A catechism of mythology
“Ten thousand colours wafted through the air,In magic glances play upon the eye,Combining in their endless, fairy formA wild creation.”
To Mrs. Martha Bradstreet,
of New York. §
In dedicating to you a work for which I conceive it difficult to find, among the most distinguished of your sex, a more suitable patroness, I am actuated by those feelings of respect which your high, literary attainments and exalted virtues cannot fail to elicit from every honest heart. The consideration, also, that this work, which is chiefly designed for the entertainment and improvement of the young, and especially such as are laudably striving to excel in the cultivation of the imaginative faculties, may associate in their minds a name so justly entitled to their admiration and esteem, has had no small degree of influence in urging me to take this step. By directing their attention to the example of one who continually exhibits in that elevated station in society in which superior mental endowments and an ample fortune have placed you, that amiable deportment, gentleness and affability of manners, that moderation, and aversion to ostentatious display, by which your private life is so eminently distinguished, lasting impressions, and strong incentives to good, cannot but be the happy results. But that retiring modesty which adorns your character, admonishes me not to soil with fulsome eulogy, the lustre of those talents, of those elegant, colloquial accomplishments, and those revered virtues which enlighten and enliven the female circle in which you preside.
Allow me to believe, My Dear Madam, that the goodness of your heart will throw a veil over the weakness which thus betrays my youthful ardour into a public avowal of that esteem and affection for you which will always be cherished by
As a general knowledge of ancient mythology is indispensable to a clear understanding, not only of the ancient poets and historians, but, also, of the best modern poets, the duty of enlightening youth in this important department of classical literature cannot be too strongly inculcated.
The object of the author of this treatise, is to adapt a compendium of Heathen Mythology to the juvenile capacity; especially to free this subject from those licentious and indelicate stories, with which it has so long been encumbered and defaced, and which are totally unfit for the eye of youth. The work also brings down the study of Mythology to the more common purposes of education.
As an object of faith, the countless throng of the heathen gods, when compared with the God of Christians, appears fantastical and preposterous; but the elegant and agreeable fictions which Mythology furnishes, are admirably suited to the purposes of poetry, statuary, and painting.
The elegant, the beautiful, the graceful, the lovely, the amorous, the novel, the romantic, the marvellous, the fairy, the fantastical, the sublime — these are the feasts in which imagination revels; the beauties and the terrors of creation; — to survey forests, precipices, caves, groves, valleys, mountains, rivers, winds, fields, and hospitable habitations — the happiness of the domestic scene — the alternate smiles and frowns of nature — the immense power of human industry — the wrestling of worth with poverty, of good with evil, of virtue with vice, of piety with persecution, of patriotism with usurpation; — these, and countless images like these — affecting, melancholy, serious, gay, ingenious, interesting, new — are the subjects for which she seeks with restless assiduity. How many times, waking to the roar of divine wrath, while stupid and lustful indolence snores on in happy forgetfulness, does she scale the giddy wall of the celestial courthouse, and picture the judgment: — now she follows the blasphemous in a wide path over the edge of the infernal precipices, where she beholds a thousand-fanged serpent come up and gnaw their guilty hearts; and, at last dropped by that serpent, she sees them trembling headlong from redhot rock to redhot rock into the fire-waving abyss, the victim of a trillion-fold death.
Observation and reason afford ample testimony to the importance of being familiarly acquainted with the productions of, , , , and so on, which are held out as models of fine writing. To improve the taste, the mind ought to be prepared by a perusal of the fictions of Greece and Rome. These contain many allegorical and mystical things, the true sense of which, though not suited to vulgar apprehension, the refined and liberal may explain.
In cases where evident morals are inculcated by Fables, observations have been given; while poetical extracts have been selected, which cannot fail to show how Mythology is mingled with poetry: and thus I have attempted to demonstrate the importance of mythological knowledge, and, at the same time, to render the work more valuable and interesting.
When the student has acquainted himself with the brief abstract here introduced, principally with the view of awaking in him a spirit of inquiry and thereby leading him to a more minute and useful investigation of the various subjects which are laid before him, the author would recommend him for farther information to the reading of’s Classical Dictionary, edited by , Esq., or by Messrs. and , of New York. That dictionary is a universal note-book to all the editions of all the classics.
By way of translation from the French, the author has added some things which that popular author does not contain, namely, an account of Temples, Oracles, Sibyls, and Games, and also of the Mythology of Northern Europe.
The engravings introduced, will, it is anticipated, brighten the mental eye of the student.
At the suggestion of an experienced teacher, the author has been induced to arrange and introduce an appropriate set of questions at the close of each chapter, with the hope of thereby better adapting the work to the convenience and utility of families and schools.
Introduction to the Study of Mythology. §
Mythology, taken in an extensive sense, signifies an explanation of any fabulous doctrine; but its import is commonly applied to the history of the gods and heroes of antiquity. The study of the Grecian and Roman Mythologies, in particular, is justly deemed important to every one who aspires to the dignity of sound scholarship. The word Mythology is derived from the Greek words , a fable, and , a word, or description.
Its origin has been attributed to that most prominent cause, passion. The natural desire of man, when destitute of a knowledge of the true God, to worship some object for the blessings which he receives, the artifices of priests and legislators, the fictions of poets, and the extreme ignorance of the great mass of mankind in the primitive times of society, generated Mythology.
Polytheism was the religion of the ancients. They acknowledged a plurality of gods.
The ancients worshipped divinities by various representations, called idols. The Babylonians worshipped Bel or Baal as their idol, and so on.
The Chaldeans, the Phœnicians, the Egyptians, and many other nations of antiquity, paid adoration to objects in the skies, on earth, in the water, and to fire, under different forms and names, and attributed to them certain powers and qualities; but, as very few of their works have been transmitted to us, a knowledge of their mythology is not essentially necessary to a liberal education.
The ancients are supposed to have borrowed much of their fabulous history from the Bible. The Egyptians were acquainted with the religion of the Jews, and their priests appear to have decked out in the robe of fiction many historical facts recorded in Scripture; thus enveloping the history of the creation, and other sublime truths, in the obscurity of fable.
The ancient Greeks, who, at first, were the most rude and uncivilized of all nations, admired whatever related to the worship of the gods that had been brought into their country by the colonies from Phœnicia and Egypt; so that they soon greatly increased their number, by bestowing divine honours on such as ranked high in the scale of fame. In time they excelled in civilization and refinement. They represented their gods in human shape of the most excellent character. Every thing enchanting in female beauty, majestic, noble, muscular, or powerful, or whatever excellence the eye could discover in the figure of man, was displayed in the statues of their deities.
The natural consequence of raising mortals to the rank of gods, was, that the actions attributed to them, blend the mighty with the mean, and represent them, when considered literally, as guilty of the most extravagant follies and the most atrocious crimes.
The study of mythology enables us to understand, and become acquainted with, antique statues, medals, paintings, and the like; to read the classic authors advantageously; and to comprehend the writings of our poets, who make frequent allusions to the supposed actions of the fabulous deities.
Of the Gods of Greece and Rome. §
The Grecians and Romans, having adopted this fabulous history as their religion, found, by experience, that it was admirably calculated to flatter the vanities and passions of human nature, while it incited them to the practice of the most illustrious virtues.
The heathens, being ignorant of the proper attributes of the living God, supposed various gods and goddesses to have empire over the different parts of the universe; so that man was to believe himself to be every where observed by some of those deities, for whom he was taught to entertain the highest veneration.
In the infancy of their republic, the deep and extensive concerns of the Romans in war and politics, allowed them to bestow but little attention to science and philosophy. They, therefore, adopted, without scruple, the gods of the conquered nations, giving the preference to those of Greece.
The worship of the gods of Greece and Rome was generally conducted by priests in splendid and costly habits, who offered sacrifices of animals, fruits, vegetables, perfumes, &c. These sacrifices were often accompanied by prayers, music, dancing, and the like. Human victims were occasionally sacrificed.
The gods may be divided into Celestial, Marine, Terrestrial, and Infernal. We shall afterwards come to the subordinate gods, of whose residence the ancients had no positive idea.
Part I. Of the Celestial Deities. §
, skilled in heathen theology, enumerates thirty thousand gods. They were invented to preside over all parts of the universe; over the passions, and vicissitudes of life. Moreover, when different nations or cities worshipped the same god under the name of Jupiter, each of those nations or cities pretended to have its particular Jupiter. mentions more than three hundred Jupiters. It was so with the other gods and the demi-gods; upwards of forty Hercules were reckoned up; but as so many gods might disagree among themselves, the pagans felt the necessity of believing that there was a deity superior to all others. His name was Fatum or Destiny. He was supposed to be a blind god, governing all things by absolute necessity. Jupiter himself, the first and the greatest of the gods, was subject to his decrees. He had his kind of worship; but, as he could not be comprehended by the human understanding, the ancients durst not determine what was his figure; hence, they never adored his statue as they did that of the other gods. Yet some attempted to represent him in the form of an old man, holding between his hands the urn wherein the fortunes of mankind are wrapped up. Placed before him was a book in which futurity was written out. All the gods were to consult that book, because they could change none of its decrees. It was only by reading it, that they could foresee futurity; and to that circumstance the obscurity of the oracles, whose replies could be interpreted in a thousand different ways, is to be referred. — See figure 1.
This idea of Destiny is the most beautiful confession that men have made of the necessity of one supreme God; but it was out of their power to define and comprehend him, since they had forgotten the instructions which God had given to the first patriarchs.
Chapter I. Of the Different Orders of the Gods. §
The gods were divided into four orders.
The first order comprised the superior gods, who were also called Dii majorum gentium, gods of the greater nations, because they were known and revered by all nations. They were twenty in number, the first of whom was Jupiter.
The inferior gods were comprised in the second order. They were named Dii minorum gentium, gods of the smaller nations, because they had no place in heaven, and were not in the council of Jupiter. Pan, Pomona, Flora, and other rural deities, were included in this order.
The third order was composed of the demi-gods, who derived their origin from a god by a female mortal or from a goddess by a mortal. Such were Hercules, Æsculapius, Castor, Pollux, &c. &c. Heroes whose glorious actions raised them to the rank of immortals, were also received among these gods.
The fourth order contained the virtues by which great men had been distinguished, as fidelity, concord, courage, prudence, &c.; and even the miseries of life, as poverty, grief, and the like.
The twenty gods of the first order were divided into two classes.
The first class formed the council of Jupiter; which was composed of six gods and six goddesses.
Jupiter, Neptune, Mercury, Apollo, Mars, and Vulcan, were the six gods.
The six goddesses were called Juno, Ceres, Minerva, Vesta, Diana, and Venus.
The second class was composed of eight deities, who were not present at the supreme council. They were called Dii selecti, select gods. Their names were, Cœlus, Saturn, Genius, Sol, Pluto, Bacchus, Terra, and Luna.
Indigetes and Semones were neither of the first nor of the second class. The word indigetes signifies acting as gods, and semones signifies demi-men, because they were sons of a god and a female mortal, or of a goddess by a mortal.
Before we give the history of Jupiter, it may be proper to speak of Saturn and Cybele, his parents, although their rank was far inferior to his own.
The Greeks deemed Uranus the most ancient of all the gods. The Latins called him Cœlus, or heaven.
The oldest of the goddesses was, Vesta, Prisca, Titæa, Telus, or Terra — names all denoting, earth.
Chapter II. Of Saturn. §
Saturn was the son of Cœlus and Terra, and was worshipped by the ancients as the god of time. He was styled the father of the gods.
Birthright secured the succession of the kingdom to Titan; but, in compliance with the request of his mother, he yielded his right to his younger brother Saturn, on condition that he should not suffer any of his male children to live. To fulfil this condition, Saturn devoured his sons as soon as they were born. Cybele, his wife, having, however, brought into the world Jupiter and Juno at one birth, found means to hide Jupiter, and substituted for him a stone which Saturn devoured. Cybele, wishing to conceal Jupiter from the sight of Saturn, caused him to be secretly carried to Crete, and brought up by the Corybantes or Curetes. The goat Amalthea suckled him, and the two nymphs Adrastea and Ida, otherwise called the Melisses, took care of his infancy.
The poets relate, that, to prevent Saturn from hearing the cries of Jupiter, the priests of Cybele instituted a sort of dance, during which they beat brazen shields. Titan finding that the conditions were broken, sent for the Titans, who had each fifty heads and one hundred hands, overcame Saturn, and shut him arid Cybele in a close prison, where they lay till Jupiter, being grown up, fought for them, and restored them to liberty. But before Jupiter released his father, he had usurped the kingdom; and, fearing that Saturn would employ all means to re-ascend his throne, he drove him from heaven. The dethroned king Red for refuge to Janus, king of Italy, who not only received him, but also shared with him his throne. — Italy was anciently called Latium or Saturnia.
In return for this kindness, Saturn offered him his services. His reign was called the golden age; during which the earth afforded the inhabitants sustenance without culture; all things were in common; Astrea, the goddess of justice, ruled; and there were neither contentions nor wars among the people. In memory of that happy period, the Roman Saturnalia were instituted, and celebrated in December. On these festive days the Senate did not sit; schools kept holy-days; presents were made to friends; no war was proclaimed; no offender was executed; and masters served their slaves.
Saturn was called Stercutius, because he was the first to fatten the earth with manure.
He is represented under the figure of a decrepit old man, with wings, holding in one hand a scythe, and in the other a serpent with its tail to its mouth; designed thus emblematically to represent time and eternity. Sometimes he appears just ready to devour a child. — See Fig. 3.
Obs. 1. It is probable that, as the father of agriculture, Saturn is represented in the figure of an old man, holding a scythe in his hand.
Obs. 2. In a moral sence, Saturn is the emblem of time. Time, like an index in the heavens, points out and apportions to us the various stages of our existence; divides our terrestrial segment of eternity into the successive periods of hours, days, months, years, ages, and centuries, and marks the close of each: and as he pursues his rapid flight without deigning to be stayed by the entreaties of mortals, but continually presses forward with unimpeded wing, crushing and destroying every created thing as he rushes along, he is aptly represented as devouring his own children. Hence, emblematically to figure forth the rapidity, the power, and the regularity of his course, wings, a scythe, and an hourglass were given to Saturn or Time.
“Then Saturn came, who fled the pow’rs of Jove,Robb’d of his realms, and banish’d from above;The men dispers’d on hills to town he brought,The laws ordain’d, and civil customs taught;And Latium call’d the land, where safe he layFrom his unduteous son and his usurping sway.And hence the Golden Times derived their name.”.
“December now brings Saturn’s merry feasts,When masters bear their sportive servants’ jests.”.
Chapter III. Of Janus. §
Janus, a god in the Roman calendar, is said by some to have been the son of Cœlus, and a brother of Saturn; but by others he is described as the son of Apollo, and born in Thessaly, whence he removed to Italy, and founded a small town called Janiculum.
Saturn, as has been shown, after having been dethroned by his son Jupiter, was hospitably received by Janus. To reward this kindness, therefore, Saturn taught his subjects to cultivate corn and the vine, to make bread, and to raise temples and altars to the gods, who had been previously worshipped in groves.
Janus presided over the year, and had twelve altars, because it was composed of twelve months. It was he who gave his name to January. He is usually represented with two faces, that of an old man, looking towards the year that is past, and that of a young man, regarding the year that has just commenced. He also had empire over highways, doors, gates, locks, and all new undertakings. The invention of crowns and banks is attributed to him, He first stamped copper coins.
To Janus were offered cakes of new meal and salt, new wine and frankincense, on the day that the Roman consuls entered on their office. At Rome, a temple of brass was erected to him by Numa Pompilius, the doors of which remained constantly opened in time of war, and shut in time of peace. For this reason he was deemed the god of peace. The temple was shut only three times: first, under Numa; next, after the second Punic war; and lastly, in the reign of Augustus, after the battle of Actium.
Janus is called Bifrons by, and by , Biceps, because he is painted with two faces; Claviger, or the “club bearer,” because he holds the rod and the key in his hands; Janitor, because doors were under his protection; Junonius, because Juno committed to his care the calends of the month, which belonged to her; Patulacius and Clausius, because his temple was open and shut in time of war and peace.
He was represented sometimes with two faces, and sometimes with four, to express the four seasons: — hence he was called Quadrifons. In his right hand he held a key, because he invented doors; and in the other, a staff, because he presided over public ways. His statues often mark in the right the number of three hundred, and in the left that of sixty, to signify the measure of the year. History informs us that Janus was represented with two faces, because he commanded two different people, and divided his empire with Saturn. It also records that that prince had medals with two faces stamped, to announce that the totality of his states would be governed by the counsels of Saturn and himself. — See Fig. 2.
“Thou double pate, the sliding year doth show,The only god that thine own back can view.”
“The laurel that the former year did grace,T’ a fresh and verdant garland yields his place;Why is’t that though I other gods adore,I first must Janus’ deity implore?Because I hold the door, by which accessIs had to any god you would address.”.
“Two gates of steel (the name of Mars they bear,And still are worshipped with religious fear)Before his temple stand: the dire abodeAnd the fear’d issues of the furious godAre fenc’d with brazen bolts; without the gatesThe weary guardian Janus doubly waits.Then when the sacred Senate votes the wars,The Roman consul their decree declares,And in his robes the sounding gates unbars.Then dire debate and impious war shall cease,Then the stern age be soften’d into peace:Then banish’d faith shall once again return,And Vestal fires in hallow’d temples burn;And Remus with Quirinus shall sustainThe righteous laws, and fraud and force restrain.Janus himself before his fane shall wait,And keep the dreadful issues of his gateWith bolts and iron bars. Within remainsImprison’d Fury, bound in brazen chains;High on a trophy rais’d of useless armsHe sits, and threats the world with vain alarms.”.
Chapter IV. Of Cybele. §
Cybele, the mother of the gods, was the sister and wife of Saturn. Her festivals, called Megalesia, were celebrated with equal solemnity and pomp. Her priests were called Galli, Curetes, Corybantes, Telchines, Cabiri, Idæi, Dactyli, &c. At Rome she had a temple, called Opertum, to which men were never admitted.
Her favorite was named Atys, for whose death her mad priests commemorated her sorrow.
The box and the pine were sacred to her.
Cybele is called Ops, because she succours and cherishes every thing which the earth sustains; Rhea, because benefits incessantly proceed from her on every side; Dindyme, because the mountain Dindymus in Phrygia was consecrated to her; Berecynthia, because she is painted with a crown of towers; Pasithea, because she is considered the mother of all the gods; Bona Dea, or the “Good Goddess,” because she is profuse with earthly blessings; Fauna, because she favours all creatures; Fatua, because infants never cry till they come into the world; Pessinuntia, because an image of hers fell from heaven into the field of Pessinus in Phrygia.
She is represented as seated in a chariot, drawn by lions, having garments of various colours, and figured with the images of different creatures. In one hand she holds a sceptre, and in the other a key, and wears a crown of turrets on her head. She is sometimes painted with numerous breasts. She is usually described as sitting, to intimate the stability of the earth, and as wearing a drum or a discus, an emblem of the winds. Her temples were round, in allusion to the form of the earth. — See Fig. 4.
“High as the mother of the gods in place,And proud, like her, of an immortal race,Then, when in pomp she makes the Phrygian round,With golden turrets on her temples crown’d,A hundred gods her sweeping train supply,Her offspring all and all command the sky.”.
Obs. 1. — The towers on her head, denote the towers and castles built on the earth; her keys are emblematical of the treasures she locks up in the earth in winter, and unlocks in summer; her chariot drawn by the lions, denotes the motion of the earth; and her garments of divers colours are descriptive of the various hues in which the face of nature is bedecked.
Obs. 2. — The worship of Cybele and Terra is extremely ancient. Several authors affirm that it was Cadmus who introduced it into Europe. They relate that Dardanus, contemporary with Cadmus, after the death of his brother Jasion, led Cybele, his sister-in-law, and Corybas, his nephew, to Phrygia, where they introduced the mysteries of Terra, the mother of the gods. They also affirm that Cybele gave her own name to that goddess, and that the Corybantes, her priests, took their names from Corybas. In time Cybele was reckoned the mother of the gods. The goddess Astergatis was the symbol of the earth; and the Egyptians honored her as the moon, under the name of Isis. Such appears to be the origin of the worship of the Earth, which passed, with the other ceremonies of the Egyptians, first into Syria and Phœnicia, and afterwards into Phrygia, whence it at length arrived in Greece and Italy. We shall find that idolatry and fables have almost all followed in the same steps. The Romans highly distinguished themselves by the worship they paid to the mother of the gods.
Obs. 3. — History informs us that Cybele was daughter to a king of Phrygia; and that she left that country for Latium, where she married Saturn. It was she who first fortified the walls of cities with towers; which gave rise to the representation of a crown of towers upon her head. Before she became the wife of Saturn, she had seen Atys, a Phrygian youth, to whom she wished to be wedded; but he prefered to her the nymph Sangaris. Fable says that the goddess revenged herself upon Atys, by binding Sangaris to a tree, which was cut down, and the nymph perished. Atys, in despair, could not restrain his fury. His phrensy drove him to the mountains of Phrygia, where he killed himself with a hatchet. He was about to lose his life, when Cybele, having compassion upon a mortal whom she had loved so much, changed him into a pine tree, which was from that time consecrated to her. This fable of Atys and Sangaris is founded upon Midas, king of Pessinuntus’ promising his daughter in marriage to the young Atys. Cybele warned that she had a rival, collected troops, ran to Pessinuntus, and broke open the gates of the city. Atys in vain resisted the attack. He was mortally wounded, which caused the despair and death of Sangaris.
Concerning the birth of Cybele, history informs us that she was exposed when born, but it is silent as to the cause of such exposure, or how it was that she came to be acknowledged by her father. Cybele was so called from the name of the mountain upon which she had been exposed. Some etymologists suppose this name to be derived from a Hebrew word, signifying to bring forth a child painfully, and that the tradition of Eve, condemned to the labor of bringing forth children, is concealed under this fable.
Chapter V. Of Vesta. §
There were two different goddesses of this name. Vesta the elder, or Terra, or Tellus, the wife of Cœlus and the mother of Saturn, was the older goddess. She is painted as sitting with a drum, because the earth is immovable, (according to the erroneous notion of the ancients,) and contains the boisterous winds in its bosom. Vesta the younger, the goddess of fire, was the daughter of Saturn by his wife Rhea, and the sister of Jupiter, Neptune, Pluto, Juno, and Ceres.
Vesta had a round temple at Rome founded by Numa, who instituted four priestesses, afterwards increased to seven, to attend upon it. She was held in high estimation by the Romans. She had empire over the entrances of houses, (which from her were called Vestibula,) altars, and hearths. A sacred fire kindled by the rays of the sun, was perpetually kept in her temple. It was annually drawn from sunbeams during the calends of March, and was hung up in nothing but earthen vessels.
The direction of this fire was entrusted to noble virgins, called Vestals, who were chosen between the ages of six and ten years. They were not exempted from the priesthood nor permitted to marry until they had attained the age of thirty. They also took care of the palladium, on which the very existence of Rome was supposed to depend, and which was brought from Troy by Æneas. If they let the sacred fire expire, through inattention, or violated their vows of chastity, they were burnt alive, being shut up in a subterraneous vault with a lamp and some provisions. If the fire happened to be extinguished, it was accounted a direful omen, and all business and amusements were suspended, until, by prayers and sacrifices, the crime was expiated.
The vestals enjoyed great privileges. When they met a criminal, they had power to pardon him; when they went abroad, they were accompanied by lictors with the fasces; and even the consuls on meeting them, bowed their fasces in token of respect. Their declarations were admitted for an oath.
Vesta, as the goddess of fire, had no statues; but as the guardian of houses and hearths, she was represented as wearing a long flowing robe, with a veil on her head, holding a lamp in one hand and a javelin in the other. On some medals she is depicted with a drum. — See Fig. 5.
“No image Vesta’s shape can e’er express,Or fires.”
Obs. 1. — Vesta is taken for the elements of earth and fire, which is accounted for by two different deities of that name. Vesta’s fire was refined and celestial; whereas Vulcan’s was gross. One is the fire of the artificer; the other is expressive of that vital heat which cherishes health and vigour, and pervades organized nature. The ancients fancied that heat in animals proceeded from a vital spark in the heart.
Obs. 2. — The worship of fire was introduced originally from the east, where the sun was deemed the most glorious image of the Supreme Being. It was the Persians’ abhorrence of every other idol that induced them to demolish the Grecian temples and statues. The sacred fire renewed by the rays of the sun, attended the monarchs in their wars.
Chapter VI. Of Jupiter. §
Jupiter, the greatest of the gods, was the son of Saturn and Cybele, and was the twin brother of Juno. He was saved by his mother from destruction, and entrusted to the care of the Corybantes.
Jupiter was born and educated on Mount Ida, in Crete. He was fed with the milk of the goat Amalthea, which he afterwards placed among the constellations. The horn of this goat, called the cornucopia or horn of plenty, he gave to the nymphs, and by it they were favoured with every thing, they wished for. The shield with which he singly fought the giants, was made of the skin of the dead goat, and was called Ægis, a Greek word for a she-goat.
After a war of ten years continuance, Terra predicted to Jupiter, that he would gain a complete victory over his enemies, if he would set at liberty those Titans whom his father had shut up in Tartarus, and if he could engage them to fight with him. Accordingly he undertook this perilous adventure; killed Campus, who kept the prison, and delivered his relatives. The Cyclops gave a helmet to Pluto and a trident to Neptune. With these arms they conquered Saturn. Jupiter threw him headlong into the bottom of Tartarus, with the Titans, under the guard of the Hecatonchires, giants with one hundred hands each. Jupiter shared the universe with his brethren, Neptune and Pluto. For himself he reserved the jurisdiction of heaven and earth; gave Neptune the sovereignty of the sea; and appointed Pluto to the empire of hell.
The giants, descendants of Titanus, warred against Jupiter; among the most daring and distinguished of whom were Porphyrion, Alcioneus, Ephialtus, Otus, Eurytus, Polibetes, Hippolytus, Gration, Agrius, Thaon, and Typhon. They threw enormous rocks, oak trees, pine trees, and other inflammable substances at heaven, and heaped up mountain upon mountain to scale it; but Jupiter, by the assistance of Hercules, defeated and destroyed them.says that Jupiter was married seven times. His wives were Metis, Themis, Eurynome, Ceres, Mnemosyne, Latona and Juno. Juno appears to have been the last and the most celebrated of his wives. By these wives he had a great number of children, and he was often connected with female mortals, by whom, also, he had children.
Jupiter is described as having had recourse to the most unworthy artifices in order to gratify the basest of passions. Thus, he is said to have assumed the shape of a crow to woo his sister Juno, of a shower of gold to gain access to Danae, of a swan to seduce Leda, of a wild satyr to ravish Antiope, of Amphitryon, to impose on his wife Alcmena, of fire to win Egina’s affection, of Diana to deceive Calisto, of an eagle to carry away Ganymede, and also Asteria, of a bull to convey Europa, &c. In a word he was the father of almost all the gods and nymphs, committing incest and lewdness in various forms.
Jupiter was worshipped as the Supreme God of the Heathens, and was represented as the father of gods and men, shaking heaven with his nod, and governing all things except the Fates, by his will, as supreme.
Jupiter sits on a throne of ivory and gold, under a rich canopy, with a beard, holding thunderbolts in his right hand, and in his left, a sceptre of cypress surmounted with an eagle with expanded wings, which is his armour bearer; his vesture is an embroidered cloak, and he has golden shoes. The ancients considered him as skilled in every thing past, present, and future. — See Fig. 6.
Jupiter was worshipped with the greatest solemnity. Goats, sheep, and bulls were the usual offerings, and the oak was sacred to him. His altars were never defiled with human sacrifices.
Almost every nation had its Jupiter.enumerates three hundred as a part of the thirty thousand gods recognized by the Heathens. He was called Jove by the Greeks; Assabinus, by the Ethiopians; Taranus, by the Gauls; Apis, by the inhabitants of the Lower Nile; Chronos, by the Arabians; Belus, by the Assyrians. He was surnamed Capitolinus, because he had the first temple at Rome on the Capitoline hill; Tarpeius, because his temple was built on the Tarpean rock; Optimus and Maximus, because he was the best and the greatest of beings; Diespiter, because he was the father of light; Dodonæus, because Dodona, a city in Epirus, was sacred to him; Elicius, because he heard the prayers of men; Feretrius, because he smote his enemies or gave peace; Fulminator, or Ceraunius, because he hurled thunder; Latialis, because he was worshipped in Latium; Muscarius, because he drove away flies; Opitulator, because he was the helper; Stabilitor, because he supported the world; Almus, because he cherished all things; Olympius, because he resided on Mount Olympus; Xenius, because he made the laws and customs of hospitality; Zeus, because he gave life to animals, &c. &c.
“Here a vast hill ‘gainst thund’ring Baal was thrown,Trees and beasts fell on ‘t, burnt with lightning down;One flings a mountain and its river too,Torn up with ‘t; that rains back on him that threw;Some from the main to pluck whole islands try;The sea boils round with flames shot thick from sky.”.
“Great Jove himself, whom dreadful darkness shrouds,Pavilioned in the thickness of the clouds,With lightning arm’d, his red hand he puts forth,And shakes with burning bolts the solid earth:The nations shrink appalled; the beasts are fled;All human hearts are sunk and pierced with dread;He strikes vast Rhodope’s exalted crownAnd hurls huge Athos and Ceraunia down.Thick fall the rains; the wind redoubled roars;The god now smites the woods, and now the sounding shores.”’s .
“Now lows white bull on Asia’s strand,And crops with dancing head the daisied land,With rosy wreaths, Europa’s hand adornsHis fringed forehead and his pearly horns;Light on his back the sportive damsel bounds,And pleased he moves along the flowery grounds;Bears with slow steps his beauteous prize aloof,Dips in the lucid flood his ivory hoof;Then wets his velvet knees, and wading lavesHis silky sides amid the dimpling waves.Beneath her robe she draws her snowy feet,And, half reclining on her ermine seat,Around his rais’d neck her radiant arms she throws,And rests her fair cheek on his curled brows;Her yellow tresses wave on wanton gales,And bent in air her azure mantle sails,While her fair train with beckoning hands deplore,Strain their blue eyes, and shriek along the shore.Onward he moves; applauding Cupid’s guide,And skim on shooting wing the shining tide;Emerging Tritons leave their coral caves,Sound Europe’s shadowy shores with loud acclaim,Hail the fair fugitive and shout her name.”’s Botanic Garden — Canto II.
“He, whose all conscious eyes the world behold,Th’ eternal thunderer, sat enthron’d in gold;High heav’n the footstool for his feet he makes,And wide beneath him all Olympus shakes.He spake; and awful bends his sable brows,Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod;The stamp of fate and sanction of the god:High heaven, with trembling, the dread signal took,And all Olympus to the centre shook.”.
“Then spake th’ almighty father as he satEnthron’d in gold; and clos’d the great debate,Th’ attentive winds a solemn silence keep;The wond’ring waves lie level on the deep;Earth to his centre shook; high heav’n was aw’d,And all th’ immortal pow’rs stood trembling at the god.”.
“Jove can’t resist the just man’s cries,They bring him down, e’en from the skies;Hence he’s Elicius call’d.”.
“O! king of gods and men, whose awful handDisperses thunder on the seas and land;Dispersing all with absolute command.”.
“ —— The heaven and earth’s compacted frame,And flowing waters, and the starry flame,And both the radiant lights, one common soulInspires, and feels, and animates the whole.This active mind, infus’d through all the space,Unites and mingles with the mighty mass.”.
Obs. 1. — To understand the historical sense of this fable, it is necessary to know that different princes of the name of Jupiter successively reigned in Crete, as we see in Egypt several Pharaohs, and in Asia several Dariuses. The most celebrated of the kings who-appeared under the name of Jupiter, was nearly contemporary with Abraham. He reigned in Thrace, Phrygia, and a part of Greece, which he conquered. Jupiter, king of Crete, also named Cœlus or Uranus, had married Titea, or Terra, his sister, by whom he had several, children: Titan, Ocean, Japetus, and Chronos or Saturn. Saturn, though the youngest, supplanted Titan his elder brother, and put his father to a violent death. In process of time, Saturn having been dethroned by his son Jupiter was treated by him as he had treated his father. After a glorious reign, he died in Crete, where he had a tomb with this epitaph: “Here lies Zeus, who was named Jupiter.” Eris, his son, succeeded.
Obs. 2. — Jupiter’s throwing his father down into the infernal regions, may be thus accounted for: — Among the Greeks, countries in the east were considered the highest places in the world, and were thence designated by the name of Heaven; those in the west were looked upon as the lowest, and were therefore called the Infernal Regions, or Hell. The Infernal Regions were placed in Spain, Italy, or Epirus, or in other countries west of Greece. The Titans having taken refuge in Spain, the poets represented them as having been driven into the Infernal Regions. So they gave the name of Tartarus to the river Tartese, in Spain; and, the Titans having been beaten near that river, and drowned in its waters, were represented as having been plunged into Tartarus. Some of them having been recalled from Italy or Spain were said to have been delivered from the Infernal Regions. By the combat of the giants who attempted to dethrone Jupiter, is meant the conspiracy of his enemies who attacked him on Mount Olympus, which was, no doubt, a fortress in Thessaly. Let our readers sharpen their minds in explaining the other fables related in relation to Jupiter.
Obs. 3. — The gods, whom the poets have associated with Jupiter, only mark the different employments which the lords of his court filled. Mercury was his secretary of state and ambassador; Neptune, or Æolus, the admiral of his fleets; Vulcan, his high master of artillery; Mars, the general of his troops; Comus, his hotel master. By the Academy of the Muses, was meant those singers or dancers who composed a kind of ambulatory opera, governed by a skilful master by the name of Apollo. The bitches of the prince were called Harpies.
Obs. 4. — The Titans were nothing more than a family of princes, who acknowledged Saturn for their sovereign, but who afterwards revolted. In order to represent, allegorically, their atrocious crimes and passions, the poets incarnated them in monstrous forms and powers. The different animals into which the frightened gods figured themselves were nothing but their images carved on the prows of the ships in which they made away. A further account of them will be given under the head of the Sufferers in Hell.
Chapter VII. Of Prometheus, Pandora, Deucalion. §
Prometheus was the son of Japetus by Clymene, one of the Oceantides. He animated a man whom he had formed of clay, with fire, which, by the assistance of Minerva, he stole from heaven; a theft which so offended Jupiter, that he sent him Pandora with a golden box.
Pandora was the first woman that Vulcan formed. As soon as she was created, Minerva gave her wisdom; Venus, beauty; Apollo, a knowledge of music; and Mercury, eloquence.
Prometheus suspected the artifice of Jupiter, and therefore delivered over Pandora to his brother Epinotheus, who being seduced by her beauty, chose her for his wife. The curiosity of Epinotheus was raised at seeing the box given by Jupiter. When opened, it was found to contain all the evils, which instantly escaped, and spread over the earth. But he shut the box again, and prevented Hope from flying out. That deluge of evils produced the Iron Age.
Jupiter ordered Mercury to chain Prometheus to mount Caucasus, with a vulture continually preying on his liver. After thirty years suffering, he was released by Hercules. — See Fig. 7.
Prometheus had a son named Deucalion, who was king of Thessaly, and married to Pyrrha, daughter of Epimetheus. In his age the human race was destroyed by a deluge. Only Deucalion and his wife escaped the general calamity by saving themselves in a vessel that he had constructed, according to his father’s advice.
The vessel floated for nine days, and at length rested upon the top of mount Parnassus, where they remained till the waters subsided. They then inquired of the oracle of Themis, how the earth was to be repeopled, and were commanded to throw behind them the bones of their grandmother.
They rightly guessed that by their grandmother was intended the earth, and by her bones were meant the stones. The stones thrown by Deucalion and by Pyrrha were changed into men and into women.
“No pow’r the pride of mortals can control:Prone to new crimes, by strong presumption driv’n,With sacrilegious hands Prometheus stoleCelestial fire, and bore it down from heav’n:The fatal present brought on mortal raceAn army of diseases; death beganWith vigour then, to mend its halting pace,And found a more compendious way to man.”.
“Thy godlike crime was to be kind,To render with thy precepts lessThe sum of human misery than wretchedness,And strengthen man with his own mind.”.
Obs. 1. — Prometheus is a name derived from a Greek word signifying to foresee future events; Epimetheus, from a word signifying to remember past events; and Pandora, from one signifying every gift.
Obs. 2. — It is believed that Prometheus was the first inventor of statues. To render the fables of the poets intelligible, they placed Minerva by him, directing his labours by her counsels; whence he is said to have given, as it were, a soul to his statues. Prometheus taught the Scythians to live mildly and comfortably; which gave rise to the saying that he made a man with the aid of the goddess of wisdom. Hence, he is painted, stealing fire from heaven, either because he first established forge’s in Scythia, or because he was the inventor of the steel with which we elicit fire from flints. King Jupiter having driven him from his kingdom, Prometheus hid himself in the forests on mount Caucasus, which seemed to be inhabited by eagles and vultures. The sorrow which he experienced in so cruel an exile was figured by a vulture tearing his liver.
Obs. 3. — The fables of Pandora and Deucalion, appear evidently, to relate to the Fall of man and the General Deluge.
Obs. 4. — The story of Pandora’s box, was doubtless an attempt to account for the cause of that wonderful truth, which could not escape the observation even of the ancient heathens, namely, that a mixture of good and evil fills up the cup of life; and that among its bitterest dregs are always found some sweets, seems to have suggested the beautiful idea of Epimetheus’ shutting the box ere Hope escaped.
Chapter VIII. Juno. §
Juno, the Queen of Heaven and Earth, was the daughter of Saturn and Cybele, and the sister of Jupiter. The poets describe her as the majestic Empress of the skies, with all that is lofty, graceful, and magnificent, in her visage, figure, and motion. Some say that she was born at Argos, while others fix her nativity at Samos.
Juno was married to Jupiter. To render his wedding more solemn, Jupiter charged Mercury to invite all the gods, men, and animals. The nymph Chelone refused to be present. Mercury threw her down into, a river, and changed her into a turtle (which her name signifies) that she might keep eternal silence.
The many conjugal infidelities of her husband rendered Juno haughty, jealous, and inexorable; and she punished his mistresses with unparalleled severity.
She persecuted Hercules, the son of Jupiter by Alcmena, with fury, so inveterate, that, as a punishment, Jupiter caused her to be suspended between heaven and earth. Vulcan having effected the rescue of his mother, was thrust out of the celestial abodes, and broke his leg by the fall. She, therefore, excited sedition among the gods to depose Jupiter; but by the help of Briareus, he frustrated their attempts, and Apollo and Neptune were cast out of heaven for the offence.
This punishment did not reform Juno. Having perceived that Jupiter loved the nymph Io, she made her the object of her revenge. Whereupon, in order to deliver her from the persecution of Juno, Jupiter metamorphosed her into a cow. The trick could not deceive the goddess. She imperiously demanded that this cow should be entrusted to her, and Jupiter did not dare to refuse her. Juno set her under the guard of Argus, who had one hundred eyes. This spy of the goddess could not be surprised, because fifty of his eyes remained open, while the other half was given up to sleep, (a perfect image of jealousy.) Yet Mercury, at the request of Jupiter, found means to lull Argus asleep by the sounds of his flute, and killed him during his sleep. To reward Argus, Juno transformed him into a peacock, and impressed his eyes on its feathers.
Juno was the mother of Mars, Vulcan, Hebe, and Ilithya, or Lucina.
Hebe, the goddess of youth, was cupbearer to the gods. Having displeased her father Jupiter, she was removed from the office, and Ganymede, a beautiful youth, whom he had taken up to heaven, was appointed in her stead. Soon after, Hebe was married to Hercules.
Hebe is usually represented as a beautiful virgin, crowned with roses, and holding a vase or ewer, with a goblet, into which she pours nectar. Sometimes the eagle of Jupiter is depicted as drinking from the goblet.
Iris was the usual attendant of Juno. She ascended upon the rainbow, with expanded wings, with a blaze of glory round her head, and clothed in floating robes of beautiful, brilliant, and varying colours. She conveyed the commands of Juno, created dissensions, and released the souls of females struggling in the pangs of death. She was the personification of the rainbow.
The worship of Juno was the most solemn and general of all offered up to pagan divinities. She presided over the finery of women, over marriage, childbirth, power, empire, and riches; and was the special patroness of virtuous females; no woman of ill fame being allowed to enter her temples. She is described as the
“Great Queen of nuptual rights,Whose pow’r the soul unites,And fills the genial beds with chaste delights.”
An ewe lamb and a sow were burnt on her altars on the first day of every month. Young geese, the hawk, and peacock, were her favourite birds; the lily, poppy, and dittany, her favourite plants.
Juno was called Argiva, because the Argives worshipped her; Bunea, because it was Bunæus, Mercury’s son, who erected to her a temple; Coprotina, because maid-servants celebrated her festivals under a fig-tree; Curis, or Curitis, because the spear is sacred to her; Cingula, because it was she who unloosed the girdle which the bride wore when she was married; Dominduca and Interduca, because she brought the bride to her husband’s house; Februalis, because her festivals were celebrated in the month of February; Juga, because she is the goddess of marriage; Socigena, because she helps to couple the bride and the bridegroom; Lacinia, because it was Lacinius who built and dedicated a temple to her’ Lucina, or Lucilia, either because her temple was in a grove, or because she brought infants into the tracts of light; Nuptialis, because married people praised her when they were happy; Parthenos, because she annually bathed herself in order to recover the youth and beauty of a virgin; Regina, because she was the queen of heaven; Perfecta, because marriage improves human life; Pronuba, because marriages were accounted illegal, unless she was invoked; Sospita, because woman kind were under her peculiar protection; Unxia, because she annointed the posts of the door on account of a recent marriage, when the wife was called Uxor.
Juno is represented in a long robe, seated on a throne, holding in one hand a golden sceptre, and in the other, a spindle; her head is sometimes covered with a radiant crown, and at other times, is encircled with a rainbow. Sometimes she traverses the heavens in a chariot, drawn by peacocks. — See Fig. 8.
“The goddess then to Argus straight convey’dHer gift, and him the watchful keeper made.Argus’ head a hundred eyes possess’d,And only two at once reclin’d to rest:The others watch’d, and, in a constant round,Refreshment in alternate courses found.Where’er he turn’d he always Io view’d;Io he saw, though she behind him stood.There Argus lies; and all that wond’rous light,Which gave his hundred eyes their useful sight,Lies buried now in one eternal night.But Juno, that she might his eyes retain,Soon fix’d them in her gaudy peacock’s train.”.
“Then Juno, grieving that she (Dido) should sustainA death so ling’ring, and so full of pain,Sent Iris down to free her from the strifeOf lab’ring nature, and dissolve her life.Downward the various goddess took her flight,And drew a thousand colours from the light;Then stood about the dying lover’s head,And said, ‘I thus devote thee to the dead:This off’ring to th’ infernal gods I bear.’Thus, while she spoke, she cut the fatal hair:The struggling soul was loos’d, and life dissolv’d in air.”.
“At her command rush forth the steeds divine;Rich with immortal gold their trappings shine:Bright Hebe waits: Hebe, ever young,The whirling wheels are to the chariot hung.On the bright axle turns the bidden wheelOf sounding brass; the polish’d axle, steel:Eight brazen spokes in radiant order flame;Such as the heavens produce: and round the goldTwo brazen rings of work divine were roll’d.The bossy naves, of solid silver, shone;Braces of gold suspend the moving throne;The car, behind an arching figure bore;The bending concave form’d an arch before;Silver the beam, th’ extended yoke was gold,And golden reins th’ immortal coursers hold.”.
Chapter IX. Hymen, Nuptial Gods, &c. §
Hymen, the god of marriage, and special protector of virgins, was either the son of Bacchus and Venus, or of Apollo and one of the Muses. His presence at the nuptial rites was deemed so indispensable to the future happiness of the married pair, that his name was loudly invoked during their celebration.
Hymen was represented as a handsome youth, crowned with marjoram and roses, dressed in a saffron-coloured vest, and holding a burning torch in his hand.
Symbolically, the youthfulness of Hymen represents the importance of early marriage, his rosy crown, the rational pleasures of matrimony, and his torch, a chaste and perpetual flame of love.
Jupiter Perfectus or Adultus, Juno Perfecta or Adulta, Venus, Suada, and Diana, were legally solicited to preside at the nuptial rites.
Jugatinus put the yoke of matrimony on man and woman.
Domiducus introduced the bride into the bridegroom’s house.
Domitius was invoked to make the bride a good housewife.
Manturna was invoked to make the wife abide with her husband through life.
Viriplaca, the goddess of family peace, was worshipped, that husbands might be reconciled to their wives. When a married couple quarrelled, they usually repaired to her temple, and there unsealing the sources of confidence in their breasts, they laid aside all bad feelings, and came back happy.
Children were delivered from misfortunes by Pilumnus, so called from the pestle, with which the ancients pounded their corn, before they made their bread.
Intercidona was invoked, because she first taught the art of cutting wood with a hatchet or an axe to make fires.
Deverra invented brooms, with which to brush all things cleanly.
Janus opened the doors of life to infants.
Cunia takes care of infants while they sleep in cradles.
Nundina was invoked by parents, who gave names to their children soon after their birth; and was also called Nona Dies. When a boy entered the ninth day of his age, or when a girl reached her eighth day, this was called the day of the purification.
Inventas, or Inventus, takes care of youth. She is the Hebe of the Greeks.
Horta, Hora, or Hersilia, exhorts us to noble actions. Her temple stood open at all times, to admonish those who were entering on the scenes of life, that they should “beware of flattery,” and strive to gain the praises of the virtuous and wise, only by good conduct and real excellence.
Quies was the goddess of rest, and was supposed to be the donor of peace and quietness. She had a temple without the walls of Rome.
Meditrina was the goddess of medicines; her festivals were called Meditrinalia, in which the Romans drank new and old wine, which served them for physic.
The Romans gave thanks to Vitula, the goddess of mirth, for mitigating the toils of life.
Sentia was invoked to make a full conviction in children of the obligations of morality and religion.
Angerona was worshipped, that anguish of mind might be removed.
The Romans offered up prayers to Stata, or Statua Mater, in the Forum, that she might preserve it from fire at night.
Thieves were patronized by Laverna, from whom they were named Laverniones. They worshipped her, when they put their designs and intrigues into execution. She appears with a head, but no legs, or other limbs.
Volumnus and Volumna presided over the will. They were particularly invoked at the nuptial rites, in order to ensure concord between the husband and the wife, and worshipped by the Etnesians.
An altar was erected to Aius Locutius to give Rome warning of approaching calamities. A common soldier, named Ceditius, informed the tribunes that while he was one night passing through the streets, he heard a voice, saying, the “Gauls are coming.” Nobody appreciated this information on account of his mean origin. After the Gallic war, Camillus dedicated a temple to Aius Locutius, to remind the Romans of that war, and of the forewarning of Aius Locutius.
Funerals were patronized by Libitina, whom some consider the same as Venus, and others as Proserpine. In her temple every thing for funeral purposes was sold or let. By her name is commonly meant the grave, and the Libitinarii were grave-diggers. Porta Libitina at Rome was the gate through which the corpses were conveyed to be burnt. By Rationes Libitinæ we usually understand the “bills of mortality,” or the “weekly bills.”
Chapter X. Of Ceres. §
Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, was the daughter of Saturn and Cybele. She is regarded as the first inventress of the art of cultivating the earth.
She is said to have repented of the improper demeanor of which she had been guilty, put on mourning garments, and kept herself in such privacy, that a famine would have afflicted the whole world, had not Pan discovered her.
She taught Triptolemus, son of Celeus, king of Attica, to plough, sow, and reap, to bake bread, and rear fruit trees. She gave him her chariot, drawn by winged dragons, and bade him travel and communicate his knowledge to those who then fed on acorns and roots. On his return to Athens, he celebrated the Eleusinian mysteries.
The Eleusinian mysteries were a festival, celebrated by the Greeks every fifth year. The initiated only were admitted; and whoever disclosed their secrets, was put to an ignominious death.
Proserpine, the daughter of Ceres, while gathering flowers in the plains of Enna, in Sicily, was carried off by Pluto, the god of Tartarus. The fountain Arethusa, which flowed under ground, was the witness of this rape; of which she informed Ceres, who ran over the world with two flambeaux in her hand in quest of her daughter. Ceres complained to Jupiter, who decreed that Pluto should restore Proserpine, if she had eaten nothing in hell. But she had eaten a pomegranate. Ascalphus informed Ceres; which enraged her so much that she cast the water of the Phlegethon at his face, and he was soon metamorphosed into an owl, a bird which announces misfortunes. Minerva, however, took it under her protection, because it watches and discerns objects in the dark (an allegory which perfectly agrees with wisdom, always guarding against surprise.) To console Ceres, Jupiter ordained, that Proserpine should pass six months with her husband Pluto, and six months with her.
Arethusa, a most virtuous and beautiful nymph, was engaged in the service of Diana. While she was bathing herself in a cool and limpid river, Alpheus, the god of the river, in the shape of a man, addressed her. She ran away, but Diana, finding her overwhelmed with fear, changed her, at her own request, into a fountain, which she did in order to deliver her from the pursuits of the river Alpheus.
Ceres metamorphosed Abbas into a lizard, for using towards her opprobrious language; she punished Erisichthon for cutting down a grove sacred to her, with such insatiable hunger, that he gnawed his own flesh; and she changed some clowns into frogs, because they prevented her drinking at a spring.
Her favorite retreat was Sicily, where every man made an annual sacrifice to her. The fountain of Cyanne, when Pluto opened it with the stroke of his bident, afforded him a passage, and was honoured with the blood of bulls. Sometimes rams were offered before the corn was ripe; and sometimes, garlands of ears of corn. Sometimes a pregnant sow was sacrificed, because that animal injures the productions of the earth. When harvest came on, the husbandmen carried a pregnant cow or a heifer, with dancing and shouts through the fields, one of them being adorned with a crown, singing the praises of Ceres. After an oblation of wine mixed with honey and milk, the heifer was sacrificed. The name of this festival was Ambarvalia. Roman matrons annually celebrated her festival for eight days in April, when they abstained from wine, and every sensual indulgence.
Ceres was denominated Melæna, because she was clad in black; Mammosa, because her breasts swell with milk; Alma, because she feeds and nourishes as a mother; Thesmophoris, because she taught men to affix boundaries to their possessions.
Ceres was represented as a tall, beautiful, and majestic woman, with yellow hair, and a garland of corn-ears on her head. In one hand she holds a lighted torch, and in the other, a mixed bunch of poppies and corn-ears. In Sicily her image was represented in a black veil, with the head of a horse, and holding a dove in one hand, and in the other, a dolphin. Sometimes she is represented as a country woman, mounted on an ox, holding a basket upon her left arm, and a hoe or sickle in her right hand. — See Fig. 9.
“Ceres was she who first our furrows plough’d;Who gave sweet fruits, and early food allow’d;Ceres first tam’d us with her gentle laws;From her kind hand the world subsistence draws.”.
“Ceres with the blood of swine we beset alone,Which thus requite the mischief they have done.”.
“To thee, fair goddess, we’ll a garland plait,Of ears of corn, t’ adorn thy temple gate.”.
“Let ev’ry swain adore her power divine,And milk and honey mix with sparkling wine:Let all the choir of clowns attend the show,In long procession, shouting as they go;Invoking her to bless their yearly stores,Inviting plenty to their crowded floors,Thus in the spring, and thus in summer’s heat,Before the sickles touch the rip’ning wheat,On Ceres call; and let the lab’ring findWith oaken wreaths his hollow temples bind;On Ceres let him call, and Ceres praise,With uncouth dances and with country lays.”
“To Ceres bland, her annual rites be paid,On the green turf, beneath the fragrant shade;When winter ends and spring serenely shines,Then fat the lamb, then mellow are the wines:Then sweet are slumbers on the flowery ground;Then with thick shades are lofty mountains crown’d.Let all the winds bend low at Ceres’ shrine;Mix honey sweet, for her, with milk and mellow wine;Thrice lead the victim the new fruits around,And Ceres call, and choral hymns resound;Presume not, swains, the ripened grain to reap,Till crown’d with oak in antic dance you leap,Invoking Ceres; and in solemn lays,Exalt your rural queen’s immortal praise.”’s .
Obs. 1. — In inquiring into the sense of the first of these fables, we find that the counsels of Ascalphus determined on Proserpine’s receiving Pluto for her husband; at which Ceres was dissatisfied, and Ascalphus became the subject of her vengeance. It appears, however, that his prudence and wisdom engaged Minerva to take him under her protection.
Obs. 2. — The division of the year alluded to by the second fable, may be explained in two different ways. Proserpine was often taken for the moon, and one expressed by this fable, the time at which she appeared to us, and the time at which she disappeared from us. Some explain it still more naturally by saying that king Jupiter allowed her to spend one part of the year in the kingdom of Pluto, and the other part in the usual abode of her mother Ceres.
Obs. 3. — Allegorically, Proserpine may stand for the seed, and Ceres, for the fertility of the earth. The seed remains concealed under ground in winter, but in summer it bursts its concealment, and produces the stalk and ear, exposing itself to the face of the sun.
It is not our intention to present an unnecessary multiplication of these explanations of the fables. A few examples of the kind, however, may be useful to call forth the sagacity and critical acumen of the youthful reader, and, we hope, induce him to surpass ourselves in labours of this description.
Chapter XI. Sol. §
Sol or Sun was much worshipped by the ancients. He was called Mithras by the Persians; Bel or Baal by the Chaldeans; Belphegor by the Moabites; Moloch by the Canaanites; Osiris by the Egyptians; and Adonis by the Syrians. The Massagetæ offered horses to the sun, because they were swift. Apollo, Phœbus, and Sol, are generally thought to be one and the same deity. Apollo is always represented under the figure of a young man, who holds a bow or a harp in his hand, while the sun is represented with a head surrounded with rays, holding a globe in one hand; which is never observed in the representation of Apollo. — See Fig. 10.
Sol presides over the twelve signs of the zodiac. Each of these signs answers to a month; so that the sun runs over them all during the course of the year; hence they are called the twelve houses of the sun.
1. March, sign of Aries (a ram.) He represents that upon which Phryxus and Helle fled away to escape from the persecutions of their step-mother.
2. April, sign of Taurus (a bull.) He represents that animal whose form Jupiter assumed to carry Europa away.
3. May, sign of Gemini (the twins.) They represent Castor and Pollux, sons of Jupiter and Leda.
4. June, sign of Cancer (a crab.) The crab is supposed to have pricked Hercules, when killing the Lernean hydra.
5. July, sign of Leo (a lion.) He represents the one of the Nemæn forest, killed by Hercules, whose skin served him for a mantle.
6. August, sign of Virgo (a virgin.) During the golden age, Astræa dwelt on earth; but when that was over, being unable to bear the sight of the crimes which men committed, she returned with the other gods to heaven. She was the last, who left the earth, and retired into that part of heaven which makes the sign of Virgo.
7. September, sign of Libra (a balance.) It represents Justice, the balance of which always ought to be perfectly equal. It also signifies that in this month, days and nights are equal.
8. October, sign of Scorpio (a scorpion.) It represents Orion whom Diana changed into that animal.
9. November, sign of Sagittarius (a bow-man.) He represents the Centaur Chiron, who draws his bow. He had been the preceptor of Hercules; but in the battle of the Lapithes against the Centaurs, Hercules wounded him accidentally with one of his arrows, which had been dipped in the blood of the hydra. The wound caused Chiron such exquisite pain, that he wished to die, though immortal. The gods, moved with his complaints, granted him his request. He died, and was translated into heaven among the signs of the zodiac.
10. December, sign of Capricornus (a goat.) It represents the goat Amalthea, or the princess Melissa, who took care of the infancy of Jupiter.
11. January, sign of Aquarius (a butler.) He represents Gænymede, pouring out the nectar to Jupiter and the other gods. He also designates abundant rains which fall during this month.
12. February, sign of Pisces (the fishes.) They represent the Dolphins which conducted Amphitrite to Neptune.
The names of the four horses that drew the chariot of the sun, were Eous, Pyrois, Aethon, and Phlegon, Greek names, meaning red, luminous, resplendent, and loving the earth. The first designates sunrise, as the rays are red at that moment; the second marks the moment at which the rays are more clear; the third figures noon, a time at which that luminary is in all its splendor; and the fourth represents sunset, when it is seen to approach the earth. Horæ or Seasons are supposed to be the daughters of the sun. Early in the morning, they prepare the chariot and the horses for their father, and open the gates of heaven. Ethes, Pasiphæ, and Rhodia, were his reputed daughters. The poets say that on the birthday of Rhodia, a shower of gold fell, and that rose-bushes were covered with new flowers. Among the children of the sun, Aurora and Phaeton are the most celebrated.
Chapter XII. Aurora, Tithonus, Memnon, and Phaeton. §
Aurora, the goddess of the morning dawn, and the harbinger of the sun, was the wife of Astræus, one of the Titans, by whom she became the mother of the stars and winds. When she rises, the winged hours unbar the gates of the east. She ascends in a golden chariot drawn by white horses; and appears covered with a veil of a rich vermilion, with rosy fingers, and hair sprinkling the dew, and expanding the cups of flowers. Nox and Somnus fly before her.
Aurora was not faithful to her husband. She had Memnon and Æmathion by Tithonus, and Phaeton by Cephalus.
Tithonus begged of Aurora that she would favour him with the gift of immortality, which she did accordingly. But as she forgot to offer him perpetual youth, he became so much worn out with infirm old age that he chose rather to die than live. She metamorphosed him into a grasshopper, which the ancients deemed a happy and long lived insect.
Memnon aided Priam in the Trojan War, and was killed by Achilles. His mother issued from her wood pile, birds, called Memnonides. The statue of Memnon, set up in the temple of Serapis at Thebes, in Egypt, is reported to have uttered a melodious sound at sunrise, and a lugubrious sound at sunset.
Phaeton, the son of Sol, begged leave to drive the chariot of the sun for one day; but he found himself unequal to the task: the horses, running away, and setting the heavens and the earth on fire, Jupiter, with a stroke of thunder, precipitated him into the river Po. His sisters Lamethusa, Lampetia, and Phaethusa were turned into poplars — weeping amber, because they constantly shed tears for his death. Cygnus, his brother, died of grief, and was metamorphosed into a swan.
To the Grasshopper.Oh thou, of all creation blest,Sweet insect! that deligh’st to restUpon the wild wood’s leafy tops,To drink the dew that morning drops,And chirp thy song with such a glee,That happiest kings may envy thee.Whatever decks the velvet field,Whate’er the circling seasons yield,Whatever buds, whatever blows,For thee it buds, for thee it grows.Nor yet art thou the peasant’s fear,To him thy friendly notes are dear;For thou art mild as matin dew,And still, when summer’s flowery hueBegins to paint the blooming plain,We hear thy sweet prophetic strain;Thy sweet prophetic strain we hear,And bless the notes and thee revere.The muses love thy shrilly tone;Apollo calls thee all his own;‘Twas he who gave that voice to thee,Tis he who tunes thy minstrelsy.Unworn by age’s dim decline,The fadeless blooms of youth are thine.Melodious insect! child of earth!In wisdom mirthful, wise in mirth;Exempt from every weak decay,That withers vulgar frames away;With not a drop of blood to stainThe current of thy purer vein;So blest an age is past by thee,Thou seemest a little deity! —’s .
Obs. 1. — Daybreak in fair weather, affords a most beautiful prospect of nature. It is associated in the mind with ideas of the young and untainted breeze, of the sweet and balmy scent of fields, the suffusion of a rosy blush, and of the freshness and liveliness of all things.
Obs. 2. — The fable of Tithonus is a pretty allegory, the end of which is to warn us that we form many indiscreet vows, and that if they were all heard, we should eternize our misfortunes and regrets.
Obs. 3. — The fable of Phaeton appears to be an allegory, representing an ambitious youth, involved in the difficulties of an undertaking beyond his capacity.
Chapter XIII. Of Latona and Apollo. §
Latona was the daughter of Cœus the Titan and Phœba, or, according to , of Saturn. Jupiter abandoned Juno for Latona, who brought him two children, Apollo and Diana. But Juno drove her from heaven, and raised against her a frightful serpent, called Python, which the poets suppose to have been formed of the mud left on the earth by the waters of the deluge.
Juno, pursuing her rival every where, influenced Terra to swear not to give her a habitation; but Neptune, out of compassion for her, made the island Delos immovable, which had previously wandered about in the Ægean Sea. Here Latona gave birth to Apollo and Diana. Juno discovered her retreat, and obliged her to flee from place to place. While she was passing through Lycia, she stopped near a swamp, where some peasants were working. Being exhausted with fatigue and thirst, she asked of them some water to quench her thirst, saying to them, “You will preserve my life;” but the Lycians, instigated by Juno, refused her that trifling service, and insulted her. Latona turned them into frogs.
Apollo. mentions four Apollos. The Apollo of the Egyptians, called Horus, was the most ancient, but the Apollo to whom the actions of the rest are usually ascribed, was the son of Jupiter and Latona. He was born in the Island of Delos at the same birth with Diana, and was not unfrequently confounded with the sun. He presided over music, eloquence, medicine, poetry, divination, the fine arts, and archery.
Having acquired his full stature as soon as born, he immediately with his arrows destroyed the serpent Python, which Juno had sent to persecute his mother. In conjunction with Diana, he slew the children of Niobe, because Niobe insulted their mother. Niobe herself was changed into a rock.
His son Æsculapius had been killed by Jupiter with his thunderbolts for raising the dead to life; whereupon Apollo killed the Cyclops who forged them, and engaged with Neptune against his sovereign. For this double offence, he was banished from heaven.
Apollo hired himself as a shepherd to Admetus, king of Thessaly, and remained nine years in his service; and hence he has sometimes been called the god of shepherds. He assisted Neptune in building the walls of Troy, and when he was refused the stipulated reward by king Laomedon, he destroyed the inhabitants by a pestilence.
Some say that Apollo was the inventor of the Lyre, while others advance that Mercury gave him this instrument in exchange for the famous caduceus, or staff with which Apollo drove the flocks of Admetus.
His favorite boy, Hyacinthus, whom he accidentally killed with a quoit, he turned into a violet. He changed into a cypress Cyparissus, who died of grief for the loss of his pet deer; his mistress Daphne into a laurel; and his lover Leucothe, into a beautiful tree which drops frankincense. He despised Clytia, because she discovered his amours with Leucothe; and she was changed into a sun-flower, or Heliotrope. He flayed Marsyas alive, because he contended with him in music; and gave Midas, king of Phrygia, a pair of “asses’ ears,” for prefering Pan’s music to his.
Jupiter, thinking that he had now been sufficiently punished, recalled him to heaven, and entrusted to him the duty of giving light to the world; and from this circumstance, he has often been considered as the sun.
No god was more honoured than Apollo. His oracles were in universal repute. His temples and statues were raised in every country. His most splendid temple was at Delphi. The olive and laurel, swans and griffins, crows and hawks, cocks and grasshoppers, were sacrificed to him. The hawk and the wolf were sacred to him, because their eyes are piercing; also the raven, the crow, and the swan, because they are thought, to have had the gift of foreseeing futurity. Hence they served as augurs, &c.
His favorite residence was on Mount Parnassus in Phocis, Greece, where he presided over the muses. Apollo was called Cynthius, because he was born on Mount Cynthus in the Island Delos; Delius, because Delos was his native island; Delphinus, because he guided Castilius, a Cretan, in the figure of a dolphin; Delphicus, because his oracle was held in high esteem at Delphi; Didymæus, because he was twin-brother to Diana, from which circumstance we understand that they are used for the sun and moon; Nomius, because he fed the cattle of Admetus; Pæan, because he was skilful in the use of arrrows; Phœbus, in allusion to the light of the sun; Pythius, on account of his victory over the serpent Python, a victory which must be attributed to the sun, which, while enlightening and drying up the mud, kills venemous reptiles; Actiacus, on account of the promontory of Actium, celebrated for the victory which rendered Augustus master of Rome and of the world; Palatinus, because Augustus built him on Mount Palatine a temple to which he added a library.
Apollo is represented as a tall, beardless youth, with long hair and a handsome shape, sometimes holding in his hand a bow, with a quiver of arrows at his back, and sometimes a lyre, or harp. His head was crowned with laurel, and surrounded with rays of light. — See Fig. 11.
“Stay, nymph, he cried, I follow not a foe,Thus from the lion darts the trembling doe:Thou shunn’st a god; and shunn’st a god that loves.But think from whom thou dost so rashly fly,Nor basely born, nor shepherd’s swain am I.——————— What shall beOr is, or ever was, in fate I see.Mine is the invention of the charming lyre;Sweet notes and heavenly numbers I inspire.Sure is my bow, unerring is my dart,But ah! more deadly his, who pierc’d my heart.Med’cine is mine; what herbs and simples growIn fields, in forests, all their powers I know,And am the great physician call’d below.”
“Behold the blood, which late the grass had dy’d,Was now no blood; from which a flower full blown,Far brighter than the Tyrian scarlet shone,Which seem’d the same, or did resemble rightA lily, changing but the red to white.”.
“He mourned her loss, and sprinkled all her hearse,With balmy nectar, and more precious tears.Then said since fate does here our joys defer,Thou shalt ascend to heav’n and bless me there,Her body straight embalm’d with heav’nly art,Did a sweet odour to the ground impart,And from the grave a beauteous tree arise,That cheers the gods with pleasing sacrifice.”.
Obs. 1. — The haughty Niobe derided the sacrifices of Latona; an indignity which brought on her the wrath of Apollo and Diana. They pierced with their arrows the children of Niobe in the plains near Thebes. We shall explain this fable by reconciling it with history. Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus, and sister of Pelops. She married Amphion, by whom she had fourteen children. A cruel plague haying ravaged the country, they all died; and, as this plague was ascribed to an extreme heat, which the night itself could not abate, the fable of their death was imagined.says that the children of Niobe remained unburied for nine days, at the end of which the gods themselves buried them. Those children being dead of the plague, people durst not approach them. The Thebans, frightened for themselves, appeared insensible to the misfortunes of the queen, which caused the poets to say, that they had been changed into stones. Amphion soon died of sorrow or of the plague. Niobe returned to Lycia, where she ended her days in sorrow. The poets gave out, that she had been turned into a rock, because the excess of her sufferings rendered her in some measure immovable, and did not allow her complaints to be heard. The arrows of Apollo represent the rays of the sun. Such was their power, that sudden deaths were attributed to them. The history of the children of Niobe, killed by Apollo and Diana, proves how much we believe in the influence of the sun and moon. When Apollo was enraged, they represented him armed with his arrows; and to express that he was appeased, they put a lyre in his hand.
Obs. 2. — The poets thus give an origin to the cypress, a doleful and leafless tree. Apollo changed Cyparissus into cypress, to show that it was sacred to obsequies.
Obs. 3. — We are informed by history that Daphne, daughter of a king of Thessaly, called Peneus, pursued by a young prince on the shores of a river which bore the same name, fell into its waters, and was drowned. The large quantity of laurels which grew along its banks, caused the poets to say that she had been transformed into a laurel.affirms, that the laurel possesses the virtue of evading the thunderbolts. During the prevalence of contagious diseases, the people placed before their houses laurel branches, in hopes that the gods would spare those who rendered that honour to the nymph Daphne. Apollo wished the laurel to be consecrated to her; and its leaves, used in the crowning of those who should excel in poetry and in the Pythian games.
Obs. 4. — A Greek prince by the name of Apollo, loved Clytia, and abandoned her for Leucothe. The despair of Clytia hurried her away, and she starved herself. When the poets saw that the sunflower always inclined itself towards the sun, they published that Clytia had been turned into a sunflower, and that her form, having destroyed her sensibility, she still turns towards the sun to reproach his inconstancy.
Obs. 5. — The Satyr Marsyas durst not pretend that the sounds of his flute would please more than those of Apollo’s lyre. Judges were chosen. The god beat the satyr, and flayed him alive. The origin of this fable may be accounted for thus: before the invention of the lyre, the flute was the instrument prefered. Apollo with his lyre, found means to unite the beauty of song with the charm of harmony; and the poets painted the regrets and jealousy of Marsyas, by saying that Apollo had flayed him.
Obs. 6. — Apollo is represented with long hair, in allusion to the sunbeams; with a harp, to show the harmony of our system; with a buckler, to denote his defending the earth; and with arrows, to signify his power of life and death. His killing the serpent Python is taken for the sun’s exhaling pestilential vapours; his feeding Admetus’ sheep, for its sustaining all creatures by its genial warmth; his destroying the Cyclops for forging Jupiter’s thunderbolts, for its dispersing those pestilential vapours which are fatal to mankind. He is called the sun in heaven, Bacchus on earth, and Apollo in the infernal regions.
Obs. 7. — A fable imagined about the raven, deserves to be related. Its plumage was at first white; but Apollo blackened it, because it misinformed him of the infidelity of Coronis. The fits of jealousy are terrible, and often blind. Apollo put that nymph to death, and repented of it too late. He turned her into a crow, and wished its doleful plumage and that of the raven to be at once the proof of his regrets and vengeance.
Chapter XIV. The Muses. §
The nine Muses were the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosynes, or Memory, and the goddesses of the arts and sciences. Their names are, Clio (history,) Thalia (comedy,) Melpomene (tragedy,) Euterpe (music,) Terpsichore (dancing,) Erato (amatory poetry,) Polyhymnia (rhetoric,) Urania (astronomy,) and Calliope (Epic poetry.)
The Muses are usually represented as virgins, beautiful, of an expressive countenance and majestic figure, dancing in a circle round Apollo, and singing in chorus to show the close and indissoluble relation of the liberal arts to the sciences. On their mountain, Pegasus is seen to expand his wings towards heaven, and to open with the stroke of his hoof the fountain Hippocrenus, celebrated among the poets.
One day when the Muses were going to Mount Parnassus to learn the lessons of their master Apollo, a heavy fall of rain forced them to take shelter in the palace of Pyreneus, king of Phocis. Being insulted by that prince, they took wings and flew away. To pursue them, he rushed from the top of a tower; but not being able to keep himself in the air; he fell, and broke his head.
1. Clio, crowned with laurel, held a trumpet in her right hand, and a book in her left. She was thought to be the inventress of the guitar. For this reason she usually held a guitar in her right hand, and in her left, a plectrum, instead of a fiddlestick. She is often represented writing history. — See Fig. 12.
2. Thalia had garments tressed up short for a free motion, wore the stock, and held a mask in one hand, and leaned the other on a pillar. — See Fig. 13.
3. Melpomene was distinguished by a splendid robe, a buskin, a dagger, a sceptre, and a crown. She is usually seen to rest her hand upon the club of Hercules, because the object of tragedy is to exhibit the glorious actions of heroes, and the most illustrious of all, is Hercules. — See Fig. 14.
4. Euterpe had a tiara of flowers, and was surrounded with flutes, lyres, guitars, and other attributes of music. — See Fig. 15.
5. Terpsichore was represented in a dancing attitude, with a musical instrument. Her visage is ever smiling, and one of her feet lightly touches the earth. See Fig. 16.
6. Erato had a headdress of rose and myrtle, and bore in one hand a lyre, and in the other a lute. She inspires light poetry, amorous songs; and her varying physiognomy cannot be painted, because it changes every time that a new subject inspires her. — See Fig. 17.
7. Polyhymnia was dressed in white, and bore a scroll in her left hand, with her right hand raised in a speaking attitude. She is painted with a lyre, as being the inventress of harmony. Her countenance, which is raised towards heaven, announces that she presides over odes. — See Fig. 18.
8. Urania was painted with a crown of stars, a robe of celestial blue, and various mathematical instruments around her. She holds a globe in her hand, which is sometimes laid on a tripod; a compass is then seen in her hand. — See Fig. 19.
9. Calliope was represented with a crown of laurel, a trumpet in her right hand, and books in her left. She presides over heroic poems. By her are generally seen the trumpet of renown, crowns of laurel, bundles of arms and of trophies. — See Fig. 20.
The Muses were called Heliconiades, because they inhabited the mountain Helicon in Bœotia; Parnassides, because Mount Parnassus was their favorite retreat; Pegasides, because Pegasus, a winged horse, brought vocal waters from the fountain Helicon; Pie-rides, either because they dwelt on Mount Pierus, or because they changed into magpies the nine daughters of Pierus, king of Macedonia, who had challenged them to sing; Citherides (Mount Cytheron;) Aonides, (the country Aonia;) Aganippides, (the fountain Aganippe;) Castalides (the fountain Castalius) at the foot of Parnassus.
Obs. 1. — The Muses were supposed by the heathens to preside over the works of genius, and when addressed, to aid writers in any particular branch of science. Some reckon no more than three of them, viz. Mnemo, Aæde, and Melete, i. e. memory, singing, and meditation; butand reckon nine, viz. Clio, which signifies glory; Thalia, flourishing; Melpomene, attracting; Euterpe, pleasing; Terpsichore, rejoicing the heart; Erato, amiable; Polyhymnia, a multitude of songs; Urania, the heavenly; and Calliope, sweetness of voice. The fable of the Muses allegorically represents the modifications of memory, variously cultivated; in fact, conceptions of the mind represent external, and not innate, impressions; and it is with that mental endowment that mankind refine their intellect, and they are also indebted to it for their progress in knowledge. The name of the Muses is generally supposed to have been derived from the Greek muein, to explain the mysteries.
Obs. 2. — The Muses were virgins, because a youth, named Adonis, having tried to please them, they put him to death. This fable is intended to represent unsuccessful attempts at poetry. This pretended death of Adonis, allegorically represents a man, vain of his intellectual powers, who considered himself a poet, but whose works could not survive him. Such was his poetic, or, rather, literary death.
Obs. 3. — We learn from history that Pyrenus drove from his kingdom all learned and wise men, and shut up public schools. For this he was generally despised, and when he died, no one would honour his memory. After having unavailingly attempted to have his works admired, he thought he revenged himself by persecuting the sciences; and the poets invented the foregoing fable with a view to perpetuate this blemish of his character.
Obs. 4. — The name of Musagete or captain of the Muses was often given to Hercules, who appears to have been confounded with the sun. Mr.solves this problem ingeniously. He affirms that this celebrated Hercules and his twelve labours were merely the emblems of the sun and the twelve signs of the zodiac. He also explains the number of the fifty women given to that demi-god, by saying that they were the emblem of the fifty weeks in the year. The Muses, says he, were twelve months in the year; and, though they are usually nine in number, there must be added three months in the year during which people rest from the toils of agriculture. However learned this explanation may be, it is novel, and not generally adopted.
How was Clio represented?
Chapter XV. Diana, or Phœba. §
There were three goddesses of this name, the most celebrated of whom was the daughter of Jupiter and Latona, and twin-sister of Apollo. She was the queen of the woods, and the goddess of hunting. She devoted herself to perpetual celibacy, and had for her attendants sixty of the Oceanides and twenty other nymphs, all of whom swore an aversion to marriage.
Though Diana was the patroness of chastity, she is said to have forgotten her dignity in the company of the god Pan, of the shepherd Endymion, and of the giant Orion.
Diana expelled her favorite Calisto from her court, because she departed from the path of virtue; she pierced Chione with an arrow, because she was so rash as to prefer her own beauty to Diana’s. One day, as Actæon pursued the pleasures of the chase, he proceeded to a beautiful fountain in a solitary situation, environed with trees. While Diana was bathing in it, the youth imprudently gazed on the goddess, who, casting the waters into his face, he was transformed into a stag. His own hounds came up, and tore him in pieces.
When Diana was worshipped in heaven, she was called Phœba, Luna, or the moon; on earth, Diana; in hell, Hecate or Proserpine. To designate these three qualities or offices, the name of Triformis, and Tergemina, or the goddess with three forms, was given to her. She was denominated Tisiphone, because married women consecrated their girdle to her; Lucina, because she was invoked by women in childbed; Trivia, when she presided over cross-ways; Chitone, because women after childbirth used to offer her their children’s clothes; Bubastis, by the Egyptians, and her festivals, named Bubastæ, were annually celebrated in the city Bubastis; Dictynna, from the name of the nymph whom she loved, and who first invented nets.
Painters and sculptors represent her with a more exquisite form, a more majestic mien, and a taller stature than her followers. She appears as a huntress, lightly clad, with a crescent on her forehead, her legs bare, buskins on her feet, a bow in her hand, and a quiver full of arrows at her back. She is attended by her nymphs, and followed by dogs. Sometimes she is represented in a chariot drawn by hinds. At Ephesus she had a great number of breasts. — See Fig. 21.
She had two temples of high celebrity; one at Ephesus, and the other in Chersonesus Taurica (now the Crimea.) The temple at Ephesus was justly accounted one of the seven wonders of the world. It was 227 years in building, and was supported by 127 superb columns, sixty feet high, each the gift of a king; It was burnt on the sixth of June (the birth-day of Alexander the Great) by Erostratus, who committed this atrocious crime in order to perpetuate his name with posterity. The inhabitants of Taurica held Diana in particular veneration, and offered on her altars all strangers shipwrecked on their coast. At Sparta boys of high birth were annually whipped at the foot of her statue, till the blood followed the lash. Lycurgus introduced this custom. The Athenians offered goats to Diana; others a white kid, a boar pig, or an ox. Among plants the poppy and dittany were sacred to her.
Obs. 1. — Confounded with Hecate and Luna, Diana was the goddess of magic and enchantments. The magicians of Thessaly had the fame of drawing the moon down from heaven by dint of their incantations; eclipses were supposed to be produced by them; and on such occasions, drums and cymbals were beaten to prevent the incantations from being heard, and thereby to render the power of magic ineffectual. A moon-light scene was anciently deemed the very emblem of chastity.
Obs. 2. — Diana stands for the moon. The appearance of the woods and mountains in the moon caused the poets to say that she was the goddess of hunting. The moon smiles upon the world, for which we allegorically take Pan. Diana is said to have become so enamoured of Endymion, that she came down every night from heaven to enjoy his company. This fiction, derogatory to Diana, is founded on the taste of Endymion for astronomy, and on his attentive observance of all the motions of the moon. Endymion retired to the mountains in Caria, where he often spent his nights, which caused the fable of Diana’s nocturnal visits to him. Orion was an astronomer.
Obs. 3. — The fable of Actæon appears allegorically to represent the character of a lunatic or madman, who often displays the fleetness of a stag, who cannot look at water, and whose disease is often brought on by the bite of a dog.
Chapter XVI. Bacchus. §
Bacchus, the god of wine, and patron of drinkers, was the son of Jupiter and Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, king of Thebes.
Juno was enraged at the intimacy between Jupiter and Semele; and to effect her ruin, she assumed the likeness of an old woman, and prevailed on Semele to beg of Jupiter, that he would come and see her in all his glory and majesty, and thus prove that he was a god and not a man.
Having sworn by Styx to comply with whatsoever request she might make, Jupiter descended, clothed in the splendour of celestial majesty, mingled with the storms, and handling the thunder and lightning. Semele perished amidst the fires of her lover. Jupiter, however, saved her infant, and shut it in his thigh, where it remained till its birth. This ridiculous fable afterwards gave Bacchus the surname of Bimater, or one who has two mothers.
Some Tyrrhenian pirates, having found him asleep, took him off from the island of Naxos with a view to sell him for a slave. They had already proceeded on their voyage, when Bacchus, a blooming and lovely boy, awoke, and, apparently terrified, he asked how he came there. One of the crew replied: “Tell us where you wish to be, and thither we will conduct you.” — “Naxos,” replied the god “is my home.” Bacchus burst into tears, and the mariners laughed at his distress; but they were soon astonished to find that their ship was immovable. The masts were surrounded with vines, and the oars with ivy. Bacchus waved a spear; tigers, panthers, and lynxes appeared around the ship; the pirates, struck with madness, leaped into the sea, and were changed into dolphins. Bacchus once more made the ship float onward, and instantly arrived at the place of his destination, accompanied by a train of tigers, panthers, and dolphins.
Bacchus showed unexampled boldness in the war which the giants carried on against heaven. He fought in the shape of a lion, while the gods and goddesses fled into Egypt under the forms of different animals. He is said to have subjected Egypt, Phrygia, Syria, and India. In Ethiopia he was joined by a band of Satyrs that ever after attended him, with songs, music, and dancing. He undertook an expedition to India with an army, composed of men and women, armed with cymbals and other musical instruments, himself in a chariot drawn by a lion and a tiger. In his progress, all submitted to him; and he instructed the people in the arts of cultivating the vine; of making honey, and of tillage; founded Nysa, and planted a colony on the banks of the Indus.
The Oschophoria were the first festivals instituted to Bacchus’s honour by the Phœnicians, and celebrated by young men, when they ran with vine leaves in their hands, from the temple of Bacchus to the chapel of Minerva.
The Trietrica were festivals instituted in winter nights by the Bacchæ, and celebrated every three years.
The Epilenæa were games celebrated in the time of vintage; the art of squeezing the grapes being unknown, they trod them, and begged of Bacchus that he would render them sweet and good.
The Apaturia were feasts celebrated in honour of Bacchus by the Athenians, showing how greatly men may be deceived by wine.
The Ambrosia were feasts instituted in January to his honour, and were by the Romans called Brumalia.
Ascolia were festivals observed by the Athenians, who honoured Bacchus by trampling upon the skins of goats. In these rites the Romans daubed their faces with juice extracted from the bark of trees, and hung upon high trees wooden or earthen images of Bacchus, called Oscilla.
The Bacchanalia, or Dionysius, or Orgia, were the festivals of Bacchus solemnized in February at noon, and celebrated with riot and excess. They were observed by persons of both sexes, who disguised themselves in tiger-skins, with thyrsi, ran about the mountains and country, played on drums, pipes and flutes, and filled the air with shouts of Evoe Bacche! Io! Io! Evoe! Bacche! Io! Bacche! Evoe!
Among both the Greeks and Romans, they were attended with drunkenness and debauchery; but such were the disorder and pollution of these rites, that they attracted the attention of the Roman senate, who passed laws for the abolition of the Bacchanalia.
Alcithœ, a Theban lady, refusing to be present at his festivals, because they were licentious, was changed into a bat; and Pentheus, king of Thebes, for ridiculing his orgies, was torn in pieces by the Bacchanals, among whom were his mother and sister. Lycurgus, not the Spartan lawgiver, would destroy the vineyards of Thrace. He armed himself with a scythe, and began to cut them, but awkwardly wounded his legs.
As the god of vintage and drinkers, Bacchus was represented as holding in his hand a thyrsus, or javelin with an iron head, bound about with vine leaves. He is usually depicted as a corpulent, ruddy, and effeminate youth, crowned with ivy and vine leaves. His figure is sometimes that of a young, and sometimes of an old man. Sometimes he has horns; at others, he appears naked on the shoulders of Pan, or in the arms of Silenus; and again he appears like Apollo, with fine hair, loosely flowing down his shoulders, and with beauty equal to Apollo’s. He is commonly seen riding in a car, drawn by panthers and tigers. — See Fig. 22.
Bacchus was married to Ariadne, daughter to Minos, king of Crete, whom he found abandoned in the isle of Naxos. He presented her with a crown of seven stars, called Gnassia Coronia, which, at her death, he placed in the heavens as a constellation.
Ariadne brought him a son, named Hymen, the god of marriage. He had many other children, but they deserve no particular notice.
The Egyptians sacrificed pigs to Bacchus before the doors of their houses. The goat was usually offered to him, because he destroyed the vine. The magpie was his favorite bird, because, in triumphs, people spoke with liberty. The fir, yew, and fig-tree, ivy and vine, were sacred to him.
Bacchus was called Biformis, because he was depicted both as a young and an old man, or with, and without, a beard; Brisæus, either because he invented the art of pressing grapes, or because he was born on the promontory Brisa in Lesbos; Bromius, because his mother uttered dying groans; Bugens, Tauriformis, or Tauriceps, because he was painted as horned, or because he first ploughed with oxen; Dithyrambus, because he was born twice; Dionysius, because he pricked his father’s side at the moment of his birth; Evius, Evous, Evan, or Hye, because Jupiter found that Bacchus had defeated the giants under the form of a lion, and exclaimed, “Well done son;” Eleus, because he animated his soldiers with acclamations before they fought; Jaccus, because he renders drunkards noisy; Lenæus, because he cures mental disorders; Liber and Liber Pater, Eleutherios, or Lyceus, because he was worshipped in all free cities; Nyctilius, because his sacrifices were celebrated at night; Nysæus, because he was born on Mount Nysa; Rectus, or Orthos, because he taught a king of Athens to dilute his wine with water; Triumphus, because as the conquerors were triumphantly proceeding into the capitol, the soldiers exclaimed, “Io Triumphe.”
“Bacchus, that first from out the purple grape,Crushed the sweet poison of misused wine.”’s Comus.
“————— Still dost thou enjoyUnwasted youth! Eternally a boyThou ‘rt seen in heaven, whom all perfections grace;And when unhorn’d, thou hast e’er a virgin’s face.”
“And glad with Bacchus, on the grassy soil.Leap’d o’er the skins of goats besmear’d with oil.Thus Roman youth, deriv’d from ruin’d Troy,In rude Saturnian rhymes express their joy;Deform’d with vizards, cat from barks of trees,With taunts and laughter loud their audience please;In jolly hymns they praise the god of wine,Whose earthen images adorn the pine,And there are hung on high, in honour of the vine.A madness so devout the vineyards fill,.
“Bacchus, on thee we call, in hymns divine,And hang thy statues on the lofty pine;Hence, plenty ev’ry laughing vineyard fills,Through the deep valleys and the sloping hills,Where’er the god inclines his lovely face,More luscious fruits the rich plantations grace.Then let us Bacchus’ praises duly sing,And consecrated cakes and chargers bring;Dragg’d by their horns let victim goats expire,And roast on hazel spits before the sacred fire.Come, sacred fire, with luscious clusters crown’d;Let all the riches of thy reign abound;Each field replete, with blushing autumn, glow,And in deep tides, by thee, the foaming vintage flow.”.
“But put on horns, and Bacchus thou shalt be.”.
“When gay Bacchus fills my breast,All my cares are lul’d to rest,Rich I seem as Lydia’s king,Merry catch or ballad sing;Ivy wreaths my temples shade,Ivy that will never fade:Thus I sit in mind elate,Laughing at the farce of state.”.
Obs. 1. — In inquiring into the origin of the extraordinary fable relating to the birth of Bacchus, we find that Semele perished soon after the conflagration of her palace, but not before the child was born; whereupon Jupiter sent him by Mercury his messenger, to Nysa, a city near a mountain called Meros, a word, which signifies thigh. This fable has no other origin.
Obs. 2. —, , and , relate that Bacchus, born in Egypt, was educated in Nisa, a city of Arabia Felix, to which place his father Ammon had sent him. They recognized in the Bacchus adopted by the Greeks, the famous Osiris, who conquered India.
Obs. 3. — Many learned men believe that the poets have represented Moses in their Bacchus. They find so striking resemblances between both, that it may be useful to notice some of them, but without pretending to give them as certainties, Moses and Bacchus were born in Egypt. The former was exposed on the Nile; the poets have told the same thing about the latter. The name of Moses and that of Mysos given to Bacchus by Orpheus equally designate, that they were saved from the waters. Bacchus was educated in Arabia; Moses spent forty years in the same country. Bacchus, during a cruel persecution raised against him, retired to the shores of the Red sea: to deliver the Hebrews from the persecutions of the Egyptians, Moses crossed the Red sea. The army of Bacchus, composed of a large number of men and women, passed through Arabia, to prosecute the conquest of India: the army of the Hebrew legislator, composed of men, women, and children, wandered long in the wilderness in their journey to the land of Canaan. Fable represents Bacchus with horns: they allude to the two rays of light which shone on the forehead of Moses. Bacchus was educated on Mount Nisa: Moses received the tables of the law on Mount Sinai. The transposition of one letter renders the two names absolutely similar. Bacchus, armed with his thyrsus, defeated the giants: Moses fought the giants, descendants of Enoch: a rod is the instrument of his miracles. Jupiter sends Iris to Bacchus, with orders for him to proceed to India and destroy an impious nation. God ordered Moses to go to Palestine and exterminate an idolatrous nation. The god Pan gives a dog to Bacchus to follow him in his travels. Caleb, whose Hebrew name signifies a dog, is the faithful companion of Moses. Bacchus, by striking the ground with his thyrsus, brought forth waves of wine. Moses, by striking a rock with a miraculous rod, opened up a fountain.
Obs. 4. — This parallel is too perfect not to allow us to disbelieve that the fable of Bacchus is nothing more than an ill formed tradition of the history of Moses, embellished with fiction. Yet some learned men endeavour to prove that Bacchus is the same as Nimrod, son of Chus, whose name at first was Bacchus, son of Chus; and, by corruption, became changed to that of Bacchus. Others suppose that Bacchus is the same as Noah, to whom the Scriptures ascribe the invention of the art of cultivating the vine. In conclusion, therefore, it may be remarked, that, although the great Hebrew lawgiver Moses, who was very celebrated in Egypt, was the real prototype of Bacchus, (the Egyptian Osiris,) yet the history of the latter received some embellishments by traits of character drawn from Noah.
Chapter XVII. Minerva. §
Among five goddesses of this name, whom mentions, he says that the most ancient issued from the Nile, and was much worshipped in Egypt., The second, the goddess of war, was the daughter of Saturn; the third, the goddess of wisdom, was the daughter of Jupiter; the fourth, the tutelary goddess of Athens, was daughter to Vulcan; the last of the five, was the daughter of the giant Pallas, to whom the name of Minerva or Pallas was given. The fables of these different goddesses are commonly confounded together. Jupiter complaining of the head-ache, Vulcan split his head with a hatchet; whence Minerva sprang out, not a child, but a goddess, formed, and in complete armour. She was immediately admitted into the assembly of the gods, and became Jupiter’s faithful counsellor. She was the most accomplished of all the goddesses. Minerva, Athenas, and Pallas, were, among the Greeks, the same divinity. Considered as Minerva, she presided over wisdom; as Athenas, she was the protectress of Athens; as Pallas, she presided over war.
Minerva was the only divinity that seemed equal to Jupiter. She could prolong the lives of men, or hurl the thunderbolts of Jupiter. The honour of giving a name to the city of Cecrops, produced a great dispute between Neptune and Minerva. The twelve great gods were chosen as arbiters of this difference. They decided that the deity who should confer the most valuable gift on the city should give his name to it. No sooner had Neptune struck the earth with his trident, than a beautiful fiery courser, the emblem of war, sprang forth. Minerva produced an olive-tree in full bloom, the emblem of peace. The gods, having unanimously pronounced Minerva the victor, she named the city Athenæ, and became its tutelary deity.
Minerva benefitted mankind with many inventions: those of the fine arts, the use of oil, the art of spinning, and that of adorning tapestry. These inventions were allegorically attributed to Minerva. The sciences and the arts are the true riches of the mind, not needing a goddess of wisdom to produce them. The oil indicates that one must apply closely to labour, in order to acquire knowledge. The art of spinning indicates that patience and perseverance should be evinced in his works; and the ornaments of tapestry show that he should endeavour to embellish them.
Arachne, a lady of Colophon, who was highly celebrated for her skill in works of tapestry, challenged Minerva to a trial of skill. Minerva struck her forehead with a shuttle. The proud Arachne, being overcome, in despair, would have hung herself, but was suspended by Minerva, and metamorphosed into a spider.
Minerva put out Tiresias’s eyes, because he saw her bathing in the fountain of Helicon; but, to answer the prayers of his mother, she conferred on him the gift of prophecy. She aided Perseus in killing the Gorgon Medusa, whose snaky head she placed in her ægis, or shield, because it had the property of turning into stone whoever beheld it.
While the citadel of Troy was building, an image of the goddess, called the Palladium, is reported to have fallen from heaven into or near it. By the oracle of Apollo, the Trojans were informed that no enemy could succeed against them, if it remained in their city. The oracle was religiously observed for a long time; but at last, Ulysses and Diomedes, having gained a secret access to the city, removed the miraculous image, and Troy was soon after taken by the Greeks.
Minerva was called by the Greeks, Athena, because she never drew milk from a mother or nurse’s breast; Pallas, because she slew a giant of the same name, or because she brandished her spear in war; Parthenos, because she was a perpetual virgin; Tritonia, either because her father brought her forth three months after his head had been struck, or because she was educated on lake Triton; in Greek, Ergatis, or the “working-woman,” because she in vented various arts, liberal and useful; Musica, because the serpent on her shield served the purpose of a harp; Glaucopus, or Cæsia, because her eyes were of celestial blue; Plyotis, because her effigy was placed on the city gates and house-doors; Hippia, “the horse-woman”.
In order to give more solemnity to the worship of Minerva, the Athenians held in honour of her, magnificent festivals, called Athenia. They were instituted by Erichthonius, the third king of Athens. These feasts were afterwards named Parthenia, when Theseus had collected the twelve boroughs of Attica, and constituted them the city of Athens. They were by the Romans called Quinquatra, and celebrated in April. On these festival days, pupils made presents to their teachers. They were obliged to give them, in order to habituate themselves to acts of gratitude, and to allow themselves to indulge that happiness which a generous heart always experiences when it discharges its duty, or when it grants a benefit. These presents were called Minervalia, or gifts offered to wisdom. In the Acropolis, that is, the upper city or citadel, there were two magnificent temples of Minerva; one called the Parthenon, in commemoration of her perpetual celibacy, and also the Hecatompedon, from being one hundred feet in width. It was burnt by the Persians, but rebuilt by Pericles, who enlarged it. It was constructed of the finest white marble, and was 27 feet 9 inches by 98 feet 6 inches. Noble remains of it are still in being. The statue of the goddess, made of gold and ivory, 26 cubits high, was one of the masterpieces of. The other temple was called Victory. In it the goddess was represented with a pomegranate in her right hand, and a helmet in her left, but without wings, which Victory usually had.
In general, Minerva appears as a beautiful woman, with a majestic and awe-striking countenance; armed with a golden helmet and breast-plate, and holding in her right hand a beaming lance, and in her left, the Ægis. The Ægis was a shield covered with the skin of a monster, called Ægis, which vomitted whirlwinds of flame. In process of time the goddess engraved on it the head of Medusa. A crown of olive was entwined around her helmet. Her principal emblems were the cock, the owl, the basilisk, and the distaff. Statuaries, painters, and artists, generally invoked her patronage; in a word, every member of society solicited her influence, as she had empire over Sense, Taste, and Reason. — See Fig. 23.
“Out of her father’s scull, as they report,Without a mother, all in arms leap’d forth.”.
“Arachne thrice upon the forehead smote,Whose great heart brooks it not; about her throatA rope she ties; remorseful Pallas staidHer falling weight: — Live, wretch, yet hang, she said.”.
“With the bright wreath of serpent tresses crown’d,Severe in beauty, young Medusa frowned:Erewhile subdued, round Wisdom’s Ægis rolled,Hiss the dread snakes, and flamed in burnished gold;Flashed on her brandished arm the immortal shield.And terror lighted on the dazzle field.”Botanic Garden.
Obs. 1. — The idea of this poetical generation, appears to have been taken from the Sacred Books, where Wisdom says, that she descended from the divine head before any other creature. Minerva allegorically stands for fortitude, long-tried virtue, deliberate courage, divine stratagem, sound policy, and undaunted wisdom.
Obs. 2. — The Ægis represents allegorically the Eye of Omnipresence, before which the guilty flee.
Obs. 3. — The fable of Minerva’s disputing with Neptune, may be thus explained: Cecrops, having introduced an Egyptian colony among the people of Athens, corrected their barbarous customs, and taught them to cultivate the earth, and especially the olive-tree. He introduced the worship of Minerva, to whom that tree was particularly sacred. The city then took the name of its tutelary divinity. Athens became famous for the excellence of its oils; its commerce much increased by this means, attached much value to the cultivation of that tree, and the necessity of securing the navigation of foreigners, corrected the propensity of the Athenians for piracy. To paint the origin of this reformation, and to consecrate it, the poets imagined the fable of Neptune surpassed by Minerva. Some historians say that this fable was designed to represent a difference which had arisen between the sailors, who recognized Neptune for their chief, and the people, united with the senate, who were presided over by Minerva. The Areopagus was appointed to judge this difference. It decreed that agriculture and rural life should be preferred to the trade of pirates; it made wise and severe laws for securing the liberty of commerce. The poets consecrated this judgment by saying, that Neptune had been surpassed by Minerva, and that the twelve great gods had decided it.
Obs. 4. — The fable of Arachne, is nothing but an allegory to represent the punishment of foolish pride.
Obs. 5. — The fable of Tiresias shows, that the truly wise man does not care for the common events of life, and is attentive to the lessons of wisdom, which improve his experience, and enable him to foresee futurity.
Obs. 6. — Minerva comes out of Jupiter’s head, to show that wisdom was not invented by man, but has a celestial origin. She comes into the world, completely armed, because the wise man, strengthened by his conscience, and by virtue, knows how to contend with vice, and resist misfortune. She is a virgin, because wisdom is not connected with corruption and pleasure. She is unadorned, and her looks are severe, because she is not in need of ornament. She shines no more under the splendour of purple, than under the simplest dress; her noble traits are equally beloved and respected under the wrinkles of age and under the fresh and charming appearance of youth. The owl, which surmounts her helmet, announces that wisdom often delights in meditating during the silence and calm of nights. She is often represented as holding a distaff and busying herself with it, to express that we should avoid idleness, and exercise ourselves in useful labours.
Chapter XVIII. Bellona, Victoria. §
Bellona, or Duellonia, (often confounded with Pallas,) the goddess of war, and sister of Mars, was called Enyo by the Greeks. She is represented as preparing the chariot of Mars, appearing in battles with dishevelled hair, and holding in her hands a whip and a torch. In her temple at Rome, the senate gave audience to foreign ambassadors. Her priests, called the Bellonarii, offered their own blood, from wounds inflicted on their thighs and bodies. At Comona, in Cappadocia, Bellona is said to have had 3000 priests. — See Fig. 24.
says that Victoria was daughter of the Styx by Pallas or Acheron. She assisted Minerva in the fight against the giants. She had several temples in Greece and at Rome. It was in her temple that the Romans placed the statue of Cybele, which they brought from Pessinus.
The Arcadians, when they arrived in Italy, erected a temple in honour of her.
On some medals and marbles, Victoria is seen flying in the air, and holding in her hand a crown or a branch of the palm-tree. The Egyptians represented her in the form of an eagle, a bird always victorious. Now and then she is seen to be carried by a globe, to denote that she rules the earth. In naval victories, she is seen on the prows of ships.
Chapter XIX. Mars, the God of War. §
There were many gods of this name.
says that the first Mars, to whom were attributed the invention of arms and the art of ranging troops in order of battle, was Belus, who, in the Sacred Volume, is called Nimrod, and styled
a mighty hunter before the Lord. The second, was an ancient king of Egypt. The third, a king of Thrace, who was called Odin, or Mars Hypboreus. The fourth, the Mars of the Greeks, and surnamed Ares; and the fifth, the Mars of the Latins, the reputed father of Romulus and Remus. The Gauls called their Mars Hesus, and sacrificed to him human victims. Orion was the Mars of the Persians, and was regarded as the god of fights. But the most celebrated was the son of Jupiter and Juno, or, as the Roman poets say, of Juno alone. Flora showed her a flower, the touch of which made her pregnant. His education was entrusted to the god Priapus, who instructed him in dancing and every other exercise.
“And mighty Mars, for war renown’d,In adamantine armour frown’d.”.
It is said that Hallirhotius, the son of Neptune, having offered violence to Alcippe, the daughter of Mars, the offended father slew him. For this, Neptune summoned him to appear before an assembly of gods (on a hill where afterwards the celebrated court of Areopagus was held,) by which he was acquitted.
Mars won the affections of Venus, Vulcan’s wife; but Apollo informing the injured husband of their intrigue, he spread around the lovers invisible nets in which they were taken. The jealous husband exposed them to the sight of all the gods, but Neptune persuaded him to set them free. Mars, enraged at this discovery, transformed his favorite Alectryon into a cock, to punish him for not having warned him of the approach of the Sun; and Venus revenged herself by treating the children of Apollo with unexampled severity. In the war between the Trojans and Greeks, Mars took the part of the former; but being wounded by Diomede, he hastily retreated to heaven, complaining to Jupiter that Minerva had directed the weapon of his antagonist.
Mars had temples in all countries. His priests at Rome were called Salii. They were twenty-four in number, and had the care of the twelve ancilia, or sacred shields, one of which was supposed to have fallen from heaven. His victims were the horse, on account of his usefulness in war; the dog, for his acuteness in pursuit of prey; the wolf, for his ferocity and rapine; and the cock, for his vigilance to prevent surprise. Ravens, magpies, and vultures, were also offered, because they followed armies, to feast on the slain.
Mars was represented as a veteran, armed, fierce, and formidable, breathing discord, war, and carnage. With one hand he extends a spear, and, with the other he grasps a sword, imbued with blood. Sometimes he is represented riding in a chariot drawn by furious horses, called Flight and Terror, with the goddess Discord flying before them in tattered garments. Clamour and Anger appear in his train. He patronized whatever was bloody, cruel, or furious; as Minerva did skilful contrivances and stratagems in war. — See Fig. 25.
Mars was called Gradivus, because he raged, as in war; Quirinus, because he was quiet, as in peace; and Salisubulus, because he inclined, sometimes to this side, and sometimes to that, in wars. The Greeks named him Corytaix, stirring his helmet, to paint him bloody and terrible.
Mars had a numerous progeny; the chief of whom were Cupid, (while others account him to be the son of Vulcan,) and Harmonia, by Venus, and Tereus, by Bistonis.
“Her torch Bellona waving through the air,Sprinkles with clotted gore her flaming hair,And through both armies up and down doth flee;While from her horrid breast TisiphoneA dreadful murmur sends.”
“My helmet let Bellona bring; Terror my traces fit;And, panic Fear, do thou the rapid driver sit.”
“Mars in the middle of the shining shieldIs grav’d, and strides along the liquid field.The Dirse come from heav’n with quick descent,And Discord, died in blood, with garments rent,Divides the press; her steps Bellona treads,And shakes her iron rod above their heads.”
“Loud clamours rose from various nations round;Mix’d was the murmur, and confus’d the sound;Each host now joins, and each a god inspires;These Mars incite, and those Minerva fires.Pale Flight around, and dreadful Terror reign;And Discord, raging, bathes the purple plain.Discord, dire sister of the slaught’ring pow’r,Small at her birth, but rising every hour;While scarce the skies her horrid head can bound;She stalks on earth, and shakes the world around;The nations bleed where’er her steps she turns;The groan still deepens, and the combat burns.”
Obs. 1. — The fable in reference to the birth of Mars, originated with the Roman poets, it being wholly unknown to the Greeks and other ancient nations. It was suggested by the jealousy which Juno experienced in seeing the manner in which Jupiter brought forth Wisdom.
Obs. 2. — The account of Mars appearing in the Areopagus, was embellished by the imagination of the poets. They forsook the noble simplicity of history for the brilliant attire of poetry. They gave out, that Mars had been acquitted by the twelve great gods, because the judges, twelve in number, were chosen from among the most illustrious families of Athens.
Obs. 3. — We see the formidable god of fights, when crowned by victory, throwing aside his bloody trophies, and laying down his laurels at the feet of Beauty.
Chapter XX : Venus, Cupid, Adonis. §
Venus, the goddess of Love and Beauty, the mother of Cupid, and the patroness of the Graces, is said by some to have been the daughter of Jupiter and Dione; by others to have sprung from the froth of the sea, borne in a sea-shell, and smoothly wafted by Zephyrus to the island of Cythera. Her delicate feet touched the earth, and flowers sprung up under her steps. She was received, and educated by the rozy Hours or Seasons, daughters of Jupiter and Themis, and was conducted to heaven. She had for her retinue Smiles, Graces, and Jests.
reckons four Venuses. The first, daughter of Heaven and Light; the second, born of the foam of the sea, and mother to Cupid; the third, daughter of Jupiter and Dione, wife to Vulcan, and mother of Anteros; and the fourth was Astarte, wife to Adonis, and born in Phrygia. distinguished three Venuses: a celestial Venus, who presided over chaste loves; a terrestrial Venus, who presided over marriages; and a third, called Aversative, who removed criminal passions. admitted of but one Venus. He called her Calycopis. She was daughter to Otreus, king of Phrygia. She married Thoas, who was surnamed Cinyras, and was mother to Æneas. Thoas erected to her temples in Paphos, Amathontus, Cyprus, and Biblos; he instituted feasts in honour of Venus, called Orgies; and, for the purpose of watching over her worship, he formed a college of priests.
Venus is said to have behaved in the most licentious manner; and her worship was celebrated with the most shameful ceremonies.
Juno, Minerva, and Venus, being present at the wedding of Thetis and Peleus, the goddess Discord threw into the assembly a golden apple, inscribed “to the fairest.” Each of the three goddesses claimed it as her own, but, at length, referred the decision to Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, then feeding his flocks upon Mount Ida. Paris adjudged the apple to Venus, who, in return, rewarded him with the hand of the fairest woman in the world. He carried off Helen from her husband Menelaus, which outrage kindled up the flames of war, and finally levelled Troy with the ground.
The Syrians called their Venus Astarte; the Persians Anaitis; she was denominated Amicia, because she presided over the union of hearts; Armata, because the Spartan women dedicated a temple to her, after having won a victory over the Messenians; Apaturia, because she deceived lovers; Barbata, because the Roman women, afflicted with the shedding of their hair, prayed to her for the re-growth of it; Cypris, because she was worshipped in the island of Cyprus; Cytherea, because she was carried in a sea-shell to the island Cythera; Calva, because the women in her temple converted their hair into ropes for engines, when Rome was pressed by the Gauls; Erycina, because Æneas, her son, built to her honour a magnificent temple on Mount Eryx in Sicily; Ridens, because she was born laughing; Hortensis, because she presides over the productions of seeds and plants in gardens; Idalia and Acidalia, because the mountain Idalius in Cyprus, and the fountain Acidalius in Bœotia were consecrated to her; Marina, because she was born of the sea; Aphrodite or Anadyomne, because she rose from the waters; Melanis, because she was most admired in the night; Migonitis, because she was able to manage love; Murtea, because the myrtle was sacred to her; Paphia, because in the city Paphos in Cyprus, flowers and frankincense were sacrificed to her; Verticordia, or in Greek Epistrophia, because she changed hearts; sometimes Dione.
Venus was represented under a variety of forms. In her most admired statues, she was represented with every quality that could render her person and gait graceful, her countenance smiling and inviting, her manner complaisant, her clothing simple, elegant and light, in a word, her attitude charming and beautiful. She appears conscious of her worth, like’s Eve, yet bashful and “half withdrawing.” She was girt about the waist with a girdle, called Cestus, which, being worn by a female either ugly or handsome had the power of rendering her charms irresistible to the person whose affection she desired to win. Sometimes she is carried through the air in a car drawn by doves, swans, or sparrows. Her celestial carpet was damasked with the rose, the myrtle, and the apple. She was attended by beautiful boys, whose faces exhibited eloquent, but mischievous eyes, a sweet smile, a cherubic dimple, and blooming cheeks, fluttering round her, buoyed on silken wings. Her companion was Python Suada, the goddess of eloquence. Cupid, Hymen, and Adonis, and the Graces usually appeared in her retinue. When she holds a globe in her hand, she personates Venus Uranus, or the planet Venus. The statue of Scopas represents her seated on a car drawn by a sea-horse, with the Nereides and dolphins, carrying loves, swimming about her. She is frequently painted sitting on a shell, floating over the waves, and her head being surmounted with a veil blown by the breath of Zephyrus: Love swims by her; the Tritons surround her; and an oar is placed at her feet, in allusion to her origin; likewise a cornucopia, to express the riches which the commerce of the sea produces. The statue of Venus, made by , was the most perfect and elegant of any. One of her singular statues represents her crowned with ears of corn, holding a thyrsus, surrounded with branches and leaves of grapes, with three arrows in one of her hands. Some thereby attempt to show that her superior traits appear most glowing, when the god of wine and the pleasures of the table are associated with her. Two loves attend her. — See Fig. 26.
Cupid, the god of love, appears as a beautiful, naked boy, with wings, a bow and quiver of arrows, and sometimes with a fillet over his eyes. Sometimes he is mounted on a lion, playing on a lyre, the fierce animal turning his head, and listening to its harmonious chords; at others, he breaks Jove’s winged thunderbolts, or delights in childish amusements. He was the youngest and strongest god. He was called Eros, because he had a golden dart, which causes love; Anteros, because his leaden dart procures hatred. — See Fig. 27.
As Cupid and Venus were once walking together in a flowery field, Cupid boasted that he could gather more flowers than his mother. Venus accepted the challenge. Cupid flew from flower to flower, and was likely to win the victory, when Peristera aided Venus. Cupid, enraged at his defeat, turned her into a dove, which her name signifies.
The name of Cupid’s mistress was Psyche, a Greek word for the soul, to figure which her fable is a plain allegory. Her symbol is a butterfly.
Adonis was son of Cinyras, king of Cyprus, by Myrrha. This nymph was metamorphosed into a tree, which bears her name. At the moment of his birth, the tree was opened. The Naiades received him, and took care of his infancy. Being brought up in the woods, he became passionately fond of hunting. Mars, jealous of the attentions which Venus bestowed upon her favorite, raised an enormous wild-boar against him. Adonis being killed by that animal, Venus changed the blood that flowed from his wound into the flower , which is said to have ever since retained the colour of its origin. Proserpine is said to have brought him back to life on condition that he should remain six months with Venus and six months with her. Considered, in an emblematical point of view, the death and resuscitation of Adonis in succession, represent the alternate return of winter and summer.
“Heav’n gave her life, the sea a cradle gave,And earth’s wide regions her with joy receive.”“This part perform’d, the goddess flies sublime,To visit Paphos and her native clime;Where garlands, ever green and ever fair,With vows are offer’d, and with solemn pray’r:A hundred altars in her temple smoke,A thousand bleeding hearts her pow’r invoke.”
“Thou art my strength, O son, and power alone.”
“Young Dione, nursed beneath the waves,And rocked by Nereides, in their coral caves,Charmed the blue sisterhood with playful wiles,Lisped her sweet tones, and tried her tender smiles.Then, on her beryl throne, by Tritons borne,Bright rose the goddess like the star of morn,With rosy fingers as uncurled they hungRound her fair brow, her golden locks she wrung;O’er the smooth surge in silver sandals stood,And looked enchantment on the dazzled flood,The bright drops rolling from her lifted arms,In slow meanders wander o’er her charms:See round her snowy neck their lucid track,Pearl her white shoulders, gem her ivory back,Round her fine waist, and swelling bosom swim,And star with glittering brine each crystal limb,And beauty blazed to heaven and earth unveiled.”Botanic Garden.
“The froth, born Venus, ravishing to sight,Rose from the ample sea to upper light,And on her head the flowers of summer swelled,And blushed all lovely, and like Eden smelled,A garland of the rose; and a white pairOf doves about her flickered in the air.There her son Cupid stood before her feet,Two wings upon his shoulders, fair and fleet;And blind as night, as he is often seen,A bow he bore and arrows bright and keen:No goddess she, commissioned to the field,Like Pallas, dreadful with her sable shield,Or fierce Bellona thundering at the wall,While flames ascend and mighty ruins fall.To the soft Cyprian shores she graceful moves,To visit Paphos and her blooming roves:While to her power a hundred altars rise,And grateful incense greets the balmy skies.”
“———— On Lebanon’s sequestered heightThe fair Adonis left the realms of light,Bowed his bright locks, and, fated from his birthTo change eternal, mingled with the earth;With darker horror shook the conscious wood,Groaned the sad gales, and rivers blushed with blood;And beauty’s goddess bending o’er his bier,Breathed the soft sigh, and poured the tender tear.Admiring Proserpine, through dusky glades,Led the fair Phantom to Elysian shades,Clad with new form, with finer sense combined,And lit with purer flame the Ethereal mind.Erewhile emerging from infernal night,The youth immortal rises to the light,Leaves the drear chambers of the insatiate tomb,And shines and charms with renovated bloom.”Botanic Garden, canto II.
Obs. 1. — The ancients thought that water was the primitive element of which all things were formed; and Venus is allegorically represented as the principle of communicated life. Inand , we find Jupiter addressing Venus as his father, which is illustrated by the different views given of her character. She is considered as the model of the female form, and of blooming youth. She is the daughter of Jupiter; except when figured symbolically: she then becomes the source of life and activity throughout the world.
Obs. 2. — The marriage of Venus with Vulcan, the ugliest of the gods, signifies that the empire of beauty extends to those who have not the gift of pleasing. It represents unequal unions in which the unequal gifts of nature are balanced by those of fortune.
Obs. 3. — The fables and accounts of poets in relation to Venus are obscure, for we find in them a medley of physics, morality, and history. Sometimes they consider her as a goddess, sometimes as a planet, and not unfrequently as a symbol of the passions.
Obs. 4. — The history of Astarte was soon confounded by the Greeks with that of Venus. The uncertainty of historical facts, and the impossibility of reconciling them, allowed the poets the exercise of their imaginations as their guide. They consulted their passions or those of kings and great personages whom they wished to flatter. Hence, the most seductive paintings, and often the most scandalous adventures, were the materials they made use of to form the history of their Venus. Painting and sculpture, sisters of poetry, imitated her flights. Venus was represented as the goddess of pleasure; Cupid or Love was given her for her son, and all master-pieces which the arts and the poets could produce, were consecrated to her.
Obs. 5. — Cupid was the god of love. By his arrows are meant the shafts of love, a wound from which puts one out of the power of resistance. He was often represented as blind, because the fancy of the lover paints his mistress in qualities, the reality of which does not exist. He has wings, because favour is deceitful and love is precarious.supposes Cupid to have been the son of Nox and Æther, and to have been produced at the same time with Chaos and Earth. He attempts to paint by this allegorical personage, the moment at which the earth was peopled by men and animals. The poets represent him as the son of the god of riches by the goddess of poverty, to intimate that fortune and misery equally prove the power of love. By love some attempted to designate the physical principle, which served to unite the separate particles of matter when chaos was cleared. Cupid is allegorized with gentle, agreeable, caressing, deceptive, and malicious attributes. The poets at first distinguished two Loves, the one, son of Venus Urania, who presided over legitimate unions; the other, they called Anteros.
Obs. 6. — The mixture of the history of Astarte with that of Venus, gave rise to the fable of Adonis, which is thus explained. That young prince reigned over a part of Phœnicia, and joined to extreme beauty the most consummate qualities of mind. He married the daughter of Biblos, and succeeded to the throne of his father-in-law. While he was hunting in the forests of Mount Libyan, a wild-boar wounded him very dangerously. The queen, thinking the wound mortal, betrayed such poignant grief, that his subjects thought him dead and mourning spread over Phœnicia. The prince recovered, however; and in a fit of frantick joy, they set forth the danger he had run, by saying that he had returned from the infernal regions.
Chapter XXI. Pyramus, Thisbe, Pygmalion, Atalanta, the Lover’s Leap, and the river Selemus. §
Pyramus and Thisbe were both youths of Bahlon. In age, size, and fortune, they resembled each other. With their beauty they alternately refined their joys and softened their cares, and by the most agreeable participation, considered each other as objects of delight. Their love shot its roots deep, and grew luxuriantly before they were fitted for conjugal happiness. They solicited the consent of their parents, which was refused by reason of a previous misunderstanding between the two families. A partition-wall was made to separate their houses. But nothing is impregnable to love; for they regularly talked with each other through a chink in the wall, where they conversed undiscovered, and which, at their parting, they carefully shut on both sides; but through this aperture, a holy kiss, deemed the flower of matrimonial happiness, Could not pass. After repeated promises of mutual sincerity, they agreed to meet under the shade of a large white mulberry tree, to cherish which a fountain sent forth its bubbling stream. Taking advantage of the absence of her friends, Thisbe dressed herself in a new suit, and hastened with such warm anticipations of happiness, as time and experience imperceptibly fritter away into languid hopes and strengthening apprehensions. The sudden appearance of a lioness so frightened her, that after having dropped her veil, she ran into a cave. The lioness, just as she had come from the slaughter of some cattle, found the veil, and tore it with her jaws, besmeared with blood. Pyramus soon went forth, saw the vestiges of some wild beast, and found the veil of Thisbe bloody. Concluding that she was killed and devoured by the wild beast, he became distracted, and ran to the appointed tree; but as he did not find her, he stabbed himself with a sword. Thisbe, in the mean time, recovering from her fright, came forth to the mulberry tree, where, in agonizing grief, she had to encounter the awful scene of
his death, and feel
“the feeble, thrilling pressure” of his lips and his hand, and sink under
“the last fond look of his gazing eye;” but still more his
“faint, faltering accents, struggling in death to give one more assurance of affection!” Thisbe saw Pyramus dead. Her sight grew dim, her soft cheeks turned pale, and her lovely form faded away. Her disappointed love she hid in the recesses of her bosom; but it operated potently among the ruins of her peace. The desire of the heart failed with her. The charm of existence was broken. She bitterly repented of being the cause of her lover’s death, and plunging his sword into her own body; she fell on him, gave him a bitter kiss, and died. The fountain ceasing its murmuring, Zephyrus sprinkled the blood of the slain lovers upon the mulberry tree, which before bore white berries, but afterwards red.
Pygmalion, a fine statuary, considering the inconveniences incident to a matrimonial life, seriously made up his mind to live single. He made an artificial image of Venus, where the finest features, ranged in the most exact symmetry, and heightened by the most blooming complexion, were so animated as to excite the passions which they expressed. When clad in sensibility’s fairest robe, they could not be examined without emotion. No haughtiness, no forbidding majesty, no boldness; smiles, gentleness, encouragement, and exquisite gracefulness, were reflected, as from a mirror, by her manner, by her countenance, by her person and carriage. Pygmalion could not help falling in love with his own workmanship, and begged Venus to make it into a living woman. This being done, he had by her Paphos, from whom the isle of Paphos had its name.
Atalanta was daughter to Schœnus, king of Scyros. She was equally virtuous and beautiful, and wonderfully swift in running. She always shunned male society. She was, however, at all times, besieged with a train of wooers. In order to get rid of their importunities, she at length declared that whoever would surpass her in running, should be her husband; but that whoever would be beaten by her, should be put to death. Accordingly they made their best efforts to beat her; but were all outrun: and the loss of their lives was attributed to the fault of their feet.
Venus gave Hippomonus some apples of the Hesperides, who artfully threw them in the way. Atalanta, enticed by the sight of them, stopped to gather them. After having attained the goal, he claimed her as the prize of his victory. These two lovers were turned into a lion and lioness by Cybele, whose temple they had profaned, when they were too impatient to have their nuptials consummated.
There was in Leucate, near Nisapolis, a high place from which persons leaped into the sea to find a remedy for love. This place was, therefore, called “The Lover’s Leap.” Nets artfully spread, prevented them from receiving bruises when they fell, and rich tributes were paid to the inventors of this cheat. It was Phocas, who first leaped from the rock. Repeated experiments succeeded to do away this ridiculous usage. The nets were no longer kept up; but the promontory of Leucate remained famous, and the unfortunate, to whom Greece gave the name of “the tenth muse,” still came to increase its celebrity. Driven to despair by the insensibility of Phaon, she ran to the promontory, threw herself headlong into the sea, and perished.
The river Selemus was also reputed to have the virtue of extinguishing the fire of love by bathing one’s self in its waters.
Chapter XXII. The Graces. §
The Graces, or Charities, were daughters of Bacchus and Venus. They were three and sometimes four in number, Aglaia, (shining,) Thalia, (flourishing,) Euphrosyne, (gay,) and Pasithea. They were the constant attendants of their mother, who sometimes represented Hours or Seasons. They were supposed to give attractive charms to beauty, and dispense the gift of pleasing. They taught mankind the duties of gratitude and friendship, and promoted love and harmony among them.
They appear as virgins, young, beautiful, modest, amiable, innocent, pure, lightly drest, and in elegant attitudes, and with their hands connected, to show the mutual affection that subsisted between them. Behold the real loveliness of their innocence, of their piety, of their good humour, the irresistible charms of their unaffected modesty and humanity, with all the rare and pleasing marks of sensibility; virtues which add new softness to their sex, and even beautify their beauty, the magicism of their celestial friendship, and the cherishing memory of their warm hearts! — See Fig. 28.
Obs. 1. — The Graces are described as naked, young, smiling, and holding each other by the hand. They are naked, to intimate that they borrow nothing from art, and have no other charms than those of nature; they are young, because charms fall to the lot of youth, and the memory of a benefit should not grow old. The poets feigned that they were small and slender in stature, thereby to show that charms consist in little things, even in a gesture or a smile. They are in the attitude of dancing, holding each other by the hand, in order to teach us that we should, by reciprocal benefits, strengthen those bands which attach us to each other, and that we should be grateful for benefits and affectionate. The Graces were placed among the ugly Satyrs, undoubtedly to teach us that the defects of figure may be compensated by the charms of mind and that we should judge no one by his external appearance. They were said to be sprightly and light, because one should promptly oblige, and bestow a favour with no expectation of reward. They were virgins, because inclination to render service is to be accompanied with prudence and discretion.
Obs. 2. — By Venus and by the Graces, we mean beauty and prettiness. By a beautiful female, we understand, one that is graceful, well proportioned, delicately made, and blessed with a symmetry of colour and feature which raises delight and admiration in the beholder. Beauty, when adorned with the vermillion veil of modesty, has charms that are irresistible. When she is clad in virtue’s pure robe, she wins the esteem and respect of the beholder. But if she lay aside that veil or that robe, she makes a sorry and despicable figure in society.
“So beauty armed with virtue, bows the soulWith a commanding, but a sweet control.”.
The Graces are sometimes represented dressed, but more frequently naked, to show that whatever is truly graceful, is so, in itself, without the aid of external ornaments. They bestow liberality, eloquence, wisdom, together with gaiety of disposition, and easiness of manners. Such alluring qualities of carriage and sweetness of temper, render a beautiful person interesting in the highest degree.
Chapter XXIII. Vulcan. §
Vulcan, the god of fire, and the patron of those who worked in the metallic arts, was the son of Jupiter and Juno, or some say, of Juno without a father.
He resided in heaven for a considerable time, but having offended Jupiter by relieving his mother, whom Jupiter had suspended by a chain from the threshold of heaven, he was thrust down from the celestial court. Having fallen nine days and nine nights, he lighted on the isle of Lemnos, and was always after a cripple.
The islanders used him so well, that he fixed his residence among them, and taught them the use of fire and the art of working metals.
Vulcan was married to the beautiful goddess Venus, but she appears to have despised her deformed husband, and to have had children by Mars, Mercury, Bacchus, Neptune, and by Anchises.
Vulcan forged Jupiter’s thunderbolts, and the arms of the gods. He constructed seats in such a manner as to make them self-moving. They were used by the gods at table and in council; and were carried from one side of the room to another. He also formed some golden statues, and animated them in such a manner that they followed him wherever he went; he fabricated the palace of the sun, the necklace of Hermione, the crown of Ariadne, and the arms of Achilles; and likewise formed the first woman, whose name was Pandora.
Vulcan is called Lemnius, because he fell upon the island of Lemnos; Mulciber, because he softened and polished iron; Tardipes, because he was lame; Ætnaeus, because a temple was dedicated to him on Mount Ætna.
He was worshipped chiefly in Egypt, at Athens, and at Rome. Feasts celebrated to his honour, were called Lampadophories. As offerings to him, whole victims were burnt, with no part reserved, as in immolations to the other gods. A calf and a boar-pig were the principal victims.
Vulcan is usually represented working at the forge, holding in his left hand a thunderbolt with pincers on an anvil, and with his right, lifting a hammer. An eagle waits by his side to carry the bolt to Jupiter. He always appears with neglected beard and hair; his habit descends not quite to the knees; he wears a round and pointed cap. Sometimes he is seen sitting upon an anvil, supporting himself with a hammer. — See Fig. 29.
His servants or workmen were called the Cyclops, a race of giants with a circular eye in the middle of their forehead. They were described as working in the caverns of Mount Ætna. Apollo slew them all, because they had forged the thunderbolts with which Jupiter killed his son Æsculapius. The chief workmen were Polyphemus, Brontes, Sterops, and Pyracmon. Polyphemus was slain by Ulysses.
“Cupid is Vulcan’s son, Venus his wife:No wonder then he goes lame all his life.”
“Nor was his name unheard or unadoredIn ancient Greece: and in Ansonian islandMen called him Mulciber; and how he fellFrom heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove.From mornTo noon he fell, from noon to dewy eveA summer’s day; and with the setting sun.Drops from the zenith, like a falling star,On Lemnos, the Ægean isle.” —Paradise Lost.
“When of old, as mystic bards presume,Huge Cyclops dwelt in Ætna’s rocky womb,On thundering anvils rung their loud alarms,And leagued with Vulcan forged immortal arms;Descending Venus sought the dark abode,And sooth’d the labours of the grisly god.While frowning loves the threatening falchion wield,And tittering graces peep behind the shield.With jointed mail their fairy limbs o’erwhelm,Or nod with pausing step the plumed helm;With radiant eye she view’d the boiling ore,Heard undismay’d the breathing bellows roar,Admired their sinewy arms, and shoulders bare,And ponderous hammers lifted high in air,With smiles celestial bless’d their dazzled sight,And beauty blazed amid infernal night.”Botanic Garden — canto I.
“———— The silver footed dameReach’d the Vulcanian dome, eternal frame!High, eminent amid the works divine,Where heaven’s far beaming brazen mansions shine.There the lame Architect the goddess found,Obscure in smoke, his forges flaming round;While bath’d in sweat, from fire to fire he flew,And puffing loud the roaring bellows blew.Then from his anvil the lame artist rose;Wide with distorted legs oblique he goes,And still the bellows, and, ill order laid,Locks in their chest the instruments of trade.Then with a sponge the sooty workmen drestHis brawny arms imbrown’d and hairy breast:With his huge sceptre grac’d, and red attire,Came halting forth the sov’reign of the fire.”.
All black with smoke a rocky island stood,The dark Vulcanian land, the region of the god.Here the grim Cyclops ply, in vaults profound,The huge Æolian forge that thunders round.Th’ eternal anvils ring, the dungeon o’er;From side to side the fiery caverns roar,Loud groans the mass beneath their ponderous blows,Fierce burns the flame, and the full furnace glows.Th’ alternate blows the brawny brethren deal;Thick burst the sparkles from the tortur’d steel,Huge strokes, rough Sterops and Brontes gave,And strong Pyracmon shook the gloomy cave;Before their sovereign came, the Cyclops stroveWith eager speed, to forge a bolt for Jove,Such as by heaven’s almighty lord are hurl’d,All charged with vengeance on a guilty world.Beneath their hands, tremendous to survey!Half rough, half form’d, the dreadful engine lay;Three points of rain, three forks of hail conspire,Three arm’d with wind; and three were barb’d with fire.The mass they temper’d thick with livid rays,Fear, Wrath, and Terror, and the lightning’s blaze.”.
“The joints of slaughter’d wretches are his food,And for his wine he quaffs the streaming blood.These eyes beheld, when with his spacious handHe seiz’d two captives of our Grecian band;Stretch’d on his back, he dash’d against the stonesTheir broken bodies and their crackling bones.With spouting blood the purple pavement swims,While the dire glutton grinds the trembling limbs.Not unreveng’d Ulysses bore their fate,Nor thoughtless of his own unhappy state.For gorg’d with flesh, and drunk with human wine,While fast asleep the giant lay supine,Snoring aloud, and belching from his mawHis undigested foam and mosals raw;We pray, we cast the lots; and then surroundThe monstrous body, stretch’d along the ground;Each as he could approach him, lends a handTo bore his eyeball with a flaming brand;Beneath his frowning forehead lay his eye;For only one did this vast frame supply,But that a globe so large, his front so fill’d,Like the Sun’s disk, or like the Grecian shield.”
Obs. 1. — There were three distinguished Vulcans: the first, Tubalcain, the son of Lamech, mentioned in Scripture. He was, no doubt, the first inventor of smiths’ work. The second was one of the first kings of the Egyptians, or, rather, their first divinity. Their silence respecting his origin, renders it probable that he was the same Tubalcain. The Grecians have made up the history of the third out of that of the first two, together with additions of their own.
Obs. 2. — The Cyclops appear to have been the aboriginals of Sicily. Ignorance of their origin caused them to be looked upon as the sons of Heaven and Earth. Their first settlement was probably made at the foot of Mount Etna; and the flames which it vomits forth, caused it to be regarded as the forge of Vulcan. In like manner the horrible noise of that volcano was compared to the redoubled strokes of the Cyclops on their anvils. They are fabled to have had but one eye; to explain which, some suppose they wore a mask to keep off the fire with one hole above their eyes through which to see their works.
Chapter XXIV. Mercury. §
mentions five deities of this name, but the actions of all but one have been attributed to the son of Jupiter and Maia. Mercury was the messenger of the gods, the patron of travellers, shepherds, orators, merchants, thieves, and dishonest persons, the tutelar god of roads and crossways, the inventor of letters, weights, measures, &c. It was he who released the souls of men from their bodies, conducted them to Charon’s boat, to be ferried across the Styx. After they had spent some time in the nether world, he led them back to revisit the realms of day, according to the doctrine of transmigration.
Mercury was born on Mount Cyllene, in Arcadia, and, in his infancy, was entrusted to the care of the seasons. On the day of his birth, he is said to have stolen the oxen of Admetus, tended by Apollo. This theft being discovered by Battus, Mercury gave him a cow to keep the secret; but to test his fidelity, Mercury appeared to him in another shape, and offered him a higher reward to reveal it: whereupon, Battus told him all he knew. The god was incensed at this duplicity, and turned him into a stone. At different times he is said, in sport, and in spite of their utmost vigilance, to have purloined from Apollo his bow and quiver, from Neptune his trident, from Venus her girdle, from Mars his sword, from Jupiter his sceptre, and from Vulcan his tools.
Mercury greatly distinguished himself in the wars of the giants, delivered Mars from a long confinement, purified the Danaides, tied Ixion to his wheel, and destroyed the hundred-eyed Argus. He chained Prometheus to Mount Caucasus, sold Hercules to Omphale, queen of Lydia, and conducted Priam to the tent of Achilles.
Mercury possessed attributes connected with enchantment, and bore a caduceus, or rod of power, with wings at the top, and a couple of serpents entwined about it. The virtues of this wand were such that every thing it touched, when awake, would sink into sleep, and when asleep, would awaken. When it was applied to the dying, their spirit separated gently from the mortal frame; but when applied to the dead, they returned to life. It also had the power of settling controversies: two implacable enemies, when moved with it, instantly become reconciled. He saw two serpents fighting, and when he laid his wand between them, they regarded each other with eyes of affection, and entwined themselves around it.
Mercury was represented in a variety of ways: most commonly, however, as a naked youth, standing on tip-toe, having on his head a winged hat, called Petasus, and on his feet, winged sandals, called Talaria. He held in one hand his rod, and in the other, a purse. — See Fig. 30.
Mercury had many children. The most celebrated were Hermaphroditus by Venus, and Pan by Penelope, the wife of Ulysses.
The animals sacred to Mercury, were the goat and the dog. Offerings of milk and honey were made to him, and the tongues were burnt on his altar with great solemnity, because he was the god of eloquence. The Roman merchants annually celebrated his festival in a temple near the circus Maximus.
Mercury was called Hermes by the Greeks, because he was the god of rhetoricians and orators; Cyllenius, either from the name of Mount Cyllenus on which he was born, or because his statues had neither hands nor feet; Nomius, on account of the laws of which he was the author; Camillus, because he served the gods; Caduceator, because he bore the caduceus; Vialis, because he presided over highways; Dolius, because he patronized fraud and treachery.
“—— The god who mounts the winged winds,Fast to his feet the golden pinions binds,That high through fields of air his flight sustain,O’er the wide earth, and o’er the boundless main:He grasps the wand that causes sleep to fly,Or in soft slumbers seals the wakeful eye;Then shoots from heav’n to high Pieria’s steep,And stoops incumbent on the rolling deep.”.
“Hermes obeys; with golden pinions bindsHis flying feet, and mounts the western winds,And, whether o’er the seas or earth he flies,With rapid force they bear him down the skies.But first he grasps, within his awful hand,The mark of sov’reign pow’r, his magic wand:With this he draws the souls from hollow graves;With this he drives them down the Stygian waves;With this he seals in sleep the wakeful sightAnd eyes, though clos’d in death, restores to light.”.
“Thee, wing-foot, all the gods, both high and low,The arbiter of war and peace allow;’.
Obs. 1. — He who has furnished the poets with most materials for fable, is, or three times great, king of Egypt, who lived a little after Moses. He was the author of ancient books on religion, which the Egyptians carefully preserved.
Obs. 2. — To understand the historical sense of the fable of Mercury, we must recollect that the ancients, not critical observers of chronology, confounded several Mercuries into one. The Mercury, son of Maia, and grandson of Atlas, reigned after Jupiter, his father, in a part of Italy and Gaul. The qualities of his mind were such that he was accounted the god of thieves, as well as the inventor of several arts; for he was sly, dissembling, crafty, and cunning. He consulted the learned, and profitted by their discourses to instruct himself in the sciences and arts. The delicate negociations, in which he was employed, caused him to be deemed the interpreter and messenger of the gods. The Gauls honoured him under the name of Theutates, and offered him human victims. The Egyptians worshipped him under the name of Thaut.
Part II. Of the Marine Deities. §
The wants and necessities of life are continually recurring. To have them unsupplied, causes death. Hence the most unenlightened nations have sought out some supernatural beings to preside over their fortunes and destinies; and hence, too, every element has had its divinity. But the gross ignorance of miserable beings groping in nature’s darkness, has rendered it impossible for them to form just conceptions of a pure, spiritual, and holy Supreme Being who is worthy to receive their highest adorations: and hence we find in all the gods of the heathens, an incongruous jumble of spiritual and carnal, divine and human essence; — a compound of corruption and incorruption, of the mighty and the feeble, of noble and ignoble, of the fascinating and the disgusting, of the amiable and the execrable, of good and evil.
Thus, the Egyptians gave the name of Osiris and Isis to the sun and moon. Neptune, celebrated because he commanded the fleet of Jupiter, became the god of the seas. Every river, every fountain, every collection of water had its particular deity. This worship varied according to the customs and opinions of the different nations, but the worship of water was general. The Egyptians held the sea in horror, because it represented to them the tremendous Typhon. They reserved their whole veneration for the waters of the Nile. They named this river Ocean, Ypeus, or Nileus, and often Siris, by an abbreviation of Osiris.
Among them this river, or, rather, the god of the water, was represented by a vessel, full of holes, which they called Hydria. The Persians having pretended to sustain the pre-eminence of fire, their great divinity, the Egyptian priests accepted the challenge. The Hydria was placed on a hot coal fire, but the holes of the vessel, skilfully closed with wax, let escape the water it contained, and the Nile was victorious. From that time nothing equalled the respect of the Egyptians for the Hydria, which they also called Canopus, their god. According to them, the Nile, or water in general, was the principle of all things, and it only gave motion and life to all that breathes.
The Indians rendered the Ganges divine honours. This superstition still lasts, and the princes who reign on the banks of this river, make their subjects pay for the right of bathing and drawing water from it. Almost all the inhabitants of the earth have libations to the ocean, seas, fountains, and rivers. The most astonishing effects were attributed to the water, and the poets infinitely extended this sort of idolatrous worship by adding to it the charms and graces of their fictions. Hence sprang the sea deities whose number surpassed those of heaven and other parts of the universe. Oceanus had by Tethys, seventy-two nymphs, named Oceanides; Nereus, fifty Nereides, whose namesmentions. The same poet makes the number of the nymphs of the waters amount even to three thousand; and if the Naiades, the Napæx, the Limniades, &c. &c. be added, we shall find that the deities of the water were innumerable. We shall present a few of the most important fables belonging to this part of mythology.
Chapter I. Oceanus, Nereus. §
Oceanus, a powerful sea deity, was the son of Cœlus and Terra. He was considered as the first god of the waters, because he contains the greatest collection of water, and communicates it to the other seas and to the earth by that admirable circulation of rivers, fountains, clouds, and rains, which carry every where fruitfulness.
Oceanus was married to Tethys, by whom he is said to have had three thousand children. His nymphs were called after his name, Oceanides and Oceantides.
The Argonauts, before they prosecuted their expedition, offered him flour, honey, and oil on the sea-coast, and sacrificed to him bulls in order to solicit his protection. The sailors usually offered a lamb or young pig, when the sea was calm, and a black bull, when it was agitated.
Oceanus is represented as an old man, with a long flowing beard, sitting on the waves of the sea, and holding a pike in his hand.
Nereus, son to Oceanus, was a famous prophet. He was described with a long flowing beard, and sky-coloured head. By his wife Doris, he had fifty daughters, called Nereides, who compose the train of Amphitrite. They are described as young and beautiful virgins, mounted on dolphins, and bearing Neptune’s trident in their hands, or sometimes garlands of flowers.
Thetis was the most illustrious of the Nereides, and is to be distinguished from the wife of Oceanus. Jupiter loved her; but having read in the book of Destiny that she would have a son greater than his father, he gave her for a wife to Peleus, who was father to Achilles.
Chapter II. Neptune, Triton. §
Neptune, the ruler of the waters, and the god of maritime affairs, was the son of Saturn and Cybele. He received as his portion of dominion, the empire of the sea.
He engaged the gods to dethrone his brother Jupiter; for which offence, Neptune and Apollo were condemned to serve Laomedon, king of Troy, for one year, during which they built the walls of that famous city. Neptune laid waste the Trojan territories, because the king had refused him a stipulated reward.
Neptune was married to Amphitrite, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. A dolphin had persuaded her to take Neptune for her husband, notwithstanding her vow of celibacy. By her he had Triton. But like Jupiter, he was unfaithful to his wife; and his progeny by his various mistresses are too numerous to be mentioned here.
Neptune was a powerful deity. He could cause earthquakes, and raise islands from the bottom of the sea at his will.
He was most venerated by the Libyans. The Greeks and Romans celebrated their Isthmean games and Consualia in honour of him. During his feasts, horses and mules crowned with flowers, rested from their toils. Nobody durst disturb their rest. His ordinary victims were the horse and the bull.
Neptune was called Hippius, because he produced a horse out of the ground by a stroke of his trident; Posedon, because he broke vessels; Hippodromus, because he presided over horse-races; Consus, because he was the god of counsel. Amphitrite was called Salacia, because the salt water is in the bottom of the sea, and Venilia, because the sea ebbs and flows by turns.
Neptune is represented with black hair and blue eyes, clad in a robe of rich azure, holding a trident in his right hand, and embracing his queen Amphitrite with his left arm. Sometimes he stands up, and sits down at others, in a chariot made of shell, and drawn by sea-horses or dolphins, and surrounded by Tritons, nymphs, and sea-monsters. He wears a radiated crown on his head. — See Fig. 31.
Triton was the son of Neptune, and trumpeter to his father. He could calm the ocean and abate storms at pleasure. He is represented as half man and half fish, blowing a wreathed sea-shell, which serves him for a trumpet with which to convene the water deities when Neptune requires their presence.
“Good Neptune’s steeds to rest are set up here,In the Aegean gulph, whose fore parts harness bear,Their hinder parts fish-shaped.”
“Shaking his trident, urges on his steeds,Who with two feet beat from their brawny breastsThe foaming billows; but their hinder partsSwim, and go smooth against the curling surge.”
“———— He smooth’d the sea,Dispell’d the darkness, and restor’d the day.High on the waves his azure car he guides,Its axle, thunder, and the sea subside;And the smooth ocean rolls her silent tides.”
“———— Where’er he guidesHis finny coursers, and in triumph rides,The waves unruffle, and the sea subsides.”
“Him and his martial train the Triton bears,High on his poop the sea-green god appears;Frowning, he seems his crooked shell to sound,And at the blast the billows dance around.A hairy man above the breast he shows;A porpoise tail beneath his body grows,And ends a fish: his breast the waves divide,And froth and foam augment the murmuring tide.”.
“Old Triton rising from the deep he spies,Whose shoulders rob’d with native purple rise,And bids him his loud-sounding shell inspire,And give the floods a signal to retire.He his wreath’d trumpet takes (as given in charge)That from the turning bottom grows more large;This, when the Numen o’er the ocean sounds,The east and west from shore to shore rebounds.”.
Obs. 1. — Amphitrite is quite a poetical personage. Her name signifies that the sea surrounds the land. By Neptune the ancients understood the element of water: Amphitrite, his wife, is water itself. The enterprise of the dolphin shows that it surpasses all other fishes in industry. Neptune placed in the rank of immortals, and considered as the god of the sea, was undoubtedly a prince, hero, or captain who, commanding a great naval army, had signalized himself by his talents and heroic exploits in some sea-fight.
Obs. 2. — By the use of his trumpet Triton is said to have frightened away the giants in their wars with the gods. This fable may be considered as a corrupted tradition of the fall of the walls of Jericho.
Chapter III. The Sirens, Scylla, Charybdis. §
The Sirens were three in number, supposed to have been the daughters of Achelaus and Melpomene: their names were Parthenope, Ligeia, and Leucosia, or, according to others, Molpe, Aglaophonos, and Thelxiope. informs us that they resided in the straits of Messina, between Sicily and Naples. says that they were the companions of Proserpine, when Pluto carried away the daughter of Proserpine. They requested the gods to grant them wings to look after her about the great sea, and obtained them. The jealous Juno inspired them with the perfidious idea of challenging the nine Muses in singing. They were overcome, and the pupils of Apollo punished them by pulling off their wings, of which they made crowns.
The Sirens appear as beautiful young females, with the faces of women and the bodies of flying fishes, holding, one a lyre, another, a flute, and the third, singing. They knew how to accommodate their songs to the tempers of men. Such was the sweetness and melody of their notes, that passengers were often allured by them to their destruction. The Tritons and Sirens are sometimes called mermen and mermaids.
Ulysses and Orpheus were the only two passengers, who escaped their machinations. The former being forewarned by Circe of their dangerous melody, stopped the ears of his comrades with wax, and caused himself to be bound fast to the mast, by which means he safely passed the fatal coast. Orpheus played on his harp, and sang the praises of the gods with such effect, that he overcome the Sirens. On this they precipitated themselves into the sea, and were changed into stones.
Scylla was the daughter of Phorcus, or, as some say, of Typhon. She was courted by Glaucus, whom Circe loved with such violence, that she poured the juice of poisonous herbs into the waters of the fountain where Scylla was wont to bathe; and in washing herself in the waters, she became a monster of a hideous form, with six different heads, each with three rows of teeth, with twelve feet, and with the lower parts of the body, like dogs, which never ceased barking: for which metamorphosis she threw herself into the sea, and was turned into a rock.
Charybdis is said to have been an avaricious woman, who stole away Hercules’ oxen, for which crime Jupiter struck her dead with thunder, and then turned her into a whirlpool.
“Sirens were once sea-monsters, mere decoys,Trepanning seamen with their tuneful voice.”.
“Far on the right her dogs foul Scylla hides:Charybdis roaring on the left presides,And in her greedy whirlpool sucks the tides;Then spouts them from below: with fury driv’n,The waves mount up, and wash the face of heav’n.But Scylla from her den, with open jawsThe sinking vessel in her eddy draws;Then dashes on the rocks. A human faceAnd virgin bosom hide the tail’s disgrace:Her parts obscene below the waves descend,With dogs enclos’d, and in a dolphin end.”.
Obs. 1. — Some are inclined to consider the Sirens as girls of pleasure.
Obs. 2. — The fable of the Sirens seems to pourtray the folly, as well as the danger, of pursuing those specious allurements to pleasure, to sensual delight, and to an indulgence in dreams of earthly glory, by inviting us to a banquet served up with every thing that is good and desirable, when, in truth, they would but plunge us into scenes of voluptuousness, dissipation, and riot, and finally land us on the rocks of ruin.
Obs. 3. — During a tempest the continual dash of the waves against a rock, is analogous to the barking of dogs. Scylla and Charybdis represent lust and gluttony, vices which render our voyage through life equally hazardous and perilous.
Chapter IV. Proteus. §
Proteus, an amphibious deity, had for his mother the nymph Phœnice. He was called Vertumnus by the Latins. His prime duty was to take care of sea-calves, and other marine animals. He could convert himself into any shape he pleased, and had the gift of divination.
The fable of Aristæus illustrates the power of Proteus to metamorphose himself. Eurydice was about to be married to Orpheus. The hymeneal altar was already prepared in a field enameled with flowers; the furious Aristeus appears, and opposes her union. He rudely rushes to seize her, and she flees into a field, where a venomous serpent, hidden under the flowers, is bruised by the foot of Eurydice. The serpent revenges itself by inflicting on her a mortal wound. The nymphs, afflicted at this misfortune, punished Aristæus by lulling his bees. In order to repair that loss, his mother Cyrene sends him to consult Proteus; recommends him to surprize Proteus in his sleep, and to bind him fast with cords; and assures him, that, after having in vain attempted his metamorphosis, he will resume his original form, and will tell him the secret of which he is in need. Proteus, surprised by Aristaeus, awakes, loaded with the bonds; but he cannot change Aristaeus’ form. He is, therefore, compelled to yield, with the hope of regaining his liberty. He directs that youth to immolate four heifers to the manes of Eurydice. Numerous swarms of bees immediately burst forth from them. Hence,intimates that when exposed to the sun, the skin of a bull or heifer attracts insects, which are soon changed into bees.
Obs. — Historians state, that Proteus was king of Egypt, about the time of the Trojan war, famed for wisdom, foresight, secrecy, cunning, and eloquence, which the poets metaphorically express by saying, that he changed himself into different forms. A fickle person is called a Proteus.
Chapter V : Glaucus, Portumnus, Phorcys, Saron. §
Glaucus was a Bœotian fisherman. One day he perceived that the fishes recovered their strength by touching an herb upon which he had emptied out his nets, after which they instantly leaped into the sea. He wished to try its effects upon himself; and as soon as he had touched it, he instantly leaped into the sea, and became a sea-dog. .
Portumnus, so called by the Latins, was son to Athamas and Ino, daughter of Cadmus. Juno, an enemy to Cadmus, because he was brother to Europa, inspired Athamas with such fury, that he threatened to tear Ino to pieces with her son Melicerta. Both precipitately ran away, and fell into the sea, and became sea-deities. The name of Ino was changed to that of Leucothea, and Melicerta was called Palæmon. He was painted with a key in his right hand, to designate that the poets are under his protection and safeguard. The Roman ladies much honoured Leucothea; but they durst not offer vows to that goddess, because they dreaded for their children the misfortunes which had overwhelmed Leucothea and her son. No female slave had a right to enter her temple.
Phorcys or Phorcus, a marine god, was the son of Pontus and Terra: but some say, of Neptune. He was father to the Gorgons, of whom we shall speak. Thoosa, his daughter, was mother to Polyphemus, the most celebrated of the Cyclops.
Saron was considered as the particular god of mortals. He was king of Corinth, and very fond of hunting. In pursuing a stag, he leaped accidentally into the sea, where, exhausted with heat and fatigue, he perished. His body was cast up by the sea near the wood sacred to Diana, in the Phœban swamps. It was buried in the porch of the temple; and from that time, that swamp is called Saronic, instead of Phœban.
The king-fishers, sea-birds, have power to build their nests on the waves, even during winter. The ancients had a superstition that, for fourteen days, from the 13th to the 28th of December, the sea remains calm and appears to respect those birds. Mariners give to that time the name of “halcyon days.” This singularity produced a fable: Alcyone, wife of Ceyx, king of Trachinia, saw, in a dream her husband returning to consult the oracle of Delphi. At day-break, as she ran along the shore, she perceived a floating body, and recognized Ceyx. In the midst of her despair, she threw herself headlong into the sea. The gods, moved with compassion, changed them both into alcyons or king-fishers.
Chapter VI. The Nymphs. §
The Nymphs are young virgins who attend on celestial, terrestial, and marine deities.
Dryades have empire over the woods.
Hamadryades are born, and expire with trees.
Oreades, or Oriestiades, preside over the mountains.
Auræ have dominion over the air.
Naphææ preside over the groves and valleys.
The meadows and fields acknowledge Limoniades for their proctors.
Meliæ watched over the ash.
Naides, or Naiades, govern the fountains.
Fluviales, or Potamides, are the nymphs of the rivers.
Limnades inhabit the lakes and ponds.
and call Neptune Nymphagetes, because he is the captain of (50) nymphs.
Agappidæ and Musæ were the nymphs of Apollo.
Bacchæ, Bassarides, Eloides, and Thyades, were the nymphs of Bacchus.
Diana had hunting nymphs for her attendants.
Nereides attended upon Tethys.
Echo was once, a nymph, but she has left behind her nothing but her voice.
Juno struck her speechless, because she found herself long detained by her tedious discourses; a circumstance which afforded the nymphs time to quit the company of Jupiter.
Echo saw, loved, followed, and embraced Narcissus in the woods; but he shunned her.
The grief of Echo was so great as to consume away her flesh, and dissolve her into stones.
When Narcissus pined away with self-love, with the assistance of the gods, he was changed into a daffodil, which plant still bears his name.
“She was a nymph, though only now a sound;Yet of her tongue no other use was found,Than now she has; which never could be more,Than to repeat what she had heard before.
This change impatient Juno’s anger wrought,Who, when her Jove she o’er the mountains sought,Was oft by Echo’s tedious tales misled,Till the shy nymphs to caves and grottos fled.
Her flesh consumes and moulders with despair,And all her body’s juice is turn’d to air;So w’ond’rous are the effects of restless pain,That nothing but her voice and bones remain;Nay, e’en the very bones at last are gone,And metamorphos’d to a thoughtless stone;Yet still the voice does in the woods survive,The form’s departed, but the sound’s alive,”
“There was by chance a living fountain near,Whose unpolluted channel ran so clear,That it seem’d liquid silver.”“A little drop of water does removeAnd keep him from the object of his love.”“My love does vainly on myself return,And fans the cruel flames with which I burn.The thing desir’d I still about me bore,And too much plenty has confirm’d me poor.O that I from my much loved self could go!A strange request, yet would to God’t were so.”
Obs. — The word nymph is derived from lymph, water, or from the Phœnician word nephas, soul. Before the system of Tartarus and Elysium was adopted, people believed that souls wandered about tombs, or in gardens and woods which they had loved while they were united with the body. Those places were religiously respected; and thence proceeded the custom of sacrificing to manes under green trees. Nymphs were charged to preside over them; and their numbers was immense.
Chapter VII. Æolus. §
Æolus, the god of the winds and tempests, is usually supposed to have been the son of Jupiter, by Acesta or Sergesta, the daughter of Hippotus.
Æolus is represented as shutting up the winds in a vast rocky cavern, and occasionally letting them loose over the world. When Ulysses was returning home from Troy, Æolus gave him all the winds confined in a bag that he might thereby have power to resist all obstacles to his voyage.
On coming within sight of the place of his destination, the companions of Ulysses, supposing that the bag was full of money, untied it. The winds rushed out with great violence, and blew him back many a weary league, and thus greatly protracted his voyage home.
The Winds are fabled to have been the sons of Aurora and Astræus, one of the giants who waged war with the gods. They were the attendants or secretaries of Æolus. Their names were Boreas, who had empire over the north-wind; Eurus, over the east-wind; Auster, over the south-wind; and Zephyrus, over the west-wind.
Boreas, wishing to marry Orythia, daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens, was refused by that prince. He therefore blew her away, and carried her to Thrace; where he had by her two sons, Calais and Zethes.
Boreas, having metamorphosed himself into a horse, gave birth to twelve colts of such swiftness, that they ran on the water without sinking and over the ears of corn without bending them. This allegorically represents the swiftness of the winds.
thus beautifully describes Jun o ’ s visit to Æ olus :
“Thus rag’d the goddess, and with fury fraught,The restless regions of the storms she sought,Where, in a spacious cave of living stone,The tyrant Æolus, from his airy throne,With pow’r imperial curbs the struggling winds,And sounding tempests in dark prisons binds.This way and that, th’ impatient captives tend,And, pressing for release, the mountains rend.High in this hall th’ undaunted monarch stands,And shakes his sceptre, and their rage commands;Which did he not, their unresisted swayWould sweep the world before them in their way:Earth, air and seas, through empty space would roll,And heav’n would fly before the driving soul.In fear of this the father of the godsConfined their fury to these dark abodes,And locked them safe, oppress’d with mountain loads;Impos’d a king with arbitrary sway,To loose their fetters or their force allay.”
Obs. — The deification of the wind, proceeded from the great veneration with which the ancients, during the Trojan war, held Æolus, king of the Æolian islands, (at that time called the Vulcanian, now called Lipari) on account of his uncommon skill and divine accuracy, in calculating when and from what points the wind would blow. This knowledge he acquired by closely observing the direction in which the smoke of the volcanoes was sent by the winds.
Part III. Of the Terrestrial Deities. §
The confused and feeble recollections of sacred tradition were not sufficient to bring man back to a knowledge of the true God. Strength, number, and address, secured him the dominion of the earth; but he enjoyed it without gratitude, and thought of nothing but gratifying his wants and passions. Though his pride was great, he acknowledged that he could not command the elements, and that, having unceasingly withstood the dangers which threatened his life, he was in need of assistance and protection. His sorrows, his fears, and necessities, seem to have forced him to believe that there was a power superior to his own. He therefore submits to implore that Being; but he presumptuously thinks he has the right of attaching value to his homage; and, consequently, of bringing him under obligation to watch over his necessities, and to relieve his wants.
But the idea of one God supreme, universal, and the dispenser of all blessings, was a conception too grand to enter his mind. He therefore divides his functions, and distributes his power, among a multiplicity of gods: and bowing down to the divinities of his imagination, he vainly hopes that, by offering numerous sacrifices, he can purchase the pardon of his sins, and the indulgence of his passions and desires.
Thus man blindly and madly went on, continually increasing the number of the gods of heaven, of the earth, of the seas, and of hell. The earth itself became a divinity. Woods, harvests, gardens, meadows, countries, had divine protectors. Houses had their gods, Lares and Penates, and each of them his honours, offices, and worship. At first, the gods were considered as beings invisible and superior to human nature; but some men having distinguished themselves by the cultivation of fields and gardens, or by some useful invention, their names were given to those unknown divinities, and often the divinity and the mortal became confounded together. They counted twelve of the first order, which were called Consentes. These differed from the twelve great gods, of whom we have previously spoken.
Jupiter and Terra were the first two. The Sun and the Moon which so materially influence crops and vegetation were the second two. Ceres, the goddess of corn, and Bacchus, the god of wine, were the third; and Robigus and Flora, were the fourth. Robigus prevented fruits from being blighted, and watched over them to make them ripen: Flora watched over the birth of flowers. Minerva and Venus were the fifth. The former made olive-trees grow, and the latter presided over gardens. Finally, Water and Bonus Eventus were the sixth. The first, because, without it, the earth is dry and produces nothing; and the second, whose name signifies good success, watched to procure good crops. Such were the principal gods of the earth. Their functions and names prove that they owed their origin and the worship paid to them, to the want of their assistance, felt by those who contrived them.
Chapter I. Demogorgon .
Allegorically, Demogorgon represents the genius of the earth. No person, having great fear and veneration for his name, durst pronounce it in a high tone of voice. Philosophers considered this divinity as the spirit of heat, which produces plants, and gives them life. The people honoured him as a true god. He was represented in the form of an old man, filthy, covered with moss, pale, and deformed, always inhabiting the bowels of the earth. He had Eternity and Chaos for his companions.
Wearied with the tediousness of his drear abode, he formed a mass of dirt upon which he sat, and, rising into the air, he surrounded the earth and formed the heaven. Having passed on to the mountain Acroceraunia, which cast forth flames, he drew from its bowels ignited dirt, which he sent into heaven to give light to the world, and with which burning matter he formed the sun, which he gave to the earth for her husband.
These produced Tartarus and Nox. Demogorgon, disturbed in his den by the sorrows which Chaos experienced, issued out of the bottom of the earth discord that she might dwell on its surface. She was the first of his children. In like manner he sent forth the three Parcæ, the serpent Python, Nox, Tartarus, and so forth.
The Arcadians originally considered earth to be animated by a genius, who received from them the name of Demogorgon.
Among the different names borne by Earth, the most ancient is Titæa, which signifies dirt, or earth, as Uranus does heaven. Chaos alone was more ancient than heaven and earth. He was arbitrarily called Ops, or Tellus; and the name of the goddess Vesta, Ceres, Proserpine, Rhea, Diana, or Cybele, was frequently given to him.
Among the different festivals of Earth, one was called the festival of the good goddess. On the first day of May, Vestals entered the house of the high priest, to make a sacrifice to the good goddess, the mysterious deity, whose name women only knew. This sacrifice, offered for the safety and prosperity of the Roman people, was done with the most extensive preparations and the most extraordinary circumspection. The house where the feast was celebrated was adorned at great expense, and as it always took place at night, a variety of lights illumined the rooms. The principal care consisted in removing men. The master of the house, his children and slaves, were all excluded, the windows were carefully closed, and the paintings of men and of male animals were covered with a curtain.
Earth was usually represented in the form of a globe.
thus beautifully illustrates the subject :
“Silence! ye troubled waves, and thou deep, peace,Said then th’ omnific word. Your discord end;Nor stay’d, but on the wings of cherubimUplifted, in paternal glory rodeFar into Chaos, and the world unborn;For Chaos heard his voice: him all his trainFollow’d in bright procession to beholdCreation and the wonders of his night.”Paradise Lost.
Obs. — We shall not descend to particulars concerning this monstrous generation. This gross account leaves a glimpse of the genuine history of the creation of the world. Chaos is an allegorical divinity, representing that confused mass of matter, from which the universe was formed. The idea of this generation is evidently taken from the Mosaic account of the creation.
Chapter II. Terminus. §
Terminus was the god of boundaries and landmarks. Landmarks, called Lapides Terminalia, were deemed sacred. His festivals called Terminalia, were always observed on the last day of the year. Milk, fruits, and cakes, were offered to him. His image was a head without a body, to show that he was not to be moved. He was often represented by a pyramidial Stone, surmounted with a head. Before Numa introduced his worship, the Romans honoured a protector of boundaries under the name of Jupiter Terminalis, and the Greeks, under Jupiter Horius.
Obs. — Respect for the sacred right of property, is necessary to secure the repose and existence of society. Without it, weakness would be stripped by strength, and lands would remain uncultivated; for it enables man to prosecute business with certainty and facility. Such is the origin of those laws which caused men to mark their property by boundaries. Ceres, protectress of tillage, is said by the ancients to have introduced the use of boundaries.ascribes this invention to Numa Pompilius; but many affirm that it is due to the celebrated Thaut or Egyptian Mercury, who, in that way, corrected disorders occasioned by the overflowing of the Nile. Such was the progress of civilization, that it became the essence of good policy to show, that the violation of limitary laws was impious.
Chapter III. Flora, Feronia, Pomona. §
Flora, the goddess of flowers and gardens, was the Chloris of the Greeks. She was married to Zephyrus, who gave her empire over the flowers of the field. She is represented as a beautiful nymph, blessed with perpetual youth, and crowned with flowers, and bearing a cornucopia, or horn of plenty. — See Fig. 34.
Flora was worshipped among the Latins before the foundation of Rome, in which city Tatius built her a temple. In the season of flowers, when all nature is jocund and smiling, the Romans instituted games to her, called Floralia, which were celebrated with the most licentious rites.
Zephyrus, the god of the west-wind, was the son of Astræus and Aurora, and the Favonius of the Latins. He is represented as a beautiful and delicate youth, with wings on his shoulders, and a wreath of flowers around his head.
Feronia was the goddess of woods and orchards. A grove near Mount Soracte was sacred to her. It was once said to be on fire; but no sooner had her image been removed thence, than the grove became green again. It was customary to offer a yearly sacrifice to this goddess, and to wash the face and hands in the waters of her fountain. Those who were inspired by her could walk barefoot over burning coals without injury.
Pomona, the goddess of fruit, was unknown among the Greeks. She lived in celibacy, and constantly employed herself with the pruning hook, or in engrafting, or hollowing lines in the turf, in which to conduct the rills to promote the growth of her trees. Her regular priest was called Flamen Pomonalis.
She appears as a rosy, beautiful, and robust woman, sitting on a basket full of flowers and fruits, and holding apples on her knees, and surrounded with branches loaded with fruits. — See Fig. 35.
Vertumnus was the god of orchards and of spring. He could change himself into whatever forms he chose, but was usually represented as a young man crowned with flowers, covered up to the waist, and holding in one hand fruits, and a crown of plenty in the other. He was often represented in the character of a ploughman, reaper, vine dresser, or, of an old woman, (because he was the symbol of the year and of the variations of the seasons,) to signify spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Some authors confound him with Janus. — See Fig. 36.
As Pomona had received the addresses of all the rural gods with perfect indifference, it devolved upon Vertumnus to gain her affection; to do which he assumed the different shapes of a fisherman, a soldier, a peasant, a reaper, &c.; but in vain. At length, however, he succeeded in gaining access to her under the form of an old woman; and by his artful speeches and caresses, and by returning to his usual figure, he at last prevailed upon her to marry him.
Priapus, the god of gardens, was the son of Venus by Mercury, or Adonis; or, according to some, by Bacchus, or Hercules. He was the patron of licentiousness, and a favorite with the inhabitants of Lampsacus, who erected temples to his honour. His worship was introduced into Rome, but he was more revered there as the god of orchards and gardens, though not without some marks of lasciviousness and impurity.
Priapus appeared with a human face, the ears of a goat, a crown of vine leaves, and a stick or club and a scythe in his hands, his louver part being a shapeless log. He was called Phallus, and Fascinum, because his limbs were deformed; Avistupor, because he drove away mischievous birds; and by various other names. The Orientals worshipped Priapus under the name of Beelphegor.
Pomona and Vertumnus.
“The god Vertumnus lov’d Pomona fair,A nymph that made the orchard’s growth her care;To gain her love a thousand shapes he tries,But all in vain, to please the virgin’s eyes.At length a sober matron’s form he wears,Furrow’d with age and crown’d with silver hairs,Enters with tott’ring step the silent grove,And thus attempts to warm her heart to love.”
Obs. 1. — Flora the first, appears to have existed anciently, but her origin is unknown. The Romans honoured a second Flora, and ascribed to her a worship paid to the first, who was probably nothing but an allegorical personage. Acta Laurentia, a rich woman of bad character, bequeathed the inheritance of her immense estates to the Roman senate. They were accepted; but to conceal the disgrace of the donor, they assimilated Laurentia to the ancient Flora, and honoured her as the goddess of groves and flowers.
Obs. 2. — Vertumnus is said to have been an ancient king of Etruria, celebrated for his love of the cultivation of gardens.
Obs. 3. — The figure of Priapus usually served as a bug-bear to frighten away thieves and birds. Hence, all the appearances he assumes are distinguished by misshapen or hideous attributes.
Chapter IV. Pales and some other rural deities. §
Pales was the goddess of sheepfolds and pastures, chiefly worshipped at Rome, where her feasts were celebrated every April, under the name of Palilia. At such times, the peasants perfumed their sheep with the fumes of olive, box, fir, rosemary, laurel, and sulphur. They kindled great fires of straw, around and over which they danced and leaped; and offered to the goddess, milk, cheese, boiled wine, and cakes made of millet. This custom still lingers in Ireland.
Anna Perenna was another deity of the same order with Pales, The most natural joy and the simplest pleasures always animated the festivals of these two goddesses.
The management of rural affairs was entrusted to Rurina, or Rusina.
Collina is seated on the throne of the hills.
Jugatinus presided over hillocks.
Vallonia reigned over the valleys.
Hippona watched over the horses and stables.
Bubona presided over the oxen.
Seia is the deity whose office it is to preserve the seed whilst buried in the bosom of the earth.
The husbandmen invoked Segetia to protect the corn during harvest.
Runcina presides over weeding.
The ancients invoked Occator to have their fields harrowed.
Sator and Sarritor preside over sowing and raking.
Robigus presided over the corn. To him festivals, denominated Robigalia, were celebrated in order to preserve the corn from rust or blights.
Bonus Eventus, or Good Success, was honoured with a peculiar worship. His statue made by Praxiteles, was set up in the capitol. He was marked among the great terrestrial and rural gods.
Populonia was worshipped, that she might prevent the hail and the thunder-bolt from destroying the productions of the earth.
Stercutius, Stercutus, or Sterculius, Sterquilinus, or Picumnus, first invented the art of manuring the earth.
Proserpine caused the corn to sprout forth from the earth.
Nodosus, or Nodotus, made it his business to knot and join the stalks.
Volusia enwraps the blade, and envelops the beard.
Patelina makes the corn come forth from the pod.
Flora causes the ear to blossom.
Lactura, or Lactucina, makes the ear yield milk.
Matura causes the ear to arrive at maturity.
The worship of Hostilina caused the ears of corn to grow level, and produce a good crop.
The corn is reaped by order of Tutelina, or Tutulina.
Millers and bakers invoked Pilumnus. He first invented the art of grinding corn, and kneading and baking bread.
The poets ascribe the invention of making honey to Mellona.
As the art of grinding wheat was unknown, the power of Fornax was employed in baking corn in ovens. Her festivals, called Fornacalia, were first instituted by Numa.
“A goddess Fornax island her the clowns adore,That they may’ve kindly batches by her pow’r.”
Obs. — All these deities were of Roman origin. They bore their names from the offices which they performed, and were unknown to the Greeks.
Chapter V. Satyrs, Fauns, Pan. §
The Satyrs, who inhabited forests and mountains, are painted as libidinous gods, with short horns on the head, and with the feet and legs of a goat, dancing under the shade of a tall and spreading oak. They were indifferently called Panes, Egypans, Fauns, and Sylvani.
The Fauns are described as having the horns and ears, hoofs, and legs, of goats, connected with a human body, and as being crowned with pine branches. When they met drunkards, they stupified them with their looks.
The Fauns, the Satyrs, and the Sylvans, performed different offices. The Fauns presided over the fields; the Satyrs, over the woody plains; the Sylvans, over the woody mountains.
Pan, the god of hunters, of shepherds, and country folks, was the son of Mercury and Dryope; or, according to some, of Mercury and Penelope, or Jupiter and Calisto. He made the most eminent figure in the rural world, presiding over the fields, valleys, mountains, woods, and plains.
The upper part of his figure is that of a man, with horns on his head, and a long beard; his lower parts have the likeness of a goat; being clothed with the skin of a leopard. In one hand he holds a sheep-crook, and in the other a pipe of unequal reeds. — See Fig. 37.
As soon as Pan was born, his education was entrusted to the nymph Sinoe; but his unsightly form threw her into such terror, that she abandoned her charge.
He became enamoured with the beautiful nymph Syrinx, daughter of the river Ladon; but she fled from him. Pan overtaking her, at her earnest prayer, she was metamorphosed into a bunch of reeds. Hearing the moaning but musical sound which was made by the whistling of the wind through them, he made of them pipes, which, from her, he called Syrinx, and which are now familiarly entitled Pandean pipes, or mouth organs.
Under the likeness of a beautiful white goat or dog, Pan won the heart of Diana. By the nymph Echo, he had a son, called Lynx, or, according to some, a daughter, Irynge, a famous sorceress. The nymph Pithys was more sensible of the tenderness of Pan; but Boreas, jealous of this preference, made use of his blasts to throw her headlong from the top of a rock. The gods changed her into a pine tree, a tree sacred to Pan.
The origin of the phrase panic fear, is uncertain. Some attribute it to the sudden fright which Pan excited among the Gauls under Brennus when they were about to plunder the city of Delphi, at whose sight they fled, as if an enemy had been at their heels. Others say that it originated from frightful noises, or strange and unaccountable sounds, which are sometimes heard in solitary places. Hence, a fear without a cause is called a panic fear.
Pan was worshipped, particularly in Egypt, Arcadia, and Rome. In Arcadia, he gave oracles on Mount Lycæus. At Rome, festivals, called Lupercalia, were instituted to his honour, and celebrated in February. They were the Lycæa of the Greeks. The Luperci, his priests, ran about the streets, lashing every one they met with whips. The women eagerly received the lash, because they believed that each one who felt it, would prove a happy mother. There were some other rural deities resembling Pan.
The Fauns, his servants, and the Satyrs, who watched over the vineyards, woods, and fields, and who were usually found in the train of Bacchus, had their upper part like a man and their lower parts like a shaggy goat.
Pan was called Deus Arcadiæ, because he was more particularly adored in Arcadia; Innus or Inculus, because he was supposed to have afflicted dreamers with the night-mare; Lupercus or Lyceus, because he guarded the sheep-folds from wolves.
“Pan loves the shepherds, and their flocks he feeds.”.
“He sighs, his sighs the tossing reeds returnIn soft small notes, like one that seem’d to mourn.The new, but pleasant notes the gods surprise,Yet this shall make us friends at least, he cries:So he this pipe of reeds unequal fram’dWith wax; and Syrinx from his mistress nam’d.
“And while soft ev’ning gales blew o’er the plains,And shook the sounding reeds, they taught the swains;And, thus the pipe was fram’d, and tuneful reed:And while the tender flocks securely feed,And harmless shepherds tune their pipes to love,And amaryllis sounds in ev’ry grove.”.
Obs. — The true origin of Pan was very ancient. The Egyptians worshipped the whole world under the name of Pan, which means all. His image represents the universe, of which he is the symbol. His upper parts are descriptive of the heavens; his horns, of the new moon; his smiling, rubicund face, of the splendour of day; his leopard’s skin, of the starry firmament; the shaggy appearance of his legs, thighs, tail, and feet, of the fecundity of the earth, covered with shrubs, corn, and grass, and replete with wild beasts.
Chapter VI. Silenus, Midas, Sylvanus. §
Silenus, the foster father, guardian, preceptor, and perpetual companion of Bacchus, was represented as a fat and jolly old man, with a flat nose, large ears, a bald head, a tail, cloven feet, and a crown of flowers. He appears mounted on an ass, but so intoxicated as to be almost incapable of keeping his seat. The cup, out of which he drank, was called Cantharus; and a staff with which he supported himself when he walked with a staggering step, Ferula. His attendants were called Sileni, which name was applied to those who were advanced in years. — See Fig 38.
Midas, having received Silenus hospitably, Bacchus promised to grant him his first request. That prince, greedy after riches, asked of him the gift of turning every thing he should touch into gold. His request was granted, but it soon become fatal to him. Under his hand, trees, and stones, and even the dishes of his table, became gold. When half starved, he entreated the God to recall his gift; upon which he was directed to bathe in the river Pactolus, which thence had the fame of having golden sands.
Sylvanus was an old man, small in stature, with the tail and feet of a goat. He presided over the woods, and held in his hand a branch of cypress, in memory of his favorite boy, Cyparissus.
Obs. 1. — Historians and poets occasionally introduce Silenus as a wise and learned philosopher. Being asked, “What was the best thing that could befall man,” he deliberately replied, “It is best for all never to be born, but being born, to die very quickly.” His drunkenness being almost continual, was mysterious, and was considered merely the result of the deep attention with which he meditated. The fondness of Silenus for wine, and his establishment of the orgies in Lydia, caused him to be represented in the figure of a drunken man. The gravest authors say, that the ass given him to ride upon, served to represent the slow, but sure, steps of philosophy.
Obs. 2. — The idea of Midas’ changing every thing into gold, is taken from his great riches gained by commerce, or by oppression.
Obs. 3. — Apollo’s punishing Midas, the son of Gordius, and king of Phrygia, with asses’ ears, will be thus accounted for: better to watch over the secret affairs of his kingdom, Midas maintained faithful spies and informers to bring him intelligence of every seditious word uttered by his subjects. For this conduct the discontented painted him with asses’ ears. His barber not having ventured boldly to say that he had asses’ ears, had entrusted his secret to a marsh, where the reeds, agitated by the wind, uttered these words: “Midas has asses’ ears.”
Many of the ridiculous fables of the ancients, by which they attempted to amuse and instruct the vulgar, are too coarse and too silly to merit notice.
Chapter VII. The Penates and Lares. §
The Penates were household gods, presiding over houses and families. When they reign in heaven, they are called Pentrales, and the palace of their residence, Pentrale. They endue us with that heat, spirit, and reason which enable us to live and exercise our understanding. The ancient Etruscans denominated them Consentes and Complices; concluding that they composed Jupiter’s council, the chiefs of the gods; and Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, are often invoked as the Penates. When they had empire over kingdoms and provinces, they were called Penates; when they governed cities only, they were called Dii Patrii, or the “gods of the country,” or “great gods;” and when they preside over particular houses and families, they are called “Pavique Penates,” or “small gods.” Their statues were sometimes made of wax, ivory, silver, or earth, and sometimes covered with garlands, poppies, or garlic. They were sometimes fashioned in the shape of trumpets; at other times, in the figure of young men with spears. The usual offerings were lambs, sheep, goats, and the like.
The Lares, sons of Mercury by Lara, were also inferior gods, who presided over houses and families. In process of time, their power was extended to streets, ways, the country, and the sea. When they have the care of cities, they are denominated Lares Urbani; when of houses, Familiares, or of the country, Rustici; of roads, Vales; of cross roads, Compitales; of the sea, Marini; of small dishes, Patellarii, and so forth. They were frequently invoked as the guardians and protectors of houses. Their games, called Compitalitii, Compitalitia, or Compitalia, were celebrated in the roads and open streets; their statues, clad in the skins of dogs, were placed in every mansion, sometimes in a niche behind the door, and sometimes around the hearths; and at their feet were placed the images of barking dogs, to express their care and vigilance. The burnt offerings were wine and incense, fruit and wood, crumbs and a sow. While their festivals were observed, their statues were adorned with garlands of violets and rosemary. The Roman youths were wont to wear about their necks a golden ornament, called bulla, in the likeness of a heart, and hollow within, and wore it till they attained the age of fourteen, when they consecrated it to the Lares. The name of Lararium was given to that place where they were worshipped. They are often confounded with the Penates, but they differed from them, the latter being of divine origin, the former, of human. Some considered the Lares as nothing else than the manes which they imagined to be continually hovering over their former houses, for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants.
Obs. — Æneas introduced the household gods from Phrygia. Jacob carried away those of his father-in-law Laban. In scripture they were called Teraphim.
Chapter VIII. The Genii. §
The Genii were deities, supposed to preside over the birth and life of man. They are sometimes synonymous with the Lares and Manes; and they are called ‘“dæmons” by the Greeks, and Præstites, or chief governors, because they take charge of all things. Sometimes they were figured with such images as were calculated to paint the terror and dread they created in those to whom they appeared. Sometimes they were represented as a boy, a girl, or an old man, and wearing a crown of the leaves of the plane, a tree sacred to them. The Genii of women were called Junones.
The Genii aided men by their private counsels and heir power, and looked after their most secret thoughts. They carefully watched over their voyage of life, attending them from their cradles to their graves. They carried the prayers of men to the gods, and delivered them up to judgment.
Just men, after death, were supposed to become dæmons. They are described as being of superior dignity to man, but of a nature inferior to the gods. They existed in different countries, whence they were called Numen Loci, or the “deities of the place.” All houses, doors, stables, and hearths, were consecrated to them. The name of the god of the hearths, was Lateranus. The ancients believed that the whole world was filled with spirits, who ruled its motions.speaks of the Gnomes, Sylphes, and Salamanders. The first inhabited the earth; the second, the air; and the third, the fire.
Some ancient philosophers advanced, that every man had two Genii allotted to him, a Bonus Genius, or a good spirit, and a malus Genius, or a bad spirit. They are also called Genium album et nigrum, or a white and a black dæmon. The former induces men to the practice of virtue; and the latter excites them to the commission of vice. It is reported that, when Cassius fled to Athens after the defeat of Anthony at Actium, a being of gigantic stature, with a black and ghastly visage, a long and gristly beard, appeared to him. Cassius asked him, who he was; and the apparition replied, “I am your evil genius.”
By the Manes, are usually understood, departed souls. They preside over the sepulchral monuments, where the Romans superscribed D. M. that is, Diis Manibus, (To the gods Manes,) and over funeral inscriptions, to intimate that the ashes of the dead could not be molested with impunity.
In the sacrifices offered to them, wine, incense, flowers, parched bread, and salted corn, were brought to their altars.
“To Genius consecrate a cheerful glass.”.
“Their wives, their neighbours, and their prattling boys,Were call’d; all tasted of their sportive joys:They drank, they danc’d they sung, made wanton sport,Enjoy’d themselves, for life they knew was short.”.
Part IV. Of the Infernal Deities. §
The idea of a God, who punishes crime and rewards virtue, is as ancient as the world itself. The first man received it from God himself, and transmitted it to his posterity. But in proportion as men forsook the path of virtue, marked out by their progenitors, their ideas were overcast, their traditions became obscured, and idolatry took root; but the difference existing between crime and virtue was so strongly felt by some who were wiser than others, that they endeavoured carefully to preserve this necessary bridle to the passions, which alone can check the progress of general corruption.
The more we examine ancient traditions, the more clearly it appears that an obscure belief in the immortality of the soul was almost universal. The most guilty only were so hardy as to raise doubts of this important and sublime truth; — a truth, the disbelief of which is so plainly contradicted by the voice of every conscience and every people, that it is useless for mortality to wrestle with it. In all ages, philosophers have consecrated it, and poets have hymned it.
A fragment of
“The Greek Mercury,” says he, “the conductor of souls, was the Egyptian priest charged with receiving the body of a dead Apis. He conducted it to a second priest who bore a mask with three heads, resembling those of the Cerberus of the poets. The second priest passed it over the ocean in quality of ferryman, and transported it to the gates of the city of the Sun, whence it proceeded to delightful plains inhabited by souls.”“The ocean,” continues
, “is the Nile, to which river the Egyptians gave that name.” “The city of the Sun is Heliopolis; the delightful plains are fine countries situated in the environs of the Lake Acherusia. It is there that the obsequies are terminated, and the bodies of the Egyptians are buried.”
“In funeral ceremonies, they began with designating the day on which the body should be interred. The judges were first informed; and next the relations and friends of the deceased. His name was repeated on every side; and it was given out, that he was going to pass the lake. Soon after forty judges met, and seated themselves in a circle on the shores of the lake. Artificers mended a boat, and the pilot, called Charon by the Egyptians, repaired to the governor. Before the coffin was placed in the boat, the law permitted any one to raise complaints against the deceased. Even kings were not exempted from this ordeal; and if the accusations were proved, the judges passed the sentence which deprived the dead of the honour of burial; but whoever was unable to prove his accusation, suffered severe penalties. When no accuser appeared, the relatives ceased mourning, and began to pass eulogies on the deceased by speaking of his education, and by recounting all the good actions of his life. They extolled his justice, his piety, and his courage; and entreated the gods to receive him into the abode of happiness. The audience applauded, united in eulogizing him, and congratulated the dead on having passed into eternity in peace, there to dwell in glory.” Such were the ceremonies which Orpheus witnessed when in Egypt, and upon which, by adding some circumstances which accorded with the customs of the Greeks, he founded his fable of hell.
adds that people frequently kept in their houses their embalmed ancestors, in order to perpetuate the remembrance of their good actions. The respect of the Egyptians for the dead was carried so high, that they often preserved the bodies of even those to whom, on account of crime or debt, the honours of burial had been refused. When the descendants of the poor became rich or powerful, they discharged the debts of their ancestors, reinstated their memory, and buried them honourably. Occasionally embalmed bodies were deposited as security in borrowing. Some gave their own bodies as a pledge; and if they failed to meet their engagements, they were devoted to infamy during their lifetime, and were deprived of burial honours.
Notwithstanding the thick darkness of those times, it was generally believed, that, after the material body was reduced to dust or ashes, the soul, or spiritual part of man, ascended to heaven. The Pagans distinguished the soul from the mind. They considered the former as the cover of the latter, and believed it descended to hell. The poets did not agree on the time which souls ought to pass in Elysium. Some fixed it at one thousand years, but all considered the punishments of Tartarus as eternal.
Chapter I. Hell, Charon, Cerberus. §
Hell was an eternal prison, with three impenetrable walls, and an iron tower. It had gates of adamant, which no power could demolish. It had five rivers at its entrance. Acheron, whose waters were extremely bitter; Styx, by which the gods used to swear, and which made nine times the circuit of hades; Cocytus, flowing out of Styx, with a horrible groaning noise; Phlegethon, swelling with waves of fire; and Lethe, so called from the forgetfulness which its waters produced; for those who drank of it, immediately forgot all past transactions. Avernus was the first door of hell, at which the iron beds of the Furies were placed. At the entrance of this darksome and fatal abode, appeared a thousand monstrous forms, Care, Sorrow, Disease, Old Age, Fear, Famine, Want, Labour, Sleep, Death, Remorse, Force, Fraud, Strife, War, and Discord. To these were added other horrible figures, Centaurs, Scyllas, Harpies, Gorgons, Hydras, and Chimeras, the hundred handed Briareus
Charon, (anger,) the ferryman to Hell, was a decrepit old man, with silvery locks, and along and grisly beard, but blessed with youthful vigour, filthy in person and attire, ill-tempered, and morose. — See Fig. 45.
Near Avernus, a road led to the Acheron, on the banks of which an innumerable multitude of ghosts flocked together, and loitered about in troops, waiting for a passage over the stream. Charon ferried them in the boat Barris over the Stygian lake, for which he charged them an obolus, a small brass coin of a penny in value. The ancients always placed this coin under the tongues of the deceased. They could not enter the boat without a regular burial, for want of which they wandered one hundred years amidst the mud and slime of the shores.
When the souls of the dead had passed over the rivers, they stopped at the gate of Pluto’s palace, which was kept by Cerberus.
Cerberus, the son of Typhon and Echidna, was the porter of hell. He was a tremendous watch-dog, with three heads and a collar of snakes round his neck. His employment was to prevent the living from entering, and the dead from escaping, hell. The living threw him a cake, strongly impregnated with soporific drugs, that they might gain access to the eternal prison.
In this frightful abode is found an eternal increase of departed souls, some of which have been justly driven from the tracts of light, and some who committed suicide. Lovers whom despair has put to death, are found to wander farther into a forest of myrtles. Beyond that forest is found the residence of departed heroes with arms in their hands. Within sight of it, is the tribunal of the judges of hell.
Adjacent to Pluto’s palace, was a field, prepared for the residence of infants. It was called the Field of Lamentations, where neither joy nor punishment was experienced, and had a magnificent, but a sad and melancholy aspect.
thus desc ribes the descent of his hero Æ neas into the Infernal Regions:
“Now to the left, Æneas darts his eyes,Where lofty walls with triple ramparts rise.There rolls fierce Phlegethon, with thund’ring soundHis broken rocks, and whirls his surges round.On mighty columns raised sublime, are hungThe massy gates, impenetrably strong.In vain would men, in vain would gods essay,To hew the beams of adamant away.Here rose an iron tow’r: before the gate,By night and day, a wakeful fury sate,The pale Tisiphone; a robe she wore,With all the pomp of horror, dy’d in gore.Here the loud scourge and louder voice of pain,The crashing fetter, and the rattling chain,Strike the great hero with the frightful sound,The hoarse, rough, mingled din, that thunders round.”
“The sacred stream which heaven’s imperial stateAttests in oaths, and fears to violate.”
——— Souls that by fateAre doom’d to take new shapes, at Lethe’s brinkQuaff draughts secure, and long oblivion drink.
Deep was the cave, and downward as it wentFrom the wide mouth a rocky rough descent;And here th’ access a gloomy grove defends;And there th’ unnavigable lake extends,O’er whose unhappy waters, void of light,No bird presumes to steer his airy flight,Such deadly stenches from the depth arise,And steaming sulphur, which infects the skies;Hence do the Grecian bards their legends make,And give the name Avernus to the lake.
And in the gate, and in the jaws of hell,Revengeful Care and sullen Sorrow dwell;And pale Diseases, and repining Age,Want, Fear, and Famine’s unresisted rage:Here Toil and Death, and Death’s half-brother, Sleep,(Forms terrible to view,) their sentry keep.With anxious pleasures of a guilty mind,Deep Fraud before, and open force behind;The Furies’ iron beds, and Strife that shakesHer hissing tresses, and unfolds her snakes.
“There Charon stands, who rules the dreary coasts;A sordid god: down from his hoary chinA length of beard descends, uncomb’d, unclean;His eyes like hollow furnaces on fire;A girdle foul with grease binds his obscence attire.He spreads his canvass, with his poll he steers;The frights of flitting ghosts in his thin bottom bears.He look’d in years, yet in his years were seenA youthful vigour, and autumnal green.”
“A hundred years they wander on the shore,At length, their penance done, are wafted o’er.”
“Stretch’d in his kennel, monstrous Cerberus round,From triple jaws made all these realms resound’.”
“Hell’s grisly porter let you pass, .And frown’d and litter’d to your lays;The snakes around his head grew tame,His jaws no longer glow’d with flame,Nor triple tongue was stain’d with blood;No more his breath with venom flow’d.”
Obs. 1. — The derivation of the names, and the qualities of the rivers of hell, furnished the poets with ample materials upon which to employ their lively imagination. The Acheron, (which means anguish or howling) was repelled into hell, because it had quenched the thirst of the Titans, during their fight with the gods. It runs through Thesprotia, takes its rise in the marshes of Acherusia, and empties itself into the Adriatic gulf, near Ambracia. The Cocytus (tears, groans) also flowed in Epirus, or rather, Thessaly, and fell into the marsh of Acherusia. It was not strictly a river, but a muddy marsh. The Styx (water of silence) is a fountain in Arcadia, which flows from a rock, and forms a subterraneous brook. Its waters were mortal. It flowed through Epirus, and was considered as belonging to Pluto’s kingdom. The Styx is fabled to have been the daughter of the Ocean; and hence, gods swore by her. If they neglected it; Jupiter ordered Iris to give them a cup full of the poisonous waters of this fountain, removed them from his table for a year, and deprived them of divinity for nine years. When they swore by the Styx, they were to touch the earth with one hand, and the sea with the other. The Phlegethon was likewise a marsh, the waters of which exhaled sulphurous vapours, and burning slime. Lethe (river of oblivion) was situated in Africa. Avernus was nothing but lake Avernus in Italy, near Pouzolles.
Obs. 2. — The fable of Cerberus originated in the Egyptian practice of causing their dogs to watch over their dead.
Chapter II. Pluto, Proserpine, Plutus. §
Pluto, the son of Saturn and Cybele, had, for his share, the empire of the universe, and particularly the dominion of the Infernal Regions. He invented the art of burying and honouring the dead with funeral obsequies.
As he had a grim, dismal countenance, and a gloomy abode, all the goddesses refused to marry him. To gain this point, he was, therefore, compelled to have recourse to stratagem.
In a fit of rage, he rode through a den in Sicily. Having seen Proserpine, gathering flowers with her beautiful companions, he took her away. Cyane, endeavouring to oppose it, was turned into a fountain; and the god of Tartarus opened the earth with the stroke of his bident, disappeared from every eye, carried her with him to his subterraneous dominions, married her, and made her the partner of his throne.
Pluto appears black and ugly, and sits on a throne of sulphur; from beneath which flow the rivers Lethe, Phlegethon, Cocytus, Styx, and Acheron. He has a crown of ebony on his head, and holds in one hand a bident, or sceptre with two teeth, and in the other, keys. The three-headed dog Cerberus watched at his feet; the Harpies hover over his head; and Proserpine sits at his left hand. The Furies stand around; the Fates occupy the right, each holding in her hands the distaff, the spindle, and the scissors, which are the emblems of their office. When he rides in a chariot, he is drawn by black horses. — See Fig. 39.
He had no temples raised to his honour. To him were, however, offered black victims, the blood of which was always spilt on the earth. Black sheep were the common victims.
Pluto is called Dis, because wealth proceeds from his kingdom; Ades, because his residence is sad and gloomy; Hades, because he sits in darkness and obscurity; Agesilaus, because he guides people to hell; Agelastus, because he is never seen to laugh; Februus, because purifications and lustrations were used on funeral occasions; Orchus Urgus, or Ouragus, because he puts people both to a natural and a violent death; Summanus, because he is the chief of the infernal deities; the Infernal Jupiter, the Stygian Jupiter, and the Third Jupiter.
Proserpine was the queen of hell, and wife of Pluto. She presided over death, so that none could die; unless the goddess, or Atropos her minister, cut off one of the hairs from the head. She was universally worshipped by the ancients under the known names of Core, Theogamia, Labitina, Hecate, and Juno Inferna, Anthespharia, Cotyto, Deois, Liberia, and so on.
Plutus (though sometimes confounded with Pluto) was the god of Wealth, and son of Jasion and Ceres. He was educated by Pax; the goddess of peace; for which reason Pax was represented at Athens as holding the god of riches in her lap.
Plutus is generally represented blind, because he distributes riches indiscriminately; lame, because wealth is slow of acquisition; and winged, because riches are sometimes dissipated with great rapidity.
“————— In Sicilia’s ever blooming shadeWhen playful Proserpine from Ceres stray’d,Led with unweary steps her virgin trainsO’er Etna’s steeps, and Enna’s golden plains;Pluck’d with fair hand the silver-blossom’d bower,And purpled mead, — herself a fairer flower;Sudden, unseen amid the twilight shade,Rush’d gloomy Dis, and seized the trembling maid. —Her starting damsels sprung from massy seats,Dropp’d from their gauzy laps their gather’d sweets,Clung round the struggling nymph, with piercing cries,Pursued the chariot, and invoked the skies; —Pleased as he grasps her in his iron arms,Frights with soft sighs, with tender words alarms;The wheels descending roll’d in smoky rings,Infernal Cupids flapped their demon wings;Earth with deep yawn received the fair, amazed,And far in night, celestial beauty blazed.”Botanic Garden. — Canto IV.
“’Tis he, ’tis he: he comes to usFrom the depths of Tartarus.For what of evil doth he roamFrom his red and gloomy home,In the centre of the world,Where the sinful dead are hurled?Mark him as he moves along,Drawn by horses black and strong;Such as may belong to nightEre she takes her morning flight.Now the chariot stops: the godOn our grassy world hath rod.Like a Titan steppeth he,Yet full of his divinity;On his mighty shoulders lieRaven locks, and in his eyeA cruel beauty, such as noneOf us may wisely look upon.”.
“Pluto, the grisly god, who never spares,Who feels no mercy, and who hears no prayers,Lives dark and dreadful in Hell’s dark abodes,And mortals hate him, as the worst of gods.’’Great prince o’ th’ gloomy regions of the dead,From whom we hourly move our wheel and thread,Of nature’s growth and end thou hast the sway,All mortals’ birth with death thou dost repay,Who dost command ‘em both.
Obs. 1. — The Pluto of the heathens, corresponds in some measure with the Satan of Scripture.
Obs. 2. — Pluto was Jupiter’s youngest brother, and reigned over western countries, extending to the ocean. He fixed his abode in the bottom of Spain, and worked at the mines of gold and silver. This work being done under ground, gave rise to the saying, that he had penetrated the Infernal regions, and mastered them.
Chapter III : The Judges of Hell, the Furies, and the Fates. §
Minos, Rhadamanthus, and Æacus, were the judges of hell. They tried at their tribunal, the souls which Mercury led to hell. The place in which the tribunal was held was called the Field of Truth. Lies and calumnies could not approach it.
Pluto appointed Rhadamanthus to judge the Asiatics and Africans, and Æacus, the Europeans. Minos appears seated alone, holding a golden sceptre, and shaking the fatal urn wherein were contained the fortunes or destinies of mankind, when the dead plead their different causes before him. He possessed the power of deciding all disputes between Rhadamanthus and Æacus.
The Furies were three sisters, daughters of Acheron and Nox, named Alecto (envy,) Tisiphone (rage,) and Megara (carnage.) They were likewise called Diræ, Eumenides, Canes and Erinnys. They were attendants upon Nemesis, were stern and inexorable, ever were busied in punishing the guilty on earth, as well as in hell.
Their mode of chastisement on earth, was by wars, petilence, famine, terror, rage, disease, remorse, and death; and in hell, they visited the guilty with eternal flagellation and torments.
The Furies are represented as the most deformed and horrible deities, with faces emaciated, ghastly, and embrowned as with smoke, with inflamed eyes bursting from their sockets, with snakes on their heads, garments tattered, black, bloody, and hanging loosely about their bony forms, with iron chains, and whips of scorpion in one hand, and burning torches in the other.
The Fates, or Parcæ, were three sisters, daughters of Jupiter and Themis, or of Necessity. They were also called the Destinies. Their names were Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. They resided in a cave, scooped out of a marble rock, where they were charged with the management of the fatal thread of life. Clotho held a distaff of adamant; Lachesis, a spindle wherewith to draw out the thread; and Atropos, scissors with which to cut it. The poets held that, in order to spin happy days, they employed gold and silk, and that unhappy days were spun with black wool. They were the secretaries of heaven, and keepers of the archives of eternity.
The Parcæ appear elderly and inexorable. Clotho, clothed in a party-coloured robe, wore a crown of seven stars, and held in her hand a distaff which reached from earth to heaven. Lachesis, in a robe strewed with stars, had a multitude of spindles. Atropos, dressed in black, held scissors; and around her was seen a variety of spindles, more or less filled, according to the length or shortness of life. — See Fig. 40.
The story of Meleager, the son of Œnus, king of Œtolia, illustrated the ideas which the ancients entertained of the Parcæ. The Fates were present to grace the moment of his birth. Clotho declared that he should excel in feats of valour; Lachesis, that he should be most active; and Atropos, snatching a brand from the fire, said he should live as long as it continued unconsumed. Althaea, mother to Meleager, extinguished the brand, and kept it carefully ever after. Among other exploits, Meleager slew the wild-boar of Calydon, after which he killed Troxeus and Flexippus, the brothers of Althaea, in the act of defending his life. Althaea, frantic with rage, threw the fatal stick into the fire, and Meleager died.
Judges of Hell.
“High on a throne, tremendous to behold,Stern Minos wears a mace of burnished gold;Around ten thousand, thousand spectres stand,Through the wide dome of Dis, a trembling band,Still as they plead, the fatal lots he rolls,Absolves the just and dooms the guilty souls.’
“Deep in the dismal regions, void of light,Two daughters at a birth were born to night:These their brown mother, brooding on her care,Endu’d with windy wings to fleet in air,With serpents, girt alike, and crowned with hissing hair,In heav’n the Dirse called.”
“Stern Clotho weaves the chequered thread of life;Hour after hour the growing line extends,The cradle and the coffin bound its ends.”
O! lately born, one period we assignTo thee and to the brand. The charm they weaveInto his fate, and then the chamber leave:His mother snatch’d it with a hasty handOut of the fire, and quench’d the flaming brand;This in an inward closet closely lays,And by preserving it, prolongs his days.
“—— With eyes turn’d back, her quaking handTo trembling flames expos’d the fun’ral brand.”
Obs. 1. — There were two kings of Crete by the name of Minos. The first was the son of Asterius. His ambition was, to be accounted the son of Jupiter and Europa. In order to be thus considered, he promised to Neptune the first object that should be brought to him by the sea. At that moment he saw a bull of extreme elegance on the shore, with which he was so charmed, that he would not immolate him, but kept him as the ornament of his flock. The god of the sea became enraged, and avenged himself upon Minos by filling his family with troubles. Pasiphae, his wife, overwhelmed him with grievous complaints. By her he had three sons, and two celebrated daughters, Ariadne and Phedra. He was the founder of the laws of Crete, and was considered by the ancients as the wisest and best of legislators. In order to celebrate his equity, the poets represented him as the first judge of hell. Rhadamanthus, brother to Minos, retired to Calea, a town of Boeotia, where he married Alcmena, widow of Amphytrion. He was regarded as one of the wisest, most modest, and sober men of his age. His love of justice inspired the poets to place him also among the judges of hell. Abacus, son of Jupiter by Ægina, daughter to Asopus, reigned in the island of Æonus. His second wife, who was daughter of the Centaur Chiron, brought him two sons, Telamon and Peleus. His first wife was Psamatha, of Nereus, by whom he had Phocus. All his subjects being swept away by a pestilence, he begged of his father that he would re-people his kingdom. In answer to his prayer, Jupiter changed all the ants which were in a hollow oak, into men, who were afterwards called by Æacus myrmidons.
Obs. 2. — The fable of the Furies exhibits an image of that frenzy which remorse figures to offenders, and which haunts them day and night, attends them both in solitude and at the feast, — whether groping in the gloomy cavern, or revelling in sumptuous palaces.
Chapter IV. Nemesis, Nox, Somnus, and Mors. §
Nemesis, the daughter of Justice, was the goddess of Vengeance. She rewarded virtue, and punished vice. She is represented with a wing, a helmet, and a wheel, to intimate with what celebrity she pursues criminals, both by water and by land. She was called Adrastæa, because an altar was first built to her by Adrastus, king of the Argives; Rhamausia, because she had a temple at Rhamus, a town of Attica: — See Fig. 41.
“Vengeance divine to punish sin moves slow,The slower is its pace, the surer is its blow.”
Nox, the goddess of the night, was the daughter of Chaos and Erebus. She is described as wearing a veil, bespangled with stars, is crowned with poppies, and rides in a car drawn by owls and bats. A black sheep was offered to her, to intimate that she was the mother of the Furies. So was the cock, because he proclaims the approach of day. — See Fig. 42.
Somnus, the god of sleep, had Erebus and Nox for his parents. His palace was a deep and gloomy cavern with two gates, one made of clear ivory, through which false dreams escaped, and the other of transparent horn, through which true visions passed; the whole space being filled with a heavy, benumbing vapour, never penetrated by light and wholesome air. No animal is seen there, no voice is heard, no leaf is moved by the wind. The god reposes on a downy bed with black curtains, around which are strewed poppies and somniferous herbs. — See Fig. 43.
“Thou rest o’ th’ world, sleep, the most peaceful god,Who driv’st care from the mind, and dost unloadThe tired limbs of all their weariness,And for new toil the body dost refresh.”
“Two gates the silent house of Sleep adorn;Of polish’d iv’ry this, that of transparent horn:True visions through transparent horn arise;Through polish’d iv’ry pass deluding lies.”
Morpheus was the son and minister of Somnus. He sends dreams to people in this world, and watches diligently to prevent any noise from breaking their slumbers.
Sometimes he is represented in the likeness of a corpulent, sleeping, winged youth, holding a bunch of poppies in his hand. He could turn himself into any form.
Mors, the goddess of death, was the daughter of Nox. She was worshipped by the Lacedæmonians with great solemnity. No temples were erected to her, because neither prayers nor sacrifices could move or pacify her. She is depicted with a skeleton and a spotted robe, has black wings, and is armed with a scythe or a scymetar, and an hourglass. — See Fig. 44.
Chapter V. Elysium. §
The balmy air, the bright and soothing light, the eternal verdure of the bowers, the delightful meadows, the pleasant streams, the charming groves, the warbling of the birds, the complete happiness, and the refined pleasures of the virtuous, the innocent amusements of the heroes; — these and inumerable images like these, — tender, touching, sublime — are the subjects for which vivid imagination fondly seeks as the themes on which she loves often to expatiate.
“All have their manes, and these manes bare:The few who’er cleansed, to those abodes repair,And breathe in ample fields the soft Elysian air.”
“These holy rites perform’d they took their way,Where long extended plains of pleasures lay.The verdant fields with those of heav’n may vie,With ether vested, and a purple sky:The blissful seats of happy souls below,Stars of their own, and their own sun they know.”
“Patriots, who perish’d for their country’s right,Or nobly triumph’d in the field of fights:There holy priests, and sacred poets stood,Who sang with all the raptures of a god:Worthies, who life by useful arts refined;With those, who leave a deathless name behind,Friends of the world, and fathers of mankind.”
“There, rage no storms; the sun diffuses thereHis temper’d beams, thro’ skies for ever fair.There gentler airs, o’er brakes of myrtle blow;Hills greener rise, and purer waters blow;There bud the woodbine and the jes’mine pale,With ev’ry bloom that scents the morning gale;While thousand melting sounds the breezes bear,In silken dalliance to the dreaming ear,And golden fruits, ‘mid shadowy blossoms, shine.In fields immortal and in groves divine.”.
Obs. — In the Mythology of the ancients, the souls of men after death, became inhabitants of Hades, a region in the nether world, in a pleasurable or playful state, in proportion to their merits or demerits. Tartarus was the place of woe, and Elysium, the blissful abode. Erebus was a general name for both. Probably the tradition of the terrestrial paradise, (called the garden of Eden,) produced the idea of the Elysium fields. The ancients commonly placed this delightful abode in the Canary Isles.
Chapter VI. Principal sufferers punished in Hell. §
Typhœus, Ægeon, Tityus, Phlegyas, Ixion, Salmoneus, Sisyphus, the Danaides, and Tantalus, were the most remarkable sufferers in hell.
The Giants were the sons of Cœlus and Terra, who had uncommonly large bodies. They had fifty heads and one hundred arms each; their mouths belched out flames; and for legs they had serpents; and for claws, the feet of dragons. They were impudent enough to dethrone Jupiter; and when they fought with the celestial gods, they heaped mountains upon mountains, and, at the same time, darted oaks and burning woods against heaven. Some huge stones which they hurled, fell into the seas, and became islands; others fell upon the earth, and became mountains. They were, however, overcome, and all cut off by Jupiter’s thunderbolts, Apollo’s arrows, and the arms of the other gods. Serpents and venomous animals were produced from the blood of the slain.
Some say, that Typhœus or Typhon, had no father, and that Juno was his mother. He had a collar of one hundred dragon-heads round his neck; and for his apparel, feathers, scales, shagged hair, and adders. Snakes grew from the ends of his fingers; for his feet he had the folds of a serpent’s body; he vomitted flames of devouring fire through his mouth, nostrils, and eyes; and uttered such yells as frightened mortals to death. He touched the east with one hand, and the west with the other, and the heavens with his head. As soon as born, he made war upon heaven, to avenge the death of his brethren; and the gods, under different figures, were obliged to flee into Egypt. Jupiter converted himself into a ram; Mercury, into an ibis; Apollo, a crow; Juno, a cow; Bacchus, a lion or goat; Diana, a cat; Venus, a fish, &c.
Jupiter at last recovered his courage, and threw him down with his thunder-bolts, and crushed him under the weight of the whole island of Sicily. This island was also denominated Trinacria because it is shaped like a triangle, the corners of which are constituted by the three promontories, Pelorus, Pachynus, and Lilybæus. Typhon had Pelorus for his right hand, Pachynus for his left, and Lilybæus for his legs.
“He struggles oft, and oft attempts to rise;But on his right hand vast Pelorus lies;On’s left Pachynus; Lilybæus spreadsO’er his huge thighs; and Ætna keeps his heads.”.
Ægeon, son of Cœlus and Terra, was a giant with fifty heads and one hundred hands; whence he was called Centumgeminus, and, by the Greeks, Briareus. Juno, Neptune, and Minerva, being concerned in a conspiracy against Jupiter, Briareus scaled the walls of heaven, and, sitting down by him, frightened the inhabitants in such a manner as to derange their minds. Joining the giants, he hurled a hundred rocks against Jupiter at one throw; but Jupiter threw him down, and put him under Mount Ætna, which sends forth great flames of fire every time he moves his sides.
And as Ægeon, when against heav’n he strove,Stood opposite in arms to mighty Jove,Mov’d all his hundred hands, provok’d to war,Defy’d the forky lightning from afar:At fifty mouths his flaming breath expires,And flash for flash returns, and fires for fires;In his right hands as many swords he wieldsAnd takes the thunder on as many shields..
Tityus was son of Terra; or, according to some, of Jupiter and Elara. So prodigious was his size, that his mother, whom Jupiter had hidden in a subterraneous cave to avoid the fury of Juno, died in childbirth, and Jupiter rent the earth to give him a passage out of the cave. Tityus attempted to offer Latona violence; for which he was cast down into hell, where, when stretched out, he covered nine acres of ground with his body. A vulture perpetually fed upon his entrails, which grew again as soon as devoured.
“There Tityus tortur’d lay, who took his birthFrom heav’n, his nursing from the fruitful earth;Here his gigantic limbs, with large embrace,In fold nine acres of infernal:A rav’nous vulture in his open sideHer crooked beak and cruel talons try’d;Still, for the growing liver digg’d his breast,The growing liver still supply’d the feast;Still are the entrails fruitful to their pains,Th’ immortal hunger lasts, th’ immortal food remains.”.
“There Tityus, large and long, in fetters bound,O’er-spreads nine acres of infernal ground;Two ravenous vultures, furious for their food,Scream o’er the fiend, and riot, in his blood;Incessant gore, the liver grows, and gives th’ immortal feast.”
The Titans were described as giants of uncommon stature, and with proportionable strength. The chief was Titanus, Saturn’s brother. The wars of the Titans are not unfrequently confounded with those of the giants; but the difference is plain: the Titans made war on Saturn, because the birth of Jupiter was concealed, and overcome him; but the giants made war on Jupiter, who afterwards beat and precipitated them into hell.
Phlegyas, a son of Mars by Chryse, was the king of the Lapithæ in Thessalia. Being informed that Apollo had behaved rudely towards the nymph Coronis his daughter; he marched an army against Delphi, and reduced the temple of Apollo to ashes. The enraged god pierced him through the body with an arrow, and placed him in hell, where a massive stone, hanging over his head, perpetually kept him in such alarms, that, every moment, he imagined it would fall down upon him; a situation which induced him to warn men to observe the rules of justice and the precepts of religion.
————— A massy stone,Ready to drop, hangs o’er his cursed head.
Learn justice, hence, and don’t despise the gods.
Sisyphus was brother to Athamas and Salmoneus. Merope was his wife. He built Ephyre, afterwards called Corinth, and debauched his niece Tyro. Sisyphus, who is said to have put no faith in Autolycus on account of his having stolen the flocks and herds of his neighbours in order to mingle them with his own, knew his bulls by a mark which he had put on the bottom of their feet; and by this means, was enabled to separate them from among the numerous herds. Autolycus admired the artifice of Sisyphus so much, that he allowed him freely to enjoy the company of his daughter Anticlea, who was soon after married to Laertes, king of Ithaca. Sisyphus was condemned in hell to roll to the summit of a hill a huge and unwieldly stone, which fell down as soon as it had touched the summit. Some say, that he was doomed to this eternal punishment, because he was cruel enough to lay heaps of stone on the objects of his plunders, and to permit them to die in the most agonizing and excruciating manner; others advanced as a reason for it, his having insulted Pluto by chaining Mors in his palace, and detaining her, until Mars, at his request, set her at liberty; and others, again, maintain that it was on account of his having informed Asopus where his daughter Ægina had been carried by Jupiter; but most writers assign the following as the reason: Sisyphus, on his death-bed, requested his wife to leave him unburried. While he was in Pluto’s kingdom, however, he was permitted to come back to this world in order to punish his wife for this apparent neglect, under the promise, that he would return instantly; but he broke his word, and was at length taken to the infernal regions by Mars, where the king of hell inflicted on him this rigorous punishment. — See Fig. 46.
“With many a weary step, and heavy a groan,Up the high hill he heaves a huge, round stone;The huge, round stone, resulting with a boundThunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground;Again the restless orb his toil renews,Dust mounts in cloud, and sweat descends in dews.”
Ixion was the son of Phlegyas. He married Dia, daughter to Eioneus or Deioneus, and promised him a valuable present, because he had chosen his daughter for his wife; but his failure to fulfil his promise, induced Deioneus to steal away some of his horses. Ixion dissembled his resentment under the garb of friendship; invited his father-in-law to a feast at Larissa his capital; and after he had met with him, cast him into a pit, which he had previously filled with wood and burning coals. So treacherous a treatment procured him such odium, that he was refused the performance of the usual ceremony by which he might have been purified of murder. But he obtained his pardon from Jupiter, who promoted him to heaven. Such a favour, for which he ought to have been thankful, increased his insolence. He attempted to make love to Juno; but Jupiter sent a cloud in the likeness of Juno to the place where Ixion had agreed to meet her, and the deceived lover embraced the cloud, from which the centaurs were produced. Jupiter expelled him heaven; but as he boasted every where that he had won the affection of Juno, the god struck him down to hell, and ordered Mercury to tie him fast to a wheel which perpetually whirls round. — See Fig. 47.
Salmoneus, son of Æolus by Enarette, was king of Elis. By his wife Alcidice, he had a daughter, named Tyro. He was not contented with an earthly crown, but courted divine honours; and wishing to be considered as a god, he built a brazen bridge over the city, and made a great noise as he drove his chariot, to imitate thunder. He also darted lighted torches, as if to imitate lightning; and many who were struck by them, expired. Jupiter could not endure this open impiety, and therefore precipitated him into hell Æneas, on a visit to the infernal regions, relates the following punishment:
“Salmoneus suffering cruel pains I found,For emulating love; the rattling soundOf mimic thunder, and the glitt’ring blazeOf pointed lightnings, and their forked rays.”
Tantalus, the son of Jupiter by the nymph Plota or Pluto, was king of Phrygia. He is described as eternally experiencing in hell the most burning thirst and the most griping hunger; and as being placed in the water up to the chin, with a bough bent with delicious fruits, which are just above his reach. The causes of this severe sentence are variously reported. Some say that he had discovered to the river Asopus, the place where Jupiter concealed his daughter Ægina after having stolen her away. Others affirm that he stole away a dog which Jupiter had set to watch his temple at Crete. Others state that he was so lascivious as to carry away Ganymede; and of hers, that, having been introduced at the table of the gods, he had revealed their secrets, and stolen away the ambrosia and nectar in order to have his friends taste them; but most chroniclers agree in telling the following story:
Tantalus was honoured with a visit from the gods whose divinity he wished to try. He killed and quartered his own son Pelops, and served up his limbs as food for them. All the gods were shocked at so horrible a repast; but Ceres, whose grief for the recent loss of his daughter Proserpine was deep, ate one of the child’s shoulders, without taking notice of it. The gods ordered Mercury to recall him to life, and gave him an ivory shoulder as a substitute for the one which Ceres had eaten. This Pelops, by Hippodamia, had Atreus and Thyestes; the latter of whom was expelled, because he seduced (Erope, wife to Atreus, his brother. But on his return, he ate up his children whom he had killed; and when they were served up in dishes, Atreus and Thyestes feasted on them. The sun is said to have turned his course back to the east, because he could not look upon such horrible diet. — See Fig. 48.
“There Tantalus along the Stygian bound,Pours deepest groans; his groans through hell resound;Ev’n in the circling floods, refreshment craves,And pines with thirst amid a sea of wavesWhen to the water he his lip applies,Back from his lip the treacherous water flies.Above, beneath, around his hopeless head,Trees of all kinds delicious fruitage spread;The fruit he strives to seize; but blasts arise,Toss it on high, and whirl it to the skies.”
“Though Tantalus, you’ve heard, does stand chin deepIn water, yet he cannot get a sip:At which you smile; now all of’t would be true,Were the name chang’d, and the tale told of you.”
Obs. — The learned do not agree with respect to the explanation of this last fable. Some consider it as an allegory to paint avarice. Tantalus perishing of thirst and hunger in the midst of plenty, represents the miser, who dares not expend his treasure. The barbarity of Tantalus is inexplicable. So is the murder of Pelops.
The Danaides were fifty sisters, so called from their father Danaus: and named also Belides, from their grandfather Belus. It is reported that Ægyptus, brother of Danaus, wished his fifty sons to marry the Danaides, fearing his brother would prove too powerful for him by the alliances which he might form from the marriages which his daughters might otherwise contract. To avoid this alliance, Danaus fled to Argos; but to oblige him to consent to it, he was pursued by the fifty sons of Ægyptus at the head of a powerful army. Finding himself solicited in so forcible a manner, he agreed to the proposal, but secretly armed his daughters with daggers, giving them strict orders to kill their respective husbands on their wedding night, which orders they all obeyed, except Hypermnestra, whose husband Lynceus, escaped. She was cited before her father; but the people, satisfied of her innocence, interposed, pleaded in her favour, and procured her honourable acquital. Some suppose that Lynceus murdered Danaus, as had been predicted by an oracle. According to some, the sisters were pardoned by Jupiter; while others maintain, that they were condemned to fill a tub, full of holes, with water, and hourly attempt to fetch water in it. See Fig. 49.
Obs. — The fable, imagined to represent this singular kind of punishment, is founded on a custom observed by the Egyptians at Memphis. Near the Lake Acherusia, beyond which the dead were buried, priests poured water into a tub full of holes, to show the impossibility of any one’s returning to life.
Chapter VII. The Centaurs, Geryon, the Harpies, Gorgons, the Chimæra, the Sphinx. §
The Centaurs were monsters, described as half men, and half horses, and are said to have been born of a cloud by Ixion, whence they are called Nubiginæ. The most eminent of the Centaurs were Chiron, Eurytus, Amycus, Gryneus, Caumas, Lycidas, Arneus, Medon, Rhœtus, Pisenor, Mermeros, Pholus, &c.
Obs. — The idea of this fable of the Centaurs, may be referred to the men of Thessaly, who were the first, seen riding on horseback.
Geryon was a monster, with three bodies and three heads. His residence was on the island Erythia, near Gades, (now Cadiz,) where he kept numerous flocks, which were guarded by a two-headed dog, called Orthos, and a seven-headed dragon, which devoured the strangers who visited them. Hercules killed the guards, and drove the flocks away.
Obs. — This fable inclines us to the belief, that Geryon was a prince who reigned over three islands, called Baleares.
The Harpies were winged monsters, with the face of a woman, the body of a vulture, the claws of a dragon, and the ears of a bear. Their parents were Neptune, or Oceanus, and Terra; and their names, Aello, Ocypete, and Celeno. They were filthy in their habits, and voracious in their appetite. They plundered the tables of Phoneus, king of Phœnicia, and haunted many, whom they affected with severe hunger. They had the power of predicting future events.
Obs. — Among the Greeks, the Harpies were generally associated with the ideas of powerful and active demons, influencing the terrors and ravages of the storm, the nature of which their names are descriptive.
The Gorgons were three sisters, daughters of Phorcys and Cete. Their names were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. In lieu of hair, their heads were covered with vipers, which had the power of transforming those into stones who looked at them. Their hands were brazen; their wings, golden; their bodies were covered with impenetrable scales; and they had one eye and one tooth, which served them all by turns. This tooth exceeded in strength the strongest tusks of a wild-boar; and their looks caused death. They dwelt near the gardens of the Hesperides, and made sad ravages in the country, attacking travellers; but they were overcome by Perseus, who cut of the head of Medusa, which he presented to Minerva. The latter placed it on her ægis.
Obs. 1. — The learned among the ancients, were divided respecting the origin of the Gorgons.
“Near the Cape West,” says he, “are the Gorgates, the ancient abode of the Gorgons.” Hanno, general of the Carthaginese, penetrated even into their country, and found women whose running equaled in swiftness that of horses, and even the flight of birds. He took two of them, whose bodies were thickly set with horsehair. Their skins were suspended in the temple of Jupiter at Carthage, until the ruin of that city.
Obs. 2. — Mr., versed in the Oriental languages, finds in the names of the three Gorgons, those of three ships, once engaged in commerce on the coast of Africa, where were found gold, the tusks of elephants, the horns of different animals, and precious stones. These goods were afterwards brought to the ports of Phœnicia. Such is, says he, the explanation of the tooth, the horn, and the eye which the Gorgons mutually lent to each other. Those ships had prows representing monsters. Perseus met them in his voyages, fought, and took them. The ship he mounted, was called Pegasus; the prow represented a winged horse. As soon as he returned to Greece, laden with immense riches, his return was celebrated, and the poets contrived the fable of the Gorgons and of Medusa.
The Chimæra was a monster begotten of Typhon and Echidna. He had the head and breast of a lion, the body of a goat, and the tail of a dragon, and vomitted forth flames.
“A lion’s head and breast resemble his,His waist a goat’s, his tail a dragon’s is.
“——— And on the craggy topChimæra dwells, with lion’s face and mane,A goat’s rough body, and a serpent’s train.”.
Obs. — Some explain this fable by recollecting that there was a volcano in Lycia, called Chimæra, the top of which being covered with desolate wilds, was occupied by lions; the middle, was pasturage, covered with goats; and the bottom or the marshy ground, abounded with serpents. Bellerophon is said to have cleared the mountain of the Chimæra, and made it habitable. Others think that it was the captain of some pirates, who carved on the ships the figures of a lion, a goat, and a dragon.
The Sphinx was a monster, having the head and breast of a woman, the body of a dog, the tail of a serpent, the wings of a bird, and the paws of a lion. She resided in Mount Sphincius in the neighbourhood of Thebes, proposing enigmas to the inhabitants, and devouring those who could not solve them; but the Thebans were informed by the oracle of Apollo, that the Sphinx would kill herself if one of the enigmas she propounded should be explained. She proposed the following riddle: “What animal is that which walks on four feet in the morning, on two feet at noon, and three in the evening?” Creon, then king of Thebes, declared that he would give a crown and his sister Jocasta in marriage to him who could explain it. This was successfully done by Œdipus, who replied, “ He walks on his hands and feet when young, or in the morning of life; at noon of life, he walks erect on two feet; and in the evening of his days, he supports his infirmities with a stick.” The Sphinx heard the correct explanation, dashed her head against a rock, and instantly expired.
Œdipus was the son of Laius, king of Thebes by Jocasta. His father was informed by an oracle that he should one day be killed by his son. He therefore ordered his wife to destroy their child soon after his birth; but the mother gave this child to a servant, and ordered her to expose him on a mountain. The servant pierced his feet with a hook, and hung him on the bough of a tree by the heels on mount Citheron. One of the shepherds of Polybius, king of Corinth, soon found him and brought him home. Peribæa, the queen, being childless, brought him up as her own, and called him Œdipus, because his feet were swollen. When arrived at manhood, he did not acknowledge the king for his father, but resolved to inquire after his parents. In consulting the oracle of Delphi, he was told that he would meet his father in Phocis. On his way thither, he met Laius and his armor-bearer, riding in a chariot in a narrow road; but he did not know his father. Laius commanded Œdipus to give way to him: an affray ensued, in which Laius and his armour-bearer both lost their lives. After this, he resumed his journey, arrived at Thebes, beat the Sphinx, and married Jocasta whom he knew not to be his mother. She bore two sons, Eteocles and Polynices, and two daughters Ismena and Antigone. In process of time, he found, by clear proof, that he had killed his father, and married his mother: upon which he became so frantic as to put out his eyes, and would have laid violent hands upon himself, had not Antigone, his constant attendant, prevented him. Eteocles and Polynices succeeded their father in the government, and agreed alternately to reign a year each. Eteocles reigned the first year, and then refused his brother his crown; upon which a war followed, and they were both killed in single combat. Their enmity was of longer duration than their lives. The bodies were laid on the same pile to be consumed by the fire; but the flames refused to unite, and they were divided into two parts.
Part V. Peculiar Deities. §
It would be impossible to name and designate all the particular divinities of the ancients. They deified virtues, passions, blessings, and evils. We shall speak only of those best known.
The Greeks honoured Felicity, under the name of Eudemonia, or Macaria. An oracle having said to the Athenians that they would be victorious, if one of Hercules’ children voluntarily devoted herself to death, Macaria, his daughter, killed herself. The Athenians were victorious; and, therefore, their goddess Felicity assumed the name of Macaria. The Romans honored Felicity long after the building of Rome. Lucullus raised a temple to her after the war against Mithridates and Tigranes. She was represented as a queen, seated on a throne, holding a horn of plenty, with this legend: “Public Felicity.” — See Fig. 50.
Hope, that last source of men against the evils which overwhelm them, was early deified. The Greeks honored her under the name of Elips, and the Romans, under that of Spes Publica (Public Hope.)says that immortality animated Hope, and that virtue alone had the right to depend upon her. Rome raised to her several temples. She is represented with a horn of plenty, fruits, and a beehive. Mariners represented her with an anchor. — See Fig. 51.
Eternity had neither temples nor altars. She was painted in the form of a woman, with the inscription of her own name, Eternity. She held in her hand a radiant sun or moon, because each was considered eternal. She was also represented in the figure of the Phenix, a fabulous bird, that was born of its own ashes; or in that of a globe, because it has no bounds; or in that of a serpent, which forms a circle by biting its tail; sometimes also in that of an elephant, on account of the longevity of that animal: which demonstrates the faint ideas the ancients entertained of eternity. All the genealogies of their gods prove that they could not conceive a divinity without beginning or end.
Time was represented by Saturn. He was painted with wings, to denote the rapidity of his course, and a scythe, to express his ravages. Time was divided into several parts, an age, generation, or a period of thirty years, a lustrum, or five years, a year, and seasons. He was admitted to have but three seasons, Slimmer, Autumn and Winter; but Spring was afterwards added to them. The twilight of the morning, the dawn, noon-day, the evening, the twilight of the evening, and the night, were personified. Each of these portions, was represented by a man or a woman, according to its masculine or feminine name.
People implored Thought, that they might have nothing but good thoughts.
All kinds of piety were honoured. M. A. Glabrio raised a temple to Filial Piety on the foundations of the house which had been inhabited by the Roman woman who fed her father in prison.
The Athenians erected altars to Misericordia or Mercy. The Romans imitated them, and gave to those temples the name of Asylums.
Virtue, which alone can secure happiness, was adored by the ancients; and there are still found in the fourth book of the city of God, by, some traces of the worship which was paid to her. Scipio, the destroyer of Numantia, was the first who dedicated a temple to that divinity. Marcellus wished to unite in one temple, Virtue and Honour. He consulted the pontiffs, who declared, that one temple could not contain two deities so great. He therefore constructed two, contiguous to each other, so that one had to pass through the temple of Virtue in order to arrive at that of Honour. This was to teach men that they could not attain to true honour, but by the practice of virtue. None ever sacrificed to Honour without his head uncovered, and without giving marks of the utmost respect.
Truth was deemed the mother of Virtue, and daughter of Time. She was represented as a young virgin, covered with a suit of clothes, the whiteness of which equalled that of snow.
“Truth hid herself in the bottom of a well, so that it is difficult to discover her.” — See Fig. 52.
Concordia, Pax, and Fides, were three different goddesses. The power of Concordia or Concord was extended over houses, families, and cities. That of Pax or Peace was extended over whole empires.says, that in the temple of Pax, were deposited the rich spoils of the temple at Jerusalem. In the same temple all who professed the arts, assembled, when they had to sustain their rights and prerogatives that the presence of the goddess of Peace might banish all hatred and all the asperity which is apt to arise in disputes. This goddess was represented in the form of a woman, crowned with laurel, olive, and roses, holding in one hand ears of corn, a symbol of plenty, which she procures, and in the other, and the caduceus. She had given her, by some, Venus and the Graces for her companions. — See Fig. 53.
Fides or Fidelity presided over good faith in treaties and in commerce. The oath which the people made by her or by Jupiter Fidius, was deemed the most inviolable of all. It is generally thought that Numa Pompilius raised her first temple. The figure of two women shaking hands with each other, commonly represents this goddess. — See Fig. 54.
A people as idolatrous of their Liberty as the Romans, could not fail to make her a divinity. She had several temples. She was represented, leaning on a table of laws, having a sword in her hand to defend them, with this legend: They assert the liberty of all. See Fig. 55.
Licentiousness is represented as thunderstruck by heaven, at the moment she strives to break a table of laws and the balance of Justice.
Silence had his altars. The Orientals worshipped him under the name of Harpocrates. The Romans represented Silence as a goddess whom they called Ageronia. The latter had also the god of speech, whom they called Aius Locutius. — See Fig. 56.
Pudicitia or Chastity was represented in the form of a veiled woman, or of a woman who pointed to her forehead with her finger, to intimate that she is not troubled or blemished. — See Fig. 57.
Providence was represented by a woman, leaning on a pillar, holding in the left hand a cornucopia, and showing a globe with her right, to inculcate the idea, that she extends her cares over the whole universe, and that she dispenses all blessings. — See Fig. 58.
Astræa or Justice was represented in the figure of a young woman, holding a pair of scales, equal on both sides, having a sword drawn and a bandage over her eyes. She is seated on a block of stone, ready to prescribe penalties against crime, and rewards to virtue. She lived during the Golden Age. — See Fig. 59.
Fortune was depicted under the form of a blind and almost bald woman, with wings to her two feet. The one is placed on a wheel, which turns swiftly; and the other, in the air. She presided over good and evil. — See Fig. 60.
Opportunity was represented in like manner; but she had a tuft of hair on her head in order to leave a hold to seize her. — See Fig. 61.
Chapter I. Origin of Peculiar Deities. §
Perplexed and awed by the development and progress of events, the causes of which they could not penetrate, blind and bigoted man proceeded to deify those imaginary or real evils which agitated him, and excited his superstitious fears, and to such chimeras, offered up vows and prayers. The period in which this kind of worship commenced, is enveloped in uncertainty. In battles, Fear and Flight mingled in the train of the god of war. The two sons of Medea having been massacred by the Corinthians, a cruel plague destroyed a part of their children. The Oracle ordered them to sacrifice to the manes, irritated by those innocent victims, and to raise at the same time a statue to Fear. She was represented with hair standing on end, an elevated visage, an open mouth, and troubled looks. — See Fig. 62.
Paleness was represented by a lean and lengthened figure; hair pulled down, and fixed looks. The Lacedæmonians had placed the temple of Fear near the tribunal of the Ephori in order to inspire the wicked with the fear of a severe chastisement. Fear was always added to the other gods when oaths were pronounced.
Atea or Discord was driven from Olympus by Jupiter, because she endeavoured to embroil the gods, and she came to the earth to exercise her furies. To this cruel goddess were attributed wars, quarrels, and dissensions in families. It was she who cast amid the banquet prepared for the nuptials of Peleus, the fatal apple, with this inscription: To the Fairest. Prayers, her sisters, run after her, to repair the evils she causes; but they are lame, and their cruel sister always outruns them. — See Fig. 63.
Obs. — It would be tedious, as well as useless, to name all the ancient deities. In general, the Romans, and the Greeks before them, adored virtues, passions, vices, and even unlooked-for events. Every one could create some new god at pleasure. When travellers, while traversing a river or a forest, experienced some unexpected danger or surprise, they erected an altar, adorned it with some attributes; and those monuments of caprice were respected, often even adored, by those whom chance led near them. It will always be easy to supply the numerous list which, not to fatigue our readers, we suppress. The poets and the ancients are vainly fond of alluding to those deities in their works, and of pourtraying their influence and effects. It is, therefore, an easy matter to become familiar with them, by studying them as they appear bedecked with the charms and ornaments of poetry.
Chapter II. Comus, Momus, Æsculapius, and Friendship. §
Comus presided over banquets and feasts. He is well known by name. Every painter has a right to take his imagination for his guide, when he wishes to represent him. — See Fig. 64.
Momus, the satirist of heaven, the god of raillery and jesting, and the patron of carping and censorious fellows, was the son of Erebus and Nox. His genius lay in finding fault, and turning into ridicule even the actions of the gods themselves. Though at first his bitter jests were admired, they ultimately caused him to be turned off from the celestial court in disgrace.
Of the first man that Vulcan had fashioned, Momus said, that he ought to have placed a window in his breast, through which his inmost thoughts might have been seen. When Neptune had formed the bull, he observed that the eyes were too far from the horns to insure an effective blow. Having examined the house which Minerva had built, and having found it complete both within and without, he merely observed that it was not on wheels, so that, if necessary, it could be moved from a bad neighbourhood. Finding no fault in the shape of Venus, he said that her sandals made a loud noise as she walked.
He is usually depicted as holding a small figure of folly in one hand, and raising a mask from his face with the other, under which a satirical smile beams from his countenance. — See Fig. 65.
Obs. — We learn from the fable of Momus, that when quibbling objections are raised against the finest conceptions, and the most beautiful works, they excite the laughter merely of the ignorant, the frivolous, the sensual, and the thoughtless.
Æsculapius, the god of medicine, was the son of Apollo, by the nymph Coronis. After his mother had been shot for her infidelity by Apollo, he was exposed on a mountain, and suckled by a she-goat. A shepherd thought he saw him surrounded with light, and brought him home. Aesculapius was brought up by Trigona, the wife of the shepherd, and was afterwards entrusted to the care of the Centaur Chiron, who taught him the art of medicine. He is fabled to have sprung out of a crow’s egg, under the form of a serpent.
He attended the Argonauts in their expedition to Colchis, in the capacity of a physician. Upon his return home, he performed many wonderful cures, and raised many of the dead to life, of which Pluto complained to Jupiter, who killed him with thunder-bolts. Apollo, to avenge the death of his son, slew the Cyclops, who had forged those formidable weapons.
Æsculapius was chiefly worshipped at Epidaurus. He had also a temple at Rome, and was worshipped there under the form of a serpent. To him were sacrificed a goat, because he is said to have been nourished by that animal, and a cock, which is considered the most vigilant of all birds; for watchfulness was considered one of the most essential qualifications of a physician.
He appears as an old man, with-a beard, and a crown of laurel, leaning on a staff, around which a serpent twines. The knots in his staff represent the difficulties to be found in studying medicine. — See Fig. 66.
By Epione he had two sons, Machon and Podalirius, famous in the Trojan war, and four daughters, of whom Hygeia is the most celebrated.
Hygeia, the goddess of health, was held in great veneration, and was represented in the most engaging forms. Her statues exhibited her as a beautiful young virgin, holding a serpent wreathed around her arm, and feeding out of a cup which she held in her hand.
Obs. 1. — The singular name of Æsculapius, whom the Greeks called Asclepios, seems to have been derived from the oriental languages. It is certain that Æsculapius was known in Phœnicia before he was introduced into Greece., the most ancient of the Phœnician authors, mentions an Æsculapius, son of Sydic or the Just, and of a princess of the family of the Titans. He was king of Memphis, and brother to the first Mercury, and lived two centuries before the deluge, which period was more than one thousand years before the Greek Æsculapius flourished.
Obs. 2. — The serpent becomes the symbol of Æsculapius; and is, at the same time, the symbol of prudence, a quality necessary to a physician. It was supposed to be the most long lived of animals, and is usually the emblem of health and immortality, from the circumstance of its annually shedding its slough, and seeming to renew its youth.
We shall close our account of the peculiar deities by describing Friendship. The Greeks and Romans granted divine honours to her. The Greeks called her Philia, and the Romans called her Amicitia, and painted her in the form of a young woman, with her head uncovered, clad in a very plain garment, with these words at the bottom of the raiment, Death and Life. On her forehead was written, Winter and Summer. One of her hands held a legend upon which was written, Far and Near. These words and symbols signified that Friendship did not grow old; that she is equal in all seasons, during absence and presence, in life and death; that she is exposed to every thing to serve a friend, and that she hides nothing from him. This last thought was expressed by one of her hands leaning on her heart. — See Fig. 67.
Part VI. Of Heroes. §
The ancients often painted illustrious men as giants, or, at least, as men of uncommon stature. and the other poets make them employ darts, which the ordinary strength of four men could not have thrown. The Egyptians, as has been mentioned, were in the habit of sitting in judgment after their death upon the actions of kings, generals, and all persons of consequence. They preserved the memory of the great and good, and respected it; but the Greeks were the first to worship them. It is also from the Greek language that the word hero is derived. Its origin is variously explained. Some ancients derive this word from eros, love, to signify that heroes were the sons of the gods by mortal wives, or of the goddesses by men; but , in his inquiries into idolatry, proves that the word hero comes from the Greek word Hera or Hero, which personage was the son of Juno. His name was consecrated to designate men celebrated by their courage and fine actions. This etymology is most generally adopted. This name was at first given to the children of the gods and mortals; but in time it was granted to all celebrated men.
The ancient philosophers taught, that, after death, the souls of great men inhabited the abodes of the gods. This opinion gave rise to the worship paid to them. The worship of the gods and that of the heroes were not the same. Sacrifices were offered to the divinities, and libations made in their honour; but the celebration of their funeral pomp, during which they sang their most brilliant exploits, was confined to heroes. In several temples dedicated to Hercules, the people offered sacrifices to him under the name of Hercules Olympius; and in those very temples, they celebrated his obsequies, in his quality of hero. The Arcadians, Messenians, and Thebans, began by offering sacrifices to the gods; they next invoked the heroes of their country. It was generally believed that the latter concurred with the former in punishing impiety. Heroines enjoyed the same honours as heroes. Their tombs had no difference. Both were raised in the middle of some wood, which was considered sacred, and called lucus. There were marked times for carrying presents, and making libations, to them.
It is very difficult to fix precisely the time in which the worship of the heroes began. The ancients have left no positive information on this point. The learned moderns generally agree in tracing its origin to Cadmus. They observe that this prince, having brought into Greece the laws, customs, and manners of Egypt and Phœnicia, introduced, at the same time, the practice of honoring or blackening the memory of all considerable personages. The Greeks, naturally imitators, soon established the practice of celebrating the obsequies of their relatives by feasts, invocations, and offerings. At first, they raised them remarkable tombs; from which they proceeded to make libations to their statues and altars; and, at last, their tombs were seen to change themselves into temples. Every private man had the right of eulogising his ancestors, and even of granting them other honors; but often their celebrity was extended entirely beyond the family. They became the gods Penates, although the rest of the world remained ignorant of the existence of such obscure deities. But such was not the lot of great men whom cities, kingdoms, and populous nations, thought fit to honor on account of their important services and brilliant actions. They became by public decrees, the protecting heroes of the people among whom they had lived; and often other nations adopted them, and rendered them a worship as splendid and extensive as their renown.
Private persons could raise to their relatives nothing but simple tombs in the form of altars. The monuments erected to the heroes of the country, resembled the temples of the gods; and to pay them a still more solemn homage there were established to their honor, mysteries, ceremonies, and colleges of priests adapted to their services. The number of heroes and heroines being almost infinite, it would be impossible to give the history or even the names of all to whom Greece and Italy granted a religious worship, or great honors; but we shall notice the most celebrated, according to the order of the times in which they flourished. Consequently, we begin with the history of Perseus, whose antiquity appears to be the most remote.
Chapter I. Perseus, Pegasus, Bellerophon, Andromeda. §
Perseus was the son of Danae, daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos, by Jupiter, who is fabled to have metamorphosed himself into a shower of gold, while his mother was shut up in a strong tower.
“Within a brazen tow’r immur’d,By dogs and centinels secur’d,From midnight revels, and intrigues of Jove,Fair Danse, kept within her guardian’s pow’r:But gentle Venus smil’d, and amorous love.Knew he could soon unlock the door,And by his art successful prove,Chang’d to a golden show’r.”
When Acrisius heard of the birth of his grandson, he ordered his daughter and the infant to be shut up in a chest, and cast into the sea. The chest was blown to the island Seriphos, where a fisherman, by the name of Dictys, found it, took them out, and carried them to king Polydectes, who fell in love with the lady, and had her son educated.
When Perseus was grown up, he obtained from Mercury the adamantine scythe, with wings for his feet, and a short dagger of diamond, called herpe, the helmet of Pluto, which had power to make the bearer invisible, and the buckler of Minerva, which served the purpose of a looking-glass. By the help of these arms, he cut off the head of Medusa. Perseus mounted Pegasus, and flew towards Mauritania, where, being rudely treated by Atlas, he turned him into the mountain which bears his name. Thence he went into Ethiopia, where he delivered Andromeda from a monster which was ready to devour her. By the head of Medusa, he also petrified Phineus, his rival as well as the soldiers who accompanied him; and finally gave the head to Minerva, who fixed it on her aegis. — See Fig. 68.
Pegasus, a winged horse, sprang from the blood occasioned by the cutting of Medusa’s head, when it fell on the ground. In flying over Mount Helicon, he struck the top of it with his hoof, and opened a fountain which is called in Greek, Hippocrene, and in Latin, Fons Caballinus; i. e. the “horse-fountain.” Bellerophon caught him while he was drinking at the fountain Pyrene in Corinth.
Bellerophon was son of Glaucus, king of Ephyre. He was at first called Hipponus, because he first knew how to govern horses with bridles; but was afterwards named Bellerophon, because he was the murderer of Beller, king of Corinth. He was highly famed for his beauty and virtue. Antæ or Sthenobæa, wife to Prætus, king of Argos, became enamoured of him; but, as his repulses provoked her, she accused him before her husband of having attempted to seduce her. Prætus was, however, unwilling to violate the laws of hospitality with the blood of Bellerophon, but sent him to his father-in-law Jobates, king of Lycia, with letters urging him to punish Bellerophon in proportion to his supposed crime. Jobates read the letters, and ordered him to kill the Chimæra, in the expectation of having him destroyed in the attempt. With the assistance of Pegasus, however, he slew the monster. He was again commanded to fight the Solymi, and was exposed to a variety of dangers; but he always came off victorious. Jobates was so pleased with the bravery of the youth, that he gave him his daughter Philonœ in marriage, and also his crown. Sthenobæa committed suicide when she heard this. Bellerophon was so transported with this unlooked for fortune, that he attempted to fly on Pegasus to heaven. Jupiter ordered a terrible insect to sting the horse. As soon as he heard the buzzing of this insect, he forsook his way, threw the rider, and ran wildly about, till he died of fright, fatigue, and hunger. Its sting caused his body to putrefy, swell, and burst. Bellerophon fell from his horse into a field, called Aleius Campus, because in that place he wandered, here and there, blind till his death. Letters which the bearer imagines to be written in his favor, but which are really intended to effect his ruin, are proverbially called “Letters of Bellerophon,” or “Letters of Uriah.” — See Fig. 69.
Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia, by Cassiope. Her mother irritated the Nereides by pretending to equal them in beauty. The nymphs extended their wrath over the whole country. The inhabitants had recourse to the oracle of Ammon which replied, that, in order to appease the anger of the nymphs, they must expose Andromeda to become the prey of a marine monster. The unfortunate princess was bound to a rock, and the monster was about to devour her, when Perseus, riding on Pegasus, perceived her, and ran to her rescue, which he effected by showing him the head of Medusa, which turned him into a rock, and broke her chains. He then took her to wife. — See Fig. 70.
Obs. 1. — Perseus built the city of Mycenæ, in Greece, and made it the capital of his dominions. After death, he received divine honors, and was placed among the constellations.
Obs. 2. — The armour of Perseus, celebrated by the poets, was an allegory. By the wings of Mercury, they meant the ship which conducted Perseus to the African coasts. The helmet of Pluto, which covered his head, was nothing but the secret of which he stood in want in order to succeed in his undertaking; and the shield of Minerva, was the symbol of prudence which was necessary to him.
Perseus, on his return to Greece, thanked the gods for the success of his journey. He consecrated the prow of his ship, and placed it in the temple of Jupiter on Mount Olympus. The prow represented a horse, and the ship was named Pegasus. Olympus was reputed to be the abode of the gods. The poets embellished these two circumstances by saying, that Pegasus remained one moment on earth, and then directed his flight towards the abode of the gods. Perseus consecrated some parts of his ship in the temple of Apollo on Mount Parnassus. The poets painted this temple as the ordinary residence of Apollo and the Muses. They represented the genius of poetry in the form of a winged horse, which overcame every obstacle; and the fountain Hippocrene, which Pegasus opened by striking the earth with his hoof, designates that the productions of genius do not bear the servile impress of labor, but resemble the pure and gushing waves of an abundant spring.
Chapter II. Theseus. §
Theseus, the son of Ægeus, king of Athens, by Æthra, was a famous hero, who accomplished splendid adventures in imitation of Hercules, his relative.
His father employed him in delivering his country from the shameful tribute imposed on it by Minos II. king of Crete, to whom several noble youths were to be sent by lot every year, and who delivered them to the Minotaur, a monster, half man and half bull, that was shut up in a Labyrinth in Crete. Theseus was confined in the Labyrinth; but he extricated himself by the help of Ariadne, after he had destroyed the Minotaur. He forgot the promise he had made to his father at the moment of his departure. The ship of the prisoners had black sails, and Theseus had promised to change his black sails into white ones if he returned victorious. His father descried from a beacon, the ship, which he found to be black. Whereupon, believing his son to be dead, he precipitated himself into the sea, which was afterwards called the Ægean, or Black sea, from his name and destiny. — See Fig. 71.
Dædalus made the Cretan Labyrinth. Minos confined him there for some offence, upon which Dædalus made wings for himself and his son Icarus, with wax and the feathers of birds; and by this means Dædalus flew out of Crete into Sicily; but the heat of the sun melted the wax on the wings of Icarus, and he fell into the sea, which is thence called the Icarian sea.
Ariadne was daughter to Minos. She gave Theseus a clue of thread by which he let himself into, as well as helped himself out of, the Labyrinth. On his return, he took Ariadne with him; but he soon after ungratefully left her in the island Naxos, where she was found and married by Bacchus.
Theseus had several wives. The first was Anthiope, or Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons. His second was Phædra, daughter of Minos the second. The Amazons were a warlike nation of women. They burnt off their right breast, in order to brandish weapons with more force, and to shoot arrows with more effect. They killed the boys at their birth, and brought up the girls. Hercules, accompanied by Theseus, defeated them, and, taking Hippolyte, their queen, prisoner, married her to Theseus.
By Hippolyte he had a son named Hippolytus, perfect beauty, a mighty hunter, and an uncommon lover of chastity. He rejected the addresses of his step-mother Phædra with such horror and disdain, that when her husband was returned, she accused him falsely. Hippolytus, aware of his resentment, fled away in a chariot. But he met with some monstrous sea-calves, which frightened his horses in such a manner as to throw him out of his seat; and he was dragged through the woods with his feet entangled in the harness, until he expired.
At the request of Diana, Æsculapius breathed into his nostrils, and resuscitated him. He afterwards settled in Italy, where he changed his name to Viribus, because he had been a man twice. Phædra was so tormented with the gnawings of remorse, occasioned by her guilt, that she hanged herself.
Demophoon was the son of Theseus by Phædra. While going to the Trojan war, he was received by Phyllis, queen of Thrace. He married her; but soon after, abandoned her, and she, unable to bear her grief, caused by his absence, killed herself. The poets published, that she had been changed into an almond-tree. The name of Phyllis, almost similar to that of Phylla, an almond-tree, alone gave rise to this fable. The poets added, that the almond-tree flourished in the beginning of spring, because Phillis showed her joy, when she saw Demophoon returning in that season.
Theseus attended the Argonauts in the conquest of the Golden Fleece, fought the Centaurs, and exterminated two tyrants of Sicily, notorious for their crimes and barbarous actions. The first, called Phalaris, buried men alive in a brazen bull, and burnt them with a slow fire, during which torture their cries resembled the lowing of a bull. Perillus was the inventor of this horrible machine. The second tyrant, Procrustes, bound strangers to an iron-bed, and cut their limbs so as to accommodate them to the extent of the bed. This bed of Procrustes is proverbially applied to a cruel or foolish contrivance whereby to alter what is natural or unalterable. Theseus met and killed two famous robbers. The first, Sinis, in his haunts, rushed upon the unwary travellers, stripped them, and tied their limbs to the branches of trees, which, when bent down, threw them up, and tore their limbs in pieces. The second, Sciron, delighted in precipitating passengers, for whom he laid snares, into the sea.
Theseus is said to have descended, in company with his bosom friend Pirithous, son of Ixion, into the infernal regions, to take away Proserpine from her husband; for which rash act, Pirithous was fastened to his father’s chariot wheel, and Theseus, to a huge stone, where they experienced excruciating torments. Hercules, however, delivered them from this terrible situation.
Theseus returned to Athens; but the throne being possessed by a usurper, he withdrew to the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros. That treacherous prince threw him unawares from a high rock, and he perished in the sea. He had a temple at Athens, one of the richest and most magnificent buildings in the city.
“Where fam’d St. Giles’ ancient limits spread,An inrail’d column rears its lofty head;Here to sev’n streets, sev’n dials count the day,And from each other catch the circling ray.Here oft the peasant, with inquiring face,Bewilder’d trudges on from place to place;He dwells on ev’ry sign, with stupid gaze,Enters the narrow alley’s doubtful maze,Tries ev’ry winding court and street in vain,And doubles o’er their weary steps again.Thus hardy Theseus, with intrepid feet,Travers’d the dangerous labyrinth of Crete,But little the wand’ring passes forc’d his stay,Till Ariadne’s clue unwinds the way.”.
Obs. — Considered historically, Theseus was a king of Athens, the first who divided the people into tribes, and who gave a regular and civilized form to the state. Some poets, in return for various benefits with which he had loaded them, added illustrious particulars to his life, exerted their refinement and genius in bestowing uncommon lustre on his memory, and thus exalted him to the rank of a demi-god.
Chapter III. Hercules. §
There are not less than forty heroes of this name mentioned by ancient authors. The Trojan Hercules was named Thasius; the Phœnician, Agenor; the Egyptian contemporary with Osiris and general of his troops, Ozochor, and so forth; but the most celebrated, called by the Greeks Alceus, or Alcides, was the son of Jupiter by Alcmena. He is generally accounted the god of strength, and is the Samson of the Greeks.
Jupiter having declared that a child being about to be born, should have dominion over all his own race, Juno disguised herself in the habit of an old woman, appeared at the door of Alcmena, and pronounced magic words to retard the birth of Hercules. Galanthis, the companion of Alcmena, had just brought forth a fine boy. Juno, surprised, went away, and at that very moment Hercules was born. The enraged goddess turned Galanthis into a weasel. When Hercules was a babe but eight months old in his cradle, Juno sent two serpents to destroy him. These he boldly seized by their necks, and crushed them to death. His twin brother Iphiclus, famed for his incredible swiftness, alarmed the house with his shrieks. Finally, through the mediation of Minerva, Juno was reconciled to the valiant infant; but he drew her milk with such violence, that when she thrust him away, some of her milk being spilt upon the clouds, occasioned the milky-way, which is called in Greek, Galaxia. Lilies are said to have been created by the fall of it on the earth, and are therefore called the “roses of Juno.”
The fame of Hercules was increased by the excellent education he received. For his tutors, he had Castor, who taught him pugilistics; Eurytus, who instructed him in archery; Autolychus, who taught him to drive a chariot; Linus, the son of Apollo, philosophy; Eumolus, music; Harpalychus, the athletic exercises; and the Centaur Chiron, astronomy and medicine.
At the instigation of Juno, who treated, with unexampled severity all the children of Jupiter by his mistresses, Eurystheus endeavoured to ruin him, by imposing upon him a number of arduous enterprises, generally called the “Twelve Labours of Hercules.”
A prodigious lion, said to have fallen from the moon into the forest of Nemæa, ravaged the country near Mycenæ. This place was called Cleone, and this lion, Cleoneus. Hercules was ordered to destroy him; but, finding him invulnerable to any weapon, he strangled him with his hands, and afterwards wore his skin.
He was commanded to destroy a vast hydra, which infested the marshes of Lerna. It had seven heads, some say fifty, others a hundred, one of which being struck off by the club of the hero, another immediately sprang up again in its place.
He ordered Iolas, the son of Iphiclus, to burn the wound with a red hot iron; in consequence of which, one head was cut off in a moment, and the cautery applied: and by this means, he succeeded in destroying the monster. He dissected it, and dipped his arrows in the gall, which impregnated them with such deadly poison, that the slightest wound, when inflicted by them, proved mortal. He felt himself so much indebted to Iolas for this seasonable service, that when Iolas was troubled with decrepit age, he restored him to his youth.
It was his third labour to bring alive to Eurystheus, an immense wild-boar, which spread destruction in the plains of Erymanthus in Arcadia. He seized the monster in a thicket, to which he had traced it by its vestiges in the snow. When dragged into the presence of Eurystheus, it excited in him so great terror, that he nearly fainted at the sight; or, as some assert, he concealed himself for some time in a brazen vessel.
On his way to Erymanthus, he destroyed the Centaurs, who had aggrieved him; and among them, he accidently slew his former preceptor Chiron, to whom the others had fled for protection. When translated to the skies, he took a seat among the constellations, under the name of Sagittarius.
He was commanded to bring alive and unhurt to Eurystheus, a hind, whose hoofs were of brass, and horns of gold. This swift hind frequented Mount Mænales, was sacred to Diana, and was caught by Hercules after a chase of a whole year.
His fifth exploit was to kill the Stymphalides, monstrous birds, the beaks and talons of which were of iron, and which resided on the shores of the lake Stymphalus in Arcadia, and fed on human flesh. Hercules destroyed them with his arrows.
He was ordered to take from Hippolyte, the queen of the Amazons, the finest belt in the world. After a close engagement, he slew all the Amazons except the queen, whom he gave in marriage to Theseus. The belt was presented to Eurystheus.
In one day, he cleansed the stable of Augeas, king of Elis, in which three thousand oxen had been kept for thirty years, and from which the filth had never been removed. This he effected by turning the river Achelous through it. Whence the proverbial phrase, “cleansing the Augean stable,” is now applied to a work of immense toil, or bordering on impossibility.
Augeas promised to give him the cattle, but broke his word; for which dishonourable breach, Hercules slew him with his arrows, and the crown devolved upon his son Phyleus.
Minos, king of Crete, having neglected the worship of Neptune, that god sent a monstrous bull, which destroyed numbers of the islanders. Hercules brought it alive to Eurystheus.
He was commanded to bring away the fire-breathing mares of Diomedes, king of Thrace, who fed them with the flesh of his guests. The tyrant ordered him to be thrown to them; but the here threw the tyrant to be devoured by them. He afterwards exhibited them to Eurystheus.
He was employed in bringing away the purple-coloured oxen of Geryon, king of Gades, in Spain, which lived on men’s flesh. The king himself was a monster with three bodies and three heads, and was guarded by a dog with two heads, and a dragon with seven. Hercules slew them all, and returned to Argos with the cattle.
He was commanded to gather the golden apples in the garden of the Hesperides. They were guarded by Melius, a dragon which never slept; but Hercules slew the dragon, and obtained the precious fruit.
His twelfth labour was to bring up to the light of the sun, Cerberus, a triple-headed dog that guarded the gates of hell.
He went down into hell by a cave on Mount Tænarus, and dragged the monster to the upper regions. As soon as Cerberus was in the regions of day, he vomitted, and thence sprang up the poisonous herb wolf’s-bane, Aconitum. Thus Hercules accomplished the twelve labours, which he had undertaken with unprecedented cheerfulness and good will.
Hercules performed many other exploits worthy of notice. He strangled Antæus, a monstrous giant, above sixty-four cubits in height, in a wrestling match. He sacrificed Busiris, king of Egypt, on the same altar on which that tyrant had been wont to immolate strangers to his father Neptune. He killed the giants Albion and Bergeon, who dared to stop his journey. His arrows being burnt in the fight, he prayed to Jupiter, and was accordingly furnished with a shower of stones, with which he vanquished his adversaries. This is said to have taken place in that division of ancient Gaul, called Gallia Narbonesis, or Campus Lapideus, the Stony Plain. To ease Atlas, he took the heavens upon his shoulders. He separated two mountains, Calpe and Abyla, which were previously united, but thence called the Pillars of Hercules. Between these are the straits of Gibraltar, anciently called Fretum Herculeum. He dragged the fire-spitting Cacus, the son of Vulcan, from his den, and strangled him for having stolen some of his oxen. He shot the eagle devouring the liver of Prometheus, while he was lying on the rock. He slew Theodamus, because he refused his son Hylas victuals; but he used Hylas well. He compelled Death to return Alcesta to her husband. He delivered Hesione, daughter of Laomedon, king of Troy, from the whale in the following manner: armed cap-a-pie, he leaped into the mouth of the sea-monster to which she was exposed; and after being confined three days in his belly, he cut his way out, and came away safe, having lost only his hair. Being denied the reward which Laomedon promised him, he plundered the city of Troy, and married Hesione to Telamon, who first mounted the wall.
Hercules was enamoured of Iole, the daughter of Eurytus, one of his former preceptors. So irresistable were the charms of Omphale, queen of Lydia, that ne assumed a female dress, and turned his club into a distaff, and his arrows into a spindle. Omphale is said to have sometimes put on his armour, and ridiculed him as he sat at her distaff. He had likewise a wife whose name was Dejanira, daughter of Œneus, and sister of Meleager, who was the cause of his death.
When Hercules was stopped by the swollen streams of the river Evenus, the Centaur Nessus offered to carry Dejanira over on his back; but when Hercules observed that he behaved rudely to her, he shot him with one of his poisoned arrows. The dying Centaur presented Dejanira with his tunic, stained with his blood, as a memento for love. Some time after, Hercules renewed his acquaintance with Iole. Dejanira hearing of it sent him the tunic, as he was going to sacrifice. He put it on; but was soon seized with violent and incurable pains. After dashing out the brains of Lichas, who had brought it, he raised a funeral pile on Mount Œte, ordered his bosom friend Philoctetes to put fire to it, ascended it, and closed his life in the most dreadful agonies, and was thence translated to heaven.
His muscles, as represented in the Farnese statue, express such corporeal powers as never existed in any other. He is painted sometimes naked, and sometimes clad in the skin of the Nemsæn lion, and holding a knotted club, with the Hesperian apples in his hand. At other times Cupid is described as wounding his heart for Omphale. — See Fig. 72.
“First, how the mighty babe, when swath’d in bands,The serpents strangled with his infant hands;Then, as in years and matchless force he grew,Th’ Œchalian walls and Trojan overthrew.Besides a thousand hazards they relate,Procur’d by Juno’s and Euristheus’ hate.Thy hands, unconquer’d hero! could subdueThe cloud-born Centaurs, and the monster crew;Nor thy resistless arm the bull withstood;Nor he the roaring terror of the wood.The triple porter of the Stygian seat,And seiz’d with fear, forgot thy mangled meat.Th’ infernal waters trembled at thy sight;Not huge Typhœus, nor th’ unnumber’d snakes;Increas’d with hissing heads in Lerna’s lakes.Hail, Jove’s undoubted son! an added graceTo heav’n, and the great author of thy race.Receive the grateful off’rings which we pay,And smile propitious on thy solemn day.”.
“———— The Cleonian lion first he kills;With fire and sword then Lerna’s pest he quells;Of the wild boar he clears th’ Ermanthean fields;The brass-foot stag with golden antlers yield:He Stympha clears of man-devouring birds;And next the bouncing Amazon ungirds:The stables of king Augeas he cleans;The Cretan bull he vanquishes and chains:Diomedes’ horses him their conqueror own;Then he brings low three-headed Geryon:Hesperian apples next his name sustains;And his last labour Cerberus enchains.”
So mighty Hercules o’er many a climeWaved his vast mace in Virtue’s cause sublime,Unmeasured strength with early art combined,Awed, served, protected, and amazed mankind.First two dread snakes at Juno’s vengeful nod,Climb’d round the cradle of the sleeping god;Waked by the shrilling hiss, and rustling sound,And shrieks of fair attendants trembling round,Their gasping throats with clenching hands he holds;And death entwisted their convoluted folds.Next in red torrents from her seven-fold headsFell Hydra’s blood on Lerna’s lake he sheds; —Grasps Achelous with resistless force,And drags the roaring river to his course;Binds with loud bellowing and with hideous yellThe monster bull, and three-fold dog of hell.
Then, where Nemea’s howling forests wave,He drives the lion to his dusky cave;Seized by the throat the growling fiend disarms,And tears his gaping jaws with sinewy arms;Lifts proud Antœus from his mother-plains,And with strong grasp the struggling giant, strains;Back falls his fainting head, and clammy hair,Writhe his weak limbs, and flits his life in air;By steps reverted o’er the blood-dropp’d fenHe tracks huge Cacus to his murderous den;Where breathing flames through brazen lips, he fled,And shakes the rock-roof d cavern o’er his head.Last with wide arms the solid earth he tears,Piles rock on rock, on mountain, mountain rears;Heaves up huge Abyla on Afric’s sand,Crowns with high Calpe Europe’s saliant strand,Crests with opposing towers the splendid scene.,And pours from urns immense the sea between;Loud o’er her whirling flood Charybdis roars,Affrighted Scylla bellows round her shores,Vesuvio groans through all his echoing caves.,And Etna thunders o’er the insurgent waves.Botanic Garden — Canto I.
Obs. — The poets painted the continual and dangerous labours of Hercules under the image of the persecutions of Juno, in whom they personified jealousy. Under the fables of Hercules, were concealed the eminent services, which some good and powerful man had rendered to his fellow creatures. In moralizing those fables, the ancients took Hercules for the strengh of reason and philosophy, which subdues and conquers our irregular passions; and his marriage, for his great and noble actions, ever freshly blooming in the memory of all, and transmitted in the histories of their times to the latest posterity.says, that when Hercules was young, two females once appeared to him — one was Virtue, who advised him to perform his arduous duties; the other was Pleasure, who advised him to lead an easy and indolent life; but he would rather act the part of a benefactor to mankind. Eurystheus allegorically represents the dictates of conscience; for which Virtue discharges her arduous functions. Omphale may represent the love of Pleasure, which sometimes causes one to neglect his duties, and give himself up to amusement. In short, our readers may exert their ingenuity in explaining the fables of Hercules in various ways, if they take pleasure in comparing mythology with history.
Chapter IV. Jason. §
Jason, the son of Æson, king of Thessaly, by Alcimede, was an infant when his father died, and his uncle Pelias took upon himself the direction of the government.
Pelias did not resign the crown when Jason, coming of age, laid his claims to it; but, with the hope of seeing him destroyed, advised him to go to Colchis, and gain the golden fleece.
The gods had given Athamas, king of Thebes, a ram, the fleece of which was of a golden colour. Phryxus, the son of Athamas, flying from the anger of his step-mother Ino, crossed the sea, with his sister Helle, on the back of this ram; (in a ship whose prow was adorned with the figure of that animal;) hut Helle was seized with such giddiness, that she fell into that part of the sea, which, from her, was called Hellespont. When Phryxus arrived on the coast of Colchis, he sacrificed the ram to Jupiter or Mars, and presented the fleece to Ætes, king of Colchis.
The fleece was difficult of access; for it was hung up in the grove of Mars, guarded by huge bulls, breathing fire from their nostrils, and by a vast, watchful dragon, and was reckoned as a pledge, sacred, divine, and of vital importance.
Jason chose for his companions about fifty of the most noble and famous in Greece. He built a ship, called the Argo, from which they were called Argonauts, among whom were Hercules, Orpheus, and Castor and Pollux. Typhis was the pilot; and Lynceus, whose eyes were piercing, discovered rocks. It was styled the Argonautic expedition, and was celebrated by all the ancients. After a series of adventures, he arrived at Colchis, and demanded the Golden Fleece of king Ætes, who granted his request, provided he would tame the bulls and kill the dragon that guarded it, and sow his teeth in the ground. By the assistance of Medea, the king’s daughter, who was enamoured of him, he overcame the bulls, laid the dragon asleep, and then slew it. The teeth of the dragon were sown in the ground, and an army of men instantly sprang up; but they were destroyed. He took the fleece, and fled by night, carrying with him Medea, whom he afterwards took to wife. Ætes ordered his son Absyrtus to pursue them; but Medea slew him, and scattered his limbs in the way, in order to keep her father employed in gathering them up. Thus Jason and his companions returned home; and Medea is said to have restored by her charms, the old decrepit Æson to the vigour and activity of youth, although some assert that Æson died before their return. In a little time Jason abandoned her for Creusa, daughter to Creon, king of Corinth; but to revenge his perfidy, Medea not only murdered in his sight the two children which she had borne him, but also enclosed fire in a little box, and sent it to Creusa. No sooner had the box been opened, than the fire burst forth, and burnt her to death, together with her family. — See Fig. 73.
Obs. — The Grecian history records no event more celebrated and more replete with fictions than the conquest of the Golden Fleece. Many authors differ in explaining this far-fetched fable. Some believe that, in Colchis, several brooks rolled spangles of gold with their sand. Skins of sheep, adorned with their wool, were stretched in the bottom of those waters, to catch the grains of gold. Ætes made use of this means to increase his riches. Alchymists and gold-makers pretended that this fleece was a book, in which was written the necessary secret of converting all metals into gold.
Chapter V. Castor, Pollux, Clytemnestra, Agamemnon. §
Castor and Pollux were the sons of Leda, wife of Tyndarus, king of Sparta, by Jupiter, who is feigned to have assumed the likeness of a swan, in order to gain her love. Leda produced two eggs, from one of which sprang Pollux and Helena, who inherited their father’s immortality, and from the other, Castor and Clytemnestra, who are said to have been mortal like their mother. Castor and Pollux were often called Tyndaridæ by the poets, as Helena is sometimes called Tyndaris, from Tyndarus. Castor and Pollux both accompanied Jason in his Argonautic expedition. Pollux killed the famous Amycus, who challenged every body to the fight with the cestus, and was, therefore, deemed the patron of the athletes. Castor excelled in running and the art of taming horses. These two heroes recovered their sister Helena from Theseus, who had stolen her, by vanquishing the Athenians who fought for him. Their clemency and humanity to the conquered, procured them the surname of Anaces, or Benefactors. They also rendered themselves formidable at sea, and cleared the Archipelago of the Corsairs who infested it.
Castor was killed by Lynceus, or, according to others, by Idas; upon which Pollux entreated Jupiter to restore him to life. Jupiter allowed them to share immortality by turns. Accordingly they lived and died alternately every other day, or, as some say, every other fortnight, or, according to others, every other six months. When Castor was dead, armed youths instituted to his honour, and performed, a sort of pyrrhick, or dance in armour, called “Castor’s dance.”
When they were made constellations in heaven, they were called Gemini. Sailors deem these stars auspicious to them, because when the Argonauts were tossed about by violent tempests, two lambent flames settled upon the heads of Castor and Pollux, and the storm immediately abated. But when mariners perceived only one flame, called Helena, they accounted it ruinous to them.
Castor and Pollux had a famous temple in the forum at Rome; for it was thought that when the Romans waged a dangerous war with the Latins, they aided the Romans, riding on white horses. They are usually represented in the figure of young men, with a cap surmounted with a star. When women swore only by the temple of Castor, they said, Ecastor; while men, swearing only by Hercules, used the words Hercule, Hercle, Hercules, Mehercules, Mehercule. But when both men and women swore by the temple of Pollux, they said, Ædepol. — See Fig. 74.
Clytemnestra was married to Agamemnon; but when he went to the siege of Troy, she publicly lived with Ægisthus, at whose instigation she killed Agamemnon when he returned. She would have put her son Orestes to death; but his sister Electra delivered him out of her hands, by sending him secretly to his uncle Strophilus, king of Phocis. After an absence of twelve years, he returned to his native home, and slew both Clytemnestra and Ægisthus. He likewise killed Pyrrhus, in Apollo’s temple, because he had taken away Hermione, daughter to Menelaus, who was first engaged to Orestes. For which reason the Furies demanded satisfaction for his crimes, which he was ready to expiate by offering his own blood at the altar of Diana Taurica. Thither he was led by his bosom friend Pylades. So close and sacred was their friendship, that the one would have died for the other.
In the worship of the goddess Diana Taurica, human victims were offered up by the Tauri in Taurica Chersonesus (now called Crimea Tartary.)
Agamemnon, king of the Argives, was, by the unanimous voice of the Greeks, appointed generalissimo on their expedition against Troy. He killed a favourite stag of Diana’s at Aulis, which accident provoked the goddess to such a degree, that she caused a calm, which rendered the Grecian fleet, bound for Troy, immovable. In this calamity they were informed by the soothsayers, that they must appease Diana with the blood of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. Ulysses forthwith brought away Iphigenia from her mother, under pretext of giving her in marriage to Achilles. But such was the clemency of Diana, who was awakened to pity by her situation, that she substituted a goat in her stead; and Iphigenia was made, by king Thoas, priestess to Diana, and had the direction of the sacrifices solemnized with human blood. When Orestes was brought to the altar to be sacrificed, he was recognized and preserved by his sister. After this, Thoas was slain, and the image of Diana was removed, after it had been hidden in a bundle of sticks: and from that circumstance, Diana was called Fascelis, from fascis, a “bundle.”
Obs. 1. — To explain the fable in reference to the birth of those princes and princesses, Castor and Pollux and their sisters, it may be observed, that the rooms of palaces, at that time, had the form of an egg. They were born in Laconia, near Sparta, on the banks of the river Eurotas. A great number of swans were always to be met with on that river: hence the poets introduced a swan into their fable. The beauty of Leda, the whiteness and elegant form of her neck, caused them to compare her to a swan; and these different circumstances, combined and embellished by the poets, produced the fable of Jupiter and Leda.
Obs. 2. — The fable of Castor and Pollux’s living and dying alternately, is founded on their being represented, after their death, by the sign of Gemini; and as one of the two stars of that sign hides itself under the horizon whilst the other appears, their pretended reciprocity in sharing immortality, was easily imagined.
Obs. 3. — The fable of Agamemnon’s offering Iphigenia to Diana appears to be based on the story of Jephthah’s daughter in Scripture.
Chapter VI. Orpheus, Amphion, Arion. §
Orpheus, the son of Apollo by the muse Calliope, was a very ancient poet and musician, and one of the Argonauts.
The poets relate, that he played on the lyre in so masterly a style, as to hold the most rapid rivers in suspense; that his strains melted the savage beasts of the forest into tameness; and even that mountains and woods yielded to the charms of his music. All nature seemed to be gently touched and agitated by the agreeable and sublime dexterities of his masterly hand. So fine and delicate indeed were its touches, that they dissolved the most beautiful nymphs, his constant attendants, into melancholy, or elevated them into raptures of joy — rendered their sorrows charming, or made their rage heroic and delightful. — See Fig. 75.
Orpheus was married to Eurydice; but soon after, she was stung by a serpent, and died of the poisoned wound.
Orpheus so severely felt, and so deeply regretted, the loss of his devoted wife, that he descended with his lyre in his hand into hell, to recover her from Pluto and Proserpine; and so affecting were its strains, that even the passions of the infernals were subdued; the wheel of Ixion ceased to turn round; and the stone of Sisyphus stopped to listen to his song; Tantalus forgot his miseries; and even the compassion of the Furies was awakened. The king and queen of the infernal regions allowed Eurydice to enter again upon the stage of life, on condition that Orpheus would not look at her, until they had both ascended to the tracts of day.
On his way, he stopped to listen, in order to ascertain whether Eurydice was following him or not; but at the same time she stopped also; so that he could not hear her footsteps. He therefore looked round, and she instantly disappeared.
He endeavoured to follow her into hell, but was refused a second admittance. After this, he was wont to sit in grottoes and on mountains, to dispel the pangs of his wounded affection by the varied sounds of his musical instruments. He separated himself as far as possible from human society, but was finally murdered by some women on account of his indifferent and cold behaviour towards them. His bones were afterwards collected by the Muses, and laid in a sepulchre; and his harp was made the constellation Lyra.
Amphion was the son of Jupiter and Antiope, and was an eminent musician. His instructer, Mercury, gave him a lute, at the sound of which the stones were seen to answer each other, to lay themselves in the form of a regular building, and also compose the walls of the city of Thebes.
“Amphion too, as story goes, could callObedient stones to make the Theban wall.He led them as he pleas’d: the rocks obey’d,And danc’d in order to the tunes he play’d.”
Obs. — The meaning of these fables is this: so powerful and persuasive was the eloquence of Orpheus and Amphion, that it dissolved habitual savageness into civilization.
Arion, the son of Cyclops, of Methymna in the island of Lesbos, enjoyed the fame of being a fine, lyric poet and a musician, and gained immense wealth by the exercise of his talents.
While he was sailing from Lesbos into Italy, his companions robbed him of his wealth, and proposed throwing him overboard; but having obtained the consent of the seamen to let him play on his harp, he played so sweetly, that the dolphins flocked round the vessel. Upon this he leaped into the sea, and one of the dolphins took him up, and carried him safe to Tænarus.
As soon as he landed, he hastened to the court of Periander, tyrant of Corinth, before whom he laid his complaints. Periander caused all the mariners, when their ship had returned, to be crucified.
“He on his crouching back sits all at ease,With harp in hand, by which he calms the seas,And for his passage with a song he pays.”
Chapter VII. Troy. §
Dardanus, the son of Jupiter and Electra, was the first king and the founder of Troy. He reigned with his brother in Tuscany, a province in Italy; but having slain his brother, he retired into that part of Phrygia which borders on the Bosphorus, where he built the city of Troy, about seven centuries before the foundation of Rome.
His son Erichthonius succeeded him.
Erichthonius was succeeded by his son Tros, who gave his name to the city of Troy, and the name of Troas to the whole country. Tros had three children. The eldest, Ganymede, was taken away by Jupiter; the second, Assaracus, was father to Capys, and grandfather to Anchises; and the third, Ilius, succeeded his father, and gave the name of Ilion to a citadel which he built at Troy.
Laomedon succeeded his father Ilius. He built the walls of that citadel, in which he was so successful, that the work was attributed to Apollo, the god of the fine arts. Hercules deprived him of his crown.
Priam was his son and successor. His name was a Phrygian word for ransomed because he was ransomed by the Trojans. His original name was Podarces.
Soon after having possessed himself of the city, Priam fortified it with bastions, called Pergamia.
The name of Priam’s wife was Hecuba, who bore him several children, the most renowned of which were Hector and Paris.
In ravaging the country around Troy, Hercules, after having stolen away Hesione, whom he had delivered from the monster to which Ladomedon, her father, had exposed her by order of the oracle, gave her in marriage to Telamon: whereupon Paris equipped a fleet in order to recover his aunt. Paris entered Sparta, the king of which was Menelaus. This prince received him very courteously, and let him occupy his palace during his absence to Crete Paris, profiting by this circumstance, so basely violated the rights of hospitality as to carry off Helen, wife to Menelaus, who was reputed to be the most beautiful woman of the age. The whole of the Grecian states took up arms, to resent the injury which Paris had inflicted on Menelaus, in return for his hospitality.
This war was carried on to the destruction of both parties; but the Grecians, after a siege of ten years, reduced the Trojan capital to ashes. The number of those who survived the war, was very small.
Agamemnon, king of Mycene, eldest brother of Menelaus, Achilles, the Ajaxes, Nestor, Idomoneus, Ulysses, Diomedes, Philoctetes, Patroclus, and afterwards Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, were Grecian chiefs engaged in this war.
Hector, Paris, Deiphobus, Helenus, Æneas, Memnon, Sarpedon, Rhesus, and Penthesilea, queen of the Amazons, were the principal Trojans opposed to the Greeks.
Achilles among the Greeks, and Hector of the Trojans, fought most valiantly.
Jupiter alone devoted it to fate. Venus, Mars, and Apollo, protected the Trojans; and Juno, Minerva, Neptune, and Vulcan, defended the Greeks.
The Greeks, being tired of so long a siege, pretended to retreat without farther molestation; and, as if they had wished to repair the injury done to Minerva by the profanation of the Palladium, they made a wooden horse, in which they shut up armed soldiers. No sooner had they entered the island Teneos, than the Trojans, seeing this immense colossus, deliberated whether they would admit it into their city. Laocoon was violently opposed to it; but Sinon, suborned by Ulysses, having met with them, said that it was the vow of the Greeks to appease Minerva, and they had constructed it of so enormous a size as to prevent the Trojans from introducing it into their city. While the Trojans, who had rejoiced at the retreat of their enemies, were buried in sleep, a part of their walls was pulled down. Sinon opened the horse’s flanks, and fifty warriors, who had been concealed in it, appeared with Ulysses at their head. The signal being given to the Greeks in ambush without the city, they immediately came in.
Agamemnon was no sooner arrived, than he was assassinated; Menelaus returned to Sparta with Helen; Idomoneus, Philoctetes, and Nestor, regained their homes; but Ulysses wandered about for ten years before he returned to Ithaca.
Chapter VIII. Æneas. §
Æneas was the son of Anchises by Venus, and almost the only Trojan prince of any note who escaped the destruction of Troy. He distinguished himself greatly during the siege, and wrestled hard with Diomedes and Achilles; and being preserved by his immortal mother, he escaped unhurt.
No sooner had the Grecians set the city on fire, than Æneas took his aged father Anchises on his shoulder, with his son Ascanius clinging to his garments, and saved them both from the flames at the hazard of his life.
He wandered about from one place to another for years, and after struggling through many difficulties, finally arrived in Italy, where he was hospitably received by Latinus, king of the Latins.
On the death of Latinus, Æneas ascended the throne, and with his son Ascanius, laid the foundation of a new empire. It is from Æneas that the Romans pretended to have been descended.
acquaints us with the life of Æneas. His Æneid comprises the history of Æneas, interspersed with much fabulous matter; among which is a beautiful description of his descent into the infernal regions, after his father’s death, to learn from him the fate of himself and of his descendants.
He was slain in battle with the Etrusians; and his body was translated to heaven by Venus, in spite of Juno, who was his declared enemy, because he was a Trojan.
Chapter IX. Achilles, Ulysses, Penelope. §
Achilles was the son of Peleus, king of Thessaly, by Thetis, the goddess of the sea. His mother dipped him in the river Styx, and thereby rendered every part of his body invulnerable, except the heel by which she held him. It is said that his mother concealed him in the night under a fire, after she had anointed him in the day-time with ambrosia. He was at first called Pyrisous, because he escaped safely from the fire; and afterwards, Achilles, because he had but one lip, with the other burnt off in the act of licking the ambrosia. Others again held that he was placed under the care of the Centaur Chiron, and nourished with the entrails of lions, and the marrow of bears, which nourishment rendered him vigorous and active. Those who greatly excelled in strength were called Achilles; and an argument, when it is irrefragible, is called Achilleum.
Thetis had learned from an oracle, that Achilles was to be killed in the Trojan war. In order, therefore, to protect him, he was secretly placed under the care of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, in the disguise of a female; but Ulysses, having assumed the habit of a merchant, took with him thither some goods, which he offered for sale. The young princesses turned their attention to the bracelets, the glasses, the necklaces, and the like; but Achilles handled the targets, fitted the helmets to his head, brandished the swords, and placed them to his side. By this expedient, Ulysses discovered his sex, and urged him to go to the war. By Thetis’ persuasion, Vulcan made him impenetrable armour. He killed Hector, the son of Priam, at Troy, and was at last killed himself by Paris, with a stratagem of Polyxena.
Polyxena was sister to Paris, and was a most beautiful and accomplished virgin. Achilles accidentally fell in love with her, and offered her his hand. Priam consented. They entered the temple of Apollo to have their nuptial rites celebrated. Paris, brother to Hector, lurked behind the statue of Apollo, and wounded him in the heel with an arrow, in consequence of which he died. When Troy was taken, the ghost of Achilles insisted on having the murder expiated, which the Greeks, under the direction of his son Neoptolemus, accordingly executed by shedding the blood of Polyxena.
Ulysses, the son of Laertes and Anticlea, was king of Athaca. His wife was Penelope, a lady highly celebrated for her prudence and virtue. Not to part with her, he feigned insanity, in hopes of being exempted from military duty, and busied himself with his plough. But this pretence was detected by Palamedes, who laid his infant son Telemachus before the plough, to see whether he would wound him or not. As he turned the plough not to hurt him, Palamedes thereby proved his sanity, and compelled him to go to the war.
Ulysses forced Achilles from his retreat, and received the arrows of Hercules from Philoctetes, with which he succeeded against Troy. He removed the ashes of Laomedon, which had been preserved upon the gate Scæa in Troy. He carried away the Palladium of the city; slew Rhœsus, king of Thrace, and took away his horses before they had drank of the river Xanthus, on which depended the destiny of Troy. He disputed with Ajax the son of Telamon, one of the bravest Greeks, in the presence of judges, for the arms of Achilles. The judges were so captivated by the eloquence of Ulysses, that they gave judgment in his favour; upon which Ajax was so frantic with rage, and chagrined at the disappointment, that he stabbed himself, and his blood was changed into the flower hyacinth.
After the war was over, Ulysses intended immediately to return home; but he was shipwrecked, and driven about the Mediterranean, from one island to another during ten years before he reached his’ kingdom. He struck out the eye of Polyphemus with a firebrand; and sailing to Æolia, he obtained from Æolus, all the winds, that had proved adverse to his voyage, and wrapped them up in a leather bag. His companions, fancying that the bag contained his treasure, laid a scheme to rob him. Accordingly, just as they came in sight of the desired port, they opened the bag. The winds rushed out, and drove them back to Æolia again, and occasioned additional delay in their returning home. Circe transformed his companions into swine; upon which Ulysses fortified himself against her charms with an herb, called moly, which Mercury had given him. He then ran into her cave with his sword drawn, in order to demand the restoration of his companions to their original shapes. After this he reconciled himself to Circe, and had by her one son, Telegonus, or, according to, two sons, Agrius and Latinus. He went down into the infernal regions to consult the prophet Tiresias concerning his future fortune. The Sirens attempted to stop him; but in order that he might not be allured by their charming voices, he closed his ears, and tied himself to the mast. By this expedient, he escaped the fatal snares into which, by their melody, they drew men. He was civilly entertained by Calypso. Afterward, he suffered shipwreck, and saved his life by swimming. He went naked and solitary to the port of Phæacia, and was found among the young trees by Nausica, the daughter of king Alcinous, who received him kindly. He sailed asleep to Ithaca, where Minerva awaked him, and advised him to dress himself in a beggar’s ragged clothes. He discovered himself to his son Telemachus, and to his faithful shepherd Eumœus; and by their assistance, rushed upon the suitors of Penelope, and slew them all, after they had treated him in the most insolent manner. After this, he became reconciled to Penelope, and ruled in peace fifteen years, at the end of which he was slain by Telegonus.
Penelope, the daughter of Icarus, is held up as a perfect pattern of virtue and chastity. Notwithstanding it was generally believed, during the long absence of Ulysses, that he was dead, notwithstanding she had not heard from him for twenty years, yet her fondness for him continued unabated, and her restless anxiety for his safety and return, deeply impressed her countenance with the marks of care and melancholy. Neither the request of her parents, nor the smiles and frowns of her lovers, could induce her to marry another man, and violate the vows of fidelity which she gave to Ulysses when he departed. She was besieged by a numerous and powerful train of wooers; but she delivered herself from them by artifice. To pacify them, she promised to make choice of one of them, as soon as a piece of needlework about which she was busied, should be finished; but she took care to unweave, in the night, what she had woven in the daytime. Hence the proverb, “to weave Penelope’s web,” is applied to a vain and endless piece of labour.
Chapter X. Orion, Atlas, Hesperus. §
Jupiter, Neptune, and Mercury, making the tour of the earth, lodged at the house of Ænopeus, or Hyrieus. In order to receive them with distinguished hospitality, this man killed the only ox he had. The gods, admiring his goodness of heart and his generosity, proposed to him to ask for any privilege he might choose. He demanded to have a son without a wife. His request was granted. The three gods caused Orion to spring from the skin of that very ox, which skin they had formed with earth diluted with water. Orion became a mighty hunter. He waited constantly upon Diana; but by doing some things repugnant to the rules of modesty, and by indulging in the habit of boasting, he provoked Diana. She therefore sent a scorpion, which killed him. He was placed in the heavens as a constellation, which constellation is supposed to predict fair weather when it appears, and foul when it disappears; and from that circumstance, Orion is called, by the poets, tempestuous or stormyOrion.
Atlas, the son of Japetus and Clymene, was king of Mauritania (now called Morocco in Africa.) When Perseus was treated inhospitably by him, he showed Atlas the head of Medusa, and changed him into the mountain which bears his name.
By his wife Pleione, he had seven daughters, whose names were Alcyone, Merope, Maia, Electra, Taygete, Asterope, and Celeno; all of whom were called by one common name Pleiades, sometimes Virgiliæ, and sometimes Atlantides. By his wife Æthras, he had seven more daughters, whose names were Ambrosia, Euloria, Pasithæ, Coronis, Plexaris, Pytho, and Tyche, and who were, in like manner, called Hyades, or Suculæ. The Pleiades were placed in the heavens as constellations, because they immoderately bewailed the hard fate of their father Atlas. So were the Hyades, because they incessantly lamented the death of their brother Hyas.
Hesperus was brother to Atlas. He settled in Italy, which country was called Hesperia from him. He was accustomed to sit on the top of Mount Atlas, attentively regarding the face of heaven. As the people saw him no more, they conceived that he was translated into heaven: whence, upon their observing a bright star, setting after the sun, they called it Hesperus, Hesper, Hesperugo, Vesper, Vesperugo, or the Evening Star. When appearing before sunrise, they called it Phosphorus, Lucifer, or the Morning Star.
Hesperus had three daughters, Egle, Prethusa, and Hesperethusa, who were called the Hesperides. These were appointed to guard the golden apples, which Juno is reported to have given to Jupiter on the day of their nuptials. The place of their residence, as fixed by, is generally considered to be at the pillars of Hercules, or the straits of Gibraltar. Hence, to express proverbially the idea of making a splendid and valuable gift, we call it, “giving some of the apples of the Hesperides.”
Obs. 1. — Atlas was a great observer of the stars, and the first who represented the world by a sphere; which gave rise to the fable in which he is said to have sustained the heavens on his shoulders. He instructed Hercules in astronomy; and that hero acquired the highest fame by introducing that science into Greece. In order to take some respite from his toils, Atlas is reported to have requested Hercules to load himself with the burden of the world. Mount Atlas is so lofty, that it seems to touch heaven: its top is lost in the clouds; and the poets, confounding that mountain with the prince whose name it bears, painted him as the pillar of the world. They also held that Perseus had metamorphosed him into a rock.
Obs. 2. — The Hyades were merely poetic personages, representing stars discovered by Atlas. The Greek word hyade signifies rainy.
Obs. 3. — The golden apples of Juno, some fancy to have been merely oranges, a fruit very rare in ancient times, and carefully guarded by dogs.
Chapter XI. Egyptian Mythology. §
, in relating the tradition of the Egyptians respecting the formation of the universe, says:
“In the beginning the heaven and the earth had but one form, being mingled together by their nature; but afterwards having been separated, the world began to take its present form. By the motion of the air, the particles of fire rose, and gave to the sun, moon, and stars, their circular motion. Solid matter fell down, and formed the earth and the sea, whence sprang animals and fishes; almost in the same manner that the multitude of insects and of other animals in Egypt are still seen to issue from the earth, tempered by the waters of the Nile.”
The Egyptian Mythology had two senses, one sacred and sublime, the other sensible and palpable. The priests placed the. Sphinxes at the entrance on their temples, thereby to show that their theology contained secrets of wisdom under enigmatical words. For instance; the inscription on the statues of Isis, was in these mystic words:
“I am all that has been, all that shall be, and no mortal has ever taken off my veil.” Their theology had, therefore, two significations, one holy and symbolical, the other vulgar and literal. The figures of animals represented in temples, and which they seemed to worship, were nothing but hieroglyphics, intended to represent divine attributes. In studying their sacred language, the hieroglyphics of which were emblems, one sees that they generally believed an inanimate and confused nature could not be the origin of all things. They believed that there was a supreme intelligence that had created the world; and that there was also in man an intelligence superior to the body, and which was called the soul. But this great and sublime idea was admitted and preserved by the priests, who were more enlightened than the multitude: and, as they highly appreciated an opinion which elevated them so far above other men, they enveloped it with impenetrable mysteries. Even the priests themselves were not admitted to a knowledge of those mysteries, until they had passed through the most terrible trials. These trials were called initiations.
As the objects and forms of worship among the Egyptians, were confided to the priests alone, their rites were characterized by blindness, ignorance, bigotry, and superstition. In these absurdities and mummeries they surpassed all other nations. The Scriptures represent Egypt as the sink and centre of idolatry. In different parts of it, magic, divination, augury, and the interpretation of dreams, prevailed — the unfortunate fruits of a superstitious worship.
The stories which history affords in relation to the Egyptian mythology, are meagre. They paid adoration to animals, birds, insects, and vegetables, such as garlics, leeks, and onions. Juvenal intimates that their religious exercises were not held in estimation by the Romans; but history makes mention of their principal deities. They adopted eight great gods: the Sun, Saturn, Rhea, Jupiter, Vulcan, Vesta, and Mercury or Hermes. Chronos or Saturn, having married Rhea, became the father of Osiris and Isis, or, according to some, of Jupiter and Juno. According to others, Jupiter was the father of five other deities: Osiris, Isis, Typhon, Apollo, and Aphrodite or Venus. The ancients varied in their opinions respecting Osiris; and the Greeks have blended the attributes of others with his. They bestowed on him the divine honours with which Jupiter, Bacchus, Serapis, Pluto, Pan, Anubis, and so on, were loaded. So Isis was the Phrygian Cybele, the Eleusinian Ceres, the Athenian Pallas, the Cypriot Venus, the Cretan Diana, the Sicilian Proserpine, the Roman Bellona, and the like. Thus one nature was comprehended in Osiris and Isis.
The Egyptians called the Sun, Osiris, and the Moon, Isis. With them Osiris signified full of eyes, very clear sighted; Isis signified the antique, because they thought the moon eternal.
Osiris is represented with a mitre and two horns on his head; in his right hand he held a whip, with three thongs, and a staff in the left. Sometimes he has the head of a hawk, whose quick and piercing eye denotes the sun. Other emblems were, a sceptre and an eye, expressive of power and providence; and in the course of ages, he assumed a herculean figure; but his ordinary figure was a living bull.
Obs. — Osiris appears to have been the Moses of the Jews, and the Bacchus of the Greeks. In the character of king, he is said to have civilized his subjects who, through his persuasion, observed good laws and morals; and after having effected a reform among his own subjects, to have travelled and spread civilization in other regions; to have entrusted his throne to the care of his wife Isis, and Hermes, her minister; and to have run over Asia and Europe, every where introducing the worship of the gods and a respect for the Supreme Being.
thus relates the story: his brother Typhon raised a rebellion in his absence, which he tried to quell by conciliatory means; but Typhon prevailed over him, and cut his body in pieces. Isis, with her son Horus, defeated the conspirators, and avenged her husband’s death. Having recovered the mangled pieces, Isis made an equal number of statues in wax, each containing a piece of flesh, and gave one to every priest of all the different deities, requesting him to establish modes of worship to the prince. Every sacerdotal body was furnished with land to defray the expenses of their rites. The ox was chosen to represent him.
Isis, as the moon, was represented with a globe in one hand, and a vessel full of ears of corn in the other; sometimes, as a woman, with a cow’s horns on her head, a cymbal in her right hand, and a pitcher in her left. The cow was her common emblem. One part of the Egyptian creed was, that the inundations of the Nile were occasioned by the tears which Isis shed for the loss of Osiris. Her worship was generally attended to in Egypt. Her priests, called Isiaic, were closely shaved, walked barefoot, wore linen garments, and vowed perpetual chastity. They never ate the flesh of sheep or hogs, and abstained from salt and onions. They spent the night in devotion, near the statue of the goddess.
The Egyptians supposed the soul of Osiris to transmigrate into an ox; which animal, therefore, became an object of worship under the appellation of Apis. The ox into which it entered, was distinguished by the following marks: his body was black, with a square, white, shining figure on the forehead, the effigy of an eagle on the back, a knot under the figure like a beetle, the hairs of his tail double, and his right side marked with a white shining spot, resembling the crescent of the moon. Were it not for these marks, no ox could be used as Apis. The festival of this god lasted seven days; the ox was led in procession by the priests, and all were anxious to receive him, as the children, who smelt his breath, would obtain the gift of prophecy. He was ceremoniously conducted to the Nile; and if he had lived the time allowed, they drowned him, embalmed his body, and buried it with great pomp in the city of Memphis. His death, which was sometimes natural, produced universal bewailing, as if Osiris was just dead; and the priests shaved their heads in token of deep mourning. This continued till another ox was discovered, with the proper characteristics, which was hailed with deafening acclamations, as if Osiris was restored to life. The ox found to represent Apis, was left forty days in Nilapolis, or the city of the Nile, previous to his entering Memphis, during which time none but women could appear before him. This ceremony they performed with wanton and indecent rites.
There was also an ox worshipped at Heliopolis; but this is said to have been sacred to Iris.
Apis had generally two temples or stables. If he ate from the hand, it was deemed a favorable omen; if he refused the offered food, it was unfavorable. From this latter sign, Germanicus, when in Egypt, drew the omen of his approaching death.
When his oracle was consulted, incense was burnt on an altar, and a piece of money placed on it; after which the inquirers applied their ears to the mouth of the god, and then withdrew, closing their ears, till they had left the temple. The first sounds that were heard, sent forth the desired answer.
While the people were celebrating this festival with extravagant marks of joy, Cambyses, on his visit to Egypt, ordered the priests and their god to appear before him. When he saw an ox held in great veneration by them, he wounded it in the thigh, chastised the priests, and commanded his soldiers to slaughter all that were seen to celebrate such riotous feasts.
Obs. — The ox or cow, under the figure of which Osiris or Iris was worshiped, is supposed emblematically to signify agriculture.
Typhon, the author of evil and anarchy, was perpetually at war with Osiris. He was depicted with a terrible bulk, with several heads and wings, and with his thighs resembling the volumes of two enormous serpents. This tremendous monster was born of the evaporation of the earth. Osiris shut up in the primitive egg from which the world was drawn, twelve white pyramidal figures, to show the infinite blessings with which he would load mankind; but Typhon, having opened the egg, put into it twelve black pyramidal figures, the source of the evils spread over the earth. He enclosed Osiris in an ark, and drove Horus into Chemnis, a floating island; to avoid his fury, all the other deities changed themselves into different animals, which were afterwards deemed sacred. At length, he was struck with thunder, and buried under Mount Ætna.
Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, was also an emblem of the sun. He was a particular object of veneration among the people, and three cities in the Thebais, were named after him. He was represented as the star of day and the regulator of time. When his father was vanquished by a usurper, Horus, in conjunction with Isis, revenged his death, and reigned gloriously over all Egypt. The Titans having slain him, Isis, who possessed the rarest secrets of nature, restored him to life, and rendered him immortal.
Obs. 1. — The fable of Typhon, which the Egyptians, and also the Greeks, embellished with attributes, was an allegory to represent a cruel tyrant who had long caused the misfortune of Egypt. The Egyptians, painted him in the form of a terrific monster, which was produced from the pestilential vapours of the Nile. This river, in overflowing the portion of Egypt which now forms the Delta, at first seemed to be an immense marsh, and its vapours long rendered it uninhabitable; but when time and culture had changed that vast tract into the most fertile plain in the world, the Egyptians consecrated the remembrance of its primitive state in the fable of their Typhon.
Obs. 2. — We may consider the story of Horus as an allegory representing the Khamsin wind, occurring in Egypt in the spring, and raising whirlwinds of burning sands, which suffocate travellers, and obscure the face of the sun. These circumstances are descriptive of the death of Osiris. In approaching Leo, the sun chases away the malignant vapours to preserve coolness and salubrity under a burning sky. This denotes the victory of Horus and his illustrious reign.
Serapis was not originally an Egyptian divinity; but was brought to Alexandria from Sinope, by Ptolemy Lagus. His image was then erected in a temple, called the Serapeum. It is reported to have exceeded in magnificence, all the other temples of that age, except the capitol at Rome.
Serapis appeared in human shape, bearing on his head a basket of plenty, with his right hand leaning on the head of a serpent, whose body was coiled round a figure with the heads of a lion and a wolf, and holding in the left hand, a cubit measure, wherewith to sound the depth of the Nile.
His temple at Alexandria was destroyed long afterwards, by order of the emperor Theodosius; the statue was broken to pieces, and its limbs borne in triumph through the city, and then cast into a fire, kindled in the amphitheatre.
Before Serapis was introduced, the Egyptians worshipped their gods with prayers and frankincense only. By the example of Ptolemy, Serapis became the tutelar god of Egypt in general, and the patron of its principal cities. Animal sacrifices were offered to him.
Harpocrates, a son of Iris, was the god of silence and meditation. He was painted in the figure of a naked boy crowned with a mitre. In his left hand he held a cornucopia. With a finger of his right hand he touched his lip, in order to enjoin silence. The Romans placed his statue at the entrance of their temples, to denote that the mysteries of religion must not be revealed to the vulgar.
The first-fruits of lentils and pulse were his offerings. The tree called Persea, whose leaves were like a tongue, and whose fruit like a heart, was sacred to him.
Anubis, the companion of Osiris and Isis, appears as a man with a dog’s head, holding in one hand a caduceus, and in the other, a branch of palm. He is commonly called Barker; also Hermanubis. He had temples and priests, and his image was found in all processions.
Obs. — Considered emblematically, Anubis represents the dog-star, giving warning of the approaching inundation of the Nile, as a dog rouses to vigilance by his barking. In a later stage of the Egyptian history, when the shepherd kings had totally changed the customs, manners, and taste of the Egyptians, and introduced among them the grossest superstition, the second Hermes, surnamed Trismegistus, arose. He restored the ancient religion and the laws of the first Hermes, already noticed, and collected them into volumes, which were called “the treasure of remedies for the soul.”
Chapter XII. Persian Mythology. §
The Persian religion was purer and more rational than that of some other nations. It inculcated a belief in one Supreme God, respect for parents and the aged, kindness to the rational and even the brute creation, and the careful preservation of the sacred fire, kindled by concentrated sunbeams. Fire was an all-vivifying principle, and the liveliest image of the Omnipresent Deity. Their priests were called Magi; their rites at first were solemnized in a plain and simple manner. But these tenets of their primitive religion sunk into Sabism, or the adoration of the heavenly bodies. The complicated system of polytheism, that constituted the popular religion in other countries, was rejected. The Persians gave to the good principle the name of Oromasdes; and to the bad, the name of Ahriman. Their country was conquered by Musselmen, who, by violent means, established Islamism, or Mahometanism, which is now the prevailing religion, though numbers still preserve their ancient faith, and are denominated Parsees, or Guebres.
Mahabad, a messenger from heaven, received from the Creator a sacred book, written in a celestial language. Fourteen Mahabads had either appeared, or were to appear, in a human form, to have the direction of mundane affairs. A parallel reformation had been accomplished by Camugers, great-grand-son of Noah.
The Zenda Avesta is a book still extant, professing to contain the Persian mythology, as explained by(reported to be the same with , who travelled into India in search of braminical knowledge.) It divides into six intervals the period of the work of creation. In the sixth, man alone was created, consisting of two distinct persons, the man and the man-bull. These were so connected as to form one being; the man was the pure and holy soul of the man-bull.
The man-bull was placed in an elevated place, where he enjoyed perfect happiness for some time. At last, an evil being, called Ahriman, or Arimanius, having ventured to visit heaven, appeared on earth in the shape of a serpent, and introduced other evil spirits which he had seduced from their obedience. The man-bull died of his venom. But a being named Gosohoraun, who instantly sprang up from his left arm, drew near the creator, raising a cry louder than the shout of a thousand armies, in order to supplicate a deliverer from the power of Ahriman and the prevalence of evil.
Ahriman raised a universal opposition to the will of the supreme god, until a second man, to whom was entrusted the duty of producing a universal deluge, made his appearance. He is taken for a star or a sun. A conflict now ensued between the author of good and the author of evil, in which the latter was overcome.
The name of the second man-bull was Tasehter. He had three bodies, of a man, a horse, and a bull; from each of which he poured down rain, in drops as large as the head of an ox. The earth was overflown with the water, and the evil Genii were destroyed. The supreme god drove the waters away from the earth at one blast.
The author of abundance was another bull, from whom a second race of men proceeded. The moon is celebrated as the common mother, from whom all animals sprang when the world was renewed.
Ormuzd, Oromazes, or Oromasdes, was the author of good. He generated the good spirits and the Genii, residing in the stars. They were enclosed in an egg, which Ahriman broke. Thence followed confusion and evil; and an incessant struggle is to be carried on between the two authors, till the latter shall be destroyed.
Oromasdes resides in the pure fire, which fills all space, and by which spirits and bodies are rendered visible. He is the first principle of all things; and pervades all, and manifests his most brilliant presence in the subtle ether.
The Persians did not form images of him; for they deemed it impious to do so, but venerated fire as his sacred emblem and the sun as his image. His worship was celebrated with bloodless and simple ceremonies.
Mithras personified the sun. He was the first production of Oromasdes, and was the mediator between him and Ahriman. He was seated next the throne of Oromasdes, surrounded by a host of Genii of different orders and ranks, who presided over the division of time, the succession of the seasons, and the various operations of the natural world. His symbols were the man-bull, the serpent, a globe, and wings united. Certain mysterious rites, called by his name, were observed in deep caverns, or artificial grottoes in the mountains. These caves were symbols of the ark of safety. They mingled traditions with respect to the deluge and the ark of safety with certain astronomical opinions. This worship was introduced at Rome.
Arimanius, or Ahriman, the author of evil, was king of the lynges, the highest rank of Genii. Aspiring to equal Mithras, he persuaded all the spirits of his order to aid him in breaking down the celestial harmony, Oromasdes withdrew his rays; and the sphere of Ahriman in an instant became a chaos, wherein existed confusion, hatred, violence, and anarchy. The sun and planets proceeded from this chaos. The seven Genii, the ministers and companions of Ahriman, with their subaltern spirits, were distributed into the different planets. Mithras unceasingly labours to reclaim, purify, and qualify them for their primitive felicity.
————— Robed in purest whiteThe magi rang’d before the unfolded tent.Fire blaz’d beside them. Towards the sacred flameThey turn’d and sent their tuneful praise to heav’n.Fromwas the song derived,Who, on the hills of Persia, from his cave,By flowers environ’d, and melodious founts,Which sooth’d the solemn mansion, had revealed,How Oromazes, radiant source of good,Original, immortal, fram’d the globeIn fruitfulness and beauty.
How with stars,By him the heavens were spangled; how the sunRefulgent Mithras, purest spring of light,And genial warmth, and teeming nature’s smiles,Burst from the east, at his creating voice;When straight beyond the golden verge of day,Night show’d the horrors of her distant reign,Where black, and hateful, Arimanius frown’d.The author foul of evil; how, with shades,From his dire mansions, he deform’d the worksOf Oromazes; turn’d to noxious heat,The solar beam, that foodfull earth might parch,That streams exhaling might forsake their beds,Whence, pestilence and famine.
How the pow’rOf Oromazes in the human breastBenevolence and equity infus’d,Truth, temperance, and wisdom sprung from heaven;When Arimanius blacken’d all the soulWith falsehood and injustice, with desiresInsatiable; with violence and rage,Malignity and folly. If the handOf Oromazes, on precarious lifeShed wealth and pleasure, swift the infernal god,With wild excess, or avarice, blasts the joy.But yet at last, shall Arimanius fallBefore his might, and evil be no more.’s Leonidas.
Chapter XIII. Hindoo Mythology. §
The Hindoo mythology is of high antiquity, and is a strange mixture of sublime truths and wild fictions. It resembles the mythology of the ancient Egyptians, Persians, and Scythians. It divides the world into ten parts, each of which is committed to the care of guardian spirits, and is contained in their sacred books, called Vedas, which means to know. These books are written in Sanscrit, the sacred language, and considered by the Hindoos as true revealed knowledge.
The Hindoos acknowledge one supreme, uncreated deity, whose essence is above the comprehension of mortals. When he is considered as the creating power, he is called Brahma; as the preserving or consummating power, Vishnu; as the decomposing power, Iswara; as the moving power, Narayda; as the destroying or changing power, Seeva or Mahadeo.
That manifold divinity, armed with almighty power, and pursuing the rebellious and malignant spirits, called Dewtahs, headed by Mahasoor their prince, throws at them the fiery bolts of vengeance, called Agnyastra.
The Hindoos believe that water was the primitive element in which the universe was immersed and that all was darkness, until it was brought to its present form and order by the self-existent, invisible God, who had dispelled the gloom by displaying the five elements and other glorious forms. He produced the water by an emanation of his glory, and endued it with a power of motion. This motion generated a golden egg, blazing like a thousand suns, from which sprang Brahma, the parent of rational beings. After having remained in the egg for a long time, he divided it into two equal parts, from which he made heaven and earth by breathing into it the breath of the subtle ether.
Casayopa and his consort Aditi were the parents of the inferior deities.
Ganesa or Pollear, the god of wisdom, was son to Seeva. He was depicted with an elephant’s head, the symbol of sagacious discernment, and attended by a rat, which the Indians look upon as a wise and provident animal. All religious ceremonies, sacrifices, serious writings, and worldly affairs of moment, are begun by pious Hindoos with an invocation to Ganesa. His image is set up in their streets and roads, and against their temples and houses. They daily sprinkle it with oil, and adorn it with flowers.
Menu was a lawgiver: Fourteen personages of this name are said to have existed successively. The history of the third is very analogous to that of Noah.
Lachamee, the goddess of abundance, was the wife of Vishnu. She patronized agricultural labours. She is represented with a twisted cord under her arm like Ceres’ cornucopia.
Indra, the king of heaven, reigns over good spirits. His consort is called Sachi; his celestial city, Amaravati; his palace, Vaijayanta; his garden, Nandana; his chief elephant, Airavat; his charioteer, Matali; and his weapon, Vajara, or the thunder-bolt. He was the master of the thunder, winds, showers, and the like. His residence is Meru or the North Pole, allegorically represented as a mountain of gold and gems.
Seshanaya, the king of serpents, reigns over the infernal regions, called Patala. He is represented with a gorgeous and brilliant appearance, with a thousand heads, on each of which is a crown set with resplendent gems, with a glittering jewel to each ear, with a black neck, tongue and body, with yellow skirts to his robe, and with his extended arms, adorned with rich bracelets. His eyes gleam like torches. He holds the holy shell, the radiated weapon, the war-mace, and the lotos.
Yamen or Yama, a son of the sun, is the god of death, king of justice, and judge of departed souls. He is painted in the double figure of the Greek Furies. He is inexorably severe to incorrigibly guilty souls, but he is gracious and relenting to the truly penitent. When a soul is separated from its body, it is conveyed to the city of Yama, called Yamapur, where it receives a just sentence from him. Thence it is to go up to the first heaven, called Swerga, or to go down to the region of the serpents, called Narse, or to assume on earth the shape of some animal, unless it commits such crimes as deserve a vegetable or mineral prison.
“Two forms inseparable in unity,Hath Yamen, even as with hope or fear,The soul regardeth him, doth he appear.They who, polluted with offences, come,Behold him as the kingOf terrors, black of aspect, red of eye,Reflecting back upon the sinful mind,Its own inborn deformity.But to the righteous spirit, how benignHis awful countenance!Where tempering justice with parental love,Goodness, and heavenly grace,And sweetest mercy shine. Yet is he stillHimself the same, one form, one face, one will,And these his twofold aspect are but one,And changed is noneIn him; for change in Yamen could not be;The immutable is he.”
Parvati, the consort of Seeva, has immoral and indecent rites and emblems consecrated 4o her.
Carticeya, the son of Parvati, is the leader of the celestial armies. He is described as riding upon a peacock, with a robe bespangled with eyes, having six heads, and numerous hands which grasp sabres and other weapons of war.
Seraswatti, the wife of Brahma, patronizes the arts and sciences. She is represented as holding in her hands the palmira leaf, and the reed for writing. She is called Durga, because she is considered the severe, the awful, the majestic divinity of heroic virtue, and the vanquisher of demons and giants.
Cama, the beautiful god of love, is depicted with a bow of cane, and shafts inwreathed with flowers.
Suradevi is the goddess of wine. When, after the deluge, the ocean was disturbed by the gods with the mountain Mandar, she arose from it, and threw up all that it had swallowed.
Varuna is the genius of the waters.
Agni is the genius of fire.
Agnastra is the forger of the celestial arrows.
Pavan is the king of the winds.
Mariatale is the favouring goddess of the Parias, a low and miserably despised class of the Hindoos.
The Hindoos adore the sun under the name of Surya. Surya is represented as riding in a chariot, drawn by seven green horses, guided by his charioteer Arun, or the dawn. Among the temples erected in honour of the sun, was one, the walls of which
“were of red marble, interspersed with streaks of gold. On the pavement was an image of the radiant Divinity, hardly inferior in splendour to the sun himself, his rays being imitated by a boundless profusion of rubies, and diamonds of inestimable value.” But another temple of the sun at Juggernaut is the most celebrated. It is described as a magnificent, vast, and circular edifice, from the middle of which, in an oriental aspect, the immense image of a bull, a symbol of Seeva, is protuded, being enclosed with a high wall, having three entrances. Two figures of elephants are placed upon the eastern gate, each with a man on his trunk; and two figures of horsemen upon the western, in complete armour, and who, having slain two elephants, sit upon them. In front of this gate stands an octagonal pillar of stone, fifty cubits high; with nine flights of steps, leading to an extensive inclosure, in which is a large dome, built with stone, and having round it a border on which appear various human figures, representing different passions, some kneeling, and others prostrate, together with a variety of strange, imaginary creatures. The horrible idol is paraded in a lofty car, which exhibits indecent figures; and deluded pilgrims prostrate themselves before it, and are crushed beneath the wheels. This temple is the abode of the chief Indian Bramin.
When the Bramins first assume the Zennar, or sacred cord of three threads, the mystic emblem of their faith, they learn the Gayterre, or invocation of praise to the sun. They have absolute dominion over the Indians. They abstain from fermented liquors and animal food, because they have great faith in metempsychosis. The Sanscrit language in which their sacred books are written is known only to the priests and the learned.
The Hindoos consider the moon as a male deity on which they confer the appellation of Chandra, and which is represented as being seated in a splendid chariot, drawn by two antelopes, and holding in his right hand a rabbit. Fountains are sacred to this deity.
The Hindoos fancy that Vishnu assumes different forms at different times, and is called by various names. The different characters of Vishnu are called the manifestations of Vishnu. When a god appears in human shape, he is said to be incarnate.
The Rama of the Hindoos, an incarnate deity, distinguished himself greatly by delivering his wife Sita from the giant Ravan, king of Lanca.
Chrishna, a manifestation of Vishnu, is considered by the Hindoos as the god of shepherds. Their sacred writings exhibit the wildest and strangest representations of his nature and actions. He appears with a rich and brilliant garment of wild flowers, with his ankles adorned with strings of pearls, and a dark blue complexion, a large bee of that colour being often depicted settling over his head. As to his character and attributes, he is like Apollo.
The name of Avatars is sometimes given to Rama, Chrishna, and Budha, another benificent deity. It was their business to abolish human sacrifices, and to introduce the innocent oblation of fruits, flowers and incense.
The Avatars are distinguished by splendid coronets of gems, by sparkling jewels in their ears, by resplendent necklaces, by beautiful garlands of flowers beneath their waists, by mantles loose, of golden tissue, or coloured silk, and adorned with embroidered gems, and by the sacred shell, elliptical rings, and maces, or battle-axes.
The religion of the Hindoos is full of superstition. They worship the ox, the cow, large apes, and other animals. They believe that Vishnu, having already been nine times incarnate in various shapes, will once more assume the form of a horse in order to destroy every thing on earth. The river Ganges is sacred; and they practise ablution in its waters. They celebrate the worship with ridiculous, cruel, and disgraceful ceremonies. They deem it meritorious to inflict upon themselves severe penances, such as wearing an iron collar set with spikes about their necks, dragging along a heavy weight, remaining long in the most painful positions of body, drowning themselves in the Ganges, or exposing themselves to be devoured by alligators and other beasts. The Fakirs are the most disgusting of these wretched fanatics. They hang themselves upon spikes, until having been religiously fed, they expire. In ancient times, victims both bestial and human, were usually sacrificed by the Hindoos; and vestiges of this sacrifice of human beings, still linger in many instances of voluntary suicide, and in the custom of women, burning themselves with their deceased husbands; a custom which is yet encouraged by the Bramins, but which civil authority has had little influence in abolishing.
Chapter XIV. Other Mythologies. §
Little is known respecting the Chaldean, Phœnician, Arabian, Ammonitish, Moabitish, and Syrian mythologies. Idolatry is supposed to have sprung up first in Phœnicia. The worship of the heavenly bodies was the most ancient and general form of it.
The Chaldeans and Phœnicians adored the sun under the name of Belus or Baal, (which means lord.) The characters of that idol were varied by different nations at different times. Thus, Baal Semen, signifies the Lord of heaven; Baal Berith, the lord of the covenant; Baal Phegor, the lord of the dead; Baal Zebub, the god of flies; and so forth. Belus had a temple, consisting of eight ascending towers, one of which had an apartment containing a magnificent bed and a golden table. He also had a gigantic statue of solid gold, and a throne of the same metal.
The Arabians called the sun Adoneus and daily offered to him incense and perfume. The Ammonites worshipped the sun under the name of Moloch, and immolated to him human victims, chiefly children.
The Moabites gave the name of Beel Phegor to the sun, and honored him with detestable and cruel rites. The Philistines worshipped Dagon, a god compounded of a man and a fish. The Syrians worshipped Baal, Thammuz, Magog, Astarte, and so forth.
Next Moloch, horrid king besmeared with bloodOf human sacrifice, and parents’ tears;Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,Their children’s cries unheard, that passed through fireTo his grim idol. Him the AmmoniteWorshipp’d in Rabba, and her wat’ry plain.Next Chemos, the obscene dread of Moab’s sons;Peor, his other name. With these, in troop,Came Astoreth, whom the Phœnicians callAstarte, queen of heaven, with crescent horns;To whose bright image, mighty by the moon,Sidonian virgins said their vows and songs.—————— Thammuz came next behind,Whose annual wound, in Lebanon, allur’dThe Syrian damsels to lament his fate.—————— Next, came oneWho mourned in earnest, when the captive ark,Maim’d his brute image; head and hands lopp’d off.Dagon his name; sea-monster; upwards man,And downward fish; yet had his temples high,Rear’d in Azotus, dreaded through the coastOf Palestine, in Gath and Ascalon.Him followed Rimmon, whose delightful seatWas fair Damascus, on the fertile banksOf Abbana and Pharpar, lucid streams.—————— The captive arkMaim’d his brute image.Paradise Lost.
The Chaldeans excelled in astronomical observations, represented good and bad principles by kind and hurtful planets, and counted generations and reigns by sares. They also divided time by neres and soses. The sare marked three thousand and six years; the nere, six hundred; and the sose, sixty. Each one of their early kings lived several sares. Some learned men believe that the Chaldeans gave the name of years to their days.
In the Chaldean mythology are related stories respecting Oannes, Omorca, and Chronos. Oannes was a monster, represented with an upper head like a man’s, and a lower one like a fish’s, with the feet of a man and the tail of a fish, and the voice and speech of a man. He issued out of the Erythrean sea, and appeared near Babylon. He remained in the daytime with men, without eating. He communicated to them a knowledge of letters and the sciences, taught them the arts, such as the manner of building cities and temples, and of establishing laws, gave them the principles of geometry, and taught them to sow and gather fruits, and, in short, all that could contribute to polish them, and elevate their morals. At sunset he retired to the sea, and spent the night in the waters. He is said to have left behind him some writings, in which he taught that there had been a time in which every thing was darkness and water; and that this darkness and water contained monstrous animals, men with two wings, and others with four. Men were seen to have two heads, a man’s head and a woman’s; in short, all animals and beings were of an irregular form, representations of which were displayed in the temple of Bel.
A woman by the name of Omorca, was the mistress of the universe. Bel divided her into two parts: one of these parts formed heaven, and the other, earth; after which, monsters of irregular forms disappeared. Bel next divided darkness, separated the heaven from the earth, and arranged the universe. Having destroyed animals, which could not sustain the brightness of the light, and seeing the world a desert, he ordered one of the gods to cut his head, in order to mix with the blood, earth, and form men and animals, after which he formed the stars and planets, and thus finished the production of all things.
Chronos or Saturn having appeared in a dream to Xixutrus, (the first king of the Chaldeans,) warned him that, on the fifteenth of the month Doessius, mankind would be destroyed by a deluge; and ordered him to commit to writing the origin, history, and end of all things; to hide his memoirs under ground in the city of the sun, named Sippara; next, to construct a vessel, and put into it necessary provisions, himself, his relatives, and friends, birds and quadrupeds. Xixutrus immediately executed these orders, and made a ship which was two stadia wide and five long. It was no sooner finished, than the earth was overflown. Some time after, seeing the waters abated, he sent out some birds, which, finding neither food nor place to rest upon, returned to the ship. Some days after, he sent out others, which returned with a little mud in their mouths. The third time he sent them out, they returned no more, by which he knew that the earth began to be uncovered. Then he opened the vessel, and, finding that it had rested on a mountain, he came out of it, with his wife, daughter, and pilot. Those who remained in the vessel, not seeing their companions return, came out of it, and sought after them in vain. A voice was heard, announcing to them that Xixutrus had gone up to heaven, and sat in the rank of gods with those who accompanied him. The same voice exhorted them to be religious, and after they should discover the memoirs which had been deposited at Sippara, to proceed to Babylon.
In the Phœnician mythology, we are told, by, that the first principle of the universe was a dark and spiritual air, and an eternal chaos. This spirit produced Mot or Mob, that is, the mud or watery mixture which became the principle of all things and of the generation of the universe. There were at first none but irrational animals, rational beings being not yet engendered. Immediately after Mob, the sun, moon, and stars, began to appear and shine. A violent degree of heat, communicated to the earth, produced winds and clouds, which distributed rain. This rain, attracted by the sun, produced storms; and the thunderclap awoke intelligent beings, which began to move on the earth and in the sea.
The father of mankind was called Protogone, and the first woman, Aeon. It was she who found that the fruits of trees were good, and could serve as nourishment to man. Their children, called Genae and Genus, dwelt in Phœnicia. A great drought prevailing, they stretched their hands towards the sun, which they regarded as the only god and master of heaven. Genus engendered other men, whose names were Light, Fire, and Flame. It was they who discovered fire by rubbing one piece of wood against another. Their children, who were of huge dimensions, gave their names to the mountains. Hence the names of mount Cassius-Libanus, Anti-Libanus, and so on.
Chapter XV. Mexican Mythology. §
To supply the want of writing, the Mexicans represented their religion and history by hieroglyphical paintings. The Mexican religion was, in many respects, purer than the Roman, but the worship of the Mexican deities was attended with greater cruelty and guilt, as it consisted of human sacrifices. The Mexicans worshipped the sun, under the name of the Prince of Glory, and called heaven his palace. They believed in the immortality of the soul, in mettempsychosis, that honourable men, after death, became horses and noble quadrupeds, and that mean persons were changed into bats, beetles, and disgusting reptiles. They supposed that the blessed lived in the palace of the sun, and that their time was employed in music, dancing, praising the gods, and enjoying each other’s society. They imagined that they sometimes appeared under the figures of beautiful and sweet-songed birds, and sometimes, as etherial spirits, riding on rays of light and clouds, and that they occasionally revisited the earth to warble forth their celestial music, and inhale the perfume of flowers.
The Mexicans held, that in the original creation, all was darkness. While men, existing in the dark, were standing around a fire, one person on a sudden declared that whoever should precipitate himself into the flames, would produce light. No sooner had two men thrown themselves headlong into the fire, than they appeared in the heavens as the sun and moon.
The Mexicans prayed, kneeling or prostrate. They offered incense four times every day to their idols, and were all furnished with censers in their domestic devotions. Their rites were characterized by penances, fasts, vows, and oaths. They were jealous to keep inviolable an oath. If one took an oath, he would say, “Does not Mexitli (or some other god) behold me now?”
the Spanish conqueror of Mexico, says that that empire contained forty thousand temples. They had houses in which strangers were allowed to worship, and reservoirs of water in which the priests performed their ablutions, and a sacred fountain of which they drank, and buildings in which were preserved the heads of human victims, the number of which in one collection, amounted to 136,000. Altars were erected upon the tops of hills, and in the woods, in honour of the mountain-gods and other rural deities. The city of Mexico was begun with the building of the temple of Mexitli, which was a miserable hovel. But when they became so populous and rich as to rebuild this sanctuary, it was done with great labour and cost. It filled a space sufficient for 500 houses, and was surrounded by a wall of stone and lime. It had four gates, fronting east, west, north, and south; and was adorned by pavement-stones of an exquisite polish, by altars, and by figures of vast stone serpents.
The priests of Mexico were numerous and rich. They were provided with land for their maintenance. Their duties were various. Some were employed as diviners; some, as sacrificers; some, as composers and singers of hymns. Others put the temples in order. To others were committed the care of educating the younger priests, the ordering of festivals, and the charge of mythological paintings.
Children of the highest order were devoted in their infancy to attend to temple concerns. Those of the lowest were employed as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.’ On the birth of a girl intended for the temple, her parents consecrated her to some god, and in two months she was carried to the temple, where a small broom and a censer were placed in her hands, to express that it would in future be her duty to sweep the sacred floors and offer incense in the temples. At a suitable age, she was permitted to marry.
The Mexicans had 14 principal gods. They called their supreme god Teotl. They described him as a spiritual, immortal, almighty, holy, invisible, to-beloved, and to-be-praised being.
Tez-cat-li-po-ca (the Shining Mirror) was the god of justice. He was represented with black marble, richly dressed, with golden rings to his ears, with plates of gold on his breast, and holding in his left hand a golden fan, more highly polished than a mirror, and set round with gay feathers. From this fan the Mexicans fancied he saw all things on earth reflected. Sacred stones in the streets of Mexico were laid for this god to repose upon. These were set upon by no mortal.’
Quet-zal-cot (the Feathered Serpent) was the god of the air. He resembled the Roman Saturn in improving rude men. He instructed the Mexicans in the arts of working metals, polishing gems, dying cotton, and growing corn. He was the reputed author of their laws; which were characterized by profound wisdom, admirable impartiality, and uncommon moderation. His wise and beneficent government rendered the Mexicans rich and happy. At this pinnacle of prosperity, Tez-cat-li-po-ca thought of expelling Quet-zal-cot who was a mortal, and offered him immortality, provided he would take a certain drink which Tez-cat-li-po-ca presented to him, and then move to another kingdon, called Tla-pal-la. No sooner had Quet-zal-cot taken the drink, than he disappeared from Mexico; but he never arrived at Tlapalla. On his way, he stopped at the city of Cholola. The inhabitants of that city were so charmed with his eloquence, that they persuaded him to remain with them. Having lectured to them on the evils of war, the blessings of peace, and the importance of religious observances, he again, in an unaccountable manner, disappeared.
Tlaloc (master of paradise) was the god of water. The Mexicans conferred on him the appellation of Fertilizer of the Earth. His residence was on the summits of those high mountains in which rivers take their rise. People repaired thither to offer their devotions to him. He was waited upon by inferior water-nymphs like the Grecian Naiades. His partner was a goddess of water.
Centeot, the Ceres of Mexico, presided over fertile fields and harvests. Her worship was celebrated by great numbers of priests. Hares and doves were offered to her.
The Mexicans acknowledged a god and goddess of hell, and described them as dwelling in a region involved in eternal night, and celebrated their rites at night.
Jo-al-ti-cit was the goddess of cradles.
Different tribes of Mexicans worshipped their gods of war, the chief of whom was Mex-it-li, the most highly honoured among their divinities. A great mulitude of human victims was sacrificed to him. He was honoured with three great sacrifices a year.
The Mexicans also celebrated the worship of a goddess of hunting, a god of fishing, a goddess of salt, a goddess of drugs, and a god of wine.
Ix-lil-tot, the Æsculapius of Mexico, presided over physic. Parents carried their sick children to his temple, to have them cured of their diseases, and taught them how to worship the god. When they recovered, they danced before the image of the god. After this, they drank for a medicine some water which had been blessed by the priest.
Coat-li-cue, the Flora of Mexico, presided over flowers. Baskets, and bunches of flowers, and beautiful wreaths, were scattered in her temples.
The Mexicans acknowledged a god of mirth, a god of gold, a god of merchants, a mother of all the gods, and the Tep-it-o-tine, the same as the Penates. The images of the Penates were placed in every house. The kings and great lords kept six of those images, the nobles four, and the lower people two. The number of these gods, besides those which we have briefly mentioned, was immense. The Spaniards found little clay images of them in the woods, houses, temples, and streets of Mexico.
Obs. — A hasty survey of these different mythologies, enforces the conclusion, that most of the gods were men, whose exploits had rendered them illustrious, and that others were fabulous beings. Most fictions owed their birth to ignorance or flattery; but in order to consecrate them, it was necessary to suppose a heavenly origin to them, and to clothe them with lovely colours; and the poets were addicted to such flights of the imagination, when they knew that the propensities and passions of men served to strengthen their opinions Truth was covered with a veil: Lie came to lend her some of his clothes; and the better to secure his usurpation, he preserved some of the forms which were admired in her. He took the perfidious course of embellishing them. It was by devoting themselves unreflectingly and unreservedly to this method that the poets altered in their works the accounts of ancient events, the remembrances of which tradition and religious canticles had preserved. The gods and fables of the poets must not be confounded with traditions, preserved by some wise men. But the poets rapidly pass from the literal sense to allegory, and from allegory to the literal sense; which occasions the mixture of their images, the obscurity of their fictions, and often the indecency of their fictions.
Many philosophers, by way of fiction, veiled their various kinds of knowledge under the garb of allegory, for the sole purpose of conveying lessons of wisdom. But the people in general took these allegories for literal truths, until events or circumstances occurred to threaten their faith, or to disturb the public religion. It is, however, by taking the word of God for our guide, that we are happily delivered from the dark shades of intellectual night; and, consequently, we see in the Sun of Revelation, before which its moral enemies, Doubt, Pride, and the like, flee a way opened up to the blissful regions.
Chapter I. Of the Antiquity of Temples. §
The antiquity of temples is incontestible; but we do not know the precise manner in which the first were built. Idolatry began in Phœnicia and Egypt soon after the deluge. It is in those countries that we must inquire into the origin of all that relates to worship and the use of temples.
The system of idolatry with all its ceremonies, was not established at once, but by little and little. The false gods were at first honored in a gross manner. Altars of stone or of turf, raised in the midst of fields, were the sole preparations made for the offering up of sacrifices. Enclosed places, chapels, and temples, were not erected until long after. It appears that the Egyptians themselves had none before the time of Moses. This is indicated by his silence concerning them.
It is very reasonable to believe that the tabernacle which that legislator of the Hebrews made in the wilderness, and which may be looked upon as a portable temple, was the first known, and served for a model to all others. This temple, carried by the Israelites in the sight of those nations through whose territories they travelled, might have given them the idea of constructing some for themselves. The temple of Dagon among the Philistines, of which Scripture speaks, was probably an imitation of the tabernacle and of the place which was wrapped up in it. What serves to show this, is, that this temple had hidden places, which were called Adyta, and which answered to the Sancta Sanctorum.
Many facts serve to prove, that the custom of building temples passed from the Egyptians to other nations.says, that Assyria, Phœnicia, Syria, and other countries around, received that custom from the Egyptians. From Egypt and Phœnicia, it passed into Greece, and thence to Rome. This last opinion is founded on the statement of , and on the monuments of antiquity. Deucalion raised the first temples in Greece, and Janus, the first in Italy.
The temples of the ancients were divided into various compartments, which it may be useful to notice in order to understand their descriptions of them.
The first was the vestibule, in which was found the pool, containing the lustral water, which the priests employed to purify those who wished to enter the temple. The second was the nave. The third was the holy place, into which none but the hierophant was ever admitted; and the fourth was the under-temple. This last was not in all temples; but all had porticoes and steps. The interior of the temples was always highly adorned. In them were placed the statues of the gods, which were generally made of gold, ivory, ebony, or of some other valuable material. There were also placed the statues of great men, gildings, and paintings, especially votive pictures, such as the prows of ships, saved when some had escaped shipwreck, the arms taken from enemies, trophies, bucklers, tripods, and the like. On festival days, these temples were also adorned with olive-branches and ivy.
At Rome, before constructing a temple, the soothsayers chose some plat whereon to build it. This piece of ground was purified, and surrounded with ribbons and crowns. The vestals, accompanied by young women and young men, washed this space with the pure water; the pontiff sanctified it by a solemn sacrifice, afterwards he touched the stone which was to serve as the first foundation; and then it was bound around with a ribbon. After these ceremonies, the people took this stone, and cast it into the ditch with such pieces of metal as had not passed through the crucible. When the edifice was finished, it was consecrated with many ceremonies.
Nothing could equal the respect which the ancients had for their temples. Arian says, that it was forbidden there to spit, or to defile them in any way. Sometimes they entered them on their knees. They served as an asylum for debtors and criminals; in public calamities, the women prostrated themselves in the holy place, and swept it with their hair. Sometimes, however, when prayers appeared insufficient to stop the plague, the furious people lost all respect for these sacred places, and profaned them.
We shall not attempt to give a description of all the Egyptian temples. The most celebrated, next to that of Belus, of which we shall very soon speak, were, that of Jupiter at Thebes or Diospolis, that of Andera, that of Proteus at Memphis, and that of Minerva at Sais.
The works of the Egyptians had the true characteristics of grandeur. They loved colossal figures, and employed immense stones in their construction, although they had to bring them from the quarries of Elephantine, a city remote from Sais, twenty days’ journey.
We may cite, for example, the famous chapel which Amasis had constructed in Upper Egypt, and which he transported to Sais with incalculable labour and pains, in order to place it in the temple of Minerva.
“What I admire most,” says, “among the works constructed by order of Amasis, is the temple of mere stone, which two thousand pilots and sailors transported from Elephantine to Sais in three years. This temple, or, rather, chapel, was in front twenty-one cubits, by fourteen in width and eight in heighth.”
The dimensions of this chapel, which still exists, are, according to Mr., in his letters on Egypt, vastly larger than describes them to be. The ideas we now have of the arts and mechanical powers, are confounded before such works; and we should place accounts of them in the number of fables, if the remains of such colossal structures, which have braved the rust of so many centuries, did not attest their existence.
But this chapel was not placed in the temple of Minerva.asserts, that the wise Amasis regretted to have commanded so painful a labour, and left it at the gate of the temple, on account of an artificer’s having perished before his eyes — a fine lesson of humanity.
Chapter II. Temple of Belus in Babylon. §
This temple, among the most ancient dedicated to paganism, was also the most singular in its structure. , according to , attributes the construction of it to Belus; but, if this Belus is the same as Nimrod, (as it is said.) he built, not a temple, but rather a tower, to protect himself and his people from a second deluge. We know in what manner God put a stop to this foolish design. This famous tower, called the Tower of Babel, formed in its basis a square, the sides of which were each a stadium in length. The stadium was one hundred and twenty toises1, which gave half one thousand in circumference.
The whole work was composed of eight towers, built the one upon the other, which went on decreasing as they ascended. Some authors, deceived by the Latin version of, pretend that each of these stories was a stadium in height, which would have carried the elevation of the whole to one thousand toises, or six thousand French feet; but the Greek text makes no mention of this prodigious height; and , who also gives a description of this temple, makes it one stadium in height, and one stadium on each side.
In the time of, the only historian among the ancients who saw that edifice, the stadium was composed of sixty-nine toises. This elevation is better accommodated to the measure which we may conceive. According to this proportion, this tower arose one hundred and twenty feet above the highest of the pyramids. It was built of brick, as Scripture informs us; and the statements of the ancients confirm it. People mounted to the top of the building by winding stairs without. These eight towers formed so many stories. In them were very large rooms, sustained by pillars. Around these rooms, were constructed smaller ones, which served as resting places to those who mounted the tower. The most lofty room was also the most highly adorned, and the one for which the people had the greatest veneration. “In it,” says , “there were seen a superb bed, a table of massive gold, and no statues.”
Even in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, that temple contained nothing but the tower and the rooms above mentioned; but that monarch, according to, gave it much more extent by the edifices which he built around it, and a wall which included the whole. People entered it through brazen doors, in the construction of which Nebuchadnezzar had employed the sea of brass, and the other utensils of the same metal, which had been taken from the temple at Jerusalem. This tower of Belus existed in the time of Xerxes. This Persian monarch, after his unfortunate expedition against Greece, plundered its immense riches, and demolished it.
Among the statues of gold, there was one forty feet in height. It was probably that which Nebuchadnezzar had consecrated in the plains of Dura.gives forty feet to this statue; the Scriptures, ninety; but the latter may be understood as including the statue and the pedestal taken together.
There were in the temple of Belus. several idols of massive gold, and a great number of sacred vessels of the same metal, the weight of which, according to, amounted to more than five thousand talents. The temple of which he spoke, was that which Nebuchadnezzar had enlarged, and to which he had added the golden statue forty feet in height. From this we may form some idea of the immense riches of this huge structure. According to , in a lower chapel of this temple, there was a large golden statue of Jupiter; but he does not give its weight nor measure. He says, merely, that the Babylonians estimated it at eight hundred talents. adds, that near this chapel, without, there was a golden altar, upon which were immolated animals which had just been born. Near that place was a great altar, on which perfumes were burnt every year, and the weight of which amounted to more than one hundred thousand talents. He mentions, also, a second statue, eighteen feet high, made of gold. This temple, so astonishing in its construction and in its riches, was consecrated to the memory of Belus. Egypt possessed temples equally ancient; but they were erected in honour of the gods. mentions among others, that of Vulcan, constructed by Menes, the first king who reigned in Egypt after the time in which the Egyptians pretended that the gods alone reigned over them.
Chapter III. Temple of Diana at Ephesus. §
This temple, one of the seven wonders of the world, was several centuries in attaining its last degree of perfection. relates, that all Asia had concurred, and contributed to the building of it for two hundred and twenty years, and that two other centuries must be spent in adorning and embellishing it.
In one of his odes,says that this temple was built by the Amazons, when they made war on the Athenians and on Theseus; but proves, that this poet was mistaken, and relates, that a long time before, the same Amazons, defeated at first by Hercules, came to take refuge in the temple of Diana, at Ephesus, after they had fled from the banks of the Thermodon. gives the following description of it. In the hope of securing this temple from earthquakes, it was built in a marshy place: but in order to give solidity to the foundation of so considerable an edifice, and to harden the ground tempered by the waters, they made use of pounded coal, over which they spread the skins of sheep, bound with their woolen fleece.
This temple was four hundred and twenty-five feet in length by two hundred in width. One hundred and twenty-seven columns, which sustained the edifice, were presented by as many kings, and were each sixty feet in height. Thirty-six of these columns were carved: one, among others, was by the celebrated.
Ctesiphon was the first architect of this prodigious temple. The grandeur of the architraves which he employed was chiefly observed; and, however improved mechanism may now be, it could not probably succeed in raising so high such heavy masses. Ctesiphon and his son could not finish this magnificent work. Other architects succeeded them, and followed out their designs; but, as previously observed, it did not attain to its completion until after a lapse of two hundred and twenty years. All the kings and people of Asia eagerly enriched this temple. It was burnt by Erostratus.
Chapter IV. Temple of Jupiter Olympius. §
This temple and the statue of Jupiter, the latter a master piece of the immortal , were among the spoils which the people of Elis won from the inhabitants of Pisa and their allies, when they took and sacked the city of Pisa.
This temple had for its architect,, originally of the country. It was of Doric order, with the exterior surrounded with columns. In the construction of this edifice, there were employed stones of singularly fine quality and beauty; which the country it self furnished. The height of the temple from the ground floor up to its covering was sixty eight feet; its length, two hundred and thirty; and its breadth, ninety-five. The tiles of the covering were of very fine marble, drawn from Mount Pantelica.
Antiquity had nothing more magnificent or perfect than the throne and the statue of Jupiter Olympius. Both, formed with gold and ivory, were the most accomplished works of the illustrious, the most celebrated of all sculptors, either ancient or modern. They were elevated from the pavement to the arch. They could not be viewed without astonishment and admiration. It would be impossible to describe all the riches and beauties which this temple contained.
The pavement of the temple was of the most beautiful marble; and in the interior, an infinite number of statues were seen. Kings, people, and artists, were equally ambitious to send thither monuments of their magnificence and talents.
Chapter V. Temple of Apollo at Delphi. §
This temple did not equal in its structure that of Jupiter Olympius; but it was still richer by immense presents sent to it from every part. None of its ornaments, however, could be compared with the throne and statue of Jupiter Olympius.
A cave from which issued some exhalations that caused a kind of drunkenness to those who approached it, gave birth to the oracle of Delphi. The founders began with covering that cave with laurel-branches; a chapel succeeded, and soon after they built a temple of brass, in imitation, no doubt, of the brazen room in which Acrisius had shut up his daughter Danæ. This temple was destroyed by an earthquake, it being swallowed up in a crevice. It was replaced by another edifice, whose architects were Agamedes and Trophonius. The flames consumed this new temple in the first year of the fifty-eighth Olympiad. At length the last was erected, which still existed in the days of, and was infinitely superior to those that preceded it. It was constructed under the direction of the Amphictyons, with the treasures and gifts which the people had appropriated for this purpose.
In order to form an idea of the riches which it united, it must be observed, that, in consulting the oracle, the people expected to acquire a knowledge of futurity; but they could obtain no reply, until they had made a considerable present. These presents were appropriated to the ornamenting of the temple.
We may imagine the number of these offerings by calling to our mind the natural inquietude of man, and the restlessness with which he endeavours to pry into the secrets of his future destiny.
All was great in the motives and conceptions which led to the construction of the temple of Jupiter Olympius. It would seem that that edifice was intended to give some idea of divine majesty. All that the arts could unite in sublimity was employed; and the master genius of, combining justness of taste, with elegance of design and execution, was brought into requisition to adorn it with his master pieces. Thus, the labours of a great man are often sufficient to give light to the age in which he lives, and to perpetuate its remembrance.
In the temple of Delphi, all the passions, curiosity, and inquietude, were allowed to present their offerings. Hence, these offerings must have been multiplied almost without end, for nothing was refused; but almost all were anxious to gratify that ambition which is inseparable from personal interest and petty passions.
Chapter VI. Pantheon of Rome. §
Rome and the rest of Italy had no fewer temples than Greece. Many of them were remarkable for their magnificence or singularity. That of Jupiter, on the Capitoline hill, was among the number of the most beautiful; but the most superb and the most substantial was the Pantheon, vulgarly called the Rotunda. It still exists in its entire state, under the name of the Church of All Saints, to whom it has been consecrated, as, in the time of Paganism, is was consecrated to all the gods.
It is generally supposed to have been built by the direction, and at the expense of Agrippa, son-in-law to Augustus. Some authors, however, consider it more ancient, and say, that he only repaired it, and added to it the portico, which now makes its finest ornament.
An opening in the middle of the vault, very ingeniously imagined, is sufficient to give light to the interior of the structure. The form of the Pantheon is round. It would appear that the architect designed to give it the form of the terrestrial globe; and in like manner, and for the same reason, many antique temples had this form.
The portico, more surprisingly grand and beautiful than the temple itself, is composed of sixteen columns of marble. Each of these is of rugged marble. Their height is thirty-seven feet; and their diameter, five feet. Eight columns adorn the front of the portico, and the hollow place is sustained by eight others. The Corinthian order was adopted.
In the days of Pope Eugene, there was found near this edifice, a part of a head of bronze, representing Agrippa. At the same time were found a horse’s foot and a piece of a wheel, of the same metal. This discovery makes it probable, that this portico formerly sustained the statue of Agrippa, placed on a chariot with four horses.
The body of the edifice, which remains still entire, is laid on foundations so solid, that nothing can shake them. A manuscript of, attests that the foundations are stretched greatly beyond the edifice, and seem to form a single mass of stone.
The statues and riches which once adorned it are no longer to be seen. The Emperor Constantine III. carried away the plates of gilt bronze which covered the whole vault, and Pope Urban VIII made use of the beams of the same metal which were there employed, in order to convert them into the canopy of St. Peter’s at Rome, and the gross pieces of artillery which are in the palace of St. Angelo. The statues of the gods, which filled the niches, have been plundered or concealed under ground.
When the celebratedhad thoroughly studied the whole of the Pantheon, he was filled with indignation to think that this monument was looked upon as the greatest effort of architecture. He said to those who admired it: “I shall raise upon four pillars a temple, which may well astonish you.” It was at that time he conceived the plan of the famous cupola of St. Peter’s at Rome. It is asserted that this extraordinary man — this great painter, architect, and sculptor, made a will, in which he declared that he had given nothing to the pillars which support that cupola, but that strength which was necessary to support it; at the same time announcing, that, should their strength ever be diminished, the work would be likely to fall into ruins.
Knight, who long after aspired to show himself the equal of , looked upon this will as very singular; and the artist as abusing the credit which some of his works had procured him. He therefore drove into these pillars narrow and useless stair cases. It is to this rash attempt that the large chinks which are now in the great vault, are to be attributed. It has been found necessary to bind them with immense bars of iron; and fears are entertained that the predictions of genius will be verified. Nothing more clearly proves the danger of yielding confidence to the presumptuous pretensions of rivalry. St. Paul’s Church in London, is one of the most beautiful monuments in the world, next to St. Peter’s at Rome.
Such are the most celebrated temples; the memory of which is recorded among men. The temple, or rather the tower of Belus, was, beyond dispute, the most ancient and extraordinary of all monuments. It existed before the temple of the Egyptian Vulcan., in giving a description of the latter, says, that it was the work of an immense number of kings; and was so magnificent and extensive that it was considered a great glory, when, in a long reign, a prince had constructed only a single portico.
Chapter VII. Of Oracles. §
has produced a very learned treatise, in which he strives to prove, that oracles have no other origin than in the deception of priests. M. , with his accustomed discernment, charm, and grace, has disengaged this treatise of all tedious, or too highly scientific details, and has adapted it to the capacity of the ordinary reader.
The system of, and the origin which he gives to oracles, counteract in every thing the traditions of the church. , a Jesuit, has given us a second treatise, no less learned than that of , in which he attempts to prove, without denying the imposture of priests, (an imposture often connected with oracles,) the interposition of a demon in the predictions which all efforts of incredulity could not attribute to mere cheat.
Without searching into the depth and profundity of these two opinions, or attempting to decide which is preferable, it may be admitted that many reflections Occur in the latter, calculated to throw discredit upon the system of.
Could oracles have so long preserved their credit and eclat, if they had been the result of mere deception? This is a grave question, however sceptical some may be on this point. Imposture always belies itself. A falsehood cannot be eternally sustained. If one succeed in deceiving for a long time, some weak and credulous persons, he does not commonly, for several ages, deceive a whole people. Were not, then, the power of a king, the curiosity of a rich man, the indiscretion and infidelity of a priest, the jealousy which must spring up among the oracles consulted, and especially those which seemed to be despised, the harshness of some replies, the horrible sacrifices which the oracles often commanded, sufficient means to stamp with apparent truth the responses of these wonderful institutions? What is, then, that concert, unknown till these came into vogue, which injures personal interests, and unites so many cheats, to make men religiously observe a secret?
These questions are deemed sufficient to convince the reader, that a wise man may believe in the truth of some oracles, without being forced to contradict or discard the ordinary lights of his reason. We shall confine our remarks to what were considered the earliest oracles. At first, Themis, Jupiter, and Apollo only, delivered oracles; but, in process of time, almost all the gods, and a great number of heroes, obtained this privilege.
All days were not equally propitious for consulting the oracles. At Delphi, the Pythia did not reply in the name of Apollo, only during one month in the year. In time, this practice was changed; and the god then spoke only on one particular day of every month. The oracles were not all delivered in the same manner. Sometimes the priestess spoke in the name of the god; at others, the god himself gave his replies. In some places, they were received during sleep; and this sleep was prepared by mysterious operations; in others, lots were cast, as at Prenesta in Italy. Often times fasts, sacrifices, and expiations, were necessary to render themselves worthy of the oracles. When Alexander went to Libya to consult Jupiter Ammon, the priest, on seeing him, called him the son of Jupiter, which was the sole object of his journey.
The impossibility of giving the history of all the oracles renders it expedient to confine ourselves to the most ancient and celebrated.
Chapter VIII. Oracle of Dodona. §
According to , the oracle of Dodona, the most ancient in Greece, and that of Jupiter Ammon, in Libya, had the same origin; and both owed their establishment to the Egyptians.
This historical incident is related as follows: Two doves winged their flight from the Egyptian city of Thebes. The one went to Libya, and the other flew as far as the forest of Dodona, situated in Chaonia, a province of Epirus; where she informed the inhabitants, that the great Jupiter wished to establish an oracle in their country. This prodigy at first astonished the people; but soon a great number of credulous consulters appeared. These two doves, says, had been given by Jupiter to his daughter Thebe. They had the gift of speech.
has sought after the event that could have given rise to this fiction. Two priestesses of Thebes, says this author, were stolen away by some Phœnician merchants; the one was conducted to Greece. Chance, or some forgotten cause, induced her to fix her residence in the forest of Dodona, where she gathered the acorn which served as nourishment to the Greeks. She constructed at the foot of an oak, a small chapel in honour of Jupiter, whose priestess she had been at Thebes. adds that the name of the dove Pleiai, was given to this woman. Nobody at first understood her language; but when one succeeded in comprehending what she said, he gave out that the dove, or Pleiai, had spoken. Such is said to have been the origin of the famous oracle of Dodona.
confirms the narrative of , and relates that there was in the forest of Dodona, a fountain which flowed with a mild murmur at the foot of an oak. A woman interpreted this noise; and, upon this murmur, announced futurity to those who consulted her. In time, more artifice was used in the manner of delivering this oracle. Some cauldrons of brass were suspended near a statue of the same metal, which held a whip in its hand, and which was equally suspended. When the wind shook this figure, it struck the nearest cauldron, and put it in motion; and thereby all the others were shaken, and sent forth a sound which lasted for some time. It was on this noise that future events were given out.
To increase the credit of the oracle, hollow oaks served to hide interpreters; and it was given out, that the oaks in the Dodona forest also delivered their oracles. The beam of the ship Argo, which the Argonauts consulted, was taken from that forest.
Chapter IX. Oracle of Jupiter Ammon. §
The second priestess, carried away by the Phœnicians, was taken to Libya. This stranger at first surprised the people. Whoever interrogated her, did not understand her language; and in order still more to excite their wonder, she practised some ceremonies of her ancient mystery. Hence, they attributed to her something divine; and she doubtless well knew how to derive advantage from this homage paid to her. Soon her answers passed for oracles, and her celebrity became so great, that people came from every quarter to consult her, notwithstanding the dangers and fatigues of so painful a journey. The burning sands of Libya were not an obstacle sufficiently great to lessen the inquietude and active curiosity of men in reference to futurity.
Priests succeeded this woman, and assumed the office of delivering oracles. They represented Jupiter Ammon with the head and horns of a ram. Eighty priests of this god carried his statue on their shoulders, in a gilt ship. They pursued no particular route, and made it believed that the god drove them on. A numerous troop of young girls and of matrons accompanied them, and sung hymns in honour of Jupiter. The ship was adorned with a great number of ancient cups of silver, which hung on both sides of it. The priests announced the decisions of their Ammon on any motion or sign of the statue. — These accounts have been transmitted to us byand .
Sometimes the priests of Ammon appeared to be incorruptible. Lysander, wishing to change the order of succession to the Spartan throne, attempted all the means of corruption in his power to obtain the answers he desired; but the priests of Jupiter sent to Sparta a solemn embassy to deliver a public accusation against him.
These same priests, however, caressed Alexander the Great, and flattered his vanity, by saluting him as the son of Jupiter; but Alexander had already been covered with glory, and all obeyed his nod.
Chapter X: Oracle of Delphi. §
The oracle of Delphi was not the most ancient in Greece, but the most celebrated, and it continued the longest. The time at which it was established, is not known, which goes to prove its great antiquity. Apollo was not at first consulted there. , in his tragedy of the Eumenides, says that Terra at first delivered oracles; next Themis; and after her, Phœbe, daughter of Terra and mother to Latona. This last transmitted her rights to her grandson Apollo; and from that time the oracle of Delphi spoke no more but in the name of this god.
In the primitive times of this oracle, any one could be inspired. The vapour of the cave acted on all who breathed it; but several of those frantic devotees, having, in the excess of their phrenzy, thrown themselves headlong into the abyss, it became necessary to adopt means to remedy so frequent an occurrence.
Raised on an opening of the ground, was a machine called a tripod, because it had three bars laid on the rock. A woman was seated on this kind of chair, and is said to have received the exhalations without injury.
This priestess received the name of Pythia, on account of the serpent Python, killed by Apollo. Young virgins, chosen with the greatest precautions, exercised this ministry. The Pythian was usually taken from a poor family. She must have lived without luxury, and without the love of finery. Extreme simplicity and ignorance were titles of preference to attain to this dignity. Suffice it to say that the Pythia could repeat what the god dictated to her. The custom of choosing young virgins, lasted long; but the following event abolished it. The young Echecrates, a Thessalian by birth, smitten with the extreme beauty of the Pythia, stole her away. In order to prevent another such outrage, the people of Delphi ordered, by an express law, that in future none should be elected to that office but women upwards of fifty years of age.
There was at first one Pythia, but afterwards there were three.
The oracles were not delivered daily. Apollo did not commonly inspire the Pythia, except in the month Busion, which corresponds to the beginning of Spring. Daring the rest of the year, it was forbidden, under penalty of death, to the priestess to go and consult Apollo.
Before his expedition into Asia, Alexander came to Delphi during the time of silence. He begged the Pythia to mount the tripod; but she refused, and alleged that the law deterred her from it. This prince, indignant at being stopped by such an obstacle, snatched the priestess out of her cell, and conducted her to the sanctuary, when she said to him, “My son, thou art invincible.” At these words, Alexander exclaimed, that he wished no other oracle; and he then marched to the conquest of the world.
Before people consulted the oracle, they made numerous sacrifices, always with the air of great mystery, and with infinite precautions in choosing victims, in inspecting their entrails, and in deriving auguries from them. The priestess prepared herself by a fast of three days. Before she mounted the tripod, she washed herself in the fountain of Castalia; afterwards laurel leaves, gathered near the fountain, were given to her to be chewed.
After these preparations, Apollo gave intelligence of his arrival in the temple by a dreadful crash, which caused the edifice to tremble even to its foundations. Then the priests, also called the prophets, took the Pythia, conducted her to the sanctuary, and placed her upon the tripod. As soon as the divine vapour began to agitate her, her hair stood on end, her looks became fierce, her mouth foamed, and a violent trembling seized on her whole body. In this situation, she made efforts to escape from the prophets, who retained her by force. Her cries and howlings made the temple resound, and filled the bystanders with a holy fright. In fine, unable to resist the god who agitated her, she gave herself up to him, and uttered by intervals some incoherent speeches, which the prophets carefully collected. These were arranged, and given out in the form of verse, a connexion which they had not in the mouth of the priestess.
As soon as the oracle was pronounced, they drew the Pythia from the tripod, to conduct her to her abode, where it required several days for her to recover from her fatigues. Often a sudden death was the penalty of her enthusiasm.
Thus, it appears, that the Pythia was but the instrument of which the priests made use to discover the will of Apollo. The priests or prophets were charged with all other cares. It was they who placed the priestess in such a manner as to receive the vapour which exhaled from the abyss, over which stood the tripod. They collected her speeches, and gave them to poets, another sort of ministers, who put them in verse. These verses were often harsh, ill done, and always obscure, which gave rise to the raillery, that Apollo, chief of the Muses, made very bad verses. But sometimes the Pythia made her answers in verse. In time, however, she was satisfied to speak in prose; andobserves that it was one of the causes of the decline of the oracle. The priestess was called Phemonœ.
Chapter XI. Oracle of Trophonius. §
Though Trophonius was but a hero, and even, according to some authors, a brigand, he had a very famous oracle in Bœotia. , who practised all the ceremonies necessary to consult this oracle, gives us no information in relation to the life of Trophonius, except that the earth being half opened under his feet, he was swallowed up in the gap or crevice, which is now called the ditch of Agamedes, and seen in a sacred wood in Lebadea, with a column raised above it.
Lebadea, says, is one of the most beautiful cities in Greece. There is a sacred wood near that city, in which is situated the temple of Trophonius, with his statue, the work of .
When one comes to consult this oracle, before descending into the den where he receives the answer, he must pass some days in a chapel, dedicated to Genius and Fortune. This time is employed in purifying himself. He is not permitted to wash except in the cold waters of the river Hercine. A sacrifice is then made to Trophonius, to his family, to Jupiter Rex, to Saturn, and to Ceres Europa, nurse to Trophonius. After these preparations, one shows the statue of Trophonius to the consulter, surrounds it with sacred fillets, and conducts him to the oracle, which he approaches by ascending a mountain; at the top of which is an inclosure formed of white stones, and upon which are raised brazen obelisks. In this inclosure appears a cave, cut out by the hand of man, in the form of an oven. Through it there is a narrow aperture, into which he descends by degrees with small ladders. A second cavern then presents itself, which he enters by lying down on the ground, and holding in each hand honey: (which is deemed necessary to be borne:) he then passes his feet into the cave, and is immediately carried away with great force and swiftness.
It was there that futurity was declared; but not to all in the same manner. Some heard; others saw. One came out of the cave as he had entered it, lying down upon the earth. Soon after he was asked what he had seen, but before he had time to recover from the agitation excited, he was taken to the chapel of the good genius, where they permitted him to resume his senses. Next, he wrote upon a table what he had seen or heard, and the priests proceeded to interpret it.
adds that a man once entered this den alone, without getting out of it again. He was a spy of Demetrius, sent to know whether the place contained any treasure. His body was found far from the cave. The priests, probably informed of his design, massacred him, and caused his body to be thrust through the outlet of which they made use themselves to enter without being perceived.
“I have descended into the den, and have consulted the oracle in order to assure myself of the truth.”
We do not know in what time the oracle of Trophonias was established.merely relates that a great drought having laid waste Bœotia, the people sent to consult the oracle. The Pythia replied that it was necessary to have recourse to Trophonius, and directed them to seek for him at Lebadea. The deputies obeyed. Saon, the oldest of them, perceived a swarm of bees flying towards a den. He followed them, and thus discovered the oracle. Trophonius, says , prescribed himself the worship which he desired. It appears, therefore, that Saon was the institutor of this oracle, who, profiting by the drought, and the reply of the Pythia, succeeded in obtaining for it general confidence.
Chapter XII. Of other Oracles. §
Having briefly noticed some of the most celebrated oracles, we will now proceed to notice a few others of minor importance, although it would be impossible to name them all. In Bœotia, a very small province, they counted at least twenty-five. It is true, that it was covered with woods and mountains, places well suited (observes Mr. ) to the mysterious ceremonies of oracles. Almost all the gods, and the greatest number of demigods and heroes, had their oracles. None of them, however, had so large a number as Apollo. All were not of the same antiquity. Every day new ones appeared, whilst the more ancient lost their credit. Oftentimes they were plundered. That of Delphi, among others, was several times stripped: at first by a brigand descended from the Phlegyæ; and afterwards by the Phocians, by Pyrrhus, by Nero, and at last by the Christians. When the Christian religion had triumphed over idolatry, the oracles fell; and there were found in the dens and caves, many marks of the imposture of the ministers who made them speak.
The following remarks under this head will be confined to some singular and remarkable answers of the oracles.
Crœsus, dissatisfied with the oracles of Delphi, though he had inundated it with presents, wished to surprise it. He sent to ask the Pythia what he was doing at the very time that his envoy was consulting her. She immediately replied that he was then having a lamb with a turtle served up. The fact was true: Crœsus had imagined this odd food in hopes of embarrassing her. The reply of the Pythia, however, inspired him with fresh credulity, and he redoubled his presents.
A governor of Cicilia, says, wished to send a spy to the gods. He gave his emissary a sealed billet to be handed in at Malea, where there was the oracle of Mopsus. The envoy lay down in the temple, and saw a man who said to him: Black. He carried back this reply, which, at first, appeared ridiculous. The governor then unsealed the billet, and showed that he had written these words: shall I immolate thee a white or black bull?
A priestess of Dodona made an answer which became fatal to her. She said to the Bœotians who consulted her: “you will be victors if you act impiously.” The envoys seized on her, and caused her to be burnt alive, saying, that, if she had wished to deceive them, they would punish her; and that, if she had spoken the truth, they would thereby assure themselves of victory. The people seized the envoys, but they durst hot punish them without judgment, and gave for their judges two priestesses and two men. The two priestesses condemned them, the two men were of a contrary opinion, and they were absolved.
Chapter XIII. Of the Sibyls. §
The ancients gave the name of Sibyls to a certain number of girls whom they supposed to be endowed with the gift of prophecy. The learned do not agree with respect to the origin of this name, considering it either as Hebraic, African, or Grecian; but the majority deem it a Greek word, meaning inspired. All antiquity agree in attesting the existence of the Sibyls; but disputes have arisen in regard to their number, their countries, and names, and the time in which they flourished., the most learned of the Romans, names ten Sibyls, and cites the ancient authors who have spoken of them. We shall follow the opinion of , and the order which he prescribes himself in naming them.
1. The Persian. She was called Sambethe; and, in the supposed Sibylline verses, she accounts herself, daughter-in-law to Noah.
2. The Libyan. She was said to be daughter to Jupiter and Lamia. She travelled in Claros, Delphi, Samos, and several other countries.
3. The Delphian, daughter of Tiresias. After the taking of Thebes, she was consecrated by the Epigoni in the temple of Delphi.says that she was often smitten with a divine fury; which gave her the name of Sibyl.
4. The Sibyl of Cumæ, or the Cumæan. She was the most celebrated of all.
Mr., a learned modern author, thinks that she, only, existed. He supports his opinion by saying that all the verses of the Sibyls were written in Greek; which would not have been the case, if the Sibyls had been of different countries. He believes this mysterious girl to have travelled much, and that her actions and travels were attributed to several persons. This observation of Mr. does not, however, destroy the authority of the ancients, and especially that of : for, in the first place, he adduces no proof that all the Sibyls spoke in Greek; and, secondly, he shows not why their predictions, which were collected with as much care as the oracles of the Pythian, could not have been translated into Greek. However, we will present what fable, blended with history, gives us concerning this Sibyl.
Her name was Deiphobe. She was the daughter of Glaucus, and a priestess of Apollo. This god wished to render her sensible of his regard for her, and promised to grant her any request which she should make of him. She desired to live as many years as there were grains of sand held in her hand; but, unfortunately for her, she forgot to ask, at the same time, to be always preserved in the freshness of youth. Apollo, nevertheless, offered her this advantage, on condition that she would crown his love; but Deiphobe preferred the glory of perpetual chastity to the pleasure of enjoying eternal youth; so that a sad and languid old age succeeded her blooming years. In the time of Æneas, she said she had already lived seven hundred years; after which, her body being wasted away by time, there was nothing remaining of her but her voice, which destiny would forever preserve.
This fable was founded on the longevity which was attributed to the Sibyls. That of Cumæ, who was thought to be inspired by Apollo, delivered his oracles in the bottom of a den, placed in the temple of this god. This den had one hundred gates, whence issued so many terrible voices, which caused the answers of the prophetess to be heard. She was also priestess to Hecate, and the sacred woods of the Avernus were under her protection.
The verses of this Sibyl were preserved by the Romans with the greatest care, and were held under a secret. A college of fifteen persons, called the Quindecemviri of the Sibyls, watched over the preservation of this collection.
The people yielded so much faith to the predictions of the Sibyls, that they never undertook an important war without consulting them. During seditions and misfortunes, such as a revolt, a defeat, a plague, or a famine, they always had recourse to the Sibylline verses. These were a permanent oracle, as often consulted by the Romans, as that of Delphi by the Grecians.
As to the other oracles of the Sibyls, which had been collected, policy and ambition well knew how to employ them so as to favour their projects. Julius Cæsar, perpetual dictator and absolute master of Rome, wished to give still more eclat to his power by being proclaimed king. His partisans published a sibylline oracle, by which it was said that the Parthians could not be subdued except by a king. The Roman people prepared to grant him this title, and the senate was to deliver the decree the very day that Cæsar was assassinated.
The Romans raised a temple to the Sibyl of Cumæ, and honoured her as a divinity in the very place where she had delivered her oracles.
5. The fifth Sibyl was the Erythræan, who predicted the success of the Trojan war at the time that the Greeks embarked on this expedition.
6. The Samian, or Sibyl of Samos, whose prophecies are found in the ancient annals of the Samians, was the sixth.
7. The Cumean, born at Cumæ in Æolis. Her name was Demophile, or Herophile, and sometimes even Amalthæa. It was she who sold the collection of the Sibylline verses to Tarquin the elder. It consisted of nine books. Herophile asked for them three hundred pieces of gold, which were refused. She then cast three of them into the fire, and persisted in asking the same price for the remainder. Tarquin still refused to buy. The Sibyl immediately burnt three more, and continued to demand the three hundred pieces of gold for the three which remained. Tarquin, fearing that she would burn the last three, gave her the sum she demanded. After this king had acquired them, he entrusted the charge of them to two particular priests, called Duumviri, whose ministry was confined to the charge of this sacred deposit. These books were consulted in the greatest calamities of the state; but it was necessary for a decree of the Senate to be passed in order to have recourse to them; and the Decemviri were not permitted to let any body see them under pain of death.
This first collection of Sibylline oracles, perished in the conflagration of the capitol under the dictatorship of Sylla. The Senate, to repair this loss, sent into divers places, Samos, Erythræa, Greece, and Asia, in order to collect what could be found from the Sibylline verses. The new books were deposited in the capitol; but, as there were many Apocryphas, as much faith in them as had been placed in their predecessors, they never received.
It was in order to watch over this second collection, that the college of the Quindecemviri of the Sibyls was formed.
We do not know what the fate of this second collection. There remains to be mentioned a third collection, which contained eight books. It included several of the ancient Jewish predictions; but all critics considered it as a fantastical mixture of paganism and Christianity, which deserved no confidence. In it were found the mysteries of redemption, the miracles of the Saviour, his passion, his death, the creation of the world, and the terrestrial paradise. In it the, after having spoken the language of Isaiah and of the evangelists, makes mention of her intrigues with Apollo. She speaks of Loth, and accounts herself a Christian. She recommends the worship of the false gods, orders the sacrifice of human victims, and afterwards predicts the misfortunes which threaten the Romans, if they do not abandon the worship of idols, and embrace the Christian religion.
This third collection bore evident marks of its being, not a work of the Sibyls, but a fantastical and contradictory medley, collected by some ill-informed and deceptive devotee.
8. The Hellespontian, born at Marpessus, in Troas, was the eighth. She prophesied in the days of Solon and Crœsus.
9. The Phrygian, whose abode was at Ancyra, where she delivered her oracles.
10. The Tiburtian, or of Tibur, who was called Albunea. The city of Tibur or Tivoli upon the Teveron, honoured her as a divinity.
It is generally thought that the Sibyls held a kind of medium rank between divinity and humanity. The respect entertained towards the Sibylline verses, lasted even until under the reign of the emperors. The Senate having embraced Christianity in the time of Theodosius, veneration for them greatly diminished; and Stilicion annihilated it by having them burnt in the reign of Honorius.
Chapter XIV: Of the Games. §
The games were most commonly instituted from religious motives. They were at the same time a kind of spectacle among the Greeks and Romans.
Three sorts of games or exercises principally occupied the Romans; races, fights, and spectacles (theatres.) The first, called the equestrian, or curule games, consisted in races exhibited in the circus, dedicated to Neptune or to the Sun. The second, called Agonalia, were wrestling or fights among men, and sometimes between men and animals, the latter being trained for this purpose. They took place in the amphitheatre, consecrated to Mars and Diana. The third were the Scenical consisting of tragedies, comedies, and satires, which were represented in the theatre, in honour of Bacchus, Venus, and Apollo.
The most celebrated games in Greece, were the Olympian, the Pythian, the Nemæan, and the Isthmian. They were instituted in honour of the Gods, or to celebrate the memory of great events, and to form youth to the various exercises of the body. In these games, there were five distinguished modes of proceding. 1. Music, both instrumental and vocal. 2. Running, which was performed on foot or in chariots. 3. Leaping and the quoit, a stone of a certain weight which they strove to throw as far as possible. 4. Wrestling, in which one exerted all his strength to throw down his adversary. The combatants appeared naked, rubbed their bodies with oil, and spread over them very fine dust to prevent perspiration. 5. The cestus, or fencing with the strokes of fists. In the game of the cestus, they armed their hands with large leather strings, and a kind of leather cuff, called the cestus.
Mount Olympius was the spot on which Jupiter is said, by the poets, to have held his court. It was, accordingly, blessed with certain privileges, such as an exemption from winds, clouds, and rain. An eternal spring was supposed to flourish on its summit, which, it was pretended, reached to the very heavens.
At what time the Olympic games were instituted, is a matter of uncertainty. Their origin is very obscure.merely says that it was the Cretan Hercules who instituted them, without informing us in what period or on what occasion. The most common opinion among the learned, is that Pelops was the author, and that the first celebration of them was made in Æolis, in the twenty-ninth year of the reign of Acrisius, or the thirty-fourth in the reign of Sicyon, the nineteenth king of Sicyon; and, according to the sacred writings, this epoch was in the twenty-third year of Deborah’s judicature.
Atreus, son of Pelops, renewed them, and ordered the second celebration of them fourteen hundred and eighteen years before Christ. At length, Hercules, on his return from the conquest of the golden fleece, assembled the Argonauts in Æolis, to celebrate these games for the happy success of their voyage; and the people promised to re-assemble there every four years for that object.
These games, however, were discontinued in the reign of Iphitus in Elis, which was four hundred and forty-two years after. Greece then made their celebration her principal epoch. The people counted by Olympiads only; and since that time, few fables of the Greeks are recorded in history. This division of time, it may be remarked, comes to us from the Greeks and Romans, who were imperfectly acquainted with antiquity. It is the Olympiads, how ever, which have spread the greatest light over the chaos of ancient history.
The Olympic games began with a solemn sacrifice. People ran to them from every part of Greece. The victors were proclaimed by a herald, and celebrated with songs of victory. They wore a triumphal crown, and had the first places in the assemblies: their cities enriched them with presents; and, during the rest of their days, they were entertained at the expense of the public treasure.
The first who won the prize of running was Chorœbus, a native of Elis.
Cynisca, daughter of king Archidamus, was the first of her sex who gained the prize of the chariot race.
The sixteenth Olympiad was then celebrated; and from that time ladies could participate in the games.
Before Cynisca’s victory, women were not permitted to approach the places in which the games were celebrated. Every attempt of this sort caused them to be thrown down from the Tarpeian rock. To avoid deception, they combated naked. This usage was adopted, because Callipatira, after the death of her husband, dressed herself after the manner of an exercise-master, and conducted herself and her son Pisidorus to Olympia. The young man having been declared victor, his mother leaped over the barrier, and hastened to embrace him, at the same time calling him her son. She was pardoned this infringement of the law; but from that time, masters of exercise were not allowed to appear there except naked, like the combatants. The judges of the games were called Hellanodices, or judges of the Greeks. None ever appealed from their decisions. At first, there were but two judges; but, in order to render more difficult the means of corrupting them, their number was afterwards increased to ten.
The prodigious crowds which the celebration of the games attracted to Olympia enriched that city, as well as all Elis; and were one of the principal causes of the magnificence and richness of the temple of Jupiter Olympius. Around this temple was a sacred wood, called the Altis, in which were placed statues, erected in honour of those who had won the prize in these games. They were all made by the most celebrated Grecian sculptors.
The odes ofwhich are extant immortalize those who, in his lifetime, had triumphed in the four most solemn games, the Olympic, the Isthmian, the Pythian, and the Nemæan.
The heights of glory and honour were sung by. His genius, says , was an imperious sceptre with which he subjugated minds.
The descendants of Hellen were so numerous and powerful in Greece, that they established a law by which that family only was allowed to be admitted at the Olympic games. Alexander himself was compelled to prove, that he was descended from the Hellens, before he was permitted to enter the lists in these games. From that time, all Grecian families pretended to be descended from the Hellens; and thus, this name, peculiar to a single family, became the general name of the Greeks.
Mythology of Northern Europe.
Translated from the French. §
Chapter I. Odin; his conquests; his arrival in the North, and the changes he there made. §
A celebrated tradition, confirmed by all the poesies of Northern Europe, by the annals of the people, by their institutions, and by their ancient usages, (some of which still exist,) informs us that an extraordinary personage, named Odin, anciently reigned there; that he performed great changes in government, in manners, customs, and religion; that he exercised great authority; and that he received even divine honours. These facts cannot be contested; but the origin of this wonderful man, the country which gave him birth, the time in which he flourished, and various other circumstances of his life, are enveloped in a cloud of obscurity, impenetrable to the acute eye of research. All the testimonies which deserve any sort of confidence are comprised in a work of, an ancient historian of Norway, together with the commentaries which has added to his account.
The Roman republic was at its acme of power, and found nothing in the known parts of the world which did not acknowledge her laws, when an event occurred that raised her up enemies even in the heart of the Scythian forests, and on the banks of the Tanais. Mithridates flying thither attracted Pompey into the deserts. This king of Pontus there sought an asylum, and, also, means of revenge. Accordingly, he attempted to arm against the ambition of Rome, all the barbarian nations whose liberties she threatened. His first efforts appeared to be successful; but these people proved faithless to him — ill-armed, undisciplined soldiers — who were soon compelled to yield to the genius of Pompey. Odin, it is said, was among this number. Obliged to fly from the pursuit of the Romans, he sought in countries unknown to his enemies, that liberty which he found not in his own. His real name was Frige, son of Fridulphe. He assumed that of Odin, the supreme god of the Scythians, either that he might be considered a man inspired by the gods, or because he was the first priest or the chief of the worship which was paid to the god Odin. It is known that several nations gave their pontiffs the name of the god whom they served. Frige, filled with his ambitious projects, did not fail to usurp a name which was calculated to secure to him the respect of the people whom he wished to bring into subjection.
Odin ruled, it is said, the Ases, a Scythian people, whose country was situated between the Black and the Caspian seas. Their principal city was Asgard. The worship paid to the supreme god, was celebrated in all neighbouring countries; and it was Odin who performed the functions of this worship, as a chief, aided by twelve other pontiffs, a sort of druids, who also administered justice (Drotars.) Odin, having united under his standard the flower of the neighbouring countries, marched towards the Northern and Western boundaries of Europe, subduing all who opposed his progress, and leaving some of his sons to rule over them. Thus Suavlami had Russia; Baldeg, Western Saxony or Westphalia; Segdeg, Eastern Saxony; and Sigge, Franconia. Most of the sovereign families of the North are descended from these self-same princes. Thus, Horsa and Hengist, chiefs of those Saxons who subdued Britain in the fifth century, counted Odin or Woden in the number of their ancestors. The same was true of other Anglo-Saxon princes. The name of Odin, therefore, ultimately came to signify the supreme god of the Scythians and Celts. It is also known that the heroes of all these nations, pretended to be descended from their gods, and especially from the god of war. The historians of those times, (that is to say, the poets,) granted the same honour to those whose praises they sung; and thus multiplied the descendants of Odin, or of the supreme god.
After having forced many nations to adopt the worship of his country, Odin took the route to Scandinavia, by Chersonesus Cimbrica. These provinces did not resist him; and, soon after, he passed into Fionia, which immediately became his conquest. In this pleasant island, it is said; he made a long stay, and built the city of Odensus, which still perpetuates in its name, the remembrance of its founder. Thence he extended his arms over the whole North. In Denmark, he caused his son Sciold to be acknowledged king, a title which no ruler of that country had yet borne, (according to the annals of Iceland,) and which passed to his descendants, called from his name Scioldungians.
Odin more pleased with giving crowns to his sons than with reigning himself, next repaired to Sweden, where reigned a prince named Gylphe, who, regarding the author of a new worship, renowned and consecrated by such brilliant conquests, as an extraordinary being, loaded him with great honours, and adored him even as a divinity. This reception, favoured by the ignorance of the people, soon acquired him in Sweden the same authority as in Denmark. The Swedes came in crowds to pay him homage, and unanimously yielded the title and power of king to his son Yngue, which descended to his remoter posterity. Hence, the Ynglinglians, a name which has long served to designate the first kings of Sweden, Gylphe died, or was forgotten. Odin governed with absolute dominion. He made new laws introduced the usages of his country, established at Sigutna (a city situated in the same province with Stockholm, but now extinct,) a supreme council or tribunal, composed of twelve lords or druids. They were appointed to watch over the public safety, to administer justice to the people, to preside over the new worship, and faithfully to preserve the deposit of the religious and magic sciences of this prince.
So many conquests had not yet satisfied his ambition. The desire of spreading his religion, his glory, and authority, made him undertake the subjugation of Norway. His good fortune and great abilities attended him thither. This kingdom soon obeyed a son of Odin, named Sæmungue, who did not fail of being made the author of the family, whose different branches afterwards reigned long in the same country.
After these glorious expeditions, Odin retired into Sweden, where, feeling his end draw near, he would not await, through the series of a disease, that death which he had so many times braved in battle. Having assembled his friends and his companions, he inflicted upon himself, with the point of a lance, nine wounds, in the form of a circle, and divers other cut-paper works in his skin with his sword. Whilst dying, he declared that he was going into Scythia, to take his place with the other gods at an eternal banquet, where he would receive, with great honours, those who, after having exposed themselves courageously in battle, should die with arms in their hands. As soon as he had breathed his last, his body was carried to Sigutna, where, conformably to the usage which he had brought into the North, it was burnt with great pomp and magnificence.
Such was the end of this man, no less extraordinary in his death than in his life. Some learned men have supposed that the desire of revenging himself upon the Romans was the principle of all his actions. Driven by those enemies of all liberty, from his native country, his resentment was truly Scythian, as every Scythian considered it a sacred duty to avenge injuries, and especially those of his relatives and country. The grand object of Odin, therefore, in travelling over remote countries, and so ardently establishing his doctrines, was to raise up enemies against an odious and formidable power. This old grudge long fermented secretly in the minds of the Northern Nations; and when the signal was given, they rushed, with one accord, upon that ambitious empire, and finally avenged themselves, as well as the injuries done to their founder and to all those whom she had stripped and trampled under her feet, by overwhelming and crushing her gigantic power.
I cannot resolve, says Mr., to make objections against so ingenious a narrative as this account of Odin, although it gives too much importance to the history of the North, by putting into it too much interest, too much poesy, so to speak, so that I can scarcely consent to yield to the various proofs which have been adduced in its favour. It is, doubtless, more rational to see in Odin only the founder of a new worship, previously unknown to the Scandinavians. It is also probable that he, his father, or the author of this religion, whoever he was, came from Scythia, or the confines of Persia; and still more so, that the name of the god whose prophet and priest he became, was, in succeeding ages, transferred to him, and the attributes of the deity confounded with the history of the priest. The accounts of Odin preserved by the Icelanders, confirm these conjectures.
One of the artifices which he employed with the greatest success, in order to secure to himself the confidence and respect of the people was to consult, in difficult affairs, the head of a certain Mimer, who, during his life, had a great reputation for wisdom. This man having had his head cut off, Odin embalmed it, and knew how to persuade the Scandinavians that he had given him speech by his enchantments. He always carried it with him, and made it pronounce the oracles of which he stood in need. This artifice reminds us of the pigeon which carried to Mahomet the orders of Heaven, and shows the superstition of those who obeyed them. Another point of resemblance between these two imposters is the eloquence with which both were endowed. The chronicles of Iceland represent Odin as one of the most persuasive of men. Nothing, say they, could resist the power of his discourses. Sometimes he mingled his harangues with the verses which he composed. Not only was he a great poet, but he was the first who inspired the Scandinavians with the charms of poetry. He was the inventor of Runic characters; but what most contributed to make him pass for a god, was the belief that he excelled in magic. It was believed that he could run over the universe in the twinkling of an eye; that he ruled the air and disposed of tempests; that he could raise the dead to life, predict future events, and transform himself at will; that, by the force of his enchantments, he took away the strength of his enemies, gave back health again to his friends, and discovered all treasures hidden under ground. These chronicles, more poetical than faithful, say, that he sung such melodious and tender airs, as to attract, by the sweetness of his songs, the spirits of the dead, who left their black abysses to come and range themselves around him.
His eloquence, together with his august and venerable air, caused him to be respected and revered in assemblies, whilst his bravery and skill in arms, rendered him formidable in battle. The terror, with which he inspired his enemies, was so great, that, in order to depict it, he was said to strike them deaf and blind. Like a desperate wolf, or an enraged lion, he rushed amidst the enemy’s ranks, striking his buckler with fury, and spreading around him a horrible carnage, without ever receiving any wound. We must not forget, however, in reading these descriptions of his brilliant exploits, that the historians, who have transmitted them to us, were poets. Odin, carrying with him arts before unknown in the north, an extraordinary magnificence, a masterly address, and rare talents, could easily pass for a god in a country where nobody equalled him, and in which the people gave the name of prodigies to all at whose exploits they were greatly astonished.
Chapter II. General Idea of the Ancient Religion of Northern Europe. §
The Greek and Latin authors had but little intercourse with the northern people, whom they styled barbarians. They were ignorant even of their language, especially as the Celts made a scruple of unraveling to foreigners the thread of their doctrines. Hence, the former, compelled to remain spectators of their worship, could hardly seize the spirit of it. Yet, by gathering the traits preserved by those different writers, and by comparing them with the chronicles of the North, we hope to succeed in distinguishing the most important points.
The religion of the Scythians appears to have been simple in early times. It inculcated but few tenets, and was, in all probability, the only religion of the European aboriginals. It is generally remarked, that, under southerly climes, men are born with vivid, prolific, and restless imaginations, and are greedy for the marvellous; and that their ardent passions seldom allow them to keep up a just equilibrium. Hence, as soon as they leave the track of primitive traditions, they are apt to wander with a frightful rapidity. And hence arose the ravings of the priests among the Egyptians, Syrians, and, after them, the Greeks; and hence was produced that chaos, known by the name of mythology. In the north, on the contrary, religious opinions were less inconstant and fluctuating. There, the rigour of the climate chains the mind, checks the imagination, and curbs the passions; and man, obtaining nothing but by vigorous exertion, turns first upon objects of necessity, that activity which, under the torrid zone, is apt to run into the channels of inquietude and levity.
Notwithstanding this, the Scythians corrupted their worship by a mixture of ceremonies, some ridiculous, and others cruel. It becomes proper, therefore, to distinguish two ages in the religion of this people, and not confound the fictions of the poets with the creeds of their sages. This religion of the sages taught, that there was a Supreme God, who was Ruler of the Universe, to whom all were subject. And, according to, such, also, was the god of the ancient Germans.
The ancient mythology of Iceland called God the author of all that exists, the eternal, the ancient, the living, and the terrible being, the searcher into hidden things, the immutable. It attributed to this god, omnipotence, omniscience, and incorruptible justice, and forbade the representation of this divinity under any corporeal form. He could not be suitably regarded and adored but in the heart of retreats or in sacred forests. There he reigned in silence, and rendered himself sensible by the respect which he inspired. To represent him in a human figure, to attribute to him sex, to erect to him statues, justly appeared to these people an extravagant impiety. From this supreme divinity emanated a variety of subaltern genii, whose seat and temple was every thing in the visible world. These intelligences had the direction of its operations: the earth, water, fire, air, the moon, the stars, forests, rivers, mountains, lakes, winds, thunder, and tempests, received religious homage, which, at first, was directed only towards the intelligence that animated them. The motive of this worship was the fear of a God, offended by the sins of man, but merciful, and exorable to prayer and repentance. They addressed him as the active principle that produced all things, and as the only agent that preserved inferior beings, and dispensed events. To serve divinity by sacrifice and prayer, to do to others no wrong, to be brave and intrepid, were the chief moral consequences resulting from this worship. At length, the introduction of a life to come, cemented this religious edifice; cruel punishments were reserved for those who should have despised these three fundamental precepts, to continue as long as innumerable and endless delights were to reward the just, the religious, and the valiant.
Such are a few of the leading characteristics of that religion which, for several centuries, was adopted and practised by most people of Northern Europe, and, no doubt, by several Asiatic nations. It still preserved great purity towards the end of the Roman republic. The testimony of some authors proves that the ancient Germans had retained its principal tenets, while other nations, subdued and corrupted by the arms and luxury of the Romans, adopted their gods, and submitted to their yoke. We may, therefore, conclude, that it was at the time of Odin’s arrival that this religion began to lose its primitive purity; as it is obvious, that this conqueror, by introducing himself to the people of the North as an awful divinity, had no other end than to secure dominion.
Chapter III. Of the religion of Northern Europe, since Odin. §
TheEdda of the Icelanders and their ancient poesies are the sole monuments which can give us any light on the ancient religion of the inhabitants of the north. From these sources wo learn, that the most important alteration which it received after Odin, related to the number of the gods to be worshipped. The Scythians adopted, as the capital point of their religion, the adoration of one being, omnipotent and superior to all created intelligences. So reasonable a doctrine had so great influence over their minds, that they often displayed their contempt of the polytheism of those nations who treated them as barbarians; and every time they became the stronger party, their first care was to destroy all the objects of an idolatrous worship. The fatal effects of example and of the times ultimately destroyed the simplicity of this religion; and the Scythians at last associated with the supreme god, subaltern divinities. Fear, desire, want, and passion, were the origin of this guilty change; and we are aware that the same causes have tended to corrupt all religions contrived by men. As those degenerate people began to think that one individual being could not watch over all parts of the universe, they considered it a duty to call to his aid, other minds, genii, and divinities of every description. But their predominant passions became the measure of their faith; wherefore the supreme god, the first idea of whom embraced all that exists, was only worshipped by the greater portion of the Scythians, as the god of war: than which rank, according to them, no honour could be more worthy of his attention, or better calculated to make his power conspicuous. Hence, those hideous pictures, which, in the Icelandic mythology, show us Odin as the terrible and severe god, the father of carnage, the depopulator, the incendiary, the eagle, the blusterer, the donor of victory, the reriver of courage in combat, the namer of those who were to be killed. Warriors going to fight vowed to send him a certain number of souls; which souls were the right of Odin. It was thought, that he often came into battle to inflame the fury of the combatants, to strike those whom he designed to perish, and to carry away souls to the celestial abodes.
Yet, according to the ancient Icelandic mythology, that terrible divinity, which took pleasure in shedding the blood of men, was the father and creator of them.
God, says the Edda
, sees and governs for centuries, directs all that is high and low, great and small. He made heaven, air, and man, who is to live forever; and before heaven and earth were made, this god was already with the giants. It is likely that the ambitious Odin thus confounded and mixed up divers opinions, in order to consolidate the empire which he had usurped over men and over their minds. Some traces of the worship paid to him among the people of the North, still remain. The fourth day of the week still bears his name. It is called, according to different dialects, Odensdag, Ousdag, Wodens-day, and Wednesday. This god was also accounted the inventor of the arts; and is thought to correspond with the Mercury of the Greeks and Romans. The day sacred to Mercury was called Dies Mercurii (the day of Mercury.) The French call it Mercredi.
Odin was called Alfadur, (father of all,) because the gods were descended from him and his wife Frigga, or Walfadur, because he was the father of all who fell in battle. He had upwards of one hundred and twenty names.
The residence of the gods is Asgard, a fortress whence the bridge Bifrost leads to the earth. Valaskialf was the silver palace of Odin. He sits upon the elevated throne Lidskjalf, whence he sees every thing in the universe. By his side stands the spear Gungner. His steed is called Sleipner. In the centre of Asgard, which is in the valley of Ida, was situated the place of meeting, the most splendidly ornamented of all, where the gods administered justice. Herein appeared Gladheim, the hall of joy, Wingolf, the palace of friendship and love, and Glasor, the forest of golden trees.
After Odin, the principal divinity of the north was Frigga or Frea, his wife. All the Celtic nation, the ancient Syrians, and the aboriginals of Greece, believed that the celestial god was connected with Earth, in order to produce by her subaltern deities, man, and all other creatures; and upon this belief was founded the veneration they had for Earth. They called her mother earth, the mother of the gods. The Phœnicians adored these two principles under the name of Tautes and Astarte. Some Scythian nations named them Jupiter and Apia; the Thracians, Cotis and Bendis; the Greeks and Romans, Saturn and Ops. The Scythians served Earth as a consort of the supreme god.attributes the same worship to the ancient Germans, and especially to the inhabitants of Northern Germany. We cannot doubt that Hertus, or Earth, of whom he speaks, was the same as the Frea of the Scandinavians. In the old Teutonic language, Frea or Frau, signifies a woman.
In succeeding times, this Frea became the goddess of love and debauchery, the Venus of the north, no doubt, because she was deemed the principle of all fecundity, and the mother of. all that exists. It was to her that they applied for marriage and happy deliveries. She dispensed pleasure, rest, voluptuousness. Frea shared with Odin the souls of those who were killed in war. The sixth day of the week was sacred to her under the name of Freytag (Friday,) and called by the Latins Dies Veneris (the day of Venus.) It is named Vendredi by the French.
The third among the principal divinities of the Scandinavians, was named Thor, the god of thunder — a symbol of physical strength. His mighty step sounded like the storm. His hammer, Miolner, (the Crusher,) crushed the hardest rocks. His son Uller, the beautiful god of archery and skating, was invoked by duellists. He had a silver circle round the down of his chin. His empire was called Ydalir (Rain-Valleys.) expressly speaks of a god of the Gauls who presided over winds and tempests. He designates him by the Latin name of Jupiter; but gives him another name, which more nearly resembles that of Thor: he calls him Taranis, a name which, among the Gauls again signifies thunder. The authority of Thor was extended to winds, seasons and thunderbolts. In the primitive system of the religion of the North, Thor was probably a subaltern divinity, born of the union of Odin with Earth. The Edda pronounces him the most valiant of the sons of Odin; and the club with which he is armed, and which he throws in the air at the giants, designates a thunderbolt. He was looked upon as the defender and avenger of the gods. Besides that club, which returned of itself to the hand that had hurled it, and which he grasped with iron gauntlets, he possessed a girdle which renewed strength in proportion as one needed it. It was with these dreadful arms that he fought the enemies of the gods.
The three divinities just named, composed the courts or supreme council of the gods. They were the principal objects of worship. But the Scandinavians did not all agree as to the one who should have the preference. The Danes particularly honored Odin; the Norwegans considered themselves under the safeguard of Thor; and the Swedes had for their tutelary god Freya, who, according to the Edda, presided over the seasons of the year, and gave fertility, riches, and peace.
The number and employment of the divinities of the second order are not easily determined. We shall merely give an outline.
The Edda enumerates twelve gods and twelve goddesses, who received divine honors, but whose power was subordinate to that of Odin, the oldest of the gods, and the principle of all things. Such was Niord, the Neptune of the North, who was the god of winds, of sailors, of commerce, and of riches. He shook his vans in the roaring storm in such a manner as to make every thing tremble. By his wife Scala, daughter of the mountain Thiasse, he had the beautiful, beneficent, and mighty Frei and Freya. Frei, the ruler of the sun, dispenses rain and sunshine, plenty or dearth. He rides on a boar with golden bristles. The name, of his wife is Gerda, Gymer’s daughter. The Celts placed Niord in the rank of inferior gods; but the importance and extent of his empire, caused him to be dreaded. The Edda devoutly recommends to adore him for fear that he would do evil. Wherefore temples were raised to his honor, for fear is the most superstitious of the passions.
Balder, son of Odin, was another god. He was the youthful, beautiful, and wise god of eloquence and of just decision. He appeared as brilliant in innocence as the lily, and the whitest flower was hence called Baldrian. He was endued with so great majesty, that his looks were resplendent. He was the sun of the Celts, the same as the Grecian Apollo. His wife Nanna regarded her husband with modest admiration and affectionate enthusiasm. She brought him Forfete, who was the god of concord, and who had a palace, called Glitner, supported by pillars.
Tyr, whom we must distinguish from Thor, was the god of power and valour, and the patron of brave warriors and athletes. He wounded by a look, was lofty as a fir, and brandished the lightnings of battle. Brage was the god of eloquence, wisdom, and poetry, which, from him, is called Bragur. He had a golden telyn, and swept the cords, which emitted a sweet sound. His wife Iduna, the goddess of youth, had charge of certain apples, of which the gods ate when they felt the approach of old age, and the power of which was to make them grow young again. Hiemdal, a son of nine gigantic sisters, born on the margin of the earth, was their door keeper. He appeared with a pensive brow, and his eyes cast down. The rainbow (Bifrost) was the bridge, communicating from heaven to earth. Hiemdal watched over its extremities to prevent the giants from scaling heaven. He slept as lightly as birds; and day and night, he perceived objects at more than a hundred leagues distant. He heard the grass and the wool of sheep grow; and held in one hand a sword, and in the other, a trumpet, the noise of which was heard in all worlds. Hermode, the messenger of the gods, was armed with a helmet and mail. Vidar, the god of silence, was as strong as Thor, and walked the waters and the air. Hoder, the blind god, was the murderer of Balder. The gods never forgot his violent actions, and would not hear his name pronounced. Wale was the formidable god of the bow. The Scandinavians gave to the bad principle the name of Loke, and placed it in the number of their gods. He was the son of the giant Farbaute and of Laufeya. He is, says the Edda,
the calumniator of the gods, the artificer of frauds, the opprobrium of the gods and of men. He is beautiful of body, but malignant of spirit, and inconstant in his inclinations; none among mortals surpass him in the art of perfidy and of cunning. He had several children of Signie, his wife. Three monsters also owed their existence to him: the wolf Fenris, the serpent Migdard, and Hela or death, all being enemies of the gods, who, after divers efforts, inclosed the wolf Fenris, where he is to remain until the last day, when he will be let loose, and devour the sun. The serpent was cast into the sea, where he will remain until conquered by the god Thor; and Hela was banished into the infernal abodes, where she has the government of nine worlds, which she divides among those who are sent to her. Loke was locked up by the gods in a cave shut by three sharp stones, where he shudders with such rage, as to cause the earthquakes. He will remain there captive until the end of time, and then be killed by Hiemdal, door-keeper to the gods.
The Icelandic Mythology counted twelve goddesses, at the head of whom was Frea or Frigga, the consort of Odin. Each of them had her peculiar offices. Eira was the goddess of medicine; Gelione, of virginity; she protects chaste females, and, if they die unmarried, takes them to her heavenly dwellings; lyna, the goddess of friendship and good faith, kisses away the tear from the eye of the unfortunate; Siona excites good feelings in the bosoms of youth, and especially maidens, and disposes them to mutual love; Fulla, a virgin with beautiful locks, and wearing a diadem of gold, was the confident of Frigga, and the patroness of finery; Freya, the goddess of lovers, is the most mild and bountiful of the divinities. Her eye is an eternal spring; her neck and cheeks, light itself. She encourages sweet songs, and listens to the prayers of mortals. More faithful than Venus, she incessantly weeps over her absent husband Odrus; (to whom she bore two daughters, Nossa, the model of all beauty and grace, and Gersemi;) but her tears are drops of gold. Lofna reconciles divided consorts. Vara receives their oath, and punishes those who violate them. Snotra, the goddess of modesty, sciences, and good morals, patronises virtuous youths and maidens. Gna, the messenger of Frea, floats about with the rays of the sun; Synia, the guard of heaven, protects justice and law, avenges broken faith, and exposes perjury; Wora, the omniscient goddess, penetrates every secret of the heart; and Saga presides over waterfalls.
Besides these twelve goddesses, there are other virgins in Valhalla, or the paradise of heroes. They are majestic and beautiful, neither daughters of heaven, nor born in hell; neither begotten by gods, nor acknowledged by immortal mothers; and are named the Valkyrias, or Disas. They appear with a helmet and mail, and mounted on swift horses. It is their duty to wait upon heroes. Odin also employs them in fights, to choose out those who were doomed to destruction, and to incline the victory to the side he pleases; for these courageous people took care not to attribute defeats to their weakness, or want of valour; but these, as well as victory, were attributed solely to the will of Odin.
“On steeds that seem’d as fleet as light,Six maids in brilliant armour dight,Their chargers of ethereal birth,Paw’d, with impatient hoof, the earth,And snorting fiercely ‘gan to neigh,As if they heard the battle bray,And burn’d to join the bloody fray.But they unmov’d and silent sate,With pensive brow and look sedate,Proudly each couch’d her glittering spear,And seem’d to know nor hope nor fear.So mildly firm their placid air,So resolute, yet heav’nly fair.But not one ray of pity’s beam,From their dark eyelids seem’d to gleam;Nor gentle mercy’s melting tear,Nor love might ever harbour there. .Was never woman’s beauteous face,So stern, and yet so passionless.”Helga.
The court of the gods was usually held under a large oak, where they administered justice. This oak is represented as the largest of all trees Its branches covered the surface of the world, and its top reached to the heavens. It was supported by three large roots, one of which extended even to the ninth world, or to hell. On its branches sat an eagle, whose piercing eye surveyed the whole universe. A squirrel (Rotatoskr) ran up and down the oak to make his reports; four stags (Dain, Dynais, Dnalion, and Dryathor) roamed through its branches; several serpents twined around its trunk, and strove to destroy it; and in a neighbouring spring, called the fountain of past things, three virgins continually drew a kind of precious water, with which they watered the tree. This water keeps up the beauty of its leaves, and after having refreshed its branches, it falls back on the ground, where it keeps up the dew with which bees compose their honey. The three beautiful virgins, the Nornas, often meet under the oak, where they determine the fate of mortals. Their names are Urd, (the Past,) Varande, (the Present,) and Skuld, (the Future.)
Such were the principal divinities of the North, or, rather, the ideas which the poets gave of them to the credulous. It was by fictions, sometimes ingenious, that they endeavoured to extol the simplicity of their religion; but various passages in ancient history, show that many did not follow this creed, acknowledging no other subaltern divinity than their own courage.
Having thus enumerated the names and attributes of the principal gods, we will now proceed to set forth some of the tenets of the Celtic religion: and, first, we will notice those in the Edda, and in the poem, called Volupsa. It is thought that the latter was composed by. Several fragments of the first Edda are still extant. The most valuable is the poem entitled Volupsa, i. e. Oracle of the Prophetess. It contains about four hundred verses, and includes an abridgment of the whole Mythology of the North.
That portion of it which the Mythology of Iceland has preserved, deserves the more attention, as, in disclosing to us the sentiments of the ancient Celts on this important point, it is sometimes expressed in a style of sublime elevation.
The reader can judge for himself of the resemblance it bears to sacred tradition.
In the dawn of time, says, there was neither sea, river, nor refreshing zephyr. Neither heaven above, nor earth below, was seen; all was nothing but a vast, herbless, and seedless abyss, (Nislheim,) in which flowed the fountain, (Hwergelmer,) swallowing up every thing with twelve rivers (Eliwagar issuing from this fountain.) The sun had no palace; the stars did not know their homes; the moon did not know her power. Then there appeared a luminous, burning, and an inflamed world on the side of the south (Musspellheim;) and from this burning world, there incessantly slide away into the abyss, (which was in the north,) torrents of sparkling fire, which, in falling, were congealed into the abyss, and filled it up with scoria and ice. Thus the abyss was heaped up, little by little; but there remained within a light and immovable air, and frozen vapours were incessantly exhaled, until a breath of heat, being sent from the south, melted those vapours, and formed living drops, whence sprang the giant Ymer. It is related that, while he was sleeping, he formed of his perspiration, a male and a female, from whom was descended the race of giants; a race as vile and corrupt as Ymer its author. By the mixture of ice and heat was produced the cow (Audumbla,) from whose dugs flowed four streams of milk, on which Ymer lived. The cow fed on the salt stones, which she was one day licking, when, in the evening, human hair grew out of them. On the next day appeared a head; and on the third, an entire man, called Bure. His son Bor married Belsta, daughter of the giant Mountain-Gate. By her he had three sons, Odin, Wile, and Ve. There arose a better race, that was connected with that of the giant Ymer. It was called the family of Bor, from the name of the first of that family, who was father to Odin. The sons of Bor killed the giant Ymer, and the blood flowed from his wound in so great abundance, that it caused a general inundation, in which all the giants except one, perished. He being saved by means of a boat, escaped with his whole family. Then a new world was formed. The sons of Bor, or the gods, hurried the body of the giant into the abyss, and out of him fabricated the globe. With his blood they formed the sea and the rivers; the earth, with his flesh; large mountains, with his bones; rocks, with his teeth, and the fragments of his broken bones. They made of his skull the arch of heaven, which is sustained by four dwarfs, named South, (Sudre,) North, (Nordure,) East, (Austere,) and West, (Westre.) They threw his brain into the air, and it formed the clouds. They there placed flambeaux to enlighten it, and fixed to other fires the space which they were to survey; some in heaven, others under heaven. Days were distinguished, and years had their number. They made the earth round, and girded it with the deep Ocean, on the shores of which they placed giants. One day as the sons of Bor, or the gods, walked there, they found two floating pieces of wood, out of which they formed man and woman. The elder of the sons gave them soul and life; the second, motion and science; the third endowed them with speech, hearing, and sight, to which he added beauty and dress. It is from this man, named Askus, (Ash,) and from this woman, named Embla, (Alder,) that is descended the race of men, which now inhabit the earth.
The giant Narfi (darkness) had a daughter named Nott, (night.) She was thrice married. By her husband Nagelfari, (air, ether) she had a son, Andur, (matter;) by Anar, (the forming principle,) Jord, (the earth;) by Dellinger, (twilight,) Dagur, (day.) Alfadur transported Nott and Dagur to the heavens, and furnished them each with a horse and chariot, to drive round the earth daily. Nott was first drawn by her horse Hrimfaxi, (blackmane,) which every morning bedews the earth with the foam from his mouth. The horse of Dagur, Skinfaxi, (shining mane,) illuminates the world with his manes. Mundelfari (the mover of the axis,) had two beautiful children, Sool (sun,) and Maan (moon.) He married his daughter to Glemur, the god of joy. Disapproving of his presumptuous conduct, the gods carried away his children, and took them up to the heavens. They were employed in driving the chariots of the sun and moon.
We may easily recognize in the foregoing narration, the vestiges of a general tradition, the various circumstances of which most nations have embellished, altered, or suppressed at pleasure. If we compare it, together with the traditions of the Chaldeans, Syrians, and Egyptians, the theogony of, and with the mythology of the Greeks and Romans, we shall doubtless be convinced, That the conformity which is found between the leading circumstances of these accounts and that given in Genesis, cannot be the effect of mere chance.
The description of chaos given in the Edda; that quickening breath which produced the great giant Ymer; that sleep, during which a man and a woman were born of his sides; that race of the sons of the gods; that deluge from which one man alone escaped with his family in a boat; that renewing of the world which followed the deluge; that first man, that first woman, created by the gods, and who received motion from them: all this can be nothing but the vestiges and recollections of a general and more ancient creed. We recognize in these altered accounts, the same allegories, the same fictions, the same desire of explaining the phenomena of nature, which have decked out fables among all people. In considering the style of these fables, in which are blended, sometimes the sublime, with the peurile, sometimes littleness placed amidst the most magnificent pictures, the disorder of narration, and the uniform turn of idea and expression, we cannot but discover evident marks of a high antiquity, and the manner of expression peculiar to a simple, primitive people, whose vigorous imagination, despising or not familiar with rules, is displayed with all the liberty and all the energy of nature.
According to the Celts, matter already existing, but without form and life, was animated and disposed by the gods in the order which we now admire it. No heathen religion has granted more than that of the Celts to divine providence. This tenet was for them the key of all the phenomena of nature, without exception. All bodies and beings acted up to the influence of subaltern intelligences, who were themselves merely the organs and instruments of the divine will. Hence, that error common to so many nations, which caused the trembling of leaves, the crackling of flame, the roar of thunder, the flight or song of birds, the involuntary emotions of men, dreams and visions, and the like, to be looked upon as instructions or inspirations of the Supreme Being. Hence, too, are oracles, divinations, soothsayers, lots, augurs, presages, and illusions, brought forth by the inquietude and weakness of men. By admitting the immediate and continual influence of divinity over all creatures, the Celts considered it impossible for man to change the course of things, or to resist the destinies.
We have already seen that they admitted three Fairies or Nornas, who determined all events. Every man had a fairy, who was present at his birth, watched over his actions, and, beforehand, marked out all the events of his life and the limit of his days. It is to that tenet of the Celtic mythology that the fables of fairy-ism and the marvellous of our Gothic romances may be attributed, although the mythology of the Greeks and Romans assisted in the embellishment of their fictions, their poems, and their romances. We may easily conceive how much a belief in predestination was calculated to add to the temerity of the most warlike people on earth. The inhabitants of the North joined to this doctrine a still more barbarous and dangerous prejudice, namely; they believed that the limit of the life of a man could be put forward if some one should die for him. When some celebrated warrior or some prince was about to perish, it was thought that Odin, appeased by the sacrifice of another victim, repealed the decree, and prolonged the days of him whom that victim would save.
The precepts of the Celtic religion were chiefly confined to their being intrepid in war, to their serving the gods, and appeasing them by sacrifices, to their being just, hospitable to strangers, faithful to their word, and true to their conjugal faith.
Chapter IV: Tenets of the Celts in reference to the future state, and to the last destinies of this world. §
There will come a time, says the Edda, a barbarous age, a sword age, when crimes will infest the earth, when the brothers will wallow in the blood of their brethren, when the sons will be the assassins of their fathers, and the fathers of their children, and no one will spare his friend. Soon after a grievous winter will happen; the snow will fall from the four corners of the world; the winds will blow furiously; the frost will harden the earth; and three such winters will follow in succession. Then there will appear astonishing prodigies; monsters will break their chains and escape; the great dragon will roll in the ocean, and by his motions the earth will be overflown; the trees will be rooted up; the rocks will be rent; the wolf Fenris, unchained, will open his enormous jaws which will reach from earth to heaven; fire will issue from his nostrils and eyes; he will devour the sun, and the great dragon who follows him, will vomit upon the waters and in the air, torrents of venom. In this confusion the stars will flee away, the heaven will be split, and an army of evil genii and of giants, conducted by their princes, will enter to attack the gods; but Hiendal, the door-keeper of the gods, will arise and blow his roaring trumpet; the gods will awake and meet again; the great oak will shake its branches; and heaven and earth will be full of fear. The gods will arm, and the heroes take sides in battle. Odin will appear, clothed with his golden helmet and his resplendent cuirass; and with his broad cymeter in his hand, attack the wolf Fenris, which will devour him, and both perish together. Thor will be smothered in the torrents of vemon which the dragon will emit while dying. The fire will consume all, and the flame rise to heaven; but soon a new earth will emerge from the bosom of the waves, adorned with green meadows. The fields will then produce abundant harvests without culture; calamities will be unknown. Lift and Liftrasor, a human pair saved from the destruction, and fed with morning dew, will renew the human race.
There will be an elevated palace in it, covered with gold, and more brilliant than the sun, and there the just will dwell and rejoice for centuries. Then the powerful and the valiant, and he who governs all, will come from the abodes on high to administer divine justice, pronounce decrees, and establish the sacred destinies which will always last. Widar, (the conqueror,) and Wale, (the powerful,) will remain with the gods. Mode, (mental power,) and Magne, (strength,) will receive the crushing hammer when Thor is killed, and Widar will tear the jaws of the wolf asunder. There will be an abode remote from the sun, with doors turned towards the north. In it poison will rain through a thousand gaps. It will be composed of the carcasses of serpents. Torrents will flow there, in which will be plunged perjurers, assassins, and those who seduce married women. A black winged dragon will incessantly hover about, and devour the bodies of the unhappy who are shut up therein.
Notwithstanding the obscurity which pervades these descriptions, we see by them that the Scandinavians held as a doctrine of their religion, the immortality of the soul, and future rewards and punishments. This idea was general among the Celts; and upon it they founded the obligation to serve the gods, and to be brave in battle. Were it not for that monument of the Icelandic mythology, which we have referred to, we should know but little of the religion of our forefathers.
The Iceland mythology expressly distinguishes two different abodes for the happy, and as many for the guilty.
The first was the palace of Odin, called Valhalla, where that god received all who died a violent death, from the beginning of the world down to that general downfall of nature, which was to be followed by a second generation.
The second was the palace covered with gold, where the just were to rejoice eternally after the renewing of all things. In regard to the places of punishment, two were likewise distinguished. One of which, called Nislheim, was to last only until the end of the world; and the other, called Nastroud, was to be eternal. The first two future abodes seemed to be intended rather to reward courage and violence than virtue. Those only who died in battle, had a right to the happiness which Odin prepared in the Valhalla. All wounds received in battle, were there healed by the trumpet’s sounding for the feast; and then the heroes quaffed the oil of Enherium, and the Valkyrias filled their cups. All who died not imbrued with blood, had the fear of entering into Nislheim, a mansion composed of nine worlds, and reserved principally for those who should die of sickness or old age. Hela or Death there exercised her empire; her palace was Grief (Elidnir;) her table, Hunger (Hungr;) her servants, Lethargy (Ganglati,) and Delay (Ganghol;) the threshold of her door. Precipice; her bed, Disease (Kor;) and her looks froze with affright. The dog of darkness, resembling the Grecian Cerberus, guarded the entrance of Nislheim.
From the foregoing account it would seem, that the Scandinavians and the people of the north made war their chief occupation, and carried valour even to the excess of fanaticism.
“Uprose the king of men with speed,And saddled strait, his coal-black steed;Down the yawning steep he rode,That leads to Hela’s drear abode.Him the dog of darkness spied;His shaggy throat he opened wide,While from his jaws with carnage fill’d,Foam and human gore distill’d.Hoarse he bays, with hideous din,Eyes that glow and fangs that grin.”’s Descent of Odin.
“Hard by the eastern gate of hellIn ancient time great Valva fell;And there she lies in massive tomb,Shrouded by night’s eternal gloom.Fairer than gods, and wiser, sheHeld the strange keys of destiny,Ere world there was, or gods, or man;No mortal tongue has ever said,What hand unknown laid Valva dead.But yet if rumour rightly tells,In her cold bones the spirit dwells;And still if bold intruder come,Her voice unfolds his hidden doom,And oft the rugged ear of hellIs sooth’d by some melodious spell,Slow breathing from the hollow stoneIn witching notes and solemn tone.”’s Helga.
The Song of Valva.
“Silence, all ye sons of glory!Silence, all ye powers of light!While I sing of ancient story,Wonders wrapt in mystic night.
I was rock’d in giants’ cradle,Giants’ lore my wisdom gave;I have known both good and evil,Now I lie in lowly grave.
Long before the birth of Odin,Mute was thunderous ocean’s roar;Stillness o’er the huge earth brooding,Strand was none, nor rocky shore.
Neither grass nor green tree growing,Vernal shower, nor wintry storm;Nor those horses, bright and glowing,Dragg’d the Sun’s refulgent form.
He who rules, by night, the heaven,Wist not where his beams to throw;All to barren darkness given,There, confusion; hell below.
Imir sate in lonely sadness,Watching o’er the fruitless globe;Never morning beam’d with gladness;Never eve, with dewy robe.
Who are those in pride advancing,Through the barren tract of night?Mark their steel divinely glancing, .Imir falls in holy fight!
Of his bones, the rocks high swelling,Of his flesh the glebe is made;From his veins the tide is swelling,And his locks are verdant shade.
Hark! his crest with gold adorning,Chanticleer on Odin calls.Hark! another bird of morning,Claps his wings in Hela’s halls,
Nature shines in glory beaming;Elves are born, and man is form’d;Ev’ry hill with gladness teeming,Ev’ry shape with life is warm’d.
Who is he by heav’n’s high portal,Beaming like the light of morn?’Tis Heimdallar’s form immortal,Shrill resounds his golden horn.
Say, proud Warder, rob’d in glory,Are the foes of nature nigh?Have they climb’d the mountains hoary?Have they storm’d the lofty sky?
On the wings of tempest riding,Surtur spreads his fiery spell;Elves in secret caves are hiding;Odin meets the wolf of hell.
She must taste a second sorrow,She who wept when Balder bled;Fate demands a nobler quarry;Death must light on Odin’s head.
See ye not yon silent stranger?Proud he moves with low’ring eyes,Odin, mark thy stern avenger!Slain the shaggy monster lies.
See the serpent weakly crawling,Thor has bruis’d its loathsome head;Lo! the stars from heav’n are falling!Earth has sunk in ocean’s bed!
Glorious Sun, thy beams are shrouded,Vapours dark around thee sail;Nature’s eye with mists is clouded,Shall the powers of ill prevail?
Say, shall earth with freshness teeming,Once again from ocean rise?Shall the dawn of glory streaming,Wake us to immortal joys?
He shall come in might eternal,He whom eye hath never seen;Earth and heav’n and powers infernal,Mark his port and awful mien.
He shall judge, and he shall sever,Shame from glory, ill from good;These shall live in light for ever,Those shall wade the chilling flood.
Dark to dwell in wo repining,Far beyond the path of day;In that bower where serpents twining,Loathsome spit their venom’d spray.”’s Helga.
Chapter V: Progress of the Religion of the People of the North. §
The Celtic religion generally taught that it was offending the gods to pretend to lock them up in an inclosure of walls. In Denmark, in Sweden, and in Norway, amidst plains and on hills, are still found altars about which they assembled for sacrifices and other religious ceremonies. Three large rocks raised upon the summit of a small hill, serve as a basis to a large flat stone, under which is ordinarily a cavity, which probably served to receive the blood of victims. Firestones were commonly found, for no fire except that of their altars, was considered pure enough for so holy a purpose. Sometimes these altars were constructed with more elegance, greater regularity, and nicer proportions. In Selande one still remains, the stones of which are of a prodigious size. Even at this day, men might well hesitate to undertake a similar work, although with the advantage over its original builders, of the powerful aid of machinery. What increases our astonishment is, that the stones of which this structure is composed, are very rare in the isle of Selande; for which reason they must have been transported a great distance — monuments more lasting than any of modern art or industry. At all times, men have thought that in order to honour deity more highly, they ought to make for him some prodigious efforts, and to consecrate to him their riches. Europe and Asia lavished their treasures to construct the temple at Ephesus. The people of the North, whose strength, courage, patience, and perseverance, constituted their sole riches, bore heavy masses of rocks on to the tops of hills. In some places in Norway, are also found grottoes cut in the rock with wonderful patience, and intended for religious purposes.
In proportion as the people of the North formed new alliances with other nations, their religion underwent alterations; step by step new temples were raised, and new idols were adopted. The three principal tribes or hordes of Scandinavia, erected temples to Envy; but none, it is said, was more famous than that at Upsal in Sweden. Gold there glittered on every side. A chain of that metal surrounded the roof, though its circumference was nine hundred ells. Haquin, count of Norway, had built one near Drontheim, almost equal to that of Upsal. When Olaus, king of Norway, embraced the Christian faith, he caused that temple and its idols to be razed and broken. There were found in it immense riches; and among other things, a very costly golden ring.
Iceland had also its temples. The chronicles mention two that were highly celebrated, situated, the one in the north, the other in the south of the island. In each of these temples, says an author of that country, was a particular chapel, or sacred woody place. It was there that idols were placed upon an altar, around which were ranged the victims that were to be immolated; and near the chapel there was a deep well, into which victims were thrown headlong.
All these temples were razed when Denmark embraced Christianity, and the very remembrance of the places which they occupied, is lost; but some tables of altars, dispersed in the woods and on the mountains, still testify that the ancient Danes were no less attached to that worship than the other nations of the North.
The large temple at Upsal seemed to be particularly consecrated to the three great divinities. They were there represented by their peculiar symbols. Odin held a sword in his hand. Thor, on the left of Odin, had a crown on his head, a sceptre in one hand, and a club in the other. Sometimes he was represented in a chariot drawn by two wooden he-goats, with a silver bridle, and his head crowned with stars. Frigga, on the left of Thor, was represented with various attributes, among which the goddess of pleasure might be recognized.
Odin was honored as the god of battle and of victory; Thor, as the ruler of the seasons, and dispenser of rain, drought, and fertility; Frigga, as the goddess of love and marriage.
They held three great festivals in the year. The first was celebrated at the winter solstice. The night was called the night-mother, being that which produced all others. This epoch also marked the beginning of their year, which, among the people of the North generally, was computed from one winter solstice to the other. This feast, the most solemn of all, was called Juul, and was celebrated in honor of Thor or of the sun, to obtain a fertile year. During its continuance, like the Roman Saturnalia, marks of the most dissolute joy were allowed. The second feast was instituted in honour of Earth or of the goddess Frigga. Pleasures, fecundity, and victory, were invoked. It was placed in the crescent of the second moon of the year.
The third feast, in honor of Odin, was celebrated with a great deal of elact at the commencement of spring; at which time they asked of that god, much fighting and success in projected enter-prizes.
In early times, their offerings were simple, such as a pastoral people could afford. The first fruits of crops, and the most beautiful fruits of the earth, covered the altars of the gods. But in process of time, animals came to be immolated. To Thor were offered fattened horses and oxen; to Frigga, the largest hog that could be found; and to Odin, horses, dogs, and sometimes cocks and a fat bull.
When it was once laid down as a principle, that the effusion of the blood of animals appeased the wrath of the gods, and averted the strokes intended for the punishment of the guilty, sacrifices were rapidly multiplied; and in public calamities, that blood appearing too vile, they caused that of man to flow. This barbarous and almost universal usage has been traced to the highest antiquity; but the northern nations preserved it until the ninth century, because it was not until that period that they received the lights of Christianity, and the arts which had softened the manners of the Greeks, and Romans. The people of the North believed that the number three was cherished by the gods. Every ninth month or three times three, great sacrifices were renewed. They lasted nine days; and nine victims, either men or animals, were immolated. But the most solemn sacrifices were those which were made at Upsal every ninth year. Then, the king, the senate, and all distinguished individuals, were present, and brought their offerings which were placed in the large temple. The absent sent their presents, and the priests were charged to receive them. Strangers assembled in crowds. The access was shut to those who had lost their honor by some blemish, and especially to all who had lost their courage.
In time of war, they chose their human victims among captives; and in peace, among criminals. Nine persons were immolated; the will of the assembly and the lot combined, regulated this choice. The unfortunate upon whom the lot fell, were treated with so many honors and caresses by the assembly, and had so many promises of life to come, that they sometimes congratulated themselves on their destiny. The choice did not always fall on those of vile blood; for the more dear and noble the victim, the more highly they imagined they redeemed the divine benevolence. The history of the North teems with examples of kings and other fathers who imposed silence on nature in order to obey this barbarous custom.
When the victim was chosen, it was conducted towards the altar, where the sacred fire was burning day and night. Among the vessels of iron and copper employed one greater than the rest, served to receive the blood of victims. After having killed the animals, they opened their entrails to read futurity in them; and afterwards roasted the flesh, which was distributed in the assembly. When they immolated men, the victim was laid upon a large stone, where he was either choked or crushed. When the blood spouted with great impetuosity, it was considered one of the most favorable omens. The sad remains of human victims sacrificed, were either burned or suspended in a sacred wood near the temple. The blood was sprinkled partly upon the people, and partly upon the sacred wood. With it, they also besmeared the images of the gods, the altars, the benches, and the walls of the temple both within and without. Near the temple was a well, or deep spring, into which they sometimes cast a victim devoted to Frigga, the goddess of the earth. If it went quickly to the bottom she was pleased, and graciously received it. On the contrary, if it floated, she refused it, and it was suspended in the sacred forest. Near the temple of Upsal was a wood of this kind, every tree and leaf of which was looked upon as most holy. This wood, called Odin’s, was filled up with bodies of men and of animals that had been sacrificed. They were sometimes carried off and buried in honor of Thor, or the sun; and when the smoke arose quickly, the people doubted not but these offerings had been most agreeable to him. When they immolated a victim, the priest said: I devote thee to Odin, I send thee to Odin, or, I devote thee for a good crop, or, for the return of a good season. The ceremony was terminated by feasts, in which was displayed all the magnificence known in that age. The kings and chief lords first gave toasts or salutes in honor of the gods; after which each one drank whilst making his prayer or vow.
Whatever horror we may now have for human sacrifices, it nevertheless appears by history, that this barbarous usage was once almost general on earth. The Gauls long offered men to their supreme god, Esus or Teutal. The aboriginals of Sicily and Italy, the Britons, the Phœnicians, the Carthaginians, and, indeed, almost all the nations of Europe and Asia, have been covered with the same opprobrium. The Peruvians and the Mexicans likewise offered human sacrifices. The latter once immolated, on a single occasion, five thousand prisoners of war. The wandering people of Africa and of America, again, gave themselves up to this guilty folly. But we cease to wonder at it, when we consider how liable ignorant nations are to fall into error. Man is surrounded with dangers and evils from his birth; and if the protection of laws and the enlightening aid of science, religion, and the arts, do not soften his passions, and encourage him to tread in the path of virtue in the morning of life; if they do not sweeten his temper, and spread over his soul that quietness and moderation which cause the social and kindlier affections to spring up, he is soon surrounded with a thousand black cares and terrors, which make him ferocious and distrustful. All those beings who share his wants, become his ideal enemies. Hence arises that thirst for revenge, and that eagerness for the destruction of his fellow man, which cannot be quenched whilst he entertains no respect for justice, nor for the sacred rights of others: and hence too, those impious prejudices, and dark conceptions which make men imagine sanguinary gods like themselves. Hence, those bloody rites which plunge the blade into the breast of the unfortunate victim of superstition, whilst pleading for his life, after having been stripped, by crime and force, from all other rights.
The same spirit of inquietude which induced the people of Asia and Greece, to seek all available means to penetrate into the secrets of futurity, operated with no less power upon the people of the North. In studying carefully the phenomena of nature, or rather, what they considered as the visible operations of a deity, they hoped to succeed in ascertaining his tastes, inclinations, and will. Oracles, augurs, divinations, and a thousand of the like practices followed.
The three Parcæ whom we have mentioned, delivered oracles in temples. That of Upsal was the most celebrated, on account of its replies, as well as its sacrifices.
It was generally thought, that some diviners had familiar spirits, which did’not leave them, and which they could consult, under the form of small idols. It was also believed, that others conjured the manes from their tombs, and forced them to relate the destinies. Odin gave out, that he had this power; an ancient Icelandic ode describes him as descending into hell, where he consults a celebrated prophetess.
Ignorance, which caused poetry to be considered as supernatural, caused the belief, that the Runic characters or letters contained mysterious and magic virtues. Odin, who was looked upon as the inventor of these characters, asserted that, by their means, he could raise the dead to life.
There were Runic letters appropriated to obtain victory, to cure the evils of the body, and to dissipate sorrow. The same characters were employed in all the different cases; but their combination, and the manner of tracing them, were varied. Sometimes it was from the right to the left, or from the left to the right; now from the top to the bottom, and then in a circle, or against the course of the sun.
We shall not dwell upon the mortifying spectacle of the credulity, ignorance, and errors of men. What we have related, is sufficient to show how necessary it is that they should be guided by lights superior to those of their reason.
Chapter VI. Researches into the ancient religion of the primitive inhabitants of Great Britain. §
During the infancy of states, as during that of men, shining actions are rare: the arts and sciences do not arise but in succeeding ages. Historians do not exist, but among already civilized nations; and hence, the few facts of early ages that come to us, are the exaggerated and altered accounts handed down by uncertain tradition.
We have already observed, that most nations give for their founders, either gods or imaginary heroes. We have shown that the Greeks made similar exertions to veil their real origin; but that their fables, which were a fantastical admixture of real remembrances and of the flights of imagination, become records which, to no small extent, depose in favour of truth.
The name of a god often appears to be that of a sage, sometimes designated by a word taken from a foreign language; and these etymologies are the traces which truth leaves behind her, and which all the exertions of self-love cannot efface.
In the general view, by which we have attempted to trace out the origin of idolatry and the history of mythology, it evidently appears, that it is to the Oriental countries we must look, if we wish to find the cradle of the human race. The more we search into history, the more clearly it appears that those rich and flourishing countries were the native soil of our first parents; and that they were also the brilliant centre whence the arts and sciences irradiated spread over the rest of the world.
It would be difficult, perhaps even impossible, to ascertain how, and at what precise time, the British isles became inhabited. The study of natural history induces us to believe, that they formerly made a part of the European continent; but neither the memory nor the monuments of men have preserved any record which might indicate the period of their separation. It is well enough to extend our observations to those ages and early histories which have left some vestiges, where the mind can walk without being swallowed up in useless and audacious speculations and imaginings. But human vanity will in vain attempt to roll back the current of time; whose longest period will be but an imperceptible point in eternity which precedes and follows it.
Without pretending to indicate the time in which England was first peopled, it is probable that Gaul was inhabited before it was. It is natural to suppose that men ventured through the seas in order to fix themselves in the isles, only when they had become somewhat populous.
We know that the Celts were once the masters of Europe, from the mouth of the Obi in Russia to Cape Finisterre. The same language having been adopted among those nations separated from each other by immense forests is the only monument which remains to us to point out that fact; but it throws no light on the beginning of their history.
The most renowned of all the Celts, are those who inhabited Gaul; and it is to the historians of the nations against whom they carried on frequent wars, that they owe their celebrity.and relate that Great Britain was the first country which the Celtic Gauls peopled.
The relative situation of those countries renders their statement probable; and the conformity of language and of customs which existed between the Britons and the Gauls, leaves no doubt of their having had a common origin. It appears that the Gallic colony at first settled in that portion of the island which is opposite to Gaul. They then extended towards the north, and gradually peopled the whole island.
Whatever may have been the origin of the inhabitants of Great Britain, they were numerous enough, and, above all, courageous enough, to resist the Romans, who were then masters of the known world.
Their government was at that time a mixture of monarchy and aristocracy. The chiefs watched over the execution of the laws; but the legislative power was vested in the hands of the druids. The people regarded as the infallible organs of divinity, those pontiffs so celebrated by their divination, and that of their wives, by their pretended intercourse with heaven, and by their manner of living, which was as austere as retired. It was by the influence of those supreme pontiffs, that the nation united under one chief, whose magistracy, resembling the Roman dictatorship, was not to last longer than during the time necessary to terminate wars, and remove dangers.
The druids long preserved that high authority among the Celts, especially in Great Britain; but, after the beginning of the second century, their credit decreased, because wars were multiplied, and the nobility, hurried away by its bloody carnage, no more pressed so many to enter into that order. The number of priests accordingly diminished; and the precepts of religion were soon altered and almost forgotten in the tumults of camps.
Victory favouring those of the chiefs who were called Vergobrets, (a title equal to that of kings,) rendered their power more independent of the druids. Tremnor, great-grandfather to the celebrated Fingal, had been elected vergobert by the victorious tribes that he had conducted to victory. The druids were deputed to him to order him to resign his power. The refusal of Tremnor caused a civil war, in which a very large number of druids perished. Those who escaped the carnage, hid themselves in the heart of forests and in caves, where they devoted themselves to meditation; and the vergobrets or kings seized the whole authority.
In the meantime, in order to strengthen their power, to render homage to religion, and to have chanters of their exploits, the kings and chiefs of the tribes recalled the bards from the heart of the forests. The function of the druids, of an inferior rank, was to sing the gods and heroes. The conquerors, jealous of immortalizing their names, spared these dispensers of glory; attracted them into their camps; where gratitude and rewards animated the bards to paint their protectors as heroes endowed with all virtues. Those druids were admitted to a knowledge of science, and associated in the mysteries of the first pontiffs. Their genius and knowledge elevated them above the vulgar. They consecrated their songs to the picture of all virtues and all heroic sentiments. The kings were eager to take for their models the heroes of the poems imagined by the bards. The chiefs of tribes strove to equal the kings; and this noble emulation, communicating itself to the whole nation, formed the general characteristic of the inhabitants of Great Britain, who, at all times have known how to unite lofty valour with the finest virtues of civilized nations.
The glory of a great nation awakens the genius of the man whom nature has endowed with a glowing imagination; and he burns with the idea of immortalizing his country. Vulgar language appears to him to fall below the dignity of those actions which he wishes to celebrate. He knows that measure and harmony will more easily impress his sentiments on the memory: and hence, no doubt, is the origin of poetry among all nations; an art which constituted a considerable portion of the religion of the Druids.
The practice among all nations, of repeating historic poems on solemn occasions, and of causing children to learn them, has been the mean of preserving them long without the help of writing.
The ancient Germans transmitted, until the eighth century, poetical traditions by this means. It is not, then, to be wondered at, that the inhabitants of Great Britain, always so attached to the remembrance of their ancestors, should have transmitted from generation to generation, the poems of their bards. It is to that usage, continued among the remote inhabitants of the mountains, thatowed the possibility of collecting the poesies of the celebrated .
After having long been the first instructers and the early historians of their country, the bards descended from those high offices to that of being the flatterers of those who protected them, or the slanderers of those whom they looked upon as their enemies.
Petty passions have always the fatal tendency of misleading, and frequently of even extinguishing, genius. The bards, forgetting the noble inspirations of their predecessors, sought no other employment than that of amusing and flattering self-love: and even pride itself grows weary of the praises of which it inwardly acknowledges itself unworthy. The great soon learned to despise the mean flatteries of the bards. They were welcomed only by the multitude; but not having talents enough to paint truth in interesting colours, they had recourse to puerile inventions. The wonderful ridicule of bewitching castles, fairies, and giants, succeeded the sublimest conceptions of real poetry, until their folly and trash disgusted even the common people themselves. Hence, they forsook the bards, who nearly disappeared.
The warriors, nevertheless, preserved their valour, and would not altogether renounce the brilliant honour of hearing their exploits celebrated. Courage, and the noble desire of assisting the oppressed and of redressing grievances, caused the spirit of chivalry to spring up. It produced prodigies of heroism, and great actions revived the genius of some. These came to replace the bards, under the name of Troubadours. And, this appears to be a suitable place to drop a remark on the origin of those romances of chivalry, so singular and so extravagantly beautiful, that they still raise our admiration. In reading them, we are almost at a stand concerning their truth. What an idea must we have of knights, who wished to be painted in the romances of the Round Table, of the St. Greal, of the Amadis, and so on!
It is worthy of remark, that it was in Great Britain, that the Troubadours and the old romancers, the heroes of the early romances of chivalry, first arose. It may also be observed, that al the historians, after having represented the druids as pontiffs, far superior to others, unite in placing the druids of England above the druids of other countries. They extol those of the college of Chartres, those of the forest of Marseilles, and of the environs of Toulouse; but assert that, when in those colleges, there was proposed a subject which involved deep discussion, it was sent to be examined in the school of the druids of Great Britain. From this series of observations, it appears that, from the most ancient times, the inhabitants of Great Britain have astonished the rest of the world by their wisdom, their knowledge, and their bravery.
Chapter VII. Religious tenets of the primitive inhabitants of Great Britain. §
It appears evident that the early Britons raised no temples to divinity. It is even found in the poesies of
that this sublime bard shows contempt for the temples and worship of Odin, god of the Scandinavians, whom he calls Loda.
represents those people as invoking their god, around a statue which he calls the
stone of power. He condemns this worship, and considers it as impious. The Druids, the bards, and the people whom they instructed, considered all nature as the temple of divinity. It cannot be doubted that they had ideas of the existence of a Supreme Being, since they believed in the immortality of the soul, and in the rewards and punishments of another life.
According to their notions, the clouds were the residence of souls after their separation from the body. Valiant and virtuous men were received with joy into the ethereal palaces of their fathers, while the wicked, the slothful, and the barbarous, were excluded from the residence of the heroes, and condemned to wander over the winds. There were different apartments in the palaces of the clouds. Merit and bravery obtained the first; and this idea tended to redouble the emulation of warriors. The soul preserved the same tastes as during life. In the ethereal state of existence, though in a higher degree, were conferred the same honours as on earth.
It was thought that departed souls commanded the winds and tempests; but that their power was not extended over men. A hero could never enter into the palace of his fathers, unless he had sung over him the funeral hymn. This hymn appears to have been the only essential ceremony of their obsequies. The body was laid on a bed of clay, in the bottom of a ditch six or eight feet deep. By the side of a warrior were placed his sword and twelve arrows. His body was again covered with a second bed of clay, upon which a wooden stag, or some other wild beast, was placed. Sometimes his favorite mastiff was killed to be placed on the claybed, and covered with a piece of select earth, and four stones ranged on the four sides, which marked the extent of the tomb.
A bard alone could open the gates of the ethereal palace, by singing the funeral hymn. The neglect of this ceremony, left the soul in the mists of the lake Lego, or of some other water, and to the forgotten and unfortunate souls were attributed the frequent and sometimes mortal diseases which are caused by the vapours of lakes and marshes. People foresaw with what care the bards kept up the opinions which rendered their ministry so consolatory and so necessary.
It was not thought that death could break the bonds of blood and friendship. The shades were interested in all the fortunate or unfortunate events of their living friends. No nation has given stronger belief in apparitions. The mountaineers, above all, delighted with the most gloomy ideas, and often went to spend nights upon the heaths; where the whistling of the winds and the noise of the torrents caused them to imagine that they heard the voices of the dead; and when sleep came to surprise them amidst their reveries, they considered their dreams as certain presages of futurity.
The good and evil spirits did not appear in the same manner: the good showed themselves to their friends during the daytime, and in smiling and solitary vales; the evil, never appeared but in the night, amidst storms and winds.
Death did not destroy the charms of the beautiful. Their shades preserved the traits and forms of their earthly beauty: terror never surrounded them; and, when they traversed the air, their motions were graceful, and the light noise which was heard, was gentle and soothing. At the moment of executing any great undertaking, the souls of fathers were thought to descend from their clouds, and come to predict good or ill success: and although they did not suffer themselves to be perceived, yet they gave warnings by some kind of omen. Every man believed he had his tutelary shade that incessantly followed him. When death was approaching him, the protecting spirit appeared to him in the situation where he was to die, and uttered plaintive cries. At the death of great personages, it was believed that the souls of departed bards sung for three nights about his phantom.
It was generally thought that, as soon as a warrior ceased to exist, the arms which he had at home, appeared to be stained with blood; that his shade visited the place of his birth, and appeared to his mastiff, which made doleful howlings at its aspect.
The most natural effects which their ignorance could not comprehend were attributed to the agency of spirits. The echo which struck upon the ear was the voice of the spirit of the mountain. The deafening noise which precedes tempests was the roaring of the spirit of the hill. If the wind made the harps of bards resound, it was the shades, who, by that light touch, predicted the death of a great personage. A chief or a king never lost his life, unless the harps of the bards attached to his family, rendered that prophetic sound. How pleasant it must have appeared to one, to believe all nature peopled with the shades of his ancestors and friends, and to fancy himself constantly surrounded by them. In spite of all the melancholy which such ideas inspired, yet how deeply interesting and touchingly charming they must have been! They were enough to feast and fill up the most poetic imagination. It is to that cause that we must, no doubt, attribute the smallness of the number of deities which were honoured in England. It appears very evident, that Esus, Dis, Pluto, Samothes, Teutates, and various other gods, had not come to their knowledge until by their communication with foreigners. The Picts and the Saxons acquainted them with their Andate, the goddes of victory: the Romans also brought them some of their gods.and assure us, that it was the Gauls who brought into England the horrible custom of immolating human victims. In farther extending our researches, we might also find among them vestiges of the worship of the Phœnicians; for we have ample proof, that in very remote times, those first navigators of the world, brought their goods into Great Britain, and exchanged them for lead and tin. But we need not enter on farther particulars in relation to the worship they acquired from foreigners, since all historians, all their traditions, and all their customs, sufficiently prove that the religion of the Druids, was the only one that was generally adopted.
We will now occupy the reader for a few moments by presenting what history and tradition have preserved and transmitted as certain, with respect to that class of men so singular and celebrated — the Druids.
Chapter VIII. Of the Druids. §
and contradict each other; the former, by saying that the religion of the Druids had its birth in England; the latter, by alleging that the Gauls in peopling that island carried their mysteries with them.
In order to reconcile the two authors, says the, it may be supposed that the Gauls in passing into England, carried thither their religion; but that those islanders, being more reflecting, and less warlike, than the Gauls, preserved it in its purity. Such, adds he, is the origin of the profound respect which the Druids of Gaul had for those of England, whom they considered as their superiors.
The world, continues the, at first formed but one common family, and had but one creed. In separating from each other, men changed their primitive religion, and lost its purity. Some, coming by land from the North, under the name of Scythians, Celtic-Scythians, and Celts, peopled the vast regions which separate us from Asia; others, more bold, attempted the perils of the sea. History informs us that the Phœnicians and Carthaginians penetrated even into the heart of the west: and hence, no doubt, that resemblance of worship among people so widely separated, both by sea and land.
This view clearly explains the parallel which has often been drawn between the Magi and the Druids, and shows that the Gauls might have held the religion of the Persians, or, at least, of the people who bordered on them by the North.
The Magi and the Druids, equally venerated in their respective countries, were always consulted on matters of great importance. They were equally the sole ministers of their religion. The Magi rejected the opinion which gives to the gods a human origin, and did not separate them into gods and goddesses. It was the same with the Druids. Both governed the state, and the kings consulted them. Their white garbs were alike. Golden ornaments were equally interdicted to them. As the organs and distributors of justice, they passed sentences, and watched over those whom they loaded with that august function. .
The immortality of the soul was the capital point of belief among both the Persians and the Gauls: both had neither temples nor statues. The Persians adored the fire; the Druids kept up a perpetual fire in their forests. The Persians rendered to the water a religious worship; and the Gauls likewise rendered the same honours to that element. These resemblances are sufficient to make it appear evident that the religion of the Magi and that of the Druids had the same origin; the differences between them might have been easily caused by wars, separation, and time.
The religion of the Gauls appears to have always been purer than that of other heathen nations.’ Their ideas on divinity were much more, just and spiritual than those of the Greeks and Romans., , and other historians, inform us that the Druids believed the Supreme Being ought to be honoured by respect and silence, as well as by sacrifices; but that primitive simplicity continued only until the conquests of the Romans. The Druids, forgetting their primitive wisdom, became addicted to divination and magic, and tolerated those horrible sacrifices in which human victims were immolated to Esus and Teutates. , , and , attest to this cruel degradation.
The conquests of Julius Cesar introduced new gods into Gaul; and the first temples were at that time built there, whilst the British Druids continued the exercise of their antique religion, amidst the forests, the majestic shades of which inspired religious awe and holy fear. Those woods were so sacred among them, that it was not permitted to cut them down. No one could approach them but with a religious respect, though for the purpose of adorning them with flowers and trophies. People could not employ for ordinary purposes, certain trees, even when they fell with old age. That respect clung to the grand idea that they had divinity; and they were persuaded that temples could not include it, nor statues represent it.
The Gauls had the highest respect for lakes and marshes, because they thought that divinity loved to inhabit them. The most celebrated of those lakes, was that of Toulouse, into which they cast gold and silver, taken from their enemies. To this worship was joined that of rivers, creeks, fountains, and fire.
In the middle of those forests, the Gauls had spaces consecrated to worship and to religious ceremonies. It was there that they buried treasures taken from their enemies; and also, that prisoners were immolated, enclosed in colossuses of osier, and afterwards surrounded with combustible materials, and consumed by fire. Cesar caused those secret places to be plundered by his troops. Hence, misinformed historians have asserted, that the ancient Gauls had temples.
“Those people,” says
, “have nothing for their temple but a forest, where they discharge the duties of their religion. No one can enter into that wood, unless he bears a chain, a mark of his dependence, and of the supreme dominion which God has over him.”
Nothing is more celebrated in the history of the ancient Gauls than the forests of the country of Chartres. The forests of Marseilles and Toulouse were almost as noted. In the middle of them were held the schools of the Druids of Gaul. Chartres was, as it were, the metropolis of Gaul; but those three colleges united in acknowledging the superiority of the knowledge which the Druids of Great Britain had over them.
Chapter IX. Of the different classes of Priests; their manner of living; their dress and functions. §
The name Druids comes, no doubt, from the Celtic word deru, which means oak. The religious instructers of the ancient Britons were, divided into different classes. The Druids composed the first class. They were the supreme chiefs; so that the inferior orders were entirely subject to their will, and could not even remain in their presence, unless they had obtained their permission. The inferior ministers were the Bards, the Saronides, and the Cubages or Vates.
The Bards, whose Celtic name means a chanter, celebrated in verse the actions of heroes, and sung them accompanied by the harp. So great value was attached to their verses, that they were often the means of immortalizing them. The Bards, though less powerful than the Druids, enjoyed so high consideration, that if they presented themselves at the moment in which two armies were going to combat, or even after they had commenced it, they laid down their arms to listen to their advice. The Bards were not wholly confined to sing the praises of heroes; but they had likewise the right of censuring the actions of those who swerved from the path of duty.
The Saronides instructed youth, and inspired them with virtuous sentiments.
The Cubages or Vates had the care of sacrifices, and applied themselves to the contemplation of nature. In time, the Druids reserved for themselves alone the offices of religion, and the subaltern ministers exercised no other functions than those granted by the Druids.
The origin of those pontiffs is lost in the remotest antiquity., , and many others before them, describe them as men among the wisest and most enlightened in matters of religion. So high an idea was entertained of their learning, that considers them the inventors of mythology.
The Druids, hidden in their forests, led an austere life. Thither the nations went to consult them; and, who usually admired nothing but what was splendid, was so astonished at their manner of living and their science, that he could not withhold from them his esteem.
The Druids formed different colleges in Gaul; the most celebrated of which was that of the country of Chartres, whose chief was the sovereign pontiff of Gaul. It was in the forests of that country that the greatest sacrifices were offered up, and the great men and generals of the country assembled. Both young and old among the Druids, conformed to the same principles and the same rules. Their clothing differed a little according to the provinces in which they lived, and the degrees which they held.
The ceremony of entering upon the profession, was performed by their receiving the embrace of the old Druids. The candidate, after having passed through it, exchanged his usual dress for that of the Druids, which was a tunic falling half way down the legs. This dress designated priesthood, to which women could never be admitted.
The authority of the Druids was so great, that none undertook any important affair without consulting them. They presided over the state; decided upon peace and war at pleasure; punished the guilty; and could depose magistrates and even kings, when they did not observe the laws of the country. Their rank was superior to that of nobles. All bowed before them; and it was to their care that the education of the most distinguished youths was entrusted; so that they prepared them, from early life, to be impressed with a deep sense of respect for the Druids.
To them belonged the right of appointing those who were to govern cities. They could raise one of those magistrates even to the dignity of vergobret, which equalled that of a king; but this pretended king could do nothing without the advice of the Druids. They alone convoked the council; so that the vergobrets were merely the ministers and the first subjects of the Druids.
The supreme arbiters of all differences, and all the interests of the people, justice was administered only by their ministry. They decided equally on public and private affairs. When, in a law-suit, they adjudged a disputed estate to him whom they designated as the legitimate possessor, his adversary was obliged to submit, or he was struck with an anathema, and then all sacrifice was interdicted to him; the whole nation considered him as impious, and dared no longer to communicate with him.
As the Druids were charged with all the high offices of religion, their power was unbounded. Sacrifices, offerings, public and private prayers, the science of predicting future events, the care of consulting the gods, of replying in their names, and of studying nature; the right of establishing new ceremonies and new laws, of watching over the execution of the old, or of reforming them, were the offices and the unlimited powers which they enjoyed undisputed.
Their state dispensed with their going to war, and exempted them from all taxes. The number of aspirants after that order was immense, and all classes and professions were admitted; but they were checked by the great length of probation demanded, and by the indispensable necessity of learning and retaining in memory the prodigious number of verses which contained their maxims on religion and political economy.
Anciently, Gallic women could be admitted to the rank of Druidesses, and enjoy all the prerogatives of the order; but they exercised their functions separately from men. Their divination had, at one time, rendered them more celebrated than the Druids themselves.
When Hannibal passed into Gaul, they still enjoyed supreme rights; for it was said in a treaty which he made with the Gauls:
“If a Carthaginian should do wrong to a Gaul, the cause would be brought to the tribunal of Gallic women.” In aftertimes, the Druids stripped them of that authority; but the epoch of this usurpation is unknown.
Chapter X: Doctrine of the Druids; their Superstitions; ceremony of the Oak-misletoe. §
The doctrines of the Druids tended to render men wise, just, valiant, and religious. The fundamental points were reduced to three: Worship the gods; Injure no body; and Be courageous. Their sciences, says , was to know the form and greatness of the Supreme Being, the course of the stars and of their revolutions. They pretended to know the whole of the universe; and the retirement in which they lived, allowed them all the time necessary to inform themselves.
It cannot be doubted that the Druids and the Gauls generally, considered the soul as immortal; and it was the belief in that sublime truth, which caused them to consider death as a sure means of attaining to a more happy life. They made a great difference between those who died peaceably amidst their relatives and friends, and those who lost their life in serving their country. The former were interred without ceremony, without eulogy, without songs of honour. It was thought that when warriors lost their lives, and that their names were transmitted to future generations, they departed to taste an eternal happiness in the bosom of divinity. They had tombs and epitaphs. But the blessings of the immortality of the soul were not to be universal. They, who had adorned their lives by no exploit, either warlike or splendid, or otherwise contributing to the general good, were considered as condemned to oblivion. This illiberal idea sprung out of the warlike genius of the Gauls and other Celts, who followed nothing but the profession of arms.
The Druids taught that one day water and fire would destroy all things. They believed in the doctrine of metempsychosis, which they could not have learned from, since they taught it long before that philosopher travelled into Gaul.
From time immemorial, they were accustomed to bury the dead, or to enclose their ashes in urns. They placed in the tombs, the arms of the dead, their valuable furniture, and the cedula of money which they had lent. They wrote even letters to their friends, though dead. One of their superstitions was that every letter cast into the tomb, arrived as directed.
The Druids orally communicated their sciences and their doctrines to their candidates, whose novitiate was extremely long. They never wrote down their maxims, nor any thing appertaining to their sciences. They arranged and digested all sorts of knowledge inverse; and those verses were to be committed to memory. These were so numerous, that frequently fifteen and even twenty years were passed in learning and retaining them. The doctrine of the Druids, says, was mysterious, and could be known to nobody.
The Druids also cultivated the science of medicine. Upon, this point, the people yielded them unlimited confidence, because they were persuaded that they knew the influence of the stars, and could see into futurity. Those sages, so highly respected at first, and so worthy of respect, ended with being addicted to astrology, magic, and divination, in the hope of thereby increasing their credit and authority. They maintained that people are always more fond of the marvellous than of truth. They had some knowledge of botany; but they mingled so many superstitious practices with the manner in which they collected their plants, as left it easy to be perceived, that they were acquainted with only a very small number of them.relates the manner in which they collected the selage: it must be plucked without a knife, and with the right hand, which must be covered with a part of the robe; and then made to pass into the left with swiftness, as if it had been stolen. The one who gathered it, must, moreover, be barefoot, and dressed in white, having previously offered a sacrifice of bread and wine.
The vervain was collected before sunrise on the first day of the dog-star, after one had offered to Earth a sacrifice of expiation in which they employed fruits and honey. This plant having been thus collected, possessed, they believed, every virtue, and healed all diseases; and if one rubbed himself with it, he could obtain all he wished. It had power to conciliate hearts alienated by enmity; and all whom that plant touched, instantly felt peace and gaiety spring up in their breast.
It is also necessary to range among the number of their superstitions, their persuasion that, at the death of great personages, their souls excited storms and tempests. The noise of thunder, all the extraordinary and violent motions of nature, all meteors, announced, according to them, the death of a great personage.
The Druids delighted in making it believed that they could change into any form at will, and cause themselves to be transported through the air; but the most cruel of all their superstitions, was that of immolating human victims. This barbarous usage could not be abolished but by the extinction of druidism. The numerous edicts of the Roman emperors against this crime, not only prove its existence, but also show how pertinaciously they persisted in it.
The most solemn of all their ceremonies, was that of collecting the oak-misletoe. This parasite plant grows on several other trees; but the Druids thought that God had chiefly chosen the oak to entrust to it that valuable plant. They ran over the forests and looked for it with the greatest care; and felicitated themselves when, after long and painful searches, they discovered a certain quantity of it.
They could not collect that plant except in the month of December, and on the sixth day of the moon. This month and the number six were sacred among them. It was always on the sixth of the moon that they made their principal acts of devotion.
On the day intended for the ceremony of collecting the misletoe, they assembled with great rejoicing, and went in procession towards the places where the plant was found, two diviners marching forward singing hymns and canticles. A herald, carrying a caduceus, came after them. Three Druids followed him, and carried instruments necessary for sacrifice; and, in fine the chief of the pontiffs, clothed in a white robe, with an immense crowd marching in his train, closed the procession. When they were arrived at the foot of the tree, the chief of the Druids mounted on the oak, cut the misletoe with a golden sickle, and the other Druids received it with great respect into the sagum, a kind of white coat of mail.
After having received it, they immolated two white bulls. A festival ensued; and when it was over, they addressed prayers to divinity that it would infuse into that plant a happiness which might be felt by those to whom particles of it should be distributed.
This misletoe was consecrated and distributed to the people on the first day of the year.
Chapter XI. Principal Maxims of the Druids. §
In giving the principal maxims of the Druids, it must be observed, that we present them as they have come down to us by tradition, since the Druids never wrote them. It is even probable that they were composed after the time stated by ancient authority.
1. Their maxims must be taught in thick groves by sacred priests.
2. The misletoe ought to be collected with great ceremony, and always, if possible, on the sixth day of the moon, and a golden sickle must be made use of to cut it;
3. All that are born derive their origin from heaven.
4. The secret of the sciences must not be entrusted to writing, but merely to memory
5. The education of children must be carefully attended to.
6. The disobedient ought to be removed from sacrifices.
7. Souls are immortal.
8. Souls pass into other bodies after the death of those which they have animated.
9. If the world perish, it will be by water or by fire.
10. On extraordinary occasions a man must be immolated. One can read futurity according as the body falls, as the blood flows, or as the wound is opened.
11. Prisoners of war should be immolated on altars, or enclosed in osier baskets to be burned alive in honour of the gods.
12. Intercourse with foreigners must not be permitted.
13. He who arrives last in the assembly of the states is to be punished with death.
14. Children should be raised up until the age of fourteen out of the presence of their parents.
15. Money lent in this life, will be rendered to creditors in the other world.
16. There is another world, and those who kill themselves to accompany their friends, will live there with them.
17. All letters given at the dying hour, or cast into funeral piles, are faithfully returned to the world.
18. Let the disobedient be driven away; let them recive no justice; let them be received into no employment.
19. All fathers of families are kings in their houses; and have the power of life and death over their wives, children, and slaves.
Such are the principal maxims collected and inculcated by the Druids. A glance at them is sufficient to enable us to perceive how easy it was for those pontiffs to command opinion, and subjugate the mind — them who controlled the education of youth, and hurled their anathemas against all who dared to disobey or oppose them.
Chapter XII. Of the Druidesses. §
We have already said that the whole system of the morality of the Druids was reduced to three principal points: Honour to the gods, injury to no one, and courage. But it is not easy to reconcile with these sublime maxims, that which gave to fathers the right of life and death over their wives, their children, and slaves. Paternal and domestic authority, says the , is founded upon no positive law, but only in love and respect. and delight in eulogizing the respect which the Gauls and Germans had for their wives; but the wives of the Druids sometimes shared the authority of their husbands. They were often consulted in political and religious affairs. There were in Gaul temples erected, even since the conquests of the Romans, in which the Druidesses alone ordained and regulated all that related to religion, and whose entrance was interdicted to the men.
The Celts and Gauls, says Mr.in his excellent Introduction to the History of Denmark, have shown themselves, in their treatment of the softer sex, far superior to the orientals, who pass from adoration to contempt, and from the sentiments of an idolatrous love to those of an inhuman jealousy, or to those of an indifference more insulting than jealousy. The Celts considered their women as equals, and companions whose esteem and tenderness could not be acquired but by tender regard and generous treatment.
The poesies ofshow that the ancient inhabitants of the British isles, carried that respect and those virtuous regards as far as any other nation. Faithful to the one which their heart had chosen, they never had several wives at once: and often the wife in disguise followed her hero to war.
In the brilliant times of chivalry, we find that the same views of those morals, and of that same respect for women, still existed: and gratitude often followed in the train of such noble sentiments; for as soon as a knight was wounded, ladies were eager to serve him; and almost all understood the art of dressing wounds. But they were not confined to those kind offices. During the time of convalescence, the charm of their conversation served to inflame the courage of the knights; and in order to recall heroic enterprizes to their remembrance, they read to them poems and romances, into which was infused all the fire and ardour that heroism could produce.
We have no doubt of the existence of that atrocious maxim which gave the Druids the horrible right of employing force to oppress and sometimes slaughter helpless innocence. Those pontiffs were jealous of their authority, although it was so great and so well established, that, to maintain it, they did not need to be cruel in their families. All the people fell at their feet, and no human being was above their power. How, then, could they delight in filling with terror their female companions, who alone could give charms to their solitude; or those children that were to perpetuate their memory; or their slaves, who watched to anticipate and satisfy all their wants? This cruel maxim, therefore, if it did exist among the Druids and the Gauls, could not have belonged to them, but at the time of their greatest degradation.
There existed three kinds of Druidesses: the first lived in celibacy; the second, though married, remained in temples, where they cleared tables, and did not see their husbands but for one day in the year; the third did not quit their husbands, and took care of the domestic affairs of the temple. But notwithstanding these distinctions, the Druidesses really formed but two classes. The first was composed of priestesses; and the second were the attendants of the priestesses, whose orders they were to execute.
The most ordinary residence of the Druidesses was in the isles which bordered on the coasts of Gaul and England. The Druids also inhabited them; and there the Druids and Druidesses exercised themselves most in magic. The people of Gaul and England generally believed that they could raise storms and tempests at pleasure.
The restless curiosity of men places the power of reading in the hook of fate, above any other. The Druids, after having persuaded the people that they understood the influence of the stars, and could read future events, abandoned almost entirely to their wives this portion of their ministry.
The almost idolatrous veneration which the Gauls and Germans had for their women, caused them to imagine, that they possessed more highly than themselves, the gift of persuading and making their predictions believed in. Accordingly, they sent them all questions on futurity; to which they returned so judicious answers, that their reputation was spread over the whole world. People came from every quarter to consult them; and their decisions inspired infinitely more confidence than the oracles of Greece and Italy. The emperors, after they became masters of Gaul, often caused them to be consulted. History has preserved a great number of their replies; but it makes no particular mention of those of the Druids.
We shall close this article by citing what is well known respecting the period in which the order of the Druids and Druidesses became wholly abolished.
, , and , maintain, that it was in the reign of Claudius; but, as they actually existed, much longer, it appears that these authors intended to speak only of the abolition of human sacrifices, the use of which that emperor interdicted. The Druids were found in the country of Chartrain until the middle of the fifth century. It appears that their order became extinct, not until the time in which Christianity completely triumphed over the superstitions of the Gauls; and this triumph took place in some provinces, but at a very late period.
The author conceives that he cannot close his work more appropriately, than by quoting the words of , who has set forth the leading characteristics of the system of ancient mythology with remarkable ability.
“It is asserted that vices, diseases, and evil demons, were considered deities by the ancients; and that a multitude of gods, as an object of faith, is preposterous. The first of these assertions, applies only to the corruption of the heathen religion during the decline and fall of the Roman empire; and the second originated in gross ignorance of ancient theology, and particularly that of the Greeks.
“In the first place, the genuine key to this religion is the philosophy of ,2 which, since the destruction of the schools of the philosophers by the emperor Justinian, has been only partially studied, and imperfectly understood. For this, theology was first mystically and symbolically promulgated by ; was afterwards disseminated enigmatically through images by ; and, lastly, was scientifically unfolded by and his genuine disciples. The peculiarity of it also is this, that it is no less scientific than sublime; and that, by a geometrical series of reasoning, originating from the most clearly self-evident truths, it develops all the deified progressions from the ineffable principle of things, and accurately exhibits to our view all the links of that golden chain, of which deity is one extreme, and body the other.and
“In the second place, the First Cause, on account of his transcendent simplicity, was called by the Pythagorean and Platonic philosophers, the one; this name being adapted the best of all others to a nature truly ineffable and unknown. But it is impossible that such a nature could produce this visible world without media; since, if this had been the case, all things must have been, like himself, ineffable and unknown. It is necessary, therefore, that there should be certain mighty powers or agencies between the First Cause and us: for we, in reality, are nothing more than the dregs of the universe. These mighty powers, from their surpassing similitude to the first great God, were very properly called by the ancients, Gods; and were considered by them as perpetually subsisting in the most admirable and profound union with each other, and with the First Cause; yet so, as amidst this union, to preserve their own essence distinct from that of the highest God. Hence, as Proclus beautifully observes, they may be compared to trees rooted in the earth; for as these, by their roots, are united to the earth, and become earthly in an eminent degree without being earth, so the gods by their elevation are closely united to the First Cause, and by this means are transcendently similar to, without being, the First Cause.
“These mighty powers, also, are called by the poets, a golden chain, on account of their connection with each other and their incorruptible nature. The first of these powers may be called intellectual; the second vivific; the third Pxonian, and so on; which the ancients desiring, to signify to us by names, have symbolically denominated them. Hence, says, (in MS. Comment. in Gorgiam,) we ought not to be disturbed on hearing such names as a Saturnian power, the power Jupiter; and such like, but we ought to explore the things to which they allude. Thus, for instance, by a Saturnian power rooted in the first cause, we are to understand a pure intellect. For Κρονος, Kronos or Saturn, is Κορος νους, koros nous, i. e. ὁ καθαρος, o katharos, or, a pure intellect. Hence, says , we call those that are pure and virgins, Κοραι, korai. He adds, “on this account poets say that Saturn devoured his children, and afterwards again sent them into the light, because intellect is converted to itself, seeks itself, and is itself sought; but he again refunds them, because intellect not only seeks and procreates, but produces light and benefits. On this account, also, he is called αγκυλομητις, agkulometis, or inflected counsel, because an inflected figure verges to itself. And as there is nothing disordered and novel in intellect, they represent Saturn as an old man, and slow in his motions.
“Again, the ancient theologists called life by the name of Jupiter, to whom they gave a two fold appellation, δια, dia, and ξηνα, xena, signifying by these names that he gives life through himself. Further still, they report that the Sun is drawn by four horses, and that he is perpetually young, signifying by this his power, which is motive of the whole of nature subject to his dominion, his fourfold conversions, and the vigour of his energies. But they say that the Moon is drawn by two bulls: by two, on account of her increase and diminution; and by bulls, because, as these till the ground, so the Moon governs all those parts which surround the earth.
“According to this theology, also, of the gods some are mundane, but others, supermundane. The mundane are those who fabricate the world; and the supermundane are those who produce essences, intellects, and souls. Hence, they are distinguished into three orders. Of the mundane gods, likewise, some are the causes of the existence of the world; others animate it; others again harmonise it, thus composed of different natures; and, lastly, others guard and preserve it when harmonically arranged. Since, too, these orders are four, and each consists of things first, middle, and last, it is necessary the governors of these should be twelve. Hence Jupiter, Neptune, and Vulcan, fabricate the world; Ceres, Juno, and Diana, animate it; Mercury, Venus, and Apollo, harmonize it; and, lastly, Vesta, Minerva, and Mars preside over it with a guardian power. But the truth of this may be seen in statues, as well as in enigmas. For Apollo harmonizes the lyre; Pallas is invested with arms; and Venus is naked; since harmony produces beauty, and beauty is not concealed in subjects of sensible inspection. As these gods likewise primarily possess the world, it is necessary to consider the other mundane gods as subsisting in them; as Bacchus in Jupiter, Æsculapius in Apollo, and the Graces in Venus. We may also behold the spheres with which they are connected, viz. Vesta with the earth; Neptune with water, Juno with air, and Vulcan with fire. But Apollo and Diana are assumed for the sun and moon; the sphere of Saturn is attributed to Ceres; aether to Pallas; and heaven is common to them all.
“It is likewise necessary to observe, that, according to the theology of, , and , the ineffable principle of things is not the immediate artificer of the universe; and this not from any defect, but on the contrary, through transcendency of power. For, as the essence of the first cause, (if it be lawful so to speak,) it is full of deity, his immediate energy must be deific, and his first progeny must be gods, just as the souls are the immediate progeny of one first soul, and natures of one first nature. Hence, as the first principle of things is ineffable and super-essential, all things proceed from him ineffably and super-essentially; and other intermediate causes are necessary to the evolution of things into distinct existence. Hence, Jupiter, who is the Dimiurgus or maker of the world, is not, according to this theology, the First Cause.
“The genuine Pagan creed, as given by, who lived under Marcus Antonius, is worthy of attention, viz. ‘There is one God, the king and father of all things, and many gods sons of God, ruling together with him. This the Greek says, and the barbarian says, the inhabitant of the continent, and he who dwells near the sea; and if you even proceed to the utmost shores of the ocean, there, too, there are gods rising very near to some, and setting very near to others.’ By the rising and setting gods, he means the stars, which, according to the pagan theology, are divine animals, co-operating with the First Cause in the government of the world.”