Page images

highly celebrated in the odes of Anacreon, who constantly speaks of him as the mirth-inspiring god—the presiding deity of festive meetings.

The Bacchanalia, or orgies introduced by Danaus and his daughters into Greece, were sacred to Bacchus, and were usually commemorated with licentious rites.

Bacchus is sometimes represented as a young man, with flowing robes and hair, crowned with vine-leaves, a thyrsus in his hand, and surrounded by satyrs and nymphs, dancing to the sound of musical instruments, with garlands of ivy, vineleaves, grapes, &c.; at others, as an old man, but with nearly the same appendages. He was regarded as a beneficent deity, and taught mankind the art of agriculture, the manner of procuring honey, and, what was to him far more essential, the cultivation of the vine, from the fruit of which he drew his soul-inspiring draughts.

Thou mighty Bromius, hail! from lightning sprung!
Hail, Thyon! Eleleus! each name is thine!

Or listen, parent of the genial vine!
Iacchus ! Evan! loudly they repeat,
And not one Grecian attribute forget,
Which to thy praise, great deity, belong,
Styled justly Liber in the Roman song:
Eternity of youth is thine ! enjoy

Years rolled on years, yet still a blooming boy.

Thou taught'st the tawny Indian to obey,
And Ganges, smoothly flowing, owned thy sway.
Lycurgus, Pentheus, equally profane,

By thy just vengeance equally were slain.

By thee the Tuscans, who conspired to keep
Thee captive, plunged, and cut with fins the deep;
With painted reins, all-glittering from afar,
The spotted lynxes proudly draw thy car;
Around, the Bacchæ, and the Satyrs throng;
Behind, Silenus, drunk, lags slow along;
On his dull ass he nods from side to side,
Forbears to fall, yet half forgets to ride.
Still, at thy near approach, applauses loud
Are heard, with yellings of the female crowd.
Timbrels, and boxen pipes, with mingled cries,
Swell up in sounds confused, and rend the skies.
Come, Bacchus, come propitious, all implore,
And act thy sacred orgies o'er and o'er!

OVID'S Metamorphoses, book 4.


Æolus was the reputed son of Jupiter and Sergesta, king of the winds and storms; he reigned in the Æolian Isles, the cluster now known by the name of Lipari; during the wanderings of Ulysses, after the Trojan war, he touched at Æolia, and this god bestowed upon him a bag, containing all the winds likely to obstruct his passage in his return to his beloved Ithaca; but his benevolent purpose was frustrated by the sailors, who, imagining that the bag contained treasure, opened it before they reached the port, and were in consequence driven back, and much delayed. The principal agents

of Æolus were Boreas, the god of the north wind; Eurus, of
the east; Auster, of the south; and Zephyrus of the west.
Alcyone, the daughter of Æolus, according to Ovid, was
united to Ceyx, the king of Trachinia, and grieved so intensely
upon hearing of his shipwreck, that the gods compassionately
changed them both into Halcyons. Eolus is represented as
an old man, surrounded by the winds personified, whose
impetuous career he appears with difficulty to restrain.
Ulysses thus describes the gift of Æolus :—

"This happy port affords our wand'ring fleet
A month's reception, and a safe retreat.
Full oft the monarch urged me to relate
The fall of Ilion, and the Grecian fate:
Full oft I told; at length for parting moved :
The king, with mighty gifts, my suit appoved.
The adverse winds in leathern bags he braced,
Compressed their force, and locked each struggling blast.
For him the mighty sire of gods assigned

The tempests' lord, and tyrant of the wind;
His word alone the listening storms obey,
To smooth the deep, or swell the foaming sea,
These in my hollow ship the monarch hung,
Securely fettered by a silver thong;
But Zephyrus exempt, with friendly gales
He charged to fill and guide the swelling sails:
Rare gift! but oh, what gift to fools avails!"

HOMER'S Odyssey, book 10.

[ocr errors]


According to some authors, Janus was the son of Cœlus and Hecaté; others affirm that Apollo was his father, and Thessaly his birth-place; it is universally acknowledged that he was the most ancient king who reigned in Italy, where, on the banks of the river Tiber, he built the town of Janiculum, and enjoyed the sovereignty of it until Saturn being expelled from heaven by the conspiracy of his sons, sought a refuge with Janus, who kindly entertained him, and gave him a share of his dominion. By the advice of the nymph Egeria, Numa Pompilius erected a temple of brass, and dedicated it to Janus,

« PreviousContinue »