Acheron= (Achʹeron) (see "The Youth's Classical Dictionary"). The
current of the river Acheron, across which all souls had to pass to
hear their decree from Pluto, was so swift that the boldest swimmer
dare not attempt to breast it; and, since there was no bridge, the
spirits were obliged to rely upon the aid of Charon, an aged boatman,
who plied the only boat that was available. He would allow no soul to
enter this leaky craft until he had received the obolus, or fare,
which the ancients carefully placed under the tongue of the dead, that
they might not be delayed in their passage to Pluto. Those who had not
their fare were forced to wait one hundred years, when Charon
reluctantly ferried them over without charge.
"Infernal rivers that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams
... Sad Acheron, of sorrow black and deep."
Adonis= (Adoʹnis), the beautiful attendant of Venus, who held her
train. He was killed by a boar, and turned by Venus into an anemone.
"Even as the sun with purple-colored face
Had ta'en his last leave of the weeping morn.
Rose-cheeked Adonis hied him to the chase;
Hunting he loved, but love he laughed to scorn."
Aegis= (Aeʹgis), the shield of Jupiter, so called because it was made
"Where was thine Aegis Pallas that appall'd?"
"Tremendous, Gorgon frowned upon its field,
And circling terrors filled the expressive shield."
"Full on the crest the Gorgon's head they place,
With eyes that roll in death, and with distorted face."
Aeneas= (Aeneʹas) was the son of Anchises and Venus. He was one of
the few great captains who escaped the destruction of Troy. He behaved
with great valor during the siege, encountering Diomed, and even
Achilles himself. When the Grecians had set the city on fire Aeneas
took his aged father, Anchises, on his shoulders, while his son,
Ascanius, and his wife Creusa, clung to his garments. He saved them
all from the flames. After wandering about during several years,
encountering numerous difficulties, he at length arrived in Italy,
where he was hospitably received by Latinus, king of the Latins. After
the death of Latinus Aeneas became king.
"His back, or rather burthen, showed
As if it stooped with its load;
For as Aeneas bore his sire
Upon his shoulders through the fire,
Our knight did bear no less a pack
Of his own buttocks on his back."
Aeolus= (Aeoʹlus) was the god of the winds. Jupiter was his reputed
father, and his mother is said to have been a daughter of Hippotus.
Aeolus is represented as having the power of holding the winds
confined in a cavern, and occasionally giving them liberty to blow
over the world. So much command was he supposed to have over them that
when Ulysses visited him on his return from Troy he gave him, tied up
in a bag, all the winds that could prevent his voyage from being
prosperous. The companions of Ulysses, fancying that the bag contained
treasure, cut it open just as they came in sight of Ithaca, the port
they were making for, and the contrary winds rushing out drove back
the ship many leagues. The residence of Aeolus was at Strongyle, now
"Aeolus from his airy throne
With power imperial curbs the struggling winds,
And sounding tempests in dark prisons binds."
Aesculapius= (Aesculaʹpius), the god of physic, was a son of Apollo.
He was physician to the Argonauts in their famous expedition to
Colchis. He became so noted for his cures that Pluto became jealous of
him, and he requested Jupiter to kill him with a thunderbolt. To
revenge his son's death Apollo slew the Cyclops who had forged the
thunderbolt. By his marriage with Epione he had two sons, Machaon and
Podalirius, both famous physicians, and four daughters, of whom
Hygeia, the goddess of health, is the most renowned. Many temples were
erected in honor of Aesculapius, and votive tablets were hung therein
by people who had been healed by him; but his most famous shrine was
at Epidaurus, where, every five years, games were held in his honor.
This god is variously represented, but the most famous statue shows
him seated on a throne of gold and ivory. His head is crowned with
rays, and he wears a long beard. A knotty stick is in one hand, and a
staff entwined with a serpent is in the other, while a dog lies at his
"Thou that dost Aesculapius deride,
And o'er his gallipots in triumph ride."
Amphion= (Amphiʹon) was the son of Jupiter and Antiope. He was
greatly skilled in music; and it is said that, at the sound of his
lute, the stones arranged themselves so regularly as to make the walls
of the city of Thebes.
"Amphion, too, as story goes, could call
Obedient stones to make the Theban wall."
"New walls to Thebes, Amphion thus began."
"Such strains I sing as once Amphion played,
When list'ning flocks the powerful call obeyed."
Amphitrite= (Amphitriʹte) (or =Salatia=), the wife of Neptune, was a
daughter of Oceanus and Tethys. She was the mother of Triton, a sea
"His weary chariot sought the bowers
Of Amphitrite and her tending nymphs."
Apollo= (Apolʹlo). This famous god, some time King of Arcadia, was
the son of Jupiter and Latona. He was known by several names, but
principally by the following:--Sol (the sun); Cynthius, from the
mountain called Cynthus in the Isle of Delos, and this same island
being his native place obtained for him the name of Delius;
Delphinius, from his occasionally assuming the shape of a dolphin. His
name of Delphicus was derived from his connection with the splendid
Temple at Delphi, where he uttered the famous oracles. Some writers
record that this oracle became dumb when Jesus Christ was born. Other
common names of Apollo were Didymaeus, Nomius, Paean, and Phoebus. The
Greeks called him Agineus, because the streets were under his
guardianship, and he was called Pythius from having killed the serpent
Python. Apollo is usually represented as a handsome young man without
beard, crowned with laurel, and having in one hand a bow, and in the
other a lyre. The favorite residence of Apollo was on Mount Parnassus,
a mountain of Phocis, in Greece, where he presided over the Muses.
Apollo was the accredited father of several children, but the two most
renowned were Aesculapius and Phaeton.
"Wilt thou have music? Hark! Apollo plays.
And twenty cagëd nightingales do sing."
Arachne= (Arachʹne), a Lydian princess, who challenged Minerva to a
spinning contest, but Minerva struck her on the head with a spindle,
and turned her into a spider.
"... So her disemboweled web,
Arachne, in a hall or kitchen spreads.
Obvious to vagrant flies."
Astrea= (Astreʹa), mother of Nemesis, was the goddess of justice; she
returned to heaven when the earth became corrupt.
"... Chaste Astrea fled,
And sought protection in her native sky."
Ate= (Aʹte). The goddess of revenge, also called the goddess of
discord and all evil. She was banished from heaven by her father
"With Ate by his side come hot from hell."
Atreus= (Atʹreus), the type of fraternal hatred. His dislike of his
brother Thyestes went to the extent of killing and roasting his
nephews, and inviting their father to a feast, which Thyestes thought
was a sign of reconciliation, but he was the victim of his brother's
"Media must not draw her murdering knife,
Nor Atreus there his horrid feast prepare."
Aurora= (Auroʹra), the goddess of the morning,
"Whose rosy fingers ope the gates of day."
She was daughter of Sol, the sun, and was the mother of the stars and
winds. She is represented as riding in a splendid golden chariot drawn
by white horses. The goddess loved Tithonus, and begged the gods to
grant him immortality, but forgot to ask at the same time that he
should not get old and decrepit. See Tithonus.
"... So soon as the all-cheering sun
Should, in the farthest east, begin to draw
The shady curtains of Aurora's bed."
Bacchus= (Bacʹchus), the god of wine, was the son of Jupiter and
Semele. He is said to have married Ariadne, daughter of Minos, King of
Crete, after she was deserted by Theseus. The most distinguished of
his children is Hymen, the god of marriage. Bacchus is sometimes
referred to under the names of Dionysius, Biformis, Brisaeus, Iacchus,
Lenaeus, Lyceus, Liber, and Liber Pater, the symbol of liberty. The
god of wine is usually represented as crowned with vine and ivy
leaves. In his left hand is a thyrsus, a kind of javelin, having a fir
cone for the head, and being encircled with ivy or vine. His chariot
is drawn by lions, tigers, or panthers.
"Jolly Bacchus, god of pleasure,
Charmed the world with drink and dances."
T. Parnell, 1700.
Boreas= (Boʹreas), the north wind, son of Astraeus and Aurora.
"... I snatched her from the rigid north,
Her native bed, on which bleak Boreas blew,
And bore her nearer to the sun...."
Byblis= (Bybʹlis). A niece of Sol, mentioned by Ovid. She shed so
many tears for unrequited love that she was turned into a fountain.
"Thus the Phoebeian Byblis, spent in tears,
Becomes a living fountain, which yet bears
Cerberus= (Cerʹberus). Pluto's famous three-headed dog, which guarded
the gate of the infernal regions, preventing the living from entering,
and the inhabitants from going out.
"Three-headed Cerberus, by fate
Posted at Pluto's iron gate;
Low crouching rolls his haggard eyes,
Ecstatic, and foregoes his prize."
=Ceremonies=, see Themis.
Ceres= (Ceʹres), daughter of Saturn, the goddess of agriculture, and
of the fruits of the earth. She taught Triptolemus how to grow corn,
and sent him to teach the inhabitants of the earth. She was known by
the names of Magna Dea, Bona Dea, Alma Mammosa, and Thesmorphonis.
Ceres was the mother of Proserpine. See Ambarvalia.
"To Ceres bland, her annual rites be paid
On the green turf beneath the fragrant shade.--
... Let all the hinds bend low at Ceres' shrine,
Mix honey sweet for her with milk and mellow wine,
Thrice lead the victim the new fruits around,
On Ceres call, and choral hymns resound."
"Ceres was she who first our furrows plowed,
Who gave sweet fruits and every good allowed."
Chaos= (Chaʹos) allegorically represented the confused mass of matter
supposed to have existed before the creation of the world, and out of
which the world was formed.
"... Behold the throne
Of Chaos, and his dark pavilion spread
Wide on the wasteful deep; with him enthroned
Sat sable-vested Night, eldest of all things,
The consort of his reign."
Charybdis= (Charybʹdis). A dangerous whirlpool on the coast of
Sicily. Personified, it was supposed to have been a woman who
plundered travelers, but was at last killed by Hercules. Scylla and
Charybdis are generally spoken of together to represent alternative
"Charybdis barks, and Polyphemus roars."
Chimaera= (Chimaeʹra). A wild illusion, personified in the monster
slain by Bellerophon. It had the head and breast of a lion, the body
of a goat, and the tail of a serpent. It used to vomit fire.
"... And on the craggy top
Chimera dwells, with lion's face and mane,
A goat's rough body and a serpent's train."
"First, dire Chimera's conquest was enjoined,
A mingled monster of no mortal kind.
Behind, a dragon's fiery tail was spread,
A goat's rough body bore a lion's head,
Her pitchy nostrils flaky flames expire,
Her gaping throat emits infernal fire."
Cocytus= (Cocyʹtus), the river of Lamentation. One of the five rivers
of the infernal regions.
"Infernal rivers that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams.
... Cocytus, named of lamentation loud.
Heard on the rueful stream."
Cophetua= (Copheʹtua). A legendary king of Africa, who disliked
women, but ultimately fell in love with a "beggar-maid," as mentioned
in _Romeo and Juliet_.
"... Cupid, he that shot so trim
When King Cophetua loved the beggar-maid."
Cotytto= (Cotytʹto). The Athenian goddess of immodesty.
"Hail! goddess of nocturnal sport,
Dark-veiled Cotytto, to whom the secret flame
Of midnight torches burns; mysterious dame."
Cupid= (Cuʹpid), the god of love, was the son of Jupiter and Venus.
He is represented as a naked, winged boy, with a bow and arrows, and a
torch. When he grew up to be a man he married Psyche.
"For Venus did but boast one only son,
And rosy Cupid was that boasted one;
He, uncontroll'd, thro' heaven extends his sway,
And gods and goddesses by turns obey."
Cybele= (Cyʹbele). The mother of the gods, and hence called Magna
Mater. She was wife of Saturn. She is sometimes referred to under the
names of Ceres, Rhea, Ops, and Vesta. She is represented as riding in
a chariot drawn by lions. In one hand she holds a scepter, and in the
other a key. On her head is a castelated crown, to denote that she
was the first to protect castles and walls with towers.
"Nor Cybele with half so kind an eye
Surveyed her sons and daughters of the sky."
"Might she the wise Latona be,
Or the towered Cybele,
Mother of a hundred gods,
Juno dares not give her odds."
Cyclops= (Cyʹclops) or =Cyclopes= (Cyʹclopes) were the gigantic,
one-eyed workmen of Vulcan, who made Jove's thunderbolts. Hesiod gives
their names as Arges, Brontes, and Steropes.
"Meantime, the Cyclop raging with his wound,
Spreads his wide arms, and searches round and round."
Cynosure= (Cynʹosure). One of the nurses of Jupiter, turned by the
god into a conspicuous constellation.
"Towers and battlements it sees
Bosomed high in tufted trees,
Where perhaps some beauty lies,
The Cynosure of neighboring eyes."
Daedalus= (Daedʹalus) was a great architect and sculptor. He invented
the wedge, the axe, the level, and the gimlet, and was the first to
use sails. Daedalus also constructed the famous labyrinth for Minos,
King of Crete. See Icarus.
"Now Daedalus, behold, by fate assigned,
A task proportioned to thy mighty mind."
Daphne= (Daphʹne). The goddess of the earth. Apollo courted her, but
she fled from him, and was, at her own request, turned into a laurel
"... As Daphne was
Root-bound, that fled Apollo."
Demogorgon= (Deʹmogorʹgon) was the tyrant genius of the soil or
earth, the life and support of plants. He was depicted as an old man
covered with moss, and was said to live underground. He is sometimes
called the king of the elves and fays.
"Which wast begot in Demogorgon's hall
And saw'st the secrets of the world unmade."
Dindymene= (Dinʹdymeʹne). A name of Cybele, from a mountain where she
"Nor Dindymene, nor her priest possest,
Can with their sounding cymbals shake the breast
Like furious anger."
Dis.= A name of Pluto, god of hell, signifying riches.
"... That fair field
Of Enna, where Proserpine gathering flowers,
Herself a fairer flower, by gloomy Dis
Dryads= (Dryʹads) were rural deities, the nymphs of the forests, to
whom their votaries offered oil, milk, and honey.
"Flushed with resistless charms he fired to love
Each nymph and little Dryad of the grove."
Echo= (Echʹo) was a nymph who fell in love with Narcissus. But when
he languished and died she pined away from grief and died also,
preserving nothing but her voice, which repeats every sound that
reaches her. Another fable makes Echo a daughter of Air and Tellus.
She was partly deprived of speech by Juno, being allowed only to reply
"Sweet Echo, sweetest nymph, that liv'st unseen
Within thy airy shell.
. . . .
Sweet queen of parley, daughter of the sphere,
So may'st thou be translated to the skies,
And give resounding grace to all heaven's harmonies."
"Oft by Echo's tedious tales misled."
Euphrosyne= (Euphroʹsyne), one of the three Graces, see Graces.
"Come, thou goddess fair and free,
In heaven ycleped Euphrosyne."
Eurydice= (Eurydʹice), wife of Orpheus, who was killed by a serpent
on her wedding night.
"Nor yet the golden verge of day begun.
When Orpheus (her unhappy lord),
Eurydice to life restored,
At once beheld, and lost, and was undone."
Favonius= (Favoʹnius). The wind favorable to vegetation, that is,
Zephyr--the west wind.
"... Time will run
On smoother, till Favonius reinspire
The frozen earth, and clothe in fresh attire
The lily and the rose, that neither sowed nor spun."
Hebe= (Heʹbe), daughter of Zeus (Jupiter) and Hera (Juno), was the
goddess of youth. She was cup-bearer to Jupiter and the gods, until
she had an awkward fall at a festival, causing her to alight in an
indecent posture, which so displeased Jupiter that she was deprived of
her office, and Ganymede was appointed in her stead.
Such as hung on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimples sleek."
"Bright Hebe waits; by Hebe ever young
The whirling wheels are to the chariot hung."
Hecuba= (Hecʹuba). The wife of Priam, king of Troy, and mother of
Paris. Taken captive in the Trojan war, she fell to the lot of Ulysses
after the destruction of Troy, and was afterwards changed into a
"What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?"
=Helicon= (Helʹicon). A mountain in Boeotia sacred to the Muses, from
which place the fountain Hippocrene flowed.
"Yet still the doting rhymer dreams,
And sings of Helicon's bright streams;
But Helicon for all his clatter
Yields only uninspiring water."
Hercules= (Herʹcules) was the son of Jupiter and Alcmena. The goddess
Juno hated him from his birth, and sent two serpents to kill him, but
though only eight months old he strangled them. As he got older he was
set by his master Eurystheus what were thought to be twelve impossible
tasks which have long been known as the "Twelve Labors of Hercules."
_First_, To slay the Nemean Lion.
_Second_, To destroy the Hydra which infested the marshes of Lerna.
_Third_, To bring to Eurystheus the Arcadian Stag with the golden
horns and brazen hoofs.
_Fourth_, To bring to his master the Boar of Erymanthus.
_Fifth_, To cleanse the stable of King Augeas, in which 3,000 oxen
had been kept for thirty years, but had never been cleaned out.
_Sixth_, To destroy the Stymphalides, terrible carnivorous birds.
_Seventh_, To capture the Bull which was desolating Crete.
_Eighth_, To capture the mares of Diomedes, which breathed fire from
their nostrils, and ate human flesh.
_Ninth_, To procure the girdle of Hippolyte, queen of the Amazons.
_Tenth_, To bring to Eurystheus the flesh-eating oxen of Geryon, the
monster king of Gades.
_Eleventh_, To bring away some of the golden apples from the garden of
_Twelfth_, To bring up from Hades the three-headed dog, Cerberus.
All these tasks he successfully accomplished, and, besides, he
assisted the gods in their wars with the giants. Several other
wonderful feats are mentioned under other headings, as Antaeus, Cacus,
etc. His death was brought about through his endeavors to preserve
Deianira from the attacks of Nessus, the centaur, whom he killed. The
centaur, before he expired, gave his mystic tunic to Deianira, who in
turn gave it to Hercules, and he put it on, but his doing so brought
on an illness of which he could not be cured. In a fit of desperation
he cast himself into a funeral pile on Mount Oeta; but Jupiter had
him taken to heaven in a four-horse chariot, and only the mortal part
of Hercules was consumed.
"Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day."
=Hermes= (Herʹmes). A Greek name of the god Mercury.
"Hermes obeys. With golden pinions binds
His flying feet and mounts the western winds."
Hesperus= (Hesʹperus), brother of Atlas, was changed into the evening
"To the ocean now I fly,
And those happy climes that lie
Where day never shuts his eye,
Upon the broad fields of the sky:
There I suck the liquid air,
All amidst the gardens fair
Of Hesperus and his daughters three,
That sing about the golden tree."
Hymen= (Hyʹmen), the Grecian god of marriage, was either the son of
Bacchus and Venus, or, as some say, of Apollo and one of the Muses. He
was represented as a handsome youth, holding in his hand a burning
"Some few there are of sordid mould
Who barter youth and bloom for gold:
But Hymen, gen'rous, just, and kind,
Abhors the mercenary mind;
Such rebels groan beneath his rod,
For Hymen's a vindictive god."
Dr. Cotton, 1736.
Hyperion= (Hypeʹrion). Son of Coelus and Terra. The model of manly
beauty, synonymous with Apollo. The personification of the sun.
"So excellent a king; that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr."
Ixion= (Ixiʹon), the son of Phlegyas, King of the Lapithae. For
attempting to produce thunder, Jupiter cast him into hell, and had him
bound to a wheel, surrounded with serpents, which is forever turning
over a river of fire.
"The powers of vengeance, while they hear,
Touched with compassion, drop a tear;
Ixion's rapid wheel is bound,
Fixed in attention to the sound."
"Or, as Ixion fix'd, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling wheel."
Janus= (Jaʹnus). A king of Italy, said to have been the son of
Coelus, others say of Apollo; he sheltered Saturn when he was driven
from heaven by Jupiter. Janus presided over highways, gates, and
locks, and is usually represented with two faces, because he was
acquainted with the past and the future; or, according to others,
because he was taken for the sun, who opens the day at his rising, and
shuts it at his setting. A brazen temple was erected to him in Rome,
which was always open in time of war, and closed during peace.
"Old Janus, if you please,
Grave two-faced father."
"In two-faced Janus we this moral find,--
While we look forward, we should glance behind."
Jason= (Jaʹson), the son of Aeson, king of Iolcos; he was brought up
by the centaur Chiron. His uncle Aeeta sent him to fetch the Golden
Fleece from Colchis (see Argonauts). He went in the ship Argo with
forty-nine companions, the flower of Greek youth. With the help of
Juno they got safe to Colchis, but the King Aeetes promised to restore
the Golden Fleece only on condition that the Argonauts performed
certain services. Jason was to tame the wild fiery bulls, and to make
them plow the field of Mars; to sow in the ground the teeth of a
serpent, from which would spring armed men who would fight against him
who plowed the field of Mars; to kill the fiery dragon which guarded
the tree on which the Golden Fleece was hung. The fate of Jason and
the rest of the Argonauts seemed certain; but Medea, the king's
daughter, fell in love with Jason, and with the help of charms which
she gave him he overcame all the difficulties which the king had put
in his way. He took away the Golden Fleece and Medea also. The king
sent his son Absyrtus to overtake the fugitives, but Medea killed him,
and strewed his limbs in his father's path, so that he might be
delayed in collecting them, and this enabled Jason and Medea to
escape. After a time Jason got tired of Medea, and married Glauce,
which cruelty Medea revenged by killing her children before their
father's eyes. Jason was accidentally killed by a beam of the ship
Argo falling on him.
Jocasta= (Jocasʹta) (otherwise Epicasta), wife of Laius, King of
Thebes, who in after-life married her own son, Oedipus, not knowing
who he was, and, on discovering the fatal mistake, hanged herself.
Jove.= A very general name of Jupiter.
"From the great father of the gods above
My muse begins, for all is full of Jove."
Lemures= (Lemʹures). The ghosts of departed souls. Milton, in his
"Ode to the Nativity," says--
"Lemures moan with midnight plaint."
They are sometimes referred to as the Manes of the dead.
Lethe= (Leʹthe). One of the rivers of the infernal regions, of which
the souls of the departed are obliged to drink to produce oblivion or
forgetfulness of everything they did or knew while alive on the earth.
"A slow and silent stream,
Lethe, the river of oblivion, rolls
Her watery labyrinth, whereof who drinks
Forthwith his former state and being forgets,
Forgets both joy and grief, pleasure and pain."
Lucina= (Luciʹna). The goddess who presides at the birth of children.
She was a daughter of Jupiter and Juno, or, according to others, of
"Lucina, hail! So named from thine own grove,
Or from the light thou giv'st us from above."
Medea= (Medeʹa). Wife of Jason, chief of the Argonauts. To punish
her husband for infidelity, Medea killed two of her children in their
father's presence. She was a great sorceress.
"Now to Medaea's dragons fix my reins."
"Let not Medea draw her murdering knife,
And spill her children's blood upon the stage."
Medusa= (Meduʹsa). One of the Gorgons. Minerva changed her beautiful
hair into serpents. She was conquered by Perseus, who cut off her
head, and placed it on Minerva's shield. Every one who looked at the
head was turned into stone.
Ulysses, in the Odyssey, relates that he wished to see more of the
inhabitants of Hades, but was afraid, as he says--
"Lest Gorgon, rising from the infernal lakes,
With horrors armed, and curls of hissing snakes,
Should fix me, stiffened at the monstrous sight,
A stony image in eternal night."
"Medusa with Gorgonian terror guards
"Remove that horrid monster, and take hence
Medusa's petrifying countenance."
Mercury= (Merʹcury), the son of Jupiter and Maia, was the messenger
of the gods, and the conductor of the souls of the dead to Hades. He
was the supposed inventor of weights and measures, and presided over
orators and merchants. Mercury was accounted a most cunning thief, for
he stole the bow and quiver of Apollo, the girdle of Venus, the
trident of Neptune, the tools of Vulcan, and the sword of Mars, and he
was therefore called the god of thieves. He is the supposed inventor
of the lyre, which he exchanged with Apollo for the Caduceus. There
was also an Egyptian Mercury under the name of Thoth, or Thaut, who is
credited with having taught the Egyptians geometry and hieroglyphics.
Hermes is the Greek name of Mercury. In art he is usually represented
as having on a winged cap, and with wings on his heels.
"And there, without the power to fly,
Stands fix'd a tip-toe Mercury."
"Then fiery expedition be my wing,
Jove's Mercury, and herald for a king."
"Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels
And fly, like thought, from them to me again."
Midas= (Miʹdas). A king of Phrygia, who begged of Bacchus the special
gift that everything that he touched might be turned into gold. The
request was granted, and as soon as he touched his food it also was
turned to gold, and for fear of being starved he was compelled to ask
the god to withdraw the power he had bestowed upon him. He was told to
bathe in the river Pactolus. He did so, and the sands which he stood
on were golden forever after. It was this same king who, being
appointed to be judge in a musical contest between Apollo and Pan,
gave the satyr the palm; whereupon Apollo, to show his contempt,
bestowed on him a pair of asses' ears. This gave rise to the term
"Midas-eared" as a synonym for ill-judged, or indiscriminate.
"He dug a hole, and in it whispering said,
What monstrous ears sprout from King Midas' head."
Moloch= (Moʹloch). A god of the Phoenicians to whom human victims,
principally children, were sacrificed. Moloch is figurative of the
influence which impels us to sacrifice that which we ought to cherish
"First Moloch, horrid king, besmeared with blood
Of human sacrifice, and parents' tears,
Though for the noise of drums and timbrels loud,
Their children's cries unheard, that poured through fire
To this grim idol."
Moon.= The moon was, by the ancients, called _Hecate_ before and
after setting; _Astarte_ when in crescent form; _Diana_ when in full.
"Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up her wondrous tale,
And nightly to the list'ning earth
Repeats the story of her birth."
Morpheus= (Morʹpheus). The Greek god of sleep and dreams, the son and
minister of Somnus.
"Morpheus, the humble god that dwells
In cottages and smoky cells;
Hates gilded roofs and beds of down,
And though he fears no prince's frown,
Flies from the circle of a crown."
Sir John Denman.
Muses, The= (Muʹses), were nine daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne.
They presided over the arts and sciences, music and poetry. Their
names were, Calliope, Clio, Erato, Thalia, Melpomene, Terpsichore,
Euterpe, Polyhymnia, and Urania. They principally resided in Mount
Parnassus, at Helicon.
"Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth,
Than those old nine which rhymers advocate."
Narcissus= (Narcisʹsus), son of Cephisus and the Naiad Liriope, was a
beautiful youth, who was so pleased with the reflection of himself
which he saw in the placid water of a fountain that he could not help
loving it, imagining that it must be some beautiful nymph. His
fruitless endeavors to possess himself of the supposed nymph drove him
to despair, and he killed himself. There sprang from his blood a
flower, which was named after him, Narcissus.
"Narcissus so himself forsook,
And died to kiss his shadow in the brook."
"Hadst thou Narcissus in thy face, to me
Thou wouldst appear most ugly."
Nemesis= (Nemʹesis), the goddess of vengeance or justice, was one of
the infernal deities. Her mother was Nox. She was supposed to be
constantly traveling about the earth in search of wickedness, which
she punished with the greatest severity. She is referred to by some
writers under the name of Adrasteia. The Romans always sacrificed to
this goddess before they went to war, because they wished to signify
that they never took up arms but in the cause of justice.
"Forbear, said Nemesis, my loss to moan,
The fainting, trembling hand was mine alone."
Dr. J. Wharton.
Nestor= (Nesʹtor). A grandson of Neptune, his father being Neleus,
and his mother Chloris. Homer makes him one of the greatest of the
Greek heroes. He was present at the famous battle between the Lapithae
and the Centaurs, and took a leading part in the Trojan war.
"... Here's Nestor
Instructed by the antiquary times,
He must, he is, he cannot but be wise."
Nymphs.= This was a general name for a class of inferior female
deities who were attendants of the gods. Some of them presided over
springs, fountains, wells, woods, and the sea. They are spoken of as
land-nymphs or Naiads, and sea-nymphs or Nereids, though the former
are associated also with fountains and rivers. The Dryads were
forest-nymphs, and the Hamadryads were nymphs who lived among the
oak-trees--the oak being always specially venerated by the ancients.
The mountain-nymphs were called Oreads.
"With flower-inwoven tresses torn,
The nymphs in twilight shade
Of tangled thickets mourn."
Olympus= (Olymʹpus) was the magnificent mountain on the coast of
Thessaly, 9,000 feet high, where the gods were supposed to reside.
There were several other smaller mountains of the same name.
"High heaven with trembling the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the center shook."
=, see Caduceus. The rod carried by Mercury. It has two winged
serpents entwined round the top end. It was supposed to possess the
power of producing sleep, and Milton refers to it in _Paradise Lost_
as the "opiate rod."
"Eyes ... more wakeful than to drowse,
Charmed with Arcadian pipe--the pastoral reed
Of Hermes or his opiate-rod."
Orpheus= (Orʹpheus) was son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope. He was
married to Eurydice; but she was stung by a serpent, and died. Orpheus
went down to Hades to claim her, and played so sweetly with his lute
that Pluto allowed Eurydice to return to the earth with Orpheus, but
on condition that he did not look behind him until he had reached the
terrestrial regions. Orpheus, however, in his anxiety to see if she
were following him, looked round, and Eurydice disappeared from his
sight, instantly and forever.
"Orpheus' lute was strung with poets' sinews."
Osiris= (Osiʹris). The Egyptian god of the sun, the source of warmth,
life, and fruitfulness; he was worshiped under the form of a sacred
bull, named Apis.
"... After these appeared
A crew who, under names of old renown,
Osiris, Isis, Orus, and their train,
With monstrous shapes and sorceries abused
Fanatic Egypt and her priests to seek
Their wandering gods, disguised in brutish forms
Rather than human."
Paean= (Paeʹan). A name given Apollo, from _paean_, the hymn which
was sung in his honor after he had killed the serpent Python. Paeans
were solemn songs, praying either for the averting of evil and for
rescue, or giving thanks for help vouchsafed.
"With hymns divine the joyous banquet ends,
The Paeans lengthened till the sun descends."
Pales= (Paʹles). The goddess of shepherds and sheepfolds and
protectress of flocks; her festivals were called by the Romans
"Pomona loves the orchard,
And Liber loves the wine,
And Pales loves the straw-built shed,
Warm with the breath of kine."
"Great Pales help, the pastoral rites I sing,
With humble duty mentioning each thing."
Pallas= (Palʹlas), or Minerva. The name was given to Minerva when she
destroyed a famous giant named Pallas. The Greeks called their goddess
of wisdom Pallas Athene. See Minerva.
"Apollo, Pallas, Jove, or Mercury,
Inspire me that I may this treason find."
Pan.= The Arcadian god of shepherds, huntsmen, and country folk, and
chief of the inferior deities, is usually considered to have been the
son of Mercury and Penelope. After his birth he was metamorphosed
into the mythical form in which we find him depicted, namely, a
horned, long-eared man, with the lower half of the body like a goat.
He is generally seen playing a pipe made of reeds of various lengths,
which he invented himself, and from which he could produce music which
charmed even the gods. These are the Pan-pipes, or _Syrinx_. Pan's
terrific appearance once so frightened the Gauls when they invaded
Greece that they ran away though no one pursued them; and the word
_panic_ is said to have been derived from this episode. The Fauns, who
greatly resembled Pan, were his attendants.
"Piping on their reeds the shepherds go,
Nor fear an ambush, nor suspect a foe."
Pandora= (Pandoʹra), according to Hesiod, was the first mortal
female. Vulcan made her of clay, and gave her life. Venus gave her
beauty; and the art of captivating was bestowed upon her by the
Graces. She was taught singing by Apollo, and Mercury taught her
oratory. Jupiter gave her a box, the famous "Pandora's Box," which she
was told to give to her husband, Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus. As
soon as he opened it there issued from it numberless diseases and
evils which were soon spread all over the world, and from that moment
they have afflicted the human race. It is said that Hope alone
remained in the box. Pandora means "the all-gifted."
"More lovely than Pandora, whom the gods
Endowed with all their gifts."
Pegasus= (Pegʹasus). The famous winged horse which was said to have
sprung from the blood of Medusa when her head was cut off by Perseus.
His abode was on Mount Helicon, where, by striking the ground with his
hoof, he caused water to spring forth, which formed the fountain
afterward called Hippocrene.
"Each spurs his faded
"Thy stumbling founder'd jade can trot as high
As any other Pegasus can fly."
Earl of Dorset.
"To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship."
Peleus= (Peʹleus). A king of Thessaly, who married Thetis, one of the
Nereides. It is said that he was the only mortal who married an
Pelion= (Peʹlion). A well-wooded mountain, famous for the wars
between the giants and the gods, and as the abode of the Centaurs, who
were expelled by the Lapithae. See Ossa, a mount, which the giants
piled upon Pelion, to enable them to scale the heavens.
"The gods they challenge, and affect the skies,
Heaved on Olympus tottering Ossa stood;
On Ossa, Pelion nods with all his wood."
Perseus= (Perʹseus) was a son of Jupiter and Danae, the daughter of
Acrisius. His first famous exploit was against the Gorgon, Medusa. He
was assisted in this enterprise by Pluto, who lent him a helmet which
would make him invisible. Pallas lent him her shield, and Mercury
supplied him with wings. He made a speedy conquest of the Gorgons, and
cut off Medusa's head, with which he flew through the air, and from
the blood sprang the winged horse Pegasus. As he flew along he saw
Andromeda chained to the rock, and a sea-monster ready to devour her.
He killed the monster, and married Andromeda. When he got back, he
showed the Gorgon's head to King Polydectes, and the monarch was
immediately turned into stone.
"Now on Daedalian waxen pinions stray,
Or those which wafted Perseus on his way."
Phaeton= (Phaʹeton). A son of Sol, or, according to many
mythologists, of Phoebus and Clymene. Anxious to display his skill in
horsemanship, he was allowed to drive the chariot of the sun for one
day. The horses soon found out the incapacity of the charioteer,
became unmanageable, and overturned the chariot. There was such great
fear of injury to heaven and earth, that Jove, to stop the
destruction, killed Phaeton with a thunderbolt.
"Now Phaeton, by lofty hopes possessed,
The burning seat with youthful vigor pressed."
"The breathless Phaeton, with flaming hair,
Shot from the chariot like a falling star
That in a summer's evening from the top
Of heaven drops down, or seems at least to drop."
Philomela= (Philomeʹla) was a daughter of Pandion, king of Athens,
who was transformed into a nightingale. She was sister to Procne, who
married Tereus, King of Thrace. The latter having offered violence to
Philomela, her sister, Procne, came to her rescue, and to punish her
husband slew her son Itylus, and at a feast Philomela threw Itylus's
head on the banquet table.
"Forth like a fury Philomela flew,
And at his face the head of Itys threw."
"And thou, melodious Philomel,
Again thy plaintive story tell."
Sir Thomas Lyttleton.
Phlegethon= (Phlegʹethon). A river of fire in the infernal regions.
It was the picture of desolation, for nothing could grow on its
parched and withered banks. Also called Pyriphlegethon.
"... Infernal rivers ...
... Fierce Phlegethon,
Whose waves of torrent fire inflame with rage."
Phoebus= (Phoeʹbus). A name of Apollo, signifying light and life.
"Gallop apace, you fiery-footed steeds,
Toward Phoebus' lodging."
Pleiades, The= (Pleiʹades). Seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione.
Their names were Electra, Alcyone, Celaeno, Maia, Sterope, Taygete,
and Merope. They were made a constellation, but as there are only six
stars to be seen, the ancients believed that one of the sisters,
Merope, married a mortal, and was ashamed to show herself among her
sisters, who had all been married to gods.
"... The gray
Dawn and the Pleiades before him danced.
Shedding sweet influence."
Pluto= (Pluʹto). King of the infernal regions. He was a son of Saturn
and Ops, and husband of Proserpine, daughter of Ceres. He is
sometimes referred to under the name Dis, and he personifies hell. His
principal attendant was the three-headed dog Cerberus, and about his
throne were the Eumenides, the Harpies, and the Furies.
"With equal foot, rich friend, impartial fate
Knocks at the cottage and the palace gate.
. . . . .
Night soon will seize, and you must go below,
To story'd ghosts and Pluto's house below."
Polyphemus= (Polypheʹmus), one of the most celebrated of the Cyclops,
a son of the nymph Thoosa and Neptune, or Poseidon, as the Greeks
called the god of the sea. He captured Ulysses and twelve of his
companions, and it is said that six of them were eaten. The remainder
escaped by the ingenuity of Ulysses, who destroyed Polyphemus's one
eye with a fire-brand.
"Charybdis barks and Polyphemus roars."
Pomona= (Pomoʹna). The Roman goddess of fruit-trees and gardens.
"So to the sylvan lodge
They came, that like Pomona's arbor smiled
With flowerets decked and fragrant smells."
Priapus= (Priaʹpus), the guardian of gardens and god of natural
reproduction, was the son of Venus and Bacchus.
"Priapus could not half describe the grace
(Though god of gardens) of this charming place."
Progne= (Progʹne), wife of Tereus. Commonly called Procne, whose
sister was Philomela. See Itys and Tereus.
"Complaining oft gives respite to our grief,
From hence the wretched Progne sought relief."
Proserpine= (Proserʹpine). A daughter of Jupiter and Ceres. Pluto
carried her off to the infernal regions and made her his wife. She was
known by the names of "the Queen of Hell," Hecate, Juno Inferna, and
Libitina. She was called by the Greeks Persephone.
"He sung, and hell consented
To hear the poet's prayer,
Stern Proserpine relented,
And gave him back the fair."
Proteus= (Proʹteus). A marine deity, who could foretell events and
convert himself at will into all sorts of shapes. According to later
legends, Proteus was a son of Poseidon.
"The changeful Proteus, whose prophetic mind,
The secret cause of Bacchus' rage divined."
"What chain can hold this varying Proteus fast?"
Pylades= (Pyʹlades). The son of Strophius, King of Phanote, and
husband of Electra; famous on account of his faithful friendship with
Was better, Pylades, than thine.
... If you please
To choose me for your Pylades."
Rhadamanthus= (Rhadamanʹthus), a son of Jupiter and Europa, was the
ruler of the Greeks in the Asiatic islands, and judge of the dead in
the infernal regions.
"These are the realms of unrelenting fate:
And awful Rhadamanthus rules the state.
He hears and judges each committed crime,
Inquires into the manner, place, and time;
The conscious wretch must all his acts reveal,
Loth to confess, unable to conceal;
From the first moment of his vital breath,
To the last hour of unrepenting death."
Rimmon= (Rimʹmon). A Phrygian god of whom Milton says--
"... Rimmon, whose delightful seat
Was fair Damascus, on the fertile banks
Of Abana and Pharpar, lucid streams."
=Salamanders= (Salʹamanʹders). The genii who, according to Plato,
lived in fire.
"The spirits of fiery termagants in flame,
Mount up and take a Salamander's name."
Serpent.= The Greeks and Romans considered the serpent as symbolical
of guardian spirits, and as such were often engraved on their altars.
See Aesculapius, Apollo, Chimaera, Eurydice, and Medusa.
"Pleasing was his shape,
And lovely; never since of serpent kind,
Lovelier; not those that in Illyria changed
Hermione and Cadmus, or the god
In Epidaurus, nor to which transformed
Ammonian Jove, or Capitoline, was seen."
Sisyphus= (Sisʹyphus), son of Aeolus and Enaretta. He was condemned
to roll a stone to the top of a hill in the infernal regions, and as
it rolled down again when he reached the summit, his punishment was
"I turned my eye, and as I turned, surveyed
A mournful vision! The Sisyphian shade.
With many a weary step and many a groan,
Up the high hill he leaves a huge round stone,
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound
Thunders impetuous down, and smokes along the ground."
"Thy stone, O Sisyphus, stands still
Ixion rests upon his wheel,
And the pale specters dance."
Sol.= The sun. The worship of the god Sol is the oldest on record,
and though he is sometimes referred to as being the same as the god
Apollo, there is no doubt he was worshiped by the Egyptians, Persians,
and other nations long before the Apollo of the Greeks was heard of.
"Sol through white curtains shot a timorous ray,
And oped those eyes that must eclipse the day."
Styx.= A noted river of hell, which was held in such high esteem by
the gods that they always swore "By the Styx," and such an oath was
never violated. The river has to be crossed in passing to the regions
of the dead. See Achilles and Thetis.
"To seal his sacred vow by Styx he swore:--
The lake with liquid pitch,--the dreary shore."
"... Infernal rivers that disgorge
Into the burning lake their baleful streams,
Abhorrèd Styx, the flood of deadly hate."
=Sylphs.= Genii who, according to Plato, lived in the air.
"The light coquettes as Sylphs aloft repair,
And sport and flutter in the fields of air."
Tantalus= (Tanʹtalus). Father of Niobe and Pelops, who, as a
punishment for serving up his son Pelops as meat at a feast given to
the gods, was placed in a pool of water in the infernal regions; but
the waters receded from him whenever he attempted to quench his
burning thirst. Hence the word "tantalizing".
Speaking of this god, Homer's Ulysses says: "I saw the severe
punishment of Tantalus. In a lake, whose waters approached to his
lips, he stood burning with thirst, without the power to drink.
Whenever he inclined his head to the stream, some deity commanded it
to be dry, and the dark earth appeared at his feet. Around him lofty
trees spread their fruits to view; the pear, the pomegranate, and the
apple, the green olive, and the luscious fig quivered before him,
which, whenever he extended his hand to seize them, were snatched by
the winds into clouds and obscurity."
"There, Tantalus, along the Stygian bound,
Pours out deep groans,--his groans through hell resound.
E'en in the circling flood refreshment craves
And pines with thirst amidst a sea of waves."
"... And of itself the water flies
All taste of living wight, as once it fled
The lip of Tantalus."
Theseus= (Theʹseus). One of the most famous of the Greek heroes. He
was a son of Aegeus, king of Athens. He rid Attica of Procrustes and
other evil-doers, slew the Minotaur, conquered the Amazons and married
"Breasts that with sympathizing ardor glowed,
And holy friendship such as Theseus vowed."
Thunderer, The=, Jupiter. See Tonitrualis.
"O king of gods and men, whose awful hand
Disperses thunder on the seas and land,
Disposing all with absolute command."
"The eternal Thunderer sat enthroned in gold."
"So when thick clouds enwrap the mountain's head,
O'er heaven's expanse like one black ceiling spread;
Sudden the Thunderer, with flashing ray,
Bursts through the darkness and lets down the day."
Triptolemus= (Triptolʹemus). A son of Oceanus and Terra. He was a
great favorite of the goddess Ceres, who cured him of a dangerous
illness when he was young, and afterwards taught him agriculture. She
gave him her chariot, which was drawn by dragons, in which he carried
seed-corn to all the inhabitants of the earth, and communicated the
knowledge given to him by Ceres. Cicero mentions a Triptolemus as the
fourth judge of the dead.
"Triptolemus, whose useful cares intend
The common good."
Typhon= (Tyʹphon). A monster with a hundred heads who made war
against the gods, but was crushed by Jove's thunderbolts, and
imprisoned under Mount Etna.
"... Typhon huge, ending in snaky twine."
Vulcan= (Vulʹcan), the god of fire, was the son of Jupiter and Juno.
He offended Jupiter, and was by him thrown out of heaven; he was nine
days falling, and at last dropped into Lemnos with such violence that
he broke his leg, and was lame forever after. Vulcan was married to
Venus. He is supposed to have formed Pandora out of clay. His servants
were the Cyclopes. He was the patron deity of blacksmiths, and as the
smelter or softener of metal bears also the name of Mulciber.
"Men call him Mulciber; and how he fell
From heaven, they fabled, thrown by angry Jove,
Sheer o'er the crystal battlements."
Zephyr= (Zephʹyr) or =Zephyrus= (Zephʹyrus). The west wind and god
of flowers, a son of Astraeus and Aurora (Eos). See Favonius.
"Wanton Zephyr, come away.
. . . . .
The sun, and Mira's charming eyes,
At thy return more charming grow.
With double glory they appear,
To warm and grace the infant year."
John Hughes, 1700.