James Reuel Smith.

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

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for his haunts, and one might be inclined to speculate
as to whether some hasty and superficial observer might
mistake a tadpole for a very young crocodile.

Strabo; XII. 4. § 2.


Pliny's Bithynian Springs

The fondness of Pliny the Younger for fountains and
water in his private villas was equally noticeable in his
official life; thus, at one time he secured the office of


Curator of the banks and the channel of the River Tiber ;
and at another time when, in 103 a.d., he was appointed
Propraetor in Bithynia, which had then become a Roman
Province called Pontica, he immediately became in-
terested in the Province's Department of Water Works.

He was sent to the district to correct many rampant
abuses by criminals in the service of the State, and to
trace items illegally paid out of the public funds ; to put
an end to special kinds of bribery, and to correct mis-
carriages of justice ; but among his first communications
from Bithynia, to the Emperor Trajan, is the announce-
ment that he has personally visited a splendidly clear
Spring from which he desires permission to build an
aqueduct to carry its water to the capital city, Nicomedia,
which, although it had paid the equivalent of $195,000
on account of two aqueducts, had nothing to show for
the amount but some ruinous arches and fake masonry.

This project was followed with plans for constructing
public baths at each end of the district, at Prussa and at
Smope, to which latter place the water had to be brought
from a Spring sixteen miles away.

Another ambitious water improvement was the making
of a canal to extend the traffic of a river to a lake, without
draining the lake; for the accomplishment of which he
submitted a scheme, the like of which was adopted in
Europe in 19 16, to run the canal from the side of the river
where navigation stopped, and to transfer the freight across
the narrow strip of ground between the river and the
canal whose water from the lake was thus retained intact.

The letters, however, do not locate the Springs defi-
nitely, nor tell of the outcome of the projects, or of what
effect financing them had on the rate of interest, which at
that time in Bithynia was twelve per cent, a month.

Pliny the Youngei ; X. letter XXXIX.


Paphlagonian Fountain

There was a very popular fountain in Paphlagonia
which was much resorted to because its water had a
flavor of wine.

Paphlagonia covered a territory of eight hundred
square miles between the Parthenius River on the west
and the Halys River on the east, and it is now as difficult
to locate the vinous fountain as it is to find the marvelous
Paphlagonian fishing grounds where it was only necessary
to dig into the earth to catch fish.

The birds of the neighborhood are, however, of more
living interest, as, besides having two hearts, they gave
the key to the origin of human music, to Chameleon, the
philosopher of Heracleia, who conceived that the art had
its beginning in man's idling attempts to imitate the wild
birds' notes and melodies.

The Parthenius River had its source in Paphlagonia and
flowed through a district abounding in flowers; if that
source was the Spring alluded to its enticing taste might
very well have been due to a tincture of the plants or
their roots.

Athenaeus;II. 17. VIII. 4.




Thermodon »

The moods of nature are no less obvious than those of
man and the brute.

Though springing from the same chemical causes,
they are perforce manifested in different ways ; but what
is told by the wagging tail of the dog expresses satisfac-
tion no less clearly than the same sensation when con-
veyed by the wagging tongue of a man.

Unrest and excitement in Nature are understood by all,
in the storm and the earthquake, as are her loves and
hates in chemical attractions and repulsions.

Others can recognize her sorrow, in the overcast sky;
her tears, in the rain ; her sympathy, in the healing balm
that covers the wound of the tree ; her fear, in the shrink-
ing shiver of the leaves whipped by the winds ; her courage,
in the steadfast rock lashed by the stormy waves; her
pride, in the mountain peak, unmeasured and unsealed;
and her joy, in the sparkle of the sun and a bright blue

Others, again, may find in the juggler deftly circling his
head with hand- tossed balls, only a weak attempt to
imitate Nature's skill in sport with countless starry
spheres ; or see in her so-called freaks, her vein of humor
and jocosity, as though she, also, relished a little nonsense
now and then.

Two instances of such humor were manifested by



Nature in the Springs of the rivers Tearus and Thermodon
as, from the thirty-eight Springs of the former she made
one single river, while she formed ninety-six rivers from
the solitary Spring of the Thermodon.

This Spring rose in a mountain of the Amazons, and
had no counterpart in all the world. Its stream spread
through a country of hills, and, striking the base of one
hill became two rivers ; these, in turn, were split by other
hills ; and so on, to such numbers that no man knew them
all. Many of them lost themselves in the sands, but the
others, after ranging widely through the land of Themis-
cyra, drew together in a plain and discharged an arching
flood of foam into the cheerless Pontus — where now the
Thermeh of Cappadocia falls into the Black Sea.

Apollonius Rhodius; II. line 973-



The Spring of Cainochorion rose on the summit of a
ridge of precipitous rocks, and threw up an abundance of
water. As the ridge was very high, and almost impreg-
nable to attack, it was enclosed with a wall and was for-
tified by the unpoisonable Mithridates, Cicero's greatest
of kings (after Alexander) , and used as a treasury for his
accumulations of paintings, statues and precious stones,
which, finally, were captured by Pompey and taken to
Rome to grace its Capitol.

This Spring was less than twenty-five miles from
Cabeira where Mithridates had a fortified palace, a park
filled with wild animals for the chase, and some mines and
a watermill.

About thirty miles from Nikzar there is today a high


perpendicular rock, almost inaccessible on every side,
with a stream of water flowing from its top; and this is
supposed to be the still youthful Spring of Cainochorion,
and the site of the old king's treasury.

Strabo; XII. 3. §3i.



At Apollonia in Pontus there was to be seen near the
seashore a fountain that overflowed in summer only, and
mostly about the time of the rising of the Dogstar. The
warmer the summer, the more the fountain flowed, and
the milder the season the less abundant the water the
Spring supplied.

Piiny; XXXI. 28. §4.



The Hot Springs of Phazemonitae in Pontus were highly

Pompey changed the name of the place to Neapolis,
and the modern baths of Cauvsa are supposed to be the
old and salubrious Springs.

Strabo; XII. 3. §38.



The Spring of Niobe, in combination with her own sad
monument of woe, was the most elaborate of all the
conceptions of fountains of transformed women; for, in
addition to the Spring that was fed by her tears, the
mountain from which it issued formed a portrait statue
of the grief-stricken mother.

Niobe, the daughter of Tantalus and the sister of
Pelops, became the wife of Amphion the musical mason
and monarch of Thebes.

Blessed with a number of beautiful children, and proud
of her royal descent and connections, she openly boasted
of her lineage, her wealth, her beauty and her fourteen
handsome children; she declared that plenty had made
her secure, and that she was too great for fortune to hurt ;
in addition, she made invidious comparisons between
herself and Latona; whereupon, almost immediately, that
Goddess caused the death of all her children. As the
youngest and last was stricken, Niobe turned to stone,
but still she wept on, and, enveloped in a hurricane of
mighty wind, she was borne away to the top of Mt.
Sipylus in her native land, and there, fixed on the moun-
tain top, the stone continued to distill tears.

Fifteen centuries after the occurrence, the statue-like
stone was described as still representing a woman all
tears and with dejected mien; and eighteen centuries



later, modern travelers are agreed that the phantom of
Niobe may be plainly made out from one particular point
of view on the ancient mountain a short distance north
of Smyrna, beyond Magnesia the peculiar property of
whose stones gave name to the magnet.

Pausanias; I. 21.

Ovid; Meta. VI. Fable 2.



The fountain of Hypelaeus led to the founding of the
city of Ephesus.

A party of people, in search of a new place to settle at,
being unable to agree upon a site, at last resorted to the
oracle and requested that it would designate a suitable
location for their purposes.

In reply, they were told to build a city in a place that a
fish would show them and to which a wild boar would
guide them.

With what was either the best of judgment or a very
fortunate chance, the party soon afterwards gathered
about the crew of a fishing boat who were cooking their
breakfast around the fountain of Hypelaeus. While they
were watching the preparation of the meal, a hot cinder,
thrown out by the sputtering green wood fire, fell on one
of the fish in a nearby pile, and the fish, with the cinder
sticking to it, flopped into some oily refuse that at once
blazed up and set fire to an adjoining thicket that con-
cealed a wild boar. The startled boar darted out into the
open and made for the mountainside but, struck by a
well-thrown javelin, fell and expired on the spot where
the Athenaeum, the Temple of Minerva, was afterwards


This so-called settlement, which endured until the time
of Croesus, seems to have been the one made by Androclus
by driving out the descendants of the Leleges and the
people who had settled the place long before; in the time
of the Amazons.

After the time of Croesus or about 560 B.C., the settle-
ment was moved to lower ground where the temple stood.
In the time closely following Alexander, Lysimachus
built a wall around the temple, and induced the unwilling
inhabitants to move again, by blocking up the sewers
during the next heavy rain that followed their lefusal.
The incident may have had some connection with the
peoples' objection to adopting "Arsinoe, " the name of
one of Lysimachus' wives, in place of "Ephesus," and
with the separation of the city from the temple by the
interval of a mile. Cleophylus, in his "Annals of the
Ephesians," gives the account of the fish and the fire,
and the modern traveler Hamilton, in his Researches,
confirms at least the fountain part of the story by his
statement that he saw the Spring in his travels in Asia

Strabo; XIV. I. §4.
Athenaeus; VIII. 62.



The Spring Calippia mentioned by Pliny is doubtless
the Well Alitaea, or Halitaea that Pausanias says was near
Ephesus, and it may be assumed was the sacred water of
the Temple of Artemis (Diana) one of the seven wonders
of the world, and the same beautiful Spring that still
rises some 200 yards north of the site of the sacred


There is no account of how the Spring was connected
with the fane, but the city, which was nearly a mile from
the temple, was connected to it by a rope to indicate that
it was dedicated to the goddess.

St. Paul, who in 57 a.d. founded at Ephesus one of the
celebrated seven churches of Asia, lived there two years
and wrought many miracles, bringing the Holy Ghost to
his disciples, and making them prophets, and personally
healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits. In The Acts
there is an enlightening indication of the ramification of
prejudices Christianity had to overcome; the silversmiths
opposed it on trade grounds, because it threatened to
affect the demand for images of the heathen Diana
which they made for the temple and its votaries and

Ephesus was the home of the noble youths, Constan-
tine, Dionysius, John, Maximian, Malchus, Martinian
and Seraphion, who are known as the Seven Sleepers,
from their slumber of two hundred years' duration, and
whose coffin is shown at Marseilles in St. Victor's

Had the Spring been nearer, its waters might have
saved the temple on the night of Alexander's birth, when
it was deliberately destroyed by fire. To thwart the in-
cendiary's scheme to make himself widely known by his
crime, an edict was promulgated fixing death as the
penalty for referring to his name. There is no record of
how many suffered the penalty, but today even a dic-
tionary description of the temple is not considered com-
plete unless it includes the arsonite's name.

The name Calippia was said to mean The Beautiful
Stream of Pion, Pion being the hill at the foot of which
Ephesus was located.

Pliny; V. 31, Herodotus; I. 27.



The town that was called "modern Smyrna" more
than two thousand years ago was founded by a Spring
shaded with a plane tree, under which Alexander the
Great, some 300 years B.C., lay down to sleep after a tire-
some day's hunt on Mt. Pagus.

There was a temple of Nemesis nearby, and the con-
queror, as he slept, saw the goddesses, for there were two,
and understood them to bid him found a city by the'
Spring, and people it with the inhabitants of old Smyrna
two and a half miles distant.

After consulting the oracle at Claros in the matter, the
citizens of the old town moved to the new site, which was
in effect the third, as Ephesus was at first called Smyrna,
after an Amazon of that name; and it was a party from
Ephesus, doubtless those whom Androclus drove out who,
leaving it, started the second, the old, Smyrna; which
they did by occupying a place in which some Leleges,
whom they expelled, had been living.

This easy method of avoiding the preliminary drud-
geries of town-making was perhaps adopted in more cases
than are mentioned by many so-called founders of cities ;
it was the favorite plan of Lysimachus to whom Alexan-
der's death left the carrying out of the dream injunction
about Smyrna.

The modern town was two and a half miles from the old
one and came to be noted for its beauty. It lay for the
most part in a plain, and the streets, running symmetri-
cally at right angles, were lined with two-story houses
and porticos, and a lack of covered drains was said to be
its only defect.

It was near enough to the site of the old town to retain


plausibly the traditions about Homer and his birthplace,
and it contained his statue and a temple to him, besides
having a metal money named after him, Homereium, of
which specimens are still in existence.

But the old town with the actual atmosphere of Homer
about it doubtless long remained a literary shrine as
attractive as Shakespeare's Avon became in later times.

The ancient place held the Poet's study, a cave near
the Springs of the Meles River, in which he was said to
have composed the story of Troy, the account of whose
siege now seems like a prophecy of what happened a few
miles away at Gallipoli 3100 years after he wrote, the
16-inch guns and the aeroplanes of which were seen by
the Poet's teeming brain, and portrayed in his less prosaic
but equally effective flying deities, and thunderous noises
that shook the earth; and even the stratagem fore-
shadowed by his wooden horse, rises far above the com-
monplace horde of a thousand decrepit donkeys that were
employed by the moderns to attract the Turks' attention
while the Anzacs made a landing at another place.

The Spring produces a stream that flows by the ruins
of the old town; its water is bright, sparkling, wholesome
and agreeable, and an inscription discovered some years
ago ascribed to it the additional merit of having healing

Strabo; XIV. i. §4. Pausanias; VII. 5.



The fountain in the grove of Claros had its name from
the tears shed by Manto a prophetess, and a daughter of


The grove was by the town of Colophon some nine
miles north of Ephesus on the banks of the Hales, a small
river noted particularly for the coldness of its waters.

The town was one of those that claimed to have been
the birthplace of Homer, and the invincibleness of its
cavalry has made it an every-day word by giving name to
the nourish with which some signatures are finished, as
the cavalry was believed always to finish every battle in
which it was engaged — or, as the phrase was, "to put the
colophon to it."

After the capture of Thebes and the death of her father
at the Spring of Tilphusa, Manto was told by the Delphic
oracle to marry the first man she met on leaving the

It would undoubtedly be most interesting to know how
she set about obeying such an unusual order without
overstepping the ladylike limits of courtship; but, un-
fortunately nothing is recorded beyond the fact that she
married Rhacias and went with him to Colophon, in the
neighborhood of which place she was suddenly moved by
a recollection of her recent griefs, and from her copious
weeping on that occasion the Spring took name.

The bride and groom there founded a temple to Apollo
in which Manto delivered oracles, and, later, her son
Mopsus became the seer of this temple to which Calchas
paid a visit on his long walk back from the siege of Troy.
In the course of that call, the visitor desired Mopsus to
tell him how many figs there were on a nearby tree ; and
Mopsus in addition to giving the number, which was
10,001, added how much they weighed; and the number
and the weight were both found to be exactly as predicted.

Then Calchas was asked to forecast the number and
the sex in the litter that the temple sow was about to
have. A short time later, the answering prediction of


Calchas was seen to be wrong, and he killed himself in

The subsequent seers at Claros were apparently no less
gifted than those of the family of the founders. All they
required to know, from such as came to consult them, was
the number in the party, and their names; then, after
taking a draught of the water of the sacred fountain, the
priest gave his inspired answer in verse.

The prophetic effects of the waters of the fountain con-
tinued down to the Christian Era, but at that time the
lives of those who drank them were said to be shortened.

Manto's family is imperishably connected with the
fame of the ancient world's two greatest poets. One of
her sons founded the town of Mantua which, with filial
fondness, he named after his mother; and it was at or
near this town that Virgil was born on the 15th of Octo-
ber in the year 70 B.C.

Homer, it would seem, owed even more to the Manto
family, as it is hinted that some of his fame is due to ideas
or inspiration that he drew from the verses composed by
a seeress, a sister of Manto, who also delivered her pro-
phetic answers in metrical form.

The Spring of Claros, has been located at a place now
called Zille, where there is a fountain of water with marble
steps leading down to the surface that perhaps reflected
the fruit on the fig tree when the reputation of Mopsus
was at stake.

Strabo; XIV. i. § 27. Pliny; II. 106.



The fable regarding this Spring does not describe its
origin seemingly both the fountain and its river came


into existence in no unnatural way, and were not endowed
with any remarkable characteristics, nor greatly coveted
for their precious sands, until the time of Midas, the
Phrygian king.

He, having rescued Bacchus's friend, the drunken
Silenus, from some rustics who were making sport of his
condition and baiting him, as unrefined modern children
sometimes treat a disreputable, but inoffensive inebriate,
the god offered him, in return, his choice of any favor
that he might desire.

He accordingly wished that everything he might
touch should turn to gold, and he became supremely
happy until the following mealtime arrived, when what-
ever he conveyed to his mouth, in those forkless days,
became a chunk of unchewable gold.

Astonished at what he called the novelty of his mis-
fortune, being both rich and wretched, he besought
Bacchus for deliverance from this gilded calamity, and
was told; "That thou may'st not remain overlaid with
the gold so unhappily desired, go to the river adjoining
to great Sardis, and trace thy way, meeting the waters
as they fall from the height of the mountain, until thou
comes t to the rise of the stream, and plunge thy head
beneath the bubbling Spring, and at once purge thy body
and thy crime."

Without cavilling at the apparent simplicity of the
specific, Midas at once took the prescribed journey and
placed himself beneath the waters ; whereupon the golden
virtue tinged the river and departed from the human
body into the stream, and the fields still received
some of the ore of this ancient vein of gold in Ovid's

Pactolus was the ancient name of a small brook of
Lydia, rising on Mt. Tmolus, now Bozdaz, and emptying


into the Hermus. It is never more than ten feet broad
and one foot deep.

The gold dust it contained is supposed to have been
carried down from the mountain; and the collection of
these particles, according to legend, was the source of
the wealth of Croesus, through whose city of Sardis the
brook flowed, traversing its market place.

This brook is now called Sarabat, and carries along in
its current a quantity of reddish mud, but it yields no
more gold dust, and, indeed, had ceased to do so even in
the time of Strabo, who lived in the first century B.C.

Some of the incidents in the career of Midas suggest a
common origin with the history of Job, but his life subse-
quent to his admission of wrong doing went naturally
from bad to worse.

At one time he was found near a Spring into which some
one had put wine that made him drunk.

At another time, Midas, when acting as referee in a
musical contest between Apollo and Marsyas, having
made a decision that displeased Apollo, the god changed
his misleading ears to those of a slowly moving ass.

Afterwards he was tormented with frightful dreams;
perhaps those of avarice ; and he died from drinking warm
bullock's blood to avert them. Ants were said to have
crept into his cradle and put grains of wheat in his mouth.
All of which incidents have been assumed, by some of
the history's critics, to be but allegories of the prosaic
facts that Midas was lucky, accumulated wealth, became
a ruler of men and lost his fortune through dissipation
and consequent perversion of judgment.

Midas was the son of that poor countryman Gordius,
who, becoming King of Phrygia, dedicated his wagon to
Jupiter and tied it to the temple with a rope of bark fas-
tened with such an intricate knot that no one could untie


it, until Alexander the Great, being told that whoever
undid the knot should reign over the whole East, severed
it with his sword.

Ovid; Meta. XI. Fable 2.



There were hot Springs by a temple of Apollo, east of
Clazomenae which fronted the sea and eight small islands.

To the west of the town, at Erythrae, there was a
Temple of Hercules which contained a work of art of
perfect Egyptian design; it was a wooden raft on which
the god sailed from Tyre. The people found it on the
coast and, being anxious to secure such a precious
memento, made every effort to get it on shore, but with-
out success until Phormio, a blind fisherman, saw in a
dream that it could be drawn to land with a rope made
of women's hair.

The free-born belles of Erythrae refused to part with
their tresses, but the female slaves were able to furnish
enough material for the purpose, and the raft was drawn
ashore without further difficulty and afterwards placed
in the temple, which none of the women who had refused
to contribute their hair were permitted to enter.

The rope was preserved with the raft, and Phormio
recovered his sight which he retained to the end of his life.

The hot Springs, which register 150 degrees Fahrenheit,
have been found near the present Vourla ; the ruins of the
temple of Hercules are also still in evidence, but the raft
and the hair rope have vanished; and even two of the
islands have disappeared, for of the eight that are men-
tioned in the old descriptions only six can now be found.

Strabo; XIV. i. § 36. Pausanias; VII. 5.


Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 22 of 46)