* So mighty Hercules. l. 297. The story of Hercules seems of great antiquity, as appears from the simplicity of his dress and armour, a lion's skin and a club; and from the nature of many of his exploits, the destruction of wild beasts and robbers. This part of the history of Hercules seems to have related to times before the invention of the bow and arrow, or of spinning flax. Other stories of Hercules are perhaps of later date, and appear to be allegorical, as his conquering the river-god Achilous, and bringing Cerberus up to day light; the former might refer to his turning the course of a river, and draining a morass, and the latter to his exposing a part of the superstition of the times. The strangling the lion and tearing his jaws asunder, are described from a statue in the Museum Florentinum, and from an antique gem; and the grasping Anteus to death in his arms as he lifts him from the earth, is described from another antient cameo. The famous pillars of Hercules have been variously explained. Pliny asserts that the natives of Spain and of Africa believed that the mountains of Abyla and Calpè on each side of the straits of Gibraltar were the pillars of Hercules; and that they were reared by the hands of that god, and the sea admitted between them. Plin. Hist. Nat. p. 46. Edit. Manut. Venet. 1609.
If the passage between the two continents was opened by an earthquake in antient times, as this allegorical story would seem to countenance, there must have been an im∣mense current of water at first run into the Mediterranean from the Atlantic; since there is at present a strong stream sets always from thence into the Mediterranean. Whatever may be the cause, which now constantly operates, so as to make the surface of the Mediterranean lower than that of the Atlantic, it must have kept it very much lower before a passage for the water through the streights was opened. It is probable before such an event took place, the coasts and islands of the Mediterranean extended much further into that sea, and were then for a great extent of country, destroyed by the floods occasioned by the new rise of water, and have since remained beneath the sea. Might not this give rise to the flood of Deucalion? See note Cassia, V. II. of this work.
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