1000 Mythological Characters Briefly Described

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“Even as the sun with purple-colored face
Had ta’en his last leave of the weeping morn.
Rose-cheeked Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn.”

Adrastaea (Adrastae′a), another name of Nemesis, one of the goddesses of justice.

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Ambarvalia (Ambarva′lia) were festivals in honor of Ceres, instituted by Roman husbandmen to purge their fields. At the spring festival the head of each family led an animal, usually a pig or ram, decked with oak boughs, round his grounds, and offered milk and new wine. After harvest there was another festival, at which Ceres was presented with the first-fruits of the season. See Ceres.

Amber, see Heliades.

Ambrosia (Ambro′sia) were Bacchanalian festivals.

Amica (Ami′ca), a name of Venus.

Amphion (Amphi′on) was the son of Jupiter and Antiope. He was greatly skilled in music; and it is said that, at the sound of his lute, the stones arranged themselves so regularly as to make the walls of the city of Thebes.

Amphion, too, as story goes, could call
Obedient stones to make the Theban wall.”
“New walls to Thebes, Amphion thus began.”
William King.
“Such strains I sing as once Amphion played,
When list’ning flocks the powerful call obeyed.”

Amphitrite (Amphitri′te) (or Salatia), the wife of Neptune, [22] was a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. She was the mother of Triton, a sea god.

“His weary chariot sought the bowers
Of Amphitrite and her tending nymphs.”

Amycus (Amy′cus) was king of Bebrycia. He was a son of Neptune, and was killed by Pollux.

Ancaeus (Ancae′us). A son of Neptune, who left a cup of wine to hunt a wild boar which killed him, and the wine was untasted. This was the origin of the proverb—“There’s many a slip ’twixt cup and lip.”

Ancilia (Ancil′ia), the twelve sacred shields. The first Ancile was supposed to have fallen from heaven in answer to the prayer of Numa Pompilius. It was kept with the greatest care, as it was prophesied that the fate of the Roman people would depend upon its preservation. An order of priesthood was established to take care of the Ancilia, and on 1st March each year the shields were carried in procession, and in the evening there was a great feast, called Coena Saliaris.

Andromeda (Androm′eda), the daughter of Cepheus, king of the Ethiopians, was wife of Perseus, by whom she was rescued when she was chained to a rock and was about to be devoured by a sea-monster.

Anemone (Anem′one). Venus changed Adonis into this flower.

Angeronia (Angero′nia), otherwise Volupia, was the goddess [23] who had the power of dispelling anguish of mind.

Anna Perenna (Anna Peren′na), one of the rural divinities.

Antaeus (Antae′us), a giant who was vanquished by Hercules. Each time that Hercules threw him the giant gained fresh strength from touching the earth, so Hercules lifted him off the ground and squeezed him to death.

Anteros (An′teros), one of the two Cupids, sons of Venus.

Anticlea (Antic′lea), the mother of Ulysses.

Antiope (Anti′ope) was the wife of Lycus, King of Thebes. Jupiter, disguised as a satyr, led her astray and corrupted her.

Anubis (Anu′bis) (or Hermanubis (Herman′ubis)). “A god half a dog, a dog half a man.” Called Barker by Virgil and other poets.

Aonides (Aon′ides), a name of the Muses, from the country Aonia.

Apaturia (Apatur′ia), an Athenian festival, which received its name from a Greek word signifying deceit.

Aphrodite (Aph′rodi′te), a Greek name of Venus.

Apis, a name given to Jupiter by the inhabitants of the Lower Nile. Also the miraculous ox, worshiped in Egypt.

Apis (A′pis), King of Argivia. Afterward called Serapis, the greatest god of the Egyptians.

Apollo (Apol′lo). This famous god, some time King of Arcadia, was the son of Jupiter and Latona. He was known by several names, but principally [24] by the following:—Sol (the sun); Cynthius, from the mountain called Cynthus in the Isle of Delos, and this same island being his native place obtained for him the name of Delius; Delphinius, from his occasionally assuming the shape of a dolphin. His name of Delphicus was derived from his connection with the splendid Temple at Delphi, where he uttered the famous oracles. Some writers record that this oracle became dumb when Jesus Christ was born. Other common names of Apollo were Didymaeus, Nomius, Paean, and Phoebus. The Greeks called him Agineus, because the streets were under his guardianship, and he was called Pythius from having killed the serpent Python. Apollo is usually represented as a handsome young man without beard, crowned with laurel, and having in one hand a bow, and in the other a lyre. The favorite residence of Apollo was on Mount Parnassus, a mountain of Phocis, in Greece, where he presided over the Muses. Apollo was the accredited father of several children, but the two most renowned were Aesculapius and Phaeton.

“Wilt thou have music? Hark! Apollo plays.
And twenty cagëd nightingales do sing.”

Apotheosis (Apothe′osis). The consecration of a god. The ceremony of deification.

Arachne (Arach′ne), a Lydian princess, who challenged [25] Minerva to a spinning contest, but Minerva struck her on the head with a spindle, and turned her into a spider.

“... So her disemboweled web,
Arachne, in a hall or kitchen spreads.
Obvious to vagrant flies.”
John Phillips.

Arcadia (Arca′dia), a delightful country in the center of Peloponnessus, a favorite place of the gods. Apollo was reputed to have been King of Arcadia.

Arcas (Ar′cas), a son of Calisto, was turned into a he-bear; and afterward into the constellation called Ursa Minor.

Archer, see Chiron.

Areopagitae (Areop′agi′tae), the judges who sat at the Areopagus.

Areopagus (Areop′agus), the hill at Athens where Mars was tried for murder before twelve of the gods.

Ares (A′res). The same as Mars, the god of war.

Arethusa (Arethu′sa) was one of the nymphs of Diana. She fled from Alpheus, a river god, and was enabled to escape by being turned by Diana into a rivulet which ran underground. She was as virtuous as she was beautiful.

Argonauts (Ar′gonauts). This name was given to the fifty heroes who sailed to Colchis in the ship Argo, under the command of Jason, to fetch the Golden Fleece.

Argus (Ar′gus) was a god who had a hundred eyes which [26] slept and watched by turns. He was charged by Juno to watch Io, but, being slain by Mercury, was changed by Juno into a peacock.

Ariadne (Ariad′ne), daughter of Minos, King of Crete. After enabling Theseus to get out of the Labyrinth by means of a clew of thread, she fled with him to Naxos, where he ungratefully deserted her; but Bacchus wooed her and married her, and the crown of seven stars which he gave her was turned into a constellation.

Arion (Ari′on) was a famous lyric poet of Methymna, in the Island of Lesbos, where he gained great riches by his art. There is a pretty fable which has made the name of Arion famous. Once when traveling from Lesbos his companions robbed him, and proposed to throw him into the sea. He entreated the seamen to let him play upon his harp before they threw him overboard, and he played so sweetly that the dolphins flocked round the vessel. He then threw himself into the sea, and one of the dolphins took him up and carried him to Taenarus, near Corinth. For this act the dolphin was raised to heaven as a constellation.

Aristaeus (Aristae′us), son of Apollo and Cyrene, was the god of trees; he also taught mankind the use of honey, and how to get oil from olives. He was a celebrated hunter. His most famous son was Actaeon.

[27] Armata (Arma′ta), one of the names of Venus, given to her by Spartan women.

Artemis (Ar′temis). This was the Grecian name of Diana, and the festivals at Delphi were called Artemisia.

Arts and Sciences, see Muses.

Aruspices (Arus′pices), sacrificial priests.

Ascalaphus (Ascal′aphus) was changed into an owl, the harbinger of misfortune, by Ceres, because he informed Pluto that Proserpine had partaken of food in the infernal regions, and thus prevented her return to earth.

Ascanius (Asca′nius), the son of Aeneas and Creusa.

Ascolia (Ascol′ia), Bacchanalian feasts, from a Greek word meaning a leather bottle. The bottles were used in the games to jump on.

Asopus (Aso′pus). A son of Jupiter, who was killed by one of his father’s thunderbolts.

Assabinus (Assabi′nus), the Ethiopian name of Jupiter.

Ass’s ears, see Midas.

Astarte (Astar′te), one of the Eastern names of Venus.

Asteria (Aste′ria), daughter of Caeus, was carried away by Jupiter, who assumed the shape of an eagle.

Astrea (Astre′a), mother of Nemesis, was the goddess of justice; she returned to heaven when the earth became corrupt.

“... Chaste Astrea fled,
And sought protection in her native sky.”
John Hughes.

[28] Atalanta (Atalan′ta) was daughter of Caeneus. The oracle told her that marriage would be fatal to her, but, being very beautiful, she had many suitors. She was a very swift runner, and, to get rid of her admirers, she promised to marry any one of them who should outstrip her in a race, but that all who were defeated should be slain. Hippomenes, however, with the aid of Venus, was successful. That goddess gave him three golden apples, one of which he dropped whenever Atalanta caught up to him in the race. She stopped to pick them up, and he was victorious and married her. They were both afterward turned into lions by Cybele, for profaning her temple.

Ate (A′te). The goddess of revenge, also called the goddess of discord and all evil. She was banished from heaven by her father Jupiter.

“With Ate by his side come hot from hell.”

Athena (Athe′na), a name obtained by Minerva as the tutelary goddess of Athens.

Atlas, was King of Mauritania, now Morocco, in Africa. He was also a great astronomer. He is depicted with the globe on his back, his name signifying great toil or labor. For his inhospitality to Perseus that king changed him into the mountain which bears his name of Atlas. A chain of mountains in Africa is called after him, and so is the Atlantic Ocean. He had seven daughters by his wife Pleione, [29] they were called by one common name, Pleiades; and by his wife Aethra he had seven more, who were, in the same manner, called Hyades. Both the Pleiades and the Hyades are celestial constellations.

Atreus (At′reus), the type of fraternal hatred. His dislike of his brother Thyestes went to the extent of killing and roasting his nephews, and inviting their father to a feast, which Thyestes thought was a sign of reconciliation, but he was the victim of his brother’s detestable cruelty.

“Media must not draw her murdering knife,
Nor Atreus there his horrid feast prepare.”
Lord Roscommon.

Atropos (At′ropos), one of the three sisters called The Fates, who held the shears ready to cut the thread of life.

Atys (A′tys), son of Croesus, was born dumb, but when in a fight he saw a soldier about to kill the king he gained speech, and cried out, “Save the king!” and the string that held his tongue was broken.

Atys (A′tys) was a youth beloved by Aurora, and was slain by her father, but, according to Ovid, was afterward turned into a pine-tree.

Augaeas (Aug′aeas), a king of Elis, the owner of the stable which Hercules cleansed after three thousand oxen had been kept in it for thirty years. It was cleansed by turning the river Alpheus through it. Augaeas promised to give [30] Hercules a tenth part of his cattle for his trouble but, for neglecting to keep his promise, Hercules slew him.

Augury (Au′gury). This was a means adopted by the Romans of forming a judgment of futurity by the flight of birds, and the officiating priest was called an augur.

Aurora (Auro′ra), the goddess of the morning,

“Whose rosy fingers ope the gates of day.”

She was daughter of Sol, the sun, and was the mother of the stars and winds. She is represented as riding in a splendid golden chariot drawn by white horses. The goddess loved Tithonus, and begged the gods to grant him immortality, but forgot to ask at the same time that he should not get old and decrepit. See Tithonus.

“... So soon as the all-cheering sun
Should, in the farthest east, begin to draw
The shady curtains of Aurora’s bed.”

Auster (Aus′ter), the south wind, a son of Jupiter.

Avernus (Aver′nus), a poisonous lake, referred to by poets as being at the entrance of the infernal regions, but it was really a lake in Campania, in Italy.

Averruncus Deus (Averrun′cus Deus), a Roman god, who could divert people from evil-doing.

Axe, see Daedalus.

[31] Baal (Ba′al), a god of the Phoenicians.

Baal-Peor (Ba′al-Pe′or), a Moabitish god, associated with licentiousness and obscenity. The modern name is Belphegor.

Babes, see Rumia Dea.

Bacchantes (Bac′chantes). The priestesses of Bacchus.

Bacchus (Bac′chus), the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and Semele. He is said to have married Ariadne, daughter of Minos, King of Crete, after she was deserted by Theseus. The most distinguished of his children is Hymen, the god of marriage. Bacchus is sometimes referred to under the names of Dionysius, Biformis, Brisaeus, Iacchus, Lenaeus, Lyceus, Liber, and Liber Pater, the symbol of liberty. The god of wine is usually represented as crowned with vine and ivy leaves. In his left hand is a thyrsus, a kind of javelin, having a fir cone for the head, and being encircled with ivy or vine. His chariot is drawn by lions, tigers, or panthers.

“Jolly Bacchus, god of pleasure,
Charmed the world with drink and dances.”
T. Parnell, 1700.

Balios (Ba′lios). A famous horse given by Neptune to Peleus as a wedding present, and was afterward given to Achilles.

Barker, see Anubis.

Bassarides (Bassar′ides). The priestesses of Bacchus were sometimes so called.

[32] Battle, see Valhalla.

Bear, see Calisto.

Beauty, see Venus.

Bees, see Mellona.

Belisama (Belisa′ma), a goddess of the Gauls. The name means the Queen of Heaven.

Bellerophon (Beller′ophon), a hero who destroyed a monster called the Chimaera.

Bellona (Bello′na), the goddess of war, and wife of Mars. The 24th March was called Bellona’s Day, when her votaries cut themselves with knives and drank the blood of the sacrifice.

“In Dirae’s and in Discord’s steps Bellona treads,
And shakes her iron rod above their heads.”

Belphegor (Belphe′gor), see Baal-Peor.

Belus (Be′lus). The Chaldean name of the sun.

Berecynthia (Berecyn′thia), a name of Cybele, from a mountain where she was worshiped.

Biformis (Bi′formis), a name of Bacchus, because he was accounted both bearded and beardless.

Birds, see Augury.

Births, see Lucina and Levana.

Blacksmith, see Brontes and Vulcan.

Blind, see Thamyris.

Blue eyes, see Glaukopis.

Bona Dea (Bo′na De′a). “The bountiful goddess,” whose festival was celebrated by the Romans with much magnificence. See Ceres.

[33] Bonus Eventus (Bo′nus Even′tus). The god of good success, a rural divinity.

Boreas (Bo′reas), the north wind, son of Astraeus and Aurora.

“... I snatched her from the rigid north,
Her native bed, on which bleak Boreas blew,
And bore her nearer to the sun....”
Young, 1710.

Boundaries, see Terminus.

Boxing, see Pollux.

Brahma (Brah′ma). The great Indian deity, represented with four heads looking to the four quarters of the globe.

Briareus (Bri′areus), a famous giant. See Aegeon.

Brisaeus (Bris′aeus). A name of Bacchus, referring to the use of grapes and honey.

Brontes (Bront′es), one of the Cyclops. He is the personification of a blacksmith.

Bubona (Bubo′na), goddess of herdsmen, one of the rural divinities.

Buddha (Bud′dha). Primitively, a pagan deity, the Vishnu of the Hindoos.

Byblis (Byb′lis). A niece of Sol, mentioned by Ovid. She shed so many tears for unrequited love that she was turned into a fountain.

“Thus the Phoebeian Byblis, spent in tears,
Becomes a living fountain, which yet bears
Her name.”

Cabiri (Cab′iri). The mysterious rites connected with the worship of these deities were so obscene that [34] most writers refer to them as secrets which it was unlawful to reveal.

Cacodaemon (Cac′odae′mon). The Greek name of an evil spirit.

Cacus (Ca′cus), a three-headed monster and robber.

Cadmus (Cad′mus), one of the earliest of the Greek demi-gods. He was the reputed inventor of letters, and his alphabet consisted of sixteen letters. It was Cadmus who slew the Boeotian dragon, and sowed its teeth in the ground, from each of which sprang up an armed man.

Caduceus (Cadu′ceus). The rod carried by Mercury. It has two winged serpents entwined round the top end. It was supposed to possess the power of producing sleep, and Milton refers to it in Paradise Lost as the “opiate rod.”

Calisto (Calis′to), an Arcadian nymph, who was turned into a she-bear by Jupiter. In that form she was hunted by her son Arcas, who would have killed her had not Jupiter turned him into a he-bear. The nymph and her son form the constellations known as the Great Bear and Little Bear.

Calliope (Calli′ope). The Muse who presided over epic poetry and rhetoric. She is generally depicted using a stylus and wax tablets, the ancient writing materials.

Calpe (Cal′pe). One of the pillars of Hercules.

Calypso (Calyp′so) was queen of the island of Ogygia, on which Ulysses was wrecked, and where he was persuaded to remain seven years.

[35] Cama (Ca′ma). The Indian god of love and marriage.

Camillus (Camil′lus), a name of Mercury, from his office of minister to the gods.

Canache (Can′ache). The name of one of Actaeon’s hounds.

Canopus (Cano′pus). The Egyptian god of water, the conqueror of fire.

Capis (Cap′is) or Capula (Cap′ula). A peculiar cup with ears, used in drinking the health of the deities.

Capitolinus (Capitoli′nus). A name of Jupiter, from the Capitoline hill, on the top of which a temple was built and dedicated to him.

Capripedes (Cap′ri′pedes). Pan, the Egipans, the Satyrs, and Fauns, were so called from having goat’s feet.

Caprotina (Caproti′na). A name of Juno.

Cassandra (Cassan′dra), a daughter of Priam and Hecuba, who was granted by Apollo the power of seeing into futurity, but having offended that god he prevented people from believing her predictions.

Cassiopeia (Cassiope′ia). The Ethiopian queen who set her beauty in comparison with that of the Nereides, who thereupon chained her to a rock and left her to be devoured by a sea-monster, but she was delivered by Perseus. See Andromeda.

Castalia (Casta′lia). One of the fountains in Mount Parnassus, sacred to the Muses.

Castalides (Casta′li′des), a name of the Muses, from the fountain Castalia or Castalius.

[36] Castor (Cas′tor), son of Jupiter and Leda, twin brother of Pollux, noted for his skill in horsemanship. He went with Jason in quest of the Golden Fleece.

Cauther (Cau′ther), in Mohammedan mythology, is the lake of paradise, whose waters are as sweet as honey, as cold as snow, and as clear as crystal; and any believer who tastes thereof is said to thirst no more.

Celeno (Cel′eno) was one of the Harpies, progenitor of Zephyrus, the west wind.

Centaur (Cen′taur). A huntsman who had the forepart like a man, and the remainder of the body like a horse. The Centauri lived in Thessaly.

Cephalus (Cep′halus) was married to Procris, whom he accidentally slew by shooting her while she was secretly watching him, he thinking she was a wild beast. Cephalus was the type of constancy.

Ceraunius (Cerau′nius). A Greek name of Jupiter, meaning The Fulminator, from his thunderbolts.