James Reuel Smith.

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

. (page 28 of 46)
Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 28 of 46)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

still treacherous and engulfing surfs. About it were
staged the scenes for the acts of the Gorgons, and the
Hesperides with their garden and dragon, and for the
wrestling match between Hercules and Antaeus who drew
inexhaustible strength from the ground, above which
Hercules had to hold him in order to win. The match
took place at Larache, the ancient Lixos; and the hill
near Tangier is the mound over the ninety foot long
skeleton of the loser.

Herodotus; IV. 184.


Fountain of the Sun

The most renowned of the oases of the Libyan desert
of Africa contained the fountain of the Sun and the
temple of Ammon.

The peculiarity attributed to the fountain might, on
first thought, be considered the result of an attempt to
rival, with temperatures, the productions of the creators
of Springs producing many substances, like those of
Mahomet, Calanus, and Apollonius in his fountain of
Hephaestus. At dawn it was tepid; at midday cold as
ice, and at midnight it boiled.

A story is told about it to the effect that a king, who
was lost in the desert and on the point of perishing from
thirst, saw and followed a ram which suddenly disap-
peared just as a fountain gushed up in the place where
the animal vanished.

It was the wonder of all the ancients who visited the
temple, a structure about seventy feet square, and some
four hundred miles northwest of Thebes, which was


devoted to the worship of the ram-headed god Amun,
and to the uses of an oracle which was as old as any, and
at one time perhaps the most renowned in the world.
Perseus and Hercules made pilgrimages to it; and Alex-
ander the Great consulted it, and would have lost his
life in a sandstorm on the trip but for the protection of a
fortunate rain, and the guidance of two friendly crows
that no doubt came from the same source as the crow that
guided Battus to the fountain of Cyrene.

Alexander, it is said, did not hear the answers given
by the oracle inside the temple although his retinue on
the outside heard them, which is stranger still, as the.
account says the answers were not given in words, as by
other oracles, but chiefly "by nods and signs," possibly
those made by the statue of the god as it undulated when
carried in procession by eighty priests.

The water of the Spring must under some conditions
have played an important part in the priests' predictions,
as a power of divination existed in even small and sepa-
rate quantities of it that were sold by the priests and
carried away to distant places where there was a great
demand for it, after poor patronage had closed the temple
at Delphi and, as Juvenal says, the oracle had become

The fountain rose in a small tract about three by six
miles in size, one of the Islands of the Blest, the name
given to the African oases that appear where a foundation
of sandstone covered with clay retains the water that
elsewhere sinks through the desert sands.

A grove of date trees south of the temple surrounded
the fountain which now feeds a brook that runs towards
the ruins of the ancient fane, and, finding no accommoda-
tion there as formerly, turns sadly away and wanders
disconsolately into a swamp.


With the exception of the extremes attributed to its
temperature, its seeming variations may be accounted
for by the tepidity of its waters, which were colder than
the heated atmosphere of the day but warmer than the
dew-cooled air at night.

The ruins of the temple are at Ummebeda.

Moore mentions this Spring in his Irish Melody entitled
"Fly Not Yet";—

"Fly not yet, the fount that played
In times of old through Amnion's Shade,
Though icy cold by day it ran
Yet still, like souls of mirth, began
To burn when night was near."

Herodotus; IV. 181.
Strabo; XVII. I. § 43-


Flora's Spring

Flora, who was at first called Chloris, was a nymph of
the Blessed Plains.

After a courtship of primeval intensity, Flora became
the wife of Zephyrus the brother of Boreas, and her sub-
sequent happiness is likened to that of one who enjoys
perpetual spring.

Her fond husband gave her dominion over the empire
of Flowers, and presented her with a garden that was
irrigated by a Spring of trickling water and filled with
flowers of the choicest kind, flowers that Flora succes-
sively colored with such divers hues that even she herself
could not reckon the multitude of their tints. Flora's
modesty forbade her to tell how beautiful she was, but it
did not deter her from boasting that the world was in-


debted to her for this diversity of tints, as, prior to her
experiments, the earth was of one hue, which was pre-
sumably the montonous green of the grasses.

Detailed particulars of the processes that Flora em-
ployed to produce flowers that were not all of one color
were not disclosed, but it is admitted that the reds and
the pinks were due to the agency of human blood.

In the case of the violet, the life fluid was furnished by
Attis whose royal descent perhaps accounted for the
blueness of his blood, and its effect on the color of the

The properties of some of Flora's flowers were no less
marvelous than the number of tints; one of them, ab-
solutely unique, and of which she possessed the only
specimen in existence, was of such potency that it be-
came a father in several instances of which Flora relates
the particulars.

Flora's sovereignty extended over the blossoms of all
the earth's products whether they appeared in fields or
gardens, and it was consequently to her that the Seasons
repaired to obtain the various supplies that they dis-
tributed in the appropriate months. The Graces, too,
were her constant patrons, and she furnished them with
the numerous flowers they required for the chaplets and
garlands with which they bound their heavenly heads.

It has been surmised that the original of Flora's history
was a Greek narration regarding the Spring of Chloris
which has been lost, but that Ovid had it in mind when
writing his account of Flora who was a comparatively
modern Italian goddess, created by the Roman senate in
a session of shame. According to Plutarch, Flora left
a large fortune to the Roman people on condition that
her birthday should always be celebrated by a festival
to be called the Floralia. Rather than forego the fortune,


which Flora had made in no maidenly manner, the re-
sourceful senate, taking a leaf from the unique flower,
created her the Goddess of Flowers, in order that the
celebration of the Floralia might be surrounded by an
odor of sanctity rather than with a taint of the streets.

It is here assumed that the Plains of the Blest in which
Ovid locates this Spring were, in the Greek original, the
Islands of the Blest, in Africa.

Ovid; Fasti. V. line 209.



The Spring of Tacape was in a very fertile little district
three miles square, an oasis that appeared in the sands
of Africa, that vied with the residence of Rasselas in the
valley of Amhara, "where every month dropped fruits
upon the ground."

The growths of the district were so numerous that they
were almost telescoped into one another; they consisted
of enormous palms under which grew olive trees; under
the latter the fig tree grew, and under the fig the pome-
granate; and under that the vine; and under the vine
grew herbs, and plants of the garden and of the field,
including wheat. There was, thus, a variety of ripening
periods and no part of the year in which a crop of some
description could not be gathered — and yet the people
did nothing at all to promote this fruitfulness.

The Spring had an abundant flow of water which,
however, was distributed to the inhabitants only at
certain hours.

Tacape is identified with Cebes on the eastern coast of
Tunis just under the 34th parallel, although the Springs


at that place, the Aquae Tacapitanae or El-Hammath, are
now warm mineral Springs.

Pliny; XVIII. 51.



The Spring of Cinyps rose in a hill called The Graces,
thickly shaded with spreading trees. The district it was
in also bore the name of Cinyps, and was itself like a third
continental Grace, for it was the only part of Libya that
could be compared in fertility with Europe and Asia,
rivaling the land to the east of it with all of its attractions,
the land of the Lotophagi, the Lotos Eaters, whose con-
tinuous afternoon and other charms made travelers forget
their native homes.

It was well watered with Springs that were ever re-
plenished with rains, and had a rich black soil that re-
turned the husbandman three hundredfold.

The district lay between the two Syrtes, the Larger
and the Smaller now known, the former as the Gulf of
Sydra, and the latter as the Gulf of Cabes. The country
was occupied by the Macae, who followed the recent
modern fashion of the North American Indians and the
Chinese in their manner of wearing their hair; and who
made use of ostrich skins for armor, regarding which no
doubt Dorieus was well qualified to speak, for the Macae
were able to drive him and his Spartans from Cinyps
when, angry because Cleomenes had been chosen king of
Lacedaemon instead of himself, he attempted to make a
settlement at Cinyps without following the usual custom
of consulting the oracle at Delphi in regard to the enter-
prise — and this, too, was the same Dorieus who had
assisted Milo in conquering Sybaris.


The Spring gave rise to a river of the same name
through which its waters were carried twenty-five miles
north to the Mediterranean, where there was a second
town of Cinyps.

The Spring's little river is now the Wadi Quasam.

Herodotus; IV. 175 and 198.



There were hot Springs at the city of Tunis in Africa.

These it is said may be the hot Springs at Hamman

l'Enf near the bottom of the Gulf and the town of Carpis.

Strabo;XVII. 3. §16.



The voice was rendered more musical by drinking of
the waters of the Spring at Zama.

This fountain is presumed to have been in the neigh-
borhood of the town of Zama, about a hundred miles
southwest of Carthage, which is now known as Jama.
It contained a royal palace of King Juba and was the
scene of Hannibal's defeat by Scipio in 201 B.C.

Pliny; XXXI. 12.
Strabo; XVII. 3. §9-



There was a fountain, in the Carthaginian Dominions,
on which something floated that resembled oil, but dark


in color, which they skimmed off and made into balls
and used for their sheep and cattle.

Athenaeus; II. 17-



There was scarcely in all the world a finer location, or
a more beautiful prospect than where the inexhaustible
Spring of Cyrene opened its eye on the outlook.

Around it bloomed flowers in wild luxuriance, and of
such pleasing and delicate odors that finally they were
imprisoned in perfumes and sent abroad on the highways
of trade, to refresh and delight the senses of appreciative
people in less fortunate lands.

Fruits and vegetables, usually the products of various
climates, flourished in the neighborhood of the Spring
through the greater part of the year. And, growing wild,
were plants of such medicinal value that in later times
their export formed a large and lucrative commerce, the
staple of which was the gum of the Silphium.

The call of the myriads of flowers was eagerly answered
by armies of bees, and their product of honey made it
famous, even where honey made from other flowers was

On the natural vegetation all animals thrived, and the
succulent grass nurtured a breed of horses that distant
poets came to name in admiration.

There, too, the plumes of the ostriches were smoother
and finer than those that were borne by birds that bred
about Springs with a less softening influence.

In such featureful surroundings on the Plateau of
Barca, some 2000 feet in height, overlooking the sea and


ten miles away from it, Cyrene rose, and then sought the
Mediterranean, through a charming ravine that rioted
in the richest vegetation, and intersected the numerous
climate-making terraces from the top of the tableland
down to the shore.

This plateau was in the middle of the projecting bosom
of the African coast, just opposite and two hundred miles
distant from the Peloponnesus; it is called the Green
Mountain, and the summits of real mountains on the
south shut off from it the sands and the scorching heats of
the Sahara ; while on the north it was open to every sea-
cooled breeze that roamed across the inland ocean.

This delightful land, one of the most enchanting places
on the surface of the globe, was called "The Garden of
Zeus ' ' ages before the autonym Allah came into use, and
here Apollo brought Cyrene in a golden car whose steeds
were swans of such swiftness that they made the journey
from Pelion in a single day.

Cyrene was the daughter of Chlidanope and Hypsseus
the King of the Lapithae.

She found her fullest enjoyment and pleasure in pro-
tecting the flocks and herds, not as a meditating shep-
herdess sighing for a swain, but in energetic encounters
with the most ferocious animals that sought their prey
among the defenseless sheep and kine. It was while so
engaged, and when, unarmed, she was subduing a lion
that had long been a ravisher of the largest oxen, that
Apollo first saw her, and loved her at sight, and carried
her off to this fountain which acquired her name, though
sometimes also called Apollo's Fountain. The son of
this union was Aristseus who discovered that bees could
be produced from the buried carcass of an ox. He married
Autonce, a daughter of Cadmus, and became the father
of the unfortunate Actason.


Ages later, the Dorian Aristoteles founded a colony at
this Spring, and gave his city the fountain's name. The
city today is a village, but the ear still easily catches the
echo of its first name in its present one of Kurin.

Among the many trifles that make the sum of human
life, men's fortunes, as well as their follies, frequently
spring from their foibles, and if Aristoteles had not been
born a stutterer, the Spring that is one of the charms of
the equal of the most beautiful spot in the world would
have flowed unpraised by Pindar, and Aristoteles would
not have become the founder, and afterwards the king,
of a settlement whose borders extended from Carthage
on the west to Egypt on the east, and was ruled over for
two hundred years by his descendants.

Aristoteles, more dependent than Demosthenes, sought
a cure for his impediment from the Delphic Oracle, by
which he was advised to found a city in Africa. After
considerable hesitation and delay, he started on his
voyage in search of fluent speech. He left the island of
Thera, now called Santorin, and in shape a diminutive
Bermuda in the Ionian Sea. It is a very small island —
it was formed of a clod of earth thrown overboard by the
Argonauts — and can boast of nothing more than being
the mother city of the city of Cyrene.

The expedition landed on the African island of Platea,
where two years of suffering brought no improvement
in Aristoteles' trouble. Then he sought the Oracle
again, this time with a grievance, which was, however,
quickly set aside; if he had foolishly mistaken an is-
land for a continent, there was an obvious remedy
still left.

So he returned, and transferred his colony to Aziris on
the mainland, and spent six more years in stammering;
then one day, while prospecting, he was cured of his


impediment in a moment — and knew that he had found
the right location.

His good fortune was due to the guidance of a friendly
crow and, like Cyrene's, to an encounter with a lion. He
and the lady, however, met their lions in different spirits,
for Aristoteles, powerful king though he afterwards be-
came, was so terrified at the sight of his lion that, for the
first time in his life, he cried out, loud and clearly — and
then stuttered no more.

Joyfully and without delay, he moved the colony to
its permanent home and built his city about the fountain,
a city to which Apollo gave more advantages than to
any other, as Callimachus, who was one of its natives,
modestly admits.

Aristoteles is usually designated as Battus, which was
the Libyan term for king, as Pharaoah was among the

The colony when established in the right place grew
rapidly, and intermixture with the brown, brawny and
buxom Libyan women, produced men of energy and
enterprise who quickly made use of the natural resources
of the country. Through the new city's port of Apol-
lonia, its commerce became extended and fruitful; the
flowers, that once wasted their sweetness in the undis-
covered Garden of Zeus, furnished perfumes; the bees,
honey; the herds, hides; and the plants, medicines, corn,
olives and wine, that filled ships whose voyages made the
citizens wealthy; then culture, following on the heels of
commerce and leisure, developed men whose names are
still prominent in Grecian art, literature, science and
athletics, for within two centuries of the founding of
Cyrene in 631 B.C. its horsemen and its runners were
celebrated prize winners in the games of the Morea.

Indeed it was not until the time of Trajan that Cyrene's


prosperity began to wane; then, weakened by a Jewish
massacre of nearly a quarter of a million of its territory's
people, it became an easy prey to unassimilated Libyan
barbarians. Afterwards, in 616 a.d., the Persians over-
ran it; and finally, in 647, the Arabs conquered Cyrene
and possessed themselves of its beautiful fountain.

This Spring, so old that its waters might seem to have
condensed from the mists of mythology, became a tem-
porary possession of the youngest country of the earth
when in April, 1805, the United States warship "Argus"
and two others, after bombarding the African coast,
raised the flag they represented on the plateau of Barca.

Callimachus calls this fountain Cyre.

Herodotus; IV. 158 and 155 et seq.
Callimachus; Hymn to Apollo; line 87-
Pausanias; X. 15.



The Spring of Thestes marked the place where the
Egyptians had their first battle with the Greeks of Cyrene
and met with disaster.

The rapid growth of Battus' settlement was fostered
by a vigorous propaganda disseminated through the
oracle in announcements that the land was being rapid-
ly taken up, and with prophecies that those who
delayed migrating and getting a share would one day

The Libyans were in no need of an oracle to tell them
how fast the land was going, because with every acre's
increase to the Cyrenean territory there was an acre less
in that of the Libyans. By volunteering to become sub-
jects of King Apries of Egypt, they secured his interest


in the growth of Cyrene, and he sent out an army to
stabilize the shifting acres.

His army and the forces of the colonists met and fought
by the fountain of Thestes, and the Greeks secured such
a decided victory that few of the Egyptians escaped with
their lives.

Then that early League of Nations came to a sudden
end, for the Libyans laid the blame for their increased
misfortunes upon King Apries — and they revolted from

Herodotus; IV. 159.


Ex Pede Herculem

After securing the Golden Fleece, the Argonauts,
what with their anxiety to avoid the Colchians who
swarmed the sea in pursuit of them, and what with a
succession of storms that again and again blew them from
their course, were driven to nearly every part of the world
of which their creator was cognizant, and to many that
are even now unknown.

The last adverse wind of which they were the victims
was aided by a far-reaching wave that carried them over
the coast line, and stranded them such a great distance
from the sea that the nearest navigable water was a
twelve days' journey, further inland still.

This water was the Tritonian Lake in Africa, and to it
the crew with exhausting exertion bodily carried the

Over the desert hollows, and hills of sand, they were
guided by the hoof tracks of a horse, a marine monster
that they felt assured would make its way again to water.


The water of the Lake, which connected with the sea,
was salty, and, as soon as they had launched their burden
on its bosom, they began a frantic search for a Spring to
quench the thirst that was driving them mad.

Very near the Lake they found a plain where three fair
and golden-haired women were lamenting around the
body of a large serpent, terribly wounded and with only
a tiny spark of life left in the tip of its writhing tail. This
was all that was left of Ladon, the dragon that had
guarded the golden apples of Juno.

The fair women were the Hesperides who had min-
istered to the dragon in his lifetime, and on seeing the
crew they turned to dust and ashes. Orpheus, however,
with words as charming as his music, besought them to
resume their forms and point out some fount of water,
either gushing from a rock or bubbling from the earth,
to quench the thirst with which he and his companions
were parched; and the goddesses, after causing grass to
spring up from the earth, and then shoots of taller vege-
tation, became themselves three trees, a poplar, an elm
and a willow, out of whose protective trunks they looked
and spoke ; telling how a man with gleaming eyes under a
grim forehead, garbed about with a lion's skin, and bear-
ing a heavy bough of olive and a bow, had shot the ser-
pent with poisoned arrows only the day before. In this
description the amazed Argonauts easily recognized the
hero they had abandoned far in the north near the Spring
of Pegse. And, further, they learned that, after this, his
eleventh labor, Hercules, parched with thirst as they
were, rushed about in search of water, and, finding none,
vented his rage in so viciously kicking a rock that he
opened a fissure in its side, through which a Spring
gushed out at once.

The Spring was shown them, close at hand, and one


after another they slaked their thirst and then enjoyed
a second round. Their hearts melted when their mouths
were moistened; each one felt that Hercules had saved
them from death through thirst, and, wishing they could
tell him so, one impulse made them strain their eyes in
every direction with the hope that he might still be seen
and beckoned back. But Lynceus, with telescopic vision,
who could even see through trees and far into the earth,
called out, that he could only just discern the hero's
form, faint as the new moon's tips when mantled in a
mist, and so far off it seemed to be a speck upon the
arching line made by the meeting of the boundless sky
and the desert's endless sands; so distant that not the
fleetest in their company could hope to overtake him.

Later, however, two of the party who, as Hercules had
learned, argued most strongly against going back for
him at Cius, did meet the hero, and most unfortunately,
for he then took from them the lives he had saved by his
foot-made fount in Africa.

This labor of procuring the apples of the Hesperides
was one of the two additional toils that Eurystheus im-
posed upon Hercules, on the ground that he had been
assisted in two of the original ten; by Iolaus in killing
the Hydra; and by the river in cleaning the Augean

The time spent in the last two of the dozen was prac-
tically lost, as in both instances what Hercules procured
was returned, the apples, to the Hesperides; and Cer-
berus, to Hades. The trip to the garden, however, added
a timely contribution to geographical knowledge, and
was in effect a voyage of discovery, for no one knew where
the garden was located, and the hero consequently re-
ceived many conflicting directions, in following which he
traveled far to the north, to the country of the Hyper-


boreans; and then to the southern limit of Africa, and to
the end of the world on the Atlantic Ocean; and, finally,
eastward to the neighborhood of Cyrene, which proved
to be the actual location of the garden.

Apollonius; IV. line 1441.


The Nile Spring

A longing to know where the Nile rose, or to see the
source of its initial drop, ran through the minds of many
men age after age from at least the time of an ancient
Egyptian king named Rameses; if, as some suppose, he
was the hard-hearted monarch whose negotiations with
Moses regarding the Exodus are recorded in the Bible,
then it is not unlikely that Moses himself was once con-
cerned about the river's source, and was one of the officers

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 28 of 46)