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Heracles hurls lichas into the sea in gratitude for the lichas service. Sculpture by Antonio Canova
Lichas (right) brings the robe of Nessus to Heracles (left with lion skin in hand). Engraving by Sebald Beham , around 1542–1548

Lichas ( Greek  Λίχας ) is a figure in Greek mythology . He is described in detail in Sophocles ' tragedy The Trachinians . He is a servant of Heracles and, on behalf of his wife Deianeira, has to deliver the shirt to his master (literally called a Licha shirt or Nessos shirt ), which she smeared with the blood of Nessus , who once tried to rape her from Heracles was killed. She does so on the mistaken assumption that in this way the unfaithful husband's love for her would be renewed.

The alleged love spell, however, turns out to be a deception: instead of having a love-inducing effect, the shirt causes damage because Nessos' blood was contaminated by the poison of the Hydra : softened by a sacrificial fire, the poisonous blood flows over the limbs of Heracles and burns his flesh . The shirt sticks so tightly to Heracles' body that when he tries to tear it off, he pulls away his own flesh and exposes his bones. Tormented by pain, the mad Heracles begins to destroy his surroundings: he runs around aimlessly, tears up trees as he walks past and finally discovers by chance the horrified Lichas, who hides behind a rock out of fear.

In some versions of the myth, Heracles also calls Lichas roaring in pain. Out of anger at the supposed cause of his torment, he grabs the innocent messenger of the poison by the foot and throws him into the Euboean Sea. There the unfortunate man is transformed into a rock with a human shape ( Ovid , Metamorphosen Buch IX, 211). In another variant of the material, Lichas is smashed against the rocks of the sea and goes down in the splashing tide.

In allusion to lichas, who believed that he was doing his master a service, but actually brought him ruin, one also speaks of a lichas service to describe a well-intentioned but negative action.


Web links

  • Lichas in Greek Myth Index (English)

See also