The aim of this book is to present a complete and entertaining account of Grecian and Roman mythology in such a manner that the student will appreciate its great influence upon literature and art.
These myths, an inexhaustible fund of inspiration for the poets and artists of the past, have also inspired many noted modern works. To impress this fact forcibly upon the student, appropriate quotations from the poetical writings of all ages, from Hesiod’s “Works and Days,” to Tennyson’s “Œnone,” have been inserted in the text, while reproductions of ancient masterpieces and noted examples of modern painting and sculpture are plentifully used as illustrations.
The myths are told as graphically and accurately as possible, great care being taken, however, to avoid the more repulsive features of heathen mythology; and when two or more versions of the same myth occur, the preference has invariably been given to the most popular, that is to say, to the one which has inspired the greatest works.
Both the Latin and the Greek forms of proper names are given, but the Latin names are usually retained throughout the narrative, because more frequently used in poetry and art.
The closing chapter includes an analysis of myths by the light of philology and comparative mythology, and the philological explanation of the stories related in the preceding chapters.
A map, genealogical table, and complete glossary and index adapt this little volume for constant use in the library and art gallery, at home and abroad.
MYTHOLOGY is the science which treats of the early traditions, or myths, relating to the religion of the ancients, and includes, besides a full account of the origin of their gods, their theory concerning the beginning of all things.
Myths of creation. Among all the nations scattered over the face of the earth, the Hebrews alone were instructed by God, who gave them not only a full account of the creation of the world and of all living creatures, but also a code of laws to regulate their conduct. All the questions they fain would ask were fully answered, and no room remained for conjecture.
It was not so, however, with the other nations. The Greeks and Romans, for instance, lacking the definite knowledge which we obtain from the Scriptures, and still anxious to know everything, were forced to construct, in part, their own theory. As they looked about them for some clue to serve as guide, they could not help but observe and admire the wonders of nature. The succession of day and night, summer and winter, rain and sunshine; the fact that the tallest trees sprang from tiny seeds, the greatest rivers from diminutive streams, and the most beautiful flowers and delicious fruits from small green buds,—all seemed to tell them of a superior Being, who had fashioned them to serve a definite purpose.
They soon came to the conclusion that a hand mighty enough to call all these wonders into life, could also have created the beautiful Earth whereon they dwelt. These thoughts gave rise to others; suppositions became certainties; and soon the following myth or fable was evolved, to be handed down from generation to generation.
At first, when all things lay in a great confused mass,—
“Ere earth, and sea, and covering heavens, were known,
The face of nature, o’er the world, was one;
And men have call’d it Chaos; formless, rude,
The mass; dead matter’s weight, inert, and crude;
Where, in mix’d heap of ill-compounded mold,
The jarring seeds of things confusedly roll’d.”
Ovid (Elton’s tr.).
The Earth did not exist. Land, sea, and air were mixed up together; so that the earth was not solid, the sea was not fluid, nor the air transparent.
“No sun yet beam’d from yon cerulean height; No orbing moon repair’d her horns of light; No earth, self-poised, on liquid ether hung; No sea its world-encla