in Warden

Chapter 14 – Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus

Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Greece and was considered to be the dwelling place of the most powerful gods and goddesses.  It was also the place whence Zeus (the Romans’ Jupiter) launched thunderbolts to punish mortals who had angered him.  [JC 2005]

For a good portion of this chapter Trollope sustains a comparison between the headquarters of the Jupiter and Mount Olympus.  In addition to its humorousness, such a comparison draws attention to a very real concern about the power of the media, prompting questions about whether a newspaper should be placed in a the godlike position that Mount Olympus represents and whether a newspaper should be accorded the same level of control and judgement over human affairs as a god.  [JE 2014]


thunderbolts and Tom Towers

“…that laboratory where, with amazing chemistry, Tom Towers compounded thunderbolts….”  In this reference to Jupiter’s favored weapon, Trollope not only equates Towers with the king of the gods, but also makes him in a way more powerful.  Jupiter could not make his own thunderbolts, but had to have them made by Vulcan, the smith of the gods.  Towers, on the other hand, does not depend on anyone but himself for his power.  Tom Towers’ name also connects him in a small way with the gods.  If Towers is taken as a verb, it is very easy to see the implication that he towers over the rest of humanity, just as the gods in Olympus tower over the mortals below.  [JC 2005]


great goddess Pica

The Latin phrase for “great goddess,” magna dea, was used as an honorific for a number of female deities in antiquity.  Here, Trollope raises a typeface to the position of a goddess and gives her a place in the new pantheon of the Jupiter newspaper.  [RR 2014]


Castalian ink

Castalia was a sacred spring on Mount Parnassus near Delphi and was thought to be a source of poetic inspiration.  Here Trollope makes it the source of Towers’ inspiration, but instead of water, it flows with ink (which he then uses to write his articles).  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Entry on the Castalian Spring at Wikipedia.


upper air

Trollope remarks, tongue in cheek, that some people “doubt the Jupiter” and yet “live and breathe the upper air.”  Latin authors used expressions equivalent to “upper air” to refer to the world of the living as opposed to the underworld; for instance, Vergil has the Cumaean sibyl explain to Aeneas that descending to the underworld is easy—it is the return “to the upper airs” (ad superas auras) that is hard.  Trollope’s use of a Classically resonant phrase contributes to the Classical flavor of this chapter.

Source:  Vergil, Aeneid 6.126-128.


workshop of the gods

Trollope is continuing his portrait of Towers as a combination of both Jupiter and Vulcan by referring to the Jupiter‘s office as the “workshop of the gods.”  Vulcan was the only god with a workshop as he was their blacksmith.  Towers is in a sense more powerful than Jupiter, who had to rely on Vulcan to make the fire-bolts which were his weapon of choice.  Towers relies on no one but himself.  [JC 2005]


ambrosia and nectar as toast and tea

Ambrosia and nectar are the food and drink of the gods.  Trollope is again poking fun at Towers’ overconfident view of himself.  If Towers is a god, then he must not eat the food of mortals–therefore his toast and tea must be called ambrosia and nectar.  The fact remains, however, that it is in reality toast and tea and Towers is no god.  [JC 2005]


favored abode of Themis

Themis is the goddess of law and justice and therefore would likely favor the Inns of Court, where English lawyers in London are found.  [JC 2005]


towers of Caesar

“…the rich tide that now passes between the towers of Caesar to Barry’s halls of eloquence…”  The Inns of Court are located near the Thames between the newly built Houses of Parliament (completed in 1860) and the Tower of London which was thought to have been built by Julius Caesar.  Trollope clearly uses the Tower as a reference point for the grandness of the allusion to Caesar.  He could have just as easily used the Westminster Bridge (which was built together with Barry’s Houses of Parliament) and the London Bridge which would have pinpointed his location more accurately.  [JC 2005]


Paphian goddess and Cyprus

Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love and beauty; the epithet “Paphian” refers to Paphos, a city on the island of Cyprus.  Cyprus was especially associated with Aphrodite, and in some mythological accounts it figures as the first land visited by the goddess after her birth.  The discretion afforded by this part of London makes it as ideal for trysts as the goddess of love’s special island.  [JC 2005; rev. BL & RR 2014]


wildest worshipper of Bacchus

Bacchus (Greek Dionysus) is the god of wine.  His worshipers are considered “wild” because of the altered states of consciousness that often occurred during the business of worshiping him.  [JC 2005]


tenth Muse

There were nine Muses in Greek and Roman mythology who were patronesses of the arts.  Here Trollope creates a tenth Muse “who now governs the periodical press” and is the source of Towers’ skill at this particular art.  [JC 2005]


Sebastian with his arrows

St. Sebastian, a Roman martyr, survived being pierced by several arrows and is a favorite example of martyrdom, appearing as the subject of numerous works of art.  [JC 2005]



Sybaris was an ancient Greek colony located in Italy (Magna Graecia) and traditionally known as a place of luxury.  Therefore its inhabitants, Sybarites, were people who loved luxury. In his Deipnosophistae Athanaeus mentions the Sybarites’ traditional reputation.  [JC 2005]

Sources:  Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 12.36.


Tom Towers man and god in one

“It is probable that Tom Towers considered himself the most powerful man in Europe; and so he walked on from day to day, studiously striving to look a man, but knowing within his breast that he was a god.”  Trollope is making one of two references here (or perhaps both of the two):  either Towers is like the gods who from time to time take human form and walk among mortals, or he is like the Roman emperors, men who certainly must have known themselves to be the most powerful men in Europe and were also considered divine.  [JC 2005]