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1000 Mythological Characters Briefly Described

Page: 17

Laocoon

[117] Pomona (Pomo′na). The Roman goddess of fruit-trees and gardens.

“So to the sylvan lodge
They came, that like Pomona’s arbor smiled
With flowerets decked and fragrant smells.”
Milton.

Poplar-Tree, see Heliades.

Portunus (Portu′nus) (Palaemon), son of Ino, was the Roman god of harbors.

Poseidon (Posei′don). The Greek name of Neptune, god of the sea.

Pracriti (Prac′riti). The Hindoo goddess of nature.

Predictions, see Cassandra.

Priam (Pri′am). The last king of Troy. See Paris.

Priapus (Pria′pus), the guardian of gardens and god of natural reproduction, was the son of Venus and Bacchus.

Priapus could not half describe the grace
(Though god of gardens) of this charming place.”
Pope.

Prisca (Pris′ca). Another name of Vesta.

Procris (Pro′cris). Daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens. See Cephalus, her husband.

Progne (Prog′ne), wife of Tereus. Commonly called Procne, whose sister was Philomela. See Itys and Tereus.

“Complaining oft gives respite to our grief,
From hence the wretched Progne sought relief.”
F. Lewis.

Prometheus (Prome′theus), the son of Japetus and father of Deucalion. He presumed to make clay men, and animate them with fire which he had [118] stolen from heaven. This so displeased Jupiter that he sent him a box full of evils, which Prometheus refused; but his brother Epimetheus, not so cautious, opened it, and the evils spread over all the earth. Jupiter then punished Prometheus by commanding Mercury to bind him to Mount Caucasus, where a vulture daily preyed upon his liver, which grew in the night as much as it had been reduced in the day, so that the punishment was a prolonged torture. Hercules at last killed the vulture and set Prometheus free.

Prophecy, see Nereus.

Proserpine (Proser′pine). A daughter of Jupiter and Ceres. Pluto carried her off to the infernal regions and made her his wife. She was known by the names of “the Queen of Hell,” Hecate, Juno Inferna, and Libitina. She was called by the Greeks Persephone.

“He sung, and hell consented
To hear the poet’s prayer,
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair.”
F. Lewis.

Proteus (Pro′teus). A marine deity, who could foretell events and convert himself at will into all sorts of shapes. According to later legends, Proteus was a son of Poseidon.

“The changeful Proteus, whose prophetic mind,
The secret cause of Bacchus’ rage divined.”
The Lusiad.
“What chain can hold this varying Proteus fast?”
Budgell.

[119] Psyche (Psy′che). The wife of Cupid. The name is Greek, signifying the soul or spirit.

Pygmalion (Pygma′lion). A famous sculptor who had resolved to remain unmarried, but he made such a beautiful statue of a goddess that he begged Venus to give it life. His request being granted, Pygmalion married the animated statue.

“Few, like Pygmalion, doat on lifeless charms,
Or care to clasp a statue in their arms.”

Pylades (Py′lades). The son of Strophius, King of Phanote, and husband of Electra; famous on account of his faithful friendship with Orestes.

“His wine
Was better, Pylades, than thine.
... If you please
To choose me for your Pylades.”
F. Lewis.

Pylotis (Pylo′tis). A Greek name of Minerva.

Pyracmon (Pyr′acmon), one of the chiefs of the Cyclopes.

Pyramus and Thisbe (Pyr′amus and This′be). Two Babylonian lovers, the children of hostile neighbors. See Shakespeare’s burlesque of the story of their loves, in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Pyrois (Py′rois) (luminous). One of the four chariot horses of Sol, the Sun.

Pythia (Py′thia). The priestess of Apollo at Delphi, who delivered the answers of the oracle. Also the name of the Pythian games celebrated in honor of Apollo’s victory over the dragon Python.

[120] Python (Py′thon). A famous serpent killed by Apollo, which haunted the caves of Parnassus. See Septerion.

Quadratus (Quadra′tus). A surname given to Mercury, because some of his statues were four-sided.

Quadrifrons (Quad′rifrons). Janus was sometimes depicted with four faces instead of the usual two, and he was then called Janus Quadrifrons.

Quies (Qui′es). The Roman goddess of rest; she had a temple just outside the Colline gate of Rome.

Quietus (Quie′tus). One of the names of Pluto.

Quirinus (Quiri′nus). A name given to Mars during wartime; Virgil refers to Jupiter under the same name.

Quoit, see Hyacinthus.

Race, see Atalanta.

Radamanthus (Radaman′thus), see Rhadamanthus.

Rage, see Furies.

Rainbow, see Iris.

Rama (Ra′ma). A Hindoo god, who was the terrestrial representative of Vishnu.

Ram’s Hide, see Golden Fleece.

Reeds, see Pan, also Syrinx.

Rembha (Rem′bha). The Hindoo goddess of pleasure.

Reproduction, see Priapus.

Rest, see Quies.

Revenge, see Ate.

[121] Rhadamanthus (Rhadaman′thus), a son of Jupiter and Europa, was the ruler of the Greeks in the Asiatic islands, and judge of the dead in the infernal regions.

“These are the realms of unrelenting fate:
And awful Rhadamanthus rules the state.
He hears and judges each committed crime,
Inquires into the manner, place, and time;
The conscious wretch must all his acts reveal,
Loth to confess, unable to conceal;
From the first moment of his vital breath,
To the last hour of unrepenting death.”
Dryden.

Rhamnusia (Rhamnu′sia). A name of Nemesis, from Rhamnus, a town in Attica, where she had a temple in which was her statue, made of one stone ten cubits high.

Rhea (Rhe′a). The Greek name of Cybele. She was a daughter of Uranus and Gaea, and was called Mother of the gods.

Rhetoric, see Calliope, also Polyhymnia.

Riches, see Plutus.

Riddle, see Sphinx.

Rimmon (Rim′mon). A Phrygian god of whom Milton says—

“... Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abana and Pharpar, lucid streams.”

Riot, see Saturnalia.

River of Fire, see Phlegethon.

Roads, see Vialis.

Robber, see Cacus, Coeculus.

[122] Romulus (Rom′ulus). The traditional founder of Rome. He was a son of Mars and Ilia, and twin brother of Remus. The infants were thrown into the Tiber, but were miraculously saved and suckled by a she-wolf, till they were found by Faustulus, a shepherd, who brought them up. Remus was killed in a quarrel with his brother, and Romulus became the first King of Rome.

Rumia Dea (Rumi′a Dea). The Roman goddess of babes in arms.

Rumina (Ru′mina). Roman pastoral deities, who protected suckling cattle.

Runcina (Runci′na). The goddess of weeding or cleansing the ground.

Sacrifices were ceremonious offerings made to the gods. To every deity a distinct victim was allotted, and the greatest care was always taken in the selection of them. Anything in any way blemished was considered as an insult to the god. At the time of the sacrifice the people were called together by heralds led by a procession of musicians. The priest, clothed in white, was crowned with a wreath made of the leaves of the tree which was sacred to the particular god to whom the sacrifice was offered. The victim had its horns gilt, and was adorned with a chaplet similar to that of the priest, and was decorated with bright-colored ribbons. The [123] priest then said, “Who is here?” to which the spectators replied, “Many good people.” “Begone all ye who are profane,” said the priest; and he then began a prayer addressed to all the gods. The sacrifice was begun by putting corn, frankincense, flour, salt, cakes, and fruit on the head of the victim. This was called the Immolation. The priest then took a cup of wine, tasted it, and handed it to the bystanders to taste also; some of it was then poured between the horns of the victim, and a few of the saturated hairs were pulled off and put in the fire which was burning on the altar. Then, turning to the east, the priest drew with his knife a crooked line along the back of the beast from the head to the tail, and told the assistants to kill the animal. This was done directly, and the entrails of the victim taken out and carefully examined by the Haruspices to find out what was prognosticated. The carcase was then divided, and the thighs, covered with fat, were put in the fire, and the rest of the animal was cut up, cooked, and eaten. This feast was celebrated with dancing, music, and hymns, in praise of the god in whose honor the sacrifice was made. On great occasions as many as a hundred bullocks were offered at one time; and it is said that Pythagoras made this offering when he found out the demonstration of the forty-seventh proposition of the book of Euclid.

[124] Saga (Sa′ga). The Scandinavian goddess of history. The word means a saw or saying; hence Sagas, which embody Scandinavian legends, and heroic or mythical traditions.

Sagittarius (Sagitta′rius), see Chiron.

Sails, see Daedalus.

Salamanders (Sal′aman′ders). The genii who, according to Plato, lived in fire.

“The spirits of fiery termagants in flame,
Mount up and take a Salamander’s name.”
Pope.

Salatia (Sala′tia), or Salacia, a Roman goddess of the salt water. See Amphitrite.

Salii (Sal′ii). The priests of Mars who had charge of the sacred shields.

Salmoneus (Salmo′neus). A king of Elis who, for trying to imitate Jupiter’s thunders, was sent by the god straight to the infernal regions.

Salus (Sa′lus). The Roman goddess of health.

Sappho (Sap′pho), a celebrated poetess, a native of Lesbos, who flourished in the seventh century B.C. Her only connection with the goddesses of the time is that the Greeks called her “The tenth Muse.”

Sarcasm, see Momus.

Saron (Sa′ron), a sea-god.

Sarpedon (Sarpe′don), son of Jupiter by Europa. He accompanied Glaucus, when the latter set out to assist Priam against the Greeks in the Trojan War. He was slain by Patroclus.

[125] Saturn (Sat′urn), king of the Universe, was father of Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto. These gods quarreled amongst themselves as to the division of their father’s kingdom, which ended in Jupiter having heaven and earth, Neptune the sea, and Pluto the infernal regions.

Saturnalia (Saturna′lia). Festivals held in honor of Saturn about the 16th or 18th of December. Principally famous for the riotous disorder which generally attended them.

Saturnius (Satur′nius). A name given to Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto, as sons of Saturn.

Satyavrata (Satya′vra′ta). The Hindoo god of law. The same as Menu.

Satyrs (Sat′yrs). Spirits of the woodland, half men, half goats, and fond of wine and women. They were the attendants of Dionysus, and were similar in most respects to the fauns who attended Pan. See Silenus.

“Five satyrs of the woodland sort.
. . . . . .
With asses’ hoofs, great goggle eyes,
And double chins of monstrous size.”
Yalden.

Scylla (Scyl′la). A beautiful nymph who excited the jealousy of Neptune’s wife, Amphitrite, and was changed by the goddess into a frightful sea-monster, which had six fearfully ugly heads and necks, and which, rising unexpectedly from the deep, used to take off as many as six sailors from a vessel, and carry them [126] to the bottom of the sea. An alternative danger with the whirlpool, Charybdis, which threatened destruction to all mariners.

“There on the right her dogs foul Scylla hides,
Charybdis roaring on the left presides.”
Virgil.

Scylla (Scyl′la). A daughter of Nysus, who was changed into a lark for cutting off a charmed lock of her father’s hair. See Nysus.

Sea, see Neptune.

Seasons, see Vertumnus.

Sea-Weed, see Glaucus.

Segetia (Sege′tia). A rural divinity who protected corn during harvest-time.

Sem. The Egyptian Hercules.

Semele (Sem′ele), daughter of Cadmus and the mother of Bacchus (Dionysus), who was born in a miraculous manner after Jupiter had visited her, at her special request, in all his terrible splendor. She was deified after her death, and named Thyone.

Semi-Dei were the demi-gods.

Semones (Semo′nes). Roman gods of a class between the “immortal” and the “mortal,” such as the Satyrs and Fauns.

Septerion (Septe′rion). A festival held every nine years at Delphi in honor of Apollo, at which the victory of that god over the Python was grandly represented.

[127] Serapis (Sera′pis). The Egyptian Jupiter, and generally considered to be the same as Osiris. See Apis.

Serpent. The Greeks and Romans considered the serpent as symbolical of guardian spirits, and as such were often engraved on their altars. See Aesculapius, Apollo, Chimaera, Eurydice, and Medusa.

“Pleasing was his shape,
And lovely; never since of serpent kind,
Lovelier; not those that in Illyria changed
Hermione and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus, nor to which transformed
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline, was seen.”
Milton.

Seshanaga (Sesh′anag′a). The Egyptian Pluto.

Sewers, see Cloacina.

Sharp-sightedness, see Lynceus.

Shepherds, see Pan.

Shields, see Ancilia.

Ships, see Neptune.

Silence, see Harpocrates and Tacita.

Silenus (Sile′nus). A Bacchanalian demi-god, the chief of the Satyrs. He is generally represented as a fat, drunken old man, riding on an ass, and crowned with flowers.

“And there two Satyrs on the ground,
Stretched at his ease, their sire Silenus found.”

Singing, see Polyhymnia, Thamyris.

Sirens, The (Si′rens). Sea nymphs, who by their music allured mariners to destruction. To avoid the [128] snare when nearing their abode, Ulysses had the ears of his companions stopped with wax, and had himself tied to the mast of his ship. They thus sailed past in safety; but the Sirens, thinking that their charms had lost their powers, drowned themselves.

Sisyphus (Sis′yphus), son of Aeolus and Enaretta. He was condemned to roll a stone to the top of a hill in the infernal regions, and as it rolled down again when he reached the summit, his punishment was perpetual.

“I turned my eye, and as I turned, surveyed
A mournful vision! The Sisyphian shade.
With many a weary step and many a groan,
Up the high hill he leaves a huge round stone,
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound
Thunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground.”
Pope.
“Thy stone, O Sisyphus, stands still
Ixion rests upon his wheel,
And the pale specters dance.”
F. Lewis.

Siva (Si′va). In Hindoo mythology the “changer of form.” He is usually spoken of as the “Destroyer and Regenerator.”

Slaughter, see Furies.

Slaves, see Feronia.

Sleep, see Caduceus, Morpheus, and Somnus.

Sleipner (Sleip′ner). The eight-legged horse of Odin, the chief of the Scandinavian gods.

Mercury, poised on one foot and with one arm raised before him

See page 86


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