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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Tartarus and the Styx

By Hesiod (fl. Eighth Century B.C.)

From the ‘Theogony’: Translation of Charles Abraham Elton


Of subterraneous gods there in the front

Ascend, of mighty Pluto and his queen

Awful Persephone. A grisly dog,

Implacable, holds watch before the gates;

Of guile malicious. Them who enter there,

With tail and bended ears he fawning soothes;

But suffers not that they with backward step

Repass: whoe’er would issue from the gates

Of Pluto strong, and stern Persephone,

For them with marking eye he lurks; on them

Springs from his couch, and pitiless devours.

There, odious to immortals, dreadful Styx

Inhabits, refluent Ocean’s eldest born:

She from the gods apart for ever dwells

In mansions known to fame, with arching roofs

O’erhung, of loftiest rock, and all around

The silver columns lean upon the skies.

Swift-footed Iris, nymph of Thaumas born,

Takes with no frequent embassy her way

O’er the broad main’s expanse, when haply strife

Be risen, and ’midst the gods dissension sown.

And if there be among th’ Olympian race

Who falsehood utters, Jove sends Iris down,

To bear from far in ewer of gold the wave

Renowned; that from the summit of a rock

Steep, lofty, cold distills. Beneath wide Earth

Abundant from the sacred parent flood,

Through shades of blackest night, the Stygian branch

Of Ocean flows; a tenth of all the streams

To the dread oath allotted. In nine streams,

Round and around earth and the ocean broad

With silver whirlpools mazy-rolled, at length

It falls into the main; one stream alone

Glides from the rock, a mighty bane to gods.

Who of immortals that inhabit still

Olympus topt with snow, libation pours

And is forsworn, he one whole year entire

Lies reft of breath, nor yet approaches once

The nectared and ambrosial sweet repast;

But still reclines on the spread festive couch,

Mute, breathless; and a mortal lethargy

O’erwhelms him; but, his malady absolved

With the great round of the revolving year,

More ills on ills afflictive seize: nine years

From ever-living deities remote

His lot is cast; in council nor in feast

Once joins he, till nine years entire are full;

The tenth again he mingles with the blest

In synod, who th’ Olympian mansions hold.

So great an oath the deities of heaven

Decreed the waters incorruptible,

Ancient, of Styx.