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There, in front, stand the echoing halls of the god of the lower-world, strong Hades, and of awful Persephone. A fearful hound guards the house in front, [770] pitiless, and he has a cruel trick. On those who go in he fawns with his tail and both his ears, but suffers them not to go out back again, but keeps watch and devours whomever he catches going out of the gates of strong Hades and awful Persephone. [775] And there dwells the goddess loathed by the deathless gods, terrible Styx, eldest daughter of backflowing1Ocean. She lives apart from the gods in her glorious house vaulted over with great rocks and propped up to heaven all round with silver pillars. [780] Rarely does the daughter of Thaumas, swift-footed Iris, come to her with a message over the sea's wide back. But when strife and quarrel arise among the deathless gods, and when any one of them who live in the house of Olympus lies, then Zeus sends Iris to bring in a golden jug the great oath of the gods [785] from far away, the famous cold water which trickles down from a high and beetling rock. Far under the wide-pathed earth a branch of Oceanus flows through the dark night out of the holy stream, and a tenth part of his water is allotted to her. [790] With nine silver-swirling streams he winds about the earth and the sea's wide back, and then falls into the main2; but the tenth flows out from a rock, a sore trouble to the gods. For whoever of the deathless gods that hold the peaks of snowy Olympus pours a libation of her water and is forsworn, [795] must lie breathless until a full year is completed, and never come near to taste ambrosia and nectar, but lie spiritless and voiceless on a strewn bed: and a heavy trance overshadows him. But when he has spent a long year in his sickness, [800] another penance more hard follows after the first. For nine years he is cut off from the eternal gods and never joins their councils or their feasts, nine full years. But in the tenth year he comes again to join the assemblies of the deathless gods who live in the house of Olympus. [805] Such an oath, then, did the gods appoint the eternal and primeval water of Styx to be: and it spouts through a rugged place.

1 Oceanus is here regarded as a continuous stream enclosing the earth and the seas, and so as flowing back upon himself.

2 The conception of Oceanus is here different: he has nine streams which encircle the earth and the flow out into the “main” which appears to be the waste of waters on which, according to early Greek and Hebrew cosmology, the disk-like earth floated.

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  • Commentary references to this page (1):
    • W. Walter Merry, James Riddell, D. B. Monro, Commentary on the Odyssey (1886), 5.185
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