Myths part 1


       *       *       *       *       *












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

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

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

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

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

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


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  Introduction,                                       7

      URANUS AND GÆA (Coelus and Terra),  11

      CRONUS (Saturn),                      14
      RHEA (Ops),                           18
      DIVISION OF THE WORLD,                19

      ZEUS (Jupiter),                       26
      HERA (Juno),                          38
      PALLAS-ATHENE (Minerva),              43
      THEMIS,                               48
      HESTIA (Vesta),                       48
      DEMETER (Ceres),                      50
      APHRODITE (Venus),                    58
      HELIOS (Sol),                         61
      EOS (Aurora),                         67
      PHOEBUS-APOLLO,                     68
      HECATE,                               85
      SELENE (Luna),                        86
      ARTEMIS (Diana),                      87
      HEPHÆSTUS (Vulcan),                   97
      POSEIDON (Neptune),                  101

      OCEANUS,                             107
      NEREUS,                              108
      PROTEUS,                             108
      TRITON AND THE TRITONS,              109
      GLAUCUS,                             109
      THETIS,                              110
      THAUMAS, PHORCYS, AND CETO,          111
      LEUCOTHEA,                           111
      THE SIRENS,                          112
      ARES (Mars),                         112
      NIKE (Victoria),                     117
      HERMES (Mercury),                    117
      DIONYSUS (Bacchus or Liber),         124
      AÏDES (Pluto),                       130
      PLUTUS,                              137

      THE HARPIES,                         137
      ERINYES, EUMENIDES (Furiæ, Diræ),    138
      MOIRÆ OR FATES (Parcæ),              139
      NEMESIS,                             141

      NYX (Nox),                           142
      THANATOS (Mors), HYPNUS (Somnus),    142
      MORPHEUS,                            143
      THE GORGONS,                         144
      GRÆÆ,                                145
      SPHINX,                              146
      TYCHE (Fortuna) and ANANKE (Necessitas),     147
      KER,                                 149
      ATE,                                 149
      MOMUS,                               149
      EROS (Cupid, Amor) and PSYCHE,       150
      HYMEN,                               154
      IRIS,                                155
      HEBE (Juventas),                     156
      GANYMEDES,                           157
      THE MUSES,                           157
      PEGASUS,                             162
      THE HESPERIDES,                      162
      CHARITES OR GRACES,                  163
      HORÆ (Seasons),                      164
      THE NYMPHS,                          165
      THE WINDS,                           170
      PAN (Faunus),                        171
      THE SATYRS,                          174
      PRIAPUS,                             175
      ASCLEPIAS (Æsculapius),              176

      JANUS,                               178
      FLORA,                               180
      ROBIGUS,                             180
      POMONA,                              180
      VERTUMNUS,                           181
      PALES,                               181
      PICUS,                               182
      PICUMNUS AND PILUMNUS,               182
      SILVANUS,                            182
      TERMINUS,                            182
      CONSUS,                              183
      LIBITINA,                            183
      LAVERNA,                             184
      COMUS,                               184
      CAMENÆ,                              184
      GENII,                               185
      MANES,                               185
      PENATES,                             187

      TEMPLES,                             188
      STATUES,                             190
      ALTARS,                              191
      PRIESTS,                             191
      SACRIFICES,                          192
      ORACLES,                             194
      SOOTHSAYERS,                         195
      AUGURS,                              196
      FESTIVALS,                           196

      ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES,                196
      THESMOPHORIA,                        197
      DIONYSIA,                            197
      PANATHENÆA,                          199
      DAPHNEPHORIA,                        200

      SATURNALIA,                          200
      CEREALIA,                            201
      VESTALIA,                            201

      CADMUS,                              203
      PERSEUS,                             205
      ION,                                 210
      DÆDALUS AND ICARUS,                  211
      THE ARGONAUTS,                       213
      PELOPS,                              232
      HERACLES,                            234
      BELLEROPHON,                         256
      THESEUS,                             259
      OEDIPUS,                           269
      THE SEVEN AGAINST THEBES,            272
      THE EPIGONI,                         276
      ALCMÆON AND THE NECKLACE,            277
      THE HERACLIDÆ,                       280
      THE SIEGE OF TROY,                   283

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anxious to preserve the secret of his existence from Cronus, Rhea sent the
infant Zeus secretly to Crete, where he was nourished, protected, and
educated. A sacred goat, called Amalthea, supplied the place of his mother,
by providing him with milk; nymphs, called Melissae, fed him with honey,
and eagles and doves brought him nectar and ambrosia.[4] He was kept
concealed in a cave in the heart of Mount Ida, and the Curetes, or priests
of Rhea, by beating their shields together, kept up a constant noise at the
entrance, which drowned the cries of the child and frightened away all
intruders. Under the watchful care of the Nymphs the infant Zeus throve
rapidly, developing great physical powers, combined with {16} extraordinary
wisdom and intelligence. Grown to manhood, he determined to compel his
father to restore his brothers and sisters to the light of day, and is said
to have been assisted in this difficult task by the goddess Metis, who
artfully persuaded Cronus to drink a potion, which caused him to give back
the children he had swallowed. The stone which had counterfeited Zeus was
placed at Delphi, where it was long exhibited as a sacred relic.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

HESTIA (Vesta).

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

DEMETER (Ceres).

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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