Sir Artegal's iron man. Spenser, in his Faërie Queene, makes Talus run continually round the island of Crete to chastise offenders with an iron flail. He represents executive power - “swift as a swallow, and as lion strong.” In Greek mythology, Talos was a man of brass, the work of Hephaestos (Vulcan), who went round the island of Crete thrice a day. Whenever he saw a stranger draw near the island he made himself red-hot, and embraced the stranger to death.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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