The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies
Page: 61[Pg 304] A mortal might have been content to share his honors with the divine pair; but Scopas grudged every line which did not celebrate his own fame. When Simonides approached to receive his reward, the king gave him half the appointed sum, saying, that was for his part; for what related to Castor and Pollux, they would no doubt bestow a generous recompense. The disconcerted poet returned to his place amid the jeers and laughter of the guests. In a little while, a slave brought him word that two young men on horseback were at the gate, and desired earnestly to speak with him. Simonides went out, but found no one; while he was looking to see which way the strangers had gone, the roof of the palace fell with a terrible crash, burying Scopas and his guests beneath the ruins.
On being informed of the appearance of the young men who had sent for him—of their snow white steeds and shining armor, he knew that it was indeed Castor and Pollux who had acknowledged, in this manner, the homage of his verse.
Was the second in order of time of the great tragic poets of Greece. In true dramatic excellence, he is generally considered the first. The poet was only sixteen when he was selected to lead the chorus of Athenian youths who [Pg 305] celebrated with lyre and song the erection of the trophy in honor of the victory at Salamis. In his twenty-fifth year, he carried off the tragic prize from Æschylus. He gained the same triumph over other competitors, taking the first prize on twenty-four different occasions.
Irreproachable in private life, distinguished for his skill in every manly exercise, and a rare excellence in the arts of poetry and music, Sophocles was considered by his admiring countrymen as an especial favorite of the gods. The remark of the ancient sage that no man is to be accounted happy before he dies, was verified in the case of this great poet. If the morning of his life was bright in the lustre of national glory and personal renown, the evening was clouded by the misfortunes of his country, and domestic unhappiness. Sophocles served with courage, but without gaining much distinction, in the Peloponnesian war, and was a witness of the miseries which that fatal struggle brought upon Greece. He died in the year 405, B. C., a few months before the defeat of Ægos-potamos completed the misfortunes of Athens. He was deeply lamented by the Athenians, who seem to forget the calamities of the time in their grief at the loss of so illustrious a citizen. Sophocles wrote one hundred and thirty dramas, of which seven remain. Of these, the Œdipus Tyrannus and the Antigone are the most admired.
A celebrated geographer, born at Amaseia, in Pontus, about the year 24, B. C. He spent many years in travelling, at first for his own gratification, and in the pursuit of knowledge, but afterwards by the order of Augustus. He was already advanced in life when he compiled his great work on geography. It is divided into seventeen books, and contains much valuable and interesting information with regard to the manners and customs of the nations he had visited.
Little was known at that time of the extent and form of earth. Strabo imagined that the entire habitable portion was included between two meridians, one of which passed through the island of Ierne, (Ireland,) and the other through Ceylon.
A lake in Bolivia, celebrated for the ruins of Tiahuanico on its shores. They stand on an eminence which, from the water-marks surrounding it, seems to have been formerly an island in the lake. So great a change has taken place, that the level of the lake is now 135 feet lower, and its shores 12 miles distant. These ruins are believed to be the most ancient on the American continent. The Peruvians knew nothing of their origin, but had a vague tradition that they were built by giants in a single night. They regarded [Pg 307] them, therefore, with superstitious awe, and connected them, as we have seen, with the fables of their mythology. These ruins, like some in the the Old World, are often called cyclopean, on account of the size of the blocks of stone used in their construction. There are still remaining, monolithic pillars, statues and doorways, sculptured in a style entirely different from that observed on any other American monuments. We may form some idea of the size of the blocks used, from the measurement of one doorway, which is 10 ft. high, and 13 ft. broad, with an opening, 6 ft. 4 inches, by 3 ft. 2 inches, the whole being cut from a single stone.
Some of the buildings appear to have been of pyramidal form, and to have covered several acres. Of the people who executed such stupendous works, we know absolutely nothing, except that they preceded the Peruvians, and were farther advanced in the arts of civilized life than any nation existing on the continent at the time of its discovery.
A Latin writer, celebrated for his extensive learning. He is said to have composed five hundred volumes, all of which are now lost, with the exception of two treatises; one on agriculture, the other on the Latin language. The latter is dedicated to Cicero, an intimate friend of the author.
[Pg 308] The life of Varro was eventful: he was favored by Julius Cæsar, proscribed by Antony, and passed his later years in literary ease under the protection of Augustus. Speaking of Varro, St. Augustine says, that “it is an equal subject of wonder, how one who read such a number of books, could find time to compose so many volumes; and how he who composed so many volumes, could have found leisure to peruse such a variety of books.”