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Sunday, 4 November 2012

Nemesis, Erinyes, and Styx

NEMESIS, is most commonly described as a daughter of Night, though some call her a daughter of Erebus (Hygin. Fab. Praef.) or of Oceanus (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 88; Paus. i. 33. § 3, vii. 5. § 1). Nemesis is a personification of the moral reverence for law, of the natural fear of committing a culpable action, and hence of conscience, and for this reason she is mentioned along with Aidôs, i. e. Shame (Hes. Theog. 223, Op. et D. 183).

Hesiod, Theogony 211 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And Nyx (Night) bare hateful Moros (Doom) and black Ker (Violent Death) and Thanatos (Death), and she bare Hypnos (Sleep) and the tribe of Oneiroi (Dreams). And again the goddess murky Nyx, though she lay with none, bare Momos ( and painful Oizys (Misery), and the Hesperides . . . Also she bare the Moirai (Fates) and the ruthless avenging Keres (Death-Fates) . . . Also deadly Nyx bare Nemesis (Envy) to afflict mortal men, and after her, Apate (Deceit) and Philotes (Friendship) and hateful Geras (Old Age) and hard-hearted Eris (Strife)."

Evelyn De Morgan,  Sleep and Death, the Children of the Night

In later writers, as Herodotus and Pindar, Nemesis is a kind of fatal divinity, for she directs human affairs in such a manner as to restore the right proportions or equilibrium wherever it has been disturbed; she measures out happiness and unhappiness, and he who is blessed with too many or too frequent gifts of fortune, is visited by her with losses and sufferings, in order that he may become humble, and feel that there are bounds beyond which human happiness cannot proceed with safety. This notion arose from a belief that the gods were envious of excessive human happiness (Herod. i. 34, iii. 40; Pind. Ol. viii. in fin., Pyth. x. 67).

Paulo Veronese, Nemesis

Nemesis was thus a check upon extravagant favours conferred upon man by Tyche or Fortune, and from this idea lastly arose that of her being an avenging and punishing power of fate, who, like Dike and the Erinyes, sooner or later overtakes the reckless sinner (Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1043; Sophocl. Philoct. 518; Eurip. Orest. 1362; Catull. 50, in fin.; Orph. Hymn. 60).

Pierre Paul Prud’hon, Justice and Divine Vengeance Pursuing Crime (detail Nemesis) 

She was usually represented in works of art as a virgin divinity, and in the more ancient works she seems to have resembled Aphrodite, whereas in the later ones she was more grave and serious, and had numerous attributes.

Detail of Nemesis, the mother of Helene, and Eutykhia (Good Fortune) from a scene of the judgement of Paris. They sit and stand above the figure of Aphrodite (head shown) and her son Eros. ca 440 BC

Gheorghe Tattarescu - Nemesis

There is an allegorical tradition that Zeus begot by Nemesis at Rhamnus an egg, which Leda found, and from which Helena and the Dioscuri sprang, whence Helena herself is called Rhamnusis (Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 232; Paus. i. 33. § 7). On the pedestal of the Rhamnusian Nemesis, Leda was represented leading Helena to Nemesis (Paus. l. c.) Respecting the resemblance between her statue and that of Aphrodite, see Plin. H. N. xxxvi. 4; comp. Paus. i. 33. § 2; Strab. pp. 396, 399.) The Rhamnusian statue bore in its left hand a branch of an apple tree, in its right hand a patera, and on its head a crown, adorned with stags and an image of victory. Sometimes she appears in a pensive standing attitude, holding in her left hand a bridle or a branch of an ash tree, and in her right a wheel, with a sword or a scourge.

Alfred Rethel, Nemesis


Bacchylides, Fragment 52 (from Tzetzes on Theogony) (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric IV) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"The four famous Telkhines (Telchines), Aktaios, Megalesios, Ormenos and Lykos, whom Bakkhylides calls the children of Nemesis and Tartarus."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 127 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nemesis, as she fled from Zeus' embrace, took the form of a goose; whereupon Zeus as a swan had intercourse with her. From this union she laid an egg, which some herdsman found among the trees and handed over to Leda. She kept it in a box, and when Helene was hatched after the proper length of time, she reared her as her own."

Hesiod, Works and Days 175 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Would that I were not among the men of the fifth age, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor (kamatos) and sorrow (oizys) by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonor their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another city. There will be no favour (kharis) for the man who keeps his oath or for the just (dikaios) or for the good (agathos); but rather men will praise the evil-doer (kakos) and his violent dealing (hybris). Strength will be right (dike) and reverence (aidos) will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy (zelos), foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all.
And then Aidos (Shame) and Nemesis (Indignation), with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows (lugra algea) will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil."

Albrecht Dürer, Nemesis

Statius, Silvae 5. 1. 13 ff :
"What god joined Fortuna [Tyche, Fortune] and Invidia [Nemesis, Envy] in truceless kinship? Who bade the cruel goddesses engage in unending war? Will the one set her mark upon no house, but the other must straightway fix it with her grim glance, and with savage hand make havoc of its gladness? Happy and prosperous was this abode, no shock assailed it, no thought of sorrow; what cause was there to have fear of Fortuna, treacherous and fickle though she be, while Caesar was favorable? Yet the jealous Fata [Moira, Fate] found a way, and barbarous violence entered that blameless home."

THE ERINYES were three netherworld goddesses who avenged crimes against the natural order. They were particularly concerned with homicide, unfilial conduct, crimes against the gods, and perjury. A victim seeking justice could call down the curse of the Erinyes upon the criminal. The most powerful of these was the curse of the parent upon the child--for the Erinyes were born of just such a crime, being sprung from the blood of Uranus when he was castrated by his son Cronus.
The wrath of the Erinyes manifested itself in a number of ways. The most severe of these was the tormenting madness inflicted upon a patricide or matricide. Murderers might suffer illness or disease; and a nation harboring such a criminal, could suffer dearth, and with it hunger and disease. The wrath of the Erinyes could only be placated with the rite ritual purification and the completion of some task assigned for atonement.
The goddesses were also servants of  Hades and Persephone in the underworld where they oversaw the torture of criminals consigned to the Dungeons of the Damned.


Aeschylus, Eumenides 321 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"Mother who bore me [the Erinys], O dear Mother Nyx (Night), to avenge the blinded dead and those who deal by day, now hear me!"


Orphic Hymn 70 to the Eumenides (trans. Taylor) (Greek hymns C3rd B.C. to 2nd A.D.) :
"Illustrious Eumenides [Erinyes] . . . from Zeus Khthonios [Haides] born, and Phersephone."
The Erinyes were depicted as fearsome goddesses clothed in black with serpent-entwined hair and arms. Latin writers provide the most colourful descriptions of these goddesses.

Aeschylus, Libation Beaers 1048 ff (trans. Weir Smyth) (Greek tragedy C5th B.C.) :
"[Orestes cries in terror at the sight of the Erinyes :] `Ah, ah! You handmaidens, look at them there: like Gorgons, wrapped in sable garments, entwined with swarming snakes!.'"

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 848 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"Two demon fiends there are, called by the name of Furiae [Erinyes], whom darkest Nox (Night) brought forth at one and the same birth with hellish Megaera, breeding all three alike with the twining coils of serpents and giving them wings like the wind."

Detail of two Erinyes from a painting of the gods of the underworld. The pair are dressed as huntresses, with knee-length skirts and hunting boots, one is winged, and the hair and arms of both are entwined with poisonous serpents. ca 340 BC

Detail from a painting depicting Dionysus and the impious king Lykourgos. Lykourgos, armed with a sword, has slain Dionysus' companion Ambrosia. The god in anger summons an Erinys to drive him to madness. The Erinys is depicted as a winged huntress, whose arms and hair are draped with poisonous serpents. Dionysus in elaborate dress, holds a tree branch in his hand. Behind him stands a Mainas Nymph with thyrsos (pine-cone-tipped staff) and opposite behind the Erinys, the god Hermes is seated. ca 330 BC

When the dead first arrive in Hades they appear before the three Judges, and then handed over to the Erinyes, who purified the good of their sins and let them pass, but dragged those adudged to be wicked off to the Tartarean dungeon of the damned. The Erinyes were also the jailors of this prison house, who oversaw the tortures inflicted upon the criminals.

Plato, Phaedo 107d ff (trans. Lamb) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"When it arrives at the place where the other souls are, the soul which is impure and has done wrong, by committing wicked murders or other deeds akin to those and the works of kindred souls, is avoided and shunned by all, and no one is willing to be its companion or its guide, but it wanders about alone in utter bewilderment, during certain fixed times, after which it is carried by necessity to its fitting habitation [i.e. by the Erinyes to Tartarus]. But the soul that has passed through life in purity and righteousness, finds gods for companions and guides, and goes to dwell in its proper dwelling [i.e. Elysion]."

Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 5. 520 ff (trans. Way) (Greek epic C4th A.D.) :
"The nightmare-fiend of Mania (Madness) havoc-breathing passed swiftly to the rock-walled river Styx where dwell the winged Erinnyes, they which still visit with torments overweening men [the inmates of the infernal Dungeons]."

The ghostly, blue faces of two Kakodaimones (Evil Spirits) or Erinyes (Fury Demons) gaze with staring eyes and gaping mouths.Imperial Roman

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 451 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"The Sorores Genitae Nocte (Night-Born Sisters) [Erinyes], divinities implacable, doom-laden. There they sat, guarding the dungeon’s adamantine doors, and combed the black snakes hanging in their hair. And when they recognised her through the gloom the Sisters rose. `The Dungeon of the Damned’ that place is called. There giant Tityos lies stretched across nine acres and provides his vitals for the vultures; Tantalus can never catch the water, never grasp the overhanging branches; Sisyphus chases and heaves the boulder doomed to roll for ever back; Ixion’s wheel revolves, always behind himself, always ahead. The Belides [Danaides] who dared to do to death their cousin-husbands carry endlessly the water that their sieves can never hold."

Two Furies, from a 19th century book reproducing an image from an ancient vase.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 569 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"Orpheus had power to bend the ruthless lords of the shades [Haides and Persephone] by song and suppliant prayer, when he sought back his Eurydice . . . soothes the underworld with unaccustomed strains, and rings out clearer in those unhearing realms. Eurydice the Thracian brides bewail; even the gods, whom no tears can move, bewail her; and they [the Erinyes] who with awful brows investigate men’s crimes and sift out ancient wrongs, as they sit in judgment bewail Eurydice."

Statius, Thebaid 1. 46 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"Gods [Hades, Persephone and the Erinyes] who hold sway over guilty souls and over Tartarus crowded with the damned, and thou O Styx, whom I behold, ghastly in thy shadowy depths, and thou Tisiphone . . . The cruel goddess [Tisiphone] . . . sat beside dismal Cocytus, and had loosed the snakes from her head and suffered them to lap the sulphurous waters . . . the crowd of phantoms gives way before her, fearing to meet their queen."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 10. 1 (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"The serpentine image of the goddess of Tartaros [an Erinys]."

John Singer Sargent - Orestes Pursued by the Furies

William Bouguereau, Orestes Pursued by the Furies

STYX was the goddess of the underworld  River Styx, one of the Titan generation of  Oceanides (Daughters of Oceanus). Styx was also the personified Daimon (Spirit) of hatred (stygos). She was a firm ally of Zeus in the Titan Wars, who brought her children Nike (Victory), Zelos (Rivalry), Bia (Force) and Kratos (Strength) to stand alongside the god. Zeus rewarded her by making her streams the agent of the binding oath of the gods.

The River Styx was also a corrosive Arkadian stream, which allegedly flowed forth from the underworld.

Styx was sometimes identified with several other chthonian goddesses, including Demeter, Erinys the wrathful earth, the oath-protecting  Eumenides, and Nyx the darkness of night.
STYX (Stux), connected with the verb stugeô, to hate or abhor, is the name of the principal river in the nether world, around which it flows seven times. (Hom. Il. ii. 755, viii. 369. xiv. 271; Virg. Georg. iv. 480, Aen. vi. 439.) Styx is described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys (Hes. Theog. 361 ; Apollod. i. 2. § 2; Callim. Hymn. in Jov. 36), and as a nymph she dwelt at the entrance of Hades, in a lofty grotto which was supported by silver columns. (Hes. Theog. 778.)

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 9 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"Nike, Kratos, Zelos, and Bia were born to Pallas and Styx. Zeus instituted and oath to be sworn by the waters of Styx that flowed from a rock in Hades' realm, an honor granted in return for the help she and her children gave him against the Titans."


Ovid, Fasti 3. 793 ff (trans.Boyle) (Roman poetry C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Saturn [Cronus] was thrust from his realm by Jove [Zeus]. In anger he stirs the mighty Titans to arms and seeks the assistance owed by fate. There was a shocking monster born of Mother Terra (Earth) [Gaia], a bull, whose back half was a serpent. Roaring Styx [as an ally of Zeus] imprisoned it, warned by the three Parcae [Moirai the Fates], in a black grove with a triple wall. Whoever fed the bull’s guts to consuming flames was destined to defeat the eternal gods. Briareus [or Aigaion, an ally of Cronus] slays it with an adamantine axe and prepares to feed the flames its innards. Jupiter [Zeus] commands the birds to grab them; the kite brought them to him."

 Ivan Akimov, Saturn



Styx was one of the Oceanides who were playing with Persephone in a flowery meadow when Hades seized and carried her to the Underworld.

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 415 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[Persephone tells the story of her abduction :] All we were playing in a lovely meadow, Leukippe and Phaino and Electra and Ianthe, Melita also and Iakhe with Rhodea and Kallirhoe and Melobosis and Tyche and Okyrhoe, fair as a flower, Khryseis, Ianeira, Akaste and Admete and Rhodope and Pluto and charming Calypso; Styx too was there and Ourania and lovely Galaxaura with Pallas [Athena] who rouses battles and Artemis delighting in arrows: we were playing and gathering sweet flowers in our hands, soft crocuses mingled with irises and hyacinths, and rose-blooms and lilies, marvelous to see, and the narcissus which the wide earth caused to grow yellow as a crocus."

Albrecht DurerAbduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn

Persephone and Hades. ca. 440-430


Hesiod, Theogony 775 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"And there [in Hades] is housed a goddess loathed even by the immortals: dreaded Styx, eldest daughter of Oceanus, who flows back on himself, and apart from the gods she lives in her famous palace which is overroofed with towering rocks, and the whole circuit is undergirded with silver columns, and pushes heaven; and seldom does . . . Iris (the Rainbow), come her way with a message across the sea's wide ridges, those times when dispute and quarreling start among the immortals, and some one of those who have their homes on Olympus is lying, and Zeus sends Iris to carry the many-storied water that the gods swear their great oath on . . . Such an oath did the gods make of the imperishable, primevil water of Styx; and it jets down through jagged country."

Angelo Bronzino, Allegory of Happiness (goddess Iris)

Plato, Phaedo 112e ff (trans. Fowler) (Greek philosopher C4th B.C.) :
"[The] streams are many and great and of all sorts, but among the many are four streams, the greatest and outermost of which is that called Oceanus, which flows round in a circle, and opposite this, flowing in the opposite direction, is Akheron, which flows through various desert places and, passing under the earth, comes to the Akherousian lake . . . The third river [the fiery Pyriphlegethon] flows out between these two . . . Opposite this the fourth river issues, it is said, first into a wild and awful place, which is all of a dark blue color, like lapis lazuli. This is called the Stygios (Stygian river), and the lake which it forms by flowing in is the Styx. And when the river has flowed in here and has received fearful powers into its waters, it passes under the earth and, circling round in the direction opposed to that of Pyriphlegethon, it meets it coming from the other way in the Akherousian lake. And the water of this river also mingles with no other water, but this also passes round in a circle and falls into Tartarus opposite Pyriphlegethon. And the name of this river, as the Poets say, is Kokytos."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 3. 504 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Then still, received into the realms Inferna (Underwolrd), he [Narcissus who wasted away having fallen in love with his own reflection] gazed upon himself in Stygia’s pool."

Caravagio, Narcissus

Plato, Republic 387c (trans. Shorey) :
"If they [the youth] are to be brave, must we not extend our prescription to include also the sayings that will make them least likely to fear death? Or do you suppose that anyone could ever become brave who had that dread in his heart? . . . Then we must further taboo in these matters the entire vocabulary of terror and fear [associated with the afterlife], Kokytos named of lamentation loud, abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly hate, the people of the infernal pit and of the charnel-house, and all other terms of this type, whose very names send a shudder through all the hearers every year."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 10. 72 :
"He [the bard Orpheus] longed, he begged, in vain to be allowed to cross the stream of Styx a second time [to bring back his beloved Eurydice]. The ferryman [Charon] repulsed him. Even so for seven days he sat upon the bank, unkempt and fasting, anguish, grief and tears his nourishment, and cursed Erebus’ cruelty."

Alexander Dimitirevich Litovchenko ( 1835 - 1890) "Charon carries souls across the river Styx

Michelangelo,  the  boatman Charon Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Gustave Dore, in the Divine Comedy,  Charon forces reluctant sinners onto his boat by beating them with his oar.

Luca Giordano Charon and river Styx

Pierre Subleyras, Charon

Gerard or Gérard de Lairesse, The Descent to the Underworld of Orpheus

Ovid, Metamorphoses 11. 500 :
"Waves black as Stygia's."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 14. 593 :
"Once is enough to have beheld the unlovely realm of Hell, once to have gone across the stream of Styx."

Seneca, Medea 804 ff :
"To thee [Hecate] is brandished the gloomy branch [the yew] from the Stygian stream."

Hecate, William Blake

Seneca, Oedipus 160 :
"[Drought and pestilence ravage the city of Thebes :] They have burst the bars of abysmal Erebus, the throng of sisters with Tartarean torch [the Erinyes], and Phlegethon, changing his own course, has mingled Styx with our Sidonian streams [i.e. to cause deadly fevers]. Dark Mors [Thanatos, death], death opens wide his greedy, gaping jaws."

Statius, Thebaid 2. 1 ff (trans. Mozley) (Roman epic C1st A.D.) :
"On this side Styx encircling its nine regions, on that a barrier of fiery torrents [Pyriphlegethon] encloses his [Hermes descending into the underworld] path."

Hans Thoma, Mercury

Statius, Thebaid 4. 520 ff :
"The Elysian void is flung open, the spacious shadows of the hidden region are rent, the groves and black rivers lie clear to view, and Acheron belches forth noisome mud. Smoky Phlegethon rolls down his streams of murky flame, and Styx interfluent sets a barrier to the sundered ghosts."

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, The Souls of Archeron


The Latin poets, especially use the term Stygia (of the Styx) as a synonym for Hades. See also some of the other quotes on this page.

Seneca, Hercules Furens 89 ff (trans. Miller) (Roman tragedy C1st A.D.) :
"[Hera threatens Herakles :] `Dost think that now thou hast escaped the Styx [i.e. the realm of Hades] and the cruel ghosts?'"

Seneca, Hercules Furens 452 ff :
"Oh, that thou [Herakles in his journey to the underworld] mayest o’ercome the laws of cruel Styx [i.e. inevitable death, Styx here is Hades], and the relentless distaffs of the Parcae [Moirai, fates]."

Seneca, Hercules Furens 1131 :
"Go to the haven of the Stygia [i.e. the land of the dead], go, harmless shades."

Seneca, Medea 632 :
"He came to the familiar Styx and Tartarus [i.e. the land of Hades], never to return."
Aelian, On Animals 10. 40 (trans. Scholfield) (Greek natural history C2nd A.D.) :
"In Scythia there are Asses with horns, and these horns hold water from the river of Arkadia known as the Styx; all other vessels the water cuts through, even though they be made of iron. Now one of these horns, they say, was brought by Sopatros to Alexandros of Makedon, and I learn that he in his admiration set up the horn as a votive offering to the Pythian god at Delphoi, with this inscription beneath it : `In thine honour, Paian (God of Healing), Alexandros of Makedon set up this horn from a Skythian ass, a marvellous piece, which was not subdued by the untainted stream of the Lousean Styx but withstood the strength of its water.’
It was Demeter who caused this water to well up in the neighbourhood of Pheneus."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Book 3 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) (trans. Pearse) (Greek mythographer C1st to C2nd A.D.) :
"Hyllos son of Herakles; he had a little horn on the right side of his face and Epopeus of Sikyon seized it after having killed Hyllos in single combat; he filled it with water of the Styx and became king of the country."

Ptolemy Hephaestion, New History Bk3 (summary from Photius, Myriobiblon 190) :
"Concerning the water of the Styx in Arkadia he [Hephaestion] recounts the following : while Demeter was mourning for her daughter, Poseidon intruded on her sorrow and she in anger metamorphosed into a mare; she arrived at a fountain in this form and detesting it she made the water black."

 Frederic Leighton, Return of Persephone

Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 13 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"Venus [Aphrodite] frowned heavily, smiled harshly, and said [to Psyche] : `I know quite well that this too is the work of that adulterer. But no I shall try you out in earnest, to see if you are indeed endowed with brave spirit and unique circumspection. Do you see that lofty mountain-peak, perched above a dizzily high cliff, from where the livid waters of a dark spring come tumbling down, and when enclosed in the basin of he neighbouring valley, water the marshes of the Styx and feed the hoarse streams of the Cocytus? I want you to hurry and bring me back in this small jug some icy water drawn from the stream’s highest point, where it gushes out from within.’

John Roddam Spencer-Stanhope, Charon and Psyche

Raphael, Venus and Psyche


Homer, Iliad 2. 751 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.) :
"The water of Styx, the fearful oath-river."

Homer, Iliad 14. 271 :
"[Hypnos, the god of sleep, insists Hera seal her pledge to him by an oath on the Styx :] `Come then! Swear it to me on Styx' ineluctable water. With one hand take hold of the prospering earth, with the other take hold of the shining salt sea, so that all the undergods who gather about Cronus may be witnesses to us.'"

Homer, Iliad 15. 35 :
"[Hera addresses Zeus :] `Now let Gaia (Earth) be my witness in this, and wide Uranus (Heaven) above us, and the dripping water of the Styx, which oath is the biggest and most formidable oath among the blessed immortals.'"

Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter 260 (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C7th or 6th B.C.) :
"[The goddess Demeter swears :] `Be witness the oath of the gods, the relentless water of Styx.'"

Rubens, The Statue of Ceres (Demeter)

Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes 517 ff :
"[Apollo addresses the young god Hermes :] `Now if you would only swear me the great oath of the gods, either by nodding your head, or by the potent water of Styx.'"

Lycophron, Alexandra 697 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The waters of Kokytos wild and dark, stream of black Styx, where Termeius [Zeus] made the seat of the oath-swearing for the immortals, drawing the water in golden basins for libations, when he was about to go against the Gigantes and Titans--he [Odysseus] shall offer up a gift to Daeira and her consort [i.e. Persephone and Hades], fastening his helmet to the head of a pillar."

Agostino Carracci, Hades 

Virgil, Aeneid 12. 816 ff (trans. Day-Lewis) (Roman epic C1st B.C.) :
"This I [Jove, Zeus] swear by the source of the inexorable river, Styx--the one dreadful and binding oath for us heaven-dwellers."

Ovid, Metamorphoses 1. 188 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"[Zeus addresses the Council of the Gods :] `The mortal race must be destroyed. By that dark stream [the Styx] I swear, that glides below the world through glades of Stygia (Hell), all has been tried and, when no cure avails, rightly the knife is used lest he disease spread and infection draw what still is sound

Jupiter, Mercury and the Virtue, Dosso Dossi

Seneca, Troades 390 ff :
"Nevermore does he [the dead] exist at all who has reached the pool [Styx] whereby the high gods swear."
Apuleius, The Golden Ass 6. 13 ff (trans. Walsh) (Roman novel C2nd A.D.) :
"These Stygian waters are an object of fear to the gods and to Jupiter [Zeus] himself, that just as you mortals swear by the gods’ divine power, so those gods frequently swear by the majesty of the Styx."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 9. 135 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
"Then she [Hera] swore by the infernal water of afteravenging Styx, that she would drown the house of Ino in a flood of innumerable woes."

Annibale Carracci Jupiter and Juno ( Zeus and Hera)

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 42. 526 ff :
"Both [the gods] took a binding oath, by Kronides [Zeus] and Gaia (Earth), by Aither (Sky) and the floods of Styx; and the Moirai (Fates) formally witnessed the bargain."

Francisco de Goya, The Fates