Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 193


The Diana of the hind, in the palace of the Louvre, may be considered the counterpart to the Apollo Belvedere. The attitude much resembles that of the Apollo, the sizes correspond and also the style of execution. It is a work of the highest order, though by no means equal to the Apollo. The attitude is that of hurried and eager motion, the face that of a huntress in the excitement of the chase. The left hand is extended over the forehead of the Hind which runs by her side, the right arm reaches backward over the shoulder to draw an arrow from the quiver.


Of the Venus of Melos, perhaps the most famous of our statues of mythology, very little is known. There are many indeed who believe that it is not a statue of Venus at all.

It was found in the year 1820 in the Island of Melos by a peasant, who sold it to the French consul at the place. The statue was standing in the theatre, which had been filled up with rubbish in the course of centuries, and when discovered was broken in several places, and some of the pieces were gone. These missing pieces, notably the two arms, have been restored in various ways by modern artists. As has been said above, there is a controversy as to whether the statue represents Venus or some other goddess. Much has been written on each side, but the question still remains unsettled. The general opinion of those who contend that it is not Venus is that it is a statue or Nike or Victory.


Homer, from whose poems of the Iliad and Odyssey we have taken the chief part of our chapters of the Trojan war and the return of the Grecians, is almost as mythical a personage as the heroes he celebrates. The traditionary story is that he was a wandering minstrel, blind and old, who travelled from place to place singing his lays to the music of his harp, in the courts of princes or the cottages of peasants, and dependent upon the voluntary offerings of his hearers for support. Byron calls him "The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle," and a well-known epigram, alluding to the uncertainty of the fact of his birthplace, says,

  "Seven wealthy towns contend for Homer dead,
  Through which the living Homer begged his bread."

An older version is,

  "Seven cities warred for Homer being dead,
  Who living had no roof to shroud his head."

These lines are by Thomas Heywood; the others are ascribed to
Thomas Seward.

These seven cities were Smyrna, Scio, Rhodes, Colophon, Salamis,
Argos, and Athens.

Modern scholars have doubted whether the Homeric poems are the work of any single mind. This arises from the difficulty of believing that poems of such length could have been committed to writing at so early an age as that usually assigned to these, an age earlier than the date of any remaining inscriptions or coins, and when no materials, capable of containing such long productions were yet introduced into use. On the other hand it is asked how poems of such length could have been handed down from age to age by means of the memory alone. This is answered by the statement that there was a professional body of men, called Rhapsodists, who recited the poems of others, and whose business it was to commit to memory and rehearse for pay the national and patriotic legends.