The Horn of Plenty
By Ovid (Adapted)
Aeneus, King of Aetolia, had a daughter whose
name was Deianira. So beautiful was the maiden
that her fame spread throughout the world, and
many princes came to woo her. Among these were
two strangers, who drove all the other suitors from
the hall of King Aeneus.
One was Hercules, huge of limb and broad of
shoulder. He was clad in the skins of beasts, and
carried in his hand a knotted club. His tangled
hair hung down upon his brawny neck, and his
fierce eyes gleamed from behind his shaggy brows.
The other stranger was Achelous, god of the
Calydonian River. Slender and graceful was he,
and clad in flowing green raiment. In his hand he
carried a staff of plaited reeds, and on his head was
a crown of water-lilies. His voice was soft and
caressing, like the gentle murmur of summer brooks.
"O King Aeneus," said
before the throne, "behold I am the King of
Waters. If thou wilt receive me as thy son-in-law
I will make the beautiful Deianira queen of my
"King Aeneus," said
the mighty Hercules,
stepping forward, "Deianira is mine, and I will
not yield her to this river-god."
"Impertinent stranger!" cried
turning toward the hero, while his voice rose till it
sounded like the thunder of distant cataracts, and
his green garment changed to the blackness of
night,--"impertinent stranger! how darest thou
claim this maiden, thou who hast mortal blood
in thy veins! Behold me, the god Achelous, the
powerful King of the Waters! I wind with majesty
through the rich lands of my wide realms. I
make all fields through which I flow beautiful with
grass and flowers. By my right divine I claim this
But with scowling eye and rising wrath
Hercules made answer. "Thou wouldst fight with
words, like a woman, while I would win by my
strength! My right hand is better than my tongue.
If thou wouldst have the maiden, then must thou
first overcome me in combat."
Thereupon Achelous threw off his raiment and
began to prepare himself for the struggle. Hercules
took off his garment of beasts' skins, and
cast aside his club. The two then anointed their
bodies with oil, and threw yellow sand upon
They took their places, they attacked, they
retired, they rushed again to the conflict. They
stood firm, and they yielded not. Long they
bravely wrestled and fought; till at length
Hercules by his might overcame Achelous and bore
him to the ground. He pressed him down, and,
while the fallen river-god lay panting for breath,
the hero seized him by the neck.
Then did Achelous have recourse to his magic
arts. Transforming himself into a serpent he
escaped from the hero. He twisted his body into
winding folds, and darted out his forked tongue
with frightful hissings.
But Hercules laughed mockingly, and cried out:
"Ah, Achelous! While yet in my cradle I strangled
two serpents! And what art thou compared
to the Hydra whose hundred heads I cut off?
Every time I cut of I one head two others grew in
its place. Yet did I conquer that horror, in spite
of its branching serpents that darted from every
wound! Thinkest thou, then, that I fear thee,
thou mimic snake?" And even as he spake he
gripped, as with a pair of pincers, the back of the
And Achelous struggled in vain to escape.
Then, again having recourse to his magic, he
became a raging bull, and renewed the fight. But
Hercules, that mighty hero, threw his huge arms
over the brawny neck of the bull, and dragged
him about. Then seizing hold of his horns, he
bent his head to one side, and bearing down
fastened them into the ground. And that was not
enough, but with relentless hand he broke one of
the horns, and tore it from Achelous's forehead.
The river-god returned to his own shape. He
roared aloud with rage and pain, and hiding his
mutilated head in his mantle, rushed from the
hall and plunged into the swirling waters of his
Then the goddess of Plenty, and all the Wood-
Nymphs and Water-Nymphs came forward to
greet the conqueror with song and dance. They
took the huge horn of Achelous and heaped it high
with the rich and glowing fruits and flowers of
autumn. They wreathed it with vines and with
clustering grapes, and bearing it aloft presented it
to Hercules and his beautiful bride Deianira.
And ever since that day has the Horn of Plenty
gladdened men's hearts at Harvest-Time.