Omphale and the Kerkopes (page 440, with art)

Chapter 13: Herakles

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Her 9.53-118 – Ovid, Heroides

But there is one love – a fresh offence of which I have heard – a love by which I am made stepdame to Lydian Lamus. The Meander, so many times wandering in the same lands, who oft turns back upon themselves his wearied waters, has seen hanging from the neck of Hercules – the neck which found the heavens but slight burden – bejewelled chains! Felt you no shame to bind with gold those strong arms, and to set the gem upon that solid brawn? Ah, to think ‘twas these arms that crushed the life from the Nemean pest, whose skin now covers your left side! You have not shrunk from binding your shaggy hair with a woman’s turban! More meet for the locks of Hercules were the white poplar. And for you to disgrace yourself by wearing the Maeonian zone, like a wanton girl – feel you no shame for that? Did there come to your mind no image of savage Diomede, fiercely feeding his mares on human meat? Had Busiris seen you in that garb, he whom you vanquished would surely have reddened for such a victor as you. Antaeus would tear from the hard neck the turban-bands, lest he feel shame at having succumbed to an unmanly foe.

[73] They say that you have held the wool-basket among the girls of Ionia, and been frightened at your mistress’ threats. Do you not shrink, Alcides, from laying to the polished wool-basket the hand that triumphed over a thousand toils; do you draw off with stalwart thumb the coarsely spun strands, and give back to the hand of a pretty mistress the just portion she weighed out? Ah, how often, while with dour finger you twisted the thread, have your too strong hands crushed the spindle! Before your mistress’ feet . . . . and told of the deeds of which you should now say naught – of enormous serpents, throttled and coiling their lengths about your infant hand; how the Tegeaean boar has his lair on cypress-bearing Erymanthus, and afflicts the ground with his vast weight. You do not omit the skulls nailed up in Thracian homes, nor the mares made fat with the flesh of slain men; nor the triple prodigy, Geryones, rich in Iberian cattle, who was one in three; nor Cerberus, branching from one trunk into a three-fold dog, his hair inwoven with the threatening snake; nor the fertile serpent that sprang forth again from the fruitful wound, grown rich from her own hurt; nor him whose mass hung heavy between your left side and left arm as your hand clutched his throat; nor the equestrian array that put ill trust in their feet and dual form, confounded by you on the ridges of Thessaly.

[101] These deeds can you recount, gaily arrayed in a Sidonian gown? Does not your dress rob from your tongue all utterance? The nymph-daughter of Jardanus has even tricked herself out in your arms, and won famous triumphs from the vanquished hero. Go now, puff up your spirit and recount your brave deeds done; she has proved herself a man by a right you could not urge. You are as much less than she, O greatest of men, as it was greater to vanquish you than those you vanquished. To her passes the full measure of your exploits – yield up what you possess; your mistress is heir to your praise. O shame, that the rough skin stripped from the flanks of the shaggy lion has covered a woman’s delicate side! You are mistaken, and know it not – that spoil is not from the lion, but from you; you are victor over the beast, but she over you. A woman has borne the darts blackened with the venom of Lerna, a woman scarce strong enough to carry the spindle heavy with wool; a woman has taken in her hand the club that overcame wild beasts, and in the mirror gazed upon the armour of her lord!  Latin Text

Seneca, Hercules Oetaeus 371-77

When a guest on Timolus, he caressed the Lydian woman and, daft with love, sat beside her swift distaff, twisting the moistened thread with doughty fingers. His shoulders, indeed, had laid aside the famous lion’s-skin, a turban confined his hair, and there he stood like any slave, his shaggy locks dripping with Sabaean myrrh. Everywhere has he burned with love, but burned with feeble flame.  Latin Text

Ach 1.260-61 – Statius, Achilleis

If the Tirynthian took in his rough hand Lydian wool and women’s wands  Latin Text

ApB 2.6.2-3 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

When they had thus been parted, Hercules received an oracle, which declared that the remedy for his disease was for him to be sold, and to serve for three years, and to pay compensation for the murder to Eurytus. [3] After the delivery of the oracle, Hermes sold Hercules, and he was bought by Omphale, daughter of Iardanes, queen of Lydia, to whom at his death her husband Tmolus had bequeathed the governmentGreek Text

DD 15 (13) – Loukianos, Dialogi Deorum

Anyhow, it would be enough to mention that I was never a slave like you, never combed wool in Lydia, masquerading in a purple shawl and being slippered by an Omphale.  Greek Text

Fab 32 – Hyginus, Fabulae

Hercules because of this offence was given in servitude to Queen Omphale by Mercury.  Latin Text

DS 4.31.7 – Diodoros, Library of History

Syleus, who was seizing any strangers who passed by and was forcing to hoe his vineyards, he slew by a blow with his own hoe; and from the Itoni, who had been plundering a large part of the land of Omphalê, he took away their booty, and the city which they had made the base of their raids he sacked, and enslaving its inhabitants razed it to the ground.  Greek Text

ApB 2.6.3 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

and as for Syleus in Aulis, who compelled passing strangers to dig, Hercules killed him with his daughter Xenodoce, after burning the vines with the roots. Greek Text

Konon 26F1.17 FGrH Die Fragmente der griechischen Historiker 1, p. 195, ed. F. Jacoby. 2d ed. Leiden 1957.

Greek Text

Euripides, Syleus p. 575 N²  – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, ed. A. Nauck, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1889.

Greek Text

Euripides, Syleus fr 694 N² – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta, p. 578, ed. A. Nauck, 2nd ed. Leipzig 1889.

Greek Text

Copenhagen, National Museum 3293.  Attic stamnos by the Syleus Painter.  Herakles, Athena, Syleus.

Corpus Vasorum Antiquorum

Paris, Musee de Louvre G210.  Attic amphora.  Herakles, Syleus, Athena.

Hellenic World, Jastrow 2007

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Artistic sources edited by  Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, September, 2017.

Literary sources edited by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, November 2023.

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