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Title: Stories from the Greek Tragedians
Author: Church, Alfred John, 1829-1912
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Stories from the Greek Tragedians" ***

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[Illustration: THE CHARIOT OF ZEUS]

Stories from the Greek Tragedians

By the



"Stories from Homer" and "Stories from Virgil"

With Twenty Illustrations from Designs

by FLAXMAN and Others

New York

Dodd, Mead and Company



I have added to the "Story of the Seven Chiefs against Thebes" the
description of the single combat between Eteocles and Polynices, which
occurs in the _Phoenissæ_ of Euripides. Some changes have been made in
the "Story of Ion" to make it more suitable for the purpose of this
book. Throughout the Stories compression and omission have been freely
used. I can only ask the indulgence of such of my readers as may be
familiar with the great originals of which I have given these pale and
ineffectual copies.


_October_ 11, 1879.

To my Sons,



This Book

















THE CHARIOT OF ZEUS      _Frontispiece._





















Asclepius, the son of Apollo, being a mighty physician, raised men from
the dead. But Zeus was wroth that a man should have such power, and so
make of no effect the ordinance of the Gods. Wherefore he smote
Asclepius with a thunderbolt and slew him. And when Apollo knew this, he
slew the Cyclopés that had made the thunderbolts for his father Zeus,
for men say that they make them on their forges that are in the mountain
of Etna. But Zeus suffered not this deed to go unpunished, but passed
this sentence on his son Apollo, that he should serve a mortal man for
the space of a whole year. Wherefore, for all that he was a god, he kept
the sheep of Admetus, who was the Prince of Pheræ in Thessaly. And
Admetus knew not that he was a god; but, nevertheless, being a just man,
dealt truly with him. And it came to pass after this that Admetus was
sick unto death. But Apollo gained this grace for him of the Fates
(which order of life and death for men), that he should live, if only he
could find some one who should be willing to die in his stead. And he
went to all his kinsmen and friends and asked this thing of them, but
found no one that was willing so to die; only Alcestis his wife was

And when the day was come on the which it was appointed for her to die,
Death came that he might fetch her. And when he was come, he found
Apollo walking to and fro before the palace of King Admetus, having his
bow in his hand. And when Death saw him, he said--

"What doest thou here, Apollo? Is it not enough for thee to have kept
Admetus from his doom? Dost thou keep watch and ward over this woman
with thine arrows and thy bow?"

"Fear not," the god made answer, "I have justice on my side."

"If thou hast justice, what need of thy bow?"

"'Tis my wont to carry it."

"Ay, and it is thy wont to help this house beyond all right and law."

"Nay, but I was troubled at the sorrows of one that I loved, and helped

"I know thy cunning speech and fair ways; but this woman thou shalt not
take from me."

"But consider; thou canst but have one life. Wilt thou not take another
in her stead?"

"Her and no other will I have, for my honour is the greater when I take
the young."

"I know thy temper, hated both of Gods and of men. But there cometh a
guest to this house, whom Eurystheus sendeth to the snowy plains of
Thrace, to fetch the horses of Lycurgus. Haply he shall persuade thee
against thy will."

"Say what thou wilt; it shall avail nothing. And now I go to cut off a
lock of her hair, for I take these firstfruits of them that die."

In the meantime, within the palace, Alcestis prepared herself for death.
And first she washed her body with pure water from the river, and then
she took from her coffer of cedar her fairest apparel, and adorned
herself therewith. Then, being so arranged, she stood before the hearth
and prayed, saying, "O Queen Heré, behold! I depart this day. Do thou
therefore keep my children, giving to this one a noble husband and to
that a loving wife." And all the altars that were in the house she
visited in like manner, crowning them with myrtle leaves and praying at
them. Nor did she weep at all, or groan, or grow pale. But at the last,
when she came to her chamber, she cast herself upon the bed and kissed
it, crying, "I hate thee not, though I die for thee, giving myself for
my husband. And thee another wife shall possess, not more true than I
am, but, maybe, more fortunate!" And after she had left the chamber, she
turned to it again and again with many tears. And all the while her
children clung to her garments, and she took them up in her arms, the
one first and then the other, and kissed them. And all the servants that
were in the house bewailed their mistress, nor did she fail to reach her
hand to each of them, greeting him. There was not one of them so vile
but she spake to him and was spoken to again.

After this, when the hour was now come when she must die, she cried to
her husband (for he held her in his arms, as if he would have stayed her
that she should not depart), "I see the boat of the dead, and Charon
standing with his hand upon the pole, who calleth me, saying, 'Hasten;
thou delayest us;' and then again, 'A winged messenger of the dead
looketh at me from under his dark eyebrows, and would lead me away. Dost
thou not see him?'" Then after this she seemed now ready to die, yet
again she gathered strength, and said to the King, "Listen, and I will
tell thee before I die what I would have thee do. Thou knowest how I
have given my life for thy life. For when I might have lived, and had
for my husband any prince of Thessaly that I would--and dwelt here in
wealth and royal state, yet could I not endure to be widowed of thee and
that thy children should be fatherless. There, fore I spared not myself,
though thy father and she that bare thee betrayed thee. But the Gods
have ordered all this after their own pleasure. So be it. Do thou
therefore make this recompense, which indeed thou owest to me, for what
will not a man give for his life? Thou lovest these children even as I
love them. Suffer them then to be rulers in this house, and bring not a
step-mother over them who shall hate them and deal with them unkindly.
A son, indeed, hath a tower of strength in his father. But, O my
daughter, how shall it fare with thee, for thy mother will not give thee
in marriage, nor be with thee, comforting thee in thy travail of
children, when a mother most showeth kindness and love. And now
farewell, for I die this day. And thou, too, farewell, my husband. Thou
losest a true wife, and ye, too, my children, a true mother."

Then Admetus made answer, "Fear not, it shall be as thou wilt. I could
not find other wife fair and well born and true as thou. Never more
shall I gather revellers in my palace, or crown my head with garlands,
or hearken to the voice of music. Never shall I touch the harp or sing
to the Libyan flute. And some cunning craftsman shall make an image
fashioned like unto thee, and this I will hold in my arms and think of
thee. Cold comfort indeed, yet that shall ease somewhat of the burden of
my soul. But oh! that I had the voice and melody of Orpheus, for then
had I gone down to Hell and persuaded the Queen thereof or her husband
with my song to let thee go; nor would the watch-dog of Pluto, nor
Charon that ferrieth the dead, have hindered me but that I had brought
thee to the light. But do thou wait for me there, for there will I dwell
with thee; and when I die they shall lay me by thy side, for never was
wife so true as thou."

Then said Alcestis, "Take these children as a gift from me, and be as a
mother to them."

"O me!" he cried, "what shall I do, being bereaved of thee?"

And she said, "Time will comfort thee; the dead are as nothing."

But he said, "Nay, but let me depart with thee."

But the Queen made answer, "'Tis enough that I die in thy stead."

And when she had thus spoken she gave up the ghost.

Then the King said to the old men that were gathered together to comfort
him, "I will see to this burial. And do ye sing a hymn as is meet to the
god of the dead. And to all my people I make this decree: that they
mourn for this woman, and clothe themselves in black, and shave their
heads, and that such as have horses cut off their manes, and that there
be not heard in the city the voice of the flute or the sound of the harp
for the space of twelve months."

Then the old men sang the hymn as they had been bidden. And when they
had finished, it befell that Hercules, who was on a journey, came to the
palace and asked whether King Admetus was sojourning there.

And the old men answered, "'Tis even so, Hercules. But what, I pray
thee, bringeth thee to this land?"

"I am bound on an errand for King Eurystheus; even to bring back to him
horses of King Diomed."

"How wilt thou do this? Dost thou not know this Diomed?"

"I know nought of him, nor of his land."

"Thou wilt not master him or his horses without blows."

"Even so, yet I may not refuse the tasks that are set to me."

"Thou art resolved then to do this thing or to die?"

"Ay; and this is not the first race that I have run."

"Thou wilt not easily bridle these horses."

"Why not? They breathe not fire from their nostrils."

"No, but they devour the flesh of men."

"What sayest thou? This is the food of wild beasts, not of horses."

"Yet 'tis true. Thou wilt see their mangers foul with blood."

"And the master of these steeds, whose son is he?"

"He is son of Ares, lord of the land of Thrace."

"Now this is a strange fate and a hard that maketh me fight ever with
the sons of Ares, with Lycaon first, and with Cycnus next, and now with
this King Diomed. But none shall ever see the son of Alcmena trembling
before an enemy."

And now King Admetus came forth from the palace. And when the two had
greeted one another, Hercules would fain know why the King had shaven
his hair as one that mourned for the dead. And the King answered that he
was about to bury that day one that was dear to him.

And when Hercules inquired yet further who this might be, the King said
that his children were well, and his father also, and his mother. But of
his wife he answered so that Hercules understood not that he spake of
her. For he said that she was a stranger by blood, yet near in
friendship, and that she had dwelt in his house, having been left an
orphan of her father. Nevertheless Hercules would have departed and
found entertainment elsewhere, for he would not be troublesome to his
host. But the King suffered him not. And to the servant that stood by he
said, "Take thou this guest to the guest-chamber; and see that they that
have charge of these matters set abundance of food before him. And take
care that ye shut the doors between the chambers and the palace; for it
is not meet that the guest at his meal should hear the cry of them that

And when the old men would know why the King, having so great a trouble
upon him, yet entertained a guest, he made answer.

"Would ye have commended me the more if I had caused him to depart from
this house and this city? For my sorrow had not been one whit the less,
and I had lost the praise of hospitality. And a right worthy host is he
to me if ever I chance to visit the land of Argos."

And now they had finished all things for the burying of Alcestis, when
the old man Pheres, the father of the King, approached, and servants
came with him bearing robes and crowns and other adornments wherewith to
do honour to the dead. And when he was come over against the bier
whereon they had laid the dead woman, he spake to the King, saying, "I
am come to mourn with thee, my son, for thou hast lost a noble wife.
Only thou must endure, though this indeed is a hard thing. But take
these adornments, for it is meet that she should he honoured who died
for thee, and for me also, that I should not go down to the grave
childless." And to the dead he said, "Fare thou well, noble wife, that
hast kept this house from falling. May it be well with thee in the
dwellings of the dead!"

But the King answered him in great wrath, "I did not bid thee to this
burial, nor shall this dead woman be adorned with gifts of thine. Who
art thou that thou shouldest bewail her? Surely thou art not father of
mine. For being come to extreme old age, yet thou wouldst not die for
thy son, but sufferedst this woman, being a stranger in blood, to die
for me. Her therefore I count father and mother also. Yet this had been
a noble deed for thee, seeing that the span of life that was left to
thee was short. And I too had not been left to live out my days thus
miserably, being bereaved of her whom I loved. Hast thou not had all
happiness, thus having lived in kingly power from youth to age? And thou
wouldst have left a son to come after thee, that thy house should not be
spoiled by thine enemies. Have I not always done due reverence to thee
and to my mother? And, lo! this is the recompense that ye make me.
Wherefore I say to thee, make haste and raise other sons who may nourish
thee in thy old age, and pay thee due honour when thou art dead, for I
will not bury thee. To thee I am dead."

Then the old man spake, "Thinkest thou that thou art driving some Lydian
and Phrygian slave that hath been bought with money, and forgettest that
I am a freeborn man of Thessaly, as my father was freeborn before me? I
reared thee to rule this house after me; but to die for thee, that I
owed thee not. This is no custom among the Greeks that a father should
die for his son. To thyself thou livest or diest. All that was thy due
thou hast received of me; the kingdom over many people, and, in due
time, broad lands which I also received of my father. How have I wronged
thee? Of what have I defrauded thee? I ask thee not to die for me; and I
die not for thee. Thou lovest to behold this light. Thinkest thou that
thy father loveth it not? For the years of the dead are very long; but
the days of the living are short yet sweet withal. But I say to thee
that thou hast fled from thy fate in shameless fashion, and hast slain
this woman. Yea, a woman hath vanquished thee, and yet thou chargest
cowardice against me. In truth, 'tis a wise device of thine that thou
mayest live for ever, if marrying many times, thou canst still persuade
thy wife to die for thee. Be silent then, for shame's sake; and if thou
lovest life, remember that others love it also."

So King Admetus and his father reproached each other with many unseemly
words. And when the old man had departed, they carried forth Alcestis to
her burial.

But when they that bare the body had departed, there came in the old
man that had the charge of the guest-chambers, and spake, saying, "I
have seen many guests that have come from all the lands under the sun to
this palace of Admetus, but never have I given entertainment to such
evil guest as this. For first, knowing that my lord was in sore trouble
and sorrow, he forebore not to enter these gates. And then he took his
entertainment in most unseemly fashion; for if he lacked aught he would
call loudly for it; and then, taking a great cup wreathed with leaves of
ivy in his hands, he drank great draughts of red wine untempered with
water. And when the fire of the wine had warmed him, he crowned his head
with myrtle boughs, and sang in the vilest fashion. Then might one hear
two melodies, this fellow's songs, which he sang without thought for the
troubles of my lord and the lamentation wherewith we servants lamented
our mistress. But we suffered not this stranger to see our tears, for so
my lord had commanded. Surely this is a grievous thing that I must
entertain this stranger, who surely is some thief or robber. And
meanwhile they have taken my mistress to her grave, and I followed not
after her, nor reached my hand to her, that was as a mother to all that
dwell in this place."

When the man had so spoken, Hercules came forth from the guest-chamber,
crowned with myrtle, having his face flushed with wine. And he cried to
the servant, saying, "Ho, there! why lookest thou so solemn and full of
care? Thou shouldst not scowl on thy guest after this fashion, being
full of some sorrow that concerns thee not nearly. Come hither, and I
will teach thee to be wiser. Knowest thou what manner of thing the life
of a man is? I trow not. Hearken therefore. There is not a man who
knoweth what a day may bring forth. Therefore I say to thee: Make glad
thy heart; eat, drink, count the day that now is to be thine own, but
all else to be doubtful. As for all other things, let them be, and
hearken to my words. Put away this great grief that lieth upon thee, and
enter into this chamber, and drink with me. Right soon shall the
tinkling of the wine as it falleth into the cup ease thee of these
gloomy thoughts. As thou art a man, be wise after the fashion of a man;
for to them that are of a gloomy countenance, life, if only I judge
rightly, is not life but trouble only."

Then the servant answered, "All this I know; but we have fared so ill in
this house that mirth and laughter ill beseem us."

"But they tell me that this dead woman was a stranger. Why shouldst thou
be so troubled, seeing that they who rule this house yet live."

"How sayest thou that they live? Thou knowest not what trouble we

"I know it, unless thy lord strangely deceived me."

"My lord is given to hospitality."

"And should it hinder him that there is some stranger dead in the

"A stranger, sayest thou? 'Tis passing strange to call her thus."

"Hath thy lord then suffered some sorrow that he told me not?"

"Even so, or I had not loathed to see thee at thy revels. Thou seest
this shaven hair and these black robes."

"What then? who is dead? One of thy lord's children, or the old man his

"Stranger, 'tis the wife of Admetus that is dead."

"What sayest thou? And yet he gave me entertainment?"

"Yea, for he would not, for shame, turn thee from his house."

"O miserable man, what a helpmeet thou hast lost!"

"Ay, and we are all lost with her."

"Well I knew it; for I saw the tears in his eyes, and his head shaven,
and his sorrowful regard; but he deceived me, saying that the dead woman
was a stranger. Therefore did I enter the doors and make merry, and
crown myself with garlands, not knowing what had befallen my host. But
come, tell me; where doth he bury her? Where shall I find her?"

"Follow straight along the road that leadeth to Larissa, and thou wilt
see her tomb in the outskirts of the city."

Then said Hercules to himself, "O my heart, thou hast dared many great
deeds before this day; and now most of all must I show myself a true son
of Zeus. Now will I save this dead woman Alcestis, and give her back to
her husband, and make due recompense to Admetus. I will go, therefore,
and watch for this black-robed king, even Death. Methinks I shall find
him nigh unto the tomb, drinking the blood of the sacrifices. There will
I lie in wait for him and run upon him, and throw my arms about him, nor
shall any one deliver him out of my hands, till he have given up to me
this woman. But if it chance that I find him not there, and he come not
to the feast of blood, I will go down to the Queen of Hell, to the land
where the sun shineth not, and beg her of the Queen; and doubtless she
will give her to me, that I may give her to her husband. For right nobly
did he entertain me, and drave me not from his house, for all that he
had been stricken by such sorrow. Is there a man in Thessaly, nay in the
whole land of Greece, that is such a lover of hospitality? I trow not.
Noble is he, and he shall know that he is no ill friend to whom he hath
done this thing."

So he went his way. And when he was gone, Admetus came back from the
burying of his wife, a great company following him, of whom the elders
sought to comfort him in his sorrow. And when he was come to the gates
of his palace he cried, "How shall I enter thee? how shall I dwell in
thee? Once I came within thy gates with many pine-torches from Pelion,
and the merry noise of the marriage song, holding in my hand the hand of
her that is dead; and after us followed a troop that magnified her and
me, so noble a pair we were. And now with wailing instead of marriage
songs, and garments of black for white wedding robes, I go to my
desolate couch."

But while he yet lingered before the palace Hercules came back, leading
with him a woman that was covered with a veil. And when he saw the King
he said, "I hold it well to speak freely to one that is a friend, and
that a man should not hide a grudge in his heart. Hear me, therefore.
Though I was worthy to be counted thy friend, yet thou saidst not that
thy wife lay dead in thy house, but suffered me to feast and make merry.
For this, therefore, I blame thee. And now I will tell thee why I am
returned. I pray thee, keep this woman against the day when I shall come
back from the land of Thrace, bringing the horses of King Diomed. And
if it should fare ill with me, let her abide here and serve thee. Not
without toil came she into my hands. I found as I went upon my way that
certain men had ordered contests for wrestlers and runners, and the
like. Now for them that had the pre-eminence in lesser things there were
horses for prizes; and for the greater, as wrestling and boxing, a
reward of oxen, to which was added this woman. And now I would have thee
keep her, for which thing, haply, thou wilt one day thank me."

To this the King answered, "I thought no slight when I hid this truth
from thee. Only it would have been for me sorrow upon sorrow if thou
hadst gone to the house of another. But as for this woman, I would have
thee ask this thing of some prince of Thessaly that hath not suffered
such grief as I. In Pheræ here thou hast many friends; but I could not
look upon her without tears. Add not then this new trouble. And also how
could she, being young, abide in my house, for young I judge her to be?
And of a truth, lady, thou art very like in shape and stature to my
Alcestis that is dead. I pray you, take her from my sight, for she
troubleth my heart, and my tears run over with beholding her."

Then said Hercules, "Would I had such strength that I could bring back
thy wife from the dwellings of the dead, and put her in thy hands."

"I know thy good will, but what profiteth it? No man may bring back the

"Well, time will soften thy grief, which yet is new."

"Yea, if by time thou meanest death."

"But a new wife will comfort thee."

"Hold thy peace; such a thing cometh not into my thoughts."

"What? wilt thou always keep this widowed state?"

"Never shall woman more be wife of mine."

"What will this profit her that is dead?"

"I know not, yet had I sooner die than be false to her."

"Yet I would have thee take this woman into thy house."

"Ask it not of me, I entreat thee, by thy father Zeus."

"Thou wilt lose much if thou wilt not do it."

"And if I do it I shall break my heart."

"Haply some day thou wilt thank me; only be persuaded."

"Be it so: they shall take the woman into the house."

"I would not have thee entrust her to thy servants."

"If thou so thinkest, lead her in thyself."

"Nay, but I would give her into thy hands."

"I touch her not, but my house she may enter."

"'Tis only to thy hand I entrust her."

"O King, thou compellest me to this against my will."

"Stretch forth thy hand and touch her."

"I touch her as I would touch the Gorgon's head."

"Hast thou hold of her?"

"I have hold."

"Then keep her safe, and say that the son of Zeus is a noble friend. See
if she be like thy wife; and change thy sorrow for joy."

And when the King looked, lo! the veiled woman was Alcestis his wife.


Jason, being of right the prince of Iolcos in the land of Thessaly, came
back to his kingdom. But Pelias, who had now for many years taken it for
himself, spake him fair, and persuaded him that he should go on some
adventure, and find glory and renown for himself, and so return; and he
sware that afterwards he would peaceably give up the kingdom. Now in the
land of Colchis, which lieth to the east of the sea which men call the
Hospitable Sea, there was kept a great treasure, even the fleece of a
great ram, which had been sacrificed there in time past. A marvellous
beast was this ram, for it had flown through the air to Colchis from the
land of Greece; and its fleece was of pure gold. So Jason gathered
together many valiant men, sons of gods and heroes, such as were
Hercules the son of Zeus, and Castor and Pollux, the twin brethren, and
Calaïs and Zethus, that were sons to the North Wind, and Orpheus, that
was the sweetest singer of all the dwellers upon earth. And they built
for themselves a ship, and called its name the Argo, and so set sail,
that they might bring back the fleece of gold to the land of Greece, to
which, indeed, it rightfully belonged. Now when Jason and his fellows
were come to Colchis, they asked the fleece of the king of the country.
And he said that he would give it to them; only Jason must first yoke
certain bulls that breathed fire from their nostrils, and slay a great
dragon. But the Princess Medea saw Jason, and loved him, and purposed in
her heart that she would help him. And being a great witch, and knowing
all manner of drugs and enchantments, she gave him an ointment which
kept all that anointed themselves with it so that they took no harm in
battle with man or beast. But first Jason had promised, swearing to her
a great oath, that she should be his wife, and that he would take her
with him to the land of Greece, and that he would be faithful unto her
to his life's end. So when he and his companions had yoked the bulls,
and slain the dragon, and carried away the fleece, they took Medea with
them in the ship, and so departed. But when Jason was come to the land
of Iolcos, Pelias was not willing to keep his promise that he would give
the kingdom to him. Whereupon Medea devised this thing against him. She
took a ram, and cut him in pieces, and boiled his flesh in water,
putting herbs into the cauldron, and saying divers enchantments over it;
and, lo! the beast came forth young, though it had been very old. Then
she said to the daughters of Pelias, "Ye see this ram, how he was old,
and I have made him young by boiling him in water. Do ye so likewise to
your father, and I will help you with drugs and enchantments, as I did
with the ram." But she lied unto them, and helped them not. So King
Pelias died, being slain by his daughters, when they thought to make him
young. But the people of the land were very wroth with Medea and with
Jason her husband, and suffered them not to dwell there any more. So
they came and dwelt in the land of Corinth. Now when they had abode
there many days, the heart of Jason was turned away from his wife, and
he was minded to put her away from him, and to take to himself another
wife, even Glaucé, who was daughter to Creon, the King of the city.


Now, when this thing was told to Medea, at first she went through the
house raging like a lioness that is bereaved of her whelps, and crying
out to the Gods that they should smite the false husband that had sworn
to her and had broken his oath, and affirming that she herself would
take vengeance on him. And they that had the charge of her children kept
them from her, lest she should do some mischief. But when her first fury
was spent, she came forth from her house, and spake to certain women of
Corinth of her acquaintance, that were gathered together to comfort her,
and said, "I am come, my friends, to excuse myself to you. Ye know this
sudden trouble that hath undone me, and the exceeding great wickedness
of my husband. Surely we women are of all creatures that breathe the
most miserable. For we must take husbands to rule over us, and how shall
we know whether they be good or bad? Of a truth, a woman should have
the gift of divination, that she may know what manner of man he is to
whom she joineth herself, seeing that he is a stranger to her and
unknown. If indeed she find one that is worthy, it is well with her; but
if not, then had she better die. For a man, if he be troubled at home,
goeth abroad, and holdeth converse with his friends and equals of age,
and is comforted. But with a woman it is not so; for she hath only the
life that is at home. But why do I compare myself with you? for ye dwell
in your own land, and have parents and kinsfolk and friends; but I am
desolate and without a country, and am wronged by this man that hath
stolen me from a strange land; nor have I mother, or brother, or
kinsman, who may help me in my need. This thing, therefore, I would ask
of you; that if I can contrive any device by which I may have vengeance
on my husband, and on him that giveth his daughter to him, and on the
girl, ye keep silence. And vengeance I will have; for though a woman
have not courage, nor dare to look upon the sword, yet if she be wronged
in her love, there is nothing fiercer than she."

Then the women said, "We will keep silence as thou biddest us, for 'tis
right that thou shouldest have vengeance on thy husband. But see! here
cometh King Creon, doubtless with some new purpose."

And the King said, "Hear this, Medea. I bid thee depart out of this
land, and thy children with thee. And I am come myself to execute this
word, for I depart not again to my own house till I have cast thee forth
from my borders."

Then Medea made answer, "Now am I altogether undone. But tell me, my
lord, why dost thou drive me out of thy land?"

"Because I fear thee, lest thou should do some harm beyond all remedy to
me and to my house. For I know that thou art wise, and hast knowledge of
many curious arts; and besides, I hear that thou hast threatened
grievous hurt against all that are concerned with this new marriage."

But Medea answered, "O my lord, this report of craft and wisdom hath
wrought me harm not this day only, but many times! Truly it is not well
that a man should teach his children to be wise, for they gain thereby
no profit, but hatred only. But as for me, my lord, my wisdom is but a
small thing; nor is there cause why thou shouldest fear me. For who am I
that I should transgress against a king? Nor indeed hast thou done me
wrong. My husband, indeed, I hate; but thou hast given thy daughter as
it pleased thee. The Gods grant that it may be well with thee and thine!
Only suffer me to dwell in this land."

But the King would not, though she entreated him with many words. Only
at the last he yielded this to her, that she might abide for one day and
contrive some refuge for her children; "but," he said, "if thou tarry
after this, thou and thy children, thou shalt surely die."

Then he went his way, and Medea said to the women that stood by, "That
at least is well; be ye sure that there is evil to come for the
bridegroom and the bride in this new marriage, and for their kin. Think
ye that I had flattered this man but that I thought to gain somewhat
thereby? Surety I had not touched his hand, no, nor spoken to him. And
now--fool that he is--he hath given me this day, and when he might have
driven me from the land, he suffereth me to tarry. Verily he shall die
for it, he and his daughter and this new bridegroom. But how shall I
contrive it? Shall I put fire to the dwelling of the bride, or make my
way by stealth into her chamber and slay her? Yet if I be found so
doing, I shall perish, and my enemies will laugh me to scorn. Nay, let
me work by poison, as is my wont. Well, and if they die, what then? What
city will receive me? what friend shall give me protection? I know not.
I will tarry awhile, and if some help appear, I will work my end with
guile; but if not, I will take my sword and slay them that I hate,
though I die. For by Hecaté, whom I reverence most of all the Gods, no
man shall vex my heart and prosper. Therefore, Medea, fear not; use all
thy counsel and craft. Shall the race of Sisyphus, shall Jason, laugh
thee to scorn that art of the race of the Sun?"

When she had ended these words, there came Jason telling her that she
did not well to be thus angry, and that she had brought upon herself
this trouble of banishment by idle words against the rulers of the land;
but that nevertheless he would have a care for her, and see that she
wanted nothing needful. But when Medea heard him so speak, she burst out
upon him in great fury, calling to mind how she had saved him once again
from the bulls that breathed fire from their nostrils and from the great
dragon that guarded the fleece of gold, and how she had done the old man
Pelias to death for his sake; "and now," she said, "whither shall I go?
who will receive me? for I have made enemies of my kinsfolk on account
of thee, and now thou forsakest me. O Zeus! why can we discern false
money from the true, but as for men, when we would know which is the
good and which the bad, there is no mark by which we may know them?"

But to this Jason answered that if she had saved him in time past, she
had done it of necessity, being compelled by love; and that he had made
her a full recompense, taking her from a barbarous land to the land of
Greece, where men lived by law and not by the will of the stronger and
causing her to be highly reputed of for wisdom among the people of the
land. "And as to this marriage," he said, "for which thou blamest me, I
have made it in prudence and in care for thee and for thy children. For
being an exile in this city, what could I do better than marry the
daughter of the King? Nor is my heart turned from thee or from thy
children. Only I have made provision against poverty, and that I might
rear my sons in such fashion as befitted their birth. And now if thou
needest aught in thy banishment, speak; for I would give thee provision
without grudging, and also commend thee to such friends as I have."

"Keep thy gifts and thy friends," she said, "to thyself. There is no
profit in that which cometh from such hands as thine."

So Jason went his way; and when he was departed there came Ægeus, King
of Athens, who had been on a journey to inquire of the god at Delphi,
for he was childless, and would fain have a son born to him. But he
understood not what the god had answered, and was now on his way to King
Pittheus of Troezen, a man learned in such matters, that he might
interpret the thing to him. And when he saw that Medea had been weeping,
he would know what ailed her. Then she told him how her husband was
false to her, marrying a new wife, even the daughter of the king of the
land, and how she was on the point to be banished, and her children with
her. And when she saw that these things displeased King Ægeus, she

"Now, my lord, I beseech thee to have pity on me, nor suffer me to
wander homeless and friendless, but receive me into thy house. So may
the Gods grant thee thy desire that thou mayest have a son to reign
after thee. And indeed I have such knowledge in these matters that I can
help thee myself."

Then said King Ægeus, "I am willing to do thee this service both for
right's sake and because of the hope of children which thou promisest to
me. Only I may not take thee with me from this land. But if thou comest
to me thou shalt be safe, nor will I give thee up to any man."

Then said Medea, "It is well, and I trust thee. And yet, for I am weak
and my enemies are strong, I would fain bind thee by an oath."

To this the King answered, "Lady, thou art prudent, and I refuse not the
oath; for being so bound, I shall have wherewith to answer thine
enemies, if they seek thee from me. By what Gods shall I swear?"

"Swear by the Earth and by the Sun, who was the father of my father, and
by all the Gods, that thou wilt not banish me from thy land, nor give me
up to my enemies seeking me."

And King Ægeus sware a great oath, by the Earth and by the Sun, and by
all the Gods, that he would not banish her, nor give her up; and so

Then said Medea, "Now shall my counsels prosper; for this man hath given
me that which I needed, even a refuge in the city of Athens. Now,
therefore, hear what I will do. I will send one of my servants to Jason,
and bid him come to me, and will speak softly to him, confessing that he
hath done wisely in making this marriage with the daughter of King
Creon. And I will ask of him that my children may remain in the land.
And I will send them with a gift to this King's daughter, even a robe
and a crown. But when she shall deck herself with them, she shall
perish, so deadly are the poisons with which I shall anoint them. But
very grievous is the deed that I must do when this shall have been
accomplished. For after this I must slay my children. Nor shall any man
deliver them out of my hand. Thus will I destroy the whole house of
Jason, and so depart from the land. A very evil deed it is; but I cannot
endure to be laughed to scorn by my enemies. And yet what profiteth me
to live? For I have no country or home or refuge from trouble. I did
evil leaving my father's house to follow this Greek. But verily he shall
pay me to the very uttermost. For his children he shall see no more, and
his bride shall perish miserably. Wherefore let no man henceforth think
me to be weak or feeble."

And when the women would have turned her from her purpose, saying that
so doing she would be the most miserable of women, she would not
hearken, thinking only how she might best wound the heart of her

Meanwhile a servant had carried the message to Jason. And when he was
come, she said that she had repented of her anger against him, and that
now he seemed to her to have done wisely, strengthening himself and his
house by this marriage; and she prayed him that he would pardon her,
being a woman and weak. And then she called to her children that they
should come forth from the house, and take their father by his hand, for
that her anger had ceased, and there was peace between them.

And Jason praised her that she had so changed her thoughts; and to his
children he said, "Be sure, my sons, that your father hath counselled
wisely for you. Live, you shall yet be the first in this land of

And as he spake these words, he perceived that Medea wept, and said,
"Why weepest thou?"

And she answered, "Women are always ready with tears for their children.
I bare them; and when thou saidst to them 'Live,' I doubted whether this
might be. But listen. Doubtless it is well that I depart from this land,
both for me and for you. But as for these children, wilt thou not
persuade the King that he suffer them to dwell here?"

"I know not whether I shall persuade him; but I will endeavour."

"Ask thy wife to intercede for these children, that they be not banished
from this land."

"Even so. With her doubtless I shall prevail, if she be like to other

"I will help thee in this, sending her gifts so fair that there could be
found nothing more beautiful on the earth--a robe exceeding fine and a
crown of gold. These shall my children bear to her. So shall she be the
happiest of women, having such a husband as thou art, and this adornment
which the Sun, my grandsire, gave to his descendants after him that they
should possess it."

Then she turned herself to her children, and said, "Take these caskets
in your hands, my sons, and take them to the new bride, the King's

"But why wilt thou empty thy hands? Are there not, thinkest thou, robes
enough and gold enough in the treasure of the King? Keep them for
thyself. She will make more account of me than of thy gifts."

"Nay, not so. Is it not said that even the Gods are persuaded by gifts,
and that gold is mightier than ten thousand speeches? Go, then, my
children, to the King's palace. Seek your father's new wife, and fall
down before her, and beseech her, giving her these adornments, that ye
be not banished from the land."

So the two boys went to the palace bearing the gifts. And all the
servants of Jason that were therein rejoiced to see them, thinking that
Medea had put away her anger against her husband. And they kissed their
hands and their heads; and one led them into the chambers of the women,
to the King's daughter. And she, who before sat looking with much love
upon Jason, when she saw the boys, turned her head from them in anger.

But Jason soothed her, saying, "Be not angry with thy friends, but love
them whom thy husband loveth, and take the gifts which they bring, and
persuade thy father for my sake that he banish them not."

And when she saw the gifts, she changed her thoughts, and consented to
his words. And in a very brief space she took the robe and clothed
herself with it, and put the crown upon her head, and ordered her hair,
looking in the glass and smiling at the image of herself. And then she
rose from her seat, and walked through the house, stepping daintily, and
often regarding herself.

But then befell a dreadful thing; for she grew pale, and trembled, and
had well-nigh fallen upon the ground, scarce struggling to her chair.

And an old woman that was of her attendants set up a great cry, thinking
that Pan or some other god had smitten her. But when she saw that she
foamed at her mouth, and that her eyes rolled, and that there was no
blood left in her, she ran to tell Jason of the matter, and another
hastened to the King's chamber.

And then there came upon the maiden a greater woe than at the first, for
there came forth a marvellous stream of fire from the crown of gold that
was about her head, and all the while the robe devoured her flesh. Then
she rose from her seat, and ran through the house, tossing her hair, and
seeking to cast away the crown. But this she could not, for it clung to
her very closely. And at the last she fell dead upon the ground, sorely
disfigured so that none but her father only had known her. And all
feared to touch her, lest they should be devoured also of the fire.

But when the King was come, he cast himself upon the dead body, saying,
"O my child! what God hath so smitten thee? Why hast thou left me in my
old age?"

And when he would have lifted himself, the robe held him fast, and he
could not, though he struggled sorely. So he also died; and the two,
father and daughter, lay together dead upon the ground.

Now in the meanwhile the old man that had the charge of the boys led
them back to the house of the mother, and bade her rejoice, for that
they were released from the sentence of banishment, and that some day
she should also return by their means.

But the woman wept and answered doubtfully. Then she bade him go into
the house and prepare for the lads what they might need for the day. And
when he was departed she said, "O my sons, I go to a strange land and
shall not see you come to fair estate and fortune; nor shall I make
preparations for your marriage when you have grown to manhood. Vainly
did I bear you with pangs of travail; vainly did I rear you; vainly did
I hope that ye should cherish me in my old age, and lay me out for my
burial. O my children, why do ye so regard me? Why do ye laugh at me
that shall never laugh again? Nay, I cannot do the deed. When I see the
eyes of my children how bright they are, I cannot do it. And yet shall
my enemies triumph over me and laugh me to scorn? Not so; I will dare it
all." And she bade her children go into the house. But after a space she
spake again, "O my heart, do not this deed. Spare my children! They will
gladden thee in the land of thy banishment." And then again, after a
space, "But no, it is otherwise ordained, and there is no escape. And I
know that by this time the King's daughter hath the robe upon her and
the crown about her head, and what I do I must do quickly."

Then she called to the boys again and said, "O my children! give me your
right hands. O hands and mouths that I love, and faces fair exceedingly.
Be ye happy--but not here. All that is here your father hath taken from
you. O dear regard, O soft, soft flesh, O sweet, sweet breath of my
children! Go, my children, go; I cannot look upon your faces any more."

And now there came a messenger from the King's palace and told her all
that had there befallen. But when she heard it she knew that the time
was come, and went into the house.

And the women that stood without heard a terrible cry from the children
as they sought to flee from their mother and could not. And while they
doubted whether they should not hasten within and, it might be, deliver
them from their mother, came Jason to the gate and said to them, "Tell
me, ladies, is Medea in this place, or hath she fled? Verily she must
hide herself in the earth, or mount into the air, if she would not
suffer due punishment for that which she hath done to the King and to
his daughter. But of her I think not so much as of her children. For I
would save them, lest the kinsmen of the dead do them some harm, seeking
vengeance for the bloody deed of their mother."

Then the women answered, "O Jason, thou knowest not the truth, or thou
wouldst not speak such words."

"How so? Would she kill me also?"

"Thy children are dead, slain by the hand of their mother."

"Dead are they? When did she slay them?"

"If thou wilt open the gates thou wilt see the dead corpses of thy

But when he battered at the gates, and cried out that they should open
to him, he heard a voice from above, and saw Medea borne in a chariot,
with winged dragons for horses, who cried to him, "Why seekest thou the
dead and me that slew them? Trouble not thyself. If thou wantest aught
of me, say on, but thou shalt never touch me with thy hand. For this
chariot, which my father the Sun hath given me, shalt deliver me out of
thy hands."

Then Jason cried, "Thou art an accursed woman, that hast slain thy own
children with the sword, and yet darest to look upon the earth and the
sun. What madness was it that I brought thee from thy own country to
this land of Greece, for thou didst betray thy father and slay thy
brother with the sword, and now thou hast killed thine own children, to
avenge what thou deemest thine own wrong. No woman art thou, but a
lioness or monster of the sea."

And to these things she answered, "Call me what thou wilt, lioness or
monster of the sea; but this I know, that I have pierced thy heart. And
as for thy children, thou shalt not touch them or see them any more; for
I will bear them to the grove of Heré and bury them there, lest some
enemy should break up their tomb and do them some dishonour. And I
myself go to the land of Attica, where I shall dwell with King Ægeus,
the son of Pandion. And as for thee, thou shalt perish miserably, for a
beam from the ship Argo shall smite thee on the head. So shalt thou

Thus was the vengeance of Medea accomplished.


Oeneus, who was king of the city of Pleuron in the land of Ætolia, had
a fair daughter, Deïaneira by name. Now the maiden was sought in
marriage by the god of the river Acheloüs; but she loved him not, for he
was strange and terrible to look at. Sometimes he had the shape of a
great dragon with scales, and sometimes he had the shape of a man, only
that his head was the head of a bull, and streams of water flowed down
from his beard. But it came to pass that Hercules, who was stronger than
all the men that dwelt upon the earth, coming to the city of Pleuron,
saw the maiden and loved her, and would have her to wife. And when she
told him, saying that the river-god Acheloüs sought her in marriage, he
bade her be of good courage, for that he would vanquish the creature in
battle, so that it should not trouble her any more. Which thing he did,
for when the river-god came, after his custom, Hercules did battle with
him, and came nigh to strangling him, and brake off one of his horns.
And the maiden looked on while the two fought together, and was well
pleased that Hercules prevailed. King Oeneus also was glad, and
willingly gave her to him to wife. So after a while he departed with her
unto his own country. And as they journeyed they came to the river
Evenus. Now on the banks of this river there dwelt one Nessus, a
centaur. (These centaurs had heads as the heads of men, but their bodies
were like horses' bodies; and they were a savage race and a lawless.)
This Nessus was wont to carry travellers across the river, which indeed
was very broad and deep. And when he saw Deïaneira that she was very
fair, he would have taken her from her husband; but Hercules drew his
bow and smote him with an arrow.

Now when Nessus knew that he should die of his wound--for neither man
nor beast lived that was wounded of these arrows--he thought in his
wicked heart that he would be avenged on this man that had slain him.
Whereupon he said to the woman, "Behold I die. But first I would give
thee a gift. Take of the blood that cometh from this wound, and it shall
come to pass that if the love of thy husband fail thee, thou shalt take
of this blood and smear it on a garment, and give him the garment to
wear, and he shall love thee again as at the first."

So the woman took of the blood and kept it by her. And it came to pass
after a time that the two went to the city of Trachis and dwelt there.
Now Trachis is in the land of Thessaly, near unto the springs of Oeta.
And Hercules loved his wife, and she dwelt in peace and happiness, only
that he sojourned not long at home, but wandered over the face of the
earth, doing many wonderful works at the commandment of Eurystheus, his
brother. For the Gods had made Eurystheus to be master over him, for all
that he was so strong. Now for the most part this troubled not his wife
overmuch; for he departed from his house as one who counted it certain
that he should return thereto. But at the last this was not so. For he
left a tablet wherein were written many things such as a man writeth who
is about to die. For he had ordered therein the portion which his wife
should have as her right of marriage, and how his possessions should be
divided among his children. Also he wrote therein a certain space of
time, even a year and three months, for when that was come to an end, he
said, he must either be dead or have finished happily all his labours,
and so be at peace continually. And this he had heard as an oracle from
the doves that dwell in the oaks of Dodona. And when this time was
well-nigh come to an end, Deïaneira, being in great fear, told the
matter to Hyllus, her son. And even as she had ended, there came a
messenger, saying, "Hail, lady! Put thy trouble from thee. The son of
Alcmena lives and is well. This I heard from Lichas the herald; and
hearing it I hastened to thee without delay, hoping that so I might
please thee."

"But," said the Queen, "why cometh not the herald himself?"

"Because all the people stand about him, asking him questions, and
hinder him."

And not a long while after the herald came; and the name of the man was
Lichas. And when the Queen saw him she cried, "What news hast thou of my
husband? Is he yet alive?"

"Yea," said the herald, "he is alive and in good health."

"And where didst thou leave him? In some country of the Greeks, or among

"I left him in the land of Euboea, where he ordereth a sacrifice to

"Payeth he thus some vow, or did some oracle command it?"

"He payeth a vow. And this vow he made before he took with his spear the
city of these women whom thou seest."

"And who are these? For they are very piteous to behold."

"These he led captive when he destroyed the city of King Eurytus."

"And hath the taking of the city so long delayed him? For I have not
seen him for the space of a year and three months."

"Not so. The most of this time he was a slave in the land of Lydia. For
he was sold to Omphalé, who is Queen of that land, and served her. And
how this came about I will tell thee. Thy husband sojourned in the house
of King Eurytus, who had been long time his friend. But the King dealt
ill with him, and spake to him unfriendly. For first he said that
Hercules could not excel his sons in shooting with the bow, for all that
he had arrows that missed not their aim. And next he reviled him, for
that he was but a slave who served a free man, even King Eurystheus, his
brother. And at the last, at a banquet, when Hercules was overcome with
wine, the King cast him forth. Wherefore Hercules, being very wroth,
slew the man. For the King came to the land of Tiryns, looking for
certain horses, and Hercules caught him unawares, having his thoughts
one way and his eyes another, and cast him down from the cliff that he
died. Then Zeus was very wroth because he had slain him by craft, as he
had never slain any man before, and caused that he should be sold for a
year as a bond-slave to Queen Omphalé. And when the year was ended, and
Hercules was free, he vowed a vow that he would destroy this city from
which there had come to him this disgrace; which vow he accomplished.
And these women whom thou seest are the captives of his spear. And as
for himself, be sure that thou wilt see him in no long space."

When Lichas had thus spoken, the Queen looked upon the captives, and had
compassion on them, praying to the Gods that such an evil thing might
not befall her children, or if, haply, it should befall them, she might
be dead before. And seeing that there was one among them who surpassed
the others in beauty, being tall and fair exceedingly, as if she were
the daughter of a king, she would fain know who she was; and when the
woman answered not a word, she would have the herald tell her. But he
made as if he knew nothing at all; only that she seemed to be well born,
and that from the first she had spoken nothing, but wept continually.
And the Queen pitied her, and said that they should not trouble her, but
take her into the palace and deal kindly with her, lest she should have
sorrow upon sorrow.

But Lichas having departed for a space, the messenger that came at the
first would have speech of the Queen alone. And when she had dismissed
all the people, he told her that Lichas had not spoken truly, saying
that he knew not who was this stranger, for that she was the daughter of
King Eurytus, Iolé by name, and that indeed for love of her Hercules had
taken the city.

And when the Queen heard this she was sore troubled, fearing lest the
heart of her husband should now have been turned from her. But first she
would know the certainty of the matter. So when Lichas came, being now
about to depart, and inquired what he should say, as from the Queen to
Hercules, she said to him, "Lichas, art thou one that loveth the truth?"

"Yea, by Zeus!" said he, "if so be that I know it."

"Tell me, then, who is this woman whom thou hast brought?"

"A woman of Euboea; but of what lineage I know not."

"Look thou here. Knowest thou who it is to whom thou speakest?"

"Yea, I know it; to Queen Deïaneira, daughter of Oeneus and wife to
Hercules, and my mistress."

"Thou sayest that I am thy mistress. What should be done to thee if thou
be found doing wrong to me?"

"What wrong? What meanest thou? But this is idle talk, and I had best

"Thou departest not till I shall have inquired somewhat further of

So the Queen commanded that they should bring the messenger who had set
forth the whole matter to her. And when the man was come, and had told
what he knew, and the Queen also spake fair, as bearing no wrath against
her husband, Lichas made confession that the thing was indeed as the man
had said, and that the woman was Iolé, daughter of King Eurytus.

Then the Queen took counsel with her companions, maidens that dwelt in
the city of Trachis, and told them how she had a charm with her, the
blood of Nessus the Centaur; and that Nessus had given it to her in old
time because she was the last whom he carried over the river Evenus; and
that it would win back for her the love of her husband. So she called
Lichas, the herald, and said to him that he must do a certain thing for
her. And he answered, "What is it, lady? Already I have lingered too

And she said, "Take now this robe, which thou seest to be fair and well
woven, and carry it as a gift from me to my husband. And say to him from
me that he suffer no man to wear it before him, and that the light of
the sun touch it not, no, nor the light of a fire, till he himself shall
clothe himself with it on a day on which he doeth sacrifice to the Gods.
And say that I made this vow, if he should come back from this journey,
that I would array him in this robe, wherein to do sacrifice. And that
he may know thee to be a true messenger from me, take with thee this

And Lichas said, "So surely as I know the craft of Hermes, who is the
god of heralds, I will do this thing according to thy bidding."

Now the Queen had anointed the fair garment which she sent with the
blood of Nessus the Centaur, that when her husband should clothe himself
with it, his heart might be turned to her as at the first.

So Lichas the herald departed, bearing the robe. But after no long time
the Queen ran forth from the palace in great fear, wringing her hands,
and crying to the maidens, her companions, that she was sore afraid lest
in ignorance she had done some great mischief. And when they would know
the cause of her grief and fear, she spake, saying, "A very marvellous
and terrible thing hath befallen me. There was a morsel of sheep's wool
which I dipped into the charm, even the blood of the Centaur, that I
might anoint therewith the robe which ye saw me send to my husband. Now,
this morsel of wool hath perished altogether. But that ye may understand
this thing the better, I will set it forth to you at length. Know then
that I have not forgotten aught of the things which the Centaur
commanded me when he gave me this charm, but have kept them in my heart,
even as if they were written on bronze. Now he bade me keep the thing
where neither light of the sun nor fire might touch it. And this have I
done; and when I anointed the robe, I anointed it in secret, in a
certain dark place in the palace; but the morsel of wool wherewith I
anointed it I threw, not heeding, into the sunshine. And, lo! it hath
wasted till it is like unto dust which falleth when a man saweth wood.
And from the earth whereon it lay there arise great bubbles of foam,
like to the bubbles which arise when men pour into the vats the juice of
the vine. And now I know not what I should say; for indeed, though I
thought not so of the matter before, it seemeth not a thing to be
believed that this Centaur should wish well to the man that slew him.
Haply he deceived me, that he might work him woe. For I know that this
is a very deadly poison, seeing that Chiron also suffered grievously by
reason of it, albeit he was a god. Now if this be so, as I fear, then
have I, and I only, slain my husband."

And she had scarce finished these words when Hyllus her son came in
great haste; and when he saw her, he cried, "O my mother! would that I
had found thee dead, or that thou wert not my mother, or that thou wert
of a better mind than I know thee to be of."

But she said, "What have I done, my son, that thou so abhorrest me?"

"This day thou hast done my father to death."

"What sayest thou? Who told thee this horrible thing that thou bringest
against me?"

"I saw it with mine own eyes. And if thou wilt hear the whole matter,
hearken. My father, having taken with his spear the city of Eurytus,
went to a certain place hard by the sea, that he might offer sacrifices
to Zeus, according to his vow. And even as he was about to begin, there
came Lichas the herald bringing thy gift, the deadly robe. And he put it
upon him as thou badest, and slew the beasts for the sacrifice, even
twelve oxen chosen out of the prey, and one hundred other beasts. And
for a while he did worship to the Gods with a glad heart, rejoicing in
the beauty of his apparel. But when the fire grew hot, and the sweat
came out upon his skin, the robe clung about him as though one had
fitted it to him by art, and there went a great pang of pain through
him, even as the sting of a serpent. And then he called to Lichas the
herald, and would fain know for what end he had brought this accursed
raiment. And when the wretch said that it was thy gift, he caught him by
the foot, and cast him on a rock that was in the sea hard by, and all
his brains were scattered upon it. And all the people groaned to see
this thing, that the man perished so miserably, and that such madness
wrought in thy husband. Nor did any one dare to draw near to him, for he
threw himself now into the air, and now upon the ground, so fierce was
the pain; and all the rocks about sounded again with his groaning. But
after a while he spied me where I stood waiting in the crowd, and called
to me, and said, 'Come hither, my son; fly not from me in my trouble,
even if it needs be that thou die with me. But take me, and set me where
no man may see me; but above all carry me from this land, that I die not
here.' Whereupon we laid him in the hold of a ship, and brought him to
this place, where thou wilt see him soon, either newly dead or on the
point to die. This is what thou hast done, my mother; for thou hast
slain thy husband, such a man as thou shalt never more see upon this

And when the Queen heard this, she spake not a word, but hasted into the
palace, and ran through it like unto one that is smitten with madness.
And at the last she entered the chamber of Hercules, and sat down in
the midst and wept piteously, saying, "O my marriage-bed, where never
more I shall lie, farewell!" And as she spake she loosed the golden
brooch that was upon her heart, and bared all her left side; and before
any could hinder her--for her nurse had seen what she did, and had run
to fetch her son--she took a two-edged sword and smote herself to the
heart, and so fell dead. And as she fell there came her son, that now
knew from them of the household how she had been deceived of that evil
beast the Centaur, and fell upon her with many tears and cries, saying
that now he was bereaved both of father and of mother in one day.

But while he lamented, there came men bearing Hercules in a litter. He
was asleep, for the pain had left him for a space, and the old man that
was guide to the company was earnest with Hyllus that he should not wake
his father. Nevertheless, Hercules heard the young man's voice, and his
sleep left him. Then he cried aloud in his agony, complaining to Zeus
that he had suffered such a torment to come upon him, and reproaching
them that stood by that they gave him not a sword wherewith he might
make an end to his pain. But most of all he cursed his wife that she had
wrought him such woe, saying to Hyllus--

"See now, my son, how that this treacherous woman hath worked such pain
to me as I have never endured before in all the earth, through which, as
thou knowest, I have journeyed, cleansing it from all manner of
monsters. And now thou seest how I, who have subdued all things, weep
and cry as doth a girl. And these hands and arms, with which I slew the
lion that wasted the land of Nemea and the great dragon of Lerna, and
dragged into the light the three-headed dog that guardeth the gate of
hell, see how these, which no man yet hath vanquished in fight, are
wasted and consumed with the fire. But there is one thing which they
shall yet do, for I will slay her that wrought this deed."

Then Hyllus made answer, "My father, suffer me to speak, for I have that
to tell thee of my mother which thou shouldest hear."

"Speak on; but beware that thou show not thyself vile, excusing her."


"She is dead."

"Who slew her? This is a strange thing thou tellest."

"She slew herself with her own hand."

"'Tis ill done. Would that I had slain her myself!"

"Thy heart will be changed towards her when thou hearest all."

"This is strange indeed; but say on."

"All that she did she did with good intent."

"With good intent, thou wicked boy, when she slew her husband?"

"She sought to keep thy love, fearing that thy heart was turned to

"And who of the men of Trachis is so cunning in leechcraft?"

"The Centaur Nessus gave her the poison long since, saying that she
might thus win back thy love."

And when Hercules heard this he cried aloud, "Then is my doom come; for
long since it was prophesied to me that I should not die by the hand of
any living creature, but by one that dwelt in the region of the dead.
And now this Centaur, whom I slew long ago, hath slain me in turn. And
now, my son, hearken unto me. Thou knowest the hill of Oeta. Carry me
thither thyself, taking also such of thy friends as thou wilt have with
thee. And build there a great pile of oak and wild olive, and lay me
thereon, and set fire thereto. And take heed that thou shed no tear nor
utter a cry, but work this deed in silence, if, indeed, thou art my true
son: and if thou doest not so, my curse shall be upon thee for ever."

And Hyllus vowed that he would do this thing, only that he could not set
fire to the pile with his own hand. So they bare Hercules to the top of
the hill of Oeta, and built a great pile of wood, and laid him
thereon. And Philoctetes, who was of the companions of Hyllus, set fire
to the pile. For which deed Hercules gave to him his bow and the arrows
that missed not their aim. And the tale of this bow, and how it fared
with him that had it, may be read in the story of Philoctetes.


It befell in times past that the Gods, being angry with the inhabitants
of Thebes, sent into their land a very noisome beast which men called
the Sphinx. Now this beast had the face and breast of a very fair woman,
but the feet and claws of a lion; and it was wont to ask a riddle of
such as encountered it; and such as answered not aright it would tear
and devour. Now when it had laid waste the land many days, there chanced
to come to Thebes one Oedipus, who had fled from the city of Corinth
that he might escape the doom which the Gods had spoken against him. And
the men of the place told him of the Sphinx, how she cruelly devoured
the people, and that he who should deliver them from her should have the
kingdom. So Oedipus, being very bold, and also ready of wit, went
forth to meet the monster. And when she saw him she spake, saying--

  "Read me this riddle right, or die:
  What liveth there beneath the sky,
  Four-footed creature that doth choose
  Now three feet and now twain to use,
  And still more feebly o'er the plain
  Walketh with three feet than with twain?"

And Oedipus made reply--

  "'Tis man, who in life's early day
  Four-footed crawleth on his way;
  When time hath made his strength complete,
  Upright his form and twain his feet;
  When age hath bowed him to the ground
  A third foot in his staff is found."

And when the Sphinx found that her riddle was answered, she cast herself
from a high rock and perished. Now for a while Oedipus reigned in
great power and glory; but afterwards his doom came upon him, so that in
his madness he put out his own eyes. Then his two sons cast him into
prison, and took his kingdom, making agreement between themselves that
each should reign for the space of one year. And the elder of the two,
whose name was Eteocles, first had the kingdom; but when his year was
come to an end, he would not abide by his promise, but kept that which
he should have given up, and drave out his younger brother from the
city. Then the younger, whose name was Polynices, fled to Argos, to King
Adrastus. And after a while he married the daughter of the King, who
made a covenant with him that he would bring him back with a high hand
to Thebes, and set him on the throne of his father. Then the King sent
messengers to certain of the princes of Greece, entreating that they
would help in this matter. And of these some would not, but others
hearkened to his words, so that a great army was gathered together and
followed the King and Polynices to make war against Thebes. So they came
and pitched their camp over against the city. And after that they had
fought against it many days, and yet had prevailed nothing, Adrastus
held a council of the chiefs, and it was agreed that next day, early in
the morning, they should assault the city with all their might. And when
the morning was come, the chiefs were gathered together, being seven in
number. And first of all they slew a bull, and caught the blood of the
beast in the hollow of a shield, into which they dipped their hands,
and sware a great oath that they would take the city of Thebes or die.
And having sworn, they hung upon the chariot of Adrastus what should be
memorials of them each for his own father and mother, all weeping the
while. After this they cast lots for the places which they should take,
for there were seven gates to the city, that each chief might assault a


But their purpose was known to the King Eteocles, for he had heard the
whole matter from Tiresias, the wise seer, who told beforehand all that
should come to pass, discovering it from the voice of birds, for being
blind he could not judge from their flight, or from the tokens of fire,
as other soothsayers are wont. Wherefore the King gathered together all
that could bear arms, even youths not grown, and old men that were waxed
feeble with age, and bade them fight for the land, for "she," he said,
"gave you birth and reared you, and now asketh that ye help her in this
her need. And though hitherto we have fared well in this war, know ye
for certain, for Tiresias the soothsayer hath said it, that there
cometh a great danger this day upon the city. Wherefore haste ye to the
battlements, and to the towers that are upon the walls, and take your
stand in the gates, and be of good courage, and quit you like men."


And as he made an end of speaking there ran in one who declared that
even now the enemy was about to assault the city. And after him came a
troop of maidens of Thebes, crying out that the enemy had come forth
from the camp, and that they heard the tramp of many feet upon the
earth, and the rattling of shields, and the noise of many spears. And
they lifted up their voices to the Gods that they should help the city,
to Ares, the god of the golden helmet, that he should defend the land
which in truth was his from old time, and to Father Zeus, and to Pallas,
who was the daughter of Zeus, and to Poseidon, the great ruler of the
sea, and to Aphrodité the Fair, for that she was the mother of their
race, and to Apollo, the wolf-king, that he would be as a devouring wolf
to the enemy, and to Artemis, that she should bend her bow against them,
and to Heré, the Queen of heaven, even to all the dwellers in Olympus,
that they should defend the city, and save it.

But the King was very wroth when he heard this outcry, and cried, "Think
ye to make bold the hearts of our men by these lamentations? Now may the
Gods save me from this race of women; for if they be bold no man can
endure their insolence, and if they be afraid they vex both their home
and their country. Even so now do ye help them that are without and
trouble your own people. But hearken to this. He that heareth not my
command, be he man or woman, the people shall stone him. Speak I

"But, O son of Oedipus," the maidens made reply, "we hear the rolling
of the chariot wheels, and the rattling of the axles, and the jingling
of the bridle reins."

"What then?" said the King, "if the ship labour in the sea, and the
helmsman leave the helm and fly to the prow that he may pray before the
image, doeth he well?"

"Nay, blame us not that we came to beseech the Gods when we heard the
hailstorm of war rattling on the gates."

"'Tis well," cried the King, "yet men say that the Gods leave the city
that is at the point to fall. And mark ye this, that safety is the child
of obedience. But as for duty, 'tis for men to do sacrifice to the Gods,
and for women to keep silence and to abide at home."

But the maidens made reply, "'Tis the Gods who keep this city, nor do
they transgress who reverence them."

"Yes, but let them reverence them in due order. And now hearken to me.
Keep ye silence. And when I have made my prayer, raise ye a joyful shout
that shall gladden the hearts of our friends and put away all fear from
them. And to the Gods that keep this city I vow that if they give us
victory in this war I will sacrifice to them sheep and oxen, and will
hang up in their houses the spoils of the enemy. And now, ye maidens, do
ye also make your prayers, but not with vain clamour. And I will choose
seven men, being myself the seventh, who shall meet the seven that come
against the gates of our city."

Then the King departed, and the maidens made their prayer after this
fashion: "My heart feareth as a dove feareth the serpent for her young
ones, so cruelly doth the enemy come about this city to destroy it!
Shall ye find elsewhere as fair a land, ye Gods, if ye suffer this to be
laid waste, or streams as sweet? Help us then, for indeed it is a
grievous thing when men take a city, for the women, old and young, are
dragged by the hair, and the men are slain with the sword, and there is
slaughter and burning, while they that plunder cry each man to his
comrade, and the fruits of the earth are wasted upon the ground; nor is
there any hope but in death."

And as they made an end, the King came back, and at the same time a
messenger bringing tidings of the battle, how the seven chiefs had
ranged themselves each against a gate of the city. And the man's story
was this.

"First Tydeus, the Ætolian, standeth in great fury at the gate of
Proetus. Very wroth is he because the soothsayer, Amphiaraüs,
suffereth him not to cross the Ismenus, for that the omens promise not
victory. A triple crest he hath, and there are bells of bronze under his
shield which ring terribly. And on his shield he hath this device: the
heaven studded with stars, and in the midst the mightiest of the stars,
the eye of night, even the moon. Whom, O King, will thou set against
this man?"

Then the King made reply, "I tremble not at any man's adorning, and a
device woundeth not. And, indeed, as for the night that thou tellest to
be on his shield, haply it signifieth the night of death that shall fall
upon his eyes. Over against him will I set the son of Astacus, a brave
man and a modest. Also he is of the race of the Dragon's Teeth, and men
call him Melanippus."

And the messenger said, "Heaven send him good fortune! At the gate of
Electra standeth Capaneus, a man of great stature, and his boastings are
above all measure, for he crieth out that he will destroy this city
whether the Gods will or no, and that Zeus with his thunder shall not
stay him, for that the thunder is but as the sun at noon. And on his
shield he hath a man bearing a torch, and these words, 'I WILL BURN THIS
CITY.' Who now shall stand against this boaster and fear not?"

Then the King said, "His boastings I heed not. They shall turn to his
own destruction. For as he sendeth out swelling words against Zeus, so
shall Zeus send against him the thunder, smiting him, but not of a truth
as the sun smiteth. Him shall Polyphantus encounter, a valiant man and
dear to Queen Artemis."

"He that is set against the gate of Neïs is called Eteoclus by name. He
driveth a chariot with four horses, in whose nostrils are pipes making a
whistling noise, after the fashion of barbarians. And on his shield he
hath this device: a man mounting a ladder that is set against a tower
upon a wall, and with it these words, 'NOT ARES' SELF SHALL DRIVE ME
HENCE.' See that thou set a fit warrior against him."

"Megareus, son of Creon, of the race of the Dragon, shall fight against
him, who will not leave the gate for any whistling noise of horses; for
either he will die as a brave man dieth for his country, or will take a
double spoil, even this boaster and him also that he beareth upon his

"At the next gate to this, even the gate of Athené, standeth Hippomedon.
A great shield and a terrible he hath, and on it this device, which no
mean workman hath wrought: Typhon breathing out a great blast of black
smoke, and all about it serpents twined together. And the man also is
terrible as his shield, and seemeth to be inspired of Ares. Whom wilt
thou set against this man, O King?"

"First shall Pallas stand against him and drive him from this city, even
as a bird driveth a snake from her young ones. And next I have set
Hyperbius, son of Oeneus, to encounter him, being inferior neither in
form nor courage, nor yet in skill of arms, and also dear to Hermes.
Enemies shall they be, bearing also on their shields gods that are
enemies, for Hippomedon hath Typhon, but Hyperbius hath Zeus; and even
as Zeus prevailed over Typhon, so also shall Hyperbius prevail over this

"So be it, O King. Know also that at the north gate is set Parthenopæus
the Arcadian. Very young is he, and fair also to behold, and his mother
was the huntress Atalanta. This man sweareth by his spear, which he
holdeth to be better than all gods whatsoever, that he will lay waste
this city. And on his shield he beareth a device, the Sphinx, which
holdeth in her claws one of the sons of Cadmus."

"Against this Arcadian will I set Actor, brother to Hyperbius, no
boaster but a man of deeds, who will not let this hateful monster, the
Sphinx, pass thus into the city; but will rather make it ill content to
have come hither, so many and fierce blows shall he deal it."

"Hear now of the sixth among the chiefs, the wise soothsayer,
Amphiaraüs. Ill pleased is he with these things, for against Tydeus he
uttereth many reproaches, that he is an evil counsellor to Argos and to
King Adrastus, stirring up strife and slaughter. And to thy brother also
he speaketh in like fashion, saying, 'Is this a thing that the Gods
love, and that men shall praise in the days to come, that thou bringest
a host of strangers to lay waste the city of thy fathers? Shall this
land, if thou subduest it by the spear of the enemy, ever make alliance
with thee? As for me I shall fall in this land, for am I not a seer? Be
it so. I shall not die without honour!' No device hath this man on his
shield, for he seeketh not to seem, but to be in very deed most
excellent. Thou must need send some wise man to stand against him."

"It is an ill fate that bringeth a just man into company with the
wicked. And of a truth there is not a worse thing upon the earth than
ill companionship, wherein the sowing is madness and the harvest is
death. For thus a god-fearing man being on shipboard with godless
companions perisheth with them; and one that is righteous, if he dwell
in one city with the wicked, is destroyed with the same destruction. So
shall it fare with this Amphiaraüs; for though he be a good man and
righteous, and that feareth God, yet shall he perish because he beareth
these boasters company. And I think that he will not come near to the
gates, so well knoweth he what shall befall him. Yet have I set
Lasthenes to stand against him, young in years but old in counsel, very
keen of eye, and swift of hand to cast his javelin from under his

"And now, O King! hear how thy brother beareth himself, for he it is who
standeth yonder at the seventh gate. For he crieth aloud that he will
climb upon the wall and slay thee, even though he die with thee, or
drive thee forth into banishment, even as thou, he saith, hast driven
him. And on his shield there is this device: a woman leading an armed
man, and while she leadeth him, she saith, 'I AM JUSTICE, AND I WILL

But when the King heard this he brake forth in much fury, "Now will the
curse of this house be fulfilled to the uttermost. Yet must I not bewail
myself, lest there should fall upon us an evil that is yet greater than
this. And as for this Polynices, thinketh he that signs and devices will
give him that which he coveteth? Thinketh he that Justice is on his
side? Nay, but from the day that he came forth from the womb he hath had
no converse with her, neither will she stand by him this day. I will
fight against him. Who more fit than I? Bring forth my armour that I may
make ready."

And though the maidens entreated with many words that he would not do
this thing, but leave the place to some other of the chiefs, saying that
there was no healing or remedy for a brother's blood shed in such
fashion, he would not hearken, but armed himself and went forth to the
battle. Thus ever doth the madness of men work out to the full the
curses of the Gods.

Then the battle grew fierce about the wall, and the men of Thebes
prevailed. For when Parthenopæus, the Arcadian, fell like a whirlwind
upon the gate that was over against him, Actor the Theban smote him on
the head with a great stone, and brake his head, so that he fell dead
upon the ground. And when Capaneus assaulted the city, crying that not
even the Gods should stay him, there came upon him the wrath which he
defied; for when he had mounted the ladder and was now about to leap
upon the battlements, Zeus smote him with the thunderbolt, and there was
no life left in him, so fierce was the burning heat of the lightning.
But the chiefest fight was between the two brothers; and this, indeed,
the two armies stood apart to see. For the two came together in an open
space before the gates; and first Polynices prayed to Heré, for she was
the goddess of the great city of Argos, which had helped him in this
enterprise, and Eteocles prayed to Pallas of the Golden Shield, whose
temple stood hard by. Then they crouched, each covered with his shield,
and holding his spear in his hand, if by chance his enemy should give
occasion to smite him; and if one showed so much as an eye above the rim
of his shield the other would strike at him. But after a while King
Eteocles slipped upon a stone that was under his foot, and uncovered his
leg, at which straightway Polynices took aim with his spear, piercing
the skin. And the men of Argos shouted to see it. But so doing he laid
his own shoulder bare, and King Eteocles gave him a wound in the breast;
and then the men of Thebes shouted for joy. But he brake his spear in
striking, and would have fared ill but that with a great stone he smote
the spear of Polynices, and brake this also in the middle. And now were
the two equal, for each had lost his spear. So they drew their swords
and came yet closer together. But Eteocles used a device which he had
learnt in the land of Thessaly; for he drew his left foot back, as if he
would have ceased from the battle, and then of a sudden moved the right
forward; and so smiting sideways, drave his sword right through the
body of Polynices. But when thinking that he had slain him he set his
weapons in the earth, and began to spoil him of his arms, the other, for
he yet breathed a little, laid his hand upon his sword, and though he
had scarce strength to smite, yet gave the King a mortal blow, so that
the two lay dead together on the plain. And the men of Thebes lifted up
the bodies of the dead, and bare them both into the city.

[Illustration: THE DEAD BROTHERS.]

So was the doom of the house of Oedipus accomplished; and yet not all,
as shall be told in the story of Antigone, who was the sister of these


When the two brothers, the sons of King Oedipus, had fallen each by
the hand of the other, the kingdom fell to Creon their uncle. For not
only was he the next of kin to the dead, but also the people held him in
great honour because his son Menoeceus had offered himself with a
willing heart that he might deliver his city from captivity. Now when
Creon was come to the throne, he made a proclamation about the two
Princes, commanding that they should bury Eteocles with all honour,
seeing that he died as beseemed a good man and a brave, doing battle for
his country, that it should not be delivered into the hands of the
enemy; but as for Polynices he bade them leave his body to be devoured
by the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field, because he had
joined himself to the enemy, and would have beaten down the walls of
the city, and burned the temples of the Gods with fire, and led the
people captive. Also he commanded that if any man should break this
decree he should suffer death by stoning.

Now Antigone, who was sister to the two Princes, heard that the decree
had gone forth, and chancing to meet her sister Ismené before the gates
of the palace, spake to her, saying, "O my sister, hast thou heard this
decree that the King hath put forth concerning our brethren that are

Then Ismené made answer, "I have heard nothing, my sister, only that we
are bereaved of both of our brethren in one day, and that the army of
the Argives is departed in this night that is now past. So much I know,
but no more."

"Hearken then. King Creon hath made a proclamation that they shall bury
Eteocles with all honour; but that Polynices shall lie unburied, that
the birds of the air and the beasts of the field may devour him; and
that whosoever shall break this decree shall suffer death by stoning."

"But if it be so, my sister, how can we avail to change it?"

"Think whether or no thou wilt share with me the doing of this deed."

"What deed? What meanest thou?"

"To pay due honour to this dead corpse."

"What? Wilt thou bury him when the King hath forbidden it?"

"Yea, for he is my brother and also thine, though, perchance, thou
wouldst not have it so. And I will not play him false."

"O my sister, wilt thou do this when Creon hath forbidden it?"

"Why should he stand between me and mine?"

"But think now what sorrows are come upon our house. For our father
perished miserably, having first put out his own eyes; and our mother
hanged herself with her own hands; and our two brothers fell in one day,
each by the other's spear; and now we two only are left. And shall we
not fall into a worse destruction than any, if we transgress these
commands of the King? Think, too, that we are women and not men, and
must of necessity obey them that are stronger. Wherefore, as for me, I
will pray the dead to pardon me, seeing that I am thus constrained; but
I will obey them that rule."

"I advise thee not, and, if thou thinkest thus, I would not have thee
for helper. But know that I will bury my brother, nor could I better die
than for doing such a deed. For as he loved me, so also do I love him
greatly. And shall not I do pleasure to the dead rather than to the
living, seeing that I shall abide with the dead for ever? But thou, if
thou wilt, do dishonour to the laws of the Gods."

"I dishonour them not. Only I cannot set myself against the powers that

"So be it: but I will bury my brother."

11 O my sister, how I fear for thee!"

"Fear for thyself. Thine own lot needeth all thy care."

"Thou wilt at least keep thy counsel, nor tell the thing to any man."

"Not so: hide it not. I shall scorn thee more if thou proclaim it not
aloud to all."

So Antigone departed; and after a while came to the same place King
Creon, clad in his royal robes, and with his sceptre in his hand, and
set forth his counsel to the elders who were assembled, how he had
dealt with the two Princes according to their deserving, giving all
honour to him that loved his country, and casting forth the other
unburied. And he bade them take care that this decree should be kept,
saying that he had also appointed certain men to watch the dead body.

But he had scarcely left speaking, when there came one of these same
watchers and said, "I have not come hither in haste, O King, nay, I
doubted much, while I was yet on the way, whether I should not turn
again. For now I thought, 'Fool, why goest thou where thou shalt suffer
for it;' and then again, 'Fool, the King will hear the matter elsewhere,
and then how wilt thou fare?' But at the last I came as I had purposed,
for I know that nothing may happen to me contrary to fate."

"But say," said the King, "what troubles thee so much?"

"First hear my case. I did not the thing, and know not who did it, and
it were a grievous wrong should I fall into trouble for such a cause."

"Thou makest a long preface, excusing thyself, but yet hast, as I judge,
something to tell."

"Fear, my lord, ever causeth delay."

"Wilt thou not speak out thy news and then begone?"

"I will speak it. Know then that some man hath thrown dust upon this
dead corpse, and done besides such things as are needful."

"What sayest thou? Who hath dared to do this deed?"

"That I know not, for there was no mark as of spade or pick-axe; nor was
the earth broken, nor had waggon passed thereon. We were sore dismayed
when the watchman showed the thing to us; for the body we could not see.
Buried indeed it was not, but rather covered with dust. Nor was there
any sign as of wild beast or of dog that had torn it. Then there arose a
contention among us, each blaming the other, and accusing his fellows,
and himself denying that he had done the deed or was privy to it. And
doubtless we had fallen to blows but that one spake a word which made us
all tremble for fear, knowing that it must be as he said. For he said
that the thing must be told to thee, and in no wise hidden. So we drew
lots, and by evil chance the lot fell upon me. Wherefore I am here, not
willingly, for no man loveth him that bringeth ill tidings."

Then said the chief of the old men, "Consider, O King, for haply this
thing is from the Gods."

But the King cried, "Thinkest thou that the Gods care for such an one as
this dead man, who would have burnt their temples with fire, and laid
waste the land which they love, and set at naught the laws? Not so. But
there are men in this city who have long time had ill will to me, not
bowing their necks to my yoke; and they have persuaded these fellows
with money to do this thing. Surely there never was so evil a thing as
money, which maketh cities into ruinous heaps, and banisheth men from
their houses, and turneth their thoughts from good unto evil. But as for
them that have done this deed for hire, of a truth they shall not
escape, for I say to thee, fellow, if ye bring not here before my eyes
the man that did this thing, I will hang you up alive. So shall ye learn
that ill gains bring no profit to a man."

So the guard departed; but as he went he said to himself, "Now may the
Gods grant that the man be found; but however this may be, thou shalt
not see me come again on such errand as this, for even now have I
escaped beyond all hope." Notwithstanding, after a space he came back
with one of his fellows; and they brought with them the maiden Antigone,
with her hands bound together. And it chanced that at the same time King
Creon came forth from the palace. Then the guard set forth the thing to
him, saying, "We cleared away the dust from the dead body, and sat
watching it. And when it was now noon, and the sun was at his height,
there came a whirlwind over the plain, driving a great cloud of dust.
And when this had passed, we looked, and lo! this maiden whom we have
brought hither stood by the dead corpse. And when she saw that it lay
bare as before, she sent up an exceeding bitter cry, even as a bird
whose young ones have been taken from the nest. Then she cursed them
that had done this deed; and brought dust and sprinkled it upon the dead
man, and poured water upon him three times. Then we ran and laid hold
upon her, and accused her that she had done this deed; and she denied it
not. But as for me, 'tis well to have escaped from death, but it is ill
to bring friends into the same. Yet I hold that there is nothing dearer
to a man than his life."

Then said the King to Antigone, "Tell me in a word, didst thou know my

"I knew it. Was it not plainly declared?"

"How daredst thou to transgress the laws?"

"Zeus made not such laws, nor Justice that dwelleth with the Gods below.
I judged not that thy decrees had such authority that a man should
transgress for them the unwritten sure commandments of the Gods. For
these, indeed, are not of to-day or yesterday, but they live for ever,
and their beginning no man knoweth. Should I, for fear of thee, be found
guilty against them? That I should die I knew. Why not? All men must
die. And if I die before my time, what loss? He who liveth among many
sorrows, even as I have lived, counteth it gain to die. But had I left
my own mother's son unburied, this had been loss indeed."

Then said the King, "Such stubborn thoughts have a speedy fall, and are
shivered even as the iron that hath been made hard in the furnace. And
as for this woman and her sister--for I judge her sister to have had a
part in this matter--though they were nearer to me than all my kindred,
yet shall they not escape the doom of death. Wherefore let some one
bring the other woman hither."


And while they went to fetch the maiden Ismené, Antigone said to the
King, "Is it not enough for thee to slay me? What need to say more? For
thy words please me not nor mine thee. Yet what nobler thing could I
have done than to bury my own mother's son? And so would all men say but
fear shutteth their mouths."

"Nay," said the King, "none of the children of Cadmus thinketh thus, but
thou only. But, hold, was not he that fell in battle with this man thy
brother also?"

"Yes, truly, my brother he was."

"And dost thou not dishonour him when thou honourest his enemy?"

"The dead man would not say it, could he speak."

"Shall then the wicked have like honour with the good?"

"How knowest thou but that such honour pleaseth the Gods below?"

"I have no love for them I hate, though they be dead."

"Of hating I know nothing; 'tis enough for me to love."

"If thou wilt love, go love the dead. But while I live no woman shall
rule me."

Then those that had been sent to fetch the maiden Ismené brought her
forth from the palace. And when the King accused her that she had been
privy to the deed she denied not, but would have shared one lot with her
sister. But Antigone turned from her, saying, "Not so; thou hast no part
or lot in the matter. For thou hast chosen life, and I have chosen
death; and even so shall it be." And when Ismené saw that she prevailed
nothing with her sister, she turned to the King and said, "Wilt thou
slay the bride of thy son?"

"Aye," said he, "there are other brides to win!"

"But none," she made reply, "that accord so well with him."

"I will have no evil wives for my sons," said the King.

Then cried Antigone, "O Hæmon, whom I love, how thy father wrongeth

Then the King bade the guards lead the two into the palace. But scarcely
had they gone when there came to the place the Prince Hæmon, the King's
son, who was betrothed to the maiden Antigone. And when the King saw
him, he said, "Art thou content, my son, with thy father's judgment?"

And the young man answered, "My father, I would follow thy counsels in
all things."

Then said the King, "'Tis well spoken, my son. This is a thing to be
desired, that a man should have obedient children. But if it be
otherwise with a man, he hath gotten great trouble for himself, and
maketh sport for them that hate him. And now as to this matter. There is
nought worse than an evil wife. Wherefore I say, let this damsel wed a
bridegroom among the dead. For since I have found her, alone of all this
people, breaking my decree, surely she shall die. Nor shall it profit
her to claim kinship with me, for he that would rule a city must first
deal justly with his own kindred And as for obedience, this it is that
maketh a city to stand both in peace and in war."

To this the Prince Hæmon made answer, "What thou sayest, my father, I
do not judge. Yet bethink thee, that I see and hear on thy behalf what
is hidden from thee. For common men cannot abide thy look if they say
that which pleaseth thee not. Yet do I hear it in secret. Know then that
all the city mourneth for this maiden, saying that she dieth wrongfully
for a very noble deed, in that she buried her brother. And 'tis well, my
father, not to be wholly set on thy own thoughts, but to listen to the
counsels of others."

"Nay," said the King; "shall I be taught by such an one as thou?"

"I pray thee regard my words, if they be well, and not my years."

"Can it be well to honour them that transgress? And hath not this woman

"The people of this city judgeth not so."

"The people, sayest thou? Is it for them to rule, or for me?"

"No city is the possession of one man only."

So the two answered one the other, and their anger waxed hot. And at the
last the King cried, "Bring this accursed woman, and slay her before his

And the Prince answered, "That thou shalt never do. And know this also,
that thou shalt never see my face again."

So he went away in a rage; and the old men would have appeased the
King's wrath, but he would not hearken to them, but said that the two
maidens should die. "Wilt thou then slay them both?" said the old men.

"'Tis well said," the King made answer. "Her that meddled not with the
matter I harm not."

"And how wilt thou deal with the other?"

"There is a desolate place, and there I will shut her up alive in a
sepulchre; yet giving her so much of food as shall quit us of guilt in
the matter, for I would not have the city defiled. There let her
persuade Death, whom she loveth so much, that he harm her not."

So the guards led Antigone away to shut her up alive in the sepulchre.
But scarcely had they departed when there came the old prophet Tiresias,
seeking the King. Blind he was, so that a boy led him by the hand; but
the Gods had given him to see things to come. And when the King saw him
he asked, "What seekest thou, wisest of men?"

Then the prophet answered, "Hearken, O King, and I will tell thee. I sat
in my seat, after my custom, in the place whither all manner of birds
resort. And as I sat I heard a cry of birds that I knew not, very
strange and full of wrath. And I knew that they tare and slew each
other, for I heard the fierce flapping of their wings. And being afraid,
I made inquiry about the fire, how it burned upon the altars. And this
boy, for as I am a guide to others so he guideth me, told me that it
shone not at all, but smouldered and was dull, and that the flesh which
was burnt upon the altar spluttered in the flame, and wasted away into
corruption and filthiness. And now I tell thee, O King, that the city is
troubled by thy ill counsels. For the dogs and the birds of the air tear
the flesh of this dead son of Oedipus, whom thou sufferest not to have
due burial, and carry it to the altars, polluting them therewith.
Wherefore the Gods receive not from us prayer or sacrifice; and the cry
of the birds hath an evil sound, for they are full of the flesh of a
man. Therefore I bid the be wise in time. For all men may err; but he
that keepeth not his folly, but repenteth, doeth well; but stubbornness
cometh to great trouble."

Then the King answered, "Old man, I know the race of prophets full well,
how ye sell your art for gold. But, make thy trade as thou wilt, this
man shall not have burial; yea, though the eagles of Zeus carry his
flesh to their master's throne in heaven, he shall not have it."

And when the prophet spake again, entreating him, and warning, the King
answered him after the same fashion, that he spake not honestly, but had
sold his art for money. But at the last the prophet spake in great
wrath, saying, "Know, O King, that before many days shall pass, thou
shalt pay a life for a life, even one of thine own children, for them
with whom thou hast dealt unrighteously, shutting up the living with the
dead, and keeping the dead from them to whom they belong. Therefore the
Furies lie in wait for thee, and thou shalt see whether or no I speak
these things for money. For there shall be mourning and lamentation in
thine own house; and against thy people shall be stirred up all the
cities, whose sons thou hast made to lie unburied. And now, my child,
lead me home, and let this man rage against them that are younger than

So the prophet departed, and the old men were sore afraid, and said, "He
hath spoken terrible things, O King; nor ever since these gray hairs
were black have we known him say that which was false."

"Even so," said the King, "and I am troubled in heart, and yet am loath
to depart from my purpose."

"King Creon," said the old men, "thou needest good counsel."

"What, then, would ye have done?"

"Set free the maiden from the sepulchre, and give this dead man burial."

Then the King cried to his people that they should bring bars wherewith
to loosen the doors of the sepulchre, and hasted with them to the place.
But coming on their way to the body of Prince Polynices, they took it
up, and washed it, and buried that which remained of it, and raised over
the ashes a great mound of earth. And this being done, they drew near to
the place of the sepulchre; and as they approached, the King heard
within a very piteous voice, and knew it for the voice of his son. Then
he bade his attendants loose the door with all speed; and when they had
loosed it, they beheld within a very piteous sight. For the maiden
Antigone had hanged herself by the girdle of linen which she wore, and
the young man Prince Hæmon stood with his arms about her dead corpse,
embracing it. And when the King saw him, he cried to him to come forth;
but the Prince glared fiercely upon him and answered him not a word, but
drew his two-edged sword. Then the King, thinking that his son was
minded in his madness to slay him, leapt back, but the Prince drave the
sword into his own heart, and fell forward on the earth, still holding
the dead maiden in his arms. And when they brought the tidings of these
things to Queen Eurydice, that was the wife of King Creon and mother to
the Prince, she could not endure the grief, being thus bereaved of her
children, but laid hold of a sword, and slew herself therewith.

So the house of King Creon was left desolate unto him that day, because
he despised the ordinances of the Gods.


King Agamemnon sat in his tent at Aulis, where the army of the Greeks
was gathered together, being about to sail against the great city of
Troy. And it was now past midnight; but the King slept not, for he was
careful and troubled about many things. And he had a lamp before him,
and in his hand a tablet of pine wood, whereon he wrote. But he seemed
not to remain in the same mind about that which he wrote; for now he
would blot out the letters, and then would write them again; and now he
fastened the seal upon the tablet and then brake it. And as he did this
he wept, and was like to a man distracted. But after a while he called
to an old man, his attendant (the man had been given in time past by
Tyndareus to his daughter, Queen Clytæmnestra), and said "Old man, thou
knowest how Calchas the soothsayer bade me offer for a sacrifice to
Artemis, who is goddess of this place, my daughter Iphigenia, saying
that so only should the army have a prosperous voyage from this place to
Troy, and should take the city and destroy it; and how when I heard
these words I bade Talthybius the herald go throughout the army and bid
them depart, every man to his own country, for that I would not do this
thing; and how my brother, King Menelaüs, persuaded me so that I
consented to it. Now, therefore, hearken to this, for what I am about to
tell thee three men only know, namely, Calchas the soothsayer, and
Menelaüs, and Ulysses, King of Ithaca. I wrote a letter to my wife the
Queen, that she should send her daughter to this place, that she might
be married to King Achilles; and I magnified the man to her, saying that
he would in no wise sail with us unless I would give him my daughter in
marriage. But now I have changed my purpose, and have written another
letter after this fashion, as I will now set forth to thee,--'DAUGHTER

"Aye," said the old man, "but how wilt thou deal with King Achilles?
Will he not be wroth, hearing that he hath been cheated of his wife?"

"Not so," answered the King, "for we have indeed used his name, but he
knoweth nothing of this marriage. And now make haste. Sit not thou down
by any fountain in the woods, and suffer not thine eyes to sleep. And
beware lest the chariot bearing the Queen and her daughter pass thee
where the roads divide. And see that thou keep the seal upon this letter

So the old man departed with the letter. But scarcely had he left the
tent when King Menelaüs spied him and laid hands on him, taking the
letter and breaking the seal. And the old man cried out--

"Help, my lord; here is one hath taken thy letter!"

Then King Agamemnon came forth from his tent, saying, "What meaneth this
uproar and disputing that I hear?"

And Menelaüs answered, "Seest thou this letter that I hold in my hand?"

"I see it: it is mine. Give it to me."

"I give it not till I have read that which is written therein to all the
army of the Greeks."

"Where didst thou find it?"

"I found it while I waited for thy daughter till she should come to the

"What hast thou to do with that? May I not rule my own household?"

Then Menelaüs reproached his brother because he did not continue in one
mind. "For first," he said, "before thou wast chosen captain of the
host, thou wast all things to all men, greeting every man courteously,
and taking him by the hand, and talking with him, and leaving thy doors
open to any that would enter; but afterwards, being now chosen, thou
wast haughty and hard of access. And next, when this trouble came upon
the army, and thou wast sore afraid lest thou shouldst lose thy office,
and so miss renown, didst thou not hearken to Calchas the soothsayer,
and promise thy daughter for sacrifice, and send for her to the camp,
making pretence of giving her in marriage to Achilles? And now thou art
gone back from thy word. Surely this is an evil day for Greece, that is
troubled because thou wantest wisdom."

Then answered King Agamemnon, "What is thy quarrel with me? Why blamest
thou me if thou couldst not rule thy wife? And now to win back this
woman, because forsooth she is fair, thou castest aside both reason and
honour. And I, if I had an ill purpose, and now have changed it for that
which is wiser, dost thou charge me with folly? Let them that sware the
oath to Tyndareus go with thee on this errand. Why should I slay my
child, and work for myself sorrow and remorse without end that thou
mayest have vengeance for thy wicked wife?"

Then Menelaüs turned away in a rage, crying, "Betray me if thou wilt. I
will betake myself to other counsels and other friends."

But even as he spake there came a messenger, saying, "King Agamemnon, I
am come, as thou badest me, with thy daughter Iphigenia. Also her
mother, Queen Clytæmnestra, is come, bringing with her her little son,
Orestes. And now they are resting themselves and their horses by the
side of a spring, for indeed the way is long and weary. And all the army
is gathered about them, to see them and greet them. And men question
much wherefore they are come, saying, 'Doth the King make a marriage for
his daughter; or hath he sent for her, desiring to see her?' But I know
thy purpose, my lord; wherefore we will dance and shout and make merry,
for this is a happy day for the maiden."

But the King Agamemnon was sore dismayed when he knew that the Queen was
come, and spake to himself. "Now what shall I say to my wife? For that
she is rightly come to the marriage of her daughter who can deny? But
what will she say when she knoweth my purpose? And of the maiden, what
shall I say? Unhappy maiden whose bridegroom shall be death! For she
will cry to me, 'Wilt thou kill me, my father?' And the little Orestes
will wail, not knowing what he doeth, seeing he is but a babe. Cursed be
Paris, who hath wrought this woe!"

And now King Menelaüs came back, saying that it repented him of what he
had said, "For why should thy child die for me? What hath she to do
with Helen? Let the army be scattered, so that this wrong be not done."

Then said King Agamemnon, "But how shall I escape from this strait? For
the whole host will compel me to this deed?"

"Not so," said King Menelaüs, "if thou wilt send back the maiden to

"But what shall that profit," said the King; "for Calchas will cause the
matter to be known, or Ulysses, saying that I have failed of my promise;
and if I fly to Argos, they will come and destroy my city and lay waste
my land. Woe is me! in what a strait am I set! But take thou care, my
brother, that Clytæmnestra hear nothing of these things."

And when he had ended speaking, the Queen herself came unto the tent,
riding in a chariot, having her daughter by her side. And she bade one
of the attendants take out with care the caskets which she had brought
for her daughter, and bade others help her daughter to alight, and
herself also, and to a fourth she said that he should take the young
Orestes. Then Iphigenia greeted her father, saying, "Thou hast done well
to send for me, my father."

"'Tis true and yet not true, my child."

"Thou lookest not well pleased to see me, my father."

"He that is a King and commandeth a host hath many cares."

"Put away thy cares awhile, and give thyself to me."

"I am glad beyond measure to see thee."

"Glad art thou? Then why dost thou weep?"

"I weep because thou must be long time absent from me."

"Perish all these fightings and troubles!"

"They will cause many to perish, and me most miserably of all."

"Art thou going a journey from me, my father?"

"Aye, and thou also hast a journey to make."

"Must I make it alone, or with my mother?"

"Alone; neither father nor mother may be with thee."

"Sendest thou me to dwell elsewhere?"

"Hold thy peace: such things are not for maidens to inquire."

"Well, my father, order matters with the Phrygians, and then make haste
to return."

"I must first make a sacrifice to the Gods."

"'Tis well. The Gods should have due honour."

"Aye, and thou wilt stand close to the altar."

"Shall I lead the dances, my father?"

"O my child, how I envy thee, that thou knowest nought! And now go into
the tent; but first kiss me, and give me thy hand, for thou shalt be
parted from thy father for many days."

And when she was gone within, he cried, "O fair bosom and very lovely
cheeks and yellow hair of my child! O city of Priam, what woe thou
bringest on me! But I must say no more."

Then he turned to the Queen, and excused himself that he wept when he
should rather have rejoiced for the marriage of his daughter. And when
the Queen would know of the estate of the bridegroom, he told her that
his name was Achilles, and that he was the son of Peleus by his wife
Thetis, the daughter of Nereus of the sea, and that he dwelt in Phthia.
And when she inquired of the time of the marriage he said that it
should be in the same moon, on the first lucky day; and as to the place,
that it must be where the bridegroom was sojourning, that is to say, in
the camp. "And I," said the King, "will give the maiden to her husband."

"But where," answered the Queen, "is it your pleasure that I should be?"

"Thou must return to Argos, and care for the maidens there."

"Sayest thou that I must return? Who then will hold up the torch for the

"I will do that which is needful. For it is not seemly that thou
shouldst be present where the whole army is gathered together."

"Aye, but it is seemly that a mother should give her daughter in

"But the maidens at home should not be left alone."

"They are well kept in their chambers."

"Be persuaded, lady."

"Not so: thou shalt order that which is without the house, but I that
which is within."

But now came Achilles, to tell the King that the army was growing
impatient, saying that, unless they might sail speedily to Troy, they
would return each man to his home. And when the Queen heard his
name--for he had said to the attendant, "Tell thy master that Achilles,
the son of Peleus, would speak with him"--she came forth from the tent
and greeted him, and bade him give her his right hand. And when the
young man was ashamed (for it was not counted a seemly thing that men
should speak with women) she said--

"But why art thou ashamed, seeing that thou art about to marry my

And he answered, "What sayest thou, lady? I cannot speak for wonder at
thy words."

"Often men are ashamed when they see new friends, and the talk is of

"But, lady, I never was suitor for thy daughter. Nor have the sons of
Atreus said aught to me of the matter."

But the Queen was beyond measure astonished, and cried, "Now this is
shameful indeed, that I should seek a bridegroom for my daughter in such

But when Achilles would have departed, to inquire of the King what this
thing might mean, the old man that had at the first carried the letter
came forth, and bade him stay. And when he had assurance that he should
receive no harm for what he should tell them, he unfolded the whole
matter. And when the Queen had heard it, she cried to Achilles, "O son
of Thetis of the sea! help me now in this strait, and help this maiden
that hath been called thy bride, though this indeed be false. 'Twill be
a shame to thee if such wrong be done under thy name; for it is thy name
that hath undone us. Nor have I any altar to which I may flee, nor any
friend but thee only in this army."

Then Achilles made answer, "Lady, I learnt from Chiron, who was the most
righteous of men, to be true and honest. And if the sons of Atreus
govern according to right, I obey them; and if not, not. Know, then,
that thy daughter, seeing that she hath been given, though but in word
only, to me, shall not be slain by her father. For if she so die, then
shall my name be brought to great dishonour, seeing that through it thou
hast been persuaded to come with her to this place. This sword shall see
right soon whether any one will dare to take this maiden from me."

And now King Agamemnon came forth, saying that all things were ready for
the marriage, and that they waited for the maiden, not knowing that the
whole matter had been revealed to the Queen. Then she said--

"Tell me now, dost thou purpose to slay thy daughter and mine?" And when
he was silent, not knowing, indeed, what to say, she reproached him with
many words, that she had been a loving and faithful wife to him, for
which he made her an ill recompense slaying her child.

And when she had made an end of speaking, the maiden came forth from the
tent, holding the young child Orestes in her arms, and cast herself upon
her knees before her father, and besought him, saying, "I would, my
father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, who made even the rocks to
follow him, that I might persuade thee; but now all that I have I give,
even these tears. O my father, I am thy child; slay me not before my
time. This light is sweet to look upon. Drive me not from it to the
land of darkness. I was the first to call thee father; and the first to
whom thou didst say 'my child.' And thou wouldst say to me, 'Some day,
my child, I shall see thee a happy wife in the home of a rich husband.'
And I would answer, 'And I will receive thee with all love when thou art
old, and pay thee back for all the benefits thou hast done unto me.'
This I indeed remember, but thou forgettest; for thou art ready to slay
me. Do it not, I beseech thee, by Pelops thy grandsire, and Atreus thy
father, and this my mother, who travailed in childbirth of me, and now
travaileth again in her sorrow. And thou, O my brother, though thou art
but a babe, help me. Weep with me; beseech thy father that he slay not
thy sister. O my father, though he be silent, yet, indeed, he beseecheth
thee. For his sake, therefore, yea, and for mine own, have pity upon me,
and slay me not."

But the King was sore distracted, knowing not what he should say or do,
for a terrible necessity was upon him, seeing that the army could not
make their journey to Troy unless this deed should first be done. And
while he doubted came Achilles, saying that there was a horrible tumult
in the camp, the men crying out that the maiden must be sacrificed, and
that when he would have stayed them from their purpose, the people had
stoned him with stones, and that his own Myrmidons helped him not; but
rather were the first to assail him. Nevertheless, he said that he would
fight for the maiden, even to the utmost; and that there were faithful
men who would stand with him and help him. But when the maiden heard
these words, she stood forth and said, "Hearken to me, my mother. Be not
wroth with my father, for we cannot fight against fate. Also we must
take thought that this young man suffer not, for his help will avail
nought, and he himself will perish. Therefore I am resolved to die; for
all Greece looketh to me; for without me the ships cannot make their
voyage, nor the city of Troy be taken. Thou didst bear me, my mother,
not for thyself only, but for this whole people. Wherefore I will give
myself for them. Offer me for an offering; and let the Greeks take the
city of Troy, for this shall be my memorial for ever."

Then said Achilles, "Lady, I should count myself most happy if the Gods
would grant thee to be my wife. For I love thee well, when I see thee
how noble thou art. And if thou wilt, I will carry thee to my home. And
I doubt not that I shall save thee, though all the men of Greece be
against me."

But the maiden answered, "What I say, I say with full purpose. Nor will
I that any man should die for me, but rather will I save this land of

And Achilles said, "If this be thy will, lady, I cannot say nay, for it
is a noble thing that thou doest."

Nor was the maiden turned from her purpose though her mother besought
her with many tears. So they that were appointed led her to the grove of
Artemis, where there was built an altar, and the whole army of the
Greeks gathered about it. But when the King saw her going to her death
he covered his face with his mantle; but she stood by him, and said, "I
give my body with a willing heart to die for my country and for the
whole land of Greece. I pray the Gods that ye may prosper, and win the
victory in this war, and come back safe to your homes. And now let no
man touch me, for I will offer my neck to the sword with a good heart."

And all men marvelled to see the maiden of what a good courage she was.
Then the herald Talthybius stood in the midst and commanded silence to
the people; and Calchas the soothsayer put a garland about her head, and
drew a sharp knife from his sheath. And all the army stood regarding the
maiden and the priest and the altar.

Then there befell a marvellous thing. For Calchas struck with his knife,
for the sound of the stroke all men heard, but the maiden was not there.
Whither she had gone no one knew; but in her stead there lay gasping a
great hind, and all the altar was red with the blood thereof.

And Calchas said, "See ye this, men of Greece, how the goddess hath
provided this offering in the place of the maiden, for she would not
that her altar should be defiled with innocent blood. Be of good
courage, therefore, and depart every man to his ship, for this day ye
shall sail across the sea to the land of Troy."

But how it fared with the maiden may be read in the story of "Iphigenia
among the Taurians."


Prince Philoctetes, who reigned in Methone, which is in the land of
Thessaly, sailed with the other Princes of Greece to make war against
the great city of Troy. For he also had been one of the suitors of Helen
the Fair, and had bound himself with a great oath that he would avenge
her and her husband, whomsoever she should choose, on any man that
should dare to do her wrong. Now Philoctetes had been companion to
Hercules in many of his labours, and also had been with him when he died
upon Mount Æta. For which cause Hercules gave him the bow and the arrows
which he bare, having received them at the first from Apollo. A very
mighty bow it was, shooting arrows so as none other could do, and the
arrows were sure dealers of death, for they had been dipped in the blood
of the great dragon of Lerna, and the wounds which they made no
physician might heal. But it chanced that the Prince, being on his
voyage to Troy, landed at the island of Chrysa, where there was an altar
of Athené, the goddess of the place, and, desiring to show the altar to
his companions, he approached it too nearly; whereupon the serpent that
guarded it lest it should be profaned, bit him in the foot. The wound
was very sore and could not be healed, but tormented him day and night
with grievous pains, making him groan and cry aloud. And when men were
troubled with his complainings, and also with the noisome stench of his
wound, the chiefs took counsel together, and it seemed good to the sons
of Atreus, King Agamemnon and King Menelaüs, who were the leaders of the
host, that he should be left alone on the island of Lemnos. This matter
they committed to Ulysses, who did according to their bidding. But when
the Greeks had laid siege to the city of Troy, nigh upon ten years, they
remembered Prince Philoctetes and how they had dealt with him. For now
the great Achilles was dead, having been slain by Prince Paris with an
arrow in the Scæan Gate, when he was ready to break into the city; and
the soothsayers affirmed that the Greeks should not have their wish upon
Troy, till they should bring against it the great archer to whom they
had done wrong. Then the chiefs took counsel together, and chose
Ulysses, who was crafty beyond all other men, to accomplish this matter,
and with him they sent Neoptolemus, the son of Achilles, who excelled in
strength, even as his father had done.

Now when these two were landed upon the island, Ulysses led the way to
the place where in time past he had left Philoctetes. A cave it was in
the cliff, with two mouths to it, of which the one looked to the east
and the other to the west, so that in winter time a man might see the
sun and be warm, but in summer the wind blew through it, bringing
coolness and sleep, and a little below was a spring of fair water to
drink. Then said Ulysses to Neoptolemus, "Go and spy out the place, and
see whether or no the man be there."

And the Prince went up and looked into the cave, and found that it was
empty, but that there were signs of one who dwelt there, a bed of
leaves, and a cup of wood, very rudely fashioned, and pieces of wood
for kindling fires, and also, a very piteous sight, the rags wherewith
the sick man was wont to dress his wound. And when he had told what he
saw, Ulysses said, "That the man dwelleth here is manifest; nor can he
be far away, for how can one that is wounded travel far? Doubtless he is
gone to some place whither the birds resort to slay them, or, haply, to
find some herb wherewith to assuage his pain. But do thou set one who
will wait for his coming, for it would fare ill with me should he find

And when the watch had been set Ulysses said again, "I will tell what it
is needful for thee to say and do. Only thou must be bold, son of
Achilles, and that not only with thy hand, but in heart also, if what I
shall now unfold to thee shall seem new or strange. Hearken then: when
the man shall ask thee who thou art and whence thou comest, thou shalt
answer him that thou art the son of Achilles, and that thou hast left
the host of the Greeks, because they had done thee great wrong, for
that, having prayed thee to come as not being able to take the great
city of Troy without thee, yet they would not deliver to thee the arms
of thy father Achilles, but gave them to Ulysses. And here thou mayest
speak against me all kinds of evil, for such words will not trouble me,
but if thou accomplish not this thing thou wilt trouble the whole host
of the Greeks. For know that without this man's bow thou canst not take
the city of Troy; know also that thou only canst approach him without
peril, not being of the number of those who sailed with him at the
first. And if it please thee not to get the bow by stealth, for this
indeed thou must do--and I know thee to be one that loveth not to speak
falsely or to contrive deceit--yet bethink thee that victory is sweet.
Be thou bold to-day, and we will be righteous to-morrow."

Then the Prince made reply, "'Tis not in me, son of Laertes, to work by
craft and guile, neither was it in my father before me. I am ready to
carry off this man with a strong arm; and how, being a cripple, shall he
stand against us? but deceit I will not use. And though I should be
loath to fail thee in this our common enterprise, yet were this better
than to prevail by fraud."

Then said Ulysses, "And I, too, in my youth would do all things by the
hand and not by the tongue; but now I know that the tongue hath alone
the mastery."

And the Prince replied, "But thou biddest me speak the thing that is

"I bid thee prevail over Philoctetes by craft."

"But why may I not persuade him, or even constrain him by force?"

"To persuasion he will not hearken, and force thou mayest not use, for
he hath arrows that deal death without escape."

"But is it not a base thing for a man to lie?"

"Surely not, if a lie save him."

"Tell me what is the gain to me if this man come to Troy."

"Without this bow and these arrows Troy falleth not. For though it is
the pleasure of the Gods that thou take the city, yet canst not thou
take it without these, nor indeed these without thee."

And when the Prince had mused awhile, he said, "If this be so with the
arms, I must needs get them."

Then Ulysses said, "Do this, and thou shalt gain a double honour."

And the Prince said, "What meanest thou by thy 'double honour'? Tell
me, and I refuse no more."

"The praise of wisdom and of courage also."

"Be it so: I will do this deed, nor count it shame."

"'Tis well," said Ulysses, "and now I will despatch this watcher to the
ship, whom I will send again in pilot's disguise if thou desire, and it
seems needful. Also I myself will depart, and may Hermes, the god of
craft, and Athené, who ever is with me, cause us to prevail."

After a while Philoctetes came up the path to the cave very slowly, and
with many groans. And when he saw the strangers (for now some of the
ship's crew were with Prince Neoptolemus) he cried, "Who are ye that are
come to this inhospitable land? Greeks I know you to be by your garb;
but tell me more."

And when the Prince had told his name and lineage, and that he was
sailing from Troy, Philoctetes cried, "Sayest thou from Troy? Yet surely
thou didst not sail with us in the beginning."

"What?" cried the Prince. "Hadst thou then a share in this matter of

And Philoctetes made reply, "Knowest thou not whom thou seest? Hast thou
not heard the story of my sorrows?" And when he heard that the young man
knew nothing of these things: "Surely this is sorrow upon sorrow if no
report of my state hath come to the land of Greece, and I lie here
alone, and my disease groweth upon me, but my enemies laugh and keep
silence!" And then he told his name and fortunes, and how the Greeks had
left him on the shore while he slept, and how it was the tenth year of
his sojourning in the island. "For know," he said, "that it is without
haven or anchorage, and no man cometh hither of his free will; and if
any come unwilling, as indeed it doth sometimes chance, they speak soft
words to me and give me, haply, some meat; but when I make suit to them
that they carry me to my home, they will not. And this wrong the sons of
Atreus and Ulysses have worked against me; for which may the Gods who
dwell in Olympus make them equal recompense."

"And I," said the Prince, "am no lover of these men. For when Achilles
was dead--"

"How sayest thou? Is the son of Peleus dead?"

"Yea; but it was the hand of a God and not of a man that slew him."

"A mighty warrior slain by a mighty foe! But say on."

"Ulysses, and Phoenix who was my sire's foster-father, came in a ship
to fetch me; and when I was come to the camp they even greeted me
kindly, and sware that it was Achilles' self they saw, so like was I to
my sire. And, my mourning ended, I sought the sons of Atreus and asked
of them the arms of my father, but they made answer that they had given
them to Ulysses; and Ulysses, chancing to be there, affirmed that they
had done well, seeing that he had saved them from the enemy. And when I
could prevail nothing, I sailed away in great wrath."

"'Tis even," Philoctetes made reply, "as I should have judged of them.
But I marvel that the Greater Ajax endured to see such doings."

"Ah! but he was already dead."

"This is grievous news. And how fares old Nestor of Pylos?"

"But ill, for his eldest born, Antilochus, is dead."

"I could have spared any rather than these two, Ajax and Antilochus. But
Patroclus, where was he when thy father died?"

"He was already slain. For 'tis ever thus that war taketh the true man
and leaveth the false. But of these things I have had enough and more
than enough. Henceforth my island of Scyros, though it be rocky and
small, shall content me. And now, Prince Philoctetes, I go, for the wind
favours us, and we must take the occasion which the Gods give us."

And when Philoctetes knew that Neoptolemus was about to depart, he
besought him with many prayers that he would take him also on his ship;
for the voyage, he said, would not be of more than a single day. "Put
me," he said, "where thou wilt, in forecastle, or hold, or stern, and
set me on shore even as it may seem best to thee. Only take me from this
place." And the sailors also made entreaty to the Prince that he would
do so; and he, after a while, made as if he consented to their prayers.

But while Philoctetes was yet thanking him and his companions, there
came two men to the cave, of whom one was a sailor in the Prince's ship,
and the other a merchant. And the merchant said that he was sailing from
Troy to his home, and that chancing to come to the island, and knowing
that the Prince was there, he judged it well to tell him his news; 'twas
briefly this, that Phoenix and the sons of Theseus had sailed, having
orders from the sons of Atreus that they should bring the Prince back;
and also that Ulysses and Diomed were gone on another errand, even to
fetch some one of whom the rulers had need. And when the Prince would
know who he might be, the merchant bade him say who it was standing
near, and when he heard that it was Philoctetes, he cried, "Haste thee
to thy ship, son of Achilles, for this is the very man whom the two are
coming to fetch. Haply thou hast not heard what befell at Troy. There is
a certain Helenus, son of King Priam, and a famous soothsayer. Him
Ulysses, the man of craft, took a prisoner, and brought into the
assembly of Greeks; and the man prophesied to them that they should
never take the city of Troy, unless they should bring thither the
Prince Philoctetes from the island whereon he dwelt. And Ulysses said,'
If I bring not the man, whether willing or unwilling, then cut off my

And when Philoctetes heard this his anger was very great, and he became
yet more eager to depart. But first he must go into the cave and fetch
such things as he needed, herbs with which he was wont to soothe the
pains of his wounds, and all the furniture of his bow. And when he spake
of the bow, the Prince asked whether it was indeed the famous bow of
Hercules that he carried in his hand, and would fain, he said, touch it,
if only it were lawful so to do. And Philoctetes answered, "Yes, thou
shalt touch it and handle it, which, indeed, no other man hath ever
done, for thou hast done a good deed to me, and it was for a good deed
that I myself also received it."

But when they would have gone towards the ship, the pangs of his wound
came upon Philoctetes. And then at first he cried, saying, that it was
well with him; but at the last, he could endure no more, and cried to
the Prince that he should draw his sword and smite off the foot, nor
heed if he should slay him; only he would be rid of the pain. And then
he bade him take the bow and keep it for him while he slept, for that
sleep came ever upon him after these great pains. Only he must keep it
well, especially if those two, Ulysses and Diomed, should chance to come
in the meanwhile. And when the Prince had promised this, Philoctetes
gave him the bow, saying, "Take it, my son, and pray to the jealous Gods
that it bring not sorrow to thee as it hath brought sorrow to me, and to
him that was its master before me."

And after a while the sick man slept. And the Prince, with the sailors
that were his companions, watched by him the while.

But when the sailors would have had the Prince depart, seeing that he
had now the great bow and the arrows, for whose sake he had come, he
would not, for they would be of no avail, he said, without the archer
himself. And in no long space of time the sick man woke. Right glad was
he to see that the strangers had not departed, for, indeed, he had
scarce hoped that this might be. Therefore commending the young man
much for his courage and loving kindness, he would have him help him
straightway to the ship, that his pain having now ceased awhile, they
might be ready to depart without delay. So they went, but the Prince was
sorely troubled in his mind and cried, "Now what shall I do?" and "now
am I at my wits' end so that even words fail me." At which words,
indeed, Philoctetes was grieved, thinking that it repented the Prince of
his purpose, so that he said, "Doth the trouble of my disease then
hinder thee from taking me in thy ship?"

Then said the Prince, "All is trouble when a man leaveth his nature to
do things that are not fitting."

And Philoctetes made answer, "Nay, is not this a fitting thing, seeing
of what sire thou art the son, to help a brave man in his trouble?"

"Can I endure to be so base," said the Prince, "hiding that which I
should declare, and speaking the thing that is false?" And while
Philoctetes still doubted whether he repented not of his purpose, he
cried aloud, "I will hide the thing no longer. Thou shalt sail with me
to Troy."

"What sayest thou?"

"I say that thou shalt be delivered from these pains, and shalt prevail
together with me over the great city of Troy."

"What treachery is this? What hast thou done to me? Give me back the

"Nay, that I cannot do, for I am under authority, and must needs obey."

And when Philoctetes heard these words, he cried with a very piteous
voice, "What a marvel of wickedness thou art that hast done this thing.
Art thou not ashamed to work such wrong to a suppliant? Give me my bow,
for it is my life. But I speak in vain, for he goeth away and heedeth me
not. Hear me then, ye waters and cliffs, and ye beasts of the field, who
have been long time my wonted company, for I have none else to hearken
to me. Hear what the son of Achilles hath done to me. For he sware that
he would carry me to my home, and lo! he taketh me to Troy. And he gave
me the right hand of fellowship, and now he robbeth me of the bow, the
sacred bow of Hercules. Nay--for I will make trial of him once
more--give back this thing to me and be thy true self. What sayest
thou? Nothing? Then am I undone. O cavern of the rock wherein I have
dwelt, behold how desolate I am! Nevermore shall I slay with my arrows
bird of the air or beast of the field; but that which I hunted shall
pursue me, and that on which I fed shall devour me."

And the Prince was cut to the heart when he heard these words, hating
the thing which he had done, and cursing the day on which he had come
from Scyros to the plains of Troy. Then turning himself to the sailors,
he asked what he should do, and was even about to give back the bow,
when Ulysses, who was close at hand, watching what should be done, ran
forth crying that he should hold his hand.

Then said Philoctetes, "Is this Ulysses that I see? Then am I undone."

"'Tis even so: and as for what thou askest of this youth, that he should
give back the bow, he shall not do it; but rather thou shalt sail with
us to Troy; and if thou art not willing, these that stand by shall take
thee by force."

"Lord of fire, that rulest this land of Lemnos, hearest thou this?"

"Nay, 'tis Zeus that is master here, and Zeus hath commanded this deed."

"What lies are these? Thou makest the Gods false as thyself."

"Not so. They are true and I also. But this journey thou must take."

"Methinks I am a slave, and not freeborn, that thou talkest thus."

"Thou art peer to the bravest, and with them shalt take the great city
of Troy."

"Never; I had sooner cast myself down from this cliff."

Then Ulysses cried to the men that they should lay hold on him; and this
they straightway did. Then Philoctetes in many words reproached him with
all the wrongs that he had done; how at the first he had caused him to
be left on this island, and now had stolen his arms, not with his own
hands, indeed, but with craft and deceit, serving himself of a simple
youth, who knew not but to do as he was bidden. And he prayed to the
Gods that they would avenge him on all that had done him wrong, and
chiefly on this man Ulysses.

Then Ulysses made reply, "I can be all things as occasion serveth; such
as thou sayest, if need be; and yet no man more pious if the time call
for goodness and justice. One thing only I must needs do, and that is to
prevail. Yet here I will yield to thee. Thou wilt not go; so be it.
Loose him! We need thee not, having these arms of thine. Teucer is with
us, an archer not one whit less skilful than thou. And now I leave thee
to this Lemnos of thine. May be this bow shall bring me the honour which
thou refusest."

When he had thus spoken he departed, and the Prince Neoptolemus with
him. Only the Prince gave permission to the sailors that they should
tarry with the sick man till it was time to make ready for the voyage.

Then Philoctetes bewailed himself, crying to his bow, "O my bow, my
beloved, that they have wrested from my hands, surely, if thou knowest
aught, thou grievest to see that the man who was the comrade of Hercules
will never hold thee more, but that base hands will grasp thee, mixing
thee with all manner of deceit." And then again he called to the birds
of the air and the beasts of the field, that they should not fly from
him any more, seeing that he had now no help against them, but should
come and avenge themselves upon him and devour him. And still the
sailors would have comforted him. Also they sought to persuade him that
he should listen to the chiefs; but he would not, crying that the
lightning should smite him before he would go to Troy and help them that
had done him such wrong. And at the last he cried that they should give
him a spear or a sword, that he might be rid of his life.

But while they thus talked together, the Prince came back like one that
is in haste, with Ulysses following him, who cried, "Wherefore turnest
thou back?"

"To undo what I did amiss."

"How sayest thou? When didst thou thus?"

"When I listened to thee, and used deceit to a brave man."

"What wilt thou then? (I fear me much what this fool may do.)"

"I will give back this bow and these arrows to him from whom I took them
by craft."

"That shalt thou not do."

"But who shall hinder me?"

"That will I, and all the sons of the Greeks with me."

"This is idle talk for a wise man as thou art."

"Seest thou this sword whereto I lay my hand?"

"If thou talkest of swords, thou shalt see right soon that I also have a

"Well--I let thee alone. To the host will I tell this matter; they shall
judge thee."

"Now thou speakest well; be ever as wise; so shalt thou keep thy foot
out of trouble."

Then the Prince called to Philoctetes, who, being loosed by the sailors,
had hidden himself in the cave, and asked of him again whether he were
willing to sail with him, or were resolved to abide in the island.

And when the man had denied that he would go, and had begun again to
call down a curse on the sons of Atreus, and on Ulysses, and on the
Prince himself, then the Prince bade him stay his speech, and gave him
back the bow and the arrows.

And when Ulysses, seeing this deed, was very wroth, and threatened
vengeance, Philoctetes put an arrow to the string, and drew the bow to
the full, and would have shot at the man, but the Prince stayed his

And then again the Prince was urgent with him that he should cease from
his anger, and should sail with him to Troy, saying that there he should
be healed by the great physician, the son of Asclepius, and should also
win great glory by taking the city, and that right soon; for that the
soothsayer Helenus had declared that it was the will of the Gods that
the city of Troy should be taken that same summer.

But for all this he prevailed nothing; for Philoctetes was obstinate
that he would not go to Troy, nor do any pleasure to the chiefs who had
done him such wrong. But he would that the Prince should fulfil the
promise which he had made, that he would carry him in his ship to his
own country. And this the Prince said that he would do.

And now the two were about to depart to the ship, when lo! there
appeared in the air above their heads the great Hercules. Very wonderful
was he to behold, with bright raiment, and a great glory shining from
his face, even as the everlasting Gods beheld him with whom he dwelt in
the place of Olympus. And Hercules spake, saying--

"Go not yet, son of Poeas, before thou hearest what I shall say to
thee. For 'tis Hercules whom thou seest and hearest; and I am come from
my dwelling in heaven to declare to thee the will of Zeus. Know then
that even as I attained to this blessedness after much toil, so shall it
be with thee. For thou shalt go to the land of Troy; and first thou
shalt be healed of thy grievous sickness, and afterwards thou shalt slay
Paris with thine arrows, and shalt take the city of Troy, whereof thou
shalt carry the spoils to thy home, even to Poeas thy father, having
received from thy fellows the foremost prize for valour. But remember
that all that thou winnest in this warfare thou must take as an offering
to my tomb. And to thee, son of Achilles, I say; thou canst not take the
city of Troy without this man, nor he without thee. Whereof, as two
lions that consort together, guard ye each other. And I will send
Asclepius to heal him of his sickness; for it is the will of the Gods
that Troy should yet again be taken by my bow. And remember this, when
ye lay waste the land, to have the Gods and that which belongeth to them
in reverence."

Then said Philoctetes, "O my master, whom I have long desired to hear
and see, I will do as thou sayest."

And the Prince also gave his consent.

Then Philoctetes bade farewell to the island in these words--

  "Home that hast watched with me, farewell!
  And nymphs that haunt the springs or dwell
  In seaward meadows, and the roar
  Of waves that break upon the shore;
  Where often, through the cavern's mouth,
  The drifting of the rainy South
  Hath coldly drenched me as I lay;
  And Hermes' hill, whence many a day,
  When anguish seized me, to my cry
  Hoarse-sounding echo made reply.
  O fountains of the land, and thou,
  Pool of the Wolf, I leave you now;
  Beyond all hope I leave thy strand,
  O Lemnos, sea-encircled land!
  Grant me with favouring winds to go
  Whither the mighty Fates command,
  And this dear company of friends,
  And mastering Powers who shape our ends
  To issues fairer than we know."


On the roof of King Agamemnon's palace in Argos a watchman sat watching.
So had he sat night after night, through a whole year, nor was there one
of the stars of heaven which he had not seen to rise and set. And as he
watched, his eyes were fixed ever on the north, looking for the signal
of fire which should bring good tidings to the Queen and to all Argos.
For now the great city of Troy was tottering to its fall, and the ten
years' toil was coming to an end.

And lo! even as it drew towards morning, there was a light in the sky
that was not the light of the sun, and the man cried aloud, "Now blessed
be this light that I have watched for, seeing that it bringeth good
tidings to this land. I will straightway to the Queen that she send the
news about the city. And may the Gods grant that I join hand to hand
with my master when he cometh back to his home, wherein if there be
aught that is ill-ordered, who am I that I should speak thereof? Let the
walls cry out, if they will, only I will keep silence."

Then he made haste and told the Queen, who sent messengers throughout
Argos, bidding that men should burn thank-offerings of incense on every
altar. Also she would that the old men, who were the chiefs and
counsellors of the city, should be gathered together to the palace, that
they might know the truth of the matter. And while they waited for the
Queen, they talked much of what had been in days gone by, in the
beginning of the ten years' war, when King Agamemnon, with King
Menelaüs, who was his brother, sailed from that very land of Argos,
seeking vengeance for Queen Helen. And one said, "Remember ye not what
we saw when the army set forth from the city? how upon the right hand as
they marched there appeared two eagles, one black altogether and the
other with feathers of white in him, that devoured a hare big with young
ones? and how Calchas, the soothsayer, interpreted the thing, saying,
'The eagles are the two kings; and as these have devoured the hare, so
shall the kings devour the city of Troy together with her children! Only
we must needs pray that there come not wrath upon the army. For Queen
Artemis loveth not these winged dogs of her father Zeus, even the
eagles. And if her anger be kindled against us, we shall not turn it
away save by an evil sacrifice, from which also shall spring great wrath
in the time to come. Therefore may Apollo help us, who is the healer of
all evils,' So spake Calchas, the soothsayer, knowing indeed that Queen
Artemis was wroth with King Agamemnon, for that he had hunted and slain,
even in her own grove, a beautiful hart which she loved."

Then said another of the elders, "Nor indeed did the wrath of the
goddess tarry. For when the army was gathered together in Aulis she
caused that the winds blew ever from the north and hindered the ships
from their voyage, so that the men were pinched with hunger and wasted
with disease. Then said Calchas, the soothsayer, 'This is the thing
whereof I spake: the goddess asketh the sacrifice that thou knowest
of.' But when the kings heard this, they wept, and smote with their
sceptres upon the ground. And King Agamemnon said, 'How shall I do this
thing, and slay my own daughter, even Iphigenia, who is the joy and
beauty of my dwelling? Yet it were base to be false to them that have
trusted me to be their leader in this war. Therefore the Gods shall have
their will.' Thus he hardened his heart to the evil work; nor did the
chiefs have pity on her for all that she was young and fair exceedingly.
So when the priests had ended their prayers, her father bade the
ministers take her as she lay with her robes about her, and lift her up
on the altar, even as men lift a kid which they slay for sacrifice,
putting a bridle upon her lips, that she should not cry aloud. Then she
let fall to the earth her saffron veil, being fair to see as a very
lovely picture, and smote all that stood by with a look exceeding
piteous: yea, and would fain have spoken to them, for often had they
heard her voice when she sang in the guest-hall of her father. But of
the end what need to speak? Who knoweth it not? For indeed the counsels
of Calchas were fulfilled."

While they talked these things one to another the Queen Clytæmnestra
came forth from the palace, and they asked her, "Hast thou heard good
news, O Queen, that thou biddest them burn incense on the altars?"

"Good news, indeed," she said, "for the Greeks have taken the great city
of Troy."

And when they doubted if this could be so, and would know when the thing
had happened, and how she had heard it so speedily, she set the matter
forth to them, as the king had ordered it. "For first," she said, "they
made a great fire on Mount Ida, which is over Troy; and from Ida the
light passed to the island of Lemnos, and from Lemnos to the mountain of
Athos. But Athos sent it on southward across the sea, on a path of gold
like the sunshine, even to Makistus in Euboea, and Makistus to
Messapius, and Messapius, kindling a great pile of heath, sent it,
bright as is the moon, across the plain of the Asopus to the cliffs of
Cithæron. And from Cithæron it travelled, brighter than before, by the
lake Gorgopis to the hill of Ægiplanctus, which looketh down upon the
Saronic gulf, and hence to Arachneüs, which is hard by the city. Thus
hath the King sent the tidings to me."

"Tell us more," said the old man, "for we can scarcely believe this

"Of a truth," said the Queen, "this day the Greeks possess the city of
Troy, wherein, I trow, are many things which ill agree. For women are
making lamentation for husbands and brothers slain with the sword, while
the conquerors feast and live softly, being quit of hunger and cold and
watchings. Only let them do honour to the gods of the city, nor lay
hands greedy of gain on that which is holy. So shall they have a safe
return. But if they anger the Gods, haply there shall come upon them the
vengeance of them that are slain."

Then the Queen departed, and the old men spake again among themselves.
"Now are the sinners, the men of Troy, caught in the net of destruction!
Long since did Zeus bend the bow and make it ready against the
transgressor, and now hath the arrow sped to the mark! Evil was the day
when Paris shamed the table of his host, stealing the wife of his
bosom! Evil the hour when she went, as one that goeth lightly and
carelessly, through the gates of Troy, and brought with her the dowry of
destruction and death. Sorrow she left behind her in her home; the
desolate couch and the empty hall, for here, the grace of the shapely
statues mocked her husband's grief with the stony stare of their
loveless eyes, and there, but the empty joy remained that dwells in the
dreams of the night. Aye! and a sorrow she left that was greater than
this. For the heroes went forth from the land of Greece, valiant and
wise and true; and lo! all that Ares, the changer, but not of money,
sendeth back is a handful of ashes shut in an urn of brass! Therefore
there is wrath in the city against the sons of Atreus, the leaders of
the host; nor does the vengeance of the Gods forget the shedder of

But while they talked thus among themselves, some yet doubting whether
the thing were true, cried one of them, "Now shall we know the certainty
of this matter, for here cometh a herald with leaves of olive on his
head, and he hath dust on his garments and mire on his feet, as one who
cometh from a journey."

Then the herald, whose name was Talthybius, came to the place where they
had assembled, and when he had saluted Zeus and Apollo, whom, having
been an enemy at Troy, he would fain have as friend, and Hermes, who was
the god of his heralds' craft he said, "Know ye all that King Agamemnon
hath come, having, by the help of Zeus, executed judgment to the full
against Troy and her children, for the evil which they wrought against
the Gods and against this land."

Then he told the elders what things they had suffered, first on sea,
being crowded together on shipboard; and then on land, having their
lodging near to the walls of their enemies, and under the open canopy of
heaven, being drenched with rains and dews, and frozen with snows from
Mount Ida, and burnt with the sun in the windless days of summer. "But
now," he said, "these things are past and gone. And we will nail the
spoils of Troy in the temples of the Gods, to be a memorial for them
that shall come after. But let the people rejoice, and praise their
King and his captains."


Then came forth Queen Clytæmnestra, and said, "Mark ye who doubted, how
that all things are even as I said. And now, herald, go tell thy lord
that I wait to receive him with all honour; wherefore let him come with
what speed he may; so shall he find a faithful guardian in his house who
hath kept true watch and ward over all that he left behind, for this is
the boast I make, both true and well beseeming a noble dame."

Then said the chief of the elders, "Listen to her, herald, for her words
are fair. But tell me now, hath Menelaüs had safe return?"

"Would," said he, "I had some better thing to tell! But what profiteth
it to deceive? Truly, the man, together with his ship, is vanished out
of our sight."

"Sailed he then before you?" said the elder, "or was he parted from you
in a storm?"

"Twas even so," answered the herald.

"And did men judge of him as living or dead?"

"That, indeed, no man knoweth, but only the sun who seeth all things.
But hearken, I will declare the whole matter. There went out wrath from
heaven against us. For after we had set sail, the waves rose high in the
night, and the fierce winds from the north dashed our ships one against
another, so that when the morning came, lo! the sea was covered with
bodies of men and wrecks. But the ship of the King suffered not, for the
hand of a god, I trow, and not of a man, held the helm. But be of good
cheer. For doubtless they too think of us as of those that have
perished, even as we of them. And as for Menelaüs, be assured that he
will yet return, for the will of Zeus is not that this house should

Then said one of the old men, "Rightly they named her Helen, for like
_hell_ hath she devoured men and ships, aye, and this great city of
Troy. I have heard tell how a man reared a lion's cub in his house. Very
pleasant was he at the first, for the children played with him, and he
made sport for the old; but when he grew he showed the temper of his
race, and filled the house with blood. Even so came Helen, smiling and
fair, to Troy, and now behold the end! But here cometh King Agamemnon.
Let us greet him in fitting fashion."

And as he spake the King came near to the doors of the palace, sitting
in a chariot drawn by mules; and by him sat Cassandra, who was daughter
to King Priam, having been given to him by the princes when they divided
the spoil of Troy. And when the King had saluted the Gods, giving them
thanks that they had helped him to take vengeance on the men of Troy,
and had also set forth his purpose to order all things in a regular
assembly if anything had been done amiss in his absence, there came
forth the Queen to greet him, saying, "I am not ashamed, men of Argos,
to confess that with great gladness of heart I receive my husband. For
truly it is an evil lot for a woman when she sitteth alone in her house,
hearing continually rumours and tidings of misfortune. Verily, had my
lord here been wounded as oft as fame related this thing of him, these
same wounds had been more in number than the meshes of a net; and had he
died as often as men reported him dead, three bodies such as the story
telleth Geryon to have had, had not sufficed him. Hence it is, O King,
that our son Orestes is not here, for I sent him to Strophius the
Phocian, who is, as thou knowest, an ancient friend of our house,
fearing, if aught should befall thee at Troy, lest some tumult of the
people should work harm also unto him. Scant truly and light have been
my slumbers, and with many tears have I watched for thee. And now thou
art come, what shall I say? Truly this man is to me as the strong pillar
of a roof, as an only child to a father, as land seen beyond all hope by
sailors, after much toil at sea, as a clear shining after storm, as a
fountain springing forth to one that journeyeth in a thirsty land. And
now, my lord, I would that thou step from thy car, not setting thy foot
upon the earth, seeing that it hath trampled upon the great city of
Troy. Why linger ye, ye maids? Strew the pathway with carpeting of

And King Agamemnon made answer, "Truly, daughter of Leda, thy speech
hath been even as my absence, exceeding long. But why dost thou pamper
me with luxury, or make my goings hateful to the Gods, strewing this
purple under my feet? It is not well, me thinks, that a man should
trample on such wealth."


"Nay," said the Queen, "be content. Thinkest thou that Priam would not
have walked on purple if perchance he had been the conqueror?"

And after they had talked awhile, she prevailed, only the King bade them
loose the sandals from under his feet, thinking it shame to waste the
substance of his house. Also he gave commandment that they should deal
very kindly with the strange woman that had ridden with him in his
chariot, for that the Gods have a favour unto them that use their
victory with mercy. And when he had said these things he went into the
palace, the Queen leading the way.

Then one of the elders said, "There is a nameless fear in my heart; and
when I should rejoice for the return of the King and the host, a voice
of boding riseth to my lips. If a man be wealthy above measure, let him
fling over-board a part, and so escape shipwreck of his house. But blood
that hath been spilt upon the earth, what charmer can bring back? Did
not Zeus slay the man who raised the dead? For a while 'twere best to be

Then the Queen came forth from the palace, and bade Cassandra descend
from the car and enter the gates. For why, she said, should she struggle
against fate which made her to be a slave? Happy indeed was the lot
which had brought her to a house of ancient wealth. 'Twas the newly rich
that used harshness to their slaves. But her persuasion availed nothing
with the maiden, for she sat and made no answer; and though the old men
joined their counsel to the same end, she moved not nor spake. But when
the Queen was departed again into the palace, she began to cry aloud,
like unto one that was possessed, that there came a smell from the
house, as the smell of a slaughter-house, and that she saw the shapes of
children who had been cruelly murdered; and then, that another crime was
now about to be wrought, a bath made ready, and an entangling robe, and
a double-headed axe lifted to strike. And then she spake of herself,
that the doom was upon her, and that the King had brought her to die
with him, and that she should fall even as the city of her father had
fallen. But after awhile her fury abated, and she began to speak
plainly. And first she told the elders how it came to pass that she had
this gift of prophecy, that she could see what had been, as indeed she
had spoken of ancient wickedness that had been done in the house, and
also could tell beforehand what should come hereafter. For that Apollo
had loved her, and had given her this art; but, because she had deceived
him, he had added thereto this curse, that no one should believe her
even speaking truth. And then she told them that the old crimes of the
house should end in yet another crime; that there was one in the house,
a woman to look at, but in truth a very Scylla, a monster of the sea.
And at the last she declared plainly that they should see the King
Agamemnon lying dead. But the curse was upon her, and they believed her
not And then crying out that she saw a lioness that had taken a wolf to
be her paramour, she cast away the tokens of prophecy that she carried,
the staff from her hand, and the necklace from about her neck. And when
she had done this she went to the palace gates, knowing that she went to
her death. But first she said that there should come an avenger who
should execute vengeance for his father that had been slain and also
for her. And when she was arrived at the door of the palace, at the
first she started back, for the smell of blood smote her in the face;
but then she took heart again and passed on. Only first she turned and
said, "O Sun, whose light I see now for the last time, grant that the
hand that taketh vengeance for the King may take it also for the
slave-woman whom they slay--a conquest, in good sooth, right easy to be

But while the old men doubted what these things might mean, saying that
no man could trust in prosperous fortune, if the King, who had won such
a victory over the city of Troy, should himself perish, there came a
dreadful voice from within, crying out, "Woe is me! I am smitten with a
mortal blow!" And while they doubted, it came again, crying, "Woe again!
I am smitten with a second blow!" Then they debated what were best to
do; and one would have them call to the citizens for help, and another
that they should rush into the palace; and some doubted whether aught
might now avail. And lo! the great doors of the palace were thrown back
and there appeared a dreadful sight--two dead bodies, covered each with
a veil, and the Queen, with an axe in her hand, standing beside them,
who said--

"I spake before words fitting the time, and now I am not ashamed to
speak that which is contrary to them. For this is in truth an old
purpose that I have executed. Yea, from the day that he shed the
innocent blood, even the blood of Iphigenia, my daughter, it hath been
in my heart to slay him. I threw a net about him, whence there was no
escape, entangling his limbs in a royal robe. Twice I smote him; twice
he groaned, stretching out his limbs in death; aye, and a third blow I
added--my offering of thanks to the Ruler of the dead. Right glad was I
when the blood spirted on me; glad as the seed when the increase-giving
rain cometh down from the sky."

Then the old men, the counsellors of the city, cried shame upon her that
she had done so foul a deed, saying that the people should curse her and
cast her out. But she was not one whit fearful or ashamed, saying that
he whom she had slain was a man of blood, and unfaithful, and that he
had suffered a just punishment together with his paramour. And when they
made lamentation over the King that he had been treacherously slain, she
said, "Think not that I am this dead man's wife, as indeed I seem to be;
rather am I the avenger that executeth judgment for the ancient evils of
this house."

And when they cried, "O my King, who shall do thee due honour at thy
burial, and speak thy praise, and weep for thee?" she made reply,
"Trouble not yourselves with these things. As I slew him so will I bury
him. And though many tears follow him not from his house, yet doubtless
when he cometh to the dwellings of the dead, Iphigenia, his daughter,
whom he loved, will meet him, and throw her arms about him, and kiss
him, so dear a father he was to her."


And while they talked thus with each other, there came forward the
Prince Ægisthus, with his guard about him, boasting that now the wrongs
of his father Thyestes were avenged. Then again the strife of words grew
fierce, for the counsellors reproached the Prince that he was
treacherous, having bound himself with a false woman against his lord
the King; and cowardly also and base, in that he had not dared to do
this deed himself, but had left it to the hands of another; also they
prophesied that Orestes should come and execute the just judgment of the
Gods on them that had slain his father. And the Prince endured not to
hear such words, but threatened bonds and imprisonment. So had strife
nearly begun, for Ægisthus called to his guards, and the counsellors
would fain have roused the citizens, but the Queen, for indeed she would
that the shedding of blood should have an end, spake and soothed the
anger of the Prince, saying, "Heed not what these babblers say. Thou and
I are rulers in this place, aye, and will order all things aright."

So the two lived together for a while in great pride and joy. But the
blood cried against them from the ground, and the Gods forgat them not.


When King Agamemnon was slain by his wicked wife Clytæmnestra, the boy
Orestes his son had perished also by the hands of his mother, but that
his sister Electra took him and delivered him out of the hands of them
that would have slain him. And having saved him, she sent him to the
house of Strophius the Phocian, who was a friend to the house of the
King, her father. And here Orestes abode till he was of age and strength
to fulfil the law. For the law of the land was that, if a man should be
foully slain, his son should avenge him on him that had done this wrong.
Also the youth sought counsel of Apollo at his oracle of Delphi, and the
god answered him that he should avenge the blood of his father even upon
her that bare him. Therefore, being now grown to manhood, he came to
the city of Argos, having disguised himself that no man might know him.
And he had with him Pylades that was the son of Strophius. Now these two
loved each other exceedingly, so that men spake of them in after time as
famous among friends. Also there came with Orestes an old man, a slave
that had waited on him from a boy. Now the three had devised a story
wherewith they might deceive the Queen and her husband; and being thus
prepared they came into the city at dawn.

[Illustration: ELECTRA AND ORESTES.]

Then the old man spake, saying, "Son of Agamemnon, thou seest the city
which thou hast long desired to see. There is the grove of Io, whom the
gad-fly drave over the earth, and there on the left hand the temple of
Heré, which all men know, and before us the palace of the children of
Pelops, a house of many woes, from which I carried thee forth in time
past, when thy mother would have slain thee. But now we must take
counsel and that speedily, for the sun is risen and hath wakened the
birds, and we must be ready before that men come forth to their work."

Then Orestes made reply, "'Tis well said, old man. Hearken then to what
I purpose. And first know that when I would hear from Apollo at his
oracle in Delphi how I should best avenge my father, he bade me trust
neither in shield nor spear, but accomplish the deed by craft. Do thou
then go when occasion shall offer into the palace, and spy out the
things that are therein. For they will not know thee who thou art, so
changed art thou. And thou shalt tell them such a tale about me as shall
surely deceive them. And we meanwhile will do honor to the spirit of my
father at his grave, offering hair that has been shorn from my head and
drink offerings, and afterwards will return and accomplish what shall
remain to be done."

And when he had so spoken, he prayed, "O my country and ye gods of the
land, help me, and thou house of my father which I have come at the
bidding of the Gods to cleanse from the guilt of blood."

Then the old man said, "I hear the voice of some one that groans." And
Orestes made answer, "Doubtless it is my sister Electra. Shall we stay
and listen to her?" "Not so," said the old man, "let us do our business
without delay." So they departed.

And then came forth Electra, making great lamentation for her father,
and praying that the Gods would speedily send her brother Orestes to
avenge him. And with her was a company of the daughters of Argos, who
sought to comfort her, saying that it was idle to make such weeping and
moaning for the dead; and that others also were in like case with her;
and that she should have patience, for that time would bring punishment
on the evildoers. Also they would have her curb her tongue, seeing how
she angered those that had the rule in her house.

And then Electra unfolded her grief to them saying, "I pray you,
daughters of Argos, that ye think no evil of me as of one that
altogether wanteth wisdom and patience. For what woman of the better
sort would not do even as I? For think how I am constrained to live with
them that slew my father; and that every day I see this base Ægisthus
sitting upon that which was his throne, and wearing the selfsame robes;
and how he is husband to this mother of mine, if indeed she be a mother
who can stoop to such vileness. And know that every month on the day on
which she slew my father she maketh festival and offereth sacrifice to
the Gods. And all this am I constrained to see, weeping in secret, for
indeed it is not permitted to me publicly to show such sorrow as my
heart desireth. Ofttimes indeed this woman mocketh me, and would know
why I sorrow more than others, seeing that others also have lost their
fathers. But sometimes, if it so chance that she hear from some one that
Orestes prepareth to come back to this land, she is furious above
measure, and rageth as a wild beast; and her husband, this coward that
maketh war against women, stirreth up her fury against me. And still do
I look for Orestes when he shall come; but he tarrieth long, and in the
meantime I perish with sorrow and trouble."

Then the daughters of Argos, when they had made inquiry and heard that
Ægisthus was absent and that they could speak more freely of these
matters, would fain know whether she had heard news of her brother
Orestes, and bade her be of good heart concerning him. But as they spake
together, the sister of Electra, Chrysothemis, came forth with
offerings for the tomb of her father in her hand, and other maidens
followed her. Now these two were different one from the other, for
Electra was full of courage, and would have no peace with those whom she
hated, and sought not to hide what was in her heart, but Chrysothemis
was fearful, and would live peaceably with them that she loved not, and
would speak them fair. And now, when Electra saw her sister come forth,
she brake out against her with many angry words, saying that she did ill
to choose the part of a mother who had done such wickedness, and to
forget her father; and that it was a base thing in her to live softly
and at ease, consorting with the evildoers.

And when the Argive maidens would have made peace between them,
Chrysothemis answered, "These words are not strange to me; nor should I
take note of them, but that I have heard of a great trouble that is
ready to fall upon my sister here, and stay her complaints even for

"Nay, what is this?" said Electra. "Speakest thou of trouble greater
than that which I now endure?"

"Surely," the other made reply, "for they will send thee far hence, and
shut thee up where thou shalt never more see the light of the sun, if
thou stayest not these complaints."

But Electra did not fear one whit to hear these things, but waxed
fiercer in her anger. And, after a while, as the strife ceased not
between them, Chrysothemis would have gone on her way. And when Electra
perceived this, she asked her for what purpose and whither she was
carrying these offerings to the dead.

And Chrysothemis made reply that she was carrying them at the bidding of
her mother to the tomb of King Agamemnon. For that the Queen was in much
fear, having seen a vision in the night which had sorely troubled her;
and that the vision was this. The King her husband, whom she slew,
seemed to bear her company, even as he had done in time past. And he
took the sceptre which he had been wont to carry, and which Ægisthus
carried after him, and planted it in the earth; and there sprang from it
a very flourishing branch, by which the whole land of Mycenæ was
overshadowed. "So much," she said, "I heard her say, when she told her
dream to the light of the day; but more I know not, save that she
sendeth me to make these offerings, by reason of her fear."

Then Electra answered, "Nay, my sister; lay not aught of these things
upon our father's tomb, for they would be an abomination to him; but
scatter them to the winds, or cover them with earth. So let them be kept
for her, when she shall die. And surely, but that she is the most
shameless of women, she had not sought to pay this honour to him whom
she slew so foully. Thinketh she to atone in such sort for the blood
that she hath shed? Not so. Put these things away; but thou and I will
lay upon this tomb hair from thy head and from mine; small gifts, in
truth, yet what we have. And do thou pray to our father that he will
help us even where he dwelleth below the earth, and also that Orestes
may come speedily, and set his foot upon the necks of them that hate

This Chrysothemis promised that she would do, and so departed. And in a
short space came forth the Queen Clytæmnestra, and, finding her
daughter Electra without the gate of the palace, was very wroth, saying
that King Ægisthus had forbidden her to do this thing, and that it was
not well that, he being absent, she should take no account of her

"But now," she said, "let us reason together. Thou speakest ill of me,
because I slew thy father. 'Tis even so. I deny it not. But mark,
Justice slew him, not I only; and thou shouldest be on the side of
Justice. He slew thy sister, sacrificing her to the Gods, as no other
Greek had done. For what cause did he slay her? 'For the sake of the
Greeks,' thou wilt say. But what had the Greeks to do with child of
mine? Or was it for the sake of King Menelaüs his brother? But had not
Menelaüs two children, and should not one of these have the rather died,
seeing of what father and mother they came, even of those for whose sake
the Greeks waged this war? Had Death, thinkest thou, desire for my
children rather than for his? Or had this accursed father no care for my
children, but only for the children of his brother? Surely this was the
deed of a foolish and wicked man. Aye, I say it, whatever thou mayest
think, and so would say she who died, could she take voice and speak."

Then said Electra, "If thou permittest, I would say somewhat for him and
for her."

And the Queen answered, "Say on. Didst thou always speak in such mood,
thou wert not so ill to hear."

Then Electra spake: "Thou sayest, 'I slew thy father,' 'Tis enough.
Worse thou couldst not say, whether 'twere justly done or no. But of
justice thou hadst never a thought. 'Twas the ill persuasion of him with
whom thou now consortest that urged thee to this deed. And as for my
sister, thou knowest well that my father slew a stag in the grove of
Artemis, and boasted himself of the deed, and that the goddess was wroth
with him, and hindered the voyage of the Greeks; and that for this cause
my father slew his daughter, knowing that otherwise the ships could sail
neither to Troy nor homewards. Yea, he slew her, sorely against his
will, for the people's sake, and for nought else. But consider whether
this that thou sayest be not altogether a pretence. Art thou not wife
to him that was thy fellow in this deed? Callest thou this taking
vengeance for thy daughter that was slain? And thy children--art thou a
mother to them? What ill do not I suffer at thy hand and the hand of thy
partner? And Orestes, whom I barely saved from thy hand, liveth he not
in exile? Surely, whatsoever it be that thou chargest against him, thou
hast no cause to be ashamed of me."

Then the two spake many bitter words to each other; and at the last,
when Electra held her peace, the Queen prayed to the Gods, and made her
offerings to the tomb. And first she addressed herself to Phoebus: "O
Phoebus, hear that which is in my heart; for to say the thing aloud I
dare not, seeing that I am not among friends. But of the dreams that I
saw this night past, grant that the good be accomplished and the evil be
turned away to my enemies; and that I be not cast down from the wealth
wherein I now live; and that I may wield this sceptre of the son of
Atreus which now I have, and may have the company of my friends, even as
now, and the love of my children, if so be that they love their

And while she thus spake, the old man came in, and would fain know
whether that which he saw was the palace of Atreus. And when he heard
that it was, he asked whether the lady whom he saw was the Queen. And
hearing this also, he spake, "Lady, I have good tidings for thee and
King Ægisthus."

"First tell me who thou art."

"I come from Phanoteus of Phocis: I bring great news."

"Tell me; for the man is a friend, and the tidings, I doubt not, good."

"I will say it in one word--Orestes is dead."

And when Electra heard this, she brake forth into a great cry, saying
that she was undone. But the Queen said, "What? What sayest thou? Heed
not this woman."

And the man said, "I told thee, and tell thee yet again, that Orestes is

[Illustration: THE CHARIOT RACE.]

And again Electra brake forth into a cry; but the Queen bade her hold
her peace, and would have the stranger tell the story. And the man

"He came to Delphi, whither the Greeks greatly resort, purposing to
contend in the games of the Pythian Apollo. And first there was a race
of runners on foot; and for this he came forward, and passing all that
ran with him so won the prize. Nor indeed did I ever see such a man; for
there was not one contest in which he had not the pre-eminence. Very
fair was he to look upon, and his name, he said, was Orestes of Argos,
and he was the son of that Agamemnon who in days past was captain of the
host of the Greeks at Troy. But when the Gods are minded to destroy a
man, who is so strong that he can escape? It fell out then that on the
next day at sunset there was proclaimed a race of chariots, to which
there came one man from Achaia, and from Sparta one, and two from Barca
in Africa. After these came Orestes, being the fifth, with horses of
Thessaly. And the sixth was a man of Ætolia, with bay horses, and the
seventh a man of Magnesia in Thessaly, and the eighth was a man of
Oenea, whose horses were white, and the ninth from Athens, a city
which, they say, was builded of Gods, and a Boeotian was the tenth.
First the heralds shook lots for each in a helmet, and each man had his
place according as his lot came forth. And after this the trumpet
sounded, and the horses leapt forward, while the men shouted to them and
shook the reins, and spared not the goad. Great was the noise, and the
dust rose up like a cloud from the plain. And on the backs of the
charioteers and on the wheels of them that went before came the foam
from the horses that followed, so close did they lie together. And
Orestes, when he came to the pillar where the chariots turned, drave so
that his wheel wellnigh touched it, and slackened the rein for the right
horse, and pressed on that which was on the left. So far no mishap had
befallen the chariots, but all had fared well. But here the steeds of
the man of Oenea, being very hard to hold, brake from their course,
and drave against the side of one of the chariots from Barca. And now
they had ended six courses, and were about to begin the seventh. But
with this beginning of trouble went all things wrong, for one drave
against another till all the plain of Crissa was covered with broken
chariots as the sea with shipwrecks. But the man of Athens was very
skilful in driving, and, when he saw the beginning of confusion, he
drew his horses aside and held back, and so escaped without damage. Now
Orestes was the hindermost of all, trusting to what he should do at the
end; and when he saw that only the man of Athens was left, he shouted to
his horses and made haste to come up with him. Then the two drave
together, having their chariots equal, and first one showed somewhat in
the front and then the other. And for eleven courses of the twelve all
went well with Orestes; but as he was rounding the pillar for the last
time, he loosed the left rein and knew not that he loosed it overmuch,
and smote against the pillar and brake his axle in the midst, and so was
thrown out of his chariot; but the reins were tangled about him and held
him. And all the people cried aloud when they saw the young man dragged
over the plain. But at last they that had driven the other chariots
hardly stayed the horses, and loosed him. Covered with blood was he and
sorely mangled, that none could have known him. And we burnt his body;
and certain Phocians, whom the Prince hath sent for this purpose, bring
that which remaineth of him, being but a few ashes in an urn of brass,
for all he was so tall and strong. This is a sad tale for thee to hear;
but for us who saw it never was anything in this world more grievous."

Then the Queen said, "Shall I say that this hath happened ill or well?
or that it is an evil thing, yet profitable to me? Surely it is grievous
that I find safety in the death of my own kindred."

"What troubleth thee, lady, in these news?" said the false messenger.

"'Tis a dreadful thing to be a mother. Whatever wrong she suffereth she
cannot hurt him whom she bare."

"Then," said he, "it seemeth that I have come in vain."

"Not so," the Queen made answer, "if thou showest proof that Orestes is
dead. For he hath long been a stranger to me, and when he departed hence
he knew me not, being very young; and of late, accusing me of the blood
of his father, he hath made dreadful threats against me, so that I could
not sleep in peace day or night. And now this day I am quit of this fear
that wasted my very life."

Then the Queen and the false messenger went into the palace; and when
they were gone Electra cried, saying, "See here, forsooth, a mother that
weepeth and mourneth for her son! O my Orestes, how utterly hast thou
undone me! For now all the hope I had is gone that thou wouldst come and
avenge my father. Whither can I go, for thou and he are gone? Must I be
as a slave among them that slew my father? This gate at least I will
enter no more. If I weary them, let them slay me, if they will; I should
count it a grace so to die."

And the maidens of Argos bewailed the dead brother with her. But in the
midst of their lamentations came Chrysothemis in great joy, saying, "O
my sister, I bring thee good tidings that will give thee ease from thy

"What ease, when they are past all remedy?"

"Orestes is here. Know this as surely as thou now seest me before thee."

"Surely thou art mad, and laughest at thy woes and mine."

"Not so. By the hearth of my fathers I swear it. Orestes is here."

"Who told thee this tale that thou believest so strangely?"

"'Tis from proofs that I saw with mine own eyes, and not another's, that
I believe. Listen, therefore. When I came to the tomb of my father, I
saw on the top of the pillar offerings of milk that had been newly
poured, and garlands of all manner of flowers. And marvelling much at
this, I looked to see if any man was at hand; and seeing none, I drew
near; and on the tomb I espied a lock of hair newly cut; and as soon as
I espied it I knew that it was a token of Orestes, dearest of men in all
the world to thee and me. And as I touched it I held my tongue from all
words that might do hurt, and my eyes were filled with tears. And now
think whose should this be but his? Who should do this but thou or I;
and I did not, nor thou, who canst not go so far from this house; and my
mother is not wont to do such things. 'Tis Orestes surely. And now
sorrow hath passed away, and all things will be well."

"Nay," Electra made answer, "I pity thee for thy folly.'

"Do not my tidings please thee?"

"I know not why thou talkest so wildly."

"But may I not believe that which I have seen with mine own eyes?"

"O my sister, he is dead! Look not to him for help any more."

"But stay. From whom didst thou learn this?"

"From one who was at hand when he perished."

"Where is he? This is passing strange. Whose then could be these
offerings on the tomb?"

"Some one hath put them for a remembrance of the dead Orestes."

"Woe is me, and I made haste with the good tidings, as I thought, and
knew not what new trouble worse than the old had fallen upon us."

Then said Electra, "Hear now what I purpose. Thou knowest that we are
utterly bereaved of friends, for Death hath devoured them all. Now,
while Orestes yet lived and was prosperous, I hoped that he would come
to avenge our father's death. But now that he is dead, I look to thee,
that thou shouldest make common cause with me and work this vengeance on
them that slew him. Canst thou endure that we should live deprived of
the wealth that was our father's; and also that we should grow old
unmated? For know that a husband thou shalt never have, for indeed
Ægisthus is not unwise that he should suffer children to be born of thee
or me to be a manifest damage to himself. But if thou wilt hearken to
me, first thou wilt do that which is fitting to thy father and brother
that are dead; and next thou wilt win great renown, and be married to a
noble mate, for all men are wont to regard that which is worthy. And
surely in days to come some man, citizen or stranger, that seeth us will
say, 'Look, my friends, at these sisters, for they wrought deliverance
for the house of their father, and spared not their own lives, but slew
their enemies in the day of their prosperity. These must we love and
reverence; these on feast days, and when the city is gathered together,
must we honour by reason of their courage.' Wherefore, my sister, be of
good heart. Be bold for thy father's sake and for thy brother's, for
mine also and for thine, that we may be delivered from these troubles.
For to them of noble breeding to live basely is a shame."

But Chrysothemis made answer, "O my sister, how didst thou find such
daring purpose as this, making ready thyself as for fight, and calling
me to follow? Knowest thou not that thou art a woman and no man, and
that thou art weaker than thine enemies, and that their good luck ever
increaseth and ours groweth less and less? And what will it profit us if
we get great renown, yet die in shameful fashion? And yet to die I think
not such loss, but to wish to die and not attain to it, suffering
torture or bonds. Keep thy anger within bounds. What thou hast said I
will count as unsaid. Only yield to them that are stronger."

And after many words, Electra urging her sister to this deed and the
other excusing herself, the two parted in great anger. And Chrysothemis
went into the palace, but Electra abode where she was. And to her, after
a while, came Orestes, but disguised that no man might know him, and
asked the Argive maidens that stood by, whether the house that he beheld
was the palace of King Ægisthus, and when he heard that it was so, he
bade them tell the King that certain Phocian strangers were come seeking
him. But when Electra heard it, she said, "Comest thou with proof of
this ill news that we have heard?"

And Orestes made answer, "I know not what news thou speakest of, but the
old man, Strophius, the Phocian, bade me bring tidings of Orestes."

"What are thy tidings, though I tremble to hear them?"

"We are come bringing all that remaineth of him in this urn."

And when Electra saw it she cried that they should give the urn into her
hands; and Orestes bade them do so. And she took it and said, "O
Orestes, that wast dearer to me than all men else, how different is this
coming of thine to that which I had hoped! Lovely wert thou when I sent
thee from this house, and now I hold thee in my hands and thou art
naught. Would to the Gods thou hadst died that day when thy father was
slain; for now thou art dead, an exile, and in the land of strangers,
and I paid thee no office of kindness nor took thy ashes from the
funeral fire; but this did strangers for thee, and now thou comest a
handful of ashes in a little urn. Woe is me for the wasted pains of
nurture and the toil wherewith out of a willing heart I tended thee! For
thy mother loved thee not more than I, nor was any one but I thy nurse.
And now all this hath departed. My father is dead, and thou art dead,
and my enemies laugh me to scorn, and thy mother that is no mother is
mad with joy. Let me die with thee, for 'tis the dead alone whom I see
to be quit of pain."

But while she so spake Orestes was much troubled in heart and knew not
what to do. But at the last he said, "Is this the Princess Electra whom
I see?"

And she answered, "Even so, and very ill she fareth."

Then he looked upon her again and said to himself, "What a noble lady is
this, and in what ungodly fashion hath she been afflicted!"

And when Electra would know why he was so troubled, he said, "It paineth
me to see thee excelling all women in sorrow."

"Nay," she said, "thou seest but a small part of my sorrows."

"Hast thou, then, yet worse to bear than these?"

"Yea, for I live with them that are murderers."

"Whom sayest thou they murdered?"

"They murdered my father--and I am constrained to serve them."

"Who constraineth thee?"

"A mother that is no mother."

"And is there none that can help thee?"

"None, for him that was my helper thou bringest in this urn. But why
pitiest thou me as doth no other man? Art thou, perchance, a kinsman?"

"Put down this urn and I will tell thee."

"Nay, stranger, take this not from me, for it holds all that is dearest
to me."

"Speak not such idle words: thy sorrow is without cause."

"Sayest thou 'without cause' when my brother is dead?"

"Thou dost ill to speak thus of thy brother."

"Doth the dead then think so lightly of me?"

"No man thinketh lightly of thee; yet with these ashes thou hast no

"How so, if this is the body of my Orestes?"

"Here is no true body, only one that is feigned."

"Unhappy man! where, then, is his tomb?"

"He hath none--what need hath the living of a tomb?"

"Liveth he, then?"

"Yea, if I am alive."

"Art thou, then, he?"

"Yea; look at this my father's seal, and say whether I speak truly."

And when she saw the seal, she knew that it was her father's, and that
this stranger was indeed Orestes. And she cried aloud for joy, and
embraced him. Then, after the two had talked together for a very brief
space, Orestes said, "Tell me not how ill thy mother hath done, nor how
Ægisthus hath wasted the substance of my house; but rather instruct me
in this: shall I do this thing secretly or openly? Take heed also lest
thy mother see thee bear a joyful face, and so take warning."

And Electra made answer, "As for this present, know that Ægisthus is
absent, and that the Queen is alone. Therefore do as thou deemest best.
And as for me, be sure that I shall not cease from tears; for the old
sorrow is inveterate in me; and also, now that I have seen thee, I weep
for joy."

But while they talked together came the old man in haste, and rebuked
them that they so spent the time; and to Orestes he said that no one
knew him who he was, but that all deemed him dead, and that he must make
haste and do the deed; for that now the Queen was alone, nor was there
any man in the palace.

And Orestes, having prayed to the Gods, and especially to Apollo, who
indeed had bidden him do this work, went into the palace. And at the
first Electra went with him, but afterwards hastened out, to keep watch,
lest perchance King Ægisthus should return. So she and the woman waited
without and listened. And after a while there came a cry, "O my son, my
son, have pity on thy mother." And Electra said, "Aye, but thou hadst no
pity on him, or on the father that begat him." And then again a cry,
"Woe is me! I am smitten." And Electra said, "Smite, if thou canst, a
double blow." And then the voice came a third time, "I am smitten
again." But Electra made reply, "Would that Ægisthus were smitten with
thee!" After this Orestes came forth, with his sword dripping with
blood. And when the women asked him how it fared in the palace, he
answered, "All is well, if only Apollo hath spoken the thing that is

But as he spake King Ægisthus came back, asking, "Where be these
strangers from Phocis that are come, telling how Prince Orestes hath
come by his death in a chariot race?"

And Electra made answer that they were within. Then Ægisthus cried,
"Open the gates, and let all men of Argos and of Mycenæ see the body;
and if perchance any man hath been lifted up with vain hopes, let him
look upon Orestes that he is dead, and so submit himself to me."

Then the gate was opened, and there appeared a dead body, lying covered
with a sheet. And Ægisthus said, "Take the covering from off his face;
for he is my kinsman, and should not miss due mourning from me."

But Orestes answered, "Take it thyself; for this dead body is thine, not

Then said Ægisthus, "Thou speakest well: if the Queen be within the
palace, bid her come."

And Orestes said, "She is near thee; look not elsewhere." And when
Ægisthus lifted the covering, lo! it was the Queen who lay dead. Then he
knew the whole matter, and turned to the stranger saying, "Thou must be

"'Tis even so," cried Orestes. "And now go into the palace."

"But why slayest thou me in darkness, if this deed be just?"

"I slay thee where thou didst slay him that is dead."

So he drave him before him into the palace, and slew him there. Thus the
blood of King Agamemnon was avenged.


The gift of prophecy Earth had at the first, and after her Themis; and
after her Phoebe, who was of the race of the Titans, and Phoebe gave
it to Apollo--who is also called Phoebus--at his birth. Now Apollo had
a great temple and famous upon the hill of Delphi, to which men were
wont to resort from all the earth, seeking counsel and knowledge of the
things that should come to pass hereafter. And it came to pass on a day
that the priestess--for the temple was served by a woman, whom men
called Pythia--when she went into the shrine, after her custom, in the
morning, saw therein a dreadful sight. For by the very seat of the God
there sat a man, a suppliant, whose hands were dripping with blood, and
he bare a bloody sword, and on his head there was a garland of olive
leaves, cunningly twined with snow-white wool. And behind there sat a
strange company of women sleeping, if indeed they could be called women,
that were more hideous than the Gorgons, on which if a man looks he is
turned to stone, or the Harpies, of which they say that they have the
faces of women and the bodies of vultures. Now this man was Orestes, and
the blood that was upon his hands was the blood of his mother
Clytæmnestra, whom he slew, taking vengeance for his father King
Agamemnon, and the women were the Furies, who pursue them that shed the
blood of kindred, and torment them even unto death. But the priestess
when she saw this sight fell down for fear and crawled forth from the
temple. And when she was gone there appeared Apollo himself. Now Apollo
had counselled Orestes that he should slay his mother, and so avenge his
father's blood that had been shed. And now he spake, saying, "Fear not,
I will not betray thee, but will keep to thee to the end. But now thou
must flee from this place; and know that these, the hateful ones, with
whom neither God nor man nor beast consorts, will pursue thee both over
the sea and over the land; but do thou not grow weary or faint, but
haste to the city of Pallas, and sit in the temple of the goddess,
throwing thy arms about the image, and there will I contrive that which
shall loose thee from this guilt."


And when the God had said this, he bade his brother Hermes (for he also
stood near) to guide the man by the way in which he should go.

So Orestes went his way. And straightway, when he was gone, rose up the
spirit of Queen Clytæmnestra, clad in garments of black, and on her neck
was the wound where her son smote her. And the spirit spake to the
Furies, for these were yet fast asleep, saying, "Sleep ye? What profit
is there in them that sleep? Shamefully do ye dishonour me among the
dead; for they whom I slew reproach me, and my cause, though I was slain
by my own son, no one taketh in hand. Do ye not mind with what
sufferings, with what midnight sacrifices upon the hearth in old time I
honoured you, and now, while ye sleep, this wretch hath escaped from the


Then they began to stir and rouse themselves, the spirit still goading
them with angry words till they were now fully awake and ready to
pursue. Then there appeared the God Apollo with his silver bow in his
hand, and cried, "Depart from this place, ye accursed ones. Depart with
all speed, lest an arrow leap forth from this string and smite you so
that ye vomit forth the blood of men that ye have drunk. This is no fit
halting-place for you; in the habitations of cruelty is your best abode,
or in some lion's den, dripping with blood, not, verily, where men come
to hear the oracles of truth. Depart ye, therefore, with all speed."

"Nay," said they; "hear, King Apollo, what we would say. For thou art
verily guilty of this matter."

"How so? So much thou mayest say."

"Thou badest this stranger slay his mother."

"I bade him take vengeance for his father's blood."

"And thou wast ready to answer for this deed?"

"I bade him come for succour to this shrine."

"Yet they who attend him please thee not?"

"No, for it fitteth not that they should approach this place."

"Yet 'tis our appointed task to follow him that slayeth his mother."

"And what if a wife slay her husband?"

"Between wife and husband there is no kindred blood."

"Thou dost dishonour, saying this, to great Heré that is wife to Zeus,
and to all love, than which there is nothing dearer to men."

"Yet will I hunt this man to the death, for the blood of his mother
drives me on."

"And I will help him and save him."

But in the meantime Orestes fled with all speed to the city of Athens,
and came to the temple of Athené, and sat clasping the image of the
goddess, and cried to her that he was come at the bidding of Apollo, and
was ready to abide her judgment. But the Furies followed hard upon him,
having tracked him as a dog tracks a fawn that hath been wounded, by the
blood. And when they were come and had found him in the temple, they
cried that it was of no avail that he sought the help of the Gods, for
that the blood of his mother that had been shed cried against him from
the ground, and that they would drink his blood, and waste him, and
drive him a living man among the dead, that all men might shun to do
such deeds in time to come.

Then said Orestes, "I have learnt in many troubles both how to be silent
and how to speak. And now I speak as a wise man biddeth me. For lo! the
stain of blood that is upon my hand groweth pale, and the defilement is
cleansed away. Therefore, I call to Athené that is Queen of this land,
to help me, wherever she be; for though she be far, yet being a goddess,
she can hear my voice. And helping me, she shall gain me, and my people,
and my land to be friends to her and to her people for ever."

But not the less did the Furies cry out against him that he was accursed
and given over to them as a prey; for that they were appointed of the
Gods to execute vengeance upon evildoers, of whom he was the chief,
seeing that he had slain the mother that bare him.

But while they thus cried out against him, there appeared the Goddess
Athené, very fair to see, with the spear of gold in her hand; and she
spake, saying, "From the banks of Scamander am I come, for I heard the
cry of one that called upon my name. And now I would fain know what
meaneth all this that I see. Who art thou, stranger, that sittest
clasping this image? And who are ye that are so strange of aspect, being
like neither to the Gods nor to the daughters of men?"

Then the Furies made answer, "We will tell thee the matter shortly,
daughter of Zeus. We are the children of Night, and we are called the
Curses, and our office is to drive the murderer from his home."

Then said the goddess, "And whither do ye drive him?"

"We drive him to the land where no joy abideth."

"And why do ye pursue this man?"

"Because he dared to slay his mother."

"Did aught compel him to this deed?"

"What should compel a man to such wickedness?"

"There are two stories to be told, and I have heard but one."

And when they had thus talked together for a while the Furies said that
they would abide by the judgment of the goddess. Whereupon she turned
herself to Orestes, and bade him set forth his case; who he was, and
what deed he had done. To which he made this answer: "I am a man of
Argos, and my sire, King Agamemnon, thou knowest well; for he was ruler
of the host of the Greeks, and by his hands thou madest the great city
of Troy to be no city. Now this man perished in a most unrighteous
fashion, when he was returned to his home, for my mother, having an evil
heart, slew him foully in the bath. And I, coming back to my country,
from which in time past I had fled, slew her that bare me. This I deny
not. Yea, I slew her, taking vengeance for my father. And in this matter
Apollo hath a common share with me, for he said that great woes should
pierce my heart if I recompensed not them that had done this deed. But
do thou judge this matter; for with thy judgment, whatsoever it be, I
will be content."

Then the goddess said, "This is a hard matter to judge; for thou,
Orestes, art come as a suppliant to this house, being innocent of
guilt, and I may not reject thee. And yet these have a suit which may
not lightly be dismissed; for haply, if they fail of that which they
seek, they will send a wasting disease upon this land and consume it.
But seeing that this great matter has fallen to me to deal with, I will
do this. Judges will I choose, binding them with an oath, and they shall
judge in all cases, whensoever one man hath slain another. And this will
I stablish for all time to come. Do you, therefore, call witnesses and
proofs with oaths for confirmation thereof. And I will choose such as
are worthiest among my citizens, righteous men, who will have regard
unto their oath, and they shall judge this matter."

So they went all of them to the hill of Ares, where the cause should be
judged. And twelve men that were worthiest in the city sat on the seat
of judgment, and Athené came forth and said to the herald that stood by,
"Blow the trumpet, that the people keep silence, and that this cause may
be tried justly, as is meet."

Then came forth Apollo. And when the Furies saw him they cried, "What
hast thou to do with this matter, King Apollo?"

And he said, "As a witness am I come, for I commanded this man to do
this deed."

Then Athené commanded that the Furies should speak the first, being the
accusers. So they began saying to Orestes, "Answer what we shall ask
thee. Didst thou slay thy mother?"

"I slew her. This I deny not."

"How didst thou slay her?"

"I drew my sword, and smote her on the neck."

"Who counselled thee to this deed?"

"Apollo counselled me; therefore I fear not; also my father shall help
me from the tomb."

"Shall the dead help thee that didst slay thy mother?"

"Yea, for she also had slain her husband. Say, why did ye not pursue her
while she lived?"

"Because she was not akin to him she slew."

"Not akin? then was I not akin to her. But do thou bear witness, King

Then said Apollo, "I am a prophet and lie not. Never have I spoken about
man or woman or city save as my Father Zeus gave me to speak."

Then said the Furies, "How sayest thou? that Zeus gave this command
that this man should slay his mother?"

"'Twas even so. For think how basely this woman slew her husband, his
father. For she smote him not with an arrow, as might some Amazon, but
when he was come back from the war, full of honour, in the bath she
entangled him, wrapping a robe about him, and so slew him. Wherefore
this man did righteously, taking vengeance for the blood that was shed.
And as for this kinship that ye say is between a man and his mother,
hearken to this. Had Pallas here a mother? Nay, for no womb bare her,
seeing that she came from the head of Zeus her father."


Then said Athené, "It is enough. Judges, judge ye this cause, doing
justice therein. But first hear the statute that I make establishing
this court. On this hill did the Amazons in old time build their
fortress when they waged war with King Theseus and the men of this land;
and hence it is called the hill of Ares, who is the god of war. And here
do I make this as an ordinance for ever, that it may be a bulwark to
this land; that judges may sit herein, keen to avenge the wrong, not
blinding their eyes with gifts, but doing true judgment and justice
between man and man. And now rise, ye judges, from your place, and take
these pebbles in your hand, and vote according to right, not forgetting
your oath."

So the judges rose up from their place and dropped the pebbles into the
urns, Apollo on the one side and the Furies on the other urging them
with many promises and threats. And at the last Athené stood up and
said, "'Tis for me to give the casting vote; and I give it to Orestes.
For I myself was not born of a mother; wherefore I am on the father's
side. And I care not to avenge the death of a woman that slew her
husband, the ruler of her house. Now, if the votes be equal, Orestes is
free. Take the pebbles from the urns, ye to whom this office is given.
And see that ye do it justly and well, that no wrong be done."

So they that were appointed to this took the pebbles forth from the urns
and counted them. And lo! the votes were equal on this side and on that.
And Athené stood forth and said, "The man is free."

Thus was accomplished the loosing of Orestes.


It has been told in the story of King Agamemnon that the Goddess
Artemis, being wroth with him because he had slain a hart which she
loved, suffered not the ships of the Greeks to sail till he had offered
his daughter Iphigenia for a sacrifice. But when the King consented, and
all things had been made ready for slaying the maiden, the goddess would
not that her blood should be shed, but put a fair hind in her place, and
carried away the maiden to the land of the Taurians, where she had a
temple and an altar. Now on this altar the King of the land was wont to
sacrifice any stranger, being Greek by nation, who was driven by stress
of weather to the place, for none went thither willingly. And the name
of the King was Thoas, which signifieth in the Greek tongue, "swift of

Now when the maiden had been there many years she dreamed a dream. And
in the dream she seemed to have departed from the land of the Taurians
and to dwell in the city of Argos, wherein she had been born. And as she
slept in the women's chamber there befell a great earthquake, and cast
to the ground the palace of her fathers, so that there was left one
pillar only which stood upright. And as she looked on this pillar,
yellow hair seemed to grow upon it as the hair of a man, and it spake
with a man's voice. And she did to it as she was wont to do to the
strangers that were sacrificed upon the altar, purifying it with water,
and weeping the while. And the interpretation of the dream she judged to
be that her brother Orestes was dead, for that male children are the
pillars of a house, and that he only was left to the house of her

Now it chanced that at this same time Orestes, with Pylades that was his
friend, came in a ship to the land of the Taurians. And the cause of his
coming was this. After that he had slain his mother, taking vengeance
for the death of King Agamemnon his father, the Furies pursued him. Then
Apollo, who had commanded him to do this deed, bade him go to the land
of Athens that he might be judged. And when he had been judged and
loosed, yet the Furies left him not. Wherefore Apollo commanded that he
should sail for the land of the Taurians and carry there the image of
Artemis and bring it to the land of the Athenians, and that after this
he should have rest. Now when the two were come to the place, they saw
the altar that it was red with the blood of them that had been slain
thereon. And Orestes doubted how they might accomplish the things for
the which he was come, for the walls of the temple were high, and the
gates not easy to be broken through. Therefore he would have fled to the
ship, but Pylades consented not, seeing that they were not wont to go
back from that to which they had set their hand, but counselled that
they should hide themselves during the day in a cave that was hard by
the seashore, not near to the ship, lest search should be made for them,
and that by night they should creep into the temple by a space that
there was between the pillars, and carry off the image, and so depart.


So they hid themselves in a cavern by the sea. But it chanced that
certain herdsmen were feeding their oxen in pastures hard by the shore;
one of these, coming near to the cavern, spied the young men as they sat
therein, and stealing back to his fellows, said, "See ye not them that
sit yonder. Surely they are Gods;" for they were exceeding tall and fair
to look upon. And some began to pray to them, thinking that they might
be the Twin Brethren or of the sons of Nereus. But another laughed and
said, "Not so; these are shipwrecked men who hide themselves, knowing
that it is our custom to sacrifice strangers to our Gods." To him the
others gave consent, and said that they should take the men prisoners
that they might be sacrificed to the Gods.

But while they delayed Orestes ran forth from the cave, for the madness
was come upon him, crying out, "Pylades, seest thou not that dragon from
hell; and that who would kill me with the serpents of her mouth, and
this again that breatheth out fire, holding my mother in her arms to
cast her upon me?" And first he bellowed as a bull and then howled as a
dog, for the Furies, he said, did so. But the herdsmen, when they saw
this, gathered together in great fear and sat down. But when Orestes
drew his sword and leapt, as a lion might leap, into the midst of the
herd, slaying the beasts (for he thought in his madness that he was
contending with the Furies), then the herdsmen, blowing on shells,
called to the people of the land; for they feared the young men, so
strong they seemed and valiant. And when no small number was gathered
together, they began to cast stones and javelins at the two. And now the
madness of Orestes began to abate, and Pylades tended him carefully,
wiping away the foam from his mouth, and holding his garments before him
that he should not be wounded by the stones. But when Orestes came to
himself, and beheld in what straits they were, he groaned aloud and
cried, "We must die, O Pylades, only let us die as befitteth brave men.
Draw thy sword and follow me." And the people of the land dared not to
stand before them; yet while some fled, others would cast stones at
them. For all that no man wounded them. But at the last, coming about
them with a great multitude, they smote the swords out of their hands
with stones, and so bound them and took them to King Thoas. And the King
commanded that they should be taken to the temple, that the priestess
might deal with them according to the custom of the place.

So they brought the young men bound to the temple. Now the name of the
one they knew, for they had heard his companion call to him, but the
name of the other they knew not. And when Iphigenia saw them, she bade
the people loose their bonds, for that being holy to the goddess they
were free. And then--for she took the two for brothers--she asked them,
saying, "Who is your mother, and your father, and your sister, if a
sister you have? She will be bereaved of noble brothers this day. And
whence come ye?"

To her Orestes answered, "What meanest thou, lady, by lamenting in this
fashion over us? I hold it folly in him who must die that he should
bemoan himself. Pity us not; we know what manner of sacrifices ye have
in this land."

"Tell me now, which of ye two is called Pylades?"

"Not I, but this my companion."

"Of what city in the land of Greece are ye? And are ye brothers born of
one mother?"

"Brothers we are, but in friendship, not in blood."

"And what is thy name?"

"That I tell thee not. Thou hast power over my body, but not over my

"Wilt thou not tell me thy country?"

And when he told her that his country was Argos, she asked him many
things, as about Troy, and Helen, and Calchas the prophet, and Ulysses;
and at last she said, "And Achilles, son of Thetis of the sea, is he yet

"He is dead, and his marriage that was made at Aulis is of no effect."

"A false marriage it was, as some know full well."

"Who art thou that inquirest thus about matters in Greece?"


"I am of the land of Greece, and was brought thence yet being a child.
But there was a certain Agamemnon, son of Atreus, what of him?"

"I know not. Lady, leave all talk of him."

"Say not so; but do me a pleasure, and tell me."

"He is dead."

"Woe is me! How died he?"

"What meaneth thy sorrow? Art thou of his kindred?"

"'Tis a pity to think how great he was, and now he hath perished."

"He was slain in a most miserable fashion by a woman. But ask no more."

"Only this one thing. Is his wife yet alive?"

"Nay; for the son whom she bare slew her, taking vengeance for his

"A dreadful deed, but righteous withal."

"Righteous indeed he is, but the Gods love him not."

"And did the King leave any other child behind him?"

"One daughter, Electra by name."

"And is his son yet alive?"

"He is alive, but no man more miserable."

Now when Iphigenia heard that he was alive, and knew that she had been
deceived by the dreams which she had dreamt, she conceived a thought in
her heart, and said to Orestes, "Hearken now, for I have somewhat to say
to thee that shall bring profit both to thee and to me. Wilt thou, if I
save thee from this death, carry tidings of me to Argos to my friends,
and bear a tablet from me to them? For such a tablet I have with me,
which one who was brought captive to this place wrote for me, pitying
me, for he knew that I caused not his death, but the law of the goddess
in this place. Nor have I yet found a man who should carry this thing to
Argos. But thou, I judge, art of noble birth, and knowest the city and
those with whom I would have communication. Take then this tablet, and
thy life as a reward; and let this man be sacrificed to the goddess."

Then Orestes made answer, "Thou hast said well, lady, save in one thing
only. That this man should be sacrificed in my stead pleaseth me not at
all. For I am he that brought this voyage to pass; and this man came
with me that he might help me in my troubles. Wherefore it would be a
grievous wrong that he should suffer in my stead and I escape. Give then
the tablet to him. He shall take it to the city of Argos, and thou shalt
have what thou wilt. But as for me, let them slay me, if they will."

"'Tis well spoken, young man. Thou art come, I know, of a noble stock.
The Gods grant that my brother--for I have a brother, though he be far
hence--may be such as thou. It shall be as thou wilt. This man shall
depart with the tablet, and thou shalt die."

Then Orestes would know the manner of the death by which he must die.
And she told him that she slew not the victims with her own hand, but
that there were ministers in the temple appointed to this office, she
preparing them for sacrifice beforehand. Also she said that his body
would be burned with fire.

And when Orestes had wished that the hand of his sister might pay due
honour to him in his death, she said, "This may not be, for she is far
away from this strange land. But yet, seeing that thou art a man of
Argos, I myself will adorn thy tomb, and pour oil of olives and honey on
thy ashes." Then she departed, that she might fetch the tablet from her
dwelling, bidding the attendants keep the young men fast, but without

But when she was gone, Orestes said to Pylades, "Pylades, what thinkest
thou? Who is this maiden? She had great knowledge of things in Troy and
Argos, and of Calchas the wise soothsayer, and of Achilles and the rest.
And she made lamentation over King Agamemnon. She must be of Argos."

And Pylades answered, "This I cannot say; all men have knowledge of what
befell the King. But hearken to this. It were shame to me to live if
thou diest. I sailed with thee, and will die with thee. For otherwise
men will account lightly of me both in Argos and in Phocis, which is my
own land, thinking that I betrayed thee, or basely slew thee, that I
might have thy kingdom, marrying thy sister, who shall inherit it in thy
stead. Not so: I will die with thee, and my body shall be burnt together
with thine."

But Orestes answered, "I must bear my own troubles. This indeed would be
a shameful thing, that when thou seekest to help me, I should destroy
thee. But as for me, seeing how the Gods deal with me, it is well that I
should die. Thou, indeed, art happy, and thy house is blessed; but my
house is accursed. Go, therefore, and my sister, whom I have given thee
to wife, shall bear thee children, and the house of my father shall not
perish. And I charge thee that when thou art safe returned to the city
of Argos, thou do these things. First, thou shalt build a tomb for me,
and my sister shall make an offering there of her hair and of her tears
also. And tell her that I died, slain by a woman of Argos, that offered
me as an offering to her Gods; and I charge thee that thou leave not my
sister, but be faithful to her. And now farewell, true friend and
companion in my toils; for indeed I die, and Phoebus hath lied unto
me, prophesying falsely."

And Pylades sware to him that he would build him a tomb, and be a true
husband to his sister. After this Iphigenia came forth, holding a tablet
in her hand. And she said, "Here is the tablet of which I spake. But I
fear lest he to whom I shall give it shall haply take no account of it
when he is returned to the land Therefore I would fain bind him with an
oath that he will deliver it to them that should have it in the city of
Argos." And Orestes consented, saying that she also should bind herself
with an oath that she would deliver one of the two from death. So she
sware by Artemis that she would persuade the King, and deliver Pylades
from death. And Pylades sware on his part by Zeus, the father of heaven,
that he would give the tablet to those whom it should concern. And
having sworn it, he said, "But what if a storm overtake me, and the
tablet be lost, and I only be saved?"

"I will tell thee what hath been written in the tablet; and if it
perish, thou shalt tell them again; but if not, then thou shalt give it
as I bid thee."

"And to whom shall I give it?"

"Thou shalt give it to Orestes, son of Agamemnon. And that which is
written therein is this: 'I THAT WAS SACRIFICED IN AULIS, EVEN

[Illustration: OFFERINGS TO THE DEAD.]

But when Orestes heard this, he brake in, "Where is this Iphigenia?
Hath the dead come back among the living?"

"Thou seest her in me. But interrupt me not 'I BID THEE FETCH ME BEFORE
what means I am alive, thou shalt say that Artemis put a hind in my
stead, and that the priest, thinking that he smote me with the knife,
slew the beast, and that the goddess brought me to this land."

Then said Pylades, "My oath is easy to keep. Orestes, take thou this
tablet from thy sister."

Then Orestes embraced his sister, crying--for she turned from him, not
knowing what she should think--"O my sister, turn not from me; for I am
thy brother whom thou didst not think to see."

And when she yet doubted, he told her of certain things by which she
might know him to be Orestes--how that she had woven a tapestry wherein
was set forth the strife between Atreus and Thyestes concerning the
golden lamb; and that she had given a lock of her hair at Aulis to be a
memorial of her; and that there was laid in her chamber at Argos the
ancient spear of Pelops, her father's grandsire, with which he slew
Oenomaüs, and won Hippodamia to be his wife.

And when she heard this, she knew that he was indeed Orestes, whom,
being an infant and the latest born of his mother, she had in time past
held in her arms. But when the two had talked together for a space,
rejoicing over each other, and telling the things that had befallen
them, Pylades said, "Greetings of friends after long parting are well;
but we must needs consider how best we shall escape from this land of
the barbarians."

But Iphigenia answered, "Yet nothing shall hinder me from knowing how
fareth my sister Electra."

"She is married," said Orestes, "to this Pylades, whom thou seest."

"And of what country is he, and who is his father?"

"His father is Strophius the Phocian; and he is a kinsman, for his
mother was the daughter of Atreus, and a friend also such as none other
is to me."

Then Orestes set forth to his sister the cause of his coming to the land
of the Taurians. And he said, "Now help me in this, my sister, that we
may bear away the image of the goddess; for so doing I shall be quit of
my madness, and thou wilt be brought to thy native country, and the
house of thy father shall prosper. But if we do it not, then shall we
perish altogether."

And Iphigenia doubted much how this thing might be done. But at the last
she said, "I have a device whereby I shall compass the matter. I will
say that thou art come hither, having murdered thy mother, and that thou
canst not be offered for a sacrifice till thou art purified with the
water of the sea. Also that thou hast touched the image, and that this
also must be purified in like manner. And the image I myself will bear
to the sea; for, indeed, I only may touch it with my hands. And of this
Pylades also I will say that he is polluted in like manner with thee. So
shall we three win our way to the ship. And that this be ready it will
be thy care to provide."

And when she had so said, she prayed to Artemis: "Great goddess, that
didst bring me safe in days past from Aulis, bring me now also, and
these that are with me, safe to the land of Greece, so that men may
count thy brother Apollo to be a true prophet. Nor shouldst thou be
unwilling to depart from this barbarous land, and to dwell in the fair
city of Athens."

After this came King Thoas, inquiring whether they had offered the
strangers for sacrifice, and had duly burnt their bodies with fire. To
him Iphigenia made answer, "These were unclean sacrifices that thou
broughtest to me, O King."

"How didst thou learn this?"

"The image of the goddess turned upon her place of her own accord, and
covered also her face with her hands."

"What wickedness, then, had these strangers wrought?"

"They slew their mother, and had been banished therefore from the land
of Greece."

"O monstrous! Such deeds we barbarians never do. And now what dost thou

"We must purify these strangers before we offer them for a sacrifice."

"With water from the river, or in the sea?"

"In the sea. The sea cleanseth away all that is evil among men."

"Well, thou hast it here, by the very walls of the temple."

"Aye, but I must seek a place apart from men."

"So be it; go where thou wilt; I would not look on things forbidden."

"The image also must be purified."

"Surely, if the pollution from these murderers of their mother hath
touched it. This is well thought of in thee."

Then she instructed the King that he should bring the strangers out of
the temple, having first bound them and veiled their heads. Also that
certain of his guards should go with her, but that all the people of the
city should be straitly commanded to stay within doors, that so they
might not be defiled; and that he himself should abide in the temple,
and purify it with fire, covering his head with his garments when the
strangers should pass by.

"And be not troubled," she said, "if I seem to be long doing these

"Take what time thou wilt," he said "so that thou do all things in

So certain of the King's guards brought the two young men from out of
the temple, and Iphigenia led them towards the place where the ship of
Orestes lay at anchor. But when they were come near to the shore, she
bade them halt nor come over near, for that she had that to do in which
they must have no part. And she took the chain wherewith the young men
were bound in her hands, and set up a strange song as of one that sought
enchantments. And after that the guard sat where she bade them for a
long time, they began to fear lest the strangers should have slain the
priestess, and so fled. Yet they moved not, fearing to see that which
was forbidden. But at the last with one consent they rose up. And when
they were come to the sea, they saw the ship trimmed to set forth, and
fifty sailors on the benches having oars in their hands ready for
rowing; and the two young men were standing unbound upon the shore near
to the stern. And other sailors were dragging the ship by the cable to
the shore that the young men might embark. Then the guards laid hold of
the rudder, and sought to take it from his place, crying, "Who are ye
that carry away priestesses and the images of our Gods?" Then Orestes
said, "I am Orestes, and I carry away my sister." But the guards laid
hold of Iphigenia; and when the sailors saw this they leapt from the
ship; and neither the one nor the other had swords in their hands, but
they fought with their fists and their feet also. And the sailors being
strong and skilful, the King's men were driven back sorely bruised and
wounded. And when they fled to a bank that was hard by and cast stones
at the ship, the archers standing on the stern shot at them with arrows.
Then--for his sister feared to come further--Orestes leapt into the sea,
and raised her upon his shoulder and so lifted her into the ship, and
the image of the goddess with her. And Pylades cried, "Lay hold of your
oars, ye sailors, and smite the sea, for we have that for the which we
came to this land." So the sailors rowed with all their might; and while
the ship was in the harbour it went well with them, but when it was
come to the open sea a great wave took it, for a violent wind blew
against it, and drave it backwards to the shore.

And one of the guards when he saw this ran to King Thoas and told him,
and the King made haste and sent messengers mounted upon horses, to call
the men of the land that they might do battle with Orestes and his
comrade. But while he was yet sending them there appeared in the air
above his head the Goddess Athené, who spake, saying, "Cease, King
Thoas, from pursuing this man and his companions; for he hath come
hither on this errand by the command of Apollo; and I have persuaded
Poseidon that he make the sea smooth for him to depart."

And King Thoas answered, "It shall be as thou wilt, O goddess; and
though Orestes hath borne away his sister and the image, I dismiss my
anger, for who can fight against the Gods?"

So Orestes departed and came to his own country and dwelt in peace,
being set free from his madness, according to the word of Apollo.


Xerxes, King of Persia, made war against the men of Greece, being
desirous to have them for his servants. For being a man of a haughty
soul, he thought to make the whole world subject to him; and against the
men of Greece he had especial wrath, seeing that in the days of King
Darius his father the Persians had fled before them. Wherefore he
gathered together a great army from all parts of his dominions, every
tribe and nation that there was in the whole land of the East, Indians,
and Arabs, and such as dwelt in the plain country of Asia, having
waggons for their houses, and Egyptians, and men from the upper parts of
Libya. But the chief strength of his army was of the Medes and Persians,
that were his own people. And for sailors he had Phoenicians, dwellers
in Tyre and Sidon, and in the coasts thereof. Also many Greeks with
him, such as inhabited the cities of Asia that are near to the Greek
sea, and the islands which are neighbours to them. But these loved him
not, hating to fight against their brethren, but were constrained to
join with him by fear. And when these were gathered together, being as
the sand that is on the seashore for multitude, he marched into the land
of Greece; and the ships also, being in number a thousand and more,
sailed along as near as might be to the army, that there might be no
escape for the Greeks either by land or sea.

But when the King had been gone now many days, and there came no tidings
of him and the army, the old men, counsellors and princes, to whom had
been committed the care of the realm while he should be absent, were
gathered together before the palace in Susa, the royal city. Not a
little troubled were they in mind, for the whole strength of the land
was gone to the war. "Invincible," they said, "is the host of the
Persians, and the people is valiant; but yet what man that is mortal can
escape from the craft of the Gods, when they lure him to his ruin? Who
is so nimble of foot that he can spring out of the net which they lay
for his feet? Now of old the Persians fought ever upon the land, but now
have they ventured where the waves of the sea grow white with the wind;
and my heart is sore afraid, lest there come evil news that the city of
Susa is emptied of her men. Then should there be heard great wailing of
women; and the fine linen of the daughters of Persia, who even now sit
at home alone, would be rent for grief. But come, let us sit and take
counsel together, for our need is sore, and reckon the chances which of
the two hath prevailed--the Persian bow or the spear of Greece."

But while they thus spake together there came forth to them from within
the palace Queen Atossa, borne in a litter. And the old men did
obeisance to her, bowing their heads to the ground. (Now Queen Atossa
had been wife to Darius, and was the mother of King Xerxes.) And when
they had greeted her, she told them for what cause she had come forth
from the palace, for that she feared greatly lest the wealth which King
Darius had gathered together should be overset. "For I know not," she
said, "which is the worse thing, store of wealth without manhood, or
lack of riches to them that are strong."

Then the old men bade her speak on, for that they would give her with
all willingness such counsel as they could. After this the Queen set
forth the matter to them, saying--

"I have been visited with many dreams and visions of the night since the
day when King Xerxes my son departed hence with his army, purposing to
subdue the men of Greece; but never have I seen vision so clear as that
which I beheld in this night that is last past. I saw two women clothed
with fair garments, the one being clad in Persian apparel, and the other
in that which Grecian women used to wear. Very tall were they, above the
stature of women in these days, and fair, so that no man might blame
their beauty. Sisters also were they of the same race; but the one dwelt
in the land of the Greeks, and the other in the land of Asia. Between
these two there arose a strife; and my son took and soothed them, and
would have yoked them to his chariot. Then she that wore the Persian
garb was quiet and obedient to the bit; but the other fought against
him, and tare with her hands the trappings of the chariot, and brake the
yoke in the midst, so that my son fell upon the ground; and when he was
fallen, lo! his father Darius stood over him, pitying him. This was my
dream; and when I had risen and washed my hands in the running stream, I
went to the altar, that I might offer incense to the Gods that avert
evil from men; and there I saw an eagle fleeing to the altar of
Phoebus, and a kite pursued after him, and flew upon him, and tare his
head with his claws; nor did the eagle aught but yield himself up to his
adversary. Now these are fearful things for me to see and also for you
to hear. But remember that if my son shall prosper, all men will do him
honour; and if he shall fail, yet shall he give account to no man, but
be still ruler of this land."

To this the chief of the old men made answer, "O lady, we would counsel
thee first to ask the Gods that they turn away all evils, and bring to
pass all that is good; and next to make offerings to Earth and to the
dead, and specially to thy husband King Darius, whom thou sawest in
visions of the night, that he may send blessings from below to thy son,
and turn away all trouble into darkness and nothingness."

"This will I do," said the Queen, "so soon as I shall have gone back to
the palace. But first I would hear certain things of you. Tell me, my
friends, in what land is this Athens of which they speak?"

"It is far to the west," the old men made reply, "towards the setting of
the sun."

"And why did my son seek to subdue this city?"

"Because he knew that if he prevailed against it all Greece should be
subject unto him."

"Hath it, then, so many men that draw the sword?"

"Such an army it hath as hath wrought great damage to the Medes."

"And hath it aught else, as wealth sufficient?"

"There is a spring of silver, a treasure hid in their earth."

"Do the men make war with bows?"

[Illustration: ATOSSA'S DREAM.]

"Not so; they have spears for close fighting and shields."

"And who is master of their army?"

"They are not slaves or subjects to any man."

"How, then, can they abide the onset of the Persians?"

"Nay, but so well they abide it that they slew a great army of King

"What thou sayest is ill to hear for the mothers of them that are gone."

And when the Queen had thus spoken, the counsellors espied a man of
Persia running to them with all speed, and knew that he bare tidings
from the hosts, whether good or evil. And when the man was come, he
cried out, "O land of Persia, abode of proud wealth, how are thy riches
destroyed, and the flower of thy strength perished! 'Tis an ill task to
bring such tidings, yet I am constrained to tell all our trouble. O men
of Persia, the whole army of our land hath perished."

Then the old men cried out, bewailing themselves that they had lived to
see this day. And the messenger told them how he had himself seen this
great trouble befall the Persians, and had not heard it from others, and
that it was at Salamis that the army had perished, and the city of
Athens that had been chief among their enemies, the old men breaking in
upon his story as he spake with their lamentations. But after a while
the Queen Atossa stood forward, saying, "For a while I was dumb, for the
trouble that I heard suffered me not to speak. But we must bear what the
Gods send. Tell me, therefore, who is yet alive? and for whom must we
make lamentation?"

"Know, O Queen," said the messenger, "that thy son, King Xerxes, is yet

And the Queen cried, "What thou sayest is as light after darkness to me;
but say on."

And when the messenger had told the names of many chiefs that had
perished, the Queen said, "Come, let us hear the whole matter from the
beginning. How many in number were the ships of the Greeks that they
dared to meet the Persians in battle array?"

Then the man made reply, "In numbers, indeed, they might not compare
with us; for the Greeks had three hundred ships in all, and ten besides
that were chosen for their swiftness; but King Xerxes, as thou knowest,
had a thousand, and of ships excelling in speed two hundred and seven.
Of a truth, we wanted not for strength; but some God hath destroyed our
host, weighing us against our enemies in deceitful balances."

And the Queen made reply, "'Tis even so: the Gods preserve the city of

"Yea," said the man, "Athens is safe, though it be laid waste with fire;
for the city that hath true men hath a sure defence."

"But say," said the Queen, "who began this battle of ships? Did the
Greeks begin, or my son, trusting in the greatness of his host?"

Then the messenger answered, "Some evil demon set on foot all this
trouble. For there came a man from the army of the Athenians to King
Xerxes, saying that when night should come the Greeks would not abide in
their place, but, taking with haste to their ships, would fly as best
they could, and so save their lives. And he straightway, not knowing
that the man lied, and that the Gods were jealous of him, made a
proclamation to all the captains. "So soon as the sun be set upon the
earth and the heavens dark, order your ships in three companies, and
keep the channels this way and that, and compass about the whole island
of Salamis; for if by any means the Greeks escape, know that ye shall
pay your lives for their lives." This commandment did he give in his
pride, not knowing what should come to pass. Whereupon all the people in
due order made provision of meat and fitted their oars to the rowlocks;
and when night was come, every man-at-arms embarked upon the ships. And
the word of the command passed from line to line, and they sailed each
to his appointed place. They then watched the channels all the night,
yet nowhere was there seen any stir among the Greeks as of men that
would fly by stealth. And when the fiery chariot of the Sun was seen in
heaven, the Greeks set up with one accord a great shout, to which the
echo from the rocks of the island made reply; and the Persians were
troubled, knowing that they had been deceived, for the Greeks shouted
not as men that were afraid. And after this there came the voice of a
trumpet exceeding loud, and then, when the word was given, the dash of
many oars that struck the water together, and, clearly heard above all,
the sound of many voices, saying, 'RISE, CHILDREN OF THE GREEKS; SET
ALL THAT YE HOLD DEAR.' And from us there came a great tumult of Persian
speech, and the battle began, ship striking against ship. And a ship of
the Greeks led the way, breaking off all the forepart of a ship of
Phoenicia. For a while, indeed, the Persian fleet bare up; but seeing
that there were many crowded together in narrow space, and that they
could not help one another, they began to smite their prows together,
and to break the oars one of the other. And the ships of the Greeks in a
circle round about them drave against them right skilfully; and many
hulls were overset, till a man could not see the sea, so full was it of
wrecks and of bodies of dead men, with which also all the shores and
rocks were filled. Then did all the fleet of the Persians take to flight
without order, and our enemies with oars and pieces of wreck smote us,
as men smite tunnies or a shoal of other fish; and there went up a
dreadful cry, till the darkness fell and they ceased from pursuing. But
all the evils that befell us I could not tell, no, not in ten days; only
be sure of this, that never before in one day died such a multitude of


Then the Queen said, "'Tis surely a great sea of troubles that hath
broken upon our race."

But the messenger made reply, "Listen yet again, for I have yet more to
tell. There is an island over against Salamis, small, not easy of
approach to ships. Hither the King, thy son, sent the chosen men of his
army, being in the vigour of their age, and noble of birth, and faithful
to himself. For it was in his mind that they should slay such of the
Greeks as should seek to save themselves out of the ships, and should
help any of his own people that might be in need. But he judged ill of
what should come to pass. For when the ships of the Greeks had prevailed
as I have said, certain of their host clad themselves in arms, and
leapt out of the ships on to the island, which they circled about so
that the Persians knew not whither they should turn. And many were
smitten down with stones, and many with arrows, till at the last the men
of Greece, making an onslaught together, slew them with their swords so
that there was not a man left alive. Which thing when the King beheld,
for he sat on a hill nigh unto the shore of the sea, whence he could
regard the whole army, he uttered a great cry, and rent his garments,
and bade his army that was on the land fly with all speed."

And when the Queen heard these things she said, "O my son, ill hast thou
avenged thyself on this city of Athens! But tell me, messenger, what
befell them that escaped from the battle?"

"As for the ships," he said; "O Queen, such as perished not in the bay
fled without order, the wind favouring them. But of the army many indeed
perished of thirst in the land of Boeotia, and the rest departed with
all speed through the land of Phocis and the coasts of Doris till we
came to the region of Thessaly, being in sore straits for food. And here
also many perished of hunger and thirst; but such as were left came
into the land of Macedonia, and thence to the coasts of Thrace, even to
the great river of Strymon. And there the Gods caused that there should
be a frost out of season, so that the river was covered with ice in one
night; which marvel when we beheld we worshipped the Gods, yea, such as
had said before in their hearts that there were no Gods. And when our
prayers were ended we crossed over; and with such as crossed before the
sun was risen high upon the earth, it was well; for as the day grew
towards noon, the ice was melted in the midst of the river, and the
people fell through, one upon the other, and perished miserably, so that
he might be counted happiest that died most speedily. But such as
remained fled across the plains of Thrace with much toil and trouble,
and are now come to our homes, being but a very few out of many."

Then said the Queen, "Truly my dream is fulfilled to the utmost. But now
let us do what we may. For the past no man may change; but for the
future we may take thought. Wherefore I will offer incense to the Gods
and to the dead; and do you take faithful counsel together, and if the
King my son should come before I be returned, comfort him and bring him
to the palace, lest a yet worse thing befall us."

Then the Queen departed; and the old men made lamentation for the dead,
and bewailed themselves for the trouble that had befallen the land of
Persia. But after a while she returned, walking on her feet and in sober
array, for she would put away all pride and pomp, knowing that the Gods
were wroth with the land and its rulers. And she brought with her such
things as men are wont to offer to the dead--milk and honey, and pure
water from a fountain, and pure juice of a wild vine; also the fruit of
the olive, and garlands of flowers; and she bade the old men sing a hymn
to the dead, and call up the spirit of King Darius, while she offered
her offerings to them that bear rule in hell.

So the old men chanted their hymn. To Earth they cried and to Hermes
that they would send up the spirit of King Darius; also to the King
himself they cried, that he would come and give them counsel in their

And after a while the spirit of the King rose up from his sepulchre,
having a royal crown upon his head, and a purple robe about him, and
sandals of saffron upon his feet. And the spirit spake, saying, "What
trouble is this that seemeth to have come upon the land? For my wife
standeth near to my tomb with offerings; and ye have called me with the
cries that raise the dead. Of a truth this is a hard journey to take;
for they that bear rule below are more ready to take than to give back.
Yet am I come, for I have power among them. Yet hasten, for my time is
short. Tell me, what trouble hath come upon the land of Persia?"

But the old men could not answer him for fear. Whereupon he turned him
to the Queen, and said, "My wife that was in time past, cease awhile
from these lamentations and tell me what hath befallen this land."

And when she had told him all, he said, "Truly the Gods have brought
speedy fulfilment to the oracles, which I had hoped might yet be delayed
for many years. But what madness was this in Xerxes my son! Much do I
fear lest our wealth be the prey of the spoiler."

Then the Queen made reply, "O my lord, Xerxes hath been taught by evil
counsellors; for they told him that thou didst win great wealth for thy
country by thy spear, but that he sat idly at home; wherefore he planned
this thing that hath now had so ill an end."

With this the old men, taking heart, would know of the King what counsel
he gave them for the time to come. And he said, "Take heed that ye make
not war again upon these men of Greece." And when they doubted whether
they might not yet prevail, he said, "Listen, for ye know not yet all
that shall be. When the King, my son, departed, he took not with him his
whole army, but left behind him many chosen men of war in the land of
Boeotia by the river Æsopus. And for these there is a grievous fate in
store. For they shall suffer punishment for all that they have done
against Gods and men, seeing that they spared not the temples of the
Gods, but threw down their altars, and brake their images in pieces.
Wherefore they shall perish miserably, for the spear of the Greeks shall
slay them in the land of Platæa. For the Gods will not that a man should
have thoughts that are above the measure of a man. Also full-flowered
insolence groweth to the fruit of destructions, and men reap from it a
harvest of many tears. Do ye then bear Athens and the land of Greece in
mind, and let no man, despising what is his and coveting another man's
goods, so bring great wealth to ruin. For Zeus is ever ready to punish
them that think more highly than they ought to think, and taketh a stern
account. Wherefore do ye instruct the King with counsels that he cease
to sin against the Gods in the pride of his heart. And do thou that art
his mother go to thy house, and take from it such apparel as is seemly,
and go to meet thy son, for the many rents that he hath made for grief
gape in his garments about him. Comfort him also with gentle words; for
I know that 'tis thy voice only that he will hear. And to you old men,
farewell; and live happily while ye may, for there is no profit of
wealth in the grave whither ye go."

And with these words the spirit of King Darius departed.


In the temple of Apollo at Delphi there dwelt a fair youth, whose name
was Ion. Tall he was and comely, like to the son of a King, but of his
birth no man knew anything; for he had been laid, being yet a babe, at
the door of the temple, and the priestess had brought him up for her
son. So he had served the God from a child, being fed from the altar and
from the gifts of the strangers that were wont to resort to the place.
Now it was the lad's custom to rise early in the morning and to sweep
the temple with boughs of bay, and to sprinkle it with water from the
fountain of Castalia. Also he was wont to keep the birds from the
temple--for they would come from the woods of Parnassus hard by, eagles,
and swans, and others--lest they should settle on the pinnacles or
defile the altar with their prey. And for this end he carried arrows
and a bow, slaying the birds if need was, but rather seeking to frighten
them away, for he knew that some carried messages from the Gods to
mortal men, and warned them of things to come, even as did Apollo that
was his master.

Now it befell on a day, when he had done his office in the temple, that
there drew near to the doors a company of women. Maidens they were from
the land of Attica, and they had come with Creüsa, who was Queen of the
country. And first they marvelled at the graved work that was on the
doors and in the porch, for some cunning workmen had wrought thereon
Hercules slaying the great dragon of Lerna, and Iolaüs standing with a
torch to sear that which he cut with his knife. Also Bellerophon was to
be seen on a horse with wings, slaying the Chimæra; and Pallas fighting
against the Sons of Earth, with the thunderbolt of her father Zeus and
the shield of the Gorgon head. And when they had made an end of seeing
these things came the Queen Creüsa herself and had speech with Ion. And
she told him that she was the daughter of Erechtheus, King of Athens,
and that she was married to Xuthus, a Prince from the island of Pelops.
And when Ion would know how it had come to pass that Xuthus, being a
stranger and a foreigner, had received her that was a Princess of the
land in marriage, she said that the Prince had fought for the men of
Athens against the land of Euboea, and had subdued it, and so had won
for himself this reward. Also when the youth would know for what end she
had come to the oracles of Delphi, she said that she had come because
having been long married she was yet childless, and that her husband
also was with her, and that he was even then making inquiry about this
same matter in the cave of Trophonius. For there also was an oracle
giving answers to men about things to come. Then the Queen asked Ion of
his estate, and heard from him that the priestess of Apollo had brought
him up, having found him laid at the door of the temple.

After these things came King Xuthus himself, who, after he had greeted
the Queen, said that Trophonius would not indeed go before the answer of
Apollo, yet promised this, that he should not go to his home childless.
So the two went together into the shrine that they might inquire yet
further of the matter; and Ion abode without, meditating much on the
things which these strangers had said.

But after a while the King came forth in great joy, and when he saw the
youth Ion standing without the shrine, he caught him by the hand, and
would have thrown his arms about him, but the youth drew back, thinking
that the God had smitten him with madness, and even would have drawn his
bow against him. Then the King set forth to him the answer that Apollo
had given him. For the God had said, "Thou art not childless as thou
thinkest, but the father of a fair son. And thy son is he whom first
thou shalt meet going forth from my shrine." "And now," said the King,
"thou art he whom first I meet coming forth, and I claim thee to be my
son." And when Ion would know how this might be, the King said that in
days past, before he had married the Princess Creüsa, being young and
foolish, he had taken to wife a maiden of low degree in this very city
of Delphi, and that if she had borne him a son--for that he knew not,
having left her long since--the child would bear such age as Ion. And
when Ion heard this he was glad, for he had feared lest haply he should
be found to be the son of some slave. Only he said to himself, "O my
dear mother, shall I ever see thee? For now do I long more than ever to
look upon thee; but haply thou art dead and this may never be."

And the maidens of Athens standing by heard the talk between the two,
and said, "It is well for the people that the royal house should
prosper. Yet it had pleased us well that our lady the Queen should have
hope of offspring, and that the house of Erechtheus should not be left
without an heir."

Then said the King to Ion, "My son, it is well both with thee and me,
for I have found that which I most desired and thou also. And as to that
which thou now sayest about thy mother, haply, if only we have patience,
this also shall be as thou wouldst have it. But now I would have thee
leave the temple of Apollo and this thy subsistence of alms, and come
with me to the great city of Athens, where thou shalt have great wealth,
and in due time this sceptre that I hold. But why art thou silent and
castest thine eyes to the ground? Suddenly art thou changed from joy to
sorrow, and the heart of thy father misgiveth him."

Then spoke Ion, saying, "My father, the aspect of many things changeth
according as a man seeth them, whether it be near or afar off. Right
glad was I to find a father in thee; but as to what else thou sayest,
hearken to me. Men say that the Athenians are a people that have dwelt
in the land from the beginning. Wherefore I shall have among them a
double reproach, being both basely born and also a foreigner. And if I
come to high place in the state, they that are beneath me shall hate me,
seeing that men love not those that are above them. Also those that are
of high account among the citizens shall have much jealousy against me,
for such men have ever great enmity against their rivals. Think also of
thy house, how matters shall stand there. For before, thy wife the Queen
shared with thee this reproach of childlessness, but now will she stand
alone and bear her sorrow by herself. How then shall she not hate me
when she seeth me at thy right hand? And so shalt thou either for love
of her go back from what thou hast promised to me, or else, seeking my
profit, shalt trouble thine own house. For thou knowest what deadly
deeds with the sword and with poison women holding themselves to be
wronged have wrought against their husbands. And of a truth, my father,
I hold that thy wife, seeing that she groweth old without hope of
children, is most miserable among women. And then as to kingship, I
count that this is more pleasant to regard from afar than to possess;
for how can he be happy who liveth in daily fear of death? And if thou
sayest that great store of wealth out-weigheth all other things, and
that it is pleasant to be rich, I hold otherwise. I would have neither
poverty nor riches, but to live quietly and without trouble. For listen,
my father, to the good things that I have had in this place--that which
all men count dear, even leisure; and such labour as I did, not
toilsome, and to be free from all ill company, and to be constant in
prayers to the Gods, or in talk with men, ever consorting with new
company among such as came to inquire of the god. Surely, my father,
this life is better than that which thou promisest to me."

"My son," the King made answer, "learn to take the good which the Gods
have provided for thee. First, then, I will bring thee to the feast
which I purpose to hold in this place as though thou wert a stranger.
And afterwards I will take thee to the city of Athens, yet not declaring
at the first thy birth, for I would not vex my wife with my good luck,
seeing that she is yet childless. Only in time I will work with her that
thou shalt bear rule in the land with her good will. And now call such
of thy friends as thou wilt to the feast, for thou must even bid
farewell to this city of Delphi."

And Ion made answer, "Let it be so; only if I find not my mother, my
life is nothing worth."

And to the maidens the King said, "Take heed that ye keep silence on
these matters, or ye shall surely die."

But they were much troubled in heart for their mistress that she should
be childless, while the King her husband had found a son. Also they
doubted much whether they should not tell the Queen the things which
they had heard.

And now there was seen to come near to the shrine an old man who had in
days past been servant to King Erechtheus; and when the Queen saw him,
she reached her hand to him, and helped him to climb the steps of the
temple, for he was very feeble with age. And when he was come to the
top, the Queen turned her to the maidens that stood by and inquired of
them whether they knew aught of the answer which the God had given to
her husband in the matter of his childlessness. But they were loath to
make answer, remembering that the King had bidden them to be silent
under pain of death; but at the last, for the thing pleased them not,
both for pity of their mistress and also for hatred that a stranger
should be King in Athens, they said, "O lady, thou must never hold a
child in thy arms or nurse a babe at thy breast." And when the old man
asked--for the Queen was distraught with grief--whether the King also
shared this trouble, they said, "Not so, old man; to him Apollo giveth a

"How so?" said he; "is this son yet to be born, or doth he live

"He is a youth full grown. For the God said, 'He whom thou shalt first
meet, coming forth from this shrine, is thy son.' And know, lady, that
this youth is he who is wont to serve in this shrine, with whom thou
talkedst at the first. But more than this I know not; only that thy
husband is gone without thy knowledge to hold a great feast, and that
the lad sitteth thereat in much honour."

And when the old man heard these things he waxed wroth and said, "Lady,
there is treachery in this matter. We are betrayed by thy husband, and
of fixed purpose set at naught, that he may drive us out of the house of
thy father, King Erechtheus. And this I say not because I hate thy
husband, but that I love thee more. Hearken, then, to my words. He came
a stranger to the city of Athens, and took thee to wife, and had with
thee the inheritance of thy father's kingdom; and when he found thee
childless, he was not content to bear this reproach with thee, but
wedded secretly some slave woman, and gave the child whom she bare to
him to some citizen of Delphi to rear for him. And the child grew up, as
thou knowest, a minister in the temple of Apollo. And when thy husband
knew that he was come to full age he devised this device that thou and
he should come to this place, and make inquiry of the god, whether there
might be any remedy for thy childlessness. And now thou wilt suffer the
foulest wrong, for he will bring this son of a bondwoman to be lord in
thy house. Wherefore I give thee this counsel. Devise some device, and
be it with the sword or with poison, or with whatever thou wilt, slay
thy husband and his son, or they shall surely slay thee. For if thou
spare them thou wilt surely die. For if there be two enemies under one
roof, it must needs be that the one perish. And now, if thou wilt, I
will do this deed for thee, and slay them at the feast which he
prepareth; for I have had sustenance in the house of thy father to this
day, for which I would fain make this return."

Then the Queen and the old man talked together about the matter. And
when he would have had her slay her husband, she refused, saying that
she could not do the deed, for that she thought of the time when he was
faithful and loving to her. But when he would have her execute vengeance
on the youth, she consented. Only she doubted how this might be done.
Then the old man cried, "Arm thine attendants with the sword and slay

"Aye," said the Queen, "and I would lead them myself; but where shall I
slay him?"

"Slay him," said the old man, "in the tent where he feasteth his

"Nay," answered the Queen, "the deed would be too manifest; the hands
also of slaves are ever feeble."

Then the old man cried in a rage, "I see thou playest the coward. Take
counsel for thyself."

Then said the Queen, "I have a plan in my heart that is both crafty and
sure. Listen now, and I will unfold it to thee. Thou knowest how in time
past the Giants that were the sons of Earth made war against the Gods in
the plain of Phlegra; and that Earth, seeking to help her children,
brought forth the Gorgon; and that Pallas, the daughter of Zeus, slew
the monster. Know then that Pallas gave to Ericthonius, who was the
first King of the land of Attica, being sprung from the earth, two drops
of the blood of the Gorgon, whereof the one hath the power to kill
whomsoever it shall touch, and the other to heal all manner of
diseases. And these she shut in gold to keep them; and Ericthonius gave
them to King Erechtheus my father, and he, when he died, gave them to
me. And I carry them in a bracelet on my wrist. And thou shalt take the
one that worketh death, and with it thou shalt slay this youth."

"'Tis well thought," the old man made answer; "but where shall I do the

"In Athens," said the Queen, "when he shall have come to my house."

But the old man said, "That is not well; for thou wilt have the repute
of the deed, even if thou slay him not. Slay him rather in this place,
where thou shalt be more likely to deceive thy husband, for it must not
be that he know it."

When the Queen heard this she said, "Hear, then, what thou must do. Go
to the place where my husband maketh a sacrifice and a feast following.
And when the guests are even now ready to cease from their feasting and
make libations to the Gods, drop his drop of death into the cup of him
who would lord it over my house. Of a surety if it pass his throat he
shall never come to the city of Athens."

So the old man went on his errand, and as he went he said to himself,
"Old foot of mine, do this thy business as though thou wert young. Thou
hast to help the house of thy master against an enemy. Let them that are
happy talk of piety; he that would work his adversary woe must take no
account of laws."

But meanwhile Xuthus had bidden the youth Ion have a care for the feast,
for that he himself had yet sacrifice to make, at which he might haply
tarry long time. Wherefore Ion set up a great tent on poles, looking
neither wholly to the south nor to the west, but between the two. And
the tent he made foursquare, being of a hundred feet each way, for he
purposed to call the whole people of Delphi to the feast. Then he took
curtains from the treasure-house to cover it within, very marvellous to
behold; for on them was wrought the Heaven with all the gathering of the
stars, and the Sun driving his chariot to the west, and dark-robed
Night, with the stars following her, the Pleiades, and Orion with his
sword, and the Bear turning about the Pole, and the bright circle of the
Moon; and on the other side the Morning chasing the stars. Also there
were tapestries from foreign land, ships fighting with ships, and
strange shapes, half men half beasts, and the hunting of stags and

But in the midst of the tent great bowls were set for wine; and a herald
bade all the men of Delphi to the feast. But when they had had enough of
eating and drinking, the old man, the servant of the Queen, came
forward; and all men laughed to see him how busy he was. For he took the
water that should have been mixed with the wine and used it for the
washing of hands, and burnt the incense, and took upon himself the
ordering of the cups. And after a while he said, "Take away those cups,
and bring greater that we may be merry." So they brought great cups of
gold and silver. And the old man took one that was more beautiful than
the rest, and filled it to the brim and gave it to the youth Ion, as
though he would do him great honour; but he dropped into it the deadly
drop. Only no man saw the thing that he did. But when they were all
about to drink, some one spake an evil word to his neighbour, and Ion
heard it, and having full knowledge of augury, held it to be of ill
omen, and bade them fill another bowl; and that every one should pour
out upon the ground that which was in his cup. And on this there came
down a flight of doves, for such dwelt in the temple of Apollo without
fear, and sipped of the wine that had been poured forth. And all the
rest drank and suffered no harm; but that which had settled where the
youth Ion had poured out from his cup shook and reeled and screamed
aloud, and so died, being sorely rent with the pangs of death. And when
the youth saw this he cried, "Who is it that hath plotted my death? Tell
me, old man, for thou gavest me the cup." And he leapt over the table
and laid hands on him. And at last the old man, being sorely pressed,
unfolded the whole matter. Then Ion gathered all the Princes of Delphi
together, and told them that the strange woman, the daughter of
Erechtheus, had plotted his death by poison. And the sentence of the
Princes was that she should be cast down from the rock on which their
city was built, because she had sought to slay with poison the minister
of the god.

Then one who had seen the whole matter from the beginning to the end,
ran with all speed and told it to the Queen; and she, when she heard it,
and that the officers of the people were coming to lay hands on her,
fled to the altar of Apollo, and sat upon it in the place whereon the
sacrifice was laid; for they that flee to the altar are sacred, and it
is a sin against the god if any man touch them. But in a short space
came Ion with a troop of armed men, breathing out threats and fury
against the Queen. And when he saw her he said, "What a viper is this
that thou hast brought forth, land of Attica! Worse is she than the drop
of Gorgon's blood wherewith she would have slain me. Seize her that she
may be thrown from the rock. 'Tis well for me that I set not foot in her
house in Athens; for then had she caught me in a net, and I had surely
died. But now the altar of Apollo shall not save her."

And he bade the men drag her from the holy place. But even as he spake
came in the Pythia, the priestess. And when Ion had greeted her, asking
her whether she knew how this woman had sought to slay him, she answered
that she knew it, but that he too was fierce above measure, and that he
must not defile with blood the house whereto he went in the city of
Athens. And when he was loath to listen to her, she said, "Seest thou
this that I hold in my hand?" Now what she held was a basket with tufts
of wool about it. "This is that in which I found thee, long ago, a
new-born babe. And Apollo hath laid it upon me not to say aught of this
before, but now to give it into thy hands. Take it, therefore, for the
swaddling clothes wherein thou wast wrapped are within, and find out for
thyself of what race thou art. And now, farewell; for I love thee as a
mother loveth her child."

Then Ion said to himself, "This is a sorrowful thing to see, this basket
in which my mother laid me long since, putting me away from her in
secret, so that I have grown up as one without a name in this temple.
The god hath dealt kindly with me, yet hath my fortune and the fortune
of my mother been but ill. And what if I find that I am the son of some
bondwoman. It was better to know nought than to know this. But I may not
fight against the will of the god; wherefore I will open it and hear my
past whatever it be."

So he opened the basket, and marvelled that it was not wasted with time,
and that there was no decay upon that which was within. But when the
Queen saw the basket, she knew it, and leapt from where she sat upon the
altar, and told him all that was in her heart, that in time past, before
she was wedded to King Xuthus, she had borne a son to Apollo, and had
laid the babe in this basket, and with him swaddling clothes of things
which she had woven with her own hands, and "Thou," she said, "art my
son, whom I see after this long time."

And when the young man doubted whether this was so, the Queen told him
the pattern of the clothes; that there was one which she had woven being
yet a girl, not finished with skill, but like rather to the task of one
that learns, and that there was wrought upon it the head of the Gorgon,
and that it was fringed about with snakes, like to Pallas's shield, the
ægis. Also she said that there were necklaces wrought like to the scales
of a snake, and a wreath of olive besides, as befitted the child of a
daughter of Athens.

Then Ion knew that the Queen was his mother; yet was he sore perplexed,
for the god had given him as a son to King Xuthus, nor did he doubt but
that the god ever speaketh that which is true. Then he said that he
would himself inquire of Apollo. But as he turned to go, lo! a great
brightness in the air, and the shape as of one of the dwellers in
heaven. And when he was afraid, and would have fled with the Queen,
there came a voice, saying, "Flee not, for I am a friend and not an
enemy. I am Pallas, and I come from King Apollo with a message to this
youth and to the Queen. To Ion he saith, 'Thou art my son, whom this
woman bare to me in time past.' And to the Queen, 'Take this thy son
with thee to the city of Athens, and set him on the throne of thy
father, for it is meet that he, being of the race of Erechtheus, should
sit thereon. And know that he shall become a great nation, and that his
children in time to come shall dwell in the islands of the sea, and in
the lands that border thereon, and that they shall be called Ionians
after his name. Know also that thou shalt bear children to Xuthus--Dorus
and Æolus--and that these also shall become fathers of nations.'"

And when the goddess had thus spoken she departed; and the two, Ion and
Queen Creüsa, with King Xuthus also, went to their home in great joy and


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  Barriers Burned Away
  Day of Fate, A
  Driven Back to Eden
  Earth Trembled, The
  Face Illumined, A
  From Jest to Earnest
  He Fell in Love with His Wife
  His Sombre Rivals
  Home Acre, The
  Knight of the XIX. Century, A
  Miss Lou
  Nature's Serial Story
  Near to Nature's Heart
  Opening of a Chestnut Burr
  Original Belle, An
  Success with Small Fruits
  Taken Alive
  What Can She Do?
  Without a Home
  Young Girl's Wooing, A


  Between Two Loves
  Border Shepherdess, A
  Bow of Orange Ribbon, The
  Cluny MacPherson
  Daughter of Fife, A
  Feet of Clay
  Friend Olivia
  Hallam Succession, The
  Household of McNeil
  Jan Vedder's Wife
  King's Highway, The
  Knight of the Nets, A
  Last of the Macallisters, The
  Lone House, The
  Lost Silver of Briffault, The
  Love for an Hour is Love Forever
  Master of His Fate
  Paul and Christina
  Remember the Alamo
  Rose of a Hundred Leaves, A
  Scottish Sketches
  She Loved a Sailor
  Singer from the Sea, A
  Sister to Esau, A
  Squire of Sandal-Side, The


  Benjamin Franklin
  Captain Kidd and the Early American Buccaneers
  Columbus and the Discovery of America
  Daniel Boone and the Early Settlement of Kentucky
  David Crockett and the Early Texas History
  De Soto, the Discoverer of the Mississippi
  George Washington and the Revolutionary War
  Kit Carson, the Pioneer of the Far West
  La Salle: His Discoveries and Adventures
  Miles Standish, Captain of the Pilgrims
  Paul Jones, Naval Hero of the Revolution
  Peter Stuyvesant and the Early Settlement of New York


  Captain Shannon                   Coulson Kernahan
  First in the Field                Geo. Manville Fenn
  Gallant Fight, A                  Marion Harland
  House in Bloomsbury               Mrs. Oliphant
  Impregnable City, The             Max Pemberton
  Irish Idylls                      Jane Barlow
  Kitty Alone                       S. Baring Gould
  Land of the Dollar, The           G.W. Steevens
  Lilith                            George Macdonald
  Marooners' Island                 F.R. Goulding
  Mosby's War Reminiscences         John S. Mosby
  Samantha Among the Colored Folks  Marietta Holley
  Tales of Our Coast                S.R. Crockett and Others
  Two Captains, The                 W. Clark Russell
  What Might Have Been Expected     Frank R. Stockton
  Young Marooners, The              F.R. Goulding

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