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The belief in a Supreme Power is inherent in every human being; and so thoroughly interwoven with our nature is this sentiment, that it is impossible for any one at any period of life wholly to divest himself of it, and hence the desire to worship this power.
Everything in the external world as well as in the internal world of his thoughts impresses him with the great truth, that there is a God who has created all things, and who rules over all. He is forced to this conclusion when looking around for an answer to the questions concerning himself and the material world with which he is surrounded. For what other reply could be given to the questions, “What has called this world into existence? Why does it exist, and what is its ultimate destiny? Nay, why do I exist, and what will become of me after death?” And when his attention is drawn to the phenomena of nature and the extraordinary events in the life of individuals, as well as to the history of whole nations, is he not compelled to acknowledge the superior hand that shapes our destinies, “rough hew them as we may?”
Hence it will be difficult to find among the nations of antiquity or modern times, one wholly destitute of the consciousness that a higher power exists, or without a desire to worship that power in some way or other. Even the Atheist, of whatever school, only deceives himself when he fondly imagines that his reasoning power will always enable him to combat successfully every rising inclination to a religious faith.
But though all nations have acknowledged the existence of this supreme power, they often differ widely in their representations of it, in their modes of worshipping it, and in their habits and thoughts, as far as they are the results of their religious creed. The cause of this difference will be found in the different degrees of civilization, variety of soil, climate, and even occupation, whether commercial or agricultural, peculiar to the country inhabited by each. For in proportion as a nation is barbarous and uncultivated, so will also its religion be rude and imperfect; and the lower its position in the scale of civilization the more incomplete will be the character which it ascribes to its gods; for “As the people’s gods so are the people.” Hence the many dissimilarities which we meet with by the side of similarities, when comparing the different systems of religion practised by the nations of antiquity and modern times; and it is for that reason often difficult to show how they are connected in their origin and in the propagation of their doctrines and principles.
The systems of religion best known to us are: Monotheism, viz. the worship of one god, and Polytheism, the adoration of several gods, the latter of which includes also Dualism (the worship of two gods) and Tritheism (the worship of three gods).
The lowest grade of polytheism is Fetishism, viz. that idolatry which teaches its followers to worship inanimate nature, sticks and stones, and the productions of their own skill. Next to this comes Pyrolatry or the worship of fire, and Sabaeism, which considers the stars as gods. All other creeds are varieties of the same general system.
Mythology is the name given to the science which treats of the various systems of idolatry, and the doctrines of its votaries. It embraces also the language of figures and symbols by which the ancient and modern Pagans sought to teach their religion, philosophy, and history. Their manner of testifying reverence for the gods, and the other devotional acts appertaining to their religion, are designated as Religious Rites.
Every reflecting man must feel a desire to inquire into and make himself acquainted with these various systems of religion. For, conscious that religion is the most important subject, and of the most vital interest to our race, he will naturally feel inclined to inquire into everything pertaining to it, whether true or false, and to examine the beacons which different portions of our race, at different times, have set up for their religious guidance. This field of human research will present him, like all others, with a view of a slow but constant progress from the imperfect to the perfect. In it he will also learn that notwithstanding all the aberrations of the human mind which have manifested themselves more particularly in systems of religion, there is always a higher power whose overruling influence cannot be mistaken.
It is also impossible, without a thorough inquiry into the migration of religious ideas as they passed from nation to nation, properly to appreciate this progress in the scale of perfection, or to understand the spirit which pervades individual nations in their every-day life, in their heroic deeds, and the vicissitudes that befell them. This inquiry is even necessary to a thorough understanding of the religious systems of our own times.
A knowledge of mythology is also indispensable to explain the growth and spread of the arts and trade, which were indebted to the fostering care of religion for the high degree of perfection to which they attained at so early a period.
We will now endeavor, as far as possible, to pursue a systematic course in tracing the progress of religious development as it is delineated in mythology. To do this we shall have to examine chronologically the various religious systems of antiquity. We begin with those of non-classic antiquity, the more developed religious systems of the Greeks and Romans constituting the subjects of the mythology of classic antiquity.
The Religious Systems of India
Mythology and Worship of the Hindoos
The study of Hindoo Mythology is surrounded with difficulties and obscurities. Many of the books from which we have to draw our information are still either unknown or almost inaccessible to European mythologians. The religious systems have also undergone considerable changes in the course of time, and while some have altogether disappeared, others have taken their place. All this has contributed to perplex many learned investigators, and to cause them to mistake one for another, or to confound them together. Yet, nevertheless, a close examination of the authorities accessible to us will be sufficient to enable us to throw considerable light upon this very intricate subject.
The chief authorities upon which the student of Hindoo mythology must rely are: the four Vedas, considered the holy books of the Hindoos; each of which is divided into two parts, the one containing prayers and the other hymns. Next in order are the Puranas, eighteen in number. They contain the theogony and cosmogony (doctrines of the origin of the gods and of the world) of the Hindoos. To these may be added the two great epic poems, Ramayana and Mahabharata, which celebrate heroic acts and battles.
We learn from these holy books that the Hindoo religion was originally a kind of monotheism, for it taught that all was ruled by one great Supreme Being. But it was also at the same time a sort of pantheism, for the Supreme Being was considered to be a portion of the world, a species of world-soul pervading the universe. This monotheism soon degenerated into polytheism, the oldest form of which was Brahmaism, it prevailed until Sivaism took its place, which again in its turn was supplanted by Vishnuism. These systems were named, either after the divinities recognised as the supreme ruler or after their respective founders.
1. Hindoo Cosmogony. The Hindoos have various myths concerning the creation of the world. The simplest is the following. Brahm (the self-existing), who is also called Para Brama (the infinite), the supreme and invisible god, created the waters at a time when darkness still covered the unfathomable abyss. He then deposited in the waters the seed of light, which soon developed into an egg brilliant with golden hues and sparkling like a bright flame, or as others say, with the combined splendor of a thousand suns. This egg he inhabited a full year (Menus in his book of laws says a thousand years) as Brahma, completely absorbed in self-contemplation. At the expiration of that period he divided it into two equal parts, and then made out of the one half the concave canopy of heaven and the eight celestial spheres, and out of the other the earth and what is called by the myth the water house. These he peopled with gods, spirits, and men, and then became again Brahm.
Another myth describes Brahm (pl. 1, fig. 1b) as the supreme being, self-existing and ever the same, wholly absorbed in his sublime meditations, wrapped in the Maya (this word means also delusion), the personification of pleasant self-forgetfulness, represented in the form of a cloak. In conjunction with the Maya (also called Bhavani, the mother of all created things), he gave existence to the three great Deyotas (created spirits), Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, who compose the Indian trinity called Trimurti, and are represented as a man with one body and three heads (pl. 2, fig. 1). The Maya, when Bhavani (pl. 1, fig. 2), is generally found depicted as seated upon a cloud, one foot under her body and the other stretched out as if in the act of descending; a veil cast around her, ornamented with the figures of animals and other created things.
The Trimurti is also included in other symbolical figures of Hindoo Mythology: viz. in the triangle with the flame (pl. 1, fig. 6), in the Lingam or Phallos (fig. 7), of which we shall speak again hereafter, when treating of Siva. The figure Om or Aum (fig. 9) contains also an allusion to the Trimurti. Om is a contraction of the letters A. U. M., and is considered by the Hindoos too holy to be pronounced by any one who is not a Brahmin.
There are a few other symbols which we will enumerate here on account of their connexion with the above. The elephant (fig. 8) in the act of worshipping the lingam as the symbol of wisdom; the Pradyapati (fig. 10) the symbol of creation as taught by the Brahmins; Pracriti (fig. 11), the symbol of the three divine attributes, the creating, preserving, and destroying powers; and the tortoise upon the serpent supporting the world and the seven celestial spheres (fig. 12), as the symbol of eternity. The chief symbol of Brahma is the earth, of Siva fire, and of Vishnu the water; they are all represented in. figs. 6 and 9.
2. The three Superior Gods. a. Brahma. Brahm, the Supreme Being, was considered too awful and holy a god to have temples erected to him, or to be addressed by mortals. Hence a distinction was made between Brahm and the spirit of Brahm personified in Narayana, which signifies moving on the waters.
Brahma, who was the first manifestation of Brahm enveloped in his Maya, is the embodiment of the creative power and wisdom, as well as the ruler of destiny, and lord over life and death. He is regarded as the first law-giver and teacher of the Hindoos, and hence as the author of the Vedas.
In the sacred book we find the following account of his birth. Narayana extended upon the thousand-headed serpent Sesha, and moving upon the waters, caused the lotus to spring from his navel, and from the lotus Brahma (pl. 1, fig. 4). Another myth informs us that Vishnu, the second person in the Trimurti, and considered by the Vishnuites as only another name for the Supreme Being, assumed as Narayana the shape of a child, with its toe inserted in its mouth, and in this form, bedded on the leaf of the Indian fig tree (fig. 1a), was rocked by the waves of the milk sea. While in this position, and asleep, he called into existence the laws of nature, regulating generation, and the result was, that the flower of the lotus came forth from his navel, and gave birth to Brahma the creative power, who in his turn created the world. But a long time, which he spent in profound meditations, elapsed between his own birth and the creation of the world. When he had resolved upon calling the universe into existence, he created first space, and placed in it the seven Surgs, or starry spheres of heaven, illuminated by the radiant bodies of the Deyotas. Then he made the earth (Mirtlock) and the sun and moon to give it light, and the seven Patals, or lower regions. This creation embraced the fourteen worlds of the Hindoo Cosmogony. When these worlds had been completed, and with them the mountain Calaya (Meru), there appeared at the top of the latter the symbol Yoni, the triangle, and inclosed in it the Lingam. Mount Meru was then selected as the seat of the gods, and for that purpose made the most delightful place of abode. Silvery brooks meandered in every direction, and fertilized its soil; magnificent trees, shedding delightful odors and covered with delicious food, gratified the eye and the taste; and four large streams issued from the highest point of the mountain, and flowed towards the four quarters of the heavens. Splendid palaces were everywhere seen, in which dwelt the gods, the guardians of the world, and the souls of the happy admitted to their company.
Brahma, having thus made the material world, now created the spirits; and in order to people his world, he gave existence to one hundred sons, partly Deyotas, spiritual beings, to become denizens of the celestial regions, and partly Daints, who were to live in the worlds of the lower regions. The earth alone remained still an uninhabited region, but it was not destined to remain so long, for Brahma now resolved to give it inhabitants who should be direct emanations from his own body; and from his mouth came forth the eldest bom, Brehman (Brahman, priest), to whom he confided the four Vedas; from his right arm issued Chætris, or Chetre (warrior), and from his left, Shaterani (the warrior’s wife). His right thigh gave birth to Bais, or Bice (agriculturist and trader), and his left to Basani, or Vaissya, his wife; and lastly, from his right foot sprang the lowest of the race, Suder, or Sooder (mechanic and laborer), and from his left Suderani, or Sudra, his wife.
These four sons of Brahma, so significantly brought into the world, became the fathers of the human race, and heads of their respective castes. They were commanded to regard the four Vedas as containing all the rules of their faith, and all that was necessary to guide them in their religious ceremonies. They were also commanded to take rank in the order of their birth, the Brahmins uppermost, as having sprung from the head of Brahma.
Brahma was originally the first in rank in the Trimurti, but he lost his position very soon after the creation. For the myth tells us that, anxious to enlarge his domain, he secretly appropriated to his own use a large portion of the universe assigned to the other gods, and then claimed, as author of the Vedas, superiority over Vishnu. Besides these, he was also accused of other and more heinous offences. Brahm punished him for these crimes, by casting him, with his place of abode, into the lowest abyss. There he had to abide for a million years, and to submit to the severest penances, part of which were, his compulsory appearance upon earth during a portion of each of the four ages of the world, in order to act as a chronicler of Vishnu’s heroic acts. After that period had expired, he was again admitted into the celestial regions, there to be the representative of the Supreme God. The most prominent of his wives is Saravadi, who is described as seated by his side upon an elevated bench (pl. 2, fig. 15). Brahma is represented as of a golden color, with four heads and faces, with which he looks over the four divisions of the world (sometimes five are given to him); he has also four arms and hands, in one of which he holds the Vedas, in another a sacrificial spoon, in the third a sacrificial vase, and with the fourth he grasps the rosary hanging around his neck. His paradise, Brahma-Loga, is upon Mount Meru, the favorite place of the gods. To that place he admits his faithful followers to bathe in the sea Behra, by which they renew their youth.
The worship of Brahma has long ago been abandoned by the Hindoos, who now bow before Vishnu and Siva.
b. Vishnu. Vishnu is the second person in the Hindoo Triad, and as the second emanation from Brahm, the personification of the preserving power of that God. His Avatars or Incarnations were ten in number, and are the most remarkable incidents in his history and the favorite subjects of Hindoo poetry. In his first Avatar (Matsyavatara) he appeared as a fish (pl. 2, fig. 3). He assumed this form to save King Satyavrata or Vaivasrata and his queen, with the seven Rishis and their wives, during the deluge which inundated the whole earth, for they alone, on account of their piety, were deemed worthy to escape the general destruction. The myth relates further, that he presented them with a vessel (the ark Cahitra) in which to navigate the waters, and then transformed himself into a fish of stupendous dimensions, to which the ark was moored, and which served as its guide during the flood.
After the waters had subsided he returned to the land to promote the welfare of the new races. In his second Avatar (Curmavatara) he appeared with the body of a tortoise (fig. 4). The myth concerning it informs us that the gods and the giants united to prepare the Amrita, the draught which gives immortality to all who partake of it; and for that purpose twined the great serpent Sesha (sometimes called Vasky) around Mount Mandara (Mandreghi), and afterwards carried the mountain into the Milk Sea. The mountain was then made to revolve by means of the serpent; for the gods on one side pulled it by the tail, and the giants on the other pulled it by the head in a contrary direction, and thus gave it the rotary motion in order to convert the sea of milk into butter. But after churning thus for a thousand years, they found that the mountain began to settle into the sea. To prevent its further sinking, Vishnu assumed the form of a tortoise, and diving under it supported it on his back till the Amrita was obtained. The gods, who immediately appropriated the precious draught, had to fight a hard battle for it with the giants, who were finally vanquished by Vishnu and then cast into the bottomless pit. But the Amrita was not the only result of the churning of the ocean. Among other valuable gems Lakshmi (also called Sri) (pl. 1, fig. 16), the goddess of beauty and fortune, like another Venus, was born of its foam, and Vishnu, captivated by her charms, made her his wife. In the third Avatar (Vaharavatara) Vishnu took upon himself the form of a boar (pl. 2, fig. 5). This incarnation took place to save the earth from a watery grave; for the giant Eriniak-Shasser (Hirana-Yatsha, the golden-eyed) had seized the earth and cast himself with it into the depths of the sea. Vishnu, in order to preserve it, descended into the abyss in the shape of a boar, where, after a severe contest, he slew the giant, and then emerged with the earth on the point of his tusks. The earth, however, had lost its balance in consequence of its immersion; he added, therefore, a few mountains of great height to its bulk, and thus restored its equilibrium. In the fourth Avatar (Narasinghavatara) Vishnu appears in the form of a man-lion bursting forth from a pillar (pl. 1, fig. 18), which divided into two parts to give him egress. This incarnation took place in consequence of the blasphemous conduct of the giant Hirayacasipu. This giant, who had obtained from Brahma, by means of a long penance, the boon of universal empire, an exemption from death by the hands of either god or man, and that no animal should be permitted to hurt him upon earth, became insolent even to the gods, and caused himself to be worshipped; and when exhorted by his son to abstain from such conduct, he replied by defying Vishnu and all other gods. They were standing before the consecrated pillar erected at the threshold when he exclaimed: “Show me this mighty god and his abode, and I will soon convince thee that he must lie subdued at my feet.” Hardly had he uttered these words when the pillar burst asunder, and before him stood the terrible Navasingha (the man-lion), who threw himself upon him, and lifting him off the ground, tore his bowels out of his body. The fifth Avatar (Vamanavatara) is that in which the god appears in the form of a dwarf-brahmin (pl. 2, fig. 6), who is called Braman Vimana. The giant Bely had, by the usual process of penances, obtained from the gods such gifts as made him independent of them. He then pursued a behavior similar to that of his predecessors, bidding defiance to the gods. To subdue him Vishnu assumed the form of a dwarf, and while the giant was offering sacrifice, Braman Vimana asked for a spot large enough to build him a cottage on. As soon as this was granted to him he expanded his body to such a degree that it filled the whole world, while he stood with one foot on earth and the other in heaven. Bely, who was at first astonished at the metamorphosis, now recognised Vishnu, and throwing himself down, embraced his foot and begged for pardon; which was granted to him on account of his speedy repentance. His mission during the sixth Avatar was to destroy the giant Ravana, King of Ceylon, who had ten heads and twenty arms (pl. 1, fig. 23). Havana’s offence was that of his predecessors, his having set himself up as an object of worship. Vishnu, under the name of Parasu Rama, aided by the king’s brother, attacked him, and after a terrible battle slew him with a weapon which Brahma himself had presented to him. He then liberated his wife, Lakshmi, who was incarnate in the person of Sita, and who had been carried off by the Ravana. His exterior during this incarnation is described to be that of a handsome youth of a green complexion, who is armed with bow and arrows (pl. 2, fig. 7). The ninth Avatar is the most important of all his incarnations. He now appears as Krishna, the noble black shepherd (fig. 10). While he was thus incarnate he was attacked by Kalinac, the father of the serpents, who bit him in the heel, and Krishna in return crushed him with his foot. The tenth Avatar (Katki Avatar), according to the sacred books, will only take place when the present creation is to be destroyed. When the last day shall have dawned upon this earth, then will Cishnu appear as Kaninki or Katki, upon his body the head of a horse (fig. 12) (other authorities say mounted on a white horse), his right hand armed with the terrible flaming sword, and in his left the impenetrable buckler. The wicked will be judged according to their deeds and condemned to fearful punishment, and the good be admitted into paradise. The sun and moon will lose their light, and the earth tremble to its very centre; the stars will fall from the heavens, and the world with all that is therein be consumed by fire. After that there will be a new heaven and a new earth, and an age of purity will succeed.
Before we close the history of Vishnu we must mention a few other representations of him, frequently met with in the temples devoted to his worship. Fig. 9 is that of a beautiful youth seated upon an oval cushion; his head is encircled with the triple crown, to indicate that he is the ruler of heaven, earth, and the sea; suspended from his neck hangs the famous diamond Kaustubhamanay, and priceless rubies constitute his earings. Another representation of the god is seen in pl. 3, fig. 6, which exhibits him as carried by the giant Garuda, and in the act of revealing himself to the giant Vismamitra and to Rama as an incarnation of Rama. He is also sometimes exhibited, as in pl. 2, fig. 2, completely united with Siva, by which some of his followers wish to indicate that Vishnuism and Sivaism are one, and have superseded Brahmaism. Besides these there is a representation of him on a pillar in the palace of Modobedery, near Manglar, where he is seen mounted on the back of an elephant (fig. 11) composed of the gopis or gopeas (nymphs of the Milk Sea).
His paradise is also located on the sacred mount Meru, and is guarded by two dragons. It is divided into four sections, the highest of which is Nirban, where the perfectly pure are united with the god, which exempts them from the necessity of a metempsychosis; while the lowest, Saloc, is the abode of those who as a reward for their purity in life are endowed with an ethereal body, and with faculties capable of enjoying the purest pleasures.
c. Siva (Shiva, Shiven) is the third person in the Triad. He is symbolized by fire, and is himself the personification of the destroying power. His immediate worshippers look upon him as the Supreme Being, but other sects ascribe to him only a subordinate place. His followers are called Sivaites, and their religious system Sivaism. He is generally represented as of a white color, with one head (sometimes with five heads, and with four and in a few instances with sixteen arms) and riding on a white bull. He is distinguished by a third eye placed in the centre of his forehead, which is the emblem and instrument of his omniscience and omnipotence. Durga, the Nemesis of the Hindoos, is said by some to have issued from it. His head is adorned with the crescent and his locks with the Ganga, a beautiful female head, symbolizing humidity, one of the fertilizing principles. Sometimes, to show the fearful light in which he is viewed, we find him wrapped up in a tiger or elephant skin, a necklace of skulls around his neck, with the trident in one hand and the battle-axe in another. His attributes are the Lingam, the trident which never misses the object at which it is thrown, and the snakes which he uses either as a girdle, necklace, or bracelet, or as a toy in his hands. It will not be difficult to recognise some of these attributes in each of the representations which we have given of him. Pl. 1, fig. 5, represents him as the destroying and reproducing power; this is indicated by the trident in his hands and the flame which rises like a tiara above his head, symbolizing warmth as a fertilizing principle. Pl. 2, fig. 8, exhibits him simply as a young man seated in Oriental fashion, and holding a long trident in one hand and the Indian sacrificial drum in the other. His wife Ama, or Bhavani, or Parvati, is said to die at the end of every year, when he, in order to honor her, severs one of her legs and adds it to those already hanging on a string around his neck.
Many incarnations, miracles, and heroic labors of Siva are recorded in the Hindoo legends, some of which are illustrated in our plates. The first of these is pl. 1, fig. 14, where he appears as Siva Mahadeva at Caylasa, the torrid side of Mount Meru. He is seated upon a tiger-skin, with his back leaning on an oriental cushion; by his side is his wife Parvati, evidently pleased with the loving converse of her lord. A little in the rear stands the holy cow, from whose mouth gushes forth the father of waters. Again (fig. 17) we see him in the form of Rudra. the king of the monkeys. In this capacity and form he showed himself a faithful and valuable auxiliary to Vishnu, during the latter’s Avatar as Rama. Pl. 2, fig. 13, represents him as the hermaphrodite, half man half woman, which is intended to indicate that he and Parvati are so closely united as to make but one person. The name given to him by his followers when he is found in this form is Parashiva or Parasata. Finally, fig. 14 represents him on the back of the giant Muyelagin, crushing him, a position which we find explained in the myth wherein the origin and nature of the Lingam, the symbol of the triad, and the most important attribute of Siva, is told. This Lingam is also the most sacred symbol under which he is worshipped. It is the symbol of the universe imbued with the powers of the deity, allegorically represented as a column consisting of three component parts: the hardest being Brahma (earth); the second and softer, Vishnu (water and air); and the third and most delicate, Siva (light and fire). These three combined are represented as the fertilizing principle of the earth, and the column therefore appears inserted in the opening of a conch or sea-shell, symbolizing the earth, which rests on a rock symbolizing the durability of its nature (pl. 1, fig. 7). Siva is represented as the guardian of this column, before which he daily prays and sacrifices flowers, and hence the Lingam has become his most sacred symbol. It is said to have arisen from a combat for the supremacy between the different elements or principles; and according to the worshippers of Vishnu it originated under the following circumstances.
Certain devotees, who had exhibited extraordinary sanctity, had been granted great powers and privileges on the condition of maintaining spotless purity in themselves and in their families. Siva determined to deprive them of their prerogatives; and with the assistance of Vishnu in the form of a lovely maiden, he succeeded in beguiling them. Smarting under the consequences of their transgression, the poor dupes sought only to revenge themselves upon the authors of their misfortunes. By their prayers and sacrilices they raised up the giant Muyelagin, and arming him with the sacrificial fire, sent him to combat Siva; but the god, seizing the fire with his right hand, struck down the giant with the other, and trampled upon his prostrate foe (pl. 2, fig. 14). Enraged at this failure, the devotees now combined all their incantations, and directed them with terrible effect against their enemy. Enveloped in a volume of unquenchable fire, Siva did not escape without serious injury from the all-searching element, and furious at the indignity, he cast down the glowing fragments of his mutilated body with the full intention of destroying the whole earth by the fire which they would call forth; but Vishnu caught them as they fell, and conveying them into the lap of Brahma, thus saved the world. The wrath of Siva was finally appeased by the promise that the mutilated portions of his immortal body should henceforth, as a symbol of the principle of life or of fertility, become an object of worship to all mankind. Pl. 1, fig. 7, represents this symbol, or the Lingam. The pedestal, the recipient of the fertilizing principle, is the symbol of Brahma; and the oval cup-like form which it supports, forming the channel of communication, is the emblem of Vishnu, the Yoni, sometimes also represented (fig. 6) as a triangle. The Lingam is not recognised by the Vishnuites as a sacred symbol, but all other Hindoos worship it with zeal. The principal wife of Siva is Parvati. She is described (fig. 15) as seated upon a bull with a crescent around her head, and with rays seeking to penetrate the shadow caused by her body, which has reference to the allegory by which the cause of the eclipses is explained. Her name was the Daughter of the Mountain, or mistress of the lofty regions. But different names are sometimes given to her when she is worshipped as the presiding deity over objects.
3. Hindoo Theogony and Theology. Thus far it was impossible to separate these branches from the Cosmogony of the Hindoos, for the gods which we have described were not only the creators to some extent, but also the law-givers of their creation. But now, having finished the history of the superior gods involved in the creation, we can examine under the proper head the inferior gods and the good and bad spirits of which the theogony treats. The chief among these is Surya, pl. 1, fig. 19, the god of the sun; one of the eight celestial gods or guardians of the world. He is described as standing in a carriage drawn by seven horses, who are guided Harun or Ariguna, the god of twilight, with rose-colored reins. The image of the sun crowns his head, and in each hand he holds a flower of the lotus which opens its petals to the first rays of the sun, and closes them again as soon as the last rays have left the horizon. Among the rest of the inferior gods we must notice Camadeva or Camos (pl. 1, fig. 20), the god of love. He is a son of Vishnu and Lakshmi, and is represented as a boy riding a parrot, and armed with a quiver, bow, and arrows. The old Hindoo idols, whose pictures are given in pl. 3, figs. 1–5, were found in the cave-temples, but their names have as yet not been ascertained; neither have we been able to learn the name or office of the god represented by fig. 7, an idol worshipped by the Indians of Astrachan.
The Giants were a wicked race of beings, and since the difficulty about the Amrita, of which they were deprived by the gods, the bitter enemies of the Triad and all its friends. Like Garuda (pl. 1, fig. 22) they are represented with the most grotesque bodies and heads.
House gods, worshipped as the particular patrons of individual families, are also common among the Hindoos. They are generally selected from the inanimate productions of nature; among these the Ganges, and other rivers considered sacred, held conspicuous positions. Fig. 21 is a specimen of the forms under which they were worshipped. It represents a personification of the Ganges, Jamuna, and Saraswadi, all embodied in one group. Some animals were also considered sacred; among these were the bull, the elephant, the monkey, the eagle, the swine, and the serpent. A trace of this can be detected in the Mythic Camel (pl. 2, fig. 19). In the vegetable kingdom, the lotus was honored as peculiarly favored by the gods. But the Hindoos did not confine themselves in their consecrations and deifications to the productions of our globe; the blue ether above them, with its host of brilliant worlds, was introduced into their religious system. A specimen of this is seen in fig. 18, which is a representation of the Hindoo solar system (Rasi-Chacra) with the zodiac. Suraya, with his phaeton, the only wheel of which is the sun itself, is seen driving through the centre. The back of the carriage leans against Mount Meru, while the remainder, with its seven green horses, is hovering in the air. The inner circle, with its figures, represents the seven planets, in which the sun and moon are included, revolving in their periodical courses. Each of them is named after a god, and has one day in the week assigned to him over which he rules.
The two figures on the left are only imaginary planets; the one with a crowned head resting upon a rug, and supported by a cushion, is intended to represent the ascending node or dragon’s head; and the other, the body without a head, seated upon an owl, and holding in one hand a sceptre, and in the other a flower, the descending node or dragon’s tail. The myth accounts for these strange figures, by telling us that when Vishnu struck off the head of the giant Bahu, whom he had caught taking by stealth the Amrita destined only for the gods, he did it with such force that the head flew into heaven, where it remained, and was placed among the stars. The outer circle of fig. 18 is an exact copy of our own zodiac.
The Hindoo worship is much less complicated than the doctrines about their gods. It is principally confided to the Brahmins (pl. 3, fig. 9), who constitute a caste by themselves, and order, arrange, and conduct every part of it. They alone can become priests; no member of another caste is permitted to read or expound the revelations contained in the Vedas, to prepare the sacrifice, or instruct in religious matters, and, in case of being overtaken by poverty, to demand alms. They are the sole judges in all religious cases, and their decision is considered infallible. They were wont to adorn the temples of the gods with many architectural ornaments. A specimen of these will be found in pl. 4, fig. 1, which is a connect representation of a pillar, with allegorical figures, found in an old Hindoo temple at Barolli.
Next in importance are the Ascetics. They are generally divided into tribes or fraternities more or less differing from one another in their habits, dress, &c. The most respected and venerated of this class are those distinguished by the name of Sanashis, or Saniassi (pl. 3, fig. 10), who are also considered by the people as saints. The majority are Brahmins, and are vowed to poverty, chastity, and abstinence. They lead a wandering life; going from place to place with a staff in one hand, and a cup out of which they drink, in the other, while their dress consists only of a strip of yellow linen wrapt around the body. They abstain carefully from all employment, and obtain the scanty supply of food which they allow themselves by asking it as an alms of their countrymen. Another fraternity of this class, the Vishnavins (fig. 11), collect their alms by going from house to house with a guitar-like instrument in their hands, upon which they play, and prefer their request in a song; when this is finished, they bow their heads, upon which they carry a small copper vessel to receive the gift which any one may choose to bestow.
The Penitents belong also to this order, but are distinguished from other ascetics by their fanaticism. Their gloomy doctrine teaches them to merit reward by a rigid abstinence from all the enjoyments of life, by severe mortification of the body, and a refined self-torment, which cause them to be held in great respect by the people, who look upon them as saints. One of this order is represented in pl. 3, fig. 12, with a bundle of peacocks’ feathers in his arms, his cheeks and tongue pierced with a sharp iron, which is firmly held in its place by another piece fastened under his chin. A whole group of these penitents is given in pl. 2, fig. 20, where one is seen standing in a painful position on one toe, his right foot and his arms elevated, in which position he has vowed to continue for a specified time. Another is seen stretched out on the ground, in consequence of a vow to measure the distance between two temples by the length of his body, which he does by throwing himself on the ground, and then rising repeats it until he has traversed the space the length of which he is bound to ascertain. The figure on the left of the tree represents one who has voluntarily undertaken to cany a heavy yoke upon his shoulders, and an iron lock in his hands; and the one in the left corner does penance by carrying heavy weights in his hands and around his neck; while he who is seen in the back-ground, between these two, has resolved to remain for a definite period in a fixed position, his leg chained to the ground, and his eyes fixed upon the tip of his nose, with his mind wholly absorbed in meditations. Many other and often fearful penances are voluntarily submitted to by these deluded followers of an idolatrous creed.
Like all other nations of antiquity, the Hindoos considered sacrificial offerings one of the most important parts of their worship. The value and the kind of these were in many instances prescribed by the priests, who selected the utensils, a representation of which will be found (pl. 2, figs. 21–24), for the ceremony, according to the nature of the offering.
Strong were the barriers thrown out by the founders of Brahmaism to guard against division or innovations; but notwithstanding all these precautions, there sprang up, as we have said, different sects, who disagreed about essential doctrines. The most important schism, however, was that which was known as Buddhism.
The Religion of Buddha, or Buddhism
This religious system does not profess to be a new religion, it only claims to be a reformation of Brahmaism, which having become corrupted it sought to exhibit again in its pristine purity. The history of its founder, Buddha, is still enveloped in much mystery. Some assert him to be one of the seven planets, the one who rules the fourth day of the week and who is called by the Hindoos Buddha-Vara; others consider him to be Brahma himself; while a third party look upon him as the ninth incarnation of Vishnu, and hence Krishna only under another name. Some of the learned among his followers say that he was the saint known also as Sacya, while the Hindoo transcendentalists contend that Buddha is not the name of an individual, but only a word used to signify a certain assemblage of virtues, or the character of a perfectly virtuous being.
Hence the various accounts given of his birth and life, and the different representations made of him. In his character as a sage and the first teacher of the sublime sciences he is sometimes found as Surya (fig. 17) with seven heads on one body seated in an oriental fashion and with his eyes turned in every direction; on his breast and in his open hand is the square, divided into four smaller squares, and at his feet the crescent moon. He is also represented in a similar position, with but one head and without the square on his breast or the moon at his feet as in fig. 16. A more magnificent representation of him is sometimes found in which he is surrounded, as in pl. 3, fig. 8, with figures of men and animals, all in the act of worshipping him. What we have said here will explain why he is worshipped by his followers under so many different names. But all agree in recognising him as the supreme ruler of the present age of the world.
Buddhism flourished for a long time in Hindostan proper until Dhurandara put to death Aditya, the last Buddhist king, and compelled his followers to seek refuge in other kingdoms. They then emigrated into the country of the Burmese, into Further India, China, Siam, Thibet, Mongolia, Tartary, and many other countries of Asia. Thither they carried their religion, and propagated it with such success that it has continued even up to the present time the prevailing religion of these countries. Much of this success is owing to the policy which they pursued at the very outset, not to set their religion up in opposition to that which they found in each of these respective countries, but to graft it upon the already existing form of worship. Thus among the nations of Northern Asia they identified Buddhism with the prevailing doctrines of Zoroaster, while their brothers in other countries hesitated not to incorporate the most opposite doctrines in their creed, provided they could thereby persuade the nation which granted them an asylum to adopt also their religion. We need not, therefore, wonder at the many diversified sects and doctrines to be found under the general name of Buddhism.
The most marked features by which it distinguishes itself from Brahmaism are: that it rejects a distinction of castes, while it acknowledges the right of all to serve God as it may seem best to them (hence, also, the right of every one, no matter what his birth or condition in life, to become a priest if he chooses), and the abolition of all bloody sacrifices, for it deems only those offerings acceptable to the deity that can be made without giving pain to any living creature. As an indication of the latter, we find the statues of Buddha distinguished by a flower which he holds in his hand, which is interpreted to be an allusion to that golden age of the Hindoos when the Vedas and the bloody sacrifices commanded by them were as yet unknown, and man was wont to bring as an acceptable offering to the gods, the fruits of the earth and the flowers of the field.
The doctrines of Buddha are too little known to attempt a full exposition of them; only an outline can be given with anything like accuracy. The Buddhists teach that in the beginning there was only an infinite vacuum, in which creation, destruction, and restoration (Loga) developed themselves. Gradually there appeared the seed of good and evil; the former found its reward in the highest condition of bliss, while the latter met with its punishment in a succession of innumerable births through which it was compelled to pass, which, when completed, were divided into six departments or degrees. The first of these is the kingdom of the pure spirits, Esruen or Tægri, over which Chormusda rules; the second, that of the bad or impure spirits, Assuri, under the government of Bimatchi Dahri; the third, that of men; then comes that of the animals, that of the monsters in the portals of the infernal regions, and finally that of the inhabitants of hell itself. These kingdoms were also subdivided into minor sections, through which all created beings have to pass during their state of impurity until the time of their final reunion in one great being. The final and highest state of existence is that in the Buddha or Burchan state. To hasten the coming of this period Buddha descended upon the earth, and by his efforts he will raise all men and spirits up to that degree. Though millions of years will have to pass until this great work will be accomplished, it will finally terminate in the absorption of all, Buddha included, in one grand unity, the end of all things.
1. The Spirit World of the Buddhists. The celestial beings who are called Nat, are divided into three classes, and these are above the twenty-six heavens, which run parallel with the earth and are of the same size. The lowest of these is 130,000 miles above the earth, in the centre of Mount Mienmo. It is adorned by the sun, moon, and stars, and inhabited by the Nat Zatamaharit who dwell in four kingdoms, each of which has its separate capital and king. The highest part of the mountain constitutes the heaven of the Tavateinza, who are of immense size and enjoy twice as much felicity as the Nat Zatamaharit. Their immediate ruler is Buddha under the name of Sacreiya. Then come the other heavens, one still above the other, and each conferring in its turn double the happiness and duration of life enjoyed in the heaven next below. Good men ascend first to the lowest heaven, with the prospect of being advanced by degrees to the very highest.
But even these heavens were not always free from sin, for a portion of the Tavateinza, seduced by the wine as it pearled in the cup, partook of it and became Assuri, in consequence of which they were banished from their heaven. They wandered for a time in the empty space until Buddha created for them a new world beneath Mount Mienmo, where they were permitted to live and enjoy a species of inferior felicity. They were also made the judges over the souls of those recently deceased, and are there-fore located near the portals of Niria, the hell of Buddhism.
2. Moral Code of Buddhism. The moral code is mainly embraced in five great commandments: 1. Thou shalt not kill. 2. Thou shalt not steal. 3. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. 4. Thou shalt not lie. 5. Thou shalt not drink wine or any other intoxicating liquor.
Besides these, the great commandments as they are called, Buddhists are enjoined not to use harsh or angry words and idle conversation, not to covet their neighbor’s goods, not to wish a neighbor’s misfortune or death, and carefully to abstain from every act or thought which may lead them to worship false gods.
3. Sects among the Buddhists. We have already stated the causes which led the followers of Buddha to divide into numerous sects. These sects in the progress of time began to difier widely from one another, not only in their names but also in doctrines and rites. Our space permits us to allude only to a few.
One of these is the sect called Tensjû. It has its chief temple at Foocoosaizi, of which we have copied an interior view (pl. 4, fig. 17). Pl. 6, fig. 4, represents the chief priest; fig. 5, one of the subordinate priests. The former is particularly distinguished from other priests by the rich necklace, a drawing of which is given in figs. 16ab, 17ab. Another sect, the Hokkesjû, worshipped in the temple of Nitsirin at Honrensi (pl. 4, fig. 16). Pl. 6, fig. 8, is the figure of a priest belonging to this sect. Fig. 7 is a priest of the Iccosjû, and pl. 5, figs. 39, 40, priests of the sects Zen and Singon. All the temples were supplied with various implements that were used in the service and when offerings were made: some of these we have represented on pl. 1, figs. 25–28, and pl. 4, figs. 18–32.
A beautiful and rich altar-piece is given on pl. 1, fig. 24. Many of the figures and attitudes in it recall to mind the pictures of the Virgin Mary with the infant Saviour in her arms, and the three Magi.
Before we leave this subject, we must not forget to mention more particularly the votive tablets, pl. 4, figs. 33–36. They had their origin in a custom which was also not unknown to the Greeks and Romans, that of making vows on extraordinary occasions: for instance, in case of sickness, for the recovery of the patient; or when travelling, for a safe return home; and in order to remember such vow, they wrote it upon a tablet, which they wore suspended around the neck until it was paid. Hence the name, from the Latin, tabulæ votivæ.
After having thus touched upon all the most important points of Buddhism in general, we will now examine it in one of its special forms, Lamaism.
Lamaism is one of the many religions under which Buddhism disguised itself, when it entered as a refuged the territories of those who gave it shelter. It derives its name from Lama, the title which the Thibetans, Mongolians, Tartars, and their kindred nations gave to their priests. They worshipped Buddha (considered by them the ninth incarnation of Vishnu) under the name of Shakia-muni, the supreme being, ruler of all things. The inferior gods held in great veneration by them were Dshaed-shik, who introduced Buddhism into Thibet, and Cenresi and Cadroma, two apes who were held to have been the first parents of the Thibetans. Pl. 3, fig. 19, exhibits another of their idols called Amida. It is generally found with a head like that of a dog, seated on a throne, its feet planted on the back of a lion, who stands upon a corpse. Among the goddesses they assign the highest rank to Purha (fig. 14). She is always represented as a woman; one of the family of gods (Pusa), to which was assigned the guardianship of the minor affairs of life, and the members of which were interrogated as oracles in all ordinary transactions. It is very probable that this goddess was only a personification of nature, and hence we find her represented in different ways. Sometimes partially, at other times wholly dressed, she is seated upon the Musnud, a seat in the shape of an altar, and formed of several cushions laid one upon another, generally from five to seven feet high; her legs are crossed, and her neck and breast ornamented with a rosary. The cuticle of the palms of her hands and the soles of her feet is slit open in a circular or star-like form, and that of the nose in straight lines.
They had also a number of other gods of less importance, a few of which are represented by figs. 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 20, whose names and characters have not yet been learned.
The spiritual world of Lamaism embraced also a great many good and bad spirits: among the latter we mention the Assuri, who were divided into four sections, each governed by its ovrn prince.
1. Cosmogony. Lamaism had also its own peculiar cosmogony. It, teaches its followers that incessant rains formed the ocean, which became agitated by a violent storm; and after this subsided a golden bottom was found to support the waters, from which four different species of atoms evolved, which when united constituted the world. After thus being called into existence, it was divided into four equal parts and eight islands. The central part of the world is occupied by the Righiel or world-mountain, supporting the Summar Oola or world’s pillar. The country north of this mountain, Enada Mina, is inhabited by a race of beings without a soul, but enjoying a very long life. The solid part of the earth was then encircled by the briny ocean, and this again by an iron wall. This world being thus prepared to receive its inhabitants, the Lahen spirits sent by the Supreme Being descended from on high and clothed themselves with earthly bodies, which shone with a lustre which enabled them to dispense with any other light. Their food was the fruit of the heaven-born tree Zampu planted for them, and from whose sides gushed the four sacred streams. Gangi, Sinthu, Pankin, and Sita. They lived thus in happiness and innocence for 80,000 years, until they yielded to the tempter and partook of the forbidden fruits of Shima, the earth, when they lost their inherent luminous radiance, and were hence buried in profound darkness. To disperse this darkness the great being caused the sun, moon, and stars (planets who derived light from their inhabitants, Lahen, in their primitive state of innocence) to appear in the sky. The fallen Lahen wandered for a while upon the earth, now cursed on their account, and then died without heirs. Those who had repented were transferred to other worlds, while the others had to expiate their sins by being sent into the bodies of animals and reptiles. After the first race had wholly passed away, the supreme being sent other Lahen, to some of which he gave the bodies of men and to others those of beasts. But only two of these new inhabitants of the earth had the power of assuming different sexes, and that only on condition that while so doing they must divest themselves of the form of man, which was the image of the celestial beings. Cenresi and Cadroma assumed therefore the shape of apes, as that most resembling the original form of man, and in that shape became the progenitors of the human race. Man now began very soon to degenerate and display the lowest vices of a fallen being, which contributed greatly to reduce gradually the original period of his longevity (30,000 years) to that of a hundred years, and this will continue to decrease on account of his hardness of heart, until ten years will be the average lifetime and an ell the average size of man.
2. The Condition of the Soul after Death. Lamaism teaches that as soon as death has separated the soul from the body, the former has to appear before Erlik-Khan, the judge of the dead and the ruler of the lower world, by whom it is judged according to the deeds done in the body. The good are then sent to the paradise (Tanghri) of the happy, where silver trees bearing golden and diamond fruits gratify the eye, and where unceasing pleasures await those who have lived a good life. There is also a second though inferior paradise, for those who have not attained to so great a perfection as to merit admission into the first. But only few are so perfect as to be immediately assigned a place in either of these abodes; most men have to undergo first a purification, shorter or longer according to the state of the soul, by means of a transmigration into the bodies of different animals, which always terminates in the body of a dog, the emblem of fidelity and genius, before the soul is permitted to inhabit for a second time, preparatory to its final rest, the body of a human being.
The wicked are condemned either to a long course of transmigration from one body to another, and if very bad through those of the meanest reptiles, or if hopelessly corrupt are sent to the lower regions (Tamu), Tamu is divided into three regions: the first, Biridien Orron, is a kind of purgatory, whence the soul after a long course of suffering may again be liberated. This purgatory is situated 500 miles beneath the surface of the earth, and has a large city, surrounded with white walls, for its capital, in which Erlik-Khan has his palace in a castle guarded by sixteen iron walls. The second division in Tamu is Giehva (hell), subdivided into sixteen regions, eight of which are always filled with a burning heat, and in the other eight reigns more than polar cold. In the former the spirits are tormented by being thrown into vast caldrons filled with liquid iron, and then stirred up in their frightful bath by their jailors, the imps of the place, while others are hacked or cut to pieces with red-hot saws and scythes. In the other division a fearful cold penetrates every sensitive part, without depriving it of sensation. Murderers were thrown into the boiling ocean of ever sweltering gore. The soul that had once entered these regions could never more return.
3. The Priesthood. Priests have always exercised a great influence, and Thibet may justly be called the kingdom of priests. Those of the higher rank are called Lamas, and those of the lower Gylongs. The former are always considered an incarnation of the gods, and are therefore always looked up to with the most profound reverence. Pl. 3, fig. 21, represents a Mongolian Lama, and fig. 22 a Lama among the Tartars. The chiefs of the whole priesthood, and at the same time the rulers of the country, are two Great-Lamas. One of these, the Dalai Lama, resides at Lassa and governs the northeastern portion of Thibet; the other, Bogdo-Lama, has his residence in Tishi Lumbo, and exercises dominion over the southern part of Thibet. Besides these two there is also a Great-Lamaess (female Lama), who resides on and rules over the island Palte or Shandro, governing the convents of this island. But though absolute on the island, she is not independent of the Great Dalai Lama, before whom she appears at stated periods seated upon a movable throne, her face and body enveloped in costly veils, and her carriage surrounded by a numerous retinue.
The Dalai Lama is considered not only the representative of the Supreme Being, but also the Deity itself incarnate and dwelling upon earth. Hence divine honors are paid to him, which he receives seated with crossed legs upon a magnificent cushion of costly material and embroidered with gold and precious stones. He is supposed to be omniscient and omnipresent, and on that account the questions which he addresses to his worshippers are considered only tests to ascertain their sincerity and truth. His death is only the destruction of the external form, subject to the unchangeable laws of matter, which the undying principle has left to inhabit another body. His corpse is then burned with imposing ceremonies (pl. 3, fig. 23). It becomes now the duty of the Lamas to discover the person upon whom the spirit of the Dalai Lama has descended, and in this search they have no other guide than the name of the province in which he resides, which has been designated by their late chief, and certain signs and tokens known only to themselves. We have already said that Thibet may justly be called the country of priests; hence comes it that an unusual proportion of the inhabitants belongs to that order, which is divided into nine degrees.
The two Great-Lamas are always surrounded by a long retinue of priests belonging to the first order, and it is said that in and around Lassa there are 30,000 persons belonging to the different degrees of priesthood. The country is moreover filled with numerous monasteries and nunneries, the greater number of which are in the hands of the Lamas. There is not a family in the land which has not at least one of its members enrolled as a priest, monk, or nun.
The worship of the followers of Lamaism consists chiefly in the consecrating of persons to the service of their religion, in prayer, singing, and performing upon musical instruments; though even the giving of presents to the Lamas is considered an act of divine service. They have also several religious festivals and processions; as one of the former, we mention the celebration of the new year, which takes place in the beginning of February.
The Mongols who profess Lamaism differ from their neighbors, the Thibetans, only in the more rational and less idolatrous respect which they pay to the chief of their priesthood, whom they call Cutuchtu.
On pl. 2, figs. 25–30, will be found some ancient idols worshipped by the Mongols; but little is known of their history and to what system of religion they belonged.
We have classed the Chinese religious systems under Hindoo Mythology because their most common religion (Foism) is properly only a variation of Buddhism.
The most perfect religious toleration is practised in China, from which only Christians and Mahomedans are excluded; hence we find three forms of religion among the inhabitants: that of Lao-Tse, or Laokiun, or Laokung; that of Confucius, or Chung-Tse; and that of Buddha, or Fo.
The primitive religion of the Chinese was in a great degree a worship of nature. Tian, who represented the heavens, was their chief deity. Next to him in rank were the spirits who ruled the earth, the stars, the mountains, cities, and rivers; and next to these the souls of their ancestors, particularly those of the Emperors, all of which received divine honors.
The first reformer of this simple religion, particularly of the moral precepts connected with it, was Lao Tse, or, as he is sometimes called, Laokung. He was the son of a poor peasant, but was already at an early period of his life fond of meditating and speculating upon religious subjects. During a journey to Thibet he became acquainted with Lamaism, which was then already the religion of that country, and pleased with many of its features he resolved to introduce them among his own countrymen.
As the basis of his moral system he laid down the rule that man must subdue and control his passions if he wishes to obtain spiritual and physical happiness. But he asserted also at the same time that sickness and death, the two greatest enemies to undisturbed pleasure, could and ought to be overcome by the draught of immortality (a preparation of opium and other materials calculated to excite the nerves) lately discovered.
The temples of his followers are filled with large uncouth idols made of wood, stone, or burned clay, and painted or varnished with glaring colors. A favorite idol with them is the so-called god of immortality (pl. 4, fig. 2). The manner in which they arrange their idols is peculiar to themselves. It is done by placing on one side all those that personify virtuous and proper sentiments with their corresponding antagonists opposite to them; thus the personification of love is contrasted with that of hatred.
This whole system of moral philosophy was Epicurean in the lowest sense: Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. The priests of Lao-Tse, in accordance with his precepts to enjoy the present without a thought for the future, lived in celibacy and associated together in convents, where they practised magical rites, incantations, and the invocation of spirits.
The professors of this creed are chiefly the rich, and those that belong to the higher classes of society. But Lao-Tse, the founder of this sect, met already during his lifetime with a rival.
Chung-Tse, or, as he is commonly called, Confucius, came also forward as a reformer, with the avowed purpose to re-establish again the religion of the fathers, and to lead man back to a primitive life of purity and virtue. His object was not so much to teach a new religion as the inculcation of moral principles, and to induce his countrymen to live a moral life.
The Mythology which he taught was, that from the Great First Source, Taiki, emanated Yang and Yen. The former, which was the perfect principle, was of the masculine gender, and included the higher heavens, the sun, day, and warmth; and the latter, the imperfect principle, and of the feminine gender, comprised the moon, the earth, night, and cold. From a union of these two sprang the lower heaven (the sky) the source of moisture, fire, water, the winds, thunder; the dry land, and mountains.
Man was then formed of an ethereal principle, which was joined to an earthly heavy body. The two are again separated by death, which consigns the latter to its mother earth, and permits the former to fly back to its native element. But the spirits of the good are not cut off by this return to a spiritual abode from visiting the places where they dwelt while upon earth, and particularly the spots where divine honors are paid to them by their descendants, upon whom they are permitted to bestow blessings and favors.
Confucius attached no idea of personality to the Deity, and prohibited his followers from making images or representations of him; and seems to have worshipped him rather as a power or principle pervading all nature, and acting by means of his creatures the sun, the moon, and the elements. To these he ordered adoration to be paid, joining them all in one under the name Tien (heaven).
As a teacher of morals he was in advance of his age and country. The main features of his moral code were: love all mankind, execute justice, be upright in all dealings with men, and observe the laws and customs sanctioned by the authorities.
His disciples, who were chiefly the nobles and the educated, revered him therefore as a saint.
Buddhism, which we have shown to be the foundation of Lamaism, was also the basis upon which the religion Fo is built. But here the original assumed a far more varied and amplified form than with the followers of Lama.
This system of religion has the greatest number of professors in China. Many of the doctrines of Confucius and the ancient Chinese have been incorporated in it, while the features which it has borrowed from Lamaism served to degrade it into a common idolatry.
But it is the religion of the emperor and of the people. Many if not most of the Chinese idols are little more than adaptations of Indian deities, or the persons of their remote ancestors invested with the characteristics of these gods. Pl. 4, fig. 3, represents one of these, Tshing-Hoang, receiving the offerings of his worshippers, and fig. 4 another, Totur, or as he is sometimes called Ninifo.
The priests, who are very numerous, are called Bonzes, and are divided into different classes. They inhabit convents called Poo-ta-la. This word is derived from Buddhalaga (the dwelling of Buddha), the Chinese not being able to pronounce the original word. In fig. 6 we give a representation of some priests in the dresses belonging to their respective ranks. The chief priest is here called Bandshiin Erdeni, and like the Dalai Lama is absolute head of the priesthood throughout the empire. The priests of the higher classes are educated, and in duty bound constantly to study their religious books; but the lower classes are very ignorant, and live in convents, where they pass their time in modest retirement, fasting, and penitential exercises. Foism has also its female Bonzes, who live together in convents like nuns.
The temples dedicated to the worship of the idols are either mere chapels, being areas inclosed by colonnades, at one end of which is an apartment called Ting for the idol; or they are large temples, consisting of several such inclosures, the whole surrounded by one colonnade, ornamented at the corners with pavilions two stories high, and surmounted by high towers. These temples always contain several idols, each of which has its own apartment in it.
The worship of the Foists consists mainly of prayer, music, and offerings. Pl. 5, fig. 1, represents the interior of the temple of Fo in Canton during worship; pl. 4, fig. 5, the worship in the temple at Honan near Canton; and pl. 11, fig. 20, represents the interior of a temple in which the Toku-Nafir is worshipped with strange ceremonies. Religious festivals and processions are very numerous; especially in July and August, the dry season in China, when these solemn trains may be seen in every province, invoking the gods for a plentiful rain (pl. 6, fig. 9).
The religion of this idolatrous people abounds like that of other nations of antiquity in superstitious rites; one of these, the inquiry into the future, is illustrated on pl. 6, fig. 10. The figures to the left represent a Chinese with his friend who, about to enter upon some important undertaking, as marriage, the building of a house, or a distant journey, seeks first one of those little temples which abound in every city and village, and are even to be found in the forest and on the mountain top. They are always open in order to enable any one to repair there and seek counsel. The inquirer having entered approaches the altar before the hideous idol, and takes the cup with the little wooden sticks; this he shakes until one of these staves falls out, and is carefully examined on both ends upon which different words are inscribed. The priest seated to the right now endeavors to find in the book of divination (which is always kept in the temple) the corresponding sign and its interpretation. This ceremony the inquirer repeats three times, and if he meets with one favorable stick during the process, he considers it a propitious omen. His friend behind him looks on with anxiety vividly depicted on his countenance. If the enterprise turns out favorably, the grateful worshipper returns to the temple and acknowledges his indebtedness by burning a few sheets of colored paper upon the furnace which is seen to the right of the idol, and then deposits a few coppers for the support of the temple.
The Japanese, whose religious systems are classed here for the same reason as those of the Chinese, namely, on account of the prominence of Buddhism, enjoy like the Chinese great religious toleration. Hence the variety of different creeds professed not only by different families, but also frequently by the different members of the same household.
The oldest religion of the island, and that which would be still the prevailing and state religion if political causes had not obliged many of the inhabitants openly to acknowledge one of the sects of Buddha, is the Xinto or Sinto religion.
This system teaches the existence of a supreme invisible being inhabiting the infinite regions of eternity, and that of a race of great but inferior gods who dwell in the visible heavens.
But the great king is thought of too lofty a nature to be represented by images or worshipped in temples, while the other gods are considered as wholly indifferent to all the affairs of man. No altars are therefore erected to either, nor religious worship paid to them. Their existence is only recognised as objects by which to swear. The gods that are worshipped by the people are a kind of inferior deities, called Cama, who are represented as the rulers of the world and the destiny of mankind, and whose altars are zealously thronged with supplicants.
The chief of the priesthood, Dairi, is also deemed to become a god after his death; hence the number of their gods increases from time to time. Pious men are after their decease adored as saints.
The creation of the world had, according to the Sinto religion, its origin in a wandering chaos, which gave birth to the spirit of the universe, Ki (power). This Ki then created out of the chaos seven races of sensuous spirits. The first of these was Tensjo-Dai-Sin, the creator of Japan. From him emanated the succeeding spirits, who decreased in spirituality in the order in which they came forth. The people over which they ruled were of a semi-divine nature, but gradually degenerated, until they sank to the level of the present race of men.
According to the views of the Japanese, the soul immediately after its separation from the body is cited before a tribunal where it is judged for its motives as well as for its deeds. The just are then recompensed by an immediate admission into the thirty-third or highest heaven, but the wicked are excluded, and condemned to wander about in space as a punishment for their sinful life upon earth.
The duties to be performed by the pious are: to cultivate purity of thought and the practice of strict morality, symbolized by great purity of the body, to celebrate the days set aside for festivals and religious services in the temple, pilgrimage to the sacred place Isje, and mortifications of the body.
The temples, Mias, generally consist of two apartments, a large one for the accommodation of the priests and their attendants, and a small chapel for the idol. Their erection is required to be accomplished without injury to any of the laborers during the progress of the work. On pl. 5, fig. 11, we give a representation of one of these chapels, that of the Cami of Givon, in which the little building on the top, 1, is the mia of the two Cami; the building, 2, the mia of the two Inari (figs. 12 and 13); the building, 3, is the house for the priests; and the square to the right, 4, the place for music and dancing. Figs. 14, 15, 16, and 17, are the four Camini, who are always represented as watch-dogs. Fig. 4 shows the interior of the temple of Miroc of Tuku-Kaisi, one of the four great gods of the Sinto religion. He is worshipped (particularly by merchants) as the god of riches, health, and happiness, and always represented very corpulent.
The title of the high priest (pl. 6, fig. 6) is Ninxit, who is second only to the great Dairi. All the priests of the second class (Tondas) are chosen by him.
The Buddhist form of worship, which comes next to that of the Sinto, and is often called by the natives Buddsdo, has the greatest number of professors. The leading doctrines of this system are: that Amida, or O-mit-to, the creator and supreme ruler of the whole universe, is without beginning or end. He at one period came down upon earth, where he lived for a thousand years and became the redeemer of our fallen race. The good who keep his commandments, will through him obtain forgiveness of sin and life everlasting; but the wicked will be cast into hell for a time proportioned to their sins. After a suitable expiation has been made, Amida’s mediation will procure for them permission to return to the earth, to inhabit first the body of some animal and then that of a human being, and thus to have an opportunity to secure for themselves, by a more virtuous life, a happier fate in the land of spirits.
The sect of Syuntoo, which professes the morality of Confucius, is quite distinct from the above creeds, and numbers among its adherents chiefly the great and the learned. Here, as in China, its only object is the inculcation of a virtuous life in this world, without any reference to a future; for it teaches that the soul of the departed is absorbed into the all-pervading power, as a drop of water into the ocean. It teaches also that the original ruler of the universe, but who was not its creator, is a spiritual and perfect being, and the world which he governs eternal. Men and animals are the productions of In-Jo and the five elements. The professors of this creed have no temples or ceremonial worship; they only celebrate the days set apart for the commemoration of their departed friends and relations.
When we take into consideration the different religious creeds of Japan, with their diversity of doctrines and traditions, and the manner in which new gods are added to their list, it will not appear strange to find that a host of idols are worshipped there. There are not less than 3,132 Cami enumerated; 492 of these were created spirits, and 2,640 are canonized mortals. Besides those mentioned already before, we will only add here the following: Syu-took-dai-si (pl. 5, fig. 2), and Koobo-dai-si (fig. 3); the idols of Mumero-maro and Matsvo-maro (fig. 5); Cami Tenzin (fig. 6); Tsyoo-bon-ge-syoo (fig. 7); Tsyoo-bon-tsyoo-syoo (fig. 8); and Kong-goo-kaino-dai-nitsi (fig. 9). The idols chiefly selected as objects of worship in the temples are: Man-da-rano-mida (pl. 4, fig. 7); Hookai-syooye-yuge-tsintsua (fig. 8); Kokuuzoo-basats (fig. 9); Sitsi-tsi-montsyoo (fig. 10); Ye-kwan-soo-tsyoo (fig. 11); Tsen-mui (fig. 12); Hoo-syoo-ni-yorai (fig. 13); figs. 14 and 15 are only house-gods, idols worshipped in domestic circles by particular families. A few other idols will be found on pl. 6, viz. fig. 1, Tsigo-montsyoo: fig. 2, Itsi-tsi-kin-lin; and fig. 3, another whose name has not been ascertained.
To avoid the confusion that must necessarily attend the worship of so great and diversified a number of idols, and to give to each his share of worship, they have been divided into sections, and one or several assigned to each province and district in the empire.
The great diversity with which these different idols are worshipped in their respective temples, requires also a great number of vessels and instruments, each appropriated to its own particular use. Among these are censers (pl. 5, figs. 18, 19, and 20ab); vases for flowers (figs. 21, 22, and 23); ornamented candlesticks, used only at ceremonies in the temples (figs. 24–27); various utensils employed during the service (figs. 28–34); and musical instruments (figs. 35 and 36). Pl. 6, figs. 12 and 13, are some other vases, and figs. 14 and 15 other utensils belonging to the service of the idols. As in China, so also in Japan, processions constitute an important feature in the celebration of religious festivals (pl. 6, fig. 11).
We have already mentioned a few of the religious societies when we were treating of idolatry in China; we will therefore only add, since the same features are also found in this country, that Japan is also not without its monks and nuns, a few of which we have represented on pl. 5. Fig. 37 it a Jamabusi, or mountain monk of Japan; fig. 38, another, with the idol-box upon his shoulders, with which he wanders from place to place: fig. 41 a blind monk, and fig. 42 a nun and a lay sister.
Sivaism seems to have constituted the primitive feature in the creed of the aborigines of the island of Java; only at a later period was Buddhism intermixed with it, but the whole was subjected to many reforms, and many centuries elapsed before the latter system became the prevailing religion. At the present time, most of the inhabitants are Mahomedans, though Christianity is not wholly unknown in the island. But though the Javanese profess now a belief in one God, they are by no means free from superstitious practices, which bear evidently the marks of being remnants of the idolatry of their forefathers. A few of the idols of the olden times are still found in several places of the island, pictures of which will be found on pl. 6. Fig. 18 represents Ganesa, a son of Siva, with the head of an elephant, whom the Indians worshipped as the god of marriage. Fig. 19 is probably intended for the Trimurti, with Siva as its chief, and (fig. 20ab) Siva himself, in his character as the destroyer, having around his neck the string of skulls. Figs. 21, 22, and 23 are evidently not idols of Indian origin, and must have come from some foreign quarter; their import has not yet been ascertained.
The Religion of the Ancient Persians (Parseeism)
This religious system differs essentially from those already described, and has even a faint resemblance to the Mosaic and Christian religions.
The primitive religion of the ancient Persians was simply a worship of the elements of nature, fire, water, earth, and air, the winds and the starry heavens, but particular reverence was paid to the sun and the moon. The rivers were also considered sacred. They had no temples, but sacrificed upon the mountains, by offering to the gods the lives of animals without burning their bodies. It is probable that, already at an early period, the principles of a religious system which came out of Media were incorporated into this service of nature, and became soon after the prevailing religion. Such was, in all probability, the origin of the Magian, or Medo-Persian religion.
The first framer of a new law was Hom, who is also generally considered to have been the founder of the sect known as Magi, and who continued on that account to be held in high esteem. At a later period Zerdusht, or Zoroaster, reformed and renovated the religion of the Persians, and wrote fur them the book which contained the law, and which is still in existence. The life, and even the epoch of the birth of this famous legislator and reformer, are involved in the utmost obscurity.
He inculcated the doctrine of an eternal self-existing Supreme Being, Zeruane Akherene, who created at first, by means of the living word (Honover) Ormuzd, the source of all good. In this being, equal in power and greatness to the Supreme Creator, are united the three original powers, the source of light, fire, and water; and his kingdom endures for ever and ever. Opposed to him is Ahriman, the prince of darkness, a morose and evil being, who, not created, but by divine permission having been suffered to come into existence, is allowed to continue, in order that the good may be glorified in its struggle against the evil.
In accordance with the will of the Supreme Being, Ormuzd created, by the word Honover, out of the source of light and water, the whole universe, and completed his work in six periods.
At first, he created his own abode, the dwelling of light, the heaven Sakhter, and the pure spirits. The highest among these were the seven Amshaspands, of whom Ormuzd himself was the ruler and chief. Bahman became lord of the empire of light, king of the universe, and dispenser of all happiness. Ardibehesht was constituted the genius of fire; Shariver, lord of splendor and of metals; Stapandomad, the source of all fruitfulness; Khordad, the genius of water and of time; and Amerdad, protector of the vegetable world, and the prime cause of growth in all living things.
The second class, Izeds, consisted of twenty-eight good spirits, of both sexes, who presided over and ruled the elements and all pure things. Their chief was Mithras, the sun, the vivifying and fructifying power. Next to him came Tashter, Serosh, and Behram, who were very much worshipped.
The third class were the Feruers. They are actually only the ideas of the Supreme Being embodied, and constitute, as a whole, the fundamental idea of the perfect world, of which the visible creation is an imperfect imitation.
Every being, even Ormuzd, the Amshaspands, and Izeds not excepted, has its Feruer, its type, which is the purest emanation from the deity; and every new creation or new creature is but the manifestation of a new Peruer. The abode of the Peruer is in the pure world of light where Ormuzd lives; here they sparkle even in the splendor of that light, by a more brilliant one of their own, and fly to the protection of the good whenever invoked by them. A representation of one of these Feruers will be seen on pl. 7, in the upper part of fig. 4, where he appears as if descended to protect the chief persons of the group, to whom he bears a strong resemblance. He seems to emerge out of a circle formed by the bodies of two serpents folded around his body; in his left hand he holds a ring, while the right is lifted up and open, and a huge pair of wings are spread out as if to support him in his flight. A similar representation of a Feruer is seen in fig. 5.
When Ahriman, who was originally a good spirit, had fallen and rebelled, the Supreme Being set aside 12,000 years as the time during which the contest between darkness and light was to last, after which the empire of the former was to be destroyed.
During the first quarter of this period Ormuzd was to retain the supreme rule over the universe, during the second the contest was to begin, during the third the contending parties were to have equal power over the world, and during the fourth Ahriman was to have apparently the victory over his adversary, which would inevitably lead to the destruction of the whole visible world with the empire of evil, by a general conflagration, in order that the pure and the good might reign undisturbed and supreme.
As soon as Ahriman saw the world of good spirits which Ormuzd had created, he sought to fortify himself by creating a rival world composed of evil ones, Devs. The highest among these, over which he presided in person, were the Arch-devs, intended to oppose the Amshaspands. The Devs were the personifications of all vices, impurities, and noxious things.
While Ahriman was still confined with his creatures to the realms of darkness, Ormuzd created the sky, the sun, the moon, and the stars. He then made the fire, the wind, and the clouds, separated the solid part of the earth from the waters, bade the mountains to raise up their heads, and planted among them Albordj, the father of mountains, from which the sun and moon start each on its respective tour. The earth he after that divided into seven Kashvars, and called forth the vegetable world; first of all Hom, the type of all trees. Having thus prepared it to support animal life he created Abudad the great bull, from whose blood all the living things of earth have sprung.
As soon as Ahriman was released from his captivity, he attempted with his hosts to storm heaven, but was repulsed by Ormuzd, who continued his work of creating the terrestrial world. Repulsed from heaven Ahriman visited the newly made earth and killed Abudad; but the body of the bull became the germ of all kinds of animals and of the first man Kajamorz; him also the Devs slew, but Ormuzd then made a plant Reivas (man and woman combined) to grow out of the body. It gained its maturity in fifteen years, and bore as its fruits fifteen pair of human beings, the first of which were Meshia and Meshiana, the parents of the present race. After each period in the creation of the world and all that is therein Ormuzd rested and celebrated the festival Gahanbar.
Ahriman, disappointed by his previous failures, sought now to destroy the new creation. He blackened the fire with smoke, created different kinds of noxious animals and reptiles, and finally succeeded in seducing man from his allegiance to virtue. In the course of the fourth period he had gained so great an influence upon earth as to lead men wholly to forsake the worship of Ormuzd, and to join the Devs in all their practices. Ormuzd, who pitied the fallen race, now sent them his law, first by his servant Hom, and afterwards by the great reformer Zerdusht or Zoroaster. But the people paid no regard to it, and hence Ahriman remained victorious for the last 3,000 years. Eeligion and virtue disappeared gradually from the face of the earth, and misery and destruction prevailed everywhere.
Thus will Ahriman continue to rule with an iron rod until the expiration of time, when Sosiosh, the promised redeemer, will come and annihilate the power of the Devs, awaken the dead, and sit in final judgment upon spirits and men. After that the comet Gurzsher will be thrown down, and a general conflagration take place, which will consume the whole world. The remains of the earth will then sink down into Duzakh, and become for three periods a place of punishment for the wicked. After these three periods Ormuzd will have compassion upon them and pardon their sins, and admit those into heaven who seek for it by penitence and prayer. The just will pass through the fiery ordeal without injury, and at once ascend into the heaven Gorodmone.
Even Ahriman and the Devs will after a more protracted punishment be pardoned and purified, and after a proper submission to Ormuzd be admitted into the regions of bliss. Then a new heaven and a new earth will be created free from the impurities of the old, and a fit habitation for the virtuous and good.
The Zendavesta, the sacred book of the Persians, contains what is taught concerning God and his work, as well as the moral law and that which pertains to their civil institutions. Their worship consists in reading this book, in adoring the sacred fire as a symbol of Ormuzd, in their sprinkling themselves with consecrated water, in praying to Ormuzd and the good spirits, and in partaking of the sacramental bread and cup.
Temples properly so called were not erected by the ancient Persians, neither were they in the habit of making likenesses of their gods; and images which did exist were looked upon with reverence, but never received any divine honors; they treated them in the same way as an enlightened Catholic may be supposed to treat the pictures and images of saints. Pl. 7, fig. 14, represents two ancient colossal idols of Afghanistan, but evidently belonging to a period of which we have neither record nor tradition.
We have already said above that Mithras, the Ized of the sun, was particularly an object of general adoration. Fig. 9 is generally considered a representation of a sacrifice by Mithras. A bull is evidently about to be slain in honor of the god; the animal having been thrown, struggles to regain his feet, which a youth, in a garment agitated by the wind, prevents by kneeling down upon him, holding with one hand the lower jaw of the beast, and with the other burying the sacrificial knife in his neck. A dog jumps up and licks the flowing blood, while a serpent and a scorpion appear by his side. Mithras the mediator is said to have brought this sacrifice as an atonement for the Ahrimanian original sin introduced into the world. Some consider this group as an emblem of nature on the approach of summer, and think the bull represents the earth, and the blade the first rays of spring. Others again assert that this representation is by no means of Persian origin, because, say they, bloody sacrifices were never offered by them. But this is not true, for before Zoroaster’s reformation, and even a short time after his appearance, such sacrifices were brought, as will be seen in figs. 1 and 2, which are copies of pictures representing two sacrificial processions, in which horses, oxen, lambs, and dromedaries are led to the altar.
A feature peculiar to Parseeism was the adoration of the sun (fig. 6), and that of fire (fig. 5), as the symbol of the animating principle which was in reality nothing but Ormuzd himself clothed in his divine power. Fig. 13 represents the celebration of the Darun, a ceremony performed at least once a month in commemoration of Hom, the giver of the law. The priest, after having said the prescribed number of prayers, now stands before the altar ready to partake before the devoutly kneeling assembly of the consecrated bread, a kind of unleavened cake, and of the juice of the Hom, a beverage somewhat similar to the Amrita of the Indians.
The priests of Parseeism belonged to the Magi, who formed a caste by themselves, the members of which never intermarried with other than the children of Magi. They were divided into different classes, to each of which was assigned its own occupation. Pl. 7, fig. 3 a–e, represents five of these, with the implements indicating their pursuits, viz. a, Iconologists, or sacred scribes (Chartumin); b, Magicians (Asphin); c, Astrologers (Mechasphim); d, Soothsayers (Gasrin); and e, Gasdim, a class whose occupation remains still unknown.
The priests were also divided into three classes: the Novices (Herbeds), teachers (Mobeds), and the perfect teachers or masters (Desdur Mobeds). They were distinguished by sacred vestments, consisting of the Sadere, a tunic with short sleeves and coming only down as far as the knee and girded with the Costi or sacred belt, which was to indicate that the priest was always ready to contest against Ahriman; in addition to these they wore the Penom, a mask which was to prevent them from sullying the sacred flame by their breath. The most prominent person in fig. 4 is that of a Median high priest. The face is somewhat disfigured, but the beard is ample and carefully arranged, while profuse locks cover head and neck. The dress consists of long and flowing garments coming down to his feet and supplied with apparently wide and hanging sleeves. In his right hand he holds a staff tipped with a broken ornament probably intended to represent an apple, in his left a lotus. One of his attendants holds a parasol over his head while another with a flybrush in one hand endeavors to keep the flies from his master, and in the other carries something resembling a handkerchief. Above is seen the already described Peruer. The human figures in figs. 7 and 8 have a very strong resemblance to this high-priest. They are of a colossal height and are generally called the priest-kings. Both are of a noble and imposing carriage and are dressed in long and flowing garments without sleeves. A rather low diadem encircles the thick and curly locks, and the long and pointed beard is curled in a way peculiar to the kings of the nation. Each of the two figures is represented as seizing with one hand the strong horn so prominent on the forehead of the animal, while with the other he buries his sword in the body. The attitude of both during this act is quiet and self-possessed. A little difference will be perceived between the two animals. The one (fig. 7) is a monster with the body of a lion, the head and neck of an eagle, the feathers extending down over the back and resembling the scales of a coat of mail. The other (fig. 8) has a head resembling that of a wolf and legs like those of an eagle; the neck is covered with feathers resembling scales and with a mane; and the long wings extend down to the tail, which is long and has the bony appearance of a prolonged spine. The tradition among the natives is that these figures are a symbolic representation of the fights in which Dshemshid and Rustan overcame the evil spirits who had assumed the forms of monsters. It is said that the former, an old king, ruled over his people with so much wisdom and goodness that he made his kingdom flourish more than any other; but an enemy came and drove him from his land. Then arose Eustan (like the Hercules of the Greeks) and slew the usurper and freed the land from the oppressors. He was therefore looked upon as the benefactor and hero of his nation.
Similar figures of mythic animals, only more simple in form, are given in figs. 10 and 11, which are very probably intended as symbols for some duties, for it was customary to represent them symbolically under the forms of different animals, as the unicorn, the ox, the ass, &c. In addition to the above there are also two coins (figs. 12 a, b), dating from the period of the Sassanides, with figures that have reference to this religious system. The former of these we suppose to be the bust of a Magian or a high priest, and the latter a representation of fire worship.
The mythology and religion of the ancient Egyptians is composed of various and often heterogeneous elements, in a greater or less degree connected with one another. Their growth and development were materially influenced by the physical conformation of the country, by which the inhabitants were early led to devote attention to mathematics and astronomy. But they owed many of their peculiar features more particularly to the mixed character of the inhabitants. People with widely different ideas and customs emigrated thither from time to time. While at one time the Arab and Phœnician sought the fertile plains of the Delta, there came, at a later period, the persecuted Brahmaists, driven out of India by the followers of Siva, who gained the ascendency. All these brought with them their creeds and rites, part of which were gradually grafted upon the religion of the country. Other sources of many modifications were the domestic disturbances and wars which broke out from time to time, and brought in their train necessary deviations from the customary ceremonies, whilst, on the other hand, they caused the propagation of new ideas by the contact of different elements of the people. Thus arose, at different periods, entirely new systems, which wholly or partially supplanted those that were already established. But it was also very natural that during each contest of a new with an old system, no matter whether followed by the suppression of the latter or its amalgamation with the other, each would seek for the victory by its natural weapons, and hence new myths were introduced on all such occasions.
This will account for the various ingredients found in Egyptian mythology, such as Fetishism, particularly the worship of animals and plants, Sabæism, and the worship of nature in general; and with these strangely-connected Anthropomorphism, the worship of deified human beings.
It will, therefore, not appear strange that this mythology is so full of contradictions and uncertainties that it is almost impossible to speak with any certainty concerning the number, name, and particulars of all its gods. To the causes here enumerated, which render it difficult to gratify our curiosity, we must add another; the great unwillingness which the ancient Egyptian priests evinced to spread their knowledge beyond the precincts of their own temples, which caused them to invent a system of hieroglyphics bearing a double or triple signification, in which hieroglyphics they wrote the mysteries of their religion. Not until these hieroglyphics are deciphered will it be possible to have a perfect knowledge of the Egyptian antiquities.
The following is the result of the latest information drawn from the most reliable authorities. But before we enter fully upon the subject, we will preface the theogony by a myth which is as interesting as it is important to know; for it will show that the Egyptian mythology with which we are acquainted is of a later origin, and somewhat different from that of the primitive inhabitants.
1. Myth of Osiris and Isis. Osiris, the sun, and Isis, the moon, which were, with Hermes, the three most important gods of the ancient Egyptians, were at one time induced to descend to the earth to bestow gifts and blessings on its inhabitants.
Isis showed them first the use of wheat and barley, and Osiris made the instruments of agriculture, and taught them the use of them, as well as how to harness the ox to the plough. He then gave men not only the fruits of the field, but also laws, the institution of marriage, a civil organization, and taught them how to worship the gods. After he had thus made the valley of the Nile a happy country, he assembled a host, with which he went to bestow his blessings upon the rest of the world. He conquered the nations everywhere, but not with weapons, only with music and eloquence. His brother Typhon (pl. 8, fig. 21) saw this, and, filled with envy and malice, sought, during his absence, to usurp his throne. But Isis, who had returned, and held the reins of government, frustrated his plans. Still more embittered, he now resolved to kill his brother. This he did in the following manner: After having organized a conspiracy of seventy-two members, lie joined with them the feast which was being celebrated in honor of the king’s return; he then caused a box or chest to be brought in, which had been made to fit exactly the size of Osiris, and declared that he would give that chest of precious wood to whosoever could get into it. The rest tried in vain; but no sooner was Osiris in it, than Typhon and his companions closed the lid, and flung it into the Nile. When Isis heard of the cruel murder, she wept and mourned, and then, with her hair shorn, clothed in black, and beating her breast, she sought diligently for the body of her husband. In this search she was materially assisted by Anubis, the son of Osiris and Nephthys (wife of Typhon), who was the fruit rather of a mistake than an infidelity. He was represented with a dog’s head (pl. 9, figs. 6, 7, 8), and as having a dog’s nature; but he was wise and good like his father. They sought in vain for some time; for when the chest carried by the waves to the shores of Byblos had become entangled in the reeds that grew at the edge of the water, the divine power that dwelt in the body of Osiris imparted such strength to the shrub, that it grew into a mighty tree, inclosing in its trunk the coffin of the god. This tree, with its sacred deposit, was shortly after felled, and erected as a column in the palace of the King of Phœnicia. But, at length, by the aid of Anubis and the sacred birds, Isis ascertained these facts, and then went to the city of Byblos. Arrived there, she seated herself before its walls as a servant seeking a place. The queen, who had just presented her lord with an heir, sent her servants out to procure a nurse, and they engaged Isis. The goddess, however, instead of feeding the child from her breast, put frequently her finger into its mouth, and then laid him during the night in the fire, in order to cleanse him from all earthly dross. One night she was watched by the queen, who, when she saw what the supposed nurse did to her child, shrieked aloud in despair; upon this, Isis immediately abandoned her disguise, and appeared as the goddess surrounded with thunder and lightning; striking the column with her wand, she caused it to split, and give up the sacred coffin. This she seized, and returning with it, afterwards concealed it in the depth of a forest, but Typhon finding it there, cut the body into fourteen pieces, and scattered them hither and thither. After a tedious search, in which she was not quite so fortunate as in the last, Isis found thirteen pieces, the fishes of the Nile having eaten the other. This she replaced by an imitation made of sycamore wood, and buried the body at Philæ, which became after that the great burying-place, and the spot to which pilgrimages were made from all parts of the country. A temple of surpassing magnificence was also erected there in honor of the god; and at every place where one of the limbs had been found, minor temples and tombs were built to commemorate the event.
But the story has also a sequel. As soon as the body of Osiris had been consigned to a suitable sepulchre, his spirit appeared to his son Horus (pl. 8, fig. 19), and exhorted him to revenge against Typhon. The youthful god therefore proclaimed war against the fratricide, whom he vanquished and made prisoner, and then delivered him bound to his mother. But Isis, full of compassion, and prevailed upon by the prayers and promises of the captive, set him again at liberty. Horus, enraged at her ill-timed clemency, tore the crown from her head, which Hermes (Anubis) immediately covered with the skin and horns of a cow’s head (fig. 12), which ever after continued to be the insignia of the goddess.
Horns now waged for a second time war against Typhon, and forced him and his companions to hide themselves in the desert. He then mounted the throne of his father, and was the last god that honored Egypt by ruling over it as its king; for all its subsequent kings were mere mortals.
Osiris became after that the tutelar deity of the Egyptians, and his soul was supposed always to inhabit the body of the bull Apis, and at his death to transfer itself to his successor. Pl. 8, fig. 20, represents this bull attended by two genii with their burning torches, to indicate his resurrection.
Apis, who was in fact the same as Osiris, or rather the perpetual abode of his soul, must always be a perfectly black animal, with a white spot resembling a triangle on the forehead, another resembling a crescent on his right side, and under his tongue a lump somewhat in the shape of a beetle. As soon as a bull thus marked was found by those sent in search of it, he was placed in a building facing the east, where for four months he was fed with milk. At the expiration of this term the priests repaired at new moon with great pomp to his habitation and saluted him, Apis. The bull was then placed in a vessel magnificently decorated, and conducted down the Nile to Nilopolis, where he was again fed for forty days. During all this period women only were permitted to salute him. After certain ceremonies at Nilopolia he was conducted to Memphis, where his inauguration was concluded, and a temple with two chapels and a court for exercise assigned to him. Sacrifices were made to him, and once every year about the time when the Nile began to rise a golden cup was thrown into the river, and a grand festival was held to celebrate his birth-day, and however extraordinary it may appear, oxen were immolated to him. Marcellinus says, “during this festival the crocodiles forget their natural ferocity, become gentle, and do no harm to anybody.” There was, however, one drawback to his happy lot, he was not permitted to live beyond a certain period; and if when he had attained the age of twenty-five years he still survived, the priest drowned him in the sacred cistern, and then buried him in the temple of Serapis. On the death of this bull, whether it occurred in the course of nature or by violence, the whole land was filled with sorrow and lamentations, which lasted until his successor was found.
2. Theogony of the Egyptians. The gods of Egypt were divided into three classes or orders, each of different rank from the others, while each successive series was supposed to have been an emanation from the one immediately above it.
They acknowledged as the highest deity Amun, afterwards called Zeus or Jupiter Ammon, the one great, almighty, and incomprehensible being. He was symbolically represented under the figure of a ram (pl. 8, fig. 6) with the disk of the sun upon its head, to indicate that he is the god of the sun, as that luminary enters the sign of the Itam. Amtin then manifested himself in his word or will, which created Kneph and Athor, the mother of the material world. Athor is represented (fig. 9) as the Egyptian Venus, accompanied by the dove held sacred to her. Kneph, who was of the male sex, breathed out of his mouth Athor, who was of the opposite sex. After this Amun caused another principle to emanate from the primordial night; this was Phtha, the god of fire and of life. He then formed out of the residuary matter Tho and Potiris, the upper and the lower heavens. Phtha now divided himself into a male and a female, Mendes and Neïth; and the sun, the moon, the firmament, and the earth were called into existence. These two, Mendes and Neïth, were the last emanations belonging to the first order of the gods. The second order, to which also a few of the gods belonging to the first are reckoned, consists of twelve deities, planets with the sun, the moon, and primordial principles of nature; and the third of seven, including also some properly belonging to the first and second orders.
The twelve great gods of the Egyptian mythology had each for his symbol one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, and as satellites three attendants who in their turn had again two assistants each assigned them, and this system continued until the last class of subordinates amounted to 360; thus giving to each degree of the Zodiac a genius of this class to preside over it. The starry firmament was then divided into two sections; and the stars of the northern section placed under the influence of light and purity, while those of the southern section were ruled by darkness and the principle of evil. There were also six orders of demons; and every star, every creature, and every occupation had its own particular tutelary genius.
Upon this system was founded the study of astrology, to which the Egyptians were so much addicted, and which led to the doctrine that the souls of all human beings were at some previous time disembodied spirits or demons.
The Creator now resolved to call into existence a new race of beings, and with his breath sent forth a beautiful woman; this was followed by his creating in the same way many thousand souls made after his own image, and which he divided into sixty classes. These he commanded to procreate beings like themselves, and gave them the promise that he would animate these creatures by his own breath.
But they, prompted by curiosity, passed the boundaries of the celestial spheres, and seeing the earth, longed to inhabit it. To gratify and punish them at the same time, Hermes gave them bodies of earthly mould, and they became men and women. Their happiness was, however, of a short duration, for they remembered their lost pleasures and became discontented, and committed crimes upon crimes, until the earth and the elements complained of them to the creator. He then took compassion upon them, and bade Osiris and Isis descend upon earth and be born as children, in order to redeem the fallen race. They accordingly descended and made Egypt, the cradle of the human race, the scene of their deeds.
The course of a soul before it inhabits a human body, and after it has left it again, is described as follows: Accompanied by its guardian angel it is launched into existence, with the privilege either to live in heaven or descend down to earth. If the latter be its choice, it is made to traverse the Zodiac until it reaches the sign of the Lion, the gate to corporeal existence, through which it goes down to the earth in the sign of Cancer, where it receives a human body and then is purified. After 3,000 years it reaches again in Aries the confines of the region where the celestial beings dwell. Here it is compelled to wait and wander about for three days, before it is permitted to enter these abodes of bliss.
These are the things which are taught to the people, but the priests had mysteries where lessons were imparted far different from the religious instruction given to the people, but they were carefully concealed from the uninitiated. The mythology which the people considered as literally true was to the priest only a symbolic language for great truths expressed in figures, and the names of the gods with their mythic histories conveyed to them a meaning never suspected by the rest of their countrymen. But they were rigid in enforcing all the rites and ceremonies of the external worship, and inculcated a profound reverence for the creed as taught, in order to sustain their authority and power over the people.
1. Myths and Symbols. Having given an outline of the gods of the Egyptians, we will now examine the leading features of the principal deities and the myths appertaining to their history. The first of these deities, we have already said, was Amun or Ammon; he was the god above all gods, the infinite and eternal, the source of all life and being, from whom every blessing came, and who was too holy to be named by any one except the priests. We have already referred to his representation in Egypt. In Nubia we find him represented, as in pl. 8, fig. 7, seated upon a throne, with the war-club and key to the Nile in his right hand and the left raised as if in benediction. In Elephanta he is found represented, as in fig. 17, with the Nile key in his hand, standing between Osiris and Isis, who join their hands behind him as a sign of their intimate union.
Kneph, the creator of Osiris, is represented (pl. 9, fig. 1), seated, and with his hands stretched out as if about to create; his head is ornamented with rams’ horns. On pl. 8, fig. 8, we give his likeness as Kneph Mendes, resembling that of the Pan of the Greeks. On pl. 10, fig. 18, is a copy of a coin upon which he is represented as a serpent called Agathodemon, the good spirit The harmless serpent, particularly that of Thebes, was so called by the Greeks because they used it as a figure of the benevolent power of God, and this name was therefore also given to Kneph Mendes. Peculiar characteristics of the serpent representing him are also the hawk’s head, and the swollen and erect body, and particularly the ornament upon the head, the highest mark of distinction. The ears and poppies with which he is surrounded are symbols of the blessings bestowed by this benevolent deity.
Osiris, who is next in rank, is the chief of the three highest deities to whom temples were erected by the Egyptians. He was worshipped as the god of the sun, the source of warmth, light, and fruitfulness, in addition to which he was also looked up to as the god of the Nile, who annually visited Isis his wife, viz. the earth, by means of an inundation. The year and Tartarus were also subject to his sway. Hence do we find him represented in a variety of forms. Pl. 8, fig. 15, he is seen as a boy with a hawk’s head riding upon a cow, the horns grasped in his hands; and on pl. 9, fig. 4, with a lion’s head, while fig. 5 represents him with a bull’s head crowned with a crescent. The lion’s head he has in his capacity as god of the Nile, whose annual rising was symbolized by the figure of a lion.
Pl. 10, fig. 10, shows us a statue of the god with the hawk’s head looking upwards, and holding in his left hand the key of the Nile; and fig. 11 is another representation of the god, wrapped in a long and ample garment, holding in his right hand a staff ornamented with a hawk’s head similar to his own. Pl. 8, fig. 16, is intended either for Osiris with the Serapis serpent, as the god of Tartarus, in which capacity he is considered as one and the same with Serapis, or it is to represent Serapis himself. The latter, it is asserted by some writers, was a separate deity, ruler of Tartarus and god of medicine, in which latter capacity the serpent is appended as the symbol; others considered him also as god of the sun, and as such he is seen in fig. 23, with the rays around his head, and encircled by the folds of the serpent. He is also regarded as the presiding deity over the rising Nile, and in that capacity he is wrapped in a long garment, pl. 10, fig. 7, holding a staff in his hand and carrying a corn measure upon his head. This latter attribute is always found about his person, no matter what the form under which he is represented. He is seen thus in fig. 8, seated upon a throne and his feet covered with sandals, while his right hand, without the staff, is raised over his shoulder and the left resting upon his knee. Figs. 5 and 6 seem on the contrary to confirm the assertion that Osiris and Serapis were one and the same person, who was called by the one or the other name, and represented according to the capacity in which for the time being he was supposed to act; for these figures are intended for Serapis and Isis closely united, and it will be remembered that Isis was the wife of Osiris, the god of the sun. Another fact in corroboration of this opinion is that Osiris was buried in the temple of Serapis, where he was worshipped more than at any other place. Nevertheless it is probable that Serapis may have been substituted for Osiris, which some say was actually the case after the time of Alexander; and if so, he was considered ruler of the elements, bearer of the keys that unlock the waters everywhere, and particularly those of the Nile, god of the earth as well as the presiding deity over all the powers of matter and king of Tartarus. In this character it necessarily followed that he was the source of life, and the judge of the dead, to punish or pardon according to his own good pleasure.
A coin has also been preserved (pl. 8, fig. 24), upon which he is represented with a corn measure upon his head and sui rounded with seven heads, intended for the seven planets, who are in their turn encircled by the Zodiac.
Isis, the wife of Osiris, is represented in a variety of forms besides those already mentioned. Pl. 10, fig. 1, represents her head decorated with Egyptian ornaments. On pl. 8, fig. 10, she is seen in a youthful form, her head ornamented with the emblem of divine authority, seated upon the flower of the lotus, holding in her right hand a whip, the symbol of government. Fig. 13 represents her as a star in the heavens surrounded by the symbols of the four elements, the eagle (air), the salamander (fire), the lion (earth), and the fish (water). Pl. 10, fig. 2, is a copy of a coin upon which she is represented as queen of the ocean, her garment agitated by wind and holding in her hand the sistrum, while she is in the act of unfolding a sail. In this form she was worshipped under the name of Pharia, The sistrum, of which we give two different drawings, one on pl. 8, fig. 28, and the other on pl. 9, fig. 23, was a musical instrument invented by Isis and made use of in the service of the temple for the purpose of beating time. It was of an oblong oval form, narrowed towards the lower end and hollowed out in the centre with four strips of metal fastened over it. Sometimes she is represented in her character of a mother, as in fig. 2, where she nurses, as some say, Osiris, who is seated upon her lap with the crescent on his head. On the back of her chair are two hoopoes, symbols of filial love, and upon the table before her is a vessel with a long spout and a handle in the shape of a serpent. This vessel was made use of in the ceremonies of the mysteries belonging to the worship of several gods of the elements, and was the jug which as a water vessel was sacred to the gods of that element, while the lamp attached to it indicated its use in the worship of fire, and the serpent called to mind the powers of nature ever growing and ever renovating themselves. Osiris is sometimes also found grasping a staff ornamented with the head of the hoopoe. Another figure of the same import is given in pl. 8, fig. 14, where Isis is seen with the head of a cow.
Here it becomes necessary for us to say that the incongruity by which Osiris, the husband of Isis, is presented as her son must be either owing to a mistake in consequence of which his name has been substituted for that of Harpocrates, a younger son of the goddess, or must have had its origin at a later period when a new system assigned to Isis her original rank among the gods, while Osiris was placed among the deities of the second rank. Twice we find the goddess represented as nursing Horus; first on pl. 10, fig. 9, where she is seated upon a chair, without any attendants, holding the child upon her lap; and again pl. 9, fig. 3, where Horus, as a half-grown boy, stands by her side to be fed from her breast. Before her we see a priest apparently with an offering of lotus; immediately behind hey sits Hennes., keeping the sacred records, and behind him Osiris holding the staff in one hand and the key to the Nile in the other.
There are three very fine and even artistic statues of Isis which we have copied on our plates. Pl. 8, fig. 11, represents her dressed in a closely fitting transparent garment holding a lotus or palm-branch in her left hand, her head and a part of the face almost concealed beneath the folds of a curiously wrought head-dress. Pl. 10, fig. 3, is a very elaborate work, particularly the rich drapery and the manner in which it is disposed over the under-garment; the attributes are the sistrum in her right hand and the sacred cruse in her left. In fig. 4, the youthful-looking head of the goddess is finely set off by the long braids that fall over her neck and shoulders, while the loose upper and longer under garments envelope her whole figure; in her right hand she holds the sistrum.
Harpocrates, the youngest son of Isis and Osiris, was the symbol of the sun when in its feeble condition, just after the winter solstice, it appears with its faint rays as if just called into existence. On a coin (pl. 8, fig. 25), we see a bust of this boy-god, and on pl. 10, fig. 14, a statue of him with a cap ornamented with rams’ horns, with his hand raised as if in the act of placing the fingers upon his lips. The Greeks considered this as a symbol of silence, and hence called him the god of silence. Fig. 15 represents him mounted upon a ram which carries a ball upon its head; his left hand is armed with a club, while he here also appears to place his right hand upon his lips. He carries the club because he was considered the Hercules of the Egyptians.
Anubis, the son of Osiris and Nephthys, has already been mentioned in the myth which relates the labors and death of Osiris. Concerning him it was thought that his mother, afraid of her husband Typhon, exposed the babe in the desert. There Isis found him, attracted to the spot by some of her dogs. After carrying him home with her, she nursed him with great care, and found the reward of her charity in the faithful services he rendered her afterwards as a friend and watchful guardian. He was also made a guardian to the gods, and discharged the duties just as the dog fills that office among men, and hence we find him often represented in the form of a dog, as in pl. 9, fig. 8, where he is seated between Canop and Horus. Sometimes he is found with the body of a man and only the head of a dog, as in fig. 6, where a cloak is thrown around part of his person. In his left hand he holds a staff resembling a caduceus, and his left foot is planted upon the back of a crocodile; and fig. 7, where he is seen by the side of Isis, represents him likewise with a human body surmounted by the head of a dog. In this form he is considered as one and the same with Hermes, or Theut, or Thot. There are two other statues of him (pl. 10, figs. 12 and 13) that differ but little from those already described, only the former is furnished with a plainer kind of caduceus, and a branch which is placed in the left hand of the god; while the latter represents him with a palm branch in his left, and the club in his right hand. As Hermes, he is sometimes seen with the head of the Ibis surmounted by a lyre (pl. 8, fig. 18). Under this name he was also known as the friend and counsellor of Osiris, the inventor of spoken and written language, of grammar, astronomy, surveying, arithmetic, music, and medical science. He was also held to have been the first who framed laws for the human race, and taught man how to worship the gods and erect temples to them. The discovery of the olive tree as well as the instruction how to use its fruit is also ascribed to him.
The statues which represent him with the head of an Ibis instead of that of a dog are of a later date, and owed their origin to the following legend: As soon as the nilometer indicated a rise in the river, the Ibis was seen busy along its shores devouring the vermin driven back by the water. Hermes was the first to observe this, and devised at the same time a correct standard for measuring the gradual increase of the flood. This he described in hieroglyphics, chiefly by the figure of an Ibis. Hence was he represented with the head of this animal instead of that of the dog, to indicate his talent as a geometer, or rather nilometer.
Pl. 8, fig. 22, is a copy of the statue of the god Allures with the head of a cat; but little is known of this idol. The wolf (pl. 9, fig. 9) was the guard of Amenthis, the Hades of the Egyptians, and was one of the attributes of Osiris or Serapis, in his capacity as ruler of the infernal regions.
The head-dresses with which the Egyptians ornamented their idols differed much in appearance, but were always characteristic, and sometimes even gorgeous. The most curious will be found in figs. 11–14.
In addition to the gods worshipped in the temples, the ancient Egyptians had also a kind of domestic gods, who were very highly revered. But as they were only idols of particular families, they were not only very diversified in appearance, but had even the most grotesque and often rude forms, as will be seen from the specimens which we give (figs. 17–19, and pl. 8, fig. 27, a, b, c).
After what has been said of the gods of Egypt, and the forms under which they were represented, it is not surprising that living animals were also worshipped or regarded as sacred by the people of that country. But those so distinguished were not all of the same character, for the useful and harmless ones enjoyed this distinction as a mark of gratitude, while fear dictated a similar offering to the noxious beasts and reptiles, in order to propitiate them. Neither were the same animals equally esteemed in all parts of the country; for those that were worshipped or considered sacred in one section were often despised and even killed in another. Only a very few enjoyed a universal reverence. Thus, we find that every household had its sacred bird as a tutelary deity, which was carefully tended and provided for. When one of these sacred animals died, it was brought to the priest to be consecrated. The body was then embalmed and placed in a tomb in some temple or sacred burying-ground. The pains taken with the body depended altogether upon the degree of sanctity ascribed to the animal. The Falcon and the Ibis were treated with marked distinction in this respect. Small animals were also sometimes, after they had been embalmed, placed in vessels of clay or stone, and thus preserved in the family; but of the larger class, only one or a few limbs were embalmed, and then wrapt round with linen, on one end of which the head was fastened, or often only a rude likeness of it painted.
Only a few forms of the symbolic and mythic animals belonging to Egyptian mythology have been handed down to us. Some of these will be found on pl. 9, figs. 20 and 21, and on pl. 8, fig. 29, the last representing the sacred Camel, the two former probably intended to represent the Phœnix, a fabulous bird, who was said to have had a golden plumage. In size and form it was thought to resemble the eagle. It was said to visit Egypt only once in five hundred years, in order to consume itself by fire, and then to arise out of its own ashes in renewed youth. The Sphinxes were also fabulous creatures, variously described, and divided into male and female sphinxes. Usually they are found with the body of a lion and the head of a woman, covered with the sacred cap, which was a head-dress with very ample folds; the body is generally seen stretched out like that of a lion when at rest, as in pl. 10, fig. 23. Sometimes, though rarely, they are found with a lion’s head upon a lion’s body (fig. 24). There is another copy of a sphinx (pl. 9, fig. 22) taken from an Egyptian coin, struck off in the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, which deserves particular notice, on account of the numerous attributes of divinity with which it is surrounded. The head is ornamented with the lotus; the front part of the body covered with a veil, which falls down over part of the limbs, and from the breast projects the inverted head of a crocodile; upon the back sits a griffin with a wheel in his claws, and beneath the feet of the sphinx a serpent strives to drag its body forward. The body strongly resembles that of a lion, with the head of a woman. Mythologians, as well as antiquarians, are still divided in their opinions as to the typical meaning of these monsters.
They were usually found before the entrances to the temples, as guardians (pl. 10, fig. 35). Some think that they were the emblems of wisdom and power, but others ascribe to them an astronomical signification. The Egyptians considered them, like all other monsters, as created by Typhon and Nephthys.
Among the other symbols of Egyptian mythology we mention particularly the flower of the lotus (fig. 25), which occupied a prominent place among them. It was the most sacred plant of the Egyptians, and served as the emblem of the world as it emerged from out of the deep. Gods and goddesses ascended out of its cup, and from it the people drew lessons which taught them to hope for immortality and happiness, even amidst the terrors of death. Hence do we find it not only as an attribute of the gods, but also frequently by itself in their temples, their pictures, and elsewhere. The Nile, too, had its symbol, which is represented (fig. 16) in the form of a man with a cornucopia in his hand, out of which a child appears to ascend, while he seems to watch its motions. Before him stand three other children in a supplicating attitude, and by his side lies the mysterious sphinx. The Nile key, or Egyptian cable(fig. 17), which we have already mentioned, is a symbol concerning which not much is known, except its form. Some say that it was intended as an emblem of the four elements, others that it was a nilometer, and a few contend that it was a symbol of authority over the earth, or of the division of the year into four seasons. As symbols may also be regarded the attributes of the sun (pl. 8, fig. 1), viz. the serpents and the two wings, which were symbolic of eternity and motion, and the all-seeing eye (fig. 2), which represented omniscience. In connexion with the symbols we must also mention the sacred ship (fig. 3). This vessel was an object of general reverence and profound regard. It is sometimes found as if resting on a pedestal, and in other places surrounded by many priests, who carry it by means of long poles. The centre seems to be occupied by a little temple, around which are grouped a number of figures and ornaments, as cherubim and other representations of a similar kind, while the prow and the poop are ornamented with rams’ heads. Figs. 4 and 5 are two other but simpler forms of this same vessel. The figure seen in the latter is probably intended for the body of Osiris, after he had been slain by his brother Typhon, It is uncertain whether it was placed there in commemoration of the act of launching it upon the waves of the Nile, or of Isis’s devotion in carrying off the body after she had discovered it at Byblos. It was a favorite device of the Egyptians to represent the gods as going about in vessels; and they kept the idols generally in large boxes which were deposited in the sacred ship, whence they were removed during festival seasons or for sacrificial solemnities, and placed in the temples dedicated to them.
2. Worship and Priesthood. Sacrifices, which were sometimes of a bloody character, and music constituted the main features of the worship performed in the numerous temples dedicated to the gods. Pl. 10, fig. 35, represents a sacrifice brought to Isis in one of her temples.
A great variety of sacred vessels and utensils were employed in the temple service, most of which were wrought with great skill and taste. We have represented a few of them on our plates. Pl. 9, fig. 24, is a kind of cup; figs. 25, 26, and 27, are two jugs and a pitcher, and fig. 28 an ancient flask or bottle. The most valued and esteemed vessels were the so-called Canopæ or sacred jugs (pl. 8, figs. 26 a, b, and pl. 9, figs. 15 and 16). They were brass vessels wide in the body, with narrow necks and covers, made in the shape of the head of some deity: sometimes they were also covered with hieroglyphics. We cannot with certainty say for what purpose they were used, but it is probable they were employed as depositories for the sacred water drawn from the Nile. They seem to have served in astronomical observations for measuring time in the manner of hour-glasses in which water was used instead of sand. This was done by placing one jug with a small hole at the bottom and filled with water, over another empty jug of the same size without an opening at the bottom. When the time for the astronomical observation had come, that is as soon as the watched for star made its appearance on the horizon, they removed the stopper from the aperture in the upper vessel. The water which now ran into the graded vessel beneath it, during the time which elapsed between the first appearance of the star and its reappearance on the following night, served as the standard by which to measure the course of every movement in the starry heavens. Not only the course and periods of the stars but also the length of the days and nights were calculated by the help of these little instruments, and those that were set aside for that purpose were ornamented with covers resembling a dog’s head or a dog sitting upon his haunches.
The guardians of this mythological system and of the sacred rites connected with it, the priests, formed a separate caste. The cultivation of arts and sciences was their special province. All legislative and judicial power was vested in them. They governed the land under the presidency of the king, who applied to them for counsel and acted under their tutelage. Their sons were his playmates in his childhood, his companions during his youth and manhood, and his life was spent in accordance with the rules prescribed by them, which were so minute in their details as to specify the time when he must walk and bathe. When the reigning family became extinct a successor was chosen from among the priests. But these prerogatives never contributed to the aggrandizement of an individual at the expense of the class; they were the property of the whole body, and no matter what the personal talents, merits, or honors of any one might be or become, he had no exclusive right to them, but his merit was ascribed to the entire caste. The priests were, therefore, not honored by the people for their personal merits, but only for belonging to the caste of priests.
The caste was divided into different classes, holding different ranks:
- The Prophets, or orators, who superintended the worship in the temple, had charge of the government of the order and of the public revenues.
- The Stolists, whose duty it was to impress the seal which was the mark of consecration upon the animals selected for sacrifice.
- The Hierogrammatists or sacred scribes, who were the scientific men of Egypt.
- The Horoscopists, who occupied themselves with astrology and magic.
- The Minstrels, who devoted their time to music and hymns, and occupied the front in all processions.
- The Pastophoroi (box carriers), whose chief occupation was the practice of medicine. They are represented in pl. 10, figs. 26–31, most of them distinguished by some mark of their profession. Some of them had even the attributes belonging to a god, as fig. 27, who carries the staff with the falcon’s head. Figs. 32–34 seem to be priestesses; but it is still doubtful whether they were invested with the privileges of officiating at the altars, or were only attendants in the temple.
In addition to the above division there was another by which each of the greater gods and goddesses was furnished with his or her own college of priests, who had the charge of the temple and worship of their patron divinity. Pl. 8, fig. 31, are two priests and two priestesses belonging to the temple of Isis; the first of these carries the sacred jug; the second probably the sacred books; the third follows with the large pitcher, the handle of which is the crawling serpent; and the fourth has in one hand the sistrum and in the other a ladle with a long handle carved as if for a measure.
The priesthood was hereditary in Egypt, as well as the property belonging to the temple. The style of dress and mode of living were strictly prescribed to the priest. He had to keep his head shaved, except when a member of his family died, and then he wore his hair as a mark of mourning. His dress consisted of a linen gown and tunic more or less long, and shoes of rushes or papyrus. His drinking vessels had to be washed and cleansed daily, and he himself was required to bathe twice every day and every night. His food he had to select with the greatest care; he was not allowed to eat fish or any indigestible or flatulent food, particularly pork, which he was not permitted even to look at; but on the other hand he and the king were the only persons to whom the use of wine, though in prescribed quantity, was allowed.
The votive-hands, so frequently found, must here be mentioned on account of their close connexion with the vocation of one class of the priesthood. We have already said that the pastophoroi were also the physicians of the people, and as such belonged to the colleges of priests who served in the temples of Serapis and Isis. The sick and afflicted repaired therefore to this temple to be cured, and whenever they were restored they deposited there as offerings of gratitude these votive-hands, of which we give copies on pl. 10, figs. 19–22, and during the festivals in honor of the god or the goddess they were carried about upon long poles as trophies of his or her power. All these hands of bronze, as will be seen on the plate, had the thumb with the fore and middle fingers stretched out, while the others were bent down to the palm.
The first hand, fig. 19, has on the inside of the fore and middle fingers the head of Serapis, and on the palm of the hand two other symbolic marks; just above the wrist is a bracelet, beneath which is seen the figure of a woman in a recumbent position, with a child on one side and an ibis on the other. Fig. 20 has the head of Serapis in the same place as the other, but instead of the palm this shows the back of the hand covered, with a miniature drawing of a serpent, a toad, a lizard, a pair of scales, a jug, and a few hieroglyphics. Fig. 21 is a hand showing the palm; the end of the thumb has the shape of the head of Serapis, and upon the second joint of the bent fingers is a miniature ram’s head; a serpent entwines the wrist. Fig. 22 is a drawing of the back of a hand, with the head of Serapis in the same position, a tortoise and several vines covering the centre of the hand, while a serpent which encircles the wrist stretches out its head towards the thumb. All these hands are right hands, and in every one the fingers are found in the same position. This has led to the supposition, it is true upon very slight grounds, that the cures in the temple were performed by a kind of animal magnetism which it is thought was well understood by the priests.
3. The Mysteries. The system of secret doctrines adopted by various nations of antiquity, and which was known as The Mysteries, was also in high repute among the Egyptians. These doctrines were diametrically opposite to those held by the people. They had two kinds of mysteries in Egypt, the greater and the lesser; the former taught by the priests of Osiris and Serapis, the latter by those of Isis.
The first cause of the introduction of symbols was the profound ignorance of the people, which compelled the more enlightened, whose views about the deities were more developed, to speak to them in parables and figures in order to be understood at all. This system of symbols increased at last to such a degree that the explaining of them became a distinct branch of study wholly confined to the priesthood. The people in their great ignorance were naturally inclined to regard the symbols as the very things or ideas which they allegorically represented, without troubling themselves about understanding the allegories in their higher connexion, or in other words to be initiated into their mysteries. The priests, perceiving the tendency and the advantages which it gave them, became more careful in concealing the truths which they at first had sought to propagate. They required therefore that a candidate for initiation into the mysteries should be of a mind sufficiently cultivated and enlightened to understand and practise the lessons taught by them to their disciples, and that he should have lived a pure and moral life. Even when these conditions were fulfilled a number of preparations and tests had to be gone through, and a solemn and fearful oath of perpetual silence was administered. The initiation itself was accompanied by many and strange ceremonies. The novice was then instructed gradually, at first still in symbols and by degrees only, and as he advanced from step to step he was made acquainted with their true meaning, and what they were intended to convey.
The manner of proceeding was as follows: When a candidate offered himself for initiation he was required to spend a week in solitude and meditation, and to purify the body by frequent ablutions and severe mortifications of the flesh. Then he was ordered to enter the pyramid during the night, where he had to descend by aid of his hands and feet through a narrow passage without steps, until he reached a cave-like opening, through which he had to crawl to another subterranean cave, where three priests, disguised as jackals, sought to frighten him, first by their appearance and noise, and afterwards by enumerating the dangers that awaited him on his journey onwards. If his courage did not fail him here, he was permitted to pass on to the hall of fire. This was a large apartment lined with burning stuffs, and whose floor was a grate painted flame color; the bars of this grate were so narrow that they offered scarcely room enough for the sole of his foot. Having passed through this hall, he came to a canal which he had to cross by swimming. As soon as he reached the opposite shore, he found his passage obstructed by an iron door. While vainly striving to force his way, the earth suddenly began to quake beneath his feet; he sought for support from the iron rings inserted in the door, but he no sooner grasped them than he felt himself abruptly lifted up in the air, exposed to raging and piercingly cold winds. When he was almost exhausted by his sufferings, he was gently let down and the door opened before him of its own accord. A dazzling light filled the apartment of the temple into which he found himself suddenly introduced, and before and around him stood the whole band of priests, dressed in full regalia, and singing hymns in praise of their divinity.
There he was made to kneel before an altar, and take the solemn oath which bound him to secresy. He was then retained for several months in the temple, where moral trials of different kinds awaited him. The object of this was to bring out all the traits in his character, and to test his fitness for his vocation. After he had passed through this trial, there came what was called his manifestation. This consisted of a number of ceremonies, of which the novice was the subject during the space of twelve days. He was dedicated to Osiris, Isis, and Horus, and decorated with the twelve consecrated scarfs (stolæ) and the Olympic cloak. These scarfs were embroidered with the signs of the zodiac, and the cloak with figures that were symbolic of the starry heavens as the abode of the gods and happy spirits. A crown of palm-leaves was placed upon his head, and a burning torch in his hand. Thus prepared, he was again led to the altar, where he renewed his oath, and called upon the gods to visit him with their direst wrath if he should ever be so unfortunate as to violate his solemn oath and obligation.
This terminated his initiation, and entitled him to be instructed in what was called the lesser mysteries, and in the writings of Thot, which were in some degree connected with these mysteries.
Now came the time when he had a right to appear as victor before the people, and to this end they prepared for him a solemn procession, called The Triumphal March of the Initiated (pl. 9, fig. 29), which was proclaimed by heralds in every quarter of the city.
On the morning of the day appointed for this ceremony, the priests assembled in the temple, where the most precious treasures belonging to the sanctuary were displayed, and repaired to the chapel of Isis to bring a sacrifice to the goddess, covered with a veil of white silk, and embroidered with golden hieroglyphics, and this again concealed beneath a black gauze. After the sacrifice, the procession left the temple and moved westwards. First in the train came an image of Isis seated upon a triumphal car drawn by white horses, next to which walked the priests in the order of their rank, dressed in their most gorgeous attire, and carrying the sacred symbols, the utensils of the temple, the books of Thot, and the sacred tablet of Isis, which was a silver plate with the hieroglyphics that referred to the mysteries of this goddess engraved on it. The priests were followed by all the native and foreign adepts, dressed in white linen garments. The newly initiated walked in their midst, distinguished by a white veil which extended from his head down to his shoulders. All the houses of the streets through which the procession passed were decorated as on festal occasions. Flowers and perfumes were everywhere thrown over the person of the novice, and his arrival greeted with shouts of rejoicing.
After his return to the temple he was placed upon an elevated throne, before which immediately afterwards a curtain descended. While the priests chanted during the interval hymns in honor of the goddess, he divested himself of his holiday suit, and assumed the white linen garb which he was henceforth to wear. The curtain was now again raised, and the renewed shouts of the spectators greeted him as an adept. The ceremonies concluded with a festival, which lasted three days, during which the newly-made brother occupied the seat of honor.
4. Astronomy. The science of astronomy was probably better understood by the Egyptians, or rather by their priests, than by any other nation of antiquity. We have already stated that one class of priests devoted all their time to it. As a proof of the great advances they made in it we refer to the picture of the Egyptian zodiac (pl. 8, fig. 30), found on the ceiling of one of the oldest temples of the country, situated in the wretched village of Denderah, which occupies the site of the ancient Tentyra in Upper Egypt. This picture was afterwards removed and carried to France. It is composed of a great number of figures and hieroglyphics, arranged in a certain order. We notice first the external circle inscribed with a number of hieroglyphics which follow one another in regular succession. This circle is divided into eight equal parts by four erect female forms and four pair of kneeling female twins with sparrow-hawks’ heads. These figures appear also to support the weight of the inner circle.
The picture within the latter circle contains quite a number of hieroglyphics of all kinds. We will endeavor to examine them in their astronomical order. The first figure in this order is that which is seen a little to the left, just beneath the centre of the disk. It is a lion with a serpent under his feet, and a woman behind him. This was the true zodiacal representation of the sign Leo. Next to this group, if we turn to the left, comes a woman with an ear of wheat in her hand, and a man with something like the attributes of Osiris. This is intended for Virgo. Further on we see Libra with the scales, Scorpio, Sagittarius in the shape of a winged centaur, Capricornus half goat half fish; then comes a male figure pouring water out of two vessels which is Aquarius, followed by Pisces, two fishes united by a triangle and the hieroglyphic for water; next to these we see Aries, Taurus, and Gemini, and finally the last sign in the ring, which is Cancer, over the head of Leo. whereby the latter appears the first in the order of the zodiac. A great number of other figures are also there, both within and without the spiral line of the zodiacal signs. These represent the most important constellations next to those of the zodiac. The erect clumsy animal which occupies nearly the whole centre of the disk, is an ancient figure for Ursa major, hence the north pole is pretty nearly in front of it. The position and order of the 36 figures which are seen on the very edge of the inner circle are interesting. They were intended for the 36 Decanes or good spirits, to whom the care and protection of the human race were intrusted. To each was assigned a particular limb or part of the body as the object of his peculiar care, and which he had to guard against the power and influence of the evil spirits.
The hieroglyphic marks around the individual groups are merely the respective names of the different Decanes, e. g. Chnumis, Chachnumis Uare, &c.
5. Doctrines concerning the Future State of the Soul. The idea of a future state was closely connected with astronomy. The Egyptians believed in the immortality of the soul, and in its partial transmigration. Life upon earth they looked upon as of no great importance, but they valued as a very estimable thing a good conscience, which could be carried beyond the grave. Hence they bestowed but little care upon the dwellings of the living, which they looked upon merely as inns, only intended to accommodate the wanderer on his journey home; but the tombs of the dead were to them the permanent abodes of mankind, and were therefore built with great care, and without regard to expense. Some think that they embalmed the body only as a symbol of the purification which the soul had to undergo before it could enter the place of eternal rest; others say it was done in consequence of a belief that the soul could preserve its individuality only as long as the body preserved its own, and that as soon as the latter had returned to its native dust, the former was compelled to commence its transmigration through the bodies of the inferior animals, and continue it for three thousand years, at the end of which period it was permitted to enter again a human body.
They believed firmly in a rigid judgment beyond the tomb, for they thought that shortly after the separation of the soul from the body, the former, before it could enter into the peaceful realm of the departed, had to appear before Osiris, the stern judge of the lower world. Here its life upon earth underwent a close scrutiny, and according to the degree of its past piety or wickedness was the amount of reward or punishment awarded to it.
Pl. 9, fig. 10, is a picture of this tribunal of the dead, as described by the ancient Egyptians. To the left, which appears to be the entrance to the judgment-hall, is a group of three persons; the one nearest to the entrance appears to be a priestess, who prays jointly with the figure before her, that of a departed soul, that the latter might be permitted to present itself before the god who is seated in the back-ground upon the judge’s throne. These prayers are evidently addressed to the female who confronts them, and whose attributes indicate that it is Isis. Behind this goddess are the immense scales in which the deeds of man are weighed. They are attended by two persons, one with a hawk’s head, and the other with that of a jackal, who seeks to steady them. These attendants are probably only representations of the same divinity in different capacities. Above the centre of the beam is a figure with a dog’s head, probably intended for Anubis, accompanied on each side by a miniature sphinx. A weight similar to the one in the scale hangs down from the beam; and in the scale to the right is a substance somewhat resembling a plant. Immediately behind the scales stand the divine scribe Thot or Hermes, with the head of the Ibis, engaged in noting down the result of the inquiry as ascertained by the scales. In front of the scribe we see Harpocrates seated on a crook, in one hand a flail, and in the other a small crook; and upon the altar sits a monster with the body of a lion and the head of a boar, almost in contact with the lotus, upon whose leaves four mummy-like figures are seen, one with the head of a man, another with that of a dog, the third with a jackal’s, and the fourth with a hawk’s head. The last figure in the picture is Osiris upon his throne, the crook in his right and the flail in his left hand; and before him, hovering in the air, a little animal like a horse, with the head severed from the trunk, and the latter transfixed by a spear.
Though it cannot be denied that every explanation given of this symbolic picture must be the result of mere conjecture, yet it is certain that it was intended to convey the idea that there is another life beyond the grave, where every one will meet with a just reward for the deeds done in the body.
6. The Abraxas. Before we conclude the Mythology of the Egyptians, we must mention the Abraxas (gems well known to all mjthologians and antiquarians) to which the ancients attached a symbolical meaning. Abraxas, the name by which they are distinguished, is said by some to be a word composed of Greek letters, the numerical value of which was 365; others hold that it is a compound of the Egyptian words Abrac and Sax, which signified either the Saviour, or Mithras, the sun, if it was not meant for the sacred mystic word. Basilides of Alexandria, a Gnostic, who endeavored to connect all kinds of ancient philosophic elements with Christianity, considered this word as the symbol of the deity from which 365 spirits came forth by emanation. The Abraxas figure found upon these gems (pl. 14, fig. 30), he explained as symbolizing the seven primary powers of the deity, viz. the serpent’s feet, thought and reason; the cock’s head, wisdom and foreknowledge; the whip in the left hand of the figure, power; and the circular shield, equity and peace; while the trunk was the symbol of the eternal uncreated Father of All. The followers of Basilides valued gems of this kind very highly, and carried them about their persons as amulets. These gems must be carefully distinguished from the Abraxoides, for the figures upon the latter, though in the style of Abraxas, referred generally to something taught by the Christian gnostic sects. There were also some gems known as Abraxasters, which were altogether different from the two already mentioned; the devices and inscriptions upon these always had reference to strictly Pagan subjects (pl. 7, figs. 15–17; pl. 9, figs. 30, 31).
Mythology of the Babylonians, Syrians, and Phœnicians
The mythology of these Eastern nations may be considered as the well-spring or fountain whence first came those corrupt streams of idolatry, which receiving numberless accessions in their onward course, deluged all the heathen world with false gods.
The basis upon which the mythology of these three nations was founded was very nearly the same in all: it was a worship of nature, and particularly of the stars. The objects thus deified were also more or less common to them. If we consider their political relations and commercial intercourse, it will appear evident that they must have exchanged with one another many of their religious ideas. This, together with the great want of copious and reliable authorities, contributes materially to the obscurity which still exists with regard to the essential points of difference between their systems.
The supreme gods of these nations were the same, only worshipped under different names; and their respective cosmogonies show that their mythological systems must have sprung from a common source.
The Babylonians and the Assyrians generally held that all creation had its origin in a shapeless chaos which moved in the beginning in primitive darkness, and over, which the goddess Homorca reigned in solitary grandeur. This chaos was supposed also to have been the abode of beasts and human beings of monstrous conformation.
After the lapse of some millions of years, Belus or Baal, the father of all, determined upon creating the world, and divided Homorca into two parts, which became the heaven and the earth. But this separation of her body caused the monster of her former realm to die. Belus resolved then to create a race out of his own blood, and ordering some of the other gods to cut off his head, mixed the blood of his body with some earth, and made out of it the sun, moon, and stars, besides the five planets, and out of the residue men and animals. But mankind were still but little removed in intellect and manners from the lower creation. Danes arose therefore out of the Red Sea, and came to Babylon in the shape of a large fish, with feet like those of men, and brought them laws for their government, and instructed them in manners, civilization, religion, arts, sciences, and trades. Every evening he returned into the sea, and every morning he appeared again and continued his labors.
Other sacred animals (Annedati) followed his example in instructing mankind, the last of which was the one generally called Odacon.
The twelve chief gods worshipped by the Babylonians, were said to have had their respective abodes in the twelve signs of the Zodiac. The best known to us were: Salambo, probably the goddess of the moon, during whose festival the slaves were waited upon by their masters; Turrah, the god of war; and Derketo, who was considered to have been the mother of Semiramis.
The worship of the Babylonians consisted in sacrifices and prayers offered up in temples, and in the celebration of festivals in honor of the gods. Pl. 11, fig. 1, represents two of the ancient Assyrians in the act of bringing their offerings to the altar in vessels suspended from long ribbons, probably priests. The two feet on the pedestal between them must have belonged to some idol-statue, the body of which was broken off.
The main feature in the system of idolatry of the ancient Syrians was the worship of animals; fishes and doves in particular received divine honors. The origin of this species of worship among the Syrians is related in the following myth. Once an immense egg fell down from heaven, and was caught by the fishes of the Euphrates, which carried it to the shore, where the doves hatched it. After a time the egg opened and a goddess of great beauty came forth, who has ever since been worshipped under the name of the “Syrian goddess” or Astarte, and sometimes also Derketo. The earliest representations make her appear as a woman, with fins and tail like a fish. Afterwards she was shown with a head-dress in the shape of the head of an ox. But the latest statues of her are often found to represent her as a beautiful woman, with a mural crown upon her head, a spindle in her hand, and the magic belt around her waist. A few of these attributes we have copied in pl. 11, figs. 3, a, b, from representations found upon ancient medals.
Another ancient Syrian idol is seen in fig. 2. It appears like a hale old man with a long beard, his head covered with a cap curiously ornamented with figures, his right hand lifted up, and his left as if buried in the folds of his dress. His garment as well as the background is covered with a number of hieroglyphics, probably in explanation of the statue.
The Phœnicians believed that the breath of the supreme god Colpiah united with that of Baau (chaos) and produced the primitive matter. Moth. This gave birth in its turn first to the lower animals, and afterwards to rational beings (Zophasemim). After the creation of the living world. Moth assumed the form of an egg, from which sprang the sun, the moon, and the stars. Colpiah and Baau now united again, and produced Protogonos the firstborn and Æon (time), from whom all the generations and species of beings have sprung. Life was then infused into the dormant world and the air, the ocean, and the earth separated into distinct elements, the winds began to blow, and the clouds to move, pouring down rain upon the earth, while the thunder awaking the echoes in the mountains roused also the slumbering animals into life, who now came forth out of the Moth.
The giants were afterwards called into existence, and were made of fire, light, and flame, the triad of the Egyptians. The first inhabitants of Byblos were said to have been the Eluen (the oak) and the Beruth (the pine). They had two children, Uranos and Gæa, who gave birth to four sons, Ilos or Cronos, Bædylos, Dagon, and Atlas; and three daughters, Astarte, Rhea. and Dione. Uranos, alarmed by a prophecy which predicted that his son Cronos would dethrone him, sought to kill his eldest bom, but Cronos by the aid of the Elohim conquered his father, and then became himself the ruler of the universe.
Among the idols of the Phœnicians we mention the following as the most prominent: Misor, whose son Taauth or Hermes was the inventor of waiting, and first instructor in all sciences; Sydik, the father of the Cabires, famed for medical knowledge, and the founder of civilization among men; and finally Baal, who is frequently spoken of in the Bible.
The chief temple of Baal was at Tyre, where he was worshipped as the god of the sun, and also as Metcarth (the Tyrian Hercules). But he was also worshipped throughout Assyria and Babylonia and in Carthage as the chief god. Jezebel, a Tyrian princess, and wife of Ahab, king of Israel, introduced his worship even among the Hebrews, but Jehu, a pious monarch, afterwards abolished the abomination.
The sacrifices offered up at the altar of this idol were generally oxen, but sometimes children were immolated at the shrine of his bull-headed image. This was done by first heating the hollow statue by a fire kindled in its interior, and then placing the infant in the extended arms of the monster. The altars were generally erected on high places; and the priests, dressed in crimson-colored garments, madly danced around the sacrifice, howling, and lacerating their bodies with sharp instruments.
But there are also other idols known by the name of Baal; these are distinguished from the one spoken of, by having distinctive appellations added to their names, e. g. Baal-Zelub (the god of flies), an idol at Ekron, who was thought to prevent the pestilence and the plague of flies from afflicting the people; Baal-Zamen, a divinity worshipped by the Phœnicians as the god of heaven and of the sun. The discoveries made among the ruins of Pahnyra brought to light, among other things, a temple of Baal, the best and most magnificent monument of antiquity found there.
The idols of the ancient Phœnicians were as grotesque and diversified as those of other eastern nations, as will be seen from the procession of the gods (pl. 11, figs. 5 a, b, c), which show that animals and parts of animals entered largely into the composition of their forms; for everywhere we meet with serpents’ heads or tails, parts of fishes, or the heads of birds or beasts. Fig. 4b represents one of the goddesses, whose name is not known; she has flame-like hair, surmounted by a crown in the shape of a star, and before her sits an eagle, with his head and eyes uplifted, as if watching her countenance. Fig. 4a represents two other deities, standing by a palm tree. The bas-relief was found in the region of Palmyrene. One of them is dressed in a skirt which falls from the hips half way down to the knees; around the shoulders is a cloak, which appears to be thrown back; the head is ornamented with a flat crown, and the left hand armed with a club; behind the shoulders we see the crescent, which is probably a characteristic attribute. The other figure is that of a youth dressed in an under and upper garment, and holding a scroll in his left hand, which he seems to offer to his companion.
To the descendant of the Anglo-Saxons, the northern mythology is peculiarly interesting. When he examines the religious poetry and the solemn rites of his forefathers, and enters into the peculiarities which distinguished their religion from that of all other nations of antiquity, he must feel proudly uplifted by the stem dignity that pervades their myths. Nowhere does he meet with the luxuriant allegories of the Grecian mythology, the adventures of Jupiter, or the intrigues of Juno; but everywhere an abundance of vigor, and the majesty of a deeply-rooted love of truth and honesty set forth in tales of surprising simplicity. It is true, the good is not entirely unalloyed by evil, yet the innate respect of the Northern people for virtue, veracity, and purity of heart, is predominant. It is evinced by the very simplicity and grandeur of the northern mythology, whose powerful and highly figurative poetry is unequalled by anything presented by other Pagan nations of antiquity.
The religion of the Scandinavians was at one time the prevailing belief of all the Germanic tribes that inhabited the shores of the Baltic and the Rhine, as well as that of the Francs and Westphalians. But when Norway was conquered in the ninth century, and the countries around it acknowledged the truth of Christianity, and the freest and proudest families saved their liberty and their faith by taking up their abode in Iceland, this country became properly the home of their religion, and Icelandic poetry is the richest source of authority on the subject. The Germanic, and particularly the Scandinavian nations were, more than many others, distinguished for possessing unusually athletic bodies, and an iron will, to strain every nerve in defence of their gods and their hearths. They were also renowned for their bravery and skill in all warlike exercises, while the name of a coward was considered the greatest stigma that could be affixed to any one; and these virtues and sentiments we see fully reflected in all their myths. The distinct features of the northern religion are most conveniently examined if we turn our attention separately to the religions of the Scandinavians proper (comprising the Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians), of the Germans, and of the Slavono-Vendic nations.
The first thing that deserves our particular notice in the Scandinavian system of religion is the lofty idea which it presents of the Supreme Being. Twelve names are given to him, some of which are: the One and Indivisible, the Creator, the Destroyer, the Eternal; but the one by which he is the most frequently called is Alfadur, the father of all.
This God and Creator dwelt high above all mundane affairs, and was not even approachable by worship; that was paid to inferior deities who presided over the temporal interests of man, and who were themselves mortal, and finally responsible to the Supreme Ruler, for their death was predicted to take place at the twilight of the gods, of which we shall speak more hereafter. The chief of these gods was Odin, who, though frequently called Alfadur, must be carefully distinguished from the Supreme Being, the uncreated God.
The cosmogony of this system is also on a grand scale; for we learn from the Edda, on the authority of the Voluspa, a very ancient and sacred poem, that, “In the beginning there was neither shore nor sea; the earth was not to be found below, nor in the expanse above; all was one vast abyss, in which a chaos reigned.” To the north of this abyss was Niffleheim (the fog-world), a dreary region of mist and cold; and to the south, Muspelheim (the fire world), a world glowing and luminous, not to be dwelt in by any but the sons of fire. Surtur (the black) is its ruler; but Niffleheim is a world of icy coldness and full of gloom, and in its centre, beneath one of the roots of the ash tree Yggdrasill, is the spring Hvrgelmir, which sends forth part of its waters in the Elivanger, that flow through Helheim, viz. the rivers of destruction, of howling, of roaring, of agony, &c. The world of fog is the abode of all who have died as cowards, or in any other disgraceful manner. The ruler of this dreary place is Hela, the daughter of Loke and Angurbodi, a monster of Jotunheim, who was hurled into Niffleheim by Odin, when Loke dared bring her to Asgard, the abode of the gods. Odin gave her power over nine of its worlds, into which she distributes those who are sent to her, that is to say, all those who die cravens, or through sickness or old age. Her domain is protected by very high walls and strongly barred gates. Misery is her palace; Hunger, her table; Starvation, her knife; Delay, her waiter; Sloth, her maid; Patience, her threshold; Sickness, her bed; Burning Anguish and Blasphemy, its curtains. One half of the body is livid, and the other the color of human flesh; one side of her head is covered with hair, while the other, the livid side, is hideously bald, which contributes to increase the frightful appearance of her grim countenance.
Some of the waters flowed at one time so far from their source, that the poison which they contained became hard, and this was the origin of the ice, which now began to fill the dark abyss. But the ice was affected by the fiery vapors of Muspelheim, and the drops that fell from the melting mass formed themselves into the giant Hymir, who became the father of a new generation, and especially of all the giants that have ever since lived in the world. As he lay stretched out sleeping, his natural warmth brought forth a man and a woman from his armpits, and the contact of his two feet produced a son. These became afterwards the progenitors of a race called Hrimthussar, or frost giants. These giants were demi-gods, and nearly related to the gods of the first order, but were nevertheless their greatest enemies; for Hymir and his posterity had a great portion of the poison of the Elivanger in their bodies, and were therefore of a wicked disposition, and employed all their powers in efforts to injure the gods.
Besides Hymir there sprang also from the melted ice a wonderful cow, Audhumbla, whose milk, which flowed from her in four rivers, afforded nourishment and food to the giant. The cow supported herself by licking the hoarfrost and salt from the ice. But these rivers of milk were not the only wonderful production of this cow; for while she was one day licking the saltstones, there appeared at first the hair of a man, on the second day the whole head, and on the third the entire form endowed with beauty, agility, and power. This new being was a god who is called Bure, and became the father of Bör, who married Belsta the daughter of the giant Belthorn, by whom he had three sons, Odin, Vile, and Ve. These three now made war upon Hymir and slew him, and in the deluge caused by his blood as it flowed from his body all the giants were drowned except Bergelmer and his wife, who escaped in a boat. Odin and his brothers then commenced to create the visible world out of the body of the slain giant. They dragged the body of Hymir into the middle of the abyss, cut it in pieces, and formed out of the flesh the earth, his blood became the sea, his bones became mountains, his teeth rocks, his hair trees, his skull the arch of heaven, and his brain clouds pregnant with hail and snow. With his eyebrows the gods formed the castle Midgard (middle earth), destined to become the abode of man. The earth thus formed is round and flat, and the arched heaven above it is supported by four dwarfs called the East, South, West, and North. The sea forms a belt around the earth, and beyond this belt is the land of the giants.
But thick darkness still covered all the world created by the three brothers; to dispel which they gathered the sparks and beams that issued from Muspelheim and scattered them in the firmament to light the earth, and they became stars. Odin then regulated the periods of day and night and the seasons, by placing in the heavens the two great luminaries, and appointing to them their respective courses. As soon as the sun began to shed its rays upon the cool earth, it caused the vegetable world to bud and sprout. Shortly after the gods had created the world, they walked by the side of the sea, pleased with their new work, but found that it was still incomplete, for it was without human beings.
They therefore took an ash-tree and made a man out of it; and they made a woman out of an alder, and called the man Aske, and the woman Emla, Odin then gave them life and soul, Vile reason and motion, and Ve bestowed upon them the senses, beautiful features, and speech. They were then perfect (pl. 13, fig. 8). Midgard was then given to them by the gods as their residence, and they became the progenitors of the whole human race.
The mighty ash-tree Yggdrasill (pl. 12, fig. 6), was supposed to support the whole universe. It had sprung from the body of Hymir, and had three immense roots extending, one into Asgard (the dwelling of the gods), the other into Jotunheim (the abode of the giants), and the third to Niffleheim (the regions of darkness and cold). By the side of each of these roots is a spring from which it is watered; the root that extends into Asgard is carefully tended by the three Norns, Urdur (the past), Verdandi (the present), Skuld (the future). The spring at the Jotunheim side is Hymir’s well, in which wisdom and wit lie hidden, but that of Niffleheim, which is called Hvergelrmir (the old goblet) feeds the Nidhögge (darkness), which perpetually gnaws at the root. The branches of this tree spread over the whole world, and reach even above heaven. An eagle is perched upon them, which knows many things (between his eyes sits sometimes the hawk called Vederfölnir); the squirrel Ratatösk runs up and down the ash, fanning strife between the eagle and the Nihögge, by whispering to the one what the other says. Four harts run across the branches of the tree and bite the buds; they are called Dainn, Dvalinn, Duneyr, and Durathror, and represents the four winds. Under the tree lies Hymir; when he tries to shake off its weight the earth quakes.
Asgard is the name of the abode of the gods, access to which is only gained by crossing the bridge Bifröst (the rainbow). On one end of this bridge is a citadel in which dwells the warden appointed by the gods to watch without ceasing that no enemy cross or even approach it. Asgard itself consists of golden and silver palaces, the dwellings of the gods; but the most beautiful of these is Valhalla, the residence of Odin and some other deities. It is an immense building of solid gold, with 540 gates. It fronts the rising sun, and is surrounded by the magnificent grove Gladsheim (home of joy), all the trees of which bear golden leaves. Its splendid halls are the reception rooms where Odin welcomes the spirits of heroes slain in battle, and hails them Einheriar (chosen heroes). Here they are then made to enjoy unalloyed and uninterrupted pleasures. Every morning they are roused from sleep by the crowing of the cock with a golden crest, when they arm themselves and go to Odin’s Tuum (the court of Odin), where they fight until the hour of repast; then they return to Odin’s hall with their wounds all healed, and enjoy the sumptuous feast daily spread for them. This banquet consists of the flesh of the boar Seremnir, which is always sufficient in supply, no matter how great the number of the guests may be. Every day it is served up at table, and every day are its life and flesh renewed. Their drink is mead, the milk of the goat Heithrun, which stands upon the walls of Valhalla, and feeds on the foliage of the tree Lerad, which grows upon the hall of the dead; this beverage is served to them in abundance by the Valkyræ, beautiful maidens of whom we shall speak hereafter. Before we leave the hall of Odin, we must also notice the wonderful stag Eikthyrnir, from whose horns the waters of the spring Hvergelmir gush forth.
But this scene of fierce contest was not the only heaven of which the northern nations had an idea. We learn from the Voluspa, that beyond the clear blue ether there is another heaven called the boundless, in which is situated the glorious city Gimble, the eternal and unchangeable. At the final day of judgment, the dwellers of Valhalla, Niffleheim, and Midgard, will have to stand forth and be tried, no longer by the rule of warlike achievements, but by that of moral justice. Those who, however unwarlike, have been good and just, will then be admitted to the glories of Gimble and the presence of the Supreme Being; while those who, though valiant, have been cruel, unjust, and rapacious, will be hm-led down to Nastrond (the bleak shore of the dead).
In the meantime all who die by old age or disease, and all cowards and fugitives in battle, will have to suffer in Helheim, a province of Niffleheim, which is girt by the hell-stream Gjöll, and set apart as the abode of the unblest.
The Gods of the Scandonavians. The Supreme Being, the uncreated one, we have already said was not considered an object of the religious worship of mortal beings. They honored therefore in this way the created gods, the chief of whom was Odin. He was originally the sun considered as a deity, and also its symbol. As the ruler of the world, and king of gods and men, he occupies the chief seat at the banquet of the gods of Valhalla, upon his throne, from which he can overlook all heaven and earth.
Upon his shoulders are the ravens Hugin and Munin, who fly every day over the whole world, and on their return report to him all they have seen and heard. As the god of the sun, he has the disk of that luminary behind his head, supported by two serpents (pl. 11, fig. 6). In his right hand he holds a spear, and by his side is the sword, attributes which designate him as the ruler of battles, and source of all valor. The tablet in his left hand he holds as the inventor of the Runic characters and songs of enchantment. Pl. 13, fig. 1, we see him standing with the left foot on a stone; around his shoulders is the warrior’s cloak over a splendid cuirass, and upon his head a golden helmet; his left hand grasps the shield, and with his right he is leaning upon the sword. The two ravens before mentioned are perched upon his shoulders, and at his feet lie the two wolves Geri and Freki, to whom he gives all the meat placed before him at every banquet, while he himself lives only on the wine which he drinks.
There are a few representations of him, which we give in pl. 11, figs. 7–10, but they are much more imperfect. In the two first we see his garments covered with Runic characters. These runes were the written letters of the ancient Scandinavians, and consisted chiefly of oblique lines placed upon a perpendicular one, so that their individual character and meaning had to be determined by their number and direction. The well known runic stones (figs. 17 and 18) had generally a border in the shape of two intertwined serpents, whose bodies were covered with these lines. They were used either as tombstones, monuments, genealogical registers, or records of treaties. The runic calendar (fig. 19) is covered with the same kind of characters.
Vile and Ve, the brothers of Odin, who assisted him in the creation of the world, are not afterwards mentioned in the Edda, and appear never to have been objects of worship.
Thor, the god of thunder, the most powerful warrior, and the oldest son of Odin and Frigga, was the first in rank after Odin. He was called Asa Thor (the lord Thor). His splendid palace, situated in the air, had in it 540 halls, and was called Bilskirnir. He is represented (pl. 13, fig. 2) seated on an iron chariot (the rolling of which causes the thunder) drawn by two wild goats. Hence his other name Auka Thor (the driving Thor). His attributes are the three precious presents which he received, and which make him powerful and feared, namely: in his right hand the hammer Mjölnir with the short handle, which, when hurled against his enemies, not only kills, but returns also to his hand of its own accord; it was also sometimes used to bless the marriage tie. Around his body is the belt of prowess, Megingiadir, which increases his strength twofold; and upon his hands are the enchanted iron gloves, which enable him to handle his hammer with greater efficacy. On account of his influence and power he is also seen (pl. 11, fig. 6) at the right hand of Odin when the latter is seated on his throne. The hammer in his hand he wields as a symbol of lightning.
Tyr, another son of Odin, is the god of battle-fields. He is the protector and friend of all heroes who combat one another in open and honest fight, for he himself is without guile or deceit. He is generally represented (pl. 13, fig. 6) as a powerful-looking man in the vigor of life, with a cuirass-like tunic, and the warrior’s cloak thrown over his shoulders, a helmet upon his head, the lance in his right hand, and the buckler by his side. Behind him lies the ram. He is distinguished for courage and boldness, and was therefore appointed to feed the terrible wolf Fenris, who has such enormous jaws that when he opens them his nose touches the heavens, and he displays teeth so large that the highest towers would seem small by their side. Tyr’s fearless courage caused him afterwards to lose his right hand by means of this wolf The myth which relates the circumstance tells us, that the wolf Fenris was a son of Loke, and then continues. When the gods who raised the monster saw how rapidly he grew in size and strength, and moreover knew that he would at a future period prove fatal to them, they attempted to chain him, but he broke the strongest fetters as if they were made of cobwebs.
The gods despairing that they would ever find a chain strong enough to fetter Fenris, sent a messenger to the mountain spirits (Svartalfir) in Svartalfaheim, who made for them the chain called Gleipnir (the Devouring). It was fashioned of six things; viz. the noise made by the footfall of a cat, the beards of women, the roots of mountains, the breath of fish, the sinews of bears, and the spittle of birds; when finished, it was as smooth and soft as a silken string. But when the gods asked the wolf to suffer himself to be bound with this apparently slight ribbon, he suspected their design, fearing that it was made by enchantment; he therefore only consented to be bound with it upon condition that one of the gods put his hand in his mouth as a pledge that the band was to be removed again. Tyr alone had courage enough to do this. But when the wolf found that he could not break his fetters, and that the gods would not release him, he bit off the hand of Tyr, who has ever since remained one-handed.
Braga, another son of Odin (pl. 12, fig. 2), is represented as a man advanced in years, and playing on a harp; he was the god of elocution, oratory, poetry, and song, and was distinguished above all the other gods for his wisdom and penetration. His tongue was covered with runes of enchantment, symbolizing that his song records great deeds. He is, therefore, in modern literature, often regarded as the god of history.
The warden of Asgard, who lived in the celestial citadel at one end of the bridge [Bifröst], which he guards against the giants, was Heimdall, or Heimdallur (fig. 5); he is represented mounted upon his steed Gulltoppur (Golden-mane), blowing his trumpet Giallarhorn (the far-sounding), the sound of which can be heard throughout the universe, and which he only blows to call the gods and heroes to the rescue when danger threatens. He also was a son of Odin; but the gifts bestowed upon him by his nine mothers were the coolness of the ocean, the strength of the earth, and a blood of reconciliation. He was particularly and in an extraordinary manner qualified for his post; “for he sleeps,” says the Edda, “less than a bird, can see a hundred leagues by night or day, and so acute is his sense of hearing, that he hears the grass grow in the earth and the wool on the sheep’s back, and a wound from his sword is always fatal.” His nine mothers were the nine hours of night, begetting the dawn, and he was himself the symbol of the brightness of early morning, which favors virtue and opposes vice.
Odin’s messenger to transmit all his orders and resolutions was his son Hermode, also the protector of travellers. On pl. 13, fig. 7, we see him dressed in a cuirass, and with a helmet upon his head, both presents from Odin. He acted also as master of ceremonies with his brother Braga, whose duty it was to welcome the newly slain heroes on their entrance into Valhalla.
Besides those already mentioned, there are two other gods that belong to the same class, who have the collective name Asir; Vidar, the god of silence, and Vali, the god of spring, concord, and reconciliation.
The goddesses of this race were Frigga, Idunna, Gefion, Fylla, and Sif.
Frigga was the wife of Odin, and granted growth and fruitfulness to all living things. She presided in all the assemblies of the goddesses, which were always held in her palace Vingolf. She knew, also, the fate of all men, but never revealed it to any one. She understood, moreover, the language of all animals and plants. Her wisdom and knowledge were so great, that even Odin applied to her often for counsel. She is generally represented as in pl. 12, fig. 1, seated in a golden chariot, which is drawn by two white cats, her white veil is flying in the wind, and by her side hover two of her attendants with veils similar to her own.
Idunna was the wife of Braga, and the goddess of immortality. She is always found as in fig. 3, seated by the side of her husband, with a basket of apples in her lap, which the gods eat when they begin to grow old, in order to renew their yonth, and which are given to the Einheriar to make them immortal. The myth relates of her, that she was once carried off by the powerful giant Thiasso, who was assisted in this abduction by Loke, that most crafty of the gods. When the gods were thus deprived of the youth-giving apples, they visibly began to grow old. Alarmed at this state of things, they threatened Loke, who confessed his guilt, and promised to bring her back if the queen of the gods, Frigga, would change him into a falcon, and endow him with the power to transform himself and others into any shape he pleased. The request was granted, and he transported himself immediately to the abode of the giant, where he arrived just as the other had gone on a fishing excursion, accompanied by all his servants. He entered the window in the shape of a falcon, and seating himself on the shoulder of the goddess, communicated to her his errand, and changing her into a swallow, flew with her towards Asgard.
The giant, who returned just in time to witness their escape, immediately pursued them in the shape of an eagle, but they reached Asgard before he could come up with them. Loke, afraid of his pursuer, hid himself beneath a pile of branches just as the eagle was about to dart upon him, but the gods set fire to the pile, which singed the wings of the eagle so badly, that he fell down, when he was readily destroyed. But Idunna’s arrival was hailed with great demonstrations of joy.
Gefion was the goddess of innocence, and the protectress of pious virgins. Fylla was the confidential attendant and counsellor of Frigga; and Sif, the wife of Thor.
The gods belonging to the second class were the Vanir, and such of them as were afterwards adopted by the Asir. The Vanir were a race who inhabited the regions of the ether which stretched over Godheim (Asgard). They were always friendly disposed to the human race, and protected it even against any injustice perpetrated by the gods against any individual of the race, or avenged it when protection came too late. When Odin had once unjustly killed a man, the Vanir took up the cause, and stormed Asgard; a battle ensued, but as neither side could gain a victory they made peace, and ratified it by spitting in a large vessel. The saliva thus collected gave birth to a wonderful being Quasir, who was endowed with supernatural wisdom, and travelled through the world for the purpose of instructing mankind. At last the dwarfs Fialar and Galar killed him, and collecting his blood in two tubs and a large kettle they mixed honey with it. This mixture soon became a mead, the drinking of which made sages and poets. To the gods they reported that they had found Quasir strangled by his own wisdom. But some time afterwards they killed a giant also; his son avenged the death of his father by placing them upon a rock in the sea, and threatened that he would not release them until they had given him the precious mead. Fear at last overcame avarice, and they yielded to him their treasure. He concealed it in the Guitberg; but Odin having bored a hole in the rock, entered through it in the shape of a worm and drank all the mead in the three vessels, and then escaped in the shape of an eagle.
The giant discovered the theft, pursued him in a like form, and caught the god above Asgard. A terrible fight took place, and Odin, in order to relieve himself, disgorged all the mead, which was caught by the gods below in a number of small vessels.
When the Asir and Vanir had ratified the peace above mentioned, they also exchanged hostages. The Asir gave to the Vanir Hönir and his companion Mimir, and the Vanir left with the Asir Njord, and his two children, Freyr and Freya, who were adopted by their new associates.
Njord, or Njördr, was the god of the winds, the giver of rain, and had the power to still the agitated weaves of the ocean and to quench the fire. He was the patron god of sailors, fishermen, and hunters, and received with particular favor the offerings of travellers. Even temples and sacrificial places were considered under his especial care. His palace Noadun is the eleventh of the palaces in Asgard. He is represented (pl. 13, fig. 5) dressed in an ample garment, with wings upon his shoulders, and long and dishevelled hair on his head; in his right hand he holds the oar, and in his left the bow, while a net is at his feet.
Freyr, his son, is the god of the sun, of fruitfulness, and rain; his aid was always implored when men wished to obtain a favorable season or peace. He was considered kindly disposed towards mankind and willing to grant their prayers. He is represented (fig. 3) with a halo around his head, in his left hand holding a number of ears of wheat, and with his right an urn from which the water flows; as the god of the sun, he has the golden boar Gullinbursti lying at his feet. His dwelling is in Alfheim. Sometimes he is also found standing on the left of Odin (pl. 11, fig. 6).
The myth tells us of him that he once seated himself upon the vacant throne of Odin, from which, as has been said, one could see everything in the whole world. Casting his eyes around he saw in the high north in the land of the giants, the beautiful Gerda, daughter of Gymir, and fell immediately so deeply in love with her that it affected his health, so that he could neither eat, drink, nor sleep. His parents were very much afflicted at the condition of their child, and made his servant Skyrnir ascertain the cause. When they learned it, they charged the faithful attendant with the task of demanding her in marriage for their son. After much trouble and overcoming many obstacles, Skyrnir succeeded and Gerda became Freyr’s wife.
Freya, the sister of Freyr, was the goddess of love and also goddess of the moon. She was next to Frigga the most powerful and honored, the most beautiful, virtuous, and gentle of all the goddesses, ever ready to grant the prayer and petitions of man.
She loved music, spring, and flowers, and was particularly fond of the Elves (fairies). The Scalds also drew their inspiration for their love songs from her. Her husband Odur left her and travelled into distant countries; when she found after some time that he did not return, she went in search of him, but without success. She began therefore to lament and weep her loss; but her tears became gold and her lamentation the sweetest melodies. She is always described as attended by two of her maids (pl. 13, fig. 4).
The strangest figure in the whole circle of Scandinavian gods is Loke, the ever fickle, the disturbing element. He is the symbol of the resisting force in the material world against the laws of nature, the embodiment of that wild, unruly recklessness which breaks down all barriers that will yield to its strength. In the spiritual world he represents arbitrariness, untruth, falsehood, frivolity, impudence, sin, and generally all evil in the world arising from its compound nature of spirit and matter.
Locke or Loke, for he is called by either name, was the son of the giant Farbauti, and surpassed most created beings in beauty, skill, agility, as well as in craftiness and perfidy. He appeared as if belonging neither to heaven nor to hell, but partaking of the virtues of the one and vices of the other. He remained on indifferently good terms with the gods, into the company of whom he had forced himself, and he delighted equally in bringing them into difficulties and in extricating them again out of the danger by his cunning, wit, and skill. His greatest crime was the plan which he devised and which resulted in the death of Baldur, the best and most beloved of the gods.
This Baldur was a son of Odin and Frigga, and is described in the Edda as “so fair and dazzling in favor and features, that rays of light seem to issue from him, and of so fair a head that the whitest of all plants is called Baldur’s brow. Baldur is, moreover, the mildest, wisest, and the most eloquent of the Asir, yet such is his nature that the judgment he has pronounced can never be altered.” For a long time he lived in happiness by the side of his wife Nana in his splendid palace Breidablik (far shining splendor) until he dreamed one night that his life was in danger. Disturbed by this dream he related it to the gods. His mother, who became alarmed, sought to prevent all danger by making everything animate or inanimate, fire, water, earth, animals, stones, trees, and reptiles, take an oath that they would not hurt him. Baldur being now thought invulnerable, the gods amused themselves by making him a target at which they discharged arrows, stones, and swords, without occasioning him any injury, all things that had taken the oath being mindful not to hurt him. But Loke, who hated and envied this pure being, was hatching a malicious trick. Disguised as an old woman he elicited from Frigga the avowal that, deeming the mistletoe too weak and insignificant to do harm, she had omitted to take the oath from it. Loke immediately went in search of the mistletoe, which he found and returned with it to the assembly. He now persuaded Hödur, who was blind, and had taken no part in the sport, to hurl the shrub against Baldur, offering to direct his hand. Hödur, ignorant of the nature of the weapon, consented and threw the mistletoe against Baldur, who, to the consternation of all the gods, immediately fell dead.
The grief of the celestials was so great that it deprived them at first of all courage and even speech, for the oracle had predicted that the death of their favorite threatened all with destruction. All the gods and even some of the giants united in burning his remains with great pomp on a funeral pyre. His wife, who died of grief, and his horse were buried with him.
After a fruitless attempt to restore him to life Frigga sent Hermode the messenger to entreat Hela, the queen of the lower world, to allow the latter to return, assuring her that he was beloved by all things. “Well,” replied Hela, “if all things in the world, both living and lifeless, weep for him then shall he return to the Asir, but if one thing speak against him or refuse to weep, he must be kept in Helheim.” When Hermode had returned with this answer from Hela, the gods sent messengers out into all the world requesting all created things to weep for Baldur’s death, and all, even the inanimate things, wept. Only one old witch who was found in a cave shed no tears and refused to do it; this witch was Loke in disguise. Baldur had, therefore, to remain among the dead. But Loke did not escape his well deserved punishment. When he perceived how exasperated the gods were he fled to the top of a mountain. There he built a house with four doors so that he could see every approaching danger. Frequently he changed himself into a salrnon and hid among the stones of a neighboring waterfall. But the Asir caught him in a net, and then took the intestines of his son Nari, who had been torn to pieces by his brother Vali, whom the gods had changed into a wolf, and with them they bound Loke to the points of three rocks, and afterwards transformed these cords into thongs of iron. Skadi, the goddess of the chase, then suspended a serpent over him in such a manner that the venom fell on his face drop by drop. Sigyn his wife stands by him and receives the drops as they fall in a cup; but when she carries it away to empty it of its contents, the venom falls upon Loke, which makes him howl with horror and twist his body about so violently that the whole earth shakes, and this produces what men call earthquakes. In this condition will he remain until Ragnaroek (the twilight of the gods), which is the end of the world, when in the war of extermination Loke will fall simultaneously with his antagonist Heimdall. The lower portion of pl. 11, fig. 6, is intended to represent Loke suffering the punishment of his crime.
Fig. 11 is a front and back view of an idol lately found in Norway; but little is known about it.
Among the lower goddesses, though not exactly goddesses themselves, we must also enumerate the Norns already mentioned above (pl. 12, fig. 6). They were the dispensers of the uncihangeable fate to which gods and men had alike to bow, and were as such looked up to with awe and reverence. The first, Urdur (the past), was of the race of the giants; the second, Verandi (the present), belonged to the Asir; and the third, Sculd (the future), to the Vanir.
Their chief occupation consisted, as we have already said, in taking care of the tree Yggdrasill, and seeing that its root was duly watered; they had, besides, to engrave the runes of fate upon a metal shield, for by these runes was the lot of every living being decided. But they were always just, impartial, and unchangeable, and none of their decrees could ever be altered.
Next to these in rank are the Valkyræ, or Valkyryor (pl. 12, fig. 7). They were warlike virgins, mounted upon horses, and armed with helmets, shields, and spears. Odin, who was desirous to collect a great many heroes in Valhalla, in order to have a numerous host of warriors when at the Ragnaroek he would be compelled to meet the giants in battle, sent down to every battle-field to make choice of those who were to be slain, and to sway the victory. Hence their name, which is composed of Val, a battlefield, and kyra, to choose, the electors of the battle-field. Their presence was known by a strange flickering light, like that of the Aurora Borealis, and every hero was rejoiced at the prospect of being called by the Valkyræ to take a place in Odin’s hall. In Valhalla these virgins had the office of waiting upon the banqueting heroes, and of foretasting their mead. Every time these maidens rode through the air they filled it with the rays of light which streamed from their spears, and from the manes of their horses dew dropped into the valleys, and hail fell upon the woods. Their number is not mentioned, and only two are particularly distinguished, viz. Hrist and Mirst, who were the exclusive cup-bearers to Odin.
The Edda mentions also another class of beings inferior to the gods, but still possessed of great power; these were called the Elves, or Alfs. The white spirits, or Elves of Light, were exceedingly fair, more brilliant than the sun, and clad in garments of a delicate and transparent texture. They loved the light, were kindly disposed to mankind, and generally appeared as fair and lovely children. Their country was called Alfheim, and was the domain of Freyr, the god of the sun, in whose light they were always sporting.
The black or night-elves, Svartalfs, were a different kind of creatures. Ugly, long-nosed dwarfs, of a dirty brown color, they appeared only at night, for they shunned the sun as their most deadly enemy, because whenever his beams fell upon any of them, they changed them immediately into stones. Their language was the echo of solitudes, and their dwelling-places in subterranean caves and clefts, which were called Svartalfaheim. They were probably the dwarfs who came at first into existence as maggots produced by the decaying flesh of Hymir’s corpse, and were afterwards endowed by the gods with a human form and great understanding. They were particularly distinguished for a knowledge of the mysterious powers of nature, and for the runes which they carved and explained. They were the most skilful artificers of all created beings, and worked in metals and in wood. Among their most noted works were Thor’s hammer, and the ship Skidbladnir, which they gave to Freyr, and which was so large that it could contain all the Asir with their war and household implements, but so skilfully was it wrought, that when folded together it could be put into a side pocket.
The Giants, who were the natural enemies of the gods, were divided into several races, all of which traced their common origin to the Hrimthussir (the frost-giants). They were said to be uncouth in form, furnished with a number of arms and heads, some having as many as a hundred of each; but they were possessed of great riches. They possessed a greater knowledge than most of the Asir of the past, of the wisdom gained from the runes, and of witchcraft. Their world was Jotunheim, a region situated near the borders of the earth, where they had a kind of capital called Utgard, the residence of their king Utgardloke, from whom the above-mentioned wicked Loke was distinguished by the epithet Asa Loke.
The character of this giant-king of Utgard best appears in the myth of Thor’s adventures on his journey to Utgard. As soon as the god of thunder obtained his wonderful hammer Mjölnir, he determined to go out in search of adventures, and try the virtues of his new weapon. Accompanied by Loke and Thialfi, his friend and companion, noted for his swiftness in running, he determined to visit Utgardloke.
As soon as the three reached Jotunheim they entered a large wood, and night having come on, looked around for a place to sleep: at last they discovered a hut in which they passed the night. But their rest was several times disturbed by a noise which they thought was caused by an earthquake. When morning came they discovered that what they had taken to be an earthquake was only the snoring of an immense giant, who had slept near their hut. Just as Thor was about to try the virtue of his hammer upon the head of the sleeper he awoke, and looked about for his glove, which he had lost the previous day; after a brief search he found it and picked it up. Then only did Thor find out that this was the hut, or what they had taken for one, in which they had spent the night. The giant now offered them his company and services as a guide, which they accepted. The four then pursued their journey together. When the evening came again their new companion offered them his basket with provisions to supply themselves with supper, but requested that they would be careful with the cord wound round the basket, for he had no other to fasten it with. After he had given this injunction he lay down and was soon fast asleep. When Thor tried to open the basket he could not untie a single knot, nor render a single string looser than it was before. Seeing that his labor was in vain he became wroth, and grasping his mallet with both hands launched it at the giant’s head. Skyrmir, for so he had called himself, awoke and merely asked if a leaf had not fallen on his head. About midnight he commenced again to snore so loud that it sounded like distant thunder. Then Thor arose and again took his mallet and launched it with redoubled force on the giant’s forehead. Skyrmir awaking, said an acorn must have fallen on his head, and then composed himself again to sleep. A little before daybreak when the enraged god perceived that the giant was again asleep, he seized for the third time the terrible Mjölnir, and concentrating all his strength, threw the mallet with such violence that it forced its way up to the handle into the sleeper’s temple. But Skyrmir arose grumbling and said it was not pleasant to sleep in this wood, for just now a branch of a tree had fallen on his head. He then left them, and they pursued their journey, until they came to Utgardloke’s palace. The king returned their respectful salutations with contempt, and asked them to give his people some proofs of their boasted strength and skill. Loke immediately offered to eat the greatest amount placed before him quicker than any one else. Utgardloke then ordered one of his men who was sitting at the further end of the bench, and whose name was Logi, come forward and try his skill with Loke. A trough filled with meat having been set on the hall floor, each placing himself at one end began to eat as fast as he could, until they met in the middle of the trough. But it was found that Loke had only eaten the flesh, whereas his adversary had devoured both flesh and bone, and the trough to boot. All the company therefore adjudged that Loke was vanquished. Thialfi now proposed that he would run a race with any one who might be matched against him. The king called a young man named Hugi and bade him run a race with Thialfi. But in each of the three courses which they ran Hugi so far outstripped his competitor that Thialfi himself confessed that he had lost the race. Thor then offered to drink against any one. His host immediately ordered his cup-bearer to bring the large horn which his best companions were wont to empty at a draught at his feasts. The cup having been brought he handed it to Thor, saying, “Whoever is a good drinker will empty that horn at a single draught, though some men make two of it, but the most puny drinker can do it in three.” But Thor attempted in vain to accomplish the feat: even after the third draught he found that the liquor was only a little lower in the horn.
Full of wrath at this defeat, he now challenged the giants to select any one among them to meet him in a trial of strength. To which Utgard-Loke replied: “We have a very trifling game here, in which we exercise none but children. It consists merely in lifting my cat from the ground, nor should I have dared to mention such a feat to Asa Thor, if I had not already observed that thou art by no means what we took thee for.” Stung to the quick by this taunt, Thor seized the cat, but with all his strength succeeded only in making her lift one foot from the ground. Twice baffled, the Thunderer now exclaimed: “Little as ye think me, let me see who amongst you will come hither, now I am in wrath, and wrestle with me.” To which the king replied that he knew no one who would not think it beneath him to do so; but if Thor was so anxious to show his prowess, to come forward and wrestle with the old nurse Elli, who presented herself at the same time. But so far from his throwing her down at once, which he at first thought he could do without much effort, she succeeded in bringing him down upon one knee, and was therefore declared the winner. Displeased at these failures, Asa Thor departed with his companions from the city of the giants. Utgardloke led them to the gate, and before parting he said to him: “Nay, thou needst not be astonished at having been vanquished in all these contests; for Logi, the competitor of Loke, was the all-devouring fire; Hugi, who won the race with Thialfi, was Thought, and it is impossible to keep pace with that. One end of the horn, which thou didst try to empty, reached the sea; when thou comest to its shore thou wilt perceive how much it has sunk by thy draughts. The cat was the Midgard serpent, whose body encompasses the ocean; when we saw that one of his paws was off the floor, we were terror-stricken, for he was then only long enough to inclose the waters between his teeth and tail. The wrestling with Elli was also a wonderful feat, for she is Old Age, and there was never yet any one whom she will not sooner or later lay low if he abide her coming. And I was the:first giant who met thee in the forest, for the purpose of frightening thee from coming here. Mayest thou never return any more!” When Thor heard this he raised his mallet to kill the king of the giants, but the latter had already vanished, and with him the city of Utgard. The three travellers saw nothing but a beautiful plain. They then returned to Asgard to plan another expedition.
It was a firm belief of the northern nations, and a prominent article of their creed, that a time would come when all the visible creation, the gods of Valhalla and Niffleheim, the inhabitants of Jotunheim, Alfheim, and Midgard, together with their habitations, would be destroyed. This we have already mentioned as the end of Loke’s sufferings, Ragnaroek, the Twilight of the gods. The Asir themselves were the first cause of the calamity; for by making peace with the giants, and admitting the wicked Loke into their society, as well as by their intermarriages with the daughters of the giants, they introduced wickedness into the region of bliss, and incurred the penalty which sooner or later must overtake it. The fearful day of final retribution will not, however, be without its forerunners. The gods themselves having ceased to be what they were, the purity of their race will have departed, and craft and injustice begin to characterize their deeds.
Wickedness having increased everywhere, the race of the giants will once more rule with power and might. Then comes the beginning of this fearful period. It will open with the dreadful Fimbulvetur, a triple winter, during which snow will fall from the four corners of the heavens, the frost be very severe, the wind piercing, the weather tempestuous, and the sun impart no gladness. Three such winters will pass away without being tempered by a single summer. Three other similar winters will then follow, during which war and discord will spread over the universe. Bretkren, parents, and children, for the sake of mere gain, will kill each other, and no one spare a human being no matter what the tie of relationship. The earth itself will be frightened and begin to tremble, the trees will be torn up by the roots, the sea leave its basin, the heavens tear asunder, and men fall in numbers victims to death’s arrows, while the eagles of the air feast upon their still quivering bodies. The wolf Fenris, now become aware that his time has come, will break his bands, and the Midgard serpent will rise out of her bed in the sea, and fill the atmosphere with her poisonous breath. Loke, too, released from his bonds, will join the enemies of the gods. Amidst this general devastation, the sons of Muspelheim will rush forth under their leader Surtur, before and behind whom are flames and burning fire. His sword outshines the sun itself. Onward they ride over Bifrost, the rainbow bridge, which breaks under the horses’ hoofs; but they, disregarding its fall, direct their course to the battle-field called Vigrid. Thither also repair the wolf Fenris, the Midgard serpent, Loke with all the followers of Hela, and Hrym with his Hrymthussir.
Heimdall now stands up, and with all his force sounds the Gjallar-horn to assemble the gods and heroes for the contest. The Asir thus summoned advance led on by Odin, who is armed with his spear Gungnir, and wears his golden helmet and refulgent cuirass. A battle now commences, such as was never before seen, nor will ever have its equal. Odin engages the wolf Fenris, who devours him; but at that instant his son Vidar advances, and setting his foot on the monster’s lower jaw, seizes the other with his hands and tears them asunder; the wolf dies, and Vidar has avenged the death of his father. Thor gains great renown for killing the Midgard serpent, but recoils at the same time and falls dead, suffocated with the venom which the dying monster vomits over him. The dog of hell Garm, who has broken loose from the Gnipa cave, attacks Tyr, and they kill each other. Loke and Heimdall meet and fight until they are both slain.
The Asir and their enemies having fallen in battle, Surtur, who has killed Freyr, darts fire and flames over the world, and the whole universe is burning and consuming. The sun becomes dim with smoke, the earth sinks into the ocean, the stars fall from heaven, and time is no more.
After this Alfadur, the eternal and uncreated god, will cause a new heaven and a new earth to arise out of the sea, where the gods and men will live happily together. The new earth, filled with abundant supplies, will spontaneously produce its fruits without requiring labor or toil. Neither will wickedness or misery any more mar the happiness of its inhabitants, who will live amidst scenes of uninterrupted bliss, innocence, and joy.
Before we close this section we will make a few remarks on the worship and religious ceremonies of the Scandinavians.
Their priests were called Blodgodar or Blodmen, and their high priests Höfdingi. They were all divided into different classes according to their respective ranks.
We read also of priestesses, Blodgydiur, who lived in separate dwellings which were considered sacred, and were an asylum, particularly for persecuted virgins.
These priestesses were only in the service of the goddesses, but officiated also at the worship of Baldur.
The chief business of the priesthood was to consult the oracles, to predict future events, and to superintend the ceremonies of enchantments. Their soothsaying was termed Seid.
The Scandinavians had no temples; for, holding that the gods could not be inclosed in walls, they erected their altars in sacred groves or on eminences, and sometimes inclosed them with a hedge. Public opinion alone invested them with a character of sanctity. The ring worn by the priest when offering the sacrifice was always kept upon the altar, and upon it every one placed his hand who was about taking a solemn oath. Sacrifices of men or animals constituted the chief feature of their worship.
They had several religious festivals, of which we mention two which were considered the most important. The annual chief festival, or Yule, which was celebrated on the 21st of December with many imposing ceremonies, one of which was accompanied by the sacrifice of a boar in honor of Freyr, the god of the sun. The other was the Novennial, which was the greatest festival of the nation, in the celebration of which all the inhabitants were required to join.
It lasted nine days, during which time they sacrificed many animals, and each day a human being. The blood of the victims was offered as an atonement to the gods, and their bodies were hung upon the branches of the trees in the sacred grove. Kings and nations sent offerings and presents for this festival, to Upsala, the capital.
The religion of the ancient Germans is much less known in its details than that of the more northern nations of Europe. There is no doubt that its general features were the same as those which characterize the religion of the Scandinavians. The same gods were worshipped, only under different names and with different ceremonies.
It is probable that the primitive Germans paid divine honors to the earth, fire, and the celestial bodies. The St. John’s fire, which was kept up for a long time after the introduction of Christianity, and which is still to be met with in some sequestered spots of the country, is very likely a remnant of the old fire-worship. They did not, however, regard fire as a god, but only as a symbol of the Almighty Being, whom they adored with profound reverence without presuming to name him or worship him in temples. Before no visible being were they willing to bend the knee, for they acknowledged no one as master except the invisible Lord of the universe.
Only at a later period, when the nation had been already divided into regular tribes, and had learned to look up to a superior of their own race, do we find the idea of a god with characteristics more within the scope of the human imagination, develop itself in the popular belief. This god and king, who was also considered the father of the nation, they called Thiusco, Teut, or Theut. But the race of gods of which he was the chief had to share the same fate with the ancient gods of Scandinavia. A new dynasty, the Asir, supplanted it, and established themselves under their leader, who was called in Germany Wodan, the same as Odin. He soon became the object of the most profound worship, and to him only were human sacrifices offered. He was regarded as the god of heaven, and the oak was sacred to him. Thor and Frigga appear also to have been worshipped as divine beings; and if we credit what the Romans said, they must have had besides these a number of other gods and goddesses. But all that has been handed down to us on this subject is too obscure and of too doubtful a character to be accepted as matter of reliable information. The most authentic tradition is that which contains an account of the goddess Nirthus or Hertha (pl. 12, fig. 14). She was worshipped as the personification of the earth, the creator and preserver of all animate and inanimate beings of this globe, and as the ruler of man’s affairs. Her chariot was kept covered with tapestry in a sacred grove upon an island in the seas (probably the isle of Rugen) in the centre of which was a calm lake. At different periods she visited the earth, when the priests, who alone were aware of her descent and who were the only persons privileged to approach her, prepared her chariot drawn by white cows, and led her in procession through the country. Everywhere the train was greeted with joyful demonstrations, and the event celebrated as a great festival. Her presence was the harbinger of peace; hostile weapons were laid aside and contending parties united like brothers to hail her arrival. After she had thus visited every part of the country and had restored peace and quiet to every hamlet, she returned to the sacred grove where a hundred slaves were selected to assist in bathing her in the sacred lake. But death was the price which these poor beings had to pay for the privilege of attending upon the goddess; for immediately after she had taken her bath they were drowned in the silent waters of the lake.
Fig. 17 is a drawing of an Alemanic idol lately discovered, but of which little is known.
The priesthood among the Germans was not confined to a particular caste, and the reverence and privileges accorded to priests were granted to the office and not to the individual. Every head of a family was the priest of his household, and one of the oldest nobles filled the office for the district. Great privileges and rights were enjoyed by the priests during the session of the public assemblies, which was always held on the new or full moon, and opened by one of the order. Though without a direct or controlling influence in the deliberations of the people, they had, nevertheless, a great political power, for to them was confided the interpretation of the divination by the casting of lots.
Disputes which could not be decided by human judges were left for decision to what was called the judgment of God, which was either a trial by fire, single combat, or, in particular cases, the casting of lots.
White horses were also kept in the sacred groves, and supported at the expense of the community. They were never permitted to do any ordinary work, but on solemn festive occasions were harnessed to a sacred chariot and driven about, accompanied by the priests and nobles; great attention was paid to their snorting and neighing, from which the priests predicted the course of future events.
The Germans had also their priestesses, but they were not intrusted with the sacrificial service, for their duty was exclusively that of consulting and interpreting the oracles, an office to which a kind of sacred character was attached. Their influence was particularly great in times of war or popular excitement.
At a later period there was another class of sacred virgins who were called Alrunes, and were esteemed as infallible prophetesses. No one attempted to dispute their words or commands. They lived always in the solitude of the sacred groves, in which the dwelling stood inclosed by a hedge, and were never intruded upon by any one.
The Slavono-Vendic Mythology
The religion of the Slavonians and Vendes was intimately connected with the mythology and worship of the Germanic nations. It was not, however, so indigenous as the latter, but owed its form and peculiarities more to foreign elements adopted by the nation. This will be readily accounted for when we examine the locality and occupation of these tribes.
The centre of the Slavono-Vendic idolatry was on the Isle of Rugen and along the coast of the Baltic, from Stettin to Rostock. The inhabitants of this region, favored by the natural facilities of their country, at an early day became the traders for all the region along the Baltic. In their mercantile intercourse they acquired not only riches but also borrowed the doctrines and religious belief from many a nation which they visited. But in proportion as they became wealthy, they began to despise the simplicity of their neighbors, and spent immense sums in the erection and ornamenting of costly temples and splendid idols, with which they filled their beautiful towns. Vineta is said to have been the place where Vendic idolatry was first known to flourish. This town is supposed to have been situated near the shore of the Baltic, and was the chief mart for all the northern nations, whose peculiarities of worship were equally tolerated there. When the city was destroyed by war and inundation, the inhabitants fled and built Julin not far from it, which they soon made to rival their lost Vineta in splendor and wealth. Arcona, on the Isle of Eugen, was next founded by them, and finally Ehetra, which, like Venice, was built upon a number of small islands. The latter soon became the city of the gods and the pantheon of all the nations near the shores of the Baltic: Scandinavians, Finns, and Slavonians. Hence the multitude of gods of different nations, German, Finnish, Prussian, and even Grecian, found in the Slavono-Vendic mythology, and the consequent confusion and contradictions in the system.
Some suppose that these strange gods were only admitted by the priests into their secret systems, while the people continued to worship exclusively the gods of their own country. If this is true, then should we have to distinguish between the doctrines of the priesthood and a popular creed. But the whole is involved in so much obscurity that it is difficult to decide with any certainty. We can therefore only give what has come down to us with some degree of reliable authority.
It appears that the foundation of this creed was a belief in one Supreme God, the Creator of all things, and the existence of a host of inferior gods who were merely the servants of their creator. The latter had their sphere of action in the visible world, where they appeared as the representatives of the Supreme Euler, with power to direct the aflairs of man. They themselves were divided into different classes, according to their respective influence, power, and rank. All the gods were supposed to be either white or black, and were according to their color ranked in one of the two grand divisions. The white gods were good and kindly disposed to man, and the black ones bad or evil-disposed to the human race. The Vendes divided them into Razi (counsellors) and Zirnitra (wizards). The Supreme Being was supposed to rule over both divisions and partake of the characteristics which distinguished each; but his influence on the visible world he only exercised through their instrumentality.
We have said that all the gods belonged either to the white or black division, but there were a few who were exceptions to this rule, particularly among the highest ranks; they seemed, like their creator, to possess the traits of both classes, and were therefore thought to belong to both. Each division had its presiding deity, after whom his followers were called. Svantevit was the chief of the gods of light. He is generally represented, as on pl. 12, fig. 9, with four heads, his right hand resting upon his hip, and his left supporting a cornucopia, which he presses to his breast. He was probably a personification of the Supreme Being, Creator, and Ruler of the universe, who with his four heads watches over the four quarters of the world, and holds in his hand the horn of plenty and consolation; for through it he is said to have absorbed the sun; and when that great luminary shall have ceased to exist, he mil console and nourish with heavenly ambrosia the souls who shall be deemed worthy to be fed from the horn of life preserved by him. All souls emanate from him, and to him they return by a gradual ascent.
Next in rank to Svantevit is the god Radegast, which means counsellor, and subordinate to the Supreme Being. He is said to have been the first of the gods who became incarnate, and the source of all procreation and birth. His color, which is black and white, designates him as both counsellor and wizard. Among the Vendes he was the god of the sun and probably also of war. An older statue(pl. 13, fig. 9) represents him with a swan upon his head, a human face in front and that of a lion on the back of his head; upon his breast is a bull’s head with a human face. Another and a later statue (pl. 12, fig. 10) represents him perfectly naked, a bird with outstretched wings upon his head, a shield with the bull’s head before his breast, and a kind of halbert in his left hand.
Radegast had two characters, Shvaixtix and Perhunust, in each of which he was worshipped as a distinct individuality. The former (fig. 13) is the sun shedding his blessings abroad, a god conferring benefits upon the human race. Upon his altar the fire was never suffered to go out. As Perkumist he is a god of light, both good and bad, or the god of thunder. In pl. 13, fig. 12a, he is represented with a human face, the head surrounded by ten beams of light, and holding the plough in front of him as protector of agriculture; fig. 12b shows the reverse of the statue with a lion’s face. Both of these gods were borrowed of the Prussians and eastern Slavonians, for the ancient war and sun god of the Vendes was Prove, who is represented with shield and lance (pl. 12, fig. 11); and their passive deity Podaga (pl. 13, fig. 11) presided over agriculture, fisheries, and the interest of the herdsman, and to him they prayed for favorable weather. But when the new gods were introduced his altar was only sought to obtain propitious weather. They left him, however, his attributes, the boar’s face on the back of the head, the plough, the ten beams, and the cornucopia. The latter reminds us of the god of spring, who in the signs of the ram and bull pours plenty over the land. Siebog is reported to have been the god of love (pl. 12, fig. 12); the back of his head was represented as the head of a cat. Sieba (pl. 13, fig. 10) was the goddess of love. Nemisa was feared and worshipped as the divinity who cut the thread of life. Sometimes we find this idol in the shape of a man (fig. 13) with four beams around the head and one wing, on the front part of the body a dove with outstretched wings; at other times it is represented in the shape of a naked woman, with an eagle by her side looking up to her. Nemisa was considered as belonging to the black gods, inasmuch as death was regarded as a calamity; but on account of the beneficial office which he performed by introducing the soul through death to a new life, he was also honored as a white or a good god. Triglav (pl. 12, fig. 8) was a very important deity among the Vendes, and his statue at Stettin which represented him with three heads, was explained by the priests to be symbolical of his dominion over heaven, earth, and the lower regions. Sometimes he is found with a veil covering his head, emblematic of his willingness to hide his face from the sins of men, and to pardon them. Some supposed that it was an emblematical figure of the Trinity veiled from the sight of mortal eyes. The moon too was represented by a deity called Ziselbog (pl. 11, fig. 12), but it was a very uncouth form, though not more so than that of Ipahog (fig. 13), the god of the chase, whose head was decorated with two beams and a pair of horns, and upon his back were engraved the symbols of hunting.
The chief among the black or evil gods was Pya, generally called Zernebog. He was the god of bloody deeds, and as such was represented as a fierce lion, erect, with his head somewhat elevated, though sometimes the head alone served to denote the god. The black gods, who did not share any of the qualities of the white ones, were usually represented as animals.
Next in rank to Pya was Flyntz, the god of death, among the Zirnitra. He was generally represented in the shape of a skeleton with a lion upon its shoulder, a burning torch in its hand, and its feet placed upon a large pebble. Sometimes, however, an old man (pl. 12, fig. 15) with all the attributes of the skeleton, only a flint instead of a pebble is beneath his foot as an emblem of the resurrection. In this form he was therefore numbered among the gods of light.
Hela, the goddess of the lower world in the Germanic Mythology, was also included among the Zirnitra, and was represented by a lion’s head with an outstretched tongue. Myda, another of the dark gods, appeared in the shape of a crouching dog. Besides these they had numerous forest and house gods to whom only a local worship was paid. A number of statues of idols have been found, of which neither the name nor the office is known. We have represented two of these belonging to the Slavonic Mythology on pl. 11, figs. 14 and 15; on pl. 13, fig. 14a is a Sarmatian, and fig. 14b a Silesian idol, though it is possible that the latter may, like pl. 11, fig. 10, be intended to represent Thor in the shape of Tyr. Pl. 13, figs. 15 and 16, represent idols of which neither the nature nor the place of worship is known.
Numerous and frequently costly temples were built for the worship of many of the above-mentioned gods. The chief temple was the one at Arcona. It was a wooden structure in an open place near the centre of the town, and was divided by a partition which ran through the whole building. The exterior of the walls was richly carved, and they were supported on the inside by four pillars; cloth tapestry served instead of walls to divide the whole into separate apartments. Here was kept the gigantic statue of the four-headed Svantevit, with the hair and beard cut short, according to the custom of the Vendes. Close by it are always found his immense saddle and bridle, and the two-edged sword, the grip and scabbard of which were of chased silver.
The worship in this temple consisted in feeding and tending the white war-horse of the god, which office had always to be performed by the high priest, whose duty it was also to ride him out for exercise, though it would appear that he must have had enough without this; for it was said that the god mounted him every night, and rode forth to battle against the enemies of his religion; this was assigned as the reason why the horse was found every morning covered with perspiration. Peace and war depended also upon the actions of this horse; for he was always consulted before any warlike expedition was undertaken. This was done by laying a number of spears upon the ground, a short distance one from the other; the priest then led the horse across them, and it being considered a favorable omen if he passed three times over them without touching any one, war was then determined upon; but if he touched one with his foot it was considered an unlucky sign, and the contemplated expedition was abandoned.
In this building they kept also the sacred banners, and the ample treasures of the temple, consisting of precious metals, silks, and other stuffs. The revenues of the temple were very great, and were collected from the spoils of war, a third of which was deposited with the priests for its support; besides this, every citizen had to pay an annual capitation tax into its treasury. The conquered nations were also made to contribute to its support, and foreign merchants and princes enriched it with many presents. Independent of all this, it drew a large income from a band of 300 horsemen, called the Sacred Host, who were exclusively in the service of the priesthood, and who had to deposit in the hands of the priests whatever gain or booty they became possessed of.
There was another temple at Rhetra also built of wood, and with carved walls; its foundation consisted of bulls’ horns, collected from sacrificed animals. This temple also was the depository of sacred banners. Its annual revenues were collected not only in money, but also in animals for the altar. Almost all the idols found here were frightful figures, covered with cuirasses and helmets; for the priests, whose revenues were materially increased by every expedition against other nations, were themselves of a warlike disposition; and since the interpretation of the oracle of lots, which was consulted in all cases when an irruption was contemplated, was in their hands, they took care to consult their own interest.
Similar to this temple was the one at Stettin, consecrated to Triglav. On the outside it was covered with well executed carved figures, representing men, beasts, and birds, to which remarkably good and permanent colors imparted a life-like appearance. The interior was filled with the trophies of war, treasure, and arms, for a tythe of all the booty captured upon the water or during an expedition on land had to be deposited here, hence there was a great quantity of golden and silver cups used in soothsaying, and numerous vessels of all kinds used at the banquets of the great.
The priests of the Slavono-Vendic nations were highly cultivated, and possessed a great knowledge of the world and mankind. From the Germans they had learned to write, and from the Scandinavians the use of the runes. They were, moreover, in constant communication with the priests of other nations, and procured from their Greek friends their most beautiful cast metal idols. Among themselves they had established a perfect hierarchy, and all were divided into classes, the lines of which were drawn with great precision. The chief, or high priest, lived always at Arcona, and the priests of a number of districts were under his control. Even the secular authorities were subordinate to the spiritual power. The ceremonies of the daily worship and the service in the temples of the inferior gods were conducted by the priests of the lower ranks, but the service of the superior gods could be performed only by the high priests.
All or at least most of the Slavono-Vendic nations observed Monday as a sacred day. The most important festival was the annual harvest-home celebrated at Arcona. The high priest (Krive) prepared for its celebration by sweeping with his own hands the temple of Svantevit, and then killed the sacrificial animals before the gate. Afterwards he took the cornucopia from Svantevit and examined its contents. If he found that the mead poured into it during the previous festival had diminished in quantity, he predicted a scarce harvest, and exhorted the people to husband their resources. If on the contrary he found the horn still full, he announced a season of abundance, and then poured out the old mead at the feet of the idol. Having prayed for a blessing upon the people, he emptied quickly the horn now filled with new mead, and then returned it, after it had been filled for a second time, to the hand of the idol. The ceremonies concluded by his going behind a huge cake made of flour and honey and spices, nearly as high as a man, and asking the people whether they could still see him. As soon as they had answered in the affirmative, he prayed that the abundance of the next year might be such that they would no longer be able to see him behind it. Then turning to the assembly, he exhorted them to be pious and good, and dismissed them with a blessing.
The rest of the day was spent in eating, drinking, and carousing, for it was considered a sinful thing to retire sober from the banquet.
Human sacrifices were not uncommon, and Christians were preferred, because they were hated for their zeal in making converts. The blood of the victims was afterwards used in soothsaying. The Rugians, one of the most savage tribes, are said to have been particularly cruel when slaying their Christian victims.
The Mythology of the Gauls
More obscure even than the mythology of the Germans is that of the Gauls; partly because their early history is very little known, in part because their religion in the course of time has undergone a number of changes owing to foreign influence. The Celts, to whom the Gauls belonged, were known among the nations long before the Germans had any historical existence. They were already possessed of a considerable degree of cultivation, and had even commenced to decline when the latter made their appearance as active participants in the affairs of nations. Subdued by the Germans and the Romans, all traces of their mythology were lost, except such portions as were transmitted to us by the Romans in their accounts of the worship and religious ceremonies of the Gauls, who had also adopted much of the religion of their conquerors.
From the sources just mentioned we learn that a few gods only were universally worshipped by the whole nation, the greater number were merely local gods whose worship was confined to particular districts; they paid also divine honors to a kind of inferior spirits subordinate to the regular gods. Tacitus informs us that Mercury was their chief god. But his form (pl. 13, fig. 20), so very different from that of the Roman god, as well as some of his offices, would lead us to suppose that the name given him by the Roman historian was probably not the proper one. He was represented in a great variety of shapes, sometimes even with breasts like those of a woman. The popular creed considered him as the inventor of all arts, the guide of travellers, and the god of merchants and particularly traders. One of his statues, evidently modelled after the Roman type (the one to the right in fig. 23), represents him with a winged helmet upon his head, in his right hand a money bag, in his left the caduceus (a staff around which two serpents are entwined, and which served him as a herald’s staff and also as a wizard’s wand to induce sleep, to make himself invisible, or to transform himself), and upon his shoulders sits the cock, a symbol of watchfulness and active courage.
Next to Mercury in power was Nehalennia (pl. 11, fig. 16), a goddess of Belgium. She is sometimes represented standing, but more frequently in a sitting posture, and holding a basket filled with fruit in her lap. Her hair is thick and parted over the forehead; over her ample dress she wears a cloak without sleeves, and the collar around her neck is fastened over her breast by a button. At her left is a dog watching the contents of the basket, and on her right is a larger basket made of wicker-work and supplied with a handle. She was the goddess of commerce and navigation.
Magusanus (pl. 12, fig. 16) was another of the Belgian idols. He is often represented by the side of Nehalennia, upon votive tablets. Under his right arm he holds a dolphin, and in his left hand a forked club. A scaly little monster of the deep seems to bite the little toe of his left foot. These attributes make him certainly appear as nearer allied to the water gods than to the Roman Hercules.
Pl. 13, fig. 21, is supposed to be a representation of Hercules Saxanus, of whose office or character thus far nothing satisfactory has been discovered.
The other gods known to us as worshipped by the Gauls were evidently introduced by the Romans.
The first is Jupiter (fig. 17), who was worshipped in Gallia as Taran or Taranis. Nothing is known of him with certainty, except that human beings were sacrificed at his altars, and that the lofty oaks were considered as his emblems. Roman authorities inform us that he was considered as the lord of heaven. Fig. 18 is another representation of this god somewhat different from the previous one. Here he is seen but partially clothed with a cloak, holding in his left hand a lance, and accompanied by the eagle, who was sacred to him.
Next to Jupiter, Apollo was worshipped by the Gauls, under the names of Belin, Belen, and Abelio (fig. 23, the first left hand figure). He appears to have been a particular object of worship to the sick at watering-places, and he had a temple near a warm spring, which was dedicated to him as the giver of recovery. Apollo had also his oracles in Gallia, which were consulted chiefly in cases of sickness. The henbane, called after him Velinuntia and Apollinaris, was sacred to him. The Gauls dipped their arrows in the juice to make the wounds of the deer more surely mortal. As late as the 11th century we meet with a superstitious custom connected with this herb. When the country suffered from a prolonged drought, the women and young girls were wont to assemble together and elect the youngest and most innocent among them for their queen. She had to undress and proceed in a state of perfect nudity at the head of all her subjects, to a field to seek for henbane. When a plant had been found, she had to dig it out by the root with the little finger of her left hand, and then fasten it to the little toe of her right foot. Each of the rest then armed herself with a branch of the plant, and the procession directed its course to some rivulet, the queen carefully dragging the henbane after her. When arrived at the water she was immersed, and the rest sprinkled her also with their branches moistened from the rivulet. They then returned to the place from which they had started, the young queen being compelled to retrace her steps backwards.
In many districts Vulcan was also another object of worship, as the god of fire, and the inventor and protector of the arts which were carried on by the aid of fire. In pl. 13, fig. 19, he is represented as standing with a hammer in his right hand and a pair of tongs in his left. Fig. 23 shows him seated between four other figures; the same symbols of his profession are in his hands.
The goddesses of Gaul were chiefly Venus Anadyomene (pl. 12, fig. 19), she who had ascended out of the sea; she was the goddess of love; Isis (fig. 20) and Diana (pl. 13, fig. 22), as Matres Augustæ. In this capacity the latter was the symbol of nature, the all-supporting mother, who manifests herself in all creatures. She was represented as a three-fold female figure, with her backs leaning against a pillar and in her hands the cornucopia, fruits, &c. Ceres and Minerva are also found here (fig. 23, near Vulcan), but their statues were different from those by which the Romans represented them. The former, who was the goddess of agriculture and the framer of laws, is dressed in a spotted garment, a kind of helmet on her head, and a cornucopia filled with fruit in her hand; the latter wears a similar garment but without sleeves, and has the breast protected by a cuirass; upon her head is the helmet and by her side the shield; the owl, sacred to her, sits perched upon her shoulder; she thus resembles somewhat Bellona, the Roman goddess of war.
The priesthood and the nobility were the only orders among the Gauls that had power and influence, for the people were at an early date already reduced to a state approaching slavery; they were never suffered to have a will independent of their rulers, nor a share in the political deliberations. The priests, who were called Druids (pl. 13, fig. 24), had established a strictly theocratic-monarchical constitution, and held the first rank in the state. They were governed by a high priest, who represented the highest spiritual and political power, and was always elected for life. If there happened to be two eligible candidates, they settled the difficulty by lot or single combat; for they were warriors as well as priests, and always led their armies into the field, and when they ceased to do so they found that their power also began to decline. They were also the highest judicial tribunal, and decided in all civil and criminal cases, whether they referred to inheritances, boundary lines, or murder. They enforced their decisions by excommunicating the refractory, which was the heaviest penalty that could be inflicted, for it excluded the person from the privilege of assisting at the sacrifices. He who was thus punished was shunned as a wicked and accursed being, every one avoided him for fear of being contaminated and having to share his lot. This excommunication was probably pronounced publicly during the time of the annual assembly which was held near the city of Dreux in a sacred grove, and where all judicial disputes were settled.
The Druids lived together as a community somewhat in a monastic style, for they had everything in common. Many coveted the privilege to be admitted into their ranks, and even the nobles sought it eagerly, for it offered great inducements; but they required a rigid noviciate, which lasted sometimes twenty years. Their instructions to their disciples were altogether oral, and conveyed sometimes in verse, which the candidate had to learn by heart. They also enjoined upon all strict secresy, and particularly that no part of their lessons should ever be made known to the people. This leads us justly to suppose that they also must have contained mysteries.
Besides the priests there were priestesses or Druidesses (fig. 25). But it is not known what their relative duties were, and to what they were limited.
The Bards and Vates are said to have constituted a separate class among the priests. The former seem to have been the sacred minstrels, and the latter the prophets or soothsayers. But there must also have been a class of secular Bards, for we find that persons with that title were the constant attendants of kings and nobles, whom they accompanied even in war in the capacity of minstrels.
An important part of the worship of the Gauls consisted in sacrificing to the gods, and not only animals but often human victims bled upon their altars. Some of these sacrifices were of a public and others of a private character, for some were offered by the state, while others were brought by families or private individuals. When any one was dangerously sick or engaged in war, or otherwise exposed to imminent danger, it was customary to vow or sacrifice a human life, for by such means only it was thought that the gods could be appeased and satisfied; it was as if a life was given for the life granted. The victims offered by the state were generally thieves, murderers, and other criminals, though in the absence of such they had no scruples in slaying innocent persons. Some Gallic tribes were in the habit of preparing for such an occasion a colossal figure of wicker-work, which they filled with human beings, and then destroyed the whole by burning the figure. The victims selected by families and individuals were generally slaves and clients or dependents. Besides the sacrifices of thanksgiving or atonement, they had also their funeral sacrifices, when all that the departed valued most, even his animals and favorite slaves and dependents, were burned with him upon the funeral pile.
Under the head of public sacrifices ought also to be mentioned the savage custom which condemned all prisoners who had been confined for more than five years to be hung upon posts and to be burnt on a pyre with other offerings, and the law which condemned prisoners of war and animals taken during an incursion to be killed by the sword or by fire.
We have already said that it was the business of the Druids to predict future events from the flight of birds and the entrails of the victims; the latter were therefore also frequently selected for this purpose, but instead of disembowelling them, they were slain by a different process. If an important subject seemed to require a divination, they selected a victim who was killed by a stab through the heart, and then suffered to fall down; from the manner of his fall, his last agonies, and the blood as it flowed, they then determined the probable result of the matter in question.
The altars were generally erected in sacred groves, particularly beneath oak trees, for the oak was esteemed above all other trees. The priests never officiated without chaplets of oak leaves upon their heads, and oak groves were always selected for their residences and tribunals.
All parts of the oak, as well as its parasites, were therefore considered as favorite gifts bestowed by the gods upon man, as a mark of their approval and favor. Distinguished above the rest was the mistletoe; and the 4th of January, the day on which it was searched for, was celebrated as a high festival. Pl. 13, fig. 26, represents a part of the ceremonies attending the search. The priest has just discovered the sacred parasite, and is in the act of severing it from the tree, surrounded by a breathless audience, eager to possess themselves of a part of it. A great importance was attached to this annual search for and distribution of the mistletoe. The Druids announced the coming of the period by a general proclamation, when all the people collected in the woods between Chartres and Dreux.
The ceremonies commenced with a solemn procession, headed by a choir of bards, whose chief business it was to sing hymns during the sacrifices; then came those who had to slay the victims, and the soothsayers. At a little distance followed two white oxen, the victims for the day. A herald marched behind them, dressed in a white garment, with a winged helmet upon his head, and holding in his hand a branch of verbena, around which two serpents twined, giving it the appearance of a caduceus; to him were confided the novices or those young men who were prepared for initiation, and who walked behind their guide. Then came the three oldest Druids, one carrying the bread about to be offered on the altar, another a vessel filled with water, and the third an ivory hand fastened to a staff, the symbol of justice. The high priest, with the rest of the Druids, closed the procession, and the nobles and people brought up the rear. When they had arrived at the foot of the oak upon which the mistletoe grew they halted, and the high priest made a short prayer, burned the bread, and then poured the water upon the fire. The morsels of the bread and portions of the water left in the jar were then divided among the bystanders. After that, the high priest ascended the tree and severed the misletoe from it with a knife shaped like a sickle, and threw it down on the outspread garment of one of the Druids, who for a short time held the sacred plant aloft so that all could see it, and then deposited it upon the altar, where every one was permitted to examine the precious boon. After the high priest had descended from the tree he again made a short prayer, and terminated the ceremonies of the search by sacrificing the two white oxen. The mistletoe was then handed to the Druids of lower rank, who in the course of the day distributed small pieces of it among the people as a new-year’s gift. It is difficult to determine what may have been the meaning of this ceremony, or its allusion. It has been the subject of much inquiry and a great deal of research, but nothing definite has as yet been ascertained.
A late French mythologian thinks that he has discovered a solution in the myth of the death of Baldur, mentioned in the Scandinavian mythology. He says: “The religion of the Druids was not confined to the Gauls, it was also introduced among the Germans, Britons, and Scandinavians, and after it had been already extinguished in Gaul, Germany, and Britain, it was still preserved in the north as late as the twelfth century. During this period they collected in the Edda all the dogmas, customs, and rules, previously only transmitted by oral lessons. Now, the myth of Baldur’s death, found in the Edda, offers a solution to this problem. For the search after the mistletoe and its subsequent destruction are intended to deprive the god of darkness (Loke) of the means to kill the god of light (the sun). And the distribution of small pieces of the mistletoe was to provide pious souls with amulets to protect them against the wicked temptations of Loke.”
Others say that the mistletoe was considered a medicinal plant of great virtue, and a decoction was made of it, which was a powerful antidote against poison, and imparted fecundity to every living being.
At a later period, particularly after the religion of the Druids had ceased to exist in Gaul, we find that the mistletoe was also introduced into the religious systems of various Germanic nations (pl. 12, fig. 18), and it sustained itself until banished by Christianity, with the rest of the system to which it belonged.
The Mythology of the Mexicans
The Mexican system of mythology was probably a fusion of the religion of the primitive inhabitants, with the doctrines introduced by immigrant nations, particularly the Azteks. The latter came in the year 1160 from the north, and traversing different countries, finally settled within the territory of Mexico, of which they became after some time the rulers. It followed as a matter of course that the religion of the conquerors was soon engrafted upon and partially supplanted that of the conquered. We know therefore nothing of the creed of the primitive inhabitants of Mexico except what can be gleaned from their mythology, as it was taught under the administration of the Azteks.
The great doctrine of this system was that there is one supreme invisible being, lord and creator of all. This supreme intelligence was never worshipped, for he was deemed too holy and lofty to be addressed by mortal men. He was never represented by images, but was called Teotl (god), Ipalnemoani (he by whom we live), and Tloque Nahuaque (he who has all in himself). To him no temples were ever erected as to the lower gods, who were considered emanations from him.
The gods which the Mexicans worshipped were divided into two ranks, the higher and the lower, but all were considered the servants of the supreme being.
The chief of the thirteen higher gods was Tezcatlipoca, the soul of the universe, the creator of the visible world, who rewards the good and punishes the bad.
Next to him in importance was Huitzilopoctly or Vitziliputzli, who was the chief god of war, and patron god of the Mexicans. Two of his brothers, also gods of war, were subject to his commands.
Every element had also its presiding deity. Thus we find a god of the air, who inhabited lofty mountains, where the spirits of the air and the hills executed his orders; a god and goddess of water, who dwelt near the highest springs, surrounded by serving water spirits; a god of fire, to whom at table the first morsel and the first draught were offered, by throwing them into the fire; and finally a goddess of the earth. This prolific system acknowledged gods for everything, arts, sciences, natural productions, and passions.
The Mexicans believed also in the existence of spirits inferior to the gods, but with great power to do good or harm. The bad spirits were represented by ugly, uncouth figures, and the house gods by pretty little statues. The number of these little gods kept in a house was prescribed by the rank of the family; for kings, princes and the great nobility were permitted to have six, the inferior nobles four, and others only two.
Tetevinan was the mother of the gods. She was the daughter of the tyrant Colhuacan, upon whom the Mexicans wished to avenge themselves. They therefore demanded his daughter, under the pretence that their patron god required that she should be dedicated to him as his mother. The king dared not refuse, and the girl was received with great solemnities and sacrificed to the god, and has ever since been worshipped as the mother of the gods. The sun and the moon, of whose curious history we shall presently speak, were also worshipped as deified heroes.
The Aztek or Mexican cosmogony is very remarkable. They believed that time was divided into four ages or periods. The first of these they said was Atonatiuh, the age of water, which terminated with a universal deluge, by which all created things, even the sun and the moon, were destroyed. Only two human beings were saved in a boat made of a hollow tree, and landed finally on the mountain Colhuacan. These became afterwards the founders of a new race, which lived during the second age. This period was called Tlaltonatiuh, the age of the earth, and terminated with a terrible earthquake, after the new creation had existed 6206 years. The third period, Ehecatonaiuh, the age of air, was closed, and the world again destroyed by Quetzalcohuatl, the god of the winds, who came down upon the earth armed with a sickle, and swept the nations from the earth by the power of his breath. The fourth period, Tletonatiuh, the age of fire, now commenced, everything having again been created anew, except the sun and the moon.
The divine heroes (the great giants) assembled around a fire in Teotihuacan, and told the people who accompanied them that the first person who would throw himself into the flames would rise as a new sun in the firmament. Then arose Manahuatzin, the most courageous among them, and leaped into the burning mass; his soul soon reached the lower regions and presently appeared in the east as a new sun.
A new moon was now only wanting, and this was supplied by Tezcociztekal’s self-immolation, who followed Manahuatzin’s example and appeared again as the pale luminary of night.
This is the period in which we live, and which will last 5206 years, and then terminate with a universal conflagration.
The Mexicans believed in the immortality of the soul, and distinguished three places of abode for the immortal spirits after their separation from the body. Those of the nobles and the soldiers who died in battle or in captivity when taken with arms in their hands, and those of women who died in labor, were supposed to be conducted by Teoyaniqui to the house of the sun, where they led a life of endless delight amidst eternal festivities and singing and dancing. At different periods they received permission to visit the earth, and to animate clouds and birds of beautiful plumage, as well as lions and jaguars, but were always at liberty to rise again to heaven.
The souls of those struck by lightning, of those who died by disease or were drowned, went, with the children sacrificed to Tlaloc, to a place called Tlalocan, the paradise of this god. This was a cool and shady place, where they had the most delicious repasts and every other kind of pleasure. Lastly, those who suffered any other kind of death went to Mictlantocli, the kingdom of Mictlan, the god of hell, which was a dark and gloomy place in the centre of the earth.
Such of the idols as still exist, most of which were only lately discovered, are particularly distinguished by the accumulation of the greatest variety of figures and devices with which they are ornamented. In a great many instances it is even difficult to determine whether they were idols; and if so, what particular deity they were intended to represent. On pl. 14, figs. 1 and 2, we have represented two of these strange-looking objects of worship among the ancient Mexicans; fig. 3 is an old bas-relief on a sacrificial stone, representing an Aztek idol; figs. 4ab–7 were probably idols of the Guatemalians, and were found among the ruins of Tlapellan and Palenque; the first of these seems to represent a deity worshipped by two human beings, or lower spirits. Figs. 14–16 are colossal heads, and therefore in all probability parts of some similar idols. Figs. 17–19 belong also to this class; the last of the three was found near Copan, beneath the ruins of an Indian city, destroyed by the Spaniards in 1530, and only lately rediscovered. Fig. 20 represents an altar upon which a similar idol stands, and figs. 25–28 are drawings of figures made of burnt clay, and supposed to have been idols of Yucatan. On the same plate we give also a few other articles connected with the worship of the Mexicans, e. g. fig. 12, a circular top of a Mexican altar; figs. 21–24, basins and bowls used during the sacrificial service, supposed to belong to Guatemala; and fig. 29, a vase of burnt clay from Yucatan.
The materials of which the idols were made was either burnt clay, wood, stone, or the baser metals, and some statues were even of solid gold; but the grotesque combination of forms of which they were composed made them always look ugly.
They were kept in private houses as well as in the temples, and worshipped with prayers offered up in a kneeling posture, and with the face turned towards the east.
Vows were made to them, festivals celebrated to honor them, penances suffered to appease them, and fumigations and victims offered at their altars.
The greatest and most numerous public sacrifices of human beings were those offered upon the top of Mexitli’s temple (pl. 14, fig. 13).
When the day for the sacrifice had come, the priests dressed themselves in their white garments bordered with long fringes, and fastened their hair with leather straps; but the high priest wore a red cloak, and upon his head a coronet of green and yellow feathers; in his ears were golden rings set with emeralds and turquoises, and from his under lip hung also a large turquoise. The victim selected for that day was then adorned like the god to whom he was about to be sacrificed, and was forced by his executioners to attend all the amusements which preceded the sacrifice, as a kind of introduction to it. At last, when the hour of his execution drew nigh, he was brought to the temple with a numerous guard around him, to prevent every attempt to escape. On the threshold a priest awaited his arrival, with an ugly little idol in his arms, made of corn meal and honey, the eyes being green stones, and the teeth kernels of corn. As soon as the prisoner approached, the priest descended hastily, and seating himself upon a little platform, held his little monster towards the victim, and exclaimed: “Behold! your god.” The prisoner was then undressed and his bonds removed, and in the company of six priests conducted to the roof of the temple, where they kept the sacrificial stone. This was a slab of green jasper, five feet long, and a little raised in the centre. Upon it he was stretched out, while four of the priests held his hands and feet, and a fifth threw around his neck a wooden collar made in the shape of a coiled serpent, by which he kept his head upon the stone.
The high priest (Tolpetzin) then came forward, and held aloft the idol to which the prisoner was about to be sacrificed, while he called upon the spectators to worship it. This having been done, he approached the altar, armed with the terrible sacrificial stone-knife, and made a deep incision in the breast of his victim, from which he tore the bleeding and still palpitating heart. At first he held it up towards the sun, and then threw it at the feet of the idol, where he left it only for a second or two, when he picked it up again, and either put it in the mouth of the statue or rubbed its lips with it. After this it was burnt, and the ashes scattered in the air.
If the victim was a prisoner of war, they cut off his head, and then threw the body down among the people, where the officer or soldier who had captured him stood ready to receive it, and to feast his friends upon the horrid dishes prepared of the flesh. The head was then placed by the priests in a building set aside as a receptacle for the heads of all victims slain at this altar. The largest building of the kind was called Huitzomban, and was a huge truncated pyramid of earth, on whose top were seventy large trees, with bars passing from one to another, upon which the skulls were exposed. These savage sacrifices were very common among the different nations of Anahuac, who had gradually adopted the religion and customs of the powerful Azteks.
But the Azteks, who were more warlike than the other nations, had also a custom peculiar to themselves. During certain festivals, they permitted the bravest or most noble of their prisoners to fight in single combat for their lives. If the prisoner accepted this offer, one of his feet was fastened to a large stone, and he was furnished with sword and shield; he had then to defend himself against the antagonist who had offered to slay him as a sacrifice. But only the same arms were permitted to this champion, and the combat had to take place before the assembled multitude. If the prisoner became the victor he escaped not only a horrid death, but was also honored with the titles and dignities which the laws of the land bestowed upon the most renowned warriors, and was permitted to return to his country laden with arms and booty. But the conquered man had to take his place on the bloody altar, for the priests were unwilling to set a precedent by which a victim, without offering a substitute, might escape their clutches; and the people, like the Romans at the gladiatorial combats, wished not to be deprived of their more than savage pleasure of gloating over the dying agonies of a fellow being.
Not only individuals but large bodies of men were sometimes slain at the altar at one time, particularly during their so-called great sacrificial festivals; various historians assure us that several times more than 2000 prisoners were sacrificed during a single festival. In most of the temples it was also the custom to fatten every year a prisoner of distinction, so as to be sure of a victim for the time of sacrifice.
The priesthood of the Mexicans was a very powerful order, composed of priests of different ranks and influence. Those of the order whose duty it was to officiate at the bloody altars wore a particular dress and painted their bodies black. The high priests were called Teoteuctli (the divine lord) and Hueiteoquixqui (great priest); besides these names, they had also the title of Toljoitzin. The priests lived together in convents, having a community of goods, and were only subject to the discipline of their order. It appears also that they had priestesses, but not much is known of the duties that were assigned to them. On pl. 14, fig. 9 a and b, are two busts supposed to represent a front and back view of a priestess in her sacerdotal dress and ornaments.
The temples (teocallis), which were considered the earthly palaces of the gods, were built in the shape of a truncated pyramid, and were found everywhere, in cities, on mountains, in the forests, and on the public highways.
The priests were, as among all rude nations, the only conservators of science. We have copied on pl. 14, fig. 11, their almanac as described by Alexander von Humboldt. The concentric circles, with their numerous divisions and subdivisions, are drawn with mathematical accuracy. The execution of the whole shows also the taste for a repetition of the same figures, the spirit of order, and appreciation of symmetry, which supplies among all half-civilized nations the sense for the great and good.
They were also acquainted with a species of writing by which they transmitted important events, laws, and customs. It appears, as may be seen from the fragment (fig. 8), that it was a hieroglyphic language, and consisted not so much of what is usually understood by writing as of a symbolical representation of the subject which it was intended to communicate.
Their computation and division of time were remarkably peculiar. They divided the year into 18 months, each having 20 days, which were named after the festivals and occupations for which they were set apart. At the end of the last month there occurred always five leap-days, Nimontimi (the empty or useless ones), so called because they were only employed in making and receiving visits. Every four years they had also a leap-year; but instead of letting it occur at its regular period, they waited until the fifty-second year, when they intercalated the whole thirteen at once. But in their chronological computations they paid no attention to the months and years into which time was divided, for they made all their calculations by periods of 13 days and 13 years. They counted thus always up to thirteen and then commenced again a new section of time.
Pl. 14, fig. 10, is a drawing of an almanac representing the ancient Mexican year with its divisions. The middle circle, as will be seen, was divided into six sections, each containing three figures; these were the signs for the months.
They commenced their year on the 28th of January, though some authors say their new-year came as late as the 26th of February.
The Religious System of the Greeks
Among no people of antiquity do we find mythological poetry so distinguished for its fulness and variety as among the Greeks. For this fact several causes existed. The great diversity of the tribes, which ultimately blended in a good degree, but which still retained certain national peculiarities; the vast influence of neighboring and even distant tribes, produced by frequent immigrations as well as by the commercial relations in which the Greeks stood to other countries; the astonishing perfection which they had attained in sciences and arts, particularly in painting, architecture, and statuary; the scholars, philosophers, and poets, whose fame reaches even the present time: all these agencies contributed to the evolution and embellishment of the Greek religious system, and make it an object not less worthy of attention than the philosophy and literature of that interesting people.
As with the inhabitants of Greece, so with their mythology numerous alterations naturally took place. No people ever sprang to their highest civilization at once, and the same law of progression holds good with the religion of a nation. The immigrations also to which we have referred often influenced the character of the Greeks, and introduced new elements into their religious observances, so that we find several periods of religious and mythological cultivation. What may have been their precise origin, when and from what source they may have been adopted, and at what period the circle of the gods may have been completed: these are questions which can be determined with but little certainty. It seems most probable that the Pelasgi, the aborigines of Greece, already had gods and a species of worship which, receiving additional elements from Egypt, Phœnicia, Phrygia, Persia, and other countries, gradually adjusted itself to the new principles, and so assimilated all the material constituents as finally to evolve a system sufficiently harmonious in all essential points.
That which principally distinguished the mythology of the Greeks from that of other nations was its multiplicity of gods and deified beings. In addition to the superior deities adopted from abroad, and modified according to the peculiar ideas and wants of the worshippers, they reverenced many others originated by themselves. They recognised gods of the upper and lower worlds; the powers of physical nature personified, or rather spiritual agencies controlling and directing natural forces; tutelar deities and genii of rivers, trees, mountains, forests, cities, and states. Virtues and vices, qualities, occupations and conditions of life, at first symbolically represented, gradually came to be regarded as independent beings, and received a position among the acknowledged deities. Gratitude not unfrequently contributed to increase the number of deities. Whenever a man had shown himself a benefactor of his countrymen or of his race, or had distinguished himself by any extraordinary transactions, he was certain to be honored by public homage, celebrated in popular songs, or to have his name and the memory of his deeds perpetuated by monuments. As the outlines of his character grew indistinct in the twilight of receding ages, men gradually thought of him as a being of a superhuman grade, the poets ascribed to him divine attributes and performances, his supernatural origin was discussed, admitted, and believed, and the circle of the gods was enriched by a new member. It also happened that every tribe among the Greeks retained in their mythology the gods of their ancestors, and when a new deity was to be adopted into their system they merely created for him a new department and assigned to him new qualities, so that in many instances the same god might have among different people the same name but various spheres of activity.
The Grecian mythology was also essentially distinguished from others by its general spirit and tone. It managed to keep aloof from the hideousness and absurdity of the Indian system, from the filth and bloodiness of the Babylonian and Phœnician, and from the gloomy solemnity of the Egyptian, although all these had furnished portions of the materials out of which it was composed. A spirit of joyousness, liberty, and heroism, as well as a gleam of the beautiful and the sublime, vitalized and graced the whole system, and assisted in concealing or at least diminishing the darker features inseparably connected with its existence. The grounds of this peculiarity are to be sought in several circumstances, among which we reckon, first of all, the serene and favorable climate of Greece, together with the energy and love of liberty of the people. At a very early period the majority of the Greek tribes obtained free political constitutions, under whose healthful operation they realized a high state of culture. It contributed not a little to the same end, that the Grecian mythology had no exclusive caste of priests. It encouraged no bigoted supervision of individual belief; it placed no odious restrictions upon the prevailing religious ideas and feelings. AH embarrassment being thus removed, the poets and artists vied with each other in representing religious conceptions in their purest and most ennobling form. Indeed, poetry was regarded as particularly devoted to the service of the gods, so that it freely employed its resources in separating from mythology all extraneous and uncongenial ingredients, and bringing it into organic union with the national modes of thought and action.
Despite their high cultivation, the Greeks failed to comprehend the idea of a pure spiritual essence. Accordingly, they regarded their gods as similar to men, though of com-se much their superiors in every respect. While according to them omniscience, omnipotence, sanctity, and a high degree of felicity, they nevertheless associated the idea of these qualities with that of human bodies, human feelings, inclinations, and passions. They even endowed them with organs of sense, and imagined them capable of vice and crime. These apparent contradictions can only be explained by the fact (so often noticed by historians) that the Greeks were at the same time a most intelligent and a most sensual people. The most educated among them, as among other nations, were accustomed to consider much of the popular faith as merely symbolical or really fabulous, whilst they secretly cherished their own opinions; and this was the cause from which sprang the well known mysteries. Whatever the philosophers and the educated may have really thought concerning the truthfulness of their religion and the appropriateness of its rites and ceremonies, yet, finding them of importance in the preservation and improvement of civil society, they rendered them a hearty public support.
Cosmogonies and Theogonies, or the Origin of the World and of the Gods
In no part of Grecian mythology do we encounter so much variation, obscurity, and contradiction as in the legends concerning the creation of the universe. Closely connected with this inquiry and not less puzzling are the fictions relating to the origin and genealogy of the gods. No one of the Cosmogonies and Theogonies has ever obtained universal credit, and perhaps no one can be said to possess superior claims upon general confidence. We give a condensed account of the three theories which have existed the longest, and have received the widest acceptation.
According to the first, Water was the primordial germ of all things. The water engendered from itself Slime. The combined energies of the water and the slime produced a Serpent or Dragon with three heads; the first that of a Bull the second of a Lion, the third of a God. The serpent thus produced brought forth an Egg, which divided itself into two equal parts; the upper division constituting heaven (Uranos), the lower, earth (Gæa). From these two proceeded the primitive forces of nature.
According to the second theory, the origin of all things was Time (Cronos), who begot Chaos and Ether. The conjunction of chaos with ether formed a brilliant white egg, the mundane egg, which included, in some mysterious manner, the vitality of the world. This egg was fructified by the moving ether (winds), and from it emerged Eros, with glittering golden wings. Eros, now, as the creative spirit, called forth the gods by his smiles, while the wretched race of mortals sprang from his tears. He is also known as Phanes, an Orphic term signifying the first principles of the world, and is doubtless the same as Æon occurring in other mythologies equivalent to Time as eternal power. The lion’s head of Æon (pl. 16, fig. 10) is emblematical of strength. The wings and birds indicate his fleetness; the serpent symbolizes his constant renovation; the staff denotes the measuring of the centuries and years, the beginning and end of which are indicated by the key; the cluster of grapes is expressive of the fertility caused by slime; and the caduceus, the cock, the tongs and hammer at his feet testify that vigilance and industry which can improve time, but which cannot arrest its flight.
The third is the Hesiodic Theogony. According to it the prime source of all things was Chaos, from which emanated the primitive forces and the gods as their rulers. Gæa was the ancestress of the gods. She had sprung from chaos or from an egg, and first gave birth to Uranos (the firmament or starry heavens), the high mountains, and the watery world. After espousing Uranos she became the mother of the six Titans (Oceanos, Coios, Crios, Japetos, Hyperion, and Cronos), the six Titanides (Rheia or Rhea, Mnemosyne, Themis, Phœbe, Thetis, and Theia), and the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheiri (the hundred-handed).
Uranos becoming fearful that his children would grow too powerful and aspire to supreme dominion, chained them and then banished them to Tartaros, but Gæa, provoked at his cruelty, incited the Titans to conspire for his overthrow. Cronos the youngest, who alone had sufl&cient courage to make the attack, obtaining from his mother a diamond sickle as his weapon, dethroned his father. He now became ruler of the universe, and ascended the throne of Uranos (pl. 16, figs. 11, 12). He married Rhea, one of the Titanides, by whom he had three sons, Aïs, Poseidon, and Zeus, and three daughters, Hestia, Demeter, and Hera; but fearing the realization of the prophecy of Themis, that his sons would imitate his own example and rebel against him, he devoured all the children except Zeus, who escaped through the artifice of his mother. When he was born and seemed likely to perish like the rest, Rhea enveloped the stone Abadyr in a goat skin, and Cronos swallowed it (fig. 13) instead of the infant, which was sent to Gæa, to be reared in Crete. He was suckled by the goat Amalthea (fig. 17), whose horn afterwards became the symbol of plenty. Rhea sits close by dejected, and apprehensive lest Cronos should discover the retreat, with her veil she wipes away her tears. Two Curetes (mysterious beings, supposed by some to be demons or servants of the gods, by others regarded as the children of Zeus) dressed in the chlamys or warrior’s cloak, and equipped in helmets and armor, practise the war-dance before Zeus, and by striking their swords upon their shields keep up a perpetual din, in order to prevent Cronos from hearing the cries of the child. According to another myth Zeus was nourished by the nymph Amalthea, daughter of king Minos, with nectar and ambrosia from two rams’ horns. As a mark of gratitude he afterwards placed one of the horns among the constellations, and changed the other, which Amalthea retained into the cornucopia or horn of plenty, containing every commodity that can be desired. After he grew up he resolved to dethrone his father, and thus avenge the injuries of his youth. This involved him in a war with the Titans. The latter had been consigned by Uranos to Tartaros, but were subsequently released by Cronos to assist him in the revolt against his father. Cronos found them to be excellent allies but turbulent subjects, and was compelled to remand them to their confinement. Zeus liberated them a second time, and by their aid constrained Cronos to restore his devoured children, together with the stone Abadyr (afterwards preserved and known at Delphi as the sacred stone), and even sought to wrest from him the universal sovereignty. The Titans at this point assisted their brother Cronos, but Zeus, with the assistance of the Cyclopes and Hecatoncheiri, whom he liberated from Tartaros, conquered and hurled the faithless Titans once more to the infernal regions (pl. 18, fig. 2). During this contest the gods were stationed on mount Olympus, while the Titans occupied the opposite mountain Othrys.
Another war followed the accession of Zeus. The giants rose against him and his race, and sought to depose him from his authority. They piled mountain upon mountain in order to scale Olympos, hurled vast rocks at the gods, and shook the earth with their shouts of battle. The strife continued long and fierce, but Zeus showered upon them the thunderbolts forged by the Cyclopes, and at last plunged them into the abyss below.
Gæa, exasperated at the defeat of her children, now brought forth Typhon, a monstrous giant, to contend with the gods. Fire flashed from his mouth and eyes, serpents hissed from his hands, and a number of the gods in dismay took flight. Zeus finally overcame him and placed him in the lower world, where, uniting with Echidna, he became the sire of the three-headed dogs, Arthrus and Cerberus, the Lernæan Hydra, the Chimæra, and several other monsters.
This terminated the war of the gods, of whom Zeus now became the sovereign. His family succeeded that of Cronos, to whom he assigned the government of Elysion, situated upon the furthest ocean, where he represents antiquity, and is the ruler of the uninterrupted golden age.
Before entering upon a specific discussion of the new dynasty, it may be proper to devote a brief space to some of the personages already mentioned, as we shall not have occasion to refer to them again.
Gæa, the primeval mother of the original line of gods, after their subjugation, did not wholly disappear from the rank of mythical beings. Temples were erected, and honors paid to her as the Great Goddess and Child-nourisher. She was appealed to in oaths, and as goddess of the earth was blended with other deities of the new system.
From the wound inflicted by Cronos upon his father Uranos, drops of blood fell into the sea; and out of these sprang the Giants, the Erinnyes, the Eumenides, and the Melian nymphs.
The Giants, of whom we shall speak more at large hereafter, were monsters of enormous size and almost invincible strength. Their appearance was rendered frightful by their long hair (which fell in disorder over their cheeks), and their dragon’s feet and tails; and in their battle with the gods they were subdued more by ingenuity than by power.
The Erinnyes (pl. 23, fig. 14), called Alecto, Megæra, and Tisiphone, were the avengers of murder, perjury, and capital offences; in other words they executed the decrees of Nemesis, the impersonation of divine wrath. The artists represented them as hideous, broad-faced women, dressed in black, with projecting tongues, clawed fingers, blood-shot eyes, streaming dishevelled hair, and carrying a blazing torch or a bundle of serpents. Sometimes they appear with snakes instead of hair. They continually pursued the guilty culprit, scourging him with serpent whips until he sank to despair, and sought refuge from their fury in suicide.
The Melian Nymphs (nymphs of the ash tree) were a species of Dryad. At their birth the oak and fir sprang up from the ground, and will wither and die with them.
Uranos, the progenitor of all these deities, disappeared from the new dynasty of gods, receiving no further worship or honor.
Rhea, as the parent of Zeus, and the grand maternal source of the new race of gods, was included among them under the name of Cybele. She was represented in pl. 16, fig. 14) as a beautiful woman sitting upon a throne, or riding in a chariot drawn by lions clad in a tunic girt around her waist, while a full flowing mantle reaches from her shoulders to her feet. On her head rests the mural crown, so formed as to exhibit a wall with towers and gates. Her left hand is lying on a tambourine. We see a profile of her bust, the head and neck covered, on a coin (pl. 17, fig. 3).
Originally Rhea and Cybele constituted two separate beings, the first springing from Crete, the second from Phrygia. According to Diodorus, Cybele was the daughter of King Mæon and his queen Dindyme. In consequence of a prediction, her father caused her to be exposed on Mount Cybelos, where she was suckled by panthers and lionesses until discovered by an old shepherdess, who brought her up and called her Cybele. Her skill in the healing art secured for her the afiection of the people. She invented the cymbal, the drum, and the many-tubed flute, and by reason of her discoveries and benevolence she obtained the appellation of “Good Mother of the Mountain.” A beautiful youth named Atys (pl. 16, fig. 15) was her constant and devoted lover. Whence Atys came, who he was, and what fate finally overtook him, are questions which the myths decide variously. In regard, however, to his end, the most current account relates that when Mæon became apprised of his daughter’s fame, he hastened to acknowledge her; but hearing of her intimacy with Atys, put him to death. Cybele, whose grief deprived her of reason, accompanied by her friend and tutor Marsyas, now roamed to the sound of the pipe and drum which she had invented, over many countries, visiting even the Hyperborean nations, and everywhere teaching mankind the art of agriculture. In consequence of a dreadful famine which ravaged Phrygia, and at the command of the oracle, which had been consulted in regard to the general calamity, she, or according to others Atys, obtained divine honors, his likeness being buried to stay the devastation of the famine, and public worship being decreed to him at Pessinus. The worship of Cybele and her chief festival stand, therefore, in close connexion with her relation to Atys.
The celebration of her rites began with the spring, and was partly solemn and partly wild and licentious. During the first day, March 21st, a fir was cut down and borne, with the image of Atys suspended from its branches, into the temple of the goddess. The second day was devoted to constant mournful music on horns and other instruments. On the third, the day of rejoicing, the armed priests of Cybele, called Cybelines or Corybantes, performed wild frantic dances to the clamorous music of cymbals, drums, pipes, and horns; or ran yelling over hills and valleys with pine torches in their hands, scourging and lacerating themselves in honor of the goddess. The ceremonies of the first day, particularly the transplanting of the pine tree into the temple, were designated by the expression. Arbor intrat! and the whole festival symbolized the search and discovery of Atys. The emblems of Atys were a straight and a curved flute (pl. 16, fig. 16a), and a shepherd’s staff, together with bells (fig. 16b).
Oceanos, the first born among the Titans, did not join the rebellion against Uranos, and thus escaped the punishment which consigned them to Tartaros. He received the government of the sea. In the rude ages the term Oceanos signified a powerful stream of water surrounding the earth, and branching off into bays and gulfs. One of the arms, the Styx, flowed into the lower world. Oceanos was a peaceful, good-natured god, but did not pass over into the new race of gods, being always regarded as an allegorical personage. The rivers Acheloos, Alpheus, Asopos, Eridanos, Inachos, Cephissos, Ladon, and Peneus, were his sons. He had by his union with the Titanide Tethys three thousand daughters called Oceanides.
Iapetos, another Titan, occupied a middle position between the human and the divine. His most celebrated sons were Atlas and Prometheus, who will be mentioned hereafter.
After these elucidations we resume our account and pass on to the descendants of Cronos.
The Cronides, or New Race of Gods, embraced a vast number of individuals whose proper qualifications, attributes, and character, owing to the confusion and contrariety in their history, are difficult to determine. We state nothing dogmatically upon the subject, preferring to follow the narration and arrangement most generally received.
Superior Olympic Gods
There were twelve who received the appellation of Olympic Gods from Mount Olympos, where they were supposed to meet in council and debate upon divine and human affairs. They composed one family, consisting of two brothers (Zeus and Poseidon), three sisters (Demeter, Hera, and Hestia), four sons (Apollo, Hephæstos, Ares, and Hermes), and three daughters (Artemis, Pallas, Athene, and Aphrodite). The number, twelve, had probably some reference to the division of the year into twelve months.
1. Zeus (Jupiter). At the termination of the celestial war already described, a new era of universal government began under Zeus. He was the Almighty, the Father of gods and men, ruler of the universe, and the chief of the Olympic council. It belonged to him to exercise unlimited sovereignty over the other gods, to chastise them, and even to banish them from Olympos. He was the thunderer, the cloud-gatherer, the god who darted forth the lightning, who sent rain, dew, hail, snow, and wind, and who spread out the rainbow. He appointed the life and destiny of mortals, elevated and dethroned kings, dispensed good and evil, wealth and poverty, happiness and misery, life and death. He rewarded virtue and punished wickedness, guarded the rites of hospitality and the sacredness of landmarks, and directed his wrath against perjury. He selected, as the media of his communication with mankind, the oracle, the flight of birds, and the signs and omens of the sky. At the nod of his head, or the winking of his eye, the heavens trembled. Olympos constituted his permanent residence. Here he assembled the gods around him. As the source of all power and wisdom, he was the reputed father of nearly all the inferior deities, the remainder being regarded as his servants.
It must be obvious that the representations of Zeus were many and varied. The lofty ideas entertained of him, the extensive sphere he was supposed to fill, and the peculiarities of the countries and nations in which his worship was established, would argue this. Mythology presents us with a triple Zeus: the Cretan, the Arcadian, and the Dodonæan. In every country the artists endeavored to portray in his countenance majesty, strength, wisdom, and paternal benignity. The forehead was open and expansive; the massive hair, gathered in curls, descended on both sides to the shoulders, while the dense flowing beard, large nose, eyes, and mouth, communicated to his whole appearance the perfect ideal of a god. Pl. 16, fig. 21, represents him seated on his throne as king of the gods. His right hand holds the thunderbolts, his left the sceptre; while the eagle, one of his attributes, crouches at his feet. In pl. 18, fig. 1, we have a bust of Zeus as king, crowned with the laurel, and the expression of his face answering his generally adopted characteristics. He sometimes appears on coins (pl. 17, figs. 7 and 8), in the character of a warrior, crowned with a laurel or oak wreath, but always expressing the highest dignity. The old Pelasgian Zeus (fig. 9) differs somewhat from the foregoing. Standing erect, his hair less curly, and his person partially covered with a mantle, he grasps in one hand the thunderbolts and in the other the sceptre. Fig. 5 represents Zeus Hellenios, the national god, protector, and the of the Greeks while opposing the barbarians in Sicily; and pl. 16, fig. 20, the Olympian Zeus, the epitome and concentration of all his perfections, dignity, and efficiency.
Sometimes, and particularly upon coins, he is represented in a simple form, accompanied by the eagle (pl. 16, fig. 22, and pl. 20, fig. 21). Again in pl. 23, fig. 2, and pl. 16, fig. 19, he appears as the ram on the mountains or sky, or as the god of flocks and light, under the title Zeus Amman, or Hammon, with rams’ horns, which clearly point to his Egyptian origin. The ram (Aries), the first sign in the Zodiac, is obviously an astronomical allusion. Accordingly another legend makes Zeus a planet, and as such in the sign of Sagittarius, upon whom he is seated with the eagle and sceptre (pl. 18, fig. 4). This archer was the son of Cronos and the nymph Philyre. In order to prevent the jealousy of his wife Rhea, Cronos when visiting the nymph changed himself into a horse, and this form so impressed her imagination that her child was half man and half horse.
Cheiron (for so the Centaur was named) inherited the intellectual powers of his father; soon exhibited remarkable knowledge and skill, particularly in music, astronomy, prophecy, and medicine; and was well versed in all the arts and sciences. Profound reverence for the gods and a cordial love of mankind were his prominent characteristics, and he devoted himself with zeal to the instruction and accomplishment of talented youths. With this design he lived secluded from the world on Mount Pelion, and left his retirement only when the interests of men required it. Indeed he was unusually loved and revered not only by men but even by the gods, who deemed it not inconsistent with their rank to accept his advice and instruction. At last he experienced a tragical fate. Heracles had waged war with the Centaurs, some of whom, being hard pressed, fled to Cheiron. One of Heracles’s arrows accidentally struck him in the knee, inflicting an incurable wound. In vain did the hero apply the remedies invented by himself; the venom of the Hydra could not be neutralized. The sufferer retired to his cave and longed for death, but could not overcome his native immortality. At length Zeus took compassion on his woe, and transferred his deathless nature to Perseus. Cheiron was then placed among the stars, where he continues to shine in the constellation Sagittarius.
The Centaurs just mentioned were a race of monsters who possessed the head, arms, and breast of a man, but from the waist took the form of a horse (pl. 30, fig. 19; pl. 29, fig. 22). It is supposed that these fabulous configurations were intended to represent a race of wild mountain rangers that lived almost constantly on horseback, and delighted in the chase of wild cattle, and that they are the symbols of perfect horsemanship.
Mythology makes Zeus the hero of a number of adventures connected with the origin of the inferior gods and of the heroes, and allegorically accounting for their extraordinary qualities by representing them as the children of Zeus himself.
The first of the favorites of Zeus was Niobe, daughter of the river god Inachos. Her daughter Io, priestess of Hera, the ever jealous consort of Zeus, also excited within him the tender passion. In order to shield her from the wrath of his consort, he changed her into a white cow. Hera still suspecting the fidelity of her spouse, requested the cow as a present, and placed over her as a guardian the all-seeing Argos, a giant with a hundred eyes (pl. 20, fig. 1). Zeus, however, outwitted them both. Despatching Hermes, the messenger of the gods, to liberate the captive, the god of cunning changed himself into a shepherd, and seeking a position near Argos, produced upon the flute such soft and soothing tones that all the eyes were closed in sleep. Approaching Argos from behind, he killed him with a stone and released the cow. Hera saved the eyes of Argos and set them in the tail of the peacock, and sent against lo the gad-fly Oistros, the tormentor of cattle, which drove her through various countries, compelled her to swim the Bosphorus, and finally suffered her to rest in Egypt, where she was worshipped under the name of Isis.
Another object of Zeus’s affections was Leda, wife of Tyndaros, king of Sparta. Charmed by her extraordinary beauty, yet denied access to her in mortal shape, he changed himself into a swan which became her favorite (pl. 20, fig. 2), with whom she produced an egg, from which in due time emanated the celebrated twin brothers Cantor and Pollux, or the Dioscuri, who will be mentioned hereafter.
Leto (Latona), the daughter of Coios and the Titanide Phæbe, in her attachment to Zeus, was exposed to hardships and sufferings not less severe than those of Io. The ever suspicious Hera constantly persecuted her, and prohibited the inhabitants of the countries and islands through which the trembling fugitive passed, under the most dreadful threatenings from entertaining her. Pursued by the hideous serpent Python, she wandered over all lands, obtaining during only a part of the night a brief respite from the monster. At a pond in a village in Lycia, the inhabitants refused her the privilege of slaking her burning thirst, and pursued her with clubs; and Zeus in revenge turned them into frogs. At the solicitation of Zeus, Poseidon brought up from the sea the island of Delos, and permitted her to occupy it. Here she brought forth Apollo and Artemis. The infant Apollo was wrapped by nymphs in costly bandages, and was fed by Themis with nectar and ambrosia, which so strengthened him that he burst asunder the bandages and threw them aside, and seized his bow and arrow to protect his mother and sister. The serpent Python in the meantime renewed his persecution, and Leto fled with her twins to Mount Parnassos (pl. 20, fig. 5.) Here Apollo slew the serpent, and cast him into a dark cavern. Long after, when a temple was erected on this spot to the honor of Apollo, the vapor which issued from the chasm served to inspire the priestesses of the celebrated oracle.
Europa, daughter of king Agenor of Phœnicia, and of the nymph Telephassa, also attracted the attentions of Zeus. A box of cosmetics which she had received from one of Hera’s maids so heightened her charms as to move the heart of the king of gods and men. In order to approach her safely, he changed himself into a beautiful bull, and advanced to the seashore where Europa was gathering flowers with her companions (pl. 20, fig. 22). She found the bull so beautiful and gentle that she ventured to mount upon his back (pl. 18, fig. 3), when the disguised god ran off with his lovely burden to the seas (pl. 17, fig. 10), and swam across to the island of Crete, where he transformed himself into a handsome youth, who inspired her with love, and to whom she bore three sons, Minos, Sarpedon, and Rhadamanthus.
The most important myth connected with the history of Zeus is commemorated by fig. 11, which is intended to represent Zeus the moment preceding the birth of Athene (Minerva), who is said to have sprung from his head. After his marriage with Metis (Prudence), it was predicted that her child, if a son, would dethrone him. To prevent this he swallowed his spouse before her delivery. Presently he felt a pain in his head, and permitted Hephæstos to open it with his hammer, when Athene (Wisdom) sprang forth in full armor. Another legend relates that she came without generation from his brain; and a third makes her the daughter of Poseidon and the nymph Tritonis, and only the adopted child of Zeus.
2. Hera (Juno). This goddess was the daughter of Cronos and Rhea. She was the sister and consort of Zeus, and as such queen of heaven. For a while she hesitated to marry Zeus, until one day when she was promenading on Mount Thronium in Locris, he sent upon her a violent storm, and hovered over her in the form of a cuckoo. In compassion to the drenched and frightened bird, she took it to her bosom. Zeus now disclosed his true character and shape, and she then consented to become his wife.
The marriage of these deities became the source of all blessings upon earth, and is represented as the model of the marriage relation, Hera being the ideal of a Greek wife and mother. She is incorruptibly chaste, showing an unvaried matronly modesty, but also a frigid scorn and jealousy when Zeus by his infidelities disregards her rights, an exalted self-respect, and finally an almost unceasing vindictiveness against all rivals in her husband’s favor. Hence the honor in which she was held as the goddess of marriage and courtship, the patroness of connubial fidelity, and the avenger of the violation of the marriage covenant. Hera’s insignia were the diadem and sceptre which defined her rank as queen of heaven; the peacock, which indicated her empire in the air; the cuckoo and pomegranate; and that which marked her particularly from the most ancient times, was the veil, the assumption of which by the affianced bride indicated the devotion of all subsequent life to the husband and his interests (pl. 15, fig. 7). Some of the old Pelasgian representations exhibit her with both diadem and veil (pl. 17, fig. 13), and as the queen of heaven wearing the crown (pl. 15, fig. 6). As a mother suckling her son Ares, she is seen in pl. 16, fig. 23, where her whole appearance is so agreeable as greatly to relieve the ordinarily stem features of this queen of gods. Her worship prevailed extensively, and was particularly splendid in Sparta, Mycenæ, Samos, Arcadia, and Elis.
3. Poseidon (Neptune). In the distribution of universal authority, this god obtained the dominion of the sea. Originally, while the idea prevailed that the earth’s surface was not only surrounded by water but rested upon it, he was regarded in a general sense as the god of the ocean, as well as of rivers and springs.
Within his own domains he ruled with an absoluteness equal to that of Zeus in heaven. He agitated the ocean to its foundations, and calmed it by a nod of his head: he shook the earth and mountains till they reeled. Accordingly, he had his own circle of inferior beings and agencies, and his own court, over whose splendor he presided. At a later period, however, he took merely the rank of sea god, and although still august and powerful, he nevertheless lacked the noble majesty of Zeus. His exterior exhibited something violent and rude, a species of defiance and discontent. The artists in their representations gave him a more slender frame, and a denser muscularity than to Zeus. His features were also sharper; the countenance contained less of openness and repose, and the hair was more bristling and disorderly.
According to the older style of representation, Poseidon appears dressed in a long garment, holding in one hand the trident, in the other the dolphin, both prime attributes (pl. 22, fig. 4); in later times either wholly nude (fig. 6), or partly covered (fig. 5). On an ancient Greek coin (pl. 21, fig. 11) he is seen holding the trident in the attitude of hurling it. The inscription marks it as the currency of Pæstum, a Greek town in Laconia. Not unfrequently we see him riding on a car without wheels, drawn by hippocamps (sea horses). A highly finished engraving of this sort, representing the triumph of Poseidon and Amphitrite, is given in pl. 23, fig. 20. They are riding over the sea, surrounded by Nereides, Dolphins, and Tritons. Mounted upon his car, which is drawn by four hippocamps, Poseidon moves majestically over the waters, holding the trident in the left hand and the reins in the right. He looks benignantly on Amphitrite, who is conveyed by dolphins, and employs her hands in holding the reins and one end of a veil. One nereid sits on her right side, supporting her uplifted arm; another is seen on the left holding the other end of the veil and guiding one of the dolphins. Joyous tritons surround them on all sides, blowing in their ocean shells; and Cupids or genii are lying or sitting upon dolphins. Further off appear other nereides or sea gods who regard Poseidon as their sovereign, while Cupids hover above the scene, strewing flowers or shooting; love arrows.
Amphitrite, as intimated above, was the wife of Poseidon. She was the daughter of Oceanos and Tethys. During the war of the Titans Poseidon had signalized his hostility to her race, and remembering this fact, she spurned his first efforts to woo her, flying from his presence, and hiding herself among the sea weeds. A dolphin pointed out to him the place of her concealment. Pursuing her thither he renewed his addresses, and succeeded in overcoming her objections to the union, and in gratitude placed the dolphin among the constellations. Amphitrite, now queen of the sea, lived with her husband in a golden palace at the bottom of the Eubœan strait.
Poseidon, like his relation Zeus, proved unfaithful to his spouse; indeed the myths make him the more gallant of the two.
The most celebrated among his favorites was the fountain nymph Amymone, for whose sake he watered the thirsty plains of Argolis, a fountain being opened on the spot where the god first saw her. The interview is represented on a coin (pl. 23, fig. 4). Poseidon stands before Amymone in the act of declaring his love, with his right foot on a stone, his right hand on his knee, and the left placed on his back; while she holds a pitcher in the right hand, and covers her eyes with the left, her half-averted face and abashed look marking her inward agitation upon the question of rejecting or accepting his proposal.
It is remarkable that notwithstanding Poseidon’s posterity displayed a wild ungovernable propensity, they should nevertheless furnish so many heroes and founders of states and cities. Among these we mention only Taras, who appears on a Tarentinian coin (pl. 21, fig. 10) riding on a dolphin, holding a trident and a statue of victory. He was founder and patron god of Taras (the ancient name for Taranto), and the figure as well as the inscription ΤΑΡΑΣ; obviously point to that historical fact.
Poseidon and Pallas Athene contended with each other about the sway of the city of Athens, and the honor of giving it a name. It was agreed to decide the dispute in favor of the one who should produce the most valuable gift for the Greeks. Poseidon struck the ground and the horse arose; Athene created the olive tree. The Greeks thereupon chose her for their patron deity, and called the city Athens. In pl. 21, fig. 12, representing this transaction, she is seen extending her right hand to Poseidon, in token of her joy at the happy termination of the contest. The owl is sitting on a branch of the olive, around whose trunk coils the serpent, one of the insignia of Athene. Owing to Poseidon’s gift in his contest with Athene, horses were ever afterwards sacrificed to him, together with seals; and horse-races in honor of him constituted part of the exercises connected with the Isthmian games. Merchants and navigators made frequent offerings to Poseidon.
4. Demeter, or Dio (Ceres). This goddess was the daughter of Cronos and Rhea, and the patroness of the vegetable world, particularly of fruits and grain. At an early period she appears to have been distinguished from Hestia, or Vesta, the latter impregnating the earth with fertilizing warmth, the former inducing, shaping, and maturing the nourishing ear. She founded agriculture, reclaimed mankind from a savage state, accustomed them to permanent residences, and taught them the rights of property.
In statues and paintings she resembles Hera in the maternal expression, though she is of a milder countenance, and somewhat taller. The eye also is more closed, and not so penetrating; the forehead is lower, and instead of a diadem she wears a single bandage, or a crown composed of ears of wheat. The ancient Pelasgi represented her (pl. 24, fig. 1) in full attire; the crown rests on her brow, the left hand holds a sceptre, the right a bunch of wheat ears, poppies, and flowers; while a large veil, covering the upper part of her head, falls down upon her back. The later Grecian artists, however, exhibit her entirely naked, with a fruit basket and a sheaf of grain. Many busts of the goddess have the crown of ears (pl. 24, fig. 2), or instead of it, the hair put up in a waving form, with a tuft or bunch on the top of the head (pl. 18, fig. 16).
Demeter was visited by Zeus in the shape of a serpent; and she is seen on a coin (pl. 15, fig. 27a) shuddering at the sight of the serpent, and endeavoring to escape from it, while the reverse of the same coin (fig. 27b) represents Bacchos with the body of a bull, the son of Zeus and Demeter. Some writers, however, interpret these figures of Zeus and Persephone (Proserpine). The latter, whom the common myth describes as the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was the source of much grief to the mother. While yet a child, her father had betrothed her to her brother Hades, the gloomy prince of the infernal world, but when she grew up she declined fulfilling the engagement. As she was one day gathering flowers in the Mysian plain in the absence of her mother, the earth opened suddenly, and Hades arose in his golden chariot and carried her off through a cave to his shadowy abode. Demeter heard her shrieks, but arrived too late to rescue her from the ravisher. Lighting a torch at Etna, she mounted her car (fig. 26ab) and wandered over the world in search of her daughter, but did not find her. After nine days and nights’ fruitless effort, she learned from Helios (the sun), the all-seeing, both the fate and the habitation of Persephone. In grief and rage she cursed the earth for assisting in the escape of the ravisher, denied herself food and drink, renounced her divinity, and in disgust abandoned the society of the gods.
In vain did Zeus send Iris and others to recall her to Olympos, and induce her to revoke her malediction upon the now sterile earth; she remained inflexible until she secured the promise of having her daughter restored. Zeus despatched the divine messenger Hermes to Erebos (the lower world), to bring back Persephone; but Hades had induced her to eat with him a pomegranate, and this bound her to his domains. Zeus, however, so modified the penalty of her indiscretion as to allow her to pass eight months of the year with her mother, and the remaining four with her husband. Gratified at this concession, Demeter now forgot her resentment, revived the fertility of the soil, promoted husbandry, and for this purpose visited the kings of the earth, showing herself particularly communicative to Triptolemus, King of Attica. She taught him to use the plough (pl. 23, fig. 18), and presented him with a chariot drawn by winged dragons, in which he rode over every country, teaching the inhabitants the arts of tillage, and the method of performing her sacred rites (pl. 24, fig. 6). After this Demeter returned to Olympos.
5. Pallas Athene (Minerva). We have already remarked that Athene was daughter of Zeus and Metis. She was regarded as the goddess of intellectual power, of cool, calm reason; and the poets and philosophers have assigned to her various and contradictory attributes. She presided over systematic warfare, and was supposed to be present in those contests which were decided rather by military skill than by the rude courage of the belligerents. On the other hand, she favored the reign of peace, promoted the pacific occupations of spinning, sewing, and embroidery, and patronized the fine arts so far as they contributed to mental cultivation. Accordingly she befriended poetry, oratory, and the sciences in general, taking them cordially under her special protection.
As she was not born of a mother, she exhibited no signs of female tenderness. Unsusceptible of the influence of love, she ever remained the virgin goddess, disdaining all womanly weakness; and yet this apparent incongruity between her sex and character was finely reconciled by the artists. Her eye, unlike that of Artemis (Diana), does not open fully, is rather steady and downcast. Her compressed lips indicate earnestness, and the whole face is rather small and elongated than full and round. The chin is prominent and somewhat sharp, the nose long and finely formed, the hair massive and artlessly drawn back from the forehead, falling loosely over her beautiful neck. In short, the whole figure is in accordance with the ideal, and the masculine character of the vigorous and compact frame is softened by the feminine expression which may be traced in all its outlines.
The customary habit of Athene is the Spartan tunic, without sleeves or seams on the sides, and over this is thrown a wide and numerously folded cloak. The helmet, ægis, and shield constitute her inseparable attributes. The helmet is sometimes of the Corinthian fashion, with a movable visor, sometimes like the close-fitting Attic helmet furnished with a narrow frontlet and side clasps, and always more or less richly adorned with griffins, rams’ horns, and sometimes a row of horses, the front ones so arranged as to resemble a span harnessed to a war chariot. Sphinxes, also, hippogriffs, and serpents often serve to ornament it. The Ægis was a sort of cuirass or breastplate, made of the rough skin of a monster which Athene had killed. Its seams were united by serpents instead of cords. The term Ægis literally signifies a goat-skin, and Lactantius says it was made of the skin of the goat which suckled Zeus. When fitted to the person it covered the breast as far as the waist, and passing over the shoulders, extended as low behind as the front part. In some pictures it is represented as oblique, passing from the right shoulder over the breast, and after going under the left arm, crossing the back to the right shoulder. A mask of Medusa, sculptured in the middle, gives it a terrific aspect. The shield is Spartan, of a circular form, and bears on its face the usual ornaments. It did not accompany the goddess when she was represented in her peaceful character. Besides the helmet and shield, Athene occasionally appears with the snake, the olive branch, the night owl, the cock, and the spear.
After this general explanation, the various pictures of this goddess will be readily understood. As goddess of war, we see her (pl. 27, fig. 7) in her peculiar panoply, the helmet, aegis, shield, and lance; as hastening to battle, with the lance on her shoulder and the shield hung upon the lance (fig. 10); as Nike, or Victoria, the goddess of victory after a well fought battle and the subjugation of the foe (fig. 14). Unlike Ares (Mars), Athene has no fondness for war for its own sake; hence we see her (pl. 19, fig. 3) as Victoria in peace, her right hand hanging down inactive, and the left holding the upright spear.
In pl. 27, fig. 9, we have the Agoræan Athene wearing the Doric chiton, a narrow woollen garment without sleeves, suspended by bands and clasps from the shoulders, closed at the waist but open below, the whole enveloped in a sort of gown. A very small aegis hangs over the breast, the shield and lance are wanting, the right hand rests on the hip, the head inclines with a singular expression, and the left arm is performing an oratorical gesture.
Among her busts are some representing her in rich attire (fig. 8); others in simpler costume (pl. 28, fig. 6). The serpent stands either as the symbol of medical science, or as indicating the necessity of vigilance over young women.
Athene often appears upon coins. Thus on a brass coin of Athens (pl. 27, fig. 12ab) the obverse exhibits her profile with a neat, simple helmet; the reverse shows the acropolis of Athens, the temple and statue of Athene standing on the brow of the hill, a flight of steps leading up the sides, and in the rocks the entrance to the cave of Pan. The inscription shows the origin of the coin. Fig. 11ab exhibits the bust of Athene and her sacred bird, the owl.
6. Hestia (Vesta). This goddess, the eldest daughter of Cronos and Rhea, taught men the use of fire and the benefits of social union; she also represented domestic happiness, and presided over the social hearth. In comparison with the other Olympic deities, her history is exceedingly obscure and limited, fewer monuments being found of her than of any other goddess. She is often regarded as Cybele the younger, the same as Ignis (fire).
The artists represented her with a noble form like that of Hera and Demeter, differing mainly in having a less robust appearance. Her principal characteristics were a striking simplicity of manner, and a tranquil, placid earnestness of mien, attitude, and dress. A statue expressive of these traits is copied in pl. 15, fig. 8, though some authors improperly interpret it as a Vestal virgin, one of her priestesses. Every part of the figure confirms our view of it. The general fashion of the dress, the veil, the sceptre-shaped staff, the intelligence and ideality of the head, the womanly rather than the maiden-like form, all express the goddess rather than the priestess. But few temples were erected in honor of Hestia, for every dwelling was her temple. In the middle of the house stood her altar, and the antechamber of every family residence was regarded as sacred to her.
7. Hephæstos (Vulcan), son of Hera, who had given him birth out of spite to Zeus, when he had caused Athene to spring full grown from his head, was the god of fire, and the inventor and patron of all such arts and manufactures as require heat in conducting them. He also symbolized the subterranean fires which sometimes revealed themselves in eruptions. He is represented in various forms. By ancient artists he is described as youthful and beardless. Later, however, he appears in a manly form, holding a middle position between the older and more youthful gods. The principal marks characterizing his statues are the Phrygian cap (pl. 24, fig. 20), or a conical hat, and as attributes the hammer, tongs, and anvil. As a compensation for his want of beauty and grace (for he was lame, and the only misshapen deity in Olympos), he possessed in its highest degree the inventive genius, particularly in its application to the working of metals. By the exertion of this faculty, he secured the respect and favor of all the gods. He built their palaces, forged thunderbolts for Zeus and arrows for Eros, and prepared the silver armor of Ares, the shield of Achilles, and other similar works. Volcanoes served him as workshops, and here he plied his profession with his fellow workmen the Cyclopes (pl. 25, fig. 20).
The mythological fictions give different reasons for his lameness. One relates that his mother, so soon as she saw that his beauty did not equal her own, petulantly cast him from Olympos, and crippled him by the fall. He subsequently avenged this unnatural cruelty. At the command of Zeus he constructed for his mother a golden throne-chair, and the moment she occupied it she felt invisible chains confining her firmly to the seat, until at length Ares procured her liberation. Another legend states that Zeus himself hurled him from Olympos, first when Hera was endeavoring to hide the new from god from his sight; and again when Hephæstos dared to interfere in a quarrel between his father and mother, and espoused the side of the latter. This time he fell upon the island of Lemnos, whose inhabitants kindly received and intertained him.
At a subsequent period he expressed his willingness to return to Olympos, and Dionysos (Bacchus) undertook to conduct the refractory god home. Having first intoxicated him, he placed him on an ass, and amid music and acclamations bore him safely to the residence of the gods.
It was not long ere he created new troubles in the divine assembly. Eros, for whom Hephaestos had made golden arrows, resolved to try their influence on the artist himself. One of them took effect, and the fire god became a helpless captive to the charms of Aphrodite, the most beautiful of all the celestials. As the extremes of beauty and ugliness could not naturally meet in one pair, his passion remained long unreciprocated. At last the dejected lover abandoned his labors, and threatened never to resume them until she should become his wife. The other inhabitants of Olympos, whom Hephæstos had supplied with armor and other implements, now felt constrained to use their influence in overcoming her objections to the union. At length she complied, and after a magnificent solemnization of the marriage ceremonies, he cheerfully returned to his work.
8. Aphrodite (Venus). The most graceful and charming of all the female deities was the goddess of beauty. In her the Greeks expressed their most perfect ideal of female loveliness and attraction, of an all-influencing, all-subduing power, whose sphere embraced both gods and men; but as the beneficent impulse of love itself, if not carefully moderated by morality, may prove destructive of its own aims, she sometimes stands also as the symbol of this ungoverned sensuality.
In the later history of mythology, however, it was the object of artists, both painters and sculptors, to embody in her representations the most attractive female delicacy. Hence the Aphrodite Urania (celestial love) must be carefully distinguished from the Aphrodite Pandemos, or Vulgivaga (earthly love). As connected with matrimonial and social interests, she presided over marriages, births, and festivals, and was the protectress of children and mariners. So far as concerned the exterior development which the artists endeavored to reveal, it was handsomely realized in the delicate and finely swelling form in which beauty and modesty prevailed. The face is a lengthened oval, the forehead moderately high, the outline of the eye-brow is clear and serene, the eye small and glancing love, the mouth small, symmetrical, and charming in expression, the ridge and point of the nose elegantly chiselled, and finally, the cheeks have an agreeable fulness. The hair, gathered from the forehead and temples, reposes in graceful folds on the crown of the head, sometimes adorned with a riband. The head itself does not sit perpendicularly upon the swan-like neck, but has a slight easy inclination to one side.
In regard to the dress, position, insignia, &c., of Aphrodite, great diversity existed. This was the natural result of the almost universal homage paid her, and the innumerable attempts to represent her in every conceivable relation. On the old Pelasgian statues she appeared in fall dress (pl. 27, fig. 18), her head adorned with the diadem; as goddess of matrimony (fig. 26) she is represented in a similar manner, only the drapery is less splendid and heavy, and the left breast and shoulder are exposed. Fig. 21 exhibits her as empress of the sea, partly clothed and partly exposed, her right hand resting on the tail of the dolphin, which accompanies her statues in this character; and at fig. 19 we see her leaning on a dolphin, entirely naked, and in the act of putting on an anklet. In a celebrated drawing (fig. 20) we see her riding over the sea on a sea-bull; joyous Cupids are disporting around her; one of them guides the bull by a wreath thrown over the monster’s horns, a second keeps alongside on a dolphin, while a third hovers over the goddess in the air. Near the edge of this picture the artist’s name (Glycon) is given. Pl. 15, fig. 17, represents a statue of her, very similar in attitude to the beautiful and celebrated Venus di Medici, in which she appears partly nude and crowned. She was also often represented bathing. Thus on a coin (pl. 28, fig. 16) she is kneeling on the ground, one Cupid is rubbing her back with a cloth while another pours water over her. In fig. 17, she is seen in the act of resuming her dress after a bath. As Aphrodite Callipygos (pl. 27, fig. 24), she appears with her tunic lifted above her hips, and her face turned round as if surveying her figure in a mirror; and as Venus Erycina, so called from Mount Eryx in Sicily (pl. 28, fig. 15), she is seated in a chair and attended by the dove and a Cupid. The inscription EPYK signifies “coin of the Erycinians.” We present also (fig. 14), on a coin of Ascalon, a figure of Aphrodite Urania, under the name of Astarte, or Astaroth, a goddess of the Phœnicians. A crescent surmounts her head; she holds in the right hand a dove, and in the left a warrior’s lance; while her whole weight rests upon the prostrate Derceto. This latter goddess was worshipped by the Syrians; she is half woman and half fish, symbolizing doubtless two successive periods of cosmogony. In the figure she holds aloft the horn of plenty. Among the numerous busts of Aphrodite, some exhibit her with the Junonian diadem (pl. 27, fig. 17a); others with the simple hair-knot (fig. 17b.)
The myths relating to Aphrodite equalled in number her representations. Her birth itself was extraordinary, for according to the old legends she arose from the drops of blood which fell into the sea when Cronos wounded his father Uranos. Pl. 27, fig. 31, represents the circumstances attending her first appearance. Happy Tritons are bearing over the sea on a shell the new-born pearl of creation; others proclaim on their horns their joy at the priceless gift; nymphs vie with each other in celebrating her birth, and approach her with the richest fruits; while Cupids hover over her with an ample veil, and scatter flowers on her. When she had left the deep she wrung the water from her hair (fig. 22), and myrtles and roses sprang up on the spot where her foot first rested on the shore. She was received in Olympos with universal acclamation, and, as already remarked, married to Hephæstos, who, however, was not blessed by her acquisition in proportion to his expectations, as she married him only reluctantly, and as the goddess of love bestowed her smiles both on gods and mortals. Thus Ares, the valiant war god, enjoyed her regard; and in pl. 18, fig. 5, they are seen declaring their love. Among mortals she also had her favorites. The story of her love for Adonis, son of King Cinyras, is well known. This youth, the handsomest of men, lived on her favorite island Cyprus, and so intense was her affection for him, that she requested Persephone to endow him with immortality. The latter granted the favor, but recalled it so soon as she saw him, herself becoming enamored of his beauty; though another account says she permitted him to spend one half the year on earth, the other in the shades. The fable obviously points to the periodical return of summer and winter.
To return, however, to the first myth. Aphrodite became alarmed for his safety, as he frequently exposed himself to danger in the chase. At length the jealous Ares appeared in the woods as a wild boar, and while Adonis was in hot pursuit, turned and killed him with his tusks. Aphrodite in vain sought to restore him to life; despair, however, yielding to a gentler grief, she sprinkled water on the ground and raised from the fatal spot the flower anemone. Her love for Anchises, prince of Troy, was inspired by Zeus as a punishment for her boast that she was superior to the power of the tender passion. Anxious for his life, she concealed their affection; but Anchises imprudently disclosed the secret to Dionysos. Enraged at his presumption, Zeus hurled at him a thunderbolt. Aphrodite caught it in her garments, but terror rendered him dim-sighted and feeble. After the sack of Troy he accompanied his son Æneas on his voyage to Italy, but died in Sicily and was buried near Mount Eryx. Aphrodite often mourned at his grave, and placed a dove to watch it. Her beauty occasioned a contest with Hera and Pallas Athene, which arose in this manner: Peleus, prince of Phthia, had invited to his wedding all the gods and goddesses except Eris, the goddess of Discord, who always marred the harmony of every company to which she was admitted. Chagrined at the seclusion, she determined at any rate to gratify her ruling propensity, and threw into the marriage hall a golden apple bearing the inscription “For the most Beautiful!” The three goddesses severally claimed it, but as they could not agree upon the rightful owner, they appealed to Zeus for an award. The latter declined the office, and referred them to Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy, who was then on Mount Ida. Each candidate endeavored to obtain a decision in her own favor by bribing the umpire. Aphrodite shrewdly promised him Helen, the most beautiful woman of earth, and the prize was awarded to her. Pl. 27, fig. 25a, represents her victorious over both competitors, and holding the apple and a mirror. She fulfilled her engagement with Paris, and aided him in the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus. The Trojan war resulted from this rape, and even Aphrodite could not avert the calamity nor protect her favorite from the destruction which it brought upon him and his race.
9. Ares (Mars). Unlike Athene, the patroness of scientific warfare, Ares, the son of Zeus and Hera, was the god of bloody battles, and represented the idea of rude, lawless violence. Ferocious and ungovernable, no employment was so congenial to his disposition as slaughter, and burying grounds and fields of carnage constituted for him the most pleasing spectacle. Accordingly in the Trojan war he took the part of the besieged, because their rude method of fighting suited his own genius; while Athene, conducting a more open and honorable strife, assisted the polished Greeks. In later times he was regarded as a helper of mortals, a protector of the just, an avenger of innocence, and as bestowing vigorous youth. His natural rudeness rendered him disagreeable to the Olympic gods, yet during their contest with the giants he served them successfully.
A compact powerful frame, a strong fleshy neck, short and curly or bristling hair, rather small eyes, wide nostrils, and, as compared with the other sons of Zeus, a rather gloomy forehead, composed the principal features by which the artists expressed the ideal of Ares. He is usually represented without clothing, or at most wearing only the warrior’s cloak. His armor consists of the helmet, shield, spear, and sword. Destructive and carnivorous animals, particularly the wolf, were sacred to him. He was also partial to the horse for his strength, and to the dog and cock for their vigilance. Among the refined Greeks, Ares was never regarded as a favorite, and received far less homage than the other Olympic deities. In Sparta, however, where war formed the chief business of life, his statue was secured by chains, so that the fortunes of battle might always be insured to the state. Very ancient works represent him with a close fitting coat of mail, tabard, greaves, spear, helmet, and shield (pl. 17, fig. 18); and fig. 20 shows a fine head of a bearded Ares, as seen on a coin of Metapontum in lower Italy, with the name of the magistrate Leukippos. A handsomely wrought bust of him exists, adorned with a sphinx and the figures of his sacred wolves (fig. 19). In fig. 21 he is seen reposing after battle, apparently enjoying a peaceful frame of mind, the shield leaning by his side and a Cupid playing at his feet.
Among the most celebrated of his numerous children we mention the twins Romulus and Remus, Harmonia, Eros, and Phobos and Demos (Fear and Dismay), who harnessed his chariot, and in company with his sister Eris attended him everywhere.
10. Hermes (Mercury) was the son of Zeus and Maia daughter of Atlas, and played a conspicuous part in divine affairs. He was the god of artifice, inventions, and commerce; the patron of eloquence; and disclosed to mankind the first principles of scientific knowledge. He fostered cunning and fraud; imparted the gifts of prophecy; arranged the sites for athletic exercises; introduced the use of sacrifices; was the messenger of the gods, and their legate in their controversies with men; and at death conducted the departed souls to the world of shades. At the movement of his wand he awakened the dead or sank the living to sleep. At the judgment-seat of Hades he stood as either the defender or accuser of the departed, according as he was commanded by the gods. He also taught men the art of reckoning; invented weights, measures, and money; showed the nature and practice of amusing plays, and the method of strengthening the body; and, in full keeping with his character, taught the use of false games. He instructed princes in the art of concluding peace; but gave them also the mischievous power of so construing the ambiguous articles of a treaty as to justify themselves in violating them, when it appeared their interest to do so.
Considering the multiplicity of his offices and the extensive worship paid to him, it is easy to account for the numerous and diversified modes of representing him, both in statuary and painting. In the earlier efforts of art, particularly in busts (pl. 21, fig. 22), he was represented with a flowing beard and waving locks; and the prevailing expression here is that of a teacher and propagator of religious ideas and useful knowledge. Subsequently he was ranked among the beardless and more youthful gods, and here the features of cunning and dexterity reveal themselves. The bust (pl. 28, fig. 10) shows him with short curly hair, and small ears and mouth. His physical structure is handsome and compact, and well suits the inventor of gymnastics. His attitude, gesture, and mien all mark him as the thoughtful, active, and friendly deity, with whom it would prove an easy task to accomplish any negotiation, however intricate and difficult. In short, he exhibits corporeal beauty and intellectual versatility admirably blended. In regard to his exterior, we sometimes find him entirely naked, sometimes wearing a cloak which hangs loosely over the shoulders, or is folded over the arm. His distinguishing characteristics are the wings and the caduceus. The wings were attached to his head or hat, and sometimes also to his feet or ankles; they represented the promptness and rapidity with which he accomplished his errands. The caduceus was a rod with wings at the end, and two serpents wound round it, and served as a heraldic staff or magic wand, with the aid of which he produced sudden transformations, invisibility, and sleep. Hermes often wears a hat with a low crown and a brim of various breadth; the hat belongs to him as a traveller. As the messenger of the gods (pl. 20, fig. 19) he appears in the hat and a short mantle, holding the caduceus: as Hermes Agonios or the Wrestler (fig. 20) the mantle is thrown over the left shoulder, to indicate activity in executing the commands of the gods. The tortoise on which one foot is placed refers to his invention of the lyre. On the coin or gem (pl. 27, fig. 5) he supports the tortoise on a disk, his own arm resting on a pillar. In the character of Hermes the Eloquent (fig. 4) he stands in the attitude of an orator. The mantle hangs gracefully on the right arm, the left arm is raised; and the stump of a palm tree close by is designed to remind us that as the discoverer of letters and numbers he recorded his earliest instructions on palm leaves. On pl. 28, fig. 7, his whole figure and bearing, and particularly the significant gesture of the fore finger, powerfully express the qualities of ready ingenuity and cool calculation; while in fig. 9, the ram’s head in a sacred vessel describes him as the establisher and regulator of religious ceremonies. In fig. 8 he sits upon his mantle, which is thrown over a ram; a position which indicates his office as the protector of flocks.
Hermes was represented in different degrees of age. In pl. 24, fig. 22, we see him as a mere boy, dressed in a short leather tunic. He holds in his left hand a bag or purse, which marks him as the god of traffic. His right finger is placed on his chin, and his countenance exhibits that roguish or mischievous smile which the thought of some adroit plan might naturally prompt. In fig. 23 he appears as a more advanced youth, still retaining the features of active cunning. As shown in a beautiful bust (pl. 27, fig. 2), he wears the hat, and has quite a youthful expression; also in pl. 28, fig. 11, where the face is larger. Finally, we have a representation of the Ithyphallic Hermes (or Priapus, guardian of landmarks) on a coin (pl. 28, fig. 12); and in pl. 15, fig. 15, Hermes stands on a winged globe, holding in the left hand a torch, and in the right a vessel of fruits for sacrifice.
It remains to explain the term Hermæ applied to terminal statues (pl. 27, fig. 3). The word Herma originally signified a post or pillar, and hence in sculpture a post on which a bust was placed, and which was quadrangular and diminished in circumference from the top downwards. These pillars were very common, and seem to have been first used in Athens. They were made of heights in proportion to the busts which they were to bear, and sometimes had arms and feet attached. In some instances the name appeared on the breast, in others at half the height of the pillar. The whole doubtless arose out of the ancient worship, when as yet men revered the rude images which served to describe boundaries, and as guides at cross-ways; and when the Herma received the head it became a symbol of Hermes, the god of highways and travellers. These images had wings on their heads, as the insignia of Hermes. They were also placed near the temples of the other gods, in order to indicate the office of Hermes as messenger, and in gardens and walks for ornament.
From the many myths recorded of Hermes, we make a few selections, as they seem to characterize him more accurately. From the very first he exhibited remarkable prudence and sagacity. Only four hours from his birth, he threw off his swaddling clothes, and left the grotto in which he had been born. By chance he found a tortoise, and killed it; and after boring holes through the sides of the shell, and inserting reeds or pipes, he attached to them seven strings prepared from the entrails of a sheep, and using the tones of this instrument as an accompaniment, he sang the story of his birth. Thus he became the inventor of the first stringed instrument, the lyre, which henceforth was regarded as one of his proper symbols. During a second excursion he came where the herds of the gods, guarded by Apollo, were feeding. By an ingenious device he stole fifty of the cattle, hastened back to his retreat, and discovered the art of roasting and of sacrificing. Concealing the remnants of his meal, he crept back into his cradle and gathered his clothes about him. Apollo, however, by the aid of inspiration, learned where the booty was, and went to the grotto to receive it; but Hermes stoutly denied the theft, and evinced a well-feigned astonishment that one so young should be charged with so grave an offence. Apollo now accused him before Zeus, and here he still pleaded his innocence, winking slyly at the Great Father. The latter seemed pleased with his great cunning, but ordered him to restore the plunder. When Apollo went to obtain it, he was so entranced by the tones of the lyre, that he not only relinquished to Hermes the stolen cattle, but gave him also a share of the herd for it; not, however, without making the cunning deity promise not to rob him of his instrument or his bow, nor even to come near his residence. In consideration of this pledge Apollo presented him with the staff of fortune, appointed him god of herds, and taught him the art of divination by lots.
Hermes gave yet other proofs of his skill in thieving. On the day of his birth Hera took him in her arms, and pleased with his sprightliness, suckled him; but learning from Iris whose child he was, she angrily cast him away from her. The milk which she spilt streamed across the sky, and formed the milky way. Aphrodite now took him in her lap, and in return for her caresses he stole her girdle. He afterwards purloined the sceptre of Zeus, and while Ares was in the act of recovering it, the sly god took his sword from its sheath. As some atonement for his tricks, he performed many and valuable services for the gods, and was always prompt in fulfilling their commands and requests. He evinced great fondness for the gentle sex, and had numerous descendants. While enamored of Herse, daughter of Cecrops, his modesty prevented him from declaring his passion. He then tried to influence her sister Aglauros in his favor, but incited by envy, she increased Herse’s prejudices against him. In revenge for her treachery he changed her into a yellow stone, and ever since yellow has been regarded as a type of Envy.
11. Apollo. This god, the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of Artemis, fostered the arts of poetry, music, and divination. From his skill in archery he received the surnames, the Par-shooting, the Dragon-slayer, and others. He was also regarded as the founder of medical science, and to him and to his sister were assigned the arrows of pestilence; whence the common opinion that all who died suddenly had fallen by the arrows of Apollo. Shepherds revered him as the god of flocks, and many cities claimed and honored him as their founder and patron.
In regard to artistic representation, this god involved the perfect ideal of human beauty, and was the personification of manly youth and vigor. He belonged to the beardless gods, and none of the Olympians had so oval a face, so finely pencilled eyebrows, and so elevated a forehead. His whole countenance expressed the height of tranquil inspiration. His long, waving hair is usually fastened back, only a few stray locks descending to the shoulders, the rest being gathered in a knot on the crown of his head, like that of Artemis and Aphrodite. In the best statues his entire figure strongly reminds the observer of the Great Father, and might be mistaken for a youthful Zeus.
His many representations exhibited him in varied dress and character. Among his symbols occur the bow and arrow, because he kept the arrows of sudden death, and joined his sister in the chase; the lyre or some other musical instrument; the serpent which typifies his killing of Python, and his discovery of medicine; the shepherd’s crook, the tripod, the laurel, the ram, and the hawk. As Delphian Apollo (so named from his celebrated temple at Delphi, in Phocis), he is totally destitute of drapery, and leans against an altar, holding in the left hand a laurel twig, the right being placed on his head (pl. 27, fig. 15). As Musagetes or leader of the Muses, he usually wears a long tunic. In this character he is represented as playing the Phorminx, an ancient stringed instrument resembling the modem harp (pl. 28, fig. 4); or holds some other instrument (pl. 15, fig. 11). As Nomios, the pastoral god, he is seated on a rock, tending the flocks of king Admetos; the mantle is spread beneath him, the lyre in his right hand, and near him the shepherd’s crook (pl. 28, fig. 2). We have also copied a beautiful bust of this god (pl. 28, fig. 1), where the hair is heavy and long; and another (pl. 18, fig. 14) in which the hair is parted and lies close to the head.
The myths of Apollo rank among the most interesting of antiquity, and many incidents connected with his history have been made the subjects of excellent works of art. We have already described the peril attending him while Python pursued his mother Leto, and now only add that while he sat with his sister on the arm of the trembling fugitive, he reached with his little hand for the monster as though it were a toy (pl. 20, fig. 5). His first employment was that of a herdsman. While a boy he tended the sacred cattle of the gods, and at a later period the horses of Eumolos, and the cattle on Mount Ida. For a long time also after his expulsion from Olympos by Zeus, he guarded the cattle of Admetos king of Pheræ, and during this time rendered his master important services. The king loved Alcestis, daughter of Pelias, but could obtain her only on the condition of visiting her in a chariot drawn by a lion and a boar; and Apollo taught him how to tame and harness these animals, when he received his bride from the astonished father, and formed with her a happy alliance.
While young, Apollo had the misfortune accidentally to kill two of his best friends. Hyacinthos, son of king Amydas, was his favorite, with whom he frequently practised in games of skill. Pl. 28, fig. 3, represents the noble boy leaning against a tree, and near him his divine friend. Once, however, while they were exercising with the quoit, Zephyrus (west wind), who envied the boy the favor of the god, turned aside the disk of Apollo, so that it struck Hyacinthos on the temple and killed him instantly. Inconsolable at his loss, the god caused the hyacinth to spring up and bloom on the spot where his favorite fell.
His other friend, Cyparissos, had tamed a doe which he prized very highly. Apollo, while hunting, either through mistake or ignorance shot it, whereupon Cyparissos died of grief. Apollo immediately changed the friend for whom he mourned into a cypress, and this tree has ever since been regarded as the symbol of grief for departed loved ones.
While most of Apollo’s numerous love-suits proved fortunate, some were disastrous. Among others he strongly loved Coronis, the sister of Ixion, the most lovely of the Thessalonian maidens, and felt assured that she reciprocated his passion. By means of the prudent raven, of whose prophetic powers Apollo availed himself, and which is represented perched on the lid of the caldron on the sacred tripod (pl. 17, fig. 28), he discovered that Coronis was deluding him, and secretly favoring Ischys, son of Elatus. In a fit of exasperation he slew the faithless one with an arrow, and because the raven had not earlier warned him of the deception, or else persisted in its silence, he changed his white plumage to black. Not less unpropitious was his love for Daphne daughter of the river god Peneus. She did not return his affection, but sought to escape from his presence, and when he pursued her addressed herself for protection to Zeus. Immediately her foot sank into the ground spreading out in the form of roots, her arms raised in supplication were changed to boughs, her fingers became twigs, and her hair green leaves, and when her impetuous lover came up to her she had already been transformed into a laurel-tree (pl. 17, fig. 26). Apollo embraced the trunk, and adopted it for his favorite tree.
Apollo enjoyed unusual celebrity for musical skill. After receiving from Hermes the lyre, he invented the cithara, and learned from Athene how to perform on the flute. While playing on this instrument in the divine assembly, Athene was derided for the swelling of her cheeks, and in a fit of rage threw it away. A Phrygian herdsman or satyr, Marsyas, found it, and by diligent practice soon became proficient in its use. In pl. 25, fig. 9, we see him giving instructions to his pupil Olympos. Proud, however, of his fancied superiority, he challenged Apollo to a musical contest, asserting that the flute was a more perfect instrument than the lyre (fig. 8). The god accepted the challenge, and the Muses were appointed to decide on the merits of the performers. When Marsyas played the flute the Muses danced; but when Apollo played the lyre and accompanied its notes with songs, the Muses stood enraptured and motionless. Marsyas now objected that the singing compensated for the defects of the lyre; but Apollo inverted the lyre and dispensed with the singing, and still charmed the listeners. As Marsyas could not produce such an effect, and besides could not sing and play at the same time, of course the decision was in favor of his adversary, who flayed him alive as a punishment for the presumption of contending with a god, and tied him to a tree, suspending the flute from one of its branches, and all the prayers and supplications of Olympos could not procure pardon for his vanquished master (pl. 20, fig. 7).
The sun god, Helios, bears a strong resemblance to Apollo, and is sometimes regarded as identical with him. He was the son of Hyperion, and was represented in the form of a young man. From his head issued rays; a ball, the symbol of the world which he illuminated, was supported by one hand and a cornucopia by the other, indicating the fertility and productiveness which he caused. At his feet are his horses Aëthon and Pyroïs (pl. 20, fig. 13). He was also regarded as the god of time, who kept sacred herds of cattle and horses, which he counted daily, and whose number exactly equalled the days and nights of a lunar year. His chief occupation was to guide across the sky the sun chariot drawn by the four fairy horses. He led them out each morning from the eastern gates of the horizon over an oblique arch to the gates of the west, and thence during the night to eastern Ethiopia, where he bathed his horses in the glittering sun pool. Thence he returned to his residence, Colchis, whence the next day he resumed his fiery course. In later times this god was united with Apollo, and was reverenced under the name Phœbus, or Phœbus Apollo. In this character we see him represented (pl. 26, fig. 11) directing the horses of the sun, and accompanied by the Hours or Seasons.
The present is a fitting place to mention Cælus, a god of the physical universe, who ruled in conjunction with Helios or Sol. He was a symbol of the firmament and is represented as an old man dressed in a wide flowing tunic. He rides through the upper air, holding a veil, and occupies a position between the radiant head of Helios and Semele, who bears on her head a new moon. Greater and smaller stars shine between them (pl. 17, fig. 2).
12. Artemis (Diana). This goddess completes the Olympic circle. According to the common myths she was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and the twin sister of Apollo. The sphere of her operations equalled his in variety and extent, and it is even more difficult to characterize her precisely, as she not only represented both ancient and later ideas, but indeed three originally distinct mythological beings.
The legends relate that when a child she was sitting in the lap of her father Zeus, and that at her request he gave to her perpetual virginity, the property of having many names, the lighted torch, Cretan maid-servants, and a city. Her province extended over earth, heaven, and the lower world. As Artemis proper, she loved the chase and presided over that profession. She obtained as her retinue sixty nymphs (pl. 18, fig. 9), and possessed the power of causing fruits and flocks to flourish, and of prolonging life, and was the protectress of roads and settlements. She next received armor from the Cyclopes and dogs from Pan, harnessed to her chariot four stags with golden antlers, and slew wild animals. She also put women to death, and all who died suddenly were said to have fallen by her arrows, just as the men expired by the arrows of Apollo. From all this will be seen her grave, masculine, and almost cruel character. Accordingly the ancient artists gave to her representations a remarkable resemblance to those of Apollo. Thus she had the same light, slender form, the same elongated oval of the countenance, a high forehead, bright eyes glancing freely around her, braided hair fastened behind, and only a few stray locks falling down over the neck.
As mistress of the chase, she wears her dress tucked up. The tunic is secured or gathered above the knee and fastened to the hips, to avoid the hindrances which longer garments would cause in hunting; the cloak is laid in a long fold and fastened over the shoulders, around the body, to give freedom to the arms; the feet are protected by buskins; on her back she carries the quiver, in her hand the bow or javelin. In pl. 20, fig. 14, one hand appears on the quiver as if taking out an arrow to intimidate Heracles, while with the left she grasps a hind which she has wrested from him. Less frequently as huntress she appears in long clothes, as on the cameo (pl. 27, fig. 1), where, for better recognition, she is seen with the bow in her hand and near her the stag.
The second principal office of Artemis is to direct the shining orb of night, the moon; and in this character she has the name Selene. As such she appears in a full robe flowing to the feet, and over it is thrown the peplum, a wide sash, which extends to the hips. Over her head flows the sail-formed veil, and the crescent moon appears either near her or connected with her person. Sometimes, particularly in gems, she is represented driving horses or oxen, or riding on an ox (pl. 21, fig. 3), the upper part of her person uncovered, provided with wings, and holding an arrow in the right hand. Selene, with whom Artemis is thus blended, was the goddess of the moon in the olden mythology. She was much honored in Asia Minor, whence her worship gradually passed over to Crete.
Finally, Artemis was regarded as the empress of the lower world, and as presiding over magic and apparitions. In this character she bore the name of Hecate, and performed the duties of a special goddess of this name. Hecate, originally the daughter of the Titan Perses and of Asteria, or according to other myths, the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was sometimes regarded as identical with. Persephone. She was a terrible goddess of magical incantation, the avenger of perjury, the patroness of the chase and cattle breeding, and the protectress of flocks. She was usually represented with three heads, to signify her authority in heaven, earth, and the lower world. From this three-headed Hecate arose, at a later period, a figure with three bodies, symbolizing the union of Artemis, Selene, and Hecate, or more properly the concentration in one being of the three departments peculiar to each of these deities (pl. 23, fig. 13). The first figure holds in each hand a torch, and over her brow rests the crescent and the lotus; the second has in her right hand a key, and in the left a bundle of cords, as door-keeper and guardian of the gate opening to the world of shades; while the third holds in her right a dagger, and in her left a serpent deprived of its head.
Among the simple exhibitions of Artemis, the statue of Artemis Soleia (pl. 20, fig. 11) deserves notice. Here she is standing, in full dress, with the right arm elevated, and near her sits a hound. Also a coin (fig. 9) representing her between two pillars, one of which supports a vase, the other an animal, as Artemis Locheia, a name she received as presiding over child-birth. On the field of the coin appears a reed flute, while above and around Artemis are leafy twigs. Near the edge is the name ΛΟΧΙΑ. Finally, we present a figure of the Artemis Tauropolos (pl. 21, fig. 2 a and b). Upon the obverse we see her bust, a wreath encircling her head, and two ox-horns projecting from her shoulders. On the reverse she stands almost in full length, holding a lance or wand in one hand, the torch in the other, with an ox-horn on each side, and a modios or measure upon her head. The name Tauropolos and the horns she obtained from the custom of sacrificing bulls to her.
The celebrated statue of Artemis of Ephesus (pl. 21, fig. 1) is entirely different from all other representations. The goddess here wears a mural crown like that of Cybele; behind her is the nimbus or disk, the symbol of the moon’s surface. Numerous winged figures adorn it, bearing the appearance of eagles, griffins, or winged bulls. On each arm lie two lions in bas-relief; and on her breast-plate several animals peculiar to the zodiac, as the bull, the twins, the cancer; and in the centre four women, two of whom, representing the seasons, are winged. This plate is inclosed with rows or festoons, of which the upper contains various kinds of fruits, while the lower consists only of acorns, the earliest sustenance of mankind. Beneath these are seen numerous udders of animals, symbolizing all-sustaining nature. The lower part of the body, from the girdle to the feet, resembles an inverted pyramid, and is divided by bandages into six panels, occupied by victories, lions, griffins, bulls, and stags. On the sides are bees and flowers. A part of her garment protrudes from beneath and covers the heels. The whole figure is obviously akin to the Egyptian Isis or Rhea, since it represents Artemis both as the symbol of all nourishing nature, and of nature manifested in multifarious and ever-vaiying forms.
Ranking with the ever youthful goddesses Artemis always remained a virgin and unsusceptible of the tender passion. Whoever dared to entertain and express for her the sentiments of love was certain to incur her wrath. Witness Actæon who watched her and her nymphs bathing (pl. 20, fig. 15), and whom she changed into a stag to be torn to pieces by his own hounds. Thus also according to another representation on a coin (pl. 21, fig. 20, a and b), she appears in the act of shooting with an arrow the captive (very probably Orion, afterwards honored with the name of a constellation) whom she learned to esteem on account of his fondness for hunting and his intrepidity, but who fell a victim to her resentment the moment he dared to love her. Towards only one mortal, Endymion, a handsome shepherd, she was less vindictive and unfeeling. She first saw him sleeping in a forest on a mossy bed, while she was leading the moon up the sky. Enraptured at the spectacle, she found it impossible to refrain from checking the celestial chariot to impress a kiss upon his lips. In compliance with her prayer that he might always sleep and never become old, Zeus transferred him to Olympos, but subsequently sent him to the world of shades for rashly cherishing a tender regard for Hera. Among all who fell under the wrath of Artemis, however, none suffered so mournful a fate as the children of Niobe. Their mother, the wife of Amphion king of Thebes, had borne seven sons and seven daughters, and with a feeling of maternal pride exulted over Leto, and boasted of excelling her who had borne only two, Apollo and Artemis. Offended at this reproach Leto accused Niobe to her daughter Artemis, who at once vowed to avenge the affront offered to her mother. Soon after Niobe’s fourteen children died, all slain by the arrows of Apollo and Artemis. This tragic scene is represented in bas-relief upon the side of a sarcophagus (pl. 21, fig. 6).
There are yet two other works of art connected with this transaction. In pl. 20, fig. 11, we see Niobe as she anxiously exerts herself to cover her youngest daughter with her veil, to protect her from the arrows of Artemis; while fig. 18 presents Amphion, the husband of Niobe, in a tunic, to which are added the mantle and Cretan buskins or boots. His whole attitude is expressive of the most frantic desolation at the death of his children.
Artemis also visited with her wrath the Greeks while they assembled in the harbor of Aulis, preparatory to their expedition against Troy. Their chief, Agamemnon, king of Argos, went into her grove, and in spite of the warnings of her priests, killed one of her white hinds. The enraged goddess invoked the aid of Poseidon so to restrain the winds as to hinder the Grecian fleet from pursuing the voyage. The calm lasted several months, and the gods still refused to send a prosperous gale. In reply to their inquiries, the seer Calchas informed the Greeks, that as Agamemnon had offended them they would be appeased only by the sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. The guilty chief heard the decree with horror and a bleeding heart, yet he saw himself compelled to yield to stern necessity. The innocent maiden was decoyed into the camp under the pretext of a marriage with Achilleus, the handsomest of all the Greeks, and there borne as a sacrifice to the altar; but the sufferings of the guiltless victim softened the heart of offended Artemis, who enveloped the spot with a dense cloud, and removed Iphigenia to Tauris, where she afterwards became her priestess, leaving in her stead a hind on the altar, which was found when the cloud disappeared, and sacrificed instead of the maiden.
13. Particular Groups of the Superior Gods. Before leaving the Olympic Assembly, we propose to refer briefly to some representations of the groups of the gods, which, from a desire to keep the subjects separate, we have thus far left unnoticed.
Pl. 19, fig. 2, gives a characteristic group of Zeus, Hermes, and Aphrodite. Zeus sits in majesty upon his throne, the rays of divinity encircle his head, the left hand grasps the sceptre and the right the thunderbolts, while his sacred bird, the eagle, stands at his feet. He directs a commanding look at Hermes, who is preparing to depart on an embassy. On the left of the king of gods stands Aphrodite, joining eagerly in the conversation, while Eros, or Cupid, clings closely to her side. On the edge or rim of the picture appear the twelve signs of the zodiac.
Pl. 27, fig. 28, represents Pallas Athene, Asclepios, and Hygeia. The goddess is seated upon the throne, with a simple helmet upon her head, and a small aegis from which the Medusa’s head is wholly excluded. She appears dressed in full vesture, and holds in her right hand the sceptre. At her left stands Asclepios, the god of medicine, holding a rod or wand around which is coiled a serpent. Hygeia, goddess of health and daughter of Asclepios, whose symbol is also the serpent, occupies a position on the right. The whole collection is obviously designed to represent Athene in her peculiar character and dignity as the preserver of health.
Another group, combining Poseidon, Amphitrite, and Eros, is given on a cameo (pl. 18, fig. 11); Poseidon, supporting himself on the trident, places the left foot on a rock. On both sides of him stand two horses sacred to him. In front a female form is reclining on the ground; it is probably Amphitrite, who seems to be sleeping. Behind him sits a child with uplifted hands. Above Poseidon’s head a love, probably Eros himself, stands upon a pillar or altar; while to the left a manly form hovering in the air is offering a child to a female in a similar position on the right.
A very beautiful group of the busts of the twelve superior deities, representing them as deities of the planets, may be seen on a circular altar (pl. 19, fig. 1). Apollo (a) occupies the first place, as god of the sun, father of the year, and creator of the seasons. His head is encircled with a braided bandage. Next to him is Hera (b), whose hair is secured in a similar manner. Then follow Poseidon (c), with his trident; Hephæstos (d), with the pileus or rounded cap; Hermes (e) with the cadnceus near him; Demeter (f); Hestia (g); Artemis (h), easily recognised by her quiver; Ares (i), with his helmet; Aphrodite (k) with Eros resting on her shoulders; Zeus (l), with the thunderbolt; and Pallas Athene (m), with the helmet on her head and the lance near her, completes the circle.
Pl. 18, fig. 25, represents the assembly of the gods on Mount Olympos. Zeus is sitting upon his throne, the ideal of domestic kindness, yet by no means without the dignity belonging to him as king of the gods. On his left arm leans the sceptre, in his right he holds the goblet filled with nectar, and at his feet stands the ever sacred eagle looking up to him. Ganymede and Hebe, in the foreground to the right, perform the office of cup-bearers. A little behind Zeus, on his right, sits Hera, the queen of the gods, her dress and mien bespeaking the chaste, deeply thoughtful housewife; near her feet is her sacred bird the peacock. Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty, stands on the left of Zeus, holding by the hand her favorite Eros. Beyond those just mentioned we easily recognise Hermes, who at the command of Zeus is introducing Psyche to Olympos; Poseidon seated, with his trident, on a bank of clouds, and conversing with Hades, who, with a bifurcated sceptre, stands close by, and is indeed leaning over to the god of the ocean. In front of Poseidon sits Hephæstos, with his symbol, the lion, stretched at his side. Behind the queen of the gods stands Ares clothed in full armor; and the figure seen near him, with his head covered with a lion’s skin, is probably Heracles, who has just been received to Olympos. On the left behind Zeus, and somewhat elevated, we observe Pallas Athene; close by her is Apollo touching the strings of his lyre, while behind both appears Artemis as Selene, with the crescent on her head. Several muses are accompanying Apollo on their instruments; two genii are strewing flowers upon Psyche, and the whole picture seems to represent the celebration of her admission to Olympos.
14. The Notions of the Greeks with regard to Olympos. With regard to the residence of the gods, the Greeks seem to have entertained conflicting ideas at different times. Several mountains bore the name of Olympos; but that lying in Thessalia was regarded by the ancient Greeks as the highest mountain in the world, and the central point of the whole earth. For this reason they supposed it to be the celestial mount, or mountain of the gods, upon which the deities dwelt. Near the summit they supposed there was an opening into the canopy of heaven, the abode of the gods, which was supported by pillars at the extremities of the earth. In addition to this opening it had two gates; the one to the east, through which the sun god Helios and Night with her train ascended from the ocean; the other opening to the west, through which they returned to their residences. At various elevations of the many-peaked Olympos, the individual gods dwelt in their palaces; but on the loftiest summit of all stood the court of the omnipotent Zeus. Thither all the rest repaired either on visits or to attend the banquets. From this position also the mighty god scanned the circle of the earth, sent rain and clouds, and hurled his thunderbolts. The twelve superior gods constituted the council or divine senate of Elders on Olympos, but all the other deities composed the great assembly.
At a later period, as the conception of the universe and the gods became more enlarged, the Greeks transported the gods to the furthest sphere of the heavens, uniting them with the planetary world, and gave to this new divine abode the name of Olympos.
Gods of the Lower World
After the Olympic gods, the deities of the world of shades constituted the next rank. Of these the most powerful and supreme was
1. Hades (Aïdes, Aïdoneus, or Aïs, also Orcos and Dis). He was the son of Cronos and Rhea, and at the partition of the universal government he obtained by lot his kingdom, where he reigned with an authority equal to that of Zeus in the upper world. At a later period the Greeks gave him the name of Pluto, to indicate his kingdom, the treasures, mines, and metals in the bowels of the earth. After his rescue by Metis from his father, who had devoured him, he was brought up in a dark cavern. In this way he came to prefer darkness to light. His exterior greatly resembles that of his brothers Zeus and Poseidon, the principal point of difference being apparent in the hair, which in Hades falls on the forehead, while in the brothers it is drawn back to the crown. This gives to his whole aspect the seriousness and gloom of a judge from whom justice but not mercy may be expected. In pl. 23, fig. 3, he is represented sitting upon a throne, dressed in a long flowing tunic, and holding in his left hand a sceptre. On his head stands a modius or measure, to signify that he will rule justly and impartially, and distribute rewards and punishments in exact accordance with merit. The terrible impression of his awful majesty is considerably augmented by the three-headed dog Cerberos, which stands at his feet with a snake round his body. The busts of Hades (pl. 23, fig. 1; pl. 22, fig. 17), which are also distinguished by the modius, disclose the same earnest solemnity. During the war with the Titans he gave valuable aid to his brother Zeus. Having obtained one of the double lances wrought by the Cyclopes expressly for that contest, he doubled the number usually slain by him, and thus rendered himself terrible to the usurpers. The fearful helmet which he wore, and which rendered its wearer invisible, made him a very formidable enemy. By its assistance he wrested the sickle from Cronos, which rendered him both invincible and irresistible in battle.
2. Persephone (Proserpine), daughter of Zeus and Demeter, was the wife of Hades, and as such queen of the lower world, where she lived four months of the year with Hades, assisting him in judging the dead, and often sending her messenger Ate to bid transgressing mortals appear before her tribunal. In the representations which exhibit her in this character (pl. 23, fig. 11) she bears a strong resemblance to Hera. The dress and diadem are the same; one hand holds the sceptre, and the other the sacrificial cup. The two serpents, however, on the diadem of Persephone clearly distinguish her as queen of the world of shades from the milder queen of the sky. Indeed, her entire figure is wanting in that majestic and matronly quality so prominent in the statues of Hera. She was often represented as a virgin, especially on coins. Thus at fig. 12b we see her bust with a collar, and a diadem used as a head-band, which marks her as Libera. The dolphins are intended to indicate the fertility of Sicily, whose inhabitants especially worshipped her, believing that Zeus had presented her this island as a marriage gift. The inscription on the coin shows that it is Syracusan. The reverse of this coin (pl. 22, fig. 18b) exhibits an Olympic (i. e., a victor in the Olympic games) riding in the quadriga (a car drawn by four horses abreast), and receiving a crown from Nike, the goddess of victory. Immediately below is a complete suit of armor, consisting of shield, coat of mail, helmet, and greaves.
The obverse of another coin, which, through the mistake of our designer, has been confounded with the first one mentioned (pl. 23, fig. 12a), represents Persephone also as a virgin, with a wreath composed of ears, and the head-dress of her mother Demeter; while the reverse (pl. 22, fig. 18a) shows a Nike or Victoria placing a trophy upon a field of battle. Among the ancients this was accomplished by hewing the trunk and limbs of a tree to something like a human shape, and then placing upon them the war equipments of a fallen enemy, the helmet, mail coat, tunic, shield, &c. Some have also supposed that pl. 21, fig. 4, was intended for Persephone as virgin, but as we have only coins representing this goddess in that character, the presumption is against such a conclusion, so that the figure probably refers to some other similar goddess. The coin (pl. 25, fig. 19a) represents her repelling Zeus, who approaches her as a serpent.
So long as she assisted her husband in passing sentence upon the dead, Persephone equalled him in stern and sober gravity. Still, she was not wholly insensible to appeals prompted by love or compassion, and Admetos and Orpheus were indebted to her for the recovery of their wives Alcestis and Eurydice from the world of shades.
The Inferior Gods
The inferior gods, whose nature is not easily defined, but who possessed some traits of divinity, composed the third order of deities. Considering the extensive sphere which he occupied, and the influence which he exerted, Eros held the highest position in this class.
1. Eros (Cupid, Amor, or Love) is not mentioned by Homer, but in the older theogonies Eros emerged together with Gaia (earth) from Chaos, and was the symbol of the vital and generative principle, also the element combining and assimilating contending forces in the primeval creation. Sappho makes him the offspring of heaven and earth.
In the later legends, however, the supernatural being known as Eros, the most youthful of all the gods, was the son of Ares and Aphrodite, and was recognised as the god of love. His chief occupation consisted in exciting in the heart the passion of love; and such was his power, that not even the gods themselves could suppress the sentiment when once awakened. And thus Eros ruled in heaven, earth, and hell. He was usually represented as a beautiful, light-haired, rosy-cheeked boy, with wings, bow, arrows, and quiver; sometimes also bearing a torch, to indicate his character as illuminator of the soul. As vanquisher and ruler of the gods and men, he often pursued his sports, employing temporarily the attributes of other deities or heroes. Thus he appears (pl. 29, fig. 5) armed with the shield, helmet, and lance, or (fig. 6) investing himself in the equipments of Ares in token of his having subdued even the god of war. Fig. 3 shows him borne by Heracles, who is clothed in the lion’s skin, and carries the characteristic club in the left hand; and in fig. 4 he is riding on a tamed lion, and playing on Apollo’s lyre, a felicitous emblem of the united power of music and love. Slyness, desire, dissimulation, wantonness, caprice, and love of dominion constituted his prominent characteristics. His method of kindling the feeling of love was by sending an arrow into the heart of his victim. The point of the arrow was touched by his mother sometimes with honey, sometimes with gall; and Eros took a mischievous delight in inflicting wounds even upon the gods most distinguished for sobriety, seriousness, and dignity; in creating the tender feeling in hearts the most dissimilar; and exciting love when its reciprocation was improbable, or its gratification attainable only through violence. He did not even spare his mother. Accordingly Zeus, who from the moment of his birth discovered his tendencies to wily artifice, commanded his mother Aphrodite to destroy him; but she concealed him in forests, where he was nourished and brought up by wild beasts. Here he grew sufficiently strong to carve out for himself a bow from ash-wood, and arrows from the cypress; and he first employed his weapon upon the animals around him, with a view to the attainment of greater skill in hitting men and gods. When afterwards he was transferred to Olympos, he endeavored to ingratiate himself into the favor of all the gods. He succeeded with all except Themis, Artemis, and Pallas Athene. Hephæstos so loved the boy that he wrought for him a silver bow and golden arrows, which he thenceforward used.
Among the numerous stories of Eros, none have a better claim to notice than that of his connexion with Psyche. Psyche was the daughter of a king, and her beauty was such as to cause her to be mistaken for Aphrodite herself. Her two less favored sisters were married, but Psyche remained single, no suitor deeming himself worthy to be the husband of one so lovely. At length Eros saw and loved her, and resolved to make her his wife. The sorrowful father in the meantime consulted the oracle of Apollo, and received instructions that as his daughter had been selected for the bride of a winged dragon, he should lead her with a funeral procession to a mountain, and there leave her. The oracle was obeyed, and amid the tears of the people Psyche was left in a solitary spot. So soon however as all had retired, a Zephyr caught her up and bore her to the palace of the god of love. Here she was surrounded by every imaginable joy and comfort. Invisible hands fulfilled her wishes before they were clear even to herself. Eros visited her only in the dark hours of night, and admonished her against any inquisitive attempts to know more of him, assuring her that such knowledge would change her happiness to the deepest misery. For a while her bliss in her new abode was complete, but she soon felt the need of society, and obtained from Eros permission for her sisters to visit her. So soon as they beheld the magnificence and splendor of the palace, they began to envy their happy and fortunate sister, and at once endeavored to destroy the happiness which they could not enjoy. Accordingly they persuaded Psyche to gratify her curiosity in regard to the nature and character of her lover, by providing a concealed lamp, and inspecting him during his slumbers. The next time he came she followed their advice. His transcendent beauty so agitated her, that in her excitement she let fall a drop of heated oil upon his shoulder. He instantly awoke, and after reproaching her severely for disregarding his admonition, he left her. She awaited his return long and in vain, and at length her distress and anxiety became so excessive that she cast herself into a river near by, hoping at once to put an end both to her life and anguish. But the waves did not permit her to sink; they wafted her gently to the shore, where she was discovered by Pan, and encouraged to appease her departed lover by repentance and unceasing effort to find him. After protracted and painful wanderings she finally arrived at the temple of Aphrodite. The latter, still jealous of her beauty, received her, but imposed upon her the heaviest trials, which, had not the invisible Eros assisted her, she could not possibly have performed. She is represented (pl. 29, fig. 11) flying awed and terror-stricken from the persecutions of Aphrodite. The butterfly’s wings on her back are her attributes, since Psyche signifies both butterfly and soul. At length the relentless Aphrodite sent her captive to the world of shades to obtain from Persephone a box of beauty. She procured it, and on her journey back her curiosity prompted her to open it, when a thick vapor issuing from it felled her to the ground. Eros now hastened to her relief, and touching her with an arrow restored her to animation. At length Aphrodite’s wrath was appeased. Zeus, at the solicitation of Eros, granted to Psyche the gift of immortality, and the union of the lovers was celebrated with becoming magnificence on Mount Olympos. Their marriage procession is represented in pl. 29, fig. 9: Hymen is leading the bridal pair to the couch which a Love is preparing, whilst another holds over their heads a small basket of fruit.
2. Dionysos (Bacchus), the son of Zeus and Semele, was the god of wine, and in later mythology was numbered among the olympians. While a child he discovered the art of improving the vine and expressing from the grape the soul-exhilarating wine. He also taught these arts to men, and strove to spread the culture of the vine over the habitable earth; and where the soil was unfavorable to its growth, he taught the art of preparing a palatable beverage from barley. His course through the different countries resembled a triumphal procession, men and women everywhere hailing him with shouts and acclamations. He rode upon a car drawn by panthers, tigers, lions, or lynxes; sometimes he was conveyed upon centaurs, and his retinue was usually composed of Pans, Silenoses, Fauns, Centaurs, Cupids, and Mænades, or Bacchantes, sporting, dancing, and rejoicing from the effects of wine. Everywhere he was received with delight, and all who honored him enjoyed his favor and beneficence. None of the gods received a more universal worship than Dionysos. The mythologies of India, Lybia, Assyria, and Egypt embraced a deity of this name, and that of ancient Greece recognised two, the elder of which was the son of Zeus and Persephone, the younger of Zeus and Semele. The myths relate that the jealous Hera, enraged at her husband’s visits to Semele, persuaded the latter to request Zeus to approach her the next time in his true form as the god of thunder. His compliance, which she had insured by making him promise to grant any request she might make, proved her ruin; she could not endure the sight of Zeus in his majesty, and expired in the flames. Zeus desired, however, to preserve her unborn child, and as it wanted three months to maturity, he inclosed it in his thigh, whence in due time it was born (pl. 24, fig. 7), and received by Hermes, who, in order to protect the tender limbs of his charge, enveloped it in a Nebris, or sacred fawn-skin, Zeus commissioned Hermes to carry him to Athamas and Ino, in Thessaly, to be educated; but as the wrathful Hera persecuted both him and his foster parents, he was subsequently transferred to the mountains composing the range Nysa, where he was suckled by Nymphs and instructed by Silenos (pl. 23, fig. 19). One of the nymphs, Leucothea, nursed him tenderly; and in pl. 24, fig. 8, we see him resting on her arm, grasping the handle of a wine cup with one hand, and caressing his nurse with the other. Leucothea herself is dressed in the tunic without sleeves, and a mantle covers her shoulders and neck.
We have said that many deities bore the name of Dionysos (Bacchus); they all, however, gradually blended into one, and the various deeds of all came at length to be attributed to the youngest, namely the son of Zeus and Semele, whom the poets distinguished by the epithet the Theban Dionysos. In their representations the artists did not confine themselves to any uniform idea of his person, but permitted their fancy to follow the various conceptions indicated by the myths and traditions relating to this god. Some allusion has already been made to the statues of Dionysos the infant. In addition to these we sometimes see him represented as a youth, and to such images we shall apply the term adolescent or Theban; then the manly, bearded, or Indian Dionysos; and finally, we have the horned, or the ox, resembling Dionysos the son of Persephone.
The Theban Dionysos is characterized by a figure, countenance, long hair, and general expression, exhibiting the roundness, delicacy, and tenderness of a beautiful maiden, rather than the qualities of a vigorous youth. The face is a slightly prolonged oval, while the moderately full lips indicate the love of pleasure; the eyes are not particularly lustful nor yet far-seeing, but the expression seems rather feeble and languishing. A very customary symbol is the frontlet and a crown of ivy or vine leaves bound round his hair, which is long, flowing, and gathered in a knot or bunch on the back of his head, only a few locks on each side lying upon his shoulders. The head itself is slightly inclined. The structure of the body corresponds to the cast of the face. It is neither heavily set nor yet slender; the shoulders have a tolerable breadth, and the breast and hips, like those of a young woman, are more fleshy than muscular. A gentle fulness or swelling harmoniously surrounds his limbs, and one might easily mistake his whole form for an Aphrodite under the guise of a lovely youth. These traits may be seen in the group (pl. 24, fig. 11) where Dionysos is leaning against the stump of a tree, around which are wound vine leaves. His left arm embraces the neck of his son Faunus, the fingers grasping a wine cup, while his right hand lies on his head. In fig. 12 he is resting on the stump, holding a broken thyrsus (a rod wrapped with ivy leaves); and in fig. 13 he reclines gracefully on a rock (probably on the summit of Mount Parnassos, where offerings were made to him), holding the wine goblet in his right hand.
The Indian or bearded Dionysos (pl. 24, fig. 15) is of a more dignified, commanding, and regal aspect. A wide tunic, gathered in numerous folds, reaches to his feet, and over it is thrown an ample and splendid mantle. His left hand grasps the thyrsus, his hair is confined by a bandage, his right hand holds a wine cup, and his whole countenance is expressive of repose, serenity, and mildness. Upon a coin from Naxos (pl. 25, fig. 6) he appears with shorter beard and hair, yet with the bandage decorated with vine leaves.
The representations of the Horned Dionysos somewhat resemble the figure just now described. Sometimes he appears with dishevelled hair, and the voluptuous expression of a beautiful Faun. Statues of this description are not now in existence, but there is a beautiful herma which we have copied (pl. 18, fig. 13). The hair falls, as with the Fauns, in disorder over the forehead; the horns are springing, not from the forehead, but from among the hair. The diadem encircles the head behind the horns, its broad fastenings falling down upon the shoulders. We find Dionysos in the form of a bull, yet with the beard and face of a man, only on coins where he is called Dionysos Zagreus (pl. 25, fig. 19b; pl. 15, fig. 27b).
Thus far we have considered the solitary representations of this deity; it remains to mention the groups with which he is connected. The first is shown on a large brass coin (pl. 28, fig. 5), where Dionysos and Apollo are travelling in a celestial chariot drawn by a panther and a goat. Dionysos supports his body on his left elbow, and holds with his left hand the thyrsus; Apollo plays on the lyre; and Cupid is riding on the goat. According to a different representation (pl. 26, fig. 12) he symbolizes the sun and god of the seasons, rides upon a panther, and pours wine into a drinking-horn held by a satyr who carries also a wine-skin; the winged genii of the four seasons (Horæ) are stationed around him. First on the extreme left stands Winter who is carrying two geese and a cornucopia. Next appears Spring crowned with flowers, holding in one hand the mystical box, in the other the sacred tie or bandage. The third is Summer, who carries a sickle and ears of corn; and finally Autumn is seen with a hare and cornucopia. Fauns, Satyrs, and boy-fauns, the usual attendants of Dionysos, playing with panthers and goats, occupy the back-ground. In pl. 25, fig. 4, Dionysos is reclining in an indolent attitude upon a trotting ass. He is holding his usual attributes, the thyrsus and drinking horn; before him inarches a satyr playing on a double flute; and in front and behind the group are seen a sacrificial cake and a sacred sash. In fig. 5, he is represented riding with a radiant crown on a panther or tiger; a Mænad with two torches leads the way, and a satyr with a huge wine goblet follows after.
A celebrated myth which furnished an admirable subject for artists, was the love of Dionysos for Ariadne, of which the following are the principal incidents. Ariadne was the daughter of Minos II., king of Crete, and Pasiphoë, who had also borne to her husband the Minotaur, a monster with a human body and the head of a bull, endowed with immense strength, and whose hunger could only be appeased with human victims. At the time of his birth there resided at the court of Minos an Athenian artist, Dædalos, who had been condemned to death in Athens for the murder of a rival, but who made his escape, and was kindly received and protected by the king of Crete. During his exile he built the celebrated labyrinth in which the Minotaur was confined and fed on human flesh. His common victims were criminals or captives taken in war; but when Minos had conquered Attica, enraged at the loss of his eldest son Androgeos, who was murdered at the instigation of Ægeus, king of Athens, he imposed upon the country an annual tribute of seven Athenian youths and virgins, to be given to the Minotaur. When this revolting tribute was to be paid for the fourth time, Theseus, the king’s son, voluntarily joined the number of the victims, with the intention of conquering the monster or of perishing with his companions. His youth and beauty affected the heart of Ariadne, who presented him with a ball of thread by which to guide himself into the labyrinth, and afterwards find his way out. He soon found the Minotaur and slew him (pl. 30, fig. 17), and then carried off and married his protectress. Arriving at the island of Naxos, he yielded to the persuasions of his companions, proved faithless to Ariadne, and set sail secretly without her. Sad and deserted, she endeavored to terminate her existence in the waves; but Morpheus, god of dreams, spread over her eyelids a soft balmy slumber. At length Dionysos discovered her on the rocky shore (pl. 24, fig. 11). Captivated by her extraordinary beauty, he declared his love, and after satisfying her that he was a god and was sincere in his proposal, she consented to be his wife. Fig. 5 represents a solemn procession of the two lovers; though according to some writers the central couple are Dionysos and Demeter. Both are standing on the chariot. The mantle of Dionysos has fallen to his hips, while the nebris or sacred fawn-skin covers his breast. He carries in the right hand a double-handled wine vessel, in the left the thyrsus. Ariadne, clothed in a wide tunic, rests her right arm upon her husband’s shoulders, while her left hand carries poppies and ears of wheat. Both are crowned with wreaths of ivy. A joyous sporting Cupid stands on the right of Dionysos. The car is drawn by two centaurs, one of which holds a thyrsus and drinking horn, the other a goblet and blazing torch. They are assisted by two female centaurs, one blowing a double flute, the other beating the tambourine. The chariot itself is decorated with serpents’ eggs and tongues, and the centre bears a head with flowers and ivy. At the feet of the centaurs on the right is a cista mystica (sacred box) with the Dionysian serpent, on the other side an overturned wine vessel. In addition to these groups we have a beautiful head of Ariadne crowned with ivy (pl. 29, fig. 1); and a highly finished bust (pl. 18, fig. 15), with a crown of vine leaves and clusters, while bunches of grapes constitute the ear pendents, and mingle with the falling hair.
Among the sculptures having reference to Dionysos is a fine bas-relief representing a procession of Bacchanalian genii (pl. 18, fig. 12). The first figure on the left of the observer carries a little tambourine suspended by a cord from his left hand, his right holds an inverted torch, while his left foot stands on a shepherd’s crook. The second carries a cithara and a plectrum (a small rod of ivory with which ancient musicians played the cithara), and a reed flute lies at his feet. In the centre appears a drunken, staggering genius, supported by two of his companions, at whose feet lie cymbals and a panther. The sixth carries over his shoulder a wine-skin and in his right hand a thyrsus; the seventh has a shepherd’s crook and a lantern; the eighth, at whose feet lies a mask, is striking a cymbal; while the last is playing on a single flute. All are winged and clothed with mantles which cover only the back and fasten on the shoulders; and several have the hair neatly gathered up and knotted in front.
3. Asclepios (Æsculapius), the son of Apollo and Coronis, whom Apollo had put to death on account of infidelity, was nourished for a while by goats. He was subsequently consigned to the wise centaur Cheiron, who instructed him in hunting and the healing art. Being of a quick and lively genius, he soon became so proficient in medical science as not only to overcome the most inveterate diseases, but also to restore to life the dead by the blood of Medusa obtained for him by Athene. He eclipsed the celebrity of his instructor, and drew upon himself the wrath of Hades, who could no longer bring mortals under his gloomy reign; and even Zeus felt jealous of his power, fearing that, by the removal of the terrors inspired by the prospect of a future life, men would consider themselves released from their obligations to the gods. Accordingly the mighty thunderer hurled at him one of his bolts, which consigned him to the world of shades. By the intervention of his father Apollo, however, he was transferred to Olympos. As the god of healing, he received profound honors not only after his reception to Olympos, but also during his stay on the earth. He is represented (pl. 28, fig. 24) as a bearded man, in a dignified attitude, and with a countenance expressive of wisdom, benevolence, and great experience. His customary dress was a mantle in numerous folds, and his constant attribute a knobbed staff around which was coiled a snake. His head was covered by a low cap or adorned with the laurel crown. The animals sacred to him were the goat for having suckled him and the dog for watching him in his infancy, the cock, the owl, and the raven.
A different, and probably more ancient representation of Asclepios (pl. 16, fig. 23) shows him as a beardless youth, clothed in a long sweeping tunic and mantle, wearing a high pointed cap, and characterized only by the serpent in his hand.
His daughter Hygeia (pl. 24, fig. 19) was the goddess of health, and was represented as a plain virgin feeding a serpent out of a cup. His son Telesphorus (fig. 21) was the protector of convalescents. He appears extremely youthful, is dressed in a wide mantle, and his head covered with a cowl which is a continuation of the mantle, the whole figure indicating the precaution observed by convalescents to avoid a relapse. In pl. 27, fig. 29, we have copied a beautiful group, in which Asclepios is represented sitting on a throne; near him stands Hygeia, feeding the serpent from the cup; while on each side sits a youthful form, one Telesphorus and the other probably another of his sons.
Subordinate or Ministering Deities
1. Hebe was the daughter of Hera and goddess of youth. In Olympos she discharged the office of cup-bearer. She was represented as a lovely young maiden. Sometimes she appears leaning against an altar, holding in one hand a pitcher, in the other a cup, from which the eagle of Zeus is drinking (pl. 17, fig. 25). She is also represented (pl. 21, fig. 4) in the act of approaching with her pitcher, holding it aloft as if pouring out its contents. On a gem (pl. 22, fig. 11) she is caressing the eagle of the king of gods, which stands with one foot on a rock, the other on a globe of empire. The wings attached to her indicate her agility and swiftness.
Her office of cup-bearer was transferred to Ganymede after her marriage to Heracles, or according to another myth, when in handing a cup to Zeus her foot had slipped, and she had fallen and spilt the nectar. Ganymede was a very handsome shepherd, and was seized by Zeus’s eagle, or by Zeus himself in the form of an eagle, and carried to Olympos, where, before entering upon his office. Aphrodite instructed him in his duties. In accordance with these incidents he was usually represented as a beautiful youth (pl. 17, fig. 24), his head covered with a Phrygian cap, a short cloak thrown over his shoulders, holding in the left hand a shepherd’s staff, and in the right a cup from which he feeds the bird of Zeus with ambrosia.
2. Iris, messenger of the gods, and particularly of Hera (pl. 21, fig. 5), is a winged goddess, wearing a double cloak over a long tunic; her left hand holds a herald’s staff and her right a helmet, which, in the picture whence our figure is copied, she is in the act of placing on a young warrior.
3. Nemesis was one of the goddesses of justice, who so guided events that every deed met with reward or punishment according to its merits. While she encouraged genuine worth, she visited injustice with unrelenting severity. She is usually represented (pl. 23, fig. 5a) standing, and dressed in a tunic. With her right hand she holds the garment which covers her breast a little distance from her; and she looks towards her bosom as if scrutinizing her inmost emotions. This attitude is intended to indicate the manner and measure by which she judges of human character and deserts. Her left hand holds an ash twig; a wheel stands at her feet, and she usually appears with wings. As Nemesis Panthea we see her (fig. 5) endowed with the wings of victory, the wheel of fortune by her side, and herself holding the serpent and cup of Hygeia, to signify her dominion over riches, war, and health. A totally different representation (pl. 16, fig. 2) shows her with a diadem, short upper and lower vestments, and with eagles’ talons, her forefingers pointed against each other.
4. The Parcæ or Fates were three in number, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Their office was to spin the destinies of men.
5. The Eumenides, Erinnyes, or Furiæ, three in number, Alecto, Megsera, and Tisiphone, from from the blood flowing from the wounds inflicted by Uranos on Cronos, were goddesses of revenge, especially of murder, and was ornamented by eight statues, viz. those of the principal winds now named, and four at the points between them.
Aerial Gods or Winds
At an early period the four principal winds were converted into mythical personages. We notice briefly:
1. Apeliotes, or the East Wind (pl. 22, fig. 12). He brought mild and refreshing rains, and fostered the growth of vegetables, wherefore he appears with fruit and a honey-comb in the folds of his mantle.
2. Notos, or the South Wind (fig. 13). He was also god of rain, and is accordingly represented with an inverted vessel.
3. Zephyros, or the West Wind (fig. 14), signified warmth in summer; he is represented as the promoter of vegetation in the spring, with his mantle filled with flowers.
4. Boreas, or the North Wind (fig. 15), is represented bearded and carrying a sea-shell, expressive of the roaring north wind. He seized and violently bore off to his cave Oreithyia, the daughter of Erechtlieus (fig. 16), who did not, however, reciprocate his love.
The winds were subsequently increased, and an octagonal tower at Athens following the steps of a murderer by day and night, embittering every moment of his life, until he had expiated his crime.
Gods of the Water
1. Nereus, son of Pontos and Gaia, ruled over the Ægean Sea. By his prophetic power, which never proved fallacious, he rendered important assistance to both gods and men. He was represented as a bearded old man (pl. 21, fig. 7), whose brow, chin, and breast were covered with a species of angular leaves taken from sea plants. Cows’ horns spring from the crown of his head, two dolphins glide through his slimy beard, and vine leaves and clusters of grapes adorn his hair. The horns and dolphins properly characterize him as a sea god; the grapes and vine leaves refer especially to the celebrated vineyards on the coast of the Ægean.
2. The Nereids. These sea-goddesses were daughters of Kerens, and were fifty in number. They are variously represented: sometimes riding on hippocamps (pl. 21, fig. 9), again sporting in the water, and surrounded by dolphins, cupids, and genii (pl. 22, fig. 2). They generally composed the retinue of Amphitrite, wife of Poseidon, who together with Thetis, the wife oi Peleus, enjoyed a distinguished celebrity.
Thetis had been courted by Zeus and Poseidon, but Themis having declared that the child of Thetis would be greater than his sire, the gods withdrew. Peleus then urged his suit, but she opposed his entreaties until he obtained from Cheiron the power of changing himself into a fish, and appearing to her in this form. The wedding was celebrated on Mount Pelion, in the presence of all the gods except Discordia. In fig. 10, Thetis is represented bringing to her son Achilles the shield wrought by Hephaistos.
3. Glaucos, probably son of Poseidon, lived on the Black Sea. By means of a mysterious plant which he found and tasted, he was changed from a poor sailor of Bœotia into a sea god. He often assisted Nereus and warned the sailors of approaching dangers. His body, which above resembled the human form, terminated in two fishy tails. He is represented (fig. 3) with a crown of sea-weeds, blowing on a shell, and carrying a rudder on his shoulder.
4. Triton was a son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, and exercised his government over the Lybian Gulf, so notorious for its terrors. He was represented, like the innumerable Tritons who were his descendants, or perhaps only artistic multiplications of himself, as terminating in the double fish-tail with falcated fins; sometimes also he appeared with horses’ feet. On a gem (pl. 19, fig. 12) we see a Triton and a Nereid. The Nereid is holding a young Triton on her arm and leading one with her right hand; a cupid, the constant attendant of sea deities, together with a dolphin, accompanies them. Pl. 23, fig. 22, exhibits a scaly Triton (taken from a fragment of a bas-relief), whose extremities are like those of a man. He is holding a sea monster and near him is the mutilated form of a woman, probably a Nereid. Fig. 21 gives us a view of a Triton’s head, with a thick beard dripping wet and the head covered with a fish skin, apparently connected with a fish basket.
5. Palæmon, though, properly speaking, a sea hero more than a sea god, must be mentioned here, as he is identified by many with Nerites the son of Nereus and brother of the Nereids. His original name was Melicertes, and he was the son of Athamas and Ino. The latter, suspected by Athamas of having caused the death of his other children, was pursued by the enraged father, and finally threw herself with Melicertes in her arms into the sea. The child was saved by Poseidon, who sent a dolphin to convey him to the shore, where he was received by Sisyphos, who educated him. Afterwards Poseidon made him a sea hero, and he is represented as a handsome youth riding a sea-ram and flourishing a whip over his head (pl. 21, fig. 8). His preservation is recorded on two coins (pl. 22, fig. 9, and pl. 28, fig. 25), on which he is represented lying on the back of a dolphin; the tree behind him is intended to mark the spot where he was landed and received by Sisyphos, who appears in the last named figure with the insignia of a victor in the Isthmian games, which he subsequently instituted in honor of his heroic pupil.
6. Other Water Deities. Without enlarging on all the specific classes of mythical personages supposed to occupy the waters, we enumerate briefly the beings which dwell in the fountains, rivers, lakes, and rivulets.
The gods of the larger streams were usually represented as bearded men (pl. 21, fig. 14). They appeared naked or nearly so, reclining in an easy position, the elbow resting on an urn from which water flowed freely, and with a crown of river grass or reeds, sometimes also with bulls’ horns. The brooks and rivulets were presided over by beings more like boys or beardless youths.
The goddesses of lakes and springs were represented as graceful maidens, and bore the generic name of nymphs. Of these the most celebrated were the Naiades, one of which we see (fig. 14) in company with a river god; and another (pl. 19, fig. 9), carrying two water vessels. They were daughters of river gods and Potamides or river goddesses, and carried water for their parents. They showed themselves very partial to young girls and removed the freckles from all who bathed in their streams; but they were dangerous to young men, whom they dragged down to their abodes when they came near their watery domain. Thus Hylas, the friend and companion of Heracles (pl. 22, fig. 1), while attempting to take water from a spring near the city of Chios, was seized by these nymphs, who carried him down to their palace and smothered him with their fond embraces.
Hermaphrodites, a son of Hermes and Aphrodite (pl. 28, fig. 22), was once bathing in a fountain, when the naiad Salmacis, who loved him fondly, caught him in her arms and implored the gods that their bodies might never be separated. Hence Hermaphrodites arose out of the water half man and half woman. His myth refers obviously, both in Greek and Indian mythology, to the generative principle of the universe, vested in no single being but in the complete union of two.
The sea monsters, of which there were a great number, are most familiar in the form of the Hippocamps, horses with dolphins’ tails (pl. 21, fig. 13). They were chiefly serviceable in drawing the cars of sea gods and in carrying Cupids (pl. 22, fig. 8.
Gods of the Mountains, Forests, and Fields
A very large number of deities presided over the mountains, forests, and fertile plains, to guard them against the intrusion of man, or to assist him in making them tributary to his wants. The following are the most important of these deities:
1. Pan, the god of shepherds, fields, and hunting, was also the protector of bees and the giver of success in fishing. He was benevolent and friendly, and ever ready to shower his blessings upon man. Disposed to cheerfulness and gaiety, he often chased away the hours by singing and dancing on the verdant plains with the nymphs. His form was singular. His face resembled that of a goat, small horns projected from his forehead, and he had a curved nose, long beard, goat’s feet and tail.
With so few prepossessing qualities, his amorous exploits were not successful. He loved the Naiad Syrinx, but she fled from him, and when about to grasp her, the gods changed her into a reed. Presently the winds murmured gently through the reeds, and the sweet tones sounded like the echo of his lamentations for the loss of the loved one. He therefore cut from among the reeds several pieces of different lengths, which he tied together, and which produced enchanting music when the wind blew into them. In this way he discovered the seven-tubed Syrinx or pastoral pipe, upon which he subsequently became a proficient player. He instructed Olympos, the pupil of the unfortunate Marsyas, in the art of playing on this pipe (pl. 24, fig. 16). His principal attributes were the crooked shepherd’s staff and the Syrinx. On a coin (pl. 25, fig. 3) he is represented sitting on a rock, holding the staff, while the Syrinx lies at his feet. The letters ΟΛΥΜ signify coin of the Olympians, and AR Arcadia, the district in which he was particularly honored.
Pan finally succeeded in obtaining for a wife the nymph Æga, and became the progenitor of a long line of descendants called Panisks or Panines, who were formed like himself.
Shortly after Pan’s birth, when Hermes showed him to the gods wrapped in hare-skins, Dionysos became very fond of him. Afterwards, when Dionysos made his expedition to India, Pan accompanied him, and saved him by his shrewdness from falling into captivity. Dionysos and his flock of companions were completely inclosed by a large Indian army, who were hostilely disposed towards him, and might at every moment be expected to attack him. Pan advised Dionysos to set up a terrific howl, himself accompanying it with the discordant sounds of a horn; the Indians who, by the noise, supposed Dionysos attended by an overwhelming force, fled in terror, and permitted the enemy to escape. Ever since then a fright so intense as to deprive one of his self-possession is called a panic, and has become the subject of artistical representation (pl. 24, fig. 17ab). The picture from which these figures are taken exhibits two heads of Pan admirably characterized (of which we have only copied one, fig. 17a), and between them the head of an old man (fig. 17b), whose bristling hair, gaping mouth, and staring eyes clearly denote him as suffering under the extreme of terror.
. Silenos was usually grouped with Pan not so much on account of his exterior as from his mythological relations to Dionysos. He was tutor and counsellor of the latter, and at a later period not only his constant companion, but also the leader of the whole Dionysan chorus, and was classed with the field and mountain gods. The artists represented him as an old man with a flat nose, bald head, thin beard, the body of medium size, the flesh bloated and spongy, the breast hairy, the head drooping, the eyes small and sleepy, so that his whole figure realizes the conception of a little jovial old toper, and blends the opposites of jest and earnest, sublimity and meanness. It is contrast personified, yet so that the irony appears its natural expression. In pl. 25, fig. 10, he appears leaning against a stump to which his cymbals are hung, pressing a bunch of grapes into a goblet, and his head crowned with ivy: on the coin (fig. 11) he is seated on the ground near a vine, his right hand holding a drinking cup. The inscription ΝΑΞΙΩΝ signifies coin of the Naxians. On another coin (fig. 12 a and b) he is riding backwards on an ass, holding a wine cup. The reverse shows a diota (double-handled vessel), with the inscription ΜΕΝΔΑΙΗ, a coin of Mende, a city of Macedonia.
As Pan had numerous Panisks, so the progeny of Silenos was extensive. They differed from their father in having pointed ears, and a tail on the back. One class among them (pl. 28, fig. 13) may be designated as genuine tipplers. They are of large, well-set frame, reclining comfortably upon deer-skins spread beneath them. A large wine-skin serves them for a pillow, and near them lies a drinking vessel. Their capacious bellies, flat and broad faces, short stumpy noses, pouting lips, and vinous joviality embody the perfect ideal of animal enjoyment. Another class of Silenoi is better shaped (pl. 24, fig. 18). This class is of vigorous, slender form, and by agility and swiftness especially fitted for dancing and sporting. The figure here given stands quiet and thoughtful, the elbow resting on a skin spread over a stump, and the right hand holding a thyrsus.
3. Priapos was the misshapen son of Dionysos (pl. 25, fig. 13) and a rural god in high repute at Lampsacus. Hebe has adorned his hair with vines and fruits; his right hand usually holds a scythe or pruning knife, and his cloak is filled with the fruits of the season.
4. The Satyrs bear a strong resemblance to the Silenoi, and were always represented as youthful. They had pointed ears and goats’ tails, frequented the fields and mountains, and joined in the company and sports of Dionysos. We see a Satyr (pl. 25, fig. 2) in the act of presenting a sacrifice, and for that reason carrying a torch and fruits. Near by is the tiger sacred to Dionysos. The figure behind him is one of the Bacchantes (priestesses of Dionysos) playing on a double flute or pipe. Like the Mænades (pl. 21, fig. 21), they belonged to the land nymphs, and composed part of the train of Dionysos.
Besides the Bacchantes and Msenades, who were especially connected with Dionysos, the Grecian mythology recognised numerous mountain and forest nymphs, usually forming part of the train of Artemis. Pl. 20, fig. 16, represents such a nymph leading two hounds and carrying a horn, and another with the quiver on her back guiding a pair of bridled stags.
Goddesses of Time
The Horæ, or Hours, were honored not only as goddesses of time, but also of order, beauty, and loveliness, and as goddesses of the seasons. They were daughters of Zeus and Themis, and were named Dike (Justice), Eunomia (Order), and Eirene (Peace). In time their number was increased to tour, and still later to eleven, though four was the most common. It was their business to promote the growth of vegetables, to gladden men and gods with the fruits of the year, and to guard the gates of Olympos, in front of which they collected or dispelled the fleecy clouds. They were also charged with the education of Hera and Aphrodite, whose companions they remained. On the front of a tomb erected to the Nasoes they are represented in the form of beautiful maidens, and as presiding over the Seasons, each one accompanied, however, by a male figure (pl. 29, fig. 13), The companions of Spring, Summer, and Autumn are handsome youths, one of whom carries a goat, the others fruits; but Winter is accompanied by an aged man with a long beard, and a tunic reaching to his ankles. His head is warmly clad, and he carries a stalk of corn and a goose. The attributes which distinguish the Horse or Seasons were all taken from the productions of the year.
The Charites, or Graces
The Charites (Graces) were at first the same with the Horæ, but at a later period were supposed to be their sisters. They were daughters of Zeus and Eurynome, or, according to some authors, of Aphrodite. They bestowed every grace, beauty, and charm of manners upon their favorites. While they remained the sisters of the Horse, they dispensed their charms principally on the seasons and inanimate nature. As nymphs, however, they bestowed their graces upon the higher goddesses, Hera, Artemis, and Aphrodite, whose beauty alone had been an imperfect qualification in the absence of amiability and elegance. Their functions subsequently passed over to intellectual beauty, and entered into the arts and sciences and all forms of human cultivation.
In early times different opinions prevailed with regard to their names and number; but later three were especially recognised, Euphrosyne (Joy), Aglaia (Splendor), and Thalia (The Blooming). They were represented as young virgins, at first dressed, afterwards naked, and nearly always in a group, their arms entwined, their hands holding fruits, flowers, &c., and their heads gracefully inclined in different directions. On a circular glass plate (pl. 29, fig. 12), which seems to have formed the bottom of a goblet, we see them decorated with bracelets and anklets. Two of them hold a fillet or bandage, and near each stands a flower. The accompanying names vary from those we have given, though the half Greek and half Latin inscriptions may seem to confirm the above conjecture: Piete (drink ye), Zeste (enjoy life), multis annis vivatis (may you live many years). A group much resembling this (pl. 28, fig. 20) exhibits the Graces with flowers in their hands. By some writers it is affirmed that at a later period Peitho (Persuasion) was added to the Graces; and in fig. 19 she appears with them, the whole group being girded with the zone of beauty. Peitho was taken into the service of Aphrodite, and received the office of opening the mouths of bashful lovers and inspiring them with eloquent language in which to express their feelings and attachment.
The Muses, whose number and origin were at first variously stated, were subsequently fixed at nine, and regarded as the daughters of Mnemosyne (pl. 26, fig. 8), the goddess of Memory. The latter was represented in a thoughtful attitude, her arms enveloped in an ample garment. She taught mankind the art of language, and while Zeus dwelt at Pieria as a shepherd, and hiding from the rage of his father Cronos, Mnemosyne married him, and bore to him the nine Muses. The rustics at first considered them nymphs of the inspiring fountains, and honored them as the preservers of budding plants. Afterwards they were associated with Apollo, who acted as their leader, and were regarded as the goddesses of art and science, since these could not prosper without divine inspiration. Each one superintended some branch of knowledge, power, or art. We characterize their names and departments more particularly.
1. Calliope (gifted with a beautiful voice), the muse of epic poetry, proclaimed the fame of heroes by means of heroic verse. She holds in her hand the wax tablet and style (pl. 26, fig. 1a) or a scroll of papyrus (fig. 2), and wears a laurel crown.
2. Clio (the proclaimer) was the muse of history, and recorded the transactions of the past. In this character she also is represented with a scroll in her hand, and sometimes resting her elbows on a pillar (fig. 1b; fig. 3). Her head is crowned with ivy.
3. Erato (the lovely), the muse of amorous poetry, and of soft, touching music. She usually appears with roses and myrtle in her hair, and holding the lyre in her left hand and the plectrum in the right (fig. 1c) or playing on the lyre (pl. 19, fig. 5).
4. Melpomene (the songstress), the muse of tragedy (pl. 26, fig. 1d), is represented with the club of Hercules in the right hand, and in the left the tragic or heroic mask. She usually wears buskins or shoes with high cork soles.
5. Euterpe (the charming), the muse of music, as a symbol of her office usually appears with a double flute (fig. 1e), but is also represented (fig. 5) sitting upon a rock and holding a single flute.
6. Thalia (the blooming), the muse of comedy, was represented with a comic mask and shepherd’s crook (fig. 1f; fig. 7).
7. Terpsichore (leader of the dance) was the muse of dancing, and is represented with a seven stringed lyre and the plectrum (fig. 1g).
8. Urania (the heavenly) was the muse of astronomy and the sciences therewith connected, particularly the knowledge of divine subjects. A globe and measuring scale are her common attributes (fig. 1h). She is also represented in a sitting position, her left arm resting on a sphere, the left hand holding a pair of compasses, and her gaze directed towards the sky (fig. 6a)., or with the measuring rule pointing to the globe in her hand, and the eye uplifted (fig. 6b).
9. Polyhymiha (the much singing) favored eloquence, vocal music, and mimicry. She appears in a meditative mood, composing and rehearsing hymns of the gods (fig. 1i); she also symbolized the acquisition and retention of knowledge, and accordingly she stands (fig. 4) dressed in full vestments, and wearing on her head a wreath of corn-bind. She had no special attributes, and both in symbolical import and representation is very similar to her mother, Mnemosyne.
The Muses, whose special office was the instruction of mankind in the arts and sciences, had their common residence on Mount Parnassos. There they are represented dancing to the music of Apollo’s lyre (pl. 25, fig. 21). To their right stands Hermes with the winged horse Pegasus, and the caduceus. On the summit of the mountain appear Ares and Aphrodite in the character of tender lovers. Near by is seen the mischievous Eros, striving to the utmost, if we may judge by his position and gestures, to apprise Hephaestos, the husband of Aphrodite, of her new attachment; and Hephaestos is obviously preparing for the loving pair an unwelcome surprise.
1. Nux was goddess of night, darkness, and repose; hence her supremacy over gods and men. She was the last child born in Tartaros, and probably an evolution from chaos. Regarding Day as her greatest foe, she separated from him. When Day retired to rest, she ascended the sky, but returned to Orcos so soon as he again prepared to lead the hours of light.
She is often represented dressed in deep black and riding on a chariot; sometimes (pl. 17, fig. 1) without the chariot, but with a radiant head, starry veil, and an inverted torch; and again with outspread wings, soaring between the two stars of the Dioscuri (pl. 20, fig. 2). By her marriage with Erebos (subterranean night, the kingdom of death) she bore several children, all of whom were reckoned among the nocturnal deities. The principal ones were Hypnos, Thanatos, and the Dreams.
2. Hypnos (Sleep) conquered both gods and men, though he possessed the mild disposition of his mother, and sent tranquillity and repose to the wretched. During the Trojan war he provoked the ire of Zeus. The latter had especially prohibited all the gods from taking any part in the contest against the Trojans. Hera, however, who hated them on account of Paris who had given the prize of beauty to Aphrodite, induced Poseidon to fight against them; and in order to draw off the attention of Zeus from Troy, she bribed Hypnos by the promise of the youngest of the Graces as his wife, to put him to sleep. The trick succeeded, and Poseidon, landing on the Ilian coast, inflicted a terrible slaughter. Zeus was awakened by the din of battle, and was so enraged at Hypnos that he would have hurled him into the sea, if his mother Nux, whom even the king of gods did not like to grieve, had not appeased him.
Among the representations of Hypnos we must carefully distinguish between material sleep and the genius of sleep. The artists usually conceived the former as twin brother of death, a boy with closed eyes lying in the bosom of his foster-mother Night; sometimes also (pl. 23, fig. 9) as an old man with closed eyes leaning on a staff, with loose disordered hair and beard, a tunic extending below the knees, and over this another garment with sleeves and fastened below the breast, and with strong wings on his shoulder and smaller ones on his head. The genius of sleep, on the contrary, is usually represented as a winged boy with an inverted torch (fig. 6), or as a young man (fig. 8) standing with reclining head and closed eyes, the left arm leaning on a stump, and the right hand holding the inverted torch. We often see him also in the form of a boy lying on a skin or the bare earth, with poppies, a lizard or a rabbit near him. According to the old legends, the lizard acted as the friend of man, and awoke the sleepers at the approach of a dangerous insect. The rabbit was no doubt a symbol of that retirement which the weary so much seek when desiring undisturbed repose.
3. Thanatos (Death), twin brother to Sleep, was god of material death. In representing him the artists endeavored to soften down the terrors of the popular picture of the death of matter, and made the form to correspond very nearly or entirely with that of Sleep. Pl. 23, fig. 7, presents us with a statue found on a sepulchral altar in the palace of Albani at Rome, with the inscription Somnus (sleep). From the situation of the altar, however, it may be inferred that material death, or probably the genius of death, was intended and expressed by the milder and less repulsive figure of sleep. Far more terrible is the representation of the genius of death (pl. 16, fig. 4), whose appalling black color, rapid step, expanded wings, dishevelled hair, and death-dealing weapon, all point to his errand, the destruction of life.
4. The Dreams were also the children of Night, and three of them appear to have been chiefly recognised. We have copied a group supposed to represent them (pl. 23, fig. 17) from a sepulchral lamp. A female form reposes gracefully on a lion’s skin, herself partly covered, and near her in a pleasant easy position lie three winged children or genii sleeping. The largest of the group appears to be Night, the smaller figures Dreams; and the club, tree, bow and arrows, seem to confirm this interpretation.
A hideous exhibition of the Dreams is given in pl. 23, fig. 14. Orestes, whose youthful friendship for Pylades has become proverbial, had taken bloody revenge on his own mother in retaliation for her having connived at the assassination of his father Agamemnon upon his return from the siege of Troy. For the commission of this crime the Eumenides assailed him, and pursued him with their bloody serpent-whips night and day. Their appalling figures harassed him in his dreams, while his mother appeared at his side with the bloody dagger in her breast. He was at last permitted to propitiate them, and occupy the throne of his father in peace. This myth obviously connects the Dreams with the human conscience, which is symbolized by the Eumenides.
The Heroes were sons of the gods by mortal mothers. They shared some of the qualities of the gods, but were subject to the great law of mortality, with this difference from common mortals, that they were at once received into the society of the gods at the close of their earthly life. Like the gods they had sacrifices made to them, attended however by fewer solemnities; but, with very few exceptions, they had no special temples or priests dedicated to them. The following heroes are the most prominent, and their deeds have been sung by poets of all ages.
1. Prometheus (the Discreet, the Thoughtful) was the son of Japetos and Clymene, and belonged therefore to the race of the Titans. When the latter dethroned Cronos in order to make Zeus the king of heaven, Prometheus was in favor of employing artifice instead of violence. He guided Zeus by his advice, and may therefore claim the distinction of being the founder of the new dynasty of gods. Subsequently, however, he disagreed with Zeus when the latter, after assuming the government of the world, forgot the mortals in the distribution of his favors, and even intended to destroy them. Prometheus then stole a ray of heavenly fire, and in spite of Zeus took it down to man, whom he taught its uses in the various arts and sciences. He also instructed mankind in the ceremonies of a sacrificial worship, in which the gods received the honor of the offering, whilst the profit yielded by the victim was reserved for man; for he made them divide the bodies of the sacrificial animals, so that only the bones and the kidney fat were consumed in honor of the gods, whilst the skin, flesh, and sinews, were saved for terrestrial uses.
Enraged at such proceedings Zeus resolved to visit mankind with his wrath. He ordered Hephaestos to make a woman of water and clay, whom the other deities endowed with their best gifts, beauty, loveliness, sagacity, charming eloquence, and so forth. This woman (pl. 23, fig. 16) was called Pandora (the all-gifted). Zeus provided her with a closed casket calculated to make mankind wretched, and sent her as a present to Prometheus, with a view that he should bequeathe her as a precious heavenly gift to his favorites the mortals. In this casket Zeus had locked up every human misery, and no other good but hope., which he had placed at the bottom. Prometheus, who suspected the nature of the gift, refused to take it, and warned mankind and particularly his own brother Epimetheus (after-thought) against it, to whom Zeus had sent it by Hermes when Prometheus had rejected the offer. But Epimetheus was beguiled by the lovely woman, whom he could not suspect of uniting with so much loveliness qualities that would prove dangerous as soon as they were liberated from their confinement. His curiosity prompted him to open Pandora’s casket, when at once sickness, care, vice, and every other curse escaped and spread among mankind. Hope alone remained behind, and henceforth offered to mankind the only consolation when Pandora’s other gifts in their unrestrained sway threatened to overwhelm them.
But it remained for Zeus to wreak his vengeance on Prometheus himself for opposing his will and attempting to frustrate his design by warning mankind against Pandora’s casket. He caused him to be chained to Mount Caucasus, and sent a vulture which daily tore out and devoured his liver, which nightly grew again to renew his agonies on the following day (pl. 23, fig. 15). There he was to remain for three thousand years; but Heracles slew the vulture, broke the fetters, and prevailed upon Zeus to admit Prometheus into Olympos, where his sagacity and shrewdness were of much service.
2. Perseus, son of Zeus and Danaë, was immediately after his birth placed in a box together with his mother, and thrown into the sea by her father Acrisios, who feared the fulfilment of a prediction, according to which he would be killed by his grandson. The box was carried by the waves to the island of Seriphos, where both mother and son were kindly received by King Polydectes, who was so enchanted by the charms of Danaë that he demanded her in marriage. She managed, however, to defer such an alliance on the plea that her son should first grow up to be a youth and go forth to procure her an adequate dower. When the time came, the intrepid youth boldly offered to bring Polydectes the head of Medusa, one of the Gorgons; and Polydectes, who wished to rid himself of the youth, who seemed unfavorable to his attachment for Danaë, and hoped he would perish in the bold attempt, accepted the offer of Perseus, who accordingly undertook the dangerous expedition.
The Gorgons were three sisters, monsters girt with serpents, and having serpents instead of hair. They had also brazen hands and wings, and huge boars’ tusks; and so stern was their aspect that every mortal that beheld them was converted into stone. They were immortal, with the exception of Medusa (pl. 26, fig. 10; pl. 30, figs. 13 a, b). Their residence was beyond the ocean on the frontier of night (west Europe), and the way thither was full of dangers and almost unknown.
Perseus obtained for his perilous undertaking the assistance of Hermes and Athene. Accompanied by them he went to the Grææ, the guardians of the only weapons with which Medusa could be slain. They were, according to Hesiod, two misshapen spinsters, Pephredo and Enyo, who had only one eye and one tusk in common, which they used alternately. Æschylus states them as three in number, and later writers allude to them by the names Pemphildo or Emphildo, Ento, and Yæno; still others as Pephredo, Enyo, and Chersis or Deino.
Perseus subdued the Grææ and took away their tusk and eye, which he withheld until they delivered to him the weapons he wanted. They then procured for him a pair of winged sandals, the helmet of Ares with the power of making the wearer invisible, a silver bag and a diamond sickle, to which Athene added a brazen shield of such splendor that he could use it as a reflector in which to see the image of the head of Medusa, lest beholding the head itself he should fall under the doom of other mortals and be converted into stone. Thus equipped he began his expedition. Pl. 30, fig. 11, represents him preparing to start.
His winged sandals carried him speedily to an island, where he found the Gorgons asleep. Approaching them with averted face, guided by the reflection from his shield, he severed the head of Medusa from her body with one blow of his sickle. Pl. 30, fig. 12, represents him with the head in one hand, the sickle in the other, and the bag hanging at his arm. From the stream of blood flowing from the slain Gorgon arose Chrysaor (the man with the golden sword), and Pegasus, the winged horse (pl. 25, fig. 21). Perseus now thrust the head into the silver bag, and mounting Pegasus, fled from the island.
The two sisters of Medusa, Stheno and Euryale, aroused by her death-cry, called to their assistance Poseidon, to whom they related the calamity of their sister (pl. 30, fig. 10). They are represented in short tunics, and their broad tongues protrude between the long teeth of their horrid mouths. To the left stands the Nymph who directed Perseus to the retreat of the Gorgons. They pursued the murderer; but the helmet which made him invisible, and the speed of Pegasus, enabled him to escape unhurt. He sped his course over Africa, and wheresoever the blood-drops fell from the dripping head upon the ground, they took the form of poisonous serpents, and ever since that region has been infested with venomous reptiles. On his way he stopped with Atlas (King of Ethiopia), who had beautiful gardens and trees which bore golden apples. It had been predicted to Atlas that he should lose his gardens by a son of Zeus, and hearing that Perseus was such, he denied him the common rites of hospitality. In return for his neglect, Perseus, by the head of Medusa, changed him into Mount Atlas, reaching to the clouds, and which must support the vault of the heavens. Hence the allegorical representation of Atlas with the celestial globe on his neck (pl. 30, fig. 24).
The winged horse Pegasus was afterwards transferred to Olympos, and carried Zeus’s thunder and lightnings. He also became associated with other myths, particularly with that of the Muses, and became thereby the steed of the poets; hence the expression in regard to poetical efforts, “to mount Pegasus.”
Returned to Seriphos, Perseus liberated his mother from the persecutions of Polydectes, by changing him into stone with the head of Medusa. He then gave the helmet, bag, and the winged sandals to Hermes, and the head of Medusa to Athene, who decorated her segis with it. After numerous other exploits he was placed by Zeus among the constellations.
3. Bellerophon was the son of Glaucos, King of Corinth, and originally bore the name of Hipponoos, but having murdered his relation Belleros, he was compelled to flee from the city, and his name was changed to Bellerophon (murderer of Belleros). Lycia, the country to which he escaped, was infested by the Chimæra (pl. 30, fig. 26), a monster with the heads of a lion and of a goat, a lion’s body, and a tail which terminated in a snake. It devoured the flocks, vomited forth fire, and burnt the forests and dwellings all over the country. At the command of Jobates, King of Lycia, Bellerophon undertook a combat with this monster. Pallas Athene procured him the winged horse Pegasus, and having obtained this precious assistance, he took leave of Jobates and began his expedition (pl. 30, fig. 25). The Chimæra sent forth its fiery breath against him, but in vain. He shot arrows at it from a distance, and when these proved unavailing he hurled huge masses of lead down the throat of the monster, which finally yielded to his superior prowess.
After this, Jobates sent him against the Amazons, a nation of warlike women, who having first dismissed their husbands, admitted no men amongst them. Wherever they made their incursions, they hunted and slew all that belonged to the male sex, but captured and bore off the virgins. They were usually represented as in pl. 30, figs. 27, 28. Bellerophon set out against these women, mounted upon Pegasus, whose appearance so frightened the horses of the Amazons that they became uncontrollable, and running off, dashed their riders over precipices, or flung them into rivers.
The hero had now accomplished his two difficult tasks, and returning to the capital crowned with glory, he received in marriage the daughter of Jobates, who also appointed him his successor. His good fortune, however, having made him overbearing, he boldly attempted to ride up to Olympos on Pegasus, but Zeus, to punish him for his presumption, sent a gad-fly, which so irritated the horse that he threw his rider to the earth. Mortified and dejected, he ever after shunned the society of men, and spent the rest of his days wandering through lonesome and desolate regions.
4. The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux) were sons of Zeus and Leda. Pollux inherited the gift of immortality from his father, but Castor was mortal. They were both extraordinary youths, and enjoyed in an equal degree the favor of the gods. Inseparably united, they undertook and accomplished numerous and celebrated heroic achievements, and participated in those of others. They joined Heracles in his war against the Amazons, Jason in his expedition to Colchis in search of the golden fleece, and Peleus in his attack upon lolchos. They loved the daughters of Leucippos, one of the participators in the pursuit of the Calydonian boar, in which the Dioscuri also took part. These virgins, Phæbe and Ilæira, were also loved by the brothers Lynceus and Idas, kings of Messenia, who disputed the claim of the Dioscuri. In the combat that ensued, Castor fell by the spear of Lynceus, and Pollux, inconsolable for his loss, implored the gods to share with Castor his immortality. Zeus answered his prayer, and placed both among the stars, where they form the constellation of Gemini. They were usually represented as handsome youths in the full vigor of health (pl. 18, fig. 10), or as symbols of the constellation on horseback, with the figure of night between them, and accompanied by their stars (pl. 20, fig. 3).
5. Heracles (Hercules), son of Zeus and Alcmene, was the most celebrated hero of the Grecian mythology, in whom poetry has represented the ideal of human perfection as it was understood in the heroic age, endowing him with the greatest possible bodily strength, together with the best qualities of mind and heart recognised in that age. His mother was the consort of King Amphitryon of Mycene, and bore, together with Heracles, his twin brother Iphicles, who betrayed his inferior origin, when Amphitryon, in order to ascertain which of his children was of godly descent, threw two snakes into their cradle. Iphicles started back, whilst Heracles seized both the snakes and strangled them (pl. 25, fig. 14).
Heracles was carefully educated by the greatest men of his age, and became an expert charioteer, wrestler, archer, and warrior, and well versed in the healing properties of plants. But his hand seemed little skilled for acquiring the art of music; and when his teacher Linos one day gave him a severe correction, he killed him with the lyre, for which crime he was punished by Amphitryon, who sent him to his shepherds to assist them in guarding the vast herds of the king.
When he had reached the age of eighteen, he left the herds and set out in quest of adventures. Arnving at a cross-road, he was met by two females, each of whom sought to secure his confidence to herself. The one was endowed with the most inviting charms and allurements, and promised him, if he would follow her, exemption from all toils and disquietude; her name was Vice. The other exhorted him to follow her and to gain eternal renown, and a final admission to Olympos, by conquering in a manly way the troubles and dangers which would obstruct his path, but which would yield to his strength and earnest will. Though less beautiful than the first, a noble and majestic mien made her peculiarly attractive; her name was Virtue. The youth yielded to her persuasion, and promised ever to follow her.
The trials predicted by this patroness were not long delayed. The ever jealous Hera wished to destroy him, and extorted from Zeus a promise to place him in the service of King Eurystheus, who should assign him twelve commissions (commonly known as the twelve labors of Heracles), his ultimate freedom depending upon their completion, and consequently Heracles was sent by Zeus to his severe taskmaster.
The first labor he was bid to perform was to slay the Nemean Lion. This beast lived in the forests of Nemea, desolated the country in every direction, and seemed to be invulnerable to all the shafts of mortals. Even the weapons of Heracles produced but a slight efiect; the lion rushed at him more furiously than ever; he dealt him a blow upon the head with his club, which was shivered, though it staggered the lion; then following up his advantage, he caught him round the neck and finally strangled him(fig. 15). He tore off the skin, which ever afterwards served him as a coat of mail, the head being his helmet.
His second labor was the destruction of the Lernæam Hydra. This monster had one hundred heads, one of which was immortal, while whenever one of the others was cut off it was instantly replaced by two new ones. When Heracles attacked the Hydra it wound around his feet, and he soon found that although he cut off many of its heads, their number increased instead of becoming less. He then bid his charioteer set fire to a neighboring wood, and seizing a burning tree, applied the huge torch to the fresh wounds he made, thus paralysing the reproductive faculty (fig. 17), until all the heads were destroyed except the one which was immortal, and that he placed in the ground beneath a heavy stone. Then cutting the body to pieces, he dipped his arrows in its blood, which rendered the wounds inflicted by them incurable. Eurystheus declared the labor ill performed, as it had been accomplished with the assistance of the charioteer, and gave him another task more difficult to execute.
This third labor was to take alive the Hind of Artemis, the swift-footed Cherynitis. Heracles chased it during a whole year, even into the Hyperborean regions, until he succeeded in laming it by sending an arrow through its foot; when he soon caught it and carried it on his shoulder to Eurystheus.
The fourth labor was to take alive the Erymanthian Boar, which was also sacred to Artemis. This terrible animal lived near mount Erymanthos, which it rendered so unsafe by its ravages that no traveller dared approach it. On his way thither Heracles first conquered the Centaurs and drove them from Arcadia. He then attacked the boar and chased it into the deep snow of the mountain top, where he caught it and carried it home. When he brought it to Eurystheus, the latter was so frightened that he hid himself in a cask, and became so afraid of the hero that he transmitted his further orders to him through Copreus, forbidding him henceforth to enter the city of Mycenæ.
The fifth labor was to clean the stables of Augeas, in which the latter had kept three thousand head of cattle for a long period. This task he accomplished by leading the rivers Alpheios and Peneios through the stables, which were effectually cleaned by the rushing waters.
The sixth labor was to slay the Stymphalides, rapacious birds with brazen bills and iron wings, whose feathers they could shoot like arrows against their pursuers. They lived in the swamp Stymphalis in Arcadia, and could not be approached. Heracles frightened them out of their retreat by the noise of a huge rattle, and then laid them low with his deadly arrows, the birds not being proof against the poison of the Hydra.
The seventh labor was to catch the Cretan Bull which Poseidon, in his wrath against king Minos, had brought to Crete to devastate the island with his fiery breath. Heracles mastered the furious animal, and brought it to Eurystheus, who sent it into the plains of Marathon, where it spread death and destruction until it was finally caught by Theseus and sacrificed to Apollo.
The eighth labor was the capture of the horses of Diomedes, king of Thrace. These four dreadful horses were fed with the bodies of all the strangers that strayed into the territory of Diomedes. Heracles slew their guard and led the horses to Eurystheus, in spite of the pursuit of the Thracians.
The ninth labor was to fetch the shoulder-belt of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyte, which Admeta daughter of Eurystheus coveted. Heracles went to Hippolyte and persuaded her to give up her belt, but Hera instigated the Amazons to attack him. Believing that this attack was owing to the treachery of Hippolyte, Heracles slew her and took the shoulder-belt by force.
The tenth labor was to steal the cattle of Geryon, the three-headed giant-king of Iberia and the Balearic Islands, which were guarded by the two-headed dog Orthros and the giant Euryton. Heracles slew both the latter and drove off the cattle, but he was pursued by Geryon, who was assisted by Hera, and attacked him furiously. Heracles, however, succeeded in wounding Hera in the breast, and whilst she hurried to Zeus to get him to paralyse the poison, he slew Geryon and drove the cattle successfully to Mycenae in spite of Hera’s renewed endeavor to frustrate his labor by enraging the animals on a wide plain, where he had the utmost difficulty in keeping them together.
The eleventh labor was to fetch the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, the daughters of Hesperos, who lived near Mount Atlas. But Heracles knew not where the apples were to be found. He first asked the nymphs of the Eridanus, who referred him to Nereus, who refused to answer. Heracles then fettered him and compelled him to tell what he knew. The way he indicated led through Lybia, Egypt, and Asia, to the Caucasus. Here Heracles found the fettered Prometheus, whom he liberated after slaying the torturing vulture, and the grateful Prometheus told him that he must apply to Atlas for the apples. Thither Heracles then went and asked him to procure him the apples, offering at the same time to support the heavens for him during his absence. When Atlas returned with the apples he was little inclined to re-assume his office and its burden, but preferred himself to take the apples to Eurystheus. Heracles apparently consented, and only asked that he should hold the heavens until he could place a cushion on his own neck to make the weight less painful. But when Atlas had taken on himself the burden, Heracles took the golden apples and returned with them to his lord, who almost despairing at the invariable success of Heracles in all his undertakings, had in reserve a new task, the last he had authority from Zeus to impose, but which he was sure would accomplish the wish of his patroness Hera, and prove the destruction of the hero.
This twelfth labor was to bring up Cerberos from the Lower World. Cerberos was the three-headed dog guarding the shades in the realm of Hades, the monstrous son of Typhon and Echidna, and was covered with serpents instead of hair, had a dragon’s tail, and his breath and froth were poisonous. For this exploit Heracles had to prepare himself by being initiated into the mysteries by Eumolpos of Eleusis. This initiation is symbolically represented in pl. 25, fig. 18, by the myrtle twig in the hand of Heracles, and the scarf over his head, similar to that which is handed him by the priestess of Arete (virtue), who stands in front of him with an inverted spear.
After going through the ceremonies of initiation he descended to the infernal regions. The shades took flight when he descended among them. Menœtius alone, the cattle-keeper of Hades, dared to oppose his progress, when he undertook to kill some cattle in order to slake the thirst of the shades with their blood, but Heracles dashed him against a rock and broke his ribs. He then demanded of Hades his dog, which the latter consented to give up provided Heracles could secure him unarmed. The hero at once seized the monster, and pressing his three heads between his knees, fettered him (pl. 25, fig. 16). When he brought him up to Eurystheus, the affrighted king begged him to take him back to the lower world, which he did.
Heracles was now free from his allegiance to Eurystheus; but still subject to the persecutions of Hera he continued his wanderings, in which he established altars in honor of Zeus and accomplished many a heroic deed, of which we briefly mention his combat with Echidna, who had stolen his horses whilst he was asleep, his war with the giants, and his contest with Apollo for the tripod, which he wanted in order to establish an oracle of his own. At length Zeus succeeded in appeasing the wrath of Hera. No longer instigated to activity by the dangers she had thrown in his way, he grew weary of life, and erected a huge pyre on Mount Ætna on which he placed himself and ordered his friends to light it; but they refused, and he then bribed the shepherd Poias to do it by giving him his arrows. Scarcely had the flame enveloped the pyre when a cloud descended from heaven, which caught up the hero and bore him to Olympos, where he was received into the circle of the gods and was married to Hera’s daughter Hebe.
The whole myth of Hercules is obviously the symbolical account of the progress of civilization through the energy, strength, and virtue of man, for he prepares the land for cultivation by destroying the wild beasts which infest it; he shows the way to navigation by crossing and re-crossing the ocean and by his intercourse with many different races; and he directs the mind of man to the divine being, as the source of all success, by erecting altars and arranging worship.
At a time when lasciviousness and effeminacy had polluted the minds of Grecian poets, a number of degrading adventures were connected with the name of Heracles, which, however, are so foreign to the fundamental idea of this mythological figure, that we merely allude to the fact without giving room to the accounts in our pages.
The artistical representations of Heracles are always of colossal proportions, expressive of the greatest imaginable degree of human strength. His features are usually serious, but calm and mild withal, as it behoves a stern, awe-inspiring, but worthy and great character, who is above the common meanness of man. His attributes are the club and the lion’s skin, which constitutes his only clothing. We have copied (pl. 15, fig. 24) the statue of the Tyrrhenian Heracles. Other representations of this hero will be found in the division of our plates devoted to Sculpture, as he was at all times a favorite subject for plastic representation.
6. Œdipous (Œdipus) was the son of Laios, King of Thebes, and was celebrated not less for his misfortunes than for his exploits. An oracle had informed his father that the son of his wife Jocaste would slay him; and to avert such a fate he had him exposed soon after his birth on Mount Cithgeron. Before sending him away he had his ankles pierced and a leathern thong inserted in the wounds, whence his name (swollen foot), A neatherd found him and presented him to the childless Polylos, King of Corinth, who adopted him as his heir. When he grew up and learned that he was not the king’s son, he inquired who were his parents, but failing to receive satisfaction he repaired to the oracle at Delphi. The response was: “Avoid thy home, if thou wouldst not murder thy father and marry thy mother!” To escape such a calamity he resolved to abandon Corinth, which he regarded as his native place, and make Thebes his home. His father Laios happened to be on the way to consult the same oracle in regard to his son, and the two met in a narrow part of the road in Phocis. The king’s charioteer ordered Œdipus to clear the way. He disregarded the command, a contest ensued, and both Laïos and the driver were killed.
Unconscious of being his father’s murderer, he now proceeded towards Thebes. At that time the country was desolated by the Sphinx (pl. 30, fig. 18, a, b), a monster with the head and breast of a lovely young woman, the body of a winged lion, and the tail of a dragon. She propounded to every passer-by the riddle, “Who walks on four feet in the morning, on two at noon, and on three in the evening?” and whoever failed to solve it was devoured. To rid themselves of this dreadful evil, the Thebans offered as a prize to the man who should answer the sphinx, the now vacant throne of Laïos, and the hand of his widowed queen, Œdipous hearing of the proposal, boldly approached the monster and answered “Man does! As an infant he creeps on hands and feet, during manhood he walks on two feet, and when old uses a staff.” The sphinx could not survive the solution, and cast herself down a precipice; or according to some authors was slain by Œdipous (fig. 20). The latter now became king of Thebes and husband of his mother Jocaste, who when the dreadful fact became known hung herself in shame and despair; while her unhappy son, as an expiation for his unintentional crime, deprived himself of sight, Vent into a voluntary exile, and finally took leave of the earth without pain or sickness, and at peace with the gods, whom his sufferings had induced to pardon his crime.
7. Odysseus (Ulysses) son of Laertes and Eurydeia, and king of Ithaca, was married to Penelope, who had borne him a son Telemachos at the time of the commencement of the Trojan war. The oracle having predicted that he would not return for twenty years if he joined the expedition, Odysseus was averse to leaving his happy home. When therefore Menelaos, Agamemnon, and Palamedes came to Ithaca with a view of inducing him to join their efforts to liberate Helen, he feigned madness, harnessed an ox and an ass to his plough, and sowed salt. But Palamedes discovered the deceit by placing Telemachos in front of the ploughshare, which Odysseus carefully lifted over the infant. He had then to lay aside his mask and yield to the persuasion of his friends. In the expedition against Troy he rendered important services to the besiegers by his sagacity and cunning, which knew how to turn to account the most untoward circumstances. After the sack of Troy he started on his voyage home, but a storm threw him on shore in the territory of allies of the Trojans, who attacked him, and whom he had to conquer before he could proceed on his voyage. Another storm drove his vessel to the land of the Lotophagi (lotus-eaters), with which his companions were so pleased that he had the greatest trouble to make them re-embark. He was next carried by contrary winds to Sicily, where he and his companions sought refuge from the inclemency of the weather in a cavern, which was the residence of the gigantic Cyclops Polyphemos, who, on returning with his flocks from their pasture, found the intruders, and locked them up by placing a huge rock before the entrance of his cave. Every day he swallowed one of the companions of Odysseus, who however finally hit upon a plan for saving himself and his remaining followers. He first intoxicated the giant, and burnt out his only eye whilst he was asleep. The enraged monster dealt mighty blows in all directions, but his captives easily evaded their blind antagonist. One morning when Polyphemos removed the rock from the entrance of the cave in order to let out his flock of sheep, Odysseus and his friends each slipped under a ram holding on to its fleece, and were thus carried out under the very hands of the Cyclops who stood in the passage feeling the animals’ backs as they passed him. Odysseus then re-embarked, but having offended Poseidon by maiming his son Polyphemos, he had to go through a vast deal of suffering on his further voyage. When his own island of Ithaca was already in sight Poseidon bid Æolus, the god of the winds, drive him back. He was first thrown on the Æolian islands, then on the land of the Læstrygons, and finally on the island of the nymph Circe (pl. 30, fig. 16), who changed his companions into swine, but could not transform him as he was guarded against witchcraft by a mystical plant that he had obtained from Hermes, and by whose power he also forced her to restore the original forms of his companions.
Leaving the island he again encountered storms that threw him into the neighborhood of the abode of the Sirens, half birds, half women (pl. 21, figs. 17, 19), who by their charming song lured mariners into danger, and either drowned them or changed them into Sirens (fig. 18). Odysseus escaped the danger by causing himself to be lashed to the mast of his vessel, and his companions to close their ears with wax. Thus he passed the dangerous spot unhurt, but was soon after carried by the winds into the narrow passage between Scylla and Charybdis, of whom the myth relates that they had been beautiful maidens, and were changed into sea monsters by Circe from motives of jealousy, and stationed in the Etruscan straits to render them attractive by their alluring charms and destructive by their monstrous nature. Odysseus came too near Scylla, who slew six of his companions (pl. 30, fig. 15), and in his endeavor to escape from the spot fell in with Charybdis (fig. 14), who also claimed a number of victims. But he at length extricated his vessel from the dangerous neighborhood. He was not, however, yet freed from the persecutions of the vindictive god of the seas, who sent another gale against him which wrecked his vessel on the island of the Nymph Calypso, when all his companions were drowned, and he alone saved by his skill in swimming. Calypso retained him on the island for seven years, when he was finally released at the command of Zeus, who at the request of Athene sent Hermes to bid Calypso give him a vessel that he might continue his voyage. Scarcely had he, however, lost sight of the island when Poseidon again sent a gale of wind that he might destroy him; his vessel was shivered by the force of the waves. After swimming during three days he reached the island of Scheria, where he fell down exhausted and sank into a deep sleep. He was found by the daughter of King Alcinoos, who offered him the hospitality of her father. The latter instituted a great feast in honor of his guest, at which Demodocos sang the glorious deeds of the Greeks at Troy. Elated by the song, Odysseus discovered himself and recounted his own adventures and disasters. Touched by the hardships of his voyage, Alcinoos resolved to have him brought to Ithaca by one of his own vessels. Odysseus was sleeping when the vessel reached his home in the dead of night. His companions carried him on shore, and left the island after having placed him gently on the beach. When he awoke he knew not where he was. Twenty years of absence had effaced the recollection of the scenery around him. Athene, in the shape of a shepherd, told him he was in Ithaca, but not until she had assumed her own divine form would he believe her word, so firmly had the idea become rooted in his mind that he would never reach his island again.
Athene bade him assume the garb of a beggar, and thus approach his palace, and to address himself under this disguise to Eumæos, an old, faithful servant. He was kindly received by the good old man, whom he told that Odysseus was still among the living, but had difficulty to make him credit that he knew he was not far off. On the third day Telemachos made his appearance returning from his voyage in search of his father, and to him Odysseus discovered himself. Eumseos was then dispatched to inform Penelope of her husband’s approach.
Penelope had long been hard pressed by numerous suitors, who had spread the report that Odysseus had perished at Troy. But the virtuous woman was true to her lord, and deferred an answer to their suits by promising to bestow her hand upon one among them when she should have finished the shroud of Laertes which she was weaving. She wove at it every day, but undid her day’s work during the night, and thus delayed the ominous decision. Meanwhile the haughty wooers established themselves in her palace, banqueted in her halls, and squandered the wealth of her house. When Eumseos brought her the message she bade him bring to her the beggar who had sent it. When he entered the hall he found the wooers at a feast, and they taunted the ragged man and made him wrestle with the privileged beggar of the house for their amusement. When brought into the presence of Penelope he told her, who did not recognise him, that her lord lived and would return to his home on the following day. Rejoiced at the news, she arranged a feast for that day, and told her suitors that she would upon that occasion give her decision in favor of one. After the feast she ordered the bow of Odysseus to be brought into the hall, and promised her hand to him who could shoot an arrow from that bow through twelve holes at the top of so many stakes that were placed in a straight line at short distances behind each other. When all the lovers had tried in vain to bend the bow, the disguised beggar asked permission to try his skill, and at the command of Penelope and Telemachos the bow was reluctantly handed to the despised old man. He raised it slowly and with apparent difficulty, but suddenly drew the string with perfect ease and sent the arrow from it through all the stakes. Before the proud suitors could recover from their astonishment he had thrown off his disguise and sent another arrow through the breast of the boldest of the lovers, and then, with the assistance of Telemachos and Eumseos, he killed the rest. Penelope now recognised her lord by his uncommon prowess and welcomed him home.
The death of Odysseus is enveloped in mystery. The most common version is that he was killed by Telegonos, the son of Circe, who had landed on Ithaca as a pirate, and was opposed by Odysseus and Telemachos.
The term hero was applied not merely to the demigods, as already suggested, but also to worthy and honored men of great antiquity. Thus Homer employs it in speaking of princes and their sons, nobles, generals, their aids and companions. Of this class of heroes we give two representations in pl. 16, figs. 5 and 6.
We have alluded to the Giants while treating of Zeus. They were monsters of astonishing size and invincible strength, and their dragons’ tails and feet gave them a hideous aspect. They sprang from the blood which issued from the wounds of Uranos; or according to another myth, Gaia brought them forth to spite her husband.
The most noted were Mimas, who, in the contest between his race and the Olympic gods, was transfixed by Ares (pl. 30, fig. 21); Pallas, who was slain by Pallas Athene while fighting against her with his snaky tails and a shepherd’s crook (fig. 22); and Gration, who fought with a stag, or with Artemis in the form of a stag (fig. 23).
The Pygmies, the complete contrast to the Giants, were a fabulous race of dwarfs (the Liliputians of modern times), whose most formidable enemies were the Cranes. Fig. 29 presents a battle between them. Two of the Pygmies are armed with lances, and carry a skin on the left arm as a shield; a third is hastening to the aid of a prostrate comrade. Heracles once fell asleep in the deserts of Africa, when an army of Pygmies attacked him with as much energy as though they had been besieging a town. The hero awoke during the onset, smiled at his puny foes, but was so much pleased with their courage, that he gathered them in his lion’s skin and carried them to Eurystheus.
The Greek system of mythology abounded in sacred animals. We have already spoken of Apollo’s raven (pl. 17, fig. 28). In pl. 28, fig. 26, we have represented the sacred bull of Dionysos. His body is girded with an ivy branch, and he stands upon a thyrsus adorned with ribbons. The inscription designates it as the work of the artist Hyllus, who wrought the stone from which our engraving is copied. Pl. 24, fig. 9, presents the sacred lion which Dionysos or one of his attendants is feeding. This piece is a part of the frieze on the monument of Lysicrates, generally known as the lantern of Demosthenes, and illustrates the history of Dionysos and his punishment of the Tyrrhenian pirates. Finally, we give the sacred serpent (fig. 10ab), copied from a coin called the cistophorus, because it exhibits the cista or sacred box, surrounded by ivy, berries, and leaves, from which the serpent proceeds. The reverse bears two serpents with their tails entwined; between them is seen a quiver, and to the right a thyrsus, around which a serpent is coiled.
We close our account of mythical beings by a brief reference to the Genii (pl. 19, fig. 10). They were originally regarded as gods, but at a later period they held a position between gods and men. They constituted two distinct orders: the Good Genii (Agathodæmons) and the Evil Genii (Cacodæmons). They were considered mortal, and had a very limited sphere of activity. Every man was supposed to have two. The good one counselled and encouraged him, the evil one sought to corrupt him; and thus they waged a perpetual strife, the victory depending upon the will of the individual, who had it in his power to retain or reject either; and while one remained in power, the other abandoned him. Accordingly it was customary to ascribe good fortune or disaster to the presence of the good or evil genius.
They were usually represented as handsome youths, sometimes winged and crowned with wreaths, and clothed in a star-embroidered garment, sometimes without any of these, and naked.
Theology and Worship of the Greeks
The belief in the existence of the soul after death and an appropriate retribution of good or evil was universal among the Greeks, though, as might be expected, the notions on these subjects were gradually modified in different ages. The abode of departed spirits was the centre of the earth, and was divided into two distinct regions, Elysium, the place of reward; and Tartaros, the place of punishment. Hermes with his golden wand escorted the souls down to the lower world, to the lake Acherusia, which was formed by the junction of the rivers Cocytos and Styx. Over this lake they were rowed by Charon, the ferryman of the lower world. He was a severe old man with a dingy dress, and for two oboli (a small Greek coin) bore across to Hades in his leaky boat the souls of those who in the upper world had been burned or at least consecrated to Hades by a monument (pl. 24, fig. 24); those, however, who had not these pre-requisites were compelled to wander on the terrible shore during one hundred years. When landed on the opposite shore of the lake, they passed through a cavern in which Cerberos kept watch, to the world of shades. From this there was no return. They next entered a large court, where Minos, the first supreme judge of the dead, passed judgment upon the acts of their lifetime, and decided whether they should be admitted to Elysium, where Hades and his queen Persephone reigned, or go to Tartaros. Around Elysium flowed the crystal waters of Lethe, from which the departed drank and forgot for ever the sorrows of the past. Meadows of loveliest green lay stretched out before their view; they were decorated with the most beautiful flowers and dotted with shady groves; a clear and serene atmosphere filled the cloudless firmament, which was gladdened by everlasting light. The land brought forth of itself its refreshing fruits three times in the year; and old age, pain, and disease were displaced by perpetual enjoyment and delight. Tartaros, on the contrary, which lay far beneath the world of shades, was a deep abyss inclosed by a triple wall and by the fiery stream Phlegethon and the raging Acheron. Those whom Minos directed thither were taken before a second judge, Rhadamanthos, who determined their penalty according to the measure of their guilt. The moment the decision was announced, the Erinnyes appeared and drove them into the place of punishment, where they remained for ever. Some of these dreadful punishments are represented in pl. 24, fig. 25, where we see Sisyphos, once king of Corinth, who was condemned to roll a large stone up the side of a steep hill, and when he had just gained the summit the stone recoiled, carrying him with it to the base, by which his labor was ever beginning and never ended. Another sufferer, Ixion, king of the Lapithæ, was bound to a wheel which revolved perpetually, and after plunging him into the flames of sulphur raised him aloft only to submerge him again beneath the fiery waves. Tantalos, king of Phrygia, tormented by endless hunger and thirst, stood immersed to the chin in water, while over him hung a tree whose branches bore the most delicious fruits; but whenever he stooped to drink the water shrank from his taste, and when he reached forth his hand for the fruit, the branches receded beyond his grasp.
The modes of worshipping the gods were as varied as the deities themselves. The sacred places were at first certain tracts of land whose products were dedicated to the service of the deities; next consecrated groves, in which altars were erected in the open air. At a later period temples were built, some to particular gods, the greater part, however, to all the gods, and the latter class of temples bore the name of Pantheon. The worship consisted chiefly of prayer, sacrifice, and public festivals and games, which varied, of course, with the character of the god. The style of private sacrifices differed also somewhat according to the wealth of the worshipper. In conducting the religious services, numerous and diversified implements were employed, some of which were finished in the highest style of art. We present drawings of altars (pl. 19, figs. 19, 20); sacrificial vases (figs. 21–29); offering cups and dishes (figs. 30–33); incense caskets (figs. 34, 35); a tripod (fig. 36); a brush of hair for sprinkling the consecrated liquids (fig. 37); various knives, dipping ladles, &c. (figs. 38–47); a large sacrificial knife (pl. 17, fig. 29), which was used at the sacrificing of a bull; an altar lamp (pl. 16, fig. 27), made of burnt clay, having the form of a bull’s head with pendants and fillets, and employed in the sacrifice of the same animal; and finally, numerous ladle-, pan-, and shovel-formed implements (figs. 28–33ab). On a coin which has reference to the worship (pl. 15, fig. 24ab), we see on one side Poseidon, on the other (probably) Zagreus.
Among the festivals of Greece none excelled in magnificence and importance the Panathenæan, They were instituted by Erichthonios in honor of Pallas Athene. At first they were called Athenæa, but after all the independent communities of Attica united in the celebration, they took the name of Panathenæa (pl. 20, fig. 23). The Smaller Athenæa were celebrated in April of each year, the Greater every fifth year. In both the proceedings were somewhat similar. On the first day torch-races took place, the second was spent in gymnastic exercises, and the third was devoted to intellectual contests, the rehearsal of Homeric songs, and the delivery of dramatic poems and orations. Then followed the sacrifices and the banquet. At the Greater Athenæa, the principal ceremonies consisted of a solemn procession, in which the saffron-colored peplos, or sacred robe of Athene, woven by maidens of the first families, and illustrative of the deeds of the goddess, was carried to the temple on the Acropolis and folded around her image. After this, the peplos was taken down and hung like a sail upon a ship, which was moved by concealed machinery around the Parthenon. The whole festival was deemed so sacred that the inmates of the prisons were released to take part in it.
Among the feasts in honor of Dionysos (Bacchus) were prominent the Orgies, a mixture of mystic rites and drunken revelry. They are illustrated by an engraving copied from the lid of a sarcophagus (pl. 29, fig. 2), in which Dionysos and Ariadne are represented sitting opposite to each other, and between them appears a Faun blowing upon a horn. Near Ariadne we see a Maenad playing upon a double flute, and treading with her foot an instrument which marks the time. Ampelos, a youthful favorite of Dionysos, stands in a car drawn by tigers, which are guided by a Cupid who plays on a lyre. To the right are seen the drunken Silenos supported by Nymphs, and a Faun retreating in terror from a mystic box which a Mænad has opened, and out of which a serpent is crawling. A picture of Bacchanalia similar to this is given in pl. 19, fig. 13. The intoxicated Dionysos is carried by Pans and Genii, a Faun playing on a tambourine leads the procession, one Maenad plays a double flute, and another appears to be placing a wreath on Dionysos, under whose feet walks a goat, the destined victim of the day.
In pl. 25, fig. 7, we have copied a picture referring to the Dionysian Mysteries. One of the initiated women sits on the back of a bull, which is adorned with garlands for the sacrifice. Her hair is ornamented by a pointed crown; with her left hand she holds up her flowing mantle, while with the right she secures herself on the back of the bull. Behind her walks a man, probably Axieros (the Hephæstos of Samothracia), with a conical cap, a lance, and wreath. The other man with a lance probably stands for Axiochersos (the Ares of Samothracia). The figure sitting on the ground and holding a short staff resembling a club is supposed to be one of the initiated dressed as Dionysos. The wreath in the panel shows that the transaction occurred in a covered place.
The Oracles of Greece were very celebrated, and constituted a leading object in their religious institutions. They were regarded as the channels through which the gods revealed their will and the events of the future. The oracle of Apollo at Delphi was most frequented (pl. 17, fig. 30). Pythia, a priestess, sat upon a tripod, and being inspired by the vapor which issued from a fissure in the ground, uttered her strange incoherent words, which were recorded by the prophets, versified by the temple poets, and expounded by the interpreters. Inquirers flocked to this oracle not only from all parts of Greece, but from foreign countries, and the presents with which they endowed the temple made it the wealthiest of antiquity.
The guardians and administrators of the temples were the priests (pl. 19, fig. 17) and the priestesses (fig. 18). They also took charge of the gifts, superintended the solemn festivals, and adorned the temples for that purpose; and while some performed the sacrifices, others pronounced the prescribed prayers. The Grecian priests, however, never constituted a distinct and independent class, but were subordinate and responsible to other authorities. Besides the priests, the Greeks had their astrologers, dream-interpreters, soothsayers, and augurs, the latter foretelling events by the flight and singing of birds.
The Religious System of the Romans
The primitive religion of the Romans was remarkably simple, being destitute both of temples and images of the gods. Romulus, however, by the erection of a temple to Jupiter Stator, laid the foundation of the subsequent mythological system. His successor, Kuma Pompilius, introduced material improvements, taking the Etruscan system as his model, and even incorporating several Etruscan elements into Roman worship. As the Roman dominion extended, the principal gods of the conquered nations were gradually received into the mythology of the conquerors, the latter regarding this policy the most effective in permanently attaching a subjugated people to their masters. In this way the deities of the old Asiatic countries, and of Greece itself, at last found a place in the Roman system.
In order therefore to obtain a clear and comprehensive view of Roman Mythology, we propose to examine briefly some of the sources from which it borrowed. As already intimated, it drew largely from the nations of ancient Italy; sometimes adopting a god with no change except the name, and in some instances retaining even that with the slightest alteration. In this connexion none of the old Italians stand forth so prominently as the Etruscans, or Etrurians, who, prior to the founding of Rome, possessed a finely developed religious system, and exhibited a religious life intimately blended with their political institutions. Their principal god was Tina, the Jupiter of the Romans. Next to him ranked Janus. He was god of Time; of the year, which he opened and closed; of the harvest, representing the sun; and acted as mediator between the mortals and the immortals, conveying the prayers of men to the ears of the gods. He appears in this character (pl. 15, figs. 1 and 2a) with two faces. He was also regarded as an inhabitant of the whole universe, heaven, earth, and sea; the guardian and director of human affairs; and in order to express his omniscience or his powers of seeing into the four quarters of the world at once, he was represented with four faces (fig. 2). By the ship-prow at his feet is commemorated the myth that Cronos, after having been dethroned by Zeus, fled to Janus in Italy. Another of their gods, Tages (fig. 12), resembled the Roman Amor. He came as was supposed out of the ground (when a husbandman of Tarquinii was ploughing deep), in the form of a handsome boy, but with the wisdom of an old man; and after teaching the rustic and such persons as had been attracted to the spot by his exclamations of surprise, the knowledge of divine things, of divination and augury by the flight of birds, and the entrails of the animals offered in sacrifice, and they had recorded his words, he instantly died. Among the goddesses of the lower order, the chief was Voltumna (fig. 20), at whose temple in Viterbo the Etruscan confederation held its meetings. She was goddess of deliberative assemblies, and the patroness of counsellors, senators, &c. Ancaria or Ancharia (fig. 16) also belonged to this class, but was scarcely known beyond the district of Fiesole, the ancient Fæsulæ, where she was worshipped.
The Umbrians had a worship and a class of gods very similar to those of the Etruscans; and even the Sabines, who in early times possessed a system of their own, afterwards adopted much from the more polished Etruscans. So too the Latins were indebted to the common source, though in many particulars their mythology varied from all others. Their first god was Saturnus, the next Neptunus with his wives Salatia and Venilia. They recognised a Jupiter Axur or Anxur, concerning whose meaning and form the ancients themselves did not agree. He is often represented (pl. 16, fig. 18) as youthful and standing, his left arm enveloped with an ægis and serpents, the hand supporting a sceptre; and his right hand grasping three thunderbolts. At his feet sits the eagle, and behind him lies the shield. The inscription refers to the name of the sculptor. Probably the figure is intended to show him in the armor in which he fought the Titans. In pl. 17, fig. 4, he is represented sitting upon a throne or chair, partially dressed, with a radiant head, and holding in one hand a sceptre, in the other a sacrificial cup. He was regarded in some measure as a wicked god, and goats were sacrificed to him. Vejovis, in some respects similar to, and even identical with him (pl. 15, fig. 22 a, b), was looked on as an awful being; he was originally an Etruscan god. Others, however, regarded him as a weak, boyish god, incompetent to render assistance. He was represented beardless, and accompanied by a goat. Opis or Ops (fig. 4) was goddess of Shepherds, and when the whole Latin worship came to be blended with the Grecian, she held the rank and position of Rhea.
Roman Mythology proper begins with the myth of Saturnus. At first the Romans regarded him as the god of husbandry, but when at a late period his history was blended with that of Cronos, he was honored as the god of Time. As such we see him on a herma (fig. 3), bearded and winged, with a star above his head, and a globe in his hand. Identified with Cronos, he had of course a similar destiny, dethronement by his son Jupiter. Escaping to Italy, he met with a cordial reception from Janus (regarded by the Romans as an old Italian king), and obtained for his future residence a beautiful tract of land surrounded by mountains. He now built on the Capitoline (formerly the Saturnian) Hill the city of Saturnia, while Janus established himself on Mount Janiculus. Poets have described his reign as the golden age of the human race. Peace, freedom and equality, honesty, confidence, and love prevailed throughout the entire brotherhood of men, and their whole life was devoted to rational enjoyment. No distinction subsisted between the rich and poor, the noble and plebeian; but happiness was universal. To perpetuate the memory of these prosperous times, the Saturnalia were founded, a series of festivals which under the emperors lasted from the 17th to the 23d of December, though originally they had only lasted one day. During their celebration the slaves sat at the table and were served by their masters. The most unbounded hilarity prevailed everywhere; the senate adjourned its sessions; law-suits were suspended; punishments were remitted; no war was proclaimed; prisoners were set at liberty, and friends exchanged presents with the view of cementing their friendships.
With the dethronement of Satumus began a new order or dynasty of gods, into which some that we have mentioned, particularly Satumus and Janus, were admitted, though with important modifications of their positions. The Romans always distinguished the invisible deities (Dii involuti, superiores, the veiled or superior gods) who had no special names, from those who were closely related to nature and the human race. The latter were again divided into two classes, the gods of the first order and the gods of the second order. We will now briefly examine the characteristics of the most important deities of these two classes.
The Gods of the First Order
The gods of the first order were collectively called Dii magni or Dii majorum gentium, and included twelve superior and eight inferior gods.
The Twelve Superior Gods
Six male and six female deities constituted the divine council whose decisions determined the course of all human affairs. These deities corresponded with the twelve Olympian gods of the Greeks.
1. Jupiter (Zeus), the chief and mightiest of all, received among the Romans a far more zealous worship than Zeus did among the Greeks. When he entered upon the government of the universe all the other gods rendered him homage (pl. 17, fig. 6). He is seated on a throne with a footstool. Beneath the throne lies the globe, an emblem of his dominion over the world. The diadem, a token of his divinity, adorns his head; one hand grasps the sceptre with which he governs the heaven and the earth, the left holds a thunderbolt. Juno, who stands in front of him, wears the diadem as queen of the gods; the others, except Minerva, have only frontlets. Mercury carries the caduceus and a purse; Apollo, near Juno, has his hair put up in the form of a double wreath. Of Diana we see only the head, and in the original the legs of Mars are also visible. Venus, the rival of Minerva, turns her back upon her; and between Venus and Mercury appears Ceres. Higher up we see the head of Vulcan covered with a hat, and behind him Hebe, the cup-bearer of the gods. Neptune and Pluto are wanting, because engaged in their respective empires, the sea and the world of shades.
The exalted rank and worship of Jupiter gave rise to numerous modes of representing him, and created for him many surnames. As Deus Pater, father of gods and men (pl. 15, fig. 5), he appears entirely nude, and holding: in his right hand a sceptre as the symbol of his omnipotence. As Jupiter Conservator or Protector (pl. 17, fig. 12), he holds the sceptre in the left hand, spreads out his mantle, and extends the right hand with the thunderbolts over the emperor Commodus, who is also represented with the lightnings and sceptre. The inscription signifies “Jupiter the Preserver, Tribune of the People the third time, Imperator the fourth time. Consul the third time, and Father of his country.” The copy is taken from a large bronze medal of Commodus.
In Rome alone Jupiter had fifteen temples. In the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter (who was patron god of the city and state) the Sybilline books (containing the oracles on state affairs) were kept, and all important national transactions were begun and completed. Those who were honored with a triumph deposited in the bosom of his image the laurel twig which they had carried in the procession. The priests of Jupiter ranked higher than others and were permitted to wear purple, the royal color.
2. Juno (Hera) was wife of Jupiter and queen of the gods. She had a temple in Rome and was honored as the patron goddess of the city. She was elevated to this dignity after the conquest of Veii, a city which the Romans had besieged for ten years, and which they finally took by means of a subterranean passage which they dug and which happened to terminate in her temple. A soldier asked her statue whether it wished to be removed to Rome. The figure nodded an affirmative, and was taken to the victorious city and located on the Aventine Hill, where the goddess was honored as Juno Regina (pl. 17, fig. 14). As such she is adorned with the diadem and holds a lance and a sacrificial vessel. The Junonian diadem, together with the falling locks and the long ear-pendants, is finely represented on a bust (fig. 15). Very similar to the Juno Pegina is the statue of Juno Capitolina (fig. 16). The goddess here rests her left hand on her hip, and holds aloft in her right a part of a shaft. As Juno Placida (fig. 17) she is seated on a chair, a lance or staff in her right hand, and the peacock at her feet. Juno Sospita (the Deliverer), also called Lanuvina, because she had a similar statue at Lanuvium, was represented altogether differently (pl. 20, fig. 12). She wears over her tunic a goat-skin, which also covers her head, and pointed shoes, a characteristic of the Egyptian pictures of this goddess. She is armed with a lance and shield, the signs of her protecting character. The serpent at her feet is an emblem of health, for which the people supposed themselves indebted to her. It may also refer to the serpent which a little girl of Lanuvium is reported to have fed every year in its cave. The coin supporting these devices is a denarius of L. Procilius, a triumvir monetalis (member of the board of magistrates who superintended the mint), who chose this device because his family had sprung from the city of Lanuvium.
3. Neptunus (Poseidon) was honored only as the god of horses and the protector of cavalry, in those early times when the Romans had no naval force; afterwards as monarch of the sea he received a very extensive worship. We have copied a fine bust of Neptune (pl. 22, fig. 7), and fig. 7a presents him in full length, on a coin of Titus. He is standing with one foot on a globe as a sign of his dominion over the earth; with the left hand he leans on his sceptre, and with the right he holds an aplustre, an embellishment on the stern of a ship.
Fig. 19 is a representation of a sacrifice to Neptune. The statue of the god with the trident and dolphin stands on an altar, at whose base we see a ship and sea-horse. In front stands a smaller altar, on which the fire is burning, and various sacrificial vessels. Priests, surrounded by other officers of the temple, are praying to the god, and in the background appears the destined victim, festooned with garlands. A feast, instituted in honor of Neptune, was celebrated on the 21st of August, termed Consualia, from Consus the Etruscan Neptune. At a later period the Neptualia were observed on the 28th of July, and for that purpose green bowers were erected on the bank of the Tiber, where refreshments were offered to the people who took part in the games of the festival.
4. Mars or Mavors (Ares), the god of war and son of Jupiter and Juno, received among the Romans a far more distinguished worship than Ares among the Greeks. The most obvious reason for this lies in the fact that the Romans attained their supremacy by war, and thus felt constrained to ascribe their fortune to Mars. They honored him, besides, as the father of Romulus, the founder of the kingdom. The mother of Romulus and Remus was properly Ilia, also called Rhea Sylvia, daughter of the Albanian King Numitor. Pl. 27, fig. 25b, represents Mars armed with shield, lance, and helmet, and descending to the slumbering Ilia. A herdsman (Faustulus) reared the twins; and Romulus subsequently became the founder and first king of what was afterwards the great and mighty Roman Empire. It was on this account that the Romans called Mars Pater, as the father of their first king; and in addition to the temple built to him by Romulus, they erected four others, and the successor of Romulus, Numa Pompilius, organized for him a regular system of worship.
The representations of Mars correspond with the Grecian images of Ares, and he appeared like the latter in different relations. Because war was the chief business of the Romans, it was natural to ascribe to him the same love of slaughter. In pl. 15, fig. 13, we see a picture of Mars Gradivus (the Advancing), as he returns from battle with his lance, and the armor of a fallen enemy hung upon a pole, which he carried on his shoulder as a trophy of victory. The term gradivus, however, also and more properly characterizes him as repairing with rapid strides to the field of contest. As Mars Ultor (the Avenger) he appears (pl. 27, fig. 27) with the shield in front, and raised spear ready to be hurled against an adversary. Sometimes he was regarded, particularly after a battle, as Mars Pacificus, the bearer of peace (pl. 17, fig. 22). In this character he carries in the left hand an image of the goddess Victoria, and in the right an olive branch, both signs of peace acquired by war. The shield and lance are laid aside, and no armor appears except the helmet.
Like the other gods. Mars had numerous Genii in his service, three of whom are represented on pl. 18. The first (fig. 6) is carrying his sword resting in its scabbard, the second (fig. 7) his helmet, and the third (fig. 8) his shield. All three are winged, and wear wide open mantles.
The sons and constant attendants of Mars were Pallor (Dismay) and Pavor (Fear). The head of Pallor is given on a coin of Hostilius (pl. 30, fig. 30 a and b), with a war trumpet behind it. On the reverse stands Diana, with a radiant crown and a dress with straight folds; with her right hand she holds a stag by the horns, and in the left a spear. Pavor, on a denarius of the same time (fig. 31), is accompanied by a shield.
The sister of Mars was Bellona, the strangler and the desolator of cities, the goddess of war, and the driver of his battle-car during the conflict. It was her province to inflame the fury of soldiers, and to arouse their thirst for slaughter; and accordingly she was represented armed with shield and helmet (pl. 15, fig. 14.)
The most noted solemnity annually observed in honor of Mars was the shield dance of the Salii (fig. 25). It occurred on the 1st of March. The Salii were priests of Mars, twelve in number, whose chief was called Præsul; their principal musician, Vates; and he who inducted new members, Magister. In addition to these he had another priest of superior rank, with the title of Flamen Martialis, who was one of a class of priests of the flrst rank instituted by Numa. The Salii dressed in a variegated tunic, embroidered with scarlet, and a peaked cap or conical helmet. The whole ceremony originated thus: In the time of Numa, a brazen shield (ancile) fell down from heaven. The soothsayers pronounced it a pledge from Mars to the Romans, of his future favor and their consequent good fortune; and so long as the shield should remain in Rome, so long should they have success in war, and enjoy the sway of the world. That so valuable an object might not be lost, Numa ordered eleven similar shields to be made, and the whole twelve to be deposited in the Sacrarium of the Salii, whose duty it became as priests of Mars to guard them on the Palatine Hill. During the annual procession or dance, the Salii appeared in short tabards, with iron girdles and brass buckles, with iron helmets, a sword in the right hand, and a shield in the left, and marched dancing through the streets of Rome, striking their swords incessantly upon their shields.
The Martial Games, which were celebrated annually, constituted the principal festival of Mars. Their features were a horse-race in the circus, and afterwards the sacrifice of a horse in Mars’s field or Campus Martins. Pl. 28, fig. 27, represents the ceremony of this sacrifice. A magnificent statue of the god stands on a beautiful pedestal, before which is an altar on which the fire is burning. At the side of the altar are vases and sacrificial vessels, the officiating priest stands before it, and after offering a prescribed prayer, casts a laurel twig into the flames. Behind him is seen a youth crowned with laurel and playing martial music, and at his left is a boy with the sacred casket. Several other priests, adorned with wreaths and engaged in minor parts of the sacrifice, appear in connexion with armed men around the horse which is to be sacrificed. One man standing behind the statue of the god holds a laurel crown.
The name of our month March (Martius) was obviously derived from Mars, and being the first in the Roman year, is an evidence of the exalted rank which the Romans assigned to him.
5. Mercurius (Hermes), after the Romans began their commercial career, occupied a distinguished position in mythology. Generally the same functions were ascribed to him in Rome as in Greece, and as god of traffic he was highly honored by merchants. During a holiday appointed in honor of Mercury they marched in procession to his fountain at the Porta Capena in short tunics, and each carrying with him some of his articles of merchandise. Taking water from the fountain, and immersing in it a branch of laurel, they sprinkled themselves and their goods as an expiation for their lying and fraud in business.
In Rome alone Mercury had five temples. His festival occurred on the 15th of May, which is named after his mother, Maia. The representations of Mercury were exactly like those of Hermes, and we therefore refer to these, mentioning in addition a Roman statue representing him as a youth without any distinguishing marks (pl. 24, fig. 23).
6. Vulcanus (Hephæstos) was worshipped in Rome from the age of Romulus as the god of smiths. In the Vulcanalia, a festival in honor of him, it was customary to offer a boar, a red calf, and other red animals, and prayers were made for averting the dangers of fire. Wherever there were volcanic mountains or earthquakes, temples were erected to Vulcan and his worship was celebrated with great magnificence. He is represented like the Grecian Hephæstos, and the same myths are told of both.
7. Apollo, though at first regarded as simply the god of the bow and arrows, was very extensively and magnificently worshipped when the Romans began to develope a taste for the sciences. During the games of Apollo neat cattle and goats were sacrificed to him. The belief also prevailed that Apollo, as the deliverer from the curse, would undertake the redemption of the sinful world. His history and representation correspond with those of the Grecian Apollo.
8. Venus (Aphrodite) received the same distinctions among the Romans as among the Greeks, being regarded as the ancestress of Romulus, the founder of Rome. She had seventeen temples in the city alone. The festival of Venus Verticordia (who turned the heart to love) was celebrated on the 1st of April, and on the 19th of August the gardeners solemnized the rural Vinalia, in which they besought from the fructifying goddess blessings for their crops of fruit.
Among the varied representations at Rome the Venus Capitolina (pl. 27, fig. 23) is remarkable. She has just risen from the bath, and is accordingly nude; her hair is tastefully arranged on the top of her head, a few locks only falling down on her neck. A large vessel stands near her, over which hangs a cloth edged with fringes. As goddess of love, which conquers gods and men, she was represented as Venus Victrix. On a coin (fig. 30) she appears leaning against a pillar, and holds in her right hand the helmet of Mars, while his shield stands at the foot of the pillar. On another coin (pl. 28, fig. 18) the shield marks her as Venus Victrix.
9. Diana (Artemis) had the same significance in Rome and Greece; but she was worshipped with far more splendor in the former, as goddess of the chase, of magic, and of the moon. A temple was erected to her on the Aventine Hill by Servius Tullius, and the 6th of April was annually celebrated as her birth-day. An inhuman custom obtained in conducting her worship in the Italian town Aricia. Her priest here was always a runaway slave, who could obtain his office only by killing his predecessor. The very same fate awaited himself, for there would always be slaves who would covet his place in order to escape the pursuit of their masters. In the yard or court of the temple there stood a tree, and it was a regulation that any one who broke off a twig was compelled to engage in mortal combat with the priest of Diana, who in addition to this was bound to fight a duel for life or death once each year.
In her representations, Diana was made more or less conspicuous according to the sphere she was supposed to fill; hence the variety in her pictures and statues. In pl. 15, fig. 10, we see but few of her peculiarities. The short tunic, with the still shorter cloak, serves to suggest the goddess of the chase, but she wants the buskins, the bow and the quiver. The veil which descends from her head over her back belongs to her as goddess of the moon, though generally the veil floats over her like a sail, and in that case she carries a torch or a figure of the moon. The figure may have been intended to represent her as the goddess of magic, or as Lucina (presiding over births), in which characters she had no special attributes. Sometimes she is represented with the insignia of various offices at once. Thus pl. 20, fig. 10, exhibits her as goddess of the chase, with the short tunic, bow, quiver, and buskins, and also with the inverted torch, which she rests on a stone, while she leans against another. The presence of the torch caused this statue to be designated as Diana Lucifera, and the other insignia as mere allusions to her other functions. A figure on a medal of the emperor Antoninus Pius (pl. 16, fig. 26) is by some taken for Diana Lucifera; but others interpret it as the portrait of the empress Faustina on horseback, adorned with the attributes of Diana Lucifera, the moon on the head and the torch.
10. Ceres (Demeter). The Romans had less sublime conceptions in regard to the worship of Ceres than the Greeks, and considered her as simply the goddess of seeds and harvests. Her service was conducted in Rome by priestesses (pl. 19, fig. 15) who wore as ornaments and marks of distinction a diadem, a long under dress bordered with flowers, and a similar short cloak. They carried ears of wheat in their hands. The principal offering to Ceres consisted of fruits (fig. 16). The goddess is represented on wall-pictures found in Pompeii (pl. 24, fig. 3) in a long tunic, and an upper garment reaching to the knees. She holds a sceptre in her right hand, in her left a small basket with flowers or wheat-ears, and her head is adorned with a wreath. On a coin of Antoninus Pius (pl. 16, fig. 25), she appears in proper mythological relation with her daughter Proserpine under the appellation Catagusa (one who brings back, because she is returning Proserpine to Pluto). She carries the ears of corn, and embraces her daughter with the other arm. Proserpine has the pomegranate, the tasting of which for ever prevented her total release from the world of shades.
11. Minerva (Pallas Athene) was worshipped originally at Rome only as the goddess of war, but subsequently was ranked among the three chief female deities, and had a temple next to Jupiter and Juno near the Capitol. She appears on a coin (pl. 27, fig. 13) as the peace-bearer, the shield lying by her feet, and the lance standing on the ground.
12. Vesta (Hestia), whose veiled head we find on a denarius (fig. 6), enjoyed in Rome a remarkable celebrity. The sacred fire on her altar was never permitted to go out. Her priestesses were the Vestal Virgins, of whom we present one (pl. 30, fig. 5) with a sacrificial vessel and an olive branch in her hand; another (pl. 15, fig. 9) standing near an altar with fire; and a third (pl. 26, fig. 9b) sitting on a chair and holding the sacred lamp. They were virgins selected from the most distinguished families, were devoted to celibacy, and had charge of the sacred fire. At the end of thirty years they could leave the temple and marry. If a vestal virgin suffered the fire to be extinguished she was scourged; if she violated her vow of chastity she was buried alive.
The Eight Inferior Gods
1. Janus (pl. 15, fig. 2b). His characteristics have already been alluded to in the system of the primitive gods to which he belonged.
2. Saturnus, in his capacity as god of husbandry, has been mentioned in the introduction. The further myths connected with his name are the same as those referring to the Grecian Cronos.
3. Genius was considered the deity holding supremacy over the genii that accompanied every man on his path through life. It is an indistinct deity, and was never the subject of artistical representation.
4. Sol, the god of the sun, corresponds entirely with the Grecian Helios.
5. Bacchus is identical with the Grecian Dionysos, and the festivals in his honor (Bacchanalia) were celebrated like those of the Grecian deity. One of the priests officiating at these festivals is represented in pl. 19, fig. 4.
6. Tellus, the deity of the earth, is the same as the Grecian Gaia, to which we refer.
7. Pluto, the same as the Grecian Hades, had in Rome a subterranean temple, where sacrifices were offered to him and Proserpine (Persephone), of whom a curious Roman image is copied in pl. 16, fig. 3, which indicates her as the goddess of fruitfulness by the apples under her feet and in her hand, and the germ of a plant on her head.
8. Luna, the goddess of the moon, corresponds with the Grecian Selene. A god of the name Lunus was also recognised by the Romans and sometimes identified with Luna, but he was properly the god of the months. His head is represented in a crescent (pl. 20, fig. 6).
The Gods of the Second Order
This class, known as the Dii Minores or Dii minorum gentium, comprehends all the remaining beings to whom limited divine honors were paid, or who were supposed to possess a species of divine nature.
Deities of the Social Feelings
1. Amor (Eros or Cupido) was the son of Venus and god of love. His history has been told in the Grecian mythology, and we here only add a few remarks relating to his connexion with Psyche. In pl. 29, fig. 7, we see Psyche, still in a state of suffering and probation, as Amor is tying her arms in order to chastise her. In fig. 8 he is scorching the butterfly, the symbol of Psyche, over a torch, thus signifying the purging of the soul by fire from corruption and sinfulness. Fig. 10 shows the reconciliation of the lovers. Psyche, adorned with bracelets and anklets, is drawing over herself a dress near a mirror; Amor presses her to his bosom; his bow and closed quiver are lying near by, and near his feet are a rose bush and Bcattered roses. The inscription may be rendered, “Sweet life! let us taste pleasure without bitterness! Live!” (i. e. enjoy life.) The last word is Greek written in Roman letters.
2. Hymen is god of matrimony, uniting those whom Amor has brought together. He was represented (pl. 28, fig. 23) as a handsome youth, holding the wedding torch in one hand and a cup in the other.
3. The Graces (fig. 21) stand in the attitude of persons who are returning thanks. The picture is borrowed from a group in which Mercury brings to Æsculapius, the god of medicine, a restored invalid who thanks him on his knees. The three Graces in this instance personify Gratitude, a play upon their name, Gratiæ, i. e. thanks. For the rest they hold the same rank as the Graces of the Greeks.
Deities of Happy Conditions and Virtues
1. Pax, the goddess of peace, was variously described, though most commonly as a young woman with wings. In pl. 29, fig. 15, she is holding a herald’s staff, as if inviting mankind to peace; while the serpent in front probably typifies the healing of the wounds received in war.
2. Bonus Eventus, or Happy Result, was originally a deity holding a relation to harvest, and originated in the idea that the brightest prospects were useless without good results. Accordingly he was represented (fig. 19) as a youth, bearing in one hand ears of corn, in the other a sacrificial cup. At a later period the Romans applied this conception to the success of every desirable object, retaining, however, the original attributes of the god, as may be observed on a coin of Titus (pl. 16, fig. 24).
3. Concordia, goddess of harmony, appears on coins as a stately woman, sometimes standing though often sitting (pl. 29, fig. 18), and holding in one hand a cornucopia, in the other a sacrificial cup.
4. Fides, goddess of fidelity, holds in one hand a basket with fruits, in the other wheat-ears (fig. 14).
5. Pietas, goddess of piety, had various meanings and of course various representations. In the character of piety or affection for children she appears extending her mantle in a fond protecting manner over two children who stand near her (fig. 16).
6. Pudor, or Pudicitia, goddess of modesty, was represented as a maiden, seated and veiling her face (fig. 17).
7. Astræa, goddess of equity and justice, like Justitia, held in the one hand a cornucopia, in the other a balance (fig. 21).
8. Spes, goddess of hope, carries a blossom of the pomegranate tree in one hand, and gracefully adjusts her dress with the other (fig. 20).
9. Fortuna, the goddess of fortune, was variously represented. In pl. 19, fig. 8, she carries on her head a diadem and modius (measure), the latter indicating that she does not act blindly and capriciously, but distributes her favors knowingly and in accordance with merit. Her upper garment folds like a veil over her neck; with one hand she points to the earth, with the other towards heaven. She is far more simply clad in pl. 15, fig. 21b. In fig. 21a, however, she is represented with her principal attributes, the cornucopia and the rudder, but also with other insignia, viz. the thunderbolt of Jupiter, the serpent of Æsculapius, the bust of Isis and Serapis on the cornucopia, the nebris of Bacchus, the wings of Amor or Victoria, the torch of Ceres, the diadem of Juno, the rays of Helios, and in the highest point of the head-dress the lotus of Horus. The statue, therefore, cannot be regarded as a representation of the goddess of fortune alone, but as a combination of the chief attributes of all the deities. Such statues were called Signa Panthea.
10. Victoria (pl. 17, fig. 23). goddess of victory, corresponds completely with Nike of the Greeks.
Deities of Time
1. The Horæ or Seasons (pl. 19, fig. 11) were represented as four children. Spring is carrying a flower basket, Summer a sickle. Autumn a fruit basket and rabbit, and Winter a rabbit and a branch of a tree for burning.
2. Aurora, goddess of the rosy morn (pl. 20, fig. 8), rides on a car drawn by four horses, preceded by Diana Lucifera bearing two torches. Above is seen the head of the bull. In pl. 26, fig. 10a, we see her between her horses.
3. The Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), whose history is given in the Grecian mythology, were represented by the Romans (pl. 20, fig. 4) adorned with laurel wreaths, beneath which the hair hangs in massive curls. Stars twinkle above them, and behind them we see two spear-heads pointing in opposite directions, a circumstance showing that the brothers are to take different paths.
1. Nilus. The Nile (pl. 21, fig. 15a) is represented in the form of an old man reclining on a socle or low plinth, whose upper surface represents the waves. Nilus leans with one elbow on a sphinx and holds in his hand a cornucopia containing wheat-ears, grapes, wild roses, lotus flowers, the Egyptian arum, and a child with folded arms. The head of the god is crowned with the fruit and leaves of the lotus, and the right hand grasps a bunch of wheat-ears. Sixteen children sport over and around him, indicating that for the purpose of fertility the river must rise sixteen cubits. The genii at his feet are trying to bring on a fight between the ichneumon and the crocodile, others are covering the urn of the god with a heavy veil, to signify the obscurity of his sources or head waters. The two ends of the plinth (fig. 15b) support plants and various Egyptian animals, as bulls, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, the ibis, and ichneumon, and two boats manned by natives of Tentyra, who are contending with a crocodile and hippopotamus.
2. Tibris (the Tiber) is also represented as an old man crowned with laurel and reclining upon his garments (fig. 16a). In his right hand he holds a cornucopia containing clusters of grapes, flowers, vine leaves, and fruits, from between which projects a pineapple, and behind this a coulter as an emblem of agriculture. On his shoulder rests an oar, to show that the river is navigable. His left arm is placed on the wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus. The water rolls over a part of the plinth, and at the rough end may be seen a hill and wall of Rome. The ends of the plinth (fig. 16b) show the Tiber as seen by Æneas. On the left is the sow that had the thirty pigs, and in the background the town of Alba. The god of the stream stands up to the middle in water; behind him is another figure, probably a god of another river emptying into the Tiber. The two who sit among the weeds on the bank are fishermen, one of whom has a basket on his knee; and further off is a loaded boat rowed by three sailors. On the lower part are two other boats, one of which is moved by the oar, while on the other a sailor is kindling a fire on the hearth, a second sits before his cabin, a third is engaged at the ladder, and three others are carrying goods for lading. A little further off appears a tree as a sign that the shore can supply wood, and near it we see several animals.
Gods of the Mountains, Forests, and Fields
1. Faunus (pl. 16, fig. 1), the Grecian Pan, was represented with the tail, but without the horns and feet of a goat. In Roman mythology he was ranked with mountain and forest deities. In pl. 25, fig. 1, he appearsin company with a Bacchante dancing on a row of skins to the music of the reed flute.
2. Flora, goddess of flowers (pl. 26, fig. 9a), is always represented with a crown of flowers or with a wreath of flowers in her hands (pl. 19, figs. 6, 7.)
3. Vertumnus (pl. 15, fig. 18) was honored as the god who, by the renewal of the year, brought back the fruits and blessings of which he was the harbinger. He is represented leaning against a stump, and holds a shepherd’s crook and a sickle or garden knife, and in the skin suspended from his neck appear flowers and fruits. He wears a crown of fir cones.
4. Pomona, his wife, goddess of orchards (fig. 19), carries in one hand the fruit of a tree, in the other a flower stalk, while a basket filled with flowers hangs on a limb near by.
The Lares were patron gods of the house, the family, and even the community, city, or kingdom. Sometimes they were regarded as specific deities, though frequently other gods exercised the office of the Lares. Accordingly their representations varied (pl. 16, figs. 7, 8, 9). The domestic Lares appeared as youths dressed in dogs’ skins and wearing a hat. They carried staves and were attended by a dog, the emblem of vigilance and fidelity.
In the later ages of Rome certain distinguished individuals received a species of worship. Among these we mention only Antinous (pl. 27, fig. 16). He was a handsome young man and the friend of the emperor Hadrian. During a voyage to Egypt he was drowned in the Nile, and the emperor erected a temple and ordained an annual feast to his memory, and placed his image among the constellations. After that his statues were common.
The Roman views of the condition of the soul after death corresponded mainly with those of the Greeks; though, of course, certain national peculiarities gave the whole subject a slight variation. There was no essential difference in the modes of worship. The Romans, it is true, had more temples than the Greeks, the city alone containing in its later days 424.
The worship consisted mainly of prayer, sacrifices, and feasts. Prophesying or divination also entered into the list of their religious customs and regulations. In addition to the sacrifices which we have already alluded to, we mention the Suovetmtrilia, a sacrificial festival celebrated every fifth year in the Campus Martins (pl. 30, fig. 7), at the completion of the census, when, as an offering of atonement and purification, a hog, a sheep, and a bull, were publicly immolated. Before the sacrifice, the victims were led around the whole assembly, so that all might enjoy a share in the expiation. Besides this, the Romans had public sacrifices before and after expeditions of war (pl. 29, fig. 23), at which the bull was led to the altar in a solemn procession, followed by a long train of warriors. The vessels and instruments employed in making the offerings were mostly like those of the Greeks, particularly the tripods on which they placed the flesh of the victim (pl. 30, fig. 8), the horn (fig. 9), the club or bludgeon (pl. 18, fig. 17), the axes (figs. 18, 19), the knives and forks (figs. 20–23), and the wand or staff (fig. 24.)
The priests and priestesses were divided into those who were engaged in the common service of the gods generally, and those who were devoted exclusively to the worship of particular gods. The former class embraced the Pontifices, whose number was sixteen, and who were selected from the first ranks of society. Their presiding officer was the Pontifex Maximus (pl. 30, fig. 1), who was appointed for life by the emperor. The latter class comprehended the Flamines, of whom the three most ancient and celebrated were those in the service of Jupiter (fig. 4), of Mars, and of Quirinus. Besides these, the sacrificial service required the aid of the Victimarii (fig. 6), men who had charge of the animals and other things necessary for performing the worship.
The Augures (fig. 2) constituted a college of priests, who divined and proclaimed the will of the gods, either by signs in the heavens, especially thunder and lightning, or by observing the flight, song, and the cries of birds, or their manner of feeding. For the latter purpose chickens were kept at the cost of the government, and fed by a special attendant (pl. 16, fig. 34). Whenever it was desirable to consult them they were fed, and the Augurs carefully observed whether they ate eagerly or not, and upon this and other manifestations they founded their predictions.
The Sibylline Books were preserved by the Quindecimviri, fifteen men (pl. 30, fig. 3) selected for that purpose, and whose office it was to consult the mystic pages, and prescribe the proper religious services whenever the state was in danger. These ominous books of oracles were brought to Rome by Sibylla, a renowned soothsayer (whose supposed image we have copied in pl. 17, fig. 27), and offered to Tarquinius Priscus for a very great price, as containing divine revelations which would protect the state in the hour of danger. The books were nine in number. Tarquinius deeming the price demanded exorbitant, refused to buy them. Sibylla then left him, and after a period returned with six of the books, having burned three. For the remaining six she asked the same sum as before. When the king again refused the price she threw three more into the fire, and still persisted in asking the same price for the remaining ones. Struck by such a proceeding the king called a council of eminent men, who advised him to buy the remaining books for the benefit of the state, since it appeared that their contents were so precious that every part of them was worth the price of the whole. The books were then purchased, and kept in the temple of Jupiter, their oracles being interpreted for the benefit of the state by their keepers. According to Cicero, they were fabricated by a number of wise statesmen and priests, who employed Sibylla to effect their adoption, having couched the oracles in ambiguous language, and managed to reserve the office of interpreting them to a number of men selected from among themselves and their descendants, thus securing for ages an enormous influence on all important affairs of state to their own families.
Having now completed our outline of the various systems of religion which recognise a number of deities, we propose to close the subject with a brief notice of Monotheism.
Monotheism comprises the religious systems which are based upon the belief in One God. According to the Bible, monotheism was the primitive religion of the human race, though its form was remarkably simple, and in accordance with the child-like disposition of the earliest members of the human family. A careful examination of the traditions and religious systems of the ancient nations, who, as we have pointed out in various places, nearly all had an indistinct idea of one supreme being above all the other deities which they worshipped, must lead to the conclusion that the fundamental feeling of man at all times must have pointed to the existence of one creator and ruler, and that the recognition of other deities must have arisen from the desire to comprehend the influence of the Supreme Being on the course of events and the universal life of nature. We cannot here enlarge upon the probable way in which Monotheism was gradually lost in the labyrinth of Polytheism, but proceed to give a brief account of the three forms in which it again made its appearance, dispelling the obscurity of Paganism.
The Mosaic Religion
Moses, the celebrated Jewish Lawgiver, in endeavoring to liberate his people from Egyptian idolatry, and to establish them in the belief of one God, placed in the very front of his teachings this precept: “Jehovah is the Creator and only Lord of Heaven and Earth, and there is no other god beside him. Ye shall not make unto yourselves any graven image or likeness of God.” The Pentateuch also describes Jehovah as an invisible king of his people, whom he chose to govern through the medium of the priesthood. Accordingly all the laws, or ordinances and regulations, whether moral, religious, or civil, claimed for themselves divine authority; and as they contained a stringent statute prohibiting the intermingling, by marriage or otherwise, of the Israelites and the surrounding heathen, the government took the form of an exclusive theocracy. The Hebrew commonwealth thus constituted, subsisted under various modifications nearly 1600 years. Its practical effects corresponded with its intrinsic character. While in many respects it operated beneficially, preserving the doctrine of the divine unity, and binding the Jews firmly to their nationality, it continued a barrier between its professors and those of other creeds, and finally degenerated to a lifeless round of ceremonies
Christianity, while it rested in a considerable measure upon the faith and morals revealed in the old Testament, was justly described by one of its earliest preachers as a nobler branch grafted upon a wild tree. The God of Christianity is not the strong and jealous God that governs and punishes without mercy; but a tender Father who commiserates the sinner, and seeks by kindness and mercy to win him to holiness and salvation. His children, accordingly, are not selected exclusively from any one tribe; “but in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him.” Every one, however humble, receives his notice and protection, and nothing can befall him without the will of his heavenly Father, who can compel all events, whether prosperous or adverse, to work out for his good. While all men are thus God’s children, they are expected to love each other as such; and the blessed Founder of Christianity has promised to recognise as his followers only “such as love one another.”
Professed Christians have often sadly departed from this standard of discipleship. They have hated, persecuted, and murdered their brethren for opinion’s sake; and in the course of time so many parties have arisen in the church, that were it not for the positive promise of God one might well despair of ever beholding that desirable object, “One fold and one Shepherd.” Every denomination seems to suppose that it alone possesses the true faith and has found the way of salvation, forgetting all the while that “love is the fulfilling of the law,” and is thus superior to faith and all other qualifications.
The oldest of these divisions is known as the Roman Catholic Church. At the head of its organization it recognises the Pope as God’s representative; besides God and Christ it venerates the Saints; professes to hold the all-saving faith; condemns all who maintain a different belief; withholds from the laity the Bible, the original source of all certain knowledge in regard to the proper doctrines of Christianity; and in many cases openly contradicts the clear expressions of Holy Writ.
The Greek Catholic Church forms a second of these branches. It differs from that just described mainly in refusing to recognise the bishop of Rome as the sovereign Pontiff of the Christian church.
The Protestants compose a third party, which is again broken into numerous smaller sects, as the Reformed, the Old Lutheran, the United (Evangelical) churches of the European continent; the Anglican or Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, the Independent, &c., of England; and the Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians, &c. &c., in the United States. Indeed so great has been the tendency towards dissent and party spirit, that the earnest labors of those pure, noble, and elevated minds which have always striven to unite men in the rational affectionate “worship of God in spirit and in truth,” have hitherto proved unsuccessful.
Mahomedanism, the most widely spread monotheistic system of religion, was established by Mahomed (or Mohamed) in the year 622, a. d. It is a compound of Jewish, Christian, and to some extent Heathen religious ideas and rites. Its founder proclaimed himself as the greatest prophet and the most distinguished ambassador of God; denounced as infidels all who refused to profess his religion, and ordered them to be persecuted with fire and sword. Unlike Jesus Christ, who invited men to test his religion, and left its adoption or rejection to the free exercise of their understanding, Mahomed propagated his system by arms.
Mahomedanism differs from Christianity in two important particulars: it teaches an unchangeable predestination, and holds out the promise of a sensual Paradise. This heaven is promised particularly to such as fall in doing battle for their religion; and in order to increase as rapidly as possible the number of believers, the condition of the blessed is described in language far more glowing, voluptuous, and extravagant, than any we have employed in treating of the northern mythologies. Groves, rivers, fountains, diamonds, pearls, and marble palaces, delight at once the eye and the feelings; costly dishes served in golden vessels and wine in princely cups regale the taste; the most delicious perfumes impregnate the air; seventy-two dark-eyed virgins of graceful form and blooming youthfulness (Houris) receive the believer and minister to his endless felicity; and seventy thousand slaves stand always waiting to fulfil his wishes, even before they are uttered. In direct contrast to all this pleasure, Mahomed has painted hell as a place where transgressors, apostates, and infidels are punished with intolerable torment, the measure and nature of which are determined by the grades of offence during life. Faith in the Prophet, however, inducing his intercession in their behalf, can save from this punishment the most guilty and abandoned sinners.
The ethical teachings of Mahomed are simple, and his theological doctrines, borrowed from Christianity, are in part conveyed in a dignified and attractive form. Among the sacred duties of the faithful are daily prayer, during the offering of which the face must be directed towards Mecca, and not as formerly towards Jerusalem; a fast of thirty days in the month of Ramadan, the ninth of the Turkish year; the devotion of at least a tenth part of their income to charitable purposes; and certain prescribed ablutions and purifications of the body. Monachism and ascetic penances, the veneration of images, and indulgence in wine, are expressly prohibited.
The religion of Mahomed is sometimes called Islamism, and its professors Moslems or Mussulmans. The Coran or Alcoran is the rule of faith, the substance of which is considered eternal and uncreated; and Mahomed, who pretended to have received it leaf by leaf from the archangel Gabriel, regarded himself only as the editor. The contents of the Coran were embosomed from eternity in the divine mind alone, and written in rays of light upon the tables of his unchangeable counsel, until the archangel Gabriel communicated the revelation to Mahomed. Accordingly the Coran is a collection of numberless miracles; indeed every verse contains a wonder. At a later period, the Sunna, embodying oral precepts and traditions, was added to the Coran, but its introduction gave rise to two hostile religious parties, the Sunnites who receive the Sunna, among whom are the Turks; and the Schiites, who reject the Sunna as apocryphal. The Persians belong to the latter sect.
The Caaba, or national temple of the Mahomedans, erected at Mecca, is an object of the highest veneration, and every faithful believer is expected to perform at least one pilgrimage to its sacred shrine. The priests are called Imaums, and though, as above remarked, monachism is prohibited, there is, besides the priests proper, a kind of monks known by the name of Dervises, who, however, may be considered as travelling priests or missionaries.
Of the many marvellous exploits which the disciples of the prophet are fond of attributing to him, none can exceed in extravagance his wonderful night journey to the seventh heaven. Mounted upon a resplendent steed Al Borak (the lightning), he first rode out of the temple of Mecca to Jerusalem. Thence he ascended through measureless space, in company with the archangel Gabriel, to the seventh heaven, where he was saluted by patriarchs, prophets, and angels. Beyond this he beheld the throne of Allah himself, whose face was covered with twenty thousand veils (for no man could have looked on his undimmed glory and live) and was touched by the Almighty, who placed his hand upon his shoulder, which caused a freezing cold to run through the very marrow of his bones. After receiving several communications from Allah he descended by the ladder of light to Jerusalem, where he found Al Borak fastened as he had left him. He mounted the saddle, and returned to Mecca, having accomplished in a few hours a journey which would have required an ordinary traveller many thousand years.