P. 409

Propertius 4.9.1-20

In those days when Hercules, Amphitryon’s son drove the oxen, O Erythea, from your stalls, he reached the untamed, cattle-rich Palatine, and, weary himself, halted his weary herd, where the Velabrum dammed its flow, where the boatman sails over urban waters. But they were still not safe there, Cacus proving a treacherous host: he dishonoured Jupiter by thieving. Cacus lived there, robbing, from his dreaded cavern, he who gave out separate sounds from triple mouths. So there would be no obvious sign of the certain theft, he dragged the cattle backwards to his cave. Yet not without the god witnessing it: the bulls proclaimed the thief, and rage broke down the thief’s savage doors.

Struck three times on the forehead by the Maenalian club, Cacus fell, and Alcides spoke as follows: ‘Cattle, cattle of Hercules, go, my cudgel’s last labour, twice sought after by me, twice my prize, cattle, sanctify the Cattle-Market, with your deep lowing: your pastures will become the famous Roman Forum.’ Latin Text

Ovid, Fasti 1.543-82

Lo! the club-bearer hither drives the Erythean kine; a long road he had travelled across the world; and while he is kindly entertained in the Tegean house, the kine unguarded stray about the spacious fields. When morning broke, roused from his sleep the Tirynthian drover perceived that of the tale two bulls were missing. He sought but found no tracks of the noiselessly stolen beasts. Fierce Cacus had dragged the bulls backwards into his cave, Cacus the terror and shame of the Aventine wood, to neighbours and to strangers no small curse. Grim was his aspect, huge his frame, his strength to match; the monster’s sire was Mulciber. For house he had a cavern vast with long recesses, hidden so that hardly could the wild beasts themselves discover it. Above the doorway skulls and arms of men were fastened pendent, while the ground bristled and bleached with human bones. The son of Jove was going off with the loss of part of the herd, when the stolen cattle lowed hoarsely. “I accept the recall,” quoth he, and following the sound he came, intent on vengeance, through the woods to the unholy cave. But the robber had blocked the entrance with a barricade of crag, scarcely could twice five yoke of oxen have stirred that mass. Hercules shoved it with his shoulders – the shoulders on which the sky itself had once rested – and by the shock he loosened the vast bulk. Its overthrow was followed by a crash that startled even the upper air, and the battered ground sank under the ponderous weight. At first Cacus fought hand to hand, and waged battle fierce with rocks and logs. But when these naught availed him, worsted he had recourse to his sire’s tricks, and belched flames from his roaring mouth; at every blast you might deem that Typhoeus blew, and that a sudden blaze shot out from Etna’s fires. But Alcides was too quick for him; up he heaved the triple-knotted club, and brought it thrice, yea four times down full on the foeman’s face. He fell, vomiting smoke mixed with blood, and dying beat the ground with his broad breast. Of the bulls the victor sacrificed one to thee, Jupiter, and invited Evander and the swains to the feast; and for himself he set up the altar which is called the Greatest at the spot where a part of the City takes its name from an ox. Latin Text

Dionysios of Halikarnassos, The Roman Atiquities 1.43

Greek Text and English Translation

Diodoros Siculus 4.22.6-23.1

When Heracles arrived at the strait where the sea is narrowest, he had the cattle taken over into Sicily, but as for himself, he took hold of the horn of a bull and swam across the passage, the distance between the shores being thirteen stades, as Timaeus says.

 Upon his arrival in Sicily Heracles desired to make the circuit of the entire island and so set out from Pelorias in the direction of Eryx. While passing along the coast of the island, the myths relate, the Nymphs caused warm baths to gush forth so that he might refresh himself after the toil sustained in his journeying. There are two of these, called respectively Himeraea and Egestaea, each of them having its name from the place where the baths are. As Heracles approached the region of Eryx, he was challenged to a wrestling match by Eryx, who was the son of Aphroditê and Butas, who was then king of that country. The contest of the rivals carried with it a penalty, whereby Eryx was to surrender his land and Heracles the cattle. Now at first Eryx was displeased at such terms, maintaining that the cattle were of far less value as compared with the land; but when Heracles in answer to his arguments showed that if he lost the cattle he would likewise lose his immortality, Eryx agreed to the terms, and wrestling with him was defeated and lost his land. Heracles turned the land over to the natives of the region, agreeing with them that they should gather the fruits of it until one of his descendants should appear among them and demand it back; and this actually came to pass. For in fact many generations later Dorieus the Lacedaemonian came to Sicily, and taking back the land founded the city of Heracleia. Since the city grew rapidly, the Carthaginians, being jealous of it and also afraid that it would grow stronger than Carthage and take from the Phoenicians their sovereignty, came up against it with a great army, took it by storm, and razed it to the ground. But this affair we shall discuss in detail in connection with the period in which it falls. Greek Text

ApB 2.5.10 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

And passing through Abderia he came to Liguria, where Ialebion and Dercynus, sons of Poseidon, attempted to rob him of the kine, but he killed them and went on his way through Tyrrhenia. But at Rhegium a bull broke away and hastily plunging into the sea swam across to Sicily, and having passed through the neighboring country since called Italy after it, for the Tyrrhenians called the bull italus, came to the plain of Eryx, who reigned over the Elymi. Now Eryx was a son of Poseidon, and he mingled the bull with his own herds. So Hercules entrusted the kine to Hephaestus and hurried away in search of the bull. He found it in the herds of Eryx, and when the king refused to surrender it unless Hercules should beat him in a wrestling bout, Hercules beat him thrice, killed him in the wrestling, and taking the bull drove it with the rest of the herd to the Ionian Sea. But when he came to the creeks of the sea, Hera afflicted the cows with a gadfly, and they dispersed among the skirts of the mountains of Thrace. Hercules went in pursuit, and having caught some, drove them to the Hellespont; but the remainder were thenceforth wild. Having with difficulty collected the cows, Hercules blamed the river Strymon, and whereas it had been navigable before, he made it unnavigable by filling it with rocks; and he conveyed the kine and gave them to Eurystheus, who sacrificed them to Hera. Greek Text

Pausanias 3.16.4-5

As you go from the Tunic in the direction of the gate there is a hero-shrine of Cheilon, who is considered one of the Seven Sages, and also of Athenodorus, one of those who with Dorieus the son of Anaxandrides set out for Sicily. The reason of their setting out was that they held that the Erycine district belonged to the descendants of Heracles and not to the foreigners who held it. The story is that Heracles wrestled with Eryx on these terms: if Heracles won, the land of Eryx was to belong to him but if he were beaten, Eryx was to depart with the cows of Geryon for Heracles at the time was driving these away, and when they swam across to Sicily he too crossed over in search of them near the bent olive-tree. The favour of heaven was more partial to Heracles than it was afterwards to Dorieus the son of Anaxandrides; Heracles killed Eryx, but Dorieus himself and the greater part of his army were destroyed by the Egestaeans. Greek Text

Herodotos 4.8-10

But the story told by the Greeks who live in Pontus is as follows. Heracles, driving the cattle of Geryones, came to this land, which was then desolate, but is now inhabited by the Scythians. Geryones lived west of the Pontus, settled in the island called by the Greeks Erythea, on the shore of Ocean near Gadira, outside the pillars of Heracles. As for Ocean, the Greeks say that it flows around the whole world from where the sun rises, but they cannot prove that this is so. Heracles came from there to the country now called Scythia, where, encountering wintry and frosty weather, he drew his lion’s skin over him and fell asleep, and while he slept his mares, which were grazing yoked to the chariot, were spirited away by divine fortune. When Heracles awoke, he searched for them, visiting every part of the country, until at last he came to the land called the Woodland, and there he found in a cave a creature of double form that was half maiden and half serpent; above the buttocks she was a woman, below them a snake. When he saw her he was astonished, and asked her if she had seen his mares straying; she said that she had them, and would not return them to him before he had intercourse with her; Heracles did, in hope of this reward. But though he was anxious to take the horses and go, she delayed returning them, so that she might have Heracles with her for as long as possible; at last she gave them back, telling him, “These mares came, and I kept them safe here for you, and you have paid me for keeping them, for I have three sons by you. Now tell me what I am to do when they are grown up: shall I keep them here (since I am queen of this country), or shall I send them away to you?” Thus she inquired, and then (it is said) Heracles answered: “When you see the boys are grown up, do as follows and you will do rightly: whichever of them you see bending this bow and wearing this belt so, make him an inhabitant of this land; but whoever falls short of these accomplishments that I require, send him away out of the country. Do so and you shall yourself have comfort, and my will shall be done.” So he drew one of his bows (for until then Heracles always carried two), and showed her the belt, and gave her the bow and the belt, that had a golden vessel on the end of its clasp; and, having given them, he departed. But when the sons born to her were grown men, she gave them names, calling one of them Agathyrsus and the next Gelonus and the youngest Scythes; furthermore, remembering the instructions, she did as she was told. Two of her sons, Agathyrsus and Gelonus, were cast out by their mother and left the country, unable to fulfill the requirements set; but Scythes, the youngest, fulfilled them and so stayed in the land. From Scythes son of Heracles comes the whole line of the kings of Scythia; and it is because of the vessel that the Scythians carry vessels on their belts to this day. This alone his mother did for Scythes. This is what the Greek dwellers in Pontus say. Greek Text

Isokrates, Archidamos 6.19

and lastly, they found that Messene was theirs as a prize taken in war, for Heracles, when he had been robbed of the cattle from Erytheia, by Neleus and all his sons except Nestor, had taken the country captive and slain the offenders, but had committed the city to Nestor’s charge, believing him to be prudent, because, although the youngest of his brethren, he had taken no part in their iniquity. Greek Text


Edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, January 2021

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