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    Chapter 15

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    Chapter 15
    Previous Chapter
    Chapter XV
    The Rural Deities. Erisichthon. Rhoecus. The Water Deities.
    Camenae. Winds.

    Pan, the god of woods and fields, of flocks and shepherds, dwelt
    in grottos, wandered on the mountains and in valleys, and amused
    himself with the chase or in leading the dances of the nymphs.
    He was fond of music, and, as we have seen, the inventor of the
    syrinx, or shepherd's pipe, which he himself played in a masterly
    manner. Pan, like other gods who dwelt in forests, was dreaded
    by those whose occupations caused them to pass through the woods
    by night, for the gloom and loneliness of such scenes dispose the
    mind to superstitious fears. Hence sudden fright without any
    visible cause was ascribed to Pan, and called a Panic terror.

    As the name of the god signifies in Greek, ALL, Pan came to be
    considered a symbol of the universe and personification of
    Nature; and later still to be regarded as a representative of all
    the gods, and heathenism itself.

    Sylvanus and Faunus were Latin divinities, whose characteristics
    are so nearly the same as those of Pan that we may safely
    consider them as the same personage under different names.

    The wood-nymphs, Pan's partners in the dance, were but one of
    several classes of nymphs. There were beside them the Naiads,
    who presided over brooks and fountains, the Oreads, nymphs of
    mountains and grottos, and the Nereids, sea-nymphs. The three
    last named were immortal, but the wood-nymphs, called Dryads or
    Hamadryads, were believed to perish with the trees which had been
    their abode, and with which they had come into existence. It was
    therefore an impious act wantonly to destroy a tree, and in some
    aggravated cases was severely punished, as in the instance of
    Erisichthon, which we shall soon record.

    Milton, in his glowing description of the early creation, thus
    alludes to Pan as the personification of Nature:

    "Universal Pan,
    Knit with the Graces and the Hours in dance,
    Led on the eternal spring."

    And describing Eve's abode:

    "In shadier bower
    More sacred or sequestered, though but feigned,
    Pan or Sylvanus never slept, nor nymph
    Nor Faunus haunted."
    Paradise lost, B. IV.

    It was a pleasing trait in the old Paganism that it loved to
    trace in every operation of nature the agency of deity. The
    imagination of the Greeks peopled all the regions of earth and
    sea with divinities, to whose agency it attributed those
    phenomena which our philosophy ascribes to the operation of the
    laws of nature. Sometimes in our poetical moods we feel disposed
    to regret the change, and to think that the heart has lost as
    much as the head has gained by the substitution. The poet
    Wordsworth thus strongly expresses this sentiment:

    "Great God, I'd rather be
    A Pagan, suckled in a creed outworn.
    So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
    Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
    Have sight of Proteus rising from th4e sea,
    And hear old Tritou blow his wreathed horn."

    Schiller, in his poem The Gods of Greece, expresses his regret
    for the overthrow of the beautiful mythology of ancient times in
    a way which has called forth an answer from a Christian poetess,
    Mrs. Browning, in her poem called The Dead Pan. The two
    following verses are a specimen:

    "By your beauty which confesses
    Some chief Beauty conquering you,
    By our grand heroic guesses
    Through your falsehood at the True,
    We will weep NOT! Earth shall roll
    Heir to each god's aureole,
    And Pan is dead.

    "Earth outgrows the mythic fancies
    Sung beside her in her youth;
    And those debonaire romances
    Sound but dull beside the truth.
    Phoebus' chariot course is run!
    Look up poets, to the sun!
    Pan, Pan is dead."

    These lines are founded on an early Christian tradition that when
    the heavenly host told the shepherds at Bethlehem of the birth of
    Christ, a deep groan, heard through all the isles of Greece, told
    that the great Pan was dead, and that all the royalty of Olympus
    was dethroned, and the several deities were sent wandering in
    cold and darkness. So Milton, in his Hymn to the Nativity:

    "The lonely mountains o'er,
    And the resounding shore,
    A voice of weeping heard and loud lament;
    >From haunted spring and dale,
    Edged with poplar pale,
    The parting genius is with sighing sent;
    With flower-enwoven tresses torn,
    The nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn."


    Erisichthon was a profane person and a despiser of the gods. On
    one occasion he presumed to violate with the axe a grove sacred
    to Ceres. There stood in this grove a venerable oak, so large
    that it seemed a wood in itself, its ancient trunk towering
    aloft, whereon votive garlands were often hung and inscriptions
    carved expressing the gratitude of suppliants to the nymph of the
    tree. Often had the Dryads danced round it hand in hand. Its
    trunk measured fifteen cubits round, and it overtopped the other
    trees as they overtopped the shrubbery. But for all that,
    Erisichthon saw no reason why he should spare it, and he ordered
    his servants to cut it down. When he saw them hesitate, he
    snatched an axe from one, and thus impiously exclaimed, :"I care
    not whether it be a tree beloved of the Goddess or not; were it
    the goddess herself it should come down, if it stood in my way."
    So saying, he lifted the axe, and the oak seemed to shudder and
    utter a groan. When the first blow fell upon the trunk, blood
    flowed from the wound. All the bystanders were horror-struck,
    and one of them ventured to remonstrate and hold back the fatal
    axe. Erisichthon with a scornful look, said to him, "Receive the
    reward of your piety;" and turned against him the weapon which he
    had held aside from the tree, gashed his body with many wounds,
    and cut off his head. Then from the midst of the oak came a
    voice, "I who dwell in this tree am a nymph beloved of Ceres, and
    dying by your hands, forewarn you that punishment awaits you."
    He desisted not from his crime, and at last the tree, sundered by
    repeated blows and drawn by ropes, fell with a crash, and
    prostrated a great part of the grove in its fall.

    The Dryads, in dismay at the loss of their companion, and at
    seeing the pride of the forest laid low, went in a body to Ceres,
    all clad in garments of mourning, and invoked punishment upon
    Erisichthon. She nodded her assent, and as she bowed her head
    the grain ripe for harvest in the laden fields bowed also. She
    planned a punishment so dire that one would pity him, if such a
    culprit as he could be pitied to deliver him over to Famine.
    As Ceres herself could not approach Famine, for the Fates have
    ordained that these two goddesses shall never come together, she
    called an Oread from her mountain and spoke to her in these
    words: "There is a place in the farthest part of ice-clad
    Scythia, a sad and sterile region without trees and without
    crops. Cold dwells there, and Fear, and Shuddering, and Famine.
    Go to Famine and tell her to take possession of the bowels of
    Erisichthon. Let not abundance subdue her, nor the power of my
    gifts drive her away. Be not alarmed at the distance," (for
    Famine dwells very far from Ceres,) "but take my chariot. The
    dragons are fleet and obey the rein, and will take you through
    the air in a short time." So she gave her the reins, and she
    drove away and soon reached Scythia. On arriving at Mount
    Caucasus she stopped the dragons and found Famine in a stony
    field, pulling up with teeth and claws the scanty herbage. Her
    hair was rough, her eyes sunk, her face pale, her lips blanched,
    her jaws covered with dust, and her skin drawn tight, so as to
    show all her bones. As the Oread saw her afar off (for she did
    not dare to come near) she delivered the commands of Ceres; and
    though she stopped as short a time as possible, and kept her
    distance as well as she could, yet she began to feel hungry, and
    turned the dragons' heads and drove back to Thessaly.

    In obedience to the commands of Ceres, Famine sped through the
    air to the dwelling of Erisichthon, entered the bed-chamber of
    the guilty man, and found him asleep. She enfolded him with her
    wings and breathed herself into him, infusing her poison into his
    veins. Having discharged her task, she hastened to leave the
    land of plenty and returned to her accustomed haunts.
    Erisichthon still slept, and in his dreams craved food, and moved
    his jaws as if eating. When he awoke his hunger was raging.
    Without a moment's delay he would have food set before him, of
    whatever kind earth, sea, or air produces; and complained of
    hunger even while he ate. What would have sufficed for a city or
    a nation was not enough for him. The more he ate, the move he
    craved. His hunger was like the sea, which receives all the
    rivers, yet is never filled; or like fire that burns all the fuel
    that is heaped upon it, yet is still voracious for more.

    His property rapidly diminished under the unceasing demands of
    his appetite, but his hunger continued unabated. At length he
    had spent all, and had only his daughter left, a daughter worthy
    of a better parent. HER TOO HE SOLD. She scorned to be the
    slave of a purchaser, and as she stood by the seaside, raised her
    hands in prayer to Neptune. He heard her prayer, and, though her
    new master was not far off, and had his eye upon her a moment
    before, Neptune changed her form, and made her assume that of a
    fisherman busy at his occupation. Her master, looking for her
    and seeing her in her altered form, addressed her and said, "Good
    fisherman, whither went the maiden whom I saw just now, with hair
    dishevelled and in humble garb, standing about where you stand?
    Tell me truly; so may your luck be good, and not a fish nibble at
    your hook and get away." She perceived that her prayer was
    answered, and rejoiced inwardly at hearing the question asked her
    of herself. She replied, "Pardon me, stranger, but I have been
    so intent upon my line, that I have seen nothing else; but I wish
    I may never catch another fish if I believe any woman or other
    person except myself to have been hereabouts for some time." He
    was deceived and went his way, thinking his slave had escaped.
    Then she resumed her own form. Her father was well pleased to
    find her still with him, and the money too that he got by the
    sale of her; so he sold her again. But she was changed by the
    favor of Neptune as often as she was sold, now into a horse, now
    a bird, now an ox, and now a stag, got away from her purchasers
    and came home. By this base method the starving father procured
    food; but not enough for his wants, and at last hunger compelled
    him to devour his limbs, and he strove to nourish his body by
    eating his body, till death relieved him from the vengeance of


    The Hamadryads could appreciate services as well as punish
    injuries. The story of Rhoecus proves this. Rhoecus, happening
    to see an oak just ready to fall, ordered his servants to prop it
    up. The nymph, who had been on the point of perishing with the
    tree, came and expressed her gratitude to him for having saved
    her life, and bade him ask what reward he would have for it.
    Rhoecus boldly asked her love, and the nymph yielded to his
    desire. She at the same time charged him to be constant, and
    told him that a bee should be her messenger, and let him know
    when she would admit his society. One time the bee came to
    Rhoecus when he was playing at draughts, and he carelessly
    brushed it away. This so incensed the nymph that she deprived
    him of sight.

    Our countryman, James Russell Lowell, has taken this story for
    the subject of one of his shorter poems. He introduces it thus:

    "Hear now this fairy legend of old Greece,
    As full of freedom, youth and beauty still,
    As the immortal freshness of that grace
    Carved for all ages on some Attic frieze."


    Oceanus and Tethys were the Titans who ruled over the Sea. When
    Jove and his brothers overthrew the Titans and assumed their
    power, Neptune and Amphitrite succeeded to the dominion of the
    waters in place of Oceanus and Tethys.


    Neptune was the chief of the water deities. The symbol of his
    power was the trident, or spear with three points, with which he
    used to shatter rocks, to call forth or subdue storms, to shake
    the shores, and the like. He created the horse, and was the
    patron of horse races. His own horses had brazen hoofs and
    golden manes. They drew his chariot over the sea, which became
    smooth before him, while the monsters of the deep gambolled about
    his path.


    Amphitrite was the wife of Neptune. She was the daughter of
    Nereus and Doris, and the mother of Triton. Neptune, to pay his
    court to Amphitrite, came riding on the dolphin. Having won her,
    he rewarded the dolphin by placing him among the stars.


    Nereus and Doris were the parents of the Nereids, the most
    celebrated of whom were Amphitrite, Thetis, the mother of
    Achilles, and Galatea, who was loved by the Cyclops Polyphemus.
    Nereus was distinguished for his knowledge, and his love of truth
    and justice, and is described as the wise and unerring Old Man of
    the Sea. The gift of prophecy was also ascribed to him.


    Triton was the son of Neptune and Amphitrite, and the poets make
    him his father's trumpeter. Proteus was also a son of Neptune.
    He, like Nereus, is styled a sea-elder for his wisdom and
    knowledge of future events. His peculiar power was that of
    changing his shape at will.


    Thetis, the daughter of Nereus and Doris, was so beautiful that
    Jupiter himself sought her in marriage; but having learned from
    Prometheus the Titan, that Thetis should bear a son who should be
    greater than his father, Jupiter desisted from his suit and
    decreed that Thetis should be the wife of a mortal. By the aid
    of Chiron the Centaur, Peleus succeeded in winning the goddess
    for his bride, and their son was the renowned Achilles. In our
    chapter on the Trojan war it will appear that Thetis was a
    faithful mother to him, aiding him in all difficulties, and
    watching over his interests from the first to the last.


    Ino, the daughter of Cadmus and wife of Athamas, flying from her
    frantic husband, with her little son Melicertes in her arms,
    sprang from a cliff into the sea. The gods, out of compassion,
    made her a goddess of the sea, under the name of Leucothea, and
    him a god under that of Palaemon. Both were held powerful to
    save from shipwreck, and were invoked by sailors. Palaemon was
    usually represented riding on a dolphin. The Isthmian games were
    celebrated in his honor. He was called Portumnus by the Romans,
    and believed to have jurisdiction of the ports and shores.

    Milton alludes to all these deities in the song at the conclusion
    of Comus.

    "Sabrina fair,
    Listen and appear to us,
    In name of great Oceanus;
    By the earth-shaking Neptune's mace,
    And Tethys' grave, majestic pace,
    By hoary Nereus' wrinkled look,
    And the Carpathian wizard's hook (Proteus)
    By scaly Triton's winding shell,
    And old soothsaying Glaucus; spell,
    By Leucothea's lovely hands,
    And her son who rules the strands,
    By Thetis' tinsel-slippered feet,
    And the songs of Sirens sweet."

    Armstrong, the poet of the Art of preserving Health, under the
    inspiration of Hygeia, the goddess of health, thus celebrates the
    Naiads. Paeon is a name both of Apollo and Aesculapius.

    "Come, ye Naiads! To the fountains lead!
    Propitious maids! The task remains to sing
    Your gifts (so Paeon, so the powers of health
    Command), to praise your crystal element.
    Oh, comfortable streams! With eager lips
    And trembling hands the languid thirsty quaff
    New life in you; fresh vigor fills their veins.
    No warmer cups the rural ages knew,
    None warmer sought the sires of humankind;
    Happy in temperate peace their equal days
    Felt not the alternate fits of feverish mirth
    And sick dejection; still serene and pleased,
    Blessed with divine immunity from ills,
    Long centuries they lived; their only fate
    Was ripe old age, and rather sleep than death."


    By this name the Latins designated the Muses, but included under
    it also some other deities, principally nymphs of fountains.
    Egeria was one of them, whose fountain and grotto are still
    shown. It was said that Numa, the second king of Rome, was
    favored by this nymph with secret interviews, in which she taught
    him those lessons of wisdom and of law which he embodied in the
    institutions of his rising nation. After the death of Numa the
    nymph pined away and was changed into a fountain.

    Byron, in Childe Harold, Canto IV., thus alludes to Egeria and
    her grotto:

    "Here didst thou dwell in this enchanted cover,
    Egeria! All thy heavenly bosom beating
    For the far footsteps of thy mortal lover;
    The purple midnight veiled that mystic meeting
    With her most starry canopy."

    Tennyson, also, in his Palace of Art, gives us a glimpse of the
    royal lover expecting the interview.

    "Holding one hand against his ear,
    To list a footfall ere he saw
    The wood-nymph, stayed the Tuscan king to hear
    Of wisdom and of law."


    When so many less active agencies were personified, it is not to
    be supposed that the winds failed to be so. They were Boreas or
    Aquilo, the north wind, Zephyrus or Favonius, the west, Notus or
    Auster, the south, and Eurus, the east. The first two have been
    chiefly celebrated by the poets, the former as the type of
    rudeness, the latter of gentleness. Boreas loved the nymph
    Orithyia, and tried to play the lover's part, but met with poor
    success. It was hard for him to breathe gently, and sighing was
    out of the question. Weary at last of fruitless endeavors, he
    acted out his true character, seized the maiden and carried her
    off. Their children were Zetes and Calais, winged warriors, who
    accompanied the Argonautic expedition, and did good service in an
    encounter with those monstrous birds the Harpies.

    Zephyrus was the lover of Flora. Milton alludes to them in
    Paradise Lost, where he describes Adam waking and contemplating
    Eve still asleep:

    "He on his side
    Leaning half raised, with looks of cordial love
    Hung over her enamored, and beheld
    Beauty which, whether waking or asleep,
    Shot forth peculiar graces; then with voice,
    Mild as when Zephyrus on Flora breathes,
    Her hand soft touching, whispered thus, 'Awake!
    My fairest, my espoused, my latest found,
    Heaven's last, best gift, my ever-new delight.'"

    Dr. Young, the poet of the Night Thoughts, addressing the idle
    and luxurious, says:

    "Ye delicate! Who nothing can support
    (Yourselves most insupportable), for whom
    The winter rose must blow, . .
    . . . . And silky soft
    Favonious breathe still softer or be chid!"

    Fortuna is the Latin name for Tyche, the goddess of Fortune. The
    worship of Fortuna held a position of much higher importance at
    Rome than did the worship of Tyche among the Greeks. She was
    regarded at Rome as the goddess of good fortune only, and was
    usually represented holding the cornucopia.

    Victoria, the Latin form for the goddess Nike, was highly honored
    among the conquest-loving Romans, and many temples were dedicated
    to her at Rome. There was a celebrated temple at Athens to the
    Greek goddess Nike Apteros, or Wingless Victory, of which remains
    still exist.

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