James Reuel Smith.

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

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Spring at Phiala, from which it traveled underground to
Panias, or Banias, as had been proved by finding in one
Spring chaff which had been thrown into the other.


Unfortunately Phiala has not been identified, as there is
more than one circular Spring from which to choose.

Others gave a partnership credit to another Spring
that they believed to be the Ain of the Bible, and which,
as the fountain of Daphne under the hill of Dan 2 miles
west of Banias, gushed out all at once and made the Jor
a beautiful river of delicious water, the two streams, the
Jor and the Dan uniting to form both the river and its

Modern travelers have added a third, and even a
fourth Spring ; the third gushing translucently from under
a perpendicular rock near Hashbeia and north of Dan;
and the fourth, the Spring of Esh Shar.

Although the Jordan is an unnavigable stream that
empties into a portless Sea and has never had a town of
any prominence upon its banks, it is the largest as well
as the most celebrated stream in Palestine, and it might
be called the original baptismal font, as Jesus and John
the Baptist were immersed in its waters.

The river's length is two hundred miles, which distance
it runs to get sixty miles away from its Springs. From the
tortuousness of its course it has been likened to a snake
twisting through vegetation and between rocks, and,
rather more pleasantly, to a vine creeping with many a
sidelong turn over the valley's floor.

The river has also been called a continuous waterfall,
as it drops in some places 116 feet in a mile, and in one
hundred and seventeen miles it falls 1983 feet.

It is supposed that the Jordan at one time emptied into
the Mediterranean, or the Red Sea; and that its course
was changed by the volcanic disturbance that anni-
hilated Sodom and Gomorrha and their wicked sister
cities of the plain, which sank to swallow the sinning
cities when they had increased to the fatal number


thirteen, and left a basin into which the river poured to
form the Dead Sea which is 1374 feet below the level of
the Mediterranean Sea, and is gradually but measurably
going lower.

The modern name of the Jordan is Es Shiriah, which is
very like that of the third of its Springs.

Pliny; V. 15.


The hot Springs of Tiberias were conducive to the res-
toration of health. They were by Lake Tiberias, the
Sea of Gennesareth at Emmaus, the Hammath of
Josephus, where Jesus was first seen by the disciples after
the resurrection, as related by St. Luke.

Pliny; V. 15.

The Spring of Aradus

The Spring of Aradus rose in the sea between the main-
land and the city of Aradus, which was on a rocky island
of the same name, about two and a half miles from the
coast of Phoenicia, on a line with the island of Cyprus.

The island, only a mile in circumference, had so large
a population that it was necessary to build the houses of
many stories to economize space; and the inhabitants
secured their water from the Spring in the sea by very
ingeniously forming a temporary artesian Well, which
they constructed with a long leather tube attached to the
narrow end of a large lead funnel. Placing this apparatus
in a boat they rowed out to the Spring and lowered the


funnel over it, and when the gushing fountain had forced
the sea water out of the tube a constant stream of spark-
ling fresh water followed, and filled the receptacles that
were in waiting in other boats which conveyed them to
the city's reservoirs.

Aradus was at the northern boundary of Phoenicia and
was the third of its most important cities, some of its
territory being across the channel on the mainland. It
was a very old town, not only mentioned in the Bible,
but, being of the same antiquity as its sister city Tyre,
dated back to at least 2700 years B.C. on the Mediterra-
nean; and even before that time, for that was the date of
the Temple of Hercules at Tyre, Aradus and Tyre were
towns in the two islands of Bahreim, in the Persian Gulf,
from which the two Phoenician names and settlements
were transferred.

The Tyrians when they moved from the Gulf erected a
temple to the Phoenician Hercules, perhaps the original
and only genuine hero, and the one the Phoenicians called
Melcarth, a name that seemingly suggested Melicertes,
the Greeks' early name for their Hercules; while their
later name, Heracles, is merely an anagram of Melcarth,
made by substituting two letters and spelling the name

There was hardly any district about the Mediterranean
and along the waters to be reached from it, that did not
have some settlement perpetuating the name of Hercules,
and that too, as in the case of the temple at Tyre, gener-
ally long before the Greeks could have appropriated the
name to their own hero.

Another temple of Hercules claimed for the Grecian
hero was the one at Gades where, although it was founded
after the Trojan war, the rites practiced were not Grecian
but primitive Phoenician rites.


It might perhaps be assumed that Melcarth was a
popular idol whose name was considered a talisman,
promising good luck to settlements and popularity for
products, because it was owing to his policies, extending
Phoenician commerce, and afterwards sending out colo-
nies to foster traffic and the growth of trade, that the
country reached its wonderful degree of prosperity. The
number of those colonies that may be tracked by a Phoeni-
cian name, or inscription, all the way from the shores of
the Euxine to the west coast of Spain, is surprising, and
all the more so when it is considered that they issued
from a country 120 miles long and 12 miles broad. And
equally surprising is the amount of originality and genius
the little country produced. Converting the hieroglyphs
of still older Egypt into an alphabet, she made possible
an easily transmitted record of the events of every coun-
try, though, ironically enough, practically no record at
all has been -preserved of her own. Much, however, may
be learned from others; thus, Homer praises the drinking
vessels of gold and silver made by the Phoenicians, who
perhaps were no less renowned for the wares they made of
glass which they discovered how to manufacture. Their
Tyrian Purple was required wherever rich apparel was
worn, and they made the dye by extracting one single
drop from a gland in each of a certain kind of mollusk
peculiar to their coastal sea.

Phoenicia took the astronomical knowledge of Egypt,
or the East, and made it of practical value, to enable her
to find her way by the stars in her navigations to the
uttermost parts of the earth as it was known in her times,
even to Cornwall in Great Britain, and Cape Town in
Africa which continent she circumnavigated. She
adapted arithmetic to the necessities of her merchants for
keeping their merchandise accounts; and, before the time


of Troy, the Tyrian Mochus had thought out the theory
of atoms.

Cadmus, who brought to Greece the infant alphabet,
then only fifteen letters long, was a Phoenician.

The island of the Spring of Aradus has today turned
into Ruad, and the Spring itself is now called Ain Ibrahim,
Abraham's fountain, though it is not mentioned among
the Springs of the patriarch that are enumerated in the

The sea over the Spring is seventy-five feet deep, but
boatmen of today are said to continue the practice of
their ancient predecessors who drew fresh water from the
forceful fountain in the depths.

Pliny; V. 34- Strabo; XVI. 2. 5 13.
Herodotus; I. 1. IV. 41.



There was a fountain called Callirhoe in the north-
west part of Mesopotamia.

From this fountain a town is said to have taken its
name, which became Carrhae; and if, as some have sup-
posed, it was the same town as Haran, the fountain of
Callirhoe may have had even a closer relationship than
that of townmate with the Well of Nahor which was the
scene of the first recorded kiss — that with which Jacob
greeted Rachael.

Abraham migrated from Ur of the Chaldees to Haran,
where the descendants of his brother Nahor established
themselves, and where Jacob went for a wife.

Between the Euphrates and the Khabur rivers there
is a modest village in about latitude 37 which is still
called Haran.

Pliny; V. 21.


The Spring of Chabura was the only Spring of water
in the whole universe that had an agreeable smell.

Its odor was due to Juno's having bathed in it.

In this fountain there were eels that eat from the hand,
and that were adorned with earrings.



Pliny, leaving it to the readei to decide between Juno
and the eels, places the incident of the goddess's bath
between two paragraphs to the effect that it is a virtue
in water to have no flavor, even an agreeable one; and
that to be truly wholesome it should, like good air, have
neither taste nor smell.

The river that results from this Spring is now called
Khabur, and it falls into the Euphrates at Circesium.

Pliny; XXXI. 22. XXXII. 7.



There was a Spring in Armenia in which there were
black fish that if used as food were productive of instan-
taneous death.

Pliny; XXXI. 19.


The Euphrates rose in Greater Armenia at the foot of
Mt. Capotes twelve miles from Zamara where it was
called Pyxurates.

Where it passed between the mountains of the Taurus
range it was given the name Omma, and afterwards was
called Euphrates.

Near the village of Massice the Euphrates divided, the
left branch running past Seleucia and falling into the
Tigris; the right branch running to Babylon, through
the middle of which it flowed, afterwards dispersed
through marshes.

The Euphrates increased like the Nile at stated times,
and at about the same periods.

Its modern name is Frat, and it is 1780 miles long.

Pliny; V. 20.




The Tigris rose from a very remarkable source situated
on a plain in Greater Armenia ; the name of the spot was
Elegosine, and the stream there was known as Diglito,
which is supposed to be another form of the Hiddekel of
the Bible.

When the current became more rapid it was called
Tigris, which, in the language of the Medes, meant

It passed through the nitrous waters of Lake Arethusa
so compactly that the fish of the river were unaffected
by them; and, reaching Mt. Taurus, it disappeared into a
cavern through which it siphoned under the mountain,
reappearing on the other side at Zoroande, the modern

Passing through Lake Thospitis it plunged into the
earth again and, traveling 22 miles unseen, it came up in
the vicinity of Nymphseum.

In its course it passed so near the River Arsanias that
when their waters swelled they met and flowed together,
but without intermingling, the Arsanias flowing on the
surface of the Tigris for four miles before they parted

After passing Apamea it divided into two channels
which afterwards reunited and took the name of Pasati-
gris which river entered the Persian Sea through a mouth
ten miles wide, several miles from the marshes of the

Strabo's impressions were that the sources of the Tigris
and the Euphrates were more than three hundred miles
apart ; and that those of the Tigris were somewhere on the
southern side of the Taurus range. His knowledge of the


stream lower down was, however, more intimate, and he
was able to state that after passing through Lake Thospi-
tis the river sank into the ground with a loud noise of
rushing air.

For the moderns, the Tigris rises in eastern Kurdistan
within a few miles of the Euphrates which it joins ninety
miles from the Persian Gulf into which, thus united, they
enter as the Shat-el-Arab.

Less tortuous than the Euphrates, the Tigris travels
only 1 150 miles as against the 1780 of the former.

Pliny; VI. 31.

StrabojXI. 12. §3. XVI. 1. §21.


Thisbe's Spring

Thisbe's cold Spring was by a snow-white mulberry
tree near the walls of Babylon.

That was in the time when all mulberries were white
as they still are in China and the Far East, and as
they would still be in the Near East if it had not been
for Thisbe's Spring — for that attracted the lioness,
and she caused the tragedy that changed the mulberry's

The walls of Babylon were noted for their solidity
even in times when massive masonry was by no means
uncommon, and, as neither time nor slave-labor, or even
baked bricks, were then of any appreciable value, it is
needless, now that the walls have disappeared, to ques-
tion that they were 350 feet high and 87 feet in breadth.
Their condition, however, was in marked contrast to the
party wall of the house in which Thisbe lived ; a wall in
which there were chinks through which Py ramus, a
comely youth who lived in the adjoining house, made
Thisbe's acquaintance and carried on a courtship for-
bidden by the parents.

In whispers, an appointment was made for a meeting
at the Spring, and Thisbe, who was the first to reach it,
had hardly laid aside her veil when a lioness, seeking
liquid refreshment after a sanguinary meal of ox flesh,
approached the water and made the maiden retire,
hastily and unseen, to the shelter of a cavern.



The veil, stained by the dripping jaws of the lioness
when she sniffed and pawed it, lay flaming in the moon-
light when the tardy Pyramus arrived, and, coupled
with the tracks the beast had left on the soft margin of
the Spring, pointed to but one conclusion.

Passionately blaming himself and his lateness for his
mistress' fate, Pyramus dealt his breast a mortal wound
with his sword, and fell at the foot of the mulberry tree
whose roots, dyed with his blood, colored the sap and
tinged the snow-white berries with a purple hue.

Thisbe, returning from the cave only in time to hear
her lover's last sigh, paused but long enough to adjure
the tree to retain the token of their fate and forever bear
black fruit as a mourning memorial, and then threw
herself upon the point of the discarded sword and re-
plenished the stream the roots were still absorbing.

The gods, moved by the pathetic adjuration, decreed
that all the mulberries of the country should thence-
forward be black; and the conscience stricken parents,
repenting their harshness, mingled in one urn the ashes
of the innocent lovers.

Shakespeare, when he travestied the tragedy in "A
Midsummer Night's Dream," assigned characters for the
Wall and the Moonlight, and the Lion — which Bottom de-
sired to play because he could roar as gently as any sucking
dove and would not frighten the ladies — but omitted a
part for either the Tree, or the principal factor, the Spring.

Ovid; Meta. IV. Fable i.
Herodotus; I. 178.


Babylonian Naptha Springs

There were Springs of naptha near the Euphrates
River in Babylonia; some producing white naptha which


attracted flame and was liquid sulphur ; and others black
naptha which was liquid asphaltus and was burned in
lamps instead of oil.

Alexander was much interested in what he was told
about the properties of naptha and its almost inex-
tinguishable flame, and assured himself of its peculiari-
ties by means of some easily conducted experiments with
a boy, whom he put in a bath of it which he ignited from
the flame of a lamp.

Fortunately the boy's shrieks atracted the attention
of his friends, who succeeded at the last moment in res-
cuing him from the amateur scientist's zeal.

The Spring beyond the city of Demetrias, as it was
close to Babylon, possibly furnished the naptha for this
royal experiment.

Another incident in Alexander's life is recalled by the
name of a place in Babylonia east of this Spring, Gauga-
mela, where Darius was defeated by Alexander and lost
his kingdom, in October, 331 B.C. Gaugamela means the
Camel's House, and Darius gave it the name when he
assigned its revenues for the support of a faithful camel
that had grown old in carrying his baggage and provisions
through the deserts.

StraborXVI. i. §15. XVI. 1. §3.


Ardericca's Well

The village of Ardericca was above the city of Babylon
on the Euphrates, and the river's windings about the
village were as peculiar in their way as were the products
of the Well.

Passengers traveling by boat on the Euphrates touched


at the village three times in three successive days, a river
squirm that perhaps has no parallel.

The Well was five miles from Ardericca, and it pro-
duced three different substances.

It had a wine skin for a bucket, and the skin was raised
with a swipe, a primitive form of pump handle made of a
young tree trunk with a shorter trunk for a post.

The contents of the wine-skin bucket, on being emptied
out, assumed three forms, one part becoming solid asphalt,
another part solid salt, and the third part a black, strong-
odored oil that the Persians called Rhadinace.

Herodotus; VI. 118. I. 185.


The Castalian Spring


Daphne was a town of moderate size eight miles out of
Antioch. It had a large forest three miles deep, with
thick coverts of shade, and Springs of water flowing
through it.

In the midst of the forest there was a sacred sanctuary
and a temple of Apollo and Diana. Under the protective
security of the sanctuary license was let loose, and the
grove became the scene of a perpetual festival of vice.

King Antiochus Epiphanes, sometimes called the Mad,
is said to have mixed the water of the fountain of Antioch
with wine to add to the convivialities on one occasion.
His peculiar ways, as described at length by Athenasus,
indicate that he was the prototype of the Calif Haroun al
Raschid of the Arabian Nights.

Daphne has been called the Versailles of Antioch ; but
for the frequenters of the grove there was much to make


it suggestive of the Grecian Delphi, one of its fountains
being called the Castalian Spring, and a nearby bay tree
being pointed out as the tree into which Apollo's Daphne
was transformed.

The fountain produced the sacred water of the Oracle
of Daphne, whose repute was such as might be expected
from its surroundings. It was destroyed by Hadrian
who had learned from it that he would become emperor,
his object being to prevent its encouraging anyone else to
attempt to supplant him. The Emperor Julian under-
took to restore the destroyed fountain and to rebuild the
business of the temple, and probably did so if the modern
supposition about the Spring's present existence is cor-
rect, although the temple was subsequently destroyed
through an accidental fire.

The waters of some of the Springs supplied the city
of Antioch, to which they were conveyed through
an aqueduct.

The numerous and prolific fountains of the modern
Beit-el-Maa have led to its identification as the ancient
and depraved Daphne.

Athenaeus; II. 23. V. 21.
Strabo; XVI. 2. § 6.



Typhon, in the form of an immense serpent, having
been wounded by Zeus with a dart of lightning, bored
into the ground for concealment, and made a mole-like
passage of eight miles before reappearing.

The chasm the serpent made when entering the earth
was called Charybdis. Where it came up again, near
Libanus, Springs gushed out through the opening and


formed the river called Typhon. The stream ran near
the city of Antioch and in the course of time it received
the name of Orontes, a man who built a bridge over it, in
place of the name of the serpent who brought it to light.
The Springs watered a hunting park whose location is
still marked by a sixty foot high square shaft having a
pyramidal top, and carved on its four sides with gro-
tesque hunting scenes. This is near the village of Kur-
mul north of, and a twelve-hour trip from the village of
Labweh (near Baalbek) which latter would seem to be
where the serpent actually entered the earth.

Strabo; XVI. 2. § 7. VI. 2. § 9.
Strabo;XVI. 2. §19.


One Thousand Springs

A large collection of Springs in Syria was called by the
people of the district Bing-gheul, or, the Thousand

It has been conjectured that the River Lycus, anciently
mentioned as a tributary of the Euphrates, had its in-
ception in this aggregation of fountains, and that the
river was a confluent which flowed into the Tigris (not
the Euphrates) a little south of Larissa near Nimrud,
the town founded perhaps 2200 years before Christ, by
Nimrod the mighty hunter and the grandson of Ham.

Pliny; V. 20.


Springs of the Dardes

No mention is made of the Springs of the Dardes except
in the history of the march that the younger Cyrus


began with the object of capturing Babylon, and that
Xenophon concluded with the sole aim of saving as many
as possible of the 13,000 defeated Greek soldiers, Cyrus
having lost his life without getting within thirty miles of
the coveted city of his brother Artaxerxes.

The celebrated advance and retreat occupied 15
months, beginning in B.C. 401, and the retreat was made
through such rigors of climate, and harassments by foes,
that only 8640 of the original participants succeeded in
completing the round march of some 4000 miles.

Belesys, the governor of Syria, had built a palace at
the Springs and had surrounded it with a very large and
beautiful garden containing all that the seasons produce ;
but Cyrus laid waste the notable garden and burned the

The Springs were, on one side, 30 parasangs from the
River Chalus, which was full of large tame fish that the
Syrians looked upon as gods and allowed no one to harm ;
and, on the other side, 15 parasangs from the River
Euphrates; but as the parasang was an elastic measure
that varied between three miles and half as many, accord-
ing to the nature of the ground traversed, and as the
compass direction of the march is unknown, such travelers
as have tried to retrace the route of the ancient army
have been unable to agree on the exact location of these

They were perhaps approximately about 5 minutes
north of where the 36th parallel crosses the 38th merid-
ian; and their present name may no doubt be found
among the following that have been suggested; the
fountain of Fay, or Far; the fountain of Bab (al Bab) or
Dhahab or Dabb ; the fountain of Daradax, or Ain Abu

Xenophon. Anabasis; I. 4. § 10.




The Spring of Euleus rose in rapid eddies ; its stream then
disappeared and concealed itself in the earth, but after
a short course underground rose again.

The kings of the country would drink no other water
than that from Euleus, even when traveling on long
journeys, during which they always carried a sufficient
supply to last them until their return.

The lightness and purity of the water were individual ;
indeed it was the lightest of all, for a cotylus, or about a
half pint of it, weighed less than the same measure of
any other water. Another of its merits was the excel-
lence of the eels that its river produced, and the river
itself was venerated with many pompous ceremonies.

The stream of the Spring flowed into the Tigris and it is
supposed to be the River Ulai, on the banks of which the
prophet Daniel had his wonderful vision that was fol-
lowed by his sickness of many days, the vision of the
combat between two remarkable animals; the ram with
one horn higher than the other, and the goat that pro-
gressed without touching the ground, and that had a
single horn between its eyes.

Athenseus; VII. 56. Pliny; VI. 31.
Strabo; XV. 3. § 22.



The great Springs of Bagistanus burst out from large
fissures in the mountain for which they were named.

They watered a plain, on the confines of Media, in
which Queen Semiramis had a wonderful garden laid out


which was called "Paradise," and which abounded in
fruits and all other things pertaining to luxury.

High up on the mountain, from which the Springs
issued at one end of the garden, there was a colossal
group of figures representing the queen and a hundred
members of her court. These were carved in relief on the
mountain itself, where a huge portion of its side had been
hewn away to make a flat surface of rock on which to
cut the gigantic figures, many of which are said to be
still visible, and well preserved owing to a coating of
varnish which vies with the rock in its hardness.

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 31 of 46)