« IndietroContinua »
After growing up amid the solitude of the forest, and strengthening himself by contests with wild beasts, Dionysus at length planted the vine. Both the god and his attendants soon became intoxicated with its juice; crowned with wreaths of laurel and ivy, and accompanied by a crowd of nymphs, satyrs, and fauns, he ranged the woods, which resounded with the joyful cries of his inspired worshippers. His education was then completed by Silenus, the son of Pan. In company with his preceptor and the rest of his train, he then set forth to spread his worship and the cultivation of the vine among the nations of the earth. He did not confine himself to mere vine-planting, however, but proved a real benefactor of mankind by founding cities, and by introducing more civilised manners and a more pleasant and sociable mode of life among men.
Sappho the Lesbian, in love with Phaon, arrived at the temple of Apollo, dressed like a bride, in garments as white She wore
garment of myrtle on her head, and carried in her hand the little musical instrument of her own invention. After having sung a hymn to Apollo, she hung up her garland on one side of the altar, and her harp on the other. She then tucked up her vestments like a Spartan virgin, and amidst thousands of spectators marched directly forwards to the utmost summit of the promontory, where she threw herself off the rock with such an intrepidity as was never before observed in any who had attempted tha: dangerous leap.
Not long after there yawned a terrible chasm in the Forum, most likely from an earthquake, but nothing seemed to fill it up, and the priests and augurs consulted their oracles about it. These made answer that it would only close on receiving of what was most precious. Gold and jewels were thrown in, but it still seemed bottomless, and at last the augurs declared that it was courage was the most precious thing in Rome. Thereupon a patrician youth named Marcus Curtius decked himself in his choicest robes, put on his armour, took his shield, sword, and spear, mounted his horse, and leapt headlong into the gulf, thus giving it the most precious of all things-courage and self-devotion. After this one story says it closed of itself, another that it became easy to fill it up with earth.
When a boar of huge size was destroying the cattle on Mount Olympus, and likewise many of the country people, persons were sent to implore the assistance of the King. Atys, one of the King's sons, a youth of high spirit, urged his father to let him go, and assist in killing the boar. The King, remembering a dream, in which he saw his son perish by a spear, refused at first to permit him to go; reflecting, however, that the tooth of a wild beast was not to be dreaded so much as the pointed spear, he consented. The youth accordingly set out, and while all of them were eagerly intent on slaying the boar, a spear' thrown by one of the country people pierced the heart of the young Atys, and thus realised his father's dream.
A certain jackdaw was so proud and ambitious, that, not contented to live within his own sphere, he picked up the feathers which fell from the peacocks, stuck them in among his own, and very confidently introduced himself into an assembly of those beautiful birds. They soon found him out, stripped him of his borrowed plumes, and falling upon him with their sharp bills, punished him as his presumption deserved. Upon this, full of grief and affliction, he returned to his old companions, and would have flocked with them again ; but they industriously avoided him, and refused to admit him into their company; and one of them, at the same time, gave him this serious reproof: 'If, friend, you had been contented with our station, and had not disdained the rank in which Nature has placed you, you had not been used so scurvily by those upon whom you intruded yourself, nor suffered the slight we have now put upon you.'
While the Romans were besieging the city of Falerii, a schoolmaster contrived to lead the children of the principal men of the city into the Roman camp. The novelty of such baseness surprised the Roman commander, and he so much abhorred it, that he immediately ordered the arms of the traitor to be tied, and giving each of the scholars a whip, bade them whip their master back to the city, and then return to their parents. The boys executed their task so well in this instance, that the wretch died under their blows as they entered the city. The generosity of the Romans touched the Faliscans so sensibly, that the next day they submitted themselves to the Romans on honourable terms.
LXXI. Six miles from this celebrated city stood the temple of Juno Lacinia, more celebrated even than the city itself, and venerated by all the surrounding states. Here was a grove fenced with a dense wood and tall fir trees, with rich pastures in its centre, in which cattle of every kind, sacred to the goddess, fed without any keeper; the flocks of every kind going out separately and returning to their folds without ever sustaining any harm, either from the lying in wait of wild beasts, or the dishonesty of men. These flocks were therefore a source of great revenue, from which a column of solid gold was formed and consecrated, and the temple became distinguished for its wealth, as well as for the reverence in which it was held. Some miracles are attributed to it, as is generally the case with regard to such remarkable places. Rumour says that there is an altar in the vestibule of the temple, the ashes of which are never moved by any wind. But the citadel of Croto, overhanging the sea on one side, on the other which looks towards the land was protected formerly by its natural situation only, but afterwards surrounded by a wall.
One of the officers of Artaxerxes, King of Persia, of the name of Artibarzanes, solicited his majesty to confer a favour upon him, which, if complied with, would be an act of injustice. The king, learning that the promise of a considerable sum of money was the only motive that induced the officer to make such an unreasonable request, ordered his treasurer to give him thirty thousand dariuses, being a
present of equal value with that which he was to have received. 'Here,' says the king, giving him an order for the money, 'take this token of my friendship for you; a gift of this nature cannot make me poor, but complying with your request would render me poor indeed, since it would make me unjust.'
When the Gauls approached, he affected fear, as Caesar had done, and he secretly formed a body of cavalry, of whose existence they had no suspicion. Induciomarus became careless. Day after day he rode round the entrenchments, insulting the Romans as cowards, and his men flinging their javelins over the walls. Labienus remained passive, till one evening, when, after one of these displays, the loose bands of the Gauls had scattered, he sent his horse out suddenly with orders to fight neither with small nor great, save with Induciomarus only, and promising a reward for his head. Fortune favoured him. Induciomarus was overtaken and killed in a ford of the Qurthe.
There the council decided on his death, and sent a soldier to kill him, but the fierce old man stood glaring at him, and said, “ Darest thou kill Caius Marius ?' The man was so frightened that he ran away, crying out, 'I cannot kill Caius Marius.' The Senate of Minturnae took this as an omen, and remembered besides that he had been a good friend to the Italians, so they conducted him through a