Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art
Glauce (the broad daylight) next charms Jason; and the poisoned robe which causes her death is woven by Medea, now the evening twilight, who mounts her dragon car and flies to the far east, forsaking her husband (the sun) in his old age, when he is about to sink into the sleep of death.
Meleager is also a solar hero. After joining the Argonautic expedition, and wandering far and wide, he returns home, slays the boar (or drought fiend), loves, but parts from, Atalanta (the dawn maiden), and is finally slain by his own mother, who casts into the flames the brand upon which his existence depends.
In the Theban solar myth, Laius (derived from the same root as “Leto” and “Latmus”) is the emblem of darkness, who, after marrying Jocasta (like Iole, a personification of the violet-tinted clouds of dawn), becomes the father of Œdipus, doomed by fate to be the murderer of his father. Early in life Œdipus is exposed on the barren hillside to perish,—an emblem of the horizontal rays of the rising sun, which [Pg 393] seem to lie for a while upon the mountain slopes, ere they rise to begin their journey.
He too, like Cadmus, Apollo, Hercules, Perseus, Theseus, and Jason, is forced to wander far from home, and, after a prolonged journey, encounters and slays Laius (the darkness), from whom he derived his existence, and kills the dread monster of drought, the Sphinx, whose very name means “one who binds fast,”—a creature who had imprisoned the rain in the clouds, and thus caused great distress.
Urged on by unrelenting fate, he marries his own mother, Jocasta, now the violet-tinted twilight, and ends his life amid lightning flashes and rolls of thunder, after being accompanied to the end of his course by Antigone (“the pale light which springs up opposite the sun at his setting”). This story—which at first was merely intended to signify that the sun (Œdipus) must slay the darkness (Laius) and linger for a while beside the violet-colored clouds (Jocasta)—having lost its physical meaning, the Thebans added the tragic sequel, for it seemed but poetic justice that the author of such crimes should receive signal punishment.
As the Eumenides, or Erinnyes, were at first merely the searching light of day, from which nothing can be hidden, they came gradually to be considered the detectives and avengers of crime, and were therefore said to take possession of a criminal at the end of his course, and hurry him down into darkness to inflict horrible torments upon him.