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S entries
Salmydessus (sal-mih-DESS-us). Actual ancient city on the Black Sea, erroneously located on the Hellespont in the myth involving King Phineus and the Argonauts. In gratitude for their relieving him of the Harpies, Phineus advised Jason and his shipmates how to sail between the Clashing Rocks. This peril supposedly lay ahead of them, on their route between Salmydessus and the land of the Golden Fleece. But the real Salmydessus was beyond the location of the mythological Clashing Rocks.
Santorini (san-tuh-REE-nee). Aegean island, previously known as Thera, constituting the partially collapsed cone of a volcano. The volcano, purged of its magma in a gigantic eruption, collapsed during the era of the Minoan civilization. The sea rushed in, rebounded when it hit bottom and then recoiled in a tidal wave that would have caused great damage to the coastal settlements of the neighboring island of Crete. This might have inspired the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis, an advanced civilization that supposedly disappeared beneath the waves.
satyrs (SAY-turz or SAT-urz). Woodland spirits who looked like men with various animal features such as horses' tails or goats' legs. Silenus was a satyr who traveled the world with the wine-god Dionysus, spreading the cultivation
Sciron (SKY-ron). Bandit who made travelers stop to wash his feet, then kicked them over a cliff while they were doing so. When they fell into the sea below, they were devoured by a man-eating turtle. Theseus turned the tables
Scylla (SIL-uh). A beautiful maiden transformed into a monster sometimes described as having six dogs' heads on long necks. Scylla's cave was in a seaside cliff overlooking a strait that also harbored a phenomenal whirlpool called Charybdis. The twin perils are memorialized in the expression "between Scylla and Charybdis". This choice of equally dreadful alternatives was presented to Odysseus on his journey home from the Trojan war. He chose to avoid Charybdis at the expense of losing six sailors to Scylla's multiple maws.
sea. The maritime highway upon which many a hero set forth to adventure and by which the Ancient Greeks spread their civilization. Seafaring in heroic times was a perilous affair. The sailing season, when one might hope to venture forth with any degree of safety, was limited to some fifty days after the end of summer. Even under the best of conditions, the ancient mariners strove to keep land in sight at all times, making their way cautiously from headland to headland and drawing their vessels up on the beach at night.
Semele (SEM-uh-lee). Princess of Thebes, mother of Dionysus, referred to as a heroine by G.S. Kirk in The Nature of Greek Myths. Semele was possessed of a heroic thirst for knowledge. Warned by Zeus that it would be dangerous, she insisted that he reveal to her his true nature as god of sky and storm. The ensuing blast of lightning utterly consumed the heroine. Her son had to journey to the Underworld to retrieve her from the dead.
Seriphos (sur-AYE-fus). Island in the Aegean Sea. When King Acrisius of Argos was warned by an oracle that his own grandson would kill him, he cast his daughter and her infant son Perseus adrift at sea in a chest of bronze. This unlikely vessel washed ashore on Seriphos, where a fisherman named Dictys gave shelter to its passengers. He was ultimately rewarded for this kindness when he succeeded Polydectes as king of the island.
shade. The insubstantial remains of the dead, a phantom without a body or the power of thought. This was the form in which the newly deceased congregated on the infernal shore of the River Styx, awaiting passage in the boat of Charon the ferryman to the kingdom of Hades, ruler of the Underworld. Those who lacked the proper bribe for Charon were condemned to wander the near bank of the river Styx for eternity. Even those who gained their passage had little to look forward to except a bleak and bloodless existence.
shrines. Places at which gods or heroes were venerated; less elaborate than temples. A typical small shrine consisted of a simple enclosure and an altar. In addition, there might be a statue of the god, goddess or hero to whom the shrine was sacred. Sacrifices were placed within the sanctuary or burned on the altar. Blood offerings consisted of the meat of an animal, which was burned while wine was poured into the flames. Bloodless offerings included vegetables and fruits.
Silenus (sye-LEE-nus). Satyr, companion to the wine god Dionysus. Silenus was found sleeping in a vineyard one day and was tied up and brought before King Midas of Phrygia. Midas set the goat-man free. In gratitude, Dionysus granted the king a wish, which turned out to be the power to turn whatever he touched into gold. When this "Midas touch" proved disastrous, Dionysus spared the king the further consequences of his greed. The god's mercy in this regard arose from the respect Midas had shown Silenus.
Sinis (SIN-is). Ruffian who beset travelers on the road between Troezen and Athens. Sinis asked passing strangers to help him bend two pine trees to the ground. Once he had bent the trees, he tied his helper's wrists - one to each tree. When the strain became too much, the trees snapped upright and scattered portions of anatomy in all directions. The hero Theseus turned the tables on Sinis by tying his wrists to a couple of bent pines, then letting nature and fatigue take their course.
Sirens (SYE-rinz). Sweetly singing enchantresses, part woman, part bird, who lured sailors to their doom. Some say the Sirens had been given their wings in order to help Demeter search for her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by the King of the Underworld. Their singing would have caused Odysseus to steer his ship into their rocks, had he not ordered his men to bind him to the mast as a precaution. But it was no match for that of the minstrel Orpheus, who distracted his fellow Argonauts so they sailed by the Sirens safely.
Sisyphus (SIS-i-fus). Sinner condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. Sisyphus was founder and king of Corinth, or Ephyra as it was called in those days. He was notorious as the most cunning knave on earth. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, a comparative novelty, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use - on himself.
And so it came about that the high lord of the Underworld was kept locked up in a closet at Sisyphus's house for many a day, a circumstance which put the great chain of being seriously out of whack. Nobody could die. A soldier might be chopped to bits in battle and still show up at camp for dinner. Finally Hades was released and Sisyphus was ordered summarily to report to the Underworld for his eternal assignment. But the wily one had another trick up his sleeve.
He simply told his wife not to bury him and then complained to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, that he had not been accorded the proper funeral honors. What's more, as an unburied corpse he had no business on the far side of the river Styx at all - his wife hadn't placed a coin under his tongue to secure passage with Charon the ferryman. Surely her highness could see that Sisyphus must be given leave to journey back topside and put things right.
Kindly Persephone assented, and Sisyphus made his way back to the sunshine, where he promptly forgot all about funerals and such drab affairs and lived on in dissipation for another good stretch of time. But even this paramount trickster could only postpone the inevitable. Eventually he was hauled down to Hades, where his indiscretions caught up with him. For a crime against the gods - the specifics of which are variously reported - he was condemned to an eternity at hard labor. And frustrating labor at that. For his assignment was to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill. Only every time Sisyphus, by the greatest of exertion and toil, attained the summit, the darn thing rolled back down again.
Sparta (SPAR-tuh). City in southern Greece, mythological home of Helen and the Hero Twins, Castor and Polydeuces. Sparta was the rival of Athens in ancient historical times. The soldiers of Sparta were famed for their discipline and indifference to pleasure or pain. The story is told of a Spartan boy who hid a fox in his cloak and did not reveal it by any sound or grimace even though it gnawed out his entrails.
Sphinx (sfinks). Monster with the head of a woman, the wings of a griffin and the body of a lion. The Sphinx stopped travelers on the road to Thebes and posed them a riddle. If they answered wrong, they died. The hero Oedipus was asked the following question: "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three at close of day?" Oedipus replied that a human crawls on four legs as an infant, walks upright on two in the prime of life and hobbles with a cane in old age. Hearing this, the Sphinx promptly ran off and killed herself. The grateful people of Thebes made Oedipus their king.
Stheneboea (sthen-uh-BEE-uh). Wife of King Proetus of Tiryns. Stheneboea falsely accused Bellerophon of being in love with her, which caused Proetus to dispatch the hero to the king of Lycia with a sealed request that he be put to death. Iobates, the king in question, thought to accomplish this by sending Bellerophon after the Chimaera. But Bellerophon killed the monster instead.
Stymphalian Birds (stim-FAY-lee-un). Flying creatures with lethal, metallic feathers who infested the Stymphalian marsh in Arcadia. When Heracles had to confront these man-eaters as one of his Labors, he was aided by Athena. The goddess gave him a pair of castanets. With these noisemakers, he caused the birds to take wing. Then he brought them down by the dozens with arrows from his bow.
Styx (stiks). The principal and most famous river of Hades, generally thought of as forming its border. When they first journeyed to the Underworld, the ghostly remains of the dead congregated on the near shore of the Styx, seeking passage from the ferryman Charon. If they presented a bribe, they were allowed to cross the river. If not, they roamed the near side for eternity.
Symplegades (sim-PLEG-uh-deez). The Clashing Rocks, which smashed together upon any ship passing between them. Jason and the Argonauts had been advised to avoid this trap by causing a bird to fly ahead of their vessel. The Symplegades clashed together on its tail feathers, then drew apart in readiness to clash again. At this moment, the Argonauts sailed through safely, with only minor damage to the very stern of their ship.
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S entries
Salmydessus (sal-mih-DESS-us). Actual ancient city on the Black Sea, erroneously located on the Hellespont in the myth involving King Phineus and the Argonauts. In gratitude for their relieving him of the Harpies, Phineus advised Jason and his shipmates how to sail between the Clashing Rocks. This peril supposedly lay ahead of them, on their route between Salmydessus and the land of the Golden Fleece. But the real Salmydessus was beyond the location of the mythological Clashing Rocks.
Santorini (san-tuh-REE-nee). Aegean island, previously known as Thera, constituting the partially collapsed cone of a volcano. The volcano, purged of its magma in a gigantic eruption, collapsed during the era of the Minoan civilization. The sea rushed in, rebounded when it hit bottom and then recoiled in a tidal wave that would have caused great damage to the coastal settlements of the neighboring island of Crete. This might have inspired the legend of the lost continent of Atlantis, an advanced civilization that supposedly disappeared beneath the waves.
satyrs (SAY-turz or SAT-urz). Woodland spirits who looked like men with various animal features such as horses' tails or goats' legs. Silenus was a satyr who traveled the world with the wine-god Dionysus, spreading the cultivation
Sciron (SKY-ron). Bandit who made travelers stop to wash his feet, then kicked them over a cliff while they were doing so. When they fell into the sea below, they were devoured by a man-eating turtle. Theseus turned the tables
Scylla (SIL-uh). A beautiful maiden transformed into a monster sometimes described as having six dogs' heads on long necks. Scylla's cave was in a seaside cliff overlooking a strait that also harbored a phenomenal whirlpool called Charybdis. The twin perils are memorialized in the expression "between Scylla and Charybdis". This choice of equally dreadful alternatives was presented to Odysseus on his journey home from the Trojan war. He chose to avoid Charybdis at the expense of losing six sailors to Scylla's multiple maws.
sea. The maritime highway upon which many a hero set forth to adventure and by which the Ancient Greeks spread their civilization. Seafaring in heroic times was a perilous affair. The sailing season, when one might hope to venture forth with any degree of safety, was limited to some fifty days after the end of summer. Even under the best of conditions, the ancient mariners strove to keep land in sight at all times, making their way cautiously from headland to headland and drawing their vessels up on the beach at night.
Semele (SEM-uh-lee). Princess of Thebes, mother of Dionysus, referred to as a heroine by G.S. Kirk in The Nature of Greek Myths. Semele was possessed of a heroic thirst for knowledge. Warned by Zeus that it would be dangerous, she insisted that he reveal to her his true nature as god of sky and storm. The ensuing blast of lightning utterly consumed the heroine. Her son had to journey to the Underworld to retrieve her from the dead.
Seriphos (sur-AYE-fus). Island in the Aegean Sea. When King Acrisius of Argos was warned by an oracle that his own grandson would kill him, he cast his daughter and her infant son Perseus adrift at sea in a chest of bronze. This unlikely vessel washed ashore on Seriphos, where a fisherman named Dictys gave shelter to its passengers. He was ultimately rewarded for this kindness when he succeeded Polydectes as king of the island.
shade. The insubstantial remains of the dead, a phantom without a body or the power of thought. This was the form in which the newly deceased congregated on the infernal shore of the River Styx, awaiting passage in the boat of Charon the ferryman to the kingdom of Hades, ruler of the Underworld. Those who lacked the proper bribe for Charon were condemned to wander the near bank of the river Styx for eternity. Even those who gained their passage had little to look forward to except a bleak and bloodless existence.
shrines. Places at which gods or heroes were venerated; less elaborate than temples. A typical small shrine consisted of a simple enclosure and an altar. In addition, there might be a statue of the god, goddess or hero to whom the shrine was sacred. Sacrifices were placed within the sanctuary or burned on the altar. Blood offerings consisted of the meat of an animal, which was burned while wine was poured into the flames. Bloodless offerings included vegetables and fruits.
Silenus (sye-LEE-nus). Satyr, companion to the wine god Dionysus. Silenus was found sleeping in a vineyard one day and was tied up and brought before King Midas of Phrygia. Midas set the goat-man free. In gratitude, Dionysus granted the king a wish, which turned out to be the power to turn whatever he touched into gold. When this "Midas touch" proved disastrous, Dionysus spared the king the further consequences of his greed. The god's mercy in this regard arose from the respect Midas had shown Silenus.
Sinis (SIN-is). Ruffian who beset travelers on the road between Troezen and Athens. Sinis asked passing strangers to help him bend two pine trees to the ground. Once he had bent the trees, he tied his helper's wrists - one to each tree. When the strain became too much, the trees snapped upright and scattered portions of anatomy in all directions. The hero Theseus turned the tables on Sinis by tying his wrists to a couple of bent pines, then letting nature and fatigue take their course.
Sirens (SYE-rinz). Sweetly singing enchantresses, part woman, part bird, who lured sailors to their doom. Some say the Sirens had been given their wings in order to help Demeter search for her daughter Persephone, who was abducted by the King of the Underworld. Their singing would have caused Odysseus to steer his ship into their rocks, had he not ordered his men to bind him to the mast as a precaution. But it was no match for that of the minstrel Orpheus, who distracted his fellow Argonauts so they sailed by the Sirens safely.
Sisyphus (SIS-i-fus). Sinner condemned in Tartarus to an eternity of rolling a boulder uphill then watching it roll back down again. Sisyphus was founder and king of Corinth, or Ephyra as it was called in those days. He was notorious as the most cunning knave on earth. His greatest triumph came at the end of his life, when the god Hades came to claim him personally for the kingdom of the dead. Hades had brought along a pair of handcuffs, a comparative novelty, and Sisyphus expressed such an interest that Hades was persuaded to demonstrate their use - on himself.
And so it came about that the high lord of the Underworld was kept locked up in a closet at Sisyphus's house for many a day, a circumstance which put the great chain of being seriously out of whack. Nobody could die. A soldier might be chopped to bits in battle and still show up at camp for dinner. Finally Hades was released and Sisyphus was ordered summarily to report to the Underworld for his eternal assignment. But the wily one had another trick up his sleeve.
He simply told his wife not to bury him and then complained to Persephone, Queen of the Dead, that he had not been accorded the proper funeral honors. What's more, as an unburied corpse he had no business on the far side of the river Styx at all - his wife hadn't placed a coin under his tongue to secure passage with Charon the ferryman. Surely her highness could see that Sisyphus must be given leave to journey back topside and put things right.
Kindly Persephone assented, and Sisyphus made his way back to the sunshine, where he promptly forgot all about funerals and such drab affairs and lived on in dissipation for another good stretch of time. But even this paramount trickster could only postpone the inevitable. Eventually he was hauled down to Hades, where his indiscretions caught up with him. For a crime against the gods - the specifics of which are variously reported - he was condemned to an eternity at hard labor. And frustrating labor at that. For his assignment was to roll a great boulder to the top of a hill. Only every time Sisyphus, by the greatest of exertion and toil, attained the summit, the darn thing rolled back down again.
Sparta (SPAR-tuh). City in southern Greece, mythological home of Helen and the Hero Twins, Castor and Polydeuces. Sparta was the rival of Athens in ancient historical times. The soldiers of Sparta were famed for their discipline and indifference to pleasure or pain. The story is told of a Spartan boy who hid a fox in his cloak and did not reveal it by any sound or grimace even though it gnawed out his entrails.
Sphinx (sfinks). Monster with the head of a woman, the wings of a griffin and the body of a lion. The Sphinx stopped travelers on the road to Thebes and posed them a riddle. If they answered wrong, they died. The hero Oedipus was asked the following question: "What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three at close of day?" Oedipus replied that a human crawls on four legs as an infant, walks upright on two in the prime of life and hobbles with a cane in old age. Hearing this, the Sphinx promptly ran off and killed herself. The grateful people of Thebes made Oedipus their king.
Stheneboea (sthen-uh-BEE-uh). Wife of King Proetus of Tiryns. Stheneboea falsely accused Bellerophon of being in love with her, which caused Proetus to dispatch the hero to the king of Lycia with a sealed request that he be put to death. Iobates, the king in question, thought to accomplish this by sending Bellerophon after the Chimaera. But Bellerophon killed the monster instead.
Stymphalian Birds (stim-FAY-lee-un). Flying creatures with lethal, metallic feathers who infested the Stymphalian marsh in Arcadia. When Heracles had to confront these man-eaters as one of his Labors, he was aided by Athena. The goddess gave him a pair of castanets. With these noisemakers, he caused the birds to take wing. Then he brought them down by the dozens with arrows from his bow.
Styx (stiks). The principal and most famous river of Hades, generally thought of as forming its border. When they first journeyed to the Underworld, the ghostly remains of the dead congregated on the near shore of the Styx, seeking passage from the ferryman Charon. If they presented a bribe, they were allowed to cross the river. If not, they roamed the near side for eternity.
Symplegades (sim-PLEG-uh-deez). The Clashing Rocks, which smashed together upon any ship passing between them. Jason and the Argonauts had been advised to avoid this trap by causing a bird to fly ahead of their vessel. The Symplegades clashed together on its tail feathers, then drew apart in readiness to clash again. At this moment, the Argonauts sailed through safely, with only minor damage to the very stern of their ship.
A     B     C     D     E     F     G     H     I     J     K     L     M     N     O     P     Q     R     S     T     U     V     W     X     Y     Z