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Lyric poetry also, from an early time, had been busied with these legends. The Ionian Archilochus (circ. 670 B.C.) composed a famous hymn to the victorious Heracles. It was known as the “καλλίνικος1, and was a counterpart, at the Olympian games, of ‘See, the conquering hero comes,’—being sung at the evening procession in honour of a victor, if no special ode had been written for the occasion. But it was in the choral form, a distinctively Dorian creation, that lyric poetry rendered its loftiest
tributes to the son of Alcmena. Stesichorus of Himera, a city in which Dorian and Chalcidic elements were blended, gave the spirit of Homeric epos to his choral hymns (circ. 620 B.C.). Into this new mould he cast three exploits of Heracles,—the triumphs over Geryon, Cycnus, and Cerberus2. Pindar's range of allusion
covers almost the whole field of the hero's deeds; but it is in the first Nemean ode that the original significance of the legend is best interpreted. When the infant has strangled the snakes sent by Hera, the Theban seer Teiresias predicts his destiny; how he shall destroy ‘many a monstrous shape of violence’ on land and sea; subdue the men ‘who walk in guile and insolence’; beat down the Earth-born foes of the gods; and then, for recompense of his great toils, win everlasting peace in the blest abodes, and, united to Hebè, ‘dwell gladly in the divine home of Zeus3.’

For readers of the Trachiniae this lyric literature has one

Deianeira associated with Heracles.
point of peculiar interest. It is there that we can first trace the association of Heracles with Deianeira. The Dorian Heracles had no original connection with the old heroic legends of Aetolia. The stamp of those legends, and their relation to others, indicate that they come from a pre-Dorian time, when Calydon and Pleuron, surrounded by fertile lands and blooming vineyards, were the strongholds of a chivalry devoted to war and to the chase; a chivalry from which popular tradition derived the images of Deianeira, of her parents Oeneus and Althaea, and of her brother Meleager. The story that Heracles had married Deianeira expressed the desire of immigrants, who had displaced the old Aetolian order, to claim kinship with the Dorian invaders of Peloponnesus.

Pindar, in a lost poem,—of what class, is unknown,—told the story somewhat as follows4. Heracles, having gone down to Hades for Cerberus, there met the departed Meleager, who recommended his sister Deianeira as a wife for the hero. On returning to the upper world, Heracles went at once to Aetolia, where he found that Deianeira was being wooed by the river-god Acheloüs. He fought with this formidable rival,—who wore the shape of a bull,—and broke off one of his horns. In order to recover it, Acheloüs gave his conqueror the wondrous ‘cornucopia’ which he himself had received from Amaltheia, daughter of Oceanus. Heracles presented this, by way of “ἕδνα” or ‘brideprice,’ to Oeneus5, and duly received the hand of the king's daughter.

Long before Pindar, Archilochus had related how Heracles overcame the tauriform suitor6, and won the fair maiden; how, after their marriage, Heracles and Deianeira dwelt with Oeneus at Calydon, until they were obliged to leave the country, because Heracles had accidentally slain the king's cupbearer; and how, at the river Evenus, the Centaur Nessus offered insult to the young wife, and was slain by her husband7. It may be added that the prose mythographer Pherecydes (circ. 480 B.C.) had told the story of Deianeira8. His birthplace was the island of Leros, near Miletus; but his home was at Athens, and his work, it can hardly be doubted, was known to Sophocles.

Heracles in drama.

1 In Pindar Ol. 9. 2καλλίνικος τριπλόος”, since the burden was thrice repeated. Bergk, Poet. Lyr. II. p. 418 (4th ed.).

2 Bergk, Poet. Lyr. III. p. 207.

3 Pind. Nem. 1. 60—72.

4 Schol. on Iliad 21. 194. The schol. on Il.8. 368 probably has the same passage in view when he quotes Pindar as saying that Cerberus had a hundred heads.

5 Strabo 10, p. 458..

6 Schol. Il. 21. 237.

7 Schol. Apoll. Rhod. 1. 1212: Dion Chrys. or. 60.

8 This appears from schol. Apoll. 1. 1213 (frag. 38 of Pherecydes in Müller, Frag. Hist. I. p. 82): and might have been inferred from the reference of Pherecydes to Hyllus (schol. Trach. 354, fr. 34 ap. Müller).

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hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (3):
    • Homer, Iliad, 8.368
    • Pindar, Nemean, 1
    • Pindar, Olympian, 9
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