The Ancient Library

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On this page: Diophantus – Dioscorides – Dioscuri – Diphilus



Hacchanalia were celebrated by men and women, in Italy outside the cities, in Rome in the sacred enclosure of Stiinula or Semele. They were accompanied with such shameless excesses that in 186 b.c. they were put down, with unsparing severity, by a decree of the senate.

Dlophantus. A Greek mathematician of Alexandria, who flourished probably about 360 b.c. He was the author of an Arith-metlca in thirteen books, of which little more than the first six still remain. The book is the only Greek work upon algebra. Dio-phantus was the most considerable arith­metician in Greek antiquity.

Dlosc5rldes (PedaniSs). A Greek physi­cian and man of science. He flourished about the middle of the 1st century a.d., and was the author of a work De MatSrid MldlcO, in five books. For nearly 1700 years this book was the chief authority for stu­dents of botany and the science of healing. Two short essays on specifics against vegetable and animal poisons (Alemphar-maca and ThgrlSca) are appended to it as the sixth and seventh books: but these are probably from the hand of a later Dioscorides of Alexandria. A work on family medicine is also attributed to him, but is not genuine.

Dioscuri, i.e. sons of Zeus, the horse-tamer Castor, and Polydeuces (Lat. Pollux) the master of the art of boxing. In Homer they are represented as the sons of Leda and Tyndargos, and called in consequence Tyndarldae, as dying in the time between the rape of Helen and the Trojan War, and as buried in their father-city Lacfidsemon. But even under the earth they were alive. Honoured of Zeus, they live and die on alternate days and enjoy the prerogatives of godhead. In the later story sometimes both, sometimes only Polydeuces is the descendant of Zeus. (See leda.) They undertake an expedition to Attica, where they set free their sister He'lena, whom Theseus has carried off. They take part in the expedition of the Argonauts. (See amyous.) Castor, who had been born mortal, falls in a contest with Idas and Lynceus, the sons of their paternal uncle Aphareus. The fight arose, according to one version, in a quarrel over some cattle which they had carried off; according to an­other, it was about the rape of two daughters of another uncle Leucippus, Phosbe and Hilaira, who were betrothed to the sons of Aphareus. On his brother's death Poly­deuces, the immortal son of Zeus, prays his father to let him die too. Zeus permits

him to spend alternately one day among the gods his peers, the other in the lower world with his beloved brother. According to another story Zeus, in reward for their brotherly love, sets them in the sky as the constellation of the Twins, or the morning and evening star. They are the ideal types of bravery and dexterity in fight. Thus they are the tutelary gods of warlike youth, often sharing in their contests, and honoured as the inventors of military dances and melodies. The ancient symbol of the twin gods at Lacedaemon was two parallel beams, joined by cross-pieces, which the Spartans took with them into war. They were worshipped at Sparta and Olympia with Heracles and other heroes. At Athens too they were honoured as gods under the name of AnakSs (Lords Protectors). At sea, as in war, they lend their aid to men. The storm-tossed mariner sees the sign of their beneficent presence in the flame at the mast-head. He prays, and vows to them the sacrifice of a white lamb, and the storm soon ceases. (See helena.) The rites of hospitality are also under their protection. They are generally represented with their horses Xanthus and Cyllarns, as in the celebrated colossal group of Monte Cavallo in Rome. Their characteristic emblem is an oval helmet crowned with a star.

The worship of Castor and Pollux was from early times current among the tribes of Italy. They enjoyed especial honours in Tusculum and Rome. In the latter city a considerable temple was built to them near the Forum (414 B.C.) in gratitude for their appearance and assistance at the battle of the Lake Regillus twelve years before. In this building, generally called simply the temple of Castor, the senate often held its sittings. It was in their honour, too, that the solemn review of the Roman Cquites was held on the 15th July. The names of Castor and Pollux, like that of Hercules, were often in use as familiar expletives, but the name of Castor was invoked by women only. They were wor­shipped as gods of the sea, particularly in Ostia, the harbour town of Rome. Their image is to be seen stamped on the reverse of the oldest Roman silver coins, (See coinage.)

Diphilns. A poet of the new Attic comedy, a native of Slnope, and contem­porary of Menander. He is supposed to have written some 100 pieces, of which we have the titles and fragments of about 60.

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All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.