Glossary of Historical persons and Classical figures


Absolom: the third son of David, his story is told in 2 Samuel. Absolom rebelled against his father, declaring himself king, and leading an army against his father’s forces at Hebron, forcing him to flee. Absolom’s army was eventually defeated at the Battle of Ephraim Wood; when fleeing, Absolom was caught by the hair in the boughs of a oak tree, and Joab, David’s commander, took the opportunity to kill him as he was hanging by his hair.

Achilles: An invincible warrior who is made immortal, except for the heel of one foot, when his mother dips him in the River Styx. Achilles enters into the Trojan War (a ten-year siege of Troy by a coalitian of Greeks) after his friend and brother-in-arms, Patroclus, is killed by Hector, a Trojan. He is killed when Paris, son of king Priam of Troy, shoots an arrow into his heel, just prior to the fall of Troy.

Actaeon: In classical mythology, a hunter who comes across the goddess Diana bathing with her nymphs. Angered that Actaeon has seen her naked, Diana transforms him into a deer and he is killed by his own hounds.

Admetus: In Greek mythology, King of Thessaly who is condemned to death, but his wife Alcestis offers to die in his place. As Alcestis descends to the Underworld, Admetus realises he does not want to live, and Hercules, to whom Admetus has shown kindness, saves the day by entering Alcestis’s tomb and wrestling with Thanatos until the god agrees to release her. In other versions of the myth, Persephone sends Alcestis back from the Underworld.

Adonis: In Greek mythology, a young man who is loved by the goddess Venus/Aphrodite. He spurns her advances prefering instead to hunt. He is gored to death by a boar and an anemone springs from his blood.

Aeneas: Hero of Virgil’s Aeneid. The son of Anchises and Venus, and cousin to Priam, Aeneas is one of the primary heroes of the Trojan War alongside Hector, and finally flees during the sack of Troy, with his father on his shoulders, when ordered by the gods. With a few fellow Trojans, Aeneas wanders the mediterranean, seeking a new homeland. Cast ashore in Carthage, he falls in love with Dido, but Mercury is sent to order that he returns to his quest, and he chooses duty over love, leaving a grieving Dido, who commits suicide. When he reaches his destination, Italy, he forms an alliance with its king, Latinus, and is betrothed to his daughter, Lavinia. War breaks out with Lavinia’s former suitor, Turnus, in which Aeneas is victorious, and he goes on to found the city of Lavinium. At his death, his mother, Venus,requests his deification and he becomes the god Indiges.

Aeolus: Greek god of the winds.

Agamemnon: King of Mycenae and leader of the Greeks in the Trojan War who is murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, in revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter, Iphigenia, and because he has taken Cassandra as his lover.

Ajax: Greek Hero of the Trojan War who quarrelled with Odysseus after Achilles’ death over which of them should have his armour. When the armour was awarded to Odysseus, Ajax committed suicide.

Alcestis. The wife of Admetus who sacrifices herself to save her husband’s life.

Alecto: In Greek mythology, one of the Furies, three hideous goddesses of vengeance. Virgil, in Georgics 4.453-527, describes how, during his quest to rescue Eurydice, his wife, from hell, Orpheus, the poet renowned for the power of his music, casts a spell over all its occupants, including the Furies.

Alexander: Alexander the Great, king of Macedonia (336-323 BC), who conquered much of the ancient world, including Persia, Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, Bactria, and the Punjab. Alexander famously ‘untied’ the Gordian knot; unable to find the end, he sliced the knot with his sword, thus producing the required end, and taken as a sign that he would have many victories and become king of Asia.

Alcmene: In Greek mythology, Alcmene conceived the twins Hercules and Iphicles, after sex with both Zeus, disguised as her husband, who thus fathered Hercules, and Amphitryon, her husband who fathered Iphicles. Zeus lay with her for three nights, holding back the sun for one day.

Amphion: King of Thebes and a renowned harpist who makes rocks move with his music.

Amphitrite: in Greek mythology, goddess of the sea and wife of Poseidon. She is the mother of Triton, a merman.

Anaxarete: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, XIV, Anaxarete who rejects the love of Iphis. He hangs himself from her gate-post while she looks on, unmoved. At his funeral she mocks him and is punished for her cruelty by being turned to stone.

Antimachus: Greek poet and scholar (fl.400 BC) who founded epic poetry. Critics allotted him the next place to Homer.

Apelles: Pre-eminent Greek painter (c. 4 BC) who was renowned for the realism of his paintings. The proverb ‘let the shoemaker stick to his last [wooden or metal model for fashioning shoes or boots]’ is atrributed to him; it is reported that he refused to let a shoemaker comment on any part of his painting beyond the slipper.

Arachne: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, VI, a skilful weaver who challenges the goddess Athena to a weaving competition. Jealous at Arachne’s skill, Athena destroys the tapestry. Arachne despairs and tries to hang herself. Athena turns Arachne into into a spider and her rope into a web.

Arethusa: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, V, a nymph beloved of Alpheus, the river-god. He pursues her and Artemis turns her into a fountain so that she can escape him.

Argus: In Greek mythology, a monster with one hundred eyes. He is the servant of the goddess Hera, sent to watch over the nymph Io in order to prevent Zeus’s seduction of her.

Ariadne: Daughter of king Minos of Crete who falls in love with Theseus. She helps him to escape the labyrinth, but he abandons her on the island of Naxos. She is rescued by Dionysius who turns her into a constellation crowned with seven stars.

Arion: an ancient Greek poet, famed for his lyre playing and for creating the dithyramb. In popular legend, he was captured by pirates and, threatened with death, he sang one last song in praise of Apollo, which summoned the dolphins, who rescued him as he threw himself into the sea, and carried him safely to land.

Aristotle: (384–322 BC), one of the most influential Western philosophers alongside Plato. His writings cover wide range of disciplines, including logic, metaphysics, ethics, natural philosophy, political theory, aesthetics, and rhetoric.

Astraea: In Greek mythology, the virgin goddess of justice, who lived on earth with man during the Golden Age, but abandoned mankind with the coming of the Iron Age, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, I. During the English Renaissance, Astraea was associated with Elizabeth I in her role as the virgin Queen presiding over a new Golden Age in England.

Atlas: In Greek mythology, one of the Titans, the giant offspring of Uranus and Gaia, who is punished for his part in their revolt again Zeus by being forced to support the heavens.

Atrides: Collective name for Agamemnon and Menelaus, the sons of King Atreus of Mycenae.

Atropos: The oldest of the three Fates who chooses the means of death and cuts the thread of life.

Audley, Thomas: was a soldier and gentleman usher to Henry VIII, was appointed lieutenant of the Old Man in Boulogne in 1546. In 1548, he was sent to Scotland, and a year later was rewarded for capturing the rebel ‘Ket’; praised by the soldier-author, Barnabe Riche, ‘what art thou, that does not yet know the noble Captaine Audley, whose prouesse and valiaunce, as it hath made him famous to euery inferior person, so hee is likewise honoured of each renowned wight’, A Right Exelent and pleasaunt Dialogue, betwene Mercury and an English Souldier (1574), sig. B.

Aurora: In Roman mythology, the goddess of the dawn. Her attempts to seduce Cephalus are related in Book VII of Ovid’s Metamorphoses.


Bacchus: In Greek mythology, Dionysus. The god of wine and revelry, he is associated with drunkenness and lascivious behaviour.

Belides: the name given by Ovid to the Danaides, the fifty daughters of Danaü, who were betrothed by their father to the fifty sons of Aegyptus who demanded that they kill their husbands. Hypermnestra was the only one who did not kill her husband, Lynceus. The Belides were purified of their crimes at the command of Zeus, but their father found it difficult to get them husbands, and so held contests at which his daughters were the prizes. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the Belides are punished for their crimes in the underworld by being made to pour water into vessels with holes eternally.

Bellona: In Roman mythology, the goddess of war.

Beezlebub: ‘Lord of the flies’; one of the seven princes of Hell.

Bodenham, John: (c. 1559 – 1610) A wealthy grocer and literary patron who was the initiator, projector, and patron of five prose commonplace books and poetry miscellanies including Englands Helicon (1600).

Boreas: In Greek mythology, god of the North Wind.

Briseis: a beautiful, fair princess, her family and husband are killed by Achilles during the Trojan Wars and she is awarded to him as his concubine. Agamemnon demands her as his prize, enraged Achilles withdraws from battle, and does not return to fight until Agamemnon returns Briseis. See Homer’s Iliad.

Brute: Legendary Trojan hero who was supposed to be the descendant of Aeneas. He is said to have founded Troynovant, or new Troy (London), and to be the ancestor of the British people.

Brutus: Marcus Junius Brutus (c. 85-42 BC), Roman politician, who, with Cassius, led the conspiracy to assassinate Caesar. He killed himself after the battle at Philippi where he and Cassius were defeated by Mark Antony and Octavian (see Augustus Caesar).

Bryan, Sir Francis: (d.1550) was a courtier who became gentleman of the privy chamber during the reign of Henry VIII. He was known for his willingness to tell Henry VIII the truth. He advanced the cause of Anne Boleyn, his cousin, and then distanced himself from the Boleyns when the King and his wife became alienated. With Sir Thomas Wyatt, he was sent on a diplomatic embassy to the French King in 1538, and behaved so badly that he lost favour with Henry. To prove his loyalty, he sat on the jury which convicted his brother-in-law, Nicholas Carew, of treason. Thomas Cromwell called him the ‘Vicar from Hell’. Bryan was also a poet, and was thought to have been a contributor to Tottel’s Miscellany, however none of his poems have been identified with certainty.

Brydges, Giles: Baron Chandos (1548-1594), a central figure in the administration of Gloucestershire. The queen visited him at Sudeley manor in 1576 and 1592.


Cadmus: In Greek mythology, the founder of the city of Thebes. Cadmus is sent by his father to find his sister, Europa, after she has been abducted by Zeus. On his travels, the oracles at Delphi tell him to follow a cow with a half-moon on her flank and to build a city (Thebes) where she falls exhausted. He kills a dragon, sacred to Aries-Mars, and is told by Athena to sow the dragon’s teeth from which springs the Spartoi, a race of fierce warriors; Cadmus throws a stone among them so that they fight each other, and the last five standing help him to build Thebes. As penance for killing the dragon, he serves Aries-Mars for eight years and is then give Harmonia as a wife in reward. Despite his penance, Cadmus continued to suffer misfortune. At their deaths, in some versions, Cadmus and Harmonia are turned into snakes. See Ovid, Metamorphoses, III.

Caesar Augustus: First Roman emperor (29 BC – AD 14). The adopted son of Julius Caesar, his maternal great-uncle, he formed the second Triumvate with Lepidus and Mark Anthony after Caesar’s assassination to defeat his opponents, Brutus and Cassius. After the breakdown of the second Triumvirate, he ruled as a military dictator and his reign is known as the Pax Romana.

Caesar, Julius: (100-44BC), Roman general, statesman and historian, who played a key role in the transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He established the First Triumvirate with Pompey and Crassus in 60 BC, however, their alliance broke down following Caesar’s military successes in the Gallic Wars. When Pompey ordered Caesar to disband his armies, he instead crossed the Rubicon and entered Italy resulting in civil war. Pompey fled to Egypt in 48BC, pursued by Caesar, and was betrayed and murdered by his former Egyptian allies. Caesar was appointed dictator in 48BC; his fellow senators, lead by Brutus and Cato, fearing his political ambitions, assassinated Caesar as he arrived at the Senate on the Ides of March of 44BC.

Caesar and Pompey: See Caesar above. In Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Plutarch writes that ‘when one of the Egyptians was sent to present him [Caesar] with Pompey’s head, he turned away from him with abhorrence as from a murderer; and on receiving the seal… he burst into tears’.

Calliope: Chief of the nine muses and the muse of epic poetry.

Callisto: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, II, Jupiter falls in love with the nymph Callisto, a devotee of the goddess Diana, and rapes her. Diana expels her from her troop and she gives birth to Arcas. Juno, Jupiter’s wife, takes revenge by turning Callisto into a bear. Many years later, Arcas hunting in the forest is about to kill his mother, but Jupiter intervenes and turns them into the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor.

Camma: In Plutarch’s On the Bravery of Women, Camma is a princess and priestess of Artemis. Her husband, Sinatus, is murdered by Sinorix who then attempts to woo Camma. Resisting his advances, she serves him poisoned milk and honey, which she then consumes himself. She dies happy in the knowledge that she has avenged the death of her husband. Her tale was subsequently used as an example of wifely devotion.

Cary, Elizabeth, Viscountess Falkland: (1585-1639), was a writer and translator, who published A Tragedy of Mariam in 1613, and received dedications from her former tutors, Michael Drayton, who dedicated to her two epistles of Englands Heroicall Epistles (1597), and John Davies of Hereford, who dedicated his The Muses Sacrifice to her in 1612. The second edition of Englands Helicon was dedicated to Cary in 1614. Elizabeth married Henry Cary, later Viscount Falkland, in 1602 and bore him eleven children. She wrote throughout her marriage, including ‘Edwarde the Seconde: his raigne and deathe’, which survives in a manuscript dated 1626, and was published posthumously in 1680, although attributed to her husband. She was the dedicatee of A Sixthe Booke to the Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (1624), and The Workes of Mr John Marston (1633). In 1626, Cary converted to Catholicism and was rejected by her husband.

Cassius: Longinus, Gaius Cassius (d. 42 BC), a Roman general and brother-in-law of Brutus, he was a leading figure in the plot to assassinate Julius Caesar. In the wars that followed Caesar’s death, Cassius’s army was defeated by Mark Antony at the Battle of Philippi, and he committed suicide.

Cato the Younger: Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis (95 – 46 BC), great-grandson of Cato the Elder. During the civil war between Julius Caesar and Pompey, he tried to avoid civilian bloodshed but supported Pompey. After Pompey’s defeat, he committed suicide rather than accept Caesar’s pardon. Livy writes that when “Caesar defeated Praetor Scipio and Juba at Thapsus and stormed their camp … [Cato] stabbed himself”.
Cato, Marcus Porcius: (234-149 BC), also know as ‘Cato the Elder’ and Cato the Censor, who was a dominant figure in both the political and cultural life of Rome in the first half of 2 BC. He was renowned for the high standards of morality and justice that he rigorously applied to himself and others.

Cecil, William: first Baron Burghley (c. 1521 – 1598 AD), was the chief advisor to Queen Elizabeth throughout her reign until his death. He held high office, serving as Secretary of State from 1550 to 1553, and again, under Elizabeth, from 1558 to 1572, and was appointed Lord Treasurer in 1572.

Ceres: In Roman mythology, the goddess of agriculture; Demeter in Greek mythology.

Charon: In Greek mythology, the Ferryman of the Underworld who carries the dead across the river Styx and into Hades.

Chaucer, Geoffrey: (c. 1340 – 1400 AD), an English poet and administrator whose works include Troilus and Criseyde, The Legend of Good Women, and The Canterbury Tales. The first two folio editions of The Canterbury Tales were published by William Caxton in 1478 and 1483. William Thynne’s editions of Chaucer’s Works, published in 1532 and 1542, helped to establish a Chaucer canon and Chaucer’s reputation as the father of English poetry.

Cheke, Sir John: (1514-57), tutor then Secretary of State to Edward VI.

Chilon: Spartan ephor or leader (c. 556 BC) whose wit and wisdom gained him a place among the Seven Sages of Greece. After his death he was worshipped in Sparta as a hero.

Chloris: Greek goddess of spring.

Circe: In Greek mythology, an enchantress who transforms her enemies into animals through the use of potions. In the Odyssey, she turns Odysseus’ men into swine.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius: (106 – 43 BC), sometimes anglicised as Tully, was a Roman orator, statesman, and writer. In the Renaissance, he was celebrated as the greatest classical orator, and his writings were widely admired and imitated by rhetoricians. During Julius Caesar’s dictatorship, Cicero called for a return to values of an older Roman Republic. Following Caesar’s assassination, Cicero took on the role of spokesman for the Senate, making an enemy of Mark Antony. After the Second Triumvirate was formed, he was named an enemy of the state and murdered.

Clifford, George, Earl of Cumberland: (1558–1605), courtier and privateer, was born on 8 August 1558 in Brougham Castle, Westmoreland, the eldest son of Henry Clifford, second earl of Cumberland (1517–1570), and his second wife, Anne (c.1538–1581), daughter of William, third Baron Dacre. In January 1570 his father died and George inherited the title and estate, although since he was under age he became a ward of the crown. The wardship was granted to Francis Russell, second earl of Bedford. Clifford would go on to marry Margaret in 1577.

Clifford, Margaret, Countess of Cumberland: (1560-1616) the third and youngest daughter of the second Earl of Bedford, was born at Exeter on July 7, or July 8, 1560. She married George Clifford, third Earl of Cumberland (1558-1605), at Southwark Cathedral on June 24, 1577, and died at Brougham Castle, Westmoreland, on May 22, 1616; she was buried at St. Laurence, Appleby, on July 7. She was distinguished for her literary tastes, engaging Samuel Daniel as tutor to her daughter Anne, who dedicated several famous poems to her.

Clitia: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, IV, Clitia or Clytie is a water-nymph who falls in love with Apollo, the sun. He does not return her love and instead falls in love with Leucothoe. Clytie has her rival buried alive, but this only angers Apollo. She then pines away in grief, sitting on rocks staring at the sun, Apollo; after nine days the gods turn her into a turnsole, a flower known for growing in rocky, sunny conditions – later versions of the story often substitue the sunflower for the turnsole.

Clytemnestra: In Greek mythology, the daughter of the Spartan king and queen, Tyndareus and Leda, and the wife of Agamemnon. She conspires with her lover Aegisthus to murder Agamemnon on his return from the Trojan War in revenge for Agamemnon’s sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia. She is murdered in retribution by their son Orestes and their daughter Electra.

Compton, Henry: (1538-1589) first Baron Compton, the grandson of George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. He was one of the peers at the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots. His first wife was Frances, daughter of Francis Hasting, Earl of Huntington, and his second wife was Anne, daughter of Sir John Spencer.

Cressida: is the paragon of female faithlessness and inconstancy. After betraying and abandoning Troilus, Cresseid is herself abandoned by Diomedes and dies of leprosy in Robert Henryson’s (1460-1500) Testament of Cresseid, printed with sixteenth-century editions of Chaucer.

Croesus: or Cressus King of Lydia from 560 to 547 B.C. who was renowned for his wealth. Croesus asked Solon, the Athenian statesman and lawmaker, the question ‘which man is happy?’, and was disappointed with the reply that other men were happier; Croesus’s own good fortune was reversed with the death of his son and his wife’s suicide, and his wealth and happiness therefore was offered as an example of the fickleness of fortune.

Cumaean Sybil: The ten Sibyls were ancient Greek prophetesses. Virgil offers a description of the Cumaean Sybil uttering prophesies under the inspiration of Apollo. According to legend, a collection of the Cumaean Sybil’s oracles came to Rome during the 5th century BC and were consulted by the Senate in times of crisis.

Cupid: In Roman mythology, the god of love, often depicted with a blind-fold in accordance with the proverbial saying ‘love is blind’. His golden arrows incited love, his arrows of lead, hate.

Cynthia: Name for the goddess Artemis or Diana, often used poetically to denote the moon.

Cyrus the Great: (d. 530 BC), founder of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, his empire is said to have stretched from the Mediterranean to India.


Daedalus: In Greek mythology, a craftsman who designed and built the labyrinth which housed the Minotaur. Ariadne gives Theseus the thread that leads him safely out of the labyrinth after he has killed the Minotaur. In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, VIII, Daedalus is imprisoned with his son Icarus in a tower to keep knowledge of the labyrinth secret. Daedalus makes them both wings, held together by wax, to escape. On their flight, his son ignores his warnings not to fly too close to the sun, the wax melts, and Icarus falls into the sea and drowns.

Damocles and Dionysus: Their story is told in the moral fable ‘The Sword of Damocles’. The courtier Damocles aiming to flatter his king, Dionysus, gave his opinion that so powerful and magnificent a prince was truly fortunate. Dionysus offered to exchange places with him, and Damocles sat down in the throne over which Dionysus had placed a sword hanging by a single horse hair. In terror, Damocles asked to go back to his former life because he did not wish to be so fortunate.

Damon and Pythias: In Greek mythology, ideal male friends. The tyrant Dionysius I orders Damon’s execution but, on the condition that Pithias acts as security, he obtains a respite of two months to return home to settle his affairs. Damon is delayed and Dionysius is about to execute Pythias when his friend returns after facing many trials on his journey. The two argue about who should die, and Dionysius is so impressed with their friendship that he spares them both.

Danae: In Greek mythology, a princess who is impregnated by Zeus in a shower of golden rain. She conceives Perseus who kills her father, Acrisius, by accident.

Daniel, Samuel: (1562/3-1619), poet and historian. His Delia sonnets were first published appended to an unauthorised edition of Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnets, Astrophel and Stella (1591). He was a leading figure in the literary circle presided over by Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke at her country house, Wilton. His Tragedy of Cleopatra was commissioned by the Countess as a companion piece to her Tragedy of Antony, and published in the third edition of his Delia sonnets, along with The Complaint of Rosamond; The Works of Samuel Daniel was published in 1601, and included six books of his prose history, The Civil Wars.

Daphne: In Ovid’s Metamorphosis, I, a nymph who begs the aid of the gods to prevent her rape by the god Apollo and was transformed into a laurel bush.

Darius III: King of Persia (336-330 BC), who was defeated by Alexander the Great.

David: King of Israel (c. 1000 BC) who is said to have reigned for forty years. Celebrated as a singer, many of the Psalms in the Bible are attributed to David. Although he rules through a covenant with God, David is not without faults and is said to have sinned in having Uriah killed in order to take his wife, Bathsheba. David’s third son, Absolom, rebels against him, and is murdered, much to David’s sorrow. On his deathbed, he names Solomon, Bathsheba’s son, his successor.

Davison, Francis: (1573/4 – c.1613/19), poet and son of William Davison. A talented young man, at Gray’s Inn, he wrote the ‘Masque of Proteus’ for the 1594/5 Christmas revels, which was performed before Elizabeth I. Essex supported Davison early in his career, but he failed to prosper in a diplomatic career or as a secretary. In the early 1600s, he compiled A Poetical Rhapsody, published in 1602, and added new poems to the second edition of 1608, however, he does not appear to have had any involvement in the publication of the third edition in 1611. The date of his death is unknown, but dated between 1613 and 1619.

Davison, Walter: (1581?-c.1602/8), the younger brother of Francis Davison, who was responsible for compiling and publishing A Poetical Rhapsody (1602). He wrote at least eighteen of the poems printed in the first edition of A Poetical Rhapsody. He served as a soldier in the Low Countries in the early 1600s and died before 1608.

Davison, William: (d. 1608), Elizabethan diplomat and Secretary of State from 1586-87, he was the father of Francis and Walter Davison. One of the commissioners for the trial of Mary, Queen of Scots, he was appointed keeper of the warrant for her execution, which Elizabeth signed but required that he keep in his possession. Elizabeth’s chief minister, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, with the support of the Privy Council, agreed to take the burden of responsibility from Elizabeth and dispatch the warrant. Elizabeth, angered that her orders had been ignored and her cousin and a queen executed, had Davison committed to the Tower. He was subsequently tried and convicted of abusing the Queen’s trust. Davison’s key defender was Essex, who worked hard for his restoration. Davison was viewed as a scapegoat for either Elizabeth I or Burghley, and his downfall, after many years of loyal service, as exemplifying the treachery of court life.

Denny, Sir Anthony: (1501-49), courtier, was a long-standing and trusted favourite of Henry VIII. A humanist and protestant reformer, he was praised by Roger Ascham, Sir John Cheke, and Surrey. He attended Henry VIII on his deathbed, was an executor of his will, and went on to serve as a counsellor under Edward VI.

Devereux, Penelope (Rich): (1563-1607), noblewoman, was the eldest child of Walter Devereux, first Earl of Essex, and sister of Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex. Before he died, her father hoped to arrange her marriage with Sir Philip Sidney, but Sidney was not ready for marriage, and Penelope was married instead to Robert Rich soon after she came to court as one of Queen Elizabeth’s maids of honour. Sidney is thought to have fallen in love with her around the time of her marriage, and she is reputed to be the model for Stella in his sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella.

Devereux, Robert: (1565-1601), second Earl of Essex, soldier and courtier. Following his father’s death, his mother married Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, Elizabeth’s long-standing favourite. A few years after coming to court, he became the Queen’s favourite and embarked on a military career that often brought him into conflict with Elizabeth. Following the death of Sidney at the Battle of Zutphen, he married his widow, Frances Walsingham. He returned to England without permission during a troubled campaign in Ireland, entered the Queen’s bedchamber in the morning before she was properly dressed, and for such insolence was placed under house arrest and lost all his public offices. After regaining his freedom, he led a group of followers in February 1601 into London to demand an audience with the Queen. He was repelled and captured, put on trial and executed for treason.

Devereux, Walter: (1539-1567), first Earl of Essex, a nobleman, soldier, and colonist, came to court at Elizabeth’s accession. He played a decisive military role in suppressing the Northern Uprising and was created Earl of Essex in 1572. In 1573, he came to an agreement with Elizabeth I to colonise Ulster in return for Irish land; the campaign floundered and ended with a terrible massacre of the followers of Sorly Boy, including women and children, on Rathlin Island. He returned to England briefly only to go back to Ireland as Earl Marshal in 1575. He died of dysentry in Dublin in September 1576.

Dia: Roman goddess associated with agriculture.

Diana: Roman goddess associated with the moon and chastity. She is depicted as a virgin huntress and was historically invoked to aid conception and childbirth.

Dido and Aeneas: In the Aeneid, book IV, Virgil relates the abandoning of Dido, Queen of Carthage, by her lover Aeneas, the Trojan hero who later founds Rome, and her subsequent suicide by throwing herself on her funeral pyre.

Dives: Not a real name, but the Latin for ‘rich man’ in the Vulgate Bible. See ‘The parable of the rich man and Lazarus’, a beggar, in Luke 16.19-31.

Dom Diego: Richard Lynche published his minor epic poem The Love of Dom Diego and Ginevra in 1596. It tells the tale of Diego who, spurned by his mistress, lives as a wild man in the mountains, until he is miraculously reconciled with his beloved.

Dudley, Anne, Countess of Warwick: Anne, eldest daughter of Francis Russell, second earl of Bedford, became the third wife of Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick (ca. 1528-ca. February 20, 1590), on November 11, 1565, at Westminster. She died on February 6, 1604, and was buried at Chenies, Buckinghamshire.

Dudley, Robert: Earl of Leicester (c. 1532-1588), courtier and a magnate. The Dudleys had supported Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne, and were imprisoned in the Tower and regarded with some suspicion during the reign of Mary I. Dudley claimed friendship with Queen Elizabeth from childhood. Soon after she came to the throne, Dudley became her most trusted favourite, and Elizabeth kept him by her side at court. The sudden and unexplained death of his wife, Amy Robsart, in 1560, led to suspicions about his involvement in her death. In 1581, he secretly married Lettice Devereux, nee Knollys, who was pregnant with his child, much to the Queen’s displeasure, and became stepfather to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. Dudley was appointed to the Privy Council in 1562, created Earl of Leicester in 1564, and took over the governor-generalship of the Netherlands in the 1580s, cementing his reputation for militant Protestantism.

Dyer, Sir Edward: (1543-1607), courtier and poet. He began his court career in the retinue of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester and through him became closely allied with members of the Dudley and Sidney families, including the Earl’s nephew Philip Sidney and his friend Fulke Greville. By the late 1570s, they were writing poetry together.


Echo: In Greek mythology, a nymph who has her voice taken away by Hera because her constant chatter distracts her from the infidelities of Zeus with other nymphs. She is only able to repeat what others say and, unable to express her love to Narcissus, she wastes away. See, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, III.

Egerton, Thomas: (1540-1617), first Viscount Brackley, Lord Chancellor. Under Elizabeth, he was Solicitor General then Attorney General from 1581-96; he was then appointed Lord Keeper in 1596 and continued to hold this post under James I until his death in 1617. Egerton employed John Donne as his secretary in the late 1590s, but Donne was dismissed from his employment when his secret marriage to Egerton’s niece, Ann More, was made public.

Endymion: In Greek mythology, the Moon goddess, Selene, falls in love with the handsome mortal, Endymion, while he is sleeping and askes Zeus for assistance. He gives Endymion eternal life but he also must sleep eternally, and Selene visits him every night. In the Renaissance, Selene becomes Diana, and in Michael Drayton’s Endimion and Phoebe, she is the Titan, Phoebe.

Europa: in Greek mythology, a Phoenician princess abducted by Zeus in the shape of a white bull. He swam with her on his back to the island of Crete, where he revealed his true form and made her the first queen of Crete.


Fabius Maximus: Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus Cuncator (c. 280 BC-203 BC), was made Consul then Dictator during the Second Punic War, and won minor victories against Hannibal’s armies. He was celebrated for his fortitude and courage, and given the honorific title ‘The Shield of Rome’.

Fabricius, Caius Luscinus: Roman general of the 3 BC. He was a figure of exemplary honesty, austerity, and incorruptibility.

Faucet, George: The identity of George Faucet, a relative of John Bodenham, remains uncertain; he is possibly the George Fawcett of St. Michael-le-Belfry, York, who died in c. 1620, see Rollins, England’s Helicon, II.70.

Fates: In classical mythology, usually depicted as three women. Clotho draws forth the thread of human life, Lachesis measures it out, and Atropos cuts it off.

Flora: Roman goddess of the Spring, see also her Greek counterpart Chloris.

Fortuna: Roman female goddess of Fortune, her Greek countepart is Tyche. She is often described as blind, inconstant, and variable, and depicted standing on a ball or holding a wheel, symbols of instability and change.

Furies: In classical mythology, three hideous goddesses of vengeance.


Galen: Claudius Galenus (129-216 AD), Greek physician, who attempted to systemise the whole of medicine, making important discoveries in anatomy and physiology. His writings were highly influential in Europe between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries.

Ganymede: In classical mythology, a Trojan youth who was so beautiful he was carried away by Zeus in the form of an eagle to become his cupbearer on Mount Olympus.

Greville, Fulke: (1554-1628), first Baron Brooke of Beauchamps Court, courtier and author. He became a good friend of Philip Sidney, having met him at the Shrewsbury School at the age of ten. During the late 1570s, both men joined the court, aligning themselves with the Protestant faction associated with Sidney’s uncle, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. It was during this time that Greville, together with Sidney and Dyer, started his writing career and began working on his sonnet sequence, Caelica. After Sidney’s death in 1586, Greville oversaw the publication of his Arcadia, and later wrote a treatise on Sidney as the ideal man, ‘A Dedication to Sir Philip Sidney’.

Gyges: King of Lydia (c. 680-c.645 BC), who founded the Memnad dynasty. According to Herodotus he was the favourite officer of Candaules who insisted that Gyges see his wife naked so he could appreciate her beauty. The queen sensed that Gyges was hiding somewhere in her room and offered him the choice of death or of killing the king and taking his kingdom. He chose the latter, and later sent rich gifts (the proverbial ‘riches of Gyges’) to the oracle at Delphi, who had reportedly established his right to the throne.


Hamadriades: Mythological tree-nymphs.

Hannibal: (c.247 – c.183 BC) legendary Carthaginian general, who led an unsuccessful attack on Rome during the Second Punic Wars. He was eventually defeated by Scipio at the Battle of Zama. Livy reports that after this defeat, Hannibal was observed laughing.

Hanno: Carthaginian commander who served under Hannibal in Africa during the latter years of the first Punic war. He was killed by Scipio.

Hebe: In Greek mythology, the daughter of Zeus and Hera, cup-bearer to the gods, and the personification of youth. When she is married to Heracles/Hercules, her place as cup-bearer is taken by Ganymede.

Hector: the son of King Priam of Troy and one of the greatest Trojan heroes. After Patroclus dies, he is killed in revenge by Achilles, and dragged behind a chariot around the walls of Troy.

Helen: Helen of Troy. The wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, who is abducted by Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy (see Judgement of Paris), provoking the Trojan War. After Troy falls, she returns to Sparta with Menelaus. Often signifies in the Renaissance both the beauty and inconstancy of women.

Helicon: a mountain in southwest Boeotia in central Greece associated with the Muses. It is the site of two springs, the Aganippe and the Hippocrene, the sources of poetic inspiration.

Henry III, of France: (1551–1589) King of France from 1574 to 1589, and held the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573-75. After having Henry I, Duke of Guise murdered, Henry joined forces with his heir, the Protestant Henry of Navarre. In 1589, he was assassinated by a Dominican friar, Jacques Clement. He was succeeded by Henry of Navarre.

Henry IV, of France: (1553-14 May 1610) King of France from 1589 to 1610, and the first of the Bourbon Kings. A Protestant convert, he was popular in England. Although he returned to Catholicism upon his coronation as King of France, Henry remained sympathetic to Protestants, and fought against the Catholic League. He was assassinated by François Ravaillac, a zealous Catholic.

Herbert, William: third Earl of Pembroke (1580-1630), courtier and patron of the arts. He was the son of Henry Herbert, second earl of Pembroke and Mary Sidney, sister of Philip Sidney and Robert Sidney, Earl of Leicester. During the early years of James I’s reign, an extraordinary number of books were dedicated to him as the heir of the Sidneian tradition of literary patronage and because of his success at court.

Hero and Leander: In Greek mythology, Leander, a young man from Abydos, modern-day Turkey, falls in love with Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, and swims across the Hellespont every night to visit her. Every night Hero keeps a light burning in her tower so that Leander can find his way, but one night a storm causes the light to go out, and Leander loses his way and drowns. When Hero finds Leander’s body she drowns herself.

Hercules: born with the name Alceus or Alcides in Greek mythology, he was subsequently named Heracles in a failed attempt to appease the goddess, Hera, who is angered by his birth since he is the product of Zeus’s infidelity with Alcemene. The greatest of the Greek heroes, he possesses superhuman strength and courage. In a fit of madness induced by Hera, he kills his children, and to expiate the crime he performs Twelve Labours imposed on him by king Eurystheus. After completing the labours, he joins Jason and the Argonauts to search for the Golden Fleece. Once again, in a fit of madness induced by Hera, he kills his friend, Iphitus, and submits himself to three years as the slave of Omphale, wearing women’s clothes and doing women’s work, while she wears his lion skin and carries his club. Hercules is inadvertantly poisoned by his third wife, Deianira. Suspecting Hercules’s fidelity, she gives him a shirt dipped in the blood of Nessus, a centaur killed by Hercules, who had told her the blood would ensure fidelity, but in fact was poisoned by Hydra’s blood. Hercules in agony asks to be burnt on a funeral pyre; after his death, he is made a full god, joins his father, Zeus, on Mount Olympus, and marries Hebe.

Hester: Hester or Esther is the Jewish heroine of an eponymous book of the Old Testament. She is a royal consort who uses her influence with her husband, king Ahasuerus, to save her countrymen from the violent persecution of Haman, his wicked advisor.

Hippolytus: In Greek mythology, he is son of Theseus and Hippolyta, who is banished after Phaedra, his stepmother, falsely accused him of rape. Enraged, Theseus uses one of the three wishes granted to him by Poseidon to have his son killed. In some versions of the story, Phaedra commits suicide in remorse, and Theseus is told the truth by Artemis (Diana), in other versions he is brought back to life by Artemis after his innocence is proven.

Howard, Henry: Earl of Surrey (c. 1516 – 1547), poet and soldier. The eldest son of the Duke of Norfolk, Surrey was first cousin to Anne Boleyn and childhood friend of Henry VIII’s illegitimate son, Henry Fitzroy, Earl of Richmond. Both died in 1536, with Anne executed for treason. When Henry VIII married Jane Seymour, the Seymours moved against their rivals, the Howards, and Surrey was imprisoned in Windsor after striking a courtier who repeated slanders circulating against the family at court. He was also imprisoned in the Fleet on a number of occasions for riotous behaviour. Surrey was a highly-regarded soldier, and fought in Flanders in the 1540s. When Henry VIII, was on his deathbed, Surrey foolishly displayed the royal quarterings on his shield, signalling his father’s ambition to become Lord Protector at Henry’s death. Both were imprisoned, and Surrey was executed for high treason in 1547.

Hymen: the Greek god of marriage, who blessed the marriage and was identified with the marriage song. Often depicted as a youth holding a torch.

Hyperion: In Greek mythology, one of the twelve Titans, the children of Gaia, the Earth, and Ouranus, the Sky; the god of the sun and light.


Icarus: In Greek mythology, the son of Daedalus who escapes from their prison in Crete using wings made of wax and feathers. He is killed when, ignoring the warnings of his father, he flies too close to the sun, the wax melts, and he falls into the sea. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses, VIII.

Io: In Greek mythology, a priestess loved by Zeus. To protect her from the jealousy of his wife, Hera, Zeus turns her into a heifer. Hera sends a fly to torment the heifer, which runs across the world until it reaches Egypt, where Zeus transforms her back into a human. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses, I.

Iphigenia: In Greek mythologgy, the daughter of Agamemnon who sacrifices her to the goddess Artemis in return for a wind that will carry their ship to the Trojan War. Artemis saves her life and takes her to the Crimea, from where she is eventually rescued by her brother Orestes. See Ovid’s Metamorphose, XII.

Iphus: In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, XIV, Iphus is a shepherd who loved the nymph, Anaxarete; when she scorned him, he committed suicide, and the unconcerned Anaxarete was turned to stone for her lack of feeling.

Iris: In Greek mythology, the goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods.

Ixion: In Greek mythology, a king punished by Zeus for attempting to seduce Hera, his wife. He is pinned to a fiery wheel and condemned to revolve in hell forever.


Jason: In Greek mythology, hero and leader of the Argonauts, fifty heroes including Hercules and Orpheus. He goes on a quest to find the Golden Fleece and is assisted by the sorceress Medea. He marries her, but later leaves her for Creusa, the daughter of the king of Corinth. Medea takes revenge by murdering the princess and her own children.

Jonah: In the Old Testament book of Jonah, he disobeys God’s command to go to Ninevah and God sends a storm to threaten the boat in which he sails. He is thrown overboard and swallowed by a whale which deposits him on the coast of Ninevah.

Jonathas: is the son of King Saul, friend of David, and famed for his military prowess, whose story is told in 1 Samuel. He embodies the ideals of male friendship and fidelity to truth. Jonathas’s friendship with David alienates him from his father, Saul, who tries to have him killed. He dies at the battle of Mount Gilboa along with his father and brothers.

Jove: Alternative name for Jupiter, king of the Gods in Roman mythology. His Greek equivalent is Zeus.

Judas: Judas Iscariot: one of the original twelve disciples, mentioned in the Gospels and Acts. He betrays Jesus to the Jewish authorities for thirty pieces of silver and with a kiss. His death is recorded in Matthew, Acts and Papias, but only the account in Matthew presents the death as a suicide in which he hangs himself from a tree, sometimes identified with the aspen tree.

Judith: A rich Israelite widow in the Biblical Aprocrypha who saves the town of Bethulia from Nebuchadnezzar’s army. She seduces Holofernes, the invading general, and cuts off his head while he sleeps.

Judgement of Paris: In Greek mythology, at the marriage feast of Peleus and Thetis, Zeus hosts a banquet on Mount Olympus and invites all the gods and demi-gods, except for Eris, the goddess of strife. In revenge, she throws down the golden Apple of Discord into the middle of the banquet, inscribed ‘for the most beautiful’, and Hera-Juno, Athena-Diana, and Aphrodite-Venus, all claim the apple for themselves. Paris, the most handsome of mortal men, is appointed by Zeus to settle the dispute, and, even after viewing the goddesses naked, is unable to choose, so the goddesses bribe him with gifts – Hera-Juno offers him dominion over all of Europe and Asia, Athena-Diana offered prowess in battle, wisdom and the might of the greatest warriors, and Aphrodite-Venus offered him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta. Paris awards the prize to Aphrodite-Venus, who assists his abduction of Helen, who is married to Menelaus, King of Sparta. The Greek expedition to retrieve Helen from Troy is the start of the Trojan War.

Juno: In Roman mythology, the wife and sister of Jupiter-Jove and queen of the gods. Her Greek equivalent is Hera.


Latona: Roman name for Leto, mother to the twins Apollo (god of the sun) and Artemis (goddess of the moon) who were fathered by Zeus.

Leah: Eldest daughter of Laban in the book of Genesis. Laban contrived it so that Leah was Jacob’s first wife, instead of Rachel. She had six sons and a daughter.

Leda: In Greek mythology, the Queen of Sparta who is raped by Zeus in the guise of a swan. She is the mother of Helen, Clytemnestra, and Castor and Pollux.

Libethra: Greek city close to Mount Olympus where Orpheus was buried by the muses. It was a place where the Libethran nymphs were worshipped.

<a name="LingNicholas"Ling, Nicholas: A bookseller-editor, active from 1580 to 1607.

Livy: Titus Livius (59 BC- 17 AD), Roman historian who wrote A History of Rome. Out of 142 books, only 35 have survived.

Lucrece: Wife of Collatinus, who boasts of her chastity to Tarquin. He rapes her and she commits suicide rather than live without her virtue.

Lycurgus: Semi-mythical lawgiver of Ancient Sparta (active c. 625 BC). He is traditionally held to be the founder of the constitution and military regime of ancient Sparta.


Maenads: In ancient Greece, female followers of Dionysus (Bacchus) who took part in Dionysian revels (bacchanals) and through his influence would drive themselves into a state of ecstatic frenzy.

Map, Walter: (1140-c.1208-10), a courtier to Henry II, he was sent on diplomatic missions to Louis VII and Pope Alexander III. In 1196, he became archdeacon of Oxford. His only known work is a satire, De Nugis Curialium, (The Trifles of Courtiers).

Mark Antony: Marcus Antonius (c. 83-30 BC), Roman statesman and general, was part of the Triumvate alongside Lepidus and Octavian, (see Augustus Caesar). He met Cleopatra VII, Queen of Egypt, in 41 BC. Octavian declared war against Cleopatra in 32 BC and Antony sided with her. Antony killed himself as Octavian entered Alexandria.

Martial: Marcus Valerius Martialis (c. AD 40 – c. 102), Latin poet, born in Spain, moved to Rome. He is renowned for his witty, satiric epigrams on urban life and its vices; his epigrams were widely imitated in Renaissance England and highly influential in shaping the epigram tradition.

Mars: In Roman mythology, the god of war. With Jupiter and Quirinus (another Roman war god), he was one of the three protector deities of Rome. Mars was closely associated with the founding of Rome: he was said to be the father of Romulus and Remus in founding myths of Rome, and is associated with Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome, through his love affair with Venus, Aeneas’s divine mother.

Medea: In Greek mythology, a princess of Colchis and a sorceress, the niece of Circe, who helps Jason get the Golden Fleece on the condition that if he is successful he will leave with her and marry her. In Corinth, Jason deserts her for Creusa, or in some versions, Glauce, the daughter of the king of Corinth. Medea takes revenge by sending the bride a poisoned dress and coronet on her wedding day that kill her painfully when she puts them on, and also kill her father, Cleon, when he comes to her aid. In Euripedes’s account, Medea also murders her own children by Jason. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses, VII.

Medusa: In Greek mythology, one of the three Gorgons, along with Stheno and Euralye. She had a hideous woman’s face and hair of serpents and her gaze turned those who looked at her to stone. The goddess Athena sends Perseus to decapitate her, and he uses her head as a weapon before giving it to Athena to place on her shield.

Melampus: Legendary Greek soothsayer and ancestor of the Melampodids, Greece’s most famous family of seers.

Melissa: In Roman mythology, the sister of Amalthea, both daughters of Melisseus king of Crete, who are the first to sacrifice to the gods. While her sister feeds the infant Zeus with milk, she provides honey for him, and is afterwards made the first priestess of the Great Mother (possibly Rhea). Some stories suggest Zeus transformed her into a bee; the name ‘Melissa’ means ‘honey bee’.

Melpomene: one of the nine Muses, the Muse of tragedy.

Menelaus: In Greek mythology, king of Sparta. He is the husband of Helen, who is stolen from him by Paris thus precipitating the Trojan war. After recovering Helen, he is unable to punish or, in some versions, to kill her because of her beauty.

Mercury: In Roman mythology, the messenger of the gods (his Greek equivalent is Hermes) and the god of trade.
Midas: In Greek mythology, a king of Phrygia, to whom Dionysus gives the power of turning everything he touches to gold. He soon realises that this gift is a curse when his food turns to gold and he begins to starve.

Minerva: In Roman mythology, Minerva is the goddess of the arts, professions and handicrafts. She is associated with the Greek goddess Pallas-Athena through her with wisdom and warfare. Pallas-Athena emerged fully grown and fully armed from the head of Zeus.

Minos: In Greek mythology, Minos, the son of of Zeus and Europa, is the king of Crete who demands a sacrifice of the Athenian youth to the Minotaur every seven years in recompense for the murder of his son by an Athenian. After his death, he is made a judge of the dead in the underworld.

Minotaur: In Greek mythology, the Minotaur is the monstrous offspring of the Cretan Bull and Pasiphaë, wife of Minos, King of Crete, and is a beast with the head of a bull and the body of a man. Having no natural source of food, he eats men, and so is imprisoned in the labyrinth designed and built by Daedalus. Minos demands a sacrifice of Athenian youths to the Minotaur. The Athenian hero, Theseus, eventually kills the Minotaur, helped by Ariadne, the Minotaur’s half-sister.

Mnemosyne: In Greek mythology, the mother of the muses and the personification of memory.

Molorchus: Legendary poor man who offered hospitality to Hercules during his Twelve Labours.

Momus: Greek god of mockery, censure, and satire who came to be associated with unjust critics. Lucian has Momus exiled from Mount Olympus for his constant criticism of the gods.

Morpheus: In Greek and Roman mythology, the god of sleep and dreams.

Musonius Rufus: Gaius Musonius Rufus (20-30 AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher banished by Nero for his alleged part in Piso’s conspiracy; he returned to Rome when Galba became emperor.

Myrrha: In Greek mythology, she falls in love with her father, Cinyras, and conceives Adonis. When her father finds out he tries to kill her but she is transformed into a myrrh tree.


Nauplius: In Helen, Euripides says that Nauplius lit a beacon on the Greek island of Euboea to lure the Greek sailors onto rocks for the wrongful stoning of his son, Palamedes, during the Trojan war.

Narcissus: In Greek mythology, the beautiful youth, Narcissus, who rejects the love of women, falls in love with his own image when drinking from a pool, and unable to leave off looking at his own reflection in the water, pines away and dies.

Nero: Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus (AD 37-68), Roman emperor and archetypal tyrant, who was responsible for the murders of his half-brother, his mother, and his first wife. The great fire that burned Rome in 64 AD was allegedly started at Nero’s instigation because he wanted to clear land for his palace complex. He is notoriously said to have fiddled while Rome burned, and to have burned Christians in his garden for light at night. He committed suicide when faced with assassination.

Nestor: In Greek mythology, a king of Pylos, who led his subjects to the Trojan War. He lived to a very old age (he was reportedly 110 at the start of the Trojan War), was renowned for his oratorial skills. His wisdom is proverbial.

Nimrod: In the Biblical book of Genesis, Nimrod is a godless tyrant. He is supposed to have overseen the building of the Tower of Babel, which would have allowed mankind to mount an assault on heaven.

Nine Muses: In Greek mythology, goddesses who provide creative inspiration for literature and the arts: Clio (muse of history), Thalia (comedy), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Polyhymnia (song), Calliope (epic poetry), Terpsichore (dance), Urania (astronomy), and Melpomene (tragedy).

Nine Worthies: consist of three pagans, Hector, Alexander, Caesar; three Jews, Joshua, David, Judas Maccabaeus; and three Christians, Godfrey of Buillon, Arthur, Charlemagne. However, these figures are sometimes varied.

Ninus: Legendary founder of the Assyrian city of Ninevah. After his death, his widow, Semiramis, is supposed to have constructed an elaborate tomb near Babylon.

Niobe: In Greek mythology, the daughter of Tantalus and mother of a large family who claims to be a better mother than goddess Leto, who only has two children, Apollo and Artemis. Enraged, Apollo and Artemis kill Niobe’s children and turn Niobe herself into a weeping stone.

Nisus: In Greek mythology, Nisus has a lock of red (or purple) hair upon which his life and the existence of his city depend. During a siege, his daughter Scylla cuts it off for a bribe or for the love of Minos, the besieging general. Minos, horrified, drowns Scylla or, in other versions, she drowns herself.

Noah: In the Biblical book of Genesis, Noah builds an ark which saves his family (his wife, his three sons and their wives) and a breeding pair of each species of animal from the flood sent by God to punish mankind. After the floods begin to subside, Noah sends out a dove who returns carrying an olive branch, a sign that there is once again dry land on earth.

Norton, Thomas: (c. 1531-84), lawyer and a writer. He married Margaret, daughter of the martyred Archbishop Cranmer, and was an unwaivering Protestant reformer, providing an index for the translation of The Paraphrases of Erasmus upon the New Testament. Norton contributed translations of the psalms to Sternhold’s Psalms of David in English Metre (1562), and his poetic skills were praised by Jasper Heywood. He was the co-author, together with Thomas Sackville, of Gorboduc, the first English Senecan tragedy, and praised by Sir Philip Sidney.

Numa: Numa Pompilius, legendary second king of Rome, successor to Romulus. His reign was later regarded as a sort of golden age. He was celebrated by the ancient Romans as the founder of nearly all their religious institutions.


Oedipus: In Greek mythology, son of Laius, king of Thebes, and Jocasta. At his birth, the oracle informs his parents that he will kill his father so they leave him on a mountain to die. But he is saved by a shepherd and eventually returns to Thebes. He solves the riddle of the sphinx and then kills his father and marries his mother. On discovering what he has done, he puts out his own eyes in a fit of madness.

Orpheus: In some versions of the Greek myth, he is son of Oeagrus, a Thracian king, and the Muse Calliope. He is the finest of all poets and musicians who can enchant wild beasts with his music and singing. When his wife Eurydice is killed by a snake he descends into the Underworld to rescue her. Persephone is moved to pity by his singing, and Orpheus is allowed to take Eurydice home, only if he does not look at her until they emerge into the sunlight. He fails and loses her forever. He is eventually torn apart by Maenads and thrown into the river Hebrus. His head drifts to Lesbos, where it becomes an oracle, and Apollo places his lyre among the stars. See Ovid’s Metamorphoses, XI.

Ovid: Publius Ovidius Naso (43 BC – 18 AD), foremost Roman love poet, author of the Heroides, Amores, Ars Amatoria, and Metamorphoses. This latter work was moralised in the medieval period in the Ovide Moralisé. It is argued that younger writers of the English Renaissance, such as Marlowe, reacted against this tradition in their Ovidian poetry.


Palemon: a generic romance name for a knight or lover. Palaemon was reputedly one of the sons of Priam, In Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale, Palamon and his cousin Arcite are imprisoned by Theseus, Duke of Athens. While in prison, both fall in love with Emily, and fight a battle to win her.

Pales: In Roman mythology, a deity of shepherds, flocks and livestock, equivalent to the Greek god Pan.

Pallas: Name for Athene, the goddess of wisdom and war (see Minerva).

Pan: In Greek mythology, Pan is the god of shepherd and flocks, who has the horns, legs, and hooves of a goat, see Pales.

Parcae: In Roman mythology, the female personification of destiny, see the Fates.

Paris: In Greek mythology, Paris is the son of Priam of Troy and Hecuba. It was prophesied at his birth that he will destroy his homeland, and so his parents ask their herdsman, Agelaus, to kill him, but, unable to do so, he leaves the baby exposed on a hillside, where he is suckled by a she-bear. Agelaus returns, finds the child alive, and raises him as his own. Paris is called on by Zeus to choose the most beautiful of the goddesses, see Judgement of Paris, and is given Helen as his reward by Aphrodite, beginning the Trojan War. Paris is killed by Philoctetes during the fighting.

Parnassus: In ancient Greece, a mountain sacred to Apollo and the Muses.

Parr, Anne: (b. before 1514, d. 1552), sister of Katherine Parr, wife of Henry VIII, who married William Herbert, first Earl of Pembroke, c. 1534. Like her sister, she was well-educated. She died at Baynard’s Castle, London, on 20 February, 1552.

Penelope: In Greek mythology, the faithful wife of Ulysses. She has been married a year when her husband leaves for the Trojan War. He is absent for twenty years (ten years of war and ten years of wandering) but she remains loyal, telling her visiting suitors that she will remarry when her weaving is done. She weaves by day and undoes her work by night. She is the epitome of the chaste, faithful wife.

Periander: (c. 627-587 BC), tyrant of Corinth. Amongst other acts of atrocity, he sent 300 Corcyraean boys to Lydia for castration as punishment when Corcyraeans killed his son, and he killed his own wife, Melissa, and made love to her corpse.

Persephone: In Greek mythology, goddess of spring, who is abducted by Pluto or Hades, god of the Underworld, to be his wife. Demeter, her mother, wanders the earth looking for her daughter; when she is told Persephone has been abducted, she withdraws in grief, and the earth becomes barren. Zeus commands that Persephone be returned, and Pluto-Hades allows her to return on the condition that she remain with him in the underworld for six months every year (autumn/winter) and with her mother the rest of the year (spring/summer).

Petrarch: Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374), known as the father of humanism, and arguably the most influential poet of Italian Renaissance. He is the author of Il Canzoniere, a sonnet sequence that established the conventions for the sonnet and lyric verse, and the Il Trionfi.

Pierides: In Greek mythology, the nine daughters of King Pieros of Emathia. They challenge the Muses to a song contest, which they lose, and the Muses, in revenge, change them into magpies. The Muses themselves are also called Pierides because their most ancient seat of worship was in Pieria. They were said to be the daughters of Jupiter and Mnemosyne, but their father was also said to be Pieros of Macedonia.

Phaedra: the daughter of King Minos and Pasiphaë, and sister of Ariadne, she marriesTheseus. She falls in love with Theseus’s son, Hippolytus, who rejects her; she accuses him of rape and his father has his son murdered.

Phaeton: In Greek mythology, he is the son of the sun god, Helios, who persuades his father to allow him to drive his fiery chariot across the sky. He is not strong enough to control the horses and the earth is almost destroyed by fire. Zeus kills him to restore order.

Philomela: In Greek mythology, a young woman who is raped by her brother-in-law, Tereus. He attempts to guarantee her silence by cutting out her tongue. Philomela weaves her story into a tapestry and sends it to her sister, Procne. Procne kills her son by Tereus and feeds him to his father and Tereus tries to punish the women. All three are transformed into birds; Philomela becomes a nightingale.

Phocion: (c. 402 – 318 BC), Athenian statesman and general, pupil of Plato. He was called ‘the Good’ and is regarded as an independent political thinker.

Phoebe: In Greek mythology, one of the Titans. She is the mother of Leto and therefore the grandmother of Apollo and Artemis. She is often associated with the moon and falls in love with Endymion.

Phoebus: An Roman name for Apollo, Greek god of the sun and light. Apollo was the patron god of poetry and music, and particularly associated with the lyre, made for him by Hermes. The Pythian or Delphic games were held in Apollo’s honour to celebrate his defeat of the huge python that terrorised mankind. Winners were awarded a wreath of laurel leaves, sacred to Apollo. See also, Admetus.

Phoenix: A mythological bird of Arabia. Only one phoenix exists at any one time; when the time comes for its death it builds an aromatic nest and is consumed by fire. From the ashes of the fire, a new bird emerges. Elizabeth I was frequently identified with the phoenix, as a symbol of chastity and purity.

Phyllis: In Greek mythology, Phyllis marries Demophon, son of Theseus, on his way home from the Trojan wars. He leaves her behind when he returns home to help his father, and in one version of the story, Phyllis hangs herself when she realises he will not return. An almond, or hazelnut or filbert tree grows where she is buried.

Pirithous: In Greek mythology, King of the Lapiths, and best friend of Theseus. Pirithous tests Theseus’s prowess in battle by orchestrating a fight; both admire the other’s bravery, and so swear friendship instead. Pirithous and Theseus are trapped in rock in the Underworld when trying to abduct Persephone for Pirithous’s bride; Hercules is able to free Theseus, but the earth shakes when he tries to release Pirithous because of his insult to the gods. It is at Pirithous’s marriage to Hippodamia that the ‘Battle of the Lapiths and Centaurs’ takes place.

Plato: (c. 428-346 BC), Greek philosopher taught by Socrates and teacher of Aristotle. One of the foundational figures of Western philosophy, his philosophical writings include the Symposium and the Phaedrus and his political theories appear in the Republic.

Pleiades: a constellation of stars. In Greek mythology, seven sisters (Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Asterope, Celaeno and Merope), and virgin companions of Artemis-Diana, who were pursued by the hunter Orion, and transformed by Zeus into a flock of doves which he set in the heavens.

Pluto: In Greek mythology, god of the Underworld, who abducts Persephone and makes her his queen.

Poins, John: or John Poyntz (c. 1485-1544), courtier and landowner. He was active in parliament in the 1530s and fought in the 1544 military campaign that resulted in the capture of Boulogne. Through his 1528 marriage to Margaret, daughter of Sir Matthew Browne in Betchworth, he aquired an estate in Surrey. A drawing of him by Hans Holbein survives.

Polycrates: Ruler of Samos who was known for being very lucky. His luck attracts unfavourable attention from Nemesis (goddess of retribution) and to appease her he throws away a valuable ring. The ring is subsequently found in the belly of a fish and presented to Polycrates. His name is associated with those who are extremely lucky, or conversely with those who suffer when their luck runs out.

Polyxena: In Greek mythology, the daughter of Priam, king of Troy, and his wife Hecuba, and therefore the sister of Troilus. After the Trojan War, Achilles’s ghost commands his son, Pyrrhus, to sacrifice Polyxena at the foot of his grave to avenge his death and to raise winds to take the Greek ships home. In later versions of the myth, Achilles, during his lifetime, is in love with her.

Pomona: In Roman mythology, the goddess of fruit and fruit-trees.

Poseidon: Poseidon in Greek mythology, Neptune in Roman, was the god of the sea. In Homer’s Iliad, when the world was divided, Zeus was awarded the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld. He is depicted as carrying a trident and riding a chariot across the seas, and lives in a palace at the bottom of the ocean. When Poseidon is benevolent, he provides calm seas and creates new islands, when he is malevolent, he strikes the ground with his trident causing storms, shipwrecks and earthquakes. In the Iliad, he favours the Greeks against the Trojans, in the Odyssey he wreaks vengeance on Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops, and in the Aeneid he rescues the Trojan fleet from Juno’s attempts at shipwreck.

Priam: In Greek mythology, king of Troy during the Trojan Wars, who reputedly fathered fifty sons, including Hector and Paris and fifty daughters, including Cassandra and Polyxena. Priam’s noblest deed during the conflict was to enter the Greek camp to demand Hector’s body from Achilles. He is killed in his own palace as the city burned around him by Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, while taking refuge at the altar of Zeus – in Virgil’s account in Book II of the Aeneid, Pyrrhus kills Priam’s son, Polites, in front of him, and, while Priam is remonstrating with him, drags him to the altar where he kills him.

Prienna/Priene: An Ionian city, in ancient Greece, containing the temple of Mausolus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World that is supposed to have been commissioned by his wife, Artemisia. It is the best preserved example of a Greek city.

Procris and Cephalus: In Book VII of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cephalus is happily married to Procris and rejects the advances of the Greek goddess Eos (Aurora), the goddess of dawn. Annoyed by the rejection, Eos challenges Cephalus to test his wife’s fidelity. She then disguises Cephalus who almost succeeds in seducing Procris with beautiful gifts. When he reveals himself, she is humiliated and flees to Crete where Artemis gives her a fine dog and spear that never misses its mark. Eventually Procris goes back to her husband disguised as a handsome youth, whom Cephalus promises to love in return for the dog and spear. When Procris reveals herself, she and Cephalus are reconciled. Procris continues to be jealous, however, and is killed accidently by the ever-accurate spear when Cephalus, resting from the hunt, mistakes her for an animal when she is hiding in the bushes to spy on him.

Prometheus: In Greek mythology, the creator of mankind, whom he sought to help and protect. He stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man, and his punishment was to be chained to a rock, his liver, renewed each day, pecked at by an eagle, the messenger of Zeus.

Proserpine: Roman equivalent of Persephone.

Psyche: In Greek mythology, a mortal loved by Eros, god of love, who only visits her at night and refuses to allow her to see his face. One night Psyche lights an oil lamp while he is asleep and she is so startled by his beauty she allows hot oil to drop on his shoulder. He awakes and immediately abandons her. To win him back, Psyche endures many trials and dangers; she is eventually transformed into a goddess, and is allowed to join him in heavenly bliss. She is the personification of the soul.

Pygmalion: In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, X, he is a sculptor who falls in love with the statue of a woman that he has carved out of ivory. He makes an offering to Venus and wishes that his statue was alive. Venus grants his wish, gives the statue life, and Pygmalion marries her.

Pyramus and Thisbe: In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, two lovers are next-door neighbours in Babylon, but forbidden by their parents to marry. They speak to each other through a chink in the party-wall and finally arrange to meet at the tomb of Ninus outside the city walls. Thisbe arrives first, but is frightened by a lioness and flees. She drops her veil, which the lionness mauls with bloody jaws. When Pyramus arrives he sees the blood-stained veil and, thinking Thisbe is dead, he stabs himself with his sword. Thisbe returns and, distraught by the sight of the dying Pyramus, also falls upon his sword. Their blood flows to the roots of a mulberry tree, and its formerly white berries are stained dark red. Their parents bury their ashes in a single urn.

Pyrrha: In Greek mythology, Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha are the only suvivors of a great flood Zeus sends to punish degenerate mankind. After the flood, Themis, the oracle at Delphi, tells them to throw the bones of their mother over their shoulders. The couple decide that their mother must be Gaia, goddess of the earth, and her bones must be stones. When they throw the stones a new race of people emerges; men emerge from the stones thrown by Deucalion and women from those thrown by Pyrrha.

Pyrrhus: or Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, who fought during the Trojan War and was known for his cruelty. Among many others, he killed Polites, Priam, and Polyxena.


Rachel: In the Biblical book of Genesis, the younger daughter of Laban and sister of Leah. Jacob serves Laban for seven years for the right to marry Rachel but is tricked into marrying Leah instead. He serves another seven years and is finally allowed to marry Rachel as well. She is initially unable to have children of her own, but eventually gives birth to Joseph and Benjamin.

Radamanthus: In Greek mythology, a judge in the Underworld renowned for his justice.

Romeus: See Arthur Brooke, Tragicall Historye of Romeus and Iuliet (1562) on which Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet (c. 1597). Romeus woos and wins Juliet but is then banished from the kingdom for killing Tybalt. He returns to find Juliet under the influence of a sleeping potion and, believing her dead, poisons himself. Juliet awakes to find a dead Romeus by her side and kills herself with a dagger.

Romulus: In Roman mythology, Romulus and his twin brother Remus are the founders of Rome. The sons of Mars and a vestal virgin, they are cast adrift on the river Tiber shortly after their birth. They are rescued and suckled by a she-wolf before being found and adopted by Faustulus, the royal herdsman. After founding Rome, the brothers fight and Remus is slain.

Rosamunda: The Rosamunda story is the fifth tale in George Turberville’s Tragical Tales (c. 1574). After her father’s death, Rosamunda was forced to marry Alboin, King of the Lombards, who made a goblet out of her father’s skull and forced Rosamunda to drink from it as a joke. She murdered him in revenge and married her lover Helmichis, but then plotted to murder him. However, upon discovering he had drunk poison, Helmichis forced Rosamunda to drink as well.

Russell, Lady Elizabeth: (1528-1609), daughter of Sir Anthony Cooke. Her first husband was Sir Thomas Hoby, the translator of Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier and her second was John Lord Russell. Throughout her life she received the patronage of Elizabeth I, with the queen, court and privy council paying a visit to her home, Bisham Abbey, in 1592.


Samson: In the Bible, an Israelite judge and Old Testament hero renowned for his physical strength, which was a gift from God to help combat Israel’s enemies, and famously enabled him to kill an army of one thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Samson is chosen by God to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines, and his strength is conditional upon not cutting or shaving his hair. He takes Delilah as his mistress, who is bribed by the Philistines to learn the secret of his strength. After many attempts, she discovers his secret, shaves his hair while he sleeps, and hands him over to the Philistines, his enemies. The Philistines blind and imprison him. When they assemble in the Temple of Dagon to celebrate their victory, his strength returns as his hair grows back, and he pulls down the pillars, killing himself and thousands of others.

Sarah: In the Bible, Abraham’s wife and Isaac’s mother. She is at first barren but is informed by an angel that she will give birth. This causes her to laugh out loud because of her own and her husband’s old age.

Sardanapalus: The name given by ancient Greek historians to the last king of Assyria. His reign is depicted as an orgy of lust and sensuality. About to be overthrown, he piles all of his wealth onto a funeral pyre and boxes his eunuchs and concubines inside. He then burns them, and himself, to death.

Satyrs: In Greek mythology, lustful, drunken woodland gods and attendants of Dionysus.

Scipio: Africanus, Publius Cornelius Scipio (c. 236 – 184 BC), a statesman of the Roman Republic and general in the Second Punic War, who was renowned for his military prowess and for defeating Hannibal.

Scylla and Charybdis: The names of two mythological hazards in the Straits of Messina in southern Italy. Scylla was a sea-monster who ate sailors when they attempted to navigate between her and the whirlpool, Charybdis.

Seneca: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (c. 4 BC – AD 65), Seneca the Younger, Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman and dramatist. He was tutor and later advisor to Nero and was later forced to commit suicide for allegedly attempting to assassinate him. In the Renaissance, Seneca is viewed as the leading Classical proponent of Stoicism and his mode of ‘Senecan’ tragedy is widely imitated. Sir Thomas Wyatt recommended his works to his son.

Sheba: The Queen of Sheba was renowned for her wisdom; hearing of Solomon’s great wisdom, she came to Jerusalem and to test the King with ‘hard questions’, and was so awed by Solomon’s wisdom that she blesses his God. In return, Solomon gives her gifts and offers her whatever she desires.

Sidney, Mary (Herbert): (1561-1621), Countess of Pembroke, writer and literary patron. She was the younger sister of Sir Philip Sidney, and mother of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. After Sidney’s death, she oversaw the publication of his works. She presided over a literary circle at her country estate, Wilton, in the late sixteenth century. Her own publications included The Tragedy of Antony and the translations of the Psalms that she undertook with her brother.

Sidney: Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586), a prominent courtier, diplomat, and poet. His surviving works include a translation of the Psalms, a pastoral romance The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia, a sonnet sequence Astrophil and Stella, and a work of literary criticism The Defense of Poesy. He died at the battle of Zutphen in the Low Countries while fighting the Spanish.

Silvans/Sylvans: In classical mythology, beings that haunt woods or groves; spirits of the woods.

Sinon: In Virgil’s Aeneid, Sinon pretends to have deserted the Greek army and, through the plausibility of his story, persuades the Trojans to bring the Trojan horse into Troy, against the advice of Cassandra and Laocoön; he then released the Greek soldiers from the horse and assisted in the sack of Troy. He symbolises the reputed cunning and treachery of the Greeks, and appears in Dante’s Hell in the Divine Comedy as a falsifier of words.

Sisyphus: In Greek mythology, King of Corinth, who is punished for trying to trick Thanatos (death). He had the eternal task of pushing a rock to the top of a hill from which it always rolled down.

Solomon: In the Bible, the third king of Israel appointed by David as his successor. He is famous for his wisdom, particularly an episode known as the ‘Judgement of Solomon’. Two women came before Solomon to resolve a dispute over who was the true mother of the child. When Solomon advised that the child should be cut in half and divided between the two women, he identified the true mother as the one who would rather lose her share than see the child killed.

Solon: Athenian statesman and lawmaker, and one of the Seven Sages of Greece. He revised the code of laws established by Draco (who was renowned for the severity of the punishments he devised for crimes), making it less severe, and is credited with laying the foundations of Athenian democracy.

Spenser, Edmund: (1552?-1599), poet and administrator in Ireland. Spenser met his lifelong friend Gabriel Harvey at Cambridge University, who introduced him to his patron Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. While at Leicester House, in Leicester’s employment, he met Sir Philip Sidney and Sir Edward Dyer. In 1580, he became secretary to Lord Grey, newly appointed Lord Deputy of Ireland, and while in Munster became friends with Sir Walter Raleigh, who read a draft of The Faerie Queene. He acquired an Irish estate at Kilcolman, and married Elizabeth Boyle, celebrating his marriage in Amoretti and Epithalamion (1595). In 1598, during the Munster rebellion, Spenser and his family fled to Cork, and then to London, where he died. Spenser began his literary career with The Shepheardes Calender; his other works include The Faerie Queene and Colin Clouts Come Home Againe, which was published with a volume of elegies for Sidney, Astrophel.

Spurina: was a beautiful young man of Tuscany, who scratched his face to mar his features and so destroy his beauty because it incited lust even in the most temperate and continent of women.

Susannah: In the Bible, Daniel, XIV, Susannah is falsely accused of adultery by lecherous Elders, who have secretly watched her bathing in her garden, as a means of sexual blackmail. She refuses to be blackmailed, is falsely accused, and about to be executed for adultery, when Daniel intervenes to argue that the Elders should be questioned. The flaws in their stories are revealed under his questioning, and the false accusers are executed. The story is said to exemplify the triumph of virtue and innocence.

Stella: Name used by Sir Philip Sidney in the sonnets addressed by Astrophel to his mistress. She has been linked to Penelope Devereux. ‘Stella’ means ‘star’.

Sybils: In Greek mythology, the ancient prophetesses inspired by Apollo.

Syrens: In Greek mythology, sea nymphs whose beautiful singing drew sailors onto the rocks.

Syrinx: a nymph who had taken a vow of chastity as a follower of Artemis-Diana. Pursued by Pan, she flees to the river Ladon, begs the river nymphs to transform her, and is changed into reeds. Pan sighs over the reeds and, pleased by the sound, makes the reeds into a pipe, now known as a pan pipe.


Tantalus: In Greek mythology, a Lydian king, who kills his son Pelops and feeds him to the gods (among other crimes). He is punished with eternal deprivation of nourishment and is condemned to stand in a pool, from which he cannot drink, below a fruit tree, from which he cannot eat.

Theseus: the son of Aethra and both Poseidon and Aegus, King of Athens, since Aethra slept with both in one night, was the mythical king who founded Athens. Theseus, raised by his mother, had to undergo many trials to reclaim his birthright as heir to the Athenian throne. Reconciled with his father, he volunteers to kill the Minotaur, and is helped by Ariadne in his task, but later abandons her. Returning to Athens, he forgets to change his black sails to white as a sign of his safe return, and his father, thinking him dead, commits suicide. His best friend was King Pirithous of Thessaly and together they defeat the Centaurs. Theseus abducts the Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta, and they have a son, Hippolytus. However, Theseus abandons her for Ariadne’s sister, Phaedra, who falls in love with Hippolytus, and when rejected, accuses him of rape, resulting in his father ordering his son’s death. Towards the end of his life, he loses popularity in Athens and goes into exile, sailing to Scyros where he is thrown off a cliff by its king, Lycomedes.

Thetis: In Greek mythology, a sea-nymph and the mother of Achilles. Her name is often used to personify the sea.

Thisbe: See Pyramus and Thisbe.

Tisiphone: In Greek mythology, the Fury who punishes the act of murder. Her name means ‘avenger of blood’.

Titans: In Greek mythology, twelve gods and goddesses who are the sons and daughters of Uranus (Heaven) and Gaia (Earth). They are overthrown by the Olympians led by Zeus. An alternative name for the Greek sun-god, Helios, is Titan, see Ovid, Metamorphoses, I.x.

Titius/Tityos: In Greek mythology, a giant who is the son of Zeus and Elara. Hera urges Tityos to rape Leto on her way to Delphi, and he is slain by one of Artemis’ spears or by a blow from Apollo. As further punishment, he is staked to a rock in the underworld where two vultures feed on his eternally regenerating liver.

Titon/Tithonus: In Greek mythology, a Trojan prince with whom the dawn goddess Aurora falls in love. She asks Zeus to make him immortal but forgets to ask for eternal youth. He becomes extremely old and decrepit and talks incessantly. Tithonus begs Aurora to remove him from the world and she turns him into a grasshopper.

Triton: In Greek mythology, a sea god and son of Poseidon (Neptune) and Amphitrite. Above the waist, he has the body of a man but below the waist he is a dolphin. He blows on a conch shell to calm and raise the seas. His name is applied more generally to sea deities who are half men and half fish.

Troilus and Cressida: In medieval legends of the Trojan War, Troilus, a young Trojan prince and son of Priam, king of Troy, falls in love with Cressida, whose father defected to the Greek camp during the Trojan war. Troilus’s friend Pandarus acts as go-between and brings the lovers together. Cressida is returned to the Greek camp as part of a hostage exchange and betrays Troilus, to whom she vowed to remain faithful, when she falls in love with Diomedes. Troilus is killed by Achilles towards the end of the Trojan war. Whereas Troilus becomes a figure of the faithful courtly lover and virtuous knight, Cressida represents female faithless and inconstancy.

Trojan Wars: The legendary ten-year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greeks, and the subject of Homer’s Iliad. The siege began when Paris abducted Helen (see Judgement of Paris), the wife of Menelaus, and Agamemnon led a force to recover her. Virgil’s Aeneid begins with the fall of Troy.

Tully: Marcus Tullius Cicero (160-43 BC), the anglicised name for Cicero.

Turnus: In the Aeneid, an Italian hero and king of Ardea. He fought the Trojans and had his life saved twice by Juno. He is the primary suitor of Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, before the arrival of Aeneas. Juno prompts Turnus to start a war with the Trojans, led by Aeneas, and kills the young Trojan prince, Pallas. Aeneas defeats Turnus in battle, who asks him to spare his life, but when Aeneas sees the war trophy Turnus took from the dead Pallas, he kills him in anger.


Ulysses: Roman name for Odysseus, king of Ithaca and hero of Homer’s Odyssey. After the capture of Troy, achieved by his strategem of the wooden horse, he sets sail for Ithaca but unfavourable winds carry him along the coast of North Africa and across the unknown seas to Italy. His ten year journey home to Ithaca, and the many travails he faces along the way, form the subject matter of Homer’s Odyssey. He returns home disguised to find his faithful wife, Penelope, still waiting for him, and has her many suitors killed. He is renowned for his cunning and resourcefulness.

Underworld: the abode of the dead buried far beneath the earth. It is often depicted as being bounded by rivers, including Styx, Acheron, Cocytus, and Pyriphlegethon. The ferryman Charon takes the souls of the dead across the river Acheron and the monstrous dog Cerberus prevents the living from entering or the dead from escaping. At the center of the realm stands the palace where Hades-Pluto, enthroned as king of the underworld, presides over the dead, with his wife Persephone.


Valerian: Publius Licinius Valerianus Augustus was Roman Emperor from 253 to 260 AD, and reviled for his persecution of Christians. During his reign, St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, and Sixtus II, Bishop of Rome, were martyred. His horrible torture and death at the hands of the Persian King, Shapur I, was viewed as divine retribution for his cruelty.

Venus: In Roman mythology, goddess of love and beauty who is married to Vulcan, god of fire and metalworking, and by whom she has her son, Cupid, god of love. She is associated with the Greek goddess Aphrodite (also known as Cytherea) whose lovers include Aries-Mars (god of war), Adonis, and Anchises, father of Aeneas.

Venus and Mars: Lovers who are caught in a net made by Venus’s husband Vulcan.

Vesta: In Roman religion, the virgin goddess of the hearth, home, and family, associated with the earth. Her priestesses were the vestal virgins.

Ver: alternative Roman name for Eiar, the goddess of Spring, and one of the Greek Horae (personifications of the four seasons), see Ovid Metamorphoses, ii.24.

Virgil: Publius Vergilius Maro (70BC – 19BC), viewed as the pre-eminent Roman poet, he is the author of the Aeneid, regarded as the foundational epic of classical Rome, and the Eclogues and Georgics. His patron was Maecenas, ally and political advisor to Augustus Caesar, who, in turn, is said to have commissioned the Aeneid.

Vulcan: Roman god of fire, both in its destructive and generative forms. He is often depicted at a forge with a blacksmith’s hammer; his smithy is often thought to be located under the volcano, Mount Etna, in Sicily. His wife is Venus, and it is said his anger at her infidelities result in volcanic eruptions.


Wanton, Nicholas: (c.1544-1618) maternal uncle of John Bodenham.

Wilford, Sir James: (c. 1517-1550), soldier and lifelong friend of Sir Thomas Wyatt the younger, the son of Sir Thomas Wyatt, courtier and poet. A career soldier, he fought in the French war of 1544-5, served under the Protector Somerset in the invasion of Scotland in 1547, which earned him a knighthood, and then under Lord Grey de Wilton, and at the capture of Haddington was made governor of the castle. He was wounded and taken prisoner while leading an attack on Dunber Castle Haddingtonshire in 1549. He was released a few months later but never recovered and died a year later.

Williams, Henry: (d. 1551) was the son of John Williams, knighted in 1538, who was keeper of the King’s jewels, a loyal supporter of Mary I, and Lord Chamberlain to Philip II’s household. He was created Baron Williams of Thame in 1554, appointed lord president of Wales in February 1559, and died at Ludlow Castle in October. Henry was his second son, who married Anne Stafford, and died in August 1551.


Zalucus: The earliest lawgiver of the Greek world (mid 7th century BC). He prescribed exact punishments for crimes, usually of an ‘eye for an eye’ nature, and was notorious for his severity.

Zephyrus: In Greek mythology, the personification of the west wind. Occasionally, the term ‘zephyri’ is used in reference to plural west winds.

Zoilus: Zoilus of Amphipolis (c 400-320BC), a Greek grammarian, Cynic and literary critic. He was notorious for his harsh criticisms of Homer, later taking the name ‘Homeromastix’ (the scourge of Homer), and his name became a byword for the vicious and malignant critic.