The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

The Penates were the gods who were supposed to attend to the welfare and prosperity of the family.  Their name is derived from Penus, the pantry, which was sacred to them.  Every master of a family was the priest to the Penates of his own house.

The Lares, or Lars, were also household gods, but differed from the Penates in being regarded as the deified spirits of mortals.  The family Lars were held to be the souls of the ancestors, who watched over and protected their descendants.  The words Lemur and Larva more nearly correspond to our word Ghost.

The Romans believed that every man had his Genius, and every woman her Juno:  that is, a spirit who had given them being, and was regarded as their protector through life.  On their birthdays men made offerings to their Genius, women to their Juno.

A modern poet thus alludes to some of the Roman gods: 

    “Pomona loves the orchard,
       And Liber loves the vine,
     And Pales loves the straw-built shed
       Warm with the breath of kine;
     And Venus loves the whisper
       Of plighted youth and maid,
     In April’s ivory moonlight,
       Beneath the chestnut shade.”

    —­Macaulay, “Prophecy of Capys.”

N.B.—­It is to be observed that in proper names the final e and es are to be sounded.  Thus Cybele and Penates are words of three syllables.  But Proserpine and Thebes are exceptions, and to be pronounced as English words.  In the Index at the close of the volume we shall mark the accented syllable in all words which appear to require it.



The creation of the world is a problem naturally fitted to excite the liveliest interest of man, its inhabitant.  The ancient pagans, not having the information on the subject which we derive from the pages of Scripture, had their own way of telling the story, which is as follows: 

Before earth and sea and heaven were created, all things wore one aspect, to which we give the name of Chaos—­a confused and shapeless mass, nothing but dead weight, in which, however, slumbered the seeds of things.  Earth, sea, and air were all mixed up together; so the earth was not solid, the sea was not fluid, and the air was not transparent.  God and Nature at last interposed, and put an end to this discord, separating earth from sea, and heaven from both.  The fiery part, being the lightest, sprang up, and formed the skies; the air was next in weight and place.  The earth, being heavier, sank below; and the water took the lowest place, and buoyed up the earth.

Here some god—­it is not known which—­gave his good offices in arranging and disposing the earth.  He appointed rivers and bays their places, raised mountains, scooped out valleys, distributed woods, fountains, fertile fields, and stony plains.  The air being cleared, the stars began to appear, fishes took possession of the sea, birds of the air, and four-footed beasts of the land.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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