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

Page: 96

According to his own mood, or in conformity with the gods’ request, Æolus either sent the gentler winds to play among the flowers, or, recalling them, let the fiercest of all his children free, with orders to pile up the waves mountain-high, lash them to foam, tear the sails of all the vessels at sea, break their masts, uproot the trees, tear the roofs off the houses, etc.,—in short, to do all the harm they possibly could.

“Now rising all at once, and unconfin’d,
From every quarter roars the rushing wind:
First, from the wide Atlantic Ocean’s bed,
Tempestuous Corus rears his dreadful head,
Th’ obedient deep his potent breath controls,
And, mountain-high, the foamy flood he rolls;
Him the Northeast encountering fierce, defied,
And back rebuffeted the yielding tide.
The curling surges loud conflicting meet,
Dash their proud heads, and bellow as they beat;
While piercing Boreas, from the Scythian strand,
Plows up the waves and scoops the lowest sand.
Nor Eurus then, I ween, was left to dwell,
Nor showery Notus in th’ Æolian cell,
But each from every side, his power to boast,
Ranged his proud forces to defend the coast.”

Æolus, king of the winds, shared with Dædalus the honor of inventing the sails which propel the ships so swiftly over the tide. It was he, too, who, according to Homer, bound all his children but one in a leather bag, which he gave to Ulysses when the latter visited Æolia. Thanks to this gift, Ulysses reached the shores of Ithaca, and would have landed in safety, had not his men, in view of port, untied the sack to investigate its contents, and thus [215] set free the angry winds, who stirred up the most frightful tempest in mythic annals.

Temple of Æolus.

The ancients, and especially the Athenians, paid particular attention to the winds, to whom they dedicated a temple, which is still extant, and generally known as the Tower of the Winds, or the Temple of Æolus. This temple is hexagonal, and on each side a flying figure of one of the winds is represented.

Eurus, the east wind, was generally depicted “as a young man flying with great impetuosity, and often appearing in a playful and wanton humor.” Notus, or Auster, the southwest wind, “appeared generally as an old man, with gray hair, a gloomy countenance, a head covered with clouds, a sable vesture, and dusky wings,” for he was considered the dispenser of rain and of all sudden and heavy showers. Zephyrus, mild and gentle, had a lapful of flowers, and, according to the Athenian belief, was wedded to Flora, with whom he was perfectly happy, and visited every land in turn. Corus, the northwest wind, drove clouds of snow before him; while Aquilo, dreadful in appearance, caused cold shivers to run down one’s back at his mere sight. Boreas, rough and shivering too, was the father of rain, snow, hail, and tempests, and was therefore generally represented as veiled in impenetrable clouds. His favorite place of abode was in the Hyperborean Mountains, from whence he sallied forth on wild raids. During one of these excursions he carried off Orithyia, who always fled at his approach. But all her fleetness could not save her: she was overtaken, and borne away to the inaccessible regions of snow and ice, where he detained her, and made her his wife. She became the mother of Zetes and Calais,—who took part in the Argonautic expedition, and drove away the Harpies (p. 267),—and of two daughters, Cleopatra and Chione.