James Reuel Smith.

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

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of wild olives, fell madly in love with her, and, waiting
till midnight when the Ghost appeared, attacked him
with such fury that the Shade fled in terror and dove into
the sea, or perhaps into the Well, and was never seen

Euthymus thereupon married the Ghost's widow with
great pomp, and lived to an advanced old age — in fact,
he never died, but left mankind "in some other way, " as
the legend tantalizingly puts it. There is, however, a
fascinating pleasure in concluding that the Ghost could
have supplied the missing links in the mysterious dis-
appearance, and could have explained the real connec-
tion between itself and the Well that seems to have
acquired its name.

Euthymus was deified by command of the Oracle of
Delphi, and had two statues erected to him, one at Locri
and the other at Olympia; and it was considered "the
most wonderful circumstance ever known" that both
statues were struck by lightning on the same day.

Pausanias; VI. 6.
Pliny; VII. 48.



Iapyx, that one of Lycaon's fifty sons who gave the
present Terra D'Otranto its ancient name of Iapygia,


may be supposed to have taken the shortest water route
by which it can be reached from Greece, crossing, as did
Hercules, where the opposite shores of the Adriatic are
within forty miles of each other, and to have landed near
the little village of Leuca on the headland that is still
called Cape Leuca.

The village had a Spring with a fetid odor; a Spring
that owed its origin to the feat that necessitated the
trip Hercules took in order to kill twenty-four monstrous
snake-footed giants. They were immortal on their
native soil in Greece, and, therefore, Hercules dragged
them from it, and across to Leuca where he killed

The surrounding district took its name of Leuternia
from their presence, and the streams from their wounds
gave rise to the Spring, whose unpleasant odor may
explain why the place never grew beyond the limits of a
hamlet, while other settlements in Iapygia became great
and celebrated cities, of which the chief was Tarentum,
whose prosperity and progress in the arts and in letters,
and whose subsequent luxury and laziness were as re-
markable as those of Sybaris.

Tarentum was founded, two years after Sybaris, by the
Spartan Phalanthus whom an oracle directed to make a
city where he saw rain from a clear sky. Becoming de-
spondent after a long search for a rainy district that was
cloudless, he lay down with his head in the lap of his wife,
who, in monkey fashion explored his hair.

While thus tenderly engaged she wept in sympathy
with her husband's sorrows, and her tears falling on his
face revealed the oracle's meaning, and indicated the site
that Phalanthus was seeking — for his wife's name was
Clear Sky, ^Ethra.

That night he founded Tarentum. That is to sav, he


took from the Barbarians the town they had already built

From that inauspicious beginning, with an apparently
impossible riddle for solution, an unkempt and vermin-
ous state of poverty and despondency, desperation and
tears, sprang Tarentum, which became a wonder of
wealth and luxury; a case in curious contrast with the
history of the two dozen giants, practically endowed with
immortality, and with every initial prospect of unending
greatness, who founded nothing better than a village
Spring with a fetid odor.

Some of the forms of luxury enumerated as fads of
"Sybarites" were invented at Tarentum, or, more prob-
ably, were introduced there by exotic Eastern people who
were attracted by its enervating climate, which gave it a
record for indolence that has never yet been surpassed if,
as is said, it observed more holidays and festivals than
there were days in the year.

It endured several centuries longer than Sybaris, but
in the end it suffered the fate of all other Magna Graecia
cities, and by B.C. 123 it had fallen into decay.

It was plundered of its works of art and its vast quan-
tities of gold and silver, and was literally pulled to pieces,
so that hardly a trace of the old city can now be found.

The modern town that bears the name today is the larg-
est in that part of Italy, but it easily finds accommodation
in the space that the ancient town allotted to its citadel.

Strabo;VI. 3. §5-



The city of Ela was so called from an excellent foun-
tain-. The name is found in different forms, which how-


ever always retain the original three letters, such as, Elea,
Hyela, and Velia.

The town was originated by the Phocasans in 540 B.C.,
and a system of philosophy, and a Gulf were indebted to
the fountain for their designations; the Eleatic Gulf in
the nearby coast ; and the Eleatic Philosophy originated
by Xenophontes. The philosopher wrote a poem describ-
ing the founding of the city, but that work has been lost
with such pictures and praises of the fountain as it no
doubt presented.

The basic theme of the Eleatic Philosophy was the
oneness of the Divinity. Zeno and other notables were
born in the place, which was described as an inconsider-
able city that was nevertheless capable of producing
great men.

The ruins of the town are about a mile and a half
from the mouth of the Alento river, the ancient Hales
the offspring of the fountain.

Strabo; VI. i. § i.




The sources of the Caicus river were in a plain near the
village of Gergitha.

The river flowed through a very extensive and fertile
country and entered the sea thirty stadia from Pitane
where was the dragon that Apollo hardened into life-like
stone, at the moment its gaping mouth was about to
snap at the head of Orpheus which had floated through
the sea from Thrace.

The modern Menduria is supposed to be where Ger-
githa was, and the Caicus flows into the bay that lies
southeast of the island of Lesbos across the channel.

It was at the mouth of the Caicus that Auge of the
Spring of Tegea was stranded with her infant, who
became king of the country.

According to one account the Caicus was really the
Mysius river that, tired of its Spring and its banks,
plunged into the earth for novelty and came up again as
a new Spring that was called Caicus.

Strabo; XIII. 1. § 70. Ovid; Meta. XV. line 275. XL Fable l.



The Springs of Astyra were considered remarkable
because they produced black water.



The water was hot and was used in baths in the Mysian
town of Atarneus, which was opposite the island of

The town was acquired by the people of the island of
Chios, in 546 B.C., as a reward for surrendering to the
Medes an absconding revenue collector named Pactyas.

Besides the Springs of peculiar black water, the town
contained a temple of Artemis.

The present village of Dikeli-Koi is supposed to occupy
the site of the ancient town.

Pausanias; IV. 35.


The Royal Fountain

The water of the Royal Fountain was warm but sweet.

It was in the town of Prussa at the northern foot of
Mt. Olympus in Mysia.

The warm water was used for bathing purposes, and
the old baths are still in existence.

Athenaeus; II. 17.



The fountain of the village of Dascylum was described
as similar to the Royal fountain, its water being warm
and sweet; but neither the fountain nor the village has
yet been located.

Pausanias says it was in Caria in a plain called White,
and that the water was sweeter to drink than milk.

Pliny; V. 40.
Pausanias; IV. 35.



The Artacian Fountain

On their way to Colchis to get the golden fleece the
flying ram had given to his rider Phrixus, the Argonauts
having passed through the Hellespont and into the Sea of
Marmora landed near a hilly island whose eminence was
called Arctos, where there lived a lawless race having six
hands, two additional hands growing on each side below
the shoulders.

The landing was at the Artacian Fountain, which per-
haps took its name from Artaces who is mentioned as the
leader of one of the local tribes only normally endowed
with hands, but no particulars are given in regard to it
save that, in after years, a settlement was founded by the
Spring and became the suburb of the large and thriving
city of Cyzicus.

Artaces himself unfortunately lost his life in a very
strange way within twenty-four hours of the Argonauts'
landing, which was apparently made for the purpose of
obtaining a heavier anchor than the one they had on
board, one which, like the heavier anchor they selected,
was a stone; the light one, which they threw away with-
out ado at the fountain, subsequently became a holy
object of veneration, and was set up in the temple of
Athena where it was called "The Fugitive Stone,"
because until it was made fast with metal bonds, it had
an unanchorlike tendency to run away.

While the crew were rigging their new ground tackle,
a party of well-disposed people of the neighborhood
approached and advised them to row some eight miles
farther on, to the town of Cyzicus, and accordingly, when
their anchor arrangements were completed, they pro-
ceeded to the place indicated by their new-found friends.


The ancient suburb is described as now "the miserable
town of Erdek. "

Apollonius Rhodius; I. line 956.



The town of Cyzicus, circa 1263 B.C., was a new one
set in a plain about the hilly island in the vicinity of the
Artacian Fountain. It had been planned by and named
after the King of the Doliones who had met the Argon-
auts at the Artacian Fountain; he was a young man,
about the age of Jason who was then twenty years old;
his beard was just sprouting, and he had only a few
months before married Cleite, a lovely fair-haired girl, a
daughter of the King of Rhindacus who was a celebrated
soothsayer named Merops.

Cyzicus afterwards became a splendid city noted for
its buildings of white marble, and for its temple whose
walls, of the same material, were pointed up with gold
instead of mortar; for the beauty and value of its gold
coinage; and for the production of a popular perfume
called Cyzican ointment.

The Spring of Cleite gives ample proof that there were
at one time some who grieved o'er others' griefs sincerely,
and that the nymphs of Mysia were no less tender-hearted
than those of Phrygia who saw Marsyas flayed.

When they reached the town, the Argonauts were
made welcome and were given a banquet, and their stores
were replenished with sundry provisions, among which
was included a plentiful supply of "Sweet Mead" which
apparently served the prehistoric pirate in place of the
rum of his counterpart of later periods, for mead, not-


withstanding its soft name, seems to have provoked
pugnacity and bleared the eye as readily as rum ; even on
the eve of the outset of the voyage, after a few draughts
of it one of the crew, Idas, called Jason a coward, and
offered to fight a god if one would show himself; and
Idmon, another member of the band, called Idas a
fool; and only the intervention of some of the others
and the soothing melodies of the lyre of Orpheus averted
a fight.

At dawn of the day following the banquet, the voyage
was resumed, but at the mouth of the harbor they were
ambushed by the men of half a dozen hands, who had
endeavored to block the channel with rocks and prevent
the Argo's exit. A few of the crew, however, led by Her-
cules, soon killed every member of the band, and the
boat proceeded on its way.

Late in the afternoon a violent storm arose, and during
the night they were blown ashore where, on landing, they
were hotly assailed by the inhabitants, several of whom
were slain before they could be driven off.

By the dim light that struggled through the heavy
storm clouds after daybreak, they discovered to their
infinite amazement and chagrin that the men they had
killed were some of their late hosts, among whom was
Cyzicus himself, and also Artaces. In the double dark-
ness of the storm and the night, the Argonauts had not
recognized the island, to which they had been blown back,
and neither they nor the other party saw that they were
fighting with friends.

Both sides were plunged in grief at the terrible mis
fortune, and the young wife in her anguish hanged herself,
an additional awful deed that harrowed the feelings of
even the wood nymphs; and the innumerable tears of
those gentle and sympathetic beings saturated the earth


which spouted them forth as a Spring that men called by
the storied name of Cleite.

Some of the foundations of Cyzicus are still faintly
traceable in the present cherry orchards and the vine-
yards in the vicinage of the village of Bal Kiz, in whose
last syllable may also be faintly traced a kind of ruin of
part of the name of the ancient city.

The Spring of Cleite was also called Cupido.

Apollonius Rhodius; I. line 1865.


Jason's Spring

The terrible storm, that drove the Argonauts back to
Cyzicus with such sad results, continued with unabated
fury for twelve long dreary days and nights, during which,
the usual funeral rites having been performed, the leader-
less people seemed to lose all interest in life, taking no
thought of aught but their bitter grief. Their ordinary
occupations ceased, the housewives prepared no meals,
and such as eat a few mouthfuls partook of uncooked

And during all that time the Cyzicans continued their
lamentations, and the wood nymphs in their softer strain
poured forth their grief and fed the fountain of Cleite.

At the end of the twelfth day, however, the shrill note
of the fair-weather Kingfisher was heard again, and the
Argonauts immediately repaired to one of the neighboring
heights of the Dindymus range, to offer sacrifice to Rhea
and beseech her to hasten the end of the violent winds —
and during all of the ceremonies they were obliged to
beat their bucklers with their swords to drown the lugu-
brious sounds of the islanders' mourning wails.


Having besought the goddess to give them a sign that
their sacrifice was acceptable and that she would be propi-
tious, the kindly deity vouchsafed them several signs,
the most practical and useful of which was the gushing
forth of a Spring on the hill of Dindymus, which had
always theretofore been dry and fountless — and that
Spring came to be called Jason's Spring.

As the Spring bubbled up and babbled cheerily down
the hillside, the winds were hushed and the delayed
voyagers lost no time in following the streamlet to the
shore and rowing away on the long and gentle swells
with which the bosom of the sea rose and fell in the quiet
sleep that followed its exhausting fortnight's fury.

As there seems to be no subsequent mention of this
Spring, it is possible that when it had served its purpose,
as one of the signs, the mountain reverted to its previous

Apollonius Rhodius; I. line 1148



The Spring at Perperena petrified the ground wherever
the water touched it.

Perperena is one of several places at which the historian
Thucydides is said to have come to his end about 401
B.C. ; and a neighboring mountain called Alexandreia was
said to have been where the three goddesses met in con-
tention for the beauty prize awarded by Paris.

The town was southeast of Adramyttium near the
Caicus river, but there are no ancient remains even of
the latter and more important place.

Pliny; Nat. Hist. XXXI. 20,



The Argonauts, in their eagerness to put so much sea
between themselves and sorrowing Cyzicus that no storm
could blow them back to the sound of its sighs and sob-
bings, rowed with a vigor that, before nightfall, completely-
exhausted the energies of all but hardy Hercules, who,
long after the others had laid aside their oars in utter
fatigue, continued to force the vessel forward in laboring
plunges that made her timbers creak and groan at every
stroke. No single oar, however, could bear the strain
indefinitely, and in the middle of one giant pull the over-
tasked ash broke at the tholepin, and drifted far behind
in the frothing wake while the hero was being assisted to
raise his bulk from the bottom of the boat.

The hastily organized expedition, composed for the
most part of soldiers, soothsayers and farmers, was pro-
vided with no spare parts and was therefore under the
necessity of going ashore again to make another oar to
replace the one the sturdy strokes of Hercules had
broken. The landing for this purpose was made at the
mouth of the river Cios, and Hercules, glad enough of a
respite from the raillery of his friends, immediately
plunged into the forest to select a suitable tree from
which to make a strong man's oar.

In the meantime, his young friend Hylas, solicitous
about the hero's supper, took a brazen pitcher and went



into the woods to find a sacred Spring, for water with
which to prepare the evening meal. Beneath the crest of
Mt. Arganthus he found the fountain of Pegae, a liquid
abode loved by the Thynian nymphs. Around it grew
many rushes; the pale blue swallow- wort ; the green
maidenhair; and blooming parsley and couch grass.

Over it, from the boughs of the trees of the wilderness,
hung dewy apples ; and in the meadow it mothered there
rose fair lilies grouped with purple poppies.

The fountain was presided over by an aesthetic nymph
who was just rising from the lovely Spring as Hylas
approached along the path where it was lit by a beam
of the warm June moon that shone through an opening in
the forest foliage, and clearly revealed his curly auburn
locks, and the sweet grace and blush of his beauteous
body, a boyish beauty that had so attracted Hercules
that he killed his father to obtain him.

All unconscious of the presence of the admiring naiad,
Hylas kneeled at the brink of the Spring, and, as he bent
over and plunged the pitcher through the sparkling
bubbles, the amorous nymph laid her left arm on his
neck while with her right she plucked him by the elbow
and drew him under the rippling surface, in a longing to
kiss his soft lips.

Hercules, returning with a tree that he had pulled up
to make his new oar from, heard of Hylas' absence with
great concern and at once plunged back into the forest
on a night-long but futile search for his favorite, who was
never seen again.

Before daybreak, a favoring wind sprang up and the
Argo put to sea and was well on her way before it was
noted by some of the crew that Hercules had been left
behind. Mead, no doubt, played a latent part in this
very unfriendly trick, and afterwards a jealous clique


prevented putting the ship back by meeting those who
favored that course with many arguments ; some alleged
it was unjust to keep the hero from his work in Argos
where his twelve labors were still unfinished, and others
brazenly asserted that he was a deserter. And so the
ship was kept upon her course.

Hercules will, however, receive little sympathy for
being left behind when it is recalled that, if his eloquence
and sarcasm had measured up to his strength, he would
have secured the abandonment of Jason at Lemnos where,
in a long speech, he tried to persuade the company to
sail away and leave the leader u to repeople the island."

The people about Pegae left no stone unturned in the
hunt for Hylas whom they had every incentive to find,
for when Hercules finally left to resume his work for
Eurystheus he took with him as hostages the sons of the
noblest people, and exacted from them an oath that they
would never cease from the search until the boy or his
body was found. As Hercules kept the child hostages
in the town of Trachin while the nymph kept Hylas in
the fountain of Pegae, the people pursued their search in
no perfunctory way, and for a long time their salutation
was, "Have you seen Hylas?" Even twelve hundred
years later, that oath to Hercules was respected, and the
inhabitants kept a festival during which they wandered
through the woods about the mountain calling on Hylas
by name, as if in search of him.

A similar story is related of Bormus a beautiful youth
of Bithynia whom the nymphs drew into a fountain that
may have been Pegae itself. Bormus was the son of a
rich and illustrious man named Upius, and was far supe-
rior to all of his fellows in beauty and in vigor of youth.
His popularity is evidenced by the fact that it became a


national custom of the Bithynians to go about, as if seek-
ing the youth, chanting a dirge or invocation with an
accompaniment of flutes; this occurred every year at
harvest time, for it was during the reaping season that
Bormus was kidnaped by the nymphs.

This Spring, the source of the river the poets call
Crudelis, has been taken for the Ascanius Lake the source
of the Ascanius River ; but to accept this would require
that faith which is said to be able to move mountains;
for the Spring was under the crest of Mt. Arganthus
which is north of Cius, while Lake Ascanius is southeast
of that place and some distance away.

Cius, a town named after a shipmate and friend, of
Hercules, who founded it on his way back from Colchis,
was afterwards called Prusias, and is now Brusa on the
Bay of Gemlik.

Apollonius Rhodius; I. line 86s and 1209.
Athenaeus; XIV. 11.
Theocritus; Idyll XIII. line 39-
Strabo; XII. 4. § 3.


The Spring of Amycus

The ship of the Argonauts made a stop for replenish-
ment on the southern shore of the Euxine Sea, in the
territory of the Bebrycians in Bithynia, and the crew
were soon busily engaged in foraging explorations through
the nearby country.

Castor and Pollux, while covering the sector assigned
to them, having reached the base of a mountain and
penetrated into the midst of a wild forest of vast size,
came suddenly upon an ever-flowing Spring under a
smooth cliff. Through its pure water the pebbles in its


depths seemed like crystal, or silver; and its basin was
surrounded by tall pines and poplars, and planes, and
cypresses with lofty tops; and among the trees grew
fragrant flowers, pleasant workshops for hairy bees,
flowers as many as, when the Spring is ending, sprout up
along the meadows.

So engrossed were the brothers, in the contemplation
of this unexpected paradise in the wilderness, that it was
not until a deep grunt of mixed defiance and inquiry
summoned their attention, that they became conscious
of another presence in the charming nook; the presence
of a man of overwhelming size and forbidding appear-
ance who evidently resented the approach of the in-
truders, and whose biceps, like stones rounded by rolling
through a river, and iron-textured flesh, showing scars and
numerous lumps, clearly indicated his pugilistic calling.

Of this no doubt was left when the brothers, assuming
the native's presumptive ownership of the Spring, and
his ill-nature, offered payment for the privilege of a

Their offer was immediately and sullenly declined; if
they desired a drink, it must be fought for in a boxing
contest, the loser of which should become the winner's

As such a contest was only too much to the liking of
Pollux, and as the Argo's sailing was not to be delayed,
there were few moments lost in the preparations.

The friends of the sullen native, who proved to be
Amycus a son of Neptune, and the crew of the ship, were
summoned with shout and by horn, and as soon as they
were assembled, the match began.

Of this fight to a finish, in 1263 B.C., almost every shift
and every blow, with its resultant gory or puffed effect, is
minutely recorded down to the knockout, which was de-


livered by Pollux a few seconds after a well-placed hook
below the temple of Amycus.

Only the timekeeper's report is lacking, as it is, regret-
tably, in all ancient sports whose records would otherwise
be interesting and instructive in comparison with those
of modern courses and arenas ; but no doubt if Pollux was
thirsty at the beginning, he thoroughly enjoyed his well-
earned draught, from the silver pebble Spring, at the finish.

It may be doubted whether even Castor and Pollux
could now, after the lapse of more than three thousand
years, retrace their forage ramblings in the wild forest
and point out this particular Spring.

Theocritus; Idyll XXII. line 35.


The fountain of Azaritia was above the city of Chalce-
don, apparently near the coast of the Bosphorus.

It was said to breed small crocodiles.

The location is in about latitude 40 which is perhaps
somewhat farther north than the saurian of today chooses

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 21 of 46)