A newer edition of this work is available: 2018

Seneca the Younger, Hercules

LCL 62: 110-111




760Nunc ede nati nobilem pugnam mei. patrui volentis munus an spolium refert?


Ferale tardis imminet saxum vadis, stupente ubi unda segne torpescit fretum. hunc servat amnem cultu et aspectu horridus 765pavidosque manes squalidus gestat senex. impexa pendet barba, deformem sinum nodus coercet, concavae lucent genae; regit ipse longo portitor conto ratem. hic onere vacuam litori puppem applicans 770repetebat umbras; poscit Alcides viam; cedente turba dirus exclamat Charon: “Quo pergis audax? siste properantem gradum.” non passus ullas natus Alcmena moras ipso coactum navitam conto domat 775scanditque puppem. cumba populorum capax succubuit uni; sedit et gravior ratis utrimque Lethen latere titubanti bibit. tum victa trepidant monstra, Centauri truces [Lapithaeque multo in bella succensi mero] 780Stygiae paludis ultimos quaerens sinus fecunda mergit capita Lernaeus labor. Post haec avari Ditis apparet domus. hic saevus umbras territat Stygius canis, qui trina vasto capita concutiens sono

  • 769vacuam E: vacuus A
  • 779 deleted and lacuna recognised by Fitch



Now recount my son’s glorious struggle. Is it spoil he brings, or a willing gift from his uncle?


A deathly crag overhangs the slow-moving pool, where the sluggish river idles with languid waters. An old man with unkempt, filthy clothes and appearance tends this river and transports the shades. His beard hangs uncombed, his shapeless cloak is fastened with a knot, he has deep-sunk, blazing eyes. As ferryman, he controls his craft himself with a long pole. He was bringing the boat to shore empty of cargo to collect more shades. Alcides demanded room, but as the crowd gave way, dread Charon shouted, “Where are you heading so boldly? Check your hurried steps.” Alcmene’s son brooked no delay, but coerced the sailor into subjection with his own pole, and climbed aboard. The skiff, which could carry crowds, foundered beneath this one man; it settled overburdened in the water, and drank in the Lethe on each side as it rocked. Then the monsters he had conquered panicked, savage Centaurs . . . ; 40 seeking the farthest recesses of the Stygian swamp, the Lernaean labour submerged its prolific heads.

After this there came into sight the house of greedy Dis. Here the fierce Stygian hound keeps the shades in fear and guards the kingdom, tossing his triple heads with clamorous

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-hercules.2002