Greek and Roman Mythology > Glaucus and Scylla

Glaucus and Scylla

Glaucus was a fisherman. One day he had drawn his nets to land,
and had taken a great many fishes of various kinds. So he
emptied his net, and proceeded to sort the fishes on the grass.
The place where he stood was a beautiful island in the river, a
solitary spot, uninhabited, and not used for pasturage of cattle,
nor ever visited by any but himself. On a sudden, the fishes,
which had been laid on the grass, began to revive and move their
fins as if they were in the water; and while he looked on
astonished, they one and all moved off to the water, plunged in
and swam away. He did not know what to make of this, whether
some god had done it, or some secret power in the herbage. "What
herb has such a power?" he exclaimed; and gathering some, he
tasted it. Scarce had the juices of the plant reached his palate
when he found himself agitated with a longing desire for the
water. He could no longer restrain himself, but bidding farewell
to earth, he plunged into the stream. The gods of the water
received him graciously, and admitted him to the honor of their
society. They obtained the consent of Oceanus and Tethys, the
sovereigns of the sea, that all that was mortal in him should be
washed away. A hundred rivers poured their waters over him .
Then he lost all sense of his former nature and all
consciousness. When he recovered, he found himself changed in
form and mind. His hair was sea-green, and trailed behind him on
the water; his shoulders grew broad, and what had been thighs and
legs assumed the form of a fish's tail. The sea-gods
complimented him on the change of his appearance, and he himself
was pleased with his looks.

One day Glaucus saw the beautiful maiden Scylla, the favorite of
the water-nymphs, rambling on the shore, and when she had found a
sheltered nook, laving her limbs in the clear water. He fell in
love with her, and showing himself on the surface, spoke to her,
saying such things as he thought most likely to win her to stay;
for she turned to run immediately on sight of him and ran till
she had gained a cliff overlooking the sea. Here she stopped and
turned round to see whether it was a god or a sea-animal, and
observed with wonder his shape and color. Glaucus, partly
emerging from the water, and supporting himself against a rock,
said, "Maiden, I am no monster, nor a sea-animal, but a god; and
neither Proteus nor Triton ranks higher than I. Once I was a
mortal, and followed the sea for a living; but now I belong
wholly to it." Then he told the story of his metamorphosis and
how he had been promoted to his present dignity, and added, "But
what avails all this if it fails to move your heart?" He was
going on in this strain, but Scylla turned and hastened away.

Glaucus was in despair, but it occurred to him to consult the
enchantress, Circe. Accordingly he repaired to her island, the
same where afterwards Ulysses landed, as we shall see in another
story. After mutual salutations, he said, "Goddess, I entreat
your pity; you alone can relieve the pain I suffer. The power of
herbs I know as well as any one, for it is to them I owe my
change of form I love Scylla. I am ashamed to tell you how I
have sued and promised to her, and how scornfully she has treated
me. I beseech you to use your incantations, or potent herbs, if
they are more prevailing, not to cure me of my love, for that I
do not wish, but to make her share it and yield me a like
return." To which Circe replied, for she was not insensible to
the attractions of the sea-green deity, "You had better pursue a
willing object; you are worthy to be sought, instead of having to
seek in vain. Be not diffident, know your own worth. I protest
to you that even I, goddess though I be, and learned in the
virtues of plants and spells, should not know how to refuse you
If she scorns you, scorn her; meet one who is ready to meet you
half way, and thus make a due return to both at once." To these
words Glaucus replied, "Sooner shall trees grow at the bottom of
the ocean, and seaweed on the top of the mountains, than I will
cease to love Scylla, and her alone."

The goddess was indignant, but she could not punish him, neither
did she wish to do so, for she liked him too well; so she turned
all her wrath against her rival, poor Scylla. She took plants of
poisonous powers and mixed them together, with incantations and
charms. Then she passed through the crowd of gambolling beasts,
the victims of her art, and proceeded to the coast of Sicily,
where Scylla lived. There was a little bay on the shore to which
Scylla used to resort, in the heat of the day, to breathe the air
of the sea, and to bathe in its waters. Here the goddess poured
her poisonous mixture, and muttered over it incantations of
mighty power. Scylla came as usual and plunged into the water up
to her waist. What was her horror to perceive a brood of
serpents and barking monsters surrounding her! At first she
could not imagine they were a part of herself, and tried to run
from them, and to drive them away; but as she ran she carried
them with her, and when she tried to touch her limbs, she found
her hands touch only the yawning jaws of monsters. Scylla
remained rooted to the spot. Her temper grew as ugly as her
form, and she took pleasure in devouring hapless mariners who
came within her grasp. Thus she destroyed six of the companions
of Ulysses, and tried to wreck the ships of Aeneas, till at last
she was turned into a rock, and as such still continues to be a
terror to mariners.

The following is Glaucus's account of his feelings after his

"I plunged for life or death. To interknit
One's senses with so dense a breathing stuff
Might seem a work of pain; so not enough
Can I admire how crystal-smooth it felt,
And buoyant round my limbs. At first I dwelt
Whole days and days in sheer astonishment;
Forgetful utterly of self-9ntent,
Moving but with the mighty ebb and flow.
Then like a new-fledged bird that first doth show
His spreaded feathers to the morrow chill,
I tried in fear the pinions of my well.
"Twas freedom! And at once I visited
The ceaseless wonders of this ocean-bed."

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

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