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The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies

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[29]

CHAPTER III.

PHŒBUS—APOLLO.

Ques. Who was Apollo?

Ans. He was the son of Jupiter and Lato´na. This god was, with his twin-sister Diana, born at Delos, an island in which Lato´na had taken refuge from the anger of Juno. This goddess, jealous of Lato´na, sent the serpent Python to destroy her. One of the first exploits of Apollo was to kill the Python with his arrows.

Ques. How is this god generally represented?

Ans. As a young man, comely and graceful. He wears a laurel crown over his flowing hair; his garments are embroidered with gold; in his right hand he carries his bow, and bears on his shoulder a quiver filled with arrows. Apollo and his sister Diana presided respectively over the sun and moon. The sun is often called Phœbus, or Apollo, and in ancient pictures the head of the god is represented as darting rays. Apollo, like other divinities, had many names.

Ques. What was the cause of Apollo’s being driven from heaven?

[30] Ans. He had a son named Æsculapius, who was so skilled in medicine that he was even able to restore the dead to life. Hippol´ytus, son of Theseus, king of Athens, was killed by sea-monsters. Æsculapius, by bringing him to life, so offended Jupiter that the latter killed him with a thunderbolt. Apollo was much grieved, and, as he could not take revenge on Jupiter, he killed the Cyclops who forged the thunderbolts. For this reason Jupiter banished Apollo from heaven.

Ques. How did he occupy himself in his banishment?

Ans. He guarded the flocks of Admetus, king of Thessaly. Here he had the misfortune accidentally to kill Hyacinthus, a boy to whom he was much attached. Apollo mourned deeply for the youth, and caused a flower to spring from his blood, which is called the hyacinth. Cyparis´sus was also beloved by the god. The boy grieved so deeply at having unintentionally killed a favorite deer, that he begged Apollo to make his mourning perpetual. The god heard his prayer and changed him to a cypress, the branches of which tree were always used at funerals. After many adventures and wanderings, Apollo was restored to the favor of Jupiter, and to heaven.

Ques. What favor did Apollo confer on King Admetus?

Ans. He obtained from the Fates, that when Admetus should be about to end his existence, his life might be prolonged, provided another [31] died willingly in his stead. When the fatal day came, Alcestis, the wife of Admetus, devoted herself to death for her husband. Admetus grieved so deeply at her loss that Proser´pine actually relented, but Pluto remained inexorable. Hercules, however, descended to the shades, and rescued Alcestis, who was restored to her husband. Euripides has founded one of his most beautiful tragedies upon this story.

Ques. Over what sciences did Apollo preside?

Ans. He presided over physic, music, poetry, and rhetoric; and the nine Muses were subject to him. He regulated the day by guiding the chariot of the sun.

Ques. What else is said of Apollo?

Ans. Many absurd and impossible adventures are told. He seems to have been very vain of his musical skill, as we see from the punishment he inflicted on Mar´syas, and King Midas for coming in conflict with him on that point.

Ques. Relate these stories.

Ans. Apollo was challenged by Mar´syas to a contest in music. The god was not content with defeating the presumptuous musician, but flayed him alive, and afterwards changed him into a river, which is still known by his name.

The punishment inflicted on King Midas was not so cruel. This prince had the bad taste to declare his preference for the vulgar music of Pan, in a contest which that god had with Apollo. The insulted deity caused his ears to grow in [32] length and shape like those of an ass. Midas endeavored to cover the deformity by his hair, and since it was impossible to conceal it from his barber, he bound him to silence by great promises. This man, however, found it so painful to keep the secret to himself, that to obtain relief, he dug a little hole in the ground, and whispered it to the earth. What was his dismay at hearing the hollow reeds which grew upon the spot, whispering, whenever the wind blew: “King Midas has asses’ ears!”

Ques. Is anything else related of King Midas?

Ans. Yes; he had kindly and hospitably entertained Silenus, the preceptor of Bacchus, and in return, the god bade him choose any recompense he pleased. Midas demanded that whatever he should touch might be turned into gold. This prayer was granted, and he was at first overjoyed to see plants, stones and all around him transformed into glittering metal. He soon perceived his folly, however, for when, pressed by hunger, he tried to partake of the food placed before him, it was suddenly converted into gold, and when he would have quenched his thirst, the water was changed into a golden stream. Famished in the midst of plenty, Midas prayed the god to withdraw the fatal gift. Bacchus kindly consented, and ordered him to bathe in the river Pac´tolus. Midas obeyed, but the virtue which left his body was communicated to the waters of the stream, which was famous ever after for its golden sands.

[33] Ques. Who was Phæton?

Ans. He was the son of Phœbus and Clym´ene. At the earnest solicitation of his mother, he repaired to the palace of the Sun for the purpose of having his parentage publicly acknowledged. The youth was kindly received, and Apollo swore by the Styx to grant him any favor he should ask. Phæton immediately prayed that he might be allowed to drive, for one day only, the chariot of the Sun. Apollo tried to dissuade him from his foolish wish, but in vain. The rash youth was not able to control the fiery horses of the Sun; they departed from their usual track, and heaven and earth were threatened with one universal conflagration. Jupiter perceived the danger, and struck Phæton with a thunderbolt. His body was hurled into the river Po, where it was found and buried by the nymphs of the place. As his sisters were weeping around his tomb, they were changed by Jupiter into poplars.

Ques. Who was Daphne?

Ans. A nymph beloved by Apollo: she was changed into a laurel while she was flying from the pursuit of the god.

Ques. What things were especially sacred to Apollo?

Ans. Among plants, the laurel; among animals, the wolf; and among birds, the hawk, the crow, and the swan were sacred to this god.

[34]

CHAPTER IV.

MARS—ARES.

Ques. Who was Mars?

Ans. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno, and was worshipped as the god of war.

Ques. How was he represented?

Ans. As a warrior in splendid armor, standing in a chariot driven by Bello´na, a distracted woman, who holds a torch in her hand. Mars is fierce in aspect and brandishes a spear. Sometimes Discord is represented going before him in tattered garments, while Anger and Clamor follow in his train. Fear and Terror are the horses which draw the chariot.

Ques. What animals were sacred to Mars?

Ans. The dog, on account of its sagacity in the pursuit of prey; the horse, for its uses in war; the wolf, for its rapacity and cruelty; the raven, because it follows armies, watching for the carcasses of the slain; and the cock, as an emblem of the vigilance which guards against surprise.

Ques. What other names had Mars?

Ans. He was called Quiri´nus when he was quiet, Gradi´vus when he was raging; therefore [35] the Romans built him two temples, one to Mars Quiri´nus within the walls, that he might keep the city in peace; and one without, to Mars Gradi´vus, that he might defend them against their enemies. Among the Romans, priests called Salii attended to the sacrifices of Mars, and on festival days went about the city dancing with their shields. Their name comes from the Latin word “to dance,” and was considered appropriate, because Mars is inconstant in his temper, and inclines now to this side, now to that, in time of war. Except the story of his attachment to Venus, the poets relate but little of Mars.

Bellona, the goddess of war, was, according to some, the sister of Mars. She is generally represented as above, but some poets have described her as rushing through the ranks of war, waving a flaming torch, and exciting the combatants by her cries. The temple of Bellona at Rome, was without the city, near the Carmental gate. Here the Senate gave audience to such ambassadors as they were not willing to admit within the walls. A pillar stood before the temple, over which the herald cast a spear when he proclaimed war. The priests of Bellona, when officiating, held naked swords, with which they gashed their arms and shoulders, making libations of their own blood, to the terrible goddess.

[36]

CHAPTER V.

MERCURY—HERMES.

Ques. Who was Mercury?

Ans. He was the son of Jupiter and Ma´ia, the daughter of Atlas. On his mother’s account, sacrifices were generally offered to him during the month of May.

Ques. How is Mercury represented?

Ans. As a young man of cheerful countenance, having wings fixed to his helmet and his sandals, and carrying a rod in his hand, which is also winged, and entwined with serpents.

Ques. How are these different equipments named?

Ans. The rod was called Cadu´ceus, and possessed a wonderful faculty for quieting all disputes. His helmet was called Pet´asus, and his winged sandals Talaria.

Ques. What were the offices of Mercury?

Ans. They were various; his most important function was to carry the commands of Jupiter. Mercury is commonly called the messenger of the gods. He also swept the room where the gods supped, and made their beds.

[37] Ques. What else is said of Mercury?

Ans. He was the inventor of letters, and excelled in eloquence. The Greeks worshipped him as the patron of orators, under the name of Hermes. Mercury was also the inventor of weights and measures, and the patron of commerce.

Ques. Were all his talents equally honorable?

Ans. No; he was most skillful in the art of thieving. On the very day of his birth, he stole some cattle from King Admetus, although Apollo was keeping them; and while that god was bending his bow against him, he contrived to steal his quiver. While yet an infant, he stole the tools of Vulcan, the girdle of Venus, and the sceptre of Jupiter. He intended also to steal Jove’s thunderbolts, but was fearful they would burn him. Mercury was, therefore, the patron of thieves.

Ques. Relate the history of Io and Argus.

Ans. Io, the daughter of In´achus, was beloved by Jupiter. He strove to hide her from the anger of Juno by transforming her into a cow. The goddess suspected the deceit, and begged the beautiful heifer as a gift. Jupiter was afraid to refuse, and Juno consigned the unhappy Io to the guardianship of Argus. Escape seemed hopeless, as Argus had a hundred eyes, of which he closed only two in sleep, while the others watched. Jupiter commanded Mercury to slay Argus and deliver Io. To effect this, it was necessary to set all his eyes to sleep. Mercury disguised himself as a shepherd, entered into conversation with [38] Argus, and at length played so sweetly on his pipe, that, one by one, the keeper’s hundred eyes were closed. The god then drew his falchion, and cut off the head of Argus with a single blow. Juno was grieved for her servant, and placed his eyes in her peacock’s tail. Io, still persecuted by Juno, wandered over the earth, and at length arrived, faint and weary, on the banks of the Nile. There she prayed Jupiter either to restore her to her original form, or to terminate her misfortunes by death. Juno was touched with compassion, and allowed Jupiter to grant her request. Io was restored to human form, and married to Osiris, king of Egypt; she was afterwards worshipped in that country under the name of Isis.

The statues of Mercury were simply wooden posts, surmounted by a rude head with a pointed beard. They were set up in the fields, and at all cross roads. The Greeks had pillars of stone, which they called Hermæ, but the head which surmounted them was not always that of Mercury. These pillars were sometimes placed, by the Athenians, at the entrances of their houses as a protection against thieves. On one occasion, all the Hermæ in Athens were mutilated in the same night. Alcibiades was accused of this sacrilege, and was obliged to take refuge in Cergos from the indignation of the people.

[39]

CHAPTER VI.

BACCHUS—DIONYSUS.

Ques. Who was Bacchus?

Ans. He was the son of Jupiter and Sem´ele and was worshipped as the god of wine.

Ques. How is he represented?

Ans. As a young man, crowned with ivy and grape leaves; he sits in a chariot, drawn sometimes by panthers and lynxes, and sometimes by tigers and lions. He carries in his hand a thyrsus—that is, a staff encircled by ivy and grape leaves; a troop of demons and drunken satyrs follow him.

Ques. What was the story of Sem´ele?

Ans. She was destroyed by the jealousy of Juno. This goddess visited Sem´ele in the shape of an old woman, and persuaded her to ask Jupiter to visit her with all the glory which encompassed him in heaven. All happened as Juno desired, and Sem´ele was consumed by the lightnings which surrounded Jupiter. Bacchus did not share his mother’s fate, but was conveyed to Naxos, where he was educated by some nymphs.

[40] Ques. How did Bacchus reward their care?

Ans. He transformed them into the stars known as the Hyades.

Ques. Who aided the nymphs in their care of Bacchus?

Ans. An old man named Silenus. He was considered a demi-god.

Ques. How is Silenus represented?

Ans. He seems to be the personification of drunkenness; he is sometimes represented as seated intoxicated on a cask of wine, his head crowned with grape leaves, and his face stained with the lees of wine; sometimes as mounted on an ass, and following the car of Bacchus.

Ques. What were the first exploits of Bacchus?

Ans. He distinguished himself in the combats between the gods and giants, taking the form of a lion to strike terror into the latter.

Ques. What other actions are attributed to him?

Ans. He taught men how to plant the vine and till the ground. He is said to have subdued India, and many other countries of the East.

Ques. How was he worshipped?

Ans. The goat and the hog were offered to him in sacrifice; and the ivy, the fir, the bindweed, the fig and the vine were consecrated to him.

Ques. What feasts were held in his honor?

Ans. The feasts of Bacchus were various. The Bacchanalia or Orgia were the most celebrated. They were at first participated in by women only [41] but afterwards men were admitted to join in these rites. The women were called Bacchantes, and ran about with their hair dishevelled, shouting and singing in a distracted manner. The Roman Senate at length abolished this festival.

Ques. Relate the story of Pentheus?

Ans. Pentheus was king of Thebes. He not only refused to acknowledge the divinity of Bacchus, but endeavored to prevent the celebration of his orgies. Having presumed to intrude on the revels of the Bacchantes, they were seized by a sort of madness, and rushing upon the unhappy man, tore him to pieces. The mother of Pentheus, and her sisters, were the leaders in this act, which was considered to have been performed under a divine impulse.

Ques. What was the punishment inflicted on Alcitho´e and her sisters?

Ans. These were Theban maidens who ridiculed the orgies of Bacchus. During the celebration of these rites, they remained at home, plying the distaff and the spindle, and singing over their tasks. For this, Alcitho´e and her sisters were transformed by the power of Bacchus into bats; and the spindle and yarn with which they worked were changed to ivy.

Ques. Relate the transformation of mariners into dolphins?

Ans. A ship touched at Chios for a supply of fresh water. The sailors who went on shore, found near the spring a boy of uncommon grace [42] and beauty. They bore him to the ship, still heavy with sleep and wine, and declared their intention of selling him at the next port. Acϫtes, their captain, tried to dissuade them from the crime, the more so, as he perceived that there was something more than mortal about the captive youth. In the meantime Bacchus, for it was he, awaking from his slumber, begged the sailors to land him at Naxos. This the captain promised, but when they had set sail, the mariners took possession of the ship, and steered in another direction. The god now revealed himself. The sails and cordage suddenly appeared hung with grapes and ivy; spotted panthers lay at his feet, and when the terrified sailors tried to leap overboard, they were suddenly changed into dolphins. The captain was spared, and landed with Bacchus on the shores of Chios.

Ques. What is the origin of the history of Bacchus?

Ans. He was probably some prince who taught the people to till the ground, and cultivate the vine. They disgraced his memory in after times by the drunken revels they held in his honor.

[43]

CHAPTER VII.

Celestial Goddesses.

JUNO—HERA.

Ques. Who was Juno?

Ans. She was the daughter of Saturn and Ops, and was both sister and wife of Jupiter.

Ques. How is she generally represented?

Ans. As seated in a golden chariot drawn by peacocks. She holds a sceptre in her hand, and is crowned with roses and lilies. Iris was the messenger of Juno, as Mercury was of Jupiter.

Ques. How is Iris represented?

Ans. With wings, because of her swiftness, and sometimes also as riding on a rainbow.

Ques. How did Iris differ from Mercury?

Ans. Mercury was often employed in messages of peace; but Iris was frequently sent to promote strife and dissension.

Ques. What children had Juno?

Ans. Vulcan, Mars and Hebe. Hebe was called the goddess of youth, on account of her extraordinary beauty, and Jupiter made her his cup-bearer. She offended him by an unlucky fall, and Ganymede was appointed in her place.

[44] Ques. What were Juno’s faults?

Ans. She was very jealous, and took the most cruel revenge on the mortal woman whom Jupiter loved. She transformed Callista and her son Arcas into bears, and was extremely displeased when Jupiter placed them among the constellations.

The goddess carried her complaint to Ocean´us, bidding him to observe, when the shades of night should darken the world, how her rival was exalted. The god of Ocean was moved, and promised Juno that he would never receive either Callista or her offspring in his watery domain. Hence it is, that the Greater and the Lesser Bear continually circle around the pole, and never sink, like the other stars, beneath the waves of Ocean. In the fables of Bacchus and Hercules, Juno displays the same character, extending to these heroes the enmity she bore their mortal mothers.


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