Alice Elizabeth Sawtelle Randall.

The sources of Spenser's classical mythology online

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Spenser in saying (F. Q. 4. 1. 26) that Ate was "borne of hellish
brood," and would, indeed, furnish him with a suggestion for that
marvelous allegorical picture of the " mother of debate " and her
abode which he draws at length in F. Q. 4. 1. 19 ff. What but
the imagination of Spenser could have produced that image of


her foul face, squinted eyes, loathly mouth ; of her divided tongue
and heart ; her distorted ears ; her feet unlike, and pointed in
opposite directions ; her hands interfering with each other ? Al-
most as striking is the description of her abode, " Hard by the
gates of hell . . . With thornes and barren brakes environd

Homer very appropriately calls Ate " venerable," and Spenser
likewise (F. Q. 5. 9. 47) speaks of her as "that old hag."

ATLAS. F. q. 2. 7. 64; 3. 1. 57; Ver. 2.

The first of these passages refers to Atlas as the father of the
Hesperides ; the second refers to him as the father of the Hyades ;
the third, to the myth which represents Atlas as sustaining the
firmament upon his shoulders. There is ample support for all in
the ancient mythology. Not that Spenser calls the daughters of
Atlas by name : the Hesperides he alludes to as those who were
conquered by Hercules in their guardianship over the golden
apples ; the Hyades, as the " moist daughters."

Ancient authorities by no means agree as to the parentage of
the Hesperides ; t>ut Spenser has the support of Diodorus Siculus
(4. 27) in calling them the daughters of Atlas. They were ap-
pointed by Juno to guard upon Mt. Atlas the apples which she
had received at her marriage ; but the eleventh labor imposed
upon Hercules was to obtain these apples. This he did by the
assistance of Atlas. For the ancient authorities on this point see

There is the same disagreement among the ancients as to
the parentage of the Hyades. Spenser follows Ovid (Fast. 3. 105 ;
5. 169) in calling Atlas their father.

Servius, in commenting upon JEn. 1. 744, mentions, among
other alleged derivations of the name Hyades, that from the
Greek verb veiv, to rain a derivation based upon the belief that
the rising of the Hyades produced rain. Thus Virgil calls them
"the rainy Hyades" (JEn. 1. 744; 3. 516); Horace speaks of
their sad portent (Carm. 1.3); and Spenser, following these
poets, calls the Hyades "moist" (F. Q. 3. 1. 57).

The setting of the Hyades is poetically described by Spenser
thus ;


And the moist daughters of huge Atlas strove,
Into the Ocean deepe to drive their weary drove.

F. <?. 3. 1. 57.

Such passages as //. 18. 489 might be cited as having sug-
gested to Spenser the disappearance of the Hyades into the ocean
" . . . and [the Bear] alone hath no part in the baths of the
ocean;" or the similar passage in Georg. 1. 246; or Met. 15. 30
" Candidus Oceano nitidum Caput abdiderat Sol." Their
" drove," of which Spenser speaks above, may possibly have been
suggested by the "grege " in Fast. 5. 164.

ATROPOS. F. q. 4. 2. 48; 4. 2. 49. See Fates.

AURORA. F. Q. 1. 4. 16; 1. 11. 61; 3. 10. 1; 3. 3. 20 ; V. G. 9.

The goddess of dawn appears so often upon the pages of the
ancients that it would be difficult to say just where Spenser de-
rived his passing references to her. In F. Q. 1. 4. 16 he described
her as decked in "purple pall," and again (F. Q. 1. 11. 51) he
speaks of her "rosy cheekes." The adjective "purpurea" is fre-
quently used by the Latin poets to describe Aurora, but the differ-
ent shades indicated by that word merge into one another like
the colors of the dawning east : it may mean " purple " or " red "
or " violet " or even " blackish." Thus, in Met. 3. 184, we read
of "purpureae Aurorse." The adjective "rosea" also is used by
the poets in describing Aurora. (See Lucretius, 5. 655.) Thus
also in V. G. 9 we read of her "rosy hair." "Rosea" may mean,
not only "rose-colored," but also "of roses." Such passages as
JEn. 7. 26, where Aurora is described as riding in her rosy
(roseus) car, no doubt suggested to Spenser the " flower-decked
chariot "of F. Q. 1. 11. 51.

" Crocea," also, is used in the classics as descriptive of
Aurora : thus in JEn. 7. 25 she is described as " yellow morn,"
and Ovid (Amor. 2. 4. 43) speaks of how charming she is with
her saffron "locks. Spenser follows him when he describes her
" golden locks " hanging loosely about her ears.

There are two references to her as the wife of the aged
Tithonus (F. Q. 1. 11. 51; 3. 3. 20). The Horn. Hymn to Venus
relates the story of Aurora's mistake in asking Jove that her
husband might be immortal, and forgetting to ask for him also


perpetual youth. With these two passages from Spenser compare
the first lines of Od. 5 : " Now the Dawn arose from her couch,
from the side of the lordly Tithonus, to bear light to the immor-
tals and to mortal men."

AUTONOE. F. Q. 4. 11. 50. See Nereids.
AVERNUS. F. Q. 1. 6. 31.

It is evident throughout this entire passage that Spenser had
in mind the descent of ^neas into Hades (JEn. Q. 237 ff.).
There Lake Avernus is represented as the entrance to Hell :
" There was a cavern, deep and huge, with its vast mouth, craggy,
sheltered by its black lake and forest gloom, o'er which no birds
might speed along unharmed ; such an exhalation, pouring from
its black jaws, rose to the vault of heaven ; wherefore the Greeks
named the spot Avernus."


Out of the great mass of tradition pertaining to Bacchus,
Spenser has selected several points. As the god of wine, or, by
metonymy, as wine itself, Bacchus is referred to in F. Q. 1. 6. 15 ;
2. 1. 55; 3. 9. 30. In F. Q. 5. 1. 2 we have a reference to him
as the champion of justice. T. M. 461 is a declaration by Cal-
liope, the muse of epic poetry, that she raised Bacchus to heaven.
In F. Q. 5. 8. 47 ; V. G. 22 there are allusions to the tragic death
of Pentheus, who was torn to pieces by his own mother, Agave,
during some Bacchic orgies.

In the Horn. Hymn to Bacchus, which relates how Bacchus
transformed the crew of a ship into dolphins, and the ship itself
into a vine, Bacchus declares himself to be the raging god of
wine the son of Jove and Semele. The same myth is treated
by Ovid (Met. 3. 631 ff.). In the Iliad and Odyssey, too, he
figures as the god of wine.

Ep. 255 bids that Bacchus, as well as Hymen, be crowned at
the marriage. Although it does not appear that the crowning
of this god was a regular part of the marriage festival of the
ancients, as was that of Hymen with the Romans, yet it is not
inappropriate that the god of wine and revelry should be intro-
duced here. Furthermore, in ancient art and literature the crown


of vine-leaves and ivy is a noticeable feature of this god. See
Horace, Carm. 3. 25 ; 4. 8.

It is a very interesting study to trace the development of the
attributes of this divinity. In Homeric times he was the god of
wine, who taught men the cultivation of the vine ; this idea was
further developed, until he became identified with the cultivation
of trees and shrubs in general. Thus far he seems to be the
personification of productive life in nature. In later times, how-
ever, this god of superabounding energy takes on a more ethical
character, and becomes the champion of law and order. It is in
this character that he appears in the following lines :

Such first was Bacchus, that with furious might,
All th' East, before untam'd, did over-ronne,
And wrong repressed, and establisht right,
Which lawlesse men had formerly fordonne:
There Justice first her princely rule begonne.

F. Q. 5. 1. 2.

It was a common tradition that, as Hercules conquered the
West, so Bacchus, accompanied by numerous raging attendants,
swept through the East, especially India, introducing the cultiva-
tion of the vine, founding cities, and establishing laws. Apollo-
dorus (3. 5. 2) mentions this, as do Diodorus Siculus (2. 38) and
Ovid (Fast. 3. 720).

The conquests of Bacchus, like those of Hercules, were so
vast as to be on an epic scale. Thus is it particularly appropriate
that Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, should declare that it was
she who had raised Bacchus and Hercules to heaven that is,
made them famous for all time (T. M. 461).

But woe unto the man who dared to oppose the cultivation
of the vine and the introduction of the mad orgies which accom-
panied the mystic worship of Bacchus ! Such a man was Pen-
theus, the son of the Bacchante Agave. Intruding in anger upon
the sacred rites which were being celebrated upon Mt. Cithaeron
in Boeotia, his mother, in her frenzy, mistook him for a boar, and
struck him with her thyrsus. "\Vhereupon, she and her sister
Bacchantes rushed upon the wretched Pentheus, and tore him
limb from limb. Thus did he become an example of the foolish-
ness of withstanding the worship of Bacchus (Met. 3. 701 ff.).


BELLONA. F, Q. 3. 9. 22; 7. 6. 3; S. C. Oct. 114.

Bellona, the Roman goddess of war, is identified by Spenser
with Pallas, the Greek goddess of armed resistance. This we
know from a note by E. K. explaining S. C. Oct. 114. She- is
here called " queint Bellona," an epithet referring to her peculiar
birth from the head of her father, Jupiter. In support of this
story Lucian is cited ; therefore, see his dialogue between He-
phaestus and Zeus.

This identification is preserved further in F. Q. 3. 9. 22,
where Bellona is represented as having engaged in the slaughter
of the giants, and as having killed Enceladus with her own spear.
Compare with this Apoll. 1. 6. 1, where Minerva is said, not to
have killed Enceladus with her spear, but to have thrown the
island of Sicily upon him in his flight. There is a further dis-
crepancy in the statement that this occurred upon Hfemus, which
had been heaped high by him. Spenser is evidently thinking of
the contest which Typhon waged with Jupiter on Hsemus a
description of which, in Apoll. 1. 6. 1, 2, 3, 4, follows immediately
upon the story of the war with the giants. In F. Q. 7. 6. 3, how-
ever, the character of Bellona is represented as quite different
from that of Pallas, who does not delight in war for its own
sake ; while Bellona, like the Greek Enyo, revels in the spirit of
battle, and arouses enthusiasm in armies. See Mn. 8. 703.

BELTJS. F. Q. 4. 11. 16. See Founders of Nations.
BEREC YNTHT AN (Goddess). B. B. 6. See Cybele.
BIBLIS. F. Q. 3. 2. 41.

We have here a slight reference to the unnatural love of
Biblis for her brother Caunus. The horrible story of her pas-
sion, its frustration, and her final metamorphosis into a fountain,
is related in detail by Ovid (Met. 9. 454 ff.).

BISALTIS. F. Q.^3. 11. 41.

Spenser, alluding to the sad aspect of Neptune, says :

Ne ought but deare Bisaltis ay could make him glad.

Met. 6. 117 is the source of this statement : " . . . aries Bisaltida



BOREAS. F. Q. 1. 2. 33; 5. 11. 58; S. C. Feb. 225; B..R. 16; 26.

Boreas was the personification of the north wind, and as
such is often referred to by the ancients (see JEn. 3. 687).
There are accounts of various exploits accomplished by him
which are in keeping with his blustering character, but Spenser
makes no reference to them. Modified by the epithets " bleak,"
" wrathful," " blustering," " fell," and " colde," Boreas is simply
another name for the north wind.

BRONTES. F. Q. 4. 5. 37 ; 4. 11. 18.

From the first reference we learn that Brontes was a giant
who, in the Lipari Islands, was associated with Pyracmon in
forging thunderbolts for the use of Zeus a passage whose
source is evidently ^En. 8. 416 ff., where these two giants and
a third, Steropes, are described, under the less generic name of
Cyclops, as working at the subterranean forges.

Brontes is mentioned also in the list of sea-gods (.F. Q. 4. 11.
13), for which see Sea-Gods.


This hero is mentioned but three times by Spenser, and each
time in a different capacity : he appears as the builder of the acrop-
olis at Thebes (F. Q. 2. 9. 45) ; as the father of Agave ( V. G.
22) ; and as the ancestor of two hostile brothers ( V. G. 52).

The whole story of the founding of Thebes, the Boeotian
city, by Cadmus, the son of Agenor, is related by Ovid (Met.
3. 876 ff.). Bidden by his father to recover his sister Europa,
who had been carried away by Zeus, or never to show himself in
his home-country again, Cadmus sets out upon his quest. It
proves to be a futile one ; and, as an exile, he turns to the oracle
at Delphi for directions as to his future course. He is told to
follow a cow, which he would meet, and, wherever she should lie
down, on that spot to found a city. He obeys directions, follows
the heifer, and on the allotted spot, by the aid of armed men,
who had sprung from the teeth of a hostile dragon, Cadmus
founds the city of Thebes, the famous citadel of which is re-
ferred to by Spenser. The same story, in briefer form, is related
by Apollodorus (3. 4. 1). The two hostile brothers who are re-


ferred to in. V. G. 52 are Eteocles and Polyneices. That they
were " borne of Cadmus blood " is evident from the following

table :









CAICUS. F. Q. 4. 11. 14. See Sea-Gods.

CALLIOPE. F. Q. 7. 6. 37; S. C. Apr. 100; S. C. June 67; T. M. 13.

See Muses.

CAMILLA. F. Q. 3. 4. 2.

This warrior maid, ' whom Diana contented, and who cher-
ished an unchanging love for her darts and her virgin state,' is
the most striking figure in JEn. 11. Surrounded by her select
retinue of Italian virgins, she engages in fearless conflict with
the Trojans and their allies ; long is the list of those she slew,
among whom was the Trojan Orsilochus.

CASSIOPEA. F. Q. 1. 3. 16.

It is the chair of Cassiopea that is referred to here. The
boastful pride of Cassiopea in her own beauty, and the vengeance
of Xeptune wreaked upon her daughter, have already been cited
(see Andromeda). The further punishment of Cassiopea can-
not better be described than by a translation of Hyginus, Poet.
Astron. 2, Cassiopea : " Concerning her Euripides and Sopho-
cles and many others have written, how she boasted that she sur-
passed the Nereids in beauty : for this her abode was fixed
among the constellations, and she was seated upon a throne so
that, as a punishment for her impiety, she seems, as the earth
revolves, to move with her head bent backwards."

CEJ1SINO F. Q. 2. 7. 23.

The picture which Spenser here paints of the harpy Celaeno,
sitting on a cliff, and singing a song so sad that it would melt a
heart of stone, is a reproduction of JEn. 3. 245 ff. jEneas and


his companions have landed on one of the Strophades. They kill
some cattle and prepare a repast. No sooner are they seated to
regale themselves than a band of harpies swoop down upon them
and defile the viands. Virgil describes the harpies as foul mon-
sters, having the faces of virgins, and the body, wings, and talons
of sea-fowls. They are, moreover, always pale with consuming
hunger. They have formerly inhabited Thrace, where they vexed
the soothsayer Phineus (see Ap. Rh. 2. 178 ff.) ; but, driven
thence by the Argonauts, they have since made the Strophades
their haunt. After a combat with these monsters, /Eneas and his
men are forced to listen to a dire prophecy from the lips of
Celseno, one of the harpies. She is described by Virgil as the
prophetess of ill, seated upon a high rock, uttering the dire curse
which shall follow the band of Trojans.

CERBERUS. F. Q. 1. 5. 34 ; 1. 11. 41 ; 4. 10. 58 ; V. G. 44 ; 55.

The description of Cerberus in the first of these passages is
patterned after jEn. 6. 417 ff. There, too, he is described as the
monster that guarded the gates of hell, rearing his snakes in
anger at the approach of ^Eneas. But in that case he is ap-
peased by the Sibyl who accompanied Virgil, while Spenser says
that it was Night who pacified the monster.

With the references to Cerberus in connection with the de-
scent of Orpheus into hell, compare Georg. 4. 483 ; Met. 10. 11 ff.

CERES. F. Q. 3. 1. 51, V. G. 26.

This Roman goddess of plenty is one with the Greek Demeter.
Her character and attributes are vividly portrayed in the Hymn to
Ceres, by Callimachus ; and consistent with it are the numerous
references to this goddess in later Greek and Latin writers, as
well as the one from Spenser, which describes her as fruitful, and
as bountifully pouring out her plenty. The Hymn to Ceres de-
clares that to Triptolemus Ceres taught the art of agriculture.

CHARON. V. G. 43.

For a description of Charon, the ferryman of the rivers in
the Lower World, see JEn. 6. 298 ff. : " With his own hands
he works the boat along with a pole, and manages the sails, and


is always conveying to the shore the dead in his murky bark, old
as he now is."

CTTTM/KRA. F. Q. 6. 1. 8 ; V. G. 3.

This monster is described by Homer (//. 6. 179 ff.) as in
front a lion, behind a dragon, in the middle a goat, and as
breathing forth fire. He says further that she was killed by Bel-
lerophon in Lycia, by the river Xanthus. Virgil (JEn. 6. 288)
places this monster, with others, at the portals of the Lower
World a passage which no doubt furnished Spenser with his
" fell Chimaera in her darksome den."

CHIRON. P. Q. 7. 7. 40. See Erigone.
CHLORIS. S. C. Apr. 122.

Chloris is here described as the chiefest nymph of all, and
as wearing a crown of olives upon her head. E. K. (Spenser ?) ?
in his note on this passage, says : " Claris, the name of a nymph
and signifieth greenesse [XAwpos, light green], of whom is sayd, that
Zephyrus, the westerne wind, being in love with her, and coveting
her to wyfe, gave her for a dowrie the chiefdome and soveraigntye
of al flowres, and green herbes, growing on earth." For this
conception Spenser is plainly indebted to Ovid, Fast. 5. 195
ff., where Chloris is identified with Flora, and, as the wife of
Zephyrus, has dominion over gardens and fields.

CHRYSAOR. F. Q. 4. 11. 14. See Sea-Gods.
CICONES.-Y. G. 68.

A people of Thrace who were auxiliaries of the Trojans.
Attacked by Ulysses, after Troy was destroyed, they killed some
of his men, and put the others to flight. Compare Od. 9. 38 ff.

CIMMERIANS. T. M. 256; V. G. 47.

The dusky abode of the Cimmerians is a matter of dispute
among the ancients : Homer (Od. 11. 14) places it in the Western
world, according to Strabo, near Lake Avernus in Italy, and
speaks of it as the entrance to the Lower World, whence Ulysses
visited the shades. With this compare V. G. 47. Ovid, on the
other hand (Pont, Ep. 4. 10), writing from Pontus, speaks of that
country as the Cimmerian shore.


CLIMENE. F. Q. 8. 11. 38. See Clyxnene.
CLIO F. Q. 3. 3. 4; 7. 6. 37. See Muses.
CLOTHO. F. Q. 4. 2. 48; H. L. 63. See Fates.
CLYMENE. F. Q. 3. 11. 38.

Spenser here alludes to her as the wife of Apollo and the
mother of Phaeton. With this compare Met. 2. 19 if.

COCYTUS. F. Q. 1. 1. 37; 2. 7. 56; 3. 4. 65.

A river of the Lower World, mentioned in ^En. 6. 132, 297,
323. For F. Q. 1. 1. 37 see Gorgon.

CORONIS. F. Q. 3. 11. 37.

We have here a reference to Coronis, the beloved of Apollo.
Spenser says that, dying at the hands of Apollo, she was changed
into a sweetbrier, and that afterwards Apollo tore his golden hair
in remorse for his rash act.

Both Ovid (Met. 2. 542 ff.) and Hyginus (Fab. 202) relate
this story of Apollo's jealousy regarding the unfaithfulness of his
beloved Coronis. They both say that he killed her in anger, and
Ovid adds that he repented of his cruelty when it was too late
to restore her to life. There is, however, no authority for saying
that she was turned into a sweetbrier ; thus we have here another
example of Spenser's original mythology.

CORYBANTES. F. Q. 7. 6. 27. See Cybele.
CREUSA. F. Q. 2. 12. 45. See Argonautic Expedition.

Spenser is not consistent in his treatment of the god of
love, who appears so often in his poems : although, for the most
part, he represents Cupid as the sportive boy of the later classics,
yet in certain cases he deviates from this conception, and portrays
the Cupid (Eros) of the early cosmogonies that is, as one of
the fundamental principles of nature, the power by which dis-
cordant elements were united and harmony brought out of chaos.
Thus does Cupid figure in the lengthy passage on love in Co. Cl.
(768 ff.), although even in this connection there are hints of the
later Cupid in the references to his tyrannical spirit, his bow


and arrows, etc. In the Hymne of Love also we meet the cosmo-
gonic Cupid. This conception was, no doubt, suggested by a
passage in Plato's Symposium ; that, in turn, being founded upon
Theog. 120 ff., where Eros is represented as a resistless power^
born of Chaos. The story of Cupid's birth from Poros (Plenty)
and Peuia (Poverty) is also taken from the Symposium. Indeed,
the Hymne of Love and the Hymne of Beautie are evidences of
Plato's influence over Spenser.

The reference to Cupid's being awakened to life by Clotho
may have been suggested by Orph. Arg. 15, where he is repre-
sented as the first of all the gods to emerge from Chaos. Accord-
ing to the several attributes of the Fates, it would be Clotho,
rather than Lachesis or Atropos, who would call souls to life.
(See Fates.)

Spenser is at variance with himself regarding the parentage
of Cupid. In Co. Cl. 801 he represents him as born of Venus,
but without a father, since Venus was of both sexes (a classical
conception, for which see Serv. ;En. 2. 632). Compare also F. Q.
4. 10. 41. On the other hand, in F. Q. 1. Int. 3, Spenser declares
Cupid to be the son of Jove and Venus. This would make Jove
both the father and grandfather of Cupid, as in Virgil's Ciris,
134 a passage to be explained in the light of Eurip. Hip. 534.

In other passages (F. Q. 2. 8. 6 ; 3. 6. 20 ; 4. Int. 5 ; 4. 12.
13; 6. 7. 37; Mui. 98; H. L. and H. B. passim; Pro. 96; Epi-
grams 1, 3, 4) Cupid is referred to as the son of Venus simply ?
without reference to his father. The Symposium, again, as well
as numerous, other passages from classical literature, might be
quoted in support of these.

In -F. Q. 3. 6. 50 Cupid and Psyche are represented as dwell-
ing together in a state of bliss, and Pleasure is their child. See
Psyche, and compare Mui. 126 ff. ; H. L. 288.

As said above, Spenser's usual conception of Cupid corre-
sponds to that of the later classics : he is " a faire, young, lusty
boy " (F. Q. 7. 7. 46).

We read of his conquests over the gods Jove, Phoebus,
Neptune, Saturn, Bacchus, and Mars in F. Q. 3. 11. 30 ff . ;
2. 6. 35 (see the several headings) ; and of his resistless domin-
ion over men (F. Q. 3. 1. 39 ; 3. 11. 46 ; 4. 9. 2 ; 6. 8. 25).


His power is spoken of as a snare (F. Q. 1. 10. 30) ; as a
yoke (Co. Cl. 566) ; as a wanton rage (F. Q. 2. 9. 18), and the
exhibition of it as wanton sports (F. Q. 2. 9. 34).

He is represented as blind (Epigram 1 ; F. Q. 6. 7. 32) ; as
winged (Am. 60) ; as armed with bows and arrows (F. Q. 2. 9. 34 ;
Epigram 2) ; in Co. CL 807 these shafts are described as of gold
and lead. (See Daphne.)

In support of all these references, we cannot do better than
quote from E. K.'s Glosse on S. C. March : " Swaine, a boye : for
so he is described of the Poetes to be a boye, s. alwayes freshe
and lustie : blindfolded, because he maketh no differences of
personages : wyth divers colored winges, s. ful of flying fancies :
with bowe and arrow, that is, with glaunce of beautye, which
prycketh as a forked arrowe. He is sayd also to have shafts,
some leaden, some golden : that is, both pleasure for the gracious
and loved, and sorrow for the lover that is disdayned or forsaken.
But who lists more at large to behold Cupids colours and fur-
niture, let him reade ether Propertius, or Moschus, his Idyllion
of winged love, being now most excellently translated into Lat-
ine by the singuler learned man, Angelus Politianus."

The scene in F. Q. 3. 6. 20 ff., where Venus is hunting for
the runaway Cupid, was probably suggested by the poem of
Moschus referred to above.

Of the four epigrams on Cupid, so in harmony with the later
conception of him, the fourth will be recognized as an amplifica-
tion of Theoc. Idyl 19 ; the second and third as translations of
two epigrams by Clement Marot De Diane and De Cupido et

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