James Reuel Smith.

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

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blood of a small grub that bred in a nightshade-like berry
of the Coccus, a bramble that grew in the plain; the grub,
when the fruit was ripe, became a gnat and flew away.

There is a monastery of St. Luke, within a mile of the
ruins of Stiris, now called Palea-khora, and its location


indicates that the history of the water toils of the people
on the hilltop was not written in vain; for the rock of the
Stiris Spring was made a part of the monastery wall, and
an inscription outside refers to the fountain and an-
nounces that it is now within the monastery.

Pausanias; X. 35-



The Well named Saunion was in the town of Bulis in
Phocis, near the border of Boeotia, where a mountain
torrent called by the natives "Hercules' " fell into the
Gulf of Corinth; the place was ioo stadia by water from

The people of Bulis helped to rob the temple at Delphi
in the time of Philomelus, and they do not appear to have
been much more advanced than those of Stiris. Like
them, they were engaged in producing dyes which they,
however, made from a shellfish that more than half of
the inhabitants were employed in catching. The dye was
of a purple hue, as was that the Phoenicians made from
their shellfish.

They had no buildings to excite admiration, and their
statues were of wood and by unknown makers.

More fortunate, however, than the people of Stiris,
they had a good Well of sufficient presence to receive a
name, and they called it Saunion, perhaps from some inci-
dent connected with a javelin, which is the meaning of
that word.

The location of Bulis has been identified by its torrent.
It is in a deserted district, a mile from the solitary mon-
astery of Dobo.

Pausanias; X. 37.



The Spring of Callirrhoe in the city of Calydon
JEtolia, commemorates the cause of a minor misfortune
of the citizens, second only to the trials they underwent
through the ravages of the Calydonian boar, from which
they were delivered by Meleager.

Callirrhoe, a name that is pleasant enough to the eye
and to the ear, seems nearly always, however, to have
been coupled with calamity, and it has fallen into dis-
favor in modern nomenclature.

That daughter of Ocean who bore it saw deformity in
her progeny and became the mother of Geryon, the three-
headed monster; the half -serpent, flesh-eating, Echidna;
Pluto's dog Cerberus; the Hydra; the Chimasra; the
Sphinx; and many other misshappen horrors.

Another unfortunate of the same name, a grand-
daughter of Argos from whom Greece received one of
its appellations, was a sister of the uncouth Argus
of a hundred eyes which were inherited by the gaudy

Thrace, that, except for a short period, has always been
one of the most disreputable countries of the earth, re-
ceived one of its early designations from Biston, and he
was a son of Callirrhoe and Mars.

Still another Callirrhoe was even more unfortunate;
she, a daughter of Scamandcr, was wife of King Troas


^TOLIA 245

and became the mother of the most beautiful boy among
mortals, only to see him carried away by an eagle to be
made the cup bearer of Jupiter. A pair of divine horses
is said to have been given to console her for the loss of
her lovely child, Ganymedes, who was, later, placed
among the constellations under the name of Aquarius —
these were, however, attempts at consolation that would
only make many mothers detest the sight of horses and
stars for ever afterwards.

The malign influence continued in her family, as is
well known in the misfortunes of her grandson Anchises
and his son ^Eneas.

The miseries of the daughter of Inachus who was
changed into a white cow by Zeus, and then forced by a
fretting gadfly to flee over half the earth, are the miseries
of one of the first Callirrhoes under her second and more
widely known name of Io.

And she of the same name, the daughter of Achelous,
who married Amphiaraus' son, Alcmaeon, was the cause
of his death through her coveting the necklace of Cad-
mus' wife, Harmonia.

Poor Callirrhoe of Calydon, however, was never
married; nevertheless even her maidenhood did not avail
to preserve her from the apparent spell of the name, or
from the passion of the Priest Coresus.

Having failed by all tolerable means to arouse a recip-
rocal regard for himself, he, apparently, adopted a policy
of terrorism, for numbers of the citizens became affected
with a sudden delirium, "insane with drink, " that ended
in death.

This peculiar epidemic is suggestive of the agency of
poison, perhaps even conveyed through the Spring itself,
but the crafty Priest caused it to be believed that it was
an exhibition of the favor with which his god Dionysus


regarded him, and an indication of the deity's disapproval
of Callirrhoe 's disdain.

The afflicted people thereupon sent hot-footed to con-
sult the oracle at Dodona, where the lover's fellow
Priests, following suit to his lead, confirmed the delusion,
and even added that the scourge would not be stayed
until Coresus had sacrificed Callirrhoe, or — not merely
someone else, but — a victim who should volunteer to be
deprived of life in her stead.

On hearing of this decision, the young girl attempted
to conceal herself among her friends, and the wide-
spread fear of the citizens is indicated by the refusal
of even her most intimate associates to give her asy-
lum, or make any effort to preserve her life. She was
driven, therefore, to present herself at the altar for

This unexpected ending of all Coresus' schemes, thrust
suddenly before him in public, allowed him no time
to consider new schemes or further complications, and,
convinced that all his plans and plottings had gone for
naught, he, in a moment of desperation and despair,
turned the sacrificial knife upon himself and expired at
his victim's feet.

Callirrhoe, looking upon the act as a proof of his love,
and in her pity implicating herself as the cause of the
tragedy, disconsolately descended the holy terrace to the
Spring, and there enacted another tragedy on the lines
of the one at the altar, and cut her own fair and blameless
throat — and the Spring from that time, by common con-
sent, was called by her name.

The Spring was situated near the harbor, and thus
became a sight and an object of interest for land and
water voyagers to and from the town, and so its story,
passing through many minds and mouths, to other lands

^TOLIA 247

and ages, has been softened by time and the poets, and
one must read between the lines to learn of the guilt,
deceit and villainy that was engendered by that simple
maid of Calydon, whose friends were less faithful than
her city's shoreside Spring, the waters of which nourished
her during life, and, receiving her last conscious look, con-
tinued through many centuries to keep her memory green
and preserve her sad episode from oblivion.

A modern version of the misfortune of the Calydonian
Callirrhoe appears in a drama, with her name as the
title, by Miss Bradley under the pseudonym of Michael

There were two other Callirrhoes, a daughter of Tethys ;
and another, a daughter of Lycus a king of Lycia. The
former was one of the 3000 taper-ankled Oceanides of
whose history nothing is known; and of the latter little
more is recorded than that she saved the life of Diomedes
when he was returning from Troy with the Palladium,
the talisman of Troy and afterwards of Rome ; it had been
found by Ilus, another son of Callirrhoe the mother of
Ganymede, and its history definitely locates the abodes
of the gods and gives additional interest to every glance
at the sky's galaxy whose innumerable lights are the glow
that streams from the grounds and the marble palaces
of the deities that are built about the "coal sack,"
through which the Palladium fell. That talisman was a
small wooden image of Pallas, a friend of the goddess
Minerva, which, accidently knocked from its resting-
place, rolled to the edge and dropped off to land on the
plain near Troy.

Calydon, which in prehistoric times was the ornament
of Greece, had sunk into insignificance two thousand
years ago, and now even its situation is disputed.

The ^Etolian seacoast, too, has undergone many


changes, and Callirrhoe's Spring near the harbor is now
perhaps in the bed of the sea.

Pausanias; VII. 21.



The fountain of Orea, a lofty mountain in /Etolia,
though not itself The Fount of Immortality might easily
have satisfied a not too exacting seeker in quest of that
long-sought Spring, for there grew around it the grass
called Agrostis. It was the grass of the gods, sown by
Saturn, and made those who eat it immortal. The steeds
of the Sun were fed upon it and were thereby enabled to
pursue their ceaseless round without stopping and with-
out fatigue.

The grass was indigenous to the Isles of the Blest, but
a small bed of it was accidently discovered by Glaucus
while chasing a hare on Mt. Orea. The hunter was on the
point of capturing the animal which, exhausted by a long
pursuit, had fallen down and rolled over in the grass by
the border of the Spring, when, greatly to Glaucus'
surprise, the hare seemed to almost instantly recover
its full vigor and, darting away from under his hand,
made good its escape.

Glaucus' deductions from this unexpected ending of
the chase led him to examine the grass, and then to eat
some of it; whereupon his sensations clearly made him
aware that he had become immortal, as time proved to
be the case.

He found himself changed in body and in mind and he
longed to change his surroundings as well, which he did
by leaping into the sea and swimming to Sicily, where he
fell in love with Galatea of the Spring of Acis.

^TOLIA 249

Glaucus was a son of Neptune and was one of those
who successfully contributed to the consolation of
Ariadne, after her desertion by Theseus. He was one of
the builders of the ship Argo, and became its Quarter-
master, and was the only one of the ship's complement
that did not at some time during the voyage receive an

There is still a grass called Agrostis Vulgaris which
may be readily recognized by its lanceolate glumes which
though very thin are firmer than its palets; there is, how-
ever, nothing by which the Spring, if seen, could be recog-
nized — nor even the mountain, unless Corax was the one
that Athenaeus had in mind.

Athenaeus; VII. 47. VII. 48.

I 7 6


The tears of the mother of Cycnus formed the Spring
that was called by her name, Hyrie.

Cycnus, a pretty and greatly admired boy, having been
refused a prize bull that he asked Phyllius, one of his
admirers, to give him, threw himself in angry disappoint-
ment from a lofty rock.

In the course of his descent he was changed into a swan,
by his father Apollo, and flew away uninjured.

The mother, knowing of the leap but unaware of
the transformation, dissolved in tears and formed the

The tear-made fount is seen at the foot of a steep moun-
tain, and it makes a lake the outlet of which is the river
Cyathus, a tributary of the Achelous.

Ovid. Meta. VII. Fable 3.



The story of the Spring and the siege of Phana are
slightly suggestive of that of Bethulia in the Bible.

Phana was a fenced village, of the ^Etolians, and had
only one Spring, which was outside of the fence. The
Achasans, having besieged the village for a long time with-
out making any progress, sent to the oracle at Delphi to
ask for suggestions that would make their campaign a
success; and when the Temple's Board of Strategy ad-
vised that they find out how much water the inhabitants
needed daily to keep themselves alive, the besiegers,
unable to see the drift of the response, decided to give up
their object and return home.

The villagers, noticing the preparations for departure,
became lax, and a woman issuing from the gate to get
water was captured in the act. From her the Achasans
learned that the only water the people had was obtained
from this Spring, usually under cover of darkness, and
that it was carefully measured out for the next day's use.

The besiegers then concluded to wait a few days longer,
and meantime made the water undrinkable, with the
result that the defenders surrendered rather than perish
of thirst.

Phana is presumed to have been near Arsinoe, a place at
or about the junction of the Cyathus and Achelous rivers.

Pausanias; X. 18.

I 7 8

Mt. Taphiassus' Spring

There was a Spring in the southeastern part of ^Etolia
in a tract that once belonged to the Ozolae or Bad Smell-


ing Locrians, who were so designated because of the
stench their fountain emitted.

It rose at the foot of Mt. Taphiassus, near the town of
Macynia, and contained clots of blood that made it as
unpleasant to the sight as it was to smell ; these are not
found in the water today; but it still retains the fetid
odor of ancient times.

The smell and the particles were attributed to the
proximity of the poisoned body of the Centaur Nessus
whose grave on the mountain side was marked with an
identifying monument, for he had served many travelers
and people of the neighborhood in ferrying them for a
modest fee across the ^tolian river Evenus, once called
Lycormas, either pickaback or in his arms. Nessus was
the son of Ixion who, after receiving signal favors from
Zeus, affronted his wife Hera, and was therefore punished
in his progeny, who were the Centaurs and the Hippo-
centaurs, the former having the hind legs and the latter
all the four legs of a horse. Afterwards in the lower
world Ixion, while bound to a constantly turning wheel,
was continually scourged, and made to repeat, "Bene-
factors should be Honored."

Nessus was shot with one of the Hydra poisoned arrows
of Hercules, who, having hired him to carry over his wife
Dejaneira, was made jealously angry by the ferryman's
manner of holding her.

Nessus was not the only victim of that shot. He ad-
vised Dejaneira to save some of the blood that dripped
from his wound and assured her that it would keep her
husband from loving any other woman.

Sometime later, Dejaneira, having use for the charm,
sprinkled a shirt of the hero with the fluid or its powder,
and the poison, absorbed through the skin when Hercules
put on the garment, brought about the end of his earthly


career, fortunately without contaminating any Springs,
for he was carried up in a cloud to the home of the gods
where, as an immortal, he married Hebe.

Dejaneira hanged herself in a fit of grief when the un-
expected effect of the false philter was seen at the waters
of Dyras. (See No. 195.)

Mt. Taphiassus is called Kakiskula at the present time.

Strabo; IX. 4. § 8.



The place called Crenae, or, The Wells, seems to have
received the name from some Springs near the city of
Argos that was in a small district of northeastern Acar-
nania called Amphilochia.

The site of this Argos has not yet been definitively
determined, but some lagoons in the neighborhood of
Armyro are supposed to be the work of the Springs that
were called The Wells.

These were close to the sea at the point where the
Inachus river, now the Ariadha, started out on its long
ocean voyage to the Peloponnesus, as related of the source
of the Inachus in Argolis.

Thucydides;III. 106.



1 80

The warmth of the saline Springs in the celebrated
Pass gave it the name of Thermopylae centuries before
480 B.C., when Leonidas made it a cosmic word.

They are said to have been called forth by Athena to
please Hercules, with whose name a number of warm
Springs are associated.

There were two Springs about 600 feet apart, and their
hot and sulphurous waters were of a dark blue color, the
most beautiful of all blue waters.

When, in spite of the prediction of failure that the
diviner Megistias had made, the hero's little band at-
tempted to hold the hosts of Persians under Xerxes, these
Springs played no unimportant part in the defense, and
performed greater though less pyrotechnical prodigies
than the Spring of Ausonia when it came to the assistance
of Rome.

They copiously overflowed the narrow roadway,
making the rocks slippery, and converting the ground
into a slough through which perhaps the Persians would
never have managed to flounder, had it not been for the
treachery of the Trachinian Ephialtes in guiding a body
of the enemy by a secret path through a narrow defile
that brought them around at the rear of the defenders,
who were then crushed as in the jaws of a closing vise.

In later years when, in 279 B.C., the Gallati under


Brennus made their invasion, and not only followed the
plan of the Persians on land but sent a fleet through the
Lamiac Gulf that ran at the side of the Pass, the Springs,
in their eagerness to aid the Athenian forces that emu-
lated Leonidas, rushed into the Gulf with their assistance,
and threw into it such volumes of oozy mud that the
rowers of the vessels, heavy with men and equipment,
succeeded only by the greatest exertion in propelling
their boats through the thickened sea.

Then, even as the Stars in their courses did fight against
Sisera, the Mountains aided the Greeks and prevented
the Gallati from stealing the treasures of the temple at
Delphi. Thus Parnassus, supplementing the efforts of
the Springs, shook its holy head and rocky sides in rage,
and hurled upon the heads of the invaders such a heavy
barrage of stones and bowlders that, with the added
assistance of the Lightning which killed some of the
enemy and blinded others, they fled in terror and aban-
doned the invasion.

Strabo;IX. 4. § 13-
Pausanias; I. 4-

The Fountain of ^Eanis

Near Cynus, in a leafy grove called ^Eaneium, there
was a fountain named after ^Eanis who was accidentally
killed by Patroclus during a game at dice; fountain sides,
as seen at Corinth and elsewhere, having been favorite
locations for playing games of chance or skill, and even
for the sites of oracles whose divinations were made by
means of tali, the ancient ancestors of modern dice.

The accidental killing of people during sports and
games seems to have been a hereditary fatality in the


family of Patroclus; his uncle Telamon killed his own
brother Phocus while playing at quoits with him ; and his
father Peleus killed his father-in-law, Eurytion, while
they were chasing the Calydonian boar.

Patroclus himself lost his life during the Trojan war,
killed by Hector while fighting in the borrowed armor of
his friend Achilles ; a death that resulted in the capture
of the city of Troy, if there was truth in the prediction,
of the seer Calchas that the town could not be taken
without the cooperation of Achilles; for at the death of
Patroclus he was roused from his fit of the sulks and
immediately returned to the fighting line to avenge the
fall of his friend, who had atoned for the mysterious
death of ^anis.

Cvnus was opposite the Spring of ^depsus in Eubcea ;
Deucalion and Pyrrha were among its residents and it
contained the tomb of Pyrrha.

Strabo;IX. 4. §2.



The Achelous

In the southern prolongation of the Balkan range that
is called Mt. Pindus, and at Chalcis now Khalika, the
Achelous, the largest river of Greece, had its rise; and the
spot where it appeared marked the scene of a touching
exhibition of maternal love and filial trust.

Achelous, the son of Gaga, was the father of those three
lovely singers the Sirens Ligeia, Leucosia, and Parthenope
after whom Naples, near which she was buried, was
formerly called. They have long been wantonly aspersed
by unwarrantably stigmatizing every false charmer as
one of their kind; for they were good at heart and sym-
pathetic and unselfish, as was shown in their begging
to be given wings in order that they might search farther
and more widely for the missing daughter of Ceres.
Even if one cares to accept the other story that Venus
placed wings on them to mark her displeasure, the Sirens
must receive all the more credit, in that they submitted
to the wings rather than for a moment abate a jot in their
views about virtue.

The whole life of the Sirens illustrates the value and

effect of incentive. Doubtless there were myriads of

maidens in Greece who possessed natural abilities to

sing that equaled and perhaps in some cases surpassed

17 257


those of the Sirens; but not being constrained to sing,
those maidens are now unknown. On the other hand,
the very existence of the Sirens depended upon their
singing, and singing so well and so sweetly that they
should always hold their audiences and never lose a

As was so often the case with people of Mythology, the
Sirens' lives were overshadowed with a doom pronounced
when they were born. Meleager knew not at what
moment the hidden brand snatched from the fire at his
birth might again be set alight and bring about his death,
and many others lived in hourly expectation of the
happening of some event they knew portended their end.

The Sirens were aware that if ever a hearer passed by
unmoved by their song, that would be their death war-
rant; and it was, therefore, not to draw others from the
path of duty by their singing that they sang, but to pre-
serve their own existence.

The birth of the Spring of the Achelous gives additional
proof of the goodness of the Sirens, in its testimony that
they had endeared themselves to their father more deeply
than bad daughters ever could have.

It may be a question whether it was Orpheus' finer
vocal efforts, closing the ears of the Argo's crew to the
song of the Sirens, or Odysseus' wax-filled ears, that
brought about the trio's tragic drowning; but it was
either during the Argonauts' trip, or on the return from
Troy, that the Sirens succumbed to the event that was
originally set as marking the limit of their lives, and
threw themselves into the sea.

Achelous, after he was informed of the loss of his
daughters, suffered a sorrow so profound that, with a
childlike faith in his mother's consolation, he cried aloud
for her presence; and there, on that spot where his mother


heard the cry and gathered him to her bosom, she caused
the river Achelous to spring forth to mark the overflowing
of her heart at the manhood yearning of her son for her
sympathy and support.

The greatness of the mother's heart is not the least
touching feature in this episode of all-round family affec-
tion, when it is recalled that, including Achelous, the
godly Gasa had three thousand sons.

The river was as white as the man, a characteristic so
marked that even the unsentimental moderns wove it
into the name Aspropotamos, the White River, by which
it is now known from its source to the Ionian Sea.

It was, moreover, the earliest active agent in the
cause of temperance; the first attempts to dilute wine and
lessen its evil effects having been made with its waters.

Georgics; I. 9. and Servius' Com.

I8 3


This wonderful fountain was in Dodona, a grove that
adjoined a town of the same name in the district of Chao-
nia near the river Achelous.

The grove was sacred to Zeus and received its name
either from a daughter of that god and Europa, or from
an Asiatic goddess named Dione.

Dodona contained one of the three most celebrated
shrines of ancient superstition, the extent of whose re-
ligious fame was rivaled by their wealth, though probably
the latter equaled only a small part of the aggregate
sum spent on private fortune tellers of various kinds in
the XXth century, by people who number their dwell-
ings 1 1 3^2 or 1 1 A when they own the house between Nos.


1 1 and 15 ; and who rent offices in buildings that have no
floor nor room between the twelfth and the fourteenth.

The waters of this Spring were said to kindle wood
when applied to it at such times as the waning moon had
shrunk into her smallest orb.

In the grove was a temple to Jupiter and an oracle
which enjoyed a greater reputation in Greece than any
other save that at Delphi. While its surroundings were
probably not as overpowering as those of Delphi, with
its deep and dark caverns and the elaborateness of its
rites, Dodona had enough of its own peculiar profundities
to inspire its patrons with a full sense of its omniscience
and greatness, and its oracular responses were made with
so many concomitant mysteries that the exact manner

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 17 of 46)