Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

BY

E. M. BERENS.

ILLUSTRATED FROM ANTIQUE SCULPTURES.

Publishers Vignette.

NEW YORK:

Maynard, Merrill, & Co.,

43, 45 and 47 East Tenth Street.


[i]

PREFACE.


The want of an interesting work on Greek and Roman mythology, suitable for the requirements of both boys and girls, has long been recognized by the principals of our advanced schools. The study of the classics themselves, even where the attainments of the pupil have rendered this feasible, has not been found altogether successful in giving to the student a clear and succinct idea of the religious beliefs of the ancients, and it has been suggested that a work which would so deal with the subject as to render it at once interesting and instructive would be hailed as a valuable introduction to the study of classic authors, and would be found to assist materially the labours of both master and pupil.

In endeavouring to supply this want I have sought to place before the reader a lifelike picture of the deities of classical times as they were conceived and worshipped by the ancients themselves, and thereby to awaken in the minds of young students a desire to become more intimately acquainted with the noble productions of classical antiquity.

It has been my aim to render the Legends, which form the second portion of the work, a picture, as it were, of old Greek life; its customs, its superstitions, and its princely hospitalities, for which reason they are given at somewhat greater length than is usual in works of the kind.

In a chapter devoted to the purpose some interesting particulars have been collected respecting the public worship of the ancient Greeks and Romans (more especially of the former), to which is subjoined an account of their principal festivals.

I may add that no pains have been spared in order that, without passing over details the omission of which would have [ii]marred the completeness of the work, not a single passage should be found which could possibly offend the most scrupulous delicacy; and also that I have purposely treated the subject with that reverence which I consider due to every religious system, however erroneous.

It is hardly necessary to dwell upon the importance of the study of Mythology: our poems, our novels, and even our daily journals teem with classical allusions; nor can a visit to our art galleries and museums be fully enjoyed without something more than a mere superficial knowledge of a subject which has in all ages inspired painters, sculptors, and poets. It therefore only remains for me to express a hope that my little work may prove useful, not only to teachers and scholars, but also to a large class of general readers, who, in whiling away a leisure hour, may derive some pleasure and profit from its perusal.    E.M.Berens



[iii]

CONTENTS.

PART I.—MYTHS.

Introduction, 

FIRST DYNASTY.

Origin of the World

Uranus and Gæa (Cœlus and Terra)

SECOND DYNASTY.

Cronus (Saturn)

Rhea (Ops)

Division of the World

Theories as to the Origin of Man

THIRD DYNASTY.

OLYMPIAN DIVINITIES—

Zeus (Jupiter)

Hera (Juno)

Pallas-Athene (Minerva)

Themis

Hestia (Vesta)

Demeter (Ceres)

Aphrodite (Venus)

Helios (Sol)

Eos (Aurora)

Phœbus-Apollo

Hecate

Selene (Luna)

Artemis (Diana)

Hephæstus (Vulcan)

Poseidon (Neptune)

[iv]

SEA DIVINITIES—

Oceanus

Nereus

Proteus

Triton and the Tritons

Glaucus

Thetis

Thaumas, Phorcys, and Ceto

Leucothea

The Sirens

Ares (Mars)

Nike (Victoria)

Hermes (Mercury

Dionysus (Bacchus or Liber)

Aïdes (Pluto)

Plutus

MINOR DIVINITIES—

The Harpies

Erinyes, Eumenides (Furiæ, Diræ)

Moiræ or Fates (Parcæ)

Nemesis

Night and Her Children

Nyx (Nox)

Thanatos (Mors), Hypnus (Somnus)

Morpheus

The Gorgons

Grææ

Sphinx

Tyche (Fortuna) and Ananke (Necessitas)

Ker

Ate

Momus

Eros (Cupid, Amor) and Psyche

Iris

Hebe (Juventas)

Ganymedes

[v]

The Muses

Pegasus

The Hesperides

Charites or Graces

Horæ (Seasons)

The Nymphs

The Winds

Pan (Faunus)

The Satyrs

Priapus

Asclepias (Æsculapius)

ROMAN DIVINITIES—

Janus

Flora

Robigus

Pomona

Vertumnus 

Pales

Picus

Picumnus and Pilumnus

Silvanus

Terminus

Consus

Libitina

Laverna

Comus

Camenæ

Genii

Manes

Penates

PUBLIC WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND ROMANS—

Temples

Statues

Altars

Priests

Sacrifices

Oracles

Soothsayers

[vi]

Augurs

Festivals

GREEK FESTIVALS—

Eleusinian Mysteries

Thesmophoria

Dionysia

Panathen

Daphnephoria

ROMAN FESTIVALS—

Saturnalia

Cerealia

Vestalia

PART II.—LEGENDS.

Cadmus

Perseus

Ion

Dædalus and Icarus

The Argonauts

Pelops

Heracles

Bellerophon

Theseus

Œdipus

The Seven against Thebes

The Epigoni

Alcmæon and the Necklace

The Heraclidæ

The Siege of Troy

Return of the Greeks from Troy

MYTHS AND LEGENDS OF ANCIENT GREECE AND ROME.


PART I.—MYTHS.


INTRODUCTION.

Before entering upon the many strange beliefs of the ancient Greeks, and the extraordinary number of gods they worshipped, we must first consider what kind of beings these divinities were.

In appearance, the gods were supposed to resemble mortals, whom, however, they far surpassed in beauty, grandeur, and strength; they were also more commanding in stature, height being considered by the Greeks an attribute of beauty in man or woman. They resembled human beings in their feelings and habits, intermarrying and having children, and requiring daily nourishment to recruit their strength, and refreshing sleep to restore their energies. Their blood, a bright ethereal fluid called Ichor, never engendered disease, and, when shed, had the power of producing new life.

The Greeks believed that the mental qualifications of their gods were of a much higher order than those of men, but nevertheless, as we shall see, they were not considered to be exempt from human passions, and we frequently behold them actuated by revenge, deceit, and jealousy. They, however, always punish the evil-doer, and visit with dire calamities any impious mortal who dares to neglect their worship or despise their rites. We often hear of them visiting mankind and partaking of their hospitality, and not unfrequently both gods and goddesses [8]become attached to mortals, with whom they unite themselves, the offspring of these unions being called heroes or demi-gods, who were usually renowned for their great strength and courage. But although there were so many points of resemblance between gods and men, there remained the one great characteristic distinction, viz., that the gods enjoyed immortality. Still, they were not invulnerable, and we often hear of them being wounded, and suffering in consequence such exquisite torture that they have earnestly prayed to be deprived of their privilege of immortality.

The gods knew no limitation of time or space, being able to transport themselves to incredible distances with the speed of thought. They possessed the power of rendering themselves invisible at will, and could assume the forms of men or animals as it suited their convenience. They could also transform human beings into trees, stones, animals, &c., either as a punishment for their misdeeds, or as a means of protecting the individual, thus transformed, from impending danger. Their robes were like those worn by mortals, but were perfect in form and much finer in texture. Their weapons also resembled those used by mankind; we hear of spears, shields, helmets, bows and arrows, &c., being employed by the gods. Each deity possessed a beautiful chariot, which, drawn by horses or other animals of celestial breed, conveyed them rapidly over land and sea according to their pleasure. Most of these divinities lived on the summit of Mount Olympus, each possessing his or her individual habitation, and all meeting together on festive occasions in the council-chamber of the gods, where their banquets were enlivened by the sweet strains of Apollo's lyre, whilst the beautiful voices of the Muses poured forth their rich melodies to his harmonious accompaniment. Magnificent temples were erected to their honour, where they were worshipped with the greatest solemnity; rich gifts were presented to them, and animals, and indeed sometimes human beings, were sacrificed on their altars.

In the study of Grecian mythology we meet with some [9]curious, and what may at first sight appear unaccountable notions. Thus we hear of terrible giants hurling rocks, upheaving mountains, and raising earthquakes which engulf whole armies; these ideas, however, may be accounted for by the awful convulsions of nature, which were in operation in pre-historic times. Again, the daily recurring phenomena, which to us, who know them to be the result of certain well-ascertained laws of nature, are so familiar as to excite no remark, were, to the early Greeks, matter of grave speculation, and not unfrequently of alarm. For instance, when they heard the awful roar of thunder, and saw vivid flashes of lightning, accompanied by black clouds and torrents of rain, they believed that the great god of heaven was angry, and they trembled at his wrath. If the calm and tranquil sea became suddenly agitated, and the crested billows rose mountains high, dashing furiously against the rocks, and threatening destruction to all within their reach, the sea-god was supposed to be in a furious rage. When they beheld the sky glowing with the hues of coming day they thought that the goddess of the dawn, with rosy fingers, was drawing aside the dark veil of night, to allow her brother, the sun-god, to enter upon his brilliant career. Thus personifying all the powers of nature, this very imaginative and highly poetical nation beheld a divinity in every tree that grew, in every stream that flowed, in the bright beams of the glorious sun, and the clear, cold rays of the silvery moon; for them the whole universe lived and breathed, peopled by a thousand forms of grace and beauty.

The most important of these divinities may have been something more than the mere creations of an active and poetical imagination. They were possibly human beings who had so distinguished themselves in life by their preeminence over their fellow-mortals that after death they were deified by the people among whom they lived, and the poets touched with their magic wand the details of lives, which, in more prosaic times, would simply have been recorded as illustrious.[10]

It is highly probable that the reputed actions of these deified beings were commemorated by bards, who, travelling from one state to another, celebrated their praise in song; it therefore becomes exceedingly difficult, nay almost impossible, to separate bare facts from the exaggerations which never fail to accompany oral traditions.

In order to exemplify this, let us suppose that Orpheus, the son of Apollo, so renowned for his extraordinary musical powers, had existed at the present day. We should no doubt have ranked him among the greatest of our musicians, and honoured him as such; but the Greeks, with their vivid imagination and poetic license, exaggerated his remarkable gifts, and attributed to his music supernatural influence over animate and inanimate nature. Thus we hear of wild beasts tamed, of mighty rivers arrested in their course, and of mountains being moved by the sweet tones of his voice. The theory here advanced may possibly prove useful in the future, in suggesting to the reader the probable basis of many of the extraordinary accounts we meet with in the study of classical mythology.

And now a few words will be necessary concerning the religious beliefs of the Romans. When the Greeks first settled in Italy they found in the country they colonized a mythology belonging to the Celtic inhabitants, which, according to the Greek custom of paying reverence to all gods, known or unknown, they readily adopted, selecting and appropriating those divinities which had the greatest affinity to their own, and thus they formed a religious belief which naturally bore the impress of its ancient Greek source. As the primitive Celts, however, were a less civilized people than the Greeks, their mythology was of a more barbarous character, and this circumstance, combined with the fact that the Romans were not gifted with the vivid imagination of their Greek neighbours, leaves its mark on the Roman mythology, which is far less fertile in fanciful conceits, and deficient in all those fairy-like stories and wonderfully poetic ideas which so strongly characterize that of the Greeks.


[11]

ORIGIN OF THE WORLD.—FIRST DYNASTY.

URANUS AND GÆA. (Cœlus and Terra.)

The ancient Greeks had several different theories with regard to the origin of the world, but the generally accepted notion was that before this world came into existence, there was in its place a confused mass of shapeless elements called Chaos. These elements becoming at length consolidated (by what means does not appear), resolved themselves into two widely different substances, the lighter portion of which, soaring on high, formed the sky or firmament, and constituted itself into a vast, overarching vault, which protected the firm and solid mass beneath.

Thus came into being the two first great primeval deities of the Greeks, Uranus and Ge or Gæa.

Uranus, the more refined deity, represented the light and air of heaven, possessing the distinguishing qualities of light, heat, purity, and omnipresence, whilst Gæa, the firm, flat,[1] life-sustaining earth, was worshipped as the great all-nourishing mother. Her many titles refer to her more or less in this character, and she appears to have been universally revered among the Greeks, there being scarcely a city in Greece which did not contain a temple erected in her honour; indeed Gæa was held in such veneration that her name was always invoked whenever the gods took a solemn oath, made an emphatic declaration, or implored assistance.

Uranus, the heaven, was believed to have united himself in marriage with Gæa, the earth; and a moment's reflection will show what a truly poetical, and also what a logical idea this was; for, taken in a figurative sense, [12]this union actually does exist. The smiles of heaven produce the flowers of earth, whereas his long-continued frowns exercise so depressing an influence upon his loving partner, that she no longer decks herself in bright and festive robes, but responds with ready sympathy to his melancholy mood.

The first-born child of Uranus and Gæa was Oceanus,[2] the ocean stream, that vast expanse of ever-flowing water which encircled the earth. Here we meet with another logical though fanciful conclusion, which a very slight knowledge of the workings of nature proves to have been just and true. The ocean is formed from the rains which descend from heaven and the streams which flow from earth. By making Oceanus therefore the offspring of Uranus and Gæa, the ancients, if we take this notion in its literal sense, merely assert that the ocean is produced by the combined influence of heaven and earth, whilst at the same time their fervid and poetical imagination led them to see in this, as in all manifestations of the powers of nature, an actual, tangible divinity.

But Uranus, the heaven, the embodiment of light, heat, and the breath of life, produced offspring who were of a much less material nature than his son Oceanus. These other children of his were supposed to occupy the intermediate space which divided him from Gæa. Nearest to Uranus, and just beneath him, came Aether (Ether), a bright creation representing that highly rarified atmosphere which immortals alone could breathe. Then followed Aër (Air), which was in close proximity to Gæa, and represented, as its name implies, the grosser atmosphere surrounding the earth which mortals could freely breathe, and without which they would perish. Aether and Aër were separated from each other by divinities called Nephelae. These were their restless and wandering sisters, who existed in the form of clouds, ever [13]floating between Aether and Aër. Gæa also produced the mountains, and Pontus (the sea). She united herself with the latter, and their offspring were the sea-deities Nereus, Thaumas, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia.

Co-existent with Uranus and Gæa were two mighty powers who were also the offspring of Chaos. These were Erebus (Darkness) and Nyx (Night), who formed a striking contrast to the cheerful light of heaven and the bright smiles of earth. Erebus reigned in that mysterious world below where no ray of sunshine, no gleam of daylight, nor vestige of health-giving terrestrial life ever appeared. Nyx, the sister of Erebus, represented Night, and was worshipped by the ancients with the greatest solemnity.

Uranus was also supposed to have been united to Nyx, but only in his capacity as god of light, he being considered the source and fountain of all light, and their children were Eos (Aurora), the Dawn, and Hemera, the Daylight. Nyx again, on her side was also doubly united, having been married at some indefinite period to Erebus.

In addition to those children of heaven and earth already enumerated, Uranus and Gæa produced two distinctly different races of beings called Giants and Titans. The Giants personified brute strength alone, but the Titans united to their great physical power intellectual qualifications variously developed. There were three Giants, Briareus, Cottus, and Gyges, who each possessed a hundred hands and fifty heads, and were known collectively by the name of the Hecatoncheires, which signified hundred-handed. These mighty Giants could shake the universe and produce earthquakes; it is therefore evident that they represented those active subterranean forces to which allusion has been made in the opening chapter. The Titans were twelve in number; their names were: Oceanus, Ceos, Crios, Hyperion, Iapetus, Cronus, Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phœbe, and Tethys.

Now Uranus, the chaste light of heaven, the essence of all that is bright and pleasing, held in abhorrence his [14]crude, rough, and turbulent offspring, the Giants, and moreover feared that their great power might eventually prove hurtful to himself. He therefore hurled them into Tartarus, that portion of the lower world which served as the subterranean dungeon of the gods. In order to avenge the oppression of her children, the Giants, Gæa instigated a conspiracy on the part of the Titans against Uranus, which was carried to a successful issue by her son Cronus. He wounded his father, and from the blood of the wound which fell upon the earth sprang a race of monstrous beings also called Giants. Assisted by his brother-Titans, Cronus succeeded in dethroning his father, who, enraged at his defeat, cursed his rebellious son, and foretold to him a similar fate. Cronus now became invested with supreme power, and assigned to his brothers offices of distinction, subordinate only to himself. Subsequently, however, when, secure of his position, he no longer needed their assistance, he basely repaid their former services with treachery, made war upon his brothers and faithful allies, and, assisted by the Giants, completely defeated them, sending such as resisted his all-conquering arm down into the lowest depths of Tartarus.


SECOND DYNASTY.

CRONUS (Saturn).

Cronus was the god of time in its sense of eternal duration. He married Rhea, daughter of Uranus and Gæa, a very important divinity, to whom a special chapter will be devoted hereafter. Their children were, three sons: Aïdes (Pluto), Poseidon (Neptune), Zeus (Jupiter), and three daughters: Hestia (Vesta), Demeter (Ceres), and Hera (Juno). Cronus, having an uneasy conscience, was afraid that his children might one day rise up against his authority, and thus verify the prediction of his father [15]Uranus. In order, therefore, to render the prophecy impossible of fulfilment, Cronus swallowed each child as soon as it was born,[3] greatly to the sorrow and indignation of his wife Rhea. When it came to Zeus, the sixth and last, Rhea resolved to try and save this one child at least, to love and cherish, and appealed to her parents, Uranus and Gæa, for counsel and assistance. By their advice she wrapped a stone in baby-clothes, and Cronus, in eager haste, swallowed it, without noticing the deception. The child thus saved, eventually, as we shall see, dethroned his father Cronus, became supreme god in his stead, and was universally venerated as the great national god of the Greeks.

Cronus

Anxious to preserve the secret of his existence from Cronus, Rhea sent the infant Zeus secretly to Crete, where he was nourished, protected, and educated. A sacred goat, called Amalthea, supplied the place of his mother, by providing him with milk; nymphs, called Melissae, fed him with honey, and eagles and doves brought him nectar and ambrosia.[4] He was kept concealed in a cave in the heart of Mount Ida, and the Curetes, or priests of Rhea, by beating their shields together, kept up a constant noise at the entrance, which drowned the cries of the child and frightened away all intruders. Under the watchful care of the Nymphs the infant Zeus throve rapidly, developing great physical powers, combined with 

[16]extraordinary wisdom and intelligence. Grown to manhood, he determined to compel his father to restore his brothers and sisters to the light of day, and is said to have been assisted in this difficult task by the goddess Metis, who artfully persuaded Cronus to drink a potion, which caused him to give back the children he had swallowed. The stone which had counterfeited Zeus was placed at Delphi, where it was long exhibited as a sacred relic.

Cronus was so enraged at being circumvented that war between the father and son became inevitable. The rival forces ranged themselves on two separate high mountains in Thessaly; Zeus, with his brothers and sisters, took his stand on Mount Olympus, where he was joined by Oceanus, and others of the Titans, who had forsaken Cronus on account of his oppressions. Cronus and his brother-Titans took possession of Mount Othrys, and prepared for battle. The struggle was long and fierce, and at length Zeus, finding that he was no nearer victory than before, bethought himself of the existence of the imprisoned Giants, and knowing that they would be able to render him most powerful assistance, he hastened to liberate them. He also called to his aid the Cyclops (sons of Poseidon and Amphitrite),[5] who had only one eye each in the middle of their foreheads, and were called Brontes (Thunder), Steropes (Lightning), and Pyracmon (Fire-anvil). They promptly responded to his summons for help, and brought with them tremendous thunderbolts which the Hecatoncheires, with their hundred hands, hurled down upon the enemy, at the same time raising mighty earthquakes, which swallowed up and destroyed all who opposed them. Aided by these new and powerful allies, Zeus now made a furious onslaught on his enemies, and so tremendous was the encounter that all nature is said to have throbbed in accord with this mighty effort of the celestial deities. The sea rose mountains high, and its angry billows [17]hissed and foamed; the earth shook to its foundations, the heavens sent forth rolling thunder, and flash after flash of death-bringing lightning, whilst a blinding mist enveloped Cronus and his allies.

And now the fortunes of war began to turn, and victory smiled on Zeus. Cronus and his army were completely overthrown, his brothers despatched to the gloomy depths of the lower world, and Cronus himself was banished from his kingdom and deprived for ever of the supreme power, which now became vested in his son Zeus. This war was called the Titanomachia, and is most graphically described by the old classic poets.

Saturn

With the defeat of Cronus and his banishment from his dominions, his career as a ruling Greek divinity entirely ceases. But being, like all the gods, immortal, he was supposed to be still in existence, though possessing no longer either influence or authority, his place being filled to a certain extent by his descendant and successor, Zeus.

Cronus is often represented as an old man leaning on a scythe, with an hour-glass in his hand. The hour-glass symbolizes the fast-fleeting moments as they succeed each other unceasingly; the scythe is emblematical of time, which mows down all before it.

SATURN.

The Romans, according to their custom of identifying their deities with those of the Greek gods whose attributes were similar to their own, declared Cronus to be identical with their old agricultural divinity Saturn. They believed that after his defeat in the[18]Titanomachia and his banishment from his dominions by Zeus, he took refuge with Janus, king of Italy, who received the exiled deity with great kindness, and even shared his throne with him. Their united reign became so thoroughly peaceful and happy, and was distinguished by such uninterrupted prosperity, that it was called the Golden Age.

Saturn is usually represented bearing a sickle in the one hand and a wheat-sheaf in the other.

A temple was erected to him at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, in which were deposited the public treasury and the laws of the state.

RHEA (Ops).

Rhea, the wife of Cronus, and mother of Zeus and the other great gods of Olympus, personified the earth, and was regarded as the Great Mother and unceasing producer of all plant-life. She was also believed to exercise unbounded sway over the animal creation, more especially over the lion, the noble king of beasts. Rhea is generally represented wearing a crown of turrets or towers and seated on a throne, with lions crouching at her feet. She is sometimes depicted sitting in a chariot, drawn by lions.

The principal seat of her worship, which was always of a very riotous character, was at Crete. At her festivals, which took place at night, the wildest music of flutes, cymbals, and drums resounded, whilst joyful shouts and cries, accompanied by dancing and loud stamping of feet, filled the air.

This divinity was introduced into Crete by its first colonists from Phrygia, in Asia Minor, in which country she was worshipped under the name of Cybele. The people of Crete adored her as the Great Mother, more especially in her signification as the sustainer of the vegetable world. Seeing, however, that year by year, as winter appears, all her glory vanishes, her flowers fade, and her trees become leafless, they poetically expressed this process of nature under the figure of a lost love. She [19]was said to have been tenderly attached to a youth of remarkable beauty, named Atys, who, to her grief and indignation, proved faithless to her. He was about to unite himself to a nymph called Sagaris, when, in the midst of the wedding feast, the rage of the incensed goddess suddenly burst forth upon all present. A panic seized the assembled guests, and Atys, becoming afflicted with temporary madness, fled to the mountains and destroyed himself. Cybele, moved with sorrow and regret, instituted a yearly mourning for his loss, when her priests, the Corybantes, with their usual noisy accompaniments, marched into the mountains to seek the lost youth. Having discovered him[6] they gave full vent to their ecstatic delight by indulging in the most violent gesticulations, dancing, shouting, and, at the same time, wounding and gashing themselves in a frightful manner.

OPS.

In Rome the Greek Rhea was identified with Ops, the goddess of plenty, the wife of Saturn, who had a variety of appellations. She was called Magna-Mater, Mater-Deorum, Berecynthia-Idea, and also Dindymene. This latter title she acquired from three high mountains in Phrygia, whence she was brought to Rome as Cybele during the second Punic war, B.C. 205, in obedience to an injunction contained in the Sybilline books. She was represented as a matron crowned with towers, seated in a chariot drawn by lions.


DIVISION OF THE WORLD.

We will now return to Zeus and his brothers, who, having gained a complete victory over their enemies, began to consider how the world, which they had [20]conquered, should be divided between them. At last it was settled by lot that Zeus should reign supreme in Heaven, whilst Aïdes governed the Lower World, and Poseidon had full command over the Sea, but the supremacy of Zeus was recognized in all three kingdoms, in heaven, on earth (in which of course the sea was included), and under the earth. Zeus held his court on the top of Mount Olympus, whose summit was beyond the clouds; the dominions of Aïdes were the gloomy unknown regions below the earth; and Poseidon reigned over the sea. It will be seen that the realm of each of these gods was enveloped in mystery. Olympus was shrouded in mists, Hades was wrapt in gloomy darkness, and the sea was, and indeed still is, a source of wonder and deep interest. Hence we see that what to other nations were merely strange phenomena, served this poetical and imaginative people as a foundation upon which to build the wonderful stories of their mythology.

The division of the world being now satisfactorily arranged, it would seem that all things ought to have gone on smoothly, but such was not the case. Trouble arose in an unlooked-for quarter. The Giants, those hideous monsters (some with legs formed of serpents) who had sprung from the earth and the blood of Uranus, declared war against the triumphant deities of Olympus, and a struggle ensued, which, in consequence of Gæa having made these children of hers invincible as long as they kept their feet on the ground, was wearisome and protracted. Their mother's precaution, however, was rendered unavailing by pieces of rock being hurled upon them, which threw them down, and their feet being no longer placed firmly on their mother-earth, they were overcome, and this tedious war (which was called the Gigantomachia) at last came to an end. Among the most daring of these earth-born giants were Enceladus, Rhœtus, and the valiant Mimas, who, with youthful fire and energy, hurled against heaven great masses of rock and burning oak-trees, and defied the lightnings of Zeus. One of the most powerful monsters who opposed Zeus in this [21]war was called Typhon or Typhœus. He was the youngest son of Tartarus and Gæa, and had a hundred heads, with eyes which struck terror to the beholders, and awe-inspiring voices frightful to hear. This dreadful monster resolved to conquer both gods and men, but his plans were at length defeated by Zeus, who, after a violent encounter, succeeded in destroying him with a thunderbolt, but not before he had so terrified the gods that they had fled for refuge to Egypt, where they metamorphosed themselves into different animals and thus escaped.


THEORIES AS TO THE ORIGIN OF MAN.

Just as there were several theories concerning the origin of the world, so there were various accounts of the creation of man.

The first natural belief of the Greek people was that man had sprung from the earth. They saw the tender plants and flowers force their way through the ground in the early spring of the year after the frost of winter had disappeared, and so they naturally concluded that man must also have issued from the earth in a similar manner. Like the wild plants and flowers, he was supposed to have had no cultivation, and resembled in his habits the untamed beasts of the field, having no habitation except that which nature had provided in the holes of the rocks, and in the dense forests whose overarching boughs protected him from the inclemency of the weather.

In the course of time these primitive human beings became tamed and civilized by the gods and heroes, who taught them to work in metals, to build houses, and other useful arts of civilization. But the human race became in the course of time so degenerate that the gods resolved to destroy all mankind by means of a flood; Deucalion[22](son of Prometheus) and his wife Pyrrha, being, on account of their piety, the only mortals saved.

By the command of his father, Deucalion built a ship, in which he and his wife took refuge during the deluge, which lasted for nine days. When the waters abated the ship rested on Mount Othrys in Thessaly, or according to some on Mount Parnassus. Deucalion and his wife now consulted the oracle of Themis as to how the human race might be restored. The answer was, that they were to cover their heads, and throw the bones of their mother behind them. For some time they were perplexed as to the meaning of the oracular command, but at length both agreed that by the bones of their mother were meant the stones of the earth. They accordingly took up stones from the mountain side and cast them over their shoulders. From those thrown by Deucalion there sprang up men, and from those thrown by Pyrrha, women.

After the lapse of time the theory of Autochthony (from autos, self, and chthon, earth) was laid aside. When this belief existed there were no religious teachers whatever; but in course of time temples were raised in honour of the different gods, and priests appointed to offer sacrifices to them and conduct their worship. These priests were looked upon as authorities in all religious matters, and the doctrine they taught was, that man had been created by the gods, and that there had been several successive ages of men, which were called the Golden, Silver, Brazen, and Iron Ages.

Life in the Golden Age was one unceasing round of ever-recurring pleasures unmarred by sorrow or care. The favoured mortals living at this happy time led pure and joyous lives, thinking no evil, and doing no wrong. The earth brought forth fruits and flowers without toil or labour in plentiful luxuriance, and war was unknown. This delightful and god-like existence lasted for hundreds of years, and when at length life on earth was ended, death laid his hand so gently upon them that they passed painlessly away in a happy dream, and continued their existence as ministering spirits in Hades, watching over and [23]protecting those they had loved and left behind on earth. The men of the Silver Age[7] were a long time growing up, and during their childhood, which lasted a hundred years, they suffered from ill-health and extreme debility. When they at last became men they lived but a short time, for they would not abstain from mutual injury, nor pay the service due to the gods, and were therefore banished to Hades. There, unlike the beings of the Golden Age, they exercised no beneficent supervision over the dear ones left behind, but wandered about as restless spirits, always sighing for the lost pleasures they had enjoyed in life.

The men of the Brazen Age were quite a different race of beings, being as strong and powerful as those of the Silver Age were weak and enervated. Everything which surrounded them was of brass; their arms, their tools, their dwellings, and all that they made. Their characters seem to have resembled the metal in which they delighted; their minds and hearts were hard, obdurate, and cruel. They led a life of strife and contention, introduced into the world, which had hitherto known nothing but peace and tranquillity, the scourge of war, and were in fact only happy when fighting and quarrelling with each other. Hitherto Themis, the goddess of Justice, had been living among mankind, but becoming disheartened at their evil doings, she abandoned the earth, and winged her flight back to heaven. At last the gods became so tired of their evil deeds and continual dissensions, that they removed them from the face of the earth, and sent them down to Hades to share the fate of their predecessors.

We now come to the men of the Iron Age. The earth, no longer teeming with fruitfulness, only yielded her increase after much toil and labour. The goddess of Justice having abandoned mankind, no influence remained sufficiently powerful to preserve them from every kind of wickedness and sin. This condition grew worse as time went on, until at last Zeus in his anger let loose the water-courses from above, and drowned every [24]individual of this evil race, except Deucalion and Pyrrha.

The theory of Hesiod,[8] the oldest of all the Greek poets, was that the Titan Prometheus, the son of Iapetus, had formed man out of clay, and that Athene had breathed a soul into him. Full of love for the beings he had called into existence, Prometheus determined to elevate their minds and improve their condition in every way; he therefore taught them astronomy, mathematics, the alphabet, how to cure diseases, and the art of divination. He created this race in such great numbers that the gods began to see the necessity of instituting certain fixed laws with regard to the sacrifices due to them, and the worship to which they considered themselves entitled from mankind in return for the protection which they accorded them. An assembly was therefore convened at Mecone in order to settle these points. It was decided that Prometheus, as the advocate of man, should slay an ox, which should be divided into two equal parts, and that the gods should select one portion which should henceforth, in all future sacrifices, be set apart for them. Prometheus so divided the ox that one part consisted of the bones (which formed of course the least valuable portion of the animal), artfully concealed by the white fat; whilst the other contained all the edible parts, which he covered with the skin, and on the top of all he laid the stomach.

Zeus, pretending to be deceived, chose the heap of bones, but he saw through the stratagem, and was so angry at the deception practised on him by Prometheus that he avenged himself by refusing to mortals the gift of fire. [25]Prometheus, however, resolved to brave the anger of the great ruler of Olympus, and to obtain from heaven the vital spark so necessary for the further progress and comfort of the human race. He accordingly contrived to steal some sparks from the chariot of the sun, which he conveyed to earth hidden in a hollow tube. Furious at being again outwitted, Zeus determined to be revenged first on mankind, and then on Prometheus. To punish the former he commanded Hephæstus (Vulcan) to mould a beautiful woman out of clay, and determined that through her instrumentality trouble and misery should be brought into the world.

The gods were so charmed with the graceful and artistic creation of Hephæstus, that they all determined to endow her with some special gift. Hermes (Mercury) bestowed on her a smooth persuasive tongue, Aphrodite gave her beauty and the art of pleasing; the Graces made her fascinating, and Athene (Minerva) gifted her with the possession of feminine accomplishments. She was called Pandora, which means all-gifted, having received every attribute necessary to make her charming and irresistible. Thus beautifully formed and endowed, this exquisite creature, attired by the Graces, and crowned with flowers by the Seasons, was conducted to the house of Epimetheus[9] by Hermes the messenger of the gods. Now Epimetheus had been warned by his brother not to accept any gift whatever from the gods; but he was so fascinated by the beautiful being who suddenly appeared before him, that he welcomed her to his home, and made her his wife. It was not long, however, before he had cause to regret his weakness.

He had in his possession a jar of rare workmanship, containing all the blessings reserved by the gods for mankind, which he had been expressly forbidden to open. But woman's proverbial curiosity could not withstand so great a temptation, and Pandora determined to solve the mystery at any cost. Watching her opportunity she raised the lid, and immediately all the blessings which [26]the gods had thus reserved for mankind took wing and flew away. But all was not lost. Just as Hope (which lay at the bottom) was about to escape, Pandora hastily closed the lid of the jar, and thus preserved to man that never-failing solace which helps him to bear with courage the many ills which assail him.[10]

Having punished mankind, Zeus determined to execute vengeance on Prometheus. He accordingly chained him to a rock in Mount Caucasus, and sent an eagle every day to gnaw away his liver, which grew again every night ready for fresh torments. For thirty years Prometheus endured this fearful punishment; but at length Zeus relented, and permitted his son Heracles (Hercules) to kill the eagle, and the sufferer was released.


THIRD DYNASTY—OLYMPIAN DIVINITIES.

ZEUS[11] (Jupiter).

Zeus, the great presiding deity of the universe, the ruler of heaven and earth, was regarded by the Greeks, first, as the god of all aërial phenomena; secondly, as the personification of the laws of nature; thirdly, as lord of state-life; and fourthly, as the father of gods and men.

As the god of aërial phenomena he could, by shaking his ægis,[12] produce storms, tempests, and intense darkness. At his command the mighty thunder rolls, the lightning flashes, and the clouds open and pour forth their refreshing streams to fructify the earth.

As the personification of the operations of nature, he represents those grand laws of unchanging and harmonious order, by which not only the physical but also [27]the moral world is governed. Hence he is the god of regulated time as marked by the changing seasons, and by the regular succession of day and night, in contradistinction to his father Cronus, who represents time absolutely, i.e. eternity.

As the lord of state-life, he is the founder of kingly power, the upholder of all institutions connected with the state, and the special friend and patron of princes, whom he guards and assists with his advice and counsel. He protects the assembly of the people, and, in fact, watches over the welfare of the whole community.

As the father of the gods, Zeus sees that each deity performs his or her individual duty, punishes their misdeeds, settles their disputes, and acts towards them on all occasions as their all-knowing counsellor and mighty friend.

As the father of men, he takes a paternal interest in the actions and well-being of mortals. He watches over them with tender solicitude, rewarding truth, charity, and uprightness, but severely punishing perjury, cruelty, and want of hospitality. Even the poorest and most forlorn wanderer finds in him a powerful advocate, for he, by a wise and merciful dispensation, ordains that the mighty ones of the earth should succour their distressed and needy brethren.

The Greeks believed that the home of this their mighty and all-powerful deity was on the top of Mount Olympus, that high and lofty mountain between Thessaly and Macedon, whose summit, wrapt in clouds and mist, was hidden from mortal view. It was supposed that this mysterious region, which even a bird could not reach, extended beyond the clouds right into Aether, the realm of the immortal gods. The poets describe this ethereal atmosphere as bright, glistening, and refreshing, exercising a peculiar, gladdening influence over the minds and hearts of those privileged beings permitted to share its delights. Here youth never ages, and the passing years leave no traces on its favoured inhabitants. On the cloud-capped summit of Olympus was the palace of [28]Zeus and Hera, of burnished gold, chased silver, and gleaming ivory. Lower down were the homes of the other gods, which, though less commanding in position and size, were yet similar to that of Zeus in design and workmanship, all being the work of the divine artist Hephæstus. Below these were other palaces of silver, ebony, ivory, or burnished brass, where the Heroes, or Demi-gods, resided.

As the worship of Zeus formed so important a feature in the religion of the Greeks, his statues were necessarily both numerous and magnificent. He is usually represented as a man of noble and imposing mien, his countenance expressing all the lofty majesty of the omnipotent ruler of the universe, combined with the gracious, yet serious, benignity of the father and friend of mankind. He may be recognized by his rich flowing beard, and the thick masses of hair, which rise straight from the high and intellectual forehead and fall to his shoulders in clustering locks. The nose is large and finely formed, and the slightly-opened lips impart an air of sympathetic kindliness which invites confidence. He is always accompanied by an eagle, which either surmounts his sceptre, or sits at his feet; he generally bears in his uplifted hand a sheaf of thunder-bolts, just ready to be hurled, whilst in the other he holds the lightning. The head is frequently encircled with a wreath of oak-leaves.

Zeus

The most celebrated statue of the Olympian Zeus was that by the famous Athenian sculptor Phidias, which was forty feet high, and stood in the temple of Zeus at Olympia. It was formed of ivory and gold, and was [29]such a masterpiece of art, that it was reckoned among the seven wonders of the world. It represented the god, seated on a throne, holding in his right hand a life-sized image of Nike (the goddess of Victory), and in his left a royal sceptre, surmounted by an eagle. It is said that the great sculptor had concentrated all the marvellous powers of his genius on this sublime conception, and earnestly entreated Zeus to give him a decided proof that his labours were approved. An answer to his prayer came through the open roof of the temple in the shape of a flash of lightning, which Phidias interpreted as a sign that the god of heaven was pleased with his work.

Zeus was first worshipped at Dodona in Epirus, where, at the foot of Mount Tomarus, on the woody shore of Lake Joanina, was his famous oracle, the most ancient in Greece. Here the voice of the eternal and invisible god was supposed to be heard in the rustling leaves of a giant oak, announcing to mankind the will of heaven and the destiny of mortals; these revelations being interpreted to the people by the priests of Zeus, who were called Selli. Recent excavations which have been made at this spot have brought to light the ruins of the ancient temple of Zeus, and also, among other interesting relics, some plates of lead, on which are engraved inquiries which were evidently made by certain individuals who consulted the oracle. These little leaden plates speak to us, as it were, in a curiously homely manner of a by-gone time in the buried past. One person inquires what god he should apply to for health and fortune; another asks for advice concerning his child; and a third, evidently a shepherd, promises a gift to the oracle should a speculation in sheep turn out successfully. Had these little memorials been of gold instead of lead, they would doubtless have shared the fate of the numerous treasures which adorned this and other temples, in the universal pillage which took place when Greece fell into the hands of barbarians.

Though Dodona was the most ancient of his shrines, the great national seat of the worship of Zeus was at Olympia in Elis, where there was a magnificent temple[30]dedicated to him, containing the famous colossal statue by Phidias above described. Crowds of devout worshippers flocked to this world-renowned fane from all parts of Greece, not only to pay homage to their supreme deity, but also to join in the celebrated games which were held there at intervals of four years. The Olympic games were such a thoroughly national institution, that even Greeks who had left their native country made a point of returning on these occasions, if possible, in order to contend with their fellow-countrymen in the various athletic sports which took place at these festivals.

It will be seen on reflection that in a country like Greece, which contained so many petty states, often at variance with each other, these national gatherings must have been most valuable as a means of uniting the Greeks in one great bond of brotherhood. On these festive occasions the whole nation met together, forgetting for the moment all past differences, and uniting in the enjoyment of the same festivities.

It will doubtless have been remarked that in the representations of Zeus he is always accompanied by an eagle. This royal bird was sacred to him, probably from the fact of its being the only creature capable of gazing at the sun without being dazzled, which may have suggested the idea that it was able to contemplate the splendour of divine majesty unshrinkingly.

The oak-tree, and also the summits of mountains, were sacred to Zeus. His sacrifices consisted of white bulls, cows, and goats.

Zeus had seven immortal wives, whose names were Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Demeter, Mnemosyne, Leto, and Hera.

METIS, his first wife, was one of the Oceanides or sea-nymphs. She was the personification of prudence and wisdom, a convincing proof of which she displayed in her successful administration of the potion which caused Cronus to yield up his children. She was endowed with the gift of prophecy, and foretold to Zeus that one of their children would gain ascendency over [31]him. In order, therefore, to avert the possibility of the prediction being fulfilled he swallowed her before any children were born to them. Feeling afterwards violent pains in his head, he sent for Hephæstus, and ordered him to open it with an axe. His command was obeyed, and out sprang, with a loud and martial shout, a beautiful being, clad in armour from head to foot. This was Athene (Minerva), goddess of Armed Resistance and Wisdom.

THEMIS was the goddess of Justice, Law, and Order.

EURYNOME was one of the Oceanides, and the mother of the Charites or Graces.

DEMETER,[13] the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, was the goddess of Agriculture.

MNEMOSYNE, the daughter of Uranus and Gæa, was the goddess of Memory and the mother of the nine Muses.

LETO (Latona) was the daughter of Cœus and Phœbe. She was gifted with wonderful beauty, and was tenderly loved by Zeus, but her lot was far from being a happy one, for Hera, being extremely jealous of her, persecuted her with inveterate cruelty, and sent the dreadful serpent Python[14] to terrify and torment her wherever she went. But Zeus, who had observed with the deepest compassion her weary wanderings and agonized fears, resolved to create for her some place of refuge, however humble, where she might feel herself safe from the venomous attacks of the serpent. He therefore brought her to Delos, a floating island in the Ægean Sea, which he made stationary by attaching it with chains of adamant to the bottom of the sea. Here she gave birth to her twin-children, Apollo and Artemis (Diana), two of the most beautiful of the immortals.

According to some versions of the story of Leto, Zeus transformed her into a quail, in order that she might thus elude the vigilance of Hera, and she is said to have[32]resumed her true form when she arrived at the island of Delos.

HERA, being the principal wife of Zeus and queen of heaven, a detailed account will be given of her in a special chapter.

In the union of Zeus with most of his immortal wives we shall find that an allegorical meaning is conveyed. His marriage with Metis, who is said to have surpassed both gods and men in knowledge, represents supreme power allied to wisdom and prudence. His union with Themis typifies the bond which exists between divine majesty and justice, law, and order. Eurynome, as the mother of the Charites or Graces, supplied the refining and harmonizing influences of grace and beauty, whilst the marriage of Zeus with Mnemosyne typifies the union of genius with memory.


In addition to the seven immortal wives of Zeus, he was also allied to a number of mortal maidens whom he visited under various disguises, as it was supposed that if he revealed himself in his true form as king of heaven the splendour of his glory would cause instant destruction to mortals. The mortal consorts of Zeus have been such a favourite theme with poets, painters, and sculptors, that it is necessary to give some account of their individual history. Those best known are Antiope, Leda, Europa, Callisto, Alcmene, Semele, Io, and Danae.

ANTIOPE, to whom Zeus appeared under the form of a satyr, was the daughter of Nicteus, king of Thebes. To escape the anger of her father she fled to Sicyon, where king Epopeus, enraptured with her wonderful beauty, made her his wife without asking her father's consent. This so enraged Nicteus that he declared war against Epopeus, in order to compel him to restore Antiope. At his death, which took place before he could succeed in his purpose, Nicteus left his kingdom to his brother Lycus, commanding him, at the same time, to carry on the war, and execute his vengeance. Lycus invaded Sicyon, defeated and killed Epopeus, and brought back[33]Antiope as a prisoner. On the way to Thebes she gave birth to her twin-sons, Amphion and Zethus, who, by the orders of Lycus, were at once exposed on Mount Cithaeron, and would have perished but for the kindness of a shepherd, who took pity on them and preserved their lives. Antiope was, for many years, held captive by her uncle Lycus, and compelled to suffer the utmost cruelty at the hands of his wife Dirce. But one day her bonds were miraculously loosened, and she flew for shelter and protection to the humble dwelling of her sons on Mount Cithaeron. During the long period of their mother's captivity the babes had grown into sturdy youths, and, as they listened angrily to the story of her wrongs, they became all impatience to avenge them. Setting off at once to Thebes they succeeded in possessing themselves of the town, and after slaying the cruel Lycus they bound Dirce by the hair to the horns of a wild bull, which dragged her hither and thither until she expired. Her mangled body was cast into the fount near Thebes, which still bears her name. Amphion became king of Thebes in his uncle's stead. He was a friend of the Muses, and devoted to music and poetry. His brother, Zethus, was famous for his skill in archery, and was passionately fond of the chase. It is said that when Amphion wished to inclose the town of Thebes with walls and towers, he had but to play a sweet melody on the lyre, given to him by Hermes, and the huge stones began to move, and obediently fitted themselves together.

The punishment of Dirce at the hands of Amphion and Zethus forms the subject of the world-renowned marble group in the museum at Naples, known by the name of the Farnese Bull.

In sculpture Amphion is always represented with a lyre; Zethus with a club.

LEDA, whose affections Zeus won under the form of a swan, was the daughter of Thestius, king of Ætolia. Her twin-sons, Castor and (Polydeuces or) Pollux,[15] were[34]renowned for their tender attachment to each other. They were also famous for their physical accomplishments, Castor being the most expert charioteer of his day, and Pollux the first of pugilists. Their names appear both among the hunters of the Calydonian boar-hunt and the heroes of the Argonautic expedition. The brothers became attached to the daughters of Leucippus, prince of the Messenians, who had been betrothed by their father to Idas and Lynceus, sons of Aphareus. Having persuaded Leucippus to break his promise, the twins carried off the maidens as their brides. Idas and Lynceus, naturally furious at this proceeding, challenged the Dioscuri to mortal combat, in which Castor perished by the hand of Idas, and Lynceus by that of Pollux. Zeus wished to confer the gift of immortality upon Pollux, but he refused to accept it unless allowed to share it with Castor. Zeus gave the desired permission, and the faithful brothers were both allowed to live, but only on alternate days. The Dioscuri received divine honours throughout Greece, and were worshipped with special reverence at Sparta.

EUROPA was the beautiful daughter of Agenor, king of Phœnicia. She was one day gathering flowers with her companions in a meadow near the sea-shore, when Zeus, charmed with her great beauty, and wishing to win her love, transformed himself into a beautiful white bull, and trotted quietly up to the princess, so as not to alarm her. Surprised at the gentleness of the animal, and admiring its beauty, as it lay placidly on the grass, she caressed it, crowned it with flowers, and, at last, playfully seated herself on its back. Hardly had she done so than the disguised god bounded away with his lovely burden, and swam across the sea with her to the island of Crete.

Europa was the mother of Minos, Aeacus, and Rhadamanthus. Minos, who became king of Crete, was celebrated for his justice and moderation, and after death he was created one of the judges of the lower world, which office he held in conjunction with his brothers.[35]

CALLISTO, the daughter of Lycaon, king of Arcadia, was a huntress in the train of Artemis, devoted to the pleasures of the chase, who had made a vow never to marry; but Zeus, under the form of the huntress-goddess, succeeded in obtaining her affections. Hera, being extremely jealous of her, changed her into a bear, and caused Artemis (who failed to recognize her attendant under this form) to hunt her in the chase, and put an end to her existence. After her death she was placed by Zeus among the stars as a constellation, under the name of Arctos, or the bear.

ALCMENE, the daughter of Electryon, king of Mycenae, was betrothed to her cousin Amphytrion; but, during his absence on a perilous undertaking, Zeus assumed his form, and obtained her affections. Heracles (whose world-renowned exploits will be related among the legends) was the son of Alcmene and Zeus.

SEMELE, a beautiful princess, the daughter of Cadmus, king of Phœnicia, was greatly beloved by Zeus. Like the unfortunate Callisto, she was hated by Hera with jealous malignity, and the haughty queen of heaven determined to effect her destruction. Disguising herself, therefore, as Berœ, Semele's faithful old nurse, she artfully persuaded her to insist upon Zeus visiting her, as he appeared to Hera, in all his power and glory, well knowing that this would cause her instant death. Semele, suspecting no treachery, followed the advice of her supposed nurse; and the next time Zeus came to her, she earnestly entreated him to grant the favour she was about to ask. Zeus swore by the Styx (which was to the gods an irrevocable oath) to accede to her request whatsoever it might be. Semele, therefore, secure of gaining her petition, begged of Zeus to appear to her in all the glory of his divine power and majesty. As he had sworn to grant whatever she asked of him, he was compelled to comply with her wish; he therefore revealed himself as the mighty lord of the universe, accompanied by thunder and lightning, and she was instantly consumed in the flames.[36]

IO, daughter of Inachus, king of Argos, was a priestess of Hera. She was very beautiful, and Zeus, who was much attached to her, transformed her into a white cow, in order to defeat the jealous intrigues of Hera, who, however, was not to be deceived. Aware of the stratagem, she contrived to obtain the animal from Zeus, and placed her under the watchful care of a man called Argus-Panoptes, who fastened her to an olive-tree in the grove of Hera. He had a hundred eyes, of which, when asleep, he never closed more than two at a time; being thus always on the watch, Hera found him extremely useful in keeping guard over Io. Hermes, however, by the command of Zeus, succeeded in putting all his eyes to sleep with the sound of his magic lyre, and then, taking advantage of his helpless condition, slew him. The story goes, that in commemoration of the services which Argus had rendered her, Hera placed his eyes on the tail of a peacock, as a lasting memorial of her gratitude. Ever fertile in resource, Hera now sent a gadfly to worry and torment the unfortunate Io incessantly, and she wandered all over the world in hopes of escaping from her tormentor. At length she reached Egypt, where she found rest and freedom from the persecutions of her enemy. On the banks of the Nile she resumed her original form and gave birth to a son called Epaphus, who afterwards became king of Egypt, and built the famous city of Memphis.

DANAE.—Zeus appeared to Danae under the form of a shower of gold. (Further details concerning her will be found in the legend of Perseus.)


The Greeks supposed that the divine ruler of the Universe occasionally assumed a human form, and descended from his celestial abode, in order to visit mankind and observe their proceedings, his aim being generally either to punish the guilty, or to reward the deserving.

On one occasion Zeus, accompanied by Hermes, made a journey through Phrygia, seeking hospitality and shelter wherever they went. But nowhere did they receive a[37]kindly welcome till they came to the humble cottage of an old man and his wife called Philemon and Baucis, who entertained them with the greatest kindness, setting before them what frugal fare their humble means permitted, and bidding them welcome with unaffected cordiality. Observing in the course of their simple repast that the wine bowl was miraculously replenished, the aged couple became convinced of the divine nature of their guests. The gods now informed them that on account of its wickedness their native place was doomed to destruction, and told them to climb the neighbouring hill with them, which overlooked the village where they dwelt. What was their dismay on beholding at their feet, in place of the spot where they had passed so many happy years together, nothing but a watery plain, the only house to be seen being their own little cottage, which suddenly changed itself into a temple before their eyes. Zeus now asked the worthy pair to name any wish they particularly desired and it should be granted. They accordingly begged that they might serve the gods in the temple below, and end life together.

Their wish was granted, for, after spending the remainder of their lives in the worship of the gods, they both died at the same instant, and were transformed by Zeus into trees, remaining for ever side by side.

Upon another occasion Zeus, wishing to ascertain for himself the truth of the reports concerning the atrocious wickedness of mankind, made a journey through Arcadia. Being recognized by the Arcadians as king of heaven, he was received by them with becoming respect and veneration; but Lycaon, their king, who had rendered himself infamous by the gross impiety of himself and his sons, doubted the divinity of Zeus, ridiculed his people for being so easily duped, and, according to his custom of killing all strangers who ventured to trust his hospitality, resolved to murder him. Before executing this wicked design, however, he decided to put Zeus to the test, and having killed a boy for the purpose, placed before him a dish containing human flesh. But Zeus was [38]not to be deceived. He beheld the revolting dish with horror and loathing, and angrily upsetting the table upon which it was placed, turned Lycaon into a wolf, and destroyed all his fifty sons by lightning, except Nyctimus, who was saved by the intervention of Gæa.

JUPITER.

The Roman Jupiter, who is so frequently confounded with the Greek Zeus, is identical with him only as being the head of the Olympic gods, and the presiding deity over Life, Light, and Aërial Phenomena. Jupiter is lord of life in its widest and most comprehensive signification, having absolute power over life and death, in which respect he differed from the Greek Zeus, who was to a certain extent controlled by the all-potent sway of the Moiræ or Fates. Zeus, as we have seen, often condescends to visit mankind, either as a mortal, or under various disguises, whereas Jupiter always remains essentially the supreme god of heaven, and never appears upon earth.

The most celebrated temple of Jupiter was that on the Capitoline Hill in the city of Rome, where he was worshipped under the names of Jupiter-Optimus-Maximus, Capitolinus, and Tarpeius.

The Romans represented him seated on a throne of ivory, holding in his right hand a sheaf of thunderbolts, and in his left a sceptre, whilst an eagle stands beside his throne.

HERA (Juno).

Hera, the eldest daughter of Cronus and Rhea, was born at Samos, or, according to some accounts, at Argos, and was reared by the sea-divinities Oceanus and Tethys, who were models of conjugal fidelity.[16] She was the [39]principal wife of Zeus, and, as queen of heaven, participated in the honours paid to him, but her dominion only extended over the air (the lower aërial regions). Hera appears to be the sublime embodiment of strict matronly virtue, and is on that account the protectress of purity and married women. Faultless herself in her fidelity as a wife, she is essentially the type of the sanctity of the marriage tie, and holds in abhorrence any violation of its obligations. So strongly was she imbued with this hatred of any immorality, that, finding herself so often called upon to punish the failings of both gods and men in this respect, she became jealous, harsh, and vindictive. Her exalted position as the wife of the supreme deity, combined with her extreme beauty, caused her to become exceedingly vain, and she consequently resented with great severity any infringement on her rights as queen of heaven, or any apparent slight on her personal appearance.

The following story will signally illustrate how ready she was to resent any slight offered to her.

At the marriage of the sea-nymph Thetis with a mortal called Peleus, all the gods and goddesses were present, except Eris (the goddess of Discord). Indignant at not being invited, she determined to cause dissension in the assembly, and for this purpose threw into the midst of the guests a golden apple with the inscription on it "For the Fairest." Now, as all the goddesses were extremely beautiful, each claimed the apple; but at length, the rest having relinquished their pretensions, the number of candidates was reduced to three, Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite, who agreed to appeal to Paris for a settlement of this delicate question, he being noted for the wisdom he had displayed in his judgment upon several occasions. Paris was the son of Priam, king of Troy, who, ignorant of his noble birth, was at this time feeding his flocks on Mount Ida, in Phrygia. Hermes, as messenger of the gods, conducted the three rival beauties to the young shepherd, and with breathless anxiety they awaited his decision. Each fair candidate endeavoured [40]to secure his favour by the most tempting offers. Hera promised him extensive dominions; Athene, martial fame and glory; and Aphrodite, the loveliest woman in the world. But whether he really considered Aphrodite the fairest of the three, or preferred a beautiful wife to fame and power, we cannot tell; all we know is that to her he awarded the golden apple, and she became ever after universally acknowledged as the goddess of beauty. Hera, having fully expected that Paris would give her the preference, was so indignant that she never forgave him, and not only persecuted him, but all the family of Priam, whose dreadful sufferings and misfortunes during the Trojan war were attributed to her influence. In fact, she carried her animosity to such an extent that it was often the cause of domestic disagreements between herself and Zeus, who espoused the cause of the Trojans.

Among the many stories of these frequent quarrels there is one connected with Heracles, the favourite son of Zeus, which is as follows:—Hera having raised a storm at sea in order to drive him out of his course, Zeus became so angry that he hung her in the clouds by a golden chain, and attached heavy anvils to her feet. Her son Hephæstus tried to release his mother from her humiliating position, for which Zeus threw him out of heaven, and his leg was broken by the fall.

Hera, being deeply offended with Zeus, determined to separate herself from him for ever, and she accordingly left him and took up her abode in Eubœa. Surprised and grieved at this unlooked-for desertion, Zeus resolved to leave no means untried to win her back again. In this emergency he consulted Cithaeron, king of Platea, who was famed for his great wisdom and subtlety. Cithaeron advised him to dress up an image in bridal attire and place it in a chariot, announcing that this was Platea, his future wife. The artifice succeeded. Hera, incensed at the idea of a rival, flew to meet the procession in great anger, and seizing the supposed bride, she furiously attacked her and dragged off her nuptial attire. Her delight on discovering the deception was so great that a [41]reconciliation took place, and, committing the image to the flames, with joyful laughter she seated herself in its place and returned to Olympus.

Hera was the mother of Ares (Mars), Hephæstus, Hebe, and Eileithyia. Ares was the god of War; Hephæstus, of Fire; Hebe, of Youth; and Eileithyia presided over the birth of mortals.

Hera dearly loved Greece, and indeed always watched over and protected Greek interests, her beloved and favourite cities being Argos, Samos, Sparta, and Mycenæ.

Hera

Her principal temples were at Argos and Samos. From a remote period she was greatly venerated at Olympia, and her temple there, which stood in the Altis or sacred grove, was five hundred years older than that of Zeus on the same spot. Some interesting excavations which are now going on there have brought to light the remains of the ancient edifice, which contains among other treasures of antiquity several beautiful statues, the work of the famous sculptors of ancient Greece. At first this temple was built of wood, then of stone, and the one lately discovered was formed of conglomerate of shells.

In the Altis races were run by young maidens in honour of Hera, and the fleetest of foot received in token of her victory an olive-wreath and a piece of the flesh of the sacrifices. These races, like the Olympic Games, were celebrated at intervals of four years, and were called Heræ. A beautiful robe, woven by sixteen women chosen from the sixteen cities of Elis, was always offered to Hera on these [42]occasions, and choral songs and sacred dances formed part of the ceremonies.

Hera is usually represented seated on a throne, holding a pomegranate in one hand and a sceptre surmounted by a cuckoo in the other. She appears as a calm, dignified matron of majestic beauty, robed in a tunic and mantle, her forehead is broad and intellectual, her eyes large and fully opened, and her arms dazzlingly white and finely moulded.

The finest statue of this divinity was that by Polycletus at Argos.

Her attributes are the diadem, veil, sceptre, and peacock.

The first day of every month a ewe-lamb and sow were sacrificed to Hera. The hawk, goose, and more particularly the peacock[17] were sacred to her. Flocks of these beautiful birds generally surround her throne and draw her chariot, Iris, the Rainbow, being seated behind her.

Her favourite flowers were the dittany, poppy, and lily.

JUNO.

Juno, the Roman divinity supposed to be identical with the Greek Hera, differed from her in the most salient points, for whereas Hera invariably appears as the haughty, unbending queen of heaven, Juno, on the other hand, is revered and beloved as the type of a matron and housewife. She was worshipped in Rome under various titles, most of which point to her vocation as the protectress of married women. Juno was believed to watch over and guard the life of every woman from her birth to her death. The principal temples dedicated to her were in Rome, one being erected on the Aventine, and the other on the Capitoline Hill. She had also a temple on the Arx, in which she was worshipped as Juno Moneta, or the [43]warning goddess. Adjacent to this shrine was the public mint.[18] On the 1st of March a grand annual festival, called the Matronalia, was celebrated in her honour by all the married women of Rome, and this religious institution was accompanied with much solemnity.[19]

PALLAS-ATHENE (Minerva).

Pallas-Athene, goddess of Wisdom and Armed Resistance, was a purely Greek divinity; that is to say, no other nation possessed a corresponding conception. She was supposed, as already related, to have issued from the head of Zeus himself, clad in armour from head to foot. The miraculous advent of this maiden goddess is beautifully described by Homer in one of his hymns: snow-capped Olympus shook to its foundation; the glad earth re-echoed her martial shout; the billowy sea became agitated; and Helios, the sun-god, arrested his fiery steeds in their headlong course to welcome this wonderful emanation from the godhead. Athene was at once admitted into the assembly of the gods, and henceforth took her place as the most faithful and sagacious of all her father's counsellors. This brave, dauntless maiden, so exactly the essence of all that is noble in the character of "the father of gods and men," remained throughout chaste in word and deed, and kind at heart, without exhibiting any of those failings which somewhat mar the nobler features in the character of Zeus. This direct emanation from his own self, justly his favourite child, his better and purer counterpart, received from him several important prerogatives. She was permitted to hurl the thunderbolts, to prolong the life of man, and to bestow the gift of prophecy; in fact Athene was the only divinity whose authority was equal to that of Zeus himself, and when he had ceased to visit the earth in person [44]she was empowered by him to act as his deputy. It was her especial duty to protect the state and all peaceful associations of mankind, which she possessed the power of defending when occasion required. She encouraged the maintenance of law and order, and defended the right on all occasions, for which reason, in the Trojan war she espouses the cause of the Greeks and exerts all her influence on their behalf. The Areopagus, a court of justice where religious causes and murders were tried, was believed to have been instituted by her, and when both sides happened to have an equal number of votes she gave the casting-vote in favour of the accused. She was the patroness of learning, science, and art, more particularly where these contributed directly towards the welfare of nations. She presided over all inventions connected with agriculture, invented the plough, and taught mankind how to use oxen for farming purposes. She also instructed mankind in the use of numbers, trumpets, chariots, &c., and presided over the building of the Argo,[20] thereby encouraging the useful art of navigation. She also taught the Greeks how to build the wooden horse by means of which the destruction of Troy was effected.

The safety of cities depended on her care, for which reason her temples were generally built on the citadels, and she was supposed to watch over the defence of the walls, fortifications, harbours, &c. A divinity who so faithfully guarded the best interests of the state, by not only protecting it from the attacks of enemies, but also by developing its chief resources of wealth and prosperity, was worthily chosen as the presiding deity of the state, and in this character as an essentially political goddess she was called Athene-Polias.

The fact of Athene having been born clad in armour, which merely signified that her virtue and purity were unassailable, has given rise to the erroneous supposition that she was the presiding goddess of war; but a deeper [45]study of her character in all its bearings proves that, in contradistinction to her brother Ares, the god of war, who loved strife for its own sake, she only takes up arms to protect the innocent and deserving against tyrannical oppression. It is true that in the Iliad we frequently see her on the battlefield fighting valiantly, and protecting her favourite heroes; but this is always at the command of Zeus, who even supplies her with arms for the purpose, as it is supposed that she possessed none of her own. A marked feature in the representations of this deity is the ægis, that wonderful shield given to her by her father as a further means of defence, which, when in danger, she swung so swiftly round and round that it kept at a distance all antagonistic influences; hence her name Pallas, frompallo, I swing. In the centre of this shield, which was covered with dragon's scales, bordered with serpents, and which she sometimes wore as a breastplate, was the awe-inspiring head of the Medusa, which had the effect of turning to stone all beholders.

In addition to the many functions which she exercised in connection with the state, Athene presided over the two chief departments of feminine industry, spinning and weaving. In the latter art she herself displayed unrivalled ability and exquisite taste. She wove her own robe and that of Hera, which last she is said to have embroidered very richly; she also gave Jason a cloak wrought by herself, when he set forth in quest of the Golden Fleece. Being on one occasion challenged to a contest in this accomplishment by a mortal maiden named Arachne, whom she had instructed in the art of weaving, she accepted the challenge and was completely vanquished by her pupil. Angry at her defeat, she struck the unfortunate maiden on the forehead with the shuttle which she held in her hand; and Arachne, being of a sensitive nature, was so hurt by this indignity that she hung herself in despair, and was changed by Athene into a spider. This goddess is said to have invented the flute,[21] upon [46]which she played with considerable talent, until one day, being laughed at by the assembled gods and goddesses for the contortions which her countenance assumed during these musical efforts, she hastily ran to a fountain in order to convince herself whether she deserved their ridicule. Finding to her intense disgust that such was indeed the fact, she threw the flute away, and never raised it to her lips again.

Athene

Athene is usually represented fully draped; she has a serious and thoughtful aspect, as though replete with earnestness and wisdom; the beautiful oval contour of her countenance is adorned by the luxuriance of her wealth of hair, which is drawn back from the temples and hangs down in careless grace; she looks the embodiment of strength, grandeur, and majesty; whilst her broad shoulders and small hips give her a slightly masculine appearance.

When represented as the war-goddess she appears clad in armour, with a helmet on her head, from which waves a large plume; she carries the ægis on her arm, and in her hand a golden staff, which possessed the property of endowing her chosen favourites with youth and dignity.

Athene was universally worshipped throughout Greece, but was regarded with special veneration by the Athenians, she being the guardian deity of Athens. Her most celebrated temple was the Parthenon, which stood on the [47]Acropolis at Athens, and contained her world-renowned statue by Phidias, which ranks second only to that of Zeus by the same great artist. This colossal statue was 39 feet high, and was composed of ivory and gold; its majestic beauty formed the chief attraction of the temple. It represented her standing erect, bearing her spear and shield; in her hand she held an image of Nike, and at her feet there lay a serpent.

The tree sacred to her was the olive, which she herself produced in a contest with Poseidon. The olive-tree thus called into existence was preserved in the temple of Erectheus, on the Acropolis, and is said to have possessed such marvellous vitality, that when the Persians burned it after sacking the town it immediately burst forth into new shoots.

The principal festival held in honour of this divinity was the Panathenæa.

The owl, cock, and serpent were the animals sacred to her, and her sacrifices were rams, bulls, and cows.

Minerva

MINERVA.

The Minerva of the Romans was identified with the Pallas-Athene of the Greeks. Like her she presides over learning and all useful arts, and is the patroness of the feminine accomplishments of sewing, spinning, weaving, &c. Schools were under her especial care, and schoolboys, therefore, had holidays during her festivals (the Greater Quinquatria), when they always brought a gift to their master, called the Minerval.

It is worthy of notice that the only three divinities [48]worshipped in the Capitol were Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, and in their joint honour the Ludi Maximi or great games were held.

THEMIS.

Themis, who has already been alluded to as the wife of Zeus, was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and personified those divine laws of justice and order by means of which the well-being and morality of communities are regulated. She presided over the assemblies of the people and the laws of hospitality. To her was intrusted the office of convoking the assembly of the gods, and she was also mistress of ritual and ceremony. On account of her great wisdom Zeus himself frequently sought her counsel and acted upon her advice. Themis was a prophetic divinity, and had an oracle near the river Cephissus in Bœotia.

She is usually represented as being in the full maturity of womanhood, of fair aspect, and wearing a flowing garment, which drapes her noble, majestic form; in her right hand she holds the sword of justice, and in her left the scales, which indicate the impartiality with which every cause is carefully weighed by her, her eyes being bandaged so that the personality of the individual should carry no weight with respect to the verdict.

This divinity is sometimes identified with Tyche, sometimes with Ananke.

Themis, like so many other Greek divinities, takes the place of a more ancient deity of the same name who was a daughter of Uranus and Gæa. This elder Themis inherited from her mother the gift of prophecy, and when she became merged into her younger representative she transmitted to her this prophetic power.

HESTIA (Vesta).

Hestia was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea. She was the goddess of Fire in its first application to the wants of mankind, hence she was essentially the presiding deity [49]of the domestic hearth and the guardian spirit of man, and it was her pure and benign influence which was supposed to protect the sanctity of domestic life.

Now in these early ages the hearth was regarded as the most important and most sacred portion of the dwelling, probably because the protection of the fire was an important consideration, for if once permitted to become extinct, re-ignition was attended with extreme difficulty. In fact, the hearth was held so sacred that it constituted the sanctum of the family, for which reason it was always erected in the centre of every house. It was a few feet in height and was built of stone; the fire was placed on the top of it, and served the double purpose of preparing the daily meals, and consuming the family sacrifices. Round this domestic hearth or altar were gathered the various members of the family, the head of the house occupying the place of honour nearest the hearth. Here prayers were said and sacrifices offered, and here also every kind and loving feeling was fostered, which even extended to the hunted and guilty stranger, who, if he once succeeded in touching this sacred altar, was safe from pursuit and punishment, and was henceforth placed under the protection of the family. Any crime committed within the sacred precincts of the domestic hearth was invariably visited by death.

Vesta

In Grecian cities there was a common hall, called the Prytaneum, in which the members of the government had their meals at the expense of the state, and here too was the Hestia, or public hearth, with its fire, by means of which those meals were prepared. It was customary for emigrants to take with them a portion of this sacred fire, which they jealously guarded and brought with them to their new home, where it served as a connecting link between the young Greek colony and the mother country. Hestia is generally represented standing, and in accordance with the dignity and sanctity of her character, always appears fully draped. Her countenance is distinguished by a serene gravity of expression.[50]

VESTA.

Vesta occupies a distinguished place among the earlier divinities of the Romans. Her temple in Rome, containing as it were the hearthstone of the nation, stood close beside the palace of Numa Pompilius.

On her altar burned the never-ceasing fire, which was tended by her priestesses, the Vestal Virgins.[22]

The temple of Vesta was circular in form, and contained that sacred and highly prized treasure the Palladium of Troy.[23]

The great festival in honour of Vesta, called the Vestalia, was celebrated on the 9th of June.

DEMETER (Ceres).

Demeter (from Ge-meter, earth-mother) was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea.[24] She represented that portion of Gæa (the whole solid earth) which we call the earth's crust, and which produces all vegetation. As goddess of agriculture, field-fruits, plenty, and productiveness, she was the sustainer of material life, and was therefore a divinity of great importance. When ancient Gæa lost, with Uranus, her position as a ruling divinity, she abdicated her sway in favour of her daughter Rhea, who henceforth inherited the powers which her mother had previously possessed, receiving in her place the honour and worship of mankind. In a very old poem Gæa is accordingly described as retiring to a cavern in the bowels [51]of the earth, where she sits in the lap of her daughter, slumbering, moaning, and nodding for ever and ever.

It is necessary to keep clearly in view the distinctive difference between the three great earth-goddesses Gæa, Rhea, and Demeter. Gæa represents the earth as a whole, with its mighty subterranean forces; Rhea is that productive power which causes vegetation to spring forth, thus sustaining men and animals; Demeter, by presiding over agriculture, directs and utilizes Rhea's productive powers. But in later times, when Rhea, like other ancient divinities, loses her importance as a ruling deity, Demeter assumes all her functions and attributes, and then becomes the goddess of the life-producing and life-maintaining earth-crust. We must bear in mind the fact that man in his primitive state knew neither how to sow nor how to till the ground; when, therefore, he had exhausted the pastures which surrounded him he was compelled to seek others which were as yet unreaped; thus, roaming constantly from one place to another, settled habitations, and consequently civilizing influences, were impossible. Demeter, however, by introducing a knowledge of agriculture, put an end, at once and for ever, to that nomadic life which was now no longer necessary.

Demeter

The favour of Demeter was believed to bring mankind rich harvests and fruitful crops, whereas her displeasure caused blight, drought, and famine. The island of Sicily was supposed to be under her especial protection, and there she was regarded with particular veneration, the Sicilians naturally attributing the wonderful fertility of their country to the partiality of the goddess.

Demeter is usually represented as a woman of noble [52]bearing and majestic appearance, tall, matronly, and dignified, with beautiful golden hair, which falls in rippling curls over her stately shoulders, the yellow locks being emblematical of the ripened ears of corn. Sometimes she appears seated in a chariot drawn by winged dragons, at others she stands erect, her figure drawn up to its full height, and always fully draped; she bears a sheaf of wheat-ears in one hand and a lighted torch in the other. The wheat-ears are not unfrequently replaced by a bunch of poppies, with which her brows are also garlanded, though sometimes she merely wears a simple riband in her hair.

Demeter, as the wife of Zeus, became the mother of Persephone (Proserpine), to whom she was so tenderly attached that her whole life was bound up in her, and she knew no happiness except in her society. One day, however, whilst Persephone was gathering flowers in a meadow, attended by the ocean-nymphs, she saw to her surprise a beautiful narcissus, from the stem of which sprang forth a hundred blossoms. Drawing near to examine this lovely flower, whose exquisite scent perfumed the air, she stooped down to gather it, suspecting no evil, when a yawning abyss opened at her feet, and Aïdes, the grim ruler of the lower world, appeared from its depths, seated in his dazzling chariot drawn by four black horses. Regardless of her tears and the shrieks of her female attendants, Aïdes seized the terrified maiden, and bore her away to the gloomy realms over which he reigned in melancholy grandeur. Helios, the all-seeing sun-god, and Hecate, a mysterious and very ancient divinity, alone heard her cries for aid, but were powerless to help her. When Demeter became conscious of her loss her grief was intense, and she refused to be comforted. She knew not where to seek for her child, but feeling that repose and inaction were impossible, she set out on her weary search, taking with her two torches which she lighted in the flames of Mount Etna to guide her on her way. For nine long days and nights she wandered on, inquiring of every one she met for tidings of her child. [53]But all was in vain! Neither gods nor men could give her the comfort which her soul so hungered for. At last, on the tenth day, the disconsolate mother met Hecate, who informed her that she had heard her daughter's cries, but knew not who it was that had borne her away. By Hecate's advice Demeter consulted Helios, whose all-seeing eye nothing escapes, and from him she learnt that it was Zeus himself who had permitted Aïdes to seize Persephone, and transport her to the lower world in order that she might become his wife. Indignant with Zeus for having given his sanction to the abduction of his daughter, and filled with the bitterest sorrow, she abandoned her home in Olympus, and refused all heavenly food. Disguising herself as an old woman, she descended upon earth, and commenced a weary pilgrimage among mankind. One evening she arrived at a place called Eleusis, in Attica, and sat down to rest herself near a well beneath the shade of an olive-tree. The youthful daughters of Celeus, the king of the country, came with their pails of brass to draw water from this well, and seeing that the tired wayfarer appeared faint and dispirited, they spoke kindly to her, asking who she was, and whence she came. Demeter replied that she had made her escape from pirates, who had captured her, and added that she would feel grateful for a home with any worthy family, whom she would be willing to serve in a menial capacity. The princesses, on hearing this, begged Demeter to have a moment's patience while they returned home and consulted their mother, Metaneira. They soon brought the joyful intelligence that she was desirous of securing her services as nurse to her infant son Demophoon, or Triptolemus. When Demeter arrived at the house a radiant light suddenly illumined her, which circumstance so overawed Metaneira that she treated the unknown stranger with the greatest respect, and hospitably offered her food and drink. But Demeter, still grief-worn and dejected, refused her friendly offers, and held herself apart from the social board. At length, however, the maid-servant Iambe succeeded, by means [54]of playful jests and merriment, in somewhat dispelling the grief of the sorrowing mother, causing her at times to smile in spite of herself, and even inducing her to partake of a mixture of barley-meal, mint, and water, which was prepared according to the directions of the goddess herself. Time passed on, and the young child throve amazingly under the care of his kind and judicious nurse, who, however, gave him no food, but anointed him daily with ambrosia, and every night laid him secretly in the fire in order to render him immortal and exempt from old age. But, unfortunately, this benevolent design on the part of Demeter was frustrated by Metaneira herself, whose curiosity, one night, impelled her to watch the proceedings of the mysterious being who nursed her child. When to her horror she beheld her son placed in the flames, she shrieked aloud. Demeter, incensed at this untimely interruption, instantly withdrew the child, and throwing him on the ground, revealed herself in her true character. The bent and aged form had vanished, and in its place there stood a bright and beauteous being, whose golden locks streamed over her shoulders in richest luxuriance, her whole aspect bespeaking dignity and majesty. She told the awe-struck Metaneira that she was the goddess Demeter, and had intended to make her son immortal, but that her fatal curiosity had rendered this impossible, adding, however, that the child, having slept in her arms, and been nursed on her lap, should ever command the respect and esteem of mankind. She then desired that a temple and altar should be erected to her on a neighbouring hill by the people of Eleusis, promising that she herself would direct them how to perform the sacred rites and ceremonies, which should be observed in her honour. With these words she took her departure never to return.

Obedient to her commands, Celeus called together a meeting of his people, and built the temple on the spot which the goddess had indicated. It was soon completed, and Demeter took up her abode in it, but her heart was still sad for the loss of her daughter, and the whole world felt the influence of her grief and dejection. This was[55]indeed a terrible year for mankind. Demeter no longer smiled on the earth she was wont to bless, and though the husbandman sowed the grain, and the groaning oxen ploughed the fields, no harvest rewarded their labour. All was barren, dreary desolation. The world was threatened with famine, and the gods with the loss of their accustomed honours and sacrifices; it became evident, therefore, to Zeus himself that some measures must be adopted to appease the anger of the goddess. He accordingly despatched Iris and many of the other gods and goddesses to implore Demeter to return to Olympus; but all their prayers were fruitless. The incensed goddess swore that until her daughter was restored to her she would not allow the grain to spring forth from the earth. At length Zeus sent Hermes, his faithful messenger, to the lower world with a petition to Aïdes, urgently entreating him to restore Persephone to the arms of her disconsolate mother. When he arrived in the gloomy realms of Aïdes, Hermes found him seated on a throne with the beautiful Persephone beside him, sorrowfully bewailing her unhappy fate. On learning his errand, Aïdes consented to resign Persephone, who joyfully prepared to follow the messenger of the gods to the abode of life and light. Before taking leave of her husband, he presented to her a few seeds of pomegranate, which in her excitement she thoughtlessly swallowed, and this simple act, as the sequel will show, materially affected her whole future life. The meeting between mother and child was one of unmixed rapture, and for the moment all the past was forgotten. The loving mother's happiness would now have been complete had not Aïdes asserted his rights. These were, that if any immortal had tasted food in his realms they were bound to remain there for ever. Of course the ruler of the lower world had to prove this assertion. This, however, he found no difficulty in doing, as Ascalaphus, the son of Acheron and Orphne, was his witness to the fact.[25] Zeus, pitying the disappointment of Demeter at finding [56]her hopes thus blighted, succeeded in effecting a compromise by inducing his brother Aïdes to allow Persephone to spend six months of the year with the gods above, whilst during the other six she was to be the joyless companion of her grim lord below. Accompanied by her daughter, the beautiful Persephone, Demeter now resumed her long-abandoned dwelling in Olympus; the sympathetic earth responded gaily to her bright smiles, the corn at once sprang forth from the ground in fullest plenty, the trees, which late were sered and bare, now donned their brightest emerald robes, and the flowers, so long imprisoned in the hard, dry soil, filled the whole air with their fragrant perfume. Thus ends this charming story, which was a favourite theme with all the classic authors.

It is very possible that the poets who first created this graceful myth merely intended it as an allegory to illustrate the change of seasons; in the course of time, however, a literal meaning became attached to this and similar poetical fancies, and thus the people of Greece came to regard as an article of religious belief what, in the first instance, was nothing more than a poetic simile.

In the temple erected to Demeter at Eleusis, the famous Eleusinian Mysteries were instituted by the goddess herself. It is exceedingly difficult, as in the case of all secret societies, to discover anything with certainty concerning these sacred rites. The most plausible supposition is that the doctrines taught by the priests to the favoured few whom they initiated, were religious truths which were deemed unfit for the uninstructed mind of the multitude. For instance, it is supposed that the myth of Demeter and Persephone was explained by the teachers of the Mysteries to signify the temporary loss which mother earth sustains every year when the icy breath of winter robs her of her flowers and fruits and grain.

It is believed that in later times a still deeper meaning was conveyed by this beautiful myth, viz., the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. The grain, which, as it were, remains dead for a time in the dark earth, only [57]to rise one day dressed in a newer and lovelier garb, was supposed to symbolize the soul, which, after death, frees itself from corruption, to live again under a better and purer form.

When Demeter instituted the Eleusinian Mysteries, Celeus and his family were the first to be initiated, Celeus himself being appointed high-priest. His son Triptolemus and his daughters, who acted as priestesses, assisted him in the duties of his sacred office. The Mysteries were celebrated by the Athenians every five years, and were, for a long time, their exclusive privilege. They took place by torchlight, and were conducted with the greatest solemnity.

In order to spread abroad the blessings which agriculture confers, Demeter presented Triptolemus with her chariot drawn by winged dragons, and, giving him some grains of corn, desired him to journey through the world, teaching mankind the arts of agriculture and husbandry.

Ceres

Demeter exercised great severity towards those who incurred her displeasure. We find examples of this in the stories of Stellio and Eresicthon. Stellio was a youth who ridiculed the goddess for the eagerness with which she was eating a bowl of porridge, when weary and faint in the vain search for her daughter. Resolved that he should never again have an opportunity of thus offending, she angrily threw into his face the remainder of the food, and changed him into a spotted lizard.

Eresicthon, son of Triopas, had drawn upon himself the anger of Demeter by cutting down her sacred groves, for which she punished him with a constant and insatiable hunger. He sold all his possessions in order to satisfy his cravings, and was forced at last to devour his own limbs. His daughter Metra, who was devotedly attached to him, possessed the power of transforming herself into a variety of different animals. By this means she contrived to support her father, who sold her again and again each time she assumed a different form, and thus he dragged on a pitiful existence.[58]

CERES.

The Roman Ceres is actually the Greek Demeter under another name, her attributes, worship, festivals, &c., being precisely identical.

The Romans were indebted to Sicily for this divinity, her worship having been introduced by the Greek colonists who settled there.

The Cerealia, or festivals in honour of Ceres, commenced on the 12th of April, and lasted several days.

APHRODITE (Venus).

Aphrodite (from aphros, sea-foam, and dite, issued), the daughter of Zeus and a sea-nymph called Dione, was the goddess of Love and Beauty.

Dione, being a sea-nymph, gave birth to her daughter beneath the waves; but the child of the heaven-inhabiting Zeus was forced to ascend from the ocean-depths and mount to the snow-capped summits of Olympus, in order to breathe that ethereal and most refined atmosphere which pertains to the celestial gods.

Aphrodite was the mother of Eros (Cupid), the god of Love, also of Æneas, the great Trojan hero and the head of that Greek colony which settled in Italy, and from which arose the city of Rome. As a mother Aphrodite claims our sympathy for the tenderness she exhibits towards her children. Homer tells us in his Iliad, how, when Æneas was wounded in battle, she came to his assistance, regardless of personal danger, and was herself severely wounded in attempting to save his life.[59]

Aphrodite was tenderly attached to a lovely youth, called Adonis, whose exquisite beauty has become proverbial. He was a motherless babe, and Aphrodite, taking pity on him, placed him in a chest and intrusted him to the care of Persephone, who became so fond of the beautiful youth that she refused to part with him. Zeus, being appealed to by the rival foster-mothers, decided that Adonis should spend four months of every year with Persephone, four with Aphrodite, whilst during the remaining four months he should be left to his own devices. He became, however, so attached to Aphrodite that he voluntarily devoted to her the time at his own disposal. Adonis was killed, during the chase, by a wild boar, to the great grief of Aphrodite, who bemoaned his loss so persistently that Aïdes, moved with pity, permitted him to pass six months of every year with her, whilst the remaining half of the year was spent by him in the lower world.

Aphrodite possessed a magic girdle (the famous cestus) which she frequently lent to unhappy maidens suffering from the pangs of unrequited love, as it was endowed with the power of inspiring affection for the wearer, whom it invested with every attribute of grace, beauty, and fascination.

Her usual attendants are the Charites or Graces (Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia), who are represented undraped and intertwined in a loving embrace.

In Hesiod's Theogony she is supposed to belong to the more ancient divinities, and, whilst those of later date are represented as having descended one from another, and all more or less from Zeus, Aphrodite has a variously-accounted-for, yet independent origin.

The most poetical version of her birth is that when Uranus was wounded by his son Cronus, his blood mingled with the foam of the sea, whereupon the bubbling waters at once assumed a rosy tint, and from their depths arose, in all the surpassing glory of her loveliness, Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty! Shaking her long, fair tresses, the water-drops rolled down into the beautiful [60]sea-shell in which she stood, and became transformed into pure glistening pearls. Wafted by the soft and balmy breezes, she floated on to Cythera, and was thence transported to the island of Cyprus. Lightly she stepped on shore, and under the gentle pressure of her delicate foot the dry and rigid sand became transformed into a verdant meadow, where every varied shade of colour and every sweet odour charmed the senses. The whole island of Cyprus became clothed with verdure, and greeted this fairest of all created beings with a glad smile of friendly welcome. Here she was received by the Seasons, who decked her with garments of immortal fabric, encircling her fair brow with a wreath of purest gold, whilst from her ears depended costly rings, and a glittering chain embraced her swan-like throat. And now, arrayed in all the panoply of her irresistible charms, the nymphs escort her to the dazzling halls of Olympus, where she is received with ecstatic enthusiasm by the admiring gods and goddesses. The gods all vied with each other in aspiring to the honour of her hand, but Hephæstus became the envied possessor of this lovely being, who, however, proved as faithless as she was beautiful, and caused her husband much unhappiness, owing to the preference she showed at various times for some of the other gods and also for mortal men.

Aphrodite

The celebrated Venus of Milo, now in the Louvre, is an exquisite statue of this divinity. The head is beautifully formed; the rich waves of hair descend on her rather low but broad forehead and are caught up gracefully in a small knot at the back of the head; the expression of the face is most bewitching, and bespeaks the perfect [61]joyousness of a happy nature combined with the dignity of a goddess; the drapery falls in careless folds from the waist downwards, and her whole attitude is the embodiment of all that is graceful and lovely in womanhood. She is of medium height, and the form is perfect in its symmetry and faultless proportions.

Aphrodite is also frequently represented in the act of confining her dripping locks in a knot, whilst her attendant nymphs envelop her in a gauzy veil.

The animals sacred to her were the dove, swan, swallow, and sparrow. Her favourite plants were the myrtle, apple-tree, rose, and poppy.

The worship of Aphrodite is supposed to have been introduced into Greece from Central Asia. There is no doubt that she was originally identical with the famous Astarté, the Ashtoreth of the Bible, against whose idolatrous worship and infamous rites the prophets of old hurled forth their sublime and powerful anathemas.

VENUS.

The Venus of the Romans was identified with the Aphrodite of the Greeks. The worship of this divinity was only established in Rome in comparatively later times. Annual festivals, called Veneralia, were held in her honour, and the month of April, when flowers and plants spring forth afresh, was sacred to her. She was worshipped as Venus Cloacina (or the Purifier), and as Venus Myrtea (or the myrtle goddess), an epithet derived from the myrtle, the emblem of Love.

HELIOS (Sol).

The worship of Helios was introduced into Greece from Asia. According to the earliest conceptions of the Greeks he was not only the sun-god, but also the personification of life and all life-giving power, for light is well known to be an indispensable condition of all healthy terrestrial life. The worship of the sun was originally very widely spread, [62]not only among the early Greeks themselves, but also among other primitive nations. To us the sun is simply the orb of light, which, high above our heads, performs each day the functions assigned to it by a mighty and invisible Power; we can, therefore, form but a faint idea of the impression which it produced upon the spirit of a people whose intellect was still in its infancy, and who believed, with child-like simplicity, that every power of nature was a divinity, which, according as its character was baleful or beneficent, worked for the destruction or benefit of the human race.

Helios, who was the son of the Titans Hyperion and Theia, is described as rising every morning in the east, preceded by his sister Eos (the Dawn), who, with her rosy fingers, paints the tips of the mountains, and draws aside that misty veil through which her brother is about to appear. When he has burst forth in all the glorious light of day, Eos disappears, and Helios now drives his flame-darting chariot along the accustomed track. This chariot, which is of burnished gold, is drawn by four fire-breathing steeds, behind which the young god stands erect with flashing eyes, his head surrounded with rays, holding in one hand the reins of those fiery coursers which in all hands save his are unmanageable. When towards evening he descends the curve[26] in order to cool his burning forehead in the waters of the deep sea, he is followed closely by his sister Selene (the Moon), who is now prepared to take charge of the world, and illumine with her silver crescent the dusky night. Helios meanwhile rests from his labours, and, reclining softly on the cool fragrant couch prepared for him by the sea-nymphs, recruits himself for another life-giving, joy-inspiring, and beauteous day.

It may appear strange that, although the Greeks considered the earth to be a flat circle, no explanation is given of the fact that Helios sinks down in the far [63]west regularly every evening, and yet reappears as regularly every morning in the east. Whether he was supposed to pass through Tartarus, and thus regain the opposite extremity through the bowels of the earth, or whether they thought he possessed any other means of making this transit, there is not a line in either Homer or Hesiod to prove. In later times, however, the poets invented the graceful fiction, that when Helios had finished his course, and reached the western side of the curve, a winged-boat, or cup, which had been made for him by Hephæstus, awaited him there, and conveyed him rapidly, with his glorious equipage, to the east, where he recommenced his bright and glowing career.

This divinity was invoked as a witness when a solemn oath was taken, as it was believed that nothing escaped his all-seeing eye, and it was this fact which enabled him to inform Demeter of the fate of her daughter, as already related. He was supposed to possess flocks and herds in various localities, which may possibly be intended to represent the days and nights of the year, or the stars of heaven.

Helios is said to have loved Clytie, a daughter of Oceanus, who ardently returned his affection; but in the course of time the fickle sun-god transferred his devotion to Leucothea, the daughter of Orchamus, king of the eastern countries, which so angered the forsaken Clytie that she informed Orchamus of his daughter's attachment, and he punished her by inhumanly burying her alive. Helios, overcome with grief, endeavoured, by every means in his power, to recall her to life. At last, finding all his efforts unavailing, he sprinkled her grave with heavenly nectar, and immediately there sprang forth from the spot a shoot of frankincense, which spread around its aromatic perfume.

The jealous Clytie gained nothing by her cruel conduct, for the sun-god came to her no more. Inconsolable at his loss, she threw herself upon the ground, and refused all sustenance. For nine long days she turned her face towards the glorious god of day, as he moved along the [64]heavens, till at length her limbs became rooted in the ground, and she was transformed into a flower, which ever turns towards the sun.

Helios married Perse, daughter of Oceanus, and their children were, Aëtes, king of Colchis (celebrated in the legend of the Argonauts as the possessor of the Golden Fleece), and Circe, the renowned sorceress.

Helios had another son named Phaethon, whose mother was Clymene, one of the Oceanides. The youth was very beautiful, and a great favourite with Aphrodite, who intrusted him with the care of one of her temples, which flattering proof of her regard caused him to become vain and presumptuous. His friend Epaphus, son of Zeus and Io, endeavoured to check his youthful vanity by pretending to disbelieve his assertion that the sun-god was his father. Phaethon, full of resentment, and eager to be able to refute the calumny, hastened to his mother Clymene, and besought her to tell him whether Helios was really his father. Moved by his entreaties, and at the same time angry at the reproach of Epaphus, Clymene pointed to the glorious sun, then shining down upon them, and assured her son that in that bright orb he beheld the author of his being, adding that if he had still any doubt, he might visit the radiant dwelling of the great god of light and inquire for himself. Overjoyed at his mother's reassuring words, and following the directions she gave him, Phaethon quickly wended his way to his father's palace.

As he entered the palace of the sun-god the dazzling rays almost blinded him, and prevented him from approaching the throne on which his father was seated, surrounded by the Hours, Days, Months, Years, and Seasons. Helios, who with his all-seeing eye had watched him from afar, removed his crown of glittering rays, and bade him not to be afraid, but to draw near to his father. Encouraged by this kind reception, Phaethon entreated him to bestow upon him such a proof of his love, that all the world might be convinced that he was indeed his son; whereupon Helios desired him to ask any favour he pleased, [65]and swore by the Styx that it should be granted. The impetuous youth immediately requested permission to drive the chariot of the sun for one whole day. His father listened horror-struck to this presumptuous demand, and by representing the many dangers which would beset his path, endeavoured to dissuade him from so perilous an undertaking; but his son, deaf to all advice, pressed his point with such pertinacity, that Helios was reluctantly compelled to lead him to the chariot. Phaethon paused for a moment to admire the beauty of the glittering equipage, the gift of the god of fire, who had formed it of gold, and ornamented it with precious stones, which reflected the rays of the sun. And now Helios, seeing his sister, the Dawn, opening her doors in the rosy east, ordered the Hours to yoke the horses. The goddesses speedily obeyed the command, and the father then anointed the face of his son with a sacred balm, to enable him to endure the burning flames which issued from the nostrils of the steeds, and sorrowfully placing his crown of rays upon his head, desired him to ascend the chariot.

The eager youth joyfully took his place and grasped the coveted reins, but no sooner did the fiery coursers of the sun feel the inexperienced hand which attempted to guide them, than they became restive and unmanageable. Wildly they rushed out of their accustomed track, now soaring so high as to threaten the heavens with destruction, now descending so low as nearly to set the earth on fire. At last the unfortunate charioteer, blinded with the glare, and terrified at the awful devastation he had caused, dropped the reins from his trembling hands. Mountains and forests were in flames, rivers and streams were dried up, and a general conflagration was imminent. The scorched earth now called on Zeus for help, who hurled his thunderbolt at Phaethon, and with a flash of lightning brought the fiery steeds to a standstill. The lifeless body of the youth fell headlong into the river Eridanus,[27] where it was received and buried by the [66]nymphs of the stream. His sisters mourned so long for him that they were transformed by Zeus into poplars, and the tears they shed, falling into the waters, became drops of clear, transparent amber. Cycnus, the faithful friend of the unhappy Phaethon, felt such overwhelming grief at his terrible fate, that he pined and wasted away. The gods, moved with compassion, transformed him into a swan, which for ever brooded over the fatal spot where the waters had closed over the head of his unfortunate friend.

Colossus of Rhodes

The chief seat of the worship of Helios was the island of Rhodes, which according to the following myth was his especial territory. At the time of the Titanomachia, when the gods were dividing the world by lot, Helios happened to be absent, and consequently received no share. He, therefore, complained to Zeus, who proposed to have a new allotment, but this Helios would not allow, saying, that as he pursued his daily journey, his penetrating eye had beheld a lovely, fertile island lying beneath the waves of the ocean, and that if the immortals would swear to give him the undisturbed possession of this spot, he would be content to accept it as his share of the universe. The gods took the oath, whereupon the island of Rhodes immediately raised itself above the surface of the waters.

The famous Colossus of Rhodes, which was one of the seven wonders of the world, was erected in honour of Helios. This wonderful statue was 105 feet high, and was formed entirely of brass; it formed the entrance to the harbour at Rhodes, and the largest vessel could easily sail between the legs, which stood on moles, each side of the harbour. Though so gigantic, it was perfectly proportioned in every part. Some idea of [67]its size may be gained from the fact that very few people were able to span the thumb of this statue with their arms. In the interior of the Colossus was a winding staircase leading to the top, from the summit of which, by means of a telescope, the coast of Syria, and also the shores of Egypt, are said to have been visible.[28]

EOS (Aurora).

Eos, the Dawn, like her brother Helios, whose advent she always announced, was also deified by the early Greeks. She too had her own chariot, which she drove across the vast horizon both morning and night, before and after the sun-god. Hence she is not merely the personification of the rosy morn, but also of twilight, for which reason her palace is placed in the west, on the island Ææa. The abode of Eos is a magnificent structure, surrounded by flowery meads and velvety lawns, where nymphs and other immortal beings, wind in and out in the mazy figures of the dance, whilst the music of a sweetly-tuned melody accompanies their graceful, gliding movements.

Eos is described by the poets as a beautiful maiden with rosy arms and fingers, and large wings, whose plumage is of an ever-changing hue; she bears a star on her forehead, and a torch in her hand. Wrapping round her the rich folds of her violet-tinged mantle, she leaves her couch before the break of day, and herself yokes her two horses, Lampetus and Phaethon, to her glorious chariot. She then hastens with active cheerfulness to open the gates of heaven, in order to herald the approach of her brother, the god of day, whilst the tender plants and flowers, revived by the morning dew, lift their heads to welcome her as she passes.

[68]

Eos first married the Titan Astræus,[29] and their children were Heosphorus (Hesperus), the evening star, and the winds. She afterwards became united to Tithonus, son of Laomedon, king of Troy, who had won her affection by his unrivalled beauty; and Eos, unhappy at the thought of their being ever separated by death, obtained for him from Zeus the gift of immortality, forgetting, however, to add to it that of eternal youth. The consequence was that when, in the course of time, Tithonus grew old and decrepid, and lost all the beauty which had won her admiration, Eos became disgusted with his infirmities, and at last shut him up in a chamber, where soon little else was left of him but his voice, which had now sunk into a weak, feeble quaver. According to some of the later poets, he became so weary of his cheerless and miserable existence, that he entreated to be allowed to die. This was, however, impossible; but Eos, pitying his unhappy condition, exerted her divine power, and changed him into a grasshopper, which is, as it were, all voice, and whose monotonous, ceaseless chirpings may not inaptly be compared to the meaningless babble of extreme old age.

PHŒBUS-APOLLO.

Phœbus-Apollo, the god of Light, Prophecy, Music, Poetry, and the Arts and Sciences, is by far the noblest conception within the whole range of Greek mythology, and his worship, which not only extended to all the states of Greece, but also to Asia Minor and to every Greek colony throughout the world, stands out among the most ancient and strongly-marked features of Grecian history, and exerted a more decided influence over the Greek nation, than that of any other deity, not excepting Zeus himself.

Apollo was the son of Zeus and Leto, and was born beneath the shade of a palm tree which grew at the foot [69]of Mount Cynthus, on the barren and rocky island of Delos. The poets tell us that the earth smiled when the young god first beheld the light of day, and that Delos became so proud and exultant at the honour thus conferred upon her, that she covered herself with golden flowers; swans surrounded the island, and the Delian nymphs celebrated his birth with songs of joy.

Apollo

The unhappy Leto, driven to Delos by the relentless persecutions of Hera, was not long permitted to enjoy her haven of refuge. Being still tormented by her enemy, the young mother was once more obliged to fly; she therefore resigned the charge of her new-born babe to the goddess Themis, who carefully wrapped the helpless infant in swaddling-clothes, and fed him with nectar and ambrosia; but he had no sooner partaken of the heavenly food than, to the amazement of the goddess, he burst asunder the bands which confined his infant limbs, and springing to his feet, appeared before her as a full-grown youth of divine strength and beauty. He now demanded a lyre and a bow, declaring that henceforth he would announce to mankind the will of his father Zeus. "The golden lyre," said he, "shall be my friend, the bent bow my delight, and in oracles will I foretell the dark future." With these words he ascended to Olympus, where he was received with joyful acclamations into the assembly of the celestial gods, who acknowledged him as the most beautiful and glorious of all the sons of Zeus.

Phœbus-Apollo was the god of light in a twofold [70]signification: first, as representing the great orb of day which illumines the world; and secondly, as the heavenly light which animates the soul of man. He inherited his function as sun-god from Helios, with whom, in later times, he was so completely identified, that the personality of the one became gradually merged in that of the other. We, accordingly, find Helios frequently confounded with Apollo, myths belonging to the former attributed to the latter; and with some tribes—the Ionic, for instance—so complete is this identification, that Apollo is called by them Helios-Apollo.

As the divinity whose power is developed in the broad light of day, he brings joy and delight to nature, and health and prosperity to man. By the influence of his warm and gentle rays he disperses the noxious vapours of the night, assists the grain to ripen and the flowers to bloom.

But although, as god of the sun, he is a life-giving and life-preserving power, who, by his genial influence, dispels the cold of winter, he is, at the same time, the god who, by means of his fiercely darting rays, could spread disease and send sudden death to men and animals; and it is to this phase of his character that we must look for the explanation of his being considered, in conjunction with his twin-sister, Artemis (as moon-goddess), a divinity of death. The brother and sister share this function between them, he taking man and she woman as her aim, and those especially who died in the bloom of youth, or at an advanced age, were believed to have been killed by their gentle arrows. But Apollo did not always send an easy death. We see in the Iliad how, when angry with the Greeks, the "god of the silver bow" strode down from Olympus, with his quiver full of death-bringing darts, and sent a raging pestilence into their camp. For nine days he let fly his fatal arrows, first on animals and then on men, till the air became darkened with the smoke from the funeral pyres.

In his character as god of light, Phœbus-Apollo is the protecting deity of shepherds, because it is he who warms [71]the fields and meadows, and gives rich pastures to the flocks, thereby gladdening the heart of the herdsman.

As the temperate heat of the sun exercises so invigorating an effect on man and animals, and promotes the growth of those medicinal herbs and vegetable productions necessary for the cure of diseases, Phœbus-Apollo was supposed to possess the power of restoring life and health; hence he was regarded as the god of healing; but this feature in his character we shall find more particularly developed in his son Asclepius (Æsculapius), the veritable god of the healing art.

Pursuing our analysis of the various phases in the character of Phœbus-Apollo, we find that with the first beams of his genial light, all nature awakens to renewed life, and the woods re-echo with the jubilant sound of the untaught lays, warbled by thousands of feathered choristers. Hence, by a natural inference, he is the god of music, and as, according to the belief of the ancients, the inspirations of genius were inseparably connected with the glorious light of heaven, he is also the god of poetry, and acts as the special patron of the arts and sciences. Apollo is himself the heavenly musician among the Olympic gods, whose banquets are gladdened by the wondrous strains which he produces from his favourite instrument, the seven-stringed lyre. In the cultus of Apollo, music formed a distinguishing feature. All sacred dances, and even the sacrifices in his honour, were performed to the sound of musical instruments; and it is, in a great measure, owing to the influence which the music in his worship exercised on the Greek nation, that Apollo came to be regarded as the leader of the nine Muses, the legitimate divinities of poetry and song. In this character he is called Musagetes, and is always represented robed in a long flowing garment; his lyre, to the tones of which he appears to be singing, is suspended by a band across the chest; his head is encircled by a wreath of laurel, and his long hair, streaming down over his shoulders, gives him a somewhat effeminate appearance.

And now we must view the glorious god of light under [72]another, and (as far as regards his influence over the Greek nation) a much more important aspect; for, in historical times, all the other functions and attributes of Apollo sink into comparative insignificance before the great power which he exercised as god of prophecy. It is true that all Greek gods were endowed, to a certain extent, with the faculty of foretelling future events; but Apollo, as sun-god, was the concentration of all prophetic power, as it was supposed that nothing escaped his all-seeing eye, which penetrated the most hidden recesses, and laid bare the secrets which lay concealed behind the dark veil of the future.

We have seen that when Apollo assumed his god-like form, he took his place among the immortals; but he had not long enjoyed the rapturous delights of Olympus, before he felt within him an ardent desire to fulfil his great mission of interpreting to mankind the will of his mighty father. He accordingly descended to earth, and travelled through many countries, seeking a fitting site upon which to establish an oracle. At length he reached the southern side of the rocky heights of Parnassus, beneath which lay the harbour of Crissa. Here, under the overhanging cliff, he found a secluded spot, where, from the most ancient times, there had existed an oracle, in which Gæa herself had revealed the future to man, and which, in Deucalion's time, she had resigned to Themis. It was guarded by the huge serpent Python, the scourge of the surrounding neighbourhood, and the terror alike of men and cattle. The young god, full of confidence in his unerring aim, attacked and slew the monster with his arrows, thus freeing land and people from their mighty enemy.

The grateful inhabitants, anxious to do honour to their deliverer, flocked round Apollo, who proceeded to mark out a plan for a temple, and, with the assistance of numbers of eager volunteers, a suitable edifice was soon erected. It now became necessary to choose ministers, who would offer up sacrifices, interpret his prophecies to the people, and take charge of the temple. Looking round, he saw in the far distance a vessel bound from Crete to the [73]Peloponnesus, and determined to avail himself of her crew for his service. Assuming the shape of an enormous dolphin, he agitated the waters to such a degree, that the ship was tossed violently to and fro, to the great alarm of the mariners; at the same time he raised a mighty wind, which drove the ship into the harbour of Crissa, where she ran aground. The terrified sailors dared not set foot on shore; but Apollo, under the form of a vigorous youth, stepped down to the vessel, revealed himself in his true character, and informed them that it was he who had driven them to Crissa, in order that they might become his priests, and serve him in his temple. Arrived at the sacred fane, he instructed them how to perform the services in his honour, and desired them to worship him under the name of Apollo-Delphinios, because he had first appeared to them under the form of a dolphin. Thus was established the far-famed oracle of Delphi, the only institution of the kind which was not exclusively national, for it was consulted by Lydians, Phrygians, Etruscans, Romans, &c., and, in fact, was held in the highest repute all over the world. In obedience to its decrees, the laws of Lycurgus were introduced, and the earliest Greek colonies founded. No cities were built without first consulting the Delphic oracle, for it was believed that Apollo took special delight in the founding of cities, the first stone of which he laid in person; nor was any enterprise ever undertaken, without inquiring at this sacred fane as to its probable success.

But that which brought Apollo more closely home to the hearts of the people, and raised the whole moral tone of the Greek nation, was the belief, gradually developed with the intelligence of the people, that he was the god who accepted repentance as an atonement for sin, who pardoned the contrite sinner, and who acted as the special protector of those, who, like Orestes, had committed a crime, which required long years of expiation.

Apollo is represented by the poets as being eternally young; his countenance, glowing with joyous life, is the embodiment of immortal beauty; his eyes are of a deep [74]blue; his forehead low, but broad and intellectual; his hair, which falls over his shoulders in long waving locks, is of a golden, or warm chestnut hue. He is crowned with laurel, and wears a purple robe; in his hand he bears his silver bow, which is unbent when he smiles, but ready for use when he menaces evil-doers.

But Apollo, the eternally beautiful youth, the perfection of all that is graceful and refined, rarely seems to have been happy in his love; either his advances met with a repulse, or his union with the object of his affection was attended with fatal consequences.

His first love was Daphne (daughter of Peneus, the river-god), who was so averse to marriage that she entreated her father to allow her to lead a life of celibacy, and devote herself to the chase, which she loved to the exclusion of all other pursuits. But one day, soon after his victory over the Python, Apollo happened to see Eros bending his bow, and proud of his own superior strength and skill, he laughed at the efforts of the little archer, saying that such a weapon was more suited to the one who had just killed the terrible serpent. Eros angrily replied that his arrow should pierce the heart of the mocker himself, and flying off to the summit of Mount Parnassus, he drew from his quiver two darts of different workmanship—one of gold, which had the effect of inspiring love; the other of lead, which created aversion. Taking aim at Apollo, he pierced his breast with the golden shaft, whilst the leaden one he discharged into the bosom of the beautiful Daphne. The son of Leto instantly felt the most ardent affection for the nymph, who, on her part, evinced the greatest dislike towards her divine lover, and, at his approach, fled from him like a hunted deer. He called upon her in the most endearing accents to stay, but she still sped on, until at length, becoming faint with fatigue, and fearing that she was about to succumb, she called upon the gods to come to her aid. Hardly had she uttered her prayer before a heavy torpor seized her limbs, and just as Apollo threw out his arms to embrace her, she became transformed [75]into a laurel-bush. He sorrowfully crowned his head with its leaves, and declared, that in memory of his love, it should henceforth remain evergreen, and be held sacred to him.

He next sought the love of Marpessa, the daughter of Evenus; but though her father approved his suit, the maiden preferred a youth named Idas, who contrived to carry her off in a winged chariot which he had procured from Poseidon. Apollo pursued the fugitives, whom he quickly overtook, and forcibly seizing the bride, refused to resign her. Zeus then interfered, and declared that Marpessa herself must decide which of her lovers should claim her as his wife. After due reflection she accepted Idas as her husband, judiciously concluding that although the attractions of the divine Apollo were superior to those of her lover, it would be wiser to unite herself to a mortal, who, growing old with herself, would be less likely to forsake her, when advancing years should rob her of her charms.

Cassandra, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, was another object of the love of Apollo. She feigned to return his affection, and promised to marry him, provided he would confer upon her the gift of prophecy; but having received the boon she desired, the treacherous maiden refused to comply with the conditions upon which it had been granted. Incensed at her breach of faith, Apollo, unable to recall the gift he had bestowed, rendered it useless by causing her predictions to fail in obtaining credence. Cassandra became famous in history for her prophetic powers, but her prophecies were never believed. For instance, she warned her brother Paris that if he brought back a wife from Greece he would cause the destruction of his father's house and kingdom; she also warned the Trojans not to admit the wooden horse within the walls of the city, and foretold to Agamemnon all the disasters which afterwards befell him.

Apollo afterwards married Coronis, a nymph of Larissa, and thought himself happy in the possession of her faithful love; but once more he was doomed to[76]disappointment, for one day his favourite bird, the crow, flew to him with the intelligence that his wife had transferred her affections to a youth of Haemonia. Apollo, burning with rage, instantly destroyed her with one of his death-bringing darts. Too late he repented of his rashness, for she had been tenderly beloved by him, and he would fain have recalled her to life; but, although he exerted all his healing powers, his efforts were in vain. He punished the crow for its garrulity by changing the colour of its plumage from pure white to intense black, and forbade it to fly any longer among the other birds.

Coronis left an infant son named Asclepius, who afterwards became god of medicine. His powers were so extraordinary that he could not only cure the sick, but could even restore the dead to life. At last Aïdes complained to Zeus that the number of shades conducted to his dominions was daily decreasing, and the great ruler of Olympus, fearing that mankind, thus protected against sickness and death, would be able to defy the gods themselves, killed Asclepius with one of his thunderbolts. The loss of his highly gifted son so exasperated Apollo that, being unable to vent his anger on Zeus, he destroyed the Cyclops, who had forged the fatal thunderbolts. For this offence, Apollo would have been banished by Zeus to Tartarus, but at the earnest intercession of Leto he partially relented, and contented himself with depriving him of all power and dignity, and imposing on him a temporary servitude in the house of Admetus, king of Thessaly. Apollo faithfully served his royal master for nine years in the humble capacity of a shepherd, and was treated by him with every kindness and consideration. During the period of his service the king sought the hand of Alcestis, the beautiful daughter of Pelias, son of Poseidon; but her father declared that he would only resign her to the suitor who should succeed in yoking a lion and a wild boar to his chariot. By the aid of his divine herdsman, Admetus accomplished this difficult task, and gained his bride. Nor was this the only favour which the king received from the exiled god, for Apollo obtained from [77]the Fates the gift of immortality for his benefactor, on condition that when his last hour approached, some member of his own family should be willing to die in his stead. When the fatal hour arrived, and Admetus felt that he was at the point of death, he implored his aged parents to yield to him their few remaining days. But "life is sweet" even to old age, and they both refused to make the sacrifice demanded of them. Alcestis, however, who had secretly devoted herself to death for her husband, was seized with a mortal sickness, which kept pace with his rapid recovery. The devoted wife breathed her last in the arms of Admetus, and he had just consigned her to the tomb, when Heracles chanced to come to the palace. Admetus held the rites of hospitality so sacred, that he at first kept silence with regard to his great bereavement; but as soon as his friend heard what had occurred, he bravely descended into the tomb, and when death came to claim his prey, he exerted his marvellous strength, and held him in his arms, until he promised to restore the beautiful and heroic queen to the bosom of her family.

Whilst pursuing the peaceful life of a shepherd, Apollo formed a strong friendship with two youths named Hyacinthus and Cyparissus, but the great favour shown to them by the god did not suffice to shield them from misfortune. The former was one day throwing the discus with Apollo, when, running too eagerly to take up the one thrown by the god, he was struck on the head with it and killed on the spot. Apollo was overcome with grief at the sad end of his young favourite, but being unable to restore him to life, he changed him into the flower called after him the Hyacinth. Cyparissus had the misfortune to kill by accident one of Apollo's favourite stags, which so preyed on his mind that he gradually pined away, and died of a broken heart. He was transformed by the god into a cypress-tree, which owes its name to this story.

After these sad occurrences Apollo quitted Thessaly and repaired to Phrygia, in Asia Minor, where he met Poseidon, who, like himself, was in exile, and condemned [78]to a temporary servitude on earth. The two gods now entered the service of Laomedon, king of Troy, Apollo undertaking to tend his flocks, and Poseidon to build the walls of the city. But Apollo also contributed his assistance in the erection of those wonderful walls, and, by the aid of his marvellous musical powers, the labours of his fellow-worker, Poseidon, were rendered so light and easy that his otherwise arduous task advanced with astonishing celerity; for, as the master-hand of the god of music grasped the chords of his lyre,[30] the huge blocks of stone moved of their own accord, adjusting themselves with the utmost nicety into the places designed for them.

But though Apollo was so renowned in the art of music, there were two individuals who had the effrontery to consider themselves equal to him in this respect, and, accordingly, each challenged him to compete with them in a musical contest. These were Marsyas and Pan. Marsyas was a satyr, who, having picked up the flute which Athene had thrown away in disgust, discovered, to his great delight and astonishment, that, in consequence of its having touched the lips of a goddess, it played of itself in the most charming manner. Marsyas, who was a great lover of music, and much beloved on this account by all the elf-like denizens of the woods and glens, was so intoxicated with joy at this discovery, that he foolishly challenged Apollo to compete with him in a musical contest. The challenge being accepted, the Muses were chosen umpires, and it was decided that the unsuccessful candidate should suffer the punishment of being flayed alive. For a long time the merits of both claimants remained so equally balanced, that it was impossible to award the palm of victory to either, seeing which, Apollo, resolved to conquer, added the sweet tones of his melodious voice to the strains of his lyre, [79]and this at once turned the scale in his favour. The unhappy Marsyas being defeated, had to undergo the terrible penalty, and his untimely fate was universally lamented; indeed the Satyrs and Dryads, his companions, wept so incessantly at his fate, that their tears, uniting together, formed a river in Phrygia which is still known by the name of Marsyas.

The result of the contest with Pan was by no means of so serious a character. The god of shepherds having affirmed that he could play more skilfully on his flute of seven reeds (the syrinx or Pan's pipe), than Apollo on his world-renowned lyre, a contest ensued, in which Apollo was pronounced the victor by all the judges appointed to decide between the rival candidates. Midas, king of Phrygia, alone demurred at this decision, having the bad taste to prefer the uncouth tones of the Pan's pipe to the refined melodies of Apollo's lyre. Incensed at the obstinacy and stupidity of the Phrygian king, Apollo punished him by giving him the ears of an ass. Midas, horrified at being thus disfigured, determined to hide his disgrace from his subjects by means of a cap; his barber, however, could not be kept in ignorance of the fact, and was therefore bribed with rich gifts never to reveal it. Finding, however, that he could not keep the secret any longer, he dug a hole in the ground into which he whispered it; then closing up the aperture he returned home, feeling greatly relieved at having thus eased his mind of its burden. But after all, this very humiliating secret was revealed to the world, for some reeds which sprung up from the spot murmured incessantly, as they waved to and fro in the wind: "King Midas has the ears of an ass."

In the sad and beautiful story of Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion, king of Thebes, we have another instance of the severe punishments meted out by Apollo to those who in any way incurred his displeasure. Niobe was the proud mother of seven sons and seven daughters, and exulting in the number of her children, she, upon one occasion, ridiculed the worship of Leto, [80]because she had but one son and daughter, and desired the Thebans, for the future, to give to her the honours and sacrifices which they had hitherto offered to the mother of Apollo and Artemis. The sacrilegious words had scarcely passed her lips before Apollo called upon his sister Artemis to assist him in avenging the insult offered to their mother, and soon their invisible arrows sped through the air. Apollo slew all the sons, and Artemis had already slain all the daughters save one, the youngest and best beloved, whom Niobe clasped in her arms, when the agonized mother implored the enraged deities to leave her, at least, one out of all her beautiful children; but, even as she prayed, the deadly arrow reached the heart of this child also. Meanwhile the unhappy father, unable to bear the loss of his children, had destroyed himself, and his dead body lay beside the lifeless corpse of his favourite son. Widowed and childless, the heart-broken mother sat among her dead, and the gods, in pity for her unutterable woe, turned her into a stone, which they transferred to Siphylus, her native Phrygian mountain, where it still continues to shed tears.

Niobe

The punishment of Niobe forms the subject of a magnificent marble group, which was found at Rome in the year 1553, and is now in the gallery of Uffizi, at Florence.

The renowned singer Orpheus was the son of Apollo and Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, and, as might be expected with parents so highly gifted, was endowed with most distinguished intellectual qualifications. He was a poet, a teacher of the religious doctrines known as the Orphic mysteries, and a great musician, having inherited from his father an extraordinary genius for music.[81]When he sang to the sweet tones of his lyre, he charmed all nature, and summoned round him the wild beasts of the forests, who, under the influence of his music, became tame and gentle as lambs. The madly rushing torrents stopped their rapid course, and the very mountains and trees moved from their places at the sound of his entrancing melodies.

Orpheus became united to a lovely nymph named Eurydice, the daughter of the sea-god Nereus, whom he fondly loved. She was no less attached to him, and their married life was full of joy and happiness. But it was only short-lived; for Aristæus,[31] the half-brother of Orpheus, having fallen in love with the beautiful Eurydice, forcibly endeavoured to take her from her husband, and as she fled across some fields to elude his pursuit, she was bitten in the foot by a venomous snake, which lay concealed in the long grass. Eurydice died of the wound, and her sorrowing husband filled the groves and valleys with his piteous and unceasing lamentations.

His longing to behold her once more became at last so unconquerable, that he determined to brave the horrors of the lower world, in order to entreat Aïdes to restore to him his beloved wife. Armed only with his golden lyre, the gift of Apollo, he descended into the gloomy depths of Hades, where his heavenly music arrested for a while the torments of the unhappy sufferers. The stone of Sisyphus remained motionless; Tantalus forgot his perpetual thirst; the wheel of Ixion ceased to revolve; and even the Furies shed tears, and withheld for a time their persecutions. Undismayed at the scenes of horror and suffering which met his view on every side, he pursued his way until he arrived at the palace of Aïdes. Presenting himself before the throne on which sat the stony-hearted king and his consort Persephone, Orpheus recounted his woes to the sound of his lyre. Moved to pity by his sweet strains, they listened to his [82]melancholy story, and consented to release Eurydice on condition that he should not look upon her until they reached the upper world. Orpheus gladly promised to comply with this injunction, and, followed by Eurydice, ascended the steep and gloomy path which led to the realms of life and light. All went well until he was just about to pass the extreme limits of Hades, when, forgetting for the moment the hard condition, he turned to convince himself that his beloved wife was really behind him. The glance was fatal, and destroyed all his hopes of happiness; for, as he yearningly stretched out his arms to embrace her, she was caught back, and vanished from his sight for ever. The grief of Orpheus at this second loss was even more intense than before, and he now avoided all human society. In vain did the nymphs, his once chosen companions, endeavour to win him back to his accustomed haunts; their power to charm was gone, and music was now his sole consolation. He wandered forth alone, choosing the wildest and most secluded paths, and the hills and vales resounded with his pathetic melodies. At last he happened to cross the path of some Thracian women, who were performing the wild rites of Dionysus (Bacchus), and in their mad fury at his refusing to join them, they furiously attacked him, and tore him in pieces. In pity for his unhappy fate, the Muses collected his remains, which they buried at the foot of Mount Olympus, and the nightingale warbled a funeral dirge over his grave. His head was thrown into the river Hebrus, and as it floated down the stream, the lips still continued to murmur the beloved name of Eurydice.

The chief seat of the worship of Apollo was at Delphi, and here was the most magnificent of all his temples, the foundation of which reaches far beyond all historical knowledge, and which contained immense riches, the offerings of kings and private persons, who had received favourable replies from the oracle. The Greeks believed Delphi to be the central point of the earth, because two eagles sent forth by Zeus, one from the east, the other [83]from the west, were said to have arrived there at the same moment.

The Pythian games, celebrated in honour of the victory of Apollo over the Python, took place at Delphi every four years. At the first celebration of these games, gods, goddesses, and heroes contended for the prizes, which were at first of gold or silver, but consisted, in later times, of simple laurel wreaths.

On account of its being the place of his birth, the whole island of Delos was consecrated to Apollo, where he was worshipped with great solemnity; the greatest care was taken to preserve the sanctity of the spot, for which reason no one was suffered to be buried there. At the foot of Mount Cynthus was a splendid temple of Apollo which possessed an oracle, and was enriched with magnificent offerings from all parts of Greece. Even foreign nations held this island sacred, for when the Persians passed it on their way to attack Greece, they not only sailed by, leaving it uninjured, but sent rich presents to the temple. Games, called Delia, instituted by Theseus, were celebrated at Delos every four years.

A festival termed the Gymnopedæa was held at Sparta in honour of Apollo, in which boys sang the praises of the gods, and of the three hundred Lacedæmonians who fell at the battle of Thermopylæ.

Wolves and hawks were sacrificed to Apollo, and the birds sacred to him were the hawk, raven, and swan.

ROMAN APOLLO.

The worship of Apollo never occupied the all-important position in Rome which it held in Greece, nor was it introduced till a comparatively late period. There was no sanctuary erected to this divinity until B.C. 430, when the Romans, in order to avert a plague, built a temple in his honour; but we do not find the worship of Apollo becoming in any way prominent until the time of Augustus, who, having called upon this god for aid before the famous battle of Actium, ascribed the victory which he[84]gained, to his influence, and accordingly erected a temple there, which he enriched with a portion of the spoil.

Augustus afterwards built another temple in honour of Apollo, on the Palatine Hill, in which at the foot of his statue, were deposited two gilt chests, containing the Sibylline oracles. These oracles were collected to replace the Sibylline books originally preserved in the temple of Jupiter, which were destroyed when that edifice was burned.

Sibyl

The Sibyls were maidens who had received the gift of prophecy, and the privilege of living to an incredible age. One of these Sibyls (known as the Cumæan) appeared to Tarquinius Superbus, the last king of Rome, offering for sale nine books, which she informed him had been written by herself. Not knowing who she was, Tarquin refused to buy them, upon which she burned three, and returned with six, demanding the same price as before. Being again driven away as an impostor, she again retired and burned three more, returning with the remaining three, for which she still asked the same price as at first. Tarquin, amazed at her inconsistency, now consulted the Augurs, who blamed him for not having bought the nine books when they were first offered to him, and desired him to secure the remaining three, at whatever price they were to be had. He, accordingly, purchased the volumes, which were found to contain predictions of great importance to the Romans. After the disposal of the books, the Sibyl vanished, and was seen no more.

The most beautiful and renowned of all the statues of Apollo now in existence, is that known as the Apollo Belvedere, which was found in 1503 among the ruins of [85]ancient Antium. It was purchased by Pope Julius II., who removed it to the Belvedere of the Vatican, from whence it takes its name, and where it has been, for more than three hundred years, the admiration of the world. When Rome was taken, and plundered by the French, this celebrated statue was transported to Paris, and placed in the museum there, but in 1815 it was restored to its former place in the Vatican. The attitude of the figure, which is more than seven feet high, is inimitable in its freedom, grace, and majesty. The forehead is noble and intellectual, and the whole countenance so exquisite in its beauty, that one pauses spell-bound to gaze on so perfect a conception. The god has a very youthful appearance, as is usual in all his representations, and with the exception of a short mantle which falls from his shoulders, is unclothed. He stands against the trunk of a tree, up which a serpent is creeping, and his left arm is outstretched, as though about to punish.

HECATE.

Hecate would appear to have been originally a moon-goddess worshipped by the Thracians. She became confounded, and eventually identified with Selene and Persephone, and is one of those divinities of whom the ancients had various conflicting accounts.

Hecate was the daughter of Perses and "gold-wreathed" Astræa (the starry night[32]), and her sway extended over earth, heaven, and hell, for which reason she is represented in works of art as a triple divinity, having three female bodies, all young and beautiful, and united together.

In later times, when this divinity becomes identified with Persephone, she is supposed to inhabit the lower world as a malignant deity, and henceforward it is the gloomy, awe-inspiring side of her character which alone [86]develops itself. She now presides over all practices connected with witchcraft and enchantments, haunts sepulchres, and the point where two roads cross, and lonely spots where murders have been committed. She was supposed to be connected with the appearance of ghosts and spectres, to possess unlimited influence over the powers of the lower world, and to be able to lay to rest unearthly apparitions by her magic spells and incantations.

Hecate appears as a gigantic woman, bearing a torch and a sword. Her feet and hair are formed of snakes, and her passage is accompanied by voices of thunder, weird shrieks and yells, and the deep baying and howling of dogs.

Her favour was propitiated by offerings and sacrifices, principally consisting of black lambs. Her festivals were celebrated at night, by torchlight, when these animals were offered to her, accompanied by many peculiar ceremonies. These ceremonies were carried out with the minutest attention to details, as it was believed that the omission of the slightest particular would afford to her ministers, the evil spirits of the lower world, who hovered round the worshippers, an opportunity for entering among them, and exerting their baneful influence. At the end of every month food was placed wherever two roads met, in readiness for her and other malignant divinities.

In studying the peculiar characteristics which Hecate assumes when she usurps the place of Persephone, the rightful mistress of the lower world, we are reminded of the various superstitions with regard to spectres, witchcraft, &c., which have, even down to our own times, exerted so powerful an influence over the minds of the ignorant, and which would appear to owe their origin to a remote pagan source.

SELENE (Luna).

Just as Helios personified the sun, so his sister Selene represented the moon, and was supposed to drive her [87]chariot across the sky whilst her brother was reposing after the toils of the day.

When the shades of evening began to enfold the earth, the two milk-white steeds of Selene rose out of the mysterious depths of Oceanus. Seated in a silvery chariot, and accompanied by her daughter Herse, the goddess of the dew, appeared the mild and gentle queen of the night, with a crescent on her fair brow, a gauzy veil flowing behind, and a lighted torch in her hand.

Selene greatly admired a beautiful young shepherd named Endymion, to whom Zeus had accorded the privilege of eternal youth, combined with the faculty of sleeping whenever he desired, and as long as he wished. Seeing this lovely youth fast asleep on Mount Latmus, Selene was so struck with his beauty, that she came down every night from heaven to watch over and protect him.

ARTEMIS (Diana).

Artemis was worshipped by the Greeks under various appellations, to each of which belonged special characteristics. Thus she is known as the Arcadian, Ephesian and Brauronian Artemis, and also as Selene-Artemis, and in order fully to comprehend the worship of this divinity, we must consider her under each aspect.

ARCADIAN ARTEMIS.

The Arcadian Artemis (the real Artemis of the Greeks) was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin-sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of Hunting and Chastity, and having obtained from her father permission to lead a life of celibacy, she ever remained a maiden-divinity. Artemis is the feminine counterpart of her brother, the glorious god of Light, and, like him, though she deals out destruction and sudden death to men and animals, she is also able to alleviate suffering and cure diseases. Like Apollo also, she is skilled in the use of the bow, but in a far more eminent degree, for in the character of Artemis, who devoted herself to the chase with passionate [88]ardour, this becomes an all-distinguishing feature. Armed with her bow and quiver, and attended by her train of huntresses, who were nymphs of the woods and springs, she roamed over the mountains in pursuit of her favourite exercise, destroying in her course the wild animals of the forest. When the chase was ended, Artemis and her maidens loved to assemble in a shady grove, or on the banks of a favourite stream, where they joined in the merry song, or graceful dance, and made the hills resound with their joyous shouts.

As the type of purity and chastity, Artemis was especially venerated by young maidens, who, before marrying, sacrificed their hair to her. She was also the patroness of those vowed to celibacy, and punished severely any infringement of their obligation.

The huntress-goddess is represented as being a head taller than her attendant nymphs, and always appears as a youthful and slender maiden. Her features are beautiful, but wanting in gentleness of expression; her hair is gathered negligently into a knot at the back of her well-shaped head; and her figure, though somewhat masculine, is most graceful in its attitude and proportions. The short robe she wears, leaves her limbs free for the exercise of the chase, her devotion to which is indicated by the quiver which is slung over her shoulder, and the bow which she bears in her hand.

There are many famous statues of this divinity; but the most celebrated is that known as the Diana of Versailles, now in the Louvre, which forms a not unworthy companion to the Apollo-Belvedere of the Vatican. In this statue, the goddess appears in the act of rescuing a hunted deer from its pursuers, on whom she is turning with angry mien. One hand is laid protectingly on the head of the stag, whilst with the other she draws an arrow from the quiver which hangs over her shoulder.

Her attributes are the bow, quiver, and spear. The animals sacred to her are the hind, dog, bear, and wild boar.

Artemis promptly resented any disregard or neglect of [89]her worship; a remarkable instance of this is shown in the story of the Calydonian boar-hunt, which is as follows:—

Artemis

Oeneus, king of Calydon in Ætolia, had incurred the displeasure of Artemis by neglecting to include her in a general sacrifice to the gods which he had offered up, out of gratitude for a bountiful harvest. The goddess, enraged at this neglect, sent a wild boar of extraordinary size and prodigious strength, which destroyed the sprouting grain, laid waste the fields, and threatened the inhabitants with famine and death. At this juncture, Meleager, the brave son of Oeneus, returned from the Argonautic expedition, and finding his country ravaged by this dreadful scourge, entreated the assistance of all the celebrated heroes of the age to join him in hunting the ferocious monster. Among the most famous of those who responded to his call were Jason, Castor and Pollux, Idas and Lynceus, Peleus, Telamon, Admetus, Perithous, and Theseus. The brothers of Althea, wife of Oeneus, joined the hunters, and Meleager also enlisted into his service the fleet-footed huntress Atalanta.

The father of this maiden was Schoeneus, an Arcadian, who, disappointed at the birth of a daughter when he had particularly desired a son, had exposed her on the Parthenian Hill, where he left her to perish. Here she was nursed by a she-bear, and at last found by some hunters, who reared her, and gave her the name of Atalanta. As the maiden grew up, she became an ardent [90]lover of the chase, and was alike distinguished for her beauty and courage. Though often wooed, she led a life of strict celibacy, an oracle having predicted that inevitable misfortune awaited her, should she give herself in marriage to any of her numerous suitors.

Many of the heroes objected to hunt in company with a maiden; but Meleager, who loved Atalanta, overcame their opposition, and the valiant band set out on their expedition. Atalanta was the first to wound the boar with her spear, but not before two of the heroes had met their death from his fierce tusks. After a long and desperate encounter, Meleager succeeded in killing the monster, and presented the head and hide to Atalanta, as trophies of the victory. The uncles of Meleager, however, forcibly took the hide from the maiden, claiming their right to the spoil as next of kin, if Meleager resigned it. Artemis, whose anger was still unappeased, caused a violent quarrel to arise between uncles and nephew, and, in the struggle which ensued, Meleager killed his mother's brothers, and then restored the hide to Atalanta. When Althea beheld the dead bodies of the slain heroes, her grief and anger knew no bounds. She swore to revenge the death of her brothers on her own son, and unfortunately for him, the instrument of vengeance lay ready to her hand.

At the birth of Meleager, the Moirae, or Fates, entered the house of Oeneus, and pointing to a piece of wood then burning on the hearth, declared that as soon as it was consumed the babe would surely die. On hearing this, Althea seized the brand, laid it up carefully in a chest, and henceforth preserved it as her most precious possession. But now, love for her son giving place to the resentment she felt against the murderer of her brothers, she threw the fatal brand into the devouring flames. As it consumed, the vigour of Meleager wasted away, and when it was reduced to ashes, he expired. Repenting too late the terrible effects of her rash deed, Althea, in remorse and despair, took away her own life.

The news of the courage and intrepidity displayed by [91]Atalanta in the famous boar-hunt, being carried to the ears of her father, caused him to acknowledge his long-lost child. Urged by him to choose one of her numerous suitors, she consented to do so, but made it a condition that he alone, who could outstrip her in the race, should become her husband, whilst those she defeated should be put to death by her, with the lance which she bore in her hand. Thus many suitors had perished, for the maiden was unequalled for swiftness of foot, but at last a beautiful youth, named Hippomenes, who had vainly endeavoured to win her love by his assiduous attentions in the chase, ventured to enter the fatal lists. Knowing that only by stratagem could he hope to be successful, he obtained, by the help of Aphrodite, three golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides, which he threw down at intervals during his course. Atalanta, secure of victory, stooped to pick up the tempting fruit, and, in the meantime, Hippomenes arrived at the goal. He became the husband of the lovely Atalanta, but forgot, in his newly found happiness, the gratitude which he owed to Aphrodite, and the goddess withdrew her favour from the pair. Not long after, the prediction which foretold misfortune to Atalanta, in the event of her marriage, was verified, for she and her husband, having strayed unsanctioned into a sacred grove of Zeus, were both transformed into lions.

The trophies of the ever-memorable boar-hunt had been carried by Atalanta into Arcadia, and, for many centuries, the identical hide and enormous tusks of the Calydonian boar hung in the temple of Athene at Tegea. The tusks were afterwards conveyed to Rome, and shown there among other curiosities.

A forcible instance of the manner in which Artemis resented any intrusion on her retirement, is seen in the fate which befell the famous hunter Actaeon, who happening one day to see Artemis and her attendants bathing, imprudently ventured to approach the spot. The goddess, incensed at his audacity, sprinkled him with water, and transformed him into a stag, whereupon he was torn in pieces and devoured by his own dogs.[92]

EPHESIAN ARTEMIS.

The Ephesian Artemis, known to us as "Diana of the Ephesians," was a very ancient Asiatic divinity of Persian origin called Metra,[33] whose worship the Greek colonists found already established, when they first settled in Asia Minor, and whom they identified with their own Greek Artemis, though she really possessed but one single attribute in common with their home deity.

Metra was a twofold divinity, and represented, in one phase of her character, all-pervading love; in the other she was the light of heaven; and as Artemis, in her character as Selene, was the only Greek female divinity who represented celestial light, the Greek settlers, according to their custom of fusing foreign deities into their own, seized at once upon this point of resemblance, and decided that Metra should henceforth be regarded as identical with Artemis.

In her character as the love which pervades all nature, and penetrates everywhere, they believed her also to be present in the mysterious Realm of Shades, where she exercised her benign sway, replacing to a certain extent that ancient divinity Hecate, and partly usurping also the place of Persephone, as mistress of the lower world. Thus they believed that it was she who permitted the spirits of the departed to revisit the earth, in order to communicate with those they loved, and to give them timely warning of coming evil. In fact, this great, mighty, and omnipresent power of love, as embodied in the Ephesian Artemis, was believed by the great thinkers of old, to be the ruling spirit of the universe, and it was to her influence, that all the mysterious and beneficent workings of nature were ascribed.

There was a magnificent temple erected to this divinity at Ephesus (a city of Asia Minor), which was ranked among the seven wonders of the world, and was unequalled in beauty and grandeur. The interior of this [93]edifice was adorned with statues and paintings, and contained one hundred and twenty-seven columns, sixty feet in height, each column having been placed there by a different king. The wealth deposited in this temple was enormous, and the goddess was here worshipped with particular awe and solemnity. In the interior of the edifice stood a statue of her, formed of ebony, with lions on her arms and turrets on her head, whilst a number of breasts indicated the fruitfulness of the earth and of nature. Ctesiphon was the principal architect of this world-renowned structure, which, however, was not entirely completed till two hundred and twenty years after the foundation-stone was laid. But the labour of centuries was destroyed in a single night; for a man called Herostratus, seized with the insane desire of making his name famous to all succeeding generations, set fire to it and completely destroyed it.[34] So great was the indignation and sorrow of the Ephesians at this calamity, that they enacted a law, forbidding the incendiary's name to be mentioned, thereby however, defeating their own object, for thus the name of Herostratus has been handed down to posterity, and will live as long as the memory of the famous temple of Ephesus.

BRAURONIAN ARTEMIS.

In ancient times, the country which we now call the Crimea, was known by the name of the Taurica Chersonnesus. It was colonized by Greek settlers, who, finding that the Scythian inhabitants had a native divinity somewhat resembling their own Artemis, identified her with the huntress-goddess of the mother-country. The worship of this Taurian Artemis was attended with the most barbarous practices, for, in accordance with a law which she had enacted, all strangers, whether male or female, landing, or shipwrecked on her shores, were sacrificed upon her altars. It is supposed that this decree was [94]issued by the Taurian goddess of Chastity, to protect the purity of her followers, by keeping them apart from foreign influences.

The interesting story of Iphigenia, a priestess in the temple of Artemis at Tauris, forms the subject of one of Schiller's most beautiful plays. The circumstances occurred at the commencement of the Trojan war, and are as follows:—The fleet, collected by the Greeks for the siege of Troy, had assembled at Aulis, in Bœotia, and was about to set sail, when Agamemnon, the commander-in-chief, had the misfortune to kill accidentally a stag which was grazing in a grove, sacred to Artemis. The offended goddess sent continuous calms that delayed the departure of the fleet, and Calchas, the soothsayer, who had accompanied the expedition, declared that nothing less than the sacrifice of Agamemnon's favorite daughter, Iphigenia, would appease the wrath of the goddess. At these words, the heroic heart of the brave leader sank within him, and he declared that rather than consent to so fearful an alternative, he would give up his share in the expedition and return to Argos. In this dilemma Odysseus and other great generals called a council to discuss the matter, and, after much deliberation, it was decided that private feeling must yield to the welfare of the state. For a long time the unhappy Agamemnon turned a deaf ear to their arguments, but at last they succeeded in persuading him that it was his duty to make the sacrifice. He, accordingly, despatched a messenger to his wife, Clytemnæstra, begging her to send Iphigenia to him, alleging as a pretext that the great hero Achilles desired to make her his wife. Rejoicing at the brilliant destiny which awaited her beautiful daughter, the fond mother at once obeyed the command, and sent her to Aulis. When the maiden arrived at her destination, and discovered, to her horror, the dreadful fate which awaited her, she threw herself in an agony of grief at her father's feet, and with sobs and tears entreated him to have mercy on her, and to spare her young life. But alas! her doom was sealed, and her now repentant and [95]heart-broken father was powerless to avert it. The unfortunate victim was bound to the altar, and already the fatal knife was raised to deal the death-blow, when suddenly Iphigenia disappeared from view, and in her place on the altar, lay a beautiful deer ready to be sacrificed. It was Artemis herself, who, pitying the youth and beauty of her victim, caused her to be conveyed in a cloud to Taurica, where she became one of her priestesses, and intrusted with the charge of her temple; a dignity, however, which necessitated the offering of those human sacrifices presented to Artemis.

Many years passed away, during which time the long and wearisome siege of Troy had come to an end, and the brave Agamemnon had returned home to meet death at the hands of his wife and Aegisthus. But his daughter, Iphigenia, was still an exile from her native country, and continued to perform the terrible duties which her office involved. She had long given up all hopes of ever being restored to her friends, when one day two Greek strangers landed on Taurica's inhospitable shores. These were Orestes and Pylades, whose romantic attachment to each other has made their names synonymous for devoted self-sacrificing friendship. Orestes was Iphigenia's brother, and Pylades her cousin, and their object in undertaking an expedition fraught with so much peril, was to obtain the statue of the Taurian Artemis. Orestes, having incurred the anger of the Furies for avenging the murder of his father Agamemnon, was pursued by them wherever he went, until at last he was informed by the oracle of Delphi that, in order to pacify them, he must convey the image of the Taurian Artemis from Tauris to Attica. This he at once resolved to do, and accompanied by his faithful friend Pylades, who insisted on sharing the dangers of the undertaking, he set out for Taurica. But the unfortunate youths had hardly stepped on shore before they were seized by the natives, who, as usual, conveyed them for sacrifice to the temple of Artemis. Iphigenia, discovering that they were Greeks, though unaware of their near relationship to herself, thought the [96]opportunity a favourable one for sending tidings of her existence to her native country, and, accordingly, requested one of the strangers to be the bearer of a letter from her to her family. A magnanimous dispute now arose between the friends, and each besought the other to accept the precious privilege of life and freedom. Pylades, at length overcome by the urgent entreaties of Orestes, agreed to be the bearer of the missive, but on looking more closely at the superscription, he observed, to his intense surprise, that it was addressed to Orestes. Hereupon an explanation followed; the brother and sister recognized each other, amid joyful tears and loving embraces, and assisted by her friends and kinsmen, Iphigenia escaped with them from a country where she had spent so many unhappy days, and witnessed so many scenes of horror and anguish.

The fugitives, having contrived to obtain the image of the Taurian Artemis, carried it with them to Brauron in Attica. This divinity was henceforth known as the Brauronian Artemis, and the rites which had rendered her worship so infamous in Taurica were now introduced into Greece, and human victims bled freely under the sacrificial knife, both in Athens and Sparta. The revolting practice of offering human sacrifices to her, was continued until the time of Lycurgus, the great Spartan lawgiver, who put an end to it by substituting in its place one, which was hardly less barbarous, namely, the scourging of youths, who were whipped on the altars of the Brauronian Artemis in the most cruel manner; sometimes indeed they expired under the lash, in which case their mothers, far from lamenting their fate, are said to have rejoiced, considering this an honourable death for their sons.

SELENE-ARTEMIS.

Hitherto we have seen Artemis only in the various phases of her terrestrial character; but just as her brother Apollo drew into himself by degrees the attributes of that more ancient divinity Helios, the sun-god, so, in like manner, she came to be identified in later times [97]with Selene, the moon-goddess, in which character she is always represented as wearing on her forehead a glittering crescent, whilst a flowing veil, bespangled with stars, reaches to her feet, and a long robe completely envelops her.

DIANA.

The Diana of the Romans was identified with the Greek Artemis, with whom she shares that peculiar tripartite character, which so strongly marks the individuality of the Greek goddess. In heaven she was Luna (the moon), on earth Diana (the huntress-goddess), and in the lower world Proserpine; but, unlike the Ephesian Artemis, Diana, in her character as Proserpine, carries with her into the lower world no element of love or sympathy; she is, on the contrary, characterized by practices altogether hostile to man, such as the exercise of witchcraft, evil charms, and other antagonistic influences, and is, in fact, the Greek Hecate, in her later development.

The statues of Diana were generally erected at a point where three roads met, for which reason she is called Trivia (from tri, three, and via, way).

A temple was dedicated to her on the Aventine hill by Servius Tullius, who is said to have first introduced the worship of this divinity into Rome.

The Nemoralia, or Grove Festivals, were celebrated in her honour on the 13th of August, on the Lacus Nemorensis, or forest-buried lake, near Aricia. The priest who officiated in her temple on this spot, was always a fugitive slave, who had gained his office by murdering his predecessor, and hence was constantly armed, in order that he might thus be prepared to encounter a new aspirant.

HEPHÆSTUS (Vulcan).

Hephæstus, the son of Zeus and Hera, was the god of fire in its beneficial aspect, and the presiding deity over all workmanship accomplished by means of this useful element. He was universally honoured, not only as the [98]god of all mechanical arts, but also as a house and hearth divinity, who exercised a beneficial influence on civilized society in general. Unlike the other Greek divinities, he was ugly and deformed, being awkward in his movements, and limping in his gait. This latter defect originated, as we have already seen, in the wrath of his father Zeus, who hurled him down from heaven[35] in consequence of his taking the part of Hera, in one of the domestic disagreements, which so frequently arose between this royal pair. Hephæstus was a whole day falling from Olympus to the earth, where he at length alighted on the island of Lemnos. The inhabitants of the country, seeing him descending through the air, received him in their arms; but in spite of their care, his leg was broken by the fall, and he remained ever afterwards lame in one foot. Grateful for the kindness of the Lemnians, he henceforth took up his abode in their island, and there built for himself a superb palace, and forges for the pursuit of his avocation. He instructed the people how to work in metals, and also taught them other valuable and useful arts.

It is said that the first work of Hephæstus was a most ingenious throne of gold, with secret springs, which he presented to Hera. It was arranged in such a manner that, once seated, she found herself unable to move, and though all the gods endeavoured to extricate her, their efforts were unavailing. Hephæstus thus revenged himself on his mother for the cruelty she had always displayed towards him, on account of his want of comeliness and grace. Dionysus, the wine god, contrived, however, to intoxicate Hephæstus, and then induced him to return to Olympus, where, after having released the [99]queen of heaven from her very undignified position, he became reconciled to his parents.

He now built for himself a glorious palace on Olympus, of shining gold, and made for the other deities those magnificent edifices which they inhabited. He was assisted in his various and exquisitely skilful works of art, by two female statues of pure gold, formed by his own hand, which possessed the power of motion, and always accompanied him wherever he went. With the assistance of the Cyclops, he forged for Zeus his wonderful thunderbolts, thus investing his mighty father with a new power of terrible import. Zeus testified his appreciation of this precious gift, by bestowing upon Hephæstus the beautiful Aphrodite in marriage,[36] but this was a questionable boon; for the lovely Aphrodite, who was the personification of all grace and beauty, felt no affection for her ungainly and unattractive spouse, and amused herself by ridiculing his awkward movements and unsightly person. On one occasion especially, when Hephæstus good-naturedly took upon himself the office of cup-bearer to the gods, his hobbling gait and extreme awkwardness created the greatest mirth amongst the celestials, in which his disloyal partner was the first to join, with unconcealed merriment.

Aphrodite greatly preferred Ares to her husband, and this preference naturally gave rise to much jealousy on the part of Hephæstus, and caused them great unhappiness.

Hephæstus appears to have been an indispensable member of the Olympic Assembly, where he plays the part of smith, armourer, chariot-builder, &c. As already mentioned, he constructed the palaces where the gods resided, fashioned the golden shoes with which they trod the air or water, built for them their wonderful chariots, and shod with brass the horses of celestial breed, which conveyed these glittering equipages over land and sea. He also made the tripods which moved of themselves in and out of the celestial halls, formed for Zeus the [100]far-famed ægis, and erected the magnificent palace of the sun. He also created the brazen-footed bulls of Aetes, which breathed flames from their nostrils, sent forth clouds of smoke, and filled the air with their roaring.

Among his most renowned works of art for the use of mortals were: the armour of Achilles and Æneas, the beautiful necklace of Harmonia, and the crown of Ariadne; but his masterpiece was Pandora, of whom a detailed account has already been given.

Hephæstus

There was a temple on Mount Etna erected in his honour, which none but the pure and virtuous were permitted to enter. The entrance to this temple was guarded by dogs, which possessed the extraordinary faculty of being able to discriminate between the righteous and the unrighteous, fawning upon and caressing the good, whilst they rushed upon all evil-doers and drove them away.

Hephæstus is usually represented as a powerful, brawny, and very muscular man of middle height and mature age; his strong uplifted arm is raised in the act of striking the anvil with a hammer, which he holds in one hand, whilst with the other he is turning a thunderbolt, which an eagle beside him is waiting to carry to Zeus. The principal seat of his worship was the island of Lemnos, where he was regarded with peculiar veneration.

VULCAN.

The Roman Vulcan was merely an importation from Greece, which never at any time took firm root in Rome, nor entered largely into the actual life and sympathies of the nation, his worship being unattended by the devotional feeling and enthusiasm which characterized the religious rites of the other deities. He still, however, retained in Rome his [101]Greek attributes as god of fire, and unrivalled master of the art of working in metals, and was ranked among the twelve great gods of Olympus, whose gilded statues were arranged consecutively along the Forum. His Roman name, Vulcan, would seem to indicate a connection with the first great metal-working artificer of Biblical history, Tubal-Cain.

POSEIDON (Neptune).

Poseidon was the son of Kronos and Rhea, and the brother of Zeus. He was god of the sea, more particularly of the Mediterranean, and, like the element over which he presided, was of a variable disposition, now violently agitated, and now calm and placid, for which reason he is sometimes represented by the poets as quiet and composed, and at others as disturbed and angry.

Poseidon

In the earliest ages of Greek mythology, he merely symbolized the watery element; but in later times, as navigation and intercourse with other nations engendered greater traffic by sea, Poseidon gained in importance, and came to be regarded as a distinct divinity, holding indisputable dominion over the sea, and over all sea-divinities, who acknowledged him as their sovereign ruler. He possessed the power of causing at will, mighty and destructive tempests, in which the billows rise mountains high, the wind becomes a hurricane, land and sea being enveloped in thick mists, whilst destruction assails the unfortunate mariners exposed to their fury. On the other hand, his alone was the power of stilling the angry [102]waves, of soothing the troubled waters, and granting safe voyages to mariners. For this reason, Poseidon was always invoked and propitiated by a libation before a voyage was undertaken, and sacrifices and thanksgivings were gratefully offered to him after a safe and prosperous journey by sea.

The symbol of his power was the fisherman's fork or trident,[37] by means of which he produced earthquakes, raised up islands from the bottom of the sea, and caused wells to spring forth out of the earth.

Poseidon was essentially the presiding deity over fishermen, and was on that account, more particularly worshipped and revered in countries bordering on the sea-coast, where fish naturally formed a staple commodity of trade. He was supposed to vent his displeasure by sending disastrous inundations, which completely destroyed whole countries, and were usually accompanied by terrible marine monsters, who swallowed up and devoured those whom the floods had spared. It is probable that these sea-monsters are the poetical figures which represent the demons of hunger and famine, necessarily accompanying a general inundation.

Poseidon is generally represented as resembling his brother Zeus in features, height, and general aspect; but we miss in the countenance of the sea-god the kindness and benignity which so pleasingly distinguish his mighty brother. The eyes are bright and piercing, and the contour of the face somewhat sharper in its outline than that of Zeus, thus corresponding, as it were, with his more angry and violent nature. His hair waves in dark, disorderly masses over his shoulders; his chest is broad, and his frame powerful and stalwart; he wears a short, curling beard, and a band round his head. He usually appears standing erect in a graceful shell-chariot, drawn by hippocamps, or sea-horses, with golden manes and brazen hoofs, who bound over the dancing waves with such wonderful swiftness, that the chariot scarcely touches[103]the water. The monsters of the deep, acknowledging their mighty lord, gambol playfully around him, whilst the sea joyfully smooths a path for the passage of its all-powerful ruler.

A hippocamp

He inhabited a beautiful palace at the bottom of the sea at Ægea in Eubœa, and also possessed a royal residence on Mount Olympus, which, however, he only visited when his presence was required at the council of the gods.

His wonderful palace beneath the waters was of vast extent; in its lofty and capacious halls thousands of his followers could assemble. The exterior of the building was of bright gold, which the continual wash of the waters preserved untarnished; in the interior, lofty and graceful columns supported the gleaming dome. Everywhere fountains of glistening, silvery water played; everywhere groves and arbours of feathery-leaved sea-plants appeared, whilst rocks of pure crystal glistened with all the varied colours of the rainbow. Some of the paths were strewn with white sparkling sand, interspersed with jewels, pearls, and amber. This delightful abode was surrounded on all sides by wide fields, where there were whole groves of dark purple coralline, and tufts of beautiful scarlet-leaved plants, and sea-anemones of every tint. Here grew bright, pinky sea-weeds, mosses of all hues and shades, and tall grasses, which, growing upwards, formed emerald caves and grottoes such as the Nereides love, whilst fish of various kinds playfully darted in and out, in the full enjoyment of their native element. Nor was illumination wanting in this fairy-like region, which at night was lit up by the glow-worms of the deep.

But although Poseidon ruled with absolute power over the ocean and its inhabitants, he nevertheless bowed submissively to the will of the great ruler of Olympus, and appeared at all times desirous of conciliating him. We 

[104]find him coming to his aid when emergency demanded, and frequently rendering him valuable assistance against his opponents. At the time when Zeus was harassed by the attacks of the Giants, he proved himself a most powerful ally, engaging in single combat with a hideous giant named Polybotes, whom he followed over the sea, and at last succeeded in destroying, by hurling upon him the island of Cos.

These amicable relations between the brothers were, however, sometimes interrupted. Thus, for instance, upon one occasion Poseidon joined Hera and Athene in a secret conspiracy to seize upon the ruler of heaven, place him in fetters, and deprive him of the sovereign power. The conspiracy being discovered, Hera, as the chief instigator of this sacrilegious attempt on the divine person of Zeus, was severely chastised, and even beaten, by her enraged spouse, as a punishment for her rebellion and treachery, whilst Poseidon was condemned, for the space of a whole year, to forego his dominion over the sea, and it was at this time that, in conjunction with Apollo, he built for Laomedon the walls of Troy.

Poseidon married a sea-nymph named Amphitrite, whom he wooed under the form of a dolphin. She afterwards became jealous of a beautiful maiden called Scylla, who was beloved by Poseidon, and in order to revenge herself she threw some herbs into a well where Scylla was bathing, which had the effect of metamorphosing her into a monster of terrible aspect, having twelve feet, six heads with six long necks, and a voice which resembled the bark of a dog. This awful monster is said to have inhabited a cave at a very great height in the famous rock which still bears her name,[38] and was supposed to swoop down from her rocky eminence upon every ship that passed, and with each of her six heads to secure a victim.

Amphitrite is often represented assisting Poseidon in attaching the sea-horses to his chariot.

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The Cyclops, who have been already alluded to in the history of Cronus, were the sons of Poseidon and Amphitrite. They were a wild race of gigantic growth, similar in their nature to the earth-born Giants, and had only one eye each in the middle of their foreheads. They led a lawless life, possessing neither social manners nor fear of the gods, and were the workmen of Hephæstus, whose workshop was supposed to be in the heart of the volcanic mountain Ætna.

Here we have another striking instance of the manner in which the Greeks personified the powers of nature, which they saw in active operation around them. They beheld with awe, mingled with astonishment, the fire, stones, and ashes which poured forth from the summit of this and other volcanic mountains, and, with their vivacity of imagination, found a solution of the mystery in the supposition, that the god of Fire must be busy at work with his men in the depths of the earth, and that the mighty flames which they beheld, issued in this manner from his subterranean forge.

The chief representative of the Cyclops was the man-eating monster Polyphemus, described by Homer as having been blinded and outwitted at last by Odysseus. This monster fell in love with a beautiful nymph called Galatea; but, as may be supposed, his addresses were not acceptable to the fair maiden, who rejected them in favour of a youth named Acis, upon which Polyphemus, with his usual barbarity, destroyed the life of his rival by throwing upon him a gigantic rock. The blood of the murdered Acis, gushing out of the rock, formed a stream which still bears his name.

Triton, Rhoda,[39] and Benthesicyme were also children of Poseidon and Amphitrite.

The sea-god was the father of two giant sons called Otus and Ephialtes.[40] When only nine years old they [106]were said to be twenty-seven cubits[41] in height and nine in breadth. These youthful giants were as rebellious as they were powerful, even presuming to threaten the gods themselves with hostilities. During the war of the Gigantomachia, they endeavoured to scale heaven by piling mighty mountains one upon another. Already had they succeeded in placing Mount Ossa on Olympus and Pelion on Ossa, when this impious project was frustrated by Apollo, who destroyed them with his arrows. It was supposed that had not their lives been thus cut off before reaching maturity, their sacrilegious designs would have been carried into effect.

Pelias and Neleus were also sons of Poseidon. Their mother Tyro was attached to the river-god Enipeus, whose form Poseidon assumed, and thus won her love. Pelias became afterwards famous in the story of the Argonauts, and Neleus was the father of Nestor, who was distinguished in the Trojan War.

The Greeks believed that it was to Poseidon they were indebted for the existence of the horse, which he is said to have produced in the following manner: Athene and Poseidon both claiming the right to name Cecropia (the ancient name of Athens), a violent dispute arose, which was finally settled by an assembly of the Olympian gods, who decided that whichever of the contending parties presented mankind with the most useful gift, should obtain the privilege of naming the city. Upon this Poseidon struck the ground with his trident, and the horse sprang forth in all his untamed strength and graceful beauty. From the spot which Athene touched with her wand, issued the olive-tree, whereupon the gods unanimously awarded to her the victory, declaring her gift to be the emblem of peace and plenty, whilst that of Poseidon was thought to be the symbol of war and [107]bloodshed. Athene accordingly called the city Athens, after herself, and it has ever since retained this name.

Poseidon tamed the horse for the use of mankind, and was believed to have taught men the art of managing horses by the bridle. The Isthmian games (so named because they were held on the Isthmus of Corinth), in which horse and chariot races were a distinguishing feature, were instituted in honour of Poseidon.

He was more especially worshipped in the Peloponnesus, though universally revered throughout Greece and in the south of Italy. His sacrifices were generally black and white bulls, also wild boars and rams. His usual attributes are the trident, horse, and dolphin.

In some parts of Greece this divinity was identified with the sea-god Nereus, for which reason the Nereides, or daughters of Nereus, are represented as accompanying him.

NEPTUNE.

The Romans worshipped Poseidon under the name of Neptune, and invested him with all the attributes which belong to the Greek divinity.

The Roman commanders never undertook any naval expedition without propitiating Neptune by a sacrifice.

His temple at Rome was in the Campus Martius, and the festivals commemorated in his honour were called Neptunalia.


SEA DIVINITIES.

OCEANUS.

Oceanus was the son of Uranus and Gæa. He was the personification of the ever-flowing stream, which, according to the primitive notions of the early Greeks, encircled the world, and from which sprang all the rivers and streams that watered the earth. He was married to Tethys, one of the Titans, and was the father of a [108]numerous progeny called the Oceanides, who are said to have been three thousand in number. He alone, of all the Titans, refrained from taking part against Zeus in the Titanomachia, and was, on that account, the only one of the primeval divinities permitted to retain his dominion under the new dynasty.

NEREUS.

Nereus appears to have been the personification of the sea in its calm and placid moods, and was, after Poseidon, the most important of the sea-deities. He is represented as a kind and benevolent old man, possessing the gift of prophecy, and presiding more particularly over the Ægean Sea, of which he was considered to be the protecting spirit. There he dwelt with his wife Doris and their fifty blooming daughters, the Nereides, beneath the waves in a beautiful grotto-palace, and was ever ready to assist distressed mariners in the hour of danger.

PROTEUS.

Proteus, more familiarly known as "The Old Man of the Sea," was a son of Poseidon, and gifted with prophetic power. But he had an invincible objection to being consulted in his capacity as seer, and those who wished him to foretell events, watched for the hour of noon, when he was in the habit of coming up to the island of Pharos,[42] with Poseidon's flock of seals, which he tended at the bottom of the sea. Surrounded by these creatures of the deep, he used to slumber beneath the grateful shade of the rocks. This was the favourable moment to seize the prophet, who, in order to avoid importunities, would change himself into an infinite variety of forms. But patience gained the day; for if he were only held long enough, he became wearied at last, and, resuming his true form, gave the information desired, after which he dived down again to the bottom of the sea, accompanied by the animals he tended.

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Triton

TRITON and the TRITONS.

Triton was the only son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, but he possessed little influence, being altogether a minor divinity. He is usually represented as preceding his father and acting as his trumpeter, using a conch-shell for this purpose. He lived with his parents in their beautiful golden palace beneath the sea at Ægea, and his favourite pastime was to ride over the billows on horses or sea-monsters. Triton is always represented as half man, half fish, the body below the waist terminating in the tail of a dolphin. We frequently find mention of Tritons who are either the offspring or kindred of Triton.

GLAUCUS.

Glaucus is said to have become a sea-divinity in the following manner. While angling one day, he observed that the fish he caught and threw on the bank, at once nibbled at the grass and then leaped back into the water. His curiosity was naturally excited, and he proceeded to gratify it by taking up a few blades and tasting them. No sooner was this done than, obeying an irresistible impulse, he precipitated himself into the deep, and became a sea-god.

Like most sea-divinities he was gifted with prophetic power, and each year visited all the islands and coasts with a train of marine monsters, foretelling all kinds of evil. Hence fishermen dreaded his approach, and endeavoured, by prayer and fasting, to avert the misfortunes which he prophesied. He is often represented floating on the billows, his body covered with mussels, sea-weed, and shells, wearing a full beard and long flowing hair, and bitterly bewailing his immortality.

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THETIS.

The silver-footed, fair-haired Thetis, who plays an important part in the mythology of Greece, was the daughter of Nereus, or, as some assert, of Poseidon. Her grace and beauty were so remarkable that Zeus and Poseidon both sought an alliance with her; but, as it had been foretold that a son of hers would gain supremacy over his father, they relinquished their intentions, and she became the wife of Peleus, son of Æacus. Like Proteus, Thetis possessed the power of transforming herself into a variety of different shapes, and when wooed by Peleus she exerted this power in order to elude him. But, knowing that persistence would eventually succeed, he held her fast until she assumed her true form. Their nuptials were celebrated with the utmost pomp and magnificence, and were honoured by the presence of all the gods and goddesses, with the exception of Eris. How the goddess of discord resented her exclusion from the marriage festivities has already been shown.

Thetis ever retained great influence over the mighty lord of heaven, which, as we shall see hereafter, she used in favour of her renowned son, Achilles, in the Trojan War.

When Halcyone plunged into the sea in despair after the shipwreck and death of her husband King Ceyx, Thetis transformed both husband and wife into the birds called kingfishers (halcyones), which, with the tender affection which characterized the unfortunate couple, always fly in pairs. The idea of the ancients was that these birds brought forth their young in nests, which float on the surface of the sea in calm weather, before and after the shortest day, when Thetis was said to keep the waters smooth and tranquil for their especial benefit; hence the term "halcyon-days," which signifies a period of rest and untroubled felicity.

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THAUMAS, PHORCYS, and CETO.

The early Greeks, with their extraordinary power of personifying all and every attribute of Nature, gave a distinct personality to those mighty wonders of the deep, which, in all ages, have afforded matter of speculation to educated and uneducated alike. Among these personifications we find Thaumas, Phorcys, and their sister Ceto, who were the offspring of Pontus.

Thaumas (whose name signifies Wonder) typifies that peculiar, translucent condition of the surface of the sea when it reflects, mirror-like, various images, and appears to hold in its transparent embrace the flaming stars and illuminated cities, which are so frequently reflected on its glassy bosom.

Thaumas married the lovely Electra (whose name signifies the sparkling light produced by electricity), daughter of Oceanus. Her amber-coloured hair was of such rare beauty that none of her fair-haired sisters could compare with her, and when she wept, her tears, being too precious to be lost, formed drops of shining amber.

Phorcys and Ceto personified more especially the hidden perils and terrors of the ocean. They were the parents of the Gorgons, the Græa, and the Dragon which guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides.

A Siren

LEUCOTHEA.

Leucothea was originally a mortal named Ino, daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes. She married Athamas, king of Orchomenus, who, incensed at her unnatural conduct to her step-children,[43] pursued her and her son to the sea-shore, when, seeing no hope of escape, she flung herself with her child into the deep. They were kindly received by the Nereides, and became sea-divinities under the name of Leucothea and Palæmon.

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THE SIRENS.

The Sirens would appear to have been personifications of those numerous rocks and unseen dangers, which abound on the S.W. coast of Italy. They were sea-nymphs, with the upper part of the body that of a maiden and the lower that of a sea-bird, having wings attached to their shoulders, and were endowed with such wonderful voices, that their sweet songs are said to have lured mariners to destruction.

ARES (Mars).

Ares, the son of Zeus and Hera, was the god of war, who gloried in strife for its own sake; he loved the tumult and havoc of the battlefield, and delighted in slaughter and extermination; in fact he presents no benevolent aspect which could possibly react favourably upon human life.

Epic poets, in particular, represent the god of battles as a wild ungovernable warrior, who passes through the armies like a whirlwind, hurling to the ground the brave and cowardly alike; destroying chariots and helmets, and triumphing over the terrible desolation which he produces.

In all the myths concerning Ares, his sister Athene ever appears in opposition to him, endeavouring by every means in her power to defeat his bloodthirsty designs. Thus she assists the divine hero Diomedes at the siege of Troy, to overcome Ares in battle, and so well does he profit by her timely aid, that he succeeds in wounding the sanguinary war-god, who makes his exit from the field, roaring like ten thousand bulls.

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Ares appears to have been an object of aversion to all the gods of Olympus, Aphrodite alone excepted. As the son of Hera, he had inherited from his mother the strongest feelings of independence and contradiction, and as he took delight in upsetting that peaceful course of state-life which it was pre-eminently the care of Zeus to establish, he was naturally disliked and even hated by him.

When wounded by Diomedes, as above related, he complains to his father, but receives no sympathy from the otherwise kindly and beneficent ruler of Olympus, who thus angrily addresses him: "Do not trouble me with thy complaints, thou who art of all the gods of Olympus most hateful to me, for thou delightest in nought save war and strife. The very spirit of thy mother lives in thee, and wert thou not my son, long ago wouldst thou have lain deeper down in the bowels of the earth than the son of Uranus."

Ares

Ares, upon one occasion, incurred the anger of Poseidon by slaying his son Halirrhothios, who had insulted Alcippe, the daughter of the war-god. For this deed, Poseidon summoned Ares to appear before the tribunal of the Olympic gods, which was held upon a hill in Athens. Ares was acquitted, and this event is supposed to have given rise to the name Areopagus (or Hill of Ares), which afterwards became so famous as a court of justice. In the Gigantomachia, Ares was defeated by the Aloidæ, the two giant-sons of Poseidon, who put him in chains, and kept him in prison for thirteen months.

Ares is represented as a man of youthful appearance; his tall muscular form combines great strength with wonderful agility. In his right hand he bears a sword or a mighty lance, while on the left arm he carries his round shield (see next page). His demoniacal surroundings are Terror and Fear;[44] Enyo, the goddess of the war-cry; Keidomos, the demon of the noise of battles; and Eris (Contention), his twin-sister and companion, who always [114]precedes his chariot when he rushes to the fight, the latter being evidently a simile of the poets to express the fact that war follows contention.

Eris is represented as a woman of florid complexion, with dishevelled hair, and her whole appearance angry and menacing. In one hand she brandishes a poniard and a hissing adder, whilst in the other she carries a burning torch. Her dress is torn and disorderly, and her hair intertwined with venomous snakes. This divinity was never invoked by mortals, except when they desired her assistance for the accomplishment of evil purposes.

MARS.

The Roman divinity most closely resembling the Greek Ares, and identified with him, was called Mars, Mamers, and Marspiter or Father Mars.

The earliest Italian tribes, who were mostly engaged in the pursuit of husbandry, regarded this deity more especially as the god of spring, who vanquished the powers of winter, and encouraged the peaceful arts of agriculture. But with the Romans, who were an essentially warlike nation, Mars gradually loses his peaceful character, and, as god of war, attains, after Jupiter, the highest position among the Olympic gods. The Romans looked upon him as their special protector, and declared him to have been the father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of their city. But although he was especially [115]worshipped in Rome as god of war, he still continued to preside over agriculture, and was also the protecting deity who watched over the welfare of the state.

As the god who strode with warlike step to the battlefield, he was called Gradivus (from gradus, a step), it being popularly believed by the Romans that he himself marched before them to battle, and acted as their invisible protector. As the presiding deity over agriculture, he was styled Sylvanus, whilst in his character as guardian of the state, he bore the name of Quirinus.[45]

The priests of Mars were twelve in number, and were called Salii, or the dancers, from the fact that sacred dances, in full armour, formed an important item in their peculiar ceremonial. This religious order, the members of which were always chosen from the noblest families in Rome, was first instituted by Numa Pompilius, who intrusted to their special charge the Anciliæ, or sacred shields. It is said that one morning, when Numa was imploring the protection of Jupiter for the newly-founded city of Rome, the god of heaven, as though in answer to his prayer, sent down an oblong brazen shield, and, as it fell at the feet of the king, a voice was heard announcing that on its preservation depended the future safety and prosperity of Rome. In order, therefore, to lessen the chances of this sacred treasure being abstracted, Numa caused eleven more to be made exactly like it, which were then given into the care of the Salii.

The assistance and protection of the god of war was always solemnly invoked before the departure of a Roman army for the field of battle, and any reverses of fortune were invariably ascribed to his anger, which was accordingly propitiated by means of extraordinary sin-offerings and prayers.

In Rome a field, called the Campus Martius, was dedicated to Mars. It was a large, open space, in which armies were collected and reviewed, general assemblies of [116]the people held, and the young nobility trained to martial exercises.

The most celebrated and magnificent of the numerous temples built by the Romans in honour of this deity was the one erected by Augustus in the Forum, to commemorate the overthrow of the murderers of Cæsar.

Of all existing statues of Mars the most renowned is that in the Villa Ludovisi at Rome, in which he is represented as a powerful, muscular man in the full vigour of youth. The attitude is that of thoughtful repose, but the short, curly hair, dilated nostrils, and strongly marked features leave no doubt as to the force and turbulence of his character. At his feet, the sculptor has placed the little god of love, who looks up all undaunted at the mighty war-god, as though mischievously conscious that this unusually quiet mood is attributable to his influence.

Religious festivals in honour of Mars were generally held in the month of March; but he had also a festival on the Ides of October, when chariot-races took place, after which, the right-hand horse of the team which had drawn the victorious chariot, was sacrificed to him. In ancient times, human sacrifices, more especially prisoners of war, were offered to him; but, at a later period, this cruel practice was discontinued.

The attributes of this divinity are the helmet, shield, and spear. The animals consecrated to him were the wolf, horse, vulture, and woodpecker.

Intimately associated with Mars in his character as god of war, was a goddess called BELLONA, who was evidently the female divinity of battle with one or other of the primitive nations of Italy (most probably the Sabines), and is usually seen accompanying Mars, whose war-chariot she guides. Bellona appears on the battle-field, inspired with mad rage, cruelty, and the love of extermination. She is in full armour, her hair is dishevelled, and she bears a scourge in one hand, and a lance in the other.

A temple was erected to her on the Campus Martius. Before the entrance to this edifice stood a pillar, over which a spear was thrown when war was publicly declared.[117]

NIKE (Victoria).

Nike, the goddess of victory, was the daughter of the Titan Pallas, and of Styx, the presiding nymph of the river of that name in the lower world.

In her statues, Nike somewhat resembles Athene, but may easily be recognized by her large, graceful wings and flowing drapery, which is negligently fastened on the right shoulder, and only partially conceals her lovely form. In her left hand, she holds aloft a crown of laurel, and in the right, a palm-branch. In ancient sculpture, Nike is usually represented in connection with colossal statues of Zeus or Pallas-Athene, in which case she is life-sized, and stands on a ball, held in the open palm of the deity she accompanies. Sometimes she is represented engaged in inscribing the victory of a conqueror on his shield, her right foot being slightly raised and placed on a ball.

A celebrated temple was erected to this divinity on the Acropolis at Athens, which is still to be seen, and is in excellent preservation.

VICTORIA.

Under the name of Victoria, Nike was highly honoured by the Romans, with whom love of conquest was an all-absorbing characteristic. There were several sanctuaries in Rome dedicated to her, the principal of which was on the Capitol, where it was the custom of generals, after success had attended their arms, to erect statues of the goddess in commemoration of their victories. The most magnificent of these statues, was that raised by Augustus after the battle of Actium. A festival was celebrated in honour of Nike on the 12th of April.

HERMES (Mercury).

Hermes was the swift-footed messenger, and trusted ambassador of all the gods, and conductor of shades to Hades. He presided over the rearing and education of [118]the young, and encouraged gymnastic exercises and athletic pursuits, for which reason, all gymnasiums and wrestling schools throughout Greece were adorned with his statues. He is said to have invented the alphabet, and to have taught the art of interpreting foreign languages, and his versatility, sagacity, and cunning were so extraordinary, that Zeus invariably chose him as his attendant, when, disguised as a mortal, he journeyed on earth.

Hermes was worshipped as god of eloquence, most probably from the fact that, in his office as ambassador, this faculty was indispensable to the successful issue of the negotiations with which he was intrusted. He was regarded as the god who granted increase and prosperity to flocks and herds, and, on this account, was worshipped with special veneration by herdsmen.

In ancient times, trade was conducted chiefly by means of the exchange of cattle. Hermes, therefore, as god of herdsmen, came to be regarded as the protector of merchants, and, as ready wit and adroitness are valuable qualities both in buying and selling, he was also looked upon as the patron of artifice and cunning. Indeed, so deeply was this notion rooted in the minds of the Greek people, that he was popularly believed to be also god of thieves, and of all persons who live by their wits.

A Herma

As the patron of commerce, Hermes was naturally supposed to be the promoter of intercourse among nations; hence, he is essentially the god of travellers, over whose safety he presided, and he severely punished those who refused assistance to the lost or weary wayfarer. He was also guardian of streets and roads, and his statues, called Hermæ (which were pillars of stone surmounted by a head of Hermes), were placed at cross-roads, and frequently in streets and public squares.

Being the god of all undertakings in which gain was a feature, he was worshipped as the giver of wealth and [119]good luck, and any unexpected stroke of fortune was attributed to his influence. He also presided over the game of dice, in which he is said to have been instructed by Apollo.

Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, the eldest and most beautiful of the seven Pleiades (daughters of Atlas), and was born in a cave of Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. As a mere babe, he exhibited an extraordinary faculty for cunning and dissimulation; in fact, he was a thief from his cradle, for, not many hours after his birth, we find him creeping stealthily out of the cave in which he was born, in order to steal some oxen belonging to his brother Apollo, who was at this time feeding the flocks of Admetus. But he had not proceeded very far on his expedition before he found a tortoise, which he killed, and, stretching seven strings across the empty shell, invented a lyre, upon which he at once began to play with exquisite skill. When he had sufficiently amused himself with the instrument, he placed it in his cradle, and then resumed his journey to Pieria, where the cattle of Admetus were grazing. Arriving at sunset at his destination, he succeeded in separating fifty oxen from his brother's herd, which he now drove before him, taking the precaution to cover his feet with sandals made of twigs of myrtle, in order to escape detection. But the little rogue was not unobserved, for the theft had been witnessed by an old shepherd named Battus, who was tending the flocks of Neleus, king of Pylos (father of Nestor). Hermes, frightened at being discovered, bribed him with the finest cow in the herd not to betray him, and Battus promised to keep the secret. But Hermes, astute as he was dishonest, determined to test the shepherd's integrity. Feigning to go away, he assumed the form of Admetus, and then returning to the spot offered the old man two of his best oxen if he would disclose the author of the theft. The ruse succeeded, for the avaricious shepherd, unable to resist the tempting bait, gave the desired information, upon which Hermes, exerting his divine power, changed him into a lump of touchstone, as a [120]punishment for his treachery and avarice. Hermes now killed two of the oxen, which he sacrificed to himself and the other gods, concealing the remainder in the cave. He then carefully extinguished the fire, and, after throwing his twig shoes into the river Alpheus, returned to Cyllene.

Apollo, by means of his all-seeing power, soon discovered who it was that had robbed him, and hastening to Cyllene, demanded restitution of his property. On his complaining to Maia of her son's conduct, she pointed to the innocent babe then lying, apparently fast asleep, in his cradle, whereupon, Apollo angrily aroused the pretended sleeper, and charged him with the theft; but the child stoutly denied all knowledge of it, and so cleverly did he play his part, that he even inquired in the most naive manner what sort of animals cows were. Apollo threatened to throw him into Tartarus if he would not confess the truth, but all to no purpose. At last, he seized the babe in his arms, and brought him into the presence of his august father, who was seated in the council chamber of the gods. Zeus listened to the charge made by Apollo, and then sternly desired Hermes to say where he had hidden the cattle. The child, who was still in swaddling-clothes, looked up bravely into his father's face and said, "Now, do I look capable of driving away a herd of cattle; I, who was only born yesterday, and whose feet are much too soft and tender to tread in rough places? Until this moment, I lay in sweet sleep on my mother's bosom, and have never even crossed the threshold of our dwelling. You know well that I am not guilty; but, if you wish, I will affirm it by the most solemn oaths." As the child stood before him, looking the picture of innocence, Zeus could not refrain from smiling at his cleverness and cunning, but, being perfectly aware of his guilt, he commanded him to conduct Apollo to the cave where he had concealed the herd, and Hermes, seeing that further subterfuge was useless, unhesitatingly obeyed. But when the divine shepherd was about to drive his cattle back into Pieria, Hermes, as though by chance, touched the chords of his [121]lyre. Hitherto Apollo had heard nothing but the music of his own three-stringed lyre and the syrinx, or Pan's pipe, and, as he listened entranced to the delightful strains of this new instrument, his longing to possess it became so great, that he gladly offered the oxen in exchange, promising at the same time, to give Hermes full dominion over flocks and herds, as well as over horses, and all the wild animals of the woods and forests. The offer was accepted, and, a reconciliation being thus effected between the brothers, Hermes became henceforth god of herdsmen, whilst Apollo devoted himself enthusiastically to the art of music.

Caduceus

They now proceeded together to Olympus, where Apollo introduced Hermes as his chosen friend and companion, and, having made him swear by the Styx, that he would never steal his lyre or bow, nor invade his sanctuary at Delphi, he presented him with the Caduceus, or golden wand. This wand was surmounted by wings, and on presenting it to Hermes, Apollo informed him that it possessed the faculty of uniting in love, all beings divided by hate. Wishing to prove the truth of this assertion, Hermes threw it down between two snakes which were fighting, whereupon the angry combatants clasped each other in a loving embrace, and curling round the staff, remained ever after permanently attached to it. The wand itself typified power; the serpents, wisdom; and the wings, despatch—all qualities characteristic of a trustworthy ambassador.

The young god was now presented by his father with a winged silver cap (Petasus), and also with silver wings for his feet (Talaria), and was forthwith appointed herald of the gods, and conductor of shades to Hades, which office had hitherto been filled by Aïdes.

As messenger of the gods, we find him employed on all occasions requiring special skill, tact, or despatch. Thus he conducts Hera, Athene, and Aphrodite to Paris, leads Priam to Achilles to demand the body of Hector, [122]binds Prometheus to Mount Caucasus, secures Ixion to the eternally revolving wheel, destroys Argus, the hundred-eyed guardian of Io, &c. &c.

As conductor of shades, Hermes was always invoked by the dying to grant them a safe and speedy passage across the Styx. He also possessed the power of bringing back departed spirits to the upper world, and was, therefore, the mediator between the living and the dead.

The poets relate many amusing stories of the youthful tricks played by this mischief-loving god upon the other immortals. For instance, he had the audacity to extract the Medusa's head from the shield of Athene, which he playfully attached to the back of Hephæstus; he also stole the girdle of Aphrodite; deprived Artemis of her arrows, and Ares of his spear, but these acts were always performed with such graceful dexterity, combined with such perfect good humour, that even the gods and goddesses he thus provoked, were fain to pardon him, and he became a universal favourite with them all.

It is said that Hermes was one day flying over Athens, when, looking down into the city, he beheld a number of maidens returning in solemn procession from the temple of Pallas-Athene. Foremost among them was Herse, the beautiful daughter of king Cecrops, and Hermes was so struck with her exceeding loveliness that he determined to seek an interview with her. He accordingly presented himself at the royal palace, and begged her sister Agraulos to favour his suit; but, being of an avaricious turn of mind, she refused to do so without the payment of an enormous sum of money. It did not take the messenger of the gods long to obtain the means of fulfilling this condition, and he soon returned with a well-filled purse. But meanwhile Athene, to punish the cupidity of Agraulos, had caused the demon of envy to take possession of her, and the consequence was, that, being unable to contemplate the happiness of her sister, she sat down before the door, and resolutely refused to allow Hermes to enter. He tried every persuasion and blandishment in his power, but she still remained obstinate. At last, his patience [123]being exhausted, he changed her into a mass of black stone, and, the obstacle to his wishes being removed, he succeeded in persuading Herse to become his wife.

Hermes

In his statues, Hermes is represented as a beardless youth, with broad chest and graceful but muscular limbs; the face is handsome and intelligent, and a genial smile of kindly benevolence plays round the delicately chiselled lips.

As messenger of the gods he wears the Petasus and Talaria, and bears in his hand the Caduceus or herald's staff.

As god of eloquence, he is often represented with chains of gold hanging from his lips, whilst, as the patron of merchants, he bears a purse in his hand.

The wonderful excavations in Olympia, to which allusion has already been made, have brought to light an exquisite marble group of Hermes and the infant Bacchus, by Praxiteles. In this great work of art, Hermes is represented as a young and handsome man, who is looking down kindly and affectionately at the child resting on his arm, but unfortunately nothing remains of the infant save the right hand, which is laid lovingly on the shoulder of his protector.

The sacrifices to Hermes consisted of incense, honey, cakes, pigs, and especially lambs and young goats. As god of eloquence, the tongues of animals were sacrificed to him.

MERCURY.

Mercury was the Roman god of commerce and gain. We find mention of a temple having been erected to him [124]near the Circus Maximus as early as B.C. 495; and he had also a temple and a sacred fount near the Porta Capena. Magic powers were ascribed to the latter, and on the festival of Mercury, which took place on the 25th of May, it was the custom for merchants to sprinkle themselves and their merchandise with this holy water, in order to insure large profits from their wares.

The Fetiales (Roman priests whose duty it was to act as guardians of the public faith) refused to recognize the identity of Mercury with Hermes, and ordered him to be represented with a sacred branch as the emblem of peace, instead of the Caduceus. In later times, however, he was completely identified with the Greek Hermes.

DIONYSUS (Bacchus).

Dionysus, also called Bacchus (from bacca, berry), was the god of wine, and the personification of the blessings of Nature in general.

Dionysus

The worship of this divinity, which is supposed to have been introduced into Greece from Asia (in all probability from India), first took root in Thrace, whence it gradually spread into other parts of Greece.

Dionysus was the son of Zeus and Semele, and was snatched by Zeus from the devouring flames in which his mother perished, when he appeared to her in all the splendour of his divine glory. The motherless child was intrusted to the charge of Hermes, who conveyed him to Semele's sister, Ino. But Hera, still implacable in her vengeance, visited Athamas, the husband of Ino, with madness, [125]and the child's life being no longer safe, he was transferred to the fostering care of the nymphs of Mount Nysa. An aged satyr named Silenus, the son of Pan, took upon himself the office of guardian and preceptor to the young god, who, in his turn, became much attached to his kind tutor; hence we see Silenus always figuring as one of the chief personages in the various expeditions of the wine-god.

Dionysus passed an innocent and uneventful childhood, roaming through the woods and forests, surrounded by nymphs, satyrs, and shepherds. During one of these rambles, he found a fruit growing wild, of a most refreshing and cooling nature. This was the vine, from which he subsequently learnt to extract a juice which formed a most exhilarating beverage. After his companions had partaken freely of it, they felt their whole being pervaded by an unwonted sense of pleasurable excitement, and gave full vent to their overflowing exuberance, by shouting, singing, and dancing. Their numbers were soon swelled by a crowd, eager to taste a beverage productive of such extraordinary results, and anxious to join in the worship of a divinity to whom they were indebted for this new enjoyment. Dionysus, on his part, seeing how agreeably his discovery had affected his immediate followers, resolved to extend the boon to mankind in general. He saw that wine, used in moderation, would enable man to enjoy a happier, and more sociable existence, and that, under its invigorating influence, the sorrowful might, for a while, forget their grief and the sick their pain. He accordingly gathered round him his zealous followers, and they set forth on their travels, planting the vine and teaching its cultivation wherever they went.

We now behold Dionysus at the head of a large army composed of men, women, fauns, and satyrs, all bearing in their hands the Thyrsus (a staff entwined with vine-branches surmounted by a fir-cone), and clashing together cymbals and other musical instruments. Seated in a chariot drawn by panthers, and accompanied by thousands of enthusiastic followers, Dionysus made a triumphal [126]progress through Syria, Egypt, Arabia, India, &c., conquering all before him, founding cities, and establishing on every side a more civilized and sociable mode of life among the inhabitants of the various countries through which he passed.

When Dionysus returned to Greece from his Eastern expedition, he encountered great opposition from Lycurgus, king of Thrace, and Pentheus, king of Thebes. The former, highly disapproving of the wild revels which attended the worship of the wine-god, drove away his attendants, the nymphs of Nysa, from that sacred mountain, and so effectually intimidated Dionysus, that he precipitated himself into the sea, where he was received into the arms of the ocean-nymph, Thetis. But the impious king bitterly expiated his sacrilegious conduct. He was punished with the loss of his reason, and, during one of his mad paroxysms, killed his own son Dryas, whom he mistook for a vine.

Pentheus, king of Thebes, seeing his subjects so completely infatuated by the riotous worship of this new divinity, and fearing the demoralizing effects of the unseemly nocturnal orgies held in honour of the wine-god, strictly prohibited his people from taking any part in the wild Bacchanalian revels. Anxious to save him from the consequences of his impiety, Dionysus appeared to him under the form of a youth in the king's train, and earnestly warned him to desist from his denunciations. But the well-meant admonition failed in its purpose, for Pentheus only became more incensed at this interference, and, commanding Dionysus to be cast into prison, caused the most cruel preparations to be made for his immediate execution. But the god soon freed himself from his ignoble confinement, for scarcely had his jailers departed, ere the prison-doors opened of themselves, and, bursting asunder his iron chains, he escaped to rejoin his devoted followers.

Meanwhile, the mother of the king and her sisters, inspired with Bacchanalian fury, had repaired to Mount Cithæron, in order to join the worshippers of the [127]wine-god in those dreadful orgies which were solemnized exclusively by women, and at which no man was allowed to be present. Enraged at finding his commands thus openly disregarded by the members of his own family, Pentheus resolved to witness for himself the excesses of which he had heard such terrible reports, and for this purpose, concealed himself behind a tree on Mount Cithæron; but his hiding-place being discovered, he was dragged out by the half-maddened crew of Bacchantes and, horrible to relate, he was torn in pieces by his own mother Agave and her two sisters.

An incident which occurred to Dionysus on one of his travels has been a favourite subject with the classic poets. One day, as some Tyrrhenian pirates approached the shores of Greece, they beheld Dionysus, in the form of a beautiful youth, attired in radiant garments. Thinking to secure a rich prize, they seized him, bound him, and conveyed him on board their vessel, resolved to carry him with them to Asia and there sell him as a slave. But the fetters dropped from his limbs, and the pilot, who was the first to perceive the miracle, called upon his companions to restore the youth carefully to the spot whence they had taken him, assuring them that he was a god, and that adverse winds and storms would, in all probability, result from their impious conduct. But, refusing to part with their prisoner, they set sail for the open sea. Suddenly, to the alarm of all on board, the ship stood still, masts and sails were covered with clustering vines and wreaths of ivy-leaves, streams of fragrant wine inundated the vessel, and heavenly strains of music were heard around. The terrified crew, too late repentant, crowded round the pilot for protection, and entreated him to steer for the shore. But the hour of retribution had arrived. Dionysus assumed the form of a lion, whilst beside him appeared a bear, which, with a terrific roar, rushed upon the captain and tore him in pieces; the sailors, in an agony of terror, leaped overboard, and were changed into dolphins. The discreet and pious steersman was alone permitted to escape the fate of his companions, [128]and to him Dionysus, who had resumed his true form, addressed words of kind and affectionate encouragement, and announced his name and dignity. They now set sail, and Dionysus desired the pilot to land him at the island of Naxos, where he found the lovely Ariadne, daughter of Minos, king of Crete. She had been abandoned by Theseus on this lonely spot, and, when Dionysus now beheld her, was lying fast asleep on a rock, worn out with sorrow and weeping. Wrapt in admiration, the god stood gazing at the beautiful vision before him, and when she at length unclosed her eyes, he revealed himself to her, and, in gentle tones, sought to banish her grief. Grateful for his kind sympathy, coming as it did at a moment when she had deemed herself forsaken and friendless, she gradually regained her former serenity, and, yielding to his entreaties, consented to become his wife.

Dionysus, having established his worship in various parts of the world, descended to the realm of shades in search of his ill-fated mother, whom he conducted to Olympus, where, under the name of Thyone, she was admitted into the assembly of the immortal gods.

Among the most noted worshippers of Dionysus was Midas,[46] the wealthy king of Phrygia, the same who, as already related, gave judgment against Apollo. Upon one occasion Silenus, the preceptor and friend of Dionysus, being in an intoxicated condition, strayed into the rose-gardens of this monarch, where he was found by some of the king's attendants, who bound him with roses and conducted him to the presence of their royal master. Midas treated the aged satyr with the greatest consideration, and, after entertaining him hospitably for ten days, led him back to Dionysus, who was so grateful for the kind attention shown to his old friend, that he offered to grant Midas any favour he chose to demand; whereupon the avaricious monarch, not content with his boundless wealth, and still thirsting for more, desired that everything he touched might turn to gold. The request was [129]complied with in so literal a sense, that the now wretched Midas bitterly repented his folly and cupidity, for, when the pangs of hunger assailed him, and he essayed to appease his cravings, the food became gold ere he could swallow it; as he raised the cup of wine to his parched lips, the sparkling draught was changed into the metal he had so coveted, and when at length, wearied and faint, he stretched his aching frame on his hitherto luxurious couch, this also was transformed into the substance which had now become the curse of his existence. The despairing king at last implored the god to take back the fatal gift, and Dionysus, pitying his unhappy plight, desired him to bathe in the river Pactolus, a small stream in Lydia, in order to lose the power which had become the bane of his life. Midas joyfully obeying the injunction, was at once freed from the consequences of his avaricious demand, and from this time forth the sands of the river Pactolus have ever contained grains of gold.

Representations of Dionysus are of two kinds. According to the earliest conceptions, he appears as a grave and dignified man in the prime of life; his countenance is earnest, thoughtful, and benevolent; he wears a full beard, and is draped from head to foot in the garb of an Eastern monarch. But the sculptors of a later period represent him as a youth of singular beauty, though of somewhat effeminate appearance; the expression of the countenance is gentle and winning; the limbs are supple and gracefully moulded; and the hair, which is adorned by a wreath of vine or ivy leaves, falls over the shoulders in long curls. In one hand he bears the Thyrsus, and in the other a drinking-cup with two handles, these being his distinguishing attributes. He is often represented riding on a panther, or seated in a chariot drawn by lions, tigers, panthers, or lynxes.

Being the god of wine, which is calculated to promote sociability, he rarely appears alone, but is usually accompanied by Bacchantes, satyrs, and mountain-nymphs.

The finest modern representation of Ariadne is that by Danneker, at Frankfort-on-the-Maine. In this statue she [130]appears riding on a panther; the beautiful upturned face inclines slightly over the left shoulder; the features are regular and finely cut, and a wreath of ivy-leaves encircles the well-shaped head. With her right hand she gracefully clasps the folds of drapery which fall away negligently from her rounded form, whilst the other rests lightly and caressingly on the head of the animal.

Dionysus was regarded as the patron of the drama, and at the state festival of the Dionysia, which was celebrated with great pomp in the city of Athens, dramatic entertainments took place in his honour, for which all the renowned Greek dramatists of antiquity composed their immortal tragedies and comedies.

He was also a prophetic divinity, and possessed oracles, the principal of which was that on Mount Rhodope in Thrace.

The tiger, lynx, panther, dolphin, serpent, and ass were sacred to this god. His favourite plants were the vine, ivy, laurel, and asphodel. His sacrifices consisted of goats, probably on account of their being destructive to vineyards.

BACCHUS OR LIBER.

The Romans had a divinity called Liber who presided over vegetation, and was, on this account, identified with the Greek Dionysus, and worshipped under the name of Bacchus.

The festival of Liber, called the Liberalia, was celebrated on the 17th of March.

AÏDES (Pluto).

Aïdes, Aïdoneus, or Hades, was the son of Cronus and Rhea, and the youngest brother of Zeus and Poseidon. He was the ruler of that subterranean region called Erebus, which was inhabited by the shades or spirits of the dead, and also by those dethroned and exiled deities who had been vanquished by Zeus and his allies. Aïdes, the grim and gloomy monarch of this lower world, was the [131]successor of Erebus, that ancient primeval divinity after whom these realms were called.

The early Greeks regarded Aïdes in the light of their greatest foe, and Homer tells us that he was "of all the gods the most detested," being in their eyes the grim robber who stole from them their nearest and dearest, and eventually deprived each of them of their share in terrestrial existence. His name was so feared that it was never mentioned by mortals, who, when they invoked him, struck the earth with their hands, and in sacrificing to him turned away their faces.

The belief of the people with regard to a future state was, in the Homeric age, a sad and cheerless one. It was supposed that when a mortal ceased to exist, his spirit tenanted the shadowy outline of the human form it had quitted. These shadows, or shades as they were called, were driven by Aïdes into his dominions, where they passed their time, some in brooding over the vicissitudes of fortune which they had experienced on earth, others in regretting the lost pleasures they had enjoyed in life, but all in a condition of semi-consciousness, from which the intellect could only be roused to full activity by drinking of the blood of the sacrifices offered to their shades by living friends, which, for a time, endowed them with their former mental vigour. The only beings supposed to enjoy any happiness in a future state were the heroes, whose acts of daring and deeds of prowess had, during their life, reflected honour on the land of their birth; and even these, according to Homer, pined after their career of earthly activity. He tells us that when Odysseus visited the lower world at the command of Circe, and held communion with the shades of the heroes of the Trojan war, Achilles assured him that he would rather be the poorest day-labourer on earth than reign supreme over the realm of shades.

The early Greek poets offer but scanty allusions to Erebus. Homer appears purposely to envelop these realms in vagueness and mystery, in order, probably, to heighten the sensation of awe inseparably connected with [132]the lower world. In the Odyssey he describes the entrance to Erebus as being beyond the furthermost edge of Oceanus, in the far west, where dwelt the Cimmerians, enveloped in eternal mists and darkness.

In later times, however, in consequence of extended intercourse with foreign nations, new ideas became gradually introduced, and we find Egyptian theories with regard to a future state taking root in Greece, which become eventually the religious belief of the whole nation. It is now that the poets and philosophers, and more especially the teachers of the Eleusinian Mysteries, begin to inculcate the doctrine of the future reward and punishment of good and bad deeds. Aïdes, who had hitherto been regarded as the dread enemy of mankind, who delights in his grim office, and keeps the shades imprisoned in his dominions after withdrawing them from the joys of existence, now receives them with hospitality and friendship, and Hermes replaces him as conductor of shades to Hades. Under this new aspect Aïdes usurps the functions of a totally different divinity called Plutus (the god of riches), and is henceforth regarded as the giver of wealth to mankind, in the shape of those precious metals which lie concealed in the bowels of the earth.

The later poets mention various entrances to Erebus, which were for the most part caves and fissures. There was one in the mountain of Taenarum, another in Thesprotia, and a third, the most celebrated of all, in Italy, near the pestiferous Lake Avernus, over which it is said no bird could fly, so noxious were its exhalations.

In the dominions of Aïdes there were four great rivers, three of which had to be crossed by all the shades. These three were Acheron (sorrow), Cocytus (lamentation), and Styx (intense darkness), the sacred stream which flowed nine times round these realms.

The shades were ferried over the Styx by the grim, unshaven old boatman Charon, who, however, only took those whose bodies had received funereal rites on earth, and who had brought with them his indispensable toll, which was a small coin or obolus, usually placed under the [133]tongue of a dead person for this purpose. If these conditions had not been fulfilled, the unhappy shades were left behind to wander up and down the banks for a hundred years as restless spirits.

On the opposite bank of the Styx was the tribunal of Minos, the supreme judge, before whom all shades had to appear, and who, after hearing full confession of their actions whilst on earth, pronounced the sentence of happiness or misery to which their deeds had entitled them. This tribunal was guarded by the terrible triple-headed dog Cerberus, who, with his three necks bristling with snakes, lay at full length on the ground;—a formidable sentinel, who permitted all shades to enter, but none to return.

The happy spirits, destined to enjoy the delights of Elysium, passed out on the right, and proceeded to the golden palace where Aïdes and Persephone held their royal court, from whom they received a kindly greeting, ere they set out for the Elysian Fields which lay beyond.[47] This blissful region was replete with all that could charm the senses or please the imagination; the air was balmy and fragrant, rippling brooks flowed peacefully through the smiling meadows, which glowed with the varied hues of a thousand flowers, whilst the groves resounded with the joyous songs of birds. The occupations and amusements of the happy shades were of the same nature as those which they had delighted in whilst on earth. Here the warrior found his horses, chariots, and arms, the musician his lyre, and the hunter his quiver and bow.

In a secluded vale of Elysium there flowed a gentle, silent stream, called Lethe (oblivion), whose waters had the effect of dispelling care, and producing utter forgetfulness of former events. According to the Pythagorean doctrine of the transmigration of souls, it was supposed that after the shades had inhabited Elysium for a thousand years they were destined to animate other bodies on [134]earth, and before leaving Elysium they drank of the river Lethe, in order that they might enter upon their new career without any remembrance of the past.

The guilty souls, after leaving the presence of Minos, were conducted to the great judgment-hall of Hades, whose massive walls of solid adamant were surrounded by the river Phlegethon, the waves of which rolled flames of fire, and lit up, with their lurid glare, these awful realms. In the interior sat the dread judge Rhadamanthus, who declared to each comer the precise torments which awaited him in Tartarus. The wretched sinners were then seized by the Furies, who scourged them with their whips, and dragged them along to the great gate, which closed the opening to Tartarus, into whose awful depths they were hurled, to suffer endless torture.

Tartarus was a vast and gloomy expanse, as far below Hades as the earth is distant from the skies. There the Titans, fallen from their high estate, dragged out a dreary and monotonous existence; there also were Otus and Ephialtes, those giant sons of Poseidon, who, with impious hands, had attempted to scale Olympus and dethrone its mighty ruler. Principal among the sufferers in this abode of gloom were Tityus, Tantalus, Sisyphus, Ixion, and the Danaïdes.

TITYUS, one of the earth-born giants, had insulted Hera on her way to Peitho, for which offence Zeus flung him into Tartarus, where he suffered dreadful torture, inflicted by two vultures, which perpetually gnawed his liver.

TANTALUS was a wise and wealthy king of Lydia, with whom the gods themselves condescended to associate; he was even permitted to sit at table with Zeus, who delighted in his conversation, and listened with interest to the wisdom of his observations. Tantalus, however, elated at these distinguished marks of divine favour, presumed upon his position, and used unbecoming language to Zeus himself; he also stole nectar and ambrosia from the table of the gods, with which he regaled his friends; but his greatest crime consisted in killing his own son, [135]Pelops, and serving him up at one of the banquets to the gods, in order to test their omniscience. For these heinous offences he was condemned by Zeus to eternal punishment in Tartarus, where, tortured with an ever-burning thirst, he was plunged up to the chin in water, which, as he stooped to drink, always receded from his parched lips. Tall trees, with spreading branches laden with delicious fruits, hung temptingly over his head; but no sooner did he raise himself to grasp them, than a wind arose, and carried them beyond his reach.

SISYPHUS was a great tyrant who, according to some accounts, barbarously murdered all travellers who came into his dominions, by hurling upon them enormous pieces of rock. In punishment for his crimes he was condemned to roll incessantly a huge block of stone up a steep hill, which, as soon as it reached the summit, always rolled back again to the plain below.

IXION was a king of Thessaly to whom Zeus accorded the privilege of joining the festive banquets of the gods; but, taking advantage of his exalted position, he presumed to aspire to the favour of Hera, which so greatly incensed Zeus, that he struck him with his thunderbolts, and commanded Hermes to throw him into Tartarus, and bind him to an ever-revolving wheel.

The DANAÏDES were the fifty daughters of Danaus, king of Argos, who had married their fifty cousins, the sons of Ægyptus. By the command of their father, who had been warned by an oracle that his son-in-law would cause his death, they all killed their husbands in one night, Hypermnestra alone excepted. Their punishment in the lower world was to fill with water a vessel full of holes,—a never-ending and useless task.

Aïdes and Persephone

Aïdes is usually represented as a man of mature years and stern majestic mien, bearing a striking resemblance to his brother Zeus; but the gloomy and inexorable expression of the face contrasts forcibly with that peculiar benignity which so characterizes the countenance of the mighty ruler of heaven. He is seated on a throne of ebony, with his queen, the grave and sad Persephone,[136]beside him, and wears a full beard, and long flowing black hair, which hangs straight down over his forehead; in his hand he either bears a two-pronged fork or the keys of the lower world, and at his feet sits Cerberus. He is sometimes seen in a chariot of gold, drawn by four black horses, and wearing on his head a helmet made for him by the Cyclops, which rendered the wearer invisible. This helmet he frequently lent to mortals and immortals.

Aïdes, who was universally worshipped throughout Greece, had temples erected to his honour in Elis, Olympia, and also at Athens.

His sacrifices, which took place at night, consisted of black sheep, and the blood, instead of being sprinkled on the altars or received in vessels, as at other sacrifices, was permitted to run down into a trench, dug for this purpose. The officiating priests wore black robes, and were crowned with cypress.

The narcissus, maiden-hair, and cypress were sacred to this divinity.

PLUTO.

Before the introduction into Rome of the religion and literature of Greece, the Romans had no belief in a realm of future happiness or misery, corresponding to the Greek Hades; hence they had no god of the lower world identical with Aïdes. They supposed that there was, in the centre of the earth, a vast, gloomy, and impenetrably dark cavity called Orcus, which formed a place of eternal rest for the dead. But with the introduction of Greek mythology, the Roman Orcus became the Greek Hades, and[137]all the Greek notions with regard to a future state now obtained with the Romans, who worshipped Aïdes under the name of Pluto, his other appellations being Dis (fromdives, rich) and Orcus from the dominions over which he ruled. In Rome there were no temples erected to this divinity.

PLUTUS.

Plutus, the son of Demeter and a mortal called Iasion, was the god of wealth, and is represented as being lame when he makes his appearance, and winged when he takes his departure. He was supposed to be both blind and foolish, because he bestows his gifts without discrimination, and frequently upon the most unworthy objects.

Plutus was believed to have his abode in the bowels of the earth, which was probably the reason why, in later times, Aïdes became confounded with this divinity.


MINOR DIVINITIES.

THE HARPIES.

A Harpy

The Harpies, who, like the Furies, were employed by the gods as instruments for the punishment of the guilty, were three female divinities, daughters of Thaumas and Electra, called Aello, Ocypete, and Celæno.

They were represented with the head of a fair-haired maiden and the body of a vulture, and were perpetually devoured by the pangs of insatiable hunger, which caused them to torment their victims by robbing them of their food; this they either devoured with great [138]gluttony, or defiled in such a manner as to render it unfit to be eaten.

Their wonderfully rapid flight far surpassed that of birds, or even of the winds themselves. If any mortal suddenly and unaccountably disappeared, the Harpies were believed to have carried him off. Thus they were supposed to have borne away the daughters of King Pandareos to act as servants to the Erinyes.

The Harpies would appear to be personifications of sudden tempests, which, with ruthless violence, sweep over whole districts, carrying off or injuring all before them.

ERINYES, EUMENIDES (FuriæDiræ).

The Erinyes or Furies were female divinities who personified the torturing pangs of an evil conscience, and the remorse which inevitably follows wrong-doing.

Their names were Alecto, Megæra, and Tisiphone, and their origin was variously accounted for. According to Hesiod, they sprang from the blood of Uranus, when wounded by Cronus, and were hence supposed to be the embodiment of all the terrible imprecations, which the defeated deity called down upon the head of his rebellious son. According to other accounts they were the daughters of Night.

Their place of abode was the lower world, where they were employed by Aïdes and Persephone to chastise and torment those shades who, during their earthly career, had committed crimes, and had not been reconciled to the gods before descending to Hades.

But their sphere of action was not confined to the realm of shades, for they appeared upon earth as the avenging deities who relentlessly pursued and punished murderers, perjurers, those who had failed in duty to their parents, in hospitality to strangers, or in the respect due to old age. Nothing escaped the piercing glance of these terrible divinities, from whom flight was unavailing, for no corner of the earth was so remote as [139]to be beyond their reach, nor did any mortal dare to offer to their victims an asylum from their persecutions.

The Furies are frequently represented with wings; their bodies are black, blood drips from their eyes, and snakes twine in their hair. In their hands they bear either a dagger, scourge, torch, or serpent.

When they pursued Orestes they constantly held up a mirror to his horrified gaze, in which he beheld the face of his murdered mother.

These divinities were also called Eumenides, which signifies the "well-meaning" or "soothed goddesses;" This appellation was given to them because they were so feared and dreaded that people dared not call them by their proper title, and hoped by this means to propitiate their wrath.

In later times the Furies came to be regarded as salutary agencies, who, by severely punishing sin, upheld the cause of morality and social order, and thus contributed to the welfare of mankind. They now lose their awe-inspiring aspect, and are represented, more especially in Athens, as earnest maidens, dressed, like Artemis, in short tunics suitable for the chase, but still retaining, in their hands, the wand of office in the form of a snake.

Their sacrifices consisted of black sheep and a libation composed of a mixture of honey and water, called Nephalia. A celebrated temple was erected to the Eumenides at Athens, near the Areopagus.

MOIRÆ or FATES (Parcæ).

The ancients believed that the duration of human existence and the destinies of mortals were regulated by three sister-goddesses, called Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, who were the daughters of Zeus and Themis.

The power which they wielded over the fate of man was significantly indicated under the figure of a thread, which they spun out for the life of each human being from his birth to the grave. This occupation they divided between them. Clotho wound the flax round the distaff, [140]ready for her sister Lachesis, who span out the thread of life, which Atropos, with her scissors, relentlessly snapt asunder, when the career of an individual was about to terminate.

Homer speaks of one Moira only, the daughter of Night, who represents the moral force by which the universe is governed, and to whom both mortals and immortals were forced to submit, Zeus himself being powerless to avert her decrees; but in later times this conception of one inexorable, all-conquering fate became amplified by the poets into that above described, and the Moiræ are henceforth the special presiding deities over the life and death of mortals.

The Moiræ are represented by the poets as stern, inexorable female divinities, aged, hideous, and also lame, which is evidently meant to indicate the slow and halting march of destiny, which they controlled. Painters and sculptors, on the other hand, depicted them as beautiful maidens of a grave but kindly aspect.

There is a charming representation of Lachesis, which depicts her in all the grace of youth and beauty. She is sitting spinning, and at her feet lie two masks, one comic, the other tragic, as though to convey the idea, that, to a divinity of fate, the brightest and saddest scenes of earthly existence are alike indifferent, and that she quietly and steadily pursues her occupation, regardless of human weal or woe.

When represented at the feet of Aïdes in the lower world they are clad in dark robes; but when they appear in Olympus they wear bright garments, bespangled with stars, and are seated on radiant thrones, with crowns on their heads.

It was considered the function of the Moiræ to indicate to the Furies the precise torture which the wicked should undergo for their crimes.

They were regarded as prophetic divinities, and had sanctuaries in many parts of Greece.

The Moiræ are mentioned as assisting the Charites to conduct Persephone to the upper world at her periodical [141]reunion with her mother Demeter. They also appear in company with Eileithyia, goddess of birth.

NEMESIS.

Nemesis, the daughter of Nyx, represents that power which adjusts the balance of human affairs, by awarding to each individual the fate which his actions deserve. She rewards, humble, unacknowledged merit, punishes crime, deprives the worthless of undeserved good fortune, humiliates the proud and overbearing, and visits all evil on the wrong-doer; thus maintaining that proper balance of things, which the Greeks recognized as a necessary condition of all civilized life. But though Nemesis, in her original character, was the distributor of rewards as well as punishments, the world was so full of sin, that she found but little occupation in her first capacity, and hence became finally regarded as the avenging goddess only.

We have seen a striking instance of the manner in which this divinity punishes the proud and arrogant in the history of Niobe. Apollo and Artemis were merely the instruments for avenging the insult offered to their mother; but it was Nemesis who prompted the deed, and presided over its execution.

Homer makes no mention of Nemesis; it is therefore evident that she was a conception of later times, when higher views of morality had obtained among the Greek nation.

Nemesis is represented as a beautiful woman of thoughtful and benign aspect and regal bearing; a diadem crowns her majestic brow, and she bears in her hand a rudder, balance, and cubit;—fitting emblems of the manner in which she guides, weighs, and measures all human events. She is also sometimes seen with a wheel, to symbolize the rapidity with which she executes justice. As the avenger of evil she appears winged, bearing in her hand either a scourge or a sword, and seated in a chariot drawn by griffins.[142]

Nemesis is frequently called Adrastia, and also Rhamnusia, from Rhamnus in Attica, the chief seat of her worship, which contained a celebrated statue of the goddess.

Nemesis was worshipped by the Romans, (who invoked her on the Capitol), as a divinity who possessed the power of averting the pernicious consequences of envy.

NIGHT AND HER CHILDREN.
DEATH, SLEEP, AND DREAMS.

NYX (Nox).

Nyx, the daughter of Chaos, being the personification of Night, was, according to the poetic ideas of the Greeks, considered to be the mother of everything mysterious and inexplicable, such as death, sleep, dreams, &c. She became united to Erebus, and their children were Aether and Hemera (Air and Daylight), evidently a simile of the poets, to indicate that darkness always precedes light.

Nyx inhabited a palace in the dark regions of the lower world, and is represented as a beautiful woman, seated in a chariot, drawn by two black horses. She is clothed in dark robes, wears a long veil, and is accompanied by the stars, which follow in her train.

THANATOS (MorsAND HYPNUS (Somnus).

Thanatos (Death) and his twin-brother Hypnus (Sleep) were the children of Nyx.

Their dwelling was in the realm of shades, and when they appear among mortals, Thanatos is feared and hated as the enemy of mankind, whose hard heart knows no pity, whilst his brother Hypnus is universally loved and welcomed as their kindest and most beneficent friend.

But though the ancients regarded Thanatos as a gloomy and mournful divinity, they did not represent him with any exterior repulsiveness. On the contrary, he appears as a beautiful youth, who holds in his hand an inverted [143]torch, emblematical of the light of life being extinguished, whilst his disengaged arm is thrown lovingly round the shoulder of his brother Hypnus.

Hypnus is sometimes depicted standing erect with closed eyes; at others he is in a recumbent position beside his brother Thanatos, and usually bears a poppy-stalk in his hand.

A most interesting description of the abode of Hypnus is given by Ovid in his Metamorphoses. He tells us how the god of Sleep dwelt in a mountain-cave near the realm of the Cimmerians, which the sun never pierced with his rays. No sound disturbed the stillness, no song of birds, not a branch moved, and no human voice broke the profound silence which reigned everywhere. From the lowermost rocks of the cave issued the river Lethe, and one might almost have supposed that its course was arrested, were it not for the low, monotonous hum of the water, which invited slumber. The entrance was partially hidden by numberless white and red poppies, which Mother Night had gathered and planted there, and from the juice of which she extracts drowsiness, which she scatters in liquid drops all over the earth, as soon as the sun-god has sunk to rest. In the centre of the cave stands a couch of blackest ebony, with a bed of down, over which is laid a coverlet of sable hue. Here the god himself reposes, surrounded by innumerable forms. These are idle dreams, more numerous than the sands of the sea. Chief among them is Morpheus, that changeful god, who may assume any shape or form he pleases. Nor can the god of Sleep resist his own power; for though he may rouse himself for a while, he soon succumbs to the drowsy influences which surround him.

MORPHEUS.

Morpheus, the son of Hypnus, was the god of Dreams.

He is always represented winged, and appears sometimes as a youth, sometimes as an old man. In his hand he bears a cluster of poppies, and as he steps with [144]noiseless footsteps over the earth, he gently scatters the seeds of this sleep-producing plant over the eyes of weary mortals.

Homer describes the House of Dreams as having two gates: one, whence issue all deceptive and flattering visions, being formed of ivory; the other, through which proceed those dreams which are fulfilled, of horn.

THE GORGONS.

The Gorgons, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, were the three daughters of Phorcys and Ceto, and were the personification of those benumbing, and, as it were, petrifying sensations, which result from sudden and extreme fear.

They were frightful winged monsters, whose bodies were covered with scales; hissing, wriggling snakes clustered round their heads instead of hair; their hands were of brass; their teeth resembled the tusks of a wild boar; and their whole aspect was so appalling, that they are said to have turned into stone all who beheld them.

These terrible sisters were supposed to dwell in that remote and mysterious region in the far West, beyond the sacred stream of Oceanus.

The Gorgons were the servants of Aïdes, who made use of them to terrify and overawe those shades, doomed to be kept in a constant state of unrest as a punishment for their misdeeds, whilst the Furies, on their part, scourged them with their whips and tortured them incessantly.

The most celebrated of the three sisters was Medusa, who alone was mortal. She was originally a golden-haired and very beautiful maiden, who, as a priestess of Athene, was devoted to a life of celibacy; but, being wooed by Poseidon, whom she loved in return, she forgot her vows, and became united to him in marriage. For this offence she was punished by the goddess in a most terrible manner. Each wavy lock of the beautiful hair which had so charmed her husband, was changed into a[145]venomous snake; her once gentle, love-inspiring eyes now became blood-shot, furious orbs, which excited fear and disgust in the mind of the beholder; whilst her former roseate hue and milk-white skin assumed a loathsome greenish tinge. Seeing herself thus transformed into so repulsive an object, Medusa fled from her home, never to return. Wandering about, abhorred, dreaded, and shunned by all the world, she now developed into a character, worthy of her outward appearance. In her despair she fled to Africa, where, as she passed restlessly from place to place, infant snakes dropped from her hair, and thus, according to the belief of the ancients, that country became the hotbed of these venomous reptiles. With the curse of Athene upon her, she turned into stone whomsoever she gazed upon, till at last, after a life of nameless misery, deliverance came to her in the shape of death, at the hands of Perseus.

It is well to observe that when the Gorgons are spoken of in the singular, it is Medusa who is alluded to.

Medusa was the mother of Pegasus and Chrysaor, father of the three-headed, winged giant Geryones, who was slain by Heracles.

GRÆÆ.

The Grææ, who acted as servants to their sisters the Gorgons, were also three in number; their names were Pephredo, Enyo, and Dino.

In their original conception they were merely personifications of kindly and venerable old age, possessing all its benevolent attributes without its natural infirmities. They were old and gray from their birth, and so they ever remained. In later times, however, they came to be regarded as misshapen females, decrepid, and hideously ugly, having only one eye, one tooth, and one gray wig between them, which they lent to each other, when one of them wished to appear before the world.

When Perseus entered upon his expedition to slay the Medusa, he repaired to the abode of the Grææ, in the far [146]west, to inquire the way to the Gorgons, and on their refusing to give any information, he deprived them of their one eye, tooth, and wig, and did not restore them until he received the necessary directions.

SPHINX.

The Sphinx was an ancient Egyptian divinity, who personified wisdom, and the fertility of nature. She is represented as a lion-couchant, with the head and bust of a woman, and wears a peculiar sort of hood, which completely envelops her head, and falls down on either side of the face.

Transplanted into Greece, this sublime and mysterious Egyptian deity degenerates into an insignificant, and yet malignant power, and though she also deals in mysteries, they are, as we shall see, of a totally different character, and altogether inimical to human life.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx is represented, according to Greek genealogy, as the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.[48] Hera, being upon one occasion displeased with the Thebans, sent them this awful monster, as a punishment for their offences. Taking her seat on a rocky eminence near the city of Thebes, commanding a pass which the Thebans were compelled to traverse in their usual way of business, she propounded to all comers a riddle, and if they failed to solve it, she tore them in pieces.

During the reign of King Creon, so many people had fallen a sacrifice to this monster, that he determined to use every effort to rid the country of so terrible a scourge. On consulting the oracle of Delphi, he was informed that the only way to destroy the Sphinx was to solve one of her riddles, when she would immediately precipitate herself from the rock on which she was seated.

Creon, accordingly, made a public declaration to the effect, that whoever could give the true interpretation of a riddle propounded by the monster, should obtain the crown, and the hand of his sister Jocaste. Œdipus offered [147]himself as a candidate, and proceeding to the spot where she kept guard, received from her the following riddle for solution: "What creature goes in the morning on four legs, at noon on two, and in the evening on three?" Œdipus replied, that it must be man, who during his infancy creeps on all fours, in his prime walks erect on two legs, and when old age has enfeebled his powers, calls a staff to his assistance, and thus has, as it were, three legs.

The Sphinx no sooner heard this reply, which was the correct solution of her riddle, than she flung herself over the precipice, and perished in the abyss below.

The Greek Sphinx may be recognized by having wings and by being of smaller dimensions than the Egyptian Sphinx.

TYCHE (FortunaAND ANANKE (Necessitas).

TYCHE (Fortuna).

Tyche personified that peculiar combination of circumstances which we call luck or fortune, and was considered to be the source of all unexpected events in human life, whether good or evil. If a person succeeded in all he undertook without possessing any special merit of his own, Tyche was supposed to have smiled on his birth. If, on the other hand, undeserved ill-luck followed him through life, and all his efforts resulted in failure, it was ascribed to her adverse influence.

This goddess of Fortune is variously represented. Sometimes she is depicted bearing in her hand two rudders, with one of which she steers the bark of the fortunate, and with the other that of the unfortunate among mortals. In later times she appears blindfolded, and stands on a ball or wheel, indicative of the fickleness and ever-revolving[148]changes of fortune. She frequently bears the sceptre and cornucopia[49] or horn of plenty, and is usually winged. In her temple at Thebes, she is represented holding the infant Plutus in her arms, to symbolize her power over riches and prosperity.

Tyche was worshipped in various parts of Greece, but more particularly by the Athenians, who believed in her special predilection for their city.

FORTUNA.

Tyche was worshipped in Rome under the name of Fortuna, and held a position of much greater importance among the Romans than the Greeks.

In later times Fortuna is never represented either winged or standing on a ball; she merely bears the cornucopia. It is evident, therefore, that she had come to be regarded as the goddess of good luck only, who brings blessings to man, and not, as with the Greeks, as the personification of the fluctuations of fortune.

In addition to Fortuna, the Romans worshipped Felicitas as the giver of positive good fortune.

ANANKE (Necessitas).

As Ananke, Tyche assumes quite another character, and becomes the embodiment of those immutable laws of nature, by which certain causes produce certain inevitable results.

In a statue of this divinity at Athens she was represented with hands of bronze, and surrounded with nails and hammers. The hands of bronze probably indicated the irresistible power of the inevitable, and the hammer and chains the fetters which she forged for man.

Ananke was worshipped in Rome under the name of Necessitas.

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KER.

In addition to the Moiræ, who presided over the life of mortals, there was another divinity, called Ker, appointed for each human being at the moment of his birth. The Ker belonging to an individual was believed to develop with his growth, either for good or evil; and when the ultimate fate of a mortal was about to be decided, his Ker was weighed in the balance, and, according to the preponderance of its worth or worthlessness, life or death was awarded to the human being in question. It becomes evident, therefore, that according to the belief of the early Greeks, each individual had it in his power, to a certain extent, to shorten or prolong his own existence.

The Keres, who are frequently mentioned by Homer, were the goddesses who delighted in the slaughter of the battle-field.

ATE.

Ate, the daughter of Zeus and Eris, was a divinity who delighted in evil.

Having instigated Hera to deprive Heracles of his birthright, her father seized her by the hair of her head, and hurled her from Olympus, forbidding her, under the most solemn imprecations, ever to return. Henceforth she wandered among mankind, sowing dissension, working mischief, and luring men to all actions inimical to their welfare and happiness. Hence, when a reconciliation took place between friends who had quarrelled, Ate was blamed as the original cause of disagreement.

MOMUS.

Momus, the son of Nyx, was the god of raillery and ridicule, who delighted to criticise, with bitter sarcasm, the actions of gods and men, and contrived to discover in all things some defect or blemish. Thus when Prometheus created the first man, Momus considered his work incomplete because there was no aperture in the breast through which his inmost thoughts might be read. He [150]also found fault with a house built by Athene because, being unprovided with the means of locomotion, it could never be removed from an unhealthy locality. Aphrodite alone defied his criticism, for, to his great chagrin, he could find no fault with her perfect form.[50]

In what manner the ancients represented this god is unknown. In modern art he is depicted like a king's jester, with a fool's cap and bells.

EROS (CupidAmorAND PSYCHE.

According to Hesiod's Theogony, Eros, the divine spirit of Love, sprang forth from Chaos, while all was still in confusion, and by his beneficent power reduced to order and harmony the shapeless, conflicting elements, which, under his influence, began to assume distinct forms. This ancient Eros is represented as a full-grown and very beautiful youth, crowned with flowers, and leaning on a shepherd's crook.

In the course of time, this beautiful conception gradually faded away, and though occasional mention still continues to be made of the Eros of Chaos, he is replaced by the son of Aphrodite, the popular, mischief-loving little god of Love, so familiar to us all.

In one of the myths concerning Eros, Aphrodite is described as complaining to Themis, that her son, though so beautiful, did not appear to increase in stature; whereupon Themis suggested that his small proportions were probably attributable to the fact of his being always alone, and advised his mother to let him have a companion. Aphrodite accordingly gave him, as a playfellow, his younger brother Anteros (requited love), and soon had the gratification of seeing the little Eros begin to grow and thrive; but, curious to relate, this desirable result only continued as long as the brothers remained together, for the moment they were separated, Eros shrank once more to his original size.

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By degrees the conception of Eros became multiplied and we hear of little love-gods (Amors), who appear under the most charming and diversified forms. These love-gods, who afforded to artists inexhaustible subjects for the exercise of their imagination, are represented as being engaged in various occupations, such as hunting, fishing, rowing, driving chariots, and even busying themselves in mechanical labour.

Eros and Psyche

Perhaps no myth is more charming and interesting than that of Eros and Psyche, which is as follows:—Psyche, the youngest of three princesses, was so transcendently beautiful that Aphrodite herself became jealous of her, and no mortal dared to aspire to the honour of her hand. As her sisters, who were by no means equal to her in attractions, were married, and Psyche still remained unwedded, her father consulted the oracle of Delphi, and, in obedience to the divine response, caused her to be dressed as though for the grave, and conducted to the edge of a yawning precipice. No sooner was she alone than she felt herself lifted up, and wafted away by the gentle west wind Zephyrus, who transported her to a verdant meadow, in the midst of which stood a stately palace, surrounded by groves and fountains.

Here dwelt Eros, the god of Love, in whose arms Zephyrus deposited his lovely burden. Eros, himself unseen, wooed her in the softest accents of affection; but warned her, as she valued his love, not to endeavour to behold his form. For some time Psyche was obedient to the injunction of her immortal spouse, and made no effort to gratify her natural curiosity; but, unfortunately, in the midst of her happiness she was seized with an unconquerable longing for the society of her [152]sisters, and, in accordance with her desire, they were conducted by Zephyrus to her fairy-like abode. Filled with envy at the sight of her felicity, they poisoned her mind against her husband, and telling her that her unseen lover was a frightful monster, they gave her a sharp dagger, which they persuaded her to use for the purpose of delivering herself from his power.

After the departure of her sisters, Psyche resolved to take the first opportunity of following their malicious counsel. She accordingly rose in the dead of night, and taking a lamp in one hand and a dagger in the other, stealthily approached the couch where Eros was reposing, when, instead of the frightful monster she had expected to see, the beauteous form of the god of Love greeted her view. Overcome with surprise and admiration, Psyche stooped down to gaze more closely on his lovely features, when, from the lamp which she held in her trembling hand, there fell a drop of burning oil upon the shoulder of the sleeping god, who instantly awoke, and seeing Psyche standing over him with the instrument of death in her hand, sorrowfully reproached her for her treacherous designs, and, spreading out his wings, flew away.

In despair at having lost her lover, the unhappy Psyche endeavoured to put an end to her existence by throwing herself into the nearest river; but instead of closing over her, the waters bore her gently to the opposite bank, where Pan (the god of shepherds) received her, and consoled her with the hope of becoming eventually reconciled to her husband.

Meanwhile her wicked sisters, in expectation of meeting with the same good fortune which had befallen Psyche, placed themselves on the edge of the rock, but were both precipitated into the chasm below.

Psyche herself, filled with a restless yearning for her lost love, wandered all over the world in search of him. At length she appealed to Aphrodite to take compassion on her; but the goddess of Beauty, still jealous of her charms, imposed upon her the hardest tasks, the accomplishment of which often appeared impossible. In these [153]she was always assisted by invisible, beneficent beings, sent to her by Eros, who still loved her, and continued to watch over her welfare.

Eros

Psyche had to undergo a long and severe penance before she became worthy to regain the happiness, which she had so foolishly trifled away. At last Aphrodite commanded her to descend into the under world, and obtain from Persephone a box containing all the charms of beauty. Psyche's courage now failed her, for she concluded that death must of necessity precede her entrance into the realm of shades. About to abandon herself to despair, she heard a voice which warned her of every danger to be avoided on her perilous journey, and instructed her with regard to certain precautions to be observed. These were as follows:—not to omit to provide herself with the ferryman's toll for Charon, and the cake to pacify Cerberus, also to refrain from taking any part in the banquets of Aïdes and Persephone, and, above all things, to bring the box of beauty charms unopened to Aphrodite. In conclusion, the voice assured her, that compliance with the above conditions would insure for her a safe return to the realms of light. But, alas, Psyche, who had implicitly followed all injunctions, could not withstand the temptation of the last condition; and, hardly had she quitted the lower world, when, unable to resist the curiosity which devoured her, she raised the lid of the box with eager expectation. But, instead of the wondrous charms of beauty which she expected to behold, there issued from the casket a dense black vapour, which had the effect of throwing her into a death-like sleep, out of which Eros, who had long hovered round her unseen, at length awoke her with the point of one of his golden arrows. He gently reproached her with this second proof of her curiosity and folly, and then, having persuaded Aphrodite to be reconciled to his beloved, he induced Zeus to admit her among the immortal gods.

Their reunion was celebrated amidst the rejoicings of all the Olympian deities. The Graces shed perfume on [154]their path, the Hours sprinkled roses over the sky, Apollo added the music of his lyre, and the Muses united their voices in a glad chorus of delight.

This myth would appear to be an allegory, which signifies that the soul, before it can be reunited to its original divine essence, must be purified by the chastening sorrows and sufferings of its earthly career.[51]

Eros is represented as a lovely boy, with rounded limbs, and a merry, roguish expression. He has golden wings, and a quiver slung over his shoulder, which contained his magical and unerring arrows; in one hand he bears his golden bow, and in the other a torch.

He is also frequently depicted riding on a lion, dolphin, or eagle, or seated in a chariot drawn by stags or wild boars, undoubtedly emblematical of the power of love as the subduer of all nature, even of the wild animals.

In Rome, Eros was worshipped under the name of Amor or Cupid.

HYMEN.

Hymen or Hymenæus, the son of Apollo and the muse Urania, was the god who presided over marriage and nuptial solemnities, and was hence invoked at all marriage festivities.

There is a myth concerning this divinity, which tells us that Hymen was a beautiful youth of very poor parents, who fell in love with a wealthy maiden, so far above him in rank, that he dared not cherish the hope of ever becoming united to her. Still he missed no opportunity of seeing her, and, upon one occasion, disguised himself as [155]a girl, and joined a troop of maidens, who, in company with his beloved, were proceeding from Athens to Eleusis, in order to attend a festival of Demeter. On their way thither they were surprised by pirates, who carried them off to a desert island, where the ruffians, after drinking deeply, fell into a heavy sleep. Hymen, seizing the opportunity, slew them all, and then set sail for Athens, where he found the parents of the maidens in the greatest distress at their unaccountable disappearance. He comforted them with the assurance that their children should be restored to them, provided they would promise to give him in marriage the maiden he loved. The condition being gladly complied with, he at once returned to the island, and brought back the maidens in safety to Athens, whereupon he became united to the object of his love; and their union proved so remarkably happy, that henceforth the name of Hymen became synonymous with conjugal felicity.

IRIS (The Rainbow).

Iris, the daughter of Thaumas and Electra, personified the rainbow, and was the special attendant and messenger of the queen of heaven, whose commands she executed with singular tact, intelligence, and swiftness.

Most primitive nations have regarded the rainbow as a bridge of communication between heaven and earth, and this is doubtless the reason why Iris, who represented that beautiful phenomenon of nature, should have been invested by the Greeks with the office of communicating between gods and men.

Iris is usually represented seated behind the chariot of Hera, ready to do the bidding of her royal mistress. She appears under the form of a slender maiden of great beauty, robed in an airy fabric of variegated hues, resembling mother-of-pearl; her sandals are bright as burnished silver, she has golden wings, and wherever she appears, a radiance of light, and a sweet odour, as of delicate spring flowers, pervades the air.[156]

Hebe

HEBE (Juventas).

Hebe was the personification of eternal youth under its most attractive and joyous aspect.

She was the daughter of Zeus and Hera, and though of such distinguished rank, is nevertheless represented as cup-bearer to the gods; a forcible exemplification of the old patriarchal custom, in accordance with which the daughters of the house, even when of the highest lineage, personally assisted in serving the guests.

Hebe is represented as a comely, modest maiden, small, of a beautifully rounded contour, with nut-brown tresses and sparkling eyes. She is often depicted pouring out nectar from an upraised vessel, or bearing in her hand a shallow dish, supposed to contain ambrosia, the ever youth-renewing food of the immortals.

In consequence of an act of awkwardness, which caused her to slip while serving the gods, Hebe was deprived of her office, which was henceforth delegated to Ganymedes, son of Tros.

Hebe afterwards became the bride of Heracles, when, after his apotheosis, he was received among the immortals.

JUVENTAS.

Juventas was the Roman divinity identified with Hebe, whose attributes, however, were regarded by the Romans as applying more particularly to the imperishable vigour and immortal glory of the state.

In Rome, several temples were erected in honour of this goddess.[157]

GANYMEDES.

Ganymedes, the youngest son of Tros, king of Troy, was one day drawing water from a well on Mount Ida, when he was observed by Zeus, who, struck with his wonderful beauty, sent his eagle to transport him to Olympus, where he was endowed with immortality, and appointed cup-bearer to the gods.

Ganymedes is represented as a youth of exquisite beauty, with short golden locks, delicately chiselled features, beaming blue eyes, and pouting lips.

THE MUSES.

Of all the Olympic deities, none occupy a more distinguished position than the Muses, the nine beautiful daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne.

In their original signification, they presided merely over music, song, and dance; but with the progress of civilization the arts and sciences claimed their special presiding divinities, and we see these graceful creations, in later times, sharing among them various functions, such as poetry, astronomy, &c.

The Muses were honoured alike by mortals and immortals. In Olympus, where Apollo acted as their leader, no banquet or festivity was considered complete without their joy-inspiring presence, and on earth no social gathering was celebrated without libations being poured out to them; nor was any task involving intellectual effort ever undertaken, without earnestly supplicating their assistance. They endowed their chosen favourites with knowledge, wisdom, and understanding; they bestowed upon the orator the gift of eloquence, inspired the poet with his noblest thoughts, and the musician with his sweetest harmonies.

Like so many of the Greek divinities, however, the refined conception of the Muses is somewhat marred by the acerbity with which they punished any effort on the part[158]of mortals to rival them in their divine powers. An instance of this is seen in the case of Thamyris, a Thracian bard, who presumed to invite them to a trial of skill in music. Having vanquished him, they not only afflicted him with blindness, but deprived him also of the power of song.

Another example of the manner in which the gods punished presumption and vanity is seen in the story of the daughters of King Pierus. Proud of the perfection to which they had brought their skill in music, they presumed to challenge the Muses themselves in the art over which they specially presided. The contest took place on Mount Helicon, and it is said that when the mortal maidens commenced their song, the sky became dark and misty, whereas when the Muses raised their heavenly voices, all nature seemed to rejoice, and Mount Helicon itself moved with exultation. The Pierides were signally defeated, and were transformed by the Muses into singing birds, as a punishment for having dared to challenge comparison with the immortals.

Undeterred by the above example, the Sirens also entered into a similar contest. The songs of the Muses were loyal and true, whilst those of the Sirens were the false and deceptive strains with which so many unfortunate mariners had been lured to their death. The Sirens were defeated by the Muses, and as a mark of humiliation, were deprived of the feathers with which their bodies were adorned.

The oldest seat of the worship of the Muses was Pieria in Thrace, where they were supposed to have first seen the light of day. Pieria is a district on one of the sloping declivities of Mount Olympus, whence a number of rivulets, as they flow towards the plains beneath, produce those sweet, soothing sounds, which may possibly have suggested this spot as a fitting home for the presiding divinities of song.

They dwelt on the summits of Mounts Helicon, Parnassus, and Pindus, and loved to haunt the springs and fountains which gushed forth amidst these rocky [159]heights, all of which were sacred to them and to poetic inspiration. Aganippe and Hippocrene on Mount Helicon, and the Castalian spring on Mount Parnassus, were sacred to the Muses. The latter flowed between two lofty rocks above the city of Delphi, and in ancient times its waters were introduced into a square stone basin, where they were retained for the use of the Pythia and the priests of Apollo.

CalliopeCalliope.

The libations to these divinities consisted of water, milk, and honey, but never of wine.

Their names and functions are as follows:—

CALLIOPE, the most honoured of the Muses, presided over heroic song and epic poetry, and is represented with a pencil in her hand, and a slate upon her knee.

CLIO, the muse of History, holds in her hand a roll of parchment, and wears a wreath of laurel.

MELPOMENE, the muse of Tragedy, bears a tragic mask.

THALIA, the muse of Comedy, carries in her right hand a shepherd's crook, and has a comic mask beside her.

POLYHYMNIA, the muse of Sacred Hymns, is crowned with a wreath of laurel. She is always represented in a thoughtful attitude, and entirely enveloped in rich folds of drapery.

TERPSICHORE, the muse of Dance and Roundelay, is represented in the act of playing on a seven-stringed lyre.

URANIA, the muse of Astronomy, stands erect, and bears in her left hand a celestial globe.

EUTERPE, the muse of Harmony, is represented bearing a musical instrument, usually a flute.

ERATO, the muse of Love and hymeneal songs, wears a wreath of laurel, and is striking the chords of a lyre.[160]

EratoErato.
EuterpeEuterpe.
TerpsichoreTerpsichore.
ClioClio.


With regard to the origin of the Muses, it is said that they were created by Zeus in answer to a request on the part of the victorious deities, after the war with the [161]Titans, that some special divinities should be called into existence, in order to commemorate in song the glorious deeds of the Olympian gods.

PolyhymniaPolyhymnia.
ThaliaThalia.
MelpomeneMelpomene.
ClioUrania.


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PEGASUS.

Pegasus was a beautiful winged horse who sprang from the body of Medusa when she was slain by the hero Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danaë. Spreading out his wings he immediately flew to the top of Mount Olympus, where he was received with delight and admiration by all the immortals. A place in his palace was assigned to him by Zeus, who employed him to carry his thunder and lightning. Pegasus permitted none but the gods to mount him, except in the case of Bellerophon, whom, at the command of Athene, he carried aloft, in order that he might slay the Chimæra with his arrows.

The later poets represent Pegasus as being at the service of the Muses, and for this reason he is more celebrated in modern times than in antiquity. He would appear to represent that poetical inspiration, which tends to develop man's higher nature, and causes the mind to soar heavenwards. The only mention by the ancients of Pegasus in connection with the Muses, is the story of his having produced with his hoofs, the famous fountain Hippocrene.

It is said that during their contest with the Pierides, the Muses played and sang on the summit of Mount Helicon with such extraordinary power and sweetness, that heaven and earth stood still to listen, whilst the mountain raised itself in joyous ecstasy towards the abode of the celestial gods. Poseidon, seeing his special function thus interfered with, sent Pegasus to check the boldness of the mountain, in daring to move without his permission. When Pegasus reached the summit, he stamped the ground with his hoofs, and out gushed the waters of Hippocrene, afterwards so renowned as the sacred fount, whence the Muses quaffed their richest draughts of inspiration.

THE HESPERIDES.

The Hesperides, the daughters of Atlas, dwelt in an island in the far west, whence they derived their name.[163]

They were appointed by Hera to act as guardians to a tree bearing golden apples, which had been presented to her by Gæa on the occasion of her marriage with Zeus.

It is said that the Hesperides, being unable to withstand the temptation of tasting the golden fruit confided to their care, were deprived of their office, which was henceforth delegated to the terrible dragon Ladon, who now became the ever-watchful sentinel of these precious treasures.

The names of the Hesperides were Aegle, Arethusa, and Hesperia.

CHARITES (GratiæGRACES.

All those gentler attributes which beautify and refine human existence were personified by the Greeks under the form of three lovely sisters, Euphrosyne, Aglaia, and Thalia, the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome (or, according to later writers, of Dionysus and Aphrodite).

They are represented as beautiful, slender maidens in the full bloom of youth, with hands and arms lovingly intertwined, and are either undraped, or wear a fleecy, transparent garment of an ethereal fabric.

They portray every gentle emotion of the heart, which vents itself in friendship and benevolence, and were believed to preside over those qualities which constitute grace, modesty, unconscious beauty, gentleness, kindliness, innocent joy, purity of mind and body, and eternal youth.

They not only possessed the most perfect beauty themselves, but also conferred this gift upon others. All the enjoyments of life were enhanced by their presence, and were deemed incomplete without them; and wherever joy or pleasure, grace and gaiety reigned, there they were supposed to be present.

Temples and altars were everywhere erected in their honour, and people of all ages and of every rank in life entreated their favour. Incense was burnt daily upon their altars, and at every banquet they were invoked, [164]and a libation poured out to them, as they not only heightened all enjoyment, but also by their refining influence moderated the exciting effects of wine.

Music, eloquence, poetry, and art, though the direct work of the Muses, received at the hands of the Graces an additional touch of refinement and beauty; for which reason they are always regarded as the friends of the Muses, with whom they lived on Mount Olympus.

Their special function was to act, in conjunction with the Seasons, as attendants upon Aphrodite, whom they adorned with wreaths of flowers, and she emerges from their hands like the Queen of Spring, perfumed with the odour of roses and violets, and all sweet-scented blossoms.

The Graces are frequently seen in attendance on other divinities; thus they carry music for Apollo, myrtles for Aphrodite, &c., and frequently accompany the Muses, Eros, or Dionysus.

HORÆ (Seasons).

Closely allied to the Graces were the Horæ, or Seasons, who were also represented as three beautiful maidens, daughters of Zeus and Themis. Their names were Eunomia, Dice, and Irene.

It may appear strange that these divinities, presiding over the seasons, should be but three in number, but this is quite in accordance with the notions of the ancient Greeks, who only recognized spring, summer, and autumn as seasons; nature being supposed to be wrapt in death or slumber, during that cheerless and unproductive portion of the year which we call winter. In some parts of Greece there were but two Horæ, Thallo, goddess of the bloom, and Carpo, of the corn and fruit-bearing season.

The Horæ are always regarded as friendly towards mankind, and totally devoid of guile or subtlety; they are represented as joyous, but gentle maidens, crowned with flowers, and holding each other by the hand in a round dance. When they are depicted separately as personifications of the different seasons, the Hora [165]representing spring appears laden with flowers, that of summer bears a sheaf of corn, whilst the personification of autumn has her hands filled with clusters of grapes and other fruits. They also appear in company with the Graces in the train of Aphrodite, and are seen with Apollo and the Muses.

They are inseparably connected with all that is good and beautiful in nature, and as the regular alternation of the seasons, like all her other operations, demands the most perfect order and regularity, the Horæ, being the daughters of Themis, came to be regarded as the representatives of order, and the just administration of human affairs in civilized communities. Each of these graceful maidens took upon herself a separate function: Eunomia presided more especially over state life, Dice guarded the interests of individuals, whilst Irene, the gayest and brightest of the three sisters, was the light-hearted companion of Dionysus.

The Horæ were also the deities of the fast-fleeting hours, and thus presided over the smaller, as well as the larger divisions of time. In this capacity they assist every morning in yoking the celestial horses to the glorious chariot of the sun, which they again help to unyoke when he sinks to rest.

In their original conception they were personifications of the clouds, and are described as opening and closing the gates of heaven, and causing fruits and flowers to spring forth, when they pour down upon them their refreshing and life-giving streams.

THE NYMPHS.

The graceful beings called the Nymphs were the presiding deities of the woods, grottoes, streams, meadows, &c.

These divinities were supposed to be beautiful maidens of fairy-like form, and robed in more or less shadowy garments. They were held in the greatest veneration, though, being minor divinities, they had no temples [166]dedicated to them, but were worshipped in caves or grottoes, with libations of milk, honey, oil, &c.

They may be divided into three distinct classes, viz., water, mountain, and tree or wood nymphs.

WATER NYMPHS.

OCEANIDES, NEREIDES, AND NAIADES.

The worship of water-deities is common to most primitive nations. The streams, springs, and fountains of a country bear the same relation to it which the blood, coursing through the numberless arteries of a human being, bears to the body; both represent the living, moving, life-awakening element, without which existence would be impossible. Hence we find among most nations a deep feeling of attachment to the streams and waters of their native land, the remembrance of which, when absent in foreign climes, is always treasured with peculiar fondness. Thus among the early Greeks, each tribe came to regard the rivers and springs of its individual state as beneficent powers, which brought blessing and prosperity to the country. It is probable also that the charm which ever accompanies the sound of running water exercised its power over their imagination. They heard with delight the gentle whisper of the fountain, lulling the senses with its low, rippling tones; the soft purling of the brook as it rushes over the pebbles, or the mighty voice of the waterfall as it dashes on in its headlong course; and the beings which they pictured to themselves as presiding over all these charming sights and sounds of nature, corresponded, in their graceful appearance, with the scenes with which they were associated.

OCEANIDES.

The Oceanides, or Ocean Nymphs, were the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, and, like most sea divinities, were endowed with the gift of prophecy.

They are personifications of those delicate vapour-like [167]exhalations, which, in warm climates, are emitted from the surface of the sea, more especially at sunset, and are impelled forwards by the evening breeze. They are accordingly represented as misty, shadowy beings, with graceful swaying forms, and robed in pale blue, gauze-like fabrics.

THE NEREIDES.

The Nereides were the daughters of Nereus and Doris, and were nymphs of the Mediterranean Sea.

They are similar in appearance to the Oceanides, but their beauty is of a less shadowy order, and is more like that of mortals. They wear a flowing, pale green robe; their liquid eyes resemble, in their clear depths, the lucid waters of the sea they inhabit; their hair floats carelessly over their shoulders, and assumes the greenish tint of the water itself, which, far from deteriorating from their beauty, greatly adds to its effect. The Nereides either accompany the chariot of the mighty ruler of the sea, or follow in his train.

We are told by the poets that the lonely mariner watches the Nereides with silent awe and wondering delight, as they rise from their grotto-palaces in the deep, and dance, in joyful groups, over the sleeping waves. Some, with arms entwined, follow with their movements the melodies which seem to hover over the sea, whilst others scatter liquid gems around, these being emblematical of the phosphorescent light, so frequently observed at night by the traveller in southern waters.

The best known of the Nereides were Thetis, the wife of Peleus, Amphitrite, the spouse of Poseidon, and Galatea, the beloved of Acis.

THE NAIADES.

The Naiades were the nymphs of fresh-water springs, lakes, brooks, rivers, &c.

As the trees, plants, and flowers owed their nourishment to their genial, fostering care, these divinities were [168]regarded by the Greeks as special benefactors to mankind. Like all the nymphs, they possessed the gift of prophecy, for which reason many of the springs and fountains over which they presided were believed to inspire mortals who drank of their waters with the power of foretelling future events. The Naiades are intimately connected in idea with those flowers which are called after them Nymphæ, or water-lilies, whose broad, green leaves and yellow cups float upon the surface of the water, as though proudly conscious of their own grace and beauty.

We often hear of the Naiades forming alliances with mortals, and also of their being wooed by the sylvan deities of the woods and dales.

DRYADES, OR TREE NYMPHS.

The tree nymphs partook of the distinguishing characteristics of the particular tree to whose life they were wedded, and were known collectively by the name of the Dryades.

The Hamadryades, or oak nymphs, represent in their peculiar individuality the quiet, self-reliant power which appears to belong essentially to the grand and lordly king of the forest.

The Birch Nymph is a melancholy maiden with floating hair, resembling the branches of the pale and fragile-looking tree which she inhabits.

The Beech Nymph is strong and sturdy, full of life and joyousness, and appears to give promise of faithful love and undisturbed repose, whilst her rosy cheeks, deep brown eyes, and graceful form bespeak health, vigour, and vitality.

The nymph of the Linden Tree is represented as a little coy maiden, whose short silver-gray dress reaches a little below the knee, and displays to advantage her delicately formed limbs. The sweet face, which is partly averted, reveals a pair of large blue eyes, which appear to look at you with wondering surprise and shy mistrust; [169]her pale, golden hair is bound by the faintest streak of rose-coloured ribbon.

The tree nymph, being wedded to the life of the tree she inhabited, ceased to exist when it was either felled, or so injured as to wither away and die.

NYMPHS OF THE VALLEYS AND MOUNTAINS.

NAPÆÆ AND OREADES.

The Napææ were the kind and gentle nymphs of the valleys and glens who appear in the train of Artemis. They are represented as lovely maidens with short tunics, which, reaching only to the knee, do not impede their swift and graceful movements in the exercise of the chase. Their pale brown tresses are fastened in a knot at the back of the head, whence a few stray curls escape over their shoulders. The Napææ are shy as the fawns, and quite as frolicsome.

The Oreades, or mountain nymphs, who are the principal and constant companions of Artemis, are tall, graceful maidens, attired as huntresses. They are ardent followers of the chase, and spare neither the gentle deer nor the timid hare, nor indeed any animal they meet with in their rapid course. Wherever their wild hunt goes the shy Napææ are represented as hiding behind the leaves, whilst their favourites, the fawns, kneel tremblingly beside them, looking up beseechingly for protection from the wild huntresses; and even the bold Satyrs dart away at their approach, and seek safety in flight.

There is a myth connected with one of these mountain nymphs, the unfortunate Echo. She became enamoured of a beautiful youth named Narcissus, son of the river-god Cephissus, who, however, failed to return her love, which so grieved her that she gradually pined away, becoming a mere shadow of her former self, till, at length, nothing remained of her except her voice, which henceforth gave back, with unerring fidelity, every sound that was uttered in the hills and dales. Narcissus himself [170]also met with an unhappy fate, for Aphrodite punished him by causing him to fall in love with his own image, which he beheld in a neighbouring fountain, whereupon, consumed with unrequited love, he wasted away, and was changed into the flower which bears his name.

The Limoniades, or meadow nymphs, resemble the Naiades, and are usually represented dancing hand in hand in a circle.

The Hyades, who in appearance are somewhat similar to the Oceanides, are cloudy divinities, and, from the fact of their being invariably accompanied by rain, are represented as incessantly weeping.

The Meliades were the nymphs who presided over fruit-trees.

Before concluding this subject, attention should be drawn to the fact that, in more modern times, this beautiful idea of animating all nature in detail reappears under the various local traditions extant in different countries. Thus do the Oceanides and Nereides live again in the mermaids, whose existence is still believed in by mariners, whilst the flower and meadow nymphs assume the shape of those tiny elves and fairies, who were formerly believed to hold their midnight revels in every wood and on every common; indeed, even at the present day, the Irish peasantry, especially in the west, firmly believe in the existence of the fairies, or "good people," as they are called.

THE WINDS.

According to the oldest accounts, Æolus was a king of the Æolian Islands, to whom Zeus gave the command of the winds, which he kept shut up in a deep cave, and which he freed at his pleasure, or at the command of the gods.

In later times the above belief underwent a change, and the winds came to be regarded as distinct divinities, whose aspect accorded with the respective winds with which they were identified. They were depicted as [171]winged youths in full vigour in the act of flying through the air.

The principal winds were: Boreas (the north wind), Eurus (the east wind), Zephyrus (the west wind), and Notus (the south wind), who were said to be the children of Eos and Astræus.

There are no myths of interest connected with these divinities. Zephyrus was united to Chloris (Flora), the goddess of flowers. Of Boreas it is related that while flying over the river Ilissus, he beheld on the banks Oreithyia, the charming daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens, whom he carried off to his native Thrace, and there made her his bride. Boreas and Oreithyia were the parents of Zetes and Calais, afterwards famous in the expedition of the Argonauts.

There was an altar erected at Athens in honour of Boreas, in commemoration of his having destroyed the Persian fleet sent to attack the Greeks.

On the Acropolis at Athens there was a celebrated octagonal temple, built by Pericles, which was dedicated to the winds, and on its sides were their various representations. The ruins of this temple are still to be seen.

PAN (Faunus).

Pan and Syrinx

Pan was the god of fertility, and the special patron of shepherds and huntsmen; he presided over all rural occupations, was chief of the Satyrs, and head of all rural divinities.

According to the common belief, he was the son of Hermes and a wood nymph, and came into the world with horns sprouting from his forehead, a goat's beard and a crooked nose, pointed ears, and the tail and feet of a goat, and presented altogether so repulsive [172]an appearance that, at the sight of him, his mother fled in dismay.

Hermes, however, took up his curious little offspring, wrapt him in a hare skin, and carried him in his arms to Olympus. The grotesque form and merry antics of the little stranger made him a great favourite with all the immortals, especially Dionysus; and they bestowed upon him the name of Pan (all), because he had delighted them all.

His favourite haunts were grottoes, and his delight was to wander in uncontrolled freedom over rocks and mountains, following his various pursuits, ever cheerful, and usually very noisy. He was a great lover of music, singing, dancing, and all pursuits which enhance the pleasures of life; and hence, in spite of his repulsive appearance, we see him surrounded with nymphs of the forests and dales, who love to dance round him to the cheerful music of his pipe, the syrinx. The myth concerning the origin of Pan's pipe is as follows:—Pan became enamoured of a beautiful nymph, called Syrinx, who, appalled at his terrible appearance, fled from the pertinacious attentions of her unwelcome suitor. He pursued her to the banks of the river Ladon, when, seeing his near approach, and feeling escape impossible, she called on the gods for assistance, who, in answer to her prayer, transformed her into a reed, just as Pan was about to seize her. Whilst the love-sick Pan was sighing and lamenting his unfortunate fate, the winds gently swayed the reeds, and produced a murmuring sound as of one complaining. Charmed with the soothing tones, he endeavoured to reproduce them himself, and after cutting seven of the reeds of unequal length, he joined them together, and succeeded in producing the pipe, which he called the syrinx, in memory of his lost love.

Pan was regarded by shepherds as their most valiant protector, who defended their flocks from the attacks of wolves. The shepherds of these early times, having no penfolds, were in the habit of gathering together their flocks in mountain caves, to protect them against the [173]inclemency of the weather, and also to secure them at night against the attacks of wild animals; these caves, therefore, which were very numerous in the mountain districts of Arcadia, Bœotia, &c., were all consecrated to Pan.

As it is customary in all tropical climates to repose during the heat of the day, Pan is represented as greatly enjoying his afternoon sleep in the cool shelter of a tree or cave, and also as being highly displeased at any sound which disturbed his slumbers, for which reason the shepherds were always particularly careful to keep unbroken silence during these hours, whilst they themselves indulged in a quiet siesta.

Pan was equally beloved by huntsmen, being himself a great lover of the woods, which afforded to his cheerful and active disposition full scope, and in which he loved to range at will. He was regarded as the patron of the chase, and the rural sportsmen, returning from an unsuccessful day's sport, beat, in token of their displeasure, the wooden image of Pan, which always occupied a prominent place in their dwellings.

All sudden and unaccountable sounds which startle travellers in lonely spots, were attributed to Pan, who possessed a frightful and most discordant voice; hence the termpanic terror, to indicate sudden fear. The Athenians ascribed their victory at Marathon to the alarm which he created among the Persians by his terrible voice.

Pan was gifted with the power of prophecy, which he is said to have imparted to Apollo, and he possessed a well-known and very ancient oracle in Arcadia, in which state he was more especially worshipped.

The artists of later times have somewhat toned down the original very unattractive conception of Pan, as above described, and merely represent him as a young man, hardened by the exposure to all weathers which a rural life involves, and bearing in his hand the shepherd's crook and syrinx—these being his usual attributes—whilst small horns project from his forehead. He is either undraped, or wears merely the light cloak called the chlamys.

The usual offerings to Pan were milk and honey in [174]shepherds' bowls. Cows, lambs, and rams were also sacrificed to him.

After the introduction of Pan into the worship of Dionysus, we hear of a number of little Pans (Panisci), who are sometimes confounded with the Satyrs.

FAUNUS.

The Romans had an old Italian divinity called Faunus, who, as the god of shepherds, was identified with the Greek Pan, and represented in a similar manner.

Faunus is frequently called Inuus or the fertilizer, and Lupercus or the one who wards off wolves. Like Pan, he possessed the gift of prophecy, and was the presiding spirit of the woods and fields; he also shared with his Greek prototype the faculty of alarming travellers in solitary places. Bad dreams and evil apparitions were attributed to Faunus, and he was believed to enter houses stealthily at night for this purpose.

Fauna was the wife of Faunus, and participated in his functions.

THE SATYRS.

A Satyr

The Satyrs were a race of woodland spirits, who evidently personified the free, wild, and untrammelled life of the forest. Their appearance was both grotesque and repulsive; they had flat broad noses, pointed ears, and little horns sprouting from their foreheads, a rough shaggy skin, and small goat's tails. They led a life of pleasure and self-indulgence, followed the chase, revelled in every description of wild music and dancing, were terrible wine-bibbers, and addicted to the deep slumbers which follow heavy potations. They were no less dreaded by mortals than by the gentle woodland nymphs, who always avoided their coarse rough sports.

The Satyrs were conspicuous figures in the train of Dionysus, and, as we have seen, Silenus their chief was tutor to the wine god. The older Satyrs were called Silens, and are represented in antique sculpture, as more nearly approaching the human form.

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In addition to the ordinary Satyrs, artists delighted in depicting little Satyrs, young imps, frolicking about the woods in a marvellous variety of droll attitudes. These little fellows greatly resemble their friends and companions, the Panisci.

In rural districts it was customary for the shepherds and peasants who attended the festivals of Dionysus, to dress themselves in the skins of goats and other animals, and, under this disguise, they permitted themselves all kinds of playful tricks and excesses, to which circumstance the conception of the Satyrs is by some authorities attributed.

In Rome the old Italian wood-divinities, the FAUNS, who had goats' feet and all other characteristics of the Satyrs greatly exaggerated, were identified with them.

PRIAPUS.

Priapus, the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, was regarded as the god of fruitfulness, the protector of flocks, sheep, goats, bees, the fruit of the vine, and all garden produce.

His statues, which were set up in gardens and vineyards, acted not only as objects of worship, but also as scarecrows, the appearance of this god being especially repulsive and unsightly. These statues were formed of wood or stone, and from the hips downwards were merely rude columns. They represent him as having a red and very ugly face; he bears in his hand a pruning knife, and his head is crowned with a wreath of vine and laurel. He usually carries fruit in his garments or a cornucopia in his hand, always, however, retaining his singularly revolting aspect. It is said that Hera, wishing [176]to punish Aphrodite, sent her this misshapen and unsightly son, and that when he was born, his mother was so horrified at the sight of him, that she ordered him to be exposed on the mountains, where he was found by some shepherds, who, taking pity on him, saved his life.

This divinity was chiefly worshipped at Lampsacus, his birthplace. Asses were sacrificed to him, and he received the first-fruits of the fields and gardens, with a libation of milk and honey.

The worship of Priapus was introduced into Rome at the same time as that of Aphrodite, and was identified with a native Italian divinity named Mutunus.

ASCLEPIAS (Æsculapius).

Asclepias, the god of the healing art, was the son of Apollo and the nymph Coronis. He was educated by the noble Centaur Chiron, who instructed him in all knowledge, but more especially in that of the properties of herbs. Asclepias searched out the hidden powers of plants, and discovered cures for the various diseases which afflict the human body. He brought his art to such perfection, that he not only succeeded in warding off death, but also restored the dead to life. It was popularly believed that he was materially assisted in his wonderful cures by the blood of the Medusa, given to him by Pallas-Athene.

Asclepias

It is well to observe that the shrines of this divinity, which were usually built in healthy places, on hills outside the town, or near wells which were believed to have healing powers, offered at the same time means of cure for the sick and suffering, thus combining religious with sanitary influences. It was the custom for the sufferer to sleep in the temple, when, if he had been earnest in his devotions, Asclepias appeared to him in a dream, and revealed the means to be employed for the cure of his malady. On the walls of these temples were hung tablets, inscribed by the different pilgrims with the particulars of their maladies, the remedies practised, and the cures [177]worked by the god:—a custom undoubtedly productive of most beneficial results.

Groves, temples, and altars were dedicated to Asclepias in many parts of Greece, but Epidaurus, the chief seat of his worship,—where, indeed, it is said to have originated,—contained his principal temple, which served at the same time as a hospital.

The statue of Asclepias in the temple at Epidaurus was formed of ivory and gold, and represented him as an old man with a full beard, leaning on a staff round which a serpent is climbing. The serpent was the distinguishing symbol of this divinity, partly because these reptiles were greatly used by the ancients in the cure of diseases, and partly also because all the prudence and wisdom of the serpent were deemed indispensable to the judicious physician.

His usual attributes are a staff, a bowl, a bunch of herbs, a pineapple, a dog, and a serpent.

His children inherited, for the most part, the distinguished talents of their father. Two of his sons, Machaon and Podalirius, accompanied Agamemnon to the Trojan war, in which expedition they became renowned, not only as military heroes, but also as skilful physicians.

Their sisters, HYGEIA (health), and PANACEA (all-healing), had temples dedicated to them, and received divine honours. The function of Hygeia was to maintain the health of the community, which great blessing was supposed to be brought by her as a direct and beneficent gift from the gods.

ÆSCULAPIUS.

The worship of Æsculapius was introduced into Rome from Epidaurus, whence the statue of the god of healing [178]was brought at the time of a great pestilence. Grateful for their deliverance from this plague, the Romans erected a temple in his honour, on an island near the mouth of the Tiber.


ROMAN DIVINITIES.

JANUS.

From the earliest ages Janus was regarded by the Romans with the utmost affection and veneration, as a divinity who ranked only second to Jupiter himself, and through whom all prayers and petitions were transmitted to the other gods.

He was believed to preside over the beginnings of all things, hence it was he who inaugurated the years, months, and seasons, and in course of time came to be considered as specially protecting the beginnings of all human enterprises. The great importance which the Romans attached to an auspicious commencement, as contributing to the ultimate success of an enterprise, accounts for the high estimation in which Janus was held as the god of beginnings.

This divinity would appear to have been the ancient sun-god of the Italian tribes, in which capacity he opens and closes the gates of heaven every morning and evening. Hence he was regarded as the door-keeper of heaven, and also as the presiding deity over all gates, entrances, &c., on earth.

The fact of his being the god of city gates, which were called Jani after him, is ascribed, however, to the following myth:—After the abduction of their women by the Romans, the Sabines, in revenge, invaded the Roman state, and were already about to enter the gates of the city, when suddenly a hot sulphur spring, which was believed to have been sent by Janus for their special preservation, gushed forth from the earth, and arrested the progress of the enemy.

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In his character as guardian of gates and doors, he was also regarded as a protecting deity of the home, for which reason little shrines were erected to him over the doors of houses, which contained an image of the god, having two faces.

Janus possessed no temples in the ordinary acceptation of the word, but all the gates of cities were dedicated to him. Close to the Forum of Rome stood the so-called temple of Janus, which, however, was merely an arched passage, closed by massive gates. This temple was open only in time of war, as it was supposed that the god had then taken his departure with the Roman army, over whose welfare he personally presided. It is worthy of notice, as an evidence of the many wars in which the Romans were engaged, that the gates of this sanctuary were only closed three times during 700 years.

As the god who ushers in the new year, the first month was called after him, and on the 1st of January his most important festival was celebrated, on which occasion all entrances of public and private buildings were decorated with laurel branches and garlands of flowers.

His sacrifices, consisting of cakes, wine, and barley, were offered to him at the beginning of every month; and before sacrificing to the other gods his name was always invoked, and a libation poured out to him.

Janus is usually represented with two faces; in his special function as door-keeper of heaven he stands erect, bearing a key in one hand, and a rod or sceptre in the other.

It is supposed that Janus was the most ancient king of Italy, who, during his life, governed his subjects with such wisdom and moderation that, in gratitude for the benefits conferred upon them, his people deified him after death and placed him in the foremost rank among their divinities. We have already seen in the history of Cronus that Saturn, who was identified with the Greek Cronus (god of time), was the friend and colleague of Janus. Anxious to prove his gratitude to his benefactor, Cronus endowed him with the knowledge of past and future [180]events, which enabled him to adopt the wisest measures for the welfare of his subjects, and it is on this account that Janus is represented with two faces looking in opposite directions, the one to the past, the other to the future.

FLORA.

Flora was the goddess of flowers, and was regarded as a beneficent power, who watched over and protected the early blossoms.

She was held in the highest estimation by the Romans, and a festival, called the Floralia, was celebrated in her honour from the 28th of April to the 1st of May. This festival was a season of universal merriment, in which flowers were used profusely in adorning houses, streets, &c., and were worn by young girls in their hair.

Flora, who typified the season of Spring, is generally represented as a lovely maiden, garlanded with flowers.

ROBIGUS.

In opposition to Flora we find an antagonistic divinity, called Robigus, a worker of evil, who delighted in the destruction of the tender herbs by mildew, and whose wrath could only be averted by prayers and sacrifices, when he was invoked under the title of Averuncus, or the Avertor.

The festival of Robigus (the Robigalia) was celebrated on the 25th of April.

POMONA.

Pomona was the goddess of orchards and fruit-trees, who, according to Ovid, cares not for woods or streams, but loves her gardens and the boughs that bear the thriving fruit.

Pomona, who typifies Autumn, is represented as a lovely maiden, laden with branches of fruit-trees.

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VERTUMNUS.

Vertumnus was the god of garden and field produce. He personifies the change of seasons, and that process of transformation in nature by means of which the leaf-buds become developed into blossoms, and the blossoms into fruit.

The change of seasons is symbolized in a myth which represents Vertumnus as metamorphosing himself into a variety of different forms in order to gain the affection of Pomona, who so loved her vocation that she abjured all thoughts of marriage. He first appears to her as a ploughman, typifying Spring; then as a reaper, to represent Summer; afterwards as a vine-gatherer, to indicate Autumn; and finally as a gray-haired old woman, symbolical of the snows of Winter; but it was not until he assumed his true form, that of a beautiful youth, that he succeeded in his suit.

Vertumnus is generally represented crowned with wheat-sheaves, and bearing in his hand a cornucopia.

PALES.

Pales, a very ancient Italian divinity, is represented sometimes as a male, sometimes as a female power.

As a male divinity he is more particularly the god of shepherds and flocks.

As a female deity, Pales presides over husbandry and the fruitfulness of herds. Her festivals, the Palilia, were celebrated on the 21st of April, the day on which the city of Rome was founded. During this festival it was customary for shepherds to ignite a mass of straw, through which they rushed with their flocks, believing that this ordeal would purify them from sin.

The name Palatine, which originally signified a pastoral colony, is derived from this divinity. Her offerings were cakes and milk.

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PICUS.

Picus, the son of Saturn and father of Faunus, was a woodland divinity, gifted with prophetic powers.

An ancient myth relates that Picus was a beautiful youth, united to a nymph called Canens. The sorceress Circe, infatuated by his beauty, endeavoured to secure his love, but he rejected her advances, and she, in revenge, changed him into a woodpecker, under which form he still retained his powers of prophecy.

Picus is represented as a youth, with a woodpecker perched upon his head, which bird became henceforth regarded as possessed of the power of prophecy.

PICUMNUS AND PILUMNUS.

Picumnus and Pilumnus were two household divinities of the Romans, who were the special presiding deities of new-born infants.

SILVANUS.

Silvanus was a woodland divinity, who, like Faunus, greatly resembled the Greek Pan. He was the presiding deity of plantations and forests, and specially protected the boundaries of fields.

Silvanus is represented as a hale old man, carrying a cypress-tree, for, according to Roman mythology, the transformation of the youth Cyparissus into the tree which bears his name was attributed to him.

His sacrifices consisted of milk, meat, wine, grapes, wheat-ears, and pigs.

TERMINUS.

Terminus was the god who presided over all boundaries and landmarks.

He was originally represented by a simple block of stone, which in later times became surmounted by a [183]head of this divinity. Numa Pompilius, the great benefactor of his people, anxious to inculcate respect for the rights of property, specially enjoined the erection of these blocks of stone, as a durable monument to mark the line dividing one property from another. He also caused altars to be raised to Terminus, and instituted his festival (the Terminalia), which was celebrated on the 23rd of February.

Upon one occasion, when Tarquin wished to remove the altars of several deities, in order to build a new temple, it is said that Terminus and Juventas alone objected to being displaced. This obstinate refusal on their part was interpreted as a good omen, signifying that the city of Rome would never lose her boundaries, and would remain ever young and vigorous.

CONSUS.

Consus was the god of secret counsel.

The Romans believed that when an idea developed itself spontaneously within the mind of an individual, it was Consus who had prompted the suggestion. This applied, however, more particularly to plans which resulted satisfactorily.

An altar was erected to this divinity on the Circus Maximus, which was kept always covered, except during his festival, the Consualia, which was celebrated on the 18th of August.

LIBITINA.

Libitina was the goddess who presided over funerals. This divinity was identified with Venus, possibly because the ancients considered that the power of love extended even to the realms of death.

Her temple in Rome, which was erected by Servius Tullius, contained all the requisites for funerals, and these could either be bought or hired there. A register of all deaths which occurred in the city of Rome was kept in [184]this temple, and in order to ascertain the rate of mortality, a piece of money was paid by command of Servius Tullius, on the demise of each person.

LAVERNA.

Laverna was the presiding goddess of thieves, and of all artifice and fraud. There was an altar erected to her near the Porta Lavernalis, which was called after her, and she possessed a sacred grove on the Via Salavia.

COMUS.

Comus was the presiding genius of banquets, festive scenes, revelry, and all joyous pleasures and reckless gaiety.

He is represented as a young man crowned with flowers, his face heated and flushed with wine, leaning against a post in a half-sleepy and drunken attitude, with a torch falling from his hand.

THE CAMENÆ.

The Camenæ were prophetic nymphs held in high veneration by the ancient Italians. They were four in number, the best known of whom are Carmenta and Egeria.

Carmenta was celebrated as being the mother of Evander, who led an Arcadian colony into Italy, and founded a town on the river Tiber, which became afterwards incorporated with the city of Rome. Evander is said to have been the first who introduced Greek art and civilization into Italy, and also the worship of Greek divinities.

A temple was erected to Carmenta on the Capitoline Hill, and a festival, called the Carmentalia, was celebrated in her honour on the 11th of January.

Egeria is said to have initiated Numa Pompilius in the forms of religious worship, which he introduced among his people. She was regarded as the giver of [185]life, and was therefore invoked by women before the birth of their children.

The Camenæ are frequently identified by Roman writers with the Muses.

GENII.

A comforting and assuring belief existed among the Romans, that each individual was accompanied through life, from the hour of his birth to that of his death, by a protecting spirit, called his genius, who prompted him to good and noble deeds, and acted towards him as a guardian angel, comforting him in sorrow, and guiding him throughout his earthly career.

In the course of time a second genius was believed to exist, of an evil nature, who, as the instigator of all wrong-doing, was ever at war with the beneficent genius; and on the issue of the conflict between these antagonistic influences, depended the fate of the individual. The genii were depicted as winged beings, greatly resembling our modern representations of guardian angels.

Every state, town, or city, (as well as every man), possessed its special genius. The sacrifices to the genii consisted of wine, cakes, and incense, which were offered to them on birthdays.

The genius which guided a woman was called, after the queen of heaven, Juno.

Among the Greeks, beings called Dæmons were regarded as exercising similar functions to those of the Roman genii. They were believed to be the spirits of the righteous race which existed in the Golden Age, who watched over mankind, carrying their prayers to the gods, and the gifts of the gods to them.

MANES.

LEMURES (LARVÆ) AND LARES.

The Manes were the spirits of the departed, and were of two kinds, viz., Lemures (or Larvæ) and Lares.[186]

The Lemures were those Manes who haunted their former abodes on earth as evil spirits, appearing at night under awful forms and hideous shapes, greatly to the alarm of their friends and relatives. They were so feared that a festival, called the Lemuralia, was celebrated in order to propitiate them.

It appears extremely probable that the superstitions with regard to ghosts, haunted houses, &c., which exist even at the present day, owe their origin to this very ancient pagan source.

The Lares Familiares were a much more pleasing conception. They were the spirits of the ancestors of each family, who exercised after death a protecting power over the well-being and prosperity of the family to which they had in life belonged. The place of honour beside the hearth was occupied by the statue of the Lar of the house, who was supposed to have been the founder of the family. This statue was the object of profound veneration, and was honoured on all occasions by every member of the family; a portion of each meal was laid before it, and it was believed to take an active part in all family affairs and domestic events, whether of a sad or joyful nature. Before starting on any expedition the master of the house saluted the statue of the Lar, and, on his return, a solemn thanksgiving was offered to this, the presiding deity of his hearth and home, in grateful acknowledgment of his protection; whereupon the statue was crowned with garlands of flowers, these being the favourite offerings to the Lares on all occasions of especial family rejoicing.

The first act of a bride on entering her new abode was to do homage to the Lar, in the belief that he would exercise over her a protecting influence and shield her from evil.

In addition to those above enumerated there were also public Lares, who were guardians of the state, highroads, country, and sea. Their temples were always open for any pious worshipper to enter, and on their altars public sacrifices were offered for the welfare of the state or city.[187]

PENATES.

The Penates were deities selected by each family, and frequently by its individual members, as a special protector. Various causes led to this selection. If, for instance, a child were born on the festival of Vesta, it was thought that that deity would henceforward act as its special guardian. If a youth possessed great business talents he adopted Mercury as his tutelary deity; should he, on the other hand, develop a passion for music, Apollo was selected as his patron god, and so forth. These became regarded as the special divinities of the household, small images of them adorned the surroundings of the hearth, and honours similar to those paid to the Lares were accorded to them.

Just as there were public Lares so there were public Penates, which were worshipped by the Roman people under the form of two youthful warriors, who, in later times, were regarded as identical with Castor and Pollux. They are generally represented on horseback, with conical caps on their heads, and bearing long spears in their hands.

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Temple

PUBLIC WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND ROMANS.

TEMPLES.

In very remote times the Greeks had no shrines or sanctuaries devoted to public worship, but performed their devotions beneath the vast and boundless canopy of heaven, in the great temple of nature itself. Believing that their divinities throned above the clouds, pious worshippers naturally sought the highest available points, in order to place themselves in the closest communion possible with their gods; hence the summits of high mountains were selected for devotional purposes, and the more exalted the rank and importance of the divinity invoked, the more elevated was the site selected for his or her worship. But the inconvenience attending this mode of worship gradually suggested the idea of erecting edifices which would afford means of shelter from the inclemency of the weather.

These structures were, in the first instance, of the most simple form, and without decoration; but when, with the progress of civilization, the Greeks became a [189]wealthy and powerful people, temples were built and adorned with the greatest splendour and magnificence, talent, labour, and wealth being lavished unsparingly on their erection and decoration; indeed so massively were they constructed, that some of them have, to a certain extent, withstood the ravages of time. The city of Athens especially contains numerous remains of these buildings of antiquity. On the Acropolis we may still behold, among other monuments of ancient art, the temple of Athene-Polias, and that of Theseus, the latter of which is the most entire ancient edifice in the world. In the island of Delos, also, are to be seen the ruins of the temples of Apollo and Artemis, both of which are in a wonderful state of preservation. These ruins are most valuable, being sufficiently complete to enable us to study, by their aid, the plan and character of the original structure.

Among the Lacedæmonians, however, we find no vestiges of these stately temples, for they were specially enjoined by a law of Lycurgus to serve the gods with as little outlay as possible. When the great lawgiver was asked the reason of this injunction, he replied that the Lacedæmonians, being a poor nation, might otherwise abstain altogether from the observance of their religious duties, and wisely added that magnificent edifices and costly sacrifices were not so pleasing to the gods, as the true piety and unfeigned devotion of their worshippers.

The most ancient temples known to us served a double purpose: they were not only consecrated to the service of the gods, but were at the same time venerable monuments in honour of the dead. Thus, for instance, the temple of Pallas-Athene, in the tower of the city of Larissa, served as the sepulchre of Acrisius, and the Acropolis at Athens received the ashes of Cecrops, founder of the city.

A temple was frequently dedicated to two or more gods, and was always built after the manner considered most acceptable to the particular divinities to whom it was consecrated; for just as trees, birds, and animals of 

[190]every description were held to be sacred to certain deities, so almost every god had a form of building peculiar to himself, which was deemed more acceptable to him than any other. Thus the Doric style of architecture was sacred to Zeus, Ares, and Heracles; the Ionic to Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus; and the Corinthian to Hestia.

In the porch of the temple stood a vessel of stone or brass, containing holy water (which had been consecrated by putting into it a burning torch, taken from the altar), with which all those admitted to take part in the sacrifices were besprinkled. In the inmost recess of the sanctuary was the most holy place, into which none but the priests were suffered to enter.

Temples in the country were usually surrounded with groves of trees. The solitude of these shady retreats naturally tended to inspire the worshipper with awe and reverence, added to which the delightful shade and coolness afforded by tall leafy trees is peculiarly grateful in hot countries. Indeed so general did this custom of building temples in groves become, that all places devoted to sacred purposes, even where no trees existed, were called groves. That this practice must be of very remote antiquity is proved by the Biblical injunction, having for its object the separation of the Jews from all idolatrous practices: "Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of trees near unto the altar of the Lord thy God."

STATUES.

The Greeks worshipped their gods without any visible representations of them until the time of Cecrops. The most ancient of these representations consisted of square blocks of stone, upon which the name of the deity intended to be represented was engraved. The first attempts at sculpture were rude stocks, with a head at one end and a shapeless trunk at the other, tapering slightly down to the feet, which, however, were not divided, the limbs being in no way defined. But the artists of later times devoted all their genius to the [191]successful production of the highest ideals of their gods, some of which are preserved to this day, and are regarded as examples of purest art.

On a pedestal in the centre of the edifice stood the statue of the divinity to whom the temple was dedicated, surrounded by images of other gods, all of which were fenced off by rails.

ALTARS.

The altar in a Greek temple, which stood in the centre of the building and in front of the statue of the presiding deity, was generally of a circular form, and constructed of stone. It was customary to engrave upon it the name or distinguishing symbol of the divinity to whom it was dedicated; and it was held so sacred that if any malefactor fled to it his life was safe from his pursuers, and it was considered one of the greatest acts of sacrilege to force him from this asylum.

The most ancient altars were adorned with horns, which in former times were emblems of power and dignity, as wealth, and consequently importance, consisted among most primitive nations in flocks and herds.

In addition to those erected in places of public worship, altars were frequently raised in groves, on highways, or in the market-places of cities.

The gods of the lower world had no altars whatever, ditches or trenches being dug for the reception of the blood of the sacrifices offered to them.

PRIESTS.

In ancient times the priests were recognized as a special social caste, and were distinguished not only by their sacerdotal vestments, but also by their piety, wisdom, and blameless life. They were the chosen mediators between gods and men, and offered prayers and sacrifices in the name of the people, whom they also instructed as to what vows, gifts, and offerings would be most acceptable to the gods.

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Every deity had a different order of priests consecrated to his worship, and in every place a high-priest was appointed, whose duty it was to superintend the rest of his order, and also to carry out the more sacred rites and religious observances.

Priests and priestesses were permitted to marry, but not a second time; some, however, voluntarily adopted a life of celibacy.

SACRIFICES.

There is no doubt that a feeling of gratitude to the gods for their protecting care, and the abundance with which they were believed to bless mankind, has induced men of all nations and in all countries to feel a desire to sacrifice to their divinities some portion of the gifts so generously lavished upon them.

Among the Greeks, sacrifices were of various kinds. They consisted of free-will offeringspropitiatory offerings, &c.

Free-will offerings were grateful acknowledgments for benefits received, and usually consisted of the first-fruits of the field, or the finest of the flocks and herds, which were required to be without spot or blemish.

Propitiatory offerings were brought with the object of appeasing the anger of the gods.

In addition to those above enumerated, sacrifices were made, either with a view of obtaining success in an enterprise about to be undertaken, or in fulfilment of a vow, or at the command of an oracle.

Every sacrifice was accompanied by salt and also by a libation, which usually consisted of wine, the cup being always filled to the brim, indicating that the offering was made without stint. When sacrificing to the infernal gods the cup containing the libation was filled with blood.

The animals offered to the Olympian divinities were white, whilst those to the gods of the lower world were black. When a man offered a special sacrifice for himself or his family it partook of the nature of his [193]occupation; thus a shepherd brought a sheep, a vine-grower his grapes, and so forth. But in the case of public sacrifices, the supposed individuality of the deity was always consulted. For instance, to Demeter a sow was offered, because that animal is apt to root up the seed-corn; to Dionysus a goat, on account of its being destructive to vineyards, &c.

The value of offerings depended greatly upon the position of the individual; it being regarded as a contempt of the gods for a rich man to bring a sordid offering, whilst from a poor man the smallest oblation was considered acceptable.

Hecatombs consisted of a hundred animals, and were offered by entire communities, or by wealthy individuals who either desired, or had obtained some special favour from the gods.

When a sacrifice was to be offered, a fire was kindled on the altar, into which wine and frankincense were poured, in order to increase the flame. In very ancient times, the victim was laid upon the altar and burned whole; but after the time of Prometheus portions only of the shoulders, thighs, entrails, &c., were sacrificed, the remainder becoming the perquisites of the priests.

The officiating priests wore a crown composed of the leaves of the tree sacred to the deity they invoked. Thus when sacrificing to Apollo the crowns were of laurel; when to Heracles, of poplar. This practice of wearing crowns was, at a later period, adopted by the general public at banquets and other festivities.

On occasions of special solemnity the horns of the victim were overlaid with gold, and the altars decked with flowers and sacred herbs.

The mode of conducting the sacrifices was as follows:—All things being prepared, a salt cake, the sacrificial knife, and the crowns, were placed in a small basket, and carried to the sanctuary by a young maiden, whereupon the victim was conducted into the temple, frequently to the accompaniment of music. If a small animal, it was driven loose to the altar; if a large one, it was led by a [194]long trailing rope, in order to indicate that it was not an unwilling sacrifice.

When all were assembled, the priest, after walking in solemn state round the altar, besprinkled it with a mixture of meal and holy water, after which he also besprinkled the assembled worshippers, and exhorted them to join with him in prayer. The service being ended, the priest first tasted the libation, and after causing the congregation to do the like, poured the remainder between the horns of the victim, after which frankincense was strewn upon the altar, and a portion of the meal and water poured upon the animal, which was then killed. If by any chance the victim escaped the stroke, or became in any way restless, it was regarded as an evil omen; if, on the contrary, it expired without a struggle, it was considered auspicious.

At the sacrifices to the aërial divinities music was added, whilst dances were performed round the altar, and sacred hymns sung. These hymns were generally composed in honour of the gods, and contained an account of their famous actions, their clemency and beneficence, and the gifts conferred by them on mankind. In conclusion, the gods were invoked for a continuance of their favour, and when the service was ended a feast was held.

ORACLES.

The desire to penetrate the dark veil of futurity, and thereby to avert, if possible, threatened danger, has animated mankind in all ages of the world. Prophetic knowledge was sought by the Greeks at the mouth of oracles, whose predictions were interpreted to the people by priests, specially appointed for the purpose.

The most famous of these institutions was the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, which was held in general repute all over the world. People flocked from far and near to consult this wonderful mouth-piece of the gods, one month in the year being specially set apart for the purpose.

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The priestess who delivered the oracles was called the Pythia, after the serpent Python, which was killed by Apollo. Having first bathed in the waters of the Castalian spring, she was conducted into the temple by the priests, and was seated on a sort of three-legged stool or table, called a tripod, which was placed over the mouth of a cave whence issued sulphurous vapours. Here she gradually became affected in a remarkable manner, and fell into an ecstatic condition, in which she uttered wild and extraordinary phrases, which were held to be the utterance of Apollo himself; these the priests interpreted to the people, but in most cases in so ambiguous a manner that the fulfilment of the prediction could not easily be disputed. During the ceremony, clouds of incense filled the temple, and hid the priestess from the view of the uninitiated, and at its conclusion she was reconducted, in a fainting condition, to her cell.

The following is a striking instance of the ambiguity of oracular predictions:—Crœsus, the rich king of Lydia, before going to war with Cyrus, king of Persia, consulted an oracle as to the probable success of the expedition. The reply he received was, that if he crossed a certain river he would destroy a great empire. Interpreting the response as being favourable to his design, Crœsus crossed the river, and encountered the Persian king, by whom he was entirely defeated; and his own empire being destroyed, the prediction of the oracle was said to have been fulfilled.

SOOTHSAYERS (Augurs).

In addition to the manifestation of the will of the gods by means of oracles, the Greeks also believed that certain men, called soothsayers, were gifted with the power of foretelling future events from dreams, from observing the flight of birds, the entrails of sacrificed animals, and even the direction of the flames and smoke from the altar, &c.[196]

AUGURS.

The Roman soothsayers were called augurs, and played an important part in the history of the Romans, as no enterprise was ever undertaken without first consulting them with regard to its ultimate success.

FESTIVALS.

Festivals were instituted as seasons of rest, rejoicing, and thanksgiving, and also as anniversaries to commemorate events of national importance. The most ancient festivals were those held after the ingathering of the harvest or vintage, and were celebrated with rejoicings and merry-makings, which lasted many days, during which time the first-fruits of the fields were offered to the gods, accompanied by prayers and thanksgiving.

The festivals held in cities in honour of special divinities, or in commemoration of particular events, were conducted with an elaborate ceremonial. Gorgeous processions, games, chariot races, &c., were conspicuous features on these occasions, and dramatic performances, representing particular episodes in the lives of the gods and heroes, frequently took place.

We subjoin a few of the most interesting of the Greek and Roman festivals.