Fable descriptions are taken from the translator’s Synopses.
Introduction (separate file)
Books I-III (separate file):
Fable I: The daughters of Minyas. Pyramus and Thisbe.
Fable II: Mars and Venus. The Sun and Leucothoë.
Fable III: Clytie buried alive.
Fable IV: Daphnis; Scython; Celmus; Crocus and Smilax; the Curetes.
Fable V: Salmacis and Hermaphroditus.
Fable VI: The daughters of Minyas.
Fable VII: Athamas and Ino.
Fable VIII: Cadmus leaves Thebes.
Fable IX: Perseus kills Medusa.
Fable X: Perseus and Andromeda. Medusa’s hair.
Fable I: Perseus’s marriage feast.
Fable II: Minerva and the Muses.
Fable III: The song of Calliope.
Fable IV: Pluto and Proserpina.
Fable V: Ceres searches for Proserpina.
Fable VI: Arethusa is changed into a fountain.
Fable VII: Lyncus is changed into a lynx; the Pierides are changed into magpies.
Fable I: Arachne and Minerva.
Fable II: Niobe and her children.
Fable III: Latona and the frogs.
Fable IV: Marsyas is flayed alive.
Fable V: Tereus, Progne and Philomela.
Fable VI: Progne’s son Itys.
Fable VII: Boreas and Orithyïa.
Fable I: Jason, the Golden Fleece and Medea.
Fable II: Medea restores Æson to youth. The daughters of Pelias.
Fable III: Medea in Corinth.
Fable IV: Hercules chains Cerberus. Theseus and Medea.
Fable V: Minos at Ægina. Cephalus at Ægina.
Fable VI: The Myrmidons.
Fable VII: Procris becomes a huntress. Œdipus and the Sphinx.
Fable VIII: Cephalus accidentally kills Procris.
BOOK THE FOURTH.
The daughters of Minyas, instead of celebrating the festival of Bacchus, apply themselves to other pursuits during the ceremonies; and among several narratives which they relate to pass away the time, they divert themselves with the story of the adventures of Pyramus and Thisbe. These lovers having made an appointment to meet without the walls of Babylon, Thisbe arrives first; but at the sight of a lioness, she runs to hide herself in a cave, and in her alarm, drops her veil. Pyramus, arriving soon after, finds the veil of his mistress stained with blood; and believing her to be dead, kills himself with his own sword. Thisbe returns from the cave; and finding Pyramus weltering in his blood, she plunges the same fatal weapon into her own breast.
But Alcithoë, the daughter of Minyas,1 does not think that the rites2 of the God ought to be received; but still, in her rashness, denies that Bacchus is the progeny of Jupiter; and she has her sisters3 as partners in her impiety.
The priest had ordered both mistresses and maids, laying aside their employments, to have their breasts 136IV. 6-19covered with skins, and to loosen the fillets of their hair, and to put garlands 119IV. 7-22on their locks, and to take the verdant thyrsi in their hands; and had prophesied that severe would be the resentment of the Deity, if affronted. Both matrons and new-married women obey, and lay aside their webs and work-baskets,4 and their tasks unfinished; and offer frankincense, and invoke both Bacchus and Bromius,5 and Lyæus,6 and the son of the Flames, and the Twice-Born, and the only one that had two mothers.7 To these is added the name of Nyseus, and the unshorn Thyoneus,8 and with Lenæus,9 the planter of the genial grape, and Nyctelius,10 and father Eleleus, and Iacchus,11 and Evan,12 and a great many other names, which thou, Liber, hast besides, throughout the nations of Greece. For thine is youth everlasting; thou art a boy to all time, thou art beheld as the most beauteous of all in high heaven; 137IV. 20-42thou hast the features of a virgin, when thou standest without thy horns. By thee the East was conquered, as far as where swarthy India is bounded by the remote Ganges. Thou 120IV. 23-46God, worthy of our veneration, didst smite Pentheus, and the axe-bearing Lycurgus,13 sacrilegious mortals; thou didst hurl the bodies of the Etrurians into the sea. Thou controllest the neck of the lynxes yoked to thy chariot, graced with the painted reins. The Bacchanals and the Satyrs follow thee; the drunken old man, too, Silenus, who supports his reeling limbs with a staff, and sticks by no means very fast to his bending ass. And wherever thou goest, the shouts of youths, and together the voices of women, and tambourines beaten with the hands, and hollow cymbals resound, and the box-wood pipe, with its long bore. The Ismenian matrons ask thee to show thyself mild and propitious, and celebrate thy sacred rites as prescribed.
The daughters of Minyas alone, within doors, interrupting the festival with unseasonable labor,14 are either carding wool, or twirling the threads with their fingers, or are plying at the web, and keeping the handmaids to their work. One of them, as she is drawing the thread with her smooth thumb, says, “While others are idling, and thronging to these fanciful rites, let us, whom Pallas, a better Deity, occupies, alleviate the useful toil of our hands with varying discourse; and let us relate by turns to our disengaged ears, for the general amusement, something each in our turn, that will not permit the time to seem long.” They approve of what she says, and her sisters bid her to be the first to tell her story.
138IV. 43-58She considers which of many she shall tell (for she knows many a one), and she is in doubt whether she shall tell of thee, Babylonian Dercetis,15 whom the people of Palestine16 121IV. 46-66believe to inhabit the pools, with thy changed form, scales covering thy limbs; or rather how her daughter, taking wings, passed her latter years in whitened turrets; or how a Naiad,17 by charms and too potent herbs, changed the bodies of the young men into silent fishes, until she suffered the same herself. Or how the tree which bore white fruit formerly, now bears it of purple hue, from the contact of blood. This story pleases her; this, because it was no common tale, she began in manner such as this, while the wool followed the thread:—
“Pyramus and Thisbe, the one the most beauteous of youths,18 the other preferred before all the damsels that the East contained, lived in adjoining houses; where Semiramis is said to have surrounded her lofty city19 with walls of brick.20 The nearness caused their 139IV. 59-88first acquaintance, and their first advances in love; with time their affection increased. They would have united themselves, too, by the tie of marriage, but their fathers forbade it. A thing which they could not forbid, they were both inflamed, with minds equally captivated. There is no one acquainted with it; by nods and signs, they hold converse. And the more the fire is smothered, the more, when so smothered, does it burn. The party-wall, common to the two houses, was cleft by a small chink, which it had got formerly, when it was 122IV. 66-99built. This defect, remarked by no one for so many ages, you lovers (what does not love perceive?) first found one, and you made it a passage for your voices, and the accents of love used to pass through it in safety, with the gentlest murmur. Oftentimes, after they had taken their stations, Thisbe on one side, and Pyramus on the other, and the breath of their mouths had been mutually caught by turns, they used to say, ‘Envious wall, why dost thou stand in the way of lovers? what great matter were it, for thee to suffer us to be joined with our entire bodies? Or if that is too much, that, at least, thou shouldst open, for the exchange of kisses. Nor are we ungrateful; we confess that we are indebted to thee, that a passage has been given for our words to our loving ears.’ Having said this much, in vain, on their respective sides, about night they said, ‘Farewell’; and gave those kisses each on their own side, which did not reach the other side.
”The following morning had removed the fires of the night, and the Sun, with its rays, had dried the grass wet with rime, when they met together at the wonted spot. Then, first complaining much in low murmurs, they determine, in the silent night, to try to deceive their keepers, and to steal out of doors; and when they have left the house, to quit the buildings of the city as well: but that they may not have to wander, roaming in the open fields, to meet at the tomb of Ninus,21 and to 140IV. 89-117conceal themselves beneath the shade of a tree. There was there a lofty mulberry tree, very full of snow-white fruit, quite close to a cold spring. The arrangement suits them; and the light, seeming to depart but slowly, is buried in the waters, and from the same waters the night arises. The clever Thisbe, turning the hinge, gets out in the dark, and deceives her attendants, and, having covered her face, arrives at the tomb, and sits down under the tree agreed upon; love made her bold. Lo! a lioness approaches, having her foaming jaws besmeared with the recent slaughter of oxen, about to quench her thirst with the water of the neighboring spring. The Babylonian 123IV. 99-130Thisbe sees her at a distance, by the rays of the moon, and with a trembling foot she flies to a dark cave; and, while she flies, her veil falling from her back, she leaves it behind. When the savage lioness has quenched her thirst with plenteous water, as she is returning into the woods, she tears the thin covering, found by chance without Thisbe herself, with her blood-stained mouth.
“Pyramus, going out later than Thisbe, saw the evident footmarks of a wild beast, in the deep dust, and grew pale all over his face. But, as soon as he found her veil, as well, dyed with blood, he said: ‘One night will be the ruin of two lovers, of whom she was the most deserving of a long life. My soul is guilty; ’tis I that have destroyed thee, much to be lamented; who bade thee to come by night to places full of terror, and came not hither first. O, whatever lions are lurking beneath this rock, tear my body in pieces, and devour my accursed entrails with ruthless jaws. But it is the part of a coward to wish for death.’ He takes up the veil of Thisbe, and he takes it with himself to the shade of the tree agreed on, and, after he has bestowed tears on the well-known garment, he gives kisses to the same, 141IV. 118-141and he says, ‘Receive, now, a draught of my blood as well!’ and then plunges the sword, with which he is girt, into his bowels; and without delay, as he is dying, he draws it out of the warm wound. As he falls on his back upon the ground, the blood spurts forth on high, not otherwise than as when a pipe is burst on the lead decaying,22 and shoots out afar the liquid water from the hissing flaw, and cleaves the air with its jet. The fruit of the tree, by the sprinkling of the blood, are changed to a dark tint, and the root, soaked with the gore, tints the hanging mulberries with a purple hue. Behold! not yet having banished her fear, Thisbe returns, that she may not disappoint her lover, and seeks for the youth both with her eyes and her affection, and longs to tell him how great dangers 124IV. 130-160she has escaped. And when she observes the spot, and the altered appearance of the tree, she doubts if it is the same, so uncertain does the color of the fruit make her. While she is in doubt, she sees palpitating limbs throbbing upon the bloody ground; she draws back her foot, and having her face paler than box-wood,23 she shudders like the sea, which trembles24 when its surface is skimmed by a gentle breeze. But, after pausing a time, she had recognized her own lover, she smote her arms, undeserving of such usage, and tearing her hair, and embracing the much-loved body, she filled the gashes with her tears, and mingled her tokens of sorrow 142IV. 142-166with his blood; and imprinting kisses on his cold features, she exclaimed, ‘Pyramus! what disaster has taken thee away from me? Pyramus! answer me; ’tis thy own Thisbe, dearest, that calls thee; hear me, and raise thy prostrate features.’
“At the name of Thisbe, Pyramus raised his eyes, now heavy with death, and, after he had seen her, he closed them again. After she had perceived her own garment, and beheld, too, the ivory sheath25 without its sword, she said, ‘’Tis thy own hand, and love, that has destroyed thee, ill-fated youth! I, too, have a hand bold enough for this one purpose; I have love as well; this shall give me strength for the wound. I will follow thee in thy death, and I shall be called the most unhappy cause and companion of thy fate, and thou who, alas! couldst be torn from me by death alone, shalt not be able, even by death, to be torn from me. And you, O most wretched parents of mine and his, be but prevailed upon, in this one thing, by the entreaties of us both, that you will not deny those whom their constant love and whom their last moments have joined, to be buried in the same tomb. But thou, O tree, which now with thy boughs 125IV. 160-166dost overshadow the luckless body of but one, art fated soon to cover those of two. Retain a token of this our fate, and ever bear fruit black and suited for mourning, as a memorial of the blood of us two.’ Thus she said; and having fixed the point under the lower part of her breast, she fell upon the sword, which still was reeking with his blood.
“Her prayers, however, moved the Gods, and moved their parents. For the color of the fruit, when it has fully ripened, is black;26 and what was left of them, from the funeral pile, reposed in the same urn.”
It is pretty clear, as we have already seen, that the establishment of the worship of Bacchus in Greece met with great opposition, and that his priests and devotees published several miracles and prodigies, the more easily to influence the minds of their fellow-men. Thus, the daughters of Minyas are said to have been changed into bats, solely because they neglected to join in the orgies of that God; when, probably, the fact was, that they were either secretly despatched, or were forced to fly for their lives; and their absence was accounted for to the ignorant and credulous, by the invention of this Fable. The story of Dercetis, as related by Diodorus Siculus, Pliny, and Herodotus, is, that having offended Venus, that Goddess caused her to fall in love with a young man, by whom she had a daughter. In despair at her misfortune, she killed her lover, and exposed her child, and afterwards drowned herself. The Syrians, lamenting her fate, built a temple near where she was drowned, and honored her as a Goddess. They stated that she was turned into a fish, and they there represented her under the figure of a woman down to the waist, and of a fish thence downwards. They also abstained from eating fish; though they offered them to her in sacrifice, and suspended gilded ones in her temple. Selden, in his Treatise on the Syrian Gods, suggests that the story of Dercetis, or Atergatis, was founded on the figure and worship of Dagon, the God of the Philistines, who was represented under the figure of a fish; and that the name of Atergatis is a corruption of ‘Adir Dagon,’ ‘a great fish,’ which is not at all improbable. The same author supposes that Dercetis was originally the same Deity with Venus, Astarte, Minerva, Juno, Isis, and the Moon; and that she was worshipped under the name of Mylitta by the Assyrians, and as Alilac by the Arabians. Lucian tells us, that Dercetis was reported to have been the mother of Semiramis.
Ovid and Hyginus are the only authors that make mention of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, and both agree in making Babylon the scene of it. It seems to be rather intended as a moral tale, than to have been built upon any actual circumstance. It affords a lesson to youth not to enter rashly 126IV. 167-186into engagements: and to parents not to pursue, too rigorously, the gratification of their own resentment, but rather to consult the inclination of their children, when not likely to be productive of unhappiness at a future period.
The reader cannot fail to call to mind the admirable travesty of this story by Shakspere, in the ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream.’
The Sun discovers to Vulcan the intrigue between Mars and Venus, and then, himself, falls in love with Leucothoë. Venus, in revenge for the discovery, resolves to make his amours unfortunate.
Here she ended; and there was but a short time betwixt, and then Leuconoë began27 to speak. Her sisters held their peace. “Love has captivated even this Sun, who rules all things by his æthereal light. I will relate the loves of the Sun. This God is supposed to have been the first to see the adultery of Venus with Mars; this God is the first to see everything. He was grieved at what was done, and showed to the husband, the son of Juno,28 the wrong done to his bed, and the place of the intrigue. Both his senses, and the work which his skilful right hand was then holding, quitted him on the instant. Immediately, he files out some slender chains of brass, and nets, and meshes, which can escape the eye. The finest threads cannot surpass that work, nor yet the cobweb that hangs from the top of the beam. He makes it so, too, as to yield to a slight touch, and a gentle movement, and skilfully arranges it drawn around the bed. When the wife and the gallant come into the same bed, being both caught through the artifice of the husband, and chains prepared by this new contrivance, they are held fast in the very midst of their embraces.
“The Lemnian God immediately threw open the folding doors29 of ivory, and admitted the Deities. There 145IV. 186-207they lay 127IV. 186-210disgracefully bound. And yet many a one of the Gods, not the serious ones, could fain wish thus to become disgraced. The Gods of heaven laughed, and for a long time was this the most noted story in all heaven. The Cytherean30 goddess exacts satisfaction of the Sun, in remembrance of this betrayal; and, in her turn, disturbs him with the like passion, who had disturbed her secret amours. What now, son of Hyperion,31 does thy beauty, thy heat, and thy radiant light avail thee? For thou, who dost burn all lands with thy flames, art now burnt with a new flame; and thou, who oughtst to be looking at everything, art gazing on Leucothoë, and on one maiden art fixing those eyes which thou oughtst to be fixing on the universe. At one time thou art rising earlier in the Eastern sky; at another thou art setting late in the waves; and in taking time to gaze on her, thou art lengthening the hours of mid-winter. Sometimes thou art eclipsed, and the trouble of thy mind affects thy light, and, darkened, thou fillest with terror the breasts of mortals. Nor art thou pale, because the form of the moon, nearer to the earth, stands in thy way. It is that passion which occasions this complexion. Thou lovest her alone, neither does Clymene, nor Rhodos,32 nor the most beauteous mother33 of the Ææan Circe engage thee, nor yet Clytie, who, though despised, was longing for thy embraces; at that very time thou wast suffering these grievous 146IV. 208-232pangs. Leucothoë occasioned the forgetting of many a damsel; she, whom Eurynome, the most beauteous of the 128IV. 210-233perfume-bearing34 nation produced.35 But after her daughter grew up, as much as the mother excelled all other Nymphs, so much did the daughter excel the mother. Her father, Orchamus, ruled over the Achæmenian36 cities, and he is reckoned the seventh in descent from the ancient Belus.37
“The pastures of the horses of the Sun are under the Western sky; instead of grass, they have ambrosia.38 That nourishes their limbs wearied with their daily service, and refits them for labor. And while the coursers are there eating their heavenly food, and night is taking her turn; the God enters the beloved chamber, changed into the shape of her mother Eurynome, and beholds Leucothoë among twice six handmaids, near the threshold, drawing out the smooth threads with twirling spindle. When, therefore, as though her mother, he has given kisses to her dear daughter, he says, “There is a secret matter, which I have to mention; maids, withdraw, and take not from a mother the privilege of speaking in private with her daughter.” They obey; and the God being left in the chamber without any witness, he says, ‘I am he, who measures out the long year, who beholds all things, and through whom the earth sees all things; the eye, in fact, of the universe. Believe me, thou art pleasing to me.’ She is affrighted; and in her alarm, both her distaff and her spindle fall from her relaxed fingers. Her very fear becomes her; and he, no longer delaying, returns to his true shape, and his wonted beauty. But the 147IV. 233-237maiden, although startled at the unexpected sight, overcome by the beauty of the God,39 and dismissing all complaints, submits to his embrace.
Plutarch, in his Treatise ‘How to read the Poets,’ suggests a curious explanation of the discovery by the Sun of the intrigue of Mars and Venus. He says that such persons as are born under the conjunction of the planets Mars and Venus, are naturally of an amorous temperament; but that if the Sun does not happen then to be at a distance, their indiscretions will be very soon discovered.
Palæphatus gives a historical solution to the story. He says that Helius, the son of Vulcan, king of Egypt, resolving to cause his father’s laws against adultery to be strictly observed, and having been informed that a lady of the court had an intrigue with one of the courtiers, entered her apartment in the night, and obtaining ocular proof of the courtier’s guilt, caused him to be severely punished. He also tells us that the similarity of the name gave birth to the Fable which Homer was the first to relate, with a small variation, and which is here copied by Ovid. Libanius, deploring the burning of the Temple of Apollo near Antioch, complains of the ingratitude of Vulcan to that God, who had formerly discovered to him the infidelity of his wife; a subject upon which St. Chrysostom seems to think that the rhetorician would have done better to have been silent.
Clytie, in a fit of revenge, discovers the adventure of Leucothoë to her father, who orders her to be buried alive. The Sun, grieved at her misfortune, changed her into the frankincense tree; he also despises the informer, who pines away for love of him, and is at last changed into the sunflower.
Clytie envied her, (for the love of the Sun40 for her had not been moderate), and, urged on by resentment at a rival, she published the intrigue, and, when spread abroad, brought it to the notice of her father. He, fierce and unrelenting, cruelly buried her alive deep in the ground, as she entreated and stretched out her 148IV. 238-267hands towards the light of the Sun, and cried, “’Twas he that offered violence to me against my will;” and upon her he placed a heap of heavy sand. The son of Hyperion scattered it with his rays, and gave a passage to thee, by which thou mightst be able to put forth thy buried features.
But thou, Nymph, couldst not now raise thy head smothered with the weight of the earth; and there thou didst lie, a lifeless 130IV. 244-270body. The governor of the winged steeds is said to have beheld nothing more afflicting than that, since the lightnings that caused the death of Phaëton. He, indeed, endeavors, if he can, to recall her cold limbs to an enlivening heat, by the strength of his rays. But, since fate opposes attempts so great, he sprinkles both her body and the place with odoriferous nectar, and having first uttered many a complaint he says, “Still shalt thou reach the skies.”41 Immediately, the body, steeped in the heavenly nectar, dissolves, and moistens the earth with its odoriferous juices; and a shoot of frankincense having taken root by degrees through the clods, rises up and bursts the hillock with its top.
But the author of light came no more to Clytie (although love might have excused her grief, and her grief the betrayal); and he put an end to his intercourse with her. From that time she, who had made so mad a use of her passion, pined away, loathing the other Nymphs; and in the open air, night and day, she sat on the bare ground, with her hair dishevelled and unadorned. And for nine days, without water or food, she subsisted in her fast, merely on dew and her own tears; and she did not raise herself from the ground. She only used to look towards the face of the God as he moved along, and to turn her own features towards him. They say that her limbs became rooted fast in the ground; and a livid paleness turned part of her 149IV. 268-277color into that of a bloodless plant. There is a redness in some part; and a flower, very like a violet,42 conceals her face. Though she is held fast by a root, she turns towards the Sun, and though changed, she still retains her passion.
No ascertained historical fact can be found as the basis of the story of Leucothoë being buried alive by her father Orchamus, or of her rival 131IV. 271-284Clytie being metamorphosed into a sunflower. The story seems to have been most probably simply founded on principles of natural philosophy. Leucothoë, it is not unreasonable to suppose, may have been styled the daughter of Orchamus, king of Persia, for no other reason but because that Prince was the first to introduce the frankincense tree, which was called Leucothoë, into his kingdom; and it was added that she fell in love with Apollo, because the tree produces an aromatic drug much used in physic, of which that God was fabled to have been the inventor. The jealousy of Clytie was, perhaps, founded upon a fact, stated by some naturalists, that the sunflower is a plant which kills the frankincense tree, when growing near it. Pliny, however, who ascribes several properties to the sunflower, does not mention this among them.
Orchamus is nowhere mentioned by the ancient writers, except in the present instance.
Daphnis is turned into a stone. Scython is changed from a man into a woman. Celmus is changed into adamant. Crocus and Smilax are made into flowers. The Curetes are produced from a shower.
Thus she spoke; and the wondrous deed charms their ears. Some deny that it was possible to be done, some say that real Gods can do all things; but Bacchus is not one of them. When her sisters have become silent, Alcithoë is called upon; who running with her shuttle through the warp of the hanging web, says, “I keep silence upon the well-known amours of Daphnis, the 150IV. 277-284shepherd of Ida,43 whom the resentment of the Nymph, his paramour, turned into a stone. Such mighty grief inflames those who are in love. Nor do I relate how once Scython, the law of nature being altered, was of both sexes first a man, then a woman. Thee too, I pass by, O Celmus, now adamant, formerly most attached to Jupiter when little; and the Curetes,44 sprung from a plenteous shower of rain; Crocus, too, changed, together with Smilax,45 into little flowers; and I will entertain your minds with a pleasing novelty.”
Most probably, the story of the shepherd Daphnis being turned into a stone, was no other than an allegorical method of expressing the insensibility of an individual. Thalia was the name of the Nymph who was thus affronted by Daphnis.
The story of Scython changing his sex, is perhaps based upon the fact, that the country of Thrace, which took the name of Thracia from a famous sorceress, was before called Scython; and that as it lost a name of the masculine gender for one of the feminine, in after times it became reported that Scython had changed sexes.
Pliny tells us that Celmus was a young man of remarkable wisdom and moderation, and that the passions making no impression on him, he was changed into adamant. Some, however, assert that he was foster-father to Jupiter, by whom he was enclosed in an impenetrable tower, for revealing the immortality of the Gods.
According to one account, Crocus and Smilax were a constant and happy married couple, who for their chaste and innocent life were said to have been changed into flowers; but another story is, that Crocus was a youth beloved by Smilax, and that on his rejecting the Nymph’s advances, they were both turned into flowers.
The story of the Curetes being sprung from rain, is possibly founded on the report that they were descended from Uranus and Tita, the Heaven and the Earth. Some suppose them to have been 151IV. 285-310the original inhabitants of the isle of Crete; and they are said to have watched over the infancy of Jupiter, by whom they were afterwards slain, for having concealed Epaphus from his wrath.
The Naiad Salmacis falls in love with the youth Hermaphroditus, who rejects her advances. While he is bathing, she leaps into the water, and seizing the youth in her arms, they become one body, retaining their different sexes.
Learn how Salmacis became infamous, and why it enervates, with its enfeebling waters, and softens the limbs bathed in it. The cause is unknown; but the properties of the fountain are very well known. The Naiads nursed a boy, born to Mercury of the Cytherean Goddess in the caves of Ida; whose face was such that therein both mother and father could be discerned; he likewise took his name from them. As soon as he had completed thrice five years, he forsook his native mountains, and leaving Ida, the place of his nursing, he loved to wander over 133IV. 295-326unknown spots, and to see unknown rivers, his curiosity lessening the fatigue. He went, too, to the Lycian46 cities, and the Carians, that border upon Lycia. Here he sees a pool of water, clear to the very ground at the bottom; here there are no fenny reeds, no barren sedge, no rushes with their sharp points. The water is translucent; but the edges of the pool are enclosed with green turf, and with grass ever verdant. A Nymph dwells there; but one neither skilled in hunting, nor accustomed to bend the bow, nor to contend in speed; the only one, too, of all the Naiads not known to the swift Diana. The report is, that her sisters often said to her, “Salmacis, do take either the javelin, or the painted quiver, and unite thy leisure with the toils of the chase.” She takes neither the javelin, nor the painted quiver, nor does she unite her leisure with the toils of the chase. But sometimes she is bathing her beauteous limbs in her own spring; 152IV. 311-333and often is she straitening her hair with a comb of Citorian boxwood,47 and consulting the waters, into which she looks, what is befitting her. At other times, covering her body with a transparent garment, she reposes either on the soft leaves or on the soft grass. Ofttimes is she gathering flowers. And then, too, by chance was she gathering them when she beheld the youth, and wished to possess him, thus seen.
But though she hastened to approach the youth, still she did not approach him before she had put herself in order, and before she had surveyed her garments, and put on her best looks, and deserved to be thought beautiful. Then thus did she begin to speak: “O youth, most worthy to be thought to be a God! if thou art a God, thou mayst well be Cupid; but, if thou art a mortal, happy are they who begot thee, and blessed is thy brother, and fortunate indeed thy sister, if thou hast one, and the nurse as well who gave thee the breast. But far, far more fortunate than all these is she; if thou hast any wife, if thou shouldst vouchsafe any one the honor of marriage. 134IV. 326-349And if any one is thy wife, then let my pleasure be stolen; but, if thou hast none, let me be thy wife, and let us unite in one tie.” After these things said, the Naiad is silent; a blush tinges the face of the youth: he knows not what love is, but even to blush becomes him. Such is the color of apples, hanging on a tree exposed to the sun, or of painted ivory, or of the moon blushing beneath her brightness when the aiding cymbals48 of brass are resounding in 153IV. 334-349vain. Upon the Nymph desiring, without ceasing, such kisses at least as he might give to his sister, and now laying her hands upon his neck, white as ivory, he says, “Wilt thou desist, or am I to fly, and to leave this place, together with thee?”
Salmacis is affrighted, and says, “I freely give up this spot to thee, stranger,” and, with a retiring step, she pretends to go away. But then looking back, and hid in a covert of shrubs, she lies concealed, and puts her bended knees down to the ground. But he, just like a boy, and as though unobserved on the retired sward, goes here and there, and in the sportive waves dips the soles of his feet, and then his feet as far as his ankles. Nor is there any delay; being charmed with the temperature of the pleasant waters, he throws off his soft garments from his tender body. Then, indeed, Salmacis is astonished, and burns with desire for his naked beauty. The eyes, too, of the Nymph are on fire, no otherwise than as when the Sun,49 most brilliant 154IV. 349-375with his clear orb, is reflected 135IV. 349-371from the opposite image of a mirror. With difficulty does she endure delay; hardly does she now defer her joy. Now she longs to embrace him; and now, distracted, she can hardly contain herself. He, clapping his body with his hollow palms, swiftly leaps into the stream, and throwing out his arms alternately, shines in the limpid water, as if any one were to cover statues of ivory, or white lilies, with clear glass.
“I have gained my point,” says the Naiad; “see, he is mine!” and, all her garments thrown aside, she plunges in the midst of the waters, and seizes him resisting her, and snatches reluctant kisses, and thrusts down her hands, and touches his breast against his will, and clings about the youth, now one way, and now another. Finally, as he is struggling against her, and desiring to escape, she entwines herself about him, like a serpent which the royal bird takes up and is bearing aloft; and as it hangs, it holds fast his head and feet, and enfolds his spreading wings with its tail. Or, as the ivy is wont to wind itself along the tall trunks of trees; and as the polypus50 holds fast its enemy, caught beneath the waves, by letting down his suckers on all sides; so does the descendant of Atlas51 still persist, and deny the Nymph the hoped-for joy. She presses him hard; and clinging to him with every limb, as she holds fast, she says, “Struggle as thou mayst, perverse one, still thou shalt not escape. So ordain it, ye Gods, and let no time 136IV. 371-390separate him from me, nor me from him.” Her prayers find propitious Deities, for the mingled bodies of the two are united,52 and one human shape is put upon them; just as if any one should see 155IV. 376-391branches beneath a common bark join in growing, and spring up together. So, when their bodies meet together in the firm embrace, they are no more two, and their form is twofold, so that they can neither be styled woman nor boy; they seem to be neither and both.
Therefore, when Hermaphroditus sees that the limpid waters, into which he had descended as a man, have made him but half a male, and that his limbs are softened in them, holding up his hands, he says, but now no longer with the voice of a male, “O, both father and mother, grant this favor to your son, who has the name of you both, that whoever enters these streams a man, may go out thence but half a man, and that he may suddenly become effeminate in the waters when touched.” Both parents, moved, give their assent to the words of their two-shaped son, and taint the fountain with drugs of ambiguous quality.
The only probable solution of this story seems to have been the fact that there was in Caria, near the town of Halicarnassus, as we read in Vitruvius, a fountain which was instrumental in civilizing certain barbarians who had been driven from that neighborhood by the Argive colony established there. These men being obliged to repair to the fountain for water, and meeting the Greek colonists there, their intercourse not only polished them, but in course of time corrupted them, by the introduction of the luxurious manners of Greece. Hence the fountain had the reputation of changing men into women.
Possibly the water of that fountain, by some peculiar chemical quality, made those who drank of it become soft and effeminate, as waters are to be occasionally found with extraordinary qualities. Lylius Gyraldus suggests, that several disgraceful adventures happened near this fountain (which was enclosed by walls), which in time gave it a bad name.
Bacchus, to punish the daughters of Minyas for their contempt of his worship, changes them into bats, and their work into ivy and vine leaves.
There was now an end of their stories; and still do the daughters 137IV. 390-417of Minyas go on with their work, and despise the God, and desecrate his festival; when, on a sudden, tambourines unseen resound with their jarring 156IV. 392-417noise; the pipe, too, with the crooked horn, and the tinkling brass, re-echo; myrrh and saffron shed their fragrant odors; and, a thing past all belief, their webs begin to grow green, and the cloth hanging in the loom to put forth foliage like ivy. Part changes into vines, and what were threads before, are now turned into vine shoots. Vine branches spring from the warp, and the purple lends its splendor to the tinted grapes.
And now the day was past, and the time came on, which you could neither call darkness nor light, but yet the very commencement of the dubious night along with the light. The house seemed suddenly to shake, and unctuous torches to burn, and the building to shine with glowing fires, and the fictitious phantoms of savage wild beasts to howl. Presently, the sisters are hiding themselves throughout the smoking house, and in different places are avoiding the fires and the light. While they are seeking a hiding-place, a membrane is stretched over their small limbs, and covers their arms with light wings; nor does the darkness suffer them to know by what means they have lost their former shape. No feathers bear them up; yet they support themselves on pellucid wings; and, endeavoring to speak, they utter a voice very diminutive even in proportion to their bodies, and express their low complaints with a squeaking sound. They frequent houses, not woods; and, abhorring the light, they fly abroad by night. And from the late evening do they derive their name.53
Tisiphone, being sent by Juno to the Palace of Athamas, causes him to become mad; on which he dashes his son Learchus to pieces against a wall. He then pursues his wife Ino, who throws herself headlong from the top of a rock into the sea, with her other son Melicerta in her arms: when Neptune, at the intercession of Venus, changes them into Sea Deities. The attendants of Ino, who have followed her in her flight, are changed, some into stone, and others into birds, as they are about to throw themselves into the sea after their mistress.
But then the Divine power of Bacchus is famed 157IV. 417-441throughout all 138IV. 417-444Thebes; and his aunt is everywhere telling of the great might of the new Divinity; she alone,54 out of so many sisters, is free from sorrow, except that which her sisters have occasioned. Juno beholds her, having her soul elevated with her children, and her alliance with Athamas, and the God her foster-child. She cannot brook this, and says to herself, “Was the child of a concubine able to transform the Mæonian sailors, and to overwhelm them in the sea, and to give the entrails of the son to be torn to pieces by his mother, and to cover the three daughters of Minyas with newly formed wings? Shall Juno be able to do nothing but lament these griefs unrevenged? And is that sufficient for me? Is this my only power? He himself instructs me what to do. It is right to be taught even by an enemy. And what madness can do,A he shows enough, and more than enough, by the slaughter of Pentheus. Why should not Ino, too, be goaded by madness, and submit to an example kindred to those of her sisters?”
There is a shelving path, shaded with dismal yew, which leads through profound silence to the infernal abodes. Here languid Styx exhales vapors; and the new-made ghosts descend this way, and phantoms when they have enjoyed55 funeral rites. Horror and winter possess these dreary regions far and wide, and the ghosts newly arrived know not where the way is that leads to the Stygian city, or where is the dismal palace of the black Pluto. The wide city has a thousand passages, and gates open on every side. And as the sea receives the rivers for the whole earth, so does that spot56 receive 158IV. 442-459all the souls; nor is it too little for any amount of people, 139IV. 444-461nor does it perceive the crowd to increase. The shades wander about, bloodless, without body and bones; and some throng the place of judgment; some the abode of the infernal prince. Some pursue various callings, in imitation of their former life; their own punishment confines others.
Juno, the daughter of Saturn, leaving her celestial habitation, submits to go thither, so much does she give way to hatred and to anger. Soon as she has entered there, and the threshold groans, pressed by her sacred body, Cerberus raises his threefold mouth, and utters triple barkings at the same moment. She summons the Sisters,57 begotten of Night, terrible and implacable Goddesses. They are sitting before the doors of the prison shut close with adamant, and are combing black vipers from their hair. Soon as they recognize her amid the shades of darkness, these Deities arise. This place is called “the accursed.” Tityus58 is giving his entrails to be mangled, and is stretched over nine acres. By thee, Tantalus,59 no waters are reached, and the tree which overhangs thee, starts away. Sisyphus,60 thou 159IV. 460-481art either catching or thou art pushing on the stone destined to fall again. Ixion61 is whirled 140IV. 461-496round, and both follows and flies from himself. The granddaughters, too, of Belus, who dared to plot the destruction of their cousins, are everlastingly taking up the water which they lose. After the daughter of Saturn has beheld all these with a stern look, and Ixion before all; again, after him, looking upon Sisyphus, she says,
“Why does he alone, of all the brothers, suffer eternal punishment? and why does a rich palace contain the proud Athamas, who, with his wife, has ever despised me?” And then she explains the cause of her hatred and of her coming, and what it is she desires. What she desires is, that the palace of Cadmus shall not stand, and that the Sister Furies shall involve Athamas in crime. She mingles together promises, commands, and entreaties, and solicits the Goddesses. When Juno has thus spoken, Tisiphone, with her locks dishevelled as they are, shakes them, and throws back from her face the snakes crawling over it; and thus she says: “There is no need of a long preamble; whatever thou commandest, consider it as done: leave these hateful realms, and betake thyself to the air of a better heaven.”
Juno returns, overjoyed; and, preparing to enter heaven, Iris,62 the daughter of Thaumas, purifies her by sprinkling water. Nor is there any delay; the persecuting Tisiphone63 takes a torch reeking with gore, and puts on a cloak red with fluid blood, and is girt 160IV. 482-511with twisted snakes, and then goes forth from her abode. Mourning attends her as she goes, and Fright, and Terror, and Madness with quivering features. She now reaches the threshold; the Æolian door-posts are said to have shaken, and paleness tints the maple door; the Sun, too, flies from the place. His wife is terrified at these prodigies; Athamas, too, is alarmed, and they are both preparing to leave the house. The baneful Erinnys stands in the way, and blocks up the passage; and extending her arms twisted round with folds of vipers, she shakes her locks; the snakes thus moved, emit a sound. Some lying about her shoulders, some gliding around her temples, send forth hissings and 141IV. 496-523vomit forth corruption, and dart forth their tongues. Then she tears away two snakes from the middle of her hair, which, with pestilential hand, she throws against them. But these creep along the breasts of Ino and Athamas, and inspire them with direful intent. Nor do they inflict any wounds upon their limbs; it is the mind that feels the direful stroke. She had brought, too, with her a monstrous composition of liquid poison, the foam of the mouth of Cerberus, and the venom of Echidna;64 and purposeless aberrations, and the forgetfulness of a darkened understanding, and crime, and tears, and rage, and the love of murder. All these were blended together; and, mingled with fresh blood she had boiled them in a hollow vessel of brass, stirred about with a stalk of green hemlock. And while they are trembling, she throws the maddening poison into the breasts of them both, and moves their inmost vitals. Then repeatedly waving her torch in the same circle, she swiftly follows up the flames thus excited with fresh flames. Thus triumphant, and having executed her commands, she returns to the empty realms of the great Pluto; and she ungirds the snakes which she had put on. 161IV. 512-533Immediately the son of Æolus, filled with rage, cries out, in the midst of his palace, “Ho! companions, spread your nets in this wood; for here a lioness was just now beheld by me with two young ones.” And, in his madness, he follows the footsteps of his wife, as though of a wild beast; and he snatches Learchus, smiling and stretching forth his little arms from the bosom of his mother, and three or four times he whirls him round in the air like a sling, and, frenzied, he dashes in pieces65 the bones of the infant against the hard stones. Then, at last, the mother being roused (whether it was grief that caused it, or whether the power of the poison spread over her), yells aloud, and runs away distracted, with dishevelled hair; and carrying thee, Melicerta, a little child, in 142IV. 523-542her bare arms, she cries aloud “Evoë, Bacche.” At the name of Bacchus, Juno smiles, and says, “May thy foster-child66 do thee this service.”
There is a rock67 that hangs over the sea; the lowest part is worn hollow by the waves, and defends the waters covered thereby from the rain. The summit is rugged, and stretches out its brow over the open sea. This Ino climbs (madness gives her strength), and, restrained by no fear, she casts herself and her burden68 into the deep; the water, struck by her fall, is white with foam. But Venus, pitying the misfortunes of her guiltless granddaughter,69 in soothing words thus addresses her uncle: “O Neptune, thou God of the waters, 162IV. 534-556to whom fell a power next after the empire of heaven, great things indeed do I request; but do thou take compassion on my kindred, whom thou seest being tossed upon the boundless Ionian sea;70 and add them to thy Deities. I have surely some interest with the sea, if, indeed, I once was foam formed in the hollowedB deep, and my Grecian name is derived71 from that.” Neptune yields to her request; and takes away from them all that is mortal, and gives them a venerable majesty; and alters both their name and their shape, and 143IV. 542-562calls Palæmon a Divinity,72 together with his mother Leucothoë.
Her Sidonian attendants,73 so far as they could, tracing the prints of their feet, saw the last of them on the edge of the rock; and thinking that there was no doubt of their death, they lamented the house of Cadmus, with their hands tearing their hair and their garments; and they threw the odium on the Goddess, as being unjust and too severe against the concubine. Juno could not endure their reproaches, and said, “I will make you yourselves tremendous memorials of my displeasure.” Confirmation followed her words. For the one who had been especially attached, said, “I will follow the queen into the sea;” and about to give the leap, she could not be moved any way, and adhering to the rock, there she stuck fast. Another, while she was attempting to beat her breast with the accustomed blows, perceived in the attempt that her arms had become stiff. One, as by chance she had extended her 163IV. 556-562hands over the waters of the sea, becoming a rock, held out her hands in those same waters. You might see the fingers of another suddenly hardened in her hair, as she was tearing her locks seized on the top of her head. In whatever posture each was found at the beginning of the change, in the same she remained. Some became birds; which, sprung from Ismenus, skim along the surface of the waves in those seas, with the wings which they have assumed.
The story of Ino, Athamas, and Melicerta appears to have been based upon historical facts, as we are informed by Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, and Pausanias.
Athamas, the son of Æolus, and great-grandson of Deucalion, having, on the death of Themisto, his first wife, married Ino, the daughter of Cadmus, divorced her soon afterwards, to marry Nephele, by whom he had Helle and Phryxus. She having been divorced in her turn, he took Ino back again, and by her had Learchus and Melicerta. Ino, not being able to endure the presence of the children of Nephele, endeavored to destroy them. The city of Thebes being at that time afflicted with famine, 144IV. 563-571which was said to have been caused by Ino, who ordered the seed to be parched before it was sown, Athamas ordered the oracle of Delphi to be consulted. The priests, either having been bribed, or the messengers having been corrupted, word was brought, that, to remove this affliction, the children of Nephele must be sacrificed.
Phryxus being warned of the designs of his stepmother, embarked in a ship, with his sister Helle, and sailed for Colchis, where he met with a kind reception from his kinsman Æetes. The young princess, however, either becoming sea-sick, and leaning over the bulwarks of the vessel, fell overboard and was drowned, or died a natural death in the passage of the Hellespont, to which she gave its name from that circumstance. Athamas, having discovered the deceitful conduct of Ino, in his rage killed her son Learchus, and sought her, for the purpose of sacrificing her to his vengeance. To avoid his fury, she fled with her son Melicerta, and, being pursued, threw herself from a rock into the sea. To console her relatives, the story was probably invented, that the Gods had changed Ino and Melicerta into Sea Deities, under the names of Leucothoë and Palæmon. Melicerta was afterwards worshipped in the Isle of Tenedos, where children were offered to him in sacrifice. In his honor, Glaucus established the Isthmian games, which were celebrated for many ages at Corinth; and, being interrupted for a time, were revived by Theseus, in honor of Neptune. Leucothoë was also worshipped at Rome, and the Roman women used to offer up their vows to her for their brothers’ children, not daring to supplicate the Goddess for their own, because she had been unfortunate in hers. This Ovid tells us in the Sixth Book of the Fasti. The Romans gave the name of Matuta to Ino, and Melicerta, or Palæmon, was called Portunus.
The circumstance mentioned by Ovid, that some of Ino’s attendants were changed into birds, and others into rocks, is, perhaps, only a poetical method of saying that some of her attendants escaped, while others perished with her.
The misfortunes of his family oblige Cadmus to leave Thebes, and to retire with his wife Hermione to Illyria, where they are changed into serpents.
The son of Agenor knows not that his daughter and his little grandson are now Deities of the sea. Forced by sorrow, and a succession of calamities, and the prodigies which, many in number, he had beheld, the founder flies from his city, as though the ill-luck of the spot, and not his own, pressed hard upon him, and driven, in a long series of wandering, he reaches the coast of Illyria, with his exiled wife. And now, loaded with woes and with years, while they are reflecting on the first disasters of their house, and in their discourse are recounting their misfortunes, Cadmus says, “Was that dragon a sacred one, that was pierced 145IV. 572-603by my spear, at the time when, setting out from Sidon, I sowed the teeth of the dragon in the ground, a seed till then unknown? If the care of the Gods avenges this with resentment so unerring, I pray that I myself, as a serpent, may be lengthened out into an extended belly.” Thus he says; and, as a serpent, he is lengthened out into an extended belly, and perceives scales growing on his hardened skin, and his black body become speckled with azure spots; and he falls flat on his breast, and his legs, joined into one, taper out by degrees into a thin round point. His arms are still remaining; those arms which remain he stretches out; and, as the tears are flowing down his face, still that of a man, he says, “Come hither, wife, come hither, most unhappy one, and, while something of me yet remains, touch me; and take my hand, while it is still a hand, and while I am not a serpent all over.” He, indeed, desires to say more, but, on a sudden, his tongue is divided into two parts. Nor are words in his power when he offers to 165IV. 588-603speak; and as often as he attempts to utter any complaints, he makes a hissing: this is the voice that Nature leaves him. His wife, smiting her naked breast with her hand, cries aloud, “Stay, Cadmus! and deliver thyself, unhappy one, from this monstrous form. Cadmus, what means this? Where are thy feet? where are both thy shoulders and thy hands? where is thy color and thy form, and, while I speak, where all else besides? Why do ye not, celestial Gods, turn me as well into a similar serpent?” Thus she spoke; he licked the face of his wife, and crept into her dear bosom, as though he recognized her; and gave her embraces, and reached her well-known neck.
Whoever is by, (some attendants are present), is alarmed; but the crested snakes soothe them with their slippery necks, and suddenly they are two serpents, and in joined folds they creep along, until they enter the covert of an adjacent grove. Now, too, do they neither shun mankind, nor hurt them with wounds, and the gentle serpents keep in mind what once they were.
After Cadmus had reigned at Thebes many years, a conspiracy was formed against him. Being driven from the throne, and his grandson Pentheus assuming the crown, he and his wife Hermione retired into Illyria, where, as Apollodorus says, he commanded the Illyrian army, and at length was chosen king: on his death, the story here related by Ovid was 146IV. 604-608invented. It is possible that it may have been based on the following grounds:—
The Phœnicians were anciently called ‘Achivi,’ which name they still retained after their establishment in Greece. ‘Chiva’ being also the Hebrew, and perhaps Phœnician word for ‘a serpent,’ the Greeks, probably in reference to the Phœnician origin of Cadmus, reported after his death, that he and his wife were serpents; and in time, that transformation may have been stated to have happened at the end of his life. According to Aulus Gellius, the ancient inhabitants of Illyria had two eyelids to each eye, and with their looks, when angered, they were able to kill those whom they beheld stedfastly. The Greeks hence called them serpents and basilisks; and, it is not unlikely, that when Cadmus retired among them, they said that he had become one of the Illyrians, otherwise a dragon, or a serpent. All the ancient writers who mention his history agree that Cadmus really did retire into Illyria, where he first assisted the Enchelians in their war against the Illyrians. The latter were defeated, and, to obtain a peace from the Enchelians, they gave the crown to Cadmus; to which, on his death, his son Illyrus succeeded. The historian Christodorus, quoted by Pausanias, 166IV. 604-617says that he built the city of Nygnis, in the country of the Enchelians.
Some writers have supposed, upon the authority of Euhemerus as quoted by Eusebius that Cadmus was not the son of Agenor, but was one of his officers, who eloped thence with Hermione, a singing girl. Others suppose that Cadmus is not really a proper name, but that it signifies a ‘leader,’ or ‘conductor;’ and that he received the name from leading a colony into Greece. Bochart says that he was called Cadmus, because he came from the eastern part of Phœnicia, which is called in Scripture ‘Cadmonia,’ or ‘oriental;’ and that Hermione probably received her name from Mount Hermon.
Perseus, the son of Jupiter and Danaë, having killed Medusa, carries her head into Africa, where the blood that runs from it produces serpents. Atlas, king of that country, terrified at the remembrance of an oracle, which had foretold that his golden fruit should be taken by one of the sons of Jupiter, not only orders him to depart, but even resorts to violence to drive him away, on which Perseus shows him the Gorgon’s head, and changes him into a mountain.
But yet their grandson, Bacchus gave them both a great consolation, under this change of form; whom India, subdued by him, worshipped as a God, and whom Achaia honored with erected temples. Acrisius the son of Abas,74 descended 147IV. 608-644of the same race,75 alone remained, to drive him from the walls of the Argive city, and to bear arms against the God, and to believe him not to be the offspring of Jove. Neither did he think Perseus to be the offspring of Jupiter, whom Danaë had conceived in a shower of gold; but soon (so great is the power of truth) Acrisius was sorry, both that he had insulted the God, and that he had not acknowledged his grandson. The one was now placed in heaven, while the other, bearing the memorable spoil of the viperous monster, cut the yielding air with hissing wings; and while the conqueror was hovering over the 167IV. 617-652Libyan sands, bloody drops, from the Gorgon’s head, fell down, upon receiving which, the ground quickened them into various serpents. For this cause, that region is filled and infested with snakes.
Carried thence, by the fitful winds, through boundless space, he is borne now here, now there, just like a watery cloud, and, from the lofty sky, looks down upon the earth, removed afar; and he flies over the whole world. Three times he saw the cold Bears, thrice did he see the claws of the Crab; ofttimes he was borne to the West, many a time to the East. And now, the day declining, afraid to trust himself to the night, he stopped in the Western part of the world, in the kingdom of Atlas; and there he sought a little rest, until Lucifer should usher forth the fires of Aurora, Aurora, the chariot of the day. Here was Atlas, the son of Iapetus, surpassing all men in the vastness of his body. Under this king was the extremity of the earth, and the sea which holds its waters under the panting horses of the Sun, and receives the wearied chariot. For him, a thousand flocks, and as many herds, wandered over the pastures, and no neighboring places disturbed the land. Leaves of the trees, shining with radiant gold, covered branches of gold, and apples of gold. “My friend,” said Perseus to him, “if the glory of a noble race influences thee, Jupiter is the author of my descent; or if thou art an admirer of exploits, thou wilt admire mine. I beg of thee hospitality, and a resting place.” The other was mindful of an ancient oracle. The Parnassian Themis had given this response: “A time will come, 148IV. 644-662Atlas, when thy tree shall be stripped of its gold, and a son of Jove shall have the honor of the prize.” Dreading this, Atlas had enclosed his orchard with solid walls, and had given it to be kept by a huge dragon;76 and expelled all strangers from his territories. To Perseus, too, he says, “Far hence begone, lest the glory of the exploits, to which thou falsely pretendest, and Jupiter as well, be far from protecting thee.” He adds violence as well to his threats, and tries to drive him from his doors, as he hesitates and mingles resolute words with 168IV. 653-662persuasive ones. Inferior in strength (for who could be a match for Atlas in strength?), he says “Since my friendship is of so little value to thee, accept this present;” and then, turning his face away, he exposes on the left side the horrible features of Medusa. Atlas, great as he is, becomes a mountain. Now his beard and his hair are changed into woods; his shoulders and his hands become mountain ridges, and what was formerly his head, is the summit on the top of the mountain. His bones become stones; then, enlarged on every side, he grows to an immense height (so you willed it, ye Gods), and the whole heaven, with so many stars, rests upon him.
The story of the seduction of Danaë, the mother of Perseus, by Jupiter, in the form of a shower of gold, has been thus explained by some of the ancient writers. Acrisius, hearing of a prediction that Danaë, his daughter, should bring forth a child that would kill him, caused her to be shut in a tower with brazen gates, or, according to some, in a subterraneous chamber, covered with plates of that metal; which place, according to Pausanias, remained till the time of Perilaus, the king of Argos, by whom it was destroyed. The precautions of Acrisius were, however, made unavailing by his brother Prœtus; who, falling in love with his niece, corrupted the guards with gold, and gained admission into the tower. Danaë, being delivered of Perseus, her father caused them to be exposed in a boat to the mercy of the waves. Being cast on shore near Seriphus, the king, Polydectes, gave them a hospitable reception, and took care of the education of Perseus.
Diodorus Siculus says that the Gorgons were female warriors, who inhabited the neighborhood of Lake Tritonis, in Libya. Pausanias explains the story of Medusa, by saying that she ruled the people in that neighborhood, and laid waste the lands of the nations in her vicinity. Perseus, having fled, with some companions, from Peloponnesus, surprised her by night, and killed her, together with her escort. The next morning, the beauty of her face appeared so remarkable that he cut it off, and afterwards 149took it with him to Greece, to show it to the people, who could not look on it without being struck with astonishment. On this explanation we may remark, that if it is true, Perseus must have had more skill than the surgeons of our day, in being able to preserve the beauty of the features so long after death.
Again, many of the ancient historians, with Pliny, Athenæus, and Solinus, think that the Gorgons were wild women of a savage nature, living in caves and forests, who, falling on wayfarers, committed dreadful atrocities. Palæphatus and Fulgentius think that the Gorgons really were three young women, possessed of great wealth, which they employed in a very careful manner; Phorcus, 169their father, having left them three islands, and a golden statue of Minerva, which they placed in their common treasury. They had one minister in common for the management of their affairs, who used to go for that purpose from one island to another, whence arose the story that they had but one eye, and that they lent it to one another alternately. Perseus, a fugitive from Argos, hearing of the golden statue, determined to obtain it; and with that view, seized their minister, or, in the allegorical language of the poets, took their eye away from them. He then sent them word, that if they would give him the statue, he would deliver up his captive, and threatened, in case of refusal, to put him to death. Stheno and Euryale consented to this; but Medusa resisting, she was killed by Perseus. Upon his obtaining the statue, which was called the Gorgon, or Gorgonian, he broke it in pieces, and placed the head on the prow of his ship. As the sight of this, and the fame of the exploits of Perseus, spread terror everywhere, and caused passive submission to him, the fable originated, that with Medusa’s head he turned his enemies into stone. Landing in the Isle of Seriphus, the king fled, with all his subjects; and, on entering the chief city, finding nothing but the bare stones there, he caused the report to be spread, that he had petrified the inhabitants.
Servius, in his Commentary on the Æneid, quotes an opinion of Ammonius Serenus, that the Gorgons were young women of such beauty as to make a great impression on all that saw them; for which reason they were said to turn them into statues. Le Clerc thinks that the story bears reference to a voyage which the Phœnicians had made in ancient times to the coast of Africa, whence they brought a great number of horses; and that the name ‘Perseus’ comes from the Phœnician word ‘pharscha,’ ‘a horseman;’ while the horse Pegasus was so called from the Phœnician ‘pagsous,’ ‘a bridled horse,’ according to the conjecture of Bochart. Alexander of Myndus, a historian quoted by Athenæus, says that Libya had an animal which the natives called ‘gorgon;’ that it resembled a sheep, and with its breath killed all those who approached it; that a tuft of hair fell over its eyes, which was so heavy as to be removed with difficulty, for the purpose of seeing the objects around it; but that when it was removed, by its looks it struck dead any person whom it gazed upon. He says, that in the war with Jugurtha, some of the soldiers of Marius were thus slain by it, and that it was at last killed by means of arrows discharged from a great distance.
The Gorgons are said to have inhabited the Gorgades, islands in the 150IV. 663-670Æthiopian Sea, the chief of which was called Cerna, according to Diodorus and Palæphatus. It is not improbable that the Cape Verde Islands were called by this name. The fable of the transformation of Atlas into the mountain of that name may possibly have been based upon the simple fact, that Perseus killed him in the neighborhood of that range, from which circumstance it derived the name which it has borne ever since. The golden apples, which Atlas guarded with so much care, were probably either gold mines, which Atlas had discovered in the mountains of his country, and had secured with armed men and watchful dogs; or sheep, whose fleeces were extremely valuable for their fineness; or else oranges and lemons, and other fruits peculiar to very hot climates, 170IV. 663-673for the production of which the poets especially remarked the country of Tingitana (the modern Tangier), as being very celebrated.
Perseus, after his victory over Atlas, and his change into a mountain, arrives in Æthiopia, at the time when Andromeda is exposed to be devoured by a monster. He kills it, and hides the Gorgon’s head under the sand, covered with sea-weed and plants; which are immediately turned into coral. He then renders thanks to the Gods for his victory, and marries Andromeda. At the marriage feast he relates the manner in which he had killed Medusa; and the reason why Minerva had changed her hair into serpents.
The grandson of Hippotas77 had shut up the winds in their eternal prison; and Lucifer, who reminds men of their work, was risen in the lofty sky, in all his splendor. Resuming his wings, Perseus binds his feet with them on either side, and is girt with his crooked weapon, and cleaves the liquid air with his winged ankles. Nations innumerable being left behind, around and below, he beholds the people of the Æthiopians and the lands of Cepheus. There the unjust Ammon78 had ordered the innocent Andromeda to suffer punishment for her mother’s tongue.79
Soon as the descendant of Abas beheld her, with her arms bound to the hard rock, but that the light breeze was moving her hair, and her eyes were running 171IV. 674-700with warm80 tears, he would have thought her to be a work of marble. Unconsciously he takes fire, and is astonished; captivated with the appearance of her beauty, thus beheld, he almost forgets to wave his wings in the air. When he has lighted on the ground, he says, “O thou, undeserving of these chains, but rather of those by which anxious lovers are mutually united, disclose to me, inquiring both the name of this land and of thyself, and why thou wearest these chains.” At first she is silent, and, a virgin, she does not dare address81 a man; and with her hands she would have concealed her blushing features, if she had not been bound; her eyes, ’twas all she could do, she filled with gushing tears. Upon his often urging her, lest she should seem unwilling to confess her offence, she told the name both of her country and herself, and how great had been the confidence of her mother in her beauty. All not yet being told, the waves roared, and a monster approaching,82 appeared with its head raised out of the boundless ocean, and covered the wide expanse with its breast. The virgin shrieks aloud; her mournful father, and her distracted mother, are there, both wretched, but the latter more justly so. Nor do they bring her any help with them, but tears suitable to the occasion, and lamentations, and they cling round her body, bound to the rock.
Then thus the stranger says: “Plenty of time will be left for your tears hereafter, the season for giving aid is but short. If I were to demand her in marriage, I, Perseus, the son of Jove, and of her whom, in prison, Jove embraced in the impregnating shower of gold, Perseus, the conqueror of the Gorgon with her serpent 172IV. 700-726locks, and who has dared, on waving 152IV. 700-729wings, to move through the ætherial air, I should surely be preferred before all as your son-in-law. To so many recommendations I endeavor to add merit (if only the Deities favor me). I only stipulate that she may be mine, if preserved by my valor.” Her parents embrace the condition, (for who could hesitate?) and they entreat his aid, and promise as well, the kingdom as a dowry. Behold! as a ship onward speeding, with the beak fixed in its prow, plows the waters, impelled by the perspiring arms83 of youths; so the monster, moving the waves by the impulse of its breast, was as far distant from the rocks, as that distance in the mid space of air, which a Balearic string can pass with the whirled plummet of lead; when suddenly the youth, spurning the earth with his feet, rose on high into the clouds. As the shadow of the hero was seen on the surface of the sea, the monster vented its fury on the shadow so beheld. And as the bird of Jupiter,84 when he has espied on the silent plain a serpent exposing its livid back to the sun, seizes it behind; and lest it should turn upon him its raging mouth, fixes his greedy talons in its scaly neck; so did the winged hero, in his rapid flight through the yielding air, press the back of the monster, and the descendant of Inachus thrust his sword up to the very hilt in its right shoulder, as it roared aloud.
Tortured by the grievous wound, it sometimes raises itself aloft in the air, sometimes it plunges beneath the waves, sometimes it wheels about, just like a savage boar, which a pack of hounds in full cry around him affrights. With swift wings he avoids the eager bites85 of the monster, and, with his crooked sword, one while wounds its back covered with hollow shells, where it is exposed, at another time the ribs of its sides, and now, 173IV. 726-756where its tapering tail terminates in that of a fish. The monster vomits forth from its mouth streams mingled with red blood; its wings, made heavy by it, are wet with the 153IV. 729-762spray. Perseus, not daring any longer to trust himself on his dripping pinions,86 beholds a rock, which with its highest top projects from the waters when becalmed, but is now covered by the troubled sea. Resting on that, and clinging to the upper ridge87 of the rock with his left hand, three or four times he thrusts his sword through its entrails aimed at by him. A shout, with applause, fills the shores and the lofty abodes of the Gods. Cassiope and Cepheus, the father, rejoice, and salute him as their son-in-law, and confess that he is the support and the preserver of their house.
Released from her chains, the virgin walks along, both the reward and the cause of his labors. He himself washes his victorious hands in water taken from the sea; and that it may not injure the snake-bearing head with the bare sand, he softens the ground with leaves; and strews some weeds produced beneath the sea, and lays upon them the face of Medusa, the daughter of Phorcys. The fresh weeds, being still alive, imbibed the poison of the monster in their spongy pith, and hardened by its touch; and felt an unwonted stiffness in their branches and their leaves. But the Nymphs of the sea attempt the wondrous feat on many other weeds, and are pleased at the same result; and raise seed again from them scattered on the waves. Even now the same nature remains in the coral, that it receives hardness from contact with the air; and what was a plant in the sea, out of the sea becomes stone.
To three Deities he erects as many altars of turf; the left one to Mercury; the right to thee, warlike Virgin; the altar of Jove is in the middle. A cow is sacrificed to Minerva; a calf to the wing-footed God, and a bull to thee, greatest of the Deities. Forthwith he takes 174IV. 757-783Andromeda, and the reward of an achievement so great, without any dowry. Hymenæus and Cupid wave their torches before them; the fires are heaped with abundant perfumes. Garlands, too, are hanging from the houses: flageolets and lyres, and pipes, and songs resound, the happy tokens of a joyous mind. The folding-doors thrown open, 154IV. 762-787the entire gilded halls are displayed, and the nobles of king Cepheus sit down at a feast furnished with splendid preparations. After they have done the feast, and have cheered their minds with the gifts of the generous Bacchus, the grandson of Abas inquires the customs and habits of the country. Immediately one of them, Lyncides, tells him, on his inquiring, the manners and habits of the inhabitants. Soon as he had told him these things, he said, “Now, most valiant Perseus, tell us, I beseech thee, with how great valor and by what arts thou didst cut off the head all hairy with serpents.” The descendant of Abas tells them that there is a spot situate beneath cold Atlas, safe in its bulwark of a solid mass; that, in the entrance of this, dwelt the two sisters, the daughters of Phorcys, who shared the use of a single eye; that he stealthily, by sly craft, while it was being handed over,88 obtained possession of this by putting his hand in the way; and that through rocks far remote, and pathless, and bristling with woods on their craggy sides, he had arrived at the abodes of the Gorgons, and saw everywhere, along the fields and the roads, statues of men and wild beasts turned into stone, from their natural form, at the sight of Medusa; yet that he himself, from the reflection on the brass of the shield89 which his left hand bore, beheld 175IV. 783-803the visage of the horrible Medusa; and that, while a sound sleep held her and her serpents entranced, he took the head from off the neck; and that Pegasus and his brother,90 fleet with wings, were produced from the blood of her, their mother. He added, too, the dangers of his lengthened 155IV. 787-803journey, themselves no fiction;91 what seas, what lands he had seen beneath him from on high, and what stars he had reached with his waving wings.
Yet, before it was expected,92 he was silent; whereupon one of the nobles rejoined, inquiring why she alone, of the sisters, wore snakes mingled alternately with her hair. “Stranger,” said he, “since thou inquirest on a matter worthy to be related, hear the cause of the thing thou inquirest after. She was the most famed for her beauty, and the coveted hope of many wooers; nor, in the whole of her person, was any part more worthy of notice than her hair: I have met with some who said they had seen it. The sovereign of the sea is said to have deflowered her in the Temple of Minerva. The daughter of Jove turned away, and covered her chaste eyes with her shield. And that this might not be unpunished, she changed the hair of the Gorgon into hideous snakes. Now, too, that she may alarm her surprised foes with terror, she bears in front upon her breast, those snakes which she thus produced.”
It is extremely difficult to surmise what may have given rise to many of the fabulous circumstances here narrated. It has been conjectured by some, that Pegasus and his brother Chrysaor, the two horses produced from the blood of Medusa, were really two ships in the harbor of the island where that princess was residing at the time when she was slain by Perseus; and that, on that event, they were seized by him. Perhaps they had the figure of a winged horse on the prow; from which circumstance the fable had its origin. Possibly, the story of the production of coral from the blood of Medusa may have originated in the fact, that on the defeat of the Gorgons, navigation became more safe, and, consequently, the fishing for coral more common that it had been before.
The story of the exposure of Andromeda may be founded on the fact, that she was contracted by her parents against her will to some fierce, piratical prince, who infested the adjacent seas with his depredations; and that the betrothal was made, on condition that he should 156allow the realms of her father, Cepheus, to be free and undisturbed; Perseus, being informed of this, slew the pirate, and Phineus having been kept in a state of inactivity through dread of the valor of Perseus, it was fabled that he had been changed into a stone. This interpretation of the story is the one suggested by Vossius.
Some writers think, that Phineus, the uncle of Andromeda, was the enemy from which she was rescued by Perseus, and who is here represented under the form of a monster; while others suggest that this monster was the name of the ship in which the pirate before mentioned was to have carried away Andromeda.
1. Minyas.]—Ver. 1. Alcithoë was the daughter of Minyas, who, according to some, was the son of Orchomenus, according to others, his father. Pausanias says that the Bœotians, over whom he reigned, were called ‘Minyæ’ from him; but he makes no allusion to the females who are here mentioned by Ovid.
2. Rites.]—Ver. 1. ‘Orgia:’ this was the original name of the Dionysia, or festival of Bacchus; but in time the word came to be applied to any occasion of festivity.
3. Her sisters.]—Ver. 3. The names of the sisters of Alcithoë, according to Plutarch, were Aristippe and Leucippe. The names of the three, according to Ælian, were Alcathoë, Leucippe, and Aristippe, who is sometimes called Arsinoë. The latter author says, that the truth of the case was, that they were decent women, fond of their husbands and families, who preferred staying at home, and attending to their domestic concerns, to running after the new rites; on which it was said, by their enemies, that Bacchus had punished them.
4. Work-baskets.]—Ver. 10. The ‘calathus,’ which was called by the Greeks κάλαθος, καλαθίσκος, and τάλαρος, generally signifies the basket in which women placed their work, and especially the materials used for spinning. They were generally made of osiers and reeds, but sometimes of more valuable materials, such as silver, perhaps in filagree work. ‘Calathi’ were also used for carrying fruits and flowers. Virgil (Ecl. v. l. 71) speaks of cups for holding wine, under the name of ‘Calathi.’
5. Bromius.]—Ver. 11. Bacchus was called Bromius, from βρέμω, ‘to cry out,’ or ‘shout,’ from the yells and noise made by his worshippers, whose peculiar cries were, Εὐοῖ Βάκχε, ὦ Ἰακχε, Ιώ Βάκχε, Εὐοῖ σαβοῖ.C ‘Evoë, Bacche! O, Iacche! Io, Bacche! Evoë sabæ!’
6. Lyæus.]—Ver. 11. Bacchus was called Lyæus, from the Greek word, λύειν, ‘to loosen,’ or ‘relax,’ because wine dispels care.
7. That had two mothers.]—Ver. 12. The word ‘bimater’ seems to have been fancied by Ovid as an appropriate epithet for Bacchus, Jupiter having undertaken the duties of a mother for him, in the latter months of gestation.
8. Thyoneus.]—Ver. 13. Bacchus was called Thyoneus, either from Semele, his mother, one of whose names was Thyone, or from the Greek, θύειν, ‘to be frantic,’ from which origin the Bacchanals also received their name of Thyades.
9. Lenæus.]—Ver. 14. From the Greek word λῆνος, ‘a wine-press.’
10. Nyctelius.]—Ver. 15. From the Greek word νὺξ, ‘night,’ because his orgies were celebrated by night. Eleleus is from the shout, or ‘huzza’ of the Greeks, which was ελελεῦ.
11. Iacchus.]—Ver. 15. From the Greek ἰαχὴ, ‘clamor,’ or ‘noise.’
12. Evan.]—Ver. 15. From the exclamation, Εὐοῖ, or ‘Evoë’ which the Bacchanals used in performing his orgies.
13. Lycurgus.]—Ver. 22. He was a king of Thrace, who having slighted the worship of Bacchus, was afflicted with madness, and hewed off his own legs with a hatchet, and, according to Apollodorus, mistaking his own son Dryas for a vine, destroyed him with the same weapon.
14. Unseasonable labor.]—Ver. 32. ‘Minerva;’ the name of the Goddess Minerva is here used for the exercise of the art of spinning, of which she was the patroness. The term ‘intempestiva’ is appropriately applied, as the arts of industry and frugality, which were first invented by Minerva, but ill accorded with the idle and vicious mode of celebrating the festival of Bacchus.
15. Dercetis.]—Ver. 45. Lucian, speaking of Dercetis, or Derceto, says, ‘I have seen in Phœnicia a statue of this goddess, of a very singular kind. From the middle upwards, it represents a woman, but below it terminates in a fish. The statue of her, which is shown at Hieropolis, represents her wholly as a woman.’ He further says, that the temple of this last city was thought by some to have been built by Semiramis, who consecrated it not to Juno, as is generally believed, but to her own mother, Derceto. Atergatis was another name of this Goddess. She was said, by an illicit amour, to have been the mother of Semiramis, and in despair, to have thrown herself into a lake near Ascalon, on which she was changed into a fish.
16. Palestine.]—Ver. 46. Palæstina, or Philistia, in which Ascalon was situate, was a part of Syria, lying in its south-western extremity.
17. How a Naiad.]—Ver. 49. The Naiad here mentioned is supposed to have been a Nymph of the Island of the Sun, called also Nosola, between Taprobana (the modern Ceylon) and the coast of Carmania (perhaps Coromandel), who was in the habit of changing such youths as fell into her hands into fishes. As a reward for her cruelty, she herself was changed into a fish by the Sun.
18. Most beauteous of youths.]—Ver. 55. Clarke translates ‘juvenum pulcherrimus alter,’ ‘one of the most handsome of all the young fellows.’
19. Her lofty city.]—Ver. 57. The magnificence of ancient Babylon has been remarked by many ancient writers, from Herodotus downwards. Its walls are said to have been 60 miles in compass, 87 feet in thickness, and 350 feet in height.
20. Walls of brick.]—Ver. 58. The walls were built by Semiramis of bricks dried in the sun, cemented together with layers of bitumen.
21. The tomb of Ninus.]—Ver. 88. According to Diodorus Siculus, the sepulchre of Ninus, the first king of Babylon, was ten stadia in length, and nine in depth; it had the appearance of a vast citadel, and was at a considerable distance from the city of Babylon. Commentators have expressed some surprise that Ovid here uses the word ‘busta,’ for ‘tomb,’ as the place of meeting for these chaste lovers, as the prostitutes of Rome used to haunt the ‘busta,’ or ‘tombs;’ whence they obtained the epithet of ‘bustuariæ.’
22. The lead decaying.]—Ver. 122. ‘Fistula’ here means ‘a water-pipe.’ Vitruvius speaks of three methods of conveying water; by channels of masonry, earthen pipes, and leaden pipes. The latter were smaller, and more generally used; to them reference is here made. They were formed by bending plates of lead into a form, not cylindrical, but the section of which was oblong, and tapering towards the top like a pear. The description here given, though somewhat homely, is extremely natural, and, as frequent experience shows us, depicts the results when the soldering of a water-pipe has become decayed.
23. Paler than box-wood.]—Ver. 134. From the light color of boxwood, the words ‘buxo pallidiora,’ ‘paler than boxwood,’ became a proverbial expression among the Romans.
24. The sea which trembles.]—Ver. 136. The ripple, or shudder, which runs along the surface of the sea, when a breath of wind is stirring in a calm, is very beautifully described here, and is worthy of notice.
25. The ivory sheath.]—Ver. 148. The ‘vagina,’ or ‘sheath’ of the sword, was often highly decorated; and we learn from Homer and Virgil, as well as Ovid, that ivory was much used for that purpose. The sheath was worn by the Greeks and Romans on the left side of the body, so as to enable them to draw the sword from it, by passing the right hand in front of the body, to take hold of the hilt, with the thumb next to the blade.
26. Is black.]—Ver. 165. He thus accounts for the deep purple hue of the mulberry which, before the event mentioned here, he says was white.
27. Leuconoë began.]—Ver. 168. It is worthy of remark, how strongly the affecting tale of Pyramus and Thisbe contrasts with the loose story of the loves of Mars and Venus.
28. The son of Juno.]—Ver. 173. Vulcan is called ‘Junonigena,’ because, according to some, he was the son of Juno alone. Other writers, however, say that he was the only son of Jupiter and Juno.
29. The folding doors.]—Ver. 185. The plural word ‘valvæ’ is often used to signify a door, or entrance, because among the ancients each doorway generally contained two doors folding together. The internal doors even of private houses were bivalve; hence, as in the present case, we often read of the folding doors of a bed-chamber. Each of these doors or valves was usually wide enough to permit persons to pass each other in egress and ingress without opening the other door as well. Sometimes each valve was double, folding like our window-shutters.
30. Cytherean.]—Ver. 190. Cythera was an island on the southern coast of Laconia; where Venus was supposed to have landed, after she had risen from the sea. It was dedicated to her worship.
31. Hyperion.]—Ver. 192. He was the son of Cœlus, or Uranus, and the father of the Sun. The name of Hyperion is, however, often given by the poets to the Sun himself.
32. Rhodos.]—Ver. 204. She was a damsel of the Isle of Rhodes, the daughter of Neptune, and, according to some, of Venus. She was greatly beloved by Apollo, to whom she bore seven children.
33. Beauteous mother.]—Ver. 205. This was Persa, the daughter of Oceanus, and the mother of the enchantress Circe, who is here called ‘Ææa,’ from Ææa, a city and peninsula of Colchis. Circe is referred to more at length in the 14th Book of the Metamorphoses.
34. Perfume-bearing.]—Ver. 209. Being born in Arabia, the producer of all kinds of spices and perfumes, which were much in request among the ancients, for the purposes of sacrifice.
35. Produced.]—Ver. 210. Eurynome was the wife of Orchamus, and was the daughter of Oceanus and Tethys.
36. Achæmenian.]—Ver. 212. Persia is called Achæmenian, from Achæmenes, one of its former kings.
37. Ancient Belus.]—Ver. 213. The order of descent is thus reckoned from Belus; Abas, Acrisius, Danaë, Perseus, Bachæmon, Achæmenes, and Orchamus.
38. Ambrosia.]—Ver. 215. Ambrosia was said to be the food of the Deities, and nectar their drink.
39. Beauty of the God.]—Ver. 233. Clarke translates, ‘Virgo victa nitore Dei.’ ‘The young lady—charmed with the spruceness of the God.’
40. For the love of the Sun.]—Ver. 234. This remark is added, to show that the God had not been sufficiently cautious in his courtship of her sister to conceal it from the observation of Clytie.
41. Reach the skies.]—Ver. 251. That is to say, ‘You shall arise from the earth as a tree bearing frankincense: the gums of which, burnt in sacrifice to the Gods, shall reach the heavens with their sweet odors.’ Persia and Arabia have been celebrated by the poets, ancient and modern, for their great fertility in frankincense and other aromatic plants.
42. Like a violet.]—Ver. 268. This cannot mean the large yellow plant which is called the sunflower. The small aromatic flower which we call heliotrope, with its violet hue and delightful perfume, more nearly answers the description. The larger flower probably derived its name from the resemblance which it bears to the sun, surrounded with rays, as depicted by the ancient painters.
43. Shepherd of Ida.]—Ver. 277. This may mean either Daphnis of Crete, or of Phrygia; for in both those countries there was a mountain named Ida.
44. The Curetes.]—Ver. 282. According to Dionysius of Halicarnassus, the Curetes were the ancient inhabitants of Crete. We may here remark, that the story of their springing from the earth after a shower of rain, seems to have no other foundation than the fact of their having been of the race of the Titans; that is, they were descended from Uranus, or Cœlus and Tita, by which names were meant the heaven and the earth.
45. Smilax.]—Ver. 283. The dictionary meanings given for this word are—1. Withwind, a kind of herb. 2. The yew tree. 3. A kind of oak. The Nymph was probably supposed to have been changed into the first.
46. Lycian.]—Ver. 296. Lycia was a province of Asia Minor, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Caria was another province, adjoining to Lycia.
47. Citorian boxwood.]—Ver. 311. Citorus, or Cythorus, was a mountain of Paphlagonia, famous for the excellence of the wood of the box trees that grow there. The Greeks and Romans made their combs of it. The Egyptians used them made of ivory and wood, and toothed on one side only; those of the Greeks had teeth on both sides. Great care was usually taken of the hair; to go with it uncombed was a sign of affliction.
48. The aiding cymbals.]—Ver. 333. The witches and magicians, in ancient times, and especially those of Thessaly, professed to be able, with their charms and incantations, to bring the moon down from heaven. The truth of these assertions being commonly believed, at the period of an eclipse it was supposed by the multitude that the moon was being subjected to the spells of these magicians, and that she was struggling (laborabat) against them, on which the sound of drums, trumpets, and cymbals was resorted to, to distract the attention of the moon, and to drown the charms repeated by the enchanters, for which reason, the instruments employed for the purpose were styled ‘auxiliares.’
49. As when the Sun.]—Ver. 349. Bailey gives this explanation of the passage,— ‘The eyes of the Nymph seemed to sparkle and shine, just as the rays of the sun in a clear sky when a looking-glass is placed against them, for then they seem most splendid, and contract the fire.’ From the mention of the eyes of the Nymph burning ‘flagrant,’ we might be almost justified in concluding that ‘speculum’ means here not a mirror, but a burning-glass. The ‘specula,’ or looking-glasses, of the ancients were usually made of metal, either a composition of tin and copper, or silver; but in later times, alloy was mixed with the silver. Pliny mentions the obsidian stone, or, as it is now called, the Icelandic agate, as being used for this purpose. Nero is said to have used emeralds for mirrors. Pliny the Elder says that mirrors were made in the glass-houses of Sidon, which consisted of glass plates, with leaves of metal at the back; they were probably of an inferior character. Those of copper and tin were made chiefly at Brundisium. The white metal formed from this mixture soon becoming dim, a sponge with powdered pumice stone was usually fastened to the mirrors made of that composition. They were generally small, of a round or oval shape, and having a handle; and female slaves usually held them, while their mistresses were performing the duties of the toilet. Sometimes they were fastened to the walls, and they were occasionally of the length of a person’s body. Venus was supposed often to use the mirror; but Minerva repudiated the use of it.
50. Polypus.]—Ver. 366. This is a fish which entangles its prey, mostly consisting of shell fish, in its great number of feet or feelers. Ovid here calls them ‘flagella;’ but in the Halieuticon he styles them ‘brachia’ and ‘crines.’ Pliny the Elder calls them ‘crines’ and ‘cirri.’
51. Descendant of Atlas.]—Ver. 368. Hermaphroditus was the great-grandson of Atlas; as the latter was the father of Maia, the mother of Mercury, who begot Hermaphroditus.
52. The two are united.]—Ver. 374. Clarke translates, ‘nam mixta duorum corpora junguntur,’ ‘for the bodies of both, being jumbled together, are united.’
53. Derive their name.]—Ver. 415. In Greek they are called νυκτερίδες, from νυξ, ‘night;’ and in Latin, ‘vespertiliones,’ from ‘vesper,’ ‘evening,’ on account of their habits.
54. She alone.]—Ver. 419. This was Ino, whose only sorrows hitherto had been caused by the calamities which befell her sisters and their offspring: Semele having died a shocking death, Autonoë having seen her son Actæon changed into a stag, and then devoured by his dogs, and Agave having assisted in tearing to pieces her own son Pentheus.
55. When they have enjoyed.]—Ver. 435. The spirits whose bodies had not received the rites of burial, we learn from Homer and Virgil, were not allowed to pass the river Styx, but wandered on its banks for a hundred years.
56. So does that spot.]—Ver. 441. That is to say, whatever number of ghosts arrives there, it receives them all with ease, and is not sensible of the increase of number; either because the place itself is of such immense extent, or because the souls of the dead do not occupy space.
57. The Sisters.]—Ver. 450. These were the Furies, fabled to be the daughters of Night and Acheron. They were three in number, Tisiphone, Alecto, and Megæra, and were supposed to be the avengers of crime and wickedness.
58. Tityus.]—Ver. 456. Tityus was the son of Jupiter and Elara. On account of his enormous size, the poets sometimes style him a son of the earth. Attempting to commit violence upon Latona, he was slain by the arrows of Apollo, and precipitated to the infernal regions, where he was condemned to have his liver constantly devoured by a vulture, and then renewed, to perpetuate his torments.
59. Tantalus.]—Ver. 457. He was the son of Jupiter, by the Nymph Plote. The crime for which he was punished is differently related by the poets. Some say, that he divulged the secrets of the Gods, that had been entrusted to him; while others relate, that at an entertainment which he gave to the Deities, he caused his own son, Pelops, to be served up, on which Ceres inadvertently ate his shoulder. He was doomed to suffer intense hunger and thirst, amid provisions of all kinds within his reach, which perpetually receded from him.
60. Sisyphus.]—Ver. 459. Sisyphus, the son of Æolus, was a daring robber, who infested Attica. He was slain by Theseus; and being sent to the infernal regions, was condemned to the punishment of rolling a great stone to the top of a mountain, which it had no sooner reached than it fell down again, and renewed his labor.
61. Ixion.]—Ver. 461. Being advanced by Jupiter to heaven, he presumed to make an attempt on Juno. Jupiter, to deceive him, formed a cloud in her shape, on which Ixion begot the Centaurs. He was cast into Tartarus, and was there fastened to a wheel, which turned round incessantly.
62. Iris.]—Ver. 480. Iris was the daughter of Thaumas and Electra, and the messenger of Juno. She was the Goddess of the Rainbow.
63. Tisiphone.]—Ver. 481. Clarke translates ‘Tisiphone importuna,’ ‘the plaguy Tisiphone.’
64. Echidna.]—Ver. 501. This word properly means, ‘a female viper;’ but it here refers to the Hydra, or dragon of the marsh of Lerna, which Hercules slew. It was fabled to be partly a woman, and partly a serpent, and to have been begotten by Typhon. According to some accounts, this monster had seven heads.
65. Dashes in pieces.]—Ver. 519. Euripides and Hyginus relate, that Athamas slew his son while hunting; and Apollodorus says, that he mistook him for a stag.
66. Thy foster-child.]—Ver. 524. Bacchus was the foster-child of Ino, who was the sister of his mother Semele. The remaining portion of the story of Ino and Melicerta is again related by Ovid in the sixth book of the Fasti.
67. There is a rock.]—Ver. 525. Pausanias calls this the Molarian rock, and says, that it was one of the Scironian rocks, near Megara, in Attica. It was a branch of the Geranian mountain.
68. And her burden.]—Ver. 530. This was her son Melicerta, who, according to Pausanias, was received by dolphins, and was landed by them on the isthmus of Corinth.
69. Guiltless granddaughter.]—Ver. 531. Venus was the grandmother of Ino, inasmuch as Hermione, or Harmonia, the wife of Cadmus, was the daughter of Mars and Venus.
70. Boundless Ionian sea.]—Ver. 535. The Ionian sea must be merely mentioned here as a general name for the broad expanse of waters, of which the Saronic gulf, into which the Molarian rock projected, formed part. Ovid may, however, mean to say that Ino threw herself from some rock in the Ionian sea, and not from the Molarian rock; following, probably, the account of some other writer, whose works are lost.
71. Grecian name is derived.]—Ver. 538. Venus was called Aphrodite, by the Greeks, from ἄφρος, ‘the foam of the sea,’ from which she was said to have sprung.
72. A Divinity.]—Ver. 542. Ino and Melicerta were worshipped as Divinities both in Greece and at Rome.
73. Sidonian attendants.]—Ver. 543. The Theban matrons are meant, who had married the companions of Cadmus that accompanied him from Phœnices.
74. Son of Abas.]—Ver. 608. Acrisius was the son of Abas, king of Argos. He was the father of Danaë, by whom Jupiter was the father of Perseus.
75. Of the same race.]—Ver. 607. Some suppose that by this it is meant that as Belus, the father of Abas, and grandfather of Acrisius, was the son of Jupiter, who was also the father of Bacchus, the latter and Acrisius were consequently related.
76. A huge dragon.]—Ver. 647. The name of the dragon was Ladon.
77. Hippotas.]—Ver. 663. Æolus, the God of the Winds, was the son of Jupiter, by Acesta, the daughter of Hippotas.
78. Ammon.]—Ver. 671. Jupiter, with the surname of Ammon, had a temple in the deserts of Libya, where he was worshipped under the shape of a ram; a form which he was supposed to have assumed, when, in common with the other Deities, he fled from the attacks of the Giants. The oracle of Jupiter Ammon being consulted relative to the sea monster, which Neptune, at the request of the Nereids, had sent against the Ethiopians, answered that Andromeda must be exposed to be devoured by it; which Ovid here, not without reason, calls an unjust demand.
79. Mother’s tongue.]—Ver. 670. Cassiope, the mother of Andromeda, had dared to compare her own beauty with that of the Nereids. Cepheus, the son of Phœnix, was the father of Andromeda.
80. Warm.]—Ver. 674. ‘Tepido,’ ‘warm,’ is decidedly preferable here to ‘trepido,’ ‘trembling.’
81. Dare address.]—Ver. 682. Heinsius thinks that ‘appellare’ here is not the correct reading; and suggests ‘aspectare,’ which seems to be more consistent with the sense of the passage, which would then be, ‘and does not dare to look down upon the hero.’
82. Monster approaching.]—Ver. 689. Pliny the Elder and Solinus tell us that the bones of this monster were afterwards brought from Joppa, a seaport of Judæa, to Rome, and that the skeleton was forty feet in length, and the spinal bone was six feet in circumference.
83. The perspiring arms.]—Ver. 707. ‘Juvenum sudantibus acta lacertis’ is translated by Clarke, ‘forced forward by the arms of sweating young fellows.’
84. Bird of Jupiter.]—Ver. 714. The eagle was the bird sacred to Jove. The larger kinds of birds which afforded auguries from their mode of flight, were called ‘præpetes.’
85. Avoids the eager bites.]—Ver. 723. Clarke translates this line, ‘He avoids the monster’s eager snaps with his swift wings.’
86. His dripping pinions.]—Ver. 730. ‘Talaria’ were either wings fitted to the ankles, or shoes having such wings fastened to them; they were supposed to be usually worn by Mercury.
87. Clinging to the upper ridge.]—Ver. 733. ‘Tenens juga prima sinistra’ is rendered by Clarke, ‘seizing the tip-top of it with his left hand.’
88. Being handed over.]—Ver. 766. Of course, as they had but one eye between them, they must have both been blind while it was passing from one hand to another, so that Perseus could have had but little difficulty in effecting the theft here mentioned.
89. Brass of the shield.]—Ver. 783. This reflecting shield Perseus is said to have received from Minerva, and by virtue of it he was enabled to see without being seen. Lucian says that Minerva herself held this reflecting shield before him, and by that means afforded him the opportunity of seeing the reflection of Medusa’s figure; and that Perseus, seizing her by the hair with his left hand, and keeping his eye fixed on the image reflected in the shield, took his sword in his right, and cut off her head, and then, by the aid of his wings, flew away before the other Gorgon sisters were aware of what he had done.
90. Pegasus and his brother.]—Ver. 786. Pegasus and Chrysaor were two winged horses, which were fabled to have sprung up from the blood of Medusa, when slain by Perseus.
91. Themselves no fiction.]—Ver. 787. His dangers were not false or imaginary, inasmuch as he was pursued by Sthenyo and Euryale, the sisters of Medusa, who were fabled to have wings, and claws of iron on their hands. Ovid deals a sly hit in the words ‘non falsa pericula cursus,’ at the tales of travellers, who, even in his day, seem to have commenced dealing in the marvellous; as, indeed, we may learn for ourselves, on turning to the pages of Herodotus, who seems to have been often imposed upon.
92. Before it was expected.]—Ver. 790. Showing thereby how delighted his audience was with his narrative.
Supplementary Notes (added by transcriber)
A. what madness can do: “madness” is the grammatical subject. Ovid IV.429 “quidque furor valeat”.
B. the hollowed deep: Ovid IV.537 is variously read as “in medio … profundo”, “immenso … profundo” and “in dīo … profundo”. The Bell text “the hallowed deep” can only be based on the rare “dio” reading.
C. Εὐοῖ Βάκχε, ὦ Ἰακχε, Ιώ Βάκχε, Εὐοῖ σαβοῖ: Text given as printed. The exact form (with consistent capitalization) is probably Εὐοῖ Βάκχε, Ὦ Ἴακχε, Ἰώ Βάκχε, Εὐοῖ σαβαῖ.
BOOK THE FIFTH.
While Perseus is continuing the relation of the adventures of Medusa, Phineus, to whom Andromeda has been previously promised in marriage, rushes into the palace, with his adherents, and attacks his rival. A furious combat is the consequence, in which Perseus gives signal proofs of his valor. At length, perceiving himself likely to be overpowered by the number of his enemies, he shows them the head of the Gorgon; on which Phineus and his followers are turned into statues of stone. After this victory, he takes Andromeda with him to Argos, his native city, where he turns the usurper Prœtus into stone, and re-establishes his grandfather Acrisius on the throne.
And while the hero, the son of Danaë, is relating these things in the midst of the company of the subjects of Cepheus, the royal courts are filled with a raging multitude; nor is the clamor such as celebrates a marriage-feast, but one which portends dreadful warfare. You might compare the banquet, changed into a sudden tumult, to the sea, which, when calm, the boisterous rage of the winds disturbs by raising its waves.
Foremost among these, Phineus,1 the rash projector of the onslaught, shaking an ashen spear with a brazen point, cries, “Behold! now, behold! I am come, the avenger of my wife, ravished from me; neither shall thy wings nor Jupiter turned into fictitious gold, deliver thee from me.” As he is endeavoring to hurl his lance, Cepheus cries out, “What art thou doing? What fancy, my brother, impels thee, in thy madness, to this crime? Is this the due acknowledgment to return 178V. 14-39for deserts so great? Dost thou repay the life of her thus preserved, with this reward? ’Twas not Perseus, if thou wouldst know the truth, that took her away from thee; but the incensed 158V. 16-45majesty of the Nereids, and horned Ammon, and the monster of the sea, which came to be glutted with my bowels. She was snatched from thee at that moment, at which she was to have perished; unless it is that thou dost, in thy cruelty, insist upon that very thing, that she should perish, and wilt be appeased only by my affliction. It is not enough, forsooth, that in thy presence she was bound and that thou, both her uncle and her betrothed, didst give no assistance; wilt thou be grieving, besides, that she was saved by another, and wilt thou deprive him of his reward? If this appears great to thee, thou shouldst have recovered it from the rock to which it was fastened. Now, let him who has recovered it, through whom my old age is not childless, have what he stipulated for, both by his merits and his words; and know that he was preferred not before thee, but before certain death.”
Phineus said nothing, on the other hand; but viewing both him and Perseus, with alternate looks, he was uncertain whether he should first attack the one or the other; and, having paused a short time, he vainly threw his spear, hurled with all the force that rage afforded. As it stood fixed in the cushion,2 then, at length, Perseus leapt off from the couch, and in his rage would have pierced the breast of his enemy with the weapon, thrown back, had not Phineus gone behind an altar, and thus (how unworthily!) an altar3 protected a miscreant. However, the spear, not thrown in vain, stuck in the forehead of Rhœtus; who, after he fell, and the steel was wrenched from the skull, he 179V. 40-68still struggled, and besprinkled the laid tables with his blood. But then does the multitude burst forth into ungovernable rage, and hurl their weapons. Some there are, who say that Cepheus ought to die with his son-in-law; but Cepheus has gone out by the entrance of the house, calling right and good faith to witness, and the Gods of hospitality,4 that this disturbance is 159V. 45-77made contrary to his will. The warlike Pallas comes; and with her shield protects her brother Perseus, and gives him courage. There was an Indian, Athis by name,5 whom Limnate, the daughter of the river Ganges, is believed to have brought forth beneath the glassy waters; excelling in beauty, which he improved by his rich dress; in his prime, as yet but twice eight years of age, dressed in a purple tunic, which a golden fringe bordered; a gilded necklace graced his neck, and a curved hair-pin his hair wet with myrrh. He, indeed, had been taught to hit things, although at a distance, with his hurled javelin, but he was more skilled at bending the bow. Perseus struck him even then, as he was bending with his hands the flexible horns of a bow, with a billet, which, placed in the middle of the altar, was smoking, and he crushed his face into his broken skull.
When the Assyrian Lycabas, who was a most attached friend of his, and no concealer of his real affection, saw him rolling his features, the objects of such praises, in his blood; after he had bewailed Athis, breathing forth his life from this cruel wound, he seized the bow which he had bent, and said, “And now let the contest against thee be with me; not long shalt thou exult in the fate of the youth, by which thou acquirest more hatred than praise.” All this he had not yet said, when the piercing weapon darted from the string, and though avoided, still it hung in the folds of his garment. The grandson of Acrisius turned against 180V. 69-94him his falchion,6 already proved in the slaughter of Medusa, and thrust it into his breast. But he, now dying, with his eyes swimming in black night, looked around for Athis, and sank upon him, and carried to the shades the consolation of a united death. Lo! Phorbas of Syene,7 the son of Methion, and Amphimedon, the Libyan, eager to engage in the fight, fell down, slipping in the blood with which the earth was warm, soaked on every side; as they 160V. 77-107arose the sword met them, being thrust in the ribs of the one, and in the throat of Phorbas. But Perseus does not attack Erithus, the son of Actor, whose weapon is a broad battle-axe, by using his sword, but he takes up, with both hands, a huge bowl,8 standing out with figures deeply embossed, and of vast mass in its weight, and hurls it against the man. The other vomits forth red blood, and, falling on his back, beats the ground with his dying head. Then he slays Polydæmon, sprung from the blood of Semiramis, and the Caucasian Abaris, and Lycetus, the son of Sperchius,9 and Elyces, with unshorn locks, and Phlegias, and Clytus; and he tramples upon the heaps of the dying, which he has piled up.
But Phineus, not daring to engage hand to hand with his enemy, hurls his javelin, which accident carries against Idas, who, in vain, has declined the warfare10 and has followed the arms of neither. He, looking at the cruel Phineus with stern eyes, says, “Since I am thus forced to take a side, take the enemy, Phineus, that thou hast made, and make amends for my wound with this wound.” And now, just about to return the 181V. 95-123dart drawn from his body, he falls sinking down upon his limbs void of blood. Here, too, Odytes, the next in rank among the followers of Cepheus, after the king, lies prostrate under the sword of Clymenus; Hypseus kills Protenor, and Lyncides Hypseus. There is, too, among them the aged Emathion, an observer of justice, and a fearer of the Gods; as his years prevent him from fighting, he engages by talking, and he condemns and utters imprecations against their accursed arms. As he clings to the altars11 with trembling hands, Chromis cuts off his head with his sword, which straightway falls upon the altar, and there, with his dying tongue he utters words of execration, and breathes forth his soul in the midst of the fires. Upon this, two brothers, Broteas and 161V. 107-138Ammon invincible at boxing, if swords could only be conquered by boxing, fell by the hand of Phineus; Ampycus, too, the priest of Ceres, having his temples wreathed with a white fillet. Thou too, son of Iapetus, not to be employed for these services; but one who tuned the lyre, the work of peace, to thy voice, hadst been ordered to attend the banquet and festival with thy music. As thou art standing afar, and holding the unwarlike plectrum, Pettalus says, laughing, “Go sing the rest to the Stygian ghosts,” and fixes the point of the sword in his left temple. He falls, and with his dying fingers he touches once again the strings of the lyre; and in his fall he plays a mournful dirge.12 The fierce Lycormas does not suffer him to fall unpunished; and tearing away a massive bar from the doorpost on the right, he dashes it against the bones of the middle of the neck of Pettalus; struck, he falls to the ground, just like a slaughtered bullock.
The Cinyphian13 Pelates, too, was trying to tear away the oaken bar of the doorpost on the left; as he was 182V. 123-151trying, his right hand was fastened thereto by the spear of Corythus, the son of Marmarus, and it stood riveted to the wood. Thus riveted, Abas pierced his side; he did not fall, however, but dying, hung from the post, which still held fast his hand. Melaneus, too, was slain, who had followed the camp of Perseus, and Dorylas, very rich in Nasamonian land.14 Dorylas, rich in land, than whom no one possessed it of wider extent, or received thence so many heaps of corn. The hurled steel stood fixed obliquely in his groin; the hurt was mortal. When the Bactrian15 Halcyoneus, the author of the wound, beheld him sobbing forth his soul, and rolling his eyes, he said, “Take for thine own this spot of earth which thou dost press, out of so many fields,” and he left his lifeless body. The descendant of Abas, as his avenger, hurls against Halcyoneus the spear torn from his wound yet warm, which, received in the middle of the nostrils, 162V. 139-167pierced through his neck, and projected on both sides. And while fortune is aiding his hand, he slays, with different wounds, Clytius and Clanis, born of one mother. For an ashen spear poised with a strong arm is driven through both the thighs of Clytius; with his mouth does Clanis bite the javelin. Celadon, the Mendesian,16 falls, too; Astreus falls, born of a mother of Palestine, but of an uncertain father. Æthion, too, once sagacious at foreseeing things to come, but now deceived17 by a false omen; and Thoactes, the armor-bearer of the king, and Agyrtes, infamous for slaying his father.
More work still remains, than what is already done; for it is the intention of all to overwhelm one. The conspiring troops fight on all sides, for a cause that 183V. 151-176attacks both merit and good faith. The one side, the father-in-law, attached in vain, and the new-made wife, together with her mother, encourage; and these fill the halls with their shrieks. But the din of arms, and the groans of those that fall, prevail; and for once, Bellona18 is deluging the household Gods polluted with plenteous blood, and is kindling the combat anew. Phineus, and a thousand that follow Phineus, surround Perseus alone; darts are flying thicker than the hail of winter, on both his sides, past his eyes, and past his ears. On this, he places his shoulders against the stone of a large pillar, and, having his back secure, and facing the adverse throng, he withstands their attack. Chaonian19 Molpeus presses on the left, Nabathæan Ethemon on the right. As a tiger, urged on by hunger, when it hears the lowings of two herds, in different valleys, knows not on which side in preference to rush out, and yet is eager to rush out on both; so Perseus, being in doubt whether to bear onward to the right 163V. 167-203or to the left, repulses Molpeus by a wound in the leg, which he runs through, and is contented with his flight. Nor, indeed, does Ethemon give him time, but fiercely attacks him; and, desirous to inflict a wound deep in his neck, he breaks his sword, wielded with incautious force; and against the extremity of a column which he has struck, the blade flies to pieces, and sticks in the throat of its owner; yet that blow has not power sufficient to effect his death. Perseus stabs him with his Cyllenian20 falchion, trembling, and vainly extending his unarmed hands.
But when Perseus saw his valor likely to yield to such 184V. 177-209numbers, he said, “Since you yourselves force me to do it, I will seek assistance from an enemy: turn away your faces, if any of my friends are here;” and then he produced the head of the Gorgon. “Go, seek some one else,” said Thescelus, “for thy miracles to affect;” and, as he was preparing to hurl his deadly javelin with his hand, he stood fast in that posture, a statue of marble. Ampyx, being next him, made a pass with his sword at the breast of Lyncidas, full of daring spirit, and, while making it, his right hand became stiff, moving neither to one side nor the other. But Nileus, who had falsely boasted that he was begotten by the seven-mouthed Nile, and who had engraved on his shield its seven channels, partly in silver, partly in gold, said, “Behold, Perseus, the origin of my race; thou shalt carry to the silent shades a great consolation for thy death, that thou wast killed by one so great.” The last part of his address was suppressed in the midst of the utterance; and you would think his half-open mouth was attempting to speak, but it gave no passage for his words. Eryx rebuked them,21 and said, “Ye are benumbed by the cowardice of your minds, not by the locks of the Gorgon; rush on with me, and strike to the ground this youth that wields his magic arms.” He was about to rush on, when the earth arrested his steps, and he remained an immovable stone, and an armed statue. But all these met with the punishment they had deserved: there was one man, however, Aconteus by name, a soldier of Perseus, for whom while he was fighting, on beholding the Gorgon, he grew hard with stone rising upon him. Astyages, 164V. 203-239thinking him still alive, struck him with his long sword; the sword resounded with a shrill ringing. While Astyages was in amazement, he took on himself the same nature: and the look of one in surprise remained on his marble features. It is a tedious task to recount the names of the men of the lower rank. Two hundred bodies were yet remaining for the fight: two hundred bodies, on beholding the Gorgon, grew stiff.
185V. 210-240Now at length Phineus repents of this unjust warfare. But what can he do? He sees statues varying in form, and he recognizes his friends, and demands help of them each, called by name; and not yet persuaded, he touches the bodies next him; they are marble. He turns away his eyes; and thus suppliant, and stretching forth his hands, that confessed his fault, and his arms obliquely extended, he says, “Perseus, thou hast conquered; remove the direful monster, and take away that stone-making face of thy Medusa, whatever she may be; take it away, I pray. It is not hatred, or the desire of a kingdom, that has urged me to war: for a wife I wielded arms. Thy cause was the better in point of merit, mine in point of time. I am not sorry to yield. Grant me nothing, most valiant man, beyond this life; the rest be thine.” Upon his saying such things, and not daring to look upon him, whom he is entreating with his voice, Perseus says, “What am I able to give thee, most cowardly Phineus, and, a great boon to a craven, that will I give; lay aside thy fears; thou shalt be hurt by no weapon. Moreover, I will give thee a monument to last forever, and in the house of my father-in-law thou shalt always be seen, that my wife may comfort herself with the form of her betrothed.” Thus he said, and he turned the daughter of Phorcys to that side, towards which Phineus had turned himself with trembling face. Then, even as he endeavored to turn away his eyes, his neck grew stiff, and the moisture of his eyes hardened in stone. But yet his timid features, and his suppliant countenance, and his hands hanging down, and his guilty attitude, still remained.
The descendant of Abas, together with his wife, enters the walls of his native city; and as the defender and avenger of his innocent mother, he attacks Prœtus.22 For, his brother being expelled by force of arms, Prœtus had taken possession 165V. 239-243of the citadel of Acrisius; but neither by the help of arms, nor the citadel which he 186V. 240-242had unjustly seized, did he prevail against the stern eyes of the snake-bearing monster.
The scene of this story is supposed by some to have been in Æthiopia, but it is more probably on the coast of Africa. Josephus and Strabo assert that this event happened near the city of Joppa, or Jaffa: indeed, Josephus says that the marks of the chains with which Andromeda was fastened, were remaining on the rock in his time. Pomponius Mela says, that Cepheus, the father of Andromeda, was king of Joppa, and that the memory of that prince and of his brother Phineus was honored there with religious services. He says, too, that the inhabitants used to show the bones of the monster which was to have devoured Andromeda. Pliny tells us the same, and that Scaurus carried these bones with him to Rome. He calls the monster ‘a Goddess,’ ‘Dea Cete.’ Vossius believes that he means the God Dagon, worshipped among the Syrians under the figure of a fish, or sea-monster. Some authors have suggested that the story of the creature which was to have devoured Andromeda, was a confused version of that of the prophet Jonah.
The alleged power of Perseus, to turn his enemies into stone, was probably, a metaphorical mode of describing his heroism, and the terror which everywhere followed the fame of his victory over the Gorgons. This probably caused such consternation, that it was reported that he petrified his enemies by showing them the head of Medusa. Bochart supposes that the rocky nature of the island of Seriphus, where Polydectes reigned, was the ground of the various stories of the alleged metamorphoses into stone, effected by means of the Gorgon’s head.
Polydectes continues his hatred against Perseus, and treats his victories and triumphs over Medusa as mere fictions, on which Perseus turns him into stone. Minerva leaves her brother, and goes to Mount Helicon to visit the Muses, who show the Goddess the beauties of their habitation, and entertain her with their adventure at the court of Pyreneus, and the death of that prince. They also repeat to her the song of the Pierides, who challenged them to sing.
Yet, O Polydectes,23 the ruler of little Seriphus, 187V. 243-264neither the 166V. 243-266valor of the youth proved by so many toils, nor his sorrows have softened thee; but thou obstinately dost exert an inexorable hatred, nor is there any limit to thy unjust resentment. Thou also detractest from his praises, and dost allege that the death of Medusa is but a fiction. “We will give thee a proof of the truth,” says Perseus; “have a regard for your eyes, all besides;” and he makes the face of the king become stone, without blood, by means of the face of Medusa.
Hitherto Tritonia had presented herself as a companion to her brother,24 begotten in the golden shower. Now, enwrapped in an encircling cloud, she abandons Seriphus, Cythnus and Gyarus25 being left on the right. And where the way seems the shortest over the sea, she makes for Thebes and Helicon, frequented by the virgin Muses; having reached which mountain she stops, and thus addresses the learned sisters: “The fame of the new fountain26 has reached my ears, which the hard hoof of the winged steed sprung from the blood of Medusa has opened. That is the cause of my coming. I wished to see this wondrous prodigy; I saw him spring from the blood of his mother.” Urania27 replies, “Whatever, Goddess, is the cause of thy visiting these abodes, thou art most acceptable to our feelings. However, the report is true, and Pegasus is the originator of this spring;” and then she conducts Pallas to the sacred 188V. 265-290streams. She, long admiring the waters produced by the stroke of his foot, looks around upon the groves of the ancient wood, and the caves and the grass 167V. 266-295studded with flowers innumerable; and she pronounces the Mnemonian28 maids happy both in their pursuits and in their retreat; when one of the sisters thus addresses her:
“O Tritonia, thou who wouldst have come to make one of our number, had not thy valor inclined thee to greater deeds, thou sayest the truth, and with justice thou dost approve both our pursuits and our retreat; and if we are but safe, happy do we reckon our lot. But (to such a degree is no denial borne by villany) all things affright our virgin minds, and the dreadful Pyreneus is placed before our eyes; and not yet have I wholly recovered my presence of mind. He, in his insolence, had taken the Daulian and Phocean29 land with his Thracian troops, and unjustly held the government. We were making for the temple of Parnassus; he beheld us going, and adoring our Divinities30 in a feigned worship he said (for he had recognized us), ‘O Mnemonian maids, stop, and do not scruple, I pray, under my roof to avoid the bad weather and the showers (for it was raining); oft have the Gods above entered more humble cottages.’ Moved by his invitation and the weather, we assented to the man, and entered the front part of his house. The rain had now ceased, and the South Wind now subdued by the North, the black clouds were flying from the cleared sky. It was our wish to depart. Pyreneus closed his house, and prepared for violence, which we escaped by taking wing. He himself stood aloft on the top of his abode, as though about to follow us, and said ‘Wherever there is a way for you, by the same road there will be one for me.’ 189V. 292-312And then, in his insanity, he threw himself from the height of the summit of the tower, and fell upon his face, and with the bones of his skull thus broken, he struck the ground stained with his accursed blood.”
Thus spoke the Muse. Wings resounded through the air, and a voice of some saluting them31 came from the lofty 168V. 293-321boughs. The daughter of Jupiter looked up, and asked whence tongues that speak so distinctly made that noise, and thought that a human being had spoken. They were birds; and magpies that imitate everything, lamenting their fate, they stood perched on the boughs, nine in number. As the Goddess wondered, thus did the Goddess Urania commence: “Lately, too, did these being overcome in a dispute, increase the number of the birds. Pierus, rich in the lands of Pella,32 begot them; the Pæonian33 Evippe34 was their mother. Nine times did she invoke the powerful Lucina, being nine times in labor. This set of foolish sisters were proud of their number, and came hither through so many cities of Hæmonia, and through so many of Achaia,35 and engaged in a contest in words such as these: “Cease imposing upon the vulgar with your empty melody. If you have any confidence in your skill, ye Thespian Goddesses, contend with us; we will not be outdone in voice or skill; and we are as many in number. Either, if vanquished, withdraw from the spring formed by the steed of Medusa, and the Hyantean Aganippe,36 or we 190V. 313-339will retire from the Emathian plains, as far as the snowy Pæonians. Let the Nymphs decide the contest.” It was, indeed, disgraceful to engage, but to yield seemed even more disgraceful. The Nymphs that are chosen swear by the rivers, and they sit on seats made out of the natural rock. Then, without casting lots, she who had been the first to propose the contest, sings the wars of the Gods above, and gives the Giants honor not their due, and detracts from the actions of the great Divinities; and sings how that Typhœus, sent forth from the lowest realms of 169V. 321-340the earth, had struck terror into the inhabitants of Heaven; and how they had all turned their backs in flight, until the land of Egypt had received them in their weariness, and the Nile, divided into its seven mouths. She tells, how that Typhœus had come there, too, and the Gods above had concealed themselves under assumed shapes; and ‘Jupiter,’ she says, ‘becomes the leader of the flock, whence, even at the present day, the Libyan Ammon is figured with horns. Apollo, the Delian God, lies concealed as a crow, the son of Semele as a he-goat, the sister of Phœbus as a cat, Juno, the daughter of Saturn, as a snow-white cow, Venus as a fish,37 Mercury, the Cyllenian God, beneath the wings of an Ibis.’38
“Thus far she had exerted her noisy mouth to the sound of the lyre; we of Aonia39 were then called upon; but perhaps thou hast not the leisure, nor the time to lend an ear to our strains.” Pallas says, “Do not hesitate, and repeat your song to me in its order;” and she takes her seat under the pleasant shade of the grove. The Muse then tells her story. “We assigned the management of the contest to one of our number. Calliope rises, and, having her long hair gathered up with ivy, tunes with her thumb the sounding chords; and then 191V. 340-350sings these lines in concert with the strings when struck.”
According to Plutarch, the adventure of the Muses with Pyreneus, and of their asking wings of the Gods to save themselves, is a metaphor, which shows that he, when reigning in Phocis, was no friend to learning. As he had caused all the institutions in which it was taught to be destroyed, it was currently reported, that he had offered violence to the Muses, and that he lost his life in pursuing them. Ovid is the only writer that mentions him by name.
The challenge given by the Pierides to the Muses is not mentioned by any writer before the time of Ovid. By way of explaining it, it is said, that Pierus was a very bad poet, whose works were full of stories injurious to the credit of the Gods. Hence, in time, it became circulated, that his 170V. 341-358daughters, otherwise his works, were changed into magpies, thereby meaning that they were full of idle narratives, tiresome and unmeaning. It is not improbable that the story of Typhœus, who forces the Gods to conceal themselves in Egypt, under the forms of various animals, was a poem which Pierus composed on the war of the Gods with the Giants.
One of the Muses repeats to Minerva the song of Calliope, in answer to the Pierides; in which she describes the defeat of the Giant Typhœus, and Pluto viewing the mountains of Sicily, where Venus persuades her son Cupid to pierce his heart with one of his arrows.
“Ceres was the first to turn up the clods with the crooked plough; she first gave corn and wholesome food to the earth; she first gave laws; everything is the gift of Ceres. She is to be sung by me; I only wish that I could utter verses worthy of the Goddess, for doubtless she is a Goddess worthy of my song. The vast island of Trinacria40 is heaped up on the limbs of the Giant, and keeps down Typhœus, that dared to hope for the abodes of Heaven, placed beneath its heavy mass. He, indeed, struggles, and attempts often to rise, but his right hand is placed beneath the Ausonian 192V. 350-373Pelorus,41 his left under thee, Pachynus;42 his legs are pressed down by Lilybœum;43 Ætna bears down his head; under it Typhœus, on his back, casts forth sand, and vomits flame from his raging mouth; often does he struggle to throw off the load of earth, and to roll away cities and huge mountains from his body. Then does the earth tremble, and the King of the shades himself is in dread, lest it may open, and the ground be parted with a wide chasm, and, the day being let in, may affright the trembling ghosts.
“Fearing this ruin, the Ruler had gone out from his dark abode; and, carried in his chariot by black horses, he cautiously surveyed the foundations of the Sicilian land. After it was sufficiently ascertained that no place was insecure, and fear was laid aside, Erycina,44 sitting down upon her mountain, saw him wandering; and, embracing her winged son, she said, Cupid, my son, my arms, my hands, and my might, take up those darts by which thou conquerest all, and direct the swift arrows against the breast of the God, to whom fell the last lot of the triple kingdom.45 Thou subduest the Gods above, and Jupiter himself; thou subduest the conquered Deities of the deep, and him who rules over the Deities of the deep. Why is Tartarus exempt? Why dost thou not extend the Empire of thy mother and thine own? A third part of the world is now at stake. And yet so great power is despised even in our own heaven, and, together with myself, the influence 193V. 374-385of Love becomes but a trifling matter. Dost thou not see how that Pallas, and Diana, who throws the javelin, have renounced me? The daughter of Ceres, too, will be a virgin, if we shall permit it, for she inclines to similar hopes. But do thou join the Goddess to her uncle, if I have any interest with thee in favor of our joint sway.
“Venus thus spoke. He opened his quiver, and, by the direction of his mother, set apart one out of his thousand arrows; but one, than which there is not any more sharp or less unerring, or which is more true to the bow. And he bent the flexible horn, by pressing his knee against it, and struck Pluto in the breast with the barbed arrow.”
The ancients frequently accounted for natural phænomena on fabulous grounds: and whatever they found difficult to explain, from their ignorance of the principles of natural philosophy, they immediately attributed to the agency of a supernatural cause. Ætna was often seen to emit flames, and the earth was subjected to violent shocks from the forces of its internal 172V. 385-390fires when struggling for a vent. Instead of looking for the source of these eruptions in the sulphur and bituminous matter in which the mountain abounds, they fabled, that the Gods, having vanquished the Giant Typhœus, or, according to some authors, Enceladus, threw Mount Ætna on his body; and that the attempts he made to free himself from the superincumbent weight were the cause of those fires and earthquakes.
Pluto surprises Proserpina in the fields of Henna, and carries her away by force. The Nymph Cyane endeavors, in vain, to stop him in his passage, and through grief and anguish, dissolves into a fountain. Ceres goes everywhere in search of her daughter, and, in her journey, turns the boy Stellio into a newt.
“Not far from the walls of Henna46 there is a lake 194V. 386-400of deep water, Pergus by name; Cayster does not hear more songs of swans, in his running streams, than that. A wood skirts the lake, surrounding it on every side, and with its foliage, as though with an awning, keeps out the rays of the sun. The boughs produce a coolness, the moist ground flowers of Tyrian 173V. 390-407hue. There the spring is perpetual. In this grove, while Proserpina is amusing herself, and is plucking either violets or white lilies, and while, with childlike eagerness, she is filling her baskets and her bosom, and is striving to outdo her companions of the same age in gathering, almost at the same instant she is beheld, beloved, and seized by Pluto;47 in such great haste is love. The Goddess, affrighted, with lamenting lips calls both her mother and her companions,48 but more frequently her mother;49 and as she has torn her garment from the upper edge, the collected flowers fall from her loosened robes. So great, too, is the innocence of her 195V. 400-414childish years, this loss excites the maiden’s grief as well. The ravisher drives on his chariot, and encourages his horses, called, each by his name, along whose necks and manes he shakes the reins, dyed with swarthy rust. He is borne through deep lakes, and the pools of the Palici,50 smelling strong of sulphur, and boiling fresh from out of the burst earth; and where the Bacchiadæ,51 174V. 407-432a race sprung from Corinth, with its two seas,52 built a city53 between unequal harbors.
“There is a stream in the middle, between Cyane and the Pisæan Arethusa, which is confined within itself, being enclosed by mountain ridges at a short distance from each other. Here was Cyane,54 the most celebrated among the Sicilian Nymphs, from whose name the pool also was called, who stood up from out of the midst of the water, as far as the higher part of her stomach, and recognized the God, and said, ‘No further 196V. 415-444shall you go. Thou mayst not be the son-in-law of Ceres against her will. The girl should have been asked of her mother, not carried away. But if I may be allowed to compare little matters with great ones, Anapis55 also loved me. Yet I married him, courted, and not frightened into it, like her.’ She thus said, and stretching her arms on different sides, she stood in his way. The son of Saturn no longer restrained his rage; and encouraging his terrible steeds, he threw his royal sceptre, hurled with a strong arm, into the lowest depths of the stream. The earth, thus struck, made a way down to Tartarus, and received the descending chariot in the middle of the yawning space. But Cyane, lamenting both the ravished Goddess, and the slighted privileges of her spring, carries in her silent mind an inconsolable wound, and is entirely dissolved into tears, and melts away into those waters, of which she had been but lately the great guardian Divinity. You might see her limbs soften, her bones become subjected to bending, her nails lay aside their hardness: each, too, of the smaller extremities of the whole of her body melts away; both her azure hair, her fingers, her 175V. 432-460legs, and her feet; for easy is the change of those small members into a cold stream. After that, her back, her shoulders, her side, and her breast dissolve, vanishing into thin rivulets. Lastly, pure water, instead of live blood, enters her corrupted veins, and nothing remains which you can grasp in your hand.
“In the mean time, throughout all lands and in every sea, the daughter is sought in vain by her anxious mother. Aurora, coming with her ruddy locks does not behold her taking any rest, neither does Hesperus. She, with her two hands, sets light to some pines at the flaming Ætna, and giving herself no rest, bears them through the frosty darkness. Again, when the genial day has dulled the light of the stars, she 197V. 444-461seeks her daughter from the rising of the sun to the setting thereof. Fatigued by the labor, she has now contracted thirst, and no streams have washed her mouth, when by chance she beholds a cottage covered with thatch, and knocks at its humble door, upon which an old woman56 comes out and sees the Goddess, and gives her, asking for water, a sweet drink which she has lately distilled57 from parched pearled barley. While she is drinking it thus presented, a boy58 of impudent countenance and bold, stands before the Goddess, and laughs, and calls her greedy. She is offended; and a part being not yet quaffed, the Goddess sprinkles him, as he is thus talking, with the barley mixed with the liquor.
“His face contracts the stains, and he bears legs where just now he was bearing arms; a tail is added to his changed limbs; and he is contracted into a diminutive form, that no great power of doing injury may exist; his size is less than that of a small lizard. He flies from the old woman, astounded and weeping, and trying to touch the monstrosity; and 176V. 460-461he seeks a lurking place, and has a name suited to his color, having his body speckled with various spots.”
The story of the rape of Proserpine has caused much inquiry among writers, both ancient and modern, as to the facts on which it was founded. Some have grounded it on principles of natural philosophy; while others have supposed it to contain some portion of ancient history, defaced and blemished in lapse of time.
The antiquarian Pezeron is of opinion, that in the partition of 198the world among the Titan kings, Pluto had the west for his share; and that he carried a colony to the further end of Spain, where he caused the gold and silver mines of that region to be worked. The situation of his kingdom, which lay very low, comparatively with Greece, and which the ancients believed to be covered with eternal darkness, gave rise to the fable, that Pluto had got Hell for his share; and this notion was much encouraged by the subterranean nature of the mines which he caused to be worked. He thinks that the river Tartarus, so famed in the realms of Pluto, was no other than the Tartessa, or Guadalquivir of the present day, which runs through the centre of Spain. Lethe, too, he thinks to have been the Guadalaviar, in the same country. Pluto, he suggests, had heard of the beauty of Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres, queen of Sicily, and carried her thence, which gave rise to the tradition that she had been carried to the Infernal Regions.
Le Clerc, on the other hand, thinks that it was not Pluto that carried away Proserpine, but Aidoneus, king of Epirus, or Orcus king of the Molossians. Aidoneus is supposed to have wrought mines in his kingdom, and, as the entrance into it was over a river called Acheron, that prince has often been confounded with Pluto; Epirus too, which was situate very low, may have been figuratively described as the Infernal Regions; for which reason, the journeys of Theseus and Hercules into Epirus may have been spoken of as descents into the Stygian abodes. Le Clerc supposes that Ceres was reigning in Sicily at the time when Aidoneus was king of Epirus, and that she took great care to instruct her subjects in the art of tilling the ground and sowing corn, and established laws for regulating civil government and the preservation of private property; for which reasons she was afterward deemed to be the Goddess of the Earth, and of Corn. Cicero and Diodorus Siculus tell us that Ceres made her residence at Enna, or Henna, in Sicily, which name, according to Bochart, signifies ‘agreeable fountain.’ Cicero and Strabo agree with Ovid in telling us that Proserpine, the only daughter of Ceres, whom other writers name Pherephata, was walking in the adjacent meadows, and gathering flowers with her companions; upon which, certain pirates seized her, and, placing her in a chariot, carried her to the seaside, whence they embarked for Epirus. As Pausanias tells us, it was immediately spread abroad, that Aidoneus, or Pluto, as he was called, had done it, the act having been really committed by others, according to his orders. As those who carried her off concealed themselves in the caverns of Mount Ætna, awaiting their opportunity to escape, it was afterwards fabled that Pluto came out of the Infernal Regions at that 177place; as that mountain, from its nature, was always deemed one of the outlets of Hell. Upon this, Ceres went to Greece, in search of her daughter; and, resting at Eleusis, in Attica, she heard that the ship in which her daughter was carried away had sailed westward. On this, she complained to Jupiter, one of the Titan kings, but could obtain no further satisfaction than that her daughter should be permitted to visit her occasionally, whereby, at length, her grief was mitigated.
Banier does not agree with these suggestions of Pezeron and Le Clerc, and thinks that Ceres is no other personage than the Isis of the Egyptians, supposing that the story is founded on the following 199V. 462-463circumstance:—Greece, he says, was afflicted with famine in the reign of Erectheus, who was obliged to send to Egypt for corn, when those who went for it brought back the worship of the Deity who presided over agriculture. The evils which the Athenians had suffered by the famine, and the dread of again incurring the same calamity, made them willingly embrace the rites of a Goddess whom they believed able to protect them from it. Triptolemus established her worship in Eleusis, and there instituted the mysteries which he had brought over from Egypt. These had been previously introduced into Sicily, which was the reason why it was said that Ceres came from Sicily to Athens. Her daughter was said to have been taken away, because corn and fruit had not been produced in sufficient quantities, for some time, to furnish food for the people. Pluto was said to have carried her to the Infernal regions, because the grain and seeds at that time remained buried, as it were, at the very center of the earth. Jupiter was said to have decided the difference between Ceres and Pluto, because the earth again became covered with crops.
This appears to be an ingenious allegorical explanation of the story; but it is not at all improbable that it may have been founded upon actual facts, and that, having lost her daughter, and going to Attica to seek her, Ceres taught Triptolemus the mysteries of Isis; and that, in process of time, Ceres, having become enrolled among the Divinities of Greece, her worship became confounded with that of Isis.
It is very possible that the story of the transformation of Stellio into a newt may have had no other foundation than the Poet’s fancy.
Ceres proceeds in a fruitless search for her daughter over the whole earth, until the Nymph Arethusa acquaints her with the place of her ravisher’s abode. The Goddess makes her complaint to Jupiter, and obtains his consent for her daughter’s return to the upper world, provided she has not eaten anything since her arrival in Pluto’s dominions. Ascalaphus, however, having informed that she has eaten some seeds of a pomegranate, Ceres is disappointed, and Proserpine, in her wrath, metamorphoses the informer into an owl. The Sirens have wings given them by the Gods, to enable them to be more expeditious in seeking for Proserpine. 178V. 462-479Jupiter, to console Ceres for her loss, decides that her daughter shall remain six months each year with her mother upon earth, and the other six with her husband, in the Infernal Regions.
“It were a tedious task59 to relate through what lands and what seas the Goddess wandered; for her search the world was too limited. She returns to 200V. 464-483Sicily; and while, in her passage, she views all places, she comes, too, to Cyane; she, had she not been transformed, would have told her everything. But both mouth and tongue were wanting to her, thus desirous to tell, and she had no means whereby to speak. Still, she gave unmistakable tokens, and pointed out, on the top of the water, the girdle60 of Proserpine, well known to her parent, which by chance had fallen off in that place into the sacred stream.
“Soon as she recognized this, as if then, at last, she fully understood that her daughter had been carried away61 the Goddess tore her unadorned hair, and struck her breast again and again with her hands. Not as yet does she know where she is, yet she exclaims against all countries, and calls them ungrateful, and not worthy of the gifts of corn; and Trinacria before all others, in which she has found the proofs of her loss. Wherefore, with vengeful hand, she there broke the ploughs that were turning up the clods, and, in her anger, consigned to a similar death both the husbandmen and the oxen that cultivated the 179V. 479-508fields, and ordered the land to deny a return of what had been deposited therein, and rendered the seed corrupted. The fertility of the soil, famed over the wide world, lies in ruin, the corn dies in the early blade, and sometimes excessive heat of the 201V. 483-508sun, sometimes excessive showers, spoil it. Both the Constellations and the winds injure it, and the greedy birds pick up the seed as it is sown; darnel, and thistles, and unconquerable weeds, choke the crops of wheat.
“Then the Alpheian Nymph62 raised her head from out of the Elean waters, and drew back her dripping hair from her forehead to her ears, and said, “O thou mother of the virgin sought over the whole world, and of the crops as well, cease at length thy boundless toil, and in thy wrath be not angered with a region that is faithful to thee. This land does not deserve it; and against its will it gave a path for the commission of the outrage. Nor am I now a suppliant for my own country; a stranger I am come hither. Pisa is my native place, and from Elis do I derive my birth. As a stranger do I inhabit Sicily, but this land is more pleasing to me than any other soil. I, Arethusa, now have this for my abode, this for my habitation; which, do thou, most kindly Goddess, preserve. Why I have been removed from my native place, and have been carried to Ortygia, through the waters of seas so spacious, a seasonable time will come for my telling thee, when thou shalt be eased of thy cares, and wilt be of more cheerful aspect. The pervious earth affords me a passage, and, carried beneath its lowest caverns, here I lift my head again, and behold the stars which I have not been used to see. While, then, I was running under the earth, along the Stygian stream, thy Proserpine was there beheld by my eyes.63 She indeed was sad, and not as yet without alarm in her countenance, but still she is a queen, and the most ennobled female in the world of darkness; still, too, is she the powerful spouse of the Infernal King.”
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“The mother, on hearing these words, stood amazed, as though she had been made of stone, and for a long time was like one stupefied; and when her intense bewilderment was dispelled by the weight of her grief, she departed in her chariot into the ætherial air, and there, with her countenance all clouded, she stood before Jupiter, much to his discredit, with her hair dishevelled; and she said, “I have come, Jupiter, as a suppliant to thee, both for my own offspring and for thine. If thou hast no respect for the mother, still let the daughter move her father; and I pray thee not to have the less regard for her, because she was brought forth by my travail. Lo! my daughter, so long sought for, has been found by me at last; if you call it finding64 to be more certain of one’s loss; or if you call it finding, to know where she is. I will endure the fact, that she has been carried off, if he will only restore her. For, indeed, a daughter of thine is not deserving of a ravisher for a husband, if now my own daughter is.” Jupiter replied, “Thy daughter is a pledge and charge, in common to me and thee; but, should it please thee only to give right names to things, this deed is not an injury, but it is a mark of affection, nor will he, as a son-in-law, be any disgrace to us, if thou only, Goddess, shouldst give thy consent. Although other recommendations were wanting, how great a thing is it to be the brother of Jupiter! and besides, is it not because other points are not wanting, and because he is not my inferior, except by the accident of his allotment of the Stygian abodes? But if thy eagerness is so great for their separation, let Proserpine return to heaven; still upon this fixed condition, if she has touched no food there with her lips; for thus has it been provided by the law of the Destinies.”
“Thus he spoke; still Ceres is now resolved to fetch away her daughter; but not so do the Fates permit. For the damsel had broke her fast; and, while in her 203V. 535-551innocence she was walking about the finely-cultivated garden, she had plucked a pomegranate65 from the bending tree, and had chewed in her 181V. 538-557mouth seven grains66 taken from the pale rind. Ascalaphus67 alone, of all persons, had seen this, whom Orphne, by no means the most obscure among the Nymphs of Avernus,68 is said once to have borne to her own Acheron within his dusky caves. He beheld this, and cruelly prevented her return by his discovery. The Queen of Erebus grieved, and changed the informer into an accursed bird, and turned his head, sprinkled with the waters of Phlegethon,69 into a beak, and feathers, and great eyes. He, thus robbed of his own shape, is clothed with tawny wings, his head becomes larger, his long nails bend inwards, and with difficulty can he move the wings that spring through his sluggish arms. He becomes an obscene bird, the foreboder of approaching woe, a lazy owl, a direful omen to mortals.
“But he, by his discovery, and his talkativeness, may seem to have merited punishment. Whence have 204V. 552-563you, daughters of Acheloüs,70 feathers and the feet of birds, since you have the faces of maidens? Is it because, when Proserpine was gathering the flowers of spring, you were mingled in the number of her companions? After you had sought her in vain throughout the whole world, immediately, that the waters might be 182V. 557-563sensible of your concern, you wished to be able, on the support of your wings, to hover over the waves, and you found the Gods propitious, and saw your limbs grow yellow with feathers suddenly formed. But lest the sweetness of your voice, formed for charming the ear, and so great endowments of speech, should lose the gift of a tongue, your virgin countenance and your human voice still remained.”
Apollodorus says, that the terms of the treaty respecting Proserpine were, that she should stay on earth nine months with Ceres, and three with Pluto, in the Infernal Regions. Other writers divide the time equally; six months to Ceres, and six to Pluto. They also tell us that the story of Ascalaphus is founded on the fact, that he was one of the courtiers of Pluto, who, having advised his master to carry away Proserpine, did all that lay in his power to obstruct the endeavors of Ceres, and hinder the restoration of her daughter, on which Proserpine had him privately destroyed; to screen which deed the Fable was invented; the pernicious counsels which he gave his master being signified by the seeds of the pomegranate. It has also been suggested that the story of his change into an owl was based on the circumstance that he was the overseer of the mines of Pluto, in which he perished, removed from the light of day. Perhaps he was there crushed to death by the fall of a rock, which caused the poets to say that Proserpine had covered him with a large stone, as Apollodorus informs us, who also says that it was Ceres who inflicted the punishment upon him. The name ‘Ascalaphus’ signifies, ‘one that breaks stones,’ and, very probably, that name was only given him to denote his employment. Some writers state that he was changed into a lizard, which the Greeks call ‘Ascalabos,’ and, probably, the resemblance between the names gave rise to this version of the story.
Probably, the story of the Nymph Cyane reproaching Pluto with his treatment of Proserpine, and being thereupon changed by him into a fountain, has no other foundation than the propinquity of the place where Pluto’s emissaries embarked to a stream of that 205V. 564-580name near the city of Syracuse; which was, perhaps, overflowing at that time, and may have impeded their passage.
Ovid, probably, feigned that the Sirens begged the Gods to change them into birds, that they might seek for Proserpine, on the ground of some existing tradition, that living on the coast of Italy, near the island of Sicily, and having heard of the misfortune that had befallen her, they ordered a ship with sails to be equipped to go in search of her. Further reference to the Sirens will be made, on treating of the adventures of Ulysses.
The Muse continues her song, in which Ceres, being satisfied with the decision of Jupiter relative to her daughter, returns to Arethusa, to learn the history of her adventures. The Nymph entertains the Goddess with the Story of the passion of Alpheus, and his pursuit of her; to avoid which, she implores the assistance of Diana, who changes her into a fountain.
“But Jupiter being the mediator between his brother and his disconsolate sister, divides the rolling year equally between them. For now, the Goddess, a common Divinity of two kingdoms, is so many months with her mother, and just as many with her husband. Immediately the appearance of both her mind and her countenance is changed; for the brow of the Goddess, which, of late, might appear sad, even to Pluto, himself, is full of gladness; as the Sun, which has lately been covered with watery clouds, when he comes forth from the clouds, now dispersed. The genial Ceres, now at ease on the recovery of her daughter, thus asks, ‘What was the cause of thy wanderings? Why art thou, Arethusa, a sacred spring?’ The waters are silent, and, the Goddess raises her head from the deep fountain; and, having dried her green tresses with her hand, she relates the old amours of the stream of Elis.71
“‘I was,’ says she, ‘one of the Nymphs which exist in Achaia, nor did any one more eagerly skim along the glades than myself, nor with more industry set the 206V. 581-606nets. But though the reputation for beauty was never sought by me, although, too, I was of robust make, still I had the name of being beautiful. But my appearance, when so much commended, did not please me; and I, like a country lass, blushed at those endowments of person in which other females are wont to take a pride, and I deemed it a crime to please. I remember, I was returning weary from the Stymphalian72 wood; the weather was hot, and my toil had redoubled the intense heat. I found a stream gliding on without any eddies, without any noise, and 184V. 588-615clear to the bottom; through which every pebble, at so great a depth, might be counted, and which you could hardly suppose to be in motion. The hoary willows73 and poplars, nourished by the water, furnished a shade, spontaneously produced, along the shelving banks. I approached, and, at first, I dipped the soles of my feet, and then, as far as the knee. Not content with that, I undressed, and I laid my soft garments upon a bending willow; and, naked, I plunged into the waters.
“‘While I was striking them, and drawing them towards me, moving in a thousand ways, and was sending forth my extended arms, I perceived a most unusual murmuring noise beneath the middle of the stream; and, alarmed, I stood on the edge of the nearer bank. ‘Whither dost thou hasten, Arethusa?’ said Alpheus from his waves. ‘Whither dost thou hasten?’ again he said to me, in a hollow tone. Just as I was, I fled without my clothes; for the other side had my garments. So much the more swiftly did he pursue, and become inflamed; and, because I was naked, the more tempting to him did I appear. Thus was I running; thus unrelentingly was he pursuing me; as the doves are wont to fly from the hawk with trembling wings, and as the hawk is wont to pursue the trembling doves, I held out in my course even as far as Orchomenus,74 207V. 607-634and Psophis,75 and Cyllene, and the Mænalian valleys, and cold Erymanthus and Elis. Nor was he swifter than I, but unequal to him in strength, I was unable, any longer, to keep up the chase; for he was able to endure prolonged fatigue. However, I ran over fields and over mountains covered with trees, rocks too, and crags, and where there was no path. The sun was upon my back; I saw a long shadow advancing before my feet, unless, perhaps, it was my fear that 185V. 615-641saw it. But, at all events, I was alarmed at the sound of his feet, and his increased hardness of breathing was now fanning the fillets of my hair. Wearied with the exertion of my flight, I said, ‘Give aid, Dictynna, to thy armor-bearer, or I am overtaken; I, to whom thou hast so often given thy bow to carry, and thy darts enclosed in a quiver.’ The Goddess was moved, and, taking one of the dense clouds, she threw it over me. The river looked about for me, concealed in the darkness, and, in his ignorance sought about the encircling cloud and twice, unconsciously did he go around the place where the Goddess had concealed me, and twice did he cry, ‘Ho, Arethusa!76 Ho, Arethusa!’ What, then, were my feelings in my wretchedness? Were they not just those of the lamb, as it hears the wolves howling around the high sheep-folds? Or of the hare, which, lurking in the bush, beholds the hostile noses of the dogs, and dares not make a single movement with her body? Yet he does not depart; for no further does he trace any prints of my feet. He watches the cloud and the spot. A cold perspiration takes possession of my limbs thus besieged, and azure colored drops distil from all my body. Wherever I move my foot, there 208V. 634-641flows a lake; drops trickle from my hair, and, in less time than I take in acquainting thee with my fate, I was changed into a stream. But still the river recognized the waters, the objects of his love; and, having laid aside the shape of a mortal, which he had assumed, he was changed into his own waters, that he might mingle with me. Thereupon, the Delian Goddess cleaved the ground. Sinking, I was carried through dark caverns to Ortygia,77 which, being dear to me, from the surname of my own Goddess, was the first to introduce me to the upper air.’”
Bochart tells us that the story of the fountain Arethusa and the river Alpheus, her lover, who traversed so many countries in pursuit of her, has no other foundation than an equivocal expression in the language of the first inhabitants of Sicily. The Phœnicians, who went to settle in 186V. 642-651that island, finding the fountain surrounded with willows, gave it the name of ‘Alphaga,’ or ‘the fountain of the willows.’ Others, again, gave it the name of ‘Arith,’ signifying ‘a stream.’ The Greeks, arriving there in after ages, not understanding the signification of these words, and remembering their own river Alpheus, in Elis, imagined that since the river and the fountain had nearly the same name, Alpheus had crossed the sea, to arrive in Sicily.
This notion appearing, probably, to the poets not devoid of ingenuity, they accordingly founded on it the romantic story of the passion of the river God Alpheus for the Nymph Arethusa. Some of the ancient historians appear, however, in their credulity, really to have believed, at least, a part of the story, as they seriously tell us, that the river Alpheus passes under the bed of the sea, and rises again in Sicily, near the fountain of Arethusa. Even among the more learned, this fable gained credit; for we find the oracle of Delphi ordering Archias to conduct a colony of Corinthians to Syracuse, and the priestess giving the following directions:—‘Go into that island where the river Alpheus mixes his waters with the fair Arethusa.’
Pausanias avows, that he regards the story of Alpheus and Arethusa as a mere fable; but, not daring to dispute a fact established by the response of an oracle, he does not contradict the fact of the river running through the sea, though he is at a loss to understand how it can happen.
Ceres entrusts her chariot to Triptolemus, and orders him to go everywhere, and cultivate the earth. He obeys her, and, at length, arrives in Scythia, where Lyncus, designing to kill him, is changed into a lynx. The Muse then finishes her song, on which the daughters of Pierus are changed into magpies.
“Thus far Arethusa. The fertile Goddess yoked78 two dragons to her chariot, and curbed their mouths with bridles; and was borne through the mid air of heaven and of earth, and guided her light chariot to the Tritonian citadel, to Triptolemus; and she ordered him to scatter the seeds that were entrusted to him partly in the fallow ground, and partly in the ground restored to cultivation after so long a time. Now had the youth been borne on high over Europe and the lands of Asia,79 and he arrived at the coast of Scythia: Lyncus was the king there. He entered the house of the king. Being asked whence he came, 187V. 651-678and the occasion of his coming, and his name, and his country, he said, ‘My country is the famous Athens, my name is Triptolemus. I came neither in a ship through the waves, nor on foot by land; the pervious sky made a way for me. I bring the gifts of Ceres, which, scattered over the wide fields, are to yield you the fruitful harvests, and wholesome food.’ The barbarian envies him; and that he himself may be deemed the author of so great a benefit, he receives him with hospitality, and, when overpowered with sleep, he attacks him with the sword. But, while attempting to pierce his breast, Ceres made him a lynx; and again sent the Mopsopian80 youth to drive the sacred drawers of her chariot through the air.
210V. 662-678“The greatest of us81 had now finished her learned song. But the Nymphs, with unanimous voice, pronounced that the Goddesses who inhabit Helicon had proved the conquerors. Then the others, thus vanquished, began to scatter their abuse: ‘Since,’ said she, ‘it is a trifling matter for you to have merited punishment by this contest, you add abuse, too, to your fault, and endurance is not permitted us: we shall proceed to punishment, and whither our resentment calls, we shall follow.’ The Emathian sisters smiled, and despised our threatening language; and endeavoring to speak, and to menace with their insolent hands amid great clamor, they beheld quills growing out of their nails, and their arms covered with feathers. And they each see the face of the other shooting out into a hard beak, and new birds being added to the woods. And while they strive to beat their breasts elevated by the motion of their arms, they hang poised in the air, as magpies, the scandal of the groves. Even then their original talkativeness remains in them as birds, and their jarring garrulity, and their enormous love of chattering.”
Triptolemus reigned at Eleusis at the time when the mysteries of Ceres were established there. As we are told by Philochorus, he went with a ship, to carry corn into different countries, and introduced there the worship of Ceres, whose priest he was. This is, doubtless, the key for the 188explanation of the story, that Ceres nursed him on her own milk, and purified him by fire. Some have supposed that the fable refers to the epoch when agriculture was introduced into Greece: but it is much more probable that it relates simply to the introduction there of the mysterious worship of Ceres, which was probably imported from Egypt. It is possible that, at the same period, the Greeks may have learned some improved method of tilling the ground, acquired by their intercourse with Egypt.
Probably, the dangers which Triptolemus experienced in his voyages and travels, gave rise to the story of Lyncus, whose cruelty caused him to be changed into a lynx. Bochart and Le Clerc think that the fable of Triptolemus being drawn by winged dragons, is based upon the equivocal meaning of a Phœnician word, which signified either ‘a winged dragon,’ or ‘a ship fastened 211with iron nails or bolts.’ Philochorus, however, as cited by Eusebius, says that his ship was called a flying dragon, from its carrying the figure of a dragon on its prow. We learn from a fragment of Stobæus, that Erectheus, when engaged in a war against the Eleusinians, was told by the oracle that he would be victorious, if he sacrificed his daughter Proserpine. This, perhaps, may have given rise, or added somewhat, to the story of the rape of Proserpine by Pluto.
According to a fragment of Homer, cited by Pausanias, the names of the first Greeks, who were initiated into the mysteries of Ceres, were,—Celeus, Triptolemus, Eumolpus, and Diocles. Clement of Alexandria calls them Baubon, Dysaulus, Eubuleüs, Eumolpus, and Triptolemus. Eumolpus being the Hierophant, or explainer of the mysteries of Eleusis, made war against Erectheus, king of Athens. They were both killed in battle, and it was thereupon agreed that the posterity of Erectheus should be kings of Athens, and the descendants of Eumolpus should, in future, retain the office of Hierophant.
1. Phineus.]—Ver. 8. He was the brother of Cepheus, to whom Andromeda had been betrothed. There was another person of the same name, who entertained the Argonauts, and who is also mentioned in the Metamorphoses.
2. In the cushion.]—Ver. 34. This was probably the mattress or covering of the couch on which the ancients reclined during meals. It was frequently stuffed with wool; but among the poorer classes, with straw and dried weeds.
3. An altar.]—Ver. 36. This was either the altar devoted to the worship of the Penates; or, more probably, perhaps, in this instance, that erected for sacrifice to the Gods on the occasion of the nuptials of Perseus and Andromeda.
4. Gods of hospitality.]—Ver. 45. Jupiter was especially considered to be the avenger of a violation of the laws of hospitality.
5. Athis by name.]—Ver. 47. Athis, or Atys, is here described as of Indian birth, to distinguish him from the Phrygian youth of the same name, beloved by Cybele, whose story is told by Ovid in the Fasti.
6. His falchion.]—Ver. 69. The “Harpe” was a short, crooked sword, or falchion: such as we call a “scimitar.”
7. Syene.]—Ver. 74. This was a city on the confines of Æthiopia, bordering upon Egypt. Ovid tells us in the Pontic Epistles (Book i. Ep. 5, l. 79A), that “there, at the time of the summer solstice, bodies as they stand, have no shadow.”
8. A huge bowl.]—Ver. 82. Clarke calls “ingentem cratera” “a swingeing bowl.”
9. Sperchius.]—Ver. 86. This was probably a person, and not the river of Thessaly, flowing into the Malian Gulf.
10. Has declined the warfare.]—Ver. 91. This is an illustration of the danger of neutrality, when the necessity of the times requires a man to adopt the side which he deems to be in the right.
11. Clings to the altars.]—Ver. 103. In cases of extreme danger, it was usual to fly to the temples of the Deities, and to take refuge behind the altar or statue of the God, and even to cling to it, if necessity required.
12. A mournful dirge.]—Ver. 118. Clarke translates ‘Casuque canit miserabile carmen;’ ‘and in his fall plays but a dismal ditty.’
13. Cinyphian.]—Ver. 124. Cinyps, or Cinyphus, was the name of a river situate in the north of Africa.
14. Nasamonian land.]—Ver. 129. The Nasamones were a people of Libya, near the Syrtes, or quicksands, who subsisted by plundering the numerous wrecks on their coasts.
15. Bactrian.]—Ver. 135. Bactris was the chief city of Bactria, a region bordering on the western confines of India.
16. The Mendesian.]—Ver. 144. Mendes was a city of Egypt, near the mouth of the Nile, where Pan was worshipped, according to Pliny. Celadon was a native of either this place, or of the city of Myndes, in Syria.
17. Now deceived.]—Ver. 147. Because he had not foreseen his own approaching fate.
18. Bellona.]—Ver. 155. She was the sister of Mars, and was the Goddess of War.
19. Chaonian.]—Ver. 163. Chaonia was a mountainous part of Epirus, so called from Chaon, who was accidentally killed, while hunting, by Helenus, the son of Priam. It has been, however, suggested that the reading ought to be ‘Choanius;’ as the Choanii were a people bordering on Arabia; and very justly, for how should the Chaonians and Nabathæans, or Epirotes, and Arabians become united in the same sentence, as meeting in a region so distant as Æthiopia?
20. Cyllenian.]—Ver. 176. His falchion had been given to him by Mercury, who was born on Mount Cyllene, in Arcadia.
21. Eryx rebuked them.]—Ver. 195. ‘Increpat hos Eryx’ is translated by Clarke, ‘Eryx rattles these blades.’
22. Prœtus.]—Ver. 238. He was the brother of Acrisius, the grandfather of Perseus.
23. Polydectes.]—Ver. 242. Polydectes was king of the little island of Seriphus, one of the Cyclades. His brother Dictys had removed Perseus, with his mother Danaë, to the kingdom of Polydectes. The latter became smitten with love for Danaë, though he was about to marry Hippodamia. On this occasion he exacted a promise from Perseus, of the head of the Gorgon Medusa. When Perseus returned victorious, he found that his mother, with her protector Dictys, had taken refuge at the altars of the Deities, against the violence of Polydectes; on which Perseus changed him into stone. The story of Perseus afforded abundant materials to the ancient poets. Æschylus wrote a Tragedy called Polydectes, Sophocles one called Danaë, while Euripides composed two, called respectively Danaë and Dictys. Pherecydes also wrote on this subject, and his work seems to have been a text book for succeeding poets. Polygnotus painted the return of Perseus with the head of Medusa, to the island of Seriphus.
24. To her brother.]—Ver. 250. As both Tritonia, or Minerva, and Perseus had Jupiter for their father.
25. Gyarus.]—Ver. 252. Cythnus and Gyarus were two islands of the Cyclades.
26. The new fountain.]—Ver. 256. This was Helicon, which was produced by a blow from the hoof of Pegasus.
27. Urania.]—Ver. 260. One of the Muses, who presided over Astronomy.
28. Mnemonian.]—Ver. 268. The Muses are called ‘Mnemonides,’ from the Greek word μνήμων ‘remembering,’ or ‘mindful,’ because they were said to be the daughters, by Jupiter, of Mnemosyne, or Memory.
29. Phocean.]—Ver. 276. Daulis was a city of Phocis; a district between Bœotia and Ætolia, in which the city of Delphi and Mount Parnassus were situate.
30. Our Divinities.]—Ver. 279. ‘Nostra veneratus numina,’ is translated by Clarke, ‘and worshipping our Goddessships.’
31. Some saluting them.]—Ver. 295. That is, crying out χαῖρε, χαῖρε, the usual salutation among the Greeks, equivalent to our ‘How d’ye do?’ From two lines of Persius, it seems to have been a common thing to teach parrots and magpies to repeat these words.
32. Lands of Pella.]—Ver. 302. Pella was a city of Macedonia, in that part of it which was called Emathia. It was famed for being the birthplace of Philip, and Alexander the Great.
33. Pæonian.]—Ver. 303. Pæonia was a mountainous region of Macedonia, adjacent to Emathia.
34. Evippe.]—Ver. 303. Evippe was the wife of Pierus, and the mother of the Pierides.
35. Achaia.]—Ver. 306. The Achaia here mentioned was the Hæmonian, or Thessalian Achaia. The other parts of Thessaly were Phthiotis and Pelasgiotis.
36. Aganippe.]—Ver. 312. Aganippe was the name of a fountain in Bœotia, near Helicon, sacred to the Muses. It is called Hyantean, from the ancient name of the inhabitants of the country.
37. Venus as a fish.]—Ver. 331. The story of the transformation of Venus into a fish, to escape the fury of the Giants, is told, at length, in the second Book of the Fasti.
38. Wings of an Ibis.]—Ver. 331. The Ibis was a bird of Egypt, much resembling a crane, or stork. It was said to be of peculiarly unclean habits, and to subsist upon serpents.
39. We of Aonia.]—Ver. 333. The Muses obtained the name of Aonides from Aonia, a mountainous district of Bœotia.
40. Trinacria.]—Ver. 347. Sicily was called Trinacris, or Trinacria, from its three corners or promontories, which are here named by the Poet.
41. Pelorus.]—Ver. 350. This cape, or promontory, now called Capo di Faro, is on the east of Sicily, looking towards Italy, whence its present epithet, ‘Ausonian.’ It was so named from Pelorus, the pilot of Hannibal, who, suspecting him of treachery, had put him to death, and buried him on that spot.
42. Pachynus.]—Ver. 351. This Cape, now Capo Passaro, looks towards Greece, from the south of Sicily.
43. Lilybæum.]—Ver. 351. Now called Capo Marsala. It is on the west of Sicily, looking towards the African coast.
44. Erycina.]—Ver. 363. Venus is so called from Eryx, the mountain of Sicily, on which her son Eryx, one of the early Sicilian kings, erected a magnificent temple in her honor.
45. The triple kingdom.]—Ver. 368. In the partition of the dominion of the universe the heavens fell to the lot of Jupiter, the seas to that of Neptune; while the infernal regions, or, as some say, the earth, were awarded to Pluto.
46. Henna.]—Ver. 385. Henna, or Enna, was a city so exactly situated in the middle of Sicily that it was called the navel of that island. The worship of Ceres there was so highly esteemed, that ancient writers remarked, that you might easily take the whole place for one vast temple of that Goddess, and all the inhabitants for her priests. Proserpine is said by many authors, besides Ovid, to have been carried away by Pluto in the vicinity of Henna; though some writers say that it took place in Attica, and others again in Asia, while the Hymn of Orpheus mentions the western coast of Spain. Cicero describes this spot in his Oration against Verres: his words are, ‘It is said that Libera, who is the Deity that we call Proserpine, was carried away from the Grove of Enna. Enna, where these events took place to which I now refer, is in a lofty and exposed situation; but on the summit the ground presents a level surface, and there are springs of everflowing water. The spot is entirely cut off and separated from all [ordinary] means of approach. Around it are many lakes and groves, and flowers in bloom at all seasons of the year; so that the very spot seems to portray the rape of the damsel, with which story, from our very infancy, we have been familiar. Close by, there is a cavern with its face towards the north, of an immense depth, from which they say that father Pluto, in his chariot, suddenly emerged, and carrying off the maiden, bore her away from that spot, and then, not far from Syracuse, descended into the earth, from which place a lake suddenly arose; where, at the present day, the inhabitants of Syracuse celebrate a yearly festival.’
47. Seized by Pluto.]—Ver. 395. Pluto is here called ‘Dis.’ This name was given to him as the God of the Earth, from the bowels of which riches are dug up.
48. Her companions.]—Ver. 397. Pausanias, in his Messeniaca, has preserved the names of the companions of Ceres, having copied them from the works of Homer.
49. Her mother.]—Ver. 397. Homer, in his poem on the subject, represents that Ceres heard the cries of her daughter, when calling upon her mother for assistance. Ovid recounts this tale much more at length in the fourth Book of the Fasti.
50. The Palici.]—Ver. 406. The Palici were two brothers, sons of Jupiter and the Nymph Thalea, and, according to some, received their name from the Greek words πάλιν ἱκέσθαι, ‘to come again [to life].’ Their mother, when pregnant, prayed the earth to open, and to hide her from the vengeful wrath of Juno. This was done; and when they had arrived at maturity, the Palici burst from the ground in the island of Sicily. They were Deities much venerated there, but their worship did not extend to any other countries. We learn from Macrobius that the natives of Sicily pointed out two small lakes, from which the brothers were said to have emerged, and that the veneration attached to them was such, that by their means they decided disputes, as they imagined that perjurers would meet their death in these waters, while the guiltless would be able to come forth from them unharmed. They were fetid, sulphureous pools of water, probably affected by the volcanic action of Mount Ætna.
51. The Bacchiadæ.]—Ver. 407. Archias, one of the race of the Bacchiadæ, a powerful Corinthian family, being expelled from Corinth, was said to have founded Syracuse, the capital of Sicily. The family sprang either from Bacchius, a son of Dionysus, or Bacchus, or from the fifth king of Corinth, who was named Bacchis. The family was expelled from Corinth by Cypselus, either on account of their luxury and extravagant mode of life, or because they were supposed to aim at the sovereignty.
52. With its two seas.]—Ver. 407. Corinth is called ‘Bimaris’ by the Latin poets, from its having the Ægean sea on one side of it, and the Ionian sea on the other.
53. Built a city.]—Ver. 408. Syracuse had two harbors, one of which was much larger than the other.
54. Cyane.]—Ver. 412. According to Claudian, Cyane was one of the companions of Proserpine, when she was carried off by Pluto.
55. Anapis.]—Ver. 417. This was a river of Sicily, which, mingling with the waters of the fountain Cyane, falls into the sea at Syracuse, opposite to the island of Ortygia. This island, in which the fountain of Arethusa was situate, was separated from the isle of Sicily by a narrow strait of the sea, and communicating with the city of Syracuse by a bridge, was considered as part of it.
56. An old woman.]—Ver. 449. Arnobius calls this old woman here mentioned by the name of Baubo. Nicander, in his Theriaca, calls her Metaneira. Antoninus Liberalis calls her Misma, and Ovid, in the fourth Book of the Fasti, Melanina.
57. Lately distilled.]—Ver. 450. Orpheus, in his Hymn, calls the drink given by the old woman to Ceres κυκεὼν. According to Arnobius, it was a mixed liquor, called by the Romans ‘cinnus;’ made of parched pearled barley, honey, and wine, with flowers and various herbs floating in it. Antoninus Liberalis says, that Ceres drank it off, ἀθρόως, ‘at one draught.’
58. A boy.]—Ver. 451. According to Nicander, the boy was the son of the old woman. If so, the Goddess made her but a poor return for her hospitality.
59. A tedious task.]—Ver. 463. ‘Dicere longa mora est,’ is rendered by Clarke, ‘It is a tedious business to tell.’
60. The girdle.]—Ver. 470. The zone, or girdle, a fastening round the loins, was much worn by both sexes among the ancients. It was sometimes made of netted work, and the chief use of it was for holding up the tunic, and keeping it from dragging on the ground. Among the Romans, the Magister Equitum, or ‘Master of the Horse,’ wore a girdle of red leather, embroidered by the needle, and having its extremities joined by a gold buckle. It also formed part of the cuirass of the warrior. The girdle was used sometimes by men to hold money instead of a purse; and the ‘pera,’ ‘wallet,’ or ‘purse,’ was generally fastened to the girdle. As this article of dress was used to hold up the garments for the sake of expedition, it was loosened when people were supposed to be abstracted from the cares of the world, as in performing sacrifice or attending at funeral rites. A girdle was also worn by the young women, even when the tunic was not girt up; and it was only discontinued by them on the day of marriage. To that circumstance, allusion is made in the present instance, as a proof of the violence that had been committed on Proserpine.
61. Had been carried away.]—Ver. 471. Clarke translates ‘tuncBdenique raptam Scisset,’ ‘knew that she had been kidnapped.’
62. Alpheian Nymph.]—Ver. 487. Alpheus was a river of Elis, in the northwestern part of Peloponnesus. Its present name is ‘Carbon.’
63. Beheld by my eyes.]—Ver. 505. Ovid here makes Arethusa the discoverer to Ceres of the fate of her daughter. In the Fourth Book of the Fasti, he represents the Sun as giving her that information, in which he follows the account given by Homer. Apollodorus describes the descent of Pluto as taking place at Hermione, a town of Argolis, in Peloponnesus, and the people of that place as informing Ceres of what had happened to her daughter.
64. If you call it finding.]—Ver. 520. This remark of the Goddess is very like that of the Irish sailor, who vowed that a thing could not be said to be lost when one knows where it is; and that his master’s kettle was quite safe, for he knew it to be at the bottom of the sea.
65. Plucked a pomegranate.]—Ver. 535. It was for this reason that the Thesmophoriazusæ, in the performance of the rites of Ceres, were especially careful not to taste the pomegranate. This fruit was most probably called ‘malum,’ or ‘pomum punicum,’ or ‘puniceum,’ from the deep red or purple color of the inside, and not as having been first introduced from Phœnicia.
66. Seven grains.]—Ver. 537. He says here ‘seven,’ but in the Fourth Book of the Fasti, only ‘three’ grains.
67. Ascalaphus.]—Ver. 539. He was the son of Acheron, by the Nymph Orphne, or Gorgyra, according to Apollodorus. The latter author says, that for his unseasonable discovery, Ceres placed a rock upon him; but that, having been liberated by Hercules, she changed him into an owl, called ὦτον. The Greek name of a lizard being ἀσκάλαβος, Mellman thinks that the transformation of the boy into a newt, or kind of lizard, which has just been related by the Poet, may have possibly originated in a confused version of the story of Ascalaphus.
68. Avernus.]—Ver. 540. Avernus was a lake of Campania, near Baiæ, of a fetid smell and gloomy aspect. Being feigned to be the mouth, or threshold, of the Infernal Regions, its name became generally used to signify Tartarus, or the Infernal Regions. The name is said to have been derived from the Greek word ἄορνος, ‘without birds,’ or ‘unfrequented by birds,’ as they could not endure the exhalations that were emitted by it.
69. Phlegethon.]—Ver. 544. This was a burning river of the Infernal Regions; which received its name from the Greek word φλέγω, ‘to burn.’
70. Acheloüs.]—Ver. 552. The Sirens were said to be the daughters of the river Acheloüs and of one of the Muses, either Calliope, Melpomene, or Terpsichore.
71. Stream of Elis.]—Ver. 576. The Alpheus really rose in Arcadia; but, as it ran through the territory of the Eleans, and discharged itself into the sea, near Cyllene, the seaport of that people, they worshipped it with divine honors.
72. Stymphalian.]—Ver. 585. Stymphalus was the name of a city, mountain, and river of Arcadia, near the territory of Elis.
73. Hoary willows.]—Ver. 590. The leaf of the willow has a whitish hue, especially on one side of it.
74. Orchomenus.]—Ver. 607. This was a city of Arcadia, in a marshy district, near to Mantinea. There was another place of the same name, in Bœotia, between Elatea and Coronea, famous for a splendid temple to the Graces, there erected.
75. Psophis.]—Ver. 607. This was a city of Arcadia also, adjoining to the Elean territory, which received its name from Psophis, the daughter of Lycaon, or of Eryx, according to some writers. There were several other towns of the same name. The other places here mentioned, with the exception of Elis, were mountains of Arcadia.
76. Ho, Arethusa!]—Ver. 625-6. Clarke thus translates these lines:—‘And twice called out Soho, Arethusa! Soho, Arethusa! What thought had I then, poor soul!’
77. To Ortygia.]—Ver. 640. From the similarity of its name to that of the Goddess Diana, who was called Ortygia, from the Isle of Delos, where she was born.
78. Goddess yoked.]—Ver. 642. Clarke renders ‘geminos Dea fertilis angues curribus admovit,’ ‘the fertile Goddess clapped two snakes to her chariot.’
79. Lands of Asia.]—Ver. 648. Asia Minor is here meant; the other parts of Asia being included under the term ‘Scythicas oras.’
80. Mopsopian.]—Ver. 661. This very uneuphonious name is derived from Mopsopus, one of the ancient kings of Attica. It here means ‘Athenian.’
81. The greatest of us.]—Ver. 662. Namely, Calliope, who had commenced her song as the representative of the Muses, at line 341.
Supplementary Notes (added by transcriber)
A. … the Pontic Epistles (Book i. Ep. 5, l. 79). In the Bell printing, the “l” of “l. 79” is damaged and can be misread as an “i”.
B. tunc denique raptam: Ovid V.471. The readings “tunc” and “tum” are both found, with no difference in meter or translation, but “raptum” for “raptam” is an error.
BOOK THE SIXTH.
Arachne, vain-glorious of her ingenuity, challenges Minerva to a contest of skill in her art. The Goddess accepts the challenge, and, being enraged to see herself outdone, strikes her rival with her shuttle; upon which, Arachne, in her distress, hangs herself. Minerva, touched with compassion, transforms her into a spider.
Tritonia had meanwhile lent an ear to such recitals as these, and she approved of the songs of the Aonian maids, and their just resentment. Then thus she says to herself: “To commend is but a trifling matter; let us, too, deserve commendation, and let us not permit our divine majesty to be slighted without due punishment.” And then she turns her mind to the fate of the Mæonian Arachne; who, as she had heard, did not yield to her in the praises of the art of working in wool. She was renowned not for the place of her birth, nor for the origin of her family, but for her skill alone. Idmon, of Colophon,1 her father, used to dye the soaking wool in Phocæan2 purple.3 Her mother was dead; but she, too, was of the lower rank, and of the same condition with her husband. Yet Arachne, by her skill, had acquired a memorable name throughout the cities of Lydia; although, born of a humble family, she used to live in the little town of Hypæpæ.4 Often 213VI. 14-41did the Nymphs desert the 190VI. 15-45vineyards of their own Tymolus, that they might look at her admirable workmanship; often did the Nymphs of the river Pactolus5 forsake their streams. And not only did it give them pleasure to look at the garments when made, but even, too, while they were being made, so much grace was there in her working. Whether it was that she was rolling the rough wool into its first balls, or whether she was unravelling the work with her fingers, and was softening the fleeces worked over again with long drawings out, equalling the mists in their fineness; or whether she was moving the smooth round spindle with her nimble thumb, or was embroidering with the needle, you might perceive that she had been instructed by Pallas.
This, however, she used to deny; and, being displeased with a mistress so famed, she said, “Let her contend with me. There is nothing which, if conquered, I should refuse to endure.” Pallas personates an old woman; she both places false gray hair on her temples, and supports as well her infirm limbs by a staff. Then thus she begins to speak: “Old age has not everything which we should avoid; experience comes from lengthened years. Do not despise my advice; let the greatest fame for working wool be sought by thee among mortals. But yield to the Goddess, and, rash woman, ask pardon for thy speeches with suppliant voice. She will grant pardon at my entreaty.” The other beholds her with scowling eyes, and leaves the threads she has begun; and scarcely restraining her hand, and discovering her anger by her looks, with such words as these does she reply to the disguised Pallas: “Thou comest here bereft of thy understanding, and worn out with prolonged old age; and it is thy misfortune to have lived too long. If thou hast any daughter-in-law, if thou hast any daughter of thy own, let her listen to these remarks. I have sufficient knowledge for myself in myself, and do not imagine that thou hast availed anything by thy advice; my 214VI. 42-67opinion is still the same. Why does not she come herself? why does she decline this contest?”
Then the Goddess says, “Lo! she is come;” and she casts aside the figure of an old woman, and shows herself as Pallas. The Nymphs and the Mygdonian6 matrons venerate the Goddess. 191VI. 45-73The virgin alone is not daunted. But still she blushes, and a sudden flush marks her reluctant features, and again it vanishes; just as the sky is wont to become tinted with purple, when Aurora is first stirring, and after a short time to grow white from the influence of the Sun. She persists in her determination, and, from a desire for a foolish victory, she rushes upon her own destruction. Nor, indeed, does the daughter of Jupiter decline it, or advise her any further, nor does she now put off the contest. There is no delay; they both take their stand in different places, and stretch out two webs on the loom with a fine warp. The web is tied around the beam; the sley separates the warp; the woof is inserted in the middle with sharp shuttles, which the fingers hurry along, and being drawn within the warp, the teeth notched in the moving sley strike it. Both hasten on, and girding up their garments to their breasts, they move their skilful arms, their eagerness beguiling their fatigue. There both the purple is being woven, which is subjected to the Tyrian brazen vessel,7 and fine shades of minute difference; just as the rainbow, with its mighty arch, is wont to tint a long tract of the sky by means of the rays reflected by the shower: in which, though a thousand different colors are shining, yet the very transition eludes the eyes that look upon it; to such a degree is that which is adjacent the same; and yet the extremes are different. There, too, the 215VI. 68-90pliant gold is mixed with the threads, and ancient subjects are represented on the webs.
Pallas embroiders the rock of Mars8 in Athens, the citadel of Cecrops, and the old dispute about the name of the country. Twice six9 celestial Gods are sitting on lofty seats in august 192VI. 73-95state, with Jupiter in the midst. His own proper likeness distinguishes each of the Gods. The form of Jupiter is that of a monarch. She makes the God of the sea to be standing there, and to be striking the rugged rocks with his long trident, and a wild horse to be springing forth10 out of the midst of the opening of the rock; by which pledge of his favor he lays claim to the city. But to herself she gives the shield, she gives the lance with its sharp point; she gives the helmet to her head, and her breast is protected by the Ægis. She there represents, too, the earth struck by her spear, producing a shoot of pale olive with its berries, and the Gods admiring it. Victory is the end of her work. But that the rival of her fame may learn from precedents what reward to expect for an attempt so mad, she adds, in four different parts, four contests bright in their coloring, and distinguished by diminutive figures. One corner contains Thracian Rhodope and Hæmus, now cold mountains, formerly human bodies, who assumed to themselves the names of the supreme Gods. Another part contains the wretched fate of the Pygmæan matron.11 Her, overcome 216VI. 91-110in a contest, Juno commanded to be a crane, and to wage war against her own people. She depicts, too, Antigone,12 who once dared to contend with the wife of the great Jupiter; and whom the royal Juno changed into a bird; nor did Ilion protect 193VI. 95-114her, or her father Laomedon, from assuming wings, and as a white crane, from commending herself with her chattering beak. The only corner that remains, represents the bereft Cinyras;13 and he, embracing the steps of a temple, once the limbs of his own daughters, and lying upon the stone, appears to be weeping. She surrounds the exterior borders with peaceful olive. That is the close; and with her own tree she puts an end to the work.
The Mæonian Nymph delineates Europa, deceived by the form of the bull; and you would think it a real bull, and real sea. She herself seems to be looking upon the land which she has left, and to be crying out to her companions, and to be in dread of the touch of the dashing waters, and to be drawing up her timid feet. She drew also Asterie,14 seized by the struggling eagle; and made Leda, reclining beneath the wings of the swan. She added, how Jupiter, concealed under the form of a 217VI. 110-118Satyr, impregnated Antiope,15 the beauteous daughter of Nycteus, with a twin offspring; how he was Amphitryon, when he beguiled thee, Tirynthian16 dame; how, turned to gold, he deceived Danaë; how, changed into fire, the daughter of Asopus;17 how, as a shepherd, Mnemosyne;18 194VI. 114-126and as a speckled serpent, Deois.19 She depicted thee too, Neptune, changed into a fierce bull, with the virgin daughter20 of Æolus. Thou, seeming to be Enipeus,21 didst beget the Aloïdæ; as a ram, thou didst delude Theophane, the daughter of Bisaltis.22 Thee too the most bounteous mother of corn, with her yellow hair, experienced23 as a steed; thee, the mother24 of the winged horse, with her snaky locks, received as a bird; 218VI. 119-139Melantho,25 as a dolphin. To all these did she give their own likeness, and the real appearance of the various localities. There was Phœbus, under the form of a rustic; and how, besides, he was wearing the wings of a hawk at one time, at another the skin of a lion; how, too, as a shepherd, he deceived Isse,26 the daughter of Macareus. How Liber deceived Erigone,27 in a fictitious bunch of grapes; and how Saturn28 195VI. 126-145begot the two-formed Chiron, in the form of a horse. The extreme part of the web, being enclosed in a fine border, had flowers interwoven with the twining ivy.
Pallas could not blame that work, nor could Envy censure it. The yellow-haired Virgin grieved at her success, and tore the web embroidered with the criminal acts of the Gods of heaven. And as she was holding her shuttle made of boxwood from Mount Cytorus, three or four times did she strike the forehead of Arachne, the daughter of Idmon. The unhappy creature could not endure it; and being of a high spirit, she tied up her throat in a halter. Pallas, taking compassion, bore her up as she hung; and thus she said: “Live on indeed, wicked one,29 but still hang; and let the same decree of punishment be pronounced against thy race, and against thy latest posterity, that thou mayst not be free from care in time to come.” After that, as she departed, she sprinkled her with the juices of an Hecatean herb;30 219VI. 140-145and immediately her hair, touched by the noxious drug, fell off, and together with it her nose and ears. The head of herself, now small as well throughout her whole body, becomes very small. Her slender fingers cleave to her sides as legs; her belly takes possession of the rest of her; but out of this she gives forth a thread; and as a spider, she works at her web as formerly.
The story of Arachne is most probably based upon the simple fact, that she was the most skilful artist of her time, at working in silk and wool. Pliny the Elder tells us, that Arachne, the daughter of Idmon, a Lydian by birth, and of low extraction, invented the art of making linen cloths and nets; which invention was also by some attributed to Minerva. This competition, then, for the merit of the invention, is the foundation of the challenge here described by the Poet. As, however, Arachne is said to have hanged herself in despair, she probably fell a prey to some cause of grief or discontent, the particulars of which, in their simple form, have 196not come down to us. Perhaps the similarity of her name and employment with those of the spider, as known among the Greeks, gave rise to the story of her alleged transformation; unless we should prefer to attribute the story to the fact of the Hebrew word “arag,” signifying to spin, and, in some degree, resembling her name.
In this story, Ovid takes the opportunity of touching upon several fables, the subjects whereof he states to have been represented in the works of Minerva and Arachne. He alludes, among other matters, to the dispute between Neptune and Minerva, about giving a name to the city of Athens. St. Augustine, on the authority of Varro, says, that Cecrops, in building that city, found an olive tree and a fountain, and that the oracle at Delphi, on being consulted, stating that both Minerva and Neptune had a right to name the city, the Senate decided in favor of the Goddess; and this circumstance, he says, gave rise to the story. According to some writers, it was based on the fact, that Cranaüs changed the name of the city from Poseidonius, which it was called after Neptune, to Athenæ, after his own daughter Athena: and as the Areiopagus sanctioned this change, it was fabled that Neptune had been overcome by the judgment of the Gods.
The Jesuit Tournemine suggests the following explanation of the story:—He says, that the aborigines of Attica, being conquered by the Pelasgians, learned from them the art of navigation, which they turned to account by becoming pirates. Cecrops, bringing a 220colony from Saïs, in Egypt, tried to abolish this barbarous custom, and taught them a more civilized mode of life; and, among other things, he showed them how to till the earth, and to raise the olive, for the cultivation of which he found the soil very favorable. He also introduced the worship of Minerva, or Athena, as she was called, a Goddess highly honored at Saïs, and to whom the olive tree was dedicated. Her the Athenians afterwards regarded as the patroness of their city, which they called after her name. Athens becoming famous for its olives, and, considerable profit arising from their cultivation, the new settlers attempted to wean the natives from piracy, by calling their attention to agricultural pursuits. To succeed in this, they composed a fable, in which Neptune was said to be overcome by Minerva; who, even in the judgment of the twelve greater deities, had found out something of more utility than he. This fable Tournemine supposes to have been composed in the ancient language of the country, which was the Phrygian, mingled with many Phœnician words; and, as in those languages the same word signifies either a ship or a horse, those who afterwards interpreted the fable, took the word in the latter signification, and spoke of a horse instead of a ship, which was really the original emblem employed in the fiction.
Vossius thinks that the fable originated in a dispute between the sailors of Athens, who acknowledged Neptune for their chief, and the people, who followed the Senate, governed by Minerva. The people prevailed, and a life of civilization, marked by attention to the pursuits of agriculture, was substituted for one of piracy; which gave occasion for the saying, that Minerva had overcome Neptune.
With reference to the intrigues and lustful actions attributed to the 197various Deities by Arachne in the delineations on her embroidery, we may here remark, by way of elucidating the origin of these stories in general, that, in early times, when the earth was sunk in ignorance and superstition, and might formed the only right in the heathen world, where a king or petty chieftain demanded the daughter of a neighbor in marriage, and met with a refusal, he immediately had recourse to arms, to obtain her by force. Their standards and ships, on these expeditions, carrying their ensigns, consisting of birds, beasts, or fabulous monsters, gave occasion to those who described their feats of prowess to say, that the ravisher had changed himself into a bull, an eagle, or a lion, for the purpose of effecting his object. The kings and potentates of those days, being frequently called Jupiter, Apollo, Neptune, etc., and the priests of the Gods so named often obtaining their ends by assuming the names of the Divinities they served, we can account the more easily for the number of intrigues and abominable actions, attended by changes and transformations, which the poets and mythologists attribute to many of the Deities.
Palæphatus suggests a very ingenious method of accounting for these stories; founded, however, it must be owned, on a very low estimate of female virtue in those times. He says, that these fabulous narratives originate in the figures of different animals which were engraved on the coins of those times; and that, when money was given to buy over or to procure the seduction of a female, it was afterward said that the lover had himself taken the 221VI. 146-148figure which was represented on the coin, by means of which his object had been effected.
Ovid, in common with many of the ancient historians, geographers, and naturalists, mentions the Pygmies, of which, from the time of Homer downwards, a nation was supposed to exist, in a state of continual warfare with the Cranes. Aristotle, who believed in their existence, placed them in Æthiopia; Pliny, Solinus, and Philostratus in India, near the source of the Ganges; others again, in Scythia, on the banks of the Danube. Some of the moderns have attempted to explain the origin of this prevalent notion. Olaüs Magnus thinks the Samoeids and Laplanders to have been the Pygmies of Homer. Gesner and others fancy that they have found their originals in Thuringia; while Albertus Magnus supposed that the Pygmies were the monkeys, which are so numerous in the interior of Africa, and which were taken for human beings of diminutive stature. Vander Hart, who has written a most ingenious treatise on the subject, suggests that the fable originated in a war between two cities in Greece, Pagæ and Gerania, the similarity of whose names to those of the Pygmies and the Cranes, gave occasion to their neighbors, the Corinthians, to confer on them those nicknames. It is most probable, however, that the story was founded upon the diminutive stature of some of the native tribes of the interior of Africa.
As to the fable of Pygas being changed into a crane, Banier suggests, that the origin of it may be found in the work of Antoninus Liberalis, quoting from the Theogony of Bœus. That poet, whose works are lost, says, that among the Pygmies there was a very beautiful princess, named Œnoë, who greatly oppressed her subjects. Having married Nicodamas, she had by him a son, named Mopsus, whom her subjects seized upon, to 198VI. 146-166educate him in their own way. She accordingly raised levies against her own subjects; and that circumstance, together with the name of Gerane, which, according to Ælian, she also bore, gave rise to the fable, which said that she was changed into a crane; the resemblance which it bore to ‘geranos,’ the Greek for ‘a crane,’ suggesting the foundation of the story.
The Theban matrons, forming a solemn procession in honor of Latona, Niobe esteems herself superior to the Goddess, and treats her and her offspring with contempt; on which, Apollo and Diana, to avenge the affront offered to their mother, destroy all the children of Niobe; and she, herself, is changed into a statue.
All Lydia is in an uproar, and the rumor of the fact goes through the town of Phrygia, and fills the wide world with discourse thereon. Before her own marriage Niobe had known her,31 at the time, when still 222VI. 149-176single, she was inhabiting Mæonia and Sipylus.32 And yet by the punishment of her countrywoman, Arachne, she was not warned to yield to the inhabitants of Heaven, and to use less boastful words. Many things augmented her pride; but yet, neither the skill of her husband, nor the descent of them both, nor the sovereignty of a mighty kingdom, pleased her so much (although all of them did please her) as her own progeny; and Niobe might have been pronounced the happiest of mothers, if she had not so seemed to herself.
For Manto, the daughter of Tiresias, foreknowing the future, urged by a divine impulse, had proclaimed through the middle of the streets, “Ye women of Ismenus, go all of you,33 and give to Latona, and the two children of Latona, the pious frankincense, together with prayers, and wreathe your hair with laurel; by my mouth does Latona command this.” Obedience is paid; and all the Theban women adorn their temples with leaves of laurel, as commanded, and offer frankincense on the sacred fires, and words of supplication. Lo! Niobe comes, surrounded with a crowd of attendants, conspicuous for the 199VI. 146-166gold interwoven in her Phrygian garments, and beautiful, so far as anger will allow; and tossing her hair, hanging down on both shoulders, with her graceful head, she stands still; and as she loftily casts around her haughty eyes, she says, “What madness is this to prefer the inhabitants of Heaven, that you have only heard of, to those who are seen? or why is Latona worshipped at the altars, and my Godhead is still without its due frankincense? Tantalus was my father, who alone was allowed to approach the tables of the Gods above. The sister of the Pleiades34 is my mother; the most mighty Atlas is my grandsire, who bears the æthereal skies upon his neck. Jupiter is my other grandsire; of him, too, I 223VI. 176-200boast as my father-in-law.35 The Phrygian nations dread me; the palace of Cadmus is subject to me as its mistress; and the walls that were formed by the strings of my husband’s lyre, together with their people, are governed by me and my husband; to whatever part of the house I turn my eyes, immense wealth is seen. To this is added a face worthy of a Goddess. Add to this my seven daughters,36 and as many sons, and, at a future day, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Now inquire what ground my pride has for its existence; and presume to prefer Latona the Titaness, the daughter of some obscure Cæus, to whom, when in travail,37 the great earth once refused a little spot, to myself. Neither by heaven, nor by earth, nor by water, was your Goddess received; she was banished the world, till Delos, pitying the wanderer, said, “Thou dost roam a stranger on the land, I in the waves;” and gave her an unstable place of rest. She was made the mother of two children, that is but the seventh part of my issue. I am fortunate, and who shall deny it? and fortunate I shall remain; who, too, can doubt of that? 200VI. 194-227Plenty has made me secure; I am too great for Fortune possibly to hurt; and, though she should take away many things from me, even then much more will she leave me: my many blessings have now risen superior to apprehensions. Suppose it possible for some part of this multitude of my children to be taken away from me; still, thus stripped, I shall not be reduced to two, the number of Latona; an amount, by the number of which, how far, I pray, is she removed from one that is childless? Go from the sacrifice; 224VI. 200-230hasten away from the sacrifice, and remove the laurel from your hair!”
They remove it, and the sacrifice they leave unperformed; and what they can do, they adore the Divinity in gentle murmurs. The Goddess was indignant; and on the highest top of Mount Cynthus, she spoke to her two children in such words as these: “Behold! I, your mother, proud of having borne you, and who shall yield to no one of the Goddesses, except to Juno alone, am called in question whether I am a Goddess, and, for all future ages, I am driven from the altars devoted to me, unless you give me aid. Nor is this my only grief; the daughter of Tantalus has added abusive language to her shocking deeds, and has dared to postpone you to her own children, and (what I wish may fall upon herself), she has called me childless; and the profane wretch has discovered a tongue like her father’s.”38 To this relation Latona was going to add entreaties, when Phœbus said, “Cease thy complaints, ’tis prolonging the delay of her punishment.” Phœbe said the same; and, by a speedy descent through the air, they arrived, covered with clouds, at the citadel of Cadmus.
There was near the walls a plain, level, and extending far and wide, trampled continually by horses, where multitudes of wheels and hard hoofs had softened the clods placed beneath them. There, part of the seven sons of Amphion are mounting upon their spirited steeds, and press their backs, red with the Tyrian dye, and wield the reins heavy with gold; of these, Ismenus, who had formerly been the first burden of his mother, while he is guiding the steps of the horses in a perfect circle, and is curbing their foaming mouths, cries aloud, “Ah, wretched me!” and, pierced through the middle of his breast, 201VI. 228-256bears a dart therein; and the reins dropping from his dying hand, by degrees he falls on his side, over the horse’s shoulder. The next to him, Sipylus, on hearing the sound of a quiver in the air, gives 225VI. 230-256rein39 to his horse; as when the pilot, sensible of the storm approaching, flies on seeing a cloud, and unfurls the hanging sails on every side, that the light breeze may by no means escape them. He gives rein, I said; while thus giving it, the unerring dart overtakes him, and an arrow sticks quivering in the top of his neck, and the bare steel protrudes from his throat. He, as he is bending forward, rolls over the neck, now let loose, and over the mane, and stains the ground with his warm blood. The unhappy Phædimus, and Tantalus, the heir to the name of his grandsire, when they had put an end to their wonted exercise of riding, had turned to the youthful exercises of the palæstra, glowing with oil;40 and now had they brought41 breast to breast, struggling in a close grapple, when an arrow, sped onward from the stretched bow, pierced them both, just as they were united together. At the same instant they groaned aloud, and together they laid their limbs on the ground, writhing with pain; together as they lay, for the last time, they rolled their eyeballs, and together they breathed forth their life.
Alphenor sees this, and, beating his torn breast, flies to them, to lift up their cold limbs in his embrace, and falls in this affectionate duty. For the Delian God pierces the inner part of his midriff with the fatal steel. Soon as it is pulled out, a part of his lungs is dragged forth on the barbs, and his blood is poured forth, with his life, into the air; but no single wound reaches the unshaven Damasicthon. He is struck where the leg commences, and where the sinewy ham 202VI. 256-290makes the 226VI. 256-287space between the joints soft; and while he is trying with his hand to draw out the fatal weapon, another arrow is driven through his neck, up to the feathers. The blood drives this out, and itself starting forth, springs up on high, and, piercing the air, spouts forth afar. The last of them, Ilioneus, had raised his unavailing arms in prayer, and had said, “O, all ye Gods, in common, (not knowing that all were not to be addressed) spare me!” The God, the bearer of the bow, was moved, when now his arrow could not be recalled; yet he died with the slightest wound of all, his heart not being struck deep by the arrow.
The report of this calamity, and the grief of the people, and the tears of her family, made the mother acquainted with a calamity so sudden, wondering that it could have happened, and enraged that the Gods above had dared this, and that they enjoyed a privilege so great. For Amphion the father, thrusting his sword through his breast, dying, had ended his grief together with his life. Alas! how different is this Niobe from that Niobe who had lately driven the people from the altars of Latona, and, with lofty head, had directed her steps through the midst of the city, envied by her own people, but now to be pitied even by an enemy! She falls down upon the cold bodies, and with no distinction she distributes her last kisses among all her sons. Raising her livid arms from these towards heaven, she says, “Glut thyself, cruel Latona, with my sorrow; glut thyself, and satiate thy breast with my mourning; satiate, too, thy relentless heart with seven deaths. I have received my death-blow;42 exult and triumph, my victorious enemy. But why victorious? More remains to me, in my misery, than to thee, in thy happiness. Even after so many deaths, I am the conqueror.” Thus she spoke; when the string twanged from the bent bow, which affrighted all but Niobe alone; she became bold by her misfortunes.
227VI. 288-312The sisters were standing in black array, with their hair dishevelled, before the biers43 of their brothers. One of these, 203VI. 290-312drawing out the weapon sticking in her entrails, about to die, swooned away, with her face placed upon her brother. Another, endeavoring to console her wretched parent, was suddenly silent, and was doubled together with an invisible wound; and did not close her mouth, until after the breath had departed. Another, vainly flying, falls down; another dies upon her sister; another lies hid; another you might see trembling. And now six being put to death, and having received different wounds, the last only remains; her mother covering her with all her body, and with all her garments, cries, “Leave me but one, and that the youngest; the youngest only do I ask out of so many, and that but one.” And while she was entreating, she, for whom she was entreating, was slain. Childless, she sat down among her dead sons and daughters and husband, and became hardened by her woes. The breeze moves no hair of hers; in her features is a color without blood; her eyes stand unmoved in her sad cheeks; in her form there is no appearance of life. Her tongue itself, too, congeals within, together with her hardened palate, and the veins cease to be able to be moved. Her neck can neither be bent, nor can her arms give any motion, nor her feet move. Within her entrails, too, it is stone.
Still did she weep on; and, enveloped in a hurricane of mighty wind, she was borne away to her native land. There, fixed on the top of a mountain,44 she dissolves; and even yet does the marble distil tears.
All the ancient historians agree with Diodorus Siculus and Apollodorus, that Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, and the sister of Pelops; but she must not be confounded with a second Niobe, who was the daughter of Phoroneus, and the first mortal (Homer tells us) with whom Jupiter fell in love. Homer says that she was the mother of twelve children, six sons and six daughters. Herodotus says, that she had but two sons and three daughters. Diodorus Siculus makes her the mother of fourteen 204children, seven of each sex. Apollodorus, on the authority of Hesiod, says, that she had ten sons and as many daughters; but gives the names of fourteen only. The story of the destruction of her children is most likely based upon truth, and bears reference to a historical fact. The plague, which ravaged the city of Thebes, destroyed all the children of Niobe; and contagious distempers being attributed to the excessive heat of the sun, it was fabled that Apollo had killed them with his arrows; while women, who died of the plague, were said to owe their death to the anger of Diana. Thus, Homer says, that Laodamia and the mother of Andromache were killed by Diana. Valerius Flaccus relates the sorrow of Clytie, the wife of Cyzicus, on the death of her mother, killed by the same Goddess; so the Scholiast on Pindar (Pythia, ode iii.) says, on the authority of Pherecydes, that Apollo sent Diana to kill Coronis and several other women. Eustathius distinctly asserts, that the poets attributed the deaths of men, who died of the plague, to Apollo; and those of women, dying a similar death, to Diana.
This supposition is based upon rational and just grounds; since many contagious distempers may be clearly traced to the exhalations of the earth, acted on by the intense heat of the sun. Homer, most probably, means this, when he says that the plague came upon the Grecian camp, on the God, in his anger, discharging his arrows against it; or, in other words, when the extreme heat of his rays had caused a corruption of the atmosphere. It may be here observed, that arrows were the symbol of Apollo, when angry, and the harp when he was propitious. Diogenes Laertius tells us, that, during the prevalence of the plague, it was the custom to place branches of laurel on the doors of the houses, in the hope that the God, being reminded of Daphne, would spare the places which thereby claimed his protection.
Ovid says, that the sons of Niobe were killed while managing their horses; but Pausanias tells us that they died on Mount Cithæron, while engaged in hunting, and that her daughters died at Thebes. Homer says, that her children remained nine days without burial, because the Gods changed the Thebans into stones, and that the offended Divinities themselves performed the funeral rites on the tenth day; the meaning probably, is, that, they dying of the plague, no one ventured to bury them, and all seemed insensible to the sorrows of Niobe, as each consulted his own safety. Ismenus, her eldest son, not being able to endure the pain of his malady, is said to have thrown himself into a river of Bœotia, 229VI. 313-327which, from that circumstance, received his name. After the death of her husband and children, Niobe is said to have retired to Mount Sipylus, in Lydia, where she died. Here, as Pausanias informs us, was a rock, resembling, at a distance, a woman overwhelmed with grief; though according to the same author, who had visited it, the resemblance could not be traced on approaching it. On this ground, Ovid relates, that she was borne on a whirlwind to the top of a Lydian mountain, where she was changed into a rock.
Pausanias tells us, that Melibœa, or Chloris, and Amycle, two of her daughters, appeased Diana, who preserved their lives; or that, in other words, they recovered from the plague; though he inclines to credit the version of Homer, who says that all of her children died by the hands of 205VI. 313-341Apollo and Diana. Melibœa received the surname of Chloris, from the paleness which ensued on her alarm at the sudden death of her sisters.
Latona, fatigued with the burden of her two children, during a long journey, and parched with thirst, goes to drink at a pond, near which some countrymen are at work. These clowns, in a brutal manner, not only hinder her from drinking, but trouble the water to make it muddy; on which, the Goddess, to punish their brutality, transforms them into frogs.
But then, all, both women and men, dread the wrath of the divinity, thus manifested, and with more zeal than ever all venerate with divine worship the great godhead of the Deity who produced the twins; and, as commonly happens, from a recent fact they recur to the narration of former events.
One of them says, “Some countrymen of old, in the fields of fertile Lycia, once insulted the Goddess, but not with impunity. The thing, indeed, is but little known, through the obscure station of the individuals, still it is wonderful. I have seen upon the spot, the pool and the lake noted for the miracle. For my father being now advanced in years, and incapable of travel, ordered me to bring thence some choice oxen, and on my setting out, had given me a guide of that nation: with whom, while I was traversing the pastures, behold! an ancient altar, black with the ashes of sacrifices, was standing in the middle of a lake, surrounded with quivering reeds. My guide stood still, and said in a timid whisper, ‘Be propitious to me;’ and 230VI. 328-349with a like whisper, I said, ‘Be propitious.’ However, I asked him whether it was an altar of the Naiads, or of Faunus, or of some native God; when the stranger answered me in such words; A‘Young man, there is no mountain Divinity for this altar. She calls this her own, whom once the royal Juno banished from the world; whom the wandering Delos, at the time when it was swimming as a light island, hardly received at her entreaties. There Latona, leaning against a palm, together with the tree of Pallas, brought forth twins, in spite of their stepmother Juno. Hence, too, the newly delivered Goddess is said to have fled from Juno, and in her bosom to have carried the two divinities, her children. And now the Goddess, wearied with her prolonged toil, being parched with the heat of the season, 206VI. 341-365contracted thirst in the country of Lycia, which bred the Chimæra45 when the intense sun was scorching the fields; the craving children, too, had exhausted her suckling breasts. By chance she beheld a lake46 of fine water, in the bottom of a valley; some countrymen were there, gathering bushy osiers, together with bulrushes, and sedge natural to fenny spots. The Titaness approached, and bending her knee, she pressed the ground, that she might take up the cool water to drink; the company of rustics forbade it. The Goddess thus addressed them, as they forbade her: ‘Why do you deny me water? The use of water is common 231VI. 350-376to all. Nature has made neither sun, nor air, nor the running stream, the property of any one. To her public bounty have I come, which yet I humbly beg of you to grant me. I was not intending to bathe my limbs here, and my wearied joints, but to relieve my thirst. My mouth, as I speak, lacks moisture, and my jaws are parched, and scarce is there a passage for my voice therein; a draught of water will be nectar to me, and I shall own, that, together with it, I have received my life at your hands. In that water you will be giving me life. Let these, too, move you, who hold out their little arms from my bosom’; and by chance the children were holding out their arms.
“What person might not these kindly words of the Goddess have been able to influence? Still, they persist in hindering the Goddess thus entreating them; and moreover add threats and abusive language, if she does not retire to a distance. Nor is this enough. They likewise muddy the lake itself with their feet and hands; and they raise the soft mud from 207VI. 365-383the very bottom of the water, by spitefully jumping to and fro. Resentment removes her thirst. For now no longer does the daughter of Cæus supplicate the unworthy wretches, nor does she any longer endure to utter words below the majesty of a Goddess; and raising her hands to heaven, she says, ‘For ever may you live in that pool.’ The wish of the Goddess comes to pass. They delight to go beneath the water, and sometimes to plunge the whole of their limbs in the deep pool; now to raise their heads, and now to swim on the top of the water; oft to sit on the bank of the pool, and often to leap back again into the cold stream. And even now do they exercise their offensive tongues in strife: and banishing all shame, although they are beneath the water, still beneath the water,47 do they try to keep 232VI. 376-387up their abuse. Their voice, too, is now hoarse, and their bloated necks swell out; and their very abuse dilates their extended jaws. Their backs are united to their heads: their necks seem as though cut off; their backbone is green; their belly, the greatest part of their body, is white; and as new-made frogs, they leap about in the muddy stream.”
This story may possibly be based upon some current tradition of Latona having been subjected to such cruel treatment from some country clowns; or, which is more probable, it may have been originally invented as a satire on the rude manners and uncouth conduct of the peasantry of ancient times. The story may also have been framed, to account, in a poetical manner, for the origin of frogs.
The Satyr Marsyas, having challenged Apollo to a trial of skill on the flute, the God overcomes him, and then flays him alive for his presumption. The tears that are shed on the occasion of his death produce the river that bears his name.
When thus one, who, it is uncertain, had related the destruction 208VI. 383-404of these men of the Lycian race, another remembers that of the Satyr;48 whom, overcome in playing on the Tritonian reed, the son of Latona visited with punishment. “Why,” said he, “art thou tearing me from myself? Alas! I now repent; alas,” cried he, “the flute is not of so much value!” As he shrieked aloud, his skin was stript49 off from the surface of his 233VI. 388-411limbs, nor was he aught but one entire wound. Blood is flowing on every side; the nerves, exposed, appear, and the quivering veins throb without any skin. You might have numbered his palpitating bowels, and the transparent lungs within his breast. The inhabitants of the country, the Fauns, Deities of the woods, and his brothers the Satyrs, and Olympus,50 even then renowned, and the Nymphs lamented him; and whoever besides on those mountains was feeding the wool-bearing flocks, and the horned herds.
The fruitful earth was moistened, and being moistened received the falling tears, and drank them up in her lowest veins, which, when she had turned into a stream, she sent forth into the vacant air. And then, as the clearest river in Phrygia, running towards the rapid sea within steep banks, it bears the name of Marsyas.
From narratives such as these the people return at once to the present events, and mourn Amphion extinct together with all his race. The mother is an object of hatred. Yet her brother Pelops is said alone to have mourned for her as well; and after 209VI. 405-411he had drawn his clothes from his shoulderB towards his breast, he discovered the ivory on his left shoulder. This shoulder, at the time of his birth, was of the same color with the right one, and was formed of flesh. They say that the Gods afterwards joined his limbs cut asunder by the hands of his father; and the rest of them being found, that part which is midway between the throat and the top of the arm, was wanting. Ivory was inserted there, in the place of the part that did not appear; and so by that means Pelops was made entire.
Marsyas was the son of Hyagnis, the inventor of a peculiar kind of flute, and of the Phrygian measure. Livy and Quintus Curtius 234VI. 412-415tell us, that the story of Apollo and Marsyas is an allegory; and that the river Marsyas gave rise to it. They say that the river, falling from a precipice, in the neighborhood of the town of Celenæ, in Phrygia, made a very stunning and unpleasant noise; but that the smoothness of its course afterwards gave occasion for the saying, that the vengeance of Apollo had rendered it more tractable.
It is, however, not improbable that the story may have been based on historical facts. Having learned from his father, Hyagnis, the art of playing on the flute, and, proud of his skill, at a time when the musical art was yet in its infancy, Marsyas may have been rash enough to challenge either a priest of Apollo, or some prince who bore that name, and, for his presumption, to have received the punishment described by Ovid. Herodotus certainly credited the story; for he says that the skin of the unfortunate musician was to be seen, in his time, in the town of Celenæ. Strabo, Pausanias, and Aulus Gellius also believe its truth. Suidas tells us, that Marsyas, mortified at his defeat, threw himself into the river that runs near Celenæ, which, from that time, bore his name. Strabo says, that Marsyas had stolen the flute from Minerva, which proved so fatal to him, and had thereby drawn upon himself the indignation of that Divinity. Ovid, in the Sixth Book of the Fasti, and Pausanias, quoting from Apollodorus, tell us, that Minerva, having observed, by seeing herself in the river Meander, that, when she played on the flute, her cheeks were swelled out in an unseemly manner, threw aside the flute in her disgust, and Marsyas finding it, learned to play on it so skilfully, that he challenged Apollo to a trial of proficiency. Hyginus, in his 165th Fable, says that Marsyas was the son of Œagrius, and not Hyagnis; perhaps, however, this is a corrupt reading.
Tereus, king of Thrace, having married Progne, the daughter of Pandion, king of Athens, falls in love with her sister Philomela, whom he ravishes, and then, having cut out her tongue, he shuts her up in a strong place in a forest, to prevent a discovery. The unfortunate Philomela finds means to acquaint her sister with her misfortunes; for, weaving her story on a piece of cloth, she sends it to Progne by the hands of one of her keepers.
The neighboring princes met together; and the cities that were near, entreated their kings to go to console Pelops, namely, Argos and Sparta, and the Pelopean Mycenæ, and Calydon,51 not yet odious to the stern 235VI. 416-432Diana, and fierce Orchomeneus, and Corinth famous for its brass,52 and fertile Messene, and Patræ, and humble Cleonæ,53 and the Neleian Pylos, and Trœzen not yet named from Pittheus;54 and other cities which are enclosed by the Isthmus between the two seas, and those which, situated beyond, are seen from the Isthmus between the two seas. Who could have believed it? You, Athens, alone omitted it. A war prevented this act of humanity; and barbarous troops55 211VI. 423-451brought thither by sea, were alarming the Mopsopian walls. The Thracian Tereus had routed these by his auxiliary forces, and by his conquest had acquired an illustrious name. Him, powerful both in riches and men, and, as it happened, deriving his descent from the mighty Gradivus, Pandion united to himself, by the marriage of his daughter Progne.
Neither Juno, the guardian of marriage rites, nor yet Hymeneus, nor the Graces,56 attended those nuptials. On that occasion, the Furies brandished torches, snatched from the funeral pile. The Furies prepared the nuptial couch, and the ill-boding owl hovered over 236VI. 432-460the abode, and sat on the roof of the bridal chamber. With these omens were Progne and Tereus wedded; with these omens were they made parents. Thrace, indeed, congratulated them, and they themselves returned thanks to the Gods, and they commanded the day, upon which the daughter of Pandion was given to the renowned prince, and that upon which Itys was born, to be considered as festivals. So much does our true interest lie concealed from us. Now Titan had drawn the seasons of the repeated year through five autumns, when Progne, in gentle accents, said to her husband, “If I have any influence with thee, either send me to see my sister, or let my sister come hither. Thou shalt promise thy father-in-law that she shall return in a short time. As good as a mighty God wilt thou be to me, if thou shalt allow me to see my sister.”
He thereupon ordered ships to be launched;57 and with sails and oars he entered the Cecropian harbor, and landed upon the shores of the Piræus.58 As soon as ever an opportunity was given of addressing his father-in-law, and right hand was joined to right hand, with evil omen their discourse began. He had commenced to relate the occasion of his coming, and the request of his wife, and to promise a speedy return for Philomela, if sent. When lo! Philomela comes, richly adorned 212VI. 451-489in costly apparel; richer by far in her charms; such as we hear of the Naiads and Dryads as they haunt the middle of the forests, if you were only to give them the like ornaments and dress. Tereus was inflamed upon seeing the virgin, no otherwise than if one were to put fire beneath the whitening ears of corn, or were to burn leaves and dry grass laid up in stacks. Her beauty, indeed, is worthy of love; but inbred lust, as well, urges him on, and the people in those regions are naturally much inclined to lustfulness. He burns, both by his own frailty and that of his nation. He has a desire 237VI. 461-492to corrupt the care of her attendants, and the fidelity of her nurse, and besides, to tempt herself with large presents, and to spend his whole kingdom in so doing; or else, to seize her, and, when seized, to secure her by a cruel war. And there is nothing which, being seized by an unbridled passion, he may not dare; nor does his breast contain the internal flame. And now he ill bears with delay; and with eager mouth returns to urge the request of Progne, and under it he pleads his own wishes; passion makes him eloquent. As oft as he presses beyond what is becoming, he pretends that Progne has thus desired. He adds tears as well, as though she had enjoined them too. O ye Gods above, how much of dark night do the breasts of mortals contain! Through his very attempt at villany, Tereus is thought to be affectionate, and from his crime does he gather praise.
And how is it, too, that Philomela desires the same thing? and fondly embracing the shoulders of her father with her arms, she begs, even by her own safety (and against it too), that she may visit her sister. Tereus views her, and, while viewing her, is embracing her beforehand in imagination; and, as he beholds her kisses, and her arms around her father’s neck, he receives them all as incentives, and fuel, and the food of his furious passion; and, as often as she embraces her father, he could wish to be that father, and, even then, he would have been not the less impious. The father is overcome by the entreaties of them both. She rejoices, and returns thanks to her parent, and, to her misfortune, deems that the success of both, which will be the cause of sorrow to them both. Now but little of his toil was remaining for Phœbus, and his steeds were beating with their feet the descending track of Olympus; a regal banquet was set on the tables, and 213VI. 489-521wine in golden vessels; after this, their bodies were given up to gentle sleep. But the Odrysian king,59 though he was withdrawn, still burned for her; and, recalling her form, her movements, her hands, fancies that which he has not yet seen, to be such as he wishes; and he 238VI. 493-522himself feeds his own flames, his anxiety preventing sleep.
It was now day; and Pandion, grasping the right hand of his son-in-law, about to depart, with tears bursting forth, recommended his companion to his care. “I commit her, my dear son-in-law, to thee, because reasons, grounded on affection, have compelled me, and both my daughters have desired it, and thou as well, Tereus, hast wished it; and I entreat thee, begging by thy honor, by thy breast thus allied to us, and by the Gods above, to protect her with the love of a father; and do send back to me, as soon as possible, this sweet comfort of my anxious old age, for all delay will be tedious to me, and do thou, too, Philomela, if thou hast any affection for me, return as soon as possible: ’tis enough that thy sister is so far away.” Thus did he enjoin, and at the same time he gave kisses to his daughter, and his affectionate tears fell amid his instructions. He then demanded the right hands of them both, as a pledge of their fidelity, and joined them together when given, and bade them, with mindful lips, to salute for him his absent daughter and grandson, and with difficulty60 uttered the last farewell, his mouth being filled with sobs; and he shuddered at the presages of his own mind. But as soon as Philomela was put on board of the painted ship, and the sea was urged by the oars, and the land was left behind, he exclaimed, “I have gained my point; the object of my desires is borne along with me.” The barbarian exults, too, and with difficulty defers his joy in his intention, and turns not his eyes anywhere away from her. No otherwise than when the ravenous bird of Jupiter, with crooked talons, has placed a hare in his lofty nest; there is no escape for the captive; the plunderer keeps his eye on his prey. And now the voyage is ended, and now they have gone forth from the wearied ship, upon his own shore; when the king drags the daughter of Pandion into a lofty dwelling, concealed in an ancient wood, 214VI. 522-559and there he shuts her up, pale and trembling, and dreading everything, 239VI. 523-555and now with tears inquiring where her sister is; and confessing his baseness, he masters by force her a maiden, and but one, while she often vainly calls on her father, often on her sister, and on the great Gods above all. She trembles like a frightened lamb, which, wounded, being snatched from the mouth of a hoary wolf, does not as yet seem to itself in safety; and as a dove, its feathers soaked with its own blood, still trembles, and dreads the ravening talons wherein it has been lately held. But soon, when consciousness returned, tearing her dishevelled hair like one mourning, and beating her arms in lamentation, stretching out her hands, she said, “Oh, barbarous wretch, for thy dreadful deeds; oh, cruel monster! have neither the requests of my father, with his affectionate tears, moved thee, nor a regard for my sister, nor my virgin state, nor the laws of marriage? Thou hast confounded all. I am become the supplanter of my sister; thou, the husband of both of us. This punishment was not my due. Why dost thou not take away this life, that no villany, perfidious wretch, may remain unperpetrated by thee? and would that thou hadst done it before thy criminal embraces! then I might have had a shade void of all crime. Yet, if the Gods above behold these things, if the majesty of the Gods be anything; if, with myself, all things are not come to ruin; one time or other thou shalt give me satisfaction. I myself, having cast shame aside, will declare thy deeds. If opportunity is granted me, I will come among the people; if I shall be kept imprisoned in the woods, I will fill the woods, and will move the conscious rocks. Let Heaven hear these things, and the Gods, if there are any in it.”
After the wrath of the cruel tyrant was aroused by such words, and his fear was not less than it, urged on by either cause, he drew the sword, with which he was girt, from the sheath, and seizing her by the hair, her arms being bent behind her back, he compelled her to submit to chains. Philomela was preparing her throat, and, on seeing the sword, had conceived hopes of her death. He cut away, with his cruel weapon, her tongue seized with pincers, while giving vent to her indignation, 240VI. 555-585and constantly calling on the name of her father, and struggling to speak. The extreme root of the tongue still quivers. The tongue itself lies, and faintly murmurs, quivering upon the black earth; and as the tail of a mangled snake is 215VI. 559-586wont to writhe about, so does it throb, and, as it dies, seeks the feet of its owner. It is said, too, that often after this crime (I could hardly dare believe it) he satisfied his lust upon her mutilated body.
He has the effrontery, after such deeds, to return to Progne, who, on seeing her husband, inquires for her sister; but he heaves feigned sighs, and tells a fictitious story of her death; and his tears procure him credit. Progne tears from her shoulders her robes, shining with broad gold, and puts on black garments, and erects an honorary sepulchre, and offers expiation to an imaginary shade; and laments the death of a sister not thus to be lamented.
The God Apollo, the year being completed, had run through the twice six signs of the Zodiac. What can Philomela do? A guard prevents her flight; the walls of the house are hard, built of solid stone: her speechless mouth is deprived of the means of discovering the crime. But in grief there is extreme ingenuity, and inventive skill arises in misfortunes. She skilfully suspends the warp in a web of Barbarian design,61 and interweaves purple marks with white, as a mode of discovering the villany of Tereus; and delivers it, when finished, to one of her attendants, and begs her, by signs, to carry it to her mistress. As desired, she carries it to Progne, and does not know what she is delivering in it. The wife of the savage tyrant unfolds the web, and reads the mournful tale62 of her sister, and (wondrous that she can be so!) she is silent. ’Tis grief that stops her utterance, and words sufficiently indignant fail her tongue, in want of them; nor is there room for weeping. But she rushes onward, about 241VI. 586-596to confound both right and wrong, and is wholly occupied in the contrivance of revenge.
The gravest authors among the ancients, such as Strabo and Pausanias, speaking of this tragical story, agree that the narrative, divested of its poetical ornaments, is strictly conformable to truth; though, of course, the sequel bears evident marks of embellishment either by the fancy of the Poet, or the superstition of the vulgar.
Progne delivers her sister Philomela from captivity, and brings her to the court of Tereus, where she revolves in her mind her different projects of revenge. Her son Itys, in the meantime, comes into her apartment, and is murdered by his mother and aunt. Progne afterwards serves him up at a feast, which she prepares for her husband; on which, being obliged to fly from the fury of the enraged king, she is changed into a swallow, Philomela into a nightingale, and Tereus himself into a lapwing.
It is now the time63 when the Sithonian64 matrons are wont to celebrate the triennial festival of Bacchus. Night is conscious of their rites; by night Rhodope resounds with the tinklings of the shrill cymbal. By night the queen goes out of her house, and is arrayed according to the rites of the God, and carries the arms of the frantic solemnity. Her head is covered with vine leaves; from her left side hang down the skins of a deer;65 upon her shoulder rests a light spear. Then the terrible Progne rushing through the woods, a multitude of her followers attending her, and agitated by the fury of her resentment, pretends, Bacchus, that it is inspired by thee.
She comes at length to the lonely dwelling, and howls aloud, and cries “Evoë!” and breaks open the gates, and seizes her sister, and puts upon her, so seized, the badges of Bacchus, and conceals her countenance under the foliage of ivy; and dragging her along, full of amazement, leads her within her threshold. When Philomela perceives that she has arrived at that accursed house,66 the wretched woman shudders, and paleness spreads over her whole face. Progne having now got a fitting place for so doing, takes away the symbols of the rites,67 and unveils the blushing face of her wretched sister; 217VI. 605-641and holds her in her embraces. But she, on the other hand, cannot endure to lift up her eyes; seeming to herself the supplanter of her sister, and fixing her looks on the ground, her hand is in the place of voice to her, as she desires to swear and to call the Gods to witness that this disgrace has been brought upon her by violence. Progne burns with rage, and contains not her anger; and checking the grief of her sister, she says, “We must not act in this matter with tears, but with the sword, and even with anything, if such thou hast, that can possibly outdo the sword. I have, sister, prepared myself for every crime! Either, when I shall have set fire to the royal palace with torches, I will throw the artful Tereus into the midst of the flames, or with the steel will I cut away his tongue or his eyes, or the members that have deprived thee of thy chastity, or by a thousand wounds will I expel his guilty soul from his body. Something tremendous am I prepared for; what it is, I am still in doubt.”
While Progne was uttering such expressions, Itys came to his mother. By him she was put in mind of what she might do; and looking at him with vengeful eyes, she said, “Ah! how like thou art to thy father!” And saying no more, she prepared for a horrible deed, and burned with silent rage. Yet when her son came 243VI. 620-652to her, and saluted his mother and drew her neck towards him with his little arms, and added kisses mingled with childish endearments, the mother, in truth, was moved, and her anger abated, and her eyes, in spite of her, became wet with tears thus forced from her. But soon as she found the mother in her shrinking from excess of affection, from him again did she turn towards the features of her sister; and looking at them both by turns, she said, “Why does the one employ endearments, while the other is silent with her tongue torn from her? Why does she not call her sister, whom he calls mother? Consider to what kind of husband thou art married, daughter of Pandion. Thou dost grow degenerate. Tenderness in the wife of Tereus is criminality.” No more delay is there; she drags Itys along, just as the tigress of the banks of the Ganges does the suckling offspring of the hind, through the shady forests. And when they are come to a remote part of the lofty house, Progne strikes68 him with the sword, 218VI. 641-669extending his hands, and as he beholds his fate, crying now “Alas!” and now “My mother!” and clinging to her neck, where his breast joins his side; nor does she turn away her face. Even one wound alone is sufficient for his death; Philomela cuts his throat with the sword; and they mangle his limbs, still quivering and retaining somewhat of life. Part of them boils,69 in the hollow cauldrons; part hisses on spits; the inmost recesses stream with gore. His wife sets Tereus, in his unconsciousness, before this banquet; and falsely pretending rites after the manner of her country, at which it is allowed one man only to be present, she removes his attendants and servants. Tereus himself, sitting aloft on the throne of his forefathers, eats and heaps his own entrails into his own stomach. And so great is the blindness of his mind, that he says, “Send for Itys.” Progne is unable to 244VI. 653-676conceal her cruel joy; and now, desirous to be the discoverer of her having murdered him, she says, “Thou hast within thee, that for which thou art asking.” He looks around, and inquires where he is; as he inquires, and calls him again, Philomela springs forth, just as she is, with her hair disordered by the infernal murder, and throws the bloody head of Itys in the face of his father; nor at any time has she more longed to be able to speak, and to testify her joy by words such as are deserved.
The Thracian pushes from him the table with a loud cry, and summons the Viperous sisters70 from the Stygian valley; and at one moment he desires, if he only can, by opening his breast to discharge thence the horrid repast, and the half-digested entrails. And then he weeps, and pronounces himself the wretched sepulchre of his own son; and then he follows the daughters of Pandion with his drawn sword. You would have thought the bodies of the Cecropian71 Nymphs were supported by wings; and they were supported by wings. The one of them makes for the woods, the other takes her 219VI. 669-676place beneath the roofs of houses. Nor even as yet have the marks of murder withdrawn from her breast; and her feathers are still stained with blood. He, made swift by his grief, and his desire for revenge, is turned into a bird, upon whose head stands a crested plume; a prolonged bill projects in place of the long spear. The name of the bird is ‘epops’ [lapwing]; its face appears to be armed. This affliction dispatched Pandion to the shades of Tartarus before his day, and the late period of protracted old age.
By the symbolical changes of Philomela, Progne, and Tereus, those who framed this termination of the story intended to depict the different characters of the persons whose actions are there 245VI. 677represented. As the lapwing delights in filth and impurity, the ancients thereby portrayed the unscrupulous character of Tereus; and, as the flight of that bird is but slow, it shows that he was not able to overtake his wife and her sister. The nightingale, concealed in the woods and thickets, seems there to be concealing her misfortunes and sorrows; and the swallow, which frequents the abodes of man, shows the restlessness of Progne, who seeks in vain for her son, whom, in her frantic fit, she has so barbarously murdered.
Anacreon and Apollodorus, however, reverse the story, saying that Philomela was changed into a swallow, and Progne into a nightingale. This event is said by some writers to have happened not in Thrace, but at Daulis, a town of Phocis, where Tereus is supposed to have gone to settle. Pausanias tells us, that the tomb of Tereus was to be seen near Athens, so that it is probable that he died at a distance from Thrace, his native country. Homer alludes to the story of Philomela in somewhat different terms; speaking of the grounds of the grief of Penelope, he says, that ‘she made her complaints to be heard like the inconsolable Philomela, the daughter of Pandarus, always hidden among the leaves and branches of trees. When the Spring arrives, she makes her voice echo through the woods, and laments her dear Itylus, whom she killed by an unhappy mistake; varying, in her continued plaints, the mournful melody of her notes.’ By this, Homer seems to have known nothing of Tereus or of Progne, and to have followed a tradition, which was to the following effect:—Pandarus had three daughters, Ædon, Mecrope, and Cleothera. Ædon, the eldest, was married to Zethus, the brother of Amphion, by whom she had one son, who was named Itylus. Envying the more numerous family of Niobe, her sister-in-law, she resolved to despatch the eldest of her nephews; and, as her son was brought up with his cousin, and was his bedfellow, she bade him change his place in the bed, on the night on which she intended to commit the crime. Itylus forgot her commands, and consequently his mother killed him by mistake for her nephew.
Boreas, not obtaining the consent of Erectheus, king of Athens, for the marriage of his daughter, Orithyïa, takes that princess in his arms, and carries her away into Thrace. By her he has two sons, Calaïs and Zethes, who have wings, like their father, and afterwards embark with Jason in search of the Golden Fleece.
Erectheus72 received the sceptre of that country, and 246VI. 678-707the government of the state; it is a matter of doubt whether he was more powerful through his justice, or by his mighty arms. He had, indeed, begotten four sons, and as many of the female sex: but the beauty of two of them was equal. Of these, Cephalus,73 the son of Æolus, was blessed with thee, Procris, for his wife; Tereus and the Thracians were an obstacle to Boreas; and long was that God without his much-loved Orithyïa, while he was entreating, and choosing rather to use prayers than force. But when nothing was effected by blandishments, terrible with that rage which is his wont, and but too natural with that wind, he said, “And this is deservedly done; for why did I relinquish my own weapons, my violence, my strength, my anger, and my threatening spirit, and turn to prayers, the employment of which ill becomes me? Violence is suitable for me; by violence do I dispel the lowering clouds, by violence do I arouse the seas, and overthrow the knotted oaks, and harden the snow, and beat the earth with hail. I too, when I have met with my brothers in the open air (for that is peculiarly my field), struggle with efforts so great, that the intermediate sky thunders again with our onset, and fires flash, struck forth from the hollow clouds. I too, when I have descended into the hollow recesses of the earth, and in my rage have placed my back against its lowest depths, disturb the shades below, and the whole globe with earthquakes. By 221VI. 700-721these means should I have sought this alliance; and Erectheus ought not to have been entreated to be my father-in-law, but made so by force.”
Boreas, having said these words, or some not less high-sounding than these, shakes his wings, by the motion of which all the earth is fanned, and the wide sea becomes ruffled; and the lover, drawing his dusty mantle over the high tops of mountains, sweeps the ground, and, wrapt in darkness, embraces with his tawny wings Orithyïa, as she trembles with fear. As she flies, his 247VI. 708-721flame, being agitated, burns more fiercely. Nor does the ravisher check the reins of his airy course, before he reaches the people and the walls of the Ciconians.74 There, too, is the Actæan damsel made the wife of the cold sovereign, and afterwards a mother, bringing forth twins at a birth, who have the wings of their father, the rest like their mother. Yet they say that these wings were not produced together with their bodies; and while their long beard, with its yellow hair, was away, the boys Calaïs and Zethes were without feathers. But soon after, at once wings began to enclose both their sides, after the manner of birds, and at once their cheeks began to grow yellow with down. When, therefore, the boyish season of youth was passed, they sought,75 with the Minyæ, along the sea before unmoved,76 in the first ship that existed, the fleece that glittered with shining hair of gold.
Plato tells us that the story of the rape of Orithyïa is but an allegory, which signifies that, by accident, she was blown by the wind into the sea, where she was drowned. Apollodorus and Pausanias, however, assert that this story is based on historical facts, and that Boreas, king of Thrace, seized Orithyïa, the daughter of Erectheus, king of Athens, and sister of Procris, as she was passing the river Ilissus, and carried her into his dominions, where she became the mother of twins, Calaïs and Zethes. In the Argonautic expedition, these chiefs delivered Phineus, the king of Bithynia, from the persecution of the Harpies, which were in the habit of snatching away the victuals served up at his table.
1. Colophon.]—Ver. 8. Colophon was an opulent city of Lydia, famous for an oracle of Apollo there.
2. Phocæan.]—Ver. 9. Phocæa was a city of Æolia, in Ionia, on the shores of the Mediterranean, famous for its purple dye.
3. Purple.]—Ver. 9. ‘Murex’ was a shell-fish, now called ‘the purples,’ the juices of which were much used by the ancients for dyeing a deep purple color. The most valuable kinds were found near Tyre and Phocæa, mentioned in the text.
4. Hypæpæ.]—Ver. 13. This was a little town of Lydia, near the banks of the river Cayster. It was situate on the descent of Mount Tymolus, or Tmolus, famed for its wines and saffron.
5. Pactolus.]—Ver. 16. This was a river of Lydia, which was said to have sands of gold.
6. Mygdonian.]—Ver. 45. Mygdonia was a small territory of Phrygia, bordering upon Lydia, and colonized by a people from Thrace. Probably these persons had come from the neighboring country, to see the exquisite works of Arachne. As the Poet tells us, many were present when the Goddess discovered herself, and professed their respect and veneration, while Arachne alone remained unmoved.
7. Brazen vessel.]—Ver. 60. It seems that brazen cauldrons were used for the purposes of dyeing, in preference to those of iron.
8. Rock of Mars.]—Ver. 70. This was the spot called Areiopagus, which was said to have received its name from the trial there of Mars, when he was accused by Neptune of having slain his son Halirrothius.
9. Twice six.]—Ver. 72. These were the ‘Dii consentes,’ mentioned before, in the note to Book i., l. 172. They are thus enumerated in an Elegiac couplet, more consistent with the rules of prosody than the two lines there quoted:—
‘Vulcanus, Mars, Sol, Neptunus, Jupiter, Hermes,
Vesta, Diana, Ceres, Juno, Minerva, Venus.’
10. To be springing forth.]—Ver. 76-7. Clarke renders ‘facit—e vulnere saxi Exsiluisse ferum,’ ‘she makes a wild horse bounce out of the opening in the rock.’
11. Pygmæan matron.]—Ver. 90. According to Ælian, the name of this queen of the Pigmies was Gerane, while other writers call her Pygas. She was worshipped by her subjects as a Goddess, which raised her to such a degree of conceit, that she despised the worship of the Deities, especially of Juno and Diana, on which in their indignation, they changed her into a crane, the most active enemy of the Pygmies. These people were dwarfs, living either in India, Arabia, or Thrace, and they were said not to exceed a cubit in height.
12. Antigone.]—Ver. 93. She was the daughter of Laomedon, king of Troy, and was remarkable for the extreme beauty of her hair. Proud of this, she used to boast that she resembled Juno; on which the Goddess, offended at her presumption, changed her hair into serpents. In compassion, the Deities afterwards transformed her into a stork.
13. Cinyras.]—Ver. 98. Cinyras had several daughters (besides Myrrha), remarkable for their extreme beauty. Growing insolent upon the strength of their good looks, and pretending to surpass even Juno herself in beauty, they incurred the resentment of that Goddess, who changed them into the steps of a temple, and transformed their father into a stone, as he was embracing the steps.
14. Asterie.]—Ver. 108. She was the daughter of Cæus, the Titan, and of Phœbe, and was ravished by Jupiter under the form of an eagle. She was the wife of Perses, and the mother of Hecate. Flying from the wrath of Jupiter, she was first changed by him into a quail; and afterwards into a stone.
15. Antiope.]—Ver. 110. Antiope was the daughter of Nycteus, a king of Bœotia. Being seduced by Jupiter under the form of a Satyr, she bore two sons, Zethus and Amphion. On being insulted by Dirce, she was seized with madness, and was cured by Phocus, whom she is said to have afterwards married.
16. Tirynthian.]—Ver. 112. Tirynthus was a city near Argos, where Hercules was born and educated, and from which place his mother, Alcmene, derived her present appellation.
17. Daughter of Asopus.]—Ver. 113. Jupiter changed himself into fire, or, according to some, into an eagle, to seduce Ægina, the daughter of Asopus, king of Bœotia. By her he was the father of Æacus.
18. Mnemosyne.]—Ver. 114. This Nymph, as already mentioned, became the mother of the Nine Muses, having been seduced by Jupiter.
19. Deois.]—Ver. 114. Proserpine was called Deois, or Dêous Δηοῦς κόρη, from her mother Ceres, who was called Δηὼ by the Greeks, from the verb δήω, ‘to find;’ because as it was said, when seeking for her daughter, the universal answer of those who wished her success in her search, was, δήεις, ‘You will find her.’
20. Virgin daughter.]—Ver. 116. This was Canace, or Arne, the daughter of Æolus, whom Neptune seduced under the form of a bull.
21. Enipeus.]—Ver. 116. Under the form of Enipeus, a river of Thessaly, Neptune committed violence upon Iphimedeia, the wife of the giant Aloëus, and by her was the father of the giants Otus and Ephialtes.
22. Bisaltis.]—Ver. 117. Theophane was the daughter of Bisaltis. Changing her into a sheep, and himself into a ram, Neptune begot the Ram with the golden fleece, that bore Phryxus to Colchis.
23. Experienced.]—Ver. 119. ‘Te sensit,’ repeated twice in this line, Clarke translates, not in a very elegant manner, ‘had a bout with thee,’ and ‘had a touch from thee.’ By Neptune, Ceres became the mother of the horse Arion; or, according to some, of a daughter, whose name it was not deemed lawful to mention.
24. Thee the mother.]—Ver. 119. This was Medusa, who, according to some, was the mother of the horse Pegasus, by Neptune, though it is more generally said that it sprang from her blood, when she was slain by Perseus.
25. Melantho.]—Ver. 120. Melantho was the daughter either of Proteus, or of Deucalion, and was the mother of Delphus, by Neptune.
26. Isse.]—Ver. 124. She was a native of either Lesbos, or Eubœa. Her father, Macareus, was the son of Jupiter and Cyrene.
27. Erigone.]—Ver. 125. She was the daughter of Icarus, and was placed among the Constellations.
28. How Saturn.]—Ver. 126. By Phillyra, Saturn was the father of the Centaur Chiron. We may here remark, that Arachne was not very complimentary to the Gods, in the choice of her subjects; probably it was not her intention or wish to be so.
29. Wicked one.]—Ver. 136. Clarke translates ‘improba,’ ‘thou wicked jade.’
30. An Hecatean Herb.]—Ver. 139. This was aconite, or wolfsbane, said to have been discovered by Hecate, the mother of Medea. She was the first who sought after, and taught the properties of poisonous herbs. Some accounts say, that the aconite was produced from the foam of Cerberus, when dragged by Hercules from the infernal regions.
31. Had known her.]—Ver. 148. This was the more likely, as Tantalus, the father of Niobe, was king of both Phrygia and Lydia.
32. Sipylus.]—Ver. 149. This was the name of both a city and a mountain of Lydia.
33. Go all of you.]—Ver. 159. Clarke renders the words ‘Ismenides, ite frequentes,’ ‘Go, ye Theban ladies in general.’
34. Sister of the Pleiades.]—Ver. 174. Taygete, one of the Pleiades, was the mother of Niobe.
35. As my father-in-law.]—Ver. 176. Because Jupiter was the father of her husband, Amphion.
36. Seven daughters.]—Ver. 182. Tzetzes enumerates fourteen daughters of Niobe, and gives their names.
37. When in travail.]—Ver. 187. She alludes to the occasion on which Latona fled from the serpent Python, which Juno, in her jealousy, had sent against her; and when Delos, which had hitherto been a floating island, became immovable, for the convenience of Latona, in labor with Apollo and Diana. That island was said to have received its name from the Greek, δῆλος, ‘manifest,’ or ‘appearing,’ from having risen to the surface of the sea on that occasion.
38. Like her father’s.]—Ver. 213. Latona alludes to one of the crimes of Tantalus, the father of Niobe, who was accused of having indiscreetly divulged the secrets of the Gods.
39. Gives rein.]—Ver. 230. This was done with the intention of making his escape.
40. Glowing with oil.]—Ver. 241. Clarke renders this line, ‘Were gone to the juvenile work of neat wrestling.’ It would be hard to say what ‘neat’ wrestling is. He seems not to have known, that the ‘Palæstra’ was called ‘nitida,’ as shining with the oil which the wrestlers used for making their limbs supple, and the more difficult for their antagonist to grasp. Juvenal gives the epithet ‘ceromaticum’ to the neck of the athlete, or wrestler, which word means ‘rubbed with wrestler’s oil.’
41. Now had they brought.]—Ver. 243-4. Clarke thus translates ‘Et jam contulerant arcto luctantia nexu Pectora pectoribus;’ ‘And now they had clapped breast to breast, struggling in a close hug.’
42. I have received my death-blow.]—Ver. 283. ‘Efferor’ literally means, ‘I am carried out.’ ‘Effero’ was the term used to signify the carrying of the body out of the city walls, for the purposes of burial.
43. Before the biers.]—Ver. 289. The body of the deceased person was in ancient times laid out on a bed of the ordinary kind, with a pillow for supporting the head and back; among the Romans, it was placed in the vestibule of the house, with its feet towards the door, and was dressed in the best robe which the deceased had worn when alive. Among the better classes, the body was borne to the place of burial, or the funeral pile, on a couch, which was called ‘feretrum,’ or ‘capulus.’ This was sometimes made of ivory, and covered with gold and purple.
44. Top of a mountain.]—Ver. 311. This was Mount Sipylus, in Bœotia, which, as we learn from Pausanias, had on its summit a rock, which, at a distance, strongly resembled a female in an attitude of sorrow. This resemblance is said to exist even at the present day.
45. The Chimæra.]—Ver. 339. The Chimæra, according to the poets, was a monster having the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a dragon. It seems, however, that it was nothing more than a volcanic mountain of Lycia, in Asia Minor, whence there were occasional eruptions of flame. The top of it was frequented by lions; the middle afforded plentiful pasture for goats; and towards the bottom, being rocky, and full of caverns, it was infested by vast numbers of serpents, that harbored there.
46. Beheld a lake.]—Ver. 343. Probus, in his Commentary on the Second Book of the Georgics, says that the name of the spring was Mela, and that of the shepherd who so churlishly repulsed Latona, was Neocles. Antoninus Liberalis says, that the name of the stream was Melites, and that Latona required the water for the purpose of bathing her children. He further tells us, that on being repulsed, she carried her children to the river Xanthus, and returning thence, hurled stones at the peasants, and changed them into frogs.
47. Beneath the water.]—Ver. 376. Some commentators are so fanciful as to say, that the repetition of the words ‘sub aqua,’ in the line ‘Quamvis sint sub aquâ, sub aquâ, maledicere tentant,’ not inelegantly [non ineleganter] expresses the croaking noise of the frogs. A man’s fancy must, indeed, be exuberant to find any such resemblance; more so, indeed, than that of Aristophanes, who makes his frogs say, by way of chorus, ‘brekekekekex koäx koäx.’ Possibly, however, that might have been the Attic dialect among frogs.
48. The Satyr.]—Ver. 382. Herodotus tells this story of the Satyr Marsyas, under the name of Silenus. Fulgentius informs us, that in paintings, Marsyas was represented with the tail of a pig.
49. His skin was stript.]—Ver. 387. Apollo fastened him to a pine-tree, or, according to Pliny the Elder, a plane-tree, which was to be seen even in his day. The skin was afterwards suspended by Apollo in the city of Celenæ. Hyginus says, that Apollo hewed Marsyas to pieces. The description here of the flaying is, perhaps, very natural; but it is all the more disgusting for being so. A commentator justly says, that it might suit a Roman, whose eyes were familiar with bloodshed, much better than the taste of the reader of modern times.
50. Olympus.]—Ver. 393. He was a Satyr, the brother and pupil of Marsyas. Pausanias describes a picture, painted by Polygnotus, in which Olympus was represented as sitting by Marsyas, clad as a youth, and learning to play on the flute. Euripides, in the Iphigenia in Aulis (l. 576) says that Olympus discovered some new measures for the ‘tibia,’ or flute. From Hyginus we learn, that Apollo delivered to him the body of Marsyas for burial.
51. Calydon.]—Ver. 415. This was a city of Ætolia, which derived its name from Calydon, the son of Endymion. Diana, being incensed against Œneus, its king, because he omitted her when offering the first fruits to the other Deities, sent an immense boar to ravage its fields, which was slain by Meleager. Ovid recounts these circumstances in the eighth book of the Metamorphoses. Argos, Sparta, and Mycenæ, are also included in one line, by Homer, as having been under the particular tutelage of Juno.
52. Famous for its brass.]—Ver. 416. According to some writers, the Corinthian brass became famous after the fall of Corinth, when it was taken and burnt by the Consul Mummius. On that occasion, they say, that from the immense number of statues melted in the conflagration, a stream of metal poured through the streets, consisting of melted gold, silver, and copper; in which, of course, the latter would be predominant. If that was the ground on which the Corinthian brass was so much commended, Ovid is here guilty of an anachronism.
53. Cleonæ.]—Ver. 417. This was a little town, situate between Argos and Corinth. It is called ‘humilis,’ not from its situation, but from the small number of its inhabitants. Patræ was a city of Achaia.
54. Pittheus.]—Ver. 418. He was the uncle of Theseus; and was (after the time here mentioned) the king of Trœzen, in Peloponnesus.
55. Barbarous troops.]—Ver. 423. Some suggest that it is here meant that Attica was invaded by the Amazons at this time; and they rely on a passage of Justin in support of the position. The story is, however, very improbable.
56. The Graces.]—Ver. 429. The Graces, who were the attendants of Venus, were three in number, Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne.
57. To be launched.]—Ver. 445. The ships were launched into the sea by means of rollers placed beneath them, from which circumstance they were said ‘deduci,’ ‘to be led down.’
58. Shores of the Piræus.]—Ver. 446. The Piræus was the arsenal and the harbor of the Athenians, and owed its magnificence to the vast conceptions of Themistocles.
59. The Odrysian king.]—Ver. 490. Tereus is thus called, from the Odrysæ, a people of Thrace.
60. With difficulty.]—Ver. 510. Clarke translates ‘vix,’ ‘with much ado.’
61. Barbarian design.]—Ver. 576. Probably of a Phrygian design.
62. The mournful tale.]—Ver. 582. This line is translated by Clarke, ‘And reads the miserable ditty of her sister.’
63. Now the time.]—Ver. 587. This was the festival of Bacchus, before mentioned as being celebrated every three years, in memory of his Indian expedition.
64. Sithonian.]—Ver. 588. Sithonia was a region of Thrace, which lay between Mount Hæmus and the Euxine sea. The word, however, is often used to signify the whole of Thrace.
65. Skins of a deer.]—Ver. 593. These were the ‘nebrides,’ or skins of fawns and deer, which the Bacchanals wore when celebrating the orgies. The lance mentioned here was, no doubt, the thyrsus.
66. That accursed house.]—Ver. 601. Clarke translates this line, ‘As soon as Philomela perceived she had got into the wicked rogue’s house.’
67. Symbols of the rites.]—Ver. 603. These were the ivy, the deer-skins, and the thyrsus.
68. Progne strikes.]—Ver. 641. ‘Ense ferit Progne’ is translated by Clarke, ‘Progne strikes with the sword poor Itys.’
69. Part of them boils.]—Ver. 645-6. Clarke gives this comical translation: ‘Then part of them bounces about in hollow kettles; part hisses upon spits; the parlor runs down with gore.’
70. Viperous sisters.]—Ver. 662. Tereus invokes the Furies, who are thus called from having their hair wreathed with serpents. Clarke translates, ‘ingenti clamore,’ in line 661, ‘with a huge cry.’
71. Cecropian.]—Ver. 667. The Cecropian or Athenian Nymphs are Progne and Philomela, the daughters of Pandion, king of Athens.
72. Erectheus.]—Ver. 677. This personage really was king of Athens before Pandion, the father of Progne and Philomela, and not after him, as Ovid here states; at least, such is the account given by Pausanias and Eusebius: the order of succession being Actæus, Cecrops, Cranaüs, Amphictyon, Erecthonius, Pandion, Erectheus, Cecrops II., Pandion II., Ægeus, Theseus.
73. Cephalus.]—Ver. 681. He was the son of Deioneus, and the grandson of Æolus. According to some writers, he was the son of Mercury; and in the Art of Love (Book iii. l. 725) he is called ‘Cyllenia proles.’ Strabo says that he was the son-in-law of Deioneus. His story is related at length in the next Book.
74. The Ciconians.]—Ver. 710. The Cicones were a people of Thrace, living near Mount Ismarus, and the Bistonian lake.
75. They sought.]—Ver. 720. This was the fleece of the ram that carried Phryxus along the Hellespont to Colchis, which is mentioned again in the next Book.
76. Before unmoved.]—Ver. 721. This passage may mean that that part of the sea had not been navigated before; though many of the poets assert that the Argo was the first ship that was ever built. It is more probable that it was the first vessel that was ever fitted out as a ship of war.
Supplementary Notes (added by transcriber)
A. the stranger answered me in such words; ‘Young man… This embedded single quote was apparently abandoned by the editor; each double quote for the remainder of the Fable should be accompanied by a single quote.
B. after he had drawn his clothes from his shoulder towards his breast. Ovid VI.404-405 “… umeroque suas a pectore [or: ad pectora] postquam / deduxit [or: diduxit] vestes ebur ostendisse sinistro”. It is possible to construct a Latin variation that would translate as “from his shoulders”, but editorial or typographic error is a much likelier explanation.
BOOK THE SEVENTH.
Jason, after having met with various adventures, arrives with the Argonauts in Colchis, and demands the Golden Fleece. Medea falls in love with Jason, and by the power of her enchantments preserves him from the dangers he has to encounter in obtaining it. He obtains the prize, and carrying off Medea, returns in triumph to Thessaly.
And now the Minyæ1 were ploughing the sea in the Pagasæan ship;2 and Phineus prolonging a needy old age under perpetual night, had been visited, and the youthful sons of the North wind had driven the birds with the faces of virgins from before the mouth of the distressed old man;3 and having suffered many things under the famous Jason, had reached at length the rapid waters of the muddy Phasis.
And while they go to the king, and ask the fleece that once belonged to Phryxus, and conditions are offered them, dreadful for the number of mighty labors; in the meantime, the daughter of Æetes4 conceives a violent flame; and having long struggled against it, after she is unable to conquer her frenzy by reason, she says: “In vain, Medea, dost thou resist; some God, who, I know not, is opposing thee. It is a wonder too, if it is not this, or at least something like this, which is called ‘love.’ For why do the commands 249VII. 15-44of my father appear too rigid for me? and yet too rigid they are. Why 223VII. 16-48am I in dread, lest he whom I have seen but so lately, should perish? What is the cause of alarm so great? Banish the flames conceived in thy virgin breast, if thou canst, unhappy creature. If I could, I would be more rational. But a new power draws me on, against my will; and Cupid persuades one thing, reason another. I see which is the more proper course, and I approve of it, while I follow the wrong one. Why, royal maiden, art thou burning for a stranger, and why coveting the nuptial ties of a strange country? This land, too, may give thee something which thou mayst love. Whether he shall live, or whether die, is in the disposal of the Gods. Yet he may survive; and that I may pray for, even without love. For what fault has Jason committed? Whom, but one of hard heart, would not the youthful age of Jason affect? his descent too, and his valor? Whom, though these other points were wanting, would not his beauty move? at least, he has moved my breast. But unless I shall give him aid, he will be breathed upon by the mouths of the bulls; and will engage with his own kindred crops, an enemy sprung from the earth; or he will be given as a cruel prey to the ravenous dragon. If I allow this, then I will confess that I was born of a tigress; then, too, that I carry steel and stone in my heart. Why do I not as well behold him perish? Why not, too, profane my eyes by seeing it? Why do I not stimulate the bulls against him, and the fierce sons of the earth, and the never-sleeping dragon? May the Gods award better things. And yet these things are not to be prayed for, but must be effected by myself. Shall I then betray the kingdom of my father? and by my aid shall some stranger, I know not who, be saved; that being delivered by my means, he may spread his sails to the winds without me, and be the husband of another; and I, Medea, be left for punishment? If he can do this, and if he is capable of preferring another to me, let him perish in his ingratitude. But not such is his countenance, not such that nobleness of soul, that gracefulness of person, that I should fear treachery, and forgetfulness 250VII. 45-61of what I deserve. Besides, he shall first pledge his faith, and I will oblige the Gods to be witnesses of our compact. What then dost thou dread, thus secure? Haste then,5 and banish 224VII. 48-66all delay. Jason will ever be indebted to thee for his preservation; thee will he unite to himself in the rites of marriage, and throughout the Pelasgian cities6 thou wilt be celebrated by crowds of matrons, as the preserver of their sons. And shall I then, borne away by the winds, leave my sister7 and my brother,8 and my father, and my Gods, and my native soil? My father is cruel, forsooth; my country, too, is barbarous;9 my brother is still but an infant; the wishes of my sister are in my favor. The greatest of the Gods is in possession of me. I shall not be relinquishing anything great; I shall be pursuing what is great; the credit of saving the youth of Greece,10 acquaintance with a better country, and cities, whose fame is flourishing even here, and the politeness and the arts of their inhabitants; and the son of Æson, whom I could be ready to take in exchange for all the things that the whole world contains; with whom for my husband I shall both be 251VII. 62-84deemed dear to the Gods, and shall reach the stars with my head. Why say that I know not what mountains11 are reported to arise in the midst of the waves, and that Charybdis, an enemy to ships, one while sucks in the sea, at another discharges it; and how that Scylla, begirt with furious dogs, is said to bark in the Sicilian deep? Yet holding him 225VII. 66-94whom I love, and clinging to the bosom of Jason, I shall be borne over the wide seas; embracing him, naught will I dread; or if I fear anything, for my husband alone will I fear. And dost thou, Medea, call this a marriage, and dost thou give a plausible name to thy criminality? Do but consider how great an offence thou art meditating, and, while still thou mayst, fly from guilt.”
Thus she said, and before her eyes stood Virtue, Affection, and Modesty; and now Cupid turned his vanquished back. She was going to the ancient altars of Hecate,12 the daughter of Perses, which a shady grove and the recesses of a wood concealed. And now she was resolved, and her passion being checked, had subsided; when she beheld the son of Æson, and the extinguished flame revived. Her cheeks were covered with blushes, and her whole face was suffused with a glow. As a spark is wont to derive nourishment from the winds, which, but small when it lay concealed beneath the ashes cast over it, is wont to increase, and aroused, to rise again to its original strength, so her love, now declining, which you would suppose was now growing languid, when she beheld the youth, was rekindled with the appearance of him before her eyes. And by chance, on that day, the son of Æson was more 252VII. 85-110beauteous than usual. You might forgive her loving him. She gazes; and keeps her eyes fixed upon his countenance, as though but now seen for the first time; and in her frenzy she thinks she does not behold the face of a mortal; nor does she turn away from him. But when the stranger began to speak, and seized her right hand, and begged her assistance with a humble voice, and promised her marriage; she said, with tears running down, “I see what I ought to do; and it will not be ignorance of the truth, but love that beguiles me. By my agency thou shalt be saved; when saved, grant what thou hast promised.”
He swears by the rites of the Goddess of the triple form, and the Deity which is in that grove, and by the sire13 of his future father-in-law, who beholds all things, and by his own adventures, and by dangers so great. Being believed by her, he immediately received some enchanted herbs, and thoroughly learned the use of them, and went away rejoicing to his abode. The next morning had now dispersed the twinkling stars, when the people repaired to the sacred field of Mavors, and ranged themselves on the hills. In the midst of the assembly sat the king himself, arrayed in purple, and distinguished by a sceptre of ivory. Behold! the brazen-footed bulls breathe forth flames14 from their adamantine nostrils; and the grass touched by the vapors is on fire. And as the forges filled with fire are wont to roar, or when flints15 dissolved in an earthen furnace receive intense heat by the sprinkling of flowing water; so do their breasts rolling forth the flames enclosed within, and their scorched throats, resound. 253VII. 110-139Yet the son of Æson goes forth to meet them. The fierce bulls turn their terrible features, and their horns pointed with iron, towards his face as he advances, and with cloven hoofs they spurn the dusty ground, and fill the place with lowings, that send forth clouds of smoke. The Minyæ are frozen with horror. He comes up, and feels not the flames breathed forth by them, so great is the power of the incantations. He even strokes their hanging dewlaps with a bold right hand, and, subjected to the yoke, he obliges them to draw the heavy weight of a plough, and to turn up with the share the plain till now unused to it.16
The Colchians are astonished; the Minyæ fill the air with their shouts, and give him fresh courage. Then in a brazen 227VII. 120-155helmet he takes the dragon’s teeth,17 and strews them over the ploughed up fields. The ground, impregnated beforehand with a potent drug, softens the seed; and the teeth that were sown grow up, and become new bodies. And as the infant receives the human form in the womb of the mother, and is there formed in all its parts, and comes not forth into the common air until at maturity, so when the figure of man is ripened in the bowels of the pregnant earth, it arises in the fruitful plain; and, what is still more surprising, it brandishes arms produced at the same time. When the Pelasgians saw them preparing to hurl their spears with sharp points at the head of the Hæmonian youth, they lowered their countenances and their courage, quailing with fear. She, too, became alarmed, who had rendered him secure; and when she saw the youth, being but one, attacked by so many enemies, she turned pale, and suddenly chilled with fear, sat down without blood in her cheeks. And, lest the herbs that had been given by her, should avail him but little, she repeats an auxiliary charm, and summons to her aid her secret arts. He, hurling a heavy stone into the midst of his 254VII. 140-158enemies, turns the warfare, now averted from himself, upon themselves. The Earth-born brothers perish by mutual wounds, and fall in civil fight. The Greeks congratulate him, and caress the conqueror, and cling to him in hearty embraces. And thou too, barbarian maiden, wouldst fain have embraced him; ’twas modesty that opposed the design; otherwise thou wouldst have embraced him; but regard for thy reputation restrained thee from doing so. What thou mayst do, thou dost do; thou rejoicest with a silent affection, and thou givest thanks to thy charms, and to the Gods, the authors of them.
It still remains to lay asleep with herbs the watchful dragon, who, distinguished by his crest and his three tongues, and terrible with his hooked teeth, is the keeper of the Golden Fleece. After he has sprinkled him with herbs of Lethæan juice,18 and has thrice repeated words that cause placid slumbers, which would even calm the boisterous ocean, and which would stop the rapid rivers, sleep creeps upon the eyes 228VII. 155-158that were strangers to it, and the hero, the son of Æson, gains the gold; and proud of the spoil and bearing with him the giver of the prize as a second spoil, he arrives victorious, with his wife, at the port of Iolcos.19
To understand this story, one of the most famous in the early history of Greece, we must go back to the origin of it, and examine the fictions which the poets have mingled with the history of the expedition of the Argonauts, one of the most remarkable events of the fabulous ages.
Athamas, the son of Æolus, grandson of Hellen, and great-grandson of Deucalion, having married Ino, the daughter of Cadmus, was obliged to divorce her, on account of the madness with which she was attacked. He afterwards married Nephele, by whom he had a son and daughter, Phryxus and Helle; but on his taking his first wife again, she brought him two sons, Learchus and Melicerta. Ino, hating the children of Nephele, sought to destroy them. Phryxus being informed thereof, ordered a ship to be privately prepared; and taking his father’s treasures, sailed with 255his sister Helle, to seek a retreat in the court of Æetes, his kinsman. Helle died on the voyage, but Phryxus arrived in Colchis, where he dedicated the prow of his ship to Neptune, or Jupiter. He there married Chalciope, by whom he had four sons, Argos, Phrontes, Molas, and Cylindus. Some years after, Æetes caused him to be assassinated; and his sons fleeing to the court of their grandfather, Athamas, were shipwrecked on an island, where they remained until found there by Jason, who took them back to their mother. Having mourned them as dead, she was transported with joy on finding them, and used every exertion to aid Jason in promoting his addresses to Medea. Æetes having seized the treasures of Athamas on the death of Phryxus, the Greeks prepared an expedition to recover them, and to avenge his death. Pelias, who had driven his brother Æson from the throne of Iolcos, desiring to procure the absence of his son Jason, took this opportunity of engaging him in an enterprise, which promised both glory, profit, and a large amount of personal exertion. The uneasiness which Pelias felt was caused by the prediction of an oracle, that he should be killed by a prince of the family of Æolus, and which warned him to beware of a person who should have but one shoe. Just at that period, Jason, returning from the school of Chiron, lost one of his shoes in crossing a river. On this, his uncle was desirous to destroy him; but not daring to do so publicly, he induced him to embark with the Argonauts, expecting that he would perish in an undertaking of so perilous a nature. Many young nobles of Greece repaired to the court of Iolcos, and joined in the undertaking, when they chose Jason for their leader, and embarked in a ship, the name of which was Argo, and from which the adventurers received the name of Argonauts.
Diodorus Siculus says, that the ship was so named from its swiftness; 229while others say, that it was so called from Argus, the name of its builder, or from the Argives, or Greeks, on board of it. Bochart, however, supposes, that the name is derived from the Phœnician word ‘arco,’ which signifies ‘long,’ and suggests, that before that time the Greeks sailed in vessels of a rounder form, Jason being the first who sailed in a ship built in the form of a galley. After many adventures, on arriving at the Isle of Lemnos, they found that the women had killed their husbands in a fit of jealousy, on which the Argonauts took wives from their number, and Jason received for his companion Hypsipyle, the daughter of Thoas. Putting to sea again, they were driven on the coast of Bithynia, where they delivered Phineus, its king, from the persecution of the Harpies, who were in the habit of snatching away the victuals from his table. These monsters, of hideous form, with crooked beaks and talons, huge wings, and the faces of women, the Argonauts, and especially Calais and Zethes, pursued as far as the islands called Strophades, in the Ionian sea, where Iris appearing to them, enjoined them to pursue the Harpies no further, promising that Phineus should no longer be persecuted by them. To explain this story, some suppose that the Harpies were the daughters of Phineus, who by their dissipation and extravagance, had ruined him in his old age, which occasioned the saying, that they snatched the victuals out of his mouth. Le Clerc thinks, that the Harpies were vast swarms of grasshoppers, which ravaged 256all Paphlagonia, and caused a famine in the dominions of Phineus; the word ‘arbati,’ whence the term ‘Harpy’ is derived, signifying ‘a grasshopper;’ and that the North wind blowing them into the Ionian sea, it gave rise to the saying, that the sons of Boreas pursued them so far. Diodorus Siculus does not mention the Harpies, though he speaks of the arrival of the Argonauts at the court of Phineus.
After some other adventures, the Argonauts arrived at Colchis. Æetes, or Æeta, the king, having been forewarned by an oracle, that a stranger should deprive him of his crown and life, had established a custom of sacrificing all strangers found in his dominions. His daughter Medea, falling in love with Jason, promised him her assistance in preserving them from the dangers to which they were exposed, on the condition of his marrying her. Having engaged to do so, she conducted him by night to the royal palace, and gave him a false key, by means whereof he found the royal treasures, and carrying them off, embarked with Medea and his companions. By way of explaining the miraculous portion of the story, we may, perhaps, not err in supposing, that the account of it was originally written in the Phœnician language; and through not understanding it, the Greeks invented the fiction of the Fleece, the Dragon, and the Fiery Bulls. Bochart and Le Clerc have observed, that the Syriac word ‘gaza,’ signifies either ‘a treasure,’ or ‘a fleece.’ ‘Saur,’ which means ‘a wall,’ also means ‘a bull;’ and in the same language the same word, ‘nachas,’ signifies both ‘brass,’ ‘iron,’ and ‘a dragon.’ Hence, instead of the simple narrative, that Jason, by the aid of Medea, carried away the treasures which Æetes kept within walls, with bolts, or locks of metal, and which Phryxus had carried to Colchis in a ship with the figure of a ram at the prow, it was published, and circulated by the ignorant, that the Gods, to save Phryxus from his stepmother, sent him a sheep with a golden fleece, 230VII. 159-176which bore him to Colchis; that its fleece became the object of the ambition of the leading men of Greece; and that whoever wished to bear it away was obliged to contend with bulls and dragons. Some historians, by way of interpreting the story, affirm, that the keeper of the treasures was named ‘Draco,’ or ‘Dragon,’ and that the garrison of the stronghold of Æetes was brought from the ‘Tauric’ Chersonesus. They say also, that the fleece was the skin of the sheep which Phryxus had sacrificed to Neptune, which he had caused to be gilt. It is not, however, very likely, that an object so trifling could have excited the avarice of the Greeks, and caused them to undertake an expedition accompanied with so many dangers. The dragon’s teeth most probably bear reference to some foreign troops which Jason, in the same way as Cadmus had done, found means to alienate from Æetes, and to bring over to his own side. Homer makes but very slight allusion to the adventures of the Argonauts.
Jason, after his return home, requests Medea to restore his father Æson to youth, which she performs; then, going to the court of Pelias, she avenges the injuries which he had done to the family of Jason, by making him the victim of the credulity of his own daughters, who, in compliance with her pretended regard for them, stab him to death. Medea, having executed her design, makes her escape in her chariot.
The Hæmonian mothers and aged fathers bring presents, for receiving their sons safe home; and frankincense dissolves, piled on the flames, and the devoted victim falls, having its horns gilded. But Æson is not among those congratulating, being now near death, and worn out with the years of old age; when thus the son of Æson addresses Medea: “O wife, to whom I confess that I owe my safety, although thou hast granted me everything, and the sum of thy favors exceeds all belief; still, if thy enchantments can effect this (and what can enchantments not effect?), take away from my own years, and, when taken, add them to those of my father.”
And thus saying, he could not check his tears. She was moved with the affection of the petitioner; and her father, Æetes, left behind, recurred to her mind, unlike that of Jason; yet she did not confess any such feelings. “What a piece of wickedness, husband,” said she, “has escaped thy affectionate lips! Can I, then, seem capable of transferring to any one a portion of thy life? May Hecate not allow of this; nor dost thou ask what is reasonable; but, Jason, I will endeavor to grant thee a favor still greater than that which thou art asking. By my arts 231VII. 176-203we will endeavor to bring back the long years of my father-in-law, and not by means of thy years; if the Goddess of the triple form20 do but assist, and propitiously aid so vast an undertaking.” Three nights were now wanting that the horns of the Moon might meet entirely, and might form a perfect orb. After the 258VII. 180-204Moon shone in her full, and looked down upon the Earth, with her disk complete, Medea went forth from the house, clothed in garments flowing loose, with bare feet,21 and having her unadorned hair hanging over her shoulders, and unattended, directed her wandering steps through the still silence of midnight. Sound sleep has now relaxed the nerves of both men, and birds, and beasts; the hedges and the motionless foliage are still, without any noise, the dewy air is still; the stars alone are twinkling; towards which, holding up her arms, three times she turns herself about, three times she besprinkles her hair with water taken from the stream; with three yells she opens her mouth, and, her knee bending upon the hard ground, she says, “O Night, most faithful to these my mysteries, and ye golden Stars, who, with the Moon, succeed the fires of the day, and thou, three-faced Hecate,22 who comest conscious of my design, and ye charms and arts of the enchanters, and thou, too, Earth, that dost furnish the enchanters with powerful herbs; ye breezes, too, and winds, mountains, rivers, and lakes, and all ye Deities of the groves, and all ye Gods of night, attend here; through whose aid, whenever I will, the rivers run back from their astonished banks to their sources, and by my charms I calm the troubled sea, and rouse it when calm; I disperse the clouds, and I bring clouds upon the Earth; I both allay the winds, and I raise them; and I break the jaws of 232VII. 203-229serpents with my words and my spells; I move, too, the solid rocks, and the oaks torn up with their own native earth, and the forests as well. I command 259VII. 204-229the mountains, too, to quake, and the Earth to groan, and the ghosts to come forth from their tombs. Thee, too, O Moon, do I draw down, although the Temesæan23 brass relieves thy pangs. By my spells, also, the chariot of my grandsire is rendered pale; Aurora, too, is pale through my enchantments. For me did ye blunt the flames of the bulls, and with the curving plough you pressed the necks that never before bore the yoke. You raised a cruel warfare for those born of the dragon among themselves, and you lulled to sleep the keeper of the golden fleece, that had never known sleep; and thus, deceiving the guardian, you sent the treasure into the Grecian cities. Now there is need of juices, by means of which, old age, being renewed, may return to the bloom of life, and may receive back again its early years; and this ye will give me; for not in vain did the stars just now sparkle; nor yet in vain is the chariot come, drawn by the necks of winged dragons.”
A chariot sent down from heaven was come; which, soon as she had mounted, and had stroked the harnessed necks of the dragons, and had shaken the light reins with her hands, she was borne aloft, and looked down upon Thessalian Tempe below her, and guided her dragons towards the chalky regions;24 and observed the herbs which Ossa, and which the lofty Pelion bore, Othrys, too, and Pindus, and Olympus still greater than Pindus; and part she tore up by the root gently worked, part she cut down with the bend of a brazen sickle.25 Many a herb, too, that grew on the banks of Apidanus26 pleased her; many, too, on the banks of Amphrysus; 260VII. 229-249233VII. 229-249nor, Enipeus, didst thou escape. The Peneian waters, and the Spercheian as well, contributed something, and the rushy shores of Bœbe.27 She plucks, too, enlivening herbs by the Eubœan Anthedon,28 not yet commonly known by the change of the body of Glaucus.29 And now the ninth day,30 and the ninth night had seen her visiting all the fields in her chariot, and upon the wings of the dragons, when she returned; nor had the dragons been fed, but with the odors of the plants: and yet they cast the skin of old age full of years. On her arrival she stood without the threshold and the gates, and was canopied by the heavens alone, and avoided the contact of her husband, and erected two altars of turf; on the right hand, one to Hecate, but on the left side one to Youth.31 After she had hung them round with vervain and forest boughs, throwing up the earth from two trenches not far off, she performed the rites, and plunged a knife into the throat of a black ram, and besprinkled the wide trenches with blood. Then pouring thereon goblets32 of flowing wine, and pouring brazen goblets of warm milk; she at the same time utters words, and calls upon the Deities of the earth, and entreats the king of the shades33 below, together with his 261VII. 249-271ravished 234VII. 249-273wife, that they will not hasten to deprive the aged limbs of life. When she had rendered them propitious both by prayers and prolonged mutterings, she commanded the exhausted body of Æson to be brought out to the altars, and stretched it cast into a deep sleep by her charms, and resembling one dead, upon the herbs laid beneath him.
She orders the son of Æson to go far thence, and the attendants, too, to go afar; and warns them to withdraw their profane eyes from her mysteries. At her order, they retire. Medea, with dishevelled hair, goes round the blazing altars like a worshipper of Bacchus, and dips her torches, split into many parts, in the trench, black with blood, and lights them, thus dipt, at the two altars. And thrice does she34 purify the aged man with flames, thrice with water, and thrice with sulphur. In the meantime the potent mixture35 is boiling and heaving in the brazen cauldron, placed on the flames, and whitens with swelling froth. There she boils roots cut up in the Hæmonian valleys, and seeds and flowers and acrid juices. She adds stones fetched from the most distant East, and sand, which the ebbing tide of the ocean has washed. She adds, too, hoar-frost gathered at night by the light of the moon, and the ill-boding wings of a screech owl,36 together with its flesh; and the entrails of an ambiguous wolf, that was wont to change its appearance of a wild beast into that of a man. Nor is there wanting there 262VII. 272-294the thin scaly slough of the Cinyphian water-snake,37 and the liver of the long-lived 235VII. 273-296stag;38 to which, besides, she adds the bill and head of a crow that had sustained an existence of nine ages. When, with these and a thousand other things without a name, the barbarian princess has completed the medicine prepared for the mortal body, with a branch of the peaceful olive long since dried up, she stirs them all up, and blends the lowest ingredients with the highest. Behold! the old branch, turned about in the heated cauldron, at first becomes green; and after no long time assumes foliage, and is suddenly loaded with heavy olives. Besides, wherever the fire throws the froth from out of the hollow cauldron, and the boiling drops fall upon the earth, the ground becomes green, and flowers and soft grass spring up.
Soon as Medea sees this, she opens the throat39 of the old man with a drawn sword; and allowing the former blood to escape, replenishes his veins with juices. Soon as Æson has drunk them in, either received in his mouth or in his wound, his beard and his hair40 laying aside their hoariness, assume a black hue. His leanness flies, being expelled; his paleness and squalor are gone. His hollow veins are supplied with additional blood, and his limbs become instinct with vigor. Æson is astonished, and calls to recollection that he was such four times ten years before.
Liber had beheld from on high the miraculous operations of so great a prodigy; and taught thereby that 263VII. 295-315youthful years can be restored to his nurses,41 he requests this present from the daughter of Æetes.42
And that her arts43 may not cease, the Phasian feigns a counterfeit quarrel with her husband, and flies as a suppliant to the threshold of Pelias44 and (as he himself is oppressed with old age) his daughters receive her; whom, after a short time, the crafty Colchian engages to herself by the appearance of a pretended friendship. And while among the greatest of her merits, she relates that the infirmities of Æson have been removed, and is dwelling upon that part of the story, a hope is suggested to the damsels, the daughters of Pelias, that by the like art their parent may become young again; and this they request of her, and repeatedly entreat her to name her own price. For a short time she is silent, and appears to be hesitating, and keeps their mind in suspense, as they ask, with an affected gravity.
Afterwards, when she has promised them, she says, “That there may be the greater confidence in this my skill, the leader of the flock among your sheep, which is the most advanced in age, shall become a lamb by this preparation.” Immediately, a fleecy ram, enfeebled by innumerable years, is brought, with his horns bending around his hollow temples; whose withered throat, when she has cut with the Hæmonian knife, and stained the steel with its scanty blood, the enchantress plunges the limbs of the sheep, and her potent juices together, into the hollow copper. The limbs of 264VII. 316-345his body are lessened, and he puts off his horns, and his years together with his horns; and in the midst of the kettle a low bleating is heard. And without any delay, while they are wondering at the bleating, a lamb springs forth, and gambols in its course, and seeks the suckling dugs. The daughters of Pelias are amazed; and after her promises have obtained her credit, then, indeed, they urge her still more strongly. Phœbus had thrice taken the yoke off his horses sinking in the Iberian sea;45 and upon the fourth night the radiant stars were twinkling, 237VII. 326-349when the deceitful daughter of Æetes set pure water upon a blazing fire, and herbs without any virtue. And now sleep like to death, their bodies being relaxed, had seized the king, and the guards together with their king, which her charms and the influence of her enchanting tongue had caused. The daughters of the king, as ordered, had entered the threshold, together with the Colchian, and had surrounded the bed; “Why do you hesitate now, in your indolence? Unsheathe your swords,” says she, “and exhaust the ancient gore, that I may replenish his empty veins with youthful blood. The life and the age of your father is now in your power. If you have any affection and cherish not vain hopes, perform your duty to your father, and drive away old age with your weapons, and, thrusting in the steel, let out his corrupted blood.”
Upon this exhortation, as each of them is affectionate, she becomes especially undutiful, and that she may not be wicked, she commits wickedness. Yet not one is able to look upon her own blow; and they turn away their eyes, and turning away their faces, they deal chance blows with their cruel right hands. He, streaming with gore, yet raises his limbs on his elbows, and, half-mangled, attempts to rise from the couch; and in the midst of so many swords stretching forth his pale arms, he says, “What 265VII. 346-354are you doing, my daughters? What arms you against the life of your parent?” Their courage and their hands fail them. As he is about to say more, the Colchian severs his throat, together with his words, and plunges him, thus mangled, in the boiling cauldron.
The authors who have endeavored to explain the true meaning and origin of the story of the restitution of Æson to youth, are much divided in their opinions concerning it. Some think it refers to the mystery of reviving the decrepit and aged by the transfusion of youthful blood. It is, however, not improbable, that Medea obtained the reputation of being a sorceress, only because she had been taught by her mother the virtues of various plants: and that she administered a potion to Æson, which furnished him with new spirits and strength.
The daughters of Pelias being desirous to obtain the same favor of Medea for their father, she, to revenge the evils which he had brought upon her husband and his family, may possibly have mixed some venomous herbs in his drink, which immediately killed him.
Medea, after having killed Pelias, goes through several countries to Corinth, where, finding that Jason, in her absence, has married the daughter of king Creon, she sets fire to the palace, whereby the princess and her father are consumed. She then murders the two children which she had by Jason, before his face, and takes to flight.
And unless she had mounted into the air with winged dragons, she would not have been exempt from punishment; she flies aloft, over both shady Pelion, the lofty habitation46 of the son of Phillyra, and over Othrys, and the places noted for the fate of the ancient Cerambus.47 He, by the aid of Nymphs, being lifted on wings into the air, when the ponderous earth was covered by 266VII. 355-365the sea pouring over it, not being overwhelmed, escaped the flood of Deucalion. On the left side, she leaves the Æolian Pitane,48 and the image of the long Dragon49 made out of stone, and the wood of Ida,50 in which Bacchus hid a stolen bullock beneath the appearance of a fictitious stag; the spot too, where the father of Corythus51 lies buried beneath a little sand, and the fields which Mæra52 alarmed by her unusual barking.
The city, too, of Eurypylus,53 in which the Coan matrons54 wore horns, at the time when the herd of Hercules55 departed thence; Phœbean Rhodes56 also, and 267VII. 365-382the Ialysian Telchines,57 whose eyes58 corrupting all things by the very looking upon them, Jupiter utterly hating, thrust beneath the waves of his brother. She passed, too, over the Cartheian walls of ancient Cea,59 where her father Alcidamas60 was destined to wonder that a gentle dove could arise from the body of his daughter.
After that, she beholds the lakes of Hyrie,61 and Cycneian Tempe,62 which the swan that had suddenly become such, frequented. For there Phyllius, at the request of the boy, had given him birds, and a fierce lion tamed; being ordered, too, to subdue a bull, he had subdued him; and being angry at his despising his love so often, he denied him, when begging the bull as his last reward. The other, indignant, said, “Thou shalt wish that thou hadst given it;” and then leaped from a high rock. All imagined he had fallen; but, transformed into a swan, he hovered in the air on snow-white wings. But his mother, Hyrie, not knowing that he was saved, dissolved in tears, and formed a lake called after her own name.
Adjacent to these places is Pleuron;63 in which 268VII. 383-396Combe,64 the daughter of Ophis, escaped the wounds of her sons with trembling wings. After that, she sees the fields of Calaurea,65 sacred to Latona, conscious of the transformation of their king, together with his wife, into birds. Cyllene is on the right hand, on which Menephron66 was one day to lie with his mother, after the manner of savage beasts. Far hence she beholds Cephisus,67 lamenting the fate of his grandson, changed 241VII. 389-401by Apollo into a bloated sea-calf; and the house of Eumelus,68 lamenting his son in the air.
At length, borne on the wings of her dragons, she reached the Pirenian Ephyre.69 Here, those of ancient times promulgated that in the early ages mortal bodies were produced from mushrooms springing from rain. But after the new-made bride was consumed, through the Colchian drugs, and both seas beheld the king’s house on fire, her wicked sword was bathed in the blood of her sons; and the mother, having thus barbarously revenged herself, fled from the arms of Jason. 269VII. 397-401Being borne hence by her Titanian dragons,70 she entered the city of Pallas, which saw thee, most righteous Phineus,71 and thee, aged Periphas,72 flying together, and the granddaughter of Polypemon73 resting upon new-formed wings.
Jason being reconciled to the children of Pelias, gave the crown to his son Acastus. Becoming tired of Medea, he married Glauce, or Creüsa, the daughter of Creon, king of Corinth. Medea, hastening to that place, left her two sons in the temple of Juno, and set fire to Creon’s palace, where he and 242his daughter were consumed to ashes, after which she killed her own children. Euripides, in his tragedy of Medea, makes a chorus of Corinthian women say, that the Corinthians themselves committed the murder, and that the Gods sent a plague on the city, as a punishment for the deed. Pausanias also says, that the tomb of Medea’s children, whom the Corinthians stoned to death, was still to be seen in his time; and that the Corinthians offered sacrifices there every year, to appease their ghosts, as the oracle had commanded them.
Apollodorus relates this story in a different manner. He says, that Medea sent her rival a crown, dipped in a sort of gum of a combustible nature; and that when Glauce had put it on her head, it began to burn so furiously, that the young princess perished in the greatest misery. Medea afterwards retired to Thebes, where Hercules engaged to give her assistance against Jason, which promise, however, he failed to perform. Going thence to Athens, she married Ægeus.
The story of her winged dragons may, perhaps, be based on the fact, that her ship was called ‘the Dragon.’ In recounting the particulars of her flight, Ovid makes allusion to several stories by the way, the most of which are entirely unknown to us. With regard 270VII. 402-408to these fictions, it may not be out of place to remark here, as affording a key to many of them, that where a person escaped from any imminent danger, it was published that he had been changed into a bird. If, to avoid pursuit, a person hid himself in a cave, he was said to be transformed into a serpent; and if he burst into tears, from excess of grief, he was reported to have changed into a fountain; while, if a damsel lost herself in a wood, she became a Nymph, or a Dryad. The resemblance of names, also, gave rise to several fictions: thus, Alopis was changed into a fox; Cygnus into a swan; Coronis into a crow; and Cerambus into a horned beetle. As some few of the stories here alluded to by Ovid, refer to historical events, it may be remarked, that the account of the women of Cos being changed into cows, is thought by some to have been founded on the cruel act of the companions of Hercules, who sacrificed some of them to the Gods of the country. The inhabitants of the Isle of Rhodes were said to have been changed into rocks, because they perished in an inundation, which laid a part of that island under water, and particularly the town of Ialysus. The fruitfulness of the daughter of Alcidamas occasioned it to be said, that she was changed into a dove. The rage of Mæra is shown by her transformation into a bitch; and Arne was changed into a daw, because, having sold her country, her avarice was well depicted under the symbol of that bird, which, according to the popular opinion, is fond of money. Phillyra, the mother of the Centaur Chiron, was said to be changed into a linden-tree, probably because she happened to bear the name of that tree, which in the Greek language is called φιλύρα.
Hercules chains the dog Cerberus, the guardian of the gates of the Infernal Regions. Theseus, after his exploits at Corinth, arrives at Athens, where Medea prepares a cup of poison for him. The king, however, recognizing his son, just as he is about to drink, snatches away the cup from him, while Medea flies in her chariot. Ægeus then makes a festival, to celebrate the arrival and preservation of Theseus. In the mean time, Minos, the king of Crete, solicits several princes to assist him in a war against Athens, to revenge the death of his son Androgeus, who had been murdered there.
Ægeus, to be blamed for this deed alone, shelters her; and hospitality is not enough, he also joins her to himself by the ties of marriage. And now was Theseus, his son, arrived, unknown to his father, who, by his valor, had established peace in the Isthmus between the two seas. For his destruction Medea mingles the wolfsbane, which she once brought with her from the shores of Scythia. This, they say, sprang from the teeth of 271VII. 409-428the Echidnean dog. There is a gloomy cave,74 with a dark entrance, wherein there is a descending path, along which the Tirynthian hero dragged away Cerberus resisting, and turning his eyes sideways from the day and the shining rays of the Sun, in chains formed of adamant; he, filled with furious rage, filled the air with triple barkings at the same moment, and sprinkled the verdant fields with white foam. This, they suppose, grew solid, and, receiving the nourishment of a fruitful and productive soil, acquired the power of being noxious. Because, full of life, it springs up on the hard rock, the rustics call it aconite.75
This, by the contrivance of his wife, the father Ægeus himself presented to his son,76 as though to an enemy. Theseus had received the presented cup with unsuspecting right hand, when his father perceived upon the ivory hilt of his sword the 244VII. 423-439tokens of his race,77 and struck the guilty draught from his mouth. She escaped death, having raised clouds by her enchantments.
But the father, although he rejoices at his son’s being safe, astonished that so great a wickedness can be committed with so narrow an escape from death, heats the altars with fires, and loads the Gods with gifts; and the 272VII. 429-443axes strike the muscular necks of the oxen having their horns bound with wreaths. No day is said ever to have shone upon the people of Erectheus more famous than that—the senators and the common people keep up the festivity; songs, too, they sing, wine inspiring wit. “Thee, greatest Theseus,” said they, “Marathon78 admired for shedding the blood of the Cretan bull; and that the husbandman ploughs Cromyon79 in safety from the boar, is thy procurement and thy work. By thy means the country of Epidaurus saw the club-bearing son of Vulcan80 fall; and the banks of the river Cephisus81 saw the cruel Procrustes fall by thee. Eleusis, sacred to Ceres, beheld the death of Cercyon.82 245VII. 439-460Sinnis83 fell too, who barbarously used his great powers; who was able to bend huge beams, and used to pull pine trees from aloft to the earth, destined to scatter human bodies far and wide. The road to Alcathoë,84 the Lelegeïan 273VII. 443-463city, is now open in safety, Scyron85 being laid low in death: and the earth denies a resting-place, the water, too, denies a resting-place to the bones of the robber scattered piecemeal; these, long tossed about, length of time is reported to have hardened into rocks. To these rocks the name of Scyron adheres. If we should reckon up thy glorious deeds, and thy years, thy actions would exceed thy years in number. For thee, bravest hero, we make public vows: in thy honor do we quaff the draughts of wine.” The palace rings with the acclamations of the populace, and the prayers of those applauding; and there is no place sorrowing throughout the whole city.
And yet (so surely is the pleasure of no one unalloyed, and some anxiety is ever interposing amid joyous circumstances), Ægeus does not have his joy undisturbed, on receiving back his son. Minos prepares for war; who, though he is strong in soldiers, strong in shipping, is still strongest of all in the resentment of a parent, and, with retributive arms, avenges the death of his son Androgeus. Yet, before the war, he obtains auxiliary forces, and crosses the sea with a swift fleet, in which 2436VII. 460-468he is accounted strong. On the one side, he joins Anaphe86 to himself; and the realms of Astypale; Anaphe by treaty, the realms of Astypale by conquest; on the other side, the low Myconos, and the chalky lands of Cimolus,87 and the flourishing Cythnos, Scyros, 274VII. 464-468and the level Seriphos;88 Paros, too, abounding in marble, and the island wherein the treacherous Sithonian89 betrayed the citadel, on receiving the gold, which, in her covetousness, she had demanded. She was changed into a bird, which even now has a passion for gold, the jackdaw namely, black-footed, and covered with black feathers.
If it is the fact, as many antiquarians suppose, that much of the Grecian mythology was derived from that of the Egyptians, there can be but little doubt that their system of the Elysian Fields and the Infernal Regions was derived from the Egyptian notions on the future state of man. The story too, of Cerberus is, perhaps, based upon the custom of the Egyptians, who kept dogs to guard the fields or caverns in which they kept their mummies.
It is, however, very possible that the story of Cerberus may have been founded upon a fact, or what was believed to be such. There was a serpent which haunted the cavern of Tænarus, in Laconia, and ravaged the districts adjacent to that promontory. This cave, being generally considered to be one of the avenues to the kingdom of Pluto, the poets thence derived the notion that this serpent was the guardian of its portals. Pausanias observes, that Homer was the first who said that Cerberus was a dog; though, in reality, he was a serpent, whose name in the Greek language signified ‘one that devours flesh.’ The story that Cerberus, with his foam, poisoned the herbs that grew in Thessaly, and that the aconite and other poisonous plants were ever after common there, is probably based on the simple fact, that those herbs were found in great quantities in that region.
Women, using these herbs in their pretended enchantments, gave ground for the stories of the witches of Thessaly, and of their ability to bring the 247VII. 469-481moon down to the earth by their spells and incantations; which latter notion was probably based on the circumstance, that these women used to invoke the Night and the Moon as witnesses of their magical operations.
Minos, having engaged several powers in his interest, and having been refused by others, goes to the island of Ægina, where Æacus reigns, to endeavor to secure an alliance with that prince; but without success. Upon his departure, Cephalus arrives, as ambassador, from Athens, and obtains succors from the king; who gives him an account of the desolation which a pestilence had formerly made in his country, and of the surprising manner in which it had been re-peopled.
But Oliaros,90 and Didyme, and Tenos,91 and Andros,92 and Gyaros,93 and Peparethos, fruitful in the smooth olive,94 do not aid the Gnossian ships. Then Minos makes for Œnopia,95 the kingdom of Æacus, lying to the left. The ancients called it Œnopia, but Æacus himself called it Ægina, from the name of his mother. The multitude rushes forth, and desires greatly to know a man of so great celebrity. Both Telamon,96 and Peleus, younger than Telamon, and Phocus, the king’s third son, go to meet him. Æacus himself, too, though slow through the infirmity of old age, goes forth, and asks him what is the reason of his coming? The ruler of a hundred cities, being 248VII. 481-512put in mind of his fatherly sorrow for his son, sighs, and gives him this answer: “I beg 276VII. 482-509thee to assist arms taken up on account of my son; and be a party in a war of affection. For his shades do I demand satisfaction.” To him the grandson of Asopus says, “Thou askest in vain, and for a thing not to be done by my city; for, indeed, there is no land more closely allied to the people of Cecropia. Such are the terms of our compact.” Minos goes away in sadness, and says, “This compact of thine will cost thee a dear price;” and he thinks it more expedient to threaten war than to wage it, and to waste his forces there prematurely.
Even yet may the Lyctian97 fleet be beheld from the Œnopian walls, when an Attic ship, speeding onward with full sail, appears, and enters the friendly harbor, which is carrying Cephalus, and together with him the request of his native country. The youthful sons of Æacus recognize Cephalus, although seen but after a long period, and give their right hands, and lead him into the house of their father. The graceful hero, even still retaining some traces of his former beauty, enters; and, holding a branch of his country’s olive, being the elder, he has on his right and left hand the two younger in age, Clytus and Butes, the sons of Pallas.98 After their first meeting has had words suitable thereto, Cephalus relates the request of the people of Cecrops, and begs assistance, and recounts the treaties and alliances of their forefathers; and he adds, that the subjection of the whole of Achaia is aimed at. After the eloquence of Cephalus has thus promoted the cause entrusted to him, Æacus, leaning with his left hand on the handle of his sceptre, says—
“Ask not for assistance, O Athens, but take it, and consider, beyond doubt, the resources which this island possesses, as thy own, and let all the forces of my kingdom go along with thee. Strength is not wanting. I have soldiers enough both for my defence, and for 277VII. 510-537opposing the enemy. Thanks to the Gods; this is a prosperous time, and one that can excuse no refusal of mine.” “Yes, and be it so,” says Cephalus:99 249VII. 512-545“and I pray that thy power may increase along with thy citizens. Indeed, as I came along just now, I received much pleasure, when a number of youths, so comely and so equal in their ages, came forward to meet me. Yet I miss many from among them, whom I once saw when I was formerly entertained in this city.” Æacus heaves a sigh, and thus he says, with mournful voice: “A better fortune will be following a lamentable beginning; I only wish I could relate this to you. I will now tell it you without any order, that I may not be detaining you by any long preamble.100 They are now lying as bones and ashes, for whom thou art inquiring with tenacious memory. And how great a part were they of my resources that perished! A dreadful pestilence fell upon my people, through the anger of the vengeful Juno, who hated a country named101 from her rival. While the calamity seemed natural, and the baneful cause of so great destruction was unknown, it was opposed by the resources of medicine. But the havoc exceeded all help, which now lay baffled. At first the heaven encompassed the earth with a thick darkness, and enclosed within its clouds a drowsy heat. And while the Moon was four times filling her orb by joining her horns, and, four times decreasing, was diminishing her full orb, the hot South winds were blowing with their deadly blasts. It is known for a fact that the infection came even into fountains and lakes, and that many thousands of serpents were wandering over the uncultivated fields, and were tainting the rivers with their venom. The violence of this sudden distemper was first discovered by the destruction of dogs, and birds, and sheep, and oxen, and among the wild beasts. 278VII. 538-566The unfortunate ploughman wonders that strong oxen fall down at their work, and lie stretched in the middle of the furrow. And while the wool-bearing flocks utter weakly bleatings, both their wool falls off spontaneously, and their bodies pine away. The horse, once of high mettle, and of great fame on the course, degenerates for the purposes of victory; and, forgetting his ancient honors, he groans at the manger, doomed to perish by an inglorious distemper. The boar remembers not to 250VII. 545-576be angry, nor the hind to trust to her speed, nor the bears to rush upon the powerful herds.
“A faintness seizes all animals; both in the woods, in the fields, and in the roads, loathsome carcases lie strewed. The air is corrupted with the smell of them. I am relating strange events. The dogs, and the ravenous birds, and the hoary wolves, touch them not; falling away, they rot, and, by their exhalations, produce baneful effects, and spread the contagion far and wide. With more dreadful destruction the pestilence reaches the wretched husbandmen, and riots within the walls of the extensive city. At first, the bowels are scorched,102 and a redness, and the breath drawn with difficulty, is a sign of the latent flame. The tongue, grown rough, swells; and the parched mouth gapes, with its throbbing veins; the noxious air, too, is inhaled by the breathing. The infected cannot endure a bed, or any coverings; but they lay their hardened breasts upon the earth, and their bodies are not made cool by the ground, but the ground is made hot by their bodies. There is no physician at hand; the cruel malady breaks out upon even those who administer remedies; and their own arts become an injury to their owners. The nearer at hand any one is, and the more faithfully he attends on the sick, the sooner does he come in for his share of the fatality. And when the hope of recovery is departed, and they see the end of their malady only in death, they indulge their humors, and there is no 279VII. 567-596concern as to what is to their advantage; for, indeed, nothing is to their advantage. All sense, too, of shame being banished, they lie promiscuously close to the fountains and rivers, and deep wells; and their thirst is not extinguished by drinking, before their life is. Many, overpowered with the disease, are unable to arise thence, and die amid the very water; and yet another even drinks that water. So great, too, is the irksomeness for the wretched creatures of their hated beds, that they leap out, or, if their strength forbids them standing, they roll their bodies upon the ground, and every man flies from his own dwelling; each one’s house seems fatal to him: and since the cause of the calamity is unknown, the place that is known 251VII. 576-611is blamed. You might see persons, half dead, wandering about the roads, as long as they were able to stand; others, weeping and lying about on the ground, and rolling their wearied eyes with the dying movement. They stretch, too, their limbs towards the stars of the overhanging heavens, breathing forth their lives here and there, where death has overtaken them.
“What were my feelings then? Were they not such as they ought to be, to hate life, and to desire to be a sharer with my people? On whichever side my eyes were turned, there was the multitude strewed on the earth, just as when rotten apples fall from the moved branches, and acorns from the shaken holm-oak. Thou seest103 a lofty temple, opposite thee, raised on high with long steps: Jupiter has it as his own. Who did not offer incense at those altars in vain? how often did the husband, while he was uttering words of entreaty for his wife, or the father for his son, end his life at the altars without prevailing? in his hand, too, was part of the frankincense found unconsumed! How often did the bulls, when brought to the temples, while the priest was making his supplications, and pouring the pure wine between their horns, fall without waiting for the wound! While I myself was offering sacrifice to Jupiter, for myself, and my country, and my three sons, 280VII. 597-613the victim sent forth dismal lowings, and suddenly falling down without any blow, stained the knives thrust into it, with its scanty blood; the diseased entrails, too, had lost all marks of truth, and the warnings of the Gods. The baneful malady penetrated to the entrails. I have seen the carcases lying, thrown out before the sacred doors; before the very altars, too, that death might become more odious104 to the Gods. Some finish their lives with the halter, and by death dispel the apprehension of death, and voluntarily invite approaching fate. The bodies of the dead are not borne out with any funeral rites, according to the custom; for the city gates cannot receive the multitude of the processions. Either unburied they lie upon the ground, or they are laid on the lofty pyres without the usual honors. And now there is no distinction, and they struggle for the piles; and they are burnt on fires that belong to others. They who should 252VII. 611-622weep are wanting; and the souls of sons, and of husbands, of old and of young, wander about unlamented: there is not room sufficient for the tombs, nor trees for the fires.”
Minos (most probably the second prince that bore that name), upon his accession to the throne, after the death of his father, Lycastus, made several conquests in the islands adjoining Crete, where he reigned, and, at last, became master of those seas. The strength of his fleet is particularly remarked by Thucydides, Apollodorus, and Diodorus Siculus.
The Feast of the Panathenæa being celebrated at Athens, Minos sent his son Androgeus to it, who joined as a combatant in the games, and was sufficiently skilful to win all the prizes. The glory which he thereby acquired, combined with his polished manners, obtained him the friendship of the sons of Pallas, the brother of Ægeus. This circumstance caused Ægeus to entertain jealous feelings, the more especially as he knew that his nephews were conspiring against him. Being informed that Androgeus was about to take a journey to Thebes, he caused him to be assassinated near Œnoë, a town on the confines of Attica. Apollodorus, indeed, says that he was killed by the Bull of Marathon, which was then making great ravages in Greece; but it is very possible that the Athenians encouraged this belief, with the view of screening their king from the infamy of an action so inhuman and unjust. 281VII. 614-632Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch agree in stating that Ægeus himself caused Androgeus to be murdered.
On hearing the news of his son’s death, Minos resolved on revenge. He ordered a strong fleet to be fitted out, and went in person to several courts, to contract alliances, and engage other powers to assist him; and this, with the history of the plague at Ægina, forms the subject of the present narrative.
Jupiter, at the prayer of his son Æacus, transforms the ants that are in the hollow of an old oak into men; these, from the Greek name of those insects, are called Myrmidons.
“Stupefied by so great an outburst of misery, I said, ‘O Jupiter! if stories do not falsely say that thou didst come into the embraces of Ægina, the daughter of Asopus, and thou art not ashamed, great Father, to be the parent of myself; either restore my people to me, or else bury me, as well, in the sepulchre.’ He gave a signal by lightnings, and by propitious thunders. I accepted the omen, and I said, ‘I pray that these may be happy signs of thy intentions: the omen which thou givest me, I accept as a pledge.’ By chance there was close 253VII. 622-654by, an oak sacred to Jupiter, of seed from Dodona,105 but thinly covered with wide-spreading boughs. Here we beheld some ants, the gatherers of corn, in a long train, carrying a heavy burden in their little mouths, and keeping their track in the wrinkled bark. While I was wondering at their numbers, I said, ‘Do thou, most gracious Father, give me citizens as many in number, and replenish my empty walls.’ The lofty oak trembled, and made a noise in its boughs, moving without a breeze. My limbs quivered, with trembling fear, and my hair stood on an end; yet I gave kisses to the earth and to the oak, nor did I confess that I had any 282VII. 633-660hopes; and yet I did hope, and I cherished my own wishes in my mind. Night came on, and sleep seized my body wearied with anxiety. Before my eyes the same oak seemed to be present, and to bear as many branches, and as many animals in its branches, and to be trembling with a similar motion, and to be scattering the grain-bearing troop on the fields below. These suddenly grew, and seemed greater and greater, and raised themselves from the ground, and stood with their bodies upright; and laid aside their leanness, and the former number of their feet, and their sable hue, and assumed in their limbs the human shape.
“Sleep departs. When now awake, I censured the vision, and complained that there was no help for me from the Gods above. But within my palace there was a great murmur, and I seemed to be hearing the voices of men, to which I had now become unaccustomed. While I was supposing that these, too, were a part of my dream, lo! Telamon came in haste, and, opening the door, said, ‘Father, thou wilt see things beyond thy hopes or expectations. Do come out.’ I did go out, and I beheld and recognized such men, each in his turn, as I had seemed to behold in the vision of my sleep. They approached, and saluted me as their king. I offered up vows to Jupiter, and divided the city and the lands void of their former tillers, among this new-made people, and I called them Myrmidons,106 and did not 254VII. 654-671deprive their name of the marks of their origin. Thou hast beheld their persons. Even still do they retain the manners which they formerly had; and they are a thrifty race, patient of toil, tenacious of what they get, and what they get they lay up. These, alike in years and in courage, will attend thee to the war, as soon as the East wind, which brought thee prosperously hither (for the East wind had brought him), shall have changed to the South.”
This fable, perhaps, has no other foundation than the retreat of 283VII. 661-674the subjects of Æacus into woods and caverns, whence they returned, when the contagion had ceased with which their country had been afflicted, and when he had nearly lost all hopes of seeing them again. It is probable that the old men were carried off by the plague, while the young, who had more strength, resisted its power, which circumstance would fully account for the active habits of the remaining subjects of Æacus. Some writers, however, suppose that the Myrmidons were a barbarous, but industrious people of Thessaly, who usually dwelt in caves, and who were brought thence by Æacus to people his island, which had been made desolate by a pestilence. The similarity of their name to the Greek word μύρμηξ, signifying ‘an ant,’ most probably gave occasion to the report that Jupiter had changed ants into men.
Cephalus, having resisted the advances of Aurora, who has become enamoured of him while hunting, returns in disguise to his wife, Procris, to try if her affection for him is sincere. She, discovering his suspicions, flies to the woods, and becomes a huntress, with the determination not to see him again. Afterwards, on becoming reconciled to him, she bestows on him a dog and a dart, which Diana had once given her. The dog is turned into stone, while hunting a wild beast, which Themis has sent to ravage the territories of Thebes, after the interpretation of the riddle of the Sphinx, by Œdipus.
In these and other narratives they passed the day. The last part of the day was spent in feasting, and the night in sleep. The golden Sun had now shed his beams, when the East wind was still blowing, and detained the sails about to return. The sons of Pallas repair to Cephalus, who was stricken in years. Cephalus and the sons of Pallas, together with him, come to the king; but a sound sleep still possessed the monarch. Phocus, the son of Æacus, received them at the threshold; for Telamon and his brother were levying men for the war. Phocus conducted the citizens of Cecrops into an inner room, and a 255VII. 671-702handsome apartment. Soon as he had sat down with them, he observed that the grandson of Æolus107 was holding in his hand a javelin made of an unknown wood, the point of which was of gold.
Having first spoken a few words in promiscuous conversation, 284VII. 675-702he said, “I am fond of the forests, and of the chase of wild beasts; still, from what wood the shaft of the javelin, which thou art holding, is cut, I have been for some time in doubt; certainly, if it were of wild ash, it would be of brown color; if of cornel-wood, there would be knots in it. Whence it comes I am ignorant, but my eyes have not looked upon a weapon used for a javelin, more beautiful than this.” One of the Athenian brothers replied, and said, “In it, thou wilt admire its utility, even more than its beauty. Whatever it is aimed at, it strikes; chance does not guide it when thrown, and it flies back stained with blood, no one returning it.” Then, indeed, does the Nereian youth108 inquire into all particulars, why it was given, and whence it came? who was the author of a present of so great value? What he asks, Cephalus tells him; but as to what he is ashamed to tell, and on what condition he received it, he is silent; and, being touched with sorrow for the loss of his wife, he thus speaks, with tears bursting forth: “Son of a Goddess, this weapon (who could have believed it?) makes me weep, and long will make me do so, if the Fates shall grant me long to live. ’Twas this that proved the destruction of me and of my dear wife. Would that I had ever been without this present! Procris was (if perchance the fame of Orithyïa109 may have more probably reached thy ears) the sister of Orithyïa, the victim of violence. If you should choose to compare the face and the manners of the two, she was the more worthy to be carried off. Her father Erectheus united her to me; love, too, united her to me. I was pronounced happy, and so I was. Not thus did it seem good to the Gods; or even now, perhaps, I should be so. The second month was now passing, after the marriage rites, when the saffron-colored Aurora, dispelling the darkness in the morn, beheld me, as I was planting nets for the horned deer, from 256VII. 702-731the highest summit of the 285VII. 702-728ever-blooming Hymettus,110 and carried me off against my will. By the permission of the Goddess, let me relate what is true; though she is comely with her rosy face, and though she possesses the confines of light, and possesses the confines of darkness, though she is nourished with the draughts of nectar, still I loved Procris; Procris was ever in my thoughts, Procris was ever on my lips. I alleged the sacred ties of marriage, our late embraces, and our recent union, and the prior engagements of my forsaken bed. The Goddess was provoked, and said, ‘Cease thy complaints, ungrateful man; keep thy Procris; but, if my mind is gifted with foresight, thou wilt wish that thou hadst not had her;’” and thus, in anger, she sent me back to her.
“While I was returning, and was revolving the sayings of the Goddess within myself, there began to be apprehensions that my wife had not duly observed the laws of wedlock. Both her beauty and her age bade me be apprehensive of her infidelity; yet her virtue forbade me to believe it. But yet, I had been absent; and besides, she, from whom I was just returning, was an example of such criminality: but we that are in love, apprehend all mishaps. I then endeavored to discover that, by reason of which I must feel anguish, and by bribes to make attempts111 upon her chaste constancy. Aurora encouraged this apprehension, and changed my shape, as I seemed then to perceive. I entered Athens, the city of Pallas, unknown to any one, and I went into my own house. The house itself was without fault, and gave indications of chastity, and was in concern for the carrying off of its master.
“Having, with difficulty, made my way to the daughter of Erectheus by means of a thousand artifices, soon as I beheld her, I was amazed, and was nearly abandoning my projected trial of her constancy; with 286VII. 729-752difficulty did I restrain myself from telling the truth, with difficulty from giving her the kisses which I ought. She was in sorrow; but yet no one could be more beautiful 257VII. 732-756than she, even in her sadness; and she was consuming with regret for her husband, torn from her. Only think, Phocus, how great was the beauty of her, whom even sorrow did so much become. Why should I tell how often her chaste manners repulsed all my attempts? How often she said, ‘I am reserved for but one, wherever he is; for that one do I reserve my joys.’ For whom, in his senses, would not that trial of her fidelity have been sufficiently great? Yet I was not content; and I strove to wound myself, while I was promising to give vast sums for but one night, and forced her at last to waver, by increasing the reward. On this I cried out, ‘Lo! I, the gallant in disguise, to my sorrow, and lavish in promises, to my misery, am thy real husband; thou treacherous woman! thou art caught, and I the witness.’ She said nothing: only, overwhelmed with silent shame, she fled from the house of treachery, together with her wicked husband; and from her resentment against me, abhorring the whole race of men, she used to wander112 on the mountains, employed in the pursuits of Diana. Then, a more violent flame penetrated to my bones, thus deserted. I begged forgiveness, and owned myself in fault; and that I too might have yielded to a similar fault, on presents being made; if presents so large had been offered. Upon my confessing this, having first revenged her offended modesty, she was restored to me, and 287VII. 779-795passed the pleasant years in harmony with me. She gave me, besides, as though in herself she had given me but a small present, a dog as a gift, which when her own Cynthia had presented to her, she had said, ‘He will excel all dogs in running.’ She gave her, too, a javelin, which, as thou seest, I am carrying in my hand.
“Dost thou inquire what was the fortune of the other present—hear then. Thou wilt be astonished at the novelty of the wondrous fact. The son of Laius113 had solved the verses not understood by the wit of others before him; and the mysterious propounder lay precipitated, forgetful of her riddle. But the genial Themis,114 forsooth, did not leave such things unrevenged. Immediately another plague was sent forth against Aonian Thebes; and many of the peasants fed the savage monster, both by the destruction of their cattle, and their own as well. We, the neighboring youth, came together, and enclosed the extensive fields with toils. With a light bound it leaped over the nets, and passed over the topmost barriers of the toils that were set. The couples were taken off the dogs, from which, as they followed, it fled, and eluded them, no otherwise than as a winged bird. I myself, too, was requested, with eager demands, for my dog Lælaps [Tempest]; that was the name of my wife’s present. For some time already had he been struggling to get free from the couples, and strained them with his neck, as they detained him. Scarce was he well let loose; and yet we could not now tell where he was; the warm dust had the prints of his feet, but he himself was snatched from our eyes. A spear does not fly swifter than he did, nor pellets whirled from the twisted sling, nor the light arrow from the Gortynian bow.115 The top of a 288VII. 779-795hill, standing in the middle, looks down upon the plains below. Thither I mount, and I enjoy the sight of an unusual chase; wherein the wild beast116 one while seemed to be caught, at another to 259VII. 782-799elude his very bite; and it does not fly in a direct course, and straight onward, but deceives his mouth, as he pursues it, and returns in circles, that its enemy may not have his full career against it. He keeps close to it, and pursues it, a match for him; and though like as if he has caught it, still he fails to catch it, and vainly snaps at the air. I was now turning to the resources of my javelin; while my right hand was poising it, and while I was attempting to insert my fingers in the thongs of it, I turned away my eyes; and again I had directed them, recalled to the same spot, when, most wondrous, I beheld two marble statues in the middle of the plain; you would think the one was flying, the other barking in pursuit. Some God undoubtedly, if any God really did attend to them, desired them both to remain unconquered in this contest of speed.”
There were two princes of the name of Cephalus; one, the son of Mercury and Herse, the daughter of Cecrops; the other, the son of Deïoneus, king of Phocis, and Diomeda, the daughter of Xuthus. The first was carried off by Aurora, and went to live with her in Syria; the second married Procris, the daughter of Erectheus, king of Athens. Though Apollodorus seems, in the first instance, to follow this genealogy, in his third book he confounds the actions of those two princes. Ovid and other writers have spoken only of the son of Deïoneus, who was carried off by Aurora, and having left her, according to them, returned to Procris.
Procris, jealous of Cephalus, in her turn, goes to the forest, which she supposes to be the scene of his infidelity, to surprise him. Hearing the rustling noise which she makes in the thicket, where she lies concealed, he imagines it is a wild beast, and, hurling the javelin, which she has formerly given to him, he kills her.
Thus far did he speak; and then he was silent. “But,” said Phocus, “what fault is there in that javelin?” whereupon he thus informed him of the demerits of the javelin. “Let my joys, Phocus, be the first portion of my sorrowful story. These will I first relate. O son of Æacus, I delight to remember the happy time, during which, for the first years after my marriage, I was completely blessed in my wife, and she 260VII. 799-834was happy in her husband. A mutual kindness and social love possessed us both. Neither would she have preferred the bed of Jupiter before my love; nor was there any woman that could have captivated me, not even if Venus herself had come. Equal flames fired the breasts of us both. The Sun striking the tops of the mountains with his early rays, I was wont generally to go with youthful ardor into the woods, to hunt; but I neither suffered my servants, nor my horses, nor my quick-scented hounds to go with me, nor the knotty nets to attend me; I was safe with my javelin. But when my right hand was satiated with the slaughter of wild beasts, I betook myself to the cool spots and the shade, and the breeze which was breathing forth from the cool valleys. The gentle breeze was sought by me, in the midst of the heat. For the breeze was I awaiting; that was a refreshment after my toils: ‘Come, breeze,’ I was wont to sing, for I remember it full well, ‘and, most grateful, refresh me, and enter my breast; and, as thou art wont, be willing to assuage the heat with which I am parched.’ Perhaps I may have added (for so my destiny prompted me) many words of endearment, and I may have been accustomed to say, ‘Thou art my great delight; thou dost refresh and cherish me; thou makest me to love the woods and lonely haunts, and 290VII. 819-850thy breath is ever courted by my face.’ I was not aware that some one was giving an ear, deceived by these ambiguous words; and thinking the name of the breeze, so often called upon by me, to be that of a Nymph, he believed some Nymph was beloved by me.
“The rash informer of an imaginary crime immediately went to Procris, and with his whispering tongue related what he had heard. Love is a credulous thing. When it was told her, she fell down fainting, with sudden grief; and coming to, after a long time, she declared that she was wretched, and born to a cruel destiny; and she complained about my constancy. Excited by a groundless charge,117 she dreads that which, indeed, is nothing; and fears a name without a body; and, in her wretchedness, grieves as though about a real rival. Yet she is often in doubt, and, in her extreme wretchedness, hopes she may be deceived, and denies credit to the information; and unless she beholds it herself, will not pass sentence upon 261VII. 834-865the criminality of her husband. The following light of the morning had banished the night, when I sallied forth, and sought the woods; and being victorious in the fields, I said, ‘Come, breeze, and relieve my pain;’ and suddenly I seemed to hear I know not what groans in the midst of my words; yet I said, ‘Come hither, most delightful breeze.’ Again, the falling leaves making a gentle noise, I thought it was a wild beast, and I discharged my flying weapon. It was Procris; and receiving the wound in the middle of her breast, she cried out, ‘Ah, wretched me!’ When the voice of my attached wife was heard, headlong and distracted, I ran towards that voice. I found her dying, and staining her scattered vestments with blood, and drawing her own present (ah, wretched me!) from out of her wound; I lifted up her body, dearer to me than my own, in my guilty arms, and I bound up her cruel wounds with the garments torn from my bosom; and I endeavored to stanch the blood, and besought her that she would not forsake 291VII. 851-865me, thus criminal, by her death. She, wanting strength, and now expiring, forced herself to utter these few words:
“‘I suppliantly beseech thee, by the ties of our marriage, and by the Gods above, and my own Gods, and if I have deserved anything well of thee, by that as well, and by the cause of my death, my love even now enduring, while I am perishing, do not allow the Nymph Aura [breeze] to share with thee my marriage ties.’ She thus spoke; and then, at last, I perceived the mistake of the name, and informed her of it. But what avails informing her? She sinks; and her little strength flies, together with her blood. And so long as she can look on anything, she gazes on me, and breathes out upon me, on my face,118 her unhappy life; but she seems to die free from care, and with a more contented look.”
In tears, the hero is relating these things to them, as they weep, and, lo! Æacus enters, with his two sons,119 and his soldiers newly levied; which Cephalus received, furnished with valorous arms.
The love which Cephalus, the son of Deïoneus, bore for the chase, causing him to rise early in the morning for the enjoyment of his sport, was the origin of the story of his love for Aurora. His wife, Procris, as Apollodorus tells us, carried on an amour with Pteleon, and, probably, caused that report to be spread abroad, to divert attention from her own intrigue. Cephalus, suspecting his wife’s infidelity, she fled to the court of the second Minos, king of Crete, who fell in love with her. Having, thereby, incurred the resentment of Pasiphaë, who adopted several methods to destroy her rival, and, among others, spread poison in her bed, she left Crete, and returned to Thoricus, the place of her former residence, where she was reconciled to Cephalus, and gave him the celebrated dog and javelin mentioned by Ovid.
The poets tell us, that this dog was made by Vulcan, and presented by him to Jupiter, who gave him to Europa; and that coming to the hands of her son Minos, he presented it to Procris. The wild beast, which ravaged the country, and was pursued by 292the dog of Procris, and which some writers tell us was a monstrous fox, was probably a pirate or sea robber; and being, perhaps, pursued by some Cretan officer of Minos, who escorted Procris back to her country, on their vessels being shipwrecked near some rocks, it gave occasion to the story that the dog and the monster had been changed into stone. Indeed, Tzetzes says distinctly, that the dog was called Cyon, and the monster, or fox, Alopis; and he also says that Cyon was the captain who brought Procris back from Crete. It being believed that resentment had some share in causing the death of Procris, the court of the Areiopagus condemned Cephalus to perpetual banishment. The island of Cephalenia, which received its name from him, having been given to him by Amphitryon, he retired to it, where his son Celeus afterwards succeeded him.
1. The Minyæ.]—Ver. 1. The Argonauts. The Minyæ were a people of Thessaly, so called from Minyas, the son of Orchomenus.
2. Pagasæan ship.]—Ver. 1. Pagasæ was a seaport of Thessaly, at the foot of Mount Pelion, where the ship Argo was built.
3. Distressed old man.]—Ver. 4. Clarke translates ‘miseri senis ore,’ ‘from the mouth of the miserable old fellow.’
4. Daughter of Æetes.]—Ver. 9. Medea was the daughter of Æetes, the king of Colchis. Juno, favoring Jason, had persuaded Venus to inspire Medea with love for him.
5. Haste then.]—Ver. 47. Clarke translates ‘accingere,’ more literally than elegantly, ‘buckle to.’
6. Pelasgian cities.]—Ver. 49. Pelasgia was properly that part of Greece which was afterwards called Thessaly. The province of Pelasgiotis, in Thessaly, afterwards retained its name, which was derived from the Pelasgi, an early people of Greece. Pliny informs us that Peloponnesus at first had the names of ‘Apia’ and ‘Pelasgia.’ Some suppose that the Pelasgi derived their name from Pelasgus, the son of Jupiter; while other writers assert that they were so called from πελαργοὶ, ‘storks,’ from their wandering habits. The name is frequently used, as in the present instance, to signify the whole of the Greeks.
7. My sister.]—Ver. 51. Her sister was Chalciope, who had married Phryxus, after his arrival in Colchis. Her children being found by Jason, in the isle of Dia, they came with him to Colchis, and presented him to their mother, who afterwards commended him to the care of Medea.
8. And my brother.]—Ver. 51. Her brother was Absyrtus, whose tragical death is afterwards mentioned.
9. Is barbarous.]—Ver. 53. It was certainly ‘barbara’ in the eyes of a Greek; but the argument sounds rather oddly in the mouth of Medea, herself a native of the country.
10. The youth of Greece.]—Ver. 56. These were the Argonauts, who were selected from the most noble youths of Greece.
11. What mountains.]—Ver. 63. These were the Cyanean rocks, or Symplegades, at the mouth of the Euxine sea.
12. Hecate.]—Ver. 74. Ancient writers seem to have been much divided in opinion who Hecate was. Ovid here follows the account which made her to be the daughter of Perses, who, according to Diodorus Siculus, was the son of Phœbus, and the brother of Æetes. Marrying her uncle Æetes, she is said to have been the mother of Circe, Medea, and Absyrtus. By some writers she is confounded with the Moon and with Proserpine; as identical with the Moon, she has the epithets ‘Triceps’ and ‘Triformis,’ often given to her by the poets, because the Moon sometimes is full, sometimes disappears, and often shows but part of her disk.
13. And by the sire.]—Ver. 96. Allusion is made to the Sun, who was said to be the father of Æetes, the destined father-in-law of Jason.
14. Breathe forth flames.]—Ver. 104. The name of the God of fire is here used to signify that element. Apollodorus says, that Medea gave Jason a drug (φάρμακον) to rub over himself and his armor.
15. Or when flints.]—Ver. 107. It is difficult to determine whether ‘silices’ here means ‘flint-stones,’ or ‘lime-stone;’ probably the latter, from the mention of water sprinkled over them. If the meaning is ‘flint-stones,’ the passage may refer to the manufacture of glass, with the art of making which the ancients were perfectly acquainted.
16. Unused to it.]—Ver. 119. Because, being sacred to Mars, it was not permitted to be ploughed.
17. Dragon’s teeth.]—Ver. 122. These were a portion of the teeth of the dragon slain by Cadmus, which Mars and Minerva had sent to Æetes.
18. Lethæan juice.]—Ver. 152. Lethe was a river of the infernal regions, whose waters were said to produce sleep and forgetfulness.
19. Port of Iolcos.]—Ver. 158. Iolcos was a city of Thessaly, of which country Jason was a native.
20. Of the triple form.]—Ver. 177. Hecate, the Goddess of enchantment.
21. With bare feet.]—Ver. 183. To have the feet bare was esteemed requisite for the due performance of magic rites, though sometimes on such occasions, and probably in the present instance, only one foot was left unshod. In times of drought, according to Tertullian, a procession and ceremonial, called ‘nudipedalia,’ were resorted to, with a view to propitiate the Gods by this token of grief and humiliation.
22. Three-faced Hecate.]—Ver. 194. Though Hecate and the Moon are here mentioned as distinct, they are frequently considered to have been the same Deity, with different attributes. The three heads with which Hecate was represented were those of a horse, a dog, and a pig, or sometimes, in the place of the latter, a human head.
23. Temesæan.]—Ver. 207. Temesa was a town of the Brutii, on the coast of Etruria, famous for its copper mines. It was also sometimes called Tempsa. There was also another Temesa, a city of Cyprus, also famous for its copper.
24. Chalky regions.]—Ver. 223. Such was the characteristic of the mountainous country of Thessaly, where she now alighted.
25. Brazen sickle.]—Ver. 227. We learn from Macrobius and Cælius Rhodiginus that copper was preferred to iron in cutting herbs for the purposes of enchantment, in exorcising spirits, and in aiding the moon in eclipses against the supposed charms of the witches, because it was supposed to be a purer metal.
26. Apidanus.]—Ver. 228. This and Amphrysus were rivers of Thessaly.
27. Shores of Bœbe.]—Ver. 231. Strabo makes mention of lake Bœbeis, near the town of Bœbe, in Thessaly. It was not far from the mouth of the river Peneus.
28. Anthedon.]—Ver. 232. This was a town of Bœotia, opposite to Eubœa, being situated on the Euripus, now called the straits of Negropont.
29. Glaucus.]—Ver. 233. He was a fisherman, who was changed into a sea God, on tasting a certain herb. His story is related at the end of the 13th Book.
30. Ninth day.]—Ver. 234. The numbers three and nine seem to have been deemed of especial virtue in incantations.
31. One to youth.]—Ver. 241. This goddess was also called Hebe, from the Greek word signifying youth. She was the daughter of Juno, and the wife of Hercules. She was also the cup-bearer of the Gods, until she was supplanted by Ganymede.
32. Goblets.]—Ver. 246. ‘Carchesia.’ The ‘carchesium’ was a kind of drinking cup, used by the Greeks from very early times. It was slightly contracted in the middle, and its two handles extended from the top to the bottom. It was employed in the worship of the Deities, and was used for libations of blood, wine, milk, and honey. Macrobius says that it was only used by the Greeks. Virgil makes mention of it as used to hold wine.
33. King of the shades.]—Ver. 249. Pluto and Proserpine. Clarke translates this line and the next, ‘And prays to the king of shades with his kidnapped wife, that they would not be too forward to deprive the limbs of the old gentleman of life.’
34. Thrice does she.]—Ver. 261. Clarke thus renders this and the two following lines: ‘And purifies the old gentleman three times with flame, three times with water, and three times with sulphur. In the meantime the strong medicine boils, and bounces about in a brazen kettle set on the fire.’
35. The potent mixture.]—Ver. 262. This reminds us of the line of Shakespeare in Macbeth, ‘Make the hell-broth thick and slab.’
36. A screech owl.]—Ver. 269. ‘Strigis.’ The ‘strix’ is supposed to have been the screech owl, and was a favorite bird with the enchanters, who were supposed to have the power of assuming that form. From the description given of the ‘striges’ in the Sixth Book of the Fasti, it would almost appear that the qualities of the vampyre bat were attributed to them.
37. Water snake.]—Ver. 272. The ‘chelydrus’ was a venomous water-snake of a powerful and offensive smell. The Delphin Commentator seems to think that a kind of turtle is here meant.
38. Long-lived stag.]—Ver. 273. The stag was said to live four times, and the crow nine times, as long as man.
39. Opened the throat.]—Ver. 285-6. Clarke translates the words ‘quod simul ac vidit, stricto Medea recludit Ense senis jugulum,’ ‘which as soon as Medea saw, she opens the throat of the old gentleman with a drawn sword.’
40. And his hair.]—Ver. 288. Medea is thought by some writers not only to have discovered a dye for giving a dark color to grey hair, but to have found out the invigorating properties of the warm bath.
41. To his nurses.]—Ver. 295. These (in Book iii. l. 314.) he calls by the name of Nyseïdes; but in the Fifth Book of the Fasti they are styled Hyades, and are placed in the number of the Constellations. A commentator on Homer, quoting from Pherecydes, calls them ‘Dodonides.’
42. Daughter of Æetes.]—Ver. 296. The reading in most of the MSS. here is Tetheiâ, or ‘Thetide;’ but Burmann has replaced it by Æetide, ‘the daughter of Æetes.’ It has been justly remarked, why should Bacchus apply to Tethys to have the age of the Nymphs, who had nursed him, renewed, when he had just beheld Medea, and not Tethys, do it in favor of Æson?
43. That her arts.]—Ver. 297. ‘Neve doli cessent’ is translated by Clarke, ‘and that her tricks might not cease.’
44. Pelias.]—Ver. 298. He was the brother of Æson, and had dethroned him, and usurped his kingdom.
45. The Iberian sea.]—Ver. 324. The Atlantic, or Western Ocean, is thus called from Iberia, the ancient name of Spain; which country, perhaps, was so called from the river Iberus, or Ebro, flowing through it.
46. Lofty habitation.]—Ver. 352. The mountains of Thessaly are so called, because Chiron, the son of the Nymph Phillyra, lived there.
47. Cerambus.]—Ver. 353. Antoninus Liberalis, quoting from Nicander, calls him Terambus, and says that he lived at the foot of Mount Pelion; he incurred the resentment of the Nymphs, who changed him into a scarabæus, or winged beetle. Flying to the heights of Parnassus, at the time of the flood of Deucalion, he thereby made his escape. Some writers say that he was changed into a bird.
48. Pitane.]—Ver. 357. This was a town of Ætolia, in Asia Minor, near the mouth of the river Caicus.
49. The long dragon.]—Ver. 358. He alludes, most probably, to the story of the Lesbian changed into a dragon or serpent, which is mentioned in the Eleventh book, line 58.
50. Wood of Ida.]—Ver. 359. This was the grove of Ida, in Phrygia. It is supposed that he refers to the story of Thyoneus, the son of Bacchus, who, having stolen an ox from some Phrygian shepherds, was pursued by them; on which Bacchus, to screen his son, changed the ox into a stag, and invested Thyoneus with the garb of a hunter.
51. Father of Corythus.]—Ver. 361. Paris was the father of Corythus, by Œnone. He was said to have been buried at Cebrena, a little town of Phrygia, near Troy.
52. Mæra.]—Ver. 362. This was the name of the dog of Icarius, the father of Erigone, who discovered the murder of his master by the shepherds of Attica, and was made a Constellation, under the name of the Dog-star. As, however, the flight of Medea was now far distant from Attica, it is more likely that the Poet refers to the transformation of some female, named Mæra, into a dog, whose story has not come down to us; indeed, Lactantius expresses this as his opinion. Burmann thinks that it refers to the transformation of Hecuba, mentioned in the 13th book, line 406; and that ‘Mæra’ is a corruption for some other name of Hecuba.
53. Eurypylus.]—Ver. 363. He was a former king of the Isle of Cos, in the Ægean Sea, and was much famed for his skill as an augur.
54. The Coan matrons.]—Ver. 363. Lactantius says that the women of Cos, extolling their own beauty as superior to that of Venus, incurred the resentment of that Goddess, and were changed by her into cows. Another version of the story is, that these women, being offended at Hercules for driving the oxen of Ægeon through their island, were very abusive, on which Juno transformed them into cows: to this latter version reference is made in the present passage.
55. Hercules.]—Ver. 364. He besieged and took the chief city of the island, which was also called Cos; and having slain Eurypylus, carried off his daughter Chalciope.
56. Phœbean Rhodes.]—Ver. 365. The island of Rhodes, in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Asia Minor, was sacred to the Sun, and was said never to be deserted by his rays.
57. Ialysian Telchines.]—Ver. 365. Ialysus was one of the three most ancient cities of Rhodes, and was said to have been founded by Ialysus, whose parent was the Sun. The Telchines, or Thelchines, were a race supposed to have migrated thither from Crete. They were persons of great artistic skill, on which account they may, possibly, have obtained the character of being magicians; such was the belief of Strabo.
58. Whose eyes.]—Ver. 366. The evil eye was supposed by the ancients not only to have certain fascinating powers, but to be able to destroy the beauty of any object on which it was turned.
59. Cea.]—Ver. 368. This island, now Zia, is in the Ægean sea, near Eubœa. Carthæa was a city there, the ruins of which are still in existence.
60. Alcidamas.]—Ver. 369. Antoninus Liberalis says, that Alcidamas lived not at Carthæa, but at Iülis, another city in the Isle of Cea.
61. Lakes of Hyrie.]—Ver. 371. Hyrie was the mother of Cycnus; and pining away with grief on the transformation of her son, she was changed into a lake, called by her name.
62. Cycneian Tempe.]—Ver. 371. This was not Thessalian Tempe, but a valley of Teumesia, or Teumesus, a mountain of Bœotia.
63. Pleuron.]—Ver. 382. This was a city of Ætolia, near Mount Curius. It was far distant from Bœotia and Lake Hyrie. Some commentators, therefore, suggest that the reading should be Brauron, a village of Attica, near the confines of Bœotia.
64. Combe.]—Ver. 383. She was the mother of the Curetes of Ætolia, who, perhaps, received that name from Mount Curius. There was another Combe, the daughter of Asopus, who discovered the use of brazen arms, and was called Chalcis, from that circumstance. She was said to have borne a hundred daughters to her husband.
65. Calaurea.]—Ver. 384. This was an island between Crete and the Peloponnesus, in the Saronic gulf, which was sacred to Apollo. Latona resided there, having given Delos to Neptune in exchange for it. Demosthenes died there.
66. Menephron.]—Ver. 386. Hyginus says, that he committed incest both with his mother Blias, and with Cyllene, his daughter.
67. Cephisus.]—Ver. 388. The river Cephisus, in Bœotia, had a daughter, Praxithea. She was the wife of Erectheus, and bore him eight sons, the fate of one of whom is perhaps here referred to.
68. Eumelus.]—Ver. 390. He was the king of Patræ, on the sea-coast of Achaia. Triptolemus visited him with his winged chariot; on which, Antheas, the son of Eumelus, ascended it while his father was sleeping, and falling from it, he was killed. He is, probably, here referred to; and the reading should be ‘natum,’ and not ‘natam.’ Some writers, however, suppose that his daughter was changed into a bird.
69. Pirenian Ephyre.]—Ver. 391. Corinth was so called from Ephyre, the daughter of Neptune, who was said to have lived there. Its inhabitants were fabled to have sprung from mushrooms.
70. Titanian dragons.]—Ver. 398. Her dragons are so called, either because, as Pindar says, they had sprung from the blood of the Titans, or because, according to the Greek tradition, the chariot and winged dragons had been sent to Medea by the Sun, one of whose names was Titan.
71. Phineus.]—Ver. 399. Any further particulars of the person here named are unknown. Some commentators suggest ‘Phini,’ and that some female of the name of Phinis is alluded to, making the adjective ‘justissime’ of the feminine gender.
72. Periphas.]—Ver. 400. He was a very ancient king of Attica, before the time of Cecrops, and was said to have been changed into an eagle by Jupiter, while his wife was transformed into an osprey.
73. Polypemon.]—Ver. 401. This was a name of the robber Procrustes, who was slain by Theseus. Halcyone, the daughter of his son Scyron, having been guilty of incontinence, was thrown into the sea by her father, on which she was changed into a kingfisher, which bore her name.
74. A gloomy cave.]—Ver. 409. This cavern was called Acherusia. It was situate in the country of the Mariandyni, near the city of Heraclea, in Pontus, and was said to be the entrance of the Infernal Regions. Cerberus was said to have been dragged from Tartarus by Hercules, through this cave, which circumstance was supposed to account for the quantity of aconite, or wolfsbane, that grew there.
75. Call it aconite.]—Ver. 419. From the Greek ακόνη, ‘a whetstone.’
76. Presented to his son.]—Ver. 420. Medea was anxious to secure the succession to the throne of Athens to her son Medus, and was therefore desirous to remove Theseus out of the way.
77. Tokens of his race.]—Ver. 423. Ægeus, leaving Æthra at Trœzen, in a state of pregnancy, charged her, if she bore a son, to rear him, but to tell no one whose son he was. He placed his own sword and shoes under a large stone, and directed her to send his son to him when he was able to lift the stone, and to take them from under it; and he then returned to Athens, where he married Medea. When Theseus had grown to the proper age, his mother led him to the stone under which his father had deposited his sword and shoes, which he raised with ease, and took them out. It was, probably, by means of this sword that Ægeus recognized his son in the manner mentioned in the text.
78. Marathon.]—Ver. 434. This was a town of Attica, adjoining a plain of the same name, where the Athenians, under the command of Miltiades, overthrew the Persians with immense slaughter. The bull which Theseus slew there was presented by Neptune to Minos. Being brought into Attica by Hercules, it laid waste that territory until it was slain by Theseus.
79. Cromyon.]—Ver. 435. This was a village of the Corinthian territory, which was infested by a wild boar of enormous size, that slew both men and animals. It was put to death by Theseus.
80. Vulcan.]—Ver. 437. By Antilia, Vulcan was the father of Periphetes, a robber who infested Epidaurus, in the Peloponnesus. He was so formidable with his club, that he was called Corynetas, from κορύνη, the Greek for ‘a club.’
81. Cephisus.]—Ver. 438. Procrustes was a robber of such extreme cruelty that he used to stretch out, or lop off, the extremities of his captives, according as they were shorter or longer than his bedstead. He infested the neighborhood of Eleusis, in Attica, which was watered by the Cephisus. He was put to death by Theseus.
82. Cercyon.]—Ver. 439. It was his custom to challenge travellers to wrestle, and to kill them, if they declined the contest, or were beaten in it. Theseus accepted his challenge; and having overcome him, put him to death. Eleusis was especially dedicated to Ceres; there the famous Eleusinian mysteries of that Goddess were held.
83. Sinnis.]—Ver. 440. He was a robber of Attica, to whom reference is made in the Ibis, line 409.
84. Alcathoë.]—Ver. 443. Megara, or Alcathoë, which was founded by Lelex, was almost destroyed by Minos, and was rebuilt by Alcathoüs, the son of Pelops. He, flying from his father, on being accused of the murder of his brother Chrysippus, retired to the city of Megara, where, having slain a lion which was then laying waste that territory, he was held in the highest veneration by the inhabitants.
85. Scyron.]—Ver. 443. This robber haunted the rocks in the neighborhood of Megara, and used to insist on those who became his guests washing his feet. This being done upon the rocks, Scyron used to kick the strangers into the sea while so occupied, where a tortoise lay ready to devour the bodies. Theseus killed him, and threw his body down the same rocks, which derived their name of Saronic, or Scyronic, from this robber.
86. Anaphe.]—Ver. 461. This, and the other islands here named, were near the isle of Crete, and perhaps in those times were subject to the sway of Minos.
87. Cimolus.]—Ver. 463. Pliny the Elder tells us, that this island was famous for producing a clay which seems to have had much the properties of soap. It was of a grayish white color, and was also employed for medicinal purposes.
88. Seriphos.]—Ver. 464. Commentators are at a loss to know why Seriphos should here have the epithet ‘plana,’ ‘level,’ inasmuch as it was a very craggy island. It is probably a corrupt reading.
89. Sithonian.]—Ver. 466. This was Arne, whose story is referred to in the Explanation, p. 242 (p. 270).
90. Oliaros.]—Ver. 469. This was one of the Cyclades, in the Ægean sea; it was colonized by the Sidonians.
91. Tenos.]—Ver. 469. This island was famous for a temple there, sacred to Neptune.
92. Andros.]—Ver. 469. This was an island in the Ægean Sea, near Eubœa. It received its name from Andros, the son of Anius. The Andrian slave, who gives his name to one of the comedies of Terence, was supposed to be a native of this island.
93. Gyaros.]—Ver. 470. This was a sterile island among the Cyclades; in later times, the Romans made it a penal settlement for their criminals. The mice of this island were said to be able to gnaw iron; perhaps, because they were starved by reason of its unfruitfulness.
94. Smooth olive.]—Ver. 470. Clarke translates ‘nitidæ olivæ’ ‘the neat olive.’ ‘Nitidus’ here means ‘smooth and shining.’
95. Œnopia.]—Ver. 473. This was the ancient name of the isle of Ægina, in the Saronic Gulf, famous as being the native place of the family of the Æacidæ. It obtained its later name from Ægina, the daughter of Asopus, and the mother of Æacus, whom Jupiter carried thither.
96. Telamon.]—Ver. 476. Telamon, Peleus, and Phocus, were the three sons of Æacus.
97. Lyctian.]—Ver. 490. Lyctus was the name of one of the cities of Crete.
98. Pallas.]—Ver. 500. This was either Pallas the son of Pandion, king of Athens, or of Neleus, the brother of Theseus. This Pallas, together with his sons, was afterwards slain by Theseus.
99. Cephalus.]—Ver. 512. He was the son of Deioneus, or according to some writers, of Mercury and Herse, the daughter of Cecrops.
100. Long preamble.]—Ver. 520. Clarke translates ‘neu longâ ambage morer vos,’ ‘that I may not detain you with a long-winded detail of it.’
101. Country named.]—Ver. 524. This was the island of Ægina, so called from the Nymph who was carried thither by Jupiter.
102. Bowels are scorched.]—Ver. 554. Clarke quaintly renders the words ‘viscera torrentur primo.’ ‘first people’s bowels are searched;’ perhaps, however, the latter word is a misprint for ‘scorched.’
103. Thou seest.]—Ver. 587. As Æacus says this, he must be supposed to point with his finger towards the temple.
104. More odious.]—Ver. 603. Dead bodies were supposed to be particularly offensive to the Gods.
105. From Dodona.]—Ver. 623. Dodona was a town of Chaonia, in Epirus, so called from Dodone, the daughter of Jupiter and Europa. Near it was a temple and a wood sacred to Jupiter, which was famous for the number and magnitude of its oaks. Doves were said to give oracular responses there, probably from the circumstance that the female soothsayers of Thessaly were called πελειαδαιA. Some writers, however, say that the oaks had the gift of speech, combined with that of prophesying.
106. Myrmidons.]—Ver. 654. From the Greek word μύρμηξ, ‘an ant;’ according to this version of the story.
107. Æolus.]—Ver. 672. Apollodorus reckons Deioneus, the parent of Cephalus, among the children of Apollo.
108. Nereian youth.]—Ver. 685. Phocus, who was the son of Æacus, by Psamathe, the daughter of Nereus.
109. Orithyïa.]—Ver. 695. She was the daughter of Erectheus, king of Athens, and was carried off by Boreas, as already stated.
110. Hymettus.]—Ver. 702. This was a mountain of Attica, famous for its honey and its marble.
111. To make attempts.]—Ver. 721. Tzetzes informs us that she was found by her husband in company with a young man named Pteleon, who had made her a present of a golden wreath. Antoninus Liberalis says, that her husband tried her fidelity by offering her a bribe, through the medium of a slave.
112. Used to wander.]—Ver. 746. Some writers say that she fled to Crete, on which, Diana, who was aware of the attachment of Aurora for her husband, made her a present of a javelin, which no person could escape; and gave her the dog Lælaps, which no wild beast could outrun. Such is the version given by Hyginus. But Apollodorus and Antoninus Liberalis say, that she fled to Minos, who, prevailing over her virtue, made her a present of the dog and the javelin. Afterwards, presenting herself before her husband, disguised as a huntress, she gave him proofs of the efficacy of them; and upon his requesting her to give them to him, she exacted, as a condition, what must, apparently, have resulted in a breach of the laws of conjugal fidelity. On his assenting to the proposal, she discovered herself, and afterwards made him the presents which he desired.
113. The son of Laius.]—Ver. 759. Œdipus was the son of Laius, king of Thebes. The Sphinx was a monster, the offspring of Typhon and Echidna, which haunted a mountain near Thebes. Œdipus solved the riddle which it proposed for solution, on which the monster precipitated itself from a rock. It had the face of a woman, the wings of a bird, and the extremities of a lion.
114. Genial Themis.]—Ver. 762. Themis had a very ancient oracle in Bœotia.
115. Gortynian bow.]—Ver. 778. Crete was called Gortynian, from Gortys or Gortyna, one of its cities, which was famous for the skill of its inhabitants in archery.
116. The wild beast.]—Ver. 782. Antoninus Liberalis and Apollodorus say that this was a fox, which was called ‘the Teumesian,’ from Teumesus, a mountain of Bœotia, and that the Thebans, to appease its voracity, were wont to give it a child to devour every month. Palæphatus says that it was not a wild beast, but a man called Alopis.
117. Groundless charge.]—Ver. 829. Possibly, Ovid may intend to imply that her jealousy received an additional stimulus from the similarity of the name ‘Aura’ to that of her former rival, Aurora.
118. On my face.]—Ver. 861. He alludes to the prevalent custom of catching the breath of the dying person in the mouth.
119. His two sons.]—Ver. 864. These were Telamon and Peleus, who had levied these troops.#ENGLISH