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Title: History of Greece, Volume 01 (of 12)

Author: George Grote

Release date: January 9, 2018 [eBook #56342]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Henry Flower, Adrian Mastronardi, Ramon Pajares
Box and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images
generously made available by The Internet Archive/American


Transcriber's note

Table of Contents

Book cover

Frontispice illustration


[p. i]


I. Legendary Greece.

II. Grecian History to the Reign of
Peisistratus at Athens.





[p. ii]


Ἀνδρῶν ἡρώων θεῖον γένος, οἳ καλέονται

Ἡμίθεοι προτἐρῃ γενέῃ.—Hesiod


... Πόλιες μερόπων ἀνθρώπων.—Homer

[p. iii]


The first idea of this History was conceived many years ago, at a time when ancient Hellas was known to the English public chiefly through the pages of Mitford; and my purpose in writing it was to rectify the erroneous statements as to matter of fact which that History contained, as well as to present the general phenomena of the Grecian world under what I thought a juster and more comprehensive point of view. My leisure, however, was not at that time equal to the execution of any large literary undertaking; nor is it until within the last three or four years that I have been able to devote to the work that continuous and exclusive labor, without which, though much may be done to illustrate detached points, no entire or complicated subject can ever be set forth in a manner worthy to meet the public eye.

Meanwhile the state of the English literary world, in reference to ancient Hellas, has been materially changed in more ways than one. If my early friend Dr. Thirlwall’s History of Greece had appeared a few years sooner, I should probably never have conceived the design of the present work at all; I should certainly not have been prompted to the task by any deficiencies, such as those which I felt and regretted in Mitford. The comparison of the two authors affords, indeed, a striking proof of the progress of sound and enlarged[p. iv] views respecting the ancient world during the present generation. Having studied of course the same evidences as Dr. Thirwall, I am better enabled than others to bear testimony to the learning, the sagacity, and the candor which pervade his excellent work: and it is the more incumbent on me to give expression to this sentiment, since the particular points on which I shall have occasion to advert to it will, unavoidably, be points of dissent oftener than of coincidence.

The liberal spirit of criticism, in which Dr. Thirwall stands so much distinguished from Mitford, is his own: there are other features of superiority which belong to him conjointly with his age. For during the generation since Mitford’s work, philological studies have been prosecuted in Germany with remarkable success: the stock of facts and documents, comparatively scanty, handed down from the ancient world, has been combined and illustrated in a thousand different ways: and if our witnesses cannot be multiplied, we at least have numerous interpreters to catch, repeat, amplify, and explain their broken and half-inaudible depositions. Some of the best writers in this department—Boeckh, Niebuhr, O. Müller—have been translated into our language; so that the English public has been enabled to form some idea of the new lights thrown upon many subjects of antiquity by the inestimable aid of German erudition. The poets, historians, orators, and philosophers of Greece, have thus been all rendered both more intelligible and more instructive than they were to a student in the last century; and the general picture of the Grecian world may now be conceived with a degree of fidelity, which, considering our imperfect materials, it is curious to contemplate.

It is that general picture which an historian of Greece is required first to embody in his own mind, and next to lay out before his readers;—a picture not merely such as to delight the imagination by brilliancy of coloring and depth of sentiment, but also suggestive and improving to the reason. Not[p. v] omitting the points of resemblance as well as of contrast with the better-known forms of modern society, he will especially study to exhibit the spontaneous movement of Grecian intellect, sometimes aided but never borrowed from without, and lighting up a small portion of a world otherwise clouded and stationary. He will develop the action of that social system, which, while insuring to the mass of freemen a degree of protection elsewhere unknown, acted as a stimulus to the creative impulses of genius, and left the superior minds sufficiently unshackled to soar above religious and political routine, to overshoot their own age, and to become the teachers of posterity.

To set forth the history of a people by whom the first spark was set to the dormant intellectual capacities of our nature,—Hellenic phenomena, as illustrative of the Hellenic mind and character,—is the task which I propose to myself in the present work; not without a painful consciousness how much the deed falls short of the will, and a yet more painful conviction, that full success is rendered impossible by an obstacle which no human ability can now remedy,—the insufficiency of original evidence. For, in spite of the valuable expositions of so many able commentators, our stock of information respecting the ancient world still remains lamentably inadequate to the demands of an enlightened curiosity. We possess only what has drifted ashore from the wreck of a stranded vessel; and though this includes some of the most precious articles amongst its once abundant cargo, yet if any man will cast his eyes over the citations in Diogenes Laërtius, Athenæus, or Plutarch, or the list of names in Vossius de Historicis Græcis, he will see with grief and surprise how much larger is the proportion which, through the enslavement of the Greeks themselves, the decline of the Roman Empire, the change of religion, and the irruption of barbarian conquerors, has been irrecoverably submerged. We are thus reduced to judge of he whole Hellenic world, eminently multiform as it was,[p. vi] from a few compositions; excellent, indeed, in themselves, but bearing too exclusively the stamp of Athens. Of Thucydides and Aristotle, indeed, both as inquirers into matter of fact, and as free from narrow local feeling, it is impossible to speak too highly; but, unfortunately, that work of the latter which would have given us the most copious information regarding Grecian political life—his collection and comparison of one hundred and fifty distinct town constitutions—has not been preserved: and the brevity of Thucydides often gives us but a single word where a sentence would not have been too much, and sentences which we should be glad to see expanded into paragraphs.

Such insufficiency of original and trustworthy materials, as compared with those resources which are thought hardly sufficient for the historian of any modern kingdom, is neither to be concealed nor extenuated, however much we may lament it. I advert to the point here on more grounds than one. For it not only limits the amount of information which an historian of Greece can give to his readers,—compelling him to leave much of his picture an absolute blank,—but it also greatly spoils the execution of the remainder. The question of credibility is perpetually obtruding itself, and requiring a decision, which, whether favorable or unfavorable, always introduces more or less of controversy; and gives to those outlines, which the interest of the picture requires to be straight and vigorous, a faint and faltering character. Expressions of qualified and hesitating affirmation are repeated until the reader is sickened; while the writer himself, to whom this restraint is more painful still, is frequently tempted to break loose from the unseen spell by which a conscientious criticism binds him down,—to screw up the possible and probable into certainty, to suppress counterbalancing considerations, and to substitute a pleasing romance in place of half-known and perplexing realities. Desiring, in the present work, to set forth all which can be ascertained, together with[p. vii] such conjectures and inferences as can be reasonably deduced from it, but nothing more,—I notice, at the outset, that faulty state of the original evidence which renders discussions of credibility, and hesitation in the language of the judge, unavoidable. Such discussions, though the reader may be assured that they will become less frequent as we advance into times better known, are tiresome enough, even with the comparatively late period which I adopt as the historical beginning; much more intolerable would they have proved, had I thought it my duty to start from the primitive terminus of Deukaliôn or Inachus, or from the unburied Pelasgi and Leleges, and to subject the heroic ages to a similar scrutiny. I really know nothing so disheartening or unrequited as the elaborate balancing of what is called evidence,—the comparison of infinitesimal probabilities and conjectures all uncertified,—in regard to these shadowy times and persons.

The law respecting sufficiency of evidence ought to be the same for ancient times as for modern; and the reader will find in this History an application, to the former, of criteria analogous to those which have been long recognized in the latter. Approaching, though with a certain measure of indulgence, to this standard, I begin the real history of Greece with the first recorded Olympiad, or 776 B. C. To such as are accustomed to the habits once universal, and still not uncommon, in investigating the ancient world, I may appear to be striking off one thousand years from the scroll of history; but to those whose canon of evidence is derived from Mr. Hallam, M. Sismondi, or any other eminent historian of modern events, I am well assured that I shall appear lax and credulous rather than exigent or sceptical. For the truth is, that historical records, properly so called, do not begin until long after this date: nor will any man, who candidly considers the extreme paucity of attested facts for two centuries after 776 B. C., be astonished to learn that the state of Greece in 900, 1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400 B. C., etc.,[p. viii]—or any earlier century which it may please chronologists to include in their computed genealogies,—cannot be described to him upon anything like decent evidence. I shall hope, when I come to the lives of Socrates and Plato, to illustrate one of the most valuable of their principles,—that conscious and confessed ignorance is a better state of mind, than the fancy, without the reality, of knowledge. Meanwhile, I begin by making that confession, in reference to the real world of Greece anterior to the Olympiads; meaning the disclaimer to apply to anything like a general history,—not to exclude rigorously every individual event.

The times which I thus set apart from the region of history are discernible only through a different atmosphere,—that of epic poetry and legend. To confound together these disparate matters is, in my judgment, essentially unphilosophical. I describe the earlier times by themselves, as conceived by the faith and feeling of the first Greeks, and known only through their legends,—without presuming to measure how much or how little of historical matter these legends may contain. If the reader blame me for not assisting him to determine this,—if he ask me why I do not undraw the curtain and disclose the picture,—I reply in the words of the painter Zeuxis, when the same question was addressed to him on exhibiting his master-piece of imitative art: “The curtain is the picture.” What we now read as poetry and legend was once accredited history, and the only genuine history which the first Greeks could conceive or relish of their past time: the curtain conceals nothing behind, and cannot, by any ingenuity, be withdrawn. I undertake only to show it as it stands,—not to efface, still less to repaint it.

Three-fourths of the two volumes now presented to the public are destined to elucidate this age of historical faith, as distinguished from the later age of historical reason: to exhibit its basis in the human mind,—an omnipresent religious and personal interpretation of nature; to illustrate it by com[p. ix]parison with the like mental habit in early modern Europe; to show its immense abundance and variety of narrative matter, with little care for consistency between one story and another; lastly, to set forth the causes which overgrew and partially supplanted the old epical sentiment, and introduced, in the room of literal faith, a variety of compromises and interpretations.

The legendary age of the Greeks receives its principal charm and dignity from the Homeric poems: to these, therefore, and to the other poems included in the ancient epic, an entire chapter is devoted, the length of which must be justified by the names of the Iliad and Odyssey. I have thought it my duty to take some notice of the Wolfian controversy as it now stands in Germany, and have even hazarded some speculations respecting the structure of the Iliad. The society and manners of the heroic age, considered as known in a general way from Homer’s descriptions and allusions, are also described and criticized.

I next pass to the historical age, beginning at 776 B. C.; prefixing some remarks upon the geographical features of Greece. I try to make out, amidst obscure and scanty indications, what the state of Greece was at this period; and I indulge some cautious conjectures, founded upon the earliest verifiable facts, respecting the steps immediately antecedent by which that condition was brought about. In the present volumes, I have only been able to include the history of Sparta and the Peloponnesian Dorians, down to the age of Peisistratus and Crœsus. I had hoped to have comprised in them the entire history of Greece down to this last-mentioned period, but I find the space insufficient.

The history of Greece falls most naturally into six compartments, of which the first may be looked at as a period of preparation for the five following, which exhaust the free life of collective Hellas.

I. Period from 776 B. C. to 560 B. C., the accession of Peisistratus at Athens and of Crœsus in Lydia.

[p. x]

II. From the accession of Peisistratus and Crœsus to the repulse of Xerxes from Greece.

III. From the repulse of Xerxes to the close of the Peloponnesian war and overthrow of Athens.

IV. From the close of the Peloponnesian war to the battle of Leuktra.

V. From the battle of Leuktra to that of Chæroneia.

VI. From the battle of Chæroneia to the end of the generation of Alexander.

The five periods, from Peisistratus down to the death of Alexander and of his generation, present the acts of an historical drama capable of being recounted in perspicuous succession, and connected by a sensible thread of unity. I shall interweave in their proper places the important but outlying adventures of the Sicilian and Italian Greeks,—introducing such occasional notices of Grecian political constitutions, philosophy, poetry, and oratory, as are requisite to exhibit the many-sided activity of this people during their short but brilliant career.

After the generation of Alexander, the political action of Greece becomes cramped and degraded,—no longer interesting to the reader, or operative on the destinies of the future world. We may, indeed, name one or two incidents, especially the revolutions of Agis and Kleomenês at Sparta, which are both instructive and affecting; but as a whole, the period, between 300 B. C. and the absorption of Greece by the Romans, is of no interest in itself, and is only so far of value as it helps us to understand the preceding centuries. The dignity and value of the Greeks from that time forward belong to them only as individual philosophers, preceptors, astronomers, and mathematicians, literary men and critics, medical practitioners, etc. In all these respective capacities, especially in the great schools of philosophical speculation they still constitute the light of the Roman world; though, as communities, they have lost their own orbit, and have become satellites of more powerful neighbors.

[p. xi]I propose to bring down the history of the Grecian communities to the year 300 B. C., or the close of the generation which takes its name from Alexander the Great, and I hope to accomplish this in eight volumes altogether. For the next two or three volumes I have already large preparations made, and I shall publish my third (perhaps my fourth) in the course of the ensuing winter.

There are great disadvantages in the publication of one portion of a history apart from the remainder; for neither the earlier nor the later phenomena can be fully comprehended without the light which each mutually casts upon the other. But the practice has become habitual, and is indeed more than justified by the well-known inadmissibility of “long hopes” into the short span of human life. Yet I cannot but fear that my first two volumes will suffer in the estimation of many readers by coming out alone,—and that men who value the Greeks for their philosophy, their politics, and their oratory, may treat the early legends as not worth attention. And it must be confessed that the sentimental attributes of the Greek mind—its religious and poetical vein—here appear in disproportionate relief, as compared with its more vigorous and masculine capacities,—with those powers of acting, organizing, judging, and speculating, which will be revealed in the forthcoming volumes. I venture, however, to forewarn the reader, that there will occur numerous circumstances in the after political life of the Greeks, which he will not comprehend unless he be initiated into the course of their legendary associations. He will not understand the frantic terror of the Athenian public during the Peloponnesian war, on the occasion of the mutilation of the statues called Hermæ, unless he enters into the way in which they connected their stability and security with the domiciliation of the gods in the soil: nor will he adequately appreciate the habit of the Spartan king on military expeditions,—when he offered his daily public sacrifices on behalf of his army and his coun[p. xii]try,—“always to perform this morning service immediately before sunrise, in order that he might be beforehand in obtaining the favor of the gods,”[1] if he be not familiar with the Homeric conception of Zeus going to rest at night and awaking to rise at early dawn from the side of the “white-armed Hêrê.” The occasion will, indeed, often occur for remarking how these legends illustrate and vivify the political phenomena of the succeeding times, and I have only now to urge the necessity of considering them as the beginning of a series,—not as an entire work.

London, March 5, 1846.

[p. xiii]


In preparing a Second Edition of the first two volumes of my History, I have profited by the remarks and corrections of various critics, contained in Reviews, both English and foreign. I have suppressed, or rectified, some positions which had been pointed out as erroneous, or as advanced upon inadequate evidence. I have strengthened my argument in some cases where it appeared to have been imperfectly understood,—adding some new notes, partly for the purpose of enlarged illustration, partly to defend certain opinions which had been called in question. The greater number of these alterations have been made in Chapters XVI. and XXI. of Part I., and in Chapter VI. of Part II.

I trust that these three Chapters, more full of speculation, and therefore more open to criticism than any of the others, will thus appear in a more complete and satisfactory form. But I must at the same time add that they remain for the most part unchanged in substance, and that I have seen no sufficient reason to modify my main conclusions even respecting the structure of the Iliad, controverted though they have been by some of my most esteemed critics.

In regard to the character and peculiarity of Grecian legend, as broadly distinguished throughout these volumes from Grecian history, I desire to notice two valuable publications[p. xiv] with which I have only become acquainted since the date of my first edition. One of these is, A Short Essay on Primæval History, by John Kenrick, M. A. (London, 1846, published just at the same time as these volumes,) which illustrates with much acute reflection the general features of legend, not only in Greece but throughout the ancient world,—see especially pages 65, 84, 92, et seq. The other work is, Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official, by Colonel Sleeman,—first made known to me through an excellent notice of my History in the Edinburgh Review for October 1846. The description given by Colonel Sleeman, of the state of mind now actually prevalent among the native population of Hindostan, presents a vivid comparison, helping the modern reader to understand and appreciate the legendary era of Greece. I have embodied in the notes of this Second Edition two or three passages from Colonel Sleeman’s instructive work: but the whole of it richly deserves perusal.

Having now finished six volumes of this History, without attaining a lower point than the peace of Nikias, in the tenth year of the Peloponnesian war,—I find myself compelled to retract the expectation held out in the preface to my First Edition, that the entire work might be completed in eight volumes. Experience proves to me how impossible it is to measure beforehand the space which historical subjects will require. All I can now promise is, that the remainder of the work shall be executed with as much regard to brevity as is consistent with the paramount duty of rendering it fit for public acceptance.

London, April 3, 1849.

[p. xv]


Following the example of Dr. Thirlwall and other excellent scholars, I call the Greek deities by their real Greek names, and not by the Latin equivalents used among the Romans. For the assistance of those readers to whom the Greek names may be less familiar, I here annex a table of the one and the other.

Greek.   Latin.
Zeus,   Jupiter.
Poseidôn,   Neptune.
Arês,   Mars.
Dionysus,   Bacchus.
Hermês,   Mercury.
Hêlios,   Sol.
Hêphæstus,   Vulcan.
Hadês,   Pluto.
Hêrê,   Juno.
Athênê,   Minerva.
Artemis,   Diana.
Aphroditê,   Venus.
Eôs,   Aurora.
Hestia,   Vesta.
Lêtô,   Latona.
Dêmêtêr,   Ceres.
Hêraklês,   Hercules.
Asklêpius,   Æsculapius.

A few words are here necessary respecting the orthography of Greek names adopted in the above table and generally throughout this history. I have approximated as nearly as I dared to the Greek letters in preference to the Latin; and on this point I venture upon an innovation which I should have little doubt of vindicating before the reason of any candid English student. For the ordinary practice of substituting, in a Greek name, the English C in place of the Greek K, is, indeed, so obviously incorrect, that[p. xvi] it admits of no rational justification. Our own K, precisely and in every point, coincides with the Greek K: we have thus the means of reproducing the Greek name to the eye as well as to the ear, yet we gratuitously take the wrong letter in preference to the right. And the precedent of the Latins is here against us rather than in our favor, for their C really coincided in sound with the Greek K, whereas our C entirely departs from it, and becomes an S, before e, i, æ, œ, and y. Though our C has so far deviated in sound from the Latin C, yet there is some warrant for our continuing to use it in writing Latin names,—because we thus reproduce the name to the eye, though not to the ear. But this is not the case when we employ our C to designate the Greek K, for we depart here not less from the visible than from the audible original; while we mar the unrivalled euphony of the Greek language by that multiplied sibilation which constitutes the least inviting feature in our own. Among German philologists, the K is now universally employed in writing Greek names, and I have adopted it pretty largely in this work, making exception for such names as the English reader has been so accustomed to hear with the C, that they may be considered as being almost Anglicised. I have, farther, marked the long e and the long o (η, ω,) by a circumflex (Hêrê) when they occur in the last syllable or in the penultimate of a name.

[p. xvii]






Opening of the mythical world. — How the mythes are to be told. — Allegory rarely admissible. — Zeus — foremost in Grecian conception. — The gods — how conceived: human type enlarged. — Past history of the gods fitted on to present conceptions. — Chaos. — Gæa and Uranos. — Uranos disabled. — Kronos and the Titans. — Kronos overreached. — Birth and safety of Zeus and his brethren. — Other deities. — Ambitious schemes of Zeus. — Victory of Zeus and his brethren over Kronos and the Titans. — Typhôeus. — Dynasty of Zeus. — His offspring. — General distribution of the divine race. — Hesiodic theogony — its authority. — Points of difference between Homer and Hesiod. — Homeric Zeus. — Amplified theogony of Zens. — Hesiodic mythes traceable to Krête and Delphi. — Orphic theogony. — Zeus and Phanês. — Zagreus. — Comparison of Hesiod and Orpheus. — Influence of foreign religions upon Greece — Especially in regard to the worship of Dêmêtêr and Dionysos. — Purification for homicide unknown to Homer. — New and peculiar religious rites. — Circulated by voluntary teachers and promising special blessings. — Epimenidês, Sibylla, Bakis. — Principal mysteries of Greece. — Ecstatic rites introduced from Asia 700-500 B. C. — Connected with the worship of Dionysos. — Thracian and Egyptian influence upon Greece. — Encouragement to mystic legends. — Melampus the earliest name as teacher of the Dionysiac rites. — Orphic sect, a variety of the Dionysiac mystics. — Contrast of the mysteries with the Homeric Hymns. — Hymn to Dionysos. — Alteration of the primitive Grecian idea of Dionysos. — Asiatic frenzy grafted on the joviality of the Grecian Dionysia. — Eleusinian mysteries. — Homeric Hymn to Dêmêtêr. — Temple of Eleusis, built by order of Dêmêtêr for her residence. — Dêmêtêr prescribes the mystic ritual of Eleusis. — Homeric Hymn a sacred Eleusinian record, explanatory of the details of divine service. — Importance of the mysteries to the town of Eleusis. — Strong hold of the legend upon Eleusinian feelings. — Differ[p. xviii]ent legends respecting Dêmêtêr elsewhere. — Expansion of the legends. — Hellenic importance of Dêmêtêr. — Legends of Apollo. — Delian Apollo. — Pythian Apollo. — Foundation legends of the Delphian oracle. — They served the purpose of historical explanation. — Extended worship of Apollo. — Multifarious local legends respecting Apollo. — Festivals and Agônes. — State of mind and circumstances out of which Grecian mythes arose. — Discrepancies in the legends little noticed. — Aphroditê. — Athênê. — Artemis. — Poseidôn. — Stories of temporary servitude imposed on gods. — Hêrê. — Hêphæstos. — Hestia. — Hermês. — Hermês inventor of the lyre. — Bargain between Hermês and Apollo. — Expository value of the Hymn. — Zeus. — Mythes arising out of the religious ceremonies. — Small part of the animal sacrificed. — Promêtheus had outwitted Zeus. — Gods, heroes, and men, appear together in the mythes.

pages 1-64



Races of men as they appear in the Hesiodic “Works and Days.” — The Golden. — The Silver. — The Brazen. — The Heroic. — The Iron. — Different both from the Theogony and from Homer. — Explanation of this difference. — Ethical vein of sentiment. — Intersected by the mythical. — The “Works and Days,” earliest didactic poem. — First Introduction of dæmons. — Changes in the idea of dæmons. — Employed in attacks on the pagan faith. — Functions of the Hesiodic dæmons. — Personal feeling which pervades the “Works and Days.” — Probable age of the poem.




Iapetids in Hesiod. — Promêtheus and Epimêtheus. — Counter-manœuvring of Promêtheus and Zeus. — Pandôra. — Pandôra in the Theogony. — General feeling of the poet. — Man wretched, but Zeus not to blame. — Mischiefs arising from women. — Punishment of Promêtheus. — The Promêtheus of Æschylus. — Locality in which Promêtheus was confined.




Structure and purposes of Grecian genealogies. — To connect the Grecian community with their common god. — Lower members of the genealogy historical — higher members non-historical. — The non-historical portion equally believed, and most valued by the Greeks. — Number of such genealogies — pervading every fraction of Greeks. — Argeian genealogy. — Inachus. — Phorôneus. — Argos Panoptês. — Iô. — Romance of Iô historicized by Persians and Phœnicians. — Legendary abductions of heroines adapted to the feelings prevalent during the Persian war. — Danaos and the Danaïdes. — Acrisios and Prœtos. — The Prœtides cured of frenzy[p. xix] by Melampus. — Acrisios, Danaê, and Zeus. — Perseus and the Gorgons. — Foundation of Mycênæ — commencement of Perseid dynasty. — Amphitryôn, Alkmênê, Sthenelos. — Zeus and Alkmênê. — Birth of Hêraklês. — Homeric legend of his birth: its expository value. — The Hêrakleids expelled. — Their recovery of Peloponnêsus and establishment in Argos, Sparta, and Messênia.




Deukaliôn, son of Promêtheus. — Phthiôtis: his permanent seat. — General deluge. — Salvation of Deukaliôn and Pyrrha. — Belief in this deluge throughout Greece. — Hellên and Amphiktyôn. — Sons of Hellên: Dôrus, Xuthus, Æolus. — Amphiktyonic assembly. — Common solemnities and games. — Division of Hellas: Æolians, Dôrians, Iônians. — Large extent of Dôris implied in this genealogy. — This form of the legend harmonizes with the great establishments of the historical Dôrians. — Achæus — purpose which his name serves in the legend. — Genealogical diversities.




Legends of Greece, originally isolated, afterwards thrown into series. — Æolus. — His seven sons and five daughters. — 1. First Æolid line — Salmôneus, Tyrô. — Pelias and Nêleus. — Pêrô, Bias, and Melampus. — Periklymenos. — Nestor and his exploits. — Nêleids down to Kodrus. — Second Æolid line — Krêtheus. — Admêtus and Alcêstis. — Pêleus and the wife of Acastus. — Pelias and Jasôn. — Jasôn and Mêdea. — Mêdea at Corinth. — Third Æolid line — Sisyphus. — Corinthian genealogy of Eumêlus. — Coalescence of different legends about Mêdea and Sisyphus. — Bellerophôn. — Fourth Æolid line — Athamas. — Phryxus and Hellê. — Inô and Palæmôn — Isthmian games. — Local root of the legend of Athamas. — Traces of ancient human sacrifices. — Athamas in the district near Orchomenos. — Eteoklês — festival of the Charitêsia. — Foundation and greatness of Orchomenos. — Overthrow by Hêraklês and the Thebans. — Trophônius and Agamêdês. — Ascalaphos and Ialmenos. — Discrepancies in the Orchomenian genealogy. — Probable inferences as to the ante-historical Orchomenos. — Its early wealth and industry. — Emissaries of the lake Kôpaïs. — Old Amphiktyony at Kalauria. — Orchomenos and Thebês. — Alcyonê and Kêyx. — Canacê. — The Alôids. — Calycê. — Elis and Ætôlia. — Eleian genealogy. — Augeas. — The Molionid brothers. — Variations in the Eleian genealogy. — Ætôlian genealogy. — Œneus, Meleager, Tydeus. — Legend of Meleager in Homer. — How altered by the poets after Homer. — Althæa and the burning brand. — Grand Kalydônian boar-hunt. — Atalanta. — Relics of the boar long preserved at Tegea. — Atalanta vanquished in the race by stratagem. — Deianeira. — Death of Hêraklês. — Tydeus. — Old age of Œneus. — Discrepant genealogies.




Misfortunes and celebrity of the Pelopids. — Pelops — eponym of Peloponnêsus. — Deduction of the sceptre of Pelops. — Kingly attributes of the family. — Homeric Pelops. — Lydia, Pisa, etc., post-Homeric additions. — Tantalus. — Niobê. — Pelops and Œnomaus, king of Pisa. — Chariot victory of Pelops — his principality at Pisa. — Atreus, Thyestês, Chrysippus. — Family horrors among the Pelopids. — Agamemnôn and Menelaus. — Orestês. — The goddess Hêrê and Mykênæ. — Legendary importance of Mykênæ. — Its decline coincident with the rise of Argos and Sparta. — Agamemnôn and Orestês transferred to Sparta.




Lelex — autochthonous in Lacônia. — Tyndareus and Lêda. — Offspring of Lêda. — 1. Castôr, Timandra, Klytæmnêstra, 2. Pollux, Helen. — Castôr and Pollux. — Legend of the Attic Dekeleia. — Idas and Lynkeus. — Great functions and power of the Dioskuri. — Messênian genealogy. — Periêrês — Idas and Marpêssa.




Pelasgus. — Lykaôn and his fifty sons. — Legend of Lykaôn — ferocity punished by the gods. — Deep religious faith of Pausanias. — His view of past and present world. — Kallistô and Arkas. — Azan, Apheidas, Elatus. — Aleus, Augê, Telephus. — Ancæus. — Echemus. — Echemus kills Hyllus. — Hêrakleids repelled from Peloponnêsus. — Korônis and Asklêpius. — Extended worship of Asklêpius — numerous legends. — Machaôn and Podaleirius. — Numerous Asklêpiads, or descendants from Asklêpius. — Temples of Asklêpius — sick persons healed there.




Æakus — son of Zeus and Ægina. — Offspring of Æakus — Pêleus, Telamôn, Phôkus. — Prayers of Æakus — procure relief for Greece — Phôkus killed by Pêleus and Telamôn. — Telamôn, banished, goes to Salamis. — Pêleus — goes to Phthia — his marriage with Thetis. — Neoptolemus. — Ajax, his son Philæus the eponymous hero of a dême in Attica. — Teukrus banished, settles in Cyprus. — Diffusion of the Æakid genealogy.




Erechtheus — autochthonous. — Attic legends — originally from different roots — each dême had its own. — Little noticed by the old epic poets. — Kekrops. — Kranaus — Pandiôn. — Daughters of Pandiôn — Proknê, Phi[p. xxi]lomêla. — Legend of Têreus. — Daughters of Erechtheus — Prokris. — Kreüsa. — Oreithyia, the wife of Boreas. — Prayers of the Athenians to Boreas — his gracious help in their danger. — Erechtheus and Eumolpus. — Voluntary self-sacrifice of the three daughters of Erechtheus. — Kreüsa and Iôn. — Sons of Pandiôn — Ægeus, etc. — Thêseus. — His legendary character refined. — Plutarch — his way of handling the matter of legend. — Legend of the Amazons. — Its antiquity and prevalence. — Glorious achievements of the Amazons. — Their ubiquity. — Universally received as a portion of the Greek past. — Amazons produced as present by the historians of Alexander. — Conflict of faith and reason in the historical critics.




Minôs and Rhadamanthus, sons of Zeus. — Europê. — Pasiphaê and the Minôtaur. — Scylla and Nisus. — Death of Androgeos, and anger of Minôs against Athens. — Athenian victims for the Minôtaur. — Self-devotion of Thêseus — he kills the Minôtaur. — Athenian commemorative ceremonies. — Family of Minôs. — Minôs and Dædalus — flight of the latter to Sicily. — Minôs goes to retake him, but is killed. — Semi-Krêtan settlements elsewhere — connected with this voyage of Minôs. — Sufferings of the Krêtans afterwards from the wrath of Minôs. — Portrait of Minôs — how varied. — Affinity between Krête and Asia Minor.




Ship Argô in the Odyssey. — In Hesiod and Eumêlus. — Jasôn and his heroic companions. — Lêmnos. — Adventures at Kyzikus, in Bithynia, etc. — Hêraklês and Hylas. — Phineus. — Dangers of the Symplêgades. — Arrival at Kolchis. — Conditions imposed by Æêtês as the price of the golden fleece. — Perfidy of Æêtês — flight of the Argonauts and Mêdea with the fleece. — Pursuit of Æêtês — the Argonauts saved by Mêdea. — Return of the Argonauts — circuitous and perilous. — Numerous and wide-spread monuments referring to the voyage. — Argonautic legend generally. — Fabulous geography — gradually modified as real geographical knowledge increased. — Transposition of epical localities. — How and when the Argonautic voyage became attached to Kolchis. — Æêtês and Circê. — Return of the Argonauts — different versions. — Continued faith in the voyage — basis of truth determined by Strabo.




Abundant legends of Thêbes. — Amphiôn and Zethus, Homeric founders of Kadmus and Bœôtus — both distinct legends. — Thêbes. — How Thêbes was founded by Kadmus. — Five primitive families at Thêbes called Sparti. — The four daughters of Kadmus: 1. Inô; 2. Semelê; 3. Autonoê and her son Actæôn; 4. Agavê and her son Pentheus. — He resists the god Dionysus — his miserable end. — Labdakus, Antiopê, Amphiôn, and Zêthus. — Laius — Œdipus — Legendary celebrity of Œdipus and his family. — The Sphinx. — Eteoklês and Polynikês. — Old epic poems on the sieges of Thêbes.



Curse pronounced by the devoted Oedipus upon his sons. — Novelties introduced by Sophoklês. — Death of Oedipus — quarrel of Eteoklês and Polynikês for the sceptre. — Polynikês retires to Argos — aid given to him by Adrastus. — Amphiaräus and Eriphylê. — Seven chiefs of the army against Thêbes. — Defeat of the Thêbans in the field — heroic devotion of Menœkus. — Single combat of Eteoklês and Polynikês, in which both perish. — Repulse and destruction of the Argeian chiefs — all except Adrastus — Amphiaräus is swallowed up in the earth. — Kreôn, king of Thêbes, forbids the burial of Polynikês and the other fallen Argeian chiefs. — Devotion and death of Antigonê. — The Athenians interfere to procure the interment of the fallen chiefs. — Second siege of Thêbes by Adrastus with the Epigoni, or sons of those slain in the first. — Victory of the Epigoni — capture of Thêbes. — Worship of Adrastus at Sikyôn — how abrogated by Kleisthenês. — Alkmæôn — his matricide and punishment. — Fatal necklace of Eriphylê.




Great extent and variety of the tale of Troy. — Dardanus, son of Zeus. — Ilus, founder of Ilium. — Walls of Ilium built by Poseidôn. — Capture of Ilium by Hêraklês. — Priam and his offspring. — Paris — his judgment on the three goddesses. — Carries off Helen from Sparta. — Expedition of the Greeks to recover her. — Heroes from all parts of Greece combined under Agamemnôn. — Achilles and Odysseus. — The Grecian host mistakes Teuthrania for Troy — Telephus. — Detention of the Greeks at Aulis — Agamemnon and Iphigeneia. — First success of the Greeks on landing near Troy. — Brisêis awarded to Achilles. — Palamêdês — his genius, and treacherous death. — Epic chronology — historicized. — Period of the Homeric Iliad. — Hectôr killed by Achilles. — New allies of Troy — Penthesileia. — Memnôn — killed by Achilles. — Death of Achilles. — Funeral games celebrated in honor of him. — Quarrel about his panoply. — Odysseus prevails and Ajax kills himself. — Philoktêtês and Neoptolemus. — Capture of the Palladium. — The wooden horse. — Destruction of Troy. — Distribution of the captives among the victors. — Helen restored to Menelaus — lives in dignity at Sparta — passes to a happy immortality. — Blindness and cure of the poet Stesichorus — alteration of the legend about Helen. — Egyptian tale about Helen — tendency to historicize. — Return of the Greeks from Troy. — Their sufferings — anger of the gods. — Wanderings of the heroes in all directions. — Memorials of them throughout the Grecian world. — Odysseus — his final adventures and death. — Æneas and his descendants. — Different stories about Æneas. — Æneadæ at Skêpsis. — Ubiquity of Æneas. — Antenôr. — Tale of Troy — its magnitude and discrepancies. — Trojan war — essentially legendary — its importance as an item in Grecian national faith. — Basis of history for it — possible, and nothing more. — Historicizing innovations — Dio Chrysostom. — Historical Ilium. — Generally received and visited as the town of Priam. — Respect shown to it by Alexander. — Successors of Alexander — foundation of Alexandreia Trôas. — The Romans — treat Ilium with marked respect. — Mythical legitimacy of Ilium — first called in question by Dêmêtrius of Skêpsis and Hestiæa. — Supposed Old Ilium, or real Troy, distinguished from New Ilium. — Strabo alone believes in Old Ilium as the real Troy — other authors continue in the old faith — the[p. xxiii] moderns follow Strabo. — The mythical faith not shaken by topographical impossibilities. — Historical Trôas and the Teukrians. — Æolic Greeks in the Trôad — the whole territory gradually Æolized. — Old date, and long prevalence of the worship of Apollo Sminthius. — Asiatic customs and religion — blended with Hellenic. — Sibylline prophecies. — Settlements from Milêtus, Mitylênê, and Athens.




The mythes formed the entire mental stock of the early Greeks. — State of mind out of which they arose. — Tendency to universal personification. — Absence of positive knowledge — supplied by personifying faith. — Multitude and variety of quasi-human personages. — What we read as poetical fancies, were to the Greeks serious realities. — The gods and heroes — their chief agency cast back into the past, and embodied in the mythes. — Marked and manifold types of the Homeric gods. — Stimulus which they afforded to the mythopœic faculty. — Easy faith in popular and plausible stories. — Poets — receive their matter from the divine inspiration of the Muse. — Meaning of the word mythe — original — altered. — Matter of actual history — uninteresting to early Greeks. — Mythical faith and religious point of view — paramount in the Homeric age. — Gradual development of the scientific point of view — its opposition to the religious. — Mythopœic age — anterior to this dissent. — Expansive force of Grecian intellect. — Transition towards positive and present fact. — The poet becomes the organ of present time instead of past. — Iambic, elegiac, and lyric poets. — Influence of the opening of Egypt to Grecian commerce, B. C. 660. — Progress — historical, geographical, social — from that period to B. C. 500. — Altered standard of judgment, ethical and intellectual. — Commencement of physical science — Thalês, Xenophanês, Pythagoras. — Impersonal nature conceived as an object of study. — Opposition between scientific method and the religious feeling of the multitude. — How dealt with by different philosophers. — Socratês. — Hippocratês. — Anaxagoras. — Contrasted with Grecian religious belief. — Treatment of Socratês by the Athenians. — Scission between the superior men and the multitude — important in reference to the mythes. — The mythes accommodated to a new tone of feeling and judgment. — The poets and logographers. — Pindar. — Tragic poets. — Æschylus and Sophoklês. — Tendencies of Æschylus in regard to the old legends. — He maintains undiminished the grandeur of the mythical world. — Euripidês — accused of vulgarizing the mythical heroes, and of introducing exaggerated pathos, refinement, and rhetoric. — The logographers — Pherekydês, etc. — Hekatæus — the mythes rationalized. — The historians — Herodotus. — Earnest piety of Herodotus — his mystic reserve. — His views of the mythical world. — His deference for Egypt and Egyptian statements. — His general faith in the mythical heroes and eponyms — yet combined with scepticism as to matters of fact — His remarks upon the miraculous foundation of the oracle at Dôdôna. — His remarks upon Melampus and his prophetic powers. — His remarks upon the Thessalian legend of Tempê. — Allegorical interpretation of the mythes — more and more esteemed and applied. — Divine legends allegorized. — Heroic legends historicized. — Limits to this interpreting process. — Distinction between gods and dæmons — altered and widened by Empedoclês. — Admission of dæmons as partially evil beings — effect of such admission. — Semi-historical inter[p. xxiv]pretation — utmost which it can accomplish. — Some positive certificate indispensable as a constituent of historical proof — mere popular faith insufficient. — Mistake of ascribing to an unrecording age the historical sense of modern times. — Matter of tradition uncertified from the beginning. — Fictitious matter of tradition does not imply fraud or imposture. — Plausible fiction often generated and accredited by the mere force of strong and common sentiment, even in times of instruction. — Allegorical theory of the mythes — traced by some up to an ancient priestly caste. — Real import of the mythes supposed to be preserved in the religious mysteries. — Supposed ancient meaning is really a modern interpretation. — Triple theology of the pagan world. Treatment and use of the mythes according to Plato. — His views as to the necessity and use of fiction. — He deals with the mythes as expressions of feeling and imagination — sustained by religious faith, and not by any positive basis. — Grecian antiquity essentially a religious conception. — Application of chronological calculation divests it of this character. — Mythical genealogies all of one class, and all on a level in respect to evidence. — Grecian and Egyptian genealogies. — Value of each is purely subjective, having especial reference to the faith of the people. — Gods and men undistinguishable in Grecian antiquity. — General recapitulation. — General public of Greece — familiar with their local mythes, careless of recent history. — Religious festivals — their commemorative influence. — Variety and universality of mythical relics. — The mythes in their bearing on Grecian art. — Tendency of works of art to intensify the mythical faith.




Μῦθος — Sage — an universal manifestation of the human mind. — Analogy of the Germans and Celts with the Greeks. — Differences between them. — Grecian poetry matchless. — Grecian progress self-operated. — German progress brought about by violent influences from without. — Operation of the Roman civilization and of Christianity upon the primitive German mythes. — Alteration in the mythical genealogies — Odin and the other gods degraded into men. — Grecian Paganism — what would have been the case, if it had been supplanted by Christianity in 500 B. C. — Saxo Grammaticus and Snorro Sturleson contrasted with Pherekydês and Hellanikus. — Mythopœic tendencies in modern Europe still subsisting, but forced into a new channel: 1. Saintly ideal; 2. Chivalrous ideal. — Legends of the Saints — their analogy with the Homeric theology. — Chivalrous ideal — Romances of Charlemagne and Arthur. — Accepted as realities of the fore-time. — Teutonic and Scandinavian epic — its analogy with the Grecian. — Heroic character and self-expanding subject common to both. — Points of distinction between the two — epic of the Middle Ages neither stood so completely alone, nor was so closely interwoven with religion, as the Grecian. — History of England — how conceived down to the seventeenth century — began with Brute the Trojan. — Earnest and tenacious faith manifested in the defence of this early history. — Judgment of Milton. — Standard of historical evidence — raised in regard to England — not raised in regard to Greece. — Milton’s way of dealing with the British fabulous history objectionable. — Two ways open of dealing with the Grecian mythes: 1, to omit them; or, 2, to recount them as mythes. — Reasons for preferring the latter. — Triple partition of past time by Varro.


[p. 1]




The mythical world of the Greeks opens with the gods, anterior as well as superior to man: it gradually descends, first to heroes, and next to the human race. Along with the gods are found various monstrous natures, ultra-human and extra-human, who cannot with propriety be called gods, but who partake with gods and men in the attributes of free-will, conscious agency, and susceptibility of pleasure and pain,—such as the Harpies, the Gorgons, the Grææ, the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, Echidna, Sphinx, Chimæra, Chrysaor, Pegasus, the Cyclôpes, the Centaurs, etc. The first acts of what may be termed the great mythical cycle describe the proceedings of these gigantic agents—the crash and collision of certain terrific and overboiling forces, which are ultimately reduced to obedience, or chained up, or extinguished, under the more orderly government of Zeus, who supplants his less capable predecessors, and acquires precedence and supremacy over gods and men—subject, however to certain social restraints from the chief gods and goddesses around[p. 2] him, as well as to the custom of occasionally convoking and consulting the divine agora.

I recount these events briefly, but literally, treating them simply as mythes springing from the same creative imagination, addressing themselves to analogous tastes and feelings, and depending upon the same authority, as the legends of Thebes and Troy. It is the inspired voice of the Muse which reveals and authenticates both, and from which Homer and Hesiod alike derive their knowledge—the one, of the heroic, the other, of the divine, foretime. I maintain, moreover, fully, the character of these great divine agents as Persons, which is the light in which they presented themselves to the Homeric or Hesiodic audience. Uranos, Nyx, Hypnos and Oneiros (Heaven, Night, Sleep and Dream), are Persons, just as much as Zeus and Apollo. To resolve them into mere allegories, is unsafe and unprofitable: we then depart from the point of view of the original hearers, without acquiring any consistent or philosophical point of view of our own.[2] For although some of the attributes and actions ascribed to these persons are often explicable by allegory the whole series and system of them never are so: the theorist who adopts this course of explanation finds that, after one or two simple and obvious steps, the path is no longer open, and he is forced to clear a way for himself by gratuitous refinements and conjectures. The allegorical persons and attributes are always found mingled with other persons and attributes not allegorical; but the two classes cannot be severed without breaking up the whole march of the mythical events, nor can any explanation which drives us to such a necessity be considered as admissible. To suppose indeed that these legends could be all traced by means of allegory into a coherent body of physical doctrine, would be inconsistent with all reasonable presumptions respecting the age or society in which they arose. Where the allegorical mark is clearly set upon any particular character, or attribute, or event, to that extent we may recognize it; but we can rarely venture to divine further, still less to alter the legends themselves on the faith of any such surmises. The theogony of the Greeks contains[p. 3] some cosmogonic ideas; but it cannot be considered as a system of cosmogony, or translated into a string of elementary, planetary, or physical changes.

In the order of legendary chronology, Zeus comes after Kronos and Uranos; but in the order of Grecian conception, Zeus is the prominent person, and Kronos and Uranos are inferior and introductory precursors, set up in order to be overthrown and to serve as mementos of the prowess of their conqueror. To Homer and Hesiod, as well as to the Greeks universally, Zeus is the great and predominant god, “the father of gods and men,” whose power none of the other gods can hope to resist, or even deliberately think of questioning. All the other gods have their specific potency and peculiar sphere of action and duty, with which Zeus does not usually interfere; but it is he who maintains the lineaments of a providential superintendence, as well over the phænomena of Olympus as over those of earth. Zeus and his brothers Poseidôn and Hadês have made a division of power: he has reserved the æther and the atmosphere to himself—Poseidôn has obtained the sea—and Hadês the under-world or infernal regions; while earth, and the events which pass upon earth, are common to all of them, together with free access to Olympus.[3]

Zeus, then, with his brethren and colleagues, constitute the present gods, whom Homer and Hesiod recognize as in full dignity and efficiency. The inmates of this divine world are conceived upon the model, but not upon the scale, of the human. They are actuated by the full play and variety of those appetites, sympathies, passions and affections, which divide the soul of man; invested with a far larger and indeterminate measure of power, and an exemption as well from death as (with some rare exceptions) from suffering and infirmity. The rich and diverse types thus conceived, full of energetic movement and contrast, each in his own province, and soaring confessedly above the limits of[p. 4] experience, were of all themes the most suitable for adventure and narrative, and operated with irresistible force upon the Grecian fancy. All nature was then conceived as moving and working through a number of personal agents, amongst whom the gods of Olympus were the most conspicuous; the reverential belief in Zeus and Apollo being only one branch of this omnipresent personifying faith. The attributes of all these agents had a tendency to expand themselves into illustrative legends—especially those of the gods, who were constantly invoked in the public worship. Out of this same mental source sprang both the divine and heroic mythes—the former being often the more extravagant and abnormous in their incidents, in proportion as the general type of the gods was more vast and awful than that of the heroes.

As the gods have houses and wives like men, so the present dynasty of gods must have a past to repose upon;[4] and the curious and imaginative Greek, whenever he does not find a recorded past ready to his hand, is uneasy until he has created one. Thus the Hesiodic theogony explains, with a certain degree of system and coherence, first the antecedent circumstances under which Zeus acquired the divine empire, next the number of his colleagues and descendants.

First in order of time (we are told by Hesiod) came Chaos; next Gæa, the broad, firm, and flat Earth, with deep and dark Tartarus at her base. Erôs (Love), the subduer of gods as well as men, came immediately afterwards.[5]

From Chaos sprung Erebos and Nyx; from these latter Æthêr and Hêmera. Gæa also gave birth to Uranos, equal in breadth to herself, in order to serve both as an overarching vault to her, and as a residence for the immortal gods; she further produced the mountains, habitations of the divine nymphs, and Pontus, the barren and billowy sea.

Then Gæa intermarried with Uranos, and from this union came a numerous offspring—twelve Titans and Titanides, three Cyclôpes, and three Hekatoncheires or beings with a hundred[p. 5] hands each. The Titans were Oceanus, Kœos, Krios, Hyperiôn, Iapetos, and Kronos: the Titanides, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnêmosynê, Phœbê, and Têthys. The Cyclôpes were Brontês, Steropês, and Argês,—formidable persons, equally distinguished for strength and for manual craft, so that they made the thunder which afterwards formed the irresistible artillery of Zeus.[6] The Hekatoncheires were Kottos, Briareus, and Gygês, of prodigious bodily force.

Uranos contemplated this powerful brood with fear and horror; as fast as any of them were born, he concealed them in cavities of the earth, and would not permit them to come out. Gæa could find no room for them, and groaned under the pressure: she produced iron, made a sickle, and implored her sons to avenge both her and themselves against the oppressive treatment of their father. But none of them, except Kronos, had courage to undertake the deed: he, the youngest and the most daring, was armed with the sickle and placed in suitable ambush by the contrivance of Gæa. Presently night arrived, and Uranos descended to the embraces of Gæa: Kronos then emerged from his concealment, cut off the genitals of his father, and cast the bleeding member behind him far away into the sea.[7] Much of the blood was spilt upon the earth, and Gæa in consequence gave birth to the irresistible Erinnys, the vast and muscular Gigantes, and the Melian nymphs. Out of the genitals themselves, as they swam and foamed upon the sea, emerged the goddess Aphroditê, deriving her name from the foam out of which she had sprung. She first landed at Kythêra, and then went to Cyprus: the island felt her benign influence, and the green herb started up under her soft and delicate tread. Erôs immediately joined her, and partook with her the function of suggesting and directing the amorous impulses both of gods and men.[8]

[p. 6]Uranos being thus dethroned and disabled, Kronos and the Titans acquired their liberty and became predominant: the Cyclôpes and the Hekatoncheires had been cast by Uranos into Tartarus, and were still allowed to remain there.

Each of the Titans had a numerous offspring: Oceanus, especially, marrying his sister Têthys, begat three thousand daughters, the Oceanic nymphs, and as many sons: the rivers and springs passed for his offspring. Hyperiôn and his sister Theia had for their children Hêlios, Selênê, and Eôs; Kœos with Phœbê begat Lêtô and Asteria; the children of Krios were Astræos, Pallas, and Persês,—from Astræos and Eôs sprang the winds Zephyrus, Boreas, and Notus. Iapetos, marrying the Oceanic nymph Clymenê, counted as his progeny the celebrated Promêtheus, Epimêtheus, Menœtius, and Atlas. But the offspring of Kronos were the most powerful and transcendent of all. He married his sister Rhea, and had by her three daughters—Hestia, Dêmêtêr, and Hêrê—and three sons, Hadês, Poseidôn, and Zeus, the latter at once the youngest and the greatest.

But Kronos foreboded to himself destruction from one of his own children, and accordingly, as soon as any of them were born, he immediately swallowed them and retained them in his own belly. In this manner had the first five been treated, and Rhea was on the point of being delivered of Zeus. Grieved and indignant at the loss of her children, she applied for counsel to her father and mother, Uranos and Gæa, who aided her to conceal the birth of Zeus. They conveyed her by night to Lyktus in Crête, hid the new-born child in a woody cavern on Mount Ida, and gave to Kronos, in place of it, a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, which he greedily swallowed, believing it to be his child. Thus was the safety of Zeus ensured.[9] As he grew up his vast powers fully developed themselves: at the suggestion of Gæa, he induced Kronos by stratagem to vomit up, first the stone which had been given to him,—next, the five children whom he had previously devoured. Hestia, Dêmêtêr, Hêrê, Poseidôn and Hadês, were thus allowed to grow up along with Zeus; and the stone to which the latter owed his preservation was placed near[p. 7] the temple of Delphi, where it ever afterwards stood, as a conspicuous and venerable memorial to the religious Greek.[10]

We have not yet exhausted the catalogue of beings generated during this early period, anterior to the birth of Zeus. Nyx, alone and without any partner, gave birth to a numerous progeny: Thanatos, Hypnos and Oneiros; Mômus and Oïzys (Grief); Klôthô, Lachesis and Atropos, the three Fates; the retributive and equalizing Nemesis; Apatê and Philotês (Deceit and amorous Propensity), Gêras (Old Age) and Eris (Contention). From Eris proceeded an abundant offspring, all mischievous and maleficent: Ponos (Suffering), Lêthê, Limos (Famine), Phonos and Machê (Slaughter and Battle), Dysnomia and Atê (Lawlessness and reckless Impulse), and Horkos, the ever watchful sanctioner of oaths, as well as the inexorable punisher of voluntary perjury.[11]

Gæa, too, intermarrying with Pontus, gave birth to Nereus, the just and righteous old man of the sea; to Thaumas, Phorkys and Kêtô. From Nereus, and Doris daughter of Oceanus, proceeded the fifty Nereids or Sea-nymphs. Thaumus also married Elektra daughter of Oceanus, and had by her Iris and the two Harpies, Allô and Okypetê,—winged and swift as the winds. From Phorkys and Kêtô sprung the Dragon of the Hesperides, and the monstrous Grææ and Gorgons: the blood of Medusa, one of the Gorgons, when killed by Perseus, produced Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus: Chrysaor and Kallirrhoê gave birth to Geryôn as well as to Echidna,—a creature half-nymph and half-serpent, unlike both to gods and to men. Other monsters arose from the union of Echidna with Typhaôn,—Orthros, the two-headed dog of Geryôn; Cerberus, the dog of Hadês, with fifty heads, and the Lernæan Hydra. From the latter proceeded the Chimæra, the Sphinx of Thêbes, and the Nemean lion.[12]

A powerful and important progeny, also, was that of Styx,[p. 8] daughter of Oceanus, by Pallas; she had Zêlos and Nikê (Imperiousness and Victory), and Kratos and Bia (Strength and Force). The hearty and early coöperation of Styx and her four sons with Zeus was one of the main causes which enabled him to achieve his victory over the Titans.

Zeus had grown up not less distinguished for mental capacity than for bodily force. He and his brothers now determined to wrest the power from the hands of Kronos and the Titans, and a long and desperate struggle commenced, in which all the gods and all the goddesses took part. Zeus convoked them to Olympus, and promised to all who would aid him against Kronos, that their functions and privileges should remain undisturbed. The first who responded to the call, came with her four sons, and embraced his cause, was Styx. Zeus took them all four as his constant attendants, and conferred upon Styx the majestic distinction of being the Horkos, or oath-sanctioner of the Gods,—what Horkos was to men, Styx was to the Gods.[13]

Still further to strengthen himself, Zeus released the other Uranids who had been imprisoned in Tartarus by their father,—the Cyclôpes and the Centimanes,—and prevailed upon them to take part with him against the Titans. The former supplied him with thunder and lightning, and the latter brought into the fight their boundless muscular strength.[14] Ten full years did the combat continue; Zeus and the Kronids occupying Olympus, and the Titans being established on the more southerly mountain-chain of Othrys. All nature was convulsed, and the distant Oceanus, though he took no part in the struggle, felt the boiling, the noise, and the shock, not less than Gæa and Pontus. The thunder of Zeus, combined with the crags and mountains torn up and hurled by the Centimanes, at length prevailed, and the Titans were defeated and thrust down into Tartarus. Iapetos, Kronos, and the remaining Titans (Oceanus excepted) were imprisoned, perpetually and irrevocably, in that subterranean dungeon, a wall of brass being built around them by Poseidôn, and the three Centimanes being planted as guards. Of the two sons of Iapetos, Menœtius was made to share this prison, while Atlas was condemned to[p. 9] stand for ever at the extreme west, and to bear upon his shoulders the solid vault of heaven.[15]

Thus were the Titans subdued, and the Kronids with Zeus at their head placed in possession of power. They were not, however, yet quite secure; for Gæa, intermarrying with Tartarus, gave birth to a new and still more formidable monster called Typhôeus, of such tremendous properties and promise, that, had he been allowed to grow into full development, nothing could have prevented him from vanquishing all rivals and becoming supreme. But Zeus foresaw the danger, smote him at once with a thunderbolt from Olympus, and burnt him up: he was cast along with the rest into Tartarus, and no further enemy remained to question the sovereignty of the Kronids.[16]

With Zeus begins a new dynasty and a different order of beings. Zeus, Poseidôn, and Hadês agree upon the distribution before noticed, of functions and localities: Zeus retaining the Æthêr and the atmosphere, together with the general presiding function; Poseidôn obtaining the sea, and administering subterranean forces generally; and Hadês ruling the under-world or region in which the half-animated shadows of departed men reside.

It has been already stated, that in Zeus, his brothers and his sisters, and his and their divine progeny, we find the present Gods; that is, those, for the most part, whom the Homeric and Hesiodic Greeks recognized and worshipped. The wives of Zeus were numerous as well as his offspring. First he married Mêtis, the wisest and most sagacious of the goddesses; but Gæa and Uranos forewarned him that if he permitted himself to have children by her, they would be stronger than himself and dethrone him. Accordingly when Mêtis was on the point of being deliv[p. 10]ered of Athênê, he swallowed her up, and her wisdom and sagacity thus became permanently identified with his own being.[17] His head was subsequently cut open, in order to make way for the exit and birth of the goddess Athênê.[18] By Themis, Zeus begat the Hôræ, by Eurynomê, the three Charities or Graces; by Mnêmosynê, the Muses; by Lêtô (Latona), Apollo and Artemis; and by Dêmêtêr, Persephonê. Last of all he took for his wife Hêrê, who maintained permanently the dignity of queen of the Gods; by her he had Hêbê, Arês, and Eileithyia. Hermês also was born to him by Maia, the daughter of Atlas: Hêphæstos was born to Hêrê, according to some accounts, by Zeus; according to others, by her own unaided generative force.[19] He was born lame, and Hêrê was ashamed of him: she wished to secrete him away, but he made his escape into the sea, and found shelter under the maternal care of the Nereids Thetis and Eurynome.[20] Our enumeration of the divine race, under the presidency of Zeus, will thus give us,[21]

1. The twelve great gods and goddesses of Olympus,—Zeus, Poseidôn, Apollo, Arês, Hêphæstos, Hermês, Hêrê, Athênê, Artemis, Aphroditê, Hestia, Dêmêtêr.

2. An indefinite number of other deities, not included among the Olympic, seemingly because the number twelve was complete without them, but some of them not inferior in power and dignity to many of the twelve:—Hadês, Hêlios, Hekatê, Dionysos, Lêtô, Diônê, Persephonê, Selênê, Themis, Eôs, Harmonia, the Charities, the Muses, the Eileithyiæ, the Mœræ, the Oceanids and the Nereids, Proteus, Eidothea, the Nymphs, Leukothea, Phorkys, Æolus, Nemesis, etc.

3. Deities who perform special services to the greater gods:—Iris, Hêbê, the Horæ, etc.

4. Deities whose personality is more faintly and unsteadily conceived:—Atê, the Litæ, Eris, Thanatos, Hypnos, Kratos, Bia, Ossa, etc.[22] The same name is here employed sometimes to designate the person, sometimes the attribute or event not personi[p. 11]fied,—an unconscious transition of ideas, which, when consciously performed, is called Allegory.

5. Monsters, offspring of the Gods:—the Harpies, the Gorgons, the Grææ, Pegasus, Chrysaor, Echidna, Chimæra, the Dragon of the Hesperides, Cerberus, Orthros, Geryôn, the Lernæan Hydra, the Nemean lion, Scylla and Charybdis, the Centaurs, the Sphinx, Xanthos and Balios the immortal horses, etc.

From the gods we slide down insensibly, first to heroes, and then to men; but before we proceed to this new mixture, it is necessary to say a few words on the theogony generally. I have given it briefly as it stands in the Hesiodic Theogonia, because that poem—in spite of great incoherence and confusion, arising seemingly from diversity of authorship as well as diversity of age—presents an ancient and genuine attempt to cast the divine foretime into a systematic sequence. Homer and Hesiod were the grand authorities in the pagan world respecting theogony; but in the Iliad and Odyssey nothing is found except passing allusions and implications, and even in the Hymns (which were commonly believed in antiquity to be the productions of the same author as the Iliad and the Odyssey) there are only isolated, unconnected narratives. Accordingly men habitually took their information respecting their theogonic antiquities from the Hesiodic poem, where it was ready laid out before them; and the legends consecrated in that work acquired both an extent of circulation and a firm hold on the national faith, such as independent legends could seldom or never rival. Moreover the scrupulous and sceptical Pagans, as well as the open assailants of Paganism in later times, derived their subjects of attack from the same source; so that it has been absolutely necessary to recount in their naked simplicity the Hesiodic stories, in order to know what it was that Plato deprecated and Xenophanês denounced. The strange proceedings ascribed to Uranos, Kronos and Zeus, have been more frequently alluded to, in the way of ridicule or condemnation, than any other portion of the mythical world.

But though the Hesiodic theogony passed as orthodox among the later Pagans,[23] because it stood before them as the only system anciently set forth and easily accessible, it was evidently not the[p. 12] only system received at the date of the poem itself. Homer knows nothing of Uranos, in the sense of an arch-God anterior to Kronos. Uranos and Gæa, like Oceanus, Têthys and Nyx, are with him great and venerable Gods, but neither the one nor the other present the character of predecessors of Kronos and Zeus.[24] The Cyclôpes, whom Hesiod ranks as sons of Uranos and fabricators of thunder, are in Homer neither one nor the other; they are not noticed in the Iliad at all, and in the Odyssey they are gross gigantic shepherds and cannibals, having nothing in common with the Hesiodic Cyclops except the one round central eye.[25] Of the three Centimanes enumerated by Hesiod, Briareus only is mentioned in Homer, and to all appearance, not as the son of Uranos, but as the son of Poseidôn; not as aiding Zeus in his combat against the Titans, but as rescuing him at a critical moment from a conspiracy formed against him by Hêrê, Poseidôn and Athênê.[26] Not only is the Hesiodic Uranos (with the Uranids) omitted in Homer, but the relations between Zeus and Kronos are also presented in a very different light. No mention is made of Kronos swallowing his young children: on the contrary, Zeus is the eldest of the three brothers instead of the youngest, and the children of Kronos live with him and Rhea: there the stolen intercourse between Zeus and Hêrê first takes place without the knowledge of their parents.[27] When Zeus puts Kronos down into Tartarus, Rhea consigns her daughter Hêrê to the care of Oceanus: no notice do we find of any terrific battle with the Titans as accompanying that event. Kronos, Iapetos, and the remaining Titans are down in Tartarus, in the lowest depths under the earth, far removed from the genial rays of Hêlios; but they are still powerful and venerable, and Hypnos makes Hêrê swear an oath in their name, as the most inviolable that he can think of.[28]

[p. 13]In Homer, then, we find nothing beyond the simple fact that Zeus thrust his father Kronos together with the remaining Titans into Tartarus; an event to which he affords us a tolerable parallel in certain occurrences even under the presidency of Zeus himself. For the other gods make more than one rebellious attempt against Zeus, and are only put down, partly by his unparalleled strength, partly by the presence of his ally the Centimane Briareus. Kronos, like Laërtes or Pêleus, has become old, and has been supplanted by a force vastly superior to his own. The Homeric epic treats Zeus as present, and, like all the interesting heroic characters, a father must be assigned to him: that father has once been the chief of the Titans, but has been superseded and put down into Tartarus along with the latter, so soon as Zeus and the superior breed of the Olympic gods acquired their full development.

That antithesis between Zeus and Kronos—between the Olympic gods and the Titans—which Homer has thus briefly brought to view, Hesiod has amplified into a theogony, with many things new, and some things contradictory to his predecessor; while Eumêlus or Arktinus in the poem called Titanomachia (now lost) also adopted it as their special subject.[29] As Stasinus, Arktinus, Leschês, and others, enlarged the Legend of Troy by composing poems relating to a supposed time anterior to the commencement, or subsequent to the termination of the Iliad,—as other poets recounted adventures of Odysseus subsequent to his landing in Ithaka,—so Hesiod enlarged and systematized, at the same time that he corrupted, the skeleton theogony which we find briefly indicated in Homer. There is violence and rudeness in the Homeric gods, but the great genius of Grecian epic is no way accountable for the stories of Uranos and Kronos,—the standing reproach against Pagan legendary narrative.

[p. 14]

How far these stories are the invention of Hesiod himself is impossible to determine.[30] They bring us down to a cast of fancy[p. 15] more coarse and indelicate than the Homeric, and more nearly resembling some of the Holy Chapters (ἱεροὶ λόγοι) of the more recent mysteries, such (for example) as the tale of Dionysos Zagreus. There is evidence in the Theogony itself that the author was acquainted with local legends current both at Krête and at Delphi; for he mentions both the mountain-cave in Krête wherein the new-born Zeus was hidden, and the stone near the Delphian temple—the identical stone which Kronos had swallowed—“placed by Zeus himself as a sign and wonder to mortal men.” Both these two monuments, which the poet expressly refers to, and had probably seen, imply a whole train of accessory and explanatory local legends—current probably among the priests of Krête and Delphi, between which places, in ancient times, there was an intimate religious connection. And we may trace further in the poem,—that which would be the natural feeling of Krêtan worshippers of Zeus,—an effort to make out that Zeus was justified in his aggression on Kronos, by the conduct of Kronos himself both towards his father and towards his children: the treatment of Kronos by Zeus appears in Hesiod as the retribution foretold and threatened by the mutilated Uranos against the son who had outraged him. In fact the relations of Uranos and Gæa are in almost all their particulars a mere copy and duplication of those between Kronos and Rhea, differing only in the mode whereby the final catastrophe is brought about. Now castration was a practice thoroughly abhorrent both to the feelings and to the customs of Greece;[31] but it was seen with melancholy fre[p. 16]quency in the domestic life as well as in the religious worship of Phrygia and other parts of Asia, and it even became the special qualification of a priest of the Great Mother Cybelê,[32] as well as of the Ephesian Artemis. The employment of the sickle ascribed to Kronos seems to be the product of an imagination familiar with the Asiatic worship and legends, which were connected with and partially resembled the Krêtan.[33] And this deduction becomes the more probable when we connect it with the first genesis of iron, which Hesiod mentions to have been produced for the express purpose of fabricating the fatal sickle; for metallurgy finds a place in the early legends both of the Trojan and of the Krêtan Ida, and the three Idæan Dactyls, the legendary inventors of it, are assigned sometimes to one and sometimes to the other.[34]

As Hesiod had extended the Homeric series of gods by prefixing the dynasty of Uranos to that of Kronos, so the Orphic theog[p. 17]ony lengthened it still further.[35] First came Chronos, or Time, as a person, after him Æthêr and Chaos, out of whom Chronos produced the vast mundane egg. Hence emerged in process of time the first-born god Phanês, or Mêtis, or Hêrikapæos, a person of double sex, who first generated the Kosmos, or mundane system, and who carried within him the seed of the gods. He gave birth to Nyx, by whom he begat Uranos and Gæa; as well as to Hêlios and Selêne.[36]

From Uranos and Gæa sprang the three Mœræ, or Fates, the three Centimanes and the three Cyclôpes: these latter were cast by Uranos into Tartarus, under the foreboding that they would rob him of his dominion. In revenge for this maltreatment of her sons, Gæa produced of herself the fourteen Titans, seven male and seven female: the former were Kœos, Krios, Phorkys, Kronos, Oceanus, Hyperiôn and Iapetos; the latter were Themis, Têthys, Mnêmosynê, Theia, Diônê, Phœbê and Rhea.[37] They received the name of Titans because they avenged upon Uranos the expulsion of their elder brothers. Six of the Titans, headed by Kronos the most powerful of them all, conspiring against Uranos, castrated and dethroned him: Oceanus alone stood aloof and took no part in the aggression. Kronos assumed the government and fixed his seat on Olympos; while Oceanus remained apart, master of his own divine stream.[38] The reign[p. 18] of Kronos was a period of tranquillity and happiness, as well as of extraordinary longevity and vigor.

Kronos and Rhea gave birth to Zeus and his brothers and sisters. The concealment and escape of the infant Zeus, and the swallowing of the stone by Kronos, are given in the Orphic Theogony substantially in the same manner as by Hesiod, only in a style less simple and more mysticized. Zeus is concealed in the cave of Nyx, the seat of Phanês himself, along with Eidê and Adrasteia, who nurse and preserve him, while the armed dance and sonorous instruments of the Kurêtes prevent his infant cries from reaching the ears of Kronos. When grown up, he lays a snare for his father, intoxicates him with honey, and having surprised him in the depth of sleep, enchains and castrates him.[39] Thus exalted to the supreme mastery, he swallowed and absorbed into himself Mêtis, or Phanês, with all the preëxisting elements of things, and then generated all things anew out of his own being and conformably to his own divine ideas.[40] So scanty are the remains of this system, that we find it difficult to trace individually the gods and goddesses sprung from Zeus[p. 19] beyond Apollo, Dionysos, and Persephonê,—the latter being confounded with Artemis and Hekatê.

But there is one new personage, begotten by Zeus, who stands preëminently marked in the Orphic Theogony, and whose adventures constitute one of its peculiar features. Zagreus, “the horned child,” is the son of Zeus by his own daughter Persephonê: he is the favorite of his father, a child of magnificent promise, and predestined, if he grow up, to succeed to supreme dominion as well as to the handling of the thunderbolt. He is seated, whilst an infant, on the throne beside Zeus, guarded by Apollo and the Kurêtes. But the jealous Hêrê intercepts his career and incites the Titans against him, who, having first smeared their faces with plaster, approach him on the throne, tempt his childish fancy with playthings, and kill him with a sword while he is contemplating his face in a mirror. They then cut up his body and boil it in a caldron, leaving only the heart, which is picked up by Athênê and carried to Zeus, who in his wrath strikes down the Titans with thunder into Tartarus; whilst Apollo is directed to collect the remains of Zagreus and bury them at the foot of Mount Parnassus. The heart is given to Semelê, and Zagreus is born again from her under the form of Dionysos.[41]

[p. 20]

Such is the tissue of violent fancies comprehended under the title of the Orphic Theogony, and read as such, it appears, by Plato, Isokratês and Aristotle. It will be seen that it is based upon the Hesiodic Theogony, but according to the general expansive tendency of Grecian legend, much new matter is added: Zeus has in Homer one predecessor, in Hesiod two, and in Orpheus four.

The Hesiodic Theogony, though later in date than the Iliad and Odyssey, was coeval with the earliest period of what may be called Grecian history, and certainly of an age earlier than 700 B. C. It appears to have been widely circulated in Greece, and being at once ancient and short, the general public consulted it as their principal source of information respecting divine antiquity. The Orphic Theogony belongs to a later date, and contains the Hesiodic ideas and persons, enlarged and mystically disguised: its vein of invention was less popular, adapted more to the contemplation of a sect specially prepared than to the taste of a casual audience, and it appears accordingly to have obtained currency chiefly among purely speculative men.[42] Among the major[p. 21]ity of these latter, however, it acquired greater veneration, and above all was supposed to be of greater antiquity, than the Hesiodic. The belief in its superior antiquity (disallowed by Herodotus, and seemingly also by Aristotle[43]), as well as the respect for its contents, increased during the Alexandrine age and through the declining centuries of Paganism, reaching its maximum among the New-Platonists of the third and fourth century after Christ: both the Christian assailants, as well as the defenders, of paganism, treated it as the most ancient and venerable summary of the Grecian faith. Orpheus is celebrated by Pindar as the harper and companion of the Argonautic maritime heroes: Orpheus and Musæus, as well as Pamphôs and Olên, the great supposed authors of theogonic, mystical, oracular, and prophetic verses and hymns, were generally considered by literary Greeks as older than either Hesiod or Homer:[44] and such was also the common opinion of modern scholars until a period comparatively recent. It has now been shown, on sufficient ground, that the[p. 22] compositions which passed under these names emanate for the most part from poets of the Alexandrine age, and subsequent to the Christian æra; and that even the earliest among them, which served as the stock on which the later additions were engrafted, belong to a period far more recent than Hesiod; probably to the century preceding Onomakritus (B. C. 610-510). It seems, however, certain, that both Orpheus and Musæus were names of established reputation at the time when Onomakritus flourished; and it is distinctly stated by Pausanias that the latter was himself the author of the most remarkable and characteristic mythe of the Orphic Theogony—the discerption of Zagreus by the Titans, and his resurrection as Dionysos.[45]

The names of Orpheus and Musæus (as well as that of Pythagoras,[46] looking at one side of his character) represent facts of importance in the history of the Grecian mind—the gradual influx of Thracian, Phrygian, and Egyptian, religious ceremonies and feelings, and the increasing diffusion of special mysteries,[47][p. 23] schemes for religious purification, and orgies (I venture to anglicize the Greek word, which contains in its original meaning no implication of the ideas of excess to which it was afterwards diverted) in honor of some particular god—distinct both from the public solemnities and from the gentile solemnities of primitive Greece,—celebrated apart from the citizens generally, and approachable only through a certain course of preparation and initiation—sometimes even forbidden to be talked of in the presence of the uninitiated, under the severest threats of divine judgment. Occasionally such voluntary combinations assumed the form of permanent brotherhoods, bound together by periodical solemnities as well as by vows of an ascetic character: thus the Orphic life (as it was called) or regulation of the Orphic brotherhood, among other injunctions partly arbitrary and partly abstinent, forbade animal food universally, and on certain occasions, the use of woollen clothing.[48] The great religious and political fraternity of the Pythagoreans, which acted so powerfully on the condition of the Italian cities, was one of the many manifestations of this general tendency, which stands in striking contrast with the simple, open-hearted, and demonstrative worship of the Homeric Greeks.

Festivals at seed-time and harvest—at the vintage and at the opening of the new wine—were doubtless coeval with the earliest habits of the Greeks; the latter being a period of unusual joviality. Yet in the Homeric poems, Dionysos and Dêmêtêr, the patrons of the vineyard and the cornfield, are seldom mentioned, and decidedly occupy little place in the imagination of the poet as compared with the other gods: nor are they of any conspicuous importance even in the Hesiodic Theogony. But during the interval between Hesiod and Onomakritus, the revolution in the religious mind of Greece was such as to place both these deities in the front rank. According to the Orphic doctrine, Zagreus, son of Persephonê, is destined to be the successor of Zeus, and although the violence of the Titans intercepts this lot,[p. 24] yet even when he rises again from his discerption under the name of Dionysos, he is the colleague and coëqual of his divine father.

This remarkable change, occurring as it did during the sixth and a part of the seventh century before the Christian æra, may be traced to the influence of communication with Egypt (which only became fully open to the Greeks about B. C. 660), as well as with Thrace, Phrygia, and Lydia. From hence new religious ideas and feelings were introduced, which chiefly attached themselves to the characters of Dionysos and Dêmêtêr. The Greeks identified these two deities with the great Egyptian Osiris and Isis, so that what was borrowed from the Egyptian worship of the two latter naturally fell to their equivalents in the Grecian system.[49] Moreover the worship of Dionysos (under what name cannot be certainly made out) was indigenous in Thrace,[50] as that of the Great Mother was in Phyrgia, and in Lydia—together with those violent ecstasies and manifestations of temporary frenzy, and that clashing of noisy instruments, which we find afterwards characterizing it in Greece. The great masters of the pipe—as well as the dythyramb,[51] and indeed the whole musical system appropriated to the worship of Dionysos, which[p. 25] contrasted so pointedly with the quiet solemnity of the Pæan addressed to Apollo—were all originally Phrygian.

From all these various countries, novelties, unknown to the Homeric men, found their way into the Grecian worship: and there is one amongst them which deserves to be specially noticed, because it marks the generation of the new class of ideas in their theology. Homer mentions many persons guilty of private or involuntary homicide, and compelled either to go into exile or to make pecuniary satisfaction; but he never once describes any of them to have either received or required purification for the crime.[52] Now in the time subsequent to Homer, purification for homicide comes to be considered as indispensable: the guilty person is regarded as unfit for the society of man or the worship of the gods until he has received it, and special ceremonies are prescribed whereby it is to be administered. Herodotus tells us that the ceremony of purification was the same among the Lydians and among the Greeks:[53] we know that it formed no part of the early religion of the latter, and we may perhaps reasonably suspect that they borrowed it from the former. The oldest instance known to us of expiation for homicide was contained in the epic poem of the Milesian Arktinus,[54] wherein Achillês is[p. 26] purified by Odysseus for the murder of Thersitês: several others occurred in the later or Hesiodic epic—Hêraklês, Pêleus, Bellerophôn, Alkmæôn, Amphiktyôn, Pœmander, Triopas,—from whence they probably passed through the hands of the logographers to Apollodôrus, Diodôrus, and others.[55] The purification of the murderer was originally operated, not by the hands of any priest or specially sanctified man, but by those of a chief or king, who goes through the appropriate ceremonies in the manner recounted by Herodotus in his pathetic narrative respecting Crœsus and Adrastus.

The idea of a special taint of crime, and of the necessity as well as the sufficiency of prescribed religious ceremonies as a means of removing it, appears thus to have got footing in Grecian practice subsequent to the time of Homer. The peculiar rites or orgies, composed or put together by Onomakritus, Methapus,[56] and other men of more than the ordinary piety, were founded upon a similar mode of thinking, and adapted to the same mental exigencies. They were voluntary religious manifestations, superinduced upon the old public sacrifices of the king or chiefs on behalf of the whole society, and of the father on his own family hearth—they marked out the details of divine service proper to appease or gratify the god to whom they were addressed, and to procure for the believers who went through them his blessings and protection here or hereafter—the exact performance of the divine service in all its specialty was held necessary, and thus the priests or Hierophants, who alone were familiar with the ritual, acquired a commanding position.[57] Generally speaking, these[p. 27] peculiar orgies obtained their admission and their influence at periods of distress, disease, public calamity and danger, or religious terror and despondency, which appear to have been but too frequent in their occurrence.

The minds of men were prone to the belief that what they were suffering arose from the displeasure of some of the gods, and as they found that the ordinary sacrifices and worship were insufficient for their protection, so they grasped at new suggestions proposed to them with the view of regaining the divine favor.[58] Such suggestions were more usually copied, either in whole or in part, from the religious rites of some foreign locality, or from some other portion of the Hellenic world; and in this manner many new sects or voluntary religious fraternities, promising to relieve the troubled conscience and to reconcile the sick or suffering with the offended gods, acquired permanent establishment as well as considerable influence. They were generally under the superintendence of hereditary families of priests, who imparted the rites of confirmation and purification to communicants generally; no one who went through the prescribed ceremonies being excluded. In many cases, such ceremonies fell into the hands of jugglers, who volunteered their services to wealthy men, and degraded their profession as well by obtrusive venality as by extravagant promises:[59] sometimes the price was lowered[p. 28] to bring them within reach of the poor and even of slaves. But the wide diffusion, and the number of voluntary communicants of these solemnities, proves how much they fell in with the feeling of the time and how much respect they enjoyed—a respect, which the more conspicuous establishments, such as Eleusis and Samothrace, maintained for several centuries. And the visit of the Kretan Epimenidês to Athens—in the time of Solôn, and at a season of the most serious disquietude and dread of having offended the gods—illustrates the tranquillizing effect of new orgies[60] and rites of absolution, when enjoined by a man standing high in the favor of the gods and reputed to be the son of a nymph. The supposed Erythræan Sibyl, and the earliest collection of Sibylline prophecies,[61] afterwards so much multiplied and interpolated, and referred (according to Grecian custom) to an age even earlier than Homer, appear to belong to a date not long posterior to Epimenidês. Other oracular verses, such as those of Bakis, were treasured up in Athens and other cities: the sixth century before the Christian æra was fertile in these kinds of religious manifestations.

Amongst the special rites and orgies of the character just described, those which enjoyed the greatest Pan-Hellenic reputation were attached to the Idæan Zeus in Krête, to Dêmêtêr at Eleusis, to the Kabeiri in Samothrace, and to Dionysos at Delphi[p. 29] and Thebes.[62] That they were all to a great degree analogous, is shown by the way in which they unconsciously run together and become confused in the minds of various authors: the ancient inquirers themselves were unable to distinguish one from the other, and we must be content to submit to the like ignorance. But we see enough to satisfy us of the general fact, that during the century and a half which elapsed between the opening of Egypt to the Greeks and the commencement of their struggle with the Persian kings, the old religion was largely adulterated by importations from Egypt, Asia Minor,[63] and Thrace. The rites grew to be more furious and ecstatic, exhibiting the utmost excitement, bodily as well as mental: the legends became at once more coarse, more tragical, and less pathetic. The manifestations of this frenzy were strongest among the women, whose religious susceptibilities were often found extremely unmanageable,[64] and who had everywhere congregative occasional ceremonies of their own, apart from the men—indeed, in the case of the colonists, especially of the Asiatic colonists, the women had been originally women of the country, and as such retained to a great degree their non-Hellenic manners and feelings.[65] The god Diony[p. 30]sos,[66] whom the legends described as clothed in feminine attire, and leading a troop of frenzied women, inspired a temporary ecstasy, and those who resisted the inspiration, being supposed to disobey his will, were punished either by particular judgments or by mental terrors; while those who gave full loose to the feeling, in the appropriate season and with the received solemnities, satisfied his exigencies, and believed themselves to have procured immunity from such disquietudes for the future.[67] Crowds of women, clothed with fawn-skins and bearing the sanctified thyrsus, flocked to the solitudes of Parnassus, or Kithærôn, or Taygetus, during the consecrated triennial period, passed the night there with torches, and abandoned themselves to demonstrations of frantic excitement, with dancing and clamorous invocation of the god: they were said to tear animals limb from limb, to devour the raw[p. 31] flesh, and to cut themselves without feeling the wound.[68] The men yielded to a similar impulse by noisy revels in the streets, sounding the cymbals and tambourine, and carrying the image of the god in procession.[69] It deserves to be remarked, that the Athenian women never practised these periodical mountain excursions, so common among the rest of the Greeks: they had their feminine solemnities of the Thesmophoria,[70] mournful in their character and accompanied with fasting, and their separate congregations at the temples of Aphroditê, but without any extreme or unseemly demonstrations. The state festival of the Dionysia, in the city of Athens, was celebrated with dramatic entertainments, and the once rich harvest of Athenian tragedy and comedy was thrown up under its auspices. The ceremonies of the Kurêtes in Krête, originally armed dances in honor of the Idæan Zeus, seem also to have borrowed from Asia so much of fury, of self-infliction, and of mysticism, that they became at last inextricably confounded with the Phrygian Korybantes or worshippers of the Great Mother; though it appears that Grecian reserve always stopped short of the irreparable self-mutilation of Atys.

The influence of the Thracian religion upon that of the Greeks cannot be traced in detail, but the ceremonies contained in it were of a violent and fierce character, like the Phrygian, and acted upon Hellas in the same general direction as the latter. And the like may be said of the Egyptian religion, which was in this case the more operative, inasmuch as all the intellectual Greeks were naturally attracted to go and visit the wonders on the banks of the[p. 32] Nile; the powerful effect produced upon them is attested by many evidences, but especially by the interesting narrative of Herodotus. Now the Egyptian ceremonies were at once more licentious, and more profuse in the outpouring both of joy and sorrow, than the Greek;[71] but a still greater difference sprang from the extraordinary power, separate mode of life, minute observances, and elaborate organization, of the priesthood. The ceremonies of Egypt were multitudinous, but the legends concerning them were framed by the priests, and as a general rule, seemingly, known to the priests alone: at least they were not intended to be publicly talked of, even by pious men. They were “holy stories,” which it was sacrilege publicly to mention, and which from this very prohibition only took firmer hold of the minds of the Greek visitors who heard them. And thus the element of secrecy and mystic silence—foreign to Homer, and only faintly glanced at in Hesiod—if it was not originally derived from Egypt, at least received from thence its greatest stimulus and diffusion. The character of the legends themselves was naturally affected by this change from publicity to secrecy: the secrets when revealed would be such as to justify by their own tenor the interdict on public divulgation: instead of being adapted, like the Homeric mythe, to the universal sympathies and hearty interest of a crowd of hearers, they would derive their impressiveness from the tragical, mournful, extravagant, or terror-striking character of the incidents.[72] Such a tendency, which appears explicable and probable even on general grounds, was in this particular case rendered still more certain by the coarse taste of the Egyptian priests. That any recondite doctrine, religious or philosophical, was attached to the mysteries or contained in the holy stories,[p. 33] has never been shown, and is to the last degree improbable though the affirmative has been asserted by many learned men.

Herodotus seems to have believed that the worship and ceremonies of Dionysos generally were derived by the Greeks from Egypt, brought over by Kadmus and taught by him to Melampus: and the latter appears in the Hesiodic Catalogue as having cured the daughters of Prœtus of the mental distemper with which they had been smitten by Dionysos for rejecting his ritual. He cured them by introducing the Bacchic dance and fanatical excitement: this mythical incident is the most ancient mention of the Dionysiac solemnities presented in the same character as they bear in Euripidês. It is the general tendency of Herodotus to apply the theory of derivation from Egypt far too extensively to Grecian institutions: the orgies of Dionysos were not originally borrowed from thence, though they may have been much modified by connection with Egypt as well as with Asia. The remarkable mythe composed by Onomakritus respecting the dismemberment of Zagreus was founded upon an Egyptian tale very similar respecting the body of Osiris, who was supposed to be identical with Dionysos:[73] nor was it unsuitable to the reckless fury of the Bacchanals during their state of temporary excitement, which found a still more awful expression in the mythe of Pentheus,—torn in pieces by his own mother Agavê at the head of her companions in the ceremony, as an intruder upon the feminine rites as well as a scoffer at the god.[74] A passage in the Iliad (the authenticity of which has been contested, but even as an interpolation it must be old)[75] also recounts how Lykurgus was struck blind by Zeus for having chased away with a whip “the nurses of the mad Dionysos,” and frightened the god himself into the sea to take[p. 34] refuge in the arms of Thetis: and the fact, that Dionysos is so frequently represented in his mythes as encountering opposition and punishing the refractory, seems to indicate that his worship under its ecstatic form was a late phænomenon and introduced not without difficulty. The mythical Thracian Orpheus was attached as Eponymos to a new sect, who seem to have celebrated the ceremonies of Dionysos with peculiar care, minuteness and fervor, besides observing various rules in respect to food and clothing. It was the opinion of Herodotus, that these rules, as well as the Pythagorean, were borrowed from Egypt. But whether this be the fact or not, the Orphic brotherhood is itself both an evidence, and a cause, of the increased importance of the worship of Dionysos, which indeed is attested by the great dramatic poets of Athens.

The Homeric Hymns present to us, however, the religious ideas and legends of the Greeks at an earlier period, when the enthusiastic and mystic tendencies had not yet acquired their full development. Though not referable to the same age or to the same author as either the Iliad or the Odyssey, they do to a certain extent continue the same stream of feeling, and the same mythical tone and coloring, as these poems—manifesting but little evidence of Egyptian, Asiatic, or Thracian adulterations. The difference is striking between the god Dionysos as he appears in the Homeric hymn and in the Bacchæ of Euripidês. The hymnographer describes him as standing on the sea-shore, in the guise of a beautiful and richly-clothed youth, when Tyrrhenian pirates suddenly approach: they seize and bind him and drag him on board their vessel. But the bonds which they employ burst spontaneously, and leave the god free. The steersman, perceiving this with affright, points out to his companions that they have unwittingly laid hands on a god,—perhaps Zeus himself, or Apollo, or Poseidôn. He conjures them to desist, and to replace Dionysos respectfully on the shore, lest in his wrath he should visit the ship with wind and hurricane: but the crew deride his scruples, and Dionysos is carried prisoner out to sea with the ship under full sail. Miraculous circumstances soon attest both his presence and his power. Sweet-scented wine is seen to flow spontaneously about the ship, the sail and mast appear adorned with vine and ivy-leaves, and the oar-pegs with garlands.[p. 35] The terrified crew now too late entreat the helmsman to steer his course for the shore, and crowd round him for protection on the poop. But their destruction is at hand: Dionysos assumes the form of a lion—a bear is seen standing near him—this bear rushes with a loud roar upon the captain, while the crew leap overboard in their agony of fright, and are changed into dolphins. There remains none but the discreet and pious steersman, to whom Dionysos addresses words of affectionate encouragement, revealing his name, parentage and dignity.[76]

This hymn, perhaps produced at the Naxian festival of Dionysos, and earlier than the time when the dithyrambic chorus became the established mode of singing the praise and glory of that god, is conceived in a spirit totally different from that of the Bacchic Telatæ, or special rites which the Bacchæ of Euripidês so abundantly extol,—rites introduced from Asia by Dionysos himself at the head of a thiasus or troop of enthusiastic women,—inflaming with temporary frenzy the minds of the women of Thebes,—not communicable except to those who approach as pious communicants,—and followed by the most tragical results to all those who fight against the god.[77] The Bacchic Teletæ, and the Bacchic feminine frenzy, were importations from abroad, as Euripidês represents them, engrafted upon the joviality of the primitive Greek Dionysia; they were borrowed, in all probability, from more than one source and introduced through more than one[p. 36] channel, the Orphic life or brotherhood being one of the varieties. Strabo ascribes to this latter a Thracian original, considering Orpheus, Musæus, and Eumolpus as having been all Thracians.[78] It is curious to observe how, in the Bacchæ of Euripidês, the two distinct and even conflicting ideas of Dionysos come alternately forward; sometimes the old Grecian idea of the jolly and exhilarating god of wine—but more frequently the recent and imported idea of the terrific and irresistible god who unseats the reason, and whose œstrus can only be appeased by a willing, though temporary obedience. In the fanatical impulse which inspired the votaries of the Asiatic Rhea or Cybelê, or of the Thracian Kotys, there was nothing of spontaneous joy; it was a sacred madness, during which the soul appeared to be surrendered to a stimulus from without, and accompanied by preternatural strength and temporary sense of power,[79]—altogether distinct from the unrestrained hilarity of the original Dionysia, as we see them in the rural demes of Attica, or in the gay city of Tarentum. There was indeed a side on which the two bore some analogy, inasmuch as,[p. 37] according to the religious point of view of the Greeks, even the spontaneous joy of the vintage feast was conferred by the favor and enlivened by the companionship of Dionysos. It was upon this analogy that the framers of the Bacchic orgies proceeded but they did not the less disfigure the genuine character of the old Grecian Dionysia.

Dionysos is in the conception of Pindar the Paredros or companion in worship of Dêmêtêr:[80] the worship and religious estimate of the latter has by that time undergone as great a change as that of the former, if we take our comparison with the brief description of Homer and Hesiod: she has acquired[81] much of the awful and soul-disturbing attributes of the Phrygian Cybelê. In Homer, Dêmêtêr is the goddess of the corn-field, who becomes attached to the mortal man Jasiôn; an unhappy passion, since Zeus, jealous of the connection between goddesses and men, puts him to death. In the Hesiodic Theogony, Dêmêtêr is the mother of Persephonê by Zeus, who permits Hadês to carry off the latter as his wife: moreover Dêmêtêr has, besides, by Jasiôn a son called Plutos, born in Krête. Even from Homer to Hesiod, the legend of Dêmêtêr, has been expanded and her dignity exalted; according to the usual tendency of Greek legend, the expansion goes on still further. Through Jasiôn, Dêmêtêr becomes connected with the mysteries of Samothrace; through Persephonê, with those of Eleusis. The former connection it is difficult to follow out in detail, but the latter is explained and traced to its origin in the Homeric Hymn to Dêmêtêr.

[p. 38]Though we find different statements respecting the date as well as the origin of the Eleusinian mysteries, yet the popular belief of the Athenians, and the story which found favor at Eleusis, ascribed them to the presence and dictation of the goddess Dêmêtêr herself; just as the Bacchic rites are, according to the Bacchæ of Euripidês, first communicated and enforced on the Greeks by the personal visit of Dionysos to Thêbes, the metropolis of the Bacchic ceremonies.[82] In the Eleusinian legend, preserved by the author of the Homeric Hymn, she comes voluntarily and identifies herself with Eleusis; her past abode in Krête being briefly indicated.[83] Her visit to Eleusis is connected with the deep sorrow caused by the loss of her daughter Persephonê, who had been seized by Hadês, while gathering flowers in a meadow along with the Oceanic Nymphs, and carried off to become his wife in the under-world. In vain did the reluctant Persephonê shriek and invoke the aid of her father Zeus: he had consented to give her to Hadês, and her cries were heard only by Hekatê and Hêlios. Dêmêtêr was inconsolable at the disappearance of her daughter, but knew not where to look for her: she wandered for nine days and nights with torches in search of the lost maiden without success. At length Hêlios, the “spy of gods and men,” revealed to her, in reply to her urgent prayer, the rape of Persephonê, and the permission given to Hadês by Zeus. Dêmêtêr was smitten with anger and despair: she renounced Zeus and the society of Olympus, abstained from nectar and ambrosia, and wandered on earth in grief and fasting until her form could no longer be known. In this condition she came to Eleusis, then governed by the prince Keleos. Sitting down by a well at the wayside in the guise of an old woman, she was found by the daughters of Keleos, who came hither with their pails of brass for water. In reply to their questions, she told them that she had been brought by pirates from Krête to Thorikos, and had made her escape; she then solicited from them succor and employment as a servant or as a nurse. The damsels prevailed upon their mother Metaneira to receive her, and to entrust her with the[p. 39] nursing of the young Dêmophoôn, their late-born brother, the only son of Keleos. Dêmêtêr was received into the house of Metaneira, her dignified form still borne down by grief: she sat long silent and could not be induced either to smile or to taste food, until the maid-servant Iambê, by jests and playfulness, succeeded in amusing and rendering her cheerful. She would not taste wine, but requested a peculiar mixture of barley-meal with water and the herb mint.[84]

The child Dêmophoôn, nursed by Dêmêtêr, throve and grew up like a god, to the delight and astonishment of his parents: she gave him no food, but anointed him daily with ambrosia, and plunged him at night in the fire like a torch, where he remained unburnt. She would have rendered him immortal, had she not been prevented by the indiscreet curiosity and alarm of Metaneira, who secretly looked in at night, and shrieked with horror at the sight of her child in the fire.[85] The indignant goddess, setting the infant on the ground, now revealed her true character to Metaneira: her wan and aged look disappeared, and she stood confest in the genuine majesty of her divine shape, diffusing a dazzling brightness which illuminated the whole house. “Foolish mother,” she said, “thy want of faith has robbed thy son of immortal life. I am the exalted Dêmêtêr, the charm and comfort both of gods and men: I was preparing for thy son exemption from death and old age; now it cannot be but he must taste of both. Yet shall he be ever honored, since he has sat upon my knee and slept in my arms. Let the people of Eleusis erect for me a temple and altar on yonder hill above the fountain; I will myself prescribe to them the orgies which they must religiously perform in order to propitiate my favor.”[86]

[p. 40]The terrified Metaneira was incapable even of lifting up her child from the ground; her daughters entered at her cries, and began to embrace and tend their infant brother, but he sorrowed and could not be pacified for the loss of his divine nurse. All night they strove to appease the goddess.[87]

Strictly executing the injunctions of Dêmêtêr, Keleos convoked the people of Eleusis and erected the temple on the spot which she had pointed out. It was speedily completed, and Dêmêtêr took up her abode in it,—apart from the remaining gods, still pining with grief for the loss of her daughter, and withholding her beneficent aid from mortals. And thus she remained a whole year,—a desperate and terrible year:[88] in vain did the oxen draw the plough, and in vain was the barley-seed cast into the furrow,—Dêmêtêr suffered it not to emerge from the earth. The human race would have been starved, and the gods would have been deprived of their honors and sacrifice, had not Zeus found means to conciliate her. But this was a hard task; for Dêmêtêr resisted the entreaties of Iris and of all the other goddesses and gods whom Zeus successively sent to her. She would be satisfied with nothing less than the recovery of her daughter. At length Zeus sent Hermês to Hadês, to bring Persephonê away: Persephonê joyfully obeyed, but Hadês prevailed upon her before she departed to swallow a grain of pomegranate, which rendered it impossible for her to remain the whole year away from him.[89]

With transport did Dêmêtêr receive back her lost daughter, and the faithful Hekatê sympathized in the delight felt by both at the reunion.[90] It was now an easier undertaking to reconcile her with the gods. Her mother Rhea, sent down expressly by Zeus, descended from Olympus on the fertile Rharan plain, then smitten with barrenness like the rest of the earth: she succeeded in appeasing the indignation of Dêmêtêr, who consented again to[p. 41] put forth her relieving hand. The buried seed came up in abundance, and the earth was covered with fruit and flowers. She would have wished to retain Persephonê constantly with her, but this was impossible; and she was obliged to consent that her daughter should go down for one-third of each year to the house of Hadês, departing from her every spring at the time when the seed is sown. She then revisited Olympus, again to dwell with the gods; but before her departure, she communicated to the daughters of Keleos, and to Keleos himself, together with Triptolemus, Dioklês and Eumolpus, the divine service and the solemnities which she required to be observed in her honor.[91] And thus began the venerable mysteries of Eleusis, at her special command: the lesser mysteries, celebrated in February, in honor of Persephonê; the greater, in August, to the honor of Dêmêtêr herself. Both are jointly patronesses of the holy city and temple.

Such is a brief sketch of the temple legend of Eleusis, set forth at length in the Homeric Hymn to Dêmêtêr. It is interesting not less as a picture of the Mater Dolorosa (in the mouth of an Athenian, Dêmêtêr and Persephonê were always the Mother and Daughter, by excellence), first an agonized sufferer, and then finally glorified,—the weal and woe of man being dependent upon her kindly feeling,—than as an illustration of the nature and growth of Grecian legend generally. Though we now read this Hymn as pleasing poetry, to the Eleusinians, for whom it was composed, it was genuine and sacred history. They believed in the visit of Dêmêtêr to Eleusis, and in the mysteries as a revelation from her, as implicitly as they believed in her existence and power as a goddess. The Eleusinian psalmist shares this belief in common with his countrymen, and embodies it in a continuous narrative, in which the great goddesses of the place, as well as the great heroic families, figure in inseparable conjunction.[p. 42] Keleos is the son of the Eponymous hero Eleusis, and his daughters, with the old epic simplicity, carry their basins to the well for water. Eumolpus, Triptolemus, Dioklês, heroic ancestors of the privileged families who continued throughout the historical times of Athens to fulfil their special hereditary functions in the Eleusinian solemnities, are among the immediate recipients of inspiration from the goddess; but chiefly does she favor Metaneira and her infant son Dêmophoôn, for the latter of whom her greatest boon is destined, and intercepted only by the weak faith of the mother. Moreover, every incident in the Hymn has a local coloring and a special reference. The well, overshadowed by an olive-tree near which Dêmêtêr had rested, the stream Kallichorus and the temple-hill, were familiar and interesting places in the eyes of every Eleusinian; the peculiar posset prepared from barley-meal with mint was always tasted by the Mysts (or communicants) after a prescribed fast, as an article in the ceremony,—while it was also the custom, at a particular spot in the processional march, to permit the free interchange of personal jokes and taunts upon individuals for the general amusement. And these two customs are connected in the Hymn with the incidents, that Dêmêtêr herself had chosen the posset as the first interruption of her long and melancholy fast, and that her sorrowful thoughts had been partially diverted by the coarse playfulness of the servant-maid Iambê. In the enlarged representation of the Eleusinian ceremonies, which became established after the incorporation of Eleusis with Athens, the part of Iambê herself was enacted by a woman, or man in woman’s attire, of suitable wit and imagination, who was posted on the bridge over the Kephissos, and addressed to the passers-by in the procession,[92] especially the great men of Athens, saucy jeers, probably not less piercing than those of Aristophanês on the stage. The torch-bearing Hekatê received a portion of the worship in the nocturnal ceremonies of the Eleusinia: this too is traced, in the Hymn, to her kind and affectionate sympathy with the great goddesses.

[p. 43]

Though all these incidents were sincerely believed by the Eleusinians as a true history of the past, and as having been the real initiatory cause of their own solemnities, it is not the less certain that they are simply mythes or legends, and not to be treated as history, either actual or exaggerated. They do not take their start from realities of the past, but from realities of the present, combined with retrospective feeling and fancy, which fills up the blank of the aforetime in a manner at once plausible and impressive. What proportion of fact there may be in the legend, or whether there be any at all, it is impossible to ascertain and useless to inquire; for the story did not acquire belief from its approximation to real fact, but from its perfect harmony with Eleusinian faith and feeling, and from the absence of any standard of historical credibility. The little town of Eleusis derived all its importance from the solemnity of the Dêmêtria, and the Hymn which we have been considering (probably at least as old as 600 B. C.) represents the town as it stood before its absorption into the larger unity of Athens, which seems to have produced an alteration of its legends and an increase of dignity in its great festival. In the faith of an Eleusinian, the religious as well as the patriotic antiquities of his native town were connected with this capital solemnity. The divine legend of the sufferings of Dêmêtêr and her visit to Eleusis was to him that which the heroic legend of Adrastus and the Siege of Thêbes was to a Sikyonian, or that of Erechtheus and Athênê to an Athenian grouping together in the same scene and story the goddess and the heroic fathers of the town. If our information were fuller, we should probably find abundance of other legends respecting the Dêmêtria: the Gephyræi of Athens, to whom belonged the celebrated Harmodios and Aristogeitôn, and who possessed special Orgies of Dêmêtêr the Sorrowful, to which no man foreign to their Gens was ever admitted,[93] would doubtless have told stories not only different but contradictory; and even in other Eleusinian mythes we discover Eumolpus as king of Eleusis, son of Poseidôn, and a Thracian, completely different from the character which he bears in the Hymn before us.[94] Neither discrepancies nor want of[p. 44] evidence, in reference to alleged antiquities, shocked the faith of a non-historical public. What they wanted was a picture of the past, impressive to their feelings and plausible to their imagination; and it is important to the reader to remember, while he reads either the divine legends which we are now illustrating or the heroic legends to which we shall soon approach, that he is dealing with a past which never was present,—a region essentially mythical, neither approachable by the critic nor mensurable by the chronologer.

The tale respecting the visit of Dêmêtêr, which was told by the ancient Gens, called the Phytalids,[95] in reference to another temple of Dêmêtêr between Athens and Eleusis, and also by the Megarians in reference to a Dêmêtrion near their city, acquired under the auspices of Athens still further extension. The goddess was reported to have first communicated to Triptolemus at Eleusis the art of sowing corn, which by his intervention was disseminated all over the earth. And thus the Athenians took credit to themselves for having been the medium of communication from the gods to man of all the inestimable blessings of agriculture, which they affirmed to have been first exhibited on the fertile Rharian plain near Eleusis. Such pretensions are not to be found in the old Homeric hymn. The festival of the Thesmophoria, celebrated in honor of Dêmêtêr Thesmophoros at Athens, was altogether different from the Eleusinia, in this material respect, as well as others, that all males were excluded, and women only were allowed to partake in it: the surname Thesmophoros gave occasion to new legends in which the goddess was glorified as the first authoress of laws and legal sanctions to mankind.[96] This festival, for women apart and alone, was also[p. 45] celebrated at Paros, at Ephesus, and in many other parts of Greece.[97]

Altogether, Dêmêtêr and Dionysos, as the Grecian counterparts of the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, seem to have been the great recipients of the new sacred rites borrowed from Egypt, before the worship of Isis in her own name was introduced into Greece: their solemnities became more frequently recluse and mysterious than those of the other deities. The importance of Dêmêtêr to the collective nationality of Greece may be gathered from the fact that her temple was erected at Thermopylæ, the spot where the Amphiktyonic assemblies were held, close by the temple of the Eponymous hero Amphiktyôn himself, and under the surname of the Amphiktyonic Dêmêtêr.[98]

We now pass to another and not less important celestial personage—Apollo.

The legends of Dêlos and Delphi, embodied in the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, indicate, if not a greater dignity, at least a more widely diffused worship of that god than even of Dêmêtêr. The Hymn is, in point of fact, an aggregate of two separate compositions, one emanating from an Ionic bard at Dêlos, the other from Delphi. The first details the birth, the second the mature divine efficiency, of Apollo; but both alike present the unaffected charm as well as the characteristic peculiarities of Grecian mythical narrative. The hymnographer sings, and his hearers accept in perfect good faith, a history of the past; but it is a past, imagined partly as an introductory explanation to the present, partly as a means of glorifying the god. The island of Dêlos was the accredited birth-place of Apollo, and is also the place in which he chiefly delights, where the great and brilliant Ionic festival is periodically convened in his honor. Yet it is a rock narrow, barren, and uninviting: how came so glorious a privilege to be awarded to it? This the poet takes upon himself to explain. Lêtô, pregnant with Apollo, and persecuted by the jealous Hêrê, could find no spot wherein to give birth to her offspring. In vain did she address herself to numerous places in Greece, the Asiatic coast and the intermediate islands; all were[p. 46] terrified at the wrath of Hêrê, and refused to harbor her. As a last resort, she approached the rejected and repulsive island of Dêlos, and promised that, if shelter were granted to her in her forlorn condition, the island should become the chosen resort of Apollo as well as the site of his temple with its rich accompanying solemnities.[99] Dêlos joyfully consented, but not without many apprehensions that the potent Apollo would despise her unworthiness, and not without exacting a formal oath from Lêtô,—who was then admitted to the desired protection, and duly accomplished her long and painful labor. Though Diônê, Rhea, Themis and Amphitritê came to soothe and succor her, yet Hêrê kept away the goddess presiding over childbirth, Eileithyia, and thus cruelly prolonged her pangs. At length Eileithyia came, and Apollo was born. Hardly had Apollo tasted, from the hands of Themis, the immortal food, nectar and ambrosia, when he burst at once his infant bands, and displayed himself in full divine form and strength, claiming his characteristic attributes of the bow and the harp, and his privileged function of announcing beforehand to mankind the designs of Zeus. The promise made by Lêtô to Dêlos was faithfully performed: amidst the numberless other temples and groves which men provided for him, he ever preferred that island as his permanent residence, and there the Ionians with their wives and children, and all their “bravery,” congregated periodically from their different cities to glorify him. Dance and song and athletic contests adorned the solemnity, and the countless ships, wealth, and grace of the multitudinous Ionians had the air of an assembly of gods. The Delian maidens, servants of Apollo, sang hymns to the glory of the god, as well as of Artemis and Lêtô, intermingled with adventures of foregone men and women, to the delight of the listening crowd. The blind itinerant bard of Chios (composer of this the Homeric hymn, and confounded in antiquity with the author of the Iliad) had found honor and acceptance at this festival, and commends himself, in a[p. 47] touching farewell strain, to the remembrance and sympathy of the Delian maidens.[100]

But Dêlos was not an oracular spot: Apollo did not manifest himself there as revealer of the futurities of Zeus. A place must be found where this beneficent function, without which mankind would perish under the innumerable doubts and perplexities of life, may be exercised and rendered available. Apollo himself descends from Olympus to make choice of a suitable site: the hymnographer knows a thousand other adventures of the god which he might sing, but he prefers this memorable incident, the charter and patent of consecration for the Delphian temple. Many different places did Apollo inspect; he surveyed the country of the Magnêtes and the Perrhæbians, came to Iôlkos, and passed over from thence to Eubœa and the plain of Lelanton. But even this fertile spot did not please him: he crossed the Euripus to Bœotia, passed by Teumêssus and Mykalêssus, and the then inaccessible and unoccupied forest on which the city of Thêbes afterwards stood. He next proceeded to Onchêstos, but the grove of Poseidôn was already established there; next across the Kêphissus to Okalea, Haliartus, and the agreeable plain and much-frequented fountain of Delphusa, or Tilphusa. Pleased with the place, Apollo prepared to establish his oracle there, but Tilphusa was proud of the beauty of her own site, and did not choose that her glory should be eclipsed by that of the god.[101] She alarmed him with the apprehension that the chariots which contended in her plain, and the horses and mules which watered at her fountain would disturb the solemnity of his oracle; and she thus induced him to proceed onward to the southern side of Parnassus, overhanging the harbor of Krissa. Here he established his oracle, in the mountainous site not frequented by chariots and horses, and near to a fountain, which however was guarded by a vast and terrific serpent, once the nurse of the monster Typhaôn. This serpent Apollo slew with an arrow, and suffered its body to rot in the sun: hence the name of the place, Pythô,[102] and the surname of the Pythian Apollo. The plan of his temple being marked out, it was built by Trophônios and Agamêdês,[p. 48] aided by a crowd of forward auxiliaries from the neighborhood. He now discovered with indignation, however, that Tilphusa had cheated him, and went back with swift step to resent it. “Thou shalt not thus,” he said, “succeed in thy fraud and retain thy beautiful water; the glory of the place shall be mine, and not thine alone.” Thus saying, he tumbled down a crag upon the fountain, and obstructed her limpid current: establishing an altar for himself in a grove hard by near another spring, where men still worship him as Apollo Tilphusios, because of his severe vengeance upon the once beautiful Tilphusa.[103]

Apollo next stood in need of chosen ministers to take care of his temple and sacrifice, and to pronounce his responses at Pythô. Descrying a ship, “containing many and good men,” bound on traffic from the Minoian Knossus in Krête, to Pylus in Peloponnêsus, he resolved to make use of the ship and her crew for his purpose. Assuming the shape of a vast dolphin, he splashed about and shook the vessel so as to strike the mariners with terror, while he sent a strong wind, which impelled her along the coast of Peloponnêsus into the Corinthian Gulf, and finally to the harbor of Krissa, where she ran aground. The affrighted crew did not dare to disembark: but Apollo was seen standing on the shore in the guise of a vigorous youth, and inquired who they were, and what was their business. The leader of the Krêtans recounted in reply their miraculous and compulsory voyage, when Apollo revealed himself as the author and contriver of it, announcing to them the honorable function and the dignified post to which he destined them.[104] They followed him by his orders to the rocky Pythô on Parnassus, singing the solemn Io-Paian such as it is sung in Krête, while the god himself marched at their head, with his fine form and lofty step, playing on the harp. He showed them the temple and site of the oracle, and directed them to worship him as Apollo Delphinios, because they had first seen him in the shape of a dolphin. “But how,” they inquired, “are we to live in a spot where there is neither corn, nor vine, nor pasturage?” “Ye silly mortals,” answered the god, “who look only for toil and privation, know that an easier lot is yours. Ye shall live by the cattle whom crowds of pious visitors will bring to the temple: ye[p. 49] shall need only the knife to be constantly ready for sacrifice.[105] Your duty will be to guard my temple, and to officiate as ministers at my feasts: but if ye be guilty of wrong or insolence, either by word or deed, ye shall become the slaves of other men, and shall remain so forever. Take heed of the word and the warning.”

Such are the legends of Dêlos and Delphi, according to the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. The specific functions of the god, and the chief localities of his worship, together with the surnames attached to them, are thus historically explained, being connected with his past acts and adventures. Though these are to us only interesting poetry, yet to those who heard them sung they possessed all the requisites of history, and were fully believed as such, not because they were partially founded in reality, but because they ran in complete harmony with the feelings; and, so long as that condition was fulfilled, it was not the fashion of the time to canvass truth or falsehood. The narrative is purely personal, without any discernible symbolized doctrine or allegory, to serve as a supposed ulterior purpose: the particular deeds ascribed to Apollo grow out of the general preconceptions as to his attributes, combined with the present realities of his worship. It is neither history nor allegory, but simple mythe or legend.

The worship of Apollo is among the most ancient, capital, and strongly marked facts of the Grecian world, and widely diffused over every branch of the race. It is older than the Iliad or Odyssey, in the latter of which both Pythô and Dêlos are noted, though Dêlos is not named in the former. But the ancient Apollo is different in more respects than one from the Apollo of later times. He is in an especial manner the god of the Trojans, unfriendly to the Greeks, and especially to Achilles; he has, moreover, only two primary attributes, his bow and his prophetic powers, without any distinct connection either with the harp, or with medicine, or with the sun, all which in later times he came to comprehend. He is not only, as Apollo Karneius, the chief[p. 50] god of the Doric race, but also (under the surname of Patrôus) the great protecting divinity of the gentile tie among the Ionians:[106] he is moreover the guide and stimulus to Grecian colonization, scarcely any colony being ever sent out without encouragement and direction from the oracle at Delphi: Apollo Archêgetês is one of his great surnames.[107] His temple lends sanctity to the meetings of the Amphiktyonic assembly, and he is always in filial subordination and harmony with his father Zeus: Delphi and Olympia are never found in conflict. In the Iliad, the warm and earnest patrons of the Greeks are Hêrê, Athênê, and Poseidôn: here too Zeus and Apollo are seen in harmony, for Zeus is decidedly well-inclined to the Trojans, and reluctantly sacrifices them to the importunity of the two great goddesses.[108] The worship of the Sminthian Apollo, in various parts of the Troad and the neighboring territory, dates before the earliest periods of Æolic colonization:[109] hence the zealous patronage of Troy ascribed to him in the Iliad. Altogether, however, the distribution and partialities of the gods in that poem are different from what they become in later times,—a difference which our means of information do not enable us satisfactorily to explain. Besides the Delphian temple, Apollo had numerous temples throughout Greece, and oracles at Abæ in Phôkis, on the Mount Ptôon, and at Tegyra in Bœotia, where he was said to have been born,[110] at Branchidæ near Milêtus, at Klarus in Asia Minor, and at Patara in Lykia. He was not the only oracular god: Zeus at Dodona and at Olympia gave responses also: the gods or heroes Trophônius, Amphiaraus, Amphilochus, Mopsus, etc., each at his own[p. 51] sanctuary and in his own prescribed manner, rendered the same service.

The two legends of Delphi and Dêlos, above noticed, form of course a very insignificant fraction of the narratives which once existed respecting the great and venerated Apollo. They serve only as specimens, and as very early specimens,[111] to illustrate what these divine mythes were, and what was the turn of Grecian faith and imagination. The constantly recurring festivals of the gods caused an incessant demand for new mythes respecting them, or at least for varieties and reproductions of the old mythes. Even during the third century of the Christian æra, in the time of the rhêtôr Menander, when the old forms of Paganism were waning and when the stock of mythes in existence was extremely abundant, we see this demand in great force; but it was incomparably more operative in those earlier times when the creative vein of the Grecian mind yet retained its pristine and unfaded richness. Each god had many different surnames, temples, groves, and solemnities; with each of which was connected more or less of mythical narrative, originally hatched in the prolific and spontaneous fancy of a believing neighborhood, to be afterwards expanded, adorned and diffused by the song of the poet. The earliest subject of competition[112] at the great Pythian festival was the singing of a hymn in honor of Apollo: other agones were subsequently added, but the ode or hymn constitu[p. 52]ted the fundamental attribute of the solemnity: the Pythia at Sikyôn and elsewhere were probably framed on a similar footing. So too at the ancient and celebrated Charitêsia, or festival of the Charites, at Orchomenos, the rivalry of the poets in their various modes of composition both began and continued as the predominant feature:[113] and the inestimable treasures yet remaining to us of Attic tragedy and comedy, are gleanings from the once numerous dramas exhibited at the solemnity of the Dionysia. The Ephesians gave considerable rewards for the best hymns in honor of Artemis, to be sung at her temple.[114] And the early lyric poets of Greece, though their works have not descended to us, devoted their genius largely to similar productions, as may be seen by the titles and fragments yet remaining.

Both the Christian and the Mahomedan religions have begun during the historical age, have been propagated from one common centre, and have been erected upon the ruins of a different pre-existing faith. With none of these particulars did Grecian Paganism correspond. It took rise in an age of imagination and feeling simply, without the restraints, as well as without the aid, of writing or records, of history or philosophy: it was, as a general rule, the spontaneous product of many separate tribes and localities, imitation and propagation operating as subordinate causes; it was moreover a primordial faith, as far as our means of information enable us to discover. These considerations explain to us two facts in the history of the early Pagan mind: first, the divine mythes, the matter of their religion, constituted also the matter of their earliest history; next, these mythes harmonized with each other only in their general types, but differed incurably in respect of particular incidents. The poet who sung a new adventure of Apollo, the trace of which he might have heard in some remote locality, would take care that it should be agreeable to the general conceptions which his hearers entertained respecting the god. He would not ascribe the cestus or amorous influences to Athênê, nor armed interference and the ægis to Aphroditê; but, provided he maintained this general keeping, he might indulge his fancy without restraint in the particular[p. 53] events of the story.[115] The feelings and faith of his hearers went along with him, and there were no critical scruples to hold them back: to scrutinize the alleged proceedings of the gods was repulsive, and to disbelieve them impious. And thus these divine mythes, though they had their root simply in religious feelings, and though they presented great discrepancies of fact, served nevertheless as primitive matter of history to an early Greek: they were the only narratives, at once publicly accredited and interesting, which he possessed. To them were aggregated the heroic mythes (to which we shall proceed presently),—indeed the two are inseparably blended, gods, heroes and men almost always appearing in the same picture,—analogous both in their structure and their genesis, and differing chiefly in the circumstance that they sprang from the type of a hero instead of from that of a god.

We are not to be astonished if we find Aphroditê, in the Iliad, born from Zeus and Dionê,—and in the Theogony of Hesiod, generated from the foam on the sea after the mutilation of Uranos; nor if in the Odyssey she appears as the wife of Hêphæstos, while in the Theogony the latter is married to Aglaia, and Aphroditê is described as mother of three children by Arês.[116] The Homeric hymn to Aphroditê details the legend of Aphroditê and Anchisês, which is presupposed in the Iliad as the parentage of Æneas: but the author of the hymn, probably sung at one of the festivals of Aphroditê in Cyprus, represents the goddess as ashamed of her passion for a mortal, and as enjoining Anchisês under severe menaces not to reveal who the mother of Æneas was;[117] while in the Iliad she has no scruple in publicly[p. 54] owning him, and he passes everywhere as her acknowledged son. Aphroditê is described in the hymn as herself cold and unimpressible, but ever active and irresistible in inspiring amorous feelings to gods, to men, and to animals. Three goddesses are recorded as memorable exceptions to her universal empire,—Athênê, Artemis, and Hestia or Vesta. Aphroditê was one of the most important of all the goddesses in the mythical world; for the number of interesting, pathetic and tragical adventures deducible from misplaced or unhappy passion was of course very great; and in most of these cases the intervention of Aphroditê was usually prefixed, with some legend to explain why she manifested herself. Her range of action grows wider in the later epic and lyric and tragic poets than in Homer.[118]

Athênê, the man-goddess,[119] born from the head of Zeus, without a mother and without feminine sympathies, is the antithesis partly of Aphroditê, partly of the effeminate or womanized god Dionysos—the latter is an importation from Asia, but Athênê is a Greek conception—the type of composed, majestic and unrelenting force. It appears however as if this goddess had been conceived in a different manner in different parts of Greece. For we find ascribed to her, in some of the legends, attributes of industry and home-keeping; she is represented as the companion[p. 55] of Hêphæstos, patronizing handicraft, and expert at the loom and the spindle: the Athenian potters worshipped her along with Promêtheus. Such traits of character do not square with the formidable ægis and the massive and crushing spear which Homer and most of the mythes assign to her. There probably were at first at least two different types of Athênê, and their coalescence has partially obliterated the less marked of the two.[120] Athênê is the constant and watchful protectress of Hêraklês: she is also locally identified with the soil and people of Athens, even in the Iliad: Erechtheus, the Athenian, is born of the earth, but Athênê brings him up, nourishes him, and lodges him in her own temple, where the Athenians annually worship him with sacrifice and solemnities.[121] It was altogether impossible to make Erechtheus son of Athênê,—the type of the goddess forbade it; but the Athenian mythe-creators, though they found this barrier impassable, strove to approach to it as near as they could, and the description which they give of the birth of Erichthonios, at once un-Homeric and unseemly, presents something like the phantom of maternity.[122]

The huntress Artemis, in Arcadia and in Greece proper generally, exhibits a well-defined type with which the legends respecting her are tolerably consistent. But the Ephesian as well as the Tauric Artemis partakes more of the Asiatic character, and has borrowed the attributes of the Lydian Great Mother as well as of an indigenous Tauric Virgin:[123] this Ephesian Arte[p. 56]mis passed to the colonies of Phokæa and Milêtus.[124] The Homeric Artemis shares with her brother Apollo in the dexterous use of the far-striking bow, and sudden death is described by the poet as inflicted by her gentle arrow. The jealousy of the gods at the withholding of honors and sacrifices, or at the presumption of mortals in contending with them,—a point of character so frequently recurring in the types of the Grecian gods,—manifests itself in the legends of Artemis: the memorable Kalydônian boar is sent by her as a visitation upon Œneus, because he had omitted to sacrifice to her, while he did honor to other gods.[125] The Arcadian heroine Atalanta is however a reproduction of Artemis, with little or no difference, and the goddess is sometimes confounded even with her attendant nymphs.

The mighty Poseidôn, the earth-shaker and the ruler of the sea, is second only to Zeus in power, but has no share in those imperial and superintending capacities which the Father of gods and men exhibits. He numbers a numerous heroic progeny, usually men of great corporeal strength, and many of them belonging to the Æolic race: the great Neleid family of Pylus trace their origin up to him; and he is also the father of Polyphêmus the Cyclôps, whose well-earned suffering he cruelly revenges upon Odysseus. The island of Kalaureia is his Dêlos,[126] and there was held in it an old local Amphiktyony, for the purpose of rendering to him joint honor and sacrifice: the isthmus of Corinth, Helikê in Achaia, and Onchêstos in Bœotia, are also residences which he much affects, and where he is solemnly worshipped. But the abode which he originally and specially selected for himself was the Acropolis of Athens, where by a blow of his trident he produced a well of water in the rock: Athênê came afterwards and claimed the spot for herself, planting in token of possession the olive-tree which stood in the sacred grove of Pandrosos: and the decision either of the autochthonous[p. 57] Cecrops, or of Erechtheus, awarded to her the preference, much to the displeasure of Poseidôn. Either on this account, or on account of the death of his son Eumolpus, slain in assisting the Eleusinians against Erechtheus, the Attic mythes ascribed to Poseidôn great enmity against the Erechtheid family, which he is asserted to have ultimately overthrown: Theseus, whose glorious reign and deeds succeeded to that family, is said to have been really his son.[127] In several other places,—in Ægina, Argos and Naxos,—Poseidôn had disputed the privileges of patron-god with Zeus, Hêrê and Dionysos: he was worsted in all, but bore his defeat patiently.[128] Poseidôn endured a long slavery, in common with Apollo, gods as they were,[129] under Laomedôn, king of Troy, at the command and condemnation of Zeus: the two gods rebuilt the walls of the city, which had been destroyed by Hêraklês. When their time was expired, the insolent Laomedôn withheld from them the stipulated reward, and even accompanied its refusal with appalling threats; and the subsequent animosity of the god against Troy was greatly determined by the sentiment of this injustice.[130] Such periods of servitude, inflicted upon individual gods, are among the most remarkable of all the incidents in the divine legends. We find Apollo on another occasion condemned to serve Admêtus, king of Pheræ, as a punishment for having killed the Cyclôpes, and Hêraklês also is sold as a slave to Omphalê. Even the fierce Arês, overpowered and imprisoned for a long time by the two Alôids,[131] is ultimately liberated only by extraneous aid. Such narratives attest the discursive range of Grecian fancy in reference to the gods, as well as the perfect commingling of things and persons, divine and human, in their conceptions of the past. The god who serves is for the time degraded: but the supreme god who commands the servitude is in the like proportion exalted, whilst the idea of some sort of order and government among these superhuman beings was never lost sight of. Nevertheless the mythes respecting the servitude of the gods became obnoxious afterwards, along with many others, to severe criticism on the part of philosophers.

[p. 58]The proud, jealous, and bitter Hêrê,—the goddess of the once-wealthy Mykênæ, the fax et focus of the Trojan war, and the ever-present protectress of Jasôn in the Argonautic expedition,[132]—occupies an indispensable station in the mythical world. As the daughter of Kronos and wife of Zeus, she fills a throne from whence he cannot dislodge her, and which gives her a right perpetually to grumble and to thwart him.[133] Her unmeasured jealousy of the female favorites of Zeus, and her antipathy against his sons, especially against Hêraklês, has been the suggesting cause of innumerable mythes: the general type of her character stands here clearly marked, as furnishing both stimulus and guide to the mythopœic fancy. The “Sacred Wedding,” or marriage of Zeus and Hêrê, was familiar to epithalamic poets long before it became a theme for the spiritualizing ingenuity of critics.

Hêphæstos is the son of Hêrê without a father, and stands to her in the same relation as Athênê to Zeus: her pride and want of sympathy are manifested by her casting him out at once in consequence of his deformity.[134] He is the god of fire, and especially of fire in its practical applications to handicraft, and is indispensable as the right-hand and instrument of the gods. His skill and his deformity appear alternately as the source of mythical stories: wherever exquisite and effective fabrication is intended to be designated, Hêphæstos is announced as the maker, although in this function the type of his character is reproduced in Dædalos. In the Attic legends he appears intimately united both with Promêtheus and with Athênê, in conjunction with whom he was worshipped at Kolônus near Athens. Lemnos was the favorite residence of Hêphæstos; and if we possessed more knowledge of this island and its town Hêphæstias, we should doubtless find abundant legends detailing his adventures and interventions.

The chaste, still, and home-keeping Hestia, goddess of the family hearth, is far less fruitful in mythical narratives, in spite of her very superior dignity, than the knavish, smooth-tongued, keen, and acquisitive Hermês. His function of messenger of the[p. 59] gods brings him perpetually on the stage, and affords ample scope for portraying the features of his character. The Homeric hymn to Hermês describes the scene and circumstances of his birth, and the almost instantaneous manifestation, even in infancy, of his peculiar attributes; it explains the friendly footing on which he stood with Apollo,—the interchange of gifts and functions between them,—and lastly, the inviolate security of all the wealth and offerings in the Delphian temple, exposed as they were to thieves without any visible protection. Such was the innate cleverness and talent of Hermês, that on the day he was born he invented the lyre, stringing the seven chords on the shell of a tortoise:[135] and he also stole the cattle of Apollo in Pieria, dragging them backwards to his cave in Arcadia, so that their track could not be detected. To the remonstrances of his mother Maia, who points out to him the danger of offending Apollo, Hermês replies, that he aspires to rival the dignity and functions of Apollo among the immortals, and that if his father Zeus refuses to grant them to him, he will employ his powers of thieving in breaking open the sanctuary at Delphi, and in carrying away the gold and the vestments, the precious tripods and vessels.[136] Presently Apollo discovers the loss of his cattle, and after some trouble finds his way to the Kyllênian cavern, where he sees Hermês asleep in his cradle. The child denies the theft with effrontery, and even treats the surmise as a ridiculous impossibility: he persists in such denial even before Zeus, who however detects him at once, and compels him to reveal the place where the cattle are concealed. But the lyre was as yet unknown to Apollo, who has heard nothing except the voice of the Muses and the sound of the pipe. So powerfully is he fascinated by hearing the tones of the lyre from Hermês, and so eager to become possessed of it, that he is willing at once to pardon the past[p. 60] theft, and even to conciliate besides the friendship of Hermês.[137] Accordingly a bargain is struck between the two gods and sanctioned by Zeus. Hermês surrenders to Apollo the lyre, inventing for his own use the syrinx or panspipe, and receiving from Apollo in exchange the golden rod of wealth, with empire over flocks and herds as well as over horses and oxen and the wild animals of the woods. He presses to obtain the gift of prophecy, but Apollo is under a special vow not to impart that privilege to any god whatever: he instructs Hermês however how to draw information, to a certain extent, from the Mœræ or Fates themselves; and assigns to him, over and above, the function of messenger of the gods to Hadês.

Although Apollo has acquired the lyre, the particular object of his wishes, he is still under apprehension that Hermês will steal it away from him again, together with his bow, and he exacts a formal oath by Styx as security. Hermês promises solemnly that he will steal none of the acquisitions, nor ever invade the sanctuary of Apollo; while the latter on his part pledges himself to recognize Hermês as his chosen friend and companion, amongst all the other sons of Zeus, human or divine.[138]

So came to pass, under the sanction of Zeus, the marked favor shown by Apollo to Hermês. But Hermês (concludes the hymnographer, with frankness unusual in speaking of a god) “does very little good: he avails himself of the darkness of night to cheat without measure the tribes of mortal men.”[139]

[p. 61]

Here the general types of Hermês and Apollo, coupled with the present fact that no thief ever approached the rich and seemingly accessible treasures of Delphi, engender a string of expository incidents cast into a quasi-historical form and detailing how it happened that Hermês had bound himself by especial convention to respect the Delphian temple. The types of Apollo seem to have been different in different times and parts of Greece: in some places he was worshipped as Apollo Nomios,[140] or the patron of pasture and cattle; and this attribute, which elsewhere passed over to his son Aristæus, is by our hymnographer voluntarily surrendered to Hermês, combined with the golden rod of fruitfulness. On the other hand, the lyre did not originally belong to the Far-striking King, nor is he at all an inventor: the hymn explains both its first invention and how it came into his possession. And the value of the incidents is thus partly expository, partly illustrative, as expanding in detail the general preconceived character of the Kyllênian god.

To Zeus more amours are ascribed than to any of the other gods,—probably because the Grecian kings and chieftains were especially anxious to trace their lineage to the highest and most glorious of all,—each of these amours having its representative progeny on earth.[141] Such subjects were among the most promising and agreeable for the interest of mythical narrative, and Zeus as a lover thus became the father of a great many legends, branching out into innumerable interferences, for which his sons, all of them distinguished individuals, and many of them persecuted by Hêrê, furnished the occasion. But besides this, the commanding functions of the supreme god, judicial and administrative, extending both over gods and men, was a potent stimulus to the mythopœic activity. Zeus has to watch over his own dignity,—the first of all considerations with a god: moreover as Horkios, Xenios, Ktêsios, Meilichios, (a small proportion of his thousand surnames,) he guaranteed oaths and punished perjurers, he enforced the observance of hospitality, he guarded the family hoard and the crop realized for the year, and he granted expia[p. 62]tion to the repentant criminal.[142] All these different functions created a demand for mythes, as the means of translating a dim, but serious, presentiment into distinct form, both self-explaining and communicable to others. In enforcing the sanctity of the oath or of the tie of hospitality, the most powerful of all arguments would be a collection of legends respecting the judgments of Zeus Horkios or Xenios; the more impressive and terrific such legends were, the greater would be their interest, and the less would any one dare to disbelieve them. They constituted the natural outpourings of a strong and common sentiment, probably without any deliberate ethical intention: the preconceptions of the divine agency, expanded into legend, form a product analogous to the idea of the divine features and symmetry embodied in the bronze or the marble statue.

But it was not alone the general type and attributes of the gods which contributed to put in action the mythopœic propensities. The rites and solemnities forming the worship of each god, as well as the details of his temple and its locality, were a fertile source of mythes, respecting his exploits and sufferings, which to the people who heard them served the purpose of past history. The exegetes, or local guide and interpreter, belonging to each temple, preserved and recounted to curious strangers these traditional narratives, which lent a certain dignity even to the minutiæ of divine service. Out of a stock of materials thus ample, the poets extracted individual collections, such as the “Causes” (Αἴτια) of Kallimachus, now lost, and such as the Fasti of Ovid are for the Roman religious antiquities.[143]

It was the practice to offer to the gods in sacrifice the bones of the victim only, inclosed in fat: how did this practice arise?[p. 63] The author of the Hesiodic Theogony has a story which explains it: Promêtheus tricked Zeus into an imprudent choice, at the period when the gods and mortal men first came to an arrangement about privileges and duties (in Mekônê). Promêtheus, the tutelary representative of man, divided a large steer into two portions: on the one side he placed the flesh and guts, folded up in the omentum and covered over with the skin: on the other, he put the bones enveloped in fat. He then invited Zeus to determine which of the two portions the gods would prefer to receive from mankind. Zeus “with both hands” decided for and took the white fat, but was highly incensed on finding that he had got nothing at the bottom except the bones.[144] Nevertheless the choice of the gods was now irrevocably made: they were not entitled to any portion of the sacrificed animal beyond the bones and the white fat; and the standing practice is thus plausibly explained.[145] I select this as one amongst a thousand instances to illustrate the genesis of legend out of religious practices. In the belief of the people, the event narrated in the legend was the real producing cause of the practice: but when we come to apply a sound criticism, we are compelled to treat the event as existing only in its narrative legend, and the legend itself as having been, in the greater number of cases, engendered by the practice,—thus reversing the supposed order of production.

[p. 64]In dealing with Grecian mythes generally, it is convenient to distribute them into such as belong to the Gods and such as belong to the Heroes, according as the one or the other are the prominent personages. The former class manifests, more palpably than the latter, their real origin, as growing out of the faith and the feelings, without any necessary basis, either of matter of fact or allegory: moreover, they elucidate more directly the religion of the Greeks, so important an item in their character as a people. But in point of fact, most of the mythes present to us Gods, Heroes and Men, in juxtaposition one with the other and the richness of Grecian mythical literature arises from the infinite diversity of combinations thus opened out; first by the three class-types, God, Hero, and Man; next by the strict keeping with which each separate class and character is handled. We shall now follow downward the stream of mythical time, which begins with the Gods, to the Heroic legends, or those which principally concern the Heroes and Heroines; for the latter were to the full as important in legend as the former.


The Hesiodic theogony gives no account of anything like a creation of man, nor does it seem that such an idea was much entertained in the legendary vein of Grecian imagination; which commonly carried back the present men by successive generations to some primitive ancestor, himself sprung from the soil, or from a neighboring river or mountain, or from a god, a nymph, etc. But the poet of the Hesiodic “Works and Days” has given us a narrative conceived in a very different spirit respecting the origin of the human race, more in harmony with the sober and melancholy ethical tone which reigns through that poem.[146]

[p. 65]

First (he tells us) the Olympic gods made the golden race,—good, perfect, and happy men, who lived from the spontaneous abundance of the earth, in ease and tranquillity like the gods themselves: they suffered neither disease nor old age, and their death was like a gentle sleep. After death they became, by the award of Zeus, guardian terrestrial dæmons, who watch unseen over the proceedings of mankind—with the regal privilege of dispensing to them wealth, and taking account of good and bad deeds.[147]

Next, the gods made the silver race,—unlike and greatly inferior, both in mind and body, to the golden. The men of this race were reckless and mischievous towards each other, and disdainful of the immortal gods, to whom they refused to offer either worship or sacrifice. Zeus in his wrath buried them in the earth: but there they still enjoy a secondary honor, as the Blest of the under-world.[148]

Thirdly, Zeus made the brazen race, quite different from the silver. They were made of hard ash-wood, pugnacious and terrible; they were of immense strength and adamantine soul, nor did they raise or touch bread. Their arms, their houses, and their implements were all of brass: there was then no iron. This race, eternally fighting, perished by each other’s hands, died out, and descended without name or privilege to Hadês.[149]

[p. 66]

Next, Zeus made a fourth race, far juster and better than the last preceding. These were the Heroes or demigods, who fought at the sieges of Troy and Thêbes. But this splendid stock also became extinct: some perished in war, others were removed by Zeus to a happier state in the islands of the Blest. There they dwell in peace and comfort, under the government of Kronos, reaping thrice in the year the spontaneous produce of the earth.[150]

The fifth race, which succeeds to the Heroes, is of iron: it is the race to which the poet himself belongs, and bitterly does he regret it. He finds his contemporaries mischievous, dishonest, unjust, ungrateful, given to perjury, careless both of the ties of consanguinity and of the behests of the gods: Nemesis and Ædôs (Ethical Self-reproach) have left earth and gone back to Olympus. How keenly does he wish that his lot had been cast either earlier or later![151] This iron race is doomed to continual guilt, care, and suffering, with a small infusion of good; but the time will come when Zeus will put an end to it. The poet does not venture to predict what sort of race will succeed.

Such is the series of distinct races of men, which Hesiod, or the author of the “Works and Days,” enumerates as having existed down to his own time. I give it as it stands, without placing much confidence in the various explanations which critics have offered. It stands out in more than one respect from the general tone and sentiment of Grecian legend: moreover the sequence of races is neither natural nor homogeneous,—the heroic race not having any metallic denomination, and not occupying any legitimate place in immediate succession to the brazen. Nor is the conception of the dæmons in harmony either with Homer or with the Hesiodic theogony. In Homer, there is scarcely any distinction between gods and dæmons, while the gods[p. 67] are stated to go about and visit the cities of men in various disguises for the purpose of inspecting good and evil proceedings.[152] But in the poem now before us, the distinction between gods and dæmons is generic. The latter are invisible tenants of earth, remnants of the once happy golden race whom the Olympic gods first made: the remnants of the second or silver race are not dæmons, nor are they tenants of earth, but they still enjoy an honorable posthumous existence as the Blest of the under-world. Nevertheless the Hesiodic dæmons are in no way authors or abettors of evil: on the contrary, they form the unseen police of the gods, for the purpose of repressing wicked behavior in the world.

We may trace, I think, in this quintuple succession of earthly races, set forth by the author of the “Works and Days,” the confluence of two veins of sentiment, not consistent one with the other, yet both coëxisting in the author’s mind. The drift of his poem is thoroughly didactic and ethical: though deeply penetrated with the injustice and suffering which darken the face of human life, he nevertheless strives to maintain, both in himself and in others, a conviction that on the whole the just and laborious man will come off well,[153] and he enforces in considerable detail the lessons of practical prudence and virtue. This ethical sentiment, which dictates his appreciation of the present, also guides his imagination as to the past. It is pleasing to him to bridge over the chasm between the gods and degenerate man, by[p. 68] the supposition of previous races,—the first altogether pure, the second worse than the first, and the third still worse than the second; and to show further how the first race passed by gentle death-sleep into glorious immortality; how the second race was sufficiently wicked to drive Zeus to bury them in the under-world, yet still leaving them a certain measure of honor; while the third was so desperately violent as to perish by its own animosities, without either name or honor of any kind. The conception of the golden race passing after death into good guardian dæmons, which some suppose to have been derived from a comparison with oriental angels, presents itself to the poet partly as approximating this race to the gods, partly as a means of constituting a triple gradation of post-obituary existence, proportioned to the character of each race whilst alive. The denominations of gold and silver, given to the first two races, justify themselves, like those given by Simonidês of Amorgos and by Phokylidês to the different characters of women, derived from the dog, the bee, the mare, the ass, and other animals; and the epithet of brazen is specially explained by reference to the material which the pugnacious third race so plentifully employed for their arms and other implements.

So far we trace intelligibly enough the moralizing vein: we find the revolutions of the past so arranged as to serve partly as an ethical lesson, partly as a suitable preface to the present.[154] But fourth in the list comes “the divine race of Heroes:” and here a new vein of thought is opened by the poet. The symmetry of his ethical past is broken up, in order to make way for these cherished beings of the national faith. For though the author of the “Works and Days” was himself of a didactic cast of thought,[p. 69] like Phokylidês, or Solôn, or Theognis, yet he had present to his feelings, in common with his countrymen, the picture of Grecian foretime, as it was set forth in the current mythes, and still more in Homer and those other epical productions which were then the only existing literature and history. It was impossible for him to exclude, from his sketch of the past, either the great persons or the glorious exploits which these poems ennobled; and even if he himself could have consented to such an exclusion, the sketch would have become repulsive to his hearers. But the chiefs who figured before Thêbes and Troy could not be well identified either with the golden, the silver, or the brazen race: moreover it was essential that they should be placed in immediate contiguity with the present race, because their descendants, real or supposed, were the most prominent and conspicuous of existing men. Hence the poet is obliged to assign to them the fourth place in the series, and to interrupt the descending ethical movement in order to interpolate them between the brazen and the iron race, with neither of which they present any analogy. The iron race, to which the poet himself unhappily belongs, is the legitimate successor, not of the heroic, but of the brazen. Instead of the fierce and self-annihilating pugnacity which characterizes the latter, the iron race manifests an aggregate of smaller and meaner vices and mischiefs. It will not perish by suicidal extinction—but it is growing worse and worse, and is gradually losing its vigor, so that Zeus will not vouchsafe to preserve much longer such a race upon the earth.

We thus see that the series of races imagined by the poet of the “Works and Days” is the product of two distinct and incongruous veins of imagination,—the didactic or ethical blending with the primitive mythical or epical. His poem is remarkable as the most ancient didactic production of the Greeks, and as one of the first symptoms of a new tone of sentiment finding its way into their literature, never afterwards to become extinct. The tendency of the “Works and Days” is anti-heroic: far from seeking to inspire admiration for adventurous enterprise, the author inculcates the strictest justice, the most unremitting labor and frugality, and a sober, not to say anxious, estimate of all the minute specialties of the future. Prudence and probity are his means,—practical comfort and[p. 70] happiness his end. But he deeply feels, and keenly exposes, the manifold wickedness and short-comings of his contemporaries, in reference to this capital standard. He turns with displeasure from the present men, not because they are too feeble to hurl either the spear of Achilles or some vast boundary-stone, but because they are rapacious, knavish, and unprincipled.

The dæmons first introduced into the religious atmosphere of the Grecian world by the author of the “Works and Days,” as generically different from the gods, but as essentially good, and as forming the intermediate agents and police between gods and men,—are deserving of attention as the seed of a doctrine which afterwards underwent many changes, and became of great importance, first as one of the constituent elements of pagan faith, then as one of the helps to its subversion. It will be recollected that the buried remnants of the half-wicked silver race, though they are not recognized as dæmons, are still considered as having a substantive existence, a name, and dignity, in the under-world. The step was easy, to treat them as dæmons also, but as dæmons of a defective and malignant character: this step was made by Empedoclês and Xenocratês, and to a certain extent countenanced by Plato.[155] There came thus to be admitted among the pagan philosophers dæmons both good and bad, in every degree: and these dæmons were found available as a means of explaining many phænomena for which it was not convenient to admit the agency of the gods. They served to relieve the gods from the odium of physical and moral evils, as well as from the necessity of constantly meddling in small affairs; and the objectionable ceremonies of the pagan world were defended upon the ground that in no other way could the exigencies of such malignant beings be appeased. They were most frequently noticed as causes of evil, and thus the name (dæmon) came insensibly to convey with it a bad sense,—the idea of an evil being as contrasted with the goodness of a god. So it was found by the Christian writers when they commenced their controversy with paganism. One branch of their argument led them to identify the pagan gods with dæmons in the evil sense, and the insensible change in the received meaning of the word lent them a specious assistance. For they could easily[p. 71] show that not only in Homer, but in the general language of early pagans, all the gods generally were spoken of as dæmons—and therefore, verbally speaking, Clemens and Tatian seemed to affirm nothing more against Zeus or Apollo than was employed in the language of paganism itself. Yet the audience of Homer or Sophoklês would have strenuously repudiated the proposition, if it had been put to them in the sense which the word dæmon bore in the age and among the circle of these Christian writers.

In the imagination of the author of the “Works and Days,” the dæmons occupy an important place, and are regarded as being of serious practical efficiency. When he is remonstrating with the rulers around him upon their gross injustice and corruption, he reminds them of the vast number of these immortal servants of Zeus who are perpetually on guard amidst mankind, and through whom the visitations of the gods will descend even upon the most potent evil doers.[156] His supposition that the dæmons were not gods, but departed men of the golden race, allowed him to multiply their number indefinitely, without too much cheapening the divine dignity.

As this poet has been so much enslaved by the current legends as to introduce the Heroic race into a series to which it does not legitimately belong, so he has under the same influence inserted in another part of his poem the mythe of Pandora and Promêtheus,[157] as a means of explaining the primary diffusion, and actual abundance, of evil among mankind. Yet this mythe can in no way consist with his quintuple scale of distinct races, and is in fact a totally distinct theory to explain the same problem,—the transition of mankind from a supposed state of antecedent happiness to one of present toil and suffering. Such an inconsistency is not a sufficient reason for questioning the genuineness of either passage; for the two stories, though one contradicts the other, both harmonize with that central purpose which governs the author’s mind,—a querulous and didactic appreciation of the present. That such was his purpose appears not only from the whole tenor of his poem, but also from the remarkable fact that his own personality, his own adventures and kindred, and his own sufferings, figure in it conspicuously. And this introduction of self[p. 72] imparts to it a peculiar interest. The father of Hesiod came over from the Æolic Kymê, with the view of bettering his condition, and settled at Askra in Bœotia, at the foot of Mount Helicon. After his death his two sons divided the family inheritance: but Hesiod bitterly complains that his brother Persês cheated and went to law with him, and obtained through corrupt judges an unjust decision. He farther reproaches his brother with a preference for the suits and unprofitable bustle of the agora, at a time when he ought to be laboring for his subsistence in the field. Askra indeed was a miserable place, repulsive both in summer and winter. Hesiod had never crossed the sea, except once from Aulis to Eubœa, whither he went to attend the funeral games of Amphidamas, the chief of Chalkis: he sung a hymn, and gained as prize a tripod, which he consecrated to the muses in Helicon.[158]

These particulars, scanty as they are, possess a peculiar value, as the earliest authentic memorandum respecting the doing or suffering of any actual Greek person. There is no external testimony at all worthy of trust respecting the age of the “Works and Days:” Herodotus treats Hesiod and Homer as belonging to the same age, four hundred years before his own time; and there are other statements besides, some placing Hesiod at an earlier date than Homer, some at a later. Looking at the internal evidences, we may observe that the pervading sentiment, tone and purpose of the poem is widely different from that of the Iliad and Odyssey, and analogous to what we read respecting the compositions of Archilochus and the Amorgian Simonidês. The author of the “Works and Days” is indeed a preacher and not a satirist: but with this distinction, we find in him the same predominance of the present and the positive, the same disposition to turn the muse into an exponent of his own personal wrongs, the same employment of Æsopic fable by way of illustration, and the same unfavorable estimate of the female sex,[159] all of which[p. 73] may be traced in the two poets above mentioned, placing both of them in contrast with the Homeric epic. Such an internal analogy, in the absence of good testimony, is the best guide which we can follow in determining the date of the “Works and Days,” which we should accordingly place shortly after the year 700 B. C. The style of the poem might indeed afford a proof that the ancient and uniform hexameter, though well adapted to continuous legendary narrative or to solemn hymns, was somewhat monotonous when called upon either to serve a polemical purpose or to impress a striking moral lesson. When poets, then the only existing composers, first began to apply their thoughts to the cut and thrust of actual life, aggressive or didactic, the verse would be seen to require a new, livelier and smarter metre; and out of this want grew the elegiac and the iambic verse, both seemingly contemporaneous, and both intended to supplant the primitive hexameter for the short effusions then coming into vogue.


The sons of the Titan god Iapetus, as described in the Hesiodic theogony, are Atlas, Menœtius, Promêtheus and Epimêtheus.[160] Of these, Atlas alone is mentioned by Homer in the Odyssey, and even he not as the son of Iapetus: the latter himself is named in the Iliad as existing in Tartarus along with Kronos. The Homeric Atlas “knows the depths of the whole sea, and keeps by himself those tall pillars which hold the heaven apart from the earth.”[161]

[p. 74]As the Homeric theogony generally appears much expanded in Hesiod, so also does the family of Iapetus, with their varied adventures. Atlas is here described, not as the keeper of the intermediate pillars between heaven and earth, but as himself condemned by Zeus to support the heaven on his head and hands;[162] while the fierce Menœtius is thrust down to Erebus as a punishment for his ungovernable insolence. But the remaining two brothers, Promêtheus and Epimêtheus, are among the most interesting creations of Grecian legend, and distinguished in more than one respect from all the remainder.

First, the main battle between Zeus and the Titan gods is a contest of force purely and simply—mountains are hurled and thunder is launched, and the victory remains to the strongest. But the competition between Zeus and Promêtheus is one of craft and stratagem: the victory does indeed remain to the former, but the honors of the fight belong to the latter. Secondly, Promêtheus and Epimêtheus (the fore-thinker and the after-thinker[163]) are characters stamped at the same mint and by the same effort, the express contrast and antithesis of each other. Thirdly, mankind are here expressly brought forward, not indeed as active partners in the struggle, but as the grand and capital subjects interested,—as gainers or sufferers by the result. Promêtheus appears in the exalted character of champion of the human race, even against the formidable superiority of Zeus.

In the primitive or Hesiodic legend, Promêtheus is not the creator or moulder of man; it is only the later additions which invest him with this character.[164] The race are supposed as exist[p. 75]ing, and Promêtheus, a member of the dispossessed body of Titan gods, comes forward as their representative and defender. The advantageous bargain which he made with Zeus on their behalf, in respect to the partition of the sacrificial animals, has been recounted in the preceding chapter. Zeus felt that he had been outwitted, and was exceeding wroth. In his displeasure he withheld from mankind the inestimable comfort of fire, so that the race would have perished, had not Promêtheus stolen fire, in defiance of the command of the Supreme Ruler, and brought it to men in the hollow of a ferule.[165]

Zeus was now doubly indignant, and determined to play off a still more ruinous stratagem. Hêphæstos, by his direction, moulded the form of a beautiful virgin; Athênê dressed her, Aphroditê and the Charities bestowed upon her both ornament and fascination, while Hermês infused into her the mind of a dog, a deceitful spirit, and treacherous words.[166] The messenger of the gods conducted this “fascinating mischief” to mankind, at a time when Promêtheus was not present. Now Epimêtheus had received from his brother peremptory injunctions not to accept from the hands of Zeus any present whatever; but the beauty of Pandôra (so the newly-formed female was called) was not to be resisted. She was received and admitted among men, and from that moment their comfort and tranquillity was exchanged for suffering of every kind.[167] The evils to which mankind are liable had been before enclosed in a cask in their own keeping: Pandôra in her malice removed the lid of the cask, and out flew these thousand evils and calamities, to exercise forever their destroying force. Hope alone remained imprisoned, and therefore without efficacy, as before—the inviolable lid being replaced before she could escape. Before this incident (says the legend) men had lived without disease or suffering; but now both earth and sea are full of mischiefs, while maladies of every description stalk abroad by day as well as by night,[168] without any hope for man of relief to come.

[p. 76]The Theogony gives the legend here recounted, with some variations—leaving out the part of Epimêtheus altogether, as well as the cask of evils. Pandôra is the ruin of man, simply as the mother and representative of the female sex.[169] And the variations are thus useful, as they enable us to distinguish the essential from the accessory circumstances of the story.

“Thus (says the poet, at the conclusion of his narrative) it is not possible to escape from the purposes of Zeus.”[170] His mythe, connecting the calamitous condition of man with the malevolence of the supreme god, shows, first, by what cause such an unfriendly feeling was raised; next, by what instrumentality its deadly results were brought about. The human race are not indeed the creation, but the protected flock of Promêtheus, one of the elder or dispossessed Titan gods: when Zeus acquires supremacy, mankind along with the rest become subject to him, and are to make the best bargain they can respecting worship and service to be yielded. By the stratagem of their advocate Promêtheus, Zeus[p. 77] is cheated into such a partition of the victims as is eminently unprofitable to him; whereby his wrath is so provoked, that he tries to subtract from man the use of fire. Here however his scheme is frustrated by the theft of Promêtheus: but his second attempt is more successful, and he in his turn cheats the unthinking Epimêtheus into the acceptance of a present (in spite of the peremptory interdict of Promêtheus) by which the whole of man’s happiness is wrecked. This legend grows out of two feelings; partly as to the relations of the gods with man, partly as to the relation of the female sex with the male. The present gods are unkind towards man, but the old gods, with whom man’s lot was originally cast, were much kinder—and the ablest among them stands forward as the indefatigable protector of the race. Nevertheless, the mere excess of his craft proves the ultimate ruin of the cause which he espouses. He cheats Zeus out of a fair share of the sacrificial victim, so as both to provoke and justify a retaliation which he cannot be always at hand to ward off: the retaliation is, in his absence, consummated by a snare laid for Epimêtheus and voluntarily accepted. And thus, though Hesiod ascribes the calamitous condition of man to the malevolence of Zeus, his piety suggests two exculpatory pleas for the latter: mankind have been the first to defraud Zeus of his legitimate share of the sacrifice—and they have moreover been consenting parties to their own ruin. Such are the feelings, as to the relation between the gods and man, which have been one of the generating elements of this legend. The other element, a conviction of the vast mischief arising to man from women, whom yet they cannot dispense with, is frequently and strongly set forth in several of the Greek poets—by Simonidês of Amorgos and Phokylidês, not less than by the notorious misogynist Euripidês.

But the miseries arising from woman, however great they might be, did not reach Promêtheus himself. For him, the rash champion who had ventured “to compete in sagacity”[171] with Zeus, a different punishment was in store. Bound by heavy chains to a pillar, he remained fast imprisoned for several generations: every day did an eagle prey upon his liver, and every night did the liver grow afresh for the next day’s suffering. At[p. 78] length Zeus, eager to enhance the glory of his favorite son Hêraclês, permitted the latter to kill the eagle and rescue the captive.[172]

Such is the Promêthean mythe as it stands in the Hesiodic poems; its earliest form, as far as we can trace. Upon it was founded the sublime tragedy of Æschylus, “The Enchained Promêtheus,” together with at least one more tragedy, now lost, by the same author.[173] Æschylus has made several important alterations; describing the human race, not as having once enjoyed and subsequently lost a state of tranquillity and enjoyment, but as originally feeble and wretched. He suppresses both the first trick played off by Promêtheus upon Zeus respecting the partition of the victim—and the final formation and sending of Pandôra—which are the two most marked portions of the Hesiodic story; while on the other hand he brings out prominently and enlarges upon the theft of fire,[174] which in Hesiod is but slightly touched. If he has thus relinquished the antique simplicity of the story, he has rendered more than ample compensation by imparting to it a grandeur of idéal, a large reach of thought combined with appeals to our earnest and admiring sympathy, and a pregnancy of suggestion in regard to the relations between the gods and man, which soar far above the Hesiodic level—and which render his tragedy the most impressive, though not the most artistically composed, of all Grecian dramatic productions. Promêtheus there appears not only as the heroic champion and sufferer in the cause and for the protection of the human race, but also as the gifted teacher of all the arts, helps, and ornaments of life, amongst which fire is only one:[175] all this against the will and in defiance of the purpose of Zeus, who, on acquiring his empire, wished to destroy the human race and to[p. 79] beget some new breed.[176] Moreover, new relations between Promêtheus and Zeus are superadded by Æschylus. At the commencement of the struggle between Zeus and the Titan gods, Promêtheus had vainly attempted to prevail upon the latter to conduct it with prudence; but when he found that they obstinately declined all wise counsel, and that their ruin was inevitable, he abandoned their cause and joined Zeus. To him and to his advice Zeus owed the victory: yet the monstrous ingratitude and tyranny of the latter is now manifested by nailing him to a rock, for no other crime than because he frustrated the purpose of extinguishing the human race, and furnished to them the means of living with tolerable comfort.[177] The new ruler Zeus, insolent with his victory over the old gods, tramples down all right, and sets at naught sympathy and obligation, as well towards gods as towards man. Yet the prophetic Promêtheus, in the midst of intense suffering, is consoled by the foreknowledge that the time will come when Zeus must again send for him, release him, and invoke his aid, as the sole means of averting from himself dangers otherwise insurmountable. The security and means of continuance for mankind have now been placed beyond the reach of Zeus—whom Promêtheus proudly defies, glorying in his generous and successful championship,[178] despite the terrible price which he is doomed to pay for it.

As the Æschylean Promêtheus, though retaining the old lineaments, has acquired a new coloring, soul and character, so he has also become identified with a special locality. In Hesiod, there is no indication of the place in which he is imprisoned; but Æschylus places it in Scythia,[179] and the general belief of the Greeks supposed it to be on Mount Caucasus. So long and so firmly did[p. 80] this belief continue, that the Roman general Pompey, when in command of an army in Kolchis, made with his companion, the literary Greek Theophanês, a special march to view the spot in Caucasus where Promêtheus had been transfixed.[180]


Having briefly enumerated the gods of Greece, with their chief attributes as described in legend, we come to those genealogies which connected them with historical men.

In the retrospective faith of a Greek, the ideas of worship and ancestry coalesced. Every association of men, large or small, in whom there existed a feeling of present union, traced back that union to some common initial progenitor; that progenitor being either the common god whom they worshipped, or some semi-divine person closely allied to him. What the feelings of the community require is, a continuous pedigree to connect them with this respected source of existence, beyond which they do not think of looking back. A series of names, placed in filiation or fraternity, together with a certain number of family or personal adventures ascribed to some of the individuals among them, constitute the ante-historical past through which the Greek looks back to his gods. The names of this genealogy are, to a great degree, gentile or local names familiar to the people,—rivers, mountains, springs, lakes, villages, demes, etc.,—embodied as persons, and introduced as acting or suffering. They are moreover called kings or chiefs, but the existence of a body of subjects surrounding them is tacitly implied rather than distinctly set forth; for their own personal exploits or family proceedings constitute for the most part the whole matter of narrative. And thus the gene[p. 81]alogy was made to satisfy at once the appetite of the Greeks for romantic adventure, and their demand for an unbroken line of filiation between themselves and the gods. The eponymous personage, from whom the community derive their name, is sometimes the begotten son of the local god, sometimes an indigenous man sprung from the earth, which is indeed itself divinized.

It will be seen from the mere description of these genealogies that they included elements human and historical, as well as elements divine and extra-historical. And if we could determine the time at which any genealogy was first framed, we should be able to assure ourselves that the men then represented as present, together with their fathers and grandfathers, were real persons of flesh and blood. But this is a point which can seldom be ascertained; moreover, even if it could be ascertained, we must at once set it aside, if we wish to look at the genealogy in the point of view of the Greeks. For to them, not only all the members were alike real, but the gods and heroes at the commencement were in a certain sense the most real; at least, they were the most esteemed and indispensable of all. The value of the genealogy consisted, not in its length, but in its continuity; not (according to the feeling of modern aristocracy) in the power of setting out a prolonged series of human fathers and grandfathers, but in the sense of ancestral union with the primitive god. And the length of the series is traceable rather to humility, inasmuch as the same person who was gratified with the belief that he was descended from a god in the fifteenth generation, would have accounted it criminal insolence to affirm that a god was his father or grandfather. In presenting to the reader those genealogies which constitute the supposed primitive history of Hellas, I make no pretence to distinguish names real and historical from fictitious creations; partly because I have no evidence upon which to draw the line, and partly because by attempting it I should altogether depart from the genuine Grecian point of view.

Nor is it possible to do more than exhibit a certain selection of such as were most current and interesting; for the total number of them which found place in Grecian faith exceeds computation. As a general rule, every deme, every gens, every aggregate of men accustomed to combined action, religious or political, had its own. The small and unimportant demes into which Attica was[p. 82] divided had each its ancestral god and heroes, just as much as the great Athens herself. Even among the villages of Phokis, which Pausanias will hardly permit himself to call towns, deductions of legendary antiquity were not wanting. And it is important to bear in mind, when we are reading the legendary genealogies of Argos, or Sparta, or Thêbes, that these are merely samples amidst an extensive class, all perfectly analogous, and all exhibiting the religious and patriotic retrospect of some fraction of the Hellenic world. They are no more matter of historical tradition than any of the thousand other legendary genealogies which men delighted to recall to memory at the periodical festivals of their gens, their deme, or their village.

With these few prefatory remarks, I proceed to notice the most conspicuous of the Grecian heroic pedigrees, and first, that of Argos.

The earliest name in Argeian antiquity is that of Inachus, the son of Oceanus and Têthys, who gave his name to the river flowing under the walls of the town. According to the chronological computations of those who regarded the mythical genealogies as substantive history, and who allotted a given number of years to each generation, the reign of Inachus was placed 1986 B. C., or about 1100 years prior to the commencement of the recorded Olympiads.[181]

The sons of Inachus were Phorôneus and Ægialeus; both of whom however were sometimes represented as autochthonous men, the one in the territory of Argos, the other in that of Sikyôn. Ægialeus gave his name to the north-western region of the Peloponnêsus, on the southern coast of the Corinthian Gulf.[182] The name of Phorôneus was of great celebrity in the Argeian mythical genealogies, and furnished both the title and the subject of the ancient poem called Phorônis, in which he is styled “the father of mortal men.”[183] He is said to have imparted to[p. 83] mankind, who had before him lived altogether isolated, the first notion and habits of social existence, and even the first knowledge of fire: his dominion extended over the whole Peloponnêsus. His tomb at Argos, and seemingly also the place called the Phorônic city, in which he formed the first settlement of mankind, were still shown in the days of Pausanias.[184] The offspring of Phorôneus, by the nymph Teledikê, were Apis and Niobê. Apis, a harsh ruler, was put to death by Thelxiôn and Telchin, having given to Peloponnêsus the name of Apia:[185] he was succeeded by Argos, the son of his sister Niobê by the god Zeus. From this sovereign Peloponnêsus was denominated Argos. By his wife Evadnê, daughter of Strymôn,[186] he had four sons, Ekbasus, Peiras, Epidaurus, and Kriasus. Ekbasus was succeeded by his son Agênôr, and he again by his son Argos Panoptês,—a[p. 84] very powerful prince who is said to have had eyes distributed over all his body, and to have liberated Peloponnêsus from several monsters and wild animals which infested it:[187] Akusilaus and Æschylus make this Argos an earth-born person, while Pherekydês reports him as son of Arestôr. Iasus was the son of Argos Panoptês by Ismênê, daughter of Asôpus. According to the authors whom Apollodôrus and Pausanias prefer, the celebrated Iô was his daughter: but the Hesiodic epic (as well as Akusilaus) represented her as daughter of Peiras, while Æschylus and Kastor the chronologist affirmed the primitive king Inachus to have been her father.[188] A favorite theme, as well for the ancient genealogical poets as for the Attic tragedians, were the adventures of Iô, of whom, while priestess of Hêrê, at the ancient and renowned Hêræon between Mykênæ and Argos, Zeus became amorous. When Hêrê discovered the intrigue and taxed him with it, he denied the charge, and metamorphosed Iô into a white cow. Hêrê, requiring that the cow should be surrendered to her, placed her under the keeping of Argos Panoptês; but this guardian was slain by Hermês, at the command of Zeus: and Hêrê then drove the cow Iô away from her native land by means of the incessant stinging of a gad-fly, which compelled her to wander without repose or sustenance over an immeasurable extent of foreign regions. The wandering Iô gave her name to the Ionian Gulf, traversed Epirus and Illyria, passed the chain of Mount Hæmus and the lofty summits of Caucasus, and swam across the Thracian or Cimmerian Bosporus (which also from her derived its appellation) into Asia. She then went through Scythia, Cimmeria, and many Asiatic regions, until she arrived in Egypt, where Zeus at length bestowed upon her rest, restored her to her original form, and enabled her to give birth to his black son Epaphos.[189]

[p. 85]Such is a general sketch of the adventures which the ancient poets, epic, lyric, and tragic, and the logographers after them, connect with the name of the Argeian Iô,—one of the numerous tales which the fancy of the Greeks deduced from the amorous dispositions of Zeus and the jealousy of Hêrê. That the scene should be laid in the Argeian territory appears natural, when we recollect that both Argos and Mykênæ were under the special guardianship of Hêrê, and that the Hêræon between the two was one of the oldest and most celebrated temples in which she was worshipped. It is useful to compare this amusing fiction with the representation reported to us by Herodotus, and derived by him as well from Phœnician as from Persian antiquarians, of the circumstances which occasioned the transit of Iô from Argos to Egypt,—an event recognized by all of them as historical matter of fact. According to the Persians, a Phœnician vessel had arrived at the port near Argos, freighted with goods intended for sale to the inhabitants of the country. After the vessel had remained a few days, and disposed of most of her cargo, several[p. 86] Argeian women, and among them Iô the king’s daughter, coming on board to purchase, were seized and carried off by the crew, who sold Iô in Egypt.[190] The Phœnician antiquarians, however, while they admitted the circumstance that Iô had left her own country in one of their vessels, gave a different color to the whole by affirming that she emigrated voluntarily, having been engaged in an amour with the captain of the vessel, and fearing that her parents might come to the knowledge of her pregnancy. Both Persians and Phœnicians described the abduction of Iô as the first of a series of similar acts between Greeks and Asiatics, committed each in revenge for the preceding. First came the rape of Eurôpê from Phœnicia by Grecian adventurers,—perhaps, as Herodotus supposed, by Krêtans: next, the abduction of Mêdeia from Kolchis by Jasôn, which occasioned the retaliatory act of Paris, when he stole away Helena from Menelaos. Up to this point the seizures of women by Greeks from Asiatics, and by Asiatics from Greeks, had been equivalents both in number and in wrong. But the Greeks now thought fit to equip a vast conjoint expedition to recover Helen, in the course of which they took and sacked Troy. The invasions of Greece by Darius and Xerxes were intended, according to the Persian antiquarians, as a long-delayed retribution for the injury inflicted on the Asiatics by Agamemnôn and his followers.[191]

The account thus given of the adventures of Iô, when contrasted with the genuine legend, is interesting, as it tends to illus[p. 87]trate the phænomenon which early Grecian history is constantly presenting to us,—the way in which the epical furniture of an unknown past is recast and newly colored so as to meet those changes which take place in the retrospective feelings of the present. The religious and poetical character of the old legend disappears: nothing remains except the names of persons and places, and the voyage from Argos to Egypt: we have in exchange a sober, quasi-historical narrative, the value of which consists in its bearing on the grand contemporary conflicts between Persia and Greece, which filled the imagination of Herodotus and his readers.

To proceed with the genealogy of the kings of Argos, Iasus was succeeded by Krotôpus, son of his brother Agênôr; Krotôpus by Sthenelas, and he again by Gelanôr.[192] In the reign of the latter, Danaos came with his fifty daughters from Egypt to Argos; and here we find another of those romantic adventures which so agreeably decorate the barrenness of the mythical genealogies. Danaos and Ægyptos were two brothers descending from Epaphos, son of Iô: Ægyptos had fifty sons, who were eager to marry the fifty daughters of Danaos, in spite of the strongest repugnance of the latter. To escape such a necessity, Danaos placed his fifty daughters on board of a penteconter (or vessel with fifty oars) and sought refuge at Argos; touching in his voyage at the island of Rhodes, where he erected a statue of Athênê at Lindos, which was long exhibited as a memorial of his[p. 88] passage. Ægyptos and his sons followed them to Argos and still pressed their suit, to which Danaos found himself compelled to assent; but on the wedding night he furnished each of his daughters with a dagger, and enjoined them to murder their husbands during the hour of sleep. His orders were obeyed by all, with the single exception of Hypermnêstra, who preserved her husband Lynkeus, incurring displeasure and punishment from her father. He afterwards, however, pardoned her; and when, by the voluntary abdication of Gelanôr, he became king of Argos, Lynkeus was recognized as his son-in-law and ultimately succeeded him. The remaining daughters, having been purified by Athênê and Hermês, were given in marriage to the victors in a gymnic contest publicly proclaimed. From Danaos was derived the name of Danai, applied to the inhabitants of the Argeian territory,[193] and to the Homeric Greeks generally.

From the legend of the Danaïdes we pass to two barren names of kings, Lynkeus and his son Abas. The two sons of Abas were Akrisios and Prœtos, who, after much dissension, divided between them the Argeian territory; Akrisios ruling at Argos, and Prœtos at Tiryns. The families of both formed the theme of romantic stories. To pass over for the present the legend of Bellerophôn, and the unrequited passion which the wife of Prœtos conceived for him, we are told that the daughters of Prœtos, beautiful, and solicited in marriage by suitors from all Greece, were smitten with leprosy and driven mad, wandering in unseemly guise throughout Peloponnêsus. The visitation had overtaken them, according to Hesiod, because they refused to take part in the Bacchic rites; according to Pherekydês and the Argeian Akusilaus,[194] because they had treated scornfully the wooden statue[p. 89] and simple equipments of Hêrê: the religious character of the old legend here displays itself in a remarkable manner. Unable to cure his daughters, Prœtos invoked the aid of the renowned Pylian prophet and leech, Melampus son of Amythaôn, who undertook to remove the malady on condition of being rewarded with the third part of the kingdom. Prœtos indignantly refused these conditions: but the state of his daughters becoming aggravated and intolerable, he was compelled again to apply to Melampus; who, on the second request, raised his demands still higher, and required another third of the kingdom for his brother Bias. These terms being acceded to, he performed his part of the covenant. He appeased the wrath of Hêrê by prayer and sacrifice; or, according to another account, he approached the deranged women at the head of a troop of young men, with shouting and ecstatic dance,—the ceremonies appropriate to the Bacchic worship of Dionysos,—and in this manner effected their cure. Melampus, a name celebrated in many different Grecian mythes, is the legendary founder and progenitor of a great and long-continued family of prophets. He and his brother Bias became kings of separate portions of the Argeian territory: he is recognized as ruler there even in the Odyssey, and the prophet Theoklymenos, his grandson, is protected and carried to Ithaca by Telemachus.[195] Herodotus also alludes to the cure of the women, and to the double kingdom of Melampus and Bias in the Argeian land: he recognizes Melampus as the first person who introduced to the knowledge of the Greeks the name and worship of Dionysos, with its appropriate sacrifices and phallic processions. Here again he historicizes various features of the old legend in a manner not unworthy of notice.[196]

But Danaê, the daughter of Akrisios, with her son Perseus[p. 90] acquired still greater celebrity than her cousins the Prœtides. An oracle had apprized Akrisios that his daughter would give birth to a son by whose hand he would himself be slain. To guard against this danger, he imprisoned Danaê in a chamber of brass under ground. But the god Zeus had become amorous of her, and found means to descend through the roof in the form of a shower of gold: the consequence of his visits was the birth of Perseus. When Akrisios discovered that his daughter had given existence to a son, he enclosed both the mother and the child in a coffer, which he cast into the sea.[197] The coffer was carried to the isle of Seriphos, where Diktys, brother of the king Polydektês, fished it up, and rescued both Danaê and Perseus. The exploits of Perseus, when he grew up, against the three Phorkides or daughters of Phorkys, and the three Gorgons, are among the most marvellous and imaginative in all Grecian legend: they bear a stamp almost Oriental. I shall not here repeat the details of those unparalleled hazards which the special favor of Athênê enabled him to overcome, and which ended in his bringing back from Libya the terrific head of the Gorgon Medusa, endued with the property of turning every one who looked upon it into stone. In his return, he rescued Andromeda, daughter of Kêpheus, who had been exposed to be devoured by a sea-monster, and brought her back as his wife. Akrisios trembled to see him after this victorious expedition, and retired into Thessaly to avoid him; but Perseus followed him thither, and having succeeded in calming his apprehensions, became competitor in a gymnic contest where his grandfather was among the spectators. By an incautious swing of his quoit, he unintentionally struck Akrisios, and caused his death: the predictions of the oracle were thus at last fulfilled. Stung with remorse at the catastrophe, and unwilling to return to Argos, which had been the principality of Akrisios, Perseus made an exchange with Megapenthês, son of Prœtos king of Tiryns. Megapenthês became king of Argos, and Perseus of Tiryns: moreover, the latter founded, within ten miles of Argos, the far-famed city of Mykênæ. The massive walls of this city,[p. 91] like those of Tiryns, of which remains are yet to be seen, were built for him by the Lykian Cyclôpes.[198]

We here reach the commencement of the Perseid dynasty of Mykênæ. It should be noticed, however, that there were among the ancient legends contradictory accounts of the foundation of this city. Both the Odyssey and the Great Eoiai enumerated, among the heroines, Mykênê, the Eponyma of the city; the former poem classifying her with Tyrô and Alkmênê, the latter describing her as the daughter of Inachus and wife of Arestôr. And Akusilaus mentioned an Eponymus Mykêneus, the son of Spartôn and grandson of Phorôneus.[199]

The prophetic family of Melampus maintained itself in one of the three parts of the divided Argeian kingdom for five generations, down to Amphiaraos and his sons Alkmæôn and Amphilochos. The dynasty of his brother Bias, and that of Megapenthês, son of Prœtos, continued each for four generations: a list of barren names fills up the interval.[200] The Perseids of Mykênæ boasted a descent long and glorious, heroic as well as historical, continuing down to the last sovereigns of Sparta.[201] The issue of Perseus was numerous: his son Alkæos was father of Amphitryôn; another of his sons, Elektryôn, was father of Alkmênê;[202] a third, Sthenelos, father of Eurystheus.

After the death of Perseus, Alkæos and Amphitryôn dwelt at Tiryns. The latter became engaged in a quarrel with Elektryôn[p. 92] respecting cattle, and in a fit of passion killed him:[203] moreover the piratical Taphians from the west coast of Akarnania invaded the country, and slew the sons of Elektryôn, so that Alkmênê alone was left of that family. She was engaged to wed Amphitryôn; but she bound him by oath not to consummate the marriage until he had avenged upon the Têleboæ the death of her brothers. Amphitryôn, compelled to flee the country as the murderer of his uncle, took refuge in Thêbes, whither Alkmênê accompanied him: Sthenelos was left in possession of Tiryns. The Kadmeians of Thêbes, together with the Locrians and Phocians, supplied Amphitryôn with troops, which he conducted against the Têleboæ and the Taphians:[204] yet he could not have subdued them without the aid of Komæthô, daughter of the Taphian king Pterelaus, who conceived a passion for him, and cut off from her father’s head the golden lock to which Poseidôn had attached the gift of immortality.[205] Having conquered and expelled his enemies, Amphitryôn returned to Thêbes, impatient to consummate his marriage: but Zeus on the wedding-night assumed his form and visited Alkmênê before him: he had determined to produce from her a son superior to all his prior offspring,—“a specimen of invincible force both to gods and men.”[206] At the proper time, Alkmênê was delivered of twin sons: Hêraklês the offspring of Zeus,—the inferior and unhonored Iphiklês, offspring of Amphitryôn.[207]

When Alkmênê was on the point of being delivered at Thêbes, Zeus publicly boasted among the assembled gods, at the instigation of the mischief-making Atê, that there was on that day about[p. 93] to be born on earth, from his breed, a son who should rule over all his neighbors. Hêrê treated this as an empty boast, calling upon him to bind himself by an irremissible oath that the prediction should be realized. Zeus incautiously pledged his solemn word; upon which Hêrê darted swiftly down from Olympus to the Achaic Argos, where the wife of Sthenelos (son of Perseus, and therefore grandson of Zeus) was already seven months gone with child. By the aid of the Eileithyiæ, the special goddesses of parturition, she caused Eurystheus, the son of Sthenelos, to be born before his time on that very day, while she retarded the delivery of Alkmênê. Then returning to Olympus, she announced the fact to Zeus: “The good man Eurystheus, son of the Perseid Sthenelos, is this day born of thy loins: the sceptre of the Argeians worthily belongs to him.” Zeus was thunderstruck at the consummation which he had improvidently bound himself to accomplish. He seized Atê his evil counsellor by the hair, and hurled her forever away from Olympus: but he had no power to avert the ascendency of Eurystheus and the servitude of Hêraklês. “Many a pang did he suffer, when he saw his favorite son going through his degrading toil in the tasks imposed upon him by Eurystheus.”[208]

The legend, of unquestionable antiquity, here transcribed from the Iliad, is one of the most pregnant and characteristic in the Grecian mythology. It explains, according to the religious ideas familiar to the old epic poets, both the distinguishing attributes and the endless toil and endurances of Hêraklês,—the most renowned and most ubiquitous of all the semi-divine personages worshipped by the Hellênes,—a being of irresistible force, and especially beloved by Zeus, yet condemned constantly to labor for others and to obey the commands of a worthless and cowardly persecutor. His recompense is reserved to the close of his career, when his afflicting trials are brought to a close: he is then admitted to the godhead and receives in marriage Hêbê.[209] The[p. 94] twelve labors, as they are called, too notorious to be here detailed, form a very small fraction of the exploits of this mighty being, which filled the Hêrakleian epics of the ancient poets. He is found not only in most parts of Hellas, but throughout all the other regions then known to the Greeks, from Gadês to the river Thermôdôn in the Euxine and to Scythia, overcoming all difficulties and vanquishing all opponents. Distinguished families are everywhere to be traced who bear his patronymic, and glory in the belief that they are his descendants. Among Achæans, Kadmeians, and Dôrians, Hêraklês is venerated: the latter especially treat him as their principal hero,—the Patron Hero-God of the race: the Hêrakleids form among all Dôrians a privileged gens, in which at Sparta the special lineage of the two kings was included.

His character lends itself to mythes countless in number as well as disparate in their character. The irresistible force remains constant, but it is sometimes applied with reckless violence against friends as well as enemies, sometimes devoted to the relief of the oppressed. The comic writers often brought him out as a coarse and stupid glutton, while the Athênian philosopher Prodikos, without at all distorting the type, extracted from it the simple, impressive, and imperishable apologue still known as the Choice of Hercules.

After the death and apotheosis of Hêraklês, his son Hyllos and his other children were expelled and persecuted by Eurystheus: the fear of his vengeance deterred both the Trachinian king Kêyx and the Thêbans from harboring them, and the Athênians alone were generous enough to brave the risk of offering them shelter. Eurystheus invaded Attica, but perished in the attempt by the hand of Hyllos, or by that of Iolaos, the old companion and nephew of Hêraklês.[210] The chivalrous courage which the Athênians had on this occasion displayed in behalf of oppressed innocence, was a favorite theme for subsequent eulogy by Attic poets and orators.

All the sons of Eurystheus lost their lives in the battle along with him, so that the Perseid family was now represented only by the Hêrakleids, who collected an army and endeavored to[p. 95] recover the possessions from which they had been expelled. The united forces of Iônians, Achæans, and Arcadians, then inhabiting Peloponnêsus, met the invaders at the isthmus, when Hyllos, the eldest of the sons of Hêraklês, proposed that the contest should be determined by a single combat between himself and any champion of the opposing army. It was agreed, that if Hyllos were victorious, the Hêrakleids should be restored to their possessions—if he were vanquished, that they should forego all claim for the space of a hundred years, or fifty years, or three generations,—for in the specification of the time, accounts differ. Echemos, the hero of Tegea in Arcadia, accepted the challenge, and Hyllos was slain in the encounter; in consequence of which the Hêrakleids retired, and resided along with the Dôrians under the protection of Ægimios, son of Dôrus.[211] As soon as the stipulated period of truce had expired, they renewed their attempt upon Peloponnêsus conjointly with the Dôrians, and with complete success: the great Dôrian establishments of Argos, Sparta, and Messênia were the result. The details of this victorious invasion will be hereafter recounted.

Sikyôn, Phlios, Epidauros, and Trœzen[212] all boasted of respected eponyms and a genealogy of dignified length, not exempt from the usual discrepancies—but all just as much entitled to a place on the tablet of history as the more renowned Æolids or Hêrakleids. I omit them here because I wish to impress upon the reader’s mind the salient features and character of the legendary world,—not to load his memory with a full list of legendary names.

[p. 96]


In the Hesiodic Theogony, as well as in the “Works and Days,” the legend of Promêtheus and Epimêtheus presents an import religious, ethical, and social, and in this sense it is carried forward by Æschylus; but to neither of the characters is any genealogical function assigned. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women brought both of them into the stream of Grecian legendary lineage, representing Deukaliôn as the son of Promêtheus and Pandôra, and seemingly his wife Pyrrha as daughter of Epimêtheus.[213]

Deukaliôn is important in Grecian mythical narrative under two points of view. First, he is the person specially saved at the time of the general deluge: next, he is the father of Hellên, the great eponym of the Hellenic race; at least this was the more current story, though there were other statements which made Hellên the son of Zeus.

The name of Deukaliôn is originally connected with the Lokrian towns of Kynos and Opus, and with the race of the Leleges, but he appears finally as settled in Thessaly, and ruling in the portion of that country called Phthiôtis.[214] According to what seems to have been the old legendary account, it is the[p. 97] deluge which transferred him from the one to the other; but according to another statement, framed in more historicizing times, he conducted a body of Kurêtes and Leleges into Thessaly, and expelled the prior Pelasgian occupants.[215]

The enormous iniquity with which earth was contaminated—as Apollodôrus says, by the then existing brazen race, or as others say, by the fifty monstrous sons of Lykaôn—provoked Zeus to send a general deluge.[216] An unremitting and terrible rain laid the whole of Greece under water, except the highest mountain-tops, whereon a few stragglers found refuge. Deukaliôn was saved in a chest or ark, which he had been forewarned by his father Promêtheus to construct. After floating for nine days on the water, he at length landed on the summit of Mount Parnassus. Zeus having sent Hermês to him, promising to grant whatever he asked, he prayed that men and companions might be sent to him in his solitude: accordingly Zeus directed both him and Pyrrha to cast stones over their heads: those cast by Pyrrha became women, those by Deukaliôn men. And thus the “stony race of men” (if we may be allowed to translate an etymology which the Greek language presents exactly, and which has not been disdained by Hesiod, by Pindar, by Epicharmus, and by Virgil) came to tenant the soil of Greece.[217] Deukaliôn[p. 98] on landing from the ark sacrificed a grateful offering to Zeus Phyxios, or the God of escape; he also erected altars in Thessaly to the twelve great gods of Olympus.[218]

The reality of this deluge was firmly believed throughout the historical ages of Greece: the chronologers, reckoning up by genealogies, assigned the exact date of it, and placed it at the same time as the conflagration of the world by the rashness of Phaëtôn, during the reign of Krotôpas king of Argus, the seventh from Inachus.[219] The meteorological work of Aristotle admits and reasons upon this deluge as an unquestionable fact, though he alters the locality by placing it west of Mount Pindus, near Dôdôna and the river Achelôus.[220] He at the same time treats it as a physical phenomenon, the result of periodical cycles in the atmosphere, thus departing from the religious character of the old legend, which described it as a judgment inflicted by Zeus upon a wicked race. Statements founded upon this event were in circulation throughout Greece even to a very late date. The Megarians affirmed that Megaros, their hero, son of Zeus by a local nymph, had found safety from the waters on the lofty sum[p. 99]mit of their mountain Geraneia, which had not been completely submerged. And in the magnificent temple of the Olympian Zeus at Athens, a cavity in the earth was shown, through which it was affirmed that the waters of the deluge had retired. Even in the time of Pausanias, the priests poured into this cavity holy offerings of meal and honey.[221] In this, as in other parts of Greece, the idea of the Deukalionian deluge was blended with the religious impressions of the people and commemorated by their sacred ceremonies.

The offspring of Deukaliôn and Pyrrha were two sons, Hellên and Amphiktyôn, and a daughter, Prôtogeneia, whose son by Zeus was Aëthlius: it was however maintained by many, that Hellên was the son of Zeus and not of Deukaliôn. Hellên had by a nymph three sons, Dôrus, Xuthus, and Æolus. He gave to those who had been before called Greeks,[222] the name of Hellênes, and partitioned his territory among his three children. Æolus reigned in Thessaly; Xuthus received Peloponnêsus, and had by Creüsa as his sons, Achæus and Iôn; while Dôrus occupied the country lying opposite to the Peloponnêsus, on the northern side of the Corinthian Gulf. These three gave to the inhabitants of their respective countries the names of Æolians, Achæans and Iônians, and Dôrians.[223]

Such is the genealogy as we find it in Apollodôrus. In so far as the names and filiation are concerned, many points in it are given differently, or implicitly contradicted, by Euripidês and other writers. Though as literal and personal history it deserves[p. 100] no notice, its import is both intelligible and comprehensive. It expounds and symbolizes the first fraternal aggregation of Hellênic men, together with their territorial distribution and the institutions which they collectively venerated.

There were two great holding-points in common for every section of Greeks. One was the Amphiktyonic assembly, which met half-yearly, alternately at Delphi and at Thermopylæ; originally and chiefly for common religious purposes, but indirectly and occasionally embracing political and social objects along with them. The other was, the public festivals or games, of which the Olympic came first in importance; next, the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian,—institutions which combined religious solemnities with recreative effusion and hearty sympathies, in a manner so imposing and so unparalleled. Amphiktyôn represents the first of these institutions, and Aëthlius the second. As the Amphiktyonic assembly was always especially connected with Thermopylæ and Thessaly, Amphiktyôn is made the son of the Thessalian Deukaliôn; but as the Olympic festival was nowise locally connected with Deukaliôn, Aëthlius is represented as having Zeus for his father, and as touching Deukaliôn only through the maternal line. It will be seen presently, that the only matter predicted respecting Aëthlius is, that he settled in the territory of Elis, and begat Endymiôn: this brings him into local contact with the Olympic games, and his function is then ended.

Having thus got Hellas as an aggregate with its main cementing forces, we march on to its subdivision into parts, through Æolus, Dôrus and Xuthus, the three sons of Hellen;[224] a distribution which is far from being exhaustive: nevertheless, the genealogists whom Apollodôrus follows recognize no more than three sons.

The genealogy is essentially post-Homeric; for Homer knows Hellas and the Hellênes only in connection with a portion of[p. 101] Achaia Phthiôtis. But as it is recognized in the Hesiodic Catalogue[225]—composed probably within the first century after the commencement of recorded Olympiads, or before 676 B. C.—the peculiarities of it, dating from so early a period, deserve much attention. We may remark, first, that it seems to exhibit to us Dôrus and Æolus as the only pure and genuine offspring of Hellên. For their brother Xuthus is not enrolled as an eponymus; he neither founds nor names any people; it is only his sons Achæus and Iôn, after his blood has been mingled with that of the Erechtheid Kreüsa, who become eponyms and founders, each of his own separate people. Next, as to the territorial distribution, Xuthus receives Peloponnêsus from his father, and unites himself with Attica (which the author of this genealogy seems to have conceived as originally unconnected with Hellên) by his marriage with the daughter of the indigenous hero, Erechtheus. The issue of this marriage, Achæus and Iôn, present to us the population of Peloponnêsus and Attica conjointly as related among themselves by the tie of brotherhood, but as one degree more distant both from Dôrians and Æolians. Æolus reigns over the regions about Thessaly, and called the people in those parts Æolians; while Dôrus occupies “the country over against Peloponnêsus on the opposite side of the Corinthian Gulf,” and calls the inhabitants after himself, Dôrians.[226] It is at once evident that[p. 102] this designation is in no way applicable to the confined district between Parnassus and Œta, which alone is known by the name of Dôris, and its inhabitants by that of Dôrians, in the historical ages. In the view of the author of this genealogy, the Dôrians are the original occupants of the large range of territory north of the Corinthian Gulf, comprising Ætôlia, Phôkis, and the territory of the Ozolian Lokrians. And this farther harmonizes with the other legend noticed by Apollodôrus, when he states that Ætolus, son of Endymiôn, having been forced to expatriate from Peloponnêsus, crossed into the Kurêtid territory,[227] and was there hospitably received by Dôrus, Laodokus and Polypœtês, sons of Apollo and Phthia. He slew his hosts, acquired the territory, and gave to it the name of Ætôlia: his son Pleurôn married Xanthippê, daughter of Dôrus; while his other son, Kalydôn, marries Æolia, daughter of Amythaôn. Here again we have the name of Dôrus, or the Dôrians, connected with the tract subsequently termed Ætôlia. That Dôrus should in one place be called the son of Apollo and Phthia, and in another place the son of Hellên by a nymph, will surprise no one accustomed to the fluctuating personal nomenclature of these old legends: moreover the name of Phthia is easy to reconcile with that of Hellên, as both are identified with the same portion of Thessaly, even from the days of the Iliad.

This story, that the Dôrians were at one time the occupants, or the chief occupants, of the range of territory between the river Achelôus and the northern shore of the Corinthian Gulf, is at least more suitable to the facts attested by historical evidence than the legends given in Herodotus, who represents the Dôrians as originally in the Phthiôtid; then as passing under Dôrus, the son of Hellên, into the Histiæôtid, under the mountains of Ossa and Olympus; next, as driven by the Kadmeians into the regions of Pindus; from thence passing into the Dryopid territory, on Mount Œta; lastly, from thence into Peloponnêsus.[228] The received[p. 103] story was, that the great Dôrian establishments in Peloponnêsus were formed by invasion from the north, and that the invaders crossed the gulf from Naupaktus,—a statement which, however disputable with respect to Argos, seems highly probable in regard both to Sparta and Messênia. That the name of Dôrians comprehended far more than the inhabitants of the insignificant tetrapolis of Dôris Proper, must be assumed, if we believe that they conquered Sparta and Messênia: both the magnitude of the conquest itself, and the passage of a large portion of them from Naupaktus, harmonize with the legend as given by Apollodôrus, in which the Dôrians are represented as the principal inhabitants of the northern shore of the gulf. The statements which we find in Herodotus, respecting the early migrations of the Dôrians, have been considered as possessing greater historical value than those of the fabulist Apollodôrus. But both are equally matter of legend, while the brief indications of the latter seem to be most in harmony with the facts which we afterwards find attested by history.

It has already been mentioned that the genealogy which makes Æolus, Xuthus and Dôrus sons of Hellên, is as old as the Hesiodic Catalogue; probably also that which makes Hellên son of Deukaliôn. Aëthlius also is an Hesiodic personage: whether Amphiktyôn be so or not, we have no proof.[229] They could not have been introduced into the legendary genealogy until after the Olympic games and the Amphiktyonic council had acquired an[p. 104] established ascendancy and universal reverence throughout Greece.

Respecting Dôrus the son of Hellên, we find neither legends nor legendary genealogy; respecting Xuthus, very little beyond the tale of Kreüsa and Iôn, which has its place more naturally among the Attic fables. Achæus however, who is here represented as the son of Xuthus, appears in other stories with very different parentage and accompaniments. According to the statement which we find in Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Achæus, Phthius and Pelasgus are sons of Poseidôn and Larissa. They migrate from Peloponnêsus into Thessaly, and distribute the Thessalian territory between them, giving their names to its principal divisions: their descendants in the sixth generation were driven out of that country by the invasion of Deukaliôn at the head of the Kurêtes and the Leleges.[230] This was the story of those who wanted to provide an eponymus for the Achæans in the southern districts of Thessaly: Pausanias accomplishes the same object by different means, representing Achæus, the son of Xuthus as having gone back to Thessaly and occupied the portion of it to which his father was entitled. Then, by way of explaining how it was that there were Achæans at Sparta and at Argos, he tells us that Archander and Architelês, the sons of Archæus, came back from Thessaly to Peloponnêsus, and married two daughters of Danaus: they acquired great influence at Argos and Sparta, and gave to the people the name of Achæans after their father Achæus.[231]

Euripidês also deviates very materially from the Hesiodic[p. 105] genealogy in respect to these eponymous persons. In the drama called Iôn, he describes Iôn as son of Kreüsa by Apollo, but adopted by Xuthus: according to him, the real sons of Xuthus and Kreüsa are Dôrus and Achæus,[232]—eponyms of the Dôrians and Achæans in the interior of Peloponnêsus. And it is a still more capital point of difference, that he omits Hellên altogether—making Xuthus an Achæan by race, the son of Æolus, who is the son of Zeus.[233] This is the more remarkable, as in the fragments of two other dramas of Euripidês, the Melanippê and the Æolus, we find Hellên mentioned both as father of Æolus and son of Zeus.[234] To the general public even of the most instructed city of Greece, fluctuations and discrepancies in these mythical genealogies seem to have been neither surprising nor offensive.


If two of the sons of Hellên, Dôrus and Xuthus, present to us families comparatively unnoticed in mythical narrative, the third son, Æolus, richly makes up for the deficiency. From him we pass to his seven sons and five daughters, amidst a great abundance of heroic and poetical incident.

In dealing however with these extensive mythical families, it is necessary to observe, that the legendary world of Greece, in the manner in which it is presented to us, appears invested with a degree of symmetry and coherence which did not originally belong to it. For the old ballads and stories which were sung or[p. 106] recounted at the multiplied festivals of Greece, each on its own special theme, have been lost: the religious narratives, which the Exegêtês of every temple had present to his memory, explanatory of the peculiar religious ceremonies and local customs in his own town or Dême, have passed away: all these primitive elements, originally distinct and unconnected, are removed out of our sight, and we possess only an aggregate result, formed by many confluent streams of fable, and connected together by the agency of subsequent poets and logographers. Even the earliest agents in this work of connecting and systematizing—the Hesiodic poets—have been hardly at all preserved. Our information respecting Grecian mythology is derived chiefly from the prose logographers who followed them, and in whose works, since a continuous narrative was above all things essential to them, the fabulous personages are woven into still more comprehensive pedigrees, and the original isolation of the legends still better disguised. Hekatæus, Pherekydês, Hellanikus, and Akusilaus lived at a time when the idea of Hellas as one great whole, composed of fraternal sections, was deeply rooted in the mind of every Greek; and when the fancy of one or a few great families, branching out widely from one common stem, was more popular and acceptable than that of a distinct indigenous origin in each of the separate districts. These logographers, indeed, have themselves been lost; but Apollodôrus and the various scholiasts, our great immediate sources of information respecting Grecian mythology, chiefly borrowed from them: so that the legendary world of Greece is in fact known to us through them, combined with the dramatic and Alexandrine poets, their Latin imitators, and the still later class of scholiasts—except indeed such occasional glimpses as we obtain from the Iliad and the Odyssey, and the remaining Hesiodic fragments, which exhibit but too frequently a hopeless diversity when confronted with the narratives of the logographers.

Though Æolus (as has been already stated) is himself called the son of Hellên along with Dôrus and Xuthus, yet the legends concerning the Æolids, far from being dependent upon this genealogy, are not all even coherent with it: moreover the name of Æolus in the legend is older than that of Hellên, inasmuch as[p. 107] it occurs both in the Iliad and Odyssey.[235] Odysseus sees in the under-world the beautiful Tyrô, daughter of Salmôneus, and wife of Krêtheus, son of Æolus.

Æolus is represented as having reigned in Thessaly: his seven sons were Krêtheus, Sisyphus, Athamas, Salmôneus, Deiôn, Magnês and Periêrês: his five daughters, Canacê, Alcyonê, Peisidikê, Calycê and Perimêdê. The fables of this race seem to be distinguished by a constant introduction of the god Poseidôn, as well as by an unusual prevalence of haughty and presumptuous attributes among the Æolid heroes, leading them to affront the gods by pretences of equality, and sometimes even by defiance. The worship of Poseidôn must probably have been diffused and preëminent among a people with whom these legends originated.


Salmôneus is not described in the Odyssey as son of Æolus, but he is so denominated both in the Hesiodic Catalogue, and by the subsequent logographers. His daughter Tyrô became enamoured of the river Enipeus, the most beautiful of all streams that traverse the earth: she frequented the banks assiduously, and there the god Poseidôn found means to indulge his passion for her, assuming the character of the river god himself. The fruit of this alliance were the twin brothers, Pelias and Nêleus: Tyrô afterwards was given in marriage to her uncle Krêtheus, another son of Æolus, by whom she had Æsôn, Pherês and Amythaôn—all names of celebrity in the heroic legends.[236] The adventures of Tyrô formed the subject of an affecting drama of Sophoklês, now lost. Her father had married a second wife, named Sidêrô, whose cruel counsels induced him to punish and torture his daughter on account of her intercourse with Poseidôn. She was shorn of her magnificent hair, beaten and ill-used in[p. 108] various ways, and confined in a loathsome dungeon. Unable to take care of her two children, she had been compelled to expose them immediately on their birth in a little boat on the river Enipeus; they were preserved by the kindness of a herdsman, and when grown up to manhood, rescued their mother, and revenged her wrongs by putting to death the iron-hearted Sidêrô.[237] This pathetic tale respecting the long imprisonment of Tyrô is substituted by Sophoklês in place of the Homeric legend, which represented her to have become the wife of Krêtheus and mother of a numerous offspring.[238]

Her father, the unjust Salmôneus, exhibited in his conduct the most insolent impiety towards the gods. He assumed the name and title even of Zeus, and caused to be offered to himself the sacrifices destined for that god: he also imitated the thunder and lightning, by driving about with brazen caldrons attached to his chariot and casting lighted torches towards heaven. Such wickedness finally drew upon him the wrath of Zeus, who smote him with a thunderbolt, and effaced from the earth the city which he had founded, with all its inhabitants.[239]

Pelias and Nêleus, “both stout vassals of the great Zeus,” became engaged in dissension respecting the kingdom of Iôlkos in[p. 109] Thessaly. Pelias got possession of it, and dwelt there in plenty and prosperity; but he had offended the goddess Hêrê by killing Sidêrô upon her altar, and the effects of her wrath were manifested in his relations with his nephew Jasôn.[240]

Nêleus quitted Thessaly, went into Peloponnêsus, and there founded the kingdom of Pylos. He purchased by immense marriage presents, the privilege of wedding the beautiful Chlôris, daughter of Amphiôn, king of Orchomenos, by whom he had twelve sons and but one daughter[241]—the fair and captivating Pêrô, whom suitors from all the neighborhood courted in marriage. But Nêleus, “the haughtiest of living men,”[242] refused to entertain the pretensions of any of them: he would grant his daughter only to that man who should bring to him the oxen of Iphiklos, from Phylakê in Thessaly. These precious animals were carefully guarded, as well by herdsmen as by a dog whom neither man nor animal could approach. Nevertheless, Bias, the son of Amythaôn, nephew of Nêleus, being desperately enamored of Pêrô, prevailed upon his brother Melampus to undertake for his sake the perilous adventure, in spite of the prophetic knowledge of the latter, which forewarned him that though he would ultimately succeed, the prize must be purchased by severe captivity and suffering. Melampus, in attempting to steal the oxen, was seized and put in prison; from whence nothing but his prophetic powers rescued him. Being acquainted with the language of worms, he heard these animals communicating to each other, in the roof over his head, that the beams were nearly eaten through and about to fall in. He communicated this intelligence to his guards, and demanded to be conveyed to another place of confinement, announcing that the roof would presently fall in and bury them. The prediction was fulfilled, and Phylakos, father of[p. 110] Iphiklos, full of wonder at this specimen of prophetic power, immediately caused him to be released. He further consulted him respecting the condition of his son Iphiklos, who was childless; and promised him the possession of the oxen on condition of his suggesting the means whereby offspring might be ensured. A vulture having communicated to Melampus the requisite information, Podarkês, the son of Iphiklos, was born shortly afterwards. In this manner Melampus obtained possession of the oxen, and conveyed them to Pylos, obtaining for his brother Bias the hand of Pêrô.[243] How this great legendary character, by miraculously healing the deranged daughters of Prœtos, procured both for himself and for Bias dominion in Argos, has been recounted in a preceding chapter.

Of the twelve sons of Nêleus, one at least, Periklymenos,—besides the ever-memorable Nestôr,—was distinguished for his exploits as well as for his miraculous gifts. Poseidôn, the divine father of the race, had bestowed upon him the privilege of changing his form at pleasure into that of any bird, beast, reptile, or insect.[244] He had occasion for all these resources, and he employed them for a time with success in defending his family against the terrible indignation of Hêraklês, who, provoked by the refusal of Nêleus to perform for him the ceremony of purification after his murder of Iphitus, attacked the Nêleids at Pylos. Periklymenos by his extraordinary powers prolonged the resistance, but the hour of his fate was at length brought upon him by the intervention of Athênê, who pointed him out to Hêraklês while he was perched as a bee upon the hero’s chariot. He was killed, and Hêraklês became completely victorious, overpowering Poseidôn, Hêrê, Arês, and Hadês, and even wounding the three latter, who assisted in the[p. 111] defence. Eleven of the sons of Nêleus perished by his hand, while Nestôr, then a youth, was preserved only by his accidental absence at Gerêna, away from his father’s residence.[245]

The proud house of the Nêleids was now reduced to Nestôr; but Nestôr singly sufficed to sustain its eminence. He appears not only as the defender and avenger of Pylos against the insolence and rapacity of his Epeian neighbors in Elis, but also as aiding the Lapithæ in their terrible combat against the Centaurs, and as companion of Thêseus, Peirithöus, and the other great legendary heroes who preceded the Trojan war. In extreme old age his once marvellous power of handling his weapons has indeed passed away, but his activity remains unimpaired, and his sagacity as well as his influence in counsel is greater than ever. He not only assembles the various Grecian chiefs for the armament against Troy, perambulating the districts of Hellas along with Odysseus, but takes a vigorous part in the siege itself, and is of preëminent service to Agamemnôn. And after the conclusion of the siege, he is one of the few Grecian princes who returns to his original dominions, and is found, in a strenuous and honored old age, in the midst of his children and subjects,—sitting with the sceptre of authority on the stone bench before his house at Pylos,—offering sacrifice to Poseidôn, as his father Nêleus had done before him,—and mourning only over the death[p. 112] of his favorite son Antilochus, who had fallen, along with so many brave companions in arms, in the Trojan war.[246]

After Nestôr the line of the Nêleids numbers undistinguished names,—Bôrus, Penthilus, and Andropompus,—three successive generations down to Melanthus, who on the invasion of Peloponnêsus by the Herakleids, quitted Pylos and retired to Athens, where he became king, in a manner which I shall hereafter recount. His son Kodrus was the last Athênian king; and Nêleus, one of the sons of Kodrus, is mentioned as the principal conductor of what is called the Ionic emigration from Athens to Asia Minor.[247] It is certain that during the historical age, not merely the princely family of the Kodrids in Milêtus, Ephesus, and other Ionic cities, but some of the greatest families even in Athens itself, traced their heroic lineage through the Nêleids up to Poseidôn: and the legends respecting Nestôr and Periklymenos would find especial favor amidst Greeks with such feelings and belief. The Kodrids at Ephesus, and probably some other Ionic towns, long retained the title and honorary precedence of kings, even after they had lost the substantial power belonging to the office. They stood in the same relation, embodying both religious worship and supposed ancestry, to the Nêleids and Poseidôn, as the chiefs of the Æolic colonies to Agamemnôn and Orestês. The Athenian despot Peisistratus was named after the son of Nestôr in the Odyssey; and we may safely presume that the heroic worship of the Nêleids was as carefully cherished at the Ionic Milêtus as at the Italian Metapontum.[248]

Having pursued the line of Salmôneus and Nêleus to the end of its lengendary career, we may now turn back to that of another son of Æolus, Krêtheus,—a line hardly less celebrated in respect of the heroic names which it presents. Alkêstis, the most beautiful of the daughters of Pelias,[249] was promised by her father in[p. 113] marriage to the man that could bring him a lion and a boar tamed to the yoke and drawing together. Admêtus, son of Pherês, the eponymus of Pheræ in Thessaly, and thus grandson of Krêtheus, was enabled by the aid of Apollo to fulfil this condition, and to win her;[250] for Apollo happened at that time to be in his service as a slave (condemned to this penalty by Zeus for having put to death the Cyclôpes), in which capacity he tended the herds and horses with such success, as to equip Eumêlus (the son of Admêtus) to the Trojan war with the finest horses in the Grecian army. Though menial duties were imposed upon him, even to the drudgery of grinding in the mill,[251] he yet carried away with him a grateful and friendly sentiment towards his mortal master, whom he interfered to rescue from the wrath of the goddess Artemis, when she was indignant at the omission of her name in his wedding sacrifices. Admêtus was about to perish by a premature death, when Apollo, by earnest solicitation to the Fates, obtained for him the privilege that his life should be prolonged, if he could find any person to die a voluntary death in his place. His father and his mother both refused to make this sacrifice for him, but the devoted attachment of his wife Alkêstis disposed her to embrace with cheerfulness the condition of dying to preserve her[p. 114] husband. She had already perished, when Hêraklês, the ancient guest and friend of Admêtus, arrived during the first hour of lamentation; his strength and daring enabled him to rescue the deceased Alkêstis even from the grasp of Thanatos (Death), and to restore her alive to her disconsolate husband.[252]

The son of Pelias, Akastus, had received and sheltered Pêleus when obliged to fly his country in consequence of the involuntary murder of Eurytiôn. Krêthêis, the wife of Akastus, becoming enamored of Pêleus, made to him advances which he repudiated. Exasperated at his refusal, and determined to procure his destruction, she persuaded her husband that Pêleus had attempted her chastity: upon which Akastus conducted Pêleus out upon a hunting excursion among the woody regions of Mount Pêlion, contrived to steal from him the sword fabricated and given by Hêphæstos, and then left him, alone and unarmed, to perish by the hands of the Centaurs or by the wild beasts. By the friendly aid of the Centaur Cheirôn, however, Pêleus was preserved, and his sword restored to him: returning to the city, he avenged himself by putting to death both Akastus and his perfidious wife.[253]

But amongst all the legends with which the name of Pelias is connected, by far the most memorable is that of Jasôn and the Argonautic expedition. Jasôn was son of Æsôn, grandson of Krêtheus, and thus great-grandson of Æolus. Pelias, having consulted the oracle respecting the security of his dominion at Iôlkos, had received in answer a warning to beware of the man who should appear before him with only one sandal. He was celebrating a festival in honor of Poseidôn, when it so happened that Jasôn appeared before him with one of his feet unsandaled: he had lost one sandal in wading through the swollen current of the river Anauros. Pelias immediately understood that this was[p. 115] the enemy against whom the oracle had forewarned him. As a means of averting the danger, he imposed upon Jasôn the desperate task of bringing back to Iôlkos the Golden Fleece,—the fleece of that ram which had carried Phryxos from Achaia to Kolchis, and which Phryxos had dedicated in the latter country as an offering to the god Arês. The result of this injunction was the memorable expedition—of the ship Argô and her crew called the Argonauts, composed of the bravest and noblest youths of Greece—which cannot be conveniently included among the legends of the Æolids, and is reserved for a separate chapter.

The voyage of the Argô was long protracted, and Pelias, persuaded that neither the ship nor her crew would ever return, put to death both the father and mother of Jasôn, together with their infant son. Æsôn, the father, being permitted to choose the manner of his own death, drank bull’s blood while performing a sacrifice to the gods. At length, however, Jasôn did return, bringing with him not only the golden fleece, but also Mêdea, daughter of Æêtês, king of Kolchis, as his wife,—a woman distinguished for magical skill and cunning, by whose assistance alone the Argonauts had succeeded in their project. Though determined to avenge himself upon Pelias, Jasôn knew he could only succeed by stratagem: he remained with his companions at a short distance from Iôlkos, while Mêdea, feigning herself a fugitive from his ill-usage, entered the town alone, and procured access to the daughters of Pelias. By exhibitions of her magical powers she soon obtained unqualified ascendency over their minds. For example, she selected from the flocks of Pelias a ram in the extremity of old age, cut him up and boiled him in a caldron with herbs, and brought him out in the shape of a young and vigorous lamb:[254] the daughters of Pelias were made to believe that their old father could in like manner be restored to youth. In this persuasion they cut him up with their own hands and cast his limbs into the[p. 116] caldron, trusting that Mêdea would produce upon him the same magical effect. Mêdea pretended that an invocation to the moon was a necessary part of the ceremony: she went up to the top of the house as if to pronounce it, and there lighting the fire-signal concerted with the Argonauts, Jasôn and his companions burst in and possessed themselves of the town. Satisfied with having thus revenged himself, Jasôn yielded the principality of Iôlkos to Akastus, son of Pelias, and retired with Mêdea to Corinth. Thus did the goddess Hêrê gratify her ancient wrath against Pelias: she had constantly watched over Jasôn, and had carried the “all-notorious” Argô through its innumerable perils, in order that Jasôn might bring home Mêdea to accomplish the ruin of his uncle.[255] The misguided daughters of Pelias departed[p. 117] as voluntary exiles to Arcadia: Akastus his son celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of his deceased father.[256]

Jasôn and Mêdea retired from Iôlkos to Corinth, where they resided ten years: their children were—Medeius, whom the Centaur Cheirôn educated in the regions of Mount Pêlion,[257]—and Mermerus and Pherôs, born at Corinth. After they had resided there ten years in prosperity, Jasôn set his affections on Glaukê, daughter of Kreôn[258] king of Corinth; and as her father was willing to give her to him in marriage, he determined to repudiate Mêdea, who received orders forthwith to leave Corinth. Stung with this insult and bent upon revenge, Mêdea prepared a poisoned robe, and sent it as a marriage present to Glaukê: it was unthinkingly accepted and put on, and the body of the unfortunate bride was burnt up and consumed. Kreôn, her father, who tried to tear from her the burning garment, shared her fate and perished. The exulting Mêdea escaped by means of a chariot with winged serpents furnished to her by her grandfather Hêlios: she placed herself under the protection of Ægêus at Athens, by whom she had a son named Mêdus. She left her young children in the sacred enclosure of the Akræan Hêrê, relying on the protection of the altar to ensure their safety; but the Corinthians were so exasperated against her for the murder[p. 118] of Kreôn and Glaukê, that they dragged the children away from the altar and put them to death. The miserable Jasôn perished by a fragment of his own ship Argô, which fell upon him while he was asleep under it,[259] being hauled on shore, according to the habitual practice of the ancients.

The first establishment at Ephyrê, or Corinth, had been founded by Sisyphus, another of the sons of Æolus, brother of Salmô[p. 119]neus and Krêtheus.[260] The Æolid Sisyphus was distinguished as an unexampled master of cunning and deceit. He blocked up the road along the isthmus, and killed the strangers who came along it by rolling down upon them great stones from the mountains above. He was more than a match even for the arch thief Autolycus, the son of Hermês, who derived from his father the gift of changing the color and shape of stolen goods, so that they could no longer be recognized: Sisyphus, by marking his sheep under the foot, detected Autolycus when he stole them, and obliged him to restore the plunder. His penetration discovered the amour of Zeus with the nymph Ægina, daughter of the river-god Asôpus. Zeus had carried her off to the island of Œnônê (which subsequently bore the name of Ægina); upon which Asôpus, eager to recover her, inquired of Sisyphus whither she was gone: the latter told him what had happened, on condition that he should provide a spring of water on the summit of the Acro-Corinthus. Zeus, indignant with Sisyphus for this revelation, inflicted upon him in Hadês the punishment of perpetually heaving up a hill a great and heavy stone, which, so soon as it attained the summit, rolled back again in spite of all his efforts, with irresistible force into the plain.[261]

In the application of the Æolid genealogy to Corinth, Sisyphus, the son of Æolus, appears as the first name: but the old Corin[p. 120]thian poet Eumêlus either found or framed an heroic genealogy for his native city independent both of Æolus and Sisyphus. According to this genealogy, Ephyrê, daughter of Oceanus and Têthys, was the primitive tenant of the Corinthian territory, Asôpus of the Sikyônian: both were assigned to the god Hêlios, in adjusting a dispute between him and Poseidôn, by Briareus. Hêlios divided the territory between his two sons Æêtês and Alôeus: to the former he assigned Corinth, to the latter Sikyôn. Æêtês, obeying the admonition of an oracle, emigrated to Kolchis, leaving his territory under the rule of Bunos, the son of Hermês, with the stipulation that it should be restored whenever either he or any of his descendants returned. After the death of Bunos, both Corinth and Sikyôn were possessed by Epôpeus, son of Alôeus, a wicked man. His son Marathôn left him in disgust and retired into Attica, but returned after his death and succeeded to his territory, which he in turn divided between his two sons Corinthos and Sikyôn, from whom the names of the two districts were first derived. Corinthos died without issue, and the Corinthians then invited Mêdea from Iôlkos as the representative of Æêtês: she with her husband Jasôn thus obtained the sovereignty of Corinth.[262] This legend of Eumêlus, one of the earliest of the genealogical poets, so different from the story adopted by Neophrôn or Euripidês, was followed certainly by Simonidês and seemingly by Theopompus.[263] The incidents in it are imagined and arranged with a view to the supremacy of Mêdea; the emigration of Æêtês and the conditions under which he transferred his sceptre, being so laid out as to confer upon Mêdea an hereditary title to the throne. The Corinthians paid to Mêdea and to her children solemn worship, either divine or heroic, in conjunction with Hêrê Akræa,[264] and this was sufficient to give to[p. 121] Mêdea a prominent place in the genealogy composed by a Corinthian poet, accustomed to blend together gods, heroes and men in the antiquities of his native city. According to the legend of Eumêlus, Jasôn became (through Mêdea) king of Corinth; but she concealed the children of their marriage in the temple of Hêrê, trusting that the goddess would render them immortal. Jasôn, discovering her proceedings, left her and retired in disgust to Iôlkos; Mêdea also, being disappointed in her scheme, quitted the place, leaving the throne in the hands of Sisyphus, to whom, according to the story of Theopompus, she had become attached.[265] Other legends recounted, that Zeus had contracted a passion for Mêdea, but that she had rejected his suit from fear of the displeasure of Hêrê; who, as a recompense for such fidelity, rendered her children immortal:[266] moreover Mêdea had erected, by special command of Hêrê, the celebrated temple of Aphroditê at Corinth. The tenor of these fables manifests their connection with the temple of Hêrê: and we may consider the legend of Mêdea as having been originally quite independent of that of Sisyphus, but fitted on to it, in seeming chronological sequence, so as to satisfy the feelings of those Æolids of Corinth who passed for his descendants.

Sisyphus had for his sons Glaukos and Ornytiôn. From Glaukos sprang Bellerophôn, whose romantic adventures commence with the Iliad, and are further expanded by subsequent poets: according to some accounts he was really the son of Poseidôn, the prominent deity of the Æolid family.[267] The youth[p. 122] and beauty of Bellerophôn rendered him the object of a strong passion on the part of the Anteia, wife of Prœtos king of Argos. Finding her advances rejected, she contracted a violent hatred towards him, and endeavored by false accusations to prevail upon her husband to kill him. Prœtos refused to commit the deed under his own roof, but despatched him to his son-in-law the king of Lykia in Asia Minor, putting into his hands a folded tablet full of destructive symbols. Conformably to these suggestions, the most perilous undertakings were imposed upon Bellerophôn. He was directed to attack the monster Chimæra and to conquer the warlike Solymi as well as the Amazons: as he returned victorious from these enterprises, an ambuscade was laid for him by the bravest Lykian warriors, all of whom he slew. At length the Lykian king recognized him “as the genuine son of a god,” and gave him his daughter in marriage together with half of his kingdom. The grand-children of Bellerophôn, Glaukos and Sarpêdôn,—the latter a son of his daughter Laodameia by Zeus,—combat as allies of Troy against the host of Agamemnon.[268] Respecting the winged Pegasus, Homer says nothing; but later poets assigned to Bellerophôn this miraculous steed, whose parentage is given in the Hesiodic Theogony, as the instrument both of his voyage and of his success.[269] Heroic worship was paid at Corinth to Bellerophôn, and he seems to have been a favorite theme of recollection not only among the Corinthians themselves, but also among the numerous colonists whom they sent out to other regions.[270]

From Ornytiôn, the son of Sisyphus, we are conducted through a series of three undistinguished family names,—Thoas, Damophôn, and the brothers Propodas and Hyanthidas,—to the time[p. 123] of the Dôrian occupation of Corinth[271], which will be hereafter recounted.

We now pass from Sisyphus and the Corinthian fables to another son of Æolus, Athamas, whose family history is not less replete with mournful and tragical incidents, abundantly diversified by the poets. Athamas, we are told, was king of Orchomenos; his wife Nephelê was a goddess, and he had by her two children, Phryxus and Hellê. After a certain time he neglected Nephelê, and took to himself as a new wife Inô, the daughter of Kadmus, by whom he had two sons, Learchus and Melikertês. Inô, looking upon Phryxus with the hatred of a step-mother, laid a snare for his life. She persuaded the women to roast the seed-wheat, which, when sown in this condition, yielded no crop, so that famine overspread the land. Athamas sent to Delphi to implore counsel and a remedy: he received for answer, through the machinations of Inô with the oracle, that the barrenness of the fields could not be alleviated except by offering Phryxus as a sacrifice to Zeus. The distress of the people compelled him to execute this injunction, and Phryxus was led as a victim to the altar. But the power of his mother Nephelê snatched him from destruction, and procured for him from Hermês a ram with a fleece of gold, upon which he and his sister Hellê mounted and were carried across the sea. The ram took the direction of the Euxine sea and Kolchis: when they were crossing the Hellespont, Hellê fell off into the narrow strait, which took its name from that incident. Upon this, the ram, who was endued with speech, consoled the terrified Phryxus, and ultimately carried him safe to Kolchis: Æêtês, king of Kolchis son of the god Hêlios and brother of Circê, received Phryxus kindly, and gave him his daughter Chalciopê in marriage. Phryxus sacrificed the ram to Zeus Phyxios, and suspended the golden fleece in the sacred grove of Arês.

Athamas—according to some both Athamas and Inô—were afterwards driven mad by the anger of the goddess Hêrê; insomuch that the father shot his own son Learchus, and would also have put to death his other son Melikertês, if Inô had not snatched him away. She fled with the boy, across the Megarian[p. 124] territory and Mount Geraneia, to the rock Moluris, overhanging the Sarônic Gulf: Athamas pursued her, and in order to escape him she leaped into the sea. She became a sea-goddess under the title of Leukothea; while the body of Melikertês was cast ashore on the neighboring territory of Schœnus, and buried by his uncle Sisyphus, who was directed by the Nereïds to pay to him heroic honors under the name of Palæmôn. The Isthmian games, one of the great periodical festivals of Greece, were celebrated in honor of the god Poseidôn, in conjunction with Palæmôn as a hero. Athamas abandoned his territory, and became the first settler of a neighboring region called from him Athmantia, or the Athamantian plain.[272]

[p. 125]

The legend of Athamas connects itself with some sanguinary religious rites and very peculiar family customs, which prevailed at Alos, in Achaia Phthiôtis, down to a time[273] later than the historian Herodotus, and of which some remnant existed at Orchomenos even in the days of Plutarch. Athamas was worshipped at Alos as a hero, having both a chapel and a consecrated grove, attached to the temple of Zeus Laphystios. On the family of which he was the heroic progenitor, a special curse and disability stood affixed. The eldest of the race was forbidden to enter the prytaneion or government-house; and if he was found within the doors of the building, the other citizens laid hold of him on his going out, surrounded him with garlands, and led him in solemn procession to be sacrificed as a victim at the altar of Zeus Laphystios. The prohibition carried with it an exclusion from all the public meetings and ceremonies, political as well as religious, and from the sacred fire of the state: many of the individuals marked out had therefore been bold enough to transgress it. Some had been seized on quitting the building and actually sacrificed; others had fled the country for a long time to avoid a similar fate.

The guides who conducted Xerxês and his army through southern Thessaly detailed to him this existing practice, coupled with the local legend, that Athamas, together with Inô, had sought to compass the death of Phryxus, who however had escaped to Kolchis; that the Achæans had been enjoined by an oracle to offer up Athamas himself as an expiatory sacrifice to release the country from the anger of the gods; but that Kytissoros, son of Phryxus, coming back from Kolchis, had intercepted the sacrifice of Athamas,[274] whereby the anger of the gods re[p. 126]mained still unappeased, and an undying curse rested upon the family.[275]

That such human sacrifices continued to a greater or less extent, even down to a period later than Herodotus, among the family who worshipped Athamas as their heroic ancestor, appears certain: mention is also made of similar customs in parts of Arcadia, and of Thessaly, in honor of Pêleus and Cheirôn.[276] But we may reasonably presume, that in the period of greater humanity which Herodotus witnessed, actual sacrifice had become very rare. The curse and the legend still remained, but were[p. 127] not called into practical working, except during periods of intense national suffering or apprehension, during which the religious sensibilities were always greatly aggravated. We cannot at all doubt, that during the alarm created by the presence of the Persian king with his immense and ill-disciplined host, the minds of the Thessalians must have been keenly alive to all that was terrific in their national stories, and all that was expiatory in their religious solemnities. Moreover, the mind of Xerxês himself was so awe-struck by the tale, that he reverenced the dwelling-place consecrated to Athamas. The guides who recounted to him the romantic legend, gave it as the historical and generating cause of the existing rule and practice: a critical inquirer is forced (as has been remarked before) to reverse the order of precedence, and to treat the practice as having been the suggesting cause of its own explanatory legend.

The family history of Athamas, and the worship of Zeus Laphystios, are expressly connected by Herodotus with Alos in Achæa Phthiôtis—one of the towns enumerated in the Iliad as under the command of Achilles. But there was also a mountain called Laphystion, and a temple and worship of Zeus Laphystios between Orchomenos and Korôneia, in the northern portion of the territory known in the historical ages as Bœotia. Here also the family story of Athamas is localized, and Athamas is presented to us as king of the districts of Korôneia, Haliartus and Mount Laphystion: he is thus interwoven with the Orchomenian genealogy.[277] Andreus (we are told), son of the river Pêneios, was the first person who settled in the region: from him it received the name Andrêis. Athamas, coming subsequently to Andreus, received from him the territory of Korôneia and Haliartus with Mount Laphystion: he gave in marriage to Andreus, Euippê, daughter of his son Leucôn, and the issue of this marriage was Eteoklês, said to be the son of the river Kêphisos. Korônos and Haliartus, grandsons of the Corinthian Sisyphus, were adopted by Athamas, as he had lost all his children: but when his grandson Presbôn, son of Phryxus, returned to him from Kolchis, he divided his territory in such manner that Korônos and Haliartus became the founders of the towns which[p. 128] bore their names. Almôn, the son of Sisyphus, also received from Eteoklês a portion of territory, where he established the village Almônes.[278]

With Eteoklês began, according to a statement in one of the Hesiodic poems, the worship of the Charites or Graces, so long and so solemnly continued at Orchomenos in the periodical festival of the Charitêsia, to which many neighboring towns and districts seem to have contributed.[279] He also distributed the inhabitants into two tribes—Eteokleia and Kêphisias. He died childless, and was succeeded by Almos, who had only two daughters, Chrysê and Chrysogeneia. The son of Chrysê by the god Arês was Phlegyas, the father and founder of the warlike and predatory Phlegyæ, who despoiled every one within their reach, and assaulted not only the pilgrims on their road to Delphi, but even the treasures of the temple itself. The offended god punished them by continued thunder, by earthquakes, and by pestilence, which extinguished all this impious race, except a scanty remnant who fled into Phokis.

Chrysogeneia, the other daughter of Almos, had for issue, by the god Poseidôn, Minyas: the son of Minyas was Orchomenos. From these two was derived the name both of Minyæ for the people, and of Orchomenos for the town.[280] During the reign of Orchomenos, Hyêttus came to him from Argos, having become an exile in consequence of the death of Molyros: Orchomenos assigned to him a portion of land, where he founded the village called Hyêttus.[281] Orchomenos, having no issue, was succeeded by Klymenos, son of Presbôn, of the house of Athamas: Klymenos was slain by some Thêbans during the festival of Poseidôn at Onchêstos; and his eldest son, Erginus, to avenge his death, attacked the Thêbans with his utmost force;—an attack, in which he was so successful, that the latter were forced to submit, and to pay him an annual tribute.

[p. 129]The Orchomenian power was now at its height: both Minyas and Orchomenos had been princes of surpassing wealth, and the former had built a spacious and durable edifice which he had filled with gold and silver. But the success of Erginus against Thêbes was soon terminated and reversed by the hand of the irresistible Hêraklês, who rejected with disdain the claim of tribute, and even mutilated the envoys sent to demand it: he not only emancipated Thêbes, but broke down and impoverished Orchomenos.[282] Erginus in his old age married a young wife, from which match sprang the illustrious heroes, or gods, Trophônius and Agamêdês; though many (amongst whom is Pausanius himself) believed Trophônius to be the son of Apollo.[283] Trophônius, one of the most memorable persons in Grecian mythology, was worshipped as a god in various places, but with especial sanctity as Zeus Trophônius at Lebadeia: in his temple at this town, the prophetic manifestations outlasted those of Delphi itself.[284] Trophônius and Agamêdês, enjoying matchless renown as architects, built[285] the temple of Delphi, the thalamus of Amphitryôn at Thêbes, as well as the inaccessible vault of Hyrieus at Hyria, in which they are said to have left one stone removable at pleasure, so as to reserve for themselves a secret entrance. They entered so frequently, and stole so much gold and silver, that Hyrieus, astonished at his losses, at length spread a fine net, in which Agamêdês was inextricably caught: Trophônius cut off his brother’s head and carried it away, so that the[p. 130] body, which alone remained, was insufficient to identify the thief. Like Amphiaraos, whom he resembles in more than one respect, Trophônius was swallowed up by the earth near Lebadeia.[286]

From Trophônius and Agamêdês the Orchomenian genealogy passes to Ascalaphos and Ialmenos, the sons of Arês by Astyochê, who are named in the Catalogue of the Iliad as leaders of the thirty ships from Orchomenos against Troy. Azeus, the grandfather of Astyochê in the Iliad, is introduced as the brother of Erginus[287] by Pausanias, who does not carry the pedigree lower.

The genealogy here given out of Pausanias is deserving of the more attention, because it seems to have been copied from the special history of Orchomenos by the Corinthian Kallippus, who again borrowed from the native Orchomenian poet, Chersias: the works of the latter had never come into the hands of Pausanias. It illustrates forcibly the principle upon which these mythical genealogies were framed, for almost every personage in the series is an Eponymus. Andreus gave his name to the country, Athamas to the Athamantian plain; Minyas, Orchomenos, Korônus, Haliartus, Almos and Hyêttos, are each in like manner connected with some name of people, tribe, town or village; while Chrysê and Chrysogeneia have their origin in the reputed ancient wealth of Orchomenos. Abundant discrepancies are found, however, in respect to this old genealogy, if we look to other accounts. According to one statement, Orchomenos was the son of Zeus by Isionê, daughter of Danaus; Minyas was the son of Orchomenos (or rather of Poseidôn) by Hermippê, daughter of Bœôtos; the sons of Minyas were Presbôn, Orchomenos, Athamas and Diochthôndas.[288] Others represented Minyas as son of Poseidôn[p. 131] by Kallirrhoê, an Oceanic nymph,[289] while Dionysius called him son of Arês, and Aristodêmus, son of Aleas: lastly, there were not wanting authors who termed both Minyas and Orchomenos sons of Eteoklês.[290] Nor do we find in any one of these genealogies the name of Amphiôn, the son of Iasus, who figures so prominently in the Odyssey as king of Orchomenos, and whose beautiful daughter Chlôris is married to Nêleus. Pausanias mentions him, but not as king, which is the denomination given to him in Homer.[291]

The discrepancies here cited are hardly necessary in order to prove that these Orchomenian genealogies possess no historical value. Yet some probable inferences appear deducible from the general tenor of the legends, whether the facts and persons of which they are composed be real or fictitious.

Throughout all the historical age, Orchomenos is a member of the Bœôtian confederation. But the Bœôtians are said to have been immigrants into the territory which bore their name from Thessaly; and prior to the time of their immigration, Orchomenos and the surrounding territory appear as possessed by the Minyæ, who are recognized in that locality both in the Iliad and in the Odyssey,[292] and from whom the constantly recurring Eponymus, King Minyas, is borrowed by the genealogists. Poetical legend connects the Orchomenian Minyæ on the one side, with Pylos and Tryphylia in Peloponnêsus; on the other side, with Phthiôtis and the town of Iôlkos in Thessaly; also with Corinth,[293][p. 132] through Sisyphus and his sons. Pherekydês represented Nêleus, king of Pylos, as having also been king of Orchomenos.[294] In the region of Triphylia, near to or coincident with Pylos, a Minyeian river is mentioned by Homer; and we find traces of residents called Minyæ even in the historical times, though the account given by Herodotus of the way in which they came thither is strange and unsatisfactory.[295]

Before the great changes which took place in the inhabitants of Greece from the immigration of the Thesprôtians into Thessaly, of the Bœôtians into Bœôtia, and of the Dôrians and Ætôlians into Peloponnêsus, at a date which we have no means of determining, the Minyæ and tribes fraternally connected with them seem to have occupied a large portion of the surface of Greece, from Iôlkos in Thessaly to Pylos in the Peloponnêsus. The wealth of Orchomenos is renowned even in the Iliad;[296] and when we study its topography in detail, we are furnished with a probable explanation both of its prosperity and its decay. Orchomenos was situated on the northern bank of the lake Kôpaïs, which receives not only the river Kêphisos from the valleys of Phôkis, but also other rivers from Parnassus and Helicôn. The waters of the lake find more than one subterranean egress—partly through natural rifts and cavities in the limestone mountains, partly through a tunnel pierced artificially more than a mile in length—into the plain on the north-eastern side, from whence they flow into the Eubœan sea near Larymna:[297] and it appears[p. 133] that, so long as these channels were diligently watched and kept clear, a large portion of the lake was in the condition of alluvial land, preëminently rich and fertile. But when the channels came to be either neglected, or designedly choked up by an enemy, the water accumulated to such a degree, as to occupy the soil of more than one ancient town, to endanger the position of Kôpæ, and to occasion the change of the site of Orchomenos itself from the plain to the declivity of Mount Hyphanteion. An engineer, Kratês, began the clearance of the obstructed water-courses in the reign of Alexander the Great, and by his commission—the destroyer of Thêbes being anxious to reëstablish the extinct prosperity of Orchomenos. He succeeded so far as partially to drain and diminish the lake, whereby the site of more than one ancient city was rendered visible: but the revival of Thêbes by Kassander, after the decease of Alexander, arrested the progress of the undertaking, and the lake soon regained its former dimensions, to contract which no farther attempt was made.[298]

According to the Thêban legend,[299] Hêraklês, after his defeat of Erginus had blocked up the exit of the waters, and converted the Orchomenian plain into a lake. The spreading of these waters is thus connected with the humiliation of the Minyæ; and there can be little hesitation in ascribing to these ancient tenants of Orchomenos, before it became bœotized, the enlargement and preservation of these protective channels. Nor could such an object have been accomplished, without combined action and acknowledged ascendency on the part of that city over its neighbors, extending even to the sea at Larymna, where the river Kôphisos discharges itself. Of its extended influence, as well as of its maritime activity, we find a remarkable evidence in the ancient and venerated Amphiktyony at Kalauria. The little is[p. 134]land so named, near the harbor of Trœzên, in Peloponnêsus, was sacred to Poseidôn, and an asylum of inviolable sanctity. At the temple of Poseidôn, in Kalauria, there had existed, from unknown date, a periodical sacrifice, celebrated by seven cities in common—Hermionê, Epidaurus, Ægina, Athens, Prasiæ, Nauplia, and the Minyeian Orchomenos. This ancient religious combination dates from the time when Nauplia was independent of Argos, and Prasiæ of Sparta: Argos and Sparta, according to the usual practice in Greece, continued to fulfil the obligation each on the part of its respective dependent.[300] Six out of the seven states are at once sea-towns, and near enough to Kalauria to account for their participation in this Amphiktyony. But the junction of Orchomenos, from its comparative remoteness, becomes inexplicable, except on the supposition that its territory reached the sea, and that it enjoyed a considerable maritime traffic—a fact which helps to elucidate both its legendary connection with Iôlkos, and its partnership in what is called the Iônic emigration.[301] The mythical genealogy, whereby Ptôos, Schœneus and Erythrios are enumerated among the sons of Athamas, goes farther to confirm the idea that the towns and localities on the south-east of the lake recognized a fraternal origin with the Orchomenian Minyæ, not less than Korôneia and Haliartus on the south-west.[302]

The great power of Orchomenos was broken down, and the city reduced to a secondary and half-dependent position by the Bœôtians of Thêbes; at what time, and under what circumstances, history has not preserved. The story, that the Thêban hero, Hêraklês, rescued his native city from servitude and tribute to Orchomenos, since it comes from a Kadmeian and not from an Orchomenian legend, and since the details of it were favorite subjects of commemoration in the Thêbian temples,[303] affords a presumption that Thêbes was really once dependent on Orcho[p. 135]menos. Moreover the savage mutilations inflicted by the hero on the tribute-seeking envoys, so faithfully portrayed in his surname Rhinokoloustês, infuse into the mythe a portion of that bitter feeling which so long prevailed between Thêbes and Orchomenos, and which led the Thêbans, as soon as the battle of Leuctra had placed supremacy in their hands, to destroy and depopulate their rival.[304] The ensuing generation saw the same fate retorted upon Thêbes, combined with the restoration of Orchomenos. The legendary grandeur of this city continued, long after it had ceased to be distinguished for wealth and power, imperishably recorded both in the minds of the nobler citizens and in the compositions of the poets; the emphatic language of Pausanias shows how much he found concerning it in the old epic.[305]


With several of the daughters of Æolus memorable mythical pedigrees and narratives are connected. Alcyonê married Kêyx, the son of Eôsphoros, but both she and her husband displayed in a high degree the overweening insolence common in the Æolic race. The wife called her husband Zeus, while he addressed her as Hêrê, for which presumptuous act Zeus punished them by changing both into birds.[306]

Canacê had by the god Poseidôn several children, amongst[p. 136] whom were Epôpeus and Alôeus.[307] Alôeus married Imphimêdea, who became enamored of the god Poseidôn, and boasted of her intimacy with him. She had by him two sons, Otos and Ephialtês, the huge and formidable Alôids,—Titanic beings, nine fathoms in height and nine cubits in breadth, even in their boyhood, before they had attained their full strength. These Alôids defied and insulted the gods in Olympus; they paid their court to Hêrê and Artemis, and they even seized and bound Arês, confining him in a brazen chamber for thirteen months. No one knew where he was, and the intolerable chain would have worn him to death, had not Eribœa, the jealous stepmother of the Alôids, revealed the place of his detention to Hermês, who carried him surreptitiously away when at the last extremity; nor could Arês obtain any atonement for such an indignity. Otos and Ephialtês even prepared to assault the gods in heaven, piling up Ossa on Olympus and Pêlion on Ossa, in order to reach them. And this they would have accomplished had they been allowed to grow to their full maturity; but the arrows of Apollo put a timely end to their short-lived career.[308]

[p. 137]The genealogy assigned to Calycê, another daughter of Æolus, conducts us from Thessaly to Elis and Ætôlia. She married Aëthlius (the son of Zeus by Prôtogeneia, daughter of Deukaliôn and sister of Hellên), who conducted a colony out of Thessaly and settled in the territory of Elis. He had for his son Endymiôn, respecting whom the Hesiodic Catalogue and the Eoiai related several wonderful things. Zeus granted him the privilege of determining the hour of his own death, and even translated him into heaven, which he forfeited by daring to pay court to Hêrê: his vision in this criminal attempt was cheated by a cloud, and he was cast out into the under-world.[309] According to other[p. 138] stories, his great beauty caused the goddess Sêlêne to become enamored of him, and to visit him by night during his sleep:—the sleep of Endymiôn became a proverbial expression for enviable, undisturbed, and deathless repose.[310] Endymiôn had for issue (Pausanias gives us three different accounts, and Apollodôrus a fourth, of the name of his wife) Epeios, Ætôlus, Pæôn, and a daughter Eurykydê. He caused his three sons to run a race on the stadium at Olympia, and Epeios, being victorious, was rewarded by becoming his successor in the kingdom: it was after him that the people were denominated Epeians.

Both the story here mentioned, and still more, the etymological signification of the names Aëthlius and Endymiôn, seem plainly to indicate (as has before been remarked) that this genealogy was not devised until after the Olympic games had become celebrated and notorious throughout Greece.

Epeios had no male issue, and was succeeded by his nephew Eleios, son of Euykydê by the god Poseidôn: the name of the people was then changed from Epeians to Eleians. Ætôlus, the brother of Epeios, having slain Apis, son of Phorôneus, was compelled to flee from the country: he crossed the Corinthian gulf and settled in the territory then called Kurêtis, but to which he gave the name of Ætôlia.[311]

The son of Eleios,—or, according to other accounts, of the god Hêlios, of Poseidôn, or of Phorbas,[312]—is Augeas, whom we find mentioned in the Iliad as king of the Epeians or Eleians. Nestôr gives a long and circumstantial narrative of his own exploits at the head of his Pylian countrymen against his neighbors the Epeians and their king Augeas, whom he defeated with great loss, slaying Mulios, the king’s son-in-law, and acquiring a vast[p. 139] booty.[313] Augeas was rich in all sorts of rural wealth, and possessed herds of cattle so numerous, that the dung of the animals accumulated in the stable or cattle enclosures beyond all power of endurance. Eurystheus, as an insult to Hêraklês, imposed upon him the obligation of cleansing this stable: the hero, disdaining to carry off the dung upon his shoulders, turned the course of the river Alpheios through the building, and thus swept the encumbrance away.[314] But Augeas, in spite of so signal a service, refused to Hêraklês the promised reward, though his son Phyleus protested against such treachery, and when he found that he could not induce his father to keep faith, retired in sorrow and wrath to the island of Dulichiôn.[315] To avenge the deceit practised upon him, Hêraklês invaded Elis; but Augeas had powerful auxiliaries, especially his nephews, the two Molionids (sons of Poseidôn by Molionê, the wife of Aktôr), Eurytos and Kteatos. These two miraculous brothers, of transcendent force, grew together,—having one body, but two heads and four arms.[316][p. 140] Such was their irresistible might, that Hêraklês was defeated and repelled from Elis: but presently the Eleians sent the two Molionid brothers as Theôri (sacred envoys) to the Isthmian games, and Hêraklês, placing himself in ambush at Kleônæ, surprised and killed them as they passed through. For this murderous act the Eleians in vain endeavored to obtain redress both at Corinth and at Argos; which is assigned as the reason for the self-ordained exclusion, prevalent throughout all the historical age, that no Eleian athlête would ever present himself as a competitor at the Isthmian games.[317] The Molionids being thus removed, Hêraklês again invaded Elis, and killed Augeas along with his children,—all except Phyleus, whom he brought over from Dulichiôn, and put in possession of his father’s kingdom. According to the more gentle narrative which Pausanias adopts, Augeas was not killed, but pardoned at the request of Phyleus.[318] He was worshipped as a hero[319] even down to the time of that author.

It was on occasion of this conquest of Elis, according to the old mythe which Pindar has ennobled in a magnificent ode, that Hêraklês first consecrated the ground of Olympia, and established the Olympic games. Such at least was one of the many fables respecting the origin of that memorable institution.[320]

Phyleus, after having restored order in Elis, retired again to Dulichiôn, and left the kingdom to his brother Agasthenês, which again brings us into the Homeric series. For Polyxenos, son of Agasthenês, is one of the four commanders of the Epeian forty ships in the Iliad, in conjunction with the two sons of Eurytos[p. 141] and Kteatos, and with Diôrês son of Amarynceus. Megês, the son of Phyleus, commands the contingent from Dulichiôn and the Echinades.[321] Polyxenos returns safe from Troy, is succeeded by his son Amphimachos,—named after the Epeian chief who had fallen before Troy,—and he again by another Eleios, in whose time the Dôrians and the Hêrakleids invade Peloponnêsus.[322] These two names, barren of actions or attributes, are probably introduced by the genealogists whom Pausanias followed, to fill up the supposed interval between the Trojan war and the Dôrian invasion.

We find the ordinary discrepancies in respect to the series and the members of this genealogy. Thus some called Epeios son of Aëthlius, others son of Endymiôn:[323] a third pedigree, which carries the sanction of Aristotle and is followed by Conôn, designated Eleios, the first settler of Elis, as son of Poseidôn and Eurypylê, daughter of Endymiôn, and Epeios and Alexis as the two sons of Eleios.[324] And Pindar himself, in his ode to Epharmostus the Locrian, introduces with much emphasis another king of the Epeians named Opus, whose daughter, pregnant by Zeus, was conveyed by that god to the old and childless king Locrus: the child when born, adopted by Locrus and named Opus, became the eponymous hero of the city so called in Locris.[325] Moreover Hekatæus the Milesian not only affirmed (contrary both to the Iliad and the Odyssey) that the Epeians and the Eleians were different people, but also added that the Epeians had assisted Hêraklês in his expedition against Augeas and Elis; a narrative very different from that of Apollodôrus and Pausanias, and indicating besides that he must have had before him a genealogy varying from theirs.[326]

It has already been mentioned that Ætôlus, son of Endymiôn,[p. 142] quitted Peloponnêsus in consequence of having slain Apis.[327] The country on the north of the Corinthian gulf, between the rivers Euênus and Achelôus, received from him the name of Ætôlia instead of that of Kurêtis: he acquired possession of it after having slain Dôrus, Laodokus and Polypœtes, sons of Apollo and Phthia, by whom he had been well received. He had by his wife Pronoê (the daughter of Phorbas) two sons, Pleurôn and Kalydôn, and from them the two chief towns in Ætôlia were named.[328] Pleurôn married Xanthippê, daughter of Dôrus, and had for his son Agênôr, from whom sprang Portheus, or Porthaôn, and Demonikê: Euênos and Thestius were children of the latter by the god Arês.[329]

Portheus had three sons, Agrius, Melas and Œneus: among the offspring of Thestius were Althæa and Lêda,[330]—names which bring us to a period of interest in the legendary history. Lêda marries Tyndareus and becomes mother of Helena and the Dioskuri: Althæa marries Œneus, and has, among other children, Meleager and Deianeira; the latter being begotten by the god Dionysus, and the former by Arês.[331] Tydeus also is his son, the[p. 143] father of Diomêdês: warlike eminence goes hand in hand with tragic calamity among the members of this memorable family.

We are fortunate enough to find the legend of Althæa and Meleager set forth at considerable length in the Iliad, in the speech addressed by Phœnix to appease the wrath of Achilles. Œneus, king of Kalydôn, in the vintage sacrifices which he offered to the gods, omitted to include Artemis: the misguided man either forgot her or cared not for her;[332] and the goddess, provoked by such an insult, sent against the vineyards of Œneus a wild boar, of vast size and strength, who tore up the trees by the root and laid prostrate all their fruit. So terrible was this boar, that nothing less than a numerous body of men could venture to attack him: Meleager, the son of Œneus, however, having got together a considerable number of companions, partly from the Kurêtes of Pleurôn, at length slew him. But the anger of Artemis was not yet appeased, and she raised a dispute among the combatants respecting the possession of the boar’s head and hide,—the trophies of victory. In this dispute, Meleager slew the brother of his mother Althæa, prince of the Kurêtes of Pleurôn: these Kurêtes attacked the Ætôlians of Kalydôn in order to avenge their chief. So long as Meleager contended in the field the Ætôlians had the superiority. But he presently refused to come forth, indignant at the curses imprecated upon him by his mother: for Althæa, wrung with sorrow for the death of her brother, flung herself upon the ground in tears, beat the earth violently with her hands, and implored Hadês and Persephonê to inflict death upon Meleager,—a prayer which the unrelenting Erinnys in Erebus heard but too well. So keenly did the hero resent this behavior of his mother, that he kept aloof from the war; and the Kurêtes not only drove the Ætôlians from the field, but assailed the walls and gates of Kalydôn, and were on the point of overwhelming its dismayed inhabitants. There was no hope of safety except in the arm of Meleager; but Meleager lay in his chamber by the side of his beautiful wife Kleopatra, the daughter of Idas, and heeded not the necessity.[p. 144] While the shouts of expected victory were heard from the assailants at the gates, the ancient men of Ætôlia and the priests of the gods earnestly besought Meleager to come forth,[333] offering him his choice of the fattest land in the plain of Kalydôn. His dearest friends, his father Œneus, his sisters, and even his mother herself added their supplications, but he remained inflexible. At length the Kurêtes penetrated into the town and began to burn it: at this last moment, Kleopatra his wife addressed to him her pathetic appeal, to avert from her and from his family the desperate horrors impending over them all. Meleager could no longer resist: he put on his armor, went forth from his chamber, and repelled the enemy. But when the danger was over, his countrymen withheld from him the splendid presents which they had promised, because he had rejected their prayers, and had come forth only when his own haughty caprice dictated.[334]

Such is the legend of Meleager in the Iliad: a verse in the second book mentions simply the death of Meleager, without farther details, as a reason why Thoas appeared in command of the Ætôlians before Troy.[335] Though the circumstance is indicated only indirectly, there seems little doubt that Homer must have conceived the death of the hero as brought about by the maternal curse: the unrelenting Erinnys executed to the letter the invocations of Althæa, though she herself must have been willing to retract them.

Later poets both enlarged and altered the fable. The Hesiodic Eoiai, as well as the old poem called the Minyas, represented Meleager as having been slain by Apollo, who aided the Kurêtes in the war; and the incident of the burning brand, though quite at variance with Homer, is at least as old as the tragic poet Phrynichus, earlier than Æschylus.[336] The Mœræ, or Fates, presenting themselves to Althæa shortly after the birth of Meleager, predicted that the child would die so soon as the brand then burning on the fire near at hand should be consumed. Althæa snatched it from the flames and extinguished it, preserving it with the utmost care, until she became incensed against Meleager for the[p. 145] death of her brother. She then cast it into the fire, and as soon as it was consumed the life of Meleager was brought to a close.

We know, from the sharp censure of Pliny, that Sophoklês heightened the pathos of this subject by his account of the mournful death of Meleager’s sisters, who perished from excess of grief. They were changed into the birds called Meleagrides, and their never-ceasing tears ran together into amber.[337] But in the hands of Euripidês—whether originally through him or not,[338] we cannot tell—Atalanta became the prominent figure and motive of the piece, while the party convened to hunt the Kalydônian boar was made to comprise all the distinguished heroes from every quarter of Greece. In fact, as Heyne justly remarks, this event is one of the four aggregate dramas of Grecian heroic life,[339] along with the Argonautic expedition, the siege of Thêbes, and the Trojan war. To accomplish the destruction of the terrific animal which Artemis in her wrath had sent forth, Meleager assembled not merely the choice youth among the Kurêtes and Ætôlians (as we find in the Iliad), but an illustrious troop, including Kastôr and Pollux, Idas and Lynkeus, Pêleus and Telamôn, Thêseus and Peirithous, Ankæus and Kêpheus, Jasôn, Amphiaraus, Admêtus, Eurytiôn and others. Nestôr and Phœnix, who appear as old men before the walls of Troy, exhibited their early prowess as auxiliaries to the suffering Kalydônians.[340] Conspicuous amidst them all stood the virgin Atalanta, daughter of the Arcadian[p. 146] Schœneus; beautiful and matchless for swiftness of foot, but living in the forest as a huntress and unacceptable to Aphroditê.[341] Several of the heroes were slain by the boar, others escaped by various stratagems: at length Atalanta first shot him in the back, next Amphiaraus in the eye, and, lastly, Meleager killed him. Enamoured of the beauty of Atalanta, Meleager made over to her the chief spoils of the animal, on the plea that she had inflicted the first wound. But his uncles, the brothers of Thestius, took them away from her, asserting their rights as next of kin,[342] if Meleager declined to keep the prize for himself: the latter, exasperated at this behavior, slew them. Althæa, in deep sorrow for her brothers and wrath against her son, is impelled to produce the fatal brand which she had so long treasured up, and consign it to the flames.[343] The tragedy concludes with the voluntary death both of Althæa and Kleopatra.

Interesting as the Arcadian huntress, Atalanta, is in herself, she is an intrusion, and not a very convenient intrusion, into the Homeric story of the Kalydônian boar-hunt, wherein another female Kleopatra, already occupied the foreground.[344] But the more recent version became accredited throughout Greece, and[p. 147] was sustained by evidence which few persons in those days felt any inclination to controvert. For Atalanta carried away with her the spoils and head of the boar into Arcadia; and there for successive centuries hung the identical hide and the gigantic tusks of three feet in length, in the temple of Athênê Alea at Tegea. Kallimachus mentions them as being there preserved, in the third century before the Christian æra;[345] but the extraordinary value set upon them is best proved by the fact that the emperor Augustus took away the tusks from Tegea, along with the great statue of Athênê Alea, and conveyed them to Rome, to be there preserved among the public curiosities. Even a century and a half afterwards, when Pausanias visited Greece, the skin worn out with age was shown to him, while the robbery of the tusks had not been forgotten. Nor were these relics of the boar the only memento preserved at Tegea of the heroic enterprise. On the pediment of the temple of Athênê Alea, unparalleled in Peloponnêsus for beauty and grandeur, the illustrious statuary Skopas had executed one of his most finished reliefs, representing the Kalydônian hunt. Atalanta and Meleager were placed in the front rank of the assailants, and Ankæus, one of the Tegean heroes, to whom the tusks of the boar had proved fatal,[346] was represented as sinking under his death-wound into the arms of his brother Epochos. And Pausanias observes, that the Tegeans, while they had manifested the same honorable forwardness as other Arcadian communities in the conquest of Troy, the repulse of Xerxês, and the battle of Dipæ against Sparta—might fairly claim to themselves, through Ankæus and Atalanta, that they alone amongst all Arcadians had participated in the glory of the Kalydônian boar-hunt.[347] So entire and unsuspecting is the faith[p. 148] both of the Tegeans and of Pausanias in the past historical reality of this romantic adventure. Strabo indeed tries to transform the romance into something which has the outward semblance of history, by remarking that the quarrel respecting the boar’s head and hide cannot have been the real cause of war between the Kurêtes and the Ætôlians; the true ground of dispute (he contends) was probably the possession of a portion of territory.[348] His remarks on this head are analogous to those of Thucydidês and other critics, when they ascribe the Trojan war, not to the rape of Helen, but to views of conquest or political apprehensions. But he treats the general fact of the battle between the Kurêtes and the Ætôlians, mentioned in the Iliad, as something unquestionably real and historical—recapitulating at the same time a variety of discrepancies on the part of different authors, but not giving any decision of his own respecting their truth or falsehood.

In the same manner as Atalanta was intruded into the Kalydônian hunt, so also she seems to have been introduced into the memorable funeral games celebrated after the decease of Pelias at Iôlkos, in which she had no place at the time when the works on the chest of Kypselus were executed.[349] But her native and genuine locality is Arcadia; where her race-course, near to the town of Methydrion, was shown even in the days of Pausanias.[350] This race-course had been the scene of destruction for more than[p. 149] one unsuccessful suitor. For Atalanta, averse to marriage, had proclaimed that her hand should only be won by the competitor who could surpass her in running: all who tried and failed were condemned to die, and many were the persons to whom her beauty and swiftness, alike unparalleled, had proved fatal. At length Meilaniôn, who had vainly tried to win her affections by assiduous services in her hunting excursions, ventured to enter the perilous lists. Aware that he could not hope to outrun her except by stratagem, he had obtained by the kindness of Aphroditê, three golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides, which he successively let fall near to her while engaged in the race. The maiden could not resist the temptation of picking them up, and was thus overcome: she became the wife of Meilaniôn and the mother of the Arcadian Parthenopæus, one of the seven chiefs who perished in the siege of Thêbes.[351]

[p. 150]We have yet another female in the family of Œneus, whose name the legend has immortalized. His daughter Deianeira was sought in marriage by the river Achelôus, who presented himself in various shapes, first as a serpent and afterwards as a bull. From the importunity of this hateful suitor she was rescued by the arrival of Hêraklês, who encountered Achelôus, vanquished him and broke off one of his horns, which Achelôus ransomed by surrendering to him the horn of Amaltheia, endued with the miraculous property of supplying the possessor with abundance of any food or drink which he desired. Hêraklês was rewarded for his prowess by the possession of Deianeira, and he made over the horn of Amaltheia as his marriage-present to Œneus.[352] Compelled to leave the residence of Œneus in consequence of having in a fit of anger struck the youthful attendant Eunomus, and involuntarily killed him,[353] Hêraklês retired to Trachin, crossing the river Euênus at the place where the Centaur Nessus was[p. 151] accustomed to carry over passengers for hire. Nessus carried over Deianeira, but when he had arrived on the other side, began to treat her with rudeness, upon which Hêraklês slew him with an arrow tinged by the poison of the Lernæan hydra. The dying Centaur advised Deianeira to preserve the poisoned blood which flowed from his wound, telling her that it would operate as a philtre to regain for her the affections of Hêraklês, in case she should ever be threatened by a rival. Some time afterwards the hero saw and loved the beautiful Iolê, daughter of Eurytos, king of Œchalia: he stormed the town, killed Eurytos, and made Iolê his captive. The misguided Deianeira now had recourse to her supposed philtre: she sent as a present to Hêraklês a splendid tunic, imbued secretly with the poisoned blood of the Centaur. Hêraklês adorned himself with the tunic on the occasion of offering a solemn sacrifice to Zeus on the promontory of Kênæon in Eubœa: but the fatal garment, when once put on, clung to him indissolubly, burnt his skin and flesh, and occasioned an agony of pain from which he was only relieved by death. Deianeira slew herself in despair at this disastrous catastrophe.[354]

[p. 152]We have not yet exhausted the eventful career of Œneus and his family—ennobled among the Ætôlians especially, both by religious worship and by poetical eulogy—and favorite themes not merely in some of the Hesiodic poems, but also in other ancient epic productions, the Alkmæênis and the Cyclic Thêbais.[355] By another marriage, Œneus had for his son Tydeus, whose poetical celebrity is attested by the many different accounts given both of the name and condition of his mother. Tydeus, having slain his cousins, the sons of Melas, who were conspiring against Œneus, was forced to become an exile, and took refuge at Argos with Adrastus, whose daughter Deipylê he married. The issue of this marriage was Diomêdês, whose brilliant exploits in the siege of Troy were not less celebrated than those of his father at the siege of Thêbes. After the departure of Tydeus, Œneus was deposed by the sons of Agrios, and fell into extreme poverty and wretchedness, from which he was only rescued by his grandson Diomêdês, after the conquest of Troy.[356] The sufferings of this ancient warrior, and the final restoration and revenge by Diomêdês, were the subject of a lost tragedy of Euripidês, which even the ridicule of Aristophanês demonstrates to have been eminently pathetic.[357]

Though the genealogy just given of Œneus is in part Homeric, and seems to have been followed generally by the mythographers, yet we find another totally at variance with it in Hekatæus, which he doubtless borrowed from some of the old poets: the simplicity of the story annexed to it seems to attest its antiquity. Orestheus, son of Deukaliôn, first passed into[p. 153] Ætôlia, and acquired the kingdom: he was father of Phytios, who was father of Œneus. Ætôlus was son of Œneus.[358]

The original migration of Ætolus from Elis to Ætôlia—and the subsequent establishment in Elis of Oxylus, his descendant in the tenth generation, along with the Dôrian invaders of Peloponnêsus—were commemorated by two inscriptions, one in the agora of Elis, the other in that of the Ætôlian chief town, Thermum, engraved upon the statues of Ætôlus and Oxylus,[359] respectively.


Among the ancient legendary genealogies, there was none which figured with greater splendor, or which attracted to itself[p. 154] a higher degree of poetical interest and pathos, than that of the Pelopids—Tantalus, Pelops, Atreus and Thyestês, Agamemnôn and Menelaus and Ægisthus, Helen and Klytæmnêstra, Orestês and Elektra and Hermionê. Each of these characters is a star of the first magnitude in the Grecian hemisphere: each name suggests the idea of some interesting romance or some harrowing tragedy: the curse which taints the family from the beginning inflicts multiplied wounds at every successive generation. So, at least, the story of the Pelopids presents itself, after it had been successively expanded and decorated by epic, lyric and tragic poets. It will be sufficient to touch briefly upon events with which every reader of Grecian poetry is more or less familiar, and to offer some remarks upon the way in which they were colored and modified by different Grecian authors.

Pelops is the eponym or name-giver of the Peloponnêsus: to find an eponym for every conspicuous local name was the invariable turn of Grecian retrospective fancy. The name Peloponnêsus is not to be found either in the Iliad or the Odyssey, nor any other denomination which can be attached distinctly and specially to the entire peninsula. But we meet with the name in one of the most ancient post-Homeric poems of which any fragments have been preserved—the Cyprian Verses—a poem which many (seemingly most persons) even of the contemporaries of Herodotus ascribed to the author of the Iliad, though Herodotus contradicts the opinion.[360] The attributes by which the Pelopid Agamemnôn and his house are marked out and distinguished from the other heroes of the Iliad, are precisely those which Grecian imagination would naturally seek in an eponymus—superior wealth, power, splendor and regality. Not only Agamemnôn[p. 155] himself, but his brother Menelaus, is “more of a king” even than Nestôr or Diomêdês. The gods have not given to the king of the “much-golden” Mykênæ greater courage, or strength, or ability, than to various other chiefs; but they have conferred upon him a marked superiority in riches, power and dignity, and have thus singled him out as the appropriate leader of the forces.[361] He enjoys this preëminence as belonging to a privileged family and as inheriting the heaven-descended sceptre of Pelops, the transmission of which is described by Homer in a very remarkable way. The sceptre was made “by Hêphæstos, who presented it to Zeus; Zeus gave it to Hermês, Hermês to the charioteer Pelops; Pelops gave it to Atreus, the ruler of men; Atreus at his death left it to Thyestês, the rich cattle-owner; Thyestês in his turn left it to his nephew Agamemnôn to carry, that he might hold dominion over many islands and over all Argos.”[362]

We have here the unrivalled wealth and power of the “king of men, Agamemnôn,” traced up to his descent from Pelops, and accounted for, in harmony with the recognized epical agencies, by the present of the special sceptre of Zeus through the hands of Hermês; the latter being the wealth-giving god, whose bless[p. 156]ing is most efficacious in furthering the process of acquisition, whether by theft or by accelerated multiplication of flocks and herds.[363] The wealth and princely character of the Atreids were proverbial among the ancient epic poets. Paris not only carries away Hellen, but much property along with her:[364] the house of Menelaus, when Têlemachus visits it in the Odyssey, is so resplendent with gold and silver and rare ornament,[365] as to strike the beholder with astonishment and admiration. The attributes assigned to Tantalus, the father of Pelops, are in conformity with the general idea of the family—superhuman abundance and enjoyments, and intimate converse with the gods, to such a degree that his head is turned, and he commits inexpiable sin. But though Tantalus himself is mentioned, in one of the most suspicious passages of the Odyssey (as suffering punishment in the under-world), he is not announced, nor is any one else announced, as father of Pelops, unless we are to construe the lines in the Iliad as implying that the latter was son of Hermês. In the conception of the author of the Iliad, the Pelopids are, if not of divine origin, at least a mortal breed specially favored and ennobled by the gods—beginning with Pelops, and localized at Mykênæ. No allusion is made to any connection of Pelops either with Pisa or with Lydia.

The legend which connected Tantalus and Pelops with Mount Sipylus may probably have grown out of the Æolic settlements at Magnêsia and Kymê. Both the Lydian origin and the Pisatic sovereignty of Pelops are adapted to times later than the Iliad, when the Olympic games had acquired to themselves the general reverence of Greece, and had come to serve as the religious and recreative centre of the Peloponnêsus—and when the Lydian[p. 157] and Phrygian heroic names, Midas and Gygês, were the types of wealth and luxury, as well as of chariot driving, in the imagination of a Greek. The inconsiderable villages of the Pisatid derived their whole importance from the vicinity of Olympia: they are not deemed worthy of notice in the Catalogue of Homer. Nor could the genealogy which connected the eponym of the entire peninsula with Pisa have obtained currency in Greece unless it had been sustained by preëstablished veneration for the locality of Olympia. But if the sovereign of the humble Pisa was to be recognized as forerunner of the thrice-wealthy princes of Mykênæ, it became necessary to assign some explanatory cause of his riches. Hence the supposition of his being an immigrant, son of a wealthy Lydian named Tantalus, who was the offspring of Zeus and Ploutô. Lydian wealth and Lydian chariot-driving rendered Pelops a fit person to occupy his place in the legend, both as ruler of Pisa and progenitor of the Mykenæan Atreids. Even with the admission of these two circumstances there is considerable difficulty, for those who wish to read the legends as consecutive history, in making the Pelopids pass smoothly and plausibly from Pisa to Mykênæ.

I shall briefly recount the legends of this great heroic family as they came to stand in their full and ultimate growth, after the localization of Pelops at Pisa had been tacked on as a preface to Homer’s version of the Pelopid genealogy.

Tantalus, residing near Mount Sipylus in Lydia, had two children, Pelops and Niobê. He was a man of immense possessions and preëminent happiness, above the lot of humanity: the gods communicated with him freely, received him at their banquets, and accepted of his hospitality in return. Intoxicated with such prosperity, Tantalus became guilty of gross wickedness. He stole nectar and ambrosia from the table of the gods, and revealed their secrets to mankind: he killed and served up to them at a feast his own son Pelops. The gods were horror-struck when they discovered the meal prepared for them: Zeus restored the mangled youth to life, and as Dêmêtêr, then absorbed in grief for the loss of her daughter Persephonê, had eaten a portion of the shoulder, he supplied an ivory shoulder in place of it. Tantalus expiated his guilt by exemplary punishment. He was placed in the under-world, with fruit and water seemingly close[p. 158] to him, yet eluding his touch as often as he tried to grasp them and leaving his hunger and thirst incessant and unappeased.[366] Pindar, in a very remarkable passage, finds this old legend revolting to his feelings: he rejects the tale of the flesh of Pelops having been served up and eaten, as altogether unworthy of the gods.[367]

Niobê, the daughter of Tantalus, was married to Amphiôn, and had a numerous and flourishing offspring of seven sons and seven daughters. Though accepted as the intimate friend and companion of Lêtô, the mother of Apollo and Artemas,[368] she was presumptuous enough to triumph over that goddess, and to place herself on a footing of higher dignity, on account of the superior number of her children. Apollo and Artemas avenged this insult by killing all the sons and all the daughters: Niobê, thus left a childless and disconsolate mother, wept herself to death, and was turned into a rock, which the later Greeks continued always to identify on Mount Sipylus.[369]

Some authors represented Pelops as not being a Lydian, but a king of Paphlagônia; by others it was said that Tantalus, having become detested from his impieties, had been expelled from Asia by Ilus the king of Troy,—an incident which served the double purpose of explaining the transit of Pelops to Greece, and of imparting to the siege of Troy by Agamemnôn the character of retribution for wrongs done to his ancestor.[370] When Pelops came over to Greece, he found Œnomaus, son of the god Arês and Harpinna, in possession of the principality of Pisa,[p. 159] immediately bordering on the district of Olympia. Œnomaus, having been apprized by an oracle that death would overtake him if he permitted his daughter Hippodameia to marry, refused to give her in marriage except to some suitor who should beat him in a chariot-race from Olympia to the isthmus of Corinth;[371] the ground here selected for the legendary victory of Pelops deserves attention, inasmuch as it is a line drawn from the assumed centre of Peloponnêsus to its extremity, and thus comprises the whole territory with which Pelops is connected as eponym. Any suitor overmatched in the race was doomed to forfeit his life; and the fleetness of the Pisan horses, combined with the skill of the charioteer Myrtilus, had already caused thirteen unsuccessful competitors to perish by the lance of Œnomaus.[372] Pelops entered the lists as a suitor: his prayers moved the god Poseidôn to supply him with a golden chariot and winged horses; or according to another story, he captivated the affections of Hippodameia herself, who persuaded the charioteer Myrtilus to loosen the wheels of Œnomaus before he started, so that the latter was overturned and perished in the race. Having thus won the hand of Hippodameia, Pelops became Prince of Pisa.[373] He put to death the charioteer Myrtilus, either from indignation at his treachery to Œnomaus,[374] or from jealousy on the score of Hippodameia: but Myrtilus was the son of Hermês, and though Pelops erected a temple in the vain attempt to propitiate that god, he left a curse upon his race which future calamities were destined painfully to work out.[375]

Pelops had a numerous issue by Hippodameia: Pittheus, Trœzen and Epidaurus, the eponyms of the two Argolic cities[p. 160] so called, are said to have been among them: Atreus and Thyestês were also his sons, and his daughter Nikippê married Sthenelus of Mykênæ, and became the mother of Eurystheus.[376] We hear nothing of the principality of Pisa afterwards: the Pisatid villages became absorbed into the larger aggregate of Elis, after a vain struggle to maintain their separate right of presidency over the Olympic festival. But the legend ran that Pelops left his name to the whole peninsula: according to Thucydidês, he was enabled to do this because of the great wealth which he had brought with him from Lydia into a poor territory. The historian leaves out all the romantic interest of the genuine legends—preserving only this one circumstance, which, without being better attested than the rest, carries with it, from its commonplace and prosaic character, a pretended historical plausibility.[377]

Besides his numerous issue by Hippodameia, Pelops had an illegitimate son named Chrysippus, of singular grace and beauty, towards whom he displayed so much affection as to rouse the jealousy of Hippodameia and her sons. Atreus and Thyestês conspired together to put Chrysippus to death, for which they were banished by Pelops and retired to Mykênæ,[378]—an event which brings us into the track of the Homeric legend. For Thucydidês, having found in the death of Chrysippus a suitable ground for the secession of Atreus from Pelops, conducts him at once to Mykênæ, and shows a train of plausible circumstances to account for his having mounted the throne. Eurystheus, king of Mykênæ, was the maternal nephew of Atreus: when he engaged in any foreign expedition, he naturally entrusted the regency to his uncle; the people of Mykênæ thus became accustomed to be governed by him, and he on his part made efforts to conciliate them, so that when Eurystheus was defeated and slain in Attica, the Mykênæan people, apprehensive of an invasion from the Hêrakleids, chose Atreus as at once the most powerful[p. 161] and most acceptable person for his successor.[379] Such was the tale which Thucydidês derived “from those who had learnt ancient Peloponnêsian matters most clearly from their forefathers.” The introduction of so much sober and quasi-political history, unfortunately unauthenticated, contrasts strikingly with the highly poetical legends of Pelops and Atreus, which precede and follow it.

Atreus and Thyestês are known in the Iliad only as successive possessors of the sceptre of Zeus, which Thyestês at his death bequeathes to Agamemnôn. The family dissensions among this fated race commence, in the Odyssey, with Agamemnôn the son of Atreus, and Ægisthus the son of Thyestês. But subsequent poets dwelt upon an implacable quarrel between the two fathers. The cause of the bitterness was differently represented: some alleged that Thyestês had intrigued with the Krêtan Aeropê, the wife of his brother; other narratives mentioned that Thyestês procured for himself surreptitiously the possession of a lamb with a golden fleece, which had been designedly introduced among the flocks of Atreus by the anger of Hermês, as a cause of enmity and ruin to the whole family.[380] Atreus, after a violent[p. 162] burst of indignation, pretended to be reconciled, and invited Thyestês to a banquet, in which he served up to him the limbs of his own son, and the father ignorantly partook of the fatal meal. Even the all-seeing Hêlios is said to have turned back his chariot to the east in order that he might escape the shocking spectacle of this Thyestêan banquet: yet the tale of Thyestêan revenge—the murder of Atreus perpetrated by Ægisthus, the incestuous offspring of Thyestês by his daughter Pelopia—is no less replete with horrors.[381]

Homeric legend is never thus revolting. Agamemnôn and Menelaus are known to us chiefly with their Homeric attributes, which have not been so darkly overlaid by subsequent poets as those of Atreus and Thyestês. Agamemnôn and Menelaus are affectionate brothers: they marry two sisters, the daughters of Tyndareus king of Sparta, Klytæmnêstra and Helen; for Helen, the real offspring of Zeus, passes as the daughter of Tyndareus.[382] The “king of men” reigns at Mykênæ; Menelaus succeeds Tyndareus at Sparta. Of the rape of Helen, and the siege of Troy consequent upon it, I shall speak elsewhere: I now touch only upon the family legends of the Atreids. Menelaus, on his return from Troy with the recovered Helen, is driven by storms far away to the distant regions of Phœnicia and Egypt, and is exposed to a thousand dangers and hardships before he again sets foot in Peloponnêsus. But at length he reaches Sparta, resumes his kingdom, and passes the rest of his days in uninterrupted happiness and splendor: being moreover husband of the godlike Helen and son-in-law of Zeus, he is even spared the pangs of death. When the fulness of his days is past he is transported to the Elysian fields, there to dwell along with “the golden-haired Rhadamanthus” in a delicious climate and in undisturbed repose.[383]

Far different is the fate of the king of men, Agamemnôn.[p. 163] During his absence, the unwarlike Ægisthus, son of Thyestês, had seduced his wife Klytæmnêstra, in spite of the special warning of the gods, who, watchful over this privileged family, had sent their messenger Hermês expressly to deter him from the attempt.[384] A venerable bard had been left by Agamemnôn as the companion and monitor of his wife, and so long as that guardian was at hand, Ægisthus pressed his suit in vain. But he got rid of the bard by sending him to perish in a desert island, and then won without difficulty the undefended Klytæmnêstra. Ignorant of what had passed, Agamemnôn returned from Troy victorious and full of hope to his native country; but he had scarcely landed when Ægisthus invited him to a banquet, and there with the aid of the treacherous Klytæmnêstra, in the very hall of festivity and congratulation, slaughtered him and his companions “like oxen tied to the manger.” His concubine Kassandra, the prophetic daughter of Priam, perished along with him by the hand of Klytæmnêstra herself.[385] The boy Orestês, the only male offspring of Agamemnôn, was stolen away by his nurse, and placed in safety at the residence of the Phokian Strophius.

For seven years Ægisthus and Klytæmnêstra reigned in tranquillity at Mykênæ on the throne of the murdered Agamemnôn. But in the eighth year the retribution announced by the gods overtook them: Orestês, grown to manhood, returned and avenged his father by killing Ægisthus, according to Homer; subsequent poets add, his mother also. He recovered the kingdom of Mykênæ, and succeeded Menelaus in that of Sparta. Hermionê, the only daughter of Menelaus and Helen, was sent into the realm of the Myrmidons in Thessaly, as the bride of Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, according to the promise made by her father during the siege of Troy.[386]

Here ends the Homeric legend of the Pelopids, the final act of Orestês being cited as one of unexampled glory.[387] Later poets made many additions: they dwelt upon his remorse and hardly[p. 164]-earned pardon for the murder of his mother, and upon his devoted friendship for Pylades; they wove many interesting tales, too, respecting his sisters Iphigeneia and Elektra and his cousin Hermionê,—names which have become naturalized in every climate and incorporated with every form of poetry.

These poets did not at all scruple to depart from Homer, and to give other genealogies of their own, with respect to the chief persons of the Pelopid family. In the Iliad and Odyssey, Agamemnôn is son of Atreus: in the Hesiodic Eoiai and in Stesichorus, he is son of Pleisthenês the son of Atreus.[388] In Homer, he is specially marked as reigning at Mykênæ; but Stesichorus, Simonidês and Pindar[389] represented him as having both resided and perished at Sparta or at Amyklæ. According to the ancient Cyprian Verses, Helen was represented as the daughter of Zeus and Nemesis: in one of the Hesiodic poems she was introduced as an Oceanic nymph, daughter of Oceanus and Têthys.[390] The genealogical discrepancies, even as to the persons of the principal heroes and heroines, are far too numerous to be cited, nor is it necessary to advert to them, except as they bear upon the unavailing attempt to convert such legendary parentage into a basis of historical record or chronological calculation.

The Homeric poems probably represent that form of the legend, respecting Agamemnôn and Orestês, which was current and popular among the Æolic colonists. Orestês was the great heroic chief of the Æolic emigration; he, or his sons, or his descendants, are supposed to have conducted the Achæans to seek[p. 165] a new home, when they were no longer able to make head against the invading Dôrians: the great families at Tenedos and other Æolic cities even during the historical æra, gloried in tracing back their pedigrees to this illustrious source.[391] The legends connected with the heroic worship of these mythical ancestors form the basis of the character and attributes of Agamemnôn and his family, as depicted in Homer, in which Mykênæ appears as the first place in Peloponnêsus, and Sparta only as the second: the former the special residence of “the king of men;” the latter that of his younger and inferior brother, yet still the seat of a member of the princely Pelopids, and moreover the birth-place of the divine Helen. Sparta, Argos and Mykênæ are all three designated in the Iliad by the goddess Hêrê as her favorite cities;[392] yet the connection of Mykênæ with Argos, though the two towns were only ten miles distant, is far less intimate than the connection of Mykênæ with Sparta. When we reflect upon the very peculiar manner in which Homer identifies Hêrê with the Grecian host and its leader,—for she watches over the Greeks with the active solicitude of a mother, and her antipathy against the Trojans is implacable to a degree which Zeus cannot comprehend,[393]—and when we combine this with the ancient and venerated Hêræon, or temple of Hêrê, near Mykênæ, we may partly explain to ourselves the preëminence conferred upon Mykênæ in the Iliad and Odyssey. The Hêræon was situated between Argos and Mykênæ; in later times its priestesses were named and its affairs administered by the Argeians: but as it was much nearer[p. 166] to Mykênæ than to Argos, we may with probability conclude that it originally belonged to the former, and that the increasing power of the latter enabled them to usurp to themselves a religious privilege which was always an object of envy and contention among the Grecian communities. The Æolic colonists doubtless took out with them in their emigration the divine and heroic legends, as well as the worship and ceremonial rites, of the Hêræon; and in those legends the most exalted rank would be assigned to the close-adjoining and administering city.

Mykênæ maintained its independence even down to the Persian invasion. Eighty of its heavy-armed citizens, in the ranks of Leonidas at Thermopylæ, and a number not inferior at Platæa, upheld the splendid heroic celebrity of their city during a season of peril, when the more powerful Argos disgraced itself by a treacherous neutrality. Very shortly afterwards Mykênæ was enslaved and its inhabitants expelled by the Argeians. Though this city so long maintained a separate existence, its importance had latterly sunk to nothing, while that of the Dôrian Argos was augmented very much, and that of the Dôrian Sparta still more.

The name of Mykênæ is imperishably enthroned in the Iliad and Odyssey; but all the subsequent fluctuations of the legend tend to exalt the glory of other cities at its expense. The recognition of the Olympic games as the grand religious festival of Peloponnêsus gave vogue to that genealogy which connected Pelops with Pisa or Elis and withdrew him from Mykênæ. Moreover, in the poems of the great Athenian tragedians, Mykênæ is constantly confounded and treated as one with Argos. If any one of the citizens of the former, expelled at the time of its final subjugation by the Argeians, had witnessed at Athens a drama of Æschylus, Sophoklês, or Euripidês, or the recital of an ode of Pindar, he would have heard with grief and indignation the city of his oppressors made a partner in the heroic glories of his own.[394] But the great political ascendency acquired by Sparta contributed still farther to degrade Mykênæ, by disposing subsequent poets to treat the chief of the Grecian armament against Troy as having been a Spartan. It has been already mentioned that Stêsichorus, Simonidês and Pindar adopted this version of[p. 167] the legend: we know that Zeus Agamemnôn, as well as the hero Menelaus, was worshipped at the Dôrian Sparta,[395] and the feeling of intimate identity, as well as of patriotic pride, which had grown up in the minds of the Spartans connected with the name of Agamemnôn, is forcibly evinced by the reply of the Spartan Syagrus to Gelôn of Syracuse at the time of the Persian invasion of Greece. Gelôn was solicited to lend his aid in the imminent danger of Greece before the battle of Salamis: he offered to furnish an immense auxiliary force, on condition that the supreme command should be allotted to him. “Loudly indeed would the Pelopid Agamemnôn cry out (exclaimed Syagrus in rejecting this application), if he were to learn that the Spartans had been deprived of the headship by Gelôn and the Syracusans.”[396] Nearly a century before this event, in obedience to the injunctions of the Delphian oracle, the Spartans had brought back from Tegea to Sparta the bones of “the Lacônian Orestês,” as Pindar denominates him:[397] the recovery of these bones was announced to them as the means of reversing a course of ill-fortune, and of procuring victory in their war against Tegea.[398] The value which they set upon this acquisition, and the decisive results ascribed to it, exhibit a precise analogy with the recovery of the bones of Theseus from Skyros by the Athenian Cimôn shortly after the Persian invasion.[399] The remains sought were those of a hero properly belonging to their own soil, but who had died in a foreign land, and of whose protection and assistance they were for that reason deprived. And the superhuman magnitude of the bones, which were contained in a coffin seven cubits long, is well suited to the legendary grandeur of the son of Agamemnôn.

[p. 168]


The earliest names in Lacônian genealogy are, an autochthonous Lelex and a Naiad nymph Kleochareia. From this pair sprung a son Eurôtas, and from him a daughter Sparta, who became the wife of Lacedæmôn, son of Zeus and Taygetê, daughter of Atlas. Amyklas, son of Lacedæmôn, had two sons, Kynortas and Hyacinthus—the latter a beautiful youth, the favorite of Apollo, by whose hand he was accidentally killed while playing at quoits: the festival of the Hyacinthia, which the Lacedæmônians generally, and the Amyklæans with special solemnity, celebrated throughout the historical ages, was traced back to this legend. Kynortas was succeeded by his son Periêrês, who married Gorgophonê, daughter of Perseus, and had a numerous issue—Tyndareus, Ikarius, Aphareus, Leukippus, and Hippokoon. Some authors gave the genealogy differently, making Periêrês, son of Æolus, to be the father of Kynortas, and Œbalus son of Kynortas, from whom sprung Tyndareus, Ikarius and Hippokoon.[400]

Both Tyndareus and Ikarius, expelled by their brother Hippokoon, were forced to seek shelter at the residence of Thestius, king of Kalydôn, whose daughter, Lêda, Tyndareus espoused. It is numbered among the exploits of the omnipresent Hêraklês, that he slew Hippokoon and his sons, and restored Tyndareus to his kingdom, thus creating for the subsequent Hêrakleidan kings a mythical title to the throne. Tyndareus, as well as his brothers, are persons of interest in legendary narrative: he is the father of Kastôr, of Timandra, married to Echemus, the hero of Tegea,[401] and of Klytæmnêstra, married to Agamemnôn. Pollux and the ever-memorable Helen are the offspring of Lêda by Zeus. Ika[p. 169]rius is the father of Penelopê, wife of Odysseus: the contrast between her behavior and that of Klytæmnêstra and Helen became the more striking in consequence of their being so nearly related. Aphareus is the father of Idas and Lynkeus, while Leukippus has for his daughters, Phœbê and Ilaëira. According to one of the Hesiodic poems, Kastôr and Pollux were both sons of Zeus by Lêda, while Helen was neither daughter of Zeus nor of Tyndareus, but of Oceanus and Têthys.[402]

The brothers Kastôr and (Polydeukês, or) Pollux are no less celebrated for their fraternal affection than for their great bodily accomplishments: Kastôr, the great charioteer and horse-master; Pollux, the first of pugilists. They are enrolled both among the hunters of the Kalydônian boar and among the heroes of the Argonautic expedition, in which Pollux represses the insolence of Amykus, king of the Bebrykes, on the coast of Asiatic Thrace—the latter, a gigantic pugilist, from whom no rival has ever escaped, challenges Pollux, but is vanquished and killed in the fight.[403]

The two brothers also undertook an expedition into Attica, for the purpose of recovering their sister Helen, who had been carried off by Thêseus in her early youth, and deposited by him at Aphidna, while he accompanied Perithous to the under-world, in order to assist his friend in carrying off Persephonê. The force of Kastôr and Pollux was irresistible, and when they re-demanded their sister, the people of Attica were anxious to restore her: but no one knew where Thêseus had deposited his prize. The invaders, not believing in the sincerity of this denial, proceeded to ravage the country, which would have been utterly ruined, had not Dekelus, the eponymus of Dekeleia, been able to indicate Aphidna as the place of concealment. The autochthonous Titakus betrayed Aphidna to Kastôr and Pollux, and Helen[p. 170] was recovered: the brothers in evacuating Attica, carried away into captivity Æthra, the mother of Thêseus. In after-days, when Kastôr and Pollux, under the title of the Dioskuri, had come to be worshipped as powerful gods, and when the Athenians were greatly ashamed of this act of Thêseus—the revelation made by Dekelus was considered as entitling him to the lasting gratitude of his country, as well as to the favorable remembrance of the Lacedæmônians, who maintained the Dekeleians in the constant enjoyment of certain honorary privileges at Sparta,[404] and even spared that dême in all their invasions of Attica. Nor is it improbable that the existence of this legend had some weight in determining the Lacedæmônians to select Dekelia as the place of their occupation during the Peleponnêsian war.

The fatal combat between Kastôr and Polydeukês on the one side, and Idas and Lynkeus on the other, for the possession of the daughters of Leukippus, was celebrated by more than one ancient poet, and forms the subject of one of the yet remaining Idylls of Theocritus. Leukippus had formally betrothed his daughters to Idas and Lynkeus; but the Tyndarids, becoming enamored of them, outbid their rivals in the value of the customary nuptial gifts, persuaded the father to violate his promise, and carried off Phoebê and Ilaëira as their brides. Idas and Lynkeus pursued them and remonstrated against the injustice: according to Theocritus, this was the cause of the combat. But there was another tale, which seems the older, and which assigns a different cause to the quarrel. The four had jointly made a predatory incursion into Arcadia, and had driven off some cattle, but did not agree about the partition of the booty—Idas carried off into Messênia a portion of it which the Tyndarids claimed as[p. 171] their own. To revenge and reimburse themselves, the Tyndarids invaded Messênia, placing themselves in ambush in the hollow of an ancient oak. But Lynkeus, endued with preternatural powers of vision, mounted to the top of Taygetus, from whence, as he could see over the whole Peleponnêsus, he detected them in their chosen place of concealment. Such was the narrative of the ancient Cyprian Verses. Kastôr perished by the hand of Idas, Lynkeus by that of Pollux. Idas, seizing a stone pillar from the tomb of his father Aphareus, hurled it at Pollux, knocked him down and stunned him; but Zeus, interposing at the critical moment for the protection of his son, killed Idas with a thunderbolt. Zeus would have conferred upon Pollux the gift of immortality, but the latter could not endure existence without his brother: he entreated permission to share the gift with Kastôr, and both were accordingly permitted to live, but only on every other day.[405]

The Dioskuri, or sons of Zeus,—as the two Spartan heroes, Kastôr and Pollux, were denominated,—were recognized in the historical days of Greece as gods, and received divine honors. This is even noticed in a passage of the Odyssey,[406] which is at any rate a very old interpolation, as well as in one of the Homeric hymns. What is yet more remarkable is, that they were invoked during storms at sea, as the special and all-powerful protectors of the endangered mariner, although their attributes and their celebrity seem to be of a character so dissimilar. They were worshipped throughout most parts of Greece, but with preëminent sanctity at Sparta.

Kastôr and Pollux being removed, the Spartan genealogy passes from Tyndareus to Menelaus, and from him to Orestês.

Originally it appears that Messênê was a name for the western portion of Lacônia, bordering on what was called Pylos: it is so represented in the Odyssey, and Ephorus seems to have included it amongst the possessions of Orestês and his descendants.[p. 172] Throughout the whole duration of the Messênico-Dôrian kingdom, there never was any town called Messênê: the town was first founded by Epameinondas, after the battle of Leuctra. The heroic genealogy of Messênia starts from the same name as that of Lacônia—from the autochthonous Lelex: his younger son, Polykaôn, marries Messênê, daughter of the Argeian Triopas, and settles the country. Pausanias tells us that the posterity of this pair occupied the country for five generations; but he in vain searched the ancient genealogical poems to find the names of their descendants.[407] To them succeeded Periêrês, son of Æolus; and Aphareus and Leukippus, according to Pausanias, were sons of Periêrês. Idas and Lynkeus are the only heroes, distinguished for personal exploits and memorable attributes, belonging to Messênia proper. They are the counterpart of the Dioskuri, and were interesting persons in the old legendary poems. Marpêssa was the daughter of Euênus, and wooed by Apollo: nevertheless Idas[408] carried her off by the aid of a winged chariot which he had received from Poseidôn, Euênus pursued them, and when he arrived at the river Lykormas, he found himself unable to overtake them: his grief caused him to throw himself into the river, which ever afterwards bore his name. Idas brought Marpêssa safe to Messênia, and even when Apollo there claimed her of him, he did not fear to risk a combat with the god. But Zeus interfered as mediator, and permitted the maiden to choose which of the two she preferred. She attached herself to Idas, being apprehensive that Apollo would desert her in her old age: on the death of her husband she slew herself. Both Idas and Lynkeus took part in the Argonautic expedition and in the Kalydônian boar-hunt.[409]

[p. 173]Aphareus, after the death of his sons, founded the town of Arênê, and made over most part of his dominions to his kinsman Nêleus, with whom we pass into the Pylian genealogy.


The Arcadian divine or heroic pedigree begins with Pelasgus, whom both Hesiod and Asius considered as an indigenous man, though Akusilaus the Argeian represented him as brother of Argos and son of Zeus by Niobê, daughter of Phorôneus: this logographer wished to establish a community of origin between the Argeians and the Arcadians.

Lykaôn son of Pelasgus and king of Arcadia, had, by different wives, fifty sons, the most savage, impious and wicked of mankind: Mænalus was the eldest of them. Zeus, in order that he might himself become a witness of their misdeeds, presented himself to them in disguise. They killed a child and served it up to him for a meal; but the god overturned the table and struck dead with thunder Lykaôn and all his fifty sons, with the single exception of Nyktimus, the youngest, whom he spared at the earnest intercession of the goddess Gæa (the Earth). The town near which the table was overturned received the name of Trapezus (Tabletown).

This singular legend (framed on the same etymological type as that of the ants in Ægina, recounted elsewhere) seems ancient, and may probably belong to the Hesiodic Catalogue. But Pausanias tells us a story in many respects different, which was represented to him in Arcadia as the primitive local account, and which becomes the more interesting, as he tells us that he himself fully believes it. Both tales indeed go to illustrate the same[p. 174] point—the ferocity of Lykaôn’s character, as well as the cruel rites which he practised. The latter was the first who established the worship and solemn games of Zeus Lykæus: he offered up a child to Zeus, and made libations with the blood upon the altar. Immediately after having perpetrated this act, he was changed into a wolf.[410]

“Of the truth of this narrative (observes Pausanias) I feel persuaded: it has been repeated by the Arcadians from old times, and it carries probability along with it. For the men of that day, from their justice and piety, were guests and companions at table with the gods, who manifested towards them approbation when they were good, and anger if they behaved ill, in a palpable manner: indeed at that time there were some, who having once been men, became gods, and who yet retain their privileges as such—Aristæus, the Krêtan Britomartis, Hêraklês son of Alkmêna, Amphiaraus the son of Oiklês, and Pollux and Kastôr besides. We may therefore believe that Lykaôn became a wild beast, and that Niobê, the daughter of Tantalus, became a stone. But in my time, wickedness having enormously increased, so as to overrun the whole earth and all the cities in it, there are no farther examples of men exalted into gods, except by mere title and from adulation towards the powerful: moreover the anger of the gods falls tardily upon the wicked, and is reserved for them after their departure from hence.”

[p. 175]Pausanias then proceeds to censure those who, by multiplying false miracles in more recent times, tended to rob the old and genuine miracles of their legitimate credit and esteem. The passage illustrates forcibly the views which a religious and instructed pagan took of his past time—how inseparably he blended together in it gods and men, and how little he either recognized or expected to find in it the naked phænomena and historical laws of connection which belonged to the world before him. He treats the past as the province of legend, the present as that of history; and in doing this he is more sceptical than the persons with whom he conversed, who believed not only in the ancient, but even in the recent and falsely reported miracles. It is true that Pausanias does not always proceed consistently with this position: he often rationalizes the stories of the past, as if he expected to find historical threads of connection; and sometimes, though more rarely, accepts the miracles of the present. But in the present instance he draws a broad line of distinction between present and past, or rather between what is recent and what is ancient: his criticism is, in the main, analogous to that of Arrian in regard to the Amazons—denying their existence during times of recorded history, but admitting it during the early and unrecorded ages.

In the narrative of Pausanias, the sons of Lykaôn, instead of perishing by thunder from Zeus, become the founders of the various towns in Arcadia. And as that region was subdivided into a great number of small and independent townships, each having its own eponym, so the Arcadian heroic genealogy appears broken up and subdivided. Pallas, Orestheus, Phigalus, Trapezeus, Mænalus, Mantinêus, and Tegeatês, are all numbered among the sons of Lykaôn, and are all eponyms of various Arcadian towns.[411]

The legend respecting Kallistô and Arkas, the eponym of Arcadia generally, seems to have been originally quite independent of and distinct from that of Lykaôn. Eumêlus, indeed, and some other poets made Kallistô daughter of Lykaôn; but neither Hesiod, nor Asius, nor Pherekydês, acknowledged any relationship between them.[412] The beautiful Kallistô, companion of[p. 176] Artemis in the chase, had bound herself by a vow of chastity. Zeus, either by persuasion or by force, obtained a violation of the vow, to the grievous displeasure both of Hêrê and Artemis. The former changed Kallistô into a bear, the latter when she was in that shape killed her with an arrow. Zeus gave to the unfortunate Kallistô a place among the stars, as the constellation of the Bear: he also preserved the child Arkas, of which she was pregnant by him, and gave it to the Atlantid nymph Maia to bring up.[413]

Arkas, when he became king, obtained from Triptolemus and communicated to his people the first rudiments of agriculture; he also taught them to make bread, to spin, and to weave. He had three sons—Azan, Apheidas, and Elatus: the first was the eponym of Azania, the northern region of Arcadia; the second was one of the heroes of Tegea; the third was father of Ischys (rival of Apollo for the affections of Korônis), as well as of Æpytus and Kyllên: the name of Æpytus among the heroes of Arcadia is as old as the Catalogue in the Iliad.[414]

Aleus, son of Apheidas and king of Tegea, was the founder of the celebrated temple and worship of Athênê Alea in that town. Lykurgus and Kêpheus were his sons, Augê his daughter, who was seduced by Hêraklês, and secretly bore to him a child: the father, discovering what had happened, sent Augê to Nauplius to be sold into slavery: Teuthras, king of Mysia in Asia Minor, purchased her and made her his wife: her tomb was shown at Pergamus on the river Kaïkus even in the time of Pausanias.[415]

[p. 177]

The child Têlephus, exposed on Mount Parthenius, was wonderfully sustained by the milk of a doe: the herdsmen of Korythus brought him up, and he was directed by the Delphian oracle to go and find his parents in Mysia. Teuthras adopted him, and he succeeded to the throne: in the first attempt of the army of Agamemnôn against Troy, on which occasion they mistook their point and landed in Mysia, his valor signally contributed to the repulse of the Greeks, though he was at last vanquished and desperately wounded by the spear of Achilles—by whom however he was afterwards healed, under the injunction of the oracle, and became the guide of the Greeks in their renewed attack upon the Trojans.[416]

From Lykurgus,[417] the son of Aleus and brother of Augê, we pass to his son Ankæus, numbered among the Argonauts, finally killed in the chase of the Kalydônian boar, and father of Agapenôr, who leads the Arcadian contingent against Troy,—(the adventurers of his niece, the Tegeatic huntress Atalanta, have already been touched upon),—then to Echemus, son of Aëropus and grandson of the brother of Lykurgus, Kêpheus. Echemus is the chief heroic ornament of Tegea. When Hyllus, the son of Hêraklês, conducted the Hêrakleids on their first expedition against Peloponnêsus, Echemus commanded the Tegean troops who assembled along with the other Peloponnêsians at the isthmus of Corinth to repel the invasion: it was agreed that the dispute should be determined by single combat, and Echemus, as the champion of Peloponnêsus, encountered and killed Hyllus.[p. 178] Pursuant to the stipulation by which they had bound themselves, the Hêrakleids retired, and abstained for three generations from pressing their claim upon Peloponnêsus. This valorous exploit of their great martial hero was cited and appealed to by the Tegeates before the battle of Platæa, as the principal evidence of their claim to the second post in the combined army, next in point of honor to that of the Lacedæmônians, and superior to that of the Athenians: the latter replied to them by producing as counter-evidence the splendid heroic deeds of Athens,—the protection of the Hêrakleids against Eurystheus, the victory over the Kadmeians of Thêbes, and the complete defeat of the Amazons in Attica.[418] Nor can there be any doubt that these legendary glories were both recited by the speakers, and heard by the listeners, with profound and undoubting faith, as well as with heart-stirring admiration.

One other person there is—Ischys, son of Elatus and grandson of Arkas—in the fabulous genealogy of Arcadia whom it would be improper to pass over, inasmuch as his name and adventures are connected with the genesis of the memorable god or hero Æsculapius, or Asklêpius. Korônis, daughter of Phlegyas, and resident near the lake Bœbëis in Thessaly, was beloved by Apollo and became pregnant by him: unfaithful to the god, she listened to the propositions of Ischys son of Elatus, and consented to wed him: a raven brought to Apollo the fatal news, which so incensed him that he changed the color of the bird from white, as it previously had been, into black.[419] Artemis, to[p. 179] avenge the wounded dignity of her brother, put Korônis to death; but Apollo preserved the male child of which she was about to be delivered, and consigned it to the Centaur Cheirôn to be brought up. The child was named Asklêpius or Æsculapius, and acquired, partly from the teaching of the beneficent leech Cheirôn, partly from inborn and superhuman aptitude, a knowledge of the virtues of herbs and a mastery of medicine and surgery, such as had never before been witnessed. He not only cured the sick, the wounded, and the dying, but even restored the dead to life. Kapaneus, Eriphylê, Hippolytus, Tyndareus and Glaukus were all affirmed by different poets and logographers to have been endued by him with a new life.[420] But Zeus now found himself under the necessity of taking precautions lest mankind, thus unexpectedly protected against sickness and death, should no longer stand in need of the immortal gods: he smote Asklêpius with thunder and killed him. Apollo was so exasperated by this slaughter of his highly-gifted son, that he killed the Cyclôpes who had fabricated the thunder, and Zeus was about to condemn him to Tartarus for doing so; but on the intercession of Latôna he relented, and was satisfied with imposing upon him a temporary servitude in the house of Admêtus at Pheræ.

Asklêpius was worshipped with very great solemnity at Trikka, at Kôs, at Knidus, and in many different parts of Greece, but especially at Epidaurus, so that more than one legend had grown up[p. 180] respecting the details of his birth and adventures: in particular, his mother was by some called Arsinoê. But a formal application had been made on this subject (so the Epidaurians told Pausanias) to the oracle of Delphi, and the god in reply acknowledged that Asklêpius was his son by Korônis.[421] The tale above recounted seems to have been both the oldest and the most current. It is adorned by Pindar in a noble ode, wherein however he omits all mention of the raven as messenger—not specifying who or what the spy was from whom Apollo learnt the infidelity of Korônis. By many this was considered as an improvement in respect of poetical effect, but it illustrates the mode in which the characteristic details and simplicity of the old fables[422] came to be exchanged for dignified generalities, adapted to the altered taste of society.

Machaôn and Podaleirius, the two sons of Asklêpius, command the contingent from Trikka, in the north-west region of Thessaly, at the siege of Troy by Agamemnôn.[423] They are the leeches of the Grecian army, highly prized and consulted by all the wounded chiefs. Their medical renown was further prolonged in the subsequent poem of Arktinus, the Iliu-Persis, wherein the one was represented as unrivalled in surgical operations, the other as sagacious in detecting and appreciating morbid symptoms. It was Podaleirius who first noticed the glaring[p. 181] eyes and disturbed deportment which preceded the suicide of Ajax.[424]

Galen appears uncertain whether Asklêpius (as well as Dionysus) was originally a god, or whether he was first a man and then became afterwards a god;[425] but Apollodôrus professed to fix the exact date of his apotheosis.[426] Throughout all the historical ages the descendants of Asklêpius were numerous and widely diffused. The many families or gentes called Asklêpiads, who devoted themselves to the study and practice of medicine, and who principally dwelt near the temples of Asklêpius whither sick and suffering men came to obtain relief—all recognized the god not merely as the object of their common worship, but also as their actual progenitor. Like Solôn, who reckoned Nêleus and Poseidôn as his ancestors, or the Milêsian Hekatæus, who traced his origin through fifteen successive links to a god—like the privileged gens at Pêlion in Thessaly,[427] who considered the wise Centaur Cheirôn as their progenitor, and who inherited from him their precious secrets respecting the medicinal herbs of which[p. 182] their neighborhood was full,—Asklêpiads, even of the later times, numbered and specified all the intermediate links which separated them from their primitive divine parent. One of these genealogies has been preserved to us, and we may be sure that there were many such, as the Asklêpiads were found in many different places.[428] Among them were enrolled highly instructed and accomplished men, such as the great Hippocratês and the historian Ktêsias, who prided themselves on the divine origin of themselves and their gens[429]—so much did the legendary element pervade even the most philosophical and positive minds of historical Greece. Nor can there be any doubt that their means of medical observation must have been largely extended by their vicinity to a temple so much frequented by the sick, who came in confident hopes of divine relief, and who, whilst they offered up sacrifice and prayer to Æsculapius, and slept in his temple in order to be favored with healing suggestions in their dreams, might, in case the god withheld his supernatural aid, consult his[p. 183] living descendants.[430] The sick visitors at Kôs, or Trikka, or Epidaurus, were numerous and constant, and the tablets usually hung up to record the particulars of their maladies, the remedies resorted to, and the cures operated by the god, formed both an interesting decoration of the sacred ground and an instructive memorial to the Asklêpiads.[431]

The genealogical descent of Hippocratês and the other Asklêpiads from the god Asklêpius is not only analogous to that of Hekatæus and Solôn from their respective ancestoral gods, but also to that of the Lacedæmônian kings from Hêraklês, upon the basis of which the whole supposed chronology of the ante-historical times has been built, from Eratosthenês and Apollodôrus down to the chronologers of the present century.[432] I shall revert to this hereafter.

[p. 184]


The memorable heroic genealogy of the Æakids establishes a fabulous connection between Ægina, Salamis, and Phthia, which we can only recognize as a fact, without being able to trace its origin.

Æakus was the son of Zeus, born of Ægina, daughter of Asôpus, whom the god had carried off and brought into the island to which he gave her name: she was afterwards married to Aktôr, and had by him Menœtius, father of Patroclus. As there were two rivers named Asôpus, one between Phlius and Sikyôn, and another between Thêbes and Platæa—so the Æginêtan heroic genealogy was connected both with that of Thêbes and with that of Phlius: and this belief led to practical consequences in the minds of those who accepted the legends as genuine history. For when the Thêbans, in the 68th Olympiad, were hard-pressed in war by Athens, they were directed by the Delphian oracle to ask assistance of their next of kin: recollecting that Thêbê and Ægina had been sisters, common daughters of Asôpus, they were induced to apply to the Æginêtans as their next of kin, and the Æginêtans gave them aid, first by sending to them their common heroes, the Æakids, next by actual armed force.[433] Pindar dwells emphatically on the heroic brotherhood between Thêbes, his native city, and Ægina.[434]

Æakus was alone in Ægina: to relieve him from this solitude, Zeus changed all the ants in the island into men, and thus provided him with a numerous population, who, from their origin, were called Myrmidons.[435] By his wife Endêis, daughter of Chei[p. 185]rôn, Æakus had for his sons Pêleus and Telamôn: by the Nereid Psamathê, he had Phôkus. A monstrous crime had then recently been committed by Pelops, in killing the Arcadian prince, Stymphalus, under a simulation of friendship and hospitality: for this the gods had smitten all Greece with famine and barrenness. The oracles affirmed that nothing could relieve Greece from this intolerable misery except the prayers of Æakus, the most pious of mankind. Accordingly envoys from all quarters flocked to Ægina, to prevail upon Æakus to put up prayers for them: on his supplications the gods relented, and the suffering immediately ceased. The grateful Greeks established in Ægina the temple and worship of Zeus Panhellênius, one of the lasting monuments and institutions of the island, on the spot where Æakus had offered up his prayer. The statues of the envoys who had come to solicit him were yet to be seen in the Æakeion, or sacred edifice of Æakus, in the time of Pausanias: and the Athenian Isokratês, in his eulogy of Evagoras, the despot of Salamis in Cyprus (who traced his descent through Teukrus to Æakus), enlarges upon this signal miracle, recounted and believed by other Greeks as well as by the Æginêtans, as a proof both of the great qualities and of the divine favor and patronage displayed in the career of the Æakids.[436] Æakus was also employed to aid Poseidôn and Apollo in building the walls of Troy.[437]

Pêleus and Telamôn, the sons of Æakus, contracting a jeal[p. 186]ousy of their bastard brother, Phôkus, in consequence of his eminent skill in gymnastic contests, conspired to put him to death. Telamôn flung his quoit at him while they were playing together, and Pêleus despatched him by a blow with his hatchet in the back. They then concealed the dead body in a wood, but Æakus, having discovered both the act and the agents, banished the brothers from the island.[438] For both of them eminent destinies were in store.

While we notice the indifference to the moral quality of actions implied in the old Hesiodic legend, when it imputes distinctly and nakedly this proceeding to two of the most admired persons of the heroic world—it is not less instructive to witness the change of feeling which had taken place in the age of Pindar. That warm eulogist of the great Æakid race hangs down his head with shame, and declines to recount, though he is obliged darkly to glance at the cause which forced the pious Æakus to banish his sons from Ægina. It appears that Kallimachus, if we may judge by a short fragment, manifested the same repugnance to mention it.[439]

Telamôn retired to Salamis, then ruled by Kychreus, the son of Poseidôn and Salamis, who had recently rescued the island from the plague of a terrible serpent. This animal, expelled from Salamis, retired to Eleusis in Attica, where it was received and harbored by the goddess Dêmêtêr in her sacred domicile.[440] Kychreus dying childless left his dominion to Telamôn, who, mar[p. 187]rying Peribœa, daughter of Alkathoos, and grand-daughter of Pelops, had for his son the celebrated Ajax. Telamôn took part both in the chase of the Kalydônian boar and in the Argonautic expedition: he was also the intimate friend and companion of Hêraklês, whom he accompanied in his enterprise against the Amazons, and in the attack made with only six ships upon Laomedôn, king of Troy. This last enterprise having proved completely successful, Telamôn was rewarded by Hêraklês with the possession of the daughter of Laomedôn, Hêsionê—who bore to him Teukros, the most distinguished archer amidst the host of Agamemnôn, and the founder of Salamis in Cyprus.[441]

Pêleus went to Phthia, where he married the daughter of Eurytiôn, son of Aktôr, and received from him the third part of his dominions. Taking part in the Kalydônian boar-hunt, he unintentionally killed his father-in-law Eurytiôn, and was obliged to flee to Iôlkos, where he received purification from Akastus, son of Pelias: the danger to which he became exposed by the calumnious accusations of the enamoured wife of Akastus has already been touched upon in a previous section. Pêleus also was among the Argonauts; the most memorable event in his life however was his marriage with the sea-goddess Thetis. Zeus and Poseidôn had both conceived a violent passion for Thetis. But the former, having been forewarned by Promêtheus that Thetis was destined to give birth to a son more powerful than his father, compelled her, much against her own will, to marry Pêleus; who, instructed by the intimations of the wise Cheirôn, was enabled to seize her on the coast called Sêpias in the southern region of Thessaly. She changed her form several times, but Pêleus held her fast until she resumed her original appearance, and she was then no longer able to resist. All the gods were present, and brought splendid gifts to these memorable nuptials: Apollo sang with his harp, Poseidôn gave to Pêleus the immortal horses Xanthos and Balios, and Cheirôn presented a[p. 188] formidable spear, cut from an ash-tree on Mount Pêlion. We shall have reason hereafter to recognize the value of both these gifts in the exploits of Achilles.[442]

The prominent part assigned to Thetis in the Iliad is well known, and the post-Homeric poets of the Legend of Troy introduced her as actively concurring first to promote the glory, finally to bewail the death of her distinguished son.[443] Pêleus, having survived both his son Achilles and his grandson Neoptolemus, is ultimately directed to place himself on the very spot where he had originally seized Thetis, and thither the goddess comes herself to fetch him away, in order that he may exchange the desertion and decrepitude of age for a life of immortality along with the Nêreids.[444] The spot was indicated to Xerxês when he marched into Greece by the Iônians who accompanied him, and his magi offered solemn sacrifices to her as well as to the other Nêreids, as the presiding goddesses and mistresses of the coast.[445]

Neoptolemus or Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, too young to engage in the commencement of the siege of Troy, comes on the stage after the death of his father as the indispensable and prominent agent in the final capture of the city. He returns victor from Troy, not to Phthia, but to Epirus, bringing with him the captive Andromachê, widow of Hectôr, by whom Molossus is[p. 189] born to him. He himself perishes in the full vigor of life at Delphi by the machinations of Orestês, son of Agamemnôn. But his son Molossus—like Fleance, the son of Banquo, in Macbeth—becomes the father of the powerful race of Molossian kings, who played so conspicuous a part during the declining vigor of the Grecian cities, and to whom the title and parentage of Æakids was a source of peculiar pride, identifying them by community of heroic origin with genuine and undisputed Hellênes.[446]

The glories of Ajax, the second grandson of Æakus, before Troy, are surpassed only by those of Achilles. He perishes by his own hand, the victim of an insupportable feeling of humiliation, because a less worthy claimant is allowed to carry off from him the arms of the departed Achilles. His son Philæus receives the citizenship of Athens, and the gens or dême called Philaidæ traced up to him its name and its origin: moreover the distinguished Athenians, Miltiadês and Thucydidês, were regarded as members of this heroic progeny.[447]

Teukrus escaped from the perils of the siege of Troy as well as from those of the voyage homeward, and reached Salamis in safety. But his father Telamôn, indignant at his having returned without Ajax, refused to receive him, and compelled him to expatriate. He conducted his followers to Cyprus, where he founded the city of Salamis: his descendant Evagoras was recognized as a Teukrid and as an Æakid even in the time of Isokratês.[448]

[p. 190]

Such was the splendid heroic genealogy of the Æakids,—a family renowned for military excellence. The Æakeion at Ægina, in which prayer and sacrifice were offered to Æakus, remained in undiminished dignity down to the time of Pausanias.[449] This genealogy connects together various eminent gentes in Achaia Phthiôtis, in Ægina, in Salamis, in Cyprus, and amongst the Epirotic Molossians. Whether we are entitled to infer from it that the island of Ægina was originally peopled by Myrmidones from Achaia Phthiôtis, as O. Müller imagines,[450] I will not pretend to affirm. These mythical pedigrees seem to unite together special clans or gentes, rather than the bulk of any community—just as we know that the Athenians generally had no part in the Æakid genealogy, though certain particular Athenian families laid claim to it. The intimate friendship between Achilles and the Opuntian hero Patroclus—and the community of name and frequent conjunction between the Locrian Ajax, son of Oïleus, and Ajax, son of Telamôn—connect the Æakids with Opus and the Opuntian Locrians, in a manner which we have no farther means of explaining. Pindar too represents Menœtius, father of Patroclus, as son of Aktôr and Ægina, and therefore maternal brother of Æakus.[451]

[p. 191]


The most ancient name in Attic archæology, as far as our means of information reach, is that of Erechtheus, who is mentioned both in the Catalogue of the Iliad and in a brief allusion of the Odyssey. Born of the Earth, he is brought up by the goddess Athênê, adopted by her as her ward, and installed in her temple at Athens, where the Athenians offer to him annual sacrifices. The Athenians are styled in the Iliad, “the people of Erechtheus.”[452] This is the most ancient testimony concerning Erechtheus, exhibiting him as a divine or heroic, certainly a superhuman person, and identifying him with the primitive germination (if I may use a term, the Grecian equivalent of which would have pleased an Athenian ear) of Attic man. And he was recognized in this same character, even at the close of the fourth century before the Christian æra, by the Butadæ, one of the most ancient and important Gentes at Athens, who boasted of him as their original ancestor: the genealogy of the great Athenian orator Lykurgus, a member of this family, drawn up by his son Abrôn, and painted on a public tablet in the Erechtheion, contained as its first and highest name, Erechtheus, son of Hêphæstos and the Earth. In the Erechtheion, Erechtheus was worshipped conjointly with Athênê: he was identified with the god Poseidôn, and bore the denomination of Poseidôn Erech[p. 192]theus: one of the family of the Butadæ, chosen among themselves by lot, enjoyed the privilege and performed the functions of his hereditary priest.[453] Herodotus also assigns the same earth-born origin to Erechtheus:[454] but Pindar, the old poem called the Danais, Euripidês and Apollodôrus—all name Erichthonius, son of Hêphæstos and the Earth, as the being who was thus adopted and made the temple-companion of Athênê, while Apollodôrus in another place identifies Erichthonius with Poseidôn.[455] The Homeric scholiast treated Erechtheus and Erichthonius as the same person under two names:[456] and since, in regard to such mythical persons, there exists no other test of identity of the subject except perfect similarity of the attributes, this seems the reasonable conclusion.

We may presume, from the testimony of Homer, that the first and oldest conception of Athens and its sacred acropolis places it under the special protection, and represents it as the settlement and favorite abode of Athênê, jointly with Poseidôn; the latter being the inferior, though the chosen companion of the former, and therefore exchanging his divine appellation for the cognomen of Erechtheus. But the country called Attica, which, during the historical ages, forms one social and political aggregate with Athens, was originally distributed into many independent[p. 193] dêmes or cantons, and included, besides, various religious clans or hereditary sects (if the expression may be permitted); that is, a multitude of persons not necessarily living together in the same locality, but bound together by an hereditary communion of sacred rites, and claiming privileges, as well as performing obligations, founded upon the traditional authority of divine persons for whom they had a common veneration. Even down to the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, the demots of the various Attic dêmes, though long since embodied in the larger political union of Attica, and having no wish for separation, still retained the recollection of their original political autonomy. They lived in their own separate localities, resorted habitually to their own temples, and visited Athens only occasionally for private or political business, or for the great public festivals. Each of these aggregates, political as well as religious, had its own eponymous god or hero, with a genealogy more or less extended, and a train of mythical incidents more or less copious, attached to his name, according to the fancy of the local exegetes and poets. The eponymous heroes Marathôn, Dekelus, Kolônus, or Phlius, had each their own title to worship, and their own position as themes of legendary narrative, independent of Erechtheus, or Poseidôn, or Athênê, the patrons of the acropolis common to all of them.

But neither the archæology of Attica, nor that of its various component fractions, was much dwelt upon by the ancient epic poets of Greece. Theseus is noticed both in the Iliad and Odyssey as having carried off from Krête Ariadnê, the daughter of Minos—thus commencing that connection between the Krêtan and Athenian legends which we afterwards find so largely amplified—and the sons of Thêseus take part in the Trojan war.[457] The chief collectors and narrators of the Attic mythes were, the prose logographers, authors of the many compositions called Atthides, or works on Attic archæology. These writers—Hellanikus, the contemporary of Herodotus, is the earliest composer of an Atthis expressly named, though Pherekydês also touched upon the Attic fables—these writers, I say, interwove into one chronological series the legends which either greatly occupied their own fancy, or commanded the most general reverence[p. 194] among their countrymen. In this way the religious and political legends of Eleusis, a town originally independent of Athens, but incorporated with it before the historical age, were worked into one continuous sequence along with those of the Erechtheids. In this way, Kekrops, the eponymous hero of the portion of Attica called Kekropia, came to be placed in the mythical chronology at a higher point even than the primitive god or hero Erechtheus.

Ogygês is said to have reigned in Attica[458] 1020 years before the first Olympiad, or 1796 years B. C. In his time happened the deluge of Deukaliôn, which destroyed most of the inhabitants of the country: after a long interval, Kekrops, an indigenous person, half man and half serpent, is given to us by Apollodôrus as the first king of the country: he bestowed upon the land, which had before been called Actê, the name of Kekropia. In his day there ensued a dispute between Athênê and Poseidôn respecting the possession of the acropolis at Athens, which each of them coveted. First, Poseidôn struck the rock with his trident, and produced the well of salt water which existed in it, called the Erechthêis: next came Athênê, who planted the sacred olive-tree ever afterwards seen and venerated in the portion of Erechtheion called the cell of Pandrosus. The twelve gods decided the dispute; and Kekrops having testified before them that Athênê had rendered this inestimable service, they adjudged the spot to her in preference to Poseidôn. Both the ancient olive-tree and the well produced by Poseidôn were seen on the acropolis, in the temple consecrated jointly to Athênê and Erechtheus, throughout the historical ages. Poseidôn, as a mark of his wrath for the[p. 195] preference given to Athênê, inundated the Thriasian plain with water.[459]

During the reign of Kekrops, Attica was laid waste by Karian pirates on the coast, and by invasions of the Aônian inhabitants from Bœôtia. Kekrops distributed the inhabitants of Attica into twelve local sections—Kekropia, Tetrapolis, Epakria, Dekeleia, Eleusis, Aphidna, Thorikus, Braurôn, Kythêrus, Sphêttus, Kêphisius, Phalerus. Wishing to ascertain the number of inhabitants, he commanded each man to cast a single stone into a general heap: the number of stones was counted, and it was found that there were twenty thousand.[460]

Kekrops married the daughter of Aktæus, who (according to Pausanias’s version) had been king of the country before him, and had called it by the name of Aktæa.[461] By her he had three daughters, Aglaurus, Ersê and Pandrosus, and a son, Erysichthôn. Kekrops is called by Pausanias contemporary of the Arcadian Lykaôn, and is favorably contrasted with that savage prince in respect of his piety and humanity.[462] Though he has been often designated in modern histories as an immigrant from Egypt into Attica,[p. 196] yet the far greater number of ancient authorities represent him as indigenous or earth-born.[463]

Erysichthôn died without issue, and Kranaus succeeded him,—another autochthonous person and another eponymus,—for the name Kranai was an old denomination of the inhabitants of Attica.[464] Kranaus was dethroned by Amphiktyôn, by some called an autochthonous man; by others, a son of Deukaliôn: Amphiktyôn in his turn was expelled by Erichthonius, son of Hêphæstos and the Earth,—the same person apparently as Erechtheus, but inserted by Apollodôrus at this point of the series. Erichthonius, the pupil and favored companion of Athênê, placed in the acropolis the original Palladium or wooden statue of that goddess, said to have dropped from heaven: he was moreover the first to celebrate the festival of the Panathenæa. He married the nymph Pasithea, and had for his son and successor Pandiôn.[465] Erichthonius was the first person who taught the art of breaking in horses to the yoke, and who drove a chariot and four.[466]

In the time of Pandiôn, who succeeded to Erichthonius, Dionysus and Dêmêtêr both came into Attica: the latter was received by Keleos at Eleusis.[467] Pandiôn married the nymph Zeuxippê, and had twin sons, Erechtheus and Butês, and two daughters, Proknê and Philomêla. The two latter are the subjects of a memorable and well-known legend. Pandiôn having received aid in repelling the Thêbans from Têreus, king of Thrace, gave him his daughter Proknê in marriage, by whom he had a son, Itys. The beautiful Philomêla, going to visit her sister, inspired the barbarous Thracian with an irresistible passion: he violated her person, confined her in a distant pastoral hut, and pretended that she was dead, cutting out her tongue to prevent her from revealing the truth. After a long interval, Philomêla found means to acquaint her sister of the cruel deed which had been perpetrated; she wove into a garment words describing her melancholy condition, and despatched it[p. 197] by a trusty messenger. Proknê, overwhelmed with sorrow and anger, took advantage of the free egress enjoyed by women during the Bacchanalian festival to go and release her sister: the two sisters then revenged themselves upon Têreus by killing the boy Itys, and serving him up for his father to eat: after the meal had been finished, the horrid truth was revealed to him. Têreus snatched a hatchet to put Proknê to death: she fled, along with Philomêla, and all the three were changed into birds—Proknê became a swallow, Philomêla a nightingale, and Têreus an hoopoe.[468] This tale, so popular with the poets, and so illustrative of the general character of Grecian legend, is not less remarkable in another point of view—that the great historian Thucydidês seems to allude to it as an historical fact,[469] not however directly mentioning the final metamorphosis.

After the death of Pandiôn, Erechtheus succeeded to the kingdom, and his brother, Butês, became priest of Poseidôn Erichthonius, a function which his descendants ever afterwards exercised, the Butadæ or Eteobutadæ. Erechtheus seems to appear in three characters in the fabulous history of Athens—as a god,[p. 198] Poseidôn Erechtheus[470]—as a hero, Erechtheus, son of the Earth—and now, as a king, son of Pandiôn: so much did the ideas of divine and human rule become confounded and blended together in the imagination of the Greeks in reviewing their early times.

The daughters of Erechtheus were not less celebrated in Athenian legend than those of Pandiôn. Prokris, one of them, is among the heroines seen by Odysseus in Hadês: she became the wife of Kephalus, son of Deionês, and lived in the Attic dême of Thorikus. Kephalus tried her fidelity by pretending that he was going away for a long period; but shortly returned, disguising his person and bringing with him a splendid necklace. He presented himself to Prokris without being recognized, and succeeded in triumphing over her chastity. Having accomplished this object, he revealed to her his true character: she earnestly besought his forgiveness, and prevailed upon him to grant it. Nevertheless he became shortly afterwards the unintentional author of her death: for he was fond of hunting, and staid out a long time on his excursions, so that Prokris suspected him of visiting some rival. She determined to watch him by concealing herself in a thicket near the place of his midday repose; and when Kephalus implored the presence of Nephelê (a cloud) to protect him from the sun’s rays, she suddenly started from her hiding-place: Kephalus, thus disturbed, cast his hunting-spear unknowingly into the thicket and slew his wife. Erechtheus interred her with great magnificence, and Kephalus was tried for the act before the court of Areopagus, which condemned him to exile.[471]

Kreüsa, another daughter of Erechtheus, seduced by Apollo, becomes the mother of Iôn, whom she exposes immediately after his birth in the cave north of the acropolis, concealing the fact from every one. Apollo prevails upon Hermês to convey the new-born child to Delphi, where he is brought up as a servant of the temple, without knowing his parents. Kreüsa marries Xuthus, son of Æolus, but continuing childless, she goes with Xuthus to[p. 199] the Delphian oracle to inquire for a remedy. The god presents to them Iôn, and desires them to adopt him as their son: their son Achæus is afterwards born to them, and Iôn and Achæus become the eponyms of the Iônians and Achæans.[472]

Oreithyia, the third daughter of Erechtheus, was stolen away by the god Boreas while amusing herself on the banks of the Ilissus, and carried to his residence in Thrace. The two sons of this marriage, Zêtês and Kalaïs, were born with wings: they took part in the Argonautic expedition, and engaged in the pursuit of the Harpies: they were slain at Tênos by Hêraklês. Kleopatra, the daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia, was married to Phineus, and had two sons, Plexippus and Pandiôn; but Phineus afterwards espoused a second wife, Idæa, the daughter of Dardanus, who, detesting the two sons of the former bed, accused them falsely of attempting her chastity, and persuaded Phineus in his wrath to put out the eyes of both. For this cruel proceeding he was punished by the Argonauts in the course of their voyage.[473]

On more than one occasion the Athenians derived, or at least believed themselves to have derived, important benefits from this marriage of Boreas with the daughter of their primæval hero: one inestimable service, rendered at a juncture highly critical for[p. 200] Grecian independence, deserves to be specified.[474] At the time of the invasion of Greece by Xerxês, the Grecian fleet was assembled at Chalcis and Artemision in Eubœa, awaiting the approach of the Persian force, so overwhelming in its numbers as well by sea as on land. The Persian fleet had reached the coast of Magnêsia and the south-eastern corner of Thessaly without any material damage, when the Athenians were instructed by an oracle “to invoke the aid of their son-in-law.” Understanding the advice to point to Boreas, they supplicated his aid and that of Oreithyia, most earnestly, as well by prayer as by sacrifice,[475] and the event corresponded to their wishes. A furious north-easterly wind immediately arose, and continued for three days to afflict the Persian fleet as it lay on an unprotected coast: the number of ships driven ashore, both vessels of war and of provision, was immense, and the injury done to the armament was never thoroughly repaired. Such was the powerful succor which the Athenians derived, at a time of their utmost need, from their son-in-law Boreas; and their gratitude was shown by consecrating to him a new temple on the banks of the Ilissus.

The three remaining daughters of Erechtheus—he had six in all[476]—were in Athenian legend yet more venerated than their sisters, on account of having voluntarily devoted themselves to death for the safety of their country. Eumolpus of Eleusis was the son of Poseidôn and the eponymous hero of the sacred gens called the Eumolpids, in whom the principal functions, appertaining to the mysterious rites of Dêmêtêr at Eleusis, were vested by hereditary privilege: he made war upon Erechtheus and the[p. 201] Athenians, with the aid of a body of Thracian allies; indeed it appears that the legends of Athens, originally foreign and unfriendly to those of Eleusis, represented him as having been himself a Thracian born and an immigrant into Attica.[477] Respecting Eumolpus however and his parentage, the discrepancies much exceed even the measure of license usual in the legendary genealogies, and some critics, both ancient and modern, have sought to reconcile these contradictions by the usual stratagem of supposing two or three different persons of the same name. Even Pausanias, so familiar with this class of unsworn witnesses, complains of the want of native Eleusinian genealogists,[478] and of the extreme license of fiction in which other authors had indulged.

In the Homeric Hymn to Dêmêtêr, the most ancient testimony before us,—composed, to all appearance, earlier than the complete incorporation of Eleusis with Athens,—Eumolpus appears (to repeat briefly what has been stated in a previous chapter) as one of the native chiefs or princes of Eleusis, along with Tripto[p. 202]lemus, Dioklês, Polyxeinus and Dolichus: Keleos is the king, or principal among these chiefs, the son or lineal descendant of the eponymous Eleusis himself. To these chiefs, and to the three daughters of Keleos, the goddess Dêmêtêr comes in her sorrow for the loss of her daughter Persephonê: being hospitably entertained by Keleos she reveals her true character, commands that a temple shall be built to her at Eleusis, and prescribes to them the rites according to which they are to worship her.[479] Such seems to have been the ancient story of the Eleusinians respecting their own religious antiquities: Keleos, with Metaneira his wife, and the other chiefs here mentioned, were worshipped at Eleusis, and from thence transferred to Athens as local gods or heroes.[480] Eleusis became incorporated with Athens, apparently not very long before the time of Solôn; and the Eleusinian worship of Dêmêtêr was then received into the great religious solemnities of the Athenian state, to which it owes its remarkable subsequent extension and commanding influence. In the Atticized worship of the Eleusinian Dêmêtêr, the Eumolpids and the Kêrŷkes were the principal hereditary functionaries: Eumolpus, the eponym of this great family, came thus to play the principal part in the Athenian legendary version of the war between Athens and Eleusis. An oracle had pronounced that Athens could only be rescued from his attack by the death of the three daughters of Erechtheus; their generous patriotism consented to the sacrifice, and their father put them to death. He then went forth confidently to the battle, totally vanquished the enemy, and[p. 203] killed Eumolpus with his own hand.[481] Erechtheus was worshipped as a god, and his daughters as goddesses, at Athens.[482] Their names and their exalted devotion were cited along with those of the warriors of Marathôn, in the public assembly of Athens, by orators who sought to arouse the languid patriot, or to denounce the cowardly deserter; and the people listened both to one and the other with analogous feelings of grateful veneration, as well as with equally unsuspecting faith in the matter of fact.[483]

[p. 204]Though Erechtheus gained the victory over Eumolpus, yet the story represents Poseidôn as having put an end to the life and reign of Erechtheus, who was (it seems) slain in the battle. He was succeeded by his son Kekrops II., and the latter again by his son Pandiôn II.,[484]—two names unmarked by any incidents, and which appear to be mere duplication of the former Kekrops and Pandiôn, placed there by the genealogizers for the purpose of filling up what seemed to them a chronological chasm. The Attic legends were associated chiefly with a few names of respected eponymous personages; and if the persons called the children of Pandiôn were too numerous to admit of their being conveniently ascribed to one father, there was no difficulty in supposing a second prince of the same name.

Apollodôrus passes at once from Erechtheus to his son Kekrops II., then to Pandiôn II., next to the four sons of the latter, Ægeus, Pallas, Nisus and Lykus. But the tragedians here insert the story of Xuthus, Kreüsa and Iôn; the latter being the son of Kreüsa by Apollo, but given by the god to Xuthus, and adopted by the latter as his own. Iôn becomes the successor of Erechtheus, and his sons Teleon, Hoplês, Argadês and Aigikorês become the eponyms of the four ancient tribes of Athens, which subsisted until the revolution of Kleisthenês. Iôn himself is the eponym of the Iônic race both in Asia, in Europe, and in the Ægean islands: Dôrus and Achæus are the sons of Kreüsa by Xuthus, so that Iôn is distinguished from both of them by being of divine parentage.[485] According to the story given by Philochorus, Iôn rendered such essential service in rescuing the Athenians from the attack of the Thracians under Eumolpus, that he was afterwards made king of the country, and distributed all the inhabitants into four tribes or castes, corresponding to different modes of life,—soldiers, husbandmen, goatherds, and artisans.[486] And it seems that the legend explanatory of the origin of the festival Boëdromia, originally important enough to furnish a name[p. 205] to one of the Athenian months, was attached to the aid thus rendered by Iôn.[487]

We pass from Iôn to persons of far greater mythical dignity and interest,—Ægeus and his son Thêseus.

Pandiôn had four sons, Ægeus, Nisus, Lykus, and Pallas, between whom he divided his dominions. Nisus received the territory of Megaris, which had been under the sway of Pandiôn, and there founded the seaport of Nisæa. Lykus was made king of the eastern coast, but a dispute afterwards ensued, and he quitted the country altogether, to establish himself on the southern coast of Asia Minor among the Termilæ, to whom he gave the name of Lykians.[488] Ægeus, as the eldest of the four, became king of Athens; but Pallas received a portion both of the south-western coast and the interior, and he as well as his children appear as frequent enemies both to Ægeus and to Thêseus. Pallas is the eponym of the dême Pallênê, and the stories respecting him and his sons seem to be connected with old and standing feuds among the different dêmes of Attica, originally independent communities. These feuds penetrated into the legend, and explain the story which we find that Ægeus and Thêseus were not genuine Erechtheids, the former being denominated a supposititious child to Pandiôn.[489]

Ægeus[490] has little importance in the mythical history except as the father of Thêseus: it may even be doubted whether his name is anything more than a mere cognomen of the god Poseidôn, who was (as we are told) the real father of this great Attic Hêraklês. As I pretend only to give a very brief outline of the general territory of Grecian legend, I cannot permit myself to recount in[p. 206] detail the chivalrous career of Thêseus, who is found both in the Kalydônian boar-hunt and in the Argonautic expedition—his personal and victorious encounters with the robbers Sinnis, Procrustês, Periphêtês, Scirôn and others—his valuable service in ridding his country of the Krommyonian sow and the Marathônian bull—his conquest of the Minotaur in Krête, and his escape from the dangers of the labyrinth by the aid of Ariadnê, whom he subsequently carries off and abandons—his many amorous adventures, and his expeditions both against the Amazons and into the under-world along with Peirithous.[491]

Thucydidês delineates the character of Thêseus as a man who combined sagacity with political power, and who conferred upon his country the inestimable benefit of uniting all the separate and self-governing dêmes of Attica into one common political society.[492] From the well-earned reverence attached to the assertion of Thucydidês, it has been customary to reason upon this assertion as if it were historically authentic, and to treat the romantic attributes which we find in Plutarch and Diodôrus as if they were fiction superinduced upon this basis of fact. Such a view of the case is in my judgment erroneous. The athletic and amorous knight-errant is the old version of the character—the profound[p. 207] and long-sighted politician is a subsequent correction, introduced indeed by men of superior mind, but destitute of historical warranty, and arising out of their desire to find reasons of their own for concurring in the veneration which the general public paid more easily and heartily to their national hero. Thêseus, in the Iliad and Odyssey, fights with the Lapithæ against the Centaurs: Thêseus, in the Hesiodic poems, is misguided by his passion for the beautiful Æglê, daughter of Panopeus:[493] and the Thêseus described in Plutarch’s biography is in great part a continuation and expansion of these same or similar attributes, mingled with many local legends, explaining, like the Fasti of Ovid, or the lost Aitia of Kallimachus, the original genesis of prevalent religious and social customs.[494] Plutarch has doubtless greatly softened down and modified the adventures which he found in the Attic logographers as well as in the poetical epics called Thêsêis. For in his preface to the life of Thêseus, after having emphatically declared that he is about to transcend the boundary both of the known and the knowable, but that the temptation of comparing the founder of Athens with the founder of Rome is irresistible, he concludes with the following remarkable words: “I pray that this fabulous matter may be so far obedient to my endeavors as to receive, when purified by reason, the aspect of history: in those cases where it haughtily scorns plausibility and will admit no alliance with what is probable, I shall beg for indulgent hearers, willing to receive antique narrative in a mild spirit.”[495] We see here that Plutarch sat down, not to recount the old fables as he found them, but to purify them by reason and to impart to them the aspect of history. We have to thank him for having retained, after this purification, so much of what is romantic and marvellous; but we may be sure that the sources from which he borrowed were more romantic and marvellous still. It was the[p. 208] tendency of the enlightened men of Athens, from the days of Solôn downwards, to refine and politicize the character of Thêseus:[496] even Peisistratus expunged from one of the Hesiodic poems the line which described the violent passion of the hero for the fair Æglê:[497] and the tragic poets found it more congenial to the feelings of their audience to exhibit him as a dignified and liberal sovereign, rather than as an adventurous single-handed fighter. But the logographers and the Alexandrine poets remained more faithful to the old fables. The story of Hekalê, the hospitable old woman who received and blessed Thêseus when he went against the Marathônian bull, and whom he found dead when he came back to recount the news of his success, was treated by Kallimachus:[498] and Virgil must have had his mind full of the unrefined legends when he numbered this Attic Hêraklês among the unhappy sufferers condemned to endless penance in the under-world.[499]

Two however among the Thêseian fables cannot be dismissed without some special notice,—the war against the Amazons, and the expedition against Krête. The former strikingly illustrates the facility as well as the tenacity of Grecian legendary faith; the latter embraces the story of Dædalus and Minos, two of the most eminent among Grecian ante-historical personages.

The Amazons, daughters of Arês and Harmonia,[500] are both[p. 209] early creations and frequent reproductions of the ancient epic—which was indeed, we may generally remark, largely occupied both with the exploits and sufferings of women, or heroines, the wives and daughters of the Grecian heroes—and which recognized in Pallas Athênê the finished type of an irresistible female warrior. A nation of courageous, hardy and indefatigable women, dwelling apart from men, permitting only a short temporary intercourse for the purpose of renovating their numbers, and burning out their right breast with a view of enabling themselves to draw the bow freely,—this was at once a general type stimulating to the fancy of the poet and a theme eminently popular with his hearers. Nor was it at all repugnant to the faith of the latter—who had no recorded facts to guide them, and no other standard of credibility as to the past except such poetical narratives themselves—to conceive communities of Amazons as having actually existed in anterior time. Accordingly we find these warlike females constantly reappearing in the ancient poems, and universally accepted as past realities. In the Iliad, when Priam wishes to illustrate emphatically the most numerous host in which he ever found himself included, he tells us that it was assembled in Phyrgia, on the banks of the Sangarius, for the purpose of resisting the formidable Amazons. When Bellerophôn is to be employed on a deadly and perilous undertaking,[501] by those who indirectly wish to procure his death, he is despatched against the Amazons. In the Æthiopis of Arktinus, describing the post-Homeric war of Troy, Penthesileia, queen of the Amazons, appears as the most effective ally of the besieged city, and as the most formidable enemy of the Greeks, succumbing only to the invincible might of Achilles.[502] The Argonautic heroes find the Amazons on the river Thermôdon, in their expedition along[p. 210] the southern coast of the Euxine. To the same spot Hêraclês goes to attack them, in the performance of the ninth labor imposed upon him by Eurystheus, for the purpose of procuring the girdle of the Amazonian queen, Hippolytê;[503] and we are told that they had not yet recovered from the losses sustained in this severe aggression when Thêseus also assaulted and defeated them, carrying off their queen, Antiopê.[504] This injury they avenged by invading Attica,—an undertaking (as Plutarch justly observes) “neither trifling nor feminine,” especially if according to the statement of Hellanikus, they crossed the Cimmerian Bosporus on the winter ice, beginning their march from the Asiatic side of the Paulus Mæotis.[505] They overcame all the resistances and difficulties of this prodigious march, and penetrated even into Athens itself, where the final battle, hard-fought and at one time doubtful, by which Theseus crushed them, was fought—in the very[p. 211] heart of the city. Attic antiquaries confidently pointed out the exact position of the two contending armies: the left wing of the Amazons rested upon the spot occupied by the commemorative monument called the Amazoneion; the right wing touched the Pnyx, the place in which the public assemblies of the Athenian democracy were afterwards held. The details and fluctuations of the combat, as well as the final triumph and consequent truce, were recounted by these authors with as complete faith and as much circumstantiality as those of the battle of Platæa by Herodotus. The sepulchral edifice called the Amazoneion, the tomb or pillar of Antiopê near the western gate of the city—the spot called the Horkomosion near the temple of Thêseus—even the hill of Areiopagus itself, and the sacrifices which it was customary to offer to the Amazons at the periodical festival of the Thêseia—were all so many religious mementos of this victory;[506] which was moreover a favorite subject of art both with the sculptor and the painter, at Athens as well as in other parts of Greece.

No portion of the ante-historical epic appears to have been more deeply worked into the national mind of Greece than this invasion and defeat of the Amazons. It was not only a constant theme of the logographers, but was also familiarly appealed to by the popular orators along with Marathôn and Salamis, among those antique exploits of which their fellow-citizens might justly be proud. It formed a part of the retrospective faith of Herodotus, Lysias, Plato and Isokratês,[507] and the exact date of the event was settled[p. 212] by the chronologists.[508] Nor did the Athenians stand alone in such a belief. Throughout many other regions of Greece, both European and Asiatic, traditions and memorials of the Amazons were found. At Megara, at Trœzen, in Laconia near Cape Tænarus, at Chæroneia in Bœôtia, and in more than one part of Thessaly, sepulchres or monuments of the Amazons were preserved. The warlike women (it was said), on their way to Attica, had not traversed those countries, without leaving some evidences of their passage.[509]

Amongst the Asiatic Greeks the supposed traces of the Amazons were yet more numerous. Their proper territory was asserted to be the town and plain of Themiskyra, near the Grecian colony of Amisus, on the river Thermôdôn, a region called, after their name by Roman historians and geographers.[510] But they were believed to have conquered and occupied in early times a much wider range of territory, extending even to the coast of Iônia and Æolis. Ephesus, Smyrna, Kymê, Myrina, Paphos and Sinopê were affirmed to have been founded and denominated by them.[511] Some[p. 213] authors placed them in Libya or Ethiopia; and when the Pontic Greeks on the north-western shore of the Euxine had become acquainted with the hardy and daring character of the Sarmatian maidens,—who were obliged to have slain each an enemy in battle as the condition of obtaining a husband, and who artificially prevented the growth of the right breast during childhood,—they could imagine no more satisfactory mode of accounting for such attributes than by deducing the Sarmatians from a colony of vagrant Amazons, expelled by the Grecian heroes from their territory on the Thermôdôn.[512] Pindar ascribed the first establishment of the memorable temple of Artemis at Ephesus to the Amazons. And Pausanias explains in part the preëminence which this temple enjoyed over every other in Greece by the widely diffused renown of its female founders,[513] respecting whom he observes (with perfect truth, if we admit the historical character of the old epic), that women possess an unparalleled force of resolution in resisting adverse events, since the Amazons, after having been first roughly handled by Hêraklês and then completely defeated[p. 214] by Thêseus, could yet find courage to play so conspicuous a part in the defence of Troy against the Grecian besiegers.[514]

It is thus that in what is called early Grecian history, as the Greeks themselves looked back upon it, the Amazons were among the most prominent and undisputed personages. Nor will the circumstance appear wonderful if we reflect, that the belief in them was first established at a time when the Grecian mind was fed with nothing else but religious legend and epic poetry, and that the incidents of the supposed past, as received from these sources, were addressed to their faith and feelings, without being required to adapt themselves to any canons of credibility drawn from present experience. But the time came when the historians of Alexander the Great audaciously abused this ancient credence. Amongst other tales calculated to exalt the dignity of that monarch, they affirmed that after his conquest and subjugation of the Persian empire, he had been visited in Hyrcania by Thalestris, queen of the Amazons, who admiring his warlike prowess, was anxious to be enabled to return into her own country in a condition to produce offspring of a breed so invincible.[515] But the Greeks had now been accustomed for a century and a half to historical and philosophical criticism—and that uninquiring faith, which was readily accorded to the wonders of the past, could no longer be invoked for them when tendered as present reality. For the fable of the Amazons was here reproduced in its naked simplicity, without being rationalized or painted over with historical colors.

Some literary men indeed, among whom were Dêmêtrius of Skepsis, and the Mitylenæan Theophanês, the companion of Pompey in his expeditions, still continued their belief both in Amazons present and Amazons past; and when it becomes notorious that at least there were none such on the banks of the Thermôdôn, these authors supposed them to have migrated from their original locality, and to have settled in the unvisited regions north of Mount Caucasus.[516] Strabo, on the contrary, feeling that the grounds[p. 215] of disbelief applied with equal force to the ancient stories and to the modern, rejected both the one and the other. But he remarks at the same time, not without some surprise, that it was usual with most persons to adopt a middle course,—to retain the Amazons as historical phænomena of the remote past, but to disallow them as realities of the present, and to maintain that the breed had died out.[517] The accomplished intellect of Julius Cæsar did not scruple to acknowledge them as having once conquered and held in dominion a large portion of Asia;[518] and the compromise between early, traditional, and religious faith on the one hand, and[p. 216] established habits of critical research on the other, adopted by the historian Arrian, deserves to be transcribed in his own words, as illustrating strikingly the powerful sway of the old legends even over the most positive-minded Greeks:—“Neither Aristobulus nor Ptolemy (he observes), nor any other competent witness, has recounted this (visit of the Amazons and their queen to Alexander): nor does it seem to me that the race of the Amazons was preserved down to that time, nor have they been noticed either by any one before Alexander, or by Xenophôn, though he mentions both the Phasians and the Kolchians, and the other barbarous nations which the Greeks saw both before and after their arrival at Trapezus, in which marches they must have met with the Amazons, if the latter had been still in existence. Yet it is incredible to me that this race of women, celebrated as they have been by authors so many and so commanding, should never have existed at all. The story tells of Hêraklês, that he set out from Greece and brought back with him the girdle of their queen Hippolytê; also of Thêseus and the Athenians, that they were the first who defeated in battle and repelled these women in their invasion of Europe; and the combat of the Athenians with the Amazons has been painted by Mikôn, not less than that between the Athenians and the Persians. Moreover Herodotus has spoken in many places of these women, and those Athenian orators who have pronounced panegyrics on the citizens slain in battle, have dwelt upon the victory over the Amazons as among the most memorable of Athenian exploits. If the satrap of Media sent any equestrian women at all to Alexander, I think that they must have come from some of the neighboring tribes, practised in riding and equipped in the costume generally called Amazonian.”[519]

There cannot be a more striking evidence of the indelible force[p. 217] with which these ancient legends were worked into the national faith and feelings of the Greeks, than these remarks of a judicious historian upon the fable of the Amazons. Probably if any plausible mode of rationalizing it, and of transforming it into a quasi-political event, had been offered to Arrian, he would have been better pleased to adopt such a middle term, and would have rested comfortably in the supposition that he believed the legend in its true meaning, while his less inquiring countrymen were imposed upon by the exaggerations of poets. But as the story was presented to him plain and unvarnished, either for acceptance or rejection, his feelings as a patriot and a religious man prevented him from applying to the past such tests of credibility as his untrammelled reason acknowledged to be paramount in regard to the present. When we see moreover how much his belief was strengthened, and all tendency to scepticism shut out by the familiarity of his eye and memory with sculptured or painted Amazons[520]—we may calculate the irresistible force of this sensible demonstration on the convictions of the unlettered public, at once more deeply retentive of passive impressions, and unaccustomed to the countervailing habit of rational investigation into evidence. Had the march of an army of warlike women, from the Thermôdôn or the Tanais into the heart of Attica, been recounted to Arrian as an incident belonging to the time of Alexander the Great, he would have rejected it no less emphatically than Strabô; but cast back as it was into an undefined past, it took rank among the hallowed traditions of divine or heroic antiquity,—gratifying to extol by rhetoric, but repulsive to scrutinize in argument.[521]

[p. 218]


To understand the adventures of Thêseus in Krête, it will be necessary to touch briefly upon Minôs and the Krêtan heroic genealogy.

Minôs and Rhadamanthus, according to Homer, are sons of Zeus, by Europê,[522] daughter of the widely-celebrated Phœnix,[p. 219] born in Krête. Minôs is the father of Deukaliôn, whose son Idomeneus, in conjunction with Mêrionês, conducts the Krêtan troops to the host of Agamemnôn before Troy. Minôs is ruler of Knossus, and familiar companion of the great Zeus. He is spoken of as holding guardianship in Krête—not necessarily meaning the whole of the island: he is farther decorated with a golden sceptre, and constituted judge over the dead in the under-world to settle their disputes, in which function Odysseus finds him—this however by a passage of comparatively late interpolation into the Odyssey. He also had a daughter named Ariadnê, for whom the artist Dædalus fabricated in the town of Knossus the representation of a complicated dance, and who was ultimately carried off by Thêseus: she died in the island of Dia, deserted by Thêseus and betrayed by Dionysos to the fatal wrath of Artemis. Rhadamanthus seems to approach to Minôs both in judicial functions and posthumous dignity. He is conveyed expressly to Eubœa, by the semi-divine sea-carriers the Phæacians, to inspect the gigantic corpse of the earth-born Tityus—the longest voyage they ever undertook. He is moreover after death promoted to an abode of undisturbed bliss in the Elysian plain at the extremity of the earth.[523]

According to poets later than Homer, Europê is brought over by Zeus from Phœnicia to Krête, where she bears to him three sons, Minôs, Rhadamanthus and Sarpêdôn. The latter leaves Krête and settles in Lykia, the population of which, as well as that of many other portions of Asia Minor, is connected by va[p. 220]rious mythical genealogies with Krête, though the Sarpêdôn of the Iliad has no connection with Krête, and is not the son of Europê. Sarpêdôn having become king of Lykia, was favored by his father, Zeus, with permission to live for three generations.[524] At the same time the youthful Milêtus, a favorite of Sarpêdôn, quitted Krête, and established the city which bore his name on the coast of Asia Minor. Rhadamanthus became sovereign of and lawgiver among the islands in the Ægean: he subsequently went to Bœôtia, where he married the widowed Alkmênê, mother of Hêraklês.

Europê finds in Krête a king Astêrius, who marries her and adopts her children by Zeus: this Astêrius is the son of Krês, the eponym of the island, or (according to another genealogy by which it was attempted to be made out that Minôs was of Dôrian race) he was a son of the daughter of Krês by Tektamus, the son of Dôrus, who had migrated into the island from Greece.

Minôs married Pasiphaê, daughter of the god Hêlios and Perseïs, by whom he had Katreus, Deukaliôn, Glaukus, Androgeos, names marked in the legendary narrative,—together with several daughters, among whom were Ariadnê and Phædra. He offended Poseidôn by neglecting to fulfil a solemnly-made vow, and the displeased god afflicted his wife Pasiphaê with a monstrous passion for a bull. The great artist Dædalus, son of Eupalamus, a fugitive from Athens, became the confidant of this amour, from which sprang the Minôtaur, a creature half man and half bull.[525] This Minôtaur was imprisoned by Minôs in the labyrinth, an inextricable inclosure constructed by Dædalus for that express purpose, by order of Minôs.

Minôs acquired great nautical power, and expelled the Karian inhabitants from many of the islands of the Ægean, which he placed under the government of his sons on the footing of tribu[p. 221]taries. He undertook several expeditions against various places on the coast—one against Nisus, the son of Pandiôn, king of Megara, who had amongst the hair of his head one peculiar lock of a purple color: an oracle had pronounced that his life and reign would never be in danger so long as he preserved this precious lock. The city would have remained inexpugnable, if Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, had not conceived a violent passion for Minôs. While her father was asleep, she cut off the lock on which his safety hung, so that the Krêtan king soon became victorious. Instead of performing his promise to carry Scylla away with him to Krête, he cast her from the stern of his vessel into the sea:[526] both Scylla and Nisus were changed into birds.

Androgeos, son of Minôs having displayed such rare qualities as to vanquish all his competitors at the Panathenaic festival in Athens, was sent by Ægeus the Athenian king to contend against the bull of Marathôn,—an enterprise in which he perished, and Minôs made war upon Athens to avenge his death. He was for a long time unable to take the city: at length he prayed to his father Zeus to aid him in obtaining redress from the Athenians, and Zeus sent upon them pestilence and famine. In vain did they endeavor to avert these calamities by offering up as propitiatory sacrifices the four daughters of Hyacinthus. Their sufferings still continued, and the oracle directed them to submit to any terms which Minôs might exact. He required that they should send to Krête a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens, periodically, to be devoured by the Minôtaur,[527]—offered to him in a labyrinth constructed by Dædalus, including countless different passages, out of which no person could escape.

Every ninth year this offering was to be despatched. The more common story was, that the youths and maidens thus destined to destruction were selected by lot—but the logographer Hellanikus said that Minôs came to Athens and chose them himself.[528] The third period for despatching the victims had arrived,[p. 222] and Athens was plunged in the deepest affliction, when Thêseus determined to devote himself as one of them, and either to terminate the sanguinary tribute or to perish. He prayed to Poseidôn for help, and the Delphian god assured him that Aphroditê would sustain and extricate him. On arriving at Knossus he was fortunate enough to captivate the affections of Ariadnê, the daughter of Minôs, who supplied him with a sword and a clue of thread. With the former he contrived to kill the Minôtaur, the latter served to guide his footsteps in escaping from the labyrinth. Having accomplished this triumph, he left Krête with his ship and companions unhurt, carrying off Ariadnê, whom however he soon abandoned on the island of Naxos. On his way home to Athens, he stopped at Dêlos, where he offered a grateful sacrifice to Apollo for his escape, and danced along with the young men and maidens whom he had rescued from the Minôtaur, a dance called the Geranus, imitated from the twists and convolutions of the Krêtan labyrinth. It had been concerted with his father Ægeus, that if he succeeded in his enterprise against the Minôtaur, he should on his return hoist white sails in his ship in place of the black canvas which she habitually carried when employed on this mournful embassy. But Thêseus forgot to make the change of sails; so that Ægeus, seeing the ship return with her equipment of mourning unaltered, was impressed with the sorrowful conviction that his son had perished, and cast himself into the sea. The ship which made this voyage was preserved by the Athenians with careful solicitude, being constantly repaired with new timbers, down to the time of the Phalerian Dêmêtrius: every year she was sent from Athens to Dêlos with a solemn sacrifice and specially-nominated envoys. The priest of Apollo decked her stern with garlands before she quitted the port, and during the time which elapsed until her return, the city was understood to abstain from all acts carrying with them public impurity, so that it was unlawful to put to death any person even under formal sentence by the dikastery. This accidental circumstance[p. 223] becomes especially memorable, from its having postponed for thirty days the death of the lamented Socratês.[529]

The legend respecting Thêseus, and his heroic rescue of the seven noble youths and maidens from the jaws of the Minôtaur, was thus both commemorated and certified to the Athenian public, by the annual holy ceremony and by the unquestioned identity of the vessel employed in it. There were indeed many varieties in the mode of narrating the incident; and some of the Attic logographers tried to rationalize the fable by transforming the Minôtaur into a general or a powerful athlete, named Taurus, whom Thêseus vanquished in Krête.[530] But this altered version never overbore the old fanciful character of the tale as maintained by the poets. A great number of other religious ceremonies and customs, as well as several chapels or sacred enclosures in honor of different heroes, were connected with different acts and special ordinances of Thêseus. To every Athênian who took[p. 224] part in the festivals of the Oschophoria, the Pyanepsia, or the Kybernêsia, the name of this great hero was familiar, and the motives for offering to him solemn worship at his own special festival of the Thêseia, became evident and impressive.

The same Athenian legends which ennobled and decorated the character of Thêseus, painted in repulsive colors the attributes of Minôs; and the traits of the old Homeric comrade of Zeus were buried under those of the conqueror and oppressor of Athens. His history like that of the other legendary personages of Greece, consists almost entirely of a string of family romances and tragedies. His son Katreus, father of Aëropê, wife of Atreus, was apprized by an oracle that he would perish by the hand of one of his own children: he accordingly sent them out of the island, and Althæmenês, his son, established himself in Rhodes. Katreus having become old, and fancying that he had outlived the warning of the oracle, went over to Rhodes to see Althæmenês. In an accidental dispute which arose between his attendants and the islanders, Althæmenês inadvertently took part and slew his father without knowing him. Glaukus, the youngest son of Minôs, pursuing a mouse, fell into a reservoir of honey and was drowned. No one knew what had become of him, and his father was inconsolable; at length the Argeian Polyeidus, a prophet wonderfully endowed by the gods, both discovered the boy and restored him to life, to the exceeding joy of Minôs.[531]

The latter at last found his death in an eager attempt to overtake and punish Dædalus. This great artist, the eponymous hero of the Attic gens or dême called the Dædalidæ, and the descendant of Erechtheus through Mêtion, had been tried at the tribunal of Areiopagus and banished for killing his nephew Talos, whose rapidly improving skill excited his envy.[532] He took refuge in Krête, where he acquired the confidence of Minôs, and was employed (as has been already mentioned) in constructing the labyrinth; subsequently however he fell under the displeasure of Minôs, and was confined as a close prisoner in the inextricable windings of his own edifice. His unrivalled skill and resource however did not forsake him. He manufactured wings both for[p. 225] himself and for his son Ikarus, with which they flew over the sea: the father arrived safely in Sicily at Kamikus, the residence of the Sikanian king Kokalus, but the son, disdaining paternal example and admonition, flew so high that his wings were melted by the sun and he fell into the sea, which from him was called the Ikarian sea.[533]

Dædalus remained for some time in Sicily, leaving in various parts of the island many prodigious evidences of mechanical and architectural skill.[534] At length Minôs bent upon regaining possession of his person, undertook an expedition against Kokalus with a numerous fleet and army. Kokalus affecting readiness to deliver up the fugitive, and receiving Minôs with apparent friendship, ordered a bath to be prepared for him by his three daughters, who, eager to protect Dædalus at any price, drowned the Krêtan king in the bath with hot water.[535] Many of the Krêtans who had accompanied him remained in Sicily and founded the town of Minoa, which they denominated after him. But not long afterwards Zeus roused all the inhabitants of Krête (except the towns of Polichna and Præsus) to undertake with one accord an expedition against Kamikus for the purpose of avenging the death of Minôs. They besieged Kamikus in vain for five years, until at last famine compelled them to return. On their way along the coast of Italy, in the Gulf of Tarentum, a terrible storm destroyed their fleet and obliged them to settle permanently in the country: they founded Hyria with other cities, and became Messapian Iapygians. Other settlers, for the most part Greeks, immigrated into Krête to the spots which this movement[p. 226] had left vacant, and in the second generation after Minôs occurred the Trojan war. The departed Minôs was exceedingly offended with the Krêtans for coöperating in avenging the injury to Menelaus, since the Greeks generally had lent no aid to the Krêtans in their expedition against the town of Kamikus. He sent upon Krête, after the return of Idomeneus from Troy, such terrible visitations of famine and pestilence, that the population again died out or expatriated, and was again renovated by fresh immigrations. The intolerable suffering[536] thus brought upon the Krêtans by the anger of Minôs, for having coöperated in the general Grecian aid to Menelaus, was urged by them to the Greeks as the reason why they could take no part in resisting the invasion of Xerxês; and it is even pretended that they were advised and encouraged to adopt this ground of excuse by the Delphian oracle.[537]

Such is the Minôs of the poets and logographers, with his legendary and romantic attributes: the familiar comrade of the great Zeus,—the judge among the dead in Hadês,—the husband of Pasiphaê, daughter of the god Hêlios,—the father of the goddess Ariadnê, as well as of Androgeos, who perishes and is worshipped at Athens,[538] and of the boy Glaukus, who is miraculously restored to life by a prophet,—the person beloved by Scylla, and the amorous pursuer of the nymph or goddess Britomartis,[539][p. 227]—the proprietor of the Labyrinth and of the Minôtaur, and the exacter of a periodical tribute of youths and maidens from Athens as food for this monster,—lastly, the follower of the fugitive artist Dædalus to Kamikus, and the victim of the three ill-disposed daughters of Kokalus in a bath. With this strongly-marked portrait, the Minôs of Thucydidês and Aristotle has scarcely anything in common except the name. He is the first to acquire Thalassokraty, or command of the Ægean sea: he expels the Karian inhabitants from the Cyclades islands, and sends thither fresh colonists under his own sons; he puts down piracy, in order that he may receive his tribute regularly; lastly, he attempts to conquer Sicily, but fails in the enterprise and perishes.[540] Here we have conjectures, derived from the analogy of the Athenian maritime empire in the historical times, substituted in place of the fabulous incidents, and attached to the name of Minôs.

In the fable, a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens is paid to him periodically by the Athenians; in the historicized narrative this character of a tribute-collector is preserved, but the tribute is money collected from dependent islands;[541] and Aris[p. 228]totle points out to us how conveniently Krête is situated to exercise empire over the Ægean. The expedition against Kamikus, instead of being directed to the recovery of the fugitive Dædalus, is an attempt on the part of the great thalassokrat to conquer Sicily. Herodotus gives us generally the same view of the character of Minôs as a great maritime king, but his notice of the expedition against Kamikus includes the mention of Dædalus as the intended object of it.[542] Ephorus, while he described Minôs as a commanding and comprehensive lawgiver imposing his commands under the sanction of Zeus, represented him as the imitator of an earlier lawgiver named Rhadamanthus, and also as an immigrant into Krête from the Æolic Mount Ida, along with the priests or sacred companions of Zeus called the Idæi Dactyli. Aristotle too points him out as the author of the Syssitia, or public meals common in Krête as well as at Sparta,—other divergences in a new direction from the spirit of the old fables.[543]

The contradictory attributes ascribed to Minôs, together with the perplexities experienced by those who wished to introduce a regular chronological arrangement into these legendary events, has led both in ancient and in modern times to the supposition of two kings named Minôs, one the grandson of the other,—Minôs I., the son of Zeus, lawgiver and judge,—Minôs II., the thalassokrat,—a gratuitous conjecture, which, without solving the problem required, only adds one to the numerous artifices employed for imparting the semblance of history to the disparate matter of legend. The Krêtans were at all times, from Homer downward, expert and practised seamen. But that they were ever united[p. 229] under one government, or ever exercised maritime dominion in the Ægean is a fact which we are neither able to affirm nor to deny. The Odyssey, in so far as it justifies any inference at all, points against such a supposition, since it recognizes a great diversity both of inhabitants and of languages in the island, and designates Minôs as king specially of Knôssus: it refutes still more positively the idea that Minôs put down piracy, which the Homeric Krêtans as well as others continue to practise without scruple.

Herodotus, though he in some places speaks of Minôs as a person historically cognizable, yet in one passage severs him pointedly from the generation of man. The Samian despot “Polykratês (he tells us) was the first person who aspired to nautical dominion, excepting Minôs of Knôssus, and others before him (if any such there ever were) who may have ruled the sea; but Polykratês is the first of that which is called the generation of man who aspired with much chance of success to govern Iônia and the islands of the Ægean.”[544] Here we find it manifestly intimated that Minôs did not belong to the generation of man, and the tale given by the historian respecting the tremendous calamities which the wrath of the departed Minôs inflicted on Krête confirms the impression. The king of Knôssus is a god or a hero, but not a man; he belongs to legend, not to history. He is the son as well as the familiar companion of Zeus; he marries the daughter of Hêlios, and Ariadnê is numbered among his offspring. To this superhuman person are ascribed the oldest and most revered institutions of the island, religious and political, together with a period of supposed ante-historical dominion. That there is much of Krêtan religious ideas and practice embodied in the fables concerning Minôs can hardly be doubted: nor is it improbable that the tale of the youths and maidens sent[p. 230] from Athens may be based in some expiatory offerings rendered to a Krêtan divinity. The orgiastic worship of Zeus, solemnized by the armed priests with impassioned motions and violent excitement, was of ancient date in that island, as well as the connection with the worship of Apollo both at Delphi and at Dêlos. To analyze the fables and to elicit from them any trustworthy particular facts, appears to me a fruitless attempt. The religious recollections, the romantic invention, and the items of matter of fact, if any such there be, must forever remain indissolubly amalgamated as the poet originally blended them, for the amusement or edification of his auditors. Hoeckh, in his instructive and learned collection of facts respecting ancient Krête, construes the mythical genealogy of Minôs to denote a combination of the orgiastic worship of Zeus, indigenous among the Eteokrêtes, with the worship of the moon imported from Phœnicia, and signified by the names Europê, Pasiphaê, and Ariadnê.[545] This is specious as a conjecture, but I do not venture to speak of it in terms of greater confidence.

From the connection of religious worship and legendary tales between Krête and various parts of Asia Minor,—the Trôad, the coast of Milêtus and Lykia, especially between Mount Ida in Krête and Mount Ida in Æôlis,—it seems reasonable to infer an ethnographical kindred or relationship between the inhabitants anterior to the period of Hellenic occupation. The tales of Krêtan settlement at Minoa and Engyiôn on the south-western coast of Sicily, and in Iapygia on the Gulf of Tarentum, conduct us to a similar presumption, though the want of evidence forbids our tracing it farther. In the time of Herodotus, the Eteokrêtes, or aboriginal inhabitants of the island, were confined to Polichna and Præsus; but in earlier times, prior to the encroachments of the Hellênes, they had occupied the larger portion, if not the whole of the island. Minôs was originally their hero, subsequently adopted by the immigrant Hellênes,—at least Herodotus considers him as barbarian, not Hellenic.[546]

[p. 231]


The ship Argô was the theme of many songs during the oldest periods of the Grecian epic, even earlier than the Odyssey. The king Æêtês, from whom she is departing, the hero Jasôn, who commands her, and the goddess Hêrê, who watches over him, enabling the Argô to traverse distances and to escape dangers which no ship had ever before encountered, are all circumstances briefly glanced at by Odysseus in his narrative to Alkinous. Moreover, Eunêus, the son of Jasôn and Hypsipylê, governs Lemnos during the siege of Troy by Agamemnôn, and carries on a friendly traffic with the Grecian camp, purchasing from them their Trojan prisoners.[547]

The legend of Halus in Achaia Phthiôtis, respecting the religious solemnities connected with the family of Athamas and Phryxus (related in a previous chapter), is also interwoven with the voyage of the Argonauts; and both the legend and the solemnities seem evidently of great antiquity. We know further, that the adventures of the Argô were narrated not only by Hesiod and in the Hesiodic poems, but also by Eumêlus and the author of the Naupactian verses—by the latter seemingly at considerable length.[548] But these poems are unfortunately lost, nor have we[p. 232] any means of determining what the original story was; for the narrative, as we have it, borrowed from later sources, is enlarged by local tales from the subsequent Greek colonies—Kyzikus, Heraklêia, Sinopê, and others.

Jasôn, commanded by Pelias to depart in quest of the golden fleece belonging to the speaking ram which had carried away Phryxus and Hellê, was encouraged by the oracle to invite the noblest youth of Greece to his aid, and fifty of the most distinguished amongst them obeyed the call. Hêraklês, Thêseus, Telamôn and Pêleus, Kastôr and Pollux, Idas and Lynkeus—Zêtês and Kalaïs, the winged sons of Boreas—Meleager, Amphiaraus, Kêpheus, Laertês, Autolykus, Menœtius, Aktôr, Erginus, Euphêmus, Ankæus, Pœas, Periklymenus, Augeas, Eurytus, Admêtus, Akastus, Kæneus, Euryalus, Pêneleôs and Lêitus, Askalaphus and Ialmenus, were among them. Argus the son of Phryxus, directed by the promptings of Athênê, built the ship, inserting in the prow a piece of timber from the celebrated oak of Dodona, which was endued with the faculty of speech:[549] Tiphys was the steersman, Idmôn the son of Apollo and Mopsus[p. 233] accompanied them as prophets, while Orpheus came to amuse their weariness and reconcile their quarrels with his harp.[550]

First they touched at the island of Lêmnos, in which at that time there were no men; for the women, infuriated by jealousy and ill-treatment, had put to death their fathers, husbands and brothers. The Argonauts, after some difficulty, were received with friendship, and even admitted into the greatest intimacy. They staid some months, and the subsequent population of the island was[p. 234] the fruit of their visit. Hypsipylê, the queen of the island, bore to Jasôn two sons.[551]

They then proceeded onward along the coast of Thrace, up the Hellespont, to the southern coast of the Propontis, inhabited by the Doliones and their king Kyzikus. Here they were kindly entertained, but after their departure were driven back to the same spot by a storm; and as they landed in the dark, the inhabitants did not know them. A battle took place, in which the chief, Kyzikus, was killed by Jasôn; whereby much grief was occasioned as soon as the real facts became known. After Kyzikus had been interred with every demonstration of mourning and solemnity, the Argonauts proceeded along the coast of Mysia.[552] In this part of the voyage they left Hêraklês behind. For Hylas, his favorite youthful companion, had been stolen away by the nymphs of a fountain, and Hêraklês, wandering about in search of him, neglected to return. At last he sorrowfully retired, exacting hostages from the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Kius that they would persist in the search.[553]

[p. 235]They next stopped in the country of the Bebrykians, where the boxing contest took place between the king Amykus and the Argonaut Pollux:[554] they then proceeded onward to Bithynia, the residence of the blind prophet Phineus. His blindness had been inflicted by Poseidôn as a punishment for having communicated to Phryxus the way to Kolchis. The choice had been allowed to him between death and blindness, and he had preferred the latter.[555] He was also tormented by the harpies, winged monsters who came down from the clouds whenever his table was set, snatched the food from his lips and imparted to it a foul and unapproachable odor. In the midst of this misery, he hailed the Argonauts as his deliverers—his prophetic powers having enabled him to foresee their coming. The meal being prepared for him, the harpies approached as usual, but Zêtês and Kalaïs, the winged sons of Boreas, drove them away and pursued them. They put forth all their speed, and prayed to Zeus to be enabled to overtake the monsters; when Hermês appeared and directed them to desist, the harpies being forbidden further to molest Phineus,[556] and retiring again to their native cavern in Krête.[557]

Phineus, grateful for the relief afforded to him by the Argonauts, forewarned them of the dangers of their voyage and of the precautions necessary for their safety; and through his suggestions they were enabled to pass through the terrific rocks called Symplêgades. These were two rocks which alternately opened and[p. 236] shut, with a swift and violent collision, so that it was difficult even for a bird to fly through during the short interval. When the Argô arrived at the dangerous spot, Euphêmus let loose a dove. which flew through and just escaped with the loss of a few feathers of her tail. This was a signal to the Argonauts, according to the prediction of Phineus, that they might attempt the passage with confidence. Accordingly they rowed with all their might, and passed safely through: the closing rocks, held for a moment asunder by the powerful arms of Athênê just crushed the ornaments at the stern of their vessel. It had been decreed by the gods, that so soon as any ship once got through, the passage should forever afterwards be safe and easy to all. The rocks became fixed in their separate places, and never again closed.[558]

After again halting on the coast of the Mariandynians, where their steersman Tiphys died, as well as in the country of the Amazons, and after picking up the sons of Phryxus, who had been cast away by Poseidôn in their attempt to return from Kolchis to Greece, they arrived in safety at the river Phasis and the residence of Æêtês. In passing by Mount Caucasus, they saw the eagle which gnawed the liver of Prometheus nailed to the rock, and heard the groans of the sufferer himself. The sons of Phryxus were cordially welcomed by their mother Chalciopê.[559] Application was made to Æêtês, that he would grant to the Argonauts, heroes of divine parentage and sent forth by the mandate of the gods, possession of the golden fleece: their aid in return was proffered to him against any or all of his enemies. But the king was wroth, and peremptorily refused, except upon conditions which seemed impracticable.[560] Hêphæstos had given him two ferocious and untamable bulls, with brazen feet, which breathed fire from their nostrils: Jasôn was invited, as a proof both of his illustrious descent and of the sanction of the gods to his voyage, to harness these animals to the yoke, so as to plough a large field and sow it with dragon’s teeth.[561] Perilous as the condition was, each one of the heroes volunteered to make the[p. 237] attempt. Idmôn especially encouraged Jasôn to undertake it,[562] and the goddesses Hêrê and Aphroditê made straight the way for him.[563] Mêdea, the daughter of Æêtês and Eidyia, having seen the youthful hero in his interview with her father, had conceived towards him a passion which disposed her to employ every means for his salvation and success. She had received from Hekatê preëminent magical powers, and she prepared for Jasôn the powerful Prometheian unguent, extracted from an herb which had grown where the blood of Promêtheus dropped. The body of Jasôn having been thus pre-medicated, became invulnerable[564] either by fire or by warlike weapons. He undertook the enterprise, yoked the bulls without suffering injury, and ploughed the field: when he had sown the dragon’s teeth, armed men sprung out of the furrows. But he had been forewarned by Mêdea to cast a vast rock into the midst of them, upon which they began to fight with each other, so that he was easily enabled to subdue them all.[565]

The task prescribed had thus been triumphantly performed. Yet Æêtês not only refused to hand over the golden fleece, but even took measures for secretly destroying the Argonauts and burning their vessel. He designed to murder them during the night after a festal banquet; but Aphroditê, watchful for the safety of Jasôn,[566] inspired the Kolchian king at the critical moment with an irresistible inclination for his nuptial bed. While he slept, the wise Idmôn counselled the Argonauts to make their escape, and Mêdea agreed to accompany them.[567] She lulled to sleep by a magic potion the dragon who guarded the golden fleece,[p. 238] placed that much-desired prize on board the vessel, and accompanied Jasôn with his companions in their flight, carrying along with her the young Apsyrtus, her brother.[568]

Æêtês, profoundly exasperated at the flight of the Argonauts with his daughter, assembled his forces forthwith, and put to sea in pursuit of them. So energetic were his efforts that he shortly overtook the retreating vessel, when the Argonauts again owed their safety to the stratagem of Mêdea. She killed her brother Apsyrtus, cut his body in pieces and strewed the limbs round about in the sea. Æêtês on reaching the spot found these sorrowful traces of his murdered son; but while he tarried to collect the scattered fragments, and bestow upon the body an honorable interment, the Argonauts escaped.[569] The spot on which the unfortunate Apsyrtus was cut up received the name of Tomi.[570] This fratricide of Mêdea, however, so deeply provoked the indignation of Zeus, that he condemned the Argô and her crew to a trying[p. 239] voyage, full of hardship and privation, before she was permitted to reach home. The returning heroes traversed an immeasurable length both of sea and of river: first up the river Phasis into the ocean which flows round the earth—then following the course of that circumfluous stream until its junction with the Nile,[571] they came down the Nile into Egypt, from whence they carried the Argô on their shoulders by a fatiguing land-journey to the lake Tritônis in Libya. Here they were rescued from the extremity of want and exhaustion by the kindness of the local god Tritôn, who treated them hospitably, and even presented to Euphêmus a clod of earth, as a symbolical promise that his descendants should one day found a city on the Libyan shore. The promise was amply redeemed by the flourishing and powerful city of Kyrênê,[572] whose princes the Battiads boasted themselves as lineal descendants of Euphêmus.

Refreshed by the hospitality of Tritôn, the Argonauts found themselves again on the waters of the Mediterranean in their way homeward. But before they arrived at Iôlkos they visited Circê, at the island of Ææa, where Mêdea was purified for the murder of Apsyrtus: they also stopped at Korkyra, then called Drepanê, where Alkinous received and protected them. The cave in that island where the marriage of Mêdea with Jasôn was consummated, was still shown in the time of the historian Timæus, as well as the altars to Apollo which she had erected, and the rites[p. 240] and sacrifices which she had first instituted.[573] After leaving Korkyra, the Argô was overtaken by a perilous storm near the island of Thêra. The heroes were saved from imminent peril by the supernatural aid of Apollo, who, shooting from his golden bow an arrow which pierced the waves like a track of light, caused a new island suddenly to spring up in their track and present to them a port of refuge. The island was called Anaphê; and the grateful Argonauts established upon it an altar and sacrifices in honor of Apollo Æglêtês, which were ever afterwards continued, and traced back by the inhabitants to this originating adventure.[574]

On approaching the coast of Krête, the Argonauts were prevented from landing by Talôs, a man of brass, fabricated by Hêphæstos, and presented by him to Minôs for the protection of the island.[575] This vigilant sentinel hurled against the approaching vessel fragments of rock, and menaced the heroes with destruction. But Mêdea deceived him by a stratagem and killed him; detecting and assailing the one vulnerable point in his body. The Argonauts were thus enabled to land and refresh themselves. They next proceeded onward to Ægina, where however they again experienced resistance before they could obtain water—then along the coast of Eubœa and Locris back to Iôlkos in the gulf of Pagasæ, the place from whence they had started. The proceedings of Pelias during their absence, and the signal revenge taken upon him by Mêdea after their return, have already been narrated in a preceding section.[576] The ship Argô herself, in which the chosen heroes of Greece had performed so long a voyage and braved so many dangers, was consecrated by Jasôn to Poseidôn at the isthmus of Corinth. According to another[p. 241] account, she was translated to the stars by Athênê, and became a constellation.[577]

Traces of the presence of the Argonauts were found not only in the regions which lay between Iôlkos and Kolchis, but also in the western portion of the Grecian world—distributed more or less over all the spots visited by Grecian mariners or settled by Grecian colonists, and scarcely less numerous than the wanderings of the dispersed Greeks and Trojans after the capture of Troy. The number of Jasonia, or temples for the heroic worship of Jasôn, was very great, from Abdêra in Thrace,[578] eastward along the coast of the Euxine, to Armenia and Media. The Argonauts had left their anchoring-stone on the coast of Bebrykia, near Kyzikus, and there it was preserved during the historical ages in the temple of the Jasonian Athênê.[579] They had founded the great temple of the Idæan mother on the mountain Dindymon, near Kyzikus, and the Hieron of Zeus Urios on the Asiatic point at the mouth of the Euxine, near which was also the harbor of Phryxus.[580] Idmôn, the prophet of the expedition, who was believed to have died of a wound by a wild boar on the Mariandynian coast, was worshipped by the inhabitants of the Pontic Hêrakleia with great solemnity, as their Heros Poliuchus, and that too by the special direction of the Delphian god. Autolykus, another companion of Jasôn, was worshipped as Œkist by the inhabitants of Sinopê. Moreover, the historians of Hêrakleia pointed out a temple of Hekatê in the neighboring country of[p. 242] Paphlagonia, first erected by Mêdea;[581] and the important town of Pantikapæon, on the European side of the Cimmerian Bosporus, ascribed its first settlement to a son of Æêtês.[582] When the returning ten thousand Greeks sailed along the coast, called the Jasonian shore, from Sinopê to Hêrakleia, they were told that the grandson of Æêtês was reigning king of the territory at the mouth of the Phasis, and the anchoring-places where the Argô had stopped were specially pointed out to them.[583] In the lofty regions of the Moschi, near Kolchis, stood the temple of Leukothea, founded by Phryxus, which remained both rich and respected down to the times of the kings of Pontus, and where it was an inviolable rule not to offer up a ram.[584] The town of Dioskurias, north of the river Phasis, was believed to have been hallowed by the presence of Kastôr and Pollux in the Argô, and to have received from them its appellation.[585] Even the interior of Mêdea and Armenia was full of memorials of Jasôn and Mêdea and their son Mêdus, or of Armenus the son of Jasôn, from whom the Greeks deduced not only the name and foundation of the Medes and Armenians, but also the great operation of cutting a channel through the mountains for the efflux of the river Araxes, which they compared to that of the Peneius in Thessaly.[586] And the[p. 243] Roman general Pompey, after having completed the conquest and expulsion of Mithridatês, made long marches through Kolchis into the regions of Caucasus, for the express purpose of contemplating the spots which had been ennobled by the exploits of the Argonauts, the Dioskuri and Hêraklês.[587]

In the west, memorials either of the Argonauts or of the pursuing Kolchians were pointed out in Korkyra, in Krête, in Epirus near the Akrokeraunian mountains, in the islands called Apsyrtides near the Illyrian coast, at the bay of Caieta as well as at Poseidônia on the southern coast of Italy, in the island of Æthalia or Elba, and in Libya.[588]

Such is a brief outline of the Argonautic expedition, one of the most celebrated and widely-diffused among the ancient tales of Greece. Since so many able men have treated it as an undisputed reality, and even made it the pivot of systematic chronological calculations, I may here repeat the opinion long ago expressed by Heyne, and even indicated by Burmann, that the process of dissecting the story, in search of a basis of fact, is one altogether fruitless.[589] Not only are we unable to assign the date[p. 244] or identify the crew, or decipher the log-book, of the Argô, but we have no means of settling even the preliminary question, whether the voyage be matter of fact badly reported, or legend from the beginning. The widely-distant spots in which the monuments of the voyage were shown, no less than the incidents of the voyage itself, suggests no other parentage than epical fancy. The supernatural and the romantic not only constitute an inseparable portion of the narrative, but even embrace all the prominent and characteristic features; if they do not comprise the whole, and if there be intermingled along with them any sprinkling of historical or geographical fact,—a question to us indeterminable,—there is at least no solvent by which it can be disengaged, and no test by which it can be recognized. Wherever the Grecian mariner sailed, he carried his religious and patriotic mythes along with him. His fancy and his faith were alike full of the long wanderings of Jasôn, Odysseus, Perseus, Hêraklês, Dionysus, Triptolemus or Iô; it was pleasing to him in success, and consoling to him in difficulty, to believe that their journeys had brought them over the ground which he was himself traversing. There was no tale amidst the wide range of the Grecian epic more calculated to be popular with the seaman, than the history of the primæval ship Argô and her distinguished crew, comprising heroes from all parts of Greece, and especially the[p. 245] Tyndarids Kastôr and Pollux, the heavenly protectors invoked during storm and peril. He localized the legend anew wherever he went, often with some fresh circumstances suggested either by his own adventures or by the scene before him. He took a sort of religious possession of the spot, connecting it by a bond of faith with his native land, and erecting in it a temple or an altar with appropriate commemorative solemnities. The Jasonium thus established, and indeed every visible object called after the name of the hero, not only served to keep alive the legend of the Argô in the minds of future comers or inhabitants, but was accepted as an obvious and satisfactory proof that this marvellous vessel had actually touched there in her voyage.

The epic poets, building both on the general love of fabulous incident and on the easy faith of the people, dealt with distant and unknown space in the same manner as with past and unrecorded time. They created a mythical geography for the former, and a mythical history for the latter. But there was this material difference between the two: that while the unrecorded time was beyond the reach of verification, the unknown space gradually became trodden and examined. In proportion as authentic local knowledge was enlarged, it became necessary to modify the geography, or shift the scene of action, of the old mythes; and this perplexing problem was undertaken by some of the ablest historians and geographers of antiquity,—for it was painful to them to abandon any portion of the old epic, as if it were destitute of an ascertainable basis of truth.

Many of these fabulous localities are to be found in Homer and Hesiod, and the other Greek poets and logographers,—Erytheia, the garden of the Hesperides, the garden of Phœbus,[590] to which Boreas transported the Attic maiden Orithyia, the delicious country of the Hyperboreans, the Elysian plain,[591] the fleeting island of Æolus, Thrinakia, the country of the Æthiopians, the[p. 246] Læstrygones, the Kyklôpes, the Lotophagi, the Sirens, the Cimmerians and the Gorgons,[592] etc. These are places which (to use the expression of Pindar respecting the Hyperboreans) you cannot approach either by sea or by land:[593] the wings of the poet alone can carry you thither. They were not introduced into the Greek mind by incorrect geographical reports, but, on the contrary, had their origin in the legend, and passed from thence into the realities of geography,[594] which they contributed much to pervert and confuse. For the navigator or emigrant, starting with an unsuspicious faith in their real existence, looked out for them in his distant voyages, and constantly fancied that he had seen or heard of them, so as to be able to identify their exact situation. The most contradictory accounts indeed, as might be expected, were often given respecting the latitude and longitude of such fanciful spots, but this did not put an end to the general belief in their real existence.

In the present advanced state of geographical knowledge, the story of that man who after reading Gulliver’s Travels went to[p. 247] look in his map for Lilliput, appears an absurdity. But those who fixed the exact locality of the floating island of Æolus or the rocks of the Sirens did much the same,[595] and, with their ignorance of geography and imperfect appreciation of historical evidence, the error was hardly to be avoided. The ancient belief which fixed the Sirens on the islands of Sirenusæ off the coast of Naples—the Kyklôpes, Erytheia, and the Læstrygones in Sicily—the Lotophagi on the island of Mêninx[596] near the Lesser Syrtis—the Phæakians at Korkyra—and the goddess Circê at the promontory of Circeium—took its rise at a time when these regions were first Hellenized and comparatively little visited. Once embodied in the local legends, and attested by visible monuments and ceremonies, it continued for a long time unassailed; and Thucydidês seems to adopt it, in reference to Korkyra and Sicily before the Hellenic colonization, as matter of fact generally unquestionable,[597] though little avouched as to details. But when geographical knowledge became extended, and the criticism upon the ancient epic was more or less systematized by the literary men of Alexandria and Pergamus, it appeared to many of them impossible that Odysseus could have seen so many wonders, or undergone such monstrous dangers, within limits so narrow, and in the familiar track between the Nile and the Tiber. The scene of his weather-driven course was then shifted further westward. Many convincing evidences were discovered, especially by Asklepiadês of Myrlea, of his having visited various places in Ibêria:[598] several critics imagined that he[p. 248] had wandered about in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Strait of Gibraltar,[599] and they recognized a section of Lotophagi on the[p. 249] coast of Mauritania, over and above those who dwelt on the island of Mêninx.[600] On the other hand, Eratosthenês and Apollodôrus treated the places visited by Odysseus as altogether unreal, for which scepticism they incurred much reproach.[601]

The fabulous island of Erytheia,—the residence of the three headed Geryôn with his magnificent herd of oxen, under the custody of the two-headed dog Orthrus, and described by Hesiod, like the garden of the Hesperides, as extra-terrestrial, on the farther side of the circumfluous ocean;—this island was supposed by the interpreters of Stesichorus the poet to be named by him off the south-western region of Spain called Tartêssus, and in the immediate vicinity of Gadês. But the historian Hekatæus, in his anxiety to historicize the old fable, took upon himself to remove Erytheia from Spain nearer home to Epirus. He thought it incredible that Hêraklês should have traversed Europe from east to west, for the purpose of bringing the cattle of Geryôn to Eurystheus at Mykênæ, and he pronounced Geryôn to have been a king of Epirus, near the Gulf of Ambrakia. The oxen reared in that neighborhood were proverbially magnificent, and to get them even from thence and bring them to Mykênæ (he contended) was no inconsiderable task. Arrian, who cites this passage from Hekatæus, concurs in the same view,—an illustration of the license with which ancient authors fitted on their fabulous geographical names to the real earth, and brought down the ethereal matter of legend to the lower atmosphere of history.[602]

[p. 250]

Both the track and the terminus of the Argonautic voyage appear in the most ancient epic as little within the conditions of reality, as the speaking timbers or the semi-divine crew of the vessel. In the Odyssey, Æêtês and Circê (Hesiod names Mêdea also) are brother and sister, offspring of Hêlios. The Ææan island, adjoining the circumfluous ocean, “where the house and dancing-ground of Eôs are situated, and where Hêlios rises,” is both the residence of Circê and of Æêtês, inasmuch as Odysseus, in returning from the former, follows the same course as the Argô had previously taken in returning from the latter.[603] Even in the conception of Mimnermus, about 600 B. C., Æa still retained its fabulous attributes in conjunction with the ocean and Hêlios, without having been yet identified with any known portion of the solid earth;[604] and it was justly remarked by Dêmêtrius of Skêpsis in antiquity[605] (though[p. 251] Strabo vainly tries to refute him), that neither Homer nor Mimnermus designates Kolchis either as the residence of Æêtês, or as the terminus of the Argonautic voyage. Hesiod carried the returning Argonauts through the river Phasis into the ocean. But some of the poems ascribed to Eumêlus were the first which mentioned Æêtês and Kolchis, and interwove both of them into the Corinthian mythical genealogy.[606] These poems seem to have been composed subsequent to the foundation of Sinopê, and to the commencement of Grecian settlement on the Borysthenês, between the years 600 and 500 B. C. The Greek mariners who explored and colonized the southern coast of the Euxine, found at the extremity of their voyage the river Phasis and its barbarous inhabitants: it was the easternmost point which Grecian navigation (previous to the time of Alexander the Great) ever attained, and it was within sight of the impassable barrier of Caucasus.[607] They believed, not unnaturally, that they had here found “the house of Eôs (the morning) and the rising place of the sun,” and that the river Phasis, if they could follow it to its unknown beginning, would conduct them to the circumfluous ocean. They gave to the spot the name of Æa, and the fabulous and real title gradually became associated together into one compound appellation,—the Kolchian Æa, or Æa of Kolchis.[608] While Kolchis was thus entered on the map as a fit representative for the Homeric “house of the morning,” the narrow strait of the Thracian Bosporus attracted to itself the poetical fancy of the Symplêgades, or colliding rocks, through which the heaven-protected Argô had been the first to pass. The powerful Greek cities of Kyzikus, Hêrakleia and Sinopê, each fertile in local legends, still farther contributed to give this direction to the voyage; so that in the time of Hekatæus it had become the established belief that the Argô had started from Iôlkos and gone to Kolchis.

Æêtês thus received his home from the legendary faith and[p. 252] fancy of the eastern Greek navigators: his sister Circê, originally his fellow-resident, was localized by the western. The Hesiodic and other poems, giving expression to the imaginative impulses of the inhabitants of Cumæ and other early Grecian settlers in Italy and Sicily,[609] had referred the wanderings of Odysseus to the western or Tyrrhenian sea, and had planted the Cyclôpes, the Læstrygones, the floating island of Æolus, the Lotophagi, the Phæacians, etc., about the coast of Sicily, Italy, Libya, and Korkyra. In this way the Ææan island,—the residence of Circê, and the extreme point of the wanderings of Odysseus, from whence he passes only to the ocean and into Hadês—came to be placed in the far west, while the Æa of Æêtês was in the far east,—not unlike our East and West Indies. The Homeric brother and sister were separated and sent to opposite extremities of the Grecian terrestrial horizon.[610]

The track from Iôlkos to Kolchis, however, though plausible as far as it went, did not realize all the conditions of the genuine fabulous voyage: it did not explain the evidences of the visit of these maritime heroes which were to be found in Libya, in Krêtê[p. 253] in Anaphê, in Korkyra, in the Adriatic Gulf, in Italy and in Æthalia. It became necessary to devise another route for them in their return, and the Hesiodic narrative was (as I have before observed), that they came back by the circumfluous ocean; first going up the river Phasis into the circumfluous ocean; following that deep and gentle stream until they entered the Nile, and came down its course to the coast of Libya. This seems also to have been the belief of Hekatæus.[611] But presently several Greeks (and Herodotus among them) began to discard the idea of a circumfluous ocean-stream, which had pervaded their old geographical and astronomical fables, and which explained the supposed easy communication between one extremity of the earth and another. Another idea was then started for the returning voyage of the Argonauts. It was supposed that the river Ister, or Danube, flowing from the Rhipæan mountains in the north-west of Europe, divided itself into two branches, one of which fell into the Euxine Sea, and the other into the Adriatic.

The Argonauts, fleeing from the pursuit of Æêtês, had been obliged to abandon their regular course homeward, and had gone from the Euxine Sea up the Ister; then passing down the other branch of that river, they had entered into the Adriatic, the Kolchian pursuers following them. Such is the story given by Apollônius Rhodius from Timagêtus, and accepted even by so able a geographer as Eratosthenês—who preceded him by one generation, and who, though sceptical in regard to the localities visited by Odysseus, seems to have been a firm believer in the reality of the Argonautic voyage.[612] Other historians again, among[p. 254] whom was Timæus, though they considered the ocean as an outer sea, and no longer admitted the existence of the old Homeric ocean-stream, yet imagined a story for the return-voyage of the Argonauts somewhat resembling the old tale of Hesiod and Hekatæus. They alleged that the Argô, after entering into the Palus Mæotis, had followed the upward course of the river Tanais; that she had then been carried overland and launched in a river which had its mouth in the ocean or great outer sea. When in the ocean, she had coasted along the north and west of Europe until she reached Gadês and the Strait of Gibraltar, where she entered into the Mediterranean, and there visited the many places specified in the fable. Of this long voyage, in the outer sea to the north and west of Europe, many traces were affirmed to exist along the coast of the ocean.[613] There was again a third version, according to which the Argonauts came back as they went, through the Thracian Bosporus and the Hellespont. In this way geographical plausibility was indeed maintained, but a large portion of the fabulous matter was thrown overboard.[614]

Such were the various attempts made to reconcile the Argonautic legend with enlarged geographical knowledge and improved historical criticism. The problem remained unsolved, but the[p. 255] faith in the legend did not the less continue. It was a faith originally generated at a time when the unassisted narrative of the inspired poet sufficed for the conviction of his hearers; it consecrated one among the capital exploits of that heroic and superhuman race, whom the Greek was accustomed at once to look back upon as his ancestors and to worship conjointly with his gods: it lay too deep in his mind either to require historical evidence for its support, or to be overthrown by geographical difficulties as they were then appreciated. Supposed traces of the past event, either preserved in the names of places, or embodied in standing religious customs with their explanatory comments, served as sufficient authentication in the eyes of the curious inquirer. And even men trained in a more severe school of criticism contented themselves with eliminating the palpable contradictions and softening down the supernatural and romantic events, so as to produce an Argonautic expedition of their own invention as the true and accredited history. Strabo, though he can neither overlook nor explain the geographical impossibilities of the narrative, supposes himself to have discovered the basis of actual fact, which the original poets had embellished or exaggerated. The golden fleece was typical of the great wealth of Kolchis, arising from gold-dust washed down by the rivers; and the voyage of Jasôn was in reality an expedition at the head of a considerable army, with which he plundered this wealthy country and made extensive conquests in the interior.[615] Strabo has nowhere laid down what he supposes to have been the exact measure and direction of Jasôn’s march, but he must have regarded it as very long, since he classes Jasôn with Dionysus and Hêraklês, and emphatically characterizes all the three as having[p. 256] traversed wider spaces of ground than any moderns could equal.[616] Such was the compromise which a mind like that of Strabo made with the ancient legends. He shaped or cut them down to the level of his own credence, and in this waste of historical criticism, without any positive evidence, he took to himself the credit of greater penetration than the literal believers, while he escaped the necessity of breaking formally with the bygone heroic world.


The Bœôtians generally, throughout the historical age, though well endowed with bodily strength and courage,[617] are represented as proverbially deficient in intelligence, taste and fancy. But the legendary population of Thêbes, the Kadmeians, are rich in mythical antiquities, divine as well as heroic. Both Dionysus and Hêraklês recognize Thêbes as their natal city. Moreover, the two sieges of Thêbes by Adrastus, even taken apart from[p. 257] Kadmus, Antiopê, Amphiôn and Zethus, etc., are the most prominent and most characteristic exploits, next to the siege of Troy, of that preëxisting race of heroes who lived in the imagination of the historical Hellênes.

It is not Kadmus, but the brothers Amphiôn and Zethus, who are given to us in the Odyssey as the first founders of Thêbes and the first builders of its celebrated walls. They are the sons of Zeus by Antiopê, daughter of Asôpus. The scholiasts who desire to reconcile this tale with the more current account of the foundation of Thêbes by Kadmus, tell us that after the death of Amphiôn and Zethus, Eurymachus, the warlike king of the Phlegyæ, invaded and ruined the newly-settled town, so that Kadmus on arriving was obliged to re-found it.[618] But Apollodôrus, and seemingly the older logographers before him, placed Kadmus at the top, and inserted the two brothers at a lower point in the series. According to them, Bêlus and Agenôr were the sons of Epaphus, son of the Argeian Iô, by Libya. Agenôr went to Phœnicia and there became king: he had for his offspring Kadmus, Phœnix, Kilix, and a daughter Eurôpa; though in the Iliad Eurôpa is called daughter of Phœnix.[619] Zeus fell in love with Eurôpa, and assuming the shape of a bull, carried her across the sea upon his back from Egypt to Krête, where she bore to him Minôs, Rhadamanthus and Sarpêdôn. Two out of the three sons sent out by Agenôr in search of their lost sister, wearied out by a long-protracted as well as fruitless voyage, abandoned the idea of returning home: Kilix settled in Kilikia, and Kadmus in Thrace.[620] Thasus, the brother or nephew of[p. 258] Kadmus, who had accompanied them in the voyage, settled and gave name to the island of Phasus.

Both Herodotus and Euripidês represent Kadmus as an emigrant from Phœnicia, conducting a body of followers in quest of Eurôpa. The account of Apollodôrus describes him as having come originally from Libya or Egypt to Phœnicia: we may presume that this was also the statement of the earlier logographers Pherekydês and Hellanikus. Conôn, who historicizes and politicizes the whole legend, seems to have found two different accounts; one connecting Kadmus with Egypt, another bringing him from Phœnicia. He tries to melt down the two into one, by representing that the Phœnicians, who sent out Kadmus, had acquired great power in Egypt—that the seat of their kingdom was the Egyptian Thêbes—that Kadmus was despatched, under pretence indeed of finding his lost sister, but really on a project of conquest—and that the name Thêbes, which he gave to his new establishment in Bœôtia, was borrowed from Thêbes in Egypt, his ancestorial seat.[621]

Kadmus went from Thrace to Delphi to procure information respecting his sister Eurôpa, but the god directed him to take no further trouble about her; he was to follow the guidance of a cow, and to found a city on the spot where the animal should lie down. The condition was realized on the site of Thêbes. The neighboring fountain Areia was guarded by a fierce dragon, the offspring of Arês, who destroyed all the persons sent to fetch water. Kadmus killed the dragon, and at the suggestion of Athênê sowed his teeth in the earth:[622] there sprang up at once the armed men called the Sparti, among whom he flung stones,[p. 259] and they immediately began to assault each other until all were slain except five. Arês, indignant at this slaughter, was about to kill Kadmus; but Zeus appeased him, condemning Kadmus to an expiatory servitude of eight years, after which he married Harmonia, the daughter of Arês and Aphroditê—presenting to her the splendid necklace fabricated by the hand of Hêphæstos, which had been given by Zeus to Eurôpa.[623] All the gods came to the Kadmeia, the citadel of Thêbes, to present congratulations and gifts at these nuptials, which seem to have been hardly less celebrated in the mythical world than those of Pêleus and Thetis. The issue of the marriage was one son, Polydôrus, and four daughters, Autonoê, Inô, Semelê and Agavê.[624]

From the five who alone survived of the warriors sprung from the dragon’s teeth, arose five great families or gentes in Thêbes; the oldest and noblest of its inhabitants, coeval with the foundation of the town. They were called Sparti, and their name seems to have given rise, not only to the fable of the sowing of the teeth, but also to other etymological narratives.[625]

All the four daughters of Kadmus are illustrious in fabulous history. Inô, wife of Athamas, the son of Æolus, has already been included among the legends of the Æolids. Semelê became the mistress of Zeus, and inspired Hêrê with jealousy. Misguided by the malicious suggestions of that goddess, she solicited Zeus to visit her with all the solemnity and terrors which sur[p. 260]rounded him when he approached Hêrê herself. The god unwillingly consented, and came in his chariot in the midst of thunder and lightning, under which awful accompaniments the mortal frame of Semelê perished. Zeus, taking from her the child of which she was pregnant, sewed it into his own thigh: after the proper interval the child was brought out and born, and became the great god Dionysus or Bacchus. Hermês took him to Inô and Athamas to receive their protection. Afterwards, however, Zeus having transformed him into a kid to conceal him from the persecution of Hêrê, the nymphs of the mountain Nysa became his nurses.[626]

Autonoê, the third daughter of Kadmus, married the pastoral hero or god Aristæus, and was mother of Aktæôn, a devoted hunter and a favorite companion of the goddess Artemis. She however became displeased with him—either because he looked into a fountain while she was bathing and saw her naked—or according to the legend set forth by the poet Stesichorus, because he loved and courted Semelê—or according to Euripidês, because he presumptuously vaunted himself as her superior in the chase. She transformed him into a stag, so that his own dogs set upon and devoured him. The rock upon which Aktæôn used to sleep when fatigued with the chase, and the spring whose transparent waters had too clearly revealed the form of the goddess, were shown to Pausanias near Platæa, on the road to Megara.[627]

[p. 261]

Agavê, the remaining daughter of Kadmus, married Echiôn, one of the Sparti. The issue of these nuptials was Pentheus, who, when Kadmus became old succeeded him as king of Thêbes. In his reign Dionysus appeared as a god, the author or discoverer of the vine with all its blessings. He had wandered over Asia, India and Thrace, at the head of an excited troop of female enthusiasts—communicating and inculcating everywhere the Bacchic ceremonies, and rousing in the minds of women that impassioned religious emotion which led them to ramble in solitary mountains at particular seasons, there to give vent to violent fanatical excitement, apart from the men, clothed in fawn-skins and armed with the thyrsus. The obtrusion of a male spectator upon these solemnities was esteemed sacrilegious. Though the rites had been rapidly disseminated and fervently welcomed in many parts of Thrace, yet there were some places in which they had been obstinately resisted and their votaries treated with rudeness; especially by Lykurgus, king of the Edonian Thracians, upon whom a sharp and exemplary punishment was inflicted by Dionysus.

Thêbes was the first city of Greece to which Dionysus came,[p. 262] at the head of his Asiatic troop of females, to obtain divine honors and to establish his peculiar rites in his native city. The venerable Kadmus, together with his daughters and the prophet Teiresias, at once acknowledged the divinity of the new god, and began to offer their worship and praise to him along with the solemnities which he enjoined. But Pentheus vehemently opposed the new ceremonies, reproving and maltreating the god who introduced them: nor was his unbelief at all softened by the miracles which Dionysus wrought for his own protection and for that of his followers. His mother Agavê, with her sisters, and a large body of other women from Thêbes, had gone out from Thêbes to Mount Kithærôn to celebrate their solemnities under the influence of the Bacchic frenzy. Thither Pentheus followed to watch them, and there the punishment due to his impiety overtook him. The avenging touch of the god having robbed him of his senses, he climbed a tall pine for the purpose of overlooking the feminine multitude, who detected him in this position, pulled down the tree, and tore him in pieces. Agavê, mad and bereft of consciousness, made herself the foremost in this assault, and carried back in triumph to Thêbes the head of her slaughtered son. The aged Kadmus, with his wife Harmonia, retired among the Illyrians, and at the end of their lives were changed into serpents, Zeus permitting them to be transferred to the Elysian fields.[628]

[p. 263]

Polydôrus and Labdakus successively became kings of Thêbes: the latter at his death left an infant son, Laius, who was deprived of his throne by Lykus. And here we approach the legend of Antiopê, Zêthus and Amphiôn, whom the fabulists insert at this point of the Thêban series. Antiopê is here the daughter of Nykteus, the brother of Lykus. She is deflowered by Zeus, and then, while pregnant, flies to Epôpeus king of Sikyôn: Nykteus dying entreats his brother to avenge the injury, and Lykus accordingly invades Sikyôn, defeats and kills Epôpeus, and brings back Antiopê prisoner to Thêbes. In her way thither, in a cave near Eleutheræ, which was shown to Pausanias,[629] she is delivered of the twin sons of Zeus—Amphiôn and Zêthus—who, exposed to perish, are taken up and nourished by a shepherd, and pass their youth amidst herdsmen, ignorant of their lofty descent.

Antiopê is conveyed to Thêbes, where, after undergoing a long persecution from Lykus and his cruel wife Dirkê, she at length escapes, and takes refuge in the pastoral dwelling of her sons, now grown to manhood. Dirkê pursues and requires her to be delivered up; but the sons recognize and protect their mother, taking an ample revenge upon her persecutors. Lykus is slain, and Dirkê is dragged to death, tied to the horns of a bull.[630][p. 264] Amphiôn and Zêthus, having banished Laius, become kings of Thêbes. The former, taught by Hermês, and possessing exquisite skill on the lyre, employs it in fortifying the city, the stones of the walls arranging themselves spontaneously in obedience to the rhythm of his song.[631]

Zêthus marries Aêdôn, who, in the dark and under a fatal mistake, kills her son Itylus: she is transformed into a nightingale, while Zêthus dies of grief.[632] Amphiôn becomes the husband of Niobê, daughter of Tantalus, and the father of a numerous offspring, the complete extinction of which by the hands of Apollo and Artemis has already been recounted in these pages.

Here ends the legend of the beautiful Antiopê and her twin sons—the rude and unpolished, but energetic, Zêthus—and the refined and amiable, but dreamy, Amphiôn. For so Euripidês, in the drama of Antiopê unfortunately lost, presented the two[p. 265] brothers, in affectionate union as well as in striking contrast.[633] It is evident that the whole story stood originally quite apart from the Kadmeian family, and so the rudiments of it yet stand in the Odyssey; but the logographers, by their ordinary connecting artifices, have opened a vacant place for it in the descending series of Thêban mythes. And they have here proceeded in a manner not usual with them. For whereas they are generally fond of multiplying entities, and supposing different historical personages of the same name, in order to introduce an apparent smoothness in the chronology—they have here blended into one person Amphiôn the son of Antiopê and Amphiôn the father of Chlôris, who seem clearly distinguished from each other in the Odyssey. They have further assigned to the same person all the circumstances of the legend of Niobê, which seems to have been originally framed quite apart from the sons of Antiopê.

Amphiôn and Zêthus being removed, Laius became king of Thêbes. With him commences the ever-celebrated series of adventures of Œdipus and his family. Laius forewarned by the oracle that any son whom he might beget would kill him, caused Œdipus as soon as he was born to be exposed on Mount Kithærôn. Here the herdsmen of Polybus king of Corinth accidentally found him and conveyed him to their master, who brought him up as his own child. In spite of the kindest treatment, however, Œdipus when he grew up found himself exposed to taunts on the score of his unknown parentage, and went to Delphi to inquire of the god the name of his real father. He received for answer an admonition not to go back to his country; if he did so, it was his destiny to kill his father and become the husband of his mother. Knowing no other country but Corinth, he accordingly determined to keep away from that city, and quitted Delphi by the road towards Bœôtia and Phôkis. At the exact spot[p. 266] where the roads leading to these two countries forked, he met Laius in a chariot drawn by mules, when the insolence of one of the attendants brought on an angry quarrel, in which Œdipus killed Laius, not knowing him to be his father. The exact place where this event happened, called the Divided Way[634], was memorable in the eyes of all literary Greeks, and is specially adverted to by Pausanias in his periegesis.

On the death of Laius, Kreôn, the brother of Jokasta, succeeded to the kingdom of Thêbes. At this time the country was under the displeasure of the gods, and was vexed by a terrible monster, with the face of a woman, the wings of a bird, and the tail of a lion, called the Sphinx[635]—sent by the wrath of Hêrê and occupying the neighboring mountain of Phikium. The Sphinx had learned from the Muses a riddle, which she proposed to the Thêbans to resolve: on every occasion of failure she took away one of the citizens and ate him up. Still no person could solve the riddle; and so great was the suffering occasioned, that Kreôn was obliged to offer both the crown and the nuptials of his sister Jokasta to any one who could achieve the salvation of the city. At this juncture Œdipus arrived and solved the riddle: upon which the Sphinx immediately threw herself from the acropolis and disappeared. As a recompense for this service, Œdipus was made king of Thêbes, and married Jokasta, not aware that she was his mother.

These main tragical circumstances—that Œdipus had ignorantly killed his father and married his mother—belong to the oldest form of the legend as it stands in the Odyssey. The gods (it is added in that poem) quickly made the facts known to mankind. Epikasta (so Jokasta is here called) in an agony of sorrow hanged herself: Œdipus remained king of the Kadmeians, but underwent many and great miseries, such as the[p. 267] Erinnyes, who avenge an injured mother, inflict.[636] A passage in the Iliad implies that he died at Thêbes, since it mentions the funeral games which were celebrated there in honor of him. His misfortunes were recounted by Nestôr, in the old Cyprian verses, among the stories of aforetime.[637] A fatal curse hung both upon himself and upon his children, Eteoklês, Polynikês, Antigonê and Ismênê. According to that narrative which the Attic tragedians have rendered universally current, they were his children by Jokasta, the disclosure of her true relationship to him having been very long deferred. But the ancient epic called Œdipodia, treading more closely in the footsteps of Homer, represented him as having after her death married a second wife, Euryganeia, by whom the four children were born to him: and the painter Onatas adopted this story in preference to that of Sophoklês.[638]

[p. 268]The disputes of Eteoklês and Polynikês for the throne of their father gave occasion not only to a series of tragical family incidents, but also to one of the great quasi-historical events of legendary Greece—the two sieges of Thêbes by Adrastus, king of Argos. The two ancient epic poems called the Thêbaïs and the Epigoni (if indeed both were not parts of one very comprehensive poem) detailed these events at great length, and as it appears, with distinguished poetical merit; for Pausanias pronounces the Cyclic Thêbaïs (so it was called by the subsequent critics to distinguish it from the more modern Thêbaïs of Antimachus) inferior only to the Iliad and Odyssey; and the ancient elegiac poet Kallinus treated it as an Homeric composition.[639] Of this once-valued poem we unfortunately possess nothing but a few scanty fragments. The leading points of the legend are briefly glanced at in the Iliad; but our knowledge of the details is chiefly derived from the Attic tragedians, who transformed the narratives of their predecessors at pleasure, and whose popularity constantly eclipsed and obliterated the ancient version. Antimachus of Kolophôn, contemporary with Euripidês, in his long epic, probably took no less liberties with the old narrative. His Thêbaïd never became generally popular, but it exhibited marks of study and elaboration which recommended it to the esteem of the Alexandrine critics, and probably contributed to discredit in their eyes the old cyclic poem.

The logographers, who gave a continuous history of this siege of Thêbes, had at least three preëxisting epic poems—the Thêbaïs, the Œdipodia, and the Alkmæônis,—from which they[p. 269] could borrow. The subject was also handled in some of the Hesiodic poems, but we do not know to what extent.[640] The Thêbaïs was composed more in honor of Argos than of Thêbes, as the first line of it, one of the few fragments still preserved, betokens.[641]


The legend, about to recount fraternal dissension of the most implacable kind, comprehending in its results not only the immediate relations of the infuriated brothers, but many chosen companions of the heroic race along with them, takes its start from the paternal curse of Œdipus, which overhangs and determines all the gloomy sequel.

Œdipus, though king of Thêbes and father of four children by Euryganeia (according to the Œdipodia), has become the devoted victim of the Erinnyes, in consequence of the self-inflicted death of his mother, which he has unconsciously caused, as well as of his unintentional parricide. Though he had long forsworn the use of all the ornaments and luxuries which his father had inherited from his kingly progenitors, yet when through age he had come to be dependent upon his two sons, Polynikês one day broke through this interdict, and set before him the silver table and the splendid wine-cup of Kadmus, which Laius had always been accustomed to employ. The old king had no sooner seen these precious appendages of the regal life of his father, than his mind was overrun by a calamitous phrenzy, and he imprecated terrible curses on his sons, predicting that there would be bitter and endless warfare between them. The goddess Erinnys heard and heeded him; and he repeated the curse again on another occasion, when his sons, who had always been accustomed to send to him the shoulder of the victims sacrificed on the altar, caused the but[p. 270]tock to be served to him in place of it.[642] He resented this as an insult, and prayed the gods that they might perish each by the hand of the other. Throughout the tragedians as well as in the old epic, the paternal curse, springing immediately from the misguided Œdipus himself, but remotely from the parricide and incest with which he has tainted his breed, is seen to domineer over the course of events—the Erinnys who executes that curse being the irresistible, though concealed, agent. Æschylus not only preserves the fatal efficiency of the paternal curse, but even briefly glances at the causes assigned for it in the Thêbaïs, without superadding any new motives. In the judgment of Sophoklês, or of his audience, the conception of a father cursing his sons upon such apparently trifling grounds was odious; and that great poet introduced many aggravating circumstances, describing the old blind father as having been barbarously turned out of doors by his sons to wander abroad in exile and poverty. Though by this change he rendered his poem more coherent and self-justifying, yet he departed, from the spirit of the old legend,[p. 271] according to which Œdipus has contracted by his unconscious misdeeds an incurable taint destined to pass onward to his progeny. His mind is alienated, and he curses them, not because he has suffered seriously by their guilt, but because he is made the blind instrument of an avenging Erinnys for the ruin of the house of Laius.[643]

After the death of Œdipus and the celebration of his funeral games, at which amongst others, Argeia, daughter of Adrastus (afterwards the wife of Polynikês), was present,[644] his two sons soon quarrelled respecting the succession. The circumstances are differently related; but it appears that, according to the original narrative, the wrong and injustice was on the part of Polynikês, who, however, was obliged to leave Thêbes and to seek shelter with Adrastus, king of Argos. Here he met Tydeus, a fugitive, at the same time, from Ætôlia: it was dark when they arrived, and a broil ensued between the two exiles, but Adrastus came out and parted them. He had been enjoined by an oracle to give his two daughters in marriage to a lion and a boar, and he thought this occasion had now arrived, inasmuch as one of the combatants carried on his shield a lion, the other a boar. He accordingly gave Deipylê in marriage to Tydeus, and Argeia to Polynikês: moreover, he resolved to restore by armed resistance both his sons-in-law to their respective countries.[645]

[p. 272]On proposing the expedition to the Argeian chiefs around him he found most of them willing auxiliaries; but Amphiaräus—formerly his bitter opponent, but now reconciled to him, and husband of his sister Eriphylê—strongly opposed him.[646] He denounced the enterprise as unjust and contrary to the will of the gods. Again, being of a prophetic stock, descended from Melampus, he foretold the certain death both of himself and of the principal leaders, should they involve themselves as accomplices in the mad violence of Tydeus or the criminal ambition of Polynikês. Amphiaräus, already distinguished both in the Kalydônian boar-hunt and in the funeral games of Pelias, was in the Thêban war the most conspicuous of all the heroes, and absolutely indispensable to its success. But his reluctance to engage in it was invincible, nor was it possible to prevail upon him except through the influence of his wife Eriphylê. Polynikês, having brought with him from Thêbes the splendid robe and necklace given by the gods to Harmonia on her marriage with Kadmus, offered it as a bribe to Eriphylê, on condition that she would influence the determination of Amphiaräus. The sordid wife, seduced by so matchless a present, betrayed the lurking-place of her husband, and involved him in the fatal expedition.[647] Amphiaräus, reluctantly dragged forth, and foreknowing the disastrous issue of the expedition both to himself and to his associates, addressed his last injunctions, at the moment of mounting his chariot, to his sons Alkmæôn and Amphilochus, commanding Alkmæôn to avenge his approaching death by killing the venal Eriphylê, and by undertaking a second expedition against Thêbes.

The Attic dramatists describe this expedition as having been conducted by seven chiefs, one to each of the seven celebrated gates of Thêbes. But the Cyclic Thêbaïs gave to it a much[p. 273] more comprehensive character, mentioning auxiliaries from Arcadia, Messênê, and various parts of Peloponnêsus;[648] and the application of Tydeus and Polynikês at Mykênæ in the course of their circuit made to collect allies, is mentioned in the Iliad. They were well received at Mykênæ; but the warning signals given by the gods were so terrible that no Mykenæan could venture to accompany them.[649] The seven principal chiefs however were Adrastus, Amphiaräus, Kapaneus, Hippomedôn, Parthenopæus, Tydeus and Polynikês.[650] When the army had advanced as far as the river Asôpus, a halt was made for sacrifice and banquet; while Tydeus was sent to Thêbes as envoy to demand the restoration of Polynikês to his rights. His demand was refused; but finding the chief Kadmeians assembled at the banquet in the house of Eteoklês, he challenged them all to contend with him in boxing or wrestling. So efficacious was the aid of the goddess Athênê that he overcame them all; and the Kadmeians were so indignant at their defeat, that they placed an ambuscade of fifty men to intercept him in his way back to the army. All of them perished by the hand of this warrior, small in stature and of few words, but desperate and irresistible in the fight. One alone was spared, Mæon, in consequence of special signals from the gods.[651]

The Kadmeians, assisted by their allies the Phôkians and the Phlegyæ, marched out to resist the invaders, and fought a battle[p. 274] near the Ismênian hill, in which they were defeated and forced to retire within the walls. The prophet Teiresias acquainted them that if Menœkeus, son of Kreôn, would offer himself as a victim to Arês, victory would be assured to Thêbes. The generous youth, as soon as he learnt that his life was to be the price of safely to his country, went and slew himself before the gates. The heroes along with Adrastus now commenced a vigorous attack upon the town, each of the seven selecting one of the gates to assault. The contest was long and strenuously maintained but the devotion of Menœkeus had procured for the Thêbans the protection of the gods. Parthenopæus was killed with a stone by Periklymenus; and when the furious Kapaneus, having planted a scaling-ladder, had mounted the walls, he was smitten by a thunderbolt from Zeus and cast down dead upon the earth. This event struck terror into the Argeians, and Adrastus called back his troops from the attack. The Thêbans now sallied forth to pursue them, when Eteoklês, arresting the battle, proposed to decide the controversy by single combat with his brother. The challenge, eagerly accepted by Polynikês, was agreed to by Adrastus: a single combat ensued between the two brothers, in which both were exasperated to fury and both ultimately slain by each other’s hand. This equal termination left the result of the general contest still undetermined, and the bulk of the two armies renewed the fight. In the sanguinary struggle which ensued the sons of Astakus on the Thêban side displayed the most conspicuous and successful valor. One of them,[652] Melanippus, mortally wounded Tydeus—while two others, Leades and Amphidikus, killed Eteoklus and Hippomedôn. Amphiaräus avenged Tydeus by killing Melanippus; but unable to arrest the rout of the army,[p. 275] he fled with the rest, closely pursued by Periklymenus. The latter was about to pierce him with his spear, when the beneficence of Zeus rescued him from this disgrace—miraculously opening the earth under him, so that Amphiaräus with his chariot and horses was received unscathed into her bosom.[653] The exact spot where this memorable incident happened was indicated by a sepulchral building, and shown by the Thêbans down to the days of Pausanias—its sanctity being attested by the fact, that no animal would consent to touch the herbage which grew within the sacred inclosure. Amphiaräus, rendered immortal by Zeus, was worshipped as a god at Argos, at Thêbes and at Orôpus—and for many centuries gave answers at his oracle to the questions of the pious applicant.[654]

[p. 276]Adrastus, thus deprived of the prophet and warrior whom he regarded as “the eye of his army,” and having seen the other chiefs killed in the disastrous fight, was forced to take flight singly, and was preserved by the matchless swiftness of his horse Areiôn, the offspring of Poseidôn. He reached Argos on his return, bringing with him nothing except “his garments of woe and his black-maned steed.”[655]

Kreôn, father of the heroic youth Menœkeus, succeeding to the administration of Thêbes after the death of the two hostile brothers and the repulse of Adrastus, caused Eteoklês to be buried with distinguished honor, but cast out ignominiously the body of Polynikês as a traitor to his country, forbidding every one on pain of death to consign it to the tomb. He likewise refused permission to Adrastus to inter the bodies of his fallen comrades. This proceeding, so offensive to Grecian feeling, gave rise to two further tales; one of them at least of the highest pathos and interest. Antigonê, the sister of Polynikês, heard with indignation the revolting edict consigning her brother’s body to the dogs and vultures, and depriving it of those rites which were considered essential to the repose of the dead. Unmoved by the dissuading counsel of an 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; and Kreôn, though forewarned by Teiresias of the consequences, gave orders that she should be buried alive, as having deliberately set at naught the solemn edict of the city. His son Hæmôn, to whom she was engaged to be married, in vain interceded for her life. In an agony of despair he slew himself in the sepulchre to which the living Antigonê had been consigned;[p. 277] and his mother Eurydikê, the wife of Kreôn, inconsolable for his death, perished by her own hand. And thus the new light which seemed to be springing up over the last remaining scion of the devoted family of Œdipus, is extinguished amidst gloom and horrors—which overshadowed also the house and dynasty of Kreôn.[656]

The other tale stands more apart from the original legend, and seems to have had its origin in the patriotic pride of the Athenians. Adrastus, unable to obtain permission from the Thêbans to inter the fallen chieftains, presented himself in suppliant guise, accompanied by their disconsolate mothers, to Thêseus at Eleusis. He implored the Athenian warrior to extort from the perverse Thêbans that last melancholy privilege which no decent or pious Greeks ever thought of withholding, and thus to stand forth as the champion of Grecian public morality in one of its most essential points, not less than of the rights of the subterranean gods. The Thêbans obstinately persisting in their refusal, Thêseus undertook an expedition against their city, vanquished them in the field, and compelled them by force of arms to permit the sepulture of their fallen enemies. This chivalrous interposition, celebrated in one of the preserved dramas of Euripidês, formed a subject of glorious recollection to the Athenians throughout the historical age: their orators dwelt upon it in terms of animated panegyric; and it seems to have been accepted as a real fact of the past time, with not less implicit conviction than the battle of Marathôn.[657] But the Thêbans, though equally persuaded of the truth of the main story, dissented from the Athenian version of it, maintaining that they had given up the bodies for sepulture voluntarily and of their own accord. The tomb of[p. 278] the chieftains was shown near Eleusis even in the days of Pausanias.[658]

A large proportion both of the interesting persons and of the exalted acts of legendary Greece belongs to the female sex. Nor can we on this occasion pass over the name of Evadnê, the devoted widow of Kapaneus, who cast herself on the funeral pile of her husband and perished.[659]

The defeat of the seven chiefs before Thêbes was amply avenged by their sons, again under the guidance of Adrastus:—Ægialeus son of Adrastus, Thersander son of Polynikês, Alkmæôn and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaräus, Diomêdês son of Tydeus, Sthenelus son of Kapaneus, Promachus son of Parthenopæus, and Euryalus son of Mekistheus, joined in this expedition. Though all these youthful warriors, called the Epigoni, took part in the expedition, the grand and prominent place appears to have been occupied by Alkmæôn, son of Amphiaräus. Assistance was given to them from Corinth and Megara, as well as from Messênê and Arcadia; while Zeus manifested his favorable dispositions by signals not to be mistaken.[660] At the river Glisas the Epigoni were met by the Thêbans in arms, and a battle took place in which the latter were completely defeated. Laodamas, son of Eteoklês, killed Ægialeus, son of Adrastus; but he and his army were routed and driven within the walls by the valor and energy of Alkmæôn. The defeated Kadmeians consulted the prophet Teiresias, who informed them that the gods had declared for their enemies, and that there was no longer any hope of successful resistance. By his advice they sent a herald to the assailants offering to surrender the town, while they themselves conveyed away their wives and children, and fled under the com[p. 279]mand of Laodamas to the Illyrians,[661] upon which the Epigoni entered Thêbes, and established Thersander, son of Polynikês, on the throne.

Adrastus, who in the former expedition had been the single survivor amongst so many fallen companions, now found himself the only exception to the general triumph and joy of the conquerors: he had lost his son Ægialeus, and the violent sorrow arising from the event prematurely cut short his life. His soft voice and persuasive eloquence were proverbial in the ancient epic.[662] He was worshipped as a hero both at Argos and at Sikyôn, but with especial solemnity in the last-mentioned place, where his Herôum stood in the public agora, and where his exploits as well as his sufferings were celebrated periodically in lyric tragedies. Melanippus, son of Astakus, the brave defender of Thêbes, who had slain both Tydeus and Mekistheus, was worshipped with no less solemnity by the Thêbans.[663] The enmity of these two heroes rendered it impossible for both of them to be worshipped close upon the same spot. Accordingly it came to pass during the historical period, about the time of the Solonian legislation at Athens, that Kleisthenês, despot of Sikyôn, wishing to banish the hero Adrastus and abolish the religious solemnities celebrated in honor of the latter by the Sikyonians, first applied to the Delphian oracle for permission to carry this banishment into effect directly and forcibly. That permission being refused, he next sent to Thêbes an intimation that he was anxious to introduce their hero Melanippus into Sikyôn. The Thêbans willingly consented, and he assigned to the new hero a consecrated spot in the strongest and most commanding portion of the Sikyonian prytaneium. He did this (says the historian) “knowing that Adrastus would forthwith go away of his own accord; since[p. 280] Melanippus was of all persons the most odious to him, as having slain both his son-in-law and his brother.” Kleisthenês moreover diverted the festivals and sacrifices which had been offered to Adrastus, to the newly established hero Melanippus; and the lyric tragedies from the worship of Adrastus to that of Dionysus. But his dynasty did not long continue after his decease, and the Sikyonians then reëstablished their ancient solemnities.[664]

Near the Prœtid gate of Thêbes were seen the tombs of two combatants who had hated each other during life even more than Adrastus and Melanippus—the two brothers Eteoklês and Polynikês. Even as heroes and objects of worship, they still continued to manifest their inextinguishable hostility: those who offered sacrifices to them observed that the flame and the smoke from the two adjoining altars abhorred all communion, and flew off in directions exactly opposite. The Thêban exegetes assured Pausanias of this fact. And though he did not himself witness it, yet having seen with his own eyes a miracle not very dissimilar at Pioniæ in Mysia, he had no difficulty in crediting their assertion.[665]

Amphiaräus when forced into the first attack of Thêbes—against his own foreknowledge and against the warnings of the[p. 281] gods—had enjoined his sons Alkmæôn and Amphilochus not only to avenge his death upon the Thêbans, but also to punish the treachery of their mother, “Eriphylê, the destroyer of her husband.”[666] In obedience to this command, and having obtained the sanction of the Delphian oracle, Alkmæôn slew his mother;[667] but the awful Erinnys, the avenger of matricide, inflicted on him a long and terrible punishment, depriving him of his reason, and chasing him about from place to place without the possibility of repose or peace of mind. He craved protection and cure from the god at Delphi, who required him to dedicate at the temple, as an offering, the precious necklace of Kadmus, that irresistible bribe which had originally corrupted Eriphylê.[668] He further intimated to the unhappy sufferer, that though the whole earth was tainted with his crime, and had become uninhabitable for him, yet there was a spot of ground which was not under the eye of the sun at the time when the matricide was committed, and where[p. 282] therefore Alkmæôn yet might find a tranquil shelter. The promise was realized at the mouth of the river Achelôus, whose turbid stream was perpetually depositing new earth and forming additional islands. Upon one of these, near Œniadæ, Alkmæôn settled, permanently and in peace: he became the primitive hero of Akarnania, to which his son Akarnan gave name.[669] The necklace was found among the treasures of Delphi, together with that which had been given by Aphroditê to Helen, by the Phôkian plunderers who stripped the temple in the time of Philip of Macedôn. The Phôkian women quarrelled about these valuable ornaments: and we are told that the necklace of Eriphylê was allotted to a woman of gloomy and malignant disposition, who ended by putting her husband to death; that of Helen to a beautiful but volatile wife, who abandoned her husband from a preference for a young Epirot.[670]

There were several other legends respecting the distracted Alkmæôn, either appropriated or invented by the Attic tragedians. He went to Phêgeus, king of Psôphis in Arcadia, whose daughter Arsinoê he married, giving as a nuptial present the necklace of Eriphylê. Being however unable to remain there, in consequence of the unremitting persecutions of the maternal Erinnys, he sought shelter at the residence of king Achelôus, whose daughter Kallirhoê he made his wife, and on whose soil he obtained repose.[671] But Kallirhoê would not be satisfied without[p. 283] the possession of the necklace of Eriphylê, and Alkmæôn went back to Psôphis to fetch it, where Phêgeus and his sons slew him. He had left twin sons, infants, with Kallirhoê, who prayed fervently to Zeus that they might be preternaturally invested with immediate manhood, in order to revenge the murder of their father. Her prayer was granted, and her sons Amphoterus and Akarnan, having instantaneously sprung up to manhood, proceeded into Arcadia, slew the murderers of their father, and brought away the necklace of Eriphylê, which they carried to Delphi.[672]

Euripidês deviated still more widely from the ancient epic, by making Alkmæôn the husband of Mantô, daughter of Teiresias, and the father of Amphilochus. According to the Cyclic Thêbaïs, Mantô was consigned by the victorious Epigoni as a special offering to the Delphian god; and Amphilochus was son of Amphiaräus, not son of Alkmæôn.[673] He was the eponymous hero of the town called the Amphilochian Argos, in Akarnania, on the shore of the Gulf of Ambrakia. Thucydidês tells us that he went thither on his return from the Trojan war, being dissatisfied with the state of affairs which he found at the Peloponnêsian Argos.[674] The Akarnanians were remarkable for the numerous prophets which they supplied to the rest of Greece: their heroes[p. 284] were naturally drawn from the great prophetic race of the Melampodids.

Thus ends the legend of the two sieges of Thêbes; the greatest event, except the siege of Troy, in the ancient epic; the greatest enterprise of war, between Greeks and Greeks, during the time of those who are called the Heroes.


We now arrive at the capital and culminating point of the Grecian epic,—the two sieges and capture of Troy, with the destinies of the dispersed heroes, Trojan as well as Grecian, after the second and most celebrated capture and destruction of the city.

It would require a large volume to convey any tolerable idea of the vast extent and expansion of this interesting fable, first handled by so many poets, epic, lyric and tragic, with their endless additions, transformations and contradictions,—then purged and recast by historical inquirers, who under color of setting aside the exaggerations of the poets, introduced a new vein of prosaic invention,—lastly, moralized and allegorized by philosophers. In the present brief outline of the general field of Grecian legend, or of that which the Greeks believed to be their antiquities, the Trojan war can be regarded as only one among a large number of incidents upon which Hekatæus and Herodotus looked back as constituting their fore-time. Taken as a special legendary event, it is indeed of wider and larger interest than any other, but it is a mistake to single it out from the rest as if it rested upon a different and more trustworthy basis. I must therefore confine myself to an abridged narrative of the current and leading facts; and amidst the numerous contradictory statements which are to be found respecting every one of them, I know no better ground of preference than comparative antiquity,[p. 285] though even the oldest tales which we possess—those contained in the Iliad—evidently presuppose others of prior date.

The primitive ancestor of the Trojan line of kings is Dardanus, son of Zeus, founder and eponymus of Dardania:[675] in the account of later authors, Dardanus was called the son of Zeus by Elektra, daughter of Atlas, and was further said to have come from Samothrace, or from Arcadia, or from Italy;[676] but of this Homer mentions nothing. The first Dardanian town founded by him was in a lofty position on the descent of Mount Ida; for he was not yet strong enough to establish himself on the plain. But his son Erichthonius, by the favor of Zeus, became the wealthiest of mankind. His flocks and herds having multiplied, he had in his pastures three thousand mares, the offspring of some of whom, by Boreas, produced horses of preternatural swiftness. Trôs, the son of Erichthonius, and the eponym of the Trojans, had three sons—Ilus, Assaracus, and the beautiful Ganymêdês, whom Zeus stole away to become his cup-bearer in Olympus, giving to his father Trôs, as the price of the youth, a team of immortal horses.[677]

From Ilus and Assaracus the Trojan and Dardanian lines diverge; the former passing from Ilus to Laomedôn, Priam and Hectôr; the latter from Assaracus to Capys, Anchisês and Æneas. Ilus founded in the plain of Troy the holy city of Ilium; Assaracus and his descendants remained sovereigns of Dardania.[678]

It was under the proud Laomedôn, son of Ilus, that Poseidôn and Apollo underwent, by command of Zeus, a temporary servitude; the former building the walls of the town, the latter tending the flocks and herds. When their task was completed and the penal period had expired, they claimed the stipulated reward; but Laomedôn angrily repudiated their demand, and even threatened to cut off their ears, to tie them hand and foot, and to sell them in some distant island as slaves.[679] He was punished for this[p. 286] treachery by a sea-monster, whom Poseidôn sent to ravage his fields and to destroy his subjects. Laomedôn publicly offered the immortal horses given by Zeus to his father Trôs, as a reward to any one who would destroy the monster. But an oracle declared that a virgin of noble blood must be surrendered to him, and the lot fell upon Hesionê, daughter of Laomedôn himself. Hêraklês arriving at this critical moment, killed the monster by the aid of a fort built for him by Athênê and the Trojans,[680] so as to rescue both the exposed maiden and the people; but Laomedôn, by a second act of perfidy, gave him mortal horses in place of the matchless animals which had been promised. Thus defrauded of his due, Hêraklês equipped six ships, attacked and captured Troy and killed Laomedôn,[681] giving Hesionê to his friend and auxiliary Telamôn, to whom she bore the celebrated archer Teukros.[682] A painful sense of this expedition was preserved among the inhabitants of the historical town of Ilium, who offered no worship to Hêraklês.[683]

Among all the sons of Laomedôn, Priam[684] was the only one who had remonstrated against the refusal of the well-earned guerdon of Hêraklês; for which the hero recompensed him by placing him on the throne. Many and distinguished were his sons and daughters, as well by his wife Hekabê, daughter of Kisseus, as by other women.[685] Among the sons were Hectôr,[686] Paris, Dêipho[p. 287]bus, Helenus, Trôilus, Politês, Polydôrus; among the daughters Laodikê, Kreüsa, Polyxena, and Kassandra.

The birth of Paris was preceded by formidable presages; for Hekabê dreamt that she was delivered of a firebrand, and Priam, on consulting the soothsayers, was informed that the son about to be born would prove fatal to him. Accordingly he directed the child to be exposed on Mount Ida; but the inauspicious kindness of the gods preserved him, and he grew up amidst the flocks and herds, active and beautiful, fair of hair and symmetrical in person, and the special favorite of Aphroditê.[687]

It was to this youth, in his solitary shepherd’s walk on Mount Ida, that the three goddesses Hêrê, Athênê, and Aphroditê were conducted, in order that he might determine the dispute respecting their comparative beauty, which had arisen at the nuptials of Pêleus and Thetis,—a dispute brought about in pursuance of the arrangement, and in accomplishment of the deep-laid designs, of Zeus. For Zeus, remarking with pain the immoderate numbers of the then existing heroic race, pitied the earth for the overwhelming burden which she was compelled to bear, and determined to lighten it by exciting a destructive and long-continued war.[688][p. 288] Paris awarded the palm of beauty to Aphroditê, who promised him in recompense the possession of Helena, wife of the Spartan Menelaus,—the daughter of Zeus and the fairest of living women. At the instance of Aphroditê, ships were built for him, and he embarked on the enterprise so fraught with eventual disaster to his native city, in spite of the menacing prophecies of his brother Helenus, and the always neglected warnings of Kassandra.[689]

Paris, on arriving at Sparta, was hospitably entertained by Menelaus as well as by Kastôr and Pollux, and was enabled to present the rich gifts which he had brought to Helen.[690] Menelaus then departed to Krête, leaving Helen to entertain his Trojan guest—a favorable moment which was employed by Aphroditê to bring about the intrigue and the elopement. Paris carried away with him both Helen and a large sum of money belonging to Menelaus—made a prosperous voyage to Troy—and arrived there safely with his prize on the third day.[691]

Menelaus, informed by Iris in Krête of the perfidious return made by Paris for his hospitality, hastened home in grief and[p. 289] indignation to consult with his brother Agamemnôn, as well as with the venerable Nestôr, on the means of avenging the outrage. They made known the event to the Greek chiefs around them, among whom they found universal sympathy: Nestôr, Palamêdês and others went round to solicit aid in a contemplated attack of Troy, under the command of Agamemnôn, to whom each chief promised both obedience and unwearied exertion until Helen should be recovered.[692] Ten years were spent in equipping the expedition. The goddesses Hêrê and Athênê, incensed at the preference given by Paris to Aphroditê, and animated by steady attachment to Argos, Sparta and Mykênæ, took an active part in the cause; and the horses of Hêrê were fatigued with her repeated visits to the different parts of Greece.[693]

By such efforts a force was at length assembled at Aulis[694] in Bœôtia, consisting of 1186 ships and more than 100,000 men,—a force outnumbering by more than ten to one anything that the Trojans themselves could oppose, and superior to the defenders[p. 290] of Troy even with all her allies included.[695] It comprised heroes with their followers from the extreme points of Greece—from the north-western portions of Thessaly under Mount Olympus, as well as the western islands of Dulichium and Ithaca, and the eastern islands of Krête and Rhodes. Agamemnôn himself contributed 100 ships manned with the subjects of his kingdom of Mykênæ, besides furnishing 60 ships to the Arcadians, who possessed none of their own. Menelaus brought with him 60 ships, Nestôr from Pylus 90, Idomeneus from Krête and Diomêdês from Argos 80 each. Forty ships were manned by the Eleians, under four different chiefs; the like number under Megês from Dulichium and the Echinades, and under Thoas from Kalydôn and the other Ætôlian towns. Odysseus from Ithaca, and Ajax from Salamis, brought 12 ships each. The Abantes from Eubœa, under Elephênôr, filled 40 vessels; the Bœôtians, under Peneleôs and Lêitus, 50; the inhabitants of Orchomenos and Aspledôn, 30; the light-armed Locrians, under Ajax son of Oileus,[696] 40; the Phôkians as many. The Athenians, under Menestheus, a chief distinguished for his skill in marshalling an army, mustered 50 ships; the Myrmidons from Phthia and Hellas, under Achilles, assembled in 50 ships; Protesilaus from Phylakê and Pyrasus, and Eurypylus from Ormenium, each came with 40 ships; Machaôn and Podaleirius, from Trikka, with 30; Admêtus, from Pheræ and the lake Bœbêis, with 11; and Philoktêtês from Melibœa with 7: the Lapithæ, under Polypœtês, son of Peirithous, filled 40 vessels; the Ænianes and Perrhæbians, under Guneus,[697] 22; and the Magnêtês under Prothous, 40; these last two were from the northernmost parts of Thessaly, near the mountains Pêlion and Olympus. From Rhodes, under Tlêpolemus, son of Hêraklês, appeared 9 ships; from Symê under the comely but effeminate Nireus, 3; from Kôs, Krapathus and the[p. 291] neighboring islands, 30, under the orders of Pheidippus and Antiphus, sons of Thessalus and grandsons of Hêraklês.[698]

Among this band of heroes were included the distinguished warriors Ajax and Diomêdês, and the sagacious Nestôr; while Agamemnôn himself, scarcely inferior to either of them in prowess, brought with him a high reputation for prudence in command. But the most marked and conspicuous of all were Achilles and Odysseus; the former a beautiful youth born of a divine mother, swift in the race, of fierce temper and irresistible might; the latter not less efficient as an ally from his eloquence, his untiring endurance, his inexhaustible resources under difficulty, and the mixture of daring courage with deep-laid cunning which never deserted him:[699] the blood of the arch-deceiver Sisyphus, through an illicit connection with his mother Antikleia, was said to flow in his veins,[700] and he was especially patronized and protected by the goddess Athênê. Odysseus, unwilling at first to take part in the expedition, had even simulated insanity; but Palamêdês, sent to Ithaca to invite him, tested the reality of his madness by placing in the furrow where Odysseus was ploughing, his infant son Telemachus. Thus detected, Odysseus could not refuse to join the Achæan host, but the prophet Halithersês predicted to him that twenty years would elapse before he revisited his native land.[701] To Achilles the gods had promised the full effulgence of[p. 292] heroic glory before the walls of Troy; nor could the place be taken without both his coöperation and that of his son after him. But they had forewarned him that this brilliant career would be rapidly brought to a close; and that if he desired a long life, he must remain tranquil and inglorious in his native land. In spite of the reluctance of his mother Thetis, he preferred few years with bright renown, and joined the Achæan host.[702] When Nestôr and Odysseus came to Phthia to invite him, both he and his intimate friend Patroclus eagerly obeyed the call.[703]

Agamemnôn and his powerful host set sail from Aulis; but being ignorant of the locality and the direction, they landed by mistake in Teuthrania, a part of Mysia near the river Kaïkus, and began to ravage the country under the persuasion that it was the neighborhood of Troy. Telephus, the king of the country,[704] opposed and repelled them, but was ultimately defeated and severely wounded by Achilles. The Greeks now, discovering their mistake, retired; but their fleet was dispersed by a storm and driven back to Greece. Achilles attacked and took Skyrus, and there married Deidamia, the daughter of Lycomêdês.[705] Telephus, suffering from his wounds, was directed by the oracle to come to Greece and present himself to Achilles to be healed, by applying the scrapings of the spear with which the wound had been given: thus restored, he became the guide of the Greeks when they were prepared to renew their expedition.[706]

[p. 293]The armament was again assembled at Aulis, but the goddess Artemis, displeased with the boastful language of Agamemnôn, prolonged the duration of adverse winds, and the offending chief was compelled to appease her by the well-known sacrifice of his daughter Iphigeneia.[707] They then proceeded to Tenedos, from whence Odysseus and Menelaus were despatched as envoys to Troy, to redemand Helen and the stolen property. In spite of the prudent counsels of Antenôr, who received the two Grecian chiefs with friendly hospitality, the Trojans rejected the demand, and the attack was resolved upon. It was foredoomed by the gods that the Greek who first landed should perish: Protesilaus was generous enough to put himself upon this forlorn hope, and accordingly fell by the hand of Hectôr.

Meanwhile the Trojans had assembled a large body of allies from various parts of Asia Minor and Thrace: Dardanians under Æneas, Lykians under Sarpedôn, Mysians, Karians, Mæonians, Alizonians,[708] Phrygians, Thracians, and Pæonians.[709] But vain[p. 294] was the attempt to oppose the landing of the Greeks: the Trojans were routed, and even the invulnerable Cycnus,[710] son of Poseidôn, one of the great bulwarks of the defence, was slain by Achilles. Having driven the Trojans within their walls, Achilles attacked and stormed Lyrnêssus, Pêdasus, Lesbos and other places in the neighborhood, twelve towns on the sea-coast and eleven in the interior; he drove off the oxen of Æneas and pursued the hero himself, who narrowly escaped with his life: he surprised and killed the youthful Trôilus, son of Priam, and captured several of the other sons, whom he sold as prisoners into the islands of the Ægean.[711] He acquired as his captive the fair Brisêis, while Chrysêis was awarded to Agamemnôn: he was moreover eager to see the divine Helen, the prize and stimulus of this memorable struggle; and Aphroditê and Thetis contrived to bring about an interview between them.[712]

At this period of the war the Grecian army was deprived of Palamêdês, one of its ablest chiefs. Odysseus had not forgiven the artifice by which Palamêdês had detected his simulated insanity, nor was he without jealousy of a rival clever and cunning in a degree equal, if not superior, to himself; one who had enriched the Greeks with the invention of letters, of dice for[p. 295] amusement, of night-watches, as well as with other useful suggestions. According to the old Cyprian epic, Palamêdês was drowned while fishing, by the hands of Odysseus and Diomêdês.[713] Neither in the Iliad nor the Odyssey does the name of Palamêdês occur: the lofty position which Odysseus occupies in both those poems—noticed with some degree of displeasure even by Pindar, who described Palamêdês as the wiser man of the two—is sufficient to explain the omission.[714] But in the more advanced period of the Greek mind, when intellectual superiority came to acquire a higher place in the public esteem as compared with military prowess, the character of Palamêdês, combined with his unhappy fate, rendered him one of the most interesting personages in the Trojan legend. Æschylus, Sophoklês and Euripidês each consecrated to him a special tragedy; but the mode of his death as described in the old epic was not suitable to Athenian ideas, and accordingly he was represented as having been falsely accused of treason by Odysseus, who caused gold to be buried in his tent, and persuaded Agamemnôn and the Grecian chiefs that Palamêdês had received it from the Trojans.[715] He thus forfeited his life, a victim to the calumny of Odysseus and to the delusion[p. 296] of the leading Greeks. In the last speech made by the philosopher Socratês to his Athenian judges, he alludes with solemnity and fellow-feeling to the unjust condemnation of Palamêdês, as analogous to that which he himself was about to suffer, and his companions seem to have dwelt with satisfaction on the comparison. Palamêdês passed for an instance of the slanderous enmity and misfortune which so often wait upon superior genius.[716]

In these expeditions the Grecian army consumed nine years, during which the subdued Trojans dared not give battle without their walls for fear of Achilles. Ten years was the fixed epical duration of the siege of Troy, just as five years was the duration of the siege of Kamikus by the Krêtan armament which came to avenge the death of Minôs:[717] ten years of preparation, ten years of siege, and ten years of wandering for Odysseus, were periods suited to the rough chronological dashes of the ancient epic, and suggesting no doubts nor difficulties with the original hearers. But it was otherwise when the same events came to be contemplated by the historicizing Greeks, who could not be satisfied without either finding or inventing satisfactory bonds of coherence between the separate events. Thucydidês tells us that the Greeks were less numerous than the poets have represented, and that being moreover very poor, they were unable to procure adequate and constant provisions: hence they were compelled to disperse their army, and to employ a part of it in cultivating the Chersonese,—a part in marauding expeditions over the neighborhood. Could the whole army have been employed against Troy at once (he says), the siege would have been much more speedily and easily concluded.[718] If the great historian could permit himself thus to amend the legend in so many points, we might have imagined that the simpler course would have been to include the duration of the siege among the list of poetical exaggerations, and to affirm that the real siege had lasted only one[p. 297] year instead of ten. But it seems that the ten years’ duration was so capital a feature in the ancient tale, that no critic ventured to meddle with it.

A period of comparative intermission however was now at hand for the Trojans. The gods brought about the memorable fit of anger of Achilles, under the influence of which he refused to put on his armor, and kept his Myrmidons in camp. According to the Cypria, this was the behest of Zeus, who had compassion on the Trojans: according to the Iliad, Apollo was the originating cause,[719] from anxiety to avenge the injury which his priest Chrysês had endured from Agamemnôn. For a considerable time, the combats of the Greeks against Troy were conducted without their best warrior, and severe indeed was the humiliation which they underwent in consequence. How the remaining Grecian chiefs vainly strove to make amends for his absence—how Hectôr and the Trojans defeated and drove them to their ships—how the actual blaze of the destroying flame, applied by Hectôr to the ship of Protesilaus, roused up the anxious and sympathizing Patroclus, and extorted a reluctant consent from Achilles, to allow his friend and his followers to go forth and avert the last extremity of ruin—how Achilles, when Patroclus had been killed by Hectôr, forgetting his anger in grief for the death of his friend, reëntered the fight, drove the Trojans within their walls with immense slaughter, and satiated his revenge both upon the living and the dead Hectôr—all these events have been chronicled, together with those divine dispensations on which most of them are made to depend, in the immortal verse of the Iliad.

Homer breaks off with the burial of Hectôr, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arktinus, entitled the Æthiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege. The poem of Quintus Smyrnæus, composed about the fourth century of the Christian æra, seems in its first books to coincide with the Æthiopis, in the subsequent books partly with the Ilias Minor of Leschês.[720]

[p. 298]

The Trojans, dismayed by the death of Hectôr, were again animated with hope by the appearance of the warlike and beautiful queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia, daughter of Arês, hitherto invincible in the field, who came to their assistance from Thrace at the head of a band of her countrywomen. She again led the besieged without the walls to encounter the Greeks in the open field; and under her auspices the latter were at first driven back, until she too was slain by the invincible arm of Achilles. The victor, on taking off the helmet of his fair enemy as she lay on the ground, was profoundly affected and captivated by her charms, for which he was scornfully taunted by Thersitês: exasperated by this rash insult, he killed Thersitês on the spot with a blow of his fist. A violent dispute among the Grecian chiefs was the result, for Diomêdês, the kinsman of Thersitês, warmly resented the proceeding; and Achilles was obliged to go to Lesbus, where he was purified from the act of homicide by Odysseus.[721]

Next arrived Memnôn, son of Tithônus and Eôs, the most stately of living men, with a powerful band of black Æthiopians, to the assistance of Troy. Sallying forth against the Greeks, he made great havoc among them: the brave and popular Antilochus perished by his hand, a victim to filial devotion in defence of Nestôr.[722] Achilles at length attacked him, and for a long time the combat was doubtful between them: the prowess of Achilles and the supplication of Thetis with Zeus finally prevailed;[p. 299] whilst Eôs obtained for her vanquished son the consoling gift of immortality. His tomb, however,[723] was shown near the Propontis, within a few miles of the mouth of the river Æsêpus, and was visited annually by the birds called Memnonides, who swept it and bedewed it with water from the stream. So the traveller Pausanias was told, even in the second century after the Christian æra, by the Hellespontine Greeks.

But the fate of Achilles himself was now at hand. After routing the Trojans and chasing them into the town, he was slain near the Skæan gate by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the unerring auspices of Apollo.[724] The greatest efforts were made by the Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was however rescued and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valor of Ajax and Odysseus. Bitter was the grief of Thetis for the loss of her son: she came into the camp with the Muses and the Nêreids to mourn over him; and when a magnificent funeral-pile had been prepared by the Greeks to burn him with every mark of honor, she stole away the body and conveyed it to a renewed and immortal life in the island of Leukê in the Euxine Sea. According to some accounts he was there blest with the nuptials and company of Helen.[725]

[p. 300]Thetis celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of her son, and offered the unrivalled panoply, which Hêphæstos had forged and wrought for him, as a prize to the most distinguished warrior in the Grecian army. Odysseus and Ajax became rivals for the distinction, when Athênê, together with some Trojan prisoners, who were asked from which of the two their country had sustained greatest injury, decided in favor of the former. The gallant Ajax lost his senses with grief and humiliation: in a fit of phrenzy he slew some sheep, mistaking them for the men who had wronged him, and then fell upon his own sword.[726]

Odysseus now learnt from Helenus son of Priam, whom he had captured in an ambuscade,[727] that Troy could not be taken unless both Philoktêtês, and Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, could be prevailed upon to join the besiegers. The former, having been stung in the foot by a serpent, and becoming insupportable to the Greeks from the stench of his wound, had been left at Lemnus in[p. 301] the commencement of the expedition, and had spent ten years[728] in misery on that desolate island; but he still possessed the peerless bow and arrows of Hêraklês, which were said to be essential to the capture of Troy. Diomêdês fetched Philoktêtês from Lemnus to the Grecian camp, where he was healed by the skill of Machaôn,[729] and took an active part against the Trojans—engaging in single combat with Paris, and killing him with one of the Hêrakleian arrows. The Trojans were allowed to carry away for burial the body of this prince, the fatal cause of all their sufferings; but not until it had been mangled by the hand of Menelaus.[730] Odysseus went to the island of Skyrus to invite Neoptolemus to the army. The untried but impetuous youth gladly obeyed the call, and received from Odysseus his father’s armor, while on the other hand, Eurypylus, son of Têlephus, came from Mysia as auxiliary to the Trojans and rendered to them valuable service—turning the tide of fortune for a time against the Greeks, and killing some of their bravest chiefs, amongst whom was numbered Peneleôs, and the unrivalled leech Machaôn.[731] The exploits of[p. 302] Neoptolemus were numerous, worthy of the glory of his race and the renown of his father. He encountered and slew Eurypylus, together with numbers of the Mysian warriors: he routed the Trojans and drove them within their walls, from whence they never again emerged to give battle: nor was he less distinguished for his good sense and persuasive diction, than for forward energy in the field.[732]

Troy however was still impregnable so long as the Palladium, a statue given by Zeus himself to Dardanus, remained in the citadel; and great care had been taken by the Trojans not only to conceal this valuable present, but to construct other statues so like it as to mislead any intruding robber. Nevertheless the enterprising Odysseus, having disguised his person with miserable clothing and self-inflicted injuries, found means to penetrate into the city and to convey the Palladium by stealth away: Helen alone recognized him; but she was now anxious to return to Greece, and even assisted Odysseus in concerting means for the capture of the town.[733]

To accomplish this object, one final stratagem was resorted to. By the hands of Epeius of Panopeus, and at the suggestion of Athênê, a capacious hollow wooden horse was constructed, capable of containing one hundred men: the élite of the Grecian heroes, Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Menelaus and others, concealed themselves in the inside of it, and the entire Grecian army sailed away[p. 303] to Tenedos, burning their tents and pretending to have abandoned the siege. The Trojans, overjoyed to find themselves free, issued from the city and contemplated with astonishment the fabric which their enemies had left behind: they long doubted what should be done with it; and the anxious heroes from within heard the surrounding consultations, as well as the voice of Helen when she pronounced their names and counterfeited the accents of their wives.[734] Many of the Trojans were anxious to dedicate it to the gods in the city as a token of gratitude for their deliverance; but the more cautious spirits inculcated distrust of an enemy’s legacy; and Laocoôn, the priest of Poseidôn, manifested his aversion by striking the side of the horse with his spear. The sound revealed that the horse was hollow, but the Trojans heeded not this warning of possible fraud; and the unfortunate Laocoôn, a victim to his own sagacity and patriotism, miserably perished before the eyes of his countrymen, together with one of his sons,—two serpents being sent expressly by the gods out of the sea to destroy him. By this terrific spectacle, together with the perfidious counsels of Sinon, a traitor whom the Greeks had left behind for the special purpose of giving false information, the Trojans were induced to make a breach in their own walls, and to drag the fatal fabric with triumph and exultation into their city.[735]

[p. 304]The destruction of Troy, according to the decree of the gods, was now irrevocably sealed. While the Trojans indulged in a night of riotous festivity, Sinon kindled the fire-signal to the Greeks at Tenedos, loosening the bolts of the wooden horse, from out of which the enclosed heroes descended. The city, assailed both from within and from without, was thoroughly sacked and destroyed, with the slaughter or captivity of the larger portion of its heroes as well as its people. The venerable Priam perished by the hand of Neoptolemus, having in vain sought shelter at the domestic altar of Zeus Herkeios; but his son Deiphobus, who since the death of Paris had become the husband of Helen, defended his house desperately against Odysseus and Menelaus, and sold his life dearly. After he was slain, his body was fearfully mutilated by the latter.[736]

Thus was Troy utterly destroyed—the city, the altars and temples,[737] and the population. Æneas and Antenôr were permitted to escape, with their families, having been always more favorably regarded by the Greeks than the remaining Trojans. According to one version of the story, they had betrayed the[p. 305] city to the Greeks: a panther’s skin had been hung over the door of Antenôr’s house as a signal for the victorious besiegers to spare it in the general plunder.[738] In the distribution of the principal captives, Astyanax, the infant son of Hectôr, was cast from the top of the wall and killed, by Odysseus or Neoptolemus: Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, was immolated on the tomb of Achilles, in compliance with a requisition made by the shade of the deceased hero to his countrymen;[739] while her sister Kassandra was presented as a prize to Agamemnôn. She had sought sanctuary at the altar of Athênê, where Ajax, the son of Oileus, making a guilty attempt to seize her, had drawn both upon himself and upon the army the serious wrath of the goddess, insomuch that the Greeks could hardly be restrained from stoning him to death.[740] Andromachê and Helenus were both given to Neoptolemus, who, according to the Ilias Minor, carried away also Æneas as his captive.[741]

Helen gladly resumed her union with Menelaus: she accompanied him back to Sparta, and lived with him there many years in comfort and dignity,[742] passing afterwards to a happy immortality[p. 306] in the Elysian fields. She was worshipped as a goddess with her brothers the Dioskuri and her husband, having her temple, statue and altar at Therapnæ and elsewhere, and various examples of her miraculous interventions were cited among the Greeks.[743] The lyric poet Stesichorus had ventured to denounce her, conjointly with her sister Klytæmnêstra, in a tone of rude and plain-spoken severity, resembling that of Euripidês and Lycophrôn afterwards, but strikingly opposite to the delicacy and respect with which she is always handled by Homer, who never admits reproaches against her except from her own lips.[744] He was smitten with blindness,[p. 307] and made sensible of his impiety; but having repented and composed a special poem formally retracting the calumny, was permitted to recover his sight. In his poem of recantation (the famous palinode now unfortunately lost) he pointedly contradicted the Homeric narrative, affirming that Helen had never been to Troy at all, and that the Trojans had carried thither nothing but her image or eidôlon.[745] It is, probably, to the excited religious feelings of Stesichorus that we owe the first idea of this glaring deviation from the old legend, which could never have been recommended by any considerations of poetical interest.

Other versions were afterwards started, forming a sort of compromise between Homer and Stesichorus, admitting that Helen had never really been at Troy, without altogether denying her elopement. Such is the story of her having been detained in Egypt during the whole term of the siege. Paris, on his departure from Sparta, had been driven thither by storms, and the Egyptian king Prôteus, hearing of the grievous wrong which he[p. 308] had committed towards Menelaus, had sent him away from the country with severe menaces, detaining Helen until her lawful husband should come to seek her. When the Greeks reclaimed Helen from Troy, the Trojans assured them solemnly, that she neither was, nor ever had been, in the town; but the Greeks, treating this allegation as fraudulent, prosecuted the siege until their ultimate success confirmed the correctness of the statement, nor did Menelaus recover Helen until, on his return from Troy, he visited Egypt.[746] Such was the story told by the Egyptian priests to Herodotus, and it appeared satisfactory to his historicizing mind. “For if Helen had really been at Troy (he argues) she would certainly have been given up, even had she been mistress of Priam himself instead of Paris: the Trojan king, with all his family and all his subjects, would never knowingly have incurred utter and irretrievable destruction for the purpose of retaining her: their misfortune was, that while they did not possess, and therefore could not restore her, they yet found it impossible to convince the Greeks that such was the fact.” Assuming the historical character of the war of Troy, the remark of Herodotus admits of no reply; nor can we greatly wonder that he acquiesced in the tale of Helen’s Egyptian detention, as a substitute for the “incredible insanity” which the[p. 309] genuine legend imputes to Priam and the Trojans. Pausanias, upon the same ground and by the same mode of reasoning, pronounces that the Trojan horse must have been in point of fact a battering-engine, because to admit the literal narrative would be to impute utter childishness to the defenders of the city. And Mr. Payne Knight rejects Helen altogether as the real cause of the Trojan war, though she may have been the pretext of it; for he thinks that neither the Greeks nor the Trojans could have been so mad and silly as to endure calamities of such magnitude “for one little woman.”[747] Mr. Knight suggests various political causes as substitutes; these might deserve consideration, either if any evidence could be produced to countenance them, or if the subject on which they are brought to bear could be shown to belong to the domain of history.

The return of the Grecian chiefs from Troy furnished matter to the ancient epic hardly less copious than the siege itself, and the more susceptible of indefinite diversity, inasmuch as those who had before acted in concert were now dispersed and isolated. Moreover the stormy voyages and compulsory wanderings of the heroes exactly fell in with the common aspirations after an heroic founder, and enabled even the most remote Hellenic settlers to connect the origin of their town with this prominent event of their ante-historical and semi-divine world. And an absence of ten years afforded room for the supposition of many domestic changes in their native abode, and many family misfortunes and misdeeds during the interval. One of these heroic “Returns,” that of Odysseus, has been immortalized by the verse of Homer. The hero, after a series of long-protracted suffering and expatriation, inflicted on him by the anger of Poseidôn, at last reaches his native island, but finds his wife beset, his youthful son insulted, and his substance plundered, by a troop of insolent suitors; he is forced to appear as a wretched beggar, and to endure in his own person their scornful treatment; but finally, by the interference of Athênê coming in aid of his own courage[p. 310] and stratagem, he is enabled to overwhelm his enemies, to resume his family position, and to recover his property. The return of several other Grecian chiefs was the subject of an epic poem by Hagias, which is now lost, but of which a brief abstract or argument still remains: there were in antiquity various other poems of similar title and analogous matter.[748]

As usual with the ancient epic, the multiplied sufferings of this back-voyage are traced to divine wrath, justly provoked by the sins of the Greeks; who, in the fierce exultation of a victory purchased by so many hardships, had neither respected nor even[749] spared the altars of the gods in Troy; and Athênê, who had been their most zealous ally during the siege, was so incensed by their final recklessness, more especially by the outrage of Ajax, son of Oïleus, that she actively harassed and embittered their return, in spite of every effort to appease her. The chiefs began to quarrel among themselves; their formal assembly became a scene of drunkenness; even Agamemnôn and Menelaus lost their fraternal harmony, and each man acted on his own separate resolution.[750] Nevertheless, according to the Odyssey, Nestôr, Diomêdês, Neoptolemus, Idomeneus and Philoktêtês reached home speedily and safely: Agamemnôn also arrived in Peloponnêsus, to perish by the hand of a treacherous wife; but Menelaus was condemned to long wanderings and to the severest privations in Egypt, Cyprus and elsewhere, before he could set foot in his native land. The Lokrian Ajax perished on the Gyræan rock.[751] Though exposed to a terrible storm, he had already reached this place of safety, when he indulged in the rash boast of having escaped in defiance of the gods: no sooner did Poseidôn hear this language, than he struck with his trident the[p. 311] rock which Ajax was grasping and precipitated both into the sea.[752] Kalchas the soothsayer, together with Leonteus and Polypœtês, proceeded by land from Troy to Kolophôn.[753]

In respect however to these and other Grecian heroes, tales were told different from those in the Odyssey, assigning to them a long expatriation and a distant home. Nestôr went to Italy, where he founded Metapontum, Pisa and Hêrakleia:[754] Philoktêtês[755] also went to Italy, founded Petilia and Krimisa, and sent settlers to Egesta in Sicily. Neoptolemus, under the advice of Thetis, marched by land across Thrace, met with Odysseus, who had come by sea, at Maroneia, and then pursued his journey to Epirus, where he became king of the Molossians.[756] Idomeneus came to Italy, and founded Uria in the Salentine peninsula. Diomêdês, after wandering far and wide, went along the Italian coast into the innermost Adriatic gulf, and finally settled in Daunia, founding the cities of Argyrippa, Beneventum, Atria and Diomêdeia: by the favor of Athênê he became immortal, and was worshipped as a god in many different places.[757] The Lo[p. 312]krian followers of Ajax founded the Epizephyrian Lokri on the southernmost corner of Italy,[758] besides another settlement in Libya. I have spoken in another place of the compulsory exile of Teukros, who, besides founding the city of Salamis in Cyprus, is said to have established some settlements in the Iberian peninsula.[759] Menestheus the Athenian did the like, and also founded both Elæa in Mysia and Skylletium in Italy.[760] The Arcadian chief Agapenôr founded Paphus in Cyprus.[761] Epeius, of Panopeus in Phôkis, the constructor of the Trojan horse with the aid of the goddess Athênê, settled at Lagaria near Sybaris on the coast of Italy; and the very tools which he had employed in that remarkable fabric were shown down to a late date in the temple of Athênê at Metapontum.[762] Temples, altars and towns were also pointed out in Asia Minor, in Samos and in Krête, the foundation of Agamemnôn or of his followers.[763] The inhabitants of the Grecian town of Skionê, in the Thracian peninsula called Pallênê or Pellênê, accounted themselves the offspring of the Pellênians from Achæa in Peloponnêsus, who had served under Agamemnôn before Troy, and who on their return from the siege had been driven on the spot by a storm and there settled.[764] The Pamphylians, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, deduced their[p. 313] origin from the wanderings of Amphilochus and Kalchas after the siege of Troy: the inhabitants of the Amphilochian Argos on the Gulf of Ambrakia revered the same Amphilochus as their founder.[765] The Orchomenians under Ialmenus, on quitting the conquered city, wandered or were driven to the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea; and the barbarous Achæans under Mount Caucasus were supposed to have derived their first establishment from this source.[766] Merionês with his Krêtan followers settled at Engyion in Sicily, along with the preceding Krêtans who had remained there after the invasion of Minôs. The Elyminians in Sicily also were composed of Trojans and Greeks separately driven to the spot, who, forgetting their previous differences, united in the joint settlements of Eryx and Egesta.[767] We hear of Podaleirius both in Italy and on the coast of Karia;[768] of Akamas son of Thêseus, at Amphipolis in Thrace, at Soli in Cyprus, and at Synnada in Phrygia;[769] of Guneus, Prothous and Eurypylus, in Krête as well as in Libya.[770] The obscure poem of Lycophrôn enumerates many of these dispersed and expatriated heroes, whose conquest of Troy was indeed a Kadmeian victory (according to the proverbial phrase of the Greeks), wherein the sufferings of the victor were little inferior to those of the vanquished.[771] It was particularly among the Italian Greeks, where they were worshipped with very special solemnity, that their presence as wanderers from Troy was reported and believed.[772]

[p. 314]I pass over the numerous other tales which circulated among the ancients, illustrating the ubiquity of the Grecian and Trojan heroes as well as that of the Argonauts,—one of the most striking features in the Hellenic legendary world.[773] Amongst them all, the most interesting, individually, is Odysseus, whose romantic adventures in fabulous places and among fabulous persons have been made familiarly known by Homer. The goddesses Kalypso and Circê; the semi-divine mariners of Phæacia, whose ships are endowed with consciousness and obey without a steersman; the one-eyed Cyclôpes, the gigantic Læstrygones, and the wind-ruler Æolus; the Sirens who ensnare by their song, as the Lotophagi fascinate by their food—all these pictures formed integral and interesting portions of the old epic. Homer leaves Odysseus reëstablished in his house and family; but so marked a personage could never be permitted to remain in the tameness of domestic life: the epic poem called the Telegonia ascribed to him a subsequent series of adventures. After the suitors had been buried by their relatives, he offered sacrifice to the Nymphs, and then went to Elis to inspect his herds of cattle there pasturing: the Eleian Polyxenus welcomed him hospitably, and made him a present of a bowl: Odysseus then returned to Ithaka, and fulfilled the rites and sacrifices prescribed to him by Teiresias in his visit to the under-world. This obligation discharged, he went to the country of the Thesprotians, and there married the queen Kallidikê: he headed the Thesprotians in a war against the Brygians, the latter being conducted by Arês himself, who fiercely assailed Odysseus; but the goddess Athênê stood by him, and he was enabled to make head against Arês until Apollo came[p. 315] and parted them. Odysseus then returned to Ithaka, leaving the Thesprotian kingdom to Polypœtês, his son by Kallidikê. Telegonus, his son by Circê, coming to Ithaka in search of his father, ravaged the island and killed Odysseus without knowing who he was. Bitter repentance overtook the son for his undesigned parricide: at his prayer and by the intervention of his mother Circê, both Penelopê and Têlemachus were made immortal: Telegonus married Penelopê, and Têlemachus married Circê.[774]

We see by this poem that Odysseus was represented as the mythical ancestor of the Thesprotian kings, just as Neoptolemus was of the Molossian.

It has already been mentioned that Antenôr and Æneas stand distinguished from the other Trojans by a dissatisfaction with Priam and a sympathy with the Greeks, which is by Sophoklês and others construed as treacherous collusion,[775]—a suspicion indirectly glanced, though emphatically repelled, by the Æneas of Virgil.[776] In the old epic of Arktinus, next in age to the Iliad and Odyssey, Æneas abandons Troy and retires to Mount Ida, in terror at the miraculous death of Laocoôn, before the entry of the Greeks into the town and the last night-battle: yet Leschês, in another of the ancient epic poems, represented him as having been carried away captive by Neoptolemus.[777] In a remarkable[p. 316] passage of the Iliad, Poseidôn describes the family of Priam as having incurred the hatred of Zeus, and predicts that Æneas and his descendants shall reign over the Trojans: the race of Dardanus, beloved by Zeus more than all his other sons, would thus be preserved, since Æneas belonged to it. Accordingly, when Æneas is in imminent peril from the hands of Achilles, Poseidôn specially interferes to rescue him, and even the implacable miso-Trojan goddess Hêrê assents to the proceeding.[778] These passages have been construed by various able critics to refer to a family of philo-Hellenic or semi-Hellenic Æneadæ, known even in the time of the early singers of the Iliad as masters of some territory in or near the Troad, and professing to be descended from, as well as worshipping, Æneas. In the town of Skêpsis, situated in the mountainous range of Ida, about thirty miles eastward of Ilium, there existed two noble and priestly families who professed to be descended, the one from Hectôr, the other from Æneas. The Skêpsian critic Dêmêtrius (in whose time both these families were still to be found) informs us that Skamandrius son of Hectôr, and Ascanius son of Æneas, were the archegets or heroic founders of his native city, which had been originally situated on one of the highest ranges of Ida, and was subse[p. 317]quently transferred by them to the less lofty spot on which it stood in his time.[779] In Arisbê and Gentinus there seem to have been families professing the same descent, since the same archegets were acknowledged.[780] In Ophrynium, Hectôr had his consecrated edifice, and in Ilium both he and Æneas were worshipped as gods:[781] and it was the remarkable statement of the Lesbian Menekratês, that Æneas, “having been wronged by Paris and stripped of the sacred privileges which belonged to him, avenged himself by betraying the city, and then became one of the Greeks.”[782]

One tale thus among many respecting Æneas, and that too the most ancient of all, preserved among the natives of the Troad, who worshipped him as their heroic ancestor, was, that after the capture of Troy he continued in the country as king of the remaining Trojans, on friendly terms with the Greeks. But there were other tales respecting him, alike numerous and irreconcil[p. 318]able: the hand of destiny marked him as a wanderer (fato profugus), and his ubiquity is not exceeded even by that of Odysseus. We hear of him at Ænus in Thrace, in Pallênê, at Æneia in the Thermaic Gulf, in Delus, at Orchomenos and Mantineia in Arcadia, in the islands of Kythêra and Zakynthus, in Leukas and Ambrakia, at Buthrotum in Epirus, on the Salentine peninsula and various other places in the southern region of Italy; at Drepana and Segesta in Sicily, at Carthage, at Cape Palinurus, Cumæ, Misenum, Caieta, and finally in Latium, where he lays the first humble foundation of the mighty Rome and her empire.[783] And the reason why his wanderings were not continued still further was, that the oracles and the pronounced will of the gods directed him to settle in Latium.[784] In each of these numerous places his visit was commemorated and certified by local monuments or special legends, particularly by temples and permanent ceremonies in honor of his mother Aphroditê, whose worship accompanied him everywhere: there were also many temples and many different tombs of Æneas himself.[785] The vast ascendency acquired by Rome, the ardor with which all the literary Romans espoused the idea of a Trojan origin, and the fact that the Julian family recognized Æneas as their gentile primary ancestor,—all contributed to give to the Roman version of his legend the preponderance over every other. The various other places in which monuments of Æneas were found came thus to be represented as places where he had halted for a time[p. 319] on his way from Troy to Latium. But though the legendary pretensions of these places were thus eclipsed in the eyes of those who constituted the literary public, the local belief was not extinguished: they claimed the hero as their permanent property, and his tomb was to them a proof that he had lived and died among them.

Antenôr, who shares with Æneas the favorable sympathy of the Greeks, is said by Pindar to have gone from Troy along with Menelaus and Helen into the region of Kyrênê in Libya.[786] But according to the more current narrative, he placed himself at the head of a body of Eneti or Veneti from Paphlagonia, who had come as allies of Troy, and went by sea into the inner part of the Adriatic Gulf, where he conquered the neighboring barbarians and founded the town of Patavium (the modern Padua); the Veneti in this region were said to owe their origin to his immigration.[787] We learn further from Strabo, that Opsikellas, one of the companions of Antenôr, had continued his wanderings even into Ibêria, and that he had there established a settlement bearing his name.[788]

Thus endeth the Trojan war; together with its sequel, the dispersion of the heroes, victors as well as vanquished. The account here given of it has been unavoidably brief and imperfect; for in a work intended to follow consecutively the real history of the Greeks, no greater space can be allotted even to the most splendid gem of their legendary period. Indeed, although it would be easy to fill a large volume with the separate incidents which have been introduced into the “Trojan cycle,” the misfortune is that they are for the most part so contradictory as to exclude all possibility of weaving them into one connected narrative. We are compelled to select one out of the number, generally without any solid ground of preference, and then to note the variations of the rest. No one who has not studied the original documents[p. 320] can imagine the extent to which this discrepancy proceeds; it covers almost every portion and fragment of the tale.[789]

But though much may have been thus omitted of what the reader might expect to find in an account of the Trojan war, its genuine character has been studiously preserved, without either exaggeration or abatement. The real Trojan war is that which was recounted by Homer and the old epic poets, and continued by all the lyric and tragic composers. For the latter, though they took great liberties with the particular incidents, and introduced to some extent a new moral tone, yet worked more or less faithfully on the Homeric scale: and even Euripidês, who departed the most widely from the feeling of the old legend, never lowered down his matter to the analogy of contemporary life. They preserved its well-defined object, at once righteous and romantic, the recovery of the daughter of Zeus and sister of the Dioskuri—its mixed agencies, divine, heroic and human—the colossal force and deeds of its chief actors—its vast magnitude and long duration, as well as the toils which the conquerors underwent, and the Nemesis which followed upon their success. And these were the circumstances which, set forth in the full blaze of epic and tragic poetry, bestowed upon the legend its powerful and imperishable influence over the Hellenic mind. The enterprise was one comprehending all the members of the Hellenic body, of which each individually might be proud, and in which, nevertheless, those feelings of jealous and narrow patriotism, so lamentably prevalent in many of the towns, were as much as possible excluded. It supplied them with a grand and inexhaustible object of common sympathy, common faith, and common admiration; and when occasions arose for bringing together a Pan-Hellenic force against the barbarians, the precedent of the Homeric expedition was one upon which the elevated minds of Greece could dwell with the certainty of rousing an unanimous impulse, if not always of counterworking sinister by[p. 321]-motives, among their audience. And the incidents comprised in the Trojan cycle were familiarized, not only to the public mind but also to the public eye, by innumerable representations both of the sculptor and the painter,—those which were romantic and chivalrous being better adapted for this purpose, and therefore more constantly employed, than any other.

Of such events the genuine Trojan war of the old epic was for the most part composed. Though literally believed, reverentially cherished, and numbered among the gigantic phænomena of the past, by the Grecian public, it is in the eyes of modern inquiry essentially a legend and nothing more. If we are asked whether it be not a legend embodying portions of historical matter, and raised upon a basis of truth,—whether there may not really have occurred at the foot of the hill of Ilium a war purely human and political, without gods, without heroes, without Helen, without Amazons, without Ethiopians under the beautiful son of Eôs, without the wooden horse, without the characteristic and expressive features of the old epical war,—like the mutilated trunk of Deïphobus in the under-world; if we are asked whether there was not really some such historical Trojan war as this, our answer must be, that as the possibility of it cannot be denied, so neither can the reality of it be affirmed. We possess nothing but the ancient epic itself without any independent evidence: had it been an age of records indeed, the Homeric epic in its exquisite and unsuspecting simplicity would probably never have come into existence. Whoever therefore ventures to dissect Homer, Arktinus and Leschês, and to pick out certain portions as matters of fact, while he sets aside the rest as fiction, must do so in full reliance on his own powers of historical divination, without any means either of proving or verifying his conclusions. Among many attempts, ancient as well as modern, to identify real objects in this historical darkness, that of Dio Chrysostom deserves attention for its extraordinary boldness. In his oration addressed to the inhabitants of Ilium, and intended to demonstrate that the Trojans were not only blameless as to the origin of the war, but victorious in its issue—he overthrows all the leading points of the Homeric narrative, and re-writes nearly the whole from beginning to end: Paris is the lawful husband of Helen, Achilles is slain by Hectôr, and the Greeks retire without taking Troy, dis[p. 322]graced as well as baffled. Having shown without difficulty that the Iliad, if it be looked at as a history, is full of gaps, incongruities and absurdities, he proceeds to compose a more plausible narrative of his own, which he tenders as so much authentic matter of fact. The most important point, however, which his Oration brings to view is, the literal and confiding belief with which the Homeric narrative was regarded, as if it were actual history, not only by the inhabitants of Ilium, but also by the general Grecian public.[790]

The small town of Ilium, inhabited by Æolic Greeks,[791] and raised into importance only by the legendary reverence attached to it, stood upon an elevated ridge forming a spur from Mount Ida, rather more than three miles from the town and promontory of Sigeium, and about twelve stadia, or less than two miles, from the sea at its nearest point. From Sigeium and the neighboring town of Achilleium (with its monument and temple of Achilles), to the town of Rhœteium on a hill higher up the Hellespont (with its monument and chapel of Ajax called the Aianteium[792]), was a distance of sixty stadia, or seven miles and a half in the straight course by sea: in the intermediate space was a bay and an adjoining plain, comprehending the embouchure of the Scamander, and extending to the base of the ridge on which Ilium stood. This plain was the celebrated plain of Troy, in which the great Homeric battles were believed to have taken place: the portion of the bay near to Sigeium went by the name of the Naustathmon of the Achæans (i. e. the spot where they dragged their ships ashore), and was accounted to have been the camp of Agamemnôn and his vast army.[793]

[p. 323]Historical Ilium was founded, according to the questionable statement of Strabo, during the last dynasty of the Lydian kings,[794] that is, at some period later than 720 B. C. Until after the days of Alexander the Great—indeed until the period of Roman preponderance—it always remained a place of inconsiderable power and importance, as we learn not only from the assertion of the geographer, but also from the fact that Achilleium, Sigeium and Rhœteium were all independent of it.[795] But inconsiderable as it might be, it was the only place which ever bore the venerable name immortalized by Homer. Like the Homeric Ilium, it had its temple of Athênê,[796] wherein she was worshipped as the presiding goddess of the town: the inhabitants affirmed that Agamemnôn had not altogether destroyed the town, but that it had been reoccupied after his departure, and had never ceased to exist.[797] Their acropolis was called Pergamum, and in it was shown the house of Priam and the altar of Zeus Herkeius where that unhappy old man had been slain: moreover there were exhibited, in the temples, panoplies which had been worn by the Homeric heroes,[798] and doubtless many other relics appreciated by admirers of the Iliad.

[p. 324]These were testimonies which few persons in those ages were inclined to question, when combined with the identity of name and general locality; nor does it seem that any one did question them until the time of Dêmêtrius of Skêpsis. Hellanikus expressly described this Ilium as being the Ilium of Homer, for which assertion Strabo (or probably Dêmêtrius, from whom the narrative seems to be copied) imputes to him very gratuitously an undue partiality towards the inhabitants of the town.[799] Herodotus relates, that Xerxês in his march into Greece visited the place, went up to the Pergamum of Priam, inquired with much interest into the details of the Homeric siege, made libations to the fallen heroes, and offered to the Athênê of Ilium his magnificent sacrifice of a thousand oxen: he probably represented and believed himself to be attacking Greece as the avenger of the Priamid family. The Lacedæmonian admiral Mindarus, while his fleet lay at Abydus, went personally to Ilium to offer sacrifice to Athênê, and saw from that elevated spot the battle fought between the squadron of Dorieus and the Athenians, on the shore near Rhœteium.[800] During the interval between the[p. 325] Peloponnesian war and the Macedonian invasion of Persia, Ilium was always garrisoned as a strong position; but its domain was still narrow, and did not extend even to the sea which was so near to it.[801] Alexander, on crossing the Hellespont, sent his army from Sestus to Abydus, under Parmenio, and sailed personally from Elæeus in the Chersonese, after having solemnly sacrificed at the Elæuntian shrine of Prôtesilaus, to the harbor of the Achæans between Sigeium and Rhœteium. He then ascended to Ilium, sacrificed to the Iliean Athênê, and consecrated in her temple his own panoply, in exchange for which he took some of the sacred arms there suspended, which were said to have been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were carried before him when he went to battle by his armor-bearers. It is a fact still more curious, and illustrative of the strong working of the old legend on an impressible and eminently religious mind, that he also sacrificed to Priam himself, on the very altar of Zeus Herkeius from which the old king was believed to have been torn by Neoptolemus. As that fierce warrior was his heroic ancestor by the maternal side, he desired to avert from himself the anger of Priam against the Achilleid race.[802]

[p. 326]Alexander made to the inhabitants of Ilium many munificent promises, which he probably would have executed, had he not been prevented by untimely death: for the Trojan war was amongst all the Grecian legends the most thoroughly Pan-Hellenic, and the young king of Macedôn, besides his own sincere legendary faith, was anxious to merge the local patriotism of the separate Greek towns in one general Hellenic sentiment under himself as chief. One of his successors, Antigonus,[803] founded the city of Alexandreia in the Trôad, between Sigeium and the more southerly promontory of Lektum; compressing into it the inhabitants of many of the neighboring Æolic towns in the region of Ida,—Skêpsis, Kebrên, Hamaxitus, Kolônæ, and Neandria, though the inhabitants of Skêpsis were subsequently permitted by Lysimachus to resume their own city and autonomous government. Ilium however remained without any special mark of favor until the arrival of the Romans in Asia and their triumph over Antiochus (about 190 B. C.). Though it retained its walls and its defensible position, Dêmêtrius of Skêpsis, who visited it shortly before that event, described it as being then in a state of neglect and poverty, many of the houses not even having tiled roofs.[804] In this dilapidated condition, however, it was still mythi[p. 327]cally recognized both by Antiochus and by the Roman consul Livius, who went up thither to sacrifice to the Iliean Athênê. The Romans, proud of their origin from Troy and Æneas, treated Ilium with signal munificence; not only granting to it immunity from tribute, but also adding to its domain the neighboring territories of Gergis, Rhœteium and Sigeium—and making the Ilieans masters of the whole coast[805] from the Peræa (or conti[p. 328]nental possessions) of Tenedos (southward of Sigeium) to the boundaries of Dardanus, which had its own title to legendary reverence as the special sovereignty of Æneas. The inhabitants of Sigeium could not peaceably acquiesce in this loss of their autonomy, and their city was destroyed by the Ilieans.

The dignity and power of Ilium being thus prodigiously enhanced, we cannot doubt that the inhabitants assumed to themselves exaggerated importance as the recognized parents of all-conquering Rome. Partly, we may naturally suppose, from the jealousies thus aroused on the part of their neighbors at Skêpsis and Alexandreia Trôas—partly from the pronounced tendency of the age (in which Kratês at Pergamus and Aristarchus at Alexandria divided between them the palm of literary celebrity) towards criticism and illustration of the old poets—a blow was now aimed at the mythical legitimacy of Ilium. Dêmêtrius of Skêpsis, one of the most laborious of the Homeric critics, had composed thirty books of comment upon the Catalogue in the Iliad: Hestiæa, an authoress of Alexandreia Trôas, had written on the same subject: both of them, well-acquainted with the locality, remarked that the vast battles described in the Iliad could not be packed into the narrow space between Ilium and the Naustathmon of the Greeks; the more so, as that space, too small even as it then stood, had been considerably enlarged since the date of the Iliad by deposits at the mouth of the Skamander.[806] They found no difficulty in pointing out topographical incongruities and impossibilities as to the incidents in the Iliad, which they professed to remove by the startling theory that the Homeric Ilium had not occupied the site of the city so called. There was a village, called the village of the Ilieans, situated[p. 329] rather less than four miles from the city in the direction of Mount Ida, and further removed from the sea; here, they affirmed the “holy Troy” had stood.

No positive proof was produced to sustain the conclusion, for Strabo expressly states that not a vestige of the ancient city remained at the Village of the Ilieans:[807] but the fundamental supposition was backed by a second accessory supposition, to explain how it happened that all such vestiges had disappeared. Nevertheless Strabo adopts the unsupported hypothesis of Dêmêtrius as if it were an authenticated fact—distinguishing pointedly between Old and New Ilium, and even censuring Hellanikus for having maintained the received local faith. But I cannot find that Dêmêtrius and Hestiæa have been followed in this respect by any other writer of ancient times excepting Strabo. Ilium still continued to be talked of and treated by every one as the genuine Homeric Troy: the cruel jests of the Roman rebel Fimbria, when he sacked the town and massacred the inhabitants—the compensation made by Sylla, and the pronounced favor of Julius Cæsar and Augustus,—all prove this continued recognition of identity.[808] Arrian, though a native of Nicomedia, holding a high appointment in Asia Minor, and remarkable for the exactness of his topographical notices, describes the visit of Alexander to Ilium, without any suspicion that the place with all its relics was a mere counterfeit: Aristidês, Dio Chrysostom, Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch hold the same language.[809] But modern writers seem for the most part to have taken up the[p. 330] supposition from Strabo as implicitly as he took it from Dêmêtrius. They call Ilium by the disrespectful appellation of New Ilium—while the traveller in the Trôad looks for Old Ilium as if it were the unquestionable spot where Priam had lived and moved; the name is even formally enrolled on the best maps recently prepared of the ancient Trôad.[810]

[p. 331]Strabo has here converted into geographical matter of fact an hypothesis purely gratuitous, with a view of saving the accuracy of the Homeric topography; though in all probability the locality of the pretended Old Ilium would have been found open to difficulties not less serious than those which it was introduced to obviate.[811] It may be true that Dêmêtrius and he were justified in[p. 332] their negative argument, so as to show that the battles described in the Iliad could not possibly have taken place if the city of Priam had stood on the hill inhabited by the Ilieans. But the legendary faith subsisted before, and continued without abatement afterwards, notwithstanding such topographical impossibilities. Hellanikus, Herodotus, Mindarus, the guides of Xerxês, and Alexander, had not been shocked by them: the case of the latter is the strongest of all, because he had received the best education of his time under Aristotle—he was a passionate admirer and constant reader of the Iliad—he was moreover personally familiar with the movements of armies, and lived at a time when maps, which began with Anaximander, the disciple of Thalês, were at least known to all who sought instruction. Now if, notwithstanding such advantages, Alexander fully believed in the identity of Ilium, unconscious of these many and glaring topographical difficulties, much less would Homer himself, or the Homeric auditors, be likely to pay attention to them, at a period, five centuries earlier, of comparative rudeness and ignorance, when prose records as well as geographical maps were totally unknown.[812] The inspired poet might describe, and his hearers[p. 333] would listen with delight to the tale, how Hectôr, pursued by Achilles, ran thrice round the city of Troy, while the trembling Trojans were all huddled into the city, not one daring to come out even at this last extremity of their beloved prince—and while the Grecian army looked on, restraining unwillingly their uplifted spears at the nod of Achilles, in order that Hectôr might perish by no other hand than his; nor were they, while absorbed by this impressive recital, disposed to measure distances or calculate topographical possibilities with reference to the site of the real Ilium.[813] The mistake consists in applying to Homer and to the Homeric siege of Troy, criticisms which would be perfectly just if brought to bear on the Athenian siege of Syracuse, as described by Thucydidês;[814] in the Peloponnesian war[815]—but which[p. 334] are not more applicable to the epic narrative than they would be to the exploits of Amadis or Orlando.

There is every reason for presuming that the Ilium visited by Xerxês and Alexander was really the “holy Ilium” present to the mind of Homer; and if so, it must have been inhabited, either by Greeks or by some anterior population, at a period earlier than that which Strabo assigns. History recognizes neither Troy the city, nor Trojans, as actually existing; but the extensive region called Trôas, or the Trôad (more properly Trôïas), is known both to Herodotus and to Thucydidês: it seems to include the territory westward of an imaginary line drawn from the north-east corner of the Adramyttian gulf to the Propontis at Parium, since both Antandrus, Kolônæ, and the district immediately round Ilium, are regarded as belonging to the Trôad.[816] Herodotus further notices the Teukrians of Gergis[817] (a township conterminous with Ilium, and lying to the eastward of the road from Ilium to Abydus), considering them as the remnant of a larger Teukrian population which once resided in the country, and which had in very early times undertaken a vast migration from Asia into Europe.[818] To that Teukrian population he thinks that the Homeric Trojans belonged:[819] and by later writers, especially by Virgil and the other Romans, the names Teukrians and Trojans are employed as equivalents. As the name Trojans is not mentioned in any contemporary historical monument, so the[p. 335] name Teukrians never once occurs in the old epic. It appears to have been first noticed by the elegiac poet Kallinus, about 660 B. C., who connected it by an alleged immigration of Teukrians from Krête into the region round about Ida. Others again denied this, asserting that the primitive ancestor, Teukrus, had come into the country from Attica,[820] or that he was of indigenous origin, born from Skamander and the nymph Idæa—all various manifestations of that eager thirst after an eponymous hero which never deserted the Greeks. Gergithians occur in more than one spot in Æolis, even so far southward as the neighborhood of Kymê:[821] the name has no place in Homer, but he mentions Gorgythion and Kebriones as illegitimate sons of Priam, thus giving a sort of epical recognition both to Gergis and Kebrên. As Herodotus calls the old epical Trojans by the name Teukrians, so the Attic Tragedians call them Phrygians; though the Homeric hymn to Aphroditê represents Phrygians and Trojans as completely distinct, specially noting the diversity of language;[822] and in the Iliad the Phrygians are simply numbered among the allies of Troy from the far Ascania, without indication of any more intimate relationship.[823] Nor do the tales which connect Dardanus with Samothrace and Arcadia find countenance in the Homeric poems, wherein Dardanus is the son of Zeus, having no root anywhere except in Dardania.[824] The mysterious solemnities of Samothrace, afterwards so highly venerated throughout the Grecian world, date from a period much later than Homer; and the religious affinities of that island as well as of Krête with the territories of Phrygia and Æolis, were certain, according to the established tendency of the Grecian mind, to beget stories of a common genealogy.

To pass from this legendary world,—an aggregate of streams distinct and heterogeneous, which do not willingly come into con[p. 336]fluence, and cannot be forced to intermix,—into the clearer vision afforded by Herodotus, we learn from him that in the year 500 B. C. the whole coast-region from Dardanus southward to the promontory of Lektum (including the town of Ilium), and from Lektum eastward to Adramyttium, had been Æolized, or was occupied by Æolic Greeks—likewise the inland towns of Skêpsis[825] and Krebên. So that if we draw a line northward from Adramyttium to Kyzikus on the Propontis, throughout the whole territory westward from that line, to the Hellespont and the Ægean Sea, all the considerable towns would be Hellenic, with the exception of Gergis and the Teukrian population around it,—all the towns worthy of note were either Ionic or Æolic. A century earlier, the Teukrian population would have embraced a wider range—perhaps Skêpsis and Krebên, the latter of which places was colonized by Greeks from Kymê:[826] a century afterwards, during the satrapy of Pharnabazus, it appears that Gergis had become Hellenized as well as the rest. The four towns, Ilium, Gergis, Kebrên and Skêpsis, all in lofty and strong positions, were distinguished each by a solemn worship and temple of Athênê, and by the recognition of that goddess as their special patroness.[827]

The author of the Iliad conceived the whole of this region as occupied by people not Greek,—Trojans, Dardanians, Lykians, Lelegians, Pelasgians, and Kilikians. He recognizes a temple and worship of Athênê in Ilium, though the goddess is bitterly[p. 337] hostile to the Trojans: and Arktinus described the Palladium as the capital protection of the city. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of identity between the Homeric and the historical Æolis, is, the solemn and diffused worship of the Sminthian Apollo. Chrysê, Killa and Tenedos, and more than one place called Sminthium, maintain the surname and invoke the protection of that god during later times, just as they are emphatically described to do by Homer.[828]

When it is said that the Post-Homeric Greeks gradually Hellenized this entire region, we are not to understand that the whole previous population either retired or was destroyed. The Greeks settled in the leading and considerable towns, which enabled them both to protect one another and to gratify their predominant tastes. Partly by force—but greatly also by that superior activity, and power of assimilating foreign ways of thought to their own, which distinguished them from the beginning—they invested all the public features and management of the town with an Hellenic air, distributed all about it their gods, their heroes and their legends, and rendered their language the medium of public administration, religious songs and addresses to the gods, and generally for communications wherein any number of persons were concerned. But two remarks are here to be made: first, in doing this they could not avoid taking to themselves more or less of that which belonged[p. 338] to the parties with whom they fraternized, so that the result was not pure Hellenism; next, that even this was done only in the towns, without being fully extended to the territorial domain around, or to those smaller townships which stood to the town in a dependent relation. The Æolic and Ionic Greeks borrowed from the Asiatics whom they had Hellenized, musical instruments and new laws of rhythm and melody, which they knew how to turn to account: they further adopted more or less of those violent and maddening religious rites, manifested occasionally in self-inflicted suffering and mutilation, which were indigenous in Asia Minor in the worship of the Great Mother. The religion of the Greeks in the region of Ida as well as at Kyzikus was more orgiastic than the native worship of Greece Proper, just as that of Lampsacus, Priapus and Parium was more licentious. From the Teukrian region of Gergis, and from the Gergithes near Kymê, sprang the original Sibylline prophecies, and the legendary Sibyll who plays so important a part in the tale of Æneas: the mythe of the Sibyll, whose prophecies are supposed to be heard in the hollow blast bursting out from obscure caverns and apertures in the rocks,[829] was indigenous among the Gergithian Teukrians, and passed from the Kymæans in Æolis, along with the other circumstances of the tale of Æneas, to their brethren the inhabitants of Cumæ in Italy. The date of the Gergithian Sibyll, or rather of the circulation of her supposed prophecies, is placed during the reign of Crœsus, a period when Gergis was thoroughly Teukrian. Her prophecies, though embodied in Greek verses, had their root in a Teukrian soil and feelings; and the promises of future empire which they so liberally make to the fugitive hero escaping from the flames of Troy into Italy, become interesting from the remarkable way in which they were realized by Rome.[830]

[p. 339]At what time Ilium and Dardanus became Æolized we have no information. We find the Mitylenæans in possession of Sigeium in the time of the poet Alkæus, about 600 B. C.; and the Athenians during the reign of Peisistratus, having wrested it from them and trying to maintain their possession, vindicate the proceeding by saying that they had as much right to it as the Mitylenæans, “for the latter had no more claim to it than any of the other Greeks who had aided Menelaus in avenging the abduction of Helen.”[831] This is a very remarkable incident, as attesting the celebrity of the legend of Troy, and the value of a mythical title in international disputes—yet seemingly implying that the establishment of the Mitylenæans on that spot must have been sufficiently recent. The country near the junction of the Hellespont and the Propontis is represented as originally held[832] by Bebrykian Thracians, while Abydus was first occupied by Milesian colonists in the reign and by the permission of the Lydian king Gygês[833]—to whom the whole Trôad and the neighboring territory belonged, and upon whom therefore the Teukrians of Ida must have been dependent. This must have been about 700 B. C., a period[p. 340] considerably earlier than the Mitylenæan occupation of Sigeium. Lampsacus and Pæsus, on the neighboring shores of the Propontis, were also Milesian colonies, though we do not know their date: Parium was jointly settled from Miletus, Erythræ and Parus.


The preceding sections have been intended to exhibit a sketch of that narrative matter, so abundant, so characteristic and so interesting, out of which early Grecian history and chronology have been extracted. Raised originally by hands unseen and from data unassignable, it existed first in the shape of floating talk among the people, from whence a large portion of it passed into the song of the poets, who multiplied, transformed and adorned it in a thousand various ways.

These mythes or current stories, the spontaneous and earliest growth of the Grecian mind, constituted at the same time the entire intellectual stock of the age to which they belonged. They are the common root of all those different ramifications into which the mental activity of the Greeks subsequently diverged; containing, as it were, the preface and germ of the positive history and philosophy, the dogmatic theology and the professed romance, which we shall hereafter trace each in its separate development. They furnished aliment to the curiosity, and solution to the vague doubts and aspirations of the age; they explained the origin of those customs and standing peculiarities with which men were familiar; they impressed moral lessons, awakened patriotic sympathies, and exhibited in detail the shadowy, but anxious presentiments of the vulgar as to the agency of the gods: moreover they satisfied that craving for adventure and appetite for the[p. 341] marvellous, which has in modern times become the province of fiction proper.

It is difficult, we may say impossible, for a man of mature age to carry back his mind to his conceptions such as they stood when he was a child, growing naturally out of his imagination and feelings, working upon a scanty stock of materials, and borrowing from authorities whom he blindly followed but imperfectly apprehended. A similar difficulty occurs when we attempt to place ourselves in the historical and quasi-philosophical point of view which the ancient mythes present to us. We can follow perfectly the imagination and feeling which dictated these tales, and we can admire and sympathize with them as animated, sublime, and affecting poetry; but we are too much accustomed to matter of fact and philosophy of a positive kind, to be able to conceive a time when these beautiful fancies were construed literally and accepted as serious reality.

Nevertheless it is obvious that Grecian mythes cannot be either understood or appreciated except with reference to the system of conceptions and belief of the ages in which they arose. We must suppose a public not reading and writing, but seeing, hearing and telling—destitute of all records, and careless as well as ignorant of positive history with its indispensable tests, yet at the same time curious and full of eagerness for new or impressive incidents—strangers even to the rudiments of positive philosophy and to the idea of invariable sequences of nature either in the physical or moral world, yet requiring some connecting theory to interpret and regularize the phænomena before them. Such a theory was supplied by the spontaneous inspirations of an early fancy, which supposed the habitual agency of beings intelligent and voluntary like themselves, but superior in extent of power, and different in peculiarity of attributes. In the geographical ideas of the Homeric period, the earth was flat and round, with the deep and gentle ocean-stream flowing around and returning into itself: chronology, or means of measuring past time, there existed none; but both unobserved regions might be described, the forgotten past unfolded, and the unknown future predicted—through particular men specially inspired by the gods, or endowed by them with that peculiar vision which detected and interpreted passing signs and omens.

[p. 342]If even the rudiments of scientific geography and physics, now so universally diffused and so invaluable as a security against error and delusion, were wanting in this early stage of society, their place was abundantly supplied by vivacity of imagination and by personifying sympathy. The unbounded tendency of the Homeric Greeks to multiply fictitious persons, and to construe the phænomena which interested them into manifestations of design, is above all things here to be noticed, because the form of personal narrative, universal in their mythes, is one of its many manifestations. Their polytheism (comprising some elements of an original fetichism, in which particular objects had themselves been supposed to be endued with life, volition, and design) recognized agencies of unseen beings identified and confounded with the different localities and departments of the physical world. Of such beings there were numerous varieties, and many gradations both in power and attributes; there were differences of age, sex and local residence, relations both conjugal and filial between them, and tendencies sympathetic as well as repugnant. The gods formed a sort of political community of their own, which had its hierarchy, its distribution of ranks and duties, its contentions for power and occasional revolutions, its public meetings in the agora of Olympus, and its multitudinous banquets or festivals.[834] The great Olympic gods were in fact only the most exalted amongst an aggregate of quasi-human or ultra-human personages,—dæmons, heroes, nymphs, eponymous (or name-giving) genii, identified with each river, mountain,[835] cape, town, village, or known[p. 343] circumscription of territory,—besides horses, bulls, and dogs, of immortal breed and peculiar attributes, and monsters of strange[p. 344] lineaments and combinations, “Gorgons and Harpies and Chimæras dire.” As there were in every gens or family special gentile deities and foregone ancestors who watched over its members, forming in each the characteristic symbol and recognized guarantee of their union, so there seem to have been in each guild or trade peculiar beings whose vocation it was to coöperate or to impede in various stages of the business.[836]

The extensive and multiform personifications, here faintly sketched, pervaded in every direction the mental system of the Greeks, and were identified intimately both with their conception and with their description of phenomena, present as well as past. That which to us is interesting as the mere creation of an exuberant fancy, was to the Greek genuine and venerated reality. Both the earth and the solid heaven (Gæa and Uranos) were both conceived and spoken of by him as endowed with appetite, feeling, sex, and most of the various attributes of humanity. Instead of a sun such as we now see, subject to astronomical laws, and forming the centre of a system the changes of which we can ascertain and foreknow, he saw the great god Hêlios, mounting his chariot in the morning in the east, reaching at mid-day the height of the solid heaven, and arriving in the evening at the western horizon, with horses fatigued and desirous of repose.[p. 345] Hêlios, having favorite spots wherein his beautiful cattle grazed, took pleasure in contemplating them during the course of his journey, and was sorely displeased if any man slew or injured them: he had moreover sons and daughters on earth, and as his all-seeing eye penetrated everywhere, he was sometimes in a situation to reveal secrets even to the gods themselves—while on other occasions he was constrained to turn aside in order to avoid contemplating scenes of abomination.[837] To us these now appear puerile, though pleasing fancies, but to an Homeric Greek[p. 346] they seemed perfectly natural and plausible. In his view, the description of the sun, as given in a modern astronomical treatise, would have appeared not merely absurd, but repulsive and impious. Even in later times, when the positive spirit of inquiry had made considerable progress, Anaxagoras and other astronomers incurred the charge of blasphemy for dispersonifying Hêlios, and trying to assign invariable laws to the solar phænomena.[838] Personifying fiction was in this way blended by the Homeric[p. 347] Greeks with their conception of the physical phænomena before them, not simply in the way of poetical ornament, but as a genuine portion of their every-day belief.

It was in this early state of the Grecian mind, stimulating so forcibly the imagination and the feelings, and acting through them upon the belief, that the great body of the mythes grew up and obtained circulation. They were, from first to last, personal narratives and adventures; and the persons who predominated as subjects of them were the gods, the heroes, the nymphs, etc., whose names were known and reverenced, and in whom every one felt interested. To every god and every hero it was consistent with Grecian ideas to ascribe great diversity of human motive and attribute: each indeed has his own peculiar type of character, more or less strictly defined; but in all there was a wide foundation for animated narrative and for romantic incident. The gods and heroes of the land and the tribe belonged, in the conception of a Greek, alike to the present and to the past: he worshipped in their groves and at their festivals; he invoked their protection, and believed in their superintending guardianship, even in his own day: but their more special, intimate, and sympathizing agency was cast back into the unrecorded past.[839] To[p. 348] give suitable utterance to this general sentiment,—to furnish body and movement and detail to these divine and heroic pre-existences, which were conceived only in shadowy outline,—to lighten up the dreams of what the past must have been,[840] in the minds of those who knew not what it really had been—such was the spontaneous aim and inspiration of productive genius in the community, and such were the purposes which the Grecian mythes preëminently accomplished.

The love of antiquities, which Tacitus notices as so prevalent among the Greeks of his day,[841] was one of the earliest, the most durable, and the most widely diffused of the national propensities. But the antiquities of every state were divine and heroic, reproducing the lineaments, but disregarding the measure and limits, of ordinary humanity. The gods formed the starting-point, beyond which no man thought of looking, though some gods were more ancient than others: their progeny, the heroes, many of them sprung from human mothers, constitute an intermediate link between god and man. The ancient epic usually recognizes the presence of a multitude of nameless men, but they are introduced chiefly for the purpose of filling the scene, and of executing the orders, celebrating the valor, and bringing out the personality, of a few divine or heroic characters.[842] It was the glory of bards and storytellers to be able to satisfy those religious and patriotic predispositions of the public, which caused the primary demand[p. 349] for their tales, and which were of a nature eminently inviting and expansive. For Grecian religion was many-sided and many colored; it comprised a great multiplicity of persons, together with much diversity in the types of character; it divinized every vein and attribute of humanity, the lofty as well as the mean—the tender as well as the warlike—the self-devoting and adventurous as well as the laughter-loving and sensual. We shall hereafter reach a time when philosophers protested against such identification of the gods with the more vulgar appetites and enjoyments, believing that nothing except the spiritual attributes of man could properly be transferred to superhuman beings, and drawing their predicates respecting the gods exclusively from what was awful, majestic and terror-striking in human affairs. Such restrictions on the religious fancy were continually on the increase, and the mystic and didactic stamp which marked the last century of paganism in the days of Julian and Libanius, contrasts forcibly with the concrete and vivacious forms, full of vigorous impulse and alive to all the capricious gusts of the human temperament, which people the Homeric Olympus.[843] At present, how[p. 350]ever, we have only to consider the early, or Homeric and Hesiodic paganism, and its operation in the genesis of the mythical narratives. We cannot doubt that it supplied the most powerful stimulus, and the only one which the times admitted, to the creative faculty of the people; as well from the sociability, the gradations, and the mutual action and reaction of its gods and heroes, as from the amplitude, the variety, and the purely human cast, of its fundamental types.

[p. 351]Though we may thus explain the mythopœic fertility of the Greeks, I am far from pretending that we can render any sufficient account of the supreme beauty of their chief epic and artistical productions. There is something in the first-rate productions of individual genius which lies beyond the compass of philosophical theory: the special breath of the Muse (to speak the language of ancient Greece) must be present in order to give them being. Even among her votaries, many are called, but few are chosen; and the peculiarities of those few remain as yet her own secret.

We shall not however forget that Grecian language was also an indispensable requisite to the growth and beauty of Grecian mythes—its richness, its flexibility and capacity of new combinations, its vocalic abundance and metrical pronunciation: and many even among its proper names, by their analogy to words really significant, gave direct occasion to explanatory or illustrative stories. Etymological mythes are found in sensible proportion among the whole number.

To understand properly then the Grecian mythes, we must try to identify ourselves with the state of mind of the original mythopœic age; a process not very easy, since it requires us to adopt a string of poetical fancies not simply as realities, but as the governing realities of the mental system;[844] yet a process[p. 352] which would only reproduce something analogous to our own childhood. The age was one destitute both of recorded history and of positive science, but full of imagination and sentiment and religious impressibility; from these sources sprung that multitude of supposed persons around whom all combinations of sensible[p. 353] phænomena were grouped, and towards whom curiosity, sympathies, and reverence were earnestly directed. The adventures of such persons were the only aliment suited at once both to the appetites and to the comprehension of an early Greek; and the mythes which detailed them, while powerfully interesting his[p. 354] emotions, furnished to him at the same time a quasi-history and quasi-philosophy: they filled up the vacuum of the unrecorded past, and explained many of the puzzling incognita of the present.[845] Nor need we wonder that the same plausibility which cap[p. 355]tivated his imagination and his feelings was sufficient to engender spontaneous belief; or rather, that no question as to truth or falsehood of the narrative suggested itself to his mind. His faith is ready, literal and uninquiring, apart from all thought of discriminating fact from fiction, or of detecting hidden and symbolized meaning; it is enough that what he hears be intrinsically plausible and seductive, and that there be no special cause to provoke doubt. And if indeed there were, the poet overrules such doubts by the holy and all-sufficient authority of the Muse, whose omniscience is the warrant for his recital, as her inspiration is the cause of his success.

The state of mind, and the relation of speaker to hearers, thus depicted, stand clearly marked in the terms and tenor of the ancient epic, if we only put a plain meaning upon what we read. The poet—like the prophet, whom he so much resembles—sings under heavenly guidance, inspired by the goddess to whom he has prayed for her assisting impulse: she puts the word into his mouth and the incidents into his mind: he is a privileged man, chosen as her organ and speaking from her revelations.[846] As the[p. 356] Muse grants the gift of song to whom she will, so she sometimes in her anger snatches it away, and the most consummate human genius is then left silent and helpless.[847] It is true that these expressions, of the Muse inspiring and the poet singing a tale of past times, have passed from the ancient epic to compositions produced under very different circumstances, and have now degenerated into unmeaning forms of speech; but they gained currency originally in their genuine and literal acceptation. If poets had from the beginning written or recited, the predicate of singing would never have been ascribed to them; nor would it have ever become customary to employ the name of the Muse as a die to be stamped on licensed fiction, unless the practice had begun when her agency was invoked and hailed in perfect good faith. Belief, the fruit of deliberate inquiry and a rational scrutiny of evidence, is in such an age unknown: the simple faith of the time slides in unconsciously, when the imagination and feeling are exalted; and inspired authority is at once understood, easily admitted, and implicitly confided in.

The word mythe (μῦθος, fabula, story), in its original meaning, signified simply a statement or current narrative, without any connotative implication either of truth or falsehood. Subsequently the meaning of the word (in Latin and English as well as in Greek) changed, and came to carry with it the idea of an old personal narrative, always uncertified, sometimes untrue or avowedly fictitious.[848] And this change was the result of a silent alteration in the mental state of the society,—of a transition on the[p. 357] part of the superior minds (and more or less on the part of all) to a stricter and more elevated canon of credibility, in consequence of familiarity with recorded history, and its essential tests, affirmative as well as negative. Among the original hearers of the mythes, all such tests were unknown; they had not yet learned the lesson of critical disbelief; the mythe passed unquestioned from the mere fact of its currency, and from its harmony with existing sentiments and preconceptions. The very circumstances which contributed to rob it of literal belief in after-time, strengthened its hold upon the mind of the Homeric man. He looked for wonders and unusual combinations in the past; he expected to hear of gods, heroes and men, moving and operating together upon earth; he pictured to himself the fore-time as a theatre in which the gods interfered directly, obviously and frequently, for the protection of their favorites and the punishment of their foes. The rational conception, then only dawning in his mind, of a systematic course of nature was absorbed by this fervent and lively faith. And if he could have been supplied with as perfect and philosophical a history of his own real past time, as we are now enabled to furnish with regard to the last century of England or France, faithfully recording all the successive events, and accounting for them by known positive laws, but introducing no special interventions of Zeus and Apollo—such a history would have appeared to him not merely unholy and unimpressive, but destitute of all plausibility or title to credence. It would have provoked in him the same feeling of incredulous aversion as a description of the sun (to repeat the previous illustration) in a modern book on scientific astronomy.

To us these mythes are interesting fictions; to the Homeric and Hesiodic audience they were “rerum divinarum et humanarum scientia,”—an aggregate of religious, physical and historical revelations, rendered more captivating, but not less true and real, by the bright coloring and fantastic shapes in which they were presented. Throughout the whole of “mythe-bearing Hellas”[849] they formed the staple of the uninstructed Greek mind,[p. 358] upon which history and philosophy were by so slow degrees superinduced; and they continued to be the aliment of ordinary thought and conversation, even after history and philosophy had partially supplanted the mythical faith among the leading men, and disturbed it more or less in the ideas of all. The men, the women, and the children of the remote dêmes and villages of Greece, to whom Thucydidês, Hippocratês, Aristotle, or Hipparchus were unknown, still continued to dwell upon the local fables which formed their religious and patriotic antiquity. And Pausanias, even in his time, heard everywhere divine or heroic legends yet alive, precisely of the type of the old epic; he found the conceptions of religious and mythical faith, coëxistent with those of positive science, and contending against them at more or less of odds, according to the temper of the individual. Now it is the remarkable characteristic of the Homeric age, that no such coëxistence or contention had yet begun. The religious and mythical point of view covers, for the most part, all the phænomena of nature; while the conception of invariable sequence exists only in the background, itself personified under the name of the Mœræ, or Fates, and produced generally as an exception to the omnipotence of Zeus for all ordinary purposes.[p. 359] Voluntary agents, visible and invisible, impel and govern everything. Moreover this point of view is universal throughout the community,—adopted with equal fervor, and carried out with equal consistency, by the loftiest minds and by the lowest. The great man of that day is he who, penetrated like others with the general faith, and never once imagining any other system of nature than the agency of these voluntary Beings, can clothe them in suitable circumstances and details, and exhibit in living body and action those types which his hearers dimly prefigure. Such men were the authors of the Iliad and the Odyssey; embodying in themselves the whole measure of intellectual excellence which their age was capable of feeling: to us, the first of poets—but to their own public, religious teachers, historians, and philosophers besides—inasmuch as all that then represented history and philosophy was derived from those epical effusions and from others homogeneous with them. Herodotus recognizes Homer and Hesiod as the main authors of Grecian belief respecting the names and generations, the attributes and agency, the forms and the worship of the gods.[850]

History, philosophy, etc., properly so called and conforming to our ideas (of which the subsequent Greeks were the first creators), never belonged to more than a comparatively small number of thinking men, though their influence indirectly affected more or less the whole national mind. But when positive science and criticism, and the idea of an invariable sequence of events, came to supplant in the more vigorous intellects the old mythical creed of omnipresent personification, an inevitable scission was produced between the instructed few and the remaining community. The opposition between the scientific and the religious point of view was not slow in manifesting itself: in general language, indeed, both might seem to stand together, but in every particular case the admission of one involved the rejection of the other. According to the theory which then became predominant, the course of nature was held to move invariably on, by powers and attributes of its own, unless the gods chose to interfere and reverse it; but they had the power of interfering as often and to as great an extent as they thought fit. Here the[p. 360] question was at once opened, respecting a great variety of particular phænomena, whether they were to be regarded as natural or miraculous. No constant or discernible test could be suggested to discriminate the two: every man was called upon to settle the doubt for himself, and each settled it according to the extent of his knowledge, the force of his logic, the state of his health, his hopes, his fears, and many other considerations affecting his separate conclusion. In a question thus perpetually arising, and full of practical consequences, instructed minds, like Periklês, Thucydidês, and Euripidês, tended more and more to the scientific point of view,[851] in cases where the general public were constantly gravitating towards the religious.

[p. 361]

The age immediately prior to this unsettled condition of thought is the really mythopœic age; in which the creative faculties of the society know no other employment, and the mass of the society no other mental demand. The perfect expression of such a period, in its full peculiarity and grandeur, is to be found in the Iliad and Odyssey,—poems of which we cannot determine the exact date, but which seem both to have existed prior to the first Olympiad, 776 B. C., our earliest trustworthy mark of Grecian time. For some time after that event, the mythopœic tendencies continued in vigor (Arktinus, Leschês, Eumêlus, and seemingly most of the Hesiodic poems, fall within or shortly after the first century of recorded Olympiads); but from and after this first century, we may trace the operation of causes which gradually enfeebled and narrowed them, altering the point of view from which the mythes were looked at. What these causes were, it will be necessary briefly to intimate.

[p. 362]The foremost and most general of all is, the expansive force of Grecian intellect itself,—a quality in which this remarkable people stand distinguished from all their neighbors and contemporaries. Most, if not all nations have had mythes, but no nation except the Greeks have imparted to them immortal charm and universal interest; and the same mental capacities, which raised the great men of the poetic age to this exalted level, also pushed forward their successors to outgrow the early faith in which the mythes had been generated and accredited.

One great mark, as well as means, of such intellectual expansion, was the habit of attending to, recording, and combining, positive and present facts, both domestic and foreign. In the genuine Grecian epic, the theme was an unknown and aoristic past; but even as early as the Works and Days of Hesiod, the present begins to figure: the man who tills the earth appears in his own solitary nakedness, apart from gods and heroes—bound indeed by serious obligations to the gods, but contending against many difficulties which are not to be removed by simple reliance on their help. The poet denounces his age in the strongest terms as miserable, degraded and profligate, and looks back with reverential envy to the extinct heroic races who fought at Troy and Thêbes. Yet bad as the present time is, the Muse condescends to look at it along with him, and to prescribe rules for human life—with the assurance that if a man be industrious, frugal, provident, just and friendly in his dealings, the gods will recompense him with affluence and security. Nor does the Muse disdain, while holding out such promise, to cast herself into the most homely details of present existence and to give advice thoroughly practical and calculating. Men whose minds were full of the heroes of Homer, called Hesiod in contempt the poet of the Helots; and the contrast between the two is certainly a remarkable proof of the tendency of Greek poetry towards the present and the positive.

Other manifestations of the same tendency become visible in the age of Archilochus (B. C. 680-660). In an age when metrical composition and the living voice are the only means whereby the productive minds of a community make themselves felt, the invention of a new metre, new forms of song and recitation, or[p. 363] diversified accompaniments, constitute an epoch. The iambic, elegiac, choric, and lyric poetry, from Archilochus downwards, all indicate purposes in the poet, and impressibilities of the hearers, very different from those of the ancient epic. In all of them the personal feeling of the poet and the specialties of present time and place, are brought prominently forward, while in the Homeric hexameter the poet is a mere nameless organ of the historical Muse—the hearers are content to learn, believe, and feel, the incidents of a foregone world, and the tale is hardly less suitable to one time and place than to another. The iambic metre (we are told) was first suggested to Archilochus by the bitterness of his own private antipathies; and the mortal wounds inflicted by his lampoons, upon the individuals against whom they were directed, still remain attested, though the verses themselves have perished. It was the metre (according to the well-known judgment of Aristotle) most nearly approaching to common speech, and well suited both to the coarse vein of sentiment, and to the smart and emphatic diction of its inventor.[852] Simonidês of Amorgus, the younger contemporary of Archilochus, employed the same metre, with less bitterness, but with an anti-heroic tendency not less decided. His remaining fragments present a mixture of teaching and sarcasm, having a distinct bearing upon actual life,[853] and carrying out the spirit which partially appears in the Hesiodic Works and Days. Of Alkæus and Sapphô, though unfortunately we are compelled to speak of them upon hearsay only, we know enough to satisfy us that their own personal sentiments and sufferings, their relations private or public[p. 364] with the contemporary world, constituted the soul of those short effusions which gave them so much celebrity:[854] and in the few remains of the elegiac poets preserved to us—Kallinus, Mimnermus, Tyrtæus—the impulse of some present motive or circumstance is no less conspicuous. The same may also be said of Solôn, Theognis and Phokylidês, who preach, encourage, censure, or complain, but do not recount—and in whom a profound ethical sensibility, unknown to the Homeric poems, manifests itself: the form of poetry (to use the words of Solôn himself) is made the substitute for the public speaking of the agora.[855]

Doubtless all these poets made abundant use of the ancient mythes, but it was by turning them to present account, in the way of illustration, or flattery, or contrast,—a tendency which we may usually detect even in the compositions of Pindar, in spite of the lofty and heroic strain which they breathe throughout. That narrative or legendary poetry still continued to be composed during the seventh and sixth centuries before the Christian æra is not to be questioned; but it exhibited the old epical[p. 365] character without the old epical genius; both the inspiration of the composer and the sympathies of the audience had become more deeply enlisted in the world before them, and disposed to fasten on incidents of their own actual experience. From Solôn and Theognis we pass to the abandonment of all metrical restrictions and to the introduction of prose writing,—a fact, the importance of which it is needless to dwell upon,—marking as well the increased familiarity with written records, as the commencement of a separate branch of literature for the intellect, apart from the imagination and emotions wherein the old legends had their exclusive root.

Egypt was first unreservedly opened to the Greeks during the reign of Psammetichus, about B. C. 660; gradually it became much frequented by them for military or commercial purposes, or for simple curiosity, and enlarged the range of their thoughts and observations, while it also imparted to them that vein of mysticism, which overgrew the primitive simplicity of the Homeric religion, and of which I have spoken in a former chapter. They found in it a long-established civilization, colossal wonders of architecture, and a certain knowledge of astronomy and geometry, elementary indeed, but in advance of their own. Moreover it was a portion of their present world, and it contributed to form in them an interest for noting and describing the actual realities before them. A sensible progress is made in the Greek mind during the two centuries from B. C. 700 to B. C. 500, in the record and arrangement of historical facts: an historical sense arises in the superior intellects, and some idea of evidence as a discriminating test between fact and fiction. And this progressive tendency was further stimulated by increased communication and by more settled and peaceful social relations between the various members of the Hellenic world, to which may be added material improvements, purchased at the expense of a period of turbulence and revolution, in the internal administration of each separate state. The Olympic, Pythian, Nemean, and Isthmian games became frequented by visitors from the most distant parts of Greece: the great periodical festival in the island of Dêlos brought together the citizens of every Ionic community, with their wives and children, and an ample display of wealth and ornaments.[856][p. 366] Numerous and flourishing colonies were founded in Sicily, the south of Italy, the coasts of Epirus and of the Euxine Sea: the Phokæans explored the whole of the Adriatic, established Massalia, and penetrated even as far as the south of Ibêria, with which they carried on a lucrative commerce.[857] The geographical ideas of the Greeks were thus both expanded and rectified: the first preparation of a map, by Anaximander the disciple of Thalês, is an epoch in the history of science. We may note the ridicule bestowed by Herodotus both upon the supposed people called Hyperboreans and upon the idea of a circumfluous ocean-stream, as demonstrating the progress of the age in this department of inquiry.[858] And even earlier than Herodotus, Xanthus had noticed the occurrence of fossil marine productions in the interior of Asia Minor, which led him to reflections on the changes of the earth’s surface with respect to land and water.[859]

If then we look down the three centuries and a half which elapsed between the commencement of the Olympic æra and the age of Herodotus and Thucydidês, we shall discern a striking advance in the Greeks,—ethical, social and intellectual. Positive history and chronology has not only been created, but in the case of Thucydidês, the qualities necessary to the historiographer, in their application to recent events, have been developed with a degree of perfection never since surpassed. Men’s minds have assumed a gentler as well as a juster cast; and acts come to be criticized with reference to their bearing on the internal happiness of a well-regulated community, as well as upon the stand[p. 367]ing harmony of fraternal states. While Thucydidês treats the habitual and licensed piracy, so coolly alluded to in the Homeric poems, as an obsolete enormity, many of the acts described in the old heroic and Theogonic legends were found not less repugnant to this improved tone of feeling. The battles of the gods with the Giants and Titans,—the castration of Uranus by his son Kronus,—the cruelty, deceit and licentiousness, often supposed both in the gods and heroes, provoked strong disapprobation. And the language of the philosopher Xenophanês, who composed both elegiac and iambic poems for the express purpose of denouncing such tales, is as vehement and unsparing as that of the Christian writers, who, eight centuries afterwards, attacked the whole scheme of paganism.[860]

Nor was it alone as an ethical and social critic that Xenophanês stood distinguished. He was one of a great and eminent triad—Thalês and Pythagoras being the others—who, in the sixth century before the Christian æra, first opened up those veins of speculative philosophy which occupied afterwards so large a portion of Grecian intellectual energy. Of the material differences between the three I do not here speak; I regard them only in reference to the Homeric and Hesiodic philosophy which preceded them, and from which all three deviated by a step, perhaps the most remarkable in all the history of philosophy. In the scheme of ideas common to Homer and to the Hesiodic Theogony (as has been already stated), we find nature distributed into a variety of personal agencies, administered according to the free-will of different Beings more or less analogous to man—each of these Beings having his own character, attributes and powers, his own sources of pain and pleasure, and his own especial sympathies or antipathies with human individuals; each being determined to act or forbear, to grant favor or inflict injury in his own department of phænomena, according as men, or perhaps other Beings analogous to himself, might conciliate or offend him. The Gods, properly so called, (those who bore a proper name and received some public or family worship,) were the most commanding and capital members amidst this vast network of agents[p. 368] visible and invisible, spread over the universe.[861] The whole view of nature was purely religious and subjective, the spontaneous suggestion of the early mind. It proceeded from the instinctive tendencies of the feelings and imagination to transport, to the world without, the familiar type of free-will and conscious personal action: above all, it took deep hold of the emotions, from the widely extended sympathy which it so perpetually called forth between man and nature.[862]

The first attempt to disenthral the philosophic intellect from this all-personifying religious faith, and to constitute a method of interpreting nature distinct from the spontaneous inspirations of untaught minds, is to be found in Thalês, Xenophanês and Pythagoras, in the sixth century before the Christian æra. It is in them that we first find the idea of Person tacitly set aside or limited, and an impersonal Nature conceived as the object of study. The divine husband and wife, Oceanus and Têthys, parents of many gods and of the Oceanic nymphs, together with the avenging goddess Styx, are translated into the material substance water, or, as we ought rather to say, the Fluid: and Thalês set himself to prove that water was the primitive element, out of which all the different natural substances had been formed.[863] He, as well as Xenophanês and Pythagoras, started the problem of physical philosophy, with its objective character and invariable laws, to be discoverable by a proper and methodical application of the human intellect. The Greek word Φύσις, denoting nature, and its derivatives physics and physiology, unknown in that large sense to Homer or Hesiod, as well as the word Kosmos, to denote the mundane system, first appears with these philosophers.[864] The[p. 369] elemental analysis of Thalês—the one unchangeable cosmic substance, varying only in appearance, but not in reality, as suggested by Xenophanês,—and the geometrical and arithmetical combinations of Pythagoras,—all these were different ways of approaching the explanation of physical phænomena, and each gave rise to a distinct school or succession of philosophers. But they all agreed in departing from the primitive method, and in recognizing determinate properties, invariable sequences, and objective truth, in nature—either independent of willing or designing agents, or serving to these latter at once as an indispensable subject-matter and as a limiting condition. Xenophanês disclaimed openly all knowledge respecting the gods, and pronounced that no man could have any means of ascertaining when he was right and when he was wrong, in affirmations respecting them:[865] while Pythagoras represents in part the scientific tendencies of his age, in part also the spirit of mysticism and of special fraternities for religious and ascetic observance, which became diffused throughout Greece in the sixth century before the Christian æra. This was another point which placed him in antipathy with the simple, unconscious and demonstrative faith of the old poets, as well as with the current legends.

If these distinguished men, when they ceased to follow the primitive instinct of tracing the phænomena of nature to personal and designing agents, passed over, not at once to induction and observation, but to a misemployment of abstract words, substituting metaphysical eideôla in the place of polytheism, and to an exaggerated application of certain narrow physical theories—we must remember that nothing else could be expected from the scanty stock of facts then accessible, and that the most profound study of the human mind points out such transition as an inevitable law of intellectual progress.[866] At present, we have to compare[p. 370] them only with that state of the Greek mind[867] which they partially superseded, and with which they were in decided opposition. The rudiments of physical science were conceived and developed among superior men; but the religious feeling of the mass was averse to them; and the aversion, though gradually mitigated, never wholly died away. Some of the philosophers were not backward in charging others with irreligion, while the multitude seems to have felt the same sentiment more or less towards all—or towards that postulate of constant sequences, with determinate conditions of occurrence, which scientific study implies, and which they could not reconcile with their belief in the agency of the gods, to whom they were constantly praying for special succor and blessings.

The discrepancy between the scientific and the religious point of view was dealt with differently by different philosophers. Thus Socratês openly admitted it, and assigned to each a distinct and independent province. He distributed phænomena into two classes: one, wherein the connection of antecedent and consequent was invariable and ascertainable by human study, and therefore future results accessible to a well-instructed foresight; the other, and those, too, the most comprehensive and important, which the gods had reserved for themselves and their own unconditional agency, wherein there was no invariable or ascertainable sequence, and where the result could only be foreknown by some omen, prophecy, or other special inspired communication from themselves. Each of these classes was essentially distinct, and required to be looked at and dealt with in a manner radically incompatible with the other. Socratês held it wrong to apply the scientific interpretation to the latter, or the theological interpretation to the former. Physics and astronomy, in his opinion,[p. 371] belonged to the divine class of phænomena, in which human research was insane, fruitless, and impious.[868]

On the other hand, Hippocratês, the contemporary of Socratês, denied the discrepancy, and merged into one those two classes of phænomena,—the divine and the scientifically determinable,—which the latter had put asunder. Hippocratês treated all phænomena as at once both divine and scientifically determinable. In discussing certain peculiar bodily disorders found among the Scythians, he observes, “The Scythians themselves ascribe the cause of this to God, and reverence and bow down to such sufferers, each man fearing that he may suffer the like; and I myself think too that these affections, as well as all others, are divine: no one among them is either more divine or more human than another, but all are on the same footing, and all divine; nevertheless each of them has its own physical conditions, and not one occurs without such physical conditions.”[869]

[p. 372]

A third distinguished philosopher of the same day, Anaxagoras, allegorizing Zeus and the other personal gods, proclaimed the doctrine of one common pervading Mind, as having first established order and system in the mundane aggregate, which had once been in a state of chaos—and as still manifesting its uninterrupted agency for wise and good purposes. This general doctrine obtained much admiration from Plato and Aristotle; but they at the same time remarked with surprise, that Anaxagoras never made any use at all of his own general doctrine for the explanation of the phænomena of nature,—that he looked for nothing but physical causes and connecting laws,[870]—so that in fact the spirit of his particular researches was not materially different from those of Demokritus or Leukippus, whatever might be the difference in their general theories. His investigations in meteorology and astronomy, treating the heavenly bodies as subjects for calculation, have been already noticed as offensive, not only to the general public of Greece, but even to Socratês himself among them: he was tried at Athens, and seems to have escaped condemnation only by voluntary exile.[871]

[p. 373]The three eminent men just named, all essentially different from each other, may be taken as illustrations of the philosophical mind of Greece during the last half of the fifth century B. C. Scientific pursuits had acquired a powerful hold, and adjusted themselves in various ways with the prevalent religious feelings of the age. Both Hippocratês and Anaxagoras modified their ideas of the divine agency so as to suit their thirst for scientific research. According to the former, the gods were the really efficient agents in the production of all phænomena,—the mean and indifferent not less than the terrific or tutelary. Being thus alike connected with all phænomena, they were specially associated with none—and the proper task of the inquirer was, to find out those rules and conditions by which (he assumed) their agency was always determined, and according to which it might be foretold. And this led naturally to the proceeding which Plato and Aristotle remark in Anaxagoras,—that the all-governing and Infinite Mind, having been announced in sublime language at the beginning of his treatise, was afterward left out of sight, and never applied to the explanation of particular phænomena, being as much consistent with one modification of nature as with[p. 374] another. Now such a view of the divine agency could never be reconciled with the religious feelings of the ordinary Grecian believer, even as they stood in the time of Anaxagoras; still less could it have been reconciled with those of the Homeric man, more than three centuries earlier. By him Zeus and Athênê were conceived as definite Persons, objects of special reverence, hopes, and fears, and animated with peculiar feelings, sometimes of favor, sometimes of wrath, towards himself or his family or country. They were propitiated by his prayers, and prevailed upon to lend him succor in danger—but offended and disposed to bring evil upon him if he omitted to render thanks or sacrifice. This sense of individual communion with, and dependence upon them was the essence of his faith; and with that faith, the all-pervading Mind proclaimed by Anaxagoras—which had no more concern with one man or one phænomenon than with another,—could never be brought into harmony. Nor could the believer, while he prayed with sincerity for special blessings or protection from the gods, acquiesce in the doctrine of Hippocratês, that their agency was governed by constant laws and physical conditions.

That radical discord between the mental impulses of science and religion, which manifests itself so decisively during the most cultivated ages of Greece, and which harassed more or less so many of the philosophers, produced its most afflicting result in the condemnation of Socratês by the Athenians. According to the remarkable passage recently cited from Xenophôn, it will appear that Socratês agreed with his countrymen in denouncing physical speculations as impious,—that he recognized the religious process of discovery as a peculiar branch, coördinate with the scientific,—and that he laid down a theory, of which the basis was, the confessed divergence of these two processes from the beginning—thereby seemingly satisfying the exigencies of religious hopes and fears on the one hand, and those of reason, in her ardor for ascertaining the invariable laws of phænomena, on the other. We may remark that the theory of this religious and extra-scientific process of discovery was at that time sufficiently complete; for Socratês could point out, that those anomalous phænomena which the gods had reserved for themselves, and into[p. 375] which science was forbidden to pry, were yet accessible to the seekings of the pious man, through oracles, omens, and other exceptional means of communication which divine benevolence vouchsafed to keep open. Considering thus to how great an extent Socratês was identified in feeling with the religious public of Athens, and considering moreover that his performance of open religious duties was assiduous—we might wonder, as Xenophôn does wonder,[872] how it could have happened that the Athenian dikasts mistook him at the end of his life for an irreligious man. But we see, by the defence which Xenophôn as well as Plato gives for him, that the Athenian public really considered him, in spite of his own disclaimer, as homogeneous with Anaxagoras and the other physical inquirers, because he had applied similar scientific reasonings to moral and social phænomena. They looked upon him with the same displeasure as he himself felt towards the physical philosophers, and we cannot but admit that in this respect they were more unfortunately consistent than he was. It is true that the mode of defence adopted by Socratês contributed much to the verdict found against him, and that he was further weighed down by private offence given to powerful individuals and professions; but all these separate antipathies found their best account in swelling the cry against him as an over-curious sceptic, and an impious innovator.

Now the scission thus produced between the superior minds and the multitude, in consequence of the development of science and the scientific point of view, is a fact of great moment in the history of Greek progress, and forms an important contrast between the age of Homer and Hesiod and that of Thucydidês; though in point of fact even the multitude, during this later age, were partially modified by those very scientific views which they regarded with disfavor. And we must keep in view the primitive religious faith, once universal and unobstructed, but subsequently disturbed by the intrusions of science; we must follow the great change, as well in respect to enlarged intelligence as to refinement of social and ethical feeling, among the Greeks, from the Hesiodic times downward, in order to render some account of the altered manner in which the ancient mythes came[p. 376] to be dealt with. These mythes, the spontaneous growth of a creative and personifying interpretation of nature, had struck root in Grecian associations at a time when the national faith required no support from what we call evidence. They were now submitted, not simply to a feeling, imagining, and believing public, but also to special classes of instructed men,—philosophers, historians, ethical teachers, and critics,—and to a public partially modified by their ideas[873] as well as improved by a wider practical experience. They were not intended for such an audience; they had ceased to be in complete harmony even with the lower strata of intellect and sentiment,—much more so with the higher. But they were the cherished inheritance of a past time; they were interwoven in a thousand ways with the religious faith, the patriotic retrospect, and the national worship, of every Grecian community; the general type of the mythe was the ancient, familiar, and universal form of Grecian thought, which even the most cultivated men had imbibed in their childhood from the poets,[874] and by which they were to a certain degree unconsciously[p. 377] enslaved. Taken as a whole the mythes had acquired prescriptive and ineffaceable possession: to attack, call in question, or repudiate them, was a task painful even to undertake, and far beyond the power of any one to accomplish.

For these reasons the anti-mythic vein of criticism was of no effect as a destroying force, but nevertheless its dissolving decomposing and transforming influence was very considerable. To accommodate the ancient mythes to an improved tone of sentiment and a newly created canon of credibility, was a function which even the wisest Greeks did not disdain, and which occupied no small proportion of the whole intellectual activity of the nation.

The mythes were looked at from a point of view completely foreign to the reverential curiosity and literal imaginative faith of the Homeric man; they were broken up and recast in order to force them into new moulds such as their authors had never conceived. We may distinguish four distinct classes of minds, in the literary age now under examination, as having taken them in hand—the poets, the logographers, the philosophers, and the historians.

With the poets and logographers, the mythical persons are real predecessors, and the mythical world an antecedent fact; but it is divine and heroic reality, not human; the present is only half-brother of the past (to borrow[875] an illustration from Pindar in his allusion to gods and men), remotely and generically, but not closely and specifically, analogous to it. As a general habit, the old feelings and the old unconscious faith, apart from all proof or evidence, still remain in their minds; but recent feelings have grown up which compel them to omit, to alter, sometimes even to reject and condemn, particular narratives.

Pindar repudiates some stories and transforms others, because they are inconsistent with his conceptions of the gods. Thus he formally protests against the tale that Pelops had been killed and served up at table by his father, for the immortal gods to eat; he shrinks from the idea of imputing to them so horrid an appe[p. 378]tite; he pronounces the tale to have been originally fabricated by a slanderous neighbor. Nor can he bring himself to recount the quarrels between different gods.[876] The amours of Zeus and Apollo are no way displeasing to him; but he occasionally suppresses some of the simple details of the old mythe, as deficient in dignity: thus, according to the Hesiodic narrative, Apollo was informed by a raven of the infidelity of the nymph Korônis: but the mention of the raven did not appear to Pindar consistent with the majesty of the god, and he therefore wraps up the mode of detection in vague and mysterious language.[877] He feels considerable repugnance to the character of Odysseus, and intimates more than once that Homer has unduly exalted him, by force of poetical artifice. With the character of the Æakid Ajax, on the other hand, he has the deepest sympathy, as well as with his untimely and inglorious death, occasioned by the undeserved preference of a less worthy rival.[878] He appeals for his authority usually to the Muse, but sometimes to “ancient sayings of men,” accompanied with a general allusion to story-tellers and bards,—admitting, however, that these stories present great discrepancy, and sometimes that they are false.[879] Yet the marvellous and the supernatural afford no ground whatever for rejecting a story: Pindar makes an express declaration to this effect in reference to the romantic adventures of Perseus and the Gorgon’s head.[880] He treats even those mythical characters, which conflict the most palpably with positive experience, as connected by a real genealogical thread with the world before him. Not merely the heroes of Troy and Thêbes, and the demigod seamen of Jasôn and the ship Argô, but also the Centaur Cheirôn, the hundred-headed Typhôs, the giant Alkyoneus, Antæus, Bellero[p. 379]phôn and Pegasus, the Chimæra, the Amazons and the Hyperboreans—all appear painted on the same canvas, and touched with the same colors, as the men of the recent and recorded past, Phalaris and Krœsus; only they are thrown back to a greater distance in the perspective.[881] The heroic ancestors of those great Æginetan, Thessalian, Thêban, Argeian, etc. families, whose present members the poet celebrates for their agonistic victories, sympathize with the exploits and second the efforts of their descendants: the inestimable value of a privileged breed and of the stamp of nature is powerfully contrasted with the impotence of unassisted teaching and practice.[882] The power and skill of the Argeian Theæus and his relatives as wrestlers, are ascribed partly to the fact that their ancestors Pamphaês in aforetime had hospitably entertained the Tyndarids Kastôr and Pollux.[883] Perhaps however the strongest proof of the sincerity of Pindar’s mythical faith is afforded when he notices a guilty incident with shame and repugnance, but with an unwilling confession of its truth, as in the case of the fratricide committed on Phôkus by his brothers Pêleus and Telamôn.[884]

Æschylus and Sophoklês exhibit the same spontaneous and uninquiring faith as Pindar in the legendary antiquities of Greece, taken as a whole; but they allow themselves greater license as to the details. It was indispensable to the success of their compositions that they should recast and group anew the legendary events, preserving the names and general understood relation of those characters whom they introduced. The demand for novelty of combination increased with the multiplication of tragic spectacles at Athens: moreover the feelings of the Athenians, ethical as well as political, had become too critical to tolerate the literal reproduction of many among the ancient stories.

Both of them exalted rather than lowered the dignity of the mythical world, as something divine and heroic rather than human.[p. 380] The Promêtheus of Æschylus is a far more exalted conception than his keen-witted namesake in Hesiod, and the more homely details of the ancient Thêbaïs and Œdipodia were in like manner modified by Sophoklês.[885] The religious agencies of the old epic are constantly kept prominent, and the paternal curse,—the wrath of deceased persons against those from whom they have sustained wrong,—the judgments of the Erinnys against guilty or foredoomed persons, sometimes inflicted directly, sometimes brought about through dementation of the sufferer himself (like the Homeric Atê),—are frequent in their tragedies.[886]

[p. 381]Æschylus in two of his remaining pieces brings forward the gods as the chief personages, and far from sharing the objection of Pindar to dwell upon dissensions of the gods, he introduces Promêtheus and Zeus in the one, Apollo and the Eumenidês in the other, in marked opposition. The dialogue, first superinduced by him upon the primitive Chorus, gradually became the most important portion of the drama, and is more elaborated in Sophoklês than in Æschylus. Even in Sophoklês, however, it still generally retains its ideal majesty as contrasted with the rhetorical and forensic tone which afterwards crept in; it grows out of the piece, and addresses itself to the emotions more than to the reason of the audience. Nevertheless, the effect of Athenian political discussion and democratical feeling is visible in both these dramatists. The idea of rights and legitimate privileges as opposed to usurping force, is applied by Æschylus even to the society of the gods: the Eumenidês accuse Apollo of having, with the insolence of youthful ambition, “ridden down” their old preroga[p. 382]tives[887]—while the Titan Promêtheus, the champion of suffering humanity against the unfriendly dispositions of Zeus, ventures to depict the latter as a recent usurper reigning only by his superior strength, exalted by one successful revolution, and destined at some future time to be overthrown by another,—a fate which cannot be averted except through warnings communicable only by Promêtheus himself.[888]

It is commonly understood that Æschylus disapproved of the march of democracy at Athens during his later years, and that the Eumenidês is intended as an indirect manifestation in favor of the senate of Areiopagus. Without inquiring at present whether such a special purpose can be distinctly made out, we may plainly see that the poet introduces, into the relations of the gods with each other, a feeling of political justice, arising out of the times in which he lived and the debates of which he was a witness. But though Æschylus incurred reproaches of impiety from Plato, and seemingly also from the Athenian public, for particular speeches and incidents in his tragedies,[889] and though he does not adhere[p. 383] to the received vein of religious tradition with the same strictness as Sophoklês—yet the ascendency and interference of the gods is never out of sight, and the solemnity with which they are represented, set off by a bold, figurative, and elliptical style of[p. 384] expression (often but imperfectly intelligible to modern readers), reaches its maximum in his tragedies. As he throws round the[p. 385] gods a kind of airy grandeur, so neither do his men or heroes appear like tenants of the common earth: the mythical world from which he borrows his characters is peopled only with “the immediate seed of the gods, in close contact with Zeus, in whom the divine blood has not yet had time to degenerate:”[890] his individuals are taken, not from the iron race whom Hesiod acknowledges with shame as his contemporaries, but from the extinct heroic race which had fought at Troy and Thêbes. It is to them that his conceptions aspire, and he is even chargeable with frequent straining, beyond the limits of poetical taste, to realize his picture. If he does not consistently succeed in it, the reason is because consistency in such a matter is unattainable, since, after all, the analogies of common humanity, the only materials which the most creative imagination has to work upon, obtrude themselves involuntarily, and the lineaments of the man are thus seen even under a dress which promises superhuman proportions.

Sophoklês, the most illustrious ornament of Grecian tragedy, dwells upon the same heroic characters, and maintains their grandeur, on the whole, with little abatement, combining with it a far better dramatic structure, and a wider appeal to human sympathies. Even in Sophoklês, however, we find indications that an altered ethical feeling and a more predominant sense of artistic perfection are allowed to modify the harsher religious agencies of the old epic; occasional misplaced effusions[891] of rhetoric, as well[p. 386] as of didactic prolixity, may also be detected. It is Æschylus, not Sophoklês, who forms the marked antithesis to Euripidês; it is Æschylus, not Sophoklês, to whom Aristophanês awards the prize of tragedy, as the poet who assigns most perfectly to the heroes of the past those weighty words, imposing equipments, simplicity of great deeds with little talk, and masculine energy superior to the corruptions of Aphroditê, which beseem the comrades of Agamemnôn and Adrastus.[892]

How deeply this feeling, of the heroic character of the mythical world, possessed the Athenian mind, may be judged by the bitter criticisms made on Euripidês, whose compositions were pervaded, partly by ideas of physical philosophy learnt under Anaxagoras, partly by the altered tone of education and the wide diffusion of practical eloquence, forensic as well as political, at[p. 387] Athens.[893] While Aristophanês assails Euripidês as the representative of this “young Athens,” with the utmost keenness of sarcasm,—other critics also concur in designating him as having vulgarized the mythical heroes, and transformed them into mere characters of common life,—loquacious, subtle, and savoring of the market-place.[894] In some of his plays, sceptical expressions and sentiments were introduced, derived from his philosophical studies, sometimes confounding two or three distinct gods into one, sometimes translating the personal Zeus into a substantial Æthêr with determinate attributes. He put into the mouths of some of his unprincipled dramatic characters, apologetic speeches which were denounced as ostentatious sophistry, and as setting out a triumphant case for the criminal.[895] His thoughts, his words, and the rhythm of his choric songs, were all accused of being deficient in dignity and elevation. The mean attire and miserable attitude[p. 388] in which he exhibited Œneus, Têlephus, Thyestês, Inô, and other heroic characters, were unmercifully derided,[896] though it seems that their position and circumstances had always been painfully melancholy; but the effeminate pathos which Euripidês brought so nakedly into the foreground, was accounted unworthy of the majesty of a legendary hero. And he incurred still greater obloquy on another point, on which he is allowed even by his enemies to have only reproduced in substance the preëxisting tales,—the illicit and fatal passion depicted in several of his female characters, such as Phædra and Sthenobœa. His opponents admitted that these stories were true, but contended that they ought to be kept back and not produced upon the stage,—a proof both of the continued mythical faith and of the more sensitive ethical criticism of his age.[897] The marriage of the six[p. 389] daughters to the six sons of Æolus is of Homeric origin, and stands now, though briefly stated, in the Odyssey: but the incestuous passion of Macareus and Canacê, embodied by Euripidês[898] in the lost tragedy called Æolus, drew upon him severe censure. Moreover, he often disconnected the horrors of the old legends with those religious agencies by which they had been originally forced on, prefacing them by motives of a more refined character, which carried no sense of awful compulsion: thus the considerations by which the Euripidean Alkmæôn was reduced to the necessity of killing his mother appeared to Aristotle ridiculous.[899] After the time of this great poet, his successors seem to have followed him in breathing into their characters the spirit of common life, but the names and plot were still borrowed from the stricken mythical families of Tantalus, Kadmus, etc.: and the heroic exaltation of all the individual personages introduced, as contrasted with the purely human character of the Chorus, is[p. 390] still numbered by Aristotle among the essential points of the theory of tragedy.[900]

The tendency then of Athenian tragedy—powerfully manifested in Æschylus, and never wholly lost—was to uphold an unquestioning faith and a reverential estimate of the general mythical world and its personages, but to treat the particular narratives rather as matter for the emotions than as recitals of actual fact. The logographers worked along with them to the first of these two ends, but not to the second. Their grand object was, to cast the mythes into a continuous readable series, and they were in consequence compelled to make selection between inconsistent or contradictory narratives; to reject some narratives as false, and to receive others as true. But their preference was determined more by their sentiments as to what was appropriate, than by any pretended historical test. Pherekydês, Akusilaus and Hellanikus[901] did not seek to banish miraculous or fantastic incidents from the mythical world; they regarded it as peopled with loftier beings, and expected to find in it phænomena not paralleled in their own degenerate days. They reproduced the fables as they found them in the poets, rejecting little except the discrepancies, and producing ultimately what they believed to be not only a continuous but an exact and trustworthy history of the past—wherein they carry indeed their precision to such a length, that Hellanikus gives the year, and even the day of the capture of Troy.[902]

Hekatæus of Milêtus (500 B. C.), anterior to Pherekydês and Hellanikus, is the earliest writer in whom we can detect any disposition to disallow the prerogative and specialty of the mythes, and to soften down their characteristic prodigies, some of which[p. 391] however still find favor in his eyes, as in the case of the speaking ram who carried Phryxus over the Hellespont. He pronounced the Grecian fables to be “many and ridiculous;” whether from their discrepancies or from their intrinsic improbabilities we do not know: and we owe to him the first attempt to force them within the limits of historical credibility; as where he transforms the three-headed Cerberus, the dog of Hadês, into a serpent inhabiting a cavern on Cape Tænarus—and Geryôn of Erytheia into a king of Epirus rich in herds of oxen.[903] Hekatæus traced the genealogy of himself and the gens to which he belonged through a line of fifteen progenitors up to an initial god,[904]—the clearest proof both of his profound faith in the reality of the mythical world, and of his religious attachment to it as the point of junction between the human and the divine personality.

We have next to consider the historians, especially Herodotus and Thucydidês. Like Hekatæus, Thucydidês belonged to a gens which traced its descent from Ajax, and through Ajax to Æakus and Zeus.[905] Herodotus modestly implies that he himself had no such privilege to boast of.[906] Their curiosity respecting the[p. 392] past had no other materials to work upon except the mythes; but these they found already cast by the logographers into a continuous series, and presented as an aggregate of antecedent history, chronologically deduced from the times of the gods. In common with the body of the Greeks, both Herodotus and Thucydidês had imbibed that complete and unsuspecting belief in the general reality of mythical antiquity, which was interwoven with the religion and the patriotism, and all the public demonstrations of the Hellenic world. To acquaint themselves with the genuine details of this foretime, was an inquiry highly interesting to them: but the increased positive tendencies of their age, as well as their own habits of personal investigation, had created in them an historical sense in regard to the past as well as to the present. Having acquired a habit of appreciating the intrinsic tests of historical credibility and probability, they found the particular narratives of the poets and logographers, inadmissible as a whole even in the eyes of Hekatæus, still more at variance with their stricter canons of criticism. And we thus observe in them the constant struggle, as well as the resulting compromise, between these two opposite tendencies; on one hand a firm belief in the reality of the mythical world, on the other hand an inability to accept the details which their only witnesses, the poets and logographers, told them respecting it.

Each of them however performed the process in his own way. Herodotus is a man of deep and anxious religious feeling; he often recognizes the special judgments of the gods as determining historical events: his piety is also partly tinged with that mystical vein which the last two centuries had gradually infused into the religion of the Greeks—for he is apprehensive of giving offence to the gods by reciting publicly what he has heard respecting them; he frequently stops short in his narrative and intimates that there is a sacred legend, but that he will not tell it: in other cases, where he feels compelled to speak out, he entreats forgiveness for doing so from the gods and heroes. Sometimes he will not even mention the name of a god, though he generally thinks himself authorized to do so, the names being matter of public notoriety.[907] Such pious reserve, which the open-hearted Herodo[p. 393]tus avowedly proclaims as chaining up his tongue, affords a striking contrast with the plain-spoken and unsuspecting tone of the ancient epic, as well as of the popular legends, wherein the gods and their proceedings were the familiar and interesting subjects of common talk as well as of common sympathy, without ceasing to inspire both fear and reverence.

Herodotus expressly distinguishes, in the comparison of Polykratês with Minôs, the human race to which the former belonged, from the divine or heroic race which comprised the latter.[908] But he has a firm belief in the authentic personality and parentage of all the names in the mythes, divine, heroic and human, as well as in the trustworthiness of their chronology computed by generations. He counts back 1600 years from his own day to that of Semelê, mother of Dionysus; 900 years to Hêraklês, and 800 years to Penelopê, the Trojan war being a little earlier in date.[909] Indeed even the longest of these periods must have seemed to him comparatively short, seeing that he apparently accepts the prodigious series of years which the Egyptians professed to draw from a recorded chronology—17,000 years from their god Hêraklês, and 15,000 years from their god Osiris or Dionysus, down to their king Amasis[910] (550 B. C.) So much was his imagination familiarized with these long chronological computations barren of events, that he treats Homer and Hesiod as “men of yesterday,” though separated from his own age by an interval which he reckons as four hundred years.[911]

[p. 394]Herodotus had been profoundly impressed with what he saw and heard in Egypt. The wonderful monuments, the evident antiquity, and the peculiar civilization of that country, acquired such preponderance in his mind over his own native legends, that he is disposed to trace even the oldest religious names or institutions of Greece to Egyptian or Phœnician original, setting aside in favor of this hypothesis the Grecian legends of Dionysus and Pan.[912] The oldest Grecian mythical genealogies are thus made ultimately to lose themselves in Egyptian or Phœnician antiquity, and in the full extent of these genealogies Herodotus firmly believes. It does not seem that any doubt had ever crossed his mind as to the real personality of those who were named or described in the popular mythes: all of them have once had reality, either as men, as heroes, or as gods. The eponyms of cities, dêmes and tribes, are all comprehended in this affirmative category; the supposition of fictitious personages being apparently never entertained. Deukaliôn, Hellên, Dôrus,[913]—Iôn, with his four sons, the eponyms of the old Athenian tribes,[914]—the autochthonous Titakus and Dekelus,[915]—Danaus, Lynkeus, Perseus, Amphitryôn, Alkmêna, and Hêraklês,[916]—Talthybius, the heroic progenitor of the privileged heraldic gens at Sparta,—the Tyndarids and Helena,[917]—Agamemnôn, Menelaus, and Orestes,[918]—Nestôr and his son Peisistratus,—Asôpus, Thêbê, and Ægina,—Inachus and Iô, Æêtês and Mêdea,[919]—Melanippus, Adrastus, and Amphiaräus, as well as Jasôn and the Argô,[920]—all these are occupants of the real past time, and predecessors of himself and his contemporaries. In the veins of the Lacedæmonian kings flowed the blood both of Kadmus and of Danaus, their splendid pedigree being traceable to both of these great mythical names: Herodotus carries the lineage up through Hêraklês first to Perseus and Danaê, then through Danaê to Akrisios and the Egyptian Danaus; but he drops the paternal lineage when he comes[p. 395] to Perseus (inasmuch as Perseus is the son of Zeus by Danaê, without any reputed human father, such as Amphitryôn was to Hêraklês), and then follow the higher members of the series through Danaê alone.[921] He also pursues the same regal genealogy, through the mother of Eurysthenês and Proclês, up to Polynikês, Œdipus, Laius, Labdakus, Polydôrus and Kadmus; and he assigns various ancient inscriptions which he saw in the temple of the Ismenian Apollo at Thêbes, to the ages of Laius and Œdipus.[922] Moreover, the sieges of Thêbes and Troy,—the Argonautic expedition,—the invasion of Attica by the Amazons,—the protection of the Herakleids, and the defeat and death of Eurystheus, by the Athenians,[923]—the death of Mêkisteus and Tydeus before Thêbes by the hands of Melanippus, and the touching calamities of Adrastus and Amphiaräus connected with the same enterprise,—the sailing of Kastôr and Pollux in the Argô,[924]—the abductions of Iô, Eurôpa, Mêdea and Helena,—the emigration of Kadmus in quest of Eurôpa, and his coming to Bœôtia, as well as the attack of the Greeks upon Troy to recover Helen,[925]—all these events seem to him portions of past history, not less unquestionably certain, though more clouded over by distance and misrepresentation, than the battles of Salamis and Mykalê.

But though Herodotus is thus easy of faith in regard both to the persons and to the general facts of Grecian mythes, yet when he comes to discuss particular facts taken separately, we find him applying to them stricter tests of historical credibility, and often disposed to reject as well the miraculous as the extravagant. Thus even with respect to Hêraklês, he censures the levity of the Greeks in ascribing to him absurd and incredible exploits; he tries their assertion by the philosophical standard of nature, or of determinate powers and conditions governing the course of events. “How is it consonant to nature (he asks), that Hêraklês, being, as he was, according to the statement of the Greeks, a man, should kill many thousand persons? I pray that indulgence may be shown to me both by gods and heroes for saying so much[p. 396] as this.” The religious feelings of Herodotus here told him that he was trenching upon the utmost limits of admissible scepticism.[926]

Another striking instance of the disposition of Herodotus to rationalize the miraculous narratives of the current mythes, is to be found in his account of the oracle of Dôdôna and its alleged Egyptian origin. Here, if in any case, a miracle was not only in full keeping, but apparently indispensable to satisfy the exigences of the religious sentiment; anything less than a miracle would have appeared tame and unimpressive to the visitors of so revered a spot, much more to the residents themselves. Accordingly, Herodotus heard, both from the three priestesses and from the Dodonæans generally, that two black doves had started at the same time from Thêbes in Egypt: one of them went to Libya, where it directed the Libyans to establish the oracle of Zeus Ammon; the other came to the grove of Dôdôna, and perched on one of the venerable oaks, proclaiming with a human voice that an oracle of Zeus must be founded on that very spot. The injunction of the speaking dove was respectfully obeyed.[927]

Such was the tale related and believed at Dôdôna. But Herodotus had also heard, from the priests at Thêbes in Egypt, a different tale, ascribing the origin of all the prophetic establishments, in Greece as well as in Libya, to two sacerdotal women, who had been carried away from Thêbes by some Phœnician[p. 397] merchants and sold, the one in Greece, the other in Libya. The Theban priests boldly assured Herodotus that much pains had been taken to discover what had become of these women so exported, and that the fact of their having been taken to Greece and Libya had been accordingly verified.[928]

The historian of Halicarnassus cannot for a moment think of admitting the miracle which harmonized so well with the feelings of the priestesses and the Dodonæans.[929] “How (he asks) could a dove speak with human voice?” But the narrative of the priests at Thêbes, though its prodigious improbability hardly requires to be stated, yet involved no positive departure from the laws of nature and possibility, and therefore Herodotus makes no difficulty in accepting it. The curious circumstance is, that he turns the native Dodonæan legend into a figurative representation, or rather a misrepresentation, of the supposed true story told by the Theban priests. According to his interpretation, the woman who came from Thêbes to Dôdôna was called a dove, and affirmed to utter sounds like a bird, because she was non-Hellenic and spoke a foreign tongue: when she learned to speak the language of the country, it was then said that the dove spoke with a human voice. And the dove was moreover called black, because of the woman’s Egyptian color.

That Herodotus should thus bluntly reject a miracle, recounted to him by the prophetic women themselves as the prime circumstance in the origines of this holy place, is a proof of the hold which habits of dealing with historical evidence had acquired over his mind; and the awkwardness of his explanatory mediation between the dove and the woman, marks not less his anxiety, while discarding the legend, to let it softly down into a story quasi-historical and not intrinsically incredible.

We may observe another example of the unconscious tendency[p. 398] of Herodotus to eliminate from the mythes the idea of special aid from the gods, in his remarks upon Melampus. He designates Melampus “as a clever man, who had acquired for himself the art of prophecy;” and had procured through Kadmus much information about the religious rites and customs of Egypt, many of which he introduced into Greece[930]—especially the name, the sacrifices, and the phallic processions of Dionysus: he adds, “that Melampus himself did not accurately comprehend or bring out the whole doctrine, but wise men who came after him made the necessary additions.”[931] Though the name of Melampus is here maintained, the character described[932] is something in the vein of Pythagoras—totally different from the great seer and leech of the old epic mythes—the founder of the gifted family of the Amythaonids, and the grandfather of Amphiaräus.[933] But that which is most of all at variance with the genuine legendary spirit, is the opinion expressed by Herodotus (and delivered with some emphasis as his own), that Melampus “was a clever man, who had acquired for himself prophetic powers.” Such a supposition would have appeared inadmissible to Homer or Hesiod, or indeed to Solôn, in the preceding century, in whose view even inferior arts come from the gods, while Zeus or Apollo bestows the power[p. 399] of prophesying.[934] The intimation of such an opinion by Herodotus, himself a thoroughly pious man, marks the sensibly diminished omnipresence of the gods, and the increasing tendency to look for the explanation of phenomena among more visible and determinate agencies.

We may make a similar remark on the dictum of the historian respecting the narrow defile of Tempê, forming the embouchure of the Pêneus and the efflux of all the waters from the Thessalian basin. The Thessalians alleged that this whole basin of Thessaly had once been a lake, but that Poseidôn had split the chain of mountains and opened the efflux;[935] upon which primi[p. 400]tive belief, thoroughly conformable to the genius of Homer and Hesiod, Herodotus comments as follows: “The Thessalian statement is reasonable. For whoever thinks that Poseidôn shakes the earth, and that the rifts of an earthquake are the work of that god, will, on seeing the defile in question, say that Poseidôn has caused it. For the rift of the mountains is, as appeared to me (when I saw it), the work of an earthquake.” Herodotus admits the reference to Poseidôn, when pointed out to him, but it stands only in the background: what is present to his mind is the phænomenon of the earthquake, not as a special act, but as part of a system of habitual operations.[936]

[p. 401]Herodotus adopts the Egyptian version of the legend of Troy, founded on that capital variation which seems to have originated with Stesichorus, and according to which Helen never left Sparta at all—her eidôlon had been taken to Troy in her place. Upon this basis a new story had been framed, midway between Homer and Stesichorus, representing Paris to have really carried off Helen from Sparta, but to have been driven by storms to Egypt,[p. 402] where she remained during the whole siege of Troy, having been detained by Prôteus, the king of the country, until Menelaus came to reclaim her after his triumph. The Egyptian priests, with their usual boldness of assertion, professed to have heard the whole story from Menelaus himself—the Greeks had beseiged Troy, in the full persuasion that Helen and the stolen treasures were within the walls, nor would they ever believe the repeated denials of the Trojans as to the fact of her presence. In intimating his preference for the Egyptian narrative, Herodotus betrays at once his perfect and unsuspecting confidence that he is dealing with genuine matter of history, and his entire distrust of the epic poets, even including Homer, upon whose authority that supposed history rested. His reason for rejecting the Homeric version is that it teems with historical improbabilities. If Helen had been really in Troy (he says), Priam and the Trojans would never have been so insane as to retain her to their own utter ruin: but it was the divine judgment which drove them into the miserable alternative of neither being able to surrender Helen, nor to satisfy the Greeks of the real fact that they had never had possession of her—in order that mankind might plainly read, in the utter destruction of Troy, the great punishments with which the gods visit great misdeeds. Homer (Herodotus thinks) had heard this story, but designedly departed from it, because it was not so suitable a subject for epic poetry.[937]

Enough has been said to show how wide is the difference between Herodotus and the logographers with their literal transcript of the ancient legends. Though he agrees with them in admitting the full series of persons and generations, he tries the circumstances narrated by a new standard. Scruples have arisen in his mind respecting violations of the laws of nature: the poets[p. 403] are unworthy of trust, and their narratives must be brought into conformity with historical and ethical conditions, before they can be admitted as truth. To accomplish this conformity, Herodotus is willing to mutilate the old legend in one of its most vital points: he sacrifices the personal presence of Helena in Troy, which ran through every one of the ancient epic poems belonging to the Trojan cycle, and is indeed, under the gods, the great and present moving force throughout.

Thucydidês places himself generally in the same point of view as Herodotus with regard to mythical antiquity, yet with some considerable differences. Though manifesting no belief in present miracles or prodigies,[938] he seems to accept without reserve the preexistent reality of all the persons mentioned in the mythes, and of the long series of generations extending back through so many supposed centuries: in this category, too, are included the eponymous personages, Hellen, Kekrops, Eumolpus, Pandiôn, Amphilochus the son of Amphiaräus, and Akarnan. But on the other hand, we find no trace of that distinction between a human and an heroic ante-human race, which Herodotus still admitted,—nor any respect for Egyptian legends. Thucydidês, regarding the personages of the mythes as men of the same breed and stature with his own contemporaries, not only tests the acts imputed to them by the same limits of credibility, but presumes in them the same political views and feelings as he was accustomed to trace in the proceedings of Peisistratus or Periklês. He treats the Trojan war as a great political enterprise, undertaken by all Greece; brought into combination through the imposing power of[p. 404] Agamemnôn, not (according to the legendary narrative) through the influence of the oath exacted by Tyndareus. Then he explains how the predecessors of Agamemnôn arrived at so vast a dominion—beginning with Pelops, who came over (as he says) from Asia with great wealth among the poor Peloponnêsians, and by means of this wealth so aggrandized himself, though a foreigner, as to become the eponym of the peninsula. Next followed his son Atreus, who acquired after the death of Eurystheus the dominion of Mykênæ, which had before been possessed by the descendants of Perseus: here the old legendary tale, which described Atreus as having been banished by his father Pelops in consequence of the murder of his elder brother Chrysippus, is invested with a political bearing, as explaining the reason why Atreus retired to Mykênæ. Another legendary tale—the defeat and death of Eurystheus by the fugitive Herakleids in Attica, so celebrated in Attic tragedy as having given occasion to the generous protecting intervention of Athens—is also introduced as furnishing the cause why Atreus succeeded to the deceased Eurystheus: “for Atreus, the maternal uncle of Eurystheus, had been entrusted by the latter with his government during the expedition into Attica, and had effectually courted the people, who were moreover in great fear of being attacked by the Herakleids.” Thus the Pelopids acquired the supremacy in Peloponnêsus, and Agamemnôn was enabled to get together his 1200 ships and 100,000 men for the expedition against Troy. Considering that contingents were furnished from every portion of Greece, Thucydidês regards this as a small number, treating the Homeric catalogue as an authentic muster-roll, perhaps rather exaggerated than otherwise. He then proceeds to tell us why the armament was not larger: many more men could have been furnished, but there was not sufficient money to purchase provisions for their subsistence; hence they were compelled, after landing and gaining a victory, to fortify their camp, to divide their army, and to send away one portion for the purpose of cultivating the Chersonese, and another portion to sack the adjacent towns. This was the grand reason why the siege lasted so long as ten years. For if it had been possible to keep the whole army together, and to act[p. 405] with an undivided force, Troy would have been taken both earlier and at smaller cost.[939]

Such is the general sketch of the war of Troy, as given by Thucydidês. So different is it from the genuine epical narrative, that we seem hardly to be reading a description of the same event; still less should we imagine that the event was known, to him as well as to us, only through the epic poets themselves. The men, the numbers, and the duration of the siege, do indeed remain the same; but the cast and juncture of events, the determining forces, and the characteristic features, are altogether heterogeneous. But, like Herodotus, and still more than Herodotus, Thucydidês was under the pressure of two conflicting impulses—he shared the general faith in the mythical antiquity, but at the same time he could not believe in any facts which contradicted the laws of historical credibility or probability. He was thus under the necessity of torturing the matter of the old mythes into conformity with the subjective exigencies of his own mind: he left out, altered, recombined, and supplied new connecting principles and supposed purposes, until the story became such as no one could have any positive reason for calling in question: though it lost the impressive mixture of religion, romance, and individual adventure, which constituted its original charm, it acquired a smoothness and plausibility, and a poetical ensemble, which the critics were satisfied to accept as historical truth. And historical truth it would doubtless have been, if any independent evidence could have been found to sustain it. Had Thucydidês been able to produce such new testimony, we should have been pleased to satisfy ourselves that the war of Troy, as he recounted it, was the real event; of which the war of Troy, as sung by the epic poets, was a misreported, exaggerated, and ornamented recital. But in this case the poets are the only real witnesses, and the narrative of Thucydidês is a mere extract and distillation from their incredibilities.

A few other instances may be mentioned to illustrate the views of Thucydidês respecting various mythical incidents. 1. He treats the residence of the Homeric Phæakians at Corkyra as an undisputed fact, and employs it partly to explain the efficiency of[p. 406] the Korkyrean navy in times preceding the Peloponnesian war.[940] 2. He notices, with equal confidence, the story of Têreus and Proknê, daughter of Pandiôn, and the murder of the child Itys by Proknê his mother, and Philomêla; and he produces this ancient mythe with especial reference to the alliance between the Athenians and Têrês, king of the Odrysian Thracians, during the time of the Peloponnesian war, intimating that the Odrysian Têrês was neither of the same family nor of the same country as Têreus the husband of Proknê.[941] The conduct of Pandiôn, in giving his daughter Proknê in marriage to Têreus, is in his view dictated by political motives and interests. 3. He mentions the Strait of Messina as the place through which Odysseus is said to have sailed.[942] 4. The Cyclôpes and the Læstrygones (he says) were the most ancient reported inhabitants of Sicily; but he cannot tell to what race they belonged, nor whence they came.[943] 5. Italy derived its name from Italus, king of the Sikels. 6. Eryx and Egesto in Sicily were founded by fugitive Trojans after the capture of Troy; also Skionê, in the Thracian peninsula of Pallênê, by Greeks from the Achæan town of Pellênê, stopping thither in their return from the siege of Troy: the Amphilochian Argos in the Gulf of Ambrakia was in like manner founded by[p. 407] Amphilochus son of Amphiaräus, in his return from the same enterprise. The remorse and mental derangement of the matricidal Alkmæôn, son of Amphiaräus, is also mentioned by Thucydidês,[944] as well as the settlement of his son Akarnan in the country called after him Akarnania.[945]

Such are the special allusions made by this illustrious author in the course of his history to mythical events. From the tenor of his language we may see that he accounted all that could be known about them to be uncertain and unsatisfactory; but he has it much at heart to show, that even the greatest were inferior in[p. 408] magnitude and importance to the Peloponnesian war.[946] In this respect his opinion seems to have been at variance with that which was popular among his contemporaries.

[p. 409]

To touch a little upon the later historians by whom these mythes were handled, we find that Anaximenês of Lampsacus composed a consecutive history of events, beginning from the Theogony down to the battle of Mantineia.[947] But Ephorus professed to omit all the mythical narratives which are referred to times anterior to the return of the Herakleids, (such restriction would of course have banished the siege of Troy,) and even reproved those who introduced mythes into historical writing; adding, that everywhere truth was the object to be aimed at.[948] Yet in practice he seems often to have departed from his own rule.[949] Theopompus, on the other hand, openly proclaimed that[p. 410] he could narrate fables in his history better than Herodotus, or Ktesias, or Hellanikus.[950] The fragments which remain to us, exhibit some proof that this promise was performed as to quantity;[951] though as to his style of narration, the judgment of Dionysius is unfavorable. Xenophôn ennobled his favorite amusement of the chase by numerous examples chosen from the heroic world, tracing their portraits with all the simplicity of an undiminished faith. Kallisthenês, like Ephorus, professed to omit all mythes which referred to a time anterior to the return of the Herakleids; yet we know that he devoted a separate book or portion of his history to the Trojan war.[952] Philistus introduced some mythes in the earlier portions of his Sicilian history; but Timæus was distinguished above all others for the copious and indiscriminate way in which he collected and repeated such legends.[953] Some of these[p. 411] writers employed their ingenuity in transforming the mythical circumstances into plausible matter of history: Ephorus, in particular, converted the serpent Pythô, slain by Apollo, into a tyrannical king.[954]

But the author who pushed this transmutation of legend into history to the greatest length, was the Messenian Euêmerus, contemporary of Kassander of Macedôn. He melted down in this way the divine persons and legends, as well as the heroic—representing both gods and heroes as having been mere earth-born men, though superior to the ordinary level in respect of force and capacity, and deified or heroified after death as a recompense for services or striking exploits. In the course of a voyage into the Indian sea, undertaken by command of Kassander, Euêmerus professed to have discovered a fabulous country called Panchaia, in which was a temple of the Triphylian Zeus: he there described a golden column, with an inscription purporting to have been put up by Zeus himself, and detailing his exploits while on earth.[955] Some eminent men, among whom may be numbered Polybius, followed the views of Euêmerus, and the Roman poet Ennius[956] translated his Historia Sacra; but on the whole he never acquired favor, and the unblushing inventions which he put into circulation were of themselves sufficient to disgrace both the author and his opinions. The doctrine that all the gods had once existed as mere men offended the religious pagans, and drew upon Euêmerus the imputation of atheism; but, on the other hand, it came to be warmly espoused by several of the Christian assailants of paganism,—by Minucius Felix, Lactantius, and St. Augustin, who found the ground ready prepared for them in their efforts to strip Zeus and the other pagan gods of the attributes of deity. They believed not only in the main theory, but also in the copious details of Euêmerus; and the same man whom Strabo casts aside as almost a proverb for mendacity, was ex[p. 412]tolled by them as an excellent specimen of careful historical inquiry.[957]

But though the pagan world repudiated that “lowering tone of explanation,” which effaced the superhuman personality of Zeus and the great gods of Olympus, the mythical persons and narratives generally came to be surveyed more and more from the point of view of history, and subjected to such alterations as might make them look more like plausible matter of fact. Polybius, Strabo, Diodôrus, and Pausanias, cast the mythes into historical statements—with more or less of transformation, as the case may require, assuming always that there is a basis of truth, which may be discovered by removing poetical exaggerations and allowing for mistakes. Strabo, in particular, lays down that principle broadly and unequivocally in his remarks upon Homer. To give pure fiction, without any foundation of fact, was in his judgment utterly unworthy of so great a genius; and he comments with considerable acrimony on the geographer Eratosthenês, who maintains the opposite opinion. Again, Polybius tells us that the Homeric Æolus, the dispenser of the winds by[p. 413] appointment from Zeus, was in reality a man eminently skilled in navigation, and exact in predicting the weather; that the Cyclôpes and Læstrygones were wild and savage real men in Sicily; and that Scylla and Charybdis were a figurative representation of dangers arising from pirates in the Strait of Messina. Strabo speaks of the amazing expeditions of Dionysus and Hêraklês, and of the long wanderings of Jasôn, Menelaus, and Odysseus, in the same category with the extended commercial range of the Phœnician merchant-ships: he explains the report of Thêseus and Peirithöus having descended to Hadês, by their dangerous earthly pilgrimages,—and the invocation of the Dioskuri as the protectors of the imperiled mariner, by the celebrity which they had acquired as real men and navigators.

Diodôrus gave at considerable length versions of the current fables respecting the most illustrious names in the Grecian mythical world, compiled confusedly out of distinct and incongruous authors. Sometimes the mythe is reproduced in its primitive simplicity, but for the most part it is partially, and sometimes wholly, historicized. Amidst this jumble of dissentient authorities we can trace little of a systematic view, except the general conviction that there was at the bottom of the mythes a real chronological sequence of persons, and real matter of fact, historical or ultra-historical. Nevertheless, there are some few occasions on which Diodôrus brings us back a step nearer to the point of view of the old logographers. For, in reference to Hêraklês, he protests against the scheme of cutting down the mythes to the level of present reality, and contends that a special standard of ultra-historical credibility ought to be constituted, so as to include the mythe in its native dimensions, and do fitting honor to the grand, beneficent, and superhuman personality of Hêraklês and other heroes or demi-gods. To apply to such persons the common measure of humanity (he says), and to cavil at the glorious picture which grateful man has drawn of them, is at once ungracious and irrational. All nice criticism into the truth of the legendary narratives is out of place: we show our reverence to the god by acquiescing in the incredibilities of his history, and we must be content with the best guesses which we can make, amidst the inextricable confusion and numberless discrep[p. 414]ancies which they present.[958] Yet though Diodôrus here exhibits a preponderance of the religious sentiment over the purely historical point of view, and thus reminds us of a period earlier than Thucydidês—he in another place inserts a series of stories which seem to be derived from Euêmerus, and in which Uranus, Kronus, and Zeus appear reduced to the character of human kings celebrated for their exploits and benefactions.[959] Many of the authors, whom Diodôrus copies, have so entangled together Grecian, Asiatic, Egyptian, and Libyan fables, that it becomes impossible to ascertain how much of this heterogeneous mass can be considered as at all connected with the genuine Hellenic mind.

Pausanias is far more strictly Hellenic in his view of the Grecian mythes than Diodôrus: his sincere piety makes him inclined to faith generally with regard to the mythical narratives, but subject nevertheless to the frequent necessity of historicizing or allegorizing them. His belief in the general reality of the mythical history and chronology is complete, in spite of the many[p. 415] discrepancies which he finds in it, and which he is unable to reconcile.

Another author who seems to have conceived clearly, and applied consistently, the semi-historical theory of the Grecian mythes, is Palæphatus, of whose work what appears to be a short abstract has been preserved.[960] In the short preface of this treatise “concerning Incredible Tales,” he remarks, that some men, from want of instruction, believe all the current narratives; while others, more searching and cautious, disbelieve them altogether. Each of these extremes he is anxious to avoid. On the one hand, he thinks that no narrative could ever have acquired credence unless it had been founded in truth; on the other, it is impossible for him to accept so much of the existing narratives as conflicts with the analogies of present natural phænomena. If such things ever had been, they would still continue to be—but they never have so occurred; and the extra-analogical features of the stories are to be ascribed to the license of the poets. Palæphatus wishes to adopt a middle course, neither accepting all nor rejecting all: accordingly, he had taken great pains to separate the true from the false in many of the narratives; he had visited the localities wherein they had taken place, and made careful inquiries from old men and others.[961] The results of his[p. 416] researches are presented in a new version of fifty legends, among the most celebrated and the most fabulous, comprising the Centaurs, Pasiphaê, Aktæôn, Kadmus and the Sparti, the Sphinx, Cycnus, Dædalus, the Trojan horse, Æolus, Scylla, Geryôn, Bellerophôn, etc.

It must be confessed that Palæphatus has performed his promise of transforming the “incredibilia” into narratives in themselves plausible and unobjectionable, and that in doing so he always follows some thread of analogy, real or verbal. The Centaurs (he tells us) were a body of young men from the village of Nephelê in Thessaly, who first trained and mounted horses for the purpose of repelling a herd of bulls belonging to Ixiôn king of the Lapithæ, which had run wild and done great damage: they pursued these wild bulls on horseback, and pierced them with their spears, thus acquiring both the name of Prickers (κέντορες) and the imputed attribute of joint body with the horse. Aktæôn was an Arcadian, who neglected the cultivation of his land for the pleasures of hunting, and was thus eaten up by the expense of his hounds. The dragon whom Kadmus killed at Thêbes, was in reality Drako, king of Thêbes; and the dragon’s teeth which he was said to have sown, and from whence sprung a crop of armed men, were in point of fact elephants’ teeth, which Kadmus as a rich Phœnician had brought over with him: the sons of Drako sold these elephants’ teeth and employed the proceeds to levy troops against Kadmus. Dædalus, instead of flying across the sea on wings, had escaped from Krête in a swift sailing-boat under a violent storm: Kottus, Briareus, and Gygês were not persons with one hundred hands, but inhabitants of the village of Hekatoncheiria in Upper Macedonia, who warred with the inhabitants of Mount Olympus against the Titans: Scylla, whom Odysseus so narrowly escaped, was a fast[p. 417]sailing piratical vessel, as was also Pegasus, the alleged winged horse of Bellerophôn.[962]

By such ingenious conjectures, Palæphatus eliminates all the incredible circumstances, and leaves to us a string of tales perfectly credible and commonplace, which we should readily believe, provided a very moderate amount of testimony could be produced in their favor. If his treatment not only disenchants the original mythes, but even effaces their generic and essential character, we ought to remember that this is not more than what is done by Thucydidês in his sketch of the Trojan war. Palæphatus handles the mythes consistently, according to the semi-historical theory, and his results exhibit the maximum which that theory can ever present. By aid of conjecture, we get out of the impossible, and arrive at matters intrinsically plausible, but to[p. 418]tally uncertified; beyond this point we cannot penetrate, without the light of extrinsic evidence, since there is no intrinsic mark to distinguish truth from plausible fiction.[963]

It remains that we should notice the manner in which the ancient mythes were received and dealt with by the philosophers. The earliest expression which we hear, on the part of philosophy, is the severe censure bestowed upon them on ethical grounds by Xenophanês of Kolophôn, and seemingly by some others of his contemporaries.[964] It was apparently in reply to such charges, which did not admit of being directly rebutted, that Theagenês of Rhêgium (about 520 B. C.) first started the idea of a double meaning in the Homeric and Hesiodic narratives,—an interior sense, different from that which the words in their obvious meaning bore, yet to a certain extent analogous, and discoverable by sagacious divination. Upon this principle, he allegorized especially the battle of the gods in the Iliad.[965] In the succeeding cen[p. 419]tury, Anaxagoras and Metrodôrus carried out the allegorical explanation more comprehensively and systematically; the former representing the mythical personages as mere mental conceptions, invested with name and gender, and illustrative of ethical precepts,—the latter connecting them with physical principles and phænomena. Metrodôrus resolved not only the persons of Zeus, Hêrê, and Athênê, but also those of Agamemnôn, Achilles, and Hectôr, into various elemental combinations and physical agencies, and treated the adventures ascribed to them as natural facts concealed under the veil of allegory.[966] Empedoklês, Prodikus, Antisthenês, Parmenidês, Hêrakleidês of Pontus, and in a later age, Chrysippus, and the Stoic philosophers generally,[967] followed more or less[p. 420] the same principle of treating the popular gods as allegorical personages; while the expositors of Homer (such as Stesimbrotus, Glaukôn, and others, even down to the Alexandrine age), though none of them proceeded to the same extreme length as Metrodôrus, employed allegory amongst other media of explanation for the purpose of solving difficulties, or eluding reproaches against the poet.

In the days of Plato and Zenophôn, this allegorizing interpretation was one of the received methods of softening down the obnoxious mythes—though Plato himself treated it as an insufficient defence, seeing that the bulk of youthful hearers could not see through the allegory, but embraced the story literally as it was set forth.[968] Pausanias tells us, that when he first began to write his work, he treated many of the Greek legends as silly and undeserving of serious attention; but as he proceeded, he gradually arrived at the full conviction, that the ancient sages had designedly spoken in enigmatical language, and that there was valuable truth wrapped up in their narratives: it was the duty of a pious man, therefore, to study and interpret, but not to reject,[p. 421] stories current and accredited respecting the gods.[969] And others,—arguing from the analogy of the religious mysteries, which could not be divulged without impiety to any except such as had been specially admitted and initiated,—maintained that it would be a profanation to reveal directly to the vulgar, the genuine scheme of nature and the divine administration: the ancient poets and philosophers had taken the only proper course, of talking to the many in types and parables, and reserving the naked truth for privileged and qualified intelligences.[970] The allegorical mode of explaining the ancient fables[971] became more and more popular in[p. 422] the third and fourth centuries after the Christian æra, especially among the new Platonic philosophers; being both congenial to[p. 423] their orientalized turn of thought, and useful as a shield against the attacks of the Christians.

It was from the same strong necessity, of accommodating the old mythes to a new standard both of belief and of appreciation, that both the historical and the allegorical schemes of transforming them arose; the literal narrative being decomposed for the purpose of arriving at a base either of particular matter of fact,[p. 424] or of general physical or moral truth. Instructed men were commonly disposed to historicize only the heroic legends, and to allegorize more or less of the divine legends: the attempt of Euêmerus to historicize the latter was for the most part denounced as irreligious, while that of Metrodôrus to allegorize the former met with no success. In allegorizing, moreover, even the divine legends, it was usual to apply the scheme of allegory only to the inferior gods, though some of the great Stoic philosophers carried it farther, and allegorized all the separate personal gods, leaving only an all-pervading cosmic Mind,[972] essential as a co-efficient along with Matter, yet not separable from Matter. But many pious pagans seem to have perceived that allegory pushed to this extent was fatal to all living religious faith,[973] inasmuch as it divested the gods of their character of Persons, sympathizing with mankind and modifiable in their dispositions according to the conduct and prayers of the believer: and hence they permitted themselves to employ allegorical interpretation only to some of the obnoxious legends connected with the superior gods, leaving the personality of the latter unimpeached.

One novelty, however, introduced seemingly by the philosopher Empedoklês and afterwards expanded by others, deserves notice, inasmuch as it modified considerably the old religious creed by drawing a pointed contrast between gods and dæmons,—a distinction hardly at all manifested in Homer, but recognized in the Works and Days of Hesiod.[974] Empedoklês widened the gap between the two, and founded upon it important consequences. The gods were good, immortal, and powerful agents, having free-will[p. 425] and intelligence, but without appetite, passion, or infirmity: the dæmons were of a mixed nature between gods and men, ministers and interpreters from the former to the latter, but invested also with an agency and dispositions of their own. They were very long-lived, but not immortal, and subject to the passions and propensities of men, so that there were among them beneficent and maleficent dæmons with every shade of intermediate difference.[975][p. 426] It had been the mistake (according to these philosophers) of the old mythes to ascribe to the gods proceedings really belonging to the dæmons, who were always the immediate communicants with mortal nature, inspiring prophetic power to the priestesses of the oracles, sending dreams and omens, and perpetually interfering either for good or for evil. The wicked and violent dæmons, having committed many enormities, had thus sometimes incurred punishment from the gods: besides which, their bad dispositions had imposed upon men the necessity of appeasing them by religious ceremonies of a kind acceptable to such beings: hence, the human sacrifices, the violent, cruel, and obscene exhibitions, the wailings and fastings, the tearing and eating of raw flesh, which it had become customary to practise on various consecrated occasions, and especially in the Dionysiac solemnities. Moreover, the discreditable actions imputed to the gods,—the terrific combats, the Typhonic and Titanic convulsions, the rapes, abductions, flight, servitude, and concealment,—all these were really the doings and sufferings of bad dæmons, placed far below the sovereign agency—equable, undisturbed, and unpolluted—of the immortal gods. The action of such dæmons upon mankind was fitful and intermittent: they sometimes perished or changed their local abode, so that oracles which had once been inspired became after a time forsaken and disfranchized.[976]

This distinction between gods and dæmons appeared to save in a great degree both the truth of the old legends and the dig[p. 427]nity of the gods: it obviated the necessity of pronouncing either that the gods were unworthy, or the legends untrue. Yet although devised for the purpose of satisfying a more scrupulous religious sensibility, it was found inconvenient afterwards, when assailants arose against paganism generally. For while it abandoned as indefensible a large portion of what had once been genuine faith, it still retained the same word dæmons with an entirely altered signification. The Christian writers in their controversies found ample warrant among the earlier pagan authors[977] for treating all the gods as dæmons—and not less ample warrant among the later pagans for denouncing the dæmons generally as evil beings.[978]

Such were the different modes in which the ancient mythes were treated, during the literary life of Greece, by the four classes above named—poets, logographers, historians, and philosophers.

Literal acceptance, and unconscious, uninquiring faith, such as they had obtained from the original auditors to whom they were addressed, they now found only among the multitude—alike retentive of traditional feeling[979] and fearful of criticizing the pro[p. 428]ceedings of the gods.[980] But with instructed men they became rather subjects of respectful and curious analysis—all agreeing that the Word as tendered to them was inadmissible, yet all equally convinced that it contained important meaning, though hidden yet not undiscoverable. A very large proportion of the force of Grecian intellect was engaged in searching after this unknown base, by guesses, in which sometimes the principle of semi-historical interpretation was assumed, sometimes that of allegorical, without any collateral evidence in either case, and without possibility of verification. Out of the one assumption grew a string of allegorized phænomenal truths, out of the other a long series of seeming historical events and chronological persons,—both elicited from the transformed mythes and from nothing else.[981]

[p. 429]The utmost which we accomplish by means of the semi-historical theory, even in its most successful applications, is, that after leaving out from the mythical narrative all that is miraculous or high-colored or extravagant, we arrive at a series of credible incidents—incidents which may, perhaps, have really occurred, and against which no intrinsic presumption can be raised. This is exactly the character of a well-written modern novel (as, for example, several among the compositions of Defoe), the whole story of which is such as may well have occurred in real life: it is plausible fiction, and nothing beyond. To raise plausible fiction up to the superior dignity of truth, some positive testimony or positive ground of inference must be shown; even the highest measure of intrinsic probability is not alone sufficient. A man who tells us that, on the day of the battle of Platæa, rain fell on the spot of ground where the city of New York now stands, will neither deserve nor obtain credit, because he can have had no means of positive knowledge; though the statement is not in the slightest degree improbable. On the other hand, statements in themselves very improbable may well deserve belief, provided they be supported by sufficient positive evidence; thus the canal dug by order of Xerxês across the promontory of Mount Athos, and the sailing of the Persian fleet through it, is a fact which I believe, because it is well-attested—notwithstanding its remarkable improbability, which so far misled Juvenal as to induce him to single out the narrative as a glaring example of Grecian mendacity.[982] Again, many critics have observed that the general tale of the Trojan war (apart from the superhuman agencies) is not more improbable than that of the Crusades, which every one admits to be an historical fact. But (even if we grant this position, which is only true to a small extent), it is not sufficient to show an analogy between the two cases in respect to negative presumptions alone; the analogy ought to be shown to hold between them[p. 430] in respect to positive certificate also. The Crusades are a curious phænomenon in history, but we accept them, nevertheless, as an unquestionable fact, because the antecedent improbability is surmounted by adequate contemporary testimony. When the like testimony, both in amount and kind, is produced to establish the historical reality of a Trojan war, we shall not hesitate to deal with the two events on the same footing.

In applying the semi-historical theory to Grecian mythical narrative, it has been often forgotten that a certain strength of testimony, or positive ground of belief, must first be tendered, before we can be called upon to discuss the antecedent probability or improbability of the incidents alleged. The belief of the Greeks themselves, without the smallest aid of special or contemporary witnesses, has been tacitly assumed as sufficient to support the case, provided only sufficient deduction be made from the mythical narratives to remove all antecedent improbabilities. It has been taken for granted that the faith of the people must have rested originally upon some particular historical event, involving the identical persons, things, and places which the original mythes exhibit, or at least the most prominent among them. But when we examine the pyschagogic influences predominant in the society among whom this belief originally grew up, we shall see that their belief is of little or no evidentiary value, and that the growth and diffusion of it may be satisfactorily explained without supposing any special basis of matters of fact. The popular faith, so far as it counts for anything, testifies in favor of the entire and literal mythes, which are now universally rejected as incredible.[983] We have thus the very minimum of positive proof,[p. 431] and the maximum of negative presumption: we may diminish the latter by conjectural omissions and interpolations, but we cannot by any artifice increase the former: the narrative ceases to be incredible, but it still remains uncertified,—a mere commonplace possibility. Nor is fiction always, or essentially, extravagant and incredible. It is often not only plausible and coherent, but even more like truth (if a paradoxical phrase may be allowed) than truth itself. Nor can we, in the absence of any extrinsic test, reckon upon any intrinsic mark to discriminate the one from the other.[984]

[p. 432]In the semi-historical theory respecting Grecian mythical narrative, the critic unconsciously transports into the Homeric age those habits of classification and distinction, and that standard of acceptance or rejection, which he finds current in his own. Amongst us, the distinction between historical fact and fiction is highly valued as well as familiarly understood: we have a long history of the past, deduced from a study of contemporary evidences; and we have a body of fictitious literature, stamped with its own mark and interesting in its own way. Speaking generally, no man could now hope to succeed permanently in transferring any striking incident from the latter category into the former, nor could any man deliberately attempt it without incurring well-merited obloquy. But this historical sense, now so deeply rooted in the modern mind that we find a difficulty in conceiving any people to be without it, is the fruit of records and inquiries, first applied to the present, and then preserved and studied by subsequent generations; while in a society which has not yet formed the habit of recording its present, the real facts of the past can never be known; the difference between attested[p. 433] matter of fact and plausible fiction—between truth and that which is like truth—can neither be discerned nor sought for. Yet it is precisely upon the supposition that this distinction is present to men’s habitual thoughts, that the semi-historical theory of the mythes is grounded.

It is perfectly true, as has often been stated, that the Grecian epic contains what are called traditions respecting the past—the larger portion of it, indeed, consists of nothing else. But what are these traditions? They are the matter of those songs and stories which have acquired hold on the public mind; they are the creations of the poets and storytellers themselves, each of whom finds some preëxisting, and adds others of his own, new and previously untold, under the impulse and authority of the inspiring Muse. Homer doubtless found many songs and stories current with respect to the siege of Troy; he received and transmitted some of these traditions, recast and transformed others, and enlarged the whole mass by new creations of his own. To the subsequent poets, such as Arktinus and Leschês, these Homeric creations formed portions of preëxisting tradition, with which they dealt in the same manner; so that the whole mass of traditions constituting the tale of Troy became larger and larger with each successive contributor. To assume a generic difference between the older and the newer strata of tradition—to treat the former as morsels of history, and the latter as appendages of fiction—is an hypothesis gratuitous at the least, not to say inadmissible. For the further we travel back into the past, the more do we recede from the clear day of positive history, and the deeper do we plunge into the unsteady twilight and gorgeous clouds of fancy and feeling. It was one of the agreeable dreams of the Grecian epic, that the man who travelled far enough northward beyond the Rhipæan mountains, would in time reach the delicious country and genial climate of the virtuous Hyperboreans—the votaries and favorites of Apollo, who dwelt in the extreme north beyond the chilling blasts of Boreas. Now the hope that we may, by carrying our researches up the stream of time, exhaust the limits of fiction, and land ultimately upon some points of solid truth, appears to me no less illusory than this northward journey in quest of the Hyperborean elysium.

[p. 434]The general disposition to adopt the semi-historical theory as to the genesis of Grecian mythes, arises in part from reluctance in critics to impute to the mythopœic ages extreme credulity or fraud; together with the usual presumption, that where much is believed some portion of it must be true. There would be some weight in these grounds of reasoning, if the ages under discussion had been supplied with records and accustomed to critical inquiry. But amongst a people unprovided with the former and strangers to the latter, credulity is naturally at its maximum, as well in the narrator himself as in his hearers: the idea of deliberate fraud is moreover inapplicable,[985] for if the hearers are disposed to accept what is related to them as a revelation from the Muse, the œstrus of composition is quite sufficient to impart a similar persuasion to the poet whose mind is penetrated with it. The belief of that day can hardly be said to stand apart by itself as an act of reason. It becomes confounded with vivacious imagination and earnest emotion; and in every case where these mental excitabilities are powerfully acted upon, faith ensues unconsciously and as a matter of course. How active and prominent such tendencies were among the early Greeks, the extraordinary beauty and originality of their epic poetry may teach us.

It is, besides, a presumption far too largely and indiscriminately applied, even in our own advanced age, that where much is believed, something must necessarily be true—that accredited fiction is always traceable to some basis of historical truth.[986] The[p. 435] influence of imagination and feeling is not confined simply to the process of retouching, transforming, or magnifying narratives originally founded on fact; it will often create new narratives of its own, without any such preliminary basis. Where there is any general body of sentiment pervading men living in society, whether it be religious or political—love, admiration, or antipathy—all incidents tending to illustrate that sentiment are eagerly welcomed, rapidly circulated and (as a general rule) easily accredited. If real incidents are not at hand, impressive fictions will be provided to satisfy the demand. The perfect harmony of such fictions with the prevalent feeling stands in the place of certifying testimony, and causes men to hear them not merely with credence, but even with delight: to call them in question and require proof, is a task which cannot be undertaken without incurring obloquy. Of such tendencies in the human mind, abundant evidence is furnished by the innumerable religious legends which have acquired currency in various parts of the world, and of which no country was more fertile than Greece—legends which derived their origin, not from special facts misreported and exaggerated, but from pious feelings pervading the society, and translated into narrative by forward and imaginative minds—legends, in which not merely the incidents, but often even the personages are unreal, yet in which the generating sentiment is conspicuously discernible, providing its own matter as well as its own form. Other sentiments also, as well as the religious, provided they be fervent and widely diffused, will find expression in current narrative, and become portions of the general public belief—every celebrated and notorious character is the source of a thousand fictions exemplifying his peculiarities. And if it be true, as I think present observation may show us, that such creative agencies are even now visible and effective, when the materials of genuine history are copious and critically studied—much more are we warranted in concluding that, in ages destitute of records, strangers to historical testimony, and full of belief in divine inspiration both as to the future and as to the past, narratives purely fictitious will acquire ready and uninquiring credence,[p. 436] provided only they be plausible and in harmony with the preconceptions of the auditors.

The allegorical interpretation of the mythes has been by several learned investigators, especially by Creuzer, connected with the hypothesis of an ancient and highly instructed body of priests, having their origin either in Egypt or in the East, and communicating to the rude and barbarous Greeks religious, physical, and historical knowledge under the veil of symbols. At a time (we are told) when language was yet in its infancy, visible symbols were the most vivid means of acting upon the minds of ignorant hearers: the next step was to pass to symbolical language and expressions—for a plain and literal exposition, even if understood at all, would at least have been listened to with indifference, as not corresponding with any mental demand. In such allegorizing way, then, the early priests set forth their doctrines respecting God, nature, and humanity—a refined monotheism and a theological philosophy—and to this purpose the earliest mythes were turned. But another class of mythes, more popular and more captivating, grew up under the hands of the poets—mythes purely epical, and descriptive of real or supposed past events. The allegorical mythes, being taken up by the poets, insensibly became confounded in the same category with the purely narrative mythes—the matter symbolized was no longer thought of, while the symbolizing words came to be construed in their own literal meaning—and the basis of the early allegory, thus lost among the general public, was only preserved as a secret among various religious fraternities, composed of members allied together by initiation in certain mystical ceremonies, and administered by hereditary families of presiding priests. In the Orphic and Bacchic sects, in the Eleusinian and Samothracian mysteries, was thus treasured up the secret doctrine of the old theological and philosophical mythes, which had once constituted the primitive legendary stock of Greece, in the hands of the original priesthood and in ages anterior to Homer. Persons who had gone through the preliminary ceremonies of initiation, were permitted at length to hear, though under strict obligation of secrecy, this ancient religious and cosmogonic doctrine, revealing the destination of man and the certainty of posthumous rewards and punish[p. 437]ments—all disengaged from the corruptions of poets, as well as from the symbols and allegories under which they still remained buried in the eyes of the vulgar. The mysteries of Greece were thus traced up to the earliest ages, and represented as the only faithful depository channels of that purer theology and physics which had originally been communicated, though under the unavoidable inconvenience of a symbolical expression, by an enlightened priesthood coming from abroad to the then rude barbarians of the country.[987]

[p. 438]

But this theory, though advocated by several learned men, has been shown to be unsupported and erroneous. It implies a mistaken view both of the antiquity and the purport of the mysteries, which cannot be safely carried up even to the age of Hesiod, and which, though imposing and venerable as religious ceremonies, included no recondite or esoteric teaching.[988]

[p. 439]

The doctrine, supposed to have been originally symbolized and subsequently overclouded, in the Greek mythes, was in reality first intruded into them by the unconscious fancies of later interpreters. It was one of the various roads which instructed men took to escape from the literal admission of the ancient mythes, and to arrive at some new form of belief, more consonant with their ideas of what the attributes and character of the gods ought to be. It was one of the ways of constituting, by help of the mysteries, a philosophical religion apart from the general public, and of connecting that distinction with the earliest periods of Grecian society. Such a distinction was both avowed and justified among the superior men of the later pagan world. Varro and Scævola distributed theology into three distinct departments,—the mythical or fabulous, the civil, and the physical. The first had its place in the theatre, and was left without any interference to the poets; the second belonged to the city of political community as such,—it comprised the regulation of all the public worship and religious rites, and was consigned altogether to the direction of the magistrate; the third was the privilege of philosophers, but was reserved altogether for private discussion in the schools, apart from the general public.[989] As a member of the[p. 440] city, the philosopher sympathized with the audience in the theatre, and took a devout share in the established ceremonies, nor was he justified in trying what he heard in the one or saw in the other by his own ethical standard. But in the private assemblies of instructed or inquisitive men, he enjoyed the fullest liberty of canvassing every received tenet, and of broaching his own theories unreservedly, respecting the existence and nature of the gods. By these discussions, the activity of the philosophical mind was maintained and truth elicited; but it was such truth as the body of the people ought not to hear, lest their faith in their own established religious worship should be overthrown. In thus distinguishing the civil theology from the fabulous, Varro was enabled to cast upon the poets all the blame of the objectionable points in the popular theology, and to avoid the necessity of pronouncing censure on the magistrates, who (he contended) had made as good a compromise with the settled prejudices of the public as the case permitted.

The same conflicting sentiments which led the philosophers to decompose the divine mythes into allegory, impelled the historians to melt down the heroic mythes into something like continuous political history, with a long series of chronology calculated upon the heroic pedigrees. The one process as well as the other was interpretative guesswork, proceeding upon unauthorized assumptions, and without any verifying test or evidence: while it frittered away the characteristic beauty of the mythe into something essentially anti-mythical, it sought to arrive both at history and philosophy by impracticable roads. That the superior men of antiquity should have striven hard to save the dignity of legends which constituted the charm of their literature as well as the substance of the popular religion, we cannot be at all surprised; but[p. 441] it is gratifying to find Plato discussing the subject in a more philosophical spirit. The Platonic Socratês, being asked whether he believed the current Attic fable respecting the abduction of Oreithyia (daughter of Erechtheus) by Boreas, replies, in substance,—“It would not be strange if I disbelieved it, as the clever men do; I might then show my cleverness by saying that a gust of Boreas blew her down from the rocks above while she was at play, and that, having been killed in this manner, she was reported to have been carried off by Boreas. Such speculations are amusing enough, but they belong to men ingenious and busy-minded overmuch, and not greatly to be envied, if it be only for this reason, that, after having set right one fable, they are under the necessity of applying the same process to a host of others—Hippocentaurs, Chimæras, Gorgons, Pegasus, and numberless other monsters and incredibilities. A man, who, disbelieving these stories, shall try to find a probable basis for each of them, will display an ill-placed acuteness and take upon himself an endless burden, for which I at least have no leisure: accordingly, I forego such researches, and believe in the current version of the stories.”[990]

These remarks of Plato are valuable, not simply because they point out the uselessness of digging for a supposed basis of truth in the mythes, but because they at the same time suggest the true reason for mistrusting all such tentatives. The mythes form[p. 442] a class apart, abundant as well as peculiar: to remove any individual mythe from its own class into that of history or philosophy, by simple conjecture, and without any collateral evidence, is of no advantage, unless you can perform a similar process on the remainder. If the process be trustworthy, it ought to be applied to all; and e converso, if it be not applicable to all, it is not trustworthy as applied to any one specially; always assuming no special evidence to be accessible. To detach any individual mythe from the class to which it belongs, is to present it in an erroneous point of view; we have no choice except to admit them as they stand, by putting ourselves approximatively into the frame of mind of those for whom they were destined and to whom they appeared worthy of credit.

If Plato thus discountenances all attempts to transform the mythes by interpretation into history or philosophy, indirectly recognizing the generic difference between them—we find substantially the same view pervading the elaborate precepts in his treatise on the Republic. He there regards the mythes, not as embodying either matter-of-fact or philosophical principle, but as portions of religious and patriotic faith, and instruments of ethical tuition. Instead of allowing the poets to frame them according to the impulses of their own genius, and with a view to immediate popularity, he directs the legislator to provide types of his own for the characters of the gods and heroes, and to suppress all such divine and heroic legends as are not in harmony with these preëstablished canons. In the Platonic system, the mythes are not to be matters of history, nor yet of spontaneous or casual fiction, but of prescribed faith: he supposes that the people will believe, as a thing of course, what the poets circulate, and he therefore directs that the latter shall circulate nothing which does not tend to ennoble and improve the feelings. He conceives the mythes as stories composed to illustrate the general sentiments of the poets and the community, respecting the character and attributes of the gods and heroes, or respecting the social relations, and ethical duties as well as motives of mankind: hence the obligation upon the legislator to prescribe beforehand the types of character which shall be illustrated, and to restrain the poets from following out any opposing fancies. “Let us neither believe ourselves (he exclaims), nor permit any one to circulate, that Thê[p. 443]seus son of Poseidôn and Peirithöus son of Zeus, or any other hero or son of a god, could ever have brought themselves to commit abductions or other enormities such as are now falsely ascribed to them. We must compel the poets to say, either that such persons were not the sons of gods, or that they were not the perpetrators of such misdeeds.”[991]

Most of the mythes which the youth hear and repeat (according to Plato) are false, but some of them are true: the great and prominent mythes which appear in Homer and Hesiod are no less fictions than the rest. But fiction constitutes one of the indispensable instruments of mental training as well as truth; only the legislator must take care that the fiction so employed shall be beneficent and not mischievous.[992] As the mischievous fictions (he says) take their rise from wrong preconceptions respecting the character of the gods and heroes, so the way to correct them is to enforce, by authorized compositions, the adoption of a more correct standard.[993]

[p. 444]The comments which Plato has delivered with so much force in his Republic, and the enactments which he deduces from them, are in the main an expansion of that sentiment of condemnation, which he shared with so many other philosophers, towards a large portion of the Homeric and Hesiodic stories.[994] But the manner in which he has set forth this opinion, unfolds to us more clearly the real character of the mythical narratives. They are creations of the productive minds in the community, deduced from the supposed attributes of the gods and heroes: so Plato views them, and in such character he proposes to amend them. The legislator would cause to be prepared a better and truer picture of the foretime, because he would start from truer (that is to say, more creditable) conceptions of the gods and heroes. For Plato rejects the mythes respecting Zeus and Hêrê, or Thêseus and Peirithöus, not from any want of evidence, but because they are unworthy of gods and heroes: he proposes to call forth new mythes, which, though he admits them at the outset to be fiction, he knows will soon be received as true, and supply more valuable lessons of conduct.

We may consider, then, that Plato disapproves of the attempt to identify the old mythes either with exaggerated history or with disguised philosophy. He shares in the current faith, without any suspicion or criticism, as to Orpheus, Palamêdês, Dædalus, Amphiôn, Thêseus, Achilles, Cheirôn, and other mythical personages;[995] but what chiefly fills his mind is, the inherited sentiment of deep reverence for these superhuman characters and for the age to which they belonged,—a sentiment sufficiently strong to render him not only an unbeliever in such legends as conflict with it, but also a deliberate creator of new legends for the purpose of expanding and gratifying it. The more we examine this sentiment, both in the mind of Plato as well as in[p. 445] that of the Greeks generally, the more shall we be convinced that it formed essentially and inseparably a portion of Hellenic religious faith. The mythe both presupposes, and springs out of, a settled basis, and a strong expansive force of religious, social, and patriotic feeling, operating upon a past which is little better than a blank as to positive knowledge. It resembles history, in so far as its form is narrative; it resembles philosophy, in so far as it is occasionally illustrative; but in its essence and substance, in the mental tendencies by which it is created as well as in those by which it is judged and upheld, it is a popularized expression of the divine and heroic faith of the people.

Grecian antiquity cannot be at all understood except in connection with Grecian religion. It begins with gods and it ends with historical men, the former being recognized not simply as gods, but as primitive ancestors, and connected with the latter by a long mythical genealogy, partly heroic and partly human. Now the whole value of such genealogies arises from their being taken entire; the god or hero at the top is in point of fact the most important member of the whole;[996] for the length and continuity of the series arises from anxiety on the part of historical men to join themselves by a thread of descent with the being whom they worshipped in their gentile sacrifices. Without the ancestorial god, the whole pedigree would have become not only acephalous, but worthless and uninteresting. The pride of the Herakleids, Asklêpiads, Æakids, Nêleids, Dædalids, etc. was attached to the primitive eponymous hero and to the god from whom they sprung, not to the line of names, generally long and barren, through which the divine or heroic dignity gradually dwindled down into common manhood. Indeed, the length of the genealogy (as I have before remarked) was an evidence of the humility of the historical man, which led him to place himself at a respectful distance from the gods or heroes; for Hekatæus of Milêtus, who ranked himself as the fifteenth descendant of a god, might per[p. 446]haps have accounted it an overweening impiety in any living man to claim a god for his immediate father.

The whole chronology of Greece, anterior to 776 B. C., consists of calculations founded upon these mythical genealogies, especially upon that of the Spartan kings and their descent from Hêraklês,—thirty years being commonly taken as the equivalent of a generation, or about three generations to a century. This process of computation was altogether illusory, as applying historical and chronological conditions to a case on which they had no bearing. Though the domain of history was seemingly enlarged, the religious element was tacitly set aside: when the heroes and gods were chronologized, they became insensibly approximated to the limits of humanity, and the process indirectly gave encouragement to the theory of Euêmerus. Personages originally legendary and poetical were erected into definite landmarks for measuring the duration of the foretime, thus gaining in respect to historical distinctness, but not without loss on the score of religious association. Both Euêmerus and the subsequent Christian writers, who denied the original and inherent divinity of the pagan gods, had a great advantage in carrying their chronological researches strictly and consistently upwards—for all chronology fails as soon as we suppose a race superior to common humanity.

Moreover, it is to be remarked that the pedigree of the Spartan kings, which Apollodôrus and Eratosthenês selected as the basis of their estimate of time, is nowise superior in credibility and trustworthiness to the thousand other gentile and family pedigrees with which Greece abounded; it is rather indeed to be numbered among the most incredible of all, seeing that Hêraklês as a progenitor is placed at the head of perhaps more pedigrees than any other Grecian god or hero.[997] The descent of the Spartan king Leonidas from Hêraklês rests upon no better evidence than that of Aristotle or Hippocratês from Asklêpius,[998]—of Evagoras or[p. 447] Thucydidês from Æakus,—of Socratês from Dædalus,—of the Spartan heraldic family from Talthybius,—of the prophetic Iamid family in Elis from Iamus,—of the root-gatherers in Pêlion from Cheirôn,—and of Hekatæus and his gens from some god in the sixteenth ascending line of the series. There is little exaggeration in saying, indeed, that no permanent combination of men in Greece, religious, social, or professional, was without a similar pedigree; all arising out of the same exigences of the feelings and imagination, to personify as well as to sanctify the bond of union among the members. Every one of these gentes began with a religious and ended with an historical person. At some point or other in the upward series, entities of history were exchanged for entities of religion; but where that point is to be found we are unable to say, nor had the wisest of the ancient Greeks any means of determining. Thus much, however, we know, that the series taken as a whole, though dear and precious to the believing Greek, possesses no value as chronological evidence to the historian.

When Hekatæus visited Thêbes in Egypt, he mentioned to the Egyptian priests, doubtless with a feeling of satisfaction and pride, the imposing pedigree of the gens to which he belonged,—with fifteen ancestors in ascending line, and a god as the initial progenitor. But he found himself immeasurably overdone by the priests “who genealogized against him.”[999] They showed to him three hundred and forty-one wooden colossal statues, representing the succession of chief priests in the temple in uninterrupted series from father to son, through a space of 11,300 years. Prior to the commencement of this long period (they said), the gods dwelling along with men, had exercised sway in Egypt; but they[p. 448] repudiated altogether the idea of men begotten by gods or of heroes.[1000]

But these counter-genealogies, are, in respect to trustworthiness and evidence, on the same footing. Each represents partly the religious faith, partly the retrospective imagination, of the persons from whom it emanated; in each, the lower members of the series (to what extent we cannot tell) are real, the upper members fabulous; but in each also the series derived all its interest and all its imposing effect from being conceived unbroken and entire. Herodotus is much perplexed by the capital discrepancy between the Grecian and Egyptian chronologies, and vainly employs his ingenuity in reconciling them. There is no standard of objective evidence by which either the one or the other of them can be tried: each has its own subjective value, in conjunction with the faith and feelings of Egyptians and Greeks, and each presupposes in the believer certain mental prepossessions which are not to be found beyond its own local limits. Nor is the greater or less extent of duration at all important, when we once pass the limits of evidence and verifiable reality. One century of recorded time, adequately studded with authentic and orderly events, presents a greater mass and a greater difficulty of transition to the imagination than a hundred centuries of barren genealogy. Herodotus, in discussing the age of Homer and Hesiod, treats an anterior point of 400 years as if it were only yesterday; the reign of Henry VI. is separated from us by an equal interval, and the reader will not require to be reminded how long that interval now appears.

The mythical age was peopled with a mingled aggregate of gods, heroes, and men, so confounded together that it was often impossible to distinguish to which class any individual name belonged. In regard to the Thracian god Zalmoxis, the Hellespontic Greeks interpreted his character and attributes according to the scheme of Euêmerism. They affirmed that he had been a man, the slave of the philosopher Pythagoras at Samos, and that he had by abilities and artifice established a religious ascendency over the minds of the Thracians, and obtained from them[p. 449] divine honors. Herodotus cannot bring himself to believe this story, but he frankly avows his inability to determine whether Zalmoxis was a god or a man,[1001] nor can he extricate himself from a similar embarrassment in respect to Dionysus and Pan. Amidst the confusion of the Homeric fight, the goddess Athênê confers upon Diomêdês the miraculous favor of dispelling the mist from his eyes, so as to enable him to discriminate gods from men; and nothing less than a similar miracle could enable a critical reader of the mythical narratives to draw an ascertained boundary-line between the two.[1002] But the original hearers of the mythes felt neither surprise nor displeasure from this confusion of the divine with the human individual. They looked at the past with a film[p. 450] of faith over their eyes—neither knowing the value, nor desiring the attainment, of an unclouded vision. The intimate companionship, and the occasional mistake of identity between gods and men, were in full harmony with their reverential retrospect. And we, accordingly, see the poet Ovid in his Fasti, when he undertakes the task of unfolding the legendary antiquities of early Rome, re-acquiring, by the inspiration of Juno, the power of seeing gods and men in immediate vicinity and conjunct action, such as it existed before the development of the critical and historical sense.[1003]

To resume, in brief, what has been laid down in this and the preceding chapters respecting the Grecian mythes:—

1. They are a special product of the imagination and feelings, radically distinct both from history and philosophy: they cannot be broken down and decomposed into the one, nor allegorized into the other. There are indeed some particular and even assignable mythes, which raise intrinsic presumption of an allegorizing tendency; and there are doubtless some others, though not specially assignable, which contain portions of matter of fact, or names of real persons, embodied in them. But such matter of fact cannot be verified by any intrinsic mark, nor we are entitled to presume its existence in any given case unless some collateral evidence can be produced.

2. We are not warranted in applying to the mythical world the rules either of historical credibility or chronological sequence. Its personages are gods, heroes, and men, in constant juxtaposition and reciprocal sympathy; men, too, of whom we know a large proportion to be fictitious, and of whom we can never ascertain how many may have been real. No series of such personages can serve as materials for chronological calculation.

[p. 451]3. The mythes were originally produced in an age which had no records, no philosophy, no criticism, no canon of belief, and scarcely any tincture either of astronomy or geography—but which, on the other hand, was full of religious faith, distinguished for quick and susceptible imagination, seeing personal agents where we look only for objects and connecting laws;—an age, moreover, eager for new narrative, accepting with the unconscious impressibility of children (the question of truth or falsehood being never formally raised) all which ran in harmony with its pre-existing feelings, and penetrable by inspired prophets and poets in the same proportion that it was indifferent to positive evidence. To such hearers did the primitive poet or story-teller address himself: it was the glory of his productive genius to provide suitable narrative expression for the faith and emotions which he shared in common with them, and the rich stock of Grecian mythes attests how admirably he performed his task. As the gods and the heroes formed the conspicuous object of national reverence, so the mythes were partly divine, partly heroic, partly both in one.[1004] The adventures of Achilles, Helen, and Diomêdês, of Œdipus and Adrastus, of Meleager and Athæa, of Jasôn and the Argô, were recounted by the same tongues, and accepted with the same unsuspecting confidence, as those of Apollo and Artemis, of Arês and Aphroditê, of Poseidôn and Hêraklês.

4. The time however came, when this plausibility ceased to be complete. The Grecian mind made an important advance, socially, ethically, and intellectually. Philosophy and history were constituted, prose writing and chronological records became familiar; a canon of belief more or less critical came to be tacitly recognized. Moreover, superior men profited more largely by the stimulus, and contracted habits of judging different from the[p. 452] vulgar: the god Elenchus[1005] (to use a personification of Menander) the giver and prover of truth, descended into their minds. Into the new intellectual medium, thus altered in its elements, and no longer uniform in its quality, the mythes descended by inheritance; but they were found, to a certain extent, out of harmony even with the feelings of the people, and altogether dissonant with those of instructed men. But the most superior Greek was still a Greek, and cherished the common reverential sentiment towards the foretime of his country. Though he could neither believe nor respect the mythes as they stood, he was under an imperious mental necessity to transform them into a state worthy of his belief and respect. Whilst the literal mythe still continued to float among the poets and the people, critical men interpreted, altered, decomposed, and added, until they found something which satisfied their minds as a supposed real basis. They manufactured some dogmas of supposed original philosophy, and a long series of fancied history and chronology, retaining the mythical names and generations even when they were obliged to discard or recast the mythical events. The interpreted mythe was thus promoted into a reality, while the literal mythe was degraded into a fiction.[1006]

[p. 453]The habit of distinguishing the interpreted from the literal mythe has passed from the literary men of antiquity to those of the modern world, who have for the most part construed the divine mythes as allegorized philosophy, and the heroic mythes as exaggerated, adorned, and over-colored history. The early ages of Greece have thus been peopled with quasi-historical persons and quasi-historical events, all extracted from the mythes after making certain allowances for poetical ornament. But we must not treat this extracted product as if it were the original substance; we cannot properly understand it except by viewing it in connection with the literal mythes out of which it was obtained, in their primitive age and appropriate medium, before the superior minds had yet outgrown the common faith in an all-personified Nature, and learned to restrict the divine free-agency by the supposition of invariable physical laws. It is in this point of view that the mythes are important for any one who would correctly appreciate the general tone of Grecian thought and feeling; for they were the universal mental stock of the Hellenic world—common to men and women, rich and poor, instructed and ignorant; they were in every one’s memory and in every one’s mouth,[1007] while science and history were confined to com[p. 454]paratively few. We know from Thucydidês how erroneously and carelessly the Athenian public of his day retained the history of Peisistratus, only one century past;[1008] but the adventures of the gods and heroes, the numberless explanatory legends attached to visible objects and periodical ceremonies, were the theme of general talk, and any man unacquainted with them would have found himself partially excluded from the sympathy of his neighbors. The theatrical representations, exhibited to the entire city population, and listened to with enthusiastic interest, both presupposed and perpetuated acquaintance with the great lines of heroic fable: indeed, in later times even the pantomimic dancers embraced in their representations the whole field of mythical incident, and their immense success proves at once how popular and how well known such subjects were. The names and attributes of the heroes were incessantly alluded to in the way of illustration, to point out a consoling, admonitory, or repressive moral: the simple mention of any of them sufficed to call up in every one’s mind the principal events of his life, and the poet or rhapsode could thus calculate on touching chords not less familiar than susceptible.[1009]

[p. 455]A similar effect was produced by the multiplied religious festivals and processions, as well as by the oracles and prophecies[p. 456] which circulated in every city. The annual departure of the Theôric ship from Athens to the sacred island of Dêlos, kept alive, in the minds of Athenians generally, the legend of Thêseus and his adventurous enterprise in Krete;[1010] and in like manner most of the other public rites and ceremonies were of a commemorative character, deduced from some mythical person or incident familiarly known to natives, and forming to strangers a portion of the curiosities of the place.[1011] During the period of Grecian subjection under the Romans, these curiosities, together with their works of art and their legends, were especially clung to as a set-off against present degradation. The Thêban citizen who found himself restrained from the liberty enjoyed by all other Greeks, of consulting Amphiaräus as a prophet, though the sanctuary and chapel of the hero stood in his own city[p. 457]—could not be satisfied without a knowledge of the story which explained the origin of such prohibition,[1012] and which conducted him back to the originally hostile relations between Amphiaräus and Thêbes. Nor can we suppose among the citizens of Sikyôn anything less than a perfect and reverential conception of the legend of Thêbes, when we read the account given by Herodotus of the conduct of the despot Kleisthenês in regard to Adrastus and Melanippus.[1013] The Trœzenian youths and maidens,[1014] who universally, when on the eve of marriage, consecrated an offering of their hair at the Herôon of Hippolytus, maintained a lively recollection of the legend of that unhappy recusant whom Aphroditê had so cruelly punished. Abundant relics preserved in many Grecian cities and temples, served both as mementos and attestations of other legendary events; and the tombs of the heroes counted among the most powerful stimulants of mythical reminiscence. The sceptre of Pelops and Agamemnôn, still preserved in the days of Pausanias at Chæroneia in Bœôtia, was the work of the god Hêphæstos. While many other alleged productions of the same divine hand were preserved in different cities of Greece, this is the only one which Pausanias himself believed to be genuine: it had been carried by Elektra, daughter of Agamemnôn to Phôkis, and received divine honors from the citizens of Chæroneia.[1015] The spears of Mêrionês and Odysseus were treasured up at Engyium in Sicily, that of Achilles at Phasêlis; the sword of Memnôn adorned the temple of Asklêpius at Nicomêdia; and Pausanias, with unsuspecting confidence, adduces the two latter as proofs that the arms of the heroes were made of brass.[1016] The hide of the Kalydônian boar was guarded and shown by the Tegeates as a precious possession; the shield of Euphorbus was in like manner suspended in the temple of Branchidæ near Milêtus, as well as in the temple of Hêrê in Argos. Visible[p. 458] relics of Epeius and Philoktêtês were not wanting, while Strabo raises his voice with indignation against the numerous Palladia which were shown in different cities, each pretending to be the genuine image from Troy.[1017] It would be impossible to specify the number of chapels, sanctuaries, solemnities, foundations of one sort or another, said to have been first commenced by heroic or mythical personages,—by Hêraklês, Jasôn, Mêdea, Alkmæôn, Diomêdês, Odysseus, Danaus, and his daughters,[1018] etc. Perhaps in some of these cases particular critics might raise objections, but the great bulk of the people entertained a firm and undoubted belief in the current legend.

If we analyze the intellectual acquisitions of a common Grecian townsman, from the rude communities of Arcadia or Phôkis even up to the enlightened Athens, we shall find that, over and above the rules of art or capacities requisite for his daily wants, it consisted chiefly of the various mythes connected with his gens, his city, his religious festivals, and the mysteries in which he might have chosen to initiate himself, as well as with the works of art and the more striking natural objects which he might see around him,—the whole set off and decorated by some knowledge of the epic and dramatic poets. Such was the intellectual and imaginative reach of an ordinary Greek, considered apart from the instructed few: it was an aggregate of religion, of social and patriotic retrospect, and of romantic fancy, blended into one indivisible faith. And thus the subjective value of the mythes, looking at them purely as elements of Grecian thought and feeling, will appear indisputably great, however little there may be of objective reality, either historical or philosophical, discoverable under them.

Nor must we omit the incalculable importance of the mythes as stimulants to the imagination of the Grecian artist in sculpture, in painting, in carving, and in architecture. From the divine and heroic legends and personages were borrowed those[p. 459] paintings, statues, and reliefs, which rendered the temples, porticos, and public buildings, at Athens and elsewhere, objects of surpassing admiration; and such visible reproduction contributed again to fix the types of the gods and heroes familiarly and indelibly on the public mind.[1019] The figures delineated on cups and vases, as well as on the walls of private houses, were chiefly drawn from the same source—the mythes being the great storehouse of artistic scenes and composition.

To enlarge on the characteristic excellence of Grecian art would here be out of place: I regard it only in so far as, having originally drawn its materials from the mythes, it reacted upon the mythical faith and imagination—the reaction imparting strength to the former as well as distinctness to the latter. To one who saw constantly before him representations of the battles of the Centaurs or the Amazons,[1020] of the exploits performed by Perseus and Bellerophôn, of the incidents composing the Trojan war or the Kalydônian boar-hunt—the process of belief, even in the more fantastic of these conceptions, became easy in proportion as the conception was familiarized. And if any person had been slow to believe in the efficacy of the prayers of Æakus, whereby that devout hero once obtained special relief from Zeus, at a moment when Greece was perishing with long-continued sterility, his doubts would probably vanish when, on visiting the Æakeion at Ægina, there were exhibited to him the statues of the very envoys who had come on the behalf of the distressed Greeks to solicit that Æakus would pray for them.[1021] A Grecian temple[1022] was not simply a place of worship, but the actual dwelling-place of a god, who was believed to be introduced by the solemn dedicatory ceremony, and whom the imagination of the people identified in the most intimate manner with his[p. 460] statue. The presence or removal of the statue was conceived as identical with that of the being represented,—and while the statue was solemnly washed, dressed, and tended with all the respectful solicitude which would have been bestowed upon a real person,[1023] miraculous tales were often rife respecting the manifestation of real internal feeling in the wood and the marble. At perilous or critical moments, the statue was affirmed to have sweated, to have wept, to have closed its eyes, or brandished the spear in its hands, in token of sympathy or indignation.[1024] Such legends, springing up usually in times of suffering and danger, and finding few men bold enough openly to contradict them, ran in complete harmony with the general mythical faith, and tended[p. 461] to strengthen it in all its various ramifications. The renewed activity of the god or hero both brought to mind and accredited the preëxisting mythes connected with his name. When Boreas, during the invasion of Greece by Xerxês, and in compliance with the fervent prayers of the Athenians, had sent forth a providential storm, to the irreparable damage of the Persian armada,[1025] the sceptical minority (alluded to by Plato), who doubted the mythe of Boreas and Oreithyia, and his close connection thus acquired with Erechtheus, and the Erechtheids generally, must for the time have been reduced to absolute silence.


I have already remarked that the existence of that popular narrative talk, which the Germans express by the significant word Sage or Volks-Sage, in a greater or less degree of perfection or development, is a phænomenon common to almost all stages of society and to almost all quarters of the globe. It is the natural effusion of the unlettered, imaginative, and believing man, and its maximum of influence belongs to an early state of the human mind; for the multiplication of recorded facts, the diffusion of positive science, and the formation of a critical standard of belief, tend to discredit its dignity and to repress its easy and[p. 462] abundant flow. It supplies to the poet both materials to recombine and adorn, and a basis as well as a stimulus for further inventions of his own; and this at a time when the poet is religious teacher, historian, and philosopher, all in one,—not, as he becomes at a more advanced period, the mere purveyor of avowed, though interesting, fiction.

Such popular stories, and such historical songs (meaning by historical, simply that which is accepted as history) are found in most quarters of the globe, and especially among the Teutonic and Celtic populations of early Europe. The old Gothic songs were cast into a continuous history by the historian Ablavius;[1026] and the poems of the Germans respecting Tuisto the earth-born god, his son Mannus, and his descendants the eponyms of the various German tribes,[1027] as they are briefly described by Tacitus, remind us of Hesiod, or Eumêlus, or the Homeric Hymns. Jacob Grimm, in his learned and valuable Deutsche Mythologie, has exhibited copious evidence of the great fundamental analogy, along with many special differences, between the German, Scandinavian, and Grecian mythical world; and the Dissertation of Mr. Price (prefixed to his edition of Warton’s History of English Poetry) sustains and illustrates Grimm’s view. The same personifying imagination—the same ever-present conception of the will, sympathies, and antipathies of the gods as the producing causes of phænomena, and as distinguished from a course of nature with its invariable sequence—the same relations between gods, heroes, and men, with the like difficulty of discriminating the one from the other in many individual names—a similar wholesale transfer of human attributes to the gods, with the absence of human limits and liabilities—a like belief in Nymphs, Giants, and other beings, neither gods nor men—the same coalescence of the religious with the patriotic feeling and faith—these are positive features common to the early Greeks with the early Germans: and the negative conditions of the two[p. 463] are not less analogous—the absence of prose writing, positive records, and scientific culture. The preliminary basis and encouragements for the mythopœic faculty were thus extremely similar.

But though the prolific forces were the same in kind, the results were very different in degree, and the developing circumstances were more different still.

First, the abundance, the beauty, and the long continuance of early Grecian poetry, in the purely poetical age, is a phænomenon which has no parallel elsewhere.

Secondly, the transition of the Greek mind from its poetical to its comparatively positive state was self-operated, accomplished by its own inherent and expansive force—aided indeed, but by no means either impressed or provoked, from without. From the poetry of Homer, to the history of Thucydidês and the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, was a prodigious step, but it was the native growth of the Hellenic youth into an Hellenic man; and what is of still greater moment, it was brought about without breaking the thread either of religious or patriotic tradition—without any coercive innovation or violent change in the mental feelings. The legendary world, though the ethical judgments and rational criticisms of superior men had outgrown it, still retained its hold upon their feelings as an object of affectionate and reverential retrospect.

Far different from this was the development of the early Germans. We know little about their early poetry, but we shall run no risk of error in affirming that they had nothing to compare with either Iliad or Odyssey. Whether, if left to themselves, they would have possessed sufficient progressive power to make a step similar to that of the Greeks, is a question which we cannot answer. Their condition, mental as well as political, was violently changed by a foreign action from without. The influence of the Roman empire introduced artificially among them new institutions, new opinions, habits, and luxuries, and, above all, a new religion; the Romanized Germans becoming themselves successively the instruments of this revolution with regard to such of their brethren as still remained heathen. It was a revolution often brought about by penal and coercive means: the[p. 464] old gods Thor and Woden were formally deposed and renounced, their images were crumbled into dust, and the sacred oaks of worship and prophecy hewn down. But even where conversion was the fruit of preaching and persuasion, it did not the less break up all the associations of a German with respect to that mythical world which he called his past, and of which the ancient gods constituted both the charm and the sanctity: he had now only the alternative of treating them either as men or as dæmons.[1028] That mixed religious and patriotic retrospect, formed by the coalescence of piety with ancestral feeling, which constituted the appropriate sentiment both of Greeks and of Germans towards their unrecorded antiquity, was among the latter banished by Christianity: and while the root of the old mythes was thus cankered, the commemorative ceremonies and customs with which they were connected, either lost their consecrated character or disappeared altogether. Moreover, new influences of great importance were at the same time brought to bear. The Latin language, together with some tinge of Latin literature—the habit of writing and of recording present events—the idea of a systematic law and pacific adjudication of disputes,—all these formed a part of the general working of Roman civilization, even after the decline of the Roman empire, upon the Teutonic and Celtic[p. 465] tribes. A class of specially-educated men was formed, upon a Latin basis and upon Christian principles, consisting too almost entirely of priests, who were opposed, as well by motives of rivalry as by religious feeling, to the ancient bards and storytellers of the community: the “lettered men”[1029] were constituted apart from “the men of story,” and Latin literature contributed along with religion to sink the mythes of untaught heathenism. Charlemagne, indeed, at the same time that he employed aggressive and violent proceedings to introduce Christianity among the Saxons, also took special care to commit to writing and preserve the old heathen songs. But there can be little doubt that this step was the suggestion of a large and enlightened understanding peculiar to himself. The disposition general among lettered Christians of that age is more accurately represented by his son Louis le Debonnaire, who, having learned these songs as a boy, came to abhor them when he arrived at mature years, and could never be induced either to repeat or tolerate them.[1030]

According to the old heathen faith, the pedigree of the Saxon, Anglian, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish kings,—probably also those of the German and Scandinavian kings generally,—was traced to Odin, or to some of his immediate companions or heroic sons.[1031] I have already observed that the value of these genealo[p. 466]gies consisted not so much in their length, as in the reverence attached to the name serving as primitive source. After the worship attached to Odin had been extinguished, the genealogical line was lengthened up to Japhet or Noah,—and Odin, no longer accounted worthy to stand at the top, was degraded into one of the simple human members of it.[1032] And we find this alteration of the original mythical genealogies to have taken place even among the Scandinavians, although the introduction of Christianity was in those parts both longer deferred, so as to[p. 467] leave time for a more ample development of the heathen poetical vein—and seems to have created a less decided feeling of antipathy (especially in Iceland) towards the extinct faith.[1033] The poems and tales composing the Edda, though first committed to writing after the period of Christianity, do not present the ancient gods in a point of view intentionally odious or degrading.

The transposition above alluded to, of the genealogical root from Odin to Noah, is the more worthy of notice, as it illustrates the genuine character of these genealogies, and shows that they sprung, not from any erroneous historical data, but from the turn of the religious feeling; also that their true value is derived from their being taken entire, as connecting the existing race of men with a divine original. If we could imagine that Grecian paganism had been superseded by Christianity in the year 500 B. C., the great and venerated gentile genealogies of Greece would have undergone the like modification; the Herakleids, Pelopids, Æakids, Asklêpiads, etc., would have been merged in some larger aggregate branching out from the archæology of the Old Testament. The old heroic legends connected with these ancestral names would either have been forgotten, or so transformed as to suit the new vein of thought; for the altered worship, ceremonies, and customs would have been altogether at variance with them, and the mythical feeling would have ceased to dwell upon those to whom prayers were no longer offered. If the oak of Dôdôna had been cut down, or the Theôric ship had ceased to be sent from Athens to Dêlos, the mythes of Theseus and of the two black doves would have lost their pertinence, and died away. As it was, the change from Homer to Thucydidês and Aristotle took place internally, gradually, and imperceptibly. Philosophy and history were superinduced in the minds of the superior few, but the feelings of the general public continued unshaken—the sacred objects remained the same both to the eye and to the heart[p. 468]—and the worship of the ancient gods was even adorned by new architects and sculptors who greatly strengthened its imposing effect.

While then in Greece the mythopœic stream continued in the same course, only with abated current and influence, in modern Europe its ancient bed was blocked up, and it was turned into new and divided channels. The old religion—though as an ascendent faith, unanimously and publicly manifested, it became extinct—still continued in detached scraps and fragments, and under various alterations of name and form. The heathen gods and goddesses, deprived as they were of divinity, did not pass out of the recollection and fears of their former worshippers, but were sometimes represented (on principles like those of Euêmerus) as having been eminent and glorious men—sometimes degraded into dæmons, magicians, elfs, fairies, and other supernatural agents, of an inferior grade and generally mischievous cast. Christian writers, such as Saxo Grammaticus and Snorro Sturleson, committed to writing the ancient oral songs of the Scandinavian Scalds, and digested the events contained in them into continuous narrative—performing in this respect a task similar to that of the Grecian logographers Pherekydês and Hellanikus, in reference to Hesiod and the Cyclic poets. But while Pherekydês and Hellanikus compiled under the influence of feelings substantially the same as those of the poets on whom they bestowed their care, the Christian logographers felt it their duty to point out the Odin and Thor of the old Scalds as evil dæmons, or cunning enchanters, who had fascinated the minds of men into a false belief in their divinity.[1034] In some cases, the heathen recitals and ideas[p. 469] were modified so as to suit Christian feeling. But when preserved without such a change, they exhibited themselves palpably, and were designated by their compilers, as at variance with the religious belief of the people, and as associated either with imposture or with evil spirits.

A new vein of sentiment had arisen in Europe, unsuitable indeed to the old mythes, yet leaving still in force the demand for mythical narrative generally. And this demand was satisfied, speaking generally, by two classes of narratives,—the legends of the Catholic Saints and the Romances of Chivalry, corresponding to two types of character, both perfectly accommodated to the feelings of the time,—the saintly ideal and the chivalrous ideal.

Both these two classes of narrative correspond, in character as well as in general purpose, to the Grecian mythes—being stories accepted as realities, from their full conformity with the predispositions and deep-seated faith of an uncritical audience, and prepared beforehand by their authors, not with any reference to[p. 470] the conditions of historical proof, but for the purpose of calling forth sympathy, emotion, or reverence. The type of the saintly character belongs to Christianity, being the history of Jesus Christ as described in the gospels, and that of the prophets in the Old Testament; whilst the lives of holy men, who acquired a religious reputation from the fourth to the fourteenth century of the Christian æra, were invested with attributes, and illustrated with ample details, tending to assimilate them to this revered model. The numerous miracles, the cure of diseases, the expulsion of dæmons, the temptations and sufferings, the teachings and commands, with which the biography of Catholic saints abounds, grew chiefly out of this pious feeling, common to the writer and to his readers. Many of the other incidents, recounted in the same performances, take their rise from misinterpreted allegories, from ceremonies and customs of which it was pleasing to find a consecrated origin, or from the disposition to convert the etymology of a name into matter of history: many have also been suggested by local peculiarities, and by the desire of stimulating or justifying the devotional emotions of pilgrims who visited some consecrated chapel or image. The dove was connected, in the faith of the age, with the Holy Ghost, the serpent with Satan; lions, wolves, stags, unicorns, etc. were the subjects of other emblematic associations; and such modes of belief found expression for themselves in many narratives which brought the saints into conflict or conjoint action with these various animals. Legends of this kind, so indefinitely multiplied and so preëminently popular and affecting, in the Middle Ages, are not exaggerations of particular matters of fact, but emanations in detail of some current faith or feeling, which they served to satisfy, and by which they were in turn amply sustained and accredited.[1035]

[p. 471]

Every reader of Pausanias will recognize the great general analogy between the stories recounted to him at the temples which he visited, and these legends of the Middle Ages. Though the type of character which the latter illustrate is indeed materially different, yet the source as well as the circulation, the generating as well as the sustaining forces, were in both cases the same. Such legends were the natural growth of a religious faith,[p. 472] earnest, unexamining, and interwoven with the feelings at a time when the reason does not need to be cheated. The lives of the Saints bring us even back to the simple and ever-operative theology of the Homeric age; so constantly is the hand of God exhibited even in the minutest details, for the succor of a favored individual,—so completely is the scientific point of view, respecting the phænomena of nature, absorbed into the religious.[1036] During the intellectual vigor of Greece and Rome, a sense of the invariable course of nature and of the scientific explanation of phænomena had been created among the superior minds, and through them indirectly among the remaining community; thus limiting to a certain extent the ground open to be occupied by a religious legend. With the decline of the pagan literature and philosophy, before the sixth century of the Christian æra, this scientific conception gradually passed out of sight, and left the mind free to a religious interpretation of nature not less simple and naïf than that which had prevailed under the Homeric paganism.[1037] The great religious movement of the Reformation, and[p. 473] the gradual formation, of critical and philosophical habits in the modern mind, have caused these legends of the Saints,—once[p. 474] the charm and cherished creed of a numerous public,[1038] to pass altogether out of credit, without even being regarded, among Protestants at least, as worthy of a formal scrutiny into the evidence,—a proof of the transitory value of public belief, however sincere and fervent, as a certificate of historical truth, if it be blended with religious predispositions.

[p. 475]The same mythopœic vein, and the same susceptibility and facility of belief, which had created both supply and demand for the legends of the Saints, also provided the abundant stock of romantic narrative poetry, in amplification and illustration of the chivalrous ideal. What the legends of Troy, of Thêbes, of the Kalydônian boar, of Œdipus, Thêseus, etc. were to an early Greek, the tales of Arthur, of Charlemagne, of the Niebelungen, were to an Englishman, or Frenchman, or German, of the twelfth or thirteenth century. They were neither recognized fiction nor authenticated history: they were history, as it is felt and welcomed by minds unaccustomed to investigate evidence, and unconscious of the necessity of doing so. That the Chronicle of Turpin, a mere compilation of poetical legends respecting Charlemagne, was accepted as genuine history, and even pronounced to be such by papal authority, is well known; and the authors of the Romances announce themselves, not less than those of the old Grecian epic, as being about to recount real matter of fact.[1039] It is certain that Charlemagne is a great historical name, and it[p. 476] is possible, though not certain, that the name of Arthur may be historical also. But the Charlemagne of history, and the Charlemagne of romance, have little except the name in common nor could we ever determine, except by independent evidence (which in this case we happen to possess), whether Charlemagne was a real or a fictitious person.[1040] That illustrious name, as well as the more problematical Arthur, is taken up by the romancers, not with a view to celebrate realities previously verified, but for the purpose of setting forth or amplifying an ideal of their own, in such manner as both to rouse the feelings and captivate the faith of their hearers.

To inquire which of the personages of the Carlovingian epic were real and which were fictitious,—to examine whether the expedition ascribed to Charlemagne against Jerusalem had ever taken place or not,—to separate truth from exaggeration in the exploits of the Knights of the Round Table,—these were prob[p. 477]lems which an audience of that day had neither disposition to undertake nor means to resolve. They accepted the narrative as they heard it, without suspicion or reserve; the incidents related, as well as the connecting links between them, were in full harmony with their feelings, and gratifying as well to their sympathies as to their curiosity: nor was anything farther wanting to induce them to believe it, though the historical basis might be ever so slight or even non-existent.[1041]

[p. 478]

The romances of chivalry represented, to those who heard them, real deeds of the foretime—“glories of the foregone men,” to use the Hesiodic expression[1042]—at the same time that they embodied and filled up the details of an heroic ideal, such as that age could conceive and admire—a fervent piety, combined with strength, bravery, and the love of adventurous aggression, directed sometimes against infidels, sometimes against enchanters or monsters, sometimes in defence of the fair sex. Such characteristics wore naturally popular, in a century of feudal struggles and uni[p. 479]versal insecurity, when the grand subjects of common respect and interest were the Church and the Crusades, and when the latter especially were embraced with an enthusiasm truly astonishing.

The long German poem of the Niebelungen Lied, as well as the Volsunga Saga and a portion of the songs of the Edda, relate to a common fund of mythical, superhuman personages, and of fabulous adventure, identified with the earliest antiquity of the Teutonic and Scandinavian race, and representing their primitive sentiment towards ancestors of divine origin. Sigurd, Brynhilde, Gudrun, and Atle, are mythical characters celebrated as well by the Scandinavian Scalds as by the German epic poets, but with many varieties and separate additions to distinguish the one from the other. The German epic, later and more elaborated, includes various persons not known to the songs in the Edda, in particular the prominent name of Dieterich of Bern—presenting, moreover, the principal characters and circumstances as Christian, while in the Edda there is no trace of anything but heathenism. There is, indeed, in this the old and heathen version, a remarkable analogy with many points of Grecian mythical narrative. As in the case of the short life of Achilles, and of the miserable Labdakids of Thêbes—so in the family of the Volsungs, though sprung from and protected by the gods—a curse of destiny hangs upon them and brings on their ruin, in spite of preëminent personal qualities.[1043] The more thoroughly this old Teutonic story has been traced and compared, in its various transformations and accompaniments, the less can any well-established connection be made out for it with authentic historical names or events. We must acquiesce in its personages as distinct in original conception from common humanity, and as belonging to the subjective mythical world of the race by whom they were sung.

Such were the compositions which not only interested the[p. 480] emotions, but also satisfied the undistinguishing historical curiosity, of the ordinary public in the middle ages. The exploits of many of these romantic heroes resemble in several points those of the Grecian: the adventures of Perseus, Achilles, Odysseus, Atalanta, Bellerophôn, Jasôn, and the Trojan war, or Argonautic expedition generally, would have fitted in perfectly to the Carlovingian or other epics of the period.[1044] That of the middle ages,[p. 481] like the Grecian, was eminently expansive in its nature: new stories were successively attached to the names and companions of Charlemagne and Arthur, just as the legend of Troy was enlarged by Arktinus, Leschês, and Stesichorus,—that of Thêbes, by fresh miseries entailed on the fated head of Œdipus,—and that of the Kalydônian boar, by the addition of Atalanta. Altogether, the state of mind of the hearers seems in both cases to have been much the same,—eager for emotion and sympathy, and receiving any narrative attuned to their feelings, not merely with hearty welcome, but also with unsuspecting belief.

Nevertheless, there were distinctions deserving of notice, which render the foregoing proposition more absolutely exact with regard to Greece than with regard to the middle ages. The tales of the epic, and the mythes in their most popular and extended signification, were the only intellectual nourishment with which the Grecian public was supplied, until the sixth century before the Christian æra: there was no prose writing, no history, no philosophy. But such was not exactly the case at the time when the epic of the middle ages appeared. At that time, a portion of society possessed the Latin language, the habit of writing, and some tinge both of history and philosophy: there were a series of chronicles, scanty, indeed, and imperfect, but referring to con[p. 482]temporary events and preventing the real history of the past from passing into oblivion: there were even individual scholars, in the twelfth century, whose acquaintance with Latin literature was sufficiently considerable to enlarge their minds and to improve their judgments. Moreover, the epic of the middle ages, though deeply imbued with religious ideas, was not directly amalgamated with the religion of the people, and did not always find favor with the clergy; while the heroes of the Grecian epic were not only linked in a thousand ways with existing worship, practices, and sacred localities, but Homer and Hesiod pass with Herodotus for the constructors of Grecian theology. We thus see that the ancient epic was both exempt from certain distracting influences by which that of the middle ages was surrounded, and more closely identified with the veins of thought and feeling prevalent in the Grecian public. Yet these counteracting influences did not prevent Pope Calixtus II. from declaring the Chronicle of Turpin to be a genuine history.

If we take the history of our own country as it was conceived and written from the twelfth to the seventeenth century by Hardyng, Fabyan, Grafton, Hollinshed, and others, we shall find that it was supposed to begin with Brute the Trojan, and was carried down from thence, for many ages and through a long succession of kings, to the times of Julius Cæsar. A similar belief of descent from Troy, arising seemingly from a reverential imitation of the Romans and of their Trojan origin, was cherished in the fancy of other European nations. With regard to the English, the chief circulator of it was Geoffrey of Monmouth, and it passed with little resistance or dispute into the national faith—the kings from Brute downward being enrolled in regular chronological series with their respective dates annexed. In a dispute which took place during the reign of Edward I. (A. D. 1301) between England and Scotland, the descent of the kings of England from Brute the Trojan was solemnly embodied in a document put forth to sustain the rights of the crown of England, as an argument bearing on the case then in discussion: and it passed without attack from the opposing party,[1045]—an incident which[p. 483] reminds us of the appeal made by Æschinês, in the contention between the Athenians and Philip of Macedôn, respecting Amphipolis, to the primitive dotal rights of Akamas son of Thêseus—and also of the defence urged by the Athenians to sustain their conquest of Sigeium, against the reclamations of the Mitylenæans, therein the former alleged that they had as much right to the place as any of the other Greeks who had formed part of the victorious armament of Agamemnôn.[1046]

The tenacity with which this early series of British kings was defended, is no less remarkable than the facility with which it was admitted. The chroniclers at the beginning of the seventeenth century warmly protested against the intrusive scepticism which would cashier so many venerable sovereigns and efface so many noble deeds. They appealed to the patriotic feelings of their hearers, represented the enormity of thus setting up a presumptuous criticism against the belief of ages, and insisted on the danger of the precedent as regarded history generally.[1047] How this controversy stood, at the time and in the view of the illus[p. 484]trious author of Paradise Lost, I shall give in his own words, as they appear in the second page of his History of England. After having briefly touched upon the stories of Samothes son of Japhet, Albion son of Neptune, etc., he proceeds:—

“But now of Brutus and his line, with the whole progeny of kings to the entrance of Julius Cæsar, we cannot so easily be discharged: descents of ancestry long continued, laws and exploits not plainly seeming to be borrowed or devised, which on the common belief have wrought no small impression: defended by many, denied utterly by few. For what though Brutus and the whole Trojan pretence were yielded up, seeing they, who first devised to bring us some noble ancestor, were content at first with Brutus the Consul, till better invention, though not willing to forego the name, taught them to remove it higher into a more fabulous age, and by the same remove lighting on the Trojan tales, in affectation to make the Briton of one original with the Roman, pitched there: Yet those old and inborn kings, never any to have been real persons, or done in their lives at least some part of what so long hath been remembered, cannot be thought without too strict incredulity. For these, and those causes above mentioned, that which hath received approbation from so many, I have chosen not to omit. Certain or uncertain, be that upon the credit of those whom I must follow: so far as keeps aloof from impossible or absurd, attested by ancient writers from books more ancient, I refuse not, as the due and proper subject of story.”[1048]

Yet in spite of the general belief of so many centuries—in spite of the concurrent persuasion of historians and poets—in spite of the declaration of Milton, extorted from his feelings rather than from his reason, that this long line of quasi-historical kings and exploits could not be all unworthy of belief—in spite of so large a body of authority and precedent, the historians of the nineteenth century begin the history of England with Julius Cæsar. They do not attempt either to settle the date of king Bladud’s accession, or to determine what may be the basis of truth in the affecting narrative of Lear.[1049] The standard of his[p. 485]torical credibility, especially with regard to modern events, has indeed been greatly and sensibly raised within the last hundred years.

But in regard to ancient Grecian history, the rules of evidence still continue relaxed. The dictum of Milton, regarding the ante-Cæsarian history of England, still represents pretty exactly the feeling now prevalent respecting the mythical history of Greece: “Yet those old and inborn kings (Agamemnôn, Achilles, Odysseus, Jasôn, Adrastus, Amphiaräus, Meleager, etc.), never any to have been real persons, or done in their lives at least some part of what so long hath been remembered, cannot be thought without too strict incredulity.” Amidst much fiction (we are still told), there must be some truth: but how is such truth to be singled out? Milton does not even attempt to make the severance: he contents himself with “keeping aloof from the impossible and the absurd,” and ends in a narrative which has indeed the merit of being sober-colored, but which he never for a moment thinks of recommending to his readers as true. So in regard to the legends of Greece,—Troy, Thêbes, the Argonauts, the Boar of Kalydôn, Hêraklês, Thêseus, Œdipus,—the conviction still holds in men’s minds, that there must be something true at the bottom; and many readers of this work may be displeased, I fear, not to see conjured up before them the Eidôlon of an authentic history, even though the vital spark of evidence be altogether wanting.[1050]

[p. 486]

I presume to think that our great poet has proceeded upon mistaken views with respect to the old British fables, not less in[p. 487] that which he leaves out than in that which he retains. To omit the miraculous and the fantastic, (it is that which he really means by “the impossible and the absurd,”) is to suck the lifeblood out of these once popular narratives,—to divest them at once both of their genuine distinguishing mark, and the charm by which they acted on the feelings of believers. Still less ought we to consent to break up and disenchant in a similar manner the mythes of ancient Greece,—partly because they possess the mythical beauties and characteristics in far higher perfection, partly because they sank deeper into the mind of a Greek, and pervaded both the public and private sentiment of the country to a much greater degree than the British fables in England.

Two courses, and two only, are open; either to pass over the mythes altogether, which is the way in which modern historians treat the old British fables, or else to give an account of them as mythes; to recognize and respect their specific nature, and to abstain from confounding them with ordinary and certifiable history. There are good reasons for pursuing this second method in reference to the Grecian mythes; and when so considered, they constitute an important chapter in the history of the Grecian mind, and indeed in that of the human race generally. The historical faith of the Greeks, as well as that of other people, in reference to early and unrecorded times, is as much subjective and peculiar to themselves as their religious faith: among the Greeks, especially, the two are confounded with an intimacy which nothing less than great violence can disjoin. Gods, heroes, and men—religion and patriotism—matters divine, heroic, and human—were all woven together by the Greeks into one indivisible web, in which the threads of truth and reality, whatever they might originally have been, were neither intended to be,[p. 488] nor were actually, distinguishable. Composed of such materials, and animated by the electric spark of genius, the mythical antiquities of Greece formed a whole at once trustworthy and captivating to the faith and feelings of the people; but neither trustworthy nor captivating, when we sever it from these subjective conditions, and expose its naked elements to the scrutiny of an objective criticism. Moreover, the separate portions of Grecian mythical foretime ought to be considered with reference to that aggregate of which they form a part: to detach the divine from the heroic legends, or some one of the heroic legends from the remainder, as if there were an essential and generic difference between them, is to present the whole under an erroneous point of view. The mythes of Troy and Thêbes are no more to be handled objectively, with a view to detect an historical base, than those of Zeus in Krête, of Apollo and Artemis in Dêlos, of Hermês, or of Promêtheus. To single out the Siege of Troy from the other mythes, as if it were entitled to preëminence as an ascertained historical and chronological event, is a proceeding which destroys the true character and coherence of the mythical world: we only transfer the story (as has been remarked in the preceding chapter) from a class with which it is connected by every tie both of common origin and fraternal affinity, to another with which it has no relationship, except such as violent and gratuitous criticism may enforce.

By drawing this marked distinction between the mythical and the historical world,—between matter appropriate only for subjective history, and matter in which objective evidence is attainable,—we shall only carry out to its proper length the just and well-known position long ago laid down by Varro. That learned man recognized three distinguishable periods in the time preceding his own age: “First, the time from the beginning of mankind down to the first deluge; a time wholly unknown. Secondly, the period from the first deluge down to the first Olympiad, which is called the mythical period, because many fabulous things are recounted in it. Thirdly, the time from the first Olympiad down to ourselves, which is called the historical period, because the things done in it are comprised in true histories.”[1051]

[p. 489]

Taking the commencement of true or objective history at the point indicated by Varro, I still consider the mythical and historical periods to be separated by a wider gap than he would have admitted. To select any one year as an absolute point of commencement, is of course not to be understood literally: but in point of fact, this is of very little importance in reference to the present question, seeing that the great mythical events—the sieges of Thêbes and Troy, the Argonautic expedition, the Kalydônian boar-hunt, the Return of the Hêrakleids, etc.—are all placed long anterior to the first Olympiad, by those who have applied chronological boundaries to the mythical narratives. The period immediately preceding the first Olympiad is one exceedingly barren of events; the received chronology recognizes four hundred years, and Herodotus admitted five hundred years, from that date back to the Trojan war.


[1] Xenophon, Repub. Lacedæmon. cap. xiii. 3. Ἀεὶ δὲ, ὅταν θύηται, ἄρχεται μὲν τούτου τοῦ ἔργου ἔτι κνεφαῖος, προλαμβάνειν βουλόμενος τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ εὔνοιαν.

[2] It is sufficient, here, to state this position briefly: more will be said respecting the allegorizing interpretation in a future chapter.

[3] See Iliad, viii. 405, 463; xv. 20, 130, 185. Hesiod, Theog. 885.

This unquestioned supremacy is the general representation of Zeus: at the same time the conspiracy of Hêrê, Poseidôn, and Athênê against him, suppressed by the unexpected apparition of Briareus as his ally, is among the exceptions. (Iliad, i. 400.) Zeus is at one time vanquished by Titan, but rescued by Hermês. (Apollodôr. i. 6, 3).

[4] Arist. Polit. i. 1. ὥσπερ δὲ καὶ τὰ εἴδη ἑαυτοῖς ἀφομοιοῦσιν ἄνθρωποι, οὕτως καὶ τοὺς βίους, τῶν θεῶν.

[5] Hesiod, Theog. 116. Apollodôrus begins with Uranos and Gæa (i. 1.); he does not recognize Erôs, Nyx, or Erebos.

[6] Hesiod, Theog. 140, 156. Apollod. ut sup.

[7] Hesiod, Theog. 160, 182. Apollod. i. 1, 4.

[8] Hesiod, Theog. 192. This legend respecting the birth of Aphroditê seems to have been derived partly from her name (ἀφρὸς, foam), partly from the surname Urania, Ἀφροδίτη Οὐρανία, under which she was so very extensively worshipped, especially both in Cyprus and Cythêra, seemingly originated in both islands by the Phœnicians. Herodot. i. 105. Compare the instructive section in Boeckh’s Metrologie, c. iv. § 4.

[9] Hesiod, Theog. 452, 487. Apollod. i. 1, 6.

[10] Hesiod, Theog. 498.—

Τὸν μὲν Ζεὺς στήριξε κατὰ χθονὸς εὐρυοδείης

Πυθοῖ ἐν ἠγαθέῃ, γυάλοις ὑπὸ Παρνησοῖο,

Σῆμ᾽ ἔμεν ἐξοπίσω, θαῦμα θνητοῖσι βροτοῖσι.

[11] Hesiod, Theog. 212-232.

[12] Hesiod, Theog. 240-320. Apollodôr. i. 2, 6, 7.

[13] Hesiod, Theog. 385-403.

[14] Hesiod, Theog. 140, 624, 657. Apollodôr. i. 2, 4.

[15] The battle with the Titans, Hesiod, Theog. 627-735. Hesiod mentions nothing about the Gigantes and the Gigantomachia: Apollodôrus, on the other hand, gives this latter in some detail, but despatches the Titans in a few words (i. 2, 4; i. 6, 1). The Gigantes seem to be only a second edition of the Titans,—a sort of duplication to which the legendary poets were often inclined.

[16] Hesiod, Theog. 820-869. Apollod. i. 6, 3. He makes Typhôn very nearly victorious over Zeus. Typhôeus, according to Hesiod, is father of the irregular, violent, and mischievous winds: Notus, Boreas, Argestês and Zephyrus, are of divine origin (870).

[17] Hesiod, Theog. 885-900.

[18] Apollod. i. 3, 6.

[19] Hesiod, Theog. 900-944.

[20] Homer, Iliad, xviii. 397.

[21] See Burckhardt, Homer, und Hesiod. Mythologie, sect. 102. (Leipz. 1844).

[22] Λιμὸς—Hunger—is a person, in Hesiod, Opp. Di. 299.

[23] See Göttling, Præfat. ad Hesiod. p. 23.

[24] Iliad, xiv. 249; xix. 259. Odyss. v. 184. Oceanus and Têthys seem to be presented in the Iliad as the primitive Father and Mother of the Gods:—

Ὠκεανόν τε θεῶν γένεσιν, καὶ μητέρα Τηθύν. (xiv. 201).

[25] Odyss. ix. 87.

[26] Iliad, i. 401.

[27] Iliad, xiv. 203-295; xv. 204.

[28] Iliad, viii. 482; xiv. 274-279. In the Hesiodic Opp. et Di., Kronos is represented as ruling in the Islands of the Blest in the neighborhood of Oceanus (v. 168).

[29] See the few fragments of the Titanomachia, in Düntzer, Epic. Græc. Fragm. p. 2; and Hyne, ad Apollodôr. I. 2. Perhaps there was more than one poem on the subject, though it seems that Athenæus had only read one (viii. p. 277).

In the Titanomachia, the generations anterior to Zeus were still further lengthened by making Uranos the son of Æthêr (Fr. 4. Düntzer). Ægæon was also represented as son of Pontus and Gæa, and as having fought in the ranks of the Titans; in the Iliad he (the same who is called Briareus) is the fast ally of Zeus.

A Titanographia was ascribed to Musæus (Schol. Apollôn. Rhod. iii. 1178; compare Lactant. de Fals. Rel. i. 21).

[30] That the Hesiodic Theogony is referable to an age considerably later than the Homeric poems, appears now to be the generally admitted opinion; and the reasons for believing so are, in my opinion, satisfactory. Whether the Theogony is composed by the same author as the Works and Days is a disputed point. The Bœotian literati in the days of Pausanias decidedly denied the identity, and ascribed to their Hesiod only the Works and Days: Pausanias himself concurs with them (ix. 31. 4; ix. 35. 1), and Völcker (Mithologie des Japetisch. Geschlechts, p. 14) maintains the same opinion, as well as Göttling (Præf. ad Hesiod. xxi.): K. O. Müller (History of Grecian Literature, ch. 8. § 4) thinks that there is not sufficient evidence to form a decisive opinion.

Under the name of Hesiod (in that vague language which is usual in antiquity respecting authorship, but which modern critics have not much mended by speaking of the Hesiodic school, sect, or family) passed many different poems, belonging to three classes quite distinct from each other, but all disparate from the Homeric epic:—1. The poems of legend cast into historical and genealogical series, such as the Eoiai, the Catalogue of Women, etc. 2. The poems of a didactic or ethical tendency, such as the Works and Days, the Precepts of Cheirôn, the Art of Augural Prophecy, etc. 3. Separate and short mythical compositions, such as the Shield of Hêraklês, the Marriage of Keyx (which, however, was of disputed authenticity, Athenæ. ii. p. 49), the Epithalamium of Pêleus and Thetis, etc. (See Marktscheffel, Præfat. ad Fragment. Hesiod. p. 89).

The Theogony belongs chiefly to the first of these classes, but it has also a dash of the second in the legend of Promêtheus, etc.: moreover in the portion which respects Hekatê, it has both a mystic character and a distinct bearing upon present life and customs, which we may also trace in the allusions to Krête and Delphi. There seems reason to place it in the same age with the Works and Days, perhaps in the half century preceding 700 B. C., and little, if at all, anterior to Archilochus. The poem is evidently conceived upon one scheme, yet the parts are so disorderly and incoherent, that it is difficult to say how much is interpolation. Hermann has well dissected the exordium; see the preface to Gaisford’s Hesiod (Poetæ Minor. p. 63).

K. O. Müller tells us (ut sup. p. 90), “The Titans, according to the notions of Hesiod, represent a system of things in which elementary beings, natural powers, and notions of order and regularity are united to form a whole. The Cyclôpes denote the transient disturbances of this order of nature by storms, and the Hekatoncheires, or hundred-handed Giants, signify the fearful power of the greater revolutions of nature.” The poem affords little presumption that any such ideas were present to the mind of its author, as, I think, will be seen if we read 140-155, 630-745.

The Titans, the Cyclôpes, and the Hekatoncheires, can no more be construed into physical phænomena than Chrysaor, Pegasus, Echidna, the Grææ, or the Gorgons. Zeus, like Hêraklês, or Jasôn, or Perseus, if his adventures are to be described, must have enemies, worthy of himself and his vast type, and whom it is some credit for him to overthrow. Those who contend with him or assist him must be conceived on a scale fit to be drawn on the same imposing canvas: the dwarfish proportions of man will not satisfy the sentiment of the poet or his audience respecting the grandeur and glory of the gods. To obtain creations of adequate sublimity for such an object, the poet may occasionally borrow analogies from the striking accidents of physical nature, and when such an allusion manifests itself clearly, the critic does well to point it out. But it seems to me a mistake to treat these approximations to physical phænomena as forming the main scheme of the poet,—to look for them everywhere, and to presume them where there is little or no indication.

[31] The strongest evidences of this feeling are exhibited in Herodotus, iii. 48; viii. 105. See an example of this mutilation inflicted upon a youth named Adamas by the Thracian king Kotys, in Aristot. Polit. v. 8, 12, and the tale about the Corinthian Periander, Herod. iii. 48.

It is an instance of the habit, so frequent among the Attic tragedians, of ascribing Asiatic or Phrygian manners to the Trojans, when Sophoclês in his lost play Troilus (ap. Jul. Poll. x. 165) introduced one of the characters of his drama as having been castrated by order of Hecuba, Σκαλμῇ γὰρ ὄρχεις βασιλὶς ἐκτέμνουσ᾽ ἐμούς,—probably the Παιδαγωγὸς, or guardian and companion of the youthful Troilus. See Welcker, Griechisch. Tragöd. vol. i. p. 125.

[32] Herodot. viii. 105, εὐνοῦχοι. Lucian, De Deâ Syriâ, c. 50. Strabo, xiv. pp. 640-641.

[33] Diodôr. v. 64. Strabo, x. p. 460. Hoeckh, in his learned work Krêta (vol. i. books 1 and 2), has collected all the information attainable respecting the early influences of Phrygia and Asia Minor upon Krête: nothing seems ascertainable except the general fact; all the particular evidences are lamentably vague.

The worship of the Diktæan Zeus seemed to have originally belonged to the Eteokrêtes, who were not Hellens, and were more akin to the Asiatic population than to the Hellenic. Strabo, x. p. 478. Hoeckh, Krêta, vol. i. p. 139.

[34] Hesiod, Theogon. 161,

Αἶψα δὲ ποιήσασα γένος πολιοῦ ἀδάμαντος,

Τεῦξε μέγα δρέπανον, etc.

See the extract from the old poem Phorônis ap. Schol. Apoll. Rhod. 1129; and Strabo, x. p. 472.

[35] See the scanty fragments of the Orphic theogony in Hermann’s edition of the Orphica, pp. 448, 504, which it is difficult to understand and piece together, even with the aid of Lobeck’s elaborate examination (Aglaophamus, p. 470, etc.). The passages are chiefly preserved by Proclus and the later Platonists, who seem to entangle them almost inextricably with their own philosophical ideas.

The first few lines of the Orphic Argonautica contain a brief summary of the chief points of the theogony.

[36] See Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 472-476, 490-500, Μῆτιν σπέρμα φέροντα θεῶν κλυτὸν Ἠρικεπαῖον; again, Θῆλυς καὶ γενέτωρ κρατερὸς θεὸς Ἠρικέπαιος. Compare Lactant. iv. 8, 4: Suidas, v. Φάνης: Athenagoras, xx. 296: Diodôr. i. 27.

This egg figures, as might be expected, in the cosmogony set forth by the Birds, Aristophan. Av. 695. Nyx gives birth to an egg, out of which steps the golden Erôs, from Erôs and Chaos spring the race of birds.

[37] Lobeck, Ag. p. 504. Athenagor. xv. p. 64.

[38] Lobeck, Ag. p. 507. Plato, Timæus, p. 41. In the Διονύσου τρόφοι of Æschylus, the old attendants of the god Dionysos were said to have been cut up and boiled in a caldron, and rendered again young, by Medeia. Pherecydês and Simonidês said that Jasôn himself had been so dealt with. Schol. Aristoph. Equit. 1321.

[39] Lobeck, p. 514. Porphyry, de Antro Nympharum, c. 16. φησὶ γὰρ παρ᾽ Ὀρφεῖ ἡ Νὺξ, τῷ Διῒ ὑποτιθεμένη τὸν διὰ τοῦ μέλιτος δόλον,

Εὖτ᾽ ἂν δή μιν ἴδηαι ὑπὸ δρυσὶν ὑψικόμοισι

Ἔργοισιν μεθύοντα μελισσάων ἐριβόμβων,

Αὔτικά μιν δῆσον.

Ὃ καὶ πάσχει ὁ Κρόνος καὶ δεθεὶς ἐκτέμνεται, ὡς Οὐρανός.

Compare Timæus ap. Schol. Apoll. Rhod. iv. 983.

[40] The Cataposis of Phanês by Zeus one of the most memorable points of the Orphic Theogony. Lobeck, p. 519.; also Fragm. vi. p. 456 of Hermann’s Orphica.

From this absorption and subsequent reproduction of all things by Zeus, flowed the magnificent string of Orphic predicates about him,—

Ζεὺς ἀρχὴ, Ζεὺς μέσσα, Διὸς δ᾽ ἐκ πάντα τέτυκται,—

an allusion to which is traceable even in Plato, de Legg. iv. p. 715. Plutarch, de Defectu Oracul. T. ix. p. 379. c. 48. Diodôrus (i. 11) is the most ancient writer remaining to us who mentions the name of Phanês, in a line cited as proceeding from Orpheus; wherein, however, Phanês is identified with Dionysos. Compare Macrobius, Saturnal. i. 18.

[41] About the tale of Zagreus, see Lobeck, p. 552, sqq. Nonnus in his Dionysiaca has given many details about it:—

Ζαγρέα γειναμένη κέροεν βρέφος, etc. (vi. 264).

Clemens Alexandrin. Admonit. ad Gent. p. 11, 12, Sylb. The story was treated both by Callimachus and by Euphoriôn, Etymolog. Magn. v. Ζαγρεὺς, Schol. Lycophr. 208. In the old epic poem Alkmæônis or Epigoni, Zagreus is a surname of Hadês. See Fragm. 4, p. 7, ed. Düntzer. Respecting the Orphic Theogony generally, Brandis (Handbuch der Geschichte der Griechisch-Römisch. Philosophie, c. xvii., xviii.), K. O. Müller (Prolegg. Mythol. pp. 379-396), and Zoega (Abhandlungen, v. pp. 211-263) may be consulted with much advantage. Brandis regards this Theogony as considerably older than the first Ionic philosophy, which is a higher antiquity than appears probable: some of the ideas which it contains, such, for example, as that of the Orphic egg, indicate a departure from the string of purely personal generations which both Homer and Hesiod exclusively recount, and a resort to something like physical analogies. On the whole, we cannot reasonably claim for it more than half a century above the age of Onomakritus. The Theogony of Pherekydês of Syros seems to have borne some analogy to the Orphic. See Diogen. Laërt. i. 119, Sturz. Fragment. Pherekyd. § 5-6, Brandis, Handbuch, ut sup. c. xxii. Pherekydês partially deviated from the mythical track or personal successions set forth by Hesiod. ἐπεὶ οἵ γε μεμιγμένοι αὐτῶν καὶ τῷ μὴ μυθικῶς ἅπαντα λέγειν, οἷον Φερεκύδης καὶ ἑτεροί τινες, etc. (Aristot. Metaphys. N. p. 301, ed. Brandis). Porphyrias, de Antro Nymphar. c. 31, καὶ τοῦ Συρίου Φερεκύδου μυχοὺς καὶ βόθρους καὶ ἄντρα καὶ θύρας καὶ πύλας λέγοντος, καὶ διὰ τούτων αἰνιττομένου τὰς τῶν ψυχῶν γενέσεις καὶ ἀπογενέσεις, etc. Eudêmus the Peripatetic, pupil of Aristotle, had drawn up an account of the Orphic Theogony as well as of the doctrines of Pherekydês, Akusilaus and others, which was still in the hands of the Platonists of the fourth century, though it is now lost. The extracts which we find seem all to countenance the belief that the Hesiodic Theogony formed the basis upon which they worked. See about Akusilaus, Plato, Sympos. p. 178. Clem. Alex. Strom. p. 629.

[42] The Orphic Theogony is never cited in the ample Scholia on Homer, though Hesiod is often alluded to. (See Lobeck, Aglaoph. p. 540). Nor can it have been present to the minds of Xenophanês and Herakleitus, as representing any widely diffused Grecian belief: the former, who so severely condemned Homer and Hesiod, would have found Orpheus much more deserving of his censure: and the latter could hardly have omitted Orpheus from his memorable denunciation:—Πολυμαθίη νόον οὐ διδάσκει· Ἡσίοδον γὰρ ἂν ἐδίδαξε καὶ Πυθαγόρην, αὖτις δὲ Ξενοφάνεά τε καὶ Ἑκαταῖον. Diog. Laër. ix. 1. Isokratês treats Orpheus as the most censurable of all the poets. See Busiris, p. 229; ii. p. 309, Bekk. The Theogony of Orpheus, as conceived by Apollônius Rhodius (i. 504) in the third century B. C., and by Nigidius in the first century B. C. (Servius ad Virgil. Eclog. iv. 10), seems to have been on a more contracted scale than that which is given in the text. But neither of them notice the tale of Zagreus, which we know to be as old as Onomakritus.

[43] This opinion of Herodotus is implied in the remarkable passage about Homer and Hesiod, ii. 53, though he never once names Orpheus—only alluding once to “Orphic ceremonies,” ii. 81. He speaks more than once of the prophecies of Musæus. Aristotle denied the past existence and reality of Orpheus. See Cicero de Nat. Deor. i. 38.

[44] Pindar Pyth. iv. 177. Plato seems to consider Orpheus as more ancient than Homer. Compare Theætêt. p. 179; Cratylus, p. 402; De Republ. ii. p. 364. The order in which Aristophanês (and Hippias of Elis, ap. Clem. Alex. Str. vi. p. 624) mentions them indicates the same view, Ranæ, 1030. It is unnecessary to cite the later chronologers, among whom the belief in the antiquity of Orpheus was universal; he was commonly described as son of the Muse Calliopê. Androtiôn seems to have denied that he was a Thracian, regarding the Thracians as incurably stupid and illiterate. Androtiôn, Fragm. 36, ed. Didot. Ephorus treated him as having been a pupil of the Idæan Dactyls of Phrygia (see Diodôr. v. 64), and as having learnt from them his τελετὰς and μυστήρια, which he was the first to introduce into Greece. The earliest mention which we find of Orpheus, is that of the poet Ibycus (about B. C. 530), ὀνομάκλυτον Ὀρφῆν. Ibyci Fragm. 9, p. 341, ed. Schneidewin.

[45] Pausan. viii. 37, 3. Τιτᾶνας δὲ πρῶτον ἐς ποίησιν ἐσήγαγεν Ὅμηρος, θεοὺς εἶναι σφᾶς ὑπὸ τῷ καλουμένῳ Ταρτάρῳ· καὶ ἔστιν ἐν Ἡρᾶς ὅρκῳ τὰ ἔπη· παρὰ δὲ Ὁμήρου Ὀνομάκριτος, παραλαβὼν τῶν Τιτάνων τὸ ὄνομα, Διονύσῳ τε συνέθηκεν ὄργια, καὶ εἶναι τοὺς Τιτᾶνας τῷ Διονύσῳ τῶν παθημάτων ἐποίησεν αὐτουργούς. Both the date, the character and the function of Onomakritus are distinctly marked by Herodotus, vii. 6.

[46] Herodotus believed in the derivation both of the Orphic and Pythagorean regulations from Egypt—ὁμολογέουσι δὲ ταῦτα τοῖσι Ὀρφικοῖσι καλεομένοισι καὶ Βακχικοῖσι, ἐοῦσι δὲ Αἰγυπτίοισι (ii. 81). He knows the names of those Greeks who have borrowed from Egypt the doctrine of the metempsychosis, but he will not mention them (ii. 123): he can hardly allude to any one but the Pythagoreans, many of whom he probably knew in Italy. See the curious extract from Xenophanês respecting the doctrine of Pythagoras, Diogen. Laërt. viii. 37; and the quotation from the Silli of Timôn, Πυθαγόραν δὲ γοήτος ἀποκλίναντ᾽ ἐπὶ δόξαν, etc. Compare Porphyr. in Vit. Pythag. c. 41.

[47] Aristophan. Ran. 1030.—

Ὀρφεὺς μὲν γὰρ τελετάς θ᾽ ἡμῖν κατέδειξε, φόνων τ᾽ ἀπέχεσθαι·

Μουσαῖος τ᾽, ἐξακέσεις τε νόσων καὶ χρησμούς· Ἡσίοδος δὲ,

Γῆς ἐργασίας, καρπῶν ὥρας, ἀρότους· ὁ δὲ θεῖος Ὅμηρος

Ἀπὸ τοῦ τιμὴν καὶ κλέος ἔσχεν, πλὴν τοῦθ᾽, ὅτι χρήστ᾽ ἐδίδασκεν,

Ἀρετὰς, τάξεις, ὁπλίσεις ἀνδρῶν; etc.

The same general contrast is to be found in Plato, Protagoras, p. 316; the opinion of Pausanias, ix. 30, 4. The poems of Musæus seem to have borne considerable analogy to the Melampodia ascribed to Hesiod (see Clemen. Alex. Str. vi. p. 628); and healing charms are ascribed to Orpheus as well as to Musæus. See Eurip. Alcestis, 986.

[48] Herod. ii. 81; Euripid. Hippol. 957, and the curious fragment of the lost Κρῆτες of Euripidês. Ὀρφικοὶ βίοι, Plato, Legg. vii. 782.

[49] Herodot. ii. 42, 59, 144.

[50] Herodot. v. 7, vii. 111; Euripid. Hecub. 1249, and Rhêsus, 969, and the Prologue to the Bacchæ; Strabo, x. p. 470; Schol. ad Aristophan. Aves, 874; Eustath. ad Dionys. Perieg. 1069; Harpocrat. v. Σάβοι; Photius, Εὐοῖ Σαβοῖ. The “Lydiaca” of Th. Menke (Berlin, 1843) traces the early connection between the religion of Dionysos and that of Cybelê, c. 6, 7. Hoeckh’s Krêta (vol. i. p. 128-134) is instructive respecting the Phrygian religion.

[51] Aristotle, Polit. viii. 7, 9. Πᾶσα γὰρ Βάκχεια καὶ πᾶσα ἡ τοιαύτη κίνησις μάλιστα τῶν ὀργάνων ἐστὶν ἐν τοῖς αὐλοῖς· τῶν δ᾽ ἁρμονίων ἐν τοῖς Φρυγιστὶ μέλεσι λαμβάνει ταῦτα τὸ πρέπον, οἷον ὁ διθύραμβος δοκεῖ ὁμολογουμένως εἶναι Φρύγιον. Eurip. Bacch. 58.—

Αἴρεσθε τἀπιχώρι᾽ ἐν πόλει Φρυγῶν

Τύμπανα, Ῥέας τε μητρὸς ἐμὰ θ᾽ εὑρήματα, etc.

Plutarch, Εἰ. in Delph. c. 9; Philochor. Fr. 21, ed. Didot, p. 389. The complete and intimate manner in which Euripidês identifies the Bacchic rites of Dionysos with the Phrygian ceremonies in honor of the Great Mother, is very remarkable. The fine description given by Lucretius (ii. 600-640) of the Phrygian worship is much enfeebled by his unsatisfactory allegorizing.

[52] Schol. ad Iliad, xi. 690—οὐ διὰ τὰ καθάρσια Ἰφίτου πορθεῖται ἡ Πύλος, ἐπεί τοι Ὀδυσσεὺς μείζων Νέστορος, καὶ παρ᾽ Ὁμήρῳ οὐκ οἴδαμεν φονέα καθαιρόμενον, ἀλλ᾽ ἀντιτίνοντα ἢ φυγαδευόμενον. The examples are numerous, and are found both in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Iliad, ii. 665 (Tlêpolemos); xiii. 697 (Medôn); xiii. 574 (Epeigeus); xxiii. 89 (Patroclos); Odyss. xv. 224 (Theoclymenos); xiv. 380 (an Ætôlian). Nor does the interesting mythe respecting the functions of Atê and the Litæ harmonize with the subsequent doctrine about the necessity of purification. (Iliad, ix. 498).

[53] Herodot. i. 35—ἔστι δὲ παραπλησίη ἡ κάθαρσις τοῖσι Λυδοῖσι καὶ τοῖσι Ἕλλησι. One remarkable proof, amongst many, of the deep hold which this idea took of the greatest minds in Greece, that serious mischief would fall upon the community if family quarrels or homicide remained without religious expiation, is to be found in the objections which Aristotle urges against the community of women proposed in the Platonic Republic. It could not be known what individuals stood in the relation of father, son or brother: if, therefore, wrong or murder of kindred should take place, the appropriate religious atonements (αἱ νομιζόμεναι λύσεις) could not be applied, and the crime would go unexpiated. (Aristot. Polit. ii. 1, 14. Compare Thucyd. i. 125-128).

[54] See the Fragm. of the Æthiopis of Arktinus, in Düntzer’s Collection, p. 16.

[55] The references for this are collected in Lobeck’s Aglaophamos. Epimetr. ii. ad Orphica, p. 968.

[56] Pausanias (iv. 1, 5)—μετεκόσμησε γὰρ καὶ Μέθαπος τῆς τελετῆς (the Eleusinian Orgies, carried by Kaukon from Eleusis into Messênia), ἔστιν ἅ. Ὁ δὲ Μέθαπος γένος μὲν ἦν Ἀθηναῖος, τελετῆς τε καὶ ὀργίων παντοίων συνθέτης. Again, viii. 37, 3, Onomakritus Διονύσῳ συνέθηκεν ὄργια, etc. This is another expression designating the same idea as the Rhêsus of Euripidês, 944.—

Μυστηρίων τε τῶν ἀποῤῥήτων φάνας

Ἔδειξεν Ὀρφεύς.

[57] Têlinês, the ancestor of the Syracusan despot Gelô, acquired great political power as possessing τὰ ἱρὰ τῶν χθονίων θεῶν (Herodot. vii. 153); he and his family became hereditary Hierophants of these ceremonies. How Têlinês acquired the ἱρὰ Herodotus cannot say—ὅθεν δὲ ἀυτὰ ἔλαβε, ἢ αὐτὸς ἐκτήσατο, τοῦτο οὐκ ἔχω εἶπαι. Probably there was a traditional legend, not inferior in sanctity to that of Eleusis, tracing them to the gift of Dêmêtêr herself.

[58] See Josephus cont. Apiôn. ii. c. 35; Hesych. Θεοὶ ξένιοι; Strabo, x. p. 471; Plutarch, Περὶ Δεισιδαιμον. c. iii. p. 166; c. vii. p. 167.

[59] Plato, Republ. ii. p. 364; Demosthen. de Coronâ, c. 79, p. 313. The δεισιδαίμων of Theophrastus cannot be comfortable without receiving the Orphic communion monthly from the Orpheotelestæ (Theophr. Char. xvi.). Compare Plutarch, Περὶ τοῦ μὴ χρᾶν ἔμμετρα, etc., c. 25, p. 400. The comic writer Phrynichus indicates the existence of these rites of religious excitement, at Athens, during the Peloponnesian war. See the short fragment of his Κρόνος, ap. Schol. Aristoph. Aves, 989—

Ἀνὴρ χορεύει, καὶ τὰ τοῦ καλῶς·

Βούλει Διοπείθη μεταδράμω καὶ τύμπανα;

Diopeithês was a χρησμόλογος, or collector and deliverer of prophecies, which he sung (or rather, perhaps, recited) with solemnity and emphasis, in public. ὥστε ποιοῦντες χρησμοὺς αὐτοὶ Διδόασ᾽ ᾄδειν Διοπείθει τῷ παραμαινομένῷ. (Ameipsias ap. Schol. Aristophan. ut sup., which illustrates Thucyd. ii. 21).

[60] Plutarch, Solôn, c. 12; Diogen. Laërt. i. 110.

[61] See Klausen, “Æneas und die Penaten:” his chapter on the connection between the Grecian and Roman Sibylline collections is among the most ingenious of his learned book. Book ii. pp. 210-240; see Steph. Byz. v. Γέργις.

To the same age belong the χρησμοὶ and καθαρμοὶ of Abaris and his marvellous journey through the air upon an arrow (Herodot. iv. 36).

Epimenidês also composed καθαρμοὶ in epic verse; his Κουρήτων and Κορυβάντων γένεσις, and his four thousand verses respecting Minôs and Rhadamanthys, if they had been preserved, would let us fully into the ideas of a religious mystic of that age respecting the antiquities of Greece. (Strabo, x. p. 474; Diogen. Laërt. i. 10). Among the poems ascribed to Hesiod were comprised not only the Melampodia, but also ἔπη μαντικὰ and ἐξηγήσεις ἐπὶ τέρασιν. Pausan. ix. 31, 4.

[62] Among other illustrations of this general resemblance, may be counted an epitaph of Kallimachus upon an aged priestess, who passed from the service of Dêmêtêr to that of the Kabeiri, then to that of Cybelê, having the superintendence of many young women. Kallimachus, Epigram. 42. p. 308, ed. Ernest.

[63] Plutarch, (Defect. Oracul. c. 10, p. 415) treats these countries as the original seat of the worship of Dæmons (wholly or partially bad, and intermediate between gods and men), and their religious ceremonies as of a corresponding character: the Greeks were borrowers from them, according to him, both of the doctrine and of the ceremonies.

[64] Strabo, vii. p. 297. Ἅπαντες γὰρ τῆς δεισιδαιμονίας ἀρχηγοὺς οἴονται τὰς γυναῖκας· αὐταὶ δὲ καὶ τοὺς ἄνδρας προκαλοῦνται ἐς τὰς ἐπὶ πλέον θεραπείας τῶν θεῶν, καὶ ἑορτὰς, καὶ ποτνιασμούς. Plato (De Legg. x. pp. 909, 910) takes great pains to restrain this tendency on the part of sick or suffering persons, especially women, to introduce new sacred rites into his city.

[65] Herodot. i. 146. The wives of the Ionic original settlers at Miletos were Karian women, whose husbands they slew.

The violences of the Karian worship are attested by what Herodotus says of the Karian residents in Egypt, at the festival of Isis at Busiris. The Egyptians at this festival manifested their feeling by beating themselves, the Karians by cutting their faces with knives (ii. 61). The Καρικὴ μοῦσα became proverbial for funeral wailings (Plato, Legg. vii. p. 800): the unmeasured effusions and demonstrations of sorrow for the departed, some times accompanied by cutting and mutilation self-inflicted by the mourner was a distinguishing feature in Asiatics and Egyptians as compared with Greeks. Plutarch, Consolat. ad Apollôn. c. 22, p. 123. Mournful feeling was, in fact, a sort of desecration of the genuine and primitive Grecian festival, which was a season of cheerful harmony and social enjoyment, wherein the god was believed to sympathize (εὐφροσύνη). See Xenophanes ap. Aristot. Rhetor. ii. 25; Xenophan. Fragm. 1. ed. Schneidewin; Theognis, 776; Plutarch, De Superstit. p. 169. The unfavorable comments of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in so far as they refer to the festivals of Greece, apply to the foreign corruptions, not to the native character, of Grecian worship.

[66] The Lydian Hêraklês was conceived and worshipped as a man in female attire: this idea occurs often in the Asiatic religions. Mencke, Lydiaca, c. 8, p. 22. Διόνυσος ἄῤῥην καὶ θῆλυς. Aristid. Or. iv. p. 28; Æschyl. Fragm. Edoni, ap. Aristoph. Thesmoph. 135. Ποδαπὸς ὁ γύννις; τίς πάτρα; τίς ἡ στολή;

[67] Melampos cures the women (whom Dionysos has struck mad for their resistance to his rites), παραλαβὼν τοὺς δυνατωτάτους τῶν νεανίων μετ᾽ ἀλαλαγμοῦ καί τινος ἐνθέου χορείας. Apollodôr. ii. 2, 7. Compare Eurip. Bacch. 861.

Plato (Legg. vii. p. 790) gives a similar theory of the healing effect of the Korybantic rites, which cured vague and inexplicable terrors of the mind by means of dancing and music conjoined with religious ceremonies—αἱ τὰ τῶν Κορυβάντων ἰάματα τελοῦσαι (the practitioners were women), αἱ τῶν ἐκφρόνων Βακχείων ἰάσεις—ἡ τῶν ἔξωθεν κρατεῖ κίνησις προσφερομένη τὴν ἐντὸς φοβερὰν οὖσαν καὶ μανικὴν κίνησιν—ὀρχουμένους δὲ καὶ αὐλουμένους μετὰ θεῶν, οἷς ἂν καλλιερήσαντες ἕκαστοι θύωσιν, κατειργάσατο ἀντὶ μανικῶν ἡμῖν διαθέσεων ἕξεις ἔμφρονας ἔχειν.

[68] Described in the Bacchæ of Euripidês (140, 735, 1135, etc.). Ovid, Trist. iv. i. 41. “Utque suum Bacchis non sentit saucia vulnus, Cum furit Edonis exululata jugis.” In a fragment of the poet Alkman, a Lydian by birth, the Bacchanal nymphs are represented as milking the lioness, and making cheese of the milk, during their mountain excursions and festivals. (Alkman. Fragm. 14. Schn. Compare Aristid. Orat. iv. p. 29). Clemens Alexand. Admonit. ad Gent. p. 9, Sylb.; Lucian, Dionysos, c. 3, T. iii. p. 77, Hemsterh.

[69] See the tale of Skylês in Herod. iv. 79, and Athenæus, x. p. 445. Herodotus mentions that the Scythians abhorred the Bacchic ceremonies, accounting the frenzy which belonged to them to be disgraceful and monstrous.

[70] Plutarch, De Isid. et Osir. c. 69, p. 378; Schol. ad Aristoph. Thesmoph. There were however Bacchic ceremonies practised to a certain extent by the Athenian women. (Aristoph. Lysist. 388).

[71] “Ægyptiaca numina fere plangoribus gaudent, Græca plerumque choreis, barbara autem strepitu cymbalistarum et tympanistarum et choraularum.” (Apuleius, De Genio Socratis, v. ii. p. 149, Oudend).

[72] The legend of Dionysos and Prosymnos, as it stands in Clemens, could never have found place in an epic poem (Admonit. ad Gent. p. 22, Sylb.). Compare page 11 of the same work, where however he so confounds together Phrygian, Bacchic, and Eleusinian mysteries, that one cannot distinguish them apart.

Demêtrius Phalêreus says about the legends belonging to these ceremonies—Διὸ καὶ τὰ μυστήρια λέγεται ἐν ἀλληγορίαις πρὸς ἔκπληξιν καὶ φρίκην, ὥσπερ ἐν σκότῳ καὶ νυκτί. (De Interpretatione, c. 101).

[73] See the curious treatise of Plutarch, De Isid. et Osirid. c. 11-14. p. 356, and his elaborate attempt to allegorize the legend. He seems to have conceived that the Thracian Orpheus had first introduced into Greece the mysteries both of Dêmêtêr and Dionysos, copying them from those of Isis and Osiris in Egypt. See Fragm. 84, from one of his lost works, tom, v. p. 891, ed. Wyttenb.

[74] Æschylus had dramatized the story of Pentheus as well as that of Lykurgus: one of his tetralogies was the Lykurgeia (Dindorf, Æsch. Fragm. 115). A short allusion to the story of Pentheus appears in Eumenid. 25. Compare Sophocl. Antigon. 985, and the Scholia.

[75] Iliad, vi. 130. See the remarks of Mr. Payne Knight ad loc.

[76] See Homer, Hymn 5, Διόνυσος ἢ Λῆσται.—The satirical drama of Euripidês, the Cyclôps, extends and alters this old legend. Dionysos is carried away by the Tyrrhenian pirates, and Silênus at the head of the Bacchanals goes everywhere in search of him (Eur. Cyc. 112). The pirates are instigated against him by the hatred of Hêrê, which appears frequently as a cause of mischief to Dionysos (Bacchæ, 286). Hêrê in her anger had driven him mad when a child, and he had wandered in this state over Egypt and Syria; at length he came to Cybela in Phrygia, was purified (καθαρθεὶς) by Rhea, and received from her female attire (Apollodôr. iii. 5, 1, with Heyne’s note). This seems to have been the legend adopted to explain the old verse of the Iliad, as well as the maddening attributes of the god generally.

There was a standing antipathy between the priestesses and the religious establishments of Hêrê and Dionysos (Plutarch, Περὶ τῶν ἐν Πλαταίαις Δαιδάλων, c. 2, tom. v. p. 755, ed. Wytt). Plutarch ridicules the legendary reason commonly assigned for this, and provides a symbolical explanation which he thinks very satisfactory.

[77] Eurip. Bacch. 325, 464, etc.

[78] Strabo, x. p. 471. Compare Aristid. Or. iv. p. 28.

[79] In the lost Xantriæ of Æschylus, in which seems to have been included the tale of Pentheus, the goddess Λύσσα was introduced, stimulating the Bacchæ, and creating in them spasmodic excitement from head to foot: ἐκ ποδῶν δ᾽ ἄνω Ὑπέρχεται σπαραγμὸς εἰς ἄκρον κάρα, etc. (Fragm. 155, Dindorf). His tragedy called Edoni also gave a terrific representation of the Bacchanals and their fury, exaggerated by the maddening music: Πίμπλησι μέλος, Μανίας ἐπαγωγὸν ὁμοκλάν (Fr. 54).

Such also is the reigning sentiment throughout the greater part of the Bacchæ of Euripidês; it is brought out still more impressively in the mournful Atys of Catullus:—

“Dea magna, Dea Cybele, Dindymi Dea, Domina,

Procul a meâ tuus sit furor omnis, hera, domo:

Alios age incitatos: alios age rabidos!”

We have only to compare this fearful influence with the description of Dikæopolis and his exuberant joviality in the festival of the rural Dionysia (Aristoph. Acharn. 1051 seq.; see also Plato. Legg. i. p. 637), to see how completely the foreign innovations recolored the old Grecian Dionysos,—Διόνυσος πολυγηθὴς,—who appears also in the scene of Dionysos and Ariadnê in the Symposion of Xenophôn, c. 9. The simplicity of the ancient Dionysiac processions is dwelt upon by Plutarch, De Cupidine Divitiarum, p. 527; and the original dithyramb addressed by Archilochus to Dionysos is an effusion of drunken hilarity (Archiloch. Frag. 69, Schneid.).

[80] Pindar, Isthm. vi. 3. χαλκοκρότου πάρεδρον Δημήτερος,—the epithet marks the approximation of Dêmêtêr to the Mother of the Gods. ᾗ κροτάλων τυπάνων τ᾽ ἰαχὴ, σύν τε βρόμος αὐλῶν Εὔαδεν (Homer. Hymn, xiii.),—the Mother of the Gods was worshipped by Pindar himself along with Pan; she had in his time her temple and ceremonies at Thêbes (Pyth. iii. 78; Fragm. Dithyr. 5, and the Scholia ad l.) as well as, probably, at Athens (Pausan. i. 3, 3).

Dionysos and Dêmêtêr are also brought together in the chorus of Sophoklês, Antigonê, 1072. μέδεις δὲ παγκοίνοις Ἐλευσινίας Δηοῦς ἐν κόλποις; and in Kallimachus, Hymn. Cerer. 70. Bacchus or Dionysos are in the Attic tragedians constantly confounded with the Dêmêtrian Iacchos, originally so different,—a personification of the mystic word shouted by the Eleusinian communicants. See Strabo, x. p. 468.

[81] Euripidês in his Chorus in the Helena (1320 seq.) assigns to Dêmêtêr all the attributes of Rhea, and blends the two completely into one.

[82] Sophocl. Antigon. Βακχᾶν μητρόπολιν Θήβαν.

[83] Homer, Hymn. Cerer. 123. The Hymn to Dêmêtêr has been translated, accompanied with valuable illustrative notes, by J. H. Voss (Heidelb. 1826).

[84] Homer, Hymn. Cerer. 202-210.

[85] This story was also told with reference to the Egyptian goddess Isis in her wanderings. See Plutarch, De Isid. et Osirid. c. 16, p. 357.

[86] Homer, Hymn. Cerer. 274.—

Ὄργια δ᾽ αὐτὴ ἐγὼν ὑποθήσομαι, ὡς ἂν ἔπειτα

Εὐαγέως ἕρδοντες ἐμὸν νόον ἱλάσκησθε.

The same story is told in regard to the infant Achilles. His mother Thetis was taking similar measures to render him immortal, when his father Pêleus interfered and prevented the consummation. Thetis immediately left him in great wrath (Apollôn. Rhod. iv. 866).

[87] Homer, Hymn. 290.—

τοῦ δ᾽ οὐ μειλίσσετο θυμὸς,

Χειρότεραι γὰρ δή μιν ἔχον τρόφοι ἠδὲ τιθῆναι.

[88] Homer, H. Cer. 305.—

Αἰνότατον δ᾽ ἐνιαυτὸν ἐπὶ χθόνα πουλυβότειραν

Ποίησ᾽ ἀνθρώποις, ἰδὲ κύντατον.

[89] Hymn, v. 375.

[90] Hymn, v. 443.

[91] Hymn, v. 475.—

Ἡ δὲ κιοῦσα θεμιστοπόλοις βασιλεῦσι

Δεῖξεν, Τριπτολέμῳ τε, Διοκλέϊ τε πληξίππῳ,

Εὐμόλπου τε βίῃ, Κελέῳ θ᾽ ἡγήτορι λαῶν,

Δρησμοσύνην ἱερῶν· καὶ ἐπέφραδεν ὄργια παισὶν

Πρεσβυτέρῃς Κελέοιο, etc.

[92] Aristophanês, Vesp. 1363. Hesych. v. Γεφυρίς. Suidas, v. Γεφυρίζων. Compare about the details of the ceremony, Clemens Alexandr. Admon. ad Gent. p. 13. A similar license of unrestrained jocularity appears in the rites of Dêmêtêr in Sicily (Diodôr. v. 4; see also Pausan. vii. 27, 4), and in the worship of Damia and Auxesia at Ægina (Herodot. v. 83).

[93] Herodot. v. 61.

[94] Pausan. i. 38, 3; Apollodôr. iii. 15, 4. Heyne in his Note admits several persons named Eumolpus. Compare Isokratês, Panegyr. p. 55. Philochorus the Attic antiquary could not have received the legend of the Eleusinian Hymn, from the different account which he gave respecting the rape of Persephonê (Philoch. Fragm. 46, ed. Didot), and also respecting Keleos (Fr. 28, ibid.).

[95] Phytalus, the Eponym or godfather of this gens, had received Dêmêtêr as a guest in his house, when she first presented mankind with the fruit of the fig-tree. (Pausan. i. 37, 2.)

[96] Kallimach. Hymn. Cerer. 19. Sophoklês, Triptolemos, Frag. 1. Cicero, Legg. ii. 14, and the note of Servius ad Virgil. Æn. iv. 58.

[97] Herodot. vi. 16, 134. ἕρκος Θεσμοφόρου Δήμητρος—τὸ ἐς ἔρσενα γόνον ἄῤῥητα ἱερά.

[98] Herodot. vii. 200.

[99] According to another legend, Lêtô was said to have been conveyed from the Hyperboreans to Dêlos in twelve days, in the form of a she-wolf, to escape the jealous eye of Hêrê. In connection with this legend, it was affirmed that the she-wolves always brought forth their young only during these twelve days in the year (Aristot. Hist. Animal. vii. 35).

[100] Hom. Hymn. Apoll. i. 179.

[101] Hom. Hymn. Apoll. 262.

[102] Hom. Hymn. 363—πύθεσθαι, to rot.

[103] Hom. Hymn. Apoll. 381.

[104] Hom. Hymn. Apoll. 475 sqq.

[105] Homer. Hymn. Apoll. 535.—

Δεξιτέρῃ μάλ᾽ ἕκαστος ἔχων ἐν χειρὶ μάχαιραν

Σφάζειν αἰεὶ μῆλα· τὰ δ᾽ ἄφθονα πάντα πάρεσται,

Ὅσσα ἐμοίγ᾽ ἀγάγωσι περίκλυτα φῦλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων.

[106] Harpocration v. Ἀπόλλων πατρῶος and Ἑρκεῖος Ζεύς. Apollo Delphinios also belongs to the Ionic Greeks generally. Strabo, iv. 179.

[107] Thucydid. vi. 3; Kallimach. Hymn. Apoll. 56.—

Φοῖβος γὰρ ἀεὶ πολίεσσι φιληδεῖ

Κτιζομέναις, αὐτὸς δὲ θεμείλια Φοῖβος ὑφαίνει.

[108] Iliad, iv. 30-46.

[109] Iliad, i. 38, 451; Stephan. Byz. Ἵλιον, Τένεδος. See also Klausen, Æneas und die Penaten, b. i. p. 69. The worship of Apollo Sminthios and the festival of the Sminthia at Alexandria Troas lasted down to the time of Menander the rhêtôr, at the close of the third century after Christ.

[110] Plutarch. Defect. Oracul. c. 5, p. 412; c. 8, p. 414; Steph. Byz. v. Τεγύρα. The temple of the Ptôan Apollo had acquired celebrity before the days of the poet Asius. Pausan. ix. 23, 3.

[111] The legend which Ephorus followed about the establishment of the Delphian temple was something radically different from the Homeric Hymn (Ephori Fragm. 70, ed. Didot): his narrative went far to politicize and rationalize the story. The progeny of Apollo was very numerous, and of the most diverse attributes; he was father of the Korybantes (Pherekydes, Fragm. 6, ed. Didot), as well as of Asklêpios and Aristæus (Schol. Apollôn. Rhod. ii. 500; Apollodôr. iii. 10, 3).

[112] Strabo, ix. p. 421. Menander the Rhetor (Ap. Walz. Coll. Rhett. t. ix. p. 136) gives an elaborate classification of hymns to the gods, distinguishing them into nine classes,—κλητικοὶ, ἀποπεμπτικοὶ, φυσικοὶ, μυθικοὶ, γενεαλογικοὶ, πεπλασμένοι, εὐκτικοὶ, ἀπευκτικοὶ, μικτοί:—the second class had reference to the temporary absences or departure of a god to some distant place, which were often admitted in the ancient religion. Sappho and Alkman in their kletic hymns invoked the gods from many different places,—τὴν μὲν γὰρ Ἄρτεμιν ἐκ μυρίων μὲν ὄρεων, μυρίων δὲ πόλεων, ἔτι δὲ ποτάμων, ἀνακαλεῖ,—also Aphroditê and Apollo, etc. All these songs were full of adventures and details respecting the gods,—in other words of legendary matter.

[113] Pindar, Olymp. xiv.; Boeckh, Staatshaushaltung der Athener, Appendix, § xx. p. 357.

[114] Alexander Ætolus, apud Macrobium, Saturn. v. 22.

[115] The birth of Apollo and Artemis from Zeus and Lêtô is among the oldest and most generally admitted facts in the Grecian divine legends. Yet Æschylus did not scruple to describe Artemis publicly as daughter of Dêmêtêr (Herodot. ii. 156; Pausan. viii. 37, 3). Herodotus thinks that he copied this innovation from the Egyptians, who affirmed that Apollo and Artemis were the sons of Dionysos and Isis.

The number and discrepancies of the mythes respecting each god are attested by the fruitless attempts of learned Greeks to escape the necessity of rejecting any of them by multiplying homonymous personages,—three persons named Zeus; five named Athênê; six named Apollo, etc. (Cicero. de Natur. Deor. iii. 21: Clemen. Alexand. Admon. ad Gent. p. 17).

[116] Hesiod, Theogon. 188, 934, 945; Homer, Iliad, v. 371; Odyss. viii. 268.

[117] Homer, Hymn. Vener. 248, 286; Homer, Iliad, v. 320, 386.

[118] A large proportion of the Hesiodic epic related to the exploits and adventures of the heroic women,—the Catalogue of Women and the Eoiai embodied a string of such narratives. Hesiod and Stesichorus explained the conduct of Helen and Klytæmnêstra by the anger of Aphroditê, caused by the neglect of their father Tyndareus to sacrifice to her (Hesiod, Fragm. 59, ed. Düntzer; Stesichor. Fragm. 9, ed. Schneidewin): the irresistible ascendency of Aphroditê is set forth in the Hippolytus of Euripidês not less forcibly than that of Dionysos in the Bacchæ. The character of Daphnis the herdsman, well-known from the first Idyll of Theocritus, and illustrating the destroying force of Aphroditê, appears to have been first introduced into Greek poetry by Stesichorus (see Klausen, Æneas und die Penaten, vol. i. pp. 526-529). Compare a striking piece among the Fragmenta Incerta of Sophoklês (Fr. 63, Brunck) and Euripid. Troad. 946, 995, 1048. Even in the Opp. et Di. of Hesiod, Aphroditê is conceived rather as a disturbing and injurious influence (v. 65).

Adonis owes his renown to the Alexandrine poets and their contemporary sovereigns (see Bion’s Idyll and the Adoniazusæ of Theocritus). The favorites of Aphroditê, even as counted up by the diligence of Clemens Alexandrinus, are however very few in number. (Admonitio ad Gent. p. 12, Sylb.)

[119] Ἀνδροθέᾳ δῶρον ... Ἀθάνᾳ Simmias Rhodius; Πέλεκυς, ap. Hephæstion. c. 9. p. 54, Gaisford.

[120] Apollodôr. ap. Schol. ad Sophokl. Œdip. vol. 57; Pausan. i. 24, 3; ix. 26, 3; Diodôr. v. 73; Plato, Legg. xi. p. 920. In the Opp. et Di. of Hesiod, the carpenter is the servant of Athênê (429): see also Phereklos the τέκτων in the Iliad, v. 61: compare viii. 385; Odyss. viii. 493; and the Homeric Hymn, to Aphroditê, v. 12. The learned article of O. Müller (in the Encyclopædia of Ersch and Gruber, since republished among his Kleine Deutsche Schriften, p. 134 seq.), Pallas Athênê, brings together all that can be known about this goddess.

[121] Iliad, ii. 546; viii. 362.

[122] Apollodôr. iii. 4, 6. Compare the vague language of Plato, Kritias, c. iv., and Ovid, Metamorph. ii. 757.

[123] Herodot. iv. 103; Strabo, xii. p. 534; xiii. p. 650. About the Ephesian Artemis, see Guhl, Ephesiaca (Berlin, 1843), p. 79 sqq.; Aristoph. Nub. 590; Autokrates in Tympanistis apud Ælian. Hist. Animal. xii. 9; and Spanheim ad Kallimach. Hymn. Dian. 36. The dances in honor of Artemis sometimes appear to have approached to the frenzied style of Bacchanal movement. See the words of Timotheus ap. Plutarch. de Audiend. Poet. p. 22, c. 4, and περὶ Δεισιδ. c. 10, p. 170, also Aristoph. Lysist. 1314. They seem to have been often celebrated in the solitudes of the mountains, which were the favorite resort of Artemis (Kallimach. Hymn. Dian. 19), and these ὀρειβάσιαι were always causes predisposing to fanatical excitement.

[124] Strabo, iv. p. 179.

[125] Iliad, ix. 529.

[126] Strabo, viii. p. 374. According to the old poem called Eumolpia, ascribed to Musæus, the oracle of Delphi originally belonged to Poseidôn and Gæa, jointly: from Gæa it passed to Themis, and from her to Apollo, to whom Poseidôn also made over his share as a compensation for the surrender of Kalaureia to him. (Pausan. x. 5, 3).

[127] Apollodôr. iii. 14, 1; iii. 15, 3, 5.

[128] Plutarch, Sympos. viii. 6, p. 741.

[129] Iliad, ii. 716, 766; Euripid. Alkêstis, 2. See Panyasis, Fragm. 12, p. 24, ed. Düntzer.

[130] Iliad, vii. 452; xxi. 459.

[131] Iliad, v. 386.

[132] Iliad, iv. 51; Odyss. xii. 72.

[133] Iliad, i. 544; iv. 29-38; viii. 408.

[134] Iliad, xviii. 306.

[135] Homer. Hymn. Mercur. 18.—

Ἤῳος γεγονὼς, μέσῳ ἥματι ἐγκιθάριζεν,

Ἑσπέριος βοῦς κλέψεν ἑκηβόλου Ἀπόλλωνος, etc.

[136] Homer. Hymn. Merc. 177.—

Εἰμὶ γὰρ ἐς Πύθωνα, μέγαν δόμον ἀντιτορήσων,

Ἔνθεν ἅλις τρίποδας περικαλλέας, ἠδὲ λέβητας

Πορθήσω καὶ χρυσὸν, etc.

[137] Homer. Hymn. Merc. 442-454.

[138] Homer. Hymn. Merc. 504-520.—

Καὶ τὸ μὲν Ἑρμῆς

Λητοΐδην ἐφίλησε διαμπερὲς, ὡς ἔτι καὶ νῦν, etc.

· · · · ·

Καὶ τότε Μαίαδος υἱὸς ὑποσχόμενος κατένευσε

Μή ποτ᾽ ἀποκλέψειν, ὅσ᾽ Ἑκήβολος ἐκτεάτισται,

Μηδέ ποτ᾽ ἐμπελάσειν πυκίνῳ δόμῳ· αὐτὰρ Ἀπόλλων

Λητοΐδης κατένευσεν ἐπ᾽ ἀρθμῷ καὶ φιλότητι

Μή τινα φίλτερον ἄλλον ἐν ἀθανάτοισιν ἔσεσθαι

Μήτε θεὸν, μήτ᾽ ἄνδρα Διὸς γόνον, etc.

[139] Homer. Hymn. Merc. 574.—

Παῦρα μὲν οὖν ὀνίνησι, τὸ δ᾽ ἄκριτον ἠπεροπεύει

Νύκτα δι᾽ ὀρφναίην φῦλα θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων.

[140] Kallimach. Hymn. Apoll. 47.

[141] Kallimach. Hymn. Jov. 79. Ἐκ δὲ Διὸς βασιλῆες, etc.

[142] See Herodot. i. 44. Xenoph. Anabas. vii. 8, 4. Plutarch, Thêseus, c. 12.

[143] Ovid, Fasti, iv. 211, about the festivals of Apollo:—

“Priscique imitamina facti

Æra Deæ comites raucaque terga movent.”

And Lactantius, v. 19, 15. “Ipsos ritus ex rebus gestis (deorum) vel ex casibus vel etiam ex mortibus, natos:” to the same purpose Augustin. De Civ. D. vii. 18; Diodôr. iii. 56. Plutarch’s Quæstiones Græcæ et Romaicæ are full of similar tales, professing to account for existing customs, many of them religious and liturgic. See Lobeck, Orphica, p. 675.

[144] Hesiod, Theog. 550.—

Φῆ ῥα δολοφρονέων· Ζεὺς δ᾽ ἄφθιτα μήδεα εἰδὼς

Γνῶ ῥ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἠγνοίησε δόλον· κακὰ δ᾽ ὄσσετο θυμῷ

Θνητοῖς ἀνθρώποισι, τὰ καὶ τελέεσθαι ἔμελλεν.

Χερσὶ δ᾽ ὅγ᾽ ἀμφοτέρῃσιν ἀνείλετο λευκὸν ἄλειφαρ·

Χώσατο δὲ φρένας, ἀμφὶ χόλος δέ μιν ἵκετο θυμὸν,

Ὡς ἴδεν ὀστέα λευκὰ βοὸς δολίῃ ἐπὶ τέχνῃ.

In the second line of this citation, the poet tells us that Zeus saw through the trick, and was imposed upon by his own consent, foreknowing that after all the mischievous consequences of the proceeding would be visited on man. But the last lines, and indeed the whole drift of the legend, imply the contrary of this: Zeus was really taken in, and was in consequence very angry. It is curious to observe how the religious feelings of the poet drive him to save in words the prescience of Zeus, though in doing so he contradicts and nullifies the whole point of the story.

[145] Hesiod, Theog. 557.—

Ἐκ τοῦ δ᾽ ἀθανάτοισιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ᾽ ἀνθρώπων

Καίουσ᾽ ὀστέα λευκὰ θυηέντων ἐπὶ βωμῶν.

[146] Hesiod, as cited in the Etymologicon Magnum (probably the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, as Marktscheffel considers it, placing it Fragm. 133), gives the parentage of a certain Brotos, who must probably be intended as the first of men: Βρότος, ὡς μὲν Εὐήμερος ὁ Μεσσήνιος, ἀπὸ Βρότου τινὸς αὐτόχθονος· ὁ δὲ Ἡσίοδος, ἀπὸ Βρότου τοῦ Αἴθερος καὶ Ἡμέρας.

[147] Opp. Di. 120.—

Αὐτὰρ ἐπειδὴ τοῦτο γένος κατὰ γαῖα κάλυψεν

Τοὶ μὲν δαίμονές εἰσι Διὸς μεγάλου διὰ βουλὰς

Ἐσθλοὶ, ἐπιχθόνιοι, φύλακες θνητῶν ἀνθρώπων·

Οἵ ῥα φυλάσσουσίν τε δίκας καὶ σχέτλια ἔργα,

Ἠέρα ἑσσάμενοι, πάντη φοιτῶντες ἐπ᾽ αἶαν

Πλουτόδοται· καὶ τοῦτο γέρας βασιληΐον ἔσχον.

[148] Opp. Di. 140.—

Αὐτὰρ ἐπεὶ καὶ τοῦτο γένος κατὰ γαῖα κάλυψε,

Τοὶ μὲν ὑποχθόνιοι μάκαρες θνητοὶ καλέονται

Δεύτεροι, ἀλλ᾽ ἔμπης τιμὴ καὶ τοῖσιν ὀπηδεῖ.

[149] The ash was the wood out of which spear-handles were made (Iliad, xvi. 142): the Νύμφαι Μέλιαι are born along with the Gigantes and the Erinnyes (Theogon. 187),—“gensque virûm truncis et duro robore nata” (Virgil, Æneid, viii. 315),—hearts of oak.

[150] Opp. Di. 157.—

Ἀνδρῶν Ἡρώων θεῖον γένος, οἳ καλέονται

Ἡμίθεοι προτέρῃ γενέῃ κατ᾽ ἀπείρονα γαῖαν.

[151] Opp. Di. 173.—

Μηκέτ᾽ ἔπειτ᾽ ὤφειλον ἐγὼ πέμπτοισι μετεῖναι

Ἀνδράσιν, ἀλλ᾽ ἢ πρόσθε θανεῖν, ἢ ἔπειτα γενέσθαι.

Νῦν γὰρ δὴ γένος ἐστὶ σιδήρεον....

[152] Odyss. xvii. 486.

[153] There are some lines, in which he appears to believe that, under the present wicked and treacherous rulers, it is not the interest of any man to be just (Opp. Di. 270):—

Νῦν δὴ ἐγὼ μήτ᾽ αὐτὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισι δίκαιος

Εἴην, μήτ᾽ ἐμὸς υἱός· ἐπεὶ κακόν ἐστι δίκαιον

Ἔμμεναι, εἰ μείζω γε δίκην ἀδικώτερος ἕξει·

Ἀλλὰ τόδ᾽ οὔπω ἔολπα τελεῖν Δία τερπικέραυνον.

On the whole, however, his conviction is to the contrary.

Plutarch rejects the above four lines, seemingly on no other ground than because he thought them immoral and unworthy of Hesiod (see Proclus ad loc.). But they fall in perfectly with the temper of the poem: and the rule of Plutarch is inadmissible, in determining the critical question of what is genuine or spurious.

[154] Aratus (Phænomen. 107) gives only three successive races,—the golden, silver, and brazen; Ovid superadds to these the iron race (Metamorph. i. 89-144): neither of them notice the heroic race.

The observations both of Buttmann (Mythos der ältesten Menschengeschlechter, t. ii. p. 12 of the Mythologus) and of Völcker (Mythologie des Japetischen Geschlechts, § 6, pp. 250-279) on this series of distinct races, are ingenious, and may be read with profit. Both recognize the disparate character of the fourth link in the series, and each accounts for it in a different manner. My own view comes nearer to that of Völcker, with some considerable differences; amongst which one is, that he rejects the verses respecting the dæmons, which seem to me capital parts of the whole scheme.

[155] See this subject further mentioned—infra, chap. xvi. p. 565.

[156] Opp. Di. 252. Τρὶς γὰρ μύριοί εἰσιν ἐπὶ χθονὶ πουλυβοτείρῃ, etc.

[157] Opp. Di. 50-105.

[158] Opp. Di. 630-650, 27-45.

[159] Compare the fable (αἶνος) in the “Works and Days,” v. 200, with those in Archilochus, Fr. xxxviii. and xxxix., Gaisford, respecting the fox and the ape; and the legend of Pandôra (v. 95 and v. 705) with the fragment of Simonidês of Amorgos respecting women (Fr. viii. ed. Welcker, v. 95-115); also Phokylidês ap. Stobæum Florileg. lxxi.

Isokratês assimilates the character of the “Works and Days” to that of Theognis and Phokylidês (ad Nikokl. Or. ii. p. 23).

[160] Hesiod, Theog. 510.

[161] Hom. Odyss. i. 120.—

Ἄτλαντος θυγατὴρ ὀλοόφρονος, ὅστε θαλάσσης

Πάσης βένθεα οἶδε, ἔχει δέ τε κίονας αὐτὸς

Μακρὰς, αἳ γαῖάν τε καὶ οὐρανὸν ἀμφὶς ἔχουσιν.

[162] Hesiod, Theog. 516.—

Ἄτλας δ᾽ οὐρανὸν εὐρὺν ἔχει κρατερῆς ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης

Ἑστηὼς, κεφαλῇ τε καὶ ἀκαμάτοισι χέρεσσι.

Hesiod stretches far beyond the simplicity of the Homeric conception.

[163] Pindar extends the family of Epimêtheus and gives him a daughter, Πρόφασις (Pyth. v. 25), Excuse, the offspring of After-thought.

[164] Apollodôr. i. 7. 1. Nor is he such either in Æschylus, or in the Platonic fable (Protag. c. 30), though this version became at last the most popular. Some hardened lumps of clay, remnants of that which had been employed by Promêtheus in moulding man, were shown to Pausanias at Panopeus in Phokis (Paus. x. 4, 3).

The first Epigram of Erinna (Anthol. i. p. 58, ed. Branck) seems to allude to Promêtheus as moulder of man. The expression of Aristophanês (Aves, 689)—πλάσματα πηλοῦ—does not necessarily refer to Promêtheus.

[165] Hesiod, Theog. 566; Opp. Di. 52.

[166] Theog. 580; Opp. Di. 50-85.

[167] Opp. Di. 81-90.

[168] Opp. Di. 93. Pandôra does not bring with her the cask, as the common version of this story would have us suppose: the cask exists fast closed in the custody of Epimêtheus, or of man himself, and Pandôra commits the fatal treachery of removing the lid. The case is analogous to that of the closed bag of unfavorable winds which Æolus gives into the hands of Odysseus, and which the guilty companions of the latter force open, to the entire ruin of his hopes (Odyss. x. 19-50). The idea of the two casks on the threshold of Zeus, lying ready for dispensation—one full of evils the other of benefits—is Homeric (Iliad, xxiv. 527):—

Δοιοὶ γάρ τε πίθοι κατακείαται ἐν Διὸς οὔδει, etc.

Plutarch assimilates to this the πίθος opened by Pandôra, Consolat. ad Apollôn. c. 7. p. 105. The explanation here given of the Hesiodic passage relating to Hope, is drawn from an able article in the Wiener Jahrbücher, vol. 109 (1845), p. 220, Ritter; a review of Schömmann’s translation of the Promêtheus of Æschylus. The diseases and evils are inoperative so long as they remain shut up in the cask: the same mischief-making influence which lets them out to their calamitous work, takes care that Hope shall still continue a powerless prisoner in the inside.

[169] Theog. 590.—

Ἐκ τῆς γὰρ γένος ἐστὶ γυναικῶν θηλυτεράων,

Τῆς γὰρ ὀλώιόν ἐστι γένος· καὶ φῦλα γυναικῶν,

Πῆμα μέγα θνητοῖσι μετ᾽ ἀνδράσι ναιετάουσι, etc.

[170] Opp. Di. 105.—

Οὕτως οὔτι πῆ ἐστὶ Διὸς νόον ἐξαλέασθαι.

[171] Theog. 534. Οὕνεκ᾽ ἐρίζετο βουλὰς ὑπερμενέϊ Κρονίωνι.

[172] Theog. 521-532.

[173] Of the tragedy called Προμηθεὺς Λυόμενος some few fragments yet remain: Προμηθεὺς Πύρφορος was a satyric drama, according to Dindorf. Welcker recognizes a third tragedy, Προμηθεὺς Πύρφορος, and a satyric drama, Προμηθεὺς Πυρκαεύς (Die Griechisch. Tragödien, vol. i. p. 30). The story of Promêtheus had also been handled by Sapphô in one of her lost songs (Servius ad Virgil. Eclog. vi. 42).

[174] Apollodôrus too mentions only the theft of fire (i. 7. 1).

[175] Æsch. Prom. 442-506.—

Πᾶσαι τέχναι βροτοῖσιν ἐκ Προμηθέως.

[176] Æsch. Prom. 231.—

βροτῶν δὲ τῶν ταλαιπώρων λόγον

Οὐκ ἔσχεν οὐδέν᾽, ἀλλ᾽ ἀϊστώσας γένος

Τὸ πᾶν, ἔχρῃζεν ἄλλο φιτῦσαι νέον.

[177] Æsch. Prom. 198-222. 123.—

διὰ τὴν λίαν φιλότητα βροτῶν.

[178] Æsch. Prom. 169-770.

[179] Prometh. 2. See also the Fragments of the Promêtheus Solutus, 177-179, ed. Dindorf, where Caucasus is specially named; but v. 719 of the Promêtheus Vinctus seems to imply that Mount Caucasus is a place different from that to which the suffering prisoner is chained.

[180] Appian, Bell. Mithridat. c. 103.

[181] Apollodôr. ii. 1. Mr. Fynes Clinton does not admit the historical reality of Inachus; but he places Phorôneus seventeen generations, or 570 years prior to the Trojan war, 978 years earlier than the first recorded Olympiad. See Fasti Hellenici, vol. iii. c. 1. p. 19.

[182] Pausan. ii. 5, 4.

[183] See Düntzer, Fragm. Epic. Græc. p. 57. The Argeian author Akusilaus treated Phorôneus as the first of men, Fragm. 14. Didot ap. Clem. Alex. Stromat i. p. 321. Φορωνῆες, a synonym for Argeians; Theocrit. Idyll. xxv. 200.

[184] Apollodôr. ii. 1, 1; Pausan. ii. 15, 5; 19, 5; 20, 3.

[185] Apis in Æschylus is totally different: ἰατρόμαντις or medical charmer, son of Apollo, who comes across the gulf from Naupactus, purifies the territory of Argos from noxious monsters, and gives to it the name of Apia (Æschyl. Suppl. 265). Compare Steph. Byz. v. Ἀπίη; Soph. Œdip. Colon. 1303. The name Ἀπία for Peloponnêsus remains still a mystery, even after the attempt of Buttmann (Lexilogus, s. 19) to throw light upon it.

Eusebius asserts that Niobê was the wife of Inachus and mother of Phorôneus, and pointedly contradicts those who call her daughter of Phorôneus—φασὶ δέ τινες Νιόβην Φορωνέως εἶναι θυγατέρα, ὅπερ οὐκ ἀληθές (Chronic. p. 23, ed. Scalig.): his positive tone is curious, upon such a matter.

Hellanikus in his Argolica stated that Phorôneus had three sons, Pelasgus, Iasus and Agênôr, who at the death of their father divided his possessions by lot. Pelasgus acquired the country near the river Erasinus, and built the citadel of Larissa: Iasus obtained the portion near to Elis. After their decease, the younger brother Agênôr invaded and conquered the country, at the head of a large body of horse. It was from these three persons that Argos derived three epithets which are attached to it in the Homeric poems—Ἄργος Πελασγικὸν, Ἴασον, Ἱππόβοτον (Hellanik. Fr. 38, ed. Didot; Phavorin. v. Ἄργος). This is a specimen of the way in which legendary persons as well as legendary events were got up to furnish an explanation of Homeric epithets: we may remark as singular, that Hellanikus seems to apply Πελασγικὸν Ἄργος to a portion of Peloponnêsus, while the Homeric Catalogue applies it to Thessaly.

[186] Apollod. l. c. The mention of Strymôn seems connected with Æschylus Suppl. 255.

[187] Akusil. Fragm. 17, ed. Didot; Æsch. Prometh. 568; Pherekyd. Fragm. 22, ed. Didot; Hesiod. Ægimius. Fr. 2, p. 56, ed. Düntzer: among the varieties of the story, one was that Argos was changed into a peacock (Schol. Aristoph. Aves, 102). Macrobius (i. 19) considers Argos as an allegorical expression of the starry heaven; an idea which Panofska also upholds in one of the recent Abhandlungen of the Berlin Academy, 1837, p. 121 seq.

[188] Apollod. ii. 1, 1; Pausan. ii. 16, 1; Æsch. Prom. v. 590-663.

[189] Æschyl. Prom. v. 790-850; Apollod. ii. 1. Æschylus in the Supplices gives a different version of the wanderings of Iô from that which appears in the Promêtheus: in the former drama he carries her through Phrygia, Mysia, Lydia, Pamphylia and Cilicia into Egypt (Supplic. 544-566): nothing is there said about Promêtheus, or Caucasus or Scythia, etc.

The track set forth in the Supplices is thus geographically intelligible, that in the Promêtheus (though the most noticed of the two) defies all comprehension, even as a consistent fiction; nor has the erudition of the commentators been successful in clearing it up. See Schutz, Excurs. iv. ad Prometh. Vinct. pp. 144-149; Welcker, Æschylische Trilogie, pp. 127-146, and especially Völcker, Mythische Geographie der Griech. und Römer, part i. pp. 3-13.

The Greek inhabitants at Tarsus in Cilicia traced their origin to Argos: their story was, that Triptolemus had been sent forth from that town in quest of the wandering Iô, that he had followed her to Tyre, and then renounced the search in despair. He and his companions then settled partly at Tarsus, partly at Antioch (Strabo, xiv. 673; xv. 750). This is the story of Kadmos and Eurôpê inverted, as happens so often with the Grecian mythes.

Homer calls Hermês Ἀργειφόντης; but this epithet hardly affords sufficient proof that he was acquainted with the mythe of Iô, as Völcker supposes: it cannot be traced higher than Hesiod. According to some authors, whom Cicero copies, it was on account of the murder of Argos that Hermês was obliged to leave Greece and go into Egypt: then it was that he taught the Egyptians laws and letters (De Natur. Deor. iii. 22).

[190] The story in Parthênius (Narrat. 1) is built upon this version of Iô’s adventures.

[191] Herodot. i. 1-6. Pausanias (ii. 15, 1) will not undertake to determine whether the account given by Herodotus, or that of the old legend, respecting the cause which carried Iô from Argos to Egypt, is the true one: Ephorus (ap. Schol. Apoll. Rhod. ii. 168) repeats the abduction of Iô to Egypt, by the Phœnicians, subjoining a strange account of the Etymology of the name Bosporus. The remarks of Plutarch on the narrative of Herodotus are curious: he adduces as one proof of the κακοήθεια (bad feeling) of Herodotus, that the latter inserts so discreditable a narrative respecting Iô, daughter of Inachus, “whom all Greeks believe to have been divinized by foreigners, to have given name to seas and straits, and to be the source of the most illustrious regal families.” He also blames Herodotus for rejecting Epaphus, Iô, Iasus and Argos, as highest members of the Perseid genealogy. He calls Herodotus φιλοβάρβαρος (Plutarch, De Malign. Herodoti, c. xi. xii. xiv. pp. 856, 857).

[192] It would be an unprofitable fatigue to enumerate the multiplied and irreconcilable discrepancies in regard to every step of this old Argeian genealogy. Whoever desires to see them brought together, may consult Schubart, Quæstiones in Antiquitatem Heroicam, Marburg, 1832, capp. 1 and 2.

The remarks which Schubart makes (p. 35) upon Petit-Radel’s Chronological Tables will be assented to by those who follow the unceasing string of contradictions, without any sufficient reason to believe that any one of them is more worthy of trust than the remainder, which he has cited:—“Videant alii, quomodo genealogias heroicas, et chronologiæ rationes, in concordiam redigant. Ipse abstineo, probe persuasus, stemmata vera, historiæ fide comprobata, in systema chronologiæ redigi posse: at ore per sæcula tradita, a poetis reficta, sæpe mutata, prout fabula postulare videbatur, ab historiarum deinde conditoribus restituta, scilicet, brevi, qualia prostant stemmata—chronologiæ secundum annos distributæ vincula semper recusatura esse.”

[193] Apollod. ii. 1. The Supplices of Æschylus is the commencing drama of a trilogy on this subject of the Danaïdes,—Ἱκετίδες, Αἰγύπτιοι, Δαναΐδες. Welcker, Griechisch. Tragödien, vol. i. p. 48: the two latter are lost. The old epic poem called Danaïs or Danaïdes, which is mentioned in the Tabula Iliaca as containing 5000 verses, has perished, and is unfortunately very little alluded to: see Düntzer, Epic. Græc. Fragm. p. 3; Welcker, Der Episch. Kyklus, p. 35.

[194] Apollod. 1. c.; Pherekyd. ap. Schol. Hom. Odyss. xv. 225; Hesiod, Fragm. Marktsch. Fr. 36, 37, 38. These Fragments belong to the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Apollodôrus seems to refer to some other of the numerous Hesiodic poems. Diodôrus (iv. 68) assigns the anger of Dionysos as the cause.

[195] Odyss. xv. 240-256.

[196] Herod. ix. 34; ii. 49: compare Pausan. ii. 18, 4. Instead of the Prœtides, or daughters of Prœtos, it is the Argeian women generally whom he represents Melampus as having cured, and the Argeians generally who send to Pylus to invoke his aid: the heroic personality which pervades the primitive story has disappeared.

Kallimachus notices the Prœtid virgins as the parties suffering from madness, but he treats Artemis as the healing influence (Hymn. ad Dianam 235).

[197] The beautiful fragment of Simonidês (Fragm. vii. ed. Gaisford. Poet. Min.), describing Danaê and the child thus exposed, is familiar to every classical reader.

[198] Paus. ii. 15, 4; ii. 16, 5. Apollod. ii. 2. Pherekyd. Fragm. 26, Dind.

[199] Odyss. ii. 120. Hesiod. Fragment. 154. Marktscheff.—Akusil. Fragm. 16. Pausan. ii. 16, 4. Hekatæus derived the name of the town from the μύκης of the sword of Perseus (Fragm. 360, Dind.). The Schol. ad Eurip. Orest. 1247, mentions Mykêneus as son of Spartôn, but grandson of Phêgeus the brother of Phorôneus.

[200] Pausan. ii. 18, 4.

[201] Herodot. vi. 53.

[202] In the Hesiodic Shield of Hêraklês, Alkmênê is distinctly mentioned as daughter of Elektryôn; the genealogical poet, Asios, called her the daughter of Amphiaraos and Eriphyle (Asii Fragm. 4, ed. Markt. p. 412). The date of Asios cannot be precisely fixed; but he may be probably assigned to an epoch between the 30th and 40th Olympiad.

Asios must have adopted a totally different legend respecting the birth of Hêraklês and the circumstances preceding it, among which the deaths of her father and brothers are highly influential. Nor could he have accepted the received chronology of the sieges of Thêbes and Troy.

[203] So runs the old legend in the Hesiodic Shield of Hêraklês (12-82). Apollodôrus (or Pherekydês, whom he follows) softens it down, and represents the death of Elektryôn as accidentally caused by Amphitryôn. (Apollod. ii. 4, 6. Pherekydês, Fragm. 27, Dind.)

[204] Hesiod, Scut. Herc. 24. Theocrit. Idyll. xxiv. 4. Teleboas, the Eponym of these marauding people, was son of Poseidôn (Anaximander ap. Athenæ. xi. p. 498).

[205] Apollod. ii. 4, 7. Compare the fable of Nisus at Megara, infra, chap. xii. p. 302.

[206] Hesiod, Scut. Herc. 29. ὄφρα θεοῖσιν Ἀνδράσι τ᾽ ἀλφηστῇσιν ἀρῆς ἀλκτῆρα φυτεύσῃ.

[207] Hesiod. Sc. H. 50-56.

[208] Homer, Iliad, xix. 90-133; also viii. 361.—

Τὴν αἰεὶ στενάχεσχ᾽, ὅθ᾽ ἑὸν φίλον υἱὸν ὁρῷτο

Ἔργον ἀεικὲς ἔχοντα, ὑπ᾽ Εὐρυσθῆος ἀέθλων.

[209] Hesiod, Theogon. 951, τελέσας στονόεντας ἀέθλους. Hom. Odyss. xi. 620; Hesiod, Eœæ, Fragm. 24, Düntzer, p. 36, πονηρότατον καὶ ἄριστον.

[210] Apollod. ii. 8, 1; Hecatæ. ap. Longin. c. 27; Diodôr. iv. 57.

[211] Herodot. ix. 26; Diodôr. iv. 58.

[212] Pausan. ii. 5, 5; 12, 5; 26, 3. His statements indicate how much the predominance of a powerful neighbor like Argos tended to alter the genealogies of these inferior towns.

[213] Schol. ad Apollôn. Rhod. iii. 1085. Other accounts of the genealogy of Deukaliôn are given in the Schol. ad Homer. Odyss. x. 2, on the authority both of Hesiod and Akusilaus.

[214] Hesiodic Catalog. Fragm. xi.; Gaisf. lxx. Düntzer—

Ἤτοι γὰρ Λοκρὸς Λελέγων ἡγήσατο λαῶν,

Τούς ῥά ποτε Κρονίδης Ζεὺς ἄφθιτα μήδεα εἰδὼς,

Λεκτοὺς ἐκ γαίης λάας πόρε Δευκαλίωνι.

The reputed lineage of Deukaliôn continued in Phthia down to the time of Dikæarchus, if we may judge from the old Phthiot Pherekratês, whom he introduced in one of his dialogues as a disputant, and whom he expressly announced as a descendant of Deukaliôn (Cicero, Tuscul. Disp. i. 10).

[215] The latter account is given by Dionys. Halic. i. 17; the former seems to have been given by Hellanikus, who affirmed that the ark after the deluge stopped upon Mount Othrys, and not upon Mount Parnassus (Schol. Pind. ut. sup.) the former being suitable for a settlement in Thessaly.

Pyrrha is the eponymous heroine of Pyrrhæa or Pyrrha, the ancient name of a portion of Thessaly (Rhianus, Fragm. 18, p. 71, ed. Düntzer).

Hellanikus had written a work, now lost, entitled Δευκαλιώνεια: all the fragments of it which are cited have reference to places in Thessaly, Lokris and Phokis. See Preller, ad Hellanitum, p. 12 (Dörpt. 1840). Probably Hellanikus is the main source of the important position occupied by Deukaliôn in Grecian legend. Thrasybulus and Akestodôrus represented Deukaliôn as having founded the oracle of Dôdôna, immediately after the deluge (Etm. Mag. v. Δωδωναῖος).

[216] Apollodôrus connects this deluge with the wickedness of the brazen race in Hesiod, according to the practice general with the logographers of stringing together a sequence out of legends totally unconnected with each other (i. 7, 2).

[217] Hesiod, Fragm. 135. ed. Markts. ap. Strabo. vii. p. 322, where the word λάας, proposed by Heyne as the reading of the unintelligible text, appears to me preferable to any of the other suggestions. Pindar, Olymp. ix. 47. Ἄτερ δ᾽ Εὐνᾶς ὁμόδαμον Κτησάσθαν λίθινον γόνον· Λαοὶ δ᾽ ὠνόμασθεν. Virgil, Georgic i. 63. “Unde homines nati, durum genus.” Epicharmus ap. Schol. Pindar. Olymp. ix. 56. Hygin. f. 153. Philochorus retained the etymology, though he gave a totally different fable, nowise connected with Deukaliôn, to account for it; a curious proof how pleasing it was to the fancy of the Greek (see Schol. ad Pind. 1. c. 68).

[218] Apollod. i. 7, 2. Hellanic. Fragm. 15. Didot. Hellanikus affirmed that the ark rested on Mount Othrys, not on Mount Parnassus (Fragm. 16. Didot). Servius (ad Virgil. Eclog. vi. 41) placed it on Mount Athôs—Hyginus (f. 153) on Mount Ætna.

[219] Tatian adv. Græc. c. 60, adopted both by Clemens and Eusebius. The Parian marble placed this deluge in the reign of Kranaos at Athens, 752 years before the first recorded Olympiad, and 1528 years before the Christian æra; Apollodôrus also places it in the reign of Kranaos, and in that of Nyctimus in Arcadia (iii. 8, 2; 14, 5).

The deluge and the ekpyrosis or conflagration are connected together also in Servius ad Virgil. Bucol. vi. 41: he refines both of them into a “mutationem temporum.”

[220] Aristot. Meteorol. i. 14. Justin rationalizes the fable by telling us that Deukaliôn was king of Thessaly, who provided shelter and protection to the fugitives from the deluge (ii. 6, 11).

[221] Pausan. i. 18, 7; 40, 1. According to the Parian marble (s. 5), Deukaliôn had come to Athens after the deluge, and had there himself founded the temple of the Olympian Zeus. The etymology and allegorization of the names of Deukaliôn and Pyrrha, given by Völcker in his ingenious Mythologie des Iapetischen Geschlechts (Giessen, 1824), p. 343, appears to me not at all convincing.

[222] Such is the statement of Apollodôrus (i. 7, 3); but I cannot bring myself to believe that the name (Γραϊκοὶ) Greeks is at all old in the legend, or that the passage of Hesiod, in which Græcus and Latinus purport to be mentioned, is genuine.

See Hesiod, Theogon. 1013, and Catalog. Fragm. xxix. ed. Göttling, with the note of Göttling; also Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterth. i. 1. p. 311, and Bernhardy, Griech. Literat. vol. i. p. 167.

[223] Apollod. i. 7, 4.

[224] How literally and implicitly even the ablest Greeks believed in eponymous persons, such as Hellên and Iôn, as the real progenitors of the races called after him, may be seen by this, that Aristotle gives this common descent as the definition of γένος (Metaphysic. iv. p. 118, Brandis):—

Γένος λέγεται, τὸ μὲν ... τὸ δὲ, ἀφ᾽ οὗ ἂν ὦσι πρώτου κινήσαντος εἰς τὸ εἶναι. Οὕτω γὰρ λέγονται οἱ μὲν, Ἕλληνες τὸ γένος, οἱ δὲ, Ἴωνες· τῷ, οἱ μὲν ἀπὸ Ἕλληνος, οἱ δὲ ἀπὸ Ἴωνος, εἶναι πρώτου γεννήσαντος.

[225] Hesiod, Fragm. 8. p. 278, ed. Marktsch.—

Ἕλληνος δ᾽ ἐγένοντο θεμιστόπολοι βασιλῆες

Δῶρός τε, Ξοῦθός τε, καὶ Αἴολος ἱππιοχάρμης.

Αἰολίδαι δ᾽ ἐγένοντο θεμιστόπολοι βασιλῆες

Κρηθεὺς ἠδ᾽ Ἀθάμας καὶ Σίσυφος αἰολομήτης

Σαλμωνεύς τ᾽ ἄδικος καὶ ὑπέρθυμος Περιήρης.

[226] Apollod. i. 7, 3. Ἕλληνος δὲ καὶ Νύμφης Ὀρσήϊδος (?), Δῶρος, Ξοῦθος, Αἴολος. Αὐτὸς μὲν οὖν ἀφ᾽ αὑτοῦ τοὺς καλουμένους Γραϊκοὺς προσηγόρευσεν Ἕλληνας, τοῖς δὲ παισὶν ἐμέρισε τὴν χώραν. Καὶ Ξοῦθος μὲν λαβὼν τὴν Πελοπόννησον, ἐκ Κρεούσης τῆς Ἐρεχθέως Ἀχαιὸν ἐγέννησε καὶ Ἴωνα, ἀφ᾽ ὧν Ἀχαιοὶ καὶ Ἴωνες καλοῦνται. Δῶρος δὲ, τὴν πέραν χώραν Πελοποννήσου λαβὼν, τοὺς κατοίκους ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ Δωριεῖς ἐκάλεσεν. Αἴολος δὲ, βασιλεύων τῶν περὶ τὴν Θετταλίαν τόπων, τοὺς ἐνοικοῦντας Αἰολεῖς προσηγόρευσε.

Strabo (viii. p. 383) and Conôn (Narr. 27), who evidently copy from the same source, represent Dôrus as going to settle in the territory property known as Dôris.

[227] Apollod. i. 7, 6. Αἰτωλὸς ... φυγὼν εἰς τὴν Κουρήτιδα χώραν, κτείνας τοὺς ὑποδεξαμένους Φθίας καὶ Ἀπόλλωνος υἱοὺς, Δῶρον καὶ Λαόδοκον καὶ Πολυποίτην, ἀφ᾽ ἑαυτοῦ τὴν χώραν Αἰτωλίαν ἐκάλεσε. Again, i. 8, 1. Πλευρὼν (son of Ætôlus) γήμας Ξανθίππην τὴν Δώρου, παῖδα ἐγέννησεν Ἀγήνορα.

[228] Herod. i. 56.

[229] Schol. Apollôn. Rhod. iv. 57. Τὸν δὲ Ἐνδυμίωνα Ἠσίοδος μὲν Ἀεθλίου τοῦ Διὸς καὶ Καλύκης παῖδα λέγει.... Καὶ Πείσανδρος δὲ τὰ αὐτά φησι, καὶ Ἀκουσίλαος, καὶ Φερεκύδης, καὶ Νίκανδρος ἐν δευτέρῳ Αἰτωλικῶν, καὶ Θεόπομπος ἐν Ἐποποιΐαις.

Respecting the parentage of Hellên, the references to Hesiod are very confused. Compare Schol. Homer. Odyss. x. 2, and Schol. Apollôn. Rhod. iii. 1086. See also Hellanic. Frag. 10. Didot.

Apollodôrus, and Pherekydês before him (Frag. 51. Didot), called Protôgeneia daughter of Deukaliôn; Pindar (Olymp. ix. 64) designated her as daughter of Opus. One of the stratagems mentioned by the Scholiast to get rid of this genealogical discrepancy was, the supposition that Deukaliôn had two names (διώνυμος); that he was also named Opus. (Schol. Pind. Olymp. ix. 85).

That the Deukalidæ or posterity of Deukaliôn reigned in Thessaly, was mentioned both by Hesiod and Hekatæus, ap. Schol. Apollôn. Rhod. iv. 265.

[230] Dionys. H. A. R. i. 17.

[231] Pausan. vii. 1, 1-3. Herodotus also mentions (ii. 97) Archander, son of Phthius and grandson of Achæus, who married the daughter of Danaus. Larcher (Essai sur la Chronologie d’Hérodote, ch. x. p. 321) tells us that this cannot be the Danaus who came from Egypt, the father of the fifty daughters, who must have lived two centuries earlier, as may be proved by chronological arguments: this must be another Danaus, according to him.

Strabo seems to give a different story respecting the Achæans in Peloponnêsus: he says that they were the original population of the peninsula, that they came in from Phthia with Pelops, and inhabited Laconia, which was from them called Argos Achaicum, and that on the conquest of the Dôrians, they moved into Achaia properly so called, expelling the Iônians therefrom (Strabo, viii p. 365). This narrative is, I presume, borrowed from Ephorus.

[232] Eurip. Ion, 1590.

[233] Eurip. Ion, 64.

[234] See the Fragments of these two plays in Matthiae’s edition; compare Welcker, Griechisch. Tragöd. v. ii. p. 842. If we may judge from the Fragments of the Latin Melanippê of Ennius (see Fragm. 2, ed. Bothe), Hellên was introduced as one of the characters of the piece.

[235] Iliad, vi. 154. Σίσυφος Αἰολίδης, etc. Again Odyss. xi. 234.—

Ἔνθ᾽ ἤτοι πρώτην Τυρὼ ἴδον εὐπατέρειαν,

Ἣ φάτο Σαλμωνῆος ἀμύμονος ἔκγονος εἶναι,

Φῆ δὲ Κρηθῆος γυνὴ ἔμμεναι Αἰολίδαο.

[236] Homer, Odyss. xi. 234-257; xv. 226.

[237] Diodôrus, iv. 68. Sophoklês, Fragm. 1. Τυρώ. Σαφῶς Σιδηρὼ καὶ φέρουσα τοὔνομα. The genius of Sophoklês is occasionally seduced by this play upon the etymology of a name, even in the most impressive scenes of his tragedies. See Ajax, 425. Compare Hellanik. Fragm. p. 9, ed