Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/299

This page has been validated.

storks, the Thebans weasels, and the myth ran that the weasel had in some way aided Alcmena when in labour with Heracles. In another form of the myth the weasel was the foster-mother of the hero.[1] Other Thessalians, the Myrmidons, claimed descent from the ant and revered ants. The religious respect paid to mice in the temple of Apollo Smintheus, in the Troad, Rhodes, Gela, Lesbos, and Crete is well known, and a local tribe were alluded to as Mice by an oracle. The god himself, like the Japanese harvest-god, was represented in art with a mouse at his foot, and mice, as has been said, were fed at his shrine.[2] The Syrians, says Clemens Alexandrinus, worship doves and fishes, as the Elians worship Zeus.[3] The people of Delphi adored the wolf,[4] and the Samians the sheep. The Athenians had a hero whom they worshipped in the shape of a wolf.[5] A remarkable testimony is that of the scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius, ii. 124. "The wolf," he says, "was a beast held in honour by the Athenians, and whosoever slays a wolf collects what is needful for its burial." The burial of sacred animals in Egypt is familiar. An Arab tribe mourns over and solemnly buries all dead gazelles.[6] Nay, flies were adored with the sacrifice of an ox near the temple of

  1. Scholiast on Iliad, xix. 119.
  2. Ælian. H. A., xii. 5; Strabo, xiii. 604. Compare "Apollo and the Mouse," Custom and Myth, pp. 103–120.
  3. Lucian, De Deâ Syriâ.
  4. Ælian. H. A., xii. 40.
  5. Harpocration, δεκάζειν. Compare an address to the wolf-hero, "who delights in the flight and tears of men," in Aristophanes, Vespæ, 389.
  6. Robertson Smith, Kinship in Early Arabia, pp. 195–204.