A Hero's Bloody Undoing

           Some Centaurs, it was said, derived their power from divine blood that flowed in their veins.   So the hero Hercules found-and found too late.  It happened that Hercules married a woman called Deianira, daughter of the King of Calydon.  As he traveled with her to his own home, he came to a river that was in flood. 

            Nessus, a Centaur, guarded it.  Seeing the young bride beside her husband, he offered to carry Deianira across the water.  Hercules surrendered his wife, and Nessus fled, intending to take the woman for his own pleasure.   He had barely reached the far bank when Hercules shot an arrow into him. 

            But as Nessus lay dying he made the woman into an instrument of revenge."Dip your robe in my blood," he said.  "If your husband's love should flag, put the linen near his skin.  It is magic blood:  It will fire his passion for you." 

            Deianira, young and uncertain and eager for the hero's love, soaked up some of the blood with her robe.  Then she rejoined Hercules, and then journeyed on to his home. 

             Years passed happily, but the time came when Hercules' eye began to rove.  Deianira saw this and, in a fit of jealousy, resorted to Nessus' charm.  She made a tunic from the bloodstained robe and sent this to her husband.  Hercules put it on his body. 

             Centaur blood was poison to humans; the tunic burned on Hercules' skin and ate the flesh and bone away.  In an agony of pain, he commanded a funeral pyre.   Then he threw himself upon it and was consumed in flames. 

              As for Deianira, she hanged herself when she found what she had done. So did creatures of old races visit vengeance on the new.