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Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 39

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APOLLO AND THE MUSES.—Mengs.

[90] Erato, who preferred lyric poetry to all other styles of composition, was pictured with a lyre; and Polyhymnia, Muse of rhetoric, held a scepter to show that eloquence rules with resistless sway.

Calliope, Muse of heroic poetry, also wore a laurel crown; and Urania, Muse of astronomy, held mathematical instruments, indicative of her love of the exact sciences.

This glorious sisterhood was wont to assemble on Mount Parnassus or on Mount Helicon, to hold their learned debates on poetry, science, and music.

Apollo’s favorite attendant was Eos (Aurora), the fair goddess of dawn, whose rose-tipped fingers opened wide the eastern gates of pearl, and who then flashed across the sky to announce her master’s coming.

“Hail, gentle Dawn! mild blushing goddess, hail!
Rejoiced I see thy purple mantle spread
O’er half the skies; gems pave thy radiant way,
And orient pearls from every shrub depend.”
Somerville.
Story of Aurora and Tithonus.

This dainty goddess loved and married Tithonus, Prince of Troy, and won from the gods the boon of everlasting life to confer upon him. Alas! however, she forgot to ask at the same time for continued youth; and her husband grew older and older, and finally became so decrepit, that he was a burden to her. Knowing he would never die, and wishing to rid herself of his burdensome presence, she changed him into a grasshopper.

At this time the goddess fell in love with Cephalus, the young hunter, and frequently visited him on Mount Hymettus.

“‘Come,’ Phœbus cries, ‘Aurora, come—too late
Thou linger’st slumbering with thy wither’d mate!
Leave him, and to Hymettus’ top repair!
Thy darling Cephalus expects thee there!’
The goddess, with a blush, her love betrays,
But mounts, and, driving rapidly, obeys.”
Keats.
Worship of Apollo.

[91] The principal temples dedicated to the worship of Apollo were at Delos, his birthplace, and at Delphi, where a priestess called Pythia gave out mysterious oracles purporting to have come from the god. The ancients everywhere could not fail to recognize the sun’s kindly influence and beneficent power, and were therefore ever ready to worship Apollo.

“I marvel not, O sun! that unto thee
In adoration man should bow the knee,
And pour his prayers of mingled awe and love;
For like a God thou art, and on thy way
Of glory sheddest with benignant ray,
Beauty, and life, and joyance from above.”
Southey.

The most renowned among the numerous festivals held in honor of Apollo were, without exception, the Pythian Games, celebrated at Delphi every three years.

A manly, beardless youth of great beauty, Apollo is generally crowned with laurels, and bears either a bow or a lyre.

“The Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light—
The Sun in human limbs array’d, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot—the arrow bright
With an immortal’s vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity.”
Byron.

One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the famous Colossus of Rhodes, was a statue of Apollo, his head encircled with a halo of bright sunbeams, and his legs spread wide apart to allow vessels, with all their sails spread, to pass in and out of the harbor, whose entrance he guarded for many a year.

[92]

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DIANA OF VERSAILLES. (Louvre, Paris.)

[93]

CHAPTER VI.

DIANA.

Diana (Cynthia, Phœbe, Selene, Artemis), the fair twin sister of Apollo, was not only goddess of the moon, but also of the chase.

“‘Goddess serene, transcending every star!
Queen of the sky, whose beams are seen afar!
By night heaven owns thy sway, by day the grove,
When, as chaste Dian, here thou deign’st to rove.’”
Byron.

In works of art this goddess is generally represented as a beautiful maiden, clad in a short hunting dress, armed with a bow, a quiver full of arrows at her side, and a crescent on her well-poised head.

Proud of her two children, Apollo and Diana, Latona boasted far and wide that such as hers had never been, for they excelled all others in beauty, intelligence, and power.

Story of Niobe.

The daughter of Tantalus, Niobe, heard this boast, and laughed in scorn; for she was the mother of fourteen children,—seven manly sons and seven beautiful daughters. In her pride she called aloud to Latona, and taunted her because her offspring numbered but two.

Shortly after, Niobe even went so far as to forbid her people to worship Apollo and Diana, and gave orders that all the statues representing them in her kingdom should be torn down from their pedestals, and destroyed. Enraged at this insult, Latona called her children to her side, and bade them go forth and slay all her luckless rival’s offspring.

[94] Provided with well-stocked quivers, the twins set out to do her bidding; and Apollo, meeting the seven lads out hunting, cut their existence short with his unfailing arrows.

“Phœbus slew the sons
With arrows from his silver bow, incensed
At Niobe.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).

With all proverbial speed the tidings reached Niobe, whose heart failed when she heard that her seven sons, her pride and delight, had fallen under Apollo’s shafts, and that they now lay cold and stiff in the forest, where they had eagerly hastened a few hours before, to follow the deer to its cover.

As she mourned their untimely death, she thought her cup of sorrow was full; but long ere her first passion of grief was over, Diana began to slay her daughters.

“But what is this? What means this oozing flood?
Her daughters, too, are weltering in their blood:
One clasps her mother’s knees, one clings around
Her neck, and one lies prostrate on the ground;
One seeks her breast; one eyes the coming woe
And shudders; one in terror crouches low.”
Meleager.


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