Herakles received a bow from Apollon before his labors started. After his second labor, the slaying of the Lernaean Hydra, he dipped his arrows in it's blood making them instantly lethal. What would the Greek term for "Herakles' Bow" be and what would the Greek term for "Poisoned Arrows" be? Were there terms for these items in Latin? I have come across the term dilitiriasméno belos δηλητηριασμένο βέλος but am uncertain if it is modern Greek or ancient.

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    I have come across the term dilitiriasméno belos δηλητηριασμένο βέλος but am uncertain if it is modern Greek or ancient. It's modern Greek.
    – cmw
    Aug 22, 2022 at 17:02

1 Answer 1


Sophocles' Τραχίνιαι is about Deianeira and the death of Heracles and includes some references to Heracles' weapons. His bow is referred to with τόξα, the plural form of the word τόξον (512, 518). Apparently, the plural of this word can refer to a bow, to a bow and arrows collectively, or to arrows. The word ἰός is used for arrow (567, 574), also ἄτρακτος (714). Another word for arrow in Ancient Greek is ὀϊστός (plural ὀϊστοί). Hercules' in Greek is Ἡρακλέους. So, "Hercules' bow" can be expressed by τοῦ Ἡρακλέους τὰ τόξα, τὰ τόξα τοῦ Ηρακλέους or τὰ Ἡρακλέους τόξα. I'm not sure what the best way to express "poisoned arrows" in ancient Greek would be.

Latin for "Hercules' bow" is "Herculis arcus" (Ovid Metamorphoses 15.284). "Poisoned arrows" can be expressed in Latin by "venēnātae sagittae" (examples: Cicero De Natura Deorum 2.126.10, Pliny the Elder Naturalis Historia 6.176.5, Horace Carmina 1.22.3), although I can't cite an example of this exact wording being used by an ancient author to refer to Hercules' arrows. The order of the words in either phrase can be changed without changing the meaning.

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    After seeing your answer, I poked around the internet, and found two words τοξικός and βέλος. τοξικός can mean a poison to be smeared on an arrow, and βέλος means arrow/dart/missle. So could τοξικός βέλος be a possible answer in ancient Greek?
    – Walter
    Aug 21, 2022 at 6:08
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    @Walter: I'm not sure; unfortunately, I have some familiarity with Latin but not with Greek. I included Greek in this answer because you asked about it, but for Greek I'm completely reliant on looking things up in reference materials. τοξικός, which as you can see is related to τόξα, does seem like a likely word for describing poisoned arrows
    – Asteroides
    Aug 21, 2022 at 9:06
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    For what it's worth, Modern Greek has both τοξικός (toxic) and τόξο (bow). I had never connected the two before, both are as common in Modern Greek as their English equivalents are in English and I now wonder if the etymology of toxic can be traced to Hercules' poisoned arrows.
    – terdon
    Aug 21, 2022 at 10:49
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    If I came across τοξικόν βέλος (βέλος is an s-stem neuter) in a text I think I'd read it as 'bow projectile' i.e. 'arrow'. You can find substantivised τοξικόν elliptically for τοξικόν φάρμακον ('bow poison' i.e. 'poison for poisoning arrows') sometimes, but it seems weird to me to read it that way as a regular adjective classically.
    – Cairnarvon
    Aug 21, 2022 at 12:13
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    @Walter In ancient Greek, τοξικός meant something related to bows or for bows (or if used to describe a person, meant they were a skilled archer). The modern usage meaning ‘toxic’ appears to be a reverse loan from Latin (‘toxicum’ is ‘poison’ in Latin, but seems to be derived from the Greek τοξικόν φάρμακον, which described poison used on arrows (with τοξικόν being the part referring to the bow/arrows)). Aug 21, 2022 at 12:29

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