James Reuel Smith.

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

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early euphemisms for physical dissolution.

The constant dripping wore a hollow in the shelf of
stone large enough to accommodate some small fish that
were as deadly as the water; and, to protect both the
hungry and the thirsty from this death trap, the hollow
was surrounded with a fence of masonry.

Glass and crystal and porcelain; and articles made of
stone; and pottery, were broken by the water. And
things made of horn, bone, iron, brass, lead, tin, silver,
and amber melted when put into that water. Gold also
suffered from it.

A horse's hoof alone, or a mule's was proof against the
water of the Styx.

Homer when speaking of the Styx usually refers to the
river which issued from a rock in Hades; but in his oath
of Hera the water of the Styx she swears by is none other
than this water near the ruins of Nonacris, for as used by
the gods it formed the original acid test ; besides playing
havoc with containers of all kinds, it had mysterious and
uncanny properties that made it the bane of even the
gods themselves. It was exceedingly cold and could
throw a divinity into a stupor that lasted a year; and,
when a quarrel arose among the immortals and the ver-
acity of one of them was impugned, it was the custom of
Jove to send Iris with a golden ewer for the cold and im-
perishable water of Styx, which on her return was made
use of as an infallible test for truth. If the statement,



ARCADIA 23

repeated on oath over the surface of the water, was false,
the perjurer lay breathless for the following twelve
months. Then more and severer troubles ensued, one
after the other, and the deceitful divinity was exiled
from the gods' councils and feasts during a period of
nine years.

The water was said to be good during the day and to
exert its evil effects at night.

There was an old tradition that Alexander the Great
died from this poisonous water. Voltaire following
Pliny asserts that Aristotle sent a bottle of it to Alex-
ander; that it was extremely cold, and that he who
drank of it instantly died, and he adds, with unnoticed
nullification, that Alexander drank of it and died in six
days.

Alexander's death before the age of 33 is commonly
attributed to excessive wine drinking, he having, with
twenty guests at table, drunk to the health of every per-
son in the company and then pledged them severally.

After that, calling for Hercules' cup, which held six
bottles, he quaffed all its contents and even drained it a
second time; then, falling to the floor, he was seized with
a violent fever which ended in death.

There is also another version to the effect that Cas-
sander, the eldest of Antipater's sons, brought from
Greece a poison that Iolas his younger brother threw
into Alexander's huge cup, of which he was the bearer,
and that this poison was the acrimonious and corroding
distillation from the cliff above the Crathis, and was
brought from Greece to Babylon for its horrid purpose
in a vessel made out of the hoof of a mule.

Leake conjectures that Nonacris may have occupied
the site of modern Mesorougi, where two slender cas-
cades dropping 500 feet, as Pausanias said, from the



24 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

highest precipice in Greece, unite and flow into the Cra-
this River.

The present day inhabitants of the neighborhood speak
of the streams as The Black Waters and The Terrible
Waters, and still attribute to them some of the un-
canny properties with which they were endowed by the
ancients.

It is some slight relief from the gloom engendered by
reading about this doleful neighborhood to find that it
also produced something to mitigate evil ; that being the
Moly plant which had the power of neutralizing the
effects of the most potent sorcerer's spells. Whether or
not this marvelous plant grew anywhere except in
Homer's imagination, the name is still applied to what is
also called Sorcerer's Garlic.

Strabo; VIII, 8. Pausanias; VIII. 17-18. Ovid; Metamorphoses; XV.
In 333-



20

The Spring of M^nalus

If the power of the Moly plant had not been limited
no transformation would have occurred at the Holm-oak
Spring of Maenalus, and there would have been a less
brilliant conclusion to the tale of Callisto, the nymph of
Nonacris, which, written in those stars that never set in
the north temperate zone, may nightly be read in the
unclouded sky.

It was due to more than personal eccentricity that
Callisto was the most favored nymph in Diana's virgin
train, for even Jupiter regarded her with more than
ordinary favor, and accorded her unusual attentions.

One day, having hunted in the woods a thousand
beasts of the chase, the weary and heated party came



ARCADIA 25

shortly after noon to a sacred grove on Mt. Maenalus, a
grove thick with many a Holm-oak which no generation
had ever cut, and in the midst of which there was a
Spring of ice cold water whence a stream ran flowing with
its murmuring noise, and borne along the sand worn fine
by its action.

Diana, calling upon her train to follow her example,
impetuously plunged into the refreshing waters; and only
Callisto was tardy in joining in the revels.

Diana, on the spur of the moment, angered beyond
the limits of friendship, ordered her to leave the throng
and never more rejoin the virgin troup.

Misfortunes often lockstep in their eagerness to over-
take their victim, and hardly had some months of modera-
tion come to poor Callisto's grief, when angry Juno began
to overwhelm her with a wifely rage, going even to the
extent of personal chastisement, during w T hich she caught
her by the hair, threw her on the ground, and, crying,
"I will spoil that shape of thine by which, mischievous
one, thou didst charm my husband, " changed her into a
shaggy she-bear.

As such she wandered through the woods for fifteen
years, until a day when her own son, Areas, scanning the
thickets for game, espied her bulky form.

He had drawn his bow to nigh its full extent, and with
unerring aim, was all unconsciously about to kill his
mother, when Jove snatched them both away and
placed them, carried through vacant space with a
rapid wind, in the heavens and made them neighboring
constellations.

Juno, made still more furious at this elevation, tried
in vain to get the act annulled. Then she visited the
Ocean, and said, "Another has possession of Heaven in
my stead. May I be deemed untruthful if, when the



26 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

night has made the world dark, you see not in the
highest part of heaven stars but lately thus honored to
my affliction; there where the least and most limited
circle surrounds the extreme part of the axis of the
world."

And Ocean at her entreaty agreed never to let the
bears bathe in his waters. Hence the mariners of
the Mediterranean have with Milton oft outwatched
the Bear that never sets upon that sea.

Perhaps there were few more useful fancies among the
ancients than those which, by linking a pleasing conceit
with a constellation, foster an interest in astronomy, and
start and cement an acquaintance with the celestial
spheres. And it might be wished that no one had ever
attempted to lessen the interest in such myths, by the
easy and wide amplification of the very prosaic cat-and-
canary idea that a change into an animal is merely a
mode of saying that someone has been devoured, a theory
that should not be applied, especially in the case of
Callisto; for the unfortunate girl inherited the tendency,
her Father Lycaon having changed into a wolf.

Callisto's family made Arcadia; her grandfather Pelas-
gus was its first settler, indigenous and brought forth by
Black Earth. He was a man of ideas and initiative, the
inventor of huts and pigskin clothing. He also intro-
duced refinements in food, and taught his people the
superiority of acorns over grass.

Lycaon, his son (contemporary with Cecrops), Cal-
listo's father, made greater improvements and built the
first town, Lycosura.

Under her son Areas the country made further ad-
vances; he introduced corn and bread, and taught spin-
ning and weaving; and Arcadia is the land of Areas.

Callisto's youngest brother (Enotrus was the first to



ARCADIA 27

found a Grecian colony abroad, and became King of
(Enotria in Italy.

And for a long time other members of her family,
female as well as male, supplied names for towns, and for
natural features in the home district of Arcadia.

Near the ruins of Meenalus there was a "winter tor-
rent" called Elaphus, which may have been the "ice-cold
water" through which Diana learned Callisto's secret.

There are differing conjectures about the position
Maenalus occupied, but several agree in surmising that
it was on the right bank of the Helisson River opposite
the village of Davia.

Ovid. Metamorphoses; II. Fable 5. Ovid. Fasti; XI. In 155. Paus-
anias; VIII. 1-3; 36.



21

Stymphelus

The great grandson of Areas who was the son of Cal-
listo founded the city of Stymphelus around the Spring
of that name and his own.

This copious Spring supplied a marsh, a river, the city,
and even another city, for in later years the emperor
Adrian conveyed its water to far-away Corinth.

In winter the marsh water ran into the river, but in
summer the marsh was dry and the Spring alone supplied
the current of the river, which, with the characteristic
trait of Arcadian streams, sought and found a way into
the earth and traveled through it to Argolis, where on
emerging it was called the Erasinus.

Another version about the marsh was that it was
drained in one day by a cavity opened when a hunter,
chasing a deer, jumped or dived into the marsh with all
the impetus of his headlong pursuit.



28 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

The marsh came into prominence from its being the
scene of the sixth labor of Hercules. The task assigned
to him in this case was to destroy the man-eating birds
that had congregated around the marsh; they were lofty,
cranelike, cannibalistic terrors, more powerful than
ostriches, whose straight and lancelike beaks could pierce
a coat of mail, and they were surmised to have flown over
from their native habitat in Arabia.

The perilous feat of attacking and overcoming this
savage and vicious flock was reduced by the detractors
who camped on the trail of Hercules to a simple ruse — to
frightening them away with the noise of rattles, so that
they took flight and probably returned to their haunts in
Arabia where perhaps they became the rocs of Aladdin's
tale.

Hercules on his way to Colchis with the Argonauts was
again attacked by these vicious birds which flew over the
Argo and, like arrow shooting aeroplanes, showered the
crew with sharp pointed feathers from the security of
the sky. (See No. 278.)

Wooden representations of the birds were placed on the
roof of the town temple at Stymphelus, and at the rear
of the fane there were white stone figures with birdlike
legs and women's bodies that were called Stymphelides.
These appeared also on the city's coinage.

Hera the wife of Zeus was said to have been reared at
Stymphelus when, after having been swallowed by her
father Cronus, she, with a number of his other children,
was released by a spasm of emesis produced by Neptune's
daughter Metis. Later, after her marriage to Zeus, she
returned to the town again, possibly to recover from the
strain of being hung to the sky with two anvils tied to
her heels; or, maybe to escape some of the manual
measures of correction that, according to Homer, the



ARCADIA 29

divinity was in the habit of frequently threatening, and
sometimes carrying out to preserve his husbandly
authority.

The ruins of Stymphelus are near the settlement called
Zaraki, and still include the copious Spring.

Pausanias; VIII. 21-22. Apollodorus; I. 3, § 6. Iliad; XV., 1 :. 17.



22

The Clitorian Spring

The town of Clitor, founded by poor Callisto's great-
grandson Clitor, was in a plain surrounded by hills of
moderate height, and the Clitorian fountain, the curiosity
of the neighborhood and of the district, rose in a suburb,
a settlement of which not even any ruins were visible as
far back as eighteen hundred years ago.

But when the modern exhumer of towns reached the
locality, the Spring, still gushing forth from the hillside
on which the suburb once straggled, directed him where
to dig, and the long buried ruins again came to light and,
in their turn, established the identity of the fountain
that was impregnated with the medicines of Melampus
and became a curiosity to the common people and a
wonder to the wise, for even Varro "the wisest of the
Romans" and the author of 490 books mentions the
peculiar quality of this Spring, which was such that
whoever quenched his thrist at it forthwith hated wine,
and, in his sobriety, took pleasure only in pure water.

There were several speculations as to the cause of the
fountain's remarkable virtue, the most interesting of
which attributes it to the thoughtless act of the physician
Melampus, the son of Amithaon, who was called in to
attend the four daughters of Proetus, king of Argos, when



30 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

Venus inflicted them with madness because they had
boasted of their superior beauty.

These lovely young ladies, Mera, Euryale, Lysippe and
Iphianassa, became afflicted with the hallucination that
they were ungainly cows. Melampus treated them suc-
cessfully, and completely restored their minds, though
the youngest and prettiest lost her heart to the physician
and became his wife.

In the treatment of these cases the herb hellebore was
employed by Melampus, and it is, therefore, called
melampodium.

On the recovery of the daughters, the unused herbs and
charms that were employed in the cure of their minds
were thrown into the Clitorian Spring and tinctured its
waters.

It might, however, perhaps be wished, for the sake of
the memories of these poor royal ladies, that the subse-
quent benefits of the Clitorian waters were not confined
solely to dipsomaniacs.

Pausanias mentions a belief held by some that Melam-
pus cast into the river Anigrus the purifying materials
through which he freed from madness the daughters of
Prcetus, which materials were supposed to be the cause
of the bad odors of the Anigrus' waters. But one's faith
in Ovid's version may be kept intact in view of the opin-
ion, held by others, that the Anigrus owed its evil odor
to the Hydra poison which the Centaur Chiron washed
out of a foot wound accidentally inflicted by one of the
arrows of Hercules.

The ruins of Clitor are now called Paleopoli, meaning
the old city, and are distant about three miles from a
village which still bears the name of the ancient town.
They lie in the modern eparchy of Kalavryta, south of
the highest peak of the Aroanian, now called the



ARCADIA 31

Azanian mountains, on the summits of which the
daughters of Prcetus wandered in their miserable
condition.

The fountain was probably the source of the stream of
the same name that within a mile of the town ran into
the river Aroanius, or as it was called later in its course,
Olbius, the remarkable vocal properties of whose vari-
egated fish were the cause of little less wonder than the
marvelous fountain itself, for they were said to sing like
thrushes after sundown. Pausanias, without considering
that few birds sing any more after sunset than the
silentest sort of fish, sat patiently on the river bank to
hear these ichthyoid thrushes, without, however, being
able to leave to posterity any corroboration of the stories
of the nature fakirs of the Arcadians.

The founder of the town lost his life through the bite
of a worm as peculiar as either the fish or the fountain;
it is described as small, ash colored, and marked with
irregular stripes; it had a broad head supported by a
narrow neck, a large belly and a small tail ; and it walked
sideways like a crab.

Ovid. Metamorphoses; XV. In. 322. Vitruvius; VIII. 3.



23

Crathis

The Crathis, the river that received the homeopathic
triturations that filtered through the rock of Nonacris,
had its Springs in the Crathis mountain, and flowed into
the sea near JEgse a deserted town of Achaia.

Someone from the banks of the Crathis apparently
went to Italy and fondly transferred his native river's
name to the stream in Bruttii.



32 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

The mingling of the waters is said to have suggested
the name, which means mixture.

Strabo: VIII. 7.



24

Well Alyssus

Two stadia from Cynsetha there was a Well of cold
water and a plane tree growing by it.

Whoever was bitten by a mad dog, or had received any
other hurt, if he drank of that water got cured, and, for
that reason, they called it the Well Alyssus.

It was pointed out for the benefit of the pessimistic
that the gods always furnished a compensation for mis-
fortunes, and that there were Springs like the Alyssus
provided to cure many ills, as well as harmful water like
that of the Styx.

Fortunately, to the benefit of those not living near this
Spring, it was discovered that its properties were also
possessed by the plant Alysson whose name, expressing
in one word Depriving of Madness, came from a reputa-
tion that is now enjoyed by the Pasteur treatment for
hydrophobia. Such as were bitten by mad dogs were
assured that they would not become rabid if they took
this plant in vinegar, and wore it as an amulet. The
modern name for the plant conveys little suggestion of
the virtues it was formerly supposed to possess — it is now
called the wild madder.

Many Springs that had no medicinal or curative powers
themselves, under ordinary conditions, seem to have
fostered the growth of plants that possessed such powers.
There was the Lingua (Wildenow) whose roots re-
duced to ashes and beaten up with lard, made from a
black and barren sow, cured Alopecy when the mixture



ARCADIA 33

was rubbed on the patient's head while the sun shone
on it.

The Onobrychus (Sainfoin) cured strangury when it
was reduced to powder and sprinkled with white wine.

Centaury (Felwort) was a purge for all noxious sub-
stances ; it was used in the form of an extract made from
leaves gathered in the autumn and steeped for eighteen
days in water.

Adiantum (Maiden-hair fern) was so called because it
had an aversion to water and dried up when sprinkled
with it. Nevertheless it was always found in the grottos
of Springs. It received its Latin name of Saxifragum
(Stone-breaking) because of its efficacy in breaking and
expelling calculi of the bladder. It was also an antidote
for the venom of serpents and spiders. It relieved head-
ache; cured Alopecy; dispersed sores and ulcers; and a
decoction of it was good for asthma, and for troubles of
the liver, spleen and gall, and for dropsy, and half a dozen
other affections.

Bechion or Tussilago is not mentioned medicinally,
though its growth anywhere was an infallible sign that a
Spring of water lay below.

But independently of surrounding plants, or of mineral
contents, all Springs and Wells had healing properties
when their waters were used under certain conditions;
thus, according to Artemon, epilepsy could be cured with
the water of any Spring, if it was drawn at night and
drunk from the skull of a man who had been slain and
whose body remained unburned.

For Tertian Fever, it was recommended to take equal
parts of water from three Wells, using a new earthen
vessel and administering the combination to the patient
when the paroxysm came on; part of the water being
first poured out as a pious libation.

3



34 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

Another good office performed by Wells was their silent
prediction of the occurrence of earthquakes in advance
of which the water became turbid and emitted an un-
pleasant odor. This faculty became known at a very
early date, for Pherecydes, the first man who wrote any-
thing in prose, foretold an earthquake as soon as he ob-
served these conditions in some water he had drawn out
of a Well; and he is said to have obtained his knowledge
from the secret books of the Phoenicians.

On the other hand, Wells whose waters were perfectly
good sometimes became suddenly poisonous because
salamanders had accidentally fallen into them ; in conse-
quence of which whole families were sometimes made
dangerously ill, for Wells were often used as ice-boxes
by sinking into them vessels containing fruits and other
foods.

The site of Cynaetha, which was a quarter of a mile
from the Spring, is now marked by the village of
Kalavryta.

Pliny; XXIV. 57.
Pausanias; VIII. 19-



25

Lusi

At Lusi there was a fountain in which land mice lived
and dwelt.

This marvelous story appears to have originated in a
statement made by Aristotle.

Lusi was northwest of Clitor, and eight miles from
Cynaetha; near its supposed site there are now three
fountains, but none of them contains any specimens of
the family of amphibious mice.

Pliny; XXXI. 10.



ARCADIA 35

26
Menelaus'

A little above the town of Caphyae there was a well and
by it a large and beautiful plane tree called Menelaus'.

Although the Arcadian contingent that went to the
siege of Troy had to go in other people's boats, some of
the preliminaries of the campaign were arranged in that
navyless country.

Menelaus went there to muster a part of the army and
stayed there long enough to plant the hardy tree. He
seems to have had a fondness for planes, and if there was
not one already growing where he stopped he supplied
the deficiency without delay.

The tree at Caphyae had no such momentous connec-
tion with the fate of Troy as the one at Aulis (see Aulis)
had in the dragon incident while the fleet was awaiting a
favorable wind, but it was understood to be the fifth oldest
tree in the world a thousand and five hundred years after
it was planted; the others, in their order, being the Willow
in the temple of Hera at Samos ; the Oak at Dodona ; the
Olive in the Acropolis and the Laurel of the Syrians, who
claimed for it the third place.

Caphyae is now represented by the small village called
Khotussa.

Pausanias; VIII. 23.



27

Philip's Well

A few miles beyond Arne stretched the plain of Argum
where were the ruins of Nestane, a mountain village by
which Philip had encamped.

The outlines of the ruins could be traced more than



36 GREECE; PELOPONNESUS

four hundred years afterwards about the Spring that the
commander used, and that was thereafter always asso-
ciated with his name.

The Commander was that Philip II, the son of Amyn-
tas and the most valorous of all the Macedonian Kings,
who, himself "Always Great, " was the father of Alexan-
der the Great.

2250 years before the term was invented, he was a
scrap of paper diplomatist, and preferred bribery to
battles. The effect that his example had on the moral
fiber of the country can be seen, although one can only
speculate how much longer the Grecian structure would
have lasted if he had not loosened so many stones of its
foundations in the 46 years before he was assassinated.
A village called Tzipiana now occupies the site of
Nestane.

Pausanias; VIII. 7-



28

Well of the Meliastve

The Spring called the Well of the Meliastae was seven
stadia from Melangea.

The Meliastae had a Hall of Dionysus, near the Well
and in his celebrations they held orgies.

They had also a temple to Black Aphrodite. There
have been concessions made by statuaries that were
seemingly not consistent with the principles of accurate
Art such as representing Venus for Africans with the
complexion of its connoisseurs of female beauty, and
carving statues of the River Nile out of black stone
instead of white: the Black Venus of the Meliastae was,
however, in no such category, but was a sincere attempt
to express a custom by color, and to convey the idea that



ARCADIA 37

while men devote the day to making lucre they have only
black night to give to making love.

This Well was in the neighborhood of the present
village of Pikerni which abounds in Springs whose waters
were anciently conveyed by an aqueduct to Mantineia;
some remains of the aqueduct have been discovered, and
others may yet be brought to light that will designate
which particular Spring was the one appropriated by the
Nymphs.

Pausanias; VIII. 6.



29

Olympias

The Spring called Olympias was between the river
Alpheus and the ruins of the town of Trapezus, and not
far from the river Bathos.

This Spring flowed only every other year and fire came
out of the ground near it, and the people there sacrificed
to Thunder and Lightning and to Storms.

The Arcadians were fond of correcting a common error,
the belief that Thrace was the battle ground of the war
between the gods and the giants, and they pointed to this



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