Cook, Arthur B.
Zeus: a study in ancient religion (Band 1): Zeus god of the bright sky — Cambridge, 1914

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47o The Cow and the Moon in Crete

The Kouretes told him that he had in his herds a three-coloured cow1, and
that the man who could offer the best similitude for the colour of this cow
would also give him back his son alive. So the seers were called together, and
Polyidos, son of Koiranos, likened the colour of the cow to the fruit of a
bramble. He was therefore compelled to search for the boy, and by some
prophetic art he found him.'

With the rest of the story we are not here concerned. It is, how-
ever, worth while to compare the opening of the tale as told by

' Glaukos, son of Minos and Pasiphae, while playing at ball, fell into a big
jar full of honey. His parents sought him and enquired of Apollon about the
boy. To them x^pollon made answer : "A portent has been born to you, and
whoever can explain it will restore to you your boy." Minos, having listened
to the oracle, began to enquire of his people what this portent might be. They
said that a calf had been born, which thrice in the day, once every four hours,
changed its colour, being first white, then ruddy, and lastly black. Minos,
therefore, called his augurs together to explain the portent. When they were
at a loss to do so, Polyidos, son of Koiranos, showed3 that it was like a
mulberry-tree ; for the mulberry is first white, then red, and, when fully ripe,
black. Then said Minos to him: " The answer of Apollon requires that you
should restore to me my boy."'

It will be observed that, according to Apollodoros (and Tzetzes
bears him out4), the task set to test the powers of the seer was, not
to explain the significance of the three-coloured cow, but to find a
suitable comparison for its colours. The cow did not signify a
bramble-bush or a mulberry-tree, but in aspect or colour they
might be taken to resemble it. Now a common folk-lore explana-
tion of the moon's spots is that they are a thorn-bush carried by
the man-in-the-moon5. It might therefore be maintained that the
bramble-bush or mulberry-tree was a possible description of the
moon. And, if so, then the three-coloured cow, or calf that
changed its colour three times a day, was merely another way of
describing the moon. I am the more disposed to advance this
view because Io, who was so often identified with the moon6,
became according to one account now a white cow, now a black,
now a violet7, and because Bacis or Bacchis the sacred bull at

1 Apollod. 3. 3. 1 rpLxpunaTov...fiovv, Tzetz. in Lyk. Al. 811 i) rplxpu^os rod Wlvwos
/3ovs i] ev roh aypoh, schol. Aristeid. p. 728, 31 Dindorf j3ovv rpixpovov (rpixpup-ov Oxon.).

2 Hyg. /^. 136.

3 The text is uncertain. M. Schmidt prints: qui cum non invenirent, Polyidus
Coerani filius fBizanti monstrum demonstravit, eum farbori moro similem esse; nam
etc. T. Muncker cj. rubi moro, M. Schmidt cj. colore moro.

4 Tzetz. in Lyk. Al. 811 eri 8e /ecu ava<tt7)<reiv avrbv 6s 6171-17 t'lvi 6p,oia iariv 77 rpixpup-os
tou Mlvcoos /3ous k.t.X.

5 See e.g. J. Grimm Teutonic Mythology trans. J. S. Stallybrass London 1883 ii. 717 ff.,
P. Sebillot Le Folk-lore de France Paris 1904 i. 11 ff.

6 Supra p. 454 ff. 7 Supra p. 441.
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