the shirt of Nessus
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shirt of Nessus
That which causes destruction, ruin, or misfortune, from which there is no escape. An allusion to the centaur Nessus from Greek mythology, who deceived the wife of Heracles (Hercules) into wrapping him in a garment soaked in its blood, which poisoned and eventually killed him. The government ran blindly into the arms of these loans to survive the economic disaster, but what was supposed to aid and support us ended up being the poisoned shirt of Nessus, as the debt has put a stranglehold on our entire economy over the past five years.
the shirt of Nessusused to refer to a destructive force or influence. literary
In Greek mythology, Nessus was a centaur killed by Hercules . While dying, Nessus told Deianira , Hercules' wife, that if she ever had cause to doubt her husband's love, she should wrap him in a shirt soaked in Nessus' blood as this would ensure his constancy. Deianira followed these instructions, but the centaur's blood was in fact a powerful poison that corroded Hercules' body and as he tried to remove the shirt chunks of his flesh were ripped away.
1922 Edith Wharton The Glimpses of the Moon It was as if a sickness long smouldering in him had broken out and become acute, enveloping him in the Nessus shirt of his memories.