James Reuel Smith.

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

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The highest peak of a mountain range that ran diagon-
ally across Phrygia reached an altitude of approximately
two miles, and was named Mt. Olympus; hence perhaps
the history associated with the Spring of the river Mar-
syas, which rose on the western slope of the range, al-
though it was nowhere near the Mt. Olympus usually
accepted as the home of the ancient divinities.

The history is to the effect that Minerva, getting an
idea from the hissing of the stiffened snakes, when Perseus
cut off serpent-haired Medusa's head, invented the flute,
in the windy month of March, and, having tortured the
forests in secret until she was satisfied with her proficiency,
gave the gods an exhibition of her skill.

The novel entertainment was, however, received with
such unrestrained mirth, because of the ludicrous spec-
tacle of the performer's puffed cheeks, that the irritated
goddess rushed away from the unsympathetic audience
and sought a fountain to see for herself how she looked ;
and she was so provoked with her reflection in the mirror
of the Spring that she flung the flute into the waters and
foreswore its use for evermore.

The satyr Marsyas, finding the discarded instrument
in the fountain, accidentally discovered its possibilities,
and then practised diligently, and without any regard to
the effect upon his facial appearance, to perfect himself in



its use. As soon as he was satisfied with the perfection
of his performance, he challenged Apollo to a competi-
tion, flute against lyre, with Midas as judge.

Apollo, apparently not very sure of his musical supe-
riority, resorted to a trick to increase his chances of success
and played upon his lyre held upside down, an unusual
and, at first sight, astonishing position, but one which
in no wise changed the order of the strings.

When Apollo had finished his part he then insisted that
Marsyas should compete under the same conditions, and
should play with his flute similarly reversed. Under the
circumstances, Marsyas' performance was no doubt little
better than Paderewski's would be if he were compelled
to play on a piano set upside down.

The entire performance was a farce and absolutely
disreputable ; it is even said that Apollo, who sang while
playing the lyre, preposterously contended that Marsyas
ought to sing while he was fluting, and Midas very justly
decided against Apollo; but the god, instead of grace-
fully accepting the judgment, malignantly changed
Midas' ears to such as an ass has; and then fiendishly
flayed Marsyas alive after suspending him to a remark-
ably tall plane tree, which Pliny records was in his time
still pointed out to travelers.

An apologist for Apollo has claimed that he merely
scourged Marsyas; but the murdered musician's skin,
which was preserved at Celaenae near the junction of the
two rivers, was ample proof of the god's more atrocious
act; and to that proof was added the testimony of the
Spring of the Marsyas River itself which was formed by
the tears that the rural divinities shed on seeing Marsyas'

The tears of the rural divinities, the fauns and nymphs
and satyrs, were agumented by the weeping of all the


countryside, for even the hardy herdsmen and the shep-
herds cried as copiously as the others, and the fountain
was formed from what the over-moistened earth could
not absorb.

The flutes, for they were double pipes, floated down
the Marsyas River and into the Maeander, and were finally
rescued at Sicyon and preserved for a long time after-
wards in the town's temple, the custodians of which were
glad to relate all the details of the occurrence to any
visitor who showed a proper appreciation of what is due
to well-informed and talkative temple attendants.

The Spring of Catarractes, which is described as rising
in the very forum of Celsenae and flowing into the Maean-
der River, is taken to be the Spring of Marsyas under
another name.

Xenophon adds the information that the Spring of
Marsyas rose in a cave wherein Apollo hung his victim's

Modern visitors report that the Spring is at a place now
called Denair, and that it gushes out with great rapidity
at the base of a stony cliff surrounded with broken rocks
that probably once formed the roof of the classic cavern.

Ovid; VI. Fabie 4. Herodotus; VII. 26.



The source of the Rhyndacus River was in Lake Artyn-
ias near Miletopolis. The stream was formerly called
Lycus, and, in a part of its course, Megistus.

It formed the boundary line between Mysia and Bithy-
nia, and it flowed into the Propontis with much dignity,
brushing the sea aside and keeping to itself for a great


distance after entering, as was shown by the well-defined
path made by its yellow waters.

It is now called the Lupad, and its source is placed at
the foot of Mt. Olympus in what may have been Phrygia

Piiny; V. 40.


Cl^on. Gelon

Not far from the Spring of Marsyas, there were two
other Springs called Claeon and Gelon, from the effects
that they respectively produced — the names meaning,
the one, to weep ; and the other, to laugh.

Pliny; XXXI. 16.


The Pipe Fountain

Aulocrene, the Pipe or Flute Fountain, was on the crest
of a hill called Celaenas near a city of the same name.

It was the source of the River Maeander where at the
base of a rocky cliff its overflow gushed out in a consider-
able stream that formed a rapid brook.

Cyrus built a palace over the Spring, and made a
hunting park, filled with wild animals, along the borders
of the stream.

The waters of the Spring produced a reed that was
especially suitable for making flutes, and it was from
one of its reeds that Minerva fashioned the first pipe
ever made; the one she threw away and that Marsyas
found and used in his melancholy-ending contest with


The stream is better known from the use of its name as
a synonym for crookedness, as it was believed to be the
most rambling river in the world until the Humboldt
River of Central Nevada in the United States was dis-
covered; the convolutions of this revolving river in
Nevada are said to make some of the wild water fowl giddy
when trying to follow its course; it travels 8 miles to
progress a distance that a straight-away stream would
cover in 2Y2 miles. It runs north twenty-five times;
east, eighteen; south, thirty; and west, forty-one.

At 33 points it runs parallel to itself, the two currents
less than 150 feet apart, and the streams flowing in oppo-
site directions as if the river were doubling on its tracks
to elude pursuit. Finally it runs into the desert where it
makes good its escape by sinking out of sight.

In its turnings and twistings the Masander frequently
sliced off large portions of its banks and floated them to
some other part of its course; and many actions were
brought against it for thus robbing people of their land
and transferring it elsewhere.

The fines that were imposed on the river in these cases
were collected ingeniously and without difficulty. As the
stream was a very deep one, at many places as deep as it
was broad, it could not be crossed except at the ferries;
and whenever the river was mulcted for some new
robbery the passengers' tolls were increased until the
amount of the judgment was satisfied.

The present source of the Masander has been reported
to be what is called a lake which is a half mile or more
across, and near Denair. Growing in this body of water
are many reeds which may justify calling it the Pipe
fountain of Minerva's period.

Xenophon; Anabasis; I. 2. § 7.
Strabo; XII. 8. § 15 and § 19-



Many precipitous rivers were named Lycus, supposedly
because their rapid currents suggested the rushing of a
wolf in the pursuit of its prey.

This Lycus, of Phrygia, rose in the eastern part of Mt.
Cadmus but disappeared in a chasm near Colossae. It
sprang out again, a half mile away, loaded with calcareous
matter that formed a coating of stone wherever it was
deposited; and the water of the stream, dashing against
the rocks among which it rushed, was shred into spray
and flung to the height of its banks, painting them over
with coat upon coat that solidified and gained in thick-
ness until eventually the stone walls, growing out on each
side, met and formed arches or natural bridges of traver-
tine over the river, a passage below being kept open by
the force of the current.

The chasm where the stream first disappeared has been
found in the ruins of Chonas which took the place of
Colossae, a city widely known to the ancients through the
valuable fleeces of its raven black sheep, and to later day
Christians through St. Paul's Epistles to its inhabitants.
Laodiceia, of The Revelation, was also practically on the
banks of the Lycus, which reached the sea through the
Maeander River.

The Lycus is now called the Tchoruk-Su.

Herodotus; VII. 30. Ovid; Meta. XV. line 272.


The Well of Midas

Ancyra, in the peak of the northwest corner of Phry-
gia, was a town built by Midas the son of that Gordius
whose fame was tied up in a knot.


The city had a temple of Zeus in which was kept the
anchor that Midas found, the anchor that gave name to
the city and that was reproduced on many of its coins.
The people showed a Well called the Well of Midas
because, they said, he poured wine into it that he might
capture Silenus.

If that incident resulted in Midas' pouring gold in-
stead of wine into another Spring (vide Pactolus), it
may throw a new light on the feature in the history of
Midas that made him even more famous than his farmer
father. If Midas made Silenus drunk for the purpose of
getting credit for rescuing him, then Bacchus' pretended
reward for a kindness to his friend may have been really
a spoofmgly administered punishment for what Bacchus
well understood was a trick on the part of Midas, who
seems to have been a favorite victim for practical jokers.
He himself is said to have been made drunk by someone
who poured wine into a Spring from which he drank; and
Bacchus gave him the power of transmutation in such a
way that Midas was only too glad to get rid of it even
though the process required his taking a long journey ; and
Apollo made him ridiculous by giving him a pair of long,
flapping ass' ears.

The Spring at which Midas himself was made drunk
may have been that wayside fount in the forest of Thym-
brium, 150 miles from Ancyra, which was pointed out to
Cyrus as the fountain of Midas.

Xenophon; Anabasis. I. 2. §13.
Pausanias; I. 4.



A cavern thirty stadia from Themisonium in the
southern part of Phrygia was ranked as the third most


wonderful cave in the world of the ancients, the first and
second being the Corycian Cavern and the Cave of
Steunos, and the fourth The Cave of Hylae.

The existence of the Themisonium cavern was re-
vealed to the leaders of the town in a dream which,
also, gave them directions to hide the townspeople in
it when a raiding party of the Galati was approaching
the town.

As there was no direct road to it, and as it contained
Springs of water, it made a safe refuge for the threatened
inhabitants until the invaders had departed. But they
must have suffered considerable discomfort during the
time they had to hide, for, from the descriptions of the
cave, the most remarkable things about it seem to have
been a very low roof that almost touched the floor, and
an absolute absence of any sunlight.

The cave at Hylae was remarkable for its statue of
Apollo which had the power of inuring men to injury,
and could give them supernatural strength. Such as
received the power could leap down precipices without
suffering any hurt, and could tear up huge trees by the
roots and carry them easily and unchecked through
winding mountain passes.

Today the most remarkable thing about these caves
is that they should have been remarked; for there were
really awe-inspiring caverns nearly under the feet of the
describers when they traveled through the country north
of Epirus. Their existence was of course unsuspected by
many, but it is not impossible that someone had glimpsed
them, and found in their sights inspiration the sotirce of
which his hearers could never have surmised.

It was thought by ancient commentators that Homer
deflected the rivers Acheron and Cocytus, in Epirus, to
the subterranean tract where he located Hades and Ely-


sium, and the idea has been tacitly accepted ever since
it was first expressed.

Within recent years, however, explorations by inquisi-
tive Italians have disclosed what, if Homer (as he may
have) had an inkling of, would turn the case the other
way around and show that he took the easier task of
founding his Hades near where those rivers were already
running ; for it is now known that within a few hundred
miles of the source of the Acheron there are caverns in
the earth many times more deep and extensive than the
lowest dives of ancient fancies ever described or fathomed;
those fictions now seem commonplace in contrast with
the facts that lay before their fathers, unknown and un-
imagined by many of them — such as chambers with
colossal ceilings, and winding galleries, scores of miles in
length, through many of which great rivers flow in inky
darkness, plunging from time to time in cataracts of dizzy
height to lower and lower depths to reach their outlets
near the bases of plateaux covering thousands of square
miles, like the Carso table-land through which the
Timavo river ran its winding, unseen course.

Ruins found at Kai Hissar are thought to be those of

Pausanias; X. 32.


Caruru Boiling Springs

The Springs of Caruru gave forth boiling water ; some of
them rose in the River Masander, and others on its banks.

Caruru was a village on the dividing line between Phry-
gia and Caria, and a slab was set up by King Crcesus
directing to the fact the attention of travelers, of whom


there were great numbers that passed through or stopped
overnight at the place, giving employment to numerous
innkeepers; for the village was on the highway running
along the valley of the Maeander from Laodiceia to Ephe-
sus, over which all of the products of the interior were tak-
en down to the seacoast for shipment to foreign markets.

The village on the busy highway has disappeared, and
from very old accounts of the conditions of the country
at that time, little effort is required to imagine what
became of it. The district was subject to earthquakes,
each shock of which seems to be assumed as definitive by
people in all parts of the earth where they occur, so that
from Caruru to San Francisco the ground has hardly
ceased to tremble before the inhabitants are busy at
raising new walls and replacing the crockery.

In Caruru, during the earthquakes, cracks and chasms
were wont to appear and engulf whatever lay in their
path ; sometimes in the night an inn with all its patrons
would drop out of sight before the lodgers could even
jump out of bed.

So much of the place has thus disappeared that the
Springs themselves are now the only guides to its old
location, and a spot 12 miles northwest of Denizli, where
some hot Springs are seen leaping out of the ground as if
trying to escape from the heat below, is supposed to have
been the location occupied by the Caruru of ancient days.

Strabo;XII. 8. § 17.


The very singular properties of the Hot Springs and
the Plutonium at Hierapolis aroused the wonder of the


ancients; and some of the effects the waters produced
have appeared equally surprising to modern travelers.

The water of the Springs consolidated so readily that it
became stone even in the act of flowing, and made dams
of solid rock in its channels.

Under a small brow of the overhanging mountain there
was a pit of considerable depth that had at the top an
opening only large enough to admit the body of a man.
A four-sided railing surrounded this pit, which was the
Plutonium, and from which issued a dark and cloudy
vapor so dense that the bottom could barely be observed
through the veil it formed. Birds and animals, even
powerful bulls, if taken inside of the railing fell lifeless
instantly when they breathed the noxious fumes that
came from this Charon's sewer, as it was called.

There was also a Plutonium, with a cave called The
Charonium at Acharaca in Lydia.

The Galli, the attendant eunuchs, the priests of the
Mother of the Gods, who were in charge of the Plutonium,
seemed, however, to be immune from the gases and were
able even to descend into the pit unharmed ; a fact that
led to current conjecture and discussion as to whether
their immunity was due to their physical difference from
other men, or to the guarding care of the divinity, or
simply to their holding their breath, or to their possession
of some antidote against the fumes.

Those emanations have ceased to proceed from the
pit; but there is plenty of proof of the consolidating
tendencies of the waters of the Hot Springs which, as
recent explorers assert, have left cascades of stone as
though the waters had been suddenly frozen in their
headlong rush, or instantly fixed as solid, wavy rocks that
seem to be nature-like waterfalls molded in stone.

Hierapolis was the birthplace of Epictetus; it lay be-


tween the Maeander and the Lycus rivers, some five miles
north of Laodiceia whose people's welfare was the object
of St. Paul's ''special conflict."

Strabo; XIII. 4. § 14. PHny II. 55-



The Spring of the Gallus River was at Modra in Phrygia
in the district which was called the Epictetus and was
formerly occupied by the Bithynians.

It was either the water of this Spring, or that of
another small river of the same name in Phrygia, that
caused madness in those who drank of it immoderately,
although when taken in medicinal doses it was believed to
act as a cure for affections of the bladder.

The Galli, the frenzied priests of the Mother of the Gods,
were said to have derived their name from the fountain of
Gallus, to whose effects were attributed their self-mutila-
tions and their noisy ceremonies with tambourines and
cymbals and howlings.

As the goddess was worshiped in Phrygia as early as
1506 B.C., it would seem more consistent to connect the
name of her priests with the fountain of Gallus than
with people of Gaul who migrated from the Pyrenees to
what became Galatia, as that migration did not take
place until many centuries later.

It seems not unlikely, too, that the Bona Dea, who had
her Spring at Rome in the time of Hercules, came to be
considered the same as the Mother of the Gods for whom
the Romans sent to Phrygia in 204 B.C. as a charm to
drive Hannibal out of Italy. On that occasion the eunuch
fraternity of Galli generously gave the Romans a stone,


which they said was the goddess herself; and as the
Romans were perfectly satisfied, and conveyed the stone
to Rome with devout solicitude, one may gather that the
deity was the sharpened stone with which the Galli
mutilated themselves when they had become maddened
with overdraughts from the fountain of Gallus.

A town and its Spring, which are now called Aine Geul,
are supposed to be the Modra of Strabo, which, appar-
ently, he mislocated.

Ovid; Fasti. IV. line 364 and 222.
Strabo; XII. 3. § 7.


Athenaeus mentions the fountain of Dorylaeum as being
very delicious to drink of. Dorylaeum is said to be repre-
sented by a settlement now called Eski-Shehr.

On the other hand, the fountains of Menoscome and
of the Lion's Village were pronounced rough and nitrous
in their taste.

The last two Springs have not been identified.

Athenaeus; II. 17.



The Spring of the Sangarius River was in the village of
Sangias on Mt. Adoreus.

The river was celebrated for the fine fish that were
taken in its waters, which emptied into the Euxine Sea.

It formed the boundary between Phrygia and Bithy-

Strabo; XII. 3. § 7-


The Arms of Briareus

One hundred Springs flowed from a hill near the mouth
of the Rhyndacus River and they were called The Arms of

Briareus, sometimes designated ^Egaeon, and his two
brothers Gyges and Cottus were the first progeny of the
first god, Uranus.

Each one of the three had fifty heads and one hundred

Almost immediately after birth, their father confined
them in Tartarus, a region as far from the earth as the
earth was from the sky. They were released by the
Titans just before Uranus was succeeded by his son
Saturn called Cronus by the Greeks, who, however, re-
imprisoned them when they had assisted him to gain the
sovereignty of the world; and they were not released
again until Zeus was about to take the place of Saturn, as
sovereign, the 300 rocks they could hurl at one throw
making their services of great value in the different celes-
tial revolutions.

In an early dispute between Neptune and Apollo re-
garding the ownership of the isthmus of Corinth, Briareus
was appointed arbitrator, and, by giving a small part of
the territory to Apollo, angered Neptune who threw him
into the sea, in which he was unable to keep all of his
heads above water.

Briareus' body was buried near the mouth of the Rhyn-
dacus under the hill out of which there then gushed the
hundred Springs.

No corresponding fountains have been reported in the
near neighborhood in modern days, but it will be recalled
that the source of the Thermodon in Pontus produced


ninety-six rivers, and that Hercules encountered a num-
ber of six-armed men near the Rhyndacus River.

E. Clavier's note on Apollodorus I. i. § i.


The Fountain of Midas

When Cyrus had reached Thymbrium, at the outset
of his expedition to capture Babylon, there was pointed
out to him at the side of the road a Spring called the
fountain of Midas, which he was told was the one into
which King Midas poured wine in order to capture the
satyr who drank of it — as to which circumstance, men-
tion is made under the fountain of Inna. (No. 202.)

If Thymbrium was at what is now the town of Ak
Shahir, then the king's fountain may be the one at
present called Alu Bunar Darbund, which is several days'
journey from Kara Bunar, the Black Spring, which
locates the town of Dana at which Cyrus stayed three
days in Cappadocia.

Xenophon; I. 2. § 13.


The Asmab^an Well

The Asmabaean Well was a mysterious hot Spring
that rose in a cold lake near Tyana the capital of

Not less strange was the circumstance that though the
lake had no visible outlet the unvarying depth of the
water showed there was no increase in volume.

The Spring was sacred to Zeus, and on the border of
the lake a temple was erected to that divinity in which
he was worshiped with the surname of Asmabasus, de-
rived from the Spring.

The waters were shut in by perpendicular hills in which
were cut steps that led to the temple.

Tyana, however, produced a human mystery more
widely known than the phenomenal fountain ; a mystery
that traveled in person to all parts of the world ; of whom
books were written and to whom altars and temples were
raised, and who might, under different conditions, have
prolonged the life of paganism. This mystery was Apol-
lonius of Tyana, who was born in the city four years
before the Christian Era.

His mission was to restore pagan worship to its primi-
tive piety, and free it from corruption and the effects of
its association with the fables of the poets; to abolish
sacrifices; and to emancipate prayer from service of the
lips, for he held that the heart's sincere desire was prayer



and that it became polluted when touched with the
tongue or passed through the lips.

But in Apollonius' time it was too late to attempt to
cure the cancer, that had spread throughout the pagan
body, by lopping off a few obtruding particles, and the
more radical method of the new school of salvation was
adopted, that of complete excision and the substitution
of Christianity.

Apollonius was said to be an incarnation of Proteus,
and of the bookful of prodigies related about him two in
particular were of a nature to confirm such a claim,
they both occurred in Rome, but at different times; one,
when an indictment, under which he was about to be
prosecuted, was found to have become blank, Apollonius

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 23 of 46)