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

Page: 82

Worship of Bacchus.

Bacchus, god of wine, was worshiped throughout the ancient world, and festivals without number were held in his honor. The most noted were the Greater and Lesser Dionysia, the Liberalia, and the Bacchanalia, where the wildest merrymaking and license were freely indulged in by all participants.

“Bacchus, on thee they call, in hymns divine,
And hang thy statues on the lofty pine:
Hence plenty every laughing vineyard fills,
Thro’ the deep valleys and the sloping hills;
Where’er the god inclines his lovely face,
More luscious fruits the rich plantations grace.
Then let us Bacchus’ praises duly sing,
And consecrated cakes, and chargers bring,
Dragg’d by their horns let victim goats expire,
And roast on hazel spits before the sacred fire.”
“Come, sacred sire, with luscious clusters crown’d,
Here all the riches of thy reign abound;
Each field replete with blushing autumn glows,
And in deep tides for thee the foaming vintage flows.”
Virgil (Warton’s tr.).

Bacchus is generally represented as a handsome youth, crowned with ivy or grape leaves and clusters, bearing the thyrsus, an ivy-circled wand, as scepter, and riding in a chariot drawn by panthers or leopards.

[183]

CHAPTER XIV.

CERES AND PROSERPINA.

Ceres and Proserpina.

Ceres (Demeter), daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and one of Jupiter’s numerous consorts, was goddess of agriculture and civilization. Her manifold cares were shared by her daughter, Proserpina (Cora, Pherephatta, Persephone), the goddess of vegetation. Whenever her duties permitted, this fair young goddess hastened off to the Island of Sicily, her favorite place of resort, where she wandered about all day long, attended by a merry girlish train, gathering flowers, on the green slopes of Mount Ætna, and danced with the nymphs in the beautiful plain of Enna.

One day, weary of labor, Proserpina called these fair playmates to join her and spend a merry day gathering flowers.

“And one fair morn—
Not all the ages blot it—on the side
Of Ætna we were straying. There was then
Summer nor winter, springtide nor the time
Of harvest, but the soft unfailing sun
Shone always, and the sowing time was one
With reaping.”
Lewis Morris.
Pluto kidnaps Proserpina.

The maidens sang merry lays as they wound their long garlands; and their joyous voices and ripples of silvery laughter attracted the attention of Pluto, just then driving past in his dark chariot drawn by four fiery coal-black steeds. To ascertain whence these sounds proceeded, the [184] god stepped out of his car, and cautiously peeped through the thick foliage.

He saw Proserpina sitting on a mossy bank, almost buried in many-hued blossoms, her laughing companions picturesquely grouped around her. One glance sufficed to convince Pluto of her loveliness and grace, and to make him feel that his happiness depended on the possession of this bright young creature.

Long ere this, he had tried to persuade one after another of the goddesses to share his gloomy throne; but one and all had refused the honor, and declined to accompany him to a land where the sun never shone, the birds never sang, and the flowers never bloomed. Hurt and disappointed by these rebuffs, Pluto had finally registered a solemn vow never to go wooing again; and so, instead of gently inviting Proserpina to become his queen, he resolved to kidnap her.


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