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Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)

Styx

Styx (Stux), a waterfall descending from a lofty rock in the Aroanian mountains, above Nonacris, a town in the NE. of Arcadia, in the district of Pheneus. The water descends perpendicularly in two slender cascades, which, after winding among a labyrinth of rocks, unite to form a torrent that falls into the Crathis. It is by far the highest waterfall in Greece; the scenery is one of wild desolation; and it is almost impossible to climb over the rocks to the foot of the cascade. The wildness of the scenery, the inaccessibility of the spot, and the singularity of the waterfall made at an early period a deep impression upon the Greeks, and invested the Styx with superstitious reverence. It is correctly described by both Homer and Hesiod. The former poet speaks of the down-flowing water of the Styx (to kateibomenon Stugos hudor, Il. xv. 37), and of the lofty torrents of the Styx (Stugos hudatos aipa rheethra, Il. viii. 369). Hesiod describes it as a cold stream, which descends from a precipitous lofty rock (hudor psuchron ho t ek petres kataleibetai elibatoio hupseles, Theog. 785), and as the perennial most ancient water of the Styx, which flows through a very rugged place (Stugos aphthiton hudor ogugion, to d lesi katastuphelou dia chorou, Theog. 805). The account of Herodotus, who does not appear to have visited the Styx, is not so accurate. He says that the Styx is a fountain in the town Nonacris; that only a little water is apparent; and that it dropt from the rock into a cavity surrounded by a wall (vi. 74). In the same passage Herodotus relates that Cleomenes endeavoured to persuade the chief men of Arcadia to swear by the waters of the Styx to support him in his enterprise. Among the later descriptions of this celebrated stream that of Pausanias (viii. 17. § 6) is the most full and exact. Not far from the ruins of Nonacris, he says, is a lofty precipice higher than I ever remember to have seen, over which descends water, which the Greeks call the Styx. He adds that when Homer represents Hera swearing by the Styx, it is just as if the poet had the water of the stream dropping before his eyes. The Styx was transferred by the Greek and Roman poets to the invisible world [see Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Biogr. and Myth. art. Styx]; but the waterfall of Nonacris continued to be regarded with superstitious terrors; its water was supposed to be poisonous; and it was believed that it destroyed all kinds of vessels, in which it was put, with the exception of those made of the hoof of a horse or an ass. There was a report that Alexander the Great had been poisoned by the water of the Styx. (Arrian, Anab. vii. 27; Plut. Alex. 77, de Prim. Frig. 20. p. 954; Paus. viii. 18. § 4; Strab. viii. p. 389; Aelian, H. An. x. 40; Antig. Hist. Mirab. 158 or 174; Stob. Ecl. Phys. i. 52. § 48; Plin. ii. 103. s. 106, xxx. 16. s. 53, xxxi. 2. s. 19; Vitruv. viii. 3; Senec. Q. N. iii. 25.) The belief in the deleterious nature of the water continues down to the present day, and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages relate that no vessel will hold the water. It is now called ta Mauraneria, or the Black Waters, and sometimes ta Drako-neria or the Terrible Waters. (Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 160, seq.; Fiedler, Reise durch Griechenland, vol. i. p. 400, who gives a drawing of the Styx; Curtius, Peloponnesos, vol. i. p. 195.)

This text is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited July 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities

Styx (Stux). A name connected with the verb stugeo, to hate or abhor, and applied to the principal river in the nether world, around which it flows seven times. Styx is described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. As a nymph she dwelt at the entrance of Hades, in a lofty grotto which was supported by silver columns. As a river, Styx is described as a branch of Oceanus, flowing from its tenth source; and the river Cocytus again is a branch of the Styx. By Pallas, Styx became the mother of Zelus, Nike, Bia, and Cratos. She was the first of all the immortals who took her children to Zeus, to assist him against the Titans; and, in return for this, her children were allowed forever to live with Zeus, and Styx herself became the divinity by whom the most solemn oaths were sworn. When one of the gods had to take an oath by Styx, Iris brought a cup full of water from the Styx, and the god, while taking the oath, poured out the water.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited Oct 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Perseus Project

Styx


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