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

Page: 76

Ixion pleaded so skillfully, that Jupiter was about to declare him acquitted, when he suddenly caught him making love to Juno, which offense seemed so unpardonable, that he sent him to Tartarus, where he was bound to a constantly revolving wheel of fire.

“Proud Ixion (doom’d to feel
The tortures of the eternal wheel,
Bound by the hand of angry Jove)
Received the due rewards of impious love.”
Sophocles (Francklin’s tr.).
Elysian Fields.

Far out of sight and hearing of the pitiful sounds which so constantly rose out of Tartarus, were the Elysian Fields, lighted [170] by a sun and moon of their own, decked with the most fragrant and beautiful of flowers, and provided with every charm that nature or art could supply. No storms or wintry winds ever came to rob these fields of their springlike beauty; and here the blessed spent eternity, in pleasant communion with the friends they had loved on earth.

“Patriots who perished for their country’s rights,
Or nobly triumphed in the fields of fight:
There holy priests and sacred poets stood,
Who sang with all the raptures of a god:
Worthies whose lives by useful arts refined;
With those who leave a deathless name behind,
Friends of the world, and fathers of mankind.”




Among all the mortal maidens honored by the love of Jupiter, king of the gods, none was more attractive than Semele, daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia.

“For Semele was molded in the form
Of elegance; the beauty of her race
Shone in her forehead.”
Nonnus (Elton’s tr.).
Story of Semele.

Although conscious of these superior attractions, Semele was excessively coy, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that Jupiter, disguised as a mortal, could urge his love suit. When he had at last obtained a hearing, he told her who he was, calculating upon the effect which such a revelation must necessarily produce.

He was not mistaken in his previsions, for Semele, proud of having attracted the greatest among the gods, no longer offered any resistance, and consented to their union. Their love grew and prospered, and Jupiter came down from Olympus as often as possible to enjoy the society of his beloved. His frequent absences finally aroused Juno’s suspicions, and, as usual, she spared no pains to discover what powerful charm could draw him from her side. After a few days she knew all, and straightway determined to have her revenge, and punish her fickle spouse. To accomplish this successfully, she assumed the face and form of Beroe, Semele’s old nurse, and thus entered the young princess’s apartment quite unsuspected.

[172] “Old Beroe’s decrepit shape she wears,
Her wrinkled visage, and her hoary hairs;
Whilst in her trembling gait she totters on,
And learns to tattle in the nurse’s tone.”
Ovid (Addison’s tr.).

There she immediately entered into conversation with her supposed nursling, artfully extracted a complete confession, heard with suppressed rage how long Jupiter had wooed ere he had finally won the maiden’s consent, and received a rapturous and minute catalogue of all his personal charms and a synopsis of all they had both said.