the shirt of Nessus


Also found in: Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

the shirt of Nessus

used 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.
See also: of, shirt