« PreviousContinue »
My absent parents rose before my sight,
And distant lay contentment and delight.
Hear then the woes which mighty Jove ordained
Odyssey, book 9.
ENEAS was the son of Venus and Anchises, and the pupil of the famous Chiron; he married Creusa, daughter of Priam, king of Troy, and had by her a son, named Ascanius, who, after his father's death, reigned in Alba, and through whom the Romans traced their descent from the gods. Æneas greatly distinguished himself during the Trojan war; and it is said that when Troy was in flames, he carried away his father Anchises, and his son Ascanius, with the statues of his household gods, and the genuine Palladium. After many and devious wanderings, he set sail from Sicily for Italy, but adverse' winds drove him on the coast of Africa, where he was kindly received by Dido, or Elisa, queen of Carthage, who became enamoured of him, and wished to have espoused him ; but he was commanded by the gods to quit Carthage, and again trust his fortune to the waves. This voyage was disas
trous, and prolonged for seven years, at the expiration of which term he landed on the shores of the Tiber; (according to Dionysius Halicarnassus, this took place in the fifty-fourth Olympiad) where Latinus, the sovereign of the country, hospitably received him, and promised him in marriage his daughter, Lavinia, although she had been betrothed by her mother, Amata, before his arrival, to Turnus, king of the Rutuli. The contest for her hand was decided by single combat, in which Turnus fell beneath the arms of his victorious rival, who immediately received the fair Lavinia as the reward of his prowess, and succeeded her father on the Latian throne. He built the town of Lavinium, so named from his wife, and after a short reign, fell in a battle against the Etrurians, (although some assert that he was drowned in the Numicus,) and his body not being found, his subjects concluded that he had been taken up to heaven; in pursuance of which idea, they offered sacrifices to him, and adored him as a god.
His appearance at the court of Dido is thus described by Virgil ;
The Trojan chief appeared in open sight,
Had formed his curling locks, and made his temples shine,
And given his rolling eyes a sparkling grace,
Eneid, book 1.
We think it necessary, for the information of the juvenile reader, to subjoin short notices of the celebrated Poets of antiquity, to whose writings we are indebted for the illustrations of the gods, which are to be found in the course of this work.
HOMER, "the Prince of Poets, ancient or modern, is of an antiquity so great, that the heathen writers have not been at all able to determine the era at which he flourished; some placing him about 160 years before the foundation of Rome; others supposing that he lived 968, B. C. "In his two celebrated poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer has displayed the most consummate knowledge of human nature, and rendered himself immortal by the sublimity, the fire, sweetness, and elegance of his poetry. He deserves a greater share of admiration when we consider that he wrote without a model, and that none of his poetical imitators have been able to surpass, or perhaps, to equal their great master. If there are any faults in his poetry, they are to be attributed to the age in which he lived, and not to him."
Seven cities in Greece,-Smyrna, Chios, Colophon, Salamis, Rhodes, Argos, and Athens-have contended for the honour of giving birth to Homer; but Scio is generally supposed to have been his natal place: he has been pathetically identified with that island by a great modern poet, as,
"The blind old man of Scio's rocky isle."
His blindness, however, has been disputed, as also the extreme poverty in which he is said to have lived, and which is alluded to in the well known lines
"Seven Grecian towns contend for Homer dead,
Through which the living Homer begged his bread."
Alexander was so much attached to the writings of Homer, that he generally slept with them under his pillow; and having taken a matchless casket among Darius' spoils, he placed the Iliad in it, considering it the most precious thing he had in his possession.
Homer has not, in the course of his works, ventured to prophecy the fame which should attend them; but Ovid, in referring to the death of Achilles, has the following passage,
And now the terror of the Trojan field,