A newer edition of this work is available: 2018

Seneca the Younger, Hercules

LCL 62: 102-103




Fas omne mundi teque dominantem precor regno capaci teque quam tota irrita 660quaesivit Aetna mater, ut iure abdita et operta terris liceat impune eloqui. Spartana tellus nobile attollit iugum, densis ubi aequor Taenarus silvis premit. hic ora solvit Ditis invisi domus 665hiatque rupes alta et immenso specu ingens vorago faucibus vastis patet latumque pandit omnibus populis iter. non caeca tenebris incipit primo via: tenuis relictae lucis a tergo nitor 670fulgorque dubius solis affecti cadit et ludit aciem; nocte sic mixta solet praebere lumen primus aut serus dies. hinc ampla vacuis spatia laxantur locis, in quae omne mersum pergat humanum genus. 675nec ire labor est: ipsa deducit via. ut saepe puppes aestus invitas rapit, sic pronus aer urget atque avidum chaos, gradumque retro flectere haud umquam sinunt umbrae tenaces. Intus immenso sinu 680placido quieta labitur Lethe vado demitque curas; neve remeandi amplius pateat facultas, flexibus multis gravem involvit amnem, qualis incerta vagus Maeander unda ludit et cedit sibi

  • 659tota . . . Aetna* EA: amotam . . . Enna Heimsoeth: toto . . . orbe Schmidt
  • 660iure Par. Lat. 8030, 8035: iura EA



I pray to the whole order of the universe, and to you 37 who rule the capacious kingdom, and you, sought in vain by your mother across the whole of Etna: may I speak with impunity of things rightfully hidden and buried in the earth.

There rises in the land of Sparta a far-famed ridge, where Cape Taenarus hems the sea with its dense forests. Here the house of hateful Dis opens its mouth; a tall cliff gapes wide, a cavernous abyss extends its vast jaws and spreads a broad path for all the nations. At the outset the way is not obscured by darkness: there falls a faint brightness from the light left behind, a twilight glow of the weakened sunshine, which baffles the eye. Such is the light, mingled with darkness, familiar at dawn or dusk. Then there open up empty regions, spaces extensive enough for all the human race to enter, once plunged into the earth. To travel is no toil: the path itself draws you down. As often a current sweeps ships unwillingly off course, so the downward breeze and the greedy void hurry you on, and the clutching shades never allow you to turn your steps backward.

In the immense abyss within, the River Lethe glides quietly with calm waters, and takes away cares; and lest an opening for return should ever appear, it entwines its sluggish stream in many winding turns, just as the wandering Meander plays with its puzzled waters, bends back on itself

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-hercules.2002