Main Mythology : Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Deluxe Illustrated Edition.
Due to the technical work on the site downloading books (as well as file conversion and sending books to email/kindle) may be unstable from May, 27 to May, 28 Also, for users who have an active donation now, we will extend the donation period.

Mythology : Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes, Deluxe Illustrated Edition.

,
Monsters, mortals, gods, and warriors: For over sixty years readers have chosen this book above all others to discover the thrilling, enchanting, and fascinating world of Western mythology. From Odysseus's adventure-filled journey to the Norse god Odin's effort to postpone the final day of doom, Edith Hamilton's classic collection not only retells these stories with brilliant clarity but shows us how the ancients saw their own place in the world and how their themes echo in our consciousness today. An essential part of every home library, Mythology is the definitive volume for anyone who wants to know the key dramas, the primary characters, the triumphs, failures, fears, and hopes first narrated thousands of years ago-and still spellbinding to this day.  Read more...
Year:
2017
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Language:
english
Pages:
384
ISBN 10:
0316438529
ISBN 13:
9780316438520
File:
EPUB, 5.11 MB
Download (epub, 5.11 MB)

You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me

 

Most frequently terms

 
 
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.
1

Introduction to Field Theory

Year:
1982
Language:
english
File:
DJVU, 2.19 MB
2

L’originalismo e la sfida del bilanciamento

Year:
2018
Language:
italian
File:
PDF, 77.72 MB
Copyright


Copyright © 1942 by Edith Hamilton

Copyright renewed © 1969 by Dorian Fielding Reid and Doris Fielding Reid

Cover design by HEADCASE DESIGN

Illustrations by JIM TIERNEY

Cover copyright © 2017 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact permissions@hbgusa.com. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.

BLACK DOG & LEVENTHAL PUBLISHERS

Hachette Book Group

1290 Avenue of the Americas

New York, NY 10104

www.hachettebookgroup.com

www.blackdogandleventhal.com

Originally published in hardcover by Little, Brown and Company, 1942

Reissued: March 2013

Anniversary edition: September 2017

Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers is an imprint of Hachette Books, a division of Hachette Book Group. The Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.

The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to www.HachetteSpeakersBureau.com or call (866) 376-6591.

Illustrations by JIM TIERNEY

ISBNs: 978-0-316-43852-0 (hardcover); 978-0-316-43853-7 (ebook)

E3-20170727-JV-PC





CONTENTS


Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Illustrations

Preface

Introduction to Classical Mythology

The Mythology of the Greeks

The Greek and Roman Writers of Mythology


PART ONE

THE GODS, THE CREATION, AND THE EARLIEST HEROES

I The Gods

The Titans and the Twelve Great Olympians

The Twelve Olympians Made Up a Divine Family

The Lesser Gods of Olympus

The Gods of the Waters

The Underworld

The Less; er Gods of Earth

The Roman Gods

II The Two Great Gods of Earth

Demeter (Ceres)

Dionysus or Bacchus

III How the World & Mankind Were Created

IV The Earliest Heroes

Prometheus and Io

Europa

The Cyclops Polyphemus

Flower-Myths: Narcissus, Hyacinth, Adonis


PART TWO

STORIES OF LOVE AND ADVENTURE

I Cupid and Psyche

II Eight Brief Tales of Lovers

Pyramus and Thisbe

Orpheus and Eurydice

Ceyx and Alcyone

Pygmalion and Galatea

Baucis and Philemon

Endymion

Daphne

Alpheus and Arethusa

III The Quest of the Golden Fleece

IV Four Great Adventures

Phaëthon

Pegasus and Bellerophon

Otus and Ephialtes

Daedalus


PART THREE

THE GREAT HEROES BEFORE THE TROJAN WAR

I Perseus

II Theseus

III Hercules

IV Atalanta


PART FOUR

THE HEROES OF THE TROJAN WAR

I The Trojan War

Prologue: The Judgment of Paris

The Trojan War

II The Fall of Troy

III The Adventures of Odysseus

IV The Adventures of Aeneas

Part I: From Troy to Italy

Part II: The Descent into the Lower World

Part III: The War in Italy


PART FIVE

THE GREAT FAMILIES OF MYTHOLOGY

I The House of Atreus

Tantalus and Niobe

Agamemnon and His Children

Iphigenia among the Taurians

II The Royal House of Thebes

Cadmus and His Children

Oedipus

Antigone

The Seven against Thebes

III The Royal House of Athens

Cecrops

Procne and Philomela

Procris and Cephalus

Orithyia and Boreas

Creüsa and Ion


PART SIX

THE LESS IMPORTANT MYTHS

I Midas—and Others

Aesculapius

The Danaïds

Glaucus and Scylla

Erysichthon

Pomona and Vertumnus

II Brief Myths Arranged Alphabetically


PART SEVEN

THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE NORSEMEN

Introduction to Norse Mythology

I The Stories of Signy & Sigurd

II The Norse Gods

The Creation

The Norse Wisdom

Newsletters





ILLUSTRATIONS





PLATE I:

Zeus presides over his Olympus


PLATE II:

The rape of Persephone (Proserpine)


PLATE III:

Odysseus and his men encounter the Cyclops


PLATE IV:

Phaethon and his chariot, all on fire, falling to earth


PLATE V:

Medusa


PLATE VI:

The Minotaur and Thesus in the Labyrinth


PLATE VII:

Atalanta and the golden apples


PLATE VIII:

The journey of Odysseus


PLATE IX:

Aeneas and the Sibyl enter Charon’s boat


PLATE X:

The death of Ymir and the creation of the world





PREFACE


A book on Mythology must draw from widely different sources. Twelve hundred years separate the first writers through whom the myths have come down to us from the last, and there are stories as unlike each other as “Cinderella” and “King Lear.” To bring them all together in one volume is really somewhat comparable to doing the same for the stories of English literature from Chaucer to the ballads, through Shakespeare and Marlowe and Swift and Defoe and Dryden and Pope and so on, ending with, say, Tennyson and Browning, or even, to make the comparison truer, Kipling and Galsworthy. The English collection would be bigger, but it would not contain more dissimilar material. In point of fact, Chaucer is more like Galsworthy and the ballads like Kipling than Homer is like Lucian or Aeschylus like Ovid.

Faced with this problem, I determined at the outset to dismiss any idea of unifying the tales. That would have meant either writing “King Lear,” so to speak, down to the level of “Cinderella”—the vice versa procedure being obviously not possible—or else telling in my own way stories which were in no sense mine and had been told by great writers in ways they thought suited their subjects. I do not mean, of course, that a great writer’s style can be reproduced or that I should dream of attempting such a feat. My aim has been nothing more ambitious than to keep distinct for the reader the very different writers from whom our knowledge of the myths comes. For example, Hesiod is a notably simple writer and devout; he is naïve, even childish, sometimes crude, always full of piety. Many of the stories in this book are told only by him. Side by side with them are stories told only by Ovid, subtle, polished, artificial, self-conscious, and the complete skeptic. My effort has been to make the reader see some difference between writers who were so different. After all, when one takes up a book like this, one does not ask how entertainingly the author has retold the stories, but how close he has brought the reader to the original.

My hope is that those who do not know the classics will gain in this way not only a knowledge of the myths, but some little idea of what the writers were like who told them—who have been proved, by two thousand years and more, to be immortal.





INTRODUCTION TO


CLASSICAL MYTHOLOGY



Of old the Hellenic race was marked off from the barbarian as more keen-witted and more free from nonsense.





HERODOTUS I: 60.



Greek and Roman mythology is quite generally supposed to show us the way the human race thought and felt untold ages ago. Through it, according to this view, we can retrace the path from civilized man who lives so far from nature, to man who lived in close companionship with nature; and the real interest of the myths is that they lead us back to a time when the world was young and people had a connection with the earth, with trees and seas and flowers and hills, unlike anything we ourselves can feel. When the stories were being shaped, we are given to understand, little distinction had as yet been made between the real and the unreal. The imagination was vividly alive and not checked by the reason, so that anyone in the woods might see through the trees a fleeing nymph, or bending over a clear pool to drink, behold in the depths a naiad’s face.

The prospect of traveling back to this delightful state of things is held out by nearly every writer who touches upon classical mythology, above all by the poets. In that infinitely remote time primitive man could


Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.



And we for a moment can catch, through the myths he made, a glimpse of that strangely and beautifully animated world.

But a very brief consideration of the ways of uncivilized peoples everywhere and in all ages is enough to prick that romantic bubble. Nothing is clearer than the fact that primitive man, whether in New Guinea today or eons ago in the prehistoric wilderness, is not and never has been a creature who peoples his world with bright fancies and lovely visions. Horrors lurked in the primeval forest, not nymphs and naiads. Terror lived there, with its close attendant, Magic, and its most common defense, Human Sacrifice. Mankind’s chief hope of escaping the wrath of whatever divinities were then abroad lay in some magical rite, senseless but powerful, or in some offering made at the cost of pain and grief.





THE MYTHOLOGY OF THE GREEKS


This dark picture is worlds apart from the stories of classical mythology. The study of the way early man looked at his surroundings does not get much help from the Greeks. How briefly the anthropologists treat the Greek myths is noteworthy.

Of course the Greeks too had their roots in the primeval slime. Of course they too once lived a savage life, ugly and brutal. But what the myths show is how high they had risen above the ancient filth and fierceness by the time we have any knowledge of them. Only a few traces of that time are to be found in the stories.

We do not know when these stories were first told in their present shape; but whenever it was, primitive life had been left far behind. The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets. The first written record of Greece is the Iliad. Greek mythology begins with Homer, generally believed to be not earlier than a thousand years before Christ. The Iliad is, or contains, the oldest Greek literature; and it is written in a rich and subtle and beautiful language which must have had behind it centuries when men were striving to express themselves with clarity and beauty, an indisputable proof of civilization. The tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like. They do throw an abundance of light upon what early Greeks were like—a matter, it would seem, of more importance to us, who are their descendants intellectually, artistically, and politically, too. Nothing we learn about them is alien to ourselves.

People often speak of “the Greek miracle.” What the phrase tries to express is the new birth of the world with the awakening of Greece. “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Something like that happened in Greece.

The Greeks, unlike the Egyptians, made their gods in their own image. Why it happened, or when, we have no idea at all. We know only that in the earliest Greek poets a new point of view dawned, never dreamed of in the world before them, but never to leave the world after them. With the coming forward of Greece, mankind became the center of the universe, the most important thing in it. This was a revolution in thought. Human beings had counted for little heretofore. In Greece man first realized what mankind was.

The Greeks made their gods in their own image. That had not entered the mind of man before. Until then, gods had had no semblance of reality. They were unlike all living things. In Egypt, a towering colossus, immobile, beyond the power of the imagination to endow with movement, as fixed in the stone as the tremendous temple columns, a representation of the human shape deliberately made unhuman. Or a rigid figure, a woman with a cat’s head suggesting inflexible, inhuman cruelty. Or a monstrous mysterious sphinx, aloof from all that lives. In Mesopotamia, bas-reliefs of bestial shapes unlike any beast ever known, men with birds’ heads and lions with bulls’ heads and both with eagles’ wings, creations of artists who were intent upon producing something never seen except in their own minds, the very consummation of unreality.

These and their like were what the pre-Greek world worshiped. One need only place beside them in imagination any Greek statue of a god, so normal and natural with all its beauty, to perceive what a new idea had come into the world. With its coming, the universe became rational.

Saint Paul said the invisible must be understood by the visible. That was not a Hebrew idea, it was Greek. In Greece alone in the ancient world people were preoccupied with the visible; they were finding the satisfaction of their desires in what was actually in the world around them. The sculptor watched the athletes contending in the games and he felt that nothing he could imagine would be as beautiful as those strong young bodies. So he made his statue of Apollo. The storyteller found Hermes among the people he passed in the street. He saw the god “like a young man at the age when youth is loveliest,” as Homer says. Greek artists and poets realized how splendid a man could be, straight and swift and strong. He was the fulfillment of their search for beauty. They had no wish to create some fantasy shaped in their own minds. All the art and all the thought of Greece centered in human beings.

Human gods naturally made heaven a pleasantly familiar place. The Greeks felt at home in it. They knew just what the divine inhabitants did there, what they ate and drank and where they banqueted and how they amused themselves. Of course they were to be feared; they were very powerful and very dangerous when angry. Still, with proper care a man could be quite fairly at ease with them. He was even perfectly free to laugh at them. Zeus, trying to hide his love affairs from his wife and invariably shown up, was a capital figure of fun. The Greeks enjoyed him and liked him all the better for it. Hera was that stock character of comedy, the typical jealous wife, and her ingenious tricks to discomfit her husband and punish her rival, far from displeasing the Greeks, entertained them as much as Hera’s modern counterpart does us today. Such stories made for a friendly feeling. Laughter in the presence of an Egyptian sphinx or an Assyrian bird-beast was inconceivable; but it was perfectly natural in Olympus, and it made the gods companionable.

On earth, too, the deities were exceedingly and humanly attractive. In the form of lovely youths and maidens they peopled the woodland, the forest, the rivers, the sea, in harmony with the fair earth and the bright waters.

That is the miracle of Greek mythology—a humanized world, men freed from the paralyzing fear of an omnipotent Unknown. The terrifying incomprehensibilities which were worshiped elsewhere, and the fearsome spirits with which earth, air, and sea swarmed, were banned from Greece. It may seem odd to say that the men who made the myths disliked the irrational and had a love for facts; but it is true, no matter how wildly fantastic some of the stories are. Anyone who reads them with attention discovers that even the most nonsensical take place in a world which is essentially rational and matter-of-fact. Hercules, whose life was one long combat against preposterous monsters, is always said to have had his home in the city of Thebes. The exact spot where Aphrodite was born of the foam could be visited by any ancient tourist; it was just offshore from the island of Cythera. The winged steed Pegasus, after skimming the air all day, went every night to a comfortable stable in Corinth. A familiar local habitation gave reality to all the mythical beings. If the mixture seems childish, consider how reassuring and how sensible the solid background is as compared with the Genie who comes from nowhere when Aladdin rubs the lamp and, his task accomplished, returns to nowhere.

The terrifying irrational has no place in classical mythology. Magic, so powerful in the world before and after Greece, is almost nonexistent. There are no men and only two women with dreadful, supernatural powers. The demoniac wizards and the hideous old witches who haunted Europe and America, too, up to quite recent years, play no part at all in the stories. Circe and Medea are the only witches and they are young and of surpassing beauty—delightful, not horrible. Astrology, which has flourished from the days of ancient Babylon down to today, is completely absent from classical Greece. There are many stories about the stars, but not a trace of the idea that they influence men’s lives. Astronomy is what the Greek mind finally made out of the stars. Not a single story has a magical priest who is terribly to be feared because he knows ways of winning over the gods or alienating them. The priest is rarely seen and is never of importance. In the Odyssey when a priest and a poet fall on their knees before Odysseus, praying him to spare their lives, the hero kills the priest without a thought, but saves the poet. Homer says that he felt awe to slay a man who had been taught his divine art by the gods. Not the priest, but the poet, had influence with heaven—and no one was ever afraid of a poet. Ghosts, too, which have played so large and so fearsome a part in other lands, never appear on earth in any Greek story. The Greeks were not afraid of the dead—“the piteous dead,” the Odyssey calls them.

The world of Greek mythology was not a place of terror for the human spirit. It is true that the gods were disconcertingly incalculable. One could never tell where Zeus’s thunderbolt would strike. Nevertheless, the whole divine company, with a very few and for the most part not important exceptions, were entrancingly beautiful with a human beauty, and nothing humanly beautiful is really terrifying. The early Greek mythologists transformed a world full of fear into a world full of beauty.

This bright picture has its dark spots. The change came about slowly and was never quite completed. The gods-become-human were for a long time a very slight improvement upon their worshipers. They were incomparably lovelier and more powerful, and they were of course immortal; but they often acted in a way no decent man or woman would. In the Iliad Hector is nobler by far than any of the heavenly beings, and Andromache infinitely to be preferred to Athena or Aphrodite. Hera from first to last is a goddess on a very low level of humanity. Almost every one of the radiant divinities could act cruelly or contemptibly. A very limited sense of right and wrong prevailed in Homer’s heaven, and for a long time after.

Other dark spots too stand out. There are traces of a time when there were beast-gods. The satyrs are goat-men and the centaurs are half man, half horse. Hera is often called “cow-faced,” as if the adjective had somehow stuck to her through all her changes from a divine cow to the very human queen of heaven. There are also stories which point back clearly to a time when there was human sacrifice. But what is astonishing is not that bits of savage belief were left here and there. The strange thing is that they are so few.

Of course the mythical monster is present in any number of shapes,


Gorgons and hydras and chimaeras dire,



but they are there only to give the hero his meed of glory. What could a hero do in a world without them? They are always overcome by him. The great hero of mythology, Hercules, might be an allegory of Greece herself. He fought the monsters and freed the earth from them just as Greece freed the earth from the monstrous idea of the unhuman supreme over the human.

Greek mythology is largely made up of stories about gods and goddesses, but it must not be read as a kind of Greek Bible, an account of the Greek religion. According to the most modern idea, a real myth has nothing to do with religion. It is an explanation of something in nature; how, for instance, any and everything in the universe came into existence: men, animals, this or that tree or flower, the sun, the moon, the stars, storms, eruptions, earthquakes, all that is and all that happens. Thunder and lightning are caused when Zeus hurls his thunderbolt. A volcano erupts because a terrible creature is imprisoned in the mountain and every now and then struggles to get free. The Dipper, the constellation called also the Great Bear, does not set below the horizon because a goddess once was angry at it and decreed that it should never sink into the sea. Myths are early science, the result of men’s first trying to explain what they saw around them. But there are many so-called myths which explain nothing at all. These tales are pure entertainment, the sort of thing people would tell each other on a long winter’s evening. The story of Pygmalion and Galatea is an example; it has no conceivable connection with any event in nature. Neither has the Quest of the Golden Fleece, nor Orpheus and Eurydice, nor many another. This fact is now generally accepted; and we do not have to try to find in every mythological heroine the moon or the dawn and in every hero’s life a sun myth. The stories are early literature as well as early science.

But religion is there, too. In the background, to be sure, but nevertheless plain to see. From Homer through the tragedians and even later, there is a deepening realization of what human beings need and what they must have in their gods.

Zeus the Thunderer was, it seems certain, once a rain-god. He was supreme even over the sun, because rocky Greece needed rain more than sunshine and the God of Gods would be the one who could give the precious water of life to his worshipers. But Homer’s Zeus is not a fact of nature. He is a person living in a world where civilization has made an entry, and of course he has a standard of right and wrong. It is not very high, certainly, and seems chiefly applicable to others, not to himself; but he does punish men who lie and break their oaths; he is angered by any ill treatment of the dead; and he pities and helps old Priam when he goes as a suppliant to Achilles. In the Odyssey, he has reached a higher level. The swineherd there says that the needy and the stranger are from Zeus and he who fails to help them sins against Zeus himself. Hesiod, not much later than the Odyssey if at all, says of a man who does evil to the suppliant and the stranger, or who wrongs orphan children, “with that man Zeus is angry.”

Then Justice became Zeus’s companion. That was a new idea. The buccaneering chieftains in the Iliad did not want justice. They wanted to be able to take whatever they chose because they were strong and they wanted a god who was on the side of the strong. But Hesiod, who was a peasant living in a poor man’s world, knew that the poor must have a just god. He wrote, “Fishes and beasts and fowls of the air devour one another. But to man, Zeus has given justice. Beside Zeus on his throne Justice has her seat.” These passages show that the great and bitter needs of the helpless were reaching up to heaven and changing the god of the strong into the protector of the weak.

So, back of the stories of an amorous Zeus and a cowardly Zeus and a ridiculous Zeus, we can catch sight of another Zeus coming into being, as men grow continually more conscious of what life demanded of them and what human beings needed in the god they worshiped. Gradually this Zeus displaced the others, until he occupied the whole scene. At last he became, in the words of Dio Chrysostom, who wrote during the second century A.D.: “Our Zeus, the giver of every good gift, the common father and saviour and guardian of mankind.”

The Odyssey speaks of “the divine for which all men long,” and hundreds of years later Aristotle wrote, “Excellence, much labored for by the race of mortals.” The Greeks from the earliest mythologists on had a perception of the divine and the excellent. Their longing for them was great enough to make them never give up laboring to see them clearly, until at last the thunder and lightning were changed into the Universal Father.





THE GREEK AND ROMAN WRITERS OF MYTHOLOGY


Most of the books about the stories of classical mythology depend chiefly upon the Latin poet Ovid, who wrote during the reign of Augustus. Ovid is a compendium of mythology. No ancient writer can compare with him in this respect. He told almost all the stories and he told them at great length. Occasionally stories familiar to us through literature and art have come down to us only in his pages. In this book I have avoided using him as far as possible. Undoubtedly he was a good poet and a good storyteller and able to appreciate the myths enough to realize what excellent material they offered him; but he was really farther away from them in his point of view than we are today. They were sheer nonsense to him. He wrote,


I prate of ancient poets’ monstrous lies,

Ne’er seen or now or then by human eyes.



He says in effect to his reader, “Never mind how silly they are. I will dress them up so prettily for you that you will like them.” And he does, often very prettily indeed, but in his hands the stories which were factual truth and solemn truth to the early Greek poets Hesiod and Pindar, and vehicles of deep religious truth to the Greek tragedians, become idle tales, sometimes witty and diverting, often sentimental and distressingly rhetorical. The Greek mythologists are not rhetoricians and are notably free from sentimentality.

The list of the chief writers through whom the myths have come down to us is not long. Homer heads it, of course. The Iliad and the Odyssey are, or rather contain, the oldest Greek writings we have. There is no way to date accurately any part of them. Scholars differ widely, and will no doubt continue to do so. As unobjectionable a date as any is 1000 B.C.—at any rate for the Iliad, the older of the two poems.

In all that follows, here and in the rest of the book, the date given is to be understood as before Christ, unless it is otherwise stated.

The second writer on the list is sometimes placed in the ninth century, sometimes in the eighth. Hesiod was a poor farmer whose life was hard and bitter. There cannot be a greater contrast than that between his poem, the Works and Days, which tries to show men how to live a good life in a harsh world, and the courtly splendor of the Iliad and the Odyssey. But Hesiod has much to say about the gods, and a second poem, usually ascribed to him, the Theogony, is entirely concerned with mythology. If Hesiod did write it, then a humble peasant, living on a lonely farm far from cities, was the first man in Greece to wonder how everything had happened, the world, the sky, the gods, mankind, and to think out an explanation. Homer never wondered about anything. The Theogony is an account of the creation of the universe and the generations of the gods, and it is very important for mythology.

Next in order come the Homeric Hymns, poems written to honor various gods. They cannot be definitely dated, but the earliest are considered by most scholars to belong to the end of the eighth century or the beginning of the seventh. The last one of importance—there are thirty-three in all—belongs to fifth-century or possibly fourth-century Athens.

Pindar, the greatest lyric poet of Greece, began to write toward the end of the sixth century. He wrote Odes in honor of the victors in the games at the great national festivals of Greece, and in every one of his poems myths are told or alluded to. Pindar is quite as important for mythology as Hesiod.

Aeschylus, the oldest of the three tragic poets, was a contemporary of Pindar’s. The other two, Sophocles and Euripides, were a little younger. Euripides, the youngest, died at the end of the fifth century. Except for Aeschylus’ Persians, written to celebrate the victory of the Greeks over the Persians at Salamis, all the plays have mythological subjects. With Homer, they are the most important source of our knowledge of the myths.

The great writer of comedy, Aristophanes, who lived in the last part of the fifth century and the beginning of the fourth, refers often to the myths, as do also two great prose writers, Herodotus, the first historian of Europe, who was a contemporary of Euripides, and Plato, the philosopher, who lived less than a generation later.

The Alexandrian poets lived around 250 B.C. They were so called because, when they wrote, the center of Greek literature had moved from Greece to Alexandria in Egypt. Apollonius of Rhodes told at length the Quest of the Golden Fleece, and in connection with the story a number of other myths. He and three other Alexandrians, who also wrote about mythology, the pastoral poets Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus, have lost the simplicity of Hesiod’s and Pindar’s belief in the gods, and are far removed from the depth and gravity of the tragic poets’ view of religion; but they are not frivolous like Ovid.

Two late writers, Apuleius, a Latin, and Lucian, a Greek, both of the second century A.D., make an important contribution. The famous story of Cupid and Psyche is told only by Apuleius, who writes very much like Ovid. Lucian writes like no one except himself. He satirized the gods. In his time they had become a joking matter. Nevertheless, he gives by the way a good deal of information about them.

Apollodorus, also a Greek, is, next to Ovid, the most voluminous ancient writer on mythology, but, unlike Ovid, he is very matter-of-fact and very dull. His date has been differently set all the way from the first century B.C. to the ninth century A.D. The English scholar, Sir J. G. Frazer, thinks he probably wrote in either the first or the second century of our era.

The Greek Pausanias, an ardent traveler, the author of the first guidebook ever written, has a good deal to say about the mythological events reported to have happened in the places he visited. He lived as late as the second century A.D., but he does not question any of the stories. He writes about them with complete seriousness.

Of the Roman writers, Virgil stands far ahead. He did not believe in the myths any more than Ovid did, whose contemporary he was, but he found human nature in them and he brought mythological personages to life as no one had done since the Greek tragedians.

Other Roman poets wrote of the myths. Catullus tells several of the stories, and Horace alludes to them often, but neither is important for mythology. To all Romans the stories were infinitely remote, mere shadows. The best guides to a knowledge of Greek mythology are the Greek writers, who believed in what they wrote.





PART


I





I





Strange clouded fragments of an ancient glory,

Late lingerers of the company divine,

They breathe of that far world wherefrom they come,

Lost halls of heaven and Olympian air.





The Greeks did not believe that the gods created the universe. It was the other way about: the universe created the gods. Before there were gods heaven and earth had been formed. They were the first parents. The Titans were their children, and the gods were their grandchildren.





THE TITANS AND THE TWELVE GREAT OLYMPIANS


The Titans, often called the Elder Gods, were for untold ages supreme in the universe. They were of enormous size and of incredible strength. There were many of them, but only a few appear in the stories of mythology. The most important was CRONUS, in Latin SATURN. He ruled over the other Titans until his son Zeus dethroned him and seized the power for himself. The Romans said that when Jupiter, their name for Zeus, ascended the throne, Saturn fled to Italy and brought in the Golden Age, a time of perfect peace and happiness, which lasted as long as he reigned.

The other notable Titans were OCEAN, the river that was supposed to encircle the earth; his wife TETHYS; HYPERION, the father of the sun, the moon, and the dawn; MNEMOSYNE, which means Memory; THEMIS, usually translated by Justice; and IAPETUS, important because of his sons, ATLAS, who bore the world on his shoulders, and PROMETHEUS, who was the savior of mankind. These alone among the older gods were not banished with the coming of Zeus, but they took a lower place.

The twelve great Olympians were supreme among the gods who succeeded to the Titans. They were called the Olympians because Olympus was their home. What Olympus was, however, is not easy to say. There is no doubt that at first it was held to be a mountain top, and generally identified with Greece’s highest mountain, Mt. Olympus in Thessaly, in the northeast of Greece. But even in the earliest Greek poem, the Iliad, this idea is beginning to give way to the idea of an Olympus in some mysterious region far above all the mountains of the earth. In one passage of the Iliad Zeus talks to the gods from “the topmost peak of many-ridged Olympus,” clearly a mountain. But only a little further on he says that if he willed he could hang earth and sea from a pinnacle of Olympus, clearly no longer a mountain. Even so, it is not heaven. Homer makes Poseidon say that he rules the sea, Hades the dead, Zeus the heavens, but Olympus is common to all three.

Wherever it was, the entrance to it was a great gate of clouds kept by the Seasons. Within were the gods’ dwellings, where they lived and slept and feasted on ambrosia and nectar and listened to Apollo’s lyre. It was an abode of perfect blessedness. No wind, Homer says, ever shakes the untroubled peace of Olympus; no rain ever falls there or snow; but the cloudless firmament stretches around it on all sides and the white glory of sunshine is diffused upon its walls.





THE TWELVE OLYMPIANS MADE UP A DIVINE FAMILY:


( 1 ) ZEUS (JUPITER), the chief;

his two brothers next,

( 2 ) POSEIDON (NEPTUNE),

and ( 3 ) HADES, also called PLUTO;

( 4 ) HESTIA (VESTA), their sister;

( 5 ) HERA (JUNO), Zeus’s wife,

and ( 6 ) ARES (MARS), their son;

Zeus’s children:

( 7 ) ATHENA (MINERVA),

( 8 ) APOLLO,

( 9 ) APHRODITE (VENUS),

( 10 ) HERMES (MERCURY),

and ( 11 ) ARTEMIS (DIANA);

and Hera’s son

( 12 ) HEPHAESTUS (VULCAN),

sometimes said to be the son of Zeus too.





PLATE I

Zeus presides over his Olympus





ZEUS


(JUPITER)





Zeus and his brothers drew lots for their share of the universe. The sea fell to Poseidon, and the underworld to Hades. Zeus became the supreme ruler. He was Lord of the Sky, the Rain-god and the Cloud-gatherer, who wielded the awful thunderbolt. His power was greater than that of all the other divinities together. In the Iliad he tells his family, “I am mightiest of all. Make trial that you may know. Fasten a rope of gold to heaven and lay hold, every god and goddess. You could not drag down Zeus. But if I wished to drag you down, then I would. The rope I would bind to a pinnacle of Olympus and all would hang in air, yes, the very earth and the sea too.”

Nevertheless he was not omnipotent or omniscient, either. He could be opposed and deceived. Poseidon dupes him in the Iliad and so does Hera. Sometimes, too, the mysterious power, Fate, is spoken of as stronger than he. Homer makes Hera ask him scornfully if he proposes to deliver from death a man Fate has doomed.

He is represented as falling in love with one woman after another and descending to all manner of tricks to hide his infidelity from his wife. The explanation why such actions were ascribed to the most majestic of the gods is, the scholars say, that the Zeus of song and story has been made by combining many gods. When his worship spread to a town where there was already a divine ruler the two were slowly fused into one. The wife of the early god was then transferred to Zeus. The result, however, was unfortunate and the later Greeks did not like these endless love affairs.

Still, even in the earliest record Zeus had grandeur. In the Iliad Agamemnon prays: “Zeus, most glorious, most great, God of the storm-cloud, thou that dwellest in the heavens.” He demanded, too, not only sacrifices from men, but right action. The Greek Army at Troy is told “Father Zeus never helps liars or those who break their oaths.” The two ideas of him, the low and the high, persisted side by side for a long time.

His breastplate was the aegis, awful to behold; his bird was the eagle, his tree the oak. His oracle was Dodona in the land of oak trees. The god’s will was revealed by the rustling of the oak leaves which the priests interpreted.





HERA


(JUNO)





She was Zeus’s wife and sister. The Titans Ocean and Tethys brought her up. She was the protector of marriage, and married women were her peculiar care. There is very little that is attractive in the portrait the poets draw of her. She is called, indeed, in an early poem,


Golden-throned Hera, among immortals the queen,

Chief among them in beauty, the glorious lady

All the blessed in high Olympus revere,

Honor even as Zeus, the lord of the thunder.



But when any account of her gets down to details, it shows her chiefly engaged in punishing the many women Zeus fell in love with, even when they yielded only because he coerced or tricked them. It made no difference to Hera how reluctant any of them were or how innocent; the goddess treated them all alike. Her implacable anger followed them and their children, too. She never forgot an injury. The Trojan War would have ended in an honorable peace, leaving both sides unconquered, if it had not been for her hatred of a Trojan who had judged another goddess lovelier than she. The wrong of her slighted beauty remained with her until Troy fell in ruins.

In one important story, the Quest of the Golden Fleece, she is the gracious protector of heroes and the inspirer of heroic deeds, but not in any other. Nevertheless she was venerated in every home. She was the goddess married women turned to for help. Ilithyia (or Eileithyia), who helped women in childbirth, was her daughter.

The cow and the peacock were sacred to her. Argos was her favorite city.





POSEIDON


(NEPTUNE)





He was the ruler of the sea, Zeus’s brother and second only to him in eminence. The Greeks on both sides of the Aegean were seamen and the God of the Sea was all-important to them. His wife was Amphitrite, a granddaughter of the Titan, Ocean. Poseidon had a splendid palace beneath the sea, but he was oftener to be found in Olympus.

Besides being Lord of the Sea he gave the first horse to man, and he was honored as much for the one as for the other.


Lord Poseidon, from you this pride is ours,

The strong horses, the young horses, and also the rule of the deep.



Storm and calm were under his control:—


He commanded and the storm wind rose

And the surges of the sea.



But when he drove in his golden car over the waters, the thunder of the waves sank into stillness, and tranquil peace followed his smooth-rolling wheels.

He was commonly called “Earth-shaker” and was always shown carrying his trident, a three-pronged spear, with which he would shake and shatter whatever he pleased.

He had some connection with bulls as well as with horses, but the bull was connected with many other gods, too.





HADES


(PLUTO)





He was the third brother among the Olympians, who drew for his share the underworld and the rule over the dead. He was also called Pluto, the God of Wealth, of the precious metals hidden in the earth. The Romans as well as the Greeks called him by this name, but often they translated it into Dis, the Latin word for rich. He had a far-famed cap or helmet which made whoever wore it invisible. It was rare that he left his dark realm to visit Olympus or the earth, nor was he urged to do so. He was not a welcome visitor. He was unpitying, inexorable, but just; a terrible, not an evil god.

His wife was Persephone (Proserpine) whom he carried away from the earth and made Queen of the Lower World.

He was King of the Dead—not Death himself, whom the Greeks called Thanatos and the Romans, Orcus.





PALLAS ATHENA


(MINERVA)





She was the daughter of Zeus alone. No mother bore her. Full-grown and in full armor, she sprang from his head. In the earliest account of her, the Iliad, she is a fierce and ruthless battle-goddess, but elsewhere she is warlike only to defend the State and the home from outside enemies. She was pre-eminently the Goddess of the City, the protector of civilized life, of handicrafts and agriculture; the inventor of the bridle, who first tamed horses for men to use.

She was Zeus’s favorite child. He trusted her to carry the awful aegis, his buckler, and his devastating weapon, the thunderbolt.

The word oftenest used to describe her is “gray-eyed,” or, as it is sometimes translated, “flashing-eyed.” Of the three virgin goddesses she was the chief and was called the Maiden, Parthenos, and her temple the Parthenon. In later poetry she is the embodiment of wisdom, reason, purity.

Athens was her special city; the olive created by her was her tree; the owl her bird.





PHOEBUS APOLLO





The son of Zeus and Leto (Latona), born in the little island of Delos. He has been called “the most Greek of all the gods.” He is a beautiful figure in Greek poetry, the master musician who delights Olympus as he plays on his golden lyre; the lord, too, of the silver bow, the Archer-god, far-shooting; the Healer, as well, who first taught men the healing art. Even more than of these good and lovely endowments, he is the God of Light, in whom is no darkness at all, and so he is the God of Truth. No false word ever falls from his lips.


O Phoebus, from your throne of truth,

From your dwelling-place at the heart of the world,

You speak to men.

By Zeus’s decree no lie comes there,

No shadow to darken the word of truth.

Zeus sealed by an everlasting right

Apollo’s honour, that all may trust

With unshaken faith when he speaks.



Delphi under towering Parnassus, where Apollo’s oracle was, plays an important part in mythology. Castalia was its sacred spring; Cephissus its river. It was held to be the center of the world, so many pilgrims came to it, from foreign countries as well as Greece. No other shrine rivaled it. The answers to the questions asked by the anxious seekers for Truth were delivered by a priestess who went into a trance before she spoke. The trance was supposed to be caused by a vapor rising from a deep cleft in the rock over which her seat was placed, a three-legged stool, the tripod.

Apollo was called Delian from Delos, the island of his birth, and Pythian from his killing of a serpent, Python, which once lived in the caves of Parnassus. It was a frightful monster and the contest was severe, but in the end the god’s unerring arrows won the victory. Another name often given him was “the Lycian,” variously explained as meaning Wolf-god, God of Light, and God of Lycia. In the Iliad he is called “the Sminthian,” the Mouse-god, but whether because he protected mice or destroyed them no one knows. Often he was the Sun-god, too. His name Phoebus means “brilliant” or “shining.” Accurately, however, the Sun-god was Helios, child of the Titan Hyperion.

Apollo at Delphi was a purely beneficent power, a direct link between gods and men, guiding men to know the divine will, showing them how to make peace with the gods; the purifier, too, able to cleanse even those stained with the blood of their kindred. Nevertheless, there are a few tales told of him which show him pitiless and cruel. Two ideas were fighting in him as in all the gods; a primitive, crude idea and one that was beautiful and poetic. In him only a little of the primitive is left.

The laurel was his tree. Many creatures were sacred to him, chief among them the dolphin and the crow.





ARTEMIS


(DIANA)





Also called Cynthia, from her birthplace,

Mount Cynthus in Delos.





Apollo’s twin sister, daughter of Zeus and Leto. She was one of the three maiden goddesses of Olympus:—


Golden Aphrodite who stirs with love all creation,

Cannot bend nor ensnare three hearts: the pure maiden Vesta,

Gray-eyed Athena who cares but for war and the arts of the craftsmen,

Artemis, lover of woods and the wild chase over the mountains.



She was the Lady of Wild Things, Huntsman-in-chief to the gods, an odd office for a woman. Like a good huntsman, she was careful to preserve the young; she was “the protectress of dewy youth” everywhere. Nevertheless, with one of those startling contradictions so common in mythology, she kept the Greek Fleet from sailing to Troy until they sacrificed a maiden to her. In many another story, too, she is fierce and revengeful. On the other hand, when women died a swift and painless death, they were held to have been slain by her silver arrows.

As Phoebus was the Sun, she was the Moon, called Phoebe and Selene (Luna in Latin). Neither name originally belonged to her. Phoebe was a Titan, one of the older gods. So too was Selene—a moon-goddess, indeed, but not connected with Apollo. She was the sister of Helios, the sun-god with whom Apollo was confused.

In the later poets, Artemis is identified with Hecate. She is “the goddess with three forms,” Selene in the sky, Artemis on earth, Hecate in the lower world and in the world above when it is wrapped in darkness. Hecate was the Goddess of the Dark of the Moon, the black nights when the moon is hidden. She was associated with deeds of darkness, the Goddess of the Crossways, which were held to be ghostly places of evil magic. An awful divinity,


Hecate of hell,

Mighty to shatter every stubborn thing.

Hark! Hark! her hounds are baying through the town.

Where three roads meet, there she is standing.



It is a strange transformation from the lovely Huntress flashing through the forest, from the Moon making all beautiful with her light, from the pure Maiden-Goddess for whom


Whoso is chaste of spirit utterly

May gather leaves and fruits and flowers.

The unchaste never.



In her is shown most vividly the uncertainty between good and evil which is apparent in every one of the divinities.

The cypress was sacred to her; and all wild animals, but especially the deer.





APHRODITE


(VENUS)





The Goddess of Love and Beauty, who beguiled all, gods and men alike; the laughter-loving goddess, who laughed sweetly or mockingly at those her wiles had conquered; the irresistible goddess who stole away even the wits of the wise.

She is the daughter of Zeus and Dione in the Iliad, but in the later poems she is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea, and her name was explained as meaning “the foam-risen.” Aphros is foam in Greek. This sea-birth took place near Cythera, from where she was wafted to Cyprus. Both islands were ever after sacred to her, and she was called Cytherea or the Cyprian as often as by her proper name.

One of the Homeric Hymns, calling her “Beautiful, golden goddess,” says of her:—


The breath of the west wind bore her

Over the sounding sea,

Up from the delicate foam,

To wave-ringed Cyprus, her isle.

And the Hours golden-wreathed

Welcomed her joyously.

They clad her in raiment immortal,

And brought her to the gods.

Wonder seized them all as they saw

Violet-crowned Cytherea.



The Romans wrote of her in the same way. With her, beauty comes. The winds flee before her and the storm clouds; sweet flowers embroider the earth; the waves of the sea laugh; she moves in radiant light. Without her there is no joy nor loveliness anywhere. This is the picture the poets like best to paint of her.

But she had another side, too. It was natural that she should cut a poor figure in the Iliad, where the battle of heroes is the theme. She is a soft, weak creature there, whom a mortal need not fear to attack. In later poems she is usually shown as treacherous and malicious, exerting a deadly and destructive power over men.

In most of the stories she is the wife of Hephaestus (Vulcan), the lame and ugly god of the forge.

The myrtle was her tree; the dove her bird—sometimes, too, the sparrow and the swan.





HERMES


(MERCURY)





Zeus was his father and Maia, daughter of Atlas, his mother. Because of a very popular statue his appearance is more familiar to us than that of any other god. He was graceful and swift of motion. On his feet were winged sandals; wings were on his low-crowned hat, too, and on his magic wand, the Caduceus. He was Zeus’s Messenger, who “flies as fleet as thought to do his bidding.”

Of all the gods he was the shrewdest and most cunning; in fact he was the Master Thief, who started upon his career before he was a day old.


The babe was born at the break of day,

And ere the night fell he had stolen away

Apollo’s herds.



Zeus made him give them back, and he won Apollo’s forgiveness by presenting him with the lyre which he had just invented, making it out of a tortoise’s shell. Perhaps there was some connection between that very early story of him and the fact that he was God of Commerce and the Market, protector of traders.

In odd contrast to this idea of him, he was also the solemn guide of the dead, the Divine Herald who led the souls down to their last home.

He appears oftener in the tales of mythology than any other god.





ARES


(MARS)





The God of War, son of Zeus and Hera, both of whom, Homer says, detested him. Indeed, he is hateful throughout the Iliad, poem of war though it is. Occasionally the heroes “rejoice in the delight of Ares’ battle,” but far oftener in having escaped “the fury of the ruthless god.” Homer calls him murderous, bloodstained, the incarnate curse of mortals; and, strangely, a coward, too, who bellows with pain and runs away when he is wounded. Yet he has a train of attendants on the battlefield which should inspire anyone with confidence. His sister is there, Eris, which means Discord, and Strife, her son. The Goddess of War, Enyo—in Latin Bellona—walks beside him, and with her are Terror and Trembling and Panic. As they move, the voice of groaning arises behind them and the earth streams with blood.

The Romans liked Mars better than the Greeks liked Ares. He never was to them the mean whining deity of the Iliad, but magnificent in shining armor, redoubtable, invincible. The warriors of the great Latin heroic poem, the Aeneid, far from rejoicing to escape from him, rejoice when they see that they are to fall “on Mars’ field of renown.” They “rush on glorious death” and find it “sweet to die in battle.”

Ares figures little in mythology. In one story he is the lover of Aphrodite and held up to the contempt of the Olympians by Aphrodite’s husband, Hephaestus; but for the most part he is little more than a symbol of war. He is not a distinct personality, like Hermes or Hera or Apollo.

He had no cities where he was worshiped. The Greeks said vaguely that he came from Thrace, home of a rude, fierce people in the northeast of Greece.

Appropriately, his bird was the vulture. The dog was wronged by being chosen as his animal.





HEPHAESTUS


(VULCAN AND MULCIBER)





The God of Fire, sometimes said to be the son of Zeus and Hera, sometimes of Hera alone, who bore him in retaliation for Zeus’s having brought forth Athena. Among the perfectly beautiful immortals he only was ugly. He was lame as well. In one place in the Iliad he says that his shameless mother, when she saw that he was born deformed, cast him out of heaven; in another place he declares that Zeus did this, angry with him for trying to defend Hera. This second story is the better known, because of Milton’s familiar lines: Mulciber was


Thrown by angry Jove

Sheer o’er the crystal battlements; from morn

To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve,

A summer’s day, and with the setting sun

Dropt from the zenith like a falling star,

On Lemnos, the Aegean isle.



These events, however, were supposed to have taken place in the far-distant past. In Homer he is in no danger of being driven from Olympus; he is highly honored there, the workman of the immortals, their armorer and smith, who makes their dwellings and their furnishings as well as their weapons. In his workshop he has handmaidens he has forged out of gold who can move and who help him in his work.

In the later poets his forge is often said to be under this or that volcano, and to cause eruptions.

His wife is one of the three Graces in the Iliad, called Aglaia in Hesiod; in the Odyssey she is Aphrodite.

He was a kindly, peace-loving god, popular on earth as in heaven. With Athena, he was important in the life of the city. The two were the patrons of handicrafts, the arts which along with agriculture are the support of civilization; he the protector of the smiths as she of the weavers. When children were formally admitted to the city organization, the god of the ceremony was Hephaestus.





HESTIA


(VESTA)





She was Zeus’s sister, and like Athena and Artemis a virgin goddess. She has no distinct personality and she plays no part in the myths. She was the Goddess of the Hearth, the symbol of the home, around which the newborn child must be carried before it could be received into the family. Every meal began and ended with an offering to her.


Hestia, in all dwellings of men and immortals

Yours is the highest honor, the sweet wine offered

First and last at the feast, poured out to you duly.

Never without you can gods or mortals hold banquet.



Each city, too, had a public hearth sacred to Hestia, where the fire was never allowed to go out. If a colony was to be founded, the colonists carried with them coals from the hearth of the mother-city with which to kindle the fire on the new city’s hearth.

In Rome her fire was cared for by six virgin priestesses, called Vestals.





THE LESSER GODS OF OLYMPUS


There were other divinities in heaven besides the twelve great Olympians. The most important of them was the God of Love, EROS (Cupid in Latin). Homer knows nothing of him, but to Hesiod he is


Fairest of the deathless gods.



In the early stories, he is oftenest a beautiful serious youth who gives good gifts to men. This idea the Greeks had of him is best summed up not by a poet, but by a philosopher, Plato: “Love—Eros—makes his home in men’s hearts, but not in every heart, for where there is hardness he departs. His greatest glory is that he cannot do wrong nor allow it; force never comes near him. For all men serve him of their own free will. And he whom Love touches not walks in darkness.”

In the early accounts Eros was not Aphrodite’s son, but merely her occasional companion. In the later poets he was her son and almost invariably a mischievous, naughty boy, or worse.


Evil his heart, but honey-sweet his tongue,

No truth in him, the rogue. He is cruel in his play.

Small are his hands, yet his arrows fly far as death.

Tiny his shaft, but it carries heaven-high.

Touch not his treacherous gifts, they are dipped in fire.



He was often represented as blindfolded, because love is often blind. In attendance upon him was ANTEROS, said sometimes to be the avenger of slighted love, sometimes the one who opposes love; also HIMEROS or Longing, and HYMEN, the God of the Wedding Feast.





HEBE was the Goddess of Youth, the daughter of Zeus and Hera. Sometimes she appears as cupbearer to the gods; sometimes that office is held by Ganymede, a beautiful young Trojan prince who was seized and carried up to Olympus by Zeus’s eagle. There are no stories about Hebe except that of her marriage to Hercules.


IRIS was the Goddess of the Rainbow and a messenger of the gods, in the Iliad the only messenger. Hermes appears first in that capacity in the Odyssey, but he does not take Iris’ place. Now the one, now the other is called upon by the gods.

There were also in Olympus two bands of lovely sisters, the Muses and the Graces.


THE GRACES were three: Aglaia (Splendor), Euphrosyne (Mirth), and Thalia (Good Cheer). They were the daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, a child of the Titan, Ocean. Except in a story Homer and Hesiod tell, that Aglaia married Hephaestus, they are not treated as separate personalities, but always together, a triple incarnation of grace and beauty. The gods delighted in them when they danced enchantingly to Apollo’s lyre, and the man they visited was happy. They “give life its bloom.” Together with their companions, the Muses, they were “queens of song,” and no banquet without them could please.


THE MUSES were nine in number, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, Memory. At first, like the Graces, they were not distinguished from each other. “They are all,” Hesiod says, “of one mind, their hearts are set upon song and their spirit is free from care. He is happy whom the Muses love. For though a man has sorrow and grief in his soul, yet when the servant of the Muses sings, at once he forgets his dark thoughts and remembers not his troubles. Such is the holy gift of the Muses to men.”

In later times each had her own special field. Clio was Muse of history, Urania of astronomy, Melpomene of tragedy, Thalia of comedy, Terpsichore of the dance, Calliope of epic poetry, Erato of love-poetry, Polyhymnia of songs to the gods, Euterpe of lyric poetry.





Hesiod lived near Helicon, one of the Muses’ mountains—the others were Pierus in Pieria, where they were born, Parnassus, and, of course, Olympus. One day the Nine appeared to him and they told him, “We know how to speak false things that seem true, but we know, when we will, to utter true things.” They were companions of Apollo, the God of Truth, as well as of the Graces. Pindar calls the lyre theirs as well as Apollo’s, “the golden lyre to which the step, the dancer’s step, listens, owned alike by Apollo and the violet-wreathed Muses.” The man they inspired was sacred far beyond any priest.

As the idea of Zeus became loftier, two august forms sat beside him in Olympus. THEMIS, which means the Right, or Divine Justice, and DIKE, which is Human Justice. But they never became real personalities. The same was true of two personified emotions esteemed highest of all feelings in Homer and Hesiod: NEMESIS, usually translated as Righteous Anger, and AIDOS, a difficult word to translate, but in common use among the Greeks. It means reverence and the shame that holds men back from wrongdoing, but it also means the feeling a prosperous man should have in the presence of the unfortunnate—not compassion, but a sense that the difference between him and those poor wretches is not deserved.

It does not seem, however, that either Nemesis or Aidos had their home with the gods. Hesiod says that only when men have finally become completely wicked will Nemesis and Aidos, their beautiful faces veiled in white raiment, leave the wide-wayed earth and depart to the company of the immortals.





From time to time a few mortals were translated to Olympus, but once they had been brought to heaven they vanished from literature. Their stories will be told later.





THE GODS OF THE WATERS





POSEIDON (Neptune) was the Lord and Ruler of the Sea (the Mediterranean) and the Friendly Sea (the Euxine, now the Black Sea). Underground rivers, too, were his.


OCEAN, a Titan, was Lord of the river Ocean, a great river encircling the earth. His wife, also a Titan, was Tethys. The Oceanids, the nymphs of this great river, were their daughters. The gods of all the rivers on earth were their sons.


PONTUS, which means the Deep Sea, was a son of Mother Earth and the father of Nereus, a sea-god far more important than he himself was.


NEREUS was called the Old Man of the Sea (the Mediterranean)—“A trusty god and gentle,” Hesiod says, “who thinks just and kindly thoughts and never lies.” His wife was Doris, a daughter of Ocean. They had fifty lovely daughters, the nymphs of the Sea, called NEREIDS from their father’s name, one of whom, Thetis, was the mother of Achilles. Poseidon’s wife, AMPHITRITE, was another.


TRITON was the trumpeter of the Sea. His trumpet was a great shell. He was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite.


PROTEUS was sometimes said to be Poseidon’s son, sometimes his attendant. He had the power both of foretelling the future and of changing his shape at will.


THE NAIADS were also water nymphs. They dwelt in brooks and springs and fountains.


LEUCOTHEA and her son PALAEMON, once mortals, became divinities of the sea, as did also GLAUCUS, but all three were unimportant.





THE UNDERWORLD


The kingdom of the dead was ruled by one of the twelve great Olympians, Hades or Pluto, and his Queen, Persephone. It is often called by his name, Hades. It lies, the Iliad says, beneath the secret places of the earth. In the Odyssey, the way to it leads over the edge of the world across Ocean. In later poets there are various entrances to it from the earth through caverns and beside deep lakes.

Tartarus and Erebus are sometimes two divisions of the underworld, Tartarus the deeper of the two, the prison of the Sons of Earth; Erebus where the dead pass as soon as they die. Often, however, there is no distinction between the two, and either is used, especially Tartarus, as a name for the entire lower region.

In Homer the underworld is vague, a shadowy place inhabited by shadows. Nothing is real there. The ghosts’ existence, if it can be called that, is like a miserable dream. The later poets define the world of the dead more and more clearly as the place where the wicked are punished and the good rewarded. In the Roman poet Virgil this idea is presented in great detail as in no Greek poet. All the torments of the one class and the joys of the other are described at length. Virgil, too, is the only poet who gives clearly the geography of the underworld. The path down to it leads to where Acheron, the river of woe, pours into Cocytus, the river of lamentation. An aged boatman named Charon ferries the souls of the dead across the water to the farther bank, where stands the adamantine gate to Tartarus (the name Virgil prefers). Charon will receive into his boat only the souls of those upon whose lips the passage money was placed when they died and who were duly buried.

On guard before the gate sits CERBERUS, the three-headed, dragon-tailed dog, who permits all spirits to enter, but none to return. On his arrival each one is brought before three judges, Rhadamanthus, Minos, and Aeacus, who pass sentence and send the wicked to everlasting torment and the good to a place of blessedness called the Elysian Fields.

Three other rivers, besides Acheron and Cocytus, separate the underworld from the world above: Phlegethon, the river of fire; Styx, the river of the unbreakable oath by which the gods swear; and Lethe, the river of forgetfulness.

Somewhere in this vast region is Pluto’s palace, but beyond saying that it is many-gated and crowded with innumerable guests, no writer describes it. Around it are wide wastes, wan and cold, and meadows of asphodel, presumably strange, pallid, ghostly flowers. We do not know anything more about it. The poets did not care to linger in that gloom-hidden abode.





THE ERINYES (the FURIES) are placed by Virgil in the underworld, where they punish evildoers. The Greek poets thought of them chiefly as pursuing sinners on the earth. They were inexorable, but just. Heraclitus says, “Not even the sun will transgress his orbit but the Erinyes, the ministers of justice, overtake him.” They were usually represented as three: Tisiphone, Megaera, and Alecto.


SLEEP, and DEATH, his brother, dwelt in the lower world. Dreams, too, ascended from there to men. They passed through two gates, one of horn through which true dreams went, one of ivory for false dreams.





THE LESSER GODS OF EARTH


Earth herself was called the All-Mother, but she was not really a divinity. She was never separated from the actual earth and personified. The Goddess of the Corn, DEMETER (CERES), a daughter of Cronus and Rhea, and the God of the Vine, DIONYSUS, also called BACCHUS, were the supreme deities of the earth and of great importance in Greek and Roman mythology. Their stories will be found in the next chapter. The other divinities who lived in the world were comparatively unimportant.


PAN was the chief. He was Hermes’ son; a noisy, merry god, the Homeric Hymn in his honor calls him; but he was part animal too, with a goat’s horns, and goat’s hoofs instead of feet. He was the goatherds’ god, and the shepherds’ god, and also the gay companion of the woodland nymphs when they danced. All wild places were his home, thickets and forests and mountains, but best of all he loved Arcady, where he was born. He was a wonderful musician. Upon his pipes of reed he played melodies as sweet as the nightingale’s song. He was always in love with one nymph or another, but always rejected because of his ugliness.

Sounds heard in a wilderness at night by the trembling traveler were supposed to be made by him, so that it is easy to see how the expression “panic” fear arose.


SILENUS was sometimes said to be Pan’s son; sometimes his brother, a son of Hermes. He was a jovial fat old man who usually rode an ass because he was too drunk to walk. He is associated with Bacchus as well as with Pan; he taught him when the Wine-god was young, and, as is shown by his perpetual drunkenness, after being his tutor he became his devoted follower.


Besides these gods of the earth there was a very famous and very popular pair of brothers, CASTOR and POLLUX (Polydeuces), who in most of the accounts were said to live half of their time on earth and half in heaven.

They were the sons of LEDA, and are usually represented as being gods, the special protectors of sailors,


Saviors of swift-going ships when the storm winds rage

Over the ruthless sea.



They were also powerful to save in battle. They were especially honored in Rome, where they were worshiped as


The great Twin Brethren to whom all Dorians pray.



But the accounts of them are contradictory. Sometimes Pollux alone is held to be divine, and Castor a mortal who won a kind of half-and-half immortality merely because of his brother’s love.

LEDA was the wife of King Tyndareus of Sparta, and the usual story is that she bore two mortal children to him, Castor and Clytemnestra, Agamemnon’s wife; and to Zeus, who visited her in the form of a swan, two others who were immortal, Pollux and Helen, the heroine of Troy. Nevertheless, both brothers, Castor and Pollux, were often called “sons of Zeus”; indeed, the Greek name they are best known by, the Dioscouri, means “the striplings of Zeus.” On the other hand, they were also called “sons of Tyndareus,” the Tyndaridae.

They are always represented as living just before the Trojan War, at the same time as Theseus and Jason and Atalanta. They took part in the Calydonian boar-hunt; they went on the Quest of the Golden Fleece; and they rescued Helen when Theseus carried her off. But in all the stories they play an unimportant part except in the account of Castor’s death, when Pollux proved his brotherly devotion.

The two went, we are not told why, to the land of some cattle owners, Idas and Lynceus. There, Pindar says, Idas, made angry in some way about his oxen, stabbed and killed Castor. Other writers say the cause of the dispute was the two daughters of the king of the country, Leucippus. Pollux stabbed Lynceus, and Zeus struck Idas with his thunderbolt. But Castor was dead and Pollux was inconsolable. He prayed to die also, and Zeus in pity allowed him to share his life with his brother, to live,


Half of thy time beneath the earth and half

Within the golden homes of heaven.



According to this version the two were never separated again. One day they dwelt in Hades, the next in Olympus, always together.

The late Greek writer Lucian gives another version, in which their dwelling places are heaven and earth; and when Pollux goes to one, Castor goes to the other, so that they are never with each other. In Lucian’s little satire, Apollo asks Hermes: “I say, why do we never see Castor and Pollux at the same time?”

“Well,” Hermes replies, “they are so fond of each other that when fate decreed one of them must die and only one be immortal, they decided to share immortality between them.”

“Not very wise, Hermes. What proper employment can they engage in, that way? I foretell the future; Aesculapius cures diseases; you are a good messenger—but these two—are they to idle away their whole time?”

“No, surely. They’re in Poseidon’s service. Their business is to save any ship in distress.”

“Ah, now you say something. I’m delighted they’re in such a good business.”

Two stars were supposed to be theirs: the Gemini, the Twins.

They were always represented as riding splendid snow-white horses, but Homer distinguishes Castor above Pollux for horsemanship. He calls the two


Castor, tamer of horses, Polydeuces, good as a boxer.



THE SILENI were creatures part man and part horse. They walked on two legs, not four, but they often had horses’ hoofs instead of feet, sometimes horses’ ears, and always horses’ tails. There are no stories about them, but they are often seen on Greek vases.


THE SATYRS, like Pan, were goat-men, and like him they had their home in the wild places of the earth.

In contrast to these unhuman, ugly gods the goddesses of the woodland were all lovely maiden forms, the OREADS, nymphs of the mountains, and the Dryads, sometimes called HAMADRYADS, nymphs of trees, whose life was in each case bound up with that of her tree.





AEOLUS, King of the Winds, also lived on the earth. An island, Aeolia, was his home. Accurately he was only regent of the Winds, viceroy of the gods. The four chief Winds were BOREAS, the North Wind, in Latin AQUILO; ZEPHYR, the West Wind, which had a second Latin name, Favonius; Notus, the South Wind, also called in Latin AUSTER; and the East Wind, EURUS, the same in both Greek and Latin.

There were some beings, neither human nor divine, who had their home on the earth. Prominent among them were:—

THE CENTAURS. They were half man, half horse, and for the most part they were savage creatures, more like beasts than men. One of them, however, CHIRON, was known everywhere for his goodness and his wisdom.


THE GORGONS were also earth-dwellers. There were three, and two of them were immortal. They were dragonlike creatures with wings, whose look turned men to stone. Phorcys, son of the Sea and the Earth, was their father.





THE GRAIAE were their sisters, three gray women who had but one eye between them. They lived on the farther bank of Ocean.


THE SIRENS lived on an island in the Sea. They had enchanting voices and their singing lured sailors to their death. It was not known what they looked like, for no one who saw them ever returned.

Very important but assigned to no abode whether in heaven or on the earth were THE FATES, Moirae in Greek, Parcae in Latin, who, Hesiod says, give to men at birth evil and good to have. They were three, Clotho, the Spinner, who spun the thread of life; Lachesis, the Disposer of Lots, who assigned to each man his destiny; Atropos, she who could not be turned, who carried “the abhorrèd shears” and cut the thread at death.





THE ROMAN GODS


The Twelve great Olympians mentioned earlier were turned into Roman gods also. The influence of Greek art and literature became so powerful in Rome that ancient Roman deities were changed to resemble the corresponding Greek gods, and were considered to be the same. Most of them, however, in Rome had Roman names. These were Jupiter (Zeus), Juno (Hera), Neptune (Poseidon), Vesta (Hestia), Mars (Ares), Minerva (Athena), Venus (Aphrodite), Mercury (Hermes), Diana (Artemis), Vulcan or Mulciber (Hephaestus), and Ceres (Demeter).

Two kept their Greek names: Apollo and Pluto; but the latter was never called Hades, as was usual in Greece. Bacchus, never Dionysus, was the name of the wine-god, who had also a Latin name, Liber.

It was a simple matter to adopt the Greek gods because the Romans did not have definitely personified gods of their own. They were a people of deep religious feeling, but they had little imagination. They could never have created the Olympians, each a distinct, vivid personality. Their gods, before they took over from the Greeks, were vague, hardly more than a “those that are above.” They were THE NUMINA, which means the Powers or the Wills—the Will-Powers, perhaps.

Until Greek literature and art entered Italy the Romans felt no need for beautiful, poetic gods. They were a practical people and they did not care about “Violet-tressed Muses who inspire song,” or “Lyric Apollo making sweet melodies upon his golden lyre,” or anything of that sort. They wanted useful gods. An important Power, for example, was One Who Guards the Cradle. Another was One Who Presides over Children’s Food. No stories were ever told about the Numina. For the most part they were not even distinguished as male or female. The simple acts of everyday life, however, were closely connected with them and gained dignity from them as was not the case with any of the Greek gods except Demeter and Dionysus.

The most prominent and revered of them all were the LARES and PENATES. Every Roman family had a Lar, who was the spirit of an ancestor, and several Penates, gods of the hearth and guardians of the storehouse. They were the family’s own gods, belonging only to it, really the most important part of it, the protectors and defenders of the entire household. They were never worshiped in temples, but only in the home, where some of the food at each meal was offered to them. There were also public Lares and Penates, who did for the city what the others did for the family.

There were also many Numina connected with the life of the household, such as TERMINUS, Guardian of Boundaries; PRIAPUS, Cause of Fertility; PALES, Strengthener of Cattle; and SYLVANUS, Helper of Plowmen and Woodcutters. A long list could be made. Everything important to the farm was under the care of a beneficent power, never conceived of as having a definite shape.

SATURN was originally one of the Numina, the Protector of the Sowers and the Seed, as his wife OPS was a Harvest Helper. In later days, he was said to be the same as the Greek Cronus and the father of Jupiter, the Roman Zeus. In this way he became a personality and a number of stories were told about him. In memory of the Golden Age, when he reigned in Italy, the great feast of the Saturnalia was held every year during the winter. The idea of it was that the Golden Age returned to the earth during the days it lasted. No war could be then declared; slaves and masters ate at the same table; executions were postponed; it was a season for giving presents; it kept alive in men’s minds the idea of equality, of a time when all were on the same level.


JANUS, too, was originally one of the Numina, “the god of good beginnings,” which are sure to result in good endings. He became personified to a certain degree. His chief temple in Rome ran east and west, where the day begins and ends, and had two doors, between which stood his statue with two faces, one young and one old. These doors were closed only when Rome was at peace. In the first seven hundred years of the city’s life they were closed three times, in the reign of the good king, Numa; after the first Punic War when Carthage was defeated in 241 B.C.; and in the reign of Augustus when, Milton says,


No war or battle’s sound

Was heard the world around.



Naturally his month, January, began the new year.


FAUNUS was Saturn’s grandson. He was a sort of Roman Pan, a rustic god. He was a prophet too, and spoke to men in their dreams.


THE FAUNS were Roman satyrs.


QUIRINUS was the name of the deified Romulus, the founder of Rome.


THE MANES were the spirits of the good dead in Hades. Sometimes they were regarded as divine and worshiped.


THE LEMURES or LARVAE were the spirits of the wicked dead and were greatly feared.


THE CAMENAE began as useful and practical goddesses who cared for springs and wells and cured disease and foretold the future. But when the Greek gods came to Rome, the Camenae were identified with those impractical deities the Muses, who cared only for art and science. Egeria who taught King Numa was said to be a Camena.


LUCINA was sometimes regarded as a Roman EILEITHYIA, the goddess of childbirth, but usually the name is used as an epithet of both Juno and Diana.


POMONA AND VERTUMNUS began as Numina, as Powers Protecting Orchards and Gardens. But they were personified later and a story was told about how they fell in love with each other.





II





For the most part the immortal gods were of little use to human beings and often they were quite the reverse of useful: Zeus a dangerous lover for mortal maidens and completely incalculable in his use of the terrible thunderbolt; Ares the maker of war and a general pest; Hera with no idea of justice when she was jealous as she perpetually was; Athena also a war maker, and wielding the lightning’s sharp lance quite as irresponsibly as Zeus did; Aphrodite using her power chiefly to ensnare and betray. They were a beautiful, radiant company, to be sure, and their adventures made excellent stories; but when they were not positively harmful, they were capricious and undependable, and in general mortals got on best without them.

There were two, however, who were altogether different—who were, indeed, mankind’s best friends: Demeter, in Latin Ceres, the Goddess of the Corn, a daughter of Cronus and Rhea; and Dionysus, also called Bacchus, the God of Wine. Demeter was the older, as was natural. Corn was sowed long before vines were planted. The first cornfield was the beginning of settled life on earth. Vineyards came later. It was natural, too, that the divine power which brought forth the grain should be thought of as a goddess, not a god. When the business of men was hunting and fighting, the care of the fields belonged to the women, and as they plowed and scattered the seed and reaped the harvest, they felt that a woman divinity could best understand and help woman’s work. They could best understand her, too, who was worshiped, not like other gods by the bloody sacrifices men liked, but in every humble act that made the farm fruitful. Through her the field of grain was hallowed. “Demeter’s holy grain.” The threshing-floor, too, was under her protection. Both were her temples where at any moment she might be present. “At the sacred threshing-floor, when they are winnowing, she herself, Demeter of the corn-ripe yellow hair, divides the grain and the chaff in the rush of the wind, and the heap of chaff grows white.” “May it be mine,” the reaper prays, “beside Demeter’s altar to dig the great winnowing fan through her heaps of corn, while she stands smiling by with sheaves and poppies in her hand.”

Her chief festival, of course, came at the harvest time. In earlier days it must have been a simple reapers’ thanksgiving day when the first loaf baked from the new grain was broken and reverently eaten with grateful prayers to the goddess from whom had come this best and most necessary gift for human life. In later years the humble feast grew into a mysterious worship, about which we know little. The great festival, in September, came only every five years, but it lasted for nine days. They were most sacred days, when much of the ordinary business of life was suspended. Processions took place, sacrifices were held with dances and song, there was general rejoicing. All this was public knowledge and has been related by many a writer. But the chief part of the ceremony which took place in the precincts of the temple has never been described. Those who beheld it were bound by a vow of silence and they kept it so well that we know only stray bits of what was done.

The great temple was at Eleusis, a little town near Athens, and the worship was called the Eleusinian Mysteries. Throughout the Greek world and the Roman, too, they were held in especial veneration. Cicero, writing in the century before Christ, says: “Nothing is higher than these mysteries. They have sweetened our characters and softened our customs; they have made us pass from the condition of savages to true humanity. They have not only shown us the way to live joyfully, but they have taught us how to die with a better hope.”

And yet even so, holy and awesome though they were, they kept the mark of what they had sprung from. One of the few pieces of information we have about them is that at a very solemn moment the worshipers were shown “an ear of corn which had been reaped in silence.”

In some way, no one knows clearly how or when, the God of the Vine, Dionysus, came to take his place, too, at Eleusis, side by side with Demeter.


Beside Demeter when the cymbals sound

Enthroned sits Dionysus of the flowing hair.



It was natural that they should be worshiped together, both divinities of the good gifts of earth, both present in the homely daily acts that life depends on, the breaking of bread and the drinking of wine. The harvest was Dionysus’ festival, too, when the grapes were brought to the wine-press.


The joy-god Dionysus, the pure star

That shines amid the gathering of the fruit.



But he was not always a joy-god, nor was Demeter always the happy goddess of the summertime. Each knew pain as well as joy. In that way, too, they were closely linked together; they were both suffering gods. The other immortals were untouched by lasting grief. “Dwelling in Olympus where the wind never blows and no rain falls ever nor the least white star of snow, they are happy all their days, feasting upon nectar and ambrosia, rejoicing in all glorious Apollo as he strikes his silver lyre, and the sweet voices of the Muses answer him, while the Graces dance with Hebe and with Aphrodite, and a radiance shines round them all.” But the two divinities of Earth knew heart-rending grief.

What happens to the corn plants and the luxuriant branching vines when the grain is harvested, the grapes gathered, and the black frost sets in, killing the fresh green life of the fields? That is what men asked themselves when the first stories were told to explain what was so mysterious, the changes always passing before their eyes, of day and night and the seasons and the stars in their courses. Though Demeter and Dionysus were the happy gods of the harvest, during the winter it was clear that they were altogether different. They sorrowed, and the earth was sad. The men of long ago wondered why this should be, and they told stories to explain the reason.





DEMETER


(CERES)





This story is told only in a very early poem, one of the earliest of the Homeric Hymns, dating from the eighth or the beginning of the seventh century. The original has the marks of early Greek poetry, great simplicity and directness and delight in the beautiful world.





Demeter had an only daughter, Persephone (in Latin Proserpine), the maiden of the spring. She lost her and in her terrible grief she withheld her gifts from the earth, which turned into a frozen desert. The green and flowering land was ice-bound and lifeless because Persephone had disappeared.

The lord of the dark underworld, the king of the multitudinous dead, carried her off when, enticed by the wondrous bloom of the narcissus, she strayed too far from her companions. In his chariot drawn by coal-black steeds he rose up through a chasm in the earth, and grasping the maiden by the wrist set her beside him. He bore her away weeping, down to the underworld. The high hills echoed her cry and the depths of the sea, and her mother heard it. She sped like a bird over sea and land seeking her daughter. But no one would tell her the truth, “no man nor god, nor any sure messenger from the birds.” Nine days Demeter wandered, and all that time she would not taste of ambrosia or put sweet nectar to her lips. At last she came to the Sun and he told her all the story: Persephone was down in the world beneath the earth, among the shadowy dead.

Then a still greater grief entered Demeter’s heart. She left Olympus; she dwelt on earth, but so disguised that none knew her, and, indeed, the gods are not easily discerned by mortal men. In her desolate wanderings she came to Eleusis and sat by the wayside near a well. She seemed an aged woman, such as in great houses care for the children or guard the storerooms. Four lovely maidens, sisters, coming to draw water from the well, saw her and asked her pityingly what she did there. She answered that she had fled from pirates who had meant to sell her as a slave, and that she knew no one in this strange land to go to for help. They told her that any house in the town would welcome her, but that they would like best to bring her to their own if she would wait there while they went to ask their mother. The goddess bent her head in assent, and the girls, filling their shining pitchers with water, hurried home. Their mother, Metaneira, bade them return at once and invite the stranger to come, and speeding back they found the glorious goddess still sitting there, deeply veiled and covered to her slender feet by her dark robe. She followed them, and as she crossed the threshold to the hall where the mother sat holding her young son, a divine radiance filled the doorway and awe fell upon Metaneira.

She bade Demeter be seated and herself offered her honey-sweet wine, but the goddess would not taste it. She asked instead for barley-water flavored with mint, the cooling draught of the reaper at harvest time and also the sacred cup given the worshipers at Eleusis. Thus refreshed she took the child and held him to her fragrant bosom and his mother’s heart was glad. So Demeter nursed Demophoön, the son that Metaneira had borne to wise Celeus. And the child grew like a young god, for daily Demeter anointed him with ambrosia and at night she would place him in the red heart of the fire. Her purpose was to give him immortal youth.

Something, however, made the mother uneasy, so that one night she kept watch and screamed in terror when she saw the child laid in the fire. The goddess was angered; she seized the boy and cast him on the ground. She had meant to set him free from old age and from death, but that was not to be. Still, he had lain upon her knees and slept in her arms and therefore he should have honor throughout his life.

Then she showed herself the goddess manifest. Beauty breathed about her and a lovely fragrance; light shone from her so that the great house was filled with brightness. She was Demeter, she told the awestruck women. They must build her a great temple near the town and so win back the favor of her heart.

Thus she left them, and Metaneira fell speechless to the earth and all there trembled with fear. In the morning they told Celeus what had happened and he called the people together and revealed to them the command of the goddess. They worked willingly to build her a temple, and when it was finished Demeter came to it and sat there—apart from the gods in Olympus, alone, wasting away with longing for her daughter.

That year was most dreadful and cruel for mankind over all the earth. Nothing grew; no seed sprang up; in vain the oxen drew the plowshare through the furrows. It seemed the whole race of men would die of famine. At last Zeus saw that he must take the matter in hand. He sent the gods to Demeter, one after another, to try to turn her from her anger, but she listened to none of them. Never would she let the earth bear fruit until she had seen her daughter. Then Zeus realized that his brother must give way. He told Hermes to go down to the underworld and to bid the lord of it let his bride go back to Demeter.





PLATE II

The rape of Persephone (Proserpine)





Hermes found the two sitting side by side, Persephone shrinking away, reluctant because she longed for her mother. At Hermes’ words she sprang up joyfully, eager to go. Her husband knew that he must obey the word of Zeus and send her up to earth away from him, but he prayed her as she left him to have kind thoughts of him and not be so sorrowful that she was the wife of one who was great among the immortals. And he made her eat a pomegranate seed, knowing in his heart that if she did so she must return to him.

He got ready his golden car and Hermes took the reins and drove the black horses straight to the temple where Demeter was. She ran out to meet her daughter as swiftly as a Maenad runs down the mountainside. Persephone sprang into her arms and was held fast there. All day they talked of what had happened to them both, and Demeter grieved when she heard of the pomegranate seed, fearing that she could not keep her daughter with her.

Then Zeus sent another messenger to her, a great personage, none other than his revered mother Rhea, the oldest of the gods. Swiftly she hastened down from the heights of Olympus to the barren, leafless earth, and standing at the door of the temple she spoke to Demeter.


Come, my daughter, for Zeus, far-seeing, loud-thundering, bids you.

Come once again to the halls of the gods where you shall have honor,

Where you will have your desire, your daughter, to comfort your sorrow

As each year is accomplished and bitter winter is ended.

For a third part only the kingdom of darkness shall hold her.

For the rest you will keep her, you and the happy immortals.

Peace now. Give men life which comes alone from your giving.



Demeter did not refuse, poor comfort though it was that she must lose Persephone for four months every year and see her young loveliness go down to the world of the dead. But she was kind; the “Good Goddess,” men always called her. She was sorry for the desolation she had brought about. She made the fields once more rich with abundant fruit and the whole world bright with flowers and green leaves. Also she went to the princes of Eleusis who had built her temple and she chose one, Triptolemus, to be her ambassador to men, instructing them how to sow the corn. She taught him and Celeus and the others her sacred rites, “mysteries which no one may utter, for deep awe checks the tongue. Blessed is he who has seen them; his lot will be good in the world to come.”





Queen of fragrant Eleusis,

Giver of earth’s good gifts,

Give me your grace, O Demeter.

You, too, Persephone, fairest,

Maiden all lovely, I offer

Song for your favor.





In the stories of both goddesses, Demeter and Persephone, the idea of sorrow was foremost. Demeter, goddess of the harvest wealth, was still more the divine sorrowing mother who saw her daughter die each year. Persephone was the radiant maiden of the spring and the summertime, whose light step upon the dry, brown hillside was enough to make it fresh and blooming, as Sappho writes,


I heard the footfall of the flower spring…



—Persephone’s footfall. But all the while Persephone knew how brief that beauty was; fruits, flowers, leaves, all the fair growth of earth, must end with the coming of the cold and pass like herself into the power of death. After the lord of the dark world below carried her away she was never again the gay young creature who had played in the flowery meadow without a thought of care or trouble. She did indeed rise from the dead every spring, but she brought with her the memory of where she had come from; with all her bright beauty there was something strange and awesome about her. She was often said to be “the maiden whose name may not be spoken.”

The Olympians were “the happy gods,” “the deathless gods,” far removed from suffering mortals destined to die. But in their grief and at the hour of death, men could turn for compassion to the goddess who sorrowed and the goddess who died.





DIONYSUS


OR BACCHUS





This story is very differently told from the story of Demeter. Dionysus was the last god to enter Olympus. Homer did not admit him. There are no early sources for his story except a few brief allusions in Hesiod, in the eighth or ninth century. A last Homeric Hymn, perhaps even as late as the fourth century, gives the only account of the pirates’ ship, and the fate of Pentheus is the subject of the last play of Euripides, in the fifth century, the most modern of all Greek poets.





Thebes was Dionysus’ own city, where he was born, the son of Zeus and the Theban princess Semele. He was the only god whose parents were not both divine.


At Thebes alone do mortal women bear

Immortal gods.



Semele was the most unfortunate woman of all those Zeus fell in love with, and in her case, too, the reason was Hera. Zeus was madly in love with her and told her that anything she asked of him he would do; he swore it by the river Styx, the oath which not even he himself could break. She told him that what she wanted above all else was to see him in his full splendor as King of Heaven and Lord of the Thunderbolt. It was Hera who had put that wish into her heart. Zeus knew that no mortal could behold him thus and live, but he could do nothing. He had sworn by the Styx. He came as she had asked, and before that awful glory of burning light she died. But Zeus snatched from her her child that was near birth, and hid it in his own side away from Hera until the time had come for it to be born. Then Hermes carried it to be cared for by the nymphs of Nysa—the loveliest of earth’s valleys, but no man has ever looked upon Nysa or knows where it lies. Some say the nymphs were the Hyades, whom Zeus afterwards placed in the sky as stars, the stars which bring rain when they near the horizon.

So the God of the Vine was born of fire and nursed by rain, the hard burning heat that ripens the grapes and the water that keeps the plant alive.

Grown to manhood, Dionysus wandered far to strange places.


The lands of Lydia rich in gold,

Of Phrygia too; the sun-struck plains

Of Persia; the great walls of Bactria.

The storm-swept country of the Medes;

And Araby the Blest.



Everywhere he taught men the culture of the vine and the mysteries of his worship and everywhere they accepted him as a god until he drew near to his own country.

One day over the sea near Greece a pirates’ ship came sailing. On a great headland by the shore they saw a beautiful youth. His rich dark hair flowed down over a purple cloak that covered his strong shoulders. He looked like a son of kings, one whose parents could pay a great ransom. Exulting, the sailors sprang ashore and seized him. On board the ship they fetched rude bonds to fetter him with, but to their amazement they were unable to bind him; the ropes would not hold together; they fell apart when they touched his hands or feet. And he sat looking at them with a smile in his dark eyes.

Alone among them the helmsman understood and cried out that this must be a god and should be set free at once or deadly harm would come to them. But the captain mocked him for a silly fool and bade the crew hasten to hoist the sail. The wind filled it and the men drew taut the sheets, but the ship did not move. Then wonder upon wonder happened. Fragrant wine ran in streams down the deck; a vine with many clusters spread out over the sail; a dark green ivy-plant twined around the mast like a garland, with flowers in it and lovely fruits. Terror-stricken, the pirates ordered the helmsman to put in to land. Too late, for as they spoke their captive became a lion, roaring and glaring terribly. At that, they leaped overboard and instantly were changed into dolphins, all except the good helmsman. On him the god had mercy. He held him back and bade him take courage, for he had found favor with one who was indeed a god—Dionysus, whom Semele bore in union with Zeus.





When he passed through Thrace on his way to Greece, the god was insulted by one of the kings there, Lycurgus, who bitterly opposed this new worship. Dionysus retreated before him and even took refuge from him in the depths of the sea. But later he came back, overpowered him, and punished him for his wickedness, though mildly, by


Imprisoning him within a rocky cave

Until his first fierce maddening rage

Passed slowly and he learned to know

The god whom he had mocked.



But the other gods were not mild. Zeus struck Lycurgus blind and he died soon after. None lived long who strove with gods.

Some time during his wanderings, Dionysus came upon the princess of Crete, Ariadne, when she was utterly desolate, having been abandoned on the shore of the island of Naxos by the Athenian prince, Theseus, whose life she had saved. Dionysus had compassion upon her. He rescued her, and in the end loved her. When she died Dionysus took a crown he had given her and placed it among the stars.

The mother whom he had never seen was not forgotten. He longed for her so greatly that at last he dared the terrible descent to the lower world to seek her. When he found her, he defied the power of Death to keep her from him; and Death yielded. Dionysus brought her away, but not to live on earth. He took her up to Olympus, where the gods consented to receive her as one of themselves, a mortal, indeed, but the mother of a god and therefore fit to dwell with immortals.


The God of Wine could be kind and beneficent. He could also be cruel and drive men on to frightful deeds. Often he made them mad. The MAENADS, or the BACCHANTES, as they were also called, were women frenzied with wine. They rushed through woods and over mountains uttering sharp cries, waving pine-cone-tipped wands, swept away in a fierce ecstasy. Nothing could stop them. They would tear to pieces the wild creatures they met and devour the bloody shreds of flesh. They sang,


Oh, sweet upon the mountain

The dancing and the singing,

The maddening rushing flight.

Oh, sweet to sink to earth outworn

When the wild goat has been hunted and caught,

Oh, the joy of the blood and the raw red flesh!



The gods of Olympus loved order and beauty in their sacrifices and their temples. The madwomen, the Maenads, had no temples. They went to the wilderness to worship, to the wildest mountains, the deepest forests, as if they kept to the customs of an ancient time before men had thought of building houses for their gods. They went out of the dusty, crowded city, back to the lean purity of the untrodden hills and woodlands. There Dionysus gave them food and drink: herbs and berries and the milk of the wild goat. Their beds were on the soft meadow grass; under the thick-leaved trees; where the pine needles fall year after year. They woke to a sense of peace and heavenly freshness; they bathed in a clear brook. There was much that was lovely, good, and freeing in this worship under the open sky and the ecstasy of joy it brought in the wild beauty of the world. And yet always present, too, was the horrible bloody feast.

The worship of Dionysus was centered in these two ideas so far apart—of freedom and ecstatic joy and of savage brutality. The God of Wine could give either to his worshipers. Throughout the story of his life he is sometimes man’s blessing, sometimes his ruin. Of all the terrible deeds laid to his account the worst was done in Thebes, his mother’s city.

Dionysus came to Thebes to establish his worship there. He was accompanied, as was his custom, by a train of women dancing and singing exultant songs, wearing fawn-skins over their robes, waving ivy-wreathed wands. They seemed mad with joy. They sang,


O Bacchanals, come,

Oh, come.

Sing Dionysus,

Sing to the timbrel,

The deep-voiced timbrel.

Joyfully praise him,

Him who brings joy.

Holy, all holy

Music is calling.

To the hills, to the hills,

Fly, O Bacchanal

Swift of foot.

On, O joyful, be fleet.



Pentheus, the King of Thebes, was the son of Semele’s sister, but he had no idea that the leader of this band of excited, strange-acting women was his own cousin. He did not know that when Semele died Zeus had saved her child. The wild dancing and the loud joyous singing and the generally queer behavior of these strangers seemed to him highly objectionable, and to be stopped at once. Pentheus ordered his guards to seize and imprison the visitors, especially the leader, “whose face is flushed with wine, a cheating sorcerer from Lydia.” But as he said these words he heard behind him a solemn warning: “The man you reject is a new god. He is Semele’s child, whom Zeus rescued. He, with divine Demeter, is greatest upon earth for men.” The speaker was the old blind prophet Teiresias, the holy man of Thebes who knew as no one else the will of the gods. But as Pentheus turned to answer him he saw that he was tricked out like the wild women: a wreath of ivy on his white hair, his old shoulders covered by a fawn-skin, a queer pine-tipped stick in his trembling hand. Pentheus laughed mockingly as he looked him over and then ordered him with contempt out of his sight. Thus he brought upon himself his doom; he would not hear when the gods spoke to him.

Dionysus was led in before him by a band of his soldiers. They said he had not tried to flee or to resist, but had done all possible to make it easy for them to seize and bring him until they felt ashamed and told him they were acting under orders, not of their own free will. They declared, too, that the maidens they had imprisoned had all escaped to the mountains. The fetters would not keep fastened; the doors unbarred themselves. “This man,” they said, “has come to Thebes with many wonders—”

Pentheus by now was blind to everything except his anger and his scorn. He spoke roughly to Dionysus, who answered him with entire gentleness, seeming to try to reach his real self and open his eyes to see that he was face to face with divinity. He warned him that he could not keep him in prison, “for God will set me free.”

“God?” Pentheus asked jeeringly.

“Yes,” Dionysus answered. “He is here and sees my suffering.”

“Not where my eyes can see him,” Pentheus said.

“He is where I am,” answered Dionysus. “You cannot see him for you are not pure.”

Pentheus angrily ordered the soldiers to bind him and take him to the prison and Dionysus went, saying, “The wrongs you do to me are wrongs done to the gods.”

But the prison could not hold Dionysus. He came forth, and going to Pentheus again he tried to persuade him to yield to what these wonders plainly showed was divine, and welcome this new worship of a new and great god. When, however, Pentheus only heaped insults and threats upon him, Dionysus left him to his doom. It was the most horrible that there could be.

Pentheus went to pursue the god’s followers among the hills where the maidens had fled when they escaped from prison. Many of the Theban women