Aunt Charlotte's Stories of Greek History
by Charlotte M. Yonge
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This ebook was transcribed by Les Bowler

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In this little book the attempt has been to trace Greek History so as to be intelligible to young children. In fact, it will generally be found that classical history is remembered at an earlier age than modern history, probably because the events are simple, and there was something childlike in the nature of all the ancient Greeks. I would begin a child's reading with the History of England, as that which requires to be known best; but from this I should think it better to pass to the History of Greece, and that of Rome (which is in course of preparation), both because of their giving some idea of the course of time, and bringing Scripture history into connection with that of the world, and because little boys ought not to begin their classical studies without some idea of their bearing. I have begun with a few of the Greek myths, which are absolutely necessary to the understanding of both the history and of art. As to the names, the ordinary reading of them has been most frequently adopted, and the common Latin titles of the gods and goddesses have been used, because these, by long use, have really come to be their English names, and English literature at least will be better understood by calling the king of Olympus Jupiter, than by becoming familiar with him first as Zeus.


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CONTENTS. CHAP. PAGE I. Olympus 11 II. Light and Dark 18 III. The Peopling of Greece 26 IV. The Hero Perseus 35 V. The Labours of Hercules 42 VI. The Argonauts 51 VII. The Success of the Argonauts 59 VIII. The Choice of Paris 68 IX. The Siege of Troy 76 X. The Wanderings of Ulysses 84 XI. The Doom of the Atrides 94 XII. After the Heroic Age 102 XIII. Lycurgus and the Laws of Sparta. B.C. 110 884-668 XIV. Solon and the Laws of Athens. B.C. 594-546 118 XV. Pisistratus and his Sons. B.C. 558-499 126 XVI. The Battle of Marathon. B.C. 490 134 XVII. The Expedition of Xerxes. B.C. 480 142 XVIII. The Battle of Plataea. B.C. 479-460 151 XIX. The Age of Pericles. B.C. 464-429 159 XX. The Expedition to Sicily. B.C. 415-413 167 XXI. The Shore of the Goat's River. B.C. 406-402 174 XXII. The Retreat of the Ten Thousand. B.C. 181 402-399 XXIII. The Death of Socrates. B.C. 399 189 XXIV. The Supremacy of Sparta. B.C. 396 196 XXV. The Two Theban Friends. B.C. 387-362 203 XXVI. Philip of Macedon. B.C. 364 210 XXVII. The Youth of Alexander. B.C. 356-334 217 XXVIII. The Expedition to Persia. B.C. 334 224 XXIX. Alexander's Eastern Conquests. B.C. 331-328 231 XXX. The End of Alexander. B.C. 328 238 XXXI. The Last Struggles of Athens. B.C. 334-311 245 XXXII. The Four New Kingdoms. B.C. 311-287 252 XXXIII. Pyrrhus, King of Epirus. B.C. 287 258 XXXIV. Aratus and the Achaian League. B.C. 267 265 XXXV. Agis and the Revival of Sparta. B.C. 272 244-236 XXXVI. Cleomenes and the Fall of Sparta. B.C. 279 236-222 XXXVII. Philopoemen, the Last of the Greeks. B.C. 286 236-184 XXXVIII. The Fall of Greece. B.C. 189-146 293 XXXIX. The Gospel in Greece. B.C. 146-A.D. 60 300 XL. Under the Roman Empire 308 XLI. The Frank Conquest. 1201-1446 315 XLII. The Turkish Conquest. 1453-1670 322 XLIII. The Venetian Conquest and Loss. 1684-1796 328 XLIV. The War of Independence. 1815 334 XLV. The Kingdom of Greece. 1822-1875 340

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LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS. PAGE Mount Olympus 11 Head of Jupiter 14 Supposed Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius in AEgina 19 Head of Pallas 21 Triptolemus 23 Mars and Victory 25 Mount Parnassus 27 The World according to the Greeks 30 Perseus and Andromeda 38 Cyclopean Wall 41 Scene in the Arachnaean Mountains near Argos 44 Building the Argo 53 Corinth 62 Plains of Troy 69 Greek Ships 73 Achilles binding his Armour on Patroclus 78 Sepulchral Mound, known as the Tomb of Ajax 80 Laocoon 82 Funeral Feast 83 Ulysses tied to the Mast 89 Port of Ithaca 91 Plain of Sparta, with Mount Taygetus 97 Greek Interior 106 Greek Robe 107 Male Costume 108 Gate of Mycenae 119 Shores of the Persian Gulf 129 View in the Vicinity of Athens 141 Pass of Thermopylae 145 Salamis 148 Persian Soldier 152 Tombs at Plataea 153 The Acropolis, Athens 162 Propylaea, Athens 163 The Academic Grove, Athens 168 Athens 180 Babylon 182 Greek Armour 188 Socrates 190 Plato 193 View on the Eurotas in Laconia 202 Thessalonica 209 Demosthenes 212 Diana of Ephesus 218 Alexander 222 Bacchanals 223 Alexander the Great 225 Second Temple of Diana at Ephesus 227 Princes of Persia 234 Supposed Walls of Babylon 242 Site of Susa, ancient Metropolis of Persia 244 Gate of Hadrian in Athens 247 Macedonian Soldier 255 Delphi and the Castalian Fount 262 Corinth 267 View looking across Isthmus of Corinth 269 Ruins of a Temple at Corinth 271 Temple of Neptune 285 Crowning the Victor in the Isthmian Games 290 Livadia, the ancient Mideia in Argolis 292 Sappho 295 Lessina, the ancient Eleusis, on the Gulf of Corinth 297 View from Corinth 301 Parthenon and Erectheum 304 Distant View of Parnassus 307 Plains of Philippi 309 Obelisk of Theodosius, Constantinople 313 An Amphitheatre 314 Promontory of Actium 318 Mount Helicon 321 Cathedral of St. Sophia 323 Temple of Minerva, on the Promontory of Sunium 330 Ancyra, Galatia 332 The Acropolis, Restored 337 The Isles of Greece 344 Plain of Marathon 346

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I am going to tell you the history of the most wonderful people who ever lived. But I have to begin with a good deal that is not true; for the people who descended from Japhet's son Javan, and lived in the beautiful islands and peninsulas called Greece, were not trained in the knowledge of God like the Israelites, but had to guess for themselves. They made strange stories, partly from the old beliefs they brought from the east, partly from their ways of speaking of the powers of nature—sky, sun, moon, stars, and clouds—as if they were real beings, and so again of good or bad qualities as beings also, and partly from old stories about their forefathers. These stories got mixed up with their belief, and came to be part of their religion and history; and they wrote beautiful poems about them, and made such lovely statues in their honour, that nobody can understand anything about art or learning who has not learnt these stories. I must begin with trying to tell you a few of them.

[Picture: Head of Jupiter] In the first place, the Greeks thought there were twelve greater gods and goddesses who lived in Olympus. There is really a mountain called Olympus, and those who lived far from it thought it went up into the sky, and that the gods really dwelt on the top of it. Those who lived near, and knew they did not, thought they lived in the sky. But the chief of all, the father of gods and men, was the sky-god—Zeus, as the Greeks called him, or Jupiter, as he was called in Latin. However, as all things are born of Time, so the sky or Jupiter was said to have a father, Time, whose Greek name was Kronos. His other name was Saturn; and as Time devours his offspring, so Saturn was said to have had the bad habit of eating up his children as fast as they were born, till at last his wife Rhea contrived to give him a stone in swaddling clothes, and while he was biting this hard morsel, Jupiter was saved from him, and afterwards two other sons, Neptune (Poseidon) and Pluto (Hades), who became lords of the ocean and of the world of the spirits of the dead; for on the sea and on death Time's tooth has no power. However, Saturn's reign was thought to have been a very peaceful and happy one. For as people always think of the days of Paradise, and believe that the days of old were better than their own times, so the Greeks thought there had been four ages—the Golden age, the Silver age, the Brazen age, and the Iron age—and that people had been getting worse in each of them. Poor old Saturn, after the Silver age, had had to go into retirement, with only his own star, the planet Saturn, left to him; and Jupiter was reigning now, on his throne on Olympus, at the head of the twelve greater gods and goddesses, and it was the Iron age down below. His star, the planet we still call by his name, was much larger and brighter than Saturn. Jupiter was always thought of by the Greeks as a majestic-looking man in his full strength, with thick hair and beard, and with lightnings in his hand and an eagle by his side. These lightnings or thunderbolts were forged by his crooked son Vulcan (Hephaestion), the god of fire, the smith and armourer of Olympus, whose smithies were in the volcanoes (so called from his name), and whose workmen were the Cyclops or Round Eyes—giants, each with one eye in the middle of his forehead. Once, indeed, Jupiter had needed his bolts, for the Titans, a horrible race of monstrous giants, of whom the worst was Briareus, who had a hundred hands, had tried, by piling up mountains one upon the other, to scale heaven and throw him down; but when Jupiter was hardest pressed, a dreadful pain in his head caused him to bid Vulcan to strike it with his hammer. Then out darted Heavenly Wisdom, his beautiful daughter Pallas Athene or Minerva, fully armed, with piercing, shining eyes, and by her counsels he cast down the Titans, and heaped their own mountains, Etna and Ossa and Pelion, on them to keep them down; and whenever there was an earthquake, it was thought to be caused by one of these giants struggling to get free, though perhaps there was some remembrance of the tower of Babel in the story. Pallas, this glorious daughter of Jupiter, was wise, brave, and strong, and she was also the goddess of women's works—of all spinning, weaving, and sewing.

Jupiter's wife, the queen of heaven or the air, was Juno—in Greek, Hera—the white-armed, ox-eyed, stately lady, whose bird was the peacock. Do you know how the peacock got the eyes in his tail? They once belonged to Argus, a shepherd with a hundred eyes, whom Juno had set to watch a cow named Io, who was really a lady, much hated by her. Argus watched till Mercury (Hermes) came and lulled him to sleep with soft music, and then drove Io away. Juno was so angry, that she caused all the eyes to be taken from Argus and put into her peacock's tail.

Mercury has a planet called after him too, a very small one, so close to the sun that we only see it just after sunset or before sunrise. I believe Mercury or Hermes really meant the morning breeze. The story went that he was born early in the morning in a cave, and after he had slept a little while in his cradle, he came forth, and, finding the shell of a tortoise with some strings of the inwards stretched across it, he at once began to play on it, and thus formed the first lyre. He was so swift that he was the messenger of Jupiter, and he is always represented with wings on his cap and sandals; but as the wind not only makes music, but blows things away unawares, so Mercury came to be viewed not only as the god of fair speech, but as a terrible thief, and the god of thieves. You see, as long as these Greek stories are parables, they are grand and beautiful; but when the beings are looked on as like men, they are absurd and often horrid. The gods had another messenger, Iris, the rainbow, who always carried messages of mercy, a recollection of the bow in the clouds; but she chiefly belonged to Juno.

All the twelve greater gods had palaces on Olympus, and met every day in Jupiter's hall to feast on ambrosia, a sort of food of life which made them immortal. Their drink was nectar, which was poured into their golden cups at first by Vulcan, but he stumbled and hobbled so with his lame leg that they chose instead the fresh and graceful Hebe, the goddess of youth, till she was careless, and one day fell down, cup and nectar and all. The gods thought they must find another cupbearer, and, looking down, they saw a beautiful youth named Ganymede watching his flocks upon Mount Ida. So they sent Jupiter's eagle down to fly away with him and bring him up to Olympus. They gave him some ambrosia to make him immortal, and established him as their cupbearer. Besides this, the gods were thought to feed on the smoke and smell of the sacrifices people offered up to them on earth, and always to help those who offered them most sacrifices of animals and incense.

The usual names of these twelve were—Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, Latona, Apollo, Diana, Pallas, Venus, Vulcan, Mercury, Vesta, and Ceres; but there were multitudes besides—"gods many and lords many" of all sorts of different dignities. Every river had its god, every mountain and wood was full of nymphs, and there was a great god of all nature called Pan, which in Greek means All. Neptune was only a visitor in Olympus, though he had a right there. His kingdom was the sea, which he ruled with his trident, and where he had a whole world of lesser gods and nymphs, tritons and sea horses, to attend upon his chariot.

And the quietest and best of all the goddesses was Vesta, the goddess of the household hearth—of home, that is to say. There are no stories to be told about her, but a fire was always kept burning in her honour in each city, and no one might tend it who was not good and pure.

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The god and goddess of light were the glorious twin brother and sister, Phoebus Apollo and Diana or Artemis. They were born in the isle of Delos, which was caused to rise out of the sea to save their mother, Latona, from the horrid serpent, Python, who wanted to devour her. Gods were born strong and mighty; and the first thing Apollo did was to slay the serpent at Delphi with his arrows. Here was a dim remembrance of the promise that the Seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, and also a thought of the way Light slays the dragon of darkness with his beams. Apollo was lord of the day, and Diana queen of the night. They were as bright and pure as the thought of man could make them, and always young. The beams or rays were their arrows, and so Diana was a huntress, always in the woods with her nymphs; and she was so modest, that once, when an unfortunate wanderer, named Actaeon, came on her with her nymphs by chance when they were bathing in a stream, she splashed some water in his face and turned him into a stag, so that his own dogs gave chase to him and killed him. I am afraid Apollo and Diana were rather cruel; but the darting rays of the sun and moon kill sometimes as well as bless; and so they were the senders of all sharp, sudden strokes. There was a queen called Niobe, who had six sons and daughters so bright and fair that she boasted that they were equal to Apollo and Diana, which made Latona so angry, that she sent her son and daughter to slay them all with their darts. The unhappy Niobe, thus punished for her impiety, wept a river of tears till she was turned into stone.

[Picture: Supposed Temple of Jupiter Panhellenius in AEgina]

The moon belonged to Diana, and was her car; the sun, in like manner, to Apollo, though he did not drive the car himself, but Helios, the sun-god, did. The world was thought to be a flat plate, with Delphi in the middle, and the ocean all round. In the far east the lady dawn, Aurora, or Eos, opened the gates with her rosy fingers, and out came the golden car of the sun, with glorious white horses driven by Helios, attended by the Hours strewing dew and flowers. It passed over the arch of the heavens to the ocean again on the west, and there Aurora met it again in fair colours, took out the horses, and let them feed. Aurora had married a man named Tithonus. She gave him ambrosia, which made him immortal, but she could not keep him from growing old, so he became smaller and smaller, till he dwindled into a grasshopper, and at last only his voice was to be heard chirping at sunrise and sunset.

Helios had an earthly wife too, and a son named Phaeton, who once begged to be allowed to drive the chariot of the sun for just one day. Helios yielded; but poor Phaeton had no strength nor skill to guide the horses in the right curve. At one moment they rushed to the earth and scorched the trees, at another they flew up to heaven and would have burnt Olympus, if Jupiter had not cast his thunderbolts at the rash driver and hurled him down into a river, where he was drowned. His sisters wept till they were changed into poplar trees, and their tears hardened into amber drops.

Mercury gave his lyre to Apollo, who was the true god of music and poetry, and under him were nine nymphs—the Muses, daughters of memory—who dwelt on Mount Parnassus, and were thought to inspire all noble and heroic song, all poems in praise to or of the gods or of brave men, and the graceful music and dancing at their feasts, also the knowledge of the stars of earth and heaven.

[Picture: Head of Pallas] These three—Apollo, Diana, and Pallas—were the gods of all that was nobly, purely, and wisely lovely; but the Greeks also believed in powers of ill, and there was a goddess of beauty, called Venus (Aphrodite). Such beauty was hers as is the mere prettiness and charm of pleasure—nothing high or fine. She was said to have risen out of the sea, as the sunshine touched the waves, with her golden hair dripping with the spray; and her favourite home was in myrtle groves, where she drove her car, drawn by doves, attended by the three Graces, and by multitudes of little winged children, called Loves; but there was generally said to be one special son of hers, called Love—Cupid in Latin, Eros in Greek—whose arrows, when tipped with gold, made people fall in love, and when tipped with lead, made them hate one another. Her husband was the ugly, crooked smith, Vulcan—perhaps because pretty ornaments come of the hard work of the smith; but she never behaved well to him, and only coaxed him when she wanted something that his clever hands could make.

She was much more fond of amusing herself with Mars (Ares), the god of war, another of the evil gods, for he was fierce, cruel, and violent, and where he went slaughter and blood were sure to follow him and his horrid daughter Bellona. His star was "the red planet Mars;" but Venus had the beautiful clear one, which, according as it is seen either at sunrise or sunset, is called the morning or evening star. Venus also loved a beautiful young earthly youth, called Adonis, who died of a thrust from a wild boar's tusk, while his blood stained crimson the pretty flower, pheasant's eye, which is still called Adonis. Venus was so wretched that she persuaded Jupiter to decree that Adonis should come back and live for one-half of the year, but he was to go down to Pluto's underground kingdom the other half. This is because plants and flowers are beautiful for one year, die down, and rise again.

[Picture: Triptolemus] But there is a much prettier story, with something of the same meaning, about Ceres (Demeter), the grave, motherly goddess of corn and all the fruits of the earth. She had one fair daughter, named Proserpine (Persephone), who was playing with her companions near Mount Etna, gathering flowers in the meadows, when grim old Pluto pounced upon her and carried her off into his underground world to be his bride. Poor Ceres did not know what had become of her darling, and wandered up and down the world seeking for her, tasting no food or drink, till at last, quite spent, she was taken in as a poor woman by Celeus, king of Eleusis, and became nurse to his infant child Triptolemus. All Eleusis was made rich with corn, while no rain fell and no crops grew on the rest of the earth; and though first Iris and then all the gods came to beg Ceres to relent, she would grant nothing unless she had her daughter back. So Jupiter sent Mercury to bring Proserpine home; but she was only to be allowed to stay on earth on condition that she had eaten nothing while in the under world. Pluto, knowing this, had made her eat half a pomegranate, and so she could not stay with her mother; but Ceres's tears prevailed so far that she was to spend the summer above ground and the winter below. For she really was the flowers and fruit. Ceres had grown so fond of little Triptolemus that she wanted to make him immortal; but, as she had no ambrosia, this could only be done by putting him on the fire night after night to burn away his mortal part. His mother looked in one night during the operation, and shrieked so that she prevented it; so all Ceres could do for him was to give him grains of wheat and a dragon car, with which he travelled all about the world, teaching men to sow corn and reap harvests.

Proserpine seems to have been contented in her underground kingdom, where she ruled with Pluto. It was supposed to be below the volcanic grounds in southern Italy, near Lake Avernus. The entrance to it was guarded by a three-headed dog, named Cerberus, and the way to it was barred by the River Styx. Every evening Mercury brought all the spirits of the people who had died during the day to the shore of the Styx, and if their funeral rites had been properly performed, and they had a little coin on the tongue to pay the fare, Charon, the ferryman, took them across; but if their corpses were in the sea, or on battle-fields, unburied, the poor shades had to flit about vainly begging to be ferried over. After they had crossed, they were judged by three judges, and if they had been wicked, were sent over the river of fire to be tormented by the three Furies, Alecto, Megara, and Tisiphone, who had snakes as scourges and in their hair. If they had been brave and virtuous, they were allowed to live among beautiful trees and flowers in the Elysian fields, where Pluto reigned; but they seem always to have longed after the life they had lost; and these Greek notions of bliss seem sad besides what we know to be the truth. Here, too, lived the three Fates, always spinning the threads of men's lives; Clotho held the distaff, Lachesis drew out the thread, and Atropos with her shears cut it off when the man was to die. And, though Jupiter was mighty, nothing could happen but by Fate, which was stronger than he.

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You remember the Titans who rebelled against Jupiter. There was one who was noble, and wise, and kind, who did not rebel, and kept his brother from doing so. His name was Prometheus, which means Forethought; his brother's was Epimetheus, or Afterthought; their father was Iapetus. When all the other Titans had been buried under the rocks, Jupiter bade Prometheus mould men out of the mud, and call on the winds of heaven to breathe life into them. Then Prometheus loved the beings he had made, and taught them to build houses, and tame the animals, and row and sail on the sea, and study the stars. But Zeus was afraid they would be too mighty, and would not give them fire. Then Prometheus climbed the skies, and brought fire down for them in a hollow reed.

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The gods were jealous, and thought it time to stop this. So Jupiter bade Vulcan mould a woman out of clay, and Pallas to adorn her with all charms and gifts, so that she was called Pandora, or All Gifts; and they gave her a casket, into which they had put all pains, and griefs, and woes, and ills, and nothing good in it but hope; and they sent her down to visit the two Titan brothers. Prometheus knew that Jupiter hated them, and he had warned Epimetheus not to take any gift that came from Olympus; but he was gone from home when Pandora came; and when Epimetheus saw how lovely she was, and heard her sweet voice, he was won over to trust her, and to open the box. Then out flew all the evils and miseries that were stored in it, and began to torment poor mankind with war, and sickness, and thirst, and hunger, and nothing good was left but hope at the bottom of the box. And by-and-by there came spirits, called Prayers, but they were lame, coming after evil, because people are so apt not to begin to pray till harm has befallen them.

[Picture: Pandora] The gods undertook also to accept sacrifices, claiming a share in whatever animal man slew. Prometheus guarded his people here by putting the flesh of a bullock on one side, and the bones and inward parts covered with the fat on the other, and bidding Jupiter choose which should be his. The fat looked as if the heap it covered were the best, and Jupiter chose that, and was forced to abide by his choice; so that, whenever a beast was killed for food, the bones and fat were burnt on the altar, and man had the flesh. All this made Jupiter so angry, that, as Prometheus was immortal and could not be killed, he chained the great, good Titan to a rock on Mount Caucasus, and sent an eagle continually to rend his side and tear out his liver as fast as it grew again; but Prometheus, in all his agony, kept hope, for he knew that deliverance would come to him; and, in the meantime, he was still the comforter and counsellor of all who found their way to him.

Men grew very wicked, owing to the evils in Pandora's box, and Jupiter resolved to drown them all with a flood; but Prometheus, knowing it beforehand, told his mortal son Deucalion to build a ship and store it with all sorts of food. In it Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha floated about for nine days till all men had been drowned, and as the waters went down the ship rested on Mount Parnassus, and Deucalion and Pyrrha came out and offered sacrifices to Jupiter. He was appeased, and sent Mercury down to ask what he should grant them. Their prayer was that the earth might be filled again with people, upon which the god bade them walk up the hill and throw behind them the bones of their grandmother. Now Earth was said to be the mother of the Titans, so the bones of their grandmother were the rocks, so as they went they picked up stones and threw them over their shoulders. All those that Deucalion threw rose up as men, and all those that Pyrrha threw became women, and thus the earth was alive again with human beings. No one can fail to see what far older histories must have been brought in the minds of the Greeks, and have been altered into these tales, which have much beauty in themselves. The story of the flood seems to have been mixed up with some small later inundation which only affected Greece.

The proper old name of Greece was Hellas, and the people whom we call Greeks called themselves Hellenes. {29} Learned men know that they, like all the people of Europe, and also the Persians and Hindoos, sprang from one great family of the sons of Japhet, called Arians. A tribe called Pelasgi came first, and lived in Asia Minor, Greece, and Italy; and after them came the Hellenes, who were much quicker and cleverer than the Pelasgi, and became their masters in most of Greece. So that the people we call Greeks were a mixture of the two, and they were divided into three lesser tribes—the AEolians, Dorians, and Ionians.

[Picture: The World according to the Greeks]

Now, having told you that bit of truth, I will go back to what the Greeks thought. They said that Deucalion had a son whose name was Hellen, and that he again had three sons, called AEolus, Dorus, and Xuthus. AEolus was the father of the AEolian Greeks, and some in after times thought that he was the same with the god called AEolus, who was thought to live in the Lipari Islands; and these keep guard over the spirits of the winds—Boreas, the rough, lively north wind; Auster, the rainy south wind; Eurus, the bitter east; and Zephyr, the gentle west. He kept them in a cave, and let one out according to the way the wind was wanted to blow, or if there was to be a storm he sent out two at once to struggle, and fight, and roar together, and lash up Neptune's world, the sea. The AEolians did chiefly live in the islands and at Corinth. One of the sons of AEolus turned out very badly, and cheated Jupiter. His name was Sisyphus, and he was punished in Tartarus—Pluto's world below—by having always to roll a stone up a mountain so steep that it was sure to come down upon him again.

Dorus was, of course, the father of the Dorians; and Xuthus had a son, called Ion, who was the father of the Ionians. But, besides all these, there was a story of two brothers, named AEgyptus and Danaus, one of whom settled in Egypt, and the other in Argos. One had fifty sons and the other fifty daughters, and AEgyptus decreed that they should all marry; but Danaus and his daughters hated their cousins, and the father gave each bride a dagger, with which she stabbed her bridegroom. Only one had pity, and though the other forty-nine were not punished here, yet, when they died and went to Tartarus, they did not escape, but were obliged to be for ever trying to carry water in bottomless vessels. The people of Argos called themselves Danai, and no doubt some of them came from Egypt.

One more story, and a very strange one, tells of the peopling of Greece. A fair lady, named Europa, was playing in the meadows on the Phoenician coast, when a great white bull came to her, let his horns be wreathed with flowers, lay down, and invited her to mount his back; but no sooner had she done so, than he rose and trotted down with her to the sea, and swam with her out of sight. He took her, in fact, to the island of Crete, where her son Minos was so good and just a king, that, when he died, Pluto appointed him and two others to be judges of the spirits of the dead. Europe was called after Europa, as the loss of her led settlers there from Asia. Europa's family grieved for her, and her father, mother, and brother went everywhere in search of her. Cadmus was the name of her brother, and he and his mother went far and wide, till the mother died, and Cadmus went to Delphi—the place thought to be the centre of the earth—where Apollo had slain the serpent Python, and where he had a temple and cavern in which every question could be answered. Such places of divination were called oracles, and Cadmus was here told to cease from seeking his sister, and to follow a cow till she fell down with fatigue, and to build a city on that spot. The poor cow went till she came into Boeotia, and there fell. Cadmus meant to offer her up, and went to fetch water from a fountain near, but as he stooped a fierce dragon rushed on him. He had a hard fight to kill it, but Pallas shone out in her beauty on him, and bade him sow its teeth in the ground. He did so, and they sprung up as warriors, who at once began to fight, and killed one another, all but five, who made friends, and helped Cadmus to build the famous city called Thebes. It is strange, after so wild a story as this, to be told that Cadmus first taught writing in Greece, and brought the alphabet of sixteen letters. The Greek alphabet was really learnt from the Phoenicians, and most likely the whole is a curious story of some settlement of that eastern people in Greece. Most likely they brought in the worship of the wine-god, Bacchus (Dionysos), for he was called Cadmus's grandson. An orphan at first, he was brought up by the nymphs and Mercury, and then became a great conqueror, going to India, and Egypt, and everywhere, carrying the vine and teaching the use of wine. He was attended by an old fat man, named Silenus, and by creatures, called Fauns and Satyrs, like men with goats' ears and legs; his crown was of ivy, and his chariot was drawn by leopards, and he was at last raised to Olympus. His feasts were called orgies; he-goats were sacrificed at them, and songs were sung, after which there was much drinking, and people danced holding sticks wreathed with vine and ivy leaves. The women who danced were called Bacchanals. The better sort of Greeks at first would not adopt these shameful rites. There were horrid stories of women who refused them going mad and leaping into the sea, and the Bacchanals used to fall upon and destroy all who resisted them.

[Picture: Man in chariot]


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A hero means a great and glorious man, and the Greeks thought they had many such among their forefathers—nay, that they were sons of gods, and themselves, after many trials and troubles, became gods, since these Greeks of old felt that "we are also His offspring."

Here is a story of one of these heroes. His mother was the daughter of an Argive king, and was named Danae. He was named Perseus, and had bright eyes and golden hair like the morning. When he was a little babe, he and his mother were out at sea, and were cast on the isle of Seriphos, where a fisherman named Dictys took care of them. A cruel tyrant named Polydectes wanted Danae to be his wife, and, as she would not consent, he shut her up in prison, saying that she should never come out till her son Perseus had brought him the head of the Gorgon Medusa, thinking he must be lost by the way. For the Gorgons were three terrible sisters, who lived in the far west beyond the setting sun. Two of them were immortal, and had dragon's wings and brazen claws and serpent hair, but their sister Medusa was mortal, and so beautiful in the face that she had boasted of being fairer than Pallas. To punish her presumption, her hair was turned to serpents, and whosoever looked on her face, sad and lovely as it was, would instantly be turned into stone.

But, for his mother's sake, young Perseus was resolved to dare this terrible adventure, and his bravery brought help from the gods. The last night before he was to set out Pallas came and showed him the images of the three Gorgons, and bade him not concern himself about the two he could not kill; but she gave him a mirror of polished brass, and told him only to look at Medusa's reflection on it, for he would become a stone if he beheld her real self. Then Mercury came and gave Perseus a sword of light that would cleave all on whom it might fall, lent him his own winged sandals, and told him to go first to the nymphs of the Graiae, the Gorgons' sisters, and make them tell him the way.

So the young hero went by land and sea, still westwards, to the very borders of the world, where stands the giant of the west, Atlas, holding up the great vault of the skies on his broad shoulders. Beyond lay the dreary land of twilight, on the shores of the great ocean that goes round the world, and on the rocks on the shores sat the three old, old nymphs, the Graiae, who had been born with grey hair, and had but one eye and one tooth among them, which they passed to one another in turn. When the first had seen the noble-looking youth speeding to them, she handed her eye on, that the next sister might look at him; but Perseus was too quick—he caught the one eye out of her hand, and then told the three poor old nymphs that he did not want to hurt them, but that he must keep their eye till they had told him the way to Medusa the Gorgon.

They told him the way, and, moreover, they gave him a mist-cap helmet from Tartarus, which would make him invisible whenever he put it on, and also a bag, which he slung on his back; and, thus armed, he went further to the very bounds of the world, and he took his mirror in his hand, and looked into it. There he saw the three Gorgon sisters, their necks covered with scales like those of snakes (at least those of two), their teeth like boar's tusks, their hands like brass, and their wings of gold; but they were all fast asleep, and Perseus, still looking into his mirror, cleft Medusa's neck with his all-cutting sword, and put her head into the bag on his back without ever seeing her face. Her sisters awoke and darted after him; but he put on his helmet of mist, and they lost him, while he fled away on Mercury's swift-winged sandals. As he sped eastward, he heard a voice asking whether he had really killed the Gorgon. It was Atlas, the old heaven-supporting giant; and when Perseus answered that he had, Atlas declared that he must see the head to convince him. So Perseus put a hand over his shoulder, and drew it up by its snaky hair; but no sooner had Atlas cast his eyes on it than he turned into a mountain, his white beard and hair becoming the snowy peak, and his garments the woods and forests. And there he still stands on the west coast of Africa, and all our modern map-books are named after him.

[Picture: Perseus and Andromeda]

But Perseus' adventures were not over. As he flew on by the Lybian coast he heard a sound of wailing, and beheld a beautiful maiden chained by her hands and feet to a rock. He asked what had led her to this sad plight, and she answered that she was Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of Ethiopia, and that her mother had foolishly boasted that she was fairer than the Nereids, the fifty nymphs who are the spirits of the waves. Neptune was so much displeased that he sent a flood to overflow the land, and a sea-monster to devour the people and cattle. In an oasis or isle of fertility in the middle of the Lybian desert was a temple of Jupiter, there called Ammon, and the Ethiopians had sent there to ask what to do. The oracle replied that the evil should cease if Andromeda were given up to the monster. Cepheus had been obliged to yield her up because of the outcries of the people, and here she was waiting to be devoured. Perseus, of course, was ready. He heard the monster coming, bade Andromeda close her eyes, and then held up the Gorgon's head. In an instant her foe had become a rock, and he cleft the maiden's chains, brought her back to her father and mother, who gave her to him in marriage, and made a great feast; but here a former lover of hers insulted them both so much, that Perseus was forced to show him the Gorgon's face, and turn him into stone.

Then Perseus, with Andromeda, took his way to Seriphos. Indeed it was high time that he should come back, for Polydectes, thinking that he must long ago have been turned into a rock at the sight of Medusa, had tried to take Danae by force to be his wife, and she had fled into a temple, where no one dared to touch her, since it was always believed that the gods punished such as dragged suppliants away from their temples. So Perseus went to Polydectes, who was in the midst of a feast, and, telling him that his bidding was done, held up the head of Medusa, and of course the king and his whole court turned at once into stone. Now that the work of the Gorgon's head was done, Perseus offered it to Pallas, who placed it upon her shield, or, as it is always called, her aegis; and he gave back the sword of light, cap of mist, and winged sandals to Mercury.

After this he returned to Argos, and there, at a game of quoits, he had the misfortune to throw the quoit the wrong way, and hit his grandfather, the king, so as to kill him. Perseus reigned afterwards, and, like all the nobler Greek heroes, kept out the worship of Bacchus and its foul orgies from his dominions; but he afterwards exchanged kingdoms with another king, and built the city of Tiryas. He lived happily with Andromeda, and had a great many children, whose descendants viewed him as a demi-god, and had shrines to him, where they offered incense and sacrifice; for they thought that he and all the family were commemorated in the stars, and named the groups after them. You may find them all in the North. Andromeda is a great square, as if large stars marked the rivets of her chains on the rock; Perseus, a long curved cluster of bright stars, as if climbing up to deliver her; her mother Cassiopeia like a bright W, in which the Greeks traced a chair, where she sat with her back to the rest to punish her for her boast. Cepheus is there too, but he is smaller, and less easy to find. They are all in the North, round the Great Bear, who was said by the Greeks to be a poor lady whom Juno had turned into a bear, and who was almost killed unknowingly by her own son when out hunting. He is the Little Bear, with the pole star in his tail, and she is the Great Bear, always circling round him, and, as the Greeks used to say, never dipping her muzzle into the ocean, because she is so far north that she never sets.

This story of Perseus is a very old one, which all nations have loved to tell, though with different names. You will be amused to think that the old Cornish way of telling it is found in "Jack the Giant-Killer," who had seven-leagued boots and a cap of mist, and delivered fair ladies from their cruel foes.

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One morning Jupiter boasted among the gods in Olympus that a son would that day be born in the line of Perseus, who would rule over all the Argives. Juno was angry and jealous at this, and, as she was the goddess who presided over the births of children, she contrived to hinder the birth of the child he intended till that day was over, and to hasten that of another grandson of the great Perseus. This child was named Eurystheus, and, as he had been born on the right day, Jupiter was forced to let him be king of Argos, Sparta, and Mycenae, and all the Dorian race; while the boy whom he had meant to be the chief was kept in subjection, in spite of having wonderful gifts of courage and strength, and a kind, generous nature, that always was ready to help the weak and sorrowful.

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His name was Alcides, or Hercules, and he was so strong at ten months old, that, with his own hands, he strangled two serpents whom Juno sent to devour him in his cradle. He was bred up by Chiron, the chief of the Centaurs, a wondrous race of beings, who had horses' bodies as far as the forelegs, but where the neck of the horse would begin had human breasts and shoulders, with arms and heads. Most of them were fierce and savage; but Chiron was very wise and good, and, as Jupiter made him immortal, he was the teacher of many of the great Greek heroes. When Hercules was about eighteen, two maidens appeared to him—one in a simple white dress, grave, modest and seemly; the other scarcely clothed, but tricked out in ornaments, with a flushed face, and bold, roving eyes. The first told him that she was Virtue, and that, if he would follow her, she would lead him through many hard trials, but that he would be glorious at last, and be blest among the gods. The other was Vice, and she tried to wile him by a smooth life among wine-cups and dances and flowers and sports, all to be enjoyed at once. But the choice of Hercules was Virtue, and it was well for him, for Jupiter, to make up for Juno's cheat, had sworn that, if he fulfilled twelve tasks which Eurystheus should put upon him, he should be declared worthy of being raised to the gods at his death.

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Eurystheus did not know that in giving these tasks he was making his cousin fulfil his course; but he was afraid of such a mighty man, and hoped that one of these would be the means of getting rid of him. So when he saw Hercules at Argos, with a club made of a forest tree in his hand, and clad in the skin of a lion which he had slain, Eurystheus bade him go and kill a far more terrible lion, of giant brood, and with a skin that could not be pierced, which dwelt in the valley of Nemea. The fight was a terrible one; the lion could not be wounded, and Hercules was forced to grapple with it, and strangle it in his arms. He lost a finger in the struggle, but at last the beast died in his grasp, and he carried it on his back to Argos, where Eurystheus was so much frightened at the grim sight that he fled away to hide himself, and commanded Hercules not to bring his monsters within the gates of the city.

[Picture: Hercules fighting the Lion] There was a second labour ready for Hercules—namely, the destroying a serpent with nine heads, called Hydra, whose lair was the marsh of Lerna. Hercules went to the battle, and managed to crush one head with his club, but that moment two sprang up in its place; moreover, a huge crab came out of the swamp, and began to pinch his heels. Still he did not lose heart, but, calling his friend Iolaus, he bade him take a fire-brand and burn the necks as fast as he cut off the heads; and thus at last they killed the creature, and Hercules dipped his arrows in its poisonous blood, so that their least wound became fatal. Eurystheus said that it had not been a fair victory, since Hercules had been helped, and Juno put the crab into the skies as the constellation Cancer; while a labour to patience was next devised for Hercules—namely, the chasing of the Arcadian stag, which was sacred to Diana, and had golden horns and brazen hoofs. Hercules hunted it up hill and down dale for a whole year, and when at last he caught it, he got into trouble with Apollo and Diana about it, and had hard work to appease them; but he did so at last; and for his fourth labour was sent to catch alive a horrid wild boar on Mount Erymanthus. He followed the beast through a deep swamp, caught it in a net, and brought it to Mycenae.

[Picture: Hercules fighting the Hydra] The fifth task was a curious one. Augeas, king of Elis, had immense herds, and kept his stables and cow-houses in a frightful state of filth, and Eurystheus, hoping either to disgust Hercules or kill him by the unwholesomeness of the work, sent him to clean them. Hercules, without telling Augeas it was his appointed task, offered to do it if he were repaid the tenth of the herds, and received the promise on oath. Then he dug a canal, and turned the water of two rivers into the stables, so as effectually to cleanse them; but when Augeas heard it was his task, he tried to cheat him of the payment, and on the other hand Eurystheus said, as he had been rewarded, it could not count as one of his labours, and ordered him off to clear the woods near Lake Stymphalis of some horrible birds, with brazen beaks and claws, and ready-made arrows for feathers, which ate human flesh. To get them to rise out of the forest was his first difficulty, but Pallas lent him a brazen clapper, which made them take to their wings; then he shot them with his poisoned arrows, killed many, and drove the rest away.

King Minos of Crete had once vowed to sacrifice to the gods whatever should appear from the sea. A beautiful white bull came, so fine that it tempted him not to keep his word, and he was punished by the bull going mad, and doing all sorts of damage in Crete; so that Eurystheus thought it would serve as a labour for Hercules to bring the animal to Mycenae. In due time back came the hero, with the bull, quite subdued, upon his shoulders; and, having shown it, he let it loose again to run about Greece.

He had a harder task in getting the mares of the Thracian king, Diomedes, which were fed on man's flesh. He overcame their grooms, and drove the beasts away; but he was overtaken by Diomedes, and, while fighting with him and his people, put the mares under the charge of a friend; but when the battle was over, and Diomedes killed, he found that they had eaten up their keeper. However, when he had fed them on the dead body of their late master, they grew mild and manageable, and he brought them home.

The next expedition was against the Amazons, a nation of women warriors, who lived somewhere on the banks of the Euxine or Black Sea, kept their husbands in subjection, and seldom brought up a son. The bravest of all the Amazons was the queen, Hippolyta, to whom Mars had given a belt as a reward for her valour. Eurystheus' daughter wanted this belt, and Hercules was sent to fetch it. He was so hearty, honest, and good-natured, that he talked over Hippolyta, and she promised him her girdle; but Juno, to make mischief, took the form of an Amazon, and persuaded the ladies that their queen was being deluded and stolen away by a strange man, so they mounted their horses and came down to rescue her. He thought she had been treacherous, and there was a great fight, in which he killed her, and carried off her girdle.

Far out in the west, near the ocean flowing round the world, were herds of purple oxen, guarded by a two-headed dog, and belonging to a giant with three bodies called Geryon, who lived in the isle of Erythria, in the outmost ocean. Passing Lybia, Hercules came to the end of the Mediterranean Sea, Neptune's domain, and there set up two pillars—namely, Mounts Calpe and Abyla—on each side a the Straits of Gibraltar. The rays of the sun scorched him, and in wrath he shot at it with his arrows, when Helios, instead of being angry, admired his boldness, and gave him his golden cup, wherewith to cross the outer ocean, which he did safely, although old Oceanus, who was king there, put up his hoary head, and tried to frighten him by shaking the bowl. It was large enough to hold all the herd of oxen, when Hercules had killed dog, herdsman, and giant, and he returned it safely to Helios when he had crossed the ocean. The oxen were sacrificed to Juno, Eurystheus' friend.

Again Eurystheus sent Hercules to the utmost parts of the earth. This time it was to bring home the golden apples which grew in the gardens of the Hesperides, the daughters of old Atlas, who dwelt in the land of Hesperus the Evening Star, and, together with a dragon, guarded the golden tree in a beautiful garden. Hercules made a long journey, apparently round by the North, and on his way had to wrestle with a dreadful giant named Antaeus. Though thrown down over and over again, Antaeus rose up twice as strong every time, till Hercules found out that he grew in force whenever he touched his mother earth, and therefore, lifting him up in those mightiest of arms, the hero squeezed the breath out of him. By-and-by he came to Mount Caucasus, where he found the chained Prometheus, and, aiming an arrow at the eagle, killed the tormentor, and set the Titan free. In return, Prometheus gave him much good counsel, and indeed seems to have gone with him to Atlas, who, according to this story, was still able to move, in spite of the petrifaction by Hercules' grandfather. Atlas undertook to go to his daughters, and get the apples, if Hercules would hold up the skies for him in the meantime. Hercules agreed, and Atlas shifted the heavens to his shoulders, went, and presently returned with three apples of gold, but said he would take them to Eurystheus, and Hercules must continue to bear the load of the skies. Prometheus bade Hercules say he could not hold them without a pad for them to rest on his head. Atlas took them again to hold while the pad was put on; and thereupon Hercules picked up the apples, and left the old giant to his load.

One more labour remained—namely, to bring up the three-headed watch-dog, Cerberus, from the doors of Tartarus. Mercury and Pallas both came to attend him, and led him alive among the shades, who all fled from him, except Medusa and one brave youth. He gave them the blood of an ox to drink, and made his way to Pluto's throne, where he asked leave to take Cerberus to the upper world with him. Pluto said he might, if he could overcome Cerberus without weapons; and this he did, struggling with the dog, with no protection but the lion's skin, and dragging him up to the light, where the foam that fell from the jaws of one of the three mouths produced the plant called aconite, or hellebore, which is dark and poisonous. After showing the beast to Eurystheus, Hercules safely returned him to the underworld, and thus completed his twelve great labours.

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You remember that Cadmus founded Thebes. One of his daughters was named Ino. She married a son of King AEolus, who had been married before, and had two children, Phryxus and Helle. Ino was a cruel stepmother, and deceived her husband into thinking that the oracle at Delphi required him to sacrifice his son to Jupiter; but as the poor boy stood before the altar, down from the skies came a ram with a golden fleece, which took both the children on his back, and flew away with them over land and sea; but poor Helle let go in passing the narrow strait between Asia and Europe, fell into the sea, and was drowned. The strait was called after her, the Hellespont, or Helle's Sea. Phryxus came safely to Colchis, on the Black Sea, and was kindly received by AEetes, the king of the country. They sacrificed the golden-woolled ram to Jupiter, and nailed up its fleece to a tree in the grove of Mars.

Some time after, Pelias, the usurping king of Iolcus, was driving a mule-car through the market-place, when he saw a fine young man, with hair flowing on his shoulders, two spears in his hand, and only one sandal. He was very much afraid, for it had been foretold to him by an oracle that he would be slain by the man with one foot bare. And this youth was really Jason, the son of his brother AEson, from whom he had taken the kingdom. Fearing that he would kill the child, AEson had sent it away to the cave of the Centaur Chiron, by whom Jason had been bred up, and had now come to seek his fortune. He had lost his shoe in the mud, while kindly carrying an old woman across a river, little knowing that she was really the goddess Juno, who had come down in that form to make trial of the kindness of men, and who was thus made his friend for ever. Pelias sent for the young stranger the next day, and asked him what he would do if he knew who was the man fated to kill him. "I should send him to fetch the Golden Fleece," said Jason.

"Then go and fetch it," said Pelias.

Jason thereupon began building a ship, which he called Argo, and proclaimed the intended expedition throughout Greece, thus gathering together all the most famous heroes then living, most of whom had, like him, been brought up by the great Centaur Chiron. Hercules was one of them, and another was Theseus, the great hero of the Ionian city of Athens, whose prowess was almost equal to that of Hercules. He had caught and killed the great white bull which Hercules had brought from Crete and let loose, and he had also destroyed the horrid robber Procrustes (the Stretcher), who had kept two iron bedsteads, one long and one short. He put tall men into the short bed, and cut them down to fit it, and short men into the long bed, pulling them out till they died, until Theseus finished his life on one of his own beds.

[Picture: Building the Argo]

Another deed of Theseus was in Crete. The great white bull which Minos ought to have sacrificed had left a horrible offspring, a monster called the Minotaur, half man and half bull, which ate human flesh, and did horrible harm, till a clever artificer named Daedalus made a dwelling for it called the Labyrinth, approached by so many cross paths, winding in and out in a maze, that everyone who entered it was sure to lose himself; and the Minotaur could never get out, but still they fed him there; and as Athens was subject to Crete, the people were required to send every year a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens for the Minotaur to devour. Theseus offered himself to be one of these, telling his father that whereas a black sail was always carried by the ship that bore these victims to their death, he would, if he succeeded in killing the Minotaur, as he hoped to do, hoist a white one when coming home. When he reached Crete, he won the heart of Minos' daughter Ariadne, who gave him a skein of thread: by unwinding this as he went he would leave a clue behind him, by which he could find his way out of the labyrinth, after killing the monster. When this was done, by his great skill and strength, he took ship again, and Ariadne came with him; but he grew tired of her, and left her behind in the isle of Naxos, where Bacchus found her weeping, consoled her, and gave her a starry crown, which may be seen in the sky on a summer night. Theseus, meantime, went back to Athens, but he had forgotten his promise about the white sail, and his poor old father, seeing the black one, as he sat watching on the rocks, thought that ill news was coming, fell down, and was drowned, just as Theseus sailed safely into port. Theseus was a friend of Hercules, had been with him on his journey to the land of the Amazons, and had married one of them named Antiope.

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Two more of the Argonauts were Castor and Pollux, the twin sons of Leda, queen of Sparta. She had also two daughters, named Helen and Clytemnestra, and Helen was growing into the most beautiful woman in the world. These children, in the fable, had been hatched from two huge swans' eggs; Castor and Clytemnestra were in one egg, and Pollux and Helen in the other. Castor and Pollux were the most loving of brothers, and while Castor was famous for horsemanship, Pollux was the best of boxers. They, too, had been pupils of Chiron; so was Peleus of AEgina, who had wooed Thetis, one of the fifty Nereids, or sea-nymphs, though she changed herself into all sorts of forms when he caught her first—fire, water, a serpent, and a lioness; but he held her fast through all, and at last she listened to him, and all the gods and goddesses had come to the wedding feast. They had one son, named Achilles, whom Thetis had tried to make immortal after Ceres' fashion, by putting him on the fire at night; but, like Triptolemus' mother, Peleus had cried out and spoilt the spell. Then she took the boy to the river Styx, and bathed him there, so that he became invulnerable all over, except in the heel by which she held him. The child was now in Chiron's cave, being fed with the marrow of lions and bears, to make him strong and brave.

One more Argonaut must be mentioned, namely, the minstrel Orpheus. He was the son of the muse Calliope, and was looked on as the first of the many glorious singers of Greece, who taught the noblest and best lessons. His music, when he played on the lyre, was so sweet, that all the animals, both fierce and gentle, came round to hear it; and not only these, but even the trees and rocks gathered round, entranced by the sweetness.

All these and more, to the number of fifty, joined Jason in his enterprise. The Argo, the ship which bore them, had fifty oars, and in the keel was a piece of wood from the great oak of Dodona, which could speak for the oracles. When all was ready, Jason stood on the poop, and poured forth a libation from a golden cup, praying aloud to Jupiter, to the Winds, the Days, the Nights, and to Fate to grant them a favourable voyage. Old Chiron came down from his hills to cheer them, and pray for their return; and as the oars kept measured time, Orpheus struck his lyre in tune with their splash in the blue waters.

They had many adventures. After passing the Hellespont, they found in the Propontis, which we call the Sea of Marmora, an islet called the Bears' Hill, inhabited by giants with six arms, whom they slew.

In Mysia a youth named Hylas went ashore to fetch water, but was caught by the nymphs of the stream and taken captive. Hercules, hearing his cry, went in search of him, and, as neither returned, the Argo sailed without them. No more was heard of Hylas, but Hercules went back to Argos.

They next visited Phineus, a wise old blind king, who was tormented by horrid birds called Harpies, with women's faces. These monsters always came down when he was going to eat, devoured the food, and spoilt what they did not eat. The Argonauts having among them two winged sons of Boreas (the north wind), hunted these horrible creatures far out into the Mediterranean. Phineus then told them that they would have to pass between some floating rocks called the Symplegades, which were always enveloped in mist, were often driven together by the wind, and crushed whatever was between. He told them to let fly a dove, and if it went through safely they might follow. They did so, and the dove came out at the other side, but with her tail clipped off as the rocks met. However, on went the Argo, each hero rowing for his life, and Juno and Pallas helping them; and, after all, they were but just in time, and lost the ornaments at their stern! Fate had decreed that, when once a ship passed through these rocks unhurt, they should become fixed, and thus they were no longer dangerous. It does not seem unlikely that this story might have come from some report of the dangers of icebergs. Of course there are none in the Black Sea, but the Greeks, who knew little beyond their own shores, seem to have fancied that this was open to the north into the great surrounding ocean, and the Phoenicians, who were much more adventurous sailors than they, may have brought home histories of the perils they met in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Argonauts had one more encounter with Hercules' old foes, the birds of Stymphalis, and after this safely arrived at Colchis, and sailed into the mouth of the river Phasis, from which it is said the pheasant takes its name.

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When Jason arrived at Colchis, he sent to King AEetes, and asked of him the Golden Fleece. To this AEetes replied that he might have it, provided he could yoke the two brazen-footed bulls with flaming breath, which had been a present from Vulcan, and with them plough a piece of land, and sow it with the dragon's teeth. Pallas had given AEetes half the teeth of the dragon of Thebes, which had been slain by Cadmus.

The task seemed beyond his reach, till Medea, the wicked witch, daughter of AEetes, promised to help him, on condition that he would marry her, and take her to Greece. When Jason had sworn to do so, Medea gave him an ointment with which to rub himself, also his shield and spear. For a whole day afterwards neither sword nor fire should hurt him, and he would thus be able to master the bulls. So he found it; he made them draw the plough, and then he sowed the teeth, which came up, like those sown by Cadmus, as armed men, who began to attack him; but, as Medea had bidden him, he threw a stone among them, and they began to fight with one another, so that he could easily kill the few who spared each other.

Still AEetes refused to give him the fleece, and was about to set fire to the Argo, and kill the crew; but Medea warned Jason in time, and led him to the spot where it was nailed against a tree. Orpheus lulled the guardian dragon to sleep with his lyre, while Jason took down the fleece; and Medea joined them, carrying in her arms her little brother, whom she had snatched from his bed with a cruel purpose, for when her father took alarm and gave chase, she cut the poor child to pieces, and strewed his limbs on the stream of the Phasis, so that, while her father waited to collect them, the Argo had time to sail away.

[Picture: The Argo] It did not return by the same route, but went to the north, and came to the isle of the goddess Circe, who purified Jason and Medea from the blood of the poor boy. Then they came to the isle of the Sirens, creatures like fair maidens, who stood on the shore singing so sweetly that no sailor could resist the charm; but the moment any man reached the shore, they strangled him and sucked his blood. Warned by Medea, Orpheus played and sang so grandly as to drown their fatal song, and the Argo came out into the Mediterranean somewhere near Trinacria, the three-cornered island now called Sicily, where they had to pass between two lofty cliffs. In a cave under one of these lived a monster called Scylla, with twelve limbs and six long necks, with a dog's head to each, ready each to seize a man out of every ship that passed; but it was safer to keep on her side than to go to the other cliff, for there a water-witch named Charybdis lived in a whirlpool, and was sure to suck the whole ship in, and swallow it up. However, for her husband Peleus' sake, Thetis and her sister Nereids came and guided the Argo safely through.

When the crew returned to Iolcus, they had only been absent four months; and Jason gave the fleece to his uncle Pelias, and dedicated the Argo to Neptune. He found his father AEson grown very old, but Medea undertook to restore him to youth. She went forth by moonlight, gathered a number of herbs, and then, putting them in a caldron, she cut old AEson into pieces, threw them in, and boiled them all night. In the morning AEson appeared as a lively black-haired young man, no older than his son. Pelias' daughters came and begged her to teach them the same spell. She feigned to do so, but she did not tell them the true herbs, and thus the poor maidens only slew their father, and did not bring him to life again. The son of Pelias drove the treacherous Medea and her husband from Iolcus, and they went to Corinth, where they lived ten years, until Jason grew weary of Medea, and put her away, in order to marry Creusa, the king's daughter. In her rage, Medea sent the bride the fatal gift of a poisoned robe, then she killed her own children, and flew away, in a chariot drawn by winged serpents, to the east, where she became the mother of a son named Medus, from whom the nation of Medes was descended. As to Jason, he had fallen asleep at noon one hot day under the shade of the Argo, where it was drawn up on the sand by Neptune's temple, when a bit of wood broke off from the prow, fell on his head, and killed him.

[Picture: Corinth]

Of the other Argonauts, Orpheus went to Thessaly, and there taught and softened the people much by his music. He married a fair maiden named Eurydice, with whom he lived happily and peacefully, till she was bitten by a venomous serpent and died. Orpheus was so wretched that he set forth to try to bring her back from Tartarus. He went with nothing but his lyre, and his music was so sweet that Cerberus stood listening, and let him pass, and all the torments of the Danaids, Sisyphus and all the rest, ceased while he was playing. His song even brought tears into Pluto's eyes, and Proserpine, who guarded the female dead, gave him leave to take back Eurydice to the light of day, provided he did not once look back as he led her out of Tartarus.

Orpheus had to walk first, and, as he went up the long, dark cavern, with Eurydice behind him, he carefully obeyed, till, just as he was reaching the upper air, he unhappily forgot, and turned his head to see whether she were following. He just saw her stretch out her hands to him, and then she was drawn back, and vanished from his sight. The gates were closed, and he had lost her again. After this he wandered sadly about, all his songs turned to woe, until at last the Bacchanal women, in fury at his despising the foul rites of their god, tore him limb from limb. The Muses collected his remains, and gave them funeral rites, and Jupiter placed his lyre in the skies, where you may know it by one of the brightest of all our stars.

Hercules also made another visit to the realms below. Admetus, one of the AEolian kings, had obtained from Apollo that, when the time came for him to die, his life should be prolonged if anyone would submit to death in his turn. The call came while Admetus was still young, and he besought his old father, and then his mother, to die in his stead; but they would not, and it was his fair young wife Alcestis who gave her life for his. Just as she was laid in the tomb, Hercules came to visit Admetus, and, on hearing what had happened, he went down to the kingdom of Pluto and brought her back. Or some say he sat by her tomb, and wrestled with Death when he came to seize her.

But, strong as he was, Hercules had in time to meet death himself. He had married a nymph named Deianira, and was taking her home, when he came to a river where a Centaur named Nessus lived, and gained his bread by carrying travellers over on his back. Hercules paid him the price for carrying Deianira over, while he himself crossed on foot; but as soon as the river was between them, the faithless Centaur began to gallop away with the lady. Hercules sent an arrow after him, which brought him to the ground, and as he was dying he prepared his revenge, by telling Deianira that his blood was enchanted with love for her, and that if ever she found her husband's affection failing her, she had only to make him put on a garment anointed with it, and his heart would return to her: he knew full well that his blood was full of the poison of the Hydra, but poor Deianira believed him, and had saved some of the blood before Hercules came up.

Several years after, Hercules made prisoner a maiden named Iole, in Lydia, after gaining a great victory. Landing in the island of Euboea, he was going to make a great sacrifice to Jupiter, and sent home to Deianira for a festal garment to wear at it. She was afraid he was falling in love with Iole, and steeped the garment in the preparation she had made from Nessus' blood. No sooner did Hercules put it on, than his veins were filled with agony, which nothing could assuage. He tried to tear off the robe, but the skin and flesh came with it, and his blood was poisoned beyond relief. He sailed home, and when Deianira saw the state he was in she hung herself for grief, while he charged Hylas, his eldest son, to take care of Iole, and marry her as soon as he grew up. Then, unable to bear the pain any longer, and knowing that by his twelve tasks he had earned the prize of endless life, he went to Mount OEta, crying aloud with the pain, so that the rocks rang again with the sound. He gave his quiver of arrows to his friend Philoctetes, charging him to collect his ashes and bury them, but never to make known the spot; and then he tore up, with his mighty strength, trees by the roots enough to form a funeral pile, lay down on it, and called on his friend to set fire to it; but no one could bear to do so, till a shepherd consented to thrust in a torch. Then thunder was heard, a cloud came down, and he was borne away to Olympus, while Philoctetes collected and buried the ashes.

His young sons were banished by Eurystheus, and were taken by his old friend Iolaus to seek shelter in various cities, but only the Athenians were brave enough to let them remain. Theseus had been driven away and banished from Athens; but the citizens sheltered the sons of the hero, and, when Eurystheus pursued them, a battle was fought on the isthmus of Corinth, in which the old enemy of Hercules was killed by Iolaus, with all his sons. Then the Heraclieds (sons of Hercules) were going to fight their way back to Argos, but an army met them at the isthmus, and was going to give them battle, when Hylas proposed that he should fight with a single champion chosen on the other side. If he gained, he was to be restored to the kingdom of Perseus; if not, there was to be a truce for a hundred years. Hylas had not the strength of his father; he was slain, and his brothers had to retreat and bide their time.

Argos came into the power of Agamemnon, who had married Clytemnestra, the sister of Castor and Pollux, while his brother Menelaus married the beautiful Helen. All the Greek heroes had been suitors for Helen, the fairest woman living, and they all swore to one another that, choose she whom she might, they would all stand by him, and punish anyone who might try to steal her from him. Her choice fell on Menelaus, and soon after her wedding her brother Castor was slain, and though Pollux was immortal, he could not bear to live without his brother, and prayed to share his death; upon which Jupiter made them both stars, the bright ones called Gemini, or the Twins, and Menelaus reigned with Helen at Sparta, as Agamemnon did at Mycenae.

These two were sons of Atreus, and were descended from Tantalus, once a favourite of the gods, who used to come down and feast with him, until once he took his son Pelops and dressed him for their meal. Jupiter found it out, collected the limbs, and restored the boy to life; but Ceres had been so distracted with grief about her daughter, that she had eaten one shoulder, and Jupiter gave him an ivory one instead. Tantalus was sent to Tartarus, where his punishment was to pine with hunger and thirst, with a feast before him, where he neither could touch the food nor the drink, because there was a rock hung over his head threatening to crush him. Pelops was a wonderful charioteer, and won his bride in the chariot race, having bribed the charioteer of his rival to leave out the linchpins of his wheels. Afterwards, when the charioteer asked a reward, Pelops threw him into the sea; and this was the second crime that brought a doom on the race. Pelops gave his name to the whole peninsula now called the Morea, or mulberry-leaf, but which was all through ancient times known as the Peloponnesus, or Isle of Pelops. He reigned at Elis, and after his death his sons Atreus and Thyestes struggled for the rule, but both were horribly wicked men, and Atreus was said to have killed two sons of Thyestes, and served them up to him at a feast. There was, therefore, a heavy curse on the whole family, both on AEgisthus, son of Thyestes, and on his cousins Agamemnon and Menelaus, the Atridae, or sons of Atreus.

[Picture: Decorative chapter heading]


The gods and goddesses were merrily feasting when Ate, the goddess of strife, desirous of making mischief, threw down among them a golden apple, engraven with the words, "This apple to the Fair." The three goddesses, Juno, Pallas, and Venus, each thought it meant for her—one having the beauty of dignity, the other the beauty of wisdom, and the third the beauty of grace and fairness. They would not accept the award of any of the gods, lest they should not be impartial; but they declared that no one should decide between them but Paris, a shepherd, though a king's son, who was keeping his flocks on Mount Ida.

Each goddess tried to allure him to choose her by promises. Juno offered him a mighty throne; Pallas promised to make him the wisest of men; Venus declared that she would give him the fairest woman on earth for his wife for ten years—she could assure him of no more. And it was Venus to whom Paris assigned the golden apple of discord, thus bitterly offending Juno and Pallas, who became the enemies of his nation.

[Picture: Plains of Troy]

His nation was the Trojan, who dwelt on the east coast of the AEgean Sea, and were of the Pelasgic race. Their chief city was Troy, with the citadel Ilium, lying near the banks of the rivers Simois and Scamander, between the sea shore and the wooded mount of Ida, in the north-east of the peninsula we call Asia Minor. The story went that the walls had been built by Neptune and Apollo, the last of whom had brought the stones to their place by the music of his lyre; but the king who was then reigning had refused to pay them, and had thus made them also his foes. But within the citadel was an image of Pallas, three ells long, with a spear in one hand and a distaff in the other, which was called the Palladium. It was said to have been given by Jupiter to Ilus, the first founder of the city; and as long as it was within the walls, the place could never be taken.

The present king was Priam, and his wife was Hecuba. They had nineteen children, and lived in a palace built round a court, with an altar in the middle, their sons having houses likewise opening into the court. Paris, who was worthless and pleasure-loving, was the eldest son; Hector, a very noble person, was the second. After Paris had given judgment in her favour, Venus directed him to build a ship, and go to visit the Greek kings. He was kindly entertained everywhere, and especially at Sparta; and here it was that Venus fulfilled her promise, by helping him to steal away Helen, the fairest of women, while her husband Menelaus was gone to Crete.

As soon as Menelaus found out how his hospitality had been misused, he called upon all the Greek heroes to remember their oath, and help him to recover his wife, and take vengeance on Paris. Everyone replied to the call; but the wise Ulysses, grandson of Sisyphus, and king of the little isle of Ithaca, could not bear to leave his home, or his fair young wife Penelope, for a war which he knew would be long and terrible, so he feigned to be mad, and began furiously ploughing the sea shore with a yoke of oxen. However, the next cleverest hero, Palamedes, to prove him, placed his infant son Telemachus full in the way of the plough, and when Ulysses turned it aside from the child, they declared that his madness was only pretended, and he was forced to go with them.

The Nereid Thetis knew that if her brave and beautiful son Achilles went to Troy, he would die there; so she dressed him as a maiden, and placed him at the court of the king of Scyros, where he stayed for love of one of the king's daughters. But the Greeks had a man named Calchas, who was an augur—that is, he could tell what was going to happen by the flight of birds, by the clouds, and by the inwards of sacrificed animals. Calchas told the Greeks that Troy would never be taken unless Achilles went with them. So Ulysses, guessing where the youth was, disguised himself as a merchant, and went with his wares to the palace of Scyros. All the maidens came forth to look at them, and while most were busy with the jewels and robes, one, tall and golden-haired, seemed to care for nothing but a bright sword, holding it with a strong, firm hand. Then Ulysses knew he had found Achilles, and told him of the famous war that was beginning, and the youth threw off his maiden's garb, put on his armour, and went eagerly with them; but before he went he married the fair Deidamia, and left her to wait for him at Scyros, where she had a son named Pyrrhus.

Indeed the Greeks were whole years gathering their forces, and when they did all meet at last, with their ships and men, Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, Menelaus' brother, took the lead of them all. As they were sacrificing to Jupiter, a snake glided up a tree, where there was a sparrow's nest, and ate up all the eight young ones, and then the mother bird. On seeing this, Calchas foretold that the war would last nine years, and after the ninth Troy would be taken.

However, they sailed on, till at Aulis they were stopped by foul winds for many days, and Calchas told them it was because of Agamemnon's broken vow. He had sworn, one year, to sacrifice to Diana the fairest thing that was born in his house or lands. The fairest thing that was born was his little daughter Iphigenia; but he could not bear to sacrifice her, and so had tried offering his choicest kid. Now Diana sent these winds to punish him, and the other kings required him to give up his child. So a message was sent to her mother, Clytemnestra, to send her, on pretence that she was to be married to Achilles, and when she came to Aulis she found that it was only to be offered up. However, she resigned herself bravely, and was ready to die for her father and the cause; but just as Agamemnon had his sword ready, and had covered her face that he might not see her pleading eyes as he was slaying her, Diana took pity, darted down in a cloud, and in the place of the maiden a white hind lay on the altar to be offered. Iphigenia was really carried off to serve as priestess at Diana's temple at Tauris, but it was long before it was known what had become of her, and Clytemnestra never forgave Agamemnon for what he had intended to do.

At the isle of Tenedos the Greeks had to leave behind Philoctetes, the friend of Hercules, who had his quiver of poisoned arrows, because the poor man had a wound in his heel, which was in such a dreadful state that no one could bear to come near him. One story was that he was bitten by a water-snake, another that when he was just setting off he had been over-persuaded to show where he had buried the ashes of Hercules. He did not say one word, but stamped with his foot on the place, and an arrow fell out at the moment and pierced his heel. At any rate, he and the arrows were left behind, while the Greeks reached the coast of Troy.

[Picture: Greek ships]

The augurs had declared that the first man who touched the shore would be the first to be killed. Achilles threw his shield before him, and leaped out of the ship upon that; but Protesilaus leaped without so doing, and was slain almost instantly by the Trojans. When his wife Laodamia heard of his death, she grieved and pined so piteously that his spirit could not rest, and Mercury gave him leave to come back and spend three hours with her on earth. He came, but when she tried to embrace him she found that he was only thin air, which could not be grasped, and when the time was over he vanished from her sight. Then Laodamia made an image of him, and treated it as a god; and when her father forbade her to do this, she leaped into the fire, and thus perished.

The chief of the Greeks were Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, his brother Menelaus of Sparta, and Achilles of AEgina, whose men were called Myrmidons, and said to be descended from ants. His friend, to whom he was devoted, was called Patroclus. He was the most perfect warrior in the army, but Diomed the AEtolian came near him in daring, and Ajax of Salamis, son of Telamon, was the biggest and strongest man. His brother Teucer used to stand behind his shield and aim arrows at the Trojans. There was another Ajax, from Locria, called after his father Oileus. The oldest man in the camp was Nestor, king of Pylos, who had been among the Argonauts, and had been a friend of Hercules, and was much looked up to. The wisest men were Ulysses of Ithaca, and Palamedes, who is said to have invented the game of chess to amuse the warriors in the camp; but Ulysses never forgave Palamedes for his trick on the shore at Ithaca, and managed to make him be suspected of secret dealings with the Trojans, and put to death. Each of these brought a band of fighting men, and they had their ships, which were not much more than large boats, drawn up high and dry on the shore behind the camp. They fought with swords and spears, which latter were thrown with the hand. Some had bows and arrows, and the chiefs generally went to battle in a chariot, an open car drawn by two horses, and driven by some trusty friend, who held the horses while the chief stood up and launched spear after spear among the enemy. There was no notion of mercy to the fallen; prisoners were seldom made, and if a man was once down, unless his friends could save him, he was sure to be killed.

During the first eight years of the war we do not hear much of the Greeks. They seem to have been taking and wasting the cities belonging to the Trojans all round the country. The home of Andromache, Hector's good and loving wife, was destroyed, and her parents and brothers killed; and Priam's cousin AEneas was also driven in from Mount Ida, with his old father Anchises, and wife and little son. In the ninth year of the war the Greeks drew up their forces round the walls of Troy itself, their last exploit having been the taking of the city of Chrysae, where they had gained a great deal of plunder. All captives were then made slaves, and in the division of the spoil a maiden named Briseis was given to Achilles, while Agamemnon took one called Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, priest of Apollo.

[Picture: Decorative chapter heading]


We have come to the part of this siege which is told us in the Iliad, the oldest poem we know, except the Psalms, and one of the very finest. It begins by telling how Chryses prayed to Apollo to help him to get back his daughter, and Apollo sent a plague upon the Greeks in their camp. Calchas told them it was because of Chryseis, and they forced Agamemnon to give her safely back to her father. His pride, however, was hurt, and he said he must have Briseis in her stead, and sent and took her from Achilles. In his wrath Achilles declared he would not fight any more for the Greeks, and his mother Thetis begged Jupiter to withdraw his aid from them likewise, that they might feel the difference.

The Trojans went out to attack them, and when they were drawn up in battle array, old Priam made Helen come and sit by him on the battlements over the gateway, to tell him who all the chiefs were. It was proposed that, instead of causing the death of numbers who had nothing to do with the quarrel, Menelaus and Paris should fight hand-to-hand for Helen; and they began; but as soon as Venus saw that her favourite Paris was in danger, she came in a cloud, snatched him away, and set him down in Helen's chamber, where his brother Hector found him reclining at his ease, on coming to upbraid him for keeping out of the battle, where so many better men than he were dying for his crime. Very different were Hector's ways. He parted most tenderly with his wife Andromache, and his little son Astyanax, who was so young that he clung crying to his nurse, afraid of his father's tall helmet and horsehair crest. Hector took the helmet off before he lifted the little one in his arms and prayed to the gods for him.

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