Greek Mythology – Rhea

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Here we cover the Greek God Rhea, other postings examine the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually.  Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897.  The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.

Mountain Goddess – RHEA

Greek God RheaAs Uranus, the representative of the fertilizing force in nature, was superseded by Cronus, the representative of a ripening force, so Gaea, the primitive goddess of the earth with its productive plains, gave way to Rhea, a goddess of the earth with its mountains and forests. Gaea had been the mother of the powerful Titans. Rhea was the mother of gods less given to feats of strength, but more highly gifted: Pluto, Poseidon (Neptune), and Zeus (Jupiter), Hera (Juno), Demeter (Ceres), and Hestia (Vesta). Her titles as, for example, Dindymene and Berecynthia were derived for the most part from the names of mountains in Asia Minor, particularly those of Phrygia and Lydia, her worship having been intimately associated with the early civilization of these countries. There her name was Cybele or Cybebe, which also, from its being employed to designate her sanctuaries (Cybela) in caves or mountain sides, points to her character as a mountain goddess.

The lofty hills of Asia Minor, while sheltering on their cavernous sides wild animals, such as the panther and lion, which it was her delight to tame, also looked down on many flourishing cities which it was her duty to protect. In this latter capacity she wore a mural crown, and was styled Mater turrita. But though herself identified with peaceful civilization, her worship was always distinguished by wild and fantastic excitement, her priests and devotees rushing through the woods at night with torches burning, maiming and wounding each other, and producing all the din that was possible from the clashing of cymbals, the shrill notes of pipes, and the frantic voice of song.

To account for this peculiarity of her worship, which must have been intended to commemorate some great sorrow, the story was told of how she had loved the young Phrygian shepherd, Attis, whose extraordinary beauty had also won the heart of the king’s daughter of Pessinus; how he was destined to marry the princess, and how the goddess, suddenly appearing, spread terror and consternation among the marriage guests. Attis escaped to the mountains, maimed himself, and died beside a pine tree, into which his soul trans migrated, while from his blood sprang violets like a wreath round the tree.

The goddess implored Zeus to restore her lover. This could not be. But so much was granted that his body should never decay, that his hair should always grow, and that his little finger should always move. The pine was a symbol of winter and sadness, the violet of spring and its hopeful beauty.

There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897


Further Reading and External Links

Rhea – Titan Queen

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1850


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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. “A man might achieve great legislative results, do great deeds, and be a most useful member of society, but unless he possessed the gift of personality he would be to the general public as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”  Henry Keppel undoubtedly possessed that gift.

Below is the seventh installment in our series of a selection of his memoirs, others will follow over the coming weeks.

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1850


Lieutenant BowyearDuring an interesting visit to Botany Bay, then a convict establishment, Keppel’s boat was upset, and a convict rushed into the surf to rescue him.  By one of those strange and so-called chance coincidences, which are always perplexing and baffling us, the man turned out to have been his father’s servant at Newmarket, and recognised him at once.  Keppel offered him three guineas, which were declined with courtesy, they being, as he said, of no use to him there.

Shortly before entering the harbour, late in the afternoon, a sail was reported, which they made out, from the round sort of baskets at the fore- and main-topmast heads, to be a whaler; she had boats in the water, and on approaching her she hoisted American colours.  Her captain came on board – a respectable-looking old salt, with grey hair.  Keppel at once invited him to his cabin, where, with accompaniments of Manilla cheroots and Jamaica rum, they had an agreeable chat.  Keppel told him that the ‘Maeander’ had been six months without European news, on which the captain ‘guessed’ that he must be aware of the war between France and England.  He evidently noticed Keppel’s astonishment, and added that the French Admiral was at sea, looking for the English fleet, so he had better keep his eyes open.  They shook hands, and so parted. Keppel immediately invited the first lieutenant to consult him on the important news they had received, and it was decided that they would load every gun with round shot, grape, and canister, to be prepared for meeting the French ships.

Tahiti HarbourSoon after daylight they were off the harbour of Tahiti, and at about seven the English pilot, accompanied by a French officer, came aboard and undertook the steerage.  Keppel at once saw that his American guest had taken him in; but he was so interested in the navigation between coral banks, the beauty of the harbour, the merchant ships – two fine frigates, with sundry craft – that he quite forgot that his guns were loaded, so he had his gig manned, and directed Bowyear, his first lieutenant, to salute the Admiral’s flag, and when he saw him leaving to salute the Governor and French flag.

The first lieutenant replied: ‘You forget, sir, that we have round shot, grape, and canister in every gun.  I have nothing but this scoop to draw them, nor can we get outside against the sea breeze to empty them.  I could not fire a pistol here without hitting someone.’

This was embarrassing.  Keppel had, however, to call on the Governor, and when he got alongside the flagship an officer informed him that he would find him at the Government House, where on landing he was received by His Excellency in full dress, a guard of honour with band playing our National Air, and all officers attending.  He never felt so guilty or so small.

Excerpt from Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West – 1905


Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia

Greek & Roman Mythology – Poseidon or Neptune


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Here we cover the Greek God Poseidon, other postings examine
the religious belief of the Greeks and Romans, with descriptions of the gods individually.  Below is an excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray published 1897.  The entire book is in our library in individual chapters – and you can begin reading it here.

Poseidon or Neptune

It has already been told how, when all resources had failed which the Titans could bring to bear for the restoration of Cronus to the throne, the government of the world was divided by lot among his three sons, Zeus, Poseidon, Hades.

To Zeus fell, besides a general supremacy, the control of the heavens; and we have seen how he and his consort Hera, representing the phenomena of that region, were conceived as divine persons possessed of a character and performing actions such as were suggested by those phenomena. To Poseidon (Neptune) fell the control of the element of water, and he in like manner was conceived as a god, in whose character and actions were reflected the phenomena of that clement, whether as the broad navigable sea, or as the cloud which gives fertility to the earth, growth to the grain and vine, or as the fountain which refreshes man, cattle, and horses.

A suitable symbol of his power, therefore, was the horse, admirably adapted as it is both for labor and battle, whilst its swift springing movement compares finely with the advance of a foaming wave of the sea. “He yokes to the chariot,” sings Homer in the Iliad, “his swift steeds, with feet of brass and manes of gold, and himself clad in gold, drives over the waves. The beasts of the sea sport around him, leaving their lurking places, for they know him to be their lord. The sea rejoices and makes way for him. His horses speed lightly, and never a drop touches the brazen axle.”

It may have been to illustrate a tendency of the sea to encroach in many places on the coast, as well as to show the importance attached to a good supply of water, that the myth originated which tells us of the dispute between Poseidon and Athene for the sovereignty of the soil of Attica. To settle the dispute, it was agreed by the gods that whichever of the two should perform the greatest wonder, and at the same time confer the most useful gift on the land, should be entitled to rule over it. With a stroke of his trident Poseidon caused a brackish spring to well up on the Acropolis of Athens, a rock 400 feet high, and previously altogether without water. But Athene in her turn caused the first olive tree to grow from the same bare rock, and since that was deemed the greatest benefit that could be bestowed, obtained for all time sovereignty of the land, which Poseidon thereupon spitefully inundated.

There is a charm in the name of ancient Greece; there is glory in every page of her history; there is a fascination in the remains of her literature, and a sense of unapproachable beauty in her works of art; there is a spell in her climate still, and a strange attraction in her ruins.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897


Further Reading and External Links

Neptune – God of the Sea 

Myths and the God Neptune

Navigation of the Phoenicians – 1700 BC


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Changing the pace a bit today, we’re covering an article all about early maritime navigation and its history.  The article below is an extract from one of the earlier books in our library called Man Upon the Sea by Frank B Goodrich published in 1858.

Navigation of the Phoenicians

It is now generally conceded that the date of the maritime enterprises which rendered the Phoenicians famous in antiquity must he fixed between the years 1700 and 1100 before Christ. The renowned city of Sidon was the centre from which their expeditions were sent forth. What was the specific object of these excursions, or in what order of time they took place, is but imperfectly known: it would appear, however, that their adventurers traded at first with Cyprus and Rhodes, then with Greece, Sardinia, Sicily, Gaul, and the coast of Spain upon the Mediterranean.

About 1250 B.C., their ships ventured cautiously beyond the Straits of Gibraltar, and founded Cadiz upon a coast washed by the Atlantic. A little later they founded establishments upon the western coast of Africa. Homer asserts that at the Trojan War, 1194 B.C., the Phoenicians furnished the belligerents with many articles of luxury and convenience; and we are told by Scripture that their ships brought gold to Solomon from Ophir, in 1000 B.C. Tyre seems now to have superseded Sidon, though at what period is not known. It had become a flourishing mart before 600 B.C.; for Ezekiel, who lived at that time, has left a glowing and picturesque description of its wealth, which must have proceeded from a long established commerce.

He enumerates, among the articles used in building the Tyrian ships, the fir-trees of Senir, the cedars of Lebanon, the oaks of Bashan, the ivory of the Indies, the linen of Egypt, and the purple of the Isles of Elishah. He mentions, as brought to the great emporium from Syria, Damascus, Greece, and Arabia, siiver, tin, lead, and vessels of brass; slaves, horses, mules; carpets, ebony, ivory, pearls, and silk; wheat, balm, honey, oil, and gum; wine, wool, and iron. It is about this periods – 600 B.C – that the Phoenicians, though under Egyptian commanders, appear to have performed a voyage which, if authentic, may justly be regarded as the most important in their annals, a circumnavigation of Africa.

Excerpt from Man Upon the Sea by Frank B Goodrich – 1858


Further Reading and External Links

Phoenician Ships, Navigation and Commerce

The Phoenicians

The Firedog of Capel Garmon – 1852

Below is an article from our library about a local archaeological discovery in 1852; interestingly enough there was also a  story about the same 2000 year old Firedog in the local BBC news recently – when it was used to pay a tax bill – read the story!

The Firedog of Capel Garmon – 1852

Firedog found near Capel GarmonThere are several objects of interest to the antiquary in the neighbourhood.  In close proximity is Carreg y lleon, (Rock of the legion,) suggestive of Roman domination.  A mile to the south is Dinas, commanding the junction of the Dolwyddelan and Penmachno vales.  At the foot of this rock was discovered an ancient firedog, in [1852].  Two miles to the north-east is Garneddwen, which, within living memory, was an immense heap of stones, under which, about the year [1803], several cistvaens were discovered and broken up.  Near this is the fragment of a maenhir, called Maenpebyll, (stone of tents or tabernacles,) which was wantonly blasted and thrown down in [1850].  To these may be added the Trebeddau graves, where the Brochmael inscription was found, Gaerfawr, and Yr hen foel, (which gave its name to the mansion and parish of Voelas,) with the inscribed pillar which has baffled palaeologists from Camden down to this day.

The relic of which a representation is appended was discovered in [May, 1852], by a man cutting a ditch through a turbary on the farm of Carreg Goedog, near Capel Garmon, Llanrwst.  It lay on the clay subsoil, flat upon its side, with a large stone at each end, and at a considerable depth.  The spot is quite unfrequented, nor are there any remains of ancient buildings.  It is all of iron, and the execution indicates considerable taste and skill.  It is in some parts much corroded, and exposure to the air decomposed the metal considerably.

The knobs on the crest and sides are, apparently, of cast iron, with rivets through.  The lower row of round marks on the crest are perforations.  Should a remote age be suggested, corroborative memorials are not wanting; such as the dinas, or fort, close to which it was found; Carreg y lleon, rock of the legion;  and the neighbouring Roman road through Dolwyddelan to Conovium – not to mention the cromlech.

Those who would maintain a mediaeval, or still more recent, date, might find a warrant for that supposition, in the circumstance of this neighbourhood having been the scene of many warlike conflicts, incursions and depredations.

The characteristics set forth in the following account of a Roman firedog, tally so well with those of the article above mentioned, that there appears good reason to believe it to be of Roman workmanship:-

“Mr. Roach Smith has given an engraving, in the second volume of his Collections, of a pair of andirons, or firedogs, of iron, discovered in [1839], in a sepulchral vault near Colchester.  Each consisted of a frame, the two upright sides of which were crowned with heads of oxen, with a brass knob on the tip of each horn.  Two very similar implements, also of iron, had been found near Shefford, in Bedfordshire, in [1832], and an engraving of them has also been given by Mr. Roach Smith.

Articles of the same character, but smaller, have been found at Pompeii, and in a tomb at Paestum.  The Italian antiquaries seem to consider that they were used, not like the mediaeval firedogs, to support the fuel, but that they were cooking utensils, intended to support iron bars to serve as a gridiron.  The two firedogs found near Shefford terminated in stags heads.  Even in these homely utensils, the imitations of nature are of the boldest order; the graceful turn of the stag’s neck, and the outline of the head, which form the ornamental part of each end, are singularly effective” – Celt, Roman and Saxon, by Thomas Wright, Esq., p. 335.

On the other hand, one of our members, Mr. O. Jewitt, observes as follows:

“I would suggest that this instrument is intended to hold the spits for roasting fowls, game, or other small animals, such as we see in mediaeval MSS.  The loops on the side are evidently intended for that purpose, and it is probable that the horns of the two heads are intended for supporting a larger one.  We see in the Bayeux Tapestry, and in MSS. of the fourteenth century, these spits continually used, and that boys were employed to turn them.  In the Bayeux Tapestry the small animals are always brought up to the table on the spits”  – J. EVANS. January, [1856].

Excerpt from Archaeologia Cambrensis Volume 2 by Thomas Rowland Powel & Donald Moore – 1856


Further Reading and External Links

Tax bill paid with 2,000-year-old Iron Age fire guard – BBC News 19 December 2011

Other Firedog discoveries – Hertfordshire

War in the East – 26 Dec 1854


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A Reconnaissance en Force – 26th December 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Tuesday – 26th December 1854

The French have thrown up a fine battery to protect Kamiesch and the left of their lines and parallels from the enemy’s ships.  They have a trench lined with riflemen within 180 yards of the Flagstaff fort wall.

Wednesday – 27th December 1854

The 18th Regiment (Royal Irish) arrived in the “Magdalena” today, all well. Their fur caps and new coats made them objects of great attraction to the tattered old campaigners on the beach.  The Russians are very active getting up guns in every possible direction along our approaches.  The French have also pushed a trench within 180 metres of St. Vladimir.  Continual firing and skirmishing are going on at night in front of our lines and along the French works.  The Turks continue “to die like flies.”  They literally are found dead on their posts where they have mounted guard.

Friday – 29th December 1854

Fine weather. Firing is very slack on both sides.  We have a large number of mortars and new siege guns ready to be put in position whenever the state of the ground and of the weather permits us to recommence the siege and bombardment.  Scurvy is diminishing among the men, but dysentery and diarrhoea continue their ravages.   Our loss in horses is enormous.  I do not believe the whole of the Light Cavalry Brigade could muster 60 horses.  

The Russians opened a heavy fire on the French last night, and poured in shot and shell through the rain along the whole of their left attack for upwards of an hour, but did very little mischief.   The French batteries are in good order, and contain twice as many guns as they did when they opened fire on the 17th of October.  The Russians are getting up guns in every possible corner and on every eminence about the place, and now and then unmask guns where they were little suspected to be in position.

Saturday – 30th December 1854

Last night Orders were sent from Sir Colin Campbell to the 70th Regiment, and to the four companies of the 2nd battalion of the Rifle Brigade, commanded by Major Bradford, to be ready and under arms at half-past 6 o’clock this morning.  It was a cold but fine day, and at dawn all the troops were drawn out, and remained on the heights above Balaklava for some time, very curious to know what they were going to do.  

Soon after 7 o’clock the advanced guard of a strong division of French troops appeared in the Valley on the left, and proceeded towards the hills lately occupied by the Russian redoubts.  Sir Colin Campbell was on the ground, with several of his staff, and, with General Bosquet, whose division seemed to furnish the bulk of the troops on the field, had the direction of the movements of the day.  The force was all in motion before 8 o’clock, the Rifles and Highlanders turning to the right, and covering the flank of the little expedition as it marched on, or beating through the woods and ravines which abound along the mountain chain on the left of the valley.  As the force approached Komara the Cossack vedettes came in sight, retiring slowly, but the French pushed on rapidly, and the Cossacks retreated from the village, which has been in a ruinous state since the storm of the 14th of November and the first French reconnaissance.

The vedettes fell back on a strong body of Lancers and light cavalry, which seemed disposed to await the shock of the French Chasseurs.  The retiring and advancing cavalry skirmishers exchanged a few carbine shots before they fell in with their respective squadrons.   And when the French had arrived within about 800 yards they broke from a trot into a gallop, and dashed right at the Russian cavalry.  The latter met the shock, but made no attempt to charge upon the French, who broke them in an instant, and chased them right back to the infantry, who were assembled in three small bodies on the hills, close to the village of Tchorgoun.  As the French approached Tchorgoun they were received with a brisk fire of shot and shell from some heavy field-pieces, to which their guns were unable to reply at so great a distance; but they soon pushed within range of the enemy, and the Russians again retired, and abandoned the village of Tchorgoun to our allies, as well as the line of cantonments and huts which they had constructed since Liprandi’s advance in October.

The object of this expedition was merely to beat up the Russian position and to ascertain the strength of the enemy – it was, in fact, a reconnaissance in force, and there was no intention of bringing the Russians to an engagement.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.


Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

Santa Claus and St Nicholas


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Old years have been – new years have been – and fleeted away, since the first brave Father Christmas came and caroll’d at the door.  He always found a cheerful cup and a jesting word to say, and a thousand fervent wishes – he deserves a thousand more.

The excerpt below is from the book – The Life Story of Father Christmas by Sarah A Tooley in the English Illustrated Magazine December 1905

The Good Bishop St Nicholas

Santa Claus began his career as the good Bishop St. Nicholas, and doubtless considers that he scores heavily over Father Christmas by having a recorded history.  St. Nicholas was born of wealthy parents, in the City of Patara, in Asia Minor, and gave evidence that he was not an ordinary child by standing upright in his bath, immediately after his birth. He appears to have known nothing of original sin, for such was his infantile piety, that on fast days he declined the natural nourishment offered by his mother.  Of course he entered the Church, and became a bishop.

For many years he ruled over the See of Myra, and by several miraculous deeds on behalf of young people, became known as the special benefactor of children. There are several versions of the famous miracle he performed in raising three boys to life.  One relates that a wealthy gentleman sent his two sons to Myra to pay their respects to the good Bishop Nicholas.  As the youths arrived late in the city they went to an inn for the night, intending to call on the bishop next morning.  During the night they were murdered by the landlord, in order to secure their belongings, and he concealed their bodies in a pickling tub.

St. Nicholas saw in a vision what had taken place, and, crozier in hand, went to the inn.  The landlord confessed his crime, and the bishop, on being shown the pickling tub, waved his hand over it, and the boys hopped out alive, none the worse for their adventure.

Although two boys are mentioned in this story, the representations of St. Nicholas performing the miracle invariably show three.  There is a picture over the altar of the Church of St. Nicholas, in Ghent, in which the bishop, in full robes, stands with uplifted forefinger beside a tub, in which the three boys, restored to life, are praising him with uplifted hands.  There is a similar representation in the Bodleian Library at Oxford.

One of a more gruesome character appears in the Salisbury Missal of 1534, in which a butcher man is shown in the act of chopping the limb of one of the unfortunate boys, while under the table is seen the pickle tub, in which the three boys have been brought to life by St. Nicholas, who stands over them.  This latter picture illustrates another version of the legend which has been described in doggerel verse, and is the favourite with children.

Excerpt from the English Illustrated Magazine – 1905


Further Reading and External Links

The History of Santa Claus and Father Christmas

Christmas Eve and The Yule Clog


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It’s Christmas Eve and in the spirit of the season we are highlighting topical and festive books from our library – today we feature an excerpt from a book published in 1849 called Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain by John Brand – here we learn about the tradition of the Yule Clog or Log during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Christmas Eve and The Yule Clog

Christmas Day, in the primitive church, was always observed as the Sabbath-day, and like that preceded by an eve, or vigil.  Hence our present Christmas Eve.

On the night of this eve our ancestors were wont to light up candles of an uncommon size, called Christmas Candles, and lay a log of wood upon the fire, called a Yule-Clog or Christmas-block, to illuminate the house, and, as it were, to turn night into day.  This custom is, in some measure, still kept up in the North of England.

In the buttery of St. John’s College, Oxford, an ancient candle-socket of stone still remains ornamented with the figure of the Holy Lamb. It was formerly used to burn the Christmas Candle in, on the high table at supper, during the twelve nights of that festival.  This candle is thus alluded to in a very rare tract, called the Country Farmer’s Catechism, [1703]:

“She ne’er has no fits, nor uses no cold tea, as the Ladies Catechism saves, but keeps her body in health with working all the week, and goes to church on Sundays: my daughter don’t look with sickly pale looks, like an unlit Christmas Candle; they don’t eat oatmeal, lime, or ashes, for pain at their stomachs.

There is an old Scotch proverb:

“He’ s as bare as the birk at Yule E’en,”

which, perhaps, alludes to the Yule-log; the birk meaning a block of the birch-tree, stripped of its bark and dried against Yule Even. It is spoken of one who is exceedingly poor. A clergyman of Devonshire informed me that the custom of burning the Christmas-block, i.e. the Yule-Clog, still continues in that county. In Poor Robin’s Almanack for [1677], in the beginning of December, he observes:

“Now blocks to cleave this time requires,
‘Gainst Christmas for to make good fires.”

Excerpt from Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain Volume 1 by John Brand – 1849


Further Reading and External Links

History of the Yule Log

Saturnus – The Roman God of Christmas


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In the spirit of the season we are highlighting some of the books in our library that have a Christmas theme, whether it be Mythology, ancient customs or traditions, or actual events that took place – with excerpts from personal diaries and logs.  We begin with the Roman god Saturnus and the festival Saturnalia often associated with the Christian feast of Christmas.

Saturnus – The Roman God of Christmas – Saturnalia

SaturnusSATURNUS – According to the popular belief of the Romans, made his first appearance in Italy at a time when Janus was reigning king of the fertile region that stretches along the banks of the Tiber on either side. Presenting himself to Janus, and being kindly received, he proceeded to instruct the subjects of the latter in agriculture, gardening, and many other arts then quite unknown to them: as, for example, how to train and nurse the vine, and how to tend and cultivate fruit-trees.  By such means he at length raised the people from a rude and comparatively barbarous condition to one of order and peaceful occupations, in consequence of which he was everywhere held in high esteem, and in course of time was selected by Janus to share with him the government of the kingdom, which thereupon assumed the name of Saturnia, “a land of seed and fruit.”

The period of Saturn’s government was in later times sung of by poets as a happy time when sorrows and cares of life were unknown, when innocence, freedom, and gladness reigned throughout the land, in such a degree as to deserve the title of the golden age.  Greek mythology also has its golden age, said to have occurred during the reign of Cronus, and this, perhaps, more than any other circumstance, led to the identification of Saturnus and Cronus, in spite of the real difference between the two deities.

The name of Saturn’s wife was Ops.  Once a year, in the month of December, the Romans held a festival called Saturnalia in his honor.  It lasted from five to seven days, and was accompanied by amusements of all kinds.  During those days the ordinary distinctions were done away with between master and servant or slave.  No assemblies were held to discuss public affairs, and no punishments for crimes were judged.  Servants or slaves went about dressed like their masters and neighbors and received from them costly presents.  Children gave their parents or relatives presents of pictures, notably of a gaudy type, purchased in the street where the  picture dealers lived.

Mommsen has shown that even during the Empire the Saturnalia proper was a single day, December 19th.  It was the great holiday of the Roman year, not unlike our Christmas, and people greeted each other with the words ‘bona Saturnalia.’  Lucian tells us that the receiver of a book at that time was in honor bound to read it, no matter how long or uninteresting it might be.

There was a temple of Saturn in Rome, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, containing a figure of him with his feet wrapped round with pieces of woollen cloth, which could only be removed during the festival of the Saturnalia.  In one hand he held a curved garden-knife, as a sign of his having been the first to teach the people how to trim the vine and olive.   In this temple were preserved the state chest and the standards of the army.

Excerpt from The Manual of Mythology by Alexander Stuart Murray – 1897


Further Reading and External Links

The Temple of Saturn in Rome


Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1848

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. “A man might achieve great legislative results, do great deeds, and be a most useful member of society, but unless he possessed the gift of personality he would be to the general public as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.”  Henry Keppel undoubtedly possessed that gift.

Below is the sixth installment in our series of a selection of his memoirs, others will follow over the coming weeks.

Chapter VI

The Ship MaeanderIN [1848] all seemed to be in a state bordering on anarchy in the Malayan Archipelago. Each petty chief quarrelled with and attacked his weaker neighbours, and they all dreaded onslaughts from powerful pirates who hovered about the coasts.  Sir James Brooke, as Her Majesty’s Commissioner to the Sultan of Borneo, was Keppel’s guest on the Maeander, and together they cruised through the various islands, losing many of the crew from fever, and in brighter moments shooting wild cattle and deer; but the coral reefs and sandbanks made the navigation difficult, and the journey was enlivened not only by such dangers, but by the constant apprehension of treachery from the natives.

Having pulled and poled over a bar, and up a shallow salt-water creek, on the east side of the bay, a little to the northward of where they were anchored, they landed a small shooting party, and were shown some particularly likely looking ground, covered with long grass, and intersected in all directions by the fresh tracks of wild cattle.  A hog was the result of their sport; but three large deer made their appearance on the edge of the jungle just as the guns had been discharged at the less dignified game.

In December, with the tender ‘Jolly Bachelor’ in company, they weighed anchor and stood towards the island of Mallewali, and soon entered among the dangers of the Sulu Seas. As far as the eye could reach from the masthead patches of sand and coral banks were visible. But the weather was fine, the water smooth and clear, and with the tender sounding ahead they proceeded, nothing daunted by appearances, for they could always pick their way by daylight and anchor at sunset.

Mallewali itself was surrounded by these coral reefs, and there appeared to be a fine harbour to the eastward, but certainly no safe entrance for a ship the size of the ‘Maeander’; but exploring parties were landed, and the island was well traversed, no traces of inhabitants being seen, and only tracks of big game.

Among the many who succumbed to the attacks of Labuan fever was a young fellow, the finest of the crew, in the prime of life; he had several times rallied, but two days previous to his death he sent to take leave of his Captain, who had for some time been endeavouring to cheer him up; but the surroundings did not tend to joyfulness, for the sick were suspended in cots on both sides of the main deck, and when a death occurred it was difficult to hide from the others what had taken place.  This young man was the last of the barge’s crew who was taken ill, and had attended most of his shipmates in their attacks of fever.  There was a happy expression of countenance and a generosity about this poor fellow that had endeared him to officers and men.  He had left the address of his mother, and of a poor young girl to whom he was betrothed.  These are the sad necessities of a sailor’s life; but Providence seems to have endowed them with specially recuperative powers, helped by constant change of scene and plenty of occupation.

Excerpt from Memoir of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West – 1905


Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia