60. ΝΕΣΣΟΣ Η ΔΗΙΑΝΕΙΡΑ1
Ἔχεις μοι λῦσαι ταύτην τὴν ἀπορίαν, πότερον δικαίως ἐγκαλοῦσιν οἱ μὲν τῷ Ἀρχιλόχῳ, οἱ δὲ τῷ Σοφοκλεῖ περὶ τῶν κατὰ τὸν Νέσσον καὶ τὴν Δηιάνειραν ἢ οὔ; φασὶ γὰρ οἱ μὲν τὸν Ἀρχίλοχον ληρεῖν, ποιοῦντα τὴν Δηιάνειραν ἐν τῷ βιάζεσθαι ὑπὸ τοῦ Κενταύρου πρὸς τὸν Ἡρακλέα ῥαψῳδοῦσαν, ἀναμιμνῄσκουσαν τῆς τοῦ Ἀχελῴου μνηστείας καὶ τῶν τότε γενομένων· ὥστε πολλὴν σχολὴν εἶναι τῷ Νέσσῳ ὅ τι ἐβούλετο πρᾶξαι· οἱ δὲ τὸν Σοφοκλέα πρὸ τοῦ καιροῦ πεποιηκέναι τὴν τοξείαν, διαβαινόντων αὐτῶν ἔτι τὸν ποταμόν· οὕτως γὰρ ἂν καὶ τὴν Δηιάνειραν ἀπολέσθαι, ἀφέντος τοῦ Κενταύρου. ἀλλὰ μή, καθάπερ εἴωθας,1 πολὺ παρὰ τὴν δόξαν λέγε2 καὶ πάντα μᾶλλον ἢ ὅ τις ἂν οἰηθείη.2
Ἆρ᾿ οὖν κελεύεις με ταῦτά σοι λέγειν ἅ τις ἂν οἰηθείη ὀρθῶς οἰόμενος ἢ ἅ τις ἂν καὶ μὴ ὀρθῶς;
The Sixtieth Discourse: Nessus Or Deïaneira
Interlocutor. Can you solve me this problem—whether or not people are warranted in finding fault now with Archilochus and now with Sophocles in their treatment of the story of Nessus and Deïaneira? For some say Archilochus makes nonsense when he represents Deïaneira as chanting a long story to Heracles while an attack upon her honour is being made by the Centaur, thereby reminding him of the love–making of Acheloüs—and of the events which took place on that occasion1—in consequence of which recital Nessus would have ample time to accomplish his purpose; others charge that Sophocles has introduced the shooting of the arrow too soon, while they were still crossing the river for in those circumstances, they claim, Deïaneira too would have perished, since the dying Centaur would have dropped her in the river2. However, do not, as you usually do, speak quite counter to the general belief and give any version rather than what a man would naturally believe.
Dio. Then do you bid me tell you those things which a man would believe who believes correctly, or what a man would believe even though not correctly?
- 1Pindar, in a poem no longer extant, told how Heracles, to whom in Hades Meleager had commended his sister Deïaneira, finding that she was being wooed by the river-god Acheloüs, fought and overcame him, and received from him the horn of Amalthaea, by means of which he gained his bride.
- 2Nessus was accustomed to ferry passengers across the Euenus for hire. Cf. Trachiniae 562–568.