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The sources of Spenser's classical mythology online

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says : " The Boeotians, too, say that Eteocles was the first that
sacrificed to the Graces. And, indeed, that he established three
Graces they are well convinced, but they have lost the remem-
brance of the names which he gave them. For the Lacedaemo-
nians only worship two Graces, the statues of which, they say,
were dedicated by Lacedsemon, the son of Taygete, who also gave
them the names of Cleta and Phaenna. These names, indeed, are
very properly given to the Graces, as likewise are those names
which are assigned to the Graces by the Athenians, for the
Athenians have from ancient times venerated the Graces, Auxo
and Hegemone. Indeed we now pray to three Graces, having
learnt there are three from the Orchomenian Eteocles. And at
Athens, in the vestibule of the tower, there are three Graces
whose mysteries, which are kept secret from the multitude, are


" But Pamphus is the first we are acquainted with that cele-
brated the Graces in verse ; but he neither mentions their number
nor their names. Homer, too, makes mention of the Graces, and
says that one of these is the wife of Vulcan, and that her name is
Charis. He also says that Sleep is the lover of the Grace Pasithea,
and in the speech of Sleep he has the following verse :

That she my loved one shall be ever mine,
The youngest Grace, Pasithea the divine.

Hence some have suspected that Homer knew of other more
ancient Graces.

"But Hesiod in his Theogony says that the Graces are the
daughters of Jupiter and Eurynorne, and that their names are
Aglaia, Thalia, and Euphrosyne.

" But Antimachus neither mentions the number nor the
names of the Graces, but only says they are the daughters of
Aigle and the Sun."

In the passage under consideration, then, we see that Spenser
follows Hesiod (Theog. 907 ff.) in the number, name, and par-
entage of the Graces. In T. M. 403, however, he says that they
are the offspring of Venus : this is but a slight exaggeration of
the conception which made the Graces the special attendants
of Venus, as in this passage, and F. Q. 6. 10. 9; 6. 10. 15; 6. 10.
21 ; Ep. 108. Very numerous are the passages in the classics
that might be quoted as pictures of Venus attended by the
Graces : in the Horn. Hymn to Venus,

The ready Graces wait, her baths prepare,
And oint with fragrant oils her flowing hair.

See also Od. 8. 364; Hor. Carm. 1. 4 ; 1. 30; 3. 21 ; 4. 7.

The exposition which Spenser gives of the function of the
Graces and the description and explanation of the usual repre-
sentations of these sisters find appropriate comment in a note by
E. K. on S. C. Apr. 109 :

" The Graces be three sisters, the daughters of Jupiter, (whose
names are Aglaia, Thalia, Euphrosyne ; and Homer onley added a
fourth, s. Pasithea) otherwise called Charites, that is, thankes :
whom the Poetes feyned to be the Goddesses of all bountie and


comelines, which therefore (as sayth Theodontius) they make
three, to wete, that men first ought to be gracious and bountifull
to other freely; then to receive benefits at other mens hands
courteously ; and thirdly, to requite them thankfully ; which are
three sundry Actions in liberalitye. And Boccace saith, that
they be painted naked (as they were indeed on the tombe of C.
Julius Caesar) the one having her back toward us, and her face
fromwarde, as proceeding from us ; the other two toward us,
noting double thanke to be due to us for the benefit we have
done." See also Seneca, De Benef. 1. 3, for a lengthy discussion
upon the Graces.

The indefinite number of Graces, of which the poet writes in
6. 10. 21, is also corroborated by classical authority. Thus E. K.
says :

" Many Graces, though there be indeede but three Graces or
Charites (as afore is sayd) or at the utmost but foure, yet, in
respect of many gyftes of bounty there may be sayde more. And
so Musaeus sayth, that in Heroes eyther eye there sat a hundred
Graces. And, by that authoritye, thys same Poete, in his Pa-
geaunts, saith ' An hundred Graces on her eyelidde sate,' etc."
Note on S. C. June 25.

HEBE. B. T. 384; H. L. 283; Ep. 405.

The first two of these passages refer to Hebe as the wife
of Hercules, after the apotheosis of the latter. In other words,
after the earthly life of labor which Hercules led, he is borne
to Heaven, and, in recognition of his glorious deeds, eternal youth
(for Hebe is the personification of youth) is conferred upon him.
See Theog. 950 ff. ; Od. 11. 603 ; Apoll. 2.7.7; Horn. Hymn to

In Ep. 405, Hebe is invoked for offspring along with Hymen.

HECATE. -F. Q. 1. 1. 43; 7. 6. 3.

In the latter passage Hecate is mentioned as one of the
Titans (see Titans), who by special favor of Jove, after the fall
of the Titans, retained all rule and principality. For her exten-
sive power over gods and men, to which Spenser here alludes, see
the lengthy tribute paid to Hecate by Hesiod (TJieog. 411 ff.).
But we must look elsewhere for the source of the first reference,


where the name of Hecate is called " dreaded," implying that she
was an infernal divinity ; for while Hesiod and other earlier wri-
ters attribute to her all power over heaven, earth, and sea, they
do not mention her in connection with the Lower World. We
must turn to later writers for this conception. Thus Virgil (Mn.
6. 247) declares that the power of Hecate extends over both
heaven and hell. She was regarded as a being of grewsome
aspect, practiced in sorcery and witchcraft. Thus it will be re-
membered that it was to Hecate that Medea owed her skill in
magic charms (see Ap. Rh. 3. passim).

HECTOR. F. Q. 2. 9. 46; V. G. 63; 66; 66; B. B. 14.

The first of the passages refers to the fate of Astyanax, the
child of Hector. After the capture of Troy he was hurled from
the tower of Ilium by the Greeks. See Met. 13. 415 ff . ; Hyg.
Fab. 109. For the other references, see Achilles and JEJacides.


As the prize bestowed upon Paris for his judgment in regard
to the beauty of Venus, and as the consequent cause of the Trojan
War, Helen is referred to in F. Q. 2. 7. 55; 3. 9. 35; 4. 11. 19.
See Venus and Nereus.

The last of these passages referj3k> her as the Tindarid lass
that is, the daughter of Tyndareus. Compare JEn. 2. 601;
Met. 15. 23.

In F. Q. 3. 10. 12 Spenser represents Helen as overjoyed at
the sight of Troy in flames. This seems to have been suggested
by the story of Deiphobus in regard to the conduct of Helen on
the night that the Greeks entered Troy (JEn. 6. 517) : " She, in
feigned religious dance, led around the city the Phrygian women,
raising the bacchanal cry ; she herself in their midst held a
mighty firebrand, and called in the Greeks from the height of the

The incident referred to in Co. Cl. 920 is related of the poet
Stesichorus : he was said to have written an attack upon Helen,
and in consequence to have been struck with blindness, only
recovering his sight after he had atoned for his fault by a re-
cantation, beginning : " False is that word of mine." See Plat.


HELLE. F. Q. 3. 11. 30; 5. Int. 5.

The familiar myth which represents Phrixus and Helle es-
caping upon a " golden fleecy ram " from the cruelty of their
step-mother, Ino, is touched upon in both these passages, the first
of which declares that this ram was Jove in disguise, who thus
deceived Helle. This seems at first an unwarranted perversion
of the usual myth, which states that the ram, the offspring of
Neptune and Theophane, was brought to Phrixus and Helle by
their own mother Nephele, in order that they might escape from
the snares of Ino (see Hyg. Fab. 3; 188; Apoll. 1. 9. 1); but
there is a slight authority for it in Ovid, Fast. 4. 715.


The parentage of this hero is referred to in R. T. 380 and
Ep. 328. He was the son of Jove and Alcmena. (See Alcmena.)

Spenser calls him not only Hercules, but also Alcides, the
Amphytrionide, the (Etean Knight, and the Tirynthian groome. The
two patronymics are explained by the following table :






The epithet, Tirynthian groome, is accounted for by the fact
that Hercules was brought up at Tiryns, in Argolis, and was,
therefore, often called the Tirynthian hero by the ancient writers.
Thus Servius explains JEn. 7. 662. See also Call. Hymn to Diana,
146 ; Paus. 10. 13. 8.

Hercules is appropriately alluded to as the (Etean Knight,
because it was from Mt. (Eta that he was carried to heaven.

Of the twelve great labors which Hercules accomplished for
Eurystheus, and by which he won immortality, Spenser mentions
six. They are as follows :

The Nemean Lion. F. Q. 2. 5. 31 ; 7. 7. 36; Mni. 70 ff.

The Lernean Hydra. -F. Q. 1. 7. 17 ; 6. 12. 32; B. B. 10; V. B. 10.

The Mares of Diomedes. F. Q. 5. 8. 31.

The Oxen of Geryon. F. q. 5. 10. 10.


The Golden Apples of the Hesperides. F. Q. 2. 7. 64; Am. 77.
Cerberus. F. Q. 6. 12. 35.

It is probable that Spenser drew these references from Apoll.
2 or from Diod. Sic. 4, both of whom relate in detail all the twelve
labors of Hercules.

Besides the so-called twelve labors of Hercules, the ancients
recount subordinate adventures also. Such, for instance, is the
fight with the Centaurs, mentioned by Spenser in F. Q. 4. 1. 23.
While in quest of the Erymanthian boar, Hercules came to the
cave of the Centaur Pholus. There, in spite of the protests of
Pholus, he opened a jar of wine, and the neighboring Centaurs,
attracted by the odor, rushed into the cave ; whereupon the fight
alluded to took place. In support of this see Apoll. and Diod.
Sic., whose accounts of this affair agree in the main.

A review of the labors of Hercules reveals the fact that they
were not confined to the East. Thus the conquest of Geryon
took place in the island Eurythea, off the coast of Spain ; and
while on this expedition Hercules erected the pillars referred to
in Pro. 148. (See Apoll. and Diod. Sic.)

The exploits of Hercules in the West, which are related by
Apollodorus and Diodorus Siculus, are summed up by Spenser

thus :

"Who all the "West with equall conquest wonne,
And monstrous tyrants with his club subdewed.

F. Q. 5. 1. 2.

Spenser mentions further the contest between Albion of
Britain and the Celtic Hercules of France perhaps a native
hero who was identified with the Greek Hercules (F. Q. 2. 10. 11 ;
4. 11. 16). While Spenser, no doubt, took this particular incident
from the British Chroniclers, Diodorus Siculus gives ample testi-
mony to the founding of the Gallic nation by Hercules (5. 24. 2

But even so mighty a conqueror as Hercules was himself
subdued by the darts of Cupid. F. Q. 5. 5. 24 represents him as
in the society of lole, forgetting war and delighting " In combats
of sweet love," his huge club and rough lion's skin exchanged for
a distaff and cloak of gold. See also F. Q. 5. 8. 2.

This picture is based upon classical authority, probably


Ovid, Her. 9, but Spenser makes a mistake, not in implying the
love of Hercules for lole (see Apoll. 2.7.7; Met. 9. 140), but in
saying that it was for her sake that he led an effeminate life.
Our poet is evidently thinking of Omphale, queen of Lydia, with
whom Hercules at one time passed several years. In the epistle
by Ovid, cited above, Hercules' amour with lole is mentioned by
Deianira in close connection with her reproaches against her hus-
band for his effeminate life with Omphale a circumstance which
may account for the confusion on the part of Spenser. For the
affection of Hercules for Hylas (F. Q. 3. 12. 7; 4. 10. 27), see

For his apotheosis and union with Hebe (H. L. 283), see

And on the other syde a pleasaunt grove
Was shott up high, full of the stately tree
That dedicated is t'Olympick Jove,
And [of the tree which was dedicated] to his sonne
Alcides, whenas hee

In Nemus gayned goodly victoree.

F. Q. 2. 5. 31.

The above interpolation is necessary to a proper understand-
ing of this passage ; for the oak was sacred only to Jove, while it
was the poplar which was dedicated to Hercules. See Virgil,
Ed. 7. 61. Spenser makes the triumph over the Nemean lion
the immediate cause of this honor to Hercules an idea which,
so far as is known, is original with him.

Such are some of the points in the arduous life of Hercules.
Well might Calliope, the muse who records the heroic, exclaim
that she raised Hercules to heaven! (T. M. 461.)

HEREBUS. F. Q. 2. 4. 41 ; 3. 4. 65 ; V. G. 40. See Erebus.
HERMES. F. Q. 7. 6. 19 ff. See Mercury.

HESIONE. V. G. 62.

As a parallel to this free translation of a much disputed pas-
sage in the original may be cited Apoll. 2. 6. 4; 3. 12. 7 and Met.
11. 194 ff., whence it appears that Hesione was given captive to
Telamon by Hercules in reward for his valor when the latter
attacked Troy, and that she afterwards became his wife.


HESPERUS. F. Q. 1. 2. 6; 1. 7. 30; 3. 4. 51; Ep. 96; Pro. 164.

The ancients, even in the earliest times, regarded Hesperus,
the evening-star, as identical with the morning-star; and thus
Spenser is quite classical in employing the same name to denote
respectively the evening-star (F. Q. 3. 4. 51) and the morning-
star (F. Q. 1. 2. 6).

Both the Greeks and the Romans, however, referred to the
morning-star as the bringer of light, calling it 'Euxr^opo? and Luci-
fer ; and Spenser follows them when he describes Hesperus as
"bringing forth dawning light." On this point see //. 23. 226;
and thus, also, Ovid assigns to Hesperus a dusky steed and to
Lucifer a white one. (Compare Fast. 2. 314 ; 5. 419 with Fast.
15. 189 ; Met. 2. 115.) See also Hyg. Poet. Astron. 2. De quinque

The brilliancy of Hesperus, alluded to by Spenser, is de-
scribed by Homer (//. 22. 317) as a brightness surpassing that
of the other stars of heaven.

In F. Q. 7. 6. 9 and V. G. 40, Vesper, the Latin word for
" evening," is used for Hesperus, the evening star. Compare with
such usage Met. 1. 63 and Horace, Carm. 2. 9.

HIPPOLYTUS. F. Q. 1. 5. 36 ff.

For convenience in tracing this myth to its sources, the fol-
lowing points made by Spenser may be enumerated :

1. Hippolytus, a huntsman son of Theseus.

2. Sought by his stepmother, whom he repels, in conse-
quence of which she complains of him to Theseus.

3. Neptune, besought by Theseus, sends two sea-monsters,
which so frighten the horses of Hippolytus, as he is driving, that
he is killed. See also F. Q. 5. 8. 43.

4. The stepmother [Phaedra], repenting, kills herself with a

5. Theseus, upon learning the innocence of his son, rends
his hair and tongue.

6. With the aid of Diana, who is the friend of Hippolytus,
Theseus gathers up the remains of his son, and bears them to

7. .ZEsculapius restores Hippolytus, and, in consequence, in-


curs the anger of Jove, who thrusts him down to hell with a

A comparison of the above with JEneid 7. 765 ff., reveals
the fact that Virgil makes or hints at the following points :
2 ; 3 (but no mention of the number of sea-monsters simply
in the plural) ; 6 (but nothing is said of Theseus' gathering the
remains) ; 7.

Ovid (Met. 15. 497 ff.) touches upon 1 (but does not say
Hippolytus was a huntsman) ; 2 ; 3 (but speaks of one monster
only) ; 6 (but does not say that Theseus gathered his bones) ; 7
(nothing, however, of Jove's anger toward ^Esculapius) .

Ovid (Fast. 6. 737 ff.) mentions 1 (but does not speak of
Hippolytus as a huntsman) ; 2 ; 3 (but only one monster, and
nothing of the appeal of Theseus to Neptune) ; 6 (but does not
say that Theseus gathered the remains of Hippolytus) ; 7.

It is evident from these comparisons that Spenser must have
been indebted to some other source, or his own inventive powers,
for the facts that Hippolytus was a huntsman, that Phaedra
stabbed herself, that Theseus tore his hair and tongue, and that
he afterwards gathered together the remains of Hippolytus, and
bore them to ^sculapius.

Turning to the drama of Hippolytus by Euripides, we find
that the youth is a son of Theseus, and a huntsman, and specially
devoted to Diana :

Artemis, Phoebos* sister, child of Zeus,
He honors, thinking her the chief of gods;
And ever in the greenwood with the maid
Destroys the beasts with his fleet-footed hounds,
Enjoying more than human comradeship.

Furthermore, points 2, 3, and 4 are clearly brought out, ex-
cept that only one monster is mentioned, and that Phsedra hangs
herself, instead of committing suicide with a knife. Theseus
learns of his son's innocence through Diana, but his grief finds
vent in only controlled expressions of passion. Nothing is said
of the revival of Hippolytus, who dies in the presence of his

One other source remains to be considered the Hippolytus
of Seneca. Here are brought out points 1, 2, 3 (but one monster


only), and 4. Furthermore, Theseus learns of the innocence of
Hippolytus through Phaedra, whereupon he gives expression to his
feelings in long speeches not, however, in the way Spenser men-
tions. But, as in Euripides, nothing is said of the bones' being
gathered up by Theseus, or of the revival of Hippolytus by js-

It would appear from this discussion, then, that while Spen-
ser follows Seneca in certain striking particulars, he is, for the
rest of his story, indebted to the narratives of either Virgil or
Ovid, and to his own fertile imagination.

HTPPOTHOE. F. q. 4. 11. 50. See Nereids.
HOURS. F. Q. 7. 7. 46 ; Ep. 99.

These two passages really agree in regard to the parentage of
the Hours, since the Jove of the one and the Day of the other
are identical. The domain of Zeus being " the wide heaven, in
clear air and clouds " (II. 15. 192), he was sometimes identified
by the ancients, as by Spenser, with the Upper World and the
light, as contrasted with the Lower World, the darkness. See

In making Day and Night the parents of the Hours, Spenser
is original. Hesiod (Theog. 901) calls them the daughters of Jove
and Themis, Eunomie, Dice, and Irene, while Homer does
not mention their parentage or names. It is, however, //. 5. 749
which Spenser has in mind when he calls the Hours the porters
of heaven's gate : "... self-moving groaned upon their hinges
the gates of heaven whereof the Hours are warders, to whom is
committed great heaven and Olympus, whether to throw open the
thick cloud or set it to." Homer authorizes Spenser also in mak-
ing them allot the seasons. See Od. 10. 469.

HYACINTHUS. F. Q. 3. 6. 45; 3. 11. 37.

The untimely fate of this youth, " Phoebus paramoure And
dearest love," is pathetically told by Ovid (Met. 10. 162 ff.).
While playing at quoits with the god, Hyacinthus is struck by a
discus and killed. Phcebus, in token of his grief and remem-
brance, causes the hyacinth, an emblem of mourning with the
ancients, to spring from the blood of this beloved youth.


In the second passage Spenser says that Hyacinthus was
transformed to a paunce, or pansy a statement for which there
is no classical authority.

HYDRA. F. Q. 6. 12. 32.

Among the monstrosities which, according to Hesiod, were
the offspring of Typhaon and Echidna, was the Hydra. While
Spenser says that the Hydra had a thousand heads, Hyginus
(Fab. 30) and Apollodorus (2. 5. 2) say that there were nine 5
Diodorus Siculus, one hundred : Virgil (^En. 8. 300) describes
the monster, in a general way, as "many-headed." The killing
of this monster was the second labor of Hercules. See Hercules.

HYLAS. F. Q. 3. 12. 7.

The incident here referred to occurred upon the journey of
the Argonauts to Colchis. Hylas was a favorite of Hercules, who,
when the Argo anchored upon the coast of Mysia, went to draw
water from a fountain, into which he was himself drawn by the
nymphs, who had been charmed by his beauty. Hercules sought
him in vain, calling his name again and again, but only the echo
of it replied. This echo, which is often referred to by the poets,
is accounted for by Antoninus Liberalis (Hylas) as being really
Hylas himself, who had been changed into an echo by the
nymphs they being fearful lest. Hercules should discover his
beloved in their fountain. See Argonautic Expedition.

HYLLUS. F. q. 4. 10. 27.

Spenser doubtless means to say Hylas, between whom and
Hercules there was the closest friendship. See Hylas.

HYMEN. F. Q. 1. 1. 48; V. G. 60; Ep. passim.

Hymen was the god of marriage, and therefore appropri-
ately invoked in the Epithalamion. From among the classics, the
Epithalamium of Catullus, written in celebration of the nuptials
of Manlius and Julia, may be cited as an example : there Hymen
is called upon again and again as the god of marriage, and
Spenser imitates the lo Hymen Hymencee in F. Q. 1. 1. 48 and in
his Epithalamion. The custom of crowning Hymen with a gar-
land at marriage festivals is referred to by Catullus, as by Spen-
ser (Ep. 256).


HYPERION. - Mui. 61.

Helios, the sun, is here called " Hyperion's fierie childe."
Hesiod (Theog. 134, 371 ff.), Apoll. (1. 2. 2), Diod. Sic. (5. 67.
1), may be quoted as authorities on this point. Hyperion was
the child of Heaven and Earth, and, in turn, became the father
of the Sun, the Moon, and the Dawn-goddess. In V. G. 20
the name is used for the sun itself. Compare Met. 8. 565

HYPONEO. - P. Q. 4. 11. 51. See Nereids.

HYPSIPHYLE. V. Q. 2. 10. 56. See Argonautic Expedition.
INACHUS. T. M. 447.

In the passage before us Calliope asks :

What oddes twixt Irus and old Inachus,
'Twixt best and worst, when both alike are dedd ;
If none of neither mention should make,
Nor out of dust their memories awake?

The first of the two extremes of society here cited is Irus,
the beggar of Ithaca, a characterization of whom opens the
eighteenth book of the Odyssey.

The other character, with whom Irus is contrasted, is the
celebrated river-god and hero of Argos, the first ruler of that
country. Thus Euripides (Elec. 1) addresses him as the ancient
glory of Argos, and in Sup. 371 Argos is called the land of
Inachus. See also JEn. 7. 286, where the expression " Inachian
Argos " occurs.

In writing the passage in question, Spenser seems to have
had in mind Horace, Carm. 2. 3 :

Divesne, prisco natus ab Inacho
Nil interest an pauper et infima
De gente sub divo moreris,
Victima nil miserantis Orci.

See also Sea-Gods.

INO. F. Q. 4. 11. 13; 6. 8. 47.

Ino is mentioned as the mother of Palsemon. She is further
described as " raging," and engaged in the act of throwing her hus-
band's murdered infant out. For the details of this tragic story,


the madness of Athamas, the husband of Ino, and his pursuit
of Ino to the brink of the sea, where she casts herself and her
child, Palaemon, into the waves, see Met. 4. 417 ff. ; Fast.
6. 528.

IDLE. F. Q. 6. 5. 24. See Herculee.

ZPHIMEDIA. F. Q. 3. 11. 42.

Neptune became by her the father of Otus and Ephialtes.
See Met. 6. 115 ; Od. 11. 305 ; Apoll. 1. 7. 4.

IRIS.-F. Q. 3. 11. 47; Mui. 93.

Although Iris was originally the personification of the rain-
bow itself, and is sometimes identified with it in the ancient
poets, she is generally considered (as in Spenser) as having an
individuality apart from it. She is the messenger of the gods,
particularly of Juno ; and the rainbow is either the path over
which she glides, or the varicolored robe in which she is clothed.
jEn. 5. 604 ff. ; Met. 14. 830 ff . ; 1. 271; 11. 585 ff., may be
cited as typical passages on this point. For the parentage of
Iris, see Thaumas.

IRUS. T. M. 447. See Inachus.

ISIS. F. Q. 5. 7. 3 ff.

This entire passage, which describes the attributes and wor-
ship of the Egyptian divinities, Isis and Osiris, is based upon
Plutarch's Isis and Osiris. Spenser, however, does not feel him-
self at all bound by the original, but follows it at times afar off.
Thus he says the priests wore their hair long, while Plutarch
says their heads were shaved. The interpretation of the croco-
dile, also, which he gives in Stanza 22, is not authorized by the
original. The other points which Spenser cites, the justice of
Osiris when king of Egypt; the equity attributed to Isis; the
linen garb of the priests ; the crescent miters ; the interpretation
of Osiris as the sun, and Isis as the moon ; the continence of
the priests ; their abstinence from fleshly food ; the reason why

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