The most glorious and beautiful among all the gods was Apollo
(Phœbus, Sol, Helios, Cynthius, Pytheus), god of the sun, of
medicine, music, poetry, and all fine arts.
"Bright-hair'd Apollo!--thou who ever art
A blessing to the world--whose mighty heart
Forever pours out love, and light, and life;
Thou, at whose glance, all things of earth are rife
With happiness; to whom, in early spring,
Bright flowers raise up their heads, where'er they cling
On the steep mountain side, or in the vale
Are nestled calmly. Thou at whom the pale
And weary earth looks up, when winter flees,
With patient gaze: thou for whom wind-stripped trees
Put on fresh leaves, and drink deep of the light
That glitters in thine eye: thou in whose bright
And hottest rays the eagle fills his eye
With quenchless fire, and far, far up on high
Screams out his joy to thee, by all the names
That thou dost bear--whether thy godhead claims
Phœbus or Sol, or golden-hair'd Apollo,
Cynthian or Pythian, if thou dost follow
The fleeing night, oh, hear
Our hymn to thee, and willingly draw near!"
Apollo was the son of Jupiter and Latona, or Leto, the goddess of dark
nights. Juno's jealousy had been aroused by Jupiter's preference for
her rival. To avenge herself, she banished Latona to earth, and
declared that if any one, mortal or immortal, showed her any pity or
gave her any assistance, he would incur her lasting resentment.
After long, painful wanderings on earth, poor Latona, weary and
parched with thirst, drew near a small pool by the wayside to refresh
herself; but, urged by Juno, some reapers bade her pass on, and then,
seeing she paid no heed to their commands, they sprang into the
shallow waters, and stirred up the mud at the bottom until it was
quite unpalatable. With tear-dimmed eyes, Latona prayed these cruel
men might never leave the spot whereon they now stood; and Jupiter, in
answer to her prayer, immediately transformed them into huge green
frogs, which creatures have since then showed great preference for
Driven on once more by Juno's unrelenting hatred, Latona finally came
to the seashore, where she stretched out imploring hands to Neptune,
who sent a dolphin to bear her in safety to the floating island of
Delos, raised in her behalf from the depths of the sea. The rocking
motion, however, proving disagreeable to the goddess, Neptune chained
the island fast in the Ægean Sea; and there in that delightful
climate, justly praised by poets, were born to Jupiter and Latona twin
children, Apollo and Diana, the divinities of the sun and moon.
[Sidenote: Story of Coronis.]
Apollo, having attained manhood, could not avoid the usual lot of the
gods, as well as of mortal men,--the pangs of love. They were first
inspired by Coronis, a fair maiden, who kindled within his breast an
ardent flame. The sun god wooed the girl warmly and persistently, and
at length had the deep satisfaction of seeing his affections returned.
His bliss, however, proved but fleeting; for Coronis, reasoning, that,
if one lover were so delightful, two would be doubly so, secretly
encouraged another suitor.
"Flirted with another lover
(So at least the story goes)
And was wont to meet him slyly,
Underneath the blushing rose."
Although so cleverly managed, these trysts could not escape the
bright eyes of Apollo's favorite bird, the snowy raven,--for such was
his hue in those early times,--so _he_ flew off in haste to his master
to report the discovery he had made. Desperate with love and jealousy,
Apollo did not hesitate, but, seizing his bow and deadly arrows, shot
Coronis through the heart.
The deed was no sooner accomplished, than all his love returned with
tenfold power; and, hastening to Coronis' side, he vainly tried all
his remedies (he was god of medicine) to recall her to life.
"The god of Physic
Had no antidote; alack!
He who took her off so deftly
Couldn't bring the maiden back!"
Bending over the lifeless body of his beloved one, he bewailed his
fatal haste, and cursed the bird which had brought him the unwelcome
tidings of her faithlessness.
"Then he turned upon the Raven,
'Wanton babbler! see thy fate!
Messenger of mine no longer,
Go to Hades with thy prate!
"'Weary Pluto with thy tattle!
Hither, monster, come not back;
And--to match thy disposition--
Henceforth be thy plumage black!'"
The only reminder of this unfortunate episode was a young son of
Apollo and Coronis, Æsculapius (Asklepios), who was carefully
instructed by Apollo in the healing art. The disciple's talent was so
great, that he soon rivaled his master, and even, it is said, recalled
the dead to life. Of course, these miracles did not long remain
concealed from Jupiter's all-seeing eye; and he, fearing lest the
people would forget him and worship their physician, seized one of
his thunderbolts, hurled it at the clever youth, and thus brought to
an untimely end his brilliant medical career.
"Then Jove, incensed that man should rise
From darkness to the upper skies,
The leech that wrought such healing hurled
With lightning down to Pluto's world."
Virgil (Conington's tr.).
Æsculapius' race was not entirely extinct, however, for he left two
sons--Machaon and Podalirius, who inherited his medical skill--and a
daughter, Hygeia, who watched over the health of man.
[Sidenote: Admetus and Alcestis.]
Maddened with grief at the unexpected loss of his son, Apollo would
fain have wreaked his vengeance upon the Cyclopes, the authors of the
fatal thunderbolt; but ere he could execute his purpose, Jupiter
interfered, and, to punish him, banished him to earth, where he
entered the service of Admetus, King of Thessaly. One consolation
alone now remained to the exiled god,--his music. His dulcet tones
soon won the admiration of his companions, and even that of the king,
who listened to his songs with pleasure, and to reward him gave him
the position of head shepherd.
"Then King Admetus, one who had
Pure taste by right divine,
Decreed his singing not too bad
To hear between the cups of wine:
"And so, well pleased with being soothed
Into a sweet half sleep
Three times his kingly beard he smoothed
And made him viceroy o'er his sheep."
Time passed. Apollo, touched by his master's kindness, wished to
bestow some favor in his turn, and asked the gods to grant Admetus
eternal life. His request was complied with, but only on condition,
that, when the time came which had previously been appointed for the
good king's death, some one should be found willing to die in his
stead. This divine decree was reported to Alcestis, Admetus' beautiful
young wife, who in a passion of self-sacrifice offered herself as
substitute, and cheerfully gave her life for her husband. But
immortality was too dearly bought at such a price; and Admetus mourned
until Hercules, pitying his grief, descended into Hades, and brought
her back from the tomb.
"Did not Hercules by force
Wrest from the guardian Monster of the tomb
Alcestis, a reanimated Corse,
Given back to dwell on earth in vernal bloom?"
[Sidenote: The walls of Troy.]
Apollo, after endowing Admetus with immortality, left his service, and
went to assist Neptune, who had also been banished to earth, to build
the walls of Troy. Scorning to perform any menial tasks, the God of
Music seated himself near by, and played such inspiring tunes that the
stones waltzed into place of their own accord.
[Sidenote: Apollo slays Python.]
Then, his term of exile being ended, he returned to heaven, and there
resumed his wonted duties. From his exalted position he often cast
loving glances down upon men, whose life he had shared for a short
time, whose every privation he had endured; and, in answer to their
prayers, he graciously extended his protection over them, and
delivered them from misfortunes too numerous to mention. Among other
deeds done for men was the slaying of the monster serpent Python, born
from the slime and stagnant waters which remained upon the surface of
the earth after the Deluge. None had dared approach the monster; but
Apollo fearlessly drew near, and slew him with his golden shafts. The
victory over the terrible Python won for Apollo the surname of Pytheus
(the Slayer), by which appellation he was frequently invoked.
[Illustration: APOLLO BELVEDERE. (Vatican, Rome.)]
This annihilation of Python is, of course, nothing but an allegory,
illustrating the sun's power to dry up marshes and stagnant pools,
thus preventing the lurking fiend malaria from making further inroads.
Apollo has always been a favorite subject for painters and sculptors.
The most beautiful statue of him is the Apollo Belvedere, which
represents him at the moment of his conquest of the Python.
[Sidenote: Apollo and Hyacinthus.]
Although successful in war, Apollo was very unfortunate indeed in
friendship. One day he came down to earth to enjoy the society of a
youth of mortal birth, named Hyacinthus. To pass the time agreeably,
the friends began a game of quoits, but had not played long, before
Zephyrus, god of the south wind, passing by, saw them thus occupied.
Jealous of Apollo, for he too loved Hyacinthus, Zephyrus blew Apollo's
quoit aside so violently that it struck his playmate, and felled him
to the ground. Vainly Apollo strove to check the stream of blood which
flowed from the ghastly wound. Hyacinthus was already beyond aid, and
in a few seconds breathed his last in his friend's arms. To keep some
reminder of the departed, Apollo changed the fallen blood drops into
clusters of flowers, ever since called, from the youth's name,
hyacinths; while Zephyrus, perceiving too late the fatal effect of his
jealousy, hovered inconsolable over the sad spot, and tenderly
caressed the dainty flowers which had sprung from his friend's
Who now, ere Phœbus mounts the firmament,
Fondles the flower."
[Sidenote: Apollo and Cyparissus.]
To divert his mind from the mournful fate of Hyacinthus, Apollo sought
the company of Cyparissus, a clever young hunter; but this friendship
was also doomed to a sad end, for Cyparissus, having accidentally
killed Apollo's pet stag, grieved so sorely over this mischance, that
he pined away, and finally died. Apollo then changed his lifeless clay
into a cypress tree, which he declared should henceforth be used to
shade the graves of those who had been greatly beloved through life.
[Sidenote: Apollo and Daphne.]
Some time after this episode, Apollo encountered in the forest a
beautiful nymph by the name of Daphne, the daughter of the river god
Peneus. Love at first sight was the immediate consequence on Apollo's
part, and he longed to speak to the maid and win her affections. He
first tried to approach her gently, so as not to frighten her; but,
before he could reach her side, she fled, and he, forgetful of all
else, pursued her flying footsteps. As he ran, he called aloud to
Daphne, entreating her to pause were it only for a moment, and
promising to do her no harm.
"Abate, fair fugitive, abate thy speed,
Dismiss thy fears, and turn thy beauteous head;
With kind regard a panting lover view;
Less swiftly fly, less swiftly I'll pursue:
Pathless, alas! and rugged is the ground,
Some stone may hurt thee, or some thorn may wound.
"You fly, alas! not knowing whom you fly;
No ill-bred swain, nor rustic clown, am I."
The terrified girl paid no heed to promises or entreaties, but sped on
until her strength began to fail, and she perceived, that,
notwithstanding her utmost efforts, her pursuer was gaining upon her.
Panting and trembling, she swerved aside, and rushed down to the edge
of her father's stream, calling out loudly for his protection. No
sooner had she reached the water's edge, than her feet seemed rooted
to the ground. A rough bark rapidly inclosed her quivering limbs,
while her trembling hands were filled with leaves. Her father had
granted her prayer by changing her into a laurel tree.
[Illustration: APOLLO AND DAPHNE.--Bernini. (Villa Borghese, Rome.)]
Apollo, coming up just then with outstretched arms, clasped nothing
but a rugged tree trunk. At first he could not realize that the fair
maiden had vanished from his sight forever; but, when the truth
dawned upon him, he declared that from henceforth the laurel would be
considered his favorite tree, and that prizes awarded to poets,
musicians, etc., should consist of a wreath of its glossy foliage.
"I espouse thee for my tree:
Be thou the prize of honor and renown;
The deathless poet, and the poem, crown;
Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn,
And, after poets, be by victors worn."
Ovid (Dryden's tr.).
This story of Apollo and Daphne was an illustration of the effect
produced by the sun (Apollo) upon the dew (Daphne). The sun is
captivated by its beauty, and longs to view it more closely; the dew,
afraid of its ardent lover, flies, and, when its fiery breath touches
it, vanishes, leaving nothing but verdure in the selfsame spot where
but a moment before it sparkled in all its purity.
[Sidenote: Cephalus and Procris.]
The ancients had many analogous stories, allegories of the sun and
dew, amongst others the oft-quoted tale of Cephalus and Procris.
Cephalus was a hunter, who fell in love with and married one of
Diana's nymphs, Procris. She brought him as dowry a hunting dog,
Lelaps, and a javelin warranted never to miss its mark. The newly
married pair were perfectly happy; but their content was viewed with
great displeasure by Eos (Aurora), goddess of dawn, who had previously
tried, but without success, to win Cephalus' affections, and who now
resolved to put an end to the bliss she envied.
All day long Cephalus hunted in the forest, and, when the evening
shadows began to fall, joined his loving wife in their cozy dwelling.
Her marriage gifts proved invaluable, as Lelaps was swift of foot, and
tireless in the chase. One day, to test his powers, the gods from
Olympus watched him course a fox, a special creation of theirs; and so
well were both animals matched in speed and endurance, that the chase
bade fair to end only with the death of one or both of the
participants. The gods, in their admiration for the fine run,
declared the animals deserved to be remembered forever, and changed
them into statues, which retained all the spirited action of the
In the warm season, when the sun became oppressive, Cephalus was wont
to rest during the noon hour in some shady spot, and as he flung
himself down upon the short grass he often called for a breeze,
bidding it cool his heated brow.
"A hunter once in that grove reclin'd,
To shun the noon's bright eye,
And oft he woo'd the wandering wind,
To cool his brow with its sigh.
While mute lay ev'n the wild bee's hum,
Nor breath could stir the aspen's hair,
His song was still, 'Sweet air, oh come!'
While Echo answer'd, 'Come, sweet air!'"
Eos heard of this habit, and was fully aware that he merely addressed
the passing wind; nevertheless she sought Procris, and informed her
that her husband was faithless, and paid court to a fair maid, who
daily met him at noonday in the forest solitudes. Procris, blinded by
sudden jealousy, gave credit to the false story, and immediately
resolved to follow her husband.
The morning had well-nigh passed, and the sun was darting its
perpendicular rays upon the earth, when Cephalus came to his usual
resort, near which Procris was concealed.
"Sweet air, oh come!" the hunter cried; and Procris, cut to the heart
by what she considered an infallible proof of his infidelity, sank
fainting to the ground. The rustle caused by her swoon attracted
Cephalus' attention. Under the mistaken impression that some wild
beast was lurking there, ready to pounce upon him, he cast his
unerring javelin into the very midst of the thicket, and pierced the
faithful bosom of his wife. Her dying moan brought him with one bound
to her side; ere she breathed her last, an explanation was given and
received; and Procris died with the blissful conviction that her
husband had not deserved her unjust suspicions, and that his heart
was all her own.
There are, of course, many other versions of these selfsame myths; but
one and all are intended to illustrate the same natural phenomena, and
are subject to the same interpretation.
Apollo's principal duty was to drive the sun chariot. Day after day he
rode across the azure sky, nor paused on his way till he reached the
golden boat awaiting him at the end of his long day's journey, to bear
him in safety back to his eastern palace.
"Helios all day long his allotted labor pursues;
No rest to his passionate heart and his panting horses given,
From the moment when roseate-fingered Eos kindles the dews
And spurns the salt sea-floors, ascending silvery the heaven,
Until from the hand of Eos Hesperos, trembling, receives
His fragrant lamp, and faint in the twilight hangs it up."
A fair young maiden, named Clytie, watched Apollo's daily journey with
strange persistency; and from the moment when he left his palace in
the morning until he came to the far western sea in the evening, she
followed his course with loving eyes, thought of the golden-haired
god, and longed for his love. But, in spite of all this fervor, she
never won favor in Apollo's eyes, and languished until the gods, in
pity, changed her into a sunflower.
Even in this altered guise, Clytie could not forget the object of her
love; and now, a fit emblem of constancy, she still follows with
upturned face the glowing orb in its daily journey across the sky.
"No, the heart that has truly lov'd never forgets,
But as truly loves on to the close;
As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
The same look which she turn'd when he rose."
[Sidenote: Apollo and Marsyas.]
A young shepherd, lying in the cool grass one summer afternoon, became
aware of a distant sound of music, so sweet, so thrilling, that he
fairly held his breath to listen. These weird, delightful tones were
produced by Minerva, who, seated by the banks of a small stream, was
trying her skill on the flute. As she bent over the limpid waters, she
suddenly beheld her puffed cheeks and distorted features, and
impetuously threw the instrument into the water, vowing never to touch
"Hence, ye banes of beauty, hence!
What? shall I my charms disgrace
By making such an odious face?"
The sudden break in the entrancing music caused the youth, Marsyas, to
start from his abstraction and look about him. He then perceived the
rejected flute sailing gently down the stream past his feet. To seize
the instrument and convey it to his lips was the work of an instant;
and no sooner had he breathed into it, than the magic strain was
renewed. No recollection of his pastoral duties could avail to tear
Marsyas away from his new-found treasure; and so rapidly did his skill
increase, that he became insufferably conceited, and boasted he could
rival Apollo, whom he actually challenged to a musical contest.
Intending to punish him for his presumption, Apollo accepted the
challenge, and selected the nine Muses--patronesses of poetry and
music--as umpires. Marsyas was first called upon to exhibit his
proficiency, and charmed all by his melodious strains.
"So sweet that alone the south wind knew,
By summer hid in green reeds' jointed cells
To wait imprisoned for the south wind's spells,
From out his reedy flute the player drew,
And as the music clearer, louder grew,
Wild creatures from their winter nooks and dells,
Sweet furry things with eyes like starry wells,
Crept wanderingly out; they thought the south wind blew.
With instant joyous trust, they flocked around
His feet who such a sudden summer made,
His eyes, more kind than men's, enthralled and bound
The Muses bestowed much deserved praise, and then bade Apollo surpass
his rival if he could. No second command was necessary. The god seized
his golden lyre, and poured forth impassioned strains. Before
pronouncing their decision, the Muses resolved to give both musicians
a second hearing, and again both strove; but on this occasion Apollo
joined the harmonious accents of his godlike voice to the tones of his
instrument, causing all present, and the very Muses too, to hail him
"And, when now the westering sun
Touch'd the hills, the strife was done,
And the attentive Muses said:
'Marsyas, thou art vanquished!'"
According to a previous arrangement,--that the victor should have the
privilege of flaying his opponent alive,--Apollo bound Marsyas to a
tree, and slew him cruelly. As soon as the mountain nymphs heard of
their favorite's sad death, they began to weep, and shed such torrents
of tears, that they formed a new river, called Marsyas, in memory of
the sweet musician.
[Sidenote: Apollo and Pan.]
The mournful termination of this affair should have served as a
warning to all rash mortals. Such was not the case, however; and
shortly after, Apollo found himself engaged in another musical contest
with Pan, King Midas' favorite flute player. Upon this occasion Midas
himself retained the privilege of awarding the prize, and, blinded by
partiality, gave it to Pan, in spite of the marked inferiority of his
playing. Apollo was so incensed by this injustice, that he determined
to show his opinion of the dishonest judge by causing generous-sized
ass's ears to grow on either side of his head.
"The god of wit, to show his grudge,
Clapt asses' ears upon the judge;
A goodly pair, erect and wide,
Which he could neither gild nor hide."
Greatly dismayed by these new ornaments, Midas retreated into the
privacy of his own apartment, and sent in hot haste for a barber, who,
after having been sworn to secrecy, was admitted, and bidden to
fashion a huge wig, which would hide the deformity from the eyes of
the king's subjects. The barber acquitted himself deftly, and, before
he was allowed to leave the palace, was again charged not to reveal
the secret, under penalty of immediate death.
But a secret is difficult to keep; and this one, of the king's long
ears, preyed upon the poor barber's spirits, so that, incapable of
enduring silence longer, he sallied out into a field, dug a deep hole,
and shouted down into the bosom of the earth,--
"'King Midas wears
(These eyes beheld them, these) such ass's ears!'"
Unspeakably relieved by this performance, the barber returned home.
Time passed. Reeds grew over the hole, and, as they bent before the
wind which rustled through their leaves, they were heard to murmur,
"Midas, King Midas, has ass's ears!" and all who passed by caught the
whisper, and noised it abroad, so that the secret became the general
topic of all conversations.
[Sidenote: Orpheus and Eurydice.]
As Apollo had frequent opportunities of meeting the Muses, it is not
to be wondered at that he fell a victim to the charms of the fair
Calliope, who, in her turn, loved him passionately, and even wrote
verses in his honor. This being the state of her feelings, she readily
consented to their union, and became the proud mother of Orpheus, who
inherited his parents' musical and poetical gifts.
"Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain-tops, that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
"Everything that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by."
This talent waxed greater as the years passed by, and became so
remarkable, that the youth's fame was very widespread; and when he
fell in love with Eurydice, he brought all his skill into play to
serenade her, and wooed her with voice and glance and with tender,
passionate music. Eurydice was touched by his courtship, and ere long
requited the love lavished upon her by conferring her hand upon
Shortly after their union, while walking alone in the fields, the
bride encountered a youth named Aristæus, whose bold admiration proved
so distasteful, that she fled from him as quickly as possible. In her
haste she accidentally trod upon a venomous serpent lurking in the
long grass, which immediately turned upon her, and bit her heel. A
short period of agonized suffering ensued; then Eurydice died, and her
spirit was conducted down into the gloomy realms of Pluto, leaving
Plaintive, heartrending laments now replaced the joyous wedding
strains; but even the charms of music failed to make life endurable,
and Orpheus wandered off to Olympus, where he so piteously implored
Jupiter to restore his wife to his longing arms, that the great god's
heart was moved to compassion. He gave him permission, therefore, to
go down into the Infernal Regions to seek his wife, but warned him at
the same time that the undertaking was perilous in the extreme.
Nothing daunted, Orpheus hastened to the entrance of Hades, and there
saw the fierce three-headed dog, named Cerberus, who guarded the
gate, and would allow no living being to enter, nor any spirit to pass
out of Hades. As soon as this monster saw Orpheus, he began to growl
and bark savagely, to frighten him away; but Orpheus merely paused,
and began to play such melting chords, that Cerberus' rage was
appeased, and he finally allowed him to pass into Pluto's dark
The magic sounds penetrated even into the remote depths of Tartarus,
where the condemned suspended their toil for a moment, and hushed
their sighs and groans to listen.
"E'en Tantalus ceased from trying to sip
The cup that flies from his arid lip;
Ixion, too, the magic could feel,
And, for a moment, blocked his wheel;
Poor Sisyphus, doomed to tumble and toss
The notable stone that gathers no moss,
Let go his burden, and turned to hear
The charming sounds that ravished his ear."
No living being had ever before penetrated thus into the Infernal
Regions, and Orpheus wandered on until he came to the throne of Pluto,
king of these realms, whereon the stern ruler sat in silence, his wife
Proserpina beside him, and the relentless Fates at his feet.
Orpheus made known his errand in operatic guise, and succeeded in
moving the royal pair to tears, whereupon they graciously consented to
restore Eurydice to life and to her fond husband's care.
To hear the Poet's prayer:
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair.
Thus song could prevail
O'er death, and o'er hell,
A conquest how hard and how glorious!
Tho' fate had fast bound her
With Styx nine times round her,
Yet music and love were victorious."
[Illustration: ORPHEUS AND EURYDICE.--Beyschlag.]
But one condition was imposed before he was allowed to depart; i.e.,
that he should leave the Infernal Regions without turning once to look
into his beloved wife's face.
Orpheus accepted the condition joyfully, and wended his way out of
Hades, looking neither to the right nor to the left, but straight
before him; and as he walked he wondered whether Eurydice were changed
by her sojourn in these rayless depths. His longing to feast his eyes
once more upon her loved features made him forget the condition
imposed by Pluto, and turn just before he reached the earth; but he
only beheld the vanishing form of the wife he had so nearly snatched
from the grave.
All was now over. He had tried and failed. No hope remained. In
despair, the lonely musician retreated to the forest solitudes, and
there played his mournful laments,--
"Such strains as would have won the ear
Of Pluto, to have quite set free
His half-regained Eurydice."
But there were none to hear except the trees, winds, and wild beasts
in the forest, who strove in their dumb way to comfort him as he moved
restlessly about, seeking a solace for his bursting heart. At times it
seemed to his half-delirious fancy that he could discern Eurydice
wandering about in the dim distance, with the selfsame mournful
expression of which he had caught a mere glimpse as she drifted
reluctantly back into the dark shadows of Hades.
"At that elm-vista's end I trace
Dimly thy sad leave-taking face,
The tremulous leaves repeat to me
At last there dawned a day when some Bacchantes overtook him in the
forest, and bade him play some gay music, so they might indulge in a
dance. But poor Orpheus, dazed with grief, could not comply with their
demands; and the sad notes which alone he now could draw from his
instrument so enraged the merrymakers, that they tore him limb from
limb, and cast his mangled remains into the Hebrus River.
As the poet-musician's head floated down the stream, the pallid lips
still murmured, "Eurydice!" for even in death he could not forget his
wife; and, as his spirit drifted on to join her, he incessantly called
upon her name, until the brooks, trees, and fountains he had loved so
well caught up the longing cry, and repeated it again and again.
Nothing was now left to remind mortals of the sweet singer who had
thus perished, except his lute, which the gods placed in the heavens
as a bright constellation, Lyra, also called by Orpheus' name.
Another musician celebrated in mythological annals is Amphion, whose
skill was reported to be but little inferior to Orpheus'.
"Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
He left a small plantation;
Wherever in a lonely grove
He set up his forlorn pipes,
The gouty oak began to move,
And flounder into hornpipes."
[Sidenote: Story of Amphion.]
This musician, a son of Jupiter and Antiope, had a twin brother
Zethus, who, however, shared none of his artistic tastes. Hearing that
their mother Antiope had been repudiated by her second husband, Lycus,
so that he might marry another wife by the name of Dirce, these youths
hastened off to Thebes, where they found the state of affairs even
worse than represented; for poor Antiope was now imprisoned, and
subject to her rival's daily cruel treatment.
[Illustration: FARNESE BULL. (National Museum, Naples.)]
Zethus and Amphion, after besieging and taking the city, put Lycus to
death, and, binding Dirce to the tail of a wild bull, let him loose to
drag her over briers and stones until she perished. This punishment
inflicted upon Dirce is the subject of the famous group once belonging
to the Farnese family, and now called by their name.
Amphion's musical talent was of great use to him when he subsequently
became King of Thebes, and wished to fortify his capital by building a
huge rampart all around it; for the stones moved in rhythmic time,
and, of their own volition, marched into their places.
Second to him only, in musical fame, was Arion, the musician who won
untold wealth by his talent. On one occasion, having gone to Sicily to
take part in a musical contest which had attracted thither the most
famous musicians from all points of the compass, he resolved to return
home by sea.
Unfortunately for him, the vessel upon which he had embarked was
manned by an avaricious, piratical crew, who, having heard of his
treasures, resolved to murder him to obtain possession of them. He was
allowed but scant time to prepare for death; but, just as they were
about to toss him overboard, he craved permission to play for the last
time. The pirates consented. His clear notes floated over the sea, and
allured a school of dolphins, which came and played about the ship.
The pirates, terrified by the power of his music, and in dread lest
their hearts should be moved, quickly laid hands upon him, and hurled
him into the water, where he fell upon the broad back of a dolphin,
who bore him in safety to the nearest shore.
"Then was there heard a most celestiall sound
Of dainty musicke, which did next ensew
Before the spouse: that was Arion crownd;
Who, playing on his harpe, unto him drew
The eares and hearts of all that goodly crew,
That even yet the Dolphin, which him bore
Through the Agean seas from Pirates vew,
Stood still by him astonisht at his lore,
And all the raging seas for joy forgot to rore."
To commemorate this miracle, the gods placed Arion's harp, together
with the dolphin, in the heavens, where they form a constellation.
In the sunny plains of Greece there once dwelt Clymene, a fair nymph.
She was not alone, however, for her golden-haired little son Phaeton
was there to gladden her heart with all his childish graces.
[Sidenote: Story of Phaeton.]
Early in the morning, when the sun's bright orb first appeared above
the horizon, Clymene would point it out to her boy, and tell him that
his father, Apollo, was setting out for his daily drive. Clymene so
often entertained her child with stories of his father's beauty and
power, that at last Phaeton became conceited, and acquired a habit of
boasting rather loudly of his divine parentage. His playmates, after a
time, wearied of his arrogance, and, to avoid the constant repetition
of his vain speeches, bade him show some proof of his divine origin,
or keep his peace.
Stung to the quick by some insolent taunts which they added, Phaeton
hastened to his mother, and begged her to direct him to his father,
that he might obtain the desired proof. Clymene immediately gave him
all necessary information, and bade him make haste if he would reach
his father's palace in the far east before the sun chariot passed out
of its portals to accomplish its daily round. Directly eastward
Phaeton journeyed, nor paused to rest until he came in view of the
golden and jeweled pinnacles and turrets of his father's abode.
"The sun's bright palace, on high columns rais'd
With burnish'd gold and flaming jewels blaz'd,
The folding gates diffus'd a silver light,
And with a milder gleam refresh'd the sight."
Quite undazzled by this splendor, the youth still pressed on,
straining his eyes to catch the first glimpse of the godly father,
whose stately bearing and radiant air his mother had so
Apollo, from his golden throne, had watched the boy's approach, and,
as he drew nearer, recognized him as his own offspring. Timidly now
Phaeton advanced to the steps of his father's throne, and humbly
waited for permission to make his errand known. Apollo addressed him
graciously, called him his son, and bade him speak without fear. In a
few minutes the youth impetuously poured out the whole story, and
watched with pleasure the frown which gathered on Apollo's brow when
he repeated his companions' taunts. As soon as he had finished his
tale, Apollo exclaimed that he would grant him any proof he wished,
and confirmed these words by a solemn oath.
"'By the terrible Styx!' said the angry sire,
While his eyes flashed volumes of fury and fire,
'To prove your reviler an infamous liar,
I swear I will grant you whate'er you desire!'"
This oath was the most solemn any god could utter, and in case of
perjury he was obliged to drink the waters of this river, which would
lull him into senseless stupidity for one whole year. During nine
years following he was deprived of his office, banished from Olympus,
and not allowed to taste of the life-giving nectar and ambrosia.
With a flash of triumph in his dark eyes, Phaeton, hearing this oath,
begged permission to drive the sun chariot that very day, stating that
all the world would be sure to notice his exalted position, and that
none would ever dare doubt his veracity after such a signal mark of
When the god heard this presumptuous request, he started back in
dismay, for he alone could control the four fiery steeds which drew
the golden-wheeled sun car. Patiently he then explained to Phaeton
the great danger of such an undertaking, earnestly begging him to
select some other, less fatal boon.
"Choose out a gift from seas, or earth, or skies,
For open to your wish all nature lies;
Only decline this one unequal task,
For 'tis a mischief, not a gift, you ask."
But Phaeton, who, like many another conceited youth, fancied he knew
better than his sire, would not give heed to the kindly warning, and
persisted in his request, until Apollo, who had sworn the irrevocable
oath, was obliged to fulfill his promise.
The hour had already come when the Sun usually began his daily
journey. The pawing, champing steeds were ready; rosy-fingered Aurora
only awaited her master's signal to fling wide the gates of morn; and
the Hours were ready to escort him as usual.
Apollo, yielding to pressure, quickly anointed his son with a cooling
essence to preserve him from the burning sunbeams, gave him the
necessary directions for his journey, and repeatedly and anxiously
cautioned him to watch his steeds with the utmost care, and to use the
whip but sparingly, as they were inclined to be very restive.
The youth, who had listened impatiently to cautions and directions,
then sprang into the seat, gathered up the reins, signaled to Aurora
to fling the gates wide, and dashed out of the eastern palace with a
For an hour or two Phaeton bore in mind his father's principal
injunctions, and all went well; but later, elated by his exalted
position, he became very reckless, drove faster and faster, and soon
lost his way. In finding it again he drove so close to the earth, that
all the plants shriveled up, the fountains and rivers were dried in
their mossy beds, the smoke began to rise from the parched and
blackened earth, and even the people of the land over which he was
passing were burned black,--a hue retained by their descendants to
[Illustration: AURORA.--Guido Reni. (Rospigliosi Palace, Rome.)]
Terrified at what he had done, Phaeton whipped up his steeds, and
drove so far away, that all the vegetation which had survived the
intense heat came to an untimely end on account of the sudden cold.
The cries of mortals rose in chorus, and their clamors became so loud
and importunate, that they roused Jupiter from a profound sleep, and
caused him to look around to discover their origin. One glance of his
all-seeing eye sufficed to reveal the damaged earth and the youthful
charioteer. How had a beardless youth dared to mount the sun chariot?
Jupiter could scarcely credit what he saw. In his anger he vowed he
would make the rash mortal expiate his presumption by immediate death.
He therefore selected the deadliest thunderbolt in his arsenal, aimed
it with special care, and hurled it at Phaeton, whose burned and
blackened corpse fell from his lofty seat down into the limpid waves
of the Eridanus River.
"And Phaethon, caught in mid career,
And hurled from the Sun to utter sunlessness,
Like a flame-bearded comet, with ghastliest hiss,
Fell headlong in the amazed Eridanus,
Monarch of streams, who on the Italian fields
Let loose, and far beyond his flowery lips
Foam-white, ran ruinous to the Adrian deep."
[Sidenote: The Heliades.]
The tidings of his death soon reached poor Clymene, who mourned her
only son, and refused to be comforted; while the Heliades, Phaeton's
sisters, three in number,--Phaetusa, Lampetia, and Ægle,--spent their
days by the riverside, shedding tears, wringing their white hands, and
bewailing their loss, until the gods, in pity, transformed them into
poplar trees, and their tears into amber, which substance was supposed
by the ancients to flow from the poplar trees like teardrops.
Phaeton's intimate friend, Cycnus, piously collected his charred
remains, and gave them an honorable burial. In his grief he
continually haunted the scene of his friend's death, and repeatedly
plunged into the river, in the hope of finding some more scattered
fragments, until the gods changed him into a swan; which bird is ever
sailing mournfully about, and frequently plunging, his head into the
water to continue his sad search.
Apollo, as the dearly loved leader of the nine Muses,--daughters of
Jupiter and Mnemosyne, goddess of memory,--was surnamed Musagetes.
"Whom all the Muses loved, not one alone;
Into his hands they put the lyre of gold,
And, crowned with sacred laurel at their fount,
Placed him as Musagetes on their throne."
Although the Muses united at times in one grand song, they had each
separate duties assigned them.
[Sidenote: The nine Muses.]
Clio, the Muse of history, recorded all great deeds and heroic
actions, with the names of their authors, and was therefore generally
represented with a laurel wreath and a book and stylus, to indicate
her readiness to note all that happened to mortal men or immortal
Euterpe, the graceful "Mistress of Song," was represented with a
flute, and garlands of fragrant flowers.
Thalia, Muse of pastoral poetry, held a shepherd's crook and mask, and
wore a crown of wild flowers.
"Mild pastoral Muse!
That, to the sparkling crown Urania wears,
And to her sister Clio's laurel wreath,
Preferr'st a garland culled from purple heath!"
Her graver sister, Melpomene, who presided over tragedy, wore a crown
of gold, and wielded a dagger and a scepter; while Terpsichore, the
light-footed Muse of dancing, was represented treading an airy
[Illustration: APOLLO AND THE MUSES.--Mengs.]
Erato, who preferred lyric poetry to all other styles of composition,
was pictured with a lyre; and Polyhymnia, Muse of rhetoric, held a
scepter to show that eloquence rules with resistless sway.
Calliope, Muse of heroic poetry, also wore a laurel crown; and Urania,
Muse of astronomy, held mathematical instruments, indicative of her
love of the exact sciences.
This glorious sisterhood was wont to assemble on Mount Parnassus or on
Mount Helicon, to hold their learned debates on poetry, science, and
Apollo's favorite attendant was Eos (Aurora), the fair goddess of
dawn, whose rose-tipped fingers opened wide the eastern gates of
pearl, and who then flashed across the sky to announce her master's
"Hail, gentle Dawn! mild blushing goddess, hail!
Rejoiced I see thy purple mantle spread
O'er half the skies; gems pave thy radiant way,
And orient pearls from every shrub depend."
[Sidenote: Story of Aurora and Tithonus.]
This dainty goddess loved and married Tithonus, Prince of Troy, and
won from the gods the boon of everlasting life to confer upon him.
Alas! however, she forgot to ask at the same time for continued youth;
and her husband grew older and older, and finally became so decrepit,
that he was a burden to her. Knowing he would never die, and wishing
to rid herself of his burdensome presence, she changed him into a
At this time the goddess fell in love with Cephalus, the young hunter,
and frequently visited him on Mount Hymettus.
"'Come,' Phœbus cries, 'Aurora, come--too late
Thou linger'st slumbering with thy wither'd mate!
Leave him, and to Hymettus' top repair!
Thy darling Cephalus expects thee there!'
The goddess, with a blush, her love betrays,
But mounts, and, driving rapidly, obeys."
[Sidenote: Worship of Apollo.]
The principal temples dedicated to the worship of Apollo were at
Delos, his birthplace, and at Delphi, where a priestess called Pythia
gave out mysterious oracles purporting to have come from the god. The
ancients everywhere could not fail to recognize the sun's kindly
influence and beneficent power, and were therefore ever ready to
"I marvel not, O sun! that unto thee
In adoration man should bow the knee,
And pour his prayers of mingled awe and love;
For like a God thou art, and on thy way
Of glory sheddest with benignant ray,
Beauty, and life, and joyance from above."
The most renowned among the numerous festivals held in honor of Apollo
were, without exception, the Pythian Games, celebrated at Delphi every
A manly, beardless youth of great beauty, Apollo is generally crowned
with laurels, and bears either a bow or a lyre.
"The Lord of the unerring bow,
The God of life, and poesy, and light--
The Sun in human limbs array'd, and brow
All radiant from his triumph in the fight;
The shaft hath just been shot--the arrow bright
With an immortal's vengeance; in his eye
And nostril beautiful disdain, and might
And majesty, flash their full lightnings by,
Developing in that one glance the Deity."
One of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world, the famous Colossus of
Rhodes, was a statue of Apollo, his head encircled with a halo of
bright sunbeams, and his legs spread wide apart to allow vessels, with
all their sails spread, to pass in and out of the harbor, whose
entrance he guarded for many a year.
[Illustration: DIANA OF VERSAILLES. (Louvre, Paris.)]