Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 104

Castor was famous for taming and managing horses, and Pollux for skill in boxing. They were united by the warmest affection, and inseparable in all their enterprises. They accompanied the Argonautic expedition. During the voyage a storm arose, and Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian gods, and played on his harp, whereupon the storm ceased and stars appeared on the heads of the brothers. From this incident, Castor and Pollux came afterwards to be considered the patron deities of seamen and voyagers (One of the ships in which St. Paul sailed was named the Castor and Pollux. See Acts xxviii.II.), and the lambent flames, which in certain sates of the atmosphere play round the sails and masts of vessels, were called by their names.

After the Argonautic expedition, we find Castor and Pollux engaged in a war with Idas and Lynceus. Castor was slain, and Pollux, inconsolable for the loss of his brother, besought Jupiter to be permitted to give his own life as a ransom for him. Jupiter so far consented as to allow the two brothers to enjoy the boon of life alternately, passing one day under the earth and the next in the heavenly abodes. According to another form of the story, Jupiter rewarded the attachment of the brothers by placing them among the stars as Gemini, the Twins.

They received divine honors under the name of Dioscuri (sons of Jove). They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later times, taking part with one side or the other, in hard-fought fields, and were said on such occasions to be mounted on magnificent white steeds. Thus, in the early history of Rome, they are said to have assisted the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in their honor on the spot where they appeared.

Macaulay, in his Lays of Ancient Rome, thus alludes to the legend:

  "So like they were, no mortal
  Might one from other know;
  White as snow their armor was,
  Their steeds were white as snow.
  Never on earthly anvil
  Did such rare armor gleam,
  And never did such gallant steeds
  Drink of an earthly stream.
  . . . . . . . . .

  "Back comes the chief in triumph
  Who in the hour of fight
  Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
  In harness on his right.
  Safe comes the ship to haven
  Through billows and through gales,
  If once the great Twin Brethren
  Sit shining on the sails."

In the poem of Atalanta in Calydon Mr. Swinburne thus describes the little Helen and Clytemnestra, the sisters of Castor and Pollux:


  "Even such I saw their sisters, one swan white,
  The little Helen, and less fair than she,
  Fair Clytemnestra, grave as pasturing fawns,
  Who feed and fear the arrow; but at whiles,
  As one smitten with love or wrung with joy,
  She laughs and lightens with her eyes, and then
  Weeps; whereat Helen, having laughed, weeps too,
  And the other chides her, and she being chid speaks naught,
  But cheeks and lips and eyelids kisses her,
  Laughing; so fare they, as in their blameless bud,
  And full of unblown life, the blood of gods."