The Ancient Library

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On this page: Learchus – Lectica – Lectisternium – Lecythus – Leda – Legati – Legion



very celebrated in ancient times, and was the theme of a minor epic poem by Musaeus (q.v.). He was in love with Hero (q.v.), and every night swam across the Hellespont to visit her in her solitary tower at Lesbos. He was guided by a light in the tower, and on its being extinguished in a night of tempest, he lost his life in the waves. When Hero saw his corpse washed up the next morning on the shore, she threw herself down from the tower, and was thus killed.

LSarchus. The son of Athamas (q.v.) and Ino. He was killed by his father in a fit of madness.

Lectica. See litters. Lectisterninm. A festival of Greek origin, first ordered by the Sibylline books in 399 b.c. It was held on exceptional occa­sions, particularly in times of great distress. Images of the gods (probably portable figures of wood draped with robes, and with their heads made of marble, clay, or wax) were laid on a couch (called the lectua or pulvinar). A table was placed before them, on which was laid out a meal, always a free-will offering. At the first Lecti-sternia, there were three lectl arranged for three pairs of non-Roman divinities: Apollo and Latona, Heracles and ArtSmis (Diana), Hermes (Mercurius) and Poseidon (Nep-tnne). Afterwards, this sacrifice was offered to the six pairs of Roman gods, who cor­responded to the twelve great gods of the Greeks: Juptter, Juno, Neptune, Minerva, Mars, Venus, Apollo, Diana, Vulcan, Vesta, Mercury, and Ceres. These banquets to the gods generally took place at festivals of prayer and thanksgiving, which were called SuppllcMlant!s (q.v.), and were per­formed in the market-places or at appointed temples, in which the arrangements for the purpose were on a permanent footing. It was customary to have connected with this a domestic feast, to which both strangers and friends were invited, and in which even those imprisoned for debt were al­lowed to participate. From the commence­ment of the 3rd century B.C. a banquet was regularly given to the three Capitoline divinities, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, on every 13th of November, in conjunction with the plebeian games. Under the Em­pire the celebration was on the 13th of September, and was associated with the Roman games. From B.C. 196 it was pro­vided by the College of Epuloncs (q.v.). The images of the three gods were decked with curls, anointed, and tricked out with

colours. Jupiter was placed reclining on a cushion, with a goddess on each side of him seated on a chair ; and the divinities were invited to a banquet, in which the whole senate participated.

Lecjtlras (Gr. lektithds). An oil-flask. (See vases and vessels.)

Leda. Daughter of Thestius, and sister of Althjea, and wife of Tyndareos. Ac­cording to Homer it was by Tyndareos that she became the mother of Castor and Pollux (Polydeuces), and also of Clytae-mnestra, while Helen was her daughter by Zeus. Generally, however, Helen and Pollux are described as children of Zeus, Clytaemnestra and Castor as those of Tyn­dareos. According to the later story, Zeus approached Leda in the shape of a swan, and she brought forth two eggs, out of one of which sprang Helen, and out of the other Castor and Pollux.

Legati. The Roman term for (1) ambas­sadors who, under the Republic, were chosen by the senate from among the most dis­tinguished senators and provided with in­structions and proper remuneration. On their return they had to hand in a report to the senate.

(2) Persons appointed, as above, by the senate, to accompany the generals and the governors of provinces. Three or more could be appointed, according to the neces­sity of the case. They were of senatorial rank, and were bound to carry out the com­mands of their superior officer, who was responsible for them. In his absence they took his place as legati pro prcetore. Under the Empire this title was also given to those who assisted in the duties of juris­diction and government in the senatorial provinces. On the other hand, the legati Augusti pro prcetore were nominated by th& emperor himself, without any specified limit of time, to act as governors over imperial provinces in which there was an army. They were divided into consular and prae­torian legati, according as the authority delegated to them extended over several legions or only one. Besides these there were legati ISglOnum, appointed according to the number of the legions. They were men of senatorial rank, and had the com­mand of the several legions, and of the auxiliary troops belonging to them.

Legion (Llglo). In the time of Romulus the united armed forces of Rome went by this name. The legion consisted of 300 knights (cttSres) under the command of a tribunus celerwn, appointed by the king,

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