Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 106

Deianeira ever at his side; and after many days they came to the river Evenus, whose usually shallow and peaceful waters were swollen and turbid, for violent rainstorms had recently swept over that portion of the country.

Story of Nessus.

Hercules paused for a moment to contemplate the stream, and glanced about for some safe mode to transport Deianeira across. While he was thus considering, a Centaur by the name of Nessus came to his assistance, and proposed to carry the fair young bride to the other shore in complete safety, if she would but consent to mount upon his broad back.

“The hoary centaur, who was wont for hire
To bear the traveler o’er the rapid flood
Of deep Evenus: not with oars or sail
He stemm’d the torrent, but with nervous arm
Opposed and pass’d it; me, when first a bride,
I left my father’s hospitable roof
With my Alcides, in his arms he bore
Athwart the current.”
Sophocles (Francklin’s tr.).

Hercules, only too glad to avail himself of the Centaur’s kind offer of assistance, quickly helped Deianeira to mount, saw them descend into the water, and prepared to follow, holding his bow and arrows aloft in one hand, and breasting the waves with the other.

Now, the Centaur Nessus did not often have the good fortune Refer to caption

FARNESE HERCULES. (National Museum, Naples.)

In his rage at the trick which had been played upon him, he seized Lichas—the unfortunate bearer of the poisoned robe—by [238] the foot, and flung him from the heights of Mount Œta down into the sea, where he perished.

“And Lichas from the top of Œta threw
Into th’ Euboic Sea.”