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"After him I saw mighty Herakles, but it was his phantom only, for he is feasting ever with the immortal gods, and has lovely Hebe to wife, who is daughter of Zeus and Hera. The ghosts were screaming round him like scared birds flying in all directions. He looked black as night with his bare bow in his hands and his arrow on the string, glaring around as though ever on the point of taking aim. About his breast there was a wondrous golden belt adorned in the most marvelous fashion with bears, wild boars, and lions with gleaming eyes; there was also war, battle, and death. The man who made that belt, do what he might, would never be able to make another like it. Herakles knew me at once when he saw me, and spoke piteously, saying, ‘My poor Odysseus, noble son of Laertes, are you too leading the same sorry kind of life that I did when I was above ground? I was son of Zeus, but I went through an infinity of suffering, for I became bondsman to one who was far beneath me - a lowly man who set me all manner of labors [athloi]. He once sent me here to fetch the hell-hound - for he did not think he could find any athlos harder for me than this, but I got the hound out of Hades and brought him to him, for Hermes and Athena helped me.’

"On this Herakles went down again into the house of Hades, but I stayed where I was in case some other of the mighty dead should come to me. And I should have seen still other of them that are gone before, whom I would fain have seen - Theseus and Peirithoos glorious children of the gods, but so many thousands of ghosts came round me and uttered such appalling cries, that I was panic stricken lest Persephone should send up from the house of Hades the head of that awful monster Gorgon. On this I hastened back to my ship and ordered my men to go on board at once and loose the hawsers; so they embarked and took their places, whereon the ship went down the stream of the river Okeanos. We had to row at first, but presently a fair wind sprang up.

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load focus Notes (W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, 1886)
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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • Thomas D. Seymour, Commentary on Homer's Iliad, Books IV-VI, 5.741
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