Classical Texts Library >> Fulgentius, Mythologies >> Books 2-3




0. Prologue
1. Origin of Idols
2. Saturn
3. Jove & Juno
4. Neptune
5. Pluto
6. Cerberus
7. The Furies
8. The Fates
9. The Harpies
10. Proserpine
11. Ceres
12. Apollo
13. The Crow
14. The Laurel
15. The Nine Muses
16. Phaethon
17. Tripod, Arrows & Python
18. Mercury
19. Danaë
20. Ganymede
21. Perseus & the Gorgons
22. Admetus & Alcestis


0. Prologue
1. Judgment of Paris
2. Hercules & Omphale
3. Cacus & Hercules
4. Antaeus & Hercules
5. Teiresias
6. Prometheus
7. Adultery of Venus
8. Ulysses & the Sirens
9. Scylla
10. Midas
11. Minerva & Vulcan
12. Dionysus
13. The Swan & Leda
14. Ixion
15. Tantalus
16. Luna & Endymion


0. Prologue
1. Bellerophon
2. Perdix
3. Actaeon
4. Hero & Leander
5. Berecynthia & Attis
6. Psyche & Cupid
7. Peleus & Thetis
8. Myrrha & Adonis
9. Apollo & Marsyas
10. Orpheus & Eurydice
11. Phineus
12. Alpheus & Arethusa



Attentive to your revered command, Master, I have in my destitute state committed this foolishness of mine to your judgment, suspended on the horns of a dilemma whether any reader will praise what I have put together or demolish what I have worked over. But since these matters in no way exalt my reputation or disguise my shortcomings (in the sense that if the reader improve his knowledge by them, he may acknowledge it to God for granting the improvement to him; but if he find worse folly in them, he may blame it on the one who committed it), these things, therefore, are not ours, but His gift, and whatever improvements may result, their bestowal is of God, not man. Just as it is a sign of malice to keep silent on what I know, so it is not a fault to explain what I have understood. Therefore, if you do learn more about these matters, praise the sincerity of a mind which has not held back what it possessed; and if you were ignorant of these matters before, you at least have from my efforts an arena in which you can exercise your own mental talents.


Philosophers have distinguished a threefold life for mankind, by which they mean first, the meditative; second, the practical; and third, the sensual – or as we call them in Latin, the contemplative, the active, the voluptuary – as the prophet David declared, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful,” that is, does not go, does not stand, does not sit. For the first or contemplative life is that which has to do with the search for knowledge and truth, the life led in our days by bishops, priests, and monks, in olden days by philosophers. With these there is no greed for profit, no insane rage, no poisonous spite, no reek of lust; and if concern for tracking down the truth and meditating on what is right keeps them thin, they are adorned by their good name and fed by their hope. The second kind of life is the active one, so eager for advantages, acquisitive of adornment, insatiable for possessions, sly in grasping them, assiduous in guarding them; for it covets what it can get rather than seeks after knowledge, and thinks nothing of what is right when it seizes what is at hand; it has no stability because it does not go about things honourably; in olden times certain despots led such a life, among us the whole world leads it. The life is pleasure, entirely given up to lust, is the sinful kind which considers nothing honourable to be worthwhile, but seeking only the corrupt ways of living is either made effeminate by lust or bloodied by murder or burnt up by theft or soured by envy. This life of an Epicurean or pleasure-lover according to the ancients, what among us seems to natural way of life, is not a punishable offense: since no one pursues the good, no good can be produced. The poets explain in such terms as these the contest of the three goddesses – that is, Minerva, Juno, and Venus – rivals in the superior excellence of their beauty. They have said that Jove could not judge among these, perhaps because they did not realize that the judgment of his world has preordained limits, for they believed man was made with free will; wherefore, if Jove had judged as God, in condemning two lives he would have committed the world to only one kind. But they pass the decision over to man, to whom a free choice is owed. But the shepherd Paris, being neither straight as an arrow nor sure as a spear nor handsome of face nor wise of mind, did a dull and stupid thing and, as is the way of wild beasts and cattle, turned his snail’s eyes towards lust rather than selected virtue or riches. But let me explain what these three goddesses have to say for themselves on the three kinds of living.

Of Minerva

The first or intellectual life we name in honor of contemplative wisdom; thus they say that she as born from the head of Jove, because the intellect is situated in the brain; and she was armed, because she is full of resource. They associate her with the Gorgon, worn on her breast as a symbol of fear, just as the wise man bears awe in his breast to guard against his enemies. They give her a plume and helmet, for the mind of the wise man is both armed and noble; whence Plautus in his Tirnummus declares: “It certainly has a head like a mushroom, it covers him completely.” She is also enfolded in a robe of three folds, either because all wisdom is many-sided or because it is kept hidden. She also carries a long spear, because wisdom strikes at long range with its pronouncements. The dress has three folds also because all wisdom is concealed from without and is rarely seen. They also choose to put the owl in her charge, because wisdom has its flashes of lightning even in the dark. Whereby they also claim that she was the founder of Athens, and Minerva in Greek is called Athene, for atbanate parthene, that is, immortal virgin, because wisdom cannot die or be seduced.

Of Juno

They put Juno in charge of the active life, for Juno is named for getting ahead (a iuuando). She is said to rule over dominions, because this kind of life is so much concerned with riches; she is also depicted with a scepter, because riches and dominions are close kin. They say that Juno has her head veiled, because all riches are always hidden; they choose her as the goddess of birth, because riches are always productive and sometimes abortive. They also place the peacock under her patronage, because the whole acquisitive life of power is always looking to adorn its appearance; and as the peacock adorns its front by spreading out in a curve the star-spangled sweep of its tail, and thereby shamelessly exposes its rear, so the striving for riches and renown is alluring for the moment but eventually exposes itself; whence Theophrastus in his moral writings declared: “Heed what is left behind”; and Solomon: “And in the end of a man is the disclosing of his works.” They also connect her with Iris as the rainbow of peace, because just as the man who is coloring various ornaments for the moment takes refuge in the curve of the rainbow, so fortune, thought at first glance brightly colored, soon after fades away.

Of Venus

They have taken Venus as the third one, as the symbol of the life of pleasure. Venus they explained either as the good things of life according to the Epicureans, or as the empty things of life according to the Stoics, for the Epicureans praise pleasure but the Stoics condemn it: the first cultivate license; the others want no part of it. Whereby she is called Aphrodite, for in Greek afros is the word for foam, either because lust rises momentarily like foam and turns to nothing, or because ejaculation of seed is foamy. Then the poets relate that when Saturn’s genitals were cut off with a scythe and thrown into the sea, Venus was born from them – a piece of poetic folly meaning nothing less that that Saturn is called Chronos in Greek, for in Greek chronos is the word for time. The powers of the seasons, that is, crops, are totally cut off by the scythe and, cast into the liquids of the belly, as it were into the sea, needs must produce lust. For abundance of satiety creates lust, as Terence says: “Venus grows cold without Ceres and Bacchus.” Also they depict her naked, either because she sends out her devotees naked or because the sin of lust is never cloaked or because it only suits the naked. They also considered roses as under her patronage, for roses both grow red and have thorns, as lust blushes at the outrage of modesty and pricks with the sting of sin; and as the rose gives pleasure, but is swept away by the swift movement of the seasons, so lust is pleasant for a moment, but then disappears forever. Also under her patronage they place doves, for the reason that birds of this species are fiercely lecherous in their love-making; with her they also associate the three Graces (Carites), two turned toward us and one turned away from us, because all grace sets off alone but returns twofold; the Graces are naked because no grace ahs any part of subtle ornament. They also depict her swimming in the sea, because all lust suffers shipwreck of its affairs, whence also Porfyrius in his Epigrams declares: “The shipwrecked sailor of Venus in the deep, naked and destitute.” She is also depicted carrying a sea-shell, because an organism of this kind, as Juba notes in his physiological writings, is always linked in open coupling through its entire body.


Be moderate, I beg you, judges, with the labours to which you commit men. For whatever boyish or effeminate feeling was involved in his love, the virtue of Hercules fought hard in the battle against lust. For the allure of woman is greater than the world, because the greatness of the world cannot overcome him whom lust tightly held: it attacked through the evil of a woman his virtue which could not be secured by nature. For Hercules fell in love with Omphale, who persuaded him both to soften the delicate shrunken parts of fibers and to whirl the spindle round finely with his thumb. For Hercules is called in Greek, Heracles, that is, eroncleos, which in Latin we call the fame of strong men, whereby Homer says: “We heard only a rumor.” So too he is said to be the grandson of Alcaeus, for alce in Greek is translated as the assumption of power; and he has a mother Alcmene, for almera, which in Greek means salty. So from the fire of the mind, from Jove, the assumption of power, from his grandfather Alcaeus, and the saltiness of wisdom, from Alcmene, what else but the renown of valor is produced? Yet he is conquered by lust, for onfalon in Greek means the navel, for lust is ruled in the navel by women, as says the Holy Scripture: “Thy navel was not cut,” as if to say: “Your sin was not cut off.” For the womb is firmly tied to this, whereby the umbilical cord is situated at the same place for securing the newly born. This shows that lust can conquer even virtue that is still unconquered.


If thieves give out smoke, anyone can spot the despoiler even when he denies it. Thus he thrusts out blackness or smoke so as not to be observed, and the very property which came by theft disappears in smoke. Cacus is said to have driven off some cattle of Hercules, which he concealed by having dragged them by the tails into his cave; but Hercules throttled him to death. For cacon is the Greek for what we call evil. Thus all evil gives out smoke, that is, puts out either what is contrary to the truth, that is, light, or what is offensive to those who see it, as smoke is to the eyes, or what is dark and dismal raillery. And so evil in its manifold forms is two-faced, not straightforward: evil does harm also in three ways, either as aggressive when observed or subtly like a treacherous friend or secretly like an invisible thief. Thus he leads off the cattle, dragging them so that their tracks may be reversed, because every evil person, in order to seize another’s property, depends for his protection on the reversing of his traces. Thus he covets the property of Hercules, because all evil is opposed to virtue. Finally he hides them in his cave because evil is never frank or open-faced; but virtue slays the evil ones and redeems its own possessions.


Antaeus is explained as a form of lust, whence in Greek we say antion, contrary; he was born of the earth because lust is conceived of the flesh. Also he emerged the more agile by keeping touch with the earth, for lust rises the more evilly as its shares the flesh. Also he is overcome by Hercules as by the strength of renown, for he perishes when contact with earth is denied him and when raised higher he could not draw upon his mother’s aid; whereby he showed the obvious legendary character of his doings. For when virtue bears aloft the whole mind and denies it the sight of flesh, it at once emerges victorious. Thus too he is said to have sweated hard and long in his wrestling, because it is a hard struggle when the dispute is with lust and vices, as Plato says in his philosophical writings: “Wise men wage a greater war with vices than with human foes.” So too Diogenes the Cynic said when he was tormented by pain in the lungs and saw men rushing past to the amphitheatre: “What folly on men’s part: they rush to see men fighting wild beasts, and they pass by me struggling with the pain provided by nature.”


Teiresias saw two snakes coupling; when he struck at them with his staff, he was turned into a woman. After an interval of time he again saw them coupling, and in like fashion struck at them and was restored to his former sex. Thus when Juno and Jove had an argument about their respective degree of love-pleasure, they sought him out to be their arbiter. He said that a man has three-twelfths of love-pleasure, and a woman, nine. In a rage Juno deprived him of his sight, but Jove granted him divinity.

However monstrous a Greek fabrication this is, it can be explained. For they took Teiresias as an allegory of time, as for teroseon, that is perpetual summer. Thus in springtime, which is masculine because at that season there is a closing and immovability of plants, when he saw before him the creatures coupling and struck at them with his staff – that is, in the heat of temper, he is turned into the female gender, that is, into the heat of summer. They took summer to be in the form of a woman because at that season all things blossom forth with their leaves. And because there are two seasons for mating, spring and autumn, having stopped their conceiving he returned again to his former appearance. For autumn so strips all things in its masculine guise that, with the veins of life-giving sap in the trees firmly checked once more and pulling tight the open network of the leaves, it stamps out its drooping baldness. Then he is sought as a judge between the two divinities – that is, the two elements, fire and air – as they argue on the true meaning of love. He gives an honest judgment, for in the blossoming of plants twice the amount of air as of fire is required; for air combines with the soil and helps produce the leaves and impregnate the shoots, but the sun serves only to ripen the grain. In proof of this, he is blinded by Juno, for the reason that wintertime grows black with dark clouds in the air, but Jove assists with the conceiving of future growth by granting inner forces, that is foresight; for this reason January is depicted with two faces, so that it can see both what is past and what is to come.


No protection was sought across the lands of earth until stealing finally reached heaven; there, there was absence of silver or gold, but flame could be stolen. They say that Prometheus made man of clay, but made him without soul or feeling. Minerva in her admiration pledged this office, that if there were anything he desired by way of heavenly gifts, he might ask it to assist his task; if it were possible she would carry him up to the gods and thereafter, if he saw anything suitable for his pottery shop, he might be the more readily taken for a sharp-eyed judge in the matter. She brought away the workman, bearing him up to the sky between the folds of her seven-coated shield; and when he saw all the heavenly substance of life stirred up in flaming vapors, he secretly attached a stick of fennel to the wheels of Phoebus’s chariot and stole some fire; implanting this in the puny breast of man he gave his body life. Thus they describe how he was bound and endlessly exposed his liver to a vulture. And although Nicagorus, in the book he wrote called Distemistea, describes how he first gave rise to the image and explains the exposing of his liver to the vulture as a representation of spite, compare also Petronius Arbiter, who says:

The vulture picks over the liver within him and probes the breast and the intestines;
But this is not he whom lukewarm poets name, but spite and debauchery in the heart;

So too Aritoxenus in the book he wrote called Lindosecemarium makes a similar suggestion. Yet I take Prrometheus to be for pronianeu which in Latin we call divine foresight. By such divine foresight, and Minerva as heavenly wisdom, man was made and the divine fire they wanted they explain to us as the soul divinely inspired, which according to the pagans is said to be taken from the skies. The liver which Prometheus exposes to the vulture is what we call the heart, because no small number of philosophers have declared that wisdom dwells in the heart, whereby Juvenal says: “The rustic youth feels no flutter in his left breast.” Thus they explain the vulture as an allegory of the world, because the world is both impelled by a sudden swift flight and fed with an endless supply of corpses and the newly born. Thus is fed and sustained the wisdom of divine providence, which cannot have an end to itself, nor can the world in any way cease from such food. Then it is told how Pandora was fashioned, for Pandora is the Greek for the gift of all, because the soul is universally bestowed on all.


The Sun fairly reveals the adultery of Venus, while the Moon is accustomed to keep it secret. Venus lay with Mars, and the Sun, detecting her, betrayed her to her husband Vulcan, who forged steel-hard fetters and, enchaining both the deities, showed them lying in their shame. She, in her grief, inflamed with love the five daughters of the Sun – that is, Pasiphae, Medea, Phaedra, Circe, and Dirce. Let us look into what the prating of poets may allude to by this. Certainly for our present age there remains full evidence of this fable, for valor corrupted by lust becomes clear at the witness of the sun, whereby Ovid in the fifth book of his Metamorphoses says: “This god was the first to see.” And this valor corrupted by lust is shamefully held in the fetterlike grip of its ardour. She thus inflamed with love the five daughters of the Sun, that is, the five human senses devoted to light and truth and as if made dark by this corrupting of the Sun’s brood. For this reason also they chose names of this kind for the five daughters of the Sun: first, as was seen Pasiphae, that is, for pasinfanon, which in Latin we call evident to all, for sight looks into the other four senses since it sees the one who gives utterance, notices what can be touched, looks on what has been tasted, and points to what can be smelled; the second, Medea, for what is heard, that is, mendenidean, which in Latin we call no sight, for the voice is hollow in the body; third, Circe, for touch, that is, as if one said in Greek cironcrine, which in Latin we call judgment of the hands; fourth, Phaedra, or odorous, as if one should say feronedon, for bearing sweetness; fifth, Dirce, judge of taste, that is, for drimoncrine, which in Latin we call judging what is bitter.


The Sirens are named as deceivers in Greek, for the allure of love is interpreted in three ways, by song of by sight or by habit: some creatures are loved for [the pleasure of their song], some for beauty of appearance, and some for pleasant habits. The companions of Ulysses pass by these with ears stopped up, and he himself goes past tied up. For Ulysses in Greek is for olonxenos, that is, stranger to all; and because wisdom is a stranger to all things of this world, so Ulysses is crafty. Then he both hears and sees, that is, recognizes and sizes up and still passes by the Sirens, that is, the allures of pleasure. And they die just because they are heard, in the sense that all self-indulgent feelings of a wise man die away. Also they are winged creatures, because they may quickly enter the minds of lovers; whereby they have feet like a hen’s, because the indulgence of lust dissipates all its possesses. And finally they are called Sirens, because sirene is the Greek for betray.


They say that Scylla was a most beautiful maiden loved by Glaucus, son of Anthedon. Circe, the daughter of the Sun, thought much of him and, growing jealous of Scylla, put magic herbs in the pool in which she was accustomed to bathe. When she immersed herself in it her loins were filled with wolves and wild sea dogs. For Scylla in Greek is said to be for exquina, which in Latin we call violence. And what is violence but lust? Glaucus loves this lust, for Glaucus is the Greek for one-eyed, whereby we call blindness glaucoma. For anyone who loves debauchery is blind. And he is said to have been the son of Anthedon, because Anthedon in Greek is for antiidon, which in Latin we call seeing the opposite; thus inflammation of the eyes is produced by conflicting vision. And Scylla is explained as the symbol of a harlot, because all her lustful groin must be filled with dogs and wolves; she is then truly filled with wolves and dogs, because she cannot satisfy her private parts with inroads of any other kind. But Circe is said to have hated her. Circe, as described above, is named for cironcrine, judgment of the hand or working skill, as Terence says: “From toil to pleasure, she took the offer, and afterwards set up in the trade.” Ulysses also sailed harmlessly past her, for wisdom scorns lust; he had a wife called Penelope the chaste, because all chastity is linked to wisdom.


King Midas besought Apollo that whatever he touched might turn to gold; since he deserved it, the boon turned into a punishment, and he began to be tortured by the effects of his own wish, for whatever he touched straightway did become gold. This, therefore, was golden penury and a rich poverty, for both food and drink stiffened and hardened into a gold substance. So he besought Apollo to change his evil choice and received the reply that he should immerse his head three times in the waters of the river Pactolus. From this action the Pactolus is said continuously to carry down golden sands. Clearly poets have sagaciously alluded here to avarice, for the reason that any seeker after avarice when he fixes everything at a price dies of hunger, and such was King Midas; but the greatest contribution of his wealth, as Solicrates of Cyzicos relates in the books of his history, was that, with this total revenue of his, King Midas diverted the river Pactolus, which once ran to the sea, through innumerable channels for irrigating that territory and made the river fertile by the avarice he had dispensed. Midas in Greek is for medenidon, that is knowing nothing, for a miser is so stupid that he cannot help himself.


When Vulcan made the thunderbolts of Jove, he accepted a promise from Jove that he might take anything he wished. He asked for Minerva in marriage; Jove ordered Minerva to defend her maidenhood by force of arms. When they were to enter the nuptial bed, Vulcan in the struggle spilt his seed on the floor, and from it was born Erichthonius with the feet of a serpent, for eris is the Greek for strife, and ctonus is the name for the earth. Minerva hid him in a basket and entrusted him, with a serpent nearby as guardian, to the two sisters, Aglauros and Pandora. It was he who first invented the chariot. They explained Vulcan as the fire of rage, whereby Vulcan is named as the heat of desire; he made the lightning for Jove, that is, he stirred up rage. They chose him to be the husband of Minerva because even rage is somewhat depleted for the wise. She defended her maidenhood by force of arms, that is, all wisdom by strength of mind protects the integrity of its own habits against fury. Whence indeed Erichthonius was born, for eris is the Greek for strife, and tonos is not only earth, but can also mean envy, whereby Thales of Miletus says: “Evny is the devourer of worldly fame.” And what else but the strife of envy could the weakening rage of wisdom produce? Wisdom, that is, Minerva, hid it in a basket, that is, concealed it in her heart, for every wise man hides his rage in his heart. Minerva placed a serpent close by as a guardian, that is, destruction, which she entrusted to the two maidens, Aglauros and Pandora. For Pandora is called the gift of all, and Aglauros is for acouleron, that is, the forgetting of sadness. For the wise man entrusts his grief either to that kindheartedness which is the gift of all or to forgetting, as was said of Caesar: “You who forget nothing except the wrongs done you.” When Erichthonius grew up, what is he said to have invented? Nothing less than the racecourse, where there is always the strife of envy, as Virgil says: “Erichthonius firs dared to join chariots and four horses.” Take note what merit there is when chastity is joined to wisdom, for against it even the god of fire could not prevail.


Jove lay with Semele, by whom Father Liber was born; he roared as he came against her with his thunderbolt; whereby the father bearing off the boy placed him in his own thigh and later gave him to Maro for nursing. There were four sisters named, including Semele, namely Ino, Autonoë, Semele, and Agave. Let us investigate what this fable symbolizes. There are four stages of intoxication – that is, first, excess of wine; second, forgetting things; third, lust; fourth, madness – whereby these four received the name of Bacchae: the Bacchae are so called for their raging (baccantes) with wine. First is Ino, for inos, the Greek word we have for wine; second, Autonoë for autenunoe, that is, ignorant of herself; third, Semele, for somalion, which in Latin we call the released body, where she is said to have born Father Liber, that is, intoxication born of lust; fourth, Agave, who is comparable to insanity because in her violence she cut off her son’s head. Thus he is called Father Liber because the rage of wine frees men’s minds; he is said to have conquered the people of India because that race is certainly given to wine, in two respects, one that the fierce heat of the sun makes them drinkers, the other that in that part of the world there is wine like that of Falernum or Meroë, in which there is such strength that even a confirmed drunkard will scarcely drink a pint in a whole month; whereby Lucan says: “Falernian, to which add Meroë, forcing its stubborn nature to ferment,” for it cannot be in any way weakened by water. For nursing Dionysus was handed over to Maro, a form of Mero, for by merum is sustained all intoxication. He is also said to ride on tigers, because all intoxication goes with savageness; and minds affected by wine are softened, whence he is also called Lyaeus, distinguished for softness. Dionysus is depicted as a youth, because drunkenness is never mature; and he is shown as naked, either because every wine-bibber becomes exposed to robbery or because the drunkard lays bare the secrets of his mind.


Although love of lust is shameful in all men, yet it is never worse than when it is involved with honor. For lust in relation to honor, not knowing what it sets in motion, is always opposed to dignity. He who seeks what he wishes to be something so divine must beware lest it become what it had not been. For Jove disguised as a swan lay with Leda, who laid an egg from which were born the three, Castor, Pollux, and Helen of Troy. This legend carries the flavour of an allegorical interpretation, for Jove is explained as the symbol of power, and Leda is for lide, which in Latin we call either insult or reviling. Thus all power getting involved with insults changes the appearance of its magnanimity. He is said to have changed into a swan because the naturalists, particularly Melistus of Euboea who has expounded the meanings of all the natural scientists, declare that a bird of this species is so filled with reviling that when this bird clamors the rest of the birds nearby become silent. For this reason it is also called an olor, as if derived from oligoria, necessarily involved with insults. But let us see what is produced from this affair, no less than an egg, for, just as in an egg, all the dirt which is to be washed away at birth is retained inside, so too in the work of reviling everything is impurity. But from this egg are born the three, Castor, Pollux, and Helen, nothing less than a seedbed of scandal and strife, as I once wrote: “And the adulteress shatters both worlds with grief.” For they explain Castor and Pollux as symbols of destruction, whence they explain the signs (signa) of the Castors in the sea as creating peril; they say that both of them rise up and fall down alternately, because pride always commands but always falls; whereby in Greek iperefania is the word for pride. Iperefania is strictly the term for appearance above, because, in those two constellations which they call by the name of the brothers, once appears above and the other sinks down, like Lucifer and Antifer; for in Greek Pollux is apo tu apollin, that is, seeking to destroy, and Castor is for cacon steron, that is, final evil


He who seeks for more than he should have will be less than he now is. Thus Ixion aspiring to marriage with Juno, she adorned a cloud in her likeness, and Ixion making love to it fathered the Centaurs. As there is nothing more attractive than Roman truth, so there is nothing more fanciful than Greek lies. They explained Ixion as for Axion, because in Greek axioma is called worth. Juno is the goddess of dominion, as I explained before; therefore, worth striving for dominion deserves a cloud, that is, the mere simulation of worth. For dominion is to last forever, but fleeting temporal powe4r is envious of this and hastily seizing wings, giving the illusion of momentary achievement rather than the truth of it, takes on an empty look like the quality of the wind. So Vatinius the seer was accustomed to say that he honors of the various cities were acted out in a dream like a city farce; and although each one declared it was not concerned, yet the honor of Rome was seen to be pre-eminent because it was in part true honor, where the rest was ridiculous and fleeting. For I believe that he had read the sentiment of Cleobulus the philosopher when he said: “Life is a farce.” Now therefore let us investigate the legend. Dromicrites in his Theologia writes that Ixion first aspired to the glory of a kingdom in Greece, and that he first of all men assembled for his use a hundred horsemen, whence the hundred armed men were called Centaurs (they ought to be called centippi, because they are depicted as part horses), but also as a real hundred armed men. So this Ixion, having in a short time seized an opportunist dominion, was driven form its rule; whence they say he was condemned to the wheel, because the full circle of the wheel now brings back down what it holds aloft. By this they wished to show that all who aspire to dominion by arms and violence are one moment held aloft and the next cast down, like a wheel which at no time has a fixed high point.


Tantalus the giant, wishing to test the supernatural power of the gods, presented his son Pelops as a dish for the table; for this he was severely punished. They say that in the lower world Tantalus was stood in a pool, the deceiving water of which tickles his lips with a fleeting touch, and fruits appear before him hanging down to his face, but at his fleeting touch turning to ashes. Thus he seemed to prosper but in fact had nothing: the deceiving water made him thirsty and the fruit forced him to be hungry. Petronius explains this tale briefly when he says:

Poor Tantalus, though impelled by his own cravings,
Can neither drink the water round him nor seize the hanging fruit.
This will be the image of the great and the rich man, who has all things in plenty,
And yet has to choke down his hunger dry-mouthed.


They chose the moon itself to be Proserpine in the lower world, either because it shines by night or because it takes a lower course and presides over the lands of earth, in the sense that not only the earth but the rocks or the minds of living creatures, and – what may be much harder to believe – even excrement which thrown over gardens at the time of the waxing moon produces little worms, all respond to its wanings and waxings. They also choose Diana, the moon, to rule over the woodlands, because she stimulates growth in the sap of trees and fruits. Then, too, wood cut by the light of the waxing moon goes rotten with the sawdust worm-holes of grubs. She is said to have fallen in love with the shepherd Endymion for one of two reasons, either that Endymion was the first man to discover the tracks of the moon, whereby having studied nothing in his life but this discovery he is said to have slept for thirty years (as Mnaseas has related in the first book of his work on Europa), or that she is said to have fallen in love with the shepherd Endymion because the moisture of the night dew, which the exhalations of the stars and the life-giving moon soak into the sap of the grass, serves well for success with sheep.


The shy glance of ignorance is always begging leave to make excuses for itself, so that, whatever mistakes are made through lack of knowledge, one who deserves critical attacks may be absolved by a plea for indulgence which has always covered over errors. But because writings sent to a kindly judge never think evil of themselves, I have committed my simple wares, Master, to your most openhearted judgment, confident that anything absurd has been passed on, not for you to scorn with your disfavour, but for you to set right with your great learning.


King Proetus had a wife named Anteia, who fell in love with Bellerophon. When she solicited him to adultery, he refused; and she accused him before her husband. The latter, through his father-in-law, sent him to kill the Chimaera; and Bellerophon slew it, seated on the horse Pegasus which had been born of the blood of the Gorgon. They explain Bellerophon as for buleformunia, whereby Homer says: “It does not befit a counsellor of men to sleep all night through.” Similarly Menander in his comedy Disexapaton says: “You have already described, Demeas, our idea of a counsellor.” And to complete the proof, Homer in his narrative says this of Bellerophon: “Devising upright thoughts, a most wise counsellor.” He rejects lust, that is, Anteia, for antion in Greek means opposed, as we say Antichrist for evantion tou christou, that is, opposed to Christ. Notice also whose wife Anteia is described as being, no less than Proetus’s. Pritos in the Pamphylian language means heavy, as Hesiod in his Eclogues writes: “Heavy with the blood-colored dew of grapes well trampled.” And his wife is nothing but sordid lust. Then, too, Bellerophon, that is, good counsel, rides a horse which is none other than Pegasus, for pegaseon, that is, an everlasting fountain. The wisdom of good counsel is an everlasting fountain. So, too, is Pegasus winged, because he looks down on the whole nature of the world with a swift perception of its designs. Then, too, he is said to have opened up the fountain of the Muses with his heel, for wisdom supplies the Muses with a fountain. He is born of the blood of the Gorgon because the Gorgon is explained as fear: she is attached to the heart of Minerva, as Homer says in his book thirteen: “Whereon is embossed the Gorgon fell of aspect, glaring terrible.” Thus the interpretation can be one of two kinds: either wisdom is born when fear is ended, as Pegasus from death in the blood of the Gorgon, because folly is always fearful, or “fear is the beginning of wisdom,” because wisdom grows from fear of its master, and when anyone fears fame he grows wise. Then he slew the Chimaera, with Chimaera for cymeron, that is, the surge of love, whereby Homer says: “The dark billow lifts up its crest.” So too the Chimaera is depicted with three heads, because there are three stages of love – that is, the start, the continuation, and the end. For when love first come, it makes a mortal attack like a lion, whence Epicharmus, the writer of comedies, says: “Lust is a ruler more forceful than the strength of a lion”; and Virgil in the Georgics alludes to this when he says: “Forgetful of her whelps, the lioness has at no other time wandered more savagely in the fields.” And the she-goat which is depicted in the center of the Chimaera is truly the embodiment of lust, because an animal of this species is most disposed to lust, as Virgil says in the Eclogues: “Frisking young goats.” So too the Satyrs are depicted with goats’ horns, because they can never satisfy their lust. And when the Chimaera is called “behind a serpent,” it is explained in this fashion, that after its completion it may give the death-blow of remorse and the poison of sin. So it is in this order of description that it first attacks in love; second, completes it; and third, has remorse from the death wound.


A family association, pleasant in itself, always lead to bias where hard work is involved, and qualities which have been gently trained cause bitterness when something you do not want occurs: it is better to be trained independently in a work free of such cares than for the apprentice to be unexpectedly fear-stricken by the ties of relationship. They say that Perdix was a hunter; they describe him as torn from his mother’s love when both unrestrained lust boiled up and the shame of new villainy came about, and as consumed and oppressed by extreme disease. He first invented the saw, as Virgil says: “For at first men cut the divisible wood with wedges.” But as Fenestella writes in his Antiquities, he was first a hunter. When the bloody destruction involved in the slaughter of wild animals and the loneliness of the roving chase lost their pleasure for the wanderer, and he well realized that his companions of the chase (contiroletas), that is, Actaeon, Adonis, and Hippolytus, had been slain by the destructiveness of wretched death, he decided to put aside the pursuit of his former skill, and he took up with agriculture. For that reason he is said to have loved his own mother like the earth, the producer of all things. Consumed by this labor he is said to have become very poor and lean. And because he dragged all hunters away from the taint of their former art, he is said to have discovered the saw, as if it were a bad word. He has for mother Polycastes, like policarpen, which in Latin we call many-fruited, that is, the earth.


Curiosity, being allied to danger, will always produce for its devotees injury rather than pleasure. So Actaeon the hunter is said to have spied on Diana as she was bathing, and being turned into a stag he was not recognized by his own hounds and was devoured by their bites. Anaximenes, who discussed ancient art in his second book, says that Actaeon loved hunting, but when he had reached mature age, having considered the dangers of hunting, that is, taking a naked reckoning of his skill, he grew afraid. He had the heart of a stag, as Homer says: “Heavy with wine, having the eyes of a dog and the heart of a stag.” But while the excitement of the hunt left him, he did not love the qualities of dogs, for in idly gratifying them he lost all his substance; for this reason he is said to have been devoured by his own hounds.


Love is often close to danger; and when it has eyes only for what it prizes, it never sees what is expedient. In Greek eros is the word for love, while Leander could be said as lisiandrom, that is, the freeing of men: for release produces love in a man. He swims by night, that is, he risks danger in the dark. Hero, too, is depicted in the likeness of love. She carries a lantern, and what else is love but carrying a torch and lighting the perilous path for the beloved? But it is soon extinguished, because youthful love does not last long. Then, too, he swims naked, for love can strip its followers naked and fling them into danger as into the sea. For both of them death at sea is brought about by the extinguishing of the light, and this clearly signifies that for either sex desire dies with the extinguishing of the ardour of youth. For dying in the sea they are borne away as into the tears of old age: all the little fire of ardent youth grows cold in the decline of numbing dullness.


Nowhere with their false beliefs in demons rather than gods did the Greeks place their gods in a worse light than when they made their sleepy old mother not only a youthful lover but also a passionate one. So much did this envious old woman, inflamed with passion, blaze forth, in her rage not sparing her own services, that when she hoped for the fruit of lust, the aged whore sank under its weight. And although in the minds of women lust may obtain control, yet passion gains control over unsatisfied lust. Let us then explain what the Greeks intended to be meant by these matters. They intended Berecynthia for the queen of mountains; they called her the mother of the gods because they wished the gods to be proudly named; so they called those living on Olympus the highest and the proud; but so they call demons according to Homer when he says: “To the other gods,” for demos is the Greek for people, and is is for one; and they were called demons because they wished to subdue the people and be alone over the people. So for the Romans they were the natives (indigetes) as if they lacked nothing (nibil indigentes). Thus they say that Berecynthia flourished on the mountains like spring flowers (uerniquintos), for quintos in the Attic tongue is called a flower, whence the hyacinth is for bioscintos, which in Latin we call the solitary flower because it is more beautiful than all others. For Epicharmus also says: “Chrysalis advanced, covered with flowers and drunk with wine.” So, too, whoever loves a flower cuts it, as Berecynthia did to Attis, for antis is the Greek for flower. As Sosicles the Greek writes in his book which is called Teologumenon, the mother-goddess wished to be placed in a position of power, whence she is called Cibebe, for cidos bebeon, that is, firmness of glory; whereby Homer says: “To whom Jove vouchsafed renown.” She is depicted as furnished with towers, for all elevation of power is in the head; she rules in a chariot of lions, for all power is lord over strength; also she carries a royal scepter, for all power is attached to the royal state. The mother is called a god, for the reason that they wish to show precisely that whether natives or gods or demons they are named as divinities by the ancients. Thus the mother is the power of gods; whence Homer, speaking of Agamemnon, says: “Happy son of Atreus, child of fortune, blest of the gods”; and Euripides, comparing Tantalus to Jove in his tragedy of Electra, says: “Once happy Tantalus, though I do not mock his fortunes, accounted equal to Jove.” Thus the renown of power is always both aflame with love and devoured by envy, and speedily cuts off what it delights in, while it also severs what it hates. Finally all power, now and always, cannot preserve affection among its followers from day to day, and what it loved it soon cuts off through passion or fears through revulsion. Thus they meant Attis to be for eton, for etos is the Greek for custom. Whatever love there may be among the powerful, it cannot be stable.


Apuleius in his books of Metamorphoses has clearly told this story, saying that in a certain state there lived a king and a queen who had three daughters, the elder two of moderate good looks, but the youngest of such surpassing beauty that one might have imagined an earthly Venus. Marriage came to the two elder ones who were moderately good-looking, but no one ventured to declare his love to the one like a goddess, being prone to worship her and so to displease her enemies. And so Venus, infected with her sense of the dignity of her supremacy and burning with envy, sought out her son Cupid so that he might harshly punish Psyche’s state of obstinacy. Rushing to avenge his mother he fell in love with the maiden as soon as he laid eyes on her; the punishment was in fact reversed, and it was as if the proud archer had pierced himself with his own arrow. By the stern sentence of Apollo, the maiden was ordered to be sent to the summit of a mountain; and borne along as if in a funeral procession, she would have a winged serpent as her destined husband. Full of courage, the maiden was borne across the mountain slopes in a carriage and, when left alone, floated downwards, gently wafted by the breath of Zephyrs, and was taken into a golden mansion, which could only be thought rich by considering it beyond price and praise. There, by means of voices like those of servants, she was given the use of this mysterious mansion of her husband. By night her husband came to her, and Venus’s warfare took place in the darkness, but as he came unseen at evening, so he departed still unknown with the dawn. Thus she had servants who were only voices, power which consisted only in breezes, love by night, and an unknown husband. But her sisters came to weep for her death, and with sad voices were entreating in sisterly words on the summit of the mountain they had climbed; and although her husband who shunned the light forbade her with threats to set eyes on her sisters, yet the invincible ardour of her love for her blood kin overbore her husband’s command.

So, borne along on the panting breath of the Zephyr breeze, her worried sisters were brought to her; and falling in with their poisonous advice that she should seek to know her husband’s appearance, she yielded to curiosity, their stepmotherly concern for her safety, and laying aside the judgment of caution, she adopted that ready credulity which is always the mother of deceptions. Believing her sisters that she was mated to a serpent for a husband, and prepared to slay him as a wild beast, she hid a sharp knife under the pillow and concealed a lamp near the bed. When her husband was stretched out in a deep slumber, she armed herself with the weapon and lit the lamp concealed by her bed; as she recognized Cupid, he was burned by the dire results of her love, and she scorched her husband by spilling the glittering oil; Cupid, as he fled from the house and strongly reproached the girl for her curiosity, left her to be a wanderer and a fugitive. At length, having been assailed by many persecutions on the part of Venus, her marriage was accepted at Jove’s behest.

I could indeed recount the order of events of the whole story in this little book of mine, how she went down to the lower world and filled a small flask from the waters of the Styx, robbed the sun’s flock of their golden fleece, separated the mixture of small seeds, and – though open to death for it – secured a small portion of Proserpine’s beauty. But since Apuleius has described such a conglomeration of falsehoods very fully in almost two books, and Aristophontes of Athens has published the story, for those who wish to study it, at enormous length in the books which are called Disarestia, for this reason I have reckoned on inserting only a summary from these other books of mine, lest I should divert my works from what properly belongs to them and add to my obligations to others. But he who reads the story in my work may pass over these matters in the knowledge that their falsity has been shown him. They have chosen the state, in which they placed the queen, to represent God and matter, as representing the world. They add three daughters – that is, the flesh; the special quality (ultronietatem) that we call free will; and the spirit. For Psyche in Greek is called the spirit, which they wished to be so much the more youthful because they said that the spirit was added after the body was formed; and to be so much the more beautiful because it was higher than free will and nobler than the flesh. Venus envies her as lust; to her she sends greed (cupiditatem) to do away with her; but because greed is for good and evil alike, greed is taken with the spirit and links itself to her, as it were, in marriage. It persuades her not to look upon its countenance, that is, not to learn the pleasure of greed (thus Adam, although possessing sight, does not see himself as naked until he eats of the tree of covetousness), nor does she agree with her sisters – that is, flesh and free will – that she should satisfy her curiosity concerning its appearance, until frightened by their insistence she produces a lamp from beneath the bed, that is reveals the flame of desire concealed in her breast and loves and adores it now it is seen to be so delightful. She is said to have burned it by the bubbling over of the lamp because all greed grows hot to the extent that it is desired and marks the flesh with the stain of sin. Thus her fortune is stripped of naked and potent greed, and is flung into dangers and driven from the royal home. But, since as I said it takes a long time to cover all the details, I have given only the gist of the interpretation. If anyone reads this story in Apuleius he will find other details of my explanation which I have not gone into.


They say that Thetis signifies water, whence the nymph took her name. Jove as God married her to Peleus, and pelos in Greek is lutum, mud, in Latin. Thus they wish to produce a man commingled with water, whereby they say that Jove also wished to lie with Thetis but was prevented by the thought that she would produce one greater than himself who would drive him from his rule; for it fire, that is, Jove, mingles with water, it is put out by the power of the water. So in the union of water and earth, that is, of Thetis and Peleus, discord alone is not invited, for the reason that there must be concord between the two elements for a man to be produced: their coming together shows that Peleus stands for earth, that is, the flesh, and Thetis for water, that is, fluid, and Jove who married the two for fire, that is, the spirit. In the conceiving of man from the blending of the elements three goddesses, as I described above, that is, three lives, are involved in conflict. So too discord is said to have rolled the golden apple, that is, greed, for the reason that there is in a golden apple what you look upon, not what you eat, just as greed can possess but cannot enjoy. Jove is said to have summoned all the gods to the wedding because the heathen believed that in a human being separate gods gained possession of separate parts – for instance, Jove, the head; Minerva, the eyes; Juno, the arms; Neptune, the breast; Mars, the waist; Venus, the kidneys and sex organs; Mercury, the feet; as Dromoclites describes in his physiology; so too Homer says: “His head and eyes like unto Zeus (Jove) whose joy is in thunder, and his waist like unto Ares (Mars), and his breast unto Poseidon (Neptune).” So, too, Tiberianus in his Prometheus says that the gods gave to man his individual traits. Then after Achilles was born his mother dipped him in the waters of the Styx to make him a perfect man, that is, she protected him securely against all trials, but his heel alone she did not dip, as much as to show the physical fact that he veins which are in the heel connect with the faculties of the kidneys, thighs, and sex organs, and that from them other veins run to the great toe; for doctors treating women for inducing childbirth open the veins in the legs at this same place; the covering plaster, which Africanus the teacher of medicine called stisidem, he taught should be applied to the big toe and heel. Orpheus himself demonstrates that this is the chief seat of lust, and in these same intestinal localities they teach that cauterizing must be effected. Thus he shows that human power, though protected, is subject and open to all the blows of lust. After this Achilles is assigned to the court of Lycomedes as if to the kingdom of lust, for Lycomedes is for the Greek gliconmeden, that is, sweet nothing, since all lust is both sweet and nothing. Then he dies of love for Polynexa and is killed as it were because of his heal. Polynexa in Greek is said to be foreigner to many, either because love causes men’s passions to travel far from their minds, or because lust in its wandering state travels about among many peoples.


Myrrha is said to have fallen in love with her father, whose bed she shared when he was drunk. When her father discovered that she was pregnant and her monstrous crime was known, he began to pursue her with a sword. She was turned into a myrrh tree, and as the father struck at the tree with his sword, Adonis was born from it. Let me explain what this story signifies. The myrrh is a kind of tree from which the sap oozes out; she is said to have fallen in love with her father. These same trees are found in India, glowing with the heat of the sun; and since they always said that a father is the sun of all things, by whose aid the growth of plant life develops, so she in this fashion is said to have fallen in love with her father. When she had developed a strong wood which crackled with the sun’s heat, she produces fissures from which there oozes out a resin called myrrh; and as if in tears she exudes a weeping pleasantly scented from the gaping cuts. It is told of her that she gave birth to Adonis because adon is the Greek for a sweet savor. So they say that Venus fell in love with him because this kind of liquid is so very fiery; so, too Petronius Arbiter says that he drank a draught of myrrh to arouse his sexual desires; so too Sutrius the writer of comedies introduces the licentious Glico, who says: “Bring me myrrh so that I can attack the strongholds with virile weapons.”


Minerva invented the double flute from a bone, but when she played on it at a banquet of the gods and all the gods laughed at her puffed out cheeks, she went to the salt lake Tritonia, in North Africa; and observing her image in the water and having adjudged shameful the blowing out of her cheeks, she threw the flute away. Marsyas, finding it, made himself skilful at it and, eager for a hard contest, challenged Apollo to perform. They chose King Midas as umpire. Because he did not judge correctly, Apollo disfigured him with asses’ ears. He revealed something of this state of shame to the servant who cut his hair, promising him that, if he could hide the shame, he would give him a share in his kingdom. The servant dug a hole in the earth and spoke his lord’s secret into the ditch and then filled it in. On the same spot a reed sprang up, whereby a shepherd made himself a flute; and when he cut it the reed said: “King Midas has asses’ ears,” singing out exactly what it had absorbed from the earth. Thus Petronius Arbiter declared:

So the greedy servant, fearful of disclosing the secret committed to him,
Dug a hole in the ground and spoke into it about the king’s hidden ears,
For the earth absorbed the sound, and the murmuring reeds
Found Midas to be as the informer had devised.

Now, therefore, we may seek the hidden sense of this mysterious story. The story is shown to be associated with musicians, as Orpheus wrote in his Theogonia, for musicians have established two stages for their art, adding a third as it were of necessity, as Hermes Trismegistus declares, saying admenon, psallomenon, aulumenon – that is, singing, plucking the lyre, or playing the flute. The first is the living voice, which rapidly covers all musical requirements, for it can both develop intervals (limmata), harmonize changes (parallelos), blend different pitches (distonas), link together the sounds of music (ptongos), and ornament with trills (quilismata). But the flute could strictly fulfil only the lowliest role in the art of music. For the lyre has five sets of scales (simfonia), according to what Pythagoras stated when he adduced arithmetic sets of numbers to fit with the scales: the first scale is the diapason or octave, which is the diplasion of arithmetic, what in Latin we call 2 to 1; the second scale is the diapente or fifth, the emiolius of arithmetic, what in Latin we call 3 to 2; the third scale is the diatessaron or perfect fourth, the epitritus of arithmetic, that is, 4 to 3; the fourth scale is called the tonus or major third, known to arithmeticians as the epocdous, for us 5 to 4; and since the order in arithmetic is not allowed to go beyond the limit of nine, because a new set in a second series begins with ten, the limit is reached in having a fifth scale, which is called the armonia or major tone, that is, 9 to 8. You will find no digit joined to another beyond that point. Thus music has seven parts, that is, the elements (genera), the notation (diastemata), the composition (systemata), the instrumental sounds (ptongos), the modes or keys (tonos), the transposing (metabolas), and the theory (melopias); whence Virgil says in his sixth book: “Then too did Orpheus the Thracian seer, in a trailing gown, answer their rhythm on seven intervals of notes.” For in arithmetic of this kind the full series is like that in geometry, or the modes (tonus) in music. The voice has innumerable sets of scales, as much as nature has endowed the voice with arsis or rising and thesis or sinking, which in Latin we call going up and down. The flute, however, produces scarcely one and a half scales, although each scale has five notes (symphonias). So it was according to the art of music that Minerva discovered the double flute, which anyone skilled in music despises for the poverty of its sounds. They are said to have laughed at her puffed out cheeks because the flute sounds windily with its music and, with loss of individuality in its special tones (idiomatum), hisses rather than clearly enunciates its matter. Thus anyone at all skilled laughs at her harshly blowing; and so Minerva, that is, wisdom, reproaching herself, throws it away, and Marsyas picks it up. For Marsyas in Greek is morosis, that is, a solitary fool, for wanting to place the flute in musical effect above the lyre; whence he is depicted with a hog’s tail. King Midas judged between these two contestants, for Midas in Greek is said to be for medenidon, what we call in Latin an ignoramus. So also he is said to have asses’ ears, because being totally lacking in discernment he is in no way different from an ass. Also they relate that his servant betrayed his secrets, for the reason that we must keep our mind a servant obedient to all we wish and guardian of our secrets. But when he betrayed to the reed, “through the reed pipe of his throat,” means “through speech.” And in that a shepherd heard it, shepherds are those who foster strange things by gently stamping down the earth.


Now this legend is an allegory (designatio) of the art of music. For Orpheus stands for oreafone, that is, matchless sound, and Eurydice is deep judgment. In all the arts there is a first and a second stage: for boys learning their letters there is first the alphabet, second learning to write; at the grammar level, first reading, second clear speech; at the rhetorical level, first rhetoric, second dialectic; in geometry, first pure geometry, second arithmetic; in astronomy, first learning the science, second applied astrology; in medicine, first the diagnosis, second the therapy; in divination, first the inspection of omens, second their application; and in music, first the melody, second the effect. It is one thing for teachers to recognize different aspects of their subject, another to put them into effect; it is one thing for instructors in rhetoric to have profuse, unbridled, and unrestrained fluency, another to impose a rigorous and scrupulous control over the investigation of truth; it is one thing for astrologers to know the courses and movements of the stars and the constellations, another to trace their significance; it is one thing in medicine to recognize the cause of diseases, another to cure the onslaught of the sickness; it is one thing in geometry to construct lines and formulas, another to adapt numbers to the formulas; it is one thing in divination to inspect entrails and orts, another according to Battiades to read the changes in events; and in music it is one thing to deal with scales of notes (ptongorum), compositions (sistematum), and notation (diastematum), another to explain the effect of the scales and the power of the words, for the beauty of the voice as it appeals to the inner secrets of the art also ahs to do with the mysterious power of words.

Again, Eurydice was desired by the best, that is, by Aristaeus – for ariston is the Greek for best – as art itself avoids the common level of men. She died by the blow of a snake, as it were, by the interception of skill; and she was removed to the secret places of the lower world. For after art ahs been sought out and raised toward the light, the voice of melody sinks down, because it both assists in the ultimate appeal of the sound and by a secret power gives these hidden forces the effect of delight: for we can say that the Dorian mode or the Phrygian is like Saturn in soothing wild beasts, or like Jove in charming the birds; but if the explanation why this happens is sought for, the theory of the subject inquired into dies away. Therefore, Orpheus is forbidden to look upon Eurydice, and loses her when he does look upon her; therefore the highly skilled Pythagoras when he adapted tunes to numbers and pursued the depths of musical composition in arithmetical terms through their melodies and rhythms and tunes, yet could not explain the reason for their effect.


Phineus is taken as a symbol of greed; the name is said to be from fenerando. He is blind because all greed is blind in not recognizing itself. The Harpies snatched away his food because pillaging refuses to share anything of itself. The fact that they befouled his meals with the discharge of their filth shows that the life of usurers is befouled with a flood of pillaging. But Zetes and Calais drove them out of his sight, as we say in Greek zeton calon, seeking good. They have wings because no search for good is ever involved with earthly matters. They are the sons of the north wind because the search for good is of the spirit of the spirit, not the flesh, and as goodness comes all pillaging is put to flight.


The river Alpheus loved the nymph Arethusa. When it pursued her, she was turned into a fountain. When passing through the midst of the sea, it retains its freshness as it plunges into her hollow. Hence it is said that in the lower world it bears oblivion to the souls. For Alpheus is the Greek aletiasfos, that is, the light of truth; while Arethusa is for areteisa, that is, equality of excellence. For what can the truth love but equity, or the light but excellence? And it retains its freshness when passing through the sea because clear truth cannot by mingling be polluted by the surrounding saltiness of evil ways. Yet all the light of truth sinks into the hollow of equitable power, for as it goes down to the lower world, that is into the hidden knowledge of good and evil, the light of truth always entails the forgetting of evil things.