The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies

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Ques. Where were the gods supposed to dwell?

Ans. On the summit of Mount Olympus, in Thessaly. This mountain hides its head, covered with perpetual snows, in a belt of clouds. The [21] Greeks imagined above these, a sublime abode reposing in eternal sunshine, and free from the storms which vexed the lower world. A gate of clouds, guarded by the goddesses of the seasons, opened to permit the passage of the Celestials when they descended to earth. Each god had his own dwelling, but all were obliged to repair, when summoned, to the palace of Jupiter. Even those deities whose usual abode was on the earth, in the waters, or in the lower shades, were compelled to assemble in Olympus at his command. Here they feasted on ambrosia and nectar, discoursed upon the affairs of heaven and earth, and were delighted at intervals by the music of Apollo’s lyre, and the songs of the Muses.

Vulcan was smith, architect and chariot builder to the gods. He built their dwellings on Olympus, and constructed the furniture in so wonderful a manner, that the tripods and tables were endowed with motion, and ranged themselves in order without the aid of hands. The robes of the different divinities were wrought by Minerva and the Graces. Everything of a solid nature was constructed of metal.


Ques. Did the Greeks believe that the gods resembled men?

Ans. Yes; in many particulars. They supposed them to have the same passions, both good [22] and evil. They were immortal, yet could suffer pain and receive wounds. Instead of blood a fluid called ichor filled their veins. The deities resembled men also in form, but they were, with some exceptions, of majestic stature and shone with celestial beauty. They could render themselves invisible at will, and were otherwise endowed with supernatural powers. There was this restraint upon their wonder-working gifts: no divinity was permitted to reverse the act of another. For example, when an offended god subjected a mortal to some cruel transformation, no other deity, not even Jupiter himself, could undo the spell.

Ques. Into what classes were the gods divided?

Ans. Ancient writers differ in the classification of the Greek and Roman divinities. According to one division, which we will follow, the Celestial gods were: Jupiter, Apollo, Mars, Mercury and Bacchus. The goddesses were: Juno, Minerva or Pallas, Venus, Aurora and Latona.

To these higher divinities, Saturn, Janus, Vesta and others were sometimes added. There were also Terrestrial divinities, Gods of the Sea, Infernal deities, etc. etc.



Celestial Gods.

JUPITER, (Greek, Zeus.)

Ques. Who was Jupiter?

Ans. He was the king and father of gods and men. He is generally represented as a majestic man with a beard, sitting on a throne of gold and ivory. He brandishes the thunder in his right hand; giants lie prostrate under his feet, and an eagle stands at his side. Jupiter is sometimes called Jove, and as the eagle was sacred to him, it is often called the bird of Jove.

Ques. Relate the story of Diony´sius and Jupiter’s cloak.

Ans. The statues of this god were sometimes decorated with much magnificence. It is related that Diony´sius, the tyrant of Syracuse, visited a temple in Sicily, where he saw a statue of Jupiter arrayed in a mantle of wrought gold. This he took possession of, and ordered in its place a woolen cloak. Diony´sius justified the act on the [24] plea that the latter garment would be more comfortable for the god at all seasons, as it was neither so heavy in summer, nor so cold in winter.

Ques. Of whom was Jupiter the son?

Ans. He was the son of Saturn and Ops. According to the fable, Saturn promised his brother Titan, that after his death, the latter should succeed him in his kingdom. To ensure this, Titan made Saturn promise farther to destroy all his male children. In fulfillment of this engagement, Saturn devoured them as soon as they were born. Ops, or Rhea, his wife, succeeded in concealing Jupiter from him. She sent him secretly to Crete where he was educated on Mount Ida, by the nymphs, or, according to some, by the priestesses of Cyb´ele. The goat which suckled him was placed afterwards amongst the constellations. Ops saved Neptune and Pluto in the same manner.

Ques. What were Jupiter’s first exploits?

Ans. Titan was so much enraged against Saturn for failing to destroy all his male children, that he assembled the giants, generally called Titans, to avenge the injury. They overcame Saturn, and bound him with Ops, or Rhea, in hell. Jupiter conquered the Titans, and delivered his father and mother. He afterwards took up arms against Saturn himself, whom he overcame and banished. He then shared his power with his two brothers, Neptune and Pluto; to Neptune he gave the command of the seas and rivers, while Pluto received [25] for his portion the subterranean world, or infernal regions.

Ques. What natural phenomena were attributed to Jupiter?

Ans. Thunder, lightning, rain, clouds, snow, and rainbows. These were sent by Jupiter either as signs or warnings, or else to punish the transgressions of men, particularly the perversion of law and justice. It seems certain that the ancients regarded Jupiter as a righteous power, the enemy of tyrants, and the protector of the poor and innocent. It is hard to reconcile this character with the fables which ascribe to this god actions in the last degree base and criminal.

Ques. How would you explain this seeming contradiction?

Ans. Many of these stories were simply allegories, illustrating the dominion of Jupiter over the natural world. Others were invented at later times; and all were embellished by the poets with but little regard for moral or religious sentiment. Whatever their origin, there can be no doubt that they had an unfavorable influence on the pagan world, and that they contributed to weaken whatever respect remained for public or private virtue.

Ques. Relate some of these fables.

Ans. Jupiter was married to Juno, to whom he first appeared in the form of a crow. He constantly excited her jealousy by his admiration of mortal women, and this gave rise to many adventures, celebrated by the poets.

Ques. What was the story of Euro´pa?

[26] Ans. Jupiter was struck by the beauty of Euro´pa, daughter of Age´nor, king of Phœnicia. He took the form of a snow-white bull, and mingled with the herd that grazed in the meadow where the young princess was gathering flowers. Euro´pa, attracted by the beauty and gentleness of the animal, caressed him, crowned him with flowers, and at length fearlessly mounted on his back. He immediately plunged into the sea, and carried her to the unknown shores of Europe, which was named from her.

Ques. On what was the story of Euro´pa probably founded?

Ans. It is probable that some sea captain, or pirate, was attracted by the beauty of the young princess, and carried her off. When her father grieved at her loss, the courtiers, and perhaps the oracles, pretended that it was a god who had taken her away. As this report was flattering to his pride, he would of course be pleased to hear it everywhere repeated. This, however, did not prevent Age´nor from making every effort to recover his lost child.

Ques. Relate the story of Cadmus.

Ans. Cadmus, the son of Age´nor, was ordered by his father to go in search of his sister Euro´pa, with the further injunction, that he should never return to his native land without her. The search proved fruitless, and Cadmus, not daring to appear before his father, went to consult the oracle of Apollo as to what he should do. He was [27] directed by the god to follow a young heifer, which he would meet in the fields, and to mark the place where she should lie down to rest. He was to build a city on that spot, and call the surrounding country Bœotia. Cadmus obeyed these instructions; while preparing to offer sacrifice to Jupiter on the site of his intended town, the solemnity was interrupted by a terrible event. The attendants of Cadmus, in searching for water, had entered a grove sacred to Mars, which was guarded by a mighty dragon. On perceiving him, they turned to fly, but were either crushed in the serpent’s folds, or suffocated by blasts of the monster’s fiery breath. Cadmus, awaiting their return, and becoming impatient at the delay, proceeded to the spot, and found his servants lifeless, while the dragon was basking at his ease upon the grass. The hero, aroused to vengeance, attacked the monster. A terrible combat ensued, in which Cadmus, through the assistance of Minerva, was victorious. As he gazed upon his expiring foe, he heard a frightful voice which threatened him with the vengeance of the god whose grove he had desecrated. Cadmus was at first dismayed, but Minerva told him to sow the dragon’s teeth in the ground, and await the result. Where the teeth were planted, armed men immediately sprung up. Cadmus threw a stone among them, upon which they turned their weapons against one another, and continued to fight [28] until all were killed except five. These assisted the hero in building his city.