Herakles Comes to Grips with Noah’s Authority

Figure 27: Herakles forces Nereus back, showing him the physical power of his club.

Most of the extant vases featuring Nereus/Noah show him being disempowered in some way. In almost all cases, his authority is being taken away, and yet he never resists. As we’ll see in Chapter 9, sometimes he receives the news of his disempowerment indirectly from his daughters. Sometimes the artists picture Herakles taking the authority of Nereus/Noah directly from him. On the red-figure storage jar for wine, above, Herakles chases after Nereus, pointing to his club, a symbol of his strength. Nereus is backing up, reacting to the aggressive body language of Herakles. The artist’s message is simple: Herakles is telling Nereus/Noah that he is in charge now. Note that the serpent coils itself into Herakles’ belt. This tells us that the serpent is intricately related to this takeover. The weaponless Nereus/Noah does not fight back; he always remains passive, stoic even, in the face of this great religious transformation.

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