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

Page: 95


Mors, god of death, occupied one of the corners of Somnus’ cave. He was a hideous, cadaverous-looking deity, clad in a winding sheet, and held an hourglass and a scythe in his hand. His hollow eyes were fixed upon the sands of time; and when they had run out, he knew some life was about to end, and sallied forth, scythe in hand, to mow down his prey with relentless joy.

Needless to say, this cruel deity was viewed by the ancients with fear and dislike, and no homage was offered him.

These two divinities were, however, but of slight importance in the general scheme of ancient mythology, in which Proserpina was generally regarded as the emblem of death, and they were therefore more like local divinities. The Lacedæmonians paid the most heed to them, and invariably placed their statues side by side.

As for Morpheus, the son as well as the prime minister of Somnus, he was also called the god of sleep, and mortals were wont to intercede for his good offices. He is generally represented as a sleeping child of great corpulence, and with wings. Morpheus held a vase in one hand, and poppies in the other, which he gently shook to induce a state of drowsiness,—according to him, the acme of bliss.




Not very far away from the quiet realm of Somnus and Mors, but on the surface of the earth, were the Æolian Islands, now known as the Lipari Islands, where Æolus, god of the storm and winds, governed a very unruly and turbulent population.

He is said to have received his royal dignity from the fair hands of Juno, and he was therefore specially eager to obey all her behests. He is commonly reputed to have married Aurora, or Eos, who gave him six sons i.e., Boreas, the north wind; Corus, the northwest wind; Aquilo, the west wind; Notus, the southwest wind; Eurus, the east wind; and lastly, Zephyrus, the gentle and lovable south wind, whose mission it was to announce to mortals the return of ever-welcome spring.

Æolus’ children.

Æolus’ five elder sons were of a noisy, roving, mischievous, turbulent disposition, and peace and quiet were utterly impossible to them. To prevent their causing serious disasters, he therefore ruled them with a very strict hand, kept them very closely confined in a great cave, and let them loose only one at a time, to stretch their limbs and take a little exercise.

“Æolus in a cavern vast
With bolt and barrier fetters fast
Rebellious storm and howling blast.
They with the rock’s reverberant roar
Chafe blustering round their prison door
He, throned on high, the scepter sways,
Controls their moods, their wrath allays.”
Virgil (Conington’s tr.).

[214] Although very unruly indeed, the winds always obeyed their father’s voice, and at his command, however reluctant, returned to their gloomy prison, where they expended their impotent rage in trying to shake its strong walls.