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[HEROID. EPIST. IX.]
Deianira, daughter of Eneus, king of Calydon, in Ætolia, was the wife of Hercules. The story about Hercules runs thus :-He was supposed to be the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. This made Juno, the wife of Jupiter, jealous of him and hate him; so that she sent two dreadful serpents to kill him (v. 53): afterwards, she persuaded Eurystheus, king of Mycena (v. 21), to persecute him, and try to kill him, by making him undergo twelve famous labours (vv. 55—68). But he was a man of such gigantic stature and strength, that he overcame all his enemies, and triumphantly performed all the labours imposed on him. But as Samson, in Holy Writ, after having vanquished all the enemies of Israel, was beguiled by the beauty of Dalilah, and thus was brought to bondage and destruction; so Hercules, after having conquered every thing else, was ruined by his own evil and violent passions. And so it came to pass, that, when he had taken Echalia, a city of the island Euboea, he fell in love with Iole, daughter of Eurytus, king of that place.
The report of this sad and disgraceful affair soon spread through Greece, and came to the ears of Deianira (vv. 1—6): upon hearing it, she wrote this letter to her husband, reproaching him with his cruelty to her, and pointing out to him the dishonour he was bringing on himself.
But whilst she is writing, a messenger comes (v. 109), to tell her that Hercules is dead, having been killed by a charmed shirt, which Deianira herself had given him. It happened once upon a time, that Nessus, a centaur, ran away with Deianira; but Hercules pursued him, and shot him with an arrow; for he was a very famous archer. Nessus died of the wound; but, as he was dying, he took a tunic, or shirt, and dipped it in the blood of his wound. He made a present of it to Deianira, telling her (v. 127) that if ever her husband fell in love with another woman, this tunic, being put on him, would bring his affections back to his lawful wife. So, when Deianira heard that Hercules was in love with Iole, she sent him this tunic, requesting him to wear it: but, instead of recovering his affections to his wife, it tore his body in a dreadful manner, and he died in great agonies, on Mount Eta (v. 113). Deianira, on the receipt of this news, was overwhelmed by self-reproach, and resolved to kill herself; and so ends this sad story (v. 117).
GRATULOR Echaliam titulis accedere nostris ;
5 Quem nunquam Juno, seriesque immensa laborum Fregerit, huic Iolen imposuisse jugum.
Plus tibi, quam Juno, nocuit Venus. Illa premendo
Respice vindicibus pacatum viribus orbem,
Qua latam Nereus cærulus ambit humum:
15 Quid nisi notitia est misero quæsita pudori,
Tene ferunt geminos pressisse tenaciter angues,
Cedunt dissimiles hic vir et ille puer.
Quem non mille feræ, quem non Stheneleïus hostis,
25 Vidit in Herculeo suspensa monilia collo;
Non puduit fortes auro cohibere lacertos,
Aptior Hercules populus alba comæ.
35 Non tibi succurrit crudi Diomedis imago,
45 Crassaque robusto deducis pollice fila,
55 Ut Tegeæus aper cupressifero Erymantho
65 Quique inter lævumque latus, lævumque lacertum,