Hesiod’s House of Horrors

Hesiod: Theogony 720-744

. . . As far as heaven is from earth
Just as far is earth from gloomy Tartarus.
Bronze space junk would tumble through the sky
Nine nights and days, reaching earth on the tenth;
And so a bronze anvil tumbling from earth would fall
Nine nights and days, reaching Tartarus on the tenth.

A bronze wall was thrown up around Tartarus.
Triple-layered night was poured around its neck,
And the roots of earth and barren sea grew above it.
It’s there the Titan gods were locked away
—the will of Zeus, cloud gatherer—
In gloomy darkness, damp musty place
At the vast earth’s distant end.

They cannot leave.
Poseidon set bronze doors in place,
And a wall encircled the whole.
There Gyes and Cottus established themselves,
And great-hearted Obriareus did too,
Trusted watchmen for aegis-bearing Zeus.

The source and limit of everything
Line up there: that of dark earth,
Gloomy Tartarus, the barren sea,
And the star-studded sky.
Horrid damp musty—even the gods detest it.

A huge pit, this: you couldn’t reach bottom
in a year, assuming you got within its gates.
No, bruising squall after squall would carry you
This way and that. A Terrible monstrosity,
Even to the deathless gods.

. . . ὅσον οὐρανός ἐστ᾽ ἀπὸ γαίης:
τόσσον γάρ τ᾽ ἀπὸ γῆς ἐς Τάρταρον ἠερόεντα.
ἐννέα γὰρ νύκτας τε καὶ ἤματα χάλκεος ἄκμων
οὐρανόθεν κατιὼν δεκάτῃ κ᾽ ἐς γαῖαν ἵκοιτο:
ἐννέα δ᾽ αὖ νύκτας τε καὶ ἤματα χάλκεος ἄκμων
ἐκ γαίης κατιὼν δεκάτῃ κ᾽ ἐς Τάρταρον ἵκοι.
τὸν πέρι χάλκεον ἕρκος ἐλήλαται: ἀμφὶ δέ μιν νὺξ
τριστοιχεὶ κέχυται περὶ δειρήν: αὐτὰρ ὕπερθεν
γῆς ῥίζαι πεφύασι καὶ ἀτρυγέτοιο θαλάσσης.
ἔνθα θεοὶ Τιτῆνες ὑπὸ ζόφῳ ἠερόεντι
κεκρύφαται βουλῇσι Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο
χώρῳ ἐν εὐρώεντι, πελώρης ἔσχατα γαίης.
τοῖς οὐκ ἐξιτόν ἐστι. θύρας δ᾽ ἐπέθηκε Ποσειδέων
χαλκείας, τεῖχος δὲ περοίχεται ἀμφοτέρωθεν.
ἔνθα Γύης Κόττος τε καὶ Ὀβριάρεως μεγάθυμος
ναίουσιν, φύλακες πιστοὶ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο.
ἔνθα δὲ γῆς δνοφερῆς καὶ Ταρτάρου ἠερόεντος
πόντου τ᾽ ἀτρυγέτοιο καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος
ἑξείης πάντων πηγαὶ καὶ πείρατ᾽ ἔασιν
ἀργαλέ᾽ εὐρώεντα, τά τε στυγέουσι θεοί περ,
χάσμα μέγ᾽, οὐδέ κε πάντα τελεσφόρον εἰς ἐνιαυτὸν
οὖδας ἵκοιτ᾽, εἰ πρῶτα πυλέων ἔντοσθε γένοιτο,
ἀλλά κεν ἔνθα καὶ ἔνθα φέροι πρὸ θύελλα θυέλλῃ
ἀργαλέη: δεινὸν δὲ καὶ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι
τοῦτο τέρας. . . .

Ancient sources attest that this sign was prominently displayed on the gates of Tartarus.

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at featsofgreek.blogspot.com.

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