James Reuel Smith.

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

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forty days.

Surrounding the Springs and their streams with a wall,
he prevented the opposing forces from obtaining any
water whatever, and thereby reduced them to such
miseries of thirst that they were compelled to surrender.

Penned up and confined in the parched hills, the men
of Pompey's generals in vain exhausted their efforts to
secure some drops of moisture to satisfy their cravings.

They dug feverishly for water even with the thin blades
of their swords, working their way deep down to the
underlying rocks of the hills, without finding either an
underground stream, a sweating cavern distilling small
drops, or any place where gravel was disturbed and
moved upward by a little Spring.

Wherever in some stony pocket the soil gave evidence
of the slightest dampness, they tore it up by handfuls and
squeezed the noxious clods over their longing mouths.

When their dried-up cattle ceased to give milk, they
punctured the bodies of these, and of their cavalry
horses, and swarmed about them to suck such feeble
streams as their opposing thrusts could express from the
animals' withering frames.

They chewed the leaves and the grass for their juices ; and
stripped the trees to lick the dew from the branches and
gnaw the sprigs and the fibrous stems, to extract the sap.

Their bodies were scorched with dryness; ulcers in-
flamed their throats; and their parched mouths were
roughened by their scaly tongues. Their veins shrank
and their lungs shriveled and contracted ; and all the while
their wretchedness was increased by seeing constantly
below them the pools and rivers of cool and sparkling
water the well-guarded wall prevented their reaching.

At last Afranius, the ranking general, dragged himself


half dead to the conqueror's camp and managed to gasp
that, penned up like wild beasts and unable to procure
water, his men could no longer bear their bodily pain and
mental anguish, and confessed themselves at Caesar's

Today Ilerda is Lerida, and doubtless more than one
of its townsmen while reading of the terrible days his
ancestors passed through when the Springs were walled
away from them, has lingered over Lucan's page in mus-
ing regret that the making of gunpowder was not, as it
is at the present time, one of the principal industries of
the town in the bone-dry year of B.C. 49.

Lerida lies some hundred miles to the west of Barcelona
and southwest of Andorra one of the smallest Free States
of the world, and notable as well for being, through a
political trick of the 17th century, a Spanish tract
within the French frontier.

A modern bridge in Lerida spans a stream fed by some
of its Springs; and this bridge is built on the foundations
of a bridge that crossed the current in those ancient days
of drought; but the Springs themselves, fashioned by a
still better Builder, have never yet in any part required

Lucan. Pharsalia; IV. In. 266-372.


Aqvje Calid^e

The Aquae Calidae, or Hot Springs, were twelve miles
from Barcelona, and the tribe that lived around them was
named the Aquicaldenses.

These Springs are now called Caldes.

Pliny; III. 4.


Spring of the Ana

The Spring of the Ana, or Anas, rose in the district of
Laminium. The river is now the Guadiana, a form of
Wadi Ana by which the Arabs expressed the river of Ana.

The waters of the Spring at first spread out into a
number of lakes; then they contracted into a narrow
channel and suddenly disappeared. After breaking out
on the surface and then again vanishing and reappearing
a number of times, traveling in all many miles under-
ground, they fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

The river, as now known, rises eight miles northwest
of the town of Alcaraz, and in two different parts of its
course forms the boundary between Spain and Portugal.
It flows through the territory of Don Quixote, and retains
its fondness for underground courses, on account of which
and its narrowness, it is navigable for less than a tenth of
its length of 520 miles.

Pliny; III. 2.



Some of the ancient geographers very accurately
described the Springs of the Danube as being in Mt.
Abnoba opposite Rauricum.

The fish near its source were poisonous when used
as food, and, therefore, another Spring feeder lower
down, and beyond which the harmful fish did not
swim, was called the source of the river, rather than
attribute its beginning to the actual but inauspicious

Receiving the name of Ister in the latter part of its
course it flowed into the Euxine Sea through six vast

Early ancient geographers supposed that the Ister
flowed into the Adriatic opposite the Padus, and in such
volume as to overcome the Sea's saltiness for a distance of
forty miles from the shore. This misconception of the
location of the river's mouth arose from a literal accept-
ance of the account of the course taken by the Argonauts
who, from the Danube, reached the Adriatic near Ter-
geste. It was afterwards assumed, by those who did not
feel warranted in aspersing the log of the Argo, that the
crew carried the ship on their shoulders across the Alps
and, with the aid of some intermediate streams, down to
the Adriatic; a method of proceeding that was not im-
probable if, as the Argonauts averred, they transported



their vessel over the sands of Africa for many days at a
time. (No. 322.)

Although Donaueschingen is now generally called the
source of the Donau or Danube, the largest river of
Europe, its more minute headwaters are a tiny stream
flowing from some rocks of the old Abnoba mountain
in the Black Forest, from which it journeys about two
thousand miles to reach its terminus on the borders of
the Black Sea, the ancient Euxine.

A minute and charming description of the Danube's
Spring is given by F. D. Millet, who writes; — "At the
head of a pleasant little valley high up among the bristling
mountain tops of the Black Forest, a tiny stream of clear
water comes tumbling down the rocks, and, gathering
strength and volume from an occasional Spring or a
rivulet, cuts a deep channel in the rich soil of the hay
fields and dances gaily along over its bed of glistening

" To the north, west and south the bold summits of the
watershed, heavily clothed in dark masses of coniferous
trees, make a rugged strongly accented skyline; and to
the east delightful vistas of sunny slopes and fertile inter-
vales stretch away in enchanting perspective to the hazy

" This little stream the Brigach with its twin sister the
Brege which rises about ten miles further to the south,
are the highest sources of the mighty River Danube, the
great waterway of Europe since earliest history and
celebrated for ages in song, gathering on its banks in its
course of nearly 2000 miles to the Black Sea the most
varied and interesting nationalities in the civilized world,
and unfolding in its flow the most remarkable succession
of panoramas of natural beauty known to the geographer. ' '
He adds; — "The Princes of Furstenberg have arbi-


trarily declared for their own glorification that the large
Spring in their pleasure grounds is the actual source of
the Danube. They have surrounded the Spring with
expensive masonry, and erected a stone tablet with an
inscription giving the information, among other things,
that that spot is 678 meters above sea level, and 2840
kilometers from the Black Sea by way of the Danube."

Pliny; IV. 24. III. 22. XXXI. 19.


The Rhine

The source of the Rhenus, the Rhine of the ancient
Romans, was among the Helvetii near the Hyrcynian
Forest, an extremely dense woods overgrown with
mighty trees.

The length of the river was said by some to be 500
miles and by others to be 750 miles.

The Romans had another Rhenus, a tributary of the
River Po, whose sources were in the Apennines about
fifty miles above Bologna; this was called the Small
Rhenus to distinguish it from the more important

The banks of the shorter river produced a reed that
was superior to all others for making arrows, the great
quantity of pith it contained leaving so little weight in
the rest of the shaft that the missile clove the air more
readily than arrows produced from any other reeds in
the Roman country.

The Rhine of the moderns has three sources in the Swiss
canton of the Grisons; the most easterly rising in Mt.
Crispalt, 7500 feet above sea level, is joined twelve miles
lower down by the second, and at Richenau, where the


river assumes the name Rhine, by what is called its chief
source, a stream from the glaciers of the Vogelberg.

The river broadens out to form Lake Constance, and
later produces the Falls of Schaffhausen by rushing over
a rock seventy feet in height.

Between Mainz and Bonn the stream presents its
finest scenery, and the land it runs through between those
places produces the best of the wines that take the river's

The Rhine is the principal and the largest river in Ger-
many, and twelve thousand streams, of various volume,
either directly or through others are said to find their way
into it. Its course of about 900 miles is generally north-
northwest and ends at the German Ocean. Its name re-
produces the sound of the German word for "clear," from
which it is supposed to have been derived.

Strabo; VII. i. §5. IV. 3. § 3-
Pliny; XVI. 65.


Paralysis Spring

A single Spring near the seashore in the vicinity of the
River Ems, was the only source of fresh water for the army
of Germanicus Caesar on one occasion in his German

Within two years of use this Spring's water had the
effect of loosening the teeth of the soldiers and causing a
total relaxation of the joints of the knees; but fortunately
a remedy for those affections was found in a plant called
britannica which the people of the Fresii nation pointed
out to the troops.

The plant proved also to be a cure for quinsy and for


snake bites, provided it was eaten before thunder had
been heard.

Pliny; XXV. 6.


The Springs of Mattiacum were boiling hot and re-
tained that heat for three days.

They were called Fontes Mattiacae and also Aquae
Mattiacae by the Romans, and many relics and remains
of those people have been found in the neighborhood of
the Springs at Wiesbaden twenty-six miles west of

The remains are of such nature as indicate that they
belonged to a well-founded settlement that was visited
by many invalids who left the place with grateful testi-
monies of restored health; there are preserved in the
town's museum statues and altars, and baths with tablets
commemorating the benefits derived from the waters by
people who had sought them for the relief of various dis-
orders. They are still as popular among the present
generation as they were among the Romans, and after-
wards, from a very early period, among the Germans.

The principal Spring, in an aggregation of fourteen, is
the Kochbrunnen, the Boiling Spring, which has a tem-
perature of 156 Fahr., and is a natural pot of steaming
water. Its outflow is of such volume that after supplying
the various bathing establishments of the present resort
there are streams of it left over to run to waste through
the streets and sewers, misting the atmosphere and
appreciably heating the air.

The Adler, the Eagle Spring, is nearly as copious and


but slightly less hot, with a surface temperature of 134

The waters minister still as effectively as of old to those
who suffer from gout or rheumatism or cutaneous affec-
tions — but it is now so well known that nature owes good
health to everyone that there are few commemorative
tablets in the museum that are less than a double decade
of centuries old.

Pliny; XXXI. 17.



The fountain of Exampaeus was small, but it was such
an exceedingly bitter Spring that its overflow running into
the Hypanis River made the waters of that large stream
acrid and undrinkable throughout four- ninths of its course
— that part of it which ran between the bitter fountain
and its mouth on the northern shore of the Euxine Sea.

The waters of the Hypanis were sweet throughout the
other and first five-ninths of its course back to its source,
which was a vast lake in Scythia called The Mother of The
Hypanis, and around which droves of wild horses grazed.

The fountain of Exampaeus was on the borders of the
Scythians and the Alazones, and near it was an immense
brass cauldron, six fingers in thickness and made entirely
of Scythian arrow tips, each one of which had represented
an inhabitant of Scythia.

The arrow-heads had been the counters that King
Ariantas employed in taking the census of his subjects,
and the scheme very likely suggested the method the
British government still employs in taking the country
census in India, where the illiterate heads of families are
required to deposit on a certain day in front of their
dwellings a stone for every individual in the household;
and those stones, collected in bags and sent to the Census
Bureau, form that department's basis in figuring out the
population of the country districts.



The Scythian king by requiring a deposit of brass arrow-
heads acquired a large quantity of metal more valuable
than the stones of the British, and he used it for casting
the immense cauldron which was set up by the fountain
and dedicated to it.

The accuracy of the enumeration was provided for by
threatening death to anyone who failed to deposit the
requisite tip.

Another large exhibit of the country, perhaps less to be
relied upon than the census, was an impression made in
a rock by one of the feet of Hercules — the impression
was a yard in length.

The bitterness of the Spring was attributed to sand-
arach, a mineral containing arsenic, and has led to its
identification with the source of the Sinaja-Wada River
which runs into the Bog River, the old Hypanis.

Ariantas, the king who had the bowl made, is supposed
to have been a ruler of Aria and to have designed it as an
offering to Buddha whose worship is conjectured to have
extended to Syria.

Vitruvius; VIII.
Herodotus; IV. 52. and 81.



Librosus was a hill, in the country of the Tauri, from
which issued three Springs that inevitably produced
death, but without pain.

The Tauri were savage denizens of caves, and their
country, the Tauric Chersonesus which projected south-
ward into the Black Sea was likened to the Peloponnesus
in size and shape. The peninsula is now called the Crimea
and its battles of Sebastopol, Balaclava and Inkerman no


doubt rivaled the work of the three deadly Springs of
ancient days.

From the Tauric Chersonesus to the north, through
the present Ukraine and Russia, stretched the frozen and
mysterious land of one day and one night to the year,
where dwelt the Scythians, the Sarmatians and other
barbarous Bolsheviki of the ancients, whose descendants
reverted to type in the 20th century, in the same dis-
trict, and with even more Tauric rage.

Pliny; II. 106. Strabo; VII. 4. § 5-



Slothful Sleep and Mute Rest made their home in a
dark and silent cave that ran deeply into a mountain
near the Cimmerians.

From the bottom of the rock there issued the waters of
Lethe whose rivulet, flowing in a pebbly channel and
murmuring softly through the cave, addressed the ear in
whispered rhythm, adding its urge to drowse to the sleep
inviting odors of the atmosphere, laden with the scent of
poppies and mind relaxing herbs wafted by lazy breezes
from the beds of many soporific plants, that grew in dense
profusion around the cavern's entrance.

In the center of the cave was set Sleep's couch made of
night black ebony, stuffed with dark feathers and covered
with black colored clothing.

The rest of the cave was packed with a mr iberless host
of unsubstantial Dreams, in charge of three master mim-
ics, and thousands of their understudies; Morpheus,
often called in error Sleep himself, an imitator of any
human shape; Phobetor, equally skillful in representing
the forms of brutes of every sort; and Phantasmos who


could at will assume the appearance of any combination
of objects in the world of inanimate nature.

The manner in which these consummate mimics were
employed is minutely described in the case of the dream
that was arranged to apprize Halcyone of the loss of her
husband Ceyx in a terrible storm at sea. Ovid's picture
of this tempest is unsurpassed by any ancient author, and
the noise and commotion of the wind and sea are placed
in dramatic and powerful contrast with the silence and
stillness that prevail in the cave of the Spring of Lethe.

On waking from the dream, Halcyone hastens to the
place on the shore from which Ceyx sailed away ; and her
grief as the ground swell of the wornout storm slowly
bears the body towards her arouses the pity of the gods
and constrains them to give her the wings of the King-
fisher with which she flies to the floating corpse, on
which is then bestowed the same bird form, forms in
which their attachment has become no less proverbial
than the calmness of the ocean during the fortnight
around the shortest day of the year, a time of peaceful
quiet that gives its name of Halcyon Days to any period
of perfect happiness.

Halcyone was the daughter of ^Eolus the god of the
winds, and, as Eratosthenes put it in another case, when
one has found the cobbler who sewed up ^Eolus' winds in
the leathern sack, then one may expect to discover the
location of this Spring of Lethe.

The Alcyonides, which might be taken as a variation
of the Kingfishers' names, were Ice-birds into which the
daughters of the giant Alcyonides were changed when
they threw themselves into the sea after Hercules had
killed their father.

Ovid; Meta. XI. Fable 7.
Strabo; I. 2. § 15.


The Fountains of Calanus

The fountains of Calanus are only a figure of speech in
a few words, but they are interesting as perhaps pointing
in the direction from which came the idea of a Spring
producing something other than water.

Calanus was one of the Brachmanes that Alexander
had interviewed by learned men of his retinue, on his
visit to India in 327 B.C., when he entered the district of
the Five Rivers, the Punjab, where he founded the town
of Bucephalus, named after his favorite horse who died

Of his fountains, Calanus said; — "Formerly there was
an abundance everywhere of corn and barley, as there is
now of dust; fountains then flowed with water, milk,
honey, wine and oil, but mankind by repletion and luxury
became proud and insolent, and Jupiter, indignant at this
state of things, destroyed all, and appointed for man a
life of toil."

And one hundred years later, in 238, Springs on this
Indian model appeared in Greek literature when Apollon-
ius Rhodius created his fountains of Hephaestus, placing
them, too, nearly as far east as the original fountains of

With the exception of what Ctesias wrote about the
Far East as the result of information gathered between
415 and 398 B.C., in the seventeen years that he spent in

53 T


Persia as the Court physician, almost all of which writings
are lost, these interviews of Alexander's men at Taxila
are the oldest accounts of India that the world has from
outside sources.

Centuries before that time, however, traders and travel-
ers had repeatedly had communication with the Far East
and brought back ideas that were apparently made use
of by the leading thinkers of the West.

Plato's immortality of the soul; Thales' theory that
water was the primal and life-producing element, may be
seen from the Calanus interviews to have been concep-
tions of Eastern philosophers doubtless long before they
were enunciated in the West.

Aristobulus and Onesicritus were Alexander's chief
inquirers and recorders, and besides numerous geographi-
cal facts, and information about the customs of the
country, that they learned from the native wise men with
whom they talked, through interpreters, they were told;
— That the earth was of spheroidal form; that the prin-
ciple of the world's formation was water; that the soul is
immortal, and that the death of a philosopher was birth
to a real and happy life; that diet is a better cure for
disease than medicine; that nothing that happens to
man is bad or good (otherwise the same person would not
be affected with sorrow and joy by the same things on
different occasions).

Socialism has not even yet caught up with all of the
practices of the ancient idealists as Calanus told of them ;
for they not only cultivated the ground in common, but
when all of the crops were collected and each had taken a
load sufficient for his subsistence during the year, the
remainder was burned, in order to have reason for renew-
ing their labor and not remaining inactive.

The Brachmanes asserted that Bacchus first introduced


the vine into India, as was proved by its growing wild
only in that country — which would indicate that not only
the vine but Bacchus himself was created in the East ; and
one cannot but be impressed, also, with the number of
philosophers and writers, who were not born or brought
up in Central Greece but on the Asiatic part of the con-
tinent, or near the door through which the sayings of the
East could be heard, who not only lived near the door,
but, as in the case of Thales, the most renowned of the
Seven Wise Men and the originator, before 600 B.C., of
philosophy and mathematics among the Greeks, who
possibly passed through the door and engaged in the
discussions of those who were more advanced in thought
than they were themselves; such, among many, were
Homer and Thales, both born in Asia Minor; Aristotle
and Theophrastus, one born within sight of it, and the
other not many miles away.

Strabo; XV. i. § 64. and 58-64.



The Spring of the Ganges was in the mountains of
Scythia whence the river burst forth with a loud noise
and hurled itself over rocks and precipitous steeps until
it reached the plain, where it quieted down and broadened
out to an expanse of eight miles in its narrowest part, and
attained a depth of six hundred feet.

Its waters brought down gold; and its snakes were
thirty feet long.

The people in the country of the Ganges were no less
remarkable than many animals that are known through
their fossils.


What had been done, in describing the tribes of Africa,
left so few unused permutations of anatomical parts that
it was easier to employ the old ones than to make new
combinations, and the result is a striking family resem-
blance between the human monstrosities of Africa and

The Pygmies reappeared in India, where they not only
battled with the cranes as furiously as they did in the
West, but extended their warfare and fought against the

The people who lived at the source of the Ganges
were supported by the smell of dressed meats, and the
fragrance of fruits and flowers which they inhaled
through orifices for breathing, as they were not pro-
vided with mouths. The dressed meats were, however,
not wasted, for the Amycteres, who were without nostrils,
had mouths and devoured everything that came within
their reach.

The Ganges was unknown to the Greeks who wrote
before the time of the Indian expedition of Alexander the
Great, and subsequent writers generally admitted that
the source of the river like that of the Nile had not been
located, as was indeed the fact, as to foreigners, until the
19th century, although several Eastern potentates had
endeavored to track the river to its fountainhead, among
them being the Chinese Emperor Tang-hi who sent out a
body of Llamas to trace its beginnings.

There were, however, numerous legends concerning
the river's origin; that of the Ramayana, the older of the
two classic epics of India, being to the effect that Vishnu
having killed the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara,
and reduced them to ashes, the family desired to sprinkle
them with heavenly water, and the king and his descen-
dants spent sixty thousand and more years in efforts to


induce Brahma to permit the Ganga to descend to the
earth for use in their aspersions.

At last, Bhagiratha, one of Sagara's descendants, pre-
vailed upon Brahma, and, the river having fallen, it docilely

Online LibraryJames Reuel SmithSprings and wells in Greek and Roman literature, their legends and locations → online text (page 33 of 46)