« IndietroContinua »
....... tum partu Terra nefando
Scilicet, atque Ossæ frondosum involvere Olympum
where it is to be observed that Virgil, not following Homer, makes the blunder of inventing the pyramid, placing Olympus, the largest of the three mountains, at the top, and Pelion, the smallest, at the bottom of the pile. The Aloidæ appear again in Æ. VI. 580.
Hic (sc. in Tartaro) genus antiquum Terræ, Titania pubes,
Hic et Aloidas geminos, immania vidi
These youths are mentioned also in Ov. Met. VI. 117. Lucan. VI. 410. Claud. B. Get. 67. 73.
Hesiod gives the whole fable of Uranus and his children; the outrage of Kronus against his father, and his own progeny, and the struggle between the Titans and the Kronidæ.1 He also tells of Typhoeus,2 of his monstrous shape, and of his defeat by Zeus, but takes no notice of the Gigantomachia,3 nor of the attempt of the Aloidæ.* Pindar repeatedly alludes to the battle of the gods and Giants, and to the good service done by Hercules; and the various parts of the above history afforded an inexhaustible theme to the later poets, who, however, often differ widely from each other in details, and frequently confound the different contests. Thus, to take examples from the Latin writers, Ovid, when narrating the Gigantomachia, speaks of the Giants as piling Ossa on Olympus and Pelion upon Ossa; although Homer, Virgil, Apollonius, and Apollodorus all attribute this feat to Otus and Ephialtes. Again Horace, when he says of Jove. C. III. iv. 42.
1 Theog. 116..188-453..506-629..741. 2 Theog. 821..868. There can be no doubt that Typhon, Typhos, Typhaon and Typhoeus are all different forms of the same name, although, as Mr. Keightley has remarked, Hesiod (Theog. 306) seems to speak of Typhaon as distinct from the Typhoeus afterwards mentioned. 3 In Theog. 185, it is said, that from the blood drops of mutilated Uranus sprung the Erinyes, the Melian nymphs, and the "giants refulgent in armour, grasping in their hands long spears." 4 They were noticed by him in some lost work. See Schol. Apollon. I. 484. 5 e.g. Nem. I. 101. IV. 40. VII. 132. Pyth. VIII. 15.
Magnum illa terrorem intulerat Iovi
distinguishes the Titans from the immanem turmam, the horrida iuventus, expressions which indicate the giants, and from the fratres Otus and Ephialtes, but in the very next line Typhoeus is numbered among the Giants. In v. 39 Gyges is introduced as having provoked the wrath of heaven; and Virgil speaks of Ægæon as one of those who had assailed the gods, although these were two of the Hundred-handed, the allies of Zeus, against the Titans; and, with regard to the last, Homer has preserved a legend of a conspiracy formed by the Olympians against their ruler, which was quelled by Thetis, with the aid " of him, the Hundred-handed, whom gods call Briareus, and mortals Ægaon." A long list of similar inconsistences might easily be drawn up.
II. The Grecian Kronus was, by the Romans, considered to be the same with their own national god Saturnus; and the whole of the legendary history and attributes of the former were by them unhesitatingly assigned to the latter. Of this we have an example in the lines before us. How it came to pass that Saturnus, a purely rural deity, described by the Latins as an ancient King of Italy, who, passing from some foreign region, first reached its shores during the reign of Ianus, who introduced agriculture and the arts of life among rude and halfsavage tribes, and communicated his name for a time to the hill above the Tiber, on which he settled, and eventually to the land which he civilized,1 was identified with the Titan Kronus, who, as far as we can perceive, had no one characteristic in common with him, and belonged to mythical cosmogony rather than to the popular religion," is a problem which no one has as yet satisfactorily solved.3 We cannot here enter upon the discussion which is necessarily of a very speculative and hypothetical nature; it is sufficient to state the fact and to quote the account or explanation given by Virgil, Æ. VIII. 314, such as it is,
Hæc nemora indigenæ Fauni Nymphæque tenebant,
Queis neque mos neque cultus erat; nec iungere tauros,
Aut componere opes norant, aut parcere parto:
1 Mons Saturnius, afterwards Capitolinus, and Saturnia tellus. 2 Hartung II. 122, 123.3 The student will find an ingenious, but not convincing, dissertation on this curious topic in Buttmann's Mythologus. I cannot consent to give up the old derivation of Saturnus from sero-satum, the quantity is indeed different (satum, Saturnus), but this is not enough to overturn an etymology at once obvious and rational.
Arma Iovis fugiens, et regnis exsul ademtis.
and again, v. 355,
Hæc duo præterea disiectis oppida muris,
III. Closely connected with Kronus or Saturn is the legend which told of different races of men, who succeeded each other upon earth, and were named after the metals which symbolically represented their character. The oldest traditions of the eastern as well as of the western world,―traditions which, in all probability, like many other portions of heathen mythology, were merely corruptions or distortions of the sacred truth revealed in Scripture, preserved the memory of a time when the earth yielded spontaneously her choicest gifts,—when rivers flowed with milk and nectar,—when honey dropped from every oak,— when discord and war were unknown, and mankind lived free from vice and free from care in purity and bliss. This, the Golden age, was believed to have been contemporaneous with the dominion of Kronus in heaven. The form of the tale with which we are most familiar, is that presented to us by Ovid, who describes man as having gradually degenerated in passing through the Silver age, which commenced with the reign of Jove, and the Brazen, which followed, until sin and misery reached their consummation in the Iron, under which we still live. Met. I. 89.
AUREA prima sata est ætas, quæ, vindice nullo,
Postquam, Saturno tenebrosa in Tartara misso,
Tertia post illas successit AHENEA proles,
Aratus reckons three only. In the Golden, Justice dwelt among men, consorting with them freely, instructing and cherishing them; in the Silver, although still lingering here below, she estranged herself from the converse of mortals, sometimes, indeed, in the dim twilight of even she would come down from the echoing hills, but no longer did she address them in honied words she upbraided them with their degeneracy, and foretold that worse was yet to come. At length, when the Brazen arose, bringing war in its train, she winged her flight, in wrath, to heaven, and took her station among the stars, where she still beams a bright constellation.
Horace also recognises three, the Golden, the Brazen and the Iron; Tibullus and Virgil, two only, the age of Saturn and the age of Jove, the latter being still in progress.
The oldest authority on this subject is Hesiod, whose narrative is, in many points, essentially different from that of later writers.3 With him, as with others, the Golden race of men comes first. They flourished when Saturn reigned in heaven, and lived like gods in the enjoyment of every blessing; they knew not old age, and death came upon them like sleep; but even then they did not perish, for, by the counsel of Jove, they became good daiμoves or Genii, who, enveloped in misty clouds, roam the earth, keeping guard over mortals, and watching good and evil deeds. Next was the Silver race, like in form to their predecessors, but much unlike in disposition; they could not refrain from injuring each other; they would not worship the gods, nor offer sacrifices on their altars. Jove, in wrath, hid them from sight, but honour attended even these after death, and beneath the earth they bear the title of "blessed mortals." Then Zeus, out of ash trees, formed a third race, fierce and strong, the Brazen, who devoted themselves to war and deeds of violence; no food did they taste; their soul was of adamant, and vast their might; their arms were of brass, of brass their dwellings, and in brass they wrought, for iron was as yet unknown. These perished by their own hands, and descended nameless to the halls of Pluto. But, afterwards, Zeus made a fourth, better and more upright than the preceding, the divine race of heroes, of yore called demigods; these fell in battle and martial strife, some warring at the seven-gated Thebes, in the land of Cadmus ; others beneath the walls of Troy, having passed beyond the seas for the sake of fairtressed Helen. To these, peaceful abodes were granted in the islands of the blessed, beside the deep whirling ocean stream, where they dwell happily beneath the sway of Kronus.
Last of all appeared the fifth, the Iron race, doomed ever to struggle with sin and misery.
1 Phænom. 102..135. 2 Hor. Epod. xvi. 63. Tibull. I. iii. 35..50. Virg. G. I. 125. Seqq. 3 Opera et Dies 108..173.
The student will readily perceive the circumstances which distinguish this form of the legend from those previously discussed, and will do well to remark the curious interpolation of the fourth, or heroic race, between the brazen and the iron.1
9. (Memorant.) There is no other direct allusion in the classics to a song chaunted by Apollo in honour of the victory of Jove, except in the Agamemnon of Seneca, 332.
Licet et chorda graviore sones,
By the flight
11.... 16. In these lines are enumerated the four methods of divination, to which the greatest importance was attached. and song of birds (augurium.) 2. By lots (per sortes.) See note on Tibull. I. iii 11. p. 148. 3. By the entrails of victims (haruspicina.) 4. By consulting the Sibylline books.
14. (Lubrica exta.) The commentators explain the epithet lubrica as indicating figuratively the difficulty of seizing the true interpretation of the appearances exhibited by the entrails. We may understand it literally of the moist slippery entrails reeking from the newly slaughtered animal.
16. (Senis......pedibus.) This points out that the recovered Sibylline oracles were expressed, as was common with Grecian prophecies, in hexameter verse.
19. (Hæc dedit, &c.) A question has been raised as to when and where this prediction was delivered to Æneas. Heyne insists that it was before he quitted the Trojan shores. Dissen thinks that the poet believed that the hero landed at Erythræ to consult the Sibyl— a pure hypothesis. There is nothing in the passage to prevent us from supposing it to be the address of the prophetess of Cuma to Æneas when he landed in Italy.
Thus Tibullus will be reconciled with Virgil.
20. (Lares.) Nota Lares manifeste hoc loco pro Penatibus positos. H. Pro Laribus vulgo Penates memorantur, sed cum Penates essent omnes dii in penu culti, potuerunt tales etiam Lares esse. Intelligit igitur Tibullus Lares publicos publico in penu cultos h. e. Penates Troiæ. D.-See note on Tibull. I. i. 20. p. 135. for details on Lares and Penates.
22. (Ardentes deos.) The blazing temples and statues of the gods.
There is a dissertation on the "Mythos der ältesten Menschengeschlechter," in the second volume of Buttmann's Mythologus.