Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Helicon

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

HELICON, a mountain, or more strictly a mountain range, of Bœotia in ancient Greece, celebrated in classical literature as the favourite haunt of the muses, is situated between Lake Copais and the Gulf of Corinth. On the fertile eastern slopes stood a temple and grove sacred to the Muses, and adorned with beautiful statues, which, taken by Constantine the Great to beautify his new city, were consumed there by a fire in 404 a.d. Hard by sparkled the famous fountains of poetic inspiration, Aganippe and Hippocrene, the latter fabled to have gushed from the earth at the tread of the winged horse Pegasus, whose favourite browsing place was there. At the neighbouring Ascra dwelt the ancient Hesiod, a fact which probably enhanced the poetic fame of the region. Pausanias, who describes Helicon in his ninth book, asserts that it was the most fertile mountain in Greece, and that neither poisonous plant nor serpent was to be found on it, while many of its herbs possessed a miraculous healing virtue. The highest summit, the present Paleovuni (old hill), rises to the height of about 5000 feet. Modern travellers, aided by ancient remains and inscriptions, and guided by the local descriptions of Pausanias, have succeeded in identifying many of the ancient classical spots. For details of modern research see Clarke’s Travels in Various Countries (vol. vii., 1818), Dodwell’s Classical and Topographical Tour through Greece (1818), and Leake’s Travels in Northern Greece (vol. ii, 1835).