James Reuel Smith.

Springs and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations online

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Ares, the Areopagus. The hill was a small, rocky, barren
height opposite and within bowshot of the western end
of the Acropolis.

The entrance to the chasm was fifty yards from a flight
of sixteen steps that led up to the bench of stone on which
sat the Areopagites the Judges of the Areopagus, the Mars'
Hill Court, for a long time the highest judicial tribunal
of Athens and the sittings of which were held in the open
air to avoid contamination of the judges by the presence
of the criminal. The litigants stood on tw6 white stones,
one called Rigor of the law, and the other, Impudence.

The first case tried in the Court was that of Poseidon
vs. Ares, the latter being charged with the murder of
Halirrhothius, and the twelve gods, to whom there was a
monument nearby, were the judges.

Subsequently Orestes was prosecuted in this court for
killing his mother Clytemnestra, the accusers being the
Semnae. In that case the jury was divided, the result
being, not a mistrial, but, an acquittal.


The failure of their case rendered the Semnas furious
and they threatened to vex Athens with plagues innumer-
able. But Athena bribed them to renounce their ven-
geance by promising them marriage dues and birth
offerings from the people, and in addition, this darksome
cavern. Afterwards they received the benefits of the
sacrifices that those who were acquitted in the Areopagus
Court were expected to make, and it is assumed that
CEdipus was the first contributor.

It has been stated that St. Paul was put on trial in the
Areopagus, but the 17th chapter of the Acts does not
seem to imply more than that the Apostle stood on Mars'
Hill and made a short address to certain philosophers
about idolatry and the resurrection.

The fountain was near the cave at the northwest angle
of the Acropolis which had been the meeting place of
Apollo and Creusa, the daughter of Erechtheus, whose
son Ion was the first ancestor of the Ionians.

Smith's Die. of Greek Geo.; "Athens."
.^schylus; Eumenides; line 778. In 683.



The Fountain of Clepsydra was near the Cave of
Apollo and Pan, a grotto in the Long Rocks on the north
side of the Acropolis.

The fountain was in ancient times called Empedo, its
later name being given because it was supposed to have
a subterranean communication with the harbor of

The only access to this fountain was from an enclosed
platform, on the Acropolis above it at the north of the


northern wing of the Propylaea, by a descent of 47 steps
cut in the rock and partially faced with marble.

The descent was arched with brick and opened out into
a small subterranean chapel in which was a Well sur-
rounded with a peristomium of marble, thirty feet below
which was the water. The Cave and the steps are repre-
sented on a coin preserved in the British Museum.

The water of this Well, which was also unfit for drink-
ing, was carried through a conduit to the Clepsydra or
town clock of Athens located in the center of the Horolo-
gium or Temple of the Winds, an octagonal structure
whose eight sides faced the usual Athenian winds and
bore figures representing them. It was forty-four feet in
height and was surmounted with the figure of a Triton
that turned on a pivot and indicated with a wand the
direction of the wind. Sundial gnomons on the sunlit
walls indicated the time of day.

Attached to the south side of the building was a turret
that contained the water that was the mainspring of the

The building was erected about the beginning of the
Christian Era and its remains are still visible north of the
Acropolis, as is also a portion of the conduit which in
later times was diverted to carry water to a mosque for
the religious ablutions of its Turkish congregation.

Smith's Die. of Greek Geo.; "Athens."


Pan and Apollo

North of the Acropolis, which was called at different
times the Rock, of Pallas, of Macrae, of Cecrops, there
were several caves, which Euripides says were the grottos


of Pan. One of them became associated with the name
of Apollo and was dedicated to him as a shrine.

Another of the caves, for it was assumably not the one
consecrated to Apollo, was similarly dedicated to Pan
when he complained that the Athenians were ignoring
him. This complaint was made to Pheidippides who
established a record, if not for truth, at least for speed, in
running the first race over the original Marathon course
in 490 B.C., to announce to the Athenians that the Per-
sians had been defeated on the plain of Marathon. He
expired as he gasped out the welcome news at the end of
his run of 26 miles and 385 yards, having no doubt over
strained himself in previously running from Athens to
Sparta in twenty-four hours, to solicit Lacedaemonian
assistance on the same battlefield — it was on this first
run that Pan intercepted him and made his complaint.

Pausanias says there was a Well near these caverns —
a Well that some moderns have seemingly taken for the
Spring called Clepsydra; but, as a Well is not usually
adapted for use as a bath, Cinesias would not have been
likely to recommend his frolicsome wife Myrrhina to
bathe in Clepsydra had Clepsydra not been an open

The recommendation was made in the cave of Pan, or
just before Cinesias and his wife reached it, at the time a
momentous movement was in progress among the women
of several districts of Greece.

This movement occurred during the long war between
Sparta and Athens in the beginning of the 4th century
B.C. when, all able-bodied men having been called away
from their homes to fight, the women of Athens, under
the leadership of Lysistrata the wife of an Athenian
official, decided to adopt a course that should speedily
bring about peace and restore to them their husbands


and their natural home life — the same course, in fact,
that some of the Suffragettes of the early part of the
20th century proposed to take, and that might have been
carried into effect if, after even the bare hint of it, the
different State legislatures had not hastened to confirm
the XlXth Amendment.

The beauties of various districts met on the Acropolis
at the call of Lysistrata who explained her plan, and
bound them, by a solemn oath taken over a large black
cup turned upsidedown, to a promise that whenever any
of the husbands returned home on furlough they would
make unusual efforts to beautify themselves with alkanet
root, cosmetics, perfumes, and depilatories; and would
bedeck themselves with fine linen, saffron-dyed robes,
sandals, and transparent Cimmerian vests ; using every
expedient to appear as charming and attractive as
possible, and in all respects comporting themselves to-
wards their spouses as in the days of courtship.

How the details of this scheme were individually
worked out is minutely told in an amusing account of the
way in which Cinesias, the first husband to return on
leave of absence, was received by Myrrhina.

Lysistrata forged another edge to this powerful weapon
by seizing the war chest that was kept in the Acropolis,
thereby shutting off the financial supplies accumulated
for the contractors and the army.

A feeble attempt was made by some of the old men
and a superannuated police force to smoke the women
away from the Acropolis and break up the organization,
but the ladies hastily procured pitchers of water from the
fountain and not only extinguished the smoky fires but
drenched the men, who made a hasty retreat and left the
women in full possession of the rock.

The fair charmers of Sparta having organized to pursue


a similar course, the males of the two States were very
shortly driven to appoint peace ambassadors; and they
hurriedly opened negotiations with Lysistrata, who
proved to be as wily in diplomacy as she was apt in the
art of coquetry. She pointed out the absurdity of internal
conflicts among the Greeks when there were so many
barbarians against whom the martially minded might
wage wars to their swords' content; she settled the con-
cessions to be made by each side, and arranged all matters
so much to the satisfaction of the contending parties
that, with complete unanimity, and in very short order, a
peace was concluded which restored to every wife her

The nearby cave associated with Apollo was a grotto
in which was conceived the first chapter of the long his-
tory of the Ionian people; a history that began with the
acceptance of Apollo's addresses by Creusa the daughter
of Erechtheus. And it was in the same grotto that Creusa,
later on, abandoned her baby son Ion the first of the
powerful Ionian line.

After the abandonment, Apollo showed a kindly in-
terest in the infant and had him taken to his Delphi
temple where the boy was brought up as one of the Fane's

Subsequently, Creusa married Xuthus and, when
several years had elapsed, the two went to Delphi to
arouse the oracle's sympathy in their childless condition
and to obtain some advice for its amelioration ; whereupon
the oracle suggested that they consider as their son the
first male that Xuthus met on leaving the temple. That
person, by a chance that Apollo perhaps made no attempt
to avert, was Ion; and from the warmth of their embraces
when the oracle's suggestion had been explained to him,
Creusa imagined that Ion was really the son of Xuthus,


and, as soon as possible, she attempted to have him drink
a poison draught of dragon's blood. The pious Ion
immediately poured a portion on the ground for the
deities and, noting the instant death of a pigeon that
pecked at the moisture, turned upon his unknown mother
and would have strangled her had not a priestess inter-
vened and by explaining the true situation brought about
cordial relations between the long-parted mother and son.
Ion was said to have succeeded Erechtheus as king of

With regard to Clepsydra it might be added that it
was an intermittent Spring, a feature that furnishes a
more likely explanation of its two names, than the reason
previously quoted (in No. 119), the occasional stoppage
of the water being called a theft in one name, and an im-
pediment in the older name of Empedo.

Euripides, "Ion"; lines 482 and 1.

Pausanias; I. 28.

Aristophanes, "Lysistrata"; lines 912, 838, and 326.



The Spring of the hero Panopus, possibly one of the
hundred that Timon had in mind, was outside of but near
the eastern wall of Athens, a little north of the Gate of
Diochares and about midway between that gate and the
Lyceum, a garden with a gymnasium, surrounded with
lofty plane trees and inseparably connected with Aris-
totle and his school of Peripatetics, the walking philo-

The fountain furnished a large supply of excellent
water, and made a brook that ran into the river Ilyssus
which passed a short distance to the south of it.


North of Aristotle's Lyceum and the fountain was the
cradle of the Cynic Philosophy adopted by Diogenes, the
name of which came from the school's garden, Cyno-
sarges, "White Dog, " because such an animal once stole
the sacrificial meat that was about to be offered there.

Panopus, sometimes called Panopeus, was the son of
Phocus who founded Panopeus, the town that had no
fountain; he was the twin brother of Crisus with whom
he quarreled before birth; and was the father of Epeus
the designer of the solitary wooden horse with which the
Greeks won the Trojan war.

Panopus took an oath to be honest, and possibly the
fountain received its name from having been called on to
witness that pledge, a pledge that it is disappointing to
find was taken in vain, for he stole a part of the booty
that was taken from the Teleboans.

Strabo; IX. i. § 19.



The Spring of Callichorus might perhaps be viewed as
the first fount of Free Masonry.

At its brink the goddess Ceres sat down on the Sorrow-
ful Stone and was ministered to by Triptolemus when
she had become weary from her wanderings in search of
her daughter Proserpine whom Pluto had cunningly
carried away and concealed in his nether realm.

And it was here, on the Rharian plain that, afterwards,
in gratitude for his sympathy she taught him how to
cultivate and harvest grain; how to use the ox as a thresh-
ing machine with his hoofs as flails; and showed him how
to prepare the grains for eating, in place of the acorns


and roots that formed the principal fare of the primitive

At the same time she planted in his mind the first seeds
of the rudiments of law, and of the rules of justice and
right living.

And thus the gulf that now separates civilized men
from the brutes has broadened out from the little trench
that was made to grow the first small crop of domesti-
cated wheat or barley that was raised around the Spring
of Callichorus and nourished to maturity by its fruitful

Here, too, the goddess originated those rites of the
Eleusinian Mysteries which continued to be performed at
the yearly festival of Ceres down to the time of Alaric.

They were the annual nine days' wonder of Greece, and
their inward signification is still, to this day, a puzzle to
the students of the Past, although their processions and
pageants were a public and absorbing spectacle and the
outward forms of their mystic meetings became known
in their minutest details, notwithstanding the most care-
ful precautions to keep them secret, and the dire penalties
imposed, alike upon informers on the inside, and spyers
on the outside.

The celebrations, which occurred in spring and in
autumn, apparently preceded the rise of Hellenic mythol-
ogy, and, in the first instance perhaps consisted of a
simple rustic song and dance that were maybe addressed
to and performed for the Spring, as personifying the
patroness of the farmers, and conducted in commemora-
tion of her civilizing agricultural teachings to the kindly

But, later, the temple the order required for its ritual
became the largest of the sacred edifices in all Greece;
it was presided over by a Priest called the Hierophant,


and the initiates took an oath of secrecy which was re-
peated with awful ceremonies.

Any revelation about these secret ceremonies was
punished by death, and a similar penalty was imposed
upon any uninitiated person who became a spectator of
the rites, either through curiosity or by chance.

When the autumn proceedings had reached their most
elaborate stage, nine days were required for the celebra-
tion which began on the 15th of Boedromion, the third
month of the Attic year which corresponded to the
present month of September.

The fifth day was called the Day of Torches, and was
thought to symbolize the wanderings of Ceres and her
visit to the Spring.

Theodosius abolished the Eleusinian celebrations in the
IVth Century a.d., but college girls still recall them in
annual dances and pantomimes.

Eleusis was near the sea and opposite the island of
Salamis. It was destroyed by Alaric in 396 A.D., but
since the XVIth Century its site has been occupied by a
little village called Lepsina ; and a Well where two roads
meet near the village is thought to be best located to
prefer claim to being the original source of Callichorus.

Pausanias; I. 38.

Callimachus; Hymn to Demeter.

Ovid. Fasti; IV. line 502.


The Well of Flowers

Along the side of the road that led from Eleusis to
Megara, there was a Well called The Well of Flowers.

Pamphos records that it was at this Well that Demeter
sat in the guise of an old woman after the rape of Proser-


pine, and that she was taken thence as an old woman of
the country by the daughters of Celeus to Metanira their
mother. And not far from the Well was the temple of
Metanira the mother of Triptolemus, and next to it the
tombs of those that fell at Thebes, and were buried in
the time of Creon.

Next to the tombs of those heroes was the tomb of
Alope who was killed by her father Cercyon for having
flirted with Poseidon, if indeed he was not only too glad
of that pretext to exercise his innate brutality which was
otherwise shown in his practise of inducing strangers to
compete with him in wrestling matches, in the course of
which he always killed them. At last, however, he en-
countered Theseus who overcame him and on the strength
of that record successfully established training schools to
teach the art, and is credited with being the first one to
elevate the exercise to a science. He seems to have
taught a rudimentary Jiu Jitsu that enabled quickness
and agility to overcome strength and bulk which, pre-
viously, had been relied upon alone for victory in contests
where, except with such antagonists as the cruel Cercyon,
the object was to throw one's opponent to the ground.

Pamphos was a very ancient authority who lived
before the time of Homer, but no modern observer seems
to have seen a water source that might represent his Well
and it is to be hoped, for the sake of its pretty name, that
it ceased to flow through some natural cause, and that it
is unnecessary to suppose that it is really the Well of
Callichorus that Pamphos called the Well of Flowers —
and so misled Pausanias. In his Hymn to Ceres, line
162, Homer, apparently following the version of Pamphos,
calls Callichorus a hill, and refers to Parthenius as a

Pausanias I. 39.



Near the empurpled hills of blooming Hymettus there
was a sacred Spring around which the ground was soft
with verdant turf and velvety grass intermingled with
the tiny trefoil, and perfumed with rosemary, laurel, and
the swarthy myrtle.

Strawberries and other lowly plants crept among the
grasses with their brightening blooms, and laid their
luscious fruits about in wild profusion. Above these, and
many an odorous, lovely flower besides, slender trees with
interspreading foliage formed a grove where the leaves of
the box, the tamarisk, and the garden pine, moved by the
gentle zephyrs and the balmy air, murmured soft sounds
as with light caressing touch they fondled each other and
quivered in the cooling breeze.

Here, when the grasses undulated and the many kinds
of leaves nodded in joyful recognition to the visiting
zephyrs, Cephalus, who had wedded Procris, the daughter
of King Erechtheus of Athens, was wont to repair and
sprinkle his glowing face with the waters of the fountain,
and to call aloud in sportive mood to the breeze to come
and fan him after the heating exercises of the chase.

Procris one day hearing this jesting address to the
wind, mistook the name for that of a rival, and, rushing
towards the Spring in jealous anger, parted the rudely
obstructing branches with so much vigor that Cephalus,
fancying a wild beast was approaching, launched his
javelin in the direction of the crackling twigs and

This javelin, as appears in the account of the Spring of
Psamathe, had the unusual endowment of never missing
its mark, and of always returning to the hand of the


thrower, and in this instance it pierced the heart of
Procris who fell forward into the arms of her agonized
husband and expired a few moments later, after being
convinced that her jealousy had been groundless.

Cephalus was tried before the Court of the Areopagus
which acquitted him of all but a lack of due diligence, for
which he was sentenced to perpetual banishment from
Athens. He went to live on the largest island in the
Ionian Sea, an island belonging to him, and called after
him Cephallenia, but, driven to distraction with remorse,
crossed over to the opposite promontory of Leucata and
took the lover's leap from* it, being either the first to do
so, or the next after Sappho.

Heat- scarred rocks and scraggly bushes have, for the
most part, taken the places of the former verdure that
brightened the banks of the stream that flowed from the
Spring of Eridanus, bur the neighborhood of the Spring
itself, at Syriani, is described by modern travelers as still
a spot of striking beauty.

Ovid. Art of Love ; III. In 689.
Pausanias; I. 37.



The Fountain Cephisia rose in a town of the same
name which was one of the twelve original cities of King
Cecrops whose inhabitants he brought together in what
became Athens.

This Spring was the most distant source of the Cephis-
sus river, the Spring at Trinemeis which Strabo mentions
as the beginning of the little stream being now said to be
only a minor tributary's head.

In ancient times the Spring failed in the summer but it


has improved and grown steadier with age, as the river
is now said to be the only one in Attica thai is supplied
with water during the entire year.

The town is at present called Kivisia and lies at the
foot of Mt. Pentelicus, nine miles northeast of Athens.
It is a favorite summer residence of the present-day
Athenians, and in one of its many shady groves the
transparent waters of the fountain now flow in a generous
stream even when other Springs are dried by summer

Pliny; IV. n.
Strabo; IX. i. § 20.



The Spring of Macaria was in the Plain of Marathon
and received its name in the century before the Trojan
war, when it was used to insure victory to the Athenian

One very naturally fancies that, seven centuries later
in B.C. 490, when the Athenians in the same Plain were
about to begin the historic battle of Marathon with the
Persians, the Greek leaders did not fail to point to the
fountain and assure their soldiers that the Spring that
had insured victory to their ancestors could be confi-
dently relied upon to bring about (as it did) the defeat of
the Persians they were on the point of attacking.

In the ante-Troy battle, however, Greek met Greek
and not a foreign foe. The descendants of Hercules who
were called the Heracleidse desired to recover certain dis-
tricts in Greece which they claimed on the ground that
Hercules had subdued them, and they went to the Athen-
ians to enlist their assistance; whereupon Eurystheus


who had imposed the dozen hard labors on Hercules, and
who had no love for his children, demanded that the
Athenians surrender the Heracleidae to him. On their
refusal so to do preparations were made to enforce the
demand, and, on the part of the Athenians, to resist;
preparations that began as usual with requests that the
Oracle would foreshadow the outcome.

The reply, to the Athenians, was that they would lose
unless one of the children of Hercules should voluntarily

Then Macaria, the daughter of Dejaneira and Hercules,
sacrificed herself in order that the allies and her relatives
might conquer; and the fountain received its name from
her act of heroism, a heroism all the more worthy of
homage when it is considered that in one abnormally
long but incomplete list of 66 children of Hercules
every one was a putative hero save fond Macaria, who
was the only heroine, unless there was another daugh-
ter among the 72 children that Aristotle says Hercules

Iolaus, the son of Iphicles who was half brother to,
and one night younger than Hercules, received permis-
sion to return from the lower regions to engage in this
battle, in which he slew Eurystheus, and dragging him to
the fountain there beheaded him.

The spot was close to the chariot road and was ever
afterwards called "Eurystheus' head."

The Spring of Macaria still issues from the foot of some
rocks on the northern side of the level and grassy Plain
which is Marathon, and forms a marsh into which the
Persians, in the historical battle, were driven and drowned
in large numbers.

Pausanias; I. 32.
Strabo; VIII. 6. §19.




The Fountain Larine is said by Pliny to have been in
Attica, but he gives no particulars about it or its pecu-
liarities or its exact position.

Pliny; IV. 11.


Attic Fountain

There was an Attic Fountain celebrated in the "Phae-
drus " of Plato, the Athenian comic poet. He is supposed
to have lived about 400 B.C., but there is little left of his
works save a list of the titles of the plays, although he was
considered next to Aristophanes in popularity.

Strabo; IX. i. § 24.




Following one of the many traditions that Greek his-
torians furnish, it may be said that the vicinity of Thebes
was first inhabited by the Ectenes under King Ogygus,
and was called Ogygae.

These people were carried off by a pestilence and were
replaced by the Hyantes and the Aones whom Cadmus

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 11 of 46)