January–The Month of Janus

January–The Month of Janus

The first month was called Januarius by the Romans, after Janus, the god of doors and gates. We see the same word in janua, the Latin for a gate or opening. From the idea that a door is a way in, an entrance, it became a custom among the Romans to pray to Janus whenever they undertook a new work. He was also the god of the beginning of the day, and it was only natural that when a new month was added at the beginning of the year it should be named after him. During this month offerings to the god were made of meal, frankincense, and wine, each of which had to be quite new.

Since a gate opens both ways, Janus was thought to be able to see back into the past, and forward into the future, and he was usually represented in pictures as having a double head that looked both ways. On the earliest Roman coins he is drawn with two bearded faces, with a staff in one hand, and a key in the other, He was also the protector of trade and shipping, and on some coins his head is shown with the prow of a ship. When people wished to picture him as the god of the year, they drew him holding the number 300 in one hand, and 65 in the other.

Janus was worshiped on the Janiculum (Hill of Janus), one of the seven hills on which Rome was built. Since he was the God of Gates, all the gates of Rome were under his care, especially the archway through which the army marched to war, and by which it returned. This archway was afterwards replaced by a temple which was called Janus Quadrifrons–that is, four-sided–because it was square. On each side of the building there were three windows and one door, making twelve windows and four doors, which represented the twelve months and the four seasons. In times of war the temple gates were kept wide open since people were continually making offerings to the god, but whenever there came a time of peace, the gates were at once closed. As we know the Romans were continually fighting, it does not surprise us to find that the gates of the temple were closed only three times in seven hundred years.

Janus was said to be the son of Apollo, the God of the Sun, whose daily task it was to drive across the sky in his chariot of fire. Each morning when Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn, had opened the gates of the East, Apollo set forth, and when, his task accomplished, he reached the Western Ocean, he returned to his palace in the East.

“And the gilded car of day
His glowing axle doth allay
In the steep Atlantic stream:
And the slope sun his upward beam
Shoots against the dusky pole,
Pacing toward the other goal
Of his chamber in the East.”
MILTON–Comus.

Apollo had another son, named Phaeton, who one day persuaded his father to allow him to drive the sun chariot. All went well for a time, and then Phaeton, being a reckless boy, began to drive too fast. He soon lost control of the horses, which plunged madly along and bore the chariot far from its track. It went so close to the earth that the fields were scorched, the rivers were dried up, and even the people were turned black–and they are black to this day! The cries of the terrified people attracted the attention of Jupiter, the king of the gods, who became enraged when he caught sight of the daring boy in the chariot of the sun. Taking up one of his thunderbolts, he hurled it at Phaeton, who, scorched by its fire, fell headlong to the earth.

Another sad story told of Apollo is that of his friendship with a youth named Hyacinthus, to talk with whom Apollo used often to come down to the earth. Zephyrus, the God of the South Wind, was very fond of Hyacinthus too, and one day as Apollo and Hyacinthus were playing a game of quoits, Zephyrus came by. Filled with jealousy at the sight of Apollo and his friend, he blew Apollo’s quoit aside so that it struck Hyacinthus and killed him. Apollo was greatly distressed at his friend’s death, and in order that he might never be forgotten, changed the fallen blood-drops into clusters of flowers, which we still call Hyacinths.

“For so Apollo, with unweeting hand,
Whilom did slay his dearly loved mate,
Young Hyacinth born on Enrotas’ strand,
Young Hyacinth the pride of Spartanland,
But then transformed him to a purple flower.”
MILTON.

Another flower which should always remind us of Apollo is the sunflower. A story says that there once lived a girl named Clytie, and that each day, with eyes full of love for the fair sun god, she watched him journey across the sky: but Apollo, knowing nothing of her love, took no heed of her as he passed. Clytie watched for him day after day on a river bank, and her heart sank as each evening she saw his chariot dip down into the West. She would not leave the river bank, but stayed all through the cold night, anxiously waiting for the first flash of the sun’s rays from the glowing East. At last the gods took pity on her, and changed her into a sunflower. Her green dress became green leaves, and her golden hair became yellow petals. Now was she happy indeed, for she knew that she could always see Apollo, and you will find that to this day the sunflower turns its head towards the sun as it moves across the sky.

Aurora, the Goddess of the Dawn, whom we have mentioned as opening the gates of the East for the sun god Apollo, married a mortal, Tithonus, a prince of Troy. In order that their happiness might know no end, Aurora begged Jupiter to grant Tithonus immortality. The wish was granted, but in her anxiety that Tithonus should never be taken from her by death, Aurora forgot to ask also for the gift of eternal youth. As the years went on Tithonus grew old and weak and became only a burden to her. At length, tired of his shrill voice and constant complaints, she turned him into a grasshopper, whose shrill complaining note is known to all.

The name for this month among the Angles and Saxons was Wulfmonath (Wolf month), since it was the time of year when the wolves were unable to find food, and their hunger made them bold enough to come into the villages.

February–The Month of Purification

February–The Month of Purification

This month did not always hold its present position, but was originally the last month in the year. The name is taken from a Latin word, februare, meaning “to make pure”.

In the Palatine Hill, another of the seven hills of Rome, was a cave dug in the rock, and in it stood an image of the god Lupercus covered with a goat’s skin. Lupercus was the God of Fertility or springing into life, and on the 15th of February a great festival was held in his honour. Sacrifices of goats and dogs were made; then the priests cut up the skins of the goats, twisted the pieces into thongs, and ran through the city striking all who came in their way. As in the very earliest times it was the shepherds who held this festival, it is thought that this running about with thongs meant the purifying of the land. The idea of the whole festival seems to have been one of purifying, of a new life, so the name chosen for the month in which it was held was one formed from a word meaning “to make pure”.

There are some who think that Lupercus was the same as Pan, the God of the Shepherds. Pan was said to have been a son of Mercury, but he was not like the other gods; his body was covered with goat’s hair, and his feet and ears were also like those of a goat. He was very fond of music and dancing, and spent most of his time in the forests playing with the wood nymphs–beautiful girls who lived among the trees. One day he saw a wood nymph, named Syrinx, with whom he fell in love, but she was frightened and ran away from him, and when Pan pursued her she prayed to the gods for help. She was at once changed into a clump of reeds, and Pan, in his disappointment, broke off seven pieces of the reed, bound them together, and so made an instrument of music, which was called the Syrinx after the beautiful wood nymph.

The invention of the Syrinx by Pan has been wonderfully described by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a poem which begins:

“What was he doing, the great god Pan,
Down in the reeds by the river?
Spreading ruin and scattering ban,
Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat
And breaking the golden lilies afloat
With the dragon-fly on the river.”

This story of Pan and Syrinx reminds us that the Greeks and the Romans imagined the mountains, the valleys, the woods, and the rivers to be peopled with lesser gods and goddesses, whose task of caring for the trees, the flowers, and the grass was appointed them by Jupiter. The woodland gods were known as Satyrs, and like their leader, Pan, were half man and half goat. Another famous satyr was Silenus, who was put in charge of Bacchus, one of Jupiter’s sons, and the God of Wine. Silenus taught Bacchus, and accompanied him on his travels on the earth. The God of Wine rode in a chariot drawn by wild beasts, Silenus following him on an ass, and with them a merry company of nymphs and satyrs crowned with ivy leaves, who danced and sang and made music in praise of Bacchus.

“And as I sat, over the light blue hills
There came a noise of revellers; the rills
Into the wide stream came of purple hue–
‘T was Bacchus and his crew!
The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
From kissing cymbals made a merry din–
‘T was Bacchus and his kin!
Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood
Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,
With sidelong laughing.”
KEATS–Endymion.

Many stories are told of the wood nymphs, as the Goddesses of the Woods were called. One of the most famous is that of the nymph Echo, who fell deeply in love with the beautiful Narcissus, whom she met hunting in the forest. Narcissus, however, took but little notice of her, and Echo’s love soon turned to hatred and anger. She prayed to Venus, the Goddess of Love, that Narcissus might be punished for his hard-heartedness, and then sorrowfully hiding herself among the mountains, pined away until only her voice remained, and in lonely places the voice of Echo still answers those who call.

Meanwhile Venus sought an opportunity for punishing Narcissus by making him suffer in the same way as Echo had done. One day Narcissus, hot and thirsty with hunting, came to a shaded pool, and, as he stooped to drink, saw in the clear water the face, as he thought, of a water nymph. So beautiful was she that Narcissus was filled with love for her, and eagerly stretched out his arms; but no sooner did his hands touch the water than she vanished. He drew back in surprise and waited anxiously till the ruffled water became smooth, when again he saw the beautiful nymph. He spoke to her, and her lips answered him, though he heard no sound; he slowly put out his hands towards her, and her hands came to meet his. Sure now of her love, he tried a second time to clasp her in his arms, but, as before, she vanished. Again and again he strove to seize the nymph, but, each time she escaped his grasp. Amazed, Narcissus sank down by the pool and gazed upon that lovely face, which seemed to mock him, and yet held him there. Apollo and his chariot sank into the Western sea, but the Goddess of the Moon shone on the water and showed the nymph still answering his words and holding out her arms to him. The days passed, and Narcissus, unable to tear himself away, grew pale and weak, watching the face, which also grew pale with despairing love. Thus was Echo avenged, for Narcissus slowly starved himself to death through love for his own image! The gods, however, took pity on him and changed his body into a cluster of flowers, which have ever since borne his name.

We have associated Pan, the God of the Shepherds, with this month, and his name is found in a very familiar word in our language. He took a great delight in frightening travellers by creeping up behind them in the dark, and the fear with which he filled them was called “Panic”.

It is interesting to note that just as the Romans held a ceremony of purification during the month of February, so the Christian Church holds the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary on the second day of the month. The feast is called by Roman Catholics, Candlemas, because it is the custom to have a procession in which candles are carried, and it is on this occasion that the candles to be used in the church during the year are consecrated.

The weather at Candlemas is said to show what the weather will be like during the year, and an old proverb says:

“If Candlemas is fair and clear,
There’ll be twa winters in the year”.

The Old English name for February was Sprout-Kale, since the cabbage begins to sprout at this time of the year. It was later changed to Solmonath–sun month–because it is the time when the sun rises higher in the sky and begins to drive away the chill of winter with its glowing rays.

March–The Month of Mars

March–The Month of Mars

This month, originally the first in the year, is named after Mars, the God of War. He was the son of Jupiter and Juno, the king and queen of the gods, and was generally represented in a shining suit of armour, with a plumed helmet on his head, a spear in one hand, and a shield in the other. His chariot was driven by the Goddess of War, Bellona, who also watched over his safety in battle; for the gods often took part in the battles which were constantly raging on the earth. During the great fight between the gods and the giants to decide who was to rule the world, Mars was captured by two of the giants, who bound him with iron chains and kept watch over him day and night. After over a year of captivity he was freed by the clever god Mercury, who succeeded in loosening the chains so silently that the giants heard no sound. Mars also took part in the Trojan War, when he was actually wounded.

Mars was loved by Venus, the Goddess of Beauty, but wishing to keep their love a secret from the other gods, they met only during the night, and Mars appointed his servant Alectryon to keep watch and to call him before the sun rose as he did not wish Apollo, the Sun God, to see them. One night Alectryon fell asleep, and so was too late to warn Mars of the sun’s approach. Apollo saw them from his chariot as he drove across the sky, and told Vulcan, the God of Fire, who caught them in a net of steel, and thus held them prisoner, while the other gods made fun of them. As soon as he was set free, Mars, who was filled with anger against Alectryon for failing in his duty, changed  him into a cock, and driving him into a farmyard, condemned him to give warning every day of the sun’s rising–a fanciful explanation why

    “the cock with lively din,
Scatters the rear of darkness thin”.
MILTON–L’Allegro.

The gods, though they themselves were immortal–that is, could never die, nor even grow old–yet sometimes married mortal, the men or women whom they found on the earth, and Mars fell in love with a beautiful girl named Ilia, who had given up her life to serve in the temple of Vesta, the Goddess of Fire. It was the duty of these priestesses of Vesta to guard the fire which continually burned on the altar of the goddess, for the safety of the people was thought to depend on this sacred flame. No Vestal, as these priestesses were called, was allowed to marry, under penalty of death. Ilia, however, in spite of her solemn promise, consented to marry Mars, and keeping her marriage a secret, continued to live in the temple. In course of time she had two sons, Romulus and Remus. Her father and mother, hearing that she had broken her vow, ordered the full punishment of her crime to be carried out; the mother was buried alive, and the children were left in the forest to be killed by the wild beasts.

Thus Ilia perished, but the children were wonderfully saved, so the story tells us, by a wolf, who cared for them as if they had been her own young. They were soon after found by a shepherd, who took them to his home, where they grew up to be strong and brave men. As soon as they had reached manhood they left their home and went out into the world to seek their fortune. Coming to a beautiful country of hills and valleys, they decided to build a great city; but before they had even finished the outer walls, they quarrelled about the name which was to be given to it when it was built. Romulus lost his temper and struck his brother Remus, so that he fell dead to the ground. With the help of a band of wicked and cruel men like himself, Romulus at last succeeded in building a city, which, called Rome, after its founder’s name, was to become one of the most famous cities the world has ever known.

Romulus became the first king of Rome, but he ruled so harshly that the senators, the chief men of the city, determined to rid themselves of him. During an eclipse of the sun, which darkened the city just at the time when Romulus and the senators were assembled in the marketplace, the senators fell on the king with their swords and slew him. They then cut his body into small pieces, which they hid beneath their cloaks. When the light returned and the people found that their king had disappeared, the senators told them that Romulus had been carried off by the gods to Mount Olympus, and ordered a temple to be built in his honour on one of the seven hills of Rome.

Mars took the city of Rome under his special protection, and is said to have sent a shield from heaven, during a time of plague, as a sign that he would always watch over the city. The Romans, afraid lest the shield should be stolen, had eleven other shields made, so like the first that only the priests who guarded them in the temple of Mars could tell which was the one sent from heaven. These priests were called Salii, the Leapers, because they danced war dances when, during the month of March, the shields were carried in a procession through the streets of Rome.

To Mars, as the God of War, the Romans naturally turned for help in war-time, and a Roman general, before setting out, went into the temple of Mars and, touching the sacred shield with the point of his spear, cried “Mars, watch over us!”

The training-ground of the Roman soldiers was called Campus Martius (the Field of Mars), in honour of the God of War, and it was commonly believed that Mars himself led their army into battle and helped to give them the victory. March was named after Mars because of its rough and boisterous weather, and we find the same idea in the minds of the Angles and Saxons, who called it Hlythmonath–the loud or stormy month. Another name for it was Lenctenmonath, the lengthening month, because it is during March that the days rapidly become longer.

April–The Month of Venus

April–The Month of Venus

This month of April has only thirty days, which is the number said to have been given to it by Romulus. The king who came after him gave it only twenty-nine, but Caesar, when he altered the calendar, gave it thirty again.

The name April comes from the Latin word aperire, which means “to open”, and the month was no doubt so named because it is during April that the earth, which has been bound by the sharp frosts of winter, once again opens beneath the warm rays of the sun; the withered sheaths fall away from the ripened buds, which, opening out, disclose to our eyes their long hidden treasures of beautiful colour.

We find that the month was sacred to Venus, the Roman Goddess of Beauty, and some people think for this reason that the name April comes not from aperire, but from Aphrilis, which in turn comes from Aphrodite, the name given to the Goddess of Beauty by the Greeks.

Venus is said to have sprung from the foam of the sea, and to have made her way to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, where, because of her wonderful beauty and grace, she was welcomed as the Goddess of Love and Beauty. All the gods fell in love with her, but she scorned them all, and Jupiter, to punish her for her pride, ordered her to marry Vulcan, the God of Fire, who was deformed and very rough in his manner. He had been thrown from the top of Mount Olympus by Jupiter in a fit of anger. Had he not been a god, he would, of course, have been killed by the fall, but he escaped with a broken leg which made him lame for the rest of his life. He now lived on the earth, and spent his time at the forge making many wonderful and useful things from the metals which he found buried in the mountains. He built gorgeous palaces of gold for the gods, which he decorated with precious stones, forged the terrible thunderbolts used by Jupiter, and also made the arrows used by Venus’s son, Cupid. Vulcan was naturally worshiped by all blacksmiths and workers in metal, and a great festival called the Vulcanalia was held in his honour.

Cupid, whom we have just mentioned, was the God of Love; he never grew up, but remained a little chubby boy, with beautiful wings. He always carried a bow, and with his arrows pierced the hearts of young men and maidens in order to make them fall in love with one another.

Another son of Venus was Aeneas, the great hero who was supposed to have been the founder of the Roman race. He escaped from Troy, when at the end of ten years’ siege it fell into the hands of the Greeks, and after many adventures reached a part of Italy, called Latium, where in later times his descendants, Romulus and Remus, founded the city of Rome.

The story of Aeneas has been wonderfully told by the Roman poet Virgil in his great work called the Aeneid. In this book Virgil wishes to show that Augustus, the emperor of his time, being a descendant of Aeneas, was also descended from the gods, since Aeneas was said to be the son of Venus.

Part of the story of Troy, or Ilium, is told in the Iliad of Homer, the great Greek poet. We read there of the fierce struggles which took place before the walls of the city, of deeds of strength and valour, and particularly of the final combat between the great heroes Hector the Trojan and Achilles the Greek, in which the Trojan was killed. In spite of many successes in the field, the Greeks were unable to gain an entry into the city, nor were the Trojans able to drive the Greeks from the shore, and it seemed as if neither side would ever secure the victory.

At last Ulysses, a Greek prince who was renowned for his cunning, formed a plan for entering the city and thus finally bringing to an end the war that had lasted for ten years. The Greeks built a wooden horse of such size that a number of men could be hidden within its hollow sides. This horse, filled with fighting men led by Ulysses, was left on the shore, while the army embarked in their ships and sailed away as if tired of the endless struggle. The Greeks also left behind a cunning slave, named Sinon, who was to play an important part in the plot. The Trojans, overjoyed at the departure of the Greeks, flocked down to the shore and crowded round the enormous wooden horse, full of wonderment at its strangeness. Many wished to drag it into the city at once, while some were filled with suspicion and urged their companions to distrust anything made by their enemies. Sinon, when questioned by the Trojans, pretended that he had been ill-treated by the Greeks, and spoke with hatred and anger against them. He explained that the horse was an offering to the sea god, Neptune, whose help the Greeks would need on their journey home, and he advised the Trojans to seize it and take it into the city. In spite even of those who suggested that armed men might be hidden in the horse, the Trojans dragged it into the city with great triumph, pulling down part of the wall to admit it, since it was too large to go through the gates.

Then followed a night of feast and revelry; the Trojans in their excitement laid aside their armour and their weapons, and gave themselves up to wild merrymaking. The smoky flare of the torches lit up a scene of mad delight. Suddenly shouts of alarm arose on every side, followed by the clash of weapons. Armed men poured in on the astonished Trojans, and in a short time Troy was in the hands of the Greeks. Under cover of the darkness and the noise Ulysses and his companions had crept from their hiding-place, had overpowered the careless sentries, and opened the gates for the Greek army, whose ships had returned in the night. Thus, through the help of the clever Ulysses, the Greeks overcame the army that had so often beaten them in the field, and by a trick brought to a victorious end the great Trojan war, for which the Goddess Venus had been responsible, as we shall read in a later chapter.

The Old English name for the month of April was Oster-monath or Easter-monath, because it was the month sacred to Eastre, or Ostara, the Goddess of Spring; the same name is still kept by the Germans, who call it Ostermonath. The time of year known as Easter is named after this goddess, and though Easter is now a Christian festival, it was in the first place a feast held by the Saxons in honour of their goddess Eastre. It was the custom for the people to give one another presents of coloured eggs, because the egg is supposed to represent the beginning of life, and the feast was held in the spring-time, when Nature awakes to a new life from the death of winter. The custom, which we still have, of sending Easter eggs to our friends, is therefore a very, very old one indeed.

May–The Month of Maia

May–The Month of Maia

This month is named after the goddess Maia, to whom the Romans sacrificed on the first day of the month. Maia was one of the Pleiades, the seven daughters of Atlas and Pleione. They were all transformed into pigeons that they might escape from the great hunter Orion, and flying up into the sky were changed into seven stars, which form the constellation known as the Pleiades. On any clear night you may see these stars clustered closely together, but they are not very bright, one of them being very faint indeed. A story says that at first they shone brightly, but after the capture of Troy by the Greeks they grew pale with sorrow. Another story says that all but one were married to gods, and that when they became stars the one who had married a mortal did not shine so brightly as her sisters.

Maia was the Goddess of the Plains and mother of Mercury, the messenger of the gods. In order that he might perform his duties as messenger more swiftly, Mercury was given by Jupiter wings for his feet, and a winged cap for his head. He is said to have invented the lyre, or harp, and to have given it to the Sun-god Apollo, who gave him in return a magic wand called Caduceus, which had the power of making enemies become friends. Mercury, in order to test its power, put it between two fighting snakes, and they at once wound themselves round it. Mercury ordered them to stay on the wand, and, in statues and pictures, the god is nearly always holding in his hand this wand with the snakes twisted round it.

Mercury was not only the messenger of the gods, but was also the God of Rain and Wind, and the protector of travellers, shepherds, and thieves. Festivals were held every year in Rome in his honour during the month of May.

Atlas, the father of the Pleiades, was a giant who lived in Africa and held up the sky on his shoulders. The great Hercules, when seeking for the Golden Apples of the Hesperides (daughters of the Evening Star), came to Atlas to ask him where he could find the apples. Atlas offered to get them for Hercules if he would take his place while he was away, so Hercules took the heavens on his shoulders, and Atlas set off to fetch the golden fruit. But on his return he told Hercules that he must stay where he was, while he himself would take the apples to the king, who had set Hercules the task of finding them. Hercules, as you may imagine, had no wish to spend the rest of his life holding up the sky, and, by a trick, succeeded in getting Atlas back to his place, and so was able to set out on his homeward journey.

The last story of Atlas we read in the account of the great hero Perseus, who, after slaying the Gorgon Medusa, passed Atlas on his way home. Now the face of the Gorgon turned to stone all who looked on it, and Atlas, worn out by the terrible burden he had to bear, persuaded Perseus to show him the Gorgon’s head. “Eagerly he gazed for a moment on the changeless countenance, but in an instant the straining eyes were stiff and cold; and it seemed to Perseus, as he rose again into the pale yellow air, that the grey hairs which streamed from the giant’s head were like the snow which rests upon the peak of a great mountain, and that, in place of the trem bling limbs, he saw only the rents and clefts on a rough hill-side.”

Thus Atlas was changed into the mountains which bear his name, and are to be found in the north-west of Africa.

Hercules, whom we have mentioned in this story of Atlas, is one of the best known of the Greek heroes, and to this day we often speak of an especially strong man as a Hercules, and we also have the expression “a Herculean task”. Hercules was a son of Jupiter, and devoted his life to ridding the country of the fierce beasts which brought death and destruction to many of his people. But through the hatred of the goddess Juno, Hercules knew much sorrow, and underwent great trials. To atone for crimes committed in a fit of madness sent upon him by Juno, he was condemned by the gods to become for a year the slave of the King of Argos, who set him twelve labours. The first of these labours was to slay a lion known as the Nemean lion. In spite of the attempts of many brave men to kill this fierce animal, it still continued to carry off men and women, and steal cattle and sheep. Hercules at once set out, and, tracking the lion to its den, seized it by the throat and crushed out its life. He then tore off the lion’s skin and made it into a covering which he always wore.

The second task was also to destroy a monster–a seven-headed serpent, known as the Hydra. Hercules attacked the serpent with a sword and cut off one of its heads, but was horrified to see seven new heads spring from the wound. Thereupon the hero called to his help his friend Iolaus, who seared the wounds with a lighted torch and thus prevented the new heads from growing. In this way Hercules finally slew the cruel Hydra.

Another task set the hero was to capture and tame the horses of the King of Thrace. These horses were fed on human flesh, and the king had ordered all strangers who entered his kingdom to be executed and given as food to the horses. Hercules succeeded in securing these animals, and, after throwing the king to his own horses as a punishment for his cruelty, led them to his master, the King of Argos.

Of the remaining labours, one was the fetching of the Golden Apples of the Hesperides, which we have mentioned; but the most famous was the cleaning of the Augean stables. King Augeas possessed enormous herds of cattle, and their stables had not been cleaned for many years. Hercules might well have lost heart at the sight of such a task, but he very cleverly overcame the difficulty. Near by the stables ran a swift river; this Hercules dammed and turned from its course, making it run through the stables, which in time it washed perfectly clean. Then, his task accomplished, Hercules led the river back to its course.

After a life of trial and labour, Hercules finally met a tragic death. By a trick he was persuaded to put on a robe which had been stained with poison. The poison ate into his flesh, and all the hero’s attempts to tear off the robe were in vain, so at last he resolved to die. He built an enormous funeral pyre by tearing up oak trees by the roots, and then laid himself on the pyre, to which one of his friends put a torch. In a short time roaring flames rose up to the sky and consumed the great Hercules, the man of might.

The Angles and Saxons seemed to have called this month of May “Tri-milchi”, meaning that, owing to the fresh grass of spring, they were able to milk their cows three times a day.

June–The Month of Juno

June–The Month of Juno

The month of June is probably named after Juno, the wife of Jupiter, and queen of the gods. It was held sacred to her, and was thought by the Romans to be the luckiest month for marriage, since Juno was the Goddess of Marriage. Wherever the goddess went she was attended by her messenger Iris (the Rainbow), who journeyed so quickly through the air that she was seldom seen, but after she had passed there was often left in the sky the radiant trail of her highly-coloured robe.

Juno is always represented as a tall, beautiful woman, wearing a crown and bearing a sceptre in her hand, and often she is shown with a peacock at her side, since that bird was sacred to her.

A story is told of one of her servants, Argus, who had a hundred eyes, only a few of which he closed at a time. Juno set him to watch over a cow which Jupiter wished to steal, for it was really a beautiful girl named Io, whom Jupiter had transformed. Mercury was sent by Jupiter to carry off Io, and by telling long and wearisome stories to Argus at last succeeded in lulling him into so deep a sleep that he closed all his eyes. The god then seized Argus’s own sword and cut off his head. Juno was very sad at the loss of her servant, and gathering up his hundred eyes scattered them over the tail of the peacock, her favourite bird.

Juno was of a very jealous disposition, and when angered brought all the misfortune she possibly could on the one who had offended her. At a wedding-feast at which the gods and goddesses were present, Eris, the Goddess of Discord, or Quarrelling, suddenly appeared. She had not been invited because of her evil nature, and in order to have her revenge, she threw on to the table a golden apple bearing the inscription, “To the fairest”. A quarrel at once arose as to whom the apple should be given, for it was claimed by Juno, the Queen of Heaven, Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, and Venus, the Goddess of Beauty. Being unable to decide among themselves, they determined to appoint as judge a shepherd named Paris, who was really the son of the King of Troy. The three goddesses appeared before him on a mountain top, and each in turn tried to persuade him by the promise of a great reward. Minerva offered him wisdom and knowledge, Juno offered him wealth and power, while Venus

        “drawing nigh,
Half-whispered in his ear, ‘I promise thee
The fairest and most loving wife in Greece'”.

Paris at once gave the apple to Venus, and thus angered Juno and Minerva, who determined to punish him whenever all opportunity occurred. This they were soon able to do, for Paris, prompted by Venus, carried off Helen, the most beautiful woman in all Greece, and brought her to his own city of Troy. This led to the Trojan War, which we have mentioned. The Trojans who made their escape from the city were persecuted by Juno, who brought them into many terrible dangers.

Juno, though jealous and unforgiving, gave ungrudging help to those whom she favoured, and an example of this is seen in the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. When Jason was a child, his father Aeson, had been driven from his kingdom by his brother Pelias, and Jason, as soon as he reached manhood, determined to avenge his father. Accordingly he set out for the court of Pelias, and soon came to a stream much swollen by floods. Knowing no fear, he was about to try to ford the stream, when he saw an old woman on the bank gazing in despair at the foaming waters. He at once offered to help her by taking her on his back, and in spite of the swift stream and his heavy load, succeeded in getting safely across. He lowered the old woman gently to the ground, and was greatly annoyed to find that he had lost one of his sandals in the stream. He turned to bid farewell to the old woman, when she was suddenly transformed into the goddess Juno. Jason begged for her help and protection, which Juno at once promised, and the goddess then vanished. Jason then resumed his journey in all haste, and entering his native city, found Pelias in a temple sacrificing to the gods. He pressed forward through the crowd until he stood close to Pelias, who at length caught sight of this stranger who seemed anxious to speak to him. Fear at once filled his heart, for he remembered that it had been foretold that he should be overthrown by a man who came to him wearing only one sandal. Jason stepped forward and boldly claimed the throne for his father, and Pelias, disguising his fear and anger, invited him to his palace, where they could decide the matter. During the banquet which followed, Jason heard the story of Phrixus and Helle, two children who had escaped from their cruel stepmother on a winged ram with a golden fleece, which bore them far away from their home. As they passed over the sea, the girl Helle fell from the ram’s back into a part of the sea ever since known as the Hellespont (now the Dardanelles). Phrixus reached Colchis, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, in safety, and there sacrificed the ram to the gods and hung its golden fleece on a tree which stood in a poisonous wood and was guarded by a serpent. The cunning Pelias dared Jason to try to win the Golden Fleece, hoping that thus he would be rid of him for ever. Jason in his excitement forgot the crime which he had come to avenge, and recklessly promised to bring the fleece to Pelias. With the help of Juno, he gathered together a number of heroes, and this famous band, called the Argonauts from the name of their ship the Argo, set out for Colchis. Arriving there after many adventures, they sought the king and told him of their errand. The king, however, was unwilliiig to part with the fleece, and said that Jason must first catch two wild bulls, which breathed fire and had hoofs of brass, harness them to a plough, and make them plough a field; then he was to sow the field with serpents’ teeth, from which would spring up armed men whom he must conquer, and finally he was to kill the serpent which guarded the fleece. Jason did not lose heart when he heard these terrible conditions, but returned to his ship to think out how he might, fulfil them. On his way to the shore he met the king’s daughter Medea, who possessed magic powers. She had fallen in love with Jason, and she told him how he could perform the tasks her father had set. The next day Jason, relying on Medea’s help, faced the bulls without fear, seized them by the horns, and, after a great struggle, harnessed them to a plough. As soon as he had ploughed the field he sowed the serpents’ teeth, and when the armed men sprang up on all sides he threw his helmet amongst them. The warriors thought that they had been struck by one of their own number, with the result that they fell upon each other and fought until they all lay dead on the ground. Medea then led Jason to the tree to which the fleece was fastened, and soothing the terrible serpent by her magic, enabled Jason to cut off its head. He quickly snatched the Golden Fleece from the tree, and with Medea hastened to the shore, whence they set sail in triumph. They wandered far and suffered many misfortunes, but through Juno’s help they at last reached their native land. Jason compelled Pelias to give up the kingdom to Aeson, who was now an old man. Medea, however, in some strange way was able to restore Aeson to his youth and strength, and Pelius’ daughters, when they heard of this, asked her how they might do the same for their father. Medea, seeing her opportunity, gave them false instructions, which they followed, only to find that instead of making their father young again they had killed him.

This month of June was called by the Angles and Saxons the “dry month”, and sometimes the “earlier mild month”–July being the second mild month.

July–The Month of Julius Caesar

July–The Month of Julius Caesar

This month was first called Quintilis, that is, the fifth month, which shows that the year began with March. In the year 44 B.C. the name was changed to Julius in honour of Julius Caesar, the founder of the Roman Empire. The month Quintilis was chosen as the one to be named after the Emperor Julius because his birthday was on the twelfth of that month After his death, the name Caesar became a title of the Roman Emperors, and we still have the word in the titles Kaiser of Germany, Czar (or Tsar) of Russia, and Kaisar-i-Hind (Emperor of India), one of the titles of our own king.

Julius Caesar was a very great soldier, and it was by skill as a general that he became the first emperor the Romans had. Until his time they had no supreme ruler, the chief office being that of consul. There were two consuls who had to be elected, and who only served for a certain length of time. The Romans hated the name of king, and Caesar, who seemed to have really wished for the title, was afraid to take it, in case it should turn the people against him. In 44 B.C. at the feast of the Lupercalia, held, as we have said, in February, the crown was actually offered to him by Marcus Antonius, a great Roman noble.

“You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse.”
SHAKESPEARE–Julius Caesar.

Caesar made himself master of all Italy, conquered the whole of Gaul (i.e. France) and Spain, and won great victories in Greece, Egypt, and Africa. But he is famous not only as a soldier; he was a great statesman, a great orator, and a clever writer and historian. He formed several plans for the improvement of Roman life, and took a great interest in the building of public works. He reformed the calendar, as we have seen, and he wished to have the Roman law set out in a clear way, so that it could be easily understood; he had plans for draining marsh land near Rome in order to make the country more healthy, for enlarging the harbour of Ostia, a very important port near Rome, and for making a canal through the Isthmus of Corinth in Greece.

In the year 44 B.C., before he could carry out any of these very useful plans, he was killed in Rome by men who had once been his friends, but were now jealous of his power. Shakespeare describes this tragedy in his play Julius Caesar, and makes Marcus Antonius, when looking upon the murdered Caesar, say:

“Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times”.

Caesar is particularly interesting to us because he came to our island in the days of the Ancient Britons. In one of his books he tells us that there were great numbers of people, many buildings, and much cattle. There were trees of every kind, as in Gaul, except the beech and the fir.

“The hare, the hen, and the goose they do not think it right to eat, but they keep them for amusement and pleasure. Most of those living inland do not sow corn, but live on milk and flesh, and are clothed in skins. All stain themselves with woad, which gives a blue colour, and makes them of more hideous appearance in battle. They have long hair, but shave every part of their body except the head and upper lip.”

At the time of Caesar’s invasion London was a stronghold of the Britons, and was very probably attacked and captured by Caesar. The first mention of London in history is in a book by a Roman historian named Tacitus, who, in describing what happened in the year A.D. 61, tells us that the Roman general leading the army here in Britain was unable to hold the town at the time of Boadicea’s revolt. London was then very largely destroyed, but the Romans rebuilt it and gave it a new name, Augusta, in honour of their Emperor Augustus. This shows that it was a place of great importance even in those early days.

The days from 3rd July to 11th August, ‘the hottest part of the year, were called by the Romans, “dog-days”, because they thought the great heat was due to Sirius, the dog-star. Sirius was a dog belonging to the giant Orion, who was a great hunter. Diana, the Goddess of the Moon, was also the Goddess of Hunting, and after she had driven her chariot with its white horses across the starlit sky, she spent the day hunting in the forests. Here she often met Orion, and soon fell in love with him. This angered her brother Apollo, the sun-god, who determined to put an end to their friendship. One day he called Diana to him, and began to talk about her skill as an archer. Pretending that he wished to test her skill, he asked her to shoot at a dark speck which could be seen floating far out at sea. Diana, all unsuspecting, at once drew her bow, and so strong and true was her aim that she hit the object, which disappeared beneath the waves. She then found that the dark speck was the head of Orion, who had been cooling himself in the sea after his hunting. She was filled with grief at his death, and vowed never to forget him, placed him and his dog Sirius in the sky. The constellation Orion can easily be found on a clear for the stars forming his belt and sword are unmistakable. Following behind the giant is the very bright star Sirius–“the scorching flames of fierce Orion’s hound”. Virgil in his Aeneid describes one of the heroes of Latium as being “as great as Orion, who, walking on foot through the deep waters of the very middle of the sea, making himself a path, yet rises above the billows with his shoulders; or carrying down an ancient ash from the summit of the mountains, has his feet on the earth, his head shrouded by the clouds of heaven”.

The Angles and Saxons had two names for this month of July: Hegmonath, the hay-month, and Maedmonath, the mead-month. A third name was sometimes given to it–the “latter mild month”, that is, the second warm month.

August–The Month of Augustus

August–The Month of Augustus

This month is also named after a great Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar, but was first called Sextilis, the sixth month. Augustus, whose full name was Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus–Augustus (the Majestic) being a title given him after he became emperor–was a young man at the time of Caesar’s murder. Julius, who had no son of his own, adopted Augustus as his son and heir, in order that when he died Augustus should become emperor in his place. The nobles who had killed Julius, however, did not wish Augustus to become emperor, and it was not until he had fought and won many battles that he became the head of the Roman Empire. As soon as he had conquered all his enemies, he returned to Rome, and, closing the temple of Janus, proclaimed peace throughout the Empired. During his reign there lived the greatest poets and writers that Rome ever had, of whom the best known are Virgil, Horace, Ovid, and Livy; just as in the rein of our Queen Elizabeth there lived some of England’s greatest poets and writers–in fact the time from Spenser and Sidney in Elizabeth’s reign, passing beyond Shakespeare to Milton in Charles II’s reign, is spoken of as the “Augustan Age” of English Literature.

The month known as Sextilis was chosen as the one to be named after Augustus, because it was during that month that the most fortunate events of his life had happened. In that month he had first become consul, the most important man in Rome; he had three times entered the city in triumph after his great victories; he had conquered Egypt and had ended the civil wars. As the month had only thirty days, and the one named after Julius Caesar had thirty-one, a day was taken from February in order to make them equal.

We have more than once mentioned the poet Virgil’s most famous work, the in which he describes the wanderings of Aeneas, who gathered together all that was left of the Trojan army and escaped from the fallen city, carrying his father Anchises on his back, since he was old and weak and unable to walk. The fugitives reached the shore in safety and sailed away from their ruined country. But the goddess Juno, not satisfied by the death of Paris and the disaster which had fallen on the Trojans, pursued Aeneas and his followers with her hatred, and again and again brought them into misfortune. They wandered from country to country for many years, seeking a spot where they might settle down in peace and safety, but Juno gave them no rest. She brought sickness upon them so that many died, and sent fierce storms which scattered their fleet and destroyed many of their ships. At last they reached a harbour on the coast of Africa, and made their way to a city which they found to be Carthage. Aeneas was welcomed by Dido, the queen of the city, who listened eagerly to the story of his adventures. Now, Aeneas had been destined by the gods to found a new kingdom, when his wanderings finally came to an end, but the time was not yet. The goddess Venus caused Dido to fall in love with Aeneas, and the hero, happy in her love and the pleasant life of her court, lingered on. A year passed, and the gods at length sent Mercury to remind Aeneas of his destiny. Aeneas’ heart sank at the thought of leaving the beautiful Dido, and afraid of her anger, he secretly set sail one dark night while the queen was sleeping. When Dido discovered her loss she was filled with grief. She ordered her servants to make a funeral pyre on which was placed an effigy of her lover, and then setting fire to the pyre with her own hand, she sprang into the flames and perished.

Aeneas and his companions sailed on till they reached the Island of Sicily, where they took refuge from a storm. During a festival which the men then held in honour of Anchises, Aeneas’ father, who had died just a year before, Juno stirred up the women to revolt against their hard life. Tired of their perilous wanderings, they gathered on the shore and set fire to the ships. Aeneas, when he heard of this new disaster, rushed down to the shore, and cried to Jupiter for help. In answer to the prayer, the King of the Gods sent a storm of rain, which put out the destroying flames. The Trojans then left Sicily, and, coming to Italy, to the mouth of the River Tiber, they followed the river until they reached the country of Latium. Here they were well received by the king, Latinus, who offered to Aeneas the hand of his daughter Lavinia. Lavinia, however, had many suitors, the chief of whom was Turnus, the prince of a neighbouring country, and Juno once again interfered by stirring up the people of Latium against Aeneas, with the result that Latinus made war on his former friend. Turnus led the army against the Trojans, and performed great deeds of valour, which were only matched by those of Aeneas. While Juno was assisting Turnus in every possible way, Venus was not forgetful of her son Aeneas, and she obtained from Vulcan, the God of Fire, a wonderful suit of armour, which enabled Aeneas to do even mightier deeds. Turnus and Aeneas at length met in single combat, and, after a fierce encounter, Turnus was killed. Peace was made with Latinus, and Aeneas married Lavinia. He founded a city, which he called Lavinia, and his descendants reigned in Latium for many years. It was one of his race, the Vestal Ilia, who marred Mars and became the mother of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome.

One of the famous passages in the Aeneid is the description of the shield given to Aeneas by the goddess Venus. On this shield Vulcan, knowing the future, had depicted the history of the descendants of Aeneas, and had foretold the glory of Rome. He showed the wolf nursing the two sons of Mars and Ilia, the wars which followed the founding of Rome, and the brave Horatius, who defended the bridge over the Tiber against the army of Tarquin. With wonderful skill he pictured the sacred geese giving warning to the Romans of the approach of the Gauls in the dead of night. “Manlius stood before the temple and kept the lofty Capitol; a silver goose flitting through arches of gold gave warning with its cries that the Gauls were on the threshold; the Gauls were drawing near through the bushes, and were grasping the Citadel, protected by the darkness and the favour of a gloomy night. Their hair is golden and their dress of gold, their cloaks are striped, their milk-white necks are encircled with bands of gold; each brandishes in his hand two Alpine javelins, and their bodies are protected by their long shields.” In the middle of the shield Vulcan had depicted the famous sea-battle of Actium, in which the Emperor Augustus overthrew his enemies, and finally he showed the emperor seated at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo, and receiving the offerings of the conquered nations of the great Roman Empire.

The Old-English name for August was Hlaf-maesse, that is, Loaf Mass, or Loaf Feast, because during the month was held a feast of thanksgiving for the first fruits of the corn, August being the time when harvesting begins. The first day is sometimes called Lammas Day, lammas being a slightly altered form of the word hlaf-maesse.

September–The Seventh Month

September–The Seventh Month

The name of this month means simply “seventh”, and so suggests to us neither god nor hero. We find, however, that there were several festivals held in the month, and not the least important of these was one held on the second of the month, and known as the Actian Games. On this day, in the year 31 B.C., was fought the great sea battle, off Actium in Greece, in which Augustus defeated Marcus Antonius and the Egyptian queen Cleopatra. On the promontory of Actium stood a temple to Apollo, and from that time onward games in honour of Apollo were held on each anniversary of the victory. It was a common custom among the Greeks and Romans to hold games or sports in honour of a god, and the most famous of all, the Olympic Games were held every four years in Greece in honour of Zeus, the Roman Jupiter. These games lasted for five days, and consisted of foot-races, chariot-races, wrestling, boxing, throwing the quoit and the javelin. The first prize was usually a wreath made from the laurel tree, the favourite tree of Apollo. A story says that Apollo fell in love with Daphne, a beautiful wood-nymph and daughter of a river-god. Daphne, however, did not return Apollo’s love, and on one occasion ran away from him. The sun-god pursued her, calling to her that he meant no harm, but just as he was within reach of her she prayed to her father for help. She at once became rooted to the ground, and found that her limbs were rapidly changing into branches and her hair into leaves. When Apollo stretched out his hands to catch her, he found nothing in his grasp but the trunk of a tree. The river-god had changed his daughter into a laurel. From that time onward Apollo took the laurel for his favourite tree, and said that prizes given to poets and musicians–for Apollo was also god of music and poetry–should be wreaths made from the leaves of that tree. Thus the laurel wreath came to be more eagerly sought after than gold or silver.

The Olympic Games which we have mentioned are the origin of the Olympic Games which have been held in Europe and America every fourth year for some years past. They are held at the capital of each of the great countries in turn, and they were held in London at the Shepherd’s Bush Exhibition in 1908. The chief event is the Marathon Race, which in 1908 was run from Windsor to the Stadium at the Exhibition, a distance of 25 miles. This race has its origin in an historical event of the year 490 B.C. In that year was fought the great battle of Marathon between the Greeks and the invading Persians. In spite of the far greater numbers of the Persian army, the Greeks won a glorious victory. Now, in the ranks of the Greek army was a famous runner named Pheidippides, who had won many a prize in the Games. When the Persians had been put to flight, the Greek general sent for Pheidippides and bade him run with the news of the victory to Athens (the capital of Greece), distant nearly 25 miles, where all those unable to fight were awaiting anxiously the result of the battle. Pheidippides, although tired by his share in the battle, at once set off on his long journey. In time the strain of the task began to tell upon him, and it was only by a great effort that he was able to continue his course. At last, with aching limbs and faltering step, he came in sight of the city. The Athenians, seeing him in the distance, ran eagerly to meet him; falling into the arms of the foremost of them, the runner with his last breath gasped, “Rejoice, we conquer”. Even as the joyful words left his lips, Pheidippides sank lifeless in the arms that held him, and his brave spirit went forth on its last journey to meet the Heroes of the Past.

“So, when Persia was dust, all cried, ‘To Akropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
“Athens is saved, thank Pan,” go shout!’ He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the Fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: ‘Rejoice, we conquer!’ Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, he died–the bliss!”
ROBERT BROWNING–Pheidippides.

Famous among the very old stories of the Greeks is that of the swift-footed Atalanta, the daughter of the King of Arcadia. This king had longed for a son who might succeed him, and on the birth of Atalanta was filled with anger and disappointment. He ordered her to be taken away while she was still a baby, and left on a mountain top at the mercy of the wild beasts. Here she was found by some hunters, who took pity on her and carried her to their home. As she grew up, they taught her to hunt, and in time she became more skilled in running and in the chase than they all. She took part with some of the great heroes in a famous hunt for a wild boar, which she finally helped to kill. Her father, hearing of her skill, welcomed her back, and since he still had no son, urged her to marry one of the many suitors who came to the court. Atalanta, however, had no desire to marry, and knowing that she could run more swiftly than any of those who sought her hand in marriage, she declared that she would only marry the man who could outrun her. She also decreed that every one who failed to win should pay for his defeat with his life. In spite of these cruel conditions, many eager youths tried to win her, but she outran them all, and their heads were exposed on the race-course in order to frighten others who might wish to marry her.

At last there came to the court of the King of Arcadia a young man named Milanion, who was determined to win Atalanta for his wife. He had previously sought the help and protection of Venus, and in answer to his prayer the goddess had given him three golden apples. The proud Atalanta accepted Milanion’s challenge, and once again the course was thronged with people eager to see the daring youth. The signal was given, and the runners darted forward. Atalanta soon passed Milanion, who then threw at her feet one of his golden apples. She paused a moment, tempted by the glittering object, then stooping, she quickly snatched it up and raced after Milanion, who was by this time ahead of her. She soon overtook him, when he throw down a second golden apple, and again she stopped to pick it up. A third time the swift maiden passed the youth, once more to be tempted by the golden fruit. Sure of her skill, she paused to seize the third golden apple, but before she could overtake Milanion he had reached the goal. Atalanta, bound by her promise, consented to marry the victorious Milanion, and their wedding was celebrated amid great rejoicing.

The Old-English name for September was “Gerstmonath”, which means “barley month”, since during September the barley crop was usually harvested.

October–The Eighth Month

October–The Eighth Month

In this, the “eighth” month, was held a great festival at Eleusis, a town twelve miles from Athens, in honour of the Greek goddess Demeter. The Roman name for Demeter was Ceres, and she was worshiped as the Goddess of Agriculture, since the fields and their crops were thought to be under her special care. The Greek name Demeter means “Earth Mother”, and the name Ceres has given us the word “cereals”, a general name for wheat, barley, rye, and oats.

Ceres had a daughter, Persephone, who spent a great part of her time wandering with her companions on the slopes and plains of Sicily. One day, as Persephone and her maidens were plucking flowers and weaving them into garlands, Pluto, the God of the Underworld, rode by in his dark chariot drawn by four black horses. Attracted by Persephone’s beauty, he determined to carry her off and make her his queen.

One story says that he caused a most wonderful flower to spring up, and Persephone, seeing it in the distance and wishing to gather it, was thus separated from her companions. As she stooped to pluck the flower the earth opened, and Pluto in his chariot came up from the Underworld and, seizing Persephone, carried her down to his dark and gloomy home.

Another story says that as soon as he saw Persephone he walked quickly towards her, and before she could guess his intention, caught her up and, carrying her in spite of her struggles to his chariot, drove away at topmost speed. He at length reached a river, whose roaring torrent it was impossible to cross. Afraid to turn back lest he should meet Ceres, he struck the earth such a blow with the two-pronged fork which he always carried as the emblem of his power, that the ground opened beneath him, and thus he was able to reach his dark kingdom of Hades in safety. This Hades, the Underworld to which Pluto had brought Persephone, was the home of the dead, the place to which came the spirits of those who had died, there to receive a fitting reward for their deeds on earth.

From Pluto’s throne flowed five rivers:

1. Styx (the Hateful), a sacred river, and one by which the gods “fear to swear, and not keep their oath”. It was also the river which had to be crossed by the spirits before they could reach the throne. They were ferried across by an old boatman named Charon, who charged them an obol, about ½d. of our money. It was the custom, when a man died, for his relations to put an obol under his tongue, so that he might have no difficulty in crossing the Styx. Those who came without their obol had to wait a hundred years, after which time Charon would take them across free of charge.

2. Acheron (Pain), a dark and very deep river that also had to be crossed by the spirits.

3. Lethe (Forgetfulness), which had the power of making all those who drank of its waters forget the past.

4. Phlegethon (Blazing), a river of fire which surrounded Tartarus, that part of the Underworld to which were sent the spirits of evil-doers, in order that they might suffer punishment for their wicked deeds.

5. Cocytus (Wailing), a river of salt water, the tears of those condemned to the torments of Tartarus.

In a distant part of Hades, far removed from the place of torment, were the Elysian Fields. Here dwelt the great and the good, in perpetual day, and amid the ever-blooming flowers of an eternal spring.

While the frightened Persephone was thus, against her will, made queen of this sunless kingdom of the dead, Ceres, with many tears, was seeking her daughter in the flower-strewn meadows, but all in vain. After many wanderings in Italy, and even in Greece, where she visited the city of Eleusis mentioned above, Ceres at last learnt of Persephone’s fate, but her joy at finding that she was safe was turned to grief by the thought that Pluto would never allow her to come back to the happiness of the sun-lit earth.

Meanwhile the goddess had neglected all her duties; the flowers withered away, the trees shed their leaves, the fruit was fast falling from the branches, and the crops could not ripen. The time of harvest was quickly passing, and the people, threatened with famine, and finding that their prayers to the goddess were unheeded, appealed to Jupiter to save them from starvation and death by allowing Persephone to return to the upper world. Jupiter at last consented, and said that Pluto must give up Persephone, provided that she had not eaten anything since the time when she had been carried off. Unfortunately that very day she had tasted a pomegranate which Pluto had given her, and she was compelled to stay with her husband one month for each of the six seeds she had eaten. So for six months she has to live in the Underworld, and there in the thick gloom, never pierced by a ray of sunshine, she waits for the time when she may return to the sun-kissed hills and plains of her favourite land, where, happy in her mother’s smile, she dances with her companions amid the flowers.

“Persephone to Ceres has returned
From that dark god who stole her for his bride,
And bids the Earth, that for her coming yearned,
Its sombre garb of mourning lay aside.
The sun o’ertops the clouds with wonted speed,
And so to give the goddess honour due,
O’er hill and dale, o’er mountain-side and mead,
Now scatters flowers of many a wondrous hue.
The trees that shed their leaves, each leaf a tear,
Now deck themselves again in bright array,
And Man delights to see the Winter drear
Yield place to Spring, and Night to gladsome Day.”

At length comes the time when once more Persephone must return to her desolate home, and with heavy heart she leaves the sorrowing Ceres.

“Persephone is called away,
And Ceres weeps
That she must go; while o’er the Earth
Now slowly creeps
The gloom of death; fled is that smile
Of love that made
All Nature waken into life,
And all things fade.”

The Old-English name for October was “Winterfylleth”, that is, “winter full moon”, because winter was supposed to begin at the October full moon.