143. Hercules kills the centaur Nessus

Once upon a time, Hercules, the son of Jupiter, was returning to the city of his birth with his bride Deianira, daughter of King Oeneus of Calydon. He had to cross the river Evenus, but due to the winter rains, the swift river had swollen so greatly, that it was impassable.

At that time, the centaur Nessus came and suggested Hercules to swim to the other bank, while he would carry Deianira on his back. Hercules without any doubt and trusting Nessus, told Deianira to go with Nessus, although Deianira hesitated. Nessus began to swim to the other shore with Deianira, while Hercules with great might, tossed his club and bow to the other bank. Then, carrying his lion-skin and quiver, he jumped in the river to swim across. Reaching the other bank, Hercules heard Deianira shouting his name for help.

With extreme quickness, Hercules rushed towards the place from where Deianira’s voice came, and saw Nessus about to betray his trust. Taking an arrow, whose tip was previously drenched in the venom of the Lernaean hydra, Hercules aimed it at the two-formed monster. He cautioned Nessus that although the swift feet of a horse may allow Nessus to escape, yet there was no escape from his venomous and speedily flying arrow. Thus saying, Hercules let loose the toxic shaft, which pierced the back of Nessus and came out of his breast; thereby, giving a double wound from which doubly spurted forth Nessus’ blood, and Nessus died. But before dying, the wicked Nessus, strongly desiring vengeance, took off his tunic, which was soaked with the Lernaean hydra’s poison mixed with his own blood, and gave it to the innocent Deianira.

Giving his poisonous blood-soaked tunic to Deianira, Nessus said that she may give the tunic to Hercules, whenever she found the love of Hercules for her, had started to wane. Believing the words of the dying Nessus, the naive Deianira wrapped the tunic and took it with her.

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Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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