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[6]

The sixth labour he enjoined on him was to chase away the Stymphalian birds.1 Now at the city of Stymphalus in Arcadia was the lake called Stymphalian, embosomed in a deep wood. To it countless birds had flocked for refuge, fearing to be preyed upon by the wolves.2 So when Hercules was at a loss how to drive the birds from the wood, Athena gave him brazen castanets, which she had received from Hephaestus. By clashing these on a certain mountain that overhung the lake, he scared the birds. They could not abide the sound, but fluttered up in a fright, and in that way Hercules shot them.


1 As to the Stymphalian birds, see Ap. Rhod., Argon. ii.1052-1057, with the Scholiast on 1054; Diod. 4.13.2; Strab. 8.6.8; Paus. 8.22.4; Quintus Smyrnaeus, Posthomerica vi.227ff.; Tzetzes, Chiliades ii.291ff.; Hyginus, Fab. 20, 30; Serv. Verg. A. 8.300. These fabulous birds were said to shoot their feathers like arrows. Compare D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, Glossary of Greek Birds, p. 162. From the Ap. Rhod., Argon. ii.1052-1057, with the Scholiast on 1054 we learn that the use of a brazen rattle to frighten the birds was mentioned both by Pherecydes and Hellanicus.

2 In no other ancient account of the Stymphalian birds, so far as I know, are wolves mentioned. There is perhaps a reminiscence of an ancient legend in the name of the Wolf's Ravine, which is still given to the deep glen, between immense pine-covered slopes, through which the road runs southwestward from Stymphalus to Orchomenus. The glen forms a conspicuous feature in the landscape to anyone seated on the site of the ancient city and looking across the clear shallow water of the lake to the high mountains that bound the valley on the south. See Frazer on Paus. vol. iv. p. 269.

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    • George W. Mooney, Commentary on Apollonius: Argonautica, 2.1053
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