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River Hydaspes

HYDASPES was a River-God of north-western India. He supported the Indians in their war against the invading armies of the god Dionysos.

The River Hydaspes is the Jelum of modern-day Kashmir in India. Other rivers of the east, personified by the Greeks, included the Indian Ganges, and Assyrian Tigris and Euphrates.



[1] OKEANOS & TETHYS (Nonnus Dionysiaca 23.76)
[2] THAUMAS & ELEKTRA (Nonnus Dionysiaca 27.176)


[1] DERIADES, THE HYDASPIDES (by Astris) (Nonnus Dionysiaca 17.269 & 23.390)


Statius, Thebaid 8. 237 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Liber [Dionysos] of late had ravaged Hydaspes rich in gems and the kingdoms of the East."

Statius, Thebaid 9. 441 ff :
"O Liber [Dionysos] . . . is Eastern Hydaspes more easily subdued?"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 13. 14 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Father Zeus sent Iris to the divine halls of Rheia, to inform wakethefray Dionysos, that he must drive out of Asia with his avenging thyrsos the proud race of Indians untaught of justice: he was to sweep from the sea the horned son of a River [Hydaspes], Deriades the king."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 17. 269 ff :
"Deriades, a sprout of your own [Helios'] stock, who has in him the blood of Astris [the wife of Hydaspes and mother of Deriades] said to be your daughter [by Klymene (Clymene)]. I never obeyed Bromios the womanhearted. I bring as witnesses Helios (the Sun), and boundless Gaia (the Earth), and India's god, holy Water [the river Hydaspes]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 21. 225 ff :
"[The Indian King Deriades boasts :] ‘Water is stronger than fire. My father Indian Hydaspes, if it be his pleasure, could quench the fiery breath of the thunderbolt of Zeus.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 76 ff :
"[During Dionysos' war against the Indians the streams of the river Hydaspes were awash with the corpses of the dead :] Hyadaspes covered the dead with his reluctant flood, and became their tomb. Then one [Indian] within the River cried out his last reproach : ‘You, too, father! Why do you drown your own sons? . . . [He declares that the other River-Gods never drown their kin.] But you swallow up the lawful sons of your own perishing people--you drown no bastard blood. How dare you mingle with other Rivers, with your Father Okeanos (Oceanus) himself and Tethys your mother, rolling down a flood of gore in bloody streams? Have some reverence, do not pollute Poseidon with dead bodies. Your river is worse than Bromios [Dionysos], his wands do not beat me so hard as your waves beat me!’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 23. 155 - 24. 67 ff :
"[The army of Dionysos crosses the river Hydaspes during the Indian campaign :] Now old Hydaspes poured out a gushing cry, and shouted for help to a water brother, as he uttered these menacing words from his manyfountained throat : ‘Lazy brother, how long is your stream to crawl in silence? Rear your waves, and overwhelm Dionysos, that we may swallow his host of footmen under the waters! It is a disgrace for you and me when the warriors of Bromios pass through my flood with unwetted shoes. You also, Aiolos (Aeolus)--grant me this boon, arm your stormy Winds to be champions against my foes, to fight with the Satyroi (Satyrs), because their host has marched through the waters and made a highroad of Hydaspes for land-chariots, because they drive a watery course through my stream! Arm your Winds against my ferryman Lyaios (Lyaeus)! Let the Satyroi's host be caught in the flood, let my river receive the chariot, let the charioteers be rolled in my flood, let the riders be swallowed in the mad waves! I will not suffer this unnatural passage to be unavenged: for both you and me it is a disgrace, when the warriors of Bromios have made a path for footmen and drivers high and dry! I will destroy the water-traversing lions of Dionysos. Tell me, why was my River made a highway? Why does the Naias (Naiad) in the watery depths of my flood hear whinnying, why does the horse's hoof crush the fish's back? I am ashamed to mingle with other Rivers, when women cross me with unwetted shoes. Never have Indians been so bold as to scrape my streams with towering chariots, never has Deriades scored his father's water with his huge equipage, seated on the nape of highcrested elephants!’
As he spoke, he curved his own stream, and leapt upon Bakkhos (Bacchus) with a volley of foaming surf. A storm of watery trumpets bellowed from the battling waves; the River moaned as it raised the water high, battling against the Satyroi. Amid the roaring tumult, the Bassaris (Bassarid) in her rich garb shook the cymbals out of her hands, swung her feet round, shook of the yellow trusses of the stitched shoes from her paddling foot, while the windswept waves rose to the head of the swimming Bakkhante (Bacchante) and drenched her curling hair. Another overwhelmed threw off her soaking robes, and gave her fawnskins to the swelling water, as the mass of the curving stream rolled over her chest, black against the rosy nipple. A Satyros (Satyr) paddling the flood with his hands waggled his wet tail straight out through the water. [The Silen] Maron carried swiftly along by the rushing water, paddled the drunken feet of his old legs, and left in the waves his leather bottle full of delicious wine. The syrinx of Pan was floating on the surface and rolling of itself on the waves, tossed about beside the double pipes; the hair of shaggy Seilenos flowed over his neck and jumped about in rivalry. The River moaned, dragging the mud in its rush and pouring its alien water yellow over the land, a challenge to watery war for Dionysos. The tumultuous flood, met by a counterblast of wind, piled up high as the clouds and soaked the air, as it leapt down upon Dionysos with foaming surf. Not so furiously roared the war-mad water of Simoeis, not so defiantly Skamandros (Scamander) to overwhelm Akhilleus (Achilles) with rolling flood, as then Hydaspes pursued the army of Bakkhos.
Then Dionysos shouted to the River in rage : ‘Why do you drive against the son of Zeus, you whose waters are fed by Zeus? If it be my pleasure, Rainy Zeus my father will dry up your flood. You, sprung from the clouds of Kronides (Cronides) my father, persecute the offspring of Cloudgathering Zeus! Beware the stroke of my father's thunderbolt of delivery, beware lest he raise against you the lightning which gave Bromios birth! Take care that you be not dubbed Heavyknee, like Asopos! Quiet your flood while I yet control my wrath. Your waters rise against fires, and you cannot endure one spark of the blazing thunderbolt. And if it is Asterie [Astris daughter of Helios] your wife that makes you so proud, because she has the blood of Hyperion's heavenly kin, my father burnt with fire the gold son of Helios the fiery charioteer, when he drove the team through heaven; Hyperion dispenser of fire had to mourn his own son dead: he did not make war on my father for Phaethon's sake, he did not lift fire against fire even if he is lord of fire. If your Okeanos (Oceanus) makes you so haughty, consider Eridanos struck by the bolt of Zeus, your brother burnt with fire: a cruel sorrow it was for your watery ancestor [Okeanos], who is girdled by the world's rim, who pours all those mighty streams of water to posses the earth, when he aw his own son burnt up and made no war on Olympos, nor contended with his flood against the firebarbed thunderbolt. Pray spare your waters awhile, or I may see you Hydaspes, burnt up in fiery flames like Eridanos.’
These words made deeproaring Hydaspes more angry than ever, and he poured out his highswollen water in yet stronger waves. And now he would have engulfed the whole company of sobered Bakkhantes, had not Bakkhos defended them. From a neighbouring coppice he pulled a firebearing stalk of fennel, and holding it towards the Dawn he warmed it at the sun; the combustible stalk conceived a spark in itself and brought forth a woodborn fire. Then he threw it into the stream. The River caught fire of this menacing torch, and the water boiled up against the banks; clouds of smoke went up scattering into the air from burning lotus and shrivelling galingale. Fire consumed the rushes; the reek of the sooty smoke curling in whirling circles intoxicated the heavenly vaults, and all the wood was blackened by the fragrant breezes of the smitten reeds.
The blaze spread to the deeps. Burning fishes hid themselves in the mud; the soaking slime kindled the wet and boiled, as the swimming spark of ire ran under water, and from the deep channels poured abroad a fiery smoke mixt with water steam. Companies of Hydriades (Water-Nymphs) were driven naked from their homes under the waves, swift-footed, bare, unveiled. One Naias (Naiad), renouncing her native water now on fire, dived unveiled into the unfamiliar Ganges; another with dry limbs sought a home in noisy Indian Akesines; another Naias Nymphe wandering over the mountains, a maiden unveiled and unshod, was received by Khoaspes (Choaspes) near Persia.
Okeanos also cried out against Dionysos in menacing words, pouring a watery roar from his manystream throat, and eluging the shores of the world with the flood of words which issued from his everlasting mouth like a fountain : ‘O Tethys! Agemate and bedmate of Okeanos, ancient as the world, nurse of commingled waters, selfborn, loving mother of children, what shall we do? Now Rainy Zeus blazes in arms against me and your children. Even as Asopos found the father Zeus Kronion (Cronion) his destroyer, in the bastard shape of a bird, so Hydaspes has found Bakkhos the son. Nay, I will bring my water against he lightnings of Zeus, and drown the fiery Sun in my quenching flood, I will put out the Stars of heaven! Kronion shall see me overwhelm Selene (the Moon) with my roaring streams . . . Get ready, Tethys, and you, O Thalassa (Sea)! For Zeus has been delivered of a base son in bull shape, to destroy all Rivers and all creatures together, all blameless: the thyrsus wand has slain the Indians, the torch has burnt Hydaspes!’
So he cried blustering in a flood of speech from his deep waves. Father Zeus turned aside the menace of his angry son, for he massed the clouds and flung out a thunderclap; he stayed the flaming attack of Dionysos, and calmed the anger of boundless Okeanos. Hera also made an infinite noise resound through the air, to restrain the wrath of Dionysos' fiery power.
Then old Hydaspes held out a wet hand to merciful Bakkhos, and appealed to the fiery son of Zeus in words that bubbled out of his lips : ‘Spare me, Dionysos, the River fed from Zeus! Be gracious to my fertilizing waters! For your own goodly fruitage of grapes has grown up from water. I have sinned, Dionysos, nursling of fire! For the gleam of your torches has proclaimed your lineage. But love for my children constrained me. To keep faith with Deriades my son I brought up my threatening surf, to help perishing Indians I rolled my waves. I am ashamed to appear before my father [Okeanos], because the murmuring stream which I draw is mingled with blood, and I pollute Poseidaon with clots of gore; this it was, only this that armed to strive against Dionysos. By your father, protector of guests and suppliants, have mercy on Hydaspes, now hot and boiling with your fire! The Naiades flee from my stream : one dwells in a watery home at my source, one leaves the deep for the thicket, and stays with Hadryades in the woods; another migrates to the Indos, another escapes on dusty feet to hide among the thirsty rocks of Kaukasos (Caucasus), or passing to Khoaspes (Choaspes) dwells in strange rivers and in her father's water no longer. Destroy not my canes, the growth of my streams, which grow up to support the shoots and grapes of your vine! Do not the reeds tied together carry your well-watered fruit? Burn not my reeds, which make your Mygdonian hoboys, or your musical Athena may reproach you one day: she who invented the Libyan double pipes to imitate with their tootle the voices of the Gorgones' grim heads. Spare the harmonious tune of the pan-pipes which guides your own mystic song! Cease wasting the River stream with your fennel, when the stream of the river makes your fennels to grow!
‘The stream you have crossed is no stranger to your name for I have washed another Dionysos in my bath, with the same name as the younger Bromios, when Kronion entrusted Zagreos (Zagreus) to the are of my nursing Nymphai (Nymphs); why, you have the whole shape of Zagreos. Grant this favour then, although so long after, to him from whom you are sprung; for you came from the heart of that first born Dionysos [Zeus swallowed Zagreos' heart before coming to Semele], so celebrated. Respect the water of your Lamos who cherished your childhood; remember Maionia your own country, for Hydaspes is brother of your charming Paktolos (Pactolus). Grant now this one boon to all these Rivers, my brothers, and withdraw your flame. Burn not with fire my watery stream, for the watery fire of your Zeus, the lightning, came out of water Calm you anger, because I fall at your knees: see, I have smoothed my flood into peaceful prayer! If Typhoeus in rebellion had bent his bold neck and submitted, your father Zeus, Lord in the highest, would have checked his lightning, his overwhelming threat would have been cast aside and forgotten.’
When he had ended, Dionysos drew back his torch. A wind from the north began to ruffle the waters with winter's lash, brining bleak airs and cooling the firestruck stream of the River, and honoured Helios and Bakkhos nad Zeus together by quenching the unquenchable divine fire of the surf."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 26. 350 ff :
"[During the war of Dionysos against the Indians :] The whole army was led to battle by the emperor of the Indians, son of Hydaspes the watery lover in union with Astris daughter of Helios, happy in her offspring--men say that her mother was Keto (Ceto), a Naias (Naiad) daughter of Okeanos (Oceanus)--and Hydaspes crept into her bower till he flooded it, and wooed her to his embrace with conjugal waves. He had the genuine Titan blood; for from the bed of primeval Thaumas his rosyarm consort Elektra (Electra) brought forth two children--from that bed came a River and a messenger of the heavenly ones, Iris quick as the wind and swiftly flowing Hydaspes, Iris travelling on foot and Hydaspes by water. Both had an equal speed on two contrasted paths : Iris among the immortals and Hydaspes among the Rivers."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 27. 176 ff :
"[Dionysos addresses his troops during the Indian War :] ‘If Hydaspes would bend a submissive knee to me, and never again arm his rebellious flood against the Bakkhoi, I will treat him kindly; I will change all his glorious water into Euian wine with streams from the winepress, making his waters strong, I will crown the peaks of his wild forest with my leaves and make it all vine: but if ever again he shall help with his protecting flood the falling Indians and his son Deriades, taking the horned river-shape in a man's body, then make a dam over the presumptuous River, and cross the thirsty water as on a highroad with unwetted feet, and let the hoof of fine horses tread on a dry Hydaspes with bare sand and scrape the dust there.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 28. 208 ff :
"[The Kyklops (Cyclops) Brontes] hurled the huge rock with merciless hand against the blackskin king [the Indian Deriades] who stood ready, and struck his hairy chest with its rocky point. The king was wholly staggered with the heavy blow of this huge millstone full on his chest, like a drunken man; but Hydaspes rescued his stricken son from death."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 29. 62 ff :
"[The Indian prince Morrheus urges his men pray to the gods :] ‘Pray to both--stretch out your hands to the Water [of the River-God Hydsapes] and pray to Mother Gaia (Gaea, the Earth), and with truthful lips vow to both sacrifice after victory; at the altar let bullshaped Hydaspes hold a hornstrong bull, and let black Gaia receive a black ram.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 30. 87 ff :
"And now he [Morrheus, son of Deriades, son of Hydaspes,] would have fallen flat, struck with the fiery shot [of Hephaistos (Hephaestus)], had not Deriades' [river-god] father Hydaspes come to the rescue. For he sat watching the battle high on a rock, his full-form having a false guise of human shape. He poured a quenching stream and saved the man's life, cooling the hot blast from the firebeaten face, brushing off the ashes and dirt from the helmet. Then he caught up Morrheus wrapt in a darksome cloud, covered and hid his limbs in a livid mist; that the firebearing Crookshank [Hephaistos] might not destroy him with his blazing shower of deadly Lemnian flame; that old Hydaspes, the tender-hearted father, might not see another goodson of Deriades perish after the first, and lament the death of Morrheus along with Orontes."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 5 ff :
"[During the Indian War of Dionysos :] The gods who dwell in Olympos ranged themselves in two parties to direct the warfare on both sides, these supporting Deriades [king of the Indians], those Lyaios (Lyaeus) [Dionysos] . . . Hephaistos (Hephaestus) [challenged] Hydaspes [the River-god].

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 36. 129 ff :
"[Hermes warns the River Hydaspes that Hephaistos (Hephaestus) stands against him in the conflict between the gods :] ‘And you, horned one father of great Deriades, beware of the fire of Hephaistos after the torch of Bakkhos (Bacchus), or he may consume you with his firepronged thunderbolt.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 38. 65 ff :
"[The seer Idmon prophesies :] ‘That horned snake, torn by the sharp pointed claws of the robber bird and pierced by its talons, slipt into the waters of the river, and old Hydaspes swallowed the reptile corpse, so Deriades shall be swallowed under the likeness of his bullhorned sire.’ Thus spoke the old prophet."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 39. 38 ff :
"[King Deriades addresses his Indian troops :] ‘Is it not enough, that he [Dionysos] has sprinkled those cunning poisons in the water and reddened my Hydaspes with Thessalian flowers? That I have looked on him in silence, and let myself quietly behold the yellow streams of my maddened river? For if that stream came from a foreign river, if the warlike Indian Hydaspes were not my own father, then I would have filled that flood with heaps of dust to drown the viny stink of Dionysos; I would have walked upon the drunken stream of my father and crossed unwitting water with dusty feet, as once it is said among the Argives that Earthshaker [Poseidon] made water dry, and a horse's hoof left prints of the dust of river Inakhos (Inachus) dried up.’"

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 40. 85 ff :
"[During the Indian War of Dionysos :] When they reached the place where ancient Hydaspes rolled his war-breeding water in wild bubbling waves, he [Deriades son of the River] stood immense on the river bank as having now an ally, his father, roaring loud, to shoot with his waters against Dionysos in battle: there the vine-deity cast his flesh-cutting thyrsos and just grazed the skin of Deriades. Struck with the man-destroying ivy bunch he slipt headfirst into his father's flood, and bridged all that water himself with his long frame."





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