Classical Texts Library >> Ovid, Metamorphoses >> Book 9




1. Creation
2. Four Ages of Man
3. Lycaon
4. Great Deluge
5. Python
6. Daphne & Apollo
7. Io & Jupiter


1. Phaethon
2. Callisto & Jupiter
3. Coronis & Apollo
4. Ocyroe & Aesculapius
5. Battus & Mercury
6. Aglauros & Mercury
7. Europa & Jupiter


1. Cadmus & the Dragon
2. Actaeon
3. Semele & Jupiter
4. Tiresias
5. Narcissus & Echo
6. Pentheus & Bacchus
7. Tyrrhenian Pirates & Bacchus


1. The Minyades
2. Pyramus & Thisbe
3. Mars & Venus
4. Leucothea & Clytie
5. Hermaphroditus
6. Athamas & Ino
7. Cadmus & Harmonia
8. Perseus & Atlas
9. Perseus & Andromeda


1. Perseus & Phineus
2. Pyreneus & the Muses
3. The Pierides & the Muses
4. Pluto & Proserpine
5. Arethusa & Alpheus
6. Triptolemus & Lyncus


1. Arachne & Minerva
2. Niobe
3. Leto & the Lycians
4. Marsyas
5. Tereus & Philomela
6. Orithyia & Boreas


1. Jason & Medea
2. Medea & Aeson
3. Medea & Pelias
4. Medea & Aegeus
5. Aeacus & the Myrmidones
6. Cephalus & Procris


1. Minos & Scylla
2. Daedalus & Icarus
3. Calydonian Boar Hunt
4. Althaea & Meleager
5. Perimela & Achelous
6. Baucis & Philemon
7. Erysichthon & Mestra


1. Hercules & Achelous
2. Nessus & Death of Hercules
3. Galanthis
4. Dryope
5. Iolaus
6. Byblis & Caunus
7. Iphis & Ianthe


1. Orpheus & Eurydice
2. Attis & Cybele
3. Cyparissus
4. Hyacinthus & Apollo
5. The Propoetides
6. Pygmalion
7. Myrrha & Cinyras
8. Atalanta & Hippomenes
9. Adonis


1. Death of Orpheus
2. Midas & Bacchus
3. Midas, Pan & Apollo
4. Hesione
5. Peleus & Thetis
6. Chione & Daedalion
7. Peleus & Psamathe
8. Ceyx & Halcyone
9. Aesacus & Hesperia


1. Agamemnon at Aulis
2. Cygnus & Achilles
3. Caeneus & the Centauromachy
4. Periclymenus & Hercules
5. Death of Achilles


1. Ajax & Ulysses
2. Hecuba & Polymnestor
3. Memnon
4. The Oenotrophi
5. Galatea & Polyphemus
6. Glaucus


1. Scylla & Circe
2. The Cercopes
3. The Cumaean Sibyl
4. Ulysses, Polyphemus & Circe
5. Picus & Circe
6. Diomedes in Italy
7. Aeneas in Latium
8. Vertumnus & Pomona
9. Iphis & Anaxarete
10. Romulus


1. Myscelus, Croton
2. Pythagoras
3. Egeria, Hippolytus
4. Tages, Cipus
5. Aesculapius in Rome
6. Julius Caesar



[1] To him the hero, who proclaimed himself a favored son of Neptune, answered now; “Declare the reason of your heavy sighs, and how your horn was broken?” And at once the Calydonian River-God replied, binding with reeds his unadorned rough locks: “It is a mournful task you have required, for who can wish to tell his own disgrace? But truly I shall speak without disguise, for my defeat, if rightly understood, should be my glory.—Even to have fought in battle with a hero of such might, affords me consolation.

[9] “Deianira (you may have heard some tales of her) was once the envied hope of many. She was then a lovely virgin.—I, among the rest who loved this maiden, entered the fair home of her great father Oeneus, and I said; ` ‘Consider all my claims, Parthaon's son, for I am come to plead your daughter's cause and mine—So you may make me son-in-law.—’ no sooner was it said, than Hercules in such words also claimed the virgin's hand: all others quickly yielded to our claims. He boasted his descent from Jupiter; the glory of his labors and great deeds performed at his unjust stepmother's wish. But as he was not then a God, it seemed disgraceful if my state should yield my right; so I contended with these haughty words, `Why should this alien of a foreign land, contending for your daughter, match himself to me! king of the waters in this realm! For as I wind around, across your lands, I must be of your people, and a part of your great state. Oh, let it not be said, because the jealous Juno had no thought to punish me by labors, my descent is not so regal! This tremendous boast, that you, Alcmena's son, are sprung from Jove, falls at the touch of truth;—or it reveals the shame of a weak mother, who so gained your doubtful glory of descent from Heaven! Prove your descent from Jupiter is false, or else confess you are the son of shame!’

[27] “But Hercules, unable to control the flame of his great wrath, scowled as I spoke. He briefly answered me, `My hand excels my tongue; let me now overcome in fight, and I may suffer your offence of words.’ Full of unvented rage he rushed on me, but firm I stood, ashamed to yield a foot—I had so largely boasted, no retreat was left, and so I doffed my green robe—Striking guard, with clenched hands doubled at my breast, I stood my ground. He scooped up in his hand fine, yellow dust; and tossed it on the air so that the tawny powder sprinkled us; quick-shifting then he sought to strike my neck, or feint at my quick-moving legs, and turn swift moving to attack me at all points. But as a huge cliff in the sea remains unmoved, unshaken by the sounding waves, so my great size, against his vain attacks, defended me securely—Back we went; retiring for a space; then rushed again together, furious, and with foot to foot, determined not to yield, defiant stood, till, forward-bending from my waist and hips, I pressed my forehead against his and locked his fingers into mine: so, have I seen two strong bulls rush in combat for the good of some smooth heifer in the pasture—while the herd a-tremble and uncertain, wait; ready to give allegiance to the one most worthy of dominion. Thrice in vain Hercules strove to push my breast from his, but I pressed ever closer—till, the fourth attempt succeeding, he unloosed my grip, and breaking from my circling arms drew back, and struck me such a buffet with his hand, it twisted me about, and instantly he clung with all his weight upon my back—Believe me I have not suppressed the truth. Nor shall I try to gain applause not due: I seemed to bear a mountain on my back.—straining and dripping sweat, I broke his hold,—with great exertion I unlocked his grip. He pressed upon me, as I strained for breath, preventing a renewal of my strength, and seized upon my neck. Then at the last, my bent knee went down on the gritty earth, I bit the sand.

[62] "So, worsted in my strength, I sought diversion by an artifice, and changed me to a serpent.—I then slipped from his tight clutches my great length, and coiled my body now transformed to snaky folds—hissing I darted my divided tongue. But Hercules, Alcides, only laughed and in derision of my scheming, said, `It was the pastime of my cradle days to strangle better snakes than you—and though your great length may excel all of your kind, how small a part of that Lernaean snake would you—one serpent be? It grew from wounds I gave (at first it had one hundred heads) and every time I severed one head from its neck two grew there in the place of one, by which its strength increased. This creature then outbranching with strong serpents, sprung from death and thriving on destruction, I destroyed.—What do you think will then become of you, disguised so in deceitful serpent-form, wielding a borrowed weapon not your own.' And after he had ridiculed me thus, he gouged his fingers underneath my jaws, so that my throat was tortured, as if squeezed with forceps, while I struggled in his grip. Twice was I vanquished, there remained to me a third form so again I changed to seem a savage bull, and with my limbs renewed in that form fought once more. He threw his arms about the left side of my ponderous neck, and dragging on me followed as I ran. He seized on my hard horns, and, tugging turned and twisted me, until he fastened them firm in the surface of the earth; and pushed me, helpless, to the shifting sand beneath. Not yet content he laid his fierce right hand on my tough horn, and broke and tore it from my mutilated head.—This horn, now heaped with fruits delicious and sweet-smelling flowers, the Naiads have held sacred from that hour, devoted to the bounteous goddess Plenty."

[89] All this the River-god said; then a nymph, a lovely nymph like fair Diana dressed, whose locks were flowing down on either side, came graceful to the board, and brought to them of Autumn's plenty in an ample horn, and gave to them selected apples for a second course. And now, as early dawn appeared, and as the rising sunlight flashed on golden summits of surrounding hills, the young men waited not until the stream subsiding, had resumed its peaceful way, but all arose, reluctant, and went forth. Then Achelous, in his moving waves, hid his fine rustic features and his head, scarred by the wound which gave the Horn of Plenty.


[98] Loss of his horn had greatly humbled him, it was so cherished though his only loss,—but he could hide the sad disgrace with reeds and willow boughs entwined about his head. O, Nessus! your fierce passion for the same maid utterly destroyed even you, pierced through the body by a flying arrow-point.

[103] Returning to the city of his birth great Hercules, the son of Jupiter, with his new bride, arrived upon the bank of swift Evenus—after winter rains had swollen it so far beyond its wont, that, full of eddies, it was found to be impassable. The hero stood there, brave but anxious for his bride. Nessus, the centaur, strong-limbed and well-acquainted with those fords, came up to him and said, “Plunge in the flood and swim with unimpeded strength—for with my help she will land safely over there.” And so the hero, with no thought of doubt, trusted the damsel to the centaur's care, though she was pale and trembling with her fear of the swift river and the centaur's aid. This done, the hero, burdened as he was with quiver and the lion skin (for he had tossed his club and curving bow across the river to the other bank), declared, “Since I have undertaken it, at once this rushing water must be overcome.” And instantly, he plunged in without thought of where he might cross with most ease, for so he scorned to take advantage of smooth water.

[118] And after he had gained the other bank, while picking up his bow which there was thrown, he heard his wife's voice, anxious for his help. He called to Nessus who was in the act then to betray his trust: “Vain confidence! You are not swift enough, vile ravisher! You two-formed monster Nessus, I warn you! Hear me, and never dare to come between me and my love. If fear has no restraint, your father's dreadful fate on whirling wheel, should frighten you from this outrageous act: for you cannot escape, although you trust the fleet-foot effort of a rapid horse. I cannot overtake you with my feet but I can shoot and halt you with a wound.” His deed sustained the final warning word. He shot an arrow through the centaur's back, so that the keen barb was exposed beyond his bleeding breast. He tore it from both wounds, and life-blood spurted instantly, mixed with the deadly poison of Lernaean hydra. This Nessus caught, and muttering, “I shall not die unavenged”, he gave his tunic, soaked with blood to Deianira as a gift; and said, “Keep this to strengthen waning love.”

[134] Now many years passed by, and all the deeds, and labors of the mighty Hercules, gave to the wide world his unequalled fame; and finally appeased the hatred of his fierce stepmother. All victorious returning from Oechalia, he prepared to offer sacrifice, when at Cenaeum, upon an altar he had built to Jupiter, but tattling Rumor, swollen out of truth from small beginning to a wicked lie, declared brave Hercules, Amphitryon's son, was burning for the love of Iole. And Deianira—his fond wife—convinced herself, the wicked rumor must be true.

[141] Alarmed at the report of his new love, at first, poor wife, she was dissolved in tears, and then she sank in grievous misery. But soon in angry mood, she rose and said: “Why should I give up to my sorrow while I drown my wretched spirit in weak tears? Let me consider an effectual check—while it is possible—even before she comes, invader of my lawful bed: shall I be silent or complain of it? Must I go back to Calydon or stay? Shall I depart unbidden, from my house? Or, if no other method can prevail, shall I oppose my rival's first approach? O shade of Meleager, let me prove I am yet worthy to be called your sister; and in the desperate slaughter of this rival, the world, astonished, may be taught to fear the vengeance of an injured woman's rage.” So, torn by many moods, at last her mind fixed on one thought:—she might still keep his love, could certainly restore it, if she sent to him the tunic soaked in Nessus' blood. Unknowingly, she gave the fatal cause of her own woe to trusting Lichas, whom she urged in gentle words to take the gift, from her to her loved husband Hercules. He, unsuspecting, put the tunic on, all covered with Lernaean hydra's poison.

[159] The hero then was casting frankincense into the sacred flames, and pouring wine on marble altars, as his holy prayers were floating to the Gods. The hallowed heat striking upon his poisoned vesture, caused Echidna-bane to melt into his flesh. As long as he was able he withstood the torture. His great fortitude was strong. But when at last his anguish overcame even his endurance, he filled all the wild of Oeta with his cries: he overturned those hallowed altars, then in frenzied haste he strove to pull the tunic from his back. The poisoned garment, cleaving to him, ripped his skin, heat-shriveled, from his burning flesh. Or, tightening on him, as his great strength pulled, stripped with it the great muscles from his limbs, leaving his huge bones bare. Even his blood audibly hissed, as red-hot blades when they are plunged in water, so the burning bane boiled in his veins. Great perspiration streamed from his dissolving body, as the heat consumed his entrails; and his sinews cracked, brittle when burnt. The marrow in his bones dissolved, as it absorbed the venom-heat.

[172] There was no limit to his misery; raising both hands up towards the stars of heaven, he cried, “Come Juno, feast upon my death; feast on me, cruel one, look down from your exalted seat; behold my dreadful end and glut your savage heart! Oh, if I may deserve some pity from my enemy, from you I mean, this hateful life of mine take from me—sick with cruel suffering and only born for toil. The loss of life will be a boon to me, and surely is a fitting boon, such as stepmothers give! Was it for this I slew Busiris, who defiled his temples with the strangers' blood? For this I took his mother's strength from fierce antaeus—that I did not show a fear before the Spanish shepherd's triple form? Nor did I fear the monstrous triple form of Cerberus.—And is it possible my hands once seized and broke the strong bull's horns? And Elis knows their labor, and the waves of Stymphalus, and the Parthenian woods. For this the prowess of these hands secured the Amazonian girdle wrought of gold; and did my strong arms, gather all in vain the fruit when guarded by the dragon's eyes. The centaurs could not foil me, nor the boar that ravaged in Arcadian fruitful fields. Was it for this the hydra could not gain double the strength from strength as it was lost? And when I saw the steeds of Thrace, so fat with human blood, and their vile mangers heaped with mangled bodies, in a righteous rage I threw them to the ground, and slaughtered them, together with their master! In a cave I crushed the Nemean monster with these arms; and my strong neck upheld the wide-spread sky! And even the cruel Juno, wife of Jove—is weary of imposing heavy toils, but I am not subdued performing them. A new calamity now crushes me, which not my strength, nor valor, nor the use of weapons can resist. Devouring flames have preyed upon my limbs, and blasting heat now shrivels the burnt tissue of my frame. But still Eurystheus is alive and well! And there are those who yet believe in Gods!”

[204] Just as a wild bull, in whose body spears are rankling, while the frightened hunter flies away for safety, so the hero ranged over sky-piercing Oeta; his huge groans, his awful shrieks resounding in those cliffs. At times he struggles with the poisoned robe. Goaded to fury, he has razed great trees, and scattered the vast mountain rocks around! And stretched his arms towards his ancestral skies!

[211] So, in his frenzy, as he wandered there, he chanced upon the trembling Lichas, crouched in the close covert of a hollow rock. Then in a savage fury he cried out, “Was it you, Lichas, brought this fatal gift? Shall you be called the author of my death?” Lichas, in terror, groveled at his feet, and begged for mercy—“Only let me live!” But seizing on him, the crazed Hero whirled him thrice and once again about his head, and hurled him, shot as by a catapult, into the waves of the Euboic Sea. While he was hanging in the air, his form was hardened; as, we know, rain drops may first be frozen by the cold air, and then change to snow, and as it falls through whirling winds may press, so twisted, into round hailstones: even so has ancient lore declared that when strong arms hurled Lichas through the mountain air through fear, his blood was curdled in his veins. No moisture left in him, he was transformed into a flint-rock. Even to this day, a low crag rising from the waves is seen out of the deep Euboean Sea, and holds the certain outline of a human form, so sure]y traced, the wary sailors fear to tread upon it, thinking it has life, and they have called it Lichas ever since.

[229] But, O illustrious son of Jupiter! How many of the overspreading trees, thick-growing on the lofty mountain-peak of Oeta, did you level to the ground, and heap into a pyre! And then you bade obedient Philoctetes light a torch beneath it, and then take in recompense your bow with its capacious quiver full of arrows, arms that now again would see the realm of Troy. And as the pyre began to kindle with the greedy flames, you spread the Nemean lion skin upon the top, and, club for pillow, you lay down to sleep, as placid as if, with abounding cups of generous wine and crowned with garlands, you were safe, reclining on a banquet-couch.

[239] And now on every side the spreading flames were crackling fiercely, as they leaped from earth upon the careless limbs of Hercules. He scorned their power. The Gods felt fear for earth's defender and their sympathy gave pleasure to Saturnian Jove—he knew their thought—and joyfully he said to them: “Your sudden fear is surely my delight, O heavenly Gods! my heart is lifted up and joy prevails upon me, in the thought that I am called the Father and the King of all this grateful race of Gods. I know my own beloved offspring is secure in your declared protection: your concern may justly evidence his worth, whose deeds great benefits bestowed. Let not vain thoughts alarm you, nor the rising flames of Oeta; for Hercules who conquered everything, shall conquer equally the spreading fires which now you see: and all that part of him, celestial—inherited of me—immortal, cannot feel the power of death. It is not subject to the poison-heat. And therefore, since his earth-life is now lost, him I'll translate, unshackled from all dross, and purified, to our celestial shore. I trust this action seems agreeable to all the Deities surrounding me. If any jealous god of heaven should grieve at the divinity of Hercules, he may begrudge the prize but he will know at least 'twas given him deservedly, and with this thought he must approve the deed.” The Gods confirmed it: and though Juno seemed to be contented and to acquiesce, her deep vexation was not wholly hid, when Jupiter with his concluding words so plainly hinted at her jealous mind.

[262] Now, while the Gods conversed, the mortal part of Hercules was burnt by Mulciber; but yet an outline of a spirit-form remained. Unlike the well-known mortal shape derived by nature of his mother, he kept traces only of his father, Jove. And as a serpent, when it is revived from its old age, casts off the faded skin, and fresh with vigor glitters in new scales, so, when the hero had put off all dross, his own celestial, wonderful appeared, majestic and of godlike dignity. And him, the glorious father of the Gods in the great chariot drawn by four swift steeds, took up above the wide-encircling clouds, and set him there amid the glittering stars.


[273] Even Atlas felt the weight of Heaven increase, but King Eurystheus, still implacable, vented his baffled hatred on the sons of the great hero. Then the Argive mother, Alcmena, spent and anxious with long cares, the burden of her old age and her fears, could pass the weary hours with Iole in garrulous narrations of his worth, his mighty labors and her own sad days. Iole, by command of Hercules, had been betrothed to Hyllus, and by him was gravid, burdened with a noble child. And so to Iole, Alcmena told this story of the birth of Hercules:—“Ah, may the Gods be merciful to you and give you swift deliverance in that hour when needful of all help you must call out for Ilithyia, the known goddess of all frightened mothers in their travail, she whom Juno's hatred overcame and made so dreadful against me. For, when my hour of bearing Hercules was very near, and when the tenth sign of the zodiac was traversed by the sun, my burden then became so heavy, and the one I bore so large, you certainly could tell that Jove must be the father of the unborn child. At last, no longer able to endure—ah me, a cold sweat seizes on me now; only to think of it renews my pains! Seven days in agony, as many nights, exhausted in my dreadful misery, I stretched my arms to heaven and invoked Lucina and three Nixian deities the guardians of birth. Lucina came; but before then she had been pledged to give my life to cruel Juno. While Lucina sat on the altar near the door and listened, with her right knee crossed over her left knee, with fingers interlocked, she stopped the birth: and in low muttered tones she chanted Charms which there prevented my deliverance. I fiercely struggled, and insane with pain shrieked vain revilings against Jupiter; I longed for death, and my delirious words then should have moved the most unfeeling rocks. The Theban matrons, eager to help me, stood near me while they asked the aid of Heaven.

[304] "And there was present of the common class, my maid Galanthis—with her red-gold hair—efficient and most willing to obey her worthy character deserved my love. She felt assured, Juno unjustly worked some spell of strong effect against my life. And when this maid beheld Lucina perched so strangely on the altar, with her fingers inwoven on her knees and tightly pressed together, in a gripping finger-comb, she guessed that jealous Juno was the cause. Quick-witted, in a ringing voice this maid cried out, `Congratulations! All is well! Alcmena is delivered—a fine child so safely brought forth—her true prayers approved!’ Lucina, who presides at birth, surprised leaped up, unclenched her hands, as one amazed. Just as her hands unfastened, and her knees were parted from their stricture, I could feel the bonds of stricture loosen; and without more labor was delivered of my child. 'Tis said, Galanthis laughed and ridiculed the cheated deity; and as she laughed the vixen goddess caught her by the hair and dragging her upon the ground, while she was struggling to arise, held her, and there transformed both of her arms to animal forelegs. Her old activity remained; her hair was not changed, but she did not keep her maiden form: and ever since that day, because she aided with deceitful lips, her offspring are brought forth through the same mouth. Changed to a weasel she dwells now with me.”


[324] When she had ended the sad tale, she heaved a deep sigh, in remembrance of her tried, beloved servant; and her daughter-in-law Iole kindly answered in these words: “O my dear mother, if you weep because of her who was your servant, now transformed into a weasel, how can you support the true narration of my sister's fate; which I must tell to you, although my tears and sorrows hinder and forbid my speech? Most beautiful of all Oechalian maids, was Dryope, her mother's only child, for you must know I am the daughter of my father's second wife. She is not now a maid; because, through violence of him who rules at Delphi and at Delos, she was taken by Andraemon, who since then has been accounted happy in his wife. There is a lake surrounded by sweet lawns, encircling beauties, where the upper slope is crowned with myrtles in fair sunny groves. Without a thought of danger Dryope in worship one day went to gather flowers, (who hears, has greater cause to be indignant) delightful garlands, for the water-nymphs, and, in her bosom, carried her dear son, not yet a year old, whom she fed for love. Not far from that dream-lake, in moisture grew a lotus, beautiful in purple bloom, the blossoms promising its fruit was near. At play with her sweet infant, Dryope plucked them as toys for him. I, too, was there, eagerly, also, I put forth my hand, and was just ready to secure a spray, when I was startled by some drops of blood down-falling from the blossoms which were plucked; and even the trembling branches shook in dread. Who wills, the truth of this may learn from all quaint people of that land, who still relate the Story of Nymph Lotis. She, they say, while flying from the lust of Priapus, was transformed quickly from her human shape, into this tree, though she has kept her name.

[349] "But ignorant of all this, Dryope, alarmed, decided she must now return; so, having first adored the hallowed nymphs, upright she stood, and would have moved away, but both her feet were tangled in a root. There, as she struggled in its tightening hold, she could move nothing save her upper parts; and growing from that root, live bark began to gather slowly upward from the ground, spreading around her, till it touched her loins: in terror when she saw the clinging growth, she would have torn her hair out by the roots, but, when she clutched at it, her hands were filled with lotus leaves grown up from her changed head. Alas, her little son, Amphissos, felt his mother's bosom harden to his touch, and no life-stream refreshed his eager lips. And while I saw your cruel destiny, O my dear sister! and could give no help, I clung to your loved body and around the growing trunk and branches, hoping so to stop their evil growth; and I confess, endeavored there to hide beneath the bark.

[362] "And, oh! Andraemon and her father (husband), then appeared to me while they were sadly seeking for Dryope: so there I had to show the lotus as it covered her, and they gave kisses to the warm wood, and prostrate fell upon the ground, and clung to growing roots of their new darling tree, transformed from her.—Dear sister, there was nothing of yourself remaining but your face; and I could see your tears drop slowly on the trembling leaves which had so marvellously grown on you; and while your lips remained uncovered, all the air surrounding, echoed your complaint:—`If oaths of wretched women can have force, I swear I have not merited this fate! Though innocent, to suffer punishment! And if one word of my complaint is false, I pray I may soon wither, and my leaves fall from me as in blight, and let the axe devote me, wretched to the flames. But take this infant from my branches to a nurse; and let him often play beneath his tree,—his mother always. Let him drink his milk beneath my shade. When he has learned to talk let him salute me, and in sorrow say “In this tree-trunk my mother is concealed.' O, let him dread the fate that lurks in ponds, and let him often play beneath his tree,—and let him be persuaded every shrub contains the body of a goddess.—Ah! Farewell my husband,—sister,—and farewell my father! If my love remain in you remember to protect my life from harm, so that the pruning-knife may never clip my branches, and protect my foliage from the browsing sheep. I cannot stoop to you; Oh, if you love me, lift your lips to mine, and let me kiss you, if but once again, before this growing lotus covers me. Lift up my darling infant to my lips. How can I hope to say much more to you? The new bark now is creeping up my neck, and creeping downward from my covered brow! Ah, do not close my live eyes with your hands; there is no need of it, for growing bark will spread and darken them before I die!’ Such were the last words her poor smothered lips could utter; for she was so quickly changed; and long thereafter the new branches kept the warmth of her lost body, so transformed.”


[394] And all the while that Iole told this, tearful in sorrow for her sister's fate, Alcmena weeping, tried to comfort her. But as they wept together, suddenly a wonderful event astonished them; for, standing in the doorway, they beheld the old man Iolaus, known to them, but now transformed from age to youth, he seemed almost a boy, with light down on his cheeks for Juno's daughter Hebe, had renewed his years to please her husband, Hercules. Just at the time when ready to make oath, she would not grant such gifts to other men—Themis had happily prevented her. “For even now,” she said, “a civil strife is almost ready to break forth in Thebes, and Capaneus shall be invincible to all save the strong hand of Jove himself; and there two hostile brothers shall engage in bloody conflict; and Amphiaraus shall see his own ghost, deep in yawning earth. His own son, dutiful to him, shall be both just and unjust in a single deed; for he, in vengeance for his father's death, shall slay his mother, and confounded lose both home and reason,—persecuted both by the grim Furies and the awful ghost of his own murdered mother; this until his wife, deluded, shall request of him the fatal golden necklace, and until the sword of Phegeus drains his kinsman's blood. And then at last his wife Callirhoe shall supplicate the mighty Jupiter to grant her infant sons the added years of youthful manhood. Then shall Jupiter let Hebe, guardian of ungathered days, grant from the future to Callirhoe's sons, the strength of manhood in their infancy. Do not let their victorious father's death be unavenged a long while. Jove prevailed upon, will claim beforehand all the gifts of Hebe, who is his known daughter-in-law, and his step-daughter, and with one act change Callirhoe's beardless boys to men of size.”

[418] When Themis, prophesying future days, had said these words, the Gods of Heaven complained because they also could not grant the gift of youth to many others in this way. Aurora wept because her husband had white hair; and Ceres then bewailed the age of her Iasion, grey and stricken old; and Mulciber demanded with new life his Erichthonius might again appear; and Venus, thinking upon future days, said old Anchises' years must be restored. And every god preferred some favorite, until vexed with the clamor, Jupiter implored, “If you can have regard for me, consider the strange blessings you desire: does any one of you believe he can prevail against the settled will of Fate? As Iolaus has returned by fate, to those years spent by him; so by the Fates Callirhoe's sons from infancy must grow to manhood with no struggle on their part, or force of their ambition. And you should endure your fortune with contented minds: I, also, must give all control to Fate. If I had power to change the course of Fate I would not let advancing age break down my own son Aeacus, nor bend his back with weight of year; and Rhadamanthus should retain an everlasting flower of youth, together with my own son Minos, who is now despised because of his great age, so that his scepter has lost dignity.”

[439] Such words of Jupiter controlled the Gods, and none continued to complain, when they saw Aeacus and Rhadamanthus old, and Minos also, weary of his age. And they remembered Minos in his prime, had warred against great nations, till his name if mentioned was a certain cause of fear. But now, enfeebled by great age, he feared Miletus, Deione's son, because of his exultant youth and strength derived from his great father Phoebus. And although he well perceived Miletus' eye was fixed upon his throne, he did not dare to drive him from his kingdom. But although not forced, Miletus of his own accord did fly, by swift ship, over to the Asian shore, across the Aegean water, where he built the city of his name.


[450] Cyane, who was known to be the daughter of the stream Maeander, which with many a twist and turn flows wandering there—Cyane said to be indeed most beautiful, when known by him, gave birth to two; a girl called Byblis, who was lovely, and the brother Caunus—twins. Byblis is an example that the love of every maiden must be within law. Seized with a passion for her brother, she loved him, descendant of Apollo, not as sister loves a brother; not in such a manner as the law of man permits. At first she thought it surely was not wrong to kiss him passionately, while her arms were thrown around her brother's neck, and so deceived herself. And, as the habit grew, her sister-love degenerated, till richly attired, she came to see her brother, with all endeavors to attract his eye; and anxious to be seen most beautiful, she envied every woman who appeared of rival beauty. But she did not know or understand the flame, hot in her heart, though she was agitated when she saw the object of her swiftly growing love. Now she began to call him lord, and now she hated to say brother, and she said, “Do call me Byblis--never call me sister!”

[468] And yet while feeling love so, when awake she does not dwell upon impure desire; but when dissolved in the soft arms of sleep, she sees the very object of her love, and blushing, dreams she is embraced by him, till slumber has departed. For a time she lies there silent, as her mind recalls the loved appearance of her lovely dream, until her wavering heart, in grief exclaims:—“What is this vision of the silent night? Ah wretched me! I cannot count it true. And, if he were not my own brother, he why is my fond heart tortured with this dream? He is so handsome even to envious eyes, it is not strange he has filled my fond heart; so surely would be worthy of my love. But it is my misfortune I am his own sister. Let me therefore strive, awake, to stand with honor, but let sleep return the same dream often to me.—There can be no fear of any witness to a shade which phantoms my delight.—O Cupid, swift of love-wing with your mother, and O my beloved Venus! wonderful the joys of my experience in the transport. All as if reality sustaining, lifted me up to elysian pleasure, while in truth I lay dissolving to my very marrow: the pleasure was so brief, and Night, headlong sped from me, envious of my coming joys.

[487] "If I could change my name, and join to you, how good a daughter I would prove to your dear father, and how good a son would you be to my father. If the Gods agreed, then everything would be possessed by us in common, but this must exclude ancestors. For I should pray, compared with mine yours might be quite superior. But, oh my love, some other woman by your love will be a mother; but because, unfortunate, my parents are the same as yours, you must be nothing but a brother. Sorrows, then, shall be to us in common from this hour. What have my night-born vision signified? What weight have dreams? Do dreams have any weight? The Gods forbid! The Gods have sisters! Truth declares even Saturn married Ops, his own blood-kin, Oceanus his Tethys, Jove, Olympian his Juno. But the Gods are so superior in their laws, I should not measure human custom by the rights established in the actions of divinities. This passion must be banished from my heart, or, if it cannot be so, I must pray that I may perish, and be laid out dead upon my couch so my dear brother there may kiss my lips. But then he must consent, and my delight would seem to him a crime.

[507] "'Tis known the sons of Aeolus embraced their sisters—But why should I think of these? Why should I take example from such lives? Must I do as they did? Far from it! let such lawless flames be quenched, until I feel no evil love for him, although the pure affection of a sister may be mine, and cherished. If it should have happened first that my dear brother had loved me—ah then, I might have yielded love to his desire. Why not now? I myself must woo him, since I could not have rejected him, if he had first wooed me. But is it possible for me to speak of it, with proper words describing such a strange confession? Love will certainly compel and give me speech. But, if shame seal my lips, then secret flame in a sealed letter may be safely told.”

[517] And after all this wavering, her mind at last was satisfied; and as she leaned on her left elbow, partly raised from her half-dream position, she said, “Let him see: let me at once confess my frantic passion without repression! O my wretched heart! What hot flame burns me!” But while speaking so, she took an iron pen in her right hand, and trembling wrote the heart-words as she could, all on a clean wax tablet which she held in her limp left hand. She begins and stops, and hesitates—she loves and hates her hot confession—writes, erases, changes here and there, condemns, approves, disheartened throws her tablets down and takes them up again: her mind refuses everything she does, and moves against each action as begun: shame, fear and bold assurance mingled showed upon her face, as she began to write, “Your sister” but at once decided she could not say sister, and commenced instead, with other words on her amended wax. “A health to you, which she who loves you fails to have, unless you grant the same to her. It shames me, oh I am ashamed to tell my name to you, and so without my name, I would I might plead well until the hopes of my desires were realized, and then you might know safely, Byblis is my name.

[535] "You might have knowledge of my wounded heart, because my pale, drawn face and down-cast eyes so often tearful, and my sighs without apparent cause have shown it—and my warm embraces, and my frequent kisses, much too tender for a sister. All of this has happened, while with agitated heart and in hot passion, I have tried all ways, (I call upon the Gods to witness it!) that I might force myself to sanity. And I have struggled, wretched nights and days, to overcome the cruelties of love, too dreadful for a frail girl to endure, for they most surely are all Cupid's art. I have been overborne and must confess my passion, while with timid prayers I plead; for only you can save me. You alone may now destroy the one who loves you best: so you must choose what will be the result. The one who prays is not your enemy; but one most closely joined to you, yet asks to knit the tie more firmly. Let old men be governed by propriety, and talk of what is right and wrong, and hold to all the nice distinctions of strict laws. But Love, has no fixed law for those whose age is ours, is heedless and compliant. And we have not yet discovered what is right or wrong, and all we should do is to imitate the known example of the Gods. We have no father's harsh rule, and we have no care for reputation, and no fear that keeps us from each other. But there may be cause for fear, and we may hide our stolen love, because a sister is at liberty to talk with her dear brother—quite apart: we may embrace and kiss each other, though in public. What is wanting? Pity her whose utmost love compels her to confess; and let it not be written on her tomb, her death was for your sake and love denied.”

[564] Here when she dropped the tablet from her hand, it was so full of fond words, which were doomed to disappointment, that the last line traced the edge: and without thinking of delay, she stamped the shameful letter with her seal, and moistened it with tears (her tongue failed her for moisture). Then, hot-blushing, she called one of her attendants, and with timid voice said, coaxing, “My most trusted servant, take these tablets to my—” after long delay she said, “my brother.” While she gave the tablets they suddenly slipped from her hands and fell. Although disturbed by this bad omen, she still sent the letter, which the servant found an opportunity to carry off. He gave the secret love-confession. This her brother, grandson of Maeander, read but partly, and with sudden passion threw the tablets from him. He could barely hold himself from clutching on the throat of her fear-trembling servant; as, enraged, he cried, “Accursed pander to forbidden lust, be gone!—before the knowledge of your death is added to this unforeseen disgrace!”

[580] The servant fled in terror, and told all her brother's actions and his fierce reply to Byblis: and when she had heard her love had been repulsed, her startled face went pale, and her whole body trembled in the grip of ice-chills. Quickly as her mind regained its usual strength, her maddening love returned, came back with equal force, and while she choked with her emotion, gasping she said this: “I suffer only from my folly! why did I so rashly tell him of my wounded heart? And why did I so hastily commit to tablets all I should have kept concealed? I should have edged my way by feeling first, obscurely hinting till I knew his mind and disposition towards me. And so that my first voyage might get favorable wind, I should have tested with a close-reefed sail, and, knowing what the wind was, safely fared. But now with sails full spread I have been tossed by unexpected winds. And so my ship is on the rocks; and, overwhelmed with all the power of Ocean, I have not the strength to turn back and recover what is lost.

[595] “Surely clear omens warned me not to tell my love so soon, because the tablets fell just when I would have put them in the hand of my picked servant—certainly a sign my hasty hopes were destined to fall down. Is it not clear I should have changed the day; and even my intention? Rather say should not the day have been postponed at once? The god himself gave me unerring signs, if I had not been so deranged with love. I should have spoken to him, face to face; and with my own lips have confessed it all; and then my passion had been seen by him, and, as my face was bathed in tears, I could have told him so much more than words engraved on tablets; and, while I was telling him I could have thrown my arms around his neck, and if rejected could have seemed almost at point of death; as I embraced his feet, while prostrate, even might have begged for life. I could have tried so many plans, and they together would have won his stubborn heart. Perhaps my stupid servant, in mistake, did not approach him at a proper time, and even sought an hour his mind was full of other things.

[613] "All this has harmed my case; there is no other reason; he was not born of a tigress, and his heart is not of flint or solid iron, or of adamant; and no she-lion suckled him. He shall be won to my affection; and I must attempt again, again, nor ever cease so long as I have breath. If it were not too late already to undo what has been done, 'twere wiser not begun at all. But since I have begun, it now is best to end it with success. How can he help remembering what I dared, although I should abandon my design! In such a case, because I gave up, I must be to him weak, fickle-minded; or perhaps he may believe I tried to tempt him with a snare. But come what may, he will not think of me as overcome by some god who inflames and rules the heart. He surely will believe I was so actuated by my lust. If I do nothing more, my innocence is gone forever. I have written him and wooed him also, in a way so rash and unmistakable, that if I should do nothing more than this, I should be held completely guilty in my brother's sight—but I have hope, and nothing worse to fear.” Then back and forth she argues; and so great is her uncertainty, she blames herself for what she did, and is determined just as surely to succeed. She tries all arts, but is repeatedly repulsed by him, until unable to control her ways, her brother in despair, fled from the shame of her designs: and in another land he founded a new city.

[635] Then, they say, the wretched daughter of Miletus lost control of reason. She wrenched from her breast her garments, and quite frantic, beat her arms, and publicly proclaims unhallowed love. Grown desperate, she left her hated home, her native land, and followed the loved steps of her departed brother. Just as those crazed by your thyrsus, son of Semele! The Bacchanals of Ismarus, aroused, howl at your orgies, so her shrieks were heard by the shocked women of Bubassus, where the frenzied Byblis howled across the fields, and so through Caria and through Lycia, over the mountain Cragus and beyond the town, Lymira, and the flowing stream called Xanthus, and the ridge where dwelt Chimaera, serpent-tailed and monstrous beast, fire breathing from its lion head and neck. She hurried through the forest of that ridge—and there at last worn out with your pursuit, O Byblis, you fell prostrate, with your hair spread over the hard ground, and your wan face buried in fallen leaves. Although the young, still tender-hearted nymphs of Leleges, advised her fondly how to cure her love, and offered comfort to her heedless heart, and even lifted her in their soft arms; without an answer Byblis fell from them, and clutched the green herbs with her fingers, while her tears continued to fall on the grass. They say the weeping Naiads gave to her a vein of tears which always flows there from her sorrows—nothing better could be done. Immediately, as drops of pitch drip forth from the gashed pine, or sticky bitumen distils out from the rich and heavy earth, or as the frozen water at the approach of a soft-breathing wind melts in the sun; so Byblis, sad descendant of the Sun, dissolving in her own tears, was there changed into a fountain; which to this late day, in all those valleys has no name but hers, and issues underneath a dark oak-tree.


[666] The tale of this unholy passion would perhaps, have filled Crete's hundred cities then, if Crete had not a wonder of its own to talk of, in the change of Iphis. Once, there lived at Phaestus, not far from the town of Gnossus, a man Ligdus, not well known; in fact obscure, of humble parentage, whose income was no greater than his birth; but he was held trustworthy and his life had been quite blameless. When the time drew near his wife should give birth to a child, he warned her and instructed her, with words we quote:—“There are two things which I would ask of Heaven: that you may be delivered with small pain, and that your child may surely be a boy. Girls are such trouble, fair strength is denied to them.—Therefore (may Heaven refuse the thought) if chance should cause your child to be a girl, (gods pardon me for having said the word!) we must agree to have her put to death.” And all the time he spoke such dreaded words, their faces were completely bathed in tears; not only hers but also his while he forced on her that unnatural command. Ah, Telethusa ceaselessly implored her husband to give way to fortune's cast; but Ligdus held his resolution fixed.

[684] And now the expected time of birth was near, when in the middle of the night she seemed to see the goddess Isis, standing by her bed, in company of serious spirit forms; Isis had crescent horns upon her forehead, and a bright garland made of golden grain encircled her fair brow. It was a crown of regal beauty: and beside her stood the dog Anubis, and Bubastis, there the sacred, dappled Apis, and the God of silence with pressed finger on his lips; the sacred rattles were there, and Osiris, known the constant object of his worshippers' desire, and there the Egyptian serpent whose quick sting gives long-enduring sleep. She seemed to see them all, and even to hear the goddess say to her, “O Telethusa, one of my remembered worshippers, forget your grief; your husband's orders need not be obeyed; and when Lucina has delivered you, save and bring up your child, if either boy or girl. I am the goddess who brings help to all who call upon me; and you shall never complain of me—that you adored a thankless deity.” So she advised by vision the sad mother, and left her. The Cretan woman joyfully arose from her sad bed, and supplicating, raised ecstatic hands up towards the listening stars, and prayed to them her vision might come true.

[704] Soon, when her pains gave birth, the mother knew her infant was a girl (the father had no knowledge of it, as he was not there). Intending to deceive, the mother said, “Feed the dear boy.” All things had favored her deceit—no one except the trusted nurse, knew of it. And the father paid his vows, and named the child after its grandfather, whose name was honored Iphis. Hearing it so called, the mother could not but rejoice, because her child was given a name of common gender, and she could use it with no more deceit. She took good care to dress it as a boy, and either as a boy or girl, its face must always be accounted lovable.

[714] And so she grew,—ten years and three had gone, and then your father found a bride for you O Iphis—promised you should take to wife the golden-haired Ianthe, praised by all the women of Phaestus for the dower of her unequalled beauty, and well known, the daughter of a Cretan named Telestes. Of equal age and equal loveliness, they had received from the same teachers, all instruction in their childish rudiments. So unsuspected love had filled their hearts with equal longing—but how different! Ianthe waits in confidence and hope the ceremonial as agreed upon, and is quite certain she will wed a man. But Iphis is in love without one hope of passion's ecstasy, the thought of which only increased her flame; and she a girl is burnt with passion for another girl!

[725] She hardly can hold back her tears, and says: "O what will be the awful dreaded end, with such a monstrous love compelling me? If the Gods should wish to save me, certainly they should have saved me; but, if their desire was for my ruin, still they should have given some natural suffering of humanity. The passion for a cow does not inflame a cow, no mare has ever sought another mare. The ram inflames the ewe, and every doe follows a chosen stag; so also birds are mated, and in all the animal world no female ever feels love passion for another female—why is it in me? Monstrosities are natural to Crete, the daughter of the Sun there loved a bull—it was a female's mad love for the male—but my desire is far more mad than hers, in strict regard of truth, for she had hope of love's fulfillment. She secured the bull by changing herself to a heifer's form; and in that subtlety it was the male deceived at last. Though all the subtleties of all the world should be collected here;—if Daedalus himself should fly back here upon his waxen wings, what could he do? What skillful art of his could change my sex, a girl into a boy—or could he change Ianthe?

[745] "What a useless thought! Be bold take courage Iphis, and be strong of soul. This hopeless passion stultifies your heart; so shake it off, and hold your memory down to the clear fact of your birth: unless your will provides deception for yourself: do only what is lawful, and confine strictly, your love within a woman's right. Hope of fulfillment can beget true love, and hope keeps it alive. You are deprived of this hope by the nature of your birth. No guardian keeps you from her dear embrace, no watchful jealous husband, and she has no cruel father: she does not deny herself to you. With all that liberty, you can not have her for your happy wife, though Gods and men should labor for your wish. None of my prayers has ever been denied; the willing Deities have granted me whatever should be, and my father helps me to accomplish everything I plan: she and her father also, always help. But Nature is more powerful than all, and only Nature works for my distress. The wedding-day already is at hand; the longed-for time is come; Ianthe soon will be mine only—and yet, not my own: with water all around me I shall thirst! O why must Juno, goddess of sweet brides, and why should Hymen also, favor us when man with woman cannot join in wedlock, but both are brides?”

[764] And so she closed her lips. The other maiden flamed with equal love, and often prayed for Hymen to appear. But Telethusa, fearing that event, the marriage which Ianthe keenly sought, procrastinated, causing first delay by some pretended illness; and then gave pretence of omens and of visions seen, sufficient for delay, until she had exhausted every avenue of excuse, and only one more day remained before the fateful time, it was so near at hand. Despairing then of finding other cause which might prevent the fated wedding-day, the mother took the circled fillets from her own head, and her daughter's head, and prayed, as she embraced the altar—her long hair spread out upon the flowing breeze—and said: “O Isis, goddess of Paraetonium, the Mareotic fields, Pharos, and Nile of seven horns divided—oh give help! Goddess of nations! heal us of our fears! I saw you, goddess, and your symbols once, and I adored them all, the clashing sounds of sistra and the torches of your train, and I took careful note of your commands, for which my daughter lives to see the sun, and also I have so escaped from harm;—all this is of your counsel and your gift; oh, pity both of us -- and give us aid!”

[781] Tears emphasized her prayer; the goddess seemed to move--in truth it was the altar moved; the firm doors of the temple even shook—and her horns, crescent, flashed with gleams of light, and her loud sistrum rattled noisily. Although not quite free of all fear, yet pleased by that good omen, gladly the mother left the temple with her daughter Iphis, who beside her walked, but with a lengthened stride. Her face seemed of a darker hue, her strength seemed greater, and her features were more stern. Her hair once long, was unadorned and short. There is more vigor in her than she showed in her girl ways. For in the name of truth, Iphis, who was a girl, is now a man! Make offerings at the temple and rejoice without a fear!—They offer at the shrines, and add a votive tablet, on which this inscription is engraved: these gifts are paid by Iphis as a man which as a maid he vowed to give. The morrow's dawn revealed the wide world; on the day agreed, Venus, Juno and Hymen, all have met our happy lovers at the marriage fires; and Iphis, a new man, gained his Ianthe.