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

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Amused by all the strange sights and sounds, the goddess at first seemed quite contented; but after a time Vulcan’s gloomy abode lost all its attractions: so she forsook her ill-favored husband, and went in search of another, more congenial mate.

Some time after, Vulcan married one of the Graces, who, however, seems to have also soon wearied of his society, for she deserted him.

Vulcan’s children were mostly monsters, such as Cacus, Periphetes, Cercyon, etc., all of whom play an important part in heroic mythology. He is also the reputed father of Servius Tullius, sixth king of Rome, by a slave Ocrisia, whom he was wont to visit in the guise of a bright flame, which played harmlessly about her.

Vulcan was worshiped by all blacksmiths and artisans, who recognized him as their special patron, and venerated him accordingly.

“Those who labor
The sweaty forge, who edge the crooked scythe,
Bend stubborn steel, and harden gleaming armor,
Acknowledge Vulcan’s aid.”

Great festivals, the Vulcanalia and the Hephæstia, were celebrated in honor of this god, who is generally represented as a short, muscular man, with one leg shorter than the other, a workman’s cap on his curly locks, a short upper garment, and a smith’s tools in his hand.




When Jupiter assigned to each of his brothers a separate portion of the universe, he decreed that Neptune, or Poseidon, should govern all the waters upon the face of the earth, and be sole monarch of the ocean.

Neptune, the mighty marine god, I sing;
Earth’s mover, and the fruitless ocean’s king.
That Helicon and th’ Ægean deeps dost hold.
O thou earth-shaker; thy command, twofold
The gods have sorted; making thee of horses
The awful tamer, and of naval forces
The sure preserver. Hail, O Saturn’s birth!
Whose graceful green hair circles all the earth.
Bear a benign mind; and thy helpful hand
Lend all, submitted to thy dread command.”
Homer (Chapman’s tr.).

Before this new ruler made his appearance, the Titan Oceanus had wielded the scepter of the sea; and regretfully he now resigned it to his youthful supplanter, whom he nevertheless admired sincerely, and described in glowing colors to his brothers.

“Have ye beheld the young God of the Seas,
My dispossessor? Have ye seen his face?
Have ye beheld his chariot, foam’d along
By noble winged creatures he hath made?
I saw him on the calmed waters scud,
With such a glow of beauty in his eyes,
That it enforc’d me to bid sad farewell
To all my empire.”


Refer to caption

FOUNTAIN OF NEPTUNE.—Bologna. (Bologna.)

Neptune’s exile.

[151] Neptune, the personification as well as the god of the sea, was of an exceedingly encroaching disposition. Dissatisfied with the portion allotted him, he once conspired to dethrone Jupiter; but, unfortunately for the success of his undertaking, his plot was discovered before he could put it into execution, and Jupiter, in punishment for his temerity, exiled him to earth. There he was condemned to build the walls of Troy for Laomedon, king of that city, who, in return, promised a handsome compensation.