Columbia University Computing History
The Story of Acis
(This page was created in 1990 when the Computer Center was split in two and
our half — academic (as opposed to administrative) computing —
was renamed Academic Information Systems (AcIS).
Long ago in Sicily...
was a sea nymph, a Nereid, who lived by the
island inhabited by the Cyclops Polyphemus
, son of Poseidon, who was
deeply in love with Galatea. However Galatea liked the young shepherd
, son of Pan. Galatea and Acis used to mock Polyphemus's songs of
love for Galatea. Polyphemus caught them sleeping on a grassy hill, and killed
Acis by crushing him under a huge rock. Acis's blood formed a stream
beneath the rock. Galatea turned it into a river and named it after him.
The story of Acis and Galatea was told by Ovid in Book III of his
Metamorphoses, and it is also the subject of a 1732 opera by
Georg Friedrich Händel; here are excerpts from the Libretto, by
- Wretched lovers!
Fate has past this sad decree:
No joy shall last. Quit your dream!
Behold the monster Polypheme!
See what ample strides he takes!
The mountain nods, the forest shakes;
The waves run frighten'd to the shores:
Hark, how the thund'ring giant roars!
- His hideous love provokes my rage:
Weak as I am, I must engage!
Inspir'd with thy victorious charms,
The god of love will lend his arms.
- Acis (later):
- Help, Galatea! help, ye parent gods!
And take me dying to your deep abodes.
- Mourn, all ye muses! weep, all ye swains!
Tune, tune your reeds to doleful strains!
Groans, cries and howlings fill the neighb'ring shore:
Ah, ah, the gentle Acis is no more!
- But don't despair. Ovid goes on to tell us:
- The stone was cleft, and through the yawning chink
New reeds arose, on the new river's brink.
The rock, from out its hollow womb, disclos'd
A sound like water in its course oppos'd,
When (wond'rous to behold), full in the flood,
Up starts a youth, and navel high he stood.
Horns from his temples rise; and either horn
Thick wreaths of reeds (his native growth) adorn.
Were not his stature taller than before,
His bulk augmented, and his beauty more,
His colour blue; for Acis he might pass:
And Acis chang'd into a stream he was,
But mine no more; he rowls along the plains
With rapid motion, and his name retains.