James Reuel Smith.

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

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favorite bird the peacock, when Zeus had Argus slain and
released Io, whom Hera then persecuted more actively,
goading the poor creature to constant flight from one
country to another with a tireless, stinging gadfly, until
finally, swimming through, and thence naming, the
Ionian Sea, she reached the shore of the island and sought
shelter in a cave which, from that circumstance, was
called Eu Bous, the Cow's Stall — a designation after-
wards applied to a city, and then to the whole island; and
an incident always recalled by the cow's head stamped on
the island's coinage.

Superstitious people might perhaps see in this a pre-
monitory sign, for Eubcea afterwards became a far-famed
place of resort for sufferers, because they found potent
remedies for pains and disorders in some of its Springs.

Among these was the Spring of ^Edepsus.

StrabojX. i. §3-


Spring of ^Edepsus

This Spring was near the town of ^Edepsus in the north-
west part of the island.

It was a cold Spring whose waters were taken inter-
nally and were freely at the disposal of anyone who
needed their benefits — that is, they were free until about
300 B.C. when a predatory representative of Antigonus,
seeing an opportunity in the great numbers of health-
seekers, or, as it is quaintly expressed, wishing to be
economical in respect of the water, placed a tax on each
draught — an impost that the charitable Spring promptly
resented by drying up.


A similar instance occurred in Troas when Lysimachus
attempted to derive a revenue from users of the water of
the Tragasaean Lake, which Lake, however, reappeared
as soon as it was announced that the tax would be dis-

Athenaeus; III. 4.


Hercules' Springs

These were hot Springs by the seashore near ^Edepsus,
and such as sought their benefits used the waters for

They had a greater vogue than the cold Spring, per-
haps because the patrons of the latter, after its disappear-
ance increased the clientele of the baths.

These Springs, too, suddenly went dry, not in protest
against any impositions, but because of an earthquake.
After being dry for three days, they reappeared in new
places, and they still exist today near the town of Lipso
which has taken the place of iEdepsus.

Their sulphurous waters, ranging from 90 to 180 in
temperature, are still so popular that their numerous
patients support three modern hotels.

Pliny apparently refers to these Springs as ' ' the warm
Springs known as Ellopiae, " that being an ancient name
for Eubcea.

Pliny; IV. 21.



The Spring of Arethusa was near what was, ages ago,
as it is still, the principal town of Eubcea — Chalcis


"which feedeth the far-famed waters of Arethusa by the
sea," as Euripides praisingly described it. And it is
doubly remarkable that he made another Arethusa
immortal by burial in a town of that name in Macedonia;
and that the town was founded by people from Chalcis
who named it after their own home fountain.

A better known settlement by the Chalcidians was
Cumag, the mother of Naples, which, made by Megas-
thenes in 1050 B.C., was probably the second colony that
went from Greece, if (Enotrus' migration to Magna Grae-
cia was the first,

Arethusa heard the last words of Aristotle, who died in
Chalcis in August B.C., 322, owing, it is said, to the effect
of worry over being unable to account for the fourteen
mysterious changes of the tide that occurred daily in the
Euripus — the narrow strait before the city where it con-
tracted to a channel only forty yards in width and was
spanned by a two-piece bridge connecting it with the

Chalcidians originated The Hague Conference idea of
regulating the conduct of war, and were the first to make
agreements with others restricting the use of the long-
range projectiles of those days — weapons that like
javelins and spears were thrown at enemies.

The fountain was remarkable for the volume of its
waters which supplied the whole city; and it contained
numbers of various kinds of fish so tame that they fed
from the hand; among them were eels, gaily decorated
with earrings of silver and gold, that crowded about the
margin of the Spring to receive fresh cheese and portions
of sacrifices that the devout brought to them from the

After an ancient earthquake the fountain was for a
time obstructed, but it forced for itself a new opening


and was still one of the attractions of the city in the
Hid century a.d., when its tame fish and earringed eels
were described.

Leake was unable to find Arethusa in the 1830's, and
it was supposed to have been drained by chasms opened
during convulsions of a comparatively late date; but a
modern guide book's description of the new iron bridge
over the Euripus, with a railway station at the end of it,
and the Chalcis hotels with electric lights and private
baths, is supplemented with a notice of a Spring, a mile
south of the city on the road to the seacoast, which it
introduces as the original, ancient Arethusa.

Strabo; I. 3- § 16.
Athenaeus; VIII. 3.



In the plain of Lelantum there were curative hot
Springs that were used by the Roman general Cornelius

The chief of these was one called the Eretrian Fountain
and its waters were apparently used for bathing, as
Erasistratus cited them as an instance of the absurdity of
judging waters by their weight, saying that, while the
waters of the Eretrian Fountain were bad, there was ab-
solutely no difference between their weight and the
weight of the good waters of the fountain of Amphiaraus,
which was near Oropus on the opposite coast.

There were several versions of the origin of the name of
the Curetes who once lived in the neighborhood of these
Springs, and one of the versions was intimately connected
with the Springs, it being to the effect that the control of
the plain and the Springs was a constant source of con-


tention between the Curetes and their neighbors, the
latter being in the habit of seizing the Curetes by the
forelock and dragging them about until they were ex-
hausted and lamed with bruises.

To minimize their injuries, the victims cut off their
front hair ; but apparently their plan proved to be only a
temporary respite from their persecutions, for they finally
moved away from Eubcea and went to ^Etolia where they
settled on the eastern side of the Achelous River. It being
desirable to distinguish them from the people on the
opposite bank of the stream, they were called the Curetes,
the Shorn; and the othersiders were named the Unshorn,
the Acarnanians; whence the country of the latter be-
came Acarnania, a name that the district might never
have borne had it not been for the strife-breeding Hot
Springs of Lelantum.

The city of Eretria was on the coast and at the south-
west end of the plain, in the vicinity of the place now
called Vathy.

StrabojX.i. §9.
AthenseusjII. 25.



In the island of Tenedos there was a Spring that, after
the summer solstice, was full of water from the third
hour of the night to the sixth, which was approximately
between 9 and 12 p.m., as the Romans for six hundred
years, from about 150 B.C., divided the time between sun-
rise and sunset into twelve hours — the hours being longer
in summer, and shorter in winter, ranging between 75
and 45 minutes. Similarly they divided the night into
twelve hours, which therefore varied in length as did the
daylight hours. Their First Hour in summer corre-
sponded to 4.30 a.m. modern clock-time; and the same
hour in winter, to 7.30. This made no more difference in
the lives of the Romans than the change of hours in the
modern Daylight Saving plan, but it necessitates a cal-
culation whenever it is desired to fix an ancient happen-
ing by modern clock-time, accurately.

Tenedos is seventeen miles from the entrance to the
Dardanelles and was the island the besiegers of Troy
used to conceal their fleet while, feigning departure, they
awaited the outcome of the stratagem of the wooden

Pliny; II. 106.




When, in a way, the world was at its wisest and its
wickedest, a swarthy little woman with dark hair sat by
a beautiful Spring in a lovely little island only eight miles
wide, and ten miles from the coast of Asia.

To her reflection in the Spring, as though it were a
sympathetic friend, she reviewed her many woes.

Left an orphan by the death of her father Scaman-
dronymus when she was but six years old, she was the
sister of a pirate, and of two other young men of lax
morality. She was an aphrodisian who had brought dis-
grace upon herself in the company of both women and
men, and was the mother of a little daughter, Cleis, six
years old, whom she regarded as an encumbrance.

For the moment, she was in love with Phaon, a man
who had tired of her and gone off to the island of Sicily.

Thinking over so much of her misery as is known to
others, and maybe of more that is still unknown, she was
suddenly seized with an impulse to throw herself from the
promontory of Leucate, in Arcarnania, which was a
precipitous rock called The Lover's Leap because those
who jumped from it were cured of their pangs, whether
the leaper lived or whether he lost his life in the sea.

This woebegone little woman was Sappho, the Tenth
Muse, the world's greatest lyric poetess, and the
author of nine books of poems, all of which have been



lost fortunately — or unfortunately, according to whether
the matter is regarded morally or metrically.

Before starting on the journey to the distant rock, she
wrote to Phaon about her thoughts and the impulse that
came to her at the fountain which she described as "a
sacred Spring, limpid, and more pellucid than the glassy
stream, and many suppose that it harbors a divinity;
over it the lotus, delighting in waters, spreads its branches,
itself alone a grove; and the earth is green with the
springing turf. There I was reclining my limbs, wearied
with weeping," she says, when she was seized with an
impulse to throw herself from the rock.

The result of the leap in her case was fatal.

An alleged temple record which enumerates the leaps
and their causes for one year, gives the case of Alcaeus
the lyric poet who, being in love with Sappho, appeared
one afternoon to make the leap ; but, learning that Sappho
had made it earlier in the same day, he sat down and
composed an ode on the occasion, and then returned

Only a few lines of Sappho's voluminous writings were
known up to 1910, when one of her lost poems was an-
nounced to have been discovered in Egypt.

It was to one of Sappho's brothers, the pirate, that
Posidippus referred in his epigram, on a departed frail
one, written 25 11 years before Kipling; —

"Here, Doricha, your bones have long been laid;
Here is your hair, and your well-scented robe,
You who once loved the elegant Charaxus."

Doricha had been a fellow slave with ^Esop, and the
fairy tale of Cinderella was perhaps suggested by the
stoy of her sandal, which was to the effect that while she


was bathing an eagle soared away with it and dropped it
in the lap of the king at Memphis. The beautiful shape
of the sandal aroused so much interest in the king that
he sent to all parts of the country to discover the owner,
and when she was found, in the city of Naucratis, the
monarch made her his wife. Her tomb was the third
pyramid, only one tenth the size of the others but the
most costly of all because it was built in large part of a
black stone, brought from a great distance in the moun-
tains of Ethiopia, and, owing to its hardness, very
expensive to work.

'The Spring was perhaps near Sappho's home, either in
the town of Eresos, or in that of Mitylene, from which
latter the island of Lesbos takes its modern name of

Strabo; XVII. I. § 33-

Ovid ; Heroines Ep. XV. (Sappho's.)

Athenasus; XIII. 69.



The island of Cydonea contained a warm Spring that
flowed only in the spring season.

Cydonea was one of the Leucse, a little cluster of five
islands on the eastern side of the island of Lesbos, the
group that is now called the Aspri islands.

Pliny; V. 39. II. 106.



There was a fountain at Andros in the temple of
Dionysus from which wine flowed during the seven days
devoted to that god's festival beginning on the fifth of

Andros was one of the largest islands in the group of
the Cyclades, and the one nearest to Eubcea from which
it is separated by a few miles of water, and its principal
city bore the same name.

Wine was, and still is one of the leading products of the
island; and by a considerate dispensation, that secured
the manufacturers from losing their occupations, the
vinous stream of the fountain lost its flavor as soon as it
was taken from the temple, and, outside of it, had the
taste ot ordinary water.

26 4 01


A wine miracle of more moderate proportions took
place in the temple of Dionysus in the town of Elis when
his festival called the Thyia was celebrated; then the
priests deposited three flagons in the building in full
view of all the people present, and someone, whoever
desired to, sealed the doors; and on the next day, when
the doors were opened, the flagons were found to be full
of wine.

The fountain in Andros was also called Dios Theodosia.

Pliny; II. 106.
Pausanias: VI. 26.


The S ami an Spring

One of the three greatest engineering works of the
Greeks was the tunnel they cut through the base of Mt.
Cerecteus, to carry the waters of the copious Samian
Spring to the capital of the Island of Samos.

The island was less than 100 miles in circuit, but the
mountain was nearly 5000 feet high and its spreading
base had to be hewn through for a distance of seven
eighths of a mile. The tunnel was eight feet square and
had a broad and deep channel cut in the center of its
floor, in which pipes were laid to carry the water from the
Spring. Eupalinus, a Megarian, was the architect of this
stupendous work.

Samos was the birthplace of three celebrated men
named Pythagoras; the philosopher, an athlete, and a
sculptor. It was also not alone the birthplace of the
goddess Hera but the scene of her marriage to Zeus.
The goddess was born on the banks of the Imbrasus
River under the shade of a shrub that continued to be
shown to visitors down to the opening years of the
Christian Era.

The present impression that the inhabitants of Samos
are more industrious than honest may have, as to honesty,
no more foundation than the very old story, dating back
to 540 B.C., that the Samians of that time relieved them-
selves from a Lacedaemonian fleet's siege by paying the



admiral a large sum of spurious money made of lead, per-
fectly stamped with the government dies, and carefully
gilded to represent gold.

The main tunnel leading to the Spring has not yet been
clearly identified, but what seem to be branches of it
have been uncovered near the city.

Samos, one of the Sporades group of islands, was 45
miles southwest of Smyrna, and it retains its old name.

Herodotus; III. 60.


The fountains of Gigartho and Leucothea were found
in the Island of Samos.

Pliny; V. 37-



The Spring at Carthea inspired Simonides' epigram; —

" I say that he who does not like to win
The grasshopper's prize, will give a mighty feast
To the Panopeiadean Epeus."

When it was written, the great lyric poet was teaching
a class in singing, at' a place near the temple of Apollo ;
and, as there was no water near the school, the pupils
took turns in fetching it from the Spring, which was
quite a distance away. An ass employed to carry the
containers was called Epeus, after the son of Panopus
referred to in the No-Fountain town of that name,
because among Epeus' varied experiences had been that
of bearing water for the Atridae.

The epigram was, in fact, a law with a laugh in it, like
a dose from a glass with a sweet flavored rim, a poetically
phrased rule that tardy pupils should be fined a chcenix,
about two and a half pints, of barley to be fed to the ass.

The "grasshopper's prize" was a prize for singing, as
the insect's music was called; and the "mighty feast"
was the barley.

Carthea was a town on the southeast side of one of the
Cyclades islands called Ceos, now Zia, in which Simonides
was born, and where those who reached the age of sixty



years were obliged to drink hemlock and end their lives,
in order that there might be food enough for those under
that age.

The vagaries of the fountain in Carthea indicate that
it was once a Spring in Bceotia, and was still fed by rains
that fell on the mainland of Greece many miles away;
and they explain one of the causes of the presence of
copious Springs in small islands, as, according to very
ancient tradition, Ceos was originally a part of Bceotia
from which was rent a portion that became the large
island of Eubcea : from the latter there was torn away a
piece sixty miles long that became the island of Ceos;
and from this last a fifty mile stretch disappeared in the
sea leaving Ceos, as at present, only some twelve miles
in length.

The town of the fountain is now called Stais Palais.

Ceos is sometimes confounded with Chios, an island,
in the ^Egean Sea near the coast of Asia Minor, that
claimed to have been the birthplace of Homer whose
schoolhouse the natives fondly preserved.

Athenaeus; X. 84. Pliny; IV. 20.


The fountain of Iulis gave its name to one of the four
cities that the island of Ceos once possessed, though two
of them had gone to decay before Strabo wrote about
them in the 1st century B.C.

Iulis, the town in which Simonides was born, was in
the northern part of the Island, and the fountain was
about three miles from the sea.

If science is indebted to the fountain of Arethusa for

CEOS 407

the law of specific gravity, the world at large may per-
haps be still more greatly obligated to the fountain of
Iulis, on whose changing surface, rippled by its unceasing
upward flow, Simonides may have descried the outlines
of the four letters with which he completed the alphabet,
by adding E, O, Ps and Z to Cadmus' 16 and Palamedes'
4 characters.

There is now only one town left, the modern Zea, which
is located where stood Iulis of which there are some re-
mains; and of these the most important is a colossal
figure of a lion twenty feet long which stands where the
fountain still gushes forth.

The animal is supposed to represent a character in one
of the island's earliest legends which states that the
original inhabitants were frightened away by a lion, and
convincement of the legend's verity is forced by the
animal's size, which is sufficient to have terrified stouter
hearted beings than the gentle nymphs who were said to
have been the original inhabitants.

Heraclides; Pol. c. 9.
Pliny; VII. 57-



It was said that the waters of a certain Spring in the
island of Cea dulled the senses. Cea is another form for
Ceos, but the vagueness of the statement has given no
assistance in locating this injurious fountain.

The Spring is mentioned as a foil to the River Nus, in
Cilicia, which sharpened the intellect. If the Cydnus is
the river thus referred to, the allusion is perhaps to its
having quickened Alexander's wits to the danger of plung-
ing into cold water when the body is overheated, for,


having, when in that condition, bathed in the Cydnus,
which was a snow-fed and extremely cold stream, Alexan-
der received a congestive chill that was followed by a
violent illness. (See No. 277).

Pliny; XXXI. 12.



The fountain of Tenos was in the island of that name
which was a unit of the Cyclades group and a mile away
from the isle of Andros.

Tenos was first named Hydrussa because of the num-
ber of Springs that it contained, but the fountain in ques-
tion was the most noted of them all, owing to the peculiar
fact that its water would not mix with wine.

Another name of the island was Ophiussa, given it
because of the number of snakes that were to be seen
there. It had a temple containing large banqueting
rooms to which multitudes of people resorted from
neighboring places, to celebrate feasts and perform a
sacrifice to Neptune.

S. Nicholas, the present capital of the island, occupies
the site of one of the towns anciently called Tenos.

Tino is the island's modern name.

Athenaeus; II. 18. Pliny; IV. 22.




A small particle, now here now there, a will-o'-the-
wisp of land, floated at the will of the winds in the ^Egean

At the same time Latona, soon to become the mother
of Apollo, wandered wearily about, unable to decide
upon his native land.

Strangely enough, Apollo himself made the decision
and advised her to select the floating island; which she
accordingly did.

The island, which drifted aimlessly like an asphodel
stalk, now carried by the currents, now driven by the
gales, had a remarkably fine, circular Spring with a width
of thirty feet, the overflow from which wandered moisten-
ingly through the island, as the island roamed through
the ocean, and finally, known as the River Inopus, slipped
into the sea ; sometimes it was called the Egyptian River,
for it was evidently a part of the Nile as the two streams
waxed and waned in volume at exactly the same period
of the year.

The island was noted for its numerous palm trees, and
at the side of the Spring, under one of these that became
a part of a peculiar ceremony performed for centuries
afterwards, Apollo was born, on a day in May, that is, on
the 7th of the month Thargelion, a day not even yet
forgotten, for Sunday still is the Sun-God's day. Seven



times, too, on that day did the well-advised swans from
far away Pactolus circle around the island, soothing the
goddess meanwhile with the melody of their tuneful
throats — and it was in memory of that sevenfold round of
song that Apollo gave the lyre its seven strings.

Afterwards the people, too, in a semi-religious way,
perpetuated the events of that day and, as a forerunner
of the fun those who first cross the equator are forced to
make, every new voyager to Delos, among other cere-
monies, was bidden to bite the bark of Latona's holy tree
by the Spring side, and to circle the altar, as the singing
swans circled the island.

With the birth of the god, the roaming island re-
formed; it settled and became fixed as the smallest
islet of the Cyclades, and, discarding Asteria, Cynthus,
Ortygia and other appellations it had received in its
travels, it assumed the name Delos (Known), as from
that time its whereabouts ceased to be a matter of
conjecture and a menace to nervous navigators, who
no longer sailed in constant dread of running afoul of
it, leagues away from the spot where it had last been

The steadfast island soon attracted the attention of
human settlers, of whom a party of Ionians are supposed
to have begun the building of its first town near the
Spring; and, from having been called the Refuse of the
Sea, the land became a place of note and veneration which
no merchandising mariner would think of passing with-
out a visit.

Thus its traffic became enormous, and, in its Slave
Mart alone, ten thousand vassals were bought and sold
in a single day.

Because of Apollo's birth, the place became no less
renowned religiously than it was in commercial matters,


for its temple and its periodic festival attracted addi-
tional crowds of foreigners to whom Greed and Gain
might have beckoned without response.

Embassies arrived every year in such large delegations
that a special and sacred ship was employed for their
transportation ; and presents and offerings were sent from
countries so distant that the packages were relayed,
from one nation to another at their frontiers, until in the
lapse of time they arrived at Delos.

The ambassadorial ship was the "Theoris," the same
vessel in which Theseus sailed to Crete to slay the
Minotaur, and in which he carried of! Ariadne on his

As early as 426 B.C., the island was purified by the
Athenians ; all tombs were removed, and stringent meas-
ures were taken to make it invitingly healthy ; not only
was the departure of all sick people made compulsory,

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 26 of 46)