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Antaeus

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Hercules and Antaeus. Drawing from Nordisk familjebok
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Antaeus (or nti in the Berber language, not to be confused with Anti from Egyptian mythology, who was transliterated as Antaeus by the Greeks) in Greek mythology and Berber mythology, was a son of Poseidon and Gaia, and his wife was Tinjis. He was extremely strong as long as he remained in contact with the ground (his mother), but lifted in air he became weak as water. He challenged all comers to wrestling matches, beat them and killed them (Antaeus was collecting the skulls of passing travellers, so that he might one day build a temple of skulls for his father, Poseidon) until Heracles arrived, discovered his secret and destroyed him. Heracles found he could not beat Antaeus by throwing him to the ground, and Antaeus found he could not beat Heracles by crushing his skull. In the end, Heracles realised the ground was the source of his power, and so held him aloft until Antaeus died. The fable of Antaeus has been used as a symbol of the spiritual strength which accrues when one rests his faith on the immediate fact of things.

Pliny, quoting Euanthes, says (Hist. Nat. viii. 22) that a man of the Antaeus family was selected by lot and brought to a lake in Arcadia, where he hung his clothing on an ash tree and swam across. This resulted in his being transformed into a wolf, and he wandered in this shape nine years. Then, if he had attacked no human being, he was at liberty to swim back and resume his former shape.

Ovid IX, 184.

In the Divine Comedy, Antaeus is a giant who guards the ninth circle of Hell, and lowers Dante and Virgil down to the iced-over Cocytus.

See also

There is a french black metal band named Antaeus.

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