Antaios, Bousiris, Emathion (page 418)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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Philostratos the Eleder, Imagines 2.22


While Herakles is asleep in Libya after conquering Antaeuss, the Pygmies set upon him with the avowed intention of avenging Antaeus; for they claim to be brothers of Antaeus, high-spirited fellows, not athletes, indeed, nor his equals at wrestling, but earth-born and quite strong besides, and when they come up out of the earth the sand billows in waves. For the Pygmies dwell in the earth just like ants and store their provisions underground, and the food they eat is not the property of others but their own and raised by themselves. For they sow and reap and ride on a cart drawn by pigmy horses, and it said that they use an axe on stalks of grain, believing that these are trees. But ah, their boldness! Here they are advancing against Heracles and undertaking to kill him in his sleep; though they would not fear him even if he were awake. Meanwhile he sleeps on the soft sand, since weariness has crept over him in wrestling; and, filled with sleep, his mouth open, he draws full breaths deep in his chest, and Sleep himself stands over him in visible form, making much, I think, of his own part in the fall of Heracles. Antaeus also lies there, but whereas art paints Heracles as alive and warm, it represents Antaeus as dead and withered and abandons him to Earth.

The army of the Pygmies envelops Heracles; while this one phalanx attacks his left hand, these other two companies march against his right hand as being stronger; bowmen and a host of slingers lay siege to his feet, amazed at the size of his shin; as for those who advance against his head, the Pygmy King has assumed the command at this point, which they think will offer the stoutest resistance, and they bring engines of war to bear against it as if it were a citadel – fire for his hair, mattocks for his eyes, doors of a sort for his mouth, and these, I fancy, are gates to fasten on his nose, so that Heracles may not breathe when his head has been captured. All these things are being done, to be sure, around the sleeping Heracles; but lo! he stands erect and laughs at the danger, and sweeping together the hostile forces he puts them in his lion’ skin, and I suppose he is carrying them to Eurystheus.  Greek Text

Pherekydes 3F17  – Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 52, ed. F. Jacoby, 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Cincinnati, At Museum 1959.1.  Attic amphora by the Swing Painter.  Herakles and Bousiris.

Beazley Archive

Vienna, Kunshistoriches Museum 3576.  Caeretan Hydira.  Herakles and Bousiris.

Furtwaengler Reichold

Athens, National Museum 9683.  Attic pelike by the Pan Painter.  Herakles and Bousiris.

Athens Atrium

Herodotos, Historiae 2.45

And the Greeks say many other ill-considered things, too; among them, this is a silly story which they tell about Heracles: that when he came to Egypt, the Egyptians crowned him and led him out in a procession to sacrifice him to Zeus; and for a while (they say) he followed quietly, but when they started in on him at the altar, he resisted and killed them all. [2] Now it seems to me that by this story the Greeks show themselves altogether ignorant of the character and customs of the Egyptians; for how should they sacrifice men when they are forbidden to sacrifice even beasts, except swine and bulls and bull-calves, if they are unblemished, and geese? [3] And furthermore, as Heracles was alone, and, still, only a man, as they say, how is it natural that he should kill many myriads? In talking so much about this, may I keep the goodwill of gods and heroes!  Greek Text

Euripides, BousirisTragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, pp. 452-53, ed. A. Nauck, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1889.

Greek Text

Isokrates, Bousiris 11 10

Of the noble lineage of Busiris who would not find it easy to speak? His father was Poseidon, his mother Libya the daughter of Epaphus the son of Zeus, and she, they say, was the first woman to rule as queen and to give her own name to her country.  Greek Text

Isokrates, Bousiris 11 36-37

Furthermore, it could be easily proved on chronological grounds also that the statements of the detractors of Busiris are false. For the same writers who accuse Busiris of slaying strangers also assert that he died at the hands of Heracles; [37] but all chroniclers agree that Heracles was later by four generations than Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae, and that Busiris lived more than two hundred years earlier than Perseus. And yet what can be more absurd than that one who was desirous of clearing Busiris of the calumny has failed to mention that evidence, so manifest and so conclusive?  Greek Text

Diodoros Siculus, Library of History 4.18

After Heracles had slain Antaeus he passed into Egypt and put to death Busiris,​ the king of the land, who made it his practice to kill the strangers who visited that country.  Greek Text

Diodoros Siculus, Library of History 4.27

But we must not fail to mention what the myths relate about Atlas and about the race of the Hesperides. The account runs like this: In the country known as Hesperitis there were two brothers whose fame was known abroad, Hesperus and Atlas. These brothers possessed flocks of sheep which excelled in beauty and were in colour of a golden yellow, this being the reason why the poets, in speaking of these sheep as mela, called them golden mela. [2] Now Hesperus begat a daughter named Hesperis, whom he gave in marriage to his brother and after whom the land was given the name Hesperitis; and Atlas begat by her seven daughters, who were named after their father Atlantides, and after their mother, Hesperides. And since these Atlantides excelled in beauty and chastity, Busiris the king of the Egyptians, the account says, was seized with desire to get the maidens into his power; and consequently he dispatched pirates by sea with orders to seize the girls and deliver them into his hands. [3] About this time Heracles, while engaged in the performance of his last Labour, slew in Libya Antaeus, who was compelling all strangers to wrestle with him, and upon Busiris in Egypt, who was sacrificing to Zeus the strangers who visited his country, he inflicted the punishment which he deserved.  Greek Text

ApB 2.5.11 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

And going on foot through Illyria and hastening to the river Eridanus he came to the nymphs, the daughters of Zeus and Themis. They revealed Nereus to him, and Hercules seized him while he slept, and though the god turned himself into all kinds of shapes, the hero bound him and did not release him till he had learned from him where were the apples and the Hesperides. Being informed, he traversed Libya. That country was then ruled by Antaeus, son of Poseidon, who used to kill strangers by forcing them to wrestle. Being forced to wrestle with him, Hercules hugged him, lifted him aloft, broke and killed him; for when he touched earth so it was that he waxed stronger, wherefore some said that he was a son of Earth.

After Libya he traversed Egypt. That country was then ruled by Busiris, a son of Poseidon by Lysianassa, daughter of Epaphus. This Busiris used to sacrifice strangers on an altar of Zeus in accordance with a certain oracle. For Egypt was visited with dearth for nine years, and Phrasius, a learned seer who had come from Cyprus, said that the dearth would cease if they slaughtered a stranger man in honor of Zeus every year. Busiris began by slaughtering the seer himself and continued to slaughter the strangers who landed. So Hercules also was seized and haled to the altars, but he burst his bonds and slew both Busiris and his son Amphidamas.  Greek Text

Ovid, Ars Amatoria 1.647-52

‘Tis said that Egypt for nine years was dry,
Nor Nile did floods, nor heav’n did rain supply.
That slaughter’d guests would kindly moisture bring.
The king replied, “On thee the lot shall fall;
Be thou, my guest, the sacrifice for all.”  Latin Text

Hyginus, Fabulae 56

56  BUSIRIS: In Egypt in the land of Busiris, son of Neptune, when there was a famine, and Egypt had been parched for nine years, the king summoned augurs from Greece. Thrasius, his brother Pygmalion’s son, announced that rains would come if a foreigner were sacrificed, and proved his words when he himself was sacrificed.  Latin Text

Hesiod, Theogony 984-85

And Eos bore to Tithonus brazen-crested Memnon, [985] king of the Ethiopians, and the Lord Emathion.  Greek Text

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Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, April 2022

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