Page images


What is said of Felicity?

What is said of Hope?

What is related of Eternity?

What do you observe of Time?

What is said of Virtue?

What do you say of Truth?

What were the different provinces of Concordia, Pax, and Fides?

What do you say of Liberty?

How is Licentiousness represented?

What is said of Silence?

How was Pudicitia represented?

How was Astræa represented?

In what way was Fortune represented?
How was Opportunity depicted?


Origin of Peculiar Deities.

PERPLEXED and awed by the development and progress of events, the causes of which they could not penetrate, blind and bigoted man proceeded to deify those imaginary or real evils which agitated him, and excited his superstitious fears, and to such chimeras, offered up vows and prayers. The period in which this kind of worship commenced, is enveloped in uncertainty. In battles, Fear and Flight mingled in the The two sons of Medea train of the god of war. having been massacred by the Corinthians, a cruel plague destroyed a part of their children. The Oracle ordered them to sacrifice to the manes, irritated by those innocent victims, and to raise at the same time a statue to Fear. She was represented with hair standing on end, an elevated visage, an open mouth, and troubled looks.-See Fig. 62.

Paleness was represented by a lean and lengthened figure, hair pulled down, and fixed looks. The Lacedæmonians had placed the temple of Fear near the tribunal of the Ephori in order to inspire the wicked

[blocks in formation]

with the fear of a severe chastisement. Fear was always added to the other gods when oaths were pronounced.

Atea or Discord was driven from Olympus by Jupiter, because she endeavoured to embroil the gods, and she came to the earth to exercise her furies. To this cruel goddess were attributed wars, quarrels, and dissensions in families. It was she who cast amid the banquet prepared for the nuptials of Peleus, the fatal apple, with this inscription: To the Fairest. Prayers, her sisters, run after her, to repair the evils she causes; but they are lame, and their cruel sister always outruns them.-See Fig. 63.

Obs. It would be tedious, as well as useless, to name all the ancient deities. In general, the Romans, and the Greeks before them, adored virtues, passions, vices, and even unlooked-for events. Every one could create some new god at pleasure. When travellers, while traversing a river or a forest, experienced some unexpected danger or surprise, they erected an altar, adorned it with some attributes; and those monuments of caprice were respected, often even adored, by those whom chance led near them. It will always be easy to supply the numerous list which, not to fatigue our readers, we suppress. The poets and the ancients are vainly fond of alluding to those deities in their works, and of pourtraying their influence and effects. It is, therefore, an easy matter to become familiar with them, by studying them as they appear bedecked with the charms and ornaments of poetry.

[blocks in formation]


Comus, Momus, Esculapius, and Friendship.

COMUS presided over banquets and feasts. He is well known by name. Every painter has a right to take his imagination for his guide, when he wishes to represent him. See Fig. 64.

MOMUS, the satirist of heaven, the god of raillery and jesting, and the patron of carping and censorious fellows, was the son of Erebus and Nox. His genius lay in finding fault, and turning into ridicule even the actions of the gods themselves. Though at first his bitter jests were admired, they ultimately caused him to be turned off from the celestial court in disgrace.

Of the first man that Vulcan had fashioned, Momus said, that he ought to have placed a window in his breast, through which his inmost thoughts might have been seen. When Neptune had formed the bull, he observed that the eyes were too far from the horns to insure an effective blow. Having examined the house which Minerva had built, and having found it complete both within and without, he merely observed that it was not on wheels, so that, if necessary, it could be moved from a bad neighbourhood. Finding no fault in the shape of Venus, he said that her sandals made a loud noise as she walked.

He is usually depicted as holding a small figure of folly in one hand, and raising a mask from his face with the other, under which a satirical smile beams from his countenance.-See Fig. 65.

Obs. We learn from the fable of Momus, that when quibbling objections are raised against the finest conceptions, and the most beautiful works, they excite the laughter merely of the ignorant, the frivolous, the sensual, and the thoughtless.

ESCULAPIUS, the god of medicine, was the son of Apollo, by the nymph Coronis. After his mother had been shot for her infidelity by Apollo, he was exposed on a mountain, and suckled by a she-goat. A shep



herd thought he saw him surrounded with light, and brought him home. Esculapius was brought up by Trigona, the wife of the shepherd, and was afterwards entrusted to the care of the Centaur Chiron, who taught him the art of medicine. He is fabled to have sprung out of a crow's egg, under the form of a serpent.

He attended the Argonauts in their expedition to Colchis, in the capacity of a physician. Upon his return home, he performed many wonderful cures, and raised many of the dead to life, of which Pluto complained to Jupiter, who killed him with thunder-bolts. Apollo, to avenge the death of his son, slew the Cyclops, who had forged those formidable weapons.

Esculapius was chiefly worshipped at Epidaurus. He had also a temple at Rome, and was worshipped there under the form of a serpent. To him were sacrificed a goat, because he is said to have been nourished by that animal, and a cock, which is considered the most vigilant of all birds; for watchfulness was considered one of the most essential qualifications of a physician.

He appears as an old man, with a beard, and a crown of laurel, leaning on a staff, around which a serpent twines. The knots in his staff represent the difficulties to be found in studying medicine.-See Fig. 66.

By Epione he had two sons, Machon and Podalirius, famous in the Trojan war, and four daughters, of whom Hygeia is the most celebrated.

HYGEIA, the goddess of health, was held in great veneration, and was represented in the most engaging forms. Her statues exhibited her as a beautiful young virgin, holding a serpent wreathed around her arm, and feeding out of a cup which she held in her hand.

Obs. 1.-The singular name of Esculapius, whom the Greeks called Asclepios, seems to have been derived from the oriental languages. It is certain that Esculapius was known in Phoenicia before he was introduced into Greece. Sanchoniathon, the most an

cient of the Phoenician authors, mentions an Æsculapius, son of Sydie or the Just, and of a princess of the family of the Titans. He was king of Memphis, and brother to the first Mercury, and lived two centuries before the deluge, which period was more than one thousand years before the Greek Esculapius flourished.

Obs. 2. The serpent becomes the symbol of Æsculapius; and is, at the same time, the symbol of prudence, a quality necessary to a physician. It was supposed to be the most long lived of animals, and is usually the emblem of health and immortality, from the circumstance of its annually shedding its slough, and seeming to renew its youth.

We shall close our account of the peculiar deities by describing FRIENDSHIP. The Greeks and Romans granted divine honours to her. The Greeks called her Philia, and the Romans called her Amicitia, and painted her in the form of a young woman, with her head uncovered, clad in a very plain garment, with these words at the bottom of the raiment, DEATH AND LIFE. On her forehead was written, WINTER AND SUMMER. One of her hands held a legend upon which was written, FAR AND NEAR. These words and symbols signified that Friendship did not grow old; that she is equal in all seasons, during absence and presence, in life and death; that she is exposed to every thing to serve a friend, and that she hides nothing from him. This last thought was expressed by one of her hands leaning on her heart.-See Fig. 67.


What is said of Comus?

Who was Momus?

Mention some instances of his critical severity,

How is Momus depicted?

Who was Esculapius?

What is farther said of him?

How was Esculapius honoured?

How is he represented?

Had he any children?

Say something respecting Hygeia.

How do we close the description of the Peculiar Deities?

« PreviousContinue »