Deianira


Deianira
Heracles, Deianira and Nessus, black-figure hydria, 575-550 BC, Louvre (E 803)

Deïanira or Dejanira (pronounced /ˌd.əˈnaɪərə/[1], Latinized in Greek, Δηϊάνειρα, [dɛːiáneːra], or Δῃάνειρα; Deïaneira 'man-destroyer'[2] or 'destroyer of her husband'[3]) is a figure in Greek mythology, best-known for being Heracles' third wife and, in the late Classical story, unwittingly killing him with the Shirt of Nessus. She is the main character in the play Women of Trachis by Sophocles.

Deianira is also the name of a second character in Greek mythology, an Amazon killed by Heracles during his ninth labour, the quest for the girdle of Hippolyta.[4]

Contents

Marriage

Deianira by Evelyn De Morgan

Deianira is the daughter of Althaea and Oeneus ('wine-man' and thus civilized), the king of Calydon, and the sister of Meleager. She also was said to have become the mother of Macaria (who saved the Athenians from defeat by Eurystheus).

One version of a late Classical tale relates that she was of such striking beauty that both Heracles and Achelous wanted to marry her and there was a contest to win her hand. Her father had already betrothed her to the fearsome river god Achelous, horned and bull-like. Deianira was not passive, however. "This Deianira drove a chariot and practiced the art of war", noted Apollodorus (Library and Epitome, book i, 8:1), but she wanted nothing to do with her suitor, who was able to take the form of a speckled serpent, a bull-headed man, or a bull. Robert Graves interpreted the association with war as a relationship with the pre-Olympian war goddess, Athene, who was an orgiastic bride in many local sacred marriages to kings who may have been sacrificed. Heracles, the greatest hero of the dawning Classical Olympian world of deities and men, had to defeat the river god to win her as his bride.

In another version of her tale, Deianira is instead the daughter of Dexamenus, king of Olenus. Heracles violates her and promises to come back and marry her. While he is away, the centaur Eurytion appears, demanding her as his wife. Her father, being afraid, agrees. Heracles appears in the nick of time and slays the centaur, claiming his bride.[5]

Death of Heracles

Deïaneira and Nessus by Vlahos Vaggelis

The central story of Deianira, however, concerns the Tunic of Nessus. A wild centaur named Nessus attempted to kidnap Deianira as he was ferrying her across the river Euenos, but she was rescued by Heracles, who shot the centaur with a poisoned arrow. As he lay dying, Nessus tricked Deianira, telling her that a mixture of olive oil with the semen that he had dropped on the ground and his heart's blood would ensure that Heracles would never again be unfaithful.

Deianira believed his words and kept a little of the potion by her. Heracles fathered illegitimate children all across Greece and then fell in love with Iole (also called Omphal). When Deianira thus feared that her husband would leave her forever, she smeared some of the blood on Heracles' famous lionskin shirt. Heracles' servant, Lichas, brought him the shirt and he put it on. The centaur's toxic blood burned Heracles terribly, and eventually, he threw himself into a funeral pyre. In despair, Deianira committed suicide by hanging herself or with a sword.

References

Primary sources

Secondary sources

  • Harry Thurston Peck, Harper's Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, 1898

Notes

  1. ^ Wells, John C. (2009). "Deianira". Longman Pronunciation Dictionary. London: Pearson Longman. ISBN 9781405881180. 
  2. ^ P. Walcot, "Greek Attitudes towards Women: The Mythological Evidence" Rome, 2nd Series, 31:1:43 (April 1984); at JSTOR
  3. ^ Koine. Y. (editor in chief), Kenkyusha's New English-Japanese Dictionary, 5th ed., Kenkyusha, 1980, p.551.
  4. ^ Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, 4.16.3
  5. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 31
Preceded by
Omphale
Wives of Heracles Succeeded by
Hebe

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Dëianíra [1] — DËIANÍRA, æ, (⇒ Tab. XXVI.) des Oeneus und der Althäa Tochter, blieb, nebst der Gorgo, allein durch des Bacchus Gunst bey ihrer Gestalt, als ihre übrigen Schwestern wegen des vielen Klagens über ihres Bruders, des Meleagers, Tod, endlich alle von …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

  • DEIANIRA — Oenei Aetoliae Regisfilia, ptimum Acheloo, mon Herculi desponsata; qua de causa exorto inter rivales dissidio, Achelous singulari certamine superatus Herculi concedere coactus est. Porro cum Hercules transiturus esset Evenum, Aetoliae fluvium,… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Deïanīra — Deïanīra, Tochter des Öneus u. der Althäa, die, nebst ihrer Schwester Gorgo, allein ihre Gestalt behielt, als ihre übrigen Schwestern aus Schmerz über den Verlust ihres Bruders Meleagros in Perlhühner verwandelt wurden. Um ihren Besitz kämpfte… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Dëianíra — DËIANÍRA, æ, Gr. Δηιάνειρα, ας, (⇒ Tab. IV.) des Nereus und der Doris Tochter, und also eine von den bekannten Nereiden oder Meernymphen. Apollod. lib. I. c. 2. §. 7. Sieh Nereides …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

  • Deianira —    Sposa di Eracle. Per guadare il fiume Èveno accettò di salire in groppa al centauro Nèsso, il quale cercò di rapire la bella ragazza, allora Eracle con una delle sue frecce intinte nel sangue dell Idra uccide il centauro, che prima di morire… …   Dizionario dei miti e dei personaggi della Grecia antica

  • Deianira — Herakles, Deianeira und Nessos, schwarzfigurige Hydria, 575 550 v. Chr. Louvre (E 803) Deianeira ist in der griechischen Mythologie eines der sieben Kinder des kalydonischen Königs Oineus und …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Deianira — /dee yeuh nuy reuh/, n. Class. Myth. a sister of Meleager and wife of Hercules, whom she killed unwittingly by giving him a shirt that had been dipped in the poisoned blood of Nessus. Also, Deianeira. * * * …   Universalium

  • Deianira — /deɪəˈnɪərə/ (say dayuh nearruh) noun Greek Legend a sister of Meleager and wife of Hercules, whom she unwittingly killed by giving him a shirt dipped in the poisonous blood of the centaur Nessus …   Australian English dictionary

  • Deianira — /dee yeuh nuy reuh/, n. Class. Myth. a sister of Meleager and wife of Hercules, whom she killed unwittingly by giving him a shirt that had been dipped in the poisoned blood of Nessus. Also, Deianeira …   Useful english dictionary

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