A newer edition of this work is available: 2018

Seneca the Younger, Hercules

LCL 62: 52-53



quae fera tyranni iura violento queant nocere iuveni? nempe pro telis gerit 45quae timuit et quae fudit: armatus venit leone et hydra. Nec satis terrae patent: effregit ecce limen inferni Iovis et opima victi regis ad superos refert. 50vidi ipsa, vidi nocte discussa inferum et Dite domito spolia iactantem patri fraterna. cur non vinctum et oppressum trahit ipsum catenis paria sortitum Iovi Ereboque capto potitur et retegit Styga? 49parum est reverti, foedus umbrarum perît: 55patefacta ab imis manibus retro via est et sacra dirae Mortis in aperto iacent. at ille, rupto carcere umbrarum ferox, de me triumphat et superbifica manu atrum per urbes ducit Argolicas canem. 60viso labantem Cerbero vidi diem pavidumque Solem; me quoque invasit tremor, et terna monstri colla devicti intuens timui imperasse. Levia sed nimium queror: caelo timendum est, regna ne summa occupet 65qui vicit ima; sceptra praeripiet patri! nec in astra lenta veniet ut Bacchus via:

  • 43iura FacM: iussa A,Epc
  • 54potitur et EA: potitur? en Baden
  • 49 placed after 54 by Leo


What cruel tyrant’s authority 6 could harm this aggressive warrior? Why, he carries as weapons what he faced and felled: he comes armed with lion and hydra. 7

Even the earth is not room enough. See, he has broken through the gates of nether Jove, 8 and brings spoils of triumph over that conquered king back to the upper world. With my own eyes I watched him, after he had shattered the gloom of the underworld and subdued Dis, as he showed off to his father spoils won from that father’s brother. Why not drag off Dis himself, bound and loaded with chains—the god who drew a lot equal to Jove’s? Why not rule over captured Erebus, and unroof the Stygian world? It is not enough to return: the terms governing the shades have been breached, a way back to earth has been opened from the deep underworld, and the sanctities of dread death lie in plain view. But he, in his arrogance at having smashed the prison of the ghostly dead, is celebrating his triumph over me, and highhandedly parading the black hound through Argive cities. I saw the daylight faltering at the sight of Cerberus, and the Sun afraid; I too was seized with trembling, and as I gazed at the triple necks of the defeated monster, I shuddered at what I had ordered.

But these complaints are too trivial. It is heaven we must fear for—that after conquering the lowest realm he may seize the highest. He will usurp his father’s sceptre! And he will not reach the stars by a gradual approach, like

DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.seneca_younger-hercules.2002