Re: The Devil

Yes, I knew about Spendio and Machio, thanks to Ross. I was correcting something I said earlier, that I'd read that the captives had something to do with Hercules; I was trying to say that when I traced the Hercules reference down, I found out that the pair that fought Hercules weren't Spendio and Machio afer all.

So now I am still trying to figure out what the captives, correctly identified by Ross, have to do with Hercules, and moreover, what the devil behind Hercules is doing there.

I noticed something in Plutarch that might be relevant, in Isis and Osiris XL ( ... is*/B.html). He is talking about how myths represent physical activies as though they were the actions of gods or heroes, for example the creation of land out of sea being Osiris getting the better of Typhon. He concludes:
The fact is that all this is somewhat like the doctrines promulgated by the Stoics about the gods; for they say that the creative and fostering spirit is Dionysus, the truculent and destructive is Heracles, the receptive is Ammon, that which pervades the Earth and its products is Demeter and the Daughter, and that which pervades the Sea is Poseidon.
I had not heard before of Hercules being called "truculent and destructive." That sounds rather devilish. The translator cites two other classical texts in reference to the passage I quoted: Cicero, De Natura Deorum, I.15 (40), II.28 (71); and Diogenes Laertius, VII.147. Both are on-line in English, and neither says anything about Hercules. Another translation of the Plutarch passage ( has "impulsive and separative." Would they have used such terms of Hercules in 1460s Florence? I have always thought the contrary, that they considered him a noble hero. But then why would there be a devil behind him? On the other hand, he is a solar hero, and it is in the nature of the sun to be hot, i.e. impulsive or truculent, and scorching, i.e. destructive. There is also Apollo, who was not all sweetness and light. He skinned Marsyas alive, just for losing a musical competition ro him in which the judges were the Muses, all beholden to Apollo himself.

Unless guided by cool reason, solar energy can run wild. Hell is hot, not cold, So are the places of Vulcan, smithies and volcanoes; Vulcan is sometimes associated with the Devil card, because of the anvil-like thing in the Marseille versions. So I seem to be coming to a negative view of Hercules, and of Fama as well: the desire for fame can make people pretty nasty--as indeed the Medici sometimes were, against those from whom they had little to fear. I recall a town that was massacred, for example.