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

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After many years of faithful service, when age had made them long for death, Philemon and Baucis were transformed into majestic oaks, which stood for many a century in front of the temple, monuments of the love and faith which had bound the pair through life.

Although married to Juno, Jupiter often indulged in love affairs with other goddesses, and even with mortal maidens. The ancients themselves did not practice polygamy, but their gods were supposed to be able to indulge all their passions with impunity. As the personification of the sky, Jupiter, therefore, consorted at times with Juno (the Atmosphere), with Dione (Moisture), with Themis (Justice), etc., without incurring any reproach; for these marriages, in their estimation, were all symbolical.

But Juno being of a jealous disposition, Jupiter was forced to conduct his courtships with great secrecy and circumspection, and therefore generally adopted the precaution of a disguise. To win Europa, the fair daughter of Agenor, for instance, he became a bull.

“The gods themselves,
Humbling their deities to love, have taken
The shapes of beasts upon them. Jupiter
Became a bull, and bellow’d.”
Jupiter kidnaps Europa.

[45] One day Europa was playing in her father’s meadows with her three brothers, Cadmus, Phœnix, and Cilix, when she suddenly saw a white bull coming towards her; not with fiery eyes and lowered horns, but gently, as if to express a mute request to be petted. The maiden, delighted, stroked the beast, and decked him with bright garlands of meadow-blossoms. Then, seeing him kneel, as if to invite her to mount, she lightly sprang upon his broad back, calling to her companions to follow her example; but, before they could do as she wished, the bull had risen to his feet, and galloped off towards the sea with his fair burden on his back.

Instead of turning when he saw the foam-crested waves, he plunged into the midst of them, and in a few minutes disappeared from view, so rapidly did he swim away. To reassure the frightened girl, the bull now spoke in gentle accents, bidding her dismiss all fear, for he was the great Jupiter in disguise.

“Take courage, gentle maid! nor fear the tide:
I, though near-seen a bull, am heavenly Jove:
I change my shape at will.”
Moschus (Elton’s tr.).

Pleased with the novelty of her situation, and flattered by the god’s evident admiration, Europa ceased to struggle, wound her arms more closely around the bull’s neck to prevent the waves from washing her off her perilous seat, and allowed herself to be carried away.

Jupiter finally deposited his fair burden upon the shores of a new land, to which he gallantly gave her name, Europe. He then resumed his wonted form, explained at length his reasons for so unceremoniously kidnapping her, and finally won her consent to their union. Their three sons were Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Sarpedon. The two former were subsequently appointed judges in the Infernal Regions, while the third found an early but glorious death during the Trojan war.