A Criminal Before the World

Seneca, Hercules Furens (1322-1341):

What place shall I, an exile, seek? Where shall I hide myself, or by what earth shall I be buried o’er? What Tanais, what Nile, what violent Tigris with its Persian wave or fierce Rhine or turbid Tagus flowing with Iberian treasure will be able to cleanse this hand? The Maeotis could pour me out into the northern sea, and all of Tethys herself could rush through my hands, but my deep-seated crime would cling to them. Being so impious, into what lands will you flee? Will you seek the east or west? Famous all over the earth, I have destroyed every place for exile. The world flees from me, the sidelong stars carry on their traversing courses, and Titan himself saw Cerberus with a happier countenance. O faithful head, Theseus, seek the far off hidden shadow! Since you, the judge of another’s wrong love those who do harm, return thanks and recompense for my merits. Send me, I pray, back to the infernal shades, and lock me prisoner in your chains. Hell will hide me – but Hell, too, knows me!

Hercules Furens Mosaic

Quem locum profugus petam?
ubi me recondam, quave tellure obruar?
quis Tanais aut quis Nilus aut quis Persica
violentus unda Tigris aut Rhenus ferox
Tagusve Hibera turbidus gaza fluens
abluere dextram poterit? Arctoum licet
Maeotis in me gelida transfundat mare
et tota Tethys per meas currat manus,
haerebit altum facinus. in quas impius
terras recedes? ortum an occasum petes?
ubique notus perdidi exilio locum.
me refugit orbis, astra transversos agunt
obliqua cursus, ipse Titan Cerberum
meliore vultu vidit. o fidum caput,
Theseu, latebram quaere longinquam, abditam;
quoniamque semper sceleris alieni arbiter
amas nocentes, gratiam meritis refer
vicemque nostris: redde me infernis, precor,
umbris reductum, meque subiectum tuis
restitue vinclis; ille me abscondet locus—
sed et ille novit.


One thought on “A Criminal Before the World

  1. There is a certain charm to Herakles that comes from His humanity. He is a God (even during His human life this was evident) and yet He is one that suffered. He has a human experience. It makes Him relatable. The murder of His family was one of the lowest points in His life and yet Herakles still overcame it. It’s an inspiring story for believers and non-believers alike

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