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

Page: 17

Close by Jupiter’s side was sometimes seen Fortuna, goddess of fortune, poised on a constantly revolving wheel, whereon she journeyed throughout the world, scattering with careless hands her numerous gifts, and lavishing with indifference her choicest smiles; while Hebe, or Juventas, the goddess of youth, was ever ready at his wish to pour out the nectar, in which the gods were wont to pledge each other.

Hebe, honored of them all,
Ministered nectar, and from cups of gold
They pledged each other.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).


Refer to caption

GANYMEDE AND THE EAGLE. (National Museum, Naples.)

[43] But this fair goddess awkwardly tripped and fell on a solemn occasion, and was forced to resign her office. To replace her, the father of the gods was obliged to go in quest of another cup-bearer.

To facilitate his search, he assumed the form of an eagle, and winged his flight over the earth. He had not flown far, before he beheld a youth of marvelous beauty, alone on a neighboring hill. To swoop down, catch him up in his mighty talons, and bear him safely off to Olympus, was but a moment’s work; and there the kidnapped youth Ganymede, the son of a king of Troy, was carefully instructed in the duties he was called upon to perform in the future.

“And godlike Ganymede, most beautiful
Of men; the gods beheld and caught him up
To heaven, so beautiful was he, to pour
The wine to Jove, and ever dwell with them.”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).
Story of Philemon and Baucis.

Solicitous for the welfare of mankind, Jupiter often visited the earth, taking great care to assume some disguise which would enable him to ascertain all he wished without any risk of detection. One day he and Mercury, his special messenger and favorite among the gods, took the forms of needy, belated travelers, and entered the lowly hut of a worthy old couple, Philemon and Baucis.

Eager to offer their best to the strangers, these poor people decided to kill their sole remaining goose; but their efforts to secure it were vain, and finally the persecuted fowl took refuge between Jupiter’s knees. Touched with their zeal, yet anxious to prevent the death of the confiding goose, Jupiter revealed himself to his faithful worshipers, and in gratitude for their intended sacrifice bade them ask any boon, promising by the great river Styx—the most binding and solemn oath a god could utter—to grant their request.

Contrary to the custom current in similar cases, Philemon [44] and Baucis made a modest and judicious choice, and proffered a timid request that they might serve the gods as long as life and strength endured, and finally die together. This most reasonable wish was immediately granted; and Jupiter, moreover, changed their humble abode into a superb temple, where they could offer daily sacrifices on his altars.

“Their little shed, scarce large enough for two,
Seems, from the ground increased, in height and bulk to grow.
A stately temple shoots within the skies,
The crotches of their cot in columns rise;
The pavement polish’d marble they behold,
The gates with sculpture grac’d, the spires and tiles of gold.”
Ovid (Dryden’s tr.).