THE HORN OF PLENTY
BY OVID (ADAPTED)
AENEUS, King of Ætolia, had a daughter whose name was
Deďanira. 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 Æneus.
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
 The other stranger was Acheloüs, 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
"O King Æneus," said Acheloüs, standing 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 Deďanira queen of
my river kingdom."
"King Æneus," said the mighty Hercules, stepping forward,
"Deďanira is mine, and I will not yield her to this
"Impertinent stranger!" cried Acheloüs, 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 Acheloüs, 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
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
Thereupon Acheloüs 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
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 Acheloüs 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
Then did Acheloüs 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,
Acheloüs! 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 off 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 river-god's head.
And Acheloüs 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 Acheloüs'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 stream.
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 Acheloüs 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
And ever since that day has the Horn of Plenty gladdened
men's hearts at Harvest-Time.
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