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June--The Month of Juno

The month of June is probably named after Juno, the wife of Jupiter, and queen of the gods. It was held sacred to her, and was thought by the Romans to be the luckiest month for marriage, since Juno was the Goddess of Marriage. Wherever the goddess went she was attended by her messenger Iris (the Rainbow), who journeyed so quickly through the air that she was seldom seen, but after she had passed there was often left in the sky the radiant trail of her highly-coloured robe.

Juno is always represented as a tall, beautiful woman, wearing a crown and bearing a sceptre in her hand, and often she is shown with a peacock at her side, since that bird was sacred to her.

A story is told of one of her servants, Argus, who had a hundred eyes, only a few of which he closed at a time. Juno set him to watch over a cow which Jupiter wished to steal, for it was really a beautiful girl named Io, whom Jupiter had transformed. Mercury was sent by Jupiter to carry off Io, and by telling long and wearisome stories to Argus at last succeeded in lulling him into so deep a sleep that he closed all his eyes. The god then seized Argus's own sword and cut off his head. Juno was very sad at the loss of her servant, and gathering up his hundred eyes scattered them over the tail of the peacock, her favourite bird.

Juno was of a very jealous disposition, and when angered brought all the misfortune she possibly could on the one who had offended her. At a wedding-feast at which the gods and goddesses were present, Eris, the Goddess of Discord, or Quarrelling, suddenly appeared. She had not been invited because of her evil nature, and in order to have her revenge, she threw on to the table a golden apple bearing the inscription, "To the fairest". A quarrel at once arose as to whom the apple should be given, for it was claimed by Juno, the Queen of Heaven, Minerva, the Goddess of Wisdom, and Venus, the Goddess of Beauty. Being unable to decide among themselves, they determined to appoint as judge a shepherd named Paris, who was really the son of the King of Troy. The three goddesses appeared before him on a mountain top, and each in turn tried to persuade him by the promise of a great reward. Minerva offered him wisdom and knowledge, Juno offered him wealth and power, while Venus

        "drawing nigh,
Half-whispered in his ear, 'I promise thee
The fairest and most loving wife in Greece'".

Paris at once gave the apple to Venus, and thus angered Juno and Minerva, who determined to punish him whenever all opportunity occurred. This they were soon able to do, for Paris, prompted by Venus, carried off Helen, the most beautiful woman in all Greece, and brought her to his own city of Troy. This led to the Trojan War, which we have mentioned. The Trojans who made their escape from the city were persecuted by Juno, who brought them into many terrible dangers.

Juno, though jealous and unforgiving, gave ungrudging help to those whom she favoured, and an example of this is seen in the story of Jason and the Golden Fleece. When Jason was a child, his father Aeson, had been driven from his kingdom by his brother Pelias, and Jason, as soon as he reached manhood, determined to avenge his father. Accordingly he set out for the court of Pelias, and soon came to a stream much swollen by floods. Knowing no fear, he was about to try to ford the stream, when he saw an old woman on the bank gazing in despair at the foaming waters. He at once offered to help her by taking her on his back, and in spite of the swift stream and his heavy load, succeeded in getting safely across. He lowered the old woman gently to the ground, and was greatly annoyed to find that he had lost one of his sandals in the stream. He turned to bid farewell to the old woman, when she was suddenly transformed into the goddess Juno. Jason begged for her help and protection, which Juno at once promised, and the goddess then vanished. Jason then resumed his journey in all haste, and entering his native city, found Pelias in a temple sacrificing to the gods. He pressed forward through the crowd until he stood close to Pelias, who at length caught sight of this stranger who seemed anxious to speak to him. Fear at once filled his heart, for he remembered that it had been foretold that he should be overthrown by a man who came to him wearing only one sandal. Jason stepped forward and boldly claimed the throne for his father, and Pelias, disguising his fear and anger, invited him to his palace, where they could decide the matter. During the banquet which followed, Jason heard the story of Phrixus and Helle, two children who had escaped from their cruel stepmother on a winged ram with a golden fleece, which bore them far away from their home. As they passed over the sea, the girl Helle fell from the ram's back into a part of the sea ever since known as the Hellespont (now the Dardanelles). Phrixus reached Colchis, at the eastern end of the Black Sea, in safety, and there sacrificed the ram to the gods and hung its golden fleece on a tree which stood in a poisonous wood and was guarded by a serpent. The cunning Pelias dared Jason to try to win the Golden Fleece, hoping that thus he would be rid of him for ever. Jason in his excitement forgot the crime which he had come to avenge, and recklessly promised to bring the fleece to Pelias. With the help of Juno, he gathered together a number of heroes, and this famous band, called the Argonauts from the name of their ship the Argo, set out for Colchis. Arriving there after many adventures, they sought the king and told him of their errand. The king, however, was unwilliiig to part with the fleece, and said that Jason must first catch two wild bulls, which breathed fire and had hoofs of brass, harness them to a plough, and make them plough a field; then he was to sow the field with serpents' teeth, from which would spring up armed men whom he must conquer, and finally he was to kill the serpent which guarded the fleece. Jason did not lose heart when he heard these terrible conditions, but returned to his ship to think out how he might, fulfil them. On his way to the shore he met the king's daughter Medea, who possessed magic powers. She had fallen in love with Jason, and she told him how he could perform the tasks her father had set. The next day Jason, relying on Medea's help, faced the bulls without fear, seized them by the horns, and, after a great struggle, harnessed them to a plough. As soon as he had ploughed the field he sowed the serpents' teeth, and when the armed men sprang up on all sides he threw his helmet amongst them. The warriors thought that they had been struck by one of their own number, with the result that they fell upon each other and fought until they all lay dead on the ground. Medea then led Jason to the tree to which the fleece was fastened, and soothing the terrible serpent by her magic, enabled Jason to cut off its head. He quickly snatched the Golden Fleece from the tree, and with Medea hastened to the shore, whence they set sail in triumph. They wandered far and suffered many misfortunes, but through Juno's help they at last reached their native land. Jason compelled Pelias to give up the kingdom to Aeson, who was now an old man. Medea, however, in some strange way was able to restore Aeson to his youth and strength, and Pelius' daughters, when they heard of this, asked her how they might do the same for their father. Medea, seeing her opportunity, gave them false instructions, which they followed, only to find that instead of making their father young again they had killed him.

This month of June was called by the Angles and Saxons the "dry month", and sometimes the "earlier mild month"--July being the second mild month.

Next: Chapter VII. July--The Month of Julius Caesar