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Title: The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art (2nd ed.) (1911)

Author: Thomas Bulfinch

Charles Mills Gayley

Release date: June 21, 2014 [eBook #46063]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Richard Tonsing, Jonathan Ingram, The Internet
Archive/American Libraries and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at



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The Athenæum Press

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Whether on Ida's shady brow,
Or in the chambers of the East,
The chambers of the sun, that now
From ancient melody have ceas'd;
Whether in Heav'n ye wander fair,
Or the green corners of the earth,
Or the blue regions of the air,
Where the melodious winds have birth;
Whether on crystal rocks ye rove,
Beneath the bosom of the sea,
Wandering in many a coral grove,
Fair Nine, forsaking Poetry;
How have you left the ancient love
That bards of old enjoyed in you!
The languid strings do scarcely move,
The sound is forc'd, the notes are few!

William Blake

[Pg iv]

O antique fables! beautiful and bright
And joyous with the joyous youth of yore;
O antique fables! for a little light
Of that which shineth in you evermore,
To cleanse the dimness from our weary eyes,
And bathe our old world with a new surprise
Of golden dawn entrancing sea and shore.

James Thomson

[Pg v]


In this new edition of "The Classic Myths in English Literature" the former order of materials has been altered in accordance with the advice of the teachers who have had longest experience with the use of the book; the old material has been thoroughly revised; and much new material has been added. Since most people prefer to begin a story at its beginning, and not with the career of its author and his genealogy, I have reserved the history of the myths for the conclusion of the text. Some of the myths have been restated in more careful form. Some short narratives, before omitted, have been included. The sketches of the Iliad and the Odyssey have been considerably expanded; and an outline—which, I hope, will be deemed adequate—of Wagner's version of the Ring of the Nibelung has been appended to the account of Norse and German mythology. That version is, of course, not English literature; but it has come to be received as the classic modern version of the story; and the story is needed, at some time or other, by every lover of music. Fresh examples of the employment of myth in English verse have, where practicable, been incorporated in the text; and some new references will be found in the Commentary.

I have thoroughly revised the list of illustrative cuts, have interpreted the more difficult of the ancient figures, and indicated the sources. The pictures themselves are a decided improvement upon those in the former edition. In the determination of sources for reproduction, I have had the valuable assistance of Dr. E. von Mach, the author of more than one well-known work on ancient art; and to him I am indebted, in addition, for the section on The Classic Myths in Art, which is included in my Introduction. With this new equipment the book should prove more useful to those who here make their first acquaintance with art, especially the art[Pg vi] of the ancients, as well as to those who have been in the habit of using it as a guide to paintings and sculptures of mythological subjects in foreign galleries.

Much of our best English poetry lies beyond the imaginative reach of many readers because of their unfamiliarity with the commonplaces of literary allusion, reference, and tradition. Of such commonplaces few are more frequently recurrent than those furnished by the literature of myth.

In view of this consideration, the Academic Council of the University of California, some twenty years ago, introduced into its requirements for entrance in English the subject of Classical Mythology in its relation to English Literature, and recommended, as a textbook for preparation, Bulfinch's "Age of Fable." The experience of English and classical teachers in the schools of the state attested the wisdom of the requirement; but the demand for some textbook adapted to the needs of the classroom made necessary the preparation of this volume. For while "The Age of Fable" offered a tempting collection of Greek, Norse, and Oriental narratives, it was designed neither as a schoolbook nor as a systematized presentation and interpretation of the myths that have most influenced English literature.

At the request of my publishers I undertook at that time such a revision and rearrangement of the materials of "The Age of Fable" as might adapt it to the purposes of teacher and pupil, and to the taste of readers somewhat more advanced in years than those addressed by the original work or by the edition which bore the name of the Reverend Edward Everett Hale. But after a year's work I found that half my material for copy was new, and that the remainder differed in many important respects from the book upon which it was based. Consequently, while the obligation to "The Age of Fable" was acknowledged in full, a different title was selected for the resulting volume. For neither my publishers nor I desired that the scholarship or the taste of Mr. Bulfinch should be held accountable for liberties that were taken with his work.

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In "The Classic Myths in English Literature and in Art," Chapters XXIII-XXVII, containing sketches of the Fall of Troy, the Odyssey, the Æneid, and of certain Norse lays, are a revision of corresponding chapters in "The Age of Fable." Chapters VII-XX, and XXII, comprising Myths of the Greater Divinities of Heaven, Earth, the Underworld, and the Waters, Myths of the Lesser Divinities of the same regions, Myths of the Older Heroes and Myths of the Younger Heroes, and the outline of the Trojan War, represent a total rearrangement and recomposition of the original material, section by section, and frequently paragraph by paragraph,—such portions of "The Age of Fable" as have been retained being abridged or rewritten, and, in places too frequent to enumerate, supplemented by new and necessary sentences, paragraphs, and sections. The Introduction, the first six chapters (on the Greek Myths of the Creation, and the attributes of Greek and Roman divinities), Chapters XXI and XXVIII-XXXII (on the Houses concerned in the Trojan War, the Saga of the Volsungs, the Lay of the Nibelungs, Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, and on the origin, elements, distribution, and preservation of myth), the choice of poetic and artistic illustration, the footnotes referring to sources, and the Commentary are wholly, or essentially, my own. In fact, there is little but the scaffolding of "The Age of Fable" now remaining in the book.

Although in the Index of Mythological Subjects and their Sources the more common myths of some other nations are briefly stated, no myths save those known to the Greeks, Romans, Norsemen, or Germans have been included in the body of the text. The scope of selection has been thus confined for three reasons: first, the regard for necessary limits; second, the desirability of emphasizing only such myths as have actually acclimated themselves in English-speaking lands and have influenced the spirit, form, and habit of English imaginative thought; third, the necessity of excluding all but the unquestionably classic. The term classic, however, is, of course, not restricted to the products of Greece and Rome; nor[Pg viii] is it employed as synonymous with Classical or as antithetical to Romantic. From the extreme Classical to the extreme Romantic is a far cry; but as human life knows no divorce of necessity from freedom, so genuine art knows neither an unrelieved Classical nor an unrestrained Romantic. Classical and Romantic are relative terms. The Classical and the Romantic of one generation may merit equally to be the classics of the next. Therefore certain Hellenic myths of romantic spirit or construction have been included in this work, and certain Norse and German myths have not been excluded. Whatever is admitted, is admitted as first-class: first-class, because simple, spontaneous, and beautiful; because fulfilling the requirements of perennial freshness, of æsthetic potency, and of ideal worth.

In the matter of illustrative English and American poems the principle of selection has been that the verses shall translate a myth from the classic original, or exemplify the poetic idealization and embellishment of the subject, or suggest the spirit and mien of ancient art. But in each case regard has been had to the æsthetic value of the poem or the citation. In the search for suitable examples I have derived valuable assistance from Mr. E.C. Guild's "Bibliography of Greek Mythology in English Poetry of the Nineteenth Century" (Bowdoin College, Library Bulletin No. 1). The student is also referred to A.E. Sawtelle's "Sources of Spenser's Mythology," C.G. Osgood's' "Classical Mythology of Milton," and R.K. Root's "Classical Mythology in Shakespeare" (Holt, 1896, 1900, and 1903, respectively).

In the Commentary four things have been attempted: first, an explanation, under each section, of ordinary textual difficulties; second, an unpretentious exposition of the myth or a brief statement of the more evident interpretations advanced by philologists or ethnologists; third, an indication of certain additional poems or verses that illustrate the myth; fourth, special mention of such masterpieces of ancient and modern sculpture and painting as may serve to introduce the student or the general reader to a field of[Pg ix] æsthetic profit neglected by the great mass of our people. For the poetic conception of most of the myths contained in Chapters I-XXIV, we are indebted to the Greek imagination; but since this book is intended for students of English poetry, and since in English poetry Latin names of mythological characters are much more frequently employed than Greek, the Latin designations or Latinized forms of Greek names have been, so far as possible, retained; and such variations as Jupiter, Jove—Proserpina, Proserpine, freely used. In the chapters, however, on the attributes of the Greek gods, names exclusively Greek have been placed in parentheses after the usual Roman equivalents, Latin appellations, or designations common to both Greek and Roman usage. In the transliteration of Greek names I have followed, also, the prevalent practice of our poets, which is, generally speaking, the practice of the Romans. The diphthong ει, for instance, is transliterated according to the accepted English pronunciation, which in individual words perpetuates the preference of the Latins for the e sound or the i sound respectively. So Ἀτρείδης becomes Atrīdes; Ἰφιμέδεια, Iphimedīa. But, on the other hand, Κυθέρεια becomes Cytherēa; Πηνειός, Penēus; and Μήδεια, Medēa; while owing to purely popular English custom, such a name as Φειδίας has become, not Pheidias nor even Phīdias, but—Phĭdias. A few names of islands, towns, persons, etc., that even in Latin retain their Greek forms,—such as Delos, Naxos, Argos, Aglauros, Pandrosos,—have been transferred without modification. So also has Poseidon, because that is the common English spelling. In short, the practice aimed at has been not that of scientific uniformity, but of acknowledged poetic usage. In the titles of the illustrative cuts, Greek names have been used for works of Greek origin, Latin for the Roman.

For the benefit of readers who do not know the fundamental rules for the pronunciation of Greek and Latin proper names in English, a brief statement of rules is prefixed to the Index; and in the Index of Mythological Subjects and their Sources names are not only accented, but, when necessary, diacritically marked.

[Pg x]

In the preparation of the Text and Commentary more or less use has been made of: Roscher's Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (Lieferungen 1-21, Teubner, Leipzig); Preller's Griechische Mythologie (2 Bde., Berlin, 1861); Max Müller's Chips from a German Workshop, Science of Religion (London, 1873), Science of Language (7th ed., 2 vols., London, 1873), Oxford Essays (1856); Sir G. W. Cox's Mythology of the Aryan Nations (2 vols., London, 1878); Frazer's Golden Bough; W. Warde Fowler's Roman Festivals (London, 1899); Welcker's Griechische Götterlehre; Baumeister's Denkmäler des klassischen Alterthums; Murray's Manual of Mythology (New York, 1880); Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology; Duruy's Histories of Rome and Greece; Keightley's Greek and Roman Mythology; Kelsey's Outline of Greek and Roman Mythology (Boston, 1889); Horn's Geschichte der Literatur des skandinavischen Nordens (Leipzig, 1880); Cleasby and Vigfusson's Icelandic Dictionary; Lüning's Die Edda (Zürich, 1859); Vigfusson and Powell's Corpus Poeticum Boreale (2 vols., Oxford, 1883); Paul's Grundriss der germanischen Philologie, 1 Bd., 5 Lfg. (article Mythologie, by E. Mogk); Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (translated by Stallybrass, 3 vols.); Werner Hahn's Das Nibelungenlied; Lang's Myth, Ritual, and Religion (2 vols., London, 1887), and Mythology (Encyc. Brit., Vol. 9); Tylor's Anthropology (New York, 1881) and Primitive Culture (2 vols.); J. W. Powell's Annual Reports of the Bureau of Ethnology (7 vols., beginning 1879-1880, Washington, D.C.); Keary's Outlines of Primitive Belief; Fiske's Myths and Myth-makers (Boston); Whitney's Oriental and Linguistic Studies; W. P. Johnston's The Origin of Myth; and of other works to which due reference is made in the footnotes and Commentary. The student is also referred to F. B. Jevons' edition of Plutarch's Romane Questions, translated by Philemon Holland (London, 1892) (introduction on Roman Mythology); and to C.G. Leland's Etruscan-Roman Remains in Popular Tradition (London, 1892). The Maps,[Pg xi] furnished by Messrs. Ginn and Company from other of their publications, have, with the kind consent of the authors of those works, in some instances been adapted by me to suit the present purpose.

The principal authorities used in the selection of the illustrations of this new edition are: Baumeister, Denkmäler des klassischen Alterthums (3 vols., Munich, 1888); Furtwängler, Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture (London, 1905); Ernest Gardner, Ancient Athens (New York and London, 1902); Percy Gardner, A Grammar of Greek Art (New York and London, 1905); and Sculptured Tombs of Hellas (London, 1896); Percy Gardner and Jevons, A Manual of Greek Antiquities (London, 1895); Gerhard, Auserlesene griechische Vasenbilder (1840-1858); Gusman, Pompeii (London, 1900); Harrison and Maccoll, Greek Vase Paintings (London, 1894); E. von Mach, Handbook of Greek and Roman Sculpture (Boston, 1905); and Greek Sculpture, Its Spirit and Principles (Boston, 1903); A. S. Murray, Handbook of Greek Archæology (London, 1892); History of Greek Sculpture (2 vols., London, 1883); and Sculptures of the Parthenon (London, 1903); A. S. Murray and C. A. Hutton, Greek Bronzes and Terra Cotta Statuettes (London, 1898); C. O. Müller, Denkmäler der alten Kunst (Göttingen, 1832); Overbeck, Griechische Kunstmythologie (1871 ——); Emil Presuhn, Pompeii, 1874-1881 (Leipzig, 1882); Salomon Reinach, Peintures de vases antiques (including the collections of Millin, 1808, and Millingen, 1813 (Paris, 1891)), and Apollo (Paris, 1907); H. Roux Ainé, Herculaneum and Pompeii; Roscher, Ausführliches Lexikon der griechischen und römischen Mythologie (1884 ——) (Lieferungen 1-17 in Vol. I, 18 on in Vol. II); Anton Springer, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (I Alterthum, Leipzig, 1904); Charles Waldstein, The Argive Heræum (2 vols.); and the archæological periodicals as cited in the List of Illustrations.

The acknowledgment of assistance made in the former edition is here renewed.


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Purpose of the Study. The Fable and the Myth. Origin of the World. Origin of the Gods. The Rule of Cronus. The War of the Titans. The Division of Empire. The Reign of Jupiter. The Origin of Man. Prometheus, a Creator. The Age of Gold. The Silver Age. Prometheus, Champion of Man. Pandora. Prometheus Bound. Longfellow's Prometheus. The Brazen Age. The Iron Age. The Flood. Deucalion and Pyrrha. The Demigods and Heroes.
Olympus. The Great Gods. Jupiter (Zeus). Conceptions of Jupiter. Juno (Hera). Minerva (Athene or Athena). Mars (Ares). Vulcan (Hephæstus). Apollo. Shelley's Hymn of Apollo. Diana (Artemis). Jonson's Hymn to Cynthia. Venus (Aphrodite). The "Venus of Milo." Mercury (Hermes). Vesta (Hestia). The Lesser Divinities of Heaven.
Conception of the World. Ceres (Demeter). Gæa (Ge). Bacchus (Dionysus). The Lesser Divinities of Earth.
The Underworld. Tartarus and the Elysian Fields. The Islands of the Blest. Pluto (Hades). Proserpina (Persephone). The Lesser Divinities of the Underworld.
The Older Dynasty. The Younger Dynasty. The Lesser Divinities of the Waters.[Pg xiv]
Gods Common to Greece and Italy. Italian Gods.
Myths of Jupiter and Juno. Love Affairs of Jupiter. Io. Callisto. Europa. Semele. Ægina. Antiope. Jupiter, a Friend of Man. Juno's Best Gift. Myths of Minerva. Arachne. Myths of Mars. Mars and Diomede. Mars and Minerva. The Fortunes of Cadmus. Myths of Vulcan. Myths of Apollo. The Wanderings of Latona. Apollo, the Light Triumphant. Hyacinthus. Phaëthon. The Plague sent upon the Greeks before Troy. The Punishment of Niobe. The Lamentation for Linus. Æsculapius. Apollo in Exile. Lowell's Shepherd of King Admetus. Admetus and Alcestis. Apollo, the Musician. Apollo, Pan, and Midas. Shelley's Hymn of Pan. Marsyas. The Loves of Apollo. Daphne. Marpessa. Clytie. Myths of Diana. The Flight of Arethusa. Shelley's Arethusa. The Fate of Actæon. The Fortunes and Death of Orion. The Pleiads. Endymion. Myths of Venus. Adonis. Cupid and Psyche. Keats' Ode to Psyche. Atalanta's Race. Hero and Leander. Pygmalion and the Statue. Pyramus and Thisbe. Phaon. The Vengeance of Venus. Myths of Mercury.
Myths of Bacchus. The Wanderings of Bacchus. The Story of Acetes. The Choice of King Midas.
Myths of Ceres, Pluto, and Proserpine. The Rape of Proserpine. The Wanderings of Ceres. Triptolemus and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Orpheus and Eurydice.
Lord of the Sea. Lord of Streams and Fountains. Pelops and Hippodamia.
Myths of Stars and Winds. Cephalus and Procris. Dobson's The Death of Procris. Ceyx and Halcyone. Aurora and Tithonus. Tennyson's Tithonus. Memnon.[Pg xv]
Pan, and the Personification of Nature. Stedman's Pan in Wall Street. Other Lesser Gods of Earth. Echo and Narcissus. Echo, Pan, Lyde, and the Satyr. The Naiads. The Dryads, or Hamadryads. Erysichthon. Dryope. Rhœcus. Pomona and Vertumnus. The Cranes of Ibycus.
Galatea and Polyphemus. Glaucus and Scylla. Nisus and Scylla. Leucothea. Proteus and Aristæus. Acheloüs and Hercules. Milton's Sabrina Fair.
The Older and the Younger Heroes. The Genealogy of Danaüs. The Danaïds. The Doom of King Acrisius. Perseus and Medusa. Perseus and Atlas. Perseus and Andromeda. Bellerophon and the Chimæra. Hercules (Heracles): His Youth. His Labors. His Later Exploits. The Loss of Hylas. The Rescue of Daphnis. The Expedition against Laomedon. The Death of Hercules.
Descendants of Deucalion. The Quest of the Golden Fleece. The Return of the Argonauts. Medea and Æson. Pelias.
The Calydonian Hunt. Merope. Castor and Pollux. The Twin Brethren among the Romans.
Minos of Crete. Dædalus and Icarus.
From Cecrops to Philomela. Matthew Arnold's Philomela. Theseus. Theseus and Ariadne. Bacchus and Ariadne. The Amazons. Theseus and Pirithoüs. Phædra and Hippolytus.[Pg xvi]
The Misfortunes of Thebes. Œdipus and the Sphinx. Œdipus, the King. Œdipus at Colonus.
Their Exploits. The Seven against Thebes. Antigone. The Epigoni.
Three Families. Peleus. Achilles, Son of Peleus. Atreus. Tyndareus.
Its Origin. Iphigenia in Aulis. Protesilaüs and Laodamia. Homer's Iliad. The Wrath of Achilles. The Enlistment of the Gods. Thetis intercedes for Achilles. Agamemnon calls a Council. Paris plays the Champion. Helen surveys the Grecian Host. Menelaüs defeats Paris. The Two Days' Battle. Hector and Andromache. Neptune aids the Discouraged Greeks. Jupiter inspirits the Trojans. Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus in the Armor of Achilles. The Deaths of Sarpedon and Patroclus. The Remorse of Achilles. The Reconciliation of Agamemnon and Achilles. The Death of Hector. Achilles drags the Body of Hector. Priam in the Tent of Achilles.
The Fall of Troy. The Death of Achilles. Contest for the Arms of Achilles. Paris and Œnone. The Palladium. The Wooden Horse. Laocoön and the Serpents. The Death of Priam. The Survivors. Helen, Menelaüs, and Agamemnon. Electra and Orestes. Orestes pursued by the Furies. His Purification.
From Troy to Phæacia. The Lotos-eaters. The Cyclopes. The Bag of Winds. The Læstrygonians. The Isle of Ææa. Ulysses visits Hades. The Sirens. Scylla and Charybdis. The Cattle of the Sun. Calypso's Island. The Land of the Phæacians. Fate of the Suitors. Tennyson's Ulysses.
From Troy to Italy. The Departure from Troy. The Promised Empire. The Harpies. Epirus. The Cyclopes Again. The Resentment of Juno. The Sojourn at Carthage. Dido. Palinurus. Italy at Last. The Sibyl of Cumæ. The Infernal Regions. The Elysian Fields. The Valley of Oblivion.[Pg xvii]
The Fulfillment of Prophecy. The Gates of Janus Opened. Camilla. Alliance with Evander. The Site of Future Rome. Turnus attacks the Trojan Camp. Nisus and Euryalus. The Death of Mezentius. The Deaths of Pallas and Camilla. The Final Conflict.
The Creation. Yggdrasil. Odin and his Valhalla. The Valkyries. Thor and the Other Gods. Loki and his Progeny. The Conflict with the Mountain Giants. The Recovery of Thor's Hammer. Thor's Visit to Jötunheim. The Sword of Freyr. The Death of Balder. The Funeral of Balder. The Elves. Ragnarok.
The Saga of the Volsungs. The Lay of the Nibelungs.
Wagner's Tetralogy. The Rhine-gold. The Valkyrie. Siegfried. The Twilight of the Gods.
Kinds of Myth. Divisions of Inquiry. Elements of the Myth. Reasonable Myths. Unreasonable Myths. Theory of Deterioration. Theory of Progress.
Theories of Resemblance.
Traditional History. In Greece. Roman Poets of Mythology. Records of Norse Mythology. Records of German Mythology. Records of Oriental Mythology: Egyptian. Indian Records. Persian Records.
[Pg xviii]
[Pg xix]


1. Herculaneum and Pompeii, by H. Roux Ainé Jupiter surveying the World. Roman Wall Painting, Naples: 3
2. Journal of Hellenic Studies, 4, 90 Athena and Giant. Greek Bronze, Mus. Kircherianum: 7
3. Zeus and Giants. Ancient Gem: Baumeister 3, 1791 8
4. Baumeister 3, 1568 Prometheus making Man. Roman Sarcophagus in the Capitoline: 9
Upper row, from left to right: Oceanus, the Sun-god, Clotho, Lachesis, etc. Lower row: Cupid and Psyche, Gæa (Tellus), Prometheus, the newly created Man to whom Minerva gives life (the butterfly). Death, Cupid with down-turned torch, the first man dead, Atropos, Mercury.
5. Poseidon (Neptune), Dionysus (Bacchus) and Goddess. East Frieze, Parthenon, in the British Museum: Photograph 17
6. Two Hours. Greek Vase Painting, St. Petersburg: Roscher 1, 2727 18
7. Zeus from Dodona. Greek Bronze: Photograph 20
8. Zeus after Phidias. Coin of Elis: A. S. Murray, Greek Bronzes, opp. p. 81 21
9. Hera of Argos. Greek Marble: Argive Heræum, 1 22
10. Athena Velletri. Ancient Marble in the Louvre: Photograph 23
11. Ares Ludovisi. Ancient Marble in Rome: Photograph 24
12. Ares (Mars). Painting by Raphael: Photograph 25
13. The Forge of Vulcan. Roman Relief: Baumeister 3, 1640 25
14. Apollo (so-called Adonis). Ancient Marble in the Vatican: Photograph 26
15. Apollo Belvedere. Ancient Marble in the Vatican: Photograph 27
16. Apollo. Greek Bronze from Thessaly, British Museum: Murray, Greek Bronzes, Fig. 28 28
17. Diana. Painting by Correggio: Photograph 29
18. Diana (Artemis) of Versailles. Ancient Marble in the Louvre: Photograph 30
19. Artemis Knagia. Ancient Silver Medallion from Herculaneum: Roscher 1, 566 31
20. Hermes Psychopompos. Greek Stele of Myrrhina: P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs, Fig. 72 34
Hermes (Mercury) leading to the underworld the spirit of a lady, Myrrhina, who has just died. From a relief on her tomb.
21. Eros (Cupid). Ancient Marble, Naples: Photograph 36
22. Rape of Ganymede. Ancient Marble in the Vatican: Baumeister 2, 891 37
23. Polyhymnia. Ancient Marble, Berlin: Baumeister 2, 1185[Pg xx] 37
24. The Three Fates. Painting attributed to Michelangelo, but recently conjectured to be by Rosso Fiorentino. Florence: Photograph 38
25. Boreas. Greek Reliefs, Athens: Baumeister 3, 2370 39
26. Zephyros. Greek Reliefs, Athens: Baumeister 3, 2370 39
27. Boreas carrying off Orithyia. Greek Vase Painting, Munich: Baumeister 1, 373 40
28. Iris carrying Child. Vase Painting: Gerhard, Auserlesene Vasenbilder, 2, 83 41
29. Demeter of Knidos. Greek Marble in the British Museum: E. von Mach, Handbook of Greek and Roman Sculpture, Plate 247 42
30. Ceres. Roman Wall Painting: I. Weir, Greek Painting, p. 343 43
31. Dionysus and the Vine. Ancient Marble in the British Museum: Roscher 1, 292 44
32. Pan the Hunter. Ancient Terra Cotta: Murray and Hutton, Plate VI 45
33. A Satyr with Grafting Materials. Ancient Gem: Pine's Virgil 46
34. The Greek Underworld. Ancient Vase Painting from Canusium: Baumeister 3, 2042 B 48
Center: Hades and Persephone. Above, left: Megara, wife of Heracles, and two of her children, slain by Heracles when mad. Above, right: a Fury guarding Pirithoüs and Theseus. Middle, left: Orpheus playing and dancing, and an unknown family group. Middle, right: the three judges of the dead. Below: Sisyphus, a Fury, Hermes, Heracles with Cerberus, a Fury, Tantalus.
35. Hermes conducting a Soul to Charon. Ancient Terra Cotta: Archäologische Zeitung, Berlin 49
36. Hypnos (Somnus, Sleep). Murray, Greek Bronzes, opp. p. 72 50
37. A Fury. Ancient Vase Painting: Roscher 1, 1334 51
38. Hades. Ancient Marble in the Villa Borghese, Rome: Baumeister 1, 690 53
39. Death, Sleep, and Hermes laying a Body in the Tomb. Ancient Vase Painting: P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs, Fig. 5 54
40. Poseidon from Dodona. Greek Bronze in the British Museum: Murray, Greek Bronzes, Fig. 32 55
41. Wedding of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Ancient Marble Frieze, Munich: Baumeister 3, 1744 B 56
42. Triton carrying off a Nymph. Ancient Marble in the Vatican: Baumeister 3, 1964 57
43. Bearded Janus. Roman Coin: Baumeister 2, 1166 A 60
44. Genius Loci. Wall Painting from Herculaneum in the Naples Museum: Gusman, Pompeii, p. 107 62
45. Ganymede feeding the Eagle. Ancient Relief: Pietro Santi Bartoli, Gli. Antichi Sepolcri 64
46. Hermes (Mercury) kills Argus in presence of Zeus. Ancient Vase Painting: Roscher 2, 279 65
47. Io, Argus, and Mercury. Wall Painting from Herculaneum in the Naples Museum: Baumeister 1, 802 66
48. Europa on the Bull. Greek Vase Painting: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate IV[Pg xxi] 69
49. Nereïds on Sea Beasts. Ancient Marble Frieze in Munich: Baumeister 3, 1744 A 70
50. Youthful Bacchus embracing Semele in presence of Apollo and a Satyr. Etruscan Mirror, Berlin: Baumeister 1, 557 71
51. Amphion and Zethus. Ancient Relief in the Palazzo Spada, Rome: Roscher 2, 311 76
52. Contest of Athena and Poseidon for the Supremacy of Athens. Ancient Vase Painting, St. Petersburg: Baumeister 3, 1542 83
53. Athena. Ancient Marble in Hope Collection: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, Fig. 27 85
54. Cadmus slaying the Dragon. Ancient Vase Painting, Naples: Baumeister 2, 822 87
Athena counseling. Above: river-god Ismenos, fountain-nymph Krene, and personification of Thebes.
55. Harmonia in Company of Deities. Greek Vase Painting: Ephemeris, 1897-1898, Plate X 89
Aphrodite, Eros, Harmonia standing, Peitho (Persuasion) sitting, and Koré, Hebe, Himeros (Desire).
56. The Forge of Vulcan. Painting by Velasquez: Photograph 90
57. A Sacrifice to Apollo. Greek Vase Painting: Gardner-Jevons Manual, p. 249, Fig. 16 91
58. Apollo with Hyacinthus. Ancient Marble in Hope Collection: Roscher 16-17, 2765 93
59. The Fall of Phaëthon. Roman Relief in the Louvre: Baumeister 3, 1449 97
Upper left-hand corner: Phaëthon making his request of Helios (Phœbus). Below: the Heliades turning into trees. Center: the maddened horses, one chariot wheel, and Phaëthon falling into the arms of Eridanus. The horsemen left and right of the four horses are Castor and Pollux. Earth-gods, sea-gods, and other figures.
60. A Son of Niobe. Ancient Marble in Florence: Baumeister 3, 1751 100
61. The Children of Niobe. Ancient Relief, St. Petersburg: Baumeister 3, 1759 101
62. Niobe and her Youngest Daughter. Ancient Marble, Florence: Baumeister 3, 1746 102
63. Æsculapius (Asklepios). Ancient Marble, Florence: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, Fig. 87 104
64. Admetus must Die. Wall painting from Herculaneum in Naples: Baumeister 1, 53 106
65. Heracles. Ancient Marble in Lansdowne House: Photograph 108
66. The Palatine Apollo. Ancient Marble in Vatican: Baumeister 1, 104 110
67. Daphne. Ancient Marble: Springer, Kunstgeschichte, 1, 336 113
68. Artemis (Diana). Ancient Marble, Dresden: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, p. 325 117
69. Arethusa. Ancient Coin: Baumeister 2, 1140[Pg xxii] 118
70. A Young River-god. Ancient Bronze Head: Roscher 9, 1489 119
71. Actæon. Ancient Marble Relief: Baumeister 1, 41 121
72. The Pleiades. Painting by Elihu Vedder: Photograph 123
73. Endymion. Ancient Relief in the Capitoline, Rome: E. von Mach, Handbook of Greek and Roman Sculpture, Plate 306 124
74. The Death of Adonis. Ancient Marble in the Louvre: Baumeister 1, 17 127
Right: Adonis leaves Venus. Center: he is wounded. Left: he is cared for by Venus, Cupid, and attendants.
75. Psyche at the Couch of Cupid. Painting by Thumann: Photograph 130
76. Psyche and Cupid on Mount Olympus. Painting by Thumann: Photograph 136
77. Artemis of Gabii. Ancient Marble in the Louvre: E. von Mach, Handbook of Greek and Roman Sculpture, Plate 207 139
78. Atalanta's Race. Painting by Poynter: Photograph 140
79. Hero and Leander. Painting by Keller: Photograph 144
80. Thisbe. Painting by Edward Burne-Jones: Photograph 148
81. Hermes and Dog disguised as Pig. Ancient Vase Painting, Vienna: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXXIIIa 151
82. Silenus taking Dionysus (Bacchus) to School. Ancient Terra Cotta: Murray and Hutton, Fig. 36 152
83. Bearded Dionysus on Mule, attended by Satyr. Old Greek Terra Cotta Relief: Baumeister 1, 481 153
84. Satyr and Mænad with Child Dionysus. Ancient Relief: Baumeister 2, 932 154
85. Dionysus at Sea. Greek Vase Painting in the Pinakothek, Munich: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate I 155
86. Bacchic Procession. Greek Vase Painting: Arch. Zeit. 156
87. Dionysus visiting a Poet. Ancient Relief, Naples: Baumeister 3, 1849 157
88. Rape of Proserpina. Ancient Relief: Baumeister 1, 461 159
89. Hades and Persephone. Ancient Terra Cotta: P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs, Fig. 29 161
90. Sacrifice to Demeter and Persephone. Greek Relief in Paris: Baumeister 1, 457 162
91. Triptolemus and the Eleusinian Deities. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 3, 1958 164
Demeter behind the chariot and Persephone and the nymph Eleusis in front.
92. Demeter (Ceres), Triptolemus, and Proserpina. Greek Relief: E. von Mach, Handbook of Greek and Roman Sculpture, Plate 178 165
93. Orpheus and Eurydice. Painting by Lord Leighton: Photograph 166
94. Farewell of Orpheus and Eurydice (Mercury ready to lead her away). Ancient Marble Relief in Villa Albani, Rome: Photograph 167
95. Isthmian Poseidon. Ancient Marble in Lateran: Springer, Kunstgeschichte, 1, Fig. 495[Pg xxiii] 169
96. Pelops winning the Race; Hippodamia looking on. Ancient Vase Painting: Baumeister 2, 1395 171
97. Phosphor, Eos, and Helios (the Sun) rising from the Sea. Ancient Vase Painting: Gerhard, Akademische Abhandlungen 172
98. Sun, rising, preceded by Dawn. Painting by Guido Reni: Photograph 173
99. Sunrise; Eos (Dawn) pursuing Cephalus. Greek Vase Painting: P. Gardner, Grammar of Greek Art, Fig. 71 174
The young stars descending; to the left, the moon (Selene) riding over the hills.
100. The God of Sleep. Ancient Relief: Baumeister 1, 770 176
101. The Death of Memnon (Aurora lifting his body). Greek Vase Painting in the Louvre: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XVIII 180
102. Pan blowing his Pipe, Echo answering. Ancient Earthenware Lamp: Baumeister 1, 514 182
103. The Music Lesson (Pan teaching a Boy). Ancient Marble, Florence: Baumeister 2, 1340 184
104. Bacchic Dance (Nymph and Satyrs). Ancient Relief: Baumeister 3, 1931 184
105. Silenus. From an ancient candelabrum in Munich: Baumeister 2, 895 185
106. Satyr (Marble Faun). Ancient Marble in the Capitoline, Rome: Photograph 186
107. Satyr swinging Maiden. Greek Vase Painting in Berlin: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXXII 186
108. Satyr drinking from Amphora. Ancient Vase Painting in Baltimore: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate IX 187
109. Narcissus gazing at his Reflection. Wall Painting from Pompeii, Naples: Baumeister 2, 1213 188
110. A Rustic. Wall Painting from Herculaneum 195
111. A Rustic. Wall Painting from Herculaneum 196
112. Galatea and Polyphemus. Wall Painting in House of Germanicus, Rome: Roscher 9, 1587 199
113. A Sea-god, perhaps Glaucus. Ancient Marble in Vatican: Baumeister 2, 987 200
114. Nereïds and Sea Monsters. Ancient Relief: Baumeister 2, 1216 204
115. The Danaïds. Ancient Marble Relief in Vatican: Roscher 6, 951 207
116. Danaë and Perseus and the Chest. Greek Vase Painting in St. Petersburg: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXXIV 208
117. Medusa Rondanini (Front View). Ancient Marble in Munich: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, Fig. 63 209
118. Medusa Rondanini (Profile). Ancient Marble in Munich: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, Fig. 63 209
119. Perseus. Marble by Cellini in Florence: Photograph 210
120. Perseus with the Head of Medusa. Ancient Vase Painting: Gerhard[Pg xxiv] 211
121. Perseus finds Andromeda. Ancient Vase Painting in Museum, Berlin: Jahrbuch des D. Arch. Instituts XI (1896), Plate II 212
Right: Aphrodite holding wreath over Perseus' head. Left: Cepheus seated, Hermes with his wand, and an Æthiopian inhabitant.
122. Bellerophon and Pegasus. Ancient Relief: Baumeister 1, 317 215
123. Heracles strangling the Nemean Lion. Greek Vase Painting in British Museum: Baumeister 1, 722 217
Left: Iolaiis and the local nymph Nemea. Right: Athena and Hermes.
124. Heracles killing the Hydra (behind him Athena and Iolaiis). Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 1, 724 217
125. Heracles bringing Home the Boar (Eurystheus hiding in a wine jar). Greek Vase Painting: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XII 218
126. Heracles with the Bull: Metope of the Temple of Zeus at Olympia: Baumeister 2, 1285 219
127. Heracles and Cerberus. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 1, 730 220
Left: Athena and Hermes. Right: Goddess of the Underworld.
128. Heracles and Antæus. Greek Vase Painting in Athens: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXIV 221
129. Hercules and Nessus (Dejanira in Chariot). Wall Painting from Pompeii: Baumeister 1, 733 226
130. The Building of the Argo, Athene directing. Ancient Terra Cotta Relief in the British Museum: Baumeister 1, 127 229
131. Jason conquers the Bulls and steals the Fleece. Ancient Relief in Vienna: Baumeister 2, 981 231
Center: Æetes seated. Right: Medea assists her lover.
132. Medea deliberating upon the Murder of her Children. Wall Painting from Herculaneum: Baumeister 2, 948 234
133. Medea and Daughters of Pelias preparing the Caldron. Ancient Marble Relief, Berlin: Photograph 235
134. Meleager on the Boar Hunt. Roman Relief: Baumeister 2, 990 238
Atalanta appears twice,—as before the hunt to the left of the central figures, as during the hunt in front of Meleager, and shooting an arrow into the boar.
135. The Death of Meleager. Roman Sarcophagus in the Louvre: Baumeister 2, 991 241
Right: the contest between Meleager and his uncles. Left: Althæa putting the fateful brand into the fire; behind her a Fury whose torch has lighted the fire. Center: the dying Meleager, and Atalanta seated mourning.
136, 137. Castor and Pollux capturing the Giant Talus. Ancient Vase Painting: Baumeister 3, 1804 244, 245
Pollux on foot in front of Medea. Seated Deities on right, Poseidon and Amphitrite.
138. Dædalus and Icarus. Ancient Relief in the Villa Albani, Rome: Roscher 6, 934[Pg xxv] 247
139. So-called Theseus. Greek Marble in the Parthenon: Baumeister 2, 1370 249
140. Æthra caresses Theseus and sends him forth with his Father's Sword. Greek Vase Painting, St. Petersburg: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXII 251
141. Theseus receiving Thanks from the Rescued after killing the Minotaur. Campanian Wall Painting in Naples: Baumeister 3, 1876 252
142. The Sleeping Ariadne. Ancient Marble in Vatican: Baumeister 1, 130 254
143. Head of Dionysus. Ancient Marble, Leyden: Roscher 7, 1128 256
144. The Revels of Bacchus and Ariadne. Roman Sarcophagus: Baumeister 1, 492 257
Large figures from left to right: Priest, Satyr, Mænad, Mercury, Bacchus and Ariadne seated, Satyr, Mænad, priest. Small figures: Desire (Himeros) and Love leading Pan captive, followed by Silenus.
145. Lapith and Centaur fighting. Greek Metope from the Parthenon, British Museum: Photograph 259
146. Œdipus and the Sphinx. Greek Vase Painting: P. Gardner, Grammar of Greek Art, Fig. 70 261
147. Eteocles and Polynices kill each other. Etruscan Relief, Florence: Baumeister 3, 1841 266
148. The Gods bring Wedding Gifts. Ancient Relief from the Villa Albani, Rome: Baumeister 1, 759 271
From right to left, married couple, Vulcan, Minerva, the four seasons (Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn) Hymen with torch, Comus, Amor pushing jealous deity away.
149. Map of the Troad and the Hellespont 273
150. Helen persuaded by Aphrodite; Paris (Alexander) held by Love. Ancient Relief in Naples: E. von Mach, Handbook, Plate 312 277
151. Achilles taken from Scyros by Ulysses (to the right) and Diomedes (to the left). Pompeian Wall Painting, Naples: Roscher 1, 27 279
152. The Sacrifice of Iphigenia. Pompeian Wall Painting, Naples: Baumeister 1, 807 281
153. The Surrender of Briseïs. Relief by Thorwaldsen: Photograph 284
154. Hector's Farewell. Relief by Thorwaldsen: Photograph 291
155, 156. The Embassy to Achilles. Greek Vase Painting: P. Gardner, Grammar of Greek Art, Fig. 72 294, 295
Left section: Briseïs is led away. Right section: Ajax and Ulysses, leaning on staff, plead with Achilles; at the right, Phœnix.
157. The Battle by the Ships. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 1, 783 296
Perhaps the moment when Ajax retreats. Hector presses upon him followed by a youth with a torch. At the extreme right, Paris drawing a bow.
158. Supposed Menelaüs with the Body of Patroclus. Ancient Marble, Florence: Baumeister 1, 785[Pg xxvi] 298
159. Contest of Achilles and Hector. Ancient Vase Painting: Baumeister 1, 788 302
Left: Athene. Right: Apollo.
160. Achilles over the Body of Hector at the Tomb of Patroclus P. Gardner, Sculptured Tombs, Fig. 40 (whose shade is running above the tomb). Greek Vase Painting: 303
161. Priam's Visit to Achilles (under whose couch lies the body of Hector). Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 1, 791 304
Achilles has been taking his dinner. Servants bear gifts behind Priam.
162. Achilles and the Amazon Penthesilea. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 3, 2123 307
163. Œnone warning Paris not to sail for Greece. Ancient Relief, in the Villa Ludovisi, Rome: Baumeister 2, 1360 309
164. The Wooden Horse. Ancient Gem: Baumeister 1, 794 310
165, 166. The Sack of Troy. Greek Vase Painting, Naples: Baumeister 1, 795 312, 313
Priam on altar, Astyanax on his lap, and Polites, whom Pyrrhus has just killed, at his feet. Pyrrhus is about to strike Priam. Behind him rushes Andromache to strike a kneeling soldier. Below, under the palm tree, sits Hecuba facing the statue of Minerva (a Palladium) behind which Helen is seen to cower. In front Cassandra clings to the statue, while Ajax, striding over the body of her dead lover, tries to drag her away by the hair. To the left, Æneas, with Anchises in his arms, and little Ascanius are hastening away.
167. Orestes and Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 3, 1939 315
168. Orestes pursued by Furies. Greek Vase Painting: Baumeister 2, 1313 316
169. Orestes and Pylades before the King of the Tauri (Iphigenia as a priestess on the steps of the temple). Wall Painting from Pompeii, Naples: Springer, Kunstgeschichte, 1, 529 316
170. Ulysses offering the Cyclops Wine. Ancient Statuette in the Vatican: Baumeister 2, 1251 318
171. Boring out the Cyclops' Eye. From an Attic Vase: P. Gardner, Grammar of Greek Art, p. 225 322
172. Ulysses and Two Companions under the Rams. Greek Vase Painting: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XXIX 323
173. The Castle of Circe. Sicilian Vase Painting: Baumeister 2, 839 325
174. Ulysses and the Sirens. Greek Vase Painting in the British Museum: P. Gardner, Grammar of Greek Art, p. 227, Fig. 78 329
175. Ulysses and Scylla. Etruscan Relief: Baumeister 3, 1762 330
176. Penelope at the Loom, and Telemachus. Greek Vase Painting in Museum, Chiusi: Harrison-Maccoll, Plate XLI 339
177. Ulysses recognized by Euryclea (behind him Eumæus). Ancient Terra Cotta Relief: Baumeister 2, 1257[Pg xxvii] 341
178, 179. Ulysses kills the Suitors. Greek Vase Painting, Berlin: Baumeister 3, 2139 342, 343
It will be seen that the suitors are defending themselves.
180. The Nike (Victory) of Samothrace. Greek Statue in the Louvre: Von Mach, Greek Sculpture, Plate facing p. 30 345
181. Æneas, Anchises, and Iulus. Ancient Gem, Uffizi, Florence 347
182. Scylla (carved end of ancient table). Chefs d'Œuvres de l'Art Antique, Paris, 1867 349
183. The Cumæan Sibyl. Painting by Michelangelo in the Vatican: Photograph 353
184. Ixion on the wheel. Ancient Vase Painting, Berlin: Baumeister 1, Fig. 821 358
Below, right: Vulcan looking at his handiwork; a Fury and Hermes. Above: winged forms, perhaps the Hours, to see that the motion is perpetual. One is even now shoving the wheel; the other has just taken off her hand to point "your turn."
185. Amazon. Ancient Marble Statue: Guhl and Koner 364
186. Valkyrie bearing a Hero to Valhalla. Painting by Dielitz: Photograph 375
187. Loki and Siguna. Painting by Gebhardt: Photograph 393
188. Gunther and Brunhild. Fresco by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Photograph 406
189. Siegfried and Kriemhild. Fresco by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld: Photograph 407
[Pg xxviii]


Lemnian Athena Frontispiece
Statue, possibly after Phidias, reconstructed by Furtwängler from torso in Dresden and head in Bologna: Photograph.
Hera of the Vatican 22
Ancient Marble in the Vatican: Photograph.
Venus (Aphrodite) of Melos 32
Greek Marble in the Louvre: Photograph.
Greece in the Fifth Century B.C. 64
The Farnese Bull Group: Amphion, Zethus, Dirce, and Antiope 74
Ancient Marble in Naples: E. von Mach, Handbook, Fig. 44.
Apollo and Daphne 112
Marble Group by Bernini, Villa Borghese, Rome: Photograph.
Aphrodite (Petworth Head) 126
Ancient Marble in London: Furtwängler, Masterpieces, Plate XVII.
Eros with Bow 136
Ancient Marble in the Capitoline Museum: Baumeister 1, 539.
Hermes of Praxiteles 150
Greek Marble in Olympia: Photograph.
Perseus freeing Andromeda 212
Ancient Relief in the Capitoline Museum: Roscher 2, 346.
The Wedding of Hercules and Hebe 226
Ancient Apulian Vase Painting in Berlin: Baumeister 1, 700.
Amazon 306
Ancient Marble in Lansdowne House: Photograph.
Laocoön 310
Greek Marble in the Vatican: Photograph.
The Outer Geography of the Odyssey 318
Flying Mercury 330
Statue by Giovanni di Bologna in Florence: Photograph.
Italy before the Growth of the Roman Empire 346
The Victory (Nike) of Brescia 372
Ancient Bronze Statue: E. von Mach, Greek Sculpture, Plate XXXV, No. 4.
[Pg xxix]


Our American educational methods too frequently seek to produce the effect of polish upon a kind of sandstone information that will not stand polishing. With such fatuity many of our teachers in the secondary schools exercise their pupils in the study of English masterpieces and in the critical estimate of æsthetic qualities before acquainting them with the commonplace facts and fables that, transmitted through generations, are the material of much of our poetry because the material of daily converse, imagination, and thought. These commonplaces of tradition are to be found largely in the literature of mythology. Of course the evil would be neither so widespread nor so dangerous if more of the guardians and instructors of our youth were at home even among the Greek and Latin classics. But for various reasons,—some valid, as, for instance, the importance of increased attention to the modern languages and the natural sciences; others worthless, as the so-called utilitarian protest against the cultivation of "dead" languages,—for various reasons the study of the classics is at present considerably impaired. It is, therefore, incumbent upon our universities and schools, recognizing this fact and deploring it, to abate so far as possible the unfortunate consequences that proceed therefrom, until, by a readjustment of subjects of instruction and of the periods allotted them, the Greek and Latin classics shall be reinstated in their proper place as a means of discipline, a humanizing influence, the historic background against which our present appears. For, cut off from the intellectual and imaginative sources of Greece and Rome, the state and statesmanship, legislation and law, society and manners, philosophy, religion, literature, art, and even artistic appreciation, run readily shallow and soon dry.

[Pg xxx]

Now, one evident means of tempering the consequence of this neglect of the classics is the study of them through translations and summaries. Such secondhand study must indeed be ever a makeshift; for the literature of a people inheres in its language, and loses its seeming and often its characteristic when caparisoned in the trappings of another speech,—an utterance totally dissimilar, the outcome of diverse conditions of physical environment, history, social and intellectual tradition. But in dealing with the purely imaginative products of antiquity, the inefficacy of translation may be somewhat offset if those products be reproduced, so far as possible, not in the prosaic but in the poetic atmosphere and in the imaginative garb of art. For though the phenomena of plastic art are not the same in one continent as in another, or from one century to the next, and though the fashion of poetry itself varies from age to age and from clime to clime, the genesis of imagination is universal, its products are akin, and its process is continuous. For this reason the study of the imaginative thought of the ancients through the artistic creations of the moderns is commended to students and readers as feasible and profitable.

The study of the classic myths stimulates to creative production, prepares for the appreciation of poetry and other kinds of art, and furnishes a clew to the spiritual development of the race.

1. Classic mythology has been for succeeding poetry, sculpture, and painting, a treasure house replete with golden tales and glimmering thoughts, passions in the rough and smooth, and fancies rich bejeweled. Like Virgil's Shadows that flit by the Lethean stream until at beck of Fate they revisit upper day and the ever-tranquil stars, these ghosts of "far-off things and battles long ago," peopling the murmurous glades of myth, await the artist who shall bestow on each his new and predetermined form and restore them, purified and breathing of Elysian air, to the world of life and ever-young mankind.

2. For the reader the study of mythology does, in this respect, as much as for poet, sculptor, or painter. It assists him to thrid the labyrinth of art, not merely with the clew of tradition, but with a thread of surer knowledge whose surest strand is sympathy.

[Pg xxxi]

The knowledge of mythic lore has led men in the past broadly to appreciate the motives and conditions of ancient art and literature, and the uniform and ordered evolution of the æsthetic sense. And, beside enriching us with heirlooms of fiction and pointing us to the sources of imaginative joy from which early poets of Hellenic verse, or Norse, or English, drank, the classic myths quicken the imaginative and emotional faculties to-day, just as of old. How many a man held by the sorrows of the Labdacidæ or the love of Alcestis, by some curious wonder in Pausanias, or some woe in Hyginus, has waked to the consciousness of artistic fancy and creative force within himself! How many, indifferent to the well-known round, the trivial task, the nearest care of home, have read the Farewell to Andromache and lived a new sympathy, an unselfish thrill, a purified delight! And not only as an impulse toward artistic output, or patriotic devotion, or domestic altruism, but as a restraining influence, a chastener of æsthetic excess, a moderator of the "unchartered freedom" that knows no mean between idolatry and loathing, of the foolish frenzy that affects new things, abnormal and sensational, in literature, music, and the plastic arts,—as such a tutor and governor is the study of beautiful myths invaluable. Long familiarity with the sweet simplicity, the orderly restraint, the severe regard, the filial awe that pervade the myths of Greece and Rome,—or with the newness of life and fullness and wonder of it, the naïveté and the romance, of Eddic lore,—cannot but graciously temper our modern estimate of artistic worth.

The study, when illustrated by masterpieces of literature and art, should lead to the appreciation of concrete artistic productions of both these kinds.

It goes without saying that a rational series of somewhat consecutive stories is more serviceable to the reader than a congeries of data acquired by spasmodic consultation of the classical dictionary,—a mass of information bolted, as it were, but by no means digested. If, moreover, these stories are narrated in genealogical and realistic sequence and are illustrated by lyric, narrative, and descriptive passages of modern literature, there is furnished not only that material of allusion and reference for which the student nowadays[Pg xxxii] trusts to meager and disjointed textbook notes, but a potentiality that should render the general reading of belles-lettres more profitable. For a previous acquaintance with the material of literary tradition heightens the appreciation of each allusive passage as it is encountered; it enables the reader to sympathize with the mood and to enter into the purpose of the poet, the essayist, the novelist, the orator; it expands the intellectual lungs for the atmosphere breathed by the artist, at any rate for a literary and social atmosphere less asthmatic than that to which so many of us are unconsciously habituated. Of course all this advantage would far better result from the first-hand nutriment and discipline of the Greek and Latin classics; of course direct familiarity with the writers of Greece and Rome is the sine qua non of level-headed criticism and broad evaluation of modern literature; and, of course, a sympathy with the imaginings of old is the best incentive to an æsthetic estimate not only of art but of nature to-day; but if our American pupils and many of their teachers cannot quaff Massic and Falernian, they do well to scent the bouquet. In time a sense of flavor may perchance be stimulated, and ultimately a desire for nearer acquaintance with the literatures that we inherit.

The study of these ancient tales serves, then, much more than the purpose of special information. It refines the æsthetic judgment in general, and heightens the enjoyment of such works of literature as, not treating of mythical or classical subjects, still possess the characteristics of the classic: the unconscious simplicity, the inevitable charm, and the noble ideality. The Lycidas, the Adonais, the Thyrsis, the In Memoriam, the Ode to Duty, the Bothie of Tober-na-Vuolich, the Hymn of Man, Love is Enough, Prospice, Festus, the Ode of Life, the Dream of Gerontius, Lying in the Grass, and Simmenthal must mean little to one devoid of the spirit of classicism.

In respect of art a similar inspiration, aid, instruction, are afforded by the study. This volume is liberally supplied with cuts of famous paintings and sculptures of mythical subjects. Familiarity with specimens of ancient art, even through the medium of photography and engraving, must not only cultivate the historic sense but stimulate the æsthetic. The cruder efforts of the ancients, no less[Pg xxxiii] than the more refined, are windows through which we view the ancient mind. The frequent contemplation of their nobler efforts and of the modern masterpieces here reproduced may avail to lift some from the level of apathy or provinciality in matters of imagination; some it may spur to a study of the originals, some to artistic creation. A public which, from year to year, displays a deeper interest in the art of foreign lands will despise no auxiliary to a more intelligent appreciation of that art. A country whose future in artistic achievement cannot be prophesied in a paragraph will more and more truly recognize the value of a study that is an introduction to much that is best in art as it exists.

3. Furthermore, it must be borne in mind that the myths of the ancients, as the earliest literary crystallization of social order and religious fear, record the incipient history of religious ideals and of moral conduct. For though ethnologists may insist that to search for truth in mythology is vain, the best of them will grant that to search for truth through mythology is wise and profitable. If we accept the statement (often stretched beyond its proper limit) that mythology is primitive philosophy, and the other statement that an ancient philosophy never dies, but by process of internal growth, of modification, and of accretion acquires a purer spirit and a new and higher form,—then, since truth was never yet conceived of error (ex nihilo nihil fit), the truth now recognized, while it did not exist in that fraction of myth which happens to be irrational, existed as an archetypal impulse,—set the myth in motion, and, as a process refining the mind of man, tended steadily to eliminate from primitive philosophy (that is, from the myths that embodied primitive philosophy) the savage, ephemeral, and irrational element. For all myths spring from the universal and inalienable desire to know, to enjoy, to teach. These impulses of knowledge, of imaginative relaxation, of conduct, are the throbbing of the heart of reason; the first or the second is the primal pulse of every myth, and to the life of every myth each impulse may be, at some period, contributory. This study has led men to trace soberly the progress of their kind from the twilight of gray conjecture to the dawn of spiritual conviction and rational individuality; to discern a continuity of thought, an outward reach of imagination, an upward[Pg xxxiv] lift of moral and religious ideas; to confess the brotherhood of humanity and an inspiring purpose which holds good for every race and through all time.


1. Of the Classic Myths in their Relation to Literature. It is essential that the teacher of mythology, no matter what textbook or system he uses or what classic epic he proposes to present, should first make himself acquainted with the meaning of myth, its origin and elements; the difference between myth and fable, between myths explanatory and myths æsthetic, myths reasonable and myths unreasonable, the theories of myth-making as a process of deterioration or as a process of development. He should also inform himself concerning the ways in which the leading myths have been disseminated, and how the survivors have been preserved. Materials for this preparation he will find in Chapters XXX-XXXII of this book as readily, perhaps, as elsewhere; but no matter where he obtains this information he should in a simple and interesting talk pass on the cream of it to the pupils about to begin the study of the stories themselves. He will in that way bring them to a reasonable appreciation of the value of myths and their relation to our civilization, and awaken in them anticipatory interest in the proposed reading. It is a great mistake to plunge students of high-school age, without preliminary orientation and a justification of the study, into a world which may otherwise appear to them unreasonable in conception and unrelated in experience. Pupils may, if time permits, read these concluding chapters, and so obtain a systematic outlook upon the subject, during a brief review in the senior year, but not earlier.

This book should be studied for its materials and the inspiration that it affords,—not word by word for its style, or as a dictionary or scientific authority; nor paragraph by paragraph with a painful committing to memory of each myth and each episode in the myth. Discrimination must be made. Some of these myths, and especially the episodes from the epics (Chapters XXII-XXIX), are to be read rapidly and in large assignments, sometimes at home[Pg xxxv] with reports in class, sometimes in class and at sight, but always for the enjoyment. Others are to be studied in detail, but solely when they are of special and vital significance, historically, morally, or æsthetically. Emphasis should be laid only occasionally and sparingly upon interpretations of mythical materials. What both teacher and student should aim at is the picture—manners, morals, ideals, heroic figures, epic events, broad and vivid against the canvas of antiquity: that, and the reality of classic order, grandeur, and restraint.

The myths are here presented in a logical and genealogical arrangement; and they should be studied in this order, so that the pupil may carry away, not a jumble of sporadic recollections, but some conception of the systems of creative imagination which obtained in earlier civilizations. The knowledge of the myths and the proper perspective of their relation, one to another, may further be fixed by the study of the family ties that motivate many of the incidents of mythical adventure, and that must have been commonplaces of information to the inventors and narrators of these stories.

The myths may well be reproduced as exercises in narration, comparison, description; and they may be regarded as stimulus for imaginative invention concerning local wonders and beauties of nature. Pupils may also be encouraged to consider, and to comment upon, the moral qualities of the heroes and heroines of mythology. Thus they may be led to recognize the difference between ancient and modern standards of right and wrong. To this end, and for the supply of further nutriment, it is important that teachers collect from their reading of the classic originals, or from translations of the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Greek dramatists, the Æneid, the Metamorphoses, etc., material supplementary to the text, and give it freely to their classes. To facilitate this practice the sources of the myths have been indicated in the footnotes of this volume, and a few of the best translations have been mentioned in the Commentary. Instructors should also read to the classes illustrative English poems, or portions of them based upon the myths under consideration; and they should encourage the pupils to collect from their English reading additional examples[Pg xxxvi] of the literary survival or adaptation of ancient story. For this purpose special sections of the Commentary have been prepared, indicating some of the best known literary applications of each myth.

The Commentary is numbered in sections corresponding to those of the text. The Textual Notes should be studied in connection with each lesson, the Interpretative more sparingly, as I have said. They should not be suffered to spoil the interest in the stories as such. They are of interest in themselves only to maturer minds. Allusions and interpretations which the younger pupil does not appreciate will, if the book is used for purposes of reference in his further English, Latin, or Greek studies, be clear before the end of his course.

From the outset care should be taken that pupils give to the classical names their proper accent, and that they anglicize both vowels and consonants according to the recognized rules laid down in the Latin grammars, the English dictionaries, and the pages preceding the Index of this book.

Mythological and classical geography should not be neglected. The maps accompanying this volume will be serviceable; but there should be in the classroom one of Kiepert's maps of the World as Known to the Ancients (Orbis Veteribus Notus), or maps of Ancient Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor. The teacher will find the International Atlas (G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York), A. Keith Johnston's School and College Atlas of Ancient Geography, or the new edition of the same by James Cranstoun, issued as Ginn and Company's Classical Atlas, indispensable in the prosecution of general reading.

When it is the intention to study, in connection with the book, an Homeric epic or a portion of it, the teacher should first make sure that the class has an adequate preliminary training in general mythology (such, for instance, as may be provided by the first twenty-one chapters); he should then outline rapidly and entertainingly the epic as a whole, emphasizing its position in the literature of the world and its relation to the world of its own times, before proceeding to read it in detail with the class. Excellent suggestions as to this method of study are offered in the Introduction to Maxwell & Chubb's Pope's Homer's Iliad, Books I, VI,[Pg xxxvii] XXII, and XXIV (Longmans), and in the Introduction to the Riverside Edition of the Odyssey: Ulysses among the Phæacians (Houghton Mifflin Company).

The more important myths and the best illustrative poems should provide not only nutriment for thought, but material for memory. Our youth in the push for hasty achievement bolt their meals; they masticate little, swallow everything, digest nothing,—and having agonized, forget. If fewer things were dispatched, especially in the study of literature, and if more were intrusted to the memory, there would be something to assimilate and time to assimilate it; there would be less dyspepsia and more muscle. Teachers and parents are over-considerate, nowadays, of the memory in children: they approach it gingerly; they have feared so much to wring its withers that in most children the memory has grown too soft for saddling. In our apprehension lest pupils may turn out parrots, we have too often turned them out loons. It is better that a few of the facts in their heads be wrong than that no facts be there at all. With all our study of children and our gabble about methods of teaching them, while we insist, properly enough, that youth is the seedtime of observation, we seem to have forgotten that it is also the harvest-time of memory. It is easy for children to remember what they learn, it is a delight for them to commit to memory; we act criminally when we send them forth with hardly a fact or a date or a glorious verse in the memory of one out of ten of them. Such, unfortunately, is the case in many of our schools; and such was not the case in the day of our fathers. Pupils should be encouraged to recite memoriter the best poems and verses that accompany the myths here given; and they should not be allowed to pass allusions already explained without recalling verses that contain them.

But above all things should be cultivated, by means of this study, the spiritual capabilities of our youth. Pabulum for thought, accurate habits of memory, critical judgment, simplicity and directness of oral and written expression, may all be furnished or developed by other educative agencies; but what stimulus to fancy, to poetic sensitiveness and reflection, to a near kinship with the spirit of nature humanized, can be found more cogent than the contemplation of[Pg xxxviii] the poetic traditions that abide in verse? Mythology, fraught with the fire of imagination, kindles the present from the past.

In this new world of ours, shall slopes and mountains, gorges, cañons, flowery fields and forests, rivers, bays, Titanic lakes, and shoreless reach of ocean be seen of eyes that lack insight, be known of men for whom nature does not live? Surely the age of myth is not wholly past; surely the beauties and the wonders of nature are a fable of things never fully revealed; surely this new republic of ours, no less than her prototypes by Tyrrhenian and Ægean seas, utters, in her queenly form and flowing robes, a spirit, a truth, a potential poetry, and a beauty of art, the grace of which we Americans, with deeper imaginative training and sympathy and awe, may yet more highly value and more clearly comprehend.

2. Of the Classic Myths in their Relation to Art.[1] The illustration of a book on ancient mythology offers great difficulties, because the modern reader expects one thing and the ancient artist, on whose works one must rely, intentionally offers a very different thing. We have grown to be a reading people, forming our ideas largely on the written word, while in antiquity the spoken word opened the door to understanding. A story which has been committed to writing is fixed for all time, having lost its power of growth; whereas a tale that passes from mouth to mouth, with no record by which to check its accuracy in particulars, is free to expand. It changes with the moods of those who tell it, and the intellectual and moral standards of those who listen. People to-day are unimaginative and literal. They also expect that the pictures which illustrate their books shall follow the individual conceptions of the author closely. When the story is dramatized a certain latitude is granted to the actor; the artist, however, who illustrates the book has no such freedom. He is expected to take precisely the author's view of a fictitious character, and, consequently, his individuality may show itself only in the technique. In antiquity there were no standard books of fiction or of myths. When writing came into use with the sixth century before Christ, the individual versions of this or that great epic poem or drama were preserved; but the great mass of the people knew them, not because they had read the manuscripts, [Pg xxxix]but because they had heard them acted or recited. Book illustrations, therefore, were unknown. Yet so powerful was the impression which the myths made on the people that most of the artists drew their inspiration from them. Artists and poets alike wished to make real the powerful characters of Greek tradition. To make a literally true illustration of any one version of a great myth was not the aim of a classic artist.

Another difficulty is found in the fact that few ancient myths continued to be equally interesting to the people all the time. It is therefore necessary for us, in choosing illustrations, to draw on all periods of ancient art, the crude beginning and the decline as well as the brief span of fine art. The comparatively meager store of genuinely classic works of art acts as one of the greatest obstacles to the compilation of a continuous record of classic myths in classic art. To give such a record, however, rather than to illustrate his book, must be the aim of the author who publishes to-day a version of ancient mythology together with such pictures or reliefs or statues as are preserved. The modern reader of such a book should therefore appreciate this fact: he must make allowance for the gradual development of ancient art. The picture is not there for the sake of strengthening the written work, but for its own sake. It often offers an independent version of the myth which he reads, and at all times may give him an insight into the mental make-up of the classic people.

Sculpture was the finest art of the Greeks, if one may judge by the remains. In this province the artists worked according to the best principles of art, making their appeal directly to the nobler side of man. Before an ancient statue one feels the power of an idea immediately, and not by the circuitous route of remembering a sequence of words which may have aimed to suggest a similar idea. The Greeks were the least literal in their sculpture. Their marbles, therefore, cannot yield illustrations which the modern editor can use, except when they embody, like the Demeter of Knidos (Fig. 29) or the Athena of Velletri (Fig. 10), a well-defined character-conception. The modern reader, on the other hand, cannot fail to notice that this conception never does justice to the character of the goddess as it appears in all the myths, and very[Pg xl] rarely even to that characteristic which may dominate the particular version of any one myth. If such pictures, however, were entirely omitted from the book, the best means of appreciating the essential nobility of the Greek mind would be lost.

None of the Greek masterpieces of painting are extant. Their attenuated influence, however, may be traced in the Italian wall paintings from Pompeii and elsewhere. Painting permits greater literalness than sculpture. The picture from Herculaneum, for instance,—Io, Argus, and Mercury (Fig. 47),—tells a definite story and one which is also told by the poets. But the painter has considered the making of a pleasing picture first, and given only a secondary thought to accuracy of tradition. This must be so; for while we may without displeasure listen to the description of a monster, we cannot see his actual representation without discomfort. When we hear how the companions of Ulysses were turned into swine, the tragic note is never lost. To paint this scene, however, and not to border on the ridiculous or the burlesque is given only to the greatest artist—if it is at all possible.

Fortunately for our purposes of illustration, there was a class of secondary artists in Greece which did not always shrink from selecting subjects ill adapted for art, and from rendering them with slight variations so that they are neither bad to look at nor altogether untrue. These were the painters of vases. Some of them were masters of their craft (cf. Fig. 116), others were of only mediocre skill. All, however, like their nobler brethren, were primarily concerned with the decorative and technical side of their art and but secondarily with their subject. If the story, for instance, called for four persons and their space for five, they unhesitatingly added the fifth person, and, vice versa, removed one without compunction if they had place for fewer figures than the story demanded. Being, moreover, commercial people, they painted according to fashion. Whatever version of a myth happened to be popular, that they selected, so that it has been possible to trace by their vases the changes which several myths underwent from the sixth century onward.

A careful student notices the similarity of types in many of these pictures and realizes that the ancient painter of vases started out[Pg xli] with a certain stock-in-trade which he altered as little as possible, adding something new only where it was absolutely necessary.

From these observations it is clear that the works of men who were least gifted artistically are the best adapted for the purposes of book illustrations; for a painter is literal in the inverse ratio of his worth as artist. Nothing, therefore, could be less fair than to judge Greek vase painting by the collection of pictures here offered. Only paintings like Figures 85 and 101, for instance, can give a hint of the best that these men produced.

Going gradually down the scale of artists one finally comes to the level of the makers of Roman sarcophagi, in whose honor it can only be said that to descend lower is impossible. Several myths, however,—the story of the fall of Phaëthon (Fig. 59), for instance,—are not illustrated in art before the decadent period of imperial Roman sculpture. It is therefore necessary to draw also upon this source.

Of course unity of art or school or excellence cannot be preserved in a set of pictures which groups the Demeter of Knidos (Fig. 29), the blinding of Polyphemus (Fig. 171), and the fall of Phaëthon (Fig. 59). But individually the pictures help to fix in memory the particular stories that they are chosen to illustrate; and collectively they show how strongly the myths here retold influenced the noblest fancy of the great artists as well as the receptive minds of mediocre artisans. The suggestive power of classic myths, moreover, was not confined to antiquity. When learning and culture returned to the world in the Renaissance, this power also returned. Raphael (see Fig. 12) and Michelangelo (see Fig. 183) were under its sway, and so are many modern artists (see Figs. 72 and 154). They did not all understand the classic spirit equally, therefore some of their pictures are modern in everything save the title, while others have caught the truth with singular accuracy and are modern only in technique. Adding these Italian and more recent pictures to the collection further destroys mere unity, but it insures, on the other hand, a full appreciation of the abiding and ennobling power of ancient mythology.

[Pg xlii]
[Pg 1]


[1] See Preface.




1. Purpose of the Study. Interwoven with the fabric of our English literature, of our epics, dramas, lyrics, and novels, of our essays and orations, like a golden warp where the woof is only too often of silver, are the myths of certain ancient nations. It is the purpose of this work to relate some of these myths, and to illustrate the uses to which they have been put in English literature, and, incidentally, in art.

2. The Fable and the Myth. Careful discrimination must be made between the fable and the myth. A fable is a story, like that of King Log, or the Fox and the Grapes, in which characters and plot, neither pretending to reality nor demanding credence, are fabricated confessedly as the vehicle of moral or didactic instruction. Dr. Johnson narrows still further the scope of the fable: "It seems to be, in its genuine state, a narrative in which beings irrational, and sometimes inanimate, are, for the purpose of moral instruction, feigned to act and speak with human interests and passions." Myths, on the other hand, are stories of anonymous origin, prevalent among primitive peoples and by them accepted as true, concerning supernatural beings and events, or natural beings and events influenced by supernatural agencies. Fables are made by individuals; they may be told in any stage of a nation's history,—by a Jotham when the Israelites were still under the Judges, 1200 years before Christ, or by Christ himself in the[Pg 2] days of the most critical Jewish scholarship; by a Menenius when Rome was still involved in petty squabbles of plebeians and patricians, or by Phædrus and Horace in the Augustan age of Roman imperialism and Roman letters; by an Æsop, well-nigh fabulous, to fabled fellow-slaves and Athenian tyrants, or by La Fontaine to the Grand Monarch and the most highly civilized race of seventeenth-century Europe.

Fables are vessels made to order into which a lesson may be poured. Myths are born, not made. They are born in the infancy of a people. They owe their features not to any one historic individual, but to the imaginative efforts of generations of story-tellers. The myth of Pandora, the first woman, endowed by the immortals with heavenly graces, and of Prometheus, who stole fire from heaven for the use of man; the myth of the earthborn giants that in the beginning contested with the gods the sovereignty of the universe; of the moon-goddess who, with her buskined nymphs, pursues the chase across the azure of the heavens, or descending to earth cherishes the youth Endymion,—these myths, germinating in some quaint and childish interpretation of natural events or in some fireside fancy, have put forth unconsciously, under the nurture of the simple folk that conceived and tended them, luxuriant branches and leaves of narrative, and blossoms of poetic comeliness and form.

The myths that we shall relate present wonderful accounts of the creation, histories of numerous divine beings, adventures of heroes in which magical and ghostly agencies play a part, and where animals and inanimate nature don the attributes of men and gods. Many of these myths treat of divinities once worshiped by the Greeks and the Romans, and by our Norse and German forefathers in the dark ages. Myths, more or less like these, may be found in the literatures of nearly all nations; many are in the memories and mouths of savage races at this time existent. But the stories here narrated are no longer believed by any one. The so-called divinities of Olympus and of Asgard have not a single worshiper among men. They dwell only in the realm of memory and imagination; they are enthroned in the palace of art.

The stories of Greek, Roman, Norse, and German mythology that have most influenced our English literature will follow in the[Pg 3] order named. The Romans, being by nature a practical, not a poetic, people, incorporated in their literature the mythology of the Greeks. We shall, however, append to our description of the Greek gods a brief account of the native Latin divinities that retained an individuality in Roman literature.

Fig. 1. Jupiter surveying the World

3. Origin of the World.[2] There were among the Greeks several accounts of the beginning of things. Homer tells us that River Ocean, a deep and mighty flood, encircling land and sea like a serpent with its tail in its mouth, was the source of all. According to other myths Night and Darkness were the prime elements of Nature, and from them sprang Light. Still a third theory, attributed to Orpheus, asserts that Time was in the beginning, but had himself no beginning; that from him proceeded Chaos, a yawning abyss wherein brooded Night and Mist and fiery air, or Æther; that Time caused the mist to spin round the central fiery air till the mass, assuming the form of a huge world egg, flew, by reason of its rapid rotation, into halves. Of these, one was Heaven, the other Earth. From the center of the egg proceeded Eros (Love) and other wondrous beings.

[Pg 4]

But the most consistent account of the origin of the world and of the gods is given by the poet Hesiod, who tells us that Chaos, the yawning abyss, composed of Void, Mass, and Darkness in confusion, preceded all things else. Next came into being broad-bosomed Earth, and beautiful Love who should rule the hearts of gods and men. But from Chaos itself issued Erebus,[3] the mysterious darkness that is under Earth,—and Night, dwelling in the remote regions of sunset.

From Mother Earth proceeded first the starry vault of Heaven, durable as brass or iron, where the gods were to take up their abode. Earth brought forth next the mountains and fertile fields, the stony plains, the sea, and the plants and animals that possess them.

4. Origin of the Gods. So far we have a history of the throes and changes of the physical world; now begins the history of gods and of men. For in the heart of creation Love begins to stir, making of material things creatures male and female, and bringing them together by instinctive affinity. First Erebus and Night, the children of Chaos, are wedded, and from them spring Light and Day; then Uranus, the personified Heaven, takes Gæa, the Earth, to wife, and from their union issue Titans and hundred-handed monsters and Cyclopes.

The Titans[4] appear to be the personification of mighty convulsions of the physical world, of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. They played a quarrelsome part in mythical history; they were instigators of hatred and strife. Homer mentions specially two of them, Iapetus and Cronus; but Hesiod enumerates thirteen. Of these, the more important are Oceanus and Tethys, Hyperion and Thea, Cronus and Rhea, Iapetus, Themis, and Mnemosyne. The three Cyclopes represented the terrors of rolling thunder, of the lightning-flash, and of the thunderbolt; and, probably, for this reason, one fiery eye was deemed enough for each. The hundred-handed monsters, or Hecatonchires, were also three in number. In them, probably, the Greeks imaged the sea with its multitudinous waves, its roar, and its breakers that seem to shake the earth. These lightning-eyed, these hundred-handed [Pg 5]monsters, their father Uranus feared, and attempted to destroy by thrusting them into Tartarus, the profound abysm of the earth. Whereupon Mother Earth, or Gæa, indignant, called for help upon her elder children, the Titans. None dared espouse her cause save Cronus, the crafty. With an iron sickle he lay in wait for his sire, fell upon him, and drove him, grievously wounded, from the encounter. From the blood of the mutilated Uranus leaped into being the Furies, whose heads writhe with serpents; the Giants, a novel race of monsters; and the Melic Nymphs, invidious maidens of the ashen spear.

5. The Rule of Cronus. Now follows the reign of Cronus, lord of Heaven and Earth. He is, from the beginning, of incalculable years. In works of art his head is veiled, to typify his cunning and his reserve; he bears the sickle not only as memento of the means by which he brought his father's tyranny to end, but as symbol of the new period of growth and golden harvests that he ushered in.

For unknown ages Cronus and Rhea, his sister-queen, governed Heaven and Earth. To them were born three daughters, Vesta, Ceres, and Juno, and three sons, Pluto, Neptune, and Jupiter. Cronus, however, having learned from his parents that he should be dethroned by one of his own children, conceived the well-intentioned but ill-considered device of swallowing each as it was born. His queen, naturally desirous of discouraging the practice,—when it came to the turn of her sixth child, palmed off on the insatiable Cronus a stone carefully enveloped in swaddling clothes. Jupiter (or Zeus), the rescued infant, was concealed in the island of Crete, where, nurtured by the nymphs Adrastea and Ida, and fed on the milk of the goat Amalthea, he in due season attained maturity. Then, assisted by his grandmother Gæa, he constrained Cronus to disgorge the burden of his cannibal repasts. First came to light the memorable stone, which was placed in safe keeping at Delphi; then the five brothers and sisters of Jupiter, ardent to avenge themselves upon the unnatural author of their existence and their captivity.

6. The War of the Titans. In the war which ensued Iapetus and all the Titans, except Oceanus, ranged themselves on the side of their brother Cronus against Jupiter and his recently recovered[Pg 6] kinsfolk. Jupiter and his hosts held Mount Olympus. For ages victory wavered in the balance. Finally Jupiter, acting again under the advice of Gæa, released from Tartarus, where Uranus had confined them, the Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires. Instantly they hastened to the battle-field of Thessaly, the Cyclopes to support Jupiter with their thunders and lightnings, the hundred-handed monsters with the shock of the earthquake. Provided with such artillery, shaking earth and sea, Jupiter issued to the onslaught. With the gleam of the lightning the Titans were blinded, by the earthquake they were laid low, with the flames they were well-nigh consumed: overpowered and fettered by the hands of the Hecatonchires, they were consigned to the yawning cave of Tartarus. Atlas, the son of Iapetus, was doomed to bear the heavens on his shoulders. But a more famous son of the same Titan, Prometheus, who had espoused the cause of Jove, acquired dignity hereafter to be set forth.

7. The Division of Empire. In the council of the gods that succeeded, Jupiter was chosen Sovereign of the World. He delegated to his brother Neptune (or Poseidon) the kingdom of the sea and of all the waters; to his brother Pluto (or Hades), the government of the underworld, dark, unseen, mysterious, where the spirits of the dead should dwell, and of Tartarus, wherein were held the fallen Titans. For himself Jupiter retained Earth and the Heaven, into whose broad and sunny regions towered Olympus, the favored mountain of the greater gods.[5]

8. The Reign of Jupiter. New conflicts, however, awaited this new dynasty of Heaven—conflicts, the subject of many a tale among the ancients. Gæa, though she had aided her grandson Jupiter in the war against Cronus, was soon seized with compunctions of conscience; and contemplating the cruel fate of her sons the Titans, she conceived schemes of vengeance upon their conqueror. Another son was born to her—Typhon, a monster more awful than his predecessors—whose destiny it was to dispute the sway of the almighty Zeus. From the neck of Typhon dispread themselves a hundred dragon-heads; his eyes shot fire, and from his black-tongued chaps proceeded the hissing of snakes, the [Pg 7]bellowing of bulls, the roaring of lions, the barking of dogs, pipings and screams, and, at times, the voice and utterance of the gods themselves. Against Heaven this horror lifted himself; but quailing before the thunderbolt of Jove, he too descended to Tartarus, his own place and the abode of his brethren. To this day, however, he grumbles and hisses, thrusts upward a fiery tongue through the crater of a volcano, or, breathing siroccos, scorches trees and men.

Fig. 2. Athena and Giant

Later still, the Giants, offspring of the blood that fell from the wounded Uranus, renewed the revolt against the Olympian gods. They were creatures nearer akin to men than were the Titans, or the Cyclopes, or Typhon. They clothed themselves in the skins of beasts, and armed themselves with rocks and trunks of trees. Their bodies and lower limbs were of snakes. They were awful to encounter or to look upon. They were named, like men, the earthborn; and their characteristics would suggest some prehistoric brutish race, hotheaded, not amenable to reason.[6] Of the Giants, the more mighty were Alcyoneus of the winter storms and icebergs, Pallas, and Enceladus, and Porphyrion the fire-king,—leader of the crew. In the war against them, Juno and Minerva, divinities of the new dynasty of Heaven, took active part,—and Hercules, an earthly son of Jupiter, whose arrows aided in their defeat. It was from the overthrow of Pallas that Athena (or Minerva) derived, according to certain records, her proud designation of Pallas-Athena.[7] In [Pg 8]due course, like the Titans and Typhon, the Giants were buried in the abyss of eternal darkness. What other outcome can be expected when mere physical or brute force joins issue with the enlightened and embattled hosts of heaven?

Fig. 3. Zeus and Giants

9. The Origin of Man was a question which the Greeks did not settle so easily as the Hebrews. Greek traditions do not trace all mankind to an original pair. On the contrary, the generally received opinion was that men grew out of trees and stones, or were produced by the rivers or the sea. Some said that men and gods were both derived from Mother Earth, hence both autochthonous; and some, indeed, claimed an antiquity for the human race equal to that of the divinities. All narratives, however, agree in one statement,—that the gods maintained intimate relations with men until, because of the growing sinfulness and arrogance of mankind, it became necessary for the immortals to withdraw their favor.

10. Prometheus, a Creator. There is a story which attributes the making of man to Prometheus, whose father Iapetus had, with Cronus, opposed the sovereignty of Jupiter. In that conflict, Prometheus, gifted with prophetic wisdom, had adopted the cause[Pg 9] of the Olympian deities. To him and his brother Epimetheus was now committed the office of making man and providing him and all other animals with the faculties necessary for their preservation. Prometheus was to overlook the work of Epimetheus. Epimetheus proceeded to bestow upon the different animals the various gifts of courage, strength, swiftness, sagacity; wings to one, claws to another, a shelly covering to a third. But Prometheus himself made a nobler animal than these. Taking some earth and kneading it with water, he made man in the image of the gods. He gave him an upright stature, so that while other animals turn their faces toward the earth, man gazes on the stars. Then since Epimetheus, always rash, and thoughtful when too late, had been so prodigal of his gifts to other animals that no blessing was left worth conferring upon the noblest of creatures, Prometheus ascended to heaven, lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and brought down fire. With fire in his possession man would be able to win her secrets and treasures from the earth, to develop commerce, science, and the arts.

Fig. 4. Prometheus making Man

[Pg 10]

11. The Age of Gold. Whether in this or in other ways the world was furnished with inhabitants, the first age was an age of innocence and happiness. Truth and right prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any in authority to threaten or to punish. The forest had not yet been robbed of its trees to yield timbers for vessels, nor had men built fortifications round their towns. There were no such things as swords, spears, or helmets. The earth brought forth all things necessary for man, without his labor in plowing or sowing. Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks. This Golden Age had begun in the reign of Cronus.[8] And when these heroes fell asleep in death, they were translated in a pleasant dream to a spiritual existence, in which, unseen by mortal eyes, they still attended men as monitors and guardians.

12. The Silver Age came next, inferior to the golden. Jupiter shortened the spring, and divided the year into seasons. Then, first, men suffered the extremes of heat and cold, and houses became necessary. Caves were their dwellings,—and leafy coverts of the woods, and huts woven of twigs. Crops would no longer grow without planting. The farmer was constrained to sow the seed, and the ox to draw the plow. This was a race of manly men, but insolent and impious. And when they died, Jupiter made them ghosts of the underworld, but withheld the privilege of immortal life.

13. Prometheus, Champion of Man. During this age when, as Hesiod says, the altars of the blessed were neglected, and the gods were denied their due, Prometheus stood forth—the champion of man against the Olympians.[9] For the son of Cronus had grudged mortals the use of fire, and was, in fact, contemplating their annihilation and the creation of a new race. Therefore, once upon a time, when gods and men were in dispute at Sicyon concerning the prerogatives of each, Prometheus, by an ingenious trick, attempted to settle the question in favor of man. Dividing into two portions a sacrificial bull, he wrapped all the eatable parts [Pg 11]in the skin, cunningly surmounted with uninviting entrails; but the bones he garnished with a plausible mass of fat. He then offered Jupiter his choice. The king of Heaven, although he perceived the intended fraud, took the heap of bones and fat, and, forthwith availing himself of this insult as an excuse for punishing mankind, deprived the race of fire. But Prometheus regained the treasure, stealing it from Heaven in a hollow tube.

14. Pandora. Doubly enraged, Jupiter, in his turn, had recourse to stratagem. He is declared to have planned for man a curse in the shape of woman. How the race had persisted hitherto without woman is a mystery; but that it had done so, with no slight degree of happiness, the experience of the Golden Age would seem to prove. However, the bewitching evil was fashioned,—in Heaven, properly enough,—and every god and goddess contributed something to her perfection. One gave her beauty, another persuasive charm, a third the faculty of music. And they named her Pandora, "the gift of all the gods." Thus equipped, she was conveyed to earth and presented to Epimetheus, who, without hesitation, accepted the gift, though cautioned by his brother to beware of Jupiter and all his ways. And the caution was not groundless. In the hand of Pandora had been placed by the immortals a casket or vase which she was forbidden to open. Overcome by an unaccountable curiosity to know what this vessel contained, she one day lifted the cover and looked in. Forthwith there escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man—gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body; envy, spite, and revenge for his mind—and scattered themselves far and wide. Pandora hastened to replace the lid; but one thing only remained in the casket, and that was hope.

15. Prometheus Bound. Because of his unselfish devotion to the cause of humanity, Prometheus drew down on himself the anger of Olympian Jove, by whose order he was chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, and subjected to the attack of an eagle (or a vulture) which, for ages, preyed upon his liver, yet succeeded not in consuming it. This state of torment might have been brought to an end at any time by Prometheus, if he had been willing to submit to his oppressor; for he possessed a secret which involved[Pg 12] the stability of Jove's throne. This was that by a certain woman Jove would beget a son who should displace him and end the sway of the Olympians. The god naturally desired more accurate information of this decree of Fate. But to reveal the secret Prometheus disdained. In this steadfastness the Titan was supported by the knowledge that in the thirteenth generation there should arrive a hero,—sprung from Jove himself,—to release him.[10] And in fullness of time the hero did arrive: none other than the mighty Hercules desirous of rendering the highest service to mankind. No higher service, thinks this radiant and masterful personage,—who, as we shall see, had already cleared the world of many a monster,—remains to be performed than to free the champion of mankind, suffering through the ages because he had brought light into the world. "The soul of man," says Hercules to the Titan—

The soul of man can never be enslaved
Save by its own infirmities, nor freed
Save by its very strength and own resolve
And constant vision and supreme endeavor!
You will be free? Then, courage, O my brother!
O let the soul stand in the open door
Of life and death and knowledge and desire
And see the peaks of thought kindle with sunrise!
Then shall the soul return to rest no more,
Nor harvest dreams in the dark field of sleep—
Rather the soul shall go with great resolve
To dwell at last upon the shining mountains
In liberal converse with the eternal stars.[11]

And he kills the vulture; and sets Jove's victim free.

By his demeanor Prometheus has become the ensample of magnanimous endurance, and of resistance to oppression.

Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise,
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain,
[Pg 13] All that the proud can feel of pain,
The agony they do not show,
The suffocating sense of woe,
Which speaks but in its loneliness,
And then is jealous lest the sky
Should have a listener, nor will sigh
Until its voice is echoless....
Thy godlike crime was to be kind,
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen man with his own mind.
But, baffled as thou wert from high,
Still, in thy patient energy,
In the endurance and repulse
Of thine impenetrable spirit,
Which earth and heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit[12]....

16. Longfellow's Prometheus. A happy application of the story of Prometheus is made by Longfellow in the following verses:[13]

Of Prometheus, how undaunted
On Olympus' shining bastions
His audacious foot he planted,
Myths are told, and songs are chanted,
Full of promptings and suggestions.
Beautiful is the tradition
Of that flight through heavenly portals,
The old classic superstition
Of the theft and the transmission
Of the fire of the Immortals!
First the deed of noble daring,
Born of heavenward aspiration,
Then the fire with mortals sharing,
Then the vulture,—the despairing
Cry of pain on crags Caucasian.
[Pg 14]
All is but a symbol painted
Of the Poet, Prophet, Seer;
Only those are crowned and sainted
Who with grief have been acquainted,
Making nations nobler, freer.
In their feverish exultations,
In their triumph and their yearning,
In their passionate pulsations,
In their words among the nations,
The Promethean fire is burning.
Shall it, then, be unavailing,
All this toil for human culture?
Through the cloud-rack, dark and trailing,
Must they see above them sailing
O'er life's barren crags the vulture?
Such a fate as this was Dante's,
By defeat and exile maddened;
Thus were Milton and Cervantes,
Nature's priests and Corybantes,
By affliction touched and saddened.
But the glories so transcendent
That around their memories cluster,
And, on all their steps attendant,
Make their darkened lives resplendent
With such gleams of inward lustre!
All the melodies mysterious,
Through the dreary darkness chanted;
Thoughts in attitudes imperious,
Voices soft, and deep, and serious,
Words that whispered, songs that haunted!
All the soul in rapt suspension,
All the quivering, palpitating
Chords of life in utmost tension,
With the fervor of invention,
With the rapture of creating!
[Pg 15]
Ah, Prometheus! heaven-scaling!
In such hours of exultation
Even the faintest heart, unquailing,
Might behold the vulture sailing
Round the cloudy crags Caucasian!
Though to all there is not given
Strength for such sublime endeavor,
Thus to scale the walls of heaven,
And to leaven with fiery leaven
All the hearts of men forever;
Yet all bards, whose hearts unblighted
Honor and believe the presage,
Hold aloft their torches lighted,
Gleaming through the realms benighted,
As they onward bear the message!

17. The Brazen Age. Next to the Age of Silver came that of brass,[14] more savage of temper and readier for the strife of arms, yet not altogether wicked.

18. The Iron Age. Last came the hardest age and worst,—of iron. Crime burst in like a flood; modesty, truth, and honor fled. The gifts of the earth were put only to nefarious uses. Fraud, violence, war at home and abroad were rife. The world was wet with slaughter; and the gods, one by one, abandoned it, Astræa, following last, goddess of innocence and purity.

19. The Flood. Jupiter, observing the condition of things, burned with anger. He summoned the gods to council. Obeying the call, they traveled the Milky Way to the palace of Heaven. There, Jupiter set forth to the assembly the frightful condition of the earth, and announced his intention of destroying its inhabitants, and providing a new race, unlike the present, which should be worthier of life and more reverent toward the gods. Fearing lest a conflagration might set Heaven itself on fire, he proceeded to drown the world. Not satisfied with his own waters, he called his brother Neptune to his aid. Speedily the race of men, and their possessions, were swept away by the deluge.

[Pg 16]

20. Deucalion and Pyrrha. Parnassus alone, of the mountains, overtopped the waves; and there Deucalion, son of Prometheus, and his wife Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus, found refuge—he a just man and she a faithful worshiper of the gods. Jupiter, remembering the harmless lives and pious demeanor of this pair, caused the waters to recede,—the sea to return to its shores, and the rivers to their channels. Then Deucalion and Pyrrha, entering a temple defaced with slime, approached the unkindled altar and, falling prostrate, prayed for guidance and aid. The oracle[15] answered, "Depart from the temple with head veiled and garments unbound, and cast behind you the bones of your mother." They heard the words with astonishment. Pyrrha first broke silence: "We cannot obey; we dare not profane the remains of our parents." They sought the woods, and revolved the oracle in their minds. At last Deucalion spoke: "Either my wit fails me or the command is one we may obey without impiety. The earth is the great parent of all; the stones are her bones; these we may cast behind us; this, I think, the oracle means. At least, to try will harm us not." They veiled their faces, unbound their garments, and, picking up stones, cast them behind them. The stones began to grow soft and to assume shape. By degrees they put on a rude resemblance to the human form. Those thrown by Deucalion became men; those by Pyrrha, women. It was a hard race that sprang up, and well adapted to labor.

21. The Demigods and Heroes. As preceding the Age of Iron, Hesiod mentions an Age of Demigods and Heroes. Since, however, these demigods and heroes were, many of them, reputed to have been directly descended from Deucalion, their epoch must be regarded as subsequent to the deluge. The hero, Hellen, son of Deucalion and Pyrrha, became the ancestor of the Hellenes, or Greeks. The Æolians and Dorians were, according to legend, descended from his sons Æolus and Dorus; from his son Xuthus, the Achæans and Ionians derived their origin.

Another great division of the Greek people, the Pelasgic, resident in the Peloponnesus or southern portion of the peninsula, was said to have sprung from a different stock of heroes, that of [Pg 17]Pelasgus, son of Phoroneus of Argos and grandson of the river-god Inachus.

The demigods and heroes were of matchless worth and valor. Their adventures form the subject of many of the succeeding chapters. The Older Heroes, especially, were endowed with godlike qualities, which they devoted to the service of mankind in the destruction of monsters, the founding of cities, or the introduction of civilization. Such were Perseus, the hero of Argos and his descendant Hercules, who came to be worshiped as the national hero of the Greeks. Such, too, Cadmus, the founder of Thebes, and Cecrops of Athens, and one of his successors, Theseus, a "second Hercules." Each city of Greece had its patron hero, to whom it accorded the honors of divinity. The Younger Heroes were chieftains in the Theban and the Trojan wars and in numerous other military or predatory expeditions.

Fig. 5. Poseidon, Dionysus, and Goddess

[Pg 18]


[2] Supplementary information concerning many of the myths may be found in the corresponding sections of the Commentary. For the pronunciation of names see Index, and Rules preceding the Index.

[3] So far as possible, Latin designations, or Latinized forms of Greek names, are used.

[4] On the Titans, etc., Preller's Griech. Mythol. 1, 37.

[5] On signification of Uranus, Cronus, Zeus, see Preller, 1, 37, 38, and Commentary, §§ 4, 24.

[6] Roscher, Ausf. Lex., Article Giganten [J. Ilberg].

[7] The name more probably signifies Brandisher [of the Lance].

[8] Consequently the creation of these men could not be assigned to Prometheus,—unless they were made by him before the war of the Titans.

[9] There is uncertainty as to the mythical period of these events. The order here given seems to me well grounded. Hes. Works and Days, 180; Theog. 790-910.

[10] §§ 156, 161, 191 and Commentary, § 10.

[11] From Herakles, a drama by George Cabot Lodge.

[12] From Byron's Prometheus. See also his translation from the Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, and his Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte.

[13] Prometheus, or The Poet's Forethought. See Commentary.

[14] Compare Byron's political satire, The Age of Bronze.

[15] Oracles, see §§ 24, 30, and Commentary.


Fig. 6. Two Hours

22. Olympus. The heaven of the Greek gods was the summit of an ideal mountain called Olympus.[17] A gate of clouds, kept by goddesses, the Hours or Seasons, opened to permit the passage of the Celestials to earth, and to receive them on their return. The gods had their separate dwellings; but all, when summoned, repaired to the palace of Jupiter,—even the deities whose usual abode was the earth, the waters, or the underworld. In the great hall of the Olympian king the gods feasted each day on ambrosia and nectar. Here they conversed of the affairs of heaven and earth; and as they quaffed the nectar that Hebe poured, Apollo made melody with his lyre and the Muses sang in responsive strain. When the sun was set, the gods withdrew to their respective dwellings for the night.

The following lines from the Odyssey express the conception of Olympus entertained by Homer:

So saying, Minerva, goddess, azure-eyed,
Rose to Olympus, the reputed seat
Eternal of the gods, which never storms
Disturb, rains drench, or snow invades, but calm
The expanse and cloudless shines with purest day.
There the inhabitants divine rejoice

[Pg 19]

23. The Great Gods. The gods of Heaven were the following:[19]

Of these all were deities of the highest order save Hebe, who must be ranked with the lesser gods. With the remaining ten "Great Gods" are sometimes reckoned the other sister of Jupiter, Ceres (Demeter), properly a divinity of earth, and Neptune (Poseidon), ruler of the sea.

24. Jupiter[22] (Zeus). The Greek name signifies the radiant light of heaven. Jupiter was the supreme ruler of the universe, wisest of the divinities and most glorious. In the Iliad he informs the other gods that their united strength would not budge him: that, on the contrary, he could draw them and earth and the seas to himself, and suspend all from Olympus by a golden chain. Throned in the high, clear heavens, Jupiter was the gatherer of clouds and snows, the dispenser of gentle rains and winds, the moderator of light and heat and the seasons, the thunderer, the wielder of the thunderbolt. Bodily strength and valor were dear to him. He was worshiped with various rites in different lands, and to him were sacred everywhere the loftiest trees and the grandest mountain peaks. He required of his worshipers cleanliness of surroundings and person and heart. Justice was his; his to repay violation of duty in the family, in social relations, and in the state. Prophecy was his; and his will was made known at the oracle of Dodona, where answers were given to those who inquired concerning the future. This oracular shrine was the most ancient in Greece. According to one account two black doves had taken wing from [Pg 20]Thebes in Egypt. One flew to Dodona in Epirus, and, alighting in a grove of oaks, proclaimed to the inhabitants of the district that they should establish there an oracle of Jupiter. The other dove flew to the temple of Jupiter Ammon in the Libyan oasis, and delivered a similar command. According to another account, these were not doves but priestesses who, carried off from Thebes by the Phœnicians, set up oracles at Oasis and Dodona. The responses of the oracle were given by the rustling of the oak trees in the wind. The sounds were interpreted by priests.

Fig. 7. Zeus

That Jupiter himself, though wedded to the goddess Juno, should be charged with numerous other love affairs, not only in respect of goddesses but of mortals, is, in part, explained by the fact that to the supreme divinity of the Greeks have been ascribed attributes and adventures of numerous local and foreign divinities that were gradually identified with him. It is, therefore, not wise to assume that the love affairs of Jupiter and of other divinities always symbolize combinations of natural or physical forces that have repeated themselves in ever-varying guise. It is important to understand that the more ideal Olympian religion absorbed features of inferior religions, and that Jupiter, when represented as appropriating the characteristics of other gods, was sometimes, also, accredited with their wives.

Beside the children of Jupiter already enumerated, there should here be mentioned, as of peculiar consequence, Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of wine, a deity of earth,—Proserpine, the wife of Pluto and queen of the underworld,—and Hercules, the greatest of the heroes.

[Pg 21]

Fig. 8. Zeus after Phidias

25. Conceptions of Jupiter. The Greeks usually conceived the Jupiter of war as riding in his thunder-car, hurling the thunderbolt or lashing his enemies with a scourge of lightning. He wore a breastplate or shield of storm-cloud like the skin of a gray goat (the Ægis), fearful to behold, and made by the god of fire. His special messenger was the eagle. It was, however, only with the passage of generations that the Greeks came to represent their greatest of the gods by the works of men's hands. The statue of Olympian Jove by Phidias was considered the highest achievement of Grecian sculpture. It was of colossal dimensions and, like other statues of the period, "chryselephantine," that is, composed of ivory and gold. For the parts representing flesh were of ivory laid on a framework of wood, while the drapery and ornaments were of gold. The height of the figure was forty feet, of the pedestal twelve. The god was represented as seated on his throne. His brows were crowned with a wreath of olive; he held in his right hand a scepter, and in his left a statue of Victory. The throne was of cedar, adorned with gold and precious stones.

The idea which the artist essayed to embody was that of the supreme deity of the Hellenic race, enthroned as a conqueror, in perfect majesty and repose, and ruling with a nod the subject world. Phidias informs us that the idea was suggested by Homer's lines in the first book of the Iliad:

Jove said, and nodded with his shadowy brows;
Waved on th' immortal head th' ambrosial locks,—
And all Olympus trembled at his nod.[23]

Unfortunately, our knowledge of this famous statue is confined to literary descriptions, and to copies on coins. Other representations of Jove have been obtained from Greek bronze statuettes, or the wall-paintings of Herculaneum and Pompeii.

[Pg 22]

26. Juno[24] (Hera), sister and wife of Jupiter. According to some, the name Hera means Splendor of Heaven, according to others, the Lady. Some think it approves her goddess of earth; others, goddess of the air; still others, for reasons by no means final, say that it signifies Protectress, and applies to Juno in her original function of moon-goddess, the chosen guardian of women, their aid in seasons of distress. Juno's union with Jupiter was the prototype of earthly marriages. She is the type of matronly virtues and dignity.

Fig. 9. Hera of Argos

She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, but was brought up by Oceanus and Tethys in their dwelling in the remote west beyond the sea. Without the knowledge of her parents, she was wedded to Jupiter in this garden of the gods where ambrosial rivers flowed, and where Earth sent up in honor of the rite a tree of life, heavy with apples golden like the sunset. Juno was the most worthy of the goddesses, the most queenly; ox-eyed, says Homer; says Hesiod, golden-sandaled and golden-throned. Glorious beyond compare was her presence, when she had harnessed her horses, and driven forth the golden-wheeled chariot that Hebe made ready, and that the Hours set aside. Fearful, too, could be her wrath. For she was of a jealous disposition, which was not happily affected by the vagaries of her spouse; and she was, moreover, prone to quarrels, self-willed, vengeful, proud, even on occasion deceitful. Once, indeed, she conspired with Minerva and Neptune to bind the cloud-compeller himself. More than once she provoked him to blows; and once to worse than blows,—for her lord and master swung her aloft in the clouds, securing her wrists in golden handcuffs and hanging anvils to her feet.

The cities that the ox-eyed goddess favored were Argos, Sparta, and Mycenæ. To her the peacock and the cow were dear, and many a grove and pasture rejoiced her sacred herds.


[Pg 23]

Fig. 10. Athena Velletri

27. Minerva (Athene or Athena), the virgin goddess. She sprang from the brain of Jove, agleam with panoply of war, brandishing a spear and with her battle-cry awakening the echoes of heaven and earth. She is goddess of the lightning that leaps like a lance from the cloud-heavy sky, and hence, probably, the name Athene.[25] She is goddess of the storms and of the rushing thunderbolt, and is, therefore, styled Pallas. She is the goddess of the thundercloud, which is symbolized by her tasseled breastplate of goatskin, the ægis, whereon is fixed the head of Medusa, the Gorgon, that turns to stone all beholders. She is also the goddess of war, rejoicing in martial music and protecting the war horse and the warship. On the other hand, she is of a gentle, fair, and thoughtful aspect. Her Latin name Minerva is connected with the Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin words for mind. She is eternally a virgin, the goddess of wisdom, of skill, of contemplation, of spinning and weaving, of horticulture and agriculture. She is protectress of cities, and was specially worshiped in her own Athens, in Argos, in Sparta, and in Troy. To her were sacrificed oxen and cows. The olive tree, created by her, was sacred to her, and also the owl, the cock, the serpent, and the crow.

28. Mars (Ares),[26] the war-god, son of Jupiter and Juno. The meaning of the name Ares is uncertain; the most probable significations are the Slayer, the Avenger, the Curse. The Roman god of war, Mars, is the bright and burning one. Homer, in the Iliad, represents Ares as the insatiable warrior of the heroic age, who, impelled by rage and lust of violence, exults in the noise of battle, revels in the horror of carnage. Strife and slaughter are the condition of his existence. Where the fight is thickest, there he rushes in without hesitation, without question as to which [Pg 24]side is right. In battle array he is resplendent,—on his head the gleaming helmet and floating plume, on his arm the leathern shield, in his hand the redoubtable spear of bronze. Well-favored, stately, swift, unwearied, puissant, gigantic, he is still the foe of wisdom, the scourge of mortals. Usually he fights on foot, sometimes from a chariot drawn by four horses,—the offspring of the North Wind and a Fury. In the fray his sons attend him,—Terror, Trembling, Panic, and Fear,—also his sister Eris, or Discord (the mother of Strife), his daughter Enyo, ruiner of cities, and a retinue of bloodthirsty demons. As typifying the chances of war, Mars is, of course, not always successful. In the battles before Troy, Minerva and Juno bring him more than once to grief; and when he complains to Jupiter, he is snubbed as a renegade most hateful of all the gods.[27] His loved one and mistress is the goddess of beauty herself. In her arms the warrior finds repose. Their daughter Harmonia is the ancestress of the unquiet dynasty of Thebes. The favorite land of Mars was, according to Homer, the rough, northerly Thrace. His emblems are the spear and the burning torch; his chosen animals are haunters of the battle field,—the vulture and the dog.

Fig. 11. Ares Ludovisi

29. Vulcan (Hephæstus), son of Jupiter and Juno, was the god of fire, especially of terrestrial fire,—volcanic eruption, incendiary flame, the glow of the forge or the hearth. But as the fires of earth are derived from that of heaven, perhaps the name Hephæstus (burning, shining, flaming) referred originally to the marvelous brilliance of the lightning. Vulcan was the blacksmith of the gods, the finest artificer in metal among them. His forge in [Pg 25]Olympus was furnished not only with anvils and all other implements of the trade, but with automatic handmaidens of silver and gold, fashioned by Vulcan himself. Poets later than Homer assign to Vulcan workshops under various volcanic islands. From the crater of Mount Ætna poured forth the fumes and flames of his smithy. He built the dwellings of the gods; he made the scepter of Jove, the shields and spears of the Olympians, the arrows of Apollo and Diana, the breastplate of Hercules, the shield of Achilles.

Fig. 12. Ares (Mars)

He was lame of gait,—a figurative suggestion, perhaps, of the flickering, unsteady nature of fire. According to his own story,[28] he was born halt; and his mother, chagrined by his deformity, cast him from Heaven out of the sight of the gods. Yet, again,[29] he says that, attempting once to save his mother from Jupiter's wrath, he was caught by the foot and hurled by the son of Cronus from the heavenly threshold: "All day I flew; and at the set of sun I fell in Lemnos, and little life was left in me." Had he not been lame before, he had good reason to limp after either of these catastrophes. He took part in the making of the human race, and in the special creation of Pandora. He assisted also at the birth of Minerva, to facilitate which he split Jupiter's head open with an ax.

Fig. 13. The Forge of Vulcan

[Pg 26]

His wife, according to the Iliad and Hesiod's Theogony, is Aglaia, the youngest of the Graces; but in the Odyssey it is Venus. He is a glorious, good-natured god, loved and honored among men as the founder of wise customs and the patron of artificers; on occasion, as a god of healing and of prophecy. He seems to have been, when he chose, the cause of "inextinguishable laughter" to the gods, but he was by no means a fool. The famous god of the strong arms could be cunning, even vengeful, when the emergency demanded.

Fig. 14. Apollo in the Vatican

30. Apollo, or Phœbus Apollo, the son of Jupiter and Latona, was preëminently the god of the sun. His name Phœbus signifies the radiant nature of the sunlight; his name Apollo, perhaps, the cruel and destructive heat of noonday. Soon after his birth, Jupiter would have sent him to Delphi to inculcate righteousness and justice among the Greeks; but the golden god Apollo chose first to spend a year in the land of the Hyperboreans, where for six continuous months of the year there is sunshine and spring, soft climate, profusion of herbs and flowers, and the very ecstasy of life. During this delay the Delphians sang pæans,—hymns of praise,—and danced in chorus about the tripod (or three-legged stool), where the expectant priestess of Apollo had taken her seat. At last, when the year was warm, came the god in his chariot drawn by swans,—heralded by songs of springtide, of nightingales and swallows and crickets. Then the crystal fount of Castalia and the stream Cephissus overflowed their bounds, and mankind made grateful offerings to the god. But his advent was not altogether peaceful. An enormous serpent, Python, had crept forth from the slime with which, after the flood, the Earth was covered; and in the caves of Mount Parnassus this terror of the people lurked. Him Apollo encountered and after fearful combat slew, with arrows, weapons which[Pg 27] the god of the silver bow had not before used against any but feeble animals,—hares, wild goats, and such game. In commemoration of this illustrious conquest, he instituted the Pythian games, in which the victor in feats of strength, swiftness of foot, or in the chariot race, should be crowned with a wreath of beech leaves. Apollo brought not only the warm spring and summer, but also the blessings of the harvest. He warded off the dangers and diseases of summer and autumn; and he healed the sick. He was patron of music and of poetry. Through his oracle at Delphi, on the slopes of Parnassus in Phocis, the Pythian god made known the future to those who consulted him. He was a founder of cities, a promoter of colonization, a giver of good laws, the ideal of fair and manly youth,—a pure and just god, requiring clean hands and pure hearts of those that worshiped him. But though a god of life and peace, the far-darter did not shun the weapons of war. When presumption was to be punished, or wrong righted, he could bend his bow and slay with the arrows of his sunlight. As in the days of his youth he slew the Python, so, also, he slew the froward Tityus, and so the children of Niobe. While Phœbus Apollo is the Olympian divinity of the sun, fraught with light and healing, spiritual, creative, and prophetic, he must not be confounded with a god of the older dynasty, Helios (offspring of Hyperion, Titanic deity of light), who represented the sun in its daily and yearly course, in its physical rather than spiritual manifestation. The bow of Apollo was bound with laurel in memory[Pg 28] of Daphne, whom he loved. To him were sacred, also, many creatures,—the wolf, the roe, the mouse, the he-goat, the ram, the dolphin, and the swan.[30]

31. Shelley's Hymn of Apollo.

The sleepless Hours who watch me as I lie,
Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries,
From the broad moonlight of the sky,
Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes,—
Waken me when their mother, the gray Dawn,
Tells them that dreams and that the moon is gone.

Fig. 16. Apollo

Then I arise, and climbing Heaven's blue dome,
I walk over the mountains and the waves,
Leaving my robe upon the ocean foam;
My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves
Are filled with my bright presence, and the air
Leaves the green earth to my embraces bare.
The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill
Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;
All men who do or even imagine ill
Fly me, and from the glory of my ray
Good minds and open actions take new might,
Until diminished by the reign of night.
I feed the clouds, the rainbows, and the flowers
With their ethereal colors; the moon's globe
And the pure stars in their eternal bowers
Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;
Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine,
Are portions of one power, which is mine.
I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven,
Then with unwilling steps I wander down
Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;
For grief that I depart they weep and frown:
What look is more delightful than the smile
With which I soothe them from the western isle?
[Pg 29]
I am the eye with which the universe
Beholds itself and knows itself divine;
All harmony of instrument or verse,
All prophecy, all medicine, are mine,
All light of art or nature;—to my song,
Victory and praise in their own right belong.

Fig. 17. Diana. After Correggio

32. Diana (Artemis), twin sister of Apollo, was born on Mount Cynthus in the island of Delos. Latona, the future mother of Diana and Apollo, flying from the wrath of Juno, had besought, one after another, the islands of the Ægean to afford her a place of rest; but they feared too much the potent queen of heaven. Delos alone consented to become the birthplace of the future deities. This isle was then floating and unstable; but on Latona's arrival, Jupiter fastened it with adamantine chains to the bottom of the sea, that it might be a secure resting-place for his beloved. The daughter of Latona is, as her name Artemis indicates, a virgin goddess, the ideal of modesty, grace, and maidenly vigor. She is associated with her brother, the prince of archery, in nearly all his adventures, and in attributes she is his feminine counterpart. As he is identified with sunlight, so is she, his fair-tressed sister, with the chaste brilliance of the moon. Its slender arc is her bow; its beams are her arrows with which she sends upon womankind a speedy and painless death. In her prerogative of moon-goddess she is frequently identified with Selene, daughter of Hyperion, just as Apollo is with Helios.[Pg 30] Despising the weakness of love, Diana imposed upon her nymphs vows of perpetual maidenhood, any violation of which she was swift and severe to punish. Graceful in form and free of movement, equipped for the chase, and surrounded by a bevy of fair companions, the swift-rushing goddess was wont to scour hill, valley, forest, and plain. She was, however, not only huntress, but guardian, of wild beasts,—mistress withal of horses and kine and other domestic brutes. She ruled marsh and mountain; her gleaming arrows smote sea as well as land. Springs and woodland brooks she favored, for in them she and her attendants were accustomed to bathe. She blessed with verdure the meadows and arable lands, and from them obtained a meed of thanks. When weary of the chase she turned to music and dancing; for the lyre and flute and song were dear to her. Muses, Graces, nymphs, and the fair goddesses themselves thronged the rites of the chorus-leading queen. But ordinarily a woodland chapel or a rustic altar sufficed for her worship. There the hunter laid his offering—antlers, skin, or edible portions of the deer that Artemis of the golden arrows had herself vouchsafed him. The holy maid, however, though naturally gracious, gentle, and a healer of ills, was, like her brother, quick to resent injury to her sacred herds or insult to herself. To this stern temper Agamemnon, Orion, and Niobe bore regretful testimony. They found that the "fair-crowned queen of the echoing chase," though blithe and gracious, was by no means a frivolous personage.

Fig. 18. Diana (Artemis) of Versailles

Diana was mistress of the brute creation, protectress of youth, patron of temperance in all things, guardian of civil right. The[Pg 31] cypress tree was sacred to her; and her favorites were the bear, the boar, the dog, the goat, and specially the hind.

Fig. 19. Artemis

33. Jonson's Hymn to Cynthia (Diana).

Queen and Huntress, chaste and fair,
Now the sun is laid to sleep,
Seated in thy silver chair
State in wonted manner keep:
Hesperus entreats thy light,
Goddess excellently bright.
Earth, let not thy envious shade
Dare itself to interpose;
Cynthia's shining orb was made
Heaven to clear when day did close:
Bless us then with wishèd sight,
Goddess excellently bright.
Lay thy bow of pearl apart,
And thy crystal-shining quiver;
Give unto the flying hart
Space to breathe, how short soever:
Thou that mak'st a day of night,
Goddess excellently bright.[31]

34. Venus (Aphrodite), goddess of love and beauty, was, according to the more ancient Greek conception, a daughter of Jupiter and Dione;[32] but Hesiod says that she arose from the foam of the sea at the time of the wounding of Uranus, and therefore was called, by the Greeks, Aphrodite, the foam-born.[33] Wafted by the west wind, and borne upon the surge, she won first the island of Cythera; thence, like a dream, she passed to Cyprus, where the grace and blossom of her beauty conquered every heart. Everywhere, at the touch of her feet the herbage quivered into flower. The Hours and Graces surrounded her, twining odorous garlands and weaving robes for her that reflected the hues and breathed the perfume of crocus and hyacinth, violet, rose, lily, and narcissus. To her influence is ascribed the fruitfulness of the animal and of the vegetable creation. She is goddess of gardens and flowers, of the rose, [Pg 32]the myrtle, and the linden. The heaths and slumberous vales, pleasant with spring and vernal breezes, are hers. In her broidered girdle lurk "love and desire, and loving converse that steals the wits even of the wise." For she is the mistress of feminine charm and beauty, the golden, sweetly smiling Aphrodite, who rules the hearts of men. She lends to mortals seductive form and fascination. To a few, indeed, her favor is a blessing; but to many her gifts are treacherous, destructive of peace. Her various influence is exemplified in the stories of Pygmalion and Adonis, Paris and Æneas, Helen, Ariadne, Psyche, Procris, Pasiphaë, and Phædra. Her power extended over sea as well as land, and her temples rose from many a shore. On the waters swan and dolphin were beloved of her; in air, the sparrow and the dove. She was usually attended by her winged son Cupid, of whom much is to be told. Especially dear to her were Cyprus, Cnidos, Paphos, Cythera, Abydos, Mount Eryx, and the city of Corinth.

35. The "Venus of Milo." Of artistic conceptions of Aphrodite, the most famous are the statues called the Venus of Melos and the Venus of the Medici.[34] A comparison of the two conceptions is instituted in the following poem.[35] The worshiper apostrophizes the Venus of Melos, that "inner beauty of the world," whose tranquil smile he finds more fair than "The Medicean's sly and servile grace":


[Pg 33]

From our low world no gods have taken wing;
Even now upon our hills the twain are wandering:[36]
The Medicean's sly and servile grace,
And the immortal beauty of thy face.
One is the spirit of all short-lived love
And outward, earthly loveliness:
The tremulous rosy morn is her mouth's smile,
The sky, her laughing azure eyes above;
And, waiting for caress.
Lie bare the soft hill-slopes, the while
Her thrilling voice is heard
In song of wind and wave, and every flitting bird.
Not plainly, never quite herself she shows:
Just a swift glance of her illumined smile
Along the landscape goes;
Just a soft hint of singing, to beguile
A man from all his toil;
Some vanished gleam of beckoning arm, to spoil
A morning's task with longing, wild and vain.
Then if across the parching plain
He seek her, she with passion burns
His heart to fever, and he hears
The west wind's mocking laughter when he turns,
Shivering in mist of ocean's sullen tears.
It is the Medicean: well I know
The arts her ancient subtlety will show,—
The stubble field she turns to ruddy gold;
The empty distance she will fold
In purple gauze; the warm glow she has kissed
Along the chilling mist:
Cheating and cheated love that grows to hate
And ever deeper loathing, soon or late.
Thou, too, O fairer spirit, walkest here
Upon the lifted hills:
Wherever that still thought within the breast
The inner beauty of the world hath moved;
In starlight that the dome of evening fills;
On endless waters rounding to the west:
For them who thro' that beauty's veil have loved
The soul of all things beautiful the best.
For lying broad awake, long ere the dawn,
Staring against the dark, the blank of space
Opens immeasurably, and thy face
Wavers and glimmers there and is withdrawn.
And many days, when all one's work is vain,
And life goes stretching on, a waste gray plain,
With even the short mirage of morning gone,
No cool breath anywhere, no shadow nigh
Where a weary man might lay him down and die,
Lo! thou art there before me suddenly,
With shade as if a summer cloud did pass,
And spray of fountains whispering to the grass.
[Pg 34] Oh, save me from the haste and noise and heat
That spoil life's music sweet:
And from that lesser Aphrodite there—
Even now she stands
Close as I turn, and O my soul, how fair!

Fig. 20. Hermes Psychopompos

36. Mercury (Hermes), born in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia, was the son of Jupiter and Maia (the daughter of Atlas). According to conjecture, his name Hermes means the Hastener. Mercury, swift as the wind, was the servant and herald of Jupiter and the other gods. On his ankles (in plastic art), and his low-crowned, broad-brimmed petasus, or hat, were wings. As messenger of Heaven, he bore a wand (caduceus) of wood or of gold, twined with snakes and surmounted by wings, and possessed of magical powers over sleeping, waking, and dreams. He was beautiful and ever in the prime of youthful vigor. To a voice sweet-toned and powerful, he added the persuasiveness of eloquence. But his skill was not confined to speech; he was also the first of inventors—to him are ascribed the lyre and the flute. He was the forerunner, too, of mathematicians and astronomers. His agility and strength made him easily prince in athletic pursuits. His cunning rendered him a dangerous foe; he could well play the trickster and the thief, as Apollo found out to his vexation, and Argus, and many another unfortunate. His methods, however, were not always questionable; although the patron of gamblers and the god of chance, he, at the same[Pg 35] time, was the furtherer of lawful industry and of commerce by land and sea. The gravest function of the Messenger was to conduct the souls of the dead, "that gibber like bats as they fare, down the dank ways, past the streams of Oceanus, past the gates of the sun and the land of dreams, to the mead of asphodel in the dark realm of Hades, where dwell the souls, the phantoms of men outworn."[37]

37. Vesta (Hestia), goddess of the hearth, public and private, was the first-born child of Cronus and Rhea and, accordingly, the elder sister of Jupiter, Juno, Neptune, Pluto, and Ceres. Vesta was an old maid by choice. Averse to Venus and all her ways, she scorned the flattering advances of both Neptune and Apollo, and resolved to remain single. Whereupon Jupiter gave her to sit in the middle of his palace, to receive in Olympus the choicest morsels of the feast, and, in the temples of the gods on earth, reverence as the oldest and worthiest of Olympian divinities. As goddess of the burning hearth, Vesta is the divinity of the home: of settled, in opposition to nomadic, habits of life. She was worshiped first of the gods at every feast. Before her shrine in city and state the holy flame was religiously cherished. From her altars those of the other gods obtained their fires. No new colony, no new home, was duly consecrated till on its central hearth there glowed coals from her ancestral hearth. In her temple at Rome a sacred fire, tended by six virgin priestesses called Vestals, was kept religiously aflame. As the safety of the city was held to be connected with its conservation, any negligence, by which it might go out, was severely punished. Whenever the fire did die, it was rekindled from the rays of the sun.

38. Of the Lesser Divinities of Heaven the most worthy of mention are:

1. Cupid (Eros), small but mighty god of love, the son of Venus and her constant companion. He was often represented with eyes covered because of the blindness of his actions. With his bow and arrows, he shot the darts of desire into the bosoms of gods and men. Another deity named Anteros, reputed the brother of Eros, was sometimes represented as the avenger of slighted love, and sometimes as the symbol of reciprocal affection. Venus [Pg 36]was also attended at times by another brother of Eros, Himeros, or Longing, and by Hymen, a beautiful youth of divine descent, the personification of the wedding feast and leader of the nuptial chorus. Of Eros the poet Gosse writes:

Fig. 21. Eros

Within a forest, as I strayed
Far down a somber autumn glade,
I found the god of love;
His bow and arrows cast aside,
His lovely arms extended wide,
A depth of leaves above,
Beneath o'erarching boughs he made
A place for sleep in russet shade.
His lips, more red than any rose,
Were like a flower that overflows
With honey pure and sweet;
And clustering round that holy mouth,
The golden bees in eager drouth
Plied busy wings and feet;
They knew, what every lover knows,
There's no such honey-bloom that blows.[38]

2. Hebe, daughter of Jupiter and Juno, goddess of youth and cupbearer to the gods. According to one story, she resigned that office on becoming the wife of Hercules. According to another, Hebe was dismissed from her position in consequence of a fall which she met with one day when in attendance on the gods. Her successor was Ganymede, a Trojan boy whom Jupiter, in the disguise of an eagle, seized and carried off from the midst of his playfellows on Mount Ida, bore up to Heaven, and installed in the vacant place.

3. The Graces, daughters of Jove by Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus. They were goddesses presiding over the banquet, the dance, all social pleasures, and polite accomplishments. They were three in number,—Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia. Spenser describes the office of the Graces thus:

[Pg 37]

These three on men all gracious gifts bestow
Which deck the body or adorn the mind,
To make them lovely or well-favored show;
As comely carriage, entertainment kind,
Sweet semblance, friendly offices that bind,
And all the complements of courtesy;
They teach us how to each degree and kind
We should ourselves demean, to low, to high,
To friends, to foes; which skill men call civility.

Fig. 22. Rape of Ganymede

4. The Muses, daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne (Memory). They presided over song and prompted the memory. They are ordinarily cited as nine in number; and to each of them was assigned patronage in some department of literature, art, or science. Calliope was the muse of epic poetry, Clio of history, Euterpe of lyric poetry, Melpomene of tragedy, Terpsichore of choral dance and song, Erato of love poetry, Polyhymnia of sacred poetry, Urania of astronomy, Thalia of comedy.

Fig. 23. Polyhymnia

[Pg 38]

5. Themis, one of the Titans, a daughter of Uranus. She sat, as goddess of justice, beside Jupiter on his throne. She was beloved of the father of gods and men, and bore him the Hours, goddesses who regulated the seasons, and the Fates.

Fig. 24. The Three Fates

From the painting by Michelangelo(?)

6. The Fates, three in number,—Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Their office was to spin the thread of human destiny, and they were provided with shears with which they cut it off when they pleased.[39] According to Hesiod, they were daughters of Night.

7. Nemesis, daughter of Night. She represented the righteous anger and vengeance of the gods, particularly toward the proud, the insolent, and breakers of the law.

8. Æsculapius, son of Apollo. By his skill in medicine he restored the dead to life. Being killed by the lightning of Jove, he was translated to the ranks of Heaven. His function was the art of healing.

9. The Winds,—Boreas, or Aquilo, the north wind; Zephyrus, or Favonius, the west; Notus, or Auster, the south; and Eurus, the east. The first two, chiefly, have been celebrated by the poets, the former as the type of rudeness, the latter of gentleness. It is said that Boreas loved the nymph Orithyia and tried to play the lover's part, but met with poor success; for it was hard for him to breathe gently, and sighing was out of the question.

[Pg 39]

Weary at last of fruitless endeavors, he acted out his true character, seized the maiden and bore her off. Their children were Zetes and Calaïs, winged warriors, who accompanied the Argonautic expedition and did good service in an encounter with those monstrous birds, the Harpies. Zephyrus was the lover of Flora (Chloris).

Fig. 25. Boreas

Here, too, may be mentioned Æolus, the king of the winds, although he is not a lesser divinity of Heaven. His palace was on the precipitous isle of Æolia, where, with his six sons and six daughters, he kept eternal carouse. The winds, which he confined in a cavern, he let loose as he saw fit or as he was bidden by superior deities. He is sometimes called Hippotades.[40]

Fig. 26. Zephyros

10. Helios, Selene, and Eos, children of the Titan Hyperion. Helios and Selene were the more ancient Greek divinities of Sun and Moon respectively. Helios, the charioteer of the sun, is, as has been already said, frequently identified with his successor, Apollo. The attributes and adventures of Selene were merged in those of the more modern Diana. Eos, or, in Latin nomenclature, Aurora, the rosy-fingered goddess of the Morn, was mother of the stars and of the morning and evening breezes. Saffron-robed she rises from the streams of Ocean, to bring light to gods and men.

[Pg 40]

Fig. 27. Boreas carrying off Orithyia

11. Phosphor, the morning-star, the star of Venus, son of Aurora and the hunter Cephalus. Hesper, the evening-star, was sometimes identified with Phosphor. He was king of the Western Land, and, say some, father of the Hesperides, who guarded the golden apples of the sunset.

The Spirit in Milton's Comus tells of

... the gardens fair
Of Hesperus, and his daughters three
That sing about the golden tree.
Along the crispèd shades and bowers
Revels the spruce and jocund Spring;
The Graces and the rosy-bosomed Hours
Thither all their bounties bring.
There eternal Summer dwells,
And west winds with musky wing
About the cedarn alleys fling
Nard and cassia's balmy smells.
Iris there with humid bow
Waters the odorous banks, that blow
Flowers of more mingled hue
Than her purfled scarf can shew.

And Tennyson taking the lines as a text has written the melodious and mystic song of the Hesperides, beginning—

The golden apple, the golden apple, the hallowed fruit,
Guard it well, guard it warily,
Singing airily,
Standing about the charmèd root.
Round about all is mute,
As the snowfield on the mountain-peaks,
As the sandfield at the mountain-foot.
Crocodiles in briny creeks
[Pg 41] Sleep and stir not: all is mute.
If ye sing not, if ye make false measure,
We shall lose eternal pleasure,
Worth eternal want of rest.
Laugh not loudly: watch the treasure
Of the wisdom of the West.

Readers of this poem will notice that Tennyson follows the tradition by which a sleepless dragon is introduced among the guardians of the Hesperian fruit. Still other versions substitute for Hesperus, the Titan Atlas.

12. Various Other Personifications. The constellation Orion, whose story will be narrated; Victoria (Nike), the goddess of Victory; Discors (Eris), the goddess of Strife; and Iris, goddess of the rainbow, who is represented frequently as a messenger of the gods.

Fig. 28. Iris carrying Child

[Pg 42]


[16] Consult, in general, corresponding sections of the Commentary.

[17] Symbolized on earth by Mount Olympus in Thessaly.

[18] Cowper's translation.

[19] See Commentary, § 23, for Gladstone's latest utterance on the number of the Olympians.

[20] The names included in parentheses represent the Greek, the others being Roman equivalents, Latin names, or names common to both Greek and Roman usage.

[21] See Commentary, § 34.

[22] On the Latin name, see Commentary, § 24.

[23] Iliad, I, 622-625, Earl of Derby's translation. See also the passage in Chapman's translation.

[24] On the name Juno, see Commentary.

[25] For the names Athene and Minerva, see Commentary.

[26] See Commentary.

[27] Iliad, 5, 590. See also 21, 395.

[28] Iliad, 18, 395.

[29] Iliad, 1, 390.

[30] On the birth of Apollo, his adventures, names, festivals, oracles, and his place in literature and art, see Commentary. For other particulars, see sections on Myths of Apollo.

[31] From Cynthia's Revels.

[32] Iliad, 5, 370, etc.

[33] A popular etymology.

[34] For Venus in poetry and art, see Commentary.

[35] From the Venus of Milo, by E. R. Sill, formerly professor of English Literature in the University of California.

[36] The references are to the Berkeley Hills, the Bay of San Francisco, and the glimpses of the Pacific.

[37] Lang, Odyssey, 24, 1; adapted.

[38] Eros, by Edmund Gosse. For verses on the blindness of Cupid, see Lyly's Cupid and Campaspe in Commentary.

[39] For description of their spinning, see translation of Catullus, LXIV, in § 191.

[40] See Commentary.


Fig. 29. Demeter of Knidos

39. Conception of the World. The Greek poets believed the earth to be flat and circular. In their opinion their own country occupied the middle of it, and the central point was either Mount Olympus, the abode of the gods, or Delphi, famous for its oracle. The circular disk of the earth was crossed from west to east and divided into two equal parts by the Sea, as they called the Mediterranean and its continuation the Euxine, the only seas with which they were acquainted. Around the earth flowed River Ocean, from south to north on the western side, in a contrary direction on the eastern. It flowed in a steady, equable current, unvexed by storm or tempest. The sea and all the rivers on earth received their waters from it.

The northern portion of the earth was inhabited by the Hyperboreans, dwelling in bliss and everlasting spring beyond the [Pg 43]mountains whose caverns sent forth the piercing blasts of the north wind. Their country was inaccessible by land or sea. They lived exempt from disease or old age, from toils and warfare. "I come" sings one of them,[42]

I come from a land in the sun-bright deep,
Where golden gardens glow,
Where the winds of the north, becalmed in sleep,
Their conch-shells never blow.

Fig. 30. Ceres

On the south side of the earth, close to the stream of Ocean, dwelt the Æthiopians, whom the gods held in such favor that they left at times the Olympian abodes to partake of the Æthiopian sacrifices and banquets. On the western margin of the earth, by the stream of Ocean, lay the Elysian Plain, where certain mortals enjoyed an immortality of bliss.

The Dawn, the Sun, and the Moon were supposed to rise out of Ocean on the eastern side and to drive through the air, giving light to gods and men. The stars, also, except those forming the Wain or Bear and others near them, rose out of and sank into the stream of Ocean. There the sun-god embarked in a winged boat, which conveyed him by the northern part of the earth back to his place of rising in the east.

40. Ceres (Demeter), the goddess of sowing and reaping, of harvest festivals, and of agriculture in general, was sister of Jupiter and daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She is connected through her daughter Proserpine, queen of Hades, with the holy ceremonies and [Pg 44]rites of death and of the lower world. Of the institutions founded or favored by her the most important were the mysteries celebrated at Eleusis, concerning which we know that, in the presence of individuals initiated in the secret ritual and perhaps with their coöperation, scenes were enacted which represented the alternation of death and life in nature and, apparently, forecast the resurrection and immortality of man. Sacred to Ceres and to Proserpine were golden sheaves of corn and soporific poppies; while, among animals, cows, sheep, and pigs were acceptable to them.

Fig. 31. Dionysus and the Vine

41. Gæa (Ge), the Mother Earth, wife of Uranus, belongs to the older order of gods; so also, another goddess of the earth, Rhea, the wife of Cronus and mother of Jupiter. In Phrygia, Rhea became identified with Cybele, whose worship, as mother of the gods, was at a later period introduced into Rome. The Greek mother, Rhea, was attended by the Curetes; the Phrygian mother by the Corybantes, who celebrated her orgies with enthusiastic din of trumpets, drums, and cymbals. Cybele presided over mountain fastnesses and fortified places.

42. Bacchus (Dionysus), the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and Semele, daughter of Cadmus of Thebes. He was especially the god of animal life and vegetation. He represented not only the intoxicating power of wine but its social and beneficent influences, and was looked upon as a promoter of civilization, a lawgiver, and a lover of peace. His forehead was crowned with vine leaves or ivy. He rode upon the tiger, the panther, or the lynx, or was drawn by them in a car. His worshipers were Bacchanals, or Bacchantes. He was attended by Satyrs and Sileni and by women called Mænads, who, as they danced and sang, waved in[Pg 45] the air the thyrsus, a staff entwined with ivy and surmounted by a pine cone. Ordinarily, as in the following verses by Dryden, the convivial qualities of the god overshadow all the rest:

The praise of Bacchus then the sweet musician sung,
Of Bacchus ever fair, and ever young.
The jolly god in triumph comes;
Sound the trumpets, beat the drums;
Flushed with a purple grace
He shows his honest face:
Now give the hautboys breath; he comes, he comes.
Bacchus, ever fair and young,
Drinking joys did first ordain;
Bacchus' blessings are a treasure,
Drinking is the soldier's pleasure;
Rich the treasure,
Sweet the pleasure,
Sweet is pleasure after pain.[43]

Fig. 32. Pan the Hunter

43. The Lesser Divinities of Earth were:

1. Pan, son of Mercury and a wood-nymph or Dryad. He was the god of woods and fields, of flocks and shepherds. He dwelt in caves, wandered on the mountains and in valleys, amused himself with the chase, led the dances of the Dryads, and made love to them. But his suit was frequently of no avail, for though good-natured he was not prepossessing; his hoofs and horns did not enhance his comeliness. He was fond of music and was himself inventor of the syrinx, or shepherd's pipe, which he played in a masterly manner. Like other gods who dwelt in forests, he was dreaded by those whose occupations caused them to pass through the woods by night; for gloom and loneliness oppress and appall the mind. Hence sudden unreasonable fright was ascribed to Pan and called a Panic terror.

2. The Nymphs. Pan's partners in the dance, the Dryads, were but one of several classes of nymphs. There were, beside [Pg 46]them, the Oreads, nymphs of mountains and grottoes; and the Water-Nymphs, who are mentioned in later sections.

3. The Satyrs, deities of the woods and fields. In early art they appear as bearded creatures with snub noses, goats' ears, and horses' tails. Later they resemble youths, sometimes with sprouting horns. The goat-legged satyr is found in Roman poetry.

Fig. 33. A Satyr

[Pg 47]


[41] For references to poetry and works of art, see corresponding sections in Commentary.

[42] According to Thomas Moore's Song of a Hyperborean.

[43] From Alexander's Feast.


44. The Underworld was the region of darkness inhabited by the spirits of the dead and governed by Pluto (Hades) and Proserpina, his queen. According to the Iliad, this realm lay "beneath the secret places of the earth."[45] And from the Odyssey we gather that it is not in the bowels of the earth, but on the under side at the limits of the known world, across the stream Oceanus, where is a waste shore, the land of the Cimmerians, shrouded in mist and cloud, never lighted by the sun "neither when he climbs up the starry heavens nor when again he turns earthward from the firmament."[46] From that land one goes beside the stream till he reaches the dank house of Hades. The realm of darkness is bounded by awful rivers: the Styx, sacred even among the gods, for by it they sealed their oaths, and the Acheron, river of woe,—with its tributaries, Phlegethon, river of fire, and Cocytus, river of wailing. Hither past the White Rock, which perhaps symbolizes the bleaching skeletons of the dead, and past the gates of the sun, it is the duty of Hermes (Mercury) to conduct the outworn ghosts of mortals. One of the Greek dramatists, Sophocles, tells us that this shore of death is "down in the darkling west."[47] In later poems we read that Charon, a grim boatman, received the dead at the River of Woe, and ferried them across, if the money requisite for their passage had been placed in their mouths and their bodies had been duly buried in the world above.[48] Otherwise he left them gibbering on the hither bank. The abode of Pluto is represented as wide-gated and thronged with guests. At the gate Cerberus, a three-headed, serpent-tailed dog, lay on guard,—friendly to the spirits entering, but inimical to those who would depart. The palace itself is dark and gloomy, set in the midst of uncanny fields haunted by strange apparitions. The groves of somber trees about the palace,—the meads of Asphodel, barren or, at best, studded with futile bushes and pale-flowered weeds, where wander the shades,—and the woods along the waste shore "of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit before the season" are, without any particular discrimination, celebrated by the poets as the Garden of Proserpine.

Fig. 34. The Greek Underworld

[Pg 48]
[Pg 49]

Fig. 35. Hermes conducting a Soul to Charon

Here life has death for neighbor,
And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labor,
Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
And no such things grow here.
No growth of moor or coppice,
No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes,
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
For dead men deadly wine.
      *       *       *       *       *
Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
[Pg 50] Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love's, who fears to greet her,
To men that mix and meet her
From many times and lands.

Fig. 36. Hypnos

She waits for each and other,
She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow,
And flowers are put to scorn.
      *       *       *       *       *
We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man's lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.
From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives forever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.
Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light;
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight;
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal:
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.[49]

[Pg 51]

Fig. 37. A Fury

45. Tartarus and the Elysian Fields. With the ghosts of Hades the living might but rarely communicate, and only through certain oracles of the dead, situate by cavernous spots and sheer abysms, deep and melancholy streams, and baleful marshes. These naturally seemed to afford access to the world below, which with the later poets, such as Virgil, comes to be regarded as under the ground. One of these descents to the Underworld was near Tænarum in Laconia; another, near Cumæ in Italy, was Lake Avernus, so foul in its exhalations that, as its name portends, no bird could fly across it.[50] Before the judges of the lower world,—Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus,—the souls of the dead were brought to trial. The condemned were assigned to regions where all manner of torment awaited them at the hands of monsters dire,—the fifty-headed Hydra and the avenging Furies. Some evildoers, such as the Titans of old, were doomed to languish in the gulf of Tartarus immeasurably below. But the souls of the guiltless passed to the Elysian Fields, where each followed the chosen pursuit of his former life in a land of spring, sunlight, happiness, and song. And by the Fields there flowed the river Lethe, from which the souls of those that were to return to the earth in other bodies drank oblivion of their former lives.

46. The Islands of the Blest. Homer mentions, elsewhere, an Elysium of the western seas, which is a happy land, "where life is easiest for men: no snow is there, nor yet great storm, nor any rain; but always ocean sendeth forth the breeze of the shrill West to blow cool on men."[51] Hither favored heroes pass without dying, and live under the happy rule of Rhadamanthus. The Elysium of Hesiod and Pindar is likewise in the Western Ocean, [Pg 52]on the Islands of the Blessed, the Fortunate Isles. From this dream of a western Elysium may have sprung the legend of the island Atlantis. That blissful region may have been wholly imaginary. It is, however, not impossible that the myth had its origin in the reports of storm-driven mariners who had caught a glimpse of occidental lands. In these Islands of the Blest, the Titans, released from Tartarus after many years, dwelt under the golden sway of the white-haired Cronus.[52]

There was no heavy heat, no cold,
The dwellers there wax never old,
Nor wither with the waning time,
But each man keeps that age he had
When first he won the fairy clime.
The night falls never from on high,
Nor ever burns the heat of noon;
But such soft light eternally
Shines, as in silver dawns of June
Before the sun hath climbed the sky!
      *       *       *       *       *
All these their mirth and pleasure made
Within the plain Elysian,
The fairest meadow that may be,
With all green fragrant trees for shade,
And every scented wind to fan,
And sweetest flowers to strew the lea;
The soft winds are their servants fleet
To fetch them every fruit at will
And water from the river chill;
And every bird that singeth sweet,
Throstle, and merle, and nightingale,
Brings blossoms from the dewy vale,—
Lily, and rose, and asphodel,—
With these doth each guest twine his crown
And wreathe his cup, and lay him down
Beside some friend he loveth well.[53]

47. Pluto (Hades) was brother of Jupiter. To him fell the sovereignty of the lower world and the shades of the dead. In his character of Hades, the viewless, he is hard and inexorable.

[Pg 53]

By virtue of the helmet or cap given him by the Cyclopes, he moved hither and yon, dark, unseen,—hated of mortals. He was, however, lord not only of all that descends to the bowels of the earth, but of all that proceeds from the earth; and in the latter aspect he was revered as Pluto, or the giver of wealth. At his pleasure he visited the realms of day,—as when he carried off Proserpina; occasionally he journeyed to Olympus; but otherwise he ignored occurrences in the upper world, nor did he suffer his subjects, by returning, to find them out. Mortals, when they called on his name, beat the ground with their hands and, averting their faces, sacrificed black sheep to him and to his queen. Among the Romans he is known also as Dis, Orcus, and Tartarus. But Orcus is rather Death, or the Underworld, than ruler of the shades.

Fig. 38. Hades

48. Proserpina (Persephone) was the daughter of Ceres and Jupiter. She was queen of Hades,—a name applied both to the ruler of the shades and to his realm. When she is goddess of spring, dear to mankind, Proserpina bears a cornucopia overflowing with flowers, and revisits the earth in duly recurring season. But when she is goddess of death, sitting beside Pluto, she directs the Furies, and, like her husband, is cruel, unyielding, inimical to youth and life and hope. In the story of her descent to Hades will be found a further account of her attributes and fortunes.

49. The Lesser Divinities of the Underworld were:

1. Æacus, Rhadamanthus, and Minos, sons of Jupiter and judges of the shades in the lower world. Æacus had been during his earthly life a righteous king of the island of Ægina. Minos had been a famous lawgiver and king of Crete. The life of Rhadamanthus was not eventful.

[Pg 54]

2. The Furies (Erinyes or Eumenides), Alecto, Tisiphone, and Megæra, born of the blood of the wounded Uranus. They were attendants of Proserpina. They punished with the frenzies of remorse the crimes of those who had escaped from or defied public justice. The heads of the Furies were wreathed with serpents.

3. Hecate, a mysterious divinity sometimes identified with Diana and sometimes with Proserpina. As Diana represents the moonlight splendor of night, so Hecate represents its darkness and terrors. She haunted crossroads and graveyards, was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft, and wandered by night, seen only by the dogs whose barking told of her approach.

Fig. 39. Death, Sleep, and Hermes laying a Body in the Tomb

4. Sleep, or Somnus (Hypnos), and Death (Thanatos), sons of Night.[54] They dwell in subterranean darkness. The former brings to mortals solace and fair dreams, and can lull the shining eyes of Jove himself; the latter closes forever the eyes of men. Dreams, too, are sons of Night.[55] They dwell beside their brother Death, along the Western Sea. Their abode has two gates,—one of ivory, whence issue false and flattering visions; the other of horn, through which true dreams and noble pass to men.[56]

[Pg 55]


[44] For interpretation and illustration, see corresponding sections of Commentary.

[45] Iliad, 22, 482; 9, 568; 20, 61.

[46] Odyssey, 10, 508; 11, 20; 24, 1.

[47] Sophocles, Œdipus Rex, 177.

[48] Æneid, 6, 295.

[49] From The Garden of Proserpine, by A. C. Swinburne.

[50] Æneid, 6.

[51] Odyssey, 4, 561.

[52] Hes. Works and Days, 169.

[53] From The Fortunate Islands, by Andrew Lang.

[54] Iliad, 14, 231; 16, 672.

[55] Odyssey, 24, 12; 19, 560. Æneid, 6, 893. Ovid, Metam. 11, 592.

[56] For genealogical table, see Commentary.


Fig. 40. Poseidon

50. The Older Dynasty. There were two dynasties of the sea. The Older, which flourished during the rule of Cronus, was founded by the Titans, Oceanus and Tethys, from whom sprang three thousand rivers and ocean-nymphs unnumbered. The palace of Oceanus was beyond the limits of the bountiful earth,[58] surrounded by gardens and all things fair. From ages immemorial another dweller in the glimmering caves of Ocean was Pontus (the deep sea or the waterway), who became, by Mother Earth, father of Nereus. This Nereus, a genial old man of the sea, was distinguished for his prophetic gifts, his knowledge, his love of truth and justice. Taking to wife one of the daughters of Oceanus, the nymph Doris, he was blessed with a family of fifty fair daughters, the Nereïds.[59] Of these daughters the most famous are Panope, Galatea, Thetis, and Amphitrite; the last of whom gave her hand to Neptune (Poseidon), brother of Jove, and thus united the Older and the Younger dynasties of the sea.

51. Of the Younger Dynasty of the waters Neptune and Amphitrite were the founders. Neptune's palace was in the [Pg 56]depths of the sea, near Ægæ in Eubœa; but he made his home on Olympus when he chose. The symbol of his power was the trident, or three-pronged spear, with which he could shatter rocks, call forth or subdue storms, and shake the shores of earth. He created the horse and was the patron of horse races. His own steeds were brazen-hoofed and golden-maned. They drew his chariot over the sea, which became smooth before him, while dolphins and other monsters of the deep gamboled about his path. In his honor black and white bulls, white boars, and rams were sacrificed.

Fig. 41. Wedding of Poseidon and Amphitrite

52. The Lesser Divinities of the Waters[60] were:

1. Triton, the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, trumpeter of Ocean. By his blast on the sea-shell he stirred or allayed the waves.

2. Proteus, an attendant and, according to certain traditions, a son of Neptune. Like Nereus, he was a little old man of the sea. He possessed the prophetic gift and the power of changing his shape at will.

3. The Harpies, foul creatures, with heads of maidens, bodies, wings, and claws of birds, and [Pg 57]faces pale with hunger. They are the offspring of Thaumas, a son of Pontus and Gæa.

4. The uncanny offspring of Phorcys and Ceto,—children of Pontus,—who rejoiced in the horrors of the sea:

a. The Grææ, three hoary witches, with one eye between them which they used in turn.

b. The Gorgons, whose glance was icy death.

c. The Sirens, muses of the sea and of death, who by their sweet singing enticed seafarers to destruction.

d. Scylla, also destructive to mariners, a six-headed monster whose lower limbs were serpents and ever-barking dogs.

Fig. 42. Triton carrying off a Nymph

5. Atlas, who stood in the far west, bearing on his shoulders the vault of heaven. He was once regarded as a divinity of the sea, but later as a mountain. He was the son of Iapetus and the father of three classes of nymphs,—the Pleiads, the Hyads, and, according to some stories, the Hesperids. The last-mentioned, assisted by their mother Hesperis and a dragon, guarded the golden apples of the tree that had sprung up to grace the wedding of Jove and Juno. The daughters of Atlas were not themselves divinities of the sea.

[Pg 58]

6. The Water-Nymphs. Beside the Oceanids and the Nereïds, who have already been mentioned, of most importance were the Naiads, daughters of Jupiter. They presided over brooks and fountains. Other lesser powers of the Ocean were Glaucus, Leucothea, and Melicertes, of whom more is said in another section.

In the following statement of the difference between ancient and modern conceptions of nature, the poet lends new charm to the fabled rulers of the sea.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are upgathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.[61]

[Pg 59]


[57] For references to poetry and works of art, see corresponding sections of Commentary.

[58] Iliad, 14, 303.

[59] Iliad, 18, 30-50.

[60] For genealogical table, see Commentary.

[61] Wordsworth, Miscellaneous Sonnets.


53. Gods Common to Greece and Italy. Of the deities already mentioned, the following, although they were later identified with certain Greek gods and goddesses[62] whose characteristics and adventures they assumed, had developed an independent worship in Italy: Jupiter (Zeus); Juno (Hera); Minerva (Athene); Diana (Artemis); Mars (Ares); Venus (Aphrodite); Vulcanus, or Mulciber (Hephæstus); Vesta (Hestia); Mercurius (Hermes); Neptunus (Poseidon); Ceres (Demeter); Liber (Bacchus); Libera (Persephone); Magna Mater, the great mother of the gods (Rhea, Cybele); Orcus (Pluto, Hades); Tellus, the Earth (Gæa).

54. Italian Gods. There were also divinities always peculiar to Roman mythology.[63] Of these the more important are:

1. Saturn, an ancient Italian deity (as his name indicates) of seeds and sowing, the introducer of agriculture. Fanciful attempts were made to identify him with the Grecian god Cronus; and it was fabled that after his dethronement by Jupiter he fled to Italy, where he reigned during the Golden Age. In memory of his dominion, the feast of Saturnalia was held every year in the winter season. Then all public business was suspended; declarations of war and criminal executions were postponed; friends made presents to one another; and even slaves were indulged with great liberties. A feast was given them at which they sat at table while their masters served, to show the natural equality of men, and that all things belonged equally to all in the reign of Saturn. The wife of Saturn was Ops, goddess of sowing and harvest (later confounded with Rhea). Another Roman deity of earth was Consus, whose name means "the keeper of the stores." He is the [Pg 60]god of the stored-up harvest; and his altar is said to have been discovered underground by Romulus. It was in the Circus Maximus and was uncovered only on the days of his festivals, the harvest home of August and the granary feast of December. The underground altar is a reminiscence of the ancient custom of storing corn underground or at any rate of burying the sacrifices offered to deities of the earth. The harvest festival was celebrated with horse races, which, originating in a very simple way with the primitive farmers, became in time the distinctive feature of the Circus Maximus.

Fig. 43. Bearded Janus

2. Janus, whose name is derived from the Latin root which means "going" and is connected with janua, a passage or door, is the most distinctive and most important of the native Italic deities. He is not only the god of doors, or material openings, but more truly of beginnings,—especially of good beginnings which insure good endings. Hence undoubtedly he is represented as facing both ways; for the Romans very properly believed that beginning and ending were of the same piece, and that an undertaking ill begun could not achieve success. His temple, or covered passage, in the Forum had doors facing east and west for the beginning and ending of the day; and between stood his two-faced statue. In every home the morning prayer was addressed to him; in every domestic enterprise his assistance was implored. He was the god, also, of the opening year; hence his month, January, on the first day of which words only of good omen were uttered, and gifts were given (strenae, a name still preserved in the French word for New Year's presents, étrennes), and, for good luck, some stroke of work was bestowed on every undertaking planned for the year. He was publicly invoked not only on New Year's day, but on the first day of each month, by priests and people alike; and in these prayers his name was mentioned even before that of Jupiter. He is the god of civilization, and is sometimes called Consivius, or the Sower.[64] Of course he was invoked when wars were commenced. And during their progress the doors of his [Pg 61]temple stood always open. In peace they were closed; but they were shut only once between the reign of Numa and that of Augustus. It was natural that his worship should gradually absorb that of Sol, the Sun, who opens the day and completes the year and blesses with his rays the seeds that are sown; and such was the case. But Janus and his wife Jana were not originally connected even in name with Dianus (Sol, Apollo) and Diana (the moon).

3. Quirinus, a war-god, said to be no other than Romulus, the founder of Rome, exalted after his death to a place among the immortals.

4. Bellona, a war-goddess.

5. Lucina, the goddess who brings to light, hence the goddess of childbirth: a title bestowed upon both Juno and Diana.

6. Terminus, the god of landmarks. His statue was a rude stone or post, set in the ground to mark the boundaries of fields.

7. Faunus, the grandson of Saturn. He was worshiped as a god of fields and shepherds and also of prophecy. His name in the plural, Fauni, expressed a class of gamesome deities, like the Satyrs of the Greeks. There was also a goddess called Fauna, or Bona Dea (good goddess). To Maia, wife of Vulcan, this designation, Bona Dea, was sometimes applied.

8. Sylvanus, presiding over forest-glades and plowed fields.

9. Pales, the goddess presiding over cattle and pastures. Flora, the goddess of flowers. Pomona, presiding over fruit trees. Vertumnus, the husband of Pomona, was guardian of fruit trees, gardens, and vegetables.

Pomona loves the orchard,
And Liber loves the vine,
And Pales loves the straw-built shed
Warm with the breath of kine;
And Venus loves the whisper
Of plighted youth and maid
In April's ivory moonlight,
Beneath the chestnut shade.[65]

10. The Penates, gods who were supposed to attend to the welfare and prosperity of the family. Their name is derived from [Pg 62]Penus, the storehouse or inner chamber, which was sacred to them. Every master of a family was the priest to the Penates of his own house.

The Lares, or Lars, were also tutelary deities, but they differed from the Penates since they were regarded as the deified spirits of ancestors, who watched over and protected their descendants. The Lares were more particularly divinities presiding over the household or family; but there were also public Lares, or guardian spirits of the city, Lares of the precincts, Lares of the fields, Lares of the highways, and Lares of the sea. To the Penates, to the domestic Lares (whose images were preserved in a private shrine), and to the Manes (shades that hovered over the place of burial), the family prayers of the Romans were addressed. Other spirits, the Lemures and Larvæ, more nearly correspond to our ghosts.

Fig. 44. Genius Loci

The Romans believed that every man had his Genius and every woman her Juno; that is, a spirit who had given them being and was regarded as a protector through life. On birthdays men made offerings to their Genius, women to their Juno.

11. Other Italian deities were the gods of the rivers, such as Father Tiber, and the goddesses of the springs and brooks, such as Juturna, whose pool in the Forum was sacred. This nymph was also a goddess of healing and, according to later tradition, was beloved by Jupiter. Earlier stories, however, make her the wife of Janus and the mother of Fontus, the god of flowing waters, who had an altar on the Janiculan hill and was worshiped at an annual festival called the Fontinalia, when the wells were wreathed with garlands. Held in especial honor were the Camenæ, fountain-nymphs, goddesses of prophecy and healing (later identified with the Muses). The leader of them was Carmenta, who sang both the future and the past. With her is sometimes associated the nymph[Pg 63] Egeria, from whom the Roman king Numa is said to have received instruction concerning the forms of worship which he introduced.

12. The Romans worshiped, also, Sol, the Sun; Luna, the Moon; Mater Matuta, the Dawn; Juventus, Youth; Fides, Honesty; Feronia, goddess of groves and freedmen; and a great number of personified abstractions of conduct and experience, such as Fortune and Health.

Many of these Latin divinities were derived from the earlier cult and ritual of the Etruscan inhabitants of Italy.

[Pg 64]


[62] Names of the corresponding Greek divinities are in parentheses.

[63] For illustrative material, see Commentary.

[64] Gellius, 5, 12. Ovid, Fasti, 1, 179. Macrobius, Sat. 1, 9-15.

[65] From Macaulay's Prophecy of Capys.


55. Myths of Jupiter and Juno. Not a few of the adventures of Jupiter turn upon his love affairs. Among the immortals his queen had rivals in his affection; for instance, Latona, a goddess of darkness, daughter of the Titans Cœus and Phœbe. This goddess became, as we have already seen, the mother of Apollo and Diana. The ire of Juno against her was never appeased. In consequence of it, numerous trials were visited upon Latona, some of which find a place among the adventures of her children.

Fig. 45. Ganymede

56. Love Affairs of Jupiter. Not only with immortals but with mortals were Jupiter's relations sometimes of a dubious character. His devotion to the beautiful daughters of men involved him in frequent altercations with his justly jealous spouse. Of his fondness for Danaë, whom he approached in a shower of gold, particulars are given in the story of her son Perseus; of his love for Alcmene, the granddaughter of that Perseus, we are informed in the myths of her son Hercules; and of his attentions to Leda, whom he wooed in guise of a swan, we learn in the accounts of their children Pollux and Helen. Other love passages, upon which narratives depend, concern Io, Callisto, Europa, Semele, Ægina, and Antiope.


[Pg 65]

57. Io[66] was of divine ancestry. Her father was the river-god Inachus, son of Oceanus. It is said that Juno one day, perceiving the skies suddenly overcast, surmised that her husband had raised a cloud to hide some escapade. She brushed away the darkness and saw him on the banks of a glassy river with a beautiful heifer standing near. Juno suspected, with reason, that the heifer's form concealed some fair nymph of mortal mold. It was Io, whom Jupiter, when he became aware of the approach of his wife, had changed into that form.

Fig. 46. Hermes Kills Argus

The ox-eyed goddess joined her husband, noticed the heifer, praised its beauty, and asked whose it was and of what herd. Jupiter, to stop questions, replied that it was a fresh creation from the earth. Juno begged it as a gift. What could the king of gods and men do? He was loath to surrender his sweetheart to his wife; yet how refuse so trifling a present as a heifer? He could not, without exciting suspicion, and he therefore consented. The goddess delivered the heifer to Argus, to be strictly watched.

Now Argus had a hundred eyes in his head, and never went to sleep with more than two at a time, so that he kept watch of Io constantly. He suffered her to graze through the day and at night tied a rope round her neck. She would have stretched out her arms to implore freedom of Argus, but that she had no arms to stretch out and her voice was a bellow. She yearned in vain to make herself known to her father. At length she bethought herself of writing, and inscribed her name—it was a short one—with her hoof on the sand. Inachus recognized it, and, discovering that his daughter whom he had long sought in vain was hidden under this disguise, mourned over her. While he thus lamented, Argus, observing, drove her away and took his seat on a bank from whence he could see in every direction.

[Pg 66]

Fig. 47. Io, Argus, and Mercury

Jupiter, grieved by the sufferings of his mistress, sent Mercury to dispatch Argus. Mercury took his sleep-producing wand and presented himself on earth as a shepherd driving his flock. As he strolled, he blew upon his syrinx or Pandean pipes. Argus listened with delight. "Young man," said he, "come and take a seat by me on this stone. There is no better place for your flock to graze in than hereabouts, and here is a pleasant shade such as shepherds love." Mercury sat down, talked, told stories till it grew late, and played upon his pipes his most soothing strains, hoping to lull the watchful eyes to sleep, but in vain; for Argus still contrived to keep some of his eyes open, though he shut the rest.

But among other stories, Mercury told him how the instrument on which he played was invented. "There was a certain nymph," said he, "whose name was Syrinx,—much beloved by the satyrs and spirits of the wood. She would have none of them, but was a faithful worshiper of Diana and followed the chase. Pan, meeting her one day, wooed her with many compliments, likening her to Diana of the silver bow. Without stopping to hear him she ran away. But on the bank of the river he overtook her. She called for help on her friends, the water-nymphs. They heard and consented. Pan threw his arms around what he supposed to be the form of the nymph and found he embraced only a tuft of reeds. As he breathed a sigh, the air sounded through the reeds and produced a plaintive melody. Whereupon the god, charmed with the novelty and with the sweetness of the music, said, 'Thus, then, at least, you shall be mine.' Taking some of the reeds of unequal lengths and placing[Pg 67] them together, side by side, he made an instrument and called it Syrinx, in honor of the nymph." Before Mercury had finished his story he saw the eyes of Argus all asleep. At once he slew him and set Io free. The eyes of Argus Juno took and scattered as ornaments on the tail of her peacock, where they remain to this day.

But the vengeance of Juno was not yet satiated. She sent a gadfly to torment Io, who, in her flight, swam through the sea, named after her, Ionian. Afterward, roaming over many lands, she reached at last the banks of the Nile. Then Jupiter interceded for her; and upon his engaging not to pay her any further attention, Juno consented to restore her to her form.

In a poem dedicated to Leigh Hunt, by Keats, the following allusion to the story of Pan and Syrinx occurs:

So did he feel who pulled the boughs aside,
That we might look into a forest wide, ...
Telling us how fair trembling Syrinx fled
Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.
Poor nymph—poor Pan—how he did weep to find
Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind
Along the reedy stream; a half-heard strain,
Full of sweet desolation, balmy pain.

58. Callisto of Arcadia was another maiden who excited the jealousy of Juno. Her the goddess changed into a bear. Often, frightened by the dogs, Callisto, though lately a huntress, fled in terror from the hunters. Often, too, she fled from the wild beasts, forgetting that she was now a wild beast herself; and, bear as she was, she feared the bears.

One day a youth espied her as he was hunting. She saw him and recognized him as her son Arcas, grown to manhood. She stopped and felt inclined to embrace him. He, alarmed, raised his hunting spear and was on the point of transfixing her, but Jupiter arrested the crime and, snatching away both of them, placed them in the heavens as the Great and Little Bear.

Juno, enraged at seeing her rival so set in honor, hastened to ancient Tethys and Oceanus and, complaining that she was supplanted in Heaven, cried, "So do my punishments result—such is the extent of my power! I forbade her to wear human form,—she[Pg 68] and her hateful son are placed among the stars. Better that she should have resumed her former shape, as I permitted Io to do. Perhaps my husband means to take her to wife, and put me away! But you, my foster parents, if you feel for me, and see with displeasure this unworthy treatment of me, show it, I beseech you, by forbidding this guilty couple from coming into your waters." The powers of the Ocean assented, and consequently the two constellations of the Great and Little Bear move round and round in the neighborhood of the pole, but never sink, as do the other stars, beneath the Ocean.[67]

59. Europa was the daughter of Agenor, king of Phœnicia, son of the god Neptune. The story of Jupiter's love for her is thus told by the idyllic poet, Moschus:

To Europa, princess of Asia, once on a time, a sweet dream was sent by Cypris.... Then she beheld two continents at strife for her sake, Asia and the further shore, both in the shape of women. Of these one had the guise of a stranger, the other of a lady of that land, and closer still she clung about her maiden, and kept saying how she was her mother, and herself had nursed Europa. But that other with mighty hands, and forcefully, kept haling the maiden, nothing loth; declaring that, by the will of ægis-bearing Jupiter, Europa was destined to be her prize.

But Europa leaped forth from her strown bed in terror, with beating heart, in such clear vision had she beheld the dream.... And she said, "Ah! who was the alien woman that I beheld in my sleep? How strange a longing for her seized my heart, yea, and how graciously she herself did welcome me, and regard me as it had been her own child! Ye blessed gods, I pray you, prosper the fulfillment of the dream!"

Therewith she arose, and began to seek the dear maidens of her company, girls of like age with herself, born in the same year, beloved of her heart, the daughters of noble sires, with whom she was always wont to sport, when she was arrayed for the dance, or when she would bathe her bright body at the mouths of the rivers, or would gather fragrant lilies on the leas....

Now the girls, so soon as they were come to the flowering meadows, took great delight in various sorts of flowers, whereof one would pluck sweet-breathed narcissus, another the hyacinth, another the violet, a fourth the creeping thyme; and on the ground there fell many petals of the meadows rich with spring. Others, again, were emulously gathering the fragrant tresses of the yellow crocus; but in the midst of them all the princess culled with her hand [Pg 69]the splendor of the crimson rose, and shone preëminent among them all like the foam-born goddess among the Graces. Verily, she was not for long to set her heart's delight upon the flowers.... For of a truth, the son of Cronus, so soon as he beheld her, was troubled, and his heart was subdued by the sudden shafts of Cypris, who alone can conquer even Jupiter. Therefore, both to avoid the wrath of jealous Juno, and being eager to beguile the maiden's tender heart, he concealed his godhead, and changed his shape, and became a bull....

Fig. 48. Europa on the Bull

He came into the meadow, and his coming terrified not the maidens, nay, within them all wakened desire to draw nigh the lovely bull, and to touch him, and his heavenly fragrance was scattered afar, exceeding even the sweet perfume of the meadows. And he stood before the feet of fair Europa, and kept licking her neck, and cast his spell over the maiden. And she still caressed him, and gently with her hands she wiped away the deep foam from his lips, and kissed the bull. Then he lowed so gently, ye would think ye heard the Mygdonian flute uttering a dulcet sound.

He bowed himself before her feet, and bending back his neck, he gazed on Europa, and showed her his broad back. Then she spake among her deep-tressed maidens, saying,—

"Come, dear playmates, maidens of like age with me, let us mount the bull here and take our pastime, for, truly, he will bear us on his back, and carry all of us! And how mild he is, and dear, and gentle to behold, and no whit like other bulls! A mind as honest as a man's possesses him, and he lacks nothing but speech."

So she spake, and smiling, she sat down on the back of the bull, and the others were about to follow her. But the bull leaped up immediately, now he had gotten her that he desired, and swiftly he sped to the deep. The maiden turned, and called again and again to her dear playmates, stretching out her hands, but they could not reach her. The strand he gained, and forward he sped like a dolphin, faring with unwetted hooves over the wide waves. And the sea, as he came, grew smooth, and the sea monsters gamboled around, before the feet of Jupiter; and the dolphin rejoiced, and rising from the deeps, he tumbled on the swell of the sea. The Nereïds arose out of the salt water, and all of them came on in orderly array, riding on the backs of sea beasts. And himself, the thunderous shaker of the world, appeared above the sea, and[Pg 70] made smooth the wave, and guided his brother on the salt sea path, and round him were gathered the Tritons, these hoarse trumpeters of the deep, blowing from their long conchs a bridal melody.

Meanwhile, Europa, riding on the back of the divine bull, with one hand clasped the beast's great horn, and with the other caught up the purple fold of her garment, lest it might trail and be wet in the hoar sea's infinite spray. And her deep robe was swelled out by the winds, like the sail of a ship, and lightly still did waft the maiden onward. But when she was now far off from her own country, and neither sea-beat headland nor steep hill could now be seen, but above, the air, and beneath, the limitless deep, timidly she looked around, and uttered her voice, saying,—

Fig. 49. Nereïds on Sea Beasts

"Whither bearest thou me, bull god? What art thou? How dost thou fare on thy feet through the path of the sea beasts, nor fearest the sea? The sea is a path meet for swift ships that traverse the brine, but bulls dread the salt sea ways. What drink is sweet to thee, what food shalt thou find from the deep? Nay, art thou then some god, for godlike are these deeds of thine." ...

So spake she, and the horned bull made answer to her again: "Take courage, maiden, and dread not the swell of the deep. Behold, I am Jupiter, even I, though, closely beheld, I wear the form of a bull, for I can put on the semblance of what thing I will. But 'tis love of thee that has compelled me to measure out so great a space of the salt sea, in a bull's shape. So Crete shall presently receive thee, Crete that was mine own foster-mother, where thy bridal chamber shall be."[68]

According to tradition, from this princess the continent of Europe acquired its name. Her three sons are famous in Greek [Pg 71]myth: Minos, who became king of Crete, and after his death a judge in the lower world; Rhadamanthus, who also was regarded as king and judge in the world of ghosts; and Sarpedon, who was ancestor of the Lycians.

The adventures of Europa's brother Cadmus, who by the command of his father went forth in quest of the lost maiden, fall under the myths of Mars.[69]

Fig. 50. Bacchus embracing Semele

60. Semele was the daughter of Cadmus, founder of Thebes. She was descended, through both parents, from the gods; for her mother Harmonia was daughter to Mars and the laughter-loving Venus. To Semele Jupiter had appeared, and had paid court in unostentatious manner and simple guise. But Juno, to gratify her resentment against this new rival for her lord's affections, contrived a plan for her destruction. Assuming the form of Beroë, the aged nurse of Semele, she insinuated doubts whether it was indeed Jove himself who came as a lover. Heaving a sigh, she said, "I hope it will turn out so, but I can't help being afraid. People are not always what they pretend to be. If he is indeed Jove, make him give some proof of it. Ask him to come arrayed in all his splendors, such as he wears in Heaven. That will put the matter beyond a doubt." Semele was persuaded to try the experiment. She asks a favor, without naming what it is. Jove gives his promise, and confirms it with the irrevocable oath, attesting the river Styx, terrible to the gods themselves. Then she made known her request. The god would have stopped her as she spake, but she was too quick for him. The words [Pg 72]escaped, and he could neither unsay his promise nor her request. In deep distress he left her and returned to the upper regions. There he clothed himself in his splendors, not putting on all his terrors, as when he overthrew the giants, but what is known among the gods as his lesser panoply. With thunders and lightnings he entered the chamber of Semele. Her mortal frame could not endure the splendors of the immortal radiance. She was consumed to ashes.[70] Her son was the god Bacchus.[71] Semele, in the blissful seats of Heaven, whither she was transported by the sorrowful Jove, has been represented as recounting thus the story of her doom:

What were the garden-bowers of Thebes to me?
What cared I for their dances and their feasts,
Whose heart awaited an immortal doom?
The Greek youths mocked me, since I shunned in scorn
Them and their praises of my brows and hair.
The light girls pointed after me, who turned
Soul-sick from their unending fooleries....
There came a change: a glory fell to me.
No more 'twas Semele, the lonely girl,
But Jupiter's Beloved, Semele.
With human arms the god came clasping me:
New life streamed from his presence; and a voice,
That scarce could curb itself to the smooth Greek,
Now and anon swept forth in those deep nights,
Thrilling my flesh with awe; mysterious words—
I knew not what; hints of unearthly things
That I had felt on solemn summer noons,
When sleeping Earth dreamed music, and the heart
Went crooning a low song it could not learn,
But wandered over it, as one who gropes
For a forgotten chord upon a lyre.
Yea, Jupiter! But why this mortal guise,
Wooing as if he were a milk-faced boy?
Did I lack lovers? Was my beauty dulled,
The golden hair turned dross, the lithe limbs shrunk?
The deathless longings tamed, that I should seethe
My soul in love like any shepherd girl?
One night he sware to grant whate'er I asked:
[Pg 73] And straight I cried, "To know thee as thou art!
To hold thee on my heart as Juno does!
Come in thy thunder—kill me with one fierce
Divine embrace!—Thine oath!—Now, Earth, at last!"
The Heavens shot one swift sheet of lurid flame;
The world crashed: from a body scathed and torn
The soul leapt through, and found his breast, and died.
Died?—So the Theban maidens think, and laugh,
Saying, "She had her wish, that Semele!"
But sitting here upon Olympus' height,
I look down, through that oval ring of stars,
And see the far-off Earth, a twinkling speck—
Dust-mote whirled up from the Sun's chariot wheel—
And pity their small hearts that hold a man
As if he were a god; or know the god—
Or dare to know him—only as a man!
O human love! art thou forever blind?[72]

61. Ægina. The extent to which those who were concerned only indirectly in Jupiter's love affairs might yet be involved in the consequences of them is illustrated by the fortunes of Ægina. This maiden, the daughter of Asopus, a river-god, attracted the attention of Jupiter, who straightway ran off with her. Now, on the one hand, Sisyphus, king of Corinth, having witnessed the intrigue, was indiscreet enough to disclose it. Forthwith the vengeance of the king of gods and men fell upon him. He was condemned to Hades and, attempting to escape thence, had resort to a series of deceptions that resulted in his eternal punishment.[73] On the other hand, the inhabitants of the island that had the misfortune to bear Ægina's name incurred the displeasure of Juno, who devastated their land with a plague. The following account of this calamity is placed in the mouth of Æacus, king of the island:[74]

"At the beginning the sky seemed to settle down upon the earth and thick clouds shut in the heated air. For four months together a deadly south wind prevailed. The disorder affected the wells and springs. Thousands of snakes crept over the land and [Pg 74]shed their poison in the fountains. The force of the disease was first spent on the lower animals,—dogs, cattle, sheep, and birds. The oxen fell in the midst of their work. The wool dropped from the bleating sheep. The horse groaned at his stall and died an inglorious death. Everything languished; dead bodies lay in the roads, the fields, and the woods; the air was poisoned by them. Next the disease attacked the country people, and then the dwellers in the city. At first the cheek was flushed and the breath drawn with difficulty. The tongue grew rough and swelled, and the dry mouth stood open, with its veins enlarged, and gasped for the air. Men could not bear the heat of their clothes or their beds, but preferred to lie on the bare ground. Nor could the physicians help, for the disease attacked them also. At last men learned to look upon death as the only deliverer from disease. All restraint laid aside, they crowded round the wells and fountains, and drank, without quenching thirst, till they died. On all sides lay my people strewn like over-ripened apples beneath the tree, or acorns under the storm-shaken oak. You see yonder a temple on the height. It is sacred to Jupiter. Often, while the priest made ready for sacrifice, the victim fell, struck down by disease without waiting for the blow. At length all reverence for sacred things was lost. Bodies were thrown out unburied, wood was wanting for funeral piles, men fought with one another for the possession of them. Finally there were none left to mourn; sons and husbands, old men and youths, perished alike unlamented.


[Pg 75]

"Standing before the altar, I raised my eyes to Heaven. 'O Jupiter,' I said, 'if thou art indeed my father, give me back my people, or take me also away!' At these words a clap of thunder was heard. 'I accept the omen,' I cried. By chance there grew by the place where I stood an oak with wide-spreading branches, sacred to Jupiter. I observed on it a troop of ants busy with their labor. Observing their numbers with admiration, I said, 'Give me, O father, citizens as numerous as these, and replenish my empty city.' The tree shook, and the branches rustled, though no wind agitated them. Night came on. The tree stood before me in my dreams, with its numerous branches all covered with living, moving creatures, which, falling to the ground, appeared to gain in size, and by and by to stand erect, and finally to assume the human form. Then I awoke. My attention was caught by the sound of many voices without. While I began to think I was yet dreaming, Telamon, my son, throwing open the temple gates, exclaimed, 'Father, approach, and behold things surpassing even your hopes!' I went forth; I saw a multitude of men, such as I had seen in my dream. While I gazed with wonder and delight, they approached and, kneeling, hailed me as their king. I paid my vows to Jove, and proceeded to allot the vacant city to the new-born race. I called them Myrmidons from the ant (myrmex), from which they sprang. They are a diligent and industrious race, eager to gain, and tenacious of their gains."

The Myrmidons were the soldiers of Achilles, the grandson of King Æacus, in the Trojan War.

62. Antiope was, according to the Odyssey, another daughter of Asopus, therefore a sister of Ægina. But later poets make this darling of Jove daughter of Nycteus, king of Thebes. While she was engaged in the Mænad dances, Jupiter as a satyr wooed and won her. She bore him two sons, Amphion and Zethus, who, being exposed at birth on Mount Cithæron, grew up among the shepherds, not knowing their parentage. After various adventures Antiope fell into the hands of her uncle Lycus, the usurping king of Thebes, who, egged on by his wife Dirce, treated her with extreme cruelty. Finally, when doomed by Dirce to be dragged to death behind a bull, Antiope found means to inform her children of her kinship to them. As it happened, they had been ordered to execute the cruel sentence upon their mother. But with a band of their fellow herdsmen, they attacked and slew Lycus instead, and, tying Dirce by the hair of her head to a bull, let her perish by her own device.[75]

While among the herdsmen, Amphion had been the special care of Mercury, who gave him a lyre and taught him to play upon it. His brother Zethus had occupied himself in hunting and tending the flocks. Amphion himself is one of the most famous of mythical musicians. Having become king of Thebes, it is said that when [Pg 76]he played on his lyre, stones moved of their own accord and took their places in the wall with which he was fortifying the city.

Fig. 51. Amphion and Zethus

... 'Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
He left a small plantation;
Wherever in a lonely grove
He set up his forlorn pipes,
The gouty oak began to move,
And flounder into hornpipes.
The mountain stirred its bushy crown,
And, as tradition teaches,
Young ashes pirouetted down
Coquetting with young beeches;
[Pg 77] And briony-vine and ivy-wreath
Ran forward to his rhyming,
And from the valleys underneath
Came little copses climbing.
The linden broke her ranks and rent
The woodbine wreaths that bind her,
And down the middle, buzz! she went
With all her bees behind her:
The poplars, in long order due,
With cypress promenaded,
The shock-head willows, two and two,
By rivers gallopaded.
Came wet-shot alder from the wave,
Came yews, a dismal coterie;
Each plucked his one foot from the grave,
Poussetting with a sloe-tree:
Old elms came breaking from the vine,
The vine streamed out to follow,
And, sweating rosin, plumped the pine
From many a cloudy hollow.
And wasn't it a sight to see,
When, ere his song was ended,
Like some great landslip, tree by tree,
The country-side descended;
And shepherds from the mountain-eaves
Looked down, half-pleased, half-frightened,
As dashed about the drunken leaves
The random sunshine lightened.[76]

The musician's life was, however, not all harmony and happiness. Owing to the pride of his wife Niobe, daughter of King Tantalus, there befell him and his house a crushing calamity, which is narrated among the exploits of Apollo and Diana.

63. Jupiter, a Friend of Man. The kindly interest evinced by the Thunderer toward mortals is displayed in the story of Baucis and Philemon. Once on a time Jupiter, in human shape, visited the land of Phrygia, and with him Mercury, without his wings.

[Pg 78]

They presented themselves as weary travelers at many a door, seeking rest and shelter, but found all closed; for it was late, and the inhospitable inhabitants would not rouse themselves to open for their reception. At last a small thatched cottage received them, where Baucis, a pious old dame, and her husband Philemon had grown old together. Not ashamed of their poverty, they made it endurable by moderate desires and kind dispositions. When the two guests crossed the humble threshold and bowed their heads to pass under the low door, the old man placed a seat, on which Baucis, bustling and attentive, spread a cloth, and begged them to sit down. Then she raked out the coals from the ashes, kindled a fire, and prepared some pot-herbs and bacon for them. A beechen bowl was filled with warm water, that their guests might wash. While all was doing, they beguiled the time with conversation.

The old woman with trembling hand set the table. One leg was shorter than the rest, but a piece of slate put under restored the level. When it was steady she rubbed the table down with sweet-smelling herbs. Upon it she set some of chaste Minerva's olives, some cornel berries preserved in vinegar, and added radishes and cheese, with eggs lightly cooked in the ashes. The meal was served in earthen dishes; and an earthenware pitcher, with wooden cups, stood beside them. When all was ready the stew, smoking hot, was set on the table. Some wine, not of the oldest, was added, and for dessert, apples and wild honey.

Now while the repast proceeded, the old folks were astonished to see that the wine, as fast as it was poured out, renewed itself in the pitcher of its own accord. Struck with terror, Baucis and Philemon recognized their heavenly guests, fell on their knees, and with clasped hands implored forgiveness for their poor entertainment. There was an old goose, which they kept as the guardian of their humble cottage, and they bethought them to make this a sacrifice in honor of their guests. But the goose, too nimble for the old folk, with the aid of feet and wings eluded their pursuit and at last took shelter between the gods themselves. They forbade it to be slain, and spoke in these words: "We are gods. This inhospitable village shall pay the penalty of its impiety; you alone shall go free from the chastisement. Quit your house and[Pg 79] come with us to the top of yonder hill." They hastened to obey. The country behind them was speedily sunk in a lake, only their own house left standing. While they gazed with wonder at the sight, that old house of theirs was changed. Columns took the place of the corner posts, the thatch grew yellow and appeared a gilded roof, the floors became marble, the doors were enriched with carving and ornaments of gold. Then spoke Jupiter in benignant accents: "Excellent old man, and woman worthy of such a husband, speak, tell us your wishes. What favor have you to ask of us?" Philemon took counsel with Baucis a few moments, then declared to the gods their common wish. "We ask to be priests and guardians of this thy temple, and that one and the same hour may take us both from life." Their prayer was granted. When they had attained a great age, as they stood one day before the steps of the sacred edifice and were telling the story of the place, Baucis saw Philemon begin to put forth leaves, and Philemon saw Baucis changing in like manner. While still they exchanged parting words, a leafy crown grew over their heads. "Farewell, dear spouse," they said together, and at the same moment the bark closed over their mouths. The Tyanean shepherd still shows the two trees,—an oak and a linden, standing side by side.[77]

The story of Baucis and Philemon has been imitated by Swift in a burlesque style, the actors in the change being two wandering saints, and the house being changed into a church, of which Philemon is made the parson:

... They scarce had spoke, when, fair and soft,
The roof began to mount aloft;
Aloft rose every beam and rafter;
The heavy wall climbed slowly after.
The chimney widened and grew higher,
Became a steeple with a spire.
The kettle to the top was hoist,
And there stood fastened to a joist,
But with the upside down, to show
Its inclination for below;
In vain, for a superior force,
Applied at bottom, stops its course;
Doomed ever in suspense to dwell,
[Pg 80] 'Tis now no kettle, but a bell.
A wooden jack, which had almost
Lost by disuse the art to roast,
A sudden alteration feels,
Increased by new intestine wheels;
And, what exalts the wonder more,
The number made the motion slower;
The flier, though 't had leaden feet,
Turned round so quick you scarce could see 't;
But slackened by some secret power,
Now hardly moves an inch an hour.
The jack and chimney, near allied,
Had never left each other's side.
The chimney to a steeple grown,
The jack would not be left alone;
But up against the steeple reared,
Became a clock, and still adhered;
And still its love to household cares
By a shrill voice at noon declares,
Warning the cook-maid not to burn
That roast meat which it cannot turn.
The groaning chair began to crawl,
Like a huge snail, along the wall;
There stuck aloft in public view,
And with small change, a pulpit grew.
A bedstead of the antique mode,
Compact of timber many a load,
Such as our ancestors did use,
Was metamorphosed into pews,
Which still their ancient nature keep
By lodging folks disposed to sleep.

64. Juno's Best Gift. What the queen of heaven deemed the greatest blessing reserved for mortals is narrated in the beautiful myth of Biton and Cleobis. One Cydippe, an ancient priestess of the white-armed goddess, had desired to behold the famous new statue of Hera at Argos. Her sons testified their affection for their mother by yoking themselves, since no oxen were at hand, to her chariot, and so dragging her through heat and dust many a weary league till they reached the temple, where stood the[Pg 81] gold and ivory masterwork of Polyclitus. With admiration the devoted priestess and her pious sons were received by the populace crowding round the statue. The priest officiating in the solemn rites thought meet that so reverend a worshiper should herself approach the goddess,—ay, should ask of Hera some blessing on her faithful sons:

... Slowly old Cydippe rose and cried:
"Hera, whose priestess I have been and am,
Virgin and matron, at whose angry eyes
Zeus trembles, and the windless plain of heaven
With hyperborean echoes rings and roars,
Remembering thy dread nuptials, a wise god,
Golden and white in thy new-carven shape,
Hear me! and grant for these my pious sons,
Who saw my tears, and wound their tender arms
Around me, and kissed me calm, and since no steer
Stayed in the byre, dragged out the chariot old,
And wore themselves the galling yoke, and brought
Their mother to the feast of her desire,
Grant them, O Hera, thy best gift of gifts!"
Whereat the statue from its jeweled eyes
Lightened, and thunder ran from cloud to cloud
In heaven, and the vast company was hushed.
But when they sought for Cleobis, behold,
He lay there still, and by his brother's side
Lay Biton, smiling through ambrosial curls,
And when the people touched them they were dead.[78]

65. Myths of Minerva. Minerva, as we have seen,[79] presided over the useful and ornamental arts, both those of men—such as agriculture and navigation—and those of women—spinning, weaving, and needlework. She was also a warlike divinity, but favored only defensive warfare. With Mars' savage love of violence and bloodshed she, therefore, had no sympathy. Athens, her chosen seat, her own city, was awarded to her as the prize of a peaceful contest with Neptune, who also aspired to it. In the [Pg 82]reign of Cecrops, the first king of Athens, the two deities had contended for the possession of the city. The gods decreed that it should be awarded to the one who produced the gift most useful to mortals. Neptune gave the horse; Minerva produced the olive. The gods awarded the city to the goddess, and after her Greek appellation, Athena, it was named.

66. Arachne. In another contest, a mortal dared to come into competition with the gray-eyed daughter of Jove. This was Arachne, a maiden who had attained such skill in the arts of carding and spinning, of weaving and embroidery, that the Nymphs themselves would leave their groves and fountains to come and gaze upon her work. It was not only beautiful when it was done, but beautiful also in the doing. To watch her one would have said that Minerva herself had taught her. But this she denied, and could not bear to be thought a pupil even of a goddess. "Let Minerva try her skill with mine," said she. "If beaten, I will pay the penalty." Minerva heard this and was displeased. Assuming the form of an old woman, she appeared to Arachne and kindly advised her to challenge her fellow mortals if she would, but at once to ask forgiveness of the goddess. Arachne bade the old dame to keep her counsel for others. "I am not afraid of the goddess; let her try her skill, if she dare venture." "She comes," said Minerva, and dropping her disguise, stood confessed. The Nymphs bent low in homage and all the bystanders paid reverence. Arachne alone was unterrified. A sudden color dyed her cheek, and then she grew pale; but she stood to her resolve and rushed on her fate. They proceed to the contest. Each takes her station and attaches the web to the beam. Then the slender shuttle is passed in and out among the threads. The reed with its fine teeth strikes up the woof into its place and compacts the web. Wool of Tyrian dye is contrasted with that of other colors, shaded off into one another so adroitly that the joining deceives the eye. And the effect is like the bow whose long arch tinges the heavens, formed by sunbeams reflected from the shower,[80] in which, where the colors meet they seem as one, but at a little distance from the point of contact are wholly different.

[Pg 83]

Minerva wove the scene of her contest with Neptune (Poseidon). Twelve of the heavenly powers were represented, Jupiter, with august gravity, sitting in the midst. Neptune, the ruler of the sea, held his trident and appeared to have just smitten the earth, from which a horse had leaped forth. The bright-eyed goddess depicted herself with helmed head, her ægis covering her breast, as when she had created the olive tree with its berries and its dark green leaves.

Fig. 52. Contest of Athena and Poseidon

Amongst these leaves she made a Butterfly,
With excellent device and wondrous slight,
Fluttering among the olives wantonly,
That seemed to live, so like it was in sight;
The velvet nap which on his wings doth lie,
The silken down with which his back is dight,
His broad outstretchèd horns, his hairy thighs,
His glorious colors, and his glistering eyes.
Which when Arachne saw, as overlaid
And masterèd with workmanship so rare,
She stood astonished long, ne aught gainsaid;
And with fast-fixèd eyes on her did stare.[81]

[Pg 84]

So wonderful was the central circle of Minerva's web; and in the four corners were represented incidents illustrating the displeasure of the gods at such presumptuous mortals as had dared to contend with them. These were meant as warnings from Minerva to her rival to give up the contest before it was too late.

But Arachne did not yield. She filled her web with subjects designedly chosen to exhibit the failings and errors of the gods. One scene represented Leda caressing the swan; and another, Danaë and the golden shower. Still another depicted Europa deceived by Jupiter under the disguise of a bull. Its appearance was that of a real bull, so naturally was it wrought and so natural the water in which it swam.

With such subjects Arachne filled her canvas, wonderfully well done but strongly marking her presumption and impiety. Minerva could not forbear to admire, yet was indignant at the insult. She struck the web with her shuttle and rent it in pieces; then, touching the forehead of Arachne, she made her realize her guilt. It was more than mortal could bear; and forthwith Arachne hanged herself. "Live, guilty woman," said Minerva, "but that thou mayest preserve the memory of this lesson continue to hang, both thou and thy descendants, to all future times." Then, sprinkling her with the juices of aconite, the goddess transformed her into a spider, forever spinning the thread by which she is suspended.[82]

67. Myths of Mars. The relations of Mars to other deities may be best illustrated by passages from the Iliad, which, generally speaking, presents him in no very favorable light.

68. Mars and Diomede. In the war of the Greeks and the Trojans,[83] the cause of the former was espoused by Minerva, of the latter by Mars. Among the chieftains of the Greeks in a certain battle, Diomede, son of Tydeus, was prominent. Now when Mars, scourge of mortals, beheld noble Diomede, he made straight at him.

... And when they were come nigh in onset on one another, first Mars thrust over the yoke and horses' reins with spear of bronze, eager to take away his life. But the bright-eyed goddess Minerva with her hand seized the spear and thrust it up over the car, to spend itself in vain. Next Diomede of the [Pg 85]loud war cry attacked with spear of bronze; and Minerva drave it home against Mars' nethermost belly, where his taslets were girt about him. There smote he him and wounded him, rending through his fair skin,—and plucked forth the spear again. Then brazen Mars bellowed loud as nine thousand warriors or ten thousand cry in battle as they join in strife and fray. Thereat trembling gat hold of Achæans and Trojans for fear, so mightily bellowed Mars insatiate of battle.


Even as gloomy mist appeareth from the clouds when after heat a stormy wind ariseth, even so to Tydeus' son Diomede brazen Mars appeared amid clouds, faring to wide Heaven. Swiftly came he to the gods' dwelling, steep Olympus, and sat beside Jupiter, son of Cronus, with grief at heart, and showed the immortal blood flowing from the wound, and piteously spake to him winged words: "Father Jupiter, hast thou no indignation to behold these violent deeds? For ever cruelly suffer we gods by one another's devices, in showing men grace. With thee are we all at variance, because thou didst beget that reckless maiden and baleful, whose thought is ever of iniquitous deeds. For all the other gods that are in Olympus hearken to thee, and we are subject every one; only her thou chaste-nest not, neither in deed nor word, but settest her on, because this pestilent one is thine own offspring. Now hath she urged on Tydeus' son, even overweening Diomede, to rage furiously against the immortal gods. The Cyprian first he wounded in close fight, in the wrist of her hand, and then assailed he me, even me, with the might of a god. Howbeit my swift feet bare me away; else had I long endured anguish there amid the grisly heaps of dead, or else had lived strengthless from the smitings of the spear."

Then Jupiter the cloud-gatherer looked sternly at him, and said: "Nay, thou renegade, sit not by me and whine. Most hateful to me art thou of all gods that dwell in Olympus; thou ever lovest strife and wars and battles. Truly thy mother's spirit is intolerable, unyielding, even Juno's; her can I scarce rule with words. Therefore I deem that by her prompting thou art in this[Pg 86] plight. Yet will I no longer endure to see thee in anguish; mine offspring art thou, and to me thy mother bare thee. But wert thou born of any other god unto this violence, long ere this hadst thou been lower than the sons of Heaven."

So spake he and bade Pæan heal him. And Pæan laid assuaging drugs upon the wound, and healed him, seeing he was in no wise of mortal mold. Even as fig juice maketh haste to thicken white milk, that is liquid but curdleth speedily as a man stirreth, even so swiftly healed he impetuous Mars. And Hebe bathed him and clothed him in gracious raiment, and he sate down by Jupiter, son of Cronus, glorying in his might.

Then fared the twain back to the mansion of great Jupiter, even Juno and Minerva, having stayed Mars, scourge of mortals, from his man-slaying.[84]

69. Mars and Minerva. It would seem that the insatiate son of Juno should have learned by this sad experience to avoid measuring arms with the ægis-bearing Minerva. But he renewed the contest at a later period in the fortunes of the Trojan War:

... Jupiter knew what was coming as he sat upon Olympus, and his heart within him laughed pleasantly when he beheld that strife of gods. Then no longer stood they asunder, for Mars, piercer of shields, began the battle and first made for Minerva with his bronze spear, and spake a taunting word: "Wherefore, O dogfly, dost thou match gods with gods in strife, with stormy daring, as thy great spirit moveth thee? Rememberest thou not how thou movedst Diomede, Tydeus' son, to wound me, and thyself didst take a visible spear and thrust it straight at me and pierce through my fair skin? Therefore deem I now that thou shalt pay me for all that thou hast done."

Thus saying, he smote on the dread tasseled ægis that not even the lightning of Jupiter can overcome—thereon smote blood-stained Mars with his long spear. But she, giving back, grasped with stout hand a stone that lay upon the plain, black, rugged, huge, which men of old time set to be the landmark of a field; this hurled she, and smote impetuous Mars on the neck, and unstrung his limbs. Seven roods he covered in his fall, and soiled his hair with dust, and his armor rang upon him. And Minerva laughed, and spake to him winged words exultingly: "Fool, not even yet hast thou learnt how far better than thou I claim to be, that thus thou matchest thy might with mine. Thus shalt thou satisfy thy mother's curses, who deviseth mischief against thee in her wrath, for that thou hast left the Achæans and givest the proud Trojans aid."

[Pg 87]

Thus having said, she turned from him her shining eyes. Him did Venus, daughter of Jupiter, take by the hand and lead away, groaning continually, for scarce gathered he his spirit back to him.[85]

70. The Fortunes of Cadmus. Toward mortals Mars could show himself, on occasion, as vindictive as his fair foe, the unwearied daughter of Jove. This fact not only Cadmus, who slew a serpent sacred to Mars, but all the family of Cadmus found out to their cost.

Fig. 54. Cadmus slaying the Dragon

When Europa was carried away by Jupiter in the guise of a bull, her father Agenor commanded his son Cadmus to go in search of her and not to return without her. Cadmus sought long and far; then, not daring to return unsuccessful, consulted the oracle of Apollo to know what country he should settle in. The oracle informed him that he would find a cow in the field, should follow her wherever she might wander, and where she stopped should build a city and call it Thebes. Cadmus had hardly left the Castalian cave, from which the oracle was delivered, when he saw a young cow slowly walking before him. He followed her close, offering at the same time his prayers to Phœbus. The cow went on till she passed [Pg 88]the shallow channel of Cephissus and came out into the plain of Panope. There she stood still. Cadmus gave thanks, and stooping down kissed the foreign soil, then lifting his eyes, greeted the surrounding mountains. Wishing to offer a sacrifice to his protecting deity, Minerva, he sent his servants to seek pure water for a libation. Near by there stood an ancient grove which had never been profaned by the ax, in the midst of which was a cave thick covered with the growth of bushes, its roof forming a low arch from beneath which burst forth a fountain of purest water. But in the cave lurked a serpent with crested head, and scales glittering like gold; his eyes shone like fire; his body was swollen with venom; he vibrated a triple tongue and showed a triple row of teeth. No sooner had the Tyrians dipped their pitchers in the fountain and the in-gushing waters had made a sound, than the monster, twisting his scaly body in a huge coil, darted upon them and destroyed some with his fangs, others in his folds, and others with his poisonous breath.

Cadmus, having waited for the return of his men till midday, went in search of them. When he entered the wood and saw their lifeless bodies and the dragon with his bloody jaws, not knowing that the serpent was sacred to Mars, scourge of mortals, he lifted a huge stone and threw it with all his force at the monster. The blow made no impression. Minerva, however, was present, unseen, to aid her worshiper. Cadmus next threw his javelin, which penetrated the serpent's scales and pierced through to his entrails. The monster attempted to draw out the weapon with his mouth, but broke it off, leaving the iron point rankling in his flesh. His neck swelled with rage, bloody foam covered his jaws, and the breath of his nostrils poisoned the air around. As he moved onward, Cadmus retreated before him, holding his spear opposite to the serpent's opened jaws. At last, watching his chance, the hero thrust the spear at a moment when the animal's head thrown back came against the trunk of a tree, and so succeeded in pinning him to its side.

While Cadmus stood over his conquered foe, contemplating its vast size, a voice was heard (from whence he knew not, but it was Minerva's) commanding him to take the dragon's teeth and sow[Pg 89] them in the earth. Scarce had he done so when the clods began to move and the points of spears to appear above the surface. Next, helmets with their nodding plumes came up; next, the shoulders and breasts and limbs of men with weapons, and in time a harvest of armed warriors. Cadmus prepared to encounter a new enemy, but one of them said to him, "Meddle not with our civil war." With that he who had spoken smote one of his earthborn brothers with a sword, and he himself fell pierced with an arrow from another. The latter fell victim to a fourth, and in like manner the whole crowd dealt with each other till all but five fell slain. These five joined with Cadmus in building his city, to which they gave the name appointed.

FIG. 55. Harmonia in Company of Deities

As penance for the destruction of this sacred serpent, Cadmus served Mars for a period of eight years. After he had been absolved of his impiety, Minerva set him over the realm of Thebes, and Jove gave him to wife Harmonia, the daughter of Venus and Mars. The gods left Olympus to honor the occasion with their presence; and Vulcan presented the bride with a necklace of surpassing brilliancy, his own workmanship. Of this marriage were born four daughters, Semele, Ino, Autonoë, and Agave, and one son, Polydorus. But in spite of the atonement made by Cadmus, a fatality hung over the family. The very necklace of Vulcan seemed to catch the spirit of ill luck and convey a baleful influence to such as wore it. Semele, Ino, Actæon the son of Autonoë, and Pentheus the son of Agave, all perished by violence. Cadmus and Harmonia quitted Thebes, grown odious to them, and emigrated to the country of the Enchelians, who received them with honor and made Cadmus their king. But the misfortunes of their children still weighing upon their minds, Cadmus one day exclaimed, "If a serpent's life is so dear to the gods, I would I were myself a serpent." No sooner had he uttered the words than he began to[Pg 90] change his form. Harmonia, beholding it, prayed the gods to let her share his fate. Both became serpents. It is said that, mindful of their origin, they neither avoid the presence of man nor do they injure any one. But the curse appears not to have passed from their house until the sons of their great-great-grandson Œdipus had by fraternal strife ended themselves and the family.[86]

Fig. 56. The Forge of Vulcan

From the painting by Velasquez

71. Myths of Vulcan. The stories of Vulcan are few, although incidents illustrating his character are sufficiently numerous. According to an account already given, Vulcan, because of his lameness, was cast out of Heaven by his mother Juno. The sea-goddesses Eurynome and Thetis took him mercifully to themselves, and for nine years cared for him, while he plied his trade and gained proficiency in it. In order to revenge himself upon the mother who had so despitefully used him, he fashioned in the depths of the sea a throne of cunning device, which he sent to his mother. She, gladly accepting the glorious gift, sat down upon it, to find out [Pg 91]that straightway all manner of invisible chains and fetters wound and clasped themselves about her so that she could not rise. The assistance of the gods was of no avail to release her. Then Mars sought to bring Vulcan to Heaven by force that he might undo his trickery; but before the flames of the fire-god, the impetuous warrior speedily retreated. One god, however, the jovial Bacchus, was dear to the blacksmith. He drenched Vulcan with wine, conducted him to Olympus, and by persuasion caused him to set the queen of gods and men at liberty.

FIG. 57. A Sacrifice to Apollo

That Vulcan was not permanently hostile to Juno is shown by the services that on various occasions he rendered her. He forged the shield of her favorite Achilles; and, at her instance, he undertook a contest against the river Xanthus. Homer[87] describes the burning of elms and willow trees and tamarisks, the parching of the plains, the bubbling of the waters, that signalized the fight, and how the eels and other fish were afflicted by Vulcan till Xanthus in anguish cried for quarter.

72. Myths of Apollo. The myths which cluster about the name of Phœbus Apollo illustrate, first, his birth and the wanderings of his mother, Latona; secondly, his victory over darkness and winter; thirdly, his gifts to man,—youth and vigor, the sunshine of spring, and the vegetation of early summer; fourthly, his baleful influence,—the sunstroke and drought of midsummer, the miasma of autumn; fifthly, his life on earth, as friend and counselor of mankind,—healer, soothsayer, and musician, prototype of manly beauty, and lover of beautiful women.

73. The Wanderings of Latona. Persecuted by the jealousy of the white-armed Juno, Latona fled from land to land. At last, bearing in her arms the infant progeny of Jove, she reached Lycia, [Pg 92]weary with her burden and parched with thirst. There the following adventure ensued. By chance the persecuted goddess espied in the bottom of the valley a pond of clear water, where the country people were at work gathering willows and osiers. She approached and kneeling on the bank would have slaked her thirst in the cool stream, but the rustics forbade her. "Why do you refuse me water?" said she. "Water is free to all. Yet I ask it of you as a favor. I have no intention of washing my limbs in it, weary though they be, but only of quenching my thirst. A draft of water would be nectar to me, and I would own myself indebted to you for life itself. Let these infants move your pity, who stretch out their little arms as if to plead for me."

But the clowns persisted in their rudeness; they added jeers, and threatened violence if she did not leave the place. They waded into the pond and stirred up the mud with their feet, so as to make the water unfit to drink. Enraged, the goddess no longer supplicated the clowns, but lifting her hands to Heaven exclaimed, "May they never quit that pool but pass their lives there!" And it came to pass accordingly. They still live in the water, sometimes totally submerged, then raising their heads above the surface or swimming upon it; sometimes coming out upon the bank, but soon leaping back again into the water. Their voices are harsh, their throats bloated, their mouths distended by constant railing; their necks have shrunk up and disappeared, and their heads are joined to their bodies. Their backs are green, their disproportioned bellies white. They dwell as frogs in the slimy pool.[88]

74. Apollo, the Light Triumphant. Soon after his birth the sun-god spent a year among the Hyperboreans, whose shining land has been already described.[89] On his return, slaying with his golden arrows the Python that had infested the slopes near Delphi, he sang for the first time that song of victory which, as the Pæan, is still among all nations synonymous with jubilation, praise, and thanksgiving. In his conflict with another monster of darkness and winter, the god of the silver bow had the assistance of his sister Diana. By their unerring fiery darts they subdued the giant Tityus, who not only had obstructed the peaceful ways to the [Pg 93]oracle of Delphi, but had ventured to insult the mother of the twin deities. They overthrew also the Aloadæ, Otus and Ephialtes, sons of Iphimedia and Neptune. These monsters, the reputed sons of Aloeus, represent, perhaps, the unregulated forces of vegetation; they were renowned for their strength, stature, and courage. They grew at the rate of three cubits in height and one in breadth every year; and, when nine years of age, they attempted, by piling Mount Ossa upon Olympus, and Mount Pelion on top, to scale the skies and dethrone the immortals. It is reported that not Apollo and Diana, but Jupiter himself with his lightning slew them. They atoned for their presumption in Hades, where, bound by serpents to a pillar, they were tormented by the perpetual hooting of a screech owl.[90]

Fig. 58. Apollo with Hyacinthus

75. Hyacinthus. The fiery force of the Far-darter was not felt by the monsters of darkness alone. His friendship for the young and the vigorous was frequently as dangerous as it was dear to the objects of it. He was, for instance, passionately fond of a youth named Hyacinthus. The god of the silver bow accompanied the lad in his sports, carried the nets when he went fishing, led the dogs when he went to hunt, followed him in his excursions in the mountains, and neglected for him both lyre and arrows. One day they played a game of quoits; Apollo, heaving aloft the discus with strength mingled with skill, sent it high and far. Hyacinthus, excited with the sport and eager to make his throw, ran forward to seize the missile; but it bounded from the earth and struck him in the forehead. He fainted and fell. The god, as pale as himself, raised him and tried all his art to stanch the wound and retain the flitting life, but in vain. As when one has broken the stem of a lily in the garden it hangs its head and turns its flowers to the earth, so the head of the dying boy, as if too heavy for his neck, fell over on his shoulder. "Thou diest, Hyacinth," spake Phœbus, [Pg 94]"robbed of thy youth by me. Would that I could die for thee! But since that may not be, my lyre shall celebrate thee, my song shall tell thy fate, and thou shalt become a flower inscribed with my regret." While the golden god spoke, the blood which had flowed on the ground and stained the herbage ceased to be blood; and a flower of hue more beautiful than the Tyrian sprang up, resembling the lily, save that this is purple and that silvery white. Phœbus then, to confer still greater honor, marked the petals with his sorrow, inscribing "Ai! ai!" upon them. The flower bears the name of Hyacinthus, and with returning spring revives the memory of his fate.[91]

It was said that Zephyrus (the west wind), who was also fond of Hyacinthus and jealous of his preference of Apollo, blew the quoit out of its course to make it strike Hyacinthus.

While this youth met his death by accident, another of Apollo's favorites, his own son, brought death upon himself by presumption. The story is as follows:

76. Phaëthon[2] was the son of Apollo and the nymph Clymene. One day Epaphus, the son of Jupiter and Io,[92] scoffed at the idea of Phaëthon's being the son of a god. Phaëthon complained of the insult to his mother Clymene. She sent him to Phœbus to ask for himself whether he had not been truly informed concerning his parentage. Gladly Phaëthon traveled toward the regions of sunrise and gained at last the palace of the Sun. He approached his father's presence, but stopped at a distance, for the light was more than he could bear. Phœbus Apollo, arrayed in purple, sat on a throne that glittered with diamonds. Beside him stood the Day, the Month, the Year, the Hours, and the Seasons. Surrounded by these attendants, the Sun beheld the youth dazzled with the novelty and splendor of the scene, and inquired the purpose of his errand. The youth replied, "Oh, light of the boundless world, Phœbus, my father—if thou dost yield me that name—give me some proof, I beseech thee, by which I may be known as thine!" He ceased. His father, laying aside the beams that shone around his head, bade him approach, embraced him, owned him for his son, and swore by the river Styx[93] that whatever proof [Pg 95]he might ask should be granted. Phaëthon immediately asked to be permitted for one day to drive the chariot of the sun. The father repented of his promise and tried to dissuade the boy by telling him the perils of the undertaking. "None but myself," he said, "may drive the flaming car of day. Not even Jupiter, whose terrible right arm hurls the thunderbolts. The first part of the way is steep and such as the horses when fresh in the morning can hardly climb; the middle is high up in the heavens, whence I myself can scarcely, without alarm, look down and behold the earth and sea stretched beneath me. The last part of the road descends rapidly and requires most careful driving. Tethys, who is waiting to receive me, often trembles for me lest I should fall headlong. Add to this that the heaven is all the time turning round and carrying the stars with it. Couldst thou keep thy course while the sphere revolved beneath thee? The road, also, is through the midst of frightful monsters. Thou must pass by the horns of the Bull, in front of the Archer, and near the Lion's jaws, and where the Scorpion stretches its arms in one direction and the Crab in another. Nor wilt thou find it easy to guide those horses, with their breasts full of fire that they breathe forth from their mouths and nostrils. Beware, my son, lest I be the donor of a fatal gift; recall the request while yet thou canst." He ended; but the youth rejected admonition and held to his demand. So, having resisted as long as he might, Phœbus at last led the way to where stood the lofty chariot.

It was of gold, the gift of Vulcan,—the axle of gold, the pole and wheels of gold, the spokes of silver. Along the seat were rows of chrysolites and diamonds, reflecting the brightness of the sun. While the daring youth gazed in admiration, the early Dawn threw open the purple doors of the east and showed the pathway strewn with roses. The stars withdrew, marshaled by the Daystar, which last of all retired also. The father, when he saw the earth beginning to glow and the Moon preparing to retire, ordered the Hours to harness up the horses. They led forth from the lofty stalls the steeds full fed with ambrosia, and attached the reins. Then the father, smearing the face of his son with a powerful unguent, made him capable of enduring the brightness of the flame. He set the[Pg 96] rays on the lad's head, and, with a foreboding sigh, told him to spare the whip and hold tight the reins; not to take the straight road between the five circles, but to turn off to the left; to keep within the limit of the middle zone and avoid the northern and the southern alike; finally, to keep in the well-worn ruts and to drive neither too high nor too low, for the middle course was safest and best.[94]

Forthwith the agile youth sprang into the chariot, stood erect, and grasped the reins with delight, pouring out thanks to his reluctant parent. But the steeds soon perceived that the load they drew was lighter than usual; and as a ship without ballast is tossed hither and thither on the sea, the chariot, without its accustomed weight, was dashed about as if empty. The horses rushed headlong and left the traveled road. Then, for the first time, the Great and Little Bears were scorched with heat, and would fain, if it were possible, have plunged into the water; and the Serpent which lies coiled round the north pole, torpid and harmless, grew warm, and with warmth felt its rage revive. Boötes, they say, fled away, though encumbered with his plow and unused to rapid motion.

When hapless Phaëthon looked down upon the earth, now spreading in vast extent beneath him, he grew pale, and his knees shook with terror. He lost his self-command and knew not whether to draw tight the reins or throw them loose; he forgot the names of the horses. But when he beheld the monstrous forms scattered over the surface of heaven,—the Scorpion extending two great arms, his tail, and his crooked claws over the space of two signs of the zodiac,—when the boy beheld him, reeking with poison and menacing with fangs, his courage failed, and the reins fell from his hands. The horses, unrestrained, went off into unknown regions of the sky in among the stars, hurling the chariot over pathless places, now up in high heaven, now down almost to the earth. The moon saw with astonishment her brother's chariot running beneath her own. The clouds began to smoke. The forest-clad mountains burned,—Athos and Taurus and Tmolus and Œte; Ida, once celebrated for fountains; the Muses' mountain Helicon, and Hæmus; Ætna, with fires within and without, and [Pg 97]Parnassus, with his two peaks, and Rhodope, forced at last to part with his snowy crown. Her cold climate was no protection to Scythia; Caucasus burned, and Ossa and Pindus, and, greater than both, Olympus,—the Alps high in air, and the Apennines crowned with clouds.

Fig. 59. The Fall of Phaëthon

Phaëthon beheld the world on fire and felt the heat intolerable. Then, too, it is said, the people of Æthiopia became black because the blood was called by the heat so suddenly to the surface; and the Libyan desert was dried up to the condition in which it remains to this day. The Nymphs of the fountains, with disheveled hair, mourned their waters, nor were the rivers safe beneath their banks; Tanaïs smoked, and Caïcus, Xanthus, and Mæander; Babylonian Euphrates and Ganges, Tagus, with golden sands, and Caÿster, where the swans resort. Nile fled away and hid his head in the desert, and there it still remains concealed. Where he used to discharge his waters through seven mouths into the sea, seven dry channels alone remained. The earth cracked open, and through the chinks light broke into Tartarus and frightened the king of shadows and his queen. The sea shrank up. Even Nereus and his wife Doris with the Nereïds, their daughters, sought the deepest caves for refuge. Thrice Neptune essayed to raise his head above the surface and thrice was driven back by the heat. Earth, surrounded as she was by waters, yet with head and shoulders bare, screening her face with her hand, looked up to heaven, and with[Pg 98] husky voice prayed Jupiter, if it were his will that she should perish by fire, to end her agony at once by his thunderbolts, or else to consider his own Heaven, how both the poles were smoking that sustained his palace, and that all must fall if they were destroyed.

Earth, overcome with heat and thirst, could say no more. Then Jupiter, calling the gods to witness that all was lost unless some speedy remedy were applied, thundered, brandished a lightning bolt in his right hand, launched it against the charioteer, and struck him at the same moment from his seat and from existence. Phaëthon, with his hair on fire, fell headlong, like a shooting star which marks the heavens with its brightness as it falls, and Eridanus, the great river, received him and cooled his burning frame. His sisters, the Heliades, as they lamented his fate, were turned into poplar trees on the banks of the river; and their tears, which continued to flow, became amber as they dropped into the stream. The Italian Naiads reared a tomb for him and inscribed these words upon the stone:

Driver of Phœbus' chariot, Phaëthon,
Struck by Jove's thunder, rests beneath this stone.
He could not rule his father's car of fire,
Yet was it much so nobly to aspire.[95]

77. The Plague sent upon the Greeks before Troy. It was not, however, only by accident, or by the ill-advised action of those whom he loved, that Apollo's gifts of light and heat were turned into misfortunes. Mortals who offended him were leveled by the cruel sunstroke, by arrows of malarial venom, of manifold sickness and death.

When the host of the Achæans was encamped before Troy, the king of men, Atrides, unjustly declined to restore his captive, Chryseïs of the fair cheeks, to her father Chryses, the priest of far-darting Apollo. Then the aged Chryses went apart and prayed aloud, "Hear me, god of the silver bow, ... let the Danaans pay by thine arrows for my tears!"

[Pg 99]

So spake he in prayer; and Phœbus Apollo heard him, and came down from the peaks of Olympus wroth at heart, bearing on his shoulders his bow and covered quiver. And the arrows clanged upon his shoulders in his wrath, as the god moved; and he descended like to night. Then he sate him aloof from the ships, and let an arrow fly; and there was heard a dread clanging of the silver bow. First did he assail the mules and fleet dogs, but afterward, aiming at the men his piercing dart, he smote; and the pyres of the dead burnt continually in multitude. Nor until Agamemnon had sent back his winsome captive to her father did Apollo remove from the Danaans the loathsome pestilence.[96]

78. The Punishment of Niobe is another illustration of the swift and awful vengeance of Apollo, and also of his sister Diana. This Niobe was the daughter of a certain Tantalus, king of Phrygia, who had been received at the table of the gods by his father Jupiter. But there was a strain of ingratitude and conceit in both father and daughter. The father not only betrayed the secrets of the gods, but, to ridicule their reputed omniscience, attempted at a banquet to deceive them into eating the roasted flesh of his own son Pelops. The gods were not deceived. Pelops was restored to life,—Tantalus consigned to Tartarus. The daughter Niobe, although she owed her happy marriage with Jupiter's son Amphion, and her seven stalwart sons and seven blooming daughters, to the favor of the gods and of Latona in particular, boasted of her birth, her marriage, and her offspring, bragged of her superiority to Latona, and, on one occasion, scoffed at the annual celebration in honor of the goddess and her two children. Surveying the people of Thebes with haughty glance, she said, "What folly to prefer beings whom you have never seen to those who stand before your eyes! Will you prefer to me this Latona, the Titan's daughter, with her two children? I have seven times as many. Were I to lose some of my children, I should hardly be left as poor as Latona with her two only. Put off the laurel from your brows,—have done with this worship!" The people left the sacred services uncompleted.

Fig. 60. A Son of Niobe

The goddess was indignant. On the Cynthian mountain top she thus addressed her son and daughter: "My children, I who have been so proud of you both and have been used to hold [Pg 100]myself second to none of the goddesses except Juno alone, begin now to doubt whether I am indeed a goddess. I shall be deprived of my worship altogether unless you protect me." She was proceeding in this strain, but Apollo interrupted her. "Say no more," said he; "speech only delays punishment." So said Diana also. Darting through the air, veiled in clouds, they alighted on the towers of the city. Spread out before the gates was a broad plain where the youth of the city pursued their warlike sports. The sons of Niobe were there with the rest,—some mounted on spirited horses richly caparisoned, some driving gay chariots. Ismenos, the first-born, as he guided his foaming steeds was struck by an arrow from above. "Ah me!" he cried,—dropped the reins and fell lifeless. Another, hearing the sound of the bow, gave the rein to his horses and attempted to escape. The inevitable arrow overtook him as he fled. Two others, younger, stood wrestling breast to breast: one arrow pierced them both. Alphenor, an elder brother, hastened to the spot to render assistance, but fell in the act of brotherly duty. One only was left, Ilioneus. "Spare me, ye gods!" he cried, addressing all of them, in his ignorance that all needed not his supplication; and Apollo would have spared him, but the arrow had already left the string, and it was too late.

Fig 61. The Children of Niobe

When Niobe was acquainted with what had taken place, she was indignant that the gods had dared, and amazed that they had been able to do it. Her husband Amphion, overwhelmed with the blow, destroyed himself. But the mother knelt over the lifeless[Pg 101] bodies and kissed them. Raising her pallid arms to heaven, "Cruel Latona," said she, "satiate thy hard heart while I follow to the grave my seven sons. Yet where is thy triumph? Bereaved as I am, I am still richer than thou, my conqueror." Scarce had she spoken, when the bow sounded and struck terror into all hearts except Niobe's alone. She was brave from excess of grief. Her daughters stood in garments of mourning over the biers of their dead brothers. One after another they fell, struck by arrows, beside the corpses that they were bewailing. Only one remained, whom the mother held clasped in her arms and covered, as it were, with her whole body. "Spare me one and that the youngest! Oh, spare me one of so many!" she cried; and while she spoke, that one fell dead. Desolate she sat among sons, daughters, husband, all dead, and seemed torpid with grief. The breeze moved not her hair, no color was on her cheek, her eyes glared fixed and immovable, there was no sign of life about her. Her very tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth and her veins ceased to convey the tide of life. Her neck bent not, her arms made no gesture, her foot no step. She was changed to stone, within and without. Yet tears continued to flow; and borne on a[Pg 102] whirlwind to her native mountain, she still remains, a mass of rock from which a trickling stream flows, the tribute of her never-ending grief.[97]

Fig. 62. Niobe and her Youngest Daughter

Amid nine daughters slain by Artemis
Stood Niobe; she rais'd her head above
Those beauteous forms which had brought down the scath
Whence all nine fell, rais'd it, and stood erect,
And thus bespake the goddess enthroned on high:
"Thou heardest, Artemis, my daily prayer
That thou wouldst guide these children in the pass
Of virtue, through the tangling wilds of youth,
And thou didst ever guide them: was it just
To smite them for a beauty such as thine?
Deserv'd they death because thy grace appear'd
In ever modest motion? 'twas thy gift,
The richest gift that youth from heaven receives.
[Pg 103] True, I did boldly say they might compare
Even with thyself in virgin purity:
May not a mother in her pride repeat
What every mortal said?
One prayer remains
For me to offer yet.
Thy quiver holds
More than nine arrows: bend thy bow; aim here!
I see, I see it glimmering through a cloud.
Artemis, thou at length art merciful:
My children will not hear the fatal twang."[98]

79. The Lamentation for Linus. How the people of Argos fell under the displeasure of Apollo is told in the story of Linus, a beautiful son of Apollo and Psamathe. In fear of her father the king, Psamathe exposed the child on the mountains where, brought up by shepherds among the lambs, he was in tender youth torn to pieces by dogs. Meanwhile, Psamathe herself was driven from her father's home; wherefore Apollo sent against the land of the Argives a monster that for a season destroyed the children, but at last was slain by a noble youth named Corœbus. To appease the wrathful deity, a shrine was erected midway between Argos and Delphi; and every year Linus and his mother were bewailed in melancholy lays by the mothers and children of Argos, especially by such as had lost by death their own beloved. The fate of Linus, like that of Hyacinthus and others who succumb in the springtime of life under the excessive love of some shining deity,[99] typifies the sudden withering of herbs and flowers and of animal life,—the calves and lambs, young children too, under the fierce shafts of summer. The very name of Linus is taken from the refrain ai-linon, or "woe is me," of the lament anciently sung by the country people when thus afflicted by the unhealthy heats, because of which the crops fail and the dogs go mad and tear the little lambs to pieces. In the Iliad there is a beautiful picture which shows us that the song was not reserved completely for the dog days. It is of a vineyard teeming plenteously with clusters:

[Pg 104]

And there was a pathway through it by which the vintagers might go. And maidens and striplings in childish glee bare the sweet fruit in plaited baskets. And in the midst of them a boy made pleasant music on a clear-toned viol, and sang thereto a sweet Linos-song with delicate voice; while the rest with feet falling together kept time with the music and song.[100]

Fig. 63. Æsculapius

80. Æsculapius. The Thessalian princess Coronis (or the Messenian, Arsinoë) bore to Apollo a child who was named Æsculapius. On his mother's death the infant was intrusted to the charge of Chiron, most famous of the Centaurs, himself instructed by Apollo and Diana in hunting, medicine, music, and the art of prophecy. When the sage returned to his home bearing the infant, his daughter Ocyrrhoë came forth to meet him, and at sight of the child burst into a prophetic strain, foretelling, the glory that he should achieve. Æsculapius, when grown up, became a renowned physician; in one instance he even succeeded in restoring the dead to life. Pluto resented this, and, at his request, Jupiter struck the bold physician with lightning and killed him, but after his death received him into the number of the gods.[101]

81. Apollo in Exile. Apollo, indignant at the destruction of this son, wreaked his vengeance on the innocent workmen who had made the thunderbolt. These were the Cyclopes, who had their workshop under Mount Ætna, from which the smoke and flames of their furnaces are constantly issuing. Apollo shot his arrows at the Cyclopes, a deed which so incensed Jupiter that he condemned him to serve a mortal for the space of one year. Accordingly, Apollo went into the service of Admetus, king of Thessaly, and pastured his flocks for him on the verdant banks of the river [Pg 105]Amphrysus. How the god lived among men, and what they thought of him, is well told in the following verses.

82. Lowell's Shepherd of King Admetus.

There came a youth upon the earth,
Some thousand years ago,
Whose slender hands were nothing worth,
Whether to plow, or reap, or sow.
Upon an empty tortoise-shell
He stretched some chords, and drew
Music that made men's bosoms swell
Fearless, or brimmed their eyes with dew.
Then King Admetus, one who had
Pure taste by right divine,
Decreed his singing not too bad
To hear between the cups of wine:
And so, well pleased with being soothed
Into a sweet half-sleep,
Three times his kingly beard he smoothed,
And made him viceroy o'er his sheep.
His words were simple words enough,
And yet he used them so,
That what in other mouths was rough
In his seemed musical and low.
Men called him but a shiftless youth,
In whom no good they saw;
And yet, unwittingly, in truth,
They made his careless words their law.
They knew not how he learned at all,
For idly, hour by hour,
He sat and watched the dead leaves fall,
Or mused upon a common flower.
It seemed the loveliness of things
Did teach him all their use,
For, in mere weeds, and stones, and springs
He found a healing power profuse.
[Pg 106]
Men granted that his speech was wise,
But, when a glance they caught
Of his slim grace and woman's eyes,
They laughed, and called him good-for-naught.
Yet after he was dead and gone
And e'en his memory dim,
Earth seemed more sweet to live upon,
More full of love, because of him.
And day by day more holy grew
Each spot where he had trod,
Till after-poets only knew
Their first-born brother as a god.

Fig. 64. Admetus must Die

83. Admetus and Alcestis.[102] Admetus was a suitor, with others, for the hand of Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, who promised her to him who should come for her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars. This task Admetus performed by the assistance of his divine herdsman, and was made happy in the possession of Alcestis. But Admetus falling ill and being near to death, Apollo prevailed on the Fates to spare him on condition that some one should consent to die in his stead. Admetus, in his joy at this reprieve, thought little of the ransom, and, perhaps remembering the declarations of attachment which he had often heard from his courtiers and dependents, fancied that it would be easy to find a substitute. But it was not so. Brave warriors, who would willingly have periled their lives for their [Pg 107]prince, shrunk from the thought of dying for him on the bed of sickness; and old servants who had experienced his bounty and that of his house from their childhood up were not willing to lay down the scanty remnant of their days to show their gratitude. Men asked, "Why does not one of his parents do it? They cannot in the course of nature live much longer, and who can feel like them the call to rescue the life they gave from an untimely end?" But the parents, distressed though they were at the thought of losing him, shrunk from the call. Then Alcestis, with a generous self-devotion, proffered herself as the substitute. Admetus, fond as he was of life, would not have submitted to receive it at such a cost; but there was no remedy. The condition imposed by the Fates had been met, and the decree was irrevocable. As Admetus revived, Alcestis sickened, rapidly sank, and died.

Just after the funeral procession had left the palace, Hercules, the son of Jupiter and Alcmena, arrived. He, to whom no labor was too arduous, resolved to attempt her rescue. Said he:

"I will go lie in wait for Death, black-stoled
King of the corpses![103] I shall find him, sure,
Drinking, beside the tomb, o' the sacrifice:
And if I lie in ambuscade, and leap
Out of my lair, and seize—encircle him
Till one hand join the other round about—
There lives not who shall pull him out from me,
Rib-mauled, before he let the woman go!
But even say I miss the booty,—say,
Death comes not to the boltered blood,—why, then,
Down go I, to the unsunned dwelling-place
Of Koré[104] and the king there,—make demand,
Confident I shall bring Alkestis back,
So as to put her in the hands of him
My host, that housed me, never drove me off:
Though stricken with sore sorrow hid the stroke,
Being a noble heart and honoring me!
Who of Thessalians, more than this man, loves
The stranger? Who that now inhabits Greece?
Wherefore he shall not say the man was vile
Whom he befriended,—native noble heart!"
[Pg 108] So, one look upward, as if Zeus might laugh
Approval of his human progeny,—
One summons of the whole magnific frame,
Each sinew to its service,—up he caught,
And over shoulder cast the lion-shag,
Let the club go,—for had he not those hands?
And so went striding off, on that straight way
Leads to Larissa and the suburb tomb.
Gladness be with thee, Helper of our world!
I think this is the authentic sign and seal
Of Godship that it ever waxes glad,
And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts
Into a rage to suffer for mankind,
And recommence at sorrow: drops like seed
After the blossom, ultimate of all.
Say, does the seed scorn earth and seek the sun?
Surely it has no other end and aim
Than to drop, once more die into the ground,
Taste cold and darkness and oblivion there:
And thence rise, tree-like grow through pain to joy,
More joy and most joy,—do man good again.
So to the struggle off strode Herakles.

Fig. 65. Heracles

Long time the Thessalians waited and mourned. As for Herakles, no doubt they supposed him dead. When—but can it be?

... Ay, he it was advancing! In he strode,
And took his stand before Admetos,—turned
Now by despair to such a quietude,
He neither raised his face nor spoke, this time,
The while his friend surveyed him steadily.
That friend looked rough with fighting: had he strained
Worst brute to breast was ever strangled yet?
Somehow, a victory—for there stood the strength,
Happy, as always; something grave, perhaps;
The great vein-cordage on the fret-worked front,
Black-swollen, beaded yet with battle-dew
The golden hair o' the hero!—his big frame
A-quiver with each muscle sinking back
Into the sleepy smooth it leaped from late.
Under the great guard of one arm, there leant
A shrouded something, live and woman-like,
[Pg 109] Propped by the heartbeats 'neath the lion-coat.
When he had finished his survey, it seemed,
The heavings of the heart began subside,
The helpful breath returned, and last the smile
Shone out, all Herakles was back again,
As the words followed the saluting hand.

"Admetus," said he, "take and keep this woman, my captive, till I come thy way again." But Admetus would admit no woman into the hall that Alcestis had left empty. Then cried Herakles, "Take hold of her. See now, my friend, if she look not somewhat like that wife thou hast lost."

Ah, but the tears come, find the words at fault!
There is no telling how the hero twitched
The veil off; and there stood, with such fixed eyes
And such slow smile, Alkestis' silent self!
It was the crowning grace of that great heart,
To keep back joy: procrastinate the truth
Until the wife, who had made proof and found
The husband wanting, might essay once more,
Hear, see, and feel him renovated now—
Able to do now all herself had done,
Risen to the height of her: so, hand in hand,
The two might go together, live and die.
Beside, when he found speech, you guess the speech.
He could not think he saw his wife again:
It was some mocking God that used the bliss
To make him mad! Till Herakles must help:
Assure him that no specter mocked at all;
He was embracing whom he buried once,
Still,—did he touch, might he address the true,
True eye, true body of the true live wife?
... And Herakles said little, but enough—
How he engaged in combat with that king
O' the dæmons: how the field of contest lay
By the tomb's self: how he sprang from ambuscade,
Captured Death, caught him in that pair of hands.
But all the time, Alkestis moved not once
Out of the set gaze and the silent smile;
And a cold fear ran through Admetos' frame:
"Why does she stand and front me, silent thus?"
Herakles solemnly replied, "Not yet
[Pg 110] Is it allowable thou hear the things
She has to tell thee; let evanish quite
That consecration to the lower Gods,
And on our upper world the third day rise!
Lead her in, meanwhile; good and true thou art,
Good, true, remain thou! Practice piety
To stranger-guests the old way! So, farewell!
Since forth I fare, fulfill my urgent task
Set by the king, the son of Sthenelos."[105]

Fig. 66. The Palatine Apollo

84. Apollo, the Musician. Not only in Arcadia, Laconia, and Thessaly did Apollo care as a herdsman for the cattle of a mortal master; in Mount Ida, too, by the order of Jupiter he herded for a year the "shambling, crook-horned kine" of King Laomedon, and, playing on the lyre, aided Neptune to build the walls of Troy, just as Amphion, in his turn, had aided in the building of Thebes. Apollo's life as herdsman was spent in establishing wise laws and customs, in musical contests on the flute and the lyre, or in passages of love with nymphs and maidens of mortal mold.

85. Apollo, Pan, and Midas.[106] It is said that on a certain occasion Pan had the temerity to compare his music with that of Apollo and to challenge the god of the lyre to a trial of skill. The challenge was accepted, and Tmolus, the mountain-god, was chosen umpire. The senior took his seat and cleared away the trees from his ears to listen. At a given signal Pan blew on his pipes, and with his rustic melody gave great satisfaction to himself and his faithful follower Midas, who happened to be present. Then Tmolus turned his head toward [Pg 111]the sun-god, and all his trees turned with him. Apollo rose, his brow wreathed with Parnassian laurel, while his robe of Tyrian purple swept the ground. In his left hand he held the lyre and with his right hand struck the strings. Tmolus at once awarded the victory to the lyric god, and all but Midas acquiesced in the judgment. He dissented and questioned the justice of the award. Apollo promptly transformed his depraved pair of ears into those of an ass.

King Midas tried to hide his misfortune under an ample turban. But his hair-dresser found it too much for his discretion to keep such a secret; he dug a hole in the ground and, stooping down, whispered the story, and covered it up. But a thick bed of reeds springing up in the meadow began whispering the story, and has continued to do so from that day to this, every time a breeze passes over the place.

86. Shelley's Hymn of Pan. In the following verses Pan taunts Apollo as he might have done when Midas was sitting contentedly by:

From the forests and highlands
We come, we come;
From the river-girt islands,
Where loud waves are dumb,
Listening to my sweet pipings.
The wind in the reeds and the rushes,
The bees on the bells of thyme,
The birds on the myrtle bushes,
The cicale above in the lime,
And the lizards below in the grass,
Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was
Listening to my sweet pipings.
Liquid Peneüs was flowing,
And all dark Tempe lay,
In Pelion's shadow, outgrowing
The light of the dying day,
Speeded by my sweet pipings.
The Sileni, and Sylvans, and Fauns,
And the Nymphs of the woods and waves,
To the edge of the moist river-lawns,
And the brink of the dewy caves,
And all that did then attend and follow
Were silent with love, as you now, Apollo,
With envy of my sweet pipings.
[Pg 112]
I sang of the dancing stars,
I sang of the dædal Earth,
And of Heaven—and the giant wars,
And Love, and Death, and Birth,—
And then I changed my pipings,—
Singing how down the vale of Menalus
I pursued a maiden, and clasp'd a reed:
Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!
It breaks in our bosom and then we bleed:
All wept, as I think both ye now would,
If envy or age had not frozen your blood,
At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

87. Marsyas also was unfortunate enough to underrate Apollo's musical ability. It seems that the flute, an invention of Minerva's, had been thrown away by that goddess because Cupid laughed at the grimaces which she made while playing it. Marsyas found the instrument, blew upon it, and elicited such ravishing sounds that he was tempted to challenge Apollo himself to a musical contest. The god, of course, triumphed, and he punished Marsyas by flaying him alive.

88. The Loves of Apollo. Beside Psamathe of Argos, Coronis of Thessaly, and the nymph Clymene, who have been already mentioned, Apollo loved the muse Calliope, who bore him Orpheus,[107] and the nymph Cyrene, whose son was Aristæus.[108] Of his relations with other maidens the following myths exist.

89. Daphne.[109] The lord of the silver bow was not always prosperous in his wooing. His first love, which, by the way, owed its origin to the malice of Cupid, was specially unfortunate. It appears that Apollo, seeing the boy playing with his bow and arrows, had tauntingly advised him to leave warlike weapons for hands worthy of them and content himself with the torch of love. Whereupon the son of Venus had rejoined, "Thine arrows may strike all things else, Apollo, but mine shall strike thee."


[Pg 113]

So saying, he took his stand on a rock of Parnassus, and drew from his quiver two arrows of different workmanship,—one to excite love, the other to repel it. The former was of gold and sharp pointed, the latter blunt and tipped with lead. With the leaden shaft he struck the nymph Daphne, the daughter of the river-god Peneüs, and with the golden one Apollo, through the heart. Forthwith the god was seized with love for the maiden, but she, more than ever, abhorred the thought of loving. Her delight was in woodland sports and in the spoils of the chase. Spurning all lovers, she prayed her father that she might remain always unmarried, like Diana. He consented, but, at the same time, warned her that her beauty would defeat her purpose. It was the face of this huntress maiden that Apollo saw. He saw the charming disorder of her hair, and would have arranged it; he saw her eyes bright as stars; he saw her lips, and was not satisfied with only seeing them. He longed for Daphne. He followed her; she fled swifter than the wind, nor delayed a moment at his entreaties. "Stay," said he, "daughter of Peneüs; I am not a foe. It is for love I pursue thee. I am no clown, no rude peasant. Jupiter is my father. I am lord of Delphi and Tenedos. I know all things, present and future. I am the god of song and the lyre. My arrows fly true to the mark; but alas! an arrow more fatal than mine has pierced my heart! I am the god of medicine and know the virtues of all healing plants. Alas! I suffer a malady that no balm can cure."

Fig. 67. Daphne

The nymph continues her flight and leaves his plea half-uttered. But even as she flies she charms him. The wind catches her garments, and her unbound hair streams loose behind her. The god, sped by Cupid, gains upon her in the race. His panting breath blows upon her hair. Her strength begins to fail, and, ready to sink, she calls upon her father, the river-god: "Help me, Peneüs! open the earth to inclose me, or change my form, which has brought me into this danger!" Scarcely had she spoken when a stiffness seized her limbs; and little by little she took on the appearance of a laurel tree. Apollo embraced the branches and lavished kisses on the wood. The branches shrank from his lips. "Since thou canst[Pg 114] not be my wife," said he, "thou shalt assuredly be my tree. I will wear thee for my crown. I will decorate with thee my harp and my quiver. When the Roman conquerors conduct the triumphal pomp to the Capitol, thou shalt be woven into wreaths for their brows. And, as eternal youth is mine, thou also shalt be always green, and thy leaf know no decay." The laurel tree bowed its head in grateful acknowledgment.

The delicious humor of Lowell's extravaganza upon the story amply justifies the following citation:

Phœbus, sitting one day in a laurel tree's shade,
Was reminded of Daphne, of whom it was made,
For the god being one day too warm in his wooing,
She took to the tree to escape his pursuing;
Be the cause what it might, from his offers she shrunk,
And, Ginevra-like, shut herself up in a trunk;
And, though 't was a step into which he had driven her,
He somehow or other had never forgiven her;
Her memory he nursed as a kind of a tonic,
Something bitter to chew when he'd play the Byronic,
And I can't count the obstinate nymphs that he brought over
By a strange kind of smile he put on when he thought of her.
"My case is like Dido's," he sometimes remarked;
"When I last saw my love, she was fairly embarked
In a laurel, as she thought—but (ah, how Fate mocks!)
She has found it by this time a very bad box;
Let hunters from me take this saw when they need it,—
You're not always sure of your game when you've treed it.
Just conceive such a change taking place in one's mistress!
What romance would be left?—who can flatter or kiss trees?
And, for mercy's sake, how could one keep up a dialogue
With a dull wooden thing that will live and will die a log,—
Not to say that the thought would forever intrude
That you've less chance to win her the more she is wood?
Ah! it went to my heart, and the memory still grieves,
To see those loved graces all taking their leaves;
Those charms beyond speech, so enchanting but now,
As they left me forever, each making its bough!
If her tongue had a tang sometimes more than was right,
Her new bark is worse than ten times her old bite."[110]

[Pg 115]

90. Marpessa. Another maiden who declined Apollo's love was Marpessa.[1] She is called by Homer "the fair-ankled daughter of Evenus."

The god Apollo from the heaven of heavens
Her mortal sweetness through the air allured;[2]

but Idas, "that was strongest of men that were then on earth,"[111] carried her off, assisted by Poseidon who gave him a winged chariot. Her father Evenus vainly tried to catch up with the fleeing lovers; but Apollo found them in Messene, and wrested the maiden away. Then Jupiter, while the lovers were engaged in combat, separated them, saying, "Let her decide."

They three together met; on the one side,
Fresh from diffusing light on all the world
Apollo; on the other without sleep
Idas, and in the midst Marpessa stood.
Just as a flower after drenching rain,
So from the falling of felicity
Her human beauty glowed, and it was new;
The bee too near her bosom drowsed and dropped.[2]

According to the story as romantically told by the English poet Phillips, first spoke Apollo. The god told her that he dreaded that one so fair should ever taste of sorrow and death; how, if she lived with him, she should bide

In mere felicity above the world
In peace alive and moving, where to stir
Is ecstasy, and thrilling is repose,[112]

immortal, scattering joy without intermission, lighting the world, bringing bliss to struggling men and sorrowing women, dispelling shadows and shadowy fear.

Then Idas, humbly,—

"After such argument what can I plead?
Or what pale promise make? Yet since it is
In women to pity rather than to aspire,
A little will I speak."

[Pg 116]

And he tells her simply that he loves her,—loves her not only for her beauty, but

"Because Infinity upon thee broods;
And thou art full of whispers and of shadows;—"

and because her voice is music, her face mystery beyond his power to comprehend;

"O beauty lone and like a candle clear
In this dark country of the world! Thou art
My woe, my early light, my music dying."

And Marpessa?—

As he was speaking, she with lips apart
Breathed, and with dimmer eyes leaned through the air
As one in dream, and now his human hand
Took in her own; and to Apollo spoke,—

saying that she knew how sweet it might be forever with a god to aid suffering men and women and "gild the face that from its dead looks up"; but still she feared immortality, for, though dying not, she must grow old, and her god lover would tire of her when once her youth was faded. And as for that "existence without tears for evermore" which he promised,—

"Yet I being human, human sorrow miss.
The half of music, I have heard men say,
Is to have grieved."

To sorrow she was born. It is out of sadness that men have made this world beautiful. If she chooses Idas, then they two will prosper together, grow old together, and last descend into the "natural ground," and "leave behind a wholesome memory on the earth."

When she had spoken, Idas with one cry
Held her, and there was silence; while the god
In anger disappeared. Then slowly they,
He looking downward, and she gazing up,
Into the evening green wandered away.

91. Clytie.[113] In the story of Clytie the conditions are reversed. She was a water-nymph and in love with Apollo, who made her [Pg 117]no return. So she pined away, sitting all day long upon the cold ground with her unbound tresses streaming over her shoulders. Nine days she sat, and tasted neither food nor drink,—her own tears and the chilly dew her only sustenance. She gazed on the sun when he rose; and as he passed through his daily course to his setting, she saw no other object,—her eyes fixed constantly on him. At last, they say, her limbs took root in the ground and her face became a flower, turning on its stem to follow the journeying sun.

In the following lines, Thomas Moore uses the flower as an emblem of constancy:

The heart that has truly loved never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look that she turned when he rose.

Fig. 68. Artemis

92. Myths of Diana. In company with her radiant brother, we find Diana subduing Tityus and the Python and assisting in the punishment of Niobe. The speedy transformation of Daphne has been attributed to this goddess, the champion of maidenhood. According to some, it was she, too, that changed Callisto into a bear, when for love of Jupiter that nymph deserted the huntress-band. Numerous are the myths that celebrate the severity of the goddess of the unerring bow toward those who offended her. How she served Agamemnon for slaying one of her hinds is told in the story of Troy;[114] how she punished Œneus for omitting a sacrifice to her is narrated in the episode of the Calydonian hunt.[115] Similar attributes of the goddess are exemplified in the myths of Arethusa, Actæon, and Orion. It is only when she is identified with Selene, the peaceful moonlight, that we perceive a softer side of character, such as that displayed in her relations with Endymion.

93. The Flight of Arethusa.[116] A woodland nymph of Elis was this Arethusa; she delighted not in her comeliness, but in the [Pg 118]joys of the chase. One day, returning from the wood heated with exercise, she descended to a stream silently flowing, so clear that you might count the pebbles on the bottom. She laid aside her garments; but while she sported in the water, she heard an indistinct murmur rising as out of the depths of the stream. She made haste to reach the nearest bank. A voice followed her, "Why flyest thou, Arethusa? Alpheüs am I, the god of this stream." The nymph ran, the god pursued. Arethusa, at last exhausted, cried for help to Diana, who, hearing, wrapped her votary in a thick cloud. Perplexed, the river-god still sought the trembling maiden. But a cold sweat came over her. In less time than it takes to tell, she had become a fountain. Alpheüs attempted then to mingle his stream with hers. But the Cynthian queen cleft the ground, and Arethusa, still endeavoring to escape, plunged into the abyss and, passing through the bowels of the earth, came out in Sicily, still followed by the passionate river-god.

Fig 69. Arethusa

94. Shelley's Arethusa. In the following version of the pursuit, Arethusa was already a river when Alpheüs espied her.

Arethusa arose
From her couch of snows
In the Acroceraunian mountains,—
From cloud and from crag,
With many a jag,
Shepherding her bright fountains,
She leapt down the rocks,
With her rainbow locks
Streaming among the streams;—
Her steps paved with green
The downward ravine
Which slopes to the western gleams:
And gliding and springing
She went, ever singing,
In murmurs as soft as sleep;
The Earth seemed to love her,
And Heaven smiled above her,
As she lingered towards the deep.
Then Alpheüs bold
[Pg 119] On his glacier cold,
With his trident the mountain strook
And opened a chasm
In the rocks;—with the spasm
All Erymanthus shook.
And the black south wind
It concealed behind
The urns of the silent snow,
And earthquake and thunder
Did rend in sunder
The bars of the springs below;
The beard and the hair
Of the River-god were
Seen through the torrent's sweep,
As he followed the light
Of the fleet nymph's flight
To the brink of the Dorian deep.

Fig. 70. A Young River-god

"Oh, save me! Oh, guide me!
And bid the deep hide me,
For he grasps me now by the hair!"
The loud Ocean heard,
To its blue depth stirred,
And divided at her prayer;
And under the water
The Earth's white daughter
Fled like a sunny beam;
Behind her descended
Her billows unblended
With the brackish Dorian stream:—
Like a gloomy stain
On the emerald main,
Alpheüs rushed behind,—
As an eagle pursuing
A dove to its ruin
Down the streams of the cloudy wind.
Under the bowers
Where the Ocean Powers
Sit on their pearlèd thrones,
Through the coral woods
Of the weltering floods,
[Pg 120] Over heaps of unvalued stones;
Through the dim beams
Which amid the streams
Weave a network of colored light;
And under the caves,
Where the shadowy waves
Are as green as the forest's night:
Outspeeding the shark,
And the swordfish dark,
Under the ocean foam,
And up through the rifts
Of the mountain clifts
They past to their Dorian home.
And now from their fountains
In Enna's mountains,
Down one vale where the morning basks,
Like friends once parted
Grown single-hearted,
They ply their watery tasks.
At sunrise they leap
From their cradles steep
In the cave of the shelving hill;
At noontide they flow
Through the woods below
And the meadows of Asphodel:
And at night they sleep
In the rocking deep
Beneath the Ortygian shore;—
Like spirits that lie
In the azure sky
When they love but live no more.

95. The Fate of Actæon.[117] Diana's severity toward young Actæon, grandson of Cadmus whose kindred fell under the curse of Mars, is thus narrated.

Fig. 71. Actæon

One day, having repaired to a valley inclosed by cypresses and pines, where gushed a fountain of sparkling water, the chaste Diana handed her javelin, her quiver, and her bow to one nymph, her robe to another, while a third unbound the sandals from her feet. Then Crocale, the most skillful of them, arranged her hair, and [Pg 121]Nephele, Hyale, and the rest drew water in capacious urns. While the huntress queen was thus employed in the labors of the toilet, Actæon, the son of Autonoë and Aristæus, having quitted his companions of the chase and rambling without any especial object, came to the place, led thither by his destiny. As he presented himself at the entrance of the cave, the nymphs, seeing a man, screamed and rushed towards the goddess to hide her with their bodies. But she was taller than the rest and overtopped them all by a head. Such a color as tinges the clouds at sunset or at dawn came over the countenance of Diana, thus taken by surprise. Surrounded as she was by her nymphs, she yet turned half away and sought with a sudden impulse for her arrows. As they were not at hand, she dashed the water into the face of the intruder, saying, "Now go and tell, if you can, that you have seen Diana unappareled." Immediately a pair of branching stag's horns grew out of the huntsman's head, his neck gained in length, his ears grew sharp-pointed, his hands became feet, his arms, his long legs, and his body were covered with a hairy spotted hide. Fear took the place of his former boldness, and the hero fled. What should he do?—go home to the palace or lie hid in the woods? While he hesitated[Pg 122] his dogs saw him. Over rocks and cliffs, through mountain gorges that seemed impracticable, he fled, and they followed. The air resounded with the bark of the dogs. Presently one fastened on his back, another seized his shoulder; the rest of the pack came up and buried their teeth in his flesh. His friends and fellow-huntsmen cheered on the dogs, and, looking everywhere for Actæon, called on him to join the sport. At the sound of his name, he turned his head and heard them regret that he should be away. He earnestly wished he was. But Diana had no pity for him, nor was her anger appeased till the dogs had torn his life out.

96. The Fortunes and Death of Orion. Orion, the son of Neptune, was a giant and a mighty hunter, whose prowess and manly favor gained for him the rare good will of Diana.

It is related that he loved Merope, the daughter of Œnopion, king of Chios, and sought her in marriage. He cleared the island of wild beasts and brought the spoils of the chase as presents to his beloved; but as Œnopion constantly deferred his consent, Orion attempted to gain possession of the maiden by violence. Her father, incensed at his conduct, made Orion drunk, deprived him of his sight, and cast him out on the seashore. The blinded hero, instructed by an oracle to seek the rays of morning, followed the sound of a Cyclops' hammer till he reached Lemnos, where Vulcan, taking pity on him, gave him Cedalion, one of his men, to be his guide to the abode of the sun. Placing Cedalion on his shoulders, Orion proceeded to the east, and there meeting the sun-god, was restored to sight by his beam.[118]

After this he dwelt as a hunter with the queen of the echoing chase; and it was even hinted that she loved him. Her brother, highly displeased, often chid her, but to no purpose. One day, therefore, observing Orion as he waded through the sea with his head just above the water, Apollo pointed out the black object to his sister, and maintained that she could not hit it. The archer goddess discharged a shaft with fatal aim: the waves rolled the dead body of Orion to the land. Then bewailing her fatal error with many tears, Diana placed him among the stars, where he appears as a giant, with a girdle, sword, lion's skin, and club.

[Pg 123]

Sirius, his dog, follows him, and the Pleiads fly before him.[119] In the beginning of winter, all through the night, Orion follows the chase across the heavens; but with dawn he sinks toward the waters of his father Neptune. In the beginning of summer, he may be seen with daybreak in the eastern sky, where, beloved by Aurora, he remains gradually paling before the light of day till, finally, Diana, jealous of his happiness, draws her gentle darts and slays him.

Fig. 72. The Pleiades

From the painting by Vedder

97. The Pleiads,[120] who still fly before Orion in the heavens, were daughters of Atlas, and nymphs of Diana's train. One day Orion saw them in Bœotia, became enamored of them, and gave pursuit. In their distress they prayed to the gods to change their form. Jupiter, accordingly, turned them into pigeons, and made them a constellation. Though their number was seven, only six stars are visible; for Electra, it is said, left her place that she might not behold the ruin of Troy, which had been founded by [Pg 124]her son Dardanus. The sight had such an effect on her sisters that they blanched, and have been pale ever since. But Electra became a comet; her hair floating wildly behind her, she still inconsolably ranges the expanse of heaven. According to some, the lost Pleiad is Merope, who was vested with mortality in consequence of her marriage with the mortal Sisyphus, king of Corinth.

Tennyson's reference to the Pleiads, in "Locksley Hall," is of course familiar to all readers.

Fig. 73. Endymion

98. Endymion. The frequent absence of Diana from her duties in heaven is said to have awakened suspicion among the deities of Olympus, who doubted whether she actually occupied these intervals with hunting. It is easy to imagine the satisfaction with which Venus, who so often had been reproached by Diana with her undue fondness of beautiful youths, would welcome news of a corresponding weakness on the part of the cold-hearted and apparently unyielding huntress queen. And such satisfaction Venus once enjoyed, if we may trust the later classical and the modern poets who have identified Diana with Selene, the more ancient goddess of the moon.

For, one calm, clear night Selene looked down upon the beautiful Endymion, who fed his flock on Mount Latmos, and saw him sleeping. The heart of the goddess was unquestionably warmed by his surpassing beauty. She came down to him; she kissed him; she watched over him while he slept. She visited him again and[Pg 125] again. But her secret could not long be hidden from the company of Olympus. For more and more frequently she was absent from her station in the sky, and toward morning she was ever paler and more weary with her watching. When, finally, her love was discovered, Jupiter gave Endymion, who had been thus honored, a choice between death in any manner that was preferable, or perpetual youth united with perpetual sleep. Endymion chose the latter. He still sleeps in his Carian cave, and still the mistress of the moon slips from her nocturnal course to visit him. She takes care, too, that his fortunes shall not suffer by his inactive life: she yields his flock increase, and guards his sheep and lambs from beasts of prey.[121]

Keats, whose Endymion journeys on a mission under sea, thus describes a meeting of the goddess and her lover:

On gold sand impearled
With lily shells and pebbles milky white,
Poor Cynthia greeted him, and soothed her light
Against his pallid face: he felt the charm
To breathlessness, and suddenly a warm
Of his heart's blood: 'twas very sweet; he stayed
His wandering steps, and half-entrancèd laid
His head upon a tuft of straggling weeds,
To taste the gentle moon, and freshening beads,
Lashed from the crystal roof by fishes' tails.
And so he kept, until the rosy veils,
Mantling the east, by Aurora's peering hand
Were lifted from the water's breast, and fanned
Into sweet air; and sobered morning came
Meekly through billows:—when like taper-flame
Left sudden by a dallying breath of air,
He rose in silence, and once more 'gan fare
Along his fated way.[122]

99. Myths of Venus. Round the goddess of love cluster romances of her own tender passion, of the affairs of the winged Cupid, and of the loves of the worshipers at her shrine. Of the affection of Venus for Mars and of her relations with Anchises,[123] [Pg 126]the father of Æneas, mention is elsewhere made. The following is the myth of Venus and Adonis.

100. Adonis.[124] The sweetly smiling goddess, playing one day with her boy Cupid, wounded her bosom with one of his arrows. Before the wound healed, she looked upon Adonis, the son of Cinyras and Myrrha, and was captivated by him. She no longer took any interest in her favorite resorts,—Paphos, and Cnidos, and Amathus, rich in metals. She absented herself even from Olympus, for Adonis was dearer to her than heaven. Him she followed and bore him company. She who loved to recline in the shade, with no care but to cultivate her charms, now rambled through the woods and over the hills, girt like the huntress Diana. She chased game that is safe to hunt, but kept clear of the wolves and bears. She charged Adonis, too, to beware of dangerous animals. "Be brave toward the timid," she would say, "courage against the courageous is not safe." Having thus, on one occasion, warned him, she mounted her chariot drawn by swans and drove away through the air. But Adonis was too noble to heed such counsels. The dogs had roused a wild boar from his lair, and the youth threw his spear and wounded the animal with a sidelong stroke. The beast drew out the weapon with his jaws, and, rushing after Adonis, buried his tusks in the lad's side, and stretched him dying upon the plain. The rest of the story is thus recounted:


... Low on the hills is lying the lovely Adonis, and his thigh with the boar's tusk, his white thigh with the boar's tusk, is wounded; and sorrow on Cypris he brings, as softly he breathes his life away.

His dark blood drips down his skin of snow; beneath his brows his eyes wax heavy and dim; and the rose flees from his lip, and thereon the very kiss is dying, the kiss that Cypris will never forego.


[Pg 127]

... She hath lost her lovely lord, with him she hath lost her sacred beauty. Fair was the form of Cypris while Adonis was living, but her beauty has died with Adonis! Woe, woe for Cypris, the mountains all are saying. And the oak trees answer, Woe for Adonis! And the rivers bewail the sorrows of Aphrodite, and the wells are weeping Adonis on the mountains. The flowers flush red for anguish, and Cytherea through all the mountain-knees, through every dell, doth shrill the piteous dirge:

Woe, woe for Cytherea, he hath perished, the lovely Adonis!

... When she saw, when she marked the unstanched wound of Adonis, when she saw the bright red blood about his languid thigh, she cast her arms abroad, and moaned, "Abide with me, Adonis, hapless Adonis, abide!... Awake, Adonis, for a little while, and kiss me yet again, the latest kiss!... This kiss will I treasure, even as thyself, Adonis, since, ah, ill-fated, thou art fleeing me, thou art fleeing far, Adonis, and art faring to Acheron, to that hateful king and cruel, while wretched I yet live, being a goddess, and may not follow thee! Persephone, take thou my lover, my lord, for thyself art stronger than I, and all lovely things drift down to thee. But I am ill-fated, inconsolable is my anguish; and I lament mine Adonis, dead to me, and I have no rest for sorrow.

"Thou diest, oh, thrice-desired, and my desire hath flown away as a dream! Nay, widowed is Cytherea, and idle are the Loves along the halls! With thee has the girdle of my beauty perished. For why, ah, overbold, didst thou follow the chase, and being so fair, why wert thou thus overhardy to fight with beasts?"

So Cypris bewailed her, the Loves join in the lament:

Woe, woe for Cytherea, he hath perished, the lovely Adonis!

Fig. 74. The Death of Adonis

[Pg 128]

A tear the Paphian sheds for each blood-drop of Adonis, and tears and blood on the earth are turned to flowers. The blood brings forth the rose; the tears, the wind-flower.

Woe, woe for Adonis, he hath perished, the lovely Adonis!

... Cease, Cytherea, from thy lamentations, to-day refrain from thy dirges. Thou must again bewail him, again must weep for him another year.

101. Cupid and Psyche.[126] A certain king and queen had three daughters. The charms of the two elder were more than common, but the beauty of the youngest was such that the poverty of language is unable to express its praise. In fact, Venus found her altars deserted, while men paid their vows to this virgin. When Psyche passed, the people sang her praises and strewed her way with chaplets and flowers.

This perversion of homage gave great offense to Venus, who complained that Paris might just as well not have yielded her the palm of beauty over Pallas and Juno, if a mortal were thus to usurp her honors. Wherefore she called Cupid and, pointing out Psyche to him, bade him infuse into the bosom of that haughty girl a passion for some low, unworthy being.

There were in Venus's garden two fountains,—one of sweet waters, the other of bitter. Cupid filled two amber vases, one from each fountain, and suspending them from the top of his quiver, hastened to the chamber of Psyche, whom he found asleep. He shed a few drops from the bitter fountain over her lips, though the sight of her almost moved him to pity; and then he touched her side with the point of his arrow. She awoke, and opening her eyes upon Cupid (himself invisible), so startled him that in his confusion he wounded himself with his arrow. Heedless of his wound, his thought now was to repair the mischief he had done. He poured, at once, the waters of joy over her silken ringlets.

But Psyche, henceforth frowned upon by Venus, derived no benefit from her charms. Her two elder sisters had long been married to princes; but Psyche's beauty failed to awaken love. Consequently her parents, afraid that they had unwittingly incurred the anger of the gods, consulted the oracle of Apollo.

[Pg 129]

They received answer, "The virgin is destined for the bride of no mortal lover. Her husband awaits her on the top of the mountain. He is a monster whom neither gods nor men can resist."

This dreadful decree of the oracle filled the people with dismay; but, at Psyche's request, preparations for her fate were made. The royal maid took her place in a procession, which more resembled a funeral than a nuptial pomp, and with her parents, amid the lamentations of their subjects, ascended the mountain, where she was left alone.

While Psyche stood there, panting with fear and with eyes full of tears, the gentle Zephyr lifted her and, with an easy motion, bore her to a flowery dale. By degrees her mind became composed, and she laid herself down on the grassy bank to sleep. When she awoke refreshed with sleep, she beheld near by a pleasant grove of tall and stately trees. Entering, she discovered in the midst a fountain, and fast by a palace whose august front showed that it was not the work of mortal hands, but the happy retreat of some god. She approached the building and entered. Every object she met filled her with pleasure and amazement. Golden pillars supported the vaulted roof, and the walls were enriched with carvings and paintings that represented beasts of the chase and rural scenes. Other apartments were filled with still other beautiful and precious productions of nature and art.

While her eyes were thus occupied, the voice of an invisible being addressed her: "Sovereign lady, all that thou beholdest is thine. We whose voices thou dost hear are thy servants. Retire, we pray thee, to thy chamber, repose on thy bed of down, and when it may please thee repair to the bath. Food awaits in the adjoining alcove."

After repose and the refreshment of the bath, Psyche seated herself in the alcove, where, without any visible aid, a table immediately presented itself, covered with delicacies and nectareous wines. Her ears, too, were delighted with music from invisible performers.

For a long time she did not see her husband. He came in the hours of darkness and fled before the dawn of morning; but his accents were full of love and inspired a like passion in her. Often[Pg 130] she begged him to stay and let her behold him, but he would not consent. "Having looked upon me," he said, "mayhap thou wouldst fear, mayhap adore, me; but all I ask of thee is love. I would rather thou shouldst love me as an equal than adore me as a god." This reasoning somewhat quieted Psyche for a time. But the thought of her parents and of her sisters, left in ignorance of her fate, preyed on her mind to such a degree that at last, telling her distress to her lord, she drew from him an unwilling consent that her sisters should be brought to see her.

Fig. 75. Psyche at the Couch of Cupid

From the painting by Thumann

Zephyr, promptly obedient, soon brought them across the mountain down to their sister's valley. They embraced her. She returned their caresses, and then committed them to the care of her attendant voices, who should refresh them in her bath and at her table, and show them her treasures. The view of these delights caused envy to enter their bosoms. They plied their fortunate sister with questions about her husband. Psyche replied that he was a beautiful youth, who generally spent the daytime in hunting upon the mountains. The sisters, not satisfied with this reply, soon made her confess that she had never seen him. Then they proceeded to fill her bosom with dark suspicions. Probably her husband was a dreadful monster, such as the Pythian oracle had prophesied. Probably he was a direful serpent, who nourished her now to devour her by and by. They advised her to provide[Pg 131] herself against the night with a lamp and a sharp knife, told her what to do if her husband turned out the monster that they surmised, and, so saying, departed.

These persuasions Psyche resisted as well as she could, but they did not fail to have their effect on her mind. She prepared a lamp and a sharp knife, and hid them out of sight of her husband. That night, when he had fallen into his first sleep, she silently rose and uncovering her lamp—

Scarce kept back a cry
At what she saw; for there before her lay
The very Love brighter than dawn of day;
And as he lay there smiling, her own name
His gentle lips in sleep began to frame,
And, as to touch her face, his hand did move;
O then, indeed, her faint heart swelled for love,
And she began to sob, and tears fell fast
Upon the bed.—But as she turned at last
To quench the lamp, there happed a little thing
That quenched her new delight, for flickering
The treacherous flame cast on his shoulder fair
A burning drop; he woke, and seeing her there
The meaning of that sad sight knew full well,
Nor was there need the piteous tale to tell.[127]

Without a word, Cupid spread his white wings, and flew out of window. Psyche, in vain endeavoring to follow, fell to the earth. For but an instant Cupid, staying, reproached her with distrust of him. "No other punishment inflict I than to leave thee forever. Love cannot dwell with suspicion." And so he flew away.

When Psyche had recovered some degree of composure, she looked around her. The palace and gardens had vanished. She found herself not far from the city where her sisters dwelt. Thither she repaired, and told them the story of her misfortunes, whereat they inwardly rejoiced. "For now," thought they, "he will perhaps choose one of us." With this idea, they rose early the next morning and, ascending the mountain, each called upon Zephyr to receive her and bear her to his lord; then, leaping up, [Pg 132]failed of the support of Zephyr, fell down the precipice, and was dashed to pieces.

Psyche, meanwhile, wandered day and night, without food or repose, in search of her husband. But he was lying heartsick in the chamber of his mother; and that goddess was absent upon her own affairs. Then the white sea gull which floats over the waves dived into the middle deep,

And rowing with his glistening wings arrived
At Aphrodite's bower beneath the sea.

She, as yet unaware of her son's mischance, was joyously consorting with her handmaidens; but he, the sea gull,

But he with garrulous and laughing tongue
Broke up his news; how Eros fallen sick
Lay tossing on his bed, to frenzy stung
By such a burn as did but barely prick:
A little bleb, no bigger than a pease,
Upon his shoulder 'twas, that killed his ease,
Fevered his heart, and made his breathing thick.
"For which disaster hath he not been seen
This many a day at all in any place:
And thou, dear mistress," said he, "hast not been
Thyself among us now a dreary space:
And pining mortals suffer from a dearth
Of love; and for this sadness of the earth
Thy family is darkened with disgrace....
"'Tis plain that, if thy pleasure longer pause,
Thy mighty rule on earth hath seen its day:
The race must come to perish, and no cause
But that thou sittest with thy nymphs at play,
While on the Cretan hills thy truant boy
Has with his pretty mistress turned to toy,
And, less for pain than love, now pines away."[128]

And Venus cried angrily, "My son, then, has a mistress! And it is Psyche, who witched away my beauty and was the rival of my godhead, whom he loves!"

[Pg 133]

Therewith she issued from the sea, and, returning to her golden chamber, found there the lad sick, as she had heard, and cried from the doorway, "Well done, truly! to trample thy mother's precepts under foot, to spare my enemy that cross of an unworthy love; nay, unite her to thyself, child as thou art, that I might have a daughter-in-law who hates me! I will make thee repent of thy sport, and the savor of thy marriage bitter. There is one who shall chasten this body of thine, put out thy torch, and unstring thy bow. Not till she has plucked forth that hair, into which so oft these hands have smoothed the golden light, and sheared away thy wings, shall I feel the injury done me avenged." And with this she hastened in anger from the doors.

And Ceres and Juno met her, and sought to know the meaning of her troubled countenance. "Ye come in season," she cried; "I pray you, find for me Psyche. It must needs be that ye have heard the disgrace of my house." And they, ignorant of what was done, would have soothed her anger, saying, "What fault, Mistress, hath thy son committed, that thou wouldst destroy the girl he loves? Knowest thou not that he is now of age? Because he wears his years so lightly must he seem to thee ever to be a child? Wilt thou forever thus pry into the pastimes of thy son, always accusing his wantonness, and blaming in him those delicate wiles which are all thine own?" Thus, in secret fear of the boy's bow, did they seek to please him with their gracious patronage. But Venus, angry at their light taking of her wrongs, turned her back upon them, and with hasty steps made her way once more to the sea.[129]

And soon after, Psyche herself reached the temple of Ceres, where she won the favor of the goddess by arranging in due order the heaps of mingled grain and ears and the carelessly scattered harvest implements that lay there. The holy Ceres then counseled her to submit to Venus, to try humbly to win her forgiveness, and, mayhap, through her favor regain the lover that was lost.

Obeying the commands of Ceres, Psyche took her way to the temple of the golden-crowned Cypris. That goddess received her with angry countenance, called her an undutiful and faithless [Pg 134]servant, taunted her with the wound given to her husband, and insisted that for so ill-favored a girl there was no way of meriting a lover save by dint of industry. Thereupon she ordered Psyche to be led to the storehouse of the temple, where was laid up a great quantity of wheat, barley, millet, vetches, beans, and lentils prepared for food for her pigeons, and gave order, "Take and separate all these grains, putting all of the same kind in a parcel by themselves,—and see that thou get it done before evening." This said, Venus departed and left the girl to her task. But Psyche, in perfect consternation at the enormous task, sat stupid and silent; nor would the work have been accomplished had not Cupid stirred up the ants to take compassion on her. They separated the pile, sorting each kind to its parcel and vanishing out of sight in a moment.

At the approach of twilight, Cytherea returned from the banquet of the gods, breathing odors and crowned with roses. Seeing the task done, she promptly exclaimed, "This is no work of thine, wicked one, but his, whom to thine own and his misfortune thou hast enticed,"—threw the girl a piece of black bread for her supper, and departed.

Next morning, however, the goddess, ordering Psyche to be summoned, commanded her to fetch a sample of wool gathered from each of the golden-shining sheep that fed beyond a neighboring river. Obediently the princess went to the riverside, prepared to do her best to execute the command. But the god of that stream inspired the reeds with harmonious murmurs that dissuaded her from venturing among the golden rams while they raged under the influence of the rising sun. Psyche, observing the directions of the compassionate river-god, crossed when the noontide sun had driven the cattle to the shade, gathered the woolly gold from the bushes where it was clinging, and returned to Venus with her arms full of the shining fleece. But, far from commending her, that implacable mistress said, "I know very well that by the aid of another thou hast done this; not yet am I assured that thou hast skill to be of use. Here, now, take this box to Proserpine and say, 'My mistress Venus entreats thee to send her a little of thy beauty, for in tending her sick son she hath lost some of her own.'"

[Pg 135]

Psyche, satisfied that her destruction was at hand, doomed as she was to travel afoot to Erebus, thought to shorten the journey by precipitating herself at once from the summit of a tower. But a voice from the tower, restraining her from this rash purpose, explained how by a certain cave she might reach the realm of Pluto; how she might avoid the peril of the road, pass by Cerberus, and prevail on Charon to take her across the black river and bring her back again. The voice, also, especially cautioned her against prying into the box filled with the beauty of Proserpine.

So, taking heed to her ways, the unfortunate girl traveled safely to the kingdom of Pluto. She was admitted to the palace of Proserpine, where, contenting herself with plain fare instead of the delicious banquet that was offered her, she delivered her message from Venus. Presently the box, filled with the precious commodity, was restored to her; and glad was she to come out once more into the light of day.

But having got so far successfully through her dangerous task, a desire seized her to examine the contents of the box, and to spread the least bit of the divine beauty on her cheeks that she might appear to more advantage in the eyes of her beloved husband.

Therewith down by the wayside did she sit
And turned the box round, long regarding it;
But at the last, with trembling hands, undid
The clasp, and fearfully raised up the lid;
But what was there she saw not, for her head
Fell back, and nothing she rememberèd
Of all her life, yet nought of rest she had,
The hope of which makes hapless mortals glad;
For while her limbs were sunk in deadly sleep
Most like to death, over her heart 'gan creep
Ill dreams; so that for fear and great distress
She would have cried, but in her helplessness
Could open not her mouth, or frame a word.[130]

But Cupid, now recovered from his wound, slipped through a crack in the window of his chamber, flew to the spot where his beloved lay, gathered up the sleep from her body and inclosed it [Pg 136]again in the box, then waked Psyche with the touch of an arrow. "Again," said he, "hast thou almost perished by thy curiosity. But now perform the task imposed upon thee by my mother, and I will care for the rest."

Fig. 76. Psyche and Cupid on Mount Olympus

From the painting by Thumann

Then Cupid, swift as lightning penetrating the heights of heaven, presented himself before Jupiter with his supplication. Jupiter lent a favoring ear and pleaded the cause of the lovers with Venus. Gaining her consent, he ordered Mercury to convey Psyche to the heavenly abodes. On her advent, the king of the immortals, handing her a cup of ambrosia, said, "Drink this, Psyche, and be immortal. Thy Cupid shall never break from the knot in which he is tied; these nuptials shall indeed be perpetual."

Thus Psyche was at last united to Cupid; and in due season a daughter was born to them whose name was Pleasure.

The allegory of Cupid and Psyche is well presented in the following lines:

They wove bright fables in the days of old,
When reason borrowed fancy's painted wings;
When truth's clear river flowed o'er sands of gold,
And told in song its high and mystic things!
And such the sweet and solemn tale of her
The pilgrim-heart, to whom a dream was given,
That led her through the world,—Love's worshiper,—
To seek on earth for him whose home was heaven!


[Pg 137]

In the full city,—by the haunted fount,—
Through the dim grotto's tracery of spars,—
'Mid the pine temples, on the moonlit mount,
Where silence sits to listen to the stars;
In the deep glade where dwells the brooding dove,
The painted valley, and the scented air,
She heard far echoes of the voice of Love,
And found his footsteps' traces everywhere.
But never more they met! since doubts and fears,
Those phantom-shapes that haunt and blight the earth,
Had come 'twixt her, a child of sin and tears,
And that bright spirit of immortal birth;
Until her pining soul and weeping eyes
Had learned to seek him only in the skies;
Till wings unto the weary heart were given,
And she became Love's angel bride in heaven![131]

The story of Cupid and Psyche first appears in the works of Apuleius, a writer of the second century of our era. It is therefore of much more recent date than most of the classic myths.

102. Keats' Ode to Psyche. To this fact allusion is made in the following poem:

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conchèd ear:
Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
The wingèd Psyche with awakened eyes?
I wandered in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couchèd side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whispering roof
Of leaves and tumbled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied!
'Mid hushed, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embracèd, and their pinions, too;
Their lips touched not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoinèd by soft-handed slumber,
[Pg 138] And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of Aurorean love:
The wingèd boy I knew:
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!
O latest born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phœbe's sapphire-regioned star,
Or Vesper, amorous glowworm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heaped with flowers;
Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.
O brightest! though too late for antique vows
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retired
From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swingèd censer teeming,
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.
Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branchèd thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark clustered trees
Fledge the wild-ridgèd mountains steep by steep;
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lulled to sleep;
[Pg 139] And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreathèd trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same;
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!

The loves of the devotees of Venus are as the sands of the sea for number. Below are given the fortunes of a few: Hippomenes, Hero, Pygmalion, Pyramus, and Phaon. The favor of the goddess toward Paris, who awarded her the palm of beauty in preference to Juno and Minerva, will occupy our attention in connection with the story of the Trojan War.

Fig. 77. Artemis of Gabii

103. Atalanta's Race.[132] Atalanta, the daughter of Schœneus of Bœotia, had been warned by an oracle that marriage would be fatal to her happiness. Consequently she fled the society of men and devoted herself to the sports of the chase. Fair, fearless, swift, and free, in beauty and in desire she was a Cynthia,—of mortal form and with a woman's heart. To all suitors (for she had many) she made answer: "I will be the prize of him only who shall conquer me in the race; but death must be the penalty of all who try and fail." In spite of this hard condition some would try. Of one such race Hippomenes was to be judge. It was his thought, at first, that these suitors risked too much for a wife. But when he saw Atalanta lay aside her robe for the race with one of them, he changed his mind and began to swell with envy of whomsoever seemed likely to win.

The virgin darted forward. As she ran she looked more beautiful than ever. The breezes gave wings to her feet; her hair flew [Pg 140]over her shoulders, and the gay fringe of her garment fluttered behind her. A ruddy hue tinged the whiteness of her skin, such as a crimson curtain casts on a marble wall. Her competitor was distanced and was put to death without mercy. Hippomenes, not daunted by this result, fixed his eyes on the virgin and said, "Why boast of beating those laggards? I offer myself for the contest." Atalanta looked at him with pity in her face and hardly knew whether she would rather conquer so goodly a youth or not. While she hesitated, the spectators grew impatient for the contest and her father prompted her to prepare. Then Hippomenes addressed a prayer to Cypris: "Help me, Venus, for thou hast impelled me." Venus heard and was propitious.

Fig. 78. Atalanta's Race

From the painting by Poynter

She gathered three golden apples from the garden of her temple in her own island of Cyprus and, unseen by any, gave them to Hippomenes, telling him how to use them. Atalanta and her lover were ready. The signal was given.

They both started; he, by one stride, first,
For she half pitied him so beautiful,
Running to meet his death, yet was resolved
To conquer: soon she near'd him, and he felt
The rapid and repeated gush of breath
Behind his shoulder.
From his hand now dropt
A golden apple: she lookt down and saw
A glitter on the grass, yet on she ran.
[Pg 141] He dropt a second; now she seem'd to stoop:
He dropt a third; and now she stoopt indeed:
Yet, swifter than a wren picks up a grain
Of millet, rais'd her head: it was too late,
Only one step, only one breath, too late.
Hippomenes had toucht the maple goal
With but two fingers, leaning pronely forth.
She stood in mute despair; the prize was won.
Now each walkt slowly forward, both so tired,
And both alike breathed hard, and stopt at times.
When he turn'd round to her, she lowered her face
Cover'd with blushes, and held out her hand,
The golden apple in it.
"Leave me now,"
Said she, "I must walk homeward."
He did take
The apple and the hand.
"Both I detain,"
Said he, "the other two I dedicate
To the two Powers that soften virgin hearts,
Eros and Aphrodite; and this one
To her who ratifies the nuptial vow."
She would have wept to see her father weep;
But some God pitied her, and purple wings
(What God's were they?) hovered and interposed.[133]

But the oracle was yet to be fulfilled. The lovers, full of their own happiness, after all, forgot to pay due honor to Aphrodite, and the goddess was provoked at their ingratitude. She caused them to give offense to Cybele. That powerful goddess took from them their human form: the huntress heroine, triumphing in the blood of her lovers, she made a lioness; her lord and master a lion,—and yoked them to her car, where they are still to be seen in all representations in statuary or painting of the goddess Cybele.

104 Hero and Leander were star-crossed lovers of later classical fiction.[134] Although their story is not of supernatural beings, or of events necessarily influenced by supernatural agencies, and therefore not mythical in the strict sense of the word, it deserves to be [Pg 142]included here both because of its pathetic beauty and its long literary tradition. The poet Marlowe puts the story into English thus:

On Hellespont, guilty of true love's blood,
In view and opposite two cities stood,
Sea-borderers, disjoin'd by Neptune's might
The one Abydos, the other Sestos hight.
At Sestos Hero dwelt; Hero the fair,
Whom young Apollo courted for her hair,
And offer'd as a dower his burning throne,
Where she should sit, for men to gaze upon....
Some say, for her the fairest Cupid pin'd,
And, looking in her face, was strooken blind.
But this is true: so like was one the other,
As he imagined Hero was his mother;
And oftentimes into her bosom flew,
About her naked neck his bare arms threw,
And laid his childish head upon her breast,
And, with still panting rockt, there took his rest.

In Abydos dwelt the manly Leander, who, as luck would have it, bethought himself one day of the festival of Venus in Sestos, and thither fared to do obeisance to the goddess.

On this feast-day,—O cursèd day and hour!—
Went Hero through Sestos, from her tower
To Venus' temple, where unhappily,
As after chanc'd, they did each other spy.
So fair a church as this had Venus none;
The walls were of discolored jasper-stone, ...
And in the midst a silver altar stood:
There Hero, sacrificing turtle's blood,
Vail'd to the ground, veiling her eyelids close;
And modestly they opened as she rose:
Thence flew Love's arrow with the golden head;
And thus Leander was enamourèd.
Stone-still he stood, and evermore he gaz'd,
Till with the fire, that from his countenance blaz'd,
Relenting Hero's gentle heart was strook:
Such power and virtue hath an amorous look.
It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overrul'd by fate.
When two are stript long e'er the course begin,
We wish that one should lose, the other win;
[Pg 143] And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows; let it suffice,
What we behold is censur'd by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever lov'd, that lov'd not at first sight?
He kneel'd; but unto her devoutly prayed:
Chaste Hero to herself thus softly said,
"Were I the saint he worships, I would hear him";
And, as she spake those words, came somewhat near him.
He started up; she blush'd as one asham'd;
Wherewith Leander much more was inflam'd.
He touch'd her hand; in touching it she trembled:
Love deeply grounded, hardly is dissembled....

So they conversed by touch of hands, till Leander, plucking up courage, began to plead with words, with sighs and tears.

These arguments he us'd, and many more;
Wherewith she yielded, that was won before.
Hero's looks yielded, but her words made war:
Women are won when they begin to jar.
Thus having swallow'd Cupid's golden hook,
The more she striv'd, the deeper was she strook:
Yet, evilly feigning anger, strove she still,
And would be thought to grant against her will.
So having paus'd awhile, at last she said,
"Who taught thee rhetoric to deceive a maid?
Ay me! such words as these should I abhor,
And yet I like them for the orator."
With that Leander stoop'd to have embrac'd her,
But from his spreading arms away she cast her,
And thus bespake him: "Gentle youth, forbear
To touch the sacred garments which I wear." ...

Then she told him of the turret by the murmuring sea where all day long she tended Venus' swans and sparrows:

"Come thither." As she spake this, her tongue tripp'd,
For unawares, "Come thither," from her slipp'd;
And suddenly her former color chang'd,
And here and there her eyes through anger rang'd;
And, like a planet moving several ways
At one self instant, she, poor soul, assays,
[Pg 144] Loving, not to love at all, and every part
Strove to resist the motions of her heart:
And hands so pure, so innocent, nay, such
As might have made Heaven stoop to have a touch,
Did she uphold to Venus, and again
Vow'd spotless chastity; but all in vain;
Cupid beats down her prayers with his wings....

Fig. 79. Hero and Leander

From the painting by Keller

For a season all went well. Guided by a torch which his mistress reared upon the tower, he was wont of nights to swim the strait that he might enjoy her company. But one night a tempest arose and the sea was rough; his strength failed and he was drowned. The waves bore his body to the European shore, where Hero became aware of his death, and in her despair cast herself into the sea and perished.

[Pg 145]

A picture of the drowning Leander is thus described by Keats:[135]

Come hither all sweet maidens soberly,
Down looking aye, and with a chasten'd light,
Hid in the fringe of your eyelids white,
And meekly let your fair hands joinèd be,
As if so gentle that ye could not see,
Untouch'd, a victim of your beauty bright,
Sinking away to his young spirit's night,
Sinking bewilder'd 'mid the dreary sea:
'Tis young Leander toiling to his death;
Nigh swooning he doth purse his weary lips
For Hero's cheek, and smiles against her smile.
O horrid dream! see how his body dips
Dead-heavy; arms and shoulders gleam awhile;
He's gone; up bubbles all his amorous breath!

105. Pygmalion and the Statue.[136] Pygmalion saw so much to blame in women, that he came at last to abhor the sex and resolved to live unmarried. He was a sculptor, and had made with wonderful skill a statue of ivory, so beautiful that no living woman was to compare with it. It was indeed the perfect semblance of a maiden that seemed to be alive and that was prevented from moving only by modesty. His art was so perfect that it concealed itself, and its product looked like the workmanship of nature. Pygmalion at last fell in love with his counterfeit creation. Oftentimes he laid his hand upon it as if to assure himself whether it were living or not, and could not even then believe that it was only ivory.

The festival of Venus was at hand,—a festival celebrated with great pomp at Cyprus. Victims were offered, the altars smoked, and the odor of incense filled the air. When Pygmalion had performed his part in the solemnities, he stood before the altar and, according to one of our poets, timidly said:

O Aphrodite, kind and fair,
That what thou wilt canst give,
Oh, listen to a sculptor's prayer,
And bid mine image live!
For me the ivory and gold
That clothe her cedar frame
Are beautiful, indeed, but cold;
[Pg 146] Ah, touch them with thy flame!
Oh, bid her move those lips of rose,
Bid float that golden hair,
And let her choose me, as I chose,
This fairest of the fair!
And then an altar in thy court
I'll offer, decked with gold;
And there thy servants shall resort,
Thy doves be bought and sold![137]

According to another version of the story, he said not, "bid mine image live," but "one like my ivory virgin." At any rate, with such a prayer he threw incense on the flame of the altar. Whereupon Venus, as an omen of her favor, caused the flame to shoot up thrice a fiery point into the air.

When Pygmalion reached his home, to his amazement he saw before him his statue garlanded with flowers.

Yet while he stood, and knew not what to do
With yearning, a strange thrill of hope there came,
A shaft of new desire now pierced him through,
And therewithal a soft voice called his name,
And when he turned, with eager eyes aflame,
He saw betwixt him and the setting sun
The lively image of his lovèd one.
He trembled at the sight, for though her eyes,
Her very lips, were such as he had made,
And though her tresses fell but in such guise
As he had wrought them, now was she arrayed
In that fair garment that the priests had laid
Upon the goddess on that very morn,
Dyed like the setting sun upon the corn.
Speechless he stood, but she now drew anear,
Simple and sweet as she was wont to be,
And once again her silver voice rang clear,
Filling his soul with great felicity,
And thus she spoke, "Wilt thou not come to me,
O dear companion of my new-found life,
For I am called thy lover and thy wife?...
[Pg 147]
"My sweet," she said, "as yet I am not wise,
Or stored with words aright the tale to tell,
But listen: when I opened first mine eyes
I stood within the niche thou knowest well,
And from my hand a heavy thing there fell
Carved like these flowers, nor could I see things clear,
But with a strange, confusèd noise could hear.
"At last mine eyes could see a woman fair,
But awful as this round white moon o'erhead,
So that I trembled when I saw her there,
For with my life was born some touch of dread,
And therewithal I heard her voice that said,
'Come down and learn to love and be alive,
For thee, a well-prized gift, to-day I give.'"[138]

A fuller account of Venus' address to the statue is the following:

O maiden, in mine image made!
O grace that shouldst endure!
While temples fall, and empires fade,
Immaculately pure:
Exchange this endless life of art
For beauty that must die,
And blossom with a beating heart
Into mortality!
Change, golden tresses of her hair,
To gold that turns to gray;
Change, silent lips, forever fair,
To lips that have their day!
Oh, perfect arms, grow soft with life,
Wax warm, ere cold ye wane;
Wake, woman's heart, from peace to strife,
To love, to joy, to pain![139]

The maiden was called Galatea. Venus blessed the nuptials, and from the union Paphos was born, by whose name the city, sacred to Venus, is known.

106. Pyramus and Thisbe.[140] Pyramus was the handsomest youth and Thisbe the fairest maiden in Babylonia, where Semiramis [Pg 148]reigned. Their parents occupied adjoining houses. Propinquity brought the young people together, and acquaintance ripened into love. They would gladly have married, but their parents forbade. One thing, however, parents could not forbid (for Venus and Cupid favored the match),—that love should glow with equal ardor in the bosoms of both. They conversed by signs and glances, and the fire burned the more intensely that it was covered. In the wall between the two houses there was a crack, caused by some fault in the structure. It afforded a passage to the voice; and tender messages passed back and forth through the gap. When night came and they must say farewell, the lovers pressed their lips upon the wall, she on her side, he on his.

Fig. 80. Thisbe

From the painting by Edward Burne-Jones

One morning, when Aurora had put out the stars and the sun had melted the frost from the grass, they met at the accustomed spot and arranged a meeting for that night at a well-known edifice, standing without the city's bounds,—the Tomb of Ninus. The one who first arrived should await the other at the foot of a white mulberry tree near a cool spring. Evening came. Thisbe, arriving first, sat alone by the monument in the dim light of the evening. Suddenly she descried a lioness, her jaws reeking with recent slaughter, approaching the fountain to slake her thirst. The maiden fled at the sight, dropping her veil as she ran. The lioness, after drinking at the spring, turned toward the woods, and, seeing the veil on the ground, tossed and rent it with her bloody mouth.

[Pg 149]

Now Pyramus approached the place of meeting. He saw in the sand the footsteps of the lion. He found the veil all rent and bloody. "O, hapless girl," cried he, "I have been the cause of thy death; but I follow thee!" So saying, he drew his sword and plunged it into his heart. The blood spurted from the wound and tinged the white mulberries of the tree all red, and, sinking into the earth, reached the roots, so that the sanguine hue mounted through the trunk to the fruit.

By this time Thisbe, still trembling with fear, yet wishing not to disappoint her lover, stepped cautiously forth, looking anxiously for the youth, eager to tell him the danger she had escaped. When she came to the spot and saw the changed color of the mulberries, she doubted whether it was the same place. While she hesitated, she saw the form of her lover struggling in the agonies of death. She screamed and beat her breast, she embraced the lifeless body, poured tears into its wounds, and imprinted kisses on the cold lips. "O, Pyramus," she cried, "what has done this? It is thine own Thisbe that speaks." At the name of Thisbe Pyramus opened his eyes, then closed them again. She saw her veil stained with blood and the scabbard empty of its sword. "Thine own hand has slain thee, and for my sake," she said. "I, too, can be brave for once, and my love is as strong as thine. But ye, unhappy parents of us both, deny us not our united request. As love and death have joined us, let one tomb contain us. And thou, tree, retain the marks of slaughter. Let thy berries still serve for memorials of our blood." So saying, she plunged the sword into her breast. The two bodies were buried in one sepulcher, and the tree henceforth produced purple berries.

107. Phaon ferried a boat between Lesbos and Chios. One day the queen of Paphos and Amathus,[141] in the guise of an ugly crone, begged a passage, which was so good-naturedly granted that in recompense she bestowed on the ferryman a salve possessing magical properties of youth and beauty. As a consequence of the use made of it by Phaon, the women of Lesbos went wild for love of him. None, however, admired him more than the poetess Sappho, who addressed to him some of her warmest and rarest love-songs.

[Pg 150]

108. The Vengeance of Venus. Venus did not fail to follow with her vengeance those who dishonored her rites or defied her power. The youth Hippolytus who, eschewing love, preferred Diana to her, she brought miserably to his ruin. Polyphonte she transformed into an owl, Arsinoë into a stone, and Myrrha into a myrtle tree.[142] Her influence in the main was of mingled bane and blessing, as in the cases of Helen, Œnone, Pasiphaë, Ariadne, Procris, Eriphyle, Laodamia, and others whose stories are elsewhere told.[143]

109. Myths of Mercury. According to Homer,[144] Maia bore Mercury at the peep of day,—a schemer subtle beyond all belief. He began playing on the lyre at noon; for, wandering out of the lofty cavern of Cyllene, he found a tortoise, picked it up, bored the life out of the beast, fitted the shell with bridge and reeds, and accompanied himself therewith as he sang a strain of unpremeditated sweetness. At evening of the same day he stole the oxen of his half brother Apollo from the Pierian mountains, where they were grazing. He covered their hoofs with tamarisk twigs, and, still further to deceive the pursuer, drove them backward into a cave at Pylos. There rubbing laurel branches together, he made fire and sacrificed, as an example for men to follow, two heifers to the twelve gods (himself included). Then home he went and slept, innocent as a new-born child! To his mother's warning that Apollo would catch and punish him, this innocent replied, in effect, "I know a trick better than that!" And when the puzzled Apollo, having traced the knavery to this babe in swaddling clothes, accused him of it, the sweet boy swore a great oath by his father's head that he stole not the cows, nor knew even what cows might be, for he had only that moment heard the name of them. Apollo proceeded to trounce the baby, with scant success, however, for Mercury persisted in his assumption of ignorance. So the twain appeared before their sire, and Apollo entered his complaint: he had not seen nor ever dreamed of so precocious a cattle-stealer, liar, and full-fledged knave as this young rascal. To all of which Mercury responded that he was, on the contrary, a veracious person, but that his brother Apollo was a coward to bully a helpless little new-born thing that slept, nor ever had thought of "lifting" cattle. The wink with which the lad of Cyllene accompanied this asseveration threw Jupiter into uncontrollable roars of laughter. Consequently, the quarrel was patched up: Mercury gave Apollo the new-made lyre; Apollo presented the prodigy with a glittering whiplash and installed him herdsman of his oxen. Nay even, when Mercury had sworn by sacred Styx no more to try his cunning in theft upon Apollo, that god in gratitude invested him with the magic wand of wealth, happiness, and dreams (the caduceus), it being understood, however, that Mercury should indicate the future only by signs, not by speech or song as did Apollo. It is said that the god of gain avenged himself for this enforced rectitude upon others: upon Venus, whose girdle he purloined; upon Neptune, whose trident he filched; upon Vulcan, whose tongs he borrowed; and upon Mars, whose sword he stole.


[Pg 151]

Fig. 81. Hermes and Dog

The most famous exploit of the Messenger, the slaughter of Argus, has already been narrated.

[Pg 152]


[66] Ovid, Metam. I, 700 et seq.

[67] Ovid, Metam. 2, 410 et seq.

[68] Translated by Andrew Lang: Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, London, 1880.

[69] § 70.

[70] Ovid, Metam. 3, 260 et seq.

[71] §§ 42, 110-113.

[72] From E. R. Sill's Semele.

[73] Commentary, §§ 118, 255.

[74] Ovid, Metam. 7, 172 et seq.

[75] Roscher, Ausf. Lex. Lfg. 3, 379 [Schirmer]. Originals in Pausanias, Apollodorus, and Hyginus.

[76] From Tennyson's Amphion. See Horace, Ars Poet. 394.

[77] Ovid, Metam. 8, 620-724.

[78] From The Sons of Cydippe, by Edmund Gosse in his On Viol and Flute.

[79] § 27, and Commentary.

[80] From Ovid.

[81] From Spenser's Muiopotmos.

[82] Ovid, Metam. 6, 1-145.

[83] § 200.

[84] Iliad, 5, 850 et seq. (Lang, Leaf, and Myers' translation). In accordance with the system of nomenclature adopted in this work, Latin equivalents are given, wherever possible, for Greek names.

[85] Iliad, 21, 390 (Lang, Leaf, and Myers' translation).

[86] Ovid, Metam. 3, 1-137; 4, 563-614.

[87] Iliad, 2, 1335.

[88] Ovid, Metam. 6, 313-381.

[89] § 30.

[90] Roscher, Ausf. Lex. Lfg. 2, 254, Article Aloadæ [Schultz].

[91] Ovid, Metam. 10, 162-219.

[92] Ovid, Metam. 2, 1-400.

[93] § 44.

[94] Medio tutissimus ibis.Ovid.


Hic situs est Phaëthon, currus auriga paterni,
Quem si non tenuit, magnis tamen excidit ausis.Ovid.

[96] Iliad, 1, 43-52 (Lang, Leaf, and Myers' translation).

[97] Ovid, Metam. 6, 165-312.

[98] From W. S. Landor's Niobe.

[99] See Commentary, §§ 64, 80.

[100] Iliad, 18, 564 (Lang, Leaf, and Myers' translation).

[101] Cicero, Natura Deorum, 3, 22.

[102] See Commentary.

[103] From Browning's Balaustion's Adventure. The Greek form of the proper names has been retained.

[104] Proserpine.

[105] For the originals, see Iliad, 2, 715, and the Alcestis of Euripides.

[106] Ovid, Metam. 11, 146-193.

[107] § 118.

[108] § 145.

[109] Ovid, Metam. 1, 452-567.

[110] From the Fable for Critics.

[111] Iliad, 9, 561; Apollodorus, 1, 7, § 8.

[112] Stephen Phillips, Marpessa.

[113] Ovid, Metam. 4, 256-270.

[114] § 196.

[115] § 168.

[116] Ovid, Metam. 5, 585-641.

[117] Ovid, Metam. 3, 138-252.

[118] Apollodorus, 1, 4, § 3.

[119] Ovid, Fasti, 5, 537; Iliad, 18, 486, and 22, 29; Odyssey, 5, 121, 274.

[120] The story is told by Hyginus in his Fables, and in his Poetical Astronomy.

[121] Authorities are Pausanias, 5, 1, §§ 2-4; Ovid, Ars. Am. 3, 83; Tristia, 2, 299; Apollonius, and Apollodorus.

[122] From the Endymion, Bk. 3.

[123] § 194.

[124] Ovid, Metam. 10, 503-559, 708-739.

[125] From an elegy intended to be sung at one of the spring celebrations in memory of Adonis. Translated from Bion by Andrew Lang. Cypris, Cytherea, and the Paphian refer to Venus. See Commentary. This elegy is also translated by Mrs. Browning and by Sir Edwin Arnold.

[126] Apuleius, Metam. Golden Ass, 4, 28, etc.

[127] William Morris, The Story of Cupid and Psyche, in The Earthly Paradise.

[128] Robert Bridges, Eros and Psyche.

[129] The last three paragraphs are from Pater's version in Marius the Epicurean.

[130] William Morris, The Earthly Paradise.

[131] By T. K. Hervey.

[132] Ovid, Metam. 10, 560-680.

[133] From W. S. Landor's Hippomenes and Atalanta.

[134] The poetical passages are from Marlowe's Hero and Leander, First Sestiad. Marlowe's narrative was completed by Chapman. See Musæus of Alexandria, De Amore Herois et Leandri; Virg. Georg. 3, 258; Ovid, Her. 18, 19; Stat. Theb. 6, 770.

[135] Sonnet, On a Picture of Leander.

[136] Ovid, Metam. 10, 243-297.

[137] Andrew Lang, The New Pygmalion.

[138] From William Morris, Pygmalion and the Image, in The Earthly Paradise.

[139] Andrew Lang, The New Pygmalion, or The Statue's Choice. A witty and not unpoetic bit of burlesque.

[140] Ovid, Metam. 4, 55-166.

[141] § 100, and Commentary.

[142] Murray, Manual of Mythology, p. 87; Ovid, Metam. 10, 298-502.

[143] See Index for sections.

[144] Hymn to Mercury (Hermes).


110. Myths of Bacchus. Since the adventures of Ceres, although she was a goddess of earth, are intimately connected with the life of the underworld, they will be related in the sections pertaining to Proserpine and Pluto. The god of vernal sap and vegetation, of the gladness that comes of youth or of wine, the golden-curled, sleepy-eyed Bacchus (Dionysus),—his wanderings, and the fortunes of mortals brought under his influence (Pentheus, Acetes, Ariadne, and Midas), here challenge our attention.

Fig. 82. Silenus taking Dionysus to School

111. The Wanderings of Bacchus. After the death of Semele,[145] Jove took the infant Bacchus and gave him in charge to the Nysæan nymphs, who nourished his infancy and childhood and for their care were placed by Jupiter, as the Hyades, among the stars. Another guardian and tutor of young Bacchus was the pot-bellied, jovial Silenus, son of Pan and a nymph, and oldest of the Satyrs. Silenus was probably an indulgent preceptor. He was generally tipsy and would have broken his neck early in his career, had not the Satyrs held him on his ass's back as he reeled along in the train of his pupil. After Bacchus was of age, he discovered the culture of the vine and the mode of extracting its precious juice; but Juno struck him with madness and drove him forth a wanderer through various parts of the earth. In Phrygia the goddess Rhea cured him and taught him her religious rites; and then [Pg 153]he set out on a progress through Asia, teaching the people the cultivation of the vine. The most famous part of his wanderings is his expedition to India, which is said to have lasted several years. Returning in triumph, he undertook to introduce his worship into Greece, but was opposed by certain princes who dreaded the disorders and madness it brought with it. Finally, he approached his native city Thebes, where his own cousin, Pentheus, son of Agave and grandson of Harmonia and Cadmus, was king. Pentheus, however, had no respect for the new worship and forbade its rites to be performed.[146] But when it was known that Bacchus was advancing, men and women, young and old, poured forth to meet him and to join his triumphal march.

Fig. 83. Bearded Dionysus and Satyr

Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;
Ivy crowns that brow, supernal
As the forehead of Apollo,
And possessing youth eternal.
Round about him fair Bacchantes,
Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses,
Wild from Naxian groves or Zante's
Vineyards, sing delirious verses.[147]

It was in vain Pentheus remonstrated, commanded, and threatened. His nearest friends and wisest counselors begged him not to oppose the god. Their remonstrances only made him the more violent.

[Pg 154]

112. The Story of Acetes. Soon the attendants returned who had been dispatched to seize Bacchus. They had succeeded in taking one of the Bacchanals prisoner, whom, with his hands tied behind him, they brought before the king. Pentheus, threatening him with death, commanded him to tell who he was and what these new rites were that he presumed to celebrate.

Fig. 84. Satyr and Mænad with Child Dionysus

The prisoner, unterrified, replied that he was Acetes of Mæonia; that his parents, being poor, had left him their fisherman's trade, which he had followed till he had acquired the pilot's art of steering his course by the stars. It once happened that he had touched at the island of Dia and had sent his men ashore for fresh water. They returned, bringing with them a lad of delicate appearance whom they had found asleep. Judging him to be a noble youth, they thought to detain him in the hope of liberal ransom. But Acetes suspected that some god was concealed under the youth's exterior, and asked pardon for the violence done. Whereupon the sailors, enraged by their lust of gain, exclaimed, "Spare thy prayers for us!" and, in spite of the resistance offered by Acetes, thrust the captive youth on board and set sail.

Then Bacchus (for the youth was indeed he), as if shaking off his drowsiness, asked what the trouble was and whither they were carrying him. One of the mariners replied, "Fear nothing; tell us where thou wouldst go, and we will convey thee thither." "Naxos is my home," said Bacchus; "take me there, and ye shall be well rewarded." They promised so to do; but, preventing the pilot from steering toward Naxos, they bore away for Egypt, where they might[Pg 155] sell the lad into slavery. Soon the god looked out over the sea and said in a voice of weeping, "Sailors, these are not the shores ye promised me; yonder island is not my home. It is small glory ye shall gain by cheating a poor boy." Acetes wept to hear him, but the crew laughed at both of them and sped the vessel fast over the sea. All at once it stopped in mid-sea, as fast as if it were fixed on the ground. The men, astonished, pulled at their oars and spread more sail, but all in vain. Ivy twined round the oars and clung to the sails, with heavy clusters of berries. A vine laden with grapes ran up the mast and along the sides of the vessel. The sound of flutes was heard, and the odor of fragrant wine spread all around. The god himself had a chaplet of vine leaves and bore in his hand a spear wreathed with ivy. Tigers crouched at his feet, and forms of lynxes and spotted panthers played around him. The whole crew became dolphins and swam about the ship. Of twenty men Acetes alone was left. "Fear not," said the god; "steer towards Naxos." The pilot obeyed, and when they arrived there, kindled the altars and celebrated the sacred rites of Bacchus.

Fig. 85. Dionysus at Sea

So far had Acetes advanced in his narrative, when Pentheus, interrupting, ordered him off to his death. But from this fate the pilot, rendered invisible by his patron deity, was straightway rescued.

Meanwhile, the mountain Cithæron seemed alive with worshipers, and the cries of the Bacchanals resounded on every side. Pentheus, angered by the noise, penetrated through the wood and reached an open space where the chief scene of the orgies met his eyes. At[Pg 156] the same moment the women saw him, among them his mother Agave, and Autonoë and Ino, her sisters. Taking him for a wild boar, they rushed upon him and tore him to pieces,—his mother shouting, "Victory! Victory! the glory is ours!"

So the worship of Bacchus was established in Greece.

It was on the island of Naxos that Bacchus afterward found Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, king of Crete, who had been deserted by her lover, Theseus. How Bacchus comforted her is related in another section. How the god himself is worshiped is told by Edmund Gosse in the poem from which the following extracts are taken:

Fig. 86. Bacchic Procession

Behold, behold! the granite gates unclose,
And down the vales a lyric people flows;
Dancing to music, in their dance they fling
Their frantic robes to every wind that blows,
And deathless praises to the vine-god sing.
Nearer they press, and nearer still in sight,
Still dancing blithely in a seemly choir;
Tossing on high the symbol of their rite,
The cone-tipped thyrsus of a god's desire;
Nearer they come, tall damsels flushed and fair,
With ivy circling their abundant hair;
Onward, with even pace, in stately rows,
With eye that flashes, and with cheek that glows,
And all the while their tribute-songs they bring,
And newer glories of the past disclose,
And deathless praises to the vine-god sing.
... But oh! within the heart of this great flight,
[Pg 157] Whose ivory arms hold up the golden lyre?
What form is this of more than mortal height?
What matchless beauty, what inspirèd ire!
The brindled panthers know the prize they bear,
And harmonize their steps with stately care;
Bent to the morning, like a living rose,
The immortal splendor of his face he shows,
And where he glances, leaf and flower and wing
Tremble with rapture, stirred in their repose,
And deathless praises to the vine-god sing....[148]

Fig. 87. Dionysus visiting a Poet

113. The Choice of King Midas.[149] Once Silenus, having wandered from the company of Bacchus in an intoxicated condition, was found by some peasants, who carried him to their king, Midas. Midas entertained him royally and on the eleventh day restored him in safety to his divine pupil. Whereupon Bacchus offered Midas his choice of a reward. The king asked that whatever he might touch should be changed into gold. Bacchus consented. Midas hastened to put his new-acquired power to the test. A twig of an oak, which he plucked from the branch, became gold in [Pg 158]his hand. He took up a stone; it changed to gold. He touched a sod with the same result. He took an apple from the tree; you would have thought he had robbed the garden of the Hesperides. He ordered his servants, then, to set an excellent meal on the table. But, to his dismay, when he touched bread, it hardened in his hand; when he put a morsel to his lips, it defied his teeth. He took a glass of wine, but it flowed down his throat like melted gold.

He strove to divest himself of his power; he hated the gift he had lately coveted. He raised his arms, all shining with gold, in prayer to Bacchus, begging to be delivered from this glittering destruction. The merciful deity heard and sent him to wash away his fault and its punishment in the fountainhead of the river Pactolus. Scarce had Midas touched the waters, before the gold-creating power passed into them, and the river sands became golden, as they remain to this day.

Thenceforth Midas, hating wealth and splendor, dwelt in the country and became a worshiper of Pan, the god of the fields. But that he had not gained common sense is shown by the decision that he delivered somewhat later in favor of Pan's superiority, as a musician, over Apollo.[150]

[Pg 159]


[145] § 60.

[146] Ovid, Metam. 3, 511-733.

[147] Longfellow, Drinking Song.

[148] From The Praise of Dionysus.

[149] Ovid, Metam. 11, 85-145.

[150] See § 85.

Fig. 88. Rape of Proserpina


114. Myths of Ceres, Pluto, and Proserpine. The search of Ceres for Proserpine, and of Orpheus for Eurydice, are stories pertaining both to Earth and Hades.

115. The Rape of Proserpine.[151] When the giants were imprisoned by Jupiter under Mount Ætna, Pluto (Hades) feared lest the shock of their fall might expose his kingdom to the light of day. Under this apprehension, he mounted his chariot drawn by black horses, and made a circuit of inspection to satisfy himself of the extent of the damage. While he was thus engaged, Venus, who was sitting on Mount Eryx playing with her boy Cupid, espied him and said, "My son, take thy darts which subdue all, even Jove himself, and send one into the breast of yonder dark monarch, who rules the realm of Tartarus. Dost thou not see that even in heaven some despise our power? Minerva and Diana defy us; and there is that daughter of Ceres, goddess of earth, who threatens to follow their example. Now, if thou regardest thine own interest or mine, join these two in one." The boy selected his sharpest and truest arrow, and sped it right to the heart of Pluto.

[Pg 160]

In the vale of Enna is a lake embowered in woods, where Spring reigns perpetual. Here Proserpine (Persephone) was playing with her companions, gathering lilies and violets, and singing, one may imagine, such words as our poet Shelley puts into her mouth:

Sacred Goddess, Mother Earth,
Thou from whose immortal bosom,
Gods, and men, and beasts, have birth,
Leaf and blade, and bud and blossom,
Breathe thine influence most divine
On thine own child, Proserpine.
If with mists of evening dew
Thou dost nourish these young flowers
Till they grow, in scent and hue,
Fairest children of the hours,
Breathe thine influence most divine
On thine own child, Proserpine.[152]

Pluto saw her, loved her, and carried her off. She screamed for help to her mother and her companions; but the ravisher urged on his steeds and outdistanced pursuit. When he reached the river Cyane, it opposed his passage, whereupon he struck the bank with his trident, and the earth opened and gave him a passage to Tartarus.

116. The Wanderings of Ceres.[153] Ceres (Demeter) sought her daughter all the world over. Bright-haired Aurora, when she came forth in the morning, and Hesperus, when he led out the stars in the evening, found her still busy in the search. At length, weary and sad, she sat down upon a stone, and remained nine days and nights in the open air, under the sunlight and moonlight and falling showers. It was where now stands the city of Eleusis, near the home of an old man named Celeus. His little girl, pitying the old woman, said to her, "Mother,"—and the name was sweet to the ears of Ceres,—"why sittest thou here alone upon the rocks?" The old man begged her to come into his cottage. She declined. He urged her. "Go in peace," she replied, "and be happy in thy [Pg 161]daughter; I have lost mine." But their compassion finally prevailed. Ceres rose from the stone and went with them. As they walked, Celeus said that his only son lay sick of a fever. The goddess stooped and gathered some poppies. Then, entering the cottage, where all was in distress,—for the boy Triptolemus seemed past recovery,—she restored the child to life and health with a kiss. In grateful happiness the family spread the table and put upon it curds and cream, apples, and honey in the comb. While they ate, Ceres mingled poppy juice in the milk of the boy. When night came, she arose and, taking the sleeping boy, molded his limbs with her hands, and uttered over him three times a solemn charm, then went and laid him in the ashes. His mother, who had been watching what her guest was doing, sprang forward with a cry and snatched the child from the fire. Then Ceres assumed her own form, and a divine splendor shone all around. While they were overcome with astonishment, she said, "Mother, thou hast been cruel in thy fondness; for I would have made thy son immortal. Nevertheless, he shall be great and useful. He shall teach men the use of the plow and the rewards which labor can win from the soil." So saying, she wrapped a cloud about her and mounting her chariot rode away.

Fig. 89. Hades and Persephone

Ceres continued her search for her daughter till at length she returned to Sicily, whence she first had set out, and stood by the[Pg 162] banks of the river Cyane. The river nymph would have told the goddess all she had witnessed, but dared not, for fear of Pluto; so she ventured merely to take up the girdle which Proserpine had dropped in her flight, and float it to the feet of the mother. Ceres, seeing this, laid her curse on the innocent earth in which her daughter had disappeared. Then succeeded drought and famine, flood and plague, until, at last, the fountain Arethusa made intercession for the land. For she had seen that it opened only unwillingly to the might of Pluto; and she had also, in her flight from Alpheüs through the lower regions of the earth, beheld the missing Proserpine. She said that the daughter of Ceres seemed sad, but no longer showed alarm in her countenance. Her look was such as became a queen,—the queen of Erebus; the powerful bride of the monarch of the realms of the dead.

Fig. 90. Sacrifice to Demeter and Persephone

When Ceres heard this, she stood awhile like one stupefied; then she implored Jupiter to interfere to procure the restitution[Pg 163] of her daughter. Jupiter consented on condition that Proserpine should not during her stay in the lower world have taken any food; otherwise, the Fates forbade her release. Accordingly, Mercury was sent, accompanied by Spring, to demand Proserpine of Pluto. The wily monarch consented; but alas! the maiden had taken a pomegranate which Pluto offered her, and had sucked the sweet pulp from a few of the seeds. A compromise, however, was effected by which she was to pass half the time with her mother, and the rest with the lord of Hades.

Of modern poems upon the story of the maiden seized in the vale of Enna, none conveys a lesson more serene of the beauty of that dark lover of all fair life, Death, than the Proserpine of Woodberry, from which we quote the three following stanzas. "I pick," says the poet wandering through the vale of Enna,

I pick the flowers that Proserpine let fall,
Sung through the world by every honeyed muse:
Wild morning-glories, daisies waving tall,
At every step is something new to choose;
And oft I stop and gaze
Upon the flowery maze;
By yonder cypresses on that soft rise,
Scarce seen through poppies and the knee-deep wheat,
Juts the dark cleft where on her came the fleet
Thunder-black horses and the cloud's surprise
And he who filled the place.
Did marigolds bright as these, gilding the mist,
Drop from her maiden zone? Wert thou last kissed,
Pale hyacinth, last seen, before his face?
      *       *       *       *       *
Oh, whence has silence stolen on all things here,
Where every sight makes music to the eye?
Through all one unison is singing clear;
All sounds, all colors in one rapture die.
Breathe slow, O heart, breathe slow!
A presence from below
Moves toward the breathing world from that dark deep,
Whereof men fabling tell what no man knows,
By little fires amid the winter snows,
When earth lies stark in her titanic sleep
[Pg 164] And doth with cold expire;
He brings thee all, O Maiden flower of earth,
Her child in whom all nature comes to birth,
Thee, the fruition of all dark desire.
      *       *       *       *       *
O Proserpine, dream not that thou art gone
Far from our loves, half-human, half-divine;
Thou hast a holier adoration won
In many a heart that worships at no shrine.
Where light and warmth behold me,
And flower and wheat infold me,
I lift a dearer prayer than all prayers past:
He who so loved thee that the live earth clove
Before his pathway unto light and love,
And took thy flower-full bosom,—who at last
Shall every blossom cull,—
Lover the most of what is most our own,
The mightiest lover that the world has known,
Dark lover, Death,—was he not beautiful?[154]

Fig. 91. Triptolemus and the Eleusinian Deities

117. Triptolemus and the Eleusinian Mysteries. Ceres, pacified with this arrangement, restored the earth to her favor. Now she remembered, also, Celeus and his family, and her promise to his infant son Triptolemus. She taught the boy the use of the plow and how to sow the seed. She took him in her chariot, drawn by [Pg 165]winged dragons, through all the countries of the earth; and under her guidance he imparted to mankind valuable grains and the knowledge of agriculture. After his return Triptolemus built a temple to Ceres in Eleusis and established the worship of the goddess under the name of the Eleusinian mysteries, which in the splendor and solemnity of their observance surpassed all other religious celebrations among the Greeks.

Fig. 92. Demeter, Triptolemus, and Proserpina

118. Orpheus and Eurydice.[155] Of mortals who have visited Hades and returned, none has a sweeter or sadder history than Orpheus, son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. Presented by his father with a lyre and taught to play upon it, he became the most famous of musicians, and not only his fellow mortals but even the wild beasts were softened by his strains. The very trees and rocks were sensible to the charm. And so also was Eurydice,—whom he loved and won.

Fig. 93. Orpheus and Eurydice

From the painting by Lord Leighton

Hymen was called to bless with his presence the nuptials of Orpheus with Eurydice, but he conveyed no happy omens with him. His torch smoked and brought tears into the eyes. In keeping with such sad prognostics, Eurydice, shortly after her marriage, was seen by the shepherd Aristæus, who was struck with her beauty [Pg 166]and made advances to her. As she fled she trod upon a snake in the grass, and was bitten in the foot. She died. Orpheus sang his grief to all who breathed the upper air, both gods and men, and finding his complaint of no avail, resolved to seek his wife in the regions of the dead. He descended by a cave situated on the side of the promontory of Tænarus, and arrived in the Stygian realm. He passed through crowds of ghosts and presented himself before the throne of Pluto and Proserpine. Accompanying his words with the lyre, he sang his petition for his wife. Without her he would not return. In such tender strains he sang that the very ghosts shed tears. Tantalus, in spite of his thirst, stopped for a moment his efforts for water, Ixion's wheel stood still, the vulture ceased to tear the giant's liver, the daughters of Danaüs rested from their task of drawing water in a sieve, and Sisyphus sat on his rock to listen.[156] Then for the first time, it is said, the cheeks of the Furies were wet with tears. Proserpine could not resist and Pluto himself gave way. Eurydice was called. She came from among the new-arrived ghosts, limping with her wounded foot. Orpheus was permitted to take her away with him on condition that he should not turn round to look at her till they should have reached the upper air. Under this condition they proceeded on their way, he leading, she following. Mindful of his promise, without let or hindrance the bard passed through the horrors of hell. All Hades held its breath.

[Pg 167]

Fig. 94. Farewell of Orpheus and Eurydice

... On he slept,
And Cerberus held agape his triple jaws;
On stept the bard. Ixion's wheel stood still.
Now, past all peril, free was his return,
And now was hastening into upper air
Eurydice, when sudden madness seized
The incautious lover; pardonable fault,
If they below could pardon: on the verge
Of light he stood, and on Eurydice
(Mindless of fate, alas! and soul-subdued)
Lookt back.
There, Orpheus! Orpheus! there was all
Thy labor shed, there burst the Dynast's bond,
And thrice arose that rumor from the lake.
"Ah, what!" she cried, "what madness hath undone
Me! and, ah, wretched! thee, my Orpheus, too!
For lo! the cruel Fates recall me now;
Chill slumbers press my swimming eyes.... Farewell!
Night rolls intense around me as I spread
[Pg 168] My helpless arms ... thine, thine no more ... to thee."
She spake, and, like a vapor, into air
Flew, nor beheld him as he claspt the void
And sought to speak; in vain; the ferry-guard
Now would not row him o'er the lake again,
His wife twice lost, what could he? whither go?
What chant, what wailing, move the Powers of Hell?
Cold in the Stygian bark and lone was she.
Beneath a rock o'er Strymon's flood on high,
Seven months, seven long-continued months, 'tis said,
He breath'd his sorrows in a desert cave,
And sooth'd the tiger, moved the oak, with song.[157]

The Thracian maidens tried their best to captivate him, but he repulsed their advances. Finally, excited by the rites of Bacchus, one of them exclaimed, "See yonder our despiser!" and threw at him her javelin. The weapon, as soon as it came within the sound of his lyre, fell harmless at his feet; so also the stones that they threw at him. But the women, raising a scream, drowned the voice of the music, and overwhelmed him with their missiles. Like maniacs they tore him limb from limb; then cast his head and lyre into the river Hebrus, down which they floated, murmuring sad music to which the shores responded. The Muses buried the fragments of his body at Libethra, where the nightingale is said to sing over his grave more sweetly than in any other part of Greece. His lyre was placed by Jupiter among the stars; but the shade of the bard passed a second time to Tartarus and rejoined Eurydice.

Other mortals who visited the Stygian realm and returned were Hercules, Theseus, Ulysses, and Æneas.[158]

[Pg 169]


[151] Ovid, Metam. 5, 341-347.

[152] Song of Proserpine, while gathering flowers on the plain of Enna.

[153] Ovid, Metam. 5. 440, 642; Apollodorus, 1, 5, § 2; Hyginus, Fab. 147.

[154] From Proserpine, stanzas written by Lake Pergusa; by George E. Woodberry (Century Magazine, July, 1909).

[155] Ovid, Metam. 10, 1-77.

[156] See Commentary

[157] From W. S. Landor's Orpheus and Eurydice in Dry Sticks.

[158] See Index.


Fig. 95. Poseidon

119. Lord of the Sea. Neptune (Poseidon) was lord both of salt waters and of fresh. The myths that turn on his life as lord of the sea illustrate his defiant invasions of lands belonging to other gods, or his character as earth shaker and earth protector. Of his contests with other gods, that with Minerva for Athens has been related. He contested Corinth with Helios, Argos with Juno, Ægina with Jove, Naxos with Bacchus, and Delphi with Apollo. That he did not always make encroachments in person upon the land that he desired to possess or to punish, but sent some monster instead, will be seen in the myth of Andromeda[159] and in the following story of Hesione,[160] the daughter of Laomedon of Troy.

Neptune and Apollo had fallen under the displeasure of Jupiter after the overthrow of the giants. They were compelled, it is said, to resign for a season their respective functions and to serve Laomedon, then about to build the city of Troy. They aided the king in erecting the walls of the city but were refused the wages agreed upon. Justly offended, Neptune ravaged the land by floods [Pg 170]and sent against it a sea monster, to satiate the appetite of which the desperate Laomedon was driven to offer his daughter Hesione. But Hercules appeared upon the scene, killed the monster, and rescued the maiden. Neptune, however, nursed his wrath; and it was still warm when the Greeks marched against Troy.

Of a like impetuous and ungovernable temper were the sons of Neptune by mortal mothers. From him were sprung the savage Læstrygonians, Orion, the Cyclops Polyphemus, the giant Antæus whom Hercules slew, Procrustes, and many another redoubtable being whose fortunes are elsewhere recounted.[161]

120. Lord of Streams and Fountains. As earth shaker, the ruler of the deep was known to effect convulsions of nature that made Pluto leap from his throne lest the firmament of the underworld might be falling about his ears. But as god of the streams and fountains, Neptune displayed milder characteristics. When Amymone, sent by her father Danaüs to draw water, was pursued by a satyr, Neptune gave ear to her cry for help, dispatched the satyr, made love to the maiden, and boring the earth with his trident called forth the spring that still bears the Danaïd's name. He loved the goddess Ceres also, through whose pastures his rivers strayed; and Arne the shepherdess, daughter of King Æolus, by whom he became the forefather of the Bœotians. His children, Pelias and Neleus, by the princess Tyro, whom he wooed in the form of her lover Enipeus, became keepers of horses—animals especially dear to Neptune. Perhaps it was the similarity of horse-taming to wave-taming that attracted the god to these quadrupeds; perhaps it was because they increased in beauty and speed on the pastures watered by his streams. It is said, indeed, that the first and fleetest of horses, Arion, was the offspring of Neptune and Ceres, or of Neptune and a Fury.

121. Pelops and Hippodamia.[162] To Pelops, brother of Niobe, Neptune imparted skill in training and driving horses,—and with good effect. For it happened that Pelops fell in love with Hippodamia, daughter of Œnomaüs, king of Elis and son of Mars,—a girl of whom it was reported that none could win her save by worsting the father in a chariot race, and that none might fail in [Pg 171]that race and come off alive. Since an oracle, too, had warned Œnomaüs to beware of the future husband of his daughter, he had provided himself with horses whose speed was like the cyclone. But Pelops, obtaining from Neptune winged steeds, entered the race and won it,—whether by the speed of his horses or by the aid of Hippodamia, who, it is said, bribed her father's charioteer, Myrtilus, to take a bolt out of the chariot of Œnomaüs, is uncertain. At any rate, Pelops married Hippodamia. He was so injudicious, however, as to throw Myrtilus into the sea; and from that treachery sprang the misfortunes of the house of Pelops. For Myrtilus, dying, cursed the murderer and his race.

Fig. 96. Pelops winning the Race, Hippodamia looking on

[Pg 172]


[159] § 154.

[160] Iliad, 5, 649; Apollodorus, 3, 12, § 7.

[161] See Index.

[162] Hyginus, Fab. 84, 253; Pindar, Olymp. 1, 114.


122. Myths of Stars and Winds. The tales of Stars and Winds and the other lesser powers of the celestial regions are closely interwoven. That the winds which sweep heaven should kiss the stars is easy to understand. The stories of Aurora (Eos) and of Aura, of Phosphor and of Halcyone, form, therefore, a ready sequence.

Fig. 97. Phosphor, Eos, and Helios (the Sun) rising from the Sea

123. Cephalus and Procris.[163] Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Cephalus, a young huntsman. She stole him away, lavished her love upon him, tried to content him, but in vain. He cared for his young wife Procris more than for the goddess. Finally, Aurora dismissed him in displeasure, saying, "Go, ungrateful mortal, keep thy wife; but thou shalt one day be sorry that thou didst ever see her again."

Cephalus returned and was as happy as before in his wife. She, being a favorite of Diana, had received from her for the chase a dog and a javelin, which she handed over to her husband. Of the dog it is told that when about to catch the swiftest fox in [Pg 173]the country, he was changed with his victim into stone. For the heavenly powers, who had made both and rejoiced in the speed of both, were not willing that either should conquer. The javelin was destined to a sad office. It appears that Cephalus, when weary of the chase, was wont to stretch himself in a certain shady nook to enjoy the breeze. Sometimes he would say aloud, "Come, gentle Aura, sweet goddess of the breeze, come and allay the heat that burns me." Some one, foolishly believing that he addressed a maiden, told the secret to Procris. Hoping against hope, she stole out after him the next morning and concealed herself in the place which the informer had indicated. Cephalus, when tired with sport, stretched himself on the green bank and summoned fair Aura as usual. Suddenly he heard, or thought he heard, a sound as of a sob in the bushes. Supposing it to proceed from some wild animal, he threw his javelin at the spot. A cry told him that the weapon had too surely met its mark. He rushed to the place and raised his wounded Procris from the earth. She, at last, opened her feeble eyes and forced herself to utter these words: "I implore thee, if thou hast ever loved me, if I have ever deserved kindness at thy hands, my husband, grant me this last request; marry not that odious Breeze!" So saying, she expired in her lover's arms.

Fig. 98. Sun, rising, preceded by Dawn

From the painting by Guido Reni

[Pg 174]

Fig. 99. Sunrise; Eos pursuing Cephalus

124. Dobson's The Death of Procris. A different version of the story is given in the following:

Procris, the nymph, had wedded Cephalus;—
He, till the spring had warmed to slow-winged days
Heavy with June, untired and amorous,
Named her his love; but now, in unknown ways,
His heart was gone; and evermore his gaze
Turned from her own, and even farther ranged
His woodland war; while she, in dull amaze,
Beholding with the hours her husband changed,
Sighed for his lost caress, by some hard god estranged.
So, on a day, she rose and found him not.
Alone, with wet, sad eye, she watched the shade
Brighten below a soft-rayed sun that shot
Arrows of light through all the deep-leaved glade;
Then, with weak hands, she knotted up the braid
Of her brown hair, and o'er her shoulders cast
Her crimson weed; with faltering fingers made
Her golden girdle's clasp to join, and past
Down to the trackless wood, full pale and overcast.
And all day long her slight spear devious flew,
And harmless swerved her arrows from their aim,
[Pg 175] For ever, as the ivory bow she drew,
Before her ran the still unwounded game.
Then, at the last, a hunter's cry there came,
And, lo! a hart that panted with the chase.
Thereat her cheek was lightened as with flame,
And swift she gat her to a leafy place,
Thinking, "I yet may chance unseen to see his face."
Leaping he went, this hunter Cephalus,
Bent in his hand his cornel bow he bare,
Supple he was, round-limbed and vigorous,
Fleet as his dogs, a lean Laconian pair.
He, when he spied the brown of Procris' hair
Move in the covert, deeming that apart
Some fawn lay hidden, loosed an arrow there;
Nor cared to turn and seek the speeded dart,
Bounding above the fern, fast following up the hart.
But Procris lay among the white wind-flowers,
Shot in the throat. From out the little wound
The slow blood drained, as drops in autumn showers
Drip from the leaves upon the sodden ground.
None saw her die but Lelaps, the swift hound,
That watched her dumbly with a wistful fear,
Till, at the dawn, the hornèd wood-men found
And bore her gently on a sylvan bier,
To lie beside the sea,—with many an uncouth tear.

125. Ceyx and Halcyone. The son of Aurora and Cephalus was Phosphor, the Star of Morning. His son Ceyx, king of Trachis in Thessaly, had married Halcyone, daughter of Æolus.[164] Their reign was happy until the brother of Ceyx met his death. The direful prodigies that followed this event made Ceyx feel that the gods were hostile to him. He thought best therefore to make a voyage to Claros in Ionia to consult the oracle of Apollo. In spite of his wife's entreaties (for as daughter of the god of winds she knew how dreadful a thing a storm at sea was), Ceyx set sail. He was shipwrecked and drowned. His last prayer was that the waves might bear his body to the sight of Halcyone, and that it might receive burial at her hands.

[Pg 176]

In the meanwhile, Halcyone counted the days till her husband's promised return. To all the gods she offered frequent incense, but more than all to Juno. The goddess, at last, could not bear to be further pleaded with for one already dead. Calling Iris, she enjoined her to approach the drowsy dwelling of Somnus and bid him send a vision to Halcyone in the form of Ceyx, to reveal the sad event.

Fig. 100. The God of Sleep

Iris puts on her robe of many colors, and tinging the sky with her bow, seeks the cave near the Cimmerian country, which is the abode of the dull god, Somnus. Here Phœbus dare not come. Clouds and shadows are exhaled from the ground, and the light glimmers faintly. The cock never there calls aloud to Aurora, nor watchdog nor goose disturbs the silence. No wild beast, nor cattle, nor branch moved with the wind, nor sound of human conversation breaks the stillness. From the bottom of the rock the river Lethe flows, and by its murmur invites to sleep. Poppies grow before the door of the cave, from whose juices Night distills slumbers which she scatters over the darkened earth. There is no gate to creak on its hinges, nor any watchman. In the midst, on a couch of black ebony adorned with black plumes and black curtains the god reclines, his limbs relaxed in sleep. Around him lie dreams, resembling all various forms, as many as the harvest bears stalks, or the forest leaves, or the seashore sand grains.

Brushing away the dreams that hovered around her, Iris lit up the cave and delivered her message to the god, who, scarce opening his eyes, had great difficulty in shaking himself free from himself.

Then Iris hasted away from the drowsiness creeping over her, and returned by her bow as she had come. But Somnus called[Pg 177] one of his sons, Morpheus, the most expert in counterfeiting forms of men, to perform the command of Iris; then laid his head on his pillow and yielded himself again to grateful repose.

Morpheus flew on silent wings to the Hæmonian city, where he assumed the form of Ceyx. Pale like a dead man, naked and dripping, he stood before the couch of the wretched wife and told her that the winds of the Ægean had sunk his ship, that he was dead.

Weeping and groaning, Halcyone sprang from sleep and, with the dawn, hastening to the seashore, descried an indistinct object washed to and fro by the waves. As it floated nearer she recognized the body of her husband. In despair, leaping from the mole, she was changed instantly to a bird, and poured forth a song of grief as she flew. By the mercy of the gods Ceyx was likewise transformed. For seven days before and seven days after the winter solstice, Jove forbids the winds to blow. Then Halcyone broods over her nest; then the way is safe to seafarers. Æolus confines the winds that his grandchildren may have peace.

126. Aurora and Tithonus.[165] Aurora seems frequently to have been inspired with the love of mortals. Her greatest favorite, and almost her latest, was Tithonus, son of Laomedon, king of Troy. She stole him away and prevailed on Jupiter to grant him immortality; but forgetting to have youth joined in the gift, after some time she began to discern, to her great mortification, that he was growing old. When his hair was white she left his society; but he still had the range of her palace, lived on ambrosial food, and was clad in celestial raiment. In time he lost the power of using his limbs; and then she shut him up in his chamber, whence his feeble voice might at times be heard. Finally, she turned him into a grasshopper.

127. Tennyson's Tithonus. The following is, according to a fine poetic conception, the lament of the old man when but a white-haired shadow:

The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapors weep their burthen to the ground,
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
Consumes: I wither slowly in thine arms,
[Pg 178] Here at the quiet limit of the world,
A white-haired shadow roaming like a dream
The ever silent spaces of the East,
Far-folded mists, and gleaming halls of morn.
Alas! for this gray shadow, once a man—
So glorious in his beauty and thy choice,
Who madest him thy chosen, that he seem'd
To his great heart none other than a God!
I ask'd thee, "Give me immortality."
Then didst thou grant mine asking with a smile,
Like wealthy men who care not how they give;
But thy strong Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me, left me maim'd
To dwell in presence of immortal youth,
Immortal age beside immortal youth,
And all I was, in ashes. Can thy love,
Thy beauty, make amends, tho' even now,
Close over us, the silver star, thy guide,
Shines in those tremulous eyes that fill with tears
To hear me? Let me go: take back thy gift:
Why should a man desire in any way
To vary from the kindly race of men,
Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance
Where all should pause, as is most meet for all?
A soft air fans the cloud apart; there comes
A glimpse of that dark world where I was born.
Once more the old mysterious glimmer steals
From thy pure brows, and from thy shoulders pure,
And bosom beating with a heart renew'd.
Thy cheek begins to redden thro' the gloom,
Thy sweet eyes brighten slowly close to mine,
Ere yet they blind the stars, and the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire.
Lo! ever thus thou growest beautiful
In silence, then before thine answer given
Departest, and thy tears are on my cheek.
Why wilt them ever scare me with thy tears,
[Pg 179] And make me tremble lest a saying learnt
In days far-off, on that dark earth, be true?
"The gods themselves cannot recall their gifts."
Ay me! ay me! with what another heart
In days far-off, and with what other eyes
I used to watch—if I be he that watched—
The lucid outline forming round thee; saw
The dim curls kindle into sunny rings;
Changed with thy mystic change, and felt my blood
Glow with the glow that slowly crimson'd all
Thy presence and thy portals, while I lay,
Mouth, forehead, eyelids, growing dewy-warm
With kisses balmier than half-opening buds
Of April, and could hear the lips that kiss'd
Whispering I knew not what of wild and sweet,
Like that strange song I heard Apollo sing,
While Ilion like a mist rose into towers.
Yet hold me not forever in thine East:
How can my nature longer mix with thine?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seëst all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.

128. Memnon, the son of Aurora and Tithonus, was king of the Æthiopians. He went with warriors to assist his kindred in the Trojan War, and was received by King Priam with honor. He fought bravely, slew Antilochus, the brave son of Nestor, and held the Greeks at bay until Achilles appeared. Before that hero he fell.

Then Aurora, seeing her son's fate, directed his brothers, the Winds, to convey his body to the banks of the river Æsepus in Mysia. In the evening Aurora, accompanied by the Hours and[Pg 180] the Pleiads, bewept her son. Night spread the heaven with clouds; all nature mourned for the offspring of the Dawn. The Æthiopians raised his tomb on the banks of the stream in the grove of the Nymphs, and Jupiter caused the sparks and cinders of his funeral pile to be turned into birds, which, dividing into two flocks, fought over the pile till they fell into the flame. Every year at the anniversary of his death they celebrated his obsequies in like manner. Aurora remained inconsolable. The dewdrops are her tears.[166]

Fig. 101. The Death of Memnon

The kinship of Memnon to the Dawn is certified even after his death. On the banks of the Nile are two colossal statues, one of which is called Memnon's; and it was said that when the first rays of morning fell upon this statue, a sound like the snapping of a harp-string issued therefrom.[167]

So to the sacred Sun in Memnon's fane
Spontaneous concords choired the matin strain;
Touched by his orient beam responsive rings
The living lyre and vibrates all its strings;
Accordant aisles the tender tones prolong,
And holy echoes swell the adoring song.[168]

[Pg 181]


[163] Ovid, Metam. 7, 394 et seq.

[164] Ovid, Metam. 11, 583-748.

[165] Homeric Hymn to Venus; Horace, Odes, 1, 22; 2, 16; Apollodorus, 3, 12, § 4.

[166] Ovid, Metam. 13, 622, etc. Odyssey, 4, 188; 11, 522. Pindar, Pyth. 6, 30.

[167] Pausanias, 1, 42, § 2.

[168] Darwin, Botanic Garden.


129. Pan, and the Personification of Nature. It was a pleasing trait in the old paganism that it loved to trace in every operation of nature the agency of deity. The imagination of the Greeks peopled the regions of earth and sea with divinities, to whose agency it attributed the phenomena that our philosophy ascribes to the operation of natural law. So Pan, the god of woods and fields,[169] whose name seemed to signify all, came to be considered a symbol of the universe and a personification of Nature. "Universal Pan," says Milton in his description of the creation:

Universal Pan,
Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
Led on the eternal Spring.

Later, Pan came to be regarded as a representative of all the Greek gods and of paganism itself. Indeed, according to an early Christian tradition, when the heavenly host announced to the shepherds the birth of Christ, a deep groan, heard through the isles of Greece, told that great Pan was dead, that the dynasty of Olympus was dethroned, and the several deities sent wandering in cold and darkness.

The lonely mountains o'er,
And the resounding shore,
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
From haunted spring and dale,
Edged with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent;
With flower-inwoven tresses torn,
The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.[170]

[Pg 182]

Many a poet has lamented the change. For even if the head did profit for a time by the revolt against the divine prerogative of nature, it is more than possible that the heart lost in due proportion.

His sorrow at this loss of imaginative sympathy among the moderns Wordsworth expresses in the sonnet, already cited, beginning "The world is too much with us." Schiller, also, by his poem, The Gods of Greece, has immortalized his sorrow for the decadence of the ancient mythology.

Fig. 102. Pan Blowing His Pipe, Echo Answering

Ah, the beauteous world while yet ye ruled it,—
Yet—by gladsome touches of the hand;
Ah, the joyous hearts that still ye governed,
Gods of Beauty, ye, of Fable-land!
Then, ah, then, the mysteries resplendent
Triumphed.—Other was it then, I ween,
When thy shrines were odorous with garlands,
Thou, of Amathus the queen.
Then the gracious veil, of fancy woven,
Fell in folds about the fact uncouth;
Through the universe life flowed in fullness,
What we feel not now was felt in sooth:
Man ascribed nobility to Nature,
Rendered love unto the earth he trod,
Everywhere his eye, illuminated,
Saw the footprints of a God.
      *       *       *       *       *
Lovely world, where art thou? Turn, oh, turn thee,
Fairest blossom-tide of Nature's spring!
Only in the poet's realm of wonder
Liv'st thou, still,—a fable vanishing.
Reft of life the meadows lie deserted;
Ne'er a godhead can my fancy see:
Ah, if only of those living colors
Lingered yet the ghost with me![171]
      *       *       *       *       *

It was the poem from which these stanzas are taken that provoked the well-known reply of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, [Pg 183]contained in The Dead Pan. Her argument may be gathered from the following stanzas:

By your beauty which confesses
Some chief Beauty conquering you,
By our grand heroic guesses
Through your falsehood at the True,
We will weep not! earth shall roll
Heir to each god's aureole,
And Pan is dead.
Earth outgrows the mythic fancies
Sung beside her in her youth;
And those debonair romances
Sound but dull beside the truth.
Phœbus' chariot course is run!
Look up, poets, to the sun!
Pan, Pan is dead.

130. Stedman's Pan in Wall Street.[172] That Pan, however, is not yet dead but alive even in the practical atmosphere of our western world, the poem here appended, written by one of our recently deceased American poets, would indicate.

Just where the Treasury's marble front
Looks over Wall Street's mingled nations;
Where Jews and Gentiles most are wont
To throng for trade and last quotations;
Where, hour by hour, the rates of gold
Outrival, in the ears of people,
The quarter chimes, serenely tolled
From Trinity's undaunted steeple,—
Even there I heard a strange, wild strain
Sound high above the modern clamor,
Above the cries of greed and gain,
The curbstone war, the auction's hammer;
And swift, on Music's misty ways,
It led, from all this strife for millions,
To ancient, sweet-do-nothing days
Among the kirtle-robed Sicilians.

[Pg 184]

Fig. 103. The Music Lesson

And as it still'd the multitude,
And yet more joyous rose, and shriller,
I saw the minstrel where he stood
At ease against a Doric pillar:
One hand a droning organ play'd,
The other held a Pan's pipe (fashioned
Like those of old) to lips that made
The reeds give out that strain impassioned.
'T was Pan himself had wandered here,
A-strolling through the sordid city,
And piping to the civic ear
The prelude of some pastoral ditty!
The demigod had cross'd the seas,—
From haunts of shepherd, nymph, and satyr,
And Syracusan times,—to these
Far shores and twenty centuries later.
A ragged cap was on his head:
But—hidden thus—there was no doubting
That, all with crispy locks o'erspread,
His gnarlèd horns were somewhere sprouting;
His club-feet, cased in rusty shoes,
Were cross'd, as on some frieze you see them.
And trousers, patched of divers hues,
Conceal'd his crooked shanks beneath them.

Fig. 104. Bacchic Dance

He filled the quivering reeds with sound,
And o'er his mouth their changes shifted,
And with his goat's-eyes looked around
Where'er the passing current drifted;
And soon, as on Trinacrian hills
The nymphs and herdsmen ran to hear him,
Even now the tradesmen from their tills,
With clerks and porters, crowded near him.
[Pg 185]
The bulls and bears together drew
From Jauncey Court and New Street Alley,
As erst, if pastorals be true,
Came beasts from every wooded valley;
The random passers stay'd to list,—
A boxer Ægon, rough and merry,—
Broadway Daphnis, on his tryst
With Naïs at the Brooklyn Ferry.

Fig. 105. Silenus

A one-eyed Cyclops halted long
In tatter'd cloak of army pattern,
And Galatea joined the throng,—
A blowsy, apple-vending slattern;
While old Silenus stagger'd out
From some new-fangled lunch-house handy
And bade the piper, with a shout,
To strike up "Yankee Doodle Dandy!"
A newsboy and a peanut girl
Like little Fauns began to caper:
His hair was all in tangled curl,
Her tawny legs were bare and taper.
And still the gathering larger grew,
And gave its pence and crowded nigher,
While aye the shepherd-minstrel blew
His pipe, and struck the gamut higher.
O heart of Nature! beating still
With throbs her vernal passion taught her,—
Even here, as on the vine-clad hill,
Or by the Arethusan water!
New forms may fold the speech, new lands
Arise within these ocean-portals,
But Music waves eternal wands,—
Enchantress of the souls of mortals!
So thought I,—but among us trod
A man in blue with legal baton;
And scoff'd the vagrant demigod,
And push'd him from the step I sat on.
Doubting I mused upon the cry—
"Great Pan is dead!"—and all the people
Went on their ways:—and clear and high
The quarter sounded from the steeple.

[Pg 186]

Fig. 106. Satyr

131. Other Lesser Gods of Earth. Of the company of the lesser gods of earth, besides Pan, were the Sileni, the Sylvans, the Fauns, and the Satyrs, all male; the Oreads and the Dryads or Hamadryads, female. To these may be added the Naiads, for, although they dwelt in the streams, their association with the deities of earth was intimate. Of the nymphs, the Oreads and the Naiads were immortal. The love of Pan for Syrinx has already been mentioned, and his musical contest with Apollo. Of Silenus we have seen something in the adventures of Bacchus. What kind of existence the Satyr enjoyed is conveyed in the following soliloquy:

Fig. 107. Satyr swinging Maiden

The trunk of this tree,
Dusky-leaved, shaggy-rooted,
Is a pillow well suited
To a hybrid like me,
Goat-bearded, goat-footed;
For the boughs of the glade
Meet above me, and throw
[Pg 187] A cool, pleasant shade
On the greenness below;
Dusky and brown'd
Close the leaves all around;
And yet, all the while,
Thro' the boughs I can see
A star, with a smile,
Looking at me....

Fig. 108. Satyr Drinking

Why, all day long,
I run about
With a madcap throng,
And laugh and shout.
Silenus grips
My ears, and strides
On my shaggy hips,
And up and down
In an ivy crown
Tipsily rides;
And when in doze
His eyelids close,
Off he tumbles, and I
Can his wine-skin steal,
I drink—and feel
The grass roll—sea high;
Then with shouts and yells,
Down mossy dells,
I stagger after
The wood-nymphs fleet,
Who with mocking laughter
And smiles retreat;
And just as I clasp
A yielding waist,
With a cry embraced,
—Gush! it melts from my grasp
Into water cool,
And—bubble! trouble!
Seeing double!
I stumble and gasp
In some icy pool![173]

[Pg 188]

132. Echo and Narcissus.[174] Echo was a beautiful Oread, fond of the woods and hills, a favorite of Diana, whom she attended in the chase. But by her chatter she came under the displeasure of Juno, who condemned her to the loss of voice save for purposes of reply.

Fig. 109. Narcissus

Subsequently having fallen in love with Narcissus, the beautiful son of the river-god Cephissus, Echo found it impossible to express her regard for him in any way but by mimicking what he said; and what he said, unfortunately, did not always convey her sentiments. When, however, he once called across the hills to her, [Pg 189]"Let us join one another," the maid, answering with all her heart, hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. He started back, exclaiming, "Hands off! I would rather die than thou shouldst have me!" "Have me," said she; but in vain. From that time forth she lived in caves and among mountain cliffs, and faded away till there was nothing left of her but her voice. But through his future fortunes she was constant to her cruel lover.

This Narcissus was the embodiment of self-conceit. He shunned the rest of the nymphs as he had shunned Echo. One maiden, however, uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of affection. The avenging goddess heard. Narcissus, stooping over a river brink, fell in love with his own image in the water. He talked to it, tried to embrace it, languished for it, and pined until he died. Indeed, even after death, it is said that when his shade passed the Stygian river it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for Narcissus, especially the water-nymphs; and when they smote their breasts, Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found. In its place had sprung up a flower, purple within and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of the son of Cephissus.

133. Echo, Pan, Lyde, and the Satyr. Another interesting episode in the life of Echo is given by Moschus:[175]

Pan loved his neighbor Echo; Echo loved
A gamesome Satyr; he, by her unmoved,
Loved only Lyde; thus through Echo, Pan,
Lyde, and Satyr, Love his circle ran.
Thus all, while their true lovers' hearts they grieved,
Were scorned in turn, and what they gave received.
O all Love's scorners, learn this lesson true:
Be kind to love, that he be kind to you.

134. The Naiads. These nymphs guarded streams and fountains of fresh water and, like the Naiad who speaks in the following verses, kept them sacred for Diana or some other divinity.

[Pg 190]

Dian white-arm'd has given me this cool shrine
Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine:
The silver-sparkling showers
That hive me in, the flowers
That prink my fountain's brim, are hers and mine;
And when the days are mild and fair,
And grass is springing, buds are blowing,
Sweet it is, 'mid waters flowing,
Here to sit and know no care,
'Mid the waters flowing, flowing, flowing,
Combing my yellow, yellow hair.
The ounce and panther down the mountain side
Creep thro' dark greenness in the eventide;
And at the fountain's brink
Casting great shades, they drink,
Gazing upon me, tame and sapphire-eyed;
For, awed by my pale face, whose light
Gleameth thro' sedge and lilies yellow
They, lapping at my fountain mellow,
Harm not the lamb that in affright
Throws in the pool so mellow, mellow, mellow,
Its shadow small and dusky-white.
Oft do the fauns and satyrs, flusht with play,
Come to my coolness in the hot noonday.
Nay, once indeed, I vow
By Dian's truthful brow,
The great god Pan himself did pass this way,
And, all in festal oak-leaves clad,
His limbs among these lilies throwing,
Watch'd the silver waters flowing,
Listen'd to their music glad,
Saw and heard them flowing, flowing, flowing,
And ah! his face was worn and sad!
Mild joys like silvery waters fall;
But it is sweetest, sweetest far of all,
In the calm summer night,
When the tree-tops look white,
To be exhaled in dew at Dian's call,
[Pg 191] Among my sister-clouds to move
Over the darkness, earth bedimming,
Milky-robed thro' heaven swimming,
Floating round the stars above,
Swimming proudly, swimming proudly, swimming,
And waiting on the Moon I love.
So tenderly I keep this cool, green shrine,
Deep in the bosom of a wood of pine;
Faithful thro' shade and sun,
That service due and done
May haply earn for me a place divine
Among the white-robed deities
That thread thro' starry paths, attending
My sweet Lady, calmly wending
Thro' the silence of the skies,
Changing in hues of beauty never ending,
Drinking the light of Dian's eyes.[176]

135. The Dryads, or Hamadryads, assumed at times the forms of peasant girls, shepherdesses, or followers of the hunt. But they were believed to perish with certain trees which had been their abode and with which they had come into existence. Wantonly to destroy a tree was therefore an impious act, sometimes severely punished, as in the cases of Erysichthon and Dryope.

136. Erysichthon,[177] a despiser of the gods, presumed to violate with the ax a grove sacred to Ceres. A venerable oak, whereon votive tablets had often been hung inscribed with the gratitude of mortals to the nymph of the tree,—an oak round which the Dryads hand in hand had often danced,—he ordered his servants to fell. When he saw them hesitate, he snatched an ax from one, and boasting that he cared not whether it were a tree beloved of the goddess or not, addressed himself to the task. The oak seemed to shudder and utter a groan. When the first blow fell upon the trunk, blood flowed from the wound. Warned by a bystander to desist, Erysichthon slew him; warned by a voice from the nymph of the tree, he redoubled his blows and brought down the oak. The Dryads invoked punishment upon Erysichthon.

[Pg 192]

The goddess Ceres, whom they had supplicated, nodded her assent. She dispatched an Oread to ice-clad Scythia, where Cold abides, and Fear and Shuddering and Famine. At Mount Caucasus, the Oread stayed the dragons of Ceres that drew her chariot; for afar off she beheld Famine, forespent with hunger, pulling up with teeth and claws the scanty herbage from a stony field. To her the nymph delivered the commands of Ceres, then returned in haste to Thessaly, for she herself began to be an hungered.

The orders of Ceres were executed by Famine, who, speeding through the air, entered the dwelling of Erysichthon and, as he slept, enfolded him with her wings and breathed herself into him. In his dreams the caitiff craved food; and when he awoke, his hunger raged. The more he ate, the more he craved, till, in default of money, he sold his daughter into slavery for edibles. Neptune, however, rescued the girl by changing her into a fisherman; and in that form she assured the slave-owner that she had seen no woman or other person, except herself, thereabouts. Then, resuming her own appearance, she was again and again sold by her father; while by Neptune's favor she became on each occasion a different animal, and so regained her home. Finally, increasing demands of hunger compelled the father to devour his own limbs; and in due time he finished himself off.

137. Dryope, the wife of Andræmon, purposing with her sister Iole to gather flowers for the altars of the nymphs, plucked the purple blossoms of a lotus plant that grew near the water, and offered them to her child. Iole, about to do the same thing, perceived that the stem of the plant was bleeding. Indeed, the plant was none other than a nymph, Lotis, who, escaping from a base pursuer, had been thus transformed.

Dryope would have hastened from the spot, but the displeasure of the nymph had fallen upon her. While protesting her innocence, she began to put forth branches and leaves. Praying her husband to see that no violence was done to her, to remind their child that every flower or bush might be a goddess in disguise, to bring him often to be nursed under her branches, and to teach him to say "My mother lies hid under this bark,"—the luckless woman assumed the shape of a lotus.

[Pg 193]

138. Rhœcus.[178] The Hamadryads could appreciate services as well as punish injuries.

Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
As full of freedom, youth, and beauty still,
As the immortal freshness of that grace
Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze.[179]

Rhœcus, happening to see an oak just ready to fall, propped it up. The nymph, who had been on the point of perishing with the tree, expressed her gratitude to him and bade him ask what reward he would. Rhœcus boldly asked her love, and the nymph yielded to his desire. At the same time charging him to be mindful and constant, she promised to expect him an hour before sunset and, meanwhile, to communicate with him by means of her messenger,—a bee:

Now, in those days of simpleness and faith,
Men did not think that happy things were dreams
Because they overstepped the narrow bourn
Of likelihood, but reverently deemed
Nothing too wondrous or too beautiful
To be the guerdon of a daring heart.
So Rhœcus made no doubt that he was blest,
And all along unto the city's gate
Earth seemed to spring beneath him as he walked,
The clear, broad sky looked bluer than its wont,
And he could scarce believe he had not wings,
Such sunshine seemed to glitter through his veins
Instead of blood, so light he felt and strange.

But the day was past its noon. Joining some comrades over the dice, Rhœcus forgot all else. A bee buzzed about his ear. Impatiently he brushed it aside:

Then through the window flew the wounded bee,
And Rhœcus, tracking him with angry eyes,
Saw a sharp mountain peak of Thessaly
Against the red disk of the setting sun,—
And instantly the blood sank from his heart....
[Pg 194]
... Quite spent and out of breath he reached the tree,
And, listening fearfully, he heard once more
The low voice murmur, "Rhœcus!" close at hand:
Whereat he looked around him, but could see
Naught but the deepening glooms beneath the oak.
Then sighed the voice, "O Rhœcus! nevermore
Shalt thou behold me or by day or night,
Me, who would fain have blessed thee with a love
More ripe and bounteous than ever yet
Filled up with nectar any mortal heart:
But thou didst scorn my humble messenger
And sent'st him back to me with bruisèd wings.
We spirits only show to gentle eyes,
We ever ask an undivided love,
And he who scorns the least of Nature's works
Is thenceforth exiled and shut out from all.
Farewell! for thou canst never see me more."
Then Rhœcus beat his breast, and groaned aloud,
And cried, "Be pitiful! forgive me yet
This once, and I shall never need it more!"
"Alas!" the voice returned, "'tis thou art blind,
Not I unmerciful; I can forgive,
But have no skill to heal thy spirit's eyes;
Only the soul hath power o'er itself."
With that again there murmured, "Nevermore!"
And Rhœcus after heard no other sound,
Except the rattling of the oak's crisp leaves,
Like the long surf upon a distant shore,
Raking the sea-worn pebbles up and down.
The night had gathered round him: o'er the plain
The city sparkled with its thousand lights,
And sounds of revel fell upon his ear
Harshly and like a curse; above, the sky,
With all its bright sublimity of stars,
Deepened, and on his forehead smote the breeze:
Beauty was all around him and delight,
But from that eve he was alone on earth.

According to the older tradition, the nymph deprived Rhœcus of his physical sight; but the superior insight of Lowell's interpretation is evident.

[Pg 195]

139. Pomona and Vertumnus.[180] Pomona was a Hamadryad of Roman mythology, guardian especially of the apple orchards, but presiding also over other fruits. "Bear me, Pomona," sings one of our poets,—

Bear me, Pomona, to thy citron groves,
To where the lemon and the piercing lime,
With the deep orange, glowing through the green,
Their lighter glories blend. Lay me reclined
Beneath the spreading tamarind that shakes,
Fanned by the breeze, its fever-cooling fruit.[181]

Fig. 110. A Rustic

This nymph had scorned the offers of love made her by Pan, Sylvanus, and innumerable Fauns and Satyrs. Vertumnus, too, she had time and again refused. But he, the deity of gardens and of the changing seasons, unwearied, wooed her in as many guises as his seasons themselves could assume. Now as a reaper, now as haymaker, now as plowman, now as vinedresser, now as apple-picker, now as fisherman, now as soldier,—all to no avail. Finally, as an old woman, he came to her, admired her fruit, admired especially the luxuriance of her grapes, descanted on the dependence of the luxuriant vine, close by, upon the elm to which it was clinging; advised Pomona, likewise, to choose some youth—say, for instance, the young Vertumnus—about whom to twine her arms. Then he told how the worthy Iphis, spurned by Anaxarete, had hanged himself to her gatepost; and how the gods had turned the hard-hearted virgin to stone even as she gazed on her lover's funeral. "Consider these things, dearest child," said the seeming old woman, "lay aside thy scorn and thy delays, and accept a lover. So may neither the vernal frosts blight thy young fruits, nor furious winds scatter thy blossoms!"

When Vertumnus had thus spoken, he dropped his disguise and stood before Pomona in his proper person,—a comely youth. Such wooing, of course, could not but win its just reward.

[Pg 196]

140. The Cranes of Ibycus.[182] The Furies, called also Diræ (the terrible ones), Erinyes (the persecutors, or the angered ones), and finally, by way of euphemism, Eumenides (the well-meaning), though they were spirits of the underworld, visited earth to punish filial disobedience, irreverence to old age, perjury, murder, treachery to guests, even unkindness toward beggars. They avenged the ghosts of such as, dying violent deaths, possessed on earth no representatives either by law or by kindred to avenge them. Therefore, as we shall see, they persecuted Orestes, who had slain his mother. Therefore, like the accusing voice of conscience, they marshaled to punishment the murderers of Ibycus.

Fig. 111. A Rustic

This poet, beloved of Apollo, was, while journeying to the musical contest of the Isthmus at Corinth, attacked by two robbers in the Corinthian grove of Neptune. Overcome by them, he commended his cause as he fell to a flock of cranes that happened to be screaming hoarsely overhead. But when his body was found, all Greece, then gathered at the festival, demanded vengeance on the murderer.

Soon afterward, the vast assemblage in the amphitheater sat listening to a play in which the Chorus personated the Furies. The Choristers, clad in black, bore in their fleshless hands torches blazing with a pitchy flame. Advancing with measured step, they formed ranks in the orchestra. Their cheeks were bloodless, and in place of hair writhing serpents curled around their brows. Forming a circle, these awful beings sang their hymn. High it swelled, overpowering the sound of the instruments:

"Happy the man whose heart is pure from guilt and crime! Him we avengers touch not; he treads the path of life secure from us. But woe! woe! to him who has done the deed of secret murder. We, the fearful brood of Night, fasten ourselves upon him, soul and flesh. Thinks he by flight to escape us? Fly we [Pg 197]still faster in pursuit, twine our snakes around his feet, and bring him to the ground. Unwearied we pursue; no pity checks our course; still on, still on to the end of life, we give no peace, no rest."

Stillness like the stillness of death sat over the assembly. Suddenly a cry burst from one of the uppermost benches,—"Lo, comrade, the avengers of Ibycus!" A flock of cranes crossed the sky. "The murderer has informed against himself," shouted the assemblage. The inference was correct. The criminals, straightway seized, confessed the crime and suffered the penalty.

[Pg 198]


[169] His name is not derived from the Greek pān, all, but from the root , to feed, to pasture (i.e. the flocks and herds).

[170] Milton, Hymn on the Nativity.

[171] Translated by C. M. Gayley.

[172] By Edmund Clarence Stedman.

[173] From The Satyr, by Robert Buchanan.

[174] Ovid, Metam. 3, 339-510.

[175] Idyl VI (Lang's translation). For Moschus, see Commentary, § 298.

[176] From The Naiad, by Robert Buchanan.

[177] Ovid, Metam. 8, 738-884.

[178] See note (Scholium) on the Argonautics of Apollonius, B 477. Keil's edition, p. 415, l. 32.

[179] J. R. Lowell, Rhœcus. The student should read the whole poem.

[180] Ovid, Metam. 14, 623-771.

[181] Thomson, Seasons.

[182] Cf. Cicero, Tusculan Disputations, 4. 33, 71; and Statius, Silvæ, 5. 3, 152.


141. Galatea and Polyphemus. The water-gods may be roughly classed as dwellers in the sea and dwellers in the streams. Of the former, daughters of Nereus and Doris, none was fairer than Galatea, sister of Amphitrite and Thetis. She loved Acis, the son of Faunus by a Naiad, and was loved in return; but her happiness was disturbed and finally ruined by the persistent and jealous attentions of the Cyclops Polyphemus.

For the first time in his life the Cyclops began to care for his appearance; he harrowed his coarse locks with a currycomb, mowed his beard with a sickle, and, looking into the sea when it was calm, soliloquized, "Beautiful seems my beard, beautiful my one eye,—as I count beauty,—and the sea reflects the gleam of my teeth whiter than the Parian stone."[183]

... He loved, not with apples, not roses, nor locks of hair, but with fatal frenzy; and all things else he held but trifles by the way. Many a time from the green pastures would his ewes stray back, self-shepherded, to the fold. But he was singing of Galatea; and pining in his place, he sat by the seaweed of the beach from the dawn of day with the direst hurt beneath his breast of mighty Cypris' sending,—the wound of her arrow in his heart!

Yet this remedy he found, and sitting on the crest of the tall cliff and looking to the deep, 'twas thus he would sing:

"Oh, milk-white Galatea, why cast off him that loves thee? More white than is pressed milk to look upon, more delicate than the lamb art thou, than the young calf wantoner, more sleek than the unripened grape! Here dost thou resort, even so, when sweet sleep possesses me, and home straightway dost thou depart when sweet sleep lets me go, fleeing me like an ewe that has seen the gray wolf. I fell in love with thee, maiden, I, on the day when first thou camest, with my mother, and didst wish to pluck the hyacinths from the hill, and I was thy guide on the way. But to leave loving thee when [Pg 199]once I had seen thee, neither afterward, nor now at all, have I the strength, even from that hour. But to thee all this is as nothing, by Zeus, nay, nothing at all!

"I know, thou gracious maiden, why it is that thou dost shun me. It is all for the shaggy brow that spans my forehead, from this to the other ear, one long, unbroken eyebrow. And but one eye is on my forehead, and broad is the nose that overhangs my lip. Yet I (even such as thou seest me) feed a thousand cattle, and from these I draw and drink the best milk in the world. And cheese I never lack, in summer time or autumn, nay, nor in the dead of winter, but my baskets are always overladen.

Fig. 112. Galatea and Polyphemus

"Also I am skilled in piping, as none other of the Cyclopes here, and of thee, my love, my sweet apple, and of myself, too, I sing, many a time, deep in the night. And for thee I tend eleven fawns, all crescent browed, and four young whelps of the bear. Nay, come thou to me and thou shalt lack nothing that now thou hast....

"But if thou dost refuse because my body seems shaggy and rough, well, I have faggots of oak-wood, and beneath the ashes is fire unwearied, and I would endure to let thee burn my very soul, and this my one eye, the dearest thing that is mine.

"Ah me, that my mother bore me not a finny thing, so would I have gone down to thee, and kissed thy hand, if thy lips thou would not suffer me to kiss! And I would have brought thee either white lilies or the soft poppy with its scarlet petals. Nay, these are summer's flowers, and those are flowers of winter, so I could not have brought thee them all at one time.

"Now, verily, maiden, now and here will I learn to swim, if perchance some stranger come hither, sailing with his ship, that I may see why it is so dear to thee to have thy dwelling in the deep. Come forth, Galatea, and forget as thou comest, even as I that sit here have forgotten, the homeward way!...

"Oh, Cyclops, Cyclops, whither are thy wits wandering? Ah, that thou wouldst go and weave thy wickerwork and gather broken boughs to carry to thy lambs: in faith, if thou didst this, far wiser wouldst thou be!

[Pg 200]

"Milk the ewe that thou hast; why pursue the thing that shuns thee? Thou wilt find, perchance, another, and a fairer, Galatea. Many be the girls that bid me stay with them, and softly they all laugh, if perchance I answer them. On land it is plain that I, too, seem to be somebody!"[184]

Having, one day, in such wise sung, Polyphemus wandered, beside himself for passion, into the woods. On a sudden he came in sight of Galatea and Acis in the hollow of a rock, where they had hearkened to the strains of the Cyclops. The monster, infuriate, crying that this should be the last of their love-meetings, overwhelmed his rival with a tremendous rock. Purple blood spirted from under the stone, by degrees grew paler, and finally became the stream that still bears the name of the unfortunate youth. But Galatea remained inconsolable.[185]

Fig. 113. A Sea-God

142. Glaucus and Scylla.[186] Another deity of the sea was Glaucus, the son of that Sisyphus who was punished in Hades for his treachery to the gods. Glaucus had been a comely young fisherman; but having noticed that a certain herb revived fishes after they were brought to land, he ate of it and suffered metamorphosis into something new and strange, half man, half fish, and after the fashion of a sea-god. Of his experience during this "sea change" the following is an account:

I plunged for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-intent,
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
[Pg 201] I tried in fear the pinions of my will.
'Twas freedom! and at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean bed.[187]

He became guardian of fishes and divers and of those who go down to the sea in ships. Later, being infatuated of the fair virgin Scylla (daughter of the sea-god Phorcys and granddaughter of Pontus), he paid his court to her, but the maiden rejected him. Whereupon, in desperation, Glaucus sought the aid of Circe, an enchantress. She, because she coveted for herself the handsome sea-green god, transformed her rival into a monster hideously fashioned of serpents and barking dogs.[188] In this shape Scylla thereafter infested the shore of Sicily and worked evil to mariners,[189] till finally she was petrified as a reef, none the less perilous to all seafarers.

A modern version of the fate of Glaucus and Scylla is given by Keats in the Endymion. Glaucus consents to Circe's blandishments for a season, but becoming disgusted with her treachery and cruelty, he endeavors to escape from her. The attempt proving unsuccessful, he is brought back and sentenced to pass a thousand years in decrepitude and pain. Consequently, returning to the sea, he there discovers the body of Scylla, whom the goddess has not transformed, but drowned, and learns that if he passes his thousand years in collecting the bodies of drowned lovers, a youth beloved of the gods will, in time, appear and help him. This prophecy is fulfilled by Endymion, who aids in restoring Glaucus to youth, and Scylla and the drowned lovers to life.

143. Nisus and Scylla.[190] The daughter of Phorcys is frequently confounded with another Scylla, daughter of King Nisus of Megara. Scylla of Megara betrayed her father to his enemy, Minos II of Crete, with whom, although the kings were at war, she had fallen violently in love. It seems that Nisus had on his head a purple lock of hair, upon which depended his fortune and his life. This lock his daughter clipped and conveyed to Minos. But recoiling from the treacherous gift, that king, after he had [Pg 202]conquered Megara, bound Scylla to the rudder of his ship and so dragged her through the waves toward Crete. The girl was ultimately transformed into the monster of the barking dogs, or, according to another authority, into a bird continually the prey of the sea eagle, whose form her father Nisus had assumed.

144. Leucothea.[191] Another sea change was that of Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, who, flying from her frantic husband, sprang, with her child Melicertes in her arms, from a cliff into the sea. The gods, out of compassion, made her a goddess of the sea under the name of Leucothea, and her son a god under that of Palæmon. Both were held powerful to save from shipwreck and were invoked by sailors. Palæmon was usually represented as riding on a dolphin. In his honor the Isthmian games were celebrated. By the Romans he was called Portumnus, and had jurisdiction of ports and shores.

145. Proteus and Aristæus.[192] Though Aristæus, the lover of Eurydice, was son of Apollo and guardian himself of herds and flocks, protector of vine and olive, and keeper of bees, still he was son of Cyrene, a water-nymph, and his most interesting adventure brought him into contact with another deity of the sea.

His bees having perished, Aristæus resorted for aid to his mother. She, surrounded by her maidens in the crystalline abode under her river, overheard his complaints and ordered that he should be brought into her presence. The stream at her command opened itself and let him enter, while it stood heaped like a mountain on either side. Cyrene and her nymphs, having poured out libations to Neptune, gave the youth to eat and listened to his complaint, then informed him that an aged prophet named Proteus, who dwelt in the sea and pastured the sea calves of Neptune, could explain the cause of the mortality among the bees and how to remedy it; but that the wizard would have to be chained and compelled to answer, and that even when chained, he would try to escape by assuming a series of dreadful forms. "Still, thou hast but to keep him fast bound," concluded Cyrene, "and at last, when he finds his arts of no avail, he will obey thy behest." The [Pg 203]nymph then sprinkled her son with nectar, whereupon an unusual vigor filled his frame and courage his heart.

Cyrene led her son to the prophet's cave, which was in the island of Pharos, or of Carpathos,[193] and concealed him. At noon issued Proteus from the water, followed by his herd of sea calves, which spread themselves along the shore. He, too, stretched himself on the floor of the cave and went to sleep. Aristæus immediately clapped fetters on him and shouted at the top of his voice. Proteus, finding himself captured, resorted to his craft, becoming first a fire, then a flood, then a horrible wild beast, in rapid succession; nor did he succumb till all schemes had failed to set him free. Then he resumed his old form and, in response to the questioning of Aristæus, said: "Thou receivest the merited reward of thy deed, by which Eurydice met her death. To avenge her, the nymphs have sent this destruction on thy bees. Their anger thou must appease. Four bulls shalt thou select, of perfect form and size, and four cows of equal beauty; and four altars shalt thou build to the nymphs, and shalt sacrifice the animals, leaving their carcasses in the leafy grove. To Orpheus and Eurydice thou shalt pay such funeral honors as may allay their resentment. Returning after nine days, examine the bodies of the cattle slain and see what has befallen." Aristæus faithfully obeyed these directions. Returning to the grove on the ninth day he found that a swarm of bees had taken possession of one of the carcasses and were pursuing their labors there as in a hive.[194]

146. Acheloüs and Hercules.[195] A similar contest took place between Hercules and the river-god Acheloüs. The cause of the strife was Dejanira of Calydon, whom both heroes loved. Hercules boasted his divine descent. Acheloüs, not content with advancing his claim as lord of the mightiest and most ancient river of Greece, insinuated suspicions with regard to the value of Hercules' pretensions. Then began a mighty struggle. Finding he was no match for Hercules in the wrestler's art, Acheloüs glided away in the form of a serpent. Hercules, remarking that it was the labor of his infancy to strangle snakes,[196] clasped the neck of [Pg 204]Acheloüs and choked him. Then Acheloüs assumed the seeming of a bull. Whereupon Hercules, seizing him by the horns, dragged his head to the ground, overthrew him, and rent one horn away. This trophy the Naiads consecrated and filled with flowers for the goddess of Plenty, who, adopting it as her symbol, named it Cornucopia.

Fig. 114. Nereïds and Sea Monsters

147. Milton's Sabrina Fair. No writer in modern times has made more graceful poetic use of the divinities of the streams than has Milton. The following song, chanted by a Spirit in invocation of "the gentle nymph" (of the poet's invention) "that with moist curb sways the smooth Severn stream," is but one refrain of many caught by the poet from the far-echoing chorus of classical verse:

Sabrina fair,
Listen where thou art sitting
Under the glassy, cool, translucent wave,
In twisted braids of lilies knitting
The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair;
Listen for dear honor's sake,
Goddess of the silver lake,
Listen and save.
Listen and appear to us
In name of great Oceanus.
By th' earth-shaking Neptune's mace,
And Tethys' grave, majestic pace,
By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look,
And the Carpathian wizard's hook,
By scaly Triton's winding shell,
And old soothsaying Glaucus' spell,
[Pg 205] By Leucothea's lovely hands,
And her son that rules the strands,
By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet,
And the songs of Sirens sweet,
By dead Parthenope's[1] dear tomb
And fair Ligea's[197] golden comb,
Wherewith she sits on diamond rocks,
Sleeking her soft, alluring locks,
By all the nymphs that nightly dance
Upon thy streams with wily glance;
Rise, rise, and heave thy rosy head
From thy coral-paven bed,
And bridle in thy headlong wave,
Till thou our summons answered have.
Listen and save.[198]

[Pg 206]


[183] Theocritus, Idyl VI. See Andrew Lang's translation.

[184] Theocritus, Idyl XI (Lang's translation).

[185] Ovid, Metam. 13, 750-867.

[186] Ovid, Metam. 13, 898; 14, 74; Tibullus, 3, 4-89.

[187] From Keats' Endymion.

[188] §§ 50, 52, and Commentary.

[189] See §§ 239, 250, Adventures of Ulysses and Æneas.

[190] Apollodorus, 3, 15, § 8.

[191] Ovid, Metam. 4, 432-542.

[192] Cf. Odyssey, 4, 410; Ovid, Fasti, 1, 369; Virgil, Georgics, 4, 317.

[193] Cf. § 147, Milton's Carpathian Wizard.

[194] See Commentary.

[195] Ovid, Metam. 9, 1-100.

[196] § 156.

[197] See Commentary.

[198] Milton, Comus, 859-889.


148. The Older and the Younger Heroes. We have already narrated the adventures of certain demigods and heroes, such as Prometheus, Deucalion, Cadmus, Amphion, Orpheus. Others of importance were Perseus, Hercules, Minos, Œdipus, Theseus, Jason, Meleager, Peleus, Pelops, Castor and Pollux. These and their contemporaries may be called the Older Heroes. They are renowned either for individual exploits or for the part played by them in one or more of three great expeditions,—the War against Laomedon of Troy, the Voyage for the Golden Fleece, and the Hunt of the Calydonian Boar.

The Younger Heroes were of a later generation, which was concerned in four important enterprises,—the War of the Seven against Thebes, the Trojan War, the Wanderings of Ulysses, and the Adventures of Æneas.

The exploits of the Older Heroes may be arranged in respect of their probable sequence in time, and of their grouping according to families of heroes. If we observe the principle of genealogy, one race, that of Inachus of Argos, attracts our notice in the heroes descended from Pelasgus,[199] Belus, and Agenor. The family of Belus gives us the famous House of Danaüs, the family of Agenor the Houses of Minos and Labdacus. Another race, that of Deucalion, gives us the heroes of the Hellenic branch, most notably those descended from Æolus. With these families most of the Older Heroes are, by blood or by adventure, to some extent connected. Bearing this fact in mind and at the same time observing the chronological sequence of adventures, we obtain an arrangement of myths as illustrating the races, families, or houses—(1) of Danaüs of Argos, (2) of Æolus of Thessaly, (3) of Ætolus, (4) of Minos [Pg 207]of Crete, (5) of Cecrops and of Erichthonius of Attica, (6) of Labdacus of Thebes.[200]

149. The Genealogy of Danaüs. As the Hellenes, in the north, traced their descent from Deucalion and Pyrrha of Thessaly, so the Pelasgic races of the south from the river-god Inachus, son of Oceanus. The son of Inachus, Phoroneus, lived in the Peloponnesus and founded the town of Argos. This Phoroneus conferred upon the Argives the benefits attributed by other Greeks to Prometheus. He was succeeded by his son Pelasgus, from whom a division of the Greek people derive their name. With the love of Jupiter for the sister of Phoroneus, the fair Io, we are already acquainted. Her son was Epaphus, king of Egypt, from whom were descended (1) Agenor of Phœnicia, father of Europa and Cadmus, and (2) Belus of Egypt, father of Ægyptus and Danaüs. To the family of Agenor we shall return in the history of Minos, son of Europa, and of Œdipus, descendant of Cadmus.

Fig. 115. The Danaïds

150. The Danaïds.[201] Ægyptus and his fifty sons drove Danaüs and his fifty daughters back to Argos, the ancestral home of the race. Finally, a reconciliation was arranged by means of a fiftyfold marriage between the sons of Ægyptus and the Danaïds. But in accordance with a treacherous command of Danaüs, all his daughters save Hypermnestra slew their husbands on the wedding night. For this crime the forty-nine Danaïds were condemned to spend eternity in Tartarus, trying to fill with water a vessel full of holes. From Hypermnestra and her husband, Lynceus, was sprung the royal house of Argos. Their son was Abas, their grandson, Acrisius,—of whom the following narrative is told.

[Pg 208]

Fig. 116. Danaë and Perseus and the Chest

151. The Doom of King Acrisius.[202] The daughter of Acrisius was Danaë, of surpassing loveliness. In consequence of an oracle which had prophesied that the son of Danaë would be the means of his grandfather's death, the hapless girl was shut in an underground chamber, that no man might love or wed her. But Jupiter, distilling himself into a shower of gold, flooded the girl's prison, wooed, and won her. Their son was Perseus. King Acrisius, in dismay, ordered mother and child to be boxed up in a chest and set adrift on the sea. The two unfortunates were, however, rescued at Seriphus by a fisherman, who conveyed the mother and infant to Polydectes, king of the country, by whom they were treated at first with kindness, but afterwards with cruelty.

152. Perseus and Medusa.[203] When Perseus was grown up, Polydectes sent him to attempt the conquest of the Gorgon Medusa,[204] a terrible monster who had laid waste the country. She had once been a maiden whose hair was her chief glory, but as she dared to vie in beauty with Minerva, the goddess deprived her of her charms and changed her ringlets into hissing serpents. She became a monster of so frightful an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone. All around the cavern where she dwelt might be seen the stony figures of men and animals that had [Pg 209]chanced to catch a glimpse of her and had been petrified at the sight. Perseus, favored by Minerva and Mercury, set out against the Gorgon, and approached first the cave of the three Grææ:

Fig. 117. Medusa

There sat the crones that had the single eye,
Clad in blue sweeping cloak and snow-white gown;
While o'er their backs their straight white hair hung down
In long thin locks; dreadful their faces were,
Carved all about with wrinkles of despair;
And as they sat they crooned a dreary song,
Complaining that their lives should last so long,
In that sad place that no one came anear,
In that wan place desert of hope and fear;
And singing, still they rocked their bodies bent,
And ever each to each the eye they sent.[205]

Fig. 118. Medusa

Snatching the eye, Perseus compelled the Grææ, as the price of its restoration, to tell him how he might obtain the helmet of Hades that renders its wearer invisible, and the winged shoes and pouch that were necessary. With this outfit, to which Minerva added her shield and Mercury his knife, Perseus sped to the hall of the Gorgons. In silence sat two of the sisters,—

But a third woman paced about the hall,
And ever turned her head from wall to wall
And moaned aloud, and shrieked in her despair;
Because the golden tresses of her hair
Were moved by writhing snakes from side to side,
That in their writhing oftentimes would glide
On to her breast, or shuddering shoulders white;
[Pg 210] Or, falling down, the hideous things would light
Upon her feet, and crawling thence would twine
Their slimy folds about her ankles fine.[206]

Fig. 119. Perseus

From the sculpture by Cellini

This was Medusa. Her, while she was praying the gods to end her misery, or, as some say, while she was sleeping, Perseus approached, and, guided by her image reflected in the bright shield which he bore, cut off her head, and so ended her miserable existence. Thus are described the horror and the grace of her features in death:

It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky,
Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine;
Below, far lands are seen tremblingly;
Its horror and its beauty are divine.
Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie
Loveliness like a shadow, from which shine,
Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath,
The agonies of anguish and of death.
Yet it is less the horror than the grace
Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone;
Whereon the lineaments of that dead face
Are graven, till the characters be grown
Into itself, and thought no more can trace;
'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown
Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain,
Which humanize and harmonize the strain.[207]...

[Pg 211]

153. Perseus and Atlas. From the body of Medusa sprang the winged horse Pegasus, of whose rider, Bellerophon, we shall presently be informed.

Fig. 120. Perseus with Head of Medusa

After the slaughter of Medusa, Perseus, bearing with him the head of the Gorgon, flew far and wide, over land and sea. As night came on, he reached the western limit of the earth, and would gladly have rested till morning. Here was the realm of Atlas, whose bulk surpassed that of all other men. He was rich in flocks and herds, but his chief pride was his garden of the Hesperides, whose fruit was of gold, hanging from golden branches, half hid with golden leaves. Perseus said to him, "I come as a guest. If thou holdest in honor illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father; if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and food." But Atlas, remembering an ancient prophecy that had warned him against a son of Jove who should one day rob him of his golden apples, attempted to thrust the youth out. Whereupon Perseus, finding the giant too strong for him, held up the Gorgon's head. Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone. His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his head a summit, and his bones rocks. Each part increased in mass till the giant became the mountain upon whose shoulders rests heaven with all its stars.

154. Perseus and Andromeda. On his way back to Seriphus, the Gorgon-slayer arrived at the country of the Æthiopians, over whom Cepheus was king. His wife was Cassiopea—

That starred Æthiope queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended.[208]

These nymphs had consequently sent a sea monster to ravage the coast. To appease the deities, Cepheus was directed by the [Pg 212]oracle to devote his daughter Andromeda to the ravening maw of the prodigy. As Perseus looked down from his aërial height, he beheld the virgin chained to a rock. Drawing nearer he pitied, then comforted her, and sought the reason of her disgrace. At first from modesty she was silent; but when he repeated his questions, for fear she might be thought guilty of some offense which she dared not tell, she disclosed her name and that of her country, and her mother's pride of beauty. Before she had done speaking, a sound was heard upon the water, and the monster appeared. The virgin shrieked; the father and mother, who had now arrived, poured forth lamentations and threw their arms about the victim. But the hero himself undertook to slay the monster, on condition that, if the maiden were rescued by his valor, she should be his reward. The parents consented. Perseus embraced his promised bride; then—

Loosing his arms from her waist he flew upward, awaiting the sea beast.
Onward it came from the southward, as bulky and black as a galley,
Lazily coasting along, as the fish fled leaping before it;
Lazily breasting the ripple, and watching by sand bar and headland,
Listening for laughter of maidens at bleaching, or song of the fisher,
Children at play on the pebbles, or cattle that passed on the sand hills.
Rolling and dripping it came, where bedded in glistening purple
Cold on the cold seaweeds lay the long white sides of the maiden,
Trembling, her face in her hands, and her tresses afloat on the water.[209]

Fig. 121. Perseus finds Andromeda


[Pg 213]

The youth darted down upon the back of the monster and plunged his sword into its shoulder, then eluded its furious attack by means of his wings. Wherever he could find a passage for his sword, he plunged it between the scales of flank and side. The wings of the hero were finally drenched and unmanageable with the blood and water that the brute spouted. Then alighting on a rock and holding by a projection, he gave the monster his deathblow.

The joyful parents, with Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace, where a banquet was opened for them. But in the midst of the festivities a noise was heard of warlike clamor, and Phineus, who had formerly been betrothed to the bride, burst in, demanding her for his own. In vain, Cepheus remonstrated that all such engagements had been dissolved by the sentence of death passed upon Andromeda, and that if Phineus had actually loved the girl, he would have tried to rescue her. Phineus and his adherents, persisting in their intent, attacked the wedding party and would have broken it up with most admired disorder, but

Mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
Half stood, half floated on his ankle plumes
Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
Looked into stone the raging fray.[210]

Leaving Phineus and his fellows in merited petrifaction, and conveying Andromeda to Seriphus, the hero there turned into stone Polydectes and his court, because the tyrant had rendered Danaë's life intolerable with his attentions. Perseus then restored to their owners the charmed helmet, the winged shoes, and the pouch in which he had conveyed the Gorgon's head. The head itself he bestowed upon Minerva, who bore it afterward upon her ægis or shield. Of that Gorgon shield no simpler moral interpretation can be framed than the following:

What was that snaky-headed Gorgon shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe![211]

[Pg 214]

With his mother and his wife Perseus returned to Argos to seek his grandfather. But Acrisius, still fearing his doom, had retired to Larissa in Thessaly. Thither Perseus followed him, and found him presiding over certain funeral games. As luck would have it, the hero took part in the quoit throwing, and hurled a quoit far beyond the mark. The disk, falling upon his grandfather's foot, brought about the old man's death, and in that way the prophecy was fulfilled. Of Perseus and Andromeda three sons were born, through one of whom, Electryon, they became grandparents of the famous Alcmene, sweetheart of Jove and mother of Hercules.

155. Bellerophon and the Chimæra.[212] The horse Pegasus, which sprang from the Gorgon's blood, found a master in Bellerophon of Corinth. This youth was of the Hellenic branch of the Greek nation, being descended from Sisyphus and through him from Æolus, the son of Hellen.[213] His adventures should therefore be recited with those of Jason and other descendants of Æolus in the next chapter, but that they follow so closely on those of Perseus. His father, Glaucus, king of Corinth, is frequently identified with Glaucus the fisherman. This Glaucus of Corinth was noted for his love of horse racing, his fashion of feeding his mares on human flesh, and his destruction by the fury of his horses; for having upset his chariot, they tore their master to pieces. As to his son, Bellerophon, the following is related:

In Lycia a monster, breathing fire, made great havoc. The fore part of his body was a compound of the lion and the goat; the hind part was a dragon's. The king, Iobates, sought a hero to destroy this Chimæra, as it was called. At that time Bellerophon arrived at his court. The gallant youth brought letters from Prœtus, the son-in-law of Iobates, recommending Bellerophon in the warmest terms as an unconquerable hero, but adding a request to his father-in-law to put him to death. For Prœtus, suspecting that his wife Antea looked with too great favor on the young warrior, schemed thus to destroy him.

Iobates accordingly determined to send Bellerophon against the Chimæra. Bellerophon accepted the proposal, but before [Pg 215]proceeding to the combat, consulted the soothsayer Polyidus, who counseled him to procure, if possible, the horse Pegasus for the conflict. Now this horse had been caught and tamed by Minerva and by her presented to the Muses. Polyidus, therefore, directed Bellerophon to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. While he slept, Minerva brought him a golden bridle. When he awoke, she showed him Pegasus drinking at the well of Pirene. At sight of the bridle, the winged steed came willingly and suffered himself to be taken. Bellerophon mounted him, sped through the air, found the Chimæra, and gained an easy victory.

Fig. 122. Bellerophon and Pegasus

After the conquest of this monster, Bellerophon was subjected to further trials and labors by his unfriendly host, but by the aid of Pegasus he triumphed over all. At length Iobates, seeing that the hero was beloved of the gods, gave him his daughter in marriage and made him his successor on the throne. It is said that Bellerophon, by his pride and presumption, drew upon himself the anger of the Olympians; that he even attempted to fly to heaven on his winged steed; but the king of gods and men sent a gadfly, which, stinging Pegasus, caused him to throw his rider, who wandered ever after lame, blind, and lonely through the Aleian field, and perished miserably.

156. Hercules (Heracles): His Youth.[214] Alcmene, daughter of Electryon and granddaughter of Perseus and Andromeda, was [Pg 216]beloved of Jupiter. Their son, the mighty Hercules, born in Thebes, became the national hero of Greece. Juno, always hostile to the offspring of her husband by mortal mothers, declared war against Hercules from his birth. She sent two serpents to destroy him as he lay in his cradle, but the precocious infant strangled them with his hands. In his youth he passed for the son of his stepfather Amphitryon, king of Thebes, grandson of Perseus and Andromeda, and son of Alcæus. Hence his patronymic, Alcides. Rhadamanthus trained him in wisdom and virtue, Linus in music. Unfortunately the latter attempted one day to chastise Hercules; whereupon the pupil killed the master with a lute. After this melancholy breach of discipline, the youth was rusticated,—sent off to the mountains, where among the herdsmen and the cattle he grew to mighty stature, slew the Thespian lion, and performed various deeds of valor. To him, while still a youth, appeared, according to one story, two women at a meeting of the ways,—Pleasure and Duty. The gifts offered by Duty were the "Choice of Hercules." Soon afterward he contended with none other than Apollo for the tripod of Delphi; but reconciliation was effected between the combatants by the gods of Olympus, and from that day forth Apollo and Hercules remained true friends, each respecting the prowess of the other. Returning to Thebes, the hero aided his half brother Iphicles and his reputed father Amphitryon in throwing off the yoke of the city of Orchomenus, and was rewarded with the hand of the princess Megara. A few years later, while in the very pride of his manhood, he was driven insane by the implacable Juno. In his madness he slew his children, and would have slain Amphitryon, also, had not Minerva knocked him over with a stone and plunged him into a deep sleep, from which he awoke in his right mind. Next, for expiation of the bloodshed, he was rendered subject to his cousin Eurystheus and compelled to perform his commands. This humiliation, Juno, of course, had decreed.

157. His Labors. Eurystheus enjoined upon the hero a succession of desperate undertakings, which are called the twelve "Labors of Hercules." The first was the combat with the lion that infested the valley of Nemea, the skin of which Hercules was ordered to bring to Mycenæ. After using in vain his club and arrows[Pg 217] against the lion, Hercules strangled the animal with his hands and returned, carrying its carcass on his shoulders; but Eurystheus, frightened at the sight and at this proof of the prodigious strength of the hero, ordered him to deliver the account of his exploits, in future, outside the town.

Fig. 123. Heracles and the Nemean Lion

His second labor was the slaughter of the Hydra, a water serpent that ravaged the country of Argos and dwelt in a swamp near the well of Amymone. It had nine heads, of which the middle one was immortal. Hercules struck off the heads with his club; but in the place of each dispatched, two new ones appeared. At last, with the assistance of his faithful nephew Iolaüs, he burned away the other heads of the Hydra and buried the ninth, which was immortal, under a rock.

Fig. 124. Heracles and the Hydra

His third labor was the capture of a boar that haunted Mount Erymanthus in Arcadia. The adventure was, in itself, successful. But on the same journey Hercules made the friendship of the centaur Pholus, who, receiving him hospitably, poured out for him without stint the choicest wine that the centaurs possessed. As a consequence, Hercules became involved in a broil with the other centaurs of the mountain. Unfortunately his friend Pholus, drawing one of the arrows of Hercules from a brother centaur, wounded himself therewith and died of the poison.

[Pg 218]

The fourth labor of Hercules was the capture of a wonderful stag of golden antlers and brazen hoofs, that ranged the hills of Cerynea, between Arcadia and Achaia.

His fifth labor was the destruction of the Stymphalian birds, which with cruel beaks and sharp talons harassed the inhabitants of the valley of Stymphalus, devouring many of them.

His sixth labor was the cleaning of the Augean stables. Augeas, king of Elis, had a herd of three thousand oxen, whose stalls had not been cleansed for thirty years. Hercules, bringing the rivers Alpheüs and Peneüs through them, purified them thoroughly in one day.

Fig. 125. Heracles bringing Home the Boar

His seventh labor was the overthrow of the Cretan bull,—an awful but beautiful brute, at once a gift and a curse bestowed by Neptune upon Minos of Crete.[215] This monster Hercules brought to Mycenæ.

His eighth labor was the removal of the horses of Diomedes, king of Thrace. These horses subsisted on human flesh, were swift and fearful. Diomedes, attempting to retain them, was killed by Hercules and given to the horses to devour. They were then delivered to Eurystheus; but, escaping, they roamed the hills of Arcadia, till the wild beasts of Apollo tore them to pieces.

His ninth labor was of a more delicate character. Admeta, the daughter of Eurystheus, desired the girdle of the queen of the [Pg 219]Amazons, and Eurystheus ordered Hercules to get it. The Amazons were a nation dominated by warlike women, and in their hands were many cities. It was their custom to bring up only the female children, whom they hardened by martial discipline; the boys were either dispatched to the neighboring nations or put to death. Hippolyta, the queen, received Hercules kindly and consented to yield him the girdle; but Juno, taking the form of an Amazon, persuaded the people that the strangers were carrying off their queen. They instantly armed and beset the ship. Whereupon Hercules, thinking that Hippolyta had acted treacherously, slew her and, taking her girdle, made sail homeward.

Fig. 126. Heracles with the Bull

The tenth task enjoined upon him was to capture for Eurystheus the oxen of Geryon, a monster with three bodies, who dwelt in the island Erythea (the red),—so called because it lay in the west, under the rays of the setting sun. This description is thought to apply to Spain, of which Geryon was king. After traversing various countries, Hercules reached at length the frontiers of Libya and Europe, where he raised the two mountains of Abyla and Calpe as monuments of his progress,—the Pillars of Hercules; or, according to another account, rent one mountain into two and left half on each side, forming the Strait of Gibraltar. The oxen were guarded by the giant Eurytion and his two-headed dog, but Hercules killed the warders and conveyed the oxen in safety to Eurystheus.

One of the most difficult labors was the eleventh,—the robbery of the golden apples of the Hesperides. Hercules did not know where to find them; but after various adventures, arrived at Mount[Pg 220] Atlas in Africa. Since Atlas was the father of the Hesperides, Hercules thought he might through him obtain the apples. The hero, accordingly, taking the burden of the heavens on his own shoulders,[216] sent Atlas to seek the apples. The giant returned with them and proposed to take them himself to Eurystheus. "Even so," said Hercules; "but, pray, hold this load for me a moment, while I procure a pad to ease my shoulders." Unsuspectingly the giant resumed the burden of the heavens. Hercules took the apples.

Fig. 127 Heracles and Cerberus

His twelfth exploit was to fetch Cerberus from the lower world. To this end he descended into Hades, accompanied by Mercury and Minerva. There he obtained permission from Pluto to carry Cerberus to the upper air, provided he could do it without the use of weapons. In spite of the monster's struggling he seized him, held him fast, carried him to Eurystheus, and afterward restored him to the lower regions. While in Hades, Hercules also obtained the liberty of Theseus, his admirer and imitator, who had been detained there for an attempt at abducting Proserpine.[217]

After his return from Hades to his native Thebes, he renounced his wife Megara, for, having slain his children by her in his fit of madness, he looked upon the marriage as displeasing to the gods.

Two other exploits not recorded among the twelve labors are the victories over Antæus and Cacus. Antæus, the son of Poseidon and Gæa, was a giant and wrestler whose strength was invincible so long as he remained in contact with his mother Earth. He compelled all strangers who came to his country to wrestle with him, on condition that if conquered, they should suffer death.

[Pg 221]

Hercules encountered him and, finding that it was of no avail to throw him,—for he always rose with renewed strength from every fall,—lifted him up from the earth and strangled him in the air.

Later writers tell of an army of Pygmies which, finding Hercules asleep after his defeat of Antæus, made preparations to attack him, as if they were about to attack a city. But the hero, awakening, laughed at the little warriors, wrapped some of them up in his lion's skin, and carried them to Eurystheus.

Fig. 128. Heracles and Antæus

Cacus was a giant who inhabited a cave on Mount Aventine and plundered the surrounding country. When Hercules was driving home the oxen of Geryon, Cacus stole part of the cattle while the hero slept. That their footprints might not indicate where they had been driven, he dragged them backward by their tails to his cave. Hercules was deceived by the stratagem and would have failed to find his oxen, had it not happened that while he was driving the remainder of the herd past the cave where the stolen ones were concealed, those within, beginning to low, discovered themselves to him. Hercules promptly dispatched the thief.

Through most of these expeditions Hercules was attended by Iolaüs, his devoted friend, the son of his half brother Iphicles.

158. His Later Exploits. On the later exploits of the hero we can dwell but briefly. Having, in a fit of madness, killed his friend Iphitus, he was condemned for the offense to spend three years as the slave of Queen Omphale. He lived effeminately, wearing at times the dress of a woman and spinning wool with the handmaidens of Omphale, while the queen wore his lion's skin. But during this period he contrived to engage in about as many adventures as would fill the life of an ordinary hero. He rescued[Pg 222] Daphnis from Lityerses and threw the bloodthirsty king[218] into the river Mæander; he discovered the body of Icarus[219] and buried it; he joined the company of Argonauts, who were on their way to Colchis to secure the golden fleece, and he captured the thievish gnomes, called Cercopes. Two of these grotesque rascals had made off with the weapons of Hercules while he was sleeping. When he had caught them he strapped them, knees upward, to a yoke and so bore them away. Their drollery, however, regained them their liberty. It is said that some of them having once deceived Jupiter were changed to apes.

159. The Loss of Hylas.[220] In the Argonautic adventure Hercules was attended by a lad, Hylas, whom he tenderly loved and on whose account he deserted the expedition in Mysia; for Hylas had been stolen by the Naiads.

... Never was Heracles apart from Hylas, not when midnoon was high in heaven, not when Dawn with her white horses speeds upwards to the dwelling of Zeus, not when the twittering nestlings look towards the perch, while their mother flaps her wings above the smoke-browned beam; and all this that the lad might be fashioned to his mind, and might drive a straight furrow, and come to the true measure of man....

And Hylas of the yellow hair, with a vessel of bronze in his hand, went to draw water against supper-time for Heracles himself and the steadfast Telamon, for these comrades twain supped ever at one table. Soon was he ware of a spring in a hollow land, and the rushes grew thickly round it, and dark swallowwort, and green maidenhair, and blooming parsley, and deer grass spreading through the marshy land. In the midst of the water the nymphs were arranging their dances,—the sleepless nymphs, dread goddesses of the country people, Eunice, and Malis, and Nycheia, with her April eyes. And now the boy was holding out the wide-mouthed pitcher to the water, intent on dipping it; but the nymphs all clung to his hand, for love of the Argive lad had fluttered the soft hearts of all of them. Then down he sank into the black water, headlong all, as when a star shoots flaming from the sky, plumb in the deep it falls; and a mate shouts out to the seamen, "Up with the gear, my lads, the wind is fair for sailing."

Then the nymphs held the weeping boy on their laps, and with gentle words were striving to comfort him. But the son of Amphitryon was troubled about the lad, and went forth, carrying his bended bow in Scythian fashion, and the club that is ever grasped in his right hand. Thrice he shouted, "Hylas!" as loud as [Pg 223]his deep throat could call, and thrice again the boy heard him, and thrice came his voice from the water, and, hard by though he was, he seemed very far away. And as when a bearded lion, a ravening lion on the hills, hears the bleating of a fawn afar off and rushes forth from his lair to seize it, his readiest meal, even so the mighty Heracles, in longing for the lad, sped through the trackless briars and ranged over much country.

Reckless are lovers: great toils did Heracles bear, in hills and thickets wandering; and Jason's quest was all postponed to this....

Thus loveliest Hylas is numbered with the Blessed; but for a runaway they girded at Heracles—the heroes—because he roamed from Argo of the sixty oarsmen. But on foot he came to Colchis and inhospitable Phasis.

160. The Rescue of Daphnis.[221] Daphnis was the ideal Sicilian shepherd and to him was ascribed the invention of pastoral story and song. His father was Hermes (Mercury); his mother, a nymph who laid him when an infant in a charming valley in a laurel grove from which he received his name,[222] and on account of which Apollo loved him and endowed him with the gift of idyllic verse. He was brought up by nymphs and shepherds, and, avoiding the noisy haunts of men, he tended his flocks on Mount Ætna, winter and summer. He loved a maiden named Piplea, but she was borne away by robbers. He followed them to Phrygia, and there found his sweetheart in the power of the king of that realm, Lityerses. This Lityerses had a pleasant custom of making strangers try a contest with him in reaping corn. If he overcame them, he cut off their heads in the evening and concealed their bodies in the sheaves, singing a comfortable song meanwhile. In order to win back Piplea, Daphnis entered upon the reaping contest with the king and made himself comfortable, too, by singing a harvest song meanwhile. But Lityerses surpassed him at the work and was about to put him to death, singing no doubt a comfortable song of the reaper, Death, meanwhile,—when suddenly Hercules appeared upon the scene. He doesn't seem to have spent much time singing: he assured Daphnis of his head by cutting off that of the pleasant king; and then he threw the body into the river Mæander. Daphnis regained his Piplea and one would suppose that they lived happy ever after. Another story, unfortunately, [Pg 224]relates events in which Piplea's name does not occur. A Naiad fell in love with the handsome shepherd and made him promise eternal fidelity to her, threatening him with blindness if he violated his vow. It was hard for poor Daphnis, for nearly every lass he met made love to him. At last a princess intoxicated him and he forgot his vow. Immediately the Naiad showed the quality of her love by striking him blind. He consoled himself for a while by singing his songs and playing the flute as he wandered from place to place. Then weary, he called on his father for aid. Mercury accordingly transported him to heaven and caused a well to gush forth on the spot from which he ascended. Here the Sicilians offered yearly sacrifice in his honor.

Theocritus gives us a Lityerses song as he undoubtedly used to hear it sung by the harvesters of the country-side in Sicily:[223]

Demeter, rich in fruit and rich in grain, may this corn be easy to win and fruitful exceedingly!
Bind, ye binders, the sheaves, lest the wayfarer should cry, "Men of straw were the workers here; aye, and their hire was wasted!"
See that the cut stubble faces the North wind, or the West;—'tis thus that the grain waxes richest.
They that thresh corn should shun the noonday sleep; at noon the chaff parts easiest from the straw.
As for the reapers, let them begin when the crested lark is waking, and cease when he sleeps, but take holiday in the heat.
Lads, the frog has a jolly life: he is not cumbered about a butler to his drink; for he has liquor by him unstinted!
Boil the lentils better, thou miserly steward; take heed lest thou chop thy fingers, when thou'rt splitting cummin seed.

When Matthew Arnold is writing of the death of his dear friend, the poet, Arthur Hugh Clough, who died in Italy,[224] he says:

And now in happier air,
Wandering with the great Mother's train divine....
Within a folding of the Apennine,
Thou hearest the immortal chants of old!
Putting his sickle to the perilous grain
In the hot cornfield of the Phrygian king,
For thee the Lityerses song again
[Pg 225] Young Daphnis with his silver voice doth sing;
Sings his Sicilian fold,
His sheep, his hapless love, his blinded eyes:—
And how a call celestial round him rang,
And heavenward from the fountain-brink he sprang,—
And all the marvel of the golden skies!

161. The Expedition against Laomedon. After his servitude under Omphale was ended, Hercules sailed with eighteen ships against Troy. For Laomedon, king of that realm, had refused to give Hercules the horses of Neptune, which he had promised in gratitude for the rescue of his daughter Hesione from the sea-monster.[225] The hero, overcoming Troy, placed a son of Laomedon, Priam, upon the throne, and gave Hesione to Telamon, who, with Peleus, Oïcles, and other Greek heroes, had accompanied him. Also worthy of mention among the exploits of Hercules were his successful expeditions against Pylos and Sparta, his victory over the giants, his struggle with Death for the body and life of Alcestis,[226] and his delivery, according to prophecy, of Prometheus, who until that time had remained in chains upon the Caucasian Mountains.[227]

162. The Death of Hercules. Finally, the hero married Dejanira, daughter of Œneus of Calydon and sister of Meleager of the Calydonian hunt. With her he lived three prosperous years. But on one occasion, as they journeyed together, they came to a river across which the centaur Nessus carried travelers for a stated fee. Hercules proceeded to ford the river and gave Dejanira to Nessus to be carried across. Nessus, however, attempted to make off with her; whereupon Hercules, hearing her cries, shot an arrow into his heart. The centaur, as he died, bade Dejanira take a portion of his blood and keep it, saying that it might be used as a charm to preserve the love of her husband. Dejanira did so. Before long, jealous of Hercules' fondness for Iole of Œchalia, a captive maiden, she steeped a sacrificial robe of her husband's in the blood of Nessus. As soon as the garment became warm on the body of Hercules, the poison penetrated his limbs. In his frenzy he seized [Pg 226]Lichas, who had brought him the fatal robe, and hurled him into the sea; then tried to wrench off the garment, but it stuck to his flesh and tore away whole pieces of his body.

Fig. 129. Hercules and Nessus

Alcides, from Œchalia crowned
With conquest, felt the envenomed robe, and tore,
Through pain, up by the roots Thessalian pines,
And Lichas from the top of Œta threw
Into the Euboic Sea.[228]

[Pg 227]


In this state he embarked on board a ship and was conveyed home. Dejanira, on seeing what she had unwittingly done, hanged herself. Hercules, prepared to die, ascended Mount Œta, where he built a funeral pile of trees, gave his bow and arrows to Philoctetes,[229] and laid himself upon the pile, his head resting on his club and his lion's skin spread over him. With a countenance as serene as if he were taking his place at a festal board, he commanded Philoctetes to apply the torch. The flames spread apace, and soon invested the whole mass.[230]

The gods themselves grieved to see the champion of the earth so brought to his end. But Jupiter took care that only his mother's part in him should perish by the flames. The immortal element, derived from Jupiter himself, was translated to heaven; and by the consent of the gods—even of reluctant Juno—Hercules was admitted as a deity to the ranks of the immortals. The white-armed queen of heaven was finally reconciled to the offspring of Alcmene. She adopted him for her son and gave him in marriage her daughter Hebe.

Deep degraded to a coward's slave,
Endless contests bore Alcides brave,
Through the thorny path of suffering led;
Slew the Hydra, crushed the lion's might,
Threw himself, to bring his friend to light,
Living, in the skiff that bears the dead.
All the torments, every toil of earth,
Juno's hatred on him could impose,
Well he bore them, from his fated birth
To life's grandly mournful close.
Till the god, the earthly part forsaken,
From the man in flames asunder taken,
Drank the heavenly ether's purer breath.
Joyous in the new unwonted lightness,
Soared he upwards to celestial brightness,
Earth's dark heavy burden lost in death.
High Olympus gives harmonious greeting
To the hall where reigns his sire adored;
[Pg 228] Youth's bright goddess, with a blush at meeting,
Gives the nectar to her lord.[231]

In the tragedy called The Maidens of Trachis, Sophocles describes this hero as "The noblest man of all the earth, of whom thou ne'er shalt see the like again." To some of us the manner of his earthly end may seem unworthy; but the Greek poets teach that, in the unabated vigor of one's powers, serenely to meet and accept one's doom is the happiest death. This view is well expressed by Matthew Arnold in the following fragment of a Greek chorus sung with reference to the death of Hercules:

O frivolous mind of man,
Light ignorance, and hurrying, unsure thoughts!
Though man bewails you not,
How I bewail you!...
For you will not put on
New hearts with the inquirer's holy robe,
And purged, considerate minds.
And him on whom, at the end
Of toil and dolor untold,
The Gods have said that repose
At last shall descend undisturb'd—
Him you expect to behold
In an easy old age, in a happy home;
No end but this you praise.
But him, on whom, in the prime
Of life, with vigor undimm'd,
With unspent mind, and a soul
Unworn, undebased, undecay'd,
Mournfully grating, the gates
Of the city of death have forever closed—
Him, I count him, well-starr'd.[232]

Here we take leave for a time of the descendants of Inachus. We shall revert to them in the stories of Minos of Crete and of the house of Labdacus.

[Pg 229]


[199] § 21, and Commentary, § 57.

[200] For references to genealogical tables, see Commentary, § 148.

[201] Apollodorus, 2, 1, § 5, etc.; Pausanias; Ovid, Heroides, 14; Horace, Odes, 3; 11; 23.

[202] Simonides of Ceos, also Apollodorus, Pausanias, and Hyginus (Fables).

[203] Ovid, Metam. 4, 608-739; 5, 1-249.

[204] For Gorgons and Grææ, see § 52.

[205] William Morris, The Doom of King Acrisius, in The Earthly Paradise.

[206] William Morris, The Doom of King Acrisius, in The Earthly Paradise.

[207] From Shelley's lines On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery.

[208] Milton, Il Penseroso, l. 19.

[209] From Charles Kingsley's Andromeda.

[210] Milman, Samor.

[211] Milton, Comus.

[212] Iliad, 6, 155-202; Apollodorus, 1, 9, § 3; Horace, Odes, 4; 11; 26.

[213] See Commentary, §§ 103, 155.

[214] Authorities are Homer,—Iliad and Odyssey; Theocritus 24; 25, etc.; Apollodorus, 2, 4, § 7, etc.; Sophocles, Women of Trachis; Euripides, Hercules Furens; Ovid, Metam. 9, 102-272; Seneca,—Hercules Furens and Œtæus; Hyginus, etc.

[215] § 172.

[216] Atlas and the heavens, § 153.

[217] § 180.

[218] § 160.

[219] § 173.

[220] Theocritus. Idyl XIII (Lang's translation).

[221] Theocritus, Idyl X, 41, and the Scholia; Virgil, Bucol. 5; 8; 10; and Comments.

[222] See the story of Daphne.

[223] Theocritus, Idyl X (Lang's translation).

[224] Thyrsis.

[225] § 119.

[226] § 83.

[227] § 15.

[228] Milton.

[229] See § 220. According to Sophocles, Philoctetes' father Pœas applied the torch.

[230] See the spirited poems, Deïaneira and Herakles, in the classical, but too little read, Epic of Hades, by Lewis Morris.

[231] Schiller's Ideal and Life. Translated by S. G. Bulfinch, brother of Thomas Bulfinch.

[232] From Fragment of Chorus of a "Dejaneira."

Fig. 130. The Building of the Argo


163. Descendants of Deucalion. Athamas, brother of Sisyphus, was descended from Æolus, whose father, Hellen, was the son of Deucalion of Thessaly. Athamas had by his wife Nephele two children, Phrixus and Helle. After a time, growing indifferent to his wife, Athamas put her away and took Ino, the daughter of Cadmus. The unfortunate sequel of this second marriage we have already seen.[233]

Nephele, apprehending danger to her children from the influence of their stepmother, took measures to put them out of her reach. Mercury gave her a ram with a golden fleece, on which she set the two children. Vaulting into the air, the animal took his course to the east; but when he was crossing the strait that divides Europe and Asia, the girl Helle fell from his back into the sea, which from her was afterward called the Hellespont—now the Dardanelles. The ram safely landed the boy Phrixus in Colchis, [Pg 230]where he was hospitably received by Æetes, the king of that country. Phrixus sacrificed the ram to Jupiter, but the fleece he gave to Æetes, who placed it in a consecrated grove under the care of a sleepless dragon.[234]

164. The Quest of the Golden Fleece.[235] Another realm in Thessaly, near to that of Athamas, was ruled over by his nephew Æson. Æson, although he had a son Jason, surrendered the crown to a half brother, Pelias,[236] on condition that he should hold it only during the minority of the lad. This young Jason was, by the way, a second cousin of Bellerophon and of the Atalanta who ran against Hippomenes, and a first cousin of Admetus, the husband of Alcestis.[237] When, however, Jason, being grown up, came to demand the crown, his uncle Pelias with wily intent suggested to him the glorious quest of the golden fleece. Jason, pleased with the thought, forthwith made preparations for the expedition. At that time the only species of navigation known to the Greeks consisted of small boats or canoes hollowed out from trunks of trees; when, accordingly, Jason employed Argus to build a vessel capable of containing fifty men, it was considered a gigantic undertaking. The vessel was named Argo, probably after its builder. Jason soon found himself at the head of a bold band of comrades, many of whom afterward were renowned among the heroes and demigods of Greece.

From every region of Ægea's shore
The brave assembled; those illustrious twins
Castor and Pollux; Orpheus, tuneful bard;
Zetes and Calaïs, as the wind in speed;
Strong Hercules and many a chief renowned.
On deep Iolcos' sandy shore they thronged,
Gleaming in armor, ardent of exploits,—
And soon, the laurel cord and the huge stone
Uplifting to the deck, unmoored the bark;
Whose keel of wondrous length the skillful hand
Of Argus fashioned for the proud attempt;
And in the extended keel a lofty mast
Upraised, and sails full swelling; to the chiefs
Unwonted objects. Now first, now they learned
Their bolder steerage over ocean wave,
[Pg 231] Led by the golden stars, as Chiron's art
Had marked the sphere celestial.[238]

Theseus, Meleager, Peleus, and Nestor were also among these Argonauts, or sailors of the Argo. The ship with her crew of heroes left the shores of Thessaly, and touching at the island of Lemnos, thence crossed to Mysia and thence to Thrace. Here they found the sage Phineus, who instructed the Argonauts how they might pass the Symplegades, or Clashing Islands, at the entrance of the Euxine Sea. When they reached these islands they, accordingly, let go a dove, which took her way between the rocks and passed in safety, only losing some feathers of her tail. Jason and his men, seizing the favorable moment of the rebound, plied their oars with vigor and passed safe through, though the islands closed behind them and actually grazed the stern of the vessel. They then rowed along the shore till they arrived at the eastern end of the sea, and so landed in the kingdom of Colchis.

Fig. 131. Jason Conquers the Bulls and Steals the Fleece

Jason made known his message to the Colchian king, Æetes, who consented to give up the golden fleece on certain conditions, namely, that Jason should yoke to the plow two fire-breathing bulls with brazen feet, and that he then should sow the teeth of the dragon that Cadmus had slain. Jason, although it was well known that a crop of armed men would spring up from the teeth, destined to turn their weapons against their producer, accepted the conditions, and a time was set for the undertaking. The hero, [Pg 232]however, wisely spent the interval in wooing Medea, the daughter of Æetes; and with such success that they plighted troth before the altar of Hecate. The princess then furnished her hero with a charm which should aid him in the contest to come.

Accordingly, when the momentous day was arrived, Jason with calmness encountered the fire-breathing monsters and speedily yoked them to the plow. The Colchians stood in amazement; the Greeks shouted for joy. Next, the hero proceeded to sow the dragon's teeth and plow them in. Up sprang, according to prediction, the crop of armed men, brandished aloft their weapons, and rushed upon Jason. The Greeks trembled for their hero. Medea herself grew pale with fear. The hero himself for a time, with sword and shield, kept his assailants at bay; but he surely would have been overwhelmed by the numbers, had he not resorted to a charm which Medea had taught him: seizing a stone, he threw it in the midst of his foes. Immediately they turned their arms against one another, and soon there was not one of the dragon's brood alive.

It remained only to lull to sleep the dragon that guarded the fleece. This was done by scattering over him a few drops of a preparation which, again, Medea had supplied. Jason then seized the fleece, and, with his friends and his sweetheart accompanying, hastened to the vessel. It is said that, in order to delay the pursuit of her father Æetes, Medea tore to pieces her young brother Absyrtus and strewed fragments of him along the line of their flight. The ruse succeeded.

165. The Return of the Argonauts. On their way home the Argonauts beat a devious course, sailing after other dangers had been overcome, by the island that the Sirens infested. And here the heroes would have hung their halsers and remained, had not Orpheus vanquished the seductive strains of the sea-muses with his own more melodious and persuasive song.[239]

Oh, happy seafarers are ye
And surely all your ills are past,
And toil upon the land and sea,
Since ye are brought to us at last;

[Pg 233]

chanted the Sirens, promising long rest and the kingdoms of sleep.

But now, but now, when ye have lain
Asleep with us a little while
Beneath the washing of the main,
How calm shall be your waking smile!

Then Orpheus replied, encouraging his men:

A little more, a little more,
O carriers of the Golden Fleece!
A little labor with the oar,
Before we reach the land of Greece.
E'en now, perchance, faint rumors reach
Men's ears of this our victory,
And draw them down upon the beach
To gaze across the empty sea.

Again the Sirens:

Alas! and will ye stop your ears,
In vain desire to do aught,
And wish to live 'mid cares and fears,
Until the last fear makes you nought?

But Orpheus, reminding the rowers of home and love and joy:

Is not the May-time now on earth,
When close against the city wall
The folks are singing in their mirth,
While on their heads the May flowers fall?

carried them past triumphant.

The Argonauts arrived safe in Thessaly. Jason delivered the fleece to Pelias, and dedicated the Argo to Neptune.

166. Medea and Æson.[240] Medea's career as a sorceress was, by no means, completed. At Jason's request she undertook next to restore his aged father Æson to the vigor of youth. To the full moon she addressed her incantations, to the stars, to Hecate, to Tellus, the goddess of the earth. In a chariot borne aloft by dragons she traversed the fields of air to regions where flourished potent plants, which only she knew how to select. Nine nights [Pg 234]she employed in her search, and during that period shunned all intercourse with mortals.

Fig. 132. Medea

Next she erected two altars, the one to Hecate, the other to Hebe, and sacrificed a black sheep,—pouring libations of milk and wine. She implored Pluto and his stolen bride to spare the old man's life. Then she directed that Æson be led forth; and throwing him into a deep sleep, she laid him on a bed of herbs, like one dead. No eye profane looked upon her mysteries. With streaming hair thrice she moved round the altars, dipped flaming twigs in the blood, and laid them thereon to burn. Meanwhile, the caldron with its contents was preparing. In it she put magic herbs, with seeds and flowers of acrid juice, stones from the distant East, and sand from the shore of all-surrounding ocean, hoar-frost gathered by moonlight, a screech owl's head and wings, and the entrails of a wolf. She added fragments of the shells of tortoises and the liver of stags—animals tenacious of life—and the head and beak of a crow, which outlives nine generations of men. These, with many other things "without a name," she boiled together for her purposed work, stirring them with a dry olive branch. The branch, when taken out, instantly was green and erelong was covered with leaves and a plentiful growth of young olives; and as the liquor boiled and bubbled and sometimes bubbled over, the grass wherever the sprinklings fell leaped into verdure like that of spring.

Seeing that all was ready, Medea cut the throat of the old man, let out his blood, and poured into his mouth and his wound the juices of her caldron. As soon as he had completely imbibed them, his hair and beard lost their whiteness and assumed the color of youth; his paleness and emaciation were gone; his veins were full of blood, his limbs of vigor and robustness; and Æson, on awakening, found himself forty years younger.

[Pg 235]

Fig. 133. Medea and Daughters of Pelias

167. Pelias.[241] In another instance, Medea made her arts the instrument of revenge. Pelias, the usurping uncle of Jason, still kept him out of his heritage. But the daughters of Pelias wished Medea to restore their father also to youth. Medea simulated consent, but prepared her caldron for him in a new and singular way. She put in only water and a few simple herbs. In the night she persuaded the daughters of Pelias to kill him. They at first hesitated to strike, but Medea chiding their irresolution, they turned away their faces and, giving random blows, smote him with their weapons. Starting from his sleep, the old man cried out, "My daughters, would you kill your father?" Whereat their hearts failed them, and the weapons fell from their hands. Medea, however, struck the fatal blow.

They placed him in the caldron, but, as might be expected, with no success. Medea herself had taken care to escape before they discovered the treachery. She had, however, little profit of the fruits of her crime. Jason, for whom she had sacrificed so much, put her away, for he wished to marry Creüsa, princess of Corinth. Whereupon Medea, enraged at his ingratitude, called on the gods for vengeance; then, sending a poisoned robe as a gift to the bride, killing her own children, and setting fire to the palace, she mounted her serpent-drawn chariot and fled to Athens. There she married King Ægeus, the father of Theseus; and we shall meet her again when we come to the adventures of that hero.[242]

[Pg 236]

The incantation of Medea readily suggests that of the witches in Macbeth:

Round about the caldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmèd pot....
Fillet of a fenny snake
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble....
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digged i' the dark....
Make the gruel thick and slab.[243]

[Pg 237]


[233] § 144.

[234] Apollodorus, 1, 9, § 1; Apollonius Rhodius, 1, 927.

[235] Ovid, Metam. 6, 667; 7, 143. The Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes.

[236] See § 120.

[237] See Table G, Commentary, § 103.

[238] Dyer, The Fleece.

[239] William Morris, Life and Death of Jason.

[240] Ovid, Metam. 7, 143-293.

[241] Ovid, Metam. 7, 297-353.

[242] § 176.

[243] Macbeth, IV, i. Consult.


168. The Calydonian Hunt.[244] One of the heroes of the Argonautic expedition had been Meleager, a son of Œneus and Althæa, rulers of Calydon in Ætolia. His parents were cousins, descended from a son of Endymion named Ætolus, who had colonized that realm. By ties of kinship and marriage they were allied with many historic figures. Their daughter Dejanira had become, as we have already noted, the wife of Hercules; while Leda, the sister of Althæa, was mother of Castor and Pollux,[245] and of Clytemnestra and Helen, intimately concerned in the Trojan War.

When her son Meleager was born, Althæa had beheld the three Destinies, who, as they spun their fatal thread, foretold that the life of the child should last no longer than a certain brand then burning upon the hearth. Althæa seized and quenched the brand, and carefully preserved it while Meleager grew to boyhood, youth, and man's estate. It chanced, then, that Œneus, offering sacrifices to the gods, omitted to pay due honors to Diana; wherefore she, indignant at the neglect, sent a boar of enormous size to lay waste the fields of Calydon. Meleager called on the heroes of Greece to join in a hunt for the ravenous monster. Theseus and his friend Pirithoüs,[246] Jason, Peleus the father of Achilles, Telamon the father of Ajax, Nestor, then a youth, but who in his age bore arms with Achilles and Ajax in the Trojan War,[247]—these and many more joined in the enterprise. With them came, also, Atalanta, the daughter of Iasius, of the race of Callisto,—

Arcadian Atalanta, snowy-souled,
Fair as the snow and footed as the wind.[248]

[Pg 238]

A buckle of polished gold confined her vest, an ivory quiver hung on her left shoulder, and her left hand bore the bow. Her face blended feminine beauty with the graces of martial youth. Meleager saw and, with chivalric reverence, somewhat thus addressed her:

For thy name's sake and awe toward thy chaste head,
O holiest Atalanta! no man dares
Praise thee, though fairer than whom all men praise,
And godlike for thy grace of hallowed hair
And holy habit of thine eyes, and feet
That make the blown foam neither swift nor white,
Though the wind winnow and whirl it; yet we praise
Gods, found because of thee adorable
And for thy sake praiseworthiest from all men:
Thee therefore we praise also, thee as these,
Pure, and a light lit at the hands of gods.[249]

Fig. 134. Meleager on the Boar Hunt

But there was no time then for love; on to the hunt they pushed. To the hunt went also Plexippus and Toxeus, brothers of Queen Althæa, braggarts, envious of Meleager. Speedily the hunters drew near the monster's lair. They stretched strong nets from tree to tree; they uncoupled their dogs; they sought the footprints of their quarry in the grass. From the wood was a descent to marshy ground. Here the boar, as he lay among the reeds, heard the shouts of his pursuers and rushed forth against [Pg 239]them. One and another is thrown down and slain. Jason, Nestor, Telamon open the attack, but in vain.

... Then all abode save one,
The Arcadian Atalanta: from her side
Sprang her hounds, laboring at the leash, and slipped,
And plashed ear-deep with plunging feet; but she
Saying, "Speed it as I send it for thy sake,
Goddess," drew bow and loosed; the sudden string
Rang, and sprang inward, and the waterish air
Hissed, and the moist plumes of the songless reeds
Moved as a wave which the wind moves no more.
But the boar heaved half out of ooze and slime,
His tense flank trembling round the barbèd wound,
Hateful; and fiery with invasive eyes,
And bristling with intolerable hair,
Plunged, and the hounds clung, and green flowers and white
Reddened and broke all round them where they came.[1]

It was a slight wound, but Meleager saw and joyfully proclaimed it. The attack was renewed. Peleus, Amphiaraüs, Theseus, Jason, hurled their lances. Ancæus was laid low by a mortal wound. But Meleager,—

Rock-rooted, fair with fierce and fastened lips,
Clear eyes and springing muscle and shortening limb—
With chin aslant indrawn to a tightening throat,
Grave, and with gathered sinews, like a god,—
Aimed on the left side his well-handled spear,
Grasped where the ash was knottiest hewn, and smote,
And with no missile wound, the monstrous boar
Right in the hairiest hollow of his hide,
Under the last rib, sheer through bulk and bone,
Deep in; and deeply smitten, and to death,
The heavy horror with his hanging shafts
Leapt, and fell furiously, and from raging lips
Foamed out the latest wrath of all his life.[250]

Then rose a shout from those around; they glorified the conqueror,—crowded to touch his hand. But he, placing his foot upon the head of the slain boar, turned to Atalanta, and bestowed [Pg 240]on her the head and the rough hide—trophies of his success. Thereat she laughed—

Lit with a low blush to the braided hair,
And rose-colored and cold like very dawn,
Golden and godlike, chastely with chaste lips,
A faint grave laugh; and all they held their peace,
And she passed by them. Then one cried, "Lo now,
Shall not the Arcadian shoot out lips at us,
Saying all we were despoiled by this one girl?"
And all they rode against her violently
And cast the fresh crown from her hair, and now
They had rent her spoil away, dishonoring her,
Save that Meleager, as a tame lion chafed,
Bore on them, broke them, and as fire cleaves wood,
So clove and drove them, smitten in twain; but she
Smote not nor heaved up hand; and this man first,
Plexippus, crying out, "This for love's sake, Sweet,"
Drove at Meleager, who with spear straightening
Pierced his cheek through; then Toxeus made for him,
Dumb, but his spear shake; vain and violent words,
Fruitless; for him, too, stricken through both sides
The earth felt falling....
... And these being slain,
None moved, nor spake.[251]

Of this fearful sequel to the hunt, Althæa has heard nothing. As she bears thank offering to the temples for the victory of her son, the bodies of her murdered brothers meet her sight. She shrieks, and beats her breast, and hastens to change the garments of joy for those of mourning. But when the author of the deed is known, grief gives way to the stern desire of vengeance on her son. The fatal brand, which the Destinies have linked with Meleager's life, she brings forth. She commands a fire to be prepared. Four times she essays to place the brand upon the pile; four times draws back, shuddering before the destruction of her son. The feelings of the mother and the sister contend within her. Now she is pale at the thought of the purposed deed, now flushed again with anger at the violence of her offspring. Finally, [Pg 241]the sister prevails over the mother:—turning away her face, she throws the fatal wood upon the burning pile. Meleager, absent and unconscious of the cause, feels a sudden pang. He burns; he calls upon those whom he loves, Atalanta and his mother. But speedily the brand is ashes, and the life of Meleager is breathed forth to the wandering winds.

When at last the deed was done, the mother laid violent hands upon herself.

Fig. 135. The Death of Meleager

169. Merope. A heroine connected by blood with Atalanta was Merope,[252] daughter of king Cypselus of Arcadia, and descended from Arcas, the son of Callisto and Jupiter. On account of her relationship to Atalanta her story may be told here, though she is not a member of the family of Ætolus. Her husband, Cresphontes the Heraclid, king of Messenia, had been slain with two of his sons by rebellious nobles; and one Polyphontes, leader of the revolt, reigned in his stead and took Merope to wife. But her third son by Cresphontes, Æpytus, had been concealed by her in Arcadia. Thence, in due season, he returned unknown to her, with the purpose of wreaking vengeance on the murderers of his sire. He pretended to have slain Æpytus, and so as a stranger won the favor of Polyphontes, but came near losing his life at his mother's hands. A recognition being happily effected, Æpytus, aided by his mother, put Polyphontes to death and took possession of the kingdom. This story has been frequently dramatized, first [Pg 242]by Euripides in a lost play called Cresphontes, and most recently by Matthew Arnold, whose Merope is a masterpiece of classical invention and of poetic execution.

170. Castor and Pollux. Leda, the sister of Althæa and aunt of Meleager, bore to Tyndareus, king of Sparta, Castor and Clytemnestra. To Jove she bore Pollux and Helen. Pollux and Castor—one, the son of a god and immortal, the other, of mortal breed and destiny—are famous for their fraternal affection. Endowed with various manly virtues,—Castor a horse-tamer, Pollux a boxer,—they made all expeditions in common. Together they joined the Calydonian hunt. Together they accompanied the Argonauts. During the voyage to Colchis it is said that, a storm arising, Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian gods and played on his harp, and that when the storm ceased, stars appeared on the heads of the brothers. Hence they came to be honored as patrons of voyagers.

They rendered, indeed, noteworthy service to the Argonauts returning from Colchis with Medea and the Golden Fleece. For when the voyagers attempted a landing at Crete they were confronted by the gigantic warder of the island. This was Talus, a form of living brass, fashioned by Hephæstus (Vulcan) and presented to King Minos, about whose Cretan domain he made his rounds three times a day. Ordinarily when Talus saw voyagers nearing the coast he fired himself red-hot and embraced them as they landed. For some reason he did not welcome the Argonauts in this warm fashion, but

Whirling with resistless sway
Rocks sheer uprent, repels them from the bay.[1]

Medea, objecting to the volley of stones, resorts to necromantic spells:

Thrice she applies the power of magic prayer,
Thrice, hellward bending, mutters charms in air;
Then, turning toward the foe, bids Mischief fly,
And looks Destruction as she points her eye.[253]

Maddened, as might be surmised, by so insidious and unaccustomed a form of attack, the Man of Brass "tears up whole hills to [Pg 243]crush his foes"; then fleeing in sudden panic, he is overcome by the stupor of the enchantment and taken captive by Castor and Pollux. He had in his body only one vein, and that plugged on the crown of his head with a nail. Medea drew out the stopper.

At a later period when Theseus and his friend Pirithoüs had carried off Helen from Sparta, the youthful heroes, Castor and Pollux, with their followers hasted to the rescue. Theseus being absent from Attica, the brothers recovered their sister. Later still, we find Castor and Pollux engaged in a combat with Idas and Lynceus of Messene, some say over the daughters of Leucippus, others, over a herd of oxen. Castor was slain; but Pollux, inconsolable for the loss of his brother, besought Jupiter to be permitted to give his own life as a ransom for him. Jupiter so far consented as to allow the two brothers to enjoy the boon of life alternately, each spending one day under the earth and the next in the heavenly abodes. According to another version, Jupiter rewarded the attachment of the brothers by placing them among the stars as Gemini, the Twins. They received heroic honors as the Tyndaridæ (sons of Tyndareus); divine honors they received under the name of Dioscuri (sons of Jove).[254]

171. The Twin Brethren among the Romans. In Rome they were honored with a temple in the Forum and made the patrons of knighthood because of the assistance they rendered in the battle of Lake Regillus. In the moment of dire distress they had appeared, a princely pair:

So like they were, no mortal
Might one from other know;
White as snow their armor was,
Their steeds were white as snow.
Never on earthly anvil
Did such rare armor gleam,
And never did such gallant steeds
Drink of an earthly stream.
And all who saw them trembled,
And pale grew every cheek;
And Aulus the Dictator
Scarce gathered voice to speak:
"Say by what name men call you?
[Pg 244] What city is your home?
And wherefore ride ye in such guise
Before the ranks of Rome?"

Fig. 136. Castor and Pollux capturing the Giant Talus

(Left portion)

"By many names," they answered,—

"By many names men call us;
In many lands we dwell:
Well Samothracia knows us;
Cyrene knows us well;
Our house in gay Tarentum
Is hung each morn with flowers;
High o'er the masts of Syracuse
Our marble portal towers;
But by the brave Eurotas
Is our dear native home;
And for the right we come to fight
Before the ranks of Rome."

After the battle was won they were the first to bear the tidings to the city. With joy the people acclaimed them,—

But on rode these strange horsemen,
With slow and lordly pace;
And none who saw their bearing
Durst ask their name or race.
On rode they to the Forum,
While laurel boughs and flowers,
From housetops and from windows,
Fell on their crests in showers.
When they drew nigh to Vesta,
They vaulted down amain,
And washed their horses in the well
That springs by Vesta's fane.
And straight again they mounted,
And rode to Vesta's door;
Then, like a blast, away they passed,
And no man saw them more....
And Sergius the High Pontiff
Alone found voice to speak:
[Pg 245] "The gods who live forever
Have fought for Rome to-day!
These be the Great Twin Brethren
To whom the Dorians pray.
Back comes the chief in triumph
Who, in the hour of fight,
Hath seen the Great Twin Brethren
In harness on his right.
Safe comes the ship to haven,
Through billows and through gales
If once the Great Twin Brethren
Sit shining on the sails....
Here, hard by Vesta's temple,
Build we a stately dome
Unto the Great Twin Brethren
Who fought so well for Rome!"[255]

Fig. 137. Castor and Pollux capturing the Giant Talus

(Right portion)

For many a year the procession, in which the knights, olive-wreathed and purple-robed, marched in honor of the Twin Brethren, continued to be held; and still there stand three columns of their temple above the pool of Juturna and Vesta's ruined shrine.

[Pg 246]


[244] Ovid, Metam. 8, 260-546.

[245] § 170.

[246] § 180.

[247] Chapter XXI.

[248] From Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon.

[249] From Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon.

[250] From Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon.

[251] From Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon.

[252] Hyginus, Fab. 184; Apollodorus, 2, 8; Pausanias, 2, 18; 4, 3, etc.; Aristotle, Poetics, 14, 9.

[253] Apollonius Rhodius, 4, 1629 (Broome's translation). See also Apollodorus, 1; 9, 26.

[254] Hyginus, Fab. 80; Ovid, Fasti, 100. Theocritus, Idyl XXII, gives a different version.

[255] Macaulay, Lays of Ancient Rome, The Battle of Lake Regillus.


172. Minos of Crete was a descendant of Inachus in the sixth generation. A son of Jupiter and Europa, he was, after death, transferred, with his brother Rhadamanthus and with King Æacus, to Hades, where the three became judges of the Shades. This is the Minos mentioned by Homer and Hesiod,—the eminent lawgiver. Of his grandson, Minos II, it is related that when aiming at the crown of Crete, he boasted of his power to obtain by prayer whatever he desired, and as a test, he implored Neptune to send him a bull for sacrifice. The bull appeared, but Minos, astonished at its great beauty, declined to sacrifice the brute. Neptune, therefore incensed, drove the bull wild,—worse still, drove Pasiphaë, the wife of Minos, wild with love of it. The wonderful brute was finally caught and overcome by Hercules, who rode it through the waves to Greece. But its offspring, the Minotaur, a monster bull-headed and man-bodied, remained for many a day a terror to Crete, till finally a famous artificer, Dædalus, constructed for him a labyrinth, with passages and turnings winding in and about like the river Mæander, so that whoever was inclosed in it might by no means find his way out. The Minotaur, roaming therein, lived upon human victims. For it is said that, after Minos had subdued Megara,[256] a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens was sent every year from Athens to Crete to feed this monster; and it was not until the days of Theseus of Athens that an end was put to both tribute and Minotaur.[257]

173. Dædalus and Icarus.[258] Dædalus, who abetted the love of Pasiphaë for the Cretan bull, afterwards lost the favor of [Pg 247]Minos and was imprisoned by him. Seeing no other way of escape, the artificer made, out of feathers, wings for his son Icarus and himself, which he fastened on with wax. Then poising themselves in the air, they flew away. Icarus had been warned not to approach too near the sun, and all went well till they had passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right. But then the boy, exulting in his career, soared upward. The blaze of the torrid sun softened the waxen fastening of his wings. Off they came, and down the lad dropped into the sea which after him is named Icarian, even to this day.

Fig. 138. Dædalus and Icarus

... With melting wax and loosened strings
Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
With limbs distorted and disheveled hair;
His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
And sorrowing Nereïds decked his watery grave;
O'er his pale corse their pearly sea flowers shed,
And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell.[259]

The story, save for its tragic conclusion, reads like a remarkable anticipation of the exploits of the Wright brothers, Blériot, and Latham with the aëroplane to-day, or of Count Zeppelin with his airships.

Dædalus, mourning his son, arrived finally in Sicily where, being kindly received by King Cocalus, he built a temple to Apollo and hung up his wings, an offering to the god. But Minos, having learned of the hiding place of the artificer, followed him to Sicily with a great fleet; and Dædalus would surely have perished, had not one of the daughters of Cocalus disposed of Minos by scalding him to death while he was bathing.

[Pg 248]

It is said that Dædalus could not bear the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore, he picked up the spine of a fish, and, imitating it in iron, invented the saw. He invented, also, a pair of compasses. But Dædalus, envious of his nephew, pushed him off a tower and killed him. Minerva, however, in pity of the boy, changed him into a bird, the partridge, which bears his name.

To the descendants of Inachus we shall again return in the account of the house of Labdacus.

[Pg 249]


[256] § 143.

[257] § 177. Apollodorus, 3, 1, § 3; 15, § 8; Pausanias, 1, 27, § 9, etc.; Ovid, Metam. 7, 456.

[258] Virgil, Æneid, 6, 14-36; Ovid, Metam. 8, 152-259; Hyginus, Fab. 40, 44.

[259] Erasmus Darwin.


Fig. 139. Theseus

174. From Cecrops[260] to Philomela. Cecrops, half-snake, half-man, came from Crete or Egypt into Attica, founded Athens, and chose Minerva rather than Neptune as its guardian. His successor was Erichthonius,[261] or Erechtheus, a snake-formed genius of the fertile soil of Attica. This Erichthonius[262] was a special ward of the goddess Minerva, who brought him up in her temple. His son Pandion had two daughters, Procne and Philomela, of whom he gave the former in marriage to Tereus, king of Thrace (or of Daulis in Phocis). This ruler, after his wife had borne him a son Itys (or Itylus), wearied of her, plucked out her tongue by the roots to insure her silence, and, pretending that she was dead, took in marriage the other sister, Philomela. Procne by means of a web, into which she wove her story, informed Philomela of the horrible truth. In revenge upon Tereus, the sisters killed Itylus and served up the child as food to the father; but the gods, in indignation, transformed Procne into a swallow, Philomela into a nightingale, forever bemoaning the murdered Itylus, and Tereus into a hawk, forever pursuing the sisters.[263]

[Pg 250]

175. Matthew Arnold's Philomela.

Hark! ah, the nightingale—
The tawny-throated!
Hark, from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
What triumph! hark!—what pain!
O wanderer from a Grecian shore,
Still, after many years in distant lands,
Still nourishing in thy bewilder'd brain
That wild, unquench'd, deep-sunken, old-world pain—
Say, will it never heal?
And can this fragrant lawn
With its cool trees, and night,
And the sweet, tranquil Thames,
And moonshine, and the dew,
To thy rack'd heart and brain
Afford no calm?
Dost thou to-night behold,
Here, through the moonlight on this English grass,
The unfriendly palace in the Thracian wild?
Dost thou again peruse,
With hot cheeks and sear'd eyes,
The too clear web, and thy dumb sister's shame?
Dost thou once more assay
Thy flight, and feel come over thee,
Poor fugitive, the feathery change
Once more, and once more seem to make resound
With love and hate, triumph and agony,
Lone Daulis, and the high Cephissian vale?
Listen, Eugenia—
How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
Again—thou hearest?
Eternal passion!
Eternal pain!

According to another version of this story, it was Philomela who was robbed of her tongue and who wove the web by means of which the queen Procne learned the truth.

176. Theseus.[264] A descendant of Erechtheus, or of Cecrops, was Ægeus, king of Athens. By Æthra, granddaughter of Pelops, he [Pg 251]became the father of the Attic hero, Theseus. Ægeus, on parting from Æthra, before the birth of the child, had placed his sword and shoes under a large stone and had directed her to send the child to him if it should prove strong enough to roll away the stone and take what was under. The lad Theseus was brought up at Trœzen, of which Pittheus, Æthra's father, was king. When Æthra thought the time had come, she led Theseus to the stone. He removed it with ease and took the sword and shoes. Since at that time the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather Pittheus pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father's country, by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and soul of a hero and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.

Fig. 140. Æthra and Theseus

His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage always went armed with a club of iron, and all travelers stood in terror of his violence; but beneath the blows of the young hero he speedily fell.

Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. Most important was his slaughter of Procrustes, or the Stretcher. This giant had an iron bedstead on which he used to tie all travelers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched them till they fitted it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off their limbs.

[Pg 252]

In the course of time Theseus reached Athens, but here new dangers awaited him. For Medea, the sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason,[265] had become the wife of Ægeus. Knowing by her arts who the stranger was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she tried to poison the youth; but the sword which he wore discovered him to his father and prevented the fatal draft. Medea fled to Asia, where the country afterwards called Media is said to have received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his sire and declared successor to the throne.

Fig. 141. Theseus and the Minotaur

177. Theseus and Ariadne.[266] Now the Athenians were at that time in deep affliction on account of the tribute of youths and maidens which they were forced to send to the Minotaur, dwelling in the labyrinth of Crete,—a penalty said to have been imposed by Minos upon the Athenians because Ægeus had sent Androgeüs, the son of Minos, against the Marathonian bull and so had brought about the young man's death.

From this calamity Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen or to die in the attempt. He, therefore, in spite of the entreaties of his father, presented himself as champion of Athens and of her fair sons and daughters, to do battle against the Minotaur, and departed with the victims in a vessel bearing black sails, which he [Pg 253]promised his father to change for white in the event of his returning victorious. So,—

Rather than cargo on cargo of corpses undead should be wafted[267]
Over the ravening sea to the pitiless monster of Creta,—
Leaving the curvèd strand Piræan, and wooing the breezes,
Theseus furrowed the deep to the dome superb of the tyrant.
Then as the maid Ariadne beheld him with glances of longing,—
Princess royal of Creta Minoan, tender, sequestered,—
Locked in a mother's embrace, in seclusion virginal, fragrant,
Like some myrtle set by streaming ways of Eurotas,
Like to the varied tints that Spring invites with her breezes,—
Then, as with eager gaze she looked her first upon Theseus,
Never a whit she lowered her eyes nor ceased to consume him,
Ere to the core profound her breast with love was enkindled.
—God-born boy, thou pitiless heart, provoker of madness,
Mischievous, mingling care with the fleeting pleasure of mortals,—
Goddess of Golgi, thou, frequenter of coverts Idalian,
In what wildering seas ye tossed the impassionate maiden
Ever a-sighing,—aye for the fair-haired stranger a-sighing!
Ah, what ponderous fears oppressed her languishing bosom,
How, more pallid than gold her countenance flashed into whiteness,
What time Theseus marched unto death or to glory undying,
Manful, minded to quell the imbruted might of the monster!

Not unaided, however, did he undertake the task; for Ariadne, apprehensive lest he might lose his way in the dædalian labyrinth, furnished him with a thread, the gift of Vulcan, which, unrolled by Theseus as he entered the maze, should enable him on his return to retrace his former path. Meanwhile—

Offering artless bribes, Ariadne invoked the Immortals,
Kindled voiceless lip with unvoicèd tribute of incense,
Suppliant, not in vain: for, like to an oak upon Taurus,
Gnarlèd, swinging his arms,—like some cone-burthenèd pine tree
Oozing the life from his bark, that, riven to heart by the whirlwind,
Wholly uprooted from earth, falls prone with extravagant ruin,
Perishes, dealing doom with precipitate rush of its branches,—
So was the Cretan brute by Theseus done to destruction,
E'en so, tossing in vain his horns to the vacuous breezes.
Then with abundant laud he turned, unscathed from the combat,
[Pg 254] Theseus,—guiding his feet unsure by the filament slender,
Lest as he threaded paths circuitous, ways labyrinthine,
Some perverse, perplexing, erratic alley might foil him.
Why should I tarry to tell how, quitting her sire, Ariadne
Quitting the sister's arms, the infatuate gaze of the mother,—
She whose sole delight, whose life, was her desperate daughter,—
How Ariadne made less of the love of them all than of Theseus?
Why should I sing how sailing they came to the beaches of Dia,—
White with the foam,—how thence, false-hearted, the lover departing
Left her benighted with sleep, the Minoïd, princess of Creta?

Fig. 142. The Sleeping Ariadne

Gazing amain from the marge of the flood-reverberant Dia,
Chafing with ire, indignant, exasperate,—lo, Ariadne,
Lorn Ariadne, beholds swift craft, swift lover retreating.
Nor can be sure she sees what things she sees of a surety,
When upspringing from sleep, she shakes off treacherous slumber,
Lone beholds herself on a shore forlorn of the ocean.
Carelessly hastens the youth, meantime, who, driving his oar-blades
Hard in the waves, consigns void vows to the blustering breezes.
But as, afar from the sedge, with sad eyes still the Minoïd
Mute as a Mænad in stone unmoving stonily gazes—
Heart o'erwhelmed with woe—ah, thus, while thus she is gazing,—
[Pg 255] Down from her yellow hair slips, sudden, the weed of the fine-spun
Snood, and the vesture light of her mantle down from the shoulders
Slips, and the twisted scarf encircling her womanly bosom;
Stealthily gliding, slip they downward into the billow,
Fall, and are tossed by the buoyant flood at the feet of the fair one.
Nothing she recks of the coif, of the floating garment as little,
Cares not a moment then, whose care hangs only on Theseus,—
Wretched of heart, soul-wrecked, dependent only on Theseus,—
Desperate, woe-unselfed with a cureless sorrow incessant,
Frantic, bosoming torture of thorns Erycina had planted....
Then, they say, that at last, infuriate out of all measure,
Once and again she poured shrill-voicèd shrieks from her bosom;
Helpless, clambered steeps, sheer beetling over the surges,
Whence to enrange with her eyes vast futile regions of ocean;—
Lifting the folds, soft folds of her garments, baring her ankles,
Dashed into edges of upward waves that trembled before her;
Uttered, anguished then, one wail, her maddest and saddest,—
Catching with tear-wet lips poor sobs that shivering choked her:—
"Thus is it far from my home, O traitor, and far from its altars—
Thus on a desert strand,—dost leave me, treacherous Theseus?
Thus is it thou dost flout our vow, dost flout the Immortals,—
Carelessly homeward bearest, with baleful ballast of curses?
Never, could never a plea forfend thy cruelly minded
Counsel? Never a pity entreat thy bosom for shelter?...
Hence, let never a maid confide in the oath of a lover,
Never presume man's vows hold aught trustworthy within them!
Verily, while in anguish of heart his spirit is longing,
Nothing he spares to assever, nor aught makes scruple to promise:
But, an his dearest desire, his nearest of heart be accorded—
Nothing he recks of affiance, and reckons perjury,—nothing.
"Oh! what lioness whelped thee? Oh! what desolate cavern?
What was the sea that spawned, that spat from its churning abysses,
Thee,—what wolfish Scylla, or Syrtis, or vasty Charybdis,
Thee,—thus thankful for life, dear gift of living, I gave thee?...
Had it not liked thee still to acknowledge vows that we plighted,
Mightest thou homeward, yet, have borne me a damsel beholden,
Fain to obey thy will, and to lave thy feet like a servant,
Fain to bedeck thy couch with purple coverlet for thee.
"But to the hollow winds why stand repeating my quarrel,—
I, for sorrow unselfed,—they, but breezes insensate,—
[Pg 256] Potent neither voices to hear nor words to re-echo?...
Yea, but where shall I turn? Forlorn, what succor rely on?
'Haste to the Gnossian hills?' Ah, see how distantly surging
Deeps forbid, distending their gulfs abhorrent before me!
'Comfort my heart, mayhap, with the loyal love of my husband?'
Lo, the reluctant oar, e'en now, he plies to forsake me!—
Nought but the homeless strand of an isle remote of the ocean!
No, no way of escape, where the circling sea without shore is,—
No, no counsel of flight, no hope, no sound of a mortal;
All things desolate, dumb, yea, all things summoning deathward!
Yet mine eyes shall not fade in death that sealeth the eyelids,
Nor from the frame outworn shall fare my lingering senses,
Ere, undone, from powers divine I claim retribution—
Ere I call—in the hour supreme, on the faith of Immortals!
"Come, then, Righters of Wrong, O vengeful dealers of justice,
Braided with coil of the serpents, O Eumenides, ye of
Brows that blazon ire exhaling aye from the bosom,
Haste, oh, haste ye, hither and hear me, vehement plaining,
Destitute, fired with rage, stark-blind, demented for fury!—
As with careless heart yon Theseus sailed and forgot me,
So with folly of heart, may he slay himself and his household!"
... Then with a nod supreme Olympian Jupiter nodded:
Quaked thereat old Earth,—quaked, shuddered the terrified waters,
Ay, and the constellations in Heaven that glitter were jangled.
Straightway like some cloud on the inward vision of Theseus
Dropped oblivion down, enshrouding vows he had cherished,
Hiding away all trace of the solemn behest of his father.

Fig. 143. Head of Dionysus

For, as was said before, Ægeus, on the departure of his son for Creta, had given him this command: "If Minerva, goddess of our city, grant thee victory over the Minotaur, hoist on thy return, when first the dear hills of Attica greet thy vision, white canvas[Pg 257] to herald thy joy and mine, that mine eyes may see the propitious sign and know the glad day that restores thee safe to me."

... Even as clouds compelled by urgent push of the breezes
Float from the brow uplift of a snow-envelopèd mountain,
So from Theseus passed all prayer and behest of his father.
Waited the sire meanwhile, looked out from his tower over ocean,
Wasted his anxious eyes in futile labor of weeping,
Waited expectant,—saw to the southward sails black-bellied—
Hurled him headlong down from the horrid steep to destruction,—
Weening hateful Fate had severed the fortune of Theseus.
Theseus, then, as he paced that gloom of the home of his father,
Insolent Theseus knew himself what manner of evil
He with a careless heart had aforetime dealt Ariadne,—
Fixed Ariadne that still, still stared where the ship had receded,—
Wounded, revolving in heart her countless muster of sorrows.

Fig. 144. The Revels of Bacchus and Ariadne

178. Bacchus and Ariadne. But for the deserted daughter of Minos a happier fate was yet reserved. This island, on which she had been abandoned, was Naxos, loved and[Pg 258] especially haunted by Bacchus, where with his train of reeling devotees he was wont to hold high carnival.

... Sweeping over the shore, lo, beautiful, blooming Iacchus,—
Chorused of Satyrs in dance and of Nysian-born Sileni,—
Seeking fair Ariadne,—afire with flame of a lover!
Lightly around him leaped Bacchantès, strenuous, frenzied,
Nodding their heads, "Euhoe!" to the cry, "Euhoe, O Bacchus!"
Some—enwreathèd spears of Iacchus madly were waving;
Some—ensanguined limbs of the bullock, quivering, brandished;
Some—were twining themselves with sinuous snakes that twisted;
Some—with vessels of signs mysterious, passed in procession—
Symbols profound that in vain the profane may seek to decipher;
Certain struck with the palms—with tapered fingers on timbrels,
Others the tenuous clash of the rounded cymbals awakened;—
Brayed with a raucous roar through the turmoil many a trumpet,
Many a stridulous fife went, shrill, barbarian, shrieking.[268]

So the grieving, much-wronged Ariadne was consoled for the loss of her mortal spouse by an immortal lover. The blooming god of the vine wooed and won her. After her death, the golden crown that he had given her was transferred by him to the heavens. As it mounted the ethereal spaces, its gems, growing in brightness, became stars; and still it remains fixed, as a constellation, between the kneeling Hercules and the man that holds the serpent.

179. The Amazons. As king of Athens, it is said that Theseus undertook an expedition against the Amazons. Assailing them before they had recovered from the attack of Hercules, he carried off their queen Antiope; but they in turn, invading the country of Athens, penetrated into the city itself; and there was fought the final battle in which Theseus overcame them.

180. Theseus and Pirithoüs. A famous friendship between Theseus and Pirithoüs of Thessaly, son of Jupiter, originated in the midst of arms. Pirithoüs had made an irruption into the plain of Marathon and had carried off the herds of the king of Athens. Theseus went to repel the plunderers. The moment the Thessalian beheld him, he was seized with admiration, and stretching out his hand as a token of peace, he cried, "Be judge thyself,—what [Pg 259]satisfaction dost thou require?"—"Thy friendship," replied the Athenian; and they swore inviolable fidelity. Their deeds corresponding to their professions, they continued true brothers in arms. When, accordingly, Pirithoüs was to marry Hippodamia, daughter of Atrax, Theseus took his friend's part in the battle that ensued between the Lapithæ (of whom Pirithoüs was king) and the Centaurs. For it happened that at the marriage feast, the Centaurs were among the guests; and one of them, Eurytion, becoming intoxicated, attempted to offer violence to the bride. Other Centaurs followed his example; combat was joined; Theseus leaped into the fray, and not a few of the guests bit the dust.

Fig. 145. Lapith and Centaur

Later, each of these friends aspired to espouse a daughter of Jupiter. Theseus fixed his choice on Leda's daughter Helen, then a child, but afterwards famous as the cause of the Trojan War; and with the aid of his friend he carried her off, only, however, to restore her at very short notice. As for Pirithoüs, he aspired to the wife of the monarch of Erebus; and Theseus, though aware of the danger, accompanied the ambitious lover to the underworld. But Pluto seized and set them on an enchanted rock at his palace gate, where fixed they remained till Hercules, arriving, liberated Theseus but left Pirithoüs to his fate.

181. Phædra and Hippolytus. After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phædra, sister of the deserted Ariadne, daughter of Minos. But Phædra, seeing in Hippolytus, the son of Theseus, a youth endowed with all the graces and virtues of his father and of an age corresponding to her own, loved him. When, however, he repulsed her advances, her love was changed to despair and[Pg 260] hate. Hanging herself, she left for her husband a scroll containing false charges against Hippolytus. The infatuated husband, filled, therefore, with jealousy of his son, imprecated the vengeance of Neptune upon him. As Hippolytus one day drove his chariot along the shore, a sea monster raised himself above the waters and frightened the horses so that they ran away and dashed the chariot to pieces. Hippolytus was killed, but by Æsculapius was restored to life, and then, removed by Diana from the power of his deluded father, was placed in Italy under the protection of the nymph Egeria.

In his old age, Theseus, losing the favor of his people, retired to the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, who at first received him kindly, but afterwards treacherously put him to death.

[Pg 261]


[260] Ovid, Metam. 2, 555; Apollodorus, 3, 14, § 1; Pausanias; and Hyginus, Fab. 48.

[261] Ovid, Metam. 2, 554; 6, 676; Homer, Iliad, 2, 547; Odyssey, 7, 81; Hyginus, Poet. Astr. 2, 13.

[262] For Ruskin's interpretation, see Queen of the Air, § 38.

[263] Hyginus, Fab. 45; Apollodorus, 3, 14, § 8; Ovid, Metam. 6, 412-676. See Commentary.

[264] Ovid, Metam. 7, 350-424; Plutarch, Theseus.

[265] § 167.

[266] Odyssey, 11, 321; Plutarch, Theseus; Catullus, LXIV.

[267] Catullus, LXIV. From The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. A Translation in Hexameters, by Charles Mills Gayley.

[268] Catullus, LXIV (Charles Mills Gayley's translation).


Fig. 146. Œdipus and the Sphinx

182. The Misfortunes of Thebes. Returning to the descendants of Inachus, we find that the curse which fell upon Cadmus when he slew the dragon of Mars followed nearly every scion of his house. His daughters, Semele, Ino, Autonoë, Agave,—his grandsons, Melicertes, Actæon, Pentheus,—lived sorrowful lives or suffered violent deaths. The misfortunes of one branch of his family, sprung from his son Polydorus, remain to be told. The curse seems to have spared Polydorus himself. His son Labdacus, also, lived a quiet life as king of Thebes and left a son, Laïus, upon the throne. But erelong Laïus was warned by an oracle that there was danger to his throne and life if his son, new-born, should reach man's estate. He, therefore, committed the child to a herdsman with orders for its destruction; but the herdsman, moved with pity yet not daring entirely to disobey, pierced the child's feet, purposing to expose him to the elements on Mount Cithæron.

183. Œdipus and the Sphinx.[269] In this plight the infant was given to a tender-hearted fellow-shepherd, who carried him to King Polybus of Corinth and his queen, by whom he was adopted and called Œdipus, or Swollen-foot.

[Pg 262]

Many years afterward, Œdipus, learning from an oracle that he was destined to be the death of his father, left the realm of his reputed sire, Polybus. It happened, however, that Laïus was then driving to Delphi, accompanied only by one attendant. In a narrow road he met Œdipus, also in a chariot. On the refusal of the youthful stranger to leave the way at their command, the attendant killed one of his horses. Œdipus, consumed with rage, slew both Laïus and the attendant, and thus unknowingly fulfilled both oracles.

Shortly after this event, the city of Thebes, to which Œdipus had repaired, was afflicted with a monster that infested the high-road. She was called the Sphinx. She had the body of a lion and the upper part of a woman. She lay crouched on the top of a rock and, arresting all travelers who came that way, propounded to them a riddle, with the condition that those who could solve it should pass safe, but those who failed should be killed. Not one had yet succeeded in guessing it. Œdipus, not daunted by these alarming accounts, boldly advanced to the trial. The Sphinx asked him, "What animal is it that in the morning goes on four feet, at noon on two, and in the evening upon three?" Œdipus replied, "Man, who in childhood creeps on hands and knees, in manhood walks erect, and in old age goes with the aid of a staff." The Sphinx, mortified at the collapse of her riddle, cast herself down from the rock and perished.

184. Œdipus, the King. In gratitude for their deliverance, the Thebans made Œdipus their king, giving him in marriage their queen, Jocasta. He, ignorant of his parentage, had already become the slayer of his father; in marrying the queen he became the husband of his mother. These horrors remained undiscovered till, after many years, Thebes being afflicted with famine and pestilence, the oracle was consulted, and, by a series of coincidences, the double crime of Œdipus came to light. At once, Jocasta put an end to her life by hanging herself. As for Œdipus, horror-struck,—

When her form
He saw, poor wretch! with one wild fearful cry,
The twisted rope he loosens, and she fell,
Ill-starred one, on the ground. Then came a sight
Most fearful. Tearing from her robe the clasps,
[Pg 263] All chased with gold, with which she decked herself,
He with them struck the pupils of his eyes,
With words like these: "Because they had not seen
What ills he suffered, and what ills he did,
They in the dark should look, in time to come,
On those whom they ought never to have seen,
Nor know the dear ones whom he fain had known."
With suchlike wails, not once or twice alone,
Raising his eyes he smote them, and the balls,
All bleeding, stained his cheek.[270]

185. Œdipus at Colonus. After these sad events Œdipus would have left Thebes, but the oracle forbade the people to let him go. Jocasta's brother, Creon, was made regent of the realm for the two sons of Œdipus. But after Œdipus had grown content to stay, these sons of his, with Creon, thrust him into exile. Accompanied by his daughter Antigone, he went begging through the land. His other daughter, Ismene, at first stayed at home. Cursing the sons who had abandoned him, but bowing his own will in submission to the ways of God, Œdipus approached the hour of his death in Colonus, a village near Athens. His friend Theseus, king of Athens, comforted and sustained him to the last. Both his daughters were also with him:

And then he called his girls, and bade them fetch
Clear water from the stream, and bring to him
For cleansing and libation. And they went,
Both of them, to yon hill we look upon,
Owned by Demeter of the fair green corn,
And quickly did his bidding, bathed his limbs,
And clothed them in the garment that is meet.
And when he had his will in all they did,
And not one wish continued unfulfilled,
Zeus from the dark depths thundered, and the girls
Heard it, and shuddering, at their father's knees,
Falling they wept; nor did they then forbear
Smiting their breasts, nor groanings lengthened out;
And when he heard their bitter cry, forthwith
Folding his arms around them, thus he spake:
"My children, on this day ye cease to have
A father. All my days are spent and gone;
[Pg 264] And ye no more shall lead your wretched life,
Caring for me. Hard was it, that I know,
My children! Yet one word is strong to loose,
Although alone, the burden of these toils,
For love in larger store ye could not have
From any than from him who standeth here,
Of whom bereaved ye now shall live your life."[271]

There was sobbing, then silence. Then a voice called him,—and he followed. God took him from his troubles. Antigone returned to Thebes,—where, as we shall see, her sisterly fidelity showed itself as true as, aforetime, her filial affection.

Her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, had meanwhile agreed to share the kingdom between them and to reign alternately year by year. The first year fell to the lot of Eteocles, who, when his time expired, refused to surrender the kingdom to his brother. Polynices, accordingly, fled to Adrastus, king of Argos, who gave him his daughter in marriage and aided him with an army to enforce his claim to the kingdom. These causes led to the celebrated expedition of the "Seven against Thebes," which furnished ample materials for the epic and tragic poets of Greece. And here the younger heroes of Greece make their appearance.

[Pg 265]


[269] Sophocles, Œdipus Rex, Œdipus Coloneus, Antigone; Euripides, Phœnissæ; Apollodorus, 3, 5, §§ 7, 8.

[270] Sophocles, Œdipus, the King (E. H. Plumptre's translation).

[271] Sophocles, Œdipus at Colonus, ll. 1600, etc. (E. H. Plumptre's translation).


186. Their Exploits. The exploits of the sons and grandsons of the chieftains engaged in the Calydonian Hunt and the Quest of the Golden Fleece are narrated in four stories,—the Seven against Thebes, the Siege of Troy, the Wanderings of Ulysses, and the Adventures of Æneas.

187. The Seven against Thebes.[272] The allies of Adrastus and Polynices in the enterprise against Thebes were Tydeus of Calydon, half brother of Meleager, Parthenopæus of Arcadia, son of Atalanta and Mars, Capaneus of Argos, Hippomedon of Argos, and Amphiaraüs, the brother-in-law of Adrastus. Amphiaraüs opposed the expedition for, being a soothsayer, he knew that none of the leaders except Adrastus would live to return from Thebes; but on his marriage to Eriphyle, the king's sister, he had agreed that whenever he and Adrastus should differ in opinion, the decision should be left to Eriphyle. Polynices, knowing this, gave Eriphyle the necklace of Harmonia and thereby gained her to his interest. This was the selfsame necklace that Vulcan had given to Harmonia on her marriage with Cadmus; Polynices had taken it with him on his flight from Thebes. It seems to have been still fraught with the curse of the house of Cadmus. But Eriphyle could not resist so tempting a bribe. By her decision the war was resolved on, and Amphiaraüs went to his fate. He bore his part bravely in the contest, but still could not avert his destiny. While, pursued by the enemy, he was fleeing along the river, a thunderbolt launched by Jupiter opened the ground, and he, his chariot, and his charioteer were swallowed up.

[Pg 266]

It is unnecessary here to detail all the acts of heroism or atrocity which marked this contest. The fidelity, however, of Evadne stands out as an offset to the weakness of Eriphyle. Her husband, Capaneus, having in the ardor of the fight declared that he would force his way into the city in spite of Jove himself, placed a ladder against the wall and mounted; but Jupiter, offended at his impious language, struck him with a thunderbolt. When his obsequies were celebrated, Evadne cast herself on his funeral pile and perished.

Fig. 147. Eteocles and Polynices kill each other

It seems that early in the contest Eteocles consulted the soothsayer Tiresias as to the issue. Now, this Tiresias in his youth had by chance seen Minerva bathing, and had been deprived by her of his sight, but afterwards had obtained of her the knowledge of future events. When consulted by Eteocles, he declared that victory should fall to Thebes if Menœceus, the son of Creon, gave himself a voluntary victim. The heroic youth, learning the response, threw away his life in the first encounter.

The siege continued long, with varying success. At length both hosts agreed that the brothers should decide their quarrel by single combat. They fought, and fell each by the hand of the other. The armies then renewed the fight; and at last the invaders were forced to yield, and fled, leaving their dead unburied. Creon, the uncle of the fallen princes, now became king, caused Eteocles to be buried with distinguished honor, but suffered the body of Polynices to lie where it fell, forbidding any one, on pain of death, to give it burial.

188. Antigone,[273] the sister of Polynices, heard with indignation the revolting edict which, consigning her brother's body to [Pg 267]the dogs and vultures, deprived it of the rites that were considered essential to the repose of the dead. Unmoved by the dissuading counsel of her affectionate but timid sister, and unable to procure assistance, she determined to brave the hazard and to bury the body with her own hands. She was detected in the act. When Creon asked the fearless woman whether she dared disobey the laws, she answered:

Yes, for it was not Zeus who gave them forth,
Nor justice, dwelling with the gods below,
Who traced these laws for all the sons of men;
Nor did I deem thy edicts strong enough,
That thou, a mortal man, should'st overpass
The unwritten laws of God that know no change.
They are not of to-day nor yesterday,
But live forever, nor can man assign
When first they sprang to being. Not through fear
Of any man's resolve was I prepared
Before the gods to bear the penalty
Of sinning against these. That I should die
I knew (how should I not?), though thy decree
Had never spoken. And before my time
If I shall die, I reckon this a gain;
For whoso lives, as I, in many woes,
How can it be but he shall gain by death?
And so for me to bear this doom of thine
Has nothing fearful. But, if I had left
My mother's son unburied on his death,
In that I should have suffered; but in this
I suffer not.[274]

Creon, unyielding and unable to conceive of a law higher than that he knew, gave orders that she should be buried alive, as having deliberately set at nought the solemn edict of the city. Her lover, Hæmon, the son of Creon, unable to avert her fate, would not survive her, and fell by his own hand. It is only after his son's death and as he gazes upon the corpses of the lovers, that the aged Creon recognizes the insolence of his narrow judgment. And those that stand beside him say:

[Pg 268]

Man's highest blessedness
In wisdom chiefly stands;
And in the things that touch upon the gods,
'T is best in word or deed,
To shun unholy pride;
Great words of boasting bring great punishments,
And so to gray-haired age
Teach wisdom at the last.[275]

189. The Epigoni.[276] Such was the fall of the house of Labdacus. The bane of Cadmus expires with the family of Œdipus. But the wedding gear of Harmonia has not yet fulfilled its baleful mission. Amphiaraüs had, with his last breath, enjoined his son Alcmæon to avenge him on the faithless Eriphyle. Alcmæon engaged his word, but before accomplishing the fell purpose, he was ordered by an oracle of Delphi to conduct against Thebes a new expedition. Thereto his mother Eriphyle, influenced by Thersander, the son of Polynices, and bribed this time by the gift of Harmonia's wedding garment, impelled not only Alcmæon but her other son, Amphilochus. The descendants (Epigoni) of the former Seven thus renewed the war against Thebes. They leveled the city to the ground. Its inhabitants, counseled by Tiresias, took refuge in foreign lands. Tiresias himself perished during the flight. Alcmæon, returning to Argos, put his mother to death but, in consequence, repeated in his own experience the penalty of Orestes. The outfit of Harmonia preserved its malign influence until, at last, it was devoted to the temple at Delphi and removed from the sphere of mortal jealousies.

[Pg 269]


[272] Æschylus, Seven against Thebes; Euripides, Phœnissæ; Apollodorus, 3. 6 and 7; Hyginus, Fab. 69, 70; Pausanias, 8 and 9; Statius, Thebaid.

[273] Sophocles, Antigone; Euripides, Suppliants.

[274] Sophocles, Antigone, ll. 450-470 (E. H. Plumptre's translation).

[275] Sophocles, Antigone, closing chorus.

[276] Pausanias, 9, 9, §§ 2, 3; Herodotus, 5, 61; Apollodorus.


190. Three Families. Before entering upon the causes of the war against Troy, we must notice the three Grecian families that were principally concerned,—those of Peleus, Atreus, and Tyndareus.

191. Peleus[277] was the son of Æacus and grandson of Jove. It was for his father Æacus, king of Phthia in Thessaly, that, as we have seen, an army of Myrmidons was created by Jupiter. Peleus joined the expedition of the Argonauts, and on that journey beheld and fell in love with the sea-nymph Thetis, daughter of Nereus and Doris. Such was the beauty of the nymph that Jupiter himself had sought her in marriage; but having learned from Prometheus, the Titan, that Thetis should bear a son who should be greater than his father, the Olympian desisted from his suit and decreed that Thetis should be the wife of a mortal. By the aid of Chiron, the Centaur, Peleus succeeded in winning the goddess for his bride. In this marriage, to be productive of momentous results for mortals, the immortals manifested a lively interest. They thronged with the Thessalians to the wedding in Pharsalia; they honored the wedding feast with their presence and, reclining on ivory couches, gave ear while the three Sisters of Fate, in responsive strain, chanted the fortunes of Achilles,—the future hero of the Trojan War,—the son that should spring from this union of a goddess with a mortal. The following is from a translation of the famous poem, The Wedding of Peleus and Thetis:[278]

... Now, on the day foreset, Aurora forsaking the ocean
Crimsons the orient sky: all Thessaly, seeking the palace,
Fares to the royal seat, in populous muster exultant,
Heavy of hand with gifts, but blithesome of cheer for the joyance.
Scyros behind they leave, they leave Phthiotican Tempe,
[Pg 270] Crannon's glittering domes and the battlements Larissæan,
Cumber Pharsalia, throng the abodes and the streets of Pharsalus.
Fields, meanwhile are untilled, grow tender the necks of the oxen,
None with the curving teeth of the harrow cleareth the vineyard,
None upturneth the glebe with bull and the furrowing plowshare,
None with gardener's knife lets light through the branches umbrageous;
Squalid the rust creeps up o'er plows forgotten of plowmen.
Bright is the palace, ay, through far retreating recesses
Blazing for sheen benign of the opulent gold and the silver:
Ivory gleams on the thrones, great goblets glint on the tables,
Glitters the spacious home, made glad with imperial splendor,—
Ay, but most—in the hall midmost—is the couch of the goddess,
Glorious, made of the tusk of the Indian elephant—polished—
Spread with a wonder of quilt empurpled with dye of the sea-shell.

On this coverlet of purple were embroidered various scenes illustrating the lessons of heroism and justice that the poet would inculcate: to the good falleth good; to the evil, evil speedily. Therefore, the story of Theseus and Ariadne, which has already been recounted, was here displayed in cunning handiwork. For Theseus, the false lover, bold of hand but bad of heart, gained by retributive justice undying ruth and misery; whereas Ariadne, the injured and innocent, restored to happiness, won no less a reward than Bacchus himself. Gorgeously woven with such antique and heroic figures was the famous quilt upon the couch of Thetis. For a season the wedding guests feasted their eyes upon it.

Then when Thessaly's youth, long gazing, had of the wonder
Their content, they gan give place to the lords of Olympus.
As when Zephyr awakes the recumbent billows of ocean,
Roughens the placid deep with eager breath of the morning,
Urges the waves, and impels, to the threshold of journeying Phœbus,—
They, at first, blown outward unroughly when Dawn is a-rising,
Limp slow-footed, and loiter with laughter lightsomely plashing,
But, with the freshening gale, creep quicker and thicker together,
Till on horizon they float refulgent of luminous purple,—
So from the portal withdrawing the pomp Thessalian departed
Faring on world-wide ways to the far-off homes of their fathers.
Now when they were aloof, drew nigh from Pelion's summit
[Pg 271] Chiron bearing gifts from copses and glades of the woodland—
Gifts that the meadows yield: what flowers on Thessaly's mountains,
Or, by waves of the stream, the prolific breath of the West Wind,
Warming, woos to the day, all such in bunches assorted
Bore he. Flattered with odors the whole house brake into laughter.
Came there next Peneüs, abandoning verdurous Tempe—
Tempe embowered deep mid superimpendent forests.

And after the river-god, who bore with him nodding plane trees and lofty beeches, straight slim laurels, the lithe poplar, and the airy cypress to plant about the palace that thick foliage might give it shade, followed Prometheus, the bold and cunning of heart, wearing still the marks of his ancient punishment on the rocks of Caucasus. Finally the father of the gods himself came, with his holy spouse and his offspring,—all, save Phœbus and his one sister, who naturally looked askance upon a union to be productive of untold misfortune to their favored town of Troy.

Fig. 148. The Gods bring Wedding Gifts

... When now the gods had reclined their limbs on the ivory couches,
Viands many and rare were heaped on the banqueting tables,
Whilst the decrepit Sisters of Fate, their tottering bodies
Solemnly swayed, and rehearsed their soothfast vaticination.
—Lo, each tremulous frame was wrapped in robe of a whiteness,
Down to the ankles that fell, with nethermost border of purple,
While on ambrosial brows there rested fillets like snowflakes.
They, at a task eternal their hands religiously plying,
Held in the left on high, with wool enfolded, a distaff,
Delicate fibers wherefrom, drawn down, were shaped by the right hand—
Shaped by fingers upturned,—but the down-turned thumb set a-whirling,
[Pg 272] Poised with perfected whorl, the industrious shaft of the spindle.
Still, as they span, as they span, was the tooth kept nipping and smoothing,
And to the withered lip clung morsels of wool as they smoothed it—
Filaments erstwhile rough that stood from the twist of the surface.
Close at their feet, meantime, were woven baskets of wicker
Guarding the soft white balls of the wool resplendent within them.
Thus then, parting the strands, these Three with resonant voices
Uttered, in chant divine, predestined sooth of the future—
Prophecy neither in time, nor yet in eternity, shaken.
"Thou that exaltest renown of thy name with the name of thy valor,
Bulwark Emathian, blest above sires in the offspring of promise,
Hear with thine ears this day what oracles fall from the Sisters
Chanting the fates for thee;—but you, ye destiny-drawing
Spindles, hasten the threads of the destinies set for the future!
"Rideth the orb upon high that heralds boon unto bridegrooms—
Hesperus,—cometh anon with star propitious the virgin,
Speedeth thy soul to subdue—submerge it with love at the flood tide.
Hasten, ye spindles, and run, yea, gallop, ye thread-running spindles!
"Erstwhile, never a home hath roofed like generous loving,
Never before hath Love conjoinèd lovers so dearly,—
Never with harmony such as endureth for Thetis and Peleus.
Hasten, ye spindles, and run, yea, gallop, ye thread-running spindles!
"Born unto you shall be the undaunted heart of Achilles,
Aye by his brave breast known, unknown by his back to the foeman,—
Victor in onslaught, victor in devious reach of the race-course,
Fleeter of foot than feet of the stag that lighten and vanish,—
Hasten, ye spindles, and run, yea, gallop, ye thread-running spindles!"

192. Achilles, Son of Peleus. So the sisters prophesied the future of the hero, Achilles,—from his father called Pelides; from his grandfather, Æacides. How by him the Trojans should fall, as fall the ears of corn when they are yellow before the scythe; how because of him Scamander should run red, warm with blood, choked with blind bodies, into the whirling Hellespont; how finally he himself, in his prime, should fall, and how on his tomb should be sacrificed the fair Polyxena, daughter of Priam, whom he had loved. "So," says Catullus, "sang the Fates. For those were the days before piety and righteous action were spurned[Pg 273] by mankind, the days when Jupiter and his immortals deigned to consort with zealous man, to enjoy the sweet odor of his burnt-offering, to march beside him to battle, to swell his shout in victory and his lament in defeat, to smile on his peaceful harvests, to recline at his banquets, and to bless the weddings of fair women and goodly heroes. But now, alas," concludes Catullus, "godliness and chastity, truth, wisdom, and honor have departed from among men":

Fig. 149

Wherefore the gods no more vouchsafe their presence to mortals,
Suffer themselves no more to be touched by the ray of the morning.
But there were gods in the pure,—in the golden prime of the Ages.

[Pg 274]

The hero of the Trojan War, here prophesied, Achilles, fleet of foot, the dauntless, the noble, the beloved of Zeus, the breaker of the ranks of men, is the ideal hero of the Greeks,—the mightiest of the Achæans far. Of his youth many interesting stories are told: how his mother, endeavoring to make him invulnerable, plunged him in the river Styx, and succeeded save with regard to his ankles by which she held him; and how he was educated in eloquence and the arts of war by his father's friend Phœnix, and by his father's other friend Chiron, the centaur, in riding and hunting and music and the art of healing. One of the most Greek-minded of our English poets, Matthew Arnold,[279] singing of a beauteous dell by Etna, tells how

In such a glen, on such a day,
On Pelion, on the grassy ground,
Chiron, the aged Centaur, lay,
The young Achilles standing by.
The Centaur taught him to explore
The mountains; where the glens are dry
And the tired Centaurs come to rest,
And where the soaking springs abound
And the straight ashes grow for spears,
And where the hill goats come to feed
And the sea eagles build their nest.
He showed him Phthia far away.
And said, "O boy, I taught this lore
To Peleus, in long distant years!"
He told him of the gods, the stars,
The tides;—and then of mortal wars,
And of the life which heroes lead
Before they reach the Elysian place
And rest in the immortal mead;
And all the wisdom of his race.

Upon the character of Achilles, outspoken, brave, impulsive; to his friends passionately devoted, to his foes implacable; lover of war and lover of home; inordinately ambitious but submissive to divine decree;—upon this handsome, gleaming, terrible, glooming, princely warrior of his race, the poet of the Iliad delights to dwell, and the world has delighted in the portraiture from that day to this.

[Pg 275]

193. Atreus was the son of Pelops and Hippodamia and grandson of Tantalus, therefore great-grandson of Jove. Both by blood and by marriage he was connected with Theseus. He took to wife Aërope, granddaughter of Minos II, king of Crete, and by her had two sons, Agamemnon, the general of the Grecian army in the Trojan War, and Menelaüs, at whose solicitation the war was undertaken. Of Atreus it may be said that with cannibal atrocity like that of his grandsire, Tantalus, he on one occasion wreaked his vengeance on a brother, Thyestes, by causing him to eat the flesh of two of his own children. A son of this Thyestes, Ægisthus by name, revived in due time against Agamemnon the treacherous feud that had existed between their fathers.

194. Tyndareus was king of Lacedæmon (Sparta). His wife was Leda, daughter of Thestius of Calydon, and sister of Althæa, the mother of Meleager and Dejanira. To Tyndareus Leda bore Castor and Clytemnestra; to Jove she bore Pollux and Helen. The two former were mortal; the two latter, immortal. Clytemnestra was married to Agamemnon of Mycenæ, to whom she bore Electra, Iphigenia, Chrysothemis, and Orestes. Helen, the fair immediate cause of the Trojan War, became the wife of Menelaüs, who with her obtained the kingdom of Sparta.

Of the families of Peleus, Atreus, and Tyndareus, the genealogies will be found in the Commentary corresponding with these sections of the story; also the genealogy of Ulysses, one of the leaders of the Greek army during the war and the hero of the Odyssey, which narrates his subsequent adventures; and that of the royal family of Troy against whom the war was undertaken. A slight study of these family trees will reveal interesting relationships between the principal participants in the war. For instance: that the passionate Achilles and the intolerant Ajax, second only to Achilles in military prowess, are first cousins; and that the family of Ajax is connected by marriage with that of the Trojan Hector, whom he meets in combat. That Ulysses is a distant cousin of his wife Penelope and of Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon; and that he is a kinsman of Patroclus, the bosom friend of Achilles. In the family of Tyndareus we note most the tragic and romantic careers of the women,—Clytemnestra, who[Pg 276] murdered her husband and married his cousin Ægisthus; Helen, whose beauty provoked war between her two husbands and their races; Penelope, whose fidelity to her absent lord is the marvel of the Odyssey. It will be noticed, too, that the daughter of Helen, Hermione, is strangely enough married first by the son of Achilles and, afterwards, by the son of Agamemnon, and so becomes sister-in-law to her noble cousins, Electra and Iphigenia.

The kinsmen and descendants of Peleus—Telamon, Ajax, Teucer, Achilles, Neoptolemus—are characterized by their personal valor, their intolerant and resentful temper. In the family of Atreus, the men are remarkable for their kingly attributes; the principal women for their unwavering devotion to religious duty. The members of the royal family of Troy are of richly varied and most unusual individuality: like Tithonus and Memnon, Paris, Hesione, Cassandra and Polyxena, poetic and pathetic; like Laomedon, Priam, Hector and Troilus, patriotic, persistent in the face of overwhelming odds; but all fated to a dolorous end. Of those engaged in the Trojan War, Æneas and his aged father, Anchises, beloved of Venus, are practically the only survivors to a happier day.

[Pg 277]


[277] Ovid, Metam. 11, 221-265; Catullus, LXIV; Hyginus, Fab. 14; Apollonius Rhodius. Argon. 1, 558; Valerius Flaccus, Argon.; Statius, Achilleid.

[278] Catullus, LXIV (Charles Mills Gayley's translation).

[279] Empedocles on Etna.

Fig. 150. Helen Persuaded


... At length I saw a lady within call,
Stiller than chisel'd marble, standing there:
A daughter of the gods, divinely tall,
And most divinely fair.
Her loveliness with shame and with surprise
Froze my swift speech: she turning on my face
The starlike sorrows of immortal eyes,
Spoke slowly in her place.
"I had great beauty; ask thou not my name:
No one can be more wise than destiny.
Many drew swords and died. Where'er I came
I brought calamity."[280]

195. Its Origin. At the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis all the gods had been invited with the exception of Eris, or Discord. Enraged at her exclusion, the goddess threw a golden apple among [Pg 278]the guests, with the inscription, "For the fairest." Thereupon Juno, Venus, and Minerva each claimed the apple. Not willing to decide so delicate a matter, Jupiter sent the goddesses to Mount Ida where Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, was tending his flocks. Till that moment the shepherd-prince had been happy. He was young and beautiful and beloved,—"White-breasted like a star," says Œnone, the nymph whom he had wedded:

White-breasted like a star
Fronting the dawn he moved; a leopard skin
Dropp'd from his shoulder, but his sunny hair
Cluster'd about his temples like a god's:
And his cheek brighten'd as the foam-bow brightens
When the wind blows the foam, and all my heart
Went forth to embrace him coming ere he came.[1]

But to him was now committed the judgment between the goddesses. They appeared:

And at their feet the crocus brake like fire,
Violet, amaracus, and asphodel,
Lotos and lilies: and a wind arose,
And overhead the wandering ivy and vine,
This way and that, in many a wild festoon
Ran riot, garlanding the gnarlèd boughs
With bunch and berry and flower thro' and thro'.[281]

Juno promised him power and riches, Minerva glory and renown in war, Venus the fairest of women for his wife,—each attempting to bias the judge in her own favor. Paris, forgetting the fair nymph to whom he owed fealty, decided in favor of Venus, thus making the two other goddesses his enemies. Under the protection of the goddess of love, he soon afterwards sailed to Greece. Here he was hospitably received by Menelaüs, whose wife, Helen, as fairest of her sex, was unfortunately the prize destined for Paris. This fair queen had in time past been sought by numerous suitors; but before her decision was made known, they all, at the suggestion of Ulysses, son of Laërtes, king of Ithaca, had taken an oath [Pg 279]that they would sustain her choice and avenge her cause if necessary. She was living happily with Menelaüs when Paris, becoming their guest, made love to her, and then, aided by Venus, persuaded her to elope with him, and carried her to Troy. From this cause arose the famous Trojan War,—the theme of the greatest poems of antiquity, those of Homer and Virgil.

Fig. 151. Achilles taken from Scyros

Menelaüs called upon the chieftains of Greece to aid him in recovering his wife. They came forward with a few exceptions. Ulysses, for instance, who had married a cousin of Helen's, Penelope, daughter of Icarius, was happy in his wife and child, and loth to embark in the troublesome affair. Palamedes was sent to urge him. But when Palamedes arrived at Ithaca, Ulysses pretended madness. He yoked an ass and an ox together to the plow and began to sow salt. The ambassador, to try him, placed the infant Telemachus before the plow, whereupon the father, turning the plow aside, showed that his insanity was a mere pretense. Being himself gained for the undertaking, Ulysses lent his aid to bring in other reluctant chiefs, especially Achilles, son of Peleus and Thetis. Thetis being herself one of the immortals, and knowing that her son was fated to perish before Troy if he went on the expedition, endeavored to prevent his going. She, accordingly, sent him to the court of King Lycomedes of the island of Scyros, and induced him to conceal himself in the garb of a[Pg 280] maiden among the daughters of the king. Hearing that the young Achilles was there, Ulysses went disguised as a merchant to the palace and offered for sale female ornaments, among which had been placed some arms. Forgetting the part he had assumed, Achilles handled the weapons and thereby betrayed himself to Ulysses, who found no great difficulty in persuading him to disregard his mother's counsels and join his countrymen in the war.

It seems that from early youth Paris had been reared in obscurity, because there were forebodings that he would be the ruin of the state. These forebodings appeared, at last, likely to be realized; for the Grecian armament now in preparation was the greatest that had ever been fitted out. Agamemnon, king of Mycenæ and brother of Menelaüs, was chosen commander in chief. Preëminent among the warriors was the swift-footed Achilles. After him ranked his cousin Ajax, the son of Telamon, gigantic in size and of great courage, but dull of intellect; Diomede, the son of Tydeus, second only to Achilles in all the qualities of a hero; Ulysses, famous for sagacity; and Nestor, the oldest of the Grecian chiefs, to whom they all looked up for counsel.

But Troy was no feeble enemy. Priam the king, son of Laomedon and brother of Tithonus and Hesione, was now old; but he had been a wise prince and had strengthened his state by good government at home and powerful alliances with his neighbors. By his wife Hecuba he had a numerous family; but the principal stay and support of his throne was his son Hector, one of the noblest figures of antiquity. The latter had, from the first, a presentiment of the ruin of Troy, but still he persevered in heroic resistance, though he by no means justified the wrong which brought this danger upon his country. He was united in marriage with the noble Andromache, and as husband and father his character was not less admirable than as warrior. The principal leaders on the side of the Trojans, beside Hector, were his relative, Æneas, the son of Venus and Anchises, Deiphobus, Glaucus, and Sarpedon.

196. Iphigenia in Aulis. After two years of preparation, the Greek fleet and army assembled in the port of Aulis in Bœotia. Here Agamemnon, while hunting, killed a stag that was sacred to Diana. The goddess in retribution visited the army with pestilence[Pg 281] and produced a calm which prevented the ships from leaving the port. Thereupon, Calchas the soothsayer announced that the wrath of the virgin goddess could only be appeased by the sacrifice of a virgin, and that none other but the daughter of the offender would be acceptable. Agamemnon, however reluctant, submitted to the inevitable and sent for his daughter Iphigenia, under the pretense that her marriage to Achilles was to be at once performed. But, in the moment of sacrifice, Diana, relenting, snatched the maiden away and left a hind in her place. Iphigenia, enveloped in a cloud, was conveyed to Tauris, where Diana made her priestess of her temple.[282]

Fig. 152. The Sacrifice of Iphigenia

Iphigenia is represented as thus describing her feelings at the moment of sacrifice:

"I was cut off from hope in that sad place,
Which men call'd Aulis in those iron years:
My father held his hand upon his face;
I, blinded with my tears,
"Still strove to speak: my voice was thick with sighs
As in a dream. Dimly I could descry
The stern black-bearded kings, with wolfish eyes
Waiting to see me die.
"The high masts flicker'd as they lay afloat;
The crowds, the temples, waver'd, and the shore;
The bright death quiver'd at the victim's throat;
Touch'd; and I knew no more."[283]

[Pg 282]

197. Protesilaüs and Laodamia. The wind now proving fair, the fleet made sail and brought the forces to the coast of Troy. The Trojans opposed their landing, and at the first onset one of the noblest of the Greeks, Protesilaüs, fell by the hand of Hector. This Protesilaüs had left at home his wife Laodamia (a niece of Alcestis),—who was most tenderly attached to him. The story runs that when the news of his death reached her, she implored the gods for leave to converse with him if but for three hours. The request was granted. Mercury led Protesilaüs back to the upper world; and when the hero died a second time Laodamia died with him. It is said that the nymphs planted elm trees round his grave, which flourished till they were high enough to command a view of Troy, then withered away, giving place to fresh branches that sprang from the roots.

Wordsworth has taken the story of Protesilaüs and Laodamia for a poem invested with the atmosphere of the classics. The oracle, according to the tradition, had declared that victory should be the lot of that party from which should fall the first victim in the war. The poet represents Protesilaüs, on his brief return to earth, relating to Laodamia the story of his fate:

"The wished-for wind was given:—I then revolved
The oracle, upon the silent sea;
And, if no worthier led the way, resolved
That, of a thousand vessels, mine should be
The foremost prow in pressing to the strand,—
Mine the first blood that tinged the Trojan sand.
"Yet bitter, ofttimes bitter, was the pang
When of thy loss I thought, belovèd Wife!
On thee too fondly did my memory hang,
And on the joys we shared in mortal life,—
The paths which we had trod—these fountains, flowers,
My new-planned cities, and unfinished towers.
"But should suspense permit the foe to cry,
'Behold they tremble!—haughty their array,
Yet of their number no one dares to die'?
In soul I swept the indignity away:
Old frailties then recurred:—but lofty thought,
In act embodied, my deliverance wrought."...
[Pg 283]
... Upon the side
Of Hellespont (such faith was entertained)
A knot of spiry trees for ages grew
From out the tomb of him for whom she died;
And ever, when such stature they had gained
That Ilium's walls were subject to their view,
The trees' tall summits withered at the sight;
A constant interchange of growth and blight!

198. Homer's Iliad. The war continued without decisive result for nine years. Then an event occurred which seemed likely to prove fatal to the cause of the Greeks,—a quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon. It is at this point that the great poem of Homer, the Iliad, begins.

Of this and the other epics from which the story is drawn an account will be found in Chapter XXXII below; and a list of the best English translations, in the corresponding sections of the Commentary. What delight one may derive from reading the Greek epics even in translation is nowhere better expressed than in the following sonnet of John Keats, "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer":

Much have I travel'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne:
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
—Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

199. The Wrath of Achilles. The Greeks, though unsuccessful against Troy, had taken the neighboring and allied cities; and in the division of the spoil a female captive, by name Chryseïs, daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo, had fallen to the share of[Pg 284] Agamemnon. Chryses came bearing the sacred emblems of his office and begged the release of his daughter. Agamemnon refused. Thereupon Chryses implored Apollo to afflict the Greeks till they should be forced to yield their prey. Apollo granted the prayer of his priest and sent such pestilence upon the Grecian camp, that a council was called to deliberate how to allay the wrath of the gods and avert the plague. Achilles boldly charged the misfortunes upon Agamemnon as caused by his withholding Chryseïs. Agamemnon, in anger, consented, thereupon, to relinquish his captive, but demanded that Achilles should yield to him in her stead Briseïs, a maiden who had fallen to that hero's share in the division of the spoil. Achilles submitted, but declared that he would take no further part in the war,—withdrew his forces from the general camp and avowed his intention of returning to Greece.

Fig. 153. The Surrender of Briseïs From the relief by Thorwaldsen

200. The Enlistment of the Gods. The gods and goddesses interested themselves as much in this famous siege as did the parties themselves. It was well known in heaven that fate had decreed the fall of Troy, if her enemies only persevered. Yet there was room for chance sufficient to excite by turns the hopes and fears of the powers above who took part with either side. Juno and Minerva, in consequence of the slight put upon their charms by Paris, were hostile to the Trojans; Venus for the opposite cause[Pg 285] favored them; she enlisted, also, her admirer Mars on the same side. Neptune favored the Greeks. Apollo was neutral, sometimes taking one side, sometimes the other. Jove himself, though he loved Priam, exercised a degree of impartiality,—not, however, without exceptions.

201. Thetis intercedes for Achilles. Resenting the injury done by Agamemnon to her son, Thetis, the silver-footed, repaired to Jove's palace, and besought him to grant success to the Trojan arms and so make the Greeks repent of their injustice to Achilles. The father of the gods, wavering at first, finally sighed and consented, saying, "Go thou now, but look to it that Juno see thee not, for oft she taunts me that I aid the Trojan cause." Vain precaution: the jealous queen had seen only too well, and quickly she confronted the Thunderer with her suspicions,—

"Fateful favor to Achilles, hast thou granted now I trow!"

said she.

Zeus that rolls the clouds of heaven, her addressing answered then:
"Moonstruck! thou art ever trowing; never I escape thy ken.
After all, it boots thee nothing; leaves thee of my heart the less,—
So thou hast the worser bargain. What if I the fact confess?
It was done because I willed it. Hold thy place—my word obey,
Lest if I come near, and on thee these unconquered hands I lay,
All the gods that hold Olympus naught avail thee here to-day."[284]

202. Agamemnon calls a Council. In the events which immediately follow we are introduced to the more important human personages on both sides. To begin with, Agamemnon, king of men, deceived by a dream sent by Jupiter, calls a council of the Greeks in which, desiring to arouse them to fresh onslaught upon the Trojans, he tests their patience first by depicting the joys of the return home to Greece, and nearly overreaches himself in his cunning; for had it not been for the wise Nestor, king of sandy Pylos, and Ulysses of many devices, peer of Jove in wisdom, the common soldiers, fired with hope of viewing their dear native land and wives and little children once more, would have launched the ships and sailed forthwith. Among the murmuring host of those who [Pg 286]clamor for retreat the leader is Thersites, uncontrolled of speech, full of disorderly words, striving idly against the chieftains, aiming ever to turn their authority into ridicule. He is the one ludicrous character of the Iliad, this boaster and scandalmonger, sneering and turbulent of tongue:

His figure such as might his soul proclaim;
One eye was blinking, and one leg was lame;
His mountain shoulders half his breast o'erspread,
Thin hairs bestrewed his long misshapen head.
Spleen to mankind his envious heart possest,
And much he hated all, but most the best.
Ulysses or Achilles still his theme;
But royal scandal his delight supreme.[1]

Him Ulysses hearing rebukes, raising his scepter to strike:

"Peace, factious monster, born to vex the state,
With wrangling talents formed for foul debate....
Have we not known thee, slave of all our host,
The man who acts the least, upbraids the most?..."
He said, and cowering as the dastard bends,
The weighty scepter on his back descends:
On the round bunch the bloody tumors rise;
The tears spring starting from his haggard eyes:
Trembling he sat, and, shrunk in abject fears,
From his wild visage wiped the scalding tears.[285]

The revolt is thus stayed. A banquet of the Greek chieftains is then held, merely of the greatest—Nestor, Idomeneus of Crete, Ajax the son of Telamon and cousin of Achilles, and Ajax the less, son of Oïleus, Ulysses, also, and Agamemnon himself. Menelaüs comes, unbid but not unwelcome. Sacrifices are offered, but in vain; Jove heeds them not. Finally, a muster of the Greek troops, by nations and by kings, is determined upon; and so the army is set in array.

203. Paris plays the Champion. Likewise the army of the Trojans; and battle is about to be joined when forth from the Trojan ranks steps Paris himself to challenge some champion of the opposing host to single combat,—the beauteous Paris,

[Pg 287]

In form a god! The panther's speckled hide
Flowed o'er his armor with an easy pride,—
His bended bow across his shoulders flung,
His sword beside him negligently hung,
Two pointed spears he shook with gallant grace,
And dared the bravest of the Grecian race.[1]

Him, Menelaüs whom he had betrayed, Menelaüs loved of Mars, raging like a lion, swift espies and, leaping from his chariot, hastens to encounter. But Paris, smitten with a sense of his own treachery, fearful, trembling, pale at sight of the avenger, betakes himself to his heels and hides in the thick of the forces behind. Upbraided, however, by the generous Hector, noblest of Priam's sons, the handsome Trojan recovers his self-possession and consents to meet Menelaüs in formal combat between the opposing hosts: Helen and the wealth she brought to be the prize; and, thus, the long war to reach its termination. The Greeks accept the proposal, and a truce is agreed upon that sacrifices may be made on either side for victory, and the duel proceed.

204. Helen surveys the Grecian Host. Meantime, Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, summons Helen to view the impending duel. At her loom in the Trojan palace the ill-starred daughter of Leda is sitting, weaving in a golden web her own sad story. At memory of her former husband's love, her home, her parents, the princess drops a tear; then, softly sighing, turns her footsteps to the Scæan gate. No word is said of her matchless beauty, but what it was Homer shows us by its effect. For as she approaches the tower where aged Priam and his gray-haired chieftains sit, these cry,—

"No wonder such celestial charms
For nine long years have set the world in arms;
What winning graces! what majestic mien!
She moves a goddess, and she looks a queen.
Yet hence, oh Heaven! convey that fatal face,
And from destruction save the Trojan race."[286]

—Words reëchoed by our English Marlowe, two thousand years later:

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.—
[Pg 288] Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again!
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena....
Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appeared to hapless Semele;...
And none but thou shalt be my paramour![287]

Priam, receiving his daughter-in-law tenderly, inquires of her the names of one and another of the Greeks moving on the plain below.—

"Who, that
Around whose brow such martial graces shine,
So tall, so awful, and almost divine?"[2]

"The son of Atreus," answers she, shamefacedly. "Agamemnon, king of kings, my brother once, before my days of shame."

"What's he whose arms lie scattered on the plain?
Broad is his breast, his shoulders larger spread,
Though great Atrides overtops his head.
Nor yet appear his care and conduct small;
From rank to rank he moves and orders all."[2]

"That is Ulysses," replies Helen, "of the barren isle of Ithaca; but his fame for wisdom fills the earth."

Old Antenor, seated by Priam's side, thereupon recalls the modesty and the restrained but moving eloquence of the wondrous son of Laërtes.

The king then asked, as yet the camp he viewed,
"What chief is that, with giant strength endued;
Whose brawny shoulders, and whose swelling chest,
And lofty stature, far exceed the rest?"[288]

"That is Ajax the great," responds the beauteous queen, "himself a host, bulwark of the Achæans." And she points out Idomeneus, also, the godlike king of Crete; then scans the array for her [Pg 289]own dear brothers Castor and Pollux;—in vain, for them the life-giving earth held fast there in Lacedæmon, their native land.

205. Menelaüs defeats Paris. Now from both sides sacrifices have been made to Jove, avenger of oaths, with prayer for victory and vow of fidelity to the contract made. But Jove vouchsafes not yet fulfillment. The lists are measured out by Hector and Ulysses. The duel is on. Paris throws his spear: it strikes, but fails to penetrate the shield of Menelaüs. Menelaüs then breaks his blade upon the helmet of the Trojan, seizes him by the horsehair crest, and drags him toward the Grecian lines. But Aphrodite touches the chin strap of Paris' headpiece so that it breaks and leaves the futile helmet in the victor's hand. Then, wrapping her favorite in a mist, the goddess bears him from the pursuit of the furious Menelaüs, and, laying him safe in Helen's chamber, summons his mistress, who first upbraids, then soothes him with her love.

The Greeks claim the victory, and with justice. The Trojans, then and there, would have yielded Helen and her wealth, and the fate of Troy might have been averted, had it not been for the machinations of the goddesses, Juno and Minerva. These could not bear that the hated city should thus escape. Prompted by the insidious urging of Minerva, one of the Trojans, Pandarus, breaks the truce; he shoots his arrow full at the heart of the unsuspecting Menelaüs. Minerva, of course, deflects the fatal shaft. But the treachery has accomplished its purpose; the war is reopened with fresh bitterness.

206. The Two Days' Battle. The battle which then begins lasts for two whole days. In its progress we witness a series of single combats. Pandarus the archer wounds Diomede, the son of Tydeus. He in turn, raging over the plain, fells Pandarus with his spear and crushes Æneas, Priam's valiant kinsman, to his knees with a great stone. Venus shrouds her fallen son in her shining veil and will rescue him. But Diomedes, clear of vision, spies her out and drives his pointed spear against her hand, grazing the palm of it. Out leaps the ichor, life-stream of the blessed gods, and the goddess shrieking drops her burden and flees from the jeering Diomede;—nay, mounts even to Olympus where, sobbing in the[Pg 290] arms of her mother, Dione, she finds solace of her pain, and straightway turns to hopes of vengeance. Æneas, meantime, is wrapped by Phœbus Apollo in a dusky cloud and borne aloft to that god's temple, where Diana and Latona heal him.

To Diomede still breathing slaughter, the god of war himself, Mars, now appears in form of a Thracian captain, opposing him and stirring Hector and the swiftly recovered Æneas and the godlike Sarpedon against the Greeks. And the Greeks give back, but the keen eye of Diomede pierces the disguise of the War-god, and he shouts a warning to his comrades. Then Minerva descends to where Diomede, the son of Tydeus, is resting beside his chariot, and she spurs him afresh to the fray. "Thou joy of my heart," says she, "fear thou neither Mars nor any other of the immortals, for I shall help thee mightily." So she takes the place of his charioteer, and together they drive upon the War-god. And that one cannot come at the son of Tydeus to strike him down, because of the ward that Minerva vouchsafes. But, for his part, Diomede strikes his spear against the nethermost belly of Mars and wounds him, rending his fair skin; and he plucks forth the spear again. Then brazen Mars bellows loud as nine or ten thousand soldiers all at once; and, like Venus before him, betakes himself to Olympus. There, complaining to Jove, he receives stern reprimand for his intolerant and hateful spirit, stirring men ever to strife,—"like thine own mother Juno, after whom, not after me, thou takest." Thus, the father of the gods; and he makes an end, and bids Pæan, the family physician, heal him.

Diomedes, still bearing down upon the Trojans, is about to fight with a young warrior when, struck by his appearance, he inquires his name. It is Glaucus, and the youth is grandson of the noble Bellerophon. Then Diomede of the loud war cry is glad and strikes his spear into the earth and declines to fight. "For lo," says he, "our grandfathers were guest-friends, and guest-friends are we. Why slay each other? There are multitudes of Trojans for me to slay, and for thee Achæans in multitude, if thou canst. Let us twain rather exchange arms as a testimony of our good faith." And this they do; and Diomede gets the best of the bargain, his armor being worth but nine oxen, and young Glaucus' five score.

[Pg 291]

207. Hector and Andromache. The Trojans being still pushed nearer to their own walls, Hector, bravest of Priam's sons, returns to the city to urge the women to prayer, and to carry the loitering Paris back with him to the defense. Here he meets his brave mother Hecuba, and then the fair Helen; but most to our purpose and his, his wife, the white-armed Andromache, the noblest of the women of the Iliad, for whom he has searched in vain.

Fig. 154. Hector's Farewell

From the relief by Thorwaldsen

But when he had passed through the great city and was come to the Scæan gates, whereby he was minded to issue upon the plain, then came his dear-won wife, running to meet him, even Andromache, daughter of great-hearted Eëtion.... So she met him now; and with her went the handmaid bearing in her bosom the tender boy, the little child, Hector's loved son, like unto a beautiful star. Him Hector called Scamandrius, but all the folk Astyanax, "defender of the city." So now he smiled and gazed at his boy silently, and Andromache stood by his side weeping, and clasped her hand in his, and spake and called upon his name. "Dear my lord, this thy hardihood will undo thee, neither hast thou any pity for thine infant boy, nor for hapless me that soon shall be thy widow; for soon will the Achæans all set upon thee and slay thee. But it were better for me to go down to the grave if I lose thee; for nevermore will any comfort be mine, when once thou, even thou, hast met thy fate,—but only sorrow. Moreover I have no father, now, nor lady mother.... And the seven brothers that were mine within our halls, all these on the selfsame day went within the house of Hades; for fleet-footed, goodly Achilles slew them all amid their kine of trailing gait and white-faced sheep....[Pg 292] Nay, Hector, thou art to me father and lady mother, yea and brother, even as thou art my goodly husband. Come now, have pity and abide here upon the tower, lest thou make thy child an orphan and thy wife a widow." ...

Then great Hector of the glancing helm answered her: "Surely I take thought for all these things, my wife; but I have very sore shame of the Trojans and Trojan dames with trailing robes, if like a coward I shrink away from battle. Moreover mine own soul forbiddeth me, seeing I have learnt ever to be valiant and fight in the forefront of the Trojans, winning my father's great glory and mine own. Yea of a surety, I know this in heart and soul; the day shall come for holy Ilios to be laid low, and Priam and the folk of Priam of the good ashen spear. Yet doth the anguish of the Trojans hereafter not so much trouble me, neither Hecuba's own, neither king Priam's, neither my brethren's, the many and brave that shall fall in the dust before their foemen, as doth thine anguish in the day when some mail-clad Achæan shall lead thee weeping, and rob thee of the light of freedom.... But me in death may the heaped-up earth be covering, ere I hear thy crying and thy carrying into captivity."[289]

So spoke the great-hearted hero, and stretched his arms out to take his little boy. But

The babe clung crying to his nurse's breast,
Scared at the dazzling helm, and nodding crest.
With secret pleasure each fond parent smiled,
And Hector hasted to relieve his child,—
The glittering terrors from his brows unbound
And placed the beaming helmet on the ground.
Then kissed the child, and, lifting high in air,
Thus to the gods, preferred a father's prayer:
"O thou! whose glory fills the ethereal throne,
And all ye deathless powers! protect my son!
Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown,
To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown,
Against his country's foes the war to wage.
And rise the Hector of the future age!
So when, triumphant from successive toils
Of heroes slain, he bears the reeking spoils,
Whole hosts may hail him with deserved acclaim
And say, 'This chief transcends his father's fame':
While, pleased, amidst the general shouts of Troy,
His mother's conscious heart o'erflows with joy."[290]

[Pg 293]

So prayed he, the glorious Hector, foreboding of the future, but little thinking that, when he himself was slain and the city sacked, his starlike son should be cast headlong to death from Troy's high towers, and his dear wife led into captivity as he had dreaded, indeed, and by none other than Neoptolemus, the son of his mortal foe, Achilles. But now Hector laid the boy in the arms of his wife, and she, smiling tearfully, gathered him to her fragrant bosom; and her husband pitied her, and caressed her with his hand, and bade her farewell, saying:

"Andromache! my soul's far better part,
Why with untimely sorrows heaves thy heart?
No hostile hand can antedate my doom,
Till fate condemns me to the silent tomb.
Fixed is the term to all the race of earth;
And such the hard condition of our birth,
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
No more—but hasten to thy tasks at home,
There guide the spindle, and direct the loom;
Me glory summons to the martial scene,
The field of combat is the sphere for men.
Where heroes war, the foremost place I claim,
The first in danger, as the first in fame."[291]

He took up his horsehair crested helmet; and she departed to her home, oft looking back and letting fall big tears, thinking that he would no more come back from battle.

208. Neptune aids the Discouraged Greeks. But the end was not to be so soon. Hector, returning to the field, challenged the bravest of the Greeks to combat. Nine accepted the challenge; but the lot fell upon Ajax, the son of Telamon. The duel lasted till night, with deeds of valor on both sides; and the heroes parted, each testifying to his foeman's worth. The next day a truce was declared for the burning of the dead; but, soon after, the conflict was renewed, and before the might of Hector and his troops the Greeks were driven back to their trenches.

Then Agamemnon, king of men, called another council of his wisest and bravest chiefs and, grievously discouraged, proposed, [Pg 294]this time in earnest, that they reëmbark and sail home to Greece.[292] In the debate that ensued Nestor advised that an embassy should be sent to Achilles persuading him to return to the field; and that Agamemnon should yield the maiden, the cause of dispute, with ample gifts to atone for the wrong he had done. Agamemnon assented; and Ulysses, Ajax, and Phœnix were sent to carry to Achilles the penitent message. They performed that duty, but Achilles was deaf to their entreaties. He positively refused to return to the attack and persisted in his determination to embark for Greece without delay.

Fig. 155. The Embassy to Achilles

(Left section)

Meanwhile the Greeks, having constructed a rampart around their ships, were now, instead of besieging Troy, in a manner themselves besieged, within their rampart. The next day after the unsuccessful embassy to Achilles, another battle was fought, in which Agamemnon raged mightily with his spear till, wounded, he was forced to retire to the hollow ships; and Ulysses, too, bravely warring, had a narrow escape with life.[293] Then the Trojans, favored by Jove, succeeded in forcing a passage through the Grecian rampart and were about to set fire to the ships. But Neptune, seeing the Greeks hard pressed, came to their rescue.[294] Appearing in the form of Calchas the prophet, he raised the ardor of the warriors to such a pitch that they forced the Trojans to give way. Here [Pg 295]Ajax, son of Telamon, performed prodigies of valor. Bearing his massy shield and "shaking his far-shadowing spear," he encountered Hector.[295] The Greek shouted defiance, to which Hector replied, and hurled his lance at the huge warrior. It was well aimed and struck Ajax where the belts that bore his sword and shield crossed each other on the breast, but the double guard prevented its penetrating, and it fell harmless. Then Ajax, seizing a huge stone, one of those that served to prop the ships, hurled it at Hector. It struck him near the neck and stretched him on the plain. His followers instantly seized him and bore him off stunned and wounded.

Fig. 156. The Embassy to Achilles

(Right Section)

209. Jupiter inspirits the Trojans. While Neptune was thus aiding the Greeks and driving back the Trojans, Jupiter saw nothing of what was going on, for his attention had been drawn from the field by the wiles of Juno.[296] That goddess had arrayed herself in all her charms, and to crown all had borrowed of Venus her girdle, the Cestus, which enhanced the wearer's charms to such a degree that they were irresistible. So prepared, Juno had joined her husband, who sat on Olympus watching the battle. When he beheld her, the fondness of his early love revived and, forgetting the contending armies and all other affairs of state, he gave himself up to her and let the battle go as it would.

[Pg 296]

But this oblivion did not continue long. When, upon turning his eyes downward, the cloud-compeller beheld Hector stretched, almost lifeless, on the plain, he angrily dismissed Juno, commanding her to send Iris and Apollo to him.[297] The former bore a peremptory message to Neptune, ordering him to quit the contest. Apollo was dispatched to heal Hector's bruises and to inspirit his heart. These orders were obeyed with such speed that while the battle was still raging, Hector returned to the field and Neptune betook himself to his own dominions.

Fig. 157. The Battle by the Ships

210. Achilles and Patroclus. An arrow from the bow of Paris had wounded Machaon, son of Æsculapius, a brave warrior, who, having inherited his father's art, was of great value to the Greeks as their surgeon. Nestor, taking Machaon in his chariot, conveyed him from the field. As they passed the ships of Achilles, that hero, looking over the battle, saw the chariot of Nestor, and recognized the old chief, but could not discern who the wounded warrior was. Calling Patroclus, his companion and dearest friend, he sent him to Nestor's tent to inquire. Patroclus, performing the behest, saw Machaon wounded and, having told the cause of his coming, would have hastened away, but Nestor detained him to tell him the extent of the Grecian calamities. He reminded him also how, at the time of the departure for Troy, Achilles and himself had been charged by their respective sires: the one to aspire to the highest pitch of glory; the other, as the elder, to keep [Pg 297]watch over his friend and to guide his inexperience. "Now," said Nestor, "is the time for such guidance. If the gods so please, thou mayest win Achilles back to the common cause; but if not, let him at least send his soldiers to the field, and come thou, Patroclus, clad in his armor. Perhaps the very sight of it may drive back the Trojans."[298]

211. Patroclus in the Armor of Achilles. Patroclus, strongly moved by this address, hastened to his friend, revolving in his mind what he had seen and heard.[299] He told the prince the sad condition of affairs at the camp of their late associates; Diomede, Ulysses, Agamemnon, Machaon, all wounded, the rampart broken down, the enemy among the ships preparing to burn them and thus to cut off all means of return to Greece. While they spoke, the flames burst forth from one of the ships. Achilles, at the sight, relented so far as to intrust Patroclus with the Myrmidons for the onslaught and to lend him his armor that he might thereby strike the more terror into the minds of the Trojans. Without delay the soldiers were marshaled, Patroclus put on the radiant armor, mounted the chariot of Achilles, and led forth the men ardent for battle. But before his friend went, Achilles strictly charged him to be content with repelling the foe. "Seek not," said he, "to press the Trojans without me, lest thou add still more to the disgrace already mine." Then exhorting the troops to do their best, he dismissed them full of ardor to the fight.

Patroclus and his Myrmidons at once plunged into the contest where it raged hottest. At the sight of them the joyful Grecians shouted, and the ships reëchoed the acclaim; but the Trojans, beholding the well-known armor, struck with terror, looked everywhere for refuge. First those who had got possession of the ship and set it on fire allowed the Grecians to retake it and extinguish the flames. Then the rest fled in dismay. Ajax, Menelaüs, and the two sons of Nestor performed prodigies of valor. Hector was forced to turn his horses' heads and retire from the enclosure, leaving his men encumbered in the fosse to escape as they could. Patroclus drove all before him, slaying many; nor did one dare to make a stand against him.

[Pg 298]

Fig. 158. Menelaüs with the Body of Patroclus

212. The Deaths of Sarpedon and Patroclus. At last the grandson of Bellerophon, Sarpedon, son of Jove and Laodamia, ventured to oppose the Greek warrior. The Olympian looked down upon his son and would have snatched him from the fate impending, but Juno hinted that if he did so, the other inhabitants of heaven might be induced to interpose in like manner whenever any of their offspring were endangered,—an argument to which Jove yielded. Sarpedon threw his spear, but missed Patroclus; the spear of the Greek, on the other hand, pierced Sarpedon's breast, and he fell, calling to his friends to save his body from the foe. Then a furious contest arose for the corpse. The Greeks succeeded in stripping Sarpedon of his armor, but Jove would not suffer the body to be dishonored. By his command Apollo snatched it from the midst of the combatants and committed it to the care of the twin brothers Death and Sleep. By them it was transported to Lycia, Sarpedon's native land, and there received due funeral rites.

Thus far Patroclus had succeeded to the utmost in repelling the foe and relieving his countrymen, but now came a change of fortune. Hector, borne in his chariot, confronted him. Patroclus threw a vast stone at the Trojan, which missed its aim, but smote Cebriones, the charioteer, and felled him from the car. Hector leaped from the chariot to rescue his friend, and Patroclus also descended to complete his victory. Thus the two heroes met face to face. At this decisive moment the poet, as if reluctant to give Hector the glory, records that Phœbus Apollo, taking part against[Pg 299] Patroclus, struck the helmet from his head and the lance from his hand. At the same moment an obscure Trojan wounded him in the back, and Hector pressing forward pierced him with his spear. He fell mortally wounded.

Then arose a tremendous conflict for the body of Patroclus; but his armor was at once taken possession of by Hector, who, retiring a short distance, divested himself of his own mail, put on that of Achilles, then returned to the fight.[300] Ajax and Menelaüs defended the body, and Hector and his bravest warriors struggled to capture it. The battle still raged with equal fortune, when Jove enveloped the whole face of heaven in a cloud. The lightning flashed, the thunder roared, and Ajax, looking round for some one whom he might dispatch to Achilles to tell him of the death of his friend and of the imminent danger of his remains falling into the hands of the enemy, could see no suitable messenger. In desperation he exclaimed:

"Father of heaven and earth! deliver thou
Achaia's host from darkness; clear the skies;
Give day; and, since thy sovereign will is such,
Destruction with it; but, oh, give us day!"[301]

Jupiter heard the prayer and dispersed the clouds. Ajax sent Antilochus to Achilles with the intelligence of Patroclus' death and of the conflict raging for his remains; and the Greeks at last succeeded in bearing off the body to the ships, closely pursued by Hector and Æneas and the rest of the Trojans.

213. The Remorse of Achilles. Achilles heard the fate of his friend with such distress that Antilochus feared for a while lest he might destroy himself.[302] His groans reached the ears of Thetis, far down in the deeps of ocean where she abode, and she hastened to inquire the cause. She found him overwhelmed with self-reproach that he had suffered his friend to fall a victim to his resentment. His only consolation was the hope of revenge. He would fly instantly in search of Hector. But his mother reminded him that he was now without armor and promised, if he would but wait till the morrow, to procure for him a suit of armor from [Pg 300]Vulcan more than equal to that he had lost. He consented, and Thetis immediately repaired to Vulcan's palace. She found him busy at his forge, making tripods for his own use, so artfully constructed that they moved forward of their own accord when wanted, and retired again when dismissed. On hearing the request of Thetis, Vulcan immediately laid aside his work and hastened to comply with her wishes. He fabricated a splendid suit of armor for Achilles; first a shield adorned with elaborate devices, of which a noble description is given by Homer, then a helmet crested with gold, then a corselet and greaves of impenetrable temper, all perfectly adapted to the hero's form, and of consummate workmanship. The suit was made in one night, and Thetis, receiving it, descended to earth and laid it at Achilles' feet at the dawn of day.

214. The Reconciliation of Agamemnon and Achilles. The first glow of pleasure that Achilles had felt since the death of Patroclus was at the sight of this splendid armor.[303] And now arrayed in it, he went forth to the camp, calling the chiefs to council. When the leaders were assembled, Achilles addressed them. Renouncing his displeasure against Agamemnon and bitterly lamenting the miseries that had resulted from it, he called on them to proceed at once to the field. Agamemnon made a suitable reply, laying the blame on Ate, the goddess of infatuation; and thereupon complete reconcilement took place between the heroes.

Then Achilles went forth to battle, heartened by the inspiration of Minerva and filled with a rage and thirst for vengeance that made him irresistible. As he mounted his chariot, one of his immortal coursers was, strange to say, endowed suddenly with speech from on high and, breaking into prophecy, warned the hero of his approaching doom. But, nothing daunted, Achilles pressed upon the foe. The bravest warriors fled before him or fell by his lance.[304] Hector, cautioned by Apollo, kept aloof; but the god, assuming the form of one of Priam's sons, Lycaon, urged Æneas to encounter the terrible warrior. Æneas, though he felt himself unequal, did not decline the combat. He hurled his spear with all his force against the shield, the work of Vulcan. The spear pierced two plates of the shield, but was stopped in the third. Achilles [Pg 301]threw his spear with better success. It pierced through the shield of Æneas, but glanced near his shoulder and made no wound. Then Æneas, seizing a stone, such as two men of modern times could hardly lift, was about to throw it,—and Achilles, with sword drawn, was about to rush upon him,—when Neptune, looking out upon the contest, had pity upon Æneas, who was sure to have the worst of it. The god, consequently, spread a cloud between the combatants and, lifting the Trojan from the ground, bore him over the heads of warriors and steeds to the rear of the battle. Achilles, when the mist cleared away, looked round in vain for his adversary, and acknowledging the prodigy, turned his arms against other champions. But none dared stand before him; and Priam from his city walls beheld the whole army in full flight toward the city. He gave command to open wide the gates to receive the fugitives, and to shut them as soon as the Trojans should have passed, lest the enemy should enter likewise. But Achilles was so close in pursuit that that would have been impossible if Apollo had not, in the form of Agenor, Priam's son, first encountered the swift-footed hero, then turned in flight, and taken the way apart from the city. Achilles pursued, and had chased his supposed victim far from the walls before the god disclosed himself.[305]

215. The Death of Hector. But when the rest had escaped into the town Hector stood without, determined to await the combat. His father called to him from the walls, begging him to retire nor tempt the encounter. His mother, Hecuba, also besought him, but all in vain. "How can I," said he to himself, "by whose command the people went to this day's contest where so many have fallen, seek refuge for myself from a single foe? Or shall I offer to yield up Helen and all her treasures and ample of our own beside? Ah no! even that is too late. He would not hear me through, but slay me while I spoke." While he thus ruminated, Achilles approached, terrible as Mars, his armor flashing lightning as he moved. At that sight Hector's heart failed him and he fled. Achilles swiftly pursued. They ran, still keeping near the walls, till they had thrice encircled the city. As often as Hector approached the walls Achilles intercepted him and forced him to [Pg 302]keep out in a wider circle. But Apollo sustained Hector's strength and would not let him sink in weariness. Then Pallas, assuming the form of Deiphobus, Hector's bravest brother, appeared suddenly at his side. Hector saw him with delight, and thus strengthened, stopped his flight, and, turning to meet Achilles, threw his spear. It struck the shield of Achilles and bounded back. He turned to receive another from the hand of Deiphobus, but Deiphobus was gone. Then Hector understood his doom and said, "Alas! it is plain this is my hour to die! I thought Deiphobus at hand, but Pallas deceived me, and he is still in Troy. But I will not fall inglorious." So saying he drew his falchion from his side and rushed at once to combat. Achilles, secure behind his shield, waited the approach of Hector. When he came within reach of his spear, Achilles, choosing with his eye a vulnerable part where the armor leaves the neck uncovered, aimed his spear at that part, and Hector fell, death-wounded. Feebly he said, "Spare my body! Let my parents ransom it, and let me receive funeral rites from the sons and daughters of Troy." To which Achilles replied, "Dog, name not ransom nor pity to me, on whom you have brought such dire distress. No! trust me, nought shall save thy carcass from the dogs.[Pg 303] Though twenty ransoms and thy weight in gold were offered, I should refuse it all."[306]

Fig. 159. Contest of Achilles and Hector

216. Achilles drags the Body of Hector. So saying, the son of Peleus stripped the body of its armor, and, fastening cords to the feet, tied them behind his chariot, leaving the body to trail along the ground. Then mounting the chariot he lashed the steeds and so dragged the body to and fro before the city. No words can tell the grief of Priam and Hecuba at this sight. His people could scarce restrain the aged king from rushing forth. He threw himself in the dust and besought them each by name to let him pass. Hecuba's distress was not less violent. The citizens stood round them weeping. The sound of the mourning reached the ears of Andromache, the wife of Hector, as she sat among her maidens at work; and anticipating evil she went forth to the wall. When she saw the horror there presented, she would have thrown herself headlong from the wall, but fainted and fell into the arms of her maidens. Recovering, she bewailed her fate, picturing to herself her country ruined, herself a captive, and her son, the youthful Astyanax, dependent for his bread on the charity of strangers.

Fig. 160. Achilles over the Body of Hector at the Tomb of Patroclus

After Achilles and the Greeks had thus taken their revenge on the slayer of Patroclus, they busied themselves in paying due [Pg 304]funeral rites to their friend.[307] A pile was erected, and the body burned with due solemnity. Then ensued games of strength and skill, chariot races, wrestling, boxing, and archery. Later, the chiefs sat down to the funeral banquet, and finally retired to rest. But Achilles partook neither of the feast nor of sleep. The recollection of his lost friend kept him awake,—the memory of their companionship in toil and dangers, in battle or on the perilous deep. Before the earliest dawn he left his tent, and joining to his chariot his swift steeds, he fastened Hector's body to be dragged behind. Twice he dragged him round the tomb of Patroclus, leaving him at length stretched in the dust. But Apollo would not permit the body to be torn or disfigured with all this abuse; he preserved it free from taint or defilement.[308]

Fig. 161. Priam's Visit to Achilles

While Achilles indulged his wrath in thus disgracing Hector, Jupiter in pity summoned Thetis to his presence. Bidding her prevail on Achilles to restore the body of Hector to the Trojans, he sent Iris to encourage Priam to beg of Achilles the body of his son. Iris delivered her message, and Priam prepared to obey. He opened his treasuries and took out rich garments and cloths, with ten talents in gold and two splendid tripods and a golden cup of matchless workmanship. Then he called to his sons and bade them draw forth his litter and place in it the various articles designed for a ransom to Achilles. When all was ready, the old king with a single companion as aged as himself, the herald [Pg 305]Idæus, drove forth from the gates, parting there with Hecuba his queen, and all his friends, who lamented him as going to certain death.

217. Priam in the Tent of Achilles.[309] But Jupiter, beholding with compassion the venerable king, sent Mercury to be his guide and protector. Assuming the form of a young warrior, Mercury presented himself to the aged couple; and, when at the sight of him they hesitated whether to fly or yield, approaching he grasped Priam's hand and offered to be their guide to Achilles' tent. Priam gladly accepted his service, and Mercury, mounting the carriage, assumed the reins and conveyed them to the camp. Then having cast the guards into a heavy sleep, he introduced Priam into the tent where Achilles sat, attended by two of his warriors. The aged king threw himself at the feet of Achilles and kissed those terrible hands which had destroyed so many of his sons. "Think, O Achilles," he said, "of thine own father, full of days like me, and trembling on the gloomy verge of life. Even now, mayhap, some neighbor chief oppresses him and there is none at hand to succor him in his distress. Yet, knowing that Achilles lives, he doubtless still rejoices, hoping that one day he shall see thy face again. But me no comfort cheers, whose bravest sons, so late the flower of Ilium, all have fallen. Yet one I had, one more than all the rest the strength of my age, whom fighting for his country thou hast slain. His body I come to redeem, bringing inestimable ransom with me. Achilles! reverence the gods! recollect thy father! for his sake show compassion to me!" These words moved Achilles, and he wept, remembering by turns his absent father and his lost friend. Moved with pity of Priam's silver locks and beard, he raised him from the earth and spake: "Priam, I know that thou hast reached this place conducted by some god, for without aid divine no mortal even in his prime of youth had dared the attempt. I grant thy request, for I am moved thereto by the manifest will of Jove." So saying he arose, went forth with his two friends, and unloaded of its charge the litter, leaving two mantles and a robe for the covering of the body. This they placed on the litter and spread the garments over it, that not unveiled it should be borne [Pg 306]back to Troy. Then Achilles dismissed the old king, having first pledged himself to a truce of twelve days for the funeral solemnities.

As the litter approached the city and was descried from the walls, the people poured forth to gaze once more on the face of their hero. Foremost of all, the mother and the wife of Hector came, and at the sight of the lifeless body renewed their lamentations. The people wept with them, and to the going down of the sun there was no pause or abatement of their grief.

The next day, preparations were made for the funeral solemnities. For nine days the people brought wood and built the pile; and on the tenth they placed the body on the summit and applied the torch, while all Troy, thronging forth, encompassed the pyre. When it had completely burned, they quenched the cinders with wine, and, collecting the bones, placed them in a golden urn, which they buried in the earth. Over the spot they reared a pile of stones.

Such honors Ilium to her hero paid,
And peaceful slept the mighty Hector's shade.[310]


[280] From Tennyson's Dream of Fair Women.

[281] From Tennyson's Œnone.

[282] Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, Iphigenia among the Tauri.

[283] From Tennyson's Dream of Fair Women.

[284] Gladstone's Translations from the Iliad.

[285] Iliad, 2 (Pope's translation).

[286] Iliad, 3 (Pope's translation).

[287] Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus.

[288] Iliad, 3 (Pope's translation).

[289] Iliad, 6, 390 et seq. (Lang, Leaf, and Myers' translation).

[290] Iliad, 6, 470-490 (Pope's translation).

[291] Iliad, 6 (Pope's translation).

[292] Iliad, 9.

[293] Iliad, 11.

[294] Iliad, 13.

[295] Iliad, 14, 400-440.

[296] Iliad, 14, 150-350.

[297] Iliad, 15.

[298] Iliad, 11.

[299] Iliad, 16.

[300] Iliad, 17.

[301] Cowper's translation. The lines are often quoted.

[302] Iliad, 18.

[303] Iliad, 19.

[304] Iliad, 20.

[305] Iliad, 21.

[306] Iliad, 22, 350.

[307] Iliad, 23.

[308] Iliad, 24, 15.

[309] Iliad, 24, 330-804.

[310] Iliad, 24, 804 (Pope's translation).


[Pg 307]


Fig. 162. Achilles and Penthesilea

218. The Fall of Troy. The story of the Iliad ends with the death of Hector, and it is from the Odyssey and later poems that we learn the fate of the other heroes. After the death of Hector, Troy did not immediately fall, but receiving aid from new allies, still continued its resistance. One of these allies was Memnon, the Ethiopian prince, whose story has been already told.[311] Another was Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, who came with a band of female warriors. All the authorities attest the valor of these women and the fearful effect of their war cry. Penthesilea, having slain many of the bravest Greeks, was at last slain by Achilles. But when the hero bent over his fallen foe and contemplated her beauty, youth, and valor, he bitterly regretted his victory. Thersites, the insolent brawler and demagogue, attempting to ridicule his grief, was in consequence slain by the hero.[312]

219. The Death of Achilles. But Achilles himself was not destined to a long life. Having by chance seen Polyxena, daughter of King Priam,—perhaps on occasion of the truce which was allowed the Trojans for the burial of Hector,—he was captivated with her charms; and to win her in marriage, it is said (but not by Homer) that he agreed to influence the Greeks to make peace with Troy. While the hero was in the temple of Apollo negotiating [Pg 308]the marriage, Paris discharged at him a poisoned arrow,[313] which, guided by Apollo, fatally wounded him in the heel. This was his only vulnerable spot; for Thetis, having dipped him when an infant in the river Styx, had rendered every part of him invulnerable except that by which she held him.[314]

220. Contest for the Arms of Achilles. The body of Achilles so treacherously slain was rescued by Ajax and Ulysses. Thetis directed the Greeks to bestow her son's armor on that hero who of all survivors should be judged most deserving of it. Ajax and Ulysses were the only claimants. A select number of the other chiefs were appointed to award the prize. By the will of Minerva it was awarded to Ulysses,—wisdom being thus rated above valor. Ajax, enraged, set forth from his tent to wreak vengeance upon the Atridæ and Ulysses. But the goddess robbed him of reason and turned his hand against the flocks and herds of the Argives, which he slaughtered or led captive to his tent, counting them the rivals who had wronged him. Then the cruel goddess restored to him his wits. And he, fixing his sword in the ground, prepared to take his own life:

"Come and look on me,
O Death, O Death,—and yet in yonder world
I shall dwell with thee, speak enough with thee;
And thee I call, thou light of golden day,
Thou Sun, who drivest on thy glorious car,
Thee, for this last time,—never more again!
O Light, O sacred land that was my home;
O Salamis, where stands my father's hearth,
Thou glorious Athens, with thy kindred race;
Ye streams and rivers here, and Troïa's plains,
To you that fed my life I bid farewell;
This last, last word does Ajax speak to you;
All else, I speak in Hades to the dead."[3]

Then, falling upon his sword, he died. So, in the words of his magnanimous foe, Ulysses, passed to the god that ruleth in gloom

The best and bravest of the Argive host,
Of all that came to Troïa, saving one,
Achilles' self.[315]

[Pg 309]

On the spot where his blood sank into the earth a hyacinth sprang up, bearing on its leaves the first two letters of his name, Ai, the Greek interjection of woe.[316]

Fig. 163. Œnone warning Paris

It was now discovered that Troy could not be taken but by the aid of the arrows of Hercules. They were in possession of Philoctetes, the friend who had been with Hercules at the last and had lighted his funeral pyre. Philoctetes[317] had joined the Grecian expedition against Troy; but he accidentally wounded his foot with one of the poisoned arrows, and the smell from the wound proved so offensive that his companions carried him to the isle of Lemnos and left him there. Diomede and Ulysses, or Ulysses and Neoptolemus (son of Achilles), were now sent to induce him to rejoin the army. They succeeded. Philoctetes was cured of his wound by Machaon, and Paris was the first victim of the fatal arrows.

[Pg 310]

221. Paris and Œnone. In his distress Paris bethought him of one whom in his prosperity he had forgotten. This was the nymph Œnone, whom he had married when a youth and had abandoned for the fatal beauty of Helen. Œnone, remembering the wrongs she had suffered, refused to heal the wound; and Paris went back to Troy and died. Œnone quickly repented and hastened after him with remedies, but came too late, and in her grief hanged herself.

222. The Palladium. There was in Troy a celebrated statue of Minerva called the Palladium. It was said to have fallen from heaven, and the belief was that the city could not be taken so long as this statue remained within it. Ulysses and Diomede entered the city in disguise and succeeded in obtaining the Palladium, which they carried off to the Grecian camp.

Fig. 164. The Wooden Horse

223. The Wooden Horse. But Troy still held out. The Greeks began to despair of subduing it by force, and by advice of Ulysses they resorted to stratagem.[318] They pretended to be making preparations to abandon the siege; and a number of the ships were withdrawn and concealed behind a neighboring island. They then constructed an immense wooden horse, which they gave out was intended as a propitiatory offering to Minerva; but it was, in fact, filled with armed men. The rest of the Greeks then betook themselves to their ships and sailed away, as if for a final departure. The Trojans, seeing the encampment broken up and the fleet gone, concluded that the enemy had abandoned the siege. The gates of the city were thrown open, and the whole population issued forth, rejoicing at the long-prohibited liberty of passing freely over the scene of the late encampment. The great horse was the chief object of curiosity. Some recommended that it be taken into the city as a trophy; others felt afraid of it. While they hesitated, Laocoön, the priest of Neptune, exclaimed, "What madness, citizens, is this! Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud to be on your guard against it? For my part, I fear the Greeks even when they offer gifts."[319] So saying, he threw his lance at the horse's side. It struck, and a hollow sound reverberated like a groan. Then perhaps the people might have taken his advice and destroyed the fatal horse with its contents, but just at that moment a group of people appeared dragging forward one who seemed a prisoner and a Greek. Stupefied with terror, the captive was brought before the chiefs. He informed them that he was a Greek, Sinon by name; and that in consequence of the malice of Ulysses, he had been left behind by his countrymen at their departure. With regard to the wooden horse, he told them that it was a propitiatory offering to Minerva, and had been made so huge for the express purpose of preventing its being carried within the city; for Calchas the prophet had told them that if the Trojans took possession of it, they would assuredly triumph over the Greeks.


[Pg 311]

224. Laocoön and the Serpents. This language turned the tide of the people's feelings, and they began to think how they might best secure the monstrous horse and the favorable auguries connected with it, when suddenly a prodigy occurred which left no room for doubt. There appeared advancing over the sea two immense serpents. They came upon the land and the crowd fled in all directions. The serpents advanced directly to the spot where Laocoön stood with his two sons. They first attacked the children, winding round their bodies and breathing pestilential breath in their faces. The father, attempting to rescue them, was next seized and involved in the serpent's coils.

... Vain
The struggle; vain, against the coiling strain
And gripe, and deepening of the dragon's grasp,
The old man's clinch; the long envenomed chain
Rivets the living links,—the enormous asp
Enforces pang on pang, and stifles gasp on gasp.[320]

[Pg 312]

He struggled to tear them away, but they overpowered all his efforts and strangled him and the children in their poisonous folds. The event was regarded as a clear indication of the displeasure of the gods at Laocoön's irreverent treatment of the wooden horse, which they no longer hesitated to regard as a sacred object and prepared to introduce with due solemnity into the city. They did so with songs and triumphal acclamations, and the day closed with festivity. In the night the armed men who were inclosed in the body of the horse, being let out by the traitor Sinon, opened the gates of the city to their friends who had returned under cover of the night. The city was set on fire; the people, overcome with feasting and sleep, were put to the sword, and Troy completely subdued.

Fig. 165. The Sack of Troy

(Left half)

225. The Death of Priam. Priam lived to see the downfall of his kingdom and was slain at last on the fatal night when the Greeks took the city. He had armed himself and was about to mingle with the combatants,[321] but was prevailed on by Hecuba to take refuge with his daughters and herself as a suppliant at the altar of Jupiter. While there, his youngest son, Polites, pursued by Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, rushed in wounded and expired [Pg 313]at the feet of his father; whereupon Priam, overcome with indignation, hurled his spear with feeble hand against Pyrrhus and was forthwith slain by him.

Fig. 166. The Sack of Troy

(Right half)

226. The Survivors.[322] Queen Hecuba and her daughter Cassandra were carried captives to Greece. Cassandra had been loved by Apollo, who gave her the gift of prophecy; but afterwards offended with her, he had rendered the gift unavailing by ordaining that her predictions should never be believed. Polyxena, another daughter, who had been loved by Achilles, was demanded by the ghost of that warrior and was sacrificed by the Greeks upon his tomb. Of the fate of the white-armed Andromache we have already spoken. She was carried off as the wife of Neoptolemus, but he was faithful to her for only a short time. After he had cast her aside she married Helenus, a brother of Hector, and still later returned to Asia Minor.

227. Helen, Menelaüs, and Agamemnon. On the fall of Troy, Menelaüs recovered possession of his wife, who, it seems, had not ceased to love him, though she had yielded to the might of Venus and deserted him for another.[323] After the death of Paris, she aided [Pg 314]the Greeks secretly on several occasions: in particular when Ulysses and Diomede entered the city in disguise to carry off the Palladium. She then saw and recognized Ulysses, but kept the secret and even assisted them in obtaining the image. Thus she became reconciled to Menelaüs, and they were among the first to leave the shores of Troy for their native land. But having incurred the displeasure of the gods, they were driven by storms from shore to shore of the Mediterranean, visiting Cyprus, Phœnicia, and Egypt. In Egypt they were kindly treated and presented with rich gifts, of which Helen's share was a golden spindle and a basket on wheels.

... Many yet adhere
To the ancient distaff at the bosom fixed,
Casting the whirling spindle as they walk.
... This was of old, in no inglorious days,
The mode of spinning, when the Egyptian prince
A golden distaff gave that beauteous nymph,
Too beauteous Helen; no uncourtly gift.[324]

Milton also alludes to a famous recipe for an invigorating draft, called Nepenthe, which the Egyptian queen gave to Helen:

Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
Is of such power to stir up joy as this,
To life so friendly or so cool to thirst.[325]

At last, arriving in safety at Sparta, Menelaüs and Helen resumed their royal dignity, and lived and reigned in splendor; and when Telemachus, the son of Ulysses, in search of his father, arrived at Sparta, he found them celebrating the marriage of their daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.

Agamemnon[326] was not so fortunate in the issue. During his absence his wife Clytemnestra had been false to him; and when his return was expected, she with her paramour, Ægisthus, son of Thyestes, laid a plan for his destruction. Cassandra warned the king, but as usual her prophecy was not regarded. While Agamemnon was bathing previous to the banquet given to celebrate his return, the conspirators murdered him.

[Pg 315]

Fig. 167. Orestes and Electra at the Tomb of Agamemnon

228. Electra and Orestes. It was the intention of the conspirators to slay his son Orestes also, a lad not yet old enough to be an object of apprehension, but from whom, if he should be suffered to grow up, there might be danger. Electra, the sister of Orestes, saved her brother's life by sending him secretly to his uncle Strophius, king of Phocis. In the palace of Strophius, Orestes grew up with the king's son Pylades, and formed with him a friendship which has become proverbial. Electra frequently reminded her brother by messengers of the duty of avenging his father's death; he, too, when he reached maturity, consulted the oracle of Delphi, which confirmed him in the design. He therefore repaired in disguise to Argos, pretending to be a messenger from Strophius, who would announce the death of Orestes. He brought with him what purported to be the ashes of the deceased in a funeral urn. After visiting his father's tomb and sacrificing upon it, according to the rites of the ancients, he met by the way his sister Electra. Mistaking her for one of the domestics, and desirous of keeping his arrival a secret till the hour of vengeance should arrive, he produced the urn. At once his sister, believing Orestes to be really dead, took the urn from him, and, embracing it, poured forth her grief in language full of tenderness and despair. Soon a recognition was effected, and the prince, with the aid of his sister, slew both Ægisthus and Clytemnestra.[327]

[Pg 316]

Fig. 168. Orestes pursued by Furies

229. Orestes pursued by the Furies.[328] This revolting act, the slaughter of a mother by her son, though extenuated by the guilt of the victim and the express command of the gods, did not fail to awaken in the breasts of the ancients the same abhorrence that it does in ours. The Eumenides seized upon Orestes and drove him frantic from land to land. In these wanderings Pylades accompanied him and watched over him. At length in answer to a second appeal to the oracle, Orestes was directed to go to the temple of the Tauri in Scythia and to bring thence a statue of Diana which was believed to have fallen from heaven. Accordingly the friends went to the Tauric Chersonese. Since there the barbarous people were accustomed to sacrifice to the goddess all strangers who fell into their hands, the two friends were seized and carried bound to the temple to be made victims. But the priestess of Diana of the Tauri was no other than Iphigenia, the sister of Orestes, who had been snatched away by Diana at the moment when she was about to be sacrificed. Ascertaining from the prisoners who they were, Iphigenia disclosed herself to them; and the three made their escape with the statue of the goddess, and returned to Mycenæ.[329]

Fig. 169. Orestes and Pylades before the King of the Tauri

[Pg 317]

230. His Purification. But Orestes was not yet relieved from the vengeance of the Erinyes. Finally, he took refuge with Minerva at Athens. The goddess afforded him protection and appointed the court of Areopagus to decide his fate. The Erinyes brought their accusation, and Orestes pleaded the command of the Delphic oracle as his excuse. When the court voted and the voices were equally divided, Orestes was acquitted by the command of Minerva. He was then purified with plentiful blood of swine.

[Pg 318]


[311] § 128.

[312] Pausanias, 5, 11, § 2; and Sophocles, Philoctetes, 445.

[313] Virgil, Æneid, 6, 57.

[314] Statius, Achilleid, 1, 269.

[315] Sophocles, Ajax.

[316] See Commentary.

[317] Servius Honoratus, Commentary on Æneid (3, 402). According to Sophocles (Philoctetes), the wound was occasioned by the bite of a serpent that guarded the shrine of the nymph Chryse, on an islet of the same name near Lemnos.

[318] Virgil, Æneid, 2.

[319] Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.—Æneid. 2, 49.

[320] Byron, Childe Harold.

[321] Hecuba's exclamation, "Not such aid nor such defenders does the time require," has become proverbial.

Non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis
Tempus eget.—Æneid, 2, 521.

[322] Euripides,—Troades, Hecuba, Andromache.

[323] According to Euripides (Helen), and Stesichorus, it was a semblance of Helen that Paris won; the real Helen went to Egypt.

[324] Dyer, The Fleece.

[325] Milton, Comus.

[326] Æschylus, Agamemnon.

[327] Æschylus, Choëphori; Sophocles, Electra; Euripides,—Electra, Orestes.

[328] Æschylus, Eumenides.

[329] Euripides, Iphigenia among the Tauri.


Fig. 170. Ulysses

As one that for a weary space has lain
Lulled by the song of Circe and her wine
In gardens near the pale of Proserpine,
Where that Ææan isle forgets the main,
And only the low lutes of love complain,
And only shadows of wan lovers pine,—
As such an one were glad to know the brine
Salt on his lips, and the large air again,
So, gladly, from the songs of modern speech
Men turn and see the stars, and feel the free
Shrill wind beyond the close of heavy flowers;
And, through the music of the languid hours,
They hear like ocean on a western beach
The surge and thunder of the Odyssey.[330]

231. From Troy to Phæacia. The Odyssey of Homer narrates the wanderings of Ulysses (Odysseus) in his return from Troy to his own kingdom, Ithaca.[331]

From Troy the vessels first made land at Ismarus, city of the Ciconians, where, in a skirmish with the inhabitants, Ulysses lost six men from each ship.[332]


[Pg 319]

232. The Lotus-eaters. Sailing thence they were overtaken by a storm which drove them for nine days till they reached the country of the Lotos-eaters. Here, after watering, Ulysses sent three of his men to discover who the inhabitants were. These men on coming among the Lotos-eaters were kindly entertained by them and were given some of their own food, the lotos plant, to eat. The effect of this food was such that those who partook of it lost all thought of home and wished to remain in that country. It was by main force that Ulysses dragged these men away, and he was even obliged to tie them under the benches of his ship.

Tennyson in The Lotos-eaters has fittingly expressed the dreamy, languid feeling which the lotus-food is said to have produced.

... How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream!
To dream and dream, like yonder amber light
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
To hear each other's whisper'd speech;
Eating the Lotos, day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood and live again in memory,
With those old faces of our infancy
Heap'd over with a mound of grass,
Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!
Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
And dear the last embraces of our wives
And their warm tears: but all hath suffer'd change;
For surely now our household hearths are cold:
Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
... But, propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill—
To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro' the thick-twined vine—
[Pg 320] To watch the emerald-color'd water falling
Thro' many a wov'n acanthus-wreath divine!
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch'd out beneath the pine.
The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
Thro' every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll'd to starboard, roll'd to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind....

233. The Cyclopes. They next arrived at the country of the Cyclopes. The Cyclopes[333] inhabited an island of which they were the only possessors. They dwelt in caves and fed on the wild productions of the island and on what their flocks yielded, for they were shepherds. Ulysses left the main body of his ships at anchor, and with one vessel went to the Cyclopes' island to explore for supplies. He landed with his companions, carrying with them a jar of wine for a present. Coming to a large cave they entered it, and, finding no one within, examined its contents. They found it stored with the riches of the flock, quantities of cheese, pails and bowls of milk, lambs and kids in their pens, all in good order. Presently arrived the master of the cave, Polyphemus, bearing an immense bundle of firewood, which he threw down before the cavern's mouth. He then drove into the cave the sheep and goats to be milked, and, entering, rolled to the cave's mouth an enormous rock, that twenty oxen could not draw. Next he sat down and milked his ewes, preparing a part for cheese and setting the rest aside for his customary drink. Then turning round his one huge eye he discerned the strangers, and growled out at them, demanding who they were and where from. Ulysses replied most humbly, stating that they were Greeks from the great expedition [Pg 321]that had lately won so much glory in the conquest of Troy, that they were now on their way home, and finished by imploring his hospitality in the name of the gods. Polyphemus deigned no answer, but reaching out his hand seized two of the men, whom he hurled against the side of the cave and dashed out their brains. He proceeded to devour them with great relish, and having made a hearty meal, stretched himself on the floor to sleep. Ulysses was tempted to seize the opportunity and plunge his sword into him as he slept, but recollected that it would only expose them all to certain destruction, as the rock with which the giant had closed up the door was far beyond their power to remove, and they would therefore be in hopeless imprisonment.

Next morning the giant seized two more of the men and dispatched them in the same manner as their companions, feasting on their flesh till no fragment was left. He then moved away the rock from the door, drove out his flocks, and went out, carefully replacing the barrier after him. When he was gone Ulysses planned how he might take vengeance for his murdered friends and effect his escape with his surviving companions. He made his men prepare a massive bar of wood cut by the Cyclops for a staff, which they found in the cave. They sharpened the end of the staff and seasoned it in the fire, and hid it under the straw on the cavern floor. Then four of the boldest were selected, with whom Ulysses joined himself as a fifth. The Cyclops came home at evening, rolled away the stone, and drove in his flock as usual. After milking them and making his arrangements as before, he seized two more of Ulysses' companions, dashed their brains out, and made his evening meal upon them as he had on the others. After he had supped, Ulysses approaching him handed him a bowl of wine, saying, "Cyclops, this is wine; taste and drink after thy meal of man's flesh." He took and drank it, and was hugely delighted with it, and called for more. Ulysses supplied him once and again, which pleased the giant so much that he promised him as a favor that he should be the last of the party devoured. He asked his name, to which Ulysses replied, "My name is Noman."

After his supper the giant sought his repose, and was soon sound asleep. Then Ulysses with his four select friends held the[Pg 322] end of the stake in the fire till it was one burning coal, then poising it exactly above the giant's only eye, they plunged it deep into the socket, twirling it round as a carpenter does his auger. The howling monster with his outcry filled the cavern, and Ulysses with his aids nimbly got out of his way and concealed themselves in the cave. He, bellowing, called aloud on all the Cyclopes dwelling in the caves around him, far and near. They, on his cry, flocked round the den, and inquired what grievous hurt had caused him to sound such an alarm and break their slumbers. He replied, "O friends, I die, and Noman gives the blow." They answered, "If no man hurts thee, it is the stroke of Jove, and thou must bear it." So saying, they left him groaning.

Fig. 171. Boring out the Cyclops' Eye

Next morning the Cyclops rolled away the stone to let his flock out to pasture, but planted himself in the door of the cave to feel of all as they went out, that Ulysses and his men should not escape with them. But Ulysses had made his men harness the rams of the flock three abreast, with osiers which they found on the floor of the cave. To the middle ram of the three one of the Greeks suspended himself, so protected by the exterior rams on either side. As they passed, the giant felt of the animals' backs and sides, but never thought of their bellies; so the men all passed safe, Ulysses himself being on the last one that passed. When they had got a few paces from the cavern, Ulysses and his friends released themselves from their rams and drove a good part of the[Pg 323] flock down to the shore to their boat. They put them aboard with all haste, then pushed off from the shore; and when at a safe distance Ulysses shouted out, "Cyclops, the gods have well requited thee for thy atrocious deeds. Know it is Ulysses to whom thou owest thy shameful loss of sight." The Cyclops, hearing this, seized a rock that projected from the side of the mountain, and rending it from its bed, he lifted it high in the air, then exerting all his force, hurled it in the direction of the voice. Down came the mass, just forward of the vessel. The ocean, at the plunge of the huge rock, heaved the ship toward Polyphemus; but a second rock which he hurled, striking aft, propelled them fortunately in the direction that they desired to take. Ulysses was about to hail the giant again, but his friends besought him not to do so. He could not forbear, however, letting the giant know that they had escaped his missile, but waited till they had reached a safer distance than before. The giant answered them with curses, while Ulysses and his friends, plying their oars vigorously, regained their companions.

Fig. 172. Ulysses and Two Companions under Rams

234. The Bag of Winds. Ulysses next arrived at the island of Æolus.[334] He treated Ulysses hospitably, and at his departure gave him, tied up in a leathern bag with a silver string, such winds as might be hurtful and dangerous, commanding fair winds to blow the barks toward their country. Nine days they sped before the wind, and all that time Ulysses had stood at the helm without sleep. At last quite exhausted he lay down to sleep. While he slept, the crew conferred together about the mysterious bag, and concluded it must contain treasures given by the hospitable King Æolus to their commander. Tempted to secure some portion for themselves, they loosed the string, when immediately the winds rushed forth. The ships were driven far from their [Pg 324]course and back again to the island they had just left. Æolus, indignant at their folly, refused to assist them further, and they were obliged to labor over their course once more by means of their oars.

235. The Læstrygonians. Their next adventure was with the barbarous tribe of Læstrygonians. The vessels all pushed into the harbor, tempted by the secure appearance of the cove, completely landlocked; only Ulysses moored his vessel without. As soon as the Læstrygonians found the ships completely in their power, they attacked them, heaving huge stones which broke and overturned them, while with their spears they dispatched the seamen as they struggled in the water. All the vessels with their crews were destroyed, except Ulysses' own ship which had remained outside. He, finding no safety but in flight, exhorted his men to ply their oars vigorously; and they escaped.

236. The Isle of Ææa. With grief for their slain companions mixed with joy at their own escape, they pursued their way till they arrived at the Ææan isle, where Circe dwelt, the daughter of the sun. Landing here, Ulysses climbed a hill and, gazing round, saw no signs of habitation except in one spot at the center of the island, where he perceived a palace embowered with trees. He sent forward one half of his crew, under the command of Eurylochus, to see what prospect of hospitality they might find. As they approached the palace, they found themselves surrounded by lions, tigers, and wolves, not fierce, but tamed by Circe's art, for she was a powerful magician. These animals had once been men, but had been changed by Circe's enchantments into the forms of beasts. The sounds of soft music were heard from within, and a sweet female voice singing. Eurylochus called aloud, and the goddess came forth and invited them in; they all gladly entered except Eurylochus, who suspected danger. The goddess conducted her guests to a seat, and had them served with wine and other delicacies. When they had feasted heartily, she touched them one by one with her wand, and they became immediately changed into swine, in "head, body, voice, and bristles," yet with their intellects as before. She shut them in her styes and supplied them with acorns and such other things as swine love.

[Pg 325]

Eurylochus hurried back to the ship and told the tale. Ulysses thereupon determined to go himself and try if by any means he might deliver his companions. As he strode onward alone, he met a youth who addressed him familiarly, appearing to be acquainted with his adventures. He announced himself as Mercury, and informed Ulysses of the arts of Circe and of the danger of approaching her. As Ulysses was not to be dissuaded from his attempt, Mercury provided him with a sprig of the plant Moly, of wonderful power to resist sorceries, and instructed him how to act.

Fig. 173. The Castle of Circe

Meanwhile the companions of Ulysses made mournful plaint to their cruel mistress:

Huddling they came, with shag sides caked of mire,—
With hoofs fresh sullied from the troughs o'er-turned,—
With wrinkling snouts,—yet eyes in which desire
Of some strange thing unutterably burned,
Unquenchable; and still where'er She turned
[Pg 326] They rose about her, striving each o'er each,
With restless, fierce importuning that yearned
Through those brute masks some piteous tale to teach,
Yet lacked the words thereto, denied the power of speech....
... "If swine we be,—if we indeed be swine,
Daughter of Persé, make us swine indeed,
Well-pleased on litter-straw to lie supine,—
Well-pleased on mast and acorn-shales to feed,
Stirred by all instincts of the bestial breed;
But O Unmerciful! O Pitiless!
Leave us not thus with sick men's hearts to bleed!—
To waste long days in yearning, dumb distress,
And memory of things gone, and utter hopelessness!
... "Make thou us men again,—if men but groping
That dark Hereafter which th' Olympians keep;
Make thou us men again,—if men but hoping
Behind death's doors security of sleep;—
For yet to laugh is somewhat, and to sleep;—
To feel delight of living, and to plow
The salt-blown acres of the shoreless deep;—
Better,—yea better far all these than bow
Foul faces to foul earth, and yearn—as we do now!"
So they in speech unsyllabled. But She,
The fair-tressed Goddess, born to be their bane,
Uplifting straight her wand of ivory,
Compelled them groaning to the styes again;
Where they in hopeless bitterness were fain
To rend the oaken woodwork as before,
And tear the troughs in impotence of pain,—
Not knowing, they, that even at the door
Divine Odysseus stood,—as Hermes told of yore.[335]

Ulysses, reaching the palace, was courteously received by Circe, who entertained him as she had done his companions, but after he had eaten and drunk, touched him with her wand, saying, "Hence, seek the stye and wallow with thy friends." But he, instead of obeying, drew his sword and rushed upon her with fury in his countenance. She fell on her knees and begged for mercy.

[Pg 327]

He dictated a solemn oath that she would release his companions and practice no further harm against him or them; and she repeated it, at the same time promising to dismiss them all in safety after hospitably entertaining them. She was as good as her word. The men were restored to their shapes, the rest of the crew summoned from the shore, and all magnificently entertained day after day, till Ulysses seemed to have forgotten his native land and to have reconciled himself to an inglorious life of ease and pleasure.

237. Ulysses visits Hades. At length his companions recalled him to nobler sentiments, and he received their admonition gratefully. Circe, won over by his prayers, consented to send him on his homeward way. But she warned him that first he must perform another journey, must visit the Underworld and there learn from the shade of Tiresias, the blind prophet of Thebes, the way and measure of his path, and how to proceed to Ithaca over the teeming deep.

"But who will guide us?" queried Ulysses in amaze; "for no man ever yet sailed to hell in a black ship."

"Son of Laërtes," replied the Goddess, "Ulysses of many devices, nay, trouble not thyself for want of a guide, by thy ship abiding, but set up the mast and spread abroad the white sails and sit thee down; and the breeze of the North Wind will bear thy vessel on her way. But when thou hast now sailed in thy ship across the stream Oceanus where is a waste shore and the groves of Persephone, even tall poplar trees and willows that shed their fruit before the season, there beach thy ship by deep-eddying Oceanus, but go thyself to the dank house of Hades. Thereby into Acheron flows Pyriphlegethon, and Cocytus, a branch of the water of the Styx; and there is a rock, and the meeting of the two roaring waters. There dig a trench and pour a drink offering to all the dead, mead and sweet wine and water, sprinkling white meal thereon. And when thou hast prayed to them, offer up a ram and a black ewe. Then will many spirits come to thee of the dead that be departed; but thou shalt draw thy sharp sword and suffer them not to approach the blood, ere thou hast word of Tiresias."[336]

[Pg 328]

So Ulysses and his companions did as they were bid. And the ship came to the limits of the world, to the deep-flowing Oceanus. There is the land and city of the Cimmerians, where no ray of sunshine ever falls, but deadly night is outspread over miserable mortals. And there Ulysses and those with him performed the drink offering and the prayer and the sacrifice; and Ulysses fended off the spirits of the dead from the blood until the soul of the Theban prophet arrived. And that one, having drunk of the dark blood, declared unto Ulysses the future of his way: how the Earthshaker, god of the waters, should oppose him, but how he should win home without further disaster if, when passing the isle Thrinacia, he would but restrain the spirit of his men so that they should do no injury to the cattle of the Sun grazing thereon. If, however, these cattle were not respected but hurt, then there should follow ruin for both ship and men; and Ulysses himself on the ship of strangers should return late in time to his home, to find sorrows there, proud men wasting his patrimony and wooing his godlike wife to wed her. But that he should avenge their violence, and settle his affairs at home, and then betake himself again to wandering; and that from the sea should his own death come,—"the gentlest death that may be, which shall end thee fordone with smooth old age; and the folk shall dwell happily around thee."

In the land of Hades, Ulysses saw also the shade of his mother, and spoke with her of his father and of Penelope, his wife, and of his son Telemachus. And he saw also the shades of Antiope and Alcmene and Phædra and Procris; and of Agamemnon, and Achilles, and Ajax, the son of Telamon, and of many others, and spoke with them of their own fates and of the affairs of the upper world.

238. The Sirens. Returning from the abode of the shades, Ulysses revisited the Ææan isle and recounted to Circe his adventures and the wondrous visions and the laws of Hell. She in return speeded his homeward voyage, instructing him particularly how to pass safely by the coast of the Sirens.[337]

These nymphs had the power, as has been already said, of charming by their song all who heard them, so that mariners [Pg 329]were impelled to cast themselves into the sea to destruction. Circe directed Ulysses to stop the ears of his seamen with wax, so that they should not hear the strain; to have himself bound to the mast, and to enjoin his people, whatever he might say or do, by no means to release him till they should have passed the Sirens' island. Ulysses obeyed these directions. As they approached the Sirens' island, the sea was calm, and over the waters came notes of music so ravishing and attractive that Ulysses struggled to get loose and, by cries and signs to his people, begged to be released; but they, obedient to his previous orders, sprang forward and bound him still faster. They held on their course, and the music grew fainter till it ceased to be heard, when with joy Ulysses gave his companions the signal to unseal their ears; and they relieved him from his bonds. It is said that one of the Sirens, Parthenope, in grief at the escape of Ulysses drowned herself. Her body was cast up on the Italian shore where now stands the city of Naples, in early times called by the Siren's name.

Fig. 174. Ulysses and the Sirens

239. Scylla and Charybdis. Ulysses had been warned by Circe of the two monsters Scylla and Charybdis. We have already met with Scylla in the myth of Glaucus. She dwelt in a cave high up on the cliff, from whence she was accustomed to thrust forth her long necks (for she had six heads), and in each of her mouths to seize one of the crew of every vessel passing within reach. The other terror, Charybdis, was a gulf nearly on a level with the water. Thrice each day the water rushed into a frightful chasm, and thrice was disgorged. Any vessel coming near the whirlpool when the tide was rushing in must inevitably be engulfed; not Neptune himself could save it. On approaching the haunt of the[Pg 330] dread monsters, Ulysses kept strict watch to discover them. The roar of the waters as Charybdis engulfed them gave warning at a distance, but Scylla could nowhere be discerned. While Ulysses and his men watched with anxious eyes the dreadful whirlpool, they were not equally on their guard from the attack of Scylla,[338] and the monster, darting forth her snaky heads, caught six of his men and bore them away shrieking to her den. Ulysses was unable to afford any assistance.

Fig. 175. Ulysses and Scylla

240. The Cattle of the Sun. Both Tiresias and Circe had warned him of another danger. After passing Scylla and Charybdis the next land he would make was Thrinacia, an island whereon were pastured the cattle of Helios, the Sun, tended by his daughters Lampetia and Phaëthusa. These flocks must not be violated, whatever the wants of the voyagers might be. If this injunction were transgressed, destruction was sure to fall on the offenders. Ulysses would willingly have passed the island of the Sun without stopping, but his companions so urgently pleaded for the rest and refreshment that would be derived from anchoring and passing the night on shore, that Ulysses yielded. He made them swear, however, not to touch the sacred flocks and herds, but to content themselves with what provision they yet had left of the supply which Circe had put on board. So long as this supply lasted the people kept their oath; but contrary winds detained them at the island for a month, and after consuming all their stock of provisions, they were forced to rely upon the birds and fishes they could catch. Famine pressed them, and at last, in the absence of Ulysses, they slew some of the cattle, vainly attempting to make amends for the deed by offering from them a portion to the offended powers. Ulysses, on his return to the shore, was horror-struck at perceiving what they had done, and the more so on account of the portentous signs which followed. The skins crept on the ground, and the joints of meat lowed on the spits while roasting.


[Pg 331]

The wind becoming fair, they sailed from the island. They had not gone far when the weather changed, and a storm of thunder and lightning ensued. A stroke of lightning shattered their mast, which in its fall killed the pilot. At last the vessel itself went to pieces. The keel and mast floating side by side, Ulysses formed of them a raft to which he clung; and, the wind changing, the waves bore him to Calypso's island. All the rest of the crew perished.

241. Calypso's Island. Calypso, a sea-nymph, received Ulysses hospitably, entertained him magnificently, became enamored of him, and wished to retain him forever, offering him immortality. He remained with her seven long years. But he persisted in his resolution to return to his country and his wife and son.[339] Calypso at last received the command of Jove to dismiss him. Mercury brought the message to her and found her in her grotto.

A garden vine, luxuriant on all sides,
Mantled the spacious cavern, cluster-hung
Profuse; four fountains of serenest lymph,
Their sinuous course pursuing side by side,
Strayed all around, and everywhere appeared
Meadows of softest verdure, purpled o'er
With violets; it was a scene to fill
A god from heaven with wonder and delight.[340]

Calypso, with much reluctance, proceeded to obey the commands of Jupiter. She supplied Ulysses with the means of constructing a raft, provisioned it well for him, and gave him a favoring gale. He sped on his course prosperously for many days, till at last, when in sight of land, a storm arose that broke his mast and threatened to rend the raft asunder. In this crisis he was seen by a compassionate sea-nymph, Leucothea, who, in the form of a cormorant, alighted on the raft and presented him with a girdle, directing him to bind it beneath his breast, that, if he should be compelled to trust himself to the waves, it might buoy him up and enable him to reach the land.

[Pg 332]

242. The Land of the Phæacians. Ulysses clung to the raft so long as its timbers held together, and when it no longer yielded him support, binding the girdle around him, he swam. Minerva smoothed the billows before him and sent him a wind that rolled the waves towards the shore. The surf beat high on the rocks and seemed to forbid approach; but at length finding calm water at the mouth of a gentle stream, he landed, spent with toil, breathless and speechless and almost dead. Reviving after some time, he kissed the soil, rejoicing, yet at a loss what course to take. At a short distance he perceived a wood, to which he turned his steps. There finding a covert sheltered by intermingling branches alike from the sun and the rain, he collected a pile of leaves and formed a bed, on which he stretched himself, and, heaping the leaves over him, fell asleep.

The land where he was thrown was Scheria, the country of the Phæacians.[341] These people dwelt originally near the Cyclopes; but, being oppressed by that savage race, they migrated to the isle of Scheria under the conduct of Nausithoüs, their king. They were, the poet tells us, a people akin to the gods, who appeared manifestly and feasted among them when they offered sacrifices, and did not conceal themselves from solitary wayfarers when they met them. They had abundance of wealth and lived in the enjoyment of it undisturbed by the alarms of war; for as they dwelt remote from gain-seeking man, no enemy ever approached their shores, and they did not even require to make use of bows and quivers. Their chief employment was navigation. Their ships, which went with the velocity of birds, were endued with intelligence; they knew every port and needed no pilot. Alcinoüs, the son of Nausithoüs, was now their king, a wise and just sovereign, beloved by his people.

Now it happened that the very night on which Ulysses was cast ashore on the Phæacian island, and while he lay sleeping on his bed of leaves, Nausicaa, the daughter of the king, had a dream sent by Minerva, reminding her that her wedding day might not be far distant, and that it would be but a prudent preparation for that event to have a general washing of the clothes of the family.

[Pg 333]

This was no slight affair, for the fountains were at some distance and the garments must be carried thither. On awaking, the princess hastened to her parents to tell them what was on her mind,—not alluding to her wedding day, but finding other reasons equally good. Her father readily assented and ordered the grooms to furnish forth a wagon for the purpose. The clothes were put therein, and the queen, her mother, placed in the wagon likewise an abundant supply of food and wine. The princess took her seat and plied the lash, her attendant virgins following her on foot. Arrived at the riverside they turned out the mules to graze, and unlading the carriage, bore the garments down to the water, and, working with cheerfulness and alacrity, soon dispatched their labor. Then having spread the garments on the shore to dry, and having themselves bathed, they sat down to enjoy their meal; after which they rose and amused themselves with a game of ball, the princess singing to them while they played. But when they had refolded the apparel and were about to resume their way to the town, Minerva caused the ball thrown by the princess to fall into the water, whereat they all screamed, and Ulysses awaked at the sound.

Utterly destitute of clothing, he discovered that only a few bushes were interposed between him and a group of young maidens, whom, by their deportment and attire, he discovered to be not mere peasant girls, but of a higher class. Breaking off a leafy branch from a tree, he held it before him and stepped out from the thicket. The virgins at sight of him fled in all directions, Nausicaa alone excepted, for her Minerva aided and endowed with courage and discernment. Ulysses, standing respectfully aloof, told his sad case, and besought the fair object (whether queen or goddess he professed he knew not) for food and clothing. The princess replied courteously, promising present relief and her father's hospitality when he should become acquainted with the facts. She called back her scattered maidens, chiding their alarm and reminding them that the Phæacians had no enemies to fear. This man, she told them, was an unhappy wanderer, whom it was a duty to cherish, for the poor and the stranger are from Jove. She bade them bring food, and the garments of some of her brothers that were among[Pg 334] the contents of the wagon. When this was done, and Ulysses retiring to a sheltered place had washed his body free from the sea-foam, and clothed himself, and eaten, Pallas dilated his form and diffused grace over his ample chest and manly brows.

The princess, seeing him, was filled with admiration and scrupled not to say to her damsels that she wished the gods would send her such a husband. To Ulysses she recommended that he repair to the city, following herself and her train so far as the way lay through the fields; but when they should approach the city, she desired that he no longer be seen in her company, for she feared the remarks which rude and vulgar people might make on seeing her return accompanied by such a gallant stranger. To avoid this she directed him to stop at a grove adjoining the city, in which were a farm and garden belonging to the king. After allowing time for the princess and her companions to reach the city, he was then to pursue his way thither, and should be easily guided by any he might meet to the royal abode.

Ulysses obeyed the directions and in due time proceeded to the city, on approaching which he met a young woman bearing forth a pitcher for water.[342] It was Minerva who had assumed that form. Ulysses accosted her and desired to be directed to the palace of Alcinoüs, the king. The maiden replied respectfully, offering to be his guide; for the palace, she informed him, stood near her father's dwelling. Under the guidance of the goddess and, by her power, enveloped in a cloud which shielded him from observation, Ulysses passed among the busy crowd and with wonder observed their harbor, their ships, their forum (the resort of heroes), and their battlements, till they came to the palace, where the goddess, having first given him some information of the country, king, and people he was about to meet, left him. Ulysses, before entering the courtyard of the palace, stood and surveyed the scene. Its splendor astonished him. Brazen walls stretched from the entrance to the interior house, of which the doors were gold, the doorposts silver, the lintels silver ornamented with gold. On either side were figures of mastiffs wrought in gold and silver, standing in rows as if to guard the approach. Along the walls [Pg 335]were seats spread through all their length with mantles of finest texture, the work of Phæacian maidens. On these seats the princes sat and feasted, while golden statues of graceful youths held in their hands lighted torches which shed radiance over the scene. Full fifty female menials served in household offices, some employed to grind the corn, others to wind off the purple wool or ply the loom. For the Phæacian women as far exceeded all other women in household arts as the mariners of that country did the rest of mankind in the management of ships. Without the court a spacious garden lay, four acres in extent. In it grew many a lofty tree, pomegranate, pear, apple, fig, and olive. Neither winter's cold nor summer's drought arrested their growth.

The languid sunset, mother of roses,[343]
Lingers, a light on the magic seas,
The wide fire flames, as a flower uncloses,
Heavy with odor, and loose to the breeze.
The red rose clouds, without law or leader,
Gather and float in the airy plain;
The nightingale sings to the dewy cedar,
The cedar scatters his scent to the main.
The strange flowers' perfume turns to singing,
Heard afar over moonlit seas:
The Siren's song, grown faint in winging,
Falls in scent on the cedar-trees.
As waifs blown out of the sunset, flying,
Purple, and rosy, and gray, the birds
Brighten the air with their wings; their crying
Wakens a moment the weary herds.
Butterflies flit from the fairy garden,
Living blossoms of flying flowers;
Never the nights with winter harden,
Nor moons wax keen in this land of ours.
Great fruits, fragrant, green and golden,
Gleam in the green, and droop and fall;
Blossom, and bud, and flower unfolden,
Swing and cling to the garden wall.
[Pg 336]
Deep in the woods as twilight darkens,
Glades are red with the scented fire;
Far in the dells the white maid hearkens
Song and sigh of the heart's desire.

Ulysses stood gazing in admiration, unobserved himself, for the cloud which Minerva spread around him still shielded him. At length having sufficiently observed the scene, he advanced with rapid step into the hall where the chiefs and senators were assembled, pouring libation to Mercury, whose worship followed the evening meal. Just then Minerva dissolved the cloud and disclosed him to the assembled chiefs. Advancing to the place where the queen sat, he knelt at her feet and implored her favor and assistance to enable him to return to his native country. Then withdrawing, he seated himself in the manner of suppliants, at the hearth-side.

For a time none spoke. At last an aged statesman, addressing the king, said, "It is not fit that a stranger who asks our hospitality should be kept waiting in suppliant guise, none welcoming him. Let him, therefore, be led to a seat among us and supplied with food and wine." At these words the king, rising, gave his hand to Ulysses and led him to a seat, displacing thence his own son to make room for the stranger. Food and wine were set before him and he ate and refreshed himself.

The king then dismissed his guests, notifying them that the next day he would call them to council to consider what had best be done for the stranger.

When the guests had departed and Ulysses was left alone with the king and queen, the queen asked him who he was and whence he came, and (recognizing the clothes which he wore as those which her maidens and herself had made) from whom he received those garments. He told them of his residence in Calypso's isle and his departure thence; of the wreck of his raft, his escape by swimming, and of the relief afforded by the princess. The parents heard approvingly, and the king promised to furnish a ship in which his guest might return to his own land.

The next day the assembled chiefs confirmed the promise of the king.[344] A bark was prepared and a crew of stout rowers [Pg 337]selected, and all betook themselves to the palace, where a bounteous repast was provided. After the feast the king proposed that the young men should show their guest their proficiency in manly sports, and all went forth to the arena for games of running, wrestling, and other exercises. After all had done their best, Ulysses being challenged to show what he could do, at first declined, but being taunted by one of the youths, seized a quoit of weight far heavier than any the Phæacians had thrown, and sent it farther than the utmost throw of theirs. All were astonished and viewed their guest with greatly increased respect.

After the games they returned to the hall, and the herald led in Demodocus, the blind bard,—

Dear to the Muse,
Who yet appointed him both good and ill,
Took from him sight, but gave him strains divine.

He took for his theme the Wooden Horse, by means of which the Greeks found entrance into Troy. Apollo inspired him, and he sang so feelingly the terrors and the exploits of that eventful time that all were delighted, but Ulysses was moved to tears. Observing which, Alcinoüs, when the song was done, demanded of him why at the mention of Troy his sorrows awaked. Had he lost there a father, or brother, or any dear friend? Ulysses replied by announcing himself by his true name, and, at their request, recounted the adventures which had befallen him since his departure from Troy. This narrative raised the sympathy and admiration of the Phæacians for their guest to the highest pitch. The king proposed that all the chiefs should present him with a gift, himself setting the example. They obeyed, and vied with one another in loading the illustrious stranger with costly gifts.

The next day Ulysses set sail in the Phæacian vessel, and in a short time arrived safe at Ithaca, his own island.[345] When the vessel touched the strand he was asleep. The mariners, without waking him, carried him on shore, and landed with him the chest containing his presents, and then sailed away.

Neptune was so displeased at the conduct of the Phæacians in thus rescuing Ulysses from his hands, that, on the return of the [Pg 338]vessel to port, he transformed it into a rock, right opposite the mouth of the harbor.

243. Fate of the Suitors. Ulysses had now been away from Ithaca for twenty years, and when he awoke he did not recognize his native land:

"Some god hath cast me forth upon this land,
And O! what land? So thick is the sea mist,
All is phantasmal. What king ruleth here?
What folk inhabit?—cruel unto strangers,
Or hospitable? The gods have lied to me
When they foretold I should see Ithaca.
This is some swimming and Cimmerian isle,
With melancholy people of the mist.
Ah! Ithaca, I shall not see thee more!"[346]

But Minerva, appearing in the form of a young shepherd, informed him where he was, and told him the state of things at his palace. More than a hundred nobles of Ithaca and of the neighboring islands had been for years suing for the hand of Penelope, his wife, imagining him dead, and lording it over his palace and people as if they were owners of both.

Penelope was one of those mythic heroines whose beauties were not those of person only, but of character and conduct as well. She was the niece of Tyndareus,—being the daughter of his brother Icarius, a Spartan prince. Ulysses, seeking her in marriage, had won her over all competitors. But, when the moment came for the bride to leave her father's house, Icarius, unable to bear the thoughts of parting with his daughter, tried to persuade her to remain with him and not accompany her husband to Ithaca. Ulysses gave Penelope her choice, to stay or go with him. Penelope made no reply, but dropped her veil over her face. Icarius urged her no further, but when she was gone erected a statue to Modesty on the spot where they had parted.

Ulysses and Penelope had not enjoyed their union more than a year when it was interrupted by the events which called Ulysses to the Trojan War. During his long absence, and when it was doubtful whether he still lived, and highly improbable that he [Pg 339]would ever return, Penelope was importuned by numerous suitors, from whom there seemed no refuge but in choosing one of them for her husband. She, however, employed every art to gain time, still hoping for Ulysses' return. One of her arts of delay was by engaging in the preparation of a robe for the funeral canopy of Laërtes, her husband's father. She pledged herself to make her choice among the suitors when the web was finished. During the day she worked at it, but in the night she undid the work of the day.

Fig. 176. Penelope and Telemachus

That Ulysses on returning might be able to take vengeance upon the suitors, it was important that he should not be recognized. Minerva accordingly metamorphosed him into an unsightly beggar, and as such he was kindly received by Eumæus, the swineherd, a faithful servant of his house.[347]

Telemachus, his son, had for some time been absent in quest of his father, visiting the courts of the other kings who had [Pg 340]returned from the Trojan expedition. While on the search, he received counsel from Minerva to return home.[348] He arrived at this juncture, and sought Eumæus to learn something of the state of affairs at the palace before presenting himself among the suitors. Finding a stranger with Eumæus, he treated him courteously, though in the garb of a beggar, and promised him assistance. Eumæus was sent to the palace to inform Penelope privately of her son's arrival, for caution was necessary with regard to the suitors, who, as Telemachus had learned, were plotting to intercept and kill him. When the swineherd was gone, Minerva presented herself to Ulysses and directed him to make himself known to his son. At the same time she touched him, removed at once from him the appearance of age and penury, and gave him the aspect of vigorous manhood that belonged to him. Telemachus viewed him with astonishment, and at first thought he must be more than mortal. But Ulysses announced himself as his father, and accounted for the change of appearance by explaining that it was Minerva's doing.

Then threw Telemachus
His arms around his father's neck and wept.
Desire intense of lamentation seized
On both; soft murmurs uttering, each indulged
His grief.[349]

The father and son took counsel together how they should get the better of the suitors and punish them for their outrages. It was arranged that Telemachus should proceed to the palace and mingle with the suitors as formerly; that Ulysses should also go as a beggar, a character which in the rude old times had different privileges from what we concede to it now. As traveler and storyteller, the beggar was admitted in the halls of chieftains and often treated like a guest; though sometimes, also, no doubt, with contumely. Ulysses charged his son not to betray, by any display of unusual interest in him, that he knew him to be other than he seemed, and even if he saw him insulted or beaten, not to interpose otherwise than he might do for any stranger. At the palace they found the usual scene of feasting and riot going on. The [Pg 341]suitors pretended to receive Telemachus with joy at his return, though secretly mortified at the failure of their plots to take his life. The old beggar was permitted to enter and provided with a portion from the table. A touching incident occurred as Ulysses entered the courtyard of the palace. An old dog lay in the yard almost dead with age, and seeing a stranger enter, raised his head, with ears erect. It was Argus, Ulysses' own dog, that he had in other days often led to the chase.

Soon as he perceived
Long-lost Ulysses nigh, down fell his ears
Clapped close, and with his tail glad sign he gave
Of gratulation, impotent to rise,
And to approach his master as of old.
Ulysses, noting him, wiped off a tear
... Then his destiny released
Old Argus, soon as he had lived to see
Ulysses in the twentieth year restored.[350]

Fig. 177. Ulysses recognized by Euryclea

As Ulysses sat eating his portion in the hall, the suitors soon began to exhibit their insolence to him. When he mildly remonstrated, one of them raised a stool and with it gave him a blow. Telemachus had hard work to restrain his indignation at seeing his father so treated in his own hall; but, remembering his father's injunctions, said no more than what became him as master of the house, though young, and protector of his guests.

Once again was the wanderer all but betrayed;—when his aged nurse Euryclea, bathing his feet, recognized the scar of [Pg 342]a wound dealt him by a boar, long ago.[351] Grief and joy overwhelmed the crone, and she would have revealed him to Penelope had not Ulysses enjoined silence upon her.

Penelope had protracted her decision in favor of any one of her suitors so long that there seemed to be no further pretense for delay. The continued absence of her husband seemed to prove that his return was no longer to be expected. Meanwhile her son had grown up and was able to manage his own affairs. She therefore consented to submit the question of her choice to a trial of skill among the suitors. The test selected was shooting with the bow.[352] Twelve rings were arranged in a line, and he whose arrow was sent through the whole twelve was to have the queen for his prize. A bow that one of his brother heroes had given to Ulysses in former times was brought from the armory and with its quiver full of arrows was laid in the hall. Telemachus had taken care that all other weapons should be removed, under pretense that in the heat of competition there was danger, in some rash moment, of putting them to an improper use.

Fig. 178. Ulysses kills the Suitors

(Left half)

All things being prepared for the trial, the first thing to be done was to bend the bow in order to attach the string. Telemachus endeavored to do it, but found all his efforts fruitless; and modestly confessing that he had attempted a task beyond his strength, [Pg 343]he yielded the bow to another, He tried it with no better success, and, amidst the laughter and jeers of his companions, gave it up. Another tried it, and another; they rubbed the bow with tallow, but all to no purpose; it would not bend. Then spoke Ulysses, humbly suggesting that he should be permitted to try; for, said he, "beggar as I am, I was once a soldier, and there is still some strength in these old limbs of mine." The suitors hooted with derision and commanded to turn him out of the hall for his insolence. But Telemachus spoke up for him, and, merely to gratify the old man, bade him try. Ulysses took the bow and handled it with the hand of a master. With ease he adjusted the cord to its notch, then fitting an arrow to the bow he drew the string and sped the arrow unerring through the rings.

Fig. 179. Ulysses kills the Suitors

(Right half)

Without allowing them time to express their astonishment, he said, "Now for another mark!" and aimed direct at Antinoüs, the most insolent of the suitors.[353] The arrow pierced through his throat and he fell dead. Telemachus, Eumæus, and another faithful follower, well armed, now sprang to the side of Ulysses. The suitors, in amazement, looked round for arms, but found none, neither was there any way of escape, for Eumæus had secured the door. Ulysses left them not long in uncertainty; he announced himself as the long-lost chief, whose house they had invaded, whose [Pg 344]substance they had squandered, whose wife and son they had persecuted for ten long years; and told them he meant to have ample vengeance. All but two were slain, and Ulysses was left master of his palace and possessor of his kingdom and his wife.

244. Tennyson's Ulysses. Tennyson's poem of Ulysses represents the old hero,—his dangers past and nothing left but to stay at home and be happy,—growing tired of inaction and resolving to set forth again in quest of new adventures.

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match'd with an agèd wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known: cities of men,
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'
Gleams that untravel'd world, whose margin fades
Forever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
[Pg 345]
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

Fig. 180. The Nike of Samothrace

There lies the port: the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age has yet his honor and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

[Pg 346]


[330] Sonnet by Andrew Lang.

[331] For the authorship of the Odyssey, see § 298 (3); and for translations, see corresponding section of the Commentary.

[332] Odyssey, 9.

[333] § 141.

[334] Odyssey, 10.

[335] From Austin Dobson's Prayer of the Swine to Circe.

[336] Odyssey, 10; adapted from Butcher and Lang's translation. So the following from Odyssey, 11.

[337] Odyssey, 12.

[338] Incidit in Scyllam, cupiens vitare Charybdim.

[339] Odyssey, 1, 10.

[340] Odyssey, 5, 64 (Cowper's translation).

[341] Odyssey, 6.

[342] Odyssey, 7.

[343] Andrew Lang, A Song of Phæacia.

[344] Odyssey, 8.

[345] Odyssey, 13.

[346] Stephen Phillips, Ulysses.

[347] Odyssey, 14.

[348] Odyssey, 15.

[349] Odyssey 16, 212 (Cowper's translation).

[350] Odyssey, 17, 290 (Cowper's translation).

[351] Odyssey, 19.

[352] Odyssey, 21.

[353] Odyssey, 22.


Roman Virgil, thou that singest
Ilion's lofty temples robed in fire,
Ilion falling, Rome arising,
wars, and filial faith, and Dido's pyre;
Landscape lover, lord of language
more than he that sang the Works and Days,
All the chosen coin of fancy
flashing out from many a golden phrase;...
Light among the vanish'd ages;
star that gildest yet this phantom shore;
Golden branch amid the shadows,
kings and realms that pass to rise no more;...
Now the Rome of slaves hath perish'd,
and the Rome of freemen holds her place,
I, from out the Northern Island
sunder'd once from all the human race,
I salute thee, Mantovano,
I that loved thee since my day began,
Wielder of the stateliest measure
ever molded by the lips of man.[354]

[Pg 347]

245. From Troy to Italy. Homer tells the story of one of the Grecian heroes, Ulysses, in his wanderings on his return home from Troy. Virgil in his Æneid[355] narrates the mythical fortunes of the remnant of the conquered people under their chief Æneas, the son of Venus and the Trojan Anchises, in their search for a new home after the ruin of their native city. On that fatal night when the wooden horse disgorged its contents of armed men, and the capture and conflagration of the city were the result, Æneas made his escape from the scene of destruction, with his father and his wife and young son. The father, Anchises, was too old to walk with the speed required, and Æneas took him upon his shoulders. Thus burdened, leading his son and followed by his wife, he made the best of his way out of the burning city; but in the confusion his wife, Creüsa, was swept away and lost.

Fig. 181. Æneas, Anchises, and Iulius

246. The Departure from Troy. On arriving at the place of rendezvous, numerous fugitives of both sexes were found, who put themselves under the guidance of Æneas. Some months were spent in preparation, and at length they embarked. They first landed on the neighboring shores of Thrace, and were preparing to build a city, but Æneas was deterred by a prodigy. Preparing to offer sacrifice, he tore some twigs from one of the bushes. To his dismay the wounded part dropped blood. When he repeated the act, a voice from the ground cried out to him, "Spare me, Æneas; I am thy kinsman, Polydore, here murdered with many arrows, from which a bush has grown, nourished with my blood." These words recalled to the recollection of Æneas that Polydore was a young prince of Troy, whom his father had sent with ample treasures to the neighboring land of Thrace, to be there brought up, at a distance from the horrors of war. The king to whom he was sent had murdered him and seized his treasures. Æneas and his companions, considering the land accursed by the stain of such a crime, hastened away.

247. The Promised Empire. They next landed on the island of Delos. Here Æneas consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received an answer, ambiguous as usual,—"Seek thy ancient mother;[Pg 348] there the race of Æneas shall dwell, and reduce all other nations to their sway." The Trojans heard with joy and immediately began to ask one another, "Where is the spot intended by the oracle?" Anchises remembered that there was a tradition that their forefathers came from Crete, and thither they resolved to steer. They arrived at Crete and began to build their city; but sickness broke out among them, and the fields that they had planted, failed to yield a crop. In this gloomy aspect of affairs, Æneas was warned in a dream to leave the country and seek a western land called Hesperia, whence Dardanus, the true founder of the Trojan race, was reported to have migrated. To Hesperia, now called Italy, they therefore directed their future course, and not till after many adventures, and the lapse of time sufficient to carry a modern navigator several times round the world, did they arrive there.

248. The Harpies. Their first landing was at the island of the Harpies. These were disgusting birds, with the heads of maidens, with long claws, and faces pale with hunger. They were sent by the gods to torment a certain Phineus, whom Jupiter had deprived of his sight in punishment of his cruelty; and whenever a meal was placed before him, the harpies darted down from the air and carried it off. They were driven away from Phineus by the heroes of the Argonautic expedition, and took refuge in the island where Æneas now found them. When the Trojans entered the port they saw herds of cattle roaming over the plain. They slew as many as they wished, and prepared for a feast. But no sooner had they seated themselves at the table than a horrible clamor was heard in the air, and a flock of these odious harpies came rushing down upon them, seizing in their talons the meat from the dishes and flying away with it. Æneas and his companions drew their swords and dealt vigorous blows among the monsters, but to no purpose, for they were so nimble it was almost impossible to hit them, and their feathers were, like armor, impenetrable to steel. One of them, perched on a neighboring cliff, screamed out, "Is it thus, Trojans, ye treat us innocent birds, first slaughter our cattle and then make war on ourselves?" She then predicted dire sufferings to them in their future course, and, having vented her wrath, flew away.

[Pg 349]

249. Epirus. The Trojans made haste to leave the country, and next found themselves coasting along the shore of Epirus. Here they landed and to their astonishment learned that certain Trojan exiles, who had been carried there as prisoners, had become rulers of the country. Andromache, the widow of Hector, had borne three sons to Neoptolemus in Epirus. But when he cast her off for Hermione, he left her to her fellow-captive, Helenus, Hector's brother. Now that Neoptolemus was dead she had become the wife of Helenus; and they ruled the realm. Helenus and Andromache treated the exiles with the utmost hospitality, and dismissed them loaded with gifts.

Fig. 182. Scylla

250. The Cyclopes Again. From hence Æneas coasted along the shore of Sicily and passed the country of the Cyclopes. Here they were hailed from the shore by a miserable object, whom by his garments tattered, as they were, they perceived to be a Greek. He told them he was one of Ulysses' companions, left behind by that chief in his hurried departure. He related the story of Ulysses' adventure with Polyphemus, and besought them to take him off with them, as he had no means of sustaining his existence where he was, but wild berries and roots, and lived in constant fear of the Cyclopes. While he spoke Polyphemus made his appearance,—terrible, shapeless, vast, and, of course, blind.[356] He walked with cautious steps, feeling his way with a staff, down to the seaside, to wash his eye-socket in the waves. When he reached the water he waded out towards them, and his immense height enabled him to advance far into the sea, so that the Trojans in terror took to their oars to get out of his way. Hearing the oars, Polyphemus shouted after them so that the shores resounded, and at the noise the other Cyclopes came forth [Pg 350]from their caves and woods, and lined the shore, like a row of lofty pine trees. The Trojans plied their oars and soon left them out of sight.

Æneas had been cautioned by Helenus to avoid the strait guarded by the monsters Scylla and Charybdis. There Ulysses, the reader will remember, had lost six of his men, seized by Scylla while the navigators were wholly intent upon avoiding Charybdis. Æneas, following the advice of Helenus, shunned the dangerous pass and coasted along the island of Sicily.

251. The Resentment of Juno. Now Juno, seeing the Trojans speeding their way prosperously towards their destined shore, felt her old grudge against them revive, for she could not forget the slight that Paris had put upon her in awarding the prize of beauty to another. In heavenly minds can such resentment dwell![357] Accordingly she gave orders to Æolus, who sent forth his sons, Boreas, Typhon, and the other winds, to toss the ocean. A terrible storm ensued, and the Trojan ships were driven out of their course towards the coast of Africa. They were in imminent danger of being wrecked, and were separated, so that Æneas thought that all were lost except his own vessel.

At this crisis, Neptune, hearing the storm raging, and knowing that he had given no orders for one, raised his head above the waves and saw the fleet of Æneas driving before the gale. Understanding the hostility of Juno, he was at no loss to account for it, but his anger was not the less at this interference in his province. He called the winds and dismissed them with a severe reprimand. He then soothed the waves, and brushed away the clouds from before the face of the sun. Some of the ships which had got on the rocks he pried off with his own trident, while Triton and a sea-nymph, putting their shoulders under others, set them afloat again. The Trojans, when the sea became calm, sought the nearest shore,—the coast of Carthage, where Æneas was so happy as to find that one by one the ships all arrived safe, though badly shaken.

252. The Sojourn at Carthage. Dido. Carthage, where the exiles had now arrived, was a spot on the coast of Africa opposite [Pg 351]Sicily, where at that time a Tyrian colony under Dido, their queen, were laying the foundations of a state destined in later ages to be the rival of Rome itself. Dido was the daughter of Belus, king of Tyre, and sister of Pygmalion, who succeeded his father on the throne. Her husband was Sichæus, a man of immense wealth, but Pygmalion, who coveted his treasures, caused him to be put to death. Dido, with a numerous body of friends and followers, both men and women, succeeded in effecting their escape from Tyre, in several vessels, carrying with them the treasures of Sichæus. On arriving at the spot which they selected as the seat of their future home, they asked of the natives only so much land as they could inclose with a bull's hide. When this was readily granted, the queen caused the hide to be cut into strips, and with them inclosed a spot on which she built a citadel, and called it Byrsa (a hide). Around this fort the city of Carthage rose, and soon became a powerful and flourishing place.

Such was the state of affairs when Æneas with his Trojans arrived there. Dido received the illustrious exiles with friendliness and hospitality. "Not unacquainted with distress," she said, "I have learned to succor the unfortunate."[358] The queen's hospitality displayed itself in festivities at which games of strength and skill were exhibited. The strangers contended for the palm with her own subjects on equal terms, the queen declaring that whether the victor were "Trojan or Tyrian should make no difference to her."[359] At the feast which followed the games, Æneas gave at her request a recital of the closing events of the Trojan history and his own adventures after the fall of the city. Dido was charmed with his discourse and filled with admiration of his exploits. She conceived an ardent passion for him, and he for his part seemed well content to accept the fortunate chance which appeared to offer him at once a happy termination of his wanderings, a home, a kingdom, and a bride. Months rolled away in the enjoyment of pleasant intercourse, and it seemed as if Italy and the empire destined to be founded on its shores were alike forgotten. Seeing which, Jupiter dispatched Mercury with a message to Æneas [Pg 352]recalling him to a sense of his high destiny, and commanding him to resume his voyage.

Æneas parted from Dido, though she tried every allurement and persuasion to detain him. The blow to her affection and her pride was too much for her to endure, and when she found that he was gone, she mounted a funeral pile which she had caused to be prepared, and having stabbed herself was consumed with the pile. The flames rising over the city were seen by the departing Trojans, and, though the cause was unknown, gave to Æneas some intimation of the fatal event.

253. Palinurus. Italy at Last. After touching at the island of Sicily, where Acestes, a prince of Trojan lineage, bore sway, and gave them a hospitable reception, the Trojans reëmbarked and held on their course for Italy. Venus now interceded with Neptune to allow her son at last to attain the wished-for goal and find an end of his perils on the deep. Neptune consented, stipulating only for one life as a ransom for the rest. The victim was Palinurus, the pilot. As he sat watching the stars with his hand on the helm, Somnus, sent by Neptune, approached in the guise of Phorbas, and said, "Palinurus, the breeze is fair, the water smooth, and the ship sails steadily on her course. Lie down awhile and take needful rest. I will stand at the helm in thy place." Palinurus replied, "Tell me not of smooth seas or favoring winds,—me who have seen so much of their treachery. Shall I trust Æneas to the chances of the weather and the winds?" And he continued to grasp the helm and to keep his eyes fixed on the stars. But Somnus waved over him a branch moistened with Lethæan dew, and his eyes closed in spite of all his efforts. Then Somnus pushed him overboard, and he fell; but as he kept his hold upon the helm, it came away with him. Neptune was mindful of his promise, and held the ship on her track without helm or pilot till Æneas discovered his loss and, sorrowing deeply for his faithful steersman, took charge of the ship himself. Under his guidance the ships at last reached the shores of Italy, and joyfully the adventurers leaped to land.

Fig. 183. The Cumæan Sibyl

From the painting by Michelangelo

254. The Sibyl of Cumæ. While his people were employed in making their encampment, Æneas sought the abode of the Sibyl.[Pg 353] It was a cave connected with a temple and grove, sacred to Apollo and Diana. While Æneas contemplated the scene, the Sibyl accosted him. She seemed to know his errand, and, under the influence of the deity of the place, burst forth in a prophetic strain, giving dark intimations of labors and perils through which he was destined to make his way to final success. She closed with the encouraging words which have become proverbial: "Yield not to disasters, but press onward the more bravely."[360] Æneas replied that he had prepared himself for whatever might await him. He had but one request to make. Having been directed in a dream to seek the abode of the dead in order to confer with his father Anchises to receive from him a revelation of his future fortunes and those of his race, he asked her assistance to enable him to accomplish the task. The Sibyl replied: "The descent to Avernus is easy; the gate of Pluto stands open night and day; but to retrace one's steps and return to the upper air, that is the toil, that the difficulty."[361] She instructed him to seek in the forest a tree on which grew a golden branch. This [Pg 354]branch was to be plucked off and borne as a gift to Proserpine, and if fate was propitious, it would yield to the hand and quit its parent trunk, but otherwise no force could rend it away. If torn away, another would succeed.

Æneas followed the directions of the Sibyl. His mother, Venus, sent two of her doves to fly before him and show him the way, and by their assistance he found the tree, plucked the branch, and hastened back with it to the Sibyl.

255. The Infernal Regions. The region where Virgil locates the entrance to the infernal regions is, perhaps, the most strikingly adapted to excite ideas of the terrific and preternatural of any on the face of the earth. It is the volcanic region near Vesuvius, where the whole country is cleft with chasms from which sulphurous flames arise, while the ground is shaken with pent-up vapors, and mysterious sounds issue from the bowels of the earth. The lake Avernus is supposed to fill the crater of an extinct volcano. It is circular, half a mile wide and very deep, surrounded by high banks, which in Virgil's time were covered with a gloomy forest. Mephitic vapors rise from its waters, so that no life is found on its banks, and no birds fly over it. Here Æneas offered sacrifices to the infernal deities, Proserpine, Hecate, and the Furies. Then a roaring was heard in the earth, the woods on the hilltops were shaken, and the howling of dogs announced the approach of the deities. "Now," said the Sibyl, "summon thy courage, for thou shalt need it." She descended into the cave of Avernus, and Æneas followed. Before the threshold of hell they passed through a group of beings who are enumerated as Griefs and avenging Cares, pale Diseases, and melancholy Age, Fear and Hunger that tempt to crime, Toil, Poverty, and Death,—forms horrible to view. The Furies spread their couches there, and Discord, whose hair was of vipers tied up with a bloody fillet. Here also were the monsters, Briareus, with his hundred arms, Hydras hissing, and Chimæras breathing fire. Æneas shuddered at the sight, drew his sword and would have struck, but the Sibyl restrained him. They then came to the black river Cocytus, where they found the ferryman Charon, old and squalid, but strong and vigorous, who was receiving passengers of all kinds into his boat, stout-hearted heroes,[Pg 355] boys and unmarried girls, as numerous as the leaves that fall at autumn or the flocks that fly southward at the approach of winter. They stood pressing for a passage and longing to touch the opposite shore. But the stern ferryman took in only such as he chose, driving the rest back. Æneas, wondering at the sight, asked the Sibyl, "Why this discrimination?" She answered, "Those who are taken on board the bark are the souls of those who have received due burial rites; the host of others who have remained unburied are not permitted to pass the flood, but wander a hundred years, and flit to and fro about the shore, till at last they are taken over." Æneas grieved at recollecting some of his own companions who had perished in the storm. At that moment he beheld Palinurus, his pilot, who fell overboard and was drowned. He addressed him and asked him the cause of his misfortune. Palinurus replied that the rudder was carried away, and he, clinging to it, was swept away with it. He besought Æneas most urgently to extend to him his hand and take him in company to the opposite shore. The Sibyl rebuked him for the wish thus to transgress the laws of Pluto, but consoled him by informing him that the people of the shore where his body had been wafted by the waves should be stirred up by prodigies to give it due burial, and that the promontory should bear the name of Cape Palinurus,—and so it does to this day. Leaving Palinurus consoled by these words, they approached the boat. Charon, fixing his eyes sternly upon the advancing warrior, demanded by what right he, living and armed, approached that shore. To which the Sibyl replied that they would commit no violence, that Æneas' only object was to see his father, and finally exhibited the golden branch, at sight of which Charon's wrath relaxed, and he made haste to turn his bark to the shore and receive them on board. The boat, adapted only to the light freight of bodiless spirits, groaned under the weight of the hero. They were soon conveyed to the opposite shore. There they were encountered by the three-headed dog Cerberus, with his necks bristling with snakes. He barked with all three throats till the Sibyl threw him a medicated cake, which he eagerly devoured, and then stretched himself out in his den and fell asleep. Æneas and the Sibyl sprang to land. The first sound that struck their ears[Pg 356] was the wailing of young children who had died on the threshold of life; and near to these were those who had perished under false charges. Minos presides over them as judge and examines the deeds of each. The next class was of those who had died by their own hand, hating life and seeking refuge in death. How willingly would they now endure poverty, labor, and any other infliction if they might but return to life! Next were situated the regions of sadness, divided off into retired paths, leading through groves of myrtle. Here roamed those who had fallen victims to unrequited love, not freed from pain even by death itself. Among these Æneas thought he descried the form of Dido, with a wound still recent. In the dim light he was for a moment uncertain, but approaching, perceived it was indeed she. Tears fell from his eyes, and he addressed her in the accents of love. "Unhappy Dido! was then the rumor true that thou hadst perished? And was I, alas! the cause? I call the gods to witness that my departure from thee was reluctant and in obedience to the commands of Jove; nor could I believe that my absence would have cost thee so dear. Stop, I beseech thee, and refuse me not a last farewell." She stood for a moment with averted countenance and eyes fixed on the ground, and then silently passed on, as insensible to his pleadings as a rock. Æneas followed for some distance, then with a heavy heart rejoined his companion and resumed his route.

They next entered the fields where roam the heroes who have fallen in battle. Here they saw many shades of Grecian and Trojan warriors. The Trojans thronged around him and could not be satisfied with the sight. They asked the cause of his coming and plied him with innumerable questions. But the Greeks, at the sight of his armor glittering through the murky atmosphere, recognized the hero, and, filled with terror, turned their backs and fled, as they used to do on the plains of Troy.

Æneas would have lingered long with his Trojan friends, but the Sibyl hurried him away. They next came to a place where the road divided, the one way leading to Elysium, the other to the regions of the condemned. Æneas beheld on one side the walls of a mighty city, around which Phlegethon rolled its fiery waters. Before him was the gate of adamant that neither gods nor men[Pg 357] can break through. An iron tower stood by the gate, on which Tisiphone, the avenging Fury, kept guard. From the city were heard groans, and the sound of the scourge, the creaking of iron, and the clanking of chains. Æneas, horror-stricken, inquired of his guide what crimes were those whose punishments produced the sounds he heard. The Sibyl answered, "Here is the judgment hall of Rhadamanthus, who brings to light crimes done in life which the perpetrator vainly thought impenetrably hid. Tisiphone applies her whip of scorpions and delivers the offender over to her sister Furies." At this moment with horrid clang the brazen gates unfolded, and within, Æneas saw a Hydra with fifty heads guarding the entrance. The Sibyl told him that the gulf of Tartarus descended deep, so that its recesses were as far beneath their feet as heaven was high above their heads. In the bottom of this pit the Titan race, who warred against the gods, lie prostrate; Salmoneus also, who presumed to vie with Jupiter, and built a bridge of brass over which he drove his chariot that the sound might resemble thunder, launching flaming brands at his people in imitation of lightning, till Jupiter struck him with a real thunderbolt and taught him the difference between mortal weapons and divine. Here also is Tityus, the giant, whose form is so immense that, as he lies, he stretches over nine acres, while a vulture preys upon his liver, which as fast as it is devoured grows again, so that his punishment will have no end.

Æneas saw groups seated at tables loaded with dainties, while near by stood a Fury who snatched away the viands from their lips as fast as they prepared to taste them. Others beheld suspended over their heads huge rocks, threatening to fall, keeping them in a state of constant alarm. These were they who had hated their brothers, or struck their parents, or defrauded the friends who trusted them, or who, having grown rich, kept their money to themselves and gave no share to others,—the last being the most numerous class. Here also were those who had violated the marriage vow, or fought in a bad cause, or failed in fidelity to their employers. Here was one who had sold his country for gold, another who perverted the laws, making them say one thing to-day and another to-morrow.

[Pg 358]

Ixion was there, fastened to the circumference of a wheel ceaselessly revolving; and Sisyphus, whose task was to roll a huge stone up to a hilltop; but when the steep was well-nigh gained, the rock, repulsed by some sudden force, rushed again headlong down to the plain. Again he toiled at it, while the sweat bathed all his weary limbs, but all to no effect. There was Tantalus, who stood in a pool his chin level with the water, yet he was parched with thirst and found nothing to assuage it; for when he bowed his hoary head, eager to quaff, the water fled away, leaving the ground at his feet all dry. Tall trees, laden with fruit, stooped their heads to him,—pears, pomegranates, apples, and luscious figs; but when, with a sudden grasp, he tried to seize them, winds whirled them high above his reach.

Fig. 184. Ixion on the Wheel

256. The Elysian Fields. The Sibyl now warned Æneas that it was time to turn from these melancholy regions and seek the city of the blessed. They passed through a middle tract of darkness and came upon the Elysian Fields, the groves where the happy[Pg 359] reside. They breathed a freer air and saw all objects clothed in a purple light. The region had a sun and stars of its own. The inhabitants were enjoying themselves in various ways, some in sports on the grassy turf, in games of strength or skill, others dancing or singing. Orpheus struck the chords of his lyre and called forth ravishing sounds. Here Æneas saw the founders of the Trojan state, great-hearted heroes who lived in happier times. He gazed with admiration on the war chariots and glittering arms now reposing in disuse. Spears stood fixed in the ground, and the horses, unharnessed, roamed over the plain. The same pride in splendid armor and generous steeds which the old heroes felt in life accompanied them here. He saw another group feasting and listening to the strains of music. They were in a laurel grove, whence the great river Po has its origin and flows out among men. Here dwelt those who fell by wounds received in their country's cause, holy priests also, and poets who have uttered thoughts worthy of Apollo, and others who have contributed to cheer and adorn life by their discoveries in the useful arts, and have made their memory blessed by rendering service to mankind. They wore snow-white fillets about their brows. The Sibyl addressed a group of these and inquired where Anchises was to be found. They were directed where to seek him, and soon found him in a verdant valley, where he was contemplating the ranks of his posterity, their destinies and worthy deeds to be achieved in coming times. When he recognized Æneas approaching, he stretched out both hands to him, while tears flowed freely. "Dost thou come at last," said he, "long expected, and do I behold thee after such perils past? O my son, how have I trembled for thee, as I have watched thy course!" To which Æneas replied, "O father! thy image was always before me to guide and guard me." Then he endeavored to infold his father in his embrace, but his arms inclosed only an unsubstantial shade.

257. The Valley of Oblivion. Æneas perceived before him a spacious valley, with trees gently waving to the wind, a tranquil landscape, through which the river Lethe flowed. Along the banks of the stream wandered a countless multitude, numerous as insects in the summer air. Æneas, with surprise, inquired who were these.[Pg 360] Anchises answered: "They are souls to which bodies are to be given in due time. Meanwhile they dwell on Lethe's bank and drink oblivion of their former lives." "O father!" said Æneas, "is it possible that any can be so in love with life as to wish to leave these tranquil seats for the upper world?" Anchises replied by explaining the plan of creation. The Creator, he told him, originally made the material of which souls are composed, of the four elements, fire, air, earth, and water, all which when united took the form of the most excellent part, fire, and became flame. This material was scattered like seed among the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars. Of this seed the inferior gods created man and all other animals, mingling it with various proportions of earth, by which its purity was alloyed and reduced. Thus the more earth predominates in the composition, the less pure is the individual; and we see that men and women with their full-grown bodies have not the purity of childhood. So in proportion to the time which the union of body and soul has lasted, is the impurity contracted by the spiritual part. This impurity must be purged away after death, which is done by ventilating the souls in the current of winds, or merging them in water, or burning out their impurities by fire. Some few, of whom Anchises intimates that he is one, are admitted at once to Elysium, there to remain. But the rest, after the impurities of earth are purged away, are sent back to life endowed with new bodies, having had the remembrance of their former lives effectually washed away by the waters of Lethe. Some souls, however, there still are, so thoroughly corrupted that they are not fit to be intrusted with human bodies, and these pass by metempsychosis into the bodies of brute animals.

Anchises, having explained so much, proceeded to point out to Æneas individuals of his race who were hereafter to be born, and to relate to him the exploits they should perform in the world. After this he reverted to the present, and told his son of the events that remained to him to be accomplished before the complete establishment of himself and his followers in Italy. Wars were to be waged, battles fought, a bride to be won, and, in the result, a Trojan state founded, from which should rise the Roman power, to be in time the sovereign of the world.

[Pg 361]

As Æneas and the Sibyl pursued their way back to earth, he said to her: "Whether thou be a goddess or a mortal beloved by the gods, by me thou shalt always be held in reverence. When I reach the upper air, I will cause a temple to be built to thy honor, and will myself bring offerings." "I am no goddess," said the Sibyl; "I have no claims to sacrifice or offering. I am mortal, yet, could I but have accepted the love of Apollo, I might have been immortal. He promised me the fulfillment of my wish, if I would consent to be his. I took a handful of sand and, holding it forth, said, 'Grant me to see as many birthdays as there are sand-grains in my hand.' Unluckily I forgot to ask for enduring youth. This also he would have granted could I have accepted his love, but, offended at my refusal, he allowed me to grow old. My youth and youthful strength fled long ago. I have lived seven hundred years, and to equal the number of the sand-grains I have still to see three hundred springs and three hundred harvests. My body shrinks up as years increase, and in time I shall be lost to sight, but my voice will remain, and future ages will respect my sayings."

These concluding words of the Sibyl alluded to her prophetic power. In her cave she was accustomed to inscribe on leaves gathered from the trees the names and fates of individuals. The leaves thus inscribed were arranged in order within the cave, and might be consulted by her votaries. But if, perchance, at the opening of the door the wind rushed in and dispersed the leaves, the Sibyl gave no aid to restoring them again, and the oracle was irreparably lost.

[Pg 362]


[354] From Tennyson's To Virgil.

[355] For Virgil, see § 299; for translations of his Æneid, see corresponding section in Commentary.

[356] Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum.—Æneid, 3, 658.

[357] Tantaene animis coelestibus irae?—Æneid, 1, 11.

[358] Haud ignara mali, miseris succurrere disco.—Æneid, 1, 630.

[359] Tros Tyriusve mihi nullo discrimine agetur.—Æneid, 1, 574.


Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.—Æneid, 6, 95.


Facilis descensus Averno;
Noctes atque dies patet atri janua Ditis;
Sed revocare gradum, superasque evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est.—Æneid, 6, 126-129.


258. The Fulfillment of Prophecy. Æneas, having parted from the Sibyl and rejoined his fleet, coasted along the shores of Italy and cast anchor in the mouth of the Tiber. The poet, having brought his hero to this spot, the destined termination of his wanderings, invokes his Muse to tell him the situation of things at that eventful moment. Latinus, third in descent from Saturn, ruled the country. He was now old and had no male descendant, but had one charming daughter, Lavinia, who was sought in marriage by many neighboring chiefs, one of whom, Turnus, king of the Rutulians, was favored by the wishes of her parents. But Latinus had been warned in a dream by his father, Faunus, that the destined husband of Lavinia should come from a foreign land. From that union should spring a race destined to subdue the world.

Our readers will remember that in the conflict with the harpies, one of those half-human birds had threatened the Trojans with dire sufferings. In particular, she predicted that before their wanderings ceased they should be pressed by hunger to devour their tables. This portent now came true; for as they took their scanty meal, seated on the grass, the men placed their hard biscuit on their laps and put thereon whatever their gleanings in the woods supplied. Having dispatched the latter, they finished by eating the crusts. Seeing which, the boy Iulus said playfully, "See! we are eating our tables." Æneas caught the words and accepted the omen. "All hail, promised land!" he exclaimed, "this is our home, this our country!" He then took measures to find out who were the present inhabitants of the land and who their rulers. A hundred chosen men were sent to the village of Latinus, bearing presents and a request for friendship and alliance. They went and were favorably received. Latinus immediately concluded that the[Pg 363] Trojan hero was no other than the promised son-in-law announced by the oracle. He cheerfully granted his alliance, and sent back the messengers mounted on steeds from his stables and loaded with gifts and friendly messages.

Juno, seeing things go thus prosperously for the Trojans, felt her old animosity revive, summoned Alecto from Erebus, and sent her to stir up discord. The Fury first took possession of the queen, Amata, and roused her to oppose in every way the new alliance. Alecto then sped to the city of Turnus and, assuming the form of an old priestess, informed him of the arrival of the foreigners and of the attempts of their prince to rob him of his betrothed. Next she turned her attention to the camp of the Trojans. There she saw the boy Iulus and his companions amusing themselves with hunting. She sharpened the scent of the dogs and led them to rouse up from the thicket a tame stag, the favorite of Silvia, the daughter of Tyrrheus, the king's herdsman. A javelin from the hand of Iulus wounded the animal, which had only strength left to run homeward and die at its mistress's feet. Her cries and tears roused her brothers and the herdsmen, and they, seizing whatever weapons came to hand, furiously assaulted the hunting party. These were protected by their friends, and the herdsmen were finally driven back with the loss of two of their number.

These things were enough to rouse the storm of war, and the queen, Turnus, and the peasants all urged the old king to drive the strangers from the country. He resisted as long as he could, but, finding his opposition unavailing, finally gave way and retreated to his retirement.

259. The Gates of Janus Opened. It was the custom of the country, when war was to be undertaken, for the chief magistrate, clad in his robes of office, with solemn pomp to open the gates of the temple of Janus, which were kept shut as long as peace endured. His people now urged the old king to perform that solemn office, but he refused to do so. While they contested, Juno herself, descending from the skies, smote the doors with irresistible force and burst them open. Immediately the whole country was in a flame. The people rushed from every side, breathing nothing but war.

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Turnus was recognized by all as leader; others joined as allies, chief of whom was Mezentius, a brave and able soldier, but of detestable cruelty. He had been the chief of one of the neighboring cities, but his people drove him out. With him was joined his son Lausus, a generous youth worthy of a better sire.

Fig. 185. Amazon

260. Camilla. Camilla, the favorite of Diana, a huntress and warrior after the fashion of the Amazons, came with her band of mounted followers, including a select number of her own sex, and ranged herself on the side of Turnus. This maiden had never accustomed her fingers to the distaff or the loom, but had learned to endure the toils of war and in speed to outstrip the wind. It seemed as if she might run over the standing corn without crushing it, or over the surface of the water without dipping her feet. Camilla's history had been singular from the beginning. Her father, Metabus, driven from his city by civil discord, carried with him in his flight his infant daughter. As he fled through the woods, his enemies in hot pursuit, he reached the bank of the river Amasenus, which, swelled by rains, seemed to debar a passage. He paused for a moment, then decided what to do. He tied the infant to his lance with wrappers of bark, and poising the weapon in his upraised hand, thus addressed Diana: "Goddess of the woods! I consecrate this maid to thee"; then hurled the weapon with its burden to the opposite bank. The spear flew across the roaring water. His pursuers were already upon him, but he plunged into the river, and swam across, and found the spear with the infant safe on the other side. Thenceforth he lived among the shepherds and brought up his daughter in woodland arts. While a child she was taught to use the bow and throw the javelin. With her sling she could bring down the crane or the wild swan. Her dress was a tiger's skin. Many mothers sought her for a daughter-in-law, but she continued faithful to Diana and repelled the thought of marriage.

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261. Alliance with Evander. Such were the formidable allies that ranged themselves against Æneas. It was night, and he lay stretched in sleep on the bank of the river under the open heavens. The god of the stream, Father Tiber, seemed to raise his head above the willows and to say: "O goddess-born, destined possessor of the Latin realms, this is the promised land; here is to be thy home, here shall terminate the hostility of the heavenly powers, if only thou faithfully persevere. There are friends not far distant. Prepare thy boats and row up my stream; I will lead thee to Evander, the Arcadian chief. He has long been at strife with Turnus and the Rutulians, and is prepared to become an ally of thine. Rise! offer thy vows to Juno and deprecate her anger. When thou hast achieved thy victory, then think of me." Æneas woke and paid immediate obedience to the friendly vision. He sacrificed to Juno, and invoked the god of the river and all his tributary fountains to lend their aid. Then for the first time a vessel filled with armed warriors floated on the stream of the Tiber. The river smoothed its waves and bade its current flow gently, while, impelled by the vigorous strokes of the rowers, the vessel shot rapidly up the stream.

About the middle of the day they came in sight of the scattered buildings of the infant town where in after times the proud city of Rome grew, whose glory reached the skies. By chance the old king, Evander, was that day celebrating annual solemnities in honor of Hercules and all the gods. Pallas, his son, and all the chiefs of the little commonwealth stood by. When they saw the tall ship gliding onward through the wood, they were alarmed at the sight and rose from the tables. But Pallas forbade the solemnities to be interrupted and, seizing a weapon, stepped forward to the river's bank. He called aloud, demanding who the strangers were and what their object. Æneas, holding forth an olive branch, replied: "We are Trojans, friends to you and enemies to the Rutulians. We seek Evander and offer to join our arms with yours." Pallas, in amaze at the sound of so great a name, invited them to land, and when Æneas touched the shore, he seized his hand and held it long in friendly grasp. Proceeding through the wood they joined the king and his party, and were most favorably received. Seats were provided for them at the tables, and the repast proceeded.

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262. The Site of Future Rome. When the solemnities were ended, all moved towards the city. The king, bending with age, walked between his son and Æneas, taking the arm of one or the other of them, and with much variety of pleasing talk shortening the way. Æneas with delight looked and listened, observing all the beauties of the scene and learning much of heroes renowned in ancient times. Evander said: "These extensive groves were once inhabited by fauns and nymphs, and a rude race of men who sprang from the trees themselves and had neither laws nor social culture. They knew not how to yoke the cattle, nor raise a harvest, nor provide from present abundance for future want, but browsed like beasts upon the leafy boughs or fed voraciously on their hunted prey. Such were they when Saturn, expelled from Olympus by his sons, came among them and drew together the fierce savages, formed them into society, and gave them laws. Such peace and plenty ensued that men ever since have called his reign the Golden Age; but by degrees far other times succeeded, and the thirst of gold and the thirst of blood prevailed. The land was a prey to successive tyrants till fortune and resistless destiny brought me hither, an exile from my native land, Arcadia."

Having thus said, he showed him the Tarpeian rock, and the rude spot, then overgrown with bushes, where in after times the Capitol was to rise in all its magnificence. He next pointed to some dismantled walls and said, "Here stood Janiculum, built by Janus, and there Saturnia, the town of Saturn." Such discourse brought them to the cottage of Evander, whence they saw the lowing herds roaming over the plain where soon should stand the proud and stately Forum. They entered, and a couch, well stuffed with leaves and covered with the skin of a Libyan bear, was spread for Æneas.

Next morning, awakened by the dawn and the shrill song of birds beneath the eaves of his low mansion, old Evander rose. Clad in a tunic, and a panther's skin thrown over his shoulders, with sandals on his feet and his good sword girded to his side, he went forth to seek his guest. Two mastiffs followed him,—his whole retinue and bodyguard. He found the hero attended by his faithful Achates, and Pallas soon joining them, the old king spoke thus:

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"Illustrious Trojan, it is but little we can do in so great a cause. Our state is feeble, hemmed in on one side by the river, on the other by the Rutulians. But I propose to ally thee with a people numerous and rich, to whom fate has brought thee at the propitious moment. The Etruscans hold the country beyond the river. Mezentius was their king, a monster of cruelty, who invented unheard-of torments to gratify his vengeance. He would fasten the dead to the living, hand to hand and face to face, and leave the wretched victims to die in that dreadful embrace. At length people cast him out, him and his house. They burned his palace, and slew his friends. He escaped and took refuge with Turnus, who protects him with arms. The Etruscans demand that he shall be given up to deserved punishment, and would ere now have attempted to enforce their demand; but their priests restrain them, telling them that it is the will of heaven that no native of the land shall guide them to victory and that their destined leader must come from across the sea. They have offered the crown to me, but I am too old to undertake such great affairs, and my son is native-born, which precludes him from the choice. Thou, equally by birth and time of life and fame in arms pointed out by the gods, hast but to appear to be hailed at once as their leader. With thee I will join Pallas, my son, my only hope and comfort. Under thee he shall learn the art of war and strive to emulate thy great exploits."

Then the king ordered horses to be furnished for the Trojan chiefs, and Æneas, with a chosen band of followers and Pallas accompanying, mounted and took the way to the Etruscan city,[362] having sent back the rest of his party in the ships. Æneas and his band safely arrived at the Etruscan camp and were received with open arms by Tarchon and his countrymen.

263. Turnus attacks the Trojan Camp. In the meanwhile Turnus had collected his bands and made all necessary preparations for the war. Juno sent Iris to him with a message inciting him to take advantage of the absence of Æneas and surprise the Trojan camp. Accordingly the attempt was made; but the Trojans were [Pg 368]found on their guard, and having received strict orders from Æneas not to fight in his absence, they lay still in their intrenchments and resisted all the efforts of the Rutulians to draw them into the field. Night coming on, the army of Turnus, in high spirits at their fancied superiority, feasted and enjoyed themselves, and finally stretched themselves on the field and slept secure.

264. Nisus and Euryalus. In the camp of the Trojans things were far otherwise. There all was watchfulness and anxiety, and impatience for Æneas' return. Nisus stood guard at the entrance of the camp, and Euryalus, a youth distinguished above all in the army for graces of person and fine qualities, was with him. These two were friends and brothers in arms. Nisus said to his friend: "Dost thou perceive what confidence and carelessness the enemy display? Their lights are few and dim, and the men seem all oppressed with wine or sleep. Thou knowest how anxiously our chiefs wish to send to Æneas and to get intelligence from him. Now I am strongly moved to make my way through the enemy's camp and to go in search of our chief. If I succeed, the glory of the deed will be reward enough for me, and if they judge the service deserves anything more, let them pay it thee."

Euryalus, all on fire with the love of adventure, replied: "Wouldst thou then, Nisus, refuse to share thy enterprise with me? And shall I let thee go into such danger alone? Not so my brave father brought me up, nor so have I planned for myself when I joined the standard of Æneas and resolved to hold my life cheap in comparison with honor." Nisus replied: "I doubt it not, my friend; but thou knowest the uncertain event of such an undertaking, and whatever may happen to me, I wish thee to be safe. Thou art younger than I and hast more of life in prospect. Nor can I be the cause of such grief to thy mother, who has chosen to be here in the camp with thee rather than stay and live in peace with the other matrons in Acestes' city." Euryalus replied, "Say no more. In vain dost thou seek arguments to dissuade me. I am fixed in the resolution to go with thee. Let us lose no time." They called the guard and, committing the watch to them, sought the general's tent. They found the chief officers in consultation, deliberating how they should send notice to Æneas of their situation. The[Pg 369] offer of the two friends was gladly accepted, themselves loaded with praises and promised the most liberal rewards in case of success. Iulus especially addressed Euryalus, assuring him of his lasting friendship. Euryalus replied: "I have but one boon to ask. My aged mother is with me in the camp. For me she left the Trojan soil and would not stay behind with the other matrons at the city of Acestes. I go now without taking leave of her. I could not bear her tears nor set at naught her entreaties. But do thou, I beseech thee, comfort her in her distress. Promise me that and I shall go more boldly into whatever dangers may present themselves." Iulus and the other chiefs were moved to tears and promised to do all his request. "Thy mother shall be mine," said Iulus, "and all that I have promised thee shall be made good to her, if thou dost not return to receive it."

The two friends left the camp and plunged at once into the midst of the enemy. They found no watch, no sentinels posted, but, all about, the sleeping soldiers strewn on the grass and among the wagons. The laws of war at that early day did not forbid a brave man to slay a sleeping foe, and the two Trojans slew, as they passed, such of the enemy as they could without exciting alarm. In one tent Euryalus made prize of a helmet brilliant with gold and plumes. They had passed through the enemy's ranks without being discovered, but now suddenly appeared a troop directly in front of them, which, under Volscens, their leader, were approaching the camp. The glittering helmet of Euryalus caught their attention, and Volscens hailed the two and demanded who and whence they were. They made no answer, but plunged into the wood. The horsemen scattered in all directions to intercept their flight. Nisus had eluded pursuit and was out of danger, but, since Euryalus was missing, he turned back to seek him. He again entered the wood and soon came within sound of voices. Looking through the thicket he saw the whole band surrounding Euryalus with noisy questions. What should he do; how extricate the youth; or would it be better to die with him?

Raising his eyes to the moon which now shone clear, he said, "Goddess, favor my effort!" and, aiming his javelin at one of the leaders of the troop, struck him in the back and stretched him[Pg 370] on the plain with a deathblow. In the midst of their amazement another weapon flew, and another of the party fell dead. Volscens, the leader, ignorant whence the darts came, rushed sword in hand upon Euryalus. "Thou shalt pay the penalty of both," he said, and would have plunged the sword into his bosom, when Nisus, who from his concealment saw the peril of his friend, rushed forward exclaiming, "'T was I! 't was I! Turn your swords against me, Rutulians. I did it; he only followed me as a friend." While he spoke the sword fell and pierced the comely bosom of Euryalus. His head fell over on his shoulder, like a flower cut down by the plow. Nisus rushed upon Volscens and plunged his sword into his body, and was himself slain on the instant by numberless blows.

265. The Death of Mezentius. Æneas, with his Etrurian allies, arrived on the scene of action in time to rescue his beleaguered camp; and now the two armies being nearly equal in strength, the war began in good earnest. We cannot find space for all the details, but must simply record the fate of the principal characters. The tyrant Mezentius, finding himself engaged against his revolted subjects, raged like a wild beast. He slew all who dared withstand him, and put the multitude to flight wherever he appeared. At last he encountered Æneas, and the armies stood still to see the issue. Mezentius threw his spear, which, striking Æneas' shield, glanced off and hit Antores,—a Grecian by birth who had left Argos, his native city, and followed Evander into Italy. The poet says of him, with simple pathos which has made the words proverbial, "He fell, unhappy, by a wound intended for another, looked up to the skies, and, dying, remembered sweet Argos."[363] Æneas now in turn hurled his lance. It pierced the shield of Mezentius and wounded him in the thigh. Lausus, his son, could not bear the sight, but rushed forward and interposed himself, while the followers pressed round Mezentius and bore him away. Æneas held his sword suspended over Lausus and delayed to strike, but the furious youth pressed on, and he was compelled to deal the fatal blow. Lausus fell, and Æneas bent over him in pity. "Hapless youth," he said, "what can I do for thee worthy of thy [Pg 371]praise? Keep those arms in which thou gloriest, and fear not but that thy body shall be restored to thy friends and have due funeral honors." So saying, he called the timid followers and delivered the body into their hands.

Mezentius meanwhile had been borne to the riverside, and had washed his wound. Soon the news reached him of Lausus' death, and rage and despair supplied the place of strength. He mounted his horse and dashed into the thickest of the fight, seeking Æneas. Having found him, he rode round him in a circle, throwing one javelin after another, while Æneas stood fenced with his shield, turning every way to meet them. At last after Mezentius had three times made the circuit, Æneas threw his lance directly at the horse's head. The animal fell with pierced temples, while a shout from both armies rent the skies. Mezentius asked no mercy, but only that his body might be spared the insults of his revolted subjects and be buried in the same grave with his son. He received the fatal stroke not unprepared, and poured out his life and his blood together.

266. The Deaths of Pallas and Camilla. While these things were doing in one part of the field, in another Turnus encountered the youthful Pallas. The contest between champions so unequally matched could not be doubtful. Pallas bore himself bravely, but fell by the lance of Turnus. The victor almost relented when he saw the brave youth lying dead at his feet, and spared to use the privilege of a conqueror in despoiling him of his arms. The belt only, adorned with studs and carvings of gold, he took and clasped round his own body. The rest he remitted to the friends of the slain.

After the battle there was a cessation of arms for some days to allow both armies to bury their dead. In this interval Æneas challenged Turnus to decide the contest by single combat, but Turnus