Notes for

Ovid, Heroides IX

. . . :  A little over two lines are omitted here.  They are generally regarded as having been added by a later writer.

Achelous:  River-god, whose domain was the longest river in Greece.  Achelous was Hercules' rival for the hand of Deianira, and the two wrestled with one another to decide who would marry her.  Achelous turned into a serpent and then into a bull during the struggle, but Hercules defeated him, breaking off one of the bull's horns in the process.  Achelous was left with a disfiguring scar on his forehead.  The naiads (water-nymphs) took his broken horn and turned it into the Cornucopia, or horn of plenty.

adulteress:  Omphale, queen of Lydia.  The Delphic oracle ordered Hercules to work for three years and send his wages to King Eurytus, as compensation for the killing of Eurytus' son, Iphitus.  He became the servant of Omphale.  According to Ovid's version of the story, at Omphale's court he dressed in women's clothing and did "women's work," spinning wool, etc.  He also became Omphale's lover and had a son by her, Lamus.  The timeline on this is a little muddled; in at least some versions of the story, Hercules left Omphale before he married Deianira.

Aetolian:  Aetolia was a region in western Greece.  Deianira's father, Oeneus, was king of Calydon and Pleueron, in Aetolia.

Agrius:  Brother of King Oeneus of Calydon.  Agrius' sons overthrew Oeneus and placed Agrius on the throne.  Oeneus was later avenged by his grandson, Diomedes (not the same Diomedes that Hercules killed).

Alcides:  Another name for Hercules, probably derived from his grandfather, Alcaeus.  

Amphitryon:  Husband of Hercules' mother, Alcmene, and hence Hercules' human "father."  

Antaeus:  A giant who required everyone who came to him to wrestle with him; he killed everyone whom he defeated.  Hercules wrestled with him and killed him.  In some versions of the story (including the one that Ovid is relying on), Hercules discovered that Antaeus drew his strength from the earth, and so held him up in the air and squeezed him to death.

Aonia:  A name sometimes used for Boeotia, a region in central Greece.  Hercules' legends are strongly associated with Thebes, a city in Boeotia.

Atlas:  A Titan (the predecessors of the Olympian gods); brother of Prometheus and Epimetheus.  He fought with the Titans in their war against Jove and the other gods, and was punished by being made to hold up the heavens on his shoulders.  When Hercules was on his quest for the golden apples of the Hesperides (one of his Twelve Labors), he asked Atlas to help  him.  Atlas agreed to fetch the apples if Hercules would hold up the sky while he was gone.  When Atlas came back with the apples, however, he refused to resume his burden.  Hercules told Atlas that he needed to adjust a pad to ease the load on his shoulders, and tricked Atlas into holding up the sky while he did it.  Hercules then took the apples and went on his way, leaving Atlas once more holding up the sky.  Atlas was later turned into stone by seeing the head of the Medusa, and became the Atlas Mountains (in modern-day Morocco).  

Auge:  Daughter of Aleus and Neaera.  She was seduced by Hercules and bore a son, Telephus, by him. 

bane of Nemea:  The Nemean lion, which Hercules strangled as one of his Twelve Labors.  He wore a lion's skin as his customary garment--either the skin of this lion, or of the one he killed for Thespius (see the note on the fifty sisters).

basket:  In this case, a basket for holding wool during spinning.  

boars:  As one of his Twelve Labors for Eurystheus, Hercules had to capture the wild Erymanthian boar.

both houses of the sun:  Both the east and the west.

brother deprived of your homeland:  Tydeus.

Busiris:  An Egyptian king who sacrificed foreigner's on the altar of JoveHercules killed him, along with his followers.

Centaurs:  Mythological creatures who were humans from the waist up and horses from the waist down.  The Centaur Chiron, who was the friend of Hercules, was wise and virtuous, but in general Centaurs had a reputation for lust and drunken brawls. 

Cerberus:  A monstrous three-headed dog which guarded the entrance to the underworld.  It had snakes around its neck or a snake for a tail.  Hercules brought it up from the underworld to Eurystheus' court as part of his Twelve Labors.

club:  In addition to his bow and arrows, Hercules' main weapon was a massive club, supposedly made from an olive tree that he uprooted.  Deianira complains that Omphale has handled this as well.

collar hanging on Hercules' neck:  While he was a servant in Omphale's court, Hercules was supposed to have dressed effeminately and done the work of women (spinning, weaving, etc.).  There are a number of other references to feminine dress and ornamentation in the succeeding lines.

Deianira:  Second wife of Hercules; daughter of King Oeneus of Calydon, and Althaea.  Her family was a tragic one.  Her brother Tydeus was exiled because of a murder he committed.  Her brother Meleager was the hero who killed the fearsome Calydonian boar; however, he killed his maternal uncles in a dispute over the spoils of the boar.  His mother killed him in revenge for the killing of her brothers, and then committed suicide herself.  Her father, Oeneus, was forced from the throne by the sons of his brother, Agrius.  Deianira herself was wooed by the river-god Achelous, and when Hercules came to court her, he had to fight with Achelous to obtain her.  The two had a son, Hyllus.  Later, after Hercules was exiled from Calydon for accidentally killing a young boy, the Centaur Nessus tried to rape Deianira, and Hercules killed him with an arrow poisoned with the venom of the Hydra (see the note on the Twelve Labors).  As he was dying, Nessus told Deianira that his blood was a potent love-charm, which would bring Hercules' love back to her if he ever showed signs of straying.  She saved the blood.  When Hercules appeared to have fallen in love with Iole, Deianira soaked a tunic or shirt in the blood and sent it to Hercules.  When he put it on, the poison from his own arrow ate into his skin; when he tried to tear the shirt off, he tore off great chunks of his own flesh.  When Deianira realized what she had done, she committed suicide.

Diomedes:  One of Hercules' Twelve Labors was to capture the horses of Diomedes, a cruel king who fed his horses on human flesh.  After Hercules took the horses, he killed Diomedes and fed his body to the them.

entrails of sacrificial sheep:  Sheep were sacrificed in religious ceremonies, and their entrails (or intestines) were used to predict the future and to help make important decisions.

equine mob:  The Centaurs, creatures who were half-man, half-horse.  During his quest for the Erymanthian boar (part of his Twelve Labors), Hercules fought in the mountains of Thessaly with the Centaurs, defeating them but accidentally killing his own friend, the Centaur Chiron.  

Erymanthus:  A mountain in Arcadia, in Greece; home of the wild boar of Erymanthus, which Hercules captured as part of his Twelve Labors.  

Euenus:  A river in Aetolia, which flows from Mount Oeta.

Eurystheus:  King of Mycenae; son of Sthenelus and grandson of Perseus.  He became king through Juno's scheming.  Jove had had sex with the human woman Aclmene, the granddaughter or Perseus, and she was now pregnant with Hercules.  He boasted that he had fathered a child who would rule the descendants of Perseus.  Juno got him to promise that the descendant of Perseus who was born that day would be the ruler.  She then protracted Alcmene's labor and delayed Hercules' birth.  Meanwhile, Sthenelus's son, Eurystheus, was born, and Jove had to keep his promise.  Later Juno drove Hercules mad, leading him to kill his first wife, Megara, and their children.  One of the consequences of this was that Hercules had to spend twelve years in service to Eurystheus.  Perhaps at Juno's urging, Eurystheus imposed a series of twelve seemingly impossible labors on Hercules; he successfully completed them all and became firmly established as a great hero.

Eurytus:  King of Oechalia and father of Iole.  He had refused to let Hercules marry Iole; Hercules made war on Oechalia, killing Eurytus and capturing Iole.  As Deianira writes this letter, Hercules is bringing Iole back to their home in Trachis.   

fertile serpent:  The Lernaean hydra, a serpentine monster with nine heads (or seven, or a hundred, depending on the version of story).  When a head was cut off, two new ones grew in its place.  Hercules had to destroy the Hydra as part of his Twelve Labors.  He cut off each head, and then had his companion, Iolaus, apply a burning torch to the wound, in order to keep the stump from re-growing new heads.  One of the heads was immortal, however; Hercules buried that one.  He used the venom of the Hydra to poison his arrows.

foreign concubine:  Iole.

Geryon:  A monster with three bodies, who ruled a kingdom that was placed in various locales around the Mediterranean by various versions of the story.  In Ovid's version, he has Iberian cattle, from the area that includes modern-day Spain and Portugal.  Hercules brought these cattle back to Eurystheus' court as part of his Twelve Labors.  

goddess:  Juno.

Gorge:  Daughter of Oeneus, the king of Calydon; sister of Deianira, Meleager, and Tydeus.

half-man:  Centaur.

he:  Jove, Hercules' father, who spent a single night with Alcmene (Hercules' mother). 

heads mounted over Thracian homes:  King Diomedes, who fed his horses on human flesh, supposedly displayed the heads of his victims over the gates of his palace.  Hercules captured the horses of Diomedes as part of his Twelve Labors.  

Hercules:  Son of the god Jove and the human woman Alcmene (who was the wife of the human Amphitryon).  He was often called Alcides.  He carried a club and a bow and arrows as his weapons, and wore a lion's skin as clothing or armor.  Jove's wife, Juno, was his implacable enemy.  Both Hercules and Eurystheus were descendants of Perseus, and as Alcmene was about to give birth, Juno got Jove to promise that the descendant of Perseus who was born on that day would be king of the Perseid people.  Juno, who was the goddess who presided over childbirth, prolonged Alcmene's labor, and it was Eurystheus, not Hercules, who was born that day and became king.  Later, as Hercules lay in his cradle, Juno sent two serpents to destroy him; Hercules strangled them as he lay in his crib.  Hercules' first wife was Megara, and they had several children.  However, Juno sent madness upon Hercules, who killed his own wife and children.  He recovered his sanity and was purified of his guilt, but had to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years.  Eurystheus set twelve labors for Hercules to accomplish:  1) the Nemean lion; 2) the Lernean Hydra; 3) the Ceryneian stag; 4) the Erymanthean boar; 5) the stables of Augeus; 6) the Stymphalian birds; 7) the Cretan bull; 8) the horses of Diomedes; 9) the girdle of Hippolyte; 10) the cattle of Geryon; 11) the golden apples of the Hesperides; 12) the three-headed dog, Cerberus.  For more details on these tasks, see the note on the Twelve Labors of Hercules.  Hercules also had a number of adventures and amatory interludes which occurred either before, during, or after the twelve labors.  For details of some of these, see the notes on  Antaeus, Auge, Busiris, the equine mob (Centaurs), the nymph of Ormenus, and the fifty sisters (the daughters of Thespius).  After the twelve years were up, and the twelve labors were complete, Hercules went to the court of Eurytus, king of Oechalia, and sought to marry his daughter, Iole.  Eurytus refused, perhaps because Hercules had killed his own children.  While he was there, Hercules killed Iphitus, his friend and the son of Eurytus.  He was again purified of his guilt, but he became ill, and the oracle at Delphi told him that, in order to be cured, he must work three years for wages and give his earnings to Eurytus.  Hercules became a servant to Omphale, the queen of Lydia.  According to Ovid's version of the myth, he wore women's clothing during his period of service, and performed the work of a maid-servant.  He also became Omphale's lover and had a son, Lamus, by her.  After he left Omphale's service, he married Deianira, who was the daughter of King Oeneus and is the writer of this letter.  He had to wrestle with a rival suitor, the river-god Achelous, in order to obtain her; in the struggle, Achelous changed into a serpent and then into a bull, but Hercules defeated him, breaking off one of the bull's horns in the process.  A few years later, he accidentally killed the boy Eunomus at Oeneus' court, and he and Deianira went into exile.  As they traveled, they came to the river Euenus, where the Centaur Nessus offered to take Deianira across.  Nessus then tried to rape her, and Hercules killed him with one of his poisoned arrows.  As he was dying, Nessus told Deianira that his blood had the power of love, and could assure Hercules' faithfulness if he ever showed signs of straying.  Hercules and Deianira settled down in Trachis, where they had a son, Hyllus.  But Hercules had not forgotten Iole.  He made war on Oechalia, killed Iole's father, King Eurytus, and brought her back as a slave.  On his way back to Trachis, he stopped to make offerings to Jove.  Deianira heard about Iole and feared that she was a rival for Hercules' love.  She sent Hercules a shirt or tunic soaked with the blood of Nessus the Centaur.  The blood still carried the deadly poison of the Hydra from Hercules' arrow, so when he put the shirt on to make his offerings, the poison entered his system.  He tried to tear the shirt off, but it had eaten into his skin, and he tore off large chunks of his own flesh.  He was carried back to Trachis in great agony; Deianira hanged herself in remorse for what she had done.  Hercules built a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, climbed onto it, and set it on fire.  As he burned alive, the gods came down and took him up to Olympus, where he became a god himself and formed a constellation among the stars.

horses fattened by the slaughter of men:  The horses of Diomedes, who were fed on human flesh.  Hercules captured these horses as part of  his Twelve Labors.  

hung as a great weight:  Antaeus.  

Hyllus:  Son of Hercules and Deianira.

Hymen:  God of marriage.  Generally represented as a youthful, handsome man, carrying a marriage torch and blessing a wedding.  Deianira sees his presence at any marriage between Hercules and Iole in decidedly dark terms.

Iardanus:  King of Lydia, father of Omphale.

Iberian:  Iberia is the peninsula in southwestern Europe which includes modern-day Spain and Portugal.

Iole:  Daughter of King Eurytus of OechaliaHercules was in love with Iole and had sought to marry her, but Eurytus had refused his permission.  Shortly before this letter was written, Hercules attacked Oechalia and conquered it, killing Eurytus and taking Iole prisoner.  

Ionian girls:  Omphale's maids.  Ionia was actually a group of Greek colonies along the Aegean coast of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), but it adjoined Lydia, and was sometimes seen as having the same sort of refined and "effeminate" culture.  "Ionian" is almost used as a synonym for "Lydian" here.

Jove:  King of the gods, and father of Hercules.  Jove became enamored of the human woman Alcmene, who was the wife of Amphitryon.  He had sex with her on a single night, disguised as Amphitryon.  Alcmene then gave birth to Hercules, after a period of labor which was lengthened and made more painful by Jove's jealous wife, Juno.

Juno:  Goddess; wife of Jove, who was king of the gods and father of Hercules.  She was also a goddess who presided over childbirth.  Juno was Hercules' lifelong enemy.  She delayed his birth, allowing Eurystheus to become king instead of Hercules, and then sent two serpents to kill him in his cradle.  She also drove him mad, leading him to kill his first wife, Megara, and their children.  For more details, see the note on Hercules.  She is also presumed to have been involved in the famous Twelve Labors which Eurystheus imposed on Hercules, and which helped to establish Hercules as a great hero.

Lamus:  Son of Hercules and Omphale, queen of Lydia.  Hence Deianira would be Lamus' stepmother.  

lions:  As one of his Twelve Labors, Hercules killed the lion of Nemea, a fierce beast which was invulnerable to weapons.  As a boy or very young man, he also killed a lion which was preying on the flocks of King Thespius (see the note on the fifty sisters).  From one of these conquests (depending on the version of the story), Hercules took the lion skin which he wore as clothing.

Lydian, Lydia:  Lydia was a kingdom in Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey).  Its queen was Omphale, whom Hercules served for three years, and by whom he had a son, Lamus.  See the note on Hercules for more details of this episode.

Maeander:  River in Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey).  It was noted for its winding, "meandering" course.  It formed one of the borders of Lydia.

Maeonian:  Maeonia was the Homeric name for Lydia.  

Meleager:  Son of King Oeneus of Calydon and Althea; brother of Deianira.  When he was born, the three Fates (or Moirae) announced to his mother, Althaea, that Meleager would live only so long as a brand burning upon the hearth remained unconsumed. Althaea snatched the brand from the fire and kept it in a safe place. Meleager grew up into a valiant warrior who was seemingly invulnerable to harm, and accompanied Jason as one of the Argonauts in the quest for the Golden Fleece.  Later, when King Oeneus neglected the rites of Diana, the goddess sent a giant boar to ravage the countryside of Calydon.  A crowd of the greatest Greek heroes, including Meleager, was assembled to hunt down the boar.  Meleager was in love with Atalanta, the only woman among the hunting party, and he rejoiced when she was the first to wound the boar; he then completed the kill himself, and awarded the boar's hide to her, on the ground that she had drawn first blood. However, Meleager's maternal uncles, Toxeus and Plexippus, were enraged that the prize of the hunt should be awarded to a woman, and tried to take it for themselves. Meleager fought with them and killed them.  Upon hearing the news of her brothers' deaths, Althaea removed the half-consumed brand from its hiding place and cast it upon the fire. Meleager writhed in agony, finally dying when the brand was burned entirely into ash.  Althaea then repented of what she had done, and committed suicide.

missiles black with Lernaean poison:  Hercules poisoned his arrows with the venom of the Hydra, a monster which he killed as part of his Twelve LaborsDeianira complains that Omphale has carried those as well.  

mother:  Alcmene, wife of AmphitryonJove visited Alcmene disguised as Amphitryon and had sex with her.  As a result, she gave birth to Hercules.

Mount Oeta:  A mountain in Thessaly, where Hercules built his funeral pyre after being poisoned by the tunic soaked in the blood of Nessus.

my husband:  Hercules.

My mother:  Althaea, wife of Oeneus, king of Calydon; mother of Deianira, Meleager, Tydeus, and Gorge.  She committed suicide after taking the life of her son, Meleager (for further details, see the note on Meleager).

Nereus:  A sea-god, father of the fifty Nereids.  Here he seems to be simply a personification of the sea, which "surrounds the broad earth."

Nessus:  Centaur who stationed himself near the river Euenus and offered to take travelers across the river for a small fee.  When Hercules and Deianira came to the river, Hercules swam across, but allowed Nessus to carry Deianira.  Nessus then tried to rape Deianira, and Hercules then killed him with one of the arrows he had poisoned with with venom of the Hydra (the the note on the Twelve Labors).  As Nessus was dying, he got his revenge by telling Deianira that his blood had power over love, and that if Hercules ever showed signs of infidelity, a garment or cloth soaked in the blood would bring him back to her.  Later, when Hercules was bringing the woman Iole back to Trachis, Deianira sent him a tunic soaked with the blood of Nessus.  The blood was still tainted with the poison of the Hydra, so when Hercules put the tunic on, he suffered great and fatal agony.  When Hercules tried to tear the tunic off, it clung to his skin, and he tore off great chunks of his own flesh.  After Deianira realized what she had done, she committed suicide.  

nymph of Ormenus:  Astydamia, daughter of Amyntor of Ormenus.  She had a son, Ctesippus, by Hercules.  She seems to have been a human rather than a nymph (i.e., a minor deity of the forests, springs, etc.)

Oechalia:  Probably a city in Euboea, an island just off the eastern coast of Greece, in the Aegean Sea (there were two other Oechalias, as well).  It was ruled by King EurytusHercules was enamored of Eurytus's daughter, Iole, but Eurytus refused to let him marry her.  Hercules conquered Oechalia, killed Eurytus, and took Iole prisoner.

Oeneus:  King of Calydon and Pleuron in Aetolia; father of Hercules' wife, Deianira, as well as of Meleager, Tydeus, and Gorge.  Late in life, he was forced from his throne by the sons of his brother, Agrius, and Agrius ruled in his place for a number of years.

old father:  Oeneus.

other brother:  Meleager.

Parthenian:  Mount Parthenius was a mountain in Arcadia, in Greece.  According to legend, Hercules' son, Telephus (see the note on Auge), was suckled by a female deer on Mount Parthenius.

Pelasgian:  The Pelasgians were presumed to be the oldest (or at least pre-Hellenic) inhabitants of Greece.  The name was used in a number of areas of Greece, in which the populations claimed to be of very old lineage.  "Pelasgian" is used broadly here as a synonym for "Greek."

Phrygia:  A region to the east of Lydia; it also included territory near the city of Troy.  The border between Lydia and Phrygia was not particularly well fixed; "Phrygian" here seems to be used as an alternative to "Lydian."

powerful god:  Jove.

rough skin:  The lion's skin that Hercules usually wore.  It was the skin of the Nemean lion (see note on the Twelve Labors) or of the lion Hercules killed for Thespius (see note on the fifty sisters).  Deianira complains that Omphale wore it.  

serpents:  Besides the twin serpents that Juno sent to destroy him as a baby, Hercules also faced the Hydra, a serpentine monster with nine heads which lived in the swamps of Lerna.  For more details, see the note on the Twelve Labors.

Sidonian:  Sidon was a Phoenician city on the coast of what is now Lebanon.

sister:  Juno, who was both Jove's sister and his wife.  

sisters:  The fifty daughters of Thespius.  As a boy or young man, Hercules killed a lion which was ravaging the flocks of Thespius.  As reward, Thespius let Hercules stay as a guest in his palace during the hunt, and offered his daughters to the young hero, who slept with all of them in a single night; apparently all of them had children by him. 

sky which is to bear you:  After Hercules becomes a god, he is a constellation in the heavens.

stepmother:  Juno.  She was the wife of Jove (Hercules' father), and so could be called Hercules' stepmother.

Stheneleian enemy:  Eurystheus, son of Sthenelus.

Tegeaean boar:  The boar of Erymanthus, which Hercules captured as part of his Twelve Labors.  Tegea was a city in Arcadia, and Erymanthus was a mountain in Arcadia.  Hence "Tegeaean" means roughly "Arcadian" here.

Thessalian:  Thessaly was a region of northern Greece.

Thracian:  Of or relating to Thrace, the home of Diomedes.  Thrace was a region roughly to the northeast of classical-era Greece, including parts of modern-day Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.  There were Greek colonies along the Aegean coast of Thrace, but the interior was dominated by Thracian-speaking peoples, including warlike tribes living in the mountains of Haemus and Rhodope, whom the Greeks considered barbarous. Thrace is also often associated with music, especially of the lyre. 

three-faced dogs:  Cerberus.  

Thunderer, he who thunders:  Jove (Hercules' father), who caused the thunder and whose primary weapons were thunderbolts..

Twelve Labors of Hercules:  Hercules was driven mad by Juno, and he killed his first wife, Megara, and his children.  He was purified of his guilt after he regained his sanity, but when he consulted the oracle at Delphi, he was told to serve King Eurystheus for twelve years.  Eurystheus, possibly with Juno's urging, set him twelve tasks, or labors, to complete.  These were the famous "Labors of Hercules."  They were as follows.  1) He had to bring back the skin of the Nemean lion, a monstrous beast which was invulnerable to weapons.  Hercules strangled the lion.  2) He had to destroy the Hydra, a nine-headed, serpent-like beast which lived in the swamps of Lerna.  When one of its heads was cut off, two others grew in its place.  Hercules cut off eight of the heads and then had his companion, Iolaus, burn the wounds with a torch to prevent their re-growth; the ninth head, which was immortal, he buried.  He used the Hydra's venomous blood to poison his arrows.  3) He had to capture the Ceryneian stag, a deer with golden antlers and bronze feet.  He chased it for a year, eventually wounding it and carrying it back on his shoulders.  4) He had to capture the wild boar of Erymanthus.  He chased it through deep snow until it was exhausted, and then carried it back to Eurystheus.  5) He had to cleanse the stables of Augeus, a king who had 3,000 oxen whose stalls had not been cleaned for thirty years.  Augeus promised him one tenth of the oxen if he could accomplish the task in a single day.  Hercules diverted two rivers and washed the stables clean, but Augeus reneged on his promise.  6) He had to destroy the birds of Stymphalus, which had bronze claws, wings, and beaks, and ate human flesh.  He used a bronze rattle to frighten the birds, and then killed them as they flew.  7) He had to capture the bull of Crete, which had been driven mad by the god Neptune after King Minos of Crete had reneged on his promise to sacrifice it.  He captured the bull and brought it home on his shoulders, afterwards setting it free again.  8) He had to capture the horses of Diomedes, king of the Bistones in Thrace, which were fed on human flesh.  As he was taking the horses away, the Bistones attacked him; he killed Diomedes and fed his body to the horses.  9) He had to acquire the girdle of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons.  She was willing to give it to him, but Juno roused the Amazon women into attacking him, and he killed Hippolyte and took the girdle by force.  10) He had to capture the cattle of Geryon, a monster with three bodies.  The cattle were guarded by a giant, Eurytion, and by a two-headed dog, Orthus.  He killed Geryon, Eurytion and Orthus and brought the cattle back; Eurystheus then sacrificed them to Juno.  11) He had to bring back the golden apples of the Hesperides, which Juno had received as a wedding present.  He sent the Titan Atlas, whose task was to hold up the sky, to get the apples for him; in return, he held up the sky in Atlas' absence.  Atlas brought back the apples but refused to take over the burden of the sky.  Hercules tricked Atlas into holding the sky again for a moment, and then left with the apples.  Eurystheus presented the apples to Hercules as a gift; Hercules dedicated them to the goddess Minerva, who returned them to the Hesperides.    12) He had to bring the giant three-headed dog, Cerberus, who guarded the gates of the underworld, to Eurystheus.  He got the god of the underworld, Pluto, to agree to let him take the dog if he could accomplish it without weapons.  He carried Cerberus to Eurystheus' palace, and then returned it to the underworld. 

twin serpents, huge serpents:  When Hercules was a baby, Juno sent two serpents to kill him in his cradle.  The infant Hercules grasped the serpents and squeezed them to death.

Tydeus:  Son of Oeneus, king of Calydon, and Althea.  He was the brother of Deianira.  He committed a murder and was forced into exile from Calydon.  He fled to Argos, where he married Deipyle, the daughter of Adrastus.  Tydeus was renowned as a fierce warrior, and was one of the heroes who followed Adrastus in the ill-fated expedition known as the "Seven against Thebes," where he was killed.  He had a son, Diomedes, who restored the line of Oeneus to power in Calydon (see the note on Agrius), and who became one of the greatest of the Greek heroes in the Trojan War.  

vanquished:  IoleDeianira is saying that Hercules, having conquered Oechalia and captured Iole, has succumbed to his love for his captive.

Venus:  The goddess of love and sexual desire.  Venus did not have any particular hostility towards Hercules; Deianira is simply suggesting that Hercules was especially susceptible to love and could get in trouble because of it.

white poplar:  The white poplar was sacred to Hercules.  According to some versions of the myth, he wore a garland of white poplar when he descended into the underworld to bring back the three-headed dog, Cerberus, as one of his Twelve Labors.  

you yourself once bore, sky was a small burden:  Hercules once held up the weight of the sky on his shoulders.  For more details, see the note on Atlas.




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Last updated 06/23/2013