), a waterfall descending from a lofty rock in the Aroanian mountains, above Nonacris, a town in the NE. of Arcadia, in the district of Pheneus.
The water descends perpendicularly in two slender cascades, which, after winding among a labyrinth of rocks, unite to form a torrent that falls into the Crathis.
It is by far the highest waterfall in Greece; the scenery is one of wild desolation; and it is almost impossible to climb over the rocks to the foot of the cascade.
The wildness of the scenery, the inaccessibility of the spot, and the singularity of the waterfall made at an early period a deep impression upon the Greeks, and invested the Styx with superstitious reverence.
It is correctly described by both Homer and Hesiod.
The former poet speaks of the “down-flowing water of the Styx” (τὸ κατειβόμενον Στυγὸς ὕδωρ, Il. 15.37
), and of the “lofty torrents of the Styx” (Στυγὸς ὕδατος αἰπὰ ῥέεθρα, Il. 8.369
). Hesiod describes it as “a cold stream, which descends from a precipitous lofty rock” (ὕδωρ ψυχρὸν ὅ τ᾽ ἐκ πετρῆς καταλείβεται ἠλιβάτοιο ὑψηλῆς, Theog.
785), and as “the perennial most ancient water of the Styx, which flows through a very rugged place” (Στυγὸς ἄφθιτον ὕδωρ ὠγύγιον, τὸ δ᾽ ἵησι καταστυφέλου διὰ χώρου, Theog.
The account of Herodotus, who does not appear to have visited the Styx, is not so accurate.
He says that the Styx is a fountain in the town Nonacris; that only a little water is apparent; and that it dropt from the rock into a cavity surrounded by a wall (6.74).
In the same passage Herodotus relates that Cleomenes endeavoured to persuade the chief men of Arcadia to swear by the waters of the Styx to support him in his enterprise. Among the later descriptions of this celebrated stream that of Pausanias (8.17.6
) is the most full and exact. “Not far from the ruins of Nonacris,” he says, “is a lofty precipice higher than I ever remember to have seen, over which descends water, which the Greeks call the Styx.” He adds that when Homer represents Hera swearing by the Styx, it is just as if the poet had the water of the stream dropping before his eyes. The Styx was transferred by the Greek and Roman poets to the invisible world [see Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biogr. and Myth.
]; but the waterfall of Nonacris continued to be regarded with superstitious terrors; its water was supposed to be poisonous; and it was believed that it destroyed all kinds of vessels, in which it was put, with the exception of those made of the hoof of a horse or an ass.
There was a report that Alexander the Great had been poisoned by the water of the Styx. (Arrian, Arr. Anab. 7.27
; Plut. Alex. 77
, de Prim. Frig.
20. p. 954; Paus. 8.18.4
; Strab. viii. p.389
; Aelian, H. An.
10.40; Antig. Hist. Mirab.
158 or 174; Stob. Ecl. Phys. 1.52.48
; Plin. Nat. 2.103. s. 106
. s. 53, 31.2. s. 19; Vitr. 8.3
; Senec. Q. N.
The belief in the deleterious nature of the [p. 2.1041]
water continues down to the present day, and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages relate that no vessel will hold the water.
It is now called τὰ Μαυρανέρια,
or the Black Waters, and sometimes τὰ Δρακο-νέρια
or the Terrible Waters. (Leake, Morea,
vol. iii. p. 160, seq.; Fiedler, Reise durch Griechenland,
vol. i. p. 400, who gives a drawing of the Styx; Curtius, Peloponnesos,
vol. i. p. 195.)