Classical Texts Library >> Ovid, Metamorphoses >> Book 6




1. Creation
2. Four Ages of Man
3. Lycaon
4. Great Deluge
5. Python
6. Daphne & Apollo
7. Io & Jupiter


1. Phaethon
2. Callisto & Jupiter
3. Coronis & Apollo
4. Ocyroe & Aesculapius
5. Battus & Mercury
6. Aglauros & Mercury
7. Europa & Jupiter


1. Cadmus & the Dragon
2. Actaeon
3. Semele & Jupiter
4. Tiresias
5. Narcissus & Echo
6. Pentheus & Bacchus
7. Tyrrhenian Pirates & Bacchus


1. The Minyades
2. Pyramus & Thisbe
3. Mars & Venus
4. Leucothea & Clytie
5. Hermaphroditus
6. Athamas & Ino
7. Cadmus & Harmonia
8. Perseus & Atlas
9. Perseus & Andromeda


1. Perseus & Phineus
2. Pyreneus & the Muses
3. The Pierides & the Muses
4. Pluto & Proserpine
5. Arethusa & Alpheus
6. Triptolemus & Lyncus


1. Arachne & Minerva
2. Niobe
3. Leto & the Lycians
4. Marsyas
5. Tereus & Philomela
6. Orithyia & Boreas


1. Jason & Medea
2. Medea & Aeson
3. Medea & Pelias
4. Medea & Aegeus
5. Aeacus & the Myrmidones
6. Cephalus & Procris


1. Minos & Scylla
2. Daedalus & Icarus
3. Calydonian Boar Hunt
4. Althaea & Meleager
5. Perimela & Achelous
6. Baucis & Philemon
7. Erysichthon & Mestra


1. Hercules & Achelous
2. Nessus & Death of Hercules
3. Galanthis
4. Dryope
5. Iolaus
6. Byblis & Caunus
7. Iphis & Ianthe


1. Orpheus & Eurydice
2. Attis & Cybele
3. Cyparissus
4. Hyacinthus & Apollo
5. The Propoetides
6. Pygmalion
7. Myrrha & Cinyras
8. Atalanta & Hippomenes
9. Adonis


1. Death of Orpheus
2. Midas & Bacchus
3. Midas, Pan & Apollo
4. Hesione
5. Peleus & Thetis
6. Chione & Daedalion
7. Peleus & Psamathe
8. Ceyx & Halcyone
9. Aesacus & Hesperia


1. Agamemnon at Aulis
2. Cygnus & Achilles
3. Caeneus & the Centauromachy
4. Periclymenus & Hercules
5. Death of Achilles


1. Ajax & Ulysses
2. Hecuba & Polymnestor
3. Memnon
4. The Oenotrophi
5. Galatea & Polyphemus
6. Glaucus


1. Scylla & Circe
2. The Cercopes
3. The Cumaean Sibyl
4. Ulysses, Polyphemus & Circe
5. Picus & Circe
6. Diomedes in Italy
7. Aeneas in Latium
8. Vertumnus & Pomona
9. Iphis & Anaxarete
10. Romulus


1. Myscelus, Croton
2. Pythagoras
3. Egeria, Hippolytus
4. Tages, Cipus
5. Aesculapius in Rome
6. Julius Caesar



[1] All this Minerva heard; and she approved their songs and their resentment; but her heart was brooding thus, “It is an easy thing to praise another, I should do as they: no creature of the earth should ever slight the majesty that dwells in me,—without just retribution.”—So her thought was turned upon the fortune of Arachne—proud, who would not ever yield to her the praise won by the art of deftly weaving wool, a girl who had not fame for place of birth, nor fame for birth, but only fame for skill! For it was well known that her father dwelt in Colophon; where, at his humble trade, he dyed in Phocean purples, fleecy wool. Her mother, also of the lower class, had died. Arachne in a mountain town by skill had grown so famous in the Land of Lydia, that unnumbered curious nymphs eager to witness her dexterity, deserted the lush vineyards of Timolus; or even left the cool and flowing streams of bright Pactolus, to admire the cloth, or to observe her deftly spinning wool. So graceful was her motion then,—if she was twisting the coarse wool in little balls, or if she teased it with her finger-tips, or if she softened the fine fleece, drawn forth in misty films, or if she twirled the smooth round spindle with her energetic thumb, or if with needle she embroidered cloth;—in all her motions one might well perceive how much Minerva had instructed her: but this she ever would deny, displeased to share her fame; and said, “Let her contend in art with me; and if her skill prevails, I then will forfeit all!”

[26] Minerva heard, and came to her, disguised with long grey hair, and with a staff to steady her weak limbs. She seemed a feeble woman, very old, and quavered as she said, “Old age is not the cause of every ill; experience comes with lengthened years; and, therefore, you should not despise my words. It is no harm in you to long for praise of mortals, when your nimble hands are spinning the soft wool,—but you should not deny Minerva's art—and you should pray that she may pardon you, for she will grant you pardon if you ask.” Arachne, scowling with an evil face. Looked at the goddess, as she dropped her thread. She hardly could restrain her threatening hand, and, trembling in her anger, she replied to you, disguised Minerva: “Silly fool,—worn out and witless in your palsied age, a great age is your great misfortune!—Let your daughter and your son's wife—if the Gods have blessed you—let them profit by your words; within myself, my knowledge is contained sufficient; you need not believe that your advice does any good; for I am quite unchanged in my opinion. Get you gone,—advise your goddess to come here herself, and not avoid the contest!” Instantly, the goddess said, “Minerva comes to you!” And with those brief words, put aside the shape of the old woman, and revealed herself, Minerva, goddess. All the other Nymphs and matrons of Mygdonia worshiped her; but not Arachne, who defiant stood;—although at first she flushed up—then went pale—then blushed again, reluctant.—So, at first, the sky suffuses, as Aurora moves, and, quickly when the glorious sun comes up, pales into white. She even rushed upon her own destruction, for she would not give from her desire to gain the victory. Nor did the daughter of almighty Jove decline: disdaining to delay with words, she hesitated not.

[53] And both, at once, selected their positions, stretched their webs with finest warp, and separated warp with sley. The woof was next inserted in the web by means of the sharp shuttles, which their nimble fingers pushed along, so drawn within the warp, and so the teeth notched in the moving sley might strike them.—Both, in haste, girded their garments to their breasts and moved their skilful arms, beguiling their fatigue in eager action. Myriad tints appeared besides the Tyrian purple—royal dye, extracted in brass vessels.—As the bow, that spans new glory in the curving sky, its glittering rays reflected in the rain, spreads out a multitude of blended tints, in scintillating beauty to the sight of all who gaze upon it;—so the threads, inwoven, mingled in a thousand tints, harmonious and contrasting; shot with gold: and there, depicted in those shining webs, were shown the histories of ancient days:—

[70] Minerva worked the Athenian Hill of Mars, where ancient Cecrops built his citadel, and showed the old contention for the name it should be given.—Twelve celestial Gods surrounded Jupiter, on lofty thrones; and all their features were so nicely drawn, that each could be distinguished.—Jupiter appeared as monarch of those judging Gods. There Neptune, guardian of the sea, was shown contending with Minerva. As he struck the Rock with his long trident, a wild horse sprang forth which he bequeathed to man. He claimed his right to name the city for that gift. And then she wove a portrait of herself, bearing a shield, and in her hand a lance, sharp-pointed, and a helmet on her head—her breast well-guarded by her Aegis: there she struck her spear into the fertile earth, from which a branch of olive seemed to sprout, pale with new clustered fruits.—And those twelve Gods, appeared to judge, that olive as a gift surpassed the horse which Neptune gave to man.

[83] And, so Arachne, rival of her fame, might learn the folly of her mad attempt, from the great deeds of ancient histories, and what award presumption must expect, Minerva wove four corners with life scenes of contest, brightly colored, but of size diminutive. In one of these was shown the snow-clad mountains, Rhodope, and Haemus, which for punishment were changed from human beings to those rigid forms, when they aspired to rival the high Gods. And in another corner she described that Pygmy, whom the angry Juno changed from queen-ship to a crane; because she thought herself an equal of the living Gods, she was commanded to wage cruel wars upon her former subjects. In the third, she wove the story of Antigone, who dared compare herself to Juno, queen of Jupiter, and showed her as she was transformed into a silly chattering stork, that praised her beauty, with her ugly beak.—Despite the powers of Ilion and her sire Laomedon, her shoulders fledged white wings. And so, the third part finished, there was left one corner, where Minerva deftly worked the story of the father, Cinyras;—as he was weeping on the temple steps, which once had been his daughter's living limbs. And she adorned the border with designs of peaceful olive—her devoted tree—which having shown, she made an end of work.

[103] Arachne, of Maeonia, wove, at first the story of Europa, as the bull deceived her, and so perfect was her art, it seemed a real bull in real waves. Europa seemed to look back towards the land which she had left; and call in her alarm to her companions—and as if she feared the touch of dashing waters, to draw up her timid feet, while she was sitting on the bull's back. And she wove Asteria seized by the assaulting eagle; and beneath the swan's white wings showed Leda lying by the stream: and showed Jove dancing as a Satyr, when he sought the beautiful Antiope, to whom was given twins; and how he seemed Amphitryon when he deceived Alcmena; and how he courted lovely Danae luring her as a gleaming shower of gold; and poor Aegina, hidden in his flame, jove as a shepherd with Mnemosyne; and beautiful Proserpina, involved by him, apparent as a spotted snake. And in her web, Arachne wove the scenes of Neptune:—who was shown first as a bull, when he was deep in love with virgin Arne then as Enipeus when the giant twins, Aloidae, were begot; and as the ram that gambolled with Bisaltis; as a horse loved by the fruitful Ceres, golden haired, all-bounteous mother of the yellow grain; and as the bird that hovered round snake-haired Medusa, mother of the winged horse; and as the dolphin, sporting with the Nymph, Melantho.—All of these were woven true to life, in proper shades. And there she showed Apollo, when disguised in various forms: as when he seemed a rustic; and as when he wore hawk-wings, and then the tawny skin of a great lion; and once more when he deluded Isse, as a shepherd lad. And there was Bacchus, when he was disguised as a large cluster of fictitious grapes; deluding by that wile the beautiful Erigone;—and Saturn, as a steed, begetter of the dual-natured Chiron. And then Arachne, to complete her work, wove all around the web a patterned edge of interlacing flowers and ivy leaves.

[129] Minerva could not find a fleck or flaw—even Envy can not censure perfect art—enraged because Arachne had such skill she ripped the web, and ruined all the scenes that showed those wicked actions of the Gods; and with her boxwood shuttle in her hand, struck the unhappy mortal on her head,—struck sharply thrice, and even once again. Arachne's spirit, deigning not to brook such insult, brooded on it, till she tied a cord around her neck, and hung herself. Minerva, moved to pity at the sight, sustained and saved her from that bitter death; but, angry still, pronounced another doom: “Although I grant you life, most wicked one, your fate shall be to dangle on a cord, and your posterity forever shall take your example, that your punishment may last forever!” Even as she spoke, before withdrawing from her victim's sight, she sprinkled her with juice—extract of herbs of Hecate. At once all hair fell off, her nose and ears remained not, and her head shrunk rapidly in size, as well as all her body, leaving her diminutive.—Her slender fingers gathered to her sides as long thin legs; and all her other parts were fast absorbed in her abdomen—whence she vented a fine thread;—and ever since, Arachne, as a spider, weaves her web.


[146] All Lydia was astonished at her fate the Rumor spread to Phrygia, soon the world was filled with fear and wonder. Niobe had known her long before,—when in Maeonia near to Mount Sipylus; but the sad fate which overtook Arachne, lost on her, she never ceased her boasting and refused to honor the great Gods. So many things increased her pride: She loved to boast her husband's skill, their noble family, the rising grandeur of their kingdom. Such felicities were great delights to her; but nothing could exceed the haughty way she boasted of her children: and, in truth, Niobe might have been adjudged on earth, the happiest mother of mankind, if pride had not destroyed her wit. It happened then, that Manto, daughter of Tiresias, who told the future; when she felt the fire of prophecy descend upon her, rushed upon the street and shouted in the midst: “You women of Ismenus! go and give to high Latona and her children, twain, incense and prayer. Go, and with laurel wreathe your hair in garlands, as your sacred prayers arise to heaven. Give heed, for by my speech Latona has ordained these holy rites.” At once, the Theban women wreathe their brows with laurel, and they cast in hallowed flame the grateful incense, while they supplicate all favors of the ever-living Gods.

[165] And while they worship, Niobe comes there, surrounded with a troup that follow her, and most conspicuous in her purple robe, bright with inwoven threads of yellow gold. Beautiful in her anger, she tosses back her graceful head. The glory of her hair shines on her shoulders. Standing forth, she looks upon them with her haughty eyes, and taunts them, “Madness has prevailed on you to worship some imagined Gods of Heaven, which you have only heard of; but the Gods that truly are on earth, and can be seen, are all neglected! Come, explain to me, why is Latona worshiped and adored, and frankincense not offered unto me? For my divinity is known to you. “Tantalus was my father, who alone approached the tables of the Gods in heaven; my mother, sister of the Pleiades, was daughter of huge Atlas, who supports the world upon his shoulders; I can boast of Jupiter as father of my sire, I count him also as my father-in-law. The peoples of my Phrygia dread my power, and I am mistress of the palace built by Cadmus. By my husband, I am queen of those great walls that reared themselves to the sweet music of his sounding lyre. We rule together all the people they encompass and defend. And everywhere my gaze is turned, an evidence of wealth is witnessed. In my features you can see the beauty of a goddess, but above that majesty is all the glory due to me, the mother of my seven sons and daughters seven. And the time will come when by their marriage they will magnify the circle of my power invincible.

[184] "All must acknowledge my just cause of pride and must no longer worship, in despite of my superior birth, this deity, a daughter of ignoble Coeus, whom one time the great Earth would not even grant sufficient space for travail: whom the Heavens, the Land, the Sea together once compelled to wander, hopeless on all hostile shores! Throughout the world she found herself rebuffed, till Delos, sorry for the vagrant, said, `Homeless you roam the lands, and I the seas!’ And even her refuge always was adrift. And there she bore two children, who, compared with mine, are but as one to seven. Who denies my fortunate condition?—Who can doubt my future?—I am surely safe. The wealth of my abundance is too strong for Fortune to assail me. Let her rage despoil me of large substance; yet so much would still be mine, for I have risen above the blight of apprehension. But, suppose a few of my fair children should be taken! Even so deprived, I could not be reduced to only two, as this Latona, who, might quite as well be childless.—Get you gone from this insensate sacrifice. Make haste! Cast off the wreathing laurels from your brows!” They plucked the garlands from their hair, and left the sacrifice, obedient to her will, although in gentle murmurs they adored the goddess Niobe had so defamed.

[204] Latona, furious when she heard the speech, flew swiftly to the utmost peak of Cynthus, and spoke to her two children in these words: “Behold your mother, proud of having borne such glorious children! I will yield prestige before no goddess—save alone immortal Juno! I have been debased, and driven for all ages from my own—my altars, unto me devoted long, and so must languish through eternity, unless by you sustained. Nor is this all; that daughter of Tantalus, bold Niobe, has added curses to her evil deeds, and with a tongue as wicked as her sire's, has raised her base-born children over mine. Has even called me childless! A sad fate more surely should be hers! Oh, I entreat”—But Phoebus answered her, “No more complaint is necessary, for it only serves to hinder the swift sequel of her doom.” And with the same words Phoebe answered her. And having spoken, they descended through the shielding shadows of surrounding clouds, and hovered on the citadel of Cadmus.

[218] There, far below them, was a level plain which swept around those walls; where trampling steeds, with horny hoofs, and multitudinous wheels, had beaten a wide track. And on the field the older sons of Niobe on steeds emblazoned with bright dyes and harness rich with studded gold were circling.—One of these, Ismenus, first-born of his mother, while controlling his fleet courser's foaming mouth, cried out, “Ah wretched me!” A shaft had pierced the middle of his breast; and as the reins dropped slowly on the rapid courser's neck, his drooping form fell forward to the ground. Not far from him, his brother, Sipylus, could hear the whistling of a fatal shaft, and in his fright urged on the plunging steed: as when the watchful pilot, sensible of storms approaching, crowds on sail, hoping to catch a momentary breeze, so fled he, urging an impetuous flight; but, while he fled the shaft, unerring, flew; transfixed him with its quivering death; struck where the neck supports the head and the sharp point protruded from his throat. In his swift flight, as he was leaning forward, he was struck; and, rolling over the wild horse's neck pitched to the ground, and stained it with his blood.

[239] Unhappy Phaedimus, and Tantalus, (So named from his maternal grandsire) now had finished coursing on the track, and smooth. Shining with oil, were wrestling in the field; and while those brothers struggled—breast to breast—another arrow, hurtling from the sky, pierced them together, just as they were clinched. The mingled sound that issued from two throats was like a single groan. Convulsed with pain, the wrestlers fell together on the ground, where, stricken with a double agony, rolling their eyeballs, they sobbed out their lives. Alphenor saw them die—beating his breast in agony—ran to lift in his arms their lifeless bodies cold—while doing this he fell upon them. Phoebus struck him so, piercing his midriff in a vital part, with fatal shot, which, when he pulled it forth, dragged with its barb a torn clot of his lung—his blood and life poured out upon the air. The youthful Damasicthon next was struck, not only once; an arrow pierced his leg just where the sinews of the thigh begin, and as he turned and stooped to pluck it out, another keen shaft shot into his neck, up to the fletching.—The blood drove it out, and spouted after it in crimson jets. Then, Ilioneus, last of seven sons, lifted his unavailing arms in prayer, and cried, “O Universal Deities, gods of eternal heaven, spare my life!”—Besought too late, Apollo of the Bow, could not prevail against the deadly shaft, already on its way: and yet his will, compellant, acted to retard its flight, so that it cut no deeper than his heart.

[267] The rumors of an awful tragedy,—the wailings of sad Niobe's loved friends,—the terror of her grieving relatives,—all gave some knowledge of her sudden loss: but so bewildered and enraged her mind, that she could hardly realize the Gods had privilege to dare against her might. Nor would she, till her lord, Amphion, thrust his sword deep in his breast, by which his life and anguish both were ended in dark night. Alas, proud Niobe, once haughty queen! Proud Niobe who but so lately drove her people from Latona's altars, while, moving majestic through the midst, she hears their plaudits, now so bitterly debased, her meanest enemy may pity her!—She fell upon the bodies of her sons, and in a frenzy of maternal grief, kissed their unfeeling lips. Then unto Heaven with arms accusing, railed upon her foe: “Glut your revenge! Latona, glut your rage! Yea, let my lamentations be your joy! Go—satiate your flinty heart with death! Are not my seven sons all dead? Am I not waiting to be carried to my grave?—exult and triumph, my victorious foe! Victorious? Nay!—Much more remains to me in all my utmost sorrow, than to you, you gloater upon vengeance—undismayed, I stand victorious in my Field of Woe!”

[286] No sooner had she spoken, than the cord twanged from the ever-ready bow; and all who heard the fatal sound, again were filled with fear,—save Niobe, in misery bold,—defiant in misfortune.—Clothed in black, the sisters of the stricken brothers stood, with hair disheveled, by the funeral biers. And one while plucking from her brother's heart a shaft, swooned unto death, fell on her face—on her dear brother's corpse. Another girl, while she consoled her mother, suddenly, was stricken with an unseen, deadly wound; and doubled in convulsions, closed her lips, tight held them, till both breath and life were lost. Another, vainly rushed away from death—she met it, and pitched head-first to the ground; and still another died upon her corse, another vainly sought a secret death, and, then another slipped beyond's life's edge. So, altogether, six of seven died—each victim, strickened in a different way. One child remained. Then in a frenzy-fear the mother, as she covered her with all her garments and her body, wailed—“Oh, leave me this one child! the youngest of them all! My darling daughter—only leave me one!” But even while she was entreating for its life—the life was taken from her only child.

[303] Childless—she crouched beside her slaughtered sons, her lifeless daughters, and her husband's corpse. The breeze not even moved her fallen hair, a chill of marble spread upon her flesh, beneath her pale, set brows, her eyes moved not, her bitter tongue turned stiff in her hard jaws, her lovely veins congealed, and her stiff neck and rigid hands could neither bend nor move.—her limbs and body, all were changed to stone. Yet ever would she weep: and as her tears were falling she was carried from the place, enveloped in a storm and mighty wind, far, to her native land, where fixed upon a mountain summit she dissolves in tears,—and to this day the marble drips with tears.


[313] All men and women, after this event, feared to incur Latona's fateful wrath, and worshiped with more zeal the Deity, mother of twins.—And, as it is the way of men to talk of many other things after a strong occurrence, they recalled what other deeds the goddess had performed;—and one of them recited this event: 'Twas in the ancient days of long-ago,—some rustics, in the fertile fields of Lycia, heedless, insulted the goddess to their harm:—perhaps you've never heard of this event, because those country clowns were little known. The event was wonderful, but I can vouch the truth of it. I visited the place and I have seen the pool of water, where happened the miracle I now relate.

[321] My good old father, then advanced in years, incapable of travel, ordered me to fetch some cattle—thoroughbreds—from there, and had secured a Lycian for my guide, as I traversed the pastures, with the man, it chanced, I saw an ancient altar,—grimed with sacrificial ashes—in the midst of a large pool, with sedge and reeds around, a-quiver in the breeze. And there my guide stood on the marge, and with an awe-struck voice began to whisper, “Be propitious, hear my supplications, and forget not me!” And I, observing him, echoed the words, “Forget not me!” which, having done, I turned to him and said, “Whose altar can this be? Perhaps a sacred altar of the Fauns, or of the Naiads, or a native God?” To which my guide replied, “Young man, such Gods may not be worshiped at this altar. She whom once the royal Juno drove away to wander a harsh world, alone permits this altar to be used: that goddess whom the wandering Isle of Delos, at the time it drifted as the foam, almost refused a refuge. There Latona, as she leaned against a palm-tree—and against the tree most sacred to Minerva, brought forth twins, although their harsh step-mother, Juno, strove to interfere.—And from the island forced to fly by jealous Juno, on her breast she bore her children, twin Divinities.

[339] "At last, outwearied with the toil, and parched with thirst—long-wandering in those heated days over the arid land of Lycia, where was bred the dire Chimaera—at the time her parching breasts were drained, she saw this pool of crystal water, shimmering in the vale. Some countrymen were there to gather reeds, and useful osiers, and the bulrush, found with sedge in fenny pools. To them approached Latona, and she knelt upon the merge to cool her thirst, with some refreshing water. But those clowns forbade her and the goddess cried, as they so wickedly opposed her need: `Why do you so resist my bitter thirst? The use of water is the sacred right of all mankind, for Nature has not made the sun and air and water, for the sole estate of any creature; and to Her kind bounty I appeal, although of you I humbly beg the use of it. Not here do I intend to bathe my wearied limbs. I only wish to quench an urgent thirst, for, even as I speak, my cracking lips and mouth so parched, almost deny me words. A drink of water will be like a draught of nectar, giving life; and I shall owe to you the bounty and my life renewed.—ah, let these tender infants, whose weak arms implore you from my bosom, but incline your hearts to pity!” And just as she spoke, it chanced the children did stretch out their arms and who would not be touched to hear such words, as spoken by this goddess, and refuse?

[361] "But still those clowns persisted in their wrong against the goddess; for they hindered her, and threatened with their foul, abusive tongues to frighten her away—and, worse than all, they even muddied with their hands and feet the clear pool; forcing the vile, slimy dregs up from the bottom, in a spiteful way, by jumping up and down.—Enraged at this, she felt no further thirst, nor would she deign to supplicate again; but, feeling all the outraged majesty of her high state, she raised her hands to Heaven, and exclaimed, `Forever may you live in that mud-pool!' The curse as soon as uttered took effect, and every one of them began to swim beneath the water, and to leap and plunge deep in the pool.—Now, up they raise their heads, now swim upon the surface, now they squat themselves around the marshy margent, now they plump again down to the chilly deeps. And, ever and again, with croaking throats, indulge offensive strife upon the banks, or even under water, boom abuse. Their ugly voices cause their bloated necks to puff out; and their widened jaws are made still wider in the venting of their spleen. Their backs, so closely fastened to their heads, make them appear as if their shrunken necks have been cut off. Their backbones are dark green; white are their bellies, now their largest part.—Forever since that time, the foolish frogs muddy their own pools, where they leap and dive."


[382] So he related how the clowns were changed to leaping frogs; and after he was through, another told the tale of Marsyas, in these words: The Satyr Marsyas, when he played the flute in rivalry against Apollo's lyre, lost that audacious contest and, alas! His life was forfeit; for, they had agreed the one who lost should be the victor's prey. And, as Apollo punished him, he cried, “Ah-h-h! why are you now tearing me apart? A flute has not the value of my life!” Even as he shrieked out in his agony, his living skin was ripped off from his limbs, till his whole body was a flaming wound, with nerves and veins and viscera exposed. But all the weeping people of that land, and all the Fauns and Sylvan Deities, and all the Satyrs, and Olympus, his loved pupil—even then renowned in song, and all the Nymphs, lamented his sad fate; and all the shepherds, roaming on the hills, lamented as they tended fleecy flocks. And all those falling tears, on fruitful Earth, descended to her deepest veins, as drip the moistening dews,—and, gathering as a fount, turned upward from her secret-winding caves, to issue, sparkling, in the sun-kissed air, the clearest river in the land of Phrygia,—through which it swiftly flows between steep banks down to the sea: and, therefore, from his name, 'tis called “The Marsyas” to this very day.


[401] And after this was told, the people turned and wept for Niobe's loved children dead, and also, mourned Amphion, sorrow-slain. The Theban people hated Niobe, but Pelops, her own brother, mourned her death; and as he rent his garment, and laid bare his white left shoulder, you could see the part composed of ivory.—At his birth 'twas all of healthy flesh; but when his father cut his limbs asunder, and the Gods restored his life, all parts were rightly joined, except part of one shoulder, which was wanting; so to serve the purpose of the missing flesh, a piece of ivory was inserted there, making his body by such means complete.


[412] The lords of many cities that were near, now met together and implored their kings to mourn with Pelops those unhappy deeds.—The lords of Argos; Sparta and Mycenae; and Calydon, before it had incurred the hatred of Diana, goddess of the chase; fertile Orchomenus and Corinth, great in wealth of brass; Patrae and fierce Messena; Cleone, small; and Pylus and Troezen, not ruled by Pittheus then,—and also, all the other cities which are shut off by the Isthmus there dividing by its two seas, and all the cities which are seen from there. What seemed most wonderful, of all those towns Athens alone was wanting, for a war had gathered from the distant seas, a host of savage warriors had alarmed her walls, and hindered her from mourning for the dead. Now Tereus, then the mighty king of Thrace, came to the aid of Athens as defense from that fierce horde; and there by his great deeds achieved a glorious fame. Since his descent was boasted from the mighty Gradivus, and he was gifted with enormous wealth, Pandion, king of Athens, gave to him in sacred wedlock his dear daughter, Procne. But Juno, guardian of the sacred rites attended not, nor Hymenaeus, nor the Graces. But the Furies snatched up brands from burning funeral pyres, and brandished them as torches. They prepared the nuptial couch,—a boding owl flew over the bride's room, and then sat silently upon the roof. With such bad omens Tereus married her, sad Procne, and those omens cast a gloom on all the household till the fateful birth of their first born. All Thrace went wild with joy—and even they, rejoicing, blessed the Gods, when he, the little Itys, saw the light; and they ordained each year their wedding day, and every year the birthday of their child, should be observed with festival and song: so the sad veil of fate conceals from us our future woes.

[438] Now Titan had drawn forth the changing seasons through five autumns, when, in gentle accents, Procne spoke these words: “My dearest husband, if you love me, let me visit my dear sister, or consent that she may come to us and promise her that she may soon return. If you will but permit me to enjoy her company my heart will bless you as I bless the Gods.” At once the monarch ordered his long ships to launch upon the sea; and driven by sail, and hastened by the swiftly sweeping oars, they entered the deep port of Athens, where he made fair landing on the fortified Piraeus. There, when time was opportune to greet his father-in-law and shake his hand, they both exchanged their wishes for good health, and Tereus told the reason why he came. He was relating all his wife's desire. Promising Philomela's safe return from a brief visit, when Philomela appeared rich in her costly raiment, yet more rich in charm and beauty, just as if a fair Dryad or Naiad should be so attired, appearing radiant, from dark solitudes. As if someone should kindle whitening corn or the dry leaves, or hay piled in a stack; so Tereus, when he saw the beautiful and blushing virgin, was consumed with love. Her modest beauty was a worthy cause of worthy love; but by his heritage, derived from a debasing clime, his love was base; and fires unholy burned within from his own lawless nature, just as fierce as are the habits of his evil race.

[461] In the wild frenzy of his wicked heart, he thought he would corrupt her trusted maid, her tried attendants, and corrupt even her virtue with large presents: he would waste his kingdom in the effort.—He prepared to seize her at the risk of cruel war. And he would do or dare all things to feed his raging flame.—He could not brook delay. With most impassioned words he begged for her, pretending he gave voice to Procne's hopes.—his own desire made him wax eloquent, as often as his words exceeded bounds, he pleaded he was uttering Procne's words. His hypocritic eyes were filled with tears, as though they represented her desire—and, O you Gods above, what devious ways are harbored in the hearts of mortals! Through his villainous desire he gathered praise, and many lauded him for the great love he bore his wife.

[475] And even Philomela desires her own undoing; and with fond embraces nestles to her father, while she pleads for his consent, that she may go to visit her dear sister.—Tereus viewed her pretty pleading, and in his hot heart, imagined he was then embracing her; and as he saw her kiss her father's lips, her arms around his neck, it seemed that each caress was his; and so his fire increased. He even wished he were her father; though, if it were so, his passion would no less be impious.—Overcome at last by these entreaties, her kind father gave consent. Greatly she joyed and thanked him for her own misfortune. She imagined a success, instead of all the sorrow that would come.

[486] The day declining, little of his toil remained for Phoebus. Now his flaming steeds were beating with their hoofs the downward slope of high Olympus; and the regal feast was set before the guests, and flashing wine was poured in golden vessels, and the feast went merrily, until the satisfied assembly sought in gentle sleep their rest. Not so, the love-hot Tereus, king of Thrace, who, sleepless, imaged in his doting mind the form of Philomela, recalled the shape of her fair hands, and in his memory reviewed her movements. And his flaming heart pictured her beauties yet unseen.—He fed his frenzy on itself, and could not sleep.

[494] Fair broke the day; and now the ancient king, Pandion, took his son-in-law's right hand to bid farewell; and, as he wept, commended his dear daughter, Philomela, unto his guarding care. “And in your care, my son-in-law, I trust my daughter's health. Good reason, grounded on my love, compels my sad approval. You have begged for her, and both my daughters have persuaded me. Wherefore, I do entreat you and implore your honor, as I call upon the Gods, that you will ever shield her with the love of a kind father and return her safe, as soon as may be—my last comfort given to bless my doting age. And all delay will agitate and vex my failing heart. And, O my dearest daughter, Philomela, if you have any love for me, return without too long delay and comfort me, lest I may grieve; for it is quite enough that I should suffer while your sister stays away.”

[504] The old king made them promise, and he kissed his daughter, while he wept. Then did he join their hands in pledge of their fidelity, and, as he gave his blessing, cautioned them to kiss his absent daughter and her son for his dear sake. Then as he spoke a last farewell, his trembling voice was filled with sobs. And he could hardly speak;—for a great fear from some vague intuition of his mind, surged over him, and he was left forlorn.

[511] So soon as Philomela was safe aboard the painted ship and as the sailors urged the swiftly gliding keel across the deep and the dim land fast-faded from their view, then Tereus, in exultant humor, thought, “Now all is well, the object of my love sails with me while the sailors ply the oars.” He scarcely could control his barbarous desire—with difficulty stayed his lust, he followed all her actions with hot eyes.—So, when the ravenous bird of Jupiter has caught with crooked talons the poor hare, and dropped it—ruthless,—in his lofty nest, where there is no escape, his cruel eyes gloat on the victim he anticipates.

[519] And now, as Tereus reached his journey's end, they landed from the travel-wearied ship, safe on the shores of his own kingdom. Then he hastened with the frightened Philomela into most wild and silent solitudes of an old forest; where, concealed among deep thickets a forbidding old house stood: there he immured the pale and trembling maid, who, vainly in her fright, began to call upon her absent sister,—and her tears implored his pity. His obdurate mind could not be softened by such piteous cries; but even while her agonizing screams implored her sister's and her father's aid, and while she vainly called upon the Gods, he overmastered her with brutal force.—The poor child trembled as a frightened lamb, which, just delivered from the frothing jaws of a gaunt wolf, dreads every moving twig. She trembled as a timid injured dove, (her feathers dripping with her own life-blood) that dreads the ravening talons of a hawk from which some fortune has delivered her.

[531] But presently, as consciousness returned, she tore her streaming hair and beat her arms, and, stretching forth her hands in frenzied grief, cried out, “Oh, barbarous and brutal wretch! Unnatural monster of abhorrent deeds! Could not my anxious father's parting words, nor his foreboding tears restrain your lust? Have you no slight regard for your chaste wife, my dearest sister, and are you without all honor, so to spoil virginity now making me invade my sister's claim, you have befouled the sacred fount of life,—you are a lawless bond of double sin! Oh, this dark punishment was not my due! Come, finish with my murder your black deed, so nothing wicked may remain undone. But oh, if you had only slaughtered me before your criminal embrace befouled my purity, I should have had a shade entirely pure, and free from any stain! Oh, if there is a Majesty in Heaven, and if my ruin has not wrecked the world, then, you shall suffer for this grievous wrong and time shall hasten to avenge my wreck. I shall declare your sin before the world, and publish my own shame to punish you! And if I'm prisoned in the solitudes, my voice will wake the echoes in the wood and move the conscious rocks. Hear me, O Heaven! And let my imprecations rouse the Gods—ah-h-h, if there can be a god in Heaven!”

[549] Her cries aroused the dastard tyrant's wrath, and frightened him, lest ever his foul deed might shock his kingdom: and, roused at once by rage and guilty fear; he seized her hair, forced her weak arms against her back, and bound them fast with brazen chains, then drew his sword. When she first saw his sword above her head. Flashing and sharp, she wished only for death, and offered her bare throat: but while she screamed, and, struggling, called upon her father's name, he caught her tongue with pincers, pitiless, and cut it with his sword.—The mangled root still quivered, but the bleeding tongue itself, fell murmuring on the blood-stained floor. As the tail of a slain snake still writhes upon the ground, so did the throbbing tongue; and, while it died, moved up to her, as if to seek her feet.—And, it is said that after this foul crime, the monster violated her again.

[563] And after these vile deeds, that wicked king returned to Procne, who, when she first met her brutal husband, anxiously inquired for tidings of her sister; but with sighs and tears, he told a false tale of her death, and with such woe that all believed it true. Then Procne, full of lamentation, took her royal robe, bordered with purest gold, and putting it away, assumed instead garments of sable mourning; and she built a noble sepulchre, and offered there her pious gifts to an imagined shade;—lamenting the sad death of her who lived.

[571] A year had passed by since that awful date—the sun had coursed the Zodiac's twelve signs. But what could Philomela hope or do? For like a jail the strong walls of the house were built of massive stone, and guards around prevented flight; and mutilated, she could not communicate with anyone to tell her injuries and tragic woe. But even in despair and utmost grief, there is an ingenuity which gives inventive genius to protect from harm: and now, the grief-distracted Philomela wove in a warp with purple marks and white, a story of the crime; and when 'twas done she gave it to her one attendant there and begged her by appropriate signs to take it secretly to Procne. She took the web, she carried it to Procne, with no thought of words or messages by art conveyed. The wife of that inhuman tyrant took the cloth, and after she unwrapped it saw and understood the mournful record sent. She pondered it in silence and her tongue could find no words to utter her despair;—her grief and frenzy were too great for tears.—In a mad rage her rapid mind counfounded the right and wrong—intent upon revenge.

[587] Since it was now the time of festival, when all the Thracian matrons celebrate the rites of Bacchus—every third year thus—night then was in their secret; and at night the slopes of Rhodope resounded loud with clashing of shrill cymbals. So, at night the frantic queen of Tereus left her home and, clothed according to the well known rites of Bacchus, hurried to the wilderness. Her head was covered with the green vine leaves; and from her left side native deer skin hung; and on her shoulder rested a light spear.—so fashioned, the revengeful Procne rushed through the dark woods, attended by a host of screaming followers, and wild with rage, pretended it was Bacchus urged her forth. At last she reached the lonely building, where her sister, Philomela, was immured; and as she howled and shouted “Ee-woh-ee-e!”, She forced the massive doors; and having seized her sister, instantly concealed her face in ivy leaves, arrayed her in the trappings of Bacchanalian rites. When this was done, they rushed from there, demented, to the house where as the Queen of Tereus, Procne dwelt.

[601] When Philomela knew she had arrived at that accursed house, her countenance, though pale with grief, took on a ghastlier hue: and, wretched in her misery and fright, she shuddered in convulsions.—Procne took the symbols, Bacchanalian, from her then, and as she held her in a strict embrace unveiled her downcast head. But she refused to lift her eyes, and fixing her sad gaze on vacant space, she raised her hand, instead; as if in oath she called upon the Gods to witness truly she had done no wrong, but suffered a disgrace of violence.—Lo, Procne, wild with a consuming rage, cut short her sister's terror in these words, “This is no time for weeping! awful deeds demand a great revenge—take up the sword, and any weapon fiercer than its edge! My breast is hardened to the worst of crime make haste with me! together let us put this palace to the torch! Come, let us maim, the beastly Tereus with revenging iron, cut out his tongue, and quench his cruel eyes, and hurl and burn him writhing in the flames! Or, shall we pierce him with a grisly blade, and let his black soul issue from deep wounds a thousand.—Slaughter him with every death imagined in the misery of hate!”

[619] While Procne still was raving out such words, Itys, her son, was hastening to his mother; and when she saw him, her revengeful eyes conceiving a dark punishment, she said, “Aha! here comes the image of his father!” She gave no other warning, but prepared to execute a horrible revenge. But when the tender child came up to her, and called her “mother”, put his little arms around her neck, and when he smiled and kissed her often, gracious in his cunning ways,—again the instinct of true motherhood pulsed in her veins, and moved to pity, she began to weep in spite of her resolve. Feeling the tender impulse of her love unnerving her, she turned her eyes from him and looked upon her sister, and from her glanced at her darling boy again. And so, while she was looking at them both, by turns, she said, “Why does the little one prevail with pretty words, while Philomela stands in silence always, with her tongue torn out? She cannot call her sister, whom he calls his mother! Oh, you daughter of Pandion, consider what a wretch your husband is! The wife of such a monster must be flint; compassion in her heart is but a crime.”

[636] No more she hesitated, but as swift as the fierce tigress of the Ganges leaps, seizes the suckling offspring of the hind, and drags it through the forest to its lair; so, Procne seized and dragged the frightened boy to a most lonely section of the house; and there she put him to the cruel sword, while he, aware of his sad fate, stretched forth his little hands, and cried, “Ah, mother,—ah!—” And clung to her—clung to her, while she struck – her fixed eyes, maddened, glaring horribly – struck wildly, lopping off his tender limbs. But Philomela cut through his tender throat. Then they together, mangled his remains, still quivering with the remnant of his life, and boiled a part of him in steaming pots, that bubbled over with the dead child's blood, and roasted other parts on hissing spits.

[647] And, after all was ready, Procne bade her husband, Tereus, to the loathsome feast, and with a false pretense of sacred rites, according to the custom of her land, by which, but one man may partake of it, she sent the servants from the banquet hall.—Tereus, majestic on his ancient throne high in imagined state, devoured his son, and gorged himself with flesh of his own flesh—and in his rage of gluttony called out for Itys to attend and share the feast! Curst with a joy she could conceal no more, and eager to gloat over his distress, Procne cried out, `Inside yourself, you have the thing that you are asking for!”—Amazed, he looked around and called his son again:– that instant, Philomela sprang forth—her hair disordered, and all stained with blood of murder, unable then to speak, she hurled the head of Itys in his father's fear-struck face, and more than ever longed for fitting words. The Thracian Tereus overturned the table, and howling, called up from the Stygian pit, the viperous sisters. Tearing at his breast, in miserable efforts to disgorge the half-digested gobbets of his son, he called himself his own child's sepulchre, and wept the hot tears of a frenzied man. Then with his sword he rushed at the two sisters.

[667] Fleeing from him, they seemed to rise on wings, and it was true, for they had changed to birds. Then Philomela, flitting to the woods, found refuge in the leaves: but Procne flew straight to the sheltering gables of a roof—and always, if you look, you can observe the brand of murder on the swallow's breast—red feathers from that day. And Tereus, swift in his great agitation, and his will to wreak a fierce revenge, himself is turned into a crested bird. His long, sharp beak is given him instead of a long sword, and so, because his beak is long and sharp, he rightly bears the name of Hoopoe.


[675] Before the number of his years was told, Pandion with the shades of Tartarus, because of this, has wandered in sad dooms. Erectheus, next in line, with mighty sway and justice, ruled all Athens on the throne left vacant by the good Pandion's death. Four daughters and four sons were granted him; and of his daughters, two were beautiful, and one of these was wed to Cephalus, grandson of Aeolus.—But mighty Boreas desired the hand of Orithyia, fair and lovable.—King Tereus and the Thracians were then such obstacles to Boreas the god was long kept from his dear beloved. Although the great king (who compels the cold north-wind) had sought with prayers to win her hand, and urged his love in gentleness, not force. When quite aware his wishes were disdained, he roughly said, with customary rage and violence: “Away with sentimental talk! My prayers and kind intentions are despised, but I should blame nobody but myself; then why should I, despising my great strength, debase myself to weakness and soft prayers?—might is my right, and violence my strength!—by force I drive the force of gloomy clouds. Tremendous actions are the wine of life!—monarch of Violence, rolling on clouds, I toss wide waters, and I fell huge trees—knotted old oaks—and whirled upon ice-wings, I scatter the light snow, and pelt the Earth with sleet and hail! I rush through boundless voids. My thunders rumble in the hollow clouds—and crash upon my brothers—fire to fire! Possessed of daemon-rage, I penetrate, sheer to the utmost caverns of old Earth; and straining, up from those unfathomed deeps, scatter the terror-stricken shades of hell; and hurl death-dealing earthquakes through the world! Such are the fateful powers I should use, and never trust entreaties to prevail, or win my bride—Force is the law of life!”

[702] And now impetuous Boreas, having howled resounding words, unrolled his rustling wings—that fan the earth and ruffle the wide sea—and, swiftly wrapping untrod mountain peaks in whirling mantles of far-woven dust, thence downward hovered to the darkened world; and, canopied in artificial night of swarthy overshadowing wings, caught up the trembling Orithyia to his breast: nor did he hesitate in airy course until his huge wings fanned the chilling winds around Ciconian Walls. There, she was pledged the wife of that cold, northern king of storms; and unto him she gave those hero twins, endowed with wings of their immortal sire, and graceful in their mother's form and face. Their bird-like wings were not fledged at their birth and those twin boys, Zetes and Calais, at first were void of feathers and soft down. But when their golden hair and beards were grown, wings like an eagle's came;—and feather-down grew golden on their cheeks: and when from youth they entered manhood, quick they were to join the Argonauts, who for the Golden Fleece, sought in that first ship, ventured on the sea.