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.

There is another account of the origin of the Cornucopia.  Jupiter at his birth was committed by his mother Rhea to the care of the daughters of Melisseus, a Cretan king.  They fed the infant deity with the milk of the goat Amalthea.  Jupiter broke off one of the horns of the goat and gave it to his nurses, and endowed it with the wonderful power of becoming filled with whatever the possessor might wish.

The name of Amalthea is also given by some writers to the mother of Bacchus.  It is thus used by Milton, “Paradise Lost,” Book iv.: 

“...  That Nyseian isle, Girt with the river Triton, where old Cham, Whom Gentiles Ammon call, and Libyan Jove, Hid Amalthea and her florid son, Young Bacchus, from his stepdame Rhea’s eye.”

ADMETUS AND ALCESTIS

Aesculapius, the son of Apollo, was endowed by his father with such skill in the healing art that he even restored the dead to life.  At this Pluto took alarm, and prevailed on Jupiter to launch a thunderbolt at Aesculapius.  Apollo was indignant at the destruction of his son, and wreaked his vengeance on the innocent workmen who had made the thunderbolt.  These were the Cyclopes, who have their workshop under Mount Aetna, from which the smoke and flames of their furnaces are constantly issuing.  Apollo shot his arrows at the Cyclopes, which so incensed Jupiter that he condemned him as a punishment to become the servant of a mortal for the space of one year.  Accordingly Apollo went into the service of Admetus, king of Thessaly, and pastured his flocks for him on the verdant banks of the river Amphrysos.

Admetus was a suitor, with others, for the hand of Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, who promised her to him who should come for her in a chariot drawn by lions and boars.  This task Admetus performed by the assistance of his divine herdsman, and was made happy in the possession of Alcestis.  But Admetus fell ill, and being near to death, Apollo prevailed on the Fates to spare him on condition that some one would consent to die in his stead.  Admetus, in his joy at this reprieve, thought little of the ransom, and perhaps remembering the declarations of attachment which he had often heard from his courtiers and dependents fancied that it would be easy to find a substitute.  But it was not so.  Brave warriors, who would willingly have perilled their lives for their prince, shrunk from the thought of dying for him on the bed of sickness; and old servants who had experienced his bounty and that of his house from their childhood up, were not willing to lay down the scanty remnant of their days to show their gratitude.  Men asked, “Why does not one of his parents do it?  They cannot in the course of nature live much longer, and who can feel like them the call to rescue the life they gave from an untimely end?” But the parents, distressed though they were at the thought of losing him, shrunk from the call.  Then Alcestis, with a generous self-devotion, proffered herself as the substitute.  Admetus, fond as he was of life, would not have submitted to receive it at such a cost; but there was no remedy.  The condition imposed by the Fates had been met, and the decree was irrevocable.  Alcestis sickened as Admetus revived, and she was rapidly sinking to the grave.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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