Ovid Illustrated: The Reception of Ovid's
Metamorphoses in Image and Text
TO THIS EDITION.
To offer at any Apology for publishing a tolerable new Edition of Ovid, would be to affront the Public; and to question the favourable Judgement it has always pronounced of his Works. They have been one of the chief Sources from which the most celebrated Poets, Painters, and Wits since his Time, have formed their Genius, enriched their Fancy, and derived their Excellence. We cannot therefore doubt but an Edition of his Metamorphoses so improved and adorned as This is, will be acceptable both to the Beau-Monde and the Republic of Lettres. The English Booksellers, we hope, will not consider our Reprinting here the Translation published by the late Sir Samuel Garth, as an Encroachment on their Privileges; the Occasion of it must obviate all Umbrage and Displeasure on that Subject. Monsieur Banier, a French Abbot, and Member of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles Lettres at Paris, a Gentleman who has distinguished himself in the Study of ancient History and Mythology; had long projected a French Edition of this sort. The Conveniency of having the Latin Text already composed, and the Plates engraved for the French Translation, gave Rise both to this Edition, and another in Dutch; which we printed with it aequis passibus, and now publish with the same Ornaments and Advantages.
It will perhaps at first sight appear Pedantic, that a Book, which by it's Magnificence and Price can only be intended for a Court and for Persons of the first Quality, should be half filled with Latin. But how many are there of so elevated a Rank, especially among the English Nobility, who can relish the Beauties of the Original? And certainly it is a Convenience for such Readers to have the Poet himself so near them, when they would examine the Justness or perceive the Elegancies of the Translation. We have followed the Judgement of Monsieur Banier in the Choice of the Latin Text published by the Learned Professor Burman.
As to the English Translation; the Reader may well suppose we could not get a better than That published by Dr. Garth.† We have followed it religiously, except in a few Places; where the Translators have either thought Ovid absolutely not worth Translating at all, and so have left out Passages: Or else his Thoughts too low to require a laboured Translation: Or Lastly, where more Images occurred to the Translator, than had done to the Poet himself, and thus lengthened out the Description: For the Genius of a Poet, and That of his Translators being seldom of a Size, or equally animated in the same Descriptions, will produce all These and sometimes much greater Diversities. The Necessity of making the Sense of the two Languages correspond as near as possible, within the Bounds of the same Page, has obliged us sometimes to supply the Defects, and sometimes to retrench the Redundancies of the Translation. But the Occasions of such Changes as cou'd not be provided for, by crowding the Lines together, or setting them at wider spaces from one another, in one or t'other Column, have very seldom happened, and they are made with so much Care and Reserve, that we flatter ourselves the unprejudiced will upon a fair Comparison, even without supposing such a Necessity, approve the Alterations.
The Explications of the Fables, which are here translated from the French of the Learned Abbot abovenamed, make another important Part of this Work. Mythological Dissertations may appear to the politer Readers, who relish only Wit and Invention, a dry, insipid Amusement; which in reality is the Character the Lovers of that Study themselves commonly give it. But, allowing the Abbot's System, it must be some Satisfaction to the Reader, after having been led thorough the Chaos of Fable, to receive the Light his Discussions shed over it; and to see how Ovid's sprightly Fancy often surpasses the Power of the Gods he had invoked, in the ingenious Fictions and surprising Forms with which he clothes the plainest, most simple Facts in History. The Reader may have a better Idea of this Part of the Work, by reading the Abbot's own Preface, that he read with Applause in the Illustrious Academy of which he is a Member, and which we have here Translated.
The numerous Sculptures that adorn this Edition every where strike the Eye; and shew we have as little spared Expence as Care to render it perfect. Many of them are wholly designed and engraved by the Celebrated Picart; and all the others by Able Masters engaged by him, whose Genius, perhaps as eminent for Painting as Ovid's was for Poetry, seems designed by Nature to Embellish him.
The Plan of this Edition in general; the Arguments at the Head of each Fable; the elegant Plainness of the Translations; and the Care and Accuracy with which the whole has been corrected, will we hope convince the World, that an English Book may be well wrote, and well printed in Holland, and will engage the Public to continue their Approbation and Encouragement of our Services.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ I.i The Chaos ]
The Creation is a Mystery above the Reach of human Reason. The Philosophers, who never were able to comprehend how Something could be produced out of Nothing, establish'd this Principle, ex nihilo nihil, et in nihilum nil posse reverti. Thus seeing the Beauty and admirable Structure of the Universe, which they attributed either to a Being superior to Nature or to Nature itself, they supposed a pre-existent Matter, which, though confused and undistinguish'd, afterwards receiv'd Form and Order from some Powerfull Cause. According to them, God was not the Creator, but rather the Architect of it, in rangeing and disposing the Elements into Situations most suitable to their respective Qualities. This is the Chaos so often sung by the Poets, and of which Hesiod (1) had given them the First Model.
It is very easy to see that this Systeme, tho' monstrous and absurd, is but a disfigured Tradition of the Mosaick Creation of the World. In spite of the wild Imagination of the Poets, and of all that they have Fabled upon this Head, we still perceive some Glimmering of Truth which they could not conceal under all their Fictions. And for the better Explanation of the First Fable, we need only open the Bible and read the Two First Chapters of Genesis; where we shall find the unraveling of all this Mythology.
If we are curious to trace the Poetical Tradition of the Chaos more closely, and take a nearer View of the other Fables which are mingled with the History of the Creation, it will be necessary to observe, that Hesiod, the ancientest of all the Poets who have written on that Subject, seems to have copied Sanchoniathon, who, without doubt, took his Ideas from the Passage in Holy Scripture which mentions the Darkness that spread over the whole Universe; Et fuit caligo super faciem abyssi (2); for that Author expresses himself almost in the same Words. Sanchoniathon writ his Annals before the Trojan War, and boasts to have received what he says concerning the Creation, from a Priest of Jehovah named Jerombal. This Author writ in the Phenician Language, but we have only a Translation of him by Philo, which appears to the Learned to be a very equivocal performance. However, it is very probable that it was from this Author, that the Greeks borrowed their Chaos, which they afterwards intermixt with new Fables of their own. It is also proper to remark, that having found, in the Phenician Annals, the Word Ereh; which signifies the Darkness of the Night, they made a Person of it, whom, in process of Time, they regarded as the Mother of Night and Darkness.
The Poets relating after what Manner the Chaos had been reduced to Order, made Use of the Natural Philosophy of their Time. A gross kind of Physicks founded merely on the Notices of Sense. Nevertheless they always let us see certain Strokes, which prove that they had consulted either Tradition or the Holy Scripture itself: This appears more particularly in the Formation of Man; who, in Ovid, as in Genesis, is the last Work of the Creator. One may plainly see in his Fabulous Mixtures, that, at the bottom, it is the very same Event, disfigured. Prometheus, who tempers the Earth, and Minerva, who animates his Workmanship, is God who form'd Man, and breathed into his Nostrils the Breath of Life; which distinguish'd him from the other Creatures.
This is a sufficient Explication of the Fable; but it may be proper to enter more particularly into the Story of Prometheus. According to Euphorion (1), he was the Son of Juno, and the Gyant Eurimedon. According to other Authors, Themis was his Mother; but the most common Opinion makes him the Son of Japetus and Climene. This subtil, cunning Man resolving to deceive Jupiter in a Sacrifice, order'd Two Oxen to be killed; and one of the Hides to be filled with the Flesh, the other with the Bones of the Victims. Jupiter was the Dupe of Prometheus and chose the latter. Resolved to be revenged on Mankind he forbid the use of Fire. Prometheus with the Help of Minerva, whose Directions had already been serviceable to him, when he form'd the Body of Man out of the temper'd Clay, mounts up to Heaven and approaching the Chariot of the Sun, thence steals the sacred Fire, which he brings down to Earth in the Stalk of a Ferula. Jupiter inraged at this new, wicked Attempt, commands Vulcan to form a Woman who should possess every good Quality, whence she was called Pandora. The Gods loaded her with Presents, and sent her to Prometheus, with a Box fill'd with all the Evils of Life. This Prince suspecting Something of the Matter, wou'd not, by any means, receive her for his Companion; but Epimetheus, to whom she presented herself, was so charm'd with her that he marryed her; and had by her Pyrrha the Wife of Deucalion: Epimetheus would also see what was contain'd in the fatal Box, and as soon as he had open'd it, that Deluge of Evils broke loose, which has eversince overspread the whole Earth. In fine, Jupiter enraged, because Prometheus had not fallen into the last Snare, orders Mercury to take him to Mount Caucasus, and bind him to a Rock, where an Eagle, sprung from Typhon and Echidne, shou'd prey upon his Entrails for the Space of 30000 Years. However Hercules deliver'd him some Years after, or, according to others, Jupiter himself; as a Recompence for his having revealed the Oracle of the Destinies, who foretold that the Son of Thetis should be more powerfull than his Father. Such is the Fable of Prometheus: It contains an ancient History, but extremely disguised: We meet with an infinite Variety of Allegories in it; the Name of Prometheus furnishes a great Number of them, importing One who foresees what is to come, and that of Epimetheus, One who knows what is past. This Fable is variously related; and it would be an endless Labour to collect all the Traditions that have been spread abroad concerning these anciest Fictions. Duris, the Samian, says he was banish'd from Heaven for his insolent Ambition in proposing a Marriage with Minerva. Others relate, that his Crime lay in seducing Pandora his Brother's Wife. Nicander says that he merited the Indignation of Jupiter, for having advised Man to give the Serpent that perpetual Youth, which the Gods had bestowd on him. Heinsius is of Opinion that by the Fable of Pandora, Hesiod designed to leave Us an Idea of the Effect of Nature's Decree, and that she was said to be marryed to Epimetheus, an able Statuary, to teach us, that to succeed well in any Work whatsoever, Art must agree with Nature. It is also added that Jupiter in delivering Prometheus, as I have already related, was equally embarrass'd between the Obligations of his own Oath, and the merit of the Other's discovering the Oracle; and therefore order'd him to wear a Ring always on his Finger in which was set a Fragment of the Rock of Caucasus; that it might appear true in some Sense that he ever remaind bound to it. Here we may observe the Original of Rings, according to the Ancients, copied by (2) Pliny.
What is most probable in this mysterious Fable, is, That Prometheus, a very able and accomplish'd Prince for the Age he lived in, had improved the Genius of the Scythians; which gave Occasion to the Story of his forming Man; Unless we had rather follow the Opinion of Lactantius, that he was the first Statuary, which laid the Foundation of this Fiction. This Prince was so entirely devoted to Astronomy, that he often retired to Mount Caucasus from whence he contemplated the Stars, and was continually a consuming by his own Meditations, or chiefly by the Chagrin of having been forced to retire into so savage a Country. This is the Eagle, or the Vulture that tore out his Bowels. Let us not forget what Herodutus relates, that this Prince not being able to stop the overflowing of a River, called the Eagle from its rapid Course, was sent to Prison, or at least was obliged to withdraw himself to Mount Caucasus, to avoid the Inundation, till Hercules, who rais'd Banks to it, permitted him to cultivate the Country. What I have advanced concerning the Taste Prometheus had for Astronomy, is founded on Antiquity. That Prince boasts in one of the Tragedies of Aeschylus to have taught Mankind how to divide the Year into Four Seasons, by the Rising of the Stars, and to have explain'd the Motions and Revolutions of those heavenly Bodies.
Now to explain the Fable of the Fire stolen by Prometheus, some Authors say, that his having taught Men the use of Fire, gave Rise to that Fiction. But is it probable that so necessary a Thing as Fire, should have been so long unknown, even to the most barbarous Nations? Whether Fire was found by the casual striking of Flints; whether the Wind kindled it in some Forests by agitating the Branches of Trees; or, whether Lightning brought it down from Heaven, the Use of it is apparently as ancient as the World it self. However, I believe, what gave Birth to this Fable, was, that Jupiter having order'd the shutting up the Shop where Iron was made to prevent the Titans from using it against him; Prometheus, who retired into Scythia, set up good Forges there; from thence come those excellent Forgers the Calibes. Perhaps fearing also that he should find no Fire in that Country, he carryed some with him in the Stalk of a Ferula. Monsieur de Tournefort, in his Voyage to the Levant, dicover'd that Plant which the Greeks call Nartex and the Latins Ferula: It is a sort of Fenel, its Stalk is Five or Six Foot high, the Rind of the Plant is very hard, and the inward part is fill'd with a sort of Pith, which the Fire consumes but very slowly. The Seamen Use it to carry Fire from one Island to Another. This Custom is most ancient, and served to explain a Passage in (3) Hesiod, who speakng of th Fire with Prometheus stole from Heaven says he carryed it in a Ferula. Diodorus (4) assures us, that the Foundation of the Fable lyes in Prometheus's being the Inventor of the Steel, with which Fire is struck out of the Flint, semine flammae abstruso in venis silicis.
We must not forget to observe that the famous (5) Bochart believes that Prometheus is the same with Magog, and, it must be own'd, he gives plausible Reasons to shew the Probability of the Sentiment. Prometheus according to him is the Son of Japetus, and Magog the Son of Japhet, and Grand-Son of Noah. Magog goes to settle in Scythia; Prometheus do's the same: The Former invented, or finish'd the Art of founding Metals and forging Iron; The Poets attribute the Invention of it to Our Prometheus: And Diodorus also affirms that he invented proper Instruments for producing Fire. The Fable of Prometheus being devour'd by an Eagle turns upon the Name of Magog, which signifies a Man devour'd by Chagrin. Monsieur Le Clerc says (6) that Epimetheus is the same with Gog, whose Name imports burning, which, according to him, agrees to that Prince, whose Passion for Women is insinuated in the Story of Pandora. He adds several other probable Conjectures to shew, that the History of Prometheus, and his Brother was embellish'd out of that of Gog and Magog, who before them knew, and used the Art of forging Iron. Finally in the Opinion of other Authors Prometheus is the same with Noah, and the Parallel they run is not void of probability; so easy a thing is it to find a Resemblance amongst Persons who lived in Ages so remote. We shall take notice in the History of Hercules, which of the Heros of that Name it was that deliver'd Prometheus; for Philostratus is of Opinion that it was not the Son of Alcmena.
The Golden Age, of which Ovid speaks, is still the same Tradition continued, but a Tradition always disfigured by the Fictions blended with it. Truth in the Poets never appears in any other Dress. They had learn'd that the First Man lived for some time in perfect Innocence; that the Ground in the Garden of Eden without Tillage furnish'd him Fruit and Food in Abundance; that the Animals, peaceable and obedient were submissive to his Orders: That after his Fall the Ground became unfruitfull, and yielded nothing without the hardest Labour; and that all Nature revolted, and no longer acknowledged Man for its Master. This is the Golden Age, so much celebrated by the Poets; these are the Rivers flowing with Milk and Honey from all the Quarters. The Ancients have placed in Italy, and under the Reign of Saturn and Janus, what the Holy Scripture relates of Adam and Noah. Were it allow'd me, in this Explication, to enter into such a Detail of Matters as the Parallel requires, I am perswaded I should render it more than probable. I shall satisfy myself by referring the Curious to the First Book of Bochart's Phaleg, Vossius's Treatise of Idolatry, and the I. Volume of my Explication of Fables.
After the Chaos was disembroyl'd, Ovid relates in what manner the Year was divided into Four Seasons. It appears by the Order the Poet observes, that during the Golden-Age, a perpetual Spring reigned on the Earth, and that the different Seasons, dividing the Year, were not known till the Silver-Age. This Idea is display'd in most of the Poets. But to support this, the Ecliptick must then have had no Declination, which can never be proved. The Observations of some Modern Astronomers, who pretend to find some Variations, are not so certain, nor in such great numbers, as to be able to determine it. Besides, if that Declination were true, it is so very inconsiderable that it wou'd be many thousands of Years before it shou'd come from that perfect Parallelism to the Degree where it is at this Day. Let that be as it will, our Poet makes the Silver-Age to succeed the Golden-Age, which is succeeded by the Brazen: The Iron-Age follows, which continues to this Day. The Meaning of all this is, that Men degenerated from their primitive Innocence, and came not but by degrees to that brutish Fierceness, which is so well known in Ancient History. This Poetical System is not very consistent. For in the Times of Saturn, which is their Golden-Age, we may observe the most bloody Wars and the most horrid Crimes. Saturn, to ascend the Throne, expell'd his Father; Jupiter, his Son, treated him exactly as he had done his Father Uranus; and this Prince establish'd his Empire on the Ruin of his whole Family. Jupiter was not less disturb'd than Saturn and Uranus. The Enterprise of the Giants to dethrone him is a Proof of it.
What Embellishments soever, the Poets, after Hesiod, have mingled with the Fable of the Giants, one may easily perceive, that it turns on a true History, and some Attempt made upon Jupiter. And if we wou'd enter into the Sense of the Fable, we must abstract from the Ideas which the Ancients have of their Jupiter, and not regard that pretended Deity, but as an Usurping Prince who was engaged with powerful Enemies. This is not the place to distinguish the different Persons, who bore the Name of Jupiter. That's an Article I shall endeavour to illustrate on another Occasion. It is sufficient to observe that He, whom he treats of here, was the Prince Titan whose Empire was shared with his two Brothers, Neptune and Pluto: And this is, to mention it cursorily, what has given Occasion to the famous Division of the World, so much celebrated by the Poets. Jupiter had for his Share Phrygia, the Island of Crete, and many other Provinces. Mount Olympus, where he establish'd himself, was regarded as the Heaven; and the Effort made to drive Him out, as an Enterprise as rash, as it was fruitless. Mount Ossa plac'd upon Pelion is a Poetick Fiction invented, to support that Idea. Behold the Fact stript of the vain Ornaments it is attended with in Ovid. Those Princes, the Titans, jealous of the exorbitant Power of Jupiter, declared War against him. They had, for their General, Typhoeus or Enceladus, a Man of Bravery, resolute and extremely enterprising. His Attempt had, at first, very great Success. All the Gods, that is, the Titans, quitted the Party of Jupiter, to cast themselves into the Enemies Camp. That Desertion weakned his Troops so very much, as to make him say, that this Giant had cut off his Hands; and if it is added, that Mercury, his Son, restored them to him, it is as much as to say, he brought back the greatest part of the Deserters to their former Allegiance. Typhon, pursuing his Conquests, forceth the Gods at last to retire into Egypt; where they were obliged to conceal themselves under the Figures of different Animals. A Circumstance invented too late, and is no obscure Indication, that Egypt adored, in process of time, Animals, or at least regarded them as the Symbols of the Gods; as I have prov'd in a Dissertation printed in the III. Volume of Memoires de l'Academie des belles Lettres.
In fine, Jupiter finish'd this War very happily with the help of Bacchus and Mercury, and destroy'd his Enemies. Enceladus or Typhon was buried under Mount Aetna, where the motions he gives himself, produce those Volcanos and Eruptions of Fire which are so very frequent.
Many other Circumstances in this Fable may deserve an Explanation: But the Particulars, into which I shou'd be oblig'd to enter, wou'd carry me beyond the bounds I have prescribed my self here. Hesiod may be read on this subject, and also Apollodorus, my Explication of Fables, and the other Dissertations I have publish'd on the same Head. It will be sufficient here to make these two Reflections. The First is that, there are Authors who distinguish the War of the Titans from that of the Giants: The one was made by the Princes of Jupiter's Family; the other by some Robbers of a monstrous Stature, who were called Sons of the Earth, because their Original was unknown. The Second is, that, in all Probability, the War, which the Poets have described in the History of Jupiter, is the same which Typhon waged with his Brother Osiris; and that all this Fable takes its Original from Egypt, as it is easy to prove. We know the Inclination which the Greeks, a People very modern in comparison, had to reduce every thing to their History. It is however very evident, it was not from the Greeks that the Egyptians learnt the Fable of the Flight of the Gods into Egypt; since in that Place we find Monuments of that Fiction, more ancient than the Grecians and their History. For in fine, if Ovid relates that Jupiter assumed the Form of a Ram; was he not worship'd under that Figure, in the famous Temple, which he had in Lybia? That Diana cloath'd her self in the Form of a Cat: Is not the City of Busbastis, which, according to Stephanus, is also one of the Names of this Goddess, where they pay'd religious Honours to a Cat, a most authentick Monument of this Tradition? That Bacchus, or, as others say, Pan takes the Form of a He-Goat; do's not the City of Mendes give a sure Testimony of this Matter? That Juno or Isis assum'd that of a Cow: And was not she honoured in Memphis under the Symbol of that Animal? That Venus conceal'd her self under the Scales of a Fish: Don't the Syrians for that reason abstain from eating of Fish? That Mercury took upon him the Figure of an Ibis, or Stork: Are we ignorant of the Worship, the Egyptians render to that Bird? Do we believe that the Egyptian Priests learned this Fable of the Greeks, and the Worship, of which it is the Foundation; and that they shou'd form the System of their Religion on the Ideas of that People, and give to their Cities the Names conformable to the Circumstances of this Fable? Or rather is it not from those ancient cities, the Greeks and Romans derive the Original of their Religion and Fables? Now, if ever there were true Giants, is a Question which has been often debated; but it is easy to decide provided one will make some Abatements, for Poetick Hyperboles of the strongest kind. It can't be doubted, but there have been in different Times, and different Places, some Men of a Stature, which exceeded that of others. But Nature, wise and uniform in her Productions, never form'd any thing like to the Briarii and Enceladi. Og King of Basham, who was a Giant, was no more than Nine or Ten Foot high, according to the measure the Holy Scripture gives of his Bed. So that one may establish it as a Principle, that if the lowest Men are about Three, of Four Foot high, the tallest never were above Ten or Twelve.
Now it is easy to fix a reasonable Meaning on what the Poets have publish'd of the most monstrous Giants. What I am going to say of Typhon will suffice for all the rest. By his Hundred Heads, is shewn, in what manner He understood the management of his pernicious Designs, and how to gain over to his Party the very best Heads of the Kingdom. The Number of his Hands denote, without doubt, the Force of his Army, and of his Officers. The Serpents at the extremity of his Fingers and about his Thighs acquaint us with his Suppleness, and his Address. His Body cover'd with Feathers and Scales equally signifies the rapidity of his Conquests and his Strength. By his Arms reaching to the End of the World we learn, that he extended his Power to the utmost bounds of Egypt. The Clouds that encompass his Head, shew, that he fought for nothing more than to embroyl the State; and the Fire that comes out of his Mouth, signifies his Fury and Rage. The Figure of a Wolf, under which he is represented at Lycopolis, intimates the Devastations he made in the Country: A Tradition, which, according to Plutarch, imports, that he was changed into a Wolf. That of the Crocodile naturally suggests his Resemblance to that Animal, which is as formidable for his Craftiness and Subtilty, as for his Cruelty. We shall speak farther of Typhon in the Explication of the VI. Fable of the V. Book.
This Scene of the assembled Gods, which Ovid opens to us, is a most magnificent Representation, and they cou'd never meet on a more important Occasion. The Point under deliberation here, is not, as in the Iliad, to declare for the Greeks, or the Trojans; nor, as in the Aeneid, to take Care of a fugitive Prince, who carried his Houshold Gods into a strange Land. It is to resolve the Ruin of Mankind, that our Author calls this Grand Council, and considers One of the greatest Events that ever happen'd on this Earth. But what is surprising in this Fable, is Ovid's exactly copying Tradition, or the VI. of Genesis. God, according to Moses, repented that he had made Man. Poenituit eum quod hominem fecisset in terra, et tactus dolore cordis intrinsecus; delebo, inquit, hominem quem creavi, etc. Ovid represents Jupiter incens'd against Mankind, whose Crimes had stirr'd up his Wrath. Dignas Jove concipit iras, est tamen humani generis jactura dolori omnibus etc. Moses tells us how all Men were gone astray and had generally corrupted themselves: Omnis quippe caro corruperat viam suam. The Poet brings in Jupiter saying, that formerly he had none but Gyants to combat with, but now all Men were his Enemies.
All the Ancients distinguish two Lycaons: The First, was the Son of Phoroneus, and reign'd in that Part of Greece, which was afterwards called Arcadia, to which he gave the Name of Lycaonia about 250 Years before Cecrops, and in the Time of the Patriarch Jacob. The Second, of whom he treats in this Fable, succeeded him, and was a Prince equally polite and religious: But thro' an Inhumanity very common in those gross Ages, he pollutes the Feast of the Lupercalia, of which he was the Institutor, according to the Arundel Marbles, by sacrificing Human Victims. That Feast, after having been discontinued for several Ages, was re-establish'd at Athens, in the Time of Pandion; as we learn from the 18. Epoch of the Parian Marbles. Lycurgus abolish'd, in Sparta, this barbarous Custom of offering Human Sacrifices. Evander carried that Feast, some time after, into Italy. I shall not inlarge farther on a Subject so well known. The Notes of those Learned Authors, who explain the Marbles, I have now quoted, may be consulted, the Graecia feriata of Meursius, Marsham pag. 275, and Scaliger upon Eusebius.
Lycaon, built on the Mountains of Arcadia, the City of Lycosura, which is accounted the most ancient of all Greece, and it was upon the Altar he raised there in honour of Jupiter Lyceus, that he began to offer the barbarous Sacrifice, of which I have spoken. This is the foundation of Ovid's Fable, and what gave occasion to say, that he made Jupiter a Feast, in which he ordered to be serv'd up the Limbs of a Slave, whom he commanded to be slain. For it is thus that Pausanias explains it in his Arcadia. His Cruelty, and his Name, which in Greek signifies a Wolf, have given Occasion to the Fable of his being changed into that Animal which is as fierce as it is carnivorous. Lycaon was very dear to his People; he taught them to lead a less savage Life, to build Cities and Houses, for a Covert against the Rigours of the Season, and a Defence against the Wild-Beasts, which the Arcadian Forests then abounded with. Suidas adds that Lycaon was a wise and vertuous Prince, who applied himself only to get the Laws observ'd which his Father had established. It is said also, he was the First who taught how to substitute Acorns, in the room of Herbs, which People then commonly fed on with great Danger. Nevertheless, some Authors attribute the Invention of this Custom to Phoroneus his Father, or to Lycaon the First.
The Prince of whom we are speaking had several Children who established Colonies in divers Countries, and built Cities which bear their Names: For which you may read the Authors, I have cited. What I am about to say, upon the Testimony of Suidas, has all the Air of a new Fable, which he invented to explain what Ovid relates. This Prince, says that Author, to engage his People more effectually in the Observation of the Laws, wou'd persuade them that Jupiter wou'd come immediately, to lodge in his Palace, under the Figure of a Stranger, to be in a better Capacity to examine the Conduct of every particular Person. On a certain Day he went to offer Sacrifice, to dispose himself to receive that Deity; his Sons, desirous to clear up the Truth, resolv'd to mix with the Flesh of the Victim, that of a young Child, which they ordered to be kill'd, being very sure, none but Jupiter cou'd discover such a Stratagem. But a great Tempest arising, with excessive Rain and Hurricanes; the Lightning reduced all those impious Creatures to ashes, and Lycaon instituted the Feast called the Lupercalia in Honour of Jupiter to appease his Wrath.
The Ancients have spoken of many Deluges, and Pausanias has reckon'd five. But those most celebrated in the Poets happen'd in the time of Ogyges, and under the Reign of Deucalion. It is of the last Ovid speaks; but as that overflow'd Thessaly only, it is evident that the Poet, in his description of it, takes in what Tradition has taught us concerning the Universal Deluge; which all Nations seem to have preserv'd. In effect he relates how the whole Earth was overflow'd. The Sea, according to him, joins it's Waters, to those falling from the Heavens: And Neptune shook the Foundations of the Earth to fetch out new supplys. These are beyond all doubt the Cataracts of Heaven, and the Fountains of the great Deep, of which Moses writes (1). Ovid, who makes the Waters ascend above the highest Mountains, excepts only the Top of Parnassus; which alludes to Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark rested. In the Poet all Mankind perish'd but Deucalion and Pyrrha. This is Noah and his Family. Deucalion in the account of the ancient Authors was a just and pious Man, and the only Person who restored Mankind, which corresponds with the Patriarchal History. The Deluge lasted nine Months; that of Ogyges continued as many. When Noah went out of the Ark, he offer'd to God solemn Sacrifices; Deucalion sav'd from the Waters, according to Pausanias (2), rais'd an Altar to Jupiter Liberator (3). According to the Poet, there was to be no Deluge after Deucalion's. God promised the very same thing to Noah. That Patriarch seeing the Waters begin to retire, sent out a Dove, which returned with an Olive-branch: Plutarch mentions that Dove, and Abidenus speaks of a certain Bird dispatch'd out of the Ark, that twice return'd, not having found any place of rest. I cou'd carry the Parallel much farther; but this is sufficient to show that Ovid filled the Description of Deucalion's Flood, with very near all the Circumstances of Noah's. For the rest, it is not strange, the Tradition of the Deluge shou'd be preserv'd among all People. This Event is of a nature, not easy to be forgotten: And the Changes it has made in the Earth confirm the truth of it every day. Moreover the History of this general Flood, if we believe Josephus (4), was writ by Nicolas of Damascus, by Berosus, and Mnaseas, and others of the Ancients; from whom the Greeks and Romans receiv'd it. What remains concerning Deucalion's Deluge, as also what relates to that Prince, I reserve for the Article, where Ovid speaks of the Reparation of Mankind.
We need not search in this Fable for any Historical Explication. The Ancients imagin'd that Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto divided the World among them; and that the Empire of the Sea fell to Neptune's share. He was to raise, and calm the Floods. Ovid represents him in that Employment; and the Figure engraved here, perfectly answers the Idea of the Poet.
Under the Reign of Deucalion King of Thessaly, the Course of the River Peneus was stopped; probably by some Earthquake between Mount Ossa and Olympus, where the Mouth lies, through which that River, enlarged by four others, discharges itself into the Sea: And in that Year, so great a quantity of rain fell, that all Thessaly, which is a level Country, was overflow'd. Deucalion, and such of his Subjects as could escape from the Inundation fled to Parnassus; and as soon as the Waters fell return'd to the Plain. The Children of those who were preserved are the mysterious Stones, of which the Poets speak so much; this Fable having no other foundation, than the double meaning of the Word Eben or Aben; which equally signifies a Stone, and a Child: Or from the word Laos, which may be understood of a People or Stone; as the Scholiast of Pindar remarks. This equivocal Term gave rise to the Fable of the mystical Stones; which thrown by Deucalion and Pyrrha, form'd a new Race of Men, who peopled the World after the Deluge. And it may be affirm'd that the Fierceness and Cruelty of the first Men did not bely their Original. The manner in which Salmasius reads a passage, taken out of the Fragments of Hesiod, gives great light into this Fable. This Poet says, that Jupiter gave Deucalion the Locrians inhabiting Phocis, to people the World: And Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1) agrees they went under the conduct of this Prince, to inhabit different Countries of Greece. Thus when we read in the passage of Hesiod λαέων instead of ἀλέους, the meaning is, Deucalion chose some Persons from among the People of Stone, which, well understood, is no more than to say, People inhabiting Parnassus, a very stony Mountain. So when 'tis added to the Fable, that Neptune, by a stroak of his Trident, separated Ossa from Pelion, 'tis because it was anciently believ'd that the Alterations which happen'd in the World, and Earthquakes particularly, were caused by this God. "Certainly, says Herodotus (2), their Opinion was not groundless, who attributed that Separation to Neptune. For those who take him to be the Author of Earthquakes, and the Chasms made by them to be the Works of that Great God, will find no difficulty to believe that Neptune made that Channel when they see it." Now to settle Epoch of so celebrated an Event, we need only consult the Parian Marbles, which fix the place of Deucalion's Residence at Lycoreus near Parnassus, in the time that Cecrops reign'd at Athens; which was about 1600 years before JESUS-CHRIST. The same Marbles add that after the Inundation, Deucalion retired to Athens; where he offer'd solemn Sacrifices to Jupiter Conservator in a Temple he built to his Honour, which was standing in the time of Pisistratus, who restored it with great expence. The fourth Epoch of those Marbles observes that Cranaus reign'd at Athens when Deucalion retired thither; tho' Eusebius assures us it was under the Reign of Cecrops. These two Chronological Accounts differ but three Years; I freely subscribe to that of the Marbles, which appears to have been made with a great deal of care. Thus I fix this Retreat to the Year 1597 before the Christian Aera. If Eusebius had been acquainted with those Marbles, so usefull to Chronology, he would have plainly seen that they sufficiently distinguish those two Periods of Time: That of Deucalion's abode at Lycoreus under the Reign of Cecrops, and his Retreat to Athens after the Deluge, during the Reign of Cranaus (3). As Deucalion taught the Greeks to build Temples to the Honour of the Gods; so he had one dedicated to him after his Death, and was honour'd as a Divinity. This Prince was the Son of Prometheus and the Husband of Pyrrha, the Daughter of Epimetheus his Uncle. Nothing is so famous amongst the Ancients as his Posterity; who repeopled part of Greece as may be seen at large in Apollodorus, in the Commentators on the Parian Marbles, and in the second Volume of my Explication of Fables.
The Waters of that great Inundation, which I have spoken of in the Explication of the foregoing Fable, left a Slime upon the Earth, from whence a great many Insects proceeded, among others the Serpent Python which did a great deal of mischief in the neighbourhood of Parnassus. Apollo armed with his Bow and Arrows slew him: Which being philosophically explain'd imports that the Heat of the Sun having dissipated the bad Exhalations, those Monsters immediatly disappear'd. If we refer this Fable to History; this Serpent was a Robber who establish'd himself near Parnassus, and extremely molested all those who pass'd that way to offer Sacrifice. A Prince, who bore the name of Apollo, or a Priest of that God, freed the Country of him. This Event gave occasion to the Institution of the Pythian Games so well known in Greece. They were celebrated every fourth Year, and Apples consecrated to Apollo, or, as Pindar pretends, Crowns of Laurel were the Prizes given to the Victors. Singing, Dancing and Instrumental Musick were used in those Games besides the Exercises mentioned in the Fable. For which the Parian Marbles (1) and Meursius (2) may be consulted. That Event which Ovid placeth soon after the Deluge must have happen'd much later, since in Deucalion's time Apollo was not known at Delphos. It was Themis according to the same Poet, and agreeable to all Antiquity, who then deliver'd Oracles there; and before Themis there was an other Oracle there which was deliver'd by the Earth.
To explain this Fable, as well as all the other Gallantries of the Gods, which the Poets speak so frequently of, we must lay it down as a Principle, that besides that there are many Jupiters, many Apollos, many Mercurys etc. which I have proved in my Explication of Fables, the Priests of those respective Deities frequently sanctified their Debaucheries with the Names of the Divinities they served; from whence proceeded that prodigious number of Children that claim'd those Gods for their Fathers.
This Principle being establisht we may thus explain the Fable of Daphne. Some Prince, among the number of those to whom the love of polite Learning had given the Name of Apollo, falling in love with Daphne Daughter of Peneus King of Thessaly, and one day pursuing her, the young Princess perish'd on the Bank of a River in her Lover's sight. Some Laurels growing near the place gave rise to her Metamorphosis; or rather the Etimology of the word Daphne, which in Greek signifies a Laurel, was the occasion of publishing this Fable. If we credit Lylius Giraldus, Daphne was so called from Δαφωνέω, voco, because the Laurel makes a crackling noise in burning. And as this Tree was consecrated to Apollo, from thence we have according to this Author, the Fable of his and Daphne's Amours. However Pausanias (1) gives another turn to this Adventure. He says Leucippus, Son of Oenomaus King of Pisa, the very same who gave his Daughter Hippodamia in marriage to Pelops, falling in love with Daphne disguised himself in Virgin's Apparel to accompany her in Hunting, which she loved exceedingly, and consecrated her self to Diana according to the Custom of those Times. The Care and Assiduity with which he attended his Mistress, very soon procured him her Friendship and Confidence; but Apollo his Rival having discover'd the Intrigue, one day redoubles the Heat of the Sun: Daphne and her Companions going to bathe themselves would oblige Leucippus to follow their example, but he declining it under several pretexts they resolved to undress him; and having them discover'd what he was they killed him with their Arrows. Pausanias in relating this Event mixes, as you see, something of the Fabulous. But as it is certain on the other hand that Oenomaus had a Son called Leucippus, who perish'd in his Youth in very near the manner he relates; to rectify this Narration, it is sufficient to say that one day when it was very hot, the Virgins having forced the young Man to bathe himself, they found out his disguise and punish'd him for his Insolence.
Diodorus Siculus (2) assures us that this Daphne is the same with the Fairy Mantho, Daughter of Tiresias who was banish'd to Delphos, where she wrote many Oracles; of which Homer made a very happy Use in his two Poems. Needed there any more to prove her the Mistress of Apollo? The Inhabitants of Antioch pretended that this Adventure happen'd in the Subburbs of their City; which from thence bore the name of Daphne. St. Chrysostome, following Libanus describes a fine Statue of Apollo which stood in those Subburbs: The God held his Harp in one hand, and a Cup in the other, with which he seem'd to offer Libations to the Earth that had swallow'd up his Mistress.
The Greeks frequently embellish'd their History with the principal Events of Egypt and Phenicia: At least the faintest resemblance, either in Names or Adventures, induced them to confound their History with that of the People from whom they derived their Original. They would be thought Ancient; and those who came first to people Greece having brought with them the knowledge of their History and their Religion, it is no wonder that their Posterity afterwards assumed the Honour of both. The Fable before us came without doubt originally from Egypt. Isis was the great Divinity of that ancient People; she reign'd over them soon after the Dispersion of Nations, and taught them Agriculture, and several other profitable and necessary Arts, as we earn from Diodorus Siculus, Plutarch, or more properly speaking from all Antiquity. In acknowledgment of it they made her a Divinity; and her Worship, confined at first among the Egyptians, passed with their Colonies into foreign Countries. Greece receiv'd it when Inachus went to settle himself there and in process of time Isis or Io was taken for his Daughter, and the Fable publish'd in the manner that Ovid relates it. This is what is most certain in the Matter; but as something might have happend in Greece to give rise to this Fable, it is necessary to shew in what manner the Greek Authors explain it. Apollodorus, Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and Pausanias, upon Homer's Authority, say that Io was the Daughter of Inachus the first King of Argos; that Jupiter took her away by Force and carryed her to the Isle of Crete, that he had a Son by her named Epaphus who went to reign in Egypt; that his Mother having followed him thither marryed Osiris, who was the same with Apis the Son of Phoroneus Second King of Argos, and who, after his Death, was ranked amongst the Gods under the name of Serapis. To explain all the Circumstances of this Fable, it is added that Niobe, who had also the name of Juno, according to the Custom of those Times, having conceiv'd a Jealousy of that Intrigue put Io under Custody of her Uncle Argos, a most vigilant Person; that Jupiter order'd his Confident to kill him, and that his Mistress having embark'd in a Vessell for Egypt that carryed the Figure of a Cow at it's Head, the Story of the Transformation of that Princess took its rise from thence. But this Explication is itself but a new Fable invented to explain the old One. Pausanias, and St. Austin after him have placed that Event much later. According to them Io, a Grecian Princess, was the Daughter of Iasus the Son of Triopas the Seventh King of Argos. And certainly if Danaus and Egyptus lived not till near the Year 1420 before JESUS-CHRIST, as may be proved by the Arundelian Marbles, Io could not have been till a long time after Inachus, who was contemporary with Moses; that is to say near 600 Years before. But this has not any solid Foundation in Antiquity, no more than what Herodotus (1) says that Io was carryed away by some Phenician Merchants to Argos then a flourishing City; for as that City took its Name from Argos the Fourth King of it, it could not be very considerable in the Time of Inachus its Founder. The Greek Writers also tell us that the Bosphorus, a part of the Aegean Sea, had it's Name from the Passage of Io metamorphosed into a Cow; but we must look upon this Fact likewise as a new Invention, even as St. Austin relates it copying after Varro, who derives the Names of Serapis from that of Apis King of Argos and the Word Soras which is as much as to say a Coffin, because that before a Temple was built to that Prince he had Divine Honours paid him at his Tomb. For it is very apparent St. Austin was mistaken in following in this Article that Tradition of the Greeks, who would have all the Gods and Heros to have been born amongst them. Apis King of Argos never went to settle in Aegypt; nor was there ever amongst those People any other Apis than the Ox that bore that Name, as the learned Marsham has unanswerably proved. In the Cabinet of Brandenburg, publish'd by Bergerus, the River Inachus is seen lying near a Cow, that is to say, near his Daughter Io.
What relates to the Metamorphosis of Io into a Cow, and all those Journies which Ovid makes her take, to shelter herself from the Jealousy of Juno, who had made her raging mad by sending a Gad-Fly that perpetually stung and tormented her; having been sufficiently explain'd in the foregoing Fable, it is needless to enlarge any more upon it. But here I must lay down a Principle which may prove very usefull to such as have a mind to search into the meaning of those ancient Fictions. Fables in their Beginning were true Histories, as I prove elsewhere at large (1). But the Poets taking Advantage of every Circumstance that could any way support, in those ancient Events, the Marvellous of which they were so fond, have entirely disfigured them; so that in explaining them it is sufficient to trace back the Facts to their primitive Simplicity, without attempting to explain all their different Circumstances, which would often prove impossible, and always be of very little Use.
This is another Egyptian Fable brought into the Greek History. Pan was a Divinity very much honour'd by the Egyptians in the famous City of Mendes; and it is very certain that those People worship'd Nature it self under the Name of Pan; As may be seen in Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus (1). Nevertheless as there have been several Persons of the Name of Pan, since Nonnus (2) reckons Twelve of them, it is not surprising that there was One among them in Greece, to whom the Adventure may have happen'd which our Poet describes. That same Pan, whoever he was, invented the Flute with Seven Pipes, so well known among the Ancients, and which the Greeks call'd Syrinx. It is very likely he observed, that the Reeds when blown into had a sort of Sound, much like our Shepherds common Corn-Pipes; he join'd Seven of them together, which by their Inequality, whether in Length or Circumference, had different Tones. Perhaps he also took the Reeds he made Use of from the Brinks of Ladon. Here we see what has given occasion to Syrinx's being called the Daughter of the God of that River. It is also added that Pan, who was in love with the Nymph, pursued her, and that her Father changed her into Reeds. All the Ancients esteem'd Pan the Inventor of that Flute, without letting us know whether it was the Son of Penelope or another; which I shall not undertake to decide. Virgil (3) shews us in Two Verses the Original of this Instrument, and the Manner in which it was used.
All that History teaches us concerning Argus, is, that there was a Prince of that Name who was the Fourth King of Argos after Inachus, and who gave his Name to that City. All the Ancients, among whom we may reckon Asclepiades, cited by Apollodorus, Lib. I. and Pherecydes, of whom the Scholiast of Euripides speaks, in the Tragedy of the Phenicians, agree that Argus was the Son of Arestorus. That Prince was a Person of great Wisdom and Penetration, and that was the reason why he was said to have an Hundred Eyes; which is implyed by the Surname of Panoptes, given him by the Authors I have just mentioned. If the Adventure of Io happen'd in his Reign, as the Greek Writers, whom I have cited in the Explication of this Fable, pretend, it is very probable that she was committed to his Tuition, and that he educated her with the utmost Care. Some Prince of the Name of Jupiter got Argos destroyed that he might ravish Io. This Event in the Dress of a Fable has received all the Ornaments, and all the Fictions in which it appears in our Poet.
Ovid relates how Juno, after the Death of Argus, whom Mercury had kill'd, took all those Eyes and set them in the Peacock's Tail. It is very likely that this Circumstance has no other Foundation than the Resemblance of our Eyes in the Spots of the Tail of that Bird, which was consecrated to Juno: Unless we will allow Philosophy to have a Share in this Fable. For it is necessary to know, and perhaps I should not have Occasion to speak of it elsewhere, that the Gods of the Heathens, who, for the most part, had been Men, rais'd to that Rank; became afterwards the Symbols of Nature. Thus Neptune represented the Water, Vulcan the Fire, Juno the Air or Aether; and as this Element transmits the Light to us, it is not surprising that the Ancients adorn'd with so many Eyes, the Bird consecrated to the Goddess who represented it. The Mythologists add to this Fable that when Mercury had laid Argus a-sleep, a young Man named Hierax waked him, that the God immediatly resolved to kill Argus with a Stone, and to turn Hierax into a Spar-Hawk. Yet Ovid says that Argus was kill'd with a Sword.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ II.i Phaethon's Ride ]
It cannot be denyed that Fables have several Meanings: But it is certain that History is always the Foundation of them. Events that happen'd in the early Ages of the World, and the Adventures of Those that conducted Colonies, and founded Kingdoms, were, for a while, preserved by Tradition; but passing through the Hands of the Poets, who were the first Historians, they receiv'd, from the Privilege that Poetry assumes, all those Ornaments which have so much disguised them. Touches of Morality taken from these Subjects, Allusions to Natural Philosophy and Politicks, when they would allow of them, have all been made use of in the most ingenious manner imaginable. This was the first Condition of Fables, which, being in their Origine merely Historical, became, in Process of Time, Moral, Philosophical, Political, etc. The Platonick Philosophers, pressed by the Primitive Fathers of the Church, who quite beat down and destroyed the System of Idolatry had recourse to such Allegories as those Fables would admit of; and passing over the Historical part, which was the Foundation of them, they endeavour'd to force out a Moral that might skreen them from Absurdity. It is thus that they cover'd the greatest part of the Follies and Crimes of their Gods: And from thence has proceeded that vast Number of Moral Explications which we meet with in their Writings, and which several other Authors adopted in the succeeding Ages.
If we look upon the Fable in this Light only, the Explication of it will not cost us much Pains: We shall immediately say that the Adventure of Phaeton represents the Undertaking of a hot-headed rash young Man; who consults his Courage much more than Wisdom and Prudence. But this very Phaeton is a real Person, Apollodorus (1) has given us his Genealogy; and Eusebius (2) makes use of it after Africanus to fix the Epoch of the Reign of Cecrops. These are Discussions too difficult for Those who teach nothing but a superficial Knowledge of Mythology. But they are not to be followed: Let us rather endeavour to trace out the first Foundation of Fables: For a Piece of History discover'd in them is much more satisfactory than all their Allegories, to which nothing but mere Imagination is necessary. The Ancients differ very much concerning the Genealogy of this Prince: Some say he was the Son of Phoebus and Clymene, as Ovid relates after them: Others, make the Nymph Rhoda his Mother. Apollodorus (3) after Hesiod (4) says that Hersa, the Daughter of Cecrops King of Athens, was the Mother of Cephalus, who was carryed away by Aurora; that is to say, who left Greece to go and settle in the East. Cephalus had a Son named Tithon the Father of Phaeton. According to this Genealogy, Phaeton was the Fourth in a lineal Descent from Cecrops; and thus we may suppose that he lived about 150 Years after this First King of Athens who reigned 1582 Years before the Christian Aera, and near 400 Years before the War of Troy, as can be proved by Dionysius of Halicarnassus (5) and Censorin (6). Having settled this Prince's Genealogy, and fixed the Time in which he lived, we must now see what it was that gave Rise to so extraordinary a Fable as has been published concerning him. We can plainly perceive that, setting the Marvellous aside, it alludes to some excessive Heat that happen'd in his Time. Aristotle (7), following some of the Ancients, believes that in Phaeton's Days there fell Flames from Heaven, which consumed several Countries; and Eusebius (8) places this Deluge of Fire in the same Age with Deucalion's Flood (9). This Opinion of Aristotle maybe confirmed by the very Name of Phaeton it self, which coming from φαέθω, fulgeo, may signify burning or shining. The first Writers of this Event made use of several lively and expressive Figures, and, without doubt, said that Phoebus must have trusted his Chariot, that Day, to some Hare-brain'd young Fellow, who not knowing how to guide it, had set the World on Fire. We may imagine that either the Conflagration of some wicked Cities, or, perhaps, the Wonders that happen'd in the Times of Iosuah and King Ezechias gave beginning to this Fiction. It is certain that the Chaldeans took notice of the Retrogradation of the Sun in the Reign of that King of Judah, and sent Embassadours, under the pretext of complimenting him upon the Recovering of his Health, to inform themselves thoroughly concerning the Cause and Circumstances of so extraordinary an Event. All these Conjectures have their Foundation in Antiquity, and been advanced by several celebrated Authors. St. Chrysostome proposes another. According to him, it is the Chariot of the Prophet Elias, whose Name has so great a Resemblance to that of Elios, given by the Greeks to the Sun, which is the true Foundation of this Fable. Vossius (10) pretends that the Subject in question is an Egyptian History; and that learned Author confounds the Grief of Phoebus for the Loss of his Son with that of the Egyptians for the Death of Osiris; as he also do's the Tears of the Heliades, with those which the Propet Ezechias saw the Women shed that wept for the Death of Thammus. Ovid seems to countenance a Conjecture so well founded, when he speaks in this Fable of the Dispute Phaeton had with Epaphus King of Egypt. This Idea has made another occur to me which gives a new Light to it. The Greeks, who anciently knew very little of foreign Countries, very often confounded them together. They placed in the East or in Ethiopia, the Scene of several Events that happen'd in Egypt; thus we may believe they were mistaken concerning the Country of Phaeton. I am perswaded it was Egypt; for, That Orus reigned there, whose Worship was at last confounded with that of the Sun. The Worship of Osiris, the Jupiter of the Egyptians, was also in great Esteem in that Country. Perhaps Phaeton acknowledged the First of those Two Kings for one of his Ancestors, as Epaphus attributed his Origine to the Second. Those Young Princes had some Quarrel, which not ending very fortunately for Phaeton, Satyr published the rest of the Fable in honour of the Conquerour. Which way soever it was, this History has received several Embellishments, and been mixed with Natural Philosophy and Astronomy; as may be easily perceived in reading Ovid. For, without entering here into too long a Detail, we plainly see that the Poet, when he says that Phaeton abandon'd his Chariot at the sight of the Scorpion, has a mind to shew us that the Event he speaks of happen'd in the Month in which the Sun enters that Signe.
In short if these Explications are not satisfactory, we may keep to that of Plutarch (11) and Tzetzes, who say that there really was a Phaeton, who reigned over the Molossians and drowned himself in the Po; that he delighted very much in Astronomy, and foretold that excessive Heat which happen'd in his Reign and laid all his Kingdoms waste.
These Two Authors have, without doubt, followed the Sentiment of Lucian, who, after having ridiculed this Fable very agreeably in one of his Dialogues, as I shall shew in the following Explication, says very seriously, in the Discourse upon Astronomy, that Phaeton was so given to that Science, and applyed himself so particularly to find out the Course of the Sun, that this Fiction had its beginning from thence; but that dying very young he left his Observations imperfect: Which gave Occasion to some Poet to say, that he did not know how to drive the Chariot of the Sun to the end of the Carriere.
Antiquity has left us some Monuments of this Fable; the First taken from the Closet of the Chevalier Massei, represents Phaeton dead and stretch'd out at full length, while the Chariot, still entire, remains suspended in the Air. This Monument has Two Things very particular in it; One is, that the Chariot is drawn but by Two Horses, contrary to the common Opinion which always gave it Four. The Ancients, as Tertullian (12) reports, distinguished in this particular the Chariot of the Sun from That of the Moon: The former being always drawn by Four Horses, and the later but by Two. Another Monument is taken from the Closet of Messieurs de Charlet. The Field represents Flames; the Chariot broken, of which we see but one Wheel; Phaeton dead and the Horses in great disorder. By the side of One of the Horses are Two Birds with Tufts on their Heads, which being mistaken for Swans make some People imagine that the Sculptor also intended to represent the Metamorphosis of Cycnus King of Liguria. But, to speak the Truth, those Birds do not resemble Swans in any thing. The Artist has designed the rest of the Work too well, to leave us any room to believe he could be so grossely mistaken in representing them. This is only One of those Aenigmas which we but too frequently meet with in Anticks, and it would be of very little use to trouble ourselves about it. In the Third Monument taken from Begerus, Phaeton is still in his Chariot, the Horses in disorder, and the Difficulty he has to govern them threatens him with an immediate Fall. This Monument has also one thing particular in it; which is, that the Heliades, the Sisters of Phaeton appear upon the Banks of the River in the very Instant that they begin to be changed into Poplars. The Swan that is near them shews that the Sculptor was willing to put all the Circumstances of the Fable together. I shall not say any thing here of the Description of Philostratus, because that Author has added nothing to the fine One Ovid has given us of this Fable. But I ought not to forget that Apollonius of Rhodes in the V. Book of his Argonautes has Three Things upon this Subject which are not to be met with in any other Poet. First, he says, that the Water of the Eridanus was so infected by the Conflagation, and the Thunderbolt which Jupiter threw at Phaeton, that the very Birds flying over it, were stifled with its stinking Vapours and dropt down dead. Virgil says the same of the Lake Avernus. Secondly, that the Sun in the time of his Grief went to visit his dear Hyperborians. And, Thirdly, that they were the Tears which Phoebus shed for the Death, not of Phaeton, but of Aesculapius that turned into the Amber which was found in the Eridanus.
Ovid seems in these Fables to have followed the very same Tradition which Plutarch made use of afterwards; for, he places Phaeton's Tomb on the Banks of the Po, as he also do's the Adventure of the Heliades his Sisters and the Metamorphosis of Cycnus King of Liguria. These Two last Events, so elegantly described by Ovid, are easy to explain. Phaeton's Sisters weeping with their Mother near his Tomb, ended their Lives there, being quite spent and overcome with Grief; and the Poets, to honour their Funerals, feigned that they were changed into Poplars distilling Amber. Some of the Ancients were of Opinion that it was not into Poplars but Larch Trees that they were changed, and Begerus gives us a Medal of P. Acoleius Lariscolus which represents those Three Virgins transform'd into Larches in Allusion to his Name who order'd it to be struck. Whatever it be, I know that the allegorical Authors publish abundance of fine Things upon this Subject, but I had rather refer the Reader to their Works than copy them. It is sufficient to take Notice here, that Hesiod and Pindar had made Mention of this Fable long before Ovid. We may also explain the Metamorphosis of Cycnus King of Liguria, by saying that this Prince, the Friend of Phaeton, having lost his Life, whether through Grief or some other Accident, it was reported that he had been changed into a Swan; and it is very apparent that the Resemblance between the Names gave occasion to the Report. Ovid says that he was the Brother of Phaeton, but Virgil looks upon him only as his Friend (1):
Lycaon had a Daughter named Calisto, who extremely delighted in Hunting, and, according to the Custom of those ancient Times, went dressed in the Spoils of wild Beasts. Jupiter, the Second of that Name, King of Arcadia, as Cicero (1) tells us, fell in love with her. This is the Foundation of the Fable: And has given occasion to say that she was One of the Companions of Diana; that her Lover took the Form of that Goddess, and that Juno, jealous of the Intrigue, changed her Rival into a Bear. We may add, with a modern Author (2), that Calisto was so metamorphosed because she had vowed her Virginity to Diana. In his Opinion, the Bear, which loves retired solitary Places, is the Symbol of a Vertue not easily preserved in the midst of Greatness and a Crowd of Courtiers. The Poets, who have written this Event, have also added that Calisto was taken into Heaven where she forms the Constellation of the Bear; a Circumstance grounded perhaps, on Lycaon's having been One of the First Greeks that observed it. All the Contrivance of Juno, who, jealous of the Honour Jupiter had confer'd on his Mistress by placing her in Heaven, goes to find out Thetys to desire her not to receive this new Constellation into the Ocean, is no more than an Astronomical Circumstance which shews us that the Bear, as well as the other Stars of the Polar Circle, which is very high in respect of Europe, never sets; that is to say that the Circle which those Stars describe by their Course is never cut by the Horison.
What I have said of Calisto may serve to shew us what to think concerning her Son Arcas, who, very likely, dying Young, was also placed in Heaven where he forms the Constellation of the little Bear. Upon this we may consult Hygin in his Poetical and Astronomical Heaven.
Without troubling Ourselves about the infamous and fabulous Origine of Erichthonius, as we find it in Ovid who copied it from Pindar, we may say that he only passed for the Son of Minerva, because he was, perhaps, the Son of the Daughter of Cranaus, who had the Name of Minerva, and of some Priest of Vulcan; or rather, as St. Austin pretends, because this Prince, lame and deformed, was found in a Temple dedicated to those Two Divinities; and as his Name is composed to those Two Divinities; and as his Name is composed of Two Greek Words which signifie Contention and Earth, Some have imagined, after Strabo (1) that he was the Son of Vulcan and the Earth, which conceived him in the time that Minerva resisted the infamous Addresses of Vulcan; but they have not observed that he was called so, for having disputed the Crown with Amphictyon upon the Death of Cranaus the Second King of Athens. Amphictyon prevaild, but Erichthonius mounted the Throne after his Death; He reigned Fifty Years and dyed in the Year 1501 before JESUS CHRIST, as may be proved by the X. Epoch of the Parian Marbles. This Prince, amongst other Defects, had his Legs extremely weak and ill made: To hide the Deformity of them, it is said, he invented Chariots, which were not known before his Reign.
Apollodorus (4) says that Erichthonius was born in Attica, that he was the Son of Cranae the Daughter of Attis, that he dethroned Amphictyon and became the Fourth King of Athens. The rest of the Fable, as we read it in Pindar and Ovid, is a Fiction, founded, according to St. Austin (5), on this Prince's being exposed, in the very instant of his Birth, in the Temple of Minerva.
In the Metamorphoses of Ovid, we often find a Series of historical Events so well linked together that it is not difficult to explain them; but we also meet with single Facts, of which History has not left us the least knowledge: Such is the Fable of Coronis transform'd into a Crow for making too faithfull a Report; and That of the Raven changed from white to black, for talking too much. I am sensible that the Mythologists have taken several Touches of Morality from these Subjects which may be easily perceived in them; but That not being the Object I have proposed to my self, I refer the Reader to those Authors. It is enough for me to say, in the first place, that the Resemblance of Names has, almost every where, been the Foundation of the Metamorphoses; and, secondly, that the Adventures which happen'd in the Courts of the Princes of those remote Ages became the Subjects of several Songs, in which the Poets were not sparing of the Marvellous. Even the most extravagant Fiction always passed for one of the Privileges of Poetry. Upon these Principles we may suppose that the Fables which I am now explaining, contain the History of Two Persons entirely unknown to Us, and that we ought to carry it as far back as the Time in which the Daughter of Cecrops lived, to whom it seems to have some relation. All that we know concerning Coronis is, that, having had a Commerce with Apollo, or some Priest of that God, she became the Mother of Aesculapius, and dyed in bringing him to the World. Coronis being also the Name of the Crow as well as of a Nymph, some Authors have published, from thence, that her Son Aesculapius was produced from the Egg of that Bird, and came forth in the shape of a Serpent; as Lucian has it in his Dialogues.
Aesculapius, being taken from his Mother's Breast, was given in charge to Chiron who took care of his Education. This is what caused the Misfortune of Ocyrrhoe the Daughter of that Centaur: But as I shall have Occasion hereafter to speak of Aesculapius, it will be sufficient, in this Explication, to shew who Chiron and his Daughter were.
The Centaurs, those Monsters whose Bodies were half Man and half Horse, were the first Horsemen in Thessaly, which I shall prove in the Skirmish they had with the Lapithites. Chiron, one of those Cavaliers, was in great Reputation for his Prudence, and the Knowledge he had acquired in a Place where the Sciences were so much neglected. All the Ancients regarded him as the Inventor of Physick, in which he afterwards instructed his Pupil Aesculapius. He was also esteem'd an excellent Musician and a good Astronomer, as we read in Homer, Diodorus Siculus, and other ancient Authors. Most of the Heros of that Age, and amongst others Jason and Hercules, were desirous to study under so able a Master: And we may reasonably believe that a Man of such Learning and parts was not negligent in cultivating the Wit and Talents of his Daughter Ocyrrhoe. But as she became curious to dive into the Secrets of Futurity, and would foretell the Fortune of Young Aesculapius, she was said to be changed into a Mare: A Metamorphosis, which, in my Opinion, has no other Foundation than her great Skill and Address in Riding. For, as it is most certain that the Horsemen of that Age were taken for Monsters, half Men and half Horses, it is not at all surprising to find the Daughter of a Centaur transform'd into a Mare.
I have said that Chiron was an able Astronomer; and all Antiquity agrees in it. He was generally believed to be the Person, who, in the Voyage of the Argonautes, markt out the Constellations to help them in their Navigation. For that Purpose, and conformable to the Disposition of the Heavens, he placed the Points of the Solstices and the Equinoxes in the Fifteenth Degree of those Constellations; that is to say between Cancer and Capricorn, and Aries and Scorpio. And his Calendar may be reckon'd one of the ancientest in the World. By what I have just said, we see that Chiron lived in the time of the Argonautes, which, according to the exactest Computation, was towards the Year 1420 before JESUS-CHRIST, more than 200 Years before the War of Troy. But I shall have an Opportunity to enlarge upon the Proofs of this Chronology in the History of the Expedition of the Argonautes.
The Daughters of Cecrops, the First King of Athens, having disobeyed the Orders which Minerva had given them, drew upon themselves the Indignation of that Goddess; who, to punish the indiscretion of those young Princesses, made Aglauros jealous of her Sister Herse. Mercury was in love with the Latter, but being denyed entrance into her Chamber by the jealous Aglauros, he turned that Princess into a Stone by touching her with his Rod. This was the ancient way of writing the History of Persons, distinguished either by their Merit or their Birth; and they were thought to be highly honour'd when their Interests were thus mixed with Those of the Gods. Some Prince who was called Mercury, for there were several of that Name, as we read in the Third Book De Nat: Deor: fell in love with Herse, of whom her Sister became very jealous: And, upon so common an Adventure, Ovid has given the Reins to his Imagination, and written this History with all the Beauty and all the Marvellous with which his Wit, so fertile in Fiction, could possibly furnish him.
Minerva's Visit to Envy, so finely described by Ovid, and so well represented in this Plate, is still the same Fable continued. An Historian would only have said that Aglauros was jealous of the good Fortune of her Sister: But a Poet soars higher; and according to the Privilege of his Art, by bringing in the Gods to interfere, in even the commonest Things, he ennobles his Subject, and gives Life and Spirit to whatever he treats of. Pausanias (1) stripping this Adventure of the Marvellous, in which it is dressed, says that the Daughters of Cecrops, running mad, threw themselves down from the Top of a Tower. I also add, that those Princesses not having, perhaps, a very great Devotion to Minerva, whose Worship was but just established at Athens, it was published, to raise her Reputation, that the Goddess had in that manner punished their Impiety. I am confirmed in my Conjecture, by what the same Author tells us, that Pandrosos, the Third Daughter of Cecrops, had, after her Death, a Temple built in honour of her, near Minerva's; because she had continued faithfull to that Goddess, and not disobeyed her, as her Sisters had done. The Reputation of Herse and Aglauros must, however, have been restored in Process of Time, since we find in Herodotus that those Two Princesses had also their Temples. The Epoch of the Time in which the Daughters of Cecrops lived is sufficiently known by That of the Reign of their Father, which the Commentators upon the Parian Marbles fix about the Year 1582. before JESUS CHRIST, and near 400 Years before the War of Troy.
The Fable of Jupiter's taking the Figure of a Bull in order to carry off Europa, is a very celebrated Event in History, as we shall see by what follows. To understand it well, it is necessary to know that there have been several Jupiters; but the Confusion that reigned in ancient History has thrown an almost impenetrable Darkness over all their Adventures. Vossius (1) has, nevertheless, succeeded pretty well in unravelling them. According to that Author, the Adventure of Niobe the Daughter of Phoroneus regards Jupiter Apis King of Argos, who reigned 1770. Years before JESUS CHRIST: And That of Danae is to be attributed to Jupiter Pretus, who lived about 1350. Years before the Christian Aera. He that took away Ganimede was Jupiter Tantalus, who reigned much about the same Time: And that Jupiter who was the Father of Hercules, was also the same who deceived Leda under the Figure of a Swan. But the Subject of the present Fable was Jupiter Asterius, whose Reign happen'd about 1400. Years before JESUS CHRIST; and more than 200. Years before the War of Troy. That Prince, if we believe Diodorus Siculus, was the Son of Teutamus who having married the Daughter of Creteus, went with some Pelasgians to settle in the Island of Crete, of which he was the First King. This Principle being thus admitted, it is easy to strip the Fable in Question, of all the Ornaments bestowed on it by the Poet. Asterius having heard of the Beauty of Europa the Daughter of Agenor King of Tyre, fitted out a Ship to bring her away, either by Force or Surprise. The Custom of carrying away those Persons by Force who could not be obtained by Treaty, was, as Herodotus (2) tells us, very common in those rude ignorant Ages; in which another Custom also prevailed of naming the Ship after the Animal represented on the Head of it. Thus Virgil names Aeneas's Ships the Centaur, the Whale etc. And it is what Ovid means in this Verse (3):
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ III.i Cadmus Looks for Europa ]
The Plate which represents Jupiter crossing the Sea in the Figure of a Bull, and afterwards discovering himself to Europa, is already sufficiently explained, but as there are some particular Passages in the History which agree with that Circumstance of the Fable, it is necessary to take Notice of them here. Solin tells us that Europa arrived in Crete, by the Mouth of the River which runs by Gortys. Gortynam Lethaeus amnis praeterfluit, quo Europam Tauri dorso Gortynii ferunt vectitatam. The Greeks, who were great Admirers of Fables, observing some Plane-Trees on the Banks of that River, which were always green and flourishing, reported that Jupiter consummated his Marriage with Europa under One of those Trees; and, in process of Time, the Inhabitants of Gortys took occasion, from thence, to strike a Medal, now in the King's Closet, representing Europa sitting in a melancholy Posture under a Tree half Plane and half Palm-Tree; with an Eagle at the Foot of it upon which she turns her Back. And, to put it out of dispute that this Event is the Subject of the Medal, the same Princess is seen on the other Side sitting on a Bull, within a Border of Laurel Leaves, and the Legend ΓΟΡΤΙΝΙΩΝ.
Apollodorus has preserved the Genealogy of Europa (1). Libya, according to that Author, had Two Sons by Neptune, Belus and Agenor. The Latter married Thelepassa, by whom he had Cadmus, Phenix, and Cilix; and a Daughter named Europa. Nevertheless, there are, according to the same Author, Historians who assure us that Europa was the Daughter of Phenix, and Grandchild of Agenor. /// The Latter married Thelepassa, by whom he had Cadmus, Phoenix, and Cilix; and a daughter named Europa. Nevertheless, there are, according to the same Author, Historians who assure us, that Europa was the Daughter of Phoenix, and Grandchild of Agenor.
We must not forget to take notice in this Place, that several Authors believed Europe took its Name from that Princess; but the learned Bochart, with much more Reason, is of Opinion, that this Part of the World was called so, from the Whiteness of those who inhabited it. In the mean Time we may suppose, that Europa, having received her Name from the exceeding Fairness of her complexion, some Authors whould therefore give it to this Quarter of the Globe, whose Inhabitants are so white. As to the rest, that Princess must certainly have been extremely Fair, tho' born in a very hot Climate; since the Poets, as the Scholiast of Theocritus tells us, invented, merely upon that Account, the Fable which says that young Angelo, the Daughter of Jupiter and Juno, stole her Mother's Paint to give to Europa, who used it with so much Success, that it made her extremely fair and beautiful.
Agenor having lost his Daughter, commands a diligent search to be made for her in all Places, and orders his Sons to embark immediately, and never return again until they have found their sister. The young Princes, either not being able to learn what was become of her, or, rather, being too weak to recover her by Force out of the Hands of the King of Crete, durst not go back to their Father, but established themselves in different countries; Cadmus fixing himself in Boeotia; Cilix in Cilicia, to which he gave his Name; and Phoenix settling in Africa, as Hygin (1) tells us. If we give Credit to what Conon says in Photius (2), the Hopes Cadmus had to conquer some Country in Europe, and establish a Colony there, was the true Ground of his voyage; the Rape of his Sister, being only a Pretence for his Departure. Whatever was the occasion of it, that Prince having run over a Part of Greece settled at last in Boeotia, where he built the famous city of Thebes, after the Model of that in Aegypt, of which he originally was; or, to speak more properly, he only built a Citadel, called from his Name, Cadmea, and laid the Foundation of the city of Thebes, which was built by his Successors, and enclosed with Walls by Amphion. The 7. Epoch of the Parian Marbles confirms what I have just said; we read there, that Cadmus, the Son of Agenor, having consulted the Oracle, went and settled in Boeotia, where he built the Citadel named Cadmea, at the time that Amphictyon reigned at Athens. Cadmus Agenoris Filius Thebas advenit secundum Oraculum; et Cadmeam condidit . . . . regnante Athenis Amphictyone. for which we may consult the Commentators upon those Marbles.
It is said, that Cadmus, having sent his Companions to draw Water at the Fountain of Mars, they were all devoured by the Dragon that guarded it; that he killed the Dragon, and then sowed his Teeth, which immediately became armed Men; that he threw a Stone amongst them, which put them into such Disorder and confusion, that they quarrell'd together, and all killed one another, except five Persons, who entering into an Alliance with the Hero, assisted him in building the Citadel I have mentioned.
Those who will not give themselves the Trouble of a thorough Enquiry into Matters of this nature, either say after Palaephatus (3) and some other Authors, that this Dragon was a King of the Country, named Draco, the Son of Mars; that his mysterious Teeth were his Subjects, who rallied again after his Defeat, and that Cadmus put them all to the Sword, except Chthonius, Udeus, Hperenor, Pelorus, and Echion, who went over to his Party; or else follow Heraclitus, who tells us, that Cadmus really killed a Serpent, which was very troublesome in Boeotia, a Thing not uncommon in those countries, where any new Colony was to be established. but the famous Bochart (4) and, after him, Monsieur Le Clerc, in his Remarks upon Hesiod, are of Opinion, that the Fable has quite another Foundation: The same Word in the Phenician Language signifies, either the Teeth of a Serpent, or short Javelins pointed with Brass; and the Word which signifies the Number five, signifies likewise an Army, and from hence they think the Fable may have taken its rise: For the Greeks, who followed the Phoenician Annals, in writing the History of their founder, instead of describing Cadmus's soldiers with Helmets on their Heads, with Back and Breast-Plates, and with Darts in their Hands, pointed with Brass, which Equipage was then altogether new in Greece, chose rather to follow the equivocal Expression, as being more to their Humour, and say, that he had five Companions produced from the Teeth of a Serpent; for the learned Author, whom I have cited, further observes, that the same Phenician Phrase, may either signify a Company of Men sprung from the Teeth of a Serpent, or a Company of Men armed with Brazen Darts. This Explication is certainly very ingenious and may be confirmed by a Piece of History which resembles it very much. Psammitichus, says Herodotus (5), being driven to the Marshy Parts of his Kingdom, sent to consult the Oracle of Latona, which answer'd that he should be re-established by Brass Men come from the Sea. Such an Answer appear'd to him, at that time, to be a mere Chimera; but certain Ionian Soldiers being obliged, some Years after, to put into Egypt, and appearing on the Shore with their Weapons and Armor all of Brass, Those who perceived them run immediatly to inform the King, that Men in Armour were plundering the Country. That Prince then fully comprehended the meaning of the Oracle, and making an Alliance with them, recover'd his Throne by the Assistance they gave him. Those Brass Men come from the Sea, and those Men sprung from the Earth were no other than Soldiers that assisted Psammitichus and Cadmus to re-establish their Affairs: and, to strengthen Bochart's Conjecture, Cadmus was either the Inventor of the Cuirass and Javelin, or the first that brought them into Greece. Nevertheless, without refining so far upon the Matter, we may suppose that the Men, sprung out of the Earth from the Dragons Teeth, were People of the Country, whom Cadmus found means to bring over to his Interest; that they first helped him to clear himself of his Enemies, and afterwards to build the Citadel which protected him from any further Insults. Thus when Apollodorus says that Cadmus, to expiate the Murther of the Dragon, was obliged to serve Mars a whole Year, and that the Year at that time contained Eight Years, it is because that Hero, very probably, render'd important Services to his new Allies before he received any from them (6).
It is usual, in reading the Poets, to find Dragons the Guardians of such Things as were most precious; such as the Golden Fleece, the Apples of the Hesperides, the Fountain of Mars, etc. The greatest part of the Mythologists pretend that they were Men of that Name, who had the keeping of those precious Treasures; but this Notion is a new Fable added to the old Ones. It is much more natural to think, that the Dragon being a Creature as dreadfull as quick sighted, his very Name seeming to be derived from that of δράκειν, perspicere, it was no wonder that Things of such inestimable value were always committed to the Care of so terrible and vigilant a Keeper.
The Intervention of the Gods has in all Times furnished Poetry with the Sublime and Marvelous; and I must acknowledge that they have often been managed with too little Discretion, there being very few Events in the Works of the Poets that are not conducted by some Divinity or other. If the Poets had consider'd this Subject with Horace's judgment, (1) nec Deus intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus, they would often have degraded their Gods much less than they have done. Some Mythologists, it must be confessed pretend to prove, by this Mixture of Gods and Men, that the Poets intended to shew us the Providence of those very Gods, who watched over all the Actions of Mankind; but what sort of Providence! A restless, morose, and revengefull Providence. I could produce an infinite number of Examples that would render this Proposition entirely evident; but without wandering from the Fable, which is the Subject of the present Explication, has not Ovid represented Diana revenging herself in the most cruel and barbarous manner imaginable, for the Indiscretion of a young Prince who had accidentally seen her in the Bath? I shall speak further on this Event in the following Explication, but in this I must say something of that Diana who is the Subject of it.
Cicero (2) mentions several Goddesses of that Name. the First was the Daughter of Jupiter and Proserpine; the Second of Jupiter the Third and Latona; and the Third was the Daughter of Upis and Glauce: This Last had her Father's Name very often given her by the Greeks. Strabo (3) speaks of another Diana named Britomartis, who was the Daughter of Eubalus and a mighty Lover of Hunting. The same Author adds, that as she fled from Minos, who was in love with her, she threw herself into the Sea, and was taken in a Fisherman's Nett, from which Accident, according to Vossius, she had the Name of Dictinna; but I rather believe that she took it from the Mountain Dicteus; or, as Solinus pretends, because it signifies a civil, discreet, modest Virgin (4).
It is very likely that these Authors never heard of any Dianas but of Those of Greece; Egypt, nevertheless, had Others much more ancient: And, if we trace the Origine of that Divinity, we shall find that it was the Moon it self that was honour'd under the Symbol of Diana. Thus the Isis of the Egyptians was the First of all the Divinities that represented that Planet. I will not enter any further into this Mythology, which has already been compleatly handled by Voisius (5), and of which all the Images are to be found in Father Montfaucon (6); but I must add, that the Adventure, which is the Subject of this Fable, may be attributed to Diana Britomartis who was so much in love with Hunting; or, rather, that it was her that Ovid had in view in the Episode which he has introduced into the History of Actaeon.
The Family of Cadmus established in Greece proved extremely unfortunate; and, as in writing the History of Princes, the Gods were always brought in for a Share, it was reported that Juno being jealous of Europa, but not able to get that Princess into her Power, she directed all her Malice and Vengeance against her Brother Cadmus and his Children. Ovid furnishes us with several Examples of that Vengeance; but in this place we must confine ourselves to that which concerns Actaeon. That Prince was the Son of Autonoe the Daughter of Cadmus, and of that famous Aristeus, who, for having taught Mankind the Culture of the Olive Tree and several other usefull Arts, deserved a place amongst the Gods. Pausanias (1) says that Actaeon, hunting in the Territory of Megara, found Diana bathing with her Nymphs. The Novelty of the Sight engaged his Curiosity to draw near; but, to punish his Boldness, the Goddess transformed him into a Stag, and his own Hounds devoured him. This Event is perfectly well represented in an Antick in the Closest of the Chevalier Maffei. Diana is there distinguished by the Crescent on her Head; and is seen throwing Water on the unhappy Actaeon, whose Head already appears to be changed into That of a Stag, conformable to the manner in which Ovid begins the Metamorphosis of that Prince. What is particular in this Antick, is Actaeon's being dressed like a Warrior, and not like a Huntsman; but he is represented in the same manner in another Antick in the Closet of Brandenburgh, and it is very probable that in the Heroick Times a hunting Dress did not differ from a warlike One.
As to what regards the Foundation of this Fable, there are Authors who pretend that Actaeon's Dogs, running mad, really set upon and devoured their Master; Others only say that having ruined himself by the Expenses he was at to procure and maintain a great number of Dogs, it was published that he had been devoured by them. Diodorus Siculus (2), after Euripid (3), seems to have come nearest the Truth, when he says that Actaeon had shewn some publick Contempt of Diana, and was going to eat of the Sacrifices that had been offer'd to her. The Punishment inflicted on him by the Goddess for so heinous a Crime, is an Episode common enough amongst the Poets upon such sort of Occasions. Pride and Impiety were the Cause of all the Misfortunes that fell upon the Family of Cadmus; and the Prince himself was not driven out of his Dominions, as I shall shew hereafter, for any thing but opposing those Ceremonies added by the Greeks to the Worship of Bacchus, which, in his Time, was introduced into Greece.
Apollodorus says that Actaeon was brought up and educated by Chiron, and that he dyed on Mount Cithaeron, for having seen Diana bathing herself, tho' Acusilaus pretends that it was for having had too tender an Affection for Semele. That Author also adds that the Dogs that devoured him dyed of Grief. He even left us the Names of those Dogs, but extremely corrupted. Ovid, nevertheless, has made use of those Names from the Greek Authors: One was called Glutton, another Tempest, Barker, Wolf, Blackamore Tyger, etc. of which we may see the signification in the Commentators.
Euripid (1), Orpheus (2), and Ovid after them, relate that Jupiter being in Love with Semele the Daughter of Cadmus, Juno, who was jealous of it, disguised her self in the Likeness of Beroe her Rival's Nurse, to possess her with that Diffidence which soon proved her Destruction; for Jupiter, in Complyance with her fatal Request, visiting her with his Thunder and Lightening about him consumed her to Ashes. Some Gallantry between that Lady and a Prince named Jupiter, having had a Tragical End gave occasion to the Fable; which is all we can say of it in particular. Pausanias, in his Laconicks, only tells us that Cadmus, exasperated against his Daughter, caused her and her Son to be exposed to the Fury of the Sea, and that they were thrown ashore at Oreate an ancient Town of Laconia, where Semele being found dead in a sort of Coffin, was magnificently buried. But whether it was so or not, the Infant, of which she was deliver'd, and which Jupiter took out of her Womb to preserve in his Thigh, was named Bacchus; but her we must distinguish the Grandson of Cadmus from the ancient Bacchus of Egypt; of whom I shall have occasion to speak hereafter.
Semele, after her Death, was ranked amongst the Goddesses by the Name of Thione, according to Apollodorus (3), who says that her Son Bacchus going down to Hell brought her from thence, and carried her up to Heaven; where, according to Nonnus, she conversed with Pallas and Diana, and eat with Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Venus. The Author, whom we know by the Name of Orpheus, gives Semele the Title of Goddess, and Queen of all the World,Πανβασιλείαν. Nevertheless, her Worship does not seem to have been much in Vogue, and we find no Traces of it in Antiquity, if not, perhaps, in a Stone, engraven and published by Begerus (4), where we read an Inscription, of which the Sense is, The Devils tremble at the Name of Semele. As to the rest, I do not understand what Philostratus means, when he says that Semele being burned at the Arrival of Jupiter, her Shade mounted up to Heaven, but that it was very obscure. I have said that Semele was called Thyone, when she was placed amongst the Deities; upon which it is necessary to remark, that when any Person was Deified it was customary to give them a new Name: Thus Ino, become a Goddess of the Sea, was named Leucothoe, Melicerta was called Palemon, Circe had the Name of Marica given her, and Romulus that of Quirinus, etc.
This Representation, made after the Ideas of the Poets and Mythologists, needs no further Explication after what I have just said. For tho' the Ancients agree that Jupiter, having visited Semele with his Thunder in his Hand, consumed her and her Palace to Ashes, yet we do not find any ancient Monument that represents this Event. We only see on a Vase, published by Mr. Spon, Mercury giving the little Bacchus, just born, to a Nymph whom that Author believes to be Leucothoe.
In explaining the Fable of Echo, I do not know whether I had not better have recourse to Natural Philosophy rather than to History. For tho' what Ovid says should be true, that Echo was the Confident of Jupiter, and that she amused Juno while he was with his Mistresses; tho' we should know that the Nymph fell in love with Narcissus, whose Disdain forced her, at last, to retire to the Bottoms of Caves and Rocks, where, entirely dried up and consumed by the ardour of her Passion, there remained nothing more of her than the Voice; all this would still forward us but very little in our Enquiry. Wherefore it is better to say that the Poets, who enliven'd every thing by their Fictions, invented the Fable to explain this Phenomenon after and ingenious manner. For in the Poets, as Monsieur Despreaux very justly observes:
However, if History must still come in for a Share in this Fable, we may say that it had its rise from some Nymph, who having wander'd so far in the Woods that she could not find the way back again, Those who were sent to seek her, hearing nothing but the Echo of their own Words in answer to all their Demands, they reported that the Nymph had been changed into a Voice.
The History of Narcissus, so well written by our Poet, is one of those single Facts from which we gather nothing of importance. Ovid says that he was the Son of the River-God Cephisus and the Nymph Liriope, and Pausanias reports that he was originally a Thespian. This is all we can find of him: For the Consultation with Tiresias concerning the Adventures of Narcissus is but an Episode of the Poet's own Invention. The best way then is to look upon this Fable as a usefull Lesson which opens to us the fatal Effects of Self-love. But where is the Man that is not capable of making those Reflections which so naturally arise from it? Every Body, without my Instructions, may know that he ought not to regard himself with too much Complaisance; that he ought to hide his good Qualities even from himself, and that he should not be the First to admire, much less to proclaim his own Perfections. Perhaps he will even think too that the little Reality we find in those Pleasures which we so eagerly pursue, resembles that vain Phantom with which the foolish young Man, of whom we are now speaking, was so much in love, and which threw him at last into that melancholy and languishing Condition that killed him. I am sensible that the greatest part of those who think advantageously of themselves will not acknowledge their own Pictures in that idle silly Passion which Narcissus had for himself; but admitting the Metaphor to be a little strong, the Lesson it gives us may not, upon that Account, be the less instructive and usefull.
As to what further concerns that Youth, we know no more of him, as I have already observed, than what we learn from Pausanias (1) who says that Narcissus having left his Sister whom he tenderly loved, and who resembled him very much and was his constant Companion in Hunting, thought, in seeing himself one day in a Fountain, that it was the Shade of that dear Sister which he beheld, and thereupon pined away and dyed with Grief. As to the rest of the Story, that Fountain was, according to the same Author, in the Country of the Thespians near a Village named Donacon. Narcissus, according to the Poets, was changed into that Flower which has ever since been called after his Name: But Pausanias looks upon this as an idle Fiction, since Pamphus says that Proserpine, who was carried away long before Narcissus was born, gather'd the Narcissus amongst the other Flowers that grew in the Fields of Enna; and that Flower was always dedicated to her. We may add here, to confirm what Pausanias says, that the Narcissus, according to Sophocles, was a Flower appointed to make Garlands for the Eumenides, whose Worship is, without doubt, ancienter than the Person who is the Subject of the present Fable. In former Times such Persons as sacrificed to those Goddesses wore Crowns made of the Narcissus, because that Flower commonly grows about Graves and Sepulchres. As the Name of Narcissus comes from a Greek Word which signifies to be stupifyed, benumm'd, without feeling etc. it was imagined that this young Man, by the mere Effect of seeing himself in a Fountain, became immovable, lost all manner of Sensation, and wither'd away and dyed: From thence that Languishing, that Leanness and sensible Decay, that Weakness, and all those other Circumstances of the Fable which Ovid has so finely described. Perhaps too the Name of Narcissus was not given him till after his Death. For further Satisfaction, we may read in Dioscorides (2) the Description of the Flower Narcissus which does not a little resemble what we call our Lady's Pink. As Ovid in giving an Account of Tiresias, who had foretold the Adventures of Narcissus, relates a Fable concerning that famous Diviner, I find it necessary to make him a little more particularly known. Tiresias, if we believe Apollodorus, was the Son of Everus and Cariclo. Inclined, from his Youth, to the Study of Augury he succeeded so well in it, that he acquired the Reputation of the greatest Diviner of his Time. People came from all Parts to consult him, and a great deal of Faith was given to his Predictions. He was particularly famous in the Second War of Thebes which was commonly called the War of the Epigones. He advised the Thebans, after the Loss of their City, to retire to a Corner of Boeotia; which they did: But he could not foresee that the Advice he gave would prove fatal to himself. Passing by the Fountain of Tilphousa he had a mind to quench his Thirst at it; and, whether he had been overheated with travelling, or whether the Water had any unwholsom Quality in it, he dyed a few days after. As that Southsayer lived to a great Age, and became blind toward the end of his Days, Two very particular Fables were invented concerning him. One was, that he lost his Sight, either for having seen Minerva bathing herself, as Pherecydes reports, or for having decided the Dispute, mentioned by Ovid, in a manner which displeased Juno so much, that she struck him blind for it. It was added that Jupiter, to recompense him for the Loss of his Eyes, revealed to him the Secrets of Futurity. The Second Fable, which our Poet has taken from Hesiod (3), was, that Tiresias twice changed Sexes, by striking with his Rod two Serpents that were coupled together. These Two Fictions have, without doubt, no other Foundation, than a Treatise which Tiresias had perhaps composed upon the Prerogatives of the Two Sexes; or rather because that Southsayer, who valued himself very much upon being an able Astrologer, not only taught that the Stars had Souls, an Opinion common enough in those Days, but also that they were of different Sexes. We perfectly know the Time in which Tiresias lived, since he was at Thebes during the War of the Epigones, which happen'd about 1200. Years before the Chistian Aera, and 10 or 15 Years before the War of Troy.
Ovid, in this Fable, has strangely disfigured the History of Bacchus. It was a very common Custom amongst the Greek Authors, whom he followed, to boast that the Gods were originally of their Country; but they have contradicted themselves so grossely, that it requires but very little Attention to perceive their Absurdities. If Bacchus was the Son of Semele and born at Thebes in Boeotia, by what Adventure was he Nursed and brought up on Mount Nisa in Arabia? If Cadmus was his Grandfather, how could he see his Worship established in his Life-time? Why did he oppose it, and rather choose to lose his Dominions, than suffer Honours to be paid to his Grandson, which flattered him so much, and raised his Reputation so high? But Cadmus himself brought the Mysteries of that God along with him into Greece, and this was the Thing that deceived the Greek Poets, and Ovid in following them. That Prince seeing that the People had added several infamous Ceremonies to those Mysteries, which were entirely unknown in the Countries where they had their Origine, he did all that lay in his power to abolish them; but was, at last, obliged to give way to the Opposition he met with, and to retire into Illyria.
Let us then say something more to the Purpose concerning that God and his Mysteries. Cicero (1) reckons Two Bacchuses. The First was the Son of Jupiter and Proserpine: The Second was the Son of the Nile, and the same who was supposed to be the Founder of the City of Nisa: Caprius was the Father of the Third; this Bacchus was said to be King of Asia; and that it was in honour of him that the Feast called Sabazia, was instituted: the Fourth was the Son of Jupiter and the Moon, to whom, it was believed, those Holy Ceremonies were offer'd which were called Orphick: The Fifth was the son of Nisus and Thione, and was the Institutor of the Trieterides. Diodorus Siculus (2) knew but Three Bacchuses; The Indian surnamed the bearded, who conquer'd India: The Second , the Son of Jupiter and Ceres, who was represented with Horns: The Third, the Son of Jupiter and Semele, who was named the Theban. But the most reasonable Opinion upon this subject is that of Herodotus (3), Diodorus (4) and Plutarch (5), which teaches us that the true Bacchus, and the ancientest of them all, was born in Egypt, and named Osiris. The Worship of that Divinity, established first amongst the Egyptians, passed afterwards into Greece, where it received great Alterations. If we believe Diodorus, it was Orpheus who introduced it into that Country, and added several Ceremonies to it according to his own Fancy. He even endeavour'd to disguise it in such a Manner as that it should not be known, with a Design to honour the Cadmean Family, by whom he had been received with great Civility and Generosity. Thus he dedicated to the Grandson of Cadmus, those Mysteries which had been instituted in Honour of Osiris, who at that time was very little known in Greece.
This is not the Place to speak of that ancient Divinity of Egypt; nor to enquire who Osiris was. I know that several learned Men in the Two last Ages have had very particular Opinions upon this Subject. Vossius (6) very amply proves that the ancient Bacchus or Osiris is the same with Moses, and, upon this Occasion, he draws a very ingenious Parallel to which Father Tomasin and Mr. Huet (7) have added several Arguments which render it very probable. The learned Bochart (8) pretends that the First of all the Bacchuses was originally an Assyrian, and what he says upon this Subject deserves to be consulted. For my part, I am persuaded that the History of Osiris, loaded with the Adventures and Conquests of Moses, is the true Foundation of that of Bacchus; and that the Ceremonies of that ancient Divinity of the Egyptians were carried into Greece long before the Grecians had heard any thing of their Hero; but that Semele having had a Son, who was called, or at least surnamed Bacchus, and who made some Conquests and performed some Actions resembling Those of the ancient Bacchus, they were, in Process of Time, confounded together, and, to honour the Family of Cadmus, his Grandson was placed in the Number of Demy-Gods; and had that Worship paid him by the Greeks which had long before been established amongst them in honour of the ancient Bacchus: They also filled his History with the Adventures of Osiris and all the other Bacchuses. In short, Those who are acquainted with the Genius of the Greeks, know very well that they adorned their Heros with the Spoils of those of the Eastern Nations, of whom they had received any knowledge by the Colonies which came from thence to settle amongst them: They even added to the History of that God several Fables of their own Invention. Diodorus says that as Semele was deliver'd of Bacchus in the Seventh Month, it was reported that Jupiter shut him up in his Thigh, to carry him there the rest of the usual Time. But, not to displease Diodorus, it was an equivocal Word that gave rise to the Fable. The same Greek Word Μηρός signifies equally a Thigh or the hollow of a Mountain: Thus, the Greeks, instead of saying that Bacchus had been nursed on Mount Nisa, as the Egyptians relate, published that he had been carryed in Jupiter's Thigh. The learned Bochart even pretends to have found out the Origine of the Fable, in that Expression, so common in the Holy Scripture, where, to shew us that one Person is born of another, the inspired Writers make use of that Phrase, natus ex femore.
I would willingly treat a Matter more at large upon which there are so many Things to be said; but in doing so I should be obliged to enter into Discussions, not to be expected in a Work which ought to be suited to the Capacity of every Reader. Those who would knew more of it may consult the Authors whom I have mentioned, and see in the First Volume of Antiquity Explained by Father Montfaucon, all the Figures which represent that Divinity, and, by that means, discover several remarkable Circumstances relating to his History and Worship. As the Figure which stands at the head of this Fable, is only drawn after the Description of Ovid, they will find in the Collection of that learned Benedictine, antick Triumphs, where that God is represented in a Chariot drawn by Two Tygers or Two Panthers. There is even One of them in which Two Centaurs conduct the Chariot of Bacchus; and several others of which it is needless to speak.
As Bacchus won the Love of the People amongst whom he travelled; as he applyed himself to cultivate the Vine, and taught his Subjects several profitable and necessary Arts, he was honoured as a great Divinity; and his Worship spread far and near. Several Feasts were instituted in honour of him, of which we may see the Ceremonies in Meursius, Fasoldus, Castellanus, and other Authors who have written on that Subject. The greatest of all those Feasts, and that which gave occasion to the Tragical History of Pentheus, of which I am going to explain the Fable, was celebrated every Three Years, and named Trieterica. In that tumultuous Feast, the Bacchants had the Figure of that God, with the obscene Representation of Phallus placed in a Chariot drawn by Two Tygers or Two Panthers. Those Women, crown'd with Vines and holding Thyrsuses in their Hands, run in a frantick manner about the Chariot, as we may see in several antick Figures and Pieces of Basso Relievo, in which the Mysteries of Bacchus are represented. Those Bacchants filled the Air with the Noise of several Drums and other Instruments of Brass, crying Euohe Bacche! And calling that God, Bromius, Lyaeus, Euan, Leneus Sabazius etc. The Greeks having received that Feast, so well known in the Indies and Egypt, added to it several particular Ceremonies, and, amongst them, some very infamous Ones which always shocked such Persons as had any remains of Modesty or Shame. Those Feasts were very often suppressed by publick Authority; but Licentiousness and Lewdness always found means to re-establish them. Ladies of the greatest Distinction, Princesses, and even Queens themselves were initiated in those Mysteries, from which Chastity and Modesty were entirely banished. We cannot read the first Apologists for Christianity, without approving the manner in which they have reproached the Pagans upon this Subject, who, in spite of all the Allegories invented by the Platonick Philosophers to lessen the Horrour of those Practices, were at last obliged to confess that Licentiousness had introduced several Things which ought to be retrenched. For Those Mysteries, which were the same with the Mysteries of Isis, brought by the Colonies into Greece, as all the Learned agree, were not so lewd in the beginning as they afterwards grew to be in the Process of Time.
We see that in such barbarous Times, those Feasts furnished Pretences and Opportunities for the Commission of the most horrid Actions. The Ladies of Thrace, resolving to be revenged on Orpheus for his Contempt of them, chose the Day for celebrating those Mysteries, to go up to Mount Cithaeron, where they most cruelly tore him in Pieces. Progne, designing also to deliver her Sister our of the Hands of Tereus, went with other Bacchants to break open the Gates of the Prison, and brought her to the Palace, where they murder'd the young Itys, and made the King his Father eat him. And in the Fable, which is the Subject of this Explication, we see the Bacchants of Thebes climbing up Mount Cithaeron to tear in Pieces the unfortunate Pentheus.
The History, as Ovid relates it, is exactly true, and all the Ancients agree in it. That young Prince, the Son of Echion and Agave, the Daughter of Cadmus, having succeeded his Grandfather in his Kingdom, would, like him, oppose those Abuses that had crept into the Mysteries of Bacchus; and went himself up to Mount Cithaeron to chastise the Bacchants who there kept the Revels of that God. Those foolish distracted Women, amongst whom were his Mother and Aunts, tore him in Pieces (9). Pausanias (10), nevertheless, says that Pentheus was a very impious Prince; but every Person was look'd upon as such who endeavour'd to make any Alteration in the Mysteries of Religion. The same Author also relates (11) that Pentheus, having got up into a Tree to observe the secret Ceremonies of the Orgies, was discover'd by the Bacchants, who punished his Curiosity, in the cruel Manner which I have already taken Notice of. He further adds that the Oracle commanded the Corinthians to go and find out a Tree, and give it Divine Honours. In his Time there was still remaining at Athens a Representation of that Prince torn in Pieces by the Bacchants. (12).
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I, II, III, AND IV FABLES. [ IV.i-iv Pyramus and Thisbe ]
By the Manner in which Ovid speaks in the Third and Fourth Book, we may plainly see that the establishing the Worship of Bacchus in Greece met with great Opposition, and that the Ministers of his Feasts and Ceremonies published several Wonders, to gain them the greater Credit, and to pass them the more easily upon the People. These are the pretended Prodigies and Miracles which I am now to explain.
I.Certain Tuscans finding Bacchus drunk one day, carried him on board their Ship with a Design to sell him for a Slave; but the God growing Sober; and finding that they did not steer toward Naxos, where they had promised to land him, he transformed them into Dolphins. This Fable, if we believe what Bochart says of it, has no other Foundation than some Adventures which happen'd to certain Tyrsenian Merchants, whose Vessell had the Figure of a Dolphin at the Prow, or rather of a Fish called Tursio, the Porpoise or Sea-Hog. Those Merchants were shipwreckt near the Island of Naxos, which was sacred to Bacchus, whose Mysteries, they had, very likely, despised; and that was enough to cause a Report that it was the God himself who had destroyed them to punish their Impiety.
II.The Mineides affecting to work during the time of celebrating the Feast of Bacchus were changed into Batts. Which is as much as to say, without doubt, that those Virgins, for whom a very strict Search was made, withdrawing privately from Thebes, it was reported that they were so Metamorphosed. Whatever Truth may be in the Account, the pretended Punishments of Pentheus, the Mariners, the Mineides, and Licurgus gained Bacchus the Reputation of a very terrible and revengefull God; and his Priests knew very well how to make those Stories contribute to increase the Credit of their Religion, and render his Worship the more respected.
III. Ovid, who found the Secret to join together, with so much Art, Fictions which had no manner of Connexion amongst themselves, has made the Mineides relate several Histories which want an Explication. Here then is the Foundation of That of Dercetis who was changed into a Fish. Dercetis, if we believe Diodorus (1), Pliny, Herodotus, Athenagoras; and amongst the Moderns, Vossius and Selden, having offended Venus, that Goddess made her fall in love with a young Man by whom she had a Daughter. In dispair at a Misfortune which dishonoured her, she first killed her Lover, then exposed her Child, and at last threw herself into a Pond. The Syrians built a Temple near the Place where she was drowned, and honoured her as a Goddess: They reported that she was changed into a Fish, and represented her under the Figure of a Woman to the Waste, and of a Fish from the Girdle downwards: They also afterwards abstained from eating the Fish of that Pond, and even of any other: They offer'd Sacrifices of Fish to her, and there were several gilded Ones in the Temple of that Goddess. There are some Authors who believe that Dercetis was a very cruel Princess who had forbidden the Syrians the eating of Fish: But if that was true, would they have adored her after her Death? It is much more reasonable to say that, by her good Actions, and the Favours she bestowed, she gained the Esteem and Love of her People. If we believe Selden, who has written an excellent Treatise upon the Syrian Gods, the Fable of the Dercetis or Atergatis, comes from That of Dagon, the God of the Philistins, who was represented by the Figure of a Fish; and the Name of Atergatis is composed of Adir Dagon, a great Fish; which might very well have given occasion to the Metamorphosis. The same Author believes that the Fable of Dircetis is the very same with That of Venus, Astartis, Minerva, Juno, Isis, and the Moon, and that she is the Mylitta of the Assyrians, and the Alilac of the Arabians
There is a Figure, in the Closet of Monsieur de la Chausse, which the Antiquaries take for Dercetis; it represents a Goddess, holding in one hand a Cupid bending his Bow, while she looks on another Cupid who hold a Torch lifted up in the Air: But the Flower Lotus on her Head, shews her to be One of the Egyptian Divinities. I must not forget to take notice in this place of what Lucian (2) tells us concerning Dercetis. "Some People," says he, "think that the Temple in the holy City, is the Work of Semiramis, who dedicated it, not to Juno, as generally believed, but to her Mother Dercetis. I have seen in Phoenicia," adds he, "an Image of that Goddess which is very extraordinary, it is a Woman to the Girdle, and from thence downwards a Fish, but That which is in the holy City (3) has the complete form of a Woman."
By what has been just said, it appears that the young Princess, exposed by Dercetis, was the famous Semiramis, her own Daughter. Diodorus (4) relates that she was found by some Shepherds and carried to Simma, the Wife of an Over-seer of the King's Flocks, who took great care of her Education and gave her the Name of Semiramis, which, in the Syriac, signifies a Dove. From thence, very likely came the Fable which says that she was nourished by Doves, and, at last, metamorphosed into a Dove. That Bird was always held in great Veneration amongst the Assyrians. The Interpreters of the Holy Scripture say that this Passage of the Prophet Jeremiah, facta est terra eorum in desolationem a facie Columbae, alludes to the History of that Princess, and the Doves which represented her; as also does that other Verse where it is said fugite a facie gladii Columbae. I will not enlarge any further upon the History of that famous Queen, concerning whom the Ancients seem so divided in their Opinions, and contradict one another in such a Manner, that we cannot fix any certainty upon what they tell us. Those who are desirous to see this History thoroughly examined to the Bottom, may read, in the Third Tome of the Memoirs of the Academie des belles Lettres, the Abbot Sevin's Inquires into the History of Syria. In this Explication it is enough for me to say that what perhaps gave rise to the Story of her Metamorphosis, was the Stratagem of her Son Ninias, who resolving to destroy his Mother, but without exasperating he Subjects, reported that she had flown away in the Shape of a Dove.
IV. The mournfull Catastrophe of Pyramus and Thisbe which I am now going to explain, is One of those Tragical Events which the Passions but too frequently cause in the World. It is generally believed that those Two Lovers, whose Parents had no good Understanding together, made an Appointment to meet under a Mulberry Tree that grew without the Town. Thisbe arrived before her Lover at the Place appointed, but at the sight of a Lioness was obliged to run a Cave to hide her self, and, in the Fright she was in, unfortunately dropt her Scarf, which the Lioness, just come from devouring a Prey, took in her Mouth and besmear'd with Blood: Pryamus arriving immediately after the Lioness was gone, met with his Mistress's bloody Scarf, and, by that fatal Sign, believing that she had been devoured by some wild Beast, he, through excess of Grief killed himself with his own Sword: Thisbe returned from the Cave as Pyramus was expiring, and, seeing her Scarf, concluded that her Lover had killed himself because he thought her dead; upon which she plunged the same Sword into her own Heart. As to the rest, I do not find this Tragical Event any where but in Ovid and Hygin (5), and those Two Authors agree that it happen'd near Babylon. It would be altogether useless to know more about it. We see that it is a Lesson to Children not to enter rashly into any Engagements, especially when the Interests or Quarrels of Families may interpose insurmountable Obstacles. It is also an excellent Admonition to Parents not to pursue too positively the Gratification of their own Resentments or the Advancement of their Interests, but rather sometimes to consult the Inclinations of their Children, which seldom or never become criminal but when they themselves, by their own Obstinacy, make them so. Our Poet, by his too bold and lively Descriptions, and the lewd and disorderly Images he draws, very unhappily corrupts the Moral which might otherwise, be found in his Fables. He seldom endeavors to shew the Heart to Advantage, but, almost every where, exposes it on its weak Side; and his Metamorphoses may be justly look'd upon as Triumph of all the Passions. I hope I shall be pardoned for a Reflexion, which will be found but too just by the rest of the Fables I am to explain.
What desire soever may have prevailed in the last Age to justify the Theology of the Poets, it will be difficult not to allow that it often presents us with Ideas very dangerous to Morality. When it lays nothing before us but the Frailties of men we may draw usefull Lessons from it; but when the Poets write with so much Care, and at the same time with such loose Reflections, the Crimes of the Gods, what can we conclude from them, but that we are permitted to follow our own Inclinations, since even the Gods themselves run headlong after theirs? I know that the Philosophers have turned into Allegory the Adultery of Mars and Venus, which is the Subject of the present Fable. They say with Plutarch (1), that such Persons as are born under the Conjunction of the Planets called Mars and Venus are very amourously inclined; but that if the Sun does not happen to be then at a Distance their Intrigues will be very soon discovered. But are Those who read this Fable in Homer's Odysses (2) and Ovid's Metamorphoses, immediately struck with such Astronomical Notions? Or, rather, do they not conclude that, since the Gods suffer'd themselves to be led away by such soft Inclinations, Man is also permitted to deliver himself up to them without any manner of scruple? Let the Champions for that Theology say as much as they please to defend it, and tell us that Homer puts this Fable in the Mouth of a Pheacian, that is of a Man altogether corrupted with Luxury and Pleasure; the Example is not still the less dangerous. What Spectacle could be more lewd and shocking, than to see Mars and Venus intangled in Vulcan's Net, and all the other Gods, not only laughing at the Adventure, but even wishing to be themselves dishonour'd at the same Rate.
What we still find more dangerous in these sorts of Examples, is, that they teach us to preserve a Resentment of Injuries. It is said that Venus was so enraged at the Sun for having discovered her Intrigue, that she revenged herself upon him and all his Posterity. From thence we have the fatal Catastrophe of Leucothoe; and from thence have also proceeded all the Crimes and Misfortunes of Circe, Pasiphae, Medea, and al the other Princesses who attributed their Origine to the Sun. Moreover, the lascivious Ideas which were produced from this Fable, passed from the Books that made mention of it, to the Monuments that represented it, and Antiquity has preserved Two of them which we find in Belloris (3); and tho' they contain nothing that is very immodest in the bare Representation, we see the Goddesses themselves Witnesses of so dangerous a Spectacle, tho' Homer says that Modesty restrained them from being present.
Finally, as this Fable might have had some Foundation in History, it is necessary to take Notice here of what Palefatus (4) says concerning it. Sol, the Son of Vulcan King of Egypt, resolving to make his Father's Law against adultery to be strictly observed, and having been informed that a Lipt:newwindow1('baniernotes.html#04-b','window88')">3); and tho' they contain nothing that is very immodest in the bare Representation, we see the Goddesses themselves Witnesses of so dangerous a Spectacle, tho' Homer says that Modesty restrained them from being present.
Finally, as this Fable might have had some Foundation in History, it is necessary to take Notice here of what Palefatus (4) says concerning it. Sol, the Son of Vulcan King of Egypt, resolving to make his Father's Law against adultery to be strictly observed, and having been informed that a Lady of the Court had an Intrigue with One of his Courtiers, he enter'd his Apartment in the Night, where surprising him in the Fact he order'd him to be severely punished. It was, continues the Author, the Equivocation in the Name Sol that gave beginning to the Fable, which Homer related afterwards in a Manner to make it not easy to be known. Libanius deploring the ruin and burning of the Temple of Apollo that stood in the Suburbs of Antioch, complains of Vulcan the God of Fire's ingratitude to Apollo, who had formerly given him an Advice. The Rhetorician stops there without explaining himself any further concerning that Advice; but St. Chrysostome (5), to expose all the Ridiculousness of that Complaint, says that the Advice which Apollo had given to Vulcan, regarded the Discovery of his Wife's Adultery with Mars. Let us remark here, but the way, that if Libanius attributes to Apollo, what Homer, Ovid and the Marbles attribute to the Sun, he follows, in that respect, the Opinion which often confounds those Two Divinities together, tho' we many times find them distinguished from one another, especially in the Ceremonies of their Worship.
The Fable of Leucothoe buried alive by her Father Orchamus, and her Rival Clytie metamorphosed into a Sun-Flower, has nothing Historical in it; at least I have not met with any Thing satisfactory upon that Subject. I have already laid it down as a Principle, and, I believe, have sufficiently proved it (1), that Fables are generally grounded upon History, but, nevertheless, I have not denyed that they sometimes contain Morality and Natural-Philosophy. Thus all that can be said of the present Fable is, that Leucothoe was called the Daughter of Orchamus King of Persia for no other Reason but because that Prince was the first who planted the Franckincense-Tree in his Kingdom; which Tree was named Leucothoe: That it was also added that this pretended Princess fell in love with Apollo, because the Franckincense is an Aromatick Drug, and very much used in Physick, of which that God was the Inventor: And that the Jealousy of Clytie was likewise joined to it because the Sun-Flower is a Plant, which, according to the Naturalists, kills the Franckincense-Tree. Nevertheless, I must say that Pliny, who ascribes several Properties to the Sun-Flower, makes no mention of this Quality in it. I am sorry that I have nothing more particular to say upon this Subject, for it seems very surprising to me that we should be told that Orchamus order'd his Daughter to be buried alive, to punish her for yielding to the Addresses of the Sun who was her Lover, and that her Rival Clytie was changed into a Sun-Flower for having discover'd the Intrigue, and all this only to inform us that Orchamus planted the Franckincense-Tree. But we had better be satisfied with this Explication, as it is, than venture upon Conjectures which, perhaps, would carry very little Probability in them. I have found nothing in Antiquity concerning that Orchamus of whom our Poet speaks here, who says he was the Seventh in Descent from Belus, and reigned over the Achaemenian Persians.
VII. It sometimes happens that Ovid, to make a sort of Connexion in his Metamorphoses, relates several Things, as little known as they are far from being curious; and of this Kind are Those with which the Mineides divert themselves. It would be altogether useless to dwell long upon this Subject; for what can we say more of the Fable of a Shepherd turned into a Stone for despising a Nymph, than that it was to shew us his Insensibility; or else that his Wife gave him a Philter that render'd him Stupid, as some Mythologists pretend without giving us any one Reason for that Conjecture.
VIII. It was published, in like manner, that Scython changed Sexes, because Thrace, which took the Name of a famous Sorceress named Thracia, was before that Time called Scython; thus, as it lost one Name of the Masculin Gender for another of the Feminine, some False-Wit or other said that Scython had changed Sexes.
IX. For what relates to the Metamorphosis of Celmis, Pliny says he was a young Man very moderate and very wise, upon whom the Passions made no manner of Impression, and, upon that Account, was said to be changed into a Diamond: Nevertheless there are Authors who pretend that Celmis was Foster-Father to Jupiter, and, for revealing that he was Mortal, was shut up in an impenetrable Tower, and for that reason was called the Diamond. Others pretend that he was faithful to Jupiter, and that the God, to recompense him, loaded him with Favours and Riches.
X. To explain the Fable of Crocus and Smilax, it is said that this Married Couple were changed into Flowers, for having led a chast and innocent Life.
XI. As our Poet, in the Fable of Celmis speaks of the Curetes who brought up Jupiter, it is necessary to enlarge a little concerning them. If we believe Dionysius Halicarnassus (1), the Curetes were the ancient Inhabitants of the Island of Crete: According to P. Dom Pezron (2) they were the Priests and Astrologers of the Titan Princes, who were very much given to speculative Sciences, particularly Astrology, as appears by the History of Prometheus and Atlas, Two great Astrologers of those Days. They frequently consulted the Augures, and, upon that Account, had recourse to the Curetes. In a Word, those Curetes were to the Titans what the Druids were to the Gaules, the Magi amongst the Persians, and the Saheres amongst the Sabines. They were also frequently employed in educating the Children of the Princes, in which they succeeded very well; teaching them Physick, Astrology, Religion, and War, to which they always went in Person, and, to distinguish themselves from the rest of the Army, had a particular sort of Arms, with which they made a certain Musical Noise, striking their Lances very dexterously against their Bucklers (3), dancing and skipping about with a great many Contorsions to animate and encourage themselves to fight, and to excite others to do so likewise; from whence they had the Name of Curetes and Corybantes: It was with the Noise of that Symphony that they brought up and educated the young Jupiter to keep him from being known. That Dance, of which they were the Inventors, was called Dactyl; and it was, perhaps, upon that account, that they themselves were named Dactyls; tho' several ancient Authors pretend that, Dactyl being as much as to say Finger, they took that Name to themselves, because, like the Fingers of the Hand, they were Ten in Number.
We learn Two Things from Apollodorus (4); One is that the Curetes were killed by Jupiter for having concealed Epaphus; the other, that they discover'd to Minos the Place where his Son Glaucus was. As to the rest, the Fable which says that they were produced from Rain and the Earth, has no Foundation, except, that the Curetes were of the Race of the Titans, and that they descended from Ouranus and Tityus, whose Names are the same with those of Heaven and Earth, as I have observed. They made themselves very famous in Process of Time; they invented several Arts very usefull to Man (5) and contributed very much to polish and refine the Inhabitants of the Island of Crete. Finally, it was those very Idaean Dactyls, if we believe the Ancients concerning them, that invented the Art of melting Iron. The Forests on Mount Ida having been set on Fire, whether by Lightening or any other Accident, a great Quantity of melted Iron was seen to run down from the Mountain, which Accident gave beginning to the erecting of Forges. The Parian Marbles (6) do not forget to take Notice of this Event, and place it in the Reign of Minos the First of that Name, Pandion the First being then King of Athens, that is to say near the Year of the World 2700 and 1300 Years before JESUS-CHRIST; but I take that Art to have been known long before that Time, at least amongst the Scythians and those other People, to whom Prometheus, or rather Magog and Tubal-cain had carried it.
If we are still curious to be more thoroughly instructed in what regards the Curetes, we must read what Strabo reports of them (7); that Author having collected what several of the Ancients, whose Works are now entirely lost, have written upon this Subject. We may also consult the learned Dissertation of Monsieur Astori upon the Cabires, in which that able Antiquary proves that the Corybantes, the Curetes, the Dactyls, and the Telchinians were all the same People.
XII. The Mythologists have published several extravagant Notions to explain the Fable of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, who was called the Son of Mercury and Venus for no other Reason but because his Name was composed of the Names of those Two Divinities. Here is, in a few Words, what may have given rise to the Fable. There was in Caria, near the Town of Halicarnassus, as we read in Vitruvius (8), a Fountain which served to humanize and polish some Barbarians, who being driven out by the Colonie which the People of Argos established in that Town were obliged to come to the Fountain for Water, and that Commerce with the Greeks, not only made them very polite, but even debauched them into the Luxury of that Voluptuous Nation; and it was from this Circumstance that the Fountain had the Reputation of changing Men into Women. We may also suppose that the Water of that Fountain enervated Men's Courage and made Those who drank of it become soft and effeminate, as there are other Waters who make some Men Stupid and render others furious. Lylio Giraldi (9) pretends that the Fable draws its Origine from another Source; He says that the Fountain being inclosed within Walls, several Adventures happen'd there from time to time, which gave it an ill Name; but as that Author does not prove his Conjecture, we had better adhere to the Reflection of Strabo, (10) who says he does not know for what Reason that Fountain had so bad a Character given it, since Effeminacy and Idleness proceed less from Air or Water, than from Riches and Luxury. This Fable is written by Our Poet in a Manner which sets forth the Effects of Sensuality in but too lively and too licentious Colours.
The Poets, to support what they had advanced concerning the Source of those Misfortunes which happen'd in the Family of Cadmus, make Juno act a Part very unworthy of the Mother of the Gods. As Athamas had married Ino the Daughter of Cadmus, the revengeful Juno goes down to Hell to engage the Furies in her Interest, and Tisiphone, thereupon, speeds away to the Palace of Athamas, in which she causes more horrible Disorders.
I will not enlarge, in this place, upon what the Mythologists have said of the Furies. I have already treated this Subject very amply in a Dissertation, which may be found in the Memoires de l'Academie des belles Lettres. It is then sufficient to say here, that Antiquity acknowledged Three Furies, Tisiphone, Megara, and Alecto. That those Three Goddesses, who always stood at the Gate of the Tartarus, were regarded as the Ministers of the Wrath and Vengeance of the Gods, and that they punished the Living as well as the Dead, according to the Orders they received
To return now to what regards Athamas and his Family, it is certain that what Ovid says of them is very Historical, from which we need not take any thing more than the Marvellous. Athamus (1), the Son of Aeolus and Great-Grandson of Deucalion, having, upon the Death of Themisto his first Wife, married Ino, the Daughter of Cadmus, repudiated her a little time afterwards, to marry Nephele by whom he had Phrixus and Helle; but, that Princess having been also repudiated in her turn, he took Ino back again, and had, by her, Learchus and Melicerta. Ino, not being able to suffer the Children of Nephele in her Sight, who, as born first, had the best Right to succeed their Father, took all possible Means to destroy them. As the City of Thebes was at that time grievously afflicted with Famine, which was said to have been caused by Ino, who order'd the Seed to be poisoned before it was sown, as Hygin tells us (2), she order'd Apollo to be consulted; and, having corrupted the Priests into her Interest, the Oracle answered that, to remove that Scourge, the Children of Nephele must be sacrificed to the angry Gods. Phrixus, being advertised by his Governour of the evil Designs of this Step-Mother, order'd a Ship to be privately made ready, and, taking with him his Father's Treasures, embarked with his Sister Helle, and sailed away to Colchis, where he himself found a kind Reception from his Kinsman Eta; but the young Princess growing Sea-Sick, went up to the Deck to ease her Stomach, where she either fell over board and was drowned, or else dyed in her Passage over the Hellespont, to which, we are assured, she left her Name; as I shall shew at large in explaining the Fable of the Golden-Fleece. Athamas, in the mean time, having discover'd the Practices of his Wife, fell into such a Rage that he killed Learchus, whom Ino loved most tenderly, and run every where to look for the Queen herself to sacrifice her to his Revenge. That miserable, or rather wicked Princess, to avoid the Fury of the King her Husband, fled from the Palace, with her Son Melicerta, but being still pursued, she run to the Top of a Rock from which she threw herself into the Sea. To console the rest of that deplorable Family, it was said that the Gods had changed Ino and Melicerta into Sea-Divinities under the Names of Leucothoe and Palaemon. They had Divine Honours paid them, and their Worship was carried into several Countries. Melicerta was highly honoured in the Island of Tenedos, where the Superstition of his Worship was pushed so far as to offer Children to him in Sacrifice. Glaucus even established the Isthmian Games, in Honour of this new Divinity, which were for many Ages celebrated at Corinth, and, being afterwards interrupted for some time, were again revived by Theseus in honour of Neptune. Leucothoe was also worshipped at Rome; she had a Temple there; (3) and the Romans, particularly the Women, went to offer up their Vows to her for their Brothers Children, not daring to supplicate the Goddess for their own, because she had been unfortunate in hers. This is what Ovid (4) means by these Verses:
As the People, when they received any foreign Divinities, used to change their Names, Ino, whom the Greeks called Leucothoe, was name Matuta by the Romans; and Melicerta, whose first Adorers worshipped him under the Name of Palaemon, was known at Rome by That of Portumnus. We do not find any Representation of that God; but Boissart has preserved One of Matuta, at the Foot of which we find these Words Matuta Lug. Ovid adds to the Fable which I have just explained, that Juno fearing that Ino's Attendants might receive the same Favour from Neptune, changed some of them into Rocks, and the Rest into Birds: A Circumstance which informs us that some of those Ladies who attended the Queen, escaped the Pursuit of Athamas, while the others perished with her.
Athamas not enduring to live any longer at Thebes upon account of the fatal Catastrophe of his Family, and having no more Children gave his Crown to Coronus and Haliartes, the Nephews of his Brother Sysiphus, and retired to Thessaly where he built the City of Atus. But Phrixus returning afterwards, or rather his Son Presbon, according to Pausanias, those Two Princes gave up the Crown to him.
After Cadmus had reigned a long time in his Capital with his dear Hermione, a Conspiracy was formed against him. Driven from the Throne, and his Grandson Pentheus having taken the Crown, he was obliged to retire with his Wife into Illyria, where he lived very privately; tho' Apollodorus says (1), that he commanded the Illyrian Army, and that they chose him at last to be their King. Whatever Truth may be in that, it was reported, after his Death, that he had been transformed into a Serpent, as Ovid and Plautus tell us: ... et nostrae autorem gentis, cum Veneris filia angues repsisse Tellus Epirotica vidit (2). What I am going to relate may, very probably, have given rise to that Metamorphosis. The Phaenicians were anciently called Achivians or Hevians, a Name which they still kept after their Establishment in Greece. Now Chiva in Hebrew is as much as to say Serpent, and it was that, without doubt, which gave room to the Greeks, who had nothing better to say of the obscure Life, and the Death of their Hero, to report, by the help of that Word, that Cadmus and Hermione were changed into Serpents. To render the Matter more authentick they set up Two Stone Serpents in Illyria, as Monuments of that supernatural Transformation of their Founder. Thus all those Ideas of Dragons and Serpents, which we find spread through the Poets who speak of that Prince, draw their Origine from thence.
What Aulus Gellius reports of the Illyrians makes me venture upon another Conjecture. According to that Author, the ancient Inhabitants of Illyria had Two Eye-lids to each Eye, and their Looks were so dangerous that they killed Those whom they beheld stedfastly with Anger. That Opinion, tho' false, gave the Greeks, without doubt, occasion to call the Illyrians Serpents and Basilisks; and consequently when Cadmus retreated to them, they might say that he was become an Illyrian, a Dragon, a Serpent; a Metaphorical Expression in the beginning, which was afterwards taken in a literal Sense. Whether that be so or not, all the Ancients agree with Apollodorus (3) and Pausanias (4), that Cadmus was obliged to retire into Illyria, where he assisted the Enchelians who made War against the Illyrians: The Latter were defeated, and, to obtain a Peace from Enchelians, gave their Crown to that Prince. Cadmus reigned long in Illyria, and his Son Illyrus succeeded him. If we believe Christodorus, cited by Pausanias, our Hero built the City of Nygnis, in the Country of the Enchelians.
After his Retreat, Polydorus was declared King of Thebes. That Prince married Nycteis, by whom he had Labdacus who succeeded him. Laius reigned after the Death of Labdacus his Father; but as he was still a Child the Regency was given to Lycus the Brother of Nycteis. Laius was the Father of Oedipus, of whom I shall speak hereafter. It is in this manner that Apollodorus (5) ranks the Succession of the Descendents of Cadmus.
It is necessary to take Notice that our learned Moderns do not believe that Cadmus was the Son of Agenor. Building upon the Authority of Euhemorus, they pretend (6) that he was no more than One of the King of Tyre's Officers, and Hermione a singing Girl whom he had debauched, and that it was only to honour their Founder, that the Greeks said he was the Son of that Prince. Others even pretend that Cadmus is not a proper Name but an Appellative, and that it signifies a Conductor or Leader; because, in reality he left Phaenicia, not in Search of Europa, but to conduct a Colony into Greece. Bochart adds that he was called Cadmus for no other Reason but because he came from the East of Phaenicia, a Country which the Holy Scripture calls Cadmonin, that is to say Oriental, and from the side of Mount Hermon, from whence, very probably , the Name of Hermione was borrowed, who was afterwards said to be the Daughter of Mars. As Cadmus was a very illustrious Prince, as he left a long Posterity, and as the Greeks believed that they had even received the Use of Letters from him, the Poets embellished his History with all the Marvellous and the Luxuriance of Fancy they were Masters of. They reported even, as Apollodorus and Pausanias tell us, that when he married Hermione the Gods left Heaven, to come down and be present at the Celebration of his Marriage.
The Fable of Perseus, who cuts off the Head of Medusa, requires a pretty large Explication, to reconcile it to History. Jupiter, it is said, falling in love with the fair Danae, the Daughter of Acrisius King of Argos, transformed himself into Shower of Gold, to enter the Brazen Tower, in which her Father kept her confined. The Origine of that Fable comes from hence; Acrisius, terrified at the Prediction of an Oracle, which told him that Danae should bring forth a Child that should kill him, order'd that Princess to be shut up in a Tower that had Brazen Gates: Or even, if we believe some Authors, in a sort of Subterraneous Chamber covered with Plates of that Metal, which Pausanias calls thalamum aeneum subterraneum (1). That Author adds that it continued undestroyed till the Reign of Perilaus the Tyrant of Argos, who order'd it to be thrown down. But that Precaution of Acrisius was of no Service to him: Proetus, his Brother, being in love with his Niece, endeavored to corrupt the Fidelity of her Guards: The precious Shower of Gold he distributed amongst them, soon gained them to his Interest; and he was introduced into the Tower. That Commerce was concealed from Acrisius; but Danae being delivered of Perseus, the King caused him and his Mother to be exposed, in a poor crazy Bark, to the Mercy of the Waves, which threw them a-shore near Seriphus, where Polydectes reigned. That Prince gave them a generous Reception, and took care of the Education of young Perseus; but, in Length of Time, falling in love with Danae, and finding it necessary, upon that Account, to send Perseus abroad, he endeavoured to inspire him with a Passion for Glory; and advised him to go and make War against the Gorgons.
As it was in that War that he killed Medusa, it is necessary to make you acquainted with her History. It would be too tedious and tiresom, to undertake to collect all the Fictions which the Poets have invented upon that Subject; wherefore I shall only take Notice of what we meet with in Hesiod, the ancientest of all the Poets who have spoken of it. "Phorcus," says he (2), "had by Ceto, Two Daughters, Pephredo and Enyo, who were born with white Hair; and it was upon that account that the Gods gave them the name of old Women. He had also the Gorgons by her, who lived in the Bottom of the Ocean; at the Extremity of the World, near the Habitation of Night; even in that Place where the Hesperides make the sweet Accents of their Voices echo through the Air. The Names of those Gorgons were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, so famous by her Misfortunes; she was mortal, tho' her Two Sisters were not subject either to Old Age or Death. The God of the Sea was sensible to the Charms of Medusa, and, upon the soft Turf of a Meadow, in the Midst of Flowers which the Spring had newly blown (3) gave her Marks of his Love: She perished afterwards in a very unfortunate manner. Perseus cut off her Head, and out of the Blood that run from it, sprung the Hero Chrysoar, and the Horse Pegasus. Chrysoar took his Name from a Golden Sword he held in his Hand, at the Moment of his Birth. In Process of Time he fell in Love with Callirhoe the Daughter of the Ocean, and had by her, Geryon, that famous Gyant with Three Heads. Pegasus was so called, because he was produced near the Source of the Ocean; he immediately quitted the Earth and flew up to the Habitation of the Immortals. That is the Place where he now abides; even in the Palace of Jupiter, whose Lightening and Thunder he carries."
To explain this Fable, which the Poets who followed Hesiod have adorned with new Fictions, the Historians have advanced several Conjectures which do not appear to be very well founded. Diodorus (4) pretends that the Gorgons were female Warriors who inhabited Libya, near the Lake Tritonida. The Amazons their Neighbors, upon some Dispute that happened, made War against them under the Conduct of their Queen Myrina. The Quarrel was decided by a pitcht Battle, in which the Amazons killed Three Thousand of the Gorgons, and obliged the Rest to fly to the Woods for shelter. The same Author adds that the Gorgons, in Process of Time recovered that great Loss, and re-established their Affairs; and that their Government continued to the Time in which their Queen Medusa was killed by Perseus. What Pausanias tells us upon this Subject corresponds very much with the foregoing Narration of Diodorus. That Author says (5) that after the Death of Phorbas, his Daughter Medusa reigned over the People that inhabited near the Lake Tritonida. That Princess had a great Passion for Hunting and Fighting; and destroyed and laid Waste all the Lands of the neighboring People. But at last, Perseus, who fled from Peleponesus, and brought along with him a Body of chosen Troops, surprized her one Night; defeated her flying Camp, which always served her as an Escorte; and killed the Queen herself in the Throng. The next Morning he had a mind to see her, and, dead as she was, she Appear'd to him so surprizingly beautifull, that he cut off her Head, and took it with him into Greece, to make a Spectacle of to the People, who could not look upon it, without being struck with Astonishment.
It appears that those Two Authors have regarded the Gorgons as Heroins; several others have, on the contrary, taken them for Monsters. There were, according to them, Wild Women of a very strange Figure, living in Caves and Forests, and, who falling upon Passengers, committed horrible Ravages and Disorders. This was the Opinion which Proclus of Carthage, Alexander of Myndus, Atheneus, Xenophon of Lampsacus, Pliny, and Solinus who copied him, had concerning the Gorgons. We may see the Passages of all those Authors, cited with care in the learned Dissertations of the Abbot Massieu (6).
Palefatus and Fulgentius seem perswaded that the Gorgons were rich Young Ladies who possessed great Wealth, and managed it with as great Industry. Phorcus their Father, left them, when he dyed, Three Islands which they divided amongst them, and a Golden Statue of Minerva which they deposited in the Treasury that belonged to them in common. Those Three Sisters had but only One Minister, a Man of Learning and Fidelity, whom they kept for the management of their Affairs; and who, for that reason, went very often from one Island to another: This is the Thing that gave room to say that they had but One Eye amongst them, and that they lent it to one another alternately. At that Time Perseus, a Fugitive of Argos, roved upon the Sea, and plunder'd the Coasts. He had heard of that Golden Statue, and immediatly formed a Design to make himself Master of it. He suprized the Minister of the Gorgons in his Passage to one of the Islands where the Interest of his Mistresses called him. This also furnished the Poets with an Occasion to say that he took that Eye from them as One of them was lending it to another. They were inconsolable for the loss of a Man that was so usefull to them: But Perseus sent them Word that if they would deliver up the Gorgon to him, he would send them back their Servant; and, in case of refusal, threaten'd, to put him to Death. Medusa never could be brought to listen to that Demand; but Stheno and Euryale, more susceptible of Impressions of Fear than their Sister, consented to it. That was the reason why Perseus killed Medusa and sent the Minister back, to the other Two Sisters. That Hero broke the Gorgon, that is to say the Statue of Minerva, in pieces, and fastened the Head of it on the Prow of his Ship, which he, from that moment, called the Gorgon. As the sight of that Prize, and the Fame of the Expeditions which Perseus had made, spread Terrour every where, and kept Men in a sort of inaction before him, it was immediatly fabled that, with Medusa's Head; he turned his Enemies into Stones and Rocks. Perseus himself encouraged that Report, which did not a little contribute to the Rapidity of his Conquests. Landing at last in the Island of Seriphus, Polydectes, who was King of it, fled with all his Subjects; and Perseus finding nothing in their City but the Stones of it, caused a Report to be spread about that he had petrified all the Inhabitants; and threatened all those with the same Fate who should be hardy enough to resist him.
In short, there are Historians who pretend that the Gorgons were beautifull young Women, who made such surprizing Impressions upon every one that saw them, that it was said they changed them into Statues. This is the Opinion of Ammonius Serenus, which Servius has preserved in his Notes upon the Sixth Book of the Aeneids.
Modern Authors, are not less divided in their Opinions concerning this Fable than the Ancients were. Vossius (7) thinks that it had its rise from the Relation of the famous Hanno in the Islands of the Orcades; and Monsieur le Clerc says (8) that it was intended by that Conquest of Perseus , to preserve the Memory of a Voyage the Phenicians formerly made to Africa. from whence they brought a great Number of Horses. He is perswaded that the Name of Perseus, which was given to the Chief of that Expedition, comes from the Phenician Word Pharscha, which is as much as to say Cavalier of Horseman, and agrees with the Horse Pegasus upon which the Poets mounted him; Pag-sous in the same Language signifying a bridled Horse, as Bochart, from whom he has borrowed the Conjecture, had advanced (9); and he concludes that the Gorgons were the Mares of that Country which the Phenicians brought away with them: This he confirms, even by the Words of Hanno, who says that the Women of that part of Africa, where he had then been travelling, were all hairy, and that they became fruitfull without any Commerce with their Husbands: Which, according to the vulgar Belief, agrees with those Mares mentioned by Virgil in his Georgicks, who says that they conceived by turning themselves to the West-Wind. Hanno adds that he took Two of those Monsters, and having killed them, order'd their Skins to be brought away with him to hang them up as Rarities, in the Temple of Juno, where they remained a long time. We may support the Conjecture that Monsieur le Clerc has drawn from the Relation of Hanno, by the following Circumstance; those Islands, which the Gorgons inhabited, had the Name Gorgades given them, to make an Allusion, to the Swiftness and Lightness of those Monsters.
I am astonished that this learned Man has not supported his Sentiment with a Passage in Alexander of Myndus, cited by Atheneus (10), where it is said that Libya bred an Animal which the Nomades called Gorgon; it resembled a Sheep and had so poisonous a Breath that it killed upon the Spot all those that approached it. A long Tuft of hair fell over her Eyes, and it was so heavy that she could hardly remove it to see the Objects about her. But when she had once freed herself from it, she immediately struck dead whatever she saw. The same Author Adds that some of Marius's Soldiers had a fatal Experience of it, in the Time of the War which that General carryed on against Jugurtha: For meeting with one of those Gorgons, and going to kill her, she prevented them, and destroyed them all with her Looks. At last some Nomade Horsemen, having surrounded her at a good distance, killed her with their Arrows.
After so many and so different Opinions, we may conclude that this Fable, tho' equally famous in the Poets and Historians, is as impenetrable as the Windings of the Labyrinth; and that we ought to have Ariadne's Clue to lead us happily out of it. What can we say with any certainty of the Gorgons, since even what the Ancients themselves have taught us concerning them is so full of Contradictions. However, I shall endeavour to explain the most considerable Circumstances of the Fable. To begin with the Horse Pegasus, produced from the Blood of Medusa, as well as Chrisoar, we may very well say that they were Two good Ships with Sails which were in the Port of the Island where Medusa resided; of which Perseus made Use, after he had taken away the Life of that Princess. Each of those Two Ships carried, perhaps, the Figure of a winged Horse on her Prow; and from hence the Fable had its Origine. When it is said that the Gods armed that young Hero; that Mercury gave him his Wings, and a Sword bent like a Reap-Hook; that Minerva lent him her Shield, and Pluto his Helmet (11), it is intended to shew us the Difficulty of the Enterprize, and the Precautions which that Hero took to execute it. The Wings of Mercury shew the Rapidity with which it was performed; the Shield of Minerva the sure Measures he took; and the Helmet of Pluto the profound Secrecy he kept in that Expedition. When the Poets advanced that the Coral was produced in Africa from the Blood of Medusa, it was because that , by the Defeat of the Gorgons, Navigation was become more easy, and, consequently, the Fishing for Coral more common. The Monsters and the Serpents sprung from the same Blood shew us also after a dark mysterious Manner, that our Hero being One of the first that made a Voyage to Africa, found there a great Quantity of Serpents and Monsters with which that part of the World was formerly filled. For what relates to the Aegis of Minerva in which, according to the Poets, that Goddess always carried the Head of Medusa with her Serpents, it is a Fiction, which in my Opinion, is but very poorly supported; the Name of Aegis, is, without any manner of doubt, originally Greek, and, as it is formed from that of a Goat, it is very likely that the Shield of the ancient Minerva of Africa, that is to say of her that was said to be born near the Lake Tritonida, was covered with the Skin of that Animal, according to the Custom of those Days. The Head of Medusa is not even always accompanied with its Serpents in the Shields of Minerva which we have left; and sometimes we meet with Medusas very gracious and very beautifull: As may be seen in Begerus. The late Monsieur Foucault had, amongst his Antiquities, a Medusa of a singular Beauty; she appears sitting on Rocks, her left hand supporting her Head, and the Serpents which begin to twist about her fine Hair seem to give her a mortal Anguish. The Medusa of Chevalier Maffei, which is the Work of the Engraver Solon, does not yield to the other in Beauty; but her Hair is entirely changed into Serpents. All these Circumstances, of which Hesiod has not spoken one Word, are taken from the Fable of Ovid, who says that Neptune having with Medusa prophaned the Temple of Minerva, the Goddess was so incensed at it, that she changed the Hair of that Princess, which was her principal Beauty, into Serpents.
If I am asked now, where those Islands are which the Gorgons inhabited, I answer that upon this Article, as well as the Rest, there is a great Diversity of Opinions amongst the Ancients. The Whole well examined, I believe that those Islands were the Gorgades, which are in the Aethiopian Ocean, pretty near the Continent, the Principal of which is called Cerna, as Diodorus and Palefatus say. It is certain that, anciently, the Ocean was very little known before the Navigation of Hanno (12). Even the Traveller, who was the first that entered it, never ventured very far from the Shore; and consequently, the Gorgades, of which he speaks, must have been near enough to the Main-Land. Thus I am strongly inclined to believe that those Islands were the same with the present Islands of Cape Verde, from when Perseus entered Mauritania, which I shall explain in the following Fable.
In short, if it has been further said that the Gorgons had Hair twisted with Serpents. Boar's Teeth, Wings of an extraordinary Size, Claws of Brass, and their Bodies covered all over with Scales; it was to shew us, by those Figurative Expressions, that they went, themselves, to War, armed with Darts and Javelins pointed with Brass; with good Back and Breast-Plates; and that their Ships were good Sailers.
After the Defeat of the Gorgons, Perseus passed through Mauritania, where the famous Atlas reigned. But that Prince, having been warned, by an Oracle, to have a Care of a Son of Jupiter, denyed him the Rights of Hospitality; upon which, Perseus shewed him the Head of Medusa and turned him into Stone: Or, more properly speaking, killed him in the Mountains which have born his Name ever since. He carried away the Golden Apples that grew in the Garden of Hesperides, which were watched by a Dragon that Juno had given them; that is to say, he plundered the Treasures of that Prince of Mauritania: Since it is very probable that those Golden Apples were either the Mines which Atlas had discovered in the Mountains, and secured with a Guard of Armed Men and Dogs; or Sheep, so fine in those Parts that they might well be called Golden Sheep; or else those Oranges and Lemmons, so famous in all the Poets, with which the Gardens of that Country, called Tingitana, at that Time abounded. Perseus killed Atlas in the Bottom of those Mountains, which bear his and his Grand-Father's Name; and which gave rise to the Fable that he was changed into a Mountain. But I shall treat this Matter more amply in the Histories of Hercules, Atlas, and the Hesperides.
After the Voyage of Mauritania, Perseus passing through Aethiopia delivered Andromeda from a Monster that was to have devoured her. Cassiopea her Mother having preferred her to the Nereides for Beauty, the Oracle of Ammon ordered her Daughter to be exposed, on a Rock, to the Fury of a Monster, which Neptune was to send out of the Sea; as we learn from Ovid, Apollodorus, Lucretius, Philostratus, and several other ancient Authors. The Foundation of the Fable comes from hence; Andromeda was contracted to a Prince who was fierce, proud, and brutish, and who, in a Pyratical manner, very much infested the Seas: The Condition of the Contract was that he should let Commerce be free and undisturbed in the Dominions of her Father Cepheus (1). Perseus, being informed of this Circumstance, gave chase to that Rover and killed him: That Action was represented under the Description of a Combat with a Monster. Phineus, the Uncle of Andromeda, not being able to destroy that Pyrate, was obliged to yield up his Pretensions to our Hero; and, as the Dread he stood in of the Valour of Perseus kept him inactive, it was fabled that he was changed into Stone.
As the ancient Fictions are always very obscure, every One is at liberty to interprete them after his own Fancy; thus, we shall not be surprized when we read in other Authors, that Phineus himself was the Monster spoken of in this Fable, or that the Monster it self was the Name of the Ship, on board of which the Pyrate, I have just mentioned, was to have carried away Andromeda. That Ship was, perhaps, called the Whale, as others were named the Centaur, the Chimera etc. and this Conjecture is not without Foundation. Antiquity has preserved this History in a Monument (2), where we see Perseus taking down Andromeda from the Rock, upon which she had been exposed. That Princess appears clothed in a very modest manner, whereas Ovid, who endeavours nothing more than to fill the Imagination with loose obscene Ideas, exposes her quite naked.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ V.i Perseus' Wedding Disrupted ]
Phineus, the Brother of Cepheus the Father of Andromeda, enraged to see his Mistress and Niece taken from him, resolved to disturb the Solemnity of her Marriage with his Rival. To that intent he assembled his Friends together, and entering the Hall where the Marriage Feast was kept, carried Death and Horrour along with them, but Perseus and his Friends brought him to reason; and, to honour the Conqueror, it was reported that the Head of Medusa had turned Phineus and his Companions into Stone: A bold Metaphor, which insinuates to us that the Valour of a Prince, who knew how to conquer the Gorgons, struck such a Terror in his Enemies, that they durst not look him in the Face; but rather endeavour to lay Ambushes to destroy him. Ovid, who seldom undertook any Subject without exhausting it, describes the Combat between Phineus and Perseus with so many particular Circumstances, that One would be apt to think he had been an Eye-Witness of the Action.
Some Circumstances which we find in the Description of that Combat, and several other Proofs, have inclined me to believe that the Scene of it was not in Aethiopia, but rather on the Coast of Asia. Josephus (1) and Strabo (2) pretend absolutely that this Event happen'd near the City of Joppa or Japha: And the first of those Authors says that the Marks of the Chains, with which the beautiful Andromeda was fasten'd, were remaining in his time on the Rock. Pomponius Mela (3) says that Cepheus, the Father of Andromeda, had been King of Joppa, and that the Memory of that Prince, and his Brother Phineus was honoured there in a very religious manner. That Author also adds, that the Inhabitants used to shew the Bones of the Monster that was to have devoured Andromeda: Est Joppa, ante Diluvium (ut ferunt) condita: ubi Cephea regnasse eo signo Accolae affirmant, quod titulum ejus, Fratrisque Phinei, veteres quaedam Arae cum religione plurima retinent. Quinetiam rei celebratae carminibus ac fabulis, servataeque a Perseo Andromedae, clarum vestigium, belluae marinae ossa immania ostentant. Pliny (4) likewise assures us that the Marks of Andromeda's Chains were still seen on a Rock in that Place; to which he adds that Scaurus carried the Bones of the Monster with him from Joppa to Rome; and as he calls that Whale a Goddess, Dea Cetes, Vossius believes that he meant the God Dagon, worshiped amongst the Syrians under the Figure of a Sea Monster. This Idea has given occasion to some Authors to think that the History of the Monster which was to have devoured Andromeda contained in it That of Jonas. However that be, Ovid seems to confirm my Conjectures, when, in describing the Combat of Phineus, he names several Syrian or Assyrian Soldiers; Athys Indus et chlamide Tyria indutus, Assyrius Lycabas, Polydaemon a Prince of the Blood of Semiramis, and, in short, Astreus, whose Mother was from Palestine, Matre Palestina (5). If we had the entire Chronology of Sr. Isaac Newton, an Abridgment of which has been lately printed in Paris (6) at the end of Prideaux's History of the Jews, we should, without doubt, see the Proofs of this Sentiment, since it is said in this Abridgment, that Cepheus obtained the City of Joppa from Ammon King of Libya, and that it was from that City that Perseus carried away Andromeda.
Reputation makes up, without doubt, a great part of the Valour of a Hero, but a Man must be a Poet to say that it turns his Enemies into Stone. This, however, was the Metaphor made use of to describe the Heroism of Perseus. The Terror which every where followed the Noise of his Victory over the Gorgons, threw his Enemies into such a Consternation, that it was published he had petrified them all, by shewing them the Head of Medusa; which, the Marvellous apart, is as much to say that the Fame of this Conquest entirely stifled all the Conspiracies which had been formed against him in his Absence. This appear'd very plainly upon his return to the Island of Seriphus, where Polydectes, who had married Danae, was obliged to hide himself, untill Perseus, finding him at last in his Retreat, put him to Death.
Tho' this Explication is very natural, yet Bochart, after Eustathius, pretends that all those Metamorphoses into Stones and Rocks, which we meet with in this Fable, have quite another Original, and that they took their rise from the Nature and Quality of the Island, where Polydectes reigned, which was called Seriphus because of the abundance of Rocks in it: Upon which Account Tacitus names it Saxum Seriphum.
Perseus, having revenged himself on Polydectes, went with his Wife and his Mother to Agros, where he re-established his Grandfather Acrisus, and killed Praetus who had dethroned him. The War between the Two Brothers had been very bloody; Acrisus had the Advantage of it in the beginning, and obliged Praetus to fly into Lycia; where Jobas received him, and gave him his Daughter Sthenoboea; he also furnished him with Troops with which he seized upon Tyrinthus, which the Cyclops enclosed with Walls: He afterwards made himself Master of Argos, from which Place he was driven again by Perseus. But our Hero having thus restored his Grandfather to his Throne, killed him afterwards by an unfortunate Blow of a Quoit, in the Games that were celebrated for the Funeral of Polydectes. In this manner was fulfilled the Prediction of the Oracle, which had so much disquieted the King of Argos, and put him upon taking such unjust Precautions for his Safety.
Perseus, after so many Voyages, and so many Conquests, reigned peaceably enough the rest of his Days; but not being able to bear the sight of Argos where he had had the Misfortune to kill his Grandfather, he built Mycenae, and transferr'd the Royal Seat to that City, leaving Argos to his Cousin Megapenthus. Whatever Obligation that Prince had to Perseus, he, nevertheless, killed him to revenge the Death of his Father. Abas, the Son of Lynceus, killed Megapenthus, and the Successors of Perseus reigned at Mycenae near 180. Years. Perseus was honoured as a Demi-God after his Death: He, with all his Wife's Family, was placed amongst the Stars, where they formed the Constellations named Cassiopea, Andromeda and Perseus; and there was hardly any thing that concerned him but what had a Place in Heaven; even the Monster it self, which was known there by the Sign called the Whale. Tho' that Hero had render'd himself very illustrious by his great Actions, yet Those who bestowed the Encomiums upon him, which he so justly deserved, thought, nevertheless, to set them off, with still greater Lustre, by mixing with them all the Marvellous which I have now explained.
The Adventure of the Muses, who retire to Pyreneus, and who are obliged to ask Wings from the Gods to save themselves, is, according to Plutarch, a Metaphor, which shews us that this Tyrant who reigned in Phocis was no Friend to polite Learning. As he had caused all the Colleges and Academies, where it was taught, to be demolished, it was reported, to make him odious, that he offer'd violence to the Muses; that the Gods, to protect them, gave them Wings; and that he lost his Life in pursuing them. Ovid is the only Person, whom I know of, that has spoken of this Tyrant, who is only known to the World by so dishonourable an Adventure. It was, without doubt, upon the Authority of that Piece of History that Antiquity gave Wings to the Muses, as we see in a Monument published by the R. Father Montfaucon.
The Challenge which the Pierides give to the Muses is also an Adventure which I do not find in any Poet ancienter than Ovid. It is said, to explain it, that Pierus was a very bad Poet, whose Works were full of Histories injurious to the Gods. Even Plutarch tells us (1), that he composed One which dishonoured the Muses. Here is the Origine, then, of the Combat described by our Poet: It was published that his Daughters, that is to say his Works, were changed into Magpies, because they were full of idle frothy Discourses equally tiresom and disgusting. There is a great deal of Probability that the History of Typhoeus, who forces the Gods to conceal themselves in Egypt under the Forms of different Animals, which is here related by One of the Daughters of Pierus, was a Poem which that Author composed upon the Giants. Tho' I will not undertake to enter into a large Detail of the Article of the Muses, which Lylio Giraldi (2) has treated at length without exhausting it, and of which we may find all the Images in the First Tome of Antiquity Explained, I cannot, nevertheless, dispense with my self from saying something of it in this place, for the satisfaction of such Readers as have not those Works by them.
There are few Subjects in Mythology about which there are so many different Opinions as that of the Muses. Varro admits but Three. The ancient Authors believed there were Nine of them. One tells us they were the Daughters of Pierus; another says that Jupiter was their Father. Museus pretends that they were the Daughters of Heaven; several others give them the Earth for their Mother. St. Austin reports, after Varro, that in a Town, which was believed to be Sicyona, Three able Workmen were employed to make, each of them, Three Statues of the Muses, with a Design to consecrate the Three which should be the best performed; but they were all found to be so well done that the whole Nine were dedicated in the Temple of Apollo. Besides, as the Muses, adds Varro, composed the Tune or Air, which is performed but Three ways, either by the natural Voice, or by Wind Instruments, or Those only plaid upon by the Hands, there ought to be but Three Muses. Pausanias (3) has preserved the Names of the Three Statuaries, mentioned by Varro, which were Chephisidotus, Strongylionus and Olympheostenes.
Diodorus Siculus (4) assignes the Muses a more ancient Origine. If we believe that Author in the Case, those Goddesses, so famous amongst the Greeks, were able Singers whom Osiris carried about with him in his Conquests, and put Apollo, one of his Generals, over them as Chief. This is, perhaps the reason why the Name of Musagetes, or Conductor of the Muses, was given to that God, as well as to Hercules, who had also been another of Osiris's Generals. Monsieur Le Clerc (5) thinks that the Fable of the Muses comes from the Consorts which Jupiter established in Crete. If we believe him, they were composed of Nine Virgins, of whom his Royal Academy of Musick was formed; he adds that Jupiter was only called the Father of the Muses, because he was the First amongst the Greeks who, in imitation of Jubal, had a regulated Consort; and that those singing Virgins had Mnemosyne or Memory given them for their Mother, upon no other account, but because it is she that furnishes Matter for Verses and Poems.
There are not fewer Opinions concerning the Name, than the Origine of the Muses. Diodorus says that it comes form Misin, which signifies to shew or teach elevated lofty Subjects. Monsieur Le Clerc derives the Name from Motra, to invent; Mr. Huet brings it from the Name of Moses. The other Etymologies given of it by Plato and Suidas, in bringing this Word from that of Inquisitio, approach near enough to those I have already mentioned. But as the Muses were celebrated and honoured very much in Macedonia, which was anciently called Pieria, long before their Worship was known on Mount Parnassus and Helicon, it is very likely that it was in that Province that they had their Origine. This Sentiment is very conformable to what I have just read in the Abridgment of Sir Isaac Newton's Chronology, where it is said that Sejac, who, after his Death, was sirnamed Osiris, and also confounded with Bacchus, married one of the Singers, who had followed him in his Expeditions, to Olagrius King of Thrace, and that Orpheus was born of that Marriage. That Author adds, that the Musicians of that Conquerour became famous in Thrace under the Name of Muses, and that the Daughters of Pierus, a Thracian by Origine, having learned their Musick, and imitating their Consorts took the Name of Muses.
As the ancient Authors and the Monuments often confound the Names of the Nine Muses, and the Symbols which represent them, it is necessary to shew here the most usual manner of naming and painting them. Clio, the first of the Muses, who takes her Name from Glory, or Fame, holds a Guitarre in one Hand, and a Plectre in the other, which supplies the Place of Musick-Bow. Euterpe, so called because she rejoices, has a Mask at her left Side, and a Club in her right Hand. She invented Tragedy, which is signified by the Mask she carries. Her double Face which is found on a Medal, is not met with any where else. She hold Hercules's Club, perhaps because Tragedy represents the Heros, amongst whom Hercules is the most illustrious. Others assure us that the Club denotes Thalia, for the reason which I shall shew a little lower: They also believe that it is Thalia, that has the double Head. Spon, who has published a fine Marble representing the Muses, has sometimes confounded them together. Thalia, or the flourishing, who invented Comedy, holds also a Mask in her right Hand: The Medals represent her leaning against a Pillar. Melpomene, or the alluring, is distinguished by the Barbiton. Terpsichore, that is to say the diverting, is known by the Flutes she holds, as well in the Medals as in the other Monuments. Erato, or the amiable, is not easy to be distinguished. Polyhymnia, or Polymnia, so called from the Multiplicity of Songs, and not from the Strength and Fidelity of Memory, as some Authors have pretended, is found in some Medals. She is drawn with a Harp, as the Inventress of Harmony; but Horace gives her the Barbiton. Urania, the heavenly, is the Inventress of Astronomy and holds a Globe in her Hand. In the Medals of her, this Globe is placed on a Tripod. Calliope, so named from the Sweetness of her Voice, holds a Volume in her Hand as the Inventress of the Heroick Poem.
I shall not repeat the different Names given to the Muses, since there is a very exact List of them in Lylio Giraldi; but conclude with a Reflection, which deserves a place here. Vossius has had a great deal of Difficulty to comprehend by what means the Ancients believed that the Muses were warlike Goddesses. But since they were dedicated to Apollo and Bacchus, who, according to Diodorus, spent all their Days in making War, why should not those Women who accompanied them in their Conquests, be regarded as female Warriors? Besides, the Muses have often been confounded with the Bacchants, and it is certain, according to Plutarch (6) that the Greeks, sacrificed to the Muses, before they gave Battle.
The Ancients often explained Natural History by fabulous Suppositions; and a Phaenomenon, which they were puzzled to explain, was immediately attributed to a Supernatural Cause. Mount Aetna was often seen to throw out Fire in a very dreadful manner, and the Earth received violent Shocks from the Force of the Flames which struggled for a Vent: Instead of looking for the Source of those Eruptions in the Sulphur and Bitumen with which the Caverns of that Mountain still abound, it was fabled that the Gods, having vanquished the Giant Typhaeus, or, according to some Authors, Enceladus, threw Mount Aetna upon him, and that the frequent Attempts he made, to disengage and free himself from the Weight of so heavy a Load, were the Cause of those Fires and Earth-quakes.
As one Fiction commonly gave Birth to another, it was also fabled that Pluto, fearing lest those frequent Shocks might, at last, open the Earth and let the Light into his Kingdom, went one day into Sicily to examine whether the Foundations of the World were not removed by them: To this it was likewise added, that, after having found every thing in good Order, he went to take a Walk on Mount Erix; that Venus piqued at him for being insensible of Love, and disdaining to see the Matter of the Third part of the World bid Defiance to her Power, engaged her Son Cupid to wound him with One of his Arrows, which never failed of inspiring that tender Passion; that the little God having punctually obeyed his Mother, Pluto immediately fell in Love with his Niece Proserpine, and carried her away by Force.
As this is One of the most considerable Events in fabulous History, we need not be astonished to see Ovid ushering it in with so much Pomp. In explaining the following Fable I shall examine what may have given Rise to it.
The Rape of Proserpine is so obscure an Event, that we need not be surprized to see the Ancients and Moderns so divided in their Opinions about the Explication of it. Some Authors have entirely grounded this Fable upon Natural Philosophy; Others believed that it contained some Piece of ancient History, which was not impossible to be clear'd up, notwithstanding all the Poetical Fictions that were added to it in process of Time. But I do not intend to enter here into a Detail of all their Sentiments. We may consult the Mythologists, upon that Head, who have treated it at large; but as the learned Dom Pezeron and Monsieur Le Clerc seem to have come nearest the Truth, of all those Authors who have written upon this Fable, I shall, in a few Words, first give you their Thoughts concerning it, and afterwards add my Own.
Dom Pezeron (1) says that, in the Partition of the World amongst the Titan Princes, Pluto, or Ades, had the West for his Lot, and that he carried a Colony to the further end of Spain, where he applied himself to the Working of the Gold and Silver Mines which were very common there, especially on the Coast of Cales; as we may see in Strabo, Diodorus Siculus, and particularly in Aristotle, who speaks very much of the Riches of that Country. The Situation of that Prince's Kingdom, which was a very low Country in respect of Greece, and which the Ancients believed to be covered with eternal Darkness, gave occasion to say that Pluto had got Hell for his Share; but nothing spread that Notion so much as the Mines, in which he continually kept Men at work. Mines, according to the common way of speaking, are in the Center of the Earth, and Those who look for the Ore in them, descend, as it were, to the gloomy Mansions of the Ghosts. This is what Pliny (2) expresses so elegantly, in sede Manium opes quaerimus; nos ad inferos agunt. The famous Tartarus, that River so known in the Empire of Pluto, was, without doubt, the Tartessa which runs through the Heart of Spain. The River Lethe is the Guadaletha which is in the same Country, and the Name of the Lake Avernus comes from the Word Aharena, which is as much as to say, that which is at the Extremities.
Pluto, continues that Author, tho' retired into the remotest part of Spain, had heard of the Beauty of Proserpine, the Daughter of Ceres Queen of Sicily, and resolved to take her from thence by Force, according to a Custom very common in those Days. Perhaps he had already demanded her in Marriage, and the young Princess had refused to quit her Mother, to go to a Country, which was, at that time, looked upon to be the End of the World. Other Princesses had, very likely, been of the same Mind, and from this the Poets took occasion to say, that Pluto complained loudly, that, tho he was the Brother of Jupiter, and the richest Prince in the World, yet no body cared to Marry him.
This being supposed, the Author, whom I have just mentioned, proves that Ceres, or Dio, reigned in Sicily at the same Time that Aidoneus was King of Epirus. The Reign of that Princess was very commendable for the great Care she took to instruct her Subjects in the Art of Tilling the Ground and sowing of Corn. She also established several Laws concerning Civil Government (5), and the Preservation of private Property; to the end that every One might enjoy the Effect of his Industry, and, without Trouble or Molestation, reap the Grain he had sown (6). This is what has made that Queen be always esteem'd the Goddess of the Earth and of Corn. It is necessary, nevertheless, to observe that Ceres taught Agriculture only to the Greeks; the Egyptians, the Chaldeans, and several other Nations had the knowledge of it long before. There is even reason to believe that this Art was not altogether unknown in Sicily, and Greece it self, before her Time, and that it was only brought to perfection by that famous Queen.
Ceres made her ordinary Residence in a delightful part of Sicily named Enna, as we learn from Cicero (7) and Diodorus Siculus (8). Enna, according to Monsieur Bochart (9) is as much as to say agreeable Fountain, which corresponds very well with the Description given of that charming Country by those Authors, I have just mentioned, in which the Town of that Name was situated. Proserpine, the only Daughter of Ceres, whom others name Core or Pherephata, which signifies Fruit abounding, walked out one Day at a pretty Distance into those agreeable Meadows, where, according to Strabo (10), Cicero, and Ovid, she gathered Flowers with some Young Ladies of her Court. Certain Pirates surprized her, and placing her in a Chariot carried her to the Sea-side, where they embarked and Sailed away to Epirus. It was thereupon published that Pluto himself had carried her away, because it was the Custom to attribute to the Prince whatever was done by his Orders, as Pausanias (11) tells us upon this Occasion. As those who carried off that Princess, concealed themselves in the Caverns of Mount Etna, to wait for a favourable Opportunity to execute their Design, it was fabled that Pluto came out of Hell at that Place: That Mountain which vomits Fire and Flames without ceasing, has always been looked upon by the Poets as a Vent of Hell. Ceres being informed of her Daughter's Misfortune went all over Greece in Search of her, and after a great deal of Fatigue she rested herself at a Village of Attica named Eleusis, where she heard that the Ship in which her Daughter was carried away had sailed Westward. She made loud Complaints of that Injury at the Court of Jupiter; but could obtain no further Satisfaction, than that the young Queen should be permitted to go sometimes to visit her Mother, and stay some Days with her. Which, without doubt, gave room to feign that Jupiter had granted to Ceres that her Daughter should remain alternately Six Months in Hell, and Six Months with her upon Earth. Thus the Queen of Sicily was pacified; and was perswaded to believe that the Marriage was agreeable to her Daughter, tho' there was a little difference in Age between her and her Uncle.
How ingenious soever this Explication may appear, I cannot be of Opinion that the Rape of Proserpine ought to be charged to Aidoneus King of Epirus, since that Prince was contemporary with Theseus and Perithous, that is to say about Fifty Years before the War of Troy, and that the Titan Prince who bore the Name of Pluto reigned several Ages before. Is there any Appearance that Ceres did not teach Sicily and Greece, the Art of cultivating the Earth before the Time of Hercules and Theseus? Did those People live then upon Acorns and wild Herbs? And from the Times of the Lycaons and the Phoroneuses, had Greece learned to subsist upon no solider Food, than what she had in common with the Beasts of the Field?
I know very well that Monsieur le Clerc distinguishes Two Princes of the Name of Aidoneus; that One was contemporary with Theseus, and the Other with Abraham or Isaac; and that it was in the Time of ancientest of them that Proserpine was carried away: But, besides that those Two Princes resembled one another too much to have been different Persons, we may say, with a great deal of Truth, that this is no more than a Question about a Name, and that he calls the Prince Aidoneus, whom others Name Pluto.
But whether this be so or not, there is a great deal of Probability that these Two Explications are, themselves, no more than new Fables. Can we imagine that Ceres, in seeking her Daughter, who had been carried away from her, made herself to be worshipped by the Athenians; that Erechtheus received Feasts, which she, herself, had established in her life-time; and that Triptolemus, whose Father reigned then at Eleusis, was the Priest of the Mysteries of a Woman who had not Power enough to recover her own Daughter? I am sensible that several Chronologers, and particularly the celebrated Sir Isaac Newton, depending upon the Authority of Greek Authors, endeavour to fix the Time in which Ceres lived; that they mark the Epoch of her Voyage from Sicily to Athens; and that they speak of the Year in which she dyed, and of the Worship with which she was adored a little time after her Death. But, notwithstanding these Authorities, I am perswaded that we must not look in Greece for any other Ceres than the Isis of the Egyptians, nor any other Mysteries than those of that Goddess. It is too well known, for any Doubt to be made of it, that almost all the Grecian Gods and their Worship were brought from the Eastern Countries, and principally Egypt, along with those Colonies which peopled Greece at different Times; and if there are any, whose Transmigrations are certain, they are Bacchus or Osiris, and Ceres or Isis. Here then is what has given rise to the present Fable. Greece was afflicted with a great Famine in the Reign of Erechtheus, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus (12). Ovid even gives a long and fine Description of that Famine. The Athenians, whose Country was not very fertile, felt it more than their Neighbors, and Erechtheus was obliged to send to Egypt for Corn; Those who went for it, brought home, along with the Grain they had bought there, the Worship and Ceremonies of that Divinity which presided over Agriculture.
The Evil that the Athenians had suffered by that Famine, and the Dread they had of falling again under the like Calamity, made them unanimously embrace the Mysteries and Rites of a Goddess, whom they believed able to protect them from it. Triptolemus embraced that Worship at the same time in Eleusis; he would even be the First Priest, himself, of Ceres or Isis; and, finding every thing in Abundance about him, he took particular Care, in assisting his Neighbors with part of his Plenty, to teach them those Mysteries which he himself had just learned. Sicily had, sometime before, received the Mysteries of that Divinity, and that was the reason why it was said that Ceres came from Sicily to Athens. It was added that her Daughter had been taken away, because Corn and Fruit, which her Name signifies, as I have already observed, had not been produced for some time, in sufficient Quantity to furnish Food for the People. It was also further added that Pluto carried her down to Hell, because the Grain and Fruit remained at that time, as it were, buried in the Center of the Earth. At last it was said that Jupiter had decided the Difference between Ceres and Pluto, because the Earth was then seen cover'd again with new Crops. This was the Foundation of that Fable, and the Introduction of the Mysteries of Ceres into Greece. Some famous Poet whose Name is defaced in the XIV. Epoch of the Arundelian Marbles, celebrated that Event in a Poem, as that Epoch relates, and it is necessary to observe, 1. That this Poem, which, without doubt Ovid had seen, was composed Ten Years after the Arrival of Ceres. 2. That the Author of the Chronicle of those Marbles, treats the Rape of Proserpine, the Search which Ceres made for her Daughter, and the other Circumstances which have been thrown into that Event all as Fables: Which, without doubt, is as much as to say that the Poet, whom we are speaking of in this Place, had extremely disguised the History of the Translation of the Worship of Ceres into Attica. If, nevertheless, there are learned Men who are fond of sustaining their Ceres, we may, to satisfy them, suppose that this Queen of Sicily having lost her Daughter and going into Attica to look for her, taught Triptolemus the Mysteries of Isis, and that the Greeks having, in process of Time, inrolled Ceres her self, in the Catalogue of their Divinities, her Worship became confounded with that of Isis.
In the Treaty which Ceres made with Pluto, Jupiter granted the Return of her Daughter, upon Condition tht she had not eat any thing since her Arrival in Hell: But Ascalaphus informing that he had seen her taste Seven Grains of a Pomegranate, which she had pulled in the Garden there, the Decree was changed, and Jupiter declared that Proserpine should stay Six Months with her Husband in Hell, and Six Months alternately with her Mother upon Earth; or, as Apollodorus says, Nine Months with Ceres, and Three Months with Pluto (1). That Princess, to be revenged on Ascalaphus for his Indiscretion, changed him into an Owl. Ascalaphus was One of Pluto's Courtiers, who, having advised his Master to carry away Proserpine, did all that lay in his Power to obstruct the Negotiations of Ceres, and to hinder her Daughter from being restored to her. Proserpine, at last got him destroyed; and this was the Circumstance that gave rise to the Fable. The pernicious Counsels he gave his Master were signified by the Seeds of the Pomegranate. His Transformation into an Owl is but a Metaphor, which represents to us an odious Man, unless we had rather say that the Fable was only published to let us know that he kept himself continually hid in the Mines, of which he was Pluto's Over-Seer, and where he perished at last. It is very likely that he was crushed to Death by the fall of a Rock, which gave Occasion to the Poets to say that Proserpine had covered him with a great Stone, as we may see in Apollodorus (2), who says that it was Ceres herself, that punished him in that manner. The Name Ascalaphus signifies One that breaks Stones; and, very probably, that Name was only given him to denote his Employment. Some Authors pretend that he was changed into a certain sort of Lizard, which the Greeks call Ascalabos; and it was, without doubt, the resemblance between the Names that gave them Occasion to say so.
Our Poet adds that the Nymph Cyane going to reproach Pluto with his Treatment of Proserpine, the God changed her into a Fountain: A Circumstance which, I believe, has no other Foundation, but the nearness of the Place where Pluto's Emissaries embarked, to a Fountain of that Name in the Neighborhood of Syracuse. What the same Poet adds concerning a Maid called Menthe, whom Proserpine changed into a Plant, which still bears her Name, and which the Greeks call Hediosmos because of its fine smell, signifies, in all appearance, that Proserpine not being able to suffer a Rival, who shared, with her the Affection of her Husband, took away her Life. Thus, upon account of the resemblance of Names, several Metamorphoses were invented by those who writ the History of that Court.
Mention is also made, in the same place, of the Syrens that accompanied Proserpine at the Time that she was taken away. But, that I may not be obliged hereafter to repeat the same Thing over again, I shall not explain this Fable until I come to the Adventures of Ulysses. It shall suffice at present to say, that if Ovid has feigned that the Syrens who were with Proserpine when she was carried away obtained from the Gods to be changed into Birds, that they might go to look for her; it is because, very likely, the Syrens who inhabited the Coast of Italy, near enough to Sicily, having heard of the Misfortune that had happened to that Princess, ordered a Ship with Sails to be equipped to go in Search of her.
The Fable of the Fountain Arethusa, and the River Alpheus her Lover, who traversed so many Countries to follow his Mistress, has no other Foundation, according to the famous Bochart (1), but an equivocal Expression in the Language of the first Inhabitants of Sicily. The Phenicians, who went to settle in that Island, finding the Fountain surrounded with Willows gave it the Name of Alphaga, which is as much as to say the Fountain of Willows. Others gave it the Name of Arith which signifies a Stream. The Greeks, who arrived some Ages after, not understanding the Signification of those Two Words, and remembering their River Alpheus in Elis, imagined that since the River and the Fountain had very near the same Name, Alpheus must certainly have crossed the Sea to come into Sicily. The Notion appeared very ingenious to One of the Wits of that Time, and he composed, upon that Subject, a Romance of the Loves of the River-God Alpheus and the Nymph Arethusa. Almost all the ancient Historians have been cheated and misled by that Fable, since they have said very seriously, that the River Alpheus passed through the Sea, and went afterwards to glide into Sicily near the Fountain Arethusa. This Fable seems also to have gained universal Credit; for we find the Oracle of Delphos ordering Arcias to conduct a Colony of Corinthians to Syracuse, and the Priestess delivering herself in these Terms: Go into that Island, where the River Alpheus mixes his Waters with the fair Arethusa. Pausanias (2), who looks upon the History of the Amours of Alpheus and Arethusa as a Fable, yet led away by the Authority of so precise an Oracle, dares not deny that this River runs through the Sea, tho' he does not see how such a Thing can happen.
Ceres, in seeking her Daughter, went into Greece, and, finding herself extremely fatigued, rested near the Town of Eleusis, where the Principal Persons of the Country went to see her; amongst the Rest, Triptolemus, and a plain honest Woman named Baube, who offer'd Ceres her House, and gave her a Drink to refresh her, made of Honey and Wine, of which she drank very heartily. A Young Boy, who observed her drink with such Eagerness, fell a laughing, and was punished for it on the Spot: As he was, perhaps, called Stellio, we need not look for any other Foundation than the resemblance of Names, to the Fable which says that he was changed into a Lizard.
As Triptolemus, the Son of Celeus and Neaera, was One of those who gave Ceres the best Reception, it was published that the Goddess taught him Agriculture, and sent him in a Chariot, drawn by winged Dragons, to carry over all the World the knowledge of an Art, so necessary to Mankind. It was added that she nursed him with her own Milk: A strong Expression, which shews the Care she took to form the Manners of that young Prince. The Fable was even carried so far as to say, that Ceres put him in the Fire during the Night to purify him, and took him out every Morning: Metaphorical Expressions, which inform us that this Prince, to be initiated into the Mysteries of Isis, went through all the Expiations which were made use of upon that Occasion.
All these Fables, so Mysterious, also the Arrival of Ceres in Attica, so well represented on a Marble Tomb, which Monsieur de Boze, perpetual Secretary to the Academie des Belles Lettres, has now in his Possession, and has so ingeniously explained in his Dissertation presented in the IV. Tome of the Memoirs of that Academy; all these Fables, I say, have no other Foundation than the Introducing of the Worship of Ceres into Greece, and especially in Attica, as I have already proved.
Triptolemus, who reigned at the same time in Eleusis, went, as we learn from Philochorus, with a Ship to carry Corn into different Countries, where he taught, at the same time, the Mysteries of Ceres, whose Priest he was. Before he parted, he sowed some Corn in a Field of Attica, called Ravia, as we find in the X. Epoch of the Arundelian Marbles. This is, without doubt, the Key, and the clearing up of all these Fables. For, certainly, it relates to the Time in which the Worship of Ceres, so ancient then in Egypt, was received in Greece, and not to Agriculture, which was known there long before, as I have already observed; except we had rather understand it of a new Way of Tilling the Ground, which the Greeks learned in their Voyage to Egypt, and made use of in that Time,. The Marbles, which I have just mentioned, fixed that Epoch under the Reign of Erichtheus, that is to say, according to the Commentators upon those Marbles, 1426. Years before JESUS-CHRIST, and 280 Years, or thereabout before the War of Troy (1).
This should be the Place to speak of the Mysteries of Ceres, and the Feasts which Erichtheus, Triptolemus, and Mopsus established in Greece; but as that Article would lead me too far; the Reader may consult Meursius (2), and Monsieur le Clerc (3), who have treated it with great exactness.
The Dangers which Triptolemus met with in his Voyages, gave rise, without doubt, to the Fable of Lyncus, whose Cruelty is pointed at by changing him into a Lynx. Triptolemus had the good fortune to escape out of the Hands of that Tyrant, who, jealous of his Reputation, intended to have put him to Death. The Fable which says that Triptolemus was mounted in a Chariot drawn by winged Dragons, is taken from an Equivocation in the Phenician Language, of which the Word, made us of in that History, signifies either a winged Dragon, or a Ship struck full of Iron Nails or Bolts, as Bochart says (4), and Monsieur le Clerc, after him. Nevertheless I am rather inclined to be of Philochorus's Opinion, cited by Eusebius, who reports that the Prince's Ship was taken for a flying Dragon, because she carried the Figure of a Dragon on her Prow.
Tho' I am perswaded that the Fables, which I have just explained, have no other Ground than the bringing of the Worship of Ceres into Greece, it is necessary, nevertheless, to take notice here of what we find in a Fragment of Stobeus (5), where it is said that Erichtheus, who was engaged in a War against the Eleusians, was told by the Oracle that he should be victorious, if he sacrificed his Daughter Proserpine, which may have given rise to the Fable.
Another Fragment of Homer, cited by Pausanias (6), tells us the Names of the first Greeks who were initiated in the Mysteries of Ceres. They were, according to that Poet, Celeus, Triptolemus, Eumolpus, and Diocles. St. Clement of Alexandria (7) calls them Baubon, Dysaulus, Eubuleus, Eumolpus and Triptolemus. I should suspect pretty much, that it was Eumolpus himself, or Museus his Father, that, in honour of Ceres, composed the Poem of which I have spoken; Strabo and Pausanias are also of the same Sentiment. That Eumolpus, being Ierophante or Explainer of the sacred Mysteries of the Eleusians, found himself in so much Esteem and Credit that he made War against Erichtheus. The Two Chiefs were killed in the Battle, and it was established that the Race of Erichtheus should be Kings of Athens, and that the Descendants of Eumolpus should content themselves with the Dignity of Ierophante.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I, II, III, and IV. FABLES. [ VI.i-iv Minerva and Arachne ]
I. The Fable of Arachne, who challenged Minerva, is one of those ingenious Fictions, which shews us that she was the ablest Artist of her Time at working Silk and Wool. Pliny (1) says that Arachne, the Daughter of Idmon, a Lydian by Birth, and of mean Extraction, invented the Art of making Linnen Cloth and Nets; which was also attributed to Minerva. This Competition is, without doubt, the Foundation of the Challenge which our Poet speaks of: It being a very natural way of expressing our selves, when we excell in any thing, to say, we defy another to surpass us. Nevertheless as Arachne hanged herself in Despair, according to the Testimony of the same Author, she must have had some Cause of Discontent, which we are ignorant of. The Conformity of her Name, and her Employment with that of the Spider, which is almost continually hanging in its own Work, has, probably given occasion to the Metamorphosis; unless we would, with more reason, attribute it to the Resemblance of her Name to the Hebrew Word Arag, signifying to Spin, which the Holy Scripture makes use of in speaking of the Spiders and their Webs.
II. The History of that Tryal of Skill between Minerva and Arachne gives Ovid an Opportunity of vending several Fables, which he feigns to have been represented in their Works: The most considerable of which is the Dispute between Neptune and Minerva, about giving a Name to the City of Athens. St. Augustin (2), following Varro, says that Cecrops, in building the Walls of Athens, found an Olive-Tree and a Fountain; that the Oracle at Delphos, being consulted upon this Accident, answered that both Minerva and Neptune had a Right to name the City; that the People and the Senate, being assembled, decided in favour of the Goddess; and this, he says, was the Circumstance that gave rise to the Fable. According to some Authors, that Fiction has no other Foundation than the Change which Cranaus made, in giving his Capital the Name of Athens, after his Daughter, instead of that of Posidonius, the Name of Neptune, which it had before: And as the Areopagus authorized that Change, it was fabled that Neptune had been overcome by the Judgment of the Gods.
The Jesuit, Father Tournemine, seems, to me, to have comprehended the Sense of this Fable the best of any one. In the Memoires de Trevoux, for the Month of January 1708. he says that the ancient People of Attica, the Posterity of Cethin, were fierce and Savage, had no Habitations but Caves, and applyed themselves to nothing but Hunting: That the Pelasgians, becoming Masters of their Country, taught them Navigation, and then made them Pirates. That Cecrops, originally from Sais in Egypt, conducted a Colony into Attica; abolished the barbarous Manners and Customs of that People; and shewed them how to cultivate the Earth and raise Olive Trees, for which the Soil was found very proper: He also taught them the Worship of Minerva, who was called Athena, a Goddess highly honoured at Sais, and to whom the Olive Tree was dedicated. The Athenians afterwards regarded that Divinity as the Patroness of their City, which they called after her Name. Athens became famous for the Excellency of its Oil; and the Profit which the Inhabitants drew from it, made them endeavour to wean the People from Piracy that they might apply themselves entirely to Agriculture and Husbandry. To succeed in it, they composed a Fable (the Way of proposing any thing to the People in those Days) in which Neptune was said to be overcome by Minerva, who, even in Judgment of the Twelve great Gods, had found out something more useful than He. That Fable was composed in the ancient Language of the Country, which was the Phrygian, mixed with a great many Phoenician Words; and as in those Two Languages the same Word signifies either a Horse or a Ship, Those who interpreted the Fable, took that Word in the former signification and spoke of a Horse instead of a Ship which was the Emblem of the Fiction, whose principal Design was to turn the People from Piracy. Without that Mistake, adds the learned Jesuit, would they have given the Name of Ippius to Neptune, and would they have made a Horseman of the God of the Sea? These are Father Tournemine's Sentiments; but if they are not satisfactory, we may say, in a Word, with Vossius, that the Fable had its beginning from a Dispute between the Sailors who acknowledged Neptune for their Chief, and the People who followed the Senate, governed by Minerva. The People prevailed, having the Areopagus on their Side, and a Country Life was preferr'd to Piracy; which gave Occasion to say that Minerva had overcome Neptune.
III. Arachne, for her part, draws in her Web several Metamorphoses of the Gods, which teaching us nothing very particular, ought to be explained by the Principle I am going to establish, and which may serve as a Key to a Thousand other Fictions of the like nature.
Anciently not only the People but even Kings themselves were very rude and unpolished. The want of Education, and, much more, of the Principles of a good Morality had made them equally ignorant and fierce. When a King had demanded any Princess in Marriage and met with a Refusal, his immediate Recourse was to Arms, to obtain her by Force. His Standards and his Ships carried Figures which declared their Master; and his Ensigns were either of Beasts, or Birds, or else some Monster of a fantastick uncommon Form. This Observation has no need of any proof; we find those Representations on Monuments, on Medals, and on Coins. The Persons who describ'd Expeditions of that sort, instead of saying that such a Prince had carried away on board his Ship, or taken by force of Arms some Princess whom he loved, published that he had changed himself into a Bull, a Lyon, an Eagle, etc. If we also add that the Kings in those Days were frequently called Jupiter, Apollo, Neptune etc. and that the Priests of those Gods very often succeeded in their Gallantries by assuming the Names of the Divinities whom they served, we shall not be at much trouble to know what the Poets mean in telling us of the Metamorphoses of the Gods, and ascribing to them so great a number of Children. Palefatus (3) gives another Explication of these Transformations, but, in the main, it does not differ from what I have just said. That Author pretends, that the Origine of them comes from the Figures of different Animals which were engraved on the Coins of those remote Ages, and that when Money was given to gain or seduce a Mistress, it was afterwards said that the Lover himself had taken the Figure on the Coin with which he had corrupted her.
IV. Amongst the Fables which Arachne and Minerva represent in their Works, that of Pygas gives me Occasion to enlarge a little upon the Pygmies of whom she was Queen. Homer is the first who has made mention of those little People. That Poet (4) speaking of the Tumult of Noise which the Trojans made when ready to give Battle, expresses himself thus: "The Trojans advanced with a confused Noise and piercing Cries like Birds: And such as the Cranes make under the Canopy of Heaven, when, flying from the Winter and the Northern Rains, they wing their Course with loud Cries towards the Border of the Ocean, and carry Terror and Death to the Pygmies, upon whom they come soucing down [sousing -- 1747 spelling; fondent -- Banier's French] from the middle of the Air." Homer had been followed by almost all the other Poets, amongst whom it is sufficient to mention Hesiod, Virgil, Ovid, Statius, and Claudian. What is most particular in this Fable, is that the Historians, Geographers and Naturalists speak of it as the Poets have done. Each of them has endeavoured to find out the Country of the Pygmies, and to give the History of it. Some, amongst whom was Aristotle, have placed them in Aethiopia; Pliny, Solinus and Philostratus, in India near the Source of the Ganges; others, in fine, in Scythia on the Banks of the Danube. All allow them but a Cubit that is a Foot and a Half in Height, or thereabouts; as if Nature, which preserves a Kind of Proportion so well contrived in all her Works, had contradicted herself so much upon this Occasion. All agree likewise that the Pygmies made War on the Cranes, destroying their Eggs and their Young, and that they had very often the Disadvantage in their Battles with them.
The Moderns have had very particular Notions concerning the Pygmies. Olaus Magnus looks upon the Samovedes and the Laplanders to be the true Pygmies of Homer. Gesner and several others think that some little Men who have been found in Lusatia and Thuring gave rise to that Fable. Albert the Great imagines that the Pygmies were the Monkeys which were found in Africa, and which very much resembled little Men. Paracelsus ranks them in the Order of Nymphs, Sylphs and Salamanders. Bartholinus and the Jesuit Schottus embrace, upon this Subject, almost all the Fables of the Ancients. But no Man has had a more singular Opinion concerning the Pygmies than Vander Hart a learned German, who has published a pretty large Treatise upon that Subject (5). If we believe him the Fable takes its Origine from a War between Two Cities in Greece, Pagae and Gerania, whose Names are so like those of the Pygmies and the Cranes.
"Homer," says he, "in alluding to that War carries the Scene of it into Aethiopia, and disguises the History of it under the Symbol of Cranes and Pygmies. If Ovid, and Antoninus Liberalis," continues our German, "have added to the recital of Homer that the Pagaeans were governed by a Woman, it is because the Pagaeans by some Accident or other, fell under the Dominion of the Geranians, a weaker and less powerfull people than the Conquered. If Aelian says that the Pygmies rendered divine Honours to their new Queen, it is because the Pagaeans were obliged to cringe to their Masters. If Pygas is said to have been changed into a Crane and obliged to fly away to avoid the Punishment she had deserved, it is, in short, because the Pagaeans threw off the Yoke, and forced the Geranians to retire back to the Mountains in which their Town was situated."
"The Geranians," it is still the learned German that speaks, "proud of their last Victory despised their Neighbours, especially the City of Corinth, which, as the most powerfull, took in the History of that War, the Name of Juno or the Mistress Hera. This was what gave occasion to Ovid to say that the Queen of the Pygmies had preferr'd her own Beauty before that of Juno. The Corinthians, having entirely defeated the Geranians and Pagaeans, to be revenged in a signal manner on their Enemies for their Presumption, composed a Satyr, in which they compared them to Cranes and Pygmies." All this appears very ingenious, but, unluckily, we do not find in Antiquity any Foot-steps either of that War or the Corinthian Satyr; and this is the weak side of that Author's System which is carried on with so pompous a shew of Erudition.
Before I establish my own Sentiment of this Matter, it is necessary to lay down a Principle in which all the Learned are pretty well agreed; it is, that the Greeks had but a very imperfect knowledge of the Histories of foreign Countries; and to the Prodigies they heard of them, they still added others after their own fashion. If they were told that in certain Countries there were Men of an extraordinary Stature, they made Gyants of them able to scale Heaven; if they heard of little People they immediately turned them into Pygmies. This Principle being established, I believe that the Pechinians of whom Ptolomy speaks (6) are the true Pygmies of the Poets. There is all manner of appearance that it was the Resemblance of the Name and the low Stature of those People that gave the Greeks room to call them Pygmies, for the Word πυγμή, the Fist, or rather that of πυγός which signifies a Cubit, and has so great an Affinity to the Name of the Pechinians, that the Analogy cannot be juster. But it is not upon this single Resemblance of Words that I pretend to ground my Opinion, for I shall make appear that all that has been published concerning the Pygmies corresponds with the Pechinians of Ptolomy. 1. All the Ancients agree that there were People in Aethiopia of a very little Size, as we may see in Herodotus, in Ctesias cited by Photius, and in the greatest part of Travellers. 2. It is certain that we must look for the Pygmies of Homer in the Country to which the Cranes retired in Winter. Now it is evident by the Testimony of Herodotus, Aristotle, Aelian, Nonnus, and several other Ancients, that those Birds went in that Season towards the Marshes near the Source of the Nile. It is there precisely that Ptolomy places the Pechinians, that is to say between the Red-Sea and the Ocean in the Gulph of Avalita, near Mount Garbata and the great River Astobaras which was supposed to be a Branch of the Nile. That Author also fixes the Troglodytes in the same Country, which People have often been confounded with the Pygmies. In short it is likewise there that Monsieur de L'Isle, a celebrated Geographer, places the Bakkes who are People of a very low Stature. We need not then look any farther for the true Pygmies of Homer, who drove away the Cranes to preserve their Harvest, of which those Birds were great Destroyers: All that the Poets haved added since concerning the Disadvantages of the Pygmies, whom the Cranes carried up into the Air; that those little Men, who were but a Foot high, pede non altior uno (7) went to that War mounted upon Goats or Rams, as Pliny relates, and a Thousand other Fictions not necessary to be repeated; all those things, I say, ought to looked upon as mere Exaggerations and Hyperboles, the ridiculousness of which is obvious to us at first Sight. The Poets have made the Gyants too big and the Pygmies too little: Let us allow them then but the Stature of the smallest sized Nation of the North, that is to say about Three or Four Foot, and we may be able to boast to have come very near the Truth.
As to what regards the Fable of Pygas being changed into a Crane, I believe I have found the ground of it in what is related in Antoninus Liberalis (8) upon the Faith of Boeus whose Theogonie it cites. That Poet, whose Works are lost, says that amongst the Pygmies, that is, without doubt, amongst the Pechinians, there was a very beautiful Princess named Oenoe, who oppressed her Subjects. That Queen having married Nicodamas had a Son by him called Mopsus, whom her Subjects seized upon to educate him their own way. The Cruelty of Oenoe who, to be revenged for such an Insult, made War on her People, and, perhaps still more than all that, the Name of Gerane which she had according to Aelian (9), gave rise to the Fable that says she was changed into a Crane; and we see plain enough that the Resemblance of the Names is the Foundation of it: γέρανος in Greek signifying a Crane.
All the ancient Historians agree with Diodorus Siculus, and Apollodorus that Niobe was the Daughter of Tantalus and Sister of Pelops; for we must not confound her that this Fable treats of, with another Niobe who was the Daughter of Phoroneus, and the first Mortal, as Homer says, with whom Jupiter fell in love. Pelops having quitted Phrygia to retire into that part of Greece which has since carried his Name, took his Sister along with him: And as he endeavoured to secure his new Kingdom by some Alliance that might support him against the Attempts of his Enemies, he gave her in Marriage to Amphion, a Prince as powerful as he was eloquent, and who had just inclosed Thebes with Walls. Niobe's Dowry was, very likely, employed in building a Town in Baeotia, at least it was one Condition of the Marriage, for Pausanias tells us it was then that Pelops laid the Foundations of it. The same Author speaks, in more than one place, of the Alliance which Amphion made with the Family of Pelops, and he says positively in his Baeotics, that this Prince, having made an Alliance with Tantalus, learned the Lydian Fashion from the Phrygians, and added Three Strings to the Four, which the Harp then had.
It is very probable that Niobe was the Seal of the Peace that we made between Amphion and Pelops. The Latter was imbroiled with the King of Thebes, for having received Laius into his Dominions after he had been banish'd by Amphion and Zethus, as we read in Apollodorus (1). However it be, that Marriage became immediately happy by the Fruitfulness of Niobe, who had a great Number of Children. Homer says she had Twelve, Six Sons and Six Daughters. Herodotus says she had but Two Sons and Three Daughters. Diodous Siculus makes her Mother of Fourteen Children, Seven of each Sex. Apollodorus (2), upon the Authority of Hesiod, pretends that she had Ten Sons and as many Daughters; in the mean time he names but these Fourteen, Sipylus, Minytus, Ismenus, Damasichthon, Agenor, Phaedimus and Tantalus: The Daughters were Ethodea, or, according to others, Thera, Cleodoxa, Astyocha, Phthia, Pelopia, Astycratia, and Ogygia.
Niobe, proud of her numerous Issue, despised Latona, who, to be revenged on her, engaged Apollo and Diana to destroy all her Children, in the manner here related by Ovid after the other ancient Poets, and as we see it in Plutarch in his Book, Of Superstition. That Episode, ingeniously invented, contains a History as tragical as it is true. The Plague which ravaged the City of Thebes, destroyed all the Children of Niobe; and because contagious Distempers were attributed to the immoderate Heat of the Sun, it was fabled that Apollo had killed them with his Arrows. When Women dyed of the Plague their Death was attributed to Diana. What I advance here concerning the Foundation of this Fable is authorized by Antiquity. Homer (3) says that Laodamia and the Mother of Andromache were killed by Diana. Valerius Flaccus (4) relates the Complaints of Clyte the Wife of Cysicus, upon the Death of her Mother, whom that same Goddess had destroyed.
Nothing in better imagined than this System, since we have reason to attribute contagious Distempers to the Exhalations of the Earth, and the immoderate Heat of the Sun; Homer also ingeniously remarks that the Plague came upon the Grecian Camp, when that God, being irritated, let his Arrows fly amongst them; that is to say, when the extreme Heat of his Rays had corrupted the Air: This is what gave occasion to Servius (10) to say Apolline offenso pestilentiam semper creari, quod etiam Homerus ostendit, cum eum armatum inducit sagittis; et inde Apollinem dici secundum aliquos ἀπὸ τὸ ἀπολλύειν. For it is necessary to remark, by the way, that the Arrows were the Symbol of Apollo, when angry, as the Harp signified that he was appeased, as the same Author observes: Lyram quae nobis coelestis harmoniae imaginem monstrat. . . . . . Sagittas quibus infernus Deus et noxius judicatur. And he says in another Place: Citharam tenens, mitis est, hence did People never fail in those epidemic Diseases to implore the Assistance of that Divinity, and to offer Sacrifices to him, as Horace and Pausanias tell us. They likewise took great Care at such times to put Branches of Laurel on the Doors of their Houses, in Hopes that the God would spare the Places which were under the Protection of a Person that was once so dear to him; this we may find in Diogenes Laertius and the Author of the Etymologicon Magnum.
Ovid says the Children of Niobe were killed in a Circus, where those Young Princes were managing their Horses; but Pausanias (11) says, with more appearance of Truth, that her Sons perished on Mount Cithaeron, where they were Hunting, and that her Daughters dyed at Thebes. If it has been added, upon the Authority of Homer (12) that those unfortunate Children remained Nine Days without Burial, because the Gods had changed all the Thebans into Stones, and that those Divinities themselves performed the funeral Duties the Tenth Day; it is because, they dying of the Plague, no Body durst venture to bury them, and every one seemed insensible of the Queen's Misfortune: A lively Figure of the Calamities with which that Scourge of Heaven is attended, in which every one fearing an almost certain Death thinks of nothing but his own proper Safety, and neglects the most essential Duties. Nevertheless, as the Priests, after the Rage of the Distemper was something abated, began to bury the Dead, it was reported that the Gods themselves had performed that Duty. It was also added that Ismenus, the eldest of those Princes, not being able to support the Pain of so violent a Distemper, threw himself into a River of Baeotia, called at that time Cadmus's Foot, but, from that Event, had afterwards the Name of that Young Prince.
Niobe, not enduring to stay any longer at Thebes, after the Death of her Children and her Husband, who killed himself in Despair, returned to Lydia, and finished her Days near Mount Sipylus, upon which, according to Pausanias (13), was a Rock resembling, at a Distance, a Woman overwhelmed with Grief and Affliction, tho' nothing was more unlike that Figure, when One stood near it; as we are assured by the same Author who had been upon the place. This is what made Ovid say that a Whirlwind had carried this unfortunate Princess to the Top of that Mountain, where she was changed into a Rock. A Circumstance which shews us, as Cicero says (14), that Niobe kept a profound Silence in her Affliction, and became, as it were, immovable and dumb; which is the Character of extraordinary Griefs. Sophocles, in his Antigone, says that this Princess was not immediatly changed into Stone, but that the Gods, afterwards, granted that Favour to her Prayers. The same Poet, in his Electra, says that Niobe sheds Tears on a Stone Tomb.
Ovid believed, without doubt, that the History would be more moving, if he said that all the Children of Niobe became the Victimes of Latona's Revenge. Pausanias (15) nevertheless, tells us that Melibea, or Chloris and Amycle Two of her Daughters appeased Diana, who preserved their Lives: That is to say, that they recovered of the Plague. The First of those Two Princesses was married to Neleus the Father of Nestor, as Apollodorus relates in his First Book. But the same Pausanias declares himself rather in favour of the Sentiment of Homer, who says in his Illiad, that all the Children of Niobe perished by the Hands of Apollo and Diana. I must not forget to take Notice of the Reason why Melibea had the Surname of Chloris given her; which was because, not being able to recover the Fright she took at the Death of her Sisters, she remained extremely pale ever after; as Pausanias relates in his Corinthiacs.
The History which I have explained happen'd about 120 Years before the War of Troy; as is easy to be proved by the Geneology of Nestor the Son of Chloris, and much more by that of Laius the Father of Oedipus, who succeeded Amphion and Zethus in the Kingdom of Thebes; as I shall shew when I explain the Fable of Amphion.
Such is the Truth of that Event, so famous in the ancient Poets. Let us admire the Fertility of Ovid's Imagination who relates it so well; let us transport ourselves with him to Thebes, to see those Young Princes mounted on their stately Coursers performing their Exercises, and Apollo and Diana, who undertake to revenge their injured Mother Latona, cruelly murdering them with their Arrows. The Sisters of those unfortunate Princes run to the Ramparts, at the Noise of that fatal Accident, and fall under the invisible Strokes of Diana. At last the Mother arrives, and afflicted to Despair, bathes the dead Bodies of her Children with her Tears, and is, herself, changed at last into Stone. It will be acknowledged by all that if Fiction adds great Ornaments to Truth, the Discovery of the same Truth gives much greater Pleasure to the Understanding, than those vain Ornaments can possibly afford to the Imagination.
An Antic Monument, described by Father Montfaucon has preserved the History of that Event, according to the Tradition which Ovid followed, where the Sons of Niobe appear, in effect, to have killed themselves in a Horse Race. I add to this Explication Two Epigrams out of the Anthologia which regard that Princess.
The Fable of those Lycian Clowns who were changed into Frogs contains no Fact or Circumstance that can be very interesting; it even seems to be no more than a Satyr on the clownish Behavior and rude Manners of those Country People. But as their Transformation is attributed to the vengeance of Latona, and as there was an Altar dedicated to that Goddess near the Pond where the Adventure happen'd, I am obliged to relate here in a few Words what Antiquity has published concerning it. Jupiter, after having debauched Latona, would also insinuate himself into the affection of Asteria, but she still avoided his Attempts, and, according to the way of speaking in those Days, was therefore changed into a Quail. As she was crossing the Sea Jupiter turned her into a Rock; but Latona touched with the Misfortune of her Sister, begged of him to soften his Resentments, and the God raised her from under the Waves to form an Island of her, which was immediatly consecrated to Neptune and Doris. Sometime after, when Juno being jealous of Latona, caused her to be pursued by the Serpent Python, and the whole Earth had refused her Shelter, or even a Place to be delivered in, her Sister, who was then a floating Island, drew close to the Shore and received her. Latona, resting herself under a Tree, brought forth Diana, who afterwards assisted her in bringing Apollo into the World; and this, by the way, was the reason why Diana, tho' a Virgin, was always invoked by Women in Labour. As soon as Diana and Apollo were born, they fixed the Island, by surrounding it with Myconus and Gyarus. What is true in this Fable, is that the Island Ortygia [*], which took that Name from the Quails that used to stop there in crossing the Sea, was called Delos, that is to say Manifestation, because having been a long time hid under the Waves, it appeared at last; and upon the account of it's being subject to Earth-quakes, it was said to be a floating Island. The Oracle of Apollo having forbidden to bury any Dead there, and commanded Sacrifices to be offer'd to purify it, the Island became calmer and less shaken with Earth-quakes: this was the Foundation of all the Fables published about it. Virgil in his Third Aeneid (1) speaks thus concerning that Island.
To return to the Fable, which I am now explaining, it had, without doubt, its rise from hence; Antiquity having feigned that Juno, still pursuing her Rival, had obliged her to fly away with her Two Children; the distressed Latona, being offended at the Brutality of some Country people who had refused her Drink, forced them to hide themselves in their Marshes, which occasioned the fable of their Metamorphosis.
Marsyas was the son of that Hyagnis (1) who was the Inventor of a sort of Flute and of the Phrygian Measure; and of whom there is mention made in the tenth Epoch of the Parian Marbles. Alexander, an ancient Author of a History of Phrygia speaks also of the same Hyagnis, but he who gives us the best Light into this Subject is Apuleus: Here is what he says of it;
The gravest Authors, Strabo, Pausanias and several others agree that this Event is Historical, and that there is nothing to be retrenched in Ovid's Narration of it, but the Ornaments of Poetry: The fatal Passion that caused it, frequently produces as tragical Scenes as this now before us. Pandion, the Second of that Name, King of Athens had Two Daughters extremely beautiful; he gave Procne, the eldest to Tereus King of Thrace, hoping by this Alliance to receive some Assistance from that Prince , in the War he had against the Thebans: But the Brutality of his Son in Law brought afterwards that Trouble and Grief upon him which occasioned his Death. Some Years after his Marriage, Tereus, at the Sollicitation of his Wife, returned to Athens in order to obtain of his Father in Law that Philomela, his other Daughter, might go and pass some time with her Sister who languished with a desire to see her. Pandion having granted his Request, the Brute shut her up in an old Palace in the middle of a Wood, where he ravished her, and then cut out her Tongue, to disable her from acquainting her Sister with the Misfortune that had befallen her. Afflictions quicken the Invention: The distressed Philomela found the Means to write in Needlework, and, thus, to let her Sister know the Condition she was in.
Procne, at this mournful News, resolved to revenge her Sister's Honour, and the Feast of the Bacchanals presented her very soon with a proper Occasion for the execution of her Design. During the Celebration of that Feast the Queen went one Night with a Company of Bacchants to deliver Philomela from her Prison; she brought her to the Palace, and, in her Presence, killed her Young Son Itys, cut him in Pieces, and, having dressed him, served him up in a Feast which she made for her Husband: Philomela appearing at the end of the Repast threw the Head of the Child on the Table. The King, transported with Rage and Fury drew his Sword to kill his Wife and Sister in Law; but those Two Princesses getting on board a Ship, which they had provided for that purpose, arrived at Athens before he could overtake them.
As it was common in those remote Ages to mix the Supernatural in all the Adventures of Persons of any Distinction, and as an Escape from any eminent Danger was sufficient ground to say that They had received Wings from the Gods, it was published that Procne was changed into a Swallow, Philomela into a Nightingale, Itys into a Pheasant or a Goldfinch, and Tereus into a Lapwing. The Mythologists found Interpretations agreeable to these Metamorphoses; it was intended, say they, by those Symbolic Changes to shew the different Characters of the Persons concerned in them. As the Lapwing is a Bird that loves Dung and Filth, the Ancients designed by it to expose the Impurities of Tereus; and as the Flight of that Bird is heavy and slow, it shews, at the same time, that he could not overtake the Two Princesses; his Ship not sailing so well as theirs. The Nightingale which hides itself in Woods and Brambles, seems as if it would there conceal it's Misfortunes and it's Shame; and the Swallow, which frequents Houses, shews us the uneasiness of Procne, who seeks in vain for her Son which she had so inhumanly murder'd. All this is very ingenious, but, unfortunately, other very ancient Authors have quite destroyed all these pretty Reflections. Anacreon, and, after him, Apollodorus, say that Philomela was changed into a Swallow, and Procne into a Nightingale. However that may be, it is pretended that this Event did not happen in Thrace, but at Daulis a Town in Phocis where Tereus came to settle: Which may be true, in supposing that Tereus, intending to serve Pandion his Father in Law who was engaged in a War with the Thebans, came with his Court into Phocis to be in a better Condition to assist him.
We may fix the Epoch of this Event near the Year 1440. before the Christian Aera, in the Reign of Pandion the Second, the Eighth King of Athens. Eusebius carries it a little higher, for he is of opinion that Procne and Philomela were the Daughters of Pandion the First of that Name, and Fifith King of Athens, who succeeded Erichthonius. As to the other Circumstances of the Story, it is probable that Tereus perished in pursuing his Wife and Sister, since Pausanias tells us (1) that his Tomb was to be seen near Athens. The same Author, after having followed the Tradition which says that Boreas King of Thrace carried away Orithyia the Daughter of Pandion, adds that in Consequence of that Alliance Boreas assisted the Athenians, and sunk some Ships of the Barbarians which infested their Coast.
I should have nothing more to add to this Explication had I not found (2) a Tradition in Homer very different from that of all the other Poets and Historians who have succeeded him. Here is the manner in which that ancient Poet relates it, when he speaks of the Reasons of Penelope's Grief. "That Princess," says he, "made her Complaints be heard like the comfortless Philomela the Daughter of Pandarus, always hid amongst the Branches and Leaves of Trees. When the Spring arrives she makes her Voice eccho through the Woods, and laments her dear Itylus, whom she killed by an unfortunate Mistake, varying, in her continual Plaints, the mournful Melody of her Notes." It appears by this Comparison that Homer knew nothing either of Procne or Tereus, and that he followed the Tradition which I am going to relate. Pandarus, the Son of Mecrops, had three Daughters, Aedon, Mecrope, and Cleothera; Aedon being the Eldest was married to Zethus the Brother of Amphion, by whom she had but one Son named Itylus: Envying the numerous Family of Niobe her Sister in Law, she resolved to dispatch the eldest of her Nephews, and as her Son was brought up with his Cousin and was his Bedfellow, she bid him change his Place in the Bed, the Night she intended to commit that Crime. The young Itylus forgot his Orders, and his Mother killed him instead of her Nephew. Homer in the following Book (3) touches the same History again and adds that the other Two Sisters Mecrope and Cleothera, after the Gods had robbed them of their Father and Mother, were carried away by the Harpies, and delivered to the Furies, at the time they were just going to be married.
If we will depend upon the Authority of Plato, the Fable of the Rape of Orithyia is but an Allegory which contains the Accident that happen'd to that Princess, whom the Wind blew into the Sea where she was drowned. We learn, however, from the Ancients, and particularly from Apollodorus (1) and Pausanias (2), that this History is true, and that Boreas King of Thrace seized that Princess, who was one of the Daughters of Erechtheus King of Athens and Sister of Procris, as she was passing the River Ilissus, and carried her into his Dominions, where she brought him Twins, Calais and Zethes. Those Two Princes, in the Expedition of the Argonauts, delivered old Phineus, King of Bithynia, from the Persecution of the Harpies, who snatcht away the Victuals that were served up to his Table; as I shall shew more at large, when I come to explain the Fables which the Poets have published upon that famous Expedition (1). The same Pausanias, whom I have just cited, in describing the Sculptures on the Arch of Sypselus (2), says, that Boreas was represented there carrying away Orithyia. As the Reign of Erechtheus falls, according to the Calculation of the Commentators on the Marbles, near the Year 1426. before the Christian Aera, we may give a very near Guess at the time of this Adventure: We may even fix the Epoch of it by the Conquest of the Argonauts, which happen'd when the Sons of Boreas and Orithyia were but young; as I shall shew in the following Book.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ VII.i Jason and the Golden Fleece ]
To understand this Fable thoroughly it will be necessary to go back to the Origin of it, and unravel all the Fictions which the Poets have mixed with the History of the Expedition of the Argonauts, one of the most remarkable Events of Fabulous Ages. Athamas (1) the Son of Aeolus, Grand-Son of Hellen and Great-Grandson of Deucalion, having married Ino the Daughter of Cadmus, was obliged to repudiate her upon account of some Fits of Madness with which she was attacked. He afterwards married Nephele by whom he had a Son named Phryxus and a Daughter called Helle: But some time after, taking his first Wife again she brought him Two Sons, Learchus and Melicerta. Ino, hating the Children of Nephele, who, as eldest, ought to succeed their Father, sought all possible Means to destroy them (2): But Phryxus, informed by his Governor of the wicked Designs of his Step-Mother, ordered a Ship to be privately made ready, and, taking his Father's Treasures along with him, sailed away, with his Sister Helle, to seek a Retreat in the Court of his Kinsman Aeeta. The young Helle dyed in the Voyage, but Phryxus arrived safe in Colchis; and, having returned Thanks to the Gods, and dedicated the Prow of his Ship, either to Neptune or Jupiter Conservator, he married Chalciope, by whom he had Four Sons, Argos, Phrontes, Molas and Cylindus. Some Years after, Aeeta caused Phryxus to be assassinated, to make himself Master of his Treasures; and the Sons of that infortunate Prince retiring to Thebes to their Grandfather Athamas, were shipwreckt upon an Island, in which they staid untill the Arrival of Jason, who took them back to their Mother. That Princess transported with Joy at the Sight of her Children, whom she thought to have been dead, did all that lay in her Power to assist the Graecian Hero in his Addresses to Medea, and to render his Passion for her successful.
The Greeks preparing for an Expedition to Colchis, to recover the Treasures of Athamas and revenge the Death of Phryxus, Pelias, who had driven his Brother Aeson from the Throne of Iolcos, desiring to keep his Nephew Jason at as great a Distance from the Court as possible, lest he might one day become powerful enough to re-establish his Father, took the advantage of so favorable an Opportunity, and ingaged the young Prince in an Enterprise which, in the Event, might prove very glorious to him. The Uneasiness which Pelias was under proceeded in a great Measure from the Prediction of an Oracle, that he should be killed by a Prince of the Race of Aeolus; the same Oracle also foretold him to beware of a Person who should have but one Shoe. During these Transactions, Jason, returning from Chiron's School, where he had been educated, lost one of his Shoes in passing a River: His Uncle perceiving it upon his Arrival, waited an Opportunity to destroy him; but not daring to do it publickly, he obliged him to imbark with the Argonauts, not doubting but he must infallibly perish in a Voyage, which, in those Days, was attended with so many Dangers. As the Noise of that Expedition had spread itself over all Greece, several Young Princes repaired to the Court of Iolcos, where, after having unanimously chosen Jason for their General, they all imbarked in a Ship, which, from its Figure, was called Argo, and those that went in it Argonauts (3).
I know that all Authors do not agree in this Explication which I have given of the Ship Argo: Diodorus Siculus (4), says that it was called so from the Swiftness with which it sailed. There are other Authors who give it that Name either from the Builder, who was called Argo, or because the Greeks on board were called Argives; but Bochart, whose Opinion I prefer before that of any other Author in this Case, says with more reason (5), that the Name was given it from the Word Arco, which, in the Phoenician Language, signifies long: This learned man adds that the Greeks made use of round Vessels before that time; Jason being the First that sailed in a Ship built in the Form of a Gallery. Several Fables were published concerning the Ship Argo: It was said that Minerva gave the Model of it; that it was built of Oaks that grew in the Forest of Dodona; and that the Rudder had the Gift of Speech: Upon these Things the Reader may consult what I have said in the Third Tome of my Explication of Fables. As Navigation was very dangerous in those Times, the Argonauts had several Adventures which I have explained at large in the Book I have just cited, and shall therefore only touch them here in as few Words as possible. When our Heros arrived at the Isle of Lemnos they found that the Women had killed their Husbands, because they had adandon'd them to take Slaves in their room; the Argonauts married them, and Jason, as Chief, had, for his Share, Hypsipile the Daughter of Thoas: After having staid some time at Lemnos they put to Sea again, but were driven into Bithynia, where they deliver'd old Phineus, the King of it, from the Persecution of the Harpies, who continually snatcht away his Victuals, even from his very Table.
The Harpies, if we believe what the Poets say of them, were Monsters, of a hideous Form, with crooked Beaks and Pounces, great Wings, and Women's Faces. They foretold future Events, as Virgil says (6).
There have been Two different Explications given of this Fable. In the First it is pretended that the Harpies were the King of Bithynia's own Daughters, who, by their Lewdness and extravagant way of living, had ruined that Prince, then very old and blind, which gave occasion to say that they snatcht the Victuals out of his Mouth. Monsieur le Clerc, the Author of the Second Explication, pretends (7), that the Harpies were prodigious Swarms of Grasshoppers that ravaged all Paphlagonia and caused a Famine in the Dominions of Phineus; the Word Arbati, from which the Word Harpy has been made, signifying a Grasshopper. The North Wind blew them into the Ionian Sea where they were drowned: And, from these Circumstances, it was said that the Sons of Boreas pursued them just so far. The Author, whom I have cited, proves, in a curious Detail, that whatever has been said by the Poets concerning their Harpies, is very applicable to Grasshoppers which carry Famine and Contagion into the Places where they meet together, sometimes in such Quantities that the very Air is darken'd by their Numbers: Concerning which the Curious may consult the Second Tome of his Bibliotheque Universelle. Let us take notice, by the way, that Diodorus Siculus, who collected very carefully, even the absurdest Fables, speaking of the Stay which the Argonauts made at the Court of Phineus, has not one Word of the Harpies; He only says (8) that the King having put his Two Sons in Prison, Hercules, whom he believes to have been in that Expedition, set them at Liberty.
The Argonauts, after some other Adventures, arrived at last in Colchis. Aeeta (9), who was King of it, forwarned by an Oracle, that a Stranger should deprive him of his Life as well of his Crown, established a barbarous Custom of sacrificing to his Gods all Strangers that entered his Dominions. His Daughter Medea, who had retired to a Temple dedicated to the Sun, seeing the Graecians land, was so taken with the graceful Presence of their Chief, that she promised to preserve them from all the Dangers to which they were going to expose themselves, provided that Jason would marry her. The Prince having by the most solemn Oaths, engaged to do so, she conducted him to the Court by Night, and gave him a false Key, by which he got access to the King's Treasures and bringing them away, imbarked immediatly with Medea and all his Company.
That History was, very probably, written in the ancient Phoenician Language. The Greeks, who did not understand it, invented the Fable of the Golden Fleece, of the Dragon that kept it, and of the Bulls casting forth Fire at their Nostrils. For, as the learned Bochart has well observed (10), and Monsieur Le Clerc after him, the same Syriac Word Gaza signifies either a Treasure or a Fleece; Saur, which signifies a Wall signifies also a Bull; and, in that ancient Language, Brass, Iron and a Dragon were all expressed by the same Word Nachas. Thus instead of saying simply that Jason, by the Counsel and Assistance of Medea, carried away those Treasures which Aeeta kept so carefully garded, and Phryxus had carried into Colchis in a Ship having the Figure of a Ram on her Prow, it was published, from those equivocal Words, that the Gods, to deliver Phryxus from the Persecution of his Step-Mother, sent him a Sheep with a Golden Fleece, which carried him upon its Back into Colchis; That the Skin of that Sheep became, afterwards, the Object of the Ambition of all the Graecian Nobility; and that whoever attempted to bring it away, was obliged to fight with Dragons, to make use of Inchantments etc. The Historians themselves, who have undertaken to explain these Fables, have invented new Ones concerning them, in introducing a Gard named Draco, and a Garrison brought from the Tauric-Chersonesus, which, they said, gave rise to the Dragon and the Bulls that cast out Flames at their Nostrils: They also added that the Golden Fleece was the Skin of the Sheep which Phryxus had sacrifice to Neptune, and had ordered to be gilt: As if that Skin could have excited the Avarice of the Greeks, and put them upon undertaking so long and so dangerous a Voyage. For what concerns the Dragon's Teeth, which produced armed Men, see what I have said in the Fable of Cadmus: I am perswaded that we ought to understand it only of some foreign Troops, which Cadmus, and Jason, after his Example, found means to divert and, afterwards, to bring over to their own Party.
I have abridged all these Fables because I would not tire the Reader. I know that the Ancients differ very much about the Names of the Heros of this Expedition; that the Author of the Poem on the Voyage of the Argonauts carries them about by the North and brings them home by the Straits of Gibraltar; that Homer speaks of the Expedition of the Argonauts only as a thing accidentally falling in his Way; and that it is pretended that his Silence upon of the Adventures of those Heros is a Proof of their being very little known in his Time. I know also that several Authors have reckoned Hercules amongst the Argonauts, tho' there are very strong reasons to prove that he never made the Voyage; that it is very difficult to fix the Epoch of it; and that the Parian Marbles make no mention of that Expedition. But I thought I might follow the Narrations of Apollodorus, and Diodorus Siculus, who, acknowledge that the Poets have entirely disfigured the History of that Conquest, but, nevertheless, speak of it as true Event. In the mean time, as I may have an Opportunity of examining this Subject more closely hereafter, I shall only say that we may place the Epoch of it near the Year 65. before the final Destruction of Troy, and, in the Time of the first sacking of that City by Hercules, who left the Argonauts to go and deliver Hesione, the Daughter of Laomedon; as I shall prove in the History of that Hero. Eusebius places this Expedition in the Eighteenth Year of the Reign of Aegeus, and in some Manuscripts in the 22. 1315. Years before JESUS-CHRIST. Scaliger, and Father Petau differ very little from these Two Dates.
Jason, having brought away the Treasures of Aeeta, was immediatly pursued by an Army under the Command of Absyrtus, the Brother of Medea, and upon the very point of abandonning that Princess for fear of falling into their Hands; but she thought upon a Stratagem which succeeded to her Wish. She sent some Presents to the young Prince, and, let him know she had come off with the Greeks very contrary to her Inclinations; that they carried her away by Force; and that if he would come the following Night to a certain Place, which she had order'd her Messengers to name to him, she would be indebted to him for her Liberty. The too credulous Prince went to the Place appointed, without having taken any Precaution for his own Safety, and was there assassinated. His Limbs were scatter'd in the Road; and the pursuing Army, being stopp'd by that Means, gave the Greeks time to imbark with Safety. This Circumstance is found in the Verses of an ancient Author, quoted by Cicero in his Third Book de Natura Deorum. It is added that Jason and Medea arriving at the Island of Aeaea went to the Court of Circe, who was Queen of it, to undergo Expiation for the Murder of Absyrtus, and that this Princess, Sister to the King of Colchis and Aunt to Medea, performed the Ceremony, not knowing who they were; but that having learned their Names some time after, she forbid them her Court with Marks of the highest Resentment.
The Author of the Poem on the Argonauts gives too instructive a Detail of that famous Expiation to be passed over here unmentioned. Jason and Medea, says that Author, upon their Arrival at the Court of Circe, moved slowly forward, with down-cast Looks, and a profound Silence, according to the Custom of Suppliants, as far as the Hearth, where Jason struck that Sword into the Earth with which he had killed his Brother in Law. By their Silence and their dejected Air Circe easily knew that they were Fugitives and guilty of Murder, wherefore she prepared for their Expiation. She immediatly order'd a sucking Pig to be brought, and, having cut the Throat of it, she rubbed the Hands both of Jason and Medea with the Blood. Then she made Libations to Jupiter Expiator; and, ordering the rest of the Sacrifice to be cast out of the Palace, burn'd Cakes upon the Altar made of Meal, Salt and Water, accompanying these Actions with proper Prayers to avert the Anger of the Eumenides. When the Ceremony was over, the Queen placed her Guests on magnificent Seats to entertain them with the greater Splendor.
The Argonauts leaving the Court of Circe made some Stay in Thrace, to perform a Vow made by Castor and Pollux when they were in great Distress by a Storm in their Voyage to Colchis. In the mean Time, Pelias imagining that they had been really shipwreckt made Aeson and Promachus, Jason's Brother, take a Draught of Bulls blood of which they died upon the Spot. Ovid seems to have followed another Tradition, when he relates in what manner Medea, at her arrival in Iolcos, restored Youth and Vigour to that Prince, whose great Age and Feebleness prevented his being present at the Rejoicings that were made for the happy Success of his Son's Voyage.
The Authors, who have endeavoured to explain the History of that Operation, are very much divided in their Opinions concerning it. Some think that it points at the Mystery of the Transfusion of Blood: A Remedy that has been several times attempted but has always succeeded very ill. For my part I am perswaded that Medea, who was called a Sorceress for no other Reason than that her Mother had taught her the Vertues of several Plants, made Aeson take a Drink which furnished him with new Spirits and Strength: Upon which Pliny, Servius and Aelian may be consulted. The Daughters of Pelias being also desirous to obtain the same Favour of Medea for their Father, she, to revenge the Evils which that Prince had brought upon her Husband and his Family, mixed some venemous Herbs in the Drink, which immediatly killed him.
Tho' Jason was revenged in this manner on his Uncle Pelias, he was reconciled to his Children: He gave the Crown to his Son Acastus, and provided Husbands for the Daughters, being satisfied to live, himself, as a private Person with Medea, whom, for a long time, he loved with the greatest Tenderness; but at last, taking some Disgust at her, he married Glauce (1) the Daughter of Creon King of Corinth. This threw Medea into such Despair and Rage, that she hasted away to Corinth while Preparations were a making for the Marriage, and, leaving her Two Sons in the Temple of Juno, set fire to Creon's Palace, where he and his Daughter were consumed to Ashes. Going afterwards to the Temple where she had left her Children she killed them likewise. Euripides, in his Tragedy of Medea, makes a Chorus of Corinthian Women say, that the Corinthians themselves committed that Murder, and that the Plague which ravaged their City soon after was a Punishment sent them by the Gods for so cruel an Action. This place of the Tragedy has appeared to some Critics extravagant and even beyond all manner of Probability: But is it likely that an Author of such Prudence and Judgment would have dared to charge so dishonourable a Fact upon that famous City, if it had not been founded upon some Tradition? The Truth is that Aristotle, Plutarch, and several other Authors cited by the Scholiast tell us that the Corinthians offered Euripides an Hundred Talents to ingage him to strike that Passage out of his Piece. Pausanias adds in his Corinthiacs that the Tomb of Medea's Children, whom the Corinthians had stoned to Death, was still to be seen in his Time, and that the Corinthians offered Sacrifices there every Year to appease their Manes, as the Oracle had commanded them.
Apollodorus (2) relates this History in a different Manner. According to him, Medea sent her Rival a Crown done over with a sort of Gum very apt to take fire, and as soon as Glauce had put it on her Head it to began burn and flame so furiously that the young Princess perished by it in the greatest Torment and Misery. By what I shall say hereafter concerning Hercules's Vest it will appear that the thing may have happened as this Author relates it. Medea, after so resolute and so cruel and Action, retired to Thebes to put herself under the Protection of Hercules, who ingaged with the other Argonauts to revenge her, if Jason proved false; but that Hero not offering her any real Assistance she went to Athens where she married Aegeus. Theseus returning at that time from Troesen to his Father's Court, his Step-mother Medea intended to poison him with a Cup which she presented to him; but Aegeus knowing his Son by the Sword he had left with his Mother the Daughter of Pittheus, she would have been severely punished for this last Piece of Cruelty if she had not immediatly imbarked and sailed away. From that time forth we know but very little of her Adventures. Pausanias however, in his Corinthiacs, says that she went into Asia and gave her Name to the Kingdom of Media. The Writers of her Retreat, perswaded that she was a Sorceress, published that she saved herself in a Chariot drawn by flying Dragons; they had, perhaps, spoken more to the purpose if they had said that her Ship was called the Dragon: For, to repeat what I have already taken notice of, Medea, if we believe Diodorus Siculus (3), was not taken for a Sorceress upon any other account than because her Mother Hecate had taught her the Vertues of Simples.
Ovid, in the Two Journies which he makes Medea take in her flying Chariot, touches upon several Fables in the Way, the most part of which are entirely unknown to Us. It would be altogether needless to inlarge upon Subjects which carry so little Instruction in them, and upon which History is so intirely silent. Let it therefore be sufficient to establish some general Principles which may serve as a Key to these ancient Fictions. When a Person had escaped from any eminent danger it was published that he had been changed into a Bird. If, to avoid a Pursuit, a Man hid himself in a Cave, he was immediatly transformed into a Serpent. If excess of Grief forced any one to burst into Tears, they became a Fountain. If a young Creature lost herself in a Wood she was made a Nymph or a Dryade. The likeness of Names also gave rise to several Fictions; thus Alopis was metamorphosed into a Fox, Cygnus into a Swan, Coronis into a Crow, Cerambis into that sort of Beetle which has Horns on its Head. By this Rule the Reader may be able to understand the greatest part of the Fables which Ovid relates here; but as some of them point at Historical Events I shall indeavour to explain them in a few Words. That of the Women of the Isle of Cos being changed into Cows, is founded upon a piece of Cruelty in the Companions of Hercules, who sacrificed some of them to the Gods of the Country. The Inhabitants of the Island of Rhodes were said to have been changed into Rocks, because they perished in an Inundation which laid a part of that Island under Water, and particularly the Town of Ialysus. The Daughter of Alcidamas was extremely fruitful, which gave Occasion to the Fable of her Metamorphosis into a Dove. The Rage and Despair of Maera is set forth in her Transformation into a Bitch: and in Metamorphosing Menephron into a brute Beast we see the Horror which People had conceived of his Incest. Arne was changed into a Daw, because, having sold her Country, her Avarice and Covetousness might be exposed under the Symbol of that Bird which, according to the popular Opinion, loves Money. Phillyre, the Mother of the Centaur Chiron, was turned into a Linden-Tree because she had the Name of that Tree called by the Greeks Φίλυρα (4).
There is no Subject better known in Mythology than the Dog Cerberus, that was placed by the Poets to gard the Entrance into Hell. I have proved in the Second Tome of my Explication of Fables, that the Notion of this Dog was taken from the History of the Egyptians, who had Dogs to gard those Fields in which they kept their Mummies; and, to take the Thing in its Origin, it is certain that the Greeks drew all their System of Hell and the Elysian Fields from the Theology of that ancient People, yet what Ovid relates here of the Aconite and other venomous Herbs, which the Foam of Cerberus caused to spring out of the Earth wheresoever it fell, is founded on a piece of Graecian History. Formerly there was a Serpent in the Cavern of Tenarus (1) that ravaged all the adjacent places of that Promontory, and because that Cave was thought to be one of the Avenues to Pluto's Kingdom, the Poets took Occasion from thence to say that this Serpent was the Porter of it: This is the Origin of Cerberus who was called the Dog of Hell, because he bit and devoured Those that went near his Den as Hecataeus the Milesian remarks. Pausanias (2) observes that Homer was the first that said Cerberus was a Dog, tho', in reality, he was but a Serpent, whose Greek Name signifies One that devours Flesh. The Poets who followed Homer have indeed named Cerberus a Dog, but in effect they have described him like a Serpent.
I must not finish this Article without remarking that Cerberus is often found joined with Serapis: Which is a further Proof that the Idea of this Gardian of the Entrance into Hell came first from Egypt. Serapis was confounded with Pluto; thus it is not surprising that Cerberus accompanies him in the Monuments where he is represented. If other Proofs of my Sentiment are still required, I shall make use of a very particular Figure of Cerberus, brought by the Sieur Paul Lucas out of Egypt some Years ago, and now in the Cabinet of Monsieur de Boze. That Antic is a most extraordinary One: Cerberus is represented in it with Three Heads, One of a Man, One of a Dog, and One of a Monkey. To make it still more particularly remarkable, Two Serpents twist round the Three Heads, and with their Tails make several folds about the Legs. Father Bernard pretends that the Egyptians have, in this Piece outdone both the Greeks and Romans; but should he not rather have said that the Romans and Greeks, who had their Theology and every thing that regarded the Worship of their Gods from the Egyptians, made such Changes and Alterations in it as Caprice or Fancy dictated to them? There is no body believes now a Days that the Idolatry of the Egyptians came from Greece.
Minos the Second (1) of that Name, upon his Accession to the Throne after the Death of his Father Lycastus, made several Conquests in the Islands adjoining Crete where he reigned, and at last became intire Master of the Sea. Thucydides, Apollodorus and Diodorus Siculus, speak fully of the Power and Progress of his Fleet, the most numerous One that had ever been seen before his Time. The Success of his Arms would have secured to him the Reputation of One of the greatest Men of his Age, had it not been for the unfortunate Adventure I am just going to relate; an Adventure that disturbed all the Tranquility of his Life, and gave the Greeks, but particularly the Athenians, whom he had most disobliged, room to defame him with their Calumnies. So dangerous a thing it is, as Plutarch remarks (2), to offend a City flourishing in Arts and Sciences, and consequently jealous of it's Glory.
The Feast of the Panathenaea drawing a great Concourse of People to Athens (3), Minos sent his Son Androgeus to it, who entered a Combatant in the Games that made a part of that Solemnity, and acquitted himself with so much Address and good Fortune that he won all the Prizes. The polite and noble Deportment of that young Prince, joined to the Glory which he had just acquired, gained him the Love of the People and the Esteem of the Sons of Pallas, Aegeus's Brother. This Commerce between the Pallantides and a Stranger filled the King with Jealousy, who knew otherwise that his Nephews were conspiring against him. As he had not yet made his Son Theseus known, who had been educated at Troesen with his Grand-father Pittheus, he was extremely mistrustful both of his Brother and the People; and therefore, being informed that Androgeus was to take a Journey to Thebes, he caused him to be assassinated near Oenoe a Town on the Confines of Attica. Apollodorus indeed says that he was killed by the Bull of Marathon that made great Ravages in Greece; but it is more probable that the Athenians caused such a Report of the manner of his Death to be spread abroad designedly, to cover their King from the Infamy of so inhuman and so injust an Action: Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch agree that Aegeus himself caused Androgeus to be murdered. Minos had no sooner heard this mournful News, than he resolved to revenge his Son's Death. He immediatly ordered a strong Fleet to be fitted out, and went in person to several Courts to make Alliances, and to ingage other Powers to assist him: This is the Subject of the present Fable. The other Adventures of that War shall be the subject of the following Explications, and form a Series of History which I find my self obliged to divide into parts for the better understanding of the Figures at the Head of each Fable.
Minos, having traversed the Isles of Oliaros, Didymus, Tenos and Andros, stayed some time in Aegina where Aeacus reigned. Surprised to see none there but young People, and not to meet with any of his old Acquaintances; he was informed by Aeacus how the Island had been ravaged by a Plague that had swept off the most of his Subjects, and that Jupiter had repeopled it by transforming into Men the Ants that were in the Hollow of an old Oak. A Fable which, in my Opinion, has no other Foundation than the Retreat of that Prince's Subjects into Woods and Caverns from whence they returned when the Contagion was over, and when he had already lost all Hopes of seeing them again. The old Men were carried off by the Plague, but the young People who had more Strength resisted it, and this, I believe, is all the Mystery contain'd in Aeacus's Recital; unless we think, with some Authors, that the Myrmidons were a barbarous but frugal People of Thessaly that dwelt commonly in Caves, and were drawn from thence by Aeacus to people his Island that a Pestilence had laid desolate. The Conformity of their Name to that of an Ant, which the Greeks call μύρμηξ, gave occasion to say that Jupiter had metamorphosed Ants into Men. But it will not perhaps be amiss to inlarge a little on the History of a Prince who during his Life was the Oracle of all Greece, and deserved to be ranked among the Judges of Hell after his Death.
Aeacus was the Son of Jupiter, or according to Pausanias (1), of a King of Arcadia called by that Name, and of Aegina Daughter of the River Asopus. To revenge an Affront done to his Daughter whom the King of Arcadia had debauched Asopus made War against him, but was overcome, as we learn from Theodontius cited by Boccacio (2). As Fables were always mixed with ancient Histories, the Writers of that Event published that the River Asopus had made War against Jupiter with his Waves, and that the God, vanquished him, by changing himself into Fire.
His Reputation and Glory however, did not screen him from domestic Troubles. By his Wife Endeis he had two Sons, Peleus and Telamon, and by Psamathe one of his Mistresses, another called Phocus, who as he was playing one day with his two Brothers, received a Stroke on the Head from Telamon's Quoit, which killed him (4). Aeacus informed of this Accident, and being told at the same time that the young Princes had before quarrelled with Phocus, discharged them his Court and condemned them to a perpetual Exile. Telamon retired to Salamis where he afterwards reigned, and Peleus sought a Retreat in Thessaly where he married Antigone the Daughter of Eurion (5) and after her Death Thetis: This I shall give a larger Account of in speaking of his Son Achilles.
The Plague that ravaged the Island of Aegina was a new Source of Trouble for Aeacus; but having found means to repeople his Dominions, he generously assisted Minos in a just War he had declared against the Athenians. By the Wisdom and Prudence of his Conduct he was honoured by all Greece while he lived, and was thought worthy to be made one of the Judges of Hell along with Minos and Radamanthus after his Death.
There were Two Princes of the Name of Cephalus; One the Son of Mercury and Herse the Daughter of Cecrops, the Other (1) the Son of Deioneus King of Phocis and of Diomeda the Daughter of Xutus. The First was carried off by Aurora and went to live with her in Syria, where he had a Son named Python, the Father of Phaeton. The Second married Procris the Daughter of Erechtheus King of Athens: Tho' Apollodorus seems at first to follow this Genealogy; He afterwards in his Third Book, confounds the Actions of those Two Princes. Ovid, and, after him, all the other Ancients, have spoken but of the Son of Deioneus who was carried off by Aurora, and, having left her, returned with Procris: As I shall shew a length in explaining the following Fable.
Cephalus the Son of Deioneus King of Phocis was a very accomplished Prince. His Passion for Hunting ingaged him to rise very early every Morning, whence he was said to be in Love with Aurora. His Wife Procris, who, as Apollodorus tells us, carried on an Amour with Pteleon, caused, without doubt, that Report to be spread abroad, either to conceal or authorize her own Intrigue. However, Cephalus, who had some Suspicion of the Matter, forsook the Fields and Woods, which before were his usual Resort, and went to Thoricus where the Queen resided. Procris informed of her Husband's Return, retired to the Court of Minos the Second, who fell in love with her. His Wife Pasiphae, to be revenged on her Husband for his Gallantries, enter'd into an Intrigue with a Captain of his Court named Taurus, which afterwards made so much Noise in the World, and which the Greeks, who hated Minos for the Reasons I have already mentioned, represented on their Theatres in a manner that so much dishonoured the King of Crete and his Spouse.
Pasiphae, not contented with being revenged on her Husband by an Intrigue that was so disgraceful took several Methods to destroy her Rival, and poisoned her Bed. Procris informed of the evil Intentions of the Queen left Crete and returned to Thoricus where she was reconciled to Cephalus, and gave him that famous Dog and that mysterious Dart which are so much celebrated by the Poets.
At that Time, a monstrous Fox, sent by Themis, ravaged the Territories of the Thebans, who obliged themselves to give him one of their Children every Month, to hinder him from devouring a greater number of them. Amphitryon, who was to marry Alcmena as soon as he had revenged the Death of her Brothers killed by the Teleboes, desired Creon King of Thebes to give him some Troops for that Expedition. Creon promised him some upon Condition that he should first free the Country from that destructive Fox. Amphitryon accepted the Terms, and went to Athens, where Cephalus then lived, to desire that Prince to go with him to Thebes with the Dog and the Dart which Procris had given him; promising him a part of the Spoils and Country of the Teleboes. Cephalus went without hesitating upon the matter, and Laelaps, which Name Ovid gives the Dog, pursued the Fox so closely, that he was just upon the point of taking him when Jupiter turned them both into Stone.
The Poets have given the Genealogy and History of that Dog. Vulcan, according to them, had formed him, and made a present of him to Jupiter, who gave him to Europa; and Procris, who had him from Minos, gave him at last to Cephalus. I should be very much inclined to believe, that the King of Crete sent back that Princess under the Conduct of some intriguing cunning Captain, who settling at Athens, went with Cephalus to hunt the Fox that destroyed the Country about Thebes; that the Fox itself was a Sea-Rover who was pursued by the Cretan Captain; and that their Vessels being shipwreckt near some Rocks, it was fabled, in writing of that Adventure, that the Dog and the Fox had been changed into Stone. My Conjecture will appear still more probable, if we have regard to Tzetzes, who calls the Dog Cyon and the Fox Alopis, and says positively that Cyon was the Captain who brought back Procris when she was obliged to leave the Island of Crete. Whatever may be in this, Amphitryon after the Chase of the Theban Fox went to make War against the Teleboes, whom he conquered; and to recompense Cephalus for the Service he had done him, he gave him a little Island, which, from that time was called Cephalenia. It is situated in the Ionian Sea higher up than Ithaca, over against Acarnania. It was in that War against the Teleboes that Cometo charmed with the Beauty of Cephalus, cut the fatal Lock upon which the Life of Pterclas depended; that is to say, she formed a Conspiracy against her Father. Amphitryon made himself Master of Taphos; and Cephalus, who was reconciled to his Wife, had that unnatural young Woman in so much Contempt that she went and threw herself from the Promontory of Leucas; as we may see in Strabo, of which the Passage has been happily restored.
Tho' Cephalus was reconciled to Procris; as he killed her in hunting, it was believed he had not done it altogether by Accident, but rather thro' some remains of Resentment: In so much that the Areopagus who judged that Affair condemned him to perpetual Banishment; as we read in Apollodorus (1), Pausanias, and Eustathius on the Second Book of the Iliad. His Son Celeus succeeded him and reigned in the Island of Cephalenia. Celeus was the Father of Arcesius, Grandfather of Ulysses, who led the Cephalenians and Ithacians to Troy. Oeneus the Second Son of Cephalus, reigned in Phocis after the Death of his Grandfather Deioneus. Cephalus reigned in the time of Minos the Second, that is to say, about an Hundred Years before the War of Troy. Ulysses lived Three Generations after him, and Three Generations commonly make an Hundred Years. Those Three Generations take in Five Persons, of which, Cephalus, as being the First of the Family, must not be reckoned any more than the last: Cephalus, Celeus, Arcesius, Laertes, Ulysses.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ VIII.i Nisus and Scylla ]
Minos having raised an Army and received Auxiliary Troops from his Allies, as I have said in the foregoing Book, went to make War against the Athenians to revenge the Death of his Son Androgeus. After having made himself Master of Nisea which had entered into a Confederacy with the Athenians, he laid Siege to Megara. Nisus, who was King of it, would have checked the Progress of his Arms, had he not been betrayed by the Perfidiousness of his Daughter Scylla, who falling in love with Minos, whom she had often seen from One of the Towers of the City, delivered the Town into his Hands. The Poets say, that the Fate of Megara depended upon a red Lock on Nisus's Head, which his unnatural Daughter cut away while her Father slept, and carried to her Lover: That Minos, taking Advantage of her Treason, entered the Town, imposed Laws upon it, and then left it without speaking to Scylla, who in Despair, threw herself into the Sea and was changed into a Lark. That is to say, for Pausanias and several other ancient Authors attest the Truth of that Adventure, that Scylla had some Correspondence with Minos during the Siege of Megara; that she gave him advice of the most secret Resolutions of the Council; and that she, at last, introduced him into the Town, opening the Gates to him with the Keys which she had stoln from her Father while he was asleep: And This, without doubt, is what Ovid had in View in speaking of that Lock, Nisus had on his Head. The Metamorphoses of that Princess into a Lark, and of her Father into that sort of Eagle which is called amongst the Greeks Ἁλιάετος are but Poetical Ornaments; founded however on Equivocations in their Names, the one Greek and the other Hebrew: For, as our Poet insinuates, the Name of Ciris comes from the Word κείρειν, which signifies to clip, or poll:
Pausanias says in his Attics that Nisus had red Hair, which his Daughter Scylla cut off; and calls the same Town Nisea which Ovid names Megara: In other Particulars he agrees with Our Poet.
The Athenians destroyed by a cruel Famine and seeing the Enemy at their Gates, went once more to consult the Oracle; and were answered, that to be delivered from those two Calamities which afflicted them, they must give Minos an entire Satisfaction. Immediatly, upon this Response, they sent Ambassadors to him in a very humble manner, to beg Peace (1), which he granted them upon Condition that, every Year, according to Diodorus Siculus and Apollodorus; and every Nine Years according to Plutarch and Ovid, they should send him Seven young Men and as many Virgins. That Article being accepted on both Sides, the Peace was signed and Minos raised the Siege, taking with him Those, whom the Lot had made the first Victims to the Safety of their Country.
The Severity of this Tribute provoked (2) the Greeks, to render Minos as odious as possible, wherefore they published, that he destined those young Athenians, which were sent to him, to fight in the Labyrinth against the Minotaur which was the Fruit of his Wife Pasiphae's infamous Amour with a white Bull that Neptune had sent out of the Sea. They also added to the Fable, that Daedalus favoured that extravagant Passion of the Queen (3) whence the Minotaur was produced, a Monster which, according to Euripides, cited by Plutarch, was half Man and half Bull; and that it was Venus who had inspired that Passion into Pasiphae to be revenged for having been surprised with Mars by the Sun her Father. It is very easy to perceive that the Hatred which the Greeks bore to the King of Crete prompted them to invent that Fable: Plato (4), Plutarch (5), and other Ancients acknowledge it, but as the most absurd Fables have always some Foundation in History, it is necessary to inquire, what could have given rise to this One. Servius (6), Tzetzes and Zenobius relate, that in the Absence of Minos, Pasiphae fell in love with a young Lord of the Cretan Court named Taurus, who was, according to Plutarch, Admiral of that Prince's Fleet; that Daedalus, the Confident of their Intrigue, received the Two Lovers into his House; and that the Queen was afterwards brought to bed of Twins, One of which resembled Minos, and the other Taurus: This was, according to those Authors, the Foundation of the Fable concerning the Minotaur.
As to the Combat to which the young Athenians, sent into Crete, were destined, Philochorus cited by Plutarch (7), says, that Minos had instituted Funeral Games in honour of his Son Androgeus, and that those who had the Misfortune to be vanquished became Slaves to the Victors. That ancient Author adds, that the first who won all the Prizes in those Games was the Admiral Taurus, a proud haughty Man who used those Athenians that became Slaves to him with great Barbarity: A Circumstance that did not contribute a little to the Fable I am now explaining. For it is certain that those young Greeks never fought against a Monster: That was but the Offspring of Poetical Fancy. Even Aristotle tells us, that many of those Athenians, of whom the Tribute was paid Three Times, according to Plutarch, grew old in their Bondage and that their whole Lives were spent in the most laborious Slavery.
Daedalus who retired into Crete upon account of the Murder of his Nephew, as I shall shew in the following Explication, built a Labyrinth there, in which, very probably, those Games were celebrated in the public Place. Palefatus says that Theseus fought in a Cavern where Taurus's Son had been confin'd, and from whence he used to make Ravages in the Country: This gave room to other Fables, as we shall see immediatly.
However, Theseus who had just made himself known at Athens, to quiet the murmurs of the People, voluntarily offer'd to go with the other Athenians to Crete, as Plutarch and Catullus (8) relate, contrary to the of Opinion Diodorus (9), who says that the Lot fell on him to go. As soon as he arrived his graceful Presence touched the Heart of Ariadne the Daughter of Minos, who gave him a Thread of which he made so happy an Use, that by it he came out of the Labyrinth after having defeated the Minotaur, as Ovid and Catullus relate it after all the Historians, who, according to Plutarch, agree with the Poets: That is to say, the Marvellous apart, that Ariadne gave her Lover the Plan of the Labyrinth that he might know all its Windings and the Passage out of it. Eustathius (10), and Lutatius (11), confirm my Conjecture when they say that Ariadne received the Thread from Daedalus himself: Which cannot be understood of any thing but the Plan which that able Architect had designed.
The Defeat of Taurus caused an universal Joy, and the Victor left Crete soon after with the beautiful Ariadne; but his tenderness for her did not last long, and he left her in the Isle of Naxus where she afterwards married a Priest of Bacchus. That Marriage is represented in an Antic in the King's Cabinet which Madam Le Hay has engraved; and upon a Marble in the Possession of the Marquis Maffei. The Poets have translated Ariadne to the Heavens, where the Crown she received from Bacchus, is still known by the Constellation of that Name (12).
Plutarch relates this History at length; But I have abridged it, that I might be as little tedious as possible. It contains several Circumstances very difficult to explain, and the Discussion of them would have carried me too far out of my Way: The Reader may consult what I have said in the Second Tome of my Explication of Fables.
Daedalus (1) was an Athenian, as much distinguished by his Birth, since he was of the Family of Erechtheus, as by the Fineness of his Genius, which made him the Admiration of his Age: As great an Architect as an able Statuary, he pushed those two Arts to their utmost perfection, and surpassed the most distinguished Artists in either. A mean Jealousie brought him to commit a Crime which proved the Source of all his Misfortunes. He had taken so much care to form the Mind and the Talents of his Sister's Son named Talos (2), that the young Man became very able in a little time, and seemed to promise to surpass his Uncle: He invented the Saw, and the Art of Turning, which raised such a Jealousy in Daedalus that he killed him privately. The Murder was discovered, and Daedalus was obliged to retire to the Island of Crete, where he found a favourable Reception from Minos, who was then at War with the Athenians.† It was there that he applied himself to build the Labyrinth which became so famous in Antiquity. We know by the Descriptions which the Ancients have left us, that the Labyrinth was an Edifice full of Chambers and Avenues, so disposed, and leading into one another in such a Manner, that one could never find the Passage out again, as Virgil (3), Catullus (4) and Ovid (5) remark. Pliny (6) pretends that Daedalus had traveled into Egypt, and that it was there he took his Plan of the famous Labyrinth, which passed afterwards for one of the Wonders of the World; as we may see in Herodotus (7), Diodorus and Strabo. However, if we believe Philochorus, cited by Plutarch (8), the Labyrinth of Crete did not resemble that of Egypt in any thing; it was but a Prison in which Criminals were confined. Eustathius and Cedrenus, after him, believe that it was but a Cave in which were a great many Avenues and Windings and where Art had a little assisted Nature. Mr. Huet, after the Traveller Bellon, has advanced that there never were any other Labyrinths in Crete than the Caverns which Minos the First made in Mount Ida when he built the City of Cnossus. Upon which we may consult Monsieur Tournefort (9) who visited them in his Voyage. Notwithstanding all these Authorities, the Testimony of Apollodorus, Strabo, Diodorus, Pausanias and Pliny, persuade me that Daedalus built a Labyrinth in the Island of Crete after the Goût of that in Egypt tho' neither so magnificent nor so large. Goltzius describes the Medals of the City of Cnossus upon which the Labyrinth is seen; and Father Montfaucon (10) has given us the Draught of a Marble ingraved from the Cabinet of the Marquis Maffei, upon which that Edifice is represented with all it's Windings, and the Minotaur in the Middle.
Minos, being informed that Daedalus had assisted the Queen in her Gallantries, kept him in Prison, but Daedalus finding the Means to make his Escape imbarked on board a Ship that Pasiphae had ordered to be prepared for him; he fixed sails to it, the use of which was not then known in Greece, as Pausanias and Palefatus tells us, and by that means he out-sailed the Galleys of Minos who informed of his Flight could only pursue him with their Oars. The young Icarus not being able to support the Fatigue of the Voyage or having fallen into the Sea, dyed near an Island in the Archipelago which afterwards took his name. We know that the Poets have disguised this fact under the ingenious Fiction of Wings, with which Daedalus and his Son had provided themselves (11); and that they have added, that Icarus had not lost his Life if he had followed his Father's Instructions. Antiquity has left us some Monuments which represent Daedalus working at his Wings, and Icarus flying in the Air, as we may see in Father Montfaucon. It is certain, however, that his Fable has no other Foundation than the Sails I have just mentioned; Pausanias (12) explains it so, and Virgil gives us plainly enough to understand that this was the Notion he had of those Wings, in calling them Remigium alarum.
After Daedalus had render'd the last Duties to his Son, he went to the Island of Sicily, where Cocalus granted him a Retreat, which other Princes had refused him for fear of displeasing Minos who was very powerful at Sea. The King of Crete, after a long Search for his fugitive Prisoner, being informed that he was at the Court of Cocalus, went thither in Person, and demanded him in a manner that shewed he would not be refused (13). Cocalus, unwilling to violate the Laws of Hospitality, invited Minos to come to Camicus to treat amicably of that affair, and that Prince going thither upon his Word, was stifled in a Stove where he was bathing, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus. If in this affair we believe Hygin, Conon, cited by Photius (14), Pausanias (15), Eusebius (16), and several other ancient Authors, that Fact was committed by the Daughters of Cocalus themselves; For being charmed with the little Puppets which Daedalus gave them to amuse them, they killed Minos in the Bath to save a Person who daily obliged them: And that need not appear surprising, since Virgins, even Princesses themselves as Athenaeus relates (17) bathed their Guests, and they acquitted themselves of that Duty with so much Reserve that the mot scrupulous Modesty could find nothing in it to be alarmed at.
Thus dyed Minos the Second about 35 Years before the last Siege of Troy: And this Epoch which I have proved elsewhere against Marsham and some other Authors, may serve to fix that of all the other Events contained in the Fables which I have just explained.
Daedalus, to acknowledge the Obligations he had to Cocalus, signalized his Art in Sicily by several fine Works. He immediatly dug that great Canal into which the River Alabus, now Cantaro, threw itself. He also erected an impregnable Citadel upon a Rock near the Place where the Town of Agrigentum was built, as well as several other Works equally useful and magnificent, of which we may see the Description in Diodorus Siculus (18) who had an Opportunity of knowing them better than the other Ancients who speak of them. Daedalus made also several Statues in his time, which were so fine and so well wrought, that if we believe Aristotle in the Case, they had Motion: Which perhaps may be true of some Automata, or it may rather be an exaggeration which shews the Ability of that Artist at a Time when Statuary was but very imperfect. According to Pausanias, other Monuments of the Address of that famous Workman were found in several other Places: The Egyptians boasted of a great Number of them in their Country; and Virgil gives the Description of a fine Monument on which Daedalus had ingraved the History of his Life and Adventures.
Tho' all the Ancients agree, that the Chase of the Calydonian Boar at which several Greek Princes assisted, is a certain Fact, yet the Poets and Historians differ very much concerning the Circumstances of that celebrated Event. We have just seen in what manner Ovid describes it, and I am now going to relate what Homer says of it, who having been much nearer the Time in which it was acted, had an Opportunity of being better instructed in the Circumstances of it. "Formerly," says he (1), "the Curetes and the warlike Aetolians had a cruel War together before the Walls of Calydon and killed one another with a most deplorable Carnage. The Aetolians defended the Town and the Curetes attacked it, like men determined either to destroy it, or dye themselves on the spot. Diana who is seated on a Gold Throne near That of Jupiter; had stirred up that fatal War to destroy the Aetolians: For their King Oeneus making Sacrifices one day to all the Gods to give them Thanks for the Fruitfulness of the Year, made none to Diana; so that while the other Gods received with pleasure the Odour of the Hecatombs that were offered them, Diana alone saw her Altars neglected and naked. Whether it was Forgetfulness, whether it was Contempt, she highly resented that Injury, and, in her Anger, sent a furious Wild-Boar which ravaged all the Lands of Oeneus, tore up the Trees loaden with Fruit, and laid the Country waste. The King's Son, the brave Meleager, assembled, from the neighboring Towns, a great Number of Huntsmen and Dogs; for nothing less than an Army was sufficient against that frightful Boar which was of most enormous and monstrous Size, and which by his Carnages had already lighted throughout all Aetolia an infinit number of Funeral Piles. Meleager killed him; but Diana was not yet satisfied: She stirred up a fatal Strife between the Aetolians and the Curetes about the Head and Skin of that Beast, each Party pretending that the glorious Spoil was due to their Valour. The War began to kindle, and at last they came to Blows. While Meleager fought at the Head of his Troops, the Curetes, tho' more numerous, were worsted, and found no place to shelter themselves from the furious Sallies he made upon them. But soon after being irritated against his Mother, who had taken the part of her Brothers against her own Son, he abandons himself to Anger and Rage, which is very often kindled in the Heart of the wisest and most prudent Men, and retires with his Wife the beautiful Cleopatra, Daughter of the charming Marpissa and Idas, the bravest Man that was then upon Earth.... Meleager then shuts himself up with his Wife, enraged at his Mother Althaea for the dreadful Imprecations she made against him, for the Death of her Brothers whom he had killed in Battle, beating the Earth with her Hands, and conjuring upon her Knees Pluto and the cruel Proserpine to punish her Son with immediate Death. The implacable Furies that reign in those gloomy Regions heard her imprecations from the Abyss of Hell. Immediatly the Curetes, animated by Meleager's Absence, renew their Attacks and make furious Assaults upon the Town. The Aetolians in this Extremity send a Deputation to Meleager, Oeneus himself goes up to his Son's Apartment and presses him to take his Arms again; his Sisters join their Prayers to Those of the King; even his Mother, recovered from her Rage and Passion and touched with Repentance, conjures him with Tears: His Heart remains still inflexible. As last his Wife Cleopatra having joined her own Prayers to those of his Friends, Meleager arms, beats back the Curetes, and saves the Aetolians."
To these Two Traditions, let us add what History has left us most probable upon this Subject. Oeneus King of a rich fertile Country, offering yearly to the Gods the first Fruits that he gathered, had forgot Diana in one of his Sacrifices. A furious Wild-Boar came that Year to ravage his Country, and particularly a Vineyard which he took great Care to cultivate. It was no extraordinary thing to see these Sorts of Beasts break into the Plains; yet the Circumstances of his Contempt or Forgetfulness gave occasion to publish that this Boar had been sent by Diana. As he had wounded and killed some Country-People, Meleager published a Proclamation for a general Hunting, and several of the neighboring Princes, rejoicing to find that Opportunity of distinguishing themselves, came thither with their Friends. Theseus, Jason, Pirithous, Peleus, Telamon, and several others named by Apollodorus (2) and Hygin, made a Party at the Chase, and among the rest, the fair Atalanta, with whom Meleager was in Love, tho' he was already married to Cleopatra the Daughter of Idas and Marpissa (3). Atalanta was the First that wounded this Boar, and Meleager having killed him, presented her with the Head and Skin; at which his Two Uncles Plexippus and Toxeus were so much displeased that words insued; from Words they came to Blows and Meleager killed them Both. Althaea, in Despair at the Death of her Brothers devoted her Son to the Furies, and joining some Piece of Magic (4) to her Imprecations, the Fable of the Taper was published in the manner recounted by Ovid. The Curetes made War against the Aetolians upon Account of this Quarrel, and Meleager obliged them to raise the Siege of Calydon. The Curious may consult Pausanias (5) and after him, Mr. Paulmier de Grentmenil (6), who speak very fully of the Curetes and their Wars.
Homer, as we have just seen, does not say any thing of the Death of that Prince, but, on the contrary, that his Mother was pacified: Most other Authors, however, agree that he dyed in the manner related by Ovid, whether his Mother poisoned him, or destroyed him by some other Means. Several Ancient Monuments which we find collected in Antiquity Explained (7) represent Meleager with the Head of a Boar; and we find Two of them (8), where he is seen expiring, with his Mother Althaea by him, who puts into the Fire the Taper upon the Preservation of which his Life depended.
We may guess at the Epoch of this Event, by the Age of those Heros who assisted at it. Hercules was Son in Law to Oeneus, and therefore, had he then been alive, must certainly have been present at so remarkable an Action; but as no Author takes any notice of his being there, it is probable, that it either happened after his Death, that is to say, 53 Years before the Siege of Troy, or about the Time when he was in Lydia at the Court of Omphalus, or in the Peloponnesus, executing the Orders of Euristheus. Whatever Difficulty there may be in fixing the Date of that Event, I am perswaded that it must have happened before the Death of Hercules: For we find in Apollodorus, that Althaea, the first Wife of Oeneus, having killed herself immediatly after Meleager's Death, Oeneus married Peribaea by whom he had Tydeus the Father of Diomedes; and that having been dethroned towards the End of his Life by his Brother Agrius, Diomedes reinthroned him. This is the same Diomedes so well known in the Iliad: He is the Grand-son of Oeneus by Peribaea: They were not married till after the Chase of Calydon, which consequently must have happened above 50 Years before the War of Troy.
Oeneus after his Restoration, finding himself worn out with Age, and desiring to accompany his Grand-son Diomedes, he left the Administration of the Affairs of his Kingdom to his Son in Law Andraemon (9); but being killed in an Ambush laid for him by his Nephews, his body was carried into Argia, and buried in a little Town which afterwards had the Name of Oenoa. This Prince was of the Race of Aeolus; his Father was named Parthaon and his Mother Eurite. He had, by his Wife Althaea, Four Sons, Meleager, Oxeus, Thirces, and Climenes,and Two Daughters, that is to say, Dejanira, the Wife of Hercules, and Gorge who was married to Andraemon. According to Ovid he must have had several others, since that Poet says that Meleager's Sisters were changed into Birds: But this is no more than a Fiction which shews us how much they grieved at the untimely Death of that young Prince. By Peribaea, his Second Wife, he had Tydeus the Father of Diomedes.
Ovid feigns that Theseus, returning from Calydon after the Hunting was over, the Achelous having, at that time overflow'd it's Banks, was invited by the God of that River to stay some time with him: This Fiction furnishes the Poet with an Opportunity of introducing several Fables which shall be the Subject of the following Explications.
Achelous first related to the Hero in what manner he had carried several Nymphs into the Sea because they had forgot him in their Sacrifices, where they were changed into those Islands which are called Echinades. This Fable had it's rise from hence; the River Achelous (1) carrying along with it into the Sea a great Quantity of Sand and Mud formed those Islands there which I have just mentioned. They are in the Ionian Sea near the Mouth of that River which runs between Acarnania and Aetolia.
What the Poet relates of the Nymph Perimele, whom her Father Hippodamas ordered to be thrown into the Sea, to punish her for yielding to the Desires of Achelous, and whom Neptune changed into an Island, has probably no other Foundation; and it would be altogether useless to amuse ourselves any longer with the like Fictions.
The Fable of Philemon and Baucis which our Poet relates in so natural and easie a manner, is One of those which Antiquity made use of, in shewing how Hospitality, that Vertue so sacred among the Ancients, always finds it's Reward. The Persons of this Fable are unknown, and I have nothing to say of them that can be of any advantage to the Reader. For, to suppose, with Mr. Huet, that it disguises the History of the Angels who went to visit Abraham, would be to follow that Prelate in one of those bold Conjectures which he has so oft run into, in undertaking to account for the greatest part of Fables, from the Heathens perverting the Histories of the Old Testament. The Fable of Proteus which Achelous relates to Theseus will furnish us with some thing more curious.
Homer (1) in the Discourse of Menelaus to Telemachus, makes him tell, that having lost his Course near an Island upon the Coast of Egypt, Idothea advised him to go and consult her Father Proteus concerning his Fate, informing him at the same time that he must take the Opportunity when he slept to secure him, and not let him go upon any Account, or what Figure soever he took, untill he came at last to his usual Form, and had told him what Adventures he was to meet with. Virgil (2) relates, that Aristaeus seeing his Bees dead went to find his Mother Cyrene to learn from her the Means how to repair that loss; and she told him that he must have recourse to Proteus who had wonderful Secrets, which he learned from Neptune whose Flocks he kept: She also added that Proteus knew what was past, present, and to come, but that, to oblige him to answer, it was necessary to bind him fast while he slept and not to be afraid to see him change himself into a Serpent, a Tyger, a Hog, a Lion, etc. The other Poets, whom it is needless to cite, have spoke of Proteus as Homer and Virgil have done. The Authors who have attempted to unravel and clear up the History of so extraordinary a Man have often published new Fables concerning him. Some say that he was an able Orator who never failed to gain his Audience by the Force of his Eloquence. Lucian assures us that he was a Pantomime so extremely supple that he turned himself into several Postures. But the most probable Opinion is that of Herodotus (3), Diodorus Siculus (4), Clemens Alexandrinus (5), and several other Antients who pretend that Proteus was an ancient King of Egypt, Successor to Pheron; that he lived in the Time of the War of Troy; and that Menelaus landed in his Dominions, as Homer relates (6). Herodotus who enlarges very much on the Article of Proteus, and who agrees that he was a Prince extremely wise and just, does not say any thing relating to those Metamorphoses which the Poets make him take. Let us endeavour then to discover in the Caracter of that Prince what may have given rise to them. As he was wise and eloquent, we may suppose that he knew Things to come: That is to say that he foresaw, by his knowledge and Experience, what might happen in certain Conjunctures. As he was extremely Secret he knew how to conceal his Designs, and he must, to make use of such an Expression, be surprized and tyed by Those who had a mind to discover them. Haughty, and appearing seldom in Public, no Man was allowed Access to him, and there were but a few great Lords, whom Homer Allegorically names φώκας, that could accompany him. It was commonly about Noon that he went out of his Palace, which that Poet calls a Cavern; and then he went to the Sea-Side to refresh himself with the Coolness of the North Wind, covered perhaps with an Umbrella, which Homer also calls a Cloud. Sometimes he was seen in the midst of his Soldiers, as a Shepherd in the midst of his Flocks; he knew their Number and their Names, and very often passed them in Review: These are the Flocks of Neptune, a Maritime People. Passionate and Violent to Excess he might be said to be all Fire; and Master of his Passion, he appeared a moment after smooth and unruffled. Is it not then by all these Lines that our Two Poets intended to draw Allegorically a King Wise and foreseeing, Subtle and Contriving; and not a Sea-Monster or a Cameleon that changed it's Form or Figure? There is not any thing more common in the Poets, and even in Sacred Writ, than these Symbolical Descriptions, which shew us, under mysterious Terms, the Characters of some particular Persons. Thus, by this Maritime People, Gens humida ponti, it is evident that Homer intended the Egyptians near the Sea, and by those Sea-Calves, which Virgil calls Turpes Phocas, the Satrapae or Nobles of Egypt; and if he calls them the Flocks of Neptune, it is in the same Sense that he says Proteus was the Son of that God; because, very likely, he was powerful by Sea. Perhaps also that the Equivocation in the Name of Cetes which Diodorus gives him, and which signifies a Whale or a great Fish, has given room to that Circumstance of the Fable. The Egyptians, from whom Homer learned it, very often ingeniously covered their History with a Veil of Allegory and Fiction. Diodorus adds (7) that all these Metamorphoses may have taken their rise from a Custom which Proteus had of adorning his Helmet sometimes with a Panther's Skin, sometimes a Lion's, a Serpent's or That of some other Animal. When Lycophron (8) says that Neptune saved Proteus from the Fury of his Children in making him go by Caverns from Pallene to Egypt, he follows the Tradition which says, that this Prince was originally from that Town in Thessaly, and that he retired from thence into Egypt. Virgil and, after him, Servius pretend that he returned thither again after the Death of his Children who were killed by Hercules.
After the Metamorphoses of Proteus, Ovid relates those of Metra the Daughter of Erisichthon which have no other Foundation than the eager and diligent Care that dutiful Daughter took to nourish and support her Father who had ruined himself by his Luxury. There are Authors who pretend that by her Changes are meant the Wages which she received from Those whom she served in the Quality of a Slave, and which she gave to her Father; and it is certain that in those ancient Times when Money was very scarce, the Price of Merchandizes and the Wages of Domestics were paid in Effects. Others pretend that her Metamorphoses conceal the Price which she received for her Debaucheries: Which still comes to the same thing. Ovid adds that she married Autolycus, that famous Robber so well known for having stole Eurytus's Oxen. Callimachus, in his Hymn to Ceres describes the Fable of Erisichthon at length, and gives him for his Father Trippas the Son of Neptune and of Canace the Daughter of Aeolus. Julius Scaliger (1) has endeavoured to reconcile the Narration of Ovid with that of the Greek Poet. By the Family of Erisichthon, whom Antiquity looked upon as an impious Man, and, above all, by his Son in Law Autolycus the Grand-father of Ulysses, we see that he lived about 40. or 50. Years before the Taking of Troy.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE FIRST FABLE. [ IX.i Achelous Defeated by Hercules ]
The River Achelous, which runs between Acarnania and Aetolia, very often ruined the Countries by it's inundations; and confounding by that means the Limits of those two Nations, ingaged them in continual Wars. Hercules at last raised Banks to it, and made the Course of it so uniform and straight, that he established a perpetual Peace between those People. The Authors who writ that Event related it in a manner intirely fabulous. They said that he fought with the God of that River, who immediatly changed himself into a Serpent, by which was meant the Windings and Turnings of his Course; and afterwards into a Bull, from whence we may discover it's rapid overflowing of it's Banks and the frequent Ravages it thereby caused in the Country about it, which has the more likelyhood of Truth in it, in as much as Rivers were often represented under the Figure of a Bull, to shew the Havoc which they made: Taurorum specie simulacra fluminum, id est cum cornibus, quod sunt atrocia ut tauri (1). It was said that Hercules, at last, overcame that Bull and broke off one of his Horns; that is to say that he brought both the Branches of that River into one Channel, as we read in Strabo, and that this Horn became the Horn of Plenty in the Country; tho' by the Horn of Plenty was often understood that of the Goat Amalthea that nursed Jupiter. The Nymphs gave it to Achelous, who afterwards exchanged it with Hercules for that which he had torn form him. That Hero is indeed represented with a Horn in his Hand, in an Antic in the Cabinet of the Abby of St. Germain De Prez. Deianira, being the Recompense of the important Service which Hercules had just rendered to Oeneus King of Calydon; it was fabled that she had been promised to Achelous who was vanquished by his Rival; and this was the Foundation of that famous Combat which our Poet describes. Hercules after having staid some time in his Father in Law's Court was obliged to retire from thence, for killing the Son of Architritilus who was Cup-bearer to that Prince.
Hercules leaving the Court of Calydon (1) took his Wife along with him to go to Trachina to attone for the Murder he had committed, and to be absolved from it by Ceyx who was King of that Territory; but the River Evenus which he was obliged to pass, having overflowed it's Banks, he trusted his Wife to the Centaur Nessus to carry her to the other side, he himself resolving to swim over. Nessus, seeing Hercules at a good Distance from him, immediatly took it in his Head to carry of Deianara, but the Hero perceiving his Design, shot him with an Arrow. As his Arrows had been poisoned with the Blood of the Hydra, the Centaur Judged the Wound to be mortal; and, resolving to be revenged, he gave his Tunic, wet with his Blood, to Deianira, telling her that it would prove an infallible Charm against her Husband's Infidelity. After which Nessus expired, and was buried in Mount Taphiusa, as Strabo tells us (2); who adds that his Tomb, in which, without doubt, were also several other Centaurs, sent forth so disagreeable a Smell, that the Locrians, who were Neighbors to it, were surnamed Ozolae, that is to say smelling ill: Let us remark by the Way, that from Calydonia to Trachina One was obliged to pass the River Evenus which did not run thro' the middle of the Town, as some Authors have preposterously believed; for if it had, Hercules would have passed over it either by a Bridge, or a Bark, without having recourse to the Centaur Nessus: Upon This we may consult Monsieur Paulmier de Grentemenil (3).
Hercules, being disgusted at Deianira, by whom he had One Son named Hyllus, fell in love with Iole the Daughter of Eurytus, and that Prince refusing to give her to him, he subdued Oechalia, killed the King, and carried off the young Princess. Upon his Return from that Expedition he sent Lychas for the Vestments, which he had Occasion for in a Sacrifice he designed to offer. Deianira jealous of the Love he had for Iole, sent him, either a Philtre which killed him, or a Tunic done over with a certain Pitch found near Babylon which when thoroughly warmed, stuck close to the Skin; and This is very probably what the Poets and Historians designed to shew us by Nessus' Coat. But whether this be so or not, Hercules fell into a languishing Distemper without hopes of Recovery; killed Lychas; and, after having thrown him into the Sea, where Ovid says he was changed into a Rock, he went to Trachina, forced Deianira to hang herself; and having consulted the Oracle concerning his Distemper, he had no other Answer but that he should go with his Friends to Mount Oeta and there raise a Funeral Pile: He comprehended the Sense of the Oracle and immediatly went about the Execution of it. As soon as the Pile was ready Hercules mounted it, and laying himself down with an Air of Resolution and Tranquility in his Looks, Philoctetes kindled the Fire, which consumed him. Seneca, in the Tragedy which he has made upon this Event, puts in the Mouth of the Hero such elevated and moving Discourses, that it seems as if he had intended to exhaust all the finest Sentiments of Humanity. Thus died the valiant Alcides when he was 50. Years old, and 53. Years before the last Taking of Troy. Some Ancient Authors say that he dyed at Trachina, and that his Corps was burned on Mount Oeta. It was in the very Ceremony of his Funeral that his Apotheosis commenced; and even at the Time of his Death he was honoured as a Demi-God, with that Worship which was given to Heros. Diodorus Siculus(4) says, that it was Iolas his Friend who first canonized him. As the Fire had entirely consumed him, it was published that Jupiter had taken up into Heaven that part of him which was Divine. It was added, that as soon as Philoctetes had lighted up the Fire, it immediatly thunder'd, and the Lightning which fell on the Funeral Pile consumed the Hero. A Tomb was raised for him on Mount Oeta, with an Altar upon which Menecius sacrificed a Bull, a wild Boar, and a He-goat: A Ceremony which was renewed every Year in a Feast that was established in honour of him. The Thebans, and, after them, the other people of Greece, very soon followed the Example of the Trachinians; and Temples and Altars were raised to him in several Places, where this Hero was honoured as a Demi-God.
The Birth of Hercules, the Subject of the present Fable, contains Circumstances, which require to be insisted on at some length, in order to their being easily understood. According to Diodorus Siculus (1), and Apollodorus (2), Amphitryon was the Son of Alceus the Son of Perseus, and Alcmena his Wife was the Daughter of Electryon the Son of the same Hero; thus they were Cousin-Germans. When their Marriage was near being concluded, an unforeseen Accident put a stop to it. Electryon King of Mycenae being obliged to revenge the Death of his Children whom the Sons of Taphius had killed in a Combat, returned Victorious and brought back with him his Flocks which he had retaken from the Taphians. Amphitryon, who went to meet his Uncle to congratulate him upon the happy Success of that Expedition, throwing his Club at a Cow that straggled froCow that straggled from the rest, unfortunately killed him. That Death, tho' involuntary, lost him the Kingdom of Mycenae which should have been the Dowry of Alcmena. Sthenelus the Brother of Electryon taking advantage of the public Aversion which that Accident had drawn upon the Prince, drove him out of the Country of Argos, and made himself Master of his Brother's Dominions, which he left at his Death to his Son Eurystheus the great Persecutor of Hercules. Amphitryon, obliged thus to retire to Thebes, was expiated there by Creon; but when he thought to marry Alcmena, who went along with him to that Prince's Court, she publickly declared, that not being satisfied with the Revenge which her Father had taken on the † Teleboes, she would yet consent to be the Prize of him who should declare War against them. Amphitryon accepted the Conditions, and, making an Alliance with Creon, Cephalus, and some other Princes, he went to ravage the Islands which his Enemies possessed; and making himself Master of them he gave One to Cephalus, as I have already remark'd in Cephalus's History.
It was during this War that Hercules came to the World; and whether Amphitryon had consummated his Marriage before his Departure; whether he returned to Thebes Incognito, or to Tyrintha, where it was thought he was born; it was published that Jupiter, to deceive Alcmena, had taken the Form of her Husband, and was the Father of the young Prince: A Fable that was spread abroad to cover some Intrigue which Alcmena had; or perhaps it was only said, in Process of Time, that Jupiter, instead of Amphitryon, was the Father of Alcides, upon Account of the extraordinary Valour of that Prince. And it is very probable that the Thing was taken in this Sense, since Seneca makes Hercules himself, in speaking of his Birth, say, "Whether all that has been published upon this Subject be held as an undoubted Truth, or whether it proves to be but a Fable, and that my Father was no more, in reality, than a Mortal; my Mother's Fault is sufficiently effaced by my Valour; I have Merit enough to have Jupiter for my Father." It was for that same reason published, that Jupiter made the Night in which he enjoyed Alcmena in the Form of Amphitryon, as long as Three Nights: Some assert it to have been lengthen'd to Nine. Hygin and Seneca adopt this Fable, as well as Plautus does in his Amphitryon. Some Authors say that Alcmena was brought to bed of Twins, One of which was the Son of Amphitryon and the other acknowledged Jupiter for his Father.
As for what regards the Metamorphosis of Galanthis, it is but an Episode, introduced to give greater Credit to the Fable which I have just explained; to which I must add, that the Resemblance of the Name of that Slave, with that of a Weasel which the Greeks call γαλῆ, has not a little contributed to it: However, Aelian (3) says, the Thebans honoured that little Animal because it had helped Alcmena in her Labour. The ancient Poets added, that Juno kept back the Birth of Hercules, 'till the Mother of Eurystheus was delivered; which was the Cause of his being subject, and almost a Slave to that King; tho' Others pretend, that the Matter was decided by the Oracle at Delphos. However that be, here is the Source of the Heroism of Hercules, whom the King of Mycenae obliged to purge Greece from the Robbers and wild Beasts that infested it: This Service he performed at the Head of Eurystheus's Troops, which he commanded, as we read in Dionysius of Halicarnassus (4). Here is then the Explanation of all those pretended Persecutions, attributed to the Jealousy of Juno, but which ought to be ascribed to the Policy of the Court of Mycenae. Tho' Ovid only speaks, en passant, of all the Labours and other Actions which merited Immortality for Hercules, I must here give an Account of them in a few Words, after having taken notice, that the History of that Hero is embellished with the Adventures of all Those who have had the same Name. Cicero (5) reckons Six of them, and should we undertake to count them all, we might still find a much greater Number; each Nation having given the Name of Hercules to such Great Men as had rendered themselves famous by their Actions. Thus we find One of them in Egypt in the Time of Osiris; in Phoenicia; amongst the Gauls; in Spain, and almost every where: But as this Fable regards only the Grecian Hercules surnamed Alcides, it is of him only that I am going to speak. The History of all his Exploits has been commonly included in those Twelve Labours so often sung by the Poets; but when we enter into the Detail, we find a much greater number of them; and the Ancients differ very much amongst themselves upon that Subject.
Alcides, in his tenderest Youth killed some Serpents, and it was published, to embellish that Action with the Marvellous, that he was then but in his Cradle, and that they were sent by Juno to devour him. The Forest of Nemea served as a Retreat for a great Number of Lions that ravaged the Country; our Hero hunted them, killed with his own hand the most furious one of them all, and always wore his Spoils. Several Thieves, as M. Naseas reports, kept about the Lake Stymphale in Arcadia, Hercules freed the Country of them. The Nails and the Wings, which the Poets gave them, in representing them as Birds, shew their Cruelty and Agility. The Marshes of Lerna near Argos were infested by a great Number of Serpents which increased as fast as they were destroyed; he put Fire to the Place and destroyed them all. This was the Hydra of Lerna with it's Heads which grew as fast as they were cut off. The Forest of Erymanthus was full of wild Boars which laid waste the Country round about; he destroyed them all, and brought One with him to the Court of Eurystheus, of so monstrous a size, that the King affrighted at him, was obliged to run and hide himself. The Stables of Augias King of Elis were so filled with Dung by the great Quantity of Oxen which that Prince kept, that Hercules, being forced to cleanse them, was obliged to bring the River Alpheus thro' them. Having pursued for a whole Year a Hind which Eurystheus had commanded him to take, it was published that she had Feet of Brass. The River Achelous often overflowed the Country; he raised Banks to it, as I have said already. Theseus was a Prisoner in Epire, where he had been with Pirithous to bring away the Daughter of Aidoneus; Hercules delivered him; and that is the Foundation of the Fable which says he went down to Hell. In the Cavern of Tenarus was a Monstrous Serpent; he had Orders to kill it; and this is the Cerberus chained by our Hero. Pelias having been killed by his Daughters, his Son Acastus pursued them as far as the Court of Admetus, who refusing to deliver up Alcestis with whom he was in love, was taken Prisoner in Ingagement, and delivered by that generous Princess who would, herself, be his Ransom. Hercules was then in Thessaly, he took her away from Acastus, who was going to put her to Death, and returned her to Admetus: This is the Foundation of the Fable which says that he recovered her from Hell after having vanquished Death and bound him in Chains. The Amazons were in great Reputation in the Time of Alcides, and their frequent Conquests had rendered them very formidable to their Neighbours. Eurystheus order'd that Prince to go and bring away Hippolita's Girdle; that is to say, to make War against them and pillage their Treasure. Hercules imbarked on the Euxin-Sea, arrived on the Banks of the Thermodon, and giving Battle to those Heroins, he defeated them; part he killed, and the rest he put to flight: He took Hippolita or Antiope Prisoner, whom he gave to Theseus; but their Queen Menalippa redeemed herself by giving up the famous Girdle, that is to say, by paying her Ransom. It was, very probably, in That Voyage that he killed Diomedes King of Thrace, and brought away his Mares, which it was said he fed with human Flesh. In returning by Thessaly he imbarked with the Argonauts; but leaving them afterwards, he went to Troy, delivered Hesione from the Monster that was to have devoured her; and not receiving from Laomedon the Recompense which had been promised him, he killed that Prince, sacked the Town, and brought away Hesione, whom he gave to Telamon who had accompanied him in that Expedition.
These, as near as can be, are the Labours of Hercules in Greece, in Thrace and in Troas. The Poets make him perform several others in distant Countries, which I have designedly separated, because there is a great deal of likelyhood that they ought not to be attributed to the Grecian Hercules. But whether that be so or not, it is said, that having set out to fight with Geryon, he was so incommoded by the Sun, that he flew into a Rage against that Star and shot his Arrows at it. The Sun admiring his Courage made him a Present of a Golden Goblet, in which, as Pherecydes reports, he imbarked, and arriving in Spain defeated Geryon, that Prince so famous for his Three Heads: Which is to say that he either reigned over Three Islands, supposed to be Majorca, Minorca and Ebusa; or else that Hercules defeated three Princes who where strictly allied. Having from thence passed the Straits of Gibraltar to go to Africa, he fought with Antaeus who opposed his landing. That Prince, it is said, a Son of the Earth, recovered new Strength every time that he was thrown to the Ground; and Hercules was obliged to hold him in his Arms 'till he had squeezed him to Death: Which is as much as to say, without doubt, that Antaeus finding always new Succours in a Country where he reigned, Our Hero knew how to shut up the Way from him, and engaging him in a Sea-Fight defeated him without much trouble; as also the Pygmies who came to his Assistance: Which ought to be understood of some Africans of low Stature who were his Allies; as I have explained at large in a Dissertation which I have made upon that Subject. Hercules returning home by Land from those Two Expeditions, passed thro' Gaul with the Flocks of Geryon and went into Italy, where Cacus, a famous Robber who had retired into the Caverns of Mount Aventin, having stolen some Oxen from him, our Hero, with the Assistance of Evander and Faunus, as Dionysius of Halicarnassus tells us (6), destroyed him and shared his Spoils with his Allies. In his Journey from Africa Hercules delivered Atlas from the Persecution of Busiris whom he killed, and gave such good Counsel to that King of Mauritania, that it was published, that to ease him, he supported the Heavens some time upon his own Shoulders. Atlas, to acknowledge the important Services he had received from that Hero, made him a present of several fine Sheep, or rather of some Orange and Lemmon Trees which he carried with him into Greece (7). These are the Golden Apples watched by a Dragon in the Gardens of Hesperides. As the Ocean put a Stop there to the Conquests of our Hero, it was said that he raised Two Pillars upon those Shores, which shewed that it was impossible to go any farther, nec plus ultra.
The Deliverance of Prometheus, which I have explained in the History of that Prince; the Death of the Two Brothers the Cercopes, those two famous Robbers of whom the Ancients speak; the Defeat of the Bull of Marathon; the Death of Lygis who disputed the Passage of the Alps with him; that of the Giant Alcyaneus, who threw a stone at him so great that it crushed 24 Men to Death; that of Eryx King of Sicily, whom he killed with one blow of a Cestus for refusing to deliver him the Oxen which he had stoln from him; the Combat with Cycnus which was ended by a Clap of Thunder that separated the two Combatants; another Combat against the Giants in the Plain of La Craux in Provence, during which Jupiter rained that great Quantity of Stones which remain there to this day; All these are attributed to Hercules. He is also said to be the Father of a prodigious number of Children, and we are assured that he got 50 in One Night by the 50 Daughters of Thespius.
For fear of tiring my Readers I have been obliged to abridge the History of that Hero, of which I could have made a large Volume, had I brought together all that the Mythologists have said of him. Those who desire to know more of his History, may read Diodorus Siculus (8), Dionysius Halicarnasseus (9), Palefatus (10); and amongst the Moderns, Vossius (11), Lylio Giraldi (12), my Explication of Fables (13), and Father Montfaucon, who had collected in the First Tome of his Antiquity Explained almost all the Figures which represent the Labours of that Hero and the great Actions by which he has deserved Immortality, and the Temples and the Altars, raised to him in all those Places in which he signalized himself.
I should now have finished this Explication, if Monsieur Freret had not communicated to me a Chronological Abridgment, which I thought deserved a Place here.
The Adventure of Dryope is one of those Facts which has no Connection with the main Story, and of which the knowledge is of very little Importance. The Name of Dryope comes, very probably, from Δρῦς, which signifies an Oak, a Tree that has a great deal of resemblance to the Lotos; and it was that perhaps which gave rise to the Fable; or if we will make it relate to History, it is probable that Dryope was punished for attempting to profane a Tree consecrated to the Gods; as Erisichthon was; who, for having cut down one that was under the Protection of Diana, was attacked by so insatiable an Appetite, that all the Care his Daughter Metra could possibly take to provide Food for him, could not prevent his devouring his own Flesh at last, for want of Meat to appease his voracious Stomach. All that we know of this Dryope is, that she was the Daughter of Eurytus and Sister of Iole, the Wife of Hercules; and that she was married to Andraemon. Ovid says that while Iole related this Adventure to Alcmena, Iolaus, whom Hercules had by Hebe after his Apotheosis, became young at the prayer of that Goddess who appeased Juno.
Our Poet relates the surprising Change in the Children of Callirhoe, of which this is the History. Amphiaraus, foreseeing by the Principles of his Art, as is related by Homer, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny and Statius, that the War of Thebes, his Country, would prove fatal to him, returned from the Court of Adrastus King of Argos, whose Sister he had married, to go hide himself in some place where he might be safe. The Argives, to whom the Oracles had declared that Thebes should not be taken unless they had Amphiaraus in their Troops, searched for him every where; but all their Labour had been in vain if Eriphyle his Wife, gained by a Necklace of great value which her Brother Adrastus gave her, had not discovered where he was. Amphiaraus, forced from his Retreat, went with the Argives; and while he was observing a Flight of Birds, to draw an Augury from it, his Horses tumbled down a Precipice and he lost his Life (1). Statius to describe this Event in a Poetical manner says (2), that the Earth opened to swallow up him and his Chariot. Amphiaraus had ingaged his Son Alcmaeon, in Case that he lost his Life in that War, to kill Eriphyle; this he executed as soon as he heard of the Death of his Father. Alcmaeon, being obliged to go to the Court of Phegeus to be expiated from his Crime, and to deliver himself at the same time from the Furies who persecuted him like another Orestes, (that is to say, to calm, by the Ceremonies of Expiation, his Conscience which reproached him with his Crime), that Prince received him into his Friendship and gave him his Daughter Alphesiboea in Marriage. Alcmaeon made her a present of his Mother Eriphyle's Necklace; but having afterwards repudiated her to marry Callirrhoe or Arsinoe the Daughter of Achelous, he went to demand the Necklace from his Brothers in Law, who assassinated him. Amphiterus and Acarnanus whom he had by Callirrhoe revenged the Death of their Father when they were very young, and that is the Reason why our Poet says that the Goddess Hebe had augmented the Number of their Years, to put them speedily in a Condition to take that Revenge. Thus, the Marvellous laid side, Aeson and Iolaus renewing their Youth, are two Persons, who, in their Old Age gave some marks of Vigour: Amphiterus and Acarnanus to whom Hebe added Years, shew us two young Princes who revenged their Father's Death at a Time when they were only looked upon as two Children.
Antoninus Liberalis (1), and Ovid have writ the History of the extravagant Passion which Byblis had for her Brother Caunus, and embellished it with One Circumstance which is merely the Fruit of their Imagination. They make her travel over several Countries in search of her Brother, who flyes from her, and lead her at last into Caria, where, according to the first Author, she was changed into an Hamadryad just as she went to throw herself from the Top of a Mountain; and, according to the Second, into a Fountain, which has since bore her Name. They ought on the contrary to have told us, that this Adventure happened in Caria it self; since, it is certain, according to the Testimony of Apollodorus (2) and of Pausanias (3), that Miletus her Father, went from the Island of Crete to lead a Colony into Caria where he conquered a City to which he gave his Name. Pausanias adds, that all the Men of that City being killed during the Siege, the Conquerors married their Wives and their Daughters. Miletus had for his Share Cyanea the Daughter of Maeander, and of that Marriage were born Caunus and Byblis. That Princess having conceived a criminal Passion for her Brother, obliged him to quit his Father's Court that he might avoid the Importunities of her Passion, upon which she dyed with Grief. As she often went to weep by a Fountain that was without the Town, Those who writ of that Adventure published that she was changed into a Fountain, which in reality had her name afterwards. Pausanias says (4) only, that in the Country of the Milesians was the Fountain Biblys, near which happened the famous Adventure of the Amours of that Princess. Conon, in Photius, says that it was Caunus that fell in Love with Byblis and that she hanged herself upon a Walnut-Tree. Ovid, who followed the common Tradition in his Metamorphoses, allows in his Art of Love that she hanged herself.
The Fable of Iphis changed from a young Woman to a Man, of which Ovid lays the Scene in Crete, is one of those Facts upon which History is entirely silent. Had the Poet a mind to shew us by it, a Disguise carried on even to the Point of Marriage? Or one of those extraordinary Appearances mentioned in the Books of Physic; or did he only intend to let us know that the Gods recompense Piety? Whatever it be, that Fable may have it's Foundation in Nature itself: Sexes have often been hard to distinguish 'till several Years after Birth.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. AND II. FABLE. [ X.i-ii The Death of Eurydice; Orpheus in Hell ]
Tho' Ovid has separated the Adventures of Orpheus, whose Death he does not relate till the Beginning of the Eleventh Book, I thought proper to collect here what History furnishes us upon that subject.
Orpheus is one of the most celebrated Persons of Antiquity, yet there is not any, about whom Authors are more divided: Let us endeavour however to relate what seems most likely to be true in his History, in freeing it from the Fables with which it has been mixed.
As Poetry and Music were, in his Time, but in a very low Degree of Perfection in Greece, and as he excelled in both those Arts, it was therefore said that he was the Son of Apollo and the Muse Calliope: It was added that he charmed Lyons and Tygers, and made even the Trees sensible of the Harmony of his Lyre: Hyperboles which denote the Charms of his Eloquence, which he employ'd to cultivate the Genius of an ignorant People, and the Beauty of his Poetry, which according to Diodorus Siculus (1), and Horace (2) gave rise to the Fable:
Queen Eurydice his Wife dying very young he was inconsolable for the Loss of her. We have just seen in what manner Ovid describes his Grief, and we may read what Virgil says of it in the Fourth Book of his Georgics:
Orpheus, after this Misfortune, retiring to Mount Rhodope endeavoured to calm his Grief, when the Bacchants, to be revenged for his Contempt of them, went to seek him in his Retreat and tore him to Pieces, just as Ovid relates it; and this is the Thing that gave rise to the Fable which says that Venus, exasperated against Calliope, the Mother of Orpheus, for having adjudged to Proserpine the Possession of Adonis, made the Women of Thrace so much in love with the Son, that each of them striving to pull him to herself, they tore him in Pieces amongst them. If we believe an ancient Author in the matter, cited by Hygin (6), Orpheus was killed by the Stroke of a Thunder-Bolt as he accompanied the Argonauts; Apollodorus (7) tells us the same thing. It is easy, after what I have said, concerning that Expedition, to know the Time in which he reigned; for Diodorus Siculus (8) pretends that he was one of the Kings of Thrace. In spight of these Authorities there are ancient Authors, amongst whom are Aristotle and Cicero (9), who pretend that there never was any such Man as Orpheus. Vossius (10) assures us that the Phenician Word Ariph, which Signifies learned, gave rise to the Fable of Orpheus, or else, according to Mr. Furner, the Hebrew Word Rapha, which is as much as to say to cure, is what made that pretended Orpheus pass for a great Physician. Monsieur Le Clerc pretends that by confounding two Greek Words, it was said that Orpheus was an able Singer instead of saying that he was an Enchanter, or Magician, and the Hymns which are attributed to him resemble rather Conjurations than Divine Odes. Whatever stress may be laid on these Etymologies, it is certain, if we believe the Ancients in the Case, that it was Orpheus that first established the Worship of the Gods, especially that of Bacchus, as we read in Apollodorus (11). It was he that introduced the Expiation of Crimes, the Conjuring up of Ghosts, and brought Magic into request in Greece. It was he also, according to Lucian, who taught the first Elements of Astronomy. And, in a word, Music is indebted to him for the great Progress it made afterwards. Several Works are likewise attributed to him which are now no longer in being; amongst which are reckoned a Poem upon the War of the Giants, another upon the Rape of Proserpine, and One upon the Labours of Hercules; without mentioning several others. It was even believed that Orpheus after his Death was put in the Rank of Demi-Gods and Heros, and, if we can give Credit to Philostratus (12) in the affair, his Head gave Responses at Lesbos.
The History of Attis is related by the Ancients in so many different ways that it is not possible to reconcile them. To avoid the Confusion and Difficulty into which I should run myself by a Discussion equally disagreable and useless, I thought it better to confine myself to two Traditions. The first is that related by Diodorus Siculus (1) of which here is the Substance. Cybele falling in love with a young Shepherd named Attis, Meon King of Phrygia and Father to that Princess, fearing that this Intrigue would bring dishonour to his Family, ordered him to be put to death. Cybele in despair at the Loss of her Lover left her Father's Palace, and, in company of Marsyas, crossed the Mountains of Phrygia. Apollo, that is to say, as the learned Vossius with a great deal of Reason pretends (2), some Priest of that God, touched with the Misfortunes, perhaps also sensible of the Charms of that young Princess, took her with him into the Country of the Hyperboreans where she dyed. The Plague, some time after, ravaged all Phrygia, and the Oracle was consulted, which returned Answer, that to make the Contagion cease, they must look for the Body of Attis and give it funeral Rites, and also render Cybele the same Honours and Worship which they paid to the Gods: All which was performed which so much exactness, that in Process of Time, she became one of the greatest Divinities of Paganism.
Arnobius, Author of the second Tradition (3), pretends that Attis was a youth that kept Sheep, with whom Cybele, tho' in a very advanced Age, fell in Love. But he, not more moved with her Rank and Quality, than with her withered Charms, received her Advances very coldly. Midas King of Pessinus, observing the Pride and Haughtiness with which that young Shepherd treated Cybele, conceived great Hopes from it, and destined his Daughter Agdistis for him. As he feared the Resentments of the Queen, he had the Precaution to cause the Gates of the City to be shut the Day that the Marriage was to be Solemnized: But Cybele being advertised of the Matter hasted away to Pessinus, and forcing open the Gates, which the Fable expresses in saying that she shattered them to Pieces with one Blow of her Head, she entered the City with her Troops, made a great Destruction there, and meeting with Attis, who had hid himself behind a Pine Tree, caused him to be castrated. Agdistis, not being able to outlive the Disgrace of her Lover, killed herself in Despair.
Servius (4), Lactantius, and St. Augustin give us this History after another manner, but it always appears that it relates to the Love of a Queen for a young Man who despised her. Other Authors, cited by Arnobius, have mixed Circumstances with this History which are altogether impenetrable. Nana, says they, by touching a Pomegranate or an Almond Tree, which grew from the Blood of Agdistis, whom Bacchus had killed, conceived Attis, who was afterwards so dear to Cybele, that she committed for his Sake all those Follies which I have just mentioned.
All that can be concluded from so intricate a Fable, is, that the Worship of Cybele being introduced into Phrygia, Attis was one of her Priests; and as he castrated himself the other Priests of that Goddess who had the Name of Galli, and their Chief-Priest Archigallus, submitted to the same Operation. I will not enter here into a Detail of the Feasts of Cybele, whose Priests, became extreamly contemptible by their Debaucheries, went begging from Town to Town, carrying upon their Breasts the Image of that Goddess; as may be seen in some of their Statues which Antiquity has preserved, especially in the Archigallus in the Closet of Monsieur de Boze, which Father Montfaucon has had engraved in the first Tome of his Antiquity Explained.
Cyparissus, who, according to Ovid, was born at Carthea a Town in the Isle of Cos, was a young Man endued with a great many Talents for Poetry and the Polite Arts; which made him pass for the Favorite of Apollo. His Metamorphosis into a Cypress is founded on the resemblance of the Names, that Tree being called by the Greeks Κυπάρισσος. It was added to the Fable that Apollo, to console himself, decreed the Cypress Tree to be the Symbol of Sorrow, that it should be at Funerals, and that it should not be planted any where but about about the Graves and Tombs: Circumstances which are only founded upon the Nature of that Tree, whose Branches, destitute of Leaves, have nothing in them but what is doleful and Melancholy. There are ancient Authors who pretend that Cyparissus was also beloved by the God Sylvanus, for which reason it is that we often see that God with Branches of Cypress in his Hand.
The Rape of Ganymede contains an Event which may be thus explained. Tros, King of Troy, having made several Conquests on his Neighbors, as Eusebius, Cedrenus, and Suidas relate, sent his Son Ganymede into Lydia accompanied by several Lords of his Court, to offer Sacrifices in the Temple dedicated to Jupiter; Tantalus [†], who was ignorant of the King of Troy's Designs, took his Men for Spies, and arresting young Ganymede put him in Prison; so that what gave rise to the Fable of Jupiter's carrying away Ganymede in the Shape of an Eagle, was the Arresting of him in a Temple of Jupiter by Order of a Prince who carried an Eagle in his Colours. As to the rest I can't tell for what reason Homer says that Jupiter made young Ganymede serve him as his Cup-Bearer, unless we think that the Fable is founded on that young Prince's having perhaps served in that Employ in the King of Lydia's Court; from which Circumstance the Poets took occasion to publish that the Gods had placed him amongst the Stars, where, according to some Ancients, he forms the Sign Aquarius. However, it occasioned a long and bloody War between those two Kings, and, after their Death, Ilus, the Son of Tros, continued it against Pelops, the Son of Tantalus, and obliged him to quit his Kingdom, and to retire to Oenomaus King of Pisa, whose Daughter he married and had a Son by her named Atreus. Thus we may say that Paris the Great-Grandson of Tros who was Brother of Ganymede, carryed off Helen, by way of Reprizals on Menelaus the Great-Grandson of the Ravisher of Ganymede; and that Agamemnon made use of that Event with great Address to ingage the Greeks in a Quarrel, in which the Nation found itself but very little concerned, by putting them in mind of the Evils his Family had suffered from the Kings of Troy.
Hyacinthus, as Pausanias says (1), was a young Prince of the City of Amyclae in Laconia. His Father Oebalus, whom the Author just cited names Amycles, educated him with so much Care that he was looked upon as the Favourite of Apollo and the Muses. As he was one day playing with his Companions, he unfortunately received a Stroke of a Quoit on his Head of which he died some time after. Some Poem was very probably composed on that Adventure, in which, it was said, to comfort his Parents and Relations, that Boreas, jealous of the Inclination which Apollo had for that young Prince turned aside the Quoit with which they played; and, it must be confessed, that Fiction is ingenious enough. The Lacedaemonians celebrated a solemn Feast every Year near the Tomb of that Prince where they offered Sacrifices to him; nay they instituted Games in Honour of him which were called after his Name, and celebrated three days successively, as were are told by Athenaeus, who writ a Description of them (2). Pausanias speaks of the Tomb of that young Prince, upon which, he says, was the Figure of Apollo. His Metamorphosis into a Flower of the same Name is but a Romantic Episode. We are not very certain what the Hyacinth is. Dioscorides believes it to be the Vaccinium, which has a Flower of Purple Colour, upon which are seen, tho' very imperfectly, the two Letters mentioned by Ovid. Whether it be so or not, this Fable shews us what Idea the Pagans had of their Gods, since they did not scruple to attribute to them the most infamous Vices. The Complaints of Apollo at the Death of Hyacinthus have often been, amongst the Pagans themselves, the Subject of the most piquant Railleries against that God.
The Cerastae, a People of the Island of the Island of Cyprus, were only said to have been changed into Bulls to shew us the barbarous Nature and rustic Manners of those Islanders, who stained their Altars with the Blood of Strangers whom they sacrificed to their Gods. A single Equivocation gave beginning to the Fable. The Island of Cyprus, as Bochart remarks (1) is surrounded with Promontories which rise out of the Sea and whose pointed Rocks appear at a distance like Horns, form whence it had the Name of Cerastis; the Greek Word Κρας signifying a Horn. Thus it was not, as Ovid pretends, for having been metamorphosed into Bulls that the Inhabitants of Amathus were called Cerastae, but because they inhabited an Island which had that Name.
The Propoetides, who inhabited the same Island, were Women who were very lewd and debauched. Justin, and several other Authors say astonishing Things of a Custom in that Island of prostituting young Virgins, in the very Temple of the Goddess Venus. Could they chuse a more suitable manner of honouring a married Goddess whom the whole Assembly of Gods had surprized in Adultery? It was, very probably, the unconcernedness of those Women for their Honour, that gave occasion to the Poets to change them into Rocks.
Ovid seems here to confound that Pygmalion, who fell in love with a Statue of Marble which he had made, with a King of Tyre of the same Name; yet they were two Persons very different from one another, as I shall shew in the History of Dido. The Person of whom this Fable treats was a famous Statuary, who detesting the Women of Cyprus for their infamous Debaucheries, fell in Love with a Statue which he himself had made. It was added that Venus animated it, and that he had a Son by it named Paphus, who, in process of Time, built the City of Paphos, and caused a Temple to be raised to the Goddess to whom he owed his Being: Which, the Marvellous aside, is as much as to say, that Pygmalion having taken a great deal of Care to form the Understanding and Mind of a young Person, whom an austere Retreat had kept at a distance from the Disorders that reigned in the Island, married her afterwards and had a Son by her named Paphus.
Monsieur le Clerc (1), after Stephanus, Lucian, Phurnutus and several other Authors, explains the Fable of Myrrha and her Son Adonis in this manner. Cynnor or Cinyras, Grandfather of Adonis having drank one day to Excess, fell asleep in a very indecent Posture. Mor or Myrrha, his Daughter-in-Law, and Wife of Ammon, seeing him in that Condition with her Son Adonis, acquainted her Husband with it, who telling it to Cinyras, that good Man was so full of Indignation that he loaded Myrrha and Adonis with Curses. See at once the Foundation of the pretended Incest of Myrrha, under which Ovid has couched the indiscreet Curiosity of that young Princess. He also tells us, in the same Place, that Myrrha's Nurse, who had favoured her, had taken Advantage of the Drunkenness of Cinyras. Myrrha loaded with the Execrations of her Father retired immediatly into Arabia where she remained some time; and because Adonis was educated there, our Poet took occasion from thence to say that she was brought to bed of him in that Country. Her Metamorphosis into a Tree, was only invented upon Account of the Equivocation of her Name: Mor in Arabic signifies Myrrh. It is very probable, this Fable has no other Foundation than what Tradition had taught the Phaenicians concerning Noah, from whom they were descended by that very One of the three Sons of that Patriarch who had drawn upon himself his Father's Curse.
The Atalanta of whom this Fable treats, was the Daughter of Schoeneus, and Grand-Daughter of Athamas, whose Misfortunes obliged him to retire into a Corner of Boeotia, where he built a little Town which was called after his Name, as we learn from Pausanias (1), and Eustathius (2). It was there that Atalanta was born; she was the fairest Princess of her Time; and, upon account of her extraordinary Beauty, was sought in Marriage by several Princes. But as she feared entering into that State, which an Oracle had revealed would prove fatal to her, she proposed to such as pretended to her, that she would marry the Man who could overcome her in Running, an Exercise which she excelled in, but put him to Death, if he happen'd to be vanquished in the Race. Hippomenes the Son of Machareus, having received from Venus Three Golden Apples, which she had pulled in the Garden of the Hesperides, or, according to others, in the Island of Cyprus, made use of a Stratagem by which he became Victor. As the Lover, according to the Agreement, was to set out first, he dexterously dropt the Apples at convenient Distances one from another, and Atalanta losing time to take them up, he won the Race and married that Princess: But having afterwards prophaned a Temple of Cybele, or, according to others, a Wood that was sacred to her, he was changed into a Lion and Atalanta into a Lioness. It appears that this Fable is only founded upon the Presents that Hippomenes made his Mistress, by the Means of which he found the Way to her Heart. Those Golden Apples and the Shower of the same Metal which Jupiter made use of to procure him Entrance to the Heart of Danae, are the ordinary Means made use of to remove Obstacles in amorous Intrigues.
Appollodorus (3) relates the Fable of Atalanta in this manner. Her Father, who desired to have Sons but no Daughters, caused her at her Birth, to be exposed in a Desert where she might perish. A She-Bear, passing that way, found the Infant, and gave it the Teat till some Hunters found it and took care of it. Atalanta, thus preserved, began to hunt in the Desert as she grew up, having always a great Care of her Virginity. She killed two Centaurs with her Arrows who offered her Violence: She was at the famous Hunting of the Boar in Calydon; and at the Games and Combats instituted in honour of Pelias, where she wrestled with Peleus and won the Prize. She afterwards found out her Parents and her Father pressing her to take a Husband, she consented to marry the Man that could outrun her; but the Condition was hard for those who should be overcome: she was to kill all such as she left behind her in the Race. Several of her Lovers accepted so dangerous a Preliminary, but she outstript them all and killed several of them. At last, Melanion, one of her Lovers, to whom Venus had made a Present of some Golden Apples, would also try his Fortune that way, and when he perceived her gaining ground and coming too near him he threw down an Åpple; she run after it, took it up, and returned to the Race. Melanion continued several times that way of Management, and by means of it, arrived at the End of the Race before her, becoming at the same time both her Conqueror and her Husband; but that Marriage proved extremely unfortunate: Having prophaned together the Temple of Jupiter, they were both metamorphosed, Melanion into a Lion and Atalanta into a Lioness. Hesiod and some Authors, continues Apollodorus, say, that she was not the Daughter of Iasus, but of Schoeneus. Euripides makes Menalus her Father, and assures us that she married Hippomenes, and not Melanion. Atalanta had by Melanion, others say by Mars, a Son named Parthenopeus who made War against the Thebans. But, whether that be so or not, Apollodorus seems to contradict himself, since he says in the first Book that the Atalanta who assisted at the Hunting in Calydon was the Daughter of Schoeneus, and in the Third Book that she, who is the Subject of the present Fable, was the Daughter of Iasus and Clymene, unless we suppose that some Copyer, remembering that Atalanta had been at the Hunting in Calydon, inserted in the Text what related to that Event.
Aelian (4) makes a long Discourse upon Atalanta, upon her Parents, upon the Manner in which she was exposed, and upon some of the principal Actions of her Life; but as that Discourse appears to be a sort of Declamation which teaches us nothing new, after what I have just related from Apollodorus, I believe the Reader will easily pardon my not troubling him with a Copy of it here. We have in the Supplement of Antiquity Explained a fine Roman Groupe representing Atalanta and Hippomenes with each an Apple in their hand.
Theocritus, Bion, Hygin, Ant. Liberalis, not to mention other Authors, relate the History of the Amours of Venus and Adonis; and Ovid, who had treated of the same Subject has not taken Notice of all the Circumstances of it. He does not say, as these Authors have done; that Mars, jealous of the Passion which Venus had for Adonis, implored the Help of Diana; that this Goddess, to gratify his Revenge, sent the Boar that destroyed the Youth; or, still, according to other Authors, that Apollo himself took the Form of that Animal; that the beautiful Adonis going down to the Kingdom of Pluto, Proserpine fell in love with him and refused to return him back notwithstanding the repeated Orders of Jupiter: That Jupiter, being apprehensive of displeasing both the Goddesses, referred the Decision of this Affair to Calliope, who thought to satisfy both Parties by ordering that Adonis should spend one part of his Time with the Queen of Hell, and the other with Venus: That it took up to a Year before so delicate an affair could be determined; and that the Hours, deputed to Pluto, brought Adonis at last to the Earth: And lastly that Venus to be revenged on Calliope, instigated the Women of Thrace to kill her Son Orpheus in the manner that Ovid has related it. Almost all the Mythologists have applied this Fable either to Natural Philosophy or Morality; for my part I believe the Foundation of it to be merely Historical. Cicero (1) tells us, that there were several Persons who had the Name of Venus; and that the Fourth, surnamed Astarte, was of Syria, and had married Adonis. That young Prince was the Son of Cinyras, who, according to Homer, reigned in the Island of Cyprus about the Time of the War of Troy. The Ancients differ very much about Genealogy, and we find all their Opinions in Meziriac, on Ovid's Epistles: Tom. I. Pag. 357, etc. Apollodorus and Hygin may also be consulted upon this Fable, who mention several Circumstances of it to which all other Authors were entirely strangers. However this may be, Adonis was a passionate Lover of Hunting, and being one Day at this Exercise in the Forest of Mount Libanus, a Wild Boar wounded him in the Groin. The News of this Accident threw Astarte into an insupportable Affliction. She made the City of Byblos echo to her Groans, and all Syria put on Mourning. To make the Memory of that young Prince immortal, Feasts were established in his Honour, which were to be renewed every Year: This Method was the common Ressource of Courtiers upon the like Occasions; and Antiquity owes most of it's Gods to the Care they took to honour the Dead in order to make themselves more agreeable to the Living.
I will not speak here of those Feasts of Adonis, upon which I have made a Dissertation printed in the Third Tome of the Memoirs of the Academie des Belles Lettres. I shall only say, That the Syrians, after having mourned several Days for Adonis, rejoiced as if he had been raised again from the Dead, whence I conclude that he did not die of his Wound, and that the Physician Cocutus cured him contrary to all Expectation: That this Cure was looked upon as a Prodigy: That the Syrians testified their Joy at it by a Second Feast which was named Εὕρεσις the Return: And that the double Solemnity was continued during the rest of his Life and even after his Death: In a word, that from Syria and the Isle of Cyrus, where the Worship of Adonis began, it spread into Judea, into Asia Minor, and several other Countries.
Several learned Authors believe that Adonis was the same Person with Osiris and that the Affliction of Venus represented that of Isis at the Death of her Husband. But I have just mentioned the Difference there was in the Feasts and Worship of these two Princes, and, not to repeat here what I have already said upon that Subject I desire the Reader to have Recourse to it.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. and II. FABLES. [ XI.i-ii Orpheus Killed by the Bacchantes ]
After what I have said concerning Orpheus and his Death in the foregoing Book, I might dispense with myself from explaining the Fable of the Serpent, which, going to lick off the Blood that was on the Head of that great Poet, was turned into Stone: For, in short, we may look upon it to be no more than an Episode, which was thought would embellish the History of so celebrated a Man. However, there are several Mythologists who pretend that the Ancients have left us in this Fable, the History of a certain Inhabitant of Lesbos who was punished for attacking the Reputation of Orpheus. That Critic was despised as a mean ignorant Fellow who endeavoured to ruin the Poet's Reputation as a Means to acquire Fame to himself; and therefore to expose his Stupidity he was said to be changed into Stone.
As the Waves had carried Orpheus's Head to Lesbos, it was placed in the Temple of Apollo, and, according to public Fame, gave Responses. It is Philostratus that tells us so in his Philoctetes, where he says, that Diomede and Neoptolemus the Son of Achilles brought the Hero to Troy after having explained to him the Oracle which that Head delivered to them from the Bottom of a Cave at Lesbos.
His Harp was also preserved in the same Temple, and so many Wonders were reported concerning it, that Neanthus, the Son of the Tyrant Pytharus, purchased it from the Priests of Apollo, believing that the very Sound of it was sufficient to put Trees and Rocks in Motion; but Lucian, who relates this History, says he succeeded so ill that the Dogs of the neighboring Villages where he made Tryal of the Harp run upon him and tore him in pieces.
As to what regards the Metamorphosis of the Women of Thrace who were changed into Trees for the Murder of Orpheus, it is only an Emblem to shew us that the greatest part of those Bacchants were punished for that Action, and that the Rest howled in the Woods and Caverns where they had hid themselves to avoid the Chastisement they deserved.
Antiquity had preserved some Figures which represent Orpheus, and two of them are now in the Marquis Maffei's Closet. In the first Figure he is standing at the Mouth of the Cavern of Tenarus, near Cerberus who seems very attentive to the Sound of his Harp; and in the Second he is sitting on a Rock and playing upon an Instrument which resembles our Violin: He is surrounded by several Animals which he has drawn together and they all seem very attentive to his Music.
The Pagans divided their Gods into several Classes; in the last Class, which Ovid Names the Populace of the Gods were the Satyrs and Silenes. The latter, as Pausanias remarks (1), were no other than Satyrs advanced in Age. However there was One amongst them to whom the Name of Silenus was particularly given by way of Preeminence; and it is of him that this Fable treats: A Mysterious Person, of whom the Ancients have reported several Fictions. If we believe Pindar and Pausanias (2) in the Case, he was born at Malea, and Theopompus, cited by Aelian (3), makes him the Son of a Nymph. He was inferior to the Gods, but Superior to Man, not being, like him, Subject to Mortality. The Descriptions which are left us of him agree well enough. He was Short, Thick, and Fleshy, bald, flat-Nosed, and red-faced; and full of those Marks which distinguish Drunkards from other Men. He is often represented either sitting on an Ass, but so drunk that he can hardly keep himself from falling, or else reeling and staggering on Foot with a Thyrsus or a Club in his hand to support him. There is no Scarcity of Pictures and Statues of Silenus; we may find a large Number of them in the I. Tome of Antiquity explained (4): But never did Painter or Sculptor represent him with so much Art as Virgil has done in his VI. Eclogue. Some young People meet him drunk according to his usual Custom, they dress him up with Garlands, and the beautiful Egle dawbs his Face with the Juice of Mulberries. In this Condition they oblige him to sing, and he entertains them with a Philosophy mysterious enough, notwithstanding the Criticism of one of our Modern Wits, who equally condemns the Eclogue of Virgil, and the Songs of Silenus (5). All the Ancients agree that Silenus took Care of the Education of Bacchus, and he is for the most part seen, either with that God, or in Company with the Bacchants: If we give Credit to the Author who goes under the name of Orpheus, Silenus was very agreeable to the Gods, and went often to their Assemblies. And it was under this Notion, to touch the matter cursorily, that the Emperor Julian gives him the first Part in his Caesars. Should we always look upon Silenus as a drunken old fellow, seldom or never Sober, we should deceive ourselves very much; for he is often represented as an able Philosopher and a great Captain. What I have said already upon the Authority of Virgil, and what I shall say hereafter upon the Authority of Theopompus gives us room to impress this Idea of him, which is agreeable to his Picture drawn by Lucian (6); where he says that of the two Lieutenants of Bacchus, one was a trembling old Man, with large straight Ears and a great Belly, wearing yellow Cloaths, and commonly either mounted on an Ass, or, supported by a Staff; but, nevertheless, a great Captain: The other, that is to say Pan, was a Satyr with Horns etc.
In short Ovid, and Hygin  say that some Phrygian Peasants finding Silenus by the Side of a Fountain into which, according to Xenophon (8), they had put Wine that had made him drunk, they conducted him to Midas, who entertained him with great Magnificience and Distinction and then sent him to Bacchus. It was in this Interview according to Theopompus, cited by Aelian (9), that he had a Conversation with Midas concerning that unknown World of which Plato and some other Philosophers have spoken so much. "Asia, Europe, and Lybia, said he, are but Three Islands surrounded by the Ocean, but beyond that Ocean there is a vast Continent whose Bounds are entirely unknown to us. The Men and the Animals of that Country are much larger, and live much longer than these of this part of the World. Their Towns are fine and magnificent; their Customs are different from ours; and they are govern'd by quite other Laws. They have two Cities very particular; the one is called Machimus, that is, The Warlike; and the other, Eusebes, or The Devout. The Inhabitants of the first City are extremely given to War, and make continual Attempts upon their Neighbours, whom they bring under Subjection. Those who inhabit the other City are peaceable and blessed with Plenty of every Thing, the Earth without Toil or Tillage furnishing them with Abundance of all the Necessaries of Life. Except their Sick, they all live in the midst of Riches, and continual Feasting and Pleasure: But withal so just and righteous that the Gods themselves delight to go often and pass their Time amongst them. The warlike People of the first City having extended their Conquests in their own vast Continent, made an Irruption into Ours with a Million of Men, as far as the Country of the Hyperboreans; but when they saw their way of living, they held them unworthy of their Notice, and retired home. Those Warriors very rarely die of Sickness; they delight in Battles, and, for the most part, lose their Lives there at last. There is in this New World, continues Silenus, another numerous People called Meropes, and in the country which they inhabit is a place named Anostus, that is to say Irrepassible, because no Man ever comes back from thence. It is a dreadful Abyss, having no other than a reddish sort of Light. There are Two Rivers in that Place; one called the River of Sorrow, and the other the River of Mirth and Pleasure. Trees as large a Plane grow about these Rivers. Those who eat of the Fruit of the Trees growing near the River of Sorrow, lead their Lives in Affliction, weeping continually, even to the last Breath they draw: But such as eat of the Fruit of the other Trees, forget the Time past; they lose their Inclinations, and tread over again the different Stages of their Life back to their Infancy, and then they die."
I make no difficulty in subscribing to the Judgment of Aelian who looks upon this Discourse as a mere Fable; but what Virgil puts in the Mouth of this very Silenus, and what Plutarch makes him say upon Death and other Moral Subjects, perswades me that he was a very extraordinary Man. Some Authors pretend that he reigned in Caria, and that he was the Cotemporary and Friend of Midas, to whom the Counsel of so wise and so learned a Philosopher was very useful in governing his Dominions. In all probability, Silenus was called the Foster-Father of Bacchus for no other Reason but because he had introduced his Worship in Phrygia and the Neighbouring Countries: and thence it is that we commonly see him accompanied by the Bacchants and other Ministers of the Orgies. However it was, we also find added to the Fable, which I have now explained, that Bacchus, to acknowledge the Obligation he had to Midas, gave him the Power to turn every Thing he touched into Gold; which Gift proved so troublesome at last, and incommoded him so much, that he was obliged to petition the same God to take it back from him again: A Circumstance which is reserved for the following Fable.
Midas, according to Pausanias (1), was the Son of Gordius and Cybele, and reigned in the Greater Phrygia, as Strabo (2), tells us. The First of these Authors says that he built the City Ancyra, now called Angoura, and also Pessinus on Mount Agdistis, which became famous for the tomb of Attis. And the Second only says, that he and his Father Gordius kept their Court near the River Sangar, in Cities, which in that Author's time were but poor sorry Villages. We are intirely ignorant of the Time in which Midas lived; but if he was Cotemporary with Tmolus, as appears by Ovid; what I shall say of that Prince in the Conclusion of this Article will direct us to fix the Epoch of his Reign. As Midas was very rich, and a great Oeconomist, it was reported, from thence, that whatever he touched was immediatly turned into Gold; and Bacchus seems to be introduced into this Fable, for no other Reason, but because he was the God of Wine, and that Midas honoured him with a particular Worship. We may still add, that Midas was perhaps the First who discover'd Gold in the River Pactolus, and that it was from this Accident the Fable took it's Origin. Strabo (3), in speaking of those Places from whence some Princes had drawn their Riches, only says, that Midas found the Treasures he possessed in the Mines of Mount Bermius. In his Infancy some Ants were observed to creep about his Cradle and put Grains of Wheat into his Mouth; and, from so remarkable a Circumstance, it was believed that he would become extremely rich and frugal. As he was very ignorant and stupid, the Fable was invented of the Judgment he gave in favour of Pan against Apollo, to which was added that the God, to set a Mark upon his Stupidity, gave him a pair of Asses Ears. The Scholiast of Aristophanes, to explain this Fable, says that it was intended to shew, that, either Midas, like that Animal, was very quick of hearing, or else kept Spies in all part of his Dominions; or because that his usual Residence was in a Place called ὄνου ὦτα, the Ears of an Ass. Strabo  reports that he took a Draught of Bull's Blood, of which he died; and Plutarch (5) says that he did so, to deliver himself from the frightful Dreams which he had long been tormented with. If we could but know what Time it was that the Cimmerians enter'd Phrygia it would be easy to fix the Epoch of the Reign of Midas, since Strabo says that they arrived there at the Time of his Death. As Ovid speaks of the Judgment of Tmolus which Midas disapproved, it is proper to say something of him and his Genealogy.
Tmolus, King of Lydia, if we believe Clitophon, was the Son of the God Mars and Nymph Theogene, or according to Eustathius, of Sipylus and Eptonia. That Prince as he was hunting one Day, had a Sight of one of Diana's Nymphs named Arriphe. She was perfectly beautiful; and Tmolus fell in love with her the moment he saw her. The Passions of the Great are most commonly violent. The King resolved to satisfy his, and briskly pursued the young Nymph, who, to avoid falling into his Hands, took Sanctuary in the Temple of her Goddess. But what Impression can the Fear of Heaven make upon the Hearts of Tyrants! Arriphe was violated at the Foot of the Altar. So outragious an Affront overwhelmed her with Grief, and she resolved not to live a Moment after the Misfortune that had befallen her. The Gods however, did not suffer her Death to go unpunished. Tmolus was tossed by a Bull, and falling upon some sharp pointed Stakes, ended his Life in the most exquisite Pains. After this Manner did that Prince perish, and he was buried on the Mountain which has since bore his Name. Plutarch and Tzetzes after him, place him in the Number of the Kings of Lydia. I should believe him to be ancienter than the Siege of Troy by an Hundred and twenty Years, or thereabouts. For between Tmolus and Agamemnon we find Tantalus, Pelops, and Atreus; which just makes Four Generations; and Four Generations according to the universally received Computation, answer to the Number of Years I have fixed for them. Let us now examine why Tantalus has a Place in this Genealogy. If we believe Diodorus, and several other of our most celebrated Historians, Tantalus was the Son of Jupiter; and could therefore have nothing in common with the House of the Astyades. But Monsieur de Meziriac has already observed, that Authors are very much divided in their Opinions concerning the Origin of that Prince. Indeed the Scholiast of Euripides, as well as Tzetzes, says, that Tmolus was his Father; and Pluto, the Daughter of Theoclymene, his Mother: These two Compilers had, without Doubt, consulted some Monuments, which are now quite lost; and their Testimony ought to be of some Weight with Persons of Knowledge. According to Aristides he laid the Foundations of the Town of Sipylus, which, for that reason, Pliny the Naturalist calls Tantalis in his Writings. Authors do not agree about the Situation of that Town, no more than the Provinces which made up the Dominons of Tantalus. Some confine themwithin the narrow Bounds of Lydia: Some say he reigned in Phrygia: And there are several others who affirm that the Paphlagonians were subject to his Empire.For my part, I am persuaded that Opinions so different may yet be reconciled. May it not be sufficient to say, that the Kings the Predecessors of that Prince conquer'd the Provinces in Question, tho' he himself possess'd only some Countries in Phrygia; the Rest being, for the most part, under the Dominion of the Trojans? Powerful and Ambitious neighbours very seldom live long in a good Understanding together. Tros enter'd the Dominions of Tantalus at the Head of a numerous Army: But the Occasion of that War is differently reported. If the Traditions which have had most Credit in all Ages, were generally the best grounded, we should attribute the Desolation and Ruin of the two Kingdoms to the carrying away of Ganymed. But I am rather inclined to believe, with Herodian, that Tros and Tantalus quarrel'd about some Places, which they both pretended a Right to. These Princes often came to Blows, and abundance of Men perished on both Sides: but Victory declared at last in favour of the Trojans. Pelops, the Successor of Tantalus, being defeated in several Engagements, retreated to Greece; where he and his Children made considerable Settlements. And the ancient Quarrel between the Trojans and Descendants of Tantalus was revived upon the Rape of Helen, as we shall see hereafter.
Dardanus having passed into Phrygia, where he married Batea the Daughter of Teucer, mounted the Throne after the Death of his Father-in-Law, and reigned Sixty two Years. His Son and Successor Erichthonius, was the Father of Tros; Ilus reigned after him, and left the Crown to Laomedon. Troy being as yet open and defenceless, that Prince undertook to inclose it with Walls; and succeeded so well in so vast a Work that it was attributed to Apollo. The Strong Banks which he was obliged to raise, to keep out the Sea and prevent Innundations, were regarded as the Work of Neptune. In Process of Time those Banks were broke down and ruined by Tempests; upon which it was reported that the God of the Sea, had revenged himself upon the perfidious Laomedon for refusing him the Salary agreed upon between them. This Fable received still greater Credit from the following Circumstance; The King of Troy, if we believe Herodotus and after him Eustathius, made use of the Treasures belonging to the Temple of Neptune in raising those Banks and building the Walls of his Town, with a Promise, however, to restore them when he should be in a Condition to do so: Which Promise was never performed. Homer does not say that Neptune and Apollo served Laomedon in those Works, but only obliged themselves to take care of his Flocks, while every Body else was employed about it: This we may find in Pausanias, who besides the Authority of Homer in some Verses that are now lost, cites the Poet Alcaeus, whose testimony is of equal weight. Thus, it is not without ground that Horace says of this Prince, Mercede pacta destituit Deos (6). When the Banks I have mentioned, were broken, the Country laid under Water, and the Plague began to rage in the City, the Trojans went to consult the Oracle, and were answer'd, that, to appease the God of the Sea, they must expose a Virgin of the Royal Blood. The Lot fell upon Hesione, and she was exposed to the Fury of a Monster. Hercules, who was then upon that Coast, offer'd to deliver her for a Set of six Horses, and he succeeded in the Undertaking (7), but the King, always perfidious, refusing him the promised Reward, he sacked the City, killed Laomedon, left his Kingdom to his Son Podarces, who took the name of Priam, carred away Hesione, and married her to his friend Telamon, who had assisted him in that Enterprise.
If we lay the Marvellous aside, this Fable is easily explained. By the Monster that ravaged the Country, we are to understand the Inundations that broke in from the Sea, against which the Trojans were obliged to make Banks; and Hesione being made the Price of him that could succeed in the Work, was said to have been exposed to the Fury of a Monster. The six Horses promised by Laomedon were Vessels which Hercules demanded for his Return; and to shew that I have not invented this Conjecture at random, the Ancients said that these Horses were so light and swift that they run upon the Water: Which cannot be understood but either of a Gally or a Ship under sail. Besides, can we reasonably believe that Hercules would have undertaken so long and so difficult a Work for the simple Recompense of a Set of six Horses?
Lycophron (8), who has always sprinkled Mysteries amongst the clearest and most natural Events, says that the Monster to which Hesione was exposed, devoured Hercules, that the Hero was three days in it's Belly, and came out after having lost all his Hair. These Circumstances shew us, that to raise the Banks I have mentioned, Hercules and his Companions were obliged to go into the Water, which incommoded them very much. Or else we may say with Palephatus (9), that Hesione having been exposed to a Rover in a Vessel called perhaps, the Whale, Hercules upon boarding, leapt in and returned wounded but Victorious. This Event, which is attested by all the Ancients, happen'd about 55. Years before the last Destruction of Troy. In finishing this Explication I must tell the Reader that there is a fine Groupe in Boissard representing Hesione and Telamon, with this Inscription underneath.
Fabulous History makes mention of Two Thetises, but their Names are differently written. She of whom we are speaking, and whom we must always distinguish from the Ancient Tethys, the Wife of Oceanus, was Daughter of the Sea-God Nereus; or, in other Words, of a Prince very powerful by Sea. As she was extremely beautiful, and courted by most of the Princes of her Time, the Epithalamium's that were made at her Marriage in Praise of her Beauty, very likely boasted that all the Gods had contended about her, and had refer'd their Pretensions to Jupiter and Neptune; who were themselves obliged to have recourse to Destiny; and understanding by an Oracle of that God, that the Child which should be born of the Marriage of that Princess, should prove more powerful than his Father, they left Peleus at liberty to marry her. Hygin says that Prometheus was the only Person that knew the Oracle; that he taught it to Jupiter upon Condition that he should deliver him from the Eagle that tormented him; and that the God therepon sent Hercules to Mount Caucasus to make good his Promise. It is also added by the same Author, that all the Gods and Goddesses were invited to the Wedding, except Discord, who to be revenged for the Affront put upon her, threw a Golden Apple into the Midst of the Assembly, with this Incription, For the Fairest; That each Goddess immediatly claimed the Apple as due to her own Beauty, but were all at last obliged to give place to the Pretensions of Juno, Pallas and Venus; that Paris, the Son of Priam, known then on Mount Ida by the name of Alexander, was chosen Arbitrator, and adjudged the Apple to Venus as the most beautiful; that, to recompense him for so great a Favour, Venus promised him the finest Woman of Asia; and that upon the Presumption of that Promise he carryed off Helen, and thereby drew upon his Country that Bloody War which ended in the utter Ruin and Destruction of Troy. It was also added that Thetis changed herself into different Forms purposely to avoid the addresses of Peleus, and that the Prince, by the Advice of Proteus, was at last obliged to bind her fast. All this is very ingenious, and is as much as to say, that Thetis being courted by several Princes had no Inclination to Peleus, who nevertheless, by the Advice of a wise Friend, found Means to remove all the Difficulties that opposed his Alliance with her; that some Dispute happened to arise amongst the Ladies that were at the Marriage, and that some of the Wits made it the Subject of an Epithalamium. Tzetzes (1) looks for something still more Ingenious in it, "Chiron, says he, when Peleus was near marrying Philomela the Daughter of Actor, foretold that the Gods would come to the Wedding, and give Notice of their Arrival by a great Storm. On the Day appointed there accordingly fell abundance of the Rain attended with a great deal of Thunder and a very high Wind; and this is the Thing that gave Credit to the Fable and set it in Vogue." There are some Authors who pretend that Thetis was the Daughter of Chiron himself. But, however that be, it is very certain from the Testimony of Euripides (2), that Achilles, who was the Son of this Marriage, took a Pride in carrying the Figure of a Nereid on his Shield; and this, perhaps was all the Mystery. Pausanias (3) speaks of a Temple and a Statue of Thetis, without seeming to distinguish the Two Persons who have had that Name.
Aeacus had three Sons, as I have said in his History; Peleus, Telamon, and Phocus. As those Three Princes were playing at Quoits, Phocus received so severe a Blow with one of them that he dyed of it [, as we learn from Diodorus Siculus (4) -- Banier's French]: Ovid is not altogether conformable to this Tradition; since he says that Peleus had assassinated his brother, si demas jugulati crimina Phoci. Obliged to leave Court, he retired to Ceyx; and it was there that he learned the History of Chione who was beloved by Apollo and Mercury. This Fable, in all likelyhood took its Rise from the great Difference betwen the Humours and Inclinations of the two Children she brought forth. Autolycus was a cunning crafty Robber, and for his Thieveries, was called the Son of Mercury. Philammon was a passionate Lover of Music, for which reason Apollo was said to be his Father. It is also added that Chione proud of her Two Lovers, dared to prefer herself to Diana; that the Goddess pierced her Tongue with an Arrow, of which Wound she dyed, and that her Father Dedalion throwing himself from the Top of Parnassus was tranformed into a Spar-Hawk.
When the Reader calls to mind what I have insinuated more than once, that the History of Kings and Princes commonly became the Subject of some Poem or other; That the Priests of the Gods often seduced the Women they were in love with; that the Children found exposed in the Temples were attributed to the Gods to whom those Temples were consecrated; and that the Sublime in those Days consisted in mingling the History of the Gods with that of Men: It will not be difficult for him to perceive what part may be true of the History which I have been just explaining. The Time in which it happen'd is still less difficult to guess, since Autolycus was Grand-Father to Ulysses.† In finishing I must take notice, that, according to Pausanias, Autolycus was the Son of Dedalion and not of Chione .
Ovid reports, in this Metamorphosis, that during the Stay which Peleus made in the Court of Trachinia, and while Ceyx was relating to him the History of Chione and Dedalion, a Shepherd came to acquaint him that a Wolf sent by the Nereid Psammathe, was destroying the Country, and particularly the Flocks which his Guest had brought along with him. The Poet adds afterwards, that Peleus looking upon this Event as an Effect of the Nereid's Vengeance on him for killing his Brother, he endeavoured to appease her with Sacrifices, which were attended with Success. The Foundation of this Fable is Historical. Aeacus had Two Wives, Egina and Psammathe; by the First he had two Sons, Peleus and Telamon; and by the Second, Phocus. Lycomedes, King of Scyros, the Brother of Psammathe, resolved to revenge the Death of his Nephew whom Peleus had killed; and declared War against Ceyx for receiving that Prince into his Dominions. The Captain who commanded his Troops ravaged the Country and carried away the Flocks of Peleus: Prayers and Sollicitations were made use of to pacify Lycomedes; which had so good an Effect that he recalled his General; and, to embellish that Event, it was reported that he had been changed into a Rock. A lively Figure which shews us that the Progress of this Commander, who had ravaged the Country like a fierce wild Beast, was stopt all on a suddain. It was also further added that Psammathe was, at last, touched with the Prayers and Tears of Thetis; because, indeed, those Two Princesses were Sisters. Pausanias (6) relates the History of a Psammathe the Daughter of Crotopus King of Argos, who appears to be no other than she of whom Ovid speaks here.
It is certain, from the Testimony of the Ancients, that Ceyx was King of Trachinia and Cotemporary of Hercules; that he was a Prince of great Knowledge and Experience; and that People had recourse to him to atone for the Murders they had committed whether through Imprudence or otherwise, as I have already observed in the Histories of Hercules and Peleus. Pausanias (1) reports, that Eurystheus having summoned Ceyx to deliver up to him the Children of Hercules, that Prince, who did not find himself in any Condition to maintain a War against so powerful a King, sent the Young Princes to Theseus who took them into his Protection. Ceyx married Alcyone, whose Genealogy is set down in the first Book of Apollodorus. To recover himself from the Melancholy which the Death of his Brother Dedalion and his Niece Chione had thrown him into, he went to Claros to consult the Oracle of Apollo, and was Shipwreckt in his Return; at which unfortunate Accident Alcyone was so afflicted, that she died with Grief, or threw herself into the Sea as Ovid and Hygin pretend. It was reported that they were changed into the Birds called Kings-Fishers; a Circumstance which has no other Foundation than the Name of that Princess; perhaps, the Union between that Royal Pair, and the tender Affection they had for one another, made them be compared to those Birds, who pass for the Symbol of conjugal Love. Apollodorus (2), indeed, does not give us so favourable an Idea of the Piety of those Persons as Ovid has done. According to that Author, their Pride proved their Destruction: Jupiter enraged at Ceyx because he had taken his Name, as Alcyone had done That of Juno, he changed him into a Plungeon and his Wife into a Kings-Fisher. Alcyone was the Daughter of Aeolus, not of him that was the God of the Winds, as Ovid pretends, but of him that was the Son of Hellen, of the Race of Deucalion. However that be, there is not a Fable in Ovid written with more Art, and in a more moving manner. I need not add any thing here concerning the Time in which Ceyx lived, his Epoch being sufficiently known by the History of Hercules, Telamon, and the other Heros who were his Cotemporaries.
Ovid and Apollodorus (1) agree that Aesacus was the Son of Priam, and that he was changed into a Plungeon; but they differ in the other Circumstances of the Life of that Prince. The first of these Authors, as we have just read, says that the Mother of Aesacus was called Alexirhoe, and that she was the Daughter of the River Cebrenus; or, as we read in some Manuscripts, of the Granicus. He adds, that Aesacus pursuing Hesperia, with whom he was in love, that Nymph was stung by a Serpent, upon which, not being able to support the Death of a Person so dear to him, he threw himself into the Sea and was changed into a Plungeon. Apollodorus says that Aesacus was the Son of Priam and Arisbe the Daughter of Merope his first Wife; that his Father made him marry Sterope; who dying very young, he was so afflicted at her Death that he threw himself into the Sea. That Author says further, that Priam having repudiated Arisbe to marry Hecuba the Daughter of Cisseus, Aesacus seeing his Mother-in-Law big of her second Son, foretold his Father, that the Child would one day be the Cause of a bloody War, which would end in the Destruction of the Kingdom of Troy; and that upon this Prediction the young Prince was exposed on Mount Ida. Tzetzes adds that Aesacus told his Father it was absolutely necessary to put to Death both the Mother and the Infant which was born that day, and Priam being informed that Cilla the Wife of Thimoetos, was also brought to bed the same Day of a Son, he order'd them both to be killed; thinking by that Means to prevent the Effect of the Prediction. Servius, upon the authority of Euphorion, relates the Thing in the same Manner; but an ancient Poet, cited by Cicero in the first Book of Divination, says that it was the Oracle of Zelia, a little Town at the Foot of Mount Ida, which gave that Answer as an Interpretation of Hecuba's Dream. Pausanias in his Phocics, pretends it was the Sibyl Herophila who interpreted that Dream; and several other Ancients attribute the Honour of it to Cassandra. But, however that be, Apollodorus tells us, that Aesacus had learned from his Grand-Father Merops the Art of foretelling Things to come. Aesacus, very probably, left the Principles of that Art with his Family since we see that Cassandra and Helenus practised it afterwards. The Metamorphosis of Aesacus into a Plungeon is one of those Episodes which were usually invented to console Parents upon such Occasions; and this Discovery will often serve as a Principle by which to explain most Events of this Nature.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. II. AND III. FABLE. [ XII.i-iii The Sacrifice of Iphigenia ]
After the Greek Captains who were drawn together to revenge Menelaus's Quarrel had rendevoused in Aulis, they were stopped there some time by the two Accidents mentioned in this Fable. Calchas, Chief-Priest of the Confederate Army, foretold them [, as Homer too reports (1) -- Banier's French] that they should spend Nine Years before Troy; and that only on the Tenth their Expedition should be crowned with Success. To make his Prediction the more creditable, he gave out that a Prodigy he had seen portended so much: A Serpent climbed up a Tree, attacked a Nest that was there with Eight young Birds, and after killing them all, and glutting itself with the Blood of their Dam, was turned into Stone. I don't believe this Circumstance had any other Foundation than the Priest's Superstition; or rather his Desire of diverting an Entreprise which he imagined attended with so many Difficulties. Or, who knows but this Story was concerted with some of the Generals, who durst not openly refuse Agamemnon their Troops, and would have been glad of any Pretext to disengage themselves from the Alliance. The Story of Iphigenia was perhaps a Piece of the like Policy. The Fleet had been long kept back by contrary Winds. Calchas was consulted upon it; and according to the Priest, "Diana was offended about a Hind of her's that Agamemnon had killed, and would not be appeased with less than the Sacrificing of some Princess of his Family; and when he had once made this Attonement for his Offence, they might expect a fair Wind." This Answer so terrified the King, that he was upon the brink of abandoning his Design; but being prevailed upon by some of his Officers who were most forward in Menelaus's Cause, he consented that Ulysses should go to Argos, and bring Iphigenia to the Camp. The Poets, to wave the shocking Catastrophe which would have followed, make the Goddess accept of Agamemnon's Submission without any more; and just when the Princess is to be sacrificed, Diana, according to them, carries her off to Tauris, and leaves a Hind in her place, for an Oblation. The Ancients, however, are not agreed in this last Particular. Nicander afirms that she was changed into an Heifer; others, into a She-Bear; and a third Tradition, that she was Metamorphosed into an old Woman.
There is nothing in Antiquity more celebrated than the Immolation of this Princess. We have two beautiful Tragedies of Euripides writ on it; the One Iphigenia in Aulis, in which that Adventure is wrought up with the utmost Refinement of Passion; the other Iphigenia in Tauris, in which Orestes interests himself in the Cause of a Sister he loves tenderly, and delivers her from the Cruelty of Thoas. Virgil, Ovid, and the other Poets have followed the common Tradition, tho' Homer has not said one word of it. And yet it is more than probable,that he would not have passed so remarkable a Fact in Silence, if there had been any Ground for it in the Histories of those Ages. On the contrary, he speaks of Iphianassa Daughter of Agamemnon, who was sent for toward the End of the Siege of Troy, to be an Hostage of his Reconciliation with Achilles; and very likely, this Iphianassa and our Iphigenia are the same.
The Modern Mythologists have thought it utterly incredible that a Father should throw off Humanity and natural Affection to such a degree as to sacrifice his own Daughter; and therefore, they look upon this Story as a Fable which must have taken its Rise from the imperfect Knowledge those People had of the History of Jephtha, which happened much about the same Time (2). Others to unty this Gordian Knot, have found out another Iphigenia, Daughter of Helen, who was educated by Clytemnestra Helen's Sister; which Solution Mr. Racine has followed in the excellent Tragedie he has made on that subject (3). This Tradition does not want it's Foundation in Antiquity; and Pausanias (4) who adopts it, gives for his Authorities, Euphorion of Chalcis, Alexander, Stesichorus, and the whole People of Argos, who generally talked of it in this manner. The Reader may consult Meziriac on Oenone's Epistle to Paris. There are Authors of a Third Opinion, and they too have the Majority on their side; who affirm that Iphigenia was actually immolated in the manner, Lucretius (5), Virgil (6), Diodorus and so many others relate it; and that Agamemnon's ambitious Fear of losing the command of the Army; and the fair Opportunity he had of revenging the Affront offered to his Brother, made him consent to a thing so contrary to all the Dictates of Natural Affection. It is not the first time, as Lucretius says, that Superstition has pushed men to such execrable Inhumanities.
Ovid, who in this Fable had undertaken to recount the several Adventures of the famous Siege of Troy, continues his Relation. When the Greeks had rendered Diana propitious to their Enterprise, a fair Wind immediatly arose, which soon carried the Fleet to Troas. The Phrygians who had got time enough to make Preparations for the War, put themselves in a Posture of Defence, and made a vigorous Resistance to the Invasion. An Oracle had foretold the Greeks before their Setting out, that he who should first go ashore would certainly be killed; Protesilaus, who observed that this Prediction dampt the Courage of the Army, led the way, and generously threw away his Life, for the Safety of his Countrymen; and Hector who killed him, soon let them see what Reception they were to expect in the insuing War. Cycnus, one of Hector's Train, signalized himself so far on his part, that he drew the Attention of Achilles, who immediatly singled him out as an Antagonist worthy to usher in his future Glory. Achilles pursued him briskly, and threw several Darts at him, but without any Effect. At last, coming up with him, he squeezed him to Death in his Arms, and threw him from a Rock into the Sea. It was published, that this Prince, who is different from the Kinsman of Phaeton, as well as from another of the Name, who was vanquished by Hercules (7), was the Son of Neptune; probably because he was Powerful by Sea, and Prince of some Island of the Archipelago. He was said to be invulnerable; because his shield was Arrow-proof. It was added, that he was turned to a Swan; a Circumstance which to be sure has no other Foundation than the Resemblance of Names. An Origin that could vaunt of Divine Ancestors was the Bubble of those Times; and the last Shift of exhausted Flattery was commonly a Metamorphosis.
After the first Skirmish of the Trojans and Greeks, Ovid recounts, how Nestor, perceiving Achilles's Surprise that he had met with an invulnerable Enemy; takes Occasion from thence to relate to him the Scuffle of the Centaurs and Lapithites, in which he had been personally concerned; and where Caeneus who, by the Interposition of Neptune had been transformed from a Woman to a Man, had shewed himself invulnerable too; and that they could not get the better of him till they buried him under a Pile of Trees. The History of this famous Fight, which Ovid relates with so many Particulars, would require an ampler Discussion; but as I have insisted on it at some length in the Second Edition of my Explication of Fables, and in a Dissertation of which there is an Extract in the Third Tome of the Memoires de l'Academie des Belles Lettres, I refer the Reader, who may have Curiosity on this Subject, to those Places. However, for the Satisfaction of such as have not these Books, I shall explain the most material Circumstances of this Fable with all the Brevity possible. I shall shew the Meaning of the Word Centaur; why People took them for Monsters of so strange a Mixture; and for what Reason they were said to be the Sons of Ixion King of Thessaly.
It is certain, from the Testimony of Diodorus Siculus (1), and several other Authors (2), that the People of Thessaly, and those chiefly who lived hear Mount Pelion, were the first who trained Horses, and made use of them instead of the Chariots which Erichthonius had left them. Pliny (3) agrees that they succeeded in this Exercise beyond all the rest of Greece: And they afterwards carried it to such Perfection, that the Names of ἱππεύς, A Horseman, and that of Thessalian became Synonymous. Antiquity had given Neptune the same Name of ἱππεύς for his having made a Horse spring out of the Earth in the Contest he had with Minerva; Bellerophon had been sirnamed Hipponous, because he had rode on Pegasus; and Perseus as well as these Two; his Name being derived from the old Hebrew Word Paras, which signifies a Horseman. The Thessalians, from their Dexterity in killing wild Bulls that infested the neighbouring Mountains, sometimes with Darts or Spears, and sometimes in closer Engagements; got the Name of Hippocentaurs, that is, Horsemen that hunted Bulls; or simply κενταύροι, Centaurs. Pliny (4) speaks of these combats, which were originally of Thessaly, when he takes notice of their being introduced into the Public Shows at Rome by Caesar, Claudius, and Nero. Thessalorum gentis inventum equo juxta quadrupedante, cornu intorta cervice, tauros necare. Primus id spectaculum dedit Romae, Caesar Dictator.
Because it wa in the Reign of Ixion that the Thessalians began to practise Riding, the Poets made the Centaurs his Sons: And they were said to have that Cloud for their Mother which Jupiter put in the place of Juno, to baulk Ixion's Intrigues with her; because, according to Palephatus, they came most of them from a City called Nephele, which in Greek signifies a Cloud: Or rather, because they were a Gang of Insolent Robbers, that ravaged the Country in several Places; and those who wrote the History of them in Old Greek, a Language which had a great many Phoenician Words in it, gave them the name of Nephelins, which is the same, the Giants have in Sacred Writ; and expresses very fully the Idea People had of those Cavaliers, That they were more formidable for their Violence and Rapine, than for their Gigantic Stature: Besides, this is just the Signification of the word Nephelim, which the Vulgate has translated by the Word Giants. Some person or other finding a Word in the History which they did not well understand; and remembring that Nephele signified a Cloud, invented the Fable of their being born of One.
These Cavaliers, as Diodorus Siculus reports, declared War against Pirithous, pretending, as Kinsmen of Ixion to share in the Succession to his Dominions. The Quarrel however, was made up, and Pirthous invited them to the Celebration of his Wedding. They came; But when the others least suspected it they treacherously carried off Hippodamia and the other Ladies who were with her. Hercules, Theseus, Nestor, and the other Lapithites took Revenge of this Affront offered to Pirithous, by slaughtering a great number of the Centaurs; and driving them out of Thessaly, they obliged them to sculk among the Mountains of Arcadia. In the Description of this Fight Ovid has mixed every thing that Fruitfulness of Imagination and a sprightly Fancy could contribute to the Embellishment of a Narration; and he has, at the same time, very carefully preserved the commonly received Notions people had, of the Centaurs being Monsters of incredible Strength. One must not be surprized to hear in our Poet and in Juvenal, of their lancing Mountain-Ashes instead of Javelins, Quantas Jaculetur Monychus Ornos (5): Their Tearing up Rocks to throw at their Enemies, Saxumque e monte revulsum Mittere conatur (6): Their crushing the greatest Oaks, when they fell on them; and such Prodigies of Force.
The Episode of Caeneus whom they were obliged to bury under Piles of Trees, has no other Foundation, than his prodigious Strength, and the Goodness of his Armour. The Circumstance of Hylonome's killing herself on the Body of Cyllarus, may perhaps be a true Fact. The Centaurs had taught their Wives to ride too; and hence it is that the Ancients found out their Female Centaurs, such as are seen in Bacchus's (7) Chariot; and in other Monuments.
Pausanias (8) takes notice, that this Battle was represented in the Temple of Jupiter Olympius; and, according to Pliny (9), Phidias and Parrhasius left a beautiful Cartoon of it at Athens.
The Reader has heard that the Centaurs had retreated into the Mountains of Arcadia. The Lapithites forced them from that Nest, and pursued them to the Promontory of Malea; where, according to Apollodorus, Neptune took them into his Protection: That is as much as to say, That they imbarkt there and put to Sea in order to escape the Rage of Hercules, who gave them no respite, because they had been the Occasion of his wounding his Preceptor Chiron, the Sagest of all the Centaurs. Servius and Antimachus cited by Natalis Comes, say, that some of them fled to the Isle of the Sirens, or rather to that side of Italy where those little Queens reigned; and were there destroyed by the voluptuous and debauched Lives they led. In this manner were those famous Thessalian Cavaliers extirpated; a fierce and barbarous Nation, as Strabo paints them, whom some little Victories had render'd insupportable to their Neighbours.
Those who were killed in the Fight, were buried in a Place called from thence τάφος, or The Tomb; whence, according to Strabo (10), their Carcases sent forth so noisome a Stench, that the Locrians who dwelt about the Place were called from thence Ozolae, or Stinking . The Time in which the Centaurs lived is easily known from that of Theseus, Peleus, and Nestor, who were at Pirithous's Wedding, where these pretended Monsters were routed. It happen'd about 35. Years before the Siege of Troy; as might be easily proved from Ovid himself.
Periclymenus was the Son of Neleus and Chloris Daughter of Amphion, as we are told by Homer (11), Apolodorus (12), and several other ancient Authors. Neleus King of Orchomenus, according to these Authors, was the Son of Neptune, who disguised himself like the River Enipeus, in order to inveigle with the more ease Tyro the Daughter of Salmoneus. Neleus married Chloris Daughter of Amphion King of Thebes (13) who bore him Eleven Sons and One Daughter.† Periclymenus the youngest of the Family was a Warlike Prince; and, if we believe Apollodorus (14), accompanied Jason in the Expedition of the Argonauts. Hercules, after having instituted the Olympic Games, marched into Messenia and declared War with Neleus. The Ancients differ about the Occasion of this Expedition; but they all agree that Hercules made himself master of Pylos, a Town which Neleus had built, as an Azyle from the capricious Humours of his Brother Pelias; and that Neleus and all his Children were killed in the Action, except Nestor, who had been brought up among the Geranians, and reigned afterwards in Pylos.
The Fable says that Periclymenus had the Art of transforming himself into various Shapes; and that after several Attempts that Way, which proved unsuccessful, he at last turned himself into an Eagle, under which Form he was shot with an Arrow by Hercules. Which is as much as to say, That this brave and Warlike Prince, after making a long Resistance to the Attacks of a formidable Enemy, was at last put to flight, and killed with an Arrow. It was said too, that Neptune had given him the Power to metamorphose himself into different Figures: That is in other words, That his Grand-Father, who was a Maritime Prince, and therefore, according to the Custom of those Ages, surnamed Neptune; had taught him the Art of War, and several Stratagems, which he industrously made use of, but only served to defer his Ruin a little longer.
Since Ovid speaks only of the Death of Achilles in this Fable, I shall not insist on the Adventures of that Hero. The Reader may find an ample Detail of them in Meziriac's Commentary on Ovid's Epistles, and in Bayle's Critical Dictionary under the Word Achilles. There is scarce any thing new to be said on this Subject after the first of these Authors. Dictys Cretensis reports, That Achilles having seen Polyxena Priam's Daughter along with Cassandra, as she was sacrificing to Apollo, fell in Love with her; and desired to marry her; That Hector would not consent to it but upon Condition of his Betraying the Greeks; which Proposal so piqued Achilles that he killed him, and drag'd his Body round the Walls of the City. He adds, That Priam, when he went to demand Hector's Body, took Polyxena along with him, in order to soften the Victor. His Design succeeded; and when he perceived that Achilles's former Flame was still alive, he immediatly concluded the Marriage. The Day was fixed for the Celebration of their Nuptials in the Temple of Apollo; But Paris hid himself behind the Altar, and shot an Arrow at Achilles, which wounded him in the Heel, and killed him on the spot: Either because the Arrow might have been poisoned: Or, that a Wound on the Great Tendon, which has since been called the Tendo Achillis, might be mortal. This Fact has been imbellished with two Fables. The One, that Apollo himself in Disguise had given the Blow, at the Request of Neptune: A Circumstance founded on Paris's hiding himself behind the Altar of that God; who had always been thought an Enemy to the Phrygians as well as Neptune, ever since Laomedon had defrauded them of their promised Reward for building the Walls of Troy. The Other, that Achilles was Invulnerable every where but in the Heel: Concerning which there was this Tradition, That his Mother Thetis dipping him in the River Styx, had held him by the Heel, which prevented that Part from being Wet.
This Tradition of Achilles's Death, which Ovid has followed, was not known in the Days of Homer; from whence it appears that is of later Date than his Time. For he insinuates (15) as if that Hero had died fighting for his Country: And, in Facts of this Nature, Homer's Authority is far preferable to that of any more Modern Author. In whatever manner he died, he was after his Death honoured as a Demi-God; and Strabo says, that he had a Temple near the Promontory Sigaeum. Pausanias (16), and Pliny (17), make mention of an Island of the Euxin-Sea, where Achilles was particularly honoured; whence it had the Name of Achillea. There don't want Accounts of Miracles he should have wrought there: But all those Stories were no more than Fables vended by the Priests of this pretended Deity, in order to flatter the little Curiosity of Travellers.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. I. III. AND IV. FABLES. [ XIII.i-iv Ajax, Ulysses, and Achilles ]
I believe I need not fear the Captiousness of Critics, if I say, That the two Harangues which make up the present Fable, are the Master-Pieces of a Great Poet. In the One we see all the Noise and Bluster of a rough, insolent, and hectoring Captain; and in the Other, all the Varnish of an artful and insinuating Eloquence. The great Question the Poet manages here, to wit, Which of the Two should have the Preference; has been treated by Cicero, with all the Solidity and Penetration of that great Orator: But, in my Opinion, Ovid is inimitable; and most so, in the artful and ingenious Manner of his Bringing about the Decision of so Important a Debate. Besides, he has painted the two Rivals in the most lively Colours imaginable; and sustains the Contrast between their Characters to the utmost Perfection. But I pass these Reflexions, that I may come to the Story which is the Foundation of the two Harangues: Only I must tell the Reader, that one won't easily discern all the Beauties of them, unless they be acquainted with what Homer has said of those two Heros.
Every Body knows that there were two Ajaxes at the Siege of Troy. The one Son of Oileus King of the Locrians; the other, who is the Person we are speaking of, Son of Telamon, and Grandson of Aeacus. The Ancients, whose Opinions are collected in Meziriac's Commentary on Ovid's Epistles (1), don't agree about the Mother of our Ajax: Dares the Phrygian says, that it was Hesione; and Apollodorus, Plutarch, Tzetzes and others pretend she was Periboea, the Daughter of Alcothous.†
Pindar (2), and after him Apollodorus (3), recounts that Hercules going to see his Friend Telamon, prayed Jupiter, that Telamon might have a Son whose Skin should be as impenetrable as That of the Nemean Lion which he wore. As he pray'd, he spied an Eagle; and upon this Augury he perswaded his Friend that this Prayer would have a favorable Answer; and desired him to call his Son after the Eagle, which is in Greek αἰετός. The Scholiast of Sophocles (4), Suidas, and Tzetzes (5), say farther, that when Hercules returned to see Telamon, after the Birth of Ajax; he covered him with the Lion's Skin; and that Ajax became by this means invulnerable, except in the spot of his Body where the Hole fell, which Hercules's Arrow had made in the Beast. It is foreign from my Design to enter into a Detail of all the Exploits of this Hero, who is so very much celebrated in the Iliad; I shall confine my self to the Occasion of his Dispute with Ulysses.
Dictys Cretensis (6), Suidas (7), and Cedrenus pretend, that their Quarrel was about the Palladium; which each of them claimed. These Authors add, that the other Greek Captains having adjudged it to Ulysses, Ajax threatened to kill them, and was found dead in his Tent next morning: But the common Opinion is, that he killed himself, because he could not obtain the Armour of his Friend Achilles. Full of Anger and Disdain, that they had given the Preference to his Rival, he runs distracted, falls on some Flocks which in his Madness he took for his Enemies, and at last stabs himself, with the very Sword he had before received from Hector. This Account Euripides has made on the Death of this Hero; and Homer (8) insinuates pretty clearly that this was the true Occasion of his Fate, when he makes Ulysses say, that in Hell, the Shades of all the Grecian Heros immediatly met him, except Ajax's; whose Resentment of the old Quarrel about Achilles's Armour was still so fresh, that he would not come near him. The Scholiast of Homer, and Eustathius, in explaining this Passage, say, That Agamemnon, very much embarrassed how to behave in a Dispute which might have proved fatal to the Army, ordered the Trojan Prisoners before the Council, to give their Opinion which of the Two Rivals had done them most Mischief; and that they should have answered in Favour of Ulysses. The Scholiast of Aristophanes, on the Authority of the Little Iliad, adds, That Agamemnon not satisfied with this Inquiry, sent out Spies to know what Opinion the other Trojans had of these two Heros; and that upon their Report, he decided for Ulysses.
Be that Matter as it will, Ajax was buried near the Promontory Sigaeum, where a Tomb was erected for him; as Pausanias and Pliny say; tho' other Authors following Dictys Cretensis place his Tomb on the Promontory Rhetaeum: And when Horace talks of his being denied the Honours of a Funeral; he changes the Matter of Fact, that he may allude to a Passage in the Tragedy of Sophocles, where the Poet makes Agamemnon obstinately refuse to allow him a Burial; till he is at last softened by the Intreaties of Teucer.
Many other Fables have been vended concerning Ajax: But that I mayn't repeat here what I have insisted on in another Place, I refer the Reader who would know them more particularly, to my Explication of Fables Tom. III. As to his Metamorphosis, see what I have said of it in the Story of Hyacinthus, who was changed into the same sort of Flower. In the Second Plate of this Book, the Engraver has touch'd an Incident of Achilles' Life, which Ulysses mentions in his Harangue; I mean his Disguising himself like a Woman: This is the Story. Thetis learning by an Oracle that the Trojan War would be fatal to her Son, she sent him privately to Lycomedes her Brother, who reigned in Scyros; and to conceal him the better, she clothed him in Woman's Apparel. But as the Fate of Troy was such, that the Destruction of it depended upon Achilles's Presence; the Greeks made a narrow Search after him, and hearing that he was at Lycomedes's Court, Ulysses undertook to bring him away by a Stratagem, which succeeded to his Wish. Among several Parcels of Jewels, which he designed to make Present of to the Queen's Daughters, he mixt some Arms of a particularly beautiful Workmanship; which Achilles no sooner saw, than he took them up, and handled them with an Air and Pleasure that soon discovered who he was. This is the Account that Ovid, Hygin, and Statius, as well as other Ancients, give of it: For Homer, it is probable, such a Story was strange to him since, speaking of the manner how this Hero was drawn into the War, he says, that Nestor and Ulysses, went to see Peleus and Menetius, and easily obtained of them that Achilles and Patroclus should come along with them. It is certain, however, that Achilles had been at the Court of Lycomedes; for it was there he fell in Love with and married Deidamia, by whom he had Pyrrhus or Neoptolemus, who was present at the Taking of Troy, tho' only in the fifteenth or sixteenth Year of his Age. But there are several Difficulties in the Chronology of this History; and I should expatiate too far, if I insisted on them at a proper Length.
In this and the following Fables, Ovid recounts the several Adventures that happened after the Siege of Troy; and what he says of the Misfortunes of Priam's Family, agrees well enough with History, a few Circumstances only excepted. The City is sackt by the Greeks: Priam murdered on the very Altar that he had fled to, from the Fury of Neoptolemus: Astyanax, Hector's Son, and the only Hope of the Trojans, is thrown from a Tower: Polyxena sacrificed to the Shade of Achilles: Hecuba torn from the Funerals of her Children, and insulted on the Shores of Thrace. But these two last Particulars require a larger Explication.
Dictys Cretensis (1), Philostratus (2), and Hygin (3) report, That Priam, when he went to demand Hector's Body of Achilles, took his youngest Daughter Polyxena with him, according to the Custom of those Ages. Achilles was charmed with her Beauty; but had so much Command of his Passion as not to keep her against her own Will, tho' he was then Master of her Person: He was satisfied with Priam's Promise, That she should marry him assoon as the Siege of Troy were raised. This Intrigue continued some time; and Achilles at last condescended to come to the Temple of Apollo, to marry her: But Paris had concealed himself behind the Altar, and killed him with an Arrow, as I have said in the foregoing Book. Polyxena was inconsolable at his Death, and retired to the Grecian Camp, where she was very well received by Agamemnon. But unable to get the better of her Despair, she stole out of the Camp one Night, and stabbed herself on Achilles's Tomb.
This is the Acount Philostratus has given of the Fact; and to shew how much we may depend on his Authority, I must take notice of what he says of this same Story in another place (4). Achilles's Ghost, says he, appeared to Apollonius Tyanaeus, and allowed him to ask what Questions he pleased; assuring him at the same time that he should have full Information in every thing he ask'd. Apollonius, among other things, desired to know if it was true that the Greeks had sacrificed Polyxena on his Tomb: The Ghost answered, that her insupportable Grief made her take the Resolution not to survive a Husband she loved so tenderly; and that she had killed herself.
All the Ancients differ from Philostratus in this Particular. It was Pyrrhus, according to them, that sacrificed Polyxena to his Father's Shade, to revenge his Death, which she had been the Cause of. Pausanias (5) who allows this to have been the general Opinion of Antiquity, says, That Homer had designedly slurr'd over this Fact; because it was so dishonorable to the Greeks; and, in his beautiful Description of Polygnotus's Paintings of the Destruction of Troy, that were at Delphi, he adds, That Polyxena, as there represented, was a leading out to Achilles's Tomb; where she was sacrificed by the Greeks. To make his Opinion, which he gives for that of all the Greek Poets, the more plausible; he pretends that he had seen the Story Painted in the same Manner, at Pergamus, at Athens, and in several other Places.
The Poets, however, vary a little about some Circumstances of the Story. The greatest number of them, and among others Virgil (6), affirm, That Polyxena was immolated in Troas on Achilles's Tomb, he having desired it at his Death:
As to Hecuba, I shall only mention by the way, that there are three Opinions concerning her Descent (7). The First, is Homers (8), who says she was Daughter of Dymas, King of Phrygia; and he has been followed by his Scholiast, by Suidas, by the Author of the Etymologicum Magnum, and by Ovid. The Second, which is founded on the Authority of Euripides (9), and has been adopted by Virgil and Servius, is, That she was Daughter of Cisseus. And the Third, mentioned by Apollodorus (10), makes her descend of Sangar and Merope.
In the Distribution of the Spoil after the Siege of Troy, Hecuba fell to Ulysses, and became his Slave; but died soon after Thrace: The Story is That Priam, perceiving that a War was going to break out upon him from Greece, sent his Son Polydorus with a great Part of his Trasure, to Polymestor King of Thrace, who had married his Daughter Ilione. Polymestor, when he heard that Priam was dead, got the yong Prince assassinated, and his Body was thrown into the Sea. Hecuba was informed of this Cruelty of her Son-in-Law; and obtain'd Leave from the Greeks to go to Thrace, by making them believe She would deliver into their Hands the Treasures her Husband had left. She got Access at the Court of Thrace, had a private Audience of Polymestor, and after some Discourse with him, she flew at him with the utmost Fury, and pull'd out his eyes. The Thracians revenged this daring Insult by stoning her to Death; and gave out the she was changed into a Bitch. Plautus (11) and Servius (12) pretend that the Greeks themselves gave course to this Metamorphosis; because she never gave over railing at them, that she might provoke them to put her to Death, rather than live a Slave her whole Life: Omnia mala ingerebat quemquam aspexerat; itaque adeo jure coepta est appellari canis (13).
According to Strabo (14) and Mela (15), the Place of her Burial was still to be seen in Thrace; and was known by the name of, The Bitch's Tomb. Hygin says they threw her into the Sea near the Promontory, which has since been called Cyneum Promontorium. Euripides, in the Tragedy of Hecuba, has not followed this Tradition concerning her Death; for, he introduces her Complaining, That they had chain'd her to Agamemnon's Door like a Dog. From this Passage we may remark by the way, That in old times, the Women were often made use of to watch their Houses; and that they used to chain them there. Perhaps she had served Agamemnon in this Post, who took her for his Slave, when Ulysses left the Army upon Suspicions of his having murdered Ajax; and went privatly home to Ithaca. If this Circumstance of the Tragedy be true, her Metamorphosis is founded only on her having been chained to Agamemnon's Door.
I must take notice here, That the Story of Polydorus, which is related in so moving a manner in the third Book of the Aeneid, is told by Hygin (16) with some Variation. He says, That Priam sent Polydorus to Polymestor King of Thrace when he was yet in the Cradle; That Ilione Priam's Daughter, jealous of her Husband Polymestor's Cruelty and Avarice, educated the Child as her own Son, and made Deiphilus pass for Polydorus, in her Husband's Opinion; the Two Infants being just of the same Age: That the Greeks, after the Siege of Troy, offered Electra to Polymestor in marriage, provided he would repudiate Ilione, and dispatch Polydorus: That Polymestor, having accepted their Proposal, killed his own Son Deiphilus instead of the other. That Polydorus went in the mean time to consult the Oracle concerning his future Fortune; and was told, That his Father was dead, and the City of Troy reduced to Ashes: That he imagined the Oracle had deceived him; but on his return to Thrace, his Sister let him into the Secret; and he put out Polymestor's eyes.
Hecuba had bore Priam Seventeen Children; Ten Sons, and seven Daughters, whose Names Apollodorus (17) and Hygin (18) have recorded. The most part of them had been married, and hence it is that she says,
If I collected all that the Ancient and Moderns have said concerning Memnon, the Length of my Discussions could not fail of tiring the Reader's Patience; and therefore I shall only mention the most averr'd particulars of his History; and refer those who would go farther, to the Authors I cite. Hesiod (19), Diodorus Siculus (20), Quintus Calaber (21), Apollodorus (22), the Two Philostratuses, the Scholiast of Homer (23), and of Pindar (24), Dictys Cretensis, and several other Authors who are followed by Ovid, affirm, That Memnon was the Son of Tithonus, Priam's Brother, and of Aurora: That he came to assist the Trojans, with Ten thousand Persians and as many Aethiopians: That he was killed by Achilles; and that he had a pompous Funeral: That his Ashes were changed into Birds, calld Memnonides: And, that these Birds met yearly to fight together over his Tomb.
Diodorus Siculus agrees, That this Prince was said to have been carried off by Aurora, because he left Phrygia, and went to settle in the East; but it is not certain in what Country he fixed his Residence. Some say, it was at Suza in Persia; others, that it was in Egypt, or in Ethiopia, which is the same thing: For Aethiopia was formerly not distinguished from the Higher Egypt. The Learned Marsham (25) is of Opinion, That Memnon is the same with Amenophis, who lived long after the Siege of Troy. Mr. Le Clerc affirms, he is the same as Hamman or Cham Son of Noah; and Vossius (26) confounds him with Boalcis, God the Syrians. If the Reader would be informed of what Fable as well as History had delivered upon this Subject, he may consult those three Authors, especially the First; and what I have said of it in my Explication of Fables (27).
As to the famous Statue of Memnon, we may consult Strabo, who had seen it himself; Pausanias (28), Pliny; and among the Moderns, Athanasius Kircher (29), who gives a Mechanical Account of the Manner how such a Sound as it commonly made when the Sun was up, might have been occasioned by a Machine capable of being moved by the Rarefaction of the Air. Philostratus adds, That it used to utter Words, which People often took for Oracles: Tacitus speaks of it thus: Memnonis saxea efigies, ubi radiis Solis tacta est, vocalem sonum reddit (30).
Anius, who as Virgil says, was King of Delos, and Price of Apollo at the same time, (1)
Among the various Fables Ovid runs through, some of them relate, to the most remarkable Events, that Ancient Poets have sung of; others are only loose and unconnected Pieces, which he artfully sprinkles his Narration with: Of this last sort is the Story of Orion's Daughters, who laid down their Lives for the safety of their Native Country, in the Manner I am just going to relate. In the Reign of Orion, the City of Thebes was very much reduced by a Plague. The Oracle, their common Ressource in all Publick Calamities, was consulted; and they were told, That the Contagion would cease assoon as Two Princesses of the Royal Family were sacrificed to the Wrath of Heaven. The two young Princesses immediatly presented themselves to the Altar; and upon their Immolation, the Gods were appeased, and the Plague stop'd. This remarkable Example of Public Spirit, filled the young Thebans with so much Emulation, that they shook off the Softness and Luxury they had before indulged, and soon became famous for their Courage and Bravery: And this Change gave occasion to say afterward, That the Ashes of those two Women had been Tranform'd into Men.
Our Poet follows Aeneas through the rest of his Voyage, and, if I may express myself so, only with a View to vend all the Fables he can pick up in his Way. After leaving Delos, Aeneas touched at Crete, coasted along Ionia, passed the Strophades, where the Harpies prevented his making any stay ; sailed by Dulichium, Ithaca, and Samos; and keeping always the same Coast, discovered the City of Ambracia about which the gods had contended; and saw the Rock into which the Umpire of their Dispute, who had decided in favour of Hercules, had been turned. Since Ovid only touches this Story by the way, it may perhaps not be amiss to say some thing of it here. The City of Ambracia is in that part of Epire adjoining the Gulf which takes it's Name from the City. Not far from it is the Promontory of Actium, famous for the Temple of Apollo, that stands there, and for the Sea Battle fought between Augustus and Marc Anthony: It is now called Larte. Antoninus Liberalis (5) reports, upon the Authority of Nicander, That Apollo, Diana, and Hercules, disputed about this City: That they left the Decision of it to Cragaleus, who gave it in favour of Hercules; and that Apollo provoked at his Judgement had turned him to a Rock. This Fable which is so little known, and has been slurred over by the Interpreters of Ovid, means no more, if I don't mistake it, than, That when the People of Ambracia were consulting which of these Deities they should dedicate their City to, Cragaleus had preferr'd Hercules to the other two; that is to say, Warlike Exploits to the Culture of Arts and Sciences. Apollo was said to have turned him into Stone; either, because he perished near the Promontory where Apollo's Temple stood; or, to shew us the Ignorance and Stupidity of his Decision
Having cross'd the Gulf of Ambracia, Aeneas passed the Country so famous for the Oracle of Dodona; and Chaonia, where Molossus's Children were rescued from the Flames by the Wings which the Gods had given them in the Instant. Here again are two Fables, that we must explain a little: The second shall be first dispatched, because of least Importance. Antoninus Liberalis (6) I think, is the only person speaks of it; and all that we can learn from him, does not afford much Light in the Matter: Munichus, says he, King of the Molossi had three Sons, Alcander, Megaletor, and Philaeus; and a Daughter called Hyperipe. Some Robbers set fire to their Father's House; and Jupiter Metamorphosed them into Birds. Which, to be sure, is no more, than, That these Princes escaped out of the Flames contrary to every body's Expectation
As for the Oracle of Dodona, the Obscurity of the Matter, and Variety of Opinions concerning it appear to me so inextricable, that I could very easily pass it over here, with only referring the Reader to Van Dalen's History of Oracles (7); to Mr. de Grentmenil's Description of Greece (8); or to Pausanias, who speaks of it in several Places. But, for the Satisfaction of those who don't love to see Books larded with Passages of Greek and Latin, I shall here give an Abstract of what is most important in the Affair. Silius Italicus (9) recounts, That two Pigeons flew from Thebes in Egypt; One of which went to Libya, and gave occasion to the erecting of the Oracle of Jupiter Ammon: The other perched upon an Oak in Chaonia, and thereby signified to the Inhabitants, that it was the Will of Heaven there should be an Oracle in that Place, by which they might be instructed in the Decrees of Fate. Herodotus (10), who saw very well that the common Accounts of the founding of this Oracle were all Fable, endeavours to give it different Origin. According to him, There were formerly two Priestesses of the Egyptian Thebes, who were carried off by some Phoenician Merchants. She that was sold to the Greeks, settled in the Forest of Dodona, where she got a little Chappel built in Honour of Jupiter, from whence she gave Responses. He adds, That they called that Priestess, The Dove, because she being a Forreigner they did not understand her Language: At last, she learn'd the Language of the Ancient Pelasgi; and hence it was that the Dove was said to speak. From That, the humour of Fable easily carried them to say, That the Oak it self uttered Voices.
Tho this Account of the Matter be plausible enough, I do not doubt but some Equivocal Expressions in the Hebrew or Arabic might have given rise to the Fable. Two Words that resemble one another very much in those two Languages have very Different Significations. Himan in the one being a Priest; and Heman in the other a Pidgeon (11). Those who found such Words in the Ancient History of Greece, where the Phoenicians had left several Colonies, and consequently their Language; did not thorowly understand them; And fond of giving every thing a Marvellous Turn, they chose rather to say, That a Dove perching in the Oaks of Dodona had given Rise to the Oracle; than that a Priestess had founded it. Bochart inded pretends,That one and the same Word πέλειαι in the Phoenician Tongue signifies either Pidgeons or Women: But the Abbot Sallier has proved in a Dissertation read in the Academy, That a recourse to the Phoenician Lanuage is not necessary; for, in the Dialect of the Old Epirots, among whom the Oracle was, the same Word has the two different Significations mentioned by Bochart.
Be that as it will, this Oracle became afterwards very famous, and gave Occasion to Crowds of Fables. Few Persons had perceiv'd their Craft in delivering their Answers. The Priest took care to keep all People who came consult them, at a Distance from the dark Retreat where the Chappel stood; and delivered their Responses in so ambiguous a Manner, as to make People believe whatever they pleased. This is the true Source of such Variations in the Descriptions the Ancients have left us of this Oracle. According to some, it was the Oaks that Spoke; the Beeches, according to others; whence Jupiter got the Name Fagineus: A third Account is, that Pidgeons gave Answer; and lastly, it was said, That the ringing of some Cauldrons that were in the Forest, conveyed the Will of Heaven. Hence arose the Proverb among the Greeks, of A Dodonaean Kettle, for a prating talkative Fellow.
Of all the Ancients Stephanus Byzantinus has the best described the Contrivance of these Cauldrons of Dodona. I shall therefore mention what he has said of it  upon the Authority of Polemon, Aristides, Tharreus and Menander. In that part of the Forest of Dodona, where the Oracle stood, there were two Pillars erected at a small Distince from one another. On one, there was placed a Brazen Vessel about the Size of a Cauldron; and on the other, a little Boy, that to be sure, was a Piece of Clock-work, who held a Whip of Brass with several Lashes in his Hand, which were hung loose and easily moved. Whenever the Wind blew, these Lashes struck against the Vessel, and occasioned the Noise, as long as the Wind continued, which was pretty constant in the Forest. It was from these Cauldrons, the Forest took the Name of Dodona: Dodo, signifies a Cauldron.
Strabo, in talking of this Oracle (13), takes Notice that it was administer'd by Three Priestesses; and gives the Reason why Two Priests were afterwards added to them. The Boeotioans, who had been treacherously fallen upon by the People of Thrace, in the very middle of a Truce they had made, went to consult the Oracle of Dodona; and the Priestess answered them, that if they would act impiously, their Design would succeed to their Wish. The Ambassadors, suspecting this captious Response to have been suggested by the Pelasgi from whom the Priestess was descended, burned her for it; and vindicated the Justice of their Cruelty, which way soever it was turned. For, said they, if she designed to deceive us, she deserved this as a Punishment; and if she spoke sincerely, we are in a fair Way of Success, since we have fulfilled the Oracle with so much Dispatch. This Reasoning did not pass so easily as they imagined: The Boeotians that came to consult were seized: But, because they pleaded that it was unjust two Women should be their Judges who had so much Reason to hate them, two Priests were added, who were to decide the Matter; and upon acount of their Obligations to them in putting them into so profitable a Post, they acquitted the Boeotians; who ever after addressed themselves to those Priests, when they came to the Oracle.
Homer who has said a great deal of Polyphemus and the Cyclopes in the Ninth Book of his Odyssea, takes no notice of this Adventure which Ovid copies from Theocritus; who has treated it with that graceful Simplicity, that's so natural to him. Ovid, with his usual Fertility of Invention, throws in all the Circumstances that are proper to embellish the Contrast between the Beautiful young Acis, and his Envious ugly Rival. 'Tis thus Stories were helped in passing thro' Poets Hands. Tho' some Authors have pretended, that Acis was a young Sicilian, who had made Love to Galatea, and upon meeting with a Repulse, had in Despair thrown himself into the River that has since been called by his Name; I am yet persuaded, that this Fable has no Foundation in History: I rather am of the Learned Bocharts Opinion (1), That this River, which run out of Mount Aetna, was called Acis, only from the Rapidity of it's Course. The Scholiast of Theocritus (2), and Eustathius (3), give occasion for this Remark; for they say, that is was so called because the Swiftness of it's Course resembled the flight of an Arrow: And what puts the matter past all Doubt, is, that ἀκίς in Greek, signifies an Arrow; and that Word is derived from the Syrian Word Achis, or the Hebrew Hachis, Swiftness, Rapidity. But to leave these Etymologies which are not tasted by all the World, I am going to give an Account of Polyphemus and the other Cyclopes, that will perhaps afford the Reader more Satisfaction.
Homer, after recounting how Ulysses in his Return from the Country of the Lotophagi, landed on those Coasts that were inhabited by the Cyclopes, bestows a little Episode on a Description of their Manners . According to him, They were a lawless Crew who would acknowledge no Superior. Rich in what they received from Nature's Hand; they minded no sort of Husbandry; but lived on the fruits which the Earth produces without Labour; Strangers to all regular Government or Policy, they lived in Caves and among the Mountains; each Particular governed his own Family as he thought proper; and all their Time was taken up in the Pleasures of a Pastoral life. They were in other Respects Men of a monstrous Stature, and had but one Eye in the middle of their Forehead. Polyphemus the most famous of all the Cyclopes, was a monster or Enormous Size: His Staff was a tall Oak which he had rooted up; and according to Ovid he had Strength enough to throw whole Rocks. This Description of the Cyclopes, which is taken from Homer, is far from being Fabulous, except in a few Particulars. Thucydides (5) supposes them to have been the first Inhabitants of Sicily; and Cluverius, one of our best Geographers, allows that all the Ancients agree with Homer in that Point. As People were ignorant of their Origin, it was said, They were the Sons of Neptune: That is, They came by Sea to settle in Sicily. The Learned Bochart is of Opinion, That they landed in that Island about a Century after Phaleg: And according to the Abridger of Trogus (6) they were in Possession of it till the time of Cocalus; a Prince who, as I have said already, lived in the time of Minos the Second. But this Author recedes from the Authority of Homer, who makes them Inhabit the Island in the Time of Ulysses, and a little after the Siege of Troy.
The Cyclopes inhabited the Western parts of Sicily, near the Promontories Lilybaeum and Drepanum; and, according to a learned Remark of Bochart, it was from thence they got their Name . The Cyclopes, says he, were so called from the Phoenician Word Check-lub, contracted for Chek-le-lub, which signifies, The Gulf of Lilybaeum: So that the Inhabitants of that Coast, were called by the Phoenicians who came to settle in Sicily some Ages after, the Chek-le-lub; from whence the Greeks afterwards formed the Word Cyclops. And because in their Language the Word κύκλος, which sounds something like the other, signifies Round; it was given out that they had one round Eye in the middle of their Forehead; and of a Size that Virgil has thus described :
Polyphemus is described by the Poets as a terrible Monster:
Antiquity takes notice of Three Glaucuses: The First, Son of Minos, the other, of Hippolous, who is mentioned in the Iliad, and the Third surnamed Ponticus. He of whom this Fable speaks, was of the City Anthedon in Boeotia . This plurality of Names has occasioned great Confusion in Glaucus's Genealogy. Some Authors make him Son of Polybus, others of Phorbas, and others of Neptune. What is most Certain in the affair is, That he was a skilfull Fisher, who could swim very well. As he could stay long under Water; to render himself the more remarkable he published that he held Conferences with the Sea-Gods. However, in spite of all his Dexterity, he was at last drowned [, as we learn from Palaephatus (2) -- Banier's French]; and to do honour to his Memory, they published that he was turned into a Sea God. The City of Anthedon payed Religious Worship to him, erected Temples, and offered Sacrifices to his Memory. Ovid's Relation of his Apotheosis has something remarkable in it; and I do not remember to have read any thing like it in other Ancient Authors. The Poets have vended a great many Fables concerning him. For, not to mention this one of Ovid, it was he that should have carried off Ariadne from the Isle of Naxus, where Theseus had left her; and Bacchus punished him by binding him to a Vine, as we are told by Athenaeus (3). According to Diodorus Siculus , it was he appeared to the Argonauts under the shape of a Sea-God, when Orpheus, taken in a Storm, made Vows to the Gods of Samothrace: And according to Apollonius of Rhodes, he foretold them, that Hercules and the Two Tyndaridae Castor and Pollux should one day be ranked among the Gods. It was farther said, that in the Battle between Jason and the Tyrrhenians, he was the only Person that remained unwounded; and that having thrown himself into the Sea, he was received into the Number of it's Gods. And Euripides (5), who is followed by Pausanias (6) says, That he was Nereus's Interpreter; and that he foretold Futurities. If we give credit to Nicander; it was from Glaucus that Apollo himself had the Art of Prediction. And lastly, Strabo (7), who is followed by Philostratus in his Picture of Glaucus, pretends that he was Metamorphosed into a Triton; and Philostratus's Portrait of him is exactly conformable to what is talked concerning that Sea-Monster. From all these fictions we may conclude, that Glaucus drowned himself; and was afterwards honoured as a God of the Sea. The Place where he perished became remarkable; and Pausanias, speaking of the City of Anthedon, says that Glaucus's Leap was to be seen there; that is to say, the place where he threw himself into the Sea. Since Ovid feigns in this Fable, that Glaucus was in Love with Scylla one of the Nereids, and gave her a Relation of his Change; I might here begin the Explication of the Fables concerning her: But I shall reserve them for the following Book.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. FABLE. [ XIV.i Scylla into a Monster ]
According to Hesiod (1), Circe was the Daughter of Sol and the Nymph Perse; and Sister to Pasiphae, Minos the Second's Wife. Homer, who delivers a great number of Fables concerning her, makes her Sister to Aeeta King of Colchis. She had studied the Nature of Simples thoroughly, and knew their Uses; but as she had often imployed her Art in mixing up Poisonous Draughts, she commonly passed for a Sorceress. Apollonius of Rhodes, in his Poem on the Argonauts, says, That this Princess had poisoned the King of the Sarmatians, her own Husband; and that her Father Apollo had rescued her from the enraged Multitude by transporting her on his Chariot intoItaly. Virgil (2), and Ovid, following this Tradition, say that she inhabited one of the Promontories of Italy, which afterwards bore her Name.† But is there any Probability, that she should come from so remote a Country, and at a Time when Navigation was imperfect, and so full of Dangers? Or shall we fall in with some Mythologists, who make her perform that Voyage in a Ship with Sails; and pretend, it was only for Fable's sake, that Apollonius made the Sun carry her off? Let us rather conclude, That Circe never was in either Colchis, or Thrace; That she only passed for Medea's sister, because of the Likeness of their Characters; That they Both passed for the Daughters of the Sun, because they understood Simples; That the bad Use they made of their Skill got them the Name of Sorceresses; and that all their pretended Inchantments were rather the Effects of their Beauty, that drew Numbers of Suitors to their Courts who lost themselves in a Voluptuous Life; than of any Magical Operations. I must add here a Remark of Strabo, which I have thought very judicious. He alledges, that Homer having heard People talk of Jason's Expedition to Colchis, and knowing all the Fables had been vended concerning Medea, and Circe; took occasion from the Resemblance of their Characters, to say, that they were Sisters; tho' they lived in very distant Countries: The one, on the Borders of the Euxin-Sea; and the other, on the Coast of Italy. And the same Poet speaking to the Phaeacians, an indolent ignorant People, in order to give an Air of the Marvellous to his Narration, made them dwell together in the Middle of the Ocean. In a Word, Circe was a Beautiful Woman, who had some Intrigues on the Coasts of Italy, about the Time of the war of Troy; and having revenged herself on her Rivals, and others that despised her, was afterwards called an Inchantress. This shall be farther explained in the following Fables.
Our Poet says, That Glaucus, provoked with the Disdain of his Mistress Scylla, apply'd to Circe; who composed a Poison, with which she infected the Fountain where the Nymph used to bathe; and that thus she was transformed into a Monster. According to some Authors, Scylla was the Daughter of Phorcys and Hecate; but others say, of Typhon. Homer describes her thus: "She had a Voice like a young Whelp. No Man, nor even a God could look on her without Horror. She had Twelve Feet; six long Necks; and at the End of Each, a Monstrous Head, whose mouth was filled with a triple row of Teeth; which carried Death where ever they came." Another Ancient Author who inhances the Poet's Description, says, that they were the Heads of an Insect, a Dog, a Lion, a Whale, a Gorgon, and of a Man. Virgil, who has copied Homer, speaks of her thus:
Between Messina and Rhegio there is a very narrow Strait, where high craggy Rocks jutt out into the Sea on either Coast. That part of the Strait which is on the Sicilian Shore, was called Charybdis; and That on the Italian side, Scylla.
Ovid, in relating the Adventures of Aeneas, passes lightly over his Stay in Afric; and only mentions the Death of Dido by the Way. The Event, which is so remarkable by the beautiful Recital Virgil has given of it, deserves to be insisted on a little; in order to discover what Truth there may be in it.
Elisa (1), was the Daughter of Belus the Second, King of Tyre; and according to the Custom of those Times, she deduced her Famly from Jupiter; as may be seeen in Servius (2), who states it thus. Jupiter, Epaphus, Libya, Belus I., Agenor, Phoenix, Belus II., or Tethres, Pygmalion and Dido (3). Of all the Ancients that have spoke of the Adventures of this Princess, none has done it more particularly than Eustathius (4), and Appianus Alexandrinus (5); but as those two Authors have only copied the Abridger of Trogus, I shall insert what he says of them. The King of Tyre (it was Belus II.) at his Death, left his Crown to his Son Pygmalion and his Daughter Dido, a Princess of extraordinary Beauty. That did not hinder the People to fill Pygmalion with Jealousy of her; tho he was then but a Child. She was married to her Uncle Sicharbas (he is called Sichaeus by Virgil) who, besides his being Priest of Hercules, a Post which made him next in Rank to the King, was possessed of immense Treasures; which his Brother-in-Law's Avarice obliged him to conceal in the Earth. Notwithstanding the double Tie of Blood that was between them, Pygmalion got him assassinated. Elisa, after having warmly expressed her Resentment of such Cruety, dissembled it a little, and pretended a Reconciliation; in order to cover a Design she had formed to make her Escape out of a Country where such a Monster governed. The better to assure herself of Success, she communicated her Design to those of the Tyrians who were Discontented with the Kings Cruelty and Avarice as well as she. After she had secured them to her Party, she begged Leave of her Brother to come to his Court at Tyre, from a Melancholy Retreat, where every thing contributed to the Increase of her Misery, by recalling the Remembrance of her Husband. Pygmalion, full of the hopes of possessing all the Treasures, which, as he expected, she was to bring along with her, grants her Rrequest. She indeed put her Riches on board the Night following; but artfully mixed some bags filled with Sand, among those that contained her Gold, to deceive those whom the King had sent to observe her, and to conduct her to Tyre. Assoon as she was in open Sea, she threw the Bags over board, to appease the Manes of her Husband, as she pretended, by a Sacrifice of those same Treasures that had cost him his Life. Then addressing herself to the Officers that accompanied her, she told them, They might be assured of a very bad Reception from the Covetous Tyrant, for having allowed so much Wealth to be thrown into the Sea; and that the only Ressource they had left, was to secure themselves some Retreat or other, where they might be out of the Reach of his Resentment. The Officers immediatly embarked in her Design; and after they had taken in some Tyrian Senators who were privy to the Plot, she offered a Sacrifice to Hercules, and set sail. Her first Place of landing was Cyprus; where she carried off Eighty young Women she found on the Shore, and married them to the Men of her Company. By this time Pygmalion is informed of her Flight, and orders Preparations for the Pursuit: But the Tears and Intreaties of his Mother; and the far more powerful Remonstrances of the Priest, who threaten'd him with the Anger of Heaven, turned him from his Design. In the mean time, Elisa had time to settle in Africa, and bargained with the Inhabitants of the Coast for as much Ground as she should encompass with a Bull's Hide. It was granted her; and she cut the hide into so many Thongs as inclosed Ground enough to build a Fort on; which for that reason was called Byrsa. In sinking the Foundatin, they dug up an ox's head, which was understood to signify some future Slavery their City was to come under, and therefore they removed to another Spot; where, in digging, they found a Horse's head: This was taken for a lucky Omen. Their new Settlement drew numbers of People to it; the City increased daily; and rose afterwards to a Rivalry with Rome it self.
Before we go farther, it will not be amiss to add a short Reflection here. It is extremely probable, that we have this Fable of the Bull's Hide from the Greeks; a People who were always ambitious of deriving every thing from their own Language. They did not know that Bostra, or Bothrah is a Phoenician Word that signifies A Citadel. The Story I have been relating was undoubtedly writ in the Phoenician Language; great Numbers of those People having retreated into Afric. The Historian had perhaps mentioned a Citadel Elisa built there, and the Greeks meeting with the Word I have just mentioned, that sounds so like their Βύρσα, gave rise to the Fable of A Hide. But to return to Dido's History. After her Settlement, she was pressed to Marriage by Jarbas King of Mauritania and asked Three Month's Time to resolve. The Time expired, and she ordered a Sacrifice to be prepared, to expiate her Husband's Shade; and at the same time caused erect a Funeral-Pile in a retired Part of the Palace, in order to burn every thing that belonged to him. She mounted on the Pile, pretending to hasten the Sacrifice; and there dispatched herself with a Poyniard. Such was the End of that Resolute Princess. Virgil, who to be sure was fond of an Episode, that deduces the Hatred between the Romans and Carthaginians from the very time of Aeneas, has imagined with all the Happiness of his own Invention, that Dido killed herself at Aeneas's forsaking her: Making thus of a Faithful Wife, a Distracted Lover. I shall not trouble my self here with Proofs of Virgil's Anachronism. Every body allows it; and some Authors magify it to Three Hundred Years. Tho others make it only 143., and Sir Isaac Newton, in the Abridgement of his Chronology, which has been printed along with Prideaux's Connection, allow only 24. Years between the taking of Troy, and the Foundation of Carthage: Yet it is certain, that City was not built till about the Time of Joram King of Juda; and that Troy was destroyed about That of the First judges. Oar to speak more exactly: Dido left Tyre the Seventh Year of Pygmalion's Reign, in the Year 953. before Christ; and the Taking of Troy was 1184. Years before that Period. We must not forget here, That Dido was Aunt to the famous Jezebel, that married Achab; and occasioned so much confusion in the Kingdom of Israel: This the Learned Bochart has proved.
Our Poet, after having mentioned the Deathof Dido, says, That Aeneas met the Cercopes in his Way, whom Jupiter had metamorphosed into Apes. Xenagoras, Harpocration and Suidas take notice, that in an island adjacent to Sicily, there were formerly two Robbers, which Aeschines calls Candulus and Atlas, who abused every body came into the Island: They say farther, that they would have insulted Jove himself; and that he transformed them into Apes; from which the Island got the Name of Pithecusa. Sabinus adds, That they were called Cercopes, because they were like Monkeys, that fawn with their Tails, at the same time they mean nothing but Mischief: Quasi caudati, sumpta metaphora ab animalibus qui cauda blandiuntur. Zenobius places the Cercopes in Libya; and pretends that they were changed into Rocks, for having offered to fight with Hercules: But that Author varies from the Common Opinion.
Every thing that relates to the Sibyls, and the Books attributed to them, has been so thoroughly canvass'd in the last Century; that I can't do better than point out the Authors who have distinguished themselves the most in their Researches on that Subject.
The First Fathers of the Church, and particularly Justin, in their Apologies for the Christian Religion, made use of the Sibylline Verses; where several of our Doctrines were prophetically glimpsed at. The Emperor Constantin too, in his Harangue to the Nicene Fathers, turned them to the Advantage of Christianity; tho he at the same time acknowledged, that several Persons did not believe the Sibyls were the Authors of them. And St. Austin, in his beautiful Work De Civitate Dei , imploys several of their Testimonies and Predictions to enforce the Truth of our Religion.
Sebastian Castalio, who writ in the Seventeenth Century, Translated those Verses into Latin, and maintained with great Warmth the Truth of the Oracles they contain: But he was obliged to allow, that they were very much falsified and Interpolated. His Translation facilitated the Reading of them; and several Critics, after having seriously examined them, were not afraid to pronounce them spurious, and a piece of Pious Fraud. The most Moderate of those Inquirers confessed, that the First Christians having met with some Dark and ambiguous Oracles, had by tacking other Pieces to them, formed them into faint Predictions of the Mysteries of Christianity. Otherwise, said they, How was it Possible, That Heathen Women should speak in a clearer and more positive manner of our Saviour and his Doctrines; than either Moses or any of the Prophets ever did? This Opinion alarmed Father Possevin a Jesuit : But soon seeing the Force of the Arguments that were daily produced to support it, he fell into a calmer Way of Thinking; and allowed that several things in that Work attributed to the Sibyls had plainly been foisted in; but endeavoured to vindicate the Fathers from having been the Authors of the Cheat. Monsieur Blondel a Protestant Minister wrote against Father Possevin's Opinion; and affirmed that no Sibyl ever had spoke of Jesus-Christ at all; and that all the Verses ascribed to them were supposititious . Father Crasset undertook the Defence of Possevin's Argument, and printed a Dissertation in which he refuted Monsieur Blondel . Monsieur Gallé, did not leave him long in Possession of the Opinion he had of his Victory; and published Twenty Six Discourses , in which he had collected all that could be said on that Subject: But not thinking a Work of such a Size sufficient, he gave the Year following an Edition of the Sibylline Verses, with a large Commentary on them. In the mean time, Monsieur Petit set out a very learned performance , wherein he undertakes to prove, There never were any more Sibyls than one: Contrary to the Opinion of Varro, and other Ancients, who mention Ten of them.
Tho no body perhaps would find fault with me, if after pointing out so many Learned Works relating to the Sibyls, I dispensed with my self for any Discussions of my own: Yet since many Readers either have not the Books, or won't be at the Pains to consult them; I shall for their Satisfaction inquire into these Three Particulars First, whether there ever were any Sibyls, How many they were, and, In what Time they lived. secondly, Whether any of their Works have ever been published. And Thirdly, Whether the Verses that go under their Name be really Theirs or not.
It is past all Dispute, That there have been in former Ages, certain Women who hurried away by a Madness and Enthusiasm, that went almost to Distraction, uttered obscure Sentences to amuse curious People who came to consult them. Virgil (7) and Ovid (8) make Aeneas go into the Cumaean Sibyls Cave, to learn from her his future Adventures, and the Success of the Wars he should be engaged in; and according to Virgil, it was Helenus advised him to go and Consult her. Plato (9), the Author of the Treatise De mirabilibus Auscultationibus (10), Strabo (11), Plutarch, Pliny, Solinus, and Pausanias, not to mention other Authors, have spoke of these Prophetic Women; and it would be a folly to affirm with Faustus Socinus, That there never have been any Sibyls at all. The great Services which, according to Plato and several other Authors of Antiquity, they did Mankind by their Oracles; The Names of Cities where they were born, or had travelled; The Descriptions of their Manners; The Dates of the Times in which they lived; The Statues that were erected in Honour of them; and their Epitaphs which Antiquity has preserved: These several Circumstances, I say, leave no room to doubt, That there have been of these Prophetesses in the World; such as the Priestesses of Dodona, and Delphi.
As to their Number, there is indeed a great variety of Opinion among the Ancients. Some of them talk of only one Sibyl, whom they make born at Babylon; or according to Others, at Erythrae in Phrygia. Plato and Diodorus mention none but the one at Delphi, whom the last of these Authors calls Daphne (12). Strabo and Stephanus name Two: The one of Gergae a little Town near Troy; and the other of Mermessus in the same Country. Solinus reckons up Three of them: The Delphian, named Herophile; the Erythraean; and the Cumaean. And lastly, Varro makes their Number amount to Ten, of which here are the Names, according to the order of Time, Panvinius gives them. The First, and the most Ancient is, The Delphian; who lived before the Trojan War; and whose Predictions, they pretend, Homer has inserted in his Iliad and Odyssea. The Second, The Erythraean; whom they make the Author of Acrostic Verses; and who, according to Suidas, lived 483. Years before the Taking of Troy. The Third, The Cumaean. Naevius in the Book he wrote of the First Punic War, and Piso in his Annals, make mention of her. It was she that became so famous in the Aeneid: She was called Deiphobe. The Fourth is, The Samian, called Pitho: Eusebius calls her Herophile; and makes her live about the Time of Numa Pompilius. The Fifth, who was called Amalthea, or Demophile; lived at Cumae, in the Lesser Asia. The Sixth is, The Hellespontine, born at Mermessus, near Troy. The Seventh, The Libyan; who is mentioned by Euripides; and who, according to Panvinius must have been a Prophetess before the LXX. Olympiad; since it was before that time that Euripides spoke of her. It is thought, she was the First that had the Name of Sibyl; which was given her by the Africans. the Eight is, The Persian, who is also called The Babylonian; and by Suidas, Sambetha. The Ninth, The Phrygian; who delivered her Oracles at Ancyra, a City of Phrygia. And the Tenth is, The Tiburtine, who is called Albunea; and prophesied near Tibur or Tivoli, on the Banks of the Anio; where a Statue has been found, that is thought to represent her.
As to the Second Point; It is certain that the Romans, several Ages before the Birth of Christ, had a Collection of Verses, that were commonly attributed to the Sibyls; That they consulted them often; and that, even in the Time of Tarquin the Proud, there were two Men appointed to have the Care and Keeping of the Sibylline Books, whose Business it was upon any Public Calamtiy, to look into them, Whether it had been foretold or no; and to make their Report of it to the Senate. These Books were kept in a Stone Chest, in the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus. These Duumvirs continued till the Year of Rome 388; when Eight others were added; who with the first Two, made up the College of Decemvirs: And after the Burning of the Capitol in the Year 671., about 83 Years before the Christian Aera, Five other Keepers of those Books were joined to the rest, who thus made up the Quindecimvirs.
If we believe Dionysius Halicarnasseus (13), Pliny, Aulus-Gellius, Solinus, Servius and many other Ancients, this is the Origin of the Sibylline Books. An old Woman came to Rome, and presented to Tarquin the Proud (14) Nine Books that contained the Oracles of the Sibyls; demanding a large sum for them. The King refusing to buy them, she went and burned Three; and when she returned, asked the same Sum for the Six she had left, that she had done for the whole Number. She is repulsed a second time, goes and burns Three more; and comes back again, still insisting on the Price she had demanded for the whole Collection. Tarquin, surprised at this Conduct, and at the Resolute manner in which the Woman spoke to him, purchases at last the remaining Three for the Price of the Whole Work. Pliny and Solinus vary a little about this History: They say that the Woman presented at first only Three Books; and that she burned Two of them.
The Third Point, which makes the chief subject of those Disputes that have produced so many learned Performances, shall soon be discussed. It is certain, That in the Burning of the Capitol, those Books which Tarquin had bought of the strange Woman, as well as all the other Records kept there, were consumed. It is further certain, That to repair this Loss, the Romans dispatched Men to several Cities in Italy, and even to Asia and Africa, to collect whatever they should find that had the Name of Oracles of the Sibyls. P. Gabinius, M. Ottacilius, and L. Valerius who had been sent into the severy Provinces brought a very large Collection back with them, of which the greatest Part was rejected; and the Rest committed to the Care of the Quindecimvirs. Augustus ordered a second Revision of them some Time afterward, and those that after a very narrow Scrutiny, were found to be genuin, were deposited in two Boxes under a Statue of Apollo Palatinus. Tiberius had yet another Examination of them; and several Pieces were again thrown out. And at last, about the Year of Christ 399. Stilicon, according to Rutilius Numatianus; or rather the Emperor Honorius himself, order'd them to be burnt.
For the Collection we have at Present of the Sibylline Verses in Eight Books, almost every Body allows them to be the Work of some Zelot or other; or that at least they have added new Predictions to the old ones, which by being too clear, have rendered the whole Work Suspicious. Is it possible that that the Deity could reveal so plainly to Heathen Women, what he had concealed from the Greatest Prophets? When St. Jerom asserted, that the Gift of Prediction was a Reward of the Chastity of the Sibyls, he did not reflect on what one of them says:
Our Poet follows Aeneas thro' his long and toilsom Voyage; and relates, How, upon his Arrival at a Place afterward called Cajeta, from his Nurse's being buried there, he meets Macareus an Ithacan, who had settled on that Coast. Macareus knows Achaemenides, whom Aeneas, according to Virgil, had taken into the Fleet; enters into Chat with the Trojans, and tells them, How Polyphemus had devoured several of his Country-men: That Ulysses having made his Escape out of the Giant's Cave by thrusting out his Eye, had sailed to Circe's Island, who had transformed into Hogs those he sent to her court; And, That he, by the Power of the Plant Moly, which he had received from Mercury, had resisted her Inchantments, and forced her to uncharm all his Companions.
These Fables, which are all taken out of Homer's Odyssey, have been sufficiently explained in the foregoing Book. I shall only take Notice, that they are so many Vails under which real Facts are couched. Ulysses and his Company had been severely used by the Cyclopes, when in Sicily; and he Hyperbolically gave out that they had been devoured by those Monsters.
What Homer, and after him Ovid says of the Bull's Hide, which the Winds were shut up in, is another Example of what I have observed in the foregoing Paragraph; and contains a real Truth.
Aeolus, according to Servius and Varro, was the Son of Hippotus, and reigned about the Time of the Trojan War, in those Islands, that were formerly called Vulcaniae, but have since got the Name of Aeoliae. They are Seven in Number, and lye between Italy and Sicily, near the Promontory Pelorum; according to the Situation Diodorus Siculs (1), Strabo (2), and Pliny (3) give them. Homer speaks of only One of these Islands, which he calls Aeolia; tho' no particular one of them ever bore that name. He probably meant Lipara, where there are several Vulcanos; whence the Place got the Name of Vulcan's Forge. However that be, Aeolus was a wise and Prudent Prince, who very hospitably received all those whom any Misfortune had thrown upon the Coasts of the Island where he dwelt; and his chief Care was to warn them of the Sholes that were in those Seas; as we are told by Diodorus Siculus. Pliny adds, That he had applied himself to the Knowledge of the Winds, by observing the Smoke of the Caves of Lipara. He had carried his Observations so far, that he could foretel when there would be a Change of Weather, and was often consulted upon that Head at a time when Navigation was so little reduced into an Art. This was enough for the Poets to make Aeolus god of the Winds, which according to them he kept up in Caves, from whence he let them loose when ever he had a mind to raise a Storm. Homer, who seldom let any Historical Fact pass him without a little Ornament of Fiction, in telling us, that Ulysses, for discrediting the Advices of Aeolus, and staying out at Sea beyond the Time he had prescribed him, was caught in a violent Tempest; assures us in the Language of a Poet, That Aeolus had given him the Winds in a Bag; and that his Crew, imagining it to be some Treasure, opened it, and thus let them all rush out. Virgil follows the Traces of Homer, and makes Juno go down to Aeolus's Mansions, to intreat the raising of a Tempest, which almost destroy'd all Aeneas's Fleet. All the other Poets have strove to out-do one another in this Fable: But it is to no purpose to insist longer upon This. I shall only add, by way of Explication of Homer's Fiction, That he probably alludes to some such Custom as Voyage-Writers pretend the Laplanders have to this Day; I mean, of Selling the Wind to Sailors; and promising to keep up all those Winds that would be Contrary to them. Eratosthenes has had a different Opinion of Homer's Fable from mine, since he says, That People might expect to find all those places Ulysses had been in, when they had once found out the Person that stitched up the Winds in a Bag. But Polybius, who mentions this witty Saying, refutes it with a great deal of Solidity; and proves that Ulysses's Travels in the main were Matter of Fact, tho' Homer had mixed a gerat deal of the Fabulous in the Story of them. I am very apt to believe, That when that Poet speaks of the Six Sons, and Six Daughters which Aeolus married together; he only means the Twelve Principal Winds, which he had made very accurate Observations on: Diodorus Siculus, however, takes this passage of Homer in a literal Sense.
Ulysses, having stayed some Time at Circe's Court, where every thing was plunged in Luxury and Pleasure; began to reflect on the Unmanly State he had reduced himself to, and resolutely abandoned a Life so unworthy of a Hero, and so prejudicial to his Glory: This is the Plant Moly; the Symbol of Wisdom. His Companions, changed into Swine, are an Emblem of the Disorders a Voluptuous Life exposes Men to.
The Story of the Prodigal Son in the Gospel, who was reduced to the Extremity of living with those unclean Creatures, shews us sufficiently what we are to understand by such Allegories.
I do not know if any body has remarked, that Ovid, after having first run through the Fables of the Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Greeks, comes at last to Italy; and beginning with those that had been invented concerning Aeneas, from whom the Romans deduced themselves, carries them down to the Death of Julius Caesar, with which he concludes his long, laborious Performance. It will be proper then, before I speak of the Matters contained in the present Fable, to establish some Rule, by which we may be able to judge of the Rise of those Fictions of Antiquity. When Names derived from the Ancient Oriental Languages occur, we may be sure they came originally from Aegypt, or Phoenicia; and only got footing in Greece with the Colonies that settled there: Such are those of Adonis, Dagon, Arachne, Arethusa, and Osiris. When they have any Affinity with the Greek, as in the Words Daphne, Myrmidons, Alopis, Galantis, Cygnus, and many others; they were invented in Greece. And lastly, when the Names are of Latin Original; such as Canens, Picus, Anna Perenna, Fora, Quirinus, and others, we may conclude the Fables were of Latian Growth. A strong Confirmation of this Rule is, That the Fables of this last kind are seldom to be met with out of Italy; nor those of the Second, any where but in Greece; except in those Latin Authors, who have plainly copied the Greek Ones: But those of the First sort are common to both the Countries, and when followed a little higher up, may often be found in Aegypt and Phoenicia. This Rule, how certain soever it be, is not without Exception; for both Greece and Italy have appropriated to themselves each other's Fables, by only substituting the Names of One Language for those of the other. Thus we must not positively affirm, that the Story of Portumnus and Matuta is Latin, because those Names are so; since Greece may lay equal Claim to it under those of Leucothoe and Palaemon, and Cadmus had laid the Foundation for both, by the first Introduction of it from Phoenicia, with the Names of Ino and Melicerte. Several other Fables might thus be traced to their Fountain. But to return to the Metamorphosis of Picus and Canens, which gave Occasion to this Reflection.
Those who have studied Ancient History know, That Italy was First Peopled by different Colonies. The first of these was that of the Aborigines. According to Dionysius Halicarnassensis (1), an Author who was perfect Master of the Roman Antiquities, and founds his Opinion on the Authority of Cato the Censor and Asellius Sempronius, they were a Greek Colony that settled in Italy several Ages before the Trojan War. Dionysius indeed makes them come from Arcadia under the Command of Oenotrius; whereas Cato and Sempronius say they were of Achaia: But Theodore Ryckius, the Author of a Learned Dissertation on this Subject, chooses rather to follow the Two Authors last mentioned, and Trogus. I believe his Opinion is the most probable; and that the Aborigines are to be distinguished from the Colony of Oenotrians, who did not come into Italy till long after. The First of the Aborigines that governed the Latins is commonly known by the Name of Sterces; Janus who succeeded him was the Second; And the Third was Picus son of Sterces, whose Reign falls about the Time of Pandion the Second, or Aegeus; 50. or 60. Years before the Taking of Troy.
Servius says (2), That Picus pretended to know Futurities; and made use of a Pecker which he had tamed, in his Auguries: Augur fuit Picus, et domui habuit Picum per quam futura noscebat. Thus it was given out after his Death, that he had been transformed into that Bird; and he was afterwards ranked among the Dei Indigetes. He died young; and his Wife Canens retired into a Solitude, where she soon ended her Life: The Violence of her Grief made them say she vanished into Sound. In such a Distance of Time, and Obscurity of History, no Wonder if some Moderns have refused this Prince a Place among the Latian Kings. If we believe Gerard Vossius (3), There never was One of the Name of Picus; and the whole Fable took it's Rise from an Oracle of Mars that was among the Sabines, where a Pecker was said to give Responses. According to Bochart (4), it comes from the Phoenician Word Picea, which signifies A Diviner. There are yet other Authors who pretend that Picus was Jupiter himself, who was worshipped in Italy under the Name of that Bird, which is of great Use in Augury. By such Etymological Solutions, the Romance of Circe's Passion for Picus vanishes, as well as the Plaints of his Wife Canens. For my part, I must keep to the Opinion of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, who had more and better Opportunities of informing himself in the Antiquities of Italy than we can possibly have; provided the Story of Picus be not confounded, as has been done by Ovid, with that of Circe; who did not come into Italy, till long after his Reign.
Italy was not so fertile a Soil for Fable as Greece; and at the Time Ovid is now speaking of, Ancient Fictions had lost very much of their Credit there. He therefore passes lightly over the Adventures of Aeneas, that he may come to the Apotheosis of Julius Caesar, which is the Period he had proposed to himself.
Aeneas, after a long and dangerous Voyage, arrived at last in Italy by the Mouth of the Tiber (1). King Latinus had been forewarned by an Oracle, that a foreign Prince should come into his Country, and marry his Daughter Lavinia; and therefore he received him into his Palace, made an Alliance with him, and promised him the Princess in Marriage. Turnus, who was Nephew to Amata Latinus's Queen, and should have married Lavinia, declares War against Aeneas; and the Two Rivals are equally keen in their Preparations for a Quarrel, where both a Wife and a Crown were at State. It is not necessary I should enter into the Detail of a Story which is so well known: I shall only explain the Facts mentioned by our Poet. Turnus, says he, sent to Diomedes, who had settled in Apulia after the Destruction of Troy, for some Auxiliary Troops: Diomedes, pretending he dreaded the Wrath of Venus, who had already loaded him with so many Misfortunes, refused them, and sent back Venulus Turnus's Ambassador.
In order to understand this, we must remember, That Diomedes in returning from the Siege of Troy, where he had signalized himself, heard that his Country had been invaded by Cyllabarus and that he had married his Wife Aegialea. As his Troops had been very much shattered during the Siege, he found he should want Force enough to beat out the Invader; and therefore resolved to seek a Retreat in Italy, where he afterwards built Argyripa, or Argos Hippium (2). Upon Aeneas's Arrival, Turnus sought his Alliance; but whether it was that he would not raise any new Broils between the Greeks and Trojans, in a Country where they were both Strangers; or that his new Colony was too weak to make any considerable Diversion; he refused to enter into the War, and turned all his Thoughts to the establishing of his own Government on a sure Foundation. Pausanias (3) says, That no Grecian Prince had ever made War against the Romans before Pyrrhus; and what he adds, That Diomedes himself had declined it with Aeneas, is a strong Confirmation of what I have just been saying. Diomedes had married Daunus's Daughter: He afterwards quarrelled with his Father-in-Law, was killed in a Fight, and his Companions obliged to fly to an adjacent Island, which was from his Name called Diomedea. Their Flight gave occasion to say that they were changed into Birds, and it was added, That Venus herself had brought so severe a Punishment upon this Prince's Men, for his having wounded her in the Hand at the Seige of Troy. We may farther observe, that the Island's being full of Swans and Herons, gave a readier Course to the Fable of their Metamorphosis. Pliny and Solinus say, That these Birds, fawned on the Greeks that came into the Isle, and fled from those of any other Nation. It is not certain, what kind of Birds they were transformed into. Ovid says they resembled Swans; others suppose they were Herons, or Storks, or Faulcons. Those who are curious of knowing the matter more thoroughly, may read the Learned Dissertation of Frederic Lachmond (4), who has collect all that has been said on this Subject.
Ovid mentions another Adventure of a Shepherd of the same Country, who was changed into a Wild-Olive: But as History is silent about it, I do not doubt the Reader will very readily conjecture, That some Shepherdesses had revenged themselves on some Clown or other, by killing him in the Woods; and that this became the Foundation of a Metamorphosis.
The War between Turnus and Aeneas was carried on with the greatest Vigour and Obstinacy on both sides. Turnus, fearing least his Enemies, after being beat, should go on board their Fleet again, and sollicite the Alliance of neighbouring Princes; ordered their Ships to be set on Fire; and without immediate Assistance they would have been all consumed. Some Authors pretend, That a sudden Tempest that arose at the instant extinguished the Fire, and thus saved the Fleet. This Fact was dressed up into a Fable; and Virgil (1) who is either the Author of the Fiction, or at least the only one who is known to have spoken of it, feigned, That Cybele, at the Request of Venus Aeneas's Mother, had transformed them into Nymphs, in order to preserve the Timber of them, which had been taken out of the Forest of Mount Ida one of the Groves that was sacred to her. It is thus, that the most simple Events were adorned with the Marvellous. And the Glory of Heros heightened, by making Gods intermeddle in Things that concerned them. Ovid adds, That Alcinous's Ship was changed into a Rock; which is only to say, That she was broke on some Shole or other.
The same Explication will serve for the Fable immediatly following. Aeneas's Men set fire to Ardea Turnus's Capital; and it was published that a Fowl of the same Name rose out of the Flames. This is another Example of the Humour of those Ages: Nothing could pass without a Touch of the Supernatural. The Occasion of this Fable was, that the Country abounded with a Fowl called by the Latins Ardea. I do not know if the City was intirely destroyed by that Burning, as Ovid says; or afterward rebuilt: But Livy speaks of it as still in being under the Reign of the Tarquins. To be short, Aeneas, after several Battles, kills Turnus, marries Lavinia; and after a Reign of three Years, was killed in a battle by Mezentius King of the Tyrrhenians, about Seven Years after the the Destruction of Troy (2), leaving his Queen big of a Prince, who was afterwards called Sylvius. Aeneas's Body was not found among the Slain, after the Fight; and it was given out, That his Mother Venus had translated him to Heaven; and he was afterwards honoured by the Name of Jupiter Indiges. His Son Ascanius succeeded him, and built the City of Alba, where his Line reigned for Fourteen Generations, down to Numitor Grandfather of Romulus.
In Explaining the Adventures of Aeneas I have followed the most commonly received Opinion. Dionysius Halicarnassensis and Livy have been my Guides; and I have designedly waved the Discussions of Bochart, Ryckius, and several other Moderns, whom the Reader may consult at his Leisure.
Among other Tuscan Deities, the Romans adopted Vertumnus and Pomona, who presided over Gardens, and Fruits; as we may learn from Propertius, who in the following Verses makes Vertumnus glory in his having left Tusculum to go to Rome.
Since the Fable of Iphis's hanging himself for his Mistress's Insensibility, contains no particular Event that is worthy of Remark, we must have Recourse to the general Rule I delivered above. Some Poet of those Times who writ of that Adventure, chose the Metamorphosis of a Rock, to signify her Insensibility. This is just such another Piece of Wit as That of a Modern Poet, who transformed his Phillis's Eyes into Stars.
Petronius, in speaking of Poetry, puts this Difference between a Poet and an Historian. Non enim res gestae versibus comprehendendae sunt, quod longe melius historici faciunt, sed per ambages Deorumque ministeria, et fabulosum sententiarum tormentum, praecipitandus est liber spiritus, ut potius furentis animi vaticinatio appareat, quam religiosae orationis sub testibus fides. The Poet must give a loose to his Imagination, and full of a Divne Fury, hurry himself thro' By-Ways, subject the very Gods to his Fancy, and aspire rather to the Inspiration of a Prophet, than confine himself to a faithful Narration and Ascertaining of Facts already past, which is the Character of an Historian. This is what Ovid has put in Practice in the Story we are now explaining. He relates a Fact that was well known in Roman History; but not without mixing the Sublime which is necessary to raise Poetry The Sabines enter Rome; but the Queen of Heaven must come down to open the Gates for them. They ingage the Romans near the Temple of Janus: The Nymphs of the Place, at Venus's Request, pour forth Rivers of Flame, which oblige them to retire. Thus their Opinion of Juno's Hatred to Aeneas, from whom the Romans made themselves descend, being wreaked on his Posterity, was a perpetual Source of the Marvellous and Sublime, in the simplest Events. Homer who was the first Inventor of the Faction among the Gods about the Greeks and Trojans, has been followed by the other Poets. Not to mention such Instances as That I have just been speaking of, Virgil (1), in recounting how Troy had been taken, makes Juno sit on the Scaean Gate inviting the Enemy to enter; while Neptune is busy sapping the Walls with the Strokes of his Trident.
To make this Difference between a Poet and an Historian the plainer, and at the same time discover what there may be really Historical in this Relation of Ovid, I shall quote with as much Brevity as I can what Dionysius Halicarnassensis (2) says of it, upon the Authority of the most Ancient Roman Historians.
The Sabines, jealous of the Progress Romulus made, raised a powerful Army, and march to attack his new City. Tatius having observed the Disposition of the Roman Army, made a Motion in the Night, and next Day incamped between the Mount Quirinal and Capitoline. The Strong Guards that were at the Gates, would have disappointed all his Measures for entring the Town from that Post, if it had not been betrayed to him. A Virgin called Tarpeia, whose Father commanded the Guard on that Side, perceiving that the Sabines wore Gold Bracelets on their Arms; offered Tatius to open the Gate to him which her Father had abandoned, provided she should have the Jewels of the Sabines, and all that they wore on their left Arm. The Condition was agreed to. The Enemy was let into the Town; and Tarpeia, who, according to several ancient Authors cited by Dionysius Halicarnassensis, had no other Design in the Plot than to disarm the Sabines, by demanding their Bucklers, which she pretended to be included in their Agreement, Tatius ordered they should all be thrown at her Head. Thus she was killed upon the spot, by the Violence of their Strokes.
After several Battles they struck up a Peace, by which Tatius shared the Throne with Romulus. But as the Sequel of this Story has no Relation to the Fables I am explaining, I shall, with Ovid, pass to the Death of Romulus; and to discover the Truth from Fable in this Event, we must again have Recourse to the same Historian, who had thoroughly studied the Roman Antiquities.
Opinions, says he , are divided concerning the Circumstance of Romulus's Death. Those who have jumbled Fable and History together say, That, one Day he was haranguing the Roman Army in his Camp, the Sky was all on a sudden overcast; that a very thick Darkness immediatly came on; which was followed by a violent Tempest, in which he disappeared: Thus it was believed that his Father Mars had taken him up to Heaven. Others who come nearer the Truth allow, That he was killed by the Citizens for having sent back the Hostages of the Veientes without the Peoples Consent; and for taking more Superiority and State upon him than could be agreable to those had been the chief Instruments of his Establishment., For these Reasons, and several others that Historians give, the Nobility conspired against him, assassinated him, and cut his Body in Pieces; each of them carrying off some of it, to be buried privately, in order to conceal the Murder from the Public. According to Livy (4), his Death filled the Town with Consternation; and the People beginning to suspect the Senators of the Fact, Proculus Julius stept forth and spoke to the Multitude thus: Quirites, parens urbis hujus, prima hodierna luce coelo repente delapsus, se mihi obvium dedit. quum perfusus horrore venerabundusque astitissem, petens precibus, ut contra intueri fas esset; abi, nuncia, inquit, Romanis, Coelestes ita velle, ut mea Roma caput orbis terrarum sit: proinde rem militarem colant: sciantque, et ita posteris tradant, nullas opes humanas armis Romanis resistere posse. Haec, inquit, locutus, sublimis abiit. This Speech easily persuaded the People that Romulus was received into the Number of the Gods. They immediatly gave him another Name, as was usual in suich Apotheoses; and he was ever after honoured as a God under the Name of Quirinus; which was one of Mars's Names, who was supposed to be his Father (5). They instituted Feasts called Quirinalia, that were celebrated on the seventeenth of February, or the thirteenth of the Calends of March; a Month that was consecrated to his Father Mars. Ovid speaks of it in his Fasti this:
I said just now that it was usual for the Ancients to change the Names of those they had Deified. It was thus they gave That of Leucothoe to Ino, That of Palaemon to Melicerte; and the Name of Marica to Circe: Either to create Respect by these new Names; or in order to make People forget there had been such Men in the World.
THE EXPLICATION OF THE I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. AND VIII. FABLES. [ XV.i-viii The Death of Hippolytus ]
Our Poet, after having exhausted all the Metamorphoses Ancient History afforded him, turns his Fiction next on Those of Natural Philosophy; by which I mean, The Changes that happen in the common Course of Nature. And as Pythagoras had applied himself more closely to that sort of Study than any other of the Ancient Philosophers; Ovid could not find a properer Personage to bring upon the Stage: But he introduces him with the Art of a Poet; and not with the Plainness of an Historian. Pythagoras had come from Asia into Italy, and settled at Crotona, in order to vend there the Philosophy he had been collecting in his Travels thro' Egypt; and therefore the Poet remounts to the Foundations of that City, to begin the Story. The Crotoniates, as well as most others, had their chimerical Traditions concerning their Origin. Hercules, it seems had appeared to Mycilus, or Myscelus as the greatest part of the Ancients call him, and told him, the Destinies willed he should quit his Native Country, and go build a new City in a foreign one. By the Law of his Country it was a crime to go out of it without Leave; thus, his Design being discovered, he was stopt. His Trial Came on; and the condemning Ballots had the Majority: But by a miraculous Interposition of Hercules they were all turned from Black to White ones. To this Fable another was tackt. Suidas (1),on the Authority of the Scholiast of Aristophanes (2), says, That Myscelus, having consulted the Oracle concerning the Colony he was about to carry into a strange Country, was told, he must settle at the Place where he should meet with Rain in a clear Sky, ἐξ αἰθρίας. His Faith surmounted all the Impossibility of having both fair and foul Weather at once; he obeys the Oracle, puts to Sea; and after having run through Crouds of Dangers in the Course of his Voyage, lands in Italy. But still full of Uncertainties where he should set down his Colony, he was reduced to the last Distress; when his Wife whose Name was Aithrias, to administer some Comfort to him, imbraced him, and bedewed his Face with her Tears. He immediatly took the Presage; and understood That to be the Seat of his promised City.
The Main of this Story is taken from History. Strabo (3) reports, That Myscelus, who was called so from his small Legs, was born in the little Town of Rypa. He had taken up a Design of settling a Colony in some foreign Country; and in Pursuit of it, arrived on the Coast of Italy. there, he observed that the Spot the Oracle had pointed out to him was in a healthy Air; tho' not so fertil a Soil as other adjacent Places; and therefore he goes once more to consult the Oracle. He was answered that he must not refuse what was given him: An Answer which turned afterwards into a Proverb (4). Myscelus, without going farther, lays the Foundation of the City of Crotona; and another Colony chose that Spot which he liked because of it's good Soil, to build the City of Sybaris. If we believe Dionysius Halicarnassensis *, it was in the Fourth Year of the Reign of Numa Pompilius; or the Third of the Seventeenth Olympiad, that Crotona was built: That is, according to Father Petau's Calculation†, 708 Years before Christ. Strabo adds, That Archias having been to consult the Oracle at the same Time, and on the same Errand with Myscelus, the Pythian Prophetess should have answered, The One should choose a clear and healthy Air; and the other, a Situation for Commerce and Increase of Wealth. Tho' this last Account were the truest, it is very probable that the Crotoniates, proud of a Founder Hercules had taken so much care of, were very industrious in propagating this Fable of Ovid; for Hercules is frequently to be seen on their Medals.
Allow me to remark by the way, That Pausanias (5) asserts that of Phalanthus, which Strabo does of Myscelus: And That is what has deceived the Mythologist Lactantius, who has put in the Argument of this Fable, That Myscelus built Tarentum: He should have said Crotona.
Here it was that Pythagoras, after a long Course of Travels, settled at last, to publish a Philosophy till then unkown in Europe; and which he had learned from the Egyptian Priests. Ovid to keep up the Idea the Romans had of Numa's profound Wisdom, feigns††, That before he became their King, he had gone a Journy to Crotona, with no other View than to hear Pythagoras: Tho' it be certain, That Pythagoras was not born till long after Numa; that is, according to Livy, under the Reign of Servius Tullius Sixth King of the Romans; about 147. Years after. The Learned Father Petau (6) makes the Distance of Time much greater. According to him, Numa's Reign began in the Year 4000. of the Julian Period, 714. Years before Christ; whereas he makes Pythagoras come to Crotona, only in the Year 4205. about 509. Years before Christianity. Dionysius Halicarnassensis who was sensible of this same Anachronism, asserts that Crotona was built the 4. Year of Numa's Reign; thus Pythagoras could not possibly come there at the Time Ovid speaks of.
Be that as it will, Ovid might very well mix the Pythagorean Philosophy with his Fables; since it was nothing in reality, but a Heap of Metamorphoses. It is under this Notion we must consider what he says of the Insects which appeared sometimes under the Figure of a kind of Bean, then took that of a Worm, or a Fly: A Philosophy which is very well understood and accounted for since, in several beautiful Modern Treatises on the Subject; and among others by the Illustrations of Messieurs Goedard and Redi.,
It is not to be expected I should undertake to explain all the Metamorphoses contained in Pythagoras's Discourse to Numa. The Discussions would be endless, and intirely foreign to my present Design; which is only to unravel the History that is couched in the Fables of Antiquity. I shall only remark, That Pythagoras's Philosophy may be reduced to Two general Heads. The first, is the Metempsychosis; or continual Transmigration of Souls from one Body into another. Pythagoras was not the Inventor of this Doctrine; but had it from the Egyptians: Nay it was in Vogue in Asia and the Indies, in the earliest Times; and prevails among several of their Nations to this very Day. Some Authors (7) are of Opinion, That Pythagoras only meant this Transmigration in a Metaphorical Sense: As for Instance, when he said that the Souls of Men went often into Beasts, it was only to teach us that irregular Passions render us Brutes. But from the Manner of his delivering his Doctrine we may reasonably conclude, That he understood it according to the most natural Sense of the Words. To inforce it the more, he proved the Truth of it by his own Personal Experience, saying, that he remembered to have been Euphorbus, in the Time of the Siege of Troy; and that his Soul, after several other Transmigrations, had at last entered the Body which it then inhabited under the name of Pythagoras. It was by a necessary Consequence of this Opinion, That his Followers were to abstain from eating the Flesh of Animals; for Fear of devouring some Friend or Kinsman. This is the Part of Pythagoras's Doctrine Ovid has given us so elegant a Description of.
The Second Head we are to speak of, consisted in discovering the Changes that happen in the Animal World, and those Natural Metamorphoses which I have already mentioned. Upon this Head I must observe, That the greatest Part of the Facts, which the Poet copies from the Philosopher, are real; tho' others of them are only founded on the Reports of the Senses, or on false Relations. Such are the Fables concerning that River of Thrace whose Water petrified those that drank of it: Those Fountains that kindled Wood; That communicated a Gold-Colour to the Hair of Peoples Heads; That unstrung Men's Vigour, and made them change Sexes; that inspired with a Disgust against Wine; That metamorphosed Men into Birds; and other wonderful Effects needless to mention. Such are also those Facts, which a later Philosophy founded on a more thorough Examination and repeated Experiments has proved to be false. For Example, That Bees grow out of the Entrails of a Bull; That human Marrow will breed Serpents; That the Phoenix will spring out of her own Ashes, and the like. Pythagoras's Principle Omnia mutantur, nil interit was just. Nature furnishes us with Thousands of Examples of the Changes that happen; but in his Days Philosophy was not far enough advanced, to speak as distinctly of them as may be done now. No Wonder then, if among a few Truths, there is so much of the Fabulous in the Piece.
After an Encomium of Numa which Ovid throws in by the way, he speaks of the Nymph Egeria, whom Numa pretended always to consult in the Arician Forest, about the Laws he was to give the Romans. In Imitation of other Law-givers, he was willing People should believe, That those he delivered had something Divine in them. Zamolxis before him had feigned that the Laws he gave the Scythians were dictated by his Genius: Minos the First made Jupiter the Author of those he enacted in Crete: And Lycurgus attributed his to Apollo. It is probable that in this they imitated Moses, who received the Two Tables of Laws on Mount Sinai, in so extraordinary a manner, that the Remembrance of it might easily have been preserved among a People descended from Phoenician Colonies.
That we may the better understand the first Rise of the Fable I am Explaining, we must have recourse to what Dionysius Halicarnassensis says of it (8). "The Romans affirm, says he, That Numa never was ingaged in any Warlike Expedition; but that he passed his whole Reign in profound Peace: That his first Care was to encourage Piety and Justice in his Dominions; and to civilize his People by good and wholesom Laws. His profound Wisdom in Governing made him pass for inspired; and gave rise to several Fables. Some have said, That he had secret Interviews with the Nymph Egeria; Others, That he frequently consulted one of the Muses; and was instructed by her in the Art of Reigning. Numa was ambitious of confirming the People in this Opinion: But because some thought it too much to believe on his bare Word; and others went so far as to call his pretended Conversations with the Gods a Fiction; he took an Opportunity of giving them such sensible proofs of it, that the greatest Unbeliever of them all should have no Room left for Suspicion: This he did in the following manner. He one day ordered several of the Nobility to his Palace; and showed them the Plainness of the Apartments, where there was no rich Furniture to be seen, nor any thing like Affectation of Splendor; and how even the most necessary Things were wanting for any thing like a great Entertainment: He dismisses them with an Invitation to come that same Night to Supper. His Guests are with him at the appointed Hour: They are received on stately Couches; the Side-Boards are crouded with Variety of Plate; and the Table served up with all the most delicious sorts of Meats. The Company struck with the Sumptuousness and Profusion of the Entertainment; and considering how impossible it was that any Man upon Earth Could have made such Preparations in so short a Time; were persuaded that his Communication with Heaven was real; and that he must have had the Assistance of some Deity, in order to do things so extraordinary.
"But those who are not so ready at adopting Fables into History, the same Author goes on, say, That it was a deep Stroke of Policy in Numa to feign his Conversing with the Nymph Egeria; in order to gain a People who were much inclined to Superstition; and to make his Laws be respected, as if they had come from Heaven. Following in this the Example of the Greek Sages; who took just the same Method to inforce the Authority of their Laws with the People."
The Romans, however, were so persuaded of Numa's Conference with Egeria, that after his Death they went into the Forest of Aricia to look out for her: But they only met with a Fountain in the Place where he used to resort; and therefore immediatly published the Nymph's Metamorphosis. St. Austin speaking on this subject , says, That Numa made use of that Fountain in the sort of Divination which was performed by Water, and is called Hydromancy.
Ovid feigns next, That upon Numa's Death Egeria was consumed with Grief, and made the Forest of Aricia eccho with her Plaints. Virbius, who boasted himself to be Hippolytus the Son of Theseus, whom Aesculapius had brought back from Hell, recounted his own Story to her, in order to divert her. Tho' it be certain that this Virbius, be who he will, could not be the Son of Theseus, since there were more than 500. Years between them; I shall take this Occasion to insert the Story of Hippolytus.
Tho' Theseus had left Ariadne in the Isle of Naxus, in the manner I have related above in the Life of that Hero; yet he still flattered himself with the Hopes of marrying her Sister Phaedra. Deucalion who had succeeded Minos in Crete, sent her to Athens immediatly after his Death. She was no sooner arrived but she fell in Love with Hippolytus, whom Thesus had by the Amazon Antiope (10), and who had been educated at Troezen by Pitthoeus (11). It was there she first saw him, and first imbibed a Passion that proved so fatal to them both. As she durst not desire of Theseus that the young Prince should be brought from Pitthoeus's Court; she built a Temple to Venus on a Mountain near Troezen, where under Cover of Paying her Vows to the Goddess, she had the Pleasure of seeing Hippolytus performing his Exercises in a neighboring Plain. She even called the Temple Hippolyteum from his Name; and we may justly suppose that Venus was worshipped with a particular Zeal, during the Course of this Intrigue (12). Phaedra, knew by Hippolytus's Character, that she should never dare make a Declaration of her Passion to him; and she saw plainly that he would never perceive it, if she did not speak. Pitthoeus, the wisest Prince of his Age had given the young Prince a noble Education; and worthy of one he designed should fill his own Throne (13). Hippolytus answered his Care and Expectations; and, according to Euripides (14), was the most accomplished Prince in the World. He was wise, chaste, an Enemy to Pleasure; and a stranger to the Passion of Love any farther than to despise it. He spent his Time in Hunting, Chariot and Horse Racing, and all the other Exercises that became his Station; and to speak in the Language of the Poet, Diana was almost the only Goddess he worshipped. Besides, he had so carefully improved his Natural Talents, that his Father, in Euripides's Tragedy, finds fault with him for his Learning and Love of Letters. A Man of this Character was not easily to be moved; yet Phaedra, in Theseus's Absence, who according to Plutarch (15) was then Prisoner in Epire, resolved to let him know the Violence of her Passion. Her Declaration is very ill received. She grows desperate upon his Refusal; and takes a Resolution to rid herself of so extravagant a Passion by a violent Death: And her Nurse took the advantage of her Despair to inspire her with the Cruelty of revenging the young Prince's Disdain. In the mean Time, Hercules had delivered Theseus from his Confinement. Phaedra knowing that he was on his Way home, and fearing the Intrigue might come to his Knowledge, hangs herself; after having first persuaded him in a Letter writ with her own Hand, That she was not able to survive the attempt Hippolytus had made upon her Virtue. This is the Account Plutarch (16), Servius (17), and Hygin (18) give of her Death; in which they all follow Euripides. Yet Seneca (19) says, That she only appeared before her Husband in the greatest Confusion, and holding a Sword in her Hand, to signify the Violence Hippolytus had offered her. All these Authors agree, That Theseus implored the Assistance of Neptune upon this Occasion; who sent a Monster out of the Sea to fright Hippolytus's Horses as he was driving along the Strand. They ran away with him, and by a Fall from his Chariot he was killed: This is just the Relation Theramenes gives of it in the Tragedy of Mr. Racine. This manner of her Death, in which the Poets make Neptune intervene, only means, that Theseus having ordered his Son to come and justify himself; he made so much haste, that his Horses ran away with him, and he falling from his Chariot which was broken, he was drawn over Rocks by them, and killed. Seneca adds, That Phaedra having heard the melancholy News, stabbed herself with her Lover's Sword: But he is alone in this Opinion; for all the other Authors agree that she hanged herself. The Troezenians regretted the Loss of a Pince on whom all their Hopes were fixed, and after having lamented him in Form, they decreed him Divine Honours (20), consecrated a Grove to him, built him a Temple, and appointed a Priest to sacrifice solemnly to him once a Year. Their young Women before they were going to be married, cut off their Hair and carried it to Hippolytus's Temple, as we are told by Euripides (21). All these Honours were not yet sufficient. They published over and above, That the Gods had translated him to Heaven, where he was changed into the Star the Greeks call Ἡνίοχος, and the Latins Auriga, The Charioteer. This is the History of that Prince, according to ancient Authors. Tho' we may find the Fable of Aesculapius's having raised him again from the Dead in several Authors (22), and that he appeared afterwards in Italy under the Name of Virbius, which is as much as to say Twice Man: Yet we must look upon the whole Story as an Imposture invented by the Priests; who probably had introduced the Worship of him in the Forest of Aricia near Rome. The Latins however are not the only Authors who have adopted this Fiction; for Apollodorus (23) cites the Author of the Naupactian Verses in favour of it; and the Scholiasts both of Euripides (24) and Pindar (25) speak of it.
The Ancient Hetrusci were very much given to Divination. They were always prying into the Entrails of Beasts, or observing the Flights of Birds, upon the least Occasion that offered; and it was from them this Art spread it self over all Italy, as we may see in Cicero's Book Of Divination. Tages had been the first that taught them it; and had left Treatises of it, which are cited by the Ancients (26). They know nothing of his Birth or whence he had come, and therefore called him an Autochthon or a Native; and for Poetry's Sake, they published that he sprung out of the Earth. It is thus Ovid has spoke of him; and Ammianus Marcellinus (27): Cujus disciplinae Tages nomine quidam monstrator est: ut fabulantur, in Etruriae partibus emersisse subito visus e terra. Tages's chief Talent lay in Auguries and Auspices; an Art which the Tuscans were afterwards very fond of, as well as the Romans who learned from them (28), and who gave it the Name of Tuscan Divination.
Ovid follows this Fable with the Prodigy that happened at Rome, in the days of Romulus, who, after taking the Auspices, threw his Spear from Mount Aventine toward the Capitol: The Spear lighting on it's Point stuck in the Ground, immediatly began to shoot forth Leaves, and beame afterwards a great Tree. This pretended Prodigy was taken for a Presage of the future Greatness of the Roman Empire: And Plutarch, in the Life of Romulus says, That so long as this Tree stood the Republic flourished. It began to wither in the first Civil War, which indeed was the Beginning of Rome's Decline; and Julius Caesar having ordered a Building to be erected near where it stood, the Laborers cut some of the Roots of it in sinking the Foundation, and it died soon after.
It is hard to believe that a Cornel could stand for near the space of 700 Years; and therefore it is probable they took care to renew it by planting a new one, since the Fate of the Empire depended oin it. This was very probably the Case of that Fig-tree near which the Caprotine Nones were celebrated; and which according to Livy lasted several Ages.
The Story of Gencius Cippus is another of those extraordinary Facts with which the Romans were fond of adorning their History. Valerius Maximus (29), an Author who catched at every thing that looked like Wonder, gives this Account of it. Cippus going one day out of Rome, found all on a sudden that Horns grew out of his Fore-head. Surprised at this extraordinary Portent, he consults the Augurs; who answered, That he would be chosen King if ever he went into the City again. As the Royal Power continued as yet to be abhorred in Rome, he chose rather a Voluntary Banishment, than to re-enter the City. The Romans charmed with such a Piece of Heroism, put a Brazen Head with Horns, over the Gate he had gone out at; and it was afterwards called Raudusculana Porta, because Brass was formerly called in Latin Raudera.
Allow me to make some Remarks upon this Recital. The First is, That Valerius Maximus is mistaken in saying this Prodigy happened when Cippus was going out of Rome: It was in returning from the War, and after having taken Succours to the Consul Valerius. In this Circumstance Ovid is nearer the Truth than Valerius Maximus. The Second is, That the Senate decreed Cippus some Lands, and that he built a Villa on them: Contrary to the Account that Author gives of them. The Third is, That this happened in the Third Year of the 135. Olympiad; in the 535. Year of Rome, and 237. Years before Christ.
As to the Truth of this Fact, Authors are very much divided. Pliny himself, who has been so often accused of adopting the most incredible Stories, says, That Cippus's Horns are as much a Fable as those of Actaeon (30). There are some Naturalists however, who pretend that Strength of Imagination might have produced such a Miracle, and it cannot be denied, but Excrescencies very like Horns have sometimes appeared on Peoples Bodies. Mr. Bayle reports (31), That a Girl had been seen at Palermo, who had little Horns all over her Body, like those of a young Calf. Besides, Valerius Maximus, credulous as he was, does not say that they were real Horns; but something resembling them: In capite ejus subito veluti cornua emerserunt. After all, I do not doubt but Cippus upon his Return to Rome might have dreamt that he had Horns upon his Head; and that having consulted the Augurs upon it, and got the Answer mentioned by Ovid, he chose rather to be banished, than enslave his Country.
What Ovid says of transporting Aesculapius into Italy, is taken from the Roman History. Let us hear what the Ancients say of it, that we may reconcile Fable and History together.
Under the Consulate of Quintus Fabius Gurges, and D. Junius Brutus Scaeva, Rome was ravaged by a great Pestilence (1). After having used all the Helps that Physic afforded, the Holy Books were consulted, in order to know by what Expedient they should avert that Calamity, and they found, That the Plague would not cease 'till they had brought Aesculapius from Epidaurus to Rome. The War they were ingaged in hindered their sending to sollicite the Epidaurians for their God, for that Year: Inventum in Libris, says Livy, Aesculapium ab Epidauro Romam arcessendum. neque eo anno, quia bello occupati Consules erant, quidquid de ea re actum, praeterquam quod unum diem Aesculapio supplicatio est habita. Assoon as the War was ended they dispatched Ambassadors to Epidaurus; and the Priest of the God palmed a Snake upon them for the God himself. The Ambassadors took it into their Ship, and set sail. When they were about the Height of Antium, They were obliged to put in there by stress of Weather, and the Serpent stealing out of the Ship, staid three Days a Shore. The Ambassadors were very uneasy about this for some Time; but it came aboard again of it's own accord; and they pursued their Voyage. At last when the Vessel arrived at the Island of the Tiber, the Serpent went out and hid himself among some Reeds; and as they imagined that to be the Place which the God liked for his Habitation; a Temple was built there in Honour of him, and the Isle was covered with Marble in the Figure of a large Ship. From this Period, which was the Year of Rome 462. began the Worship of Aesculapius in that City; and to him it was they had Recourse in all Diseases, especially in Times of Pestilence. This Event, I own, might have ingaged me in a long Dissertation concerning Aesculapius; since he is so differently talked of by different Authors of Antiquity. But I hope the Reader will excuse me; and be at the Pains to consult my Explication of Fables (2) and Father Montfaucon's Antiquity Explained; where one may see almost all the Figures which represent that God.
Ovid has at last been as good as his Word. He has deduced his laborious Work from the beginning of the World, to his own Times; and he could hardly have ended it more happily. The Apotheosis of Julius Caesar was a fair Opportunity of making his Court to Augustus; who from the Promises of the Poet might flatter himself with the same Divine Honours he had but lately procured to his Predecessor. But, as if the Emperor had desired to prefer his doing Good on Earth to the Honours he was to receive in Heaven, the Poet does not presage him Immortality till after he should have reigned to the oldest Age. Augustus however did not wait for Death to receive Divine Honours: he had the Pleasure to see himself made a God and Altars raised to him during his Life: Nay, according to Appian, he was only Twenty Eight Years old when he was ranked among the Tutelar Gods by all the Cities of the Empire. The Romans who carried their Origin as far up as Aeneas, were pleased to see Venus interest herself in the Death of one of his Posterity; and gave her all the Honor of this Apotheosis: Here is the Account of it. After that Julius Caesar had been killed in the Senate, Augustus ordered public Games to be solemnly celebrated in Honor of him. There appeared a new Star or rather a Comet during these Games, as we are told by Suetonius (1), and thence they took Occasion to publish that Caesar's Soul had taken it's Place among the Stars; and that Venus had taken Care of his Deification. They had observed too that the Sun looked pale the whole Year that followed Caesar's Death; and this they ascribed to Apollo's Grief, tho' it was only the Effect of some Spots that appeared on the Disk of the Sun that Year. Several other Prodigies had been seen. Some affirmed it had rained Blood; That The Moon and Stars had been darkened; others, That Beasts had uttered Words; That terrible Howlings had been heard; That the Dead had risen from their Graves, and the like. Augustus taking advantage of the People's present Superstition, used all his Endeavors to get Caesar acknowledged a God in good Earnest. He built him a Temple; established Priests who were to take care of his Worship; and erected a Statue to him, which had a Star on it's Forehead. He was afterwards represented as actually mounted up into Heaven; and holding a Scepter in his Hand, as if he had been Master of the Celestial Globe. In this Attitude it is we see him in an Antique taken from the Cabinet of Brandenburg. On the beautiful Agate of the Holy Chappel at Paris, which is supposed to represent the Deification of Augustus, Julius is seen behind Aeneas, crowned with Laurel, and holding a Buckler in his hand (2). The Flatterers congratulated Augustus upon the Care he had taken to place his Predecessor among the Gods; But the Critics made it a Subject of Raillery. Manilius says that Heaven was a peopling under his Reign.
Of all Caesar's Party none appeared so animated against his Assassins as Marc Antony. He made a Funeral Oration on him full of Passion, and talked of him as a God. The People heated by Antony's Harangue, and moved with Pity at Casars Bloody Robes, and his Body all full of Wounds which were exposed to their View, were filled with Rage, and pursued the Conspirators: They afterwards returned to take up his Corps; and carried it to the Capitol to be buried there, and to be placed among the Gods. But the Priests would not allow it; and therefore they brought it back to the Forum, and burned it. And they afterward built a Temple to him, after that Augustus had got him ranked among the Gods, as we are told by Appian (4). Dio (5), who differs from the other in some Particulars, concludes his Relation with saying, That the People raised an Altar on the Place where Caesar's Body had been burned; and endeavour'd to sacrifice and make Libations to him as to a God; but that the Consuls overturn'd the Altar. Suetonius (6) says, That some of the Multitude were for carrying the body into the Senate Hall that was built by Pompey, and others to the Capitol to burn it here; and that in the mean time two Persons set fire to the Canopy which was near the Rostrum. He does not speak of any Altar, but that the People Erected a pillar of about 20. foot high with the Inscription Parenti Patriae, To the Father of his Country: That they continued to resort thither for a long Time; to offer Sacrifices, and make Vows; and often determined Law-suits by swearing by Caesars Name. The same Author adds afterwards (7), That he was made a God by Public Decree; but he does not say at what Time.
Tho' Suetonius gives an Account of it, the Pillar did not stand long. That infamous Pillar, says Cicero (8), was pulled down by Dolabella, who expiated the Place where it stood, and dispersed the profane Rabble that used to assemble there. On the First of September Antony called a Senate: Cicero absented himself from it (9), and Antony was very much provoked at his Absence. Next Day Cicero came, but Antony was not there. It was then he pronounced his First Philippic. In that Harangue, when he touches on what had been done in the Senate the Day before, he says, That, if he had been present, he would never have consented to the Decree the Senators had been forced to pass; that nothing should ever have brought him to allow the confounding of Supplications with Funeral Rites, or the introducing of Ceremonies into the Republic that were inexpiable, by equalling a Dead Man with the Immortal Gods.