I Feel Bad For You, Let Me Marry Your Sister

In this Ode, Herakles encounters Meleager in the underworld and hears the story of how the Calydonian hero started to lose strength and fail during battle because his mother had thrown a magic log whose safety ensured his life onto a fire. Herakles is moved by the story and has a somewhat surprising response.

Bacchylides, 4. 156-176

“Then the only son of Amphitryon
Wept, pitying the fate of the long-suffering man
As he answered him saying this:

“The best thing for mortals is not to be born
Nor to see the light of the sun.
Ah, but since weeping over these things
Does no good
We must speak of what will be done.
Is there, in the halls of war-loving Oeneus
An unwed daughter,
Similar to you in appearance?
I am willing to make her
My glorious wife.”

Meleager’s battle-hardened soul said:

“I left in my home
Pale-limbed Deineira,
Still unfamiliar with
Golden Aphrodite, enchanter of mortals.”

Ἀμφιτρύωνος παῖδα μοῦνον δὴ τότε
τέγξαι βλέφαρον, ταλαπενθέος
πότμον οἰκτίροντα φωτός·
καί νιν ἀμειβόμενος
τᾶδ᾿ ἔφα·  ‘θνατοῖσι μὴ φῦναι φέριστον
μηδ᾿ ἀελίου προσιδεῖν
φέγγος· ἀλλ᾿ οὐ γάρ τίς ἐστιν
πρᾶξις τάδε μυρομένοις,
χρὴ κεῖνο λέγειν ὅτι καὶ μέλλει τελεῖν.

ἦρά τις ἐν μεγάροις
Οἰνῆος ἀρηϊφίλου
ἔστιν ἀδμήτα θυγάτρων,
σοὶ φυὰν ἀλιγκία;
τάν κεν λιπαρὰν <ἐ>θέλων θείμαν ἄκοιτιν.’
τὸν δὲ μενεπτολέμου

ψυχὰ προσέφα Μελεάγρου·

‘λίπον χλωραύχενα
ἐν δώμασι Δαϊάνειραν,
νῆϊν ἔτι χρυσέας
Κύπριδος θελξιμβρότου.’

Line drawing of the centaur Nessus trying to abduct Deianeira from Herakles.
Francesco Bartolozzi, “Hercules, Deianeira and Nessus ” Yale Center for British Art via Wikimedia Commons

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