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C entries
Cadmus (CAD-mus). Phoenician founder of Thebes, brother of Europa. Cadmus went looking for his sister when she was carried off by Zeus in the form of a bull. The Oracle of Delphi told him to abandon the search. Instead he was to venture forth until he should meet a cow, to follow this cow wherever it should lead and found a city upon the spot where it lay down. Cadmus populated his new city by sowing dragon teeth which sprouted into warriors. Cadmus taught them the alphabet, which he had brought from Phoenicia.
Caeneus (SEEN-yoos). Originally the maiden Caenis, changed by Poseidon into a supposedly invulnerable fighter. Caeneus angered Zeus by walking into the marketplace one day and demanding that his spear be worshipped as a god. Determined to punish this sacrilege, Zeus had to give careful thought to bringing about the demise of a fighter who could not be killed in combat. He achieved his end by turning the centaurs against Caeneus. They killed him by pounding him into the ground.
Caenis (SEE-nis). A young nymph loved by Poseidon. One day the god said he would give Caenis anything she wanted in token of his affection. She asked to be changed into a man, and an invulnerable fighter at that. Although this was the last thing Poseidon had expected or wished to hear, he obliged, and Caenis became Caeneus. Under her - or rather his - new name, Caeneus became a great warrior and got so carried away with his prowess that he walked into the middle of town one day and propped up his spear in the marketplace.
"From now on, everybody," said Caeneus, "you will worship my spear as a god."
Zeus, hearing this, thought to punish the heresy. Since Caeneus was invulnerable, the great god had to be clever in bringing about his downfall. He decided to get the centaurs stirred up against Caeneus, figuring that these rough and ready beast-men would find a way to do him in. And sure enough they did.
It happened at the wedding of Theseus's friend, Peirithous the Lapith. The centaurs were unwisely treated to wine and it went straight to their heads, inspiring them to attempt to abduct the bride. Caeneus came to her defense and started killing centaurs right and left. The rest ganged up on him and, finding that he was impervious to weapons, they pounded him into the ground. Caeneus suffocated and, dying, turned back into a woman.
Castor (CASS-ter). Mortal brother of the immortal hero Polydeuces, together the Dioscuri or Hero Twins. Polydeuces was considered godly enough to be admitted to heavenly Olympus, while his brother was dispatched to the Underworld as a mere mortal. But Polydeuces interceded on his twin's behalf, on the plea that he could not bear eternal separation. The gods relented to the extent that the two were allowed to remain together forever, spending half the year deep in the earth beneath their shrine in Sparta and the other half on Olympus.
centaurs (SEN-tawrz). Creatures part human and part horse. The centaurs were descendants of Centaurus, a son of the music god Apollo. Most centaurs were governed by the bestial half of their double nature. Their behavior was uncouth, and a very small amount of wine drove them wild.
When Heracles was entertained by Pholus, one of the few civilized centaurs, he made the mistake of demanding the guest's prerogative of a beaker of wine. Pholus could not refuse, though he hesitated before unearthing a jug of the liquid which he kept buried underground for fear of just the sort of consequence which now ensued.
As soon as Pholus uncapped the jar of wine, his brothers caught scent of it on the wind from more than a mile away. Driven instantly to madness, they attacked Heracles, and the hero barely succeeded in driving them off with flaming arrows.
Wine also caused the centaurs to fight with other guests at the wedding feast of Theseus's friend Peirithous. It was on this occasion that they destroyed the supposedly invulnerable Caeneus.
On another occasion, a centaur named Nessus offered to ferry Heracles' wife across a torrent on his back. Midway, his animal nature got the better of him and he tried to force his attentions on his passenger. She shrieked and Heracles came running. He killed Nessus with a single arrow through the heart.
Chiron was not an ordinary centaur, having ended up with his horsely half by virtue of his father, the god Cronus, taking the form of a horse when Chiron was conceived. Chiron became renowned for his civility and wisdom. He served as tutor to many famous heroes, including Heracles and Jason. He taught music and medicine as well as the skills of the hunt.
Centaurus (sen-TAWR-us). Progenitor of the centaurs; son of Ixion and a cloud. This unorthodox parentage came about when Ixion, who had thrown his father-in-law into a fiery pit, was purified of the crime by Zeus. Rather than give thanks for the divine favor, he tried to seduce Zeus's wife. Hera warned her husband what was afoot, and Zeus fashioned a cloud into Hera's likeness. Ixion made a pass at the cloud and was caught in the act. He was immediately consigned to the Underworld for eternal punishment, but not before the cloud became pregnant with Centaurus.
Cerberus (SUR-buh-rus). Hades' guard dog, a relative of both the Chimaera and the Hydra. Cerberus was carried up from Hades by Heracles in one his Labors. This was achieved only after a protracted battle in which the hero was mauled by the hound's fangs and menaced by snakes growing from his back and tail. In contrast, Cerberus abandoned his watchdog task and lay down meekly to the strains of Orpheus's lyre when that minstrel journeyed to the Underworld in search of his dead wife Eurydice. The poison used in Medea's attempt to murder Theseus was made from Cerberus's drool.
Ceres (SIR-eez). Roman name of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, sister of Zeus, and mother of Persephone. When Persephone was abducted to the Underworld by its ruler Hades, Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the length and breadth of the earth in search of her daughter, during which time the crops withered and it became perpetual winter..
Charon (CARE-on). Spectral figure who ferried the dead across the river Styx, a bribe for whom persisted into modern times. The custom was to place a coin in the mouth of a corpse to secure its passage into Hades. Charon was not well disposed to passengers who were still living. Heracles had to muster up all his powers of intimidation when dispatched to bring back Cerberus to the upper world as one of his Labors. But Orpheus merely played a particularly enchanting strain on his lyre to induce Charon to pole him across the Styx.
Charybdis (kuh-RIB-dis). Mythological whirlpool off the coast of Sicily that sucked down vast quantities of water three times a day. Together with the monster Scylla, Charybdis was one of twin perils faced by Odysseus. The hero had been warned by Circe that the whirlpool could only be avoided at the cost of passing beneath the cliff harboring Scylla's lair. Sure enough, he timed his passage and steered clear of Charybdis only to lose six sailors to the many-headed Scylla.
Chimaera (kye-MEE-ruh). Fire-breathing monster slain by the hero Bellerophon; related to Cerberus and the Hydra. The Chimaera was part lion, part goat and part snake, although accounts differed as to how these parts were assembled. King Iobates of Lycia sent Bellerophon after the beast in the expectation that the hero would never return. But with the help of the gods and the flying horse Pegasus, Bellerophon rid Lycia of its multiple monster.
Chiron (KYE-ron). A kindly centaur, Chiron was sired by Cronus when in the form of a horse. The other centaurs, who were notoriously uncivilized and prone to violence when intoxicated, were of a different lineage. Chiron was tutor to Jason and Heracles.
Circe (SUR-see). Enchantress of divine lineage, sister of King Aeetes of Colchis, friend and advisor to Odysseus. It was Circe who told the hero that he would have to make a side trip to Hades on his route home from the Trojan War. And it was Circe who advised Odysseus that in choosing between the twin perils of Scylla and Charybdis, he could avoid one or the other but not both.
Clashing Rocks. Twin crags that menaced Jason and the Argonauts; also known as the Symplegades. As the vessel bearing the Argonauts approached the Clashing Rocks, Jason released a bird which flew between them first, causing them to spring together. As they were drawing apart to repeat the process, the Argonauts shot the gap. The Clashing Rocks were different from the Wandering Rocks.
Colchis (COL-chis). The kingdom of Aeetes on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, Aeetes hung the Golden Fleece until it was retrieved by Jason and the Argonauts.
Corinth (CORE-inth). City commanding the narrow neck of land that links the major regions of Greece, legendarily founded by Sisyphus and later ruled by Jason's uncle Pelias. In historical times, Corinth was the site of a magnificent temple to Apollo. Fabled of old for its wealth, Corinth was ultimately destroyed by the Romans and rebuilt as a Roman colony. Many of its most impressive remains are from the Roman period.
Crete (kreet or KREE-tee). Large Aegean island; site of the Bronze Age high culture known as Minoan. In myth Crete was ruled by King Minos, who periodically demanded a tribute of young men and maidens of Athens to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, the monster of the Labyrinth.
Crete was the site of the earliest high civilization in Europe. For two thousand years there flourished a culture called Minoan, after King Minos. This civilization was characterized by unique artwork and architecture, notably the imposing complex of buildings at Knossos. The layout of Knossos was so complicated that it would have been incomprehensible to visitors, contributing to the myth of the Labyrinth.
Guides at Knossos today escort visitors to gaze in awe at the "throne of King Minos", but such ceremonial seats as have been restored more likely served a presiding religious official than a king. The "palace" itself may have been a religious center. And since the deity worshipped was female, the throne was as likely to have served for a priestess as a priest or king.
The abrupt end of the high Minoan civilization has always been a great mystery. It is now believed that the eruption of the nearby volcanic island of Thera, with its shock wave, clouds of ash and tidal waves, weakened the civilization so much that mainlanders were able to take over rule of Crete. Indeed, when Krakatoa, a volcano in the South China Sea, erupted in 1883 the sonic reverberations traveled three times around the world, and the sky in New Haven, Connecticut, glowed so strangely that the fire department was called out. Ash was ejected almost twenty miles into the air, and day was turned to night for almost three hundred miles around. It has been estimated that the magma chamber of the Thera volcano was five times as large as that of Krakatoa.
Thera is today called Santorini. Its steep cliffs are remnants of the volcano's rim, and the harbor is actually its flooded interior. The eruption left the volcano hollow inside, and when it collapsed some time later the waters of the Aegean rushed into the cavity. Rebounding when they hit bottom, they caused a tsunami or tidal wave. A tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile in 1960 was still thirty-five feet high when it reached Hawaii. It is estimated that the Santorini tidal wave started at a comparable height and was still twenty-two feet tall when it reached the shore of what is today Israel. This would have destroyed the low-lying coastal settlements of Crete. Folk memories of this event may underlie the legend of the lost island-continent of Atlantis.
The palace of Knossos burned down a number of times. Open flames, resinous wood and a plenitude of oil storage jars make for a volatile combination in earthquake country. The final conflagration, however, was caused neither by an earthquake nor the volcanic eruption of a neighboring isle. Though its source remains a mystery, it left a profound impression on the people of Knossos. The site was abandoned, as if haunted.
Croesus (KREE-sus). Historical king of proverbial riches. His ancient realm lies within present-day Turkey. Croesus derived his wealth from gold deposits in the river Pactolus, said to have been left there when another king, a mythological one, washed away the Midas touch.
Cronus (KROH-nus). Titan father of Zeus, who usurped him as ruler of the cosmos. This overthrow so enraged the Giants, who like the Titans were sons of the goddess Earth, that they attacked Mount Olympus and almost defeated Zeus and the other Olympians.
Cupid (KYOO-pid). Roman name of Eros, a god of love. Later writers portrayed Eros as a roguish boy, but he was actually one of the most venerable of deities.
According to Hesiod, Chaos was born first, and after Chaos, Earth, Tartarus and Eros. Pausanias says that Eros is commonly considered to be the son of Aphrodite, but elsewhere he describes a sculpture of Eros greeting the goddess as she is born from the sea.
Eros is depicted in Greek art as a beautiful youth.
Cyclopes (sye-KLOH-peez). One-eyed giants of the race that built Olympus for the gods; plural of Cyclops. The Cyclopes, together with the Titans and Giants, were sons of the goddess Earth.
Cyclops (SYE-klops). One-eyed giant of the race that built Olympus for the gods; plural: Cyclopes. The Cyclops who almost devoured Odysseus and all his shipmates on their return from the Trojan War was named Polyphemus. This gigantic goatherd dined on Greeks for nights on end before the hero thought to poke out his eye.
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C entries
Cadmus (CAD-mus). Phoenician founder of Thebes, brother of Europa. Cadmus went looking for his sister when she was carried off by Zeus in the form of a bull. The Oracle of Delphi told him to abandon the search. Instead he was to venture forth until he should meet a cow, to follow this cow wherever it should lead and found a city upon the spot where it lay down. Cadmus populated his new city by sowing dragon teeth which sprouted into warriors. Cadmus taught them the alphabet, which he had brought from Phoenicia.
Caeneus (SEEN-yoos). Originally the maiden Caenis, changed by Poseidon into a supposedly invulnerable fighter. Caeneus angered Zeus by walking into the marketplace one day and demanding that his spear be worshipped as a god. Determined to punish this sacrilege, Zeus had to give careful thought to bringing about the demise of a fighter who could not be killed in combat. He achieved his end by turning the centaurs against Caeneus. They killed him by pounding him into the ground.
Caenis (SEE-nis). A young nymph loved by Poseidon. One day the god said he would give Caenis anything she wanted in token of his affection. She asked to be changed into a man, and an invulnerable fighter at that. Although this was the last thing Poseidon had expected or wished to hear, he obliged, and Caenis became Caeneus. Under her - or rather his - new name, Caeneus became a great warrior and got so carried away with his prowess that he walked into the middle of town one day and propped up his spear in the marketplace.
"From now on, everybody," said Caeneus, "you will worship my spear as a god."
Zeus, hearing this, thought to punish the heresy. Since Caeneus was invulnerable, the great god had to be clever in bringing about his downfall. He decided to get the centaurs stirred up against Caeneus, figuring that these rough and ready beast-men would find a way to do him in. And sure enough they did.
It happened at the wedding of Theseus's friend, Peirithous the Lapith. The centaurs were unwisely treated to wine and it went straight to their heads, inspiring them to attempt to abduct the bride. Caeneus came to her defense and started killing centaurs right and left. The rest ganged up on him and, finding that he was impervious to weapons, they pounded him into the ground. Caeneus suffocated and, dying, turned back into a woman.
Castor (CASS-ter). Mortal brother of the immortal hero Polydeuces, together the Dioscuri or Hero Twins. Polydeuces was considered godly enough to be admitted to heavenly Olympus, while his brother was dispatched to the Underworld as a mere mortal. But Polydeuces interceded on his twin's behalf, on the plea that he could not bear eternal separation. The gods relented to the extent that the two were allowed to remain together forever, spending half the year deep in the earth beneath their shrine in Sparta and the other half on Olympus.
centaurs (SEN-tawrz). Creatures part human and part horse. The centaurs were descendants of Centaurus, a son of the music god Apollo. Most centaurs were governed by the bestial half of their double nature. Their behavior was uncouth, and a very small amount of wine drove them wild.
When Heracles was entertained by Pholus, one of the few civilized centaurs, he made the mistake of demanding the guest's prerogative of a beaker of wine. Pholus could not refuse, though he hesitated before unearthing a jug of the liquid which he kept buried underground for fear of just the sort of consequence which now ensued.
As soon as Pholus uncapped the jar of wine, his brothers caught scent of it on the wind from more than a mile away. Driven instantly to madness, they attacked Heracles, and the hero barely succeeded in driving them off with flaming arrows.
Wine also caused the centaurs to fight with other guests at the wedding feast of Theseus's friend Peirithous. It was on this occasion that they destroyed the supposedly invulnerable Caeneus.
On another occasion, a centaur named Nessus offered to ferry Heracles' wife across a torrent on his back. Midway, his animal nature got the better of him and he tried to force his attentions on his passenger. She shrieked and Heracles came running. He killed Nessus with a single arrow through the heart.
Chiron was not an ordinary centaur, having ended up with his horsely half by virtue of his father, the god Cronus, taking the form of a horse when Chiron was conceived. Chiron became renowned for his civility and wisdom. He served as tutor to many famous heroes, including Heracles and Jason. He taught music and medicine as well as the skills of the hunt.
Centaurus (sen-TAWR-us). Progenitor of the centaurs; son of Ixion and a cloud. This unorthodox parentage came about when Ixion, who had thrown his father-in-law into a fiery pit, was purified of the crime by Zeus. Rather than give thanks for the divine favor, he tried to seduce Zeus's wife. Hera warned her husband what was afoot, and Zeus fashioned a cloud into Hera's likeness. Ixion made a pass at the cloud and was caught in the act. He was immediately consigned to the Underworld for eternal punishment, but not before the cloud became pregnant with Centaurus.
Cerberus (SUR-buh-rus). Hades' guard dog, a relative of both the Chimaera and the Hydra. Cerberus was carried up from Hades by Heracles in one his Labors. This was achieved only after a protracted battle in which the hero was mauled by the hound's fangs and menaced by snakes growing from his back and tail. In contrast, Cerberus abandoned his watchdog task and lay down meekly to the strains of Orpheus's lyre when that minstrel journeyed to the Underworld in search of his dead wife Eurydice. The poison used in Medea's attempt to murder Theseus was made from Cerberus's drool.
Ceres (SIR-eez). Roman name of Demeter, goddess of agriculture, sister of Zeus, and mother of Persephone. When Persephone was abducted to the Underworld by its ruler Hades, Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the length and breadth of the earth in search of her daughter, during which time the crops withered and it became perpetual winter..
Charon (CARE-on). Spectral figure who ferried the dead across the river Styx, a bribe for whom persisted into modern times. The custom was to place a coin in the mouth of a corpse to secure its passage into Hades. Charon was not well disposed to passengers who were still living. Heracles had to muster up all his powers of intimidation when dispatched to bring back Cerberus to the upper world as one of his Labors. But Orpheus merely played a particularly enchanting strain on his lyre to induce Charon to pole him across the Styx.
Charybdis (kuh-RIB-dis). Mythological whirlpool off the coast of Sicily that sucked down vast quantities of water three times a day. Together with the monster Scylla, Charybdis was one of twin perils faced by Odysseus. The hero had been warned by Circe that the whirlpool could only be avoided at the cost of passing beneath the cliff harboring Scylla's lair. Sure enough, he timed his passage and steered clear of Charybdis only to lose six sailors to the many-headed Scylla.
Chimaera (kye-MEE-ruh). Fire-breathing monster slain by the hero Bellerophon; related to Cerberus and the Hydra. The Chimaera was part lion, part goat and part snake, although accounts differed as to how these parts were assembled. King Iobates of Lycia sent Bellerophon after the beast in the expectation that the hero would never return. But with the help of the gods and the flying horse Pegasus, Bellerophon rid Lycia of its multiple monster.
Chiron (KYE-ron). A kindly centaur, Chiron was sired by Cronus when in the form of a horse. The other centaurs, who were notoriously uncivilized and prone to violence when intoxicated, were of a different lineage. Chiron was tutor to Jason and Heracles.
Circe (SUR-see). Enchantress of divine lineage, sister of King Aeetes of Colchis, friend and advisor to Odysseus. It was Circe who told the hero that he would have to make a side trip to Hades on his route home from the Trojan War. And it was Circe who advised Odysseus that in choosing between the twin perils of Scylla and Charybdis, he could avoid one or the other but not both.
Clashing Rocks. Twin crags that menaced Jason and the Argonauts; also known as the Symplegades. As the vessel bearing the Argonauts approached the Clashing Rocks, Jason released a bird which flew between them first, causing them to spring together. As they were drawing apart to repeat the process, the Argonauts shot the gap. The Clashing Rocks were different from the Wandering Rocks.
Colchis (COL-chis). The kingdom of Aeetes on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, Aeetes hung the Golden Fleece until it was retrieved by Jason and the Argonauts.
Corinth (CORE-inth). City commanding the narrow neck of land that links the major regions of Greece, legendarily founded by Sisyphus and later ruled by Jason's uncle Pelias. In historical times, Corinth was the site of a magnificent temple to Apollo. Fabled of old for its wealth, Corinth was ultimately destroyed by the Romans and rebuilt as a Roman colony. Many of its most impressive remains are from the Roman period.
Crete (kreet or KREE-tee). Large Aegean island; site of the Bronze Age high culture known as Minoan. In myth Crete was ruled by King Minos, who periodically demanded a tribute of young men and maidens of Athens to be sacrificed to the Minotaur, the monster of the Labyrinth.
Crete was the site of the earliest high civilization in Europe. For two thousand years there flourished a culture called Minoan, after King Minos. This civilization was characterized by unique artwork and architecture, notably the imposing complex of buildings at Knossos. The layout of Knossos was so complicated that it would have been incomprehensible to visitors, contributing to the myth of the Labyrinth.
Guides at Knossos today escort visitors to gaze in awe at the "throne of King Minos", but such ceremonial seats as have been restored more likely served a presiding religious official than a king. The "palace" itself may have been a religious center. And since the deity worshipped was female, the throne was as likely to have served for a priestess as a priest or king.
The abrupt end of the high Minoan civilization has always been a great mystery. It is now believed that the eruption of the nearby volcanic island of Thera, with its shock wave, clouds of ash and tidal waves, weakened the civilization so much that mainlanders were able to take over rule of Crete. Indeed, when Krakatoa, a volcano in the South China Sea, erupted in 1883 the sonic reverberations traveled three times around the world, and the sky in New Haven, Connecticut, glowed so strangely that the fire department was called out. Ash was ejected almost twenty miles into the air, and day was turned to night for almost three hundred miles around. It has been estimated that the magma chamber of the Thera volcano was five times as large as that of Krakatoa.
Thera is today called Santorini. Its steep cliffs are remnants of the volcano's rim, and the harbor is actually its flooded interior. The eruption left the volcano hollow inside, and when it collapsed some time later the waters of the Aegean rushed into the cavity. Rebounding when they hit bottom, they caused a tsunami or tidal wave. A tsunami caused by an earthquake in Chile in 1960 was still thirty-five feet high when it reached Hawaii. It is estimated that the Santorini tidal wave started at a comparable height and was still twenty-two feet tall when it reached the shore of what is today Israel. This would have destroyed the low-lying coastal settlements of Crete. Folk memories of this event may underlie the legend of the lost island-continent of Atlantis.
The palace of Knossos burned down a number of times. Open flames, resinous wood and a plenitude of oil storage jars make for a volatile combination in earthquake country. The final conflagration, however, was caused neither by an earthquake nor the volcanic eruption of a neighboring isle. Though its source remains a mystery, it left a profound impression on the people of Knossos. The site was abandoned, as if haunted.
Croesus (KREE-sus). Historical king of proverbial riches. His ancient realm lies within present-day Turkey. Croesus derived his wealth from gold deposits in the river Pactolus, said to have been left there when another king, a mythological one, washed away the Midas touch.
Cronus (KROH-nus). Titan father of Zeus, who usurped him as ruler of the cosmos. This overthrow so enraged the Giants, who like the Titans were sons of the goddess Earth, that they attacked Mount Olympus and almost defeated Zeus and the other Olympians.
Cupid (KYOO-pid). Roman name of Eros, a god of love. Later writers portrayed Eros as a roguish boy, but he was actually one of the most venerable of deities.
According to Hesiod, Chaos was born first, and after Chaos, Earth, Tartarus and Eros. Pausanias says that Eros is commonly considered to be the son of Aphrodite, but elsewhere he describes a sculpture of Eros greeting the goddess as she is born from the sea.
Eros is depicted in Greek art as a beautiful youth.
Cyclopes (sye-KLOH-peez). One-eyed giants of the race that built Olympus for the gods; plural of Cyclops. The Cyclopes, together with the Titans and Giants, were sons of the goddess Earth.
Cyclops (SYE-klops). One-eyed giant of the race that built Olympus for the gods; plural: Cyclopes. The Cyclops who almost devoured Odysseus and all his shipmates on their return from the Trojan War was named Polyphemus. This gigantic goatherd dined on Greeks for nights on end before the hero thought to poke out his eye.
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