in Nysa, he received the name he bears from Zeus and Nysa.5 And Homer bears witness to this in his Hymns,6 when he says:
There is a certain Nysa, mountain high, with forests thick,
In Phoenicê afar, close to Aegyptus’ streams.
[4.2.5] After he had received his rearing by the nymphs in Nysa, they say, he made the discovery of wine and taught mankind how to cultivate the vine. And as he visited the inhabited world almost in its entirety, he brought much land under cultivation and in return for this received most high honours at the hands of all men. He also discovered the drink made out of barley and called by some zythos, the bouquet of which is not much inferior to that of wine. The preparation of this drink he taught to those peoples whose country was unsuited to the cultivation of the vine.
[4.2.6] He also led about with himself an army composed not only of men but of women as well, and punished such men as were unjust and impious. In Boeotia, out of gratitude to the land of his birth, he freed all the cities and founded a city whose name signified independence, which he called Eleutherae.7
[4.3.1] Then he made a campaign into India, whence he returned to Boeotia in the third year,8 bringing with him a notable quantity of booty, and he was the first man ever to celebrate a triumph seated on an Indian elephant.
[4.3.2] And the Boeotian and other Greeks and the Thracians, in memory of the campaign in India, have established sacrifices every other year9 to Dionysus, and believe that at that time the god reveals himself to human beings.
[4.3.3] Consequently in many Greek cities every other year10 Bacchis bands of women gather, and it is lawful for the maidens to carry the thyrsus and to join in the frenzied revelry, crying out “Euai!” and honouring the god; while the matrons, forming in groups, offer sacrifices to the god and celebrate his mysteries and, in general, extol with hymns the presence of Dionysus, in this manner acting the part of the Maenads11 who, as history records, were of old the companions of the god.
[4.3.4] He also punished here and there throughout all the inhabited world many men who were thought to be impious, the most renowned among the number being Pentheus and Lycurgus. And since the discovery of wine and the gift of it to human beings were the source of such great satisfaction to them, both because o the pleasure which derives from the drinking of it and because of the greater vigour which comes to the bodies of those who partake of it, it is the custom, they say, when unmixed wine is served during a meal to greet it with the words, “To the Good Deity!” but when the cup is passed around after the meal diluted with water, to cry out, “To Zeus Saviour!” 12 For the drinking of unmixed wine results in a state of madness, but when it is mixed with the rain from Zeus the delight and pleasure continue, but the ill effect of madness and stupor is avoided.
[4.3.5] And, in general, the myths relate that the gods who receive the greatest approval at the hands of human beings are those who excelled in their benefactions by reason of their discovery of good things, namely, Dionysus and Demeter, the former because he was the discoverer of the most pleasing drink, the latter because she gave to the race of men the most excellent13 of the dry foods.
[4.4.1] Some writers of myths, however, relate that there was a second Dionysus who was much earlier in time than the one we have just mentioned. For according to them there was born of Zeus and Persephonê a Dionysus who is called by some Sabazius and whose birth and sacrifices and honours are celebrated at night and in secret, because of the disgrace resulting from the intercourse of the sexes. They state also that he excelled in sagacity and was the fist to attempt the yoking of oxen and by their aid to effect the sowing of the seed, this being the reason why they also represent him as wearing a horn.
[4.4.2] But the Dionysus who was born of Semelê in more recent times, they say, was a man who was effeminate in body and altogether delicate; in beauty, however, he far excelled all other men and was addicted to indulgence in the delights of love, and on his campaigns he led about with himself a multitude of women who were armed with lances which were shaped like thyrsi.14
[4.4.3] They say also that when he went abroad he was accompanied by the Muses, who were maidens that had received an unusually excellent education, and that by their songs and dancing and other talents in which they had been instructed these maidens delighted the heart of the god. They also add that he was accompanied on his campaigns by a personal attendant and caretaker, Seilenus, who was his adviser and instructor in the most excellent pursuits and contributed greatly to the high achievements and fame of Dionysus.
[4.4.4] And in the battles which took place during his wars he arrayed himself in arms suitable for war and in the skins of panthers, but in assemblages and at festive gatherings in time of peace he wore garments which were bright-coloured and luxurious in their effeminacy. Furthermore, in order to ward off the headaches which every man gets from drinking too much wine he bound about his head, they report, a band (mitra), which was the reason for his receiving the name Mitrephorus15; and it was this head-band, they say, that in later times led to the introduction of the diadem for kings.
[4.4.5] He was also called Dimetor,16 they relate, because the two Dionysi were born of one father, but of two mothers. The younger one also inherited the deeds of the older, and so the men of later times, being unaware of the truth and being deceived because of the identity of their names, thought there had been but one Dionysus.
[4.4.6] The narthex17 is also associated with Dionysus for the following reason. When wine was first discovered, the mixing of water with it had not as yet been devised and the wine was drunk unmixed; but when friends gathered together and enjoyed good cheer, the revelers, filling themselves to abundance with the unmixed wine, became like madmen and used their wooden staves to strike one another.
[4.4.7] Consequently, since some of them were wounded and some died of wounds inflicted in vital spots, Dionysus was offended at such happenings, and though he did not decide that they should refrain from drinking the unmixed wine in abundance, because the drink gave such pleasure, he ordered them hereafter to carry a narthex and not a wooden staff.
[4.5.1] Many epithets, so we are informed, have been given him by men, who have found the occasions from which they arose in the practices and customs which have become associated with him. So, for instance, he has been called Baccheius from the Bacchic bands of women who accompanied him, Lenaeus from the custom of treading the clusters of grapes in a wine-tub (lenos), and Bromius from the thunder (bromos) which attended his birth; likewise for a similar reason he ahs been called Pyrigenes (“Born-of-Fire”).
[4.5.2] Thriambus is a name that has been given him, they say, because he was the first of those of whom we have a record to have celebrated a triumph (thriambos) upon entering his native land after his campaign, this having been done when he returned from India with great booty. It is on a similar basis that he other appellations or epithets have been given to him, but we feel that it would be a long task to tell of them and inappropriate to the history which we are writing.
He was thought to have two forms, men say, because there were two Dionysoi, the ancient one having a long beard, because all men in early times wore long beards, the younger one being youthful and effeminate and young, as we have mentioned before.18
[4.5.3] Certain writers say, however, that it was because men who become drunk get into two states, being either joyous or sullen, that the god has been called “two-formed”.
Satyrs also, it is reported, were carried about by him in his company and afforded the god great delight and pleasure in connection with their dancings and their goat-songs.19
[4.5.4] And, in general, the Muses who bestowed benefits and delights through the advantages which their education gave them, and the Satyrs by the use of the devices which contribute to mirth, made the life of Dionysus happy and agreeable. There is general agreement also, they say, that he was the inventor of thymelic20 contests, and that he introduced places where the spectators could witness the shows and organized musical concerts; furthermore, he freed from any forced contribution to the state those who had cultivated any sort of musical skill during his campaigns, and it is for these reasons that later generations have formed musical associations of the artists of Dionysus21 and have relieved of taxes the followers of this profession.
As for Dionysus and the myths which are related about him we shall rest content with what has been said, since we are aiming at due proportion in our account.
[4.6.1] We shall at this point discuss Priapus and the myths related about him, realizing that an account of him is appropriate in connection with the history of Dionysus. Now the ancients record in their myths that Priapus was the son of Dionysus and Aphroditê and they present a plausible argument for this linage; for men when under the influence of wine find the members of their bodies tense and inclined to the pleasures of love.
[4.6.2] But certain writers say that when the ancients wished to speak in their myths of the sexual organ of males they called it Priapus. Some, however, relate that the generative member, since it is the cause of the reproduction of human beings and of their continued existence through all time, became the object of immortal honour.
[4.6.3] But the Egyptians in their myths about Priapus [i.e. the Egyptian god Min] say that in ancient times the Titans formed a conspiracy against Osiris and slew him, and then, taking his body and dividing it into equal parts among themselves, they slipped them secretly out of the house but this organ alone they threw into the river, since no one of them was willing to take it with him.22 Gut Isis tracked down the murder of her husband, and after slaying the Titans and fashioning the several pieces of his body into the shape of a human figure,23 she gave them to the priests with orders that they pay Osiris the honours of a god., but since the only member she was unable to recover was the organ of sex she commanded them to pay to it the honours of a god and to set it up in their temples in an erect position.24 Now this is the myth about the birth of Priapus and the honour paid to him, as it is given by the ancient Egyptians.
[4.6.4] This god [Greek Priapus] is also called by some Ithyphallus, by others Tychon. Honours are accorded him not only in the city, in the temples, but also throughout the countryside, where men set up his statue to watch over their vineyards and gardens, and introduce him as one who punishes any who cast a spell over some fair thing which they possess. And in the sacred rites, not only of Dionysus but of practically all other gods as well, this god receives honour to some extent, being introduced in the sacrifices to the accompaniment of laughter and sport.
[4.6.5] A birth like that of Priapus is ascribed by some writers of myths to Hermaphroditus, as he has been called, who was born of Hermes and Aphroditê and received a name which is a combination of those of both his parents. Some say that this Hermaphroditus is a god and appears at certain times among men, and that he is born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman, in that he ahs a body which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but hast he masculine quality and vigour of man. But there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do they have the quality of presaging the figure, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good. But let his be enough for us on such matters.
[4.7.1] As for the Muses, since we have referred to them in connection with the deeds of Dionysus, it may be appropriate to give the facts about them in summary. For the majority of writers of myths and those who enjoy the greatest reputation say that they were daughters of Zeus and Mnemosynê; but a few poets, among whose number is Alcman, sate that they were daughters of Uranus and Gê.
[4.7.2] Writers similarly disagree also concerning the number of the Muses; for some say that they are three, and others that they are nine, but the number nine has prevailed since it rests upon the authority of the most distinguished men, such as Homer and Hesiod and others like them. Homer, for instance, writes:
The Muses, nine in all, replying each to each with voices sweet;25
and Hesiod26 even gives their names when he writes:
Cleio, Euterpê, and Thaleia, Melpomenê, Terpsichorê and Erato, and Polymnia, Urania, Calliopê too, of them all the most comely.
[4.7.3] To each of the Muses men assign her special aptitude for one of the branches of the liberal arts, such as poetry, song, pantomimic dancing, the round dance with music, the study of the stars, and the other liberal arts. They are also believed to be virgins, as most writers of myths say, because men consider that the high attainment which is reached through education is pure and uncontaminated.
[4.7.4] Men have given the Muses their name from the word muein, which signifies the teaching of those things which are noble and expedient and are not known by the uneducated.27 For the name of each Muse, they say, men have fond a reason appropriate to her: Cleio is so named because the praise which poets sing in their encomia bestows great glory (kleos) upon those who are praised; Euterpê, because she gives to those who hear her sing delight (terpein) in the blessings which education bestows; Thaleia, because men whose praises have been sung in poems flourish (thallein) through long periods of time; Melpomenê, from the chanting (melodia) by which she charms the souls of her listeners; Terpsichorê, because she delights (terpein) her disciples with the good things which come from education; Erato,28 because the makes those who are instructed by her men who are desired and worthy to be loved; Polymnia, because by her great (polle) praises (humnesis) she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame; Urania, because men who have been instructed of her she raises aloft to heaven (ouranos), for it is a fact that imagination and the power of thought lift men’s souls to heavenly heights; Calliopê, because of her beautiful (kale) voice (ops), that is, by reason of the exceeding beauty of her language she winds the approbation of her auditors.
But since we have spoken sufficiently on these matters we shall turn our discussion to the deeds of Heracles.29
[4.8.1] I am not unaware that many difficulties beset those who undertake to give an account of the ancient myths, and especially is this true with respect to the myths about Heracles. For as regards that magnitude of the deeds which he accomplished it is generally agreed that Heracles has been handed down as one who surpassed all men of whom memory from the beginning of time ahs brought down an account; consequently it is a difficult attainment to report each one of his deeds in a worthy manner and to present a record which shall be on a level with labours so great, the magnitude of which won for him the prize of immortality.
[4.8.2] Furthermore, since in the eyes of many men the very early age and astonishing nature of the facts which are related make the myths incredible, a writer is under the necessity either of omitting the greatest deeds and so detracting somewhat from the fame of the god, or of recounting them all and in so doing making the history of them incredible.
[4.8.3] For some readers set up an unfair standard and require in the accounts of the ancient myths the same exactness as in the events of our own time, and using their own life as a standard they pass judgment on those deeds the magnitude of which throw them open to doubt, and estimate the might of Heracles by the weakness of the men of our day, with the result that the exceeding magnitude of his deeds makes the account of them incredible.
[4.8.4] For, speaking generally, when the histories of myths are concerned, a man should be no means scrutinize the truth with so sharp an eye. In the theatres, for instance, though we hare persuaded there have existed no Centaurs who are composed of two different kinds of bodies nor any Geryones with three bodies, we yet look with favour upon such products of the myths as these, and by our applause we enhance the honour of the god.
[4.8.5] And strange it would be indeed that Heracles, while yet among mortal men, should by his own labours have brought under cultivation the inhabited world, and that human beings should nevertheless forget the benefactions which e rendered them generally and slander the commendation he received for the noblest deeds, and strange that our ancestors should have unanimously accorded immortality to him because of his exceedingly great attainments, and that we should nevertheless fail to cherish and maintain for the god the pious devotion which has been handed down to us from our fathers. However, we shall leave such considerations and relate his deeds from the beginning, basing our account on those of the most ancient poets and writers of myth.
BIRTH OF HERACLES
[4.9.1] This, then, is the story as it has been given us: Perseus was the son of Danaê, the daughter of Acrisius, and Zeus. Now Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, lay with him and bore Electryon, and then Eurydicê, the daughter of Pelops, married him and gave birth to Alcmenê, who in turn was wooed by Zeus, who deceived her, and bore Heracles.
[4.9.2] Consequently the sources of this descent, in their entirety, lead back, as is claimed, through both his parents to the greatest of the gods,30 in the manner we have shown. The prowess which was found in him was not only to be seen in his deeds, but was also recognized even before his birth. For when Zeus lay with Alcmenê he made the night three times its normal length and by the magnitude of the time expended on the procreation he presaged the exceptional might of the child which would be begotten.
[4.9.3] And, in general, he did not effect this union from the desire of love, as he did in the case of other women, but rather only for the sake of procreation. Consequently, desiring to give legality to his embraces, he did not choose to offer violence to Alcmenê, and yet he could not hope to persuade her because of her chastity; and so, deciding to use deception, he deceived Alcmenê by assuming in every respect the shape of Amphitryon.
[4.9.4] When the natural time of pregnancy had passed, Zeus, whose mind was fixed upon the birth of Heracles, announced in advance in the presence of all the gods that it was his intention to make the child who should be born that day king over the descendants of Perseus; whereupon Hera, who was filled with jealousy, using as her helper Eileithyia31 her daughter, checked the birth-pains of Alcmenê and brought Eurystheus32 forth to the light before his full time.
[4.9.5] Zeus, however, though he had been outgeneralled, wished both to fulfill his promise and to take thought for the future fame of Heracles; consequently, they say, he persuaded Hera to agree that Eurystheus should be king as he had promised, but that Heracles should serve Eurystheus and perform twelve Labours, these to be whatever Eursytheus should prescribe, and that after he had done so he should receive the gift of immortality.
[4.9.6] After Alcmenê had brought forth the babe, fearful of Hera’s jealousy she exposed it at a place which to this time is called after him the Field of Heracles. Now at this very time Athena, approaching the spot in the company of Hera and being amazed at the natural vigour of the child, persuaded Hera to offer it the breast. But when the boy tugged upon her breast with greater violence than would be expected at his age, Hera was unable to endure the pain and cast the babe from her, whereupon Athena took it to its mother and urged her to rear it.
[4.9.7] And anyone may well be surprised at the unexpected turn of the affair; for the mother whose duty it was to love her own offspring was trying to destroy it, while she who cherished towards it a stepmother’s hatred, in ignorance saved the life of one who was her natural enemy.
[4.10.1] After this Hera sent two serpents to destroy the babe, but the boy, instead of being terrified, gripped the neck of a serpent in each hand and strangled them both. Consequently the inhabitants of Argos, on learning of what had taken place, gave him the name Heracles because he had gained glory (kleos) by the aid of Hera,33 although he had formerly been called Alcaeus. Other children are given their names by their parents, this one alone gained his name by his valour.
HERACLES AND ERGINUS
[4.10.2] After this time Amphitryon was banished from Tiryns and changed his residence to Thebes; and Heracles, in his rearing and education and especially in the thorough instruction which he received in physical exercises, came to be the first by far in bodily strength among all the rest and famed for his nobility of spirit. Indeed, while he was still a youth34 in age he first of all restored the freedom of Thebes, returning in this way to the city, as though it were the place of his birth, the gratitude which he owed it.
[4.10.3] For though the Thebans had been made subject to Erginus, the king of the Minyans, and were paying him a fixed yearly tribute, Heracles was not dismayed at the superior power of these overlords but had the courage to accomplish a deed of fame. Indeed, when the agents of the Minyans appeared to require the tribute and were insolent in their exactions, Heracles mutilated35 them and then expelled them from the city.
[4.10.4] Erginus then demanded that the guilty party be handed over to him, and Creon, the king of the Thebans, dismayed at the great power of Erginus, was prepared to deliver the man who was responsible for the crime complained of. Heracles, however, persuading the young men of his age to strike for the freedom of their fatherland, took out of the temples the suits of armour which had been affixed to their walls, dedicated to the gods by their forefathers as spoil from their wars; for there was not to be found in the city any arms in the hands of a private citizen, the Minyans having stripped the city of its arms in order that the inhabitants of Thebes might not entertain any thought of revolting from them.
[4.10.5] And when Heracles learned that Erginus, the king of the Minyans, was advancing with troops against the city he went out to meet him in a certain narrow place, whereby he rendered the multitude o the hostile force of no avail, killed Erginus himself, and slew practically all the men who had accompanied him. Then appearing unawares before the city of the Orchomenians and slipping in at their gates he burned the palace of the Minyans and razed the city to the ground.
TWELVE LABOURS OF HERACLES
[4.10.6] After this deed had been noised about throughout the whole of Greece and all men were filled with wonder at the unexpected happening, Creon the king, admiring the high achievement of the young man, united his daughter Megara in marriage to him and entrusted him with the affairs of the city as though he were his lawful son; but Eursytheus, who was ruler of Argolis, viewing with suspicion the growing power of Heracles, summoned him to his side and commanded him to perform Labours.
[4.10.7] And when Heracles ignored the summons Zeus dispatched word to him to enter the service of Eurystheus; whereupon Heracles journeyed to Delphi, and on inquiring of the god regarding the matter he received a reply which stated that the gods had decided that he should perform twelve Labours at the command of Eurystheus and that upon their conclusion he should receive the gift of immortality.
[4.11.1] At such a turn of affairs Heracles fell into despondency of no ordinary kind; for he felt that servitude to an inferior was a thing which his high achievements did not deserve, and yet he saw that it would be hurtful to himself and impossible not to obey Zeus, who was his father as well. While he was thus greatly at a loss, Hera sent upon him a frenzy, and in his vexation of soul he fell into a madness. As the affliction grew on him he lost his mind and tried to slay Iolaüs, and when Iolaüs made his escape but his own children by Megara were near by, he shot his bow and killed them under the impression that they were enemies of his.
[4.11.2] When he finally recovered from his madness and recognized the mistake he had made through a misapprehension, he was plunged in grief over the magnitude of the calamity. And while all extended him sympathy and joined in his grief, for a long while he stayed inactive at home, avoiding any association or meeting with men; at last, however, time assuaged his grief, and making up his mind to undergo the dangers he made his appearance at the court of Eurystheus.
HERACLES LABOUR 1: NEMEIAN LION
[4.11.3] The first Labour which he undertook was the slaying of the lion in Nemea. This was a beast of enormous size, which could not be wounded by iron or bronze or stone and required the compulsion of the human hand for his subduing. It passed the larger part of its time between Mycenae and Nemea, in the neighbourhood of a mountain which was called Tretus36 from a peculiarity which it possessed; for it had a cleft at its base which extended clean through it and in which the beast was accustomed to lurk.
[4.11.4] Heracles came to the region and attacked the lion, and when the beast retreated into the cleft, after closing up the other opening he followed in after it and grappled with it, and winding his arms about its neck choked it to death. The skin of the lion he put about himself, and since he could cover his whole body with it because of its great size, he had in it a protection against the perils which were to follow.
HERACLES LABOUR 2: LERNAEAN HYDRA
[4.11.5] The second Labour which he undertook was the slaying of the Lernaean hydra, springing from whose single body were fashioned a hundred necks, each bearing the head of a serpent. And when one head was cut off, the place where it was severed put forth two others; for this reason it was considered to be invincible, and with good reason, since the part of it which was subdued sent forth a two-fold assistance in its place.
[4.11.6] Against a thing so difficult to manage as this Heracles devised an ingenious scheme and commanded Iolaüs to sear with a burning brand the part which had been severed, in order to check the flow of the blood. So when he had subdued the animal by this means he dipped the heads of his arrows in the venom, in order that when the missile should be shot the wound which the point made might be incurable.
HERACLES LABOUR 3: ERYMANTHIAN BOAR
[4.12.1] The third Command which he received was the bringing back alive of the Erymanthian boar which lived on Mount Lampeia37 in Arcadia. This Command was thought to be exceedingly difficult, since it required of the man who fought such a beast that he possess such a superiority over it as to catch precisely the proper moment in the very heat of the encounter. For should he let it loose while it still retained its strength he would be in danger from its rushes, and should he attack it more violently than was proper, then he would have killed it and so the Labour would remain unfulfilled.
[4.12.2] However, when it came to the struggle he kept so careful an eye on the proper balance that he brought back the boar alive to Eurystheus; and when the king saw him carrying the boar on his shoulders, he was terrified and hid himself in a bronze vessel.
HERACLES, PHOLUS AND THE CENTAURS
[4.12.3] About this time that Heracles was performing these Labours, there was a struggle between him and the Centaurs, as they are called, the reason being as follows. Pholus the Centaur, from whom the neighbouring mountain came to be called Pholoê, and receiving Heracles with the courtesies due to a guest he opened for him a jar of wine which had been buried in the earth. This jar, the writers of myths relate, had of old been left with a certain Centaur by Dionysus, who had given him orders only to open it when Heracles should come to that place. And so, four generation after that time, when Heracles was being entertained as a guest, Pholus recalled the orders of Dionysus.
[4.12.4] Now when the jar had been opened and the sweet odour of the wine, because of its great age and strength, came to the Centaurs dwelling near there, it came to pass that they were driven mad; consequently they rushed in a body to the dwelling of Pholus and set about plundering him of the wine in a terrifying manner.
[4.12.5] At this Pholus hid himself in fear, but Heracles, to their surprise, grappled with those who were employing such violence. He had indeed to struggle with beings who were gods on their mother’s side, who possessed the swiftness of horses, who had the strength of two bodies, and enjoyed in addition the experience and wisdom of men. The Centaurs advanced upon him, some with pine trees which they had plucked up together with the roots, others with great rocks, some with burning firebrands, and still others with axes such as are used to slaughter oxen.
[4.12.6] But he withstood them without sign of fear and maintained a battle which was worthy of his former exploits. The Centaurs were aided in their struggle by their mother Nephelê,38 who sent down a heavy rain, by which she gave no trouble to those who had four legs, but for him who was supported upon two made the footing slippery. Despite all this Heracles maintained an astonishing struggle with those who enjoyed such advantages as these, slew the larger part of them, and forced the survivors to flee.
[4.12.7] Of the Centaurs which were killed the most renowned were Daphnis, Argeius, Amphion, also Hippotion, Oreius, Isoples, Malanchaetes, and Thereus, Doupon, and Phrixus. As for those who escaped the peril by flight, every one of them later received a fitting punishment: Homadus, for instance, was killed in Arcadia when he was attempting to violate Alcyonê, the sister of Eurystheus. And for this feat it came to pass that Heracles was marveled at exceedingly; for though he had private grounds for hating his enemy,39 yet because he pitied her who was being outraged, he determined to be superior to others in humanity.
[4.12.8] A peculiar thing also happened in the case of him who was called Pholus, the friend of Heracles. While he was burying the fallen Centaurs, since they were his kindred, and was extracting an arrow from one of them, he was wounded by the barb, and since the wound could not be healed he came to his death. Heracles gave him a magnificent funeral and buried him at the foot of the mountain, which serves better than a gravestone to preserve his glory; for Pholoê makes known the identity of the buried man by bearing his name and no inscription is needed. Likewise Heracles unwittingly by a shot from his bow killed the Centaur Cheiron, who was admired for his knowledge of healing. But as the for the Centaurs let what we have said suffice.
HERACLES LABOUR 4: CERYNITIAN HIND
[4.13.1] The next Command which Heracles received was the bringing back of the hart which had golden horns and excelled in swiftness of foot. In the performance of this Labour his sagacity stood him in not less stead than his strength of body. For some say that he captured it by the use of nets, others that he tracked it down and mastered it while it was asleep, and some that he wore it out by running it down. One thing is certain, that he accomplished this Labour by his sagacity of mind, without the use of force and without running any perils.
HERACLES LABOUR 5: STYMPHALIAN BIRDS
[4.13.2] Heracles then received a Command to drive the birds out of the Stymphalian Lake, and he easily accomplished the Labour by means of a device of art and by ingenuity. The lake abounded, it would appear, with a multitude of birds without telling, which destroyed the fruits of the country round-about. Now it was not possible to master the animals by force because of the exceptional multitude of them, and so the deed called for ingenuity in cleverly discovering some device. Consequently he fashioned a bronze rattle whereby he made a terrible noise and frightened the animals away, and furthermore, by maintaining a continual din, he easily forced them to abandon their siege of the place and cleansed the lake of them.
HERACLES LABOUR 6: STABLES OF AUGEAS
[4.13.3] Upon the performance of this Labour he received a Command from Eurystheus to cleanse the stables of Augeas, and to do this without the assistance of any other man. These stables contained an enormous mass of dung which had accumulated over a great period, and it was a spirit of insult which induced Eurystheus to lay upon him the command to clean out this dung. Heracles declined as unworthy of him to carry this out upon his shoulders, in order to avoid the disgrace which would follow upon the insulting command; and so, turning the course of the Alpheius river, as it is called, into the stables and cleansing them b means of the stream, he accomplished the Labour in a single day, and without suffering any insult. Surely, then, we may well marvel at the ingenuity of Heracles; for he accomplished the ignoble task involved in the Command without incurring any disgrace or submitting to something which would render him unworthy of immortality.
HERACLES LABOUR 7: CRETAN BULL
[4.13.4] The next Labour which Heracles undertook was to bring back from Crete the bull40 of which, they say, Pasiphaê had been enamoured, and sailing to the island he secured the aid of Minos the king and brought it back to the Peloponnesus, having voyaged upon its back over so wide an expanse of sea.
THE FOUNDING OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES
[4.14.1] After the performance of this Labour Heracles established the Olympic Games, having selected for so great a festival the most beautiful of places, which was the plain lying along the banks of the Alpheius river, where he dedicated these Games to Zeus the Father. And he stipulated that he prize in them should be only a crown, since he himself had conferred benefits upon the race of men without receiving any monetary reward.
[4.14.2] All the contests were won by himself without opposition by anyone else, since no one was bold enough to contend with him because of his exceeding prowess. And yet the contests are very different one from another, since it is hard for a boxer or one who enters for the “Pankration” 41 to defeat a man who runs the “stadion,” 42 and equally difficult for the man who wins first place in the light contests to wear down those who excel in the heavy. Consequently it was fitting that of all Games the Olympic should be the one most honoured, since they were instituted by a noble man.
[4.14.3] It would also not be right to overlook the gifts which were bestowed upon Heracles by the gods because of his high achievements. For instance, when he returned from the wars to devote himself to both relaxations and festivals, as well as to feasts and contests, each on of the gods honoured him with appropriate gifts; Athena with a robe, Hephaestus with a war-club and coat of mail, these two gods vying with one another in accordance with the arts they practised, the one with an eye to the enjoyment and delight afford in times of peace, the other looking to his safety amid the perils of war. As for the other gods, Poseidon presented him with horses, Hermes with a sword, Apollo gave him a bow and arrows and taught him their use, and Demeter instituted the Lesser Mysteries43 in honour of Heracles, that she might purify him of the guilt he had incurred in the slaughter of the Centaurs.
[4.14.4] A peculiar thing also came to pass in connection with the birth of this god. The first mortal woman, for instance, with whom Zeus lay was Niobê, the daughter of Phoroneus, and the last was Alcmenê, who, as writers of myths state in their genealogies, was the sixteenth lineal descendant from Niobê. It appears, then, that Zeus began to beget human beings with the ancestors of this Alcmenê and ceased with her; that is, he stopped with her his intercourse with mortal women, since he had no hope that he would beget in after times one who would be worthy of his former children and was unwilling to have the better followed by the worse.
HERACLES AND THE WAR OF THE GIANTS
[4.15.1] After this, when the Giants about Pallenê chose to begin the war against the immortals, Heracles fought on the side of the gods, and slaying many of the Sons of Earth he received the highest approbation. For Zeus gave the name of “Olympian” only to those gods who had fought by his side, in order that the courageous, by being adorned by so honourable a title, might be distinguished by this designation from the coward; and of those who were born of mortal women he considered only Dionysus and Heracles worthy of this name, not only because they had Zeus for their father, but also because they had avowed the same plan of life as he and conferred great benefits upon the life of men.
HERACLES AND PROMETHEUS
[4.15.2] And Zeus, when Prometheus had taken fire and given it to men, put him in chains and set an eagle at his side which devoured hi liver. But when Heracles saw him suffering such punishment because of the benefit which he had conferred upon men, he killed the eagle with an arrow, and then persuading Zeus to cease from his anger he rescued him who had been the benefactor of all.
HERACLES LABOUR 8: HORSES OF DIOMEDES
[4.15.3] The next Labour which Heracles undertook was the bringing back of the horses of Diomedes, the Thracian. The feeding-troughs of those horses were of brass because the steeds were so savage, and they were fastened by iron chains because of their strength, and the food they ate was not the natural produce of the soil but they tore apart the limbs of strangers and so got their food from the ill lot of hapless men. Heracles, in order to control them, threw to them their master Diomedes, and when he had satisfied the hunger of the animals by means of the flesh of the man who had taught them to violate human law in this fashion, he had them under his control.
[4.15.4] And when the horses were brought to Eurystheus he consecrated them to Hera, and in fact their breed continued down to the reign of Alexander of Macedon.
When this Labour was finished Heracles sailed forth with Jason as a member of the expedition to the Colchi to get the golden fleece. But we shall give a detailed account of these matters in connection with the expedition of the Argonauts.44
HERACLES LABOUR 9: THE AMAZONS
[4.16.1] Heracles then received a Command to bring back the girdle of Hippolytê the Amazon and so made the expedition against the Amazons. Accordingly he sailed into the Pontus, which was named by him Euxeinus,45 and continuing to the mouth of the Thermodon River he encamped near the city of Themiscyra, in which was situated the palace of the Amazons.
[4.16.2] And first of all he demanded of them the girdle which he had been commanded to get; but when they would pay no heed to him, he joined battle with them. Now the general mass of the Amazons were arrayed against he main body of the followers of Heracles, but the most honoured of the women were drawn up opposite Heracles himself and put up a stubborn battle. The first, for instance, to join battle with him was Aella,46 who had been given this name because of her swiftness, but she found her opponent more agile than herself. The second, Philippis, encountering a mortal blow at the very first conflict, was slain. Then he joined battle with Prothoê, who, they said had been victorious seven times over the opponents whom she had challenged to battle. When s he fell, the fourth whom he overcame was known as Eriboea. She had boasted that because of the manly bravery which she displayed in contest of war she had no need of anyone to help her, but she found her claim was false when she encountered her better.
[4.16.3] Then next, Celaeno, Eurybia, and Phoebê, who were companions of Artemis in the hunt and whose spears found their mark invariably, did not even graze the single target, but in that fight they were one and all cut down as they stood shoulder to shoulder with each other. After them Deïaneira, Asteria and Marpê, and Tecmessa Alcippê were overcome. The last-named had taken a vow to remain a maiden, and the vow she kept, but her life she could not preserve. The commander of the Amazons, Melanippê, who was also greatly admired for her manly courage, now lost her supremacy.
[4.16.4] And Heracles, after thus killing the most renowned of the Amazons and forcing the remaining multitude to turn in flight, cut down the greater number of them, so that he race of them was utterly exterminated. As for the captives, he gave Antiopê as a gift to Theseus and set Melanippê free, accepting her girdle as her ransom.
HERACLES LABOUR 10: CATTLE OF GERYON
[4.17.1] Eurystheus then enjoined upon him as a tenth Labour the bringing back of the cattle of Geryones, which pastured in the parts of Iberia which slope towards the ocean. And Heracles, realizing that this task called for preparation on a large scale and involving great hardships, gathered a notable armament and a multitude of soldiers such as would be adequate for this expedition.
[4.17.2] For it had bee noised abroad throughout all the inhabited world that Chrysaor,47 who received this appellation because of his wealth, was king over the whole of Iberia, and that he had three sons to fight at his side, who excelled in both strength of body and the deeds of courage which they displayed in contests of war; it was known, furthermore, that each of these sons had at his disposal great forced which were recruited from warlike tribes. It was because of these reports that Eurystheus, thinking any expedition against these men would be too difficult to succeed, had assigned to Heracles the Labour just described.
HERACLES ON CRETE
[4.17.3] But Heracles met the perils with the same bold spirit which he had displayed in the deeds which he had performed up to this time. His forces he gathered and brought to Crete, having decided to make his departure from that place; for this island is especially well situated for expeditions against an part of the inhabited world. Before his departure he was magnificently honoured by the natives, and wishing to show his gratitude to the Cretans he cleansed the island of the wild beasts which infested it. And this is the reason why in later times not a single wild animal, such as a bear, or wolf, or serpent, or any similar beast, was to be found on the island. This deed he accomplished for the glory of the island, which, the myths relate, was both the birthplace and the early home of Zeus.
HERACLES AND ANTAEUS
[4.17.4] Setting sail, then, from Crete, Heracles put in at Libya, and first of all he challenged to a fight Antaeus,48 whose fame was noised abroad because of his strength of body and his skill in wrestling, and because he was wont to put to death all strangers whom he had defeated in wrestling, and grappling with him Heracles slew the giant. Following up this great deed he subdued Libya, which was full of wild animals, and large parts of the adjoining desert, and brought it all under cultivation, so that the whole land was filled with ploughed fields and such plantings in general as bear fruit, much of it being devoted to vineyards and much to olive orchards; and, speaking generally, Libya, which before that time had been uninhabitable because of the multitude of the wild beasts which infested the whole land, was brought under cultivation by him and made inferior to no other country in point of prosperity.
[4.17.5] He likewise punished with death such men as defied the law or arrogant rulers and gave prosperity to the cities. And the myths relate that he hated every kind of wild beast and lawless men and warred upon them because of the fact that it had been his lot what while yet an infant the serpents made an attempt on his life, and that when he came to man’s estate he became subject to the power of an arrogant and unjust despot who laid upon him these Laboures.
HERACLES AND BUSIRIS
[4.18.1] After Heracles had slain Antaeus he passed into Egypt and put to death Busiris,49 the king of the land, who made it his practice to kill the strangers who visited that country. Then he made his way through the waterless part of Libya, and coming upon a land which was well watered and fruitful he founded a city of marvelous size, which was called Hecatompylon,50 giving it this name because of the multitude of its gates. And the prosperity of this city continued until comparatively recent times, when the Carthaginians made an expedition against it with notable forces under the command of able generals and made themselves its masters.
HERACLES AND GERYON
[4.18.2] And after Heracles had visited a large part of Libya he arrived at the ocean near Gadeira,51 where he set up pillars on each of the two continents. His fleet accompanied him along the coast and on it he crossed over into Iberia. And finding there the sons of Chrysaor encamped at some distance from one another with three great armies, he challenged each of the leaders to single combat and slew them all, and then after subduing Iberia he drove off the celebrated herds of cattle.
[4.18.3] He then traversed the country of the Iberians, and since he had received honours at the hands of a certain king of the natives, a man who excelled in piety and justice, he left with the king a portion of the cattle as a present. The king accepted them, but dedicated them all to Heracles and made a practice each year to sacrifice to Heracles the fairest bull of the herd; and it came to pass that the kine are still maintained in Iberia and continue to be sacred to Heracles down to our own time.
THE PILLARS OF HERACLES
[4.18.4] But since we have mentioned the pillars of Heracles, we deem it to be appropriate to set forth the facts concerning them. When Heracles arrived at the farthest points of the continents of Libya and Europe which lie upon the ocean, he decided to set up these pillars to commemorate his campaign.
[4.18.5] And since he wished to leave upon the ocean a monument which would be had in everlasting remembrance, he built out both the promontories, they say, to a great distance; consequently, whereas before that time a great space had stood between them, he now narrowed the passage, in order that by making it shallow and narrow52 he might prevent the great sea-monsters from passing out of the ocean into the inner sea, and that at the same time the fame of their builder might be held in everlasting remembrance by reason of the magnitude of the structures. Some authorities, however, say just the opposite, namely, that the two continents were originally joined and that he cult a passage between them, and that by opening the passage he brought it about that the ocean was mingled with our sea. On this question, however, it will be possible for everyman to think as he may please.
HERACLES, VALE OF TEMPE & LAKE COPAIS
[4.18.6] A thing very much like this he had already done in Greece. For instance, in the region which is called Tempê, where the country is like a plain and was largely covered with marshes, he cut a channel through the territory which bordered on it, and carrying off through this ditch all the water of the marsh he caused the plains to appear which are no in Thessaly along the Peneius river.
[4.18.7] But in Boeotia he did just the opposite and damming the stream which flowed near the Minyan city of Orchomenus he turned the country into a lake53 and caused the ruin of that whole region. But what he did in Thessaly was to confer a benefit upon the Greeks, whereas Boeotia he was exacting punishment from those who dwelt in Minyan territory, because they had enslaved the Thebans.
1. i.e. immediate descendants
2. Cp. Book 15. 6 ff.
3. Cp. Book 1. 19. 7 f.
4. Cp. Book 3. 69.
5. i.e. Dio- (from Dios, the genitive form of the nominative Zeus) and -nysus (Nysa); cp. Book 1. 15. 6.
6. Homeric Hymns 1. 8-9.
7. i.e. “City of Freedom.”
8. i.e. after one year had intervened.
9. Literally, “every three years,” since the Greeks in reckoning from an event included the year in which it took place.
10. Scholars have wondered why Dionysus, who was originally a vegetation god, should have had his special festival only every other year. L. R. Farnell (The Cults of the Greek States, 5. 181) suggests that the Thracians from whom the worship of Dionysus came to the Greeks, “may have shifted their corn-land every other year,” and so stood in special need of the vegetation god for the new soil only after this interval.
11. Cp. Book 3. 65. 4.
12. The Attic custom, as given by the scholiasts on Aristophanes Knights, 85; Peace, 300, was slightly different: The toast to the “Good Deity” was given in unmixed wine after the dinner was over and the table removed, that to “Zeus Saviour” just before the guests went home.
14. Wands wreathed in ivy and vine-leaves with a pine-cone at the top.
15. “Wearer of a mitra.”
16. “Of two mothers”; but see Book 2. 62. 5 for a different explanation of the name.
17. i.e. the reed which formed the staff of the thyrsus.
18. Chap. 4. 2. But in Book 3. 63, 3 the long beard is explained as due to the fact that the first Dionysus was an Indian.
19. The Greek word usually translated “tragedies.”
20. The thymele was the altar of Dionysus which stood in the centre of the orchestra of the theatre, and so the adjective “thymelic” came to signify the action of the chorus as opposed to that of the actors. “Thymelic” contests included non-dramatic performances, such as the singing of songs, dancing, jugglery, and the like.
21. From the fourth century B.C. onward for at least eight centuries these “Artists of Dionysus” were members of powerful guilds which bore that title together with the name of the city in which their headquarters were situated. These guilds made contracts with cities in their territories to furnishing theatrical exhibitions of every description and their members in many cases enjoyed freedom from military service and similar privileges, as well as the exemption from taxation mentioned below.
22. Cp. Book 1. 21-2, where the murderer of Osiris is Typhon not the Titans.
23. According to the account in Book 1. 21. 5 Isis used spices and wax to build each piece up to the size of a human body.
24. Diodorus is equating Priapus with the Egyptian god Min, a deity of fertility, whose statues were ithypallic.
25. Odyssey 24. 60.
26. Theogony 77-9.
27. But muein means “to close” the eyes or mouth; Plato, Cratylus 406A, derives the word from môsthai, which he explains as meaning “searching and philosophy.” There is no agreement among modern scholars on the etymology of the word “Muse.”
28. “The lovely one.”
29. The following account of Heracles is generally considered to have been drawn from a Praise of Heracles by Matris of Thebes, who is otherwise unknown and appears to have omitted nothing that would redown to the glory of the greatest Greek hero.
30. i.e. to Zeus.
31. The goddess who assisted in travail.
32. Descendant of Perseus by another line and later king of Argos.
33. Cp. Book 1. 24. 4. But Heracles won his fame, not through Hera, but through his own achievements; and so many philologists derive the first part of his name, not from Hera, but from êra (“service”).
34. Literally, an “ephebus,” in Athens at the age of eighteen.
35. i.e. cut off their hands and their feet.
37. Cp. Strabo 8. 3. 10.
38. The word means a “cloud.”
39. i.e. Eurystheus.
40. Usually known as the Minotaur, “bull of Minos”; cp. chap. 77.
41. The contest in boxing and wrestling.
42. The famous foot-race, 606 ¾ feet long.
43. These were celebrated at Agrae, south-east of the Acropolis, on the Ilissus, the “Greater Mysteries” at Eleusis.
44. In chaps. 41-56.
45. i.e. “hospitable to strangers.”
46. i.e. “Whirlwind.”
47. “He of the Golden Sword.”
48. Cp. Book 1. 21. 4.
49. Cp. Book 1. 88. 5.
50. “Of a Hundred Gates.”
52. The Straits of Gibraltar are twelve miles wide and for eight miles the average depth is 250 fathoms.
53. The reference is to Lake Copaïs.