The Metamorphoses of Ovid - Literally Translated into English Prose, with Copious Notes - and Explanations
by Publius Ovidius Naso
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When Themis, foreseeing the future, had said these words with prophetic voice, the Gods above murmured in varying discourse; and the complaint was,[44] why it might not be allowed others to grant the same gifts. {Aurora}, the daughter of Pallas, complained of the aged years of her husband; the gentle Ceres complained that Iaesion[45] was growing grey; Mulciber demanded for Ericthonius a life to live over again; a concern for the future influenced Venus, too, and she made an offer to renew the years of Anchises.

[Footnote 36: Her daughter-in-law.—Ver. 325. Iole was the wife of Hyllus, the son of Deianira, by Hercules.]

[Footnote 37: Lust of Priapus.—Ver. 347. 'Fugiens obscoena Priapi,' is rendered by Clarke, 'Flying from the nasty attempts of Priapus upon her.']

[Footnote 38: Most wretched father.—Ver. 363. Eurytus was the father of Dryope.]

[Footnote 39: From my eyes.—Ver. 390. This alludes to the custom among the ancients of closing the eyes of the dying, which duty was performed by the nearest relations, who, closing the eyes and mouth, called upon the dying person by name, and exclaimed 'Vale,' 'farewell.']

[Footnote 40: Iolaues.—Ver. 399. He was the son of Iphiclus, the brother of Hercules. See the Explanation in the next page.]

[Footnote 41: Civil warfare.—Ver. 404. This alludes to the Theban war, carried on between Eteocles and Polynices, the sons of Oedipus and Jocasta. Agreeing to reign in alternate years, Eteocles refused to give place to his brother when his year had terminated, on which Polynices fled to the court of Adrastus, king of Argos, and raised troops against his brother.]

[Footnote 42: While he still lives.—Ver. 407. This was Amphiaraues, the son of Oecleus, and Hypermnestra, who was betrayed by his wife Eriphyle.]

[Footnote 43: Daughter-in-law.—Ver. 415. Hebe, the Goddess of Youth, was the daughter of Juno alone, without the participation of Jupiter; and from this circumstance she is styled the step-daughter of Jupiter. She was also his daughter-in-law on becoming the wife of Hercules.]

[Footnote 44: The complaint was.—Ver. 420. 'Murmur erat,' is rendered by Clarke, 'The grumbling was, why, &c.']

[Footnote 45: Iaesion.—Ver. 422. Iaesius, or Iaesion, was the son of Jupiter and Electra, and was the father of Plutus, the God of Riches, by the Goddess Cybele.]


The adventure of Dryope is one of those narratives which have no connexion with the main story which the Poet is relating, and, if really founded on fact, it would almost baffle any attempt to guess at its origin. It is, most probably, built entirely upon the name of the damsel who was said to have met with the untimely and unnatural fate so well depicted by the Poet.

The name of Dryope comes, very probably, from the Greek word Drus, 'an oak,' which tree has a considerable resemblance to the lotus tree. If we seek for an historical solution, perhaps Dryope was punished for attempting to profane a tree consecrated to the Gods, a crime of which Erisicthon was guilty, and for which he was so signally punished. All the particulars that we know of Dryope are, that she was the daughter of Eurytus, and the sister of Iole; and that she was the wife of Andraemon.

Ovid says, that while Iole was relating this adventure to Alcmena, Iolaues, who, according to some, was the son of Hercules, by Hebe, after his apotheosis, and, according to others, was the son of Iphiclus, the brother of Hercules, became young, at the intercession of that Goddess, who had appeased Juno. This was, probably, no other than a method of accounting for the great age to which and individual of the name of Iolaues had lived.

Ovid then passes on to the surprising change in the children of Calirrhoe, the outline of which the story may be thus explained:—Amphiaraues, foreseeing, (by the aid of the prophetic art, as we learn from Homer, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny and Statius), that the civil wars of Thebes, his native country, would prove fatal to him, retired from the court of Adrastus, King of Argos, whose sister he had married, to conceal himself in some place of safety. The Argives, to whom the oracle had declared, that Thebes could not be taken unless they had Amphiaraues with their troops, searched for him in every direction; but their labour would have been in vain, if Eriphyle, his wife, gained by a necklace of great value, which her brother Adrastus gave her, had not discovered where he was. Discovered in his retreat, Amphiaraues accompanied the Argives, and while, according to the rules of the soothsaying art, he was observing a flight of birds, in order to derive an augury from it, his horses fell down a precipice, and he lost his life. Statius and other writers, to describe this event in a poetical manner, say that the earth opened and swallowed up him and his chariot.

Amphiaraues had engaged his son Alcmaeon, in case he lost his life in the war, to kill Eriphyle; which injunction he performed as soon as he heard of the death of his father. Alcmaeon, going to the court of Phegeus, to receive expiation for his crime, and to deliver himself from the persecution of the Furies, or, in other words, by the ceremonial of expiation, to tranquillize his troubled conscience, that prince received him with kindness, and gave him his daughter Alphesibaea in marriage. Alcmaeon made her a present of his mother Eriphyle's necklace; but, having afterwards repudiated her to marry Calirrhoe, or Arsinoe, the daughter of Acheloues, he went to demand the necklace from his brothers-in-law, who assassinated him. Amphiterus and Acarnanus, who were his sons by Calirrhoe, revenged the death of their father when they were very young; and this it is, possibly, which is meant by the Poet when he says that the Goddess Hebe augmented the number of their years, the purpose being, to put them speedily in a position to enable them to avenge the death of their father.

Thus we see, that Iolaues was, like AEson, who also renewed his youth, a person who, in his old age, gave marks of unusual vigour; while in Amphiterus and Arcananus, to whom Hebe added years, are depicted two young men, who, by a deed of blood, exacted retribution for the death of their father, at a time when they were in general only looked upon as mere children.

FABLE V. [IX.426-665]

Byblis falls in love with her brother Caunus, and her passion is inflamed to such a degree, that he is obliged to leave his native country, to avoid any encouragement of her incestuous flame. On this, she follows him; and, in her way through Caria, she is changed into a fountain.

Every God has[46] some one to favour; and their jarring discord is increasing by their {various} interests, until Jupiter opens his mouth, and says, "O, if you have any regard for me, to what rash steps are you proceeding? Does any one {of you} seem to himself so powerful as to overcome even the Fates? By the Fates has Iolaues returned to those years which he has spent; by the Fates ought the sons of Calirrhoe to become young men, {and} not by ambition or by dint of arms. And do you, too, endure this as well with more contented mind, {for} even me do the Fates govern; could I but change them, declining years should not be making my {son} AEacus to bend {beneath them}; and Rhadamanthus should have the everlasting flower of age, together with my {son}, Minos, who is {now} looked down upon on account of the grievous weight of old age, and does not reign with the dignity with which once {he did}."

The words of Jupiter influenced the Divinities; and no one continued to complain when they saw Rhadamanthus and AEacus, and Minos, weary with years; {Minos}, who, when he was in the prime of life, had alarmed great nations with his very name. Then, {however}, he was enfeebled by age, and was alarmed by Miletus, the son of Deione,[47] exulting in the strength of youth, and in Phoebus as his sire; and {though} believing that he was aiming at his kingdom, still he did not dare to drive him away from his native home. Of thy own accord, Miletus, thou didst fly, and in the swift ship thou didst pass over the AEgean waters, and in the land of Asia didst build a city, bearing the name of its founder. Here Cyane, the daughter of {the river} Maeander, that so often returns to the same place, while she was following the windings of her father's bank, of a body excelling in beauty, being known by thee, brought forth a double offspring, Byblis, with Caunus, {her brother}.

Byblis is an example that damsels {only} ought to love what it is allowed them {to love}; Byblis, seized with a passion for her brother, the descendant of Apollo, loved him not as a sister {loves} a brother, nor in such manner as she ought. At first, indeed, she understands nothing of the flame, and she does not think[48] that she is doing wrong in so often giving him kisses, {and} in throwing her arms round the neck of her brother; and for a long time she {herself} is deceived, by this resemblance of natural affection. By degrees this affection degenerates, and decked out, she comes to see her brother, and is too anxious to appear beautiful; and if there is any woman there more beautiful, she envies her. But, as yet she is not fully discovered to herself, and under that flame conceives no wishes; but still, inwardly she is agitated. At one moment she calls him sweetheart,[49] at another, she hates the mention of his relationship; and now she prefers that he should call her Byblis, rather than sister. Still, while awake, she does not dare admit any criminal hopes into her mind; {but} when dissolved in soft sleep, she often sees the {object} which she is in love with. She seems to be even embracing her brother, and she blushes, though she is lying buried in sleep. Slumber departs; for a long time she is silent, and she recalls to {memory} the appearance of her dream, and thus she speaks with wavering mind:

"Ah, wretched me! What means this vision of the silent night? How far am I from wishing it real. Why have I seen this dream? He is, indeed, beautiful, even to envious eyes. He pleases me, too; and were he not my brother, I could love him, and he would be worthy of me. But it is my misfortune that I am his sister. So long as I strive, while awake, to commit no such {attempt}, let sleep often return with the like appearance. No witness is there in sleep; and yet there is the resemblance of the delight. O Venus and winged Cupid, together with thy voluptuous mother, how great the joys I experienced! how substantial the transport which affected me! How I lay dissolved {in delight} throughout my whole marrow! How pleasing to remember it; although short-lived was that pleasure, and the night sped onward rapidly, and was envious of my attempts {at bliss}. Oh, could I only be united {to thee}, by changing my name, how happily, Caunus, could I become the daughter-in-law of thy father! how happily, Caunus, couldst thou become the son-in-law of my father! O, that the Gods would grant that all things were in common with us, except our ancestors. Would that thou wast more nobly born than myself. For this reason then, most beauteous one, thou wilt make some stranger, whom I know not, a mother; but to me, who have unhappily got the same parents as thyself, thou wilt be nothing {more} than a brother. That {tie} alone we shall have, which bars all else. What, then, do my visions avail me? And what weight have dreams? And do dreams have any weight? The Gods {fare} better; for the Gods have their own sisters {in marriage}. Thus Saturn married Ops,[50] related to him by blood; Ocean Tethys, the ruler of Olympus Juno. The Gods above have their privileges. Why do I attempt to reduce human customs to the rule of divine ordinances, and those so different? Either this forbidden flame shall be expelled from my heart, or if I cannot effect that, I pray that I may first perish, and that when dead I may be laid out on my bed, and that my brother may give me kisses as I lie. And besides, this matter requires the inclination of us both; suppose it pleases me; to him it will seem to be a crime. But the sons of AEolus[51] did not shun the embraces of their sisters. But whence have I known of these? Why have I furnished myself with these precedents? Whither am I hurried onward? Far hence begone, ye lawless flames! and let not my brother be loved by me, but as it is lawful for a sister {to love him}. But yet, if he had been first seized with a passion for me, perhaps I might have indulged his desires. Am I then, myself, to court him, whom I would not have rejected, had he courted me? And canst thou speak out? And canst thou confess it? Love will compel me. I can. Or if shame shall restrain my lips, a private letter shall confess the latent flame."

This thought pleases her, this determines her wavering mind. She raises herself on her side, and leaning on her left elbow, she says, "He shall see it; let me confess my frantic passion. Ah, wretched me! How am I degrading myself! What flame is my mind {now} kindling!" And {then}, with trembling hand, she puts together the words well weighed. Her right hand holds the iron {pen}, the other, clean wax tablets.[52] She begins, and {then} she hesitates; she writes, and {then} corrects what is written; she marks, and {then} scratches out; she alters, and condemns, and approves; and one while she throws them down when taken up, and at another time, she takes them up again, when thrown aside. What she would have, she knows not. Whatever she seems on the point of doing, is not to her taste. In her features are assurance mingled with shame. {The word} 'sister' is written; it seems {as well} to efface {the word} 'sister,' and {then} to write such words as these upon the smoothed wax: "Thy lover wishes thee that health which she, herself, is not to enjoy, unless thou shalt grant it. I am ashamed! Oh, I am ashamed to disclose my name! and shouldst thou inquire what it is I wish; without my name[53] could I wish my cause to be pleaded, and that I might not be known as Byblis, until the hopes of {enjoying} my desires were realized. There might have been as a proof to thee of my wounded heart, my {pale} complexion, my falling away, my {downcast} looks, and my eyes often wet with tears, sighs, too, fetched without any seeming cause; frequent embraces too, and kisses, which, if perchance thou didst observe, could not be deemed to be those of a sister. Still I, myself, though I had a grievous wound in my soul, {and} although there was a raging fire within, have done everything, as the Gods are my witnesses, that at last I might be cured; and long, in my wretchedness, have I struggled to escape the ruthless weapon of Cupid; and I have endured more hardships than thou wouldst believe that a maiden could endure.

"Vanquished {at length}, I am forced to own {my passion}; and with timorous prayers, to entreat thy aid. Thou alone canst save, thou destroy, one who loves thee. Choose which thou wilt do. She is not thy enemy who begs this; but one who, though most nearly connected with thee, desires to be still more closely connected, and to be united to thee in a nearer tie. Let aged men be acquainted with ordinances, and make inquiry what is lawful, and what is wicked, and what is proper; and let them employ themselves in considering the laws. A passion that dares all consequences is suited to our years. As yet, we know not what is lawful, and we believe that all things are lawful, and {so} follow the example of the great Gods. Neither a severe father, nor regard for character, nor fear, shall restrain us, {if} only the cause for fearing is removed. Under a brother's name will we conceal our stolen joys {so} sweet. I have the liberty of conversing with thee in private; and {even} before others do we give embraces, and exchange kisses. How little is it that is wanting! do have pity on the love of her who confesses it, and who would not confess it, did not extreme passion compel her; and merit not to be inscribed on my tomb as the cause {of my death}."

The filled tablets fall short for her hand, as it vainly inscribes such words as these, and the last line is placed in the margin.[54] At once she seals up her own condemnation, with the impress of a signet, which she wets with her tears, {for} the moisture has deserted her tongue. Filled with shame, she {then} calls one of her male domestics, and gently addressing him in timorous tones, she said, "Carry these, most trusty one, to my," and, after a long pause, she added, "brother." While she was delivering them, the tablets, slipping from her hands, fell down. She was shocked by this omen, but still she sent them. The servant, having got a fit opportunity, goes {to her brother} and delivers the secret writing. The Maeandrian youth,[55] seized with sudden anger, throws away the tablets {so} received, when he has read a part; and, with difficulty withholding his hands from the face of the trembling servant, he says, "Fly hence, O thou accursed pander to forbidden lust, who shouldst have given me satisfaction by thy death, if {it was} not {that} thy destruction would bring disgrace on my character." Frightened, he hastens away, and reports to his mistress the threatening expressions of Caunus. Thou, Byblis, on hearing of his refusal, turnest pale, and thy breast, beset with an icy chill, is struck with alarm; yet when thy senses return, so, too, does thy frantic passion return, and thy tongue with difficulty utters such words as these, the air being struck {by thy accents}:

"And deservedly {am I thus treated}; for why, in my rashness, did I make the discovery of this wound? why have I so speedily committed words to a hasty letter, which ought {rather} to have been concealed? The feelings of his mind ought first to have been tried beforehand by me, with ambiguous expressions. Lest he should not follow me in my course, I ought, with some part of my sail[56] {only}, to have observed what kind of a breeze it was, and to have scudded over the sea in safety; {whereas}, now, I have filled my canvass with winds {before} untried. I am driven upon rocks in consequence; and sunk, I am buried beneath the whole ocean, and my sails have {now} no retreat. And besides, was I not forbidden, by unerring omens, to indulge my passion, at the time when the waxen {tablets} fell, as I ordered him to deliver them, and made my hopes sink to the ground? and ought not either the day to have been changed, or else my whole intentions; but rather, {of the two},[57] the day? {Some} God himself warned me, and gave me unerring signs, if I had not been deranged; and yet I ought to have spoken out myself, and not to have committed myself to writing, and personally {I ought} to have discovered my passion; {then} he would have seen my tears, {then} he would have seen the features of her who loved him; I might have given utterance to more than what the letter contained. I might have thrown my arms around his reluctant neck, and have embraced his feet, and lying {on the ground}, I might have begged for life; and if I had been repelled, I might have seemed on the point of death. All this, {I say}, I might {then} have done; if each of these things could not {singly} have softened his obdurate feelings, {yet} all of them might.

"Perhaps, too, there may be some fault in the servant that was sent. He did not wait on him at a convenient moment; he did not choose, I suppose, a fitting time; nor did he request both the hour and his attention to be disengaged. 'Tis this that has undone me; for he was not born of a tigress, nor does he carry in his breast hard flints, or solid iron, or adamant; nor yet did he suck the milk of a lioness. He will {yet} be won. Again must he be attacked.[58] And no weariness will I admit of in {the accomplishment of} my design, so long as this breath {of mine} shall remain. For the best thing (if I could {only} recall what has been destined) would have been, not to have made the attempt; the next best thing is, to urge the accomplishment of what is begun; for he cannot (suppose I were to relinquish my design) ever be unmindful of this my attempt; and because I have desisted, I shall appear to have desired for but an instant, or even to have been trying him, and to have solicited him with the intention to betray; or, at least, I shall be thought not to have been overcome by this God, who with such intensity {now} burns, and has burnt my breast, but rather by lust. In fine, I cannot now be guiltless of a wicked deed; I have both written {to him}, and I have solicited {him}; my inclination has been defiled. Though I were to add nothing more, I cannot be pronounced innocent: as to what remains, {'twill add} much to {the gratifying of} my wishes, {but} little to my criminality."

{Thus} she says; and (so great is the unsteadiness of her wavering mind) though she is loath to try him, she has a wish to try him, and she exceeds {all} bounds, and, to her misery, exposes herself to be often repulsed. At length, when there is {now} no end {to this}, he flies from his country and {the commission of} this crime, and founds a new city[59] in a foreign land. But then, they say that the daughter of Miletus, in her sadness, was bereft of all understanding. Then did she tear her garments away from her breast, and in her frenzy beat her arms. And now she is openly raving, and she proclaims the unlawful hopes of {unnatural} lust. Deprived of these {hopes}, she deserts her native land, and her hated home, and follows the steps of her flying brother. And as the Ismarian[60] Bacchanals, son of Semele, aroused by thy thyrsus, celebrate thy triennial festivals, as they return, no otherwise did the Bubasian matrons[61] see Byblis howling over the wide fields; leaving which, she wandered through {the country of} the Carians, and the warlike Leleges,[62] and Lycia.

And now she has left behind Cragos,[63] and Lymira,[64] and the waves of Xanthus, and the mountain in which the Chimaera had fire in its middle parts, the breast and the face of a lioness, and the tail of a serpent. The woods {at length} fail thee; when thou, Byblis, wearied with following him, dost fall down, and laying thy tresses upon the hard ground, art silent, and dost press the fallen leaves with thy face. Often, too, do the Lelegeian Nymphs endeavour to raise her in their tender arms; often do they advise her to curb her passion, and they apply consolation to a mind insensible {to their advice}. Silent does Byblis lie, and she tears the green herbs with her nails, and waters the grass with the stream of her tears. They say that the Naiads placed beneath these {tears} a channel which could never become dry; and what greater gift had they to bestow? Immediately, as drops from the cut bark of the pitch tree, or as the viscid bitumen distils from the impregnated earth, or as water which has frozen with the cold, at the approach of Favonius, gently blowing, melts away in the sun, so is Byblis, the descendant of Phoebus, dissolving in her tears, changed into a fountain, which even now, in those vallies, bears the name of its mistress, and flows beneath a gloomy oak.

[Footnote 46: Every God has.—Ver. 425-6. 'Cui studeat, Deus omnis habet crescitque favore Turbida seditio.' Clarke thus renders these words, 'Every God has somebody to stickle for, and a turbulent sedition arises by their favours for their darlings.']

[Footnote 47: Son of Deione.—Ver. 442. According to some writers, Miletus was the son of Apollo and Deione, though others say that Thia was the name of his mother. He was the founder of the celebrated city of Miletus, in Caria, a country of Asia Minor.]

[Footnote 48: Does not think.—Ver. 457. Clarke translates this line, 'Nor does she think she does amiss that she so often tips him a kiss.' Antoninus Liberalis says, that Eidothea, the daughter of the king of Paria, and not Cyane, was the mother of Byblis and Caunus.]

[Footnote 49: Sweetheart.—Ver. 465. The word 'dominus' was often used as a term of endearment between lovers.]

[Footnote 50: Married Ops.—Ver. 497. Ops, the daughter of Coelus or Uranus, who was also called Cybele, Rhea, and 'the great Mother,' was fabled to have been the wife of her brother Saturn; while Oceanus, the son of Coelus and Vesta, married his sister Tethys.]

[Footnote 51: Sons of AEolus.—Ver. 506. AEolus had six sons, to whom he was said to have given their sisters for wives. In the case, however, of his daughter Canace, who was pregnant by her brother Macareus, AEolus was more severe, as he sent her a sword, with which to put herself to death.]

[Footnote 52: Clean wax tablets.—Ver. 521. Before the tablet was written upon, the wax was 'vacua,' empty; or, as we say of writing-paper, 'clean.' There was a blunt end to the upper part of the 'stylus,' or iron pen, with which the wax was smoothed down when any writing was erased.]

[Footnote 53: Without my name.—Ver. 531-2. 'Sine nomine vellem Posset agi mea causa meo,' is rendered by Clarke, 'I could wish my business might be transacted without my name.']

[Footnote 54: In the margin.—Ver. 564. Clarke translates, 'Summusque in margine versus adhaesit,' 'And the last line was clapped into the margin.']

[Footnote 55: Meandrian youth.—Ver. 573. Caunus was the grandson of the river Maeander.]

[Footnote 56: Part of my sail.—Ver. 589. She borrows this metaphor from sailors, who, before setting out, sometimes unfurl a little portion of the sail, to see how the wind blows.]

[Footnote 57: Rather of the two.—Ver. 598. Willing to believe anything in the wrong rather than herself; she is sure that the day was an unlucky one.]

[Footnote 58: Be attacked.—Ver. 615. 'Repeteudas erit,' Clarke translates, 'I must at him again.']

[Footnote 59: Founds a new city.—Ver. 633. This was Caunus, a city of Caria.]

[Footnote 60: Ismarian.—Ver. 641. Ismarus was a mountain of Thrace. The festival here alluded to was the 'trieterica,' or triennial feast of Bacchus.]

[Footnote 61: Bubasian matrons.—Ver. 643. We learn from Pliny the Elder that Bubasus was a region of Caria.]

[Footnote 62: Leleges.—Ver. 644. The Leleges were a warlike people of Caria, in Asia Minor, who were supposed to have sprung from Grecian emigrants, who first inhabited the adjacent island, and afterwards the continent. They were said to have their name from the Greek word lelegmenoi 'gathered,' because they were collected from various places.]

[Footnote 63: Cragos.—Ver. 645. Cragos was a mountain of Lycia.]

[Footnote 64: Lymira.—Ver. 645. This was a city of Lycia, near Cragos.]


This shocking story has been also recounted by Antoninus Liberalis and both he and Ovid have embellished it with circumstances, which are the fruit of a lively imagination. They make Byblis travel over several countries in search of her brother, who flies from her extravagant passion, and they both agree in tracing her to Caria. There, according to Antoninus Liberalis, she was transformed into a Hamadryad, just as she was on the point of throwing herself from the summit of a mountain. Ovid, on the other hand, says that she was changed into a fountain, which afterwards bore her name.

It is, however, most probable, that if the story is founded on truth, the whole of the circumstances happened in Caria; since we learn, both from Apollodorus and Pausanias, that Miletus, her father, went from the island of Crete to lead a colony into Caria, when he conquered a city, to which he gave his own name. Pausanias says, that all the men of the city being killed during the siege, the conquerors married their wives and daughters. Cyanea, the daughter of Maeander, fell to the share of Miletus, and Caunus and Byblis were the offspring of that marriage. Byblis, having conceived a criminal passion for her brother, he was obliged to leave his father's court, that he might avoid her importunities; upon which she died of grief. As she often went to weep by a fountain, which was outside of the town, those who related the adventure, magnified it, by stating that she was changed into the fountain, which, after her death, bore her name. We are informed by Photius, on the authority of the historian Conon, that it was Caunus who fell in love with Byblis, and that she hanged herself upon a walnut tree. Ovid also, in his 'Art of Love,' follows the tradition that she hanged herself. 'Arsit et est laqueo fortiter ulta nefas.' Miletus lived in the time of the first Minos, and, according to some writers, married his daughter Acallis; but, having disagreed with his father-in-law, he was obliged to leave Crete, and retired to Caria.

The Persians had certain state ordinances, by which their monarchs were enjoined to marry their own sisters; and, as Asia Minor was overrun by them at the time when Croesus was conquered by Cyrus, it is possible that the story of Byblis and Caunus may have originated in the disgust which the natives felt for their conquerors, and as a covert reproach to them for sanctioning alliances of so incestuous a nature. While Ovid enters into details in the story, which trench on the rules of modesty and decorum, the moral of the tale, aided by some of his precepts, is not uninstructive as a warning to youth to learn betimes how to regulate the passions.

FABLE VI. [IX.666-797]

Ligdus commands his wife Telethusa, who is pregnant, to destroy the infant, should it prove to be a girl; on which, the Goddess Isis appears to her in a dream, and, forbidding her to obey, promises her her protection. Telethusa is delivered of a daughter, who is called Iphis, and passes for a son. Iphis is afterwards married to Ianthe, on which, Isis, to reward her mother's piety, transforms her into a man.

The fame of this new prodigy would, perhaps, have filled the hundred cities of Crete, if Crete had not lately produced a nearer wonder {of her own}, in the change of Iphis.

For once on a time the Phaestian land[65] adjoining to the Gnossian kingdom produced one Ligdus, of obscure name, a man of the freeborn class of common people. Nor were his means any greater than his rank, but his life and his honour were untainted. He startled the ears of his wife in her pregnancy, with these words, when her lying-in was near at hand: "Two things there are which I wish for; that thou mayst be delivered with very little pain, and that thou mayst bring forth a male child. The other alternative is a cause of greater trouble, and providence has denied us means {for bringing up a female}. The thing I abominate; but if a female should, by chance, be brought forth at thy delivery, (I command it with reluctance, forgive me, natural affection) let it be put to death." {Thus} he said, and they bathed their faces with tears streaming down; both he who commanded, and she to whom the commands were given. But yet Telethusa incessantly urged her husband, with fruitless entreaties, not to confine his hopes within a compass so limited. {But} Ligdus's resolution was fixed.

And now was she hardly {able} to bear her womb big with the burden ripe for birth; when in the middle of the night, under the form of a vision, the daughter of Inachus, attended by a train of her votaries, either stood, or seemed to stand, before her bed. The horns of the moon were upon her forehead, with ears of corn with their bright golden colour, and the royal ornament {of the diadem}; with her was the barking Anubis,[66] and the holy Bubastis,[67] and the particoloured Apis;[68] he, too, who suppresses[69] his voice, and with his finger enjoins silence. There were the sistra too, and Osiris,[70] never enough sought for; and the foreign serpent,[71] filled with soporiferous poison. When thus the Goddess addressed her, as though roused from her sleep, and seeing {all} distinctly: "O Telethusa, one of my votaries, lay aside thy grievous cares, and evade the commands of thy husband; and do not hesitate, when Lucina shall have given thee ease by delivery, to bring up {the child}, whatever it shall be. I am a befriending Goddess,[72] and, when invoked, I give assistance; and thou shalt not complain that thou hast worshipped an ungrateful Divinity."

{Thus} she advises her, and {then} retires from her chamber. The Cretan matron arises joyful from her bed; and suppliantly raising her pure hands towards the stars {of heaven}, prays that her vision may be fulfilled. When her pains increased, and her burden forced itself into the light, and a girl was born to the father unaware of it, the mother ordered it to be brought up, pretending it was a boy; and the thing gained belief, nor was any one but the nurse acquainted with the fact. The father performed his vows, and gave {the child} the name of its grandfather. The grandfather had been called Iphis. The mother rejoiced in that name because it was common {to both sexes}, nor would she be deceiving[73] any one by it. Her deception lay unperceived under this fraud, the result of natural affection. The {child's} dress was that of a boy; the face such, that, whether you gave it to a girl or to a boy, either would be beautiful. In the meantime the third year had {now} succeeded the tenth, when her father, O Iphis, promised to thee, in marriage, the yellow-haired Iaenthe, who was a virgin the most commended among all the women of Phaestus, for the endowments of her beauty; the daughter of the Dictaean Telestes. Equal was their age, their beauty equal; and they received their first instruction, the elements {suited} to their age, from the same preceptor.

Love, in consequence, touches the inexperienced breasts of them both, and inflicts on each an equal wound; but {how} different are their hopes! Iaenthe awaits the time of their union, and of the ceremonial agreed upon, and believes that she, whom she thinks to be a man, will be {her husband}. Iphis is in love with her whom she despairs to be able to enjoy, and this very thing increases her flame; and, {herself} a maid, she burns with passion for a maid. And, with difficulty, suppressing her tears, she says, "What issue {of my love} awaits me, whom the anxieties unknown to any {before}, and {so} unnatural, of an unheard-of passion, have seized upon? if the Gods would spare me, (they ought to have destroyed me, and if they would not have destroyed me), at least they should have inflicted some natural evil, and {one} common {to the human race}. Passion for a cow does not inflame a cow, nor does that for mares {inflame} the mares. The ram inflames the ewes; its own female follows the buck. And so do birds couple; and among all animals, no female is seized with passion for a female. Would that I did not exist.

"Yet, lest Crete might not be the producer of {all kinds of} prodigies, the daughter of the Sun loved a bull; that is to say, a female {loved} a male. My passion, if I confess the truth, is more extravagant than that. Still she pursued the hopes of enjoyment; still, by a subtle contrivance, and under the form of a cow, did she couple with the bull, and her paramour was one that might be deceived. But though the ingenuity of the whole world were to centre here, though Daedalus himself were to fly back again with his waxen wings, what could he do? Could he, by his skilful arts, make me from a maiden into a youth? or could he transform thee, Iaenthe? But why dost thou not fortify thy mind, and recover thyself, Iphis? And why not shake off this passion, void of {all} reason, and senseless {as it is}? Consider what it was thou wast born (unless thou art deceiving thyself as well), and pursue that which is allowable, and love that which, as a woman, thou oughtst {to love}. Hope it is that produces, Hope it is that nourishes love. This, the {very} case {itself} deprives thee of. No guard is keeping thee away from her dear embrace; no care of a watchful husband, no father's severity; does not she herself deny thy solicitations. And yet she cannot be enjoyed by thee; nor, were everything possible done, couldst thou be blessed; {not}, though Gods and men were to do their utmost. And now, too, no portion of my desires is baffled, and the compliant Deities have granted me whatever they were able, and what I {desire}, my father wishes, she herself wishes, and {so does} my destined father-in-law; but nature, more powerful than all these, wills it not; she alone is an obstacle to me. Lo, the longed-for time approaches, and the wedding-day is at hand, when Iaenthe should be mine; and {yet} she will not fall to my lot. In the midst of water, I shall be athirst. Why, Juno, guardian of the marriage rites, and why, Hymenaeus, do you come to this ceremonial, where there is not the person who should marry {the wife}, {and} where both {of us females}, we are coupled in wedlock?"

After {saying} these words, she closes her lips. And no less does the other maid burn, and she prays thee, Hymenaeus, to come quickly. Telethusa, dreading the same thing that she desires, at one time puts off the time {of the wedding}, and then raises delays, by feigning illness. Often, by way of excuse, she pretends omens and visions. But now she has exhausted all the resources of fiction; and the time for the marriage {so long} delayed is {now} at hand, and {only} one day remains; whereon she takes off the fillets for the hair from her own head and from that of her daughter,[74] and embracing the altar with dishevelled locks, she says, "O Isis, thou who dost inhabit Paraetonium,[75] and the Mareotic fields,[76] and Pharos,[77] and the Nile divided into its seven horns, give aid, I beseech thee, and ease me of my fears. Thee, Goddess, thee, I once beheld, and these thy symbols; and all {of them} I recognized; both thy attendants, and thy torches, and the sound of the sistra, and I noted thy commands with mindful care. That this {girl}[78] {now} sees the light, that I, myself, am not punished, is {the result of} thy counsel, and thy admonition; pity us both, and aid us with thy assistance."

Tears followed her words. The Goddess seemed to move, (and she {really} did move) her altars; and the doors of her temple shook. Her horns, too,[79] shone, resembling {those of} the moon, and the tinkling sistrum sounded. The mother departs from the temple, not free from concern indeed, still pleased with this auspicious omen. Iphis follows her, her companion as she goes, with longer strides than she had been wont; her fairness does not continue on her face; both her strength is increased, and her features are more stern; and shorter is the length of her scattered locks. There is more vigour, also, than she had {as} a female. {And} now thou art a male, who so lately wast a female. Bring offerings to the temple, and rejoice with no hesitating confidence. They do bring their offerings to the temple. They add, too, an inscription; the inscription contains {one} short line: "Iphis, a male, offers the presents, which, as a female, he had vowed."

The following morn has disclosed the wide world with the rays {of the Sun}; when Venus, and Juno, and Hymenaeus, repair to the social fires[80]; and Iphis, {now} a youth, gains his {dear} Iaenthe.

[Footnote 65: Phaestian land.—Ver. 668. Phaestus was a city of Crete, built by Minos.]

[Footnote 66: Anubis.—Ver. 689. This was an Egyptian Deity, which had the body of a man, and the head of a dog. Some writers say that it was Mercury who was so represented, and that this form was given him in remembrance of the fact of Isis having used dogs in her search for Osiris, when he was slain by his brother Typhon. Other authors say, that Anubis was the son of Osiris, and that he distinguished himself with an helmet, bearing the figure of a dog, when he followed his father to battle.]

[Footnote 67: Bubastis.—Ver. 690. Though she is here an attendant of Isis, Diodorus Siculus represents her to have been the same divinity as Isis. Herodotus, however, says that Diana was worshipped by the Egyptians under that name. There was a city of Lower Egypt, called Bubastis, in which Isis was greatly venerated.]

[Footnote 68: Apis.—Ver. 690. This is supposed to have been another name for Osiris, whose body, having been burned on the funeral pile, the Egyptians believed that he re-appeared under the form of a bull; the name for which animal was 'apis.']

[Footnote 69: Who suppresses.—Ver. 691. This was the Egyptian divinity Harpocrates, the God of Secresy and Silence, who was represented with his finger laid on his lips.]

[Footnote 70: Osiris.—Ver. 692. When slain by his brother Typhon, Isis long sought him in vain, till, finding his scattered limbs by the aid of dogs, she entombed them. As the Egyptians had a yearly festival, at which they bewailed the loss of Osiris, and feigned that they were seeking him, Ovid calls that God, 'Nunquam satis quaesitus,' 'Never enough sought for.']

[Footnote 71: Foreign serpent.—Ver. 693. This is, most probably, the asp, a small serpent of Egypt, which is frequently found represented on the statues of Isis. Its bite was said to produce a lethargic sleep, ending in death. Cleopatra ended her life by the bite of one, which she ordered to be conveyed to her in a basket of fruit. Some commentators have supposed that the crocodile is here alluded to; but, as others have justly observed, the crocodile has no poisonous sting, but rather a capacity for devouring.]

[Footnote 72: A befriending Goddess.—Ver. 698. Diodorus Siculus says, that Isis was the discoverer of numerous remedies for disease, and that she greatly improved the healing art.]

[Footnote 73: Be deceiving.—Ver. 709. The name 'Iphis' being equally well for a male or a female.]

[Footnote 74: Of her daughter.—Ver. 770. We must suppose that Iphis wore the 'vitta,' which was an article of female dress, in private only, and in presence of her mother. Of course, in public, such an ornament would not have suited her, when appearing in the character of a man.]

[Footnote 75: Paraetonium.—Ver. 772. Strabo says, that Paraetonium was a city of Libya, with a capacious harbour.]

[Footnote 76: Mareotic fields.—Ver. 772. The Mareotic Lake was in the neighbourhood of the city of Alexandria.]

[Footnote 77: Pharos.—Ver. 772. This was an island opposite to Alexandria, famed for its light-house, which was erected to warn sailors from off the dangerous quicksands in the neighbourhood.]

[Footnote 78: This girl.—Ver. 778. Pointing at Iphis, who had attended her, Antoninus Liberalis says, that Telethusa prayed that Iphis might be transformed into a man, and cited a number of precedents for such a change.]

[Footnote 79: Her horns too.—Ver. 783. Isis was sometimes worshipped under the form of a cow, to the horns of which reference is here made.]

[Footnote 80: The social fires.—Ver. 795. On the occasion of marriages, offerings were made on the altars of Hymenaeus and the other Deities, who were the guardians of conjugal rites.]


The story of Iphis being changed from a young woman into a man, of which Ovid lays the scene in the isle of Crete, is one of those facts upon which ancient history is entirely silent. Perhaps, the origin of the story was a disguise of a damsel in male dress, carried on, for family reasons, even to the very point of marriage; or it may have been based upon an account of some remarkable instance of androgynous formation.

Ovid may possibly have invented the story himself, merely as a vehicle for showing how the Deities recompense piety and strict obedience to their injunctions.


FABLE I. [X.1-85]

Eurydice, the wife of Orpheus, while sporting in the fields, with other Nymphs, is bitten by a serpent, which causes her death. After having mourned for her, Orpheus resolves to go down to the Infernal Regions in quest of her. Pluto and the Fates consent to her return, on condition that Orpheus shall not look on her till he is out of their dominions. His curiosity prevailing, he neglects this injunction, on which she is immediately snatched away from him, beyond the possibility of recovery. Upon this occasion, the Poet relates the story of a shepherd, who was turned into a rock by a look of Cerberus; and that of Olenus and Lethaea, who were transformed into stones.

Thence Hymenaeus, clad in a saffron-coloured[1] robe, passed through the unmeasured tract of air, and directed his course to the regions of the Ciconians[2], and, in vain, was invoked by the voice of Orpheus. He presented himself indeed, but he brought with him neither auspicious words, nor joyful looks, nor {yet} a happy omen. The torch, too, which he held, was hissing with a smoke that brought tears to the eyes, and as it was, it found no flames amid its waving. The issue was more disastrous than the omens; for the newmade bride, while she was strolling along the grass, attended by a train of Naiads, was killed, having received the sting of a serpent on her ancle.

After the Rhodopeian bard had sufficiently bewailed her in the upper {realms of} air, that he might try the shades below as well, he dared to descend to Styx by the Taenarian gate, and amid the phantom inhabitants and ghosts that had enjoyed the tomb, he went to Persephone, and him that held these unpleasing realms, the Ruler of the shades; and touching his strings in concert with his words, he thus said, "O ye Deities of the world that lies beneath the earth, to which we {all} come {at last}, each that is born to mortality; if I may be allowed, and you suffer me to speak the truth, laying aside[3] the artful expressions of a deceitful tongue; I have not descended hither {from curiosity} to see dark Tartarus, nor to bind the threefold throat of the Medusaean monster, bristling with serpents. {But} my wife was the cause of my coming; into whom a serpent, trodden upon {by her}, diffused its poison, and cut short her growing years. I was wishful to be able to endure {this}, and I will not deny that I have endeavoured {to do so}. Love has proved the stronger. That God is well known in the regions above. Whether he be so here, too, I am uncertain; but yet I imagine that even here he is; and if the story of the rape of former days is not untrue, 'twas love that united you {two} together. By these places filled with horrors, by this vast Chaos, and by the silence of these boundless realms, I entreat you, weave over again the quick-spun thread {of the life} of Eurydice.

"To you we all belong; and having staid but a little while {above}, sooner or later we {all} hasten to one abode. Hither are we all hastening. This is our last home; and you possess the most lasting dominion over the human race. She, too, when, in due season she shall have completed her allotted {number of} years, will be under your sway. The enjoyment {of her} I beg as a favour. But if the Fates deny me this privilege in behalf of my wife, I have determined that I will not return. Triumph in the death of us both."

As he said such things, and touched the strings to his words, the bloodless spirits wept. Tantalus did not catch at the retreating water, and the wheel of Ixion stood still, {as though} in amazement; the birds did not tear the liver {of Tityus}; and the granddaughters of Belus paused at their urns; thou, too, Sisyphus, didst seat thyself on thy stone. The story is, that then, for the first time, the cheeks of the Eumenides, overcome by his music, were wet with tears; nor could the royal consort, nor he who rules the infernal regions, endure to deny him his request; and they called for Eurydice. She was among the shades newly arrived, and she advanced with a slow pace, by reason of her wound.

The Rhodopeian hero receives her, and, at the same time, {this} condition, that he turn not back his eyes until he has passed the Avernian vallies, or else that the grant will be revoked. The ascending path is mounted in deep silence, steep, dark, and enveloped in deepening gloom. And {now} they were not far from the verge of the upper earth. He, enamoured, fearing lest she should flag, and impatient to behold her, turned his eyes; and immediately she sank back again. She, hapless one! both stretching out her arms, and struggling to be grasped, and to grasp him, caught nothing but the fleeting air. And now, dying a second time, she did not at all complain of her husband; for why should she complain of being beloved? And now she pronounced the last farewell, which scarcely did he catch with his ears; and again was she hurried back to the same place.

No otherwise was Orpheus amazed at this twofold death of his wife, than he who, trembling, beheld the three necks[4] of the dog, the middle one supporting chains; whom fear did not forsake, before his former nature {deserted him}, as stone gathered over his body: and {than} Olenus,[5] who took on himself the crime {of another}, and was willing to appear guilty; and {than} thou, unhappy Lethaea, confiding in thy beauty; breasts, once most united, now rocks, which the watery Ida supports. The ferryman drove him away entreating, and, in vain, desiring again to cross {the stream}. Still, for seven days, in squalid guise[6] did he sit on the banks without the gifts of Ceres. Vexation, and sorrow of mind, and tears were his sustenance. Complaining that the Deities of Erebus[7] were cruel, he betook himself to lofty Rhodope, and Haemus,[8] buffeted by the North winds. The third Titan had {now} ended the year bounded by the Fishes of the ocean;[9] and Orpheus had avoided all intercourse with woman, either because it had ended in misfortune to him, or because he had given a promise {to that effect}. Yet a passion possessed many a female to unite herself to the bard, {and} many a one grieved when repulsed. He also was the {first} adviser of the people of Thrace to transfer their affections to tender youths; and, on this side of manhood, to enjoy the short spring of life, and its early flowers.

[Footnote 1: Saffron-coloured.—Ver. 1. This was in order to be dressed in a colour similar to that of the 'flammeum,' which was a veil of a bright yellow colour, worn by the bride. This custom prevailed among the Romans, among whom the shoes worn by the bride were of the same colour with the veil.]

[Footnote 2: Ciconians.—Ver. 2. These were a people of Thrace, near the river Hebrus and the Bistonian Lake.]

[Footnote 3: Laying aside.—Ver. 19. 'Falsi positis ambagibus oris,' is rendered by Clarke, 'Laying aside all the long-winded fetches of a false tongue.']

[Footnote 4: The three necks.—Ver. 65. There was a story among the ancients, that when Cerberus was dragged by Hercules from the Infernal Regions, a certain man, through fear of Hercules, hid himself in a cave; and that on peeping out, and beholding Cerberus, he was changed into a stone by his fright. Suidas says, that in his time the stone was still to be seen, and that the story gave rise to a proverb.]

[Footnote 5: Olenus.—Ver. 69. Olenus, who was supposed to be the son of Vulcan, had a beautiful wife, whose name was Lethaea. When about to be punished for comparing her own beauty to that of the Goddesses, Olenus offered to submit to the penalty in her stead, on which they were both changed into stones.]

[Footnote 6: In squalid guise.—Ver. 74. 'Squallidus in ripa—sedit,' is rendered by Clarke, 'He sat in a sorry pickle on the bank.']

[Footnote 7: Erebus.—Ver. 76. Erebus was the son of Chaos and Darkness; but his name is often used to signify the Infernal Regions.]

[Footnote 8: Haemus.—Ver. 77. This was a mountain of Thrace, which was much exposed to the North winds.]

[Footnote 9: Fishes of the ocean.—Ver. 78. 'Pisces,' 'the Fishes,' being the last sign of the Zodiac, when the sun has passed through it, the year is completed.]


Though Ovid has separated the adventures of Orpheus, whose death he does not relate till the beginning of the eleventh Book, we will here shortly enter upon an examination of some of the more important points of his history.

As, in his time, Poetry and Music were in a very low state of perfection, and as he excelled in both of those arts, it was said that he was the son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope; and it was added, that he charmed lions and tigers, and made even the trees sensible of the melodious tones of his lyre. These were mere hyperbolical expressions, which signified the wondrous charms of his eloquence and of his music combined, which he employed in cultivating the genius of a savage and uncouth people. Some conjecture that this personage originally came from Asia into Thrace, and suppose that he, together with Linus and Eumolpus, brought poetry and music into Greece, the use of which, till then, was unknown in that country; and that they introduced, at the same time, the worship of Ceres, Mars, and the orgies of Bacchus, which, from him who instituted them, received their name of 'Orphica.' Orpheus, too, is supposed to have united the office of high priest with that of king. Horace styles him the interpreter of the Gods; and he was said to have interposed with the Deities for the deliverance of the Argonauts from a dangerous tempest. It is thought that he passed some part of his life in Egypt, and became acquainted with many particulars of the ancient religion of the Egyptians, which he introduced into the theology of Greece. Some modern writers even go so far as to suggest that he learned from the Hebrews, who were then sojourning in Egypt, the knowledge of the true God.

His wife, Eurydice, dying very young, he was inconsolable for her loss. To alleviate his grief, he went to Thesprotia, in Epirus, the natives of which region were said to possess incantations, for the purpose of raising the ghosts of the departed. Here, according to some accounts, being deceived by a phantom, which was made to appear before him, he died of sorrow; but, according to other writers, he renounced the society of mankind for ever and retired to the mountains of Thrace. His journey to that distant country gave occasion to say, that he descended to the Infernal Regions. This is the more likely, as he is supposed to have there promulgated his notions of the infernal world, which, according to Diodorus Siculus, he had learned among the Egyptians.

Tzetzes, however, assures us that this part of his history is founded on the circumstance, that Orpheus cured his wife of the bite of a serpent, which had till then been considered to be mortal; and that the poets gave an hyperbolical version of the story, in saying that he had rescued her from Hell. He says, too, that he had learned in Egypt the art of magic, which was much cultivated there, and especially the method of charming serpents.

After the loss of his wife, he retired to mount Rhodope, to assuage the violence of his grief. There, according to Ovid and other poets, the Maenades, or Bacchanals, to be revenged for his contempt of them and their rites, tore him in pieces; which story is somewhat diversified by the writers who relate that Venus, exasperated against Calliope, the mother of Orpheus, for having adjudged to Proserpine the possession of Adonis, caused the women of Thrace to become enamoured of her son, and to tear him in pieces while disputing the possession of him. An ancient author, quoted by Hyginus, says that Orpheus was killed by the stroke of a thunderbolt, while he was accompanying the Argonauts; and Apollodorus says the same. Diodorus Siculus calls him one of the kings of Thrace; while other writers, among whom are Cicero and Aristotle, assert that there never was such a person as Orpheus. The learned Vossius says, that the Phoenician word 'ariph,' which signifies 'learned,' gave rise to the story of Orpheus. Le Clerc thinks that in consequence of the same Greek word signifying 'an enchanter,' and also meaning 'a singer,' he acquired the reputation of having been a most skilful magician.

We may, perhaps, safely conclude, that Orpheus really did introduce the worship of many Gods into Greece; and that, possibly, while he promulgated the necessity of expiating crimes, he introduced exorcism, and brought magic into fashion in Greece. Lucian affirms that he was also the first to teach the elements of astronomy. Several works were attributed to him, which are now no longer in existence; among which were a Poem on the Expedition of the Argonauts, one on the War of the Giants, another on the Rape of Proserpine, and a fourth upon the Labours of Hercules. The Poem on the Argonautic Expedition, which now exists, and is attributed to him, is supposed to have been really written by a poet named Onomacritus, who lived in the sixth century B.C., in the time of Pisistratus.

After his death, Orpheus was reckoned in the number of Heroes or Demigods; and we are informed by Philostratus that his head was preserved at Lesbos, where it gave oracular responses. Orpheus is not mentioned by Homer or Hesiod. The learned scholar Lobeck, in his Aglaophamus, has entered very deeply into an investigation of the real nature of the discoveries and institutions ascribed to him.

FABLE II. [X.86-105]

Orpheus, retiring to Mount Rhodope, by the charms of his music, attracts to himself all kinds of creatures, rocks, and trees; among the latter is the pine tree, only known since the transformation of Attis.

There was a hill, and upon the hill a most level space of a plain, which the blades of grass made green: {all} shade was wanting in the spot. After the bard, sprung from the Gods, had seated himself in this place, and touched his tuneful strings, a shade came over the spot. The tree of Chaonia[10] was not absent, nor the grove of the Heliades,[11] nor the mast-tree with its lofty branches, nor the tender lime-trees, nor yet the beech, and the virgin laurel,[12] and the brittle hazels, and the oak, adapted for making spears, and the fir without knots, and the holm bending beneath its acorns, and the genial plane-tree,[13] and the parti-coloured maple,[14] and, together with them, the willows growing by the rivers, and the watery lotus, and the evergreen box, and the slender tamarisks, and the two-coloured myrtle, and the tine-tree,[15] with its azure berries.

You, too, the ivy-trees, with your creeping tendrils, came, and together, the branching vines, and the elms clothed with vines; the ashes, too, and the pitch-trees, and the arbute, laden with its blushing fruit, and the bending palm,[16] the reward of the conqueror; the pine, too, with its tufted foliage,[17] and bristling at the top, pleasing to the Mother of the Gods; since for this the Cybeleian Attis put off the human form, and hardened into that trunk.

[Footnote 10: Tree of Chaonia.—Ver. 90. This was the oak, for the growth of which Chaonia, a province of Epirus, was famous.]

[Footnote 11: Grove of the Heliades.—Ver. 91. He alludes to the poplars, into which tree, as we have already seen, the Heliades, or daughters of the sun, were changed after the death of Phaeton.]

[Footnote 12: Virgin laurel.—Ver. 92. The laurel is so styled from the Virgin Daphne, who refused to listen to the solicitations of Apollo.]

[Footnote 13: Genial plane-tree.—Ver. 95. The plane tree was much valued by the ancients, as affording, by its extending branches, a pleasant shade to festive parties. Virgil says, in the Fourth Book of the Georgics, line 146, 'Atque ministrantem platanum potantibus umbram,' 'And the plane-tree that gives its shade for those that carouse.']

[Footnote 14: Parti-coloured maple.—Ver. 95. The grain of the maple being of a varying colour, it was much valued by the ancients, for the purpose of making articles of furniture.]

[Footnote 15: The tine tree.—Ver. 98. The 'tinus,' or 'tine tree,' according to Pliny the Elder, was a wild laurel, with green berries.]

[Footnote 16: The bending palm.—Ver. 102. The branches of the palm were remarkable for their flexibility, while no superincumbent weight could break them. On this account they were considered as emblematical of victory.]

[Footnote 17: Tufted foliage.—Ver. 103. The pine is called 'succincta,' because it sends forth its branches from the top, and not from the sides.]


The story of Attis, or Athis, here briefly referred to, is related by the ancient writers in many different ways; so much so, that it is not possible to reconcile the discrepancy that exists between them. From Diodorus Siculus we learn that Cybele, the daughter of Maeon, King of Phrygia, falling in love with a young shepherd named Attis, her father ordered him to be put to death. In despair, at the loss of her lover, Cybele left her father's abode, and, accompanied by Marsyas, crossed the mountains of Phrygia. Apollo, (or, as Vossius supposes, some priest of that God,) touched with the misfortunes of the damsel, took her to the country of the Hyperboreans in Scythia, where she died. Some time after, the plague ravaging Phrygia, and the oracle being consulted, an answer was returned, that, to ensure the ceasing of the contagion, they must look for the body of Attis, and give it funeral rites, and render to Cybele the same honour which they were wont to pay to the Gods: all which was done with such scrupulous care, that in time she became one of the most esteemed Divinities.

Arnobius, says that Attis was a shepherd, with whom Cybele fell in love in her old age. Unmoved by her rank, and repelled by her faded charms, he despised her advances. Midas, King of Pessinus, on seeing this, destined his own daughter, Agdistis, for the young Attis. Fearing the resentment of Cybele, he caused the gates of the city to be shut on the day on which the marriage was to be solemnized. Cybele being informed of this, hastened to Pessinus, and, destroying the gates, met with Attis, who had concealed himself behind a pine tree, and caused him to be emasculated; on which Agdistis committed self-destruction in a fit of sorrow.

Servius, Lactantius, and St. Augustine, give another version of the story, which it is not necessary here to enlarge upon, any farther than to say, that it depicts the love of a powerful queen for a young man who repulsed her advances. Ovid, also, gives a similar account in the fourth Book of the Fasti, line 220. Other authors, quoted by Arnobius, have given some additional circumstances, the origin of which it is almost impossible to guess at. They say that a female called Nana, by touching a pomegranate or an almond tree, which grew from the blood of Agdistis whom Bacchus had slain, conceived Attis, who afterwards became very dear to Cybele.

All that we can conclude from these accounts, and more especially from that given by Ovid in the Fasti, is, that the worship of Cybele being established in Phrygia, Attis was one of her priests; and that, as he led the example of mutilating himself, all her other priests, who were called Galli, submitted to a similar operation, to the great surprise of the uninitiated, who were not slow in inventing some wonderful story to account for an act so extraordinary.

FABLE III. [X.106-142]

Cyparissus is about to kill himself for having slain, by accident, a favourite deer; but, before he is able to execute his design, Apollo transforms him into a Cypress.

Amid this throng was present the cypress, resembling the cone,[18] now a tree, {but} once a youth, beloved by that God who fits the lyre with the strings, and the bow with strings. For there was a large stag, sacred to the Nymphs who inhabit the Carthaean fields; and, with his horns extending afar, he himself afforded an ample shade to his own head. His horns were shining with gold, and a necklace studded with gems,[19] falling upon his shoulders, hung down from his smooth round neck; a silver ball,[20] fastened with little straps, played upon his forehead; and pendants of brass,[21] of equal size, shone on either ear around his hollow temples. He, too, void of fear, and laying aside his natural timorousness, used to frequent the houses, and to offer his neck to be patted by any hands, even though unknown {to him}.

But yet, above all others, he was pleasing to thee, Cyparissus, most beauteous of the nation of Cea.[22] Thou wast wont to lead the stag to new pastures, and to the streams of running waters; sometimes thou didst wreathe flowers of various colours about his horns, and at other times, seated on his back, {like} a horseman, {first} in this direction and {then} in that, thou didst guide his easy mouth with the purple bridle. 'Twas summer and the middle of the day, and the bending arms of the Crab, that loves the sea-shore, were glowing with the heat of the sun; the stag, fatigued, was reclining his body on the grassy earth, and was enjoying the coolness from the shade of a tree. By inadvertence the boy Cyparissus pierced him with a sharp javelin; and, when he saw him dying from the cruel wound, he resolved to attempt to die {as well}. What consolations did not Phoebus apply? and he advised him to grieve with moderation, and according to the occasion. Still did he lament, and as a last favour, he requested this of the Gods above, that he might mourn for ever. And now, his blood quite exhausted by incessant weeping, his limbs began to be changed into a green colour, and the hair, which but lately hung from his snow-white forehead, to become a rough bush, and, a stiffness being assumed, to point to the starry heavens with a tapering top. The God {Phoebus} lamented deeply, and in his sorrow he said, "Thou shalt be mourned by me, and shalt mourn for others, and shalt {ever} attend upon those who are sorrowing[23] {for the dead}."

[Footnote 18: Resembling the cone.—Ver. 106. In the Roman Circus for the chariot races, a low wall ran lengthways down the course, which, from its resemblance in position to the spinal bone, was called by the name of 'spina.' At each extremity of this 'spina,' there were placed upon a base, three large cones, or pyramids of wood, in shape very much like cypress trees, to which fact allusion is here made. They were called 'metae,' 'goals.']

[Footnote 19: Studded with gems.—Ver. 113. Necklaces were much worn in ancient times by the Indians, Persians, and Egyptians. They were more especially used by the Greek and Roman females as bridal ornaments. The 'monile baccatum,' or 'bead necklace,' was the most common, being made of berries, glass, or other materials, strung together. They were so strung with thread, silk, or wire, and links of gold. Emeralds seem to have been much used for this purpose, and amber was also similarly employed. Thus Ovid says, in the second Book of the Metamorphoses, line 366, that the amber distilled from the trees, into which the sisters of Phaeton were changed, was sent to be worn by the Latian matrons. Horses and favourite animals, as in the present instance, were decked with 'monilia,' or necklaces.]

[Footnote 20: A silver ball.—Ver. 114. The 'bulla' was a ball of metal, so called from its resemblance in shape to a bubble of water. These were especially worn by the Roman children, suspended from the neck, and were mostly made of thin plates of gold, being of about the size of a walnut. The use of these ornaments was derived from the people of Etruria; and though originally worn only by the children of the Patricians, they were subsequently used by all of free birth. The children of the Libertini, or 'freedmen,' indeed wore 'bullae,' but they were only made of leather. The 'bulla' was laid aside at the same time as the 'toga praetexta,' and was on that occasion consecrated to the Lares. The bulls of the Popes of Rome, received their names from this word; the ornament which was pendent from the rescript or decree being used to signify the document itself.]

[Footnote 21: Pendants of brass.—Ver. 116. The ear-ring was called among the Greeks enotion, and by the Romans 'inauris.' The Greeks also called it ellobion, from its being inserted in the lobe of the ear. Earrings were worn by both sexes among the Lydians, Persians, Libyans, Carthaginians, and other nations. Among the Greeks and Romans, the females alone were in the habit of wearing them. As with us, the ear-ring consisted of a ring and drop, the ring being generally of gold, though bronze was sometimes used by the common people. Pearls, especially those of elongated form, which were called 'elenchi,' were very much valued for pendants.]

[Footnote 22: Nation of Cea.—Ver. 120. Cea was one of the Cyclades, and Carthaea was one of its four cities.]

[Footnote 23: Who are sorrowing.—Ver. 142. The Poet in this manner accounts for the Roman custom of placing branches of Cypress before the doors of houses in which a dead body lay. Pliny the Elder says, that the Cypress was sacred to Pluto, and that for that reason it was used at funerals, and was placed upon the pile. Varro says, that it was used for the purpose of removing, by its own strong scent, the bad smell of the spot where the bodies were burnt, and also of the bodies themselves. It was also said to be so used, because, when once its bark is cut, it withers, and is consequently emblematical of the frail tenure of human life.]


Cyparissus, who, according to Ovid was born at Carthaea, a town in the isle of Cea, was probably a youth of considerable poetical talent and proficiency in the polite arts, which caused him to be deemed the favourite of Apollo. His transformation into a Cypress is founded on the resemblance between their names, that tree being called by the Greeks kuparissos. The conclusion of the story is that Apollo, to console himself, enjoined that the Cypress tree should be the symbol of sorrow, or in other words that it should be used at funerals and be planted near graves and sepulchres; which fiction was most likely founded on the fact, that the tree was employed for those purposes; perhaps because its branches, almost destitute of leaves, have a somewhat melancholy aspect.

Some ancient writers also tell us that Cyparissus was a youth beloved by the God Sylvanus, for which reason that God is often represented with branches of Cypress in his hand.

FABLE IV. [X.143-161]

Jupiter, charmed with the beauty of the youth Ganymede, transforms himself into an Eagle, for the purpose of carrying him off. He is taken up into Heaven, and is made the Cup-bearer of the Divinities.

Such a grove {of trees} had the bard attracted {round him}, and he sat in the midst of an assembly of wild beasts, and of a multitude of birds. When he had sufficiently tried the strings struck with his thumb, and perceived that the various tones, though they gave different sounds, {still} harmonize, in this song he raised his voice: "Begin, my parent Muse, my song from Jove, all things submit to the sway of Jove. By me, often before has the power of Jove been sung. In loftier strains have I sung of the Giants, and the victorious thunderbolts scattered over the Phlegraean plains.[24] Now is there occasion for a softer lyre; and let us sing of youths beloved by the Gods above, and of girls surprised by unlawful flames, who, by their wanton desires, have been deserving of punishment.

"The king of the Gods above was once inflamed with a passion for Ganymede, and something was found that Jupiter preferred to be, rather than what he was. Yet into no bird does he vouchsafe to be transformed, but that which can carry his bolts.[25] And no delay {is there}. Striking the air with his fictitious wings, he carries off the youth of Ilium; who even now mingles his cups {for him}, and, much against the will of Juno, serves nectar to Jove."

[Footnote 24: Phlegraean plains.—Ver. 151. Some authors place the Phlegraean {plains} near Cumae, in Italy, and say that in a spot near there, much impregnated with sulphur, Jupiter, aided by Hercules and the other Deities, conquered the Giants with his lightnings. Others say that their locality was in that part of Macedonia which was afterwards called Pallene; others again, in Thessaly, or Thrace.]

[Footnote 25: Carry his bolts.—Ver. 158. The eagle was feigned to be the attendant bird of Jove, among other reasons, because it was supposed to fly higher than any other bird, to be able to fix its gaze on the sun without being dazzled, and never to receive injury from lightning. It was also said to have been the armour-bearer of Jupiter in his wars against the Titans, and to have carried his thunderbolts.]


The rape of Ganymede is probably based upon an actual occurrence, which may be thus explained. Tros, the king of Troy, having conquered several of his neighbours, as Eusebius, Cedrenus, and Suidas relate, sent his son Ganymede into Lydia, accompanied by several of the nobles of his court, to offer sacrifice in the temple dedicated to Jupiter; Tantalus, the king of that country, who was ignorant of the designs of the Trojan king, took his people for spies, and put Ganymede in prison. He having been arrested in a temple of Jupiter, by order of a prince, whose ensign was an eagle, it gave occasion for the report that he had been carried off by Jupiter in the shape of an eagle.

The reason why Jupiter is said to have made Ganymede his cup-bearer is difficult to conjecture, unless we suppose that he had served his father, in that employment at the Trojan court. The poets say that he was placed by the Gods among the Constellations, where he shines as Aquarius, or the Water-bearer.

The capture of Ganymede occasioned a protracted and bloody war between Tros and Tantalus; and after their death, Ilus, the son of Tros, continued it against Pelops, the son of Tantalus, and obliged him to quit his kingdom and retire to the court of Oenomaues, king of Pisa, whose daughter he married, and by her had a son named Atreus, who was the father of Agamemnon and Menelaues. Thus we see that probably Paris, the great grandson of Tros, carried off Helen, as a reprisal on Menelaues, the great grandson of Tantalus, the persecutor of Ganymede. Agamemnon did not fail to turn this fact to his own advantage, by putting the Greeks in mind of the evils which his family had suffered from the kings of Troy.

FABLE V. [X.162-219]

As Apollo is playing at quoits with the youth Hyacinthus, one of them, thrown by the Divinity, rebounds from the earth, and striking Hyacinthus on the head, kills him. From his blood springs up the flower which still bears his name.

"Phoebus would have placed thee too, descendant of Amycla,[26] in the heavens, if the stern Fates had given him time to place thee there. Still, so far as is possible, thou art immortal; and as oft as the spring drives away the winter, and the Ram succeeds the watery Fish, so often dost thou spring up and blossom upon the green turf. Thee, beyond {all} others, did my father love, and Delphi, situate in the middle[27] of the earth, was without its guardian {Deity}, while the God was frequenting the Eurotas, and the unfortified Sparta;[28] and neither his lyre nor his arrows were {held} in esteem {by him}.

"Unmindful of his own dignity, he did not refuse to carry the nets, or to hold the dogs, or to go, as his companion, over the ridges of the rugged mountains; and by lengthened intimacy he augmented his flame. And now Titan was almost in his mid course between the approaching and the past night, and was at an equal distance from them both; {when} they stripped their bodies of their garments, and shone with the juice of the oily olive, and engaged in the game of the broad quoit.[29] First, Phoebus tossed it, well poised, into the airy breeze, and clove the opposite clouds with its weight. After a long pause, the heavy mass fell on the hard ground, and showed skill united with strength. Immediately the Taenarian youth,[30] in his thoughtlessness, and urged on by eagerness for the sport, hastened to take up the circlet; but the hard ground sent it back into the air with a rebound against thy face, Hyacinthus.

"Equally as pale as the youth does the Divinity himself turn; and he bears up thy sinking limbs; and at one moment he cherishes thee, at another, he stanches thy sad wound; {and} now he stops the fleeting life by the application of herbs. His skill is of no avail. The wound is incurable. As if, in a well-watered garden, any one should break down violets, or poppies, and lilies, as they adhere to their yellow stalks; drooping, they would suddenly hang down their languid heads, and could not support themselves; and would look towards the ground with their tops. So sink his dying features; and, forsaken by its vigour, the neck is a burden to itself, and reclines upon the shoulder. 'Son of Oebalus,' says Phoebus, 'thou fallest, deprived of thy early youth; and I look on thy wound as my own condemnation. Thou art {the object of} my grief, and {the cause of} my crime. With thy death is my right hand to be charged; I am the author of thy destruction. Yet what is my fault? unless to engage in sport can be termed a fault; unless it can be called a fault, too, to have loved thee. And oh! that I could give my life for thee, or together with thee; but since I am restrained by the decrees of destiny, thou shalt ever be with me, and shalt dwell on my mindful lips. The lyre struck with my hand, my songs, too, shall celebrate thee; and, {becoming} a new flower, by the inscription {on thee}, thou shalt imitate[31] my lamentations. The time, too, shall come, at which a most valiant hero[32] shall add his {name} to this flower, and it shall be read upon the same leaves.'

"While such things are being uttered by the prophetic lips of Apollo, behold! the blood which, poured on the ground, has stained the grass, ceases to be blood, and a flower springs up, more bright than the Tyrian purple, and it assumes the appearance which lilies {have}, were there not in this a purple hue, {and} in them that of silver. This was not enough for Phoebus, for 'twas he that was the author of this honour. He himself inscribed his own lamentations on the leaves, and the flower has 'ai, ai,' inscribed {thereon}; and the mournful characters[33] {there} are traced. Nor is Sparta ashamed to have given birth to Hyacinthus; and his honours continue to the present time; the Hyacinthian festival[34] returns, too, each year, to be celebrated with the prescribed ceremonials, after the manner of former {celebrations}."

[Footnote 26: Descendant of Amycla.—Ver. 162. Hyacinthus is here called Amyclides, as though being the son of Amycla, whereas, in line 196 he is called 'Oebalides,' as though the son of Oebalus. Pausamas and Apollodorus (in one instance) say that he was the son of Amycla, the Lacedaemonian, who founded the city of Amyclae; though, in another place, Apollodorus says that Pierus was his father. On the other hand, Hyginus, Lucian, and Servius say that he was the son of Oebalus. Some explain 'Amyclide,' as meaning 'born at Amyclae;' and, indeed, Claudian says that he was born there. Others, again, would have Oebalide to signify 'born at Oebalia.' But, if he was the son of Amycla, this could not be the signification, as Oebalia was founded by Oebalus, who was the grandson of Amycla. The poet, most probably, meant to style him the descendant of Amycla, as being his great grandson, and the son of Oebalus. Again, in the 217th line of this Book, the Poet says that he was born at Sparta; but, in the fifth Book of the Fasti, line 223, he mentions Therapnae, a town of Laconia, as having been his birthplace. Perizonius thinks that Ovid has here inadvertently confounded the different versions of the story of Hyacinthus.]

[Footnote 27: In the middle.—Ver. 168. Delphi, situated on a ridge of Parnassus, was styled the navel of the world, as it was supposed to be situate in the middle of the earth. The story was, that Jupiter, having let go two eagles, or pigeons, at the opposite extremities of the earth, with the view of ascertaining the central spot of it, they met in their flight at this place.]

[Footnote 28: Unfortified Sparta.—Ver. 169. Sparta was not fortified, because Lycurgus considered that it ought to trust for its defence to nothing but the valour and patriotism of its citizens.]

[Footnote 29: The broad quoit.—Ver. 177. The 'discus,' or quoit, of the ancients, was made of brass, iron, stone, or wood, and was about ten or twelve inches in diameter. Sometimes, a heavy mass of iron, of spherical form, was thrown instead of the 'discus.' It was perforated in the middle, and a rope or thong being passed through, was used in throwing it.]

[Footnote 30: The Taenarian youth.—Ver. 183. Hyacinthus is so called, not as having been born there, but because Taenarus was a famous headland or promontory of Laconia, his native country.]

[Footnote 31: Thou shalt imitate.—Ver. 206. The blood of Hyacinthus, changing into a flower, according to the ideas of the poets, the words Ai, Ai, expressive, in the Greek language, of lamentation, were said to be impressed on its leaves.]

[Footnote 32: Most valiant hero.—Ver. 207. He alludes to Ajax, the son of Telamon, from whose blood, when he slew himself, a similar flower was said to have arisen, with the letters Ai, Ai, on its leaves, expressive either of grief, or denoting the first two letters of his name, Aias. See Book xiii. line 397. The hyacinth was the emblem of death, among the ancient Greeks.]

[Footnote 33: Mournful characters.—Ver. 216. The letters are called 'funesta,' because the words ai, ai were the expressions of lamentation at funerals.]

[Footnote 34: Hyacinthian festival.—Ver. 219. The Hyacinthia was a festival celebrated every year at Amyclae, in Laconia, by the people of that town and of Sparta. Some writers say that it was held solely in honour of Apollo; others, of Hyacinthus; but it is much more probable, that it was intended to be in honour of both Apollo and Hyacinthus. The festival lasted for three days, and began on the longest day of the Spartan month, Hecatombaeus. On the first and last day, sacrifices were offered to the dead, and the fate of Hyacinthus was lamented. Garlands were forbidden to be worn on those days, bread was not allowed to be eaten, and no songs were recited in praise of Apollo. On the second day, rejoicing and amusements prevailed; the praises of Apollo were sung, and horse races were celebrated; after which, females, riding in chariots made of wicker-work, and splendidly adorned, formed a beautiful procession. On this day, sacrifices were offered, and the citizens kept open houses for their friends and relations. Athenaeus mentions a favourite meal of the Laconians on this occasion, which was called kopis, and consisted of cakes, bread, meat, broth, raw herbs, figs, and other fruits, with the seeds of the lupine. Macrobius says, that chaplets of ivy were worn at the Hyacinthia; but, of course, that remark can only apply to the second day. Even when they had taken the field against an enemy, the people of Amyclae were in the habit of returning home on the approach of the Hyacinthia, to celebrate that festival.]


Hyacinthus, as Pausanias relates, was a youth of Laconia. His father educated him with so much care, that he was looked upon as the favourite of Apollo, and of the Muses. As he was one day playing with his companions, he unfortunately received a blow on the head from a quoit, from the effects of which he died soon after. Some funeral verses were probably composed on the occasion; in which it was said, with the view of comforting his relations, that Boreas, jealous of the affection which Apollo had evinced for the youth, had turned aside the quoit with which they played; and thus, by degrees, in length of time the name of Apollo became inseparably connected with the story.

The Lacedaemonians each year celebrated a solemn festival near his tomb, where they offered sacrifices to him; and we are told by Athenaeus, that they instituted games in his honour, which were called after his name. Pausanias makes mention of his tomb, upon which he says was engraved the figure of Apollo. His alleged change into the flower of the same name is probably solely owing to the similarity of their names. It is not very clear what flower it is that was known to the ancients under the name of Hyacinthus. Dioscorides believes it to be that called 'vaccinium' by the Romans, which is of a purple colour, and on which can be traced, though imperfectly, the letters ai (alas!) mentioned by Ovid. The lamentations of Apollo, on the death of Hyacinthus, formed the subject of bitter, and, indeed, deserved raillery, for several of the satirical writers among the ancients.

FABLE VI. [X.220-242]

Venus, incensed at the Cerastae for polluting the island of Cyprus, which is sacred to her, with the human sacrifices which they offer to their Gods, transforms them into bulls; and the Propoetides, as a punishment for their dissolute conduct, are transformed into rocks.

"But if, perchance, you were to ask of Amathus,[35] abounding in metals, whether she would wish to have produced the Propoetides; she would deny it, as well as those whose foreheads were of old rugged with two horns, from which they also derived the name of Cerastae. Before the doors of these was standing an altar of Jupiter Hospes,[36] {a scene} of tragic horrors; if any stranger had seen it stained with blood, he would have supposed that sucking calves had been killed there, and Amathusian sheep;[37] strangers were slain there. Genial Venus, offended at the wicked sacrifices {there offered}, was preparing to abandon her own cities and the Ophiusian lands.[38] 'But how,' said she, 'have these delightful spots, how have my cities offended? What criminality is there in them? Let the inhuman race rather suffer punishment by exile or by death, or if there is any middle course between death and exile; and what can that be, but the punishment of changing their shape?'

"While she is hesitating into what she shall change them, she turns her eyes towards their horns, and is put in mind that those may be left to them; and {then} she transforms their huge limbs into {those of} fierce bulls.

"And yet the obscene Propoetides presumed to deny that Venus is a Goddess; for which they are reported the first {of all women} to have prostituted their bodies,[39] with their beauty, through the anger of the Goddess. And when their shame was gone, and the blood of their face was hardened, they were, by a slight transition, changed into hard rocks."

[Footnote 35: Amathus.—Ver. 220. Amathus was a city of Cyprus, sacred to Venus, and famous for the mines in its neighbourhood.]

[Footnote 36: Jupiter Hospes.—Ver. 224. Jupiter, in his character of Zeus xenios, was the guardian and protector of travellers and wayfarers.]

[Footnote 37: Amathusian sheep.—Ver. 227. Amathusia was one of the names of the island of Cyprus.]

[Footnote 38: Ophiusian lands.—Ver. 229. Cyprus was anciently called Ophiusia, on account of the number of serpents that infested it; ophis being the Greek for a serpent.]

[Footnote 39: Their bodies.—Ver. 240. The women of Cyprus were notorious for the levity of their character. We learn from Herodotus that they had recourse to prostitution to raise their marriage portions.]


The Cerastae, a people of the island of Cyprus, were, perhaps, said to have been changed into bulls, to show the barbarous nature and rustic manners of those islanders, who stained their altars with the blood of strangers, in sacrifice to the Gods.

An equivocation of names also, probably, aided in originating the story. The island of Cyprus is surrounded with promontories which rise out of the sea, and whose pointed rocks appear at a distance like horns, from which it had the name of Cerastis, the Greek word keras, signifying a 'horn.' Thus, the inhabitants having the name of Cerastae, it was most easy to invent a fiction of their having been once turned into oxen, to account the more readily for their bearing that name.

The Propoetides, who inhabited the same island, were females of very dissolute character. Justin, and other writers, mention a singular and horrible custom in that island, of prostituting young girls in the very temple of Venus. It was most probably the utter disregard of these women for common decency, that occasioned the poets to say that they were transformed into rocks.

FABLE VII. [X.243-297]

Pygmalion, shocked by the dissolute lives of the Propoetides, throws off all fondness for the female sex, and resolves on leading a life of perpetual celibacy. Falling in love with a statue which he has made, Venus animates it; on which he marries this new object of his affections, and has a son by her, who gives his name to the island.

"When Pygmalion saw these women spending their lives in criminal pursuits, shocked at the vices which Nature had {so} plentifully imparted to the female disposition, he lived a single life without a wife, and for a long time was without a partner of his bed. In the meantime, he ingeniously carved {a statue of} snow-white ivory with wondrous skill; and gave it a beauty with which no woman can be born; and {then} conceived a passion for his own workmanship. The appearance was that of a real virgin, whom you might suppose to be alive, and if modesty did not hinder her, to be desirous to move; so much did art lie concealed under his skill. Pygmalion admires it; and entertains, within his breast, a flame for this fictitious body.

"Often does he apply his hands to the work, to try whether it is a {human} body, or whether it is ivory; and yet he does not own it to be ivory. He gives it kisses, and fancies that they are returned, and speaks to it, and takes hold of it, and thinks that his fingers make an impression on the limbs which they touch, and is fearful lest a livid mark should come on her limbs {when} pressed. And one while he employs soft expressions, at another time he brings her presents that are agreeable to maidens, {such as} shells, and smooth pebbles, and little birds, and flowers of a thousand tints, and lilies, and painted balls, and tears of the Heliades, that have fallen from the trees. He decks her limbs, too, with clothing, and puts jewels on her fingers; he puts, {too}, a long necklace on her neck. Smooth pendants hang from her ears, and bows from her breast.[40] All things are becoming {to her}; and she does not seem less beautiful than when naked. He places her on coverings dyed with the Sidonian shell, and calls her the companion of his bed, and lays down her reclining neck upon soft feathers, as though it were sensible.

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