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CIRCE—CIRCEIUS MONS

marriage bond. The respect for superior age was carried to such an extent that the young brother used to rise from his seat when the elder entered an apartment, and was silent when he spoke. Like all the other inhabitants of the Caucasus, the Circassians were distinguished for two very opposite qualities—the most generous hospitality and implacable vindictiveness. Hospitality to the stranger was considered one of the most sacred duties. Whatever were his rank in life, all the members of the family rose to receive him on his entrance, and conduct him to the principal seat in the apartment. The host was considered responsible with his own life for the security of his guest, upon whom, even although his deadliest enemy, he would inflict no injury while under the protection of his roof. The chief who had received a stranger was also bound to grant him an escort of horse to conduct him in safety on his journey, and confide him to the protection of those nobles with whom he might be on friendly terms. The law of vengeance was no less binding on the Circassian. The individual who had slain any member of a family was pursued with implacable vengeance by the relatives, until his crime was expiated by death. The murderer might, indeed, secure his safety by the payment of a certain sum of money, or by carrying off from the house of his enemy a newly-born child, bringing it up as his own, and restoring it when its education was finished. In either case, the family of the slain individual might discontinue the pursuit of vengeance without any stain upon its honour. The man closely followed by his enemy, who, on reaching the dwelling of a woman, had merely touched her hand, was safe from all other pursuit so long as he remained under the protection of her roof. The opinions of the Circassians regarding theft resembled those of the ancient Spartans. The commission of the crime was not considered so disgraceful as its discovery; and the punishment of being compelled publicly to restore the stolen property to its original possessor, amid the derision of his tribe, was much dreaded by the Circassian who would glory in a successful theft. The greatest stain upon the Circassian character was the custom of selling their children, the Circassian father being always willing to part with his daughters, many of whom were bought by Turkish merchants for the harems of Eastern monarchs. But no degradation was implied in this transaction, and the young women themselves were generally willing partners in it. Herds of cattle and sheep constituted the chief riches of the inhabitants. The princes and nobles, from whom the members of the various tribes held the land which they cultivated, were the proprietors of the soil. The Circassians carried on little or no commerce, and the state of perpetual warfare in which they lived prevented them from cultivating any of the arts of peace.


CIRCE (Gr. Κίρκη), in Greek legend, a famous sorceress, the daughter of Helios and the ocean nymph Perse. Having murdered her husband, the prince of Colchis, she was expelled by her subjects and placed by her father on the solitary island of Aeaea on the coast of Italy. She was able by means of drugs and incantations to change human beings into the forms of wolves or lions, and with these beings her palace was surrounded. Here she was found by Odysseus and his companions; the latter she changed into swine, but the hero, protected by the herb moly (q.v.), which he had received from Hermes, not only forced her to restore them to their original shape, but also gained her love. For a year he relinquished himself to her endearments, and when he determined to leave, she instructed him how to sail to the land of shades which lay on the verge of the ocean stream, in order to learn his fate from the prophet Teiresias. Upon his return she also gave him directions for avoiding the dangers of the journey home (Homer, Odyssey, x.-xii.; Hyginus, Fab. 125). The Roman poets associated her with the most ancient traditions of Latium, and assigned her a home on the promontory of Circei (Virgil, Aeneid, vii. 10). The metamorphoses of Scylla and of Picus, king of the Ausonians, by Circe, are narrated in Ovid (Metamorphoses, xiv.).

The Myth of Kirke, by R. Brown (1883), in which Circe is explained as a moon-goddess of Babylonian origin, contains an exhaustive summary of facts, although many of the author’s speculations may be proved untenable (review by H. Bradley in Academy, January 19, 1884); see also J. E. Harrison, Myths of the Odyssey (1882); C. Seeliger in W. H. Roscher’s Lexikon der Mythologie.


CIRCEIUS MONS (mod. Monte Circeo), an isolated promontory on the S.W. coast of Italy, about 80 m. S.E. of Rome. It is a ridge of limestone about 3½ m. long by 1 m. wide at the base, running from E. to W. and surrounded by the sea on all sides except the N. The land to the N. of it is 53 ft. above sea-level, while the summit of the promontory is 1775 ft. The origin of the name is uncertain: it has naturally been connected with the legend of Circe, and Victor Bérard (in Les Phéniciens et l’Odyssée, ii. 261 seq.) maintains in support of the identification that Αἰαίη, the Greek name for the island of Circe, is a faithful transliteration of a Semitic name, meaning “island of the hawk,” of which nē̂sos Kírkēs is the translation. The difficulty has been raised, especially by geologists, that the promontory ceased to be an island at a period considerably before the time of Homer; but Procopius very truly remarked that the promontory has all the appearance of an island until one is actually upon it. Upon the E. end of the ridge of the promontory are the remains of an enceinte, forming roughly a rectangle of about 200 by 100 yds. of very fine polygonal work, on the outside, the blocks being very carefully cut and jointed and right angles being intentionally avoided. The wall stands almost entirely free, as at Arpinum—polygonal walls in Italy are as a rule embanking walls—and increases considerably in thickness as it descends. The blocks of the inner face are much less carefully worked both here and at Arpinum. It seems to have been an acropolis, and contains no traces of buildings, except for a subterranean cistern, circular, with a beehive roof of converging blocks. The modern village of S. Felice Circeo seems to occupy the site of the ancient town, the citadel of which stood on the mountain top, for its medieval walls rest upon ancient walls of Cyclopean work of less careful construction than those of the citadel, and enclosing an area of 200 by 150 yds.

Circei was founded as a Roman colony at an early date—according to some authorities in the time of Tarquinius Superbus, but more probably about 390 B.C. The existence of a previous population, however, is very likely indicated by the revolt of Circei in the middle of the 4th century B.C., so that it is doubtful whether the walls described are to be attributed to the Romans or the earlier Volscian inhabitants. At the end of the republic, however, or at latest at the beginning of the imperial period, the city of Circei was no longer at the E. end of the promontory, but on the E. shores of the Lago di Paola (a lagoon—now a considerable fishery—separated from the sea by a line of sandhills and connected with it by a channel of Roman date: Strabo speaks of it as a small harbour) one mile N. of the W. end of the promontory. Here are the remains of a Roman town, belonging to the 1st and 2nd centuries, extending over an area of some 600 by 500 yards, and consisting of fine buildings along the lagoons, including a large open piscina or basin, surrounded by a double portico, while farther inland are several very large and well-preserved water-reservoirs, supplied by an aqueduct of which traces may still be seen. An inscription speaks of an amphitheatre, of which no remains are visible. The transference of the city did not, however, mean the abandonment of the E. end of the promontory, on which stand the remains of several very large villas. An inscription, indeed, cut in the rock near S. Felice, speaks of this part of the promunturium Veneris (the only case of the use of this name) as belonging to the city of Circei. On the S. and N. sides of the promontory there are comparatively few buildings, while, at the W. end there is a sheer precipice to the sea. The town only acquired municipal rights after the Social War, and was a place of little importance, except as a seaside resort. For its villas Cicero compares it with Antium, and probably both Tiberius and Domitian possessed residences there. The beetroot and oysters of Circei had a certain reputation. The view from the highest summit of the promontory (which is occupied by ruins of a platform attributed with great probability to a temple of Venus or Circe) is of remarkable beauty; the whole mountain is covered with fragrant