James Reuel Smith.

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

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an undergarment which, as soon as Hercules had put it
on, clung to his cuticle, and inoculated him with the
poison of the arrow with which he had slain Nessus, a
poison that had permeated the amorous ferryman's
blood of which the philter was largely composed. (See
No. 178.)

Made frantic by the pain of the poison, Hercules tore
off the garment, and with it large masses of flesh to which
it had adhered, and made one single wound that covered
his whole raw body. Driven to distraction with rage and
agony, he forced a passing shepherd, Pceas, to assist in
building a furnace of wood from Mt. (Eta, and im-
mediately threw himself into the center of the roaring

It was then that the kindly disposed waters of Dyras
gushed up to extinguish the blaze, not knowing that the
hero was destined to be snatched from the pyre by a


thunder filled cloud and carried up to Olympus, to become
immortal and marry Hebe the daughter of Hera.

The waters that sprang up with such merciful inten-
tions continue to flow as the Gargo River.

Herodotus; VII. 198.



The waters of certain hot Springs at Cranon possessed
the rare quality of thermos bottles, for when put in
vessels of wine they kept the mixture warm for three

Perhaps they tempered the wine for the banquet the
tyrant Scopas gave at Cranon, during which Castor and
Pollux paid the poet Simonides the share Scopas had
ironically assigned to them for a poem the poet recited
at the dinner in eulogy of the tyrant, who, being pro-
voked at an incidental reference to the twins, peevishly
declared he would pay only half the stipulated price for
the eulogy, and that perhaps Castor and Pollux would
settle for the remainder.

Almost immediately a messenger informed Simonides
that two young men desired to see him outside, and on
leaving the hall and the building, to meet them, the roof
fell in and buried Scopas and all his company.

The poet, who considered himself more than paid for
his eulogy by his narrow escape, lived until 467 B.C.
having reached his 89th year. He is sometimes numbered
among the Seven Wise Men, and is said to have been the
first inventor of a memory system.

The margins of the Springs were covered with in-
crustations due to some chemical action of the water


which may have had to do with its heat-retaining

The ruins of Cranon have been located a few miles
from the city of Larissa.

Pliny; XXXI. 17.



The port of Pagasas was given that name because of
the number of Springs about it, Pagai that in another
language would have made the name Springport.

It was the naval arsenal of Pheras, the home of King
Admetus and Homer's fountains Hypereia and Messeis;
and next to it was the harbor of Aphetae the starting-
point of the Golden Fleece expedition of the Argonauts.

A slightly salty flavor in the water of the Springs fur-
nished an outlet for the aqueduct building rage of the
Romans, and in the time of their jurisdiction water was
brought to Pagasae from a distance over a structure whose
remains are still a prominent feature of the landscape
around the present town of Volo, under whose rocky
heights the many copious Springs of Jason's time con-
tinue their steady flow.

Strabo; IX. 5. §15.



The Arethusa-like sea voyage of the Inachus river,
which traveled through the ocean and under the Pelo-
ponnesus and climbed a mountain, is referred to in con-
nection with the stream of that name in Argolis.

Pausanias; II. 25.




There was a certain fountain at Eurymenae which
converted chaplets into stone; a conversion which,
though perfectly useless at the time, was probably the
means of preserving the name of the town. It was on
the coast at the foot of Mt. Ossa upon which the giants
piled the adjoining mountain, Pelion, in an attempt to
reach the gods; the mountain is still similarly used to
reach rhetorical heights by such as are unaware that its
name has been changed to Kissavo.

Some ancient remains found between Thanatu and
Karitza are assumed to be what is left of the town of the
stone-making Spring.

Pliny; XXXI. 20.



The Spring of Pimplea was sacred to the Muses.

There was a village in Macedonia called Pimplea
where Orpheiis lived; it was beneath Mt. Olympus and
near Dium on the bank of the Helicon River, where
Orpheus was torn to pieces by the women.

As, like Helicon, several other names of places and
features in Macedonia appear also in Thrace, in Thessaly
and in Bceotia, it was conjectured that they were applied
by Thracians who having migrated before the Trojan war
and ousted, for a time, the previous inhabitants of Boeotia,
continued the Thracian worship of the Muses with the
least possible change as regards names of surrounding
natural features — a duplication of names that no doubt
often caused later writers, ancient as well as modern,
to locate at a place in one territory incidents that really
occurred elsewhere.

Thus Pimplea, now at Litokhoro in Macedonia, is said
in one modern mythology to have been a fountain of Mt.
Helicon, when it would seem more probable that it was
near the banks of the Helicon River in Macedonia, which
district is not said, by ancient writers, to have had a
mountain called Helicon.

Strabo, writing of the transference of names, observed
that the Thracian religious ceremonies were like those
of the Phrygians, and he supposed from the song, the



rhythm and the instruments and their barbarous names,
that all Thracian music was Asiatic; and thence he de-
duced that the Phrygians themselves were a colony of
the Thracians.

But perhaps it is not illogical to imagine that the
current flowed the other way, and that the Mysian Mt.
Olympus was really the original home of the Grecian
gods — that the unknown genius, priest or poet, who
created the first of them, lived at its base and there
propagated from the flowers of Eastern thought his new
varieties, which have no essential similarity with the
myth cultures of any peoples east, west, north or south
of the Grecian garden of the gods.

There is more than one Mt. Olympus westward to the
shores of the Adriatic, but not one to the east of Asia Minor
which, therefore, might seem to be the neighborhood
where the first seed of Hellenic classic culture sprouted.

Pausanias; IX. 30.

Strabo; X. 3. §17. IX. 2. §25.



The Spring of the River Baphyra rose twenty-two
stadia from Dium.

Its water was the reemergence of the River Helicon
which after flowing seventy-five stadia from its source,
sank into the ground near Dium and ran below the sur-
face for twenty-two stadia beyond that place. At its
reappearance it was given the name Baphyra and became
a navigable stream that finally discharged itself into the
sea, without further attempt at concealment.

The Helicon had originally been a surface stream
throughout all of its course ; but when the women of Dium


taught men for the first time the value of liquor for giving
soldiers what should properly be called Dium Courage,
and, priming themselves with wine, killed Orpheus, then
the horrified Helicon hid itself in the earth, and the gore-
stained women found its bed empty when they rushed
to the banks to wash and cleanse themselves from blood-
guiltiness. The Helicon, rather than be a party to cleans-
ing them, having plunged into the earth continued out of
their reach for the distance stated before it rose again in a
more quiet neighborhood.

Orpheus is said to have been killed because he taught
men things they had not before heard of, things that, as
described by Hyginus, were no doubt considered by the
women ample warrant for their deed.

Some of the remains of Orpheus were preserved in a stone
urn that was set on a pillar near the scene of the murder.

It might have been thought that no other place would
dispute the claim of being the site of such an atrocity;
but the Thracians did so, and they had what they said
was the tomb of the murdered musician. There were
nightingales' nests in the tomb, and the voices of those
that were bred there were more powerful and their songs
more enjoyable than those of other birds of the same sort.

The Springs of the Baphyra, now the Potoki, have been
located ; and between them and the village of Malathria
many foundations of the larger buildings of Diurn have
been uncovered.

Pausanias; IX. 30.


The Fountain of Inna

The fountain of Inna was in the Gardens of Midas
whose roses were as remarkable as those of Pass turn.


This was the fountain into which Midas poured wine
in order to make Silenus drunk so that he could capture
him. His reason for wishing to capture that drunken,
fat, pot-bellied old man with a puck nose and a bald head,
may be gleaned from the old man's history, for Silenus,
too, might have said, "I was not always thus. " He was
of godly descent, his father being either Hermes or Pan,
for in the early times when he was born pedigrees were
not kept with scrupulous particularity. He not only
possessed the power of prophecy regarding even the most
distant future, but, to mortals who could intoxicate and
bind him, he was obliged to reveal whatever they desired
to know about. Midas was no doubt aware of this and
designed to secure some eleemosynary information by
drugging the fountain of Inna, rather than incur the
sacrificial expense for consulting a public oracle.

The tale of the fountain holds another history the very
reverse of that of Silenus, a history commencing with a
servant and leading up to the conqueror of the earth,
for the royal genealogical tree of Alexander the Great
sprouted in the garden of the fountain of Inna where
Perdiccas laid the foundation of the Macedonian mon-

This Perdiccas, fleeing for some reason from Greece,
came to Lebsea and secured employment as an under
herdsman with the King of Macedonia when it was called
Paeonia, perhaps about 700 B.C.

The king's wife, who cooked for the household, happen-
ing to mention to the King the curious fact that the loaves
she baked for Perdiccas always doubled in size, the king
became terrified and went crazy, and, discharging the
under herdsman, pointed to the rays of the sun that
shone down the chimney on to the palace floor, and said,
"I give you this as your wages equal to your services."


Perdiccas, in a matter-of-fact way, as if to secure his emolu-
ment, immediately drew a line about the sunshine on the
palace floor, made three copies of the figure on his chest
as a record of the transaction, and quietly departed.

To relish the volume of wit that the king's madness
condensed into less than a dozen words to say what he
thought of the herder's efficiency, one must hark back
to the days when the chimney was a circular hole in the
center of the ceiling and showed the sunshine as a golden
coin-shaped figure on the palace floor.

Perdiccas went to the gardens that had belonged to
Midas, and took possession of them.

They were noted for the wonderful wild roses that
bloomed in them and surpassed in fragrance all other
roses, although they were overshadowed by Mt. Ber-
mion that was inaccessible from its cold. Each rose had
invariably exactly sixty leaves.

Perdiccas prospered and annexed properties after prop-
erties until he commanded all of the country and was
acknowledged king. From him to Alexander the line ran
through Argaeus, Philip, ^Eropus, Alcetes, Amyntas I of
Macedon, Alexander I of Macedon, Amyntas II, Alex-
ander II, Philip II, Alexander III, the Great.

About 130 miles from Ancyra, near Thymbrium,
another fountain was pointed out to Cyrus as the foun-
tain of Midas; that one may have been the Spring at
which the king himself was made drunk, or, at which the
king drugged the Satyr who made fun of his asslike

Where Paeonia was is now Salonica, and in its center
is Ienidja which seems even in its Turkish disguise to
sound the ancient fountain's name of Inna.

A.thenaeus; II. 23.
Herodotus; VIII. I37«



A single mention of the name of the Spring of Ma. in
one line of Homer is perhaps all that the modern world
would have heard of that Macedonian fountain but for
a sleepy nod of the poet, or one of his scribes, and a re-
sulting transposition of two names.

The Spring rose near the town of Amydon, and dis-
charged so big a body of clearest water into the River
Axius as to cover and conceal the muddy surface of that
stream which was two miles wide near its mouth.

Therefore when Homer with two words pictured a map
of the place from which Pyraechmes led his Paeonian
troops to aid in the defense of Troy, and the line ; — ■

"Axius whose fairest water o'erspreads '^Ea'"

appeared in the Iliad, the critics who knew of the fairness
of the fountain's waters and the riliness of the river's, lost
little time in attacking the line and putting forward alter-
native readings that aired their knowledge and made the
fountain's name a household word in reading coteries.

And then the line was blotted out as effectually as,
not only the mud of the river, and the town, which was
afterwards razed, but as Pyraechmes himself; for that un-
fortunate warrior was pierced by the spear of Achilles
and probably expired under the impression that he fell
while fighting the great Grecian hero, although he was
really the victim of Patroclus, and the first Trojan ally
the latter killed after putting on the borrowed armor of
Achilles to frighten the city's defenders and drive them
away from the Grecian ships that they were trying to

The neighborhood of Ma. was little less unlucky for


another warrior, as it was on its nearby plain of Methone
that Philip Amyntus had his right eye put out by an
arrow shot from a long range catapult.

The name of the Axius has been changed to Vardhari,
and Amydon is supposed to have been somewhere near
its mouth on the Gulf of Salonica.

Strabo; Fragment 20, 23^
Iliad; II. line 1070.



The Spring of Pella rose in an elevation that was sur-
rounded by marshes made by its overflow.

On the elevation a city was founded which received its
name from the fountain and became the capital of Mace-
donia, the royal residence of Philip, and the birthplace of

The fish of a lake that formed in the marshes of the
Spring grew to a great size, and their fatness in summer
was a theme of the epicures.

Among the few clever sayings of the Athenian wit
Stratonicus that have been preserved, two refer to the
water of Pella which was said to produce enlargement of
the spleen.

When he saw some sallow-looking men drawing water
at the fountain, he asked them if the water was fit to
drink; and to their somewhat contemptuous reply, "We
drink it," he immediately rejoined, "Then I am sure it
is not fit to drink."

While depositing his clothing with the keeper at the
Baths, a man who had an extremely prominent belly, he
observed, "I see that you receive the bathers' spleens as
well as their clothes."


The Spring is supposed to have been in the center of
the city, at a spot among the ruins where there is now a
fountain whose name the Bulgarians of the neighboring
village of Neokhori have shortened to Pel.

Athenaeus; VIII. 45. and 41.



At Litae a Spring of fresh water issued forth in the
middle of the lake that produced chalastricum, a pure
white substance closely resembling salt, and supposed
to have been carbonate of soda.

It was considered a " truly marvelous fact" that,
although this Spring in the salty lake flowed continuously
the volume of water in the lake never increased, and that
there was no overflow nor any apparent outlet.

Pliny; XXXI. 46.



Seneca quotes Q. Curtius as stating that there was a
Spring called Nonacris, in Macedonia, whose waters
were malignant, but its precise location is not mentioned.

Possibly it was the source of one of the two streams
that flowed at the sides of Euripides' tomb at Arethusa,
the water of one of which was said to be excellent, while
that of the other was deadly.

Pliny; II. 106.
Vitruvius; VIII. 3.


The Well Libethra

From the Well Libethra in Thrace the Muses were
said to have derived one of their many appellations, that
of Libethrides; as another, Aganippides, was due to their
Spring on Mt. Helicon.

The ancients at one period considered Thrace a very
large tract that formed the Fourth of the principal divi-
sions of the earth; and that included, with a part of Mace-
donia, all of Europe to the north of Greece; a part of the
world of which the musician and wit Stratonicus said
that its year consisted of eight months of cold and four
months of winter.

But by about two hundred years before the Christian
Era the name Thrace had been confined to a small section
at the southeastern end of Europe.

After its early names Perke and Aria, a change of
name occurred with nearly every shifting of its boun-
daries, which have included parts of what have been
called Thrace, Eumatia, Macedonia, Mcesia, Bulgaria,
Servia, and, in the present time, Roumeiia with its divi-
sion of Gallipoli. Thrace came under the dominion of
the Turks one hundred and twelve years after their ad-
vent in Europe in 1341 a.d., but, as Servia, won its in-
dependence in 1878.

To add to the confusion, Bithynia was at one time
called Thrace; and the people in Phocis and in the tract



about Mt. Parnassus and Mt. Helicon were once called

Owing to these changes, places may be spoken of as
in Thessaly, or Macedonia, or Thrace according to the
boundary the writer had in mind; and people of other
places may be called Thracians merely because their
ancestors came from Thrace.

Nothing is left of the Thracian language, or of those
parts of the writings of Strabo that probably shed some
light upon its speakers, so that there are only theories
to reconcile statements that the Thracians were wild
people who tattooed themselves and who lived by
war and plunder, with other assertions that the civili-
zation of the Grecians was the outgrowth of that of the
Thracians, who invented and cultivated the Muses with
all their softening influences in every branch of refining

One method of reconciliation is to suppose that the
refined people of Thrace were driven out by uncouth
people from the north who then became known as Thra-

The Muses who, according to late accounts, were
brought up on Mt. Helicon were, by earlier genealogies,
born in Thrace, when Macedonia was a part of it, on Mt.
Olympus which was also the home of the gods; and per-
haps it might even be surmised that the original legend
was attached to one of the several Mts.- Olympus to the
east among Asiatic peoples from whom came florid tales
of such tissue as the Arabian Nights, and the more pre-
tentious poetry of the epics of India.

Helicon, Pieria, Thebes, and many other names of the

Thracians, transplanted to Boeotia thrived there until

replaced with Turkish designations. Where Boeotian

natural features were lacking for the Thracian names,



some of the latter continued to be used with seeming
irrelevancy, as when the Muses were styled the Libeth-
rides although the Spring that gave them that name was
a Thracian fount and not a fountain of Bceotia.

The modern Servians have all the conflicting charac-
teristics of the ancient Muse-creating Thracians; they
have a love for literature, and a rich poetic spirit ex-
pressed in a soft, melodious language. And they have
a bent for war that has allowed them few periods of
peace during many centuries.

They are not only warful themselves but the innocent
cause of war among others, as the shot of one of them in
1914 was made the pretext for the most widespread con-
flict of which the human race has any record.

The Well Libethra was near Dium, the modern counter-
part of which, Malathria, is taken to be a corruption of

Orpheus was buried at Libethra by the Muses, and at
their request Zeus placed the musician's lyre among the
stars where it may still be seen as one of the many bright
instruments in the celestial orchestra that produces the
music of the spheres.

Before this apotheosis, however, the rescued lyre was
exhibited at Lesbos in the temple of Apollo whose priests
sold it to Neanthus. If Neanthus dreamed of succeeding
to the fame of the original owner he was rudely awakened
by the dogs of his city who ran to him from all quarters
at the sound of his opening chords and incontinently
tore him to pieces.

While the remains of Orpheus were being searched for
to inter them, the dismembered head made its where-
abouts known by the sweet sounds that continued to issue
from its lips.

The head also was preserved at Lesbos and is said to


have uttered oracles from the bottom of a cave, in
that island.

StrabojIX. 2. §25. X. 3. § 17.
Ovid: Meta. XI. Fable 1.



The very remarkable Springs of this river came out of
a single rock in the southeastern part of Thrace.

It is not only surprising that there were thirty-eight of
these fountains issuing from one rock, but more astonish-
ing still that they came out of the rock at temperatures
varying from cold to warm.

Their waters passing from the Tearus into first one
river, and then another, finally reached the ^Egean Sea
through a third, the Hebrus River.

When Darius came to the sources of the Tearus, on his
Scythian expedition, he halted his army about the Springs
for three days ; and he was so much impressed with them
that he put up a pillar bearing an inscriptive testimonial
to the virtues of the waters — and to his own, as one
authority dryly expresses the matter.

The wording of the laudatory tablet gives no clue to
the particular virtue of the Springs, but as even in a
modern army, surrounded with every hygienic safeguard,
a little stick eighteen inches long is among the most
prized possessions of the privates, one can easily fancy
how much Darius' half savage, unsanitary and scratch-
ing soldiers appreciated these Springs when they learned
that the waters had curative properties and were a specific
in cases of mange, itch and other irritations of the skin.

The tablet was inscribed; — "The Springs of the Tearus
yield the best and finest waters of all rivers ; and a man,


the best and finest of all men, came to them, leading an
army against the Scythians, Darius, son of Hystaspes,
king of the Persians, and of the whole continent.' 1
The river is now called the Teare.

Herodotus: IV. 89.


The Tritonian Lake

Tritonis was a lake in the vicinity of Pallene, a city of
Thrace, of which Vibius Sequester says, when a person
has nine times bathed himself in it he is changed into a
bird. The water may, after long use, have caused an
efflorescence that suggested the down of young birds, or,
it may have had such an exhilarating effect as to give its
users that buoyant sensation sometimes described as
"feeling as light as a bird."

The waters of the Clitumnus, a small river in Umbria,
were believed to give white calves, so much required for
sacrifices, to cows who drank of them; a belief that was
still current in the time of Boccaccio.

Pallene was on the western of the three Salonica pen-
insulas, that one now called Kassandhra, and was one
of the places designated as the battleground of the gods
and the giants.

Ovid; Meta. XV. line 355.



Magna Gr^cia

Long before Evander's herds were straying through
the bogs and wastes about the hills over which Rome was
afterwards built, there was opulence and art and litera-
ture among the Grecians. This was shown in the shields
of the soldiers at the siege of Troy, by the materials they
were made of, by their decorations and by the subjects
portrayed in the designs they bore.

Although the mooted question whether Homer's works
were originally in writing may never be settled, there is
much evidence that they might have been written, even
had they been composed a thousand years earlier. The
Letters of Bellerophon are as well known as those of
Junius; Homer himself describes them as sealed, and,
"With things of deadly import writ therein" (Iliad;
VI. line 215), a description indicating, not only Homer's
familiarity with writing but, that the art was practised
before his period; indeed, two hundred years before the

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 19 of 46)