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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Castor and Pollux


the Dioscü ri (Διόσκουροι, Acts 28:11), two heroes of Greek and Roman mythology, the twin-sons of Jupiter and Leda (see Smith's Diet. of Classical Biog., s.v. Dioscuri). They were regarded as the tutelary divinities (Θεοί σωτῆρες ) of sailors (Xenoph. Synpos. 8:29). They appeared in heaven as the constellation of Gemini. On shipboard they were recognized in the phosphoric lights called by modern Italian sailors the fires of St. Elmo, which play about the masts and the sails (Seneca, Nat. Qusest. 1:1; comp. Pliny, 11:37). Hence the frequent allusions of Roman poets to these divinities in connection with navigation (see especially Horace, Carm. 1:3, 2, and 4:8, 31). As the ship mentioned by Luke was from Alexandria, it may be worth while to notice that Castor and Pollux were specially honored in the neighboring district of Cyrenaica (Schol. Pinid. Pyth. 5:6). In Catull. 4:27, we have distinct mention of a boat dedicated to them (see also 68:65). In art, these divinities were sometimes represented simply as stars hovering over a ship, but more frequently as young men on horseback, with conical caps, and stars above them (see the coins of Rhegium, a city of the Bruttii, at which Paul touched on the voyage in question, Acts 28:13). Such figures were probably painted or sculptured at the bow of the ship (hence παράσημον; see Smith, Dict. of Class. Antiq., s.v. Insigne). This custom was very frequent in ancient ship- building. (See SHIP). Herodotus says (3:37) that the Phoenicians used to place the figures of deities at the bow of their vessels. Virgil (Eneid, 10:209) and Ovid (Trist. 1:10, 2) supply us with illustrations of the practice; and Cyril of Alexandria (Cramer's Catena, ad l. c.) says that such was always the Alexandrian method of ornamenting each side of the prow. (See DIOSCURI).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Castor and Pollux'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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