The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

They received divine honors under the name of Dioscuri (sons of Jove).  They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later times, taking part with one side or the other, in hard-fought fields, and were said on such occasions to be mounted on magnificent white steeds.  Thus in the early history of Rome they are said to have assisted the Romans at the battle of Lake Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in their honor on the spot where they appeared.

Macaulay, in his “Lays of Ancient Rome,” thus alludes to the legend: 

    “So like they were, no mortal
       Might one from other know;
     White as snow their armor was,
       Their steeds were white as snow. 
     Never on earthly anvil
       Did such rare armor gleam,
     And never did such gallant steeds
       Drink of an earthly stream.

    “Back comes the chief in triumph
       Who in the hour of fight
     Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
       In harness on his right. 
     Safe comes the ship to haven,
       Through billows and through gales. 
     If once the great Twin Brethren
       Sit shining on the sails.”

CHAPTER XXI

BACCHUS—­ARIADNE

BACCHUS

Bacchus was the son of Jupiter and Semele.  Juno, to gratify her resentment against Semele, contrived a plan for her destruction.  Assuming the form of Beroe, her aged nurse, she insinuated doubts whether it was indeed Jove himself who came as a lover.  Heaving a sigh, she said, “I hope it will turn out so, but I can’t help being afraid.  People are not always what they pretend to be.  If he is indeed Jove, make him give some proof of it.  Ask him to come arrayed in all his splendors, such as he wears in heaven.  That will put the matter beyond a doubt.”  Semele was persuaded to try the experiment.  She asks a favor, without naming what it is.  Jove gives his promise, and confirms it with the irrevocable oath, attesting the river Styx, terrible to the gods themselves.  Then she made known her request.  The god would have stopped her as she spake, but she was too quick for him.  The words escaped, and he could neither unsay his promise nor her request.  In deep distress he left her and returned to the upper regions.  There he clothed himself in his splendors, not putting on all his terrors, as when he overthrew the giants, but what is known among the gods as his lesser panoply.  Arrayed in this, he entered the chamber of Semele.  Her mortal frame could not endure the splendors of the immortal radiance.  She was consumed to ashes.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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