James Reuel Smith.

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

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medes, and became famous as early as the VHIth cen-
tury before Christ; it was destroyed by fire 548 B.C. and
was rebuilt by the Amphictyones at a cost of nearly
$600,000. This, the fifth temple, seems to have endured
to the end.

From the goatherd's cleft covered with a hut, the
sacred precincts had expanded, in the time of the fifth
temple, to an enclosure of such extent that several en-
trances were required to accommodate the visitors, and
they contained a number of buildings that housed a
collection of a quantity, quality and value that made the
cost of the temple commensurate. In its vestibule the
Seven Wise Men of Greece, Bias, Chilo, Cleobulus, Pitta-
cus, Solon, Thales and Myson, had placed short precepts


useful to the conduct of human affairs, such as, "Know
Thyself," and "Nothing immoderately."

The collection included paintings, carvings and statu-
ary, relics and treasure.

The paintings portrayed the drama of Greece from
the rising of the curtain, and made everyone intimately
familiar with the actors and their features.

The statuary was by artists of such renown that to-
day even fragments, broken pieces of their works, are
treasures for modern museums, and standards whose
approximate perfection living artists still emulate with-
out excelling. The temple in the time of Pliny had three
thousand statues and contained one of Apollo made in
pure gold; and Athenaeus says there was one of Phryne,
by Praxiteles, also of solid gold.

Crates called it " a votive offering of the profligacy of

The relics ranged from the sacred stone that Cronus
swallowed, to the iron chair that the poet Pindar sat in
when he visited the temple, a piece of furniture that to-
day would take precedence of Shakespeare's seat in

The arms that heroes bore and the armor that they
wore were displayed to mark their gratitude to the gods
for victory, and to kindle or keep alive the fighting fire
of their successors.

And to the artistic and historic value of many of the
objects was added the intrinsic merit of the pure metal of
which they were made.

The name of the fountain of Castalia is stated variously
to have been derived ; from a daughter of Achelous ; from
a male native, Castalius; and from Castalia, a nymph of

The names of several of the features in the neighbor-


hood of Castalia are usually connected with Apollo and
his intimate associates; thus, the name Delphi came from
Delphos the son of Apollo and Celaeno ; and the Pythian
cave was called after Delphos' son, Pythis; while the
nymph Corycia, a companion of Apollo, gave her name
to the Corycian cavern.

Castalia, which still continues with undiminished flow,
is now called Ai Ianni, from a small chapel of St. John
standing above one corner of its basin; and the same name
is given to the whole course of the rivulet down to the
Pleistus. It lies between 200 and 300 yards to the east of
the upper extremity of the present village of Castri, or
Kustri, which occupies a portion of the site of the ancient
town of Delphi, and is on the right hand in entering a
narrow fissure which separates the two renowned Par-
nassian summits. This fissure is called Bear Ravine and
forms the bed of a torrent originating in the upper region
of Parnassus.

Castalia itself is a copious pool of very cool and pure
water at the foot of a perpendicular excavation overhung
with ivy, saxifrage and rock plants, around which grow
some larger shrubs. In front there is a large fig tree, and
near the road a spreading plane, which is said to be the
only one in Castri, and is fabled to have been planted by

Ancient commendation of the fountain's water is con-
firmed by the natives who consider it as lighter, more
agreeable, and more wholesome than the water of Cas-
sotis. The pool is not only kept constantly full by
subterranean supplies, but affords also a small stream
flowing out of the basin into the bed of the Arkud horema.
The natural pool of the Castalian Spring was enlarged,
deepened, and made more commodius in ancient times,
by an excavation in the rock, both vertically and hori-


zontally ; and the steps to it seem to show that the sub-
terranean supply was not always equal; in summer
perhaps not reaching above the lowest steps, but filling
the basin in winter, when an outlet channel at the back
prevented the water from rising above the upper step.
This channel, however, no longer serves its original pur-
pose, the Kastrites, who use the basin for washing
clothes, having cut an opening from the upper steps, so
that the depth of water in the basin can never be so great
as it was anciently.

The present chapel of St. John may perhaps occupy
the place of the heroum of Autonous which is described
by Herodotus as having been at the foot of Mt. Hyam-
peia near the fountain of Castalia.

The poet Byron who visited Greece in 1809 wrote;
"A little above the village of Castri is a cave supposed
to be the Pythian, of immense depth; the upper part of it
is paved and is now used as a cow-house.

"On the other side of Castri stands a monastery, some
way above which is a cleft in the rock with a range
of caverns difficult of ascent and apparently leading to
the interior of the mountain, probably to the Corycian
cavern. From this part descend the fountain and the
dews of Castalia."

One of the poet's companions wrote; "We were
sprinkled with the spray of the immortal rill; we drank
deep of the Spring but without feeling sensible of any
extraordinary effect." Later on, Byron wrote; "At
Castri we drank of half a dozen streamlets, some not of
the purest, before we decided to our own satisfaction
which was the true Castalian, and even that had a vil-
lainous tang, probably from the snow, though it did not
throw us into an epic fever like poor Dr. Chandler."

Before this, however, and on the spot, Byron himself,


if not feverish was at least more fervid, for he wrote some
stanzas of "Childe Harold" at the Spring, and, seeing a
flight of twelve eagles, was inclined to regard it as an
omen propitious to his future career.

There was a laurel tree near the Spring whose leaves
supplied the ordinary decorations for the temple altar,
but when large quantities were required they were pro-
cured from the vale of Tempe, and Plutarch, in his
"Dialogue on Music," gives a pleasant picture of the
youth to whom this duty fell, wending his way always
attended by a player on the flute.

The modern method by which a languishing maid,
having plucked a leaf, secretly reads the mind of an un-
certain youth, as the leaf grows dull or bright when im-
merged in a Spring, is similar to a mode of divination
practiced by the ancients, an instance of which is men-
tioned in the history of the Roman Emperor Hadrian
who went to consult the fountain of Castalia, at Daphne
and, plucking a leaf from its laurel tree, dipped it into the
sacred Spring.

In Shakespeare's time the laurel leaves gave equally
momentous messages, as is indicated in "Richard II.":
where the Welsh Captain says to the Earl of Salisbury; —
" 't is thought the King is dead, we will not stay; the bay
trees in our country all are withered."

Hence, as the home of the most ancient of the Sibyls,
who lived before the time of the Trojan war, was by the
Castalian Spring, and as her name was Daphne, and as
one Greek word means both Daphne and laurel, it might
seem as though the first of the fateful and much prized
leaves of the Sibyls were those that were plucked from the
laurel by the fountain of Castalia.

Moore writes of this Spring in his poem, "From the
High Priest of Apollo";—


"There is a cave beneath the steep,
Where living rills of crystal weep
O'er herbage of the loveliest hue
That ever spring begemmed with dew;
There oft the greensward's glossy tint
Is brightened by the recent print
Of many a Faun and Naiad's feet —
Scarce touching earth, their step so fleet —
That there, by moonlight's ray had trod,
In light dance, o'er the verdant sod."

Castalia is supposed by some authorities to be the
fountain that Homer calls Delphusa in his Hymn to

It might appear indelicate to reflect here upon the
reputation of Castalia; but occasion is found, when
describing Aganippe and pleading that justice be done her,
to add a few words about the prevalent fallacy that
Castalia was the inspiring fountain of the Muses.

Pausanias; X. 8.



The fountain of Cassotis was a little north of the
temple of Apollo and to the east of the stone that Cronus
swallowed in place of Zeus. In the time of Pausanias,
who is the only writer who uses the name Cassotis, the
Spring was walled in; but its waters ran under the wall
and through a rocky channel into the vapor-exuding
chasm over which the Pythia sat when in her trances,
which is perhaps why her inspiration came to be at-
tributed to the water instead of as originally to the
chasm vapor.


At present Delphi is devoid of all volcanic vapors.

The Spring received its name from one of the nymphs
of Parnassus.

Higher up on the hillside, north of the Spring, there
was an art gallery containing paintings. That gallery
was called The Lounge because in old times the people
of Delphi assembled there to discuss both serious and
trifling subjects. Lounges it seems, according to Homer,
were favorite places for the gathering of gossipy Grecians ;
in the rural districts, smithies were made use of for the
same purpose, and, in both, the frequenters were wont to
refresh themselves with naps in the intervals of their dis-
cussions and story telling.

Cassotis was for a time identified with the Spring of
Kerna or Krene; but later, with the Spring near the
church of St. Nicolaus where there are some remains of
an old wall; while the water that springs out of the
ground lower down, at what is called Hellenico, is sup-
posed to be from the stream that was formerly conducted
to the Pythia's chasm, and which, being dammed up by
debris from the temple, has found a different exit for
itself. Owing to this change in the position of Cassotis,
Kerna is now supposed to be the fountain anciently
called Delphusa, although some authorities consider that
Delphusa was the name by which Homer knew Castalia
and celebrated it in his Hymn to Apollo.

Pausanias; X. 24.


The Corycian Cave

There were a number of bubbling Springs in the Cory-
cian cavern, the most remarkable of all caves known


to the ancients, and of all of them the best worth a

It was a cave on Mt. Parnassus and there was an easy
access to it at a point marked by a brass statue sixty
stadia from Delphi, on the road that ran from that town
to Parnassus. It was 200 feet long and 40 feet high ; and
was connected with a side cavern about half as large.

One of the ancient approaches to it was by a continuous
winding flight of a thousand or more steps cut out of the
rock of the mountain side.

It was called after the nymph Corycia, of whom Apollo
was once enamored, and is not to be confounded with the
near-by Pythian Cave which was in very early days the
lair of the long and awful dragon that guarded the first,
the original Oracle.

The Cavern was sacred to Pan and to the troop of
nymphs attending the one whose name it bore.

Above it rose the peak of Parnassus that pierced the
clouds, the one on which the Thyiades indulged in their
mad revels in honor of Dionysus.

The cave is now called Sarant Aulai, or Forty Courts.

Pausanias; X. 32.


The Crow's Spring

The story of the Crow's Spring is connected with the
most colossal artistic conception ever formed in the
human mind— the Grecian concept of displaying to all
the world in imperishable pictures, on limitless space
with strokes that range to billions of miles in length, the
heroes and the legends of Greece, by drawing their por-
traits and catchwords on the heavens themselves ; using


the everlasting stars as a medium and linking them
together with lines to form scintillating figures in dazzling
colors; figures of such mighty magnitude that no mind
can realize the vast distances between the starry points
with which the drawings are made.

Every nation in history has cherished these marvelous
portraits and paid deference to the immensity of their
conception; no attempt was made by the iconoclasts of
the Middle Ages, nor have the moderns with their mania
for improvement ever sought to rob the pictures of their
captions, or to associate them with stories foreign to
those that they were drawn to illustrate.

Some of the pictures, as in the illustrations for the
story of Andromeda (see No. 349) cover nearly all of the
characters in the legend they portray. So do the pictures
that tell the story of the Crow's Spring; which tale is to
the effect that once, when Apollo had sent the bird to a
Spring for sacrificial water, the crow seeing on a tree by
the fountain, a fig that was almost on the point of being
perfectly ripe, perched upon a limb beside the tempting
fruit and patiently awaited the epicurean stage of

Then, having enjoyed the fig in its full perfection, the
crow filled the golden cup Apollo had given it, and, snatch-
ing a stray snake in one of its claws, flew back with the
truthless excuse that the innocent snake had opposed
approach to the Spring and so delayed the crow's return.

The god of oracles, angry that anyone should expect to
be able to deceive him, at once seized the prevaricating
bird, cumbered as he was with the cup and the snake, and
flung the trio into the distant sky, saying, as he did so,
that never again should that crow sip a cooling drink
from any Spring till figs grew ripe before the fruit was


This immutable picture may always be seen in the
April sky just above the southeastern horizon, the crow
with one foot on the snake, and the golden cup shining
as brightly as when it left the hand of Hephaestus who
formed it.

The picture continues in sight during May and June,
and then disappears in the southwest ; the crow through-
out his passage keeping close to the horizon as if in search
of Springs and figs to break his long-continued fast.

The crow, which was originally a white bird, was
changed to black on another occasion because he brought
Apollo the irritating news that one of his favorites, Coro-
nis, had married Ischys.

As the legend of this constellation, called Corvus,
though replete with astronomical detail, does not mention
the site of the Spring, it can only be assumed that it lay
in the neighborhood of Apollo's principal shrine and
somewhere near Delphi in Phocis.

Ovid. Fasti; II. line 243.


From the effects of the Salt Spring near Cirrha, the
port of Delphi, it has been suggested that Solon made
use of its waters in his double stratagem by which the
town was captured when besieged by the Amphictyones
in 595 B.C.

The Oracle having declared that Cirrha would not be
taken until the sea broke into the Grove of Apollo, which
was far from the shore, the first step in Solon's strata-
gem was to bring the grove to the sea by consecrating all
of the intervening land.


Having thus satisfied the Oracle's conditions, Solon
then made a new channel for the Castalia fed river
Pleistus that watered the town, and saturated it with
some substance of a relaxing nature. When he turned
the river back into its natural bed and the thirsty people
in the town had drunk their fill to make up for recent
privations, they were all seized with an incessant diar-
rhoea that reduced them to such a state of weakness that
they were unable to continue any defense, and were
obliged to surrender.

As the water of the Salt Spring had the same effect
that the treated river water had, it has been suggested
that Solon made use of the Spring in doctoring the river,
although, according to one author, hellebore was the
substance used by the celebrated law-giver.

There is still a salty Spring near Cirrha and its water
has been proved to have the same effect as that produced
by hellebore.

Pausanias; X. 37.


Hyampolis Well

Hyampolis was on the highroad to Opus. Its people
had only one well to supply water for drinking and wash-
ing and the needs of their live stock; but it evidently
produced a plentiful and a wholesome beverage, as even
their cattle were free from disease and were more fat than
neighboring herds; their animals were sacred to Artemis.

Hyampolis was a very old town, having been founded
by the Hyantes, whom Cadmus drove out of Boeotia.
They were a courageous people given to employing un-
usual devices against their enemies; they were fertile in


expedients and successfully opposed infantry to cavalry
by setting earthware pots in the ground, and covering
them deceptively, so that when the charge was made the
legs of the animals were broken and the troopers were
unhorsed and crushed in the sprawling mass.

On one occasion, five hundred of them practiced a ruse
of the nature of Gideon's: they coated themselves with
white plaster, and at dead of night, when the moon was
shining, they rushed among the sleeping army of their
enemies who were put to flight with tremendous
slaughter, imagining that they were being assaulted by
a host of radiant supernatural beings.

These people took desperate chances to secure any
object they had in view, and, when they were about to
engage in battle with the odds greatly against them, they
prepared beforehand a funeral pile on which to burn all
of the survivors in case of defeat. This characteristic
gave rise to the term Phocian Resolution to express any
desperate resolve.

The ruins of Hyampolis are on a height a quarter of a
mile north of the village of Vogdhani, and, from the side
of a steep rocky bank below the town, a Spring continues
to pour its ample supplies into an ancient stone reservoir,
the Well, that served all the requirements of the people of
Homer's Hyampolis.

Herodotus; VIII. 27.
Pausanias; X. 35.



The largest river of Phocis was the Cephissus.
It rose at Lilsea, and the infant stream, as if conscious
of its coming prominence as the giant river of a dwarf


district, announced itself with lusty roarings like those of
a bull, which it indulged in especially at midday.

Lilaea was distant from Delphi a winter's day's journey,
which was 180 stadia. It had a theater, market-place
and baths which were no doubt supplied by the noisy

The Cephissus formed Lake Cephissus, or Copais,
which was noted for the fine flavor of its eels. The Lake
was five miles from the sea and between them there inter-
vened the lower reaches of Mt. Ptoum, under which the
Lake's outlets flowed through several subterranean pas-
sages. These outlets, however, were at times inadequate,
and the surrounding country was frequently damaged by
inundations; therefore, very far back in the heroic age
two additional channels were constructed with engineer-
ing ingenuity that compares favorably with that seen in
similar works of the most modern school. One of the
tunnels was a rock-cut channel four miles long, four
feet square, and from a hundred to one hundred and
fifty feet below the surface, from which ventilating
shafts were driven at intervals of about a quarter of
a mile.

The central outlet of the Lake brought the waters of the
Cephissus to sight again at a place called Anchce, whence
it flowed sedately in a broad and rapid stream for a mile
and a quarter, and then ran into the sea at Lower Lary-
mna on the confines of Boeotia and Locris.

The land along the river was covered with farms which
were the best in the district both for planting and for
pasture; and the banks of the stream were frequented by
bustards. The tribe of the Cephasias took its name from
the river.

There were two other Springs called Cephissus; one
in Lyrceum of Argolis ; and another in the gymnasium at


Apollonia near Epidamnus; and there were five rivers
that bore the name Cephissus.

The people who now live about the sources of the
Cephissus call them Kef alovryses ; they say that from
time to time the waters gush out with an increased force,
and one may suppose these extra efforts account for the
midday roarings of former days.

Strabo; IX. 3. § 16.
Pausanias; X. 33.



About twenty stadia from Chaeronea was the town of
Panopeus, if town that can be called, says the old chroni-
cler, that has no public fountain.

It is not alone on account of this striking abnormality
that Panopeus is mentioned here, but because The Foun-
tain of Youth, that for ages has been sought in the most
distant and unlikely places, must have been not far from
this town which was in all respects a most gruesome place
situated near a wild ravine that was the scrap heap of
creation, the refuse pile containing what was left over
when man was made by Prometheus; this discarded
material was in the form of stones, some of them large
enough to fill a cart. They were of the color of clay, and
had the odor of the human body, as was quite natural
for the remains of the material from which the human
race had been fashioned.

In this neighborhood, then, must have been that foun-
tain the waters of which gave perpetual youth to — but
perhaps it should first be recalled that men, in the Gre-
cian scheme of creation were not made until after the
brutes which were so lavishly equipped to meet the con-


tingencies of existence that there was nothing left to give
men for their protection, and they, therefore, started
life naked and defenseless.

Zeus, who had entrusted these productions to others,
at once noticed the poverty of men's equipment, and in
compassion bestowed on them the gift of Preservation
from Old Age.

This gift was placed upon an ass, which seems to have
been a beast of burden from the moment of its birth, and,
as it was summer-time and hot, and the ass was not yet
accustomed to work, he soon became exhausted and was
in a pitiable condition from thirst when he spied a foun-
tain, and made a dash for its brink. He was, however,
stopped by a serpent that would only consent to allow
him a drink in exchange for his burden. The exchange
was made gladly and quickly, and so it was that the
waters of that fountain gave to the snake the perpetual
youth which was first bestowed on men; and all the
internal evidence in the account indicates that the
spring could not have been at any great distance from
Panopeus, where the first of the human race was made;
and the superstitious will readily credit the statement
that in molding the material it was moistened with

Near this place was the sepulchre of Tityus which was
said to have been nine rods long. And less than a mile
away was Daulis; it had the gruesome reputation of
being the place where cannibalism first occurred.

The legend was that Tereus, a King of Daulis, north-
west of Chaeronea, having cut out the tongue of his wife
Procne, she wove an account of the matter into a tapestry
and so communicated the story to her sister Philomela;
whereupon the two killed and served up to the King his
infant son. The gods then changed them all into birds,


and so the hawk, Tereus, constantly pursues the swallow
and the nightingale, Procne and Philomela.

And beyond Daulis were The Cross Roads, the spot
where (Edipus murdered his father.

Homer speaks of the people of Panopeus as delighting
in the dance, but it was the dissolute, drunken dance that
was practiced by the women devotees of Dionysus.

Panopeus was a grandson of Psamathe of the Argolis
fountain; temperamentally, he was as unattractive as his
town; he quarreled with his twin brother even before
they were born, and he became a perjurer.

He was the father of Epeius who built the wooden
horse at Troy and who was considered to be one of the
greatest cowards in the camp.

A place called Aio Vlasi now represents the ancient town.

Pausanias; X. 4.
Apollodorus; I. 7.



Stiris was 120 stadia from Chaeronea; it was on high
and rocky ground, and, for lack of piping and pumps they
had to travel down a hill for half a mile to get drinking
water from a Spring whose basin was hewn out of the rock,
for such water as was found on the height was only good
enough for washing purposes and to give their cattle drink.

The people of Stiris were primitive and their temple
was of unbaked brick. They dyed their wool with the

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 16 of 46)