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Of Solstitial Fountains.
I now present my reader with a plate, which he may have noticed in the work of D'Hancarville. * The meaning of it has never been explained. The antiquary, therefore, who looks with eagerness for unedited works, will probably be not less gratified, if I shall succeed in rendering intelligible a monument that is already familiar to him. The leading object in this scene is the terminal Bacchus ; but other figures are comprised in it of allegorical import. To the right of a pillar with its capital placed upon a font, or behind an altar, a transparent opening again displays the terminal Bacchus in a fixed state; and in an opening to the left is a naked figure whose limbs are moved, as if he were in the act of dancing. The pillar is here the boundary between motion and rest; and it seems to illustrate the inertness of Bacchus, and the temporary suspension of his powers. Thus much may be collected from the painting, which I leave for the present, to consider what is suggested to me respecting it by a coin of Thespiæ.
* Vol. ii. plate LXXII.
The reverse of this coin engraved in the work of Pelerin', exhibits a lofty phallus crossed by three horizontal lines, on one side of which is an object somewhat resembling a bell, and on the other a theta, in its ancient square form 8, as the initial letter of Thespiæ in Baotia, where it has been supposed the coin was stricken.
Pausanias informs ust, that the figure of "Epws, or Love, at Thespiæ, was a white stone, i. e. a phallus or obelisk; so that if the leading emblem upon the coin had reference to his rites, we might conclude they were not of the most decent nature. But all this may, perhaps, be explained by means of the tract ascribed to Lucian, de Syriâ Deâ. The ancient temple at Hierapolis , in Syria, is there reported to have stood upon an eminence in the middle of the city, the base of which eminence was enclosed by a double wall. Near the gates to the north, were erected two phalli (of the enormous height of thirty fathoms $), one of which a man ascended twice every year||, swarming it by a chain, as was practised by the Arabs in climbing the palm-trees of their country. Arrived at the top, he coiled his clothes round so as to form a nest or seat, and having let down another chain*, which he carried with him, and drawn up by the means of it food and necessaries, he remained upon the phallus seven days. Seated aloft, he prayed for all Syria; but whilst he prayed, he rang a bell: κροτέει ποίεμα χάλκεον, το αείδει μέγα, και τραχύ, κινεόμενον. Some conceived that thus being nearer to the gods he was heard to more advantage, whilst others referred the custom to the deluge, when all men betook themselves to the high places for safety. The phallus, with sticks projecting from it to assist the man in ascending t, and the bell, seem to be imitated upon the Thespian coin. The Persian Mithra, who was supposed to intercede with Oromasdes, the deity, is represented Aoating in air upon the mystical Tau ; the man, therefore, on the phallus, who interceded by prayer for all Syria, might have been designed to personate Mithra ; but, says the Pseudo-Lucian, some refer this ceremony to the deluge; and by the lucubrations of the learned M. De Sacy we are informed that similar phalli in Egypt actually did refer to the overflowings of the Nile, which seem to have served as a national record of that greater flood, which was equally commemorated on the banks of the Euphrates.
* Medailles des Peuples et des Villes, vol. i. plate xxv. fig. 26. Haym ascribes this coin to Thebes. The principal object upon it has usually been termed a quiver.
+ Baotic. lib. ix. c. 27. p. 761. Ed. Kuhnii.
#“ Hodiernum ejus nomen Membig a primigenio Mabog, nam a Seleuco Syriæ “ Rege dicta demum Hierapolis.” — Rasche rei Numariæ, t. ii. par. 2. p. 279.
$ I have substituted the judicious emendation of Palmerius for the extravagant measure tporxos iwv in the text.
Η 'Ες τουτέων τον ένα φαλλόν, ανήρ εκάστου έτεος δις ανέρχεται, or rather, perhaps, each of which he ascended once annually.
From an unedited work of a Syriac writer, from whose tour in Egypt an extract has been given by M. De Sacy #, it appears that similar phalli were erected before the temple at Heliopolis in Egypt. At the top of these obeliscal columns were bonnets of
many quintals' weight, and when the river, with which they communicated, rose, the water issued from the
* I venture to read où Maxpoiu taútyv, which words, I suspect, formerly crept into the text, although the first of the three is now omitted.
+ Or perhaps to mark the different heights to which the water rose.
bonnet, serving as a signal to the natives of the annual inundation. *
We read in Bishop Pococke's account of the East pillar standing at Balbec, in the capital of which was a basin for water, from which a semicircular channel descended along the shaft; and of another pillar, of curious formation, nearer to Lebanon. Bishop Pococke doubted respecting the probable use of these, whether they had been designed for conduits, or for any superstitious ceremonies of the heathens.
Applying these observations to my immediate purpose, I discover from them the precise meaning of this painting, which the late Mr. Cardon, senior, who furnished both the drawings I and plates for the work of D’Hancarville, re-engraved for me. It exhibits a solstitial fountain. The bowl-shaped capital, and the thin tube in the shaft of the pillar, must be supposed to have connection with the terminus near it. When the water contained in the pillar was increased by the commencement of solstitial floods, seeking its level, it would discharge itself through the perforated breast of the Bacchus. It is here that the illumined paintings in the back ground become intelligible: for as previous to the arrival of the sun at the solstice vegetation had slackened, so, upon his passing it, vegetation was restored by these inundations. The contrasted figures of the terminus and the dancing satyr imply the vicissitude of inertness and activity; and the cherishing effect of this phenomenon upon nature is expressed by the water issuing from the breast of Bacchus.
• It may be difficult to conceive the precise application of the obeliscal pole upon the Thespian or Theban coin. If it really represented what I have suspected, it is not impossible that, placed in some low situation, such a contrivance might have been used to mark the rising and falling of the lake Copais, of which, and of its singular catabathra, a most interesting account is given by that very accurate traveller, Dodwell. Travels in Greece, vol. i. p. 238.
+ Vol. ïi. p. 107.
Of the Window and the Ladder, and the Banqueting Chamber of the
Blessed. — Singular Customs of the Oriental Buddhists explained.
Of a few points yet remaining for discussion, the window and ladder
be noticed as interesting symbols. Passeri explains the
square windows on vases to be receptacles in the walls for images of the domestic Lares, which were only opened on festive days, but were otherwise closed with bolts, as may be seen in the engravings of his work. But this opinion I must be permitted to class with the errors into which this learned antiquary was unavoidably betrayed, by placing the objects of his researches amongst a people, who neither invented the vessels nor the allegories he described. From the engravings of his valuable work, however, I flatter myself the meaning of these symbols may be elucidated; for which purpose a plate * in his first volume may be properly adduced, where a dove looks from one of these square receptacles, and a genius flying downward reaches out the vivifying scarf to a naked male figure. From this painting we discover, what powers were supposed to issue from these apertures, and what was the object of their descent.
* Vol. i. plate LXXXVI.