δ΄ ΗΡΑΚΛΗΣ Η ΑΧΕΛΩΙΟΣ
(1) Ζητεῖς ἴσως, τίς ἡ κοινωνία δράκοντός τε, ὃς ἐνταῦθα πολὺς ἀνέστηκεν ἐγείρας τὸν πῆχυν 10κατὰ νῶτα δαφοινὸς καὶ γένεια καθιεὶς ὑπ᾿ ὀρθῇ καὶ πριονωτῇ τῇ λοφιᾷ βλέπων τε δεινῶς δεδορκὸς καὶ ἱκανὸν εἰς ἔκπληξιν ἀγαγεῖν, ταύρου1 τε, ὃς ὑπὸ τοσαύτῃ κεραίᾳ γυρώσας τὸν αὐχένα καὶ διασκάπτων τὴν ἐν ποσὶ γῆν ὡς ἐς ἐμβολὴν 15ἵεται, καὶ ἀνδρὸς τούτου ἡμίθηρος· βούπρῳρα μὲν γὰρ αὐτῷ πρόσωπα2 καὶ γενειὰς ἀμφιλαφὴς πηγαί τε ναμάτων ἐκπλημμυροῦσαι τοῦ γενείου. τό τε συνερρυηκὸς ὡς ἐς θέαν πλῆθος καὶ ἡ ἐν μέσοις κόρη, νύμφη τις οἶμαι, τουτὶ γὰρ χρὴ 20νοεῖν τῷ ἀμφ᾿ αὐτὴν κόσμῳ, καὶ γέρων οὗτος ἐν ἀθύμῳ τῷ εἴδει νεανίας τε ἐκδυόμενος λεοντῆς καὶ ῥόπαλον ἐν ταῖν χεροῖν ἔχων, ἡρωίνη τέ τις
4. Heracles or Acheloüs1
Probably you are asking what these three figures have to do with each other—a serpent “ruddy of back”2 which rises there lifting its long form, a beard hanging beneath an erect serrated crest, its glare terrible and its glance one that cannot but work consternation; a bull that curves its neck beneath those mighty horns and, pawing the earth at its feet, rushes as for a charge;3 and here a man that is half animal, for he has the forehead of a bull and a spreading beard, while streams of water run in floods from his chin.4 The multitude that has gathered as for a spectacle; the girl in their midst, a bride, I suppose (for this must be inferred from the ornaments she wears); an old man yonder of sad countenance; a youth who is divesting himself of a lion’s skin and holding in his hands a club; and here a heroine of sturdy form who has been crowned
- 1The contest between Heracles and Acheloüs was a favourite subject in art from early times (cf. Paus 6 19, 22 for the description of a group at Olympia, which included Ares, Athena, Zeus and Deianeira as well as Heracles and Acheloüs). In early drawings Acheloüs is given the form of a centaur, but by the fifth century he is regularly represented as a bull with a human face. As pointed out by Jahn (Eph. Arch. 1682, p. 317f.), Acheloüs here has the form of a man, but with the horns of a bull springing from his forehead. While the presence of the serpent and the bull with Acheloüs is not explained in the description, apparently the painter intended to depict two of the forms that the river assumed during the struggle. The failure of Philostratus to understand what he described may be regarded as direct evidence that he was dealing with an actual picture. Evi- dently the picture gave two scenes (if not three): first the situation before the conflict, and secondly the outcome of the conflict; for the latter can hardly be treated as mere rhetoric on the part of Philostratus. The subject is depicted on a tripod base in the Constantinople Museum (Mitth. d. deutsch. Palaestrina-vereins VII, PI. III), where Acheloüs appears as a bearded man with horns of a bull; one horn lies at the feet of Heracles, and blood spouts from the head where it had been broken off. (Benndorf.)
- 2Quoted from Homer, Il. 2. 308.
- 3Cf. Eur. Her. Fur. 869: “Like a bull in act to charge.”
- 4Cf. Soph. Trach. 8f.: “For my wooer was a river-god, Acheloüs, who in three shapes was ever asking me from my sire—coming now as a bull in bodily form, now as a serpent with sheeny coils, now with trunk of man and front of ox, while from a shaggy beard the streams of fountain-water flowed abroad.” Trans. Jebb.