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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome
by E.M. Berens
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Their reunion was celebrated amidst the rejoicings of all the Olympian deities. The Graces shed perfume on {154} their path, the Hours sprinkled roses over the sky, Apollo added the music of his lyre, and the Muses united their voices in a glad chorus of delight.

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

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

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

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

HYMEN.

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

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

IRIS (THE RAINBOW).

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

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

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



HEBE (JUVENTAS).

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

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

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

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

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

JUVENTAS.

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

In Rome, several temples were erected in honour of this goddess. {157}

GANYMEDES.

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

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

THE MUSES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Their names and functions are as follows:—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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



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PEGASUS.

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

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

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

THE HESPERIDES.

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

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

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

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

CHARITES (GRATIAE) GRACES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HORAE (SEASONS).

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NYMPHS.

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

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

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

WATER NYMPHS.

OCEANIDES, NEREIDES, AND NAIADES.

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

OCEANIDES.

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

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

THE NEREIDES.

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

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

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

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

THE NAIADES.

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

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

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

DRYADES, OR TREE NYMPHS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

NYMPHS OF THE VALLEYS AND MOUNTAINS.

NAPAEAE AND OREADES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE WINDS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PAN (FAUNUS).



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FAUNUS.

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

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

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

THE SATYRS.



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

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

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

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

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

PRIAPUS.

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

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

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

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

ASCLEPIAS (AESCULAPIUS).

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

AESCULAPIUS.

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

* * * * *

ROMAN DIVINITIES.

JANUS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FLORA.

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

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

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

ROBIGUS.

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

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

POMONA.

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

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

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VERTUMNUS.

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

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

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

PALES.

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

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

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

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

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PICUS.

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

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

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

PICUMNUS AND PILUMNUS.

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

SILVANUS.

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

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

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

TERMINUS.

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

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

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

CONSUS.

Consus was the god of secret counsel.

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

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

LIBITINA.

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

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

LAVERNA.

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

COMUS.

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

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

THE CAMENAE.

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

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

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

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

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

GENII.

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

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

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

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

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

MANES.

LEMURES (LARVAE) AND LARES.

The Manes were the spirits of the departed, and were of two kinds, viz., Lemures (or Larvae) and Lares. {186}

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

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

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

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

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

PENATES.

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

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

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PUBLIC WORSHIP OF THE ANCIENT GREEKS AND ROMANS.

TEMPLES.

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

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

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

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

A temple was frequently dedicated to two or more gods, and was always built after the manner considered most acceptable to the particular divinities to whom it was consecrated; for just as trees, birds, and animals of {190} every description were held to be sacred to certain deities, so almost every god had a form of building peculiar to himself, which was deemed more acceptable to him than any other. Thus the Doric style of architecture was sacred to Zeus, Ares, and Heracles; the Ionic to Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus; and the Corinthian to Hestia.

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

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

STATUES.

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

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

ALTARS.

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

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

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

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

PRIESTS.

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

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

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

SACRIFICES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ORACLES.

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

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

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

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

SOOTHSAYERS (AUGURS).

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

AUGURS.

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

FESTIVALS.

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

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

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

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GREEK FESTIVALS.

ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES.

One of the most ancient and important among the festivals observed by the Greeks was that of the Eleusinian Mysteries, which was celebrated in honour of Demeter and Persephone. The name was derived from Eleusis, a town in Attica, where the Mysteries were first introduced by the goddess herself. They were divided into the {197} Greater and Lesser Mysteries, and, according to the general account, were held every five years. The Greater, which were celebrated in honour of Demeter, and lasted nine days, were held in autumn; the Lesser, dedicated to Persephone (who at these festivals was affectionately called Cora, or the maiden), were held in spring.

It is supposed that the secrets taught to the initiated by the priests—the expounders of the Mysteries—were moral meanings, elucidated from the myths concerning Demeter and Persephone; but the most important belief inculcated was the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. That the lessons taught were of the highest moral character is universally admitted. "The souls of those who participated in them were filled with the sweetest hopes both as to this and the future world;" and it was a common saying among the Athenians: "In the Mysteries no one is sad."

The initiation into these solemn rites (which was originally the exclusive privilege of the Athenians) was accompanied with awe-inspiring ceremonies; and secrecy was so strictly enjoined that its violation was punished by death. At the conclusion of the initiation great rejoicings took place, chariot-races, wrestling matches, &c., were held, and solemn sacrifices offered.

The initiation into the Lesser Mysteries served as a preparation for the Greater.

THESMOPHORIA.

The Thesmophoria was another festival held in honour of Demeter, in her character as presiding over marriage and social institutions resulting from the spread of agriculture.

This festival was celebrated exclusively by women.

DIONYSIA.

A joyous spring festival was held in honour of Dionysus, in the month of March, and lasted several days.

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This festival, which was called the Greater Dionysia, was celebrated with particular splendour at Athens, when strangers flocked from all parts of the world to take part in the ceremonies. The city was gaily decorated, the houses were garlanded with ivy-leaves, crowds perambulated the streets, everything wore its holiday garb, and wine was freely indulged in.



In the processions which took place during these festivities, the statue of Dionysus was carried, and men and women, crowned with ivy and bearing the thyrsus, were dressed in every description of grotesque costume, and played on drums, pipes, flutes, cymbals, &c. Some representing Silenus rode on asses, others wearing fawn-skins appeared as Pan or the Satyrs, and the whole multitude sang paeans in honour of the wine-god. Public shows, games, and sports took place, and the entire city was full of revelry.

What lent additional interest to these festivals was the custom of introducing new comedies and tragedies to the public, representations of which were given, and prizes awarded to those which elicited the greatest admiration.



The Lesser Dionysia were vintage festivals, celebrated in rural districts in the month of November, and were characterized by drinking, feasting, and joviality of all kinds.

In connection with some of the festivals in honour of Dionysus were certain mystic observances, into which only women, called Menades or Bacchantes, were initiated. Clad in fawn-skins, they assembled by night on the mountain sides, {199} some carrying blazing torches, others thyrsi, and all animated with religious enthusiasm and frenzy. They shouted, clapped their hands, danced wildly, and worked themselves up to such a pitch of excitement and fury that in their mad frenzy they tore in pieces the animal brought as a sacrifice to Dionysus.

Under the name of Bacchanalia, these mystic rites were introduced into Rome, where men also were allowed to participate in them; but they were attended with such frightful excesses that the state authorities at length interfered and prohibited them.

PANATHENAEA.

The Panathenaea was a famous festival celebrated in Athens in honour of Athene-Polias, the guardian of the state. There were two festivals of this name, the Lesser and the Greater Panathenaea. The former was held annually, and the latter, which lasted several days, was celebrated every fourth year.

For the Greater Panathenaea a garment, embroidered with gold, called the Peplus, was specially woven by Athenian maidens, on which was represented the victory gained by Athene over the Giants. This garment was suspended to the mast of a ship which stood outside the city; and during the festival, which was characterized by a grand procession, the ship (with the Peplus on its mast) was impelled forward by means of invisible machinery, and formed the most conspicuous feature of the pageant. The whole population, bearing olive branches in their hands, took part in the procession; and amidst music and rejoicings this imposing pageant wended its way to the temple of Athene-Polias, where the Peplus was deposited on the statue of the goddess.

At this festival, Homer's poems were declaimed aloud, and poets also introduced their own works to the public. Musical contests, foot and horse races, and wrestling matches were held, and dances were performed by boys in armour.

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Men who had deserved well of their country were presented at the festival with a crown of gold, and the name of the person so distinguished was announced publicly by a herald.

The victors in the races and athletic games received, as a prize, a vase of oil, supposed to have been extracted from the fruit of the sacred olive-tree of Athene.

DAPHNEPHORIA.

The Daphnephoria was celebrated at Thebes in honour of Apollo every ninth year.

The distinguishing feature of this festival was a procession to the temple of Apollo, in which a young priest (the Daphnephorus) of noble descent, splendidly attired and wearing a crown of gold, was preceded by a youth, carrying an emblematical representation of the sun, moon, stars, and days of the year, and followed by beautiful maidens bearing laurel branches, and singing hymns in honour of the god.

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ROMAN FESTIVALS.

SATURNALIA.

The Saturnalia, a national festival held in December in honour of Saturn, was celebrated after the ingathering of the harvest, and lasted several days.

It was a time of universal rejoicing, cessation from labour, and merry-making. School children had holidays, friends sent presents to each other, the law-courts were closed, and no business was transacted.

Crowds of people from the surrounding country flocked to Rome for this festival attired in every variety of masquerade dress; practical jokes were given and received with the utmost good humour, shouts of exultation filled {201} the air, all classes abandoned themselves to enjoyment, and unrestrained hilarity reigned supreme. Social distinctions were for a time suspended, or even reversed; and so heartily was the spirit of this festival entered into, that masters waited upon their slaves at banquets which they provided for them; the slaves being dressed upon these occasions in the garments of their masters.

There appears little doubt that the modern Carnival is a survival of the ancient Saturnalia.

CEREALIA.

This festival was celebrated in honour of Ceres. It was solemnized exclusively by women, who, dressed in white garments, wandered about with torches in their hands, to represent the search of the goddess for her daughter Proserpine.

During this festival, games were celebrated in the Circus Maximus, to which none were admitted unless clothed in white.

VESTALIA.

The Vestalia was a festival held in honour of Vesta on the 9th of June, and was celebrated exclusively by women, who walked barefooted in procession to the temple of the goddess.

The priestesses of Vesta, called Vestales or Vestal Virgins, played a conspicuous part in these festivals. They were six in number, and were chosen—between the ages of six and ten—from the noblest families in Rome. Their term of office was thirty years. During the first ten years, they were initiated in their religious duties, during the second ten they performed them, and during the third they instructed novices. Their chief duty was to watch and feed the ever-burning flame on the altar of Vesta, the extinction of which was regarded as a national calamity of ominous import.

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Great honours and privileges were accorded to them; the best seats were reserved for their use at all public spectacles, and even the consuls and praetors made way for them to pass. If they met a criminal on his way to execution they had the power to pardon him, provided it could be proved that the meeting was accidental.

The Vestales were vowed to chastity, a violation of which was visited by the frightful punishment of being buried alive.

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PART II.—LEGENDS.

CADMUS.

The following is the legendary account of the founding of Thebes:—

After the abduction of his daughter Europa by Zeus, Agenor, king of Phoenicia, unable to reconcile himself to her loss, despatched his son Cadmus in search of her, desiring him not to return without his sister.

For many years Cadmus pursued his search through various countries, but without success. Not daring to return home without her, he consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi; and the reply was that he must desist from his task, and take upon himself a new duty, i.e. that of founding a city, the site of which would be indicated to him by a heifer which had never borne the yoke, and which would lie down on the spot whereon the city was to be built.

Scarcely had Cadmus left the sacred fane, when he observed a heifer who bore no marks of servitude on her neck, walking slowly in front of him. He followed the animal for a considerable distance, until at length, on the site where Thebes afterwards stood, she looked towards heaven and, gently lowing, lay down in the long grass. Grateful for this mark of divine favour, Cadmus resolved to offer up the animal as a sacrifice, and accordingly sent his followers to fetch water for the libation from a neighbouring spring. This spring, which was sacred to Ares, was situated in a wood, and guarded by a fierce dragon, who, at the approach of the retainers of Cadmus, suddenly pounced upon them and killed them.

After waiting some time for the return of his servants {204} Cadmus grew impatient, and hastily arming himself with his lance and spear, set out to seek them. On reaching the spot, the mangled remains of his unfortunate followers met his view, and near them he beheld the frightful monster, dripping with the blood of his victims. Seizing a huge rock, the hero hurled it with all his might upon the dragon; but protected by his tough black skin and steely scales as by a coat of mail, he remained unhurt. Cadmus now tried his lance, and with more success, for it pierced the side of the beast, who, furious with pain, sprang at his adversary, when Cadmus, leaping aside, succeeded in fixing the point of his spear within his jaws, which final stroke put an end to the encounter.

While Cadmus stood surveying his vanquished foe Pallas-Athene appeared to him, and commanded him to sow the teeth of the dead dragon in the ground. He obeyed; and out of the furrows there arose a band of armed men, who at once commenced to fight with each other, until all except five were killed. These last surviving warriors made peace with each other, and it was with their assistance that Cadmus now built the famous city of Thebes. In later times the noblest Theban families proudly claimed their descent from these mighty earth-born warriors.

Ares was furious with rage when he discovered that Cadmus had slain his dragon, and would have killed him had not Zeus interfered, and induced him to mitigate his punishment to that of servitude for the term of eight years. At the end of that time the god of war became reconciled to Cadmus, and, in token of his forgiveness, bestowed upon him the hand of his daughter Harmonia in marriage. Their nuptials were almost as celebrated as those of Peleus and Thetis. All the gods honoured them with their presence, and offered rich gifts and congratulations. Cadmus himself presented his lovely bride with a splendid necklace fashioned by Hephaestus, which, however, after the death of Harmonia, always proved fatal to its possessor.

The children of Cadmus and Harmonia were one son, {205} Polydorus, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele, and Agave.

For many years the founder of Thebes reigned happily, but at length a conspiracy was formed against him, and he was deprived of his throne by his grandson Pentheus. Accompanied by his faithful wife Harmonia, he retired into Illyria, and after death they were both changed by Zeus into serpents, and transferred to Elysium.

PERSEUS.

Perseus, one of the most renowned of the legendary heroes of antiquity, was the son of Zeus and Danae, daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos.

An oracle having foretold to Acrisius that a son of Danae would be the cause of his death, he imprisoned her in a tower of brass in order to keep her secluded from the world. Zeus, however, descended through the roof of the tower in the form of a shower of gold, and the lovely Danae became his bride.

For four years Acrisius remained in ignorance of this union, but one evening as he chanced to pass by the brazen chamber, he heard the cry of a young child proceeding from within, which led to the discovery of his daughter's marriage with Zeus. Enraged at finding all his precautions unavailing, Acrisius commanded the mother and child to be placed in a chest and thrown into the sea.

But it was not the will of Zeus that they should perish. He directed Poseidon to calm the troubled waters, and caused the chest to float safely to the island of Seriphus. Dictys, brother of Polydectes, king of the island, was fishing on the sea-shore when he saw the chest stranded on the beach; and pitying the helpless condition of its unhappy occupants, he conducted them to the palace of the king, where they were treated with the greatest kindness.

Polydectes eventually became united to Danae, and {206} bestowed upon Perseus an education befitting a hero. When he saw his stepson develop into a noble and manly youth he endeavoured to instil into his mind a desire to signalize himself by the achievement of some great and heroic deed, and after mature deliberation it was decided that the slaying of the Gorgon, Medusa, would bring him the greatest renown.

For the successful accomplishment of his object it was necessary for him to be provided with a pair of winged sandals, a magic wallet, and the helmet of Aides, which rendered the wearer invisible, all of which were in the keeping of the Nymphs, the place of whose abode was known only to the Graeae. Perseus started on his expedition, and, guided by Hermes and Pallas-Athene, arrived, after a long journey, in the far-off region, on the borders of Oceanus, where dwelt the Graeae, daughters of Phorcys and Ceto. He at once applied to them for the necessary information, and on their refusing to grant it he deprived them of their single eye and tooth, which he only restored to them when they gave him full directions with regard to his route. He then proceeded to the abode of the Nymphs, from whom he obtained the objects indispensable for his purpose.

Equipped with the magic helmet and wallet, and armed with a sickle, the gift of Hermes, he attached to his feet the winged sandals, and flew to the abode of the Gorgons, whom he found fast asleep. Now as Perseus had been warned by his celestial guides that whoever looked upon these weird sisters would be transformed into stone, he stood with averted face before the sleepers, and caught on his bright metal shield their triple image. Then, guided by Pallas-Athene, he cut off the head of the Medusa, which he placed in his wallet. No sooner had he done so than from the headless trunk there sprang forth the winged steed Pegasus, and Chrysaor, the father of the winged giant Geryon. He now hastened to elude the pursuit of the two surviving sisters, who, aroused from their slumbers, eagerly rushed to avenge the death of their sister.

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His invisible helmet and winged sandals here stood him in good stead; for the former concealed him from the view of the Gorgons, whilst the latter bore him swiftly over land and sea, far beyond the reach of pursuit. In passing over the burning plains of Libya the drops of blood from the head of the Medusa oozed through the wallet, and falling on the hot sands below produced a brood of many-coloured snakes, which spread all over the country.

Perseus continued his flight until he reached the kingdom of Atlas, of whom he begged rest and shelter. But as this king possessed a valuable orchard, in which every tree bore golden fruit, he was fearful lest the slayer of the Medusa might destroy the dragon which guarded it, and then rob him of his treasures. He therefore refused to grant the hospitality which the hero demanded, whereupon Perseus, exasperated at the churlish repulse, produced from his wallet the head of the Medusa, and holding it towards the king, transformed him into a stony mountain. Beard and hair erected themselves into forests; shoulders, hands, and limbs became huge rocks, and the head grew up into a craggy peak which reached into the clouds.

Perseus then resumed his travels. His winged sandals bore him over deserts and mountains, until he arrived at AEthiopia, the kingdom of King Cepheus. Here he found the country inundated with disastrous floods, towns and villages destroyed, and everywhere signs of desolation and ruin. On a projecting cliff close to the shore he beheld a lovely maiden chained to a rock. This was Andromeda, the king's daughter. Her mother Cassiopea, having boasted that her beauty surpassed that of the Nereides, the angry sea-nymphs appealed to Poseidon to avenge their wrongs, whereupon the sea-god devastated the country with a terrible inundation, which brought with it a huge monster who devoured all that came in his way.

In their distress the unfortunate AEthiopians applied to the oracle of Jupiter-Ammon, in the Libyan desert, {208} and obtained the response, that only by the sacrifice of the king's daughter to the monster could the country and people be saved.

Cepheus, who was tenderly attached to his child, at first refused to listen to this dreadful proposal; but overcome at length by the prayers and solicitations of his unhappy subjects, the heart-broken father gave up his child for the welfare of his country. Andromeda was accordingly chained to a rock on the sea-shore to serve as a prey to the monster, whilst her unhappy parents bewailed her sad fate on the beach below.

On being informed of the meaning of this tragic scene, Perseus proposed to Cepheus to slay the dragon, on condition that the lovely victim should become his bride. Overjoyed at the prospect of Andromeda's release, the king gladly acceded to the stipulation, and Perseus hastened to the rock, to breathe words of hope and comfort to the trembling maiden. Then assuming once more the helmet of Aides, he mounted into the air, and awaited the approach of the monster.

Presently the sea opened, and the shark's head of the gigantic beast of the deep raised itself above the waves. Lashing his tail furiously from side to side, he leaped forward to seize his victim; but the gallant hero, watching his opportunity, suddenly darted down, and producing the head of the Medusa from his wallet, held it before the eyes of the dragon, whose hideous body became gradually transformed into a huge black rock, which remained for ever a silent witness of the miraculous deliverance of Andromeda. Perseus then led the maiden to her now happy parents, who, anxious to evince their gratitude to her deliverer ordered immediate preparations to be made for the nuptial feast. But the young hero was not to bear away his lovely bride uncontested; for in the midst of the banquet, Phineus, the king's brother, to whom Andromeda had previously been betrothed, returned to claim his bride. Followed by a band of armed warriors he forced his way into the hall, and a desperate encounter took place between the rivals, {209} which might have terminated fatally for Perseus, had he not suddenly bethought himself of the Medusa's head. Calling to his friends to avert their faces, he drew it from his wallet, and held it before Phineus and his formidable body-guard, whereupon they all stiffened into stone.



Perseus now took leave of the AEthiopian king, and, accompanied by his beautiful bride, returned to Seriphus, where a joyful meeting took place between Danae and her son. He then sent a messenger to his grandfather, informing him that he intended returning to Argos; but Acrisius, fearing the fulfilment of the oracular prediction, fled for protection to his friend Teutemias, king of Larissa. Anxious to induce the aged monarch to return to Argos, Perseus followed him thither. But here a strange fatality occurred. Whilst taking part in some funereal games, celebrated in honour of the king's father, Perseus, by an unfortunate throw of the discus, accidentally struck his grandfather, and thereby was the innocent cause of his death.

After celebrating the funereal rites of Acrisius with due solemnity, Perseus returned to Argos; but feeling loath to occupy the throne of one whose death he had caused, he exchanged kingdoms with Megapenthes, king of Tiryns, and in course of time founded the cities of Mycenae and Midea.

The head of the Medusa he presented to his divine patroness, Pallas-Athene, who placed it in the centre of her shield.

Many great heroes were descended from Perseus and Andromeda, foremost among whom was Heracles, whose mother, Alcmene, was their granddaughter.

Heroic honours were paid to Perseus, not only {210} throughout Argos, but also at Athens and in the island of Seriphus.

ION.

Ion was the son of Creusa (the beauteous daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens) and the sun-god Phoebus-Apollo, to whom she was united without the knowledge of her father.

Fearing the anger of Erechtheus, Creusa placed her new-born babe in a little wicker basket, and hanging some golden charms round his neck, invoked for him the protection of the gods, and concealed him in a lonely cave. Apollo, pitying his deserted child, sent Hermes to convey him to Delphi, where he deposited his charge on the steps of the temple. Next morning the Delphic priestess discovered the infant, and was so charmed by his engaging appearance that she adopted him as her own son. The young child was carefully tended and reared by his kind foster-mother, and was brought up in the service of the temple, where he was intrusted with some of the minor duties of the holy edifice.

And now to return to Creusa. During a war with the Euboeans, in which the latter were signally defeated, Xuthus, son of AEolus, greatly distinguished himself on the side of the Athenians, and as a reward for his valuable services, the hand of Creusa, the king's daughter, was bestowed upon him in marriage. Their union, however, was not blest with children, and as this was a source of great grief to both of them, they repaired to Delphi in order to consult the oracle. The response was, that Xuthus should regard the first person who met him on leaving the sanctuary as his son. Now it happened that Ion, the young guardian of the temple, was the first to greet his view, and when Xuthus beheld the beautiful youth, he gladly welcomed him as his son, declaring that the gods had sent him to be a blessing and comfort to his old age. Creusa, however, who concluded that the youth was the offspring of a secret marriage on the part of her husband, was filled with suspicion and jealousy; {211} when an old servant, observing her grief, begged her to be comforted, assuring her that the cause of her distress should be speedily removed.

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