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Title: Tales of Troy and Greece
Author: Lang, Andrew, 1844-1912
Language: English
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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 "Tales of Troy and Greece" ***

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[Illustration: THE STEALING OF HELEN.]

[_See_ p. 15.]




Illustrated by H. J. Ford

Dover Publications, Inc.
Mineola, New York

Bibliographical Note

This Dover edition, first published in 2006, is an unabridged
republication of the 1941 printing of the work originally published by
Longmans, Green and Co., London and New York, in 1907. We have slightly
repositioned a few of the illustrations.

Manufactured in the United States of America

Dover Publications, Inc., 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, N.Y. 11501





  I. THE BOYHOOD AND PARENTS OF ULYSSES                               1

  II. HOW PEOPLE LIVED IN THE TIME OF ULYSSES                         5

  III. THE WOOING OF HELEN OF THE FAIR HANDS                          9

  IV. THE STEALING OF HELEN                                          13

  V. TROJAN VICTORIES                                                30

  VI. BATTLE AT THE SHIPS                                            38

  VII. THE SLAYING AND AVENGING OF PATROCLUS                         45

  HECTOR                                                             53

  IX. HOW ULYSSES STOLE THE LUCK OF TROY                             56

  DEATH OF ACHILLES                                                  66

  VALOUR OF EURYPYLUS                                                79

  XII. THE SLAYING OF PARIS                                          87

  OF TREE                                                            92

  XIV. THE END OF TROY AND THE SAVING OF HELEN                       96


  OF ULYSSES                                                        101

  THE SIRENS                                                        110

  OF THE SUN                                                        118

  IV. HOW TELEMACHUS WENT TO SEEK HIS FATHER                        122


  PHAEACIA                                                          133

  BEGGAR MAN                                                        145

  PALACE                                                            153

  IX. THE SLAYING OF THE WOOERS                                     163

  X. THE END                                                        168


  I. THE CHILDREN OF THE CLOUD.                                     172

  II. THE SEARCH FOR THE FLEECE                                     180

  III. THE WINNING OF THE FLEECE                                    191


  I. THE WEDDING OF AETHRA                                          201

  II. THE BOYHOOD OF THESEUS                                        205

  III. ADVENTURES OF THESEUS                                        211

  IV. THESEUS FINDS HIS FATHER                                      226

  V. HERALDS COME FOR TRIBUTE                                       233

  VI. THESEUS IN CRETE                                              239

  VII. THE SLAYING OF THE MINOTAUR                                  247


  I. THE PRISON OF DANAE                                            254

  II. THE VOW OF PERSEUS                                            261

  III. PERSEUS AND ANDROMEDA                                        279

  IV. HOW PERSEUS AVENGED DANAE                                     284


  THE STEALING OF HELEN                                  _Frontispiece_

  MAP OF GREECE                                           _facing p. 1_

  AND GETS HIS WOUND IN HIS THIGH                              "      4

  GREEK HOST TO PRIAM                                          "     28


  PARIS COMES BACK TO OENONE                                   "     90

  INTERCESSION OF ULYSSES                                      "    100

  ULYSSES) TO THE STYES                                        "    112

  THE ADVENTURE WITH SCYLLA                                    "    120

  CALYPSO TAKES PITY ON ULYSSES                                "    130

  HOW ULYSSES MET NAUSICAA                                     "    136


  SHE CANNOT FLOAT AWAY WITH HER SISTERS                       "    174

  FLEECE WAS SLAIN                                             "    198

  THESEUS TRIES TO LIFT THE STONE                              "    208

  HOW THESEUS SLEW THE MINOTAUR                                "    248

  PERSEUS IN THE GARDEN OF THE HESPERIDES                      "    272

  THE RESCUE OF ANDROMEDA                                      "    282


[Illustration: GREECE]





Long ago, in a little island called Ithaca, on the west coast of Greece,
there lived a king named Laertes. His kingdom was small and mountainous.
People used to say that Ithaca 'lay like a shield upon the sea,' which
sounds as if it were a flat country. But in those times shields were
very large, and rose at the middle into two peaks with a hollow between
them, so that Ithaca, seen far off in the sea, with her two chief
mountain peaks, and a cloven valley between them, looked exactly like a
shield. The country was so rough that men kept no horses, for, at that
time, people drove, standing up in little light chariots with two
horses; they never rode, and there was no cavalry in battle: men fought
from chariots. When Ulysses, the son of Laertes, King of Ithaca grew up,
he never fought from a chariot, for he had none, but always on foot.

If there were no horses in Ithaca, there was plenty of cattle. The
father of Ulysses had flocks of sheep, and herds of swine, and wild
goats, deer, and hares lived in the hills and in the plains. The sea was
full of fish of many sorts, which men caught with nets, and with rod and
line and hook.

Thus Ithaca was a good island to live in. The summer was long, and there
was hardly any winter; only a few cold weeks, and then the swallows came
back, and the plains were like a garden, all covered with wild
flowers--violets, lilies, narcissus, and roses. With the blue sky and
the blue sea, the island was beautiful. White temples stood on the
shores; and the Nymphs, a sort of fairies, had their little shrines
built of stone, with wild rose-bushes hanging over them.

Other islands lay within sight, crowned with mountains, stretching away,
one behind the other, into the sunset. Ulysses in the course of his life
saw many rich countries, and great cities of men, but, wherever he was,
his heart was always in the little isle of Ithaca, where he had learned
how to row, and how to sail a boat, and how to shoot with bow and arrow,
and to hunt boars and stags, and manage his hounds.

The mother of Ulysses was called Anticleia: she was the daughter of King
Autolycus, who lived near Parnassus, a mountain on the mainland. This
King Autolycus was the most cunning of men. He was a Master Thief, and
could steal a man's pillow from under his head, but he does not seem to
have been thought worse of for this. The Greeks had a God of Thieves,
named Hermes, whom Autolycus worshipped, and people thought more good of
his cunning tricks than harm of his dishonesty. Perhaps these tricks of
his were only practised for amusement; however that may be, Ulysses
became as artful as his grandfather; he was both the bravest and the
most cunning of men, but Ulysses never stole things, except once, as we
shall hear, from the enemy in time of war. He showed his cunning in
stratagems of war, and in many strange escapes from giants and

Soon after Ulysses was born, his grandfather came to see his mother and
father in Ithaca. He was sitting at supper when the nurse of Ulysses,
whose name was Eurycleia, brought in the baby, and set him on the knees
of Autolycus, saying, 'Find a name for your grandson, for he is a child
of many prayers.'

'I am very angry with many men and women in the world,' said Autolycus,
'so let the child's name be _A Man of Wrath_,' which, in Greek, was
Odysseus. So the child was called Odysseus by his own people, but the
name was changed into Ulysses, and we shall call him Ulysses.

We do not know much about Ulysses when he was a little boy, except that
he used to run about the garden with his father, asking questions, and
begging that he might have fruit trees 'for his very own.' He was a
great pet, for his parents had no other son, so his father gave him
thirteen pear trees, and forty fig trees, and promised him fifty rows of
vines, all covered with grapes, which he could eat when he liked,
without asking leave of the gardener. So he was not tempted to steal
fruit, like his grandfather.

When Autolycus gave Ulysses his name, he said that he must come to stay
with him, when he was a big boy, and he would get splendid presents.
Ulysses was told about this, so, when he was a tall lad, he crossed the
sea and drove in his chariot to the old man's house on Mount Parnassus.
Everybody welcomed him, and next day his uncles and cousins and he went
out to hunt a fierce wild boar, early in the morning. Probably Ulysses
took his own dog, named Argos, the best of hounds, of which we shall
hear again, long afterwards, for the dog lived to be very old. Soon the
hounds came on the scent of a wild boar, and after them the men went,
with spears in their hands, and Ulysses ran foremost, for he was already
the swiftest runner in Greece.

He came on a great boar lying in a tangled thicket of boughs and
bracken, a dark place where the sun never shone, nor could the rain
pierce through. Then the noise of the men's shouts and the barking of
the dogs awakened the boar, and up he sprang, bristling all over his
back, and with fire shining from his eyes. In rushed Ulysses first of
all, with his spear raised to strike, but the boar was too quick for
him, and ran in, and drove his sharp tusk sideways, ripping up the thigh
of Ulysses. But the boar's tusk missed the bone, and Ulysses sent his
sharp spear into the beast's right shoulder, and the spear went clean
through, and the boar fell dead, with a loud cry. The uncles of Ulysses
bound up his wound carefully, and sang a magical song over it, as the
French soldiers wanted to do to Joan of Arc when the arrow pierced her
shoulder at the siege of Orleans. Then the blood ceased to flow, and
soon Ulysses was quite healed of his wound. They thought that he would
be a good warrior, and gave him splendid presents, and when he went home
again he told all that had happened to his father and mother, and his
nurse, Eurycleia. But there was always a long white mark or scar above
his left knee, and about that scar we shall hear again, many years




When Ulysses was a young man he wished to marry a princess of his own
rank. Now there were at that time many kings in Greece, and you must be
told how they lived. Each king had his own little kingdom, with his
chief town, walled with huge walls of enormous stone. Many of these
walls are still standing, though the grass has grown over the ruins of
most of them, and in later years, men believed that those walls must
have been built by giants, the stones are so enormous. Each king had
nobles under him, rich men, and all had their palaces, each with its
courtyard, and its long hall, where the fire burned in the midst, and
the King and Queen sat beside it on high thrones, between the four chief
carved pillars that held up the roof. The thrones were made of cedar
wood and ivory, inlaid with gold, and there were many other chairs and
small tables for guests, and the walls and doors were covered with
bronze plates, and gold and silver, and sheets of blue glass. Sometimes
they were painted with pictures of bull hunts, and a few of these
pictures may still be seen. At night torches were lit, and placed in the
hands of golden figures of boys, but all the smoke of fire and torches
escaped by a hole in the roof, and made the ceiling black. On the walls
hung swords and spears and helmets and shields, which needed to be often
cleaned from the stains of the smoke. The minstrel or poet sat beside
the King and Queen, and, after supper he struck his harp, and sang
stories of old wars. At night the King and Queen slept in their own
place, and the women in their own rooms; the princesses had their
chambers upstairs, and the young princes had each his room built
separate in the courtyard.

There were bath rooms with polished baths, where guests were taken when
they arrived dirty from a journey. The guests lay at night on beds in
the portico, for the climate was warm. There were plenty of servants,
who were usually slaves taken in war, but they were very kindly treated,
and were friendly with their masters. No coined money was used; people
paid for things in cattle, or in weighed pieces of gold. Rich men had
plenty of gold cups, and gold-hilted swords, and bracelets, and
brooches. The kings were the leaders in war and judges in peace, and did
sacrifices to the Gods, killing cattle and swine and sheep, on which
they afterwards dined.

They dressed in a simple way, in a long smock of linen or silk, which
fell almost to the feet, but was tucked up into a belt round the waist,
and worn longer or shorter, as they happened to choose. Where it needed
fastening at the throat, golden brooches were used, beautifully made,
with safety pins. This garment was much like the plaid that the
Highlanders used to wear, with its belt and brooches. Over it the Greeks
wore great cloaks of woollen cloth when the weather was cold, but these
they did not use in battle. They fastened their breastplates, in war,
over their smocks, and had other armour covering the lower parts of the
body, and leg armour called 'greaves'; while the great shield which
guarded the whole body from throat to ankles was carried by a broad belt
slung round the neck. The sword was worn in another belt, crossing the
shield belt. They had light shoes in peace, and higher and heavier boots
in war, or for walking across country.

The women wore the smock, with more brooches and jewels than the men;
and had head coverings, with veils, and mantles over all, and necklaces
of gold and amber, earrings, and bracelets of gold or of bronze. The
colours of their dresses were various, chiefly white and purple; and,
when in mourning, they wore very dark blue, not black. All the armour,
and the sword blades and spearheads were made, not of steel or iron, but
of bronze, a mixture of copper and tin. The shields were made of several
thicknesses of leather, with a plating of bronze above; tools, such as
axes and ploughshares, were either of iron or bronze; and so were the
blades of knives and daggers.

To us the houses and way of living would have seemed very splendid, and
also, in some ways, rather rough. The palace floors, at least in the
house of Ulysses, were littered with bones and feet of the oxen slain
for food, but this happened when Ulysses had been long from home. The
floor of the hall in the house of Ulysses was not boarded with planks,
or paved with stone: it was made of clay; for he was a poor king of
small islands. The cooking was coarse: a pig or sheep was killed,
roasted and eaten immediately. We never hear of boiling meat, and though
people probably ate fish, we do not hear of their doing so, except when
no meat could be procured. Still some people must have liked them; for
in the pictures that were painted or cut in precious stones in these
times we see the half-naked fisherman walking home, carrying large fish.

The people were wonderful workers of gold and bronze. Hundreds of their
golden jewels have been found in their graves, but probably these were
made and buried two or three centuries before the time of Ulysses. The
dagger blades had pictures of fights with lions, and of flowers, inlaid
on them, in gold of various colours, and in silver; nothing so beautiful
is made now. There are figures of men hunting bulls on some of the gold
cups, and these are wonderfully life-like. The vases and pots of
earthenware were painted in charming patterns: in short, it was a
splendid world to live in.

The people believed in many Gods, male and female, under the chief God,
Zeus. The Gods were thought to be taller than men, and immortal, and to
live in much the same way as men did, eating, drinking, and sleeping in
glorious palaces. Though they were supposed to reward good men, and to
punish people who broke their oaths and were unkind to strangers, there
were many stories told in which the Gods were fickle, cruel, selfish,
and set very bad examples to men. How far these stories were believed is
not sure; it is certain that 'all men felt a need of the Gods,' and
thought that they were pleased by good actions and displeased by evil.
Yet, when a man felt that his behaviour had been bad, he often threw the
blame on the Gods, and said that they had misled him, which really meant
no more than that 'he could not help it.'

There was a curious custom by which the princes bought wives from the
fathers of the princesses, giving cattle and gold, and bronze and iron,
but sometimes a prince got a wife as the reward for some very brave
action. A man would not give his daughter to a wooer whom she did not
love, even if he offered the highest price, at least this must have been
the general rule, for husbands and wives were very fond of each other,
and of their children, and husbands always allowed their wives to rule
the house, and give their advice on everything. It was thought a very
wicked thing for a woman to like another man better than her husband,
and there were few such wives, but among them was the most beautiful
woman who ever lived.



This was the way in which people lived when Ulysses was young, and
wished to be married. The worst thing in the way of life was that the
greatest and most beautiful princesses might be taken prisoners, and
carried off as slaves to the towns of the men who had killed their
fathers and husbands. Now at that time one lady was far the fairest in
the world: namely, Helen, daughter of King Tyndarus. Every young prince
heard of her and desired to marry her; so her father invited them all to
his palace, and entertained them, and found out what they would give.
Among the rest Ulysses went, but his father had a little kingdom, a
rough island, with others near it, and Ulysses had not a good chance. He
was not tall; though very strong and active, he was a short man with
broad shoulders, but his face was handsome, and, like all the princes,
he wore long yellow hair, clustering like a hyacinth flower. His manner
was rather hesitating, and he seemed to speak very slowly at first,
though afterwards his words came freely. He was good at everything a man
can do; he could plough, and build houses, and make ships, and he was
the best archer in Greece, except one, and could bend the great bow of a
dead king, Eurytus, which no other man could string. But he had no
horses, and had no great train of followers; and, in short, neither
Helen nor her father thought of choosing Ulysses for her husband out of
so many tall, handsome young princes, glittering with gold ornaments.
Still, Helen was very kind to Ulysses, and there was great friendship
between them, which was fortunate for her in the end.

Tyndarus first made all the princes take an oath that they would stand
by the prince whom he chose, and would fight for him in all his
quarrels. Then he named for her husband Menelaus, King of Lacedaemon. He
was a very brave man, but not one of the strongest; he was not such a
fighter as the gigantic Aias, the tallest and strongest of men; or as
Diomede, the friend of Ulysses; or as his own brother, Agamemnon, the
King of the rich city of Mycenae, who was chief over all other princes,
and general of the whole army in war. The great lions carved in stone
that seemed to guard his city are still standing above the gate through
which Agamemnon used to drive his chariot.

The man who proved to be the best fighter of all, Achilles, was not
among the lovers of Helen, for he was still a boy, and his mother,
Thetis of the silver feet, a goddess of the sea, had sent him to be
brought up as a girl, among the daughters of Lycomedes of Scyros, in an
island far away. Thetis did this because Achilles was her only child,
and there was a prophecy that, if he went to the wars, he would win the
greatest glory, but die very young, and never see his mother again. She
thought that if war broke out he would not be found hiding in girl's
dress, among girls, far away.

So at last, after thinking over the matter for long, Tyndarus gave fair
Helen to Menelaus, the rich King of Lacedaemon; and her twin sister
Clytaemnestra, who was also very beautiful, was given to King Agamemnon,
the chief over all the princes. They all lived very happily together at
first, but not for long.

In the meantime King Tyndarus spoke to his brother Icarius, who had a
daughter named Penelope. She also was very pretty, but not nearly so
beautiful as her cousin, fair Helen, and we know that Penelope was not
very fond of her cousin. Icarius, admiring the strength and wisdom of
Ulysses, gave him his daughter Penelope to be his wife, and Ulysses
loved her very dearly, no man and wife were ever dearer to each other.
They went away together to rocky Ithaca, and perhaps Penelope was not
sorry that a wide sea lay between her home and that of Helen; for Helen
was not only the fairest woman that ever lived in the world, but she was
so kind and gracious and charming that no man could see her without
loving her. When she was only a child, the famous prince Theseus, whose
story is to be told later, carried her away to his own city of Athens,
meaning to marry her when she grew up, and, even at that time, there was
a war for her sake, for her brothers followed Theseus with an army, and
fought him, and brought her home.

She had fairy gifts: for instance, she had a great red jewel, called
'the Star,' and when she wore it red drops seemed to fall from it and
vanished before they touched and stained her white breast--so white that
people called her 'the Daughter of the Swan.' She could speak in the
very voice of any man or woman, so folk also named her Echo, and it was
believed that she could neither grow old nor die, but would at last pass
away to the Elysian plain and the world's end, where life is easiest for
men. No snow comes thither, nor great storm, nor any rain; but always
the river of Ocean that rings round the whole earth sends forth the west
wind to blow cool on the people of King Rhadamanthus of the fair hair.
These were some of the stories that men told of fair Helen, but Ulysses
was never sorry that he had not the fortune to marry her, so fond he was
of her cousin, his wife, Penelope, who was very wise and good.

When Ulysses brought his wife home they lived, as the custom was, in the
palace of his father, King Laertes, but Ulysses, with his own hands,
built a chamber for Penelope and himself. There grew a great olive tree
in the inner court of the palace, and its stem was as large as one of
the tall carved pillars of the hall. Round about this tree Ulysses built
the chamber, and finished it with close-set stones, and roofed it over,
and made close-fastening doors. Then he cut off all the branches of the
olive tree, and smoothed the trunk, and shaped it into the bed-post, and
made the bedstead beautiful with inlaid work of gold and silver and
ivory. There was no such bed in Greece, and no man could move it from
its place, and this bed comes again into the story, at the very end.

Now time went by, and Ulysses and Penelope had one son called
Telemachus; and Eurycleia, who had been his father's nurse, took care of
him. They were all very happy, and lived in peace in rocky Ithaca, and
Ulysses looked after his lands, and flocks, and herds, and went hunting
with his dog Argos, the swiftest of hounds.



This happy time did not last long, and Telemachus was still a baby, when
war arose, so great and mighty and marvellous as had never been known in
the world. Far across the sea that lies on the east of Greece, there
dwelt the rich King Priam. His town was called Troy, or Ilios, and it
stood on a hill near the seashore, where are the straits of Hellespont,
between Europe and Asia; it was a great city surrounded by strong walls,
and its ruins are still standing. The kings could make merchants who
passed through the straits pay toll to them, and they had allies in
Thrace, a part of Europe opposite Troy, and Priam was chief of all
princes on his side of the sea, as Agamemnon was chief king in Greece.
Priam had many beautiful things; he had a vine made of gold, with golden
leaves and clusters, and he had the swiftest horses, and many strong and
brave sons; the strongest and bravest was named Hector, and the youngest
and most beautiful was named Paris.

There was a prophecy that Priam's wife would give birth to a burning
torch, so, when Paris was born, Priam sent a servant to carry the baby
into a wild wood on Mount Ida, and leave him to die or be eaten by
wolves and wild cats. The servant left the child, but a shepherd found
him, and brought him up as his own son. The boy became as beautiful, for
a boy, as Helen was for a girl, and was the best runner, and hunter, and
archer among the country people. He was loved by the beautiful Oenone,
a nymph--that is, a kind of fairy--who dwelt in a cave among the woods
of Ida. The Greeks and Trojans believed in these days that such fair
nymphs haunted all beautiful woodland places, and the mountains, and
wells, and had crystal palaces, like mermaids, beneath the waves of the
sea. These fairies were not mischievous, but gentle and kind. Sometimes
they married mortal men, and Oenone was the bride of Paris, and hoped
to keep him for her own all the days of his life.

It was believed that she had the magical power of healing wounded men,
however sorely they were hurt. Paris and Oenone lived most happily
together in the forest; but one day, when the servants of Priam had
driven off a beautiful bull that was in the herd of Paris, he left the
hills to seek it, and came into the town of Troy. His mother, Hecuba,
saw him, and looking at him closely, perceived that he wore a ring which
she had tied round her baby's neck when he was taken away from her soon
after his birth. Then Hecuba, beholding him so beautiful, and knowing
him to be her son, wept for joy, and they all forgot the prophecy that
he would be a burning torch of fire, and Priam gave him a house like
those of his brothers, the Trojan princes.

The fame of beautiful Helen reached Troy, and Paris quite forgot unhappy
Oenone, and must needs go to see Helen for himself. Perhaps he meant
to try to win her for his wife, before her marriage. But sailing was
little understood in these times, and the water was wide, and men were
often driven for years out of their course, to Egypt, and Africa, and
far away into the unknown seas, where fairies lived in enchanted
islands, and cannibals dwelt in caves of the hills.

Paris came much too late to have a chance of marrying Helen; however, he
was determined to see her, and he made his way to her palace beneath
the mountain Taygetus, beside the clear swift river Eurotas. The
servants came out of the hall when they heard the sound of wheels and
horses' feet, and some of them took the horses to the stables, and
tilted the chariots against the gateway, while others led Paris into the
hall, which shone like the sun with gold and silver. Then Paris and his
companions were led to the baths, where they were bathed, and clad in
new clothes, mantles of white, and robes of purple, and next they were
brought before King Menelaus, and he welcomed them kindly, and meat was
set before them, and wine in cups of gold. While they were talking,
Helen came forth from her fragrant chamber, like a Goddess, her maidens
following her, and carrying for her an ivory distaff with
violet-coloured wool, which she span as she sat, and heard Paris tell
how far he had travelled to see her who was so famous for her beauty
even in countries far away.

Then Paris knew that he had never seen, and never could see, a lady so
lovely and gracious as Helen as she sat and span, while the red drops
fell and vanished from the ruby called the Star; and Helen knew that
among all the princes in the world there was none so beautiful as Paris.
Now some say that Paris, by art magic, put on the appearance of
Menelaus, and asked Helen to come sailing with him, and that she,
thinking he was her husband, followed him, and he carried her across the
wide waters of Troy, away from her lord and her one beautiful little
daughter, the child Hermione. And others say that the Gods carried Helen
herself off to Egypt, and that they made in her likeness a beautiful
ghost, out of flowers and sunset clouds, whom Paris bore to Troy, and
this they did to cause war between Greeks and Trojans. Another story is
that Helen and her bower maiden and her jewels were seized by force,
when Menelaus was out hunting. It is only certain that Paris and Helen
did cross the seas together, and that Menelaus and little Hermione were
left alone in the melancholy palace beside the Eurotas. Penelope, we
know for certain, made no excuses for her beautiful cousin, but hated
her as the cause of her own sorrows and of the deaths of thousands of
men in war, for all the Greek princes were bound by their oath to fight
for Menelaus against any one who injured him and stole his wife away.
But Helen was very unhappy in Troy, and blamed herself as bitterly as
all the other women blamed her, and most of all Oenone, who had been
the love of Paris. The men were much more kind to Helen, and were
determined to fight to the death rather than lose the sight of her
beauty among them.

The news of the dishonour done to Menelaus and to all the princes of
Greece ran through the country like fire through a forest. East and west
and south and north went the news: to kings in their castles on the
hills, and beside the rivers and on cliffs above the sea. The cry came
to ancient Nestor of the white beard at Pylos, Nestor who had reigned
over two generations of men, who had fought against the wild folk of the
hills, and remembered the strong Heracles, and Eurytus of the black bow
that sang before the day of battle.

The cry came to black-bearded Agamemnon, in his strong town called
'golden Mycenae,' because it was so rich; it came to the people in
Thisbe, where the wild doves haunt; and it came to rocky Pytho, where is
the sacred temple of Apollo and the maid who prophesies. It came to
Aias, the tallest and strongest of men, in his little isle of Salamis;
and to Diomede of the loud war-cry, the bravest of warriors, who held
Argos and Tiryns of the black walls of huge stones, that are still
standing. The summons came to the western islands and to Ulysses in
Ithaca, and even far south to the great island of Crete of the hundred
cities, where Idomeneus ruled in Cnossos; Idomeneus, whose ruined palace
may still be seen with the throne of the king, and pictures painted on
the walls, and the King's own draught-board of gold and silver, and
hundreds of tablets of clay, on which are written the lists of royal
treasures. Far north went the news to Pelasgian Argos, and Hellas, where
the people of Peleus dwelt, the Myrmidons; but Peleus was too old to
fight, and his boy, Achilles, dwelt far away, in the island of Scyros,
dressed as a girl, among the daughters of King Lycomedes. To many
another town and to a hundred islands went the bitter news of
approaching war, for all princes knew that their honour and their oaths
compelled them to gather their spearmen, and bowmen, and slingers from
the fields and the fishing, and to make ready their ships, and meet King
Agamemnon in the harbour of Aulis, and cross the wide sea to besiege
Troy town.

Now the story is told that Ulysses was very unwilling to leave his
island and his wife Penelope, and little Telemachus; while Penelope had
no wish that he should pass into danger, and into the sight of Helen of
the fair hands. So it is said that when two of the princes came to
summon Ulysses, he pretended to be mad, and went ploughing the sea sand
with oxen, and sowing the sand with salt. Then the prince Palamedes took
the baby Telemachus from the arms of his nurse, Eurycleia, and laid him
in the line of the furrow, where the ploughshare would strike him and
kill him. But Ulysses turned the plough aside, and they cried that he
was not mad, but sane, and he must keep his oath, and join the fleet at
Aulis, a long voyage for him to sail, round the stormy southern Cape of

Whether this tale be true or not, Ulysses did go, leading twelve black
ships, with high beaks painted red at prow and stern. The ships had
oars, and the warriors manned the oars, to row when there was no wind.
There was a small raised deck at each end of the ships; on these decks
men stood to fight with sword and spear when there was a battle at sea.
Each ship had but one mast, with a broad lugger sail, and for anchors
they had only heavy stones attached to cables. They generally landed at
night, and slept on the shore of one of the many islands, when they
could, for they greatly feared to sail out of sight of land.

The fleet consisted of more than a thousand ships, each with fifty
warriors, so the army was of more than fifty thousand men. Agamemnon had
a hundred ships, Diomede had eighty, Nestor had ninety, the Cretans with
Idomeneus, had eighty, Menelaus had sixty; but Aias and Ulysses, who
lived in small islands, had only twelve ships apiece. Yet Aias was so
brave and strong, and Ulysses so brave and wise, that they were ranked
among the greatest chiefs and advisers of Agamemnon, with Menelaus,
Diomede, Idomeneus, Nestor, Menestheus of Athens, and two or three
others. These chiefs were called the Council, and gave advice to
Agamemnon, who was commander-in-chief. He was a brave fighter, but so
anxious and fearful of losing the lives of his soldiers that Ulysses and
Diomede were often obliged to speak to him very severely. Agamemnon was
also very insolent and greedy, though, when anybody stood up to him, he
was ready to apologise, for fear the injured chief should renounce his
service and take away his soldiers.

Nestor was much respected because he remained brave, though he was too
old to be very useful in battle. He generally tried to make peace when
the princes quarrelled with Agamemnon. He loved to tell long stories
about his great deeds when he was young, and he wished the chiefs to
fight in old-fashioned ways.

For instance, in his time the Greeks had fought in clan regiments, and
the princely men had never dismounted in battle, but had fought in
squadrons of chariots, but now the owners of chariots fought on foot,
each man for himself, while his squire kept the chariot near him to
escape on if he had to retreat. Nestor wished to go back to the good old
way of chariot charges against the crowds of foot soldiers of the enemy.
In short, he was a fine example of the old-fashioned soldier.

Aias, though so very tall, strong, and brave, was rather stupid. He
seldom spoke, but he was always ready to fight, and the last to retreat.
Menelaus was weak of body, but as brave as the best, or more brave, for
he had a keen sense of honour, and would attempt what he had not the
strength to do. Diomede and Ulysses were great friends, and always
fought side by side, when they could, and helped each other in the most
dangerous adventures.

These were the chiefs who led the great Greek armada from the harbour of
Aulis. A long time had passed, after the flight of Helen, before the
large fleet could be collected, and more time went by in the attempt to
cross the sea to Troy. There were tempests that scattered the ships, so
they were driven back to Aulis to refit; and they fought, as they went
out again, with the peoples of unfriendly islands, and besieged their
towns. What they wanted most of all was to have Achilles with them, for
he was the leader of fifty ships and 2,500 men, and he had magical
armour made, men said, for his father, by Hephaestus, the God of
armour-making and smithy work.

At last the fleet came to the Isle of Scyros, where they suspected that
Achilles was concealed. King Lycomedes received the chiefs kindly, and
they saw all his beautiful daughters dancing and playing at ball, but
Achilles was still so young and slim and so beautiful that they did not
know him among the others. There was a prophecy that they could not take
Troy without him, and yet they could not find him out. Then Ulysses had
a plan. He blackened his eyebrows and beard and put on the dress of a
Phoenician merchant. The Phoenicians were a people who lived near the
Jews, and were of the same race, and spoke much the same language, but,
unlike the Jews, who, at that time were farmers in Palestine, tilling
the ground, and keeping flocks and herds, the Phoenicians were the
greatest of traders and sailors, and stealers of slaves. They carried
cargoes of beautiful cloths, and embroideries, and jewels of gold, and
necklaces of amber, and sold these everywhere about the shores of Greece
and the islands.

Ulysses then dressed himself like a Phoenician pedlar, with his pack on
his back: he only took a stick in his hand, his long hair was turned up,
and hidden under a red sailor's cap, and in this figure he came,
stooping beneath his pack, into the courtyard of King Lycomedes. The
girls heard that a pedlar had come, and out they all ran, Achilles with
the rest, to watch the pedlar undo his pack. Each chose what she liked
best: one took a wreath of gold; another a necklace of gold and amber;
another earrings; a fourth a set of brooches, another a dress of
embroidered scarlet cloth; another a veil; another a pair of bracelets;
but at the bottom of the pack lay a great sword of bronze, the hilt
studded with golden nails. Achilles seized the sword. 'This is for me!'
he said, and drew the sword from the gilded sheath, and made it whistle
round his head.

'You are Achilles, Peleus' son!' said Ulysses; 'and you are to be the
chief warrior of the Achaeans,' for the Greeks then called themselves
Achaeans. Achilles was only too glad to hear these words, for he was
quite tired of living among maidens. Ulysses led him into the hall where
the chiefs were sitting at their wine, and Achilles was blushing like
any girl.

'Here is the Queen of the Amazons,' said Ulysses--for the Amazons were a
race of warlike maidens--'or rather here is Achilles, Peleus' son, with
sword in hand.' Then they all took his hand, and welcomed him, and he
was clothed in man's dress, with the sword by his side, and presently
they sent him back with ten ships to his home. There his mother, Thetis,
of the silver feet, the goddess of the sea, wept over him, saying, 'My
child, thou hast the choice of a long and happy and peaceful life here
with me, or of a brief time of war and undying renown. Never shall I see
thee again in Argos if thy choice is for war.' But Achilles chose to die
young, and to be famous as long as the world stands. So his father gave
him fifty ships, with Patroclus, who was older than he, to be his
friend, and with an old man, Phoenix, to advise him; and his mother gave
him the glorious armour that the God had made for his father, and the
heavy ashen spear that none but he could wield, and he sailed to join
the host of the Achaeans, who all praised and thanked Ulysses that had
found for them such a prince. For Achilles was the fiercest fighter of
them all, and the swiftest-footed man, and the most courteous prince,
and the gentlest with women and children, but he was proud and high of
heart, and when he was angered his anger was terrible.

The Trojans would have had no chance against the Greeks if only the men
of the city of Troy had fought to keep Helen of the fair hands. But they
had allies, who spoke different languages, and came to fight for them
both from Europe and from Asia. On the Trojan as well as on the Greek
side were people called Pelasgians, who seem to have lived on both
shores of the sea. There were Thracians, too, who dwelt much further
north than Achilles, in Europe and beside the strait of Hellespont,
where the narrow sea runs like a river. There were warriors of Lycia,
led by Sarpedon and Glaucus; there were Carians, who spoke in a strange
tongue; there were Mysians and men from Alybe, which was called 'the
birthplace of silver,' and many other peoples sent their armies, so that
the war was between Eastern Europe, on one side, and Western Asia Minor
on the other. The people of Egypt took no part in the war: the Greeks
and Islesmen used to come down in their ships and attack the Egyptians
as the Danes used to invade England. You may see the warriors from the
islands, with their horned helmets, in old Egyptian pictures.

The commander-in-chief, as we say now, of the Trojans was Hector, the
son of Priam. He was thought a match for any one of the Greeks, and was
brave and good. His brothers also were leaders, but Paris preferred to
fight from a distance with bow and arrows. He and Pandarus, who dwelt on
the slopes of Mount Ida, were the best archers in the Trojan army. The
princes usually fought with heavy spears, which they threw at each
other, and with swords, leaving archery to the common soldiers who had
no armour of bronze. But Teucer, Meriones, and Ulysses were the best
archers of the Achaeans. People called Dardanians were led by Aeneas,
who was said to be the son of the most beautiful of the goddesses.
These, with Sarpedon and Glaucus, were the most famous of the men who
fought for Troy.

Troy was a strong town on a hill: Mount Ida lay behind it, and in front
was a plain sloping to the sea shore. Through this plain ran two
beautiful clear rivers, and there were scattered here and there what you
would have taken for steep knolls, but they were really mounds piled up
over the ashes of warriors who had died long ago. On these mounds
sentinels used to stand and look across the water to give warning if the
Greek fleet drew near, for the Trojans had heard that it was on its way.
At last the fleet came in view, and the sea was black with ships, the
oarsmen pulling with all their might for the honour of being the first
to land. The race was won by the ship of the prince Protesilaus, who was
first of all to leap on shore, but as he leaped he was struck to the
heart by an arrow from the bow of Paris. This must have seemed a good
omen to the Trojans, and to the Greeks evil, but we do not hear that the
landing was resisted in great force, any more than that of Norman
William was, when he invaded England.

The Greeks drew up all their ships on shore, and the men camped in huts
built in front of the ships. There was thus a long row of huts with the
ships behind them, and in these huts the Greeks lived all through the
ten years that the siege of Troy lasted. In these days they do not seem
to have understood how to conduct a siege. You would have expected the
Greeks to build towers and dig trenches all round Troy, and from the
towers watch the roads, so that provisions might not be brought in from
the country. This is called 'investing' a town, but the Greeks never
invested Troy. Perhaps they had not men enough; at all events the place
remained open, and cattle could always be driven in to feed the warriors
and the women and children.

Moreover, the Greeks for long never seem to have tried to break down one
of the gates, nor to scale the walls, which were very high, with
ladders. On the other hand, the Trojans and allies never ventured to
drive the Greeks into the sea; they commonly remained within the walls
or skirmished just beneath them. The older men insisted on this way of
fighting, in spite of Hector, who always wished to attack and storm the
camp of the Greeks. Neither side had machines for throwing heavy stones,
such as the Romans used later, and the most that the Greeks did was to
follow Achilles and capture small neighbouring cities, and take the
women for slaves, and drive the cattle. They got provisions and wine
from the Phoenicians, who came in ships, and made much profit out of the

It was not till the tenth year that the war began in real earnest, and
scarcely any of the chief leaders had fallen. Fever came upon the
Greeks, and all day the camp was black with smoke, and all night shone
with fire from the great piles of burning wood, on which the Greeks
burned their dead, whose bones they then buried under hillocks of earth.
Many of these hillocks are still standing on the plain of Troy. When the
plague had raged for ten days, Achilles called an assembly of the whole
army, to try to find out why the Gods were angry. They thought that the
beautiful God Apollo (who took the Trojan side) was shooting invisible
arrows at them from his silver bow, though fevers in armies are usually
caused by dirt and drinking bad water. The great heat of the sun, too,
may have helped to cause the disease; but we must tell the story as the
Greeks told it themselves. So Achilles spoke in the assembly, and
proposed to ask some prophet why Apollo was angry. The chief prophet was
Calchas. He rose and said that he would declare the truth if Achilles
would promise to protect him from the anger of any prince whom the truth
might offend.

Achilles knew well whom Calchas meant. Ten days before, a priest of
Apollo had come to the camp and offered ransom for his daughter
Chryseis, a beautiful girl, whom Achilles had taken prisoner, with many
others, when he captured a small town. Chryseis had been given as a
slave to Agamemnon, who always got the best of the plunder because he
was chief king, whether he had taken part in the fighting or not. As a
rule he did not. To Achilles had been given another girl, Briseis, of
whom he was very fond. Now when Achilles had promised to protect
Calchas, the prophet spoke out, and boldly said, what all men knew
already, that Apollo caused the plague because Agamemnon would not
return Chryseis, and had insulted her father, the priest of the God.

On hearing this, Agamemnon was very angry. He said that he would send
Chryseis home, but that he would take Briseis away from Achilles. Then
Achilles was drawing his great sword from the sheath to kill Agamemnon,
but even in his anger he knew that this was wrong, so he merely called
Agamemnon a greedy coward, 'with face of dog and heart of deer,' and he
swore that he and his men would fight no more against the Trojans. Old
Nestor tried to make peace, and swords were not drawn, but Briseis was
taken away from Achilles, and Ulysses put Chryseis on board of his ship
and sailed away with her to her father's town, and gave her up to her
father. Then her father prayed to Apollo that the plague might cease,
and it did cease--when the Greeks had cleansed their camp, and purified
themselves and cast their filth into the sea.

We know how fierce and brave Achilles was, and we may wonder that he did
not challenge Agamemnon to fight a duel. But the Greeks never fought
duels, and Agamemnon was believed to be chief king by right divine.
Achilles went alone to the sea shore when his dear Briseis was led away,
and he wept, and called to his mother, the silver-footed lady of the
waters. Then she arose from the grey sea, like a mist, and sat down
beside her son, and stroked his hair with her hand, and he told her all
his sorrows. So she said that she would go up to the dwelling of the
Gods, and pray Zeus, the chief of them all, to make the Trojans win a
great battle, so that Agamemnon should feel his need of Achilles, and
make amends for his insolence, and do him honour.

Thetis kept her promise, and Zeus gave his word that the Trojans should
defeat the Greeks. That night Zeus sent a deceitful dream to Agamemnon.
The dream took the shape of old Nestor, and said that Zeus would give
him victory that day. While he was still asleep, Agamemnon was full of
hope that he would instantly take Troy, but, when he woke, he seems not
to have been nearly so confident, for in place of putting on his armour,
and bidding the Greeks arm themselves, he merely dressed in his robe and
mantle, took his sceptre, and went and told the chiefs about his dream.
They did not feel much encouraged, so he said that he would try the
temper of the army. He would call them together, and propose to return
to Greece; but, if the soldiers took him at his word, the other chiefs
were to stop them. This was a foolish plan, for the soldiers were
wearying for beautiful Greece, and their homes, and wives and children.
Therefore, when Agamemnon did as he had said, the whole army rose, like
the sea under the west wind, and, with a shout, they rushed to the
ships, while the dust blew in clouds from under their feet. Then they
began to launch their ships, and it seems that the princes were carried
away in the rush, and were as eager as the rest to go home.

But Ulysses only stood in sorrow and anger beside his ship, and never
put hand to it, for he felt how disgraceful it was to run away. At last
he threw down his mantle, which his herald Eurybates of Ithaca, a
round-shouldered, brown, curly-haired man, picked up, and he ran to find
Agamemnon, and took his sceptre, a gold-studded staff, like a marshal's
baton, and he gently told the chiefs whom he met that they were doing a
shameful thing; but he drove the common soldiers back to the place of
meeting with the sceptre. They all returned, puzzled and chattering, but
one lame, bandy-legged, bald, round-shouldered, impudent fellow, named
Thersites, jumped up and made an insolent speech, insulting the princes,
and advising the army to run away. Then Ulysses took him and beat him
till the blood came, and he sat down, wiping away his tears, and looking
so foolish that the whole army laughed at him, and cheered Ulysses when
he and Nestor bade them arm and fight. Agamemnon still believed a good
deal in his dream, and prayed that he might take Troy that very day, and
kill Hector. Thus Ulysses alone saved the army from a cowardly retreat;
but for him the ships would have been launched in an hour. But the
Greeks armed and advanced in full force, all except Achilles and his
friend Patroclus with their two or three thousand men. The Trojans also
took heart, knowing that Achilles would not fight, and the armies
approached each other. Paris himself, with two spears and a bow, and
without armour, walked into the space between the hosts, and challenged
any Greek prince to single combat. Menelaus, whose wife Paris had
carried away, was as glad as a hungry lion when he finds a stag or a
goat, and leaped in armour from his chariot, but Paris turned and slunk
away, like a man when he meets a great serpent on a narrow path in the
hills. Then Hector rebuked Paris for his cowardice, and Paris was
ashamed and offered to end the war by fighting Menelaus. If he himself
fell, the Trojans must give up Helen and all her jewels; if Menelaus
fell, the Greeks were to return without fair Helen. The Greeks accepted
this plan, and both sides disarmed themselves to look on at the fight in
comfort, and they meant to take the most solemn oaths to keep peace till
the combat was lost and won, and the quarrel settled. Hector sent into
Troy for two lambs, which were to be sacrificed when the oaths were

In the meantime Helen of the fair hands was at home working at a great
purple tapestry on which she embroidered the battles of the Greeks and
Trojans. It was just like the tapestry at Bayeux on which Norman ladies
embroidered the battles in the Norman Conquest of England. Helen was
very fond of embroidering, like poor Mary, Queen of Scots, when a
prisoner in Loch Leven Castle. Probably the work kept both Helen and
Mary from thinking of their past lives and their sorrows.


When Helen heard that her husband was to fight Paris, she wept, and
threw a shining veil over her head, and with her two bower maidens went
to the roof of the gate tower, where king Priam was sitting with the old
Trojan chiefs. They saw her and said that it was small blame to fight
for so beautiful a lady, and Priam called her 'dear child,' and said, 'I
do not blame you, I blame the Gods who brought about this war.' But
Helen said that she wished she had died before she left her little
daughter and her husband, and her home: 'Alas! shameless me!' Then she
told Priam the names of the chief Greek warriors, and of Ulysses, who
was shorter by a head than Agamemnon but broader in chest and shoulders.
She wondered that she could not see her own two brothers, Castor and
Polydeuces, and thought that they kept aloof in shame for her sin; but
the green grass covered their graves, for they had both died in battle,
far away in Lacedaemon, their own country.

Then the lambs were sacrificed, and the oaths were taken, and Paris put
on his brother's armour: helmet, breastplate, shield, and leg-armour.
Lots were drawn to decide whether Paris or Menelaus should throw his
spear first, and, as Paris won, he threw his spear, but the point was
blunted against the shield of Menelaus. But when Menelaus threw his
spear it went clean through the shield of Paris, and through the side of
his breastplate, but only grazed his robe. Menelaus drew his sword, and
rushed in, and smote at the crest of the helmet of Paris, but his bronze
blade broke into four pieces. Menelaus caught Paris by the horsehair
crest of his helmet, and dragged him towards the Greeks, but the
chin-strap broke, and Menelaus turning round threw the helmet into the
ranks of the Greeks. But when Menelaus looked again for Paris, with a
spear in his hand, he could see him nowhere! The Greeks believed that
the beautiful goddess Aphrodite, whom the Romans called Venus, hid him
in a thick cloud of darkness and carried him to his own house, where
Helen of the fair hands found him and said to him, 'Would that thou
hadst perished, conquered by that great warrior who was my lord! Go
forth again and challenge him to fight thee face to face.' But Paris had
no more desire to fight, and the Goddess threatened Helen, and compelled
her to remain with him in Troy, coward as he had proved himself. Yet on
other days Paris fought well; it seems that he was afraid of Menelaus
because, in his heart, he was ashamed of himself.

Meanwhile Menelaus was seeking for Paris everywhere, and the Trojans,
who hated him, would have shown his hiding place. But they knew not
where he was, and the Greeks claimed the victory, and thought that, as
Paris had the worst of the fight, Helen would be restored to them, and
they would all sail home.



The war might now have ended, but an evil and foolish thought came to
Pandarus, a prince of Ida, who fought for the Trojans. He chose to shoot
an arrow at Menelaus, contrary to the sworn vows of peace, and the arrow
pierced the breastplate of Menelaus through the place where the clasped
plates meet, and drew his blood. Then Agamemnon, who loved his brother
dearly, began to lament, saying that, if he died, the army would all go
home and Trojans would dance on the grave of Menelaus. 'Do not alarm
all our army,' said Menelaus, 'the arrow has done me little harm;' and
so it proved, for the surgeon easily drew the arrow out of the wound.

Then Agamemnon hastened here and there, bidding the Greeks arm and
attack the Trojans, who would certainly be defeated, for they had broken
the oaths of peace. But with his usual insolence he chose to accuse
Ulysses and Diomede of cowardice, though Diomede was as brave as any
man, and Ulysses had just prevented the whole army from launching their
ships and going home. Ulysses answered him with spirit, but Diomede said
nothing at the moment; later he spoke his mind. He leaped from his
chariot, and all the chiefs leaped down and advanced in line, the
chariots following them, while the spearmen and bowmen followed the
chariots. The Trojan army advanced, all shouting in their different
languages, but the Greeks came on silently. Then the two front lines
clashed, shield against shield, and the noise was like the roaring of
many flooded torrents among the hills. When a man fell he who had slain
him tried to strip off his armour, and his friends fought over his body
to save the dead from this dishonour.

Ulysses fought above a wounded friend, and drove his spear through head
and helmet of a Trojan prince, and everywhere men were falling beneath
spears and arrows and heavy stones which the warriors threw. Here
Menelaus speared the man who built the ships with which Paris had sailed
to Greece; and the dust rose like a cloud, and a mist went up from the
fighting men, while Diomede stormed across the plain like a river in
flood, leaving dead bodies behind him as the river leaves boughs of
trees and grass to mark its course. Pandarus wounded Diomede with an
arrow, but Diomede slew him, and the Trojans were being driven in
flight, when Sarpedon and Hector turned and hurled themselves on the
Greeks; and even Diomede shuddered when Hector came on, and charged at
Ulysses, who was slaying Trojans as he went, and the battle swayed this
way and that, and the arrows fell like rain.

But Hector was sent into the city to bid the women pray to the goddess
Athênê for help, and he went to the house of Paris, whom Helen was
imploring to go and fight like a man, saying: 'Would that the winds had
wafted me away, and the tides drowned me, shameless that I am, before
these things came to pass!'

Then Hector went to see his dear wife, Andromache, whose father had been
slain by Achilles early in the siege, and he found her and her nurse
carrying her little boy, Hector's son, and like a star upon her bosom
lay his beautiful and shining golden head. Now, while Helen urged Paris
to go into the fight, Andromache prayed Hector to stay with her in the
town, and fight no more lest he should be slain and leave her a widow,
and the boy an orphan, with none to protect him. The army, she said,
should come back within the walls, where they had so long been safe, not
fight in the open plain. But Hector answered that he would never shrink
from battle, 'yet I know this in my heart, the day shall come for holy
Troy to be laid low, and Priam and the people of Priam. But this and my
own death do not trouble me so much as the thought of you, when you
shall be carried as a slave to Greece, to spin at another woman's
bidding, and bear water from a Grecian well. May the heaped up earth of
my tomb cover me ere I hear thy cries and the tale of thy captivity.'

Then Hector stretched out his hands to his little boy, but the child was
afraid when he saw the great glittering helmet of his father and the
nodding horsehair crest. So Hector laid his helmet on the ground and
dandled the child in his arms, and tried to comfort his wife, and said
good-bye for the last time, for he never came back to Troy alive. He
went on his way back to the battle, and Paris went with him, in glorious
armour, and soon they were slaying the princes of the Greeks.

The battle raged till nightfall, and in the night the Greeks and Trojans
burned their dead; and the Greeks made a trench and wall round their
camp, which they needed for safety now that the Trojans came from their
town and fought in the open plain.

Next day the Trojans were so successful that they did not retreat behind
their walls at night, but lit great fires on the plain: a thousand
fires, with fifty men taking supper round each of them, and drinking
their wine to the music of flutes. But the Greeks were much discouraged,
and Agamemnon called the whole army together, and proposed that they
should launch their ships in the night and sail away home. Then Diomede
stood up, and said: 'You called me a coward lately. You are the coward!
Sail away if you are afraid to remain here, but all the rest of us will
fight till we take Troy town.'

Then all shouted in praise of Diomede, and Nestor advised them to send
five hundred young men, under his own son, Thrasymedes, to watch the
Trojans, and guard the new wall and the ditch, in case the Trojans
attacked them in the darkness. Next Nestor counselled Agamemnon to send
Ulysses and Aias to Achilles, and promise to give back Briseis, and rich
presents of gold, and beg pardon for his insolence. If Achilles would
be friends again with Agamemnon, and fight as he used to fight, the
Trojans would soon be driven back into the town.

Agamemnon was very ready to beg pardon, for he feared that the whole
army would be defeated, and cut off from their ships, and killed or kept
as slaves. So Ulysses and Aias and the old tutor of Achilles, Phoenix,
went to Achilles and argued with him, praying him to accept the rich
presents, and help the Greeks. But Achilles answered that he did not
believe a word that Agamemnon said; Agamemnon had always hated him, and
always would hate him. No; he would not cease to be angry, he would sail
away next day with all his men, and he advised the rest to come with
him. 'Why be so fierce?' said tall Aias, who seldom spoke. 'Why make so
much trouble about one girl? We offer you seven girls, and plenty of
other gifts.'

Then Achilles said that he would not sail away next day, but he would
not fight till the Trojans tried to burn his own ships, and there he
thought that Hector would find work enough to do. This was the most that
Achilles would promise, and all the Greeks were silent when Ulysses
delivered his message. But Diomede arose and said that, with or without
Achilles, fight they must; and all men, heavy at heart, went to sleep in
their huts or in the open air at their doors.

Agamemnon was much too anxious to sleep. He saw the glow of the thousand
fires of the Trojans in the dark, and heard their merry flutes, and he
groaned and pulled out his long hair by handfuls. When he was tired of
crying and groaning and tearing his hair, he thought that he would go
for advice to old Nestor. He threw a lion skin, the coverlet of his bed,
over his shoulder, took his spear, went out and met Menelaus--for he,
too, could not sleep--and Menelaus proposed to send a spy among the
Trojans, if any man were brave enough to go, for the Trojan camp was all
alight with fires, and the adventure was dangerous. Therefore the two
wakened Nestor and the other chiefs, who came just as they were, wrapped
in the fur coverlets of their beds, without any armour. First they
visited the five hundred young men set to watch the wall, and then they
crossed the ditch and sat down outside and considered what might be
done. 'Will nobody go as a spy among the Trojans?' said Nestor; he meant
would none of the young men go. Diomede said that he would take the risk
if any other man would share it with him, and, if he might choose a
companion, he would take Ulysses.

'Come, then, let us be going,' said Ulysses, 'for the night is late, and
the dawn is near.' As these two chiefs had no armour on, they borrowed
shields and leather caps from the young men of the guard, for leather
would not shine as bronze helmets shine in the firelight. The cap lent
to Ulysses was strengthened outside with rows of boars' tusks. Many of
these tusks, shaped for this purpose, have been found, with swords and
armour, in a tomb in Mycenae, the town of Agamemnon. This cap which was
lent to Ulysses had once been stolen by his grandfather, Autolycus, who
was a Master Thief, and he gave it as a present to a friend, and so,
through several hands, it had come to young Meriones of Crete, one of
the five hundred guards, who now lent it to Ulysses. So the two princes
set forth in the dark, so dark it was that though they heard a heron
cry, they could not see it as it flew away.

While Ulysses and Diomede stole through the night silently, like two
wolves among the bodies of dead men, the Trojan leaders met and
considered what they ought to do. They did not know whether the Greeks
had set sentinels and outposts, as usual, to give warning if the enemy
were approaching; or whether they were too weary to keep a good watch;
or whether perhaps they were getting ready their ships to sail homewards
in the dawn. So Hector offered a reward to any man who would creep
through the night and spy on the Greeks; he said he would give the spy
the two best horses in the Greek camp.

Now among the Trojans there was a young man named Dolon, the son of a
rich father, and he was the only boy in a family of five sisters. He was
ugly, but a very swift runner, and he cared for horses more than for
anything else in the world. Dolon arose and said, 'If you will swear to
give me the horses and chariot of Achilles, son of Peleus, I will steal
to the hut of Agamemnon and listen and find out whether the Greeks mean
to fight or flee.' Hector swore to give these horses, which were the
best in the world, to Dolon, so he took his bow and threw a grey wolf's
hide over his shoulders, and ran towards the ships of the Greeks.

Now Ulysses saw Dolon as he came, and said to Diomede, 'Let us suffer
him to pass us, and then do you keep driving him with your spear towards
the ships, and away from Troy.' So Ulysses and Diomede lay down among
the dead men who had fallen in the battle, and Dolon ran on past them
towards the Greeks. Then they rose and chased him as two greyhounds
course a hare, and, when Dolon was near the sentinels, Diomede cried
'Stand, or I will slay you with my spear!' and he threw his spear just
over Dolon's shoulder. So Dolon stood still, green with fear, and with
his teeth chattering. When the two came up, he cried, and said that his
father was a rich man, who would pay much gold, and bronze, and iron for
his ransom.

Ulysses said, 'Take heart, and put death out of your mind, and tell us
what you are doing here.' Dolon said that Hector had promised him the
horses of Achilles if he would go and spy on the Greeks. 'You set your
hopes high,' said Ulysses, 'for the horses of Achilles are not earthly
steeds, but divine; a gift of the Gods, and Achilles alone can drive
them. But, tell me, do the Trojans keep good watch, and where is Hector
with his horses?' for Ulysses thought that it would be a great adventure
to drive away the horses of Hector.

'Hector is with the chiefs, holding council at the tomb of Ilus,' said
Dolon; 'but no regular guard is set. The people of Troy, indeed, are
round their watch fires, for they have to think of the safety of their
wives and children; but the allies from far lands keep no watch, for
their wives and children are safe at home.' Then he told where all the
different peoples who fought for Priam had their stations; but, said he,
'if you want to steal horses, the best are those of Rhesus, King of the
Thracians, who has only joined us to-night. He and his men are asleep at
the furthest end of the line, and his horses are the best and greatest
that ever I saw: tall, white as snow, and swift as the wind, and his
chariot is adorned with gold and silver, and golden is his armour. Now
take me prisoner to the ships, or bind me and leave me here while you go
and try whether I have told you truth or lies.'

'No,' said Diomede, 'if I spare your life you may come spying again,'
and he drew his sword and smote off the head of Dolon. They hid his cap
and bow and spear where they could find them easily, and marked the
spot, and went through the night to the dark camp of King Rhesus, who
had no watch-fire and no guards. Then Diomede silently stabbed each
sleeping man to the heart, and Ulysses seized the dead by the feet and
threw them aside lest they should frighten the horses, which had never
been in battle, and would shy if they were led over the bodies of dead
men. Last of all Diomede killed King Rhesus, and Ulysses led forth his
horses, beating them with his bow, for he had forgotten to take the whip
from the chariot. Then Ulysses and Diomede leaped on the backs of the
horses, as they had not time to bring away the chariot, and they
galloped to the ships, stopping to pick up the spear, and bow, and cap
of Dolon. They rode to the princes, who welcomed them, and all laughed
for glee when they saw the white horses and heard that King Rhesus was
dead, for they guessed that all his army would now go home to Thrace.
This they must have done, for we never hear of them in the battles that
followed, so Ulysses and Diomede deprived the Trojans of thousands of
men. The other princes went to bed in good spirits, but Ulysses and
Diomede took a swim in the sea, and then went into hot baths, and so to
breakfast, for rosy-fingered Dawn was coming up the sky.



With dawn Agamemnon awoke, and fear had gone out of his heart. He put on
his armour, and arrayed the chiefs on foot in front of their chariots,
and behind them came the spearmen, with the bowmen and slingers on the
wings of the army. Then a great black cloud spread over the sky, and
red was the rain that fell from it. The Trojans gathered on a height in
the plain, and Hector, shining in armour, went here and there, in front
and rear, like a star that now gleams forth and now is hidden in a

The armies rushed on each other and hewed each other down, as reapers
cut their way through a field of tall corn. Neither side gave ground,
though the helmets of the bravest Trojans might be seen deep in the
ranks of the Greeks; and the swords of the bravest Greeks rose and fell
in the ranks of the Trojans, and all the while the arrows showered like
rain. But at noon-day, when the weary woodman rests from cutting trees,
and takes his dinner in the quiet hills, the Greeks of the first line
made a charge, Agamemnon running in front of them, and he speared two
Trojans, and took their breastplates, which he laid in his chariot, and
then he speared one brother of Hector and struck another down with his
sword, and killed two more who vainly asked to be made prisoners of war.
Footmen slew footmen, and chariot men slew chariot men, and they broke
into the Trojan line as fire falls on a forest in a windy day, leaping
and roaring and racing through the trees. Many an empty chariot did the
horses hurry madly through the field, for the charioteers were lying
dead, with the greedy vultures hovering above them, flapping their wide
wings. Still Agamemnon followed and slew the hindmost Trojans, but the
rest fled till they came to the gates, and the oak tree that grew
outside the gates, and there they stopped.

But Hector held his hands from fighting, for in the meantime he was
making his men face the enemy and form up in line and take breath, and
was encouraging them, for they had retreated from the wall of the
Greeks across the whole plain, past the hill that was the tomb of Ilus,
a king of old, and past the place of the wild fig-tree. Much ado had
Hector to rally the Trojans, but he knew that when men do turn again
they are hard to beat. So it proved, for when the Trojans had rallied
and formed in line, Agamemnon slew a Thracian chief who had come to
fight for Troy before King Rhesus came. But the eldest brother of the
slain man smote Agamemnon through the arm with his spear, and, though
Agamemnon slew him in turn, his wound bled much and he was in great
pain, so he leaped into his chariot and was driven back to the ships.

Then Hector gave the word to charge, as a huntsman cries on his hounds
against a lion, and he rushed forward at the head of the Trojan line,
slaying as he went. Nine chiefs of the Greeks he slew, and fell upon the
spearmen and scattered them, as the spray of the waves is scattered by
the wandering wind.

Now the ranks of the Greeks were broken, and they would have been driven
among their ships and killed without mercy, had not Ulysses and Diomede
stood firm in the centre, and slain four Trojan leaders. The Greeks
began to come back and face their enemies in line of battle again,
though Hector, who had been fighting on the Trojan right, rushed against
them. But Diomede took good aim with his spear at the helmet of Hector,
and struck it fairly. The spear-point did not go through the helmet, but
Hector was stunned and fell; and, when he came to himself, he leaped
into his chariot, and his squire drove him against the Pylians and
Cretans, under Nestor and Idomeneus, who were on the left wing of the
Greek army. Then Diomede fought on till Paris, who stood beside the
pillar on the hillock that was the tomb of old King Ilus, sent an arrow
clean through his foot. Ulysses went and stood in front of Diomede, who
sat down, and Ulysses drew the arrow from his foot, and Diomede stepped
into his chariot and was driven back to the ships.

Ulysses was now the only Greek chief that still fought in the centre.
The Greeks all fled, and he was alone in the crowd of Trojans, who
rushed on him as hounds and hunters press round a wild boar that stands
at bay in a wood. 'They are cowards that flee from the fight,' said
Ulysses to himself; 'but I will stand here, one man against a
multitude.' He covered the front of his body with his great shield, that
hung by a belt round his neck, and he smote four Trojans and wounded a
fifth. But the brother of the wounded man drove a spear through the
shield and breastplate of Ulysses, and tore clean through his side. Then
Ulysses turned on this Trojan, and he fled, and Ulysses sent a spear
through his shoulder and out at his breast, and he died. Ulysses dragged
from his own side the spear that had wounded him, and called thrice with
a great voice to the other Greeks, and Menelaus and Aias rushed to
rescue him, for many Trojans were round him, like jackals round a
wounded stag that a man has struck with an arrow. But Aias ran and
covered the wounded Ulysses with his huge shield till he could climb
into the chariot of Menelaus, who drove him back to the ships.

Meanwhile, Hector was slaying the Greeks on the left of their battle,
and Paris struck the Greek surgeon, Machaon, with an arrow; and
Idomeneus bade Nestor put Machaon in his chariot and drive him to
Nestor's hut, where his wound might be tended. Meanwhile, Hector sped to
the centre of the line, where Aias was slaying the Trojans; but
Eurypylus, a Greek chief, was wounded by an arrow from the bow of
Paris, and his friends guarded him with their shields and spears.

Thus the best of the Greeks were wounded and out of the battle, save
Aias, and the spearmen were in flight. Meanwhile Achilles was standing
by the stern of his ship watching the defeat of the Greeks, but when he
saw Machaon being carried past, sorely wounded, in the chariot of
Nestor, he bade his friend Patroclus, whom he loved better than all the
rest, to go and ask how Machaon did. He was sitting drinking wine with
Nestor when Patroclus came, and Nestor told Patroclus how many of the
chiefs were wounded, and though Patroclus was in a hurry Nestor began a
very long story about his own great deeds of war, done when he was a
young man. At last he bade Patroclus tell Achilles that, if he would not
fight himself, he should at least send out his men under Patroclus, who
should wear the splendid armour of Achilles. Then the Trojans would
think that Achilles himself had returned to the battle, and they would
be afraid, for none of them dared to meet Achilles hand to hand.

So Patroclus ran off to Achilles; but, on his way, he met the wounded
Eurypylus, and he took him to his hut and cut the arrow out of his thigh
with a knife, and washed the wound with warm water, and rubbed over it a
bitter root to take the pain away. Thus he waited for some time with
Eurypylus, but the advice of Nestor was in the end to cause the death of
Patroclus. The battle now raged more fiercely, while Agamemnon and
Diomede and Ulysses could only limp about leaning on their spears; and
again Agamemnon wished to moor the ships near shore, and embark in the
night and run away. But Ulysses was very angry with him, and said: 'You
should lead some other inglorious army, not us, who will fight on till
every soul of us perish, rather than flee like cowards! Be silent, lest
the soldiers hear you speaking of flight, such words as no man should
utter. I wholly scorn your counsel, for the Greeks will lose heart if,
in the midst of battle, you bid them launch the ships.'

Agamemnon was ashamed, and, by Diomede's advice, the wounded kings went
down to the verge of the war to encourage the others, though they were
themselves unable to fight. They rallied the Greeks, and Aias led them
and struck Hector full in the breast with a great rock, so that his
friends carried him out of the battle to the river side, where they
poured water over him, but he lay fainting on the ground, the black
blood gushing up from his mouth. While Hector lay there, and all men
thought that he would die, Aias and Idomeneus were driving back the
Trojans, and it seemed that, even without Achilles and his men, the
Greeks were able to hold their own against the Trojans. But the battle
was never lost while Hector lived. People in those days believed in
'omens:' they thought that the appearance of birds on the right or left
hand meant good or bad luck. Once during the battle a Trojan showed
Hector an unlucky bird, and wanted him to retreat into the town. But
Hector said, 'One omen is the best: to fight for our own country.' While
Hector lay between death and life the Greeks were winning, for the
Trojans had no other great chief to lead them. But Hector awoke from his
faint, and leaped to his feet and ran here and there, encouraging the
men of Troy. Then the most of the Greeks fled when they saw him; but
Aias and Idomeneus, and the rest of the bravest, formed in a square
between the Trojans and the ships, and down on them came Hector and
Aeneas and Paris, throwing their spears, and slaying on every hand. The
Greeks turned and ran, and the Trojans would have stopped to strip the
armour from the slain men, but Hector cried: 'Haste to the ships and
leave the spoils of war. I will slay any man who lags behind!'

On this, all the Trojans drove their chariots down into the ditch that
guarded the ships of the Greeks, as when a great wave sweeps at sea over
the side of a vessel; and the Greeks were on the ship decks, thrusting
with very long spears, used in sea fights, and the Trojans were boarding
the ships, and striking with swords and axes. Hector had a lighted torch
and tried to set fire to the ship of Aias; but Aias kept him back with
the long spear, and slew a Trojan, whose lighted torch fell from his
hand. And Aias kept shouting: 'Come on, and drive away Hector; it is not
to a dance that he is calling his men, but to battle.'

The dead fell in heaps, and the living ran over them to mount the heaps
of slain and climb the ships. Hector rushed forward like a sea wave
against a great steep rock, but like the rock stood the Greeks; still
the Trojans charged past the beaks of the foremost ships, while Aias,
thrusting with a spear more than twenty feet long, leaped from deck to
deck like a man that drives four horses abreast, and leaps from the back
of one to the back of another. Hector seized with his hand the stern of
the ship of Protesilaus, the prince whom Paris shot when he leaped
ashore on the day when the Greeks first landed; and Hector kept calling:
'Bring fire!' and even Aias, in this strange sea fight on land, left the
decks and went below, thrusting with his spear through the portholes.
Twelve men lay dead who had brought fire against the ship which Aias



At this moment, when torches were blazing round the ships, and all
seemed lost, Patroclus came out of the hut of Eurypylus, whose wound he
had been tending, and he saw that the Greeks were in great danger, and
ran weeping to Achilles. 'Why do you weep,' said Achilles, 'like a
little girl that runs by her mother's side, and plucks at her gown and
looks at her with tears in her eyes, till her mother takes her up in her
arms? Is there bad news from home that your father is dead, or mine; or
are you sorry that the Greeks are getting what they deserve for their
folly?' Then Patroclus told Achilles how Ulysses and many other princes
were wounded and could not fight, and begged to be allowed to put on
Achilles' armour and lead his men, who were all fresh and unwearied,
into the battle, for a charge of two thousand fresh warriors might turn
the fortune of the day.

Then Achilles was sorry that he had sworn not to fight himself till
Hector brought fire to his own ships. He would lend Patroclus his
armour, and his horses, and his men; but Patroclus must only drive the
Trojans from the ships, and not pursue them. At this moment Aias was
weary, so many spears smote his armour, and he could hardly hold up his
great shield, and Hector cut off his spearhead with the sword; the
bronze head fell ringing on the ground, and Aias brandished only the
pointless shaft. So he shrank back and fire blazed all over his ship;
and Achilles saw it, and smote his thigh, and bade Patroclus make haste.
Patroclus armed himself in the shining armour of Achilles, which all
Trojans feared, and leaped into the chariot where Automedon, the squire,
had harnessed Xanthus and Balius, two horses that were the children, men
said, of the West Wind, and a led horse was harnessed beside them in the
side traces. Meanwhile the two thousand men of Achilles, who were called
Myrmidons, had met in armour, five companies of four hundred apiece,
under five chiefs of noble names. Forth they came, as eager as a pack of
wolves that have eaten a great red deer and run to slake their thirst
with the dark water of a well in the hills.

So all in close array, helmet touching helmet and shield touching
shield, like a moving wall of shining bronze, the men of Achilles
charged, and Patroclus in the chariot led the way. Down they came at
full speed on the flank of the Trojans, who saw the leader, and knew the
bright armour and the horses of the terrible Achilles, and thought that
he had returned to the war. Then each Trojan looked round to see by what
way he could escape, and when men do that in battle they soon run by the
way they have chosen. Patroclus rushed to the ship of Protesilaus, and
slew the leader of the Trojans there, and drove them out, and quenched
the fire; while they of Troy drew back from the ships, and Aias and the
other unwounded Greek princes leaped among them, smiting with sword and
spear. Well did Hector know that the break in the battle had come again;
but even so he stood, and did what he might, while the Trojans were
driven back in disorder across the ditch, where the poles of many
chariots were broken and the horses fled loose across the plain.

The horses of Achilles cleared the ditch, and Patroclus drove them
between the Trojans and the wall of their own town, slaying many men,
and, chief of all, Sarpedon, king of the Lycians; and round the body of
Sarpedon the Trojans rallied under Hector, and the fight swayed this way
and that, and there was such a noise of spears and swords smiting
shields and helmets as when many woodcutters fell trees in a glen of the
hills. At last the Trojans gave way, and the Greeks stripped the armour
from the body of brave Sarpedon; but men say that Sleep and Death, like
two winged angels, bore his body away to his own country. Now Patroclus
forgot how Achilles had told him not to pursue the Trojans across the
plain, but to return when he had driven them from the ships. On he
raced, slaying as he went, even till he reached the foot of the wall of
Troy. Thrice he tried to climb it, but thrice he fell back.

Hector was in his chariot in the gateway, and he bade his squire lash
his horses into the war, and struck at no other man, great or small, but
drove straight against Patroclus, who stood and threw a heavy stone at
Hector; which missed him, but killed his charioteer. Then Patroclus
leaped on the charioteer to strip his armour, but Hector stood over the
body, grasping it by the head, while Patroclus dragged at the feet, and
spears and arrows flew in clouds around the fallen man. At last, towards
sunset, the Greeks drew him out of the war, and Patroclus thrice charged
into the thick of the Trojans. But the helmet of Achilles was loosened
in the fight, and fell from the head of Patroclus, and he was wounded
from behind, and Hector, in front, drove his spear clean through his
body. With his last breath Patroclus prophesied: 'Death stands near
thee, Hector, at the hands of noble Achilles.' But Automedon was driving
back the swift horses, carrying to Achilles the news that his dearest
friend was slain.

After Ulysses was wounded, early in this great battle, he was not able
to fight for several days, and, as the story is about Ulysses, we must
tell quite shortly how Achilles returned to the war to take vengeance
for Patroclus, and how he slew Hector. When Patroclus fell, Hector
seized the armour which the Gods had given to Peleus, and Peleus to his
son Achilles, while Achilles had lent it to Patroclus that he might
terrify the Trojans. Retiring out of reach of spears, Hector took off
his own armour and put on that of Achilles, and Greeks and Trojans
fought for the dead body of Patroclus. Then Zeus, the chief of the Gods,
looked down and said that Hector should never come home out of the
battle to his wife, Andromache. But Hector returned into the fight
around the dead Patroclus, and here all the best men fought, and even
Automedon, who had been driving the chariot of Patroclus. Now when the
Trojans seemed to have the better of the fight, the Greeks sent
Antilochus, a son of old Nestor, to tell Achilles that his friend was
slain, and Antilochus ran, and Aias and his brother protected the Greeks
who were trying to carry the body of Patroclus back to the ships.

Swiftly Antilochus came running to Achilles, saying: 'Fallen is
Patroclus, and they are fighting round his naked body, for Hector has
his armour.' Then Achilles said never a word, but fell on the floor of
his hut, and threw black ashes on his yellow hair, till Antilochus
seized his hands, fearing that he would cut his own throat with his
dagger, for very sorrow. His mother, Thetis, arose from the sea to
comfort him, but he said that he desired to die if he could not slay
Hector, who had slain his friend. Then Thetis told him that he could not
fight without armour, and now he had none; but she would go to the God
of armour-making and bring from him such a shield and helmet and
breastplate as had never been seen by men.

Meanwhile the fight raged round the dead body of Patroclus, which was
defiled with blood and dust, near the ships, and was being dragged this
way and that, and torn and wounded. Achilles could not bear this sight,
yet his mother had warned him not to enter without armour the battle
where stones and arrows and spears were flying like hail; and he was so
tall and broad that he could put on the arms of no other man. So he went
down to the ditch as he was, unarmed, and as he stood high above it,
against the red sunset, fire seemed to flow from his golden hair like
the beacon blaze that soars into the dark sky when an island town is
attacked at night, and men light beacons that their neighbours may see
them and come to their help from other isles. There Achilles stood in a
splendour of fire, and he shouted aloud, as clear as a clarion rings
when men fall on to attack a besieged city wall. Thrice Achilles shouted
mightily, and thrice the horses of the Trojans shuddered for fear and
turned back from the onslaught, and thrice the men of Troy were
confounded and shaken with terror. Then the Greeks drew the body of
Patroclus out of the dust and the arrows, and laid him on a bier, and
Achilles followed, weeping, for he had sent his friend with chariot and
horses to the war; but home again he welcomed him never more. Then the
sun set and it was night.

Now one of the Trojans wished Hector to retire within the walls of Troy,
for certainly Achilles would to-morrow be foremost in the war. But
Hector said, 'Have ye not had your fill of being shut up behind walls?
Let Achilles fight; I will meet him in the open field.' The Trojans
cheered, and they camped in the plain, while in the hut of Achilles
women washed the dead body of Patroclus, and Achilles swore that he
would slay Hector.

In the dawn came Thetis, bearing to Achilles the new splendid armour
that the God had made for him. Then Achilles put on that armour, and
roused his men; but Ulysses, who knew all the rules of honour, would not
let him fight till peace had been made, with a sacrifice and other
ceremonies, between him and Agamemnon, and till Agamemnon had given him
all the presents which Achilles had before refused. Achilles did not
want them; he wanted only to fight, but Ulysses made him obey, and do
what was usual. Then the gifts were brought, and Agamemnon stood up, and
said that he was sorry for his insolence, and the men took breakfast,
but Achilles would neither eat nor drink. He mounted his chariot, but
the horse Xanthus bowed his head till his long mane touched the ground,
and, being a fairy horse, the child of the West Wind, he spoke (or so
men said), and these were his words: 'We shall bear thee swiftly and
speedily, but thou shalt be slain in fight, and thy dying day is near at
hand.' 'Well I know it,' said Achilles, 'but I will not cease from
fighting till I have given the Trojans their fill of war.'

So all that day he chased and slew the Trojans. He drove them into the
river, and, though the river came down in a red flood, he crossed, and
slew them on the plain. The plain caught fire, the bushes and long dry
grass blazed round him, but he fought his way through the fire, and
drove the Trojans to their walls. The gates were thrown open, and the
Trojans rushed through like frightened fawns, and then they climbed to
the battlements, and looked down in safety, while the whole Greek army
advanced in line under their shields.

But Hector stood still, alone, in front of the gate, and old Priam, who
saw Achilles rushing on, shining like a star in his new armour, called
with tears to Hector, 'Come within the gate! This man has slain many of
my sons, and if he slays thee whom have I to help me in my old age?' His
mother also called to Hector, but he stood firm, waiting for Achilles.
Now the story says that he was afraid, and ran thrice in full armour
round Troy, with Achilles in pursuit. But this cannot be true, for no
mortal men could run thrice, in heavy armour, with great shields that
clanked against their ankles, round the town of Troy: moreover Hector
was the bravest of men, and all the Trojan women were looking down at
him from the walls.

We cannot believe that he ran away, and the story goes on to tell that
he asked Achilles to make an agreement with him. The conqueror in the
fight should give back the body of the fallen to be buried by his
friends, but should keep his armour. But Achilles said that he could
make no agreement with Hector, and threw his spear, which flew over
Hector's shoulder. Then Hector threw his spear, but it could not pierce
the shield which the God had made for Achilles. Hector had no other
spear, and Achilles had one, so Hector cried, 'Let me not die without
honour!' and drew his sword, and rushed at Achilles, who sprang to meet
him, but before Hector could come within a sword-stroke Achilles had
sent his spear clean through the neck of Hector. He fell in the dust and
Achilles said, 'Dogs and birds shall tear your flesh unburied.' With his
dying breath Hector prayed him to take gold from Priam, and give back
his body to be burned in Troy. But Achilles said, 'Hound! would that I
could bring myself to carve and eat thy raw flesh, but dogs shall devour
it, even if thy father offered me thy weight in gold.' With his last
words Hector prophesied and said, 'Remember me in the day when Paris
shall slay thee in the Scaean gate.' Then his brave soul went to the
land of the Dead, which the Greeks called Hades. To that land Ulysses
sailed while he was still a living man, as the story tells later.

Then Achilles did a dreadful deed; he slit the feet of dead Hector from
heel to ankle, and thrust thongs through, and bound him by the thongs to
his chariot and trailed the body in the dust. All the women of Troy who
were on the walls raised a shriek, and Hector's wife, Andromache, heard
the sound. She had been in an inner room of her house, weaving a purple
web, and embroidering flowers on it, and she was calling her bower
maidens to make ready a bath for Hector when he should come back tired
from battle. But when she heard the cry from the wall she trembled, and
the shuttle with which she was weaving fell from her hands. 'Surely I
heard the cry of my husband's mother,' she said, and she bade two of her
maidens come with her to see why the people lamented.

She ran swiftly, and reached the battlements, and thence she saw her
dear husband's body being whirled through the dust towards the ships,
behind the chariot of Achilles. Then night came over her eyes and she
fainted. But when she returned to herself she cried out that now none
would defend her little boy, and other children would push him away from
feasts, saying, 'Out with you; no father of thine is at our table,' and
his father, Hector, would lie naked at the ships, unclad, unburned,
unlamented. To be unburned and unburied was thought the greatest of
misfortunes, because the dead man unburned could not go into the House
of Hades, God of the Dead, but must always wander, alone and
comfortless, in the dark borderland between the dead and the living.



When Achilles was asleep that night the ghost of Patroclus came, saying,
'Why dost thou not burn and bury me? for the other shadows of dead men
suffer me not to come near them, and lonely I wander along the dark
dwelling of Hades.' Then Achilles awoke, and he sent men to cut down
trees, and make a huge pile of fagots and logs. On this they laid
Patroclus, covered with white linen, and then they slew many cattle, and
Achilles cut the throats of twelve Trojan prisoners of war, meaning to
burn them with Patroclus to do him honour. This was a deed of shame, for
Achilles was mad with sorrow and anger for the death of his friend. Then
they drenched with wine the great pile of wood, which was thirty yards
long and broad, and set fire to it, and the fire blazed all through the
night and died down in the morning. They put the white bones of
Patroclus in a golden casket, and laid it in the hut of Achilles, who
said that, when he died, they must burn his body, and mix the ashes with
the ashes of his friend, and build over it a chamber of stone, and cover
the chamber with a great hill of earth, and set a pillar of stone above
it. This is one of the hills on the plain of Troy, but the pillar has
fallen from the tomb, long ago.

Then, as the custom was, Achilles held games--chariot races, foot races,
boxing, wrestling, and archery--in honour of Patroclus. Ulysses won the
prize for the foot race, and for the wrestling, so now his wound must
have been healed.

But Achilles still kept trailing Hector's dead body each day round the
hill that had been raised for the tomb of Patroclus, till the Gods in
heaven were angry, and bade Thetis tell her son that he must give back
the dead body to Priam, and take ransom for it, and they sent a
messenger to Priam to bid him redeem the body of his son. It was
terrible for Priam to have to go and humble himself before Achilles,
whose hands had been red with the blood of his sons, but he did not
disobey the Gods. He opened his chests, and took out twenty-four
beautiful embroidered changes of raiment; and he weighed out ten heavy
bars, or talents, of gold, and chose a beautiful golden cup, and he
called nine of his sons, Paris, and Helenus, and Deiphobus, and the
rest, saying, 'Go, ye bad sons, my shame; would that Hector lived and
all of you were dead!' for sorrow made him angry; 'go, and get ready for
me a wain, and lay on it these treasures.' So they harnessed mules to
the wain, and placed in it the treasures, and, after praying, Priam
drove through the night to the hut of Achilles. In he went, when no man
looked for him, and kneeled to Achilles, and kissed his terrible
death-dealing hands. 'Have pity on me, and fear the Gods, and give me
back my dead son,' he said, 'and remember thine own father. Have pity on
me, who have endured to do what no man born has ever done before, to
kiss the hands that slew my sons.'

Then Achilles remembered his own father, far away, who now was old and
weak: and he wept, and Priam wept with him, and then Achilles raised
Priam from his knees and spoke kindly to him, admiring how beautiful he
still was in his old age, and Priam himself wondered at the beauty of
Achilles. And Achilles thought how Priam had long been rich and happy,
like his own father, Peleus, and now old age and weakness and sorrow
were laid upon both of them, for Achilles knew that his own day of death
was at hand, even at the doors. So Achilles bade the women make ready
the body of Hector for burial, and they clothed him in a white mantle
that Priam had brought, and laid him in the wain; and supper was made
ready, and Priam and Achilles ate and drank together, and the women
spread a bed for Priam, who would not stay long, but stole away back to
Troy while Achilles was asleep.

All the women came out to meet him, and to lament for Hector. They
carried the body into the house of Andromache and laid it on a bed, and
the women gathered around, and each in turn sang her song over the great
dead warrior. His mother bewailed him, and his wife, and Helen of the
fair hands, clad in dark mourning raiment, lifted up her white arms, and
said: 'Hector, of all my brethren in Troy thou wert the dearest, since
Paris brought me hither. Would that ere that day I had died! For this is
now the twentieth year since I came, and in all these twenty years never
heard I a word from thee that was bitter and unkind; others might
upbraid me, thy sisters or thy mother, for thy father was good to me as
if he had been my own; but then thou wouldst restrain them that spoke
evil by the courtesy of thy heart and thy gentle words. Ah! woe for
thee, and woe for me, whom all men shudder at, for there is now none in
wide Troyland to be my friend like thee, my brother and my friend!'

So Helen lamented, but now was done all that men might do; a great pile
of wood was raised, and Hector was burned, and his ashes were placed in
a golden urn, in a dark chamber of stone, within a hollow hill.



After Hector was buried, the siege went on slowly, as it had done during
the first nine years of the war. The Greeks did not know at that time
how to besiege a city, as we saw, by way of digging trenches and
building towers, and battering the walls with machines that threw heavy
stones. The Trojans had lost courage, and dared not go into the open
plain, and they were waiting for the coming up of new armies of
allies--the Amazons, who were girl warriors from far away, and an
Eastern people called the Khita, whose king was Memnon, the son of the
Bright Dawn.

Now everyone knew that, in the temple of the Goddess Pallas Athênê, in
Troy, was a sacred image, which fell from heaven, called the Palladium,
and this very ancient image was the Luck of Troy. While it remained safe
in the temple people believed that Troy could never be taken, but as it
was in a guarded temple in the middle of the town, and was watched by
priestesses day and night, it seemed impossible that the Greeks should
ever enter the city secretly and steal the Luck away.

As Ulysses was the grandson of Autolycus, the Master Thief, he often
wished that the old man was with the Greeks, for if there was a thing to
steal Autolycus could steal it. But by this time Autolycus was dead, and
so Ulysses could only puzzle over the way to steal the Luck of Troy, and
wonder how his grandfather would have set about it. He prayed for help
secretly to Hermes, the God of Thieves, when he sacrificed goats to him,
and at last he had a plan.

There was a story that Anius, the King of the Isle of Delos, had three
daughters, named Oeno, Spermo, and Elais, and that Oeno could turn
water into wine, while Spermo could turn stones into bread, and Elais
could change mud into olive oil. Those fairy gifts, people said, were
given to the maidens by the Wine God, Dionysus, and by the Goddess of
Corn, Demeter. Now corn, and wine, and oil were sorely needed by the
Greeks, who were tired of paying much gold and bronze to the Phoenician
merchants for their supplies. Ulysses therefore went to Agamemnon one
day, and asked leave to take his ship and voyage to Delos, to bring, if
he could, the three maidens to the camp, if indeed they could do these
miracles. As no fighting was going on, Agamemnon gave Ulysses leave to
depart, so he went on board his ship, with a crew of fifty men of
Ithaca, and away they sailed, promising to return in a month.

Two or three days after that, a dirty old beggar man began to be seen in
the Greek camp. He had crawled in late one evening, dressed in a dirty
smock and a very dirty old cloak, full of holes, and stained with smoke.
Over everything he wore the skin of a stag, with half the hair worn off,
and he carried a staff, and a filthy tattered wallet, to put food in,
which swung from his neck by a cord. He came crouching and smiling up to
the door of the hut of Diomede, and sat down just within the doorway,
where beggars still sit in the East. Diomede saw him, and sent him a
loaf and two handfuls of flesh, which the beggar laid on his wallet,
between his feet, and he made his supper greedily, gnawing a bone like a

After supper Diomede asked him who he was and whence he came, and he
told a long story about how he had been a Cretan pirate, and had been
taken prisoner by the Egyptians when he was robbing there, and how he
had worked for many years in their stone quarries, where the sun had
burned him brown, and had escaped by hiding among the great stones,
carried down the Nile in a raft, for building a temple on the seashore.
The raft arrived at night, and the beggar said that he stole out from it
in the dark and found a Phoenician ship in the harbour, and the
Phoenicians took him on board, meaning to sell him somewhere as a slave.
But a tempest came on and wrecked the ship off the Isle of Tenedos,
which is near Troy, and the beggar alone escaped to the island on a
plank of the ship. From Tenedos he had come to Troy in a fisher's boat,
hoping to make himself useful in the camp, and earn enough to keep body
and soul together till he could find a ship sailing to Crete.

He made his story rather amusing, describing the strange ways of the
Egyptians; how they worshipped cats and bulls, and did everything in
just the opposite of the Greek way of doing things. So Diomede let him
have a rug and blankets to sleep on in the portico of the hut, and next
day the old wretch went begging about the camp and talking with the
soldiers. Now he was a most impudent and annoying old vagabond, and was
always in quarrels. If there was a disagreeable story about the father
or grandfather of any of the princes, he knew it and told it, so that he
got a blow from the baton of Agamemnon, and Aias gave him a kick, and
Idomeneus drubbed him with the butt of his spear for a tale about his
grandmother, and everybody hated him and called him a nuisance. He was
for ever jeering at Ulysses, who was far away, and telling tales about
Autolycus, and at last he stole a gold cup, a very large cup, with two
handles, and a dove sitting on each handle, from the hut of Nestor. The
old chief was fond of this cup, which he had brought from home, and,
when it was found in the beggar's dirty wallet, everybody cried that he
must be driven out of the camp and well whipped. So Nestor's son, young
Thrasymedes, with other young men, laughing and shouting, pushed and
dragged the beggar close up to the Scaean gate of Troy, where
Thrasymedes called with a loud voice, 'O Trojans, we are sick of this
shameless beggar. First we shall whip him well, and if he comes back we
shall put out his eyes and cut off his hands and feet, and give him to
the dogs to eat. He may go to you, if he likes; if not, he must wander
till he dies of hunger.'

The young men of Troy heard this and laughed, and a crowd gathered on
the wall to see the beggar punished. So Thrasymedes whipped him with his
bowstring till he was tired, and they did not leave off beating the
beggar till he ceased howling and fell, all bleeding, and lay still.
Then Thrasymedes gave him a parting kick, and went away with his
friends. The beggar lay quiet for some time, then he began to stir, and
sat up, wiping the tears from his eyes, and shouting curses and bad
words after the Greeks, praying that they might be speared in the back,
and eaten by dogs.

At last he tried to stand up, but fell down again, and began to crawl on
hands and knees towards the Scaean gate. There he sat down, within the
two side walls of the gate, where he cried and lamented. Now Helen of
the fair hands came down from the gate tower, being sorry to see any man
treated so much worse than a beast, and she spoke to the beggar and
asked him why he had been used in this cruel way?

At first he only moaned, and rubbed his sore sides, but at last he said
that he was an unhappy man, who had been shipwrecked, and was begging
his way home, and that the Greeks suspected him of being a spy sent out
by the Trojans. But he had been in Lacedaemon, her own country, he said,
and could tell her about her father, if she were, as he supposed, the
beautiful Helen, and about her brothers, Castor and Polydeuces, and her
little daughter, Hermione.

'But perhaps,' he said, 'you are no mortal woman, but some goddess who
favours the Trojans, and if indeed you are a goddess then I liken you to
Aphrodite, for beauty, and stature, and shapeliness.' Then Helen wept;
for many a year had passed since she had heard any word of her father,
and daughter, and her brothers, who were dead, though she knew it not.
So she stretched out her white hand, and raised the beggar, who was
kneeling at her feet, and bade him follow her to her own house, within
the palace garden of King Priam.

Helen walked forward, with a bower maiden at either side, and the beggar
crawling after her. When she had entered her house, Paris was not there,
so she ordered the bath to be filled with warm water, and new clothes to
be brought, and she herself washed the old beggar and anointed him with
oil. This appears very strange to us, for though Saint Elizabeth of
Hungary used to wash and clothe beggars, we are surprised that Helen
should do so, who was not a saint. But long afterwards she herself told
the son of Ulysses, Telemachus, that she had washed his father when he
came into Troy disguised as a beggar who had been sorely beaten.

You must have guessed that the beggar was Ulysses, who had not gone to
Delos in his ship, but stolen back in a boat, and appeared disguised
among the Greeks. He did all this to make sure that nobody could
recognise him, and he behaved so as to deserve a whipping that he might
not be suspected as a Greek spy by the Trojans, but rather be pitied by
them. Certainly he deserved his name of 'the much-enduring Ulysses.'

Meanwhile he sat in his bath and Helen washed his feet. But when she had
done, and had anointed his wounds with olive oil, and when she had
clothed him in a white tunic and a purple mantle, then she opened her
lips to cry out with amazement, for she knew Ulysses; but he laid his
finger on her lips, saying 'Hush!' Then she remembered how great danger
he was in, for the Trojans, if they found him, would put him to some
cruel death, and she sat down, trembling and weeping, while he watched

'Oh thou strange one,' she said, 'how enduring is thy heart and how
cunning beyond measure! How hast thou borne to be thus beaten and
disgraced, and to come within the walls of Troy? Well it is for thee
that Paris, my lord, is far from home, having gone to guide Penthesilea,
the Queen of the warrior maids whom men call Amazons, who is on her way
to help the Trojans.'

Then Ulysses smiled, and Helen saw that she had said a word which she
ought not to have spoken, and had revealed the secret hope of the
Trojans. Then she wept, and said, 'Oh cruel and cunning! You have made
me betray the people with whom I live, though woe is me that ever I left
my own people, and my husband dear, and my child! And now if you escape
alive out of Troy, you will tell the Greeks, and they will lie in ambush
by night for the Amazons on the way to Troy and will slay them all. If
you and I were not friends long ago, I would tell the Trojans that you
are here, and they would give your body to the dogs to eat, and fix your
head on the palisade above the wall. Woe is me that ever I was born.'

Ulysses answered, 'Lady, as you have said, we two are friends from of
old, and your friend I will be till the last, when the Greeks break into
Troy, and slay the men, and carry the women captives. If I live till
that hour no man shall harm you, but safely and in honour you shall come
to your palace in Lacedaemon of the rifted hills. Moreover, I swear to
you a great oath, by Zeus above, and by Them that under earth punish the
souls of men who swear falsely, that I shall tell no man the thing which
you have spoken.'

So when he had sworn and done that oath, Helen was comforted and dried
her tears. Then she told him how unhappy she was, and how she had lost
her last comfort when Hector died. 'Always am I wretched,' she said,
'save when sweet sleep falls on me. Now the wife of Thon, King of Egypt,
gave me this gift when we were in Egypt, on our way to Troy, namely, a
drug that brings sleep even to the most unhappy, and it is pressed from
the poppy heads of the garland of the God of Sleep.' Then she showed him
strange phials of gold, full of this drug: phials wrought by the
Egyptians, and covered with magic spells and shapes of beasts and
flowers. 'One of these I will give you,' she said, 'that even from Troy
town you may not go without a gift in memory of the hands of Helen.' So
Ulysses took the phial of gold, and was glad in his heart, and Helen set
before him meat and wine. When he had eaten and drunk, and his strength
had come back to him, he said:

'Now I must dress me again in my old rags, and take my wallet, and my
staff, and go forth, and beg through Troy town. For here I must abide
for some days as a beggar man, lest if I now escape from your house in
the night the Trojans may think that you have told me the secrets of
their counsel, which I am carrying to the Greeks, and may be angry with
you.' So he clothed himself again as a beggar, and took his staff, and
hid the phial of gold with the Egyptian drug in his rags, and in his
wallet also he put the new clothes that Helen had given him, and a
sword, and he took farewell, saying, 'Be of good heart, for the end of
your sorrows is at hand. But if you see me among the beggars in the
street, or by the well, take no heed of me, only I will salute you as a
beggar who has been kindly treated by a Queen.'

So they parted, and Ulysses went out, and when it was day he was with
the beggars in the streets, but by night he commonly slept near the fire
of a smithy forge, as is the way of beggars. So for some days he begged,
saying that he was gathering food to eat while he walked to some town
far away that was at peace, where he might find work to do. He was not
impudent now, and did not go to rich men's houses or tell evil tales, or
laugh, but he was much in the temples, praying to the Gods, and above
all in the temple of Pallas Athênê. The Trojans thought that he was a
pious man for a beggar.

Now there was a custom in these times that men and women who were sick
or in distress, should sleep at night on the floors of the temples. They
did this hoping that the God would send them a dream to show them how
their diseases might be cured, or how they might find what they had
lost, or might escape from their distresses.

Ulysses slept in more than one temple, and once in that of Pallas
Athênê, and the priests and priestesses were kind to him, and gave him
food in the morning when the gates of the temple were opened.

In the temple of Pallas Athênê, where the Luck of Troy lay always on her
altar, the custom was that priestesses kept watch, each for two hours,
all through the night, and soldiers kept guard within call. So one night
Ulysses slept there, on the floor, with other distressed people, seeking
for dreams from the Gods. He lay still all through the night till the
turn of the last priestess came to watch. The priestess used to walk up
and down with bare feet among the dreaming people, having a torch in her
hand, and muttering hymns to the Goddess. Then Ulysses, when her back
was turned, slipped the gold phial out of his rags, and let it lie on
the polished floor beside him. When the priestess came back again, the
light from her torch fell on the glittering phial, and she stooped and
picked it up, and looked at it curiously. There came from it a sweet
fragrance, and she opened it, and tasted the drug. It seemed to her the
sweetest thing that ever she had tasted, and she took more and more, and
then closed the phial and laid it down, and went along murmuring her

But soon a great drowsiness came over her, and she sat down on the step
of the altar, and fell sound asleep, and the torch sunk in her hand, and
went out, and all was dark. Then Ulysses put the phial in his wallet,
and crept very cautiously to the altar, in the dark, and stole the Luck
of Troy. It was only a small black mass of what is now called meteoric
iron, which sometimes comes down with meteorites from the sky, but it
was shaped like a shield, and the people thought it an image of the
warlike shielded Goddess, fallen from Heaven. Such sacred shields, made
of glass and ivory, are found deep in the earth in the ruined cities of
Ulysses' time. Swiftly Ulysses hid the Luck in his rags and left in its
place on the altar a copy of the Luck, which he had made of blackened
clay. Then he stole back to the place where he had lain, and remained
there till dawn appeared, and the sleepers who sought for dreams awoke,
and the temple gates were opened, and Ulysses walked out with the rest
of them.

He stole down a lane, where as yet no people were stirring, and crept
along, leaning on his staff, till he came to the eastern gate, at the
back of the city, which the Greeks never attacked, for they had never
drawn their army in a circle round the town. There Ulysses explained to
the sentinels that he had gathered food enough to last for a long
journey to some other town, and opened his bag, which seemed full of
bread and broken meat. The soldiers said he was a lucky beggar, and let
him out. He walked slowly along the waggon road by which wood was
brought into Troy from the forests on Mount Ida, and when he found that
nobody was within sight he slipped into the forest, and stole into a
dark thicket, hiding beneath the tangled boughs. Here he lay and slept
till evening, and then took the new clothes which Helen had given him
out of his wallet, and put them on, and threw the belt of the sword over
his shoulder, and hid the Luck of Troy in his bosom. He washed himself
clean in a mountain brook, and now all who saw him must have known that
he was no beggar, but Ulysses of Ithaca, Laertes' son.

So he walked cautiously down the side of the brook which ran between
high banks deep in trees, and followed it till it reached the river
Xanthus, on the left of the Greek lines. Here he found Greek sentinels
set to guard the camp, who cried aloud in joy and surprise, for his
ship had not yet returned from Delos, and they could not guess how
Ulysses had come back alone across the sea. So two of the sentinels
guarded Ulysses to the hut of Agamemnon, where he and Achilles and all
the chiefs were sitting at a feast. They all leaped up, but when Ulysses
took the Luck of Troy from within his mantle, they cried that this was
the bravest deed that had been done in the war, and they sacrificed ten
oxen to Zeus.

'So you were the old beggar,' said young Thrasymedes.

'Yes,' said Ulysses, 'and when next you beat a beggar, Thrasymedes, do
not strike so hard and so long.'

That night all the Greeks were full of hope, for now they had the Luck
of Troy, but the Trojans were in despair, and guessed that the beggar
was the thief, and that Ulysses had been the beggar. The priestess,
Theano, could tell them nothing; they found her, with the extinguished
torch drooping in her hand, asleep, as she sat on the step of the altar,
and she never woke again.



Ulysses thought much and often of Helen, without whose kindness he could
not have saved the Greeks by stealing the Luck of Troy. He saw that,
though she remained as beautiful as when the princes all sought her
hand, she was most unhappy, knowing herself to be the cause of so much
misery, and fearing what the future might bring. Ulysses told nobody
about the secret which she had let fall, the coming of the Amazons.

The Amazons were a race of warlike maids, who lived far away on the
banks of the river Thermodon. They had fought against Troy in former
times, and one of the great hill-graves on the plain of Troy covered the
ashes of an Amazon, swift-footed Myrinê. People believed that they were
the daughters of the God of War, and they were reckoned equal in battle
to the bravest men. Their young Queen, Penthesilea, had two reasons for
coming to fight at Troy: one was her ambition to win renown, and the
other her sleepless sorrow for having accidentally killed her sister,
Hippolytê, when hunting. The spear which she threw at a stag struck
Hippolytê and slew her, and Penthesilea cared no longer for her own
life, and desired to fall gloriously in battle. So Penthesilea and her
bodyguard of twelve Amazons set forth from the wide streams of
Thermodon, and rode into Troy. The story says that they did not drive in
chariots, like all the Greek and Trojan chiefs, but rode horses, which
must have been the manner of their country.

Penthesilea was the tallest and most beautiful of the Amazons, and shone
among her twelve maidens like the moon among the stars, or the bright
Dawn among the Hours which follow her chariot wheels. The Trojans
rejoiced when they beheld her, for she looked both terrible and
beautiful, with a frown on her brow, and fair shining eyes, and a blush
on her cheeks. To the Trojans she came like Iris, the Rainbow, after a
storm, and they gathered round her cheering, and throwing flowers and
kissing her stirrup, as the people of Orleans welcomed Joan of Arc when
she came to deliver them. Even Priam was glad, as is a man long blind,
when he has been healed, and again looks upon the light of the sun.
Priam held a great feast, and gave to Penthesilea many beautiful gifts:
cups of gold, and embroideries, and a sword with a hilt of silver, and
she vowed that she would slay Achilles. But when Andromache, the wife of
Hector, heard her she said within herself, 'Ah, unhappy girl, what is
this boast of thine! Thou hast not the strength to fight the
unconquerable son of Peleus, for if Hector could not slay him, what
chance hast thou? But the piled-up earth covers Hector!'

In the morning Penthesilea sprang up from sleep and put on her glorious
armour, with spear in hand, and sword at side, and bow and quiver hung
behind her back, and her great shield covering her side from neck to
stirrup, and mounted her horse, and galloped to the plain. Beside her
charged the twelve maidens of her bodyguard, and all the company of
Hector's brothers and kinsfolk. These headed the Trojan lines, and they
rushed towards the ships of the Greeks.

Then the Greeks asked each other, 'Who is this that leads the Trojans as
Hector led them, surely some God rides in the van of the charioteers!'
Ulysses could have told them who the new leader of the Trojans was, but
it seems that he had not the heart to fight against women, for his name
is not mentioned in this day's battle. So the two lines clashed, and the
plain of Troy ran red with blood, for Penthesilea slew Molios, and
Persinoos, and Eilissos, and Antiphates, and Lernos high of heart, and
Hippalmos of the loud warcry, and Haemonides, and strong Elasippus,
while her maidens Derinoê and Cloniê slew each a chief of the Greeks.
But Cloniê fell beneath the spear of Podarkes, whose hand Penthesilea
cut off with the sword, while Idomeneus speared the Amazon Bremousa,
and Meriones of Crete slew Evadrê, and Diomede killed Alcibiê and
Derimacheia in close fight with the sword, so the company of the Twelve
were thinned, the bodyguard of Penthesilea.

The Trojans and Greeks kept slaying each other, but Penthesilea avenged
her maidens, driving the ranks of Greece as a lioness drives the cattle
on the hills, for they could not stand before her. Then she shouted,
'Dogs! to-day shall you pay for the sorrows of Priam! Where is Diomede,
where is Achilles, where is Aias, that, men say, are your bravest? Will
none of them stand before my spear?' Then she charged again, at the head
of the Household of Priam, brothers and kinsmen of Hector, and where
they came the Greeks fell like yellow leaves before the wind of autumn.
The white horse that Penthesilea rode, a gift from the wife of the North
Wind, flashed like lightning through a dark cloud among the companies of
the Greeks, and the chariots that followed the charge of the Amazon
rocked as they swept over the bodies of the slain. Then the old Trojans,
watching from the walls, cried: 'This is no mortal maiden but a Goddess,
and to-day she will burn the ships of the Greeks, and they will all
perish in Troyland, and see Greece never more again.'

Now it so was that Aias and Achilles had not heard the din and the cry
of war, for both had gone to weep over the great new grave of Patroclus.
Penthesilea and the Trojans had driven back the Greeks within their
ditch, and they were hiding here and there among the ships, and torches
were blazing in men's hands to burn the ships, as in the day of the
valour of Hector: when Aias heard the din of battle, and called to
Achilles to make speed towards the ships.

So they ran swiftly to their huts, and armed themselves, and Aias fell
smiting and slaying upon the Trojans, but Achilles slew five of the
bodyguard of Penthesilea. She, beholding her maidens fallen, rode
straight against Aias and Achilles, like a dove defying two falcons, and
cast her spear, but it fell back blunted from the glorious shield that
the God had made for the son of Peleus. Then she threw another spear at
Aias, crying, 'I am the daughter of the God of War,' but his armour kept
out the spear, and he and Achilles laughed aloud. Aias paid no more heed
to the Amazon, but rushed against the Trojan men; while Achilles raised
the heavy spear that none but he could throw, and drove it down through
breastplate and breast of Penthesilea, yet still her hand grasped her
sword-hilt. But, ere she could draw her sword, Achilles speared her
horse, and horse and rider fell, and died in their fall.

There lay fair Penthesilea in the dust, like a tall poplar tree that the
wind has overthrown, and her helmet fell, and the Greeks who gathered
round marvelled to see her lie so beautiful in death, like Artemis, the
Goddess of the Woods, when she sleeps alone, weary with hunting on the
hills. Then the heart of Achilles was pierced with pity and sorrow,
thinking how she might have been his wife in his own country, had he
spared her, but he was never to see pleasant Phthia, his native land,
again. So Achilles stood and wept over Penthesilea dead.

Now the Greeks, in pity and sorrow, held their hands, and did not pursue
the Trojans who had fled, nor did they strip the armour from Penthesilea
and her twelve maidens, but laid the bodies on biers, and sent them back
in peace to Priam. Then the Trojans burned Penthesilea in the midst of
her dead maidens, on a great pile of dry wood, and placed their ashes
in a golden casket, and buried them all in the great hill-grave of
Laomedon, an ancient King of Troy, while the Greeks with lamentation
buried them whom the Amazon had slain.


The old men of Troy and the chiefs now held a council, and Priam said
that they must not yet despair, for, if they had lost many of their
bravest warriors, many of the Greeks had also fallen. Their best plan
was to fight only with arrows from the walls and towers, till King
Memnon came to their rescue with a great army of Aethiopes. Now Memnon
was the son of the bright Dawn, a beautiful Goddess who had loved and
married a mortal man, Tithonus. She had asked Zeus, the chief of the
Gods, to make her lover immortal, and her prayer was granted. Tithonus
could not die, but he began to grow grey, and then white haired, with a
long white beard, and very weak, till nothing of him seemed to be left
but his voice, always feebly chattering like the grasshoppers on a
summer day.

Memnon was the most beautiful of men, except Paris and Achilles, and his
home was in a country that borders on the land of sunrising. There he
was reared by the lily maidens called Hesperides, till he came to his
full strength, and commanded the whole army of the Aethiopes. For their
arrival Priam wished to wait, but Polydamas advised that the Trojans
should give back Helen to the Greeks, with jewels twice as valuable as
those which she had brought from the house of Menelaus. Then Paris was
very angry, and said that Polydamas was a coward, for it was little to
Paris that Troy should be taken and burned in a month if for a month he
could keep Helen of the fair hands.

At length Memnon came, leading a great army of men who had nothing white
about them but the teeth, so fiercely the sun burned on them in their
own country. The Trojans had all the more hopes of Memnon because, on
his long journey from the land of sunrising, and the river Oceanus that
girdles the round world, he had been obliged to cross the country of the
Solymi. Now the Solymi were the fiercest of men and rose up against
Memnon, but he and his army fought them for a whole day, and defeated
them, and drove them to the hills. When Memnon came, Priam gave him a
great cup of gold, full of wine to the brim, and Memnon drank the wine
at one draught. But he did not make great boasts of what he could do,
like poor Penthesilea, 'for,' said he, 'whether I am a good man at arms
will be known in battle, where the strength of men is tried. So now let
us turn to sleep, for to wake and drink wine all through the night is an
ill beginning of war.'

Then Priam praised his wisdom, and all men betook them to bed, but the
bright Dawn rose unwillingly next day, to throw light on the battle
where her son was to risk his life. Then Memnon led out the dark clouds
of his men into the plain, and the Greeks foreboded evil when they saw
so great a new army of fresh and unwearied warriors, but Achilles,
leading them in his shining armour, gave them courage. Memnon fell upon
the left wing of the Greeks, and on the men of Nestor, and first he slew
Ereuthus, and then attacked Nestor's young son, Antilochus, who, now
that Patroclus had fallen, was the dearest friend of Achilles. On him
Memnon leaped, like a lion on a kid, but Antilochus lifted a huge stone
from the plain, a pillar that had been set on the tomb of some great
warrior long ago, and the stone smote full on the helmet of Memnon, who
reeled beneath the stroke. But Memnon seized his heavy spear, and drove
it through shield and corselet of Antilochus, even into his heart, and
he fell and died beneath his father's eyes. Then Nestor in great sorrow
and anger strode across the body of Antilochus and called to his other
son, Thrasymedes, 'Come and drive afar this man that has slain thy
brother, for if fear be in thy heart thou art no son of mine, nor of the
race of Periclymenus, who stood up in battle even against the strong man

But Memnon was too strong for Thrasymedes, and drove him off, while old
Nestor himself charged sword in hand, though Memnon bade him begone, for
he was not minded to strike so aged a man, and Nestor drew back, for he
was weak with age. Then Memnon and his army charged the Greeks, slaying
and stripping the dead. But Nestor had mounted his chariot and driven to
Achilles, weeping, and imploring him to come swiftly and save the body
of Antilochus, and he sped to meet Memnon, who lifted a great stone, the
landmark of a field, and drove it against the shield of the son of
Peleus. But Achilles was not shaken by the blow; he ran forward, and
wounded Memnon over the rim of his shield. Yet wounded as he was Memnon
fought on and struck his spear through the arm of Achilles, for the
Greeks fought with no sleeves of bronze to protect their arms.

Then Achilles drew his great sword, and flew on Memnon, and with
sword-strokes they lashed at each other on shield and helmet, and the
long horsehair crests of the helmets were shorn off, and flew down the
wind, and their shields rang terribly beneath the sword strokes. They
thrust at each others' throats between shield and visor of the helmet,
they smote at knee, and thrust at breast, and the armour rang about
their bodies, and the dust from beneath their feet rose up in a cloud
around them, like mist round the falls of a great river in flood. So
they fought, neither of them yielding a step, till Achilles made so
rapid a thrust that Memnon could not parry it, and the bronze sword
passed clean through his body beneath the breast-bone, and he fell, and
his armour clashed as he fell.

Then Achilles, wounded as he was and weak from loss of blood, did not
stay to strip the golden armour of Memnon, but shouted his warcry, and
pressed on, for he hoped to enter the gate of Troy with the fleeing
Trojans, and all the Greeks followed after him. So they pursued, slaying
as they went, and the Scaean gate was choked with the crowd of men,
pursuing and pursued. In that hour would the Greeks have entered Troy,
and burned the city, and taken the women captive, but Paris stood on the
tower above the gate, and in his mind was anger for the death of his
brother Hector. He tried the string of his bow, and found it frayed, for
all day he had showered his arrows on the Greeks; so he chose a new
bowstring, and fitted it, and strung the bow, and chose an arrow from
his quiver, and aimed at the ankle of Achilles, where it was bare
beneath the greave, or leg-guard of metal, that the God had fashioned
for him. Through the ankle flew the arrow, and Achilles wheeled round,
weak as he was, and stumbled, and fell, and the armour that the God had
wrought was defiled with dust and blood.

Then Achilles rose again, and cried: 'What coward has smitten me with a
secret arrow from afar? Let him stand forth and meet me with sword and
spear!' So speaking he seized the shaft with his strong hands and tore
it out of the wound, and much blood gushed, and darkness came over his
eyes. Yet he staggered forward, striking blindly, and smote Orythaon, a
dear friend of Hector, through the helmet, and others he smote, but now
his force failed him, and he leaned on his spear, and cried his warcry,
and said, 'Cowards of Troy, ye shall not all escape my spear, dying as I
am.' But as he spoke he fell, and all his armour rang around him, yet
the Trojans stood apart and watched; and as hunters watch a dying lion
not daring to go nigh him, so the Trojans stood in fear till Achilles
drew his latest breath. Then from the wall the Trojan women raised a
great cry of joy over him who had slain the noble Hector: and thus was
fulfilled the prophecy of Hector, that Achilles should fall in the
Scaean gateway, by the hand of Paris.

Then the best of the Trojans rushed forth from the gate to seize the
body of Achilles, and his glorious armour, but the Greeks were as eager
to carry the body to the ships that it might have due burial. Round the
dead Achilles men fought long and sore, and both sides were mixed,
Greeks and Trojans, so that men dared not shoot arrows from the walls of
Troy lest they should kill their own friends. Paris, and Aeneas, and
Glaucus, who had been the friend of Sarpedon, led the Trojans, and Aias
and Ulysses led the Greeks, for we are not told that Agamemnon was
fighting in this great battle of the war. Now as angry wild bees flock
round a man who is taking their honeycombs, so the Trojans gathered
round Aias, striving to stab him, but he set his great shield in front,
and smote and slew all that came within reach of his spear. Ulysses,
too, struck down many, and though a spear was thrown and pierced his leg
near the knee he stood firm, protecting the body of Achilles. At last
Ulysses caught the body of Achilles by the hands, and heaved it upon his
back, and so limped towards the ships, but Aias and the men of Aias
followed, turning round if ever the Trojans ventured to come near, and
charging into the midst of them. Thus very slowly they bore the dead
Achilles across the plain, through the bodies of the fallen and the
blood, till they met Nestor in his chariot and placed Achilles therein,
and swiftly Nestor drove to the ships.

There the women, weeping, washed Achilles' comely body, and laid him on
a bier with a great white mantle over him, and all the women lamented
and sang dirges, and the first was Briseis, who loved Achilles better
than her own country, and her father, and her brothers whom he had slain
in war. The Greek princes, too, stood round the body, weeping and
cutting off their long locks of yellow hair, a token of grief and an
offering to the dead.

Men say that forth from the sea came Thetis of the silver feet, the
mother of Achilles, with her ladies, the deathless maidens of the
waters. They rose up from their glassy chambers below the sea, moving
on, many and beautiful, like the waves on a summer day, and their sweet
song echoed along the shores, and fear came upon the Greeks. Then they
would have fled, but Nestor cried: 'Hold, flee not, young lords of the
Achaeans! Lo, she that comes from the sea is his mother, with the
deathless maidens of the waters, to look on the face of her dead son.'
Then the sea nymphs stood around the dead Achilles and clothed him in
the garments of the Gods, fragrant raiment, and all the Nine Muses, one
to the other replying with sweet voices, began their lament.

Next the Greeks made a great pile of dry wood, and laid Achilles on it,
and set fire to it, till the flames had consumed his body except the
white ashes. These they placed in a great golden cup and mingled with
them the ashes of Patroclus, and above all they built a tomb like a
hill, high on a headland above the sea, that men for all time may see it
as they go sailing by, and may remember Achilles. Next they held in his
honour foot races and chariot races, and other games, and Thetis gave
splendid prizes. Last of all, when the games were ended, Thetis placed
before the chiefs the glorious armour that the God had made for her son
on the night after the slaying of Patroclus by Hector. 'Let these arms
be the prize of the best of the Greeks,' she said, 'and of him that
saved the body of Achilles out of the hands of the Trojans.'

Then stood up on one side Aias and on the other Ulysses, for these two
had rescued the body, and neither thought himself a worse warrior than
the other. Both were the bravest of the brave, and if Aias was the
taller and stronger, and upheld the fight at the ships on the day of the
valour of Hector; Ulysses had alone withstood the Trojans, and refused
to retreat even when wounded, and his courage and cunning had won for
the Greeks the Luck of Troy. Therefore old Nestor arose and said: 'This
is a luckless day, when the best of the Greeks are rivals for such a
prize. He who is not the winner will be heavy at heart, and will not
stand firm by us in battle, as of old, and hence will come great loss to
the Greeks. Who can be a just judge in this question, for some men will
love Aias better, and some will prefer Ulysses, and thus will arise
disputes among ourselves. Lo! have we not here among us many Trojan
prisoners, waiting till their friends pay their ransom in cattle and
gold and bronze and iron? These hate all the Greeks alike, and will
favour neither Aias nor Ulysses. Let _them_ be the judges, and decide
who is the best of the Greeks, and the man who has done most harm to the

Agamemnon said that Nestor had spoken wisely. The Trojans were then made
to sit as judges in the midst of the Assembly, and Aias and Ulysses
spoke, and told the stories of their own great deeds, of which we have
heard already, but Aias spoke roughly and discourteously, calling
Ulysses a coward and a weakling. 'Perhaps the Trojans know,' said
Ulysses quietly, 'whether they think that I deserve what Aias has said
about me, that I am a coward; and perhaps Aias may remember that he did
not find me so weak when we wrestled for a prize at the funeral of

Then the Trojans all with one voice said that Ulysses was the best man
among the Greeks, and the most feared by them, both for his courage and
his skill in stratagems of war. On this, the blood of Aias flew into his
face, and he stood silent and unmoving, and could not speak a word, till
his friends came round him and led him away to his hut, and there he sat
down and would not eat or drink, and the night fell.

Long he sat, musing in his mind, and then rose and put on all his
armour, and seized a sword that Hector had given him one day when they
two fought in a gentle passage of arms, and took courteous farewell of
each other, and Aias had given Hector a broad sword-belt, wrought with
gold. This sword, Hector's gift, Aias took, and went towards the hut of
Ulysses, meaning to carve him limb from limb, for madness had come upon
him in his great grief. Rushing through the night to slay Ulysses he
fell upon the flock of sheep that the Greeks kept for their meat. And up
and down among them he went, smiting blindly till the dawn came, and,
lo! his senses returned to him, and he saw that he had not smitten
Ulysses, but stood in a pool of blood among the sheep that he had
slain. He could not endure the disgrace of his madness, and he fixed the
sword, Hector's gift, with its hilt firmly in the ground, and went back
a little way, and ran and fell upon the sword, which pierced his heart,
and so died the great Aias, choosing death before a dishonoured life.



When the Greeks found Aias lying dead, slain by his own hand, they made
great lament, and above all the brother of Aias, and his wife Tecmessa
bewailed him, and the shores of the sea rang with their sorrow. But of
all no man was more grieved than Ulysses, and he stood up and said:
'Would that the sons of the Trojans had never awarded to me the arms of
Achilles, for far rather would I have given them to Aias than that this
loss should have befallen the whole army of the Greeks. Let no man blame
me, or be angry with me, for I have not sought for wealth, to enrich
myself, but for honour only, and to win a name that will be remembered
among men in times to come.' Then they made a great fire of wood, and
burned the body of Aias, lamenting him as they had sorrowed for

Now it seemed that though the Greeks had won the Luck of Troy and had
defeated the Amazons and the army of Memnon, they were no nearer taking
Troy than ever. They had slain Hector, indeed, and many other Trojans,
but they had lost the great Achilles, and Aias, and Patroclus, and
Antilochus, with the princes whom Penthesilea and Memnon slew, and the
bands of the dead chiefs were weary of fighting, and eager to go home.
The chiefs met in council, and Menelaus arose and said that his heart
was wasted with sorrow for the death of so many brave men who had sailed
to Troy for his sake. 'Would that death had come upon me before I
gathered this host,' he said, 'but come, let the rest of us launch our
swift ships, and return each to our own country.'

He spoke thus to try the Greeks, and see of what courage they were, for
his desire was still to burn Troy town and to slay Paris with his own
hand. Then up rose Diomede, and swore that never would the Greeks turn
cowards. No! he bade them sharpen their swords, and make ready for
battle. The prophet Calchas, too, arose and reminded the Greeks how he
had always foretold that they would take Troy in the tenth year of the
siege, and how the tenth year had come, and victory was almost in their
hands. Next Ulysses stood up and said that, though Achilles was dead,
and there was no prince to lead his men, yet a son had been born to
Achilles, while he was in the isle of Scyros, and that son he would
bring to fill his father's place.

'Surely he will come, and for a token I will carry to him those unhappy
arms of the great Achilles. Unworthy am I to wear them, and they bring
back to my mind our sorrow for Aias. But his son will wear them, in the
front of the spearmen of Greece and in the thickest ranks of Troy shall
the helmet of Achilles shine, as it was wont to do, for always he fought
among the foremost.' Thus Ulysses spoke, and he and Diomede, with fifty
oarsmen, went on board a swift ship, and sitting all in order on the
benches they smote the grey sea into foam, and Ulysses held the helm and
steered them towards the isle of Scyros.

Now the Trojans had rest from war for a while, and Priam, with a heavy
heart, bade men take his chief treasure, the great golden vine, with
leaves and clusters of gold, and carry it to the mother of Eurypylus,
the king of the people who dwell where the wide marshlands of the river
Caycus clang with the cries of the cranes and herons and wild swans. For
the mother of Eurypylus had sworn that never would she let her son go to
the war unless Priam sent her the vine of gold, a gift of the gods to an
ancient King of Troy.

With a heavy heart, then, Priam sent the golden vine, but Eurypylus was
glad when he saw it, and bade all his men arm, and harness the horses to
the chariots, and glad were the Trojans when the long line of the new
army wound along the road and into the town. Then Paris welcomed
Eurypylus who was his nephew, son of his sister Astyochê, a daughter of
Priam; but the grandfather of Eurypylus was the famous Heracles, the
strongest man who ever lived on earth. So Paris brought Eurypylus to his
house, where Helen sat working at her embroideries with her four bower
maidens, and Eurypylus marvelled when he saw her, she was so beautiful.
But the Khita, the people of Eurypylus, feasted in the open air among
the Trojans, by the light of great fires burning, and to the music of
pipes and flutes. The Greeks saw the fires, and heard the merry music,
and they watched all night lest the Trojans should attack the ships
before the dawn. But in the dawn Eurypylus rose from sleep and put on
his armour, and hung from his neck by the belt the great shield on which
were fashioned, in gold of many colours and in silver, the Twelve
Adventures of Heracles, his grandfather; strange deeds that he did,
fighting with monsters and giants and with the Hound of Hades, who
guards the dwellings of the dead. Then Eurypylus led on his whole army,
and with the brothers of Hector he charged against the Greeks, who were
led by Agamemnon.

In that battle Eurypylus first smote Nireus, who was the most beautiful
of the Greeks now that Achilles had fallen. There lay Nireus, like an
apple tree, all covered with blossoms red and white, that the wind has
overthrown in a rich man's orchard. Then Eurypylus would have stripped
off his armour, but Machaon rushed in, Machaon who had been wounded and
taken to the tent of Nestor, on the day of the Valour of Hector, when he
brought fire against the ships. Machaon drove his spear through the left
shoulder of Eurypylus, but Eurypylus struck at his shoulder with his
sword, and the blood flowed; nevertheless, Machaon stooped, and grasped
a great stone, and sent it against the helmet of Eurypylus. He was
shaken, but he did not fall, he drove his spear through breastplate and
breast of Machaon, who fell and died. With his last breath he said,
'Thou, too, shalt fall,' but Eurypylus made answer, 'So let it be! Men
cannot live for ever, and such is the fortune of war.'

Thus the battle rang, and shone, and shifted, till few of the Greeks
kept steadfast, except those with Menelaus and Agamemnon, for Diomede
and Ulysses were far away upon the sea, bringing from Scyros the son of
Achilles. But Teucer slew Polydamas, who had warned Hector to come
within the walls of Troy; and Menelaus wounded Deiphobus, the bravest of
the sons of Priam who were still in arms, for many had fallen; and
Agamemnon slew certain spearmen of the Trojans. Round Eurypylus fought
Paris, and Aeneas, who wounded Teucer with a great stone, breaking in
his helmet, but he drove back in his chariot to the ships. Menelaus and
Agamemnon stood alone and fought in the crowd of Trojans, like two wild
boars that a circle of hunters surrounds with spears, so fiercely they
stood at bay. There they would both have fallen, but Idomeneus, and
Meriones of Crete, and Thrasymedes, Nestor's son, ran to their rescue,
and fiercer grew the fighting. Eurypylus desired to slay Agamemnon and
Menelaus, and end the war, but, as the spears of the Scots encompassed
King James at Flodden Field till he ran forward, and fell within a
lance's length of the English general, so the men of Crete and Pylos
guarded the two princes with their spears.

There Paris was wounded in the thigh with a spear, and he retreated a
little way, and showered his arrows among the Greeks; and Idomeneus
lifted and hurled a great stone at Eurypylus which struck his spear out
of his hand, and he went back to find it, and Menelaus and Agamemnon had
a breathing space in the battle. But soon Eurypylus returned, crying on
his men, and they drove back foot by foot the ring of spears round
Agamemnon, and Aeneas and Paris slew men of Crete and of Mycenae till
the Greeks were pushed to the ditch round the camp; and then great
stones and spears and arrows rained down on the Trojans and the people
of Eurypylus from the battlements and towers of the Grecian wall. Now
night fell, and Eurypylus knew that he could not win the wall in the
dark, so he withdrew his men, and they built great fires, and camped
upon the plain.

The case of the Greeks was now like that of the Trojans after the death
of Hector. They buried Machaon and the other chiefs who had fallen, and
they remained within their ditch and their wall, for they dared not come
out into the open plain. They knew not whether Ulysses and Diomede had
come safely to Scyros, or whether their ship had been wrecked or driven
into unknown seas. So they sent a herald to Eurypylus, asking for a
truce, that they might gather their dead and burn them, and the Trojans
and Khita also buried their dead.

Meanwhile the swift ship of Ulysses had swept through the sea to Scyros,
and to the palace of King Lycomedes. There they found Neoptolemus, the
son of Achilles, in the court before the doors. He was as tall as his
father, and very like him in face and shape, and he was practising the
throwing of the spear at a mark. Right glad were Ulysses and Diomede to
behold him, and Ulysses told Neoptolemus who they were, and why they
came, and implored him to take pity on the Greeks and help them.

'My friend is Diomede, Prince of Argos,' said Ulysses, 'and I am Ulysses
of Ithaca. Come with us, and we Greeks will give you countless gifts,
and I myself will present you with the armour of your father, such as it
is not lawful for any other mortal man to wear, seeing that it is
golden, and wrought by the hands of a God. Moreover, when we have taken
Troy, and gone home, Menelaus will give you his daughter, the beautiful
Hermione, to be your wife, with gold in great plenty.'

Then Neoptolemus answered: 'It is enough that the Greeks need my sword.
To-morrow we shall sail for Troy.' He led them into the palace to dine,
and there they found his mother, beautiful Deidamia, in mourning
raiment, and she wept when she heard that they had come to take her son
away. But Neoptolemus comforted her, promising to return safely with the
spoils of Troy, 'or, even if I fall,' he said, 'it will be after doing
deeds worthy of my father's name.' So next day they sailed, leaving
Deidamia mournful, like a swallow whose nest a serpent has found, and
has killed her young ones; even so she wailed, and went up and down in
the house. But the ship ran swiftly on her way, cleaving the dark waves
till Ulysses showed Neoptolemus the far off snowy crest of Mount Ida;
and Tenedos, the island near Troy; and they passed the plain where the
tomb of Achilles stands, but Ulysses did not tell the son that it was
his father's tomb.

Now all this time the Greeks, shut up within their wall and fighting
from their towers, were looking back across the sea, eager to spy the
ship of Ulysses, like men wrecked on a desert island, who keep watch
every day for a sail afar off, hoping that the seamen will touch at
their isle and have pity upon them, and carry them home, so the Greeks
kept watch for the ship bearing Neoptolemus.

Diomede, too, had been watching the shore, and when they came in sight
of the ships of the Greeks, he saw that they were being besieged by the
Trojans, and that all the Greek army was penned up within the wall, and
was fighting from the towers. Then he cried aloud to Ulysses and
Neoptolemus, 'Make haste, friends, let us arm before we land, for some
great evil has fallen upon the Greeks. The Trojans are attacking our
wall, and soon they will burn our ships, and for us there will be no

Then all the men on the ship of Ulysses armed themselves, and
Neoptolemus, in the splendid armour of his father, was the first to leap
ashore. The Greeks could not come from the wall to welcome him, for they
were fighting hard and hand-to-hand with Eurypylus and his men. But they
glanced back over their shoulders and it seemed to them that they saw
Achilles himself, spear and sword in hand, rushing to help them. They
raised a great battle-cry, and, when Neoptolemus reached the
battlements, he and Ulysses, and Diomede leaped down to the plain, the
Greeks following them, and they all charged at once on the men of
Eurypylus, with levelled spears, and drove them from the wall.

Then the Trojans trembled, for they knew the shields of Diomede and
Ulysses, and they thought that the tall chief in the armour of Achilles
was Achilles himself, come back from the land of the dead to take
vengeance for Antilochus. The Trojans fled, and gathered round
Eurypylus, as in a thunderstorm little children, afraid of the lightning
and the noise, run and cluster round their father, and hide their faces
on his knees.

But Neoptolemus was spearing the Trojans, as a man who carries at night
a beacon of fire in his boat on the sea spears the fishes that flock
around, drawn by the blaze of the flame. Cruelly he avenged his father's
death on many a Trojan, and the men whom Achilles had led followed
Achilles' son, slaying to right and left, and smiting the Trojans, as
they ran, between the shoulders with the spear. Thus they fought and
followed while daylight lasted, but when night fell, they led
Neoptolemus to his father's hut, where the women washed him in the bath,
and then he was taken to feast with Agamemnon and Menelaus and the
princes. They all welcomed him, and gave him glorious gifts, swords with
silver hilts, and cups of gold and silver, and they were glad, for they
had driven the Trojans from their wall, and hoped that to-morrow they
would slay Eurypylus, and take Troy town.

But their hope was not to be fulfilled, for though next day Eurypylus
met Neoptolemus in the battle, and was slain by him, when the Greeks
chased the Trojans into their city so great a storm of lightning and
thunder and rain fell upon them that they retreated again to their camp.
They believed that Zeus, the chief of the Gods, was angry with them, and
the days went by, and Troy still stood unconquered.



When the Greeks were disheartened, as they often were, they consulted
Calchas the prophet. He usually found that they must do something, or
send for somebody, and in doing so they diverted their minds from their
many misfortunes. Now, as the Trojans were fighting more bravely than
before, under Deiphobus, a brother of Hector, the Greeks went to Calchas
for advice, and he told them that they must send Ulysses and Diomede to
bring Philoctetes the bowman from the isle of Lemnos. This was an
unhappy deserted island, in which the married women, some years before,
had murdered all their husbands, out of jealousy, in a single night. The
Greeks had landed in Lemnos, on their way to Troy, and there Philoctetes
had shot an arrow at a great water dragon which lived in a well within a
cave in the lonely hills. But when he entered the cave the dragon bit
him, and, though he killed it at last, its poisonous teeth wounded his
foot. The wound never healed, but dripped with venom, and Philoctetes,
in terrible pain, kept all the camp awake at night by his cries.

The Greeks were sorry for him, but he was not a pleasant companion,
shrieking as he did, and exuding poison wherever he came. So they left
him on the lonely island, and did not know whether he was alive or
dead. Calchas ought to have told the Greeks not to desert Philoctetes at
the time, if he was so important that Troy, as the prophet now said,
could not be taken without him. But now, as he must give some advice,
Calchas said that Philoctetes must be brought back, so Ulysses and
Diomede went to bring him. They sailed to Lemnos, a melancholy place
they found it, with no smoke rising from the ruinous houses along the
shore. As they were landing they learned that Philoctetes was not dead,
for his dismal old cries of pain, _ototototoi, ai, ai; pheu, pheu;
ototototoi_, came echoing from a cave on the beach. To this cave the
princes went, and found a terrible-looking man, with long, dirty, dry
hair and beard; he was worn to a skeleton, with hollow eyes, and lay
moaning in a mass of the feathers of sea birds. His great bow and his
arrows lay ready to his hand: with these he used to shoot the sea birds,
which were all that he had to eat, and their feathers littered all the
floor of his cave, and they were none the better for the poison that
dripped from his wounded foot.

When this horrible creature saw Ulysses and Diomede coming near, he
seized his bow and fitted a poisonous arrow to the string, for he hated
the Greeks, because they had left him in the desert isle. But the
princes held up their hands in sign of peace, and cried out that they
had come to do him kindness, so he laid down his bow, and they came in
and sat on the rocks, and promised that his wound should be healed, for
the Greeks were very much ashamed of having deserted him. It was
difficult to resist Ulysses when he wished to persuade any one, and at
last Philoctetes consented to sail with them to Troy. The oarsmen
carried him down to the ship on a litter, and there his dreadful wound
was washed with warm water, and oil was poured into it, and it was
bound up with soft linen, so that his pain grew less fierce, and they
gave him a good supper and wine enough, which he had not tasted for many

Next morning they sailed, and had a fair west wind, so that they soon
landed among the Greeks and carried Philoctetes on shore. Here
Podaleirius, the brother of Machaon, being a physician, did all that
could be done to heal the wound, and the pain left Philoctetes. He was
taken to the hut of Agamemnon, who welcomed him, and said that the
Greeks repented of their cruelty. They gave him seven female slaves to
take care of him, and twenty swift horses, and twelve great vessels of
bronze, and told him that he was always to live with the greatest chiefs
and feed at their table. So he was bathed, and his hair was cut and
combed and anointed with oil, and soon he was eager and ready to fight,
and to use his great bow and poisoned arrows on the Trojans. The use of
poisoned arrow-tips was thought unfair, but Philoctetes had no scruples.

Now in the next battle Paris was shooting down the Greeks with his
arrows, when Philoctetes saw him, and cried: 'Dog, you are proud of your
archery and of the arrow that slew the great Achilles. But, behold, I am
a better bowman than you, by far, and the bow in my hands was borne by
the strong man Heracles!' So he cried and drew the bowstring to his
breast and the poisoned arrowhead to the bow, and the bowstring rang,
and the arrow flew, and did but graze the hand of Paris. Then the bitter
pain of the poison came upon him, and the Trojans carried him into their
city, where the physicians tended him all night. But he never slept, and
lay tossing in agony till dawn, when he said: 'There is but one hope.
Take me to Oenone, the nymph of Mount Ida!'

Then his friends laid Paris on a litter, and bore him up the steep path
to Mount Ida. Often had he climbed it swiftly, when he was young, and
went to see the nymph who loved him; but for many a day he had not trod
the path where he was now carried in great pain and fear, for the poison
turned his blood to fire. Little hope he had, for he knew how cruelly he
had deserted Oenone, and he saw that all the birds which were
disturbed in the wood flew away to the left hand, an omen of evil.

At last the bearers reached the cave where the nymph Oenone lived, and
they smelled the sweet fragrance of the cedar fire that burned on the
floor of the cave, and they heard the nymph singing a melancholy song.
Then Paris called to her in the voice which she had once loved to hear,
and she grew very pale, and rose up, saying to herself, 'The day has
come for which I have prayed. He is sore hurt, and has come to bid me
heal his wound.' So she came and stood in the doorway of the dark cave,
white against the darkness, and the bearers laid Paris on the litter at
the feet of Oenone, and he stretched forth his hands to touch her
knees, as was the manner of suppliants. But she drew back and gathered
her robe about her, that he might not touch it with his hands.

Then he said: 'Lady, despise me not, and hate me not, for my pain is
more than I can bear. Truly it was by no will of mine that I left you
lonely here, for the Fates that no man may escape led me to Helen. Would
that I had died in your arms before I saw her face! But now I beseech
you in the name of the Gods, and for the memory of our love, that you
will have pity on me and heal my hurt, and not refuse your grace and let
me die here at your feet.'


Then Oenone answered scornfully: 'Why have you come here to me? Surely
for years you have not come this way, where the path was once worn with
your feet. But long ago you left me lonely and lamenting, for the love
of Helen of the fair hands. Surely she is much more beautiful than the
love of your youth, and far more able to help you, for men say that she
can never know old age and death. Go home to Helen and let her take away
your pain.'

Thus Oenone spoke, and went within the cave, where she threw herself
down among the ashes of the hearth and sobbed for anger and sorrow. In a
little while she rose and went to the door of the cave, thinking that
Paris had not been borne away back to Troy, but she found him not; for
his bearers had carried him by another path, till he died beneath the
boughs of the oak trees. Then his bearers carried him swiftly down to
Troy, where his mother bewailed him, and Helen sang over him as she had
sung over Hector, remembering many things, and fearing to think of what
her own end might be. But the Trojans hastily built a great pile of dry
wood, and thereon laid the body of Paris and set fire to it, and the
flame went up through the darkness, for now night had fallen.

But Oenone was roaming in the dark woods, crying and calling after
Paris, like a lioness whose cubs the hunters have carried away. The moon
rose to give her light, and the flame of the funeral fire shone against
the sky, and then Oenone knew that Paris had died--beautiful
Paris--and that the Trojans were burning his body on the plain at the
foot of Mount Ida. Then she cried that now Paris was all her own, and
that Helen had no more hold on him: 'And though when he was living he
left me, in death we shall not be divided,' she said, and she sped down
the hill, and through the thickets where the wood nymphs were wailing
for Paris, and she reached the plain, and, covering her head with her
veil like a bride, she rushed through the throng of Trojans. She leaped
upon the burning pile of wood, she clasped the body of Paris in her
arms, and the flame of fire consumed the bridegroom and the bride, and
their ashes mingled. No man could divide them any more, and the ashes
were placed in a golden cup, within a chamber of stone, and the earth
was mounded above them. On that grave the wood nymphs planted two rose
trees, and their branches met and plaited together.

This was the end of Paris and Oenone.



After Paris died, Helen was not given back to Menelaus. We are often
told that only fear of the anger of Paris had prevented the Trojans from
surrendering Helen and making peace. Now Paris could not terrify them,
yet for all that the men of the town would not part with Helen, whether
because she was so beautiful, or because they thought it dishonourable
to yield her to the Greeks, who might put her to a cruel death. So Helen
was taken by Deiphobus, the brother of Paris, to live in his own house,
and Deiphobus was at this time the best warrior and the chief captain of
the men of Troy.

Meanwhile, the Greeks made an assault against the Trojan walls and
fought long and hardily; but, being safe behind the battlements, and
shooting through loopholes, the Trojans drove them back with loss of
many of their men. It was in vain that Philoctetes shot his poisoned
arrows, they fell back from the stone walls, or stuck in the palisades
of wood above the walls, and the Greeks who tried to climb over were
speared, or crushed with heavy stones. When night fell, they retreated
to the ships and held a council, and, as usual, they asked the advice of
the prophet Calchas. It was the business of Calchas to go about looking
at birds, and taking omens from what he saw them doing, a way of
prophesying which the Romans also used, and some savages do the same to
this day. Calchas said that yesterday he had seen a hawk pursuing a
dove, which hid herself in a hole in a rocky cliff. For a long while the
hawk tried to find the hole, and follow the dove into it, but he could
not reach her. So he flew away for a short distance and hid himself;
then the dove fluttered out into the sunlight, and the hawk swooped on
her and killed her.

The Greeks, said Calchas, ought to learn a lesson from the hawk, and
take Troy by cunning, as by force they could do nothing. Then Ulysses
stood up and described a trick which it is not easy to understand. The
Greeks, he said, ought to make an enormous hollow horse of wood, and
place the bravest men in the horse. Then all the rest of the Greeks
should embark in their ships and sail to the Isle of Tenedos, and lie
hidden behind the island. The Trojans would then come out of the city,
like the dove out of her hole in the rock, and would wander about the
Greek camp, and wonder why the great horse of tree had been made, and
why it had been left behind. Lest they should set fire to the horse,
when they would soon have found out the warriors hidden in it, a cunning
Greek, whom the Trojans did not know by sight, should be left in the
camp or near it. He would tell the Trojans that the Greeks had given up
all hope and gone home, and he was to say that they feared the Goddess
Pallas was angry with them, because they had stolen her image that fell
from heaven, and was called the Luck of Troy. To soothe Pallas and
prevent her from sending great storms against the ships, the Greeks (so
the man was to say) had built this wooden horse as an offering to the
Goddess. The Trojans, believing this story, would drag the horse into
Troy, and, in the night, the princes would come out, set fire to the
city, and open the gates to the army, which would return from Tenedos as
soon as darkness came on.

The prophet was much pleased with the plan of Ulysses, and, as two birds
happened to fly away on the right hand, he declared that the stratagem
would certainly be lucky. Neoptolemus, on the other hand, voted for
taking Troy, without any trick, by sheer hard fighting. Ulysses replied
that if Achilles could not do that, it could not be done at all, and
that Epeius, a famous carpenter, had better set about making the horse
at once.

Next day half the army, with axes in their hands, were sent to cut down
trees on Mount Ida, and thousands of planks were cut from the trees by
Epeius and his workmen, and in three days he had finished the horse.
Ulysses then asked the best of the Greeks to come forward and go inside
the machine; while one, whom the Greeks did not know by sight, should
volunteer to stay behind in the camp and deceive the Trojans. Then a
young man called Sinon stood up and said that he would risk himself and
take the chance that the Trojans might disbelieve him, and burn him
alive. Certainly, none of the Greeks did anything more courageous, yet
Sinon had not been considered brave. Had he fought in the front ranks,
the Trojans would have known him; but there were many brave fighters who
would not have dared to do what Sinon undertook.

Then old Nestor was the first that volunteered to go into the horse; but
Neoptolemus said that, brave as he was, he was too old, and that he must
depart with the army to Tenedos. Neoptolemus himself would go into the
horse, for he would rather die than turn his back on Troy. So
Neoptolemus armed himself and climbed into the horse, as did Menelaus,
Ulysses, Diomede, Thrasymedes (Nestor's son), Idomeneus, Philoctetes,
Meriones, and all the best men except Agamemnon, while Epeius himself
entered last of all. Agamemnon was not allowed by the other Greeks to
share their adventure, as he was to command the army when they returned
from Tenedos. They meanwhile launched their ships and sailed away.

But first Menelaus had led Ulysses apart, and told him that if they took
Troy (and now they must either take it or die at the hands of the
Trojans), he would owe to Ulysses the glory. When they came back to
Greece, he wished to give Ulysses one of his own cities, that they might
always be near each other. Ulysses smiled and shook his head; he could
not leave Ithaca, his own rough island kingdom. 'But if we both live
through the night that is coming,' he said, 'I may ask you for one gift,
and giving it will make you none the poorer.' Then Menelaus swore by the
splendour of Zeus that Ulysses could ask him for no gift that he would
not gladly give; so they embraced, and both armed themselves and went up
into the horse. With them were all the chiefs except Nestor, whom they
would not allow to come, and Agamemnon, who, as chief general, had to
command the army. They swathed themselves and their arms in soft silks,
that they might not ring and clash, when the Trojans, if they were so
foolish, dragged the horse up into their town, and there they sat in the
dark waiting. Meanwhile, the army burned their huts and launched their
ships, and with oars and sails made their way to the back of the isle of



From the walls the Trojans saw the black smoke go up thick into the sky,
and the whole fleet of the Greeks sailing out to sea. Never were men so
glad, and they armed themselves for fear of an ambush, and went
cautiously, sending forth scouts in front of them, down to the seashore.
Here they found the huts burned down and the camp deserted, and some of
the scouts also caught Sinon, who had hid himself in a place where he
was likely to be found. They rushed on him with fierce cries, and bound
his hands with a rope, and kicked and dragged him along to the place
where Priam and the princes were wondering at the great horse of tree.
Sinon looked round upon them, while some were saying that he ought to be
tortured with fire to make him tell all the truth about the horse. The
chiefs in the horse must have trembled for fear lest torture should
wring the truth out of Sinon, for then the Trojans would simply burn the
machine and them within it.

But Sinon said: 'Miserable man that I am, whom the Greeks hate and the
Trojans are eager to slay!' When the Trojans heard that the Greeks hated
him, they were curious, and asked who he was, and how he came to be
there. 'I will tell you all, oh King!' he answered Priam. 'I was a
friend and squire of an unhappy chief, Palamedes, whom the wicked
Ulysses hated and slew secretly one day, when he found him alone,
fishing in the sea. I was angry, and in my folly I did not hide my
anger, and my words came to the ears of Ulysses. From that hour he
sought occasion to slay me. Then Calchas----' here he stopped, saying:
'But why tell a long tale? If you hate all Greeks alike, then slay me;
this is what Agamemnon and Ulysses desire; Menelaus would thank you for
my head.'

The Trojans were now more curious than before. They bade him go on, and
he said that the Greeks had consulted an Oracle, which advised them to
sacrifice one of their army to appease the anger of the Gods and gain a
fair wind homewards. 'But who was to be sacrificed? They asked Calchas,
who for fifteen days refused to speak. At last, being bribed by Ulysses,
he pointed to me, Sinon, and said that I must be the victim. I was bound
and kept in prison, while they built their great horse as a present for
Pallas Athênê the Goddess. They made it so large that you Trojans might
never be able to drag it into your city; while, if you destroyed it, the
Goddess might turn her anger against you. And now they have gone home to
bring back the image that fell from heaven, which they had sent to
Greece, and to restore it to the Temple of Pallas Athênê, when they have
taken your town, for the Goddess is angry with them for that theft of

The Trojans were foolish enough to believe the story of Sinon, and they
pitied him and unbound his hands. Then they tied ropes to the wooden
horse, and laid rollers in front of it, like men launching a ship, and
they all took turns to drag the horse up to the Scaean gate. Children
and women put their hands to the ropes and hauled, and with shouts and
dances, and hymns they toiled, till about nightfall the horse stood in
the courtyard of the inmost castle.

Then all the people of Troy began to dance, and drink, and sing. Such
sentinels as were set at the gates got as drunk as all the rest, who
danced about the city till after midnight, and then they went to their
homes and slept heavily.

Meanwhile the Greek ships were returning from behind Tenedos as fast as
the oarsmen could row them.

One Trojan did not drink or sleep; this was Deiphobus, at whose house
Helen was now living. He bade her come with them, for he knew that she
was able to speak in the very voice of all men and women whom she had
ever seen, and he armed a few of his friends and went with them to the
citadel. Then he stood beside the horse, holding Helen's hand, and
whispered to her that she must call each of the chiefs in the voice of
his wife. She was obliged to obey, and she called Menelaus in her own
voice, and Diomede in the voice of his wife, and Ulysses in the very
voice of Penelope. Then Menelaus and Diomede were eager to answer, but
Ulysses grasped their hands and whispered the word 'Echo!' Then they
remembered that this was a name of Helen, because she could speak in all
voices, and they were silent; but Anticlus was still eager to answer,
till Ulysses held his strong hand over his mouth. There was only
silence, and Deiphobus led Helen back to his house. When they had gone
away Epeius opened the side of the horse, and all the chiefs let
themselves down softly to the ground. Some rushed to the gate, to open
it, and they killed the sleeping sentinels and let in the Greeks. Others
sped with torches to burn the houses of the Trojan princes, and
terrible was the slaughter of men, unarmed and half awake, and loud were
the cries of the women. But Ulysses had slipped away at the first, none
knew where. Neoptolemus ran to the palace of Priam, who was sitting at
the altar in his courtyard, praying vainly to the Gods, for Neoptolemus
slew the old man cruelly, and his white hair was dabbled in his blood.
All through the city was fighting and slaying; but Menelaus went to the
house of Deiphobus, knowing that Helen was there.

In the doorway he found Deiphobus lying dead in all his armour, a spear
standing in his breast. There were footprints marked in blood, leading
through the portico and into the hall. There Menelaus went, and found
Ulysses leaning, wounded, against one of the central pillars of the
great chamber, the firelight shining on his armour.

'Why hast thou slain Deiphobus and robbed me of my revenge?' said
Menelaus. 'You swore to give me a gift,' said Ulysses, 'and will you
keep your oath?' 'Ask what you will,' said Menelaus; 'it is yours and my
oath cannot be broken.' 'I ask the life of Helen of the fair hands,'
said Ulysses; 'this is my own life-price that I pay back to her, for she
saved my life when I took the Luck of Troy, and I swore that hers should
be saved.'

Then Helen stole, glimmering in white robes, from a recess in the dark
hall, and fell at the feet of Menelaus; her golden hair lay in the dust
of the hearth, and her hands moved to touch his knees. His drawn sword
fell from the hands of Menelaus, and pity and love came into his heart,
and he raised her from the dust and her white arms were round his neck,
and they both wept. That night Menelaus fought no more, but they tended
the wound of Ulysses, for the sword of Deiphobus had bitten through his

When dawn came Troy lay in ashes, and the women were being driven with
spear shafts to the ships, and the men were left unburied, a prey to
dogs and all manner of birds. Thus the grey city fell, that had lorded
it for many centuries. All the gold and silver and rich embroideries,
and ivory and amber, the horses and chariots, were divided among the
army; all but a treasure of silver and gold, hidden in a chest within a
hollow of the wall, and this treasure was found, not very many years
ago, by men digging deep on the hill where Troy once stood. The women,
too, were given to the princes, and Neoptolemus took Andromache to his
home in Argos, to draw water from the well and to be the slave of a
master, and Agamemnon carried beautiful Cassandra, the daughter of
Priam, to his palace in Mycenae, where they were both slain in one
night. Only Helen was led with honour to the ship of Menelaus.





The Greeks left Troy a mass of smouldering ashes; the marks of fire are
still to be seen in the ruins on the hill which is now called Hissarlik.
The Greeks had many troubles on their way home, and years passed before
some of the chiefs reached their own cities. As for Agamemnon, while he
was at Troy his wife, Clytaemnestra, the sister of Helen, had fallen in
love with a young man named Aegisthus, who wished to be king, so he
married Clytaemnestra, just as if Agamemnon had been dead. Meanwhile
Agamemnon was sailing home with his share of the wealth of Troy, and
many a storm drove him out of his course. At last he reached the
harbour, about seven miles from his city of Mycenae, and he kissed the
earth when he landed, thinking that all his troubles were over, and that
he would find his son and daughter, Orestes and Electra, grown up, and
his wife happy because of his return.

But Aegisthus had set, a year before, a watchman on a high tower, to
come with the news as soon as Agamemnon landed, and the watchman ran to
Mycenae with the good news. Aegisthus placed twenty armed men in a
hidden place in the great hall, and then he shouted for his chariots
and horses, and drove down to meet Agamemnon, and welcome him, and carry
him to his own palace. Then he gave a great feast, and when men had
drunk much wine, the armed men, who had been hiding behind curtains,
rushed out, with sword and spear, and fell on Agamemnon and his company.
Though taken by surprise they drew their swords, and fought so well for
their lives that none were left alive, not one, neither of the company
of Agamemnon nor of the company of Aegisthus; they were all slain in the
hall except Aegisthus, who had hidden himself when the fray began. The
bodies lay round the great mixing bowl of wine, and about the tables,
and the floor ran with blood. Before Agamemnon died he saw Clytaemnestra
herself stab Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, whom he had brought from

In the town of Agamemnon, Mycenae, deep down in the earth, have been
found five graves, with bones of men and women, and these bones were all
covered with beautiful ornaments of gold, hundreds of them, and swords
and daggers inlaid with gold, and golden cups, and a sceptre of gold and
crystal, and two gold breastplates. There were also golden masks that
had been made to cover the faces of the dead kings, and who knows but
that one of these masks may show us the features of the famous

Ulysses, of course, knew nothing about these murders at the time, for he
was being borne by the winds into undiscovered seas. But later he heard
all the story from the ghost of a dead prophet, in the Land of the Dead,
and he determined to be very cautious if ever he reached his own island,
for who knew what the young men might do, that had grown up since he
sailed to Troy?

Of the other Greeks Nestor soon and safely arrived at his town of Pylos,
but Menelaus and Helen were borne by the winds to Egypt and other
strange countries, and the ship of the brother of Aias was wrecked on a
rock, and there he was drowned, and Calchas the prophet died on land, on
his way across Greece.

When Ulysses left Troy the wind carried him to the coast of Thrace,
where the people were allies of the Trojans. It was a king of the
Thracians that Diomede killed when he and Ulysses stole into the camp of
the Trojans in the night, and drove away the white horses of the king,
as swift as the winds. Ismarus was the name of the Thracian town where
Ulysses landed, and his men took it and plundered it, yet Ulysses
allowed no one to harm the priest of Apollo, Maron, but protected him
and his wife and child, in their house within the holy grove of the God.
Maron was grateful, and gave Ulysses twelve talents, or little wedges,
of gold, and a great bowl of silver, and twelve large clay jars, as big
as barrels, full of the best and strongest wine. It was so strong that
men put into the mixing bowl but one measure of wine to twenty measures
of water. These presents Ulysses stored up in his ship, and lucky for
him it was that he was kind to Maron.

Meanwhile his men, instead of leaving the town with their plunder, sat
eating and drinking till dawn. By that time the people of the town had
warned their neighbours in the country farms, who all came down in full
armour, and attacked the men of Ulysses. In this fight he lost
seventy-two men, six from each of his twelve ships, and it was only by
hard fighting that the others were able to get on board their ships and
sail away.

A great storm arose and beat upon the ships, and it seems that Ulysses
and his men were driven into Fairyland, where they remained for ten
years. We have heard that King Arthur and Thomas the Rhymer were carried
into Fairyland, but what adventures they met with there we do not know.
About Ulysses we have the stories which are now to be told. For ten days
his ships ran due south, and, on the tenth, they reached the land of the
Lotus Eaters, who eat food of flowers. They went on shore and drew
water, and three men were sent to try to find the people of that
country, who were a quiet, friendly people, and gave the fruit of the
lotus to the strange sailors. Now whoever tastes of that fruit has no
mind ever to go home, but to sit between the setting sun and the rising
moon, dreaming happy dreams, and forgetting the world. The three men ate
the lotus, and sat down to dream, but Ulysses went after them, and drove
them to the ships, and bound their hands and feet, and threw them on
board, and sailed away. Then he with his ships reached the coast of the
land of the Cyclopes, which means the round-eyed men, men with only one
eye apiece, set in the middle of their foreheads. They lived not in
houses, but in caves among the hills, and they had no king and no laws,
and did not plough or sow, but wheat and vines grew wild, and they kept
great flocks of sheep.

There was a beautiful wild desert island lying across the opening of a
bay; the isle was full of wild goats, and made a bar against the waves,
so that ships could lie behind it safely, run up on the beach, for there
was no tide in that sea. There Ulysses ran up his ships, and the men
passed the time in hunting wild goats, and feasting on fresh meat and
the wine of Maron, the priest of Apollo. Next day Ulysses left all the
ships and men there, except his own ship, and his own crew, and went to
see what kind of people lived on the mainland, for as yet none had been
seen. He found a large cave close to the sea, with laurels growing on
the rocky roof, and a wall of rough stones built round a court in front.
Ulysses left all his men but twelve with the ship; filled a goat skin
with the strong wine of Maron, put some corn flour in a sack, and went
up to the cave. Nobody was there, but there were all the things that are
usually in a dairy, baskets full of cheese, pails and bowls full of milk
and whey, and kids and lambs were playing in their folds.

All seemed very quiet and pleasant. The men wanted to take as much
cheese as they could carry back to the ship, but Ulysses wished to see
the owner of the cave. His men, making themselves at home, lit a fire,
and toasted and ate the cheeses, far within the cave. Then a shadow
thrown by the setting sun fell across the opening of the cave, and a
monstrous man entered, and threw down a dry trunk of a tree that he
carried for firewood. Next he drove in the ewes of his flock, leaving
the rams in the yard, and he picked up a huge flat stone, and set it so
as to make a shut door to the cave, for twenty-four yoke of horses could
not have dragged away that stone. Lastly the man milked his ewes, and
put the milk in pails to drink at supper. All this while Ulysses and his
men sat quiet and in great fear, for they were shut up in a cave with a
one-eyed giant, whose cheese they had been eating.

Then the giant, when he had lit the fire, happened to see the men, and
asked them who they were. Ulysses said that they were Greeks, who had
taken Troy, and were wandering lost on the seas, and he asked the man to
be kind to them in the name of their chief God, Zeus.

'We Cyclopes,' said the giant, 'do not care for Zeus or the Gods, for we
think that we are better men than they. Where is your ship?' Ulysses
answered that it had been wrecked on the coast, to which the man made no
answer, but snatched up two of the twelve, knocked out their brains on
the floor, tore the bodies limb from limb, roasted them at his fire, ate
them, and, after drinking many pailfuls of milk, lay down and fell
asleep. Now Ulysses had a mind to drive his sword-point into the giant's
liver, and he felt for the place with his hand. But he remembered that,
even if he killed the giant, he could not move the huge stone that was
the door of the cave, so he and his men would die of hunger, when they
had eaten all the cheeses.

In the morning the giant ate two more men for breakfast, drove out his
ewes, and set the great stone in the doorway again, as lightly as a man
would put a quiverlid on a quiver of arrows. Then away he went, driving
his flock to graze on the green hills.

Ulysses did not give way to despair. The giant had left his stick in the
cave: it was as large as the mast of a great ship. From this Ulysses cut
a portion six feet long, and his men cut and rubbed as if they were
making a spear shaft: Ulysses then sharpened it to a point, and hardened
the point in the fire. It was a thick rounded bar of wood, and the men
cast lots to choose four, who should twist the bar in the giant's eye
when he fell asleep at night. Back he came at sunset, and drove his
flocks into the cave, rams and all. Then he put up his stone door,
milked his ewes, and killed two men and cooked them.

Ulysses meanwhile had filled one of the wooden ivy bowls full of the
strong wine of Maron, without putting a drop of water into it. This
bowl he offered to the giant, who had never heard of wine. He drank one
bowl after another, and when he was merry he said that he would make
Ulysses a present. 'What is your name?' he asked. 'My name is _Nobody_,'
said Ulysses. 'Then I shall eat the others first and Nobody last,' said
the giant. 'That shall be your gift.' Then he fell asleep.

Ulysses took his bar of wood, and made the point red-hot in the fire.
Next his four men rammed it into the giant's one eye, and held it down,
while Ulysses twirled it round, and the eye hissed like red-hot iron
when men dip it into cold water, which is the strength of iron. The
Cyclops roared and leaped to his feet, and shouted for help to the other
giants who lived in the neighbouring caves. 'Who is troubling you,
Polyphemus,' they answered. 'Why do you wake us out of our sleep?' The
giant answered, 'Nobody is killing me by his cunning, not at all in fair
fight.' 'Then if nobody is harming you nobody can help you,' shouted a
giant. 'If you are ill pray to your father, Poseidon, who is the god of
the sea.' So the giants all went back to bed, and Ulysses laughed low to
see how his cunning had deceived them. Then the giant went and took down
his door and sat in the doorway, stretching out his arms, so as to catch
his prisoners as they went out.

But Ulysses had a plan. He fastened sets of three rams together with
twisted withies, and bound a man to each ram in the middle, so that the
blind giant's hands would only feel the two outside rams. The biggest
and strongest ram Ulysses seized, and held on by his hands and feet to
its fleece, under its belly, and then all the sheep, went out through
the doorway, and the giant felt them, but did not know that they were
carrying out the men. 'Dear ram!' he said to the biggest, which carried
Ulysses, 'you do not come out first, as usual, but last, as if you were
slow with sorrow for your master, whose eye Nobody has blinded!'

Then all the rams went out into the open country, and Ulysses unfastened
his men, and drove the sheep down to his ship and so on board. His crew
wept when they heard of the death of six of their friends, but Ulysses
made them row out to sea. When he was just so far away from the cave as
to be within hearing distance he shouted at the Cyclops and mocked him.
Then that giant broke off the rocky peak of a great hill and threw it in
the direction of the sound. The rock fell in front of the ship, and
raised a wave that drove it back to shore, but Ulysses punted it off
with a long pole, and his men rowed out again, far out. Ulysses again
shouted to the giant, 'If any one asks who blinded you, say that it was
Ulysses, Laertes' son, of Ithaca, the stormer of cities.'

Then the giant prayed to the Sea God, his father, that Ulysses might
never come home, or if he did, that he might come late and lonely, with
loss of all his men, and find sorrow in his house. Then the giant heaved
and threw another rock, but it fell at the stern of the ship, and the
wave drove the ship further out to sea, to the shore of the island.
There Ulysses and his men landed, and killed some of the giant's sheep,
and took supper, and drank wine.

But the Sea God heard the prayer of his son the blind giant.

Ulysses and his men sailed on, in what direction and for how long we do
not know, till they saw far off an island that shone in the sea. When
they came nearer they found that it had a steep cuff of bronze, with a
palace on the top. Here lived Aeolus, the King of the Winds, with his
six sons and six daughters. He received Ulysses kindly on his island,
and entertained him for a whole month. Then he gave him a leather bag,
in which he had bound the ways of all the noisy winds. This bag was
fastened with a silver cord, and Aeolus left no wind out except the West
Wind, which would blow Ulysses straight home to Ithaca. Where he was we
cannot guess, except that he was to the west of his own island.

So they sailed for nine days and nights towards the east, and Ulysses
always held the helm and steered, but on the tenth day he fell asleep.
Then his men said to each other, 'What treasure is it that he keeps in
the leather bag, a present from King Aeolus? No doubt the bag is full of
gold and silver, while we have only empty hands.' So they opened the bag
when they were so near Ithaca that they could see people lighting fires
on the shore. Then out rushed all the winds, and carried the ship into
unknown seas, and when Ulysses woke he was so miserable that he had a
mind to drown himself. But he was of an enduring heart, and he lay
still, and the ship came back to the isle of Aeolus, who cried, 'Away
with you! You are the most luckless of living men: you must be hated by
the Gods.'

Thus Aeolus drove them away, and they sailed for seven days and nights,
till they saw land, and came to a harbour with a narrow entrance, and
with tall steep rocks on either side. The other eleven ships sailed into
the haven, but Ulysses did not venture in; he fastened his ship to a
rock at the outer end of the harbour. The place must have been very far
north, for, as it was summer, the sun had hardly set till dawn began
again, as it does in Norway and Iceland, where there are many such
narrow harbours within walls of rock. These places are called _fiords_.
Ulysses sent three men to spy out the country, and at a well outside the
town they met a damsel drawing water; she was the child of the king of
the people, the Laestrygonians. The damsel led them to her father's
house; he was a giant and seized one of the men of Ulysses, meaning to
kill and eat him. The two other men fled to the ships, but the
Laestrygonians ran along the tops of the cliffs and threw down great
rocks, sinking the vessels and killing the sailors. When Ulysses saw
this he drew his sword and cut the cable that fastened his ship to the
rock outside the harbour, and his crew rowed for dear life and so
escaped, weeping for the death of their friends. Thus the prayer of the
blind Cyclops was being fulfilled, for now out of twelve ships Ulysses
had but one left.



On they sailed till they came to an island, and there they landed. What
the place was they did not know, but it was called Aeaea, and here lived
Circe, the enchantress, sister of the wizard king Æêtes, who was the
Lord of the Fleece of Gold, that Jason won from him by help of the
king's daughter, Medea. For two days Ulysses and his men lay on land
beside their ship, which they anchored in a bay of the island. On the
third morning Ulysses took his sword and spear, and climbed to the top
of a high hill, whence he saw the smoke rising out of the wood where
Circe had her palace. He thought of going to the house, but it seemed
better to return to his men and send some of them to spy out the place.
Since the adventure of the Cyclops Ulysses did not care to risk himself
among unknown people, and for all that he knew there might be man-eating
giants on the island. So he went back, and, as he came to the bank of
the river, he found a great red deer drinking under the shadow of the
green boughs. He speared the stag, and, tying his feet together, slung
the body from his neck, and so, leaning on his spear, he came to his
fellows. Glad they were to see fresh venison, which they cooked, and so
dined with plenty of wine.

Next morning Ulysses divided his men into two companies, Eurylochus led
one company and he himself the other. Then they put two marked pieces of
wood, one for Eurylochus, one for Ulysses, in a helmet, to decide who
should go to the house in the wood. They shook the helmet, and the lot
of Eurylochus leaped out, and, weeping for fear, he led his twenty-two
men away into the forest. Ulysses and the other twenty-two waited, and,
when Eurylochus came back alone, he was weeping, and unable to speak for
sorrow. At last he told his story: they had come to the beautiful house
of Circe, within the wood, and tame wolves and lions were walking about
in front of the house. They wagged their tails, and jumped up, like
friendly dogs, round the men of Ulysses, who stood in the gateway and
heard Circe singing in a sweet voice, as she went up and down before the
loom at which she was weaving. Then one of the men of Ulysses called to
her, and she came out, a beautiful lady in white robes covered with
jewels of gold. She opened the doors and bade them come in, but
Eurylochus hid himself and watched, and saw Circe and her maidens mix
honey and wine for the men, and bid them sit down on chairs at tables,
but, when they had drunk of her cup, she touched them with her wand.
Then they were all changed into swine, and Circe drove them out and shut
them up in the styes.

When Ulysses heard that he slung his sword-belt round his shoulders,
seized his bow, and bade Eurylochus come back with him to the house of
Circe; but Eurylochus was afraid. Alone went Ulysses through the woods,
and in a dell he met a most beautiful young man, who took his hand and
said, 'Unhappy one! how shalt thou free thy friends from so great an
enchantress?' Then the young man plucked a plant from the ground; the
flower was as white as milk, but the root was black: it is a plant that
men may not dig up, but to the Gods all things are easy, and the young
man was the cunning God Hermes, whom Autolycus, the grandfather of
Ulysses, used to worship. 'Take this herb of grace,' he said, 'and when
Circe has made thee drink of the cup of her enchantments the herb will
so work that they shall have no power over thee. Then draw thy sword,
and rush at her, and make her swear that she will not harm thee with her

Then Hermes departed, and Ulysses went to the house of Circe, and she
asked him to enter, and seated him on a chair, and gave him the
enchanted cup to drink, and then smote him with her wand and bade him go
to the styes of the swine. But Ulysses drew his sword, and Circe, with a
great cry, fell at his feet, saying, 'Who art thou on whom the cup has
no power? Truly thou art Ulysses of Ithaca, for the God Hermes has told
me that he should come to my island on his way from Troy. Come now, fear
not; let us be friends!'


Then the maidens of Circe came to them, fairy damsels of the wells and
woods and rivers. They threw covers of purple silk over the chairs,
and on the silver tables they placed golden baskets, and mixed wine in a
silver bowl, and heated water, and bathed Ulysses in a polished bath,
and clothed him in new raiment, and led him to the table and bade him
eat and drink. But he sat silent, neither eating nor drinking, in sorrow
for his company, till Circe called them out from the styes and
disenchanted them. Glad they were to see Ulysses, and they embraced him,
and wept for joy.

So they went back to their friends at the ship, and told them how Circe
would have them all to live with her; but Eurylochus tried to frighten
them, saying that she would change them into wolves and lions. Ulysses
drew his sword to cut off the head of Eurylochus for his cowardice, but
the others prayed that he might be left alone to guard the ship. So
Ulysses left him; but Eurylochus had not the courage to be alone, and
slunk behind them to the house of Circe. There she welcomed them all,
and gave them a feast, and there they dwelt for a whole year, and then
they wearied for their wives and children, and longed to return to
Ithaca. They did not guess by what a strange path they must sail.

When Ulysses was alone with Circe at night he told her that his men were
home-sick, and would fain go to Ithaca. Then Circe said, 'There is no
way but this: you must sail to the last shore of the stream of the river
Oceanus, that girdles round the world. There is the Land of the Dead,
and the House of Hades and Persephone, the King and Queen of the ghosts.
There you must call up the ghost of the blind prophet, Tiresias of
Thebes, for he alone has knowledge of your way, and the other spirits
sweep round shadow-like.'

Then Ulysses thought that his heart would break, for how should he, a
living man, go down to the awful dwellings of the dead? But Circe told
him the strange things that he must do, and she gave him a black ram and
a black ewe, and next day Ulysses called his men together. All followed
him to the ship, except one, Elpenor. He had been sleeping, for the sake
of the cool air, on the flat roof of the house, and, when suddenly
wakened, he missed his foothold on the tall ladder, and fell to the
ground and broke his neck. They left him unburned and unburied, and,
weeping, they followed Ulysses, as follow they must, to see the homes of
the ghosts and the house of Hades. Very sorrowfully they all went on
board, taking with them the black ram and the black ewe, and they set
the sails, and the wind bore them at its will.

Now in mid-day they sailed out of the sunlight into darkness, for they
had come to the land of the Cimmerian men, which the sun never sees, but
all is dark cloud and mist. There they ran the ship ashore, and took out
the two black sheep, and walked along the dark banks of the river
Oceanus to a place of which Circe had told Ulysses. There the two rivers
of the dead meet, where a rock divides the two dark roaring streams.
There they dug a trench and poured out mead, and wine, and water, and
prayed to the ghosts, and then they cut the throat of the black ewe, and
the grey ghosts gathered to smell the blood. Pale spectres came, spirits
of brides who died long ago, and youths unwed, and old unhappy men; and
many phantoms were there of men who fell in battle, with shadowy spears
in their hands, and battered armour. Then Ulysses sacrificed the black
ram to the ghost of the prophet Tiresias, and sat down with his sword in
his hand, that no spirit before Tiresias might taste the blood in the

First the spirit of Elpenor came, and begged Ulysses to burn his body,
for till his body was burned he was not allowed to mingle with the other
souls of dead men. So Ulysses promised to burn and bury him when he went
back to Circe's island. Then came the shadow of the mother of Ulysses,
who had died when he was at Troy, but, for all his grief, he would not
allow the shadow to come near the blood till Tiresias had tasted it. At
length came the spirit of the blind prophet, and he prayed Ulysses to
sheathe his sword and let him drink the blood of the black sheep.

When he had tasted it he said that the Sea God was angry because of the
blinding of his son, the Cyclops, and would make his voyaging vain. But
if the men of Ulysses were wise, and did not slay and eat the sacred
cattle of the Sun God, in the isle called Thrinacia, they might all win
home. If they were unwise, and if Ulysses did come home, lonely and late
he would arrive, on the ship of strangers, and he would find proud men
wasting his goods and seeking to wed his wife, Penelope. Even if Ulysses
alone could kill these men his troubles would not be ended. He must
wander over the land, as he had wandered over the waters, carrying an
oar on his shoulder, till he came to men who had never heard of the sea
or of boats. When one of these men, not knowing what an oar was, came
and told him that he carried a fan for winnowing corn, then Ulysses must
fix the oar in the ground, and offer a sacrifice to the Sea God, and go
home, where he would at last live in peace. Ulysses said, 'So be it!'
and asked how he could have speech with the ghosts. Tiresias told him
how this might be done, and then his mother told him how she died of
sorrow for him, and Ulysses tried to embrace and kiss her, but his arms
only clasped the empty air.

Then came up the beautiful spirits of many dead, unhappy ladies of old
times, and then came the souls of Agamemnon, and of Achilles, and of
Aias. Achilles was glad when he heard how bravely his young son had
fought at Troy, but he said it was better to be the servant of a poor
farmer on earth than to rule over all the ghosts of the dead in the
still grey land where the sun never shone, and no flowers grew but the
mournful asphodel. Many other spirits of Greeks slain at Troy came and
asked for news about their friends, but Aias stood apart and silent,
still in anger because the arms of Achilles had been given to Ulysses.
In vain Ulysses told him that the Greeks had mourned as much for him as
for Achilles; he passed silently away into the House of Hades. At last
the legions of the innumerable dead, all that have died since the world
began, flocked, and filled the air with their low wailing cries, and
fear fell on Ulysses, and he went back along that sad last shore of the
world's end to his ship, and sailed again out of the darkness into the
sunlight, and to the isle of Circe. There they burned the body of
Elpenor, and piled a mound over it, and on the mound set the oar of the
dead man, and so went to the palace of Circe.

Ulysses told Circe all his adventures, and then she warned him of
dangers yet to come, and showed him how he might escape them. He
listened, and remembered all that she spoke, and these two said good-bye
for ever. Circe wandered away alone into the woods, and Ulysses and his
men set sail and crossed the unknown seas. Presently the wind fell, and
the sea was calm, and they saw a beautiful island from which came the
sound of sweet singing. Ulysses knew who the singers were, for Circe
had told him that they were the Sirens, a kind of beautiful Mermaids,
deadly to men. Among the flowers they sit and sing, but the flowers hide
the bones of men who have listened and landed on the island, and died of
that strange music, which carries the soul away.

Ulysses now took a great cake of bees' wax and cut it up into small
pieces, which he bade his men soften and place in their ears, that they
might not hear that singing. But, as he desired to hear it and yet live,
he bade the sailors bind him tightly to the mast with ropes, and they
must not unbind him, however much he might implore them to set him free.
When all this was done the men sat down on the benches, all orderly, and
smote the grey sea with their oars, and the ship rushed along through
the clear still water, and came opposite the island.

Then the sweet singing of the Sirens was borne over the sea,

  'Hither, come hither, renowned Ulysses,
  Great glory of the Achaean name.
  Here stay thy ship, that thou mayest listen to our song.
  Never has any man driven his ship past our island
  Till he has heard our voices, sweet as the honeycomb;
  Gladly he has heard, and wiser has he gone on his way.
  Hither, come hither, for we know all things,
  All that the Greeks wrought and endured in Troyland,
  All that shall hereafter be upon the fruitful earth.'

Thus they sang, offering Ulysses all knowledge and wisdom, which they
knew that he loved more than anything in the world. To other men, no
doubt, they would have offered other pleasures. Ulysses desired to
listen, and he nodded to his men to loosen his bonds. But Perimedes
and Eurylochus arose, and laid on him yet stronger bonds, and the ship
was driven past that island, till the song of the Sirens faded away, and
then the men set Ulysses free and took the wax out of their ears.



They had not sailed far when they heard the sea roaring, and saw a great
wave, over which hung a thick shining cloud of spray. They had drifted
to a place where the sea narrowed between two high black rocks: under
the rock on the left was a boiling whirlpool in which no ship could
live; the opposite rock showed nothing dangerous, but Ulysses had been
warned by Circe that here too lay great peril. We may ask, Why did
Ulysses pass through the narrows between these two rocks? why did he not
steer on the outer side of one or the other? The reason seems to have
been that, on the outer side of these cliffs, were the tall reefs which
men called the Rocks Wandering. Between them the sea water leaped in
high columns of white foam, and the rocks themselves rushed together,
grinding and clashing, while fire flew out of the crevices and crests as
from a volcano.

Circe had told Ulysses about the Rocks Wandering, which do not even
allow flocks of doves to pass through them; even one of the doves is
always caught and crushed, and no ship of men escapes that tries to pass
that way, and the bodies of the sailors and the planks of the ships are
confusedly tossed by the waves of the sea and the storms of ruinous
fire. Of all ships that ever sailed the sea only 'Argo,' the ship of
Jason, has escaped the Rocks Wandering, as you may read in the story of
the Fleece of Gold. For these reasons Ulysses was forced to steer
between the rock of the whirlpool and the rock which seemed harmless. In
the narrows between these two cliffs the sea ran like a rushing river,
and the men, in fear, ceased to hold the oars, and down the stream the
oars plashed in confusion. But Ulysses, whom Circe had told of this new
danger, bade them grasp the oars again and row hard. He told the man at
the helm to steer under the great rocky cliff, on the right, and to keep
clear of the whirlpool and the cloud of spray on the left. Well he knew
the danger of the rock on the left, for within it was a deep cave, where
a monster named Scylla lived, yelping with a shrill voice out of her six
hideous heads. Each head hung down from a long, thin, scaly neck, and in
each mouth were three rows of greedy teeth, and twelve long feelers,
with claws at the ends of them, dropped down, ready to catch at men.
There in her cave Scylla sits, fishing with her feelers for dolphins and
other great fish, and for men, if any men sail by that way. Against this
deadly thing none may fight, for she cannot be slain with the spear.[A]

[A. There is a picture of this monster attacking a man in a boat. The
picture was painted centuries before the time of Ulysses.]

All this Ulysses knew, for Circe had warned him. But he also knew that
on the other side of the strait, where the sea spray for ever flew high
above the rock, was a whirlpool, called Charybdis, which would swallow
up his ship if it came within the current, while Scylla could only catch
some of his men. For this reason he bade the helmsman to steer close to
the rock of Scylla, and he did not tell the sailors that she lurked
there with her body hidden in her deep cave. He himself put on his
armour, and took two spears, and went and stood in the raised half deck
at the front of the ship, thinking that, at least, he would have a
stroke at Scylla. Then they rowed down the swift sea stream, while the
wave of the whirlpool now rose up, till the spray hid the top of the
rock, and now fell, and bubbled with black sand. They were watching the
whirlpool, when out from the hole in the cliff sprang the six heads of
Scylla, and up into the air went six of Ulysses' men, each calling to
him, as they were swept within her hole in the rock, where she devoured
them. 'This was the most pitiful thing,' Ulysses said, 'that my eyes
have seen, of all my sorrows in searching out the paths of the sea.'

The ship swept through the roaring narrows between the rock of Scylla
and the whirlpool of Charybdis, into the open sea, and the men, weary
and heavy of heart, bent over their oars, and longed for rest.

Now a place of rest seemed near at hand, for in front of the ship lay a
beautiful island, and the men could hear the bleating of sheep and the
lowing of cows as they were being herded into their stalls. But Ulysses
remembered that, in the Land of the Dead, the ghost of the blind prophet
had warned him of one thing. If his men killed and ate the cattle of the
Sun, in the sacred island of Thrinacia, they would all perish. So
Ulysses told his crew of this prophecy, and bade them row past the
island. Eurylochus was angry and said that the men were tired, and could
row no further, but must land, and take supper, and sleep comfortably on
shore. On hearing Eurylochus, the whole crew shouted and said that they
would go no further that night, and Ulysses had no power to compel them.
He could only make them swear not to touch the cattle of the Sun God,
which they promised readily enough, and so went ashore, took supper, and


In the night a great storm arose: the clouds and driving mist blinded
the face of the sea and sky, and for a whole month the wild south wind
hurled the waves on the coast, and no ship of these times could venture
out in the tempest. Meanwhile the crew ate up all the stores in the
ship, and finished the wine, so that they were driven to catch sea birds
and fishes, of which they took but few, the sea being so rough upon the
rocks. Ulysses went up into the island alone, to pray to the Gods, and
when he had prayed he found a sheltered place, and there he fell asleep.

Eurylochus took the occasion, while Ulysses was away, to bid the crew
seize and slay the sacred cattle of the Sun God, which no man might
touch, and this they did, so that, when Ulysses wakened, and came near
the ship, he smelled the roast meat, and knew what had been done. He
rebuked the men, but, as the cattle were dead, they kept eating them for
six days; and then the storm ceased, the wind fell, the sun shone, and
they set the sails, and away they went. But this evil deed was punished,
for when they were out of sight of land, a great thunder cloud
overshadowed them, the wind broke the mast, which crushed the head of
the helmsman, the lightning struck the ship in the centre; she reeled,
the men fell overboard, and the heads of the crew floated a moment, like
cormorants, above the waves.

But Ulysses had kept hold of a rope, and, when the vessel righted, he
walked the deck till a wave stripped off all the tackling, and loosened
the sides from the keel. Ulysses had only time to lash the broken mast
with a rope to the keel, and sit on this raft with his feet in the
water, while the South Wind rose again furiously, and drove the raft
back till it came under the rock where was the whirlpool of Charybdis.
Here Ulysses would have been drowned, but he caught at the root of a fig
tree that grew on the rock, and there he hung, clinging with his toes to
the crumbling stones till the whirlpool boiled up again, and up came the
timbers. Down on the timbers Ulysses dropped, and so sat rowing with his
hands, and the wind drifted him at last to a shelving beach of an

Here dwelt a kind of fairy, called Calypso, who found Ulysses nearly
dead on the beach, and was kind to him, and kept him in her cave, where
he lived for seven long years, always desiring to leave the beautiful
fairy and return to Ithaca and his wife Penelope. But no ship of men
ever came near that isle, which is the central place of all the seas,
and he had no ship, and no men to sail and row. Calypso was very kind,
and very beautiful, being the daughter of the wizard Atlas, who holds
the two pillars that keep earth and sea asunder. But Ulysses was longing
to see if it were but the smoke going up from the houses of rocky
Ithaca, and he had a desire to die.



When Ulysses had lived nearly seven years in the island of Calypso, his
son Telemachus, whom he had left in Ithaca as a little child, went forth
to seek for his father. In Ithaca he and his mother, Penelope, had long
been very unhappy. As Ulysses did not come home after the war, and as
nothing was heard about him from the day when the Greeks sailed from
Troy, it was supposed that he must be dead. But Telemachus was still but
a boy of twelve years old, and the father of Ulysses, Laertes, was very
old, and had gone to a farm in the country, where he did nothing but
take care of his garden. There was thus no King in Ithaca, and the boys,
who had been about ten years old when Ulysses went to Troy, were now
grown up, and, as their fathers had gone to the war, they did just as
they pleased. Twelve of them wanted to marry Penelope, and they, with
about a hundred others as wild as themselves, from the neighbouring
islands, by way of paying court to Penelope ate and drank all day at her
house. They killed the cattle, sheep, and swine; they drank the wine,
and amused themselves with Penelope's maidens, of whom she had many.
Nobody could stop them; they would never go away, they said, till
Penelope chose one of them to be her husband, and King of the island,
though Telemachus was the rightful prince.

Penelope at last promised that she would choose one of them when she had
finished a great shroud of linen, to be the death shroud of old Laertes
when he died. All day she wove it, but at night, when her wooers had
gone (for they did not sleep in her house), she unwove it again. But one
of her maidens told this to the wooers, so she had to finish the shroud,
and now they pressed her more than ever to make her choice. But she kept
hoping that Ulysses was still alive, and would return, though, if he
did, how was he to turn so many strong young men out of his house?

The Goddess of Wisdom, Athênê, had always favoured Ulysses, and now she
spoke up among the Gods, where they sat, as men say, in their holy
heaven. Not by winds is it shaken, nor wet with rain, nor does the snow
come thither, but clear air is spread about it cloudless, and the white
light floats over it. Athênê told how good, wise, and brave Ulysses was,
and how he was kept in the isle of Calypso, while men ruined his wealth
and wooed his wife. She said that she would herself go to Ithaca, and
make Telemachus appeal to all the people of the country, showing how
evilly he was treated, and then sail abroad to seek news of his father.
So Athênê spoke, and flashed down from Olympus to Ithaca, where she took
the shape of a mortal man, Mentes, a chief of the Taphians. In front of
the doors she found the proud wooers playing at draughts and other games
while supper was being made ready. When Telemachus, who was standing
apart, saw the stranger, he went to him, and led him into the house, and
treated him kindly, while the wooers ate and drank, and laughed noisily.

Then Telemachus told Athênê (or, as he supposed, the stranger), how
evilly he was used, while his father's white bones might be wasting on
an unknown shore or rolling in the billows of the salt sea. Athênê said,
or Mentes said, that he himself was an old friend of Ulysses, and had
touched at Ithaca on his way to Cyprus to buy copper. 'But Ulysses,' he
said, 'is not dead; he will certainly come home, and that speedily. You
are so like him, you must be his son.' Telemachus replied that he was,
and Mentes was full of anger, seeing how the wooers insulted him, and
told him first to complain to an assembly of all the people, and then to
take a ship, and go seeking news of Ulysses.

Then Athênê departed, and next day Telemachus called an assembly, and
spoke to the people, but though they were sorry for him they could not
help him. One old man, however, a prophet, said that Ulysses would
certainly come home, but the wooers only threatened and insulted him. In
the evening Athênê came again, in the appearance of Mentor, not the
same man as Mentes, but an Ithacan, and a friend of Ulysses. She
encouraged Telemachus to take a ship, with twenty oarsmen, and he told
the wooers that he was going to see Menelaus and Nestor, and ask tidings
of his father. They only mocked him, but he made all things ready for
his voyage without telling his mother. It was old Eurycleia, who had
been his nurse and his father's nurse, that brought him wine and food
for his journey; and at night, when the sea wind wakens in summer, he
and Mentor went on board, and all night they sailed, and at noon next
day they reached Pylos on the sea sands, the city of Nestor the Old.

Nestor received them gladly, and so did his sons, Pisistratus and
Thrasymedes, who fought at Troy, and next day, when Mentor had gone,
Pisistratus and Telemachus drove together, up hill and down dale, a two
days' journey, to Lacedaemon, lying beneath Mount Taygetus on the bank
of the clear river Eurotas.

Not one of the Greeks had seen Ulysses since the day when they all
sailed from Troy, yet Menelaus, in a strange way, was able to tell
Telemachus that his father still lived, and was with Calypso on a lonely
island, the centre of all the seas. We shall see how Menelaus knew this.
When Telemachus and Pisistratus came, he was giving a feast, and called
them to his table. It would not have been courteous to ask them who they
were till they had been bathed and clothed in fresh raiment, and had
eaten and drunk. After dinner, Menelaus saw how much Telemachus admired
his house, and the flashing of light from the walls, which were covered
with bronze panels, and from the cups of gold, and the amber and ivory
and silver. Such things Telemachus had never seen in Ithaca. Noticing
his surprise, Menelaus said that he had brought many rich things from
Troy, after eight years wandering to Cyprus, and Phoenicia, and Egypt,
and even to Libya, on the north coast of Africa. Yet he said that,
though he was rich and fortunate, he was unhappy when he remembered the
brave men who had died for his sake at Troy. But above all he was
miserable for the loss of the best of them all, Ulysses, who was so long
unheard of, and none knew whether, at that hour, he was alive or dead.
At these words Telemachus hid his face in his purple mantle and shed
tears, so that Menelaus guessed who he was, but he said nothing.

Then came into the hall, from her own fragrant chamber, Helen of the
fair hands, as beautiful as ever she had been, her bower maidens
carrying her golden distaff, with which she span, and a silver basket to
hold her wool, for the white hands of Helen were never idle.

Helen knew Telemachus by his likeness to his father, Ulysses, and when
she said this to Menelaus, Pisistratus overheard her, and told how
Telemachus had come to them seeking for news of his father. Menelaus was
much moved in his heart, and Helen no less, when they saw the son of
Ulysses, who had been the most trusty of all their friends. They could
not help shedding tears, for Pisistratus remembered his dear brother
Antilochus, whom Memnon slew in battle at Troy, Memnon the son of the
bright Dawn. But Helen wished to comfort them, and she brought a drug of
magical virtue, which Polydamna, the wife of Thon, King of Egypt had
given to her. This drug lulls all pain and anger, and brings
forgetfulness of every sorrow, and Helen poured it from a golden vial
into the mixing bowl of gold, and they drank the wine and were

Then Helen told Telemachus what great deeds Ulysses did at Troy, and
how he crept into the town disguised as a beggar, and came to her house,
when he stole the Luck of Troy. Menelaus told how Ulysses kept him and
the other princes quiet in the horse of tree, when Deiphobus made Helen
call to them all in the very voices of their own wives, and to
Telemachus it was great joy to hear of his father's courage and wisdom.

Next day Telemachus showed to Menelaus how hardly he and his mother were
treated by the proud wooers, and Menelaus prayed that Ulysses might come
back to Ithaca, and slay the wooers every one. 'But as to what you ask
me,' he said, 'I will tell you all that I have heard about your father.
In my wanderings after I sailed from Troy the storm winds kept me for
three weeks in the island called Pharos, a day's voyage from the mouth
of the river "Ægyptus"' (which is the old name of the Nile). 'We were
almost starving, for our food was done, and my crew went round the
shores, fishing with hook and line. Now in that isle lives a goddess,
the daughter of Proteus, the Old Man of the Sea. She advised me that if
I could but catch her father when he came out of the sea to sleep on the
shore he would tell me everything that I needed to know. At noonday he
was used to come out, with all his flock of seals round him, and to
sleep among them on the sands. If I could seize him, she said, he would
turn into all manner of shapes in my hands: beasts, and serpents, and
burning fire; but at last he would appear in his own shape, and answer
all my questions.

'So the goddess spoke, and she dug hiding places in the sands for me and
three of my men, and covered us with the skins of seals. At noonday the
Old Man came out with his seals, and counted them, beginning with us,
and then he lay down and fell asleep. Then we leaped up and rushed at
him and gripped him fast. He turned into the shapes of a lion, and of a
leopard, of a snake, and a huge boar; then he was running water, and
next he was a tall, blossoming tree. But we held him firmly, and at last
he took his own shape, and told me that I should never have a fair wind
till I had sailed back into the river Ægyptus and sacrificed there to
the gods in heaven. Then I asked him for news about my brother,
Agamemnon, and he told me how my brother was slain in his own hall, and
how Aias was drowned in the sea. Lastly, he told me about Ulysses: how
he was kept on a lonely island by the fairy Calypso, and was unhappy,
and had no ship and no crew to escape and win home.'

This was all that Menelaus could tell Telemachus, who stayed with
Menelaus for a month. All that time the wooers lay in wait for him, with
a ship, in a narrow strait which they thought he must sail through on
his way back to Ithaca. In that strait they meant to catch him and kill



Now the day after Menelaus told Telemachus that Ulysses was still a
living man, the Gods sent Hermes to Calypso. So Hermes bound on his feet
his fair golden sandals, that wax not old, and bear him, alike over wet
sea and dry land, as swift as the wind. Along the crests of the waves he
flew, like the cormorant that chases fishes through the sea deeps, with
his plumage wet in the sea brine. He reached the island, and went up to
the cave of Calypso, wherein dwelt the nymph of the braided tresses,
and he found her within. And on the hearth there was a great fire
burning, and from afar, through the isle, was smelt the fragrance of
cleft cedar blazing, and of sandal wood. And the nymph within was
singing with a sweet voice as she fared to and fro before the loom, and
wove with a shuttle of gold. All round about the cave there was a wood
blossoming, alder and poplar and sweet smelling cypress. Therein roosted
birds long of wing--owls and falcons and chattering sea-crows, which
have their business in the waters. And lo! there, about the hollow cave,
trailed a gadding garden vine, all rich with clusters. And fountains,
four set orderly, were running with clear water hard by one another,
turned each to his own course. Around soft meadows bloomed of violets
and parsley; yea, even a deathless God who came thither might wonder at
the sight and be glad at heart.

There the messenger, the slayer of Argos, stood and wondered. Now when
he had gazed at all with wonder, he went into the wide cave; nor did
Calypso, that fair Goddess, fail to know him when she saw him face to
face; for the Gods use not to be strange one to another, not though one
have his habitation far away. But he found not Ulysses, the
great-hearted, within the cave, who sat weeping on the shore even as
aforetime, straining his soul with tears and groans and griefs, and as
he wept he looked wistfully over the unharvested deep. And Calypso, that
fair Goddess, questioned Hermes, when she had made him sit on a bright
shining star:

'Wherefore, I pray thee, Hermes of the golden wand, hast thou come
hither, worshipful and welcome, whereas as of old thou wert not wont to
visit me? Tell me all thy thought; my heart is set on fulfilling it, if
fulfil it I may, and if it hath been fulfilled in the counsel of fate.
But now follow me further, that I may set before thee the entertainment
of strangers.'

Therewith the goddess spread a table with ambrosia and set it by him,
and mixed the ruddy nectar. So the messenger, the slayer of Argos, did
eat and drink. Now after he had supped and comforted his soul with food,
at the last he answered, and spake to her on this wise:

'Thou makest question of me on my coming, a Goddess of a God, and I will
tell thee this my saying truly, at thy command. 'Twas Zeus that bade me
come hither, by no will of mine; nay, who of his free will would speed
over such a wondrous space of sea whereby is no city of mortals that do
sacrifice to the gods. He saith that thou hast with thee a man most
wretched beyond his fellows, beyond those men that round the city of
Priam for nine years fought, and in the tenth year sacked the city and
departed homeward. Yet on the way they sinned against Athênê, and she
raised upon them an evil blast and long waves of the sea. Then all the
rest of his good company was lost, but it came to pass that the wind
bare and the wave brought him hither. And now Zeus biddeth thee send him
hence with what speed thou mayest, for it is not ordained that he die
away from his friends, but rather it is his fate to look on them even
yet, and to come to his high-roofed home and his own country.'


So spake he, and Calypso, that fair Goddess, shuddered and spake unto
him: 'Hard are ye Gods and jealous exceeding, who ever grudge Goddesses
openly to mate with men. Him I saved as he went all alone bestriding the
keel of a bark, for that Zeus had crushed and cleft his swift ship
with a white bolt in the midst of the wine-dark deep. There all the rest
of his good company was lost, but it came to pass that the wind bare and
the wave brought him hither. And him have I loved and cherished, and I
said that I would make him to know not death and age for ever. But I
will give him no despatch, not I, for I have no ships by me with oars,
nor company to bear him on his way over the broad back of the sea. Yet
will I be forward to put this in his mind, and will hide nought, that
all unharmed he may come to his own country.'

Then the messenger, the slayer of Argos, answered her: 'Yea, speed him
now upon his path and have regard unto the wrath of Zeus, lest haply he
be angered and bear hard on thee hereafter.'

Therewith the great slayer of Argos departed, but the lady nymph went on
her way to the great-hearted Ulysses, when she had heard the message of
Zeus. And there she found him sitting on the shore, and his eyes were
never dry of tears, and his sweet life was ebbing away as he mourned for
his return. In the daytime he would sit on the rocks and on the beach,
straining his soul with tears, and groans, and griefs, and through his
tears he would look wistfully over the unharvested deep. So, standing
near him, that fair goddess spake to him:

'Hapless man, sorrow no more I pray thee in this isle, nor let thy good
life waste away, for even now will I send thee hence with all my heart.
Nay, arise and cut long beams, and fashion a wide raft with the axe, and
lay deckings high thereupon, that it may bear thee over the misty deep.
And I will place therein bread and water, and red wine to thy heart's
desire, to keep hunger far away. And I will put raiment upon thee, and
send a fair gale, that so thou mayest come all unharmed to thine own
country, if indeed it be the good pleasure of the gods who hold wide
heaven, who are stronger than I am both to will and to do.'

Then Ulysses was glad and sad: glad that the Gods took thought for him,
and sad to think of crossing alone the wide unsailed seas. Calypso said
to him:

'So it is indeed thy wish to get thee home to thine own dear country
even in this hour? Good fortune go with thee even so! Yet didst thou
know in thine heart what thou art ordained to suffer, or ever thou reach
thine own country, here, even here, thou wouldst abide with me and keep
this house, and wouldst never taste of death, though thou longest to see
thy wife, for whom thou hast ever a desire day by day. Not, in sooth,
that I avow me to be less noble than she in form or fashion, for it is
in no wise meet that mortal women should match them with immortals in
shape and comeliness.'

And Ulysses of many counsels answered, and spake unto her: 'Be not wroth
with me, goddess and queen. Myself I know it well, how wise Penelope is
meaner to look upon than thou in comeliness and stature. But she is
mortal, and thou knowest not age nor death. Yet, even so, I wish and
long day by day to fare homeward and see the day of my returning. Yea,
and if some god shall wreck me in the wine-dark deep, even so I will
endure, with a heart within me patient of affliction. For already have I
suffered full much, and much have I toiled in perils of waves and war;
let this be added to the tale of those.'

Next day Calypso brought to Ulysses carpenters' tools, and he felled
trees, and made a great raft, and a mast, and sails out of canvas. In
five days he had finished his raft and launched it, and Calypso placed
in it skins full of wine and water, and flour and many pleasant things
to eat, and so they kissed for that last time and took farewell, he
going alone on the wide sea, and she turning lonely to her own home. He
might have lived for ever with the beautiful fairy, but he chose to live
and die, if he could, with his wife Penelope.



As long as the fair wind blew Ulysses sat and steered his raft, never
seeing land or any ship of men. He kept his eye at night on the Great
Bear, holding it always on his left hand, as Calypso taught him.
Seventeen days he sailed, and on the eighteenth day he saw the shadowy
mountain peaks of an island called Phaeacia. But now the Sea god saw
him, and remembered how Ulysses had blinded his son the Cyclops. In
anger he raised a terrible storm: great clouds covered the sky, and all
the winds met. Ulysses wished that he had died when the Trojans gathered
round him as he defended the dead body of Achilles. For, had he died
then, he would have been burned and buried by his friends, but if he
were now drowned his ghost would always wander alone on the fringes of
the Land of the Dead, like the ghost of Elpenor.

As he thought thus, the winds broke the mast of his raft, and the sail
and yardarm fell into the sea, and the waves dragged him deep down. At
last he rose to the surface and swam after his raft, and climbed on to
it, and sat there, while the winds tossed the raft about like a feather.
The Sea goddess, Ino, saw him and pitied him, and rose from the water
as a seagull rises after it has dived. She spoke to him, and threw her
bright veil to him, saying, 'Wind this round your breast, and throw off
your clothes. Leap from the raft and swim, and, when you reach land,
cast the veil back into the sea, and turn away your head.'

Ulysses caught the veil, and wound it about his breast, but he
determined not to leave the raft while the timbers held together. Even
as he thought thus, the timbers were driven asunder by the waves, and he
seized a plank, and sat astride it as a man rides a horse. Then the
winds fell, all but the north wind, which drifted Ulysses on for two
days and nights. On the third day all was calm, and the land was very
near, and Ulysses began to swim towards it, through a terrible surf,
which crashed and foamed on sheer rocks, where all his bones would be
broken. Thrice he clasped a rock, and thrice the back wash of the wave
dragged him out to sea. Then he swam outside of the breakers, along the
line of land, looking for a safe place, and at last he came to the mouth
of the river. Here all was smooth, with a shelving beach, and his feet
touched bottom. He staggered out of the water and swooned away as soon
as he was on dry land. When he came to himself he unbound the veil of
Ino, and cast it into the sea, and fell back, quite spent, among the
reeds of the river, naked and starving. He crept between two thick olive
trees that grew close together and made a shelter against the wind, and
he covered himself all over thickly with fallen dry leaves, till he grew
warm again and fell into a deep sleep.

While Ulysses slept, alone and naked in an unknown land, a dream came to
beautiful Nausicaa, the daughter of the King of that country, which is
called Phaeacia. The dream was in the shape of a girl who was a friend
of Nausicaa, and it said: 'Nausicaa, how has your mother such a careless
daughter? There are many beautiful garments in the house that need to be
washed, against your wedding day, when, as is the custom, you must give
mantles and tunics to the guests. Let us go a washing to the river
to-morrow, taking a car to carry the raiment.'

When Nausicaa wakened next day she remembered the dream, and went to her
father, and asked him to lend her a car to carry the clothes. She said
nothing about her marriage day, for though many young princes were in
love with her, she was in love with none of them. Still, the clothes
must be washed, and her father lent her a waggon with a high frame, and
mules to drive. The clothes were piled in the car, and food was packed
in a basket, every sort of dainty thing, and Nausicaa took the reins and
drove slowly while many girls followed her, her friends of her own age.
They came to a deep clear pool, that overflowed into shallow paved runs
of water, and there they washed the clothes, and trod them down in the
runlets. Next they laid them out to dry in the sun and wind on the
pebbles, and then they took their meal of cakes and other good things.

When they had eaten they threw down their veils and began to play at
ball, at a game like rounders. Nausicaa threw the ball at a girl who was
running, but missed her, and the ball fell into the deep swift river.
All the girls screamed and laughed, and the noise they made wakened
Ulysses where he lay in the little wood. 'Where am I?' he said to
himself; 'is this a country of fierce and savage men? A sound of girls
at play rings round me. Can they be fairies of the hill tops and the
rivers, and the water meadows?' As he had no clothes, and the voices
seemed to be voices of women, Ulysses broke a great leafy bough which
hid all his body, but his feet were bare, his face was wild with
weariness, and cold, and hunger, and his hair and beard were matted and
rough with the salt water.

The girls, when they saw such a face peering over the leaves of the
bough, screamed, and ran this way and that along the beach. But
Nausicaa, as became the daughter of the King, stood erect and unafraid,
and as Ulysses dared not go near and kneel to her, he spoke from a
distance and said:

'I pray thee, O queen, whether thou art a goddess or a mortal! If indeed
thou art a goddess of them that keep the wide heaven, to Artemis, then,
the daughter of great Zeus, I mainly liken thee for beauty and stature
and shapeliness. But if thou art one of the daughters of men who dwell
on earth, thrice blessed are thy father and thy lady mother, and thrice
blessed thy brethren. Surely their souls ever glow with gladness for thy
sake each time they see thee entering the dance, so fair a flower of
maidens. But he is of heart the most blessed beyond all other who shall
prevail with gifts of wooing, and lead thee to his home. Never have mine
eyes beheld such an one among mortals, neither man nor woman; great awe
comes upon me as I look on thee. Yet in Delos once I saw as goodly a
thing: a young sapling of a palm tree springing by the altar of Apollo.
For thither, too, I went, and much people with me, on that path where my
sore troubles were to be. Yea! and when I looked thereupon, long time I
marvelled in spirit--for never grew there yet so goodly a shoot from
ground--even in such wise as I wonder at thee, lady, and am astonished
and do greatly fear to touch thy knees, though grievous sorrow is upon


'Yesterday, on the twentieth day, I escaped from the wine-dark deep, but
all that time continually the wave bare me, and the vehement winds drave
from the isle Ogygia. And now some god has cast me on this shore that
here too, methinks, some evil may betide me; for I think not that
trouble will cease; the gods ere that time will yet bring many a thing
to pass. But, queen, have pity on me, for, after many trials and sore,
to thee first of all am I come, and of the other folk, who hold this
city and land, I know no man. Nay, show me the town; give me an old
garment to cast about me, if thou hadst, when thou camest here, any wrap
for the linen. And may the gods grant thee all thy heart's desire: a
husband and a home, and a mind at one with his may they give--a good
gift, for there is nothing mightier and nobler than when man and wife
are of one heart and mind in a house, a grief to their foes, and to
their friends great joy, but their own hearts know it best.'

Then Nausicaa of the white arms, answered him, and said:

'Stranger, as thou seemest no evil man nor foolish--and it is Olympian
Zeus himself that giveth weal to men, to the good and to the evil, to
each one as he will, and this thy lot doubtless is of him, and so thou
must in anywise endure it--now, since thou hast come to our city and our
land, thou shalt not lack raiment nor aught else that is the due of a
hapless suppliant when he has met them who can befriend him. And I will
show thee the town, and name the name of the people. The Phaeacians hold
this city and land, and I am the daughter of Alcinous, great of heart,
on whom all the might and force of the Phaeacians depend.'

Thus she spake, and called to her maidens of the fair tresses: 'Halt, my
maidens, whither flee ye at the sight of a man? Ye surely do not take
him for an enemy? That mortal breathes not, and never will be born, who
shall come with war to the land of the Phaeacians, for they are very
dear to the gods. Far apart we live in the wash of the waves, the
outermost of men, and no other mortals are conversant with us. Nay, but
this man is some helpless one come hither in his wanderings, whom now we
must kindly entreat, for all strangers and beggars are from Zeus, and a
little gift is dear. So, my maidens, give the stranger meat and drink,
and bathe him in the river, where there is a shelter from the winds.'

So she spake, but they halted and called each to the other, and they
brought Ulysses to the sheltered place, and made him sit down, as
Nausiaca bade them, the daughter of Alcinous, high of heart. Beside him
they laid a mantle and a doublet for raiment, and gave him soft olive
oil in the golden cruse, and bade him wash in the streams of the river.
Then goodly Ulysses spake among the maidens, saying: 'I pray you stand
thus apart while I myself wash the brine from my shoulders, and anoint
me with olive oil, for truly oil is long a stranger to my skin. But in
your sight I will not bathe, for I am ashamed to make me naked in the
company of fair-tressed maidens.'

Then they went apart and told all to their lady. But with the river
water the goodly Ulysses washed from his skin the salt scurf that
covered his back and broad shoulders, and from his head he wiped the
crusted brine of the barren sea. But when he had washed his whole body,
and anointed him with olive oil, and had clad himself in the raiment
that the unwedded maiden gave him, then Athênê, the daughter of Zeus,
made him greater and more mighty to behold, and from his head caused
deep curling locks to flow, like the hyacinth flower. And, as when some
skilful man overlays gold upon silver--one that Hephaestus and Pallas
Athênê have taught all manner of craft, and full of grace is his
handiwork--even so did Athênê shed grace about his head and shoulders.

Then to the shore of the sea went Ulysses apart, and sat down, glowing
in beauty and grace, and the princess marvelled at him, and spake among
her fair-tressed maidens, saying:

'Listen, my white-armed maidens, and I will say somewhat. Not without
the will of all the gods who hold Olympus has this man come among the
godlike Phaeacians. Erewhile he seemed to me uncomely, but now he is
like the gods that keep the wide heaven. Would that such an one might be
called my husband, dwelling here, and that it might please him here to
abide! But come, my maidens, give the stranger meat and drink.'

Thus she spake, and they gave ready ear and hearkened, and set beside
Ulysses meat and drink, and the steadfast goodly Ulysses did eat and
drink eagerly, for it was long since he had tasted food.

Now Nausicaa of the white arms had another thought. She folded the
raiment and stored it in the goodly wain, and yoked the mules, strong of
hoof, and herself climbed into the car. Then she called on Ulysses, and
spake and hailed him: 'Up now, stranger, and rouse thee to go to the
city, that I may convey thee to the house of my wise father, where, I
promise thee, thou shalt get knowledge of all the noblest of the
Phaeacians. But do thou even as I tell thee, and thou seemest a discreet
man enough. So long as we are passing along the fields and farms of
men, do thou fare quickly with the maidens behind the mules and the
chariot, and I will lead the way. But when we set foot within the city,
whereby goes a high wall with towers, and there is a fair haven on
either side of the town, and narrow is the entrance, and curved ships
are drawn up on either hand of the mole, thou shalt find a fair grove of
Athênê, a poplar grove, near the road, and a spring wells forth therein,
and a meadow lies all around.

There is my father's land, and his fruitful close, within the sound of a
man's shout from the city. Sit thee down there and wait until such time
as we may have come into the city, and reached the house of my father.
But when thou deemest that we are got to the palace, then go up to the
city of the Phaeacians, and ask for the house of my father, Alcinous,
high of heart. It is easily known, and a young child could be thy guide,
for nowise like it are builded the houses of the Phaeacians, so goodly
is the palace of the hero Alcinous. But when thou art within the shadow
of the halls and the court, pass quickly through the great chamber till
thou comest to my mother, who sits at the hearth in the light of the
fire, weaving yarn of sea-purple stain, a wonder to behold. Her chair is
leaned against a pillar, and her maidens sit behind her. And there my
father's throne leans close to hers, wherein he sits and drinks his
wine, like an immortal. Pass thou by him, and cast thy hands about my
mother's knees that thou mayest see quickly and with joy the day of thy
returning, even if thou art from a very far country. If but her heart be
kindly disposed towards thee, then is there hope that thou shalt see thy
friends, and come to thy well-builded house, and to thine own country.'

She spake and smote the mules with the shining whip, and quickly they
left behind them the streams of the river; and well they trotted and
well they paced, and she took heed to drive in such wise that the
maidens and Ulysses might follow on foot, and cunningly she plied the
lash. Then the sun set, and they came to the famous grove, the sacred
place of Athênê; so there the goodly Ulysses sat him down. Then
straightway he prayed to the daughter of mighty Zeus: 'Listen to me,
child of Zeus, lord of the aegis, unwearied maiden; hear me even now,
since before thou heardest not when I was smitten on the sea, when the
renowned earth-shaker smote me. Grant me to come to the Phaeacians as
one dear and worthy of pity.'

So he spake in prayer, and Pallas Athênê heard him; but she did not yet
appear to him face to face, for she had regard unto her father's
brother, who furiously raged against the god-like Ulysses till he should
come to his own country.

While Nausicaa and her maidens went home, Ulysses waited near the temple
till they should have arrived, and then he rose and walked to the city,
wondering at the harbour, full of ships, and at the strength of the
walls. The Goddess Athênê met him, disguised as a mortal girl, and told
him again how the name of the king was Alcinous, and his wife's name was
Arete: she was wise and kind, and had great power in the city. The
Goddess caused Ulysses to pass unseen among the people till he reached
the palace, which shone with bronze facings to the walls, while within
the hall were golden hounds and golden statues of young men holding
torches burning to give light to those who sat at supper. The gardens
were very beautiful, full of fruit trees, and watered by streams that
flowed from two fountains. Ulysses stood and wondered at the beauty of
the gardens, and then walked, unseen, through the hall, and knelt at the
feet of Queen Arete, and implored her to send him in a ship to his own

A table was brought to him, and food and wine were set before him, and
Alcinous, as his guests were going home, spoke out and said that the
stranger was to be entertained, whoever he might be, and sent safely on
his way. The guests departed, and Arete, looking at Ulysses, saw that
the clothes he wore were possessions of her house, and asked him who he
was, and how he got the raiment? Then he told her how he had been
shipwrecked, and how Nausicaa had given him food, and garments out of
those which she had been washing. Then Arete said that Nausicaa should
have brought Ulysses straight to her house; but Ulysses answered: 'Chide
not, I pray you, the blameless damsel,' and explained that he himself
was shy, and afraid that Nausicaa's parents might not like to see her
coming with an unknown stranger. King Alcinous answered that he was not
jealous and suspicious. To a stranger so noble as Ulysses he would very
gladly see his daughter married, and would give him a house and plenty
of everything. But if the stranger desired to go to his own country,
then a ship should be made ready for him. Thus courteous was Alcinous,
for he readily saw that Ulysses, who had not yet told his name, was of
noble birth, strong and wise. Then all went to bed, and Ulysses had a
soft bed and a warm, with blankets of purple.

Next day Alcinous sent two-and-fifty young men to prepare a ship, and
they moored her in readiness out in the shore water; but the chiefs
dined with Alcinous, and the minstrel sang about the Trojan war, and so
stirred the heart of Ulysses, that he held his mantle before his face
and wept. When Alcinous saw that, he proposed that they should go and
amuse themselves with sports in the open air; races, wrestling, and
boxing. The son of Alcinous asked Ulysses if he would care to take part
in the games, but Ulysses answered that he was too heavy at heart. To
this a young man, Euryalus, said that Ulysses was probably a captain of
a merchant ship, a tradesman, not a sportsman.

At this Ulysses was ill pleased, and replied that while he was young and
happy, he was well skilled in all sports, but now he was heavy and weak
with war and wandering. Still, he would show what he could do. Then he
seized a heavy weight, much heavier than any that the Phaeacians used in
putting the stone. He whirled it up, and hurled it far--far beyond the
furthest mark that the Phaeacians had reached when putting a lighter
weight. Then he challenged any man to run a race with him or box with
him, or shoot at a mark with him. Only his speed in running did he
doubt, for his limbs were stiffened by the sea. Perhaps Alcinous saw
that it would go ill with any man who matched himself against the
stranger, so he sent for the harper, who sang a merry song, and then he
made the young men dance and play ball, and bade the elder men go and
bring rich presents of gold and garments for the wanderer. Alcinous
himself gave a beautiful coffer and chest, and a great golden cup, and
Arete tied up all the gifts in the coffer, while the damsels took
Ulysses to the bath, and bathed him and anointed him with oil.

As he left the bath he met Nausicaa, standing at the entrance of the
hall. She bade him good-bye, rather sadly, saying: 'Farewell, and do not
soon forget me in your own country, for to me you owe the ransom of your
life.' 'May God grant to me to see my own country, lady,' he answered,
'for there I will think of you with worship, as I think of the blessed
Gods, all my days, for to you, lady, I owe my very life.' These were the
last words they spoke to each other, for Nausicaa did not sit at meat in
the hall with the great company of men. When they had taken supper, the
blind harper sang again a song about the deeds of Ulysses at Troy, and
again Ulysses wept, so that Alcinous asked him: 'Hast thou lost a dear
friend or a kinsman in the great war?' Then Ulysses spoke out: 'I am
Ulysses, Laertes' son, of whom all men have heard tell.' While they sat
amazed, he began, and told them the whole story of his adventures, from
the day when he left Troy till he arrived at Calypso's island; he had
already told them how he was shipwrecked on his way thence to Phaeacia.

All that wonderful story he told to their pleasure, and Euryalus made
amends for his rude words at the games, and gave Ulysses a beautiful
sword of bronze, with an ivory hilt set with studs of gold. Many other
gifts were given to him, and were carried and stored on board the ship
which had been made ready, and then Ulysses spoke good-bye to the Queen,
saying: 'Be happy, oh Queen, till old age and death come to you, as they
come to all. Be joyful in your house with your children and your people,
and Alcinous the King.' Then he departed, and lay down on sheets and
cloaks in the raised deck of the ship, and soundly he slept while the
fifty oars divided the waters of the sea, and drove the ship to Ithaca.



When Ulysses awoke, he found himself alone, wrapped in the linen sheet
and the bright coverlet, and he knew not where he was. The Phaeacians
had carried him from the ship as he slept, and put him on shore, and
placed all the rich gifts that had been given him under a tree, and then
had sailed away. There was a morning mist that hid the land, and Ulysses
did not know the haven of his own island, Ithaca, and the rock whence
sprang a fountain of the water fairies that men call Naiads. He thought
that the Phaeacians had set him in a strange country, so he counted all
his goods, and then walked up and down sadly by the seashore. Here he
met a young man, delicately clad, like a king's son, with a double
mantle, such as kings wear, folded round his shoulders, and a spear in
his hand. 'Tell me pray,' said Ulysses, 'what land is this, and what men
dwell here?'

The young man said: 'Truly, stranger, you know little, or you come from
far away. This isle is Ithaca, and the name of it is known even in

Ulysses was glad, indeed, to learn that he was at home at last; but how
the young men who had grown up since he went away would treat him, all
alone as he was, he could not tell. So he did not let out that he was
Ulysses the King, but said that he was a Cretan. The stranger would
wonder why a Cretan had come alone to Ithaca, with great riches, and yet
did not know that he was there. So he pretended that, in Crete, a son of
Idomeneus had tried to rob him of all the spoil he took at Troy, and
that he had killed this prince, and packed his wealth and fled on board
a ship of the Phoenicians, who promised to land him at Pylos. But the
wind had borne them out of their way, and they had all landed and slept
on shore, here; but the Phoenicians had left him asleep and gone off in
the dawn.

On this the young man laughed, and suddenly appeared as the great
Goddess, Pallas Athênê. 'How clever you are,' she said; 'yet you did not
know me, who helped you in Troyland. But much trouble lies before you,
and you must not let man or woman know who you really are, your enemies
are so many and powerful.'

'You never helped me in my dangers on the sea,' said Ulysses, 'and now
do you make mock of me, or is this really mine own country?'

'I had no mind,' said the Goddess, 'to quarrel with my brother the Sea
God, who had a feud against you for the blinding of his son, the
Cyclops. But come, you shall see this is really Ithaca,' and she
scattered the white mist, and Ulysses saw and knew the pleasant cave of
the Naiads, and the forests on the side of the mountain called Neriton.
So he knelt down and kissed the dear earth of his own country, and
prayed to the Naiads of the cave. Then the Goddess helped him to hide
all his gold, and bronze, and other presents in a secret place in the
cavern; and she taught him how, being lonely as he was, he might destroy
the proud wooers of his wife, who would certainly desire to take his

The Goddess began by disguising Ulysses, so that his skin seemed
wrinkled, and his hair thin, and his eyes dull, and she gave him dirty
old wraps for clothes, and over all a great bald skin of a stag, like
that which he wore when he stole into Troy disguised as a beggar. She
gave him a staff, too, and a wallet to hold scraps of broken food. There
was not a man or a woman that knew Ulysses in this disguise. Next, the
Goddess bade him go across the island to his own swineherd, who remained
faithful to him, and to stay there among the swine till she brought home
Telemachus, who was visiting Helen and Menelaus in Lacedaemon. She fled
away to Lacedaemon, and Ulysses climbed the hills that lay between the
cavern and the farm where the swineherd lived.

When Ulysses reached the farmhouse, the swineherd, Eumaeus, was sitting
alone in front of his door, making himself a pair of brogues out of the
skin of an ox. He was a very honest man, and, though he was a slave, he
was the son of a prince in his own country. When he was a little child
some Phoenicians came in their ship to his father's house and made
friends with his nurse, who was a Phoenician woman. One of them, who
made love to her, asked her who she was, and she said that her father
was a rich man in Sidon, but that pirates had carried her away and sold
her to her master. The Phoenicians promised to bring her back to Sidon,
and she fled to their ship, carrying with her the child whom she nursed,
little Eumaeus; she also stole three cups of gold. The woman died at
sea, and the pirates sold the boy to Laertes, the father of Ulysses, who
treated him kindly. Eumaeus was fond of the family which he served, and
he hated the proud wooers for their insolence.

When Ulysses came near his house the four great dogs rushed out and
barked at him; they would have bitten, too, but Eumaeus ran up and threw
stones at them, and no farm dog can face a shower of stones. He took
Ulysses into his house, gave him food and wine, and told him all about
the greed and pride of the wooers. Ulysses said that the master of
Eumaeus would certainly come home, and told a long story about himself.
He was a Cretan, he said, and had fought at Troy, and later had been
shipwrecked, but reached a country called Thesprotia, where he learned
that Ulysses was alive, and was soon to leave Thesprotia and return to

Eumaeus did not believe this tale, and supposed that the beggar man only
meant to say what he would like to hear. However, he gave Ulysses a good
dinner of his own pork, and Ulysses amused him and his fellow slaves
with stories about the Siege of Troy, till it was bedtime.

In the meantime Athênê had gone to Lacedaemon to the house of Menelaus,
where Telemachus was lying awake. She told him that Penelope, his
mother, meant to marry one of the wooers, and advised him to sail home
at once, avoiding the strait between Ithaca and another isle, where his
enemies were lying in wait to kill him. When he reached Ithaca he must
send his oarsmen to the town, but himself walk alone across the island
to see the swineherd. In the morning Telemachus and his friend,
Pisistratus, said good-bye to Menelaus and Helen, who wished to make him
presents, and so went to their treasure house. Now when they came to the
place where the treasures were stored, then Atrides took a double cup,
and bade his son, Megapenthes, to bear a mixing-bowl of silver. And
Helen stood by the coffers, wherein were her robes of curious needlework
which she herself had wrought. So Helen, the fair lady, lifted one and
brought it out--the widest and most beautifully embroidered of all--and
it shone like a star, and lay far beneath the rest.

Then they went back through the house till they came to Telemachus; and
Menelaus, of the fair hair, spake to him, saying:

'Telemachus, may Zeus the thunderer, and the lord of Hera, in very truth
bring about thy return according to the desire of thy heart. And of the
gifts, such as are treasures stored in my house, I will give thee the
goodliest and greatest of price. I will give thee a mixing-bowl
beautifully wrought; it is all of silver, and the lips thereof are
finished with gold, the work of Hephaestus; and the hero Phaedimus, the
king of the Sidonians, gave it to me when his house sheltered me, on my
coming thither. This cup I would give to thee.'

Therewith the hero Atrides set the double cup in his hands. And the
strong Megapenthes bare the shining silver bowl and set it before him.
And Helen came up, beautiful Helen, with the robe in her hands, and
spake and hailed him:

'Lo! I, too, give thee this gift, dear child, a memorial of the hands of
Helen, against the day of thy desire, even of thy bridal, for thy bride
to wear it. But, meanwhile, let it lie by thy dear mother in her
chamber. And may joy go with thee to thy well-builded house and thine
own country.'

Just when Telemachus was leaving her palace door, an eagle stooped from
the sky and flew away with a great white goose that was feeding on the
grass, and the farm servants rushed out shouting, but the eagle passed
away to the right hand, across the horses of Pisistratus.

Then Helen explained the meaning of this omen. 'Hear me, and I will
prophesy as the immortals put it into my heart, and as I deem it will be
accomplished. Even as yonder eagle came down from the hill, the place
of his birth and kin, and snatched away the goose that was fostered in
the house, even so shall Ulysses return home after much trial and long
wanderings and take vengeance; yea! or even now is he at home and sowing
the seeds of evil for all the wooers.' We are told no more about Helen
of the fair hands, except that she and Menelaus never died, but were
carried by the Gods to the beautiful Elysian plain, a happy place where
war and trouble never came, nor old age, nor death. After that she was
worshipped in her own country as if she had been a Goddess, kind,
gentle, and beautiful.

Telemachus thanked Helen for prophesying good luck, and he drove to the
city of Nestor, on the sea, but was afraid to go near the old king, who
would have kept him and entertained him, while he must sail at once for
Ithaca. He went to his own ship in the harbour, and, while his crew made
ready to sail, there came a man running hard, and in great fear of the
avenger of blood. This was a second-sighted man, called Theoclymenus,
and he implored Telemachus to take him to Ithaca, for he had slain a man
in his own country, who had killed one of his brothers, and now the
brothers and cousins of that man were pursuing him to take his life.
Telemachus made him welcome, and so sailed north to Ithaca, wondering
whether he should be able to slip past the wooers, who were lying in
wait to kill him. Happily the ship of Telemachus passed them unseen in
the night, and arrived at Ithaca. He sent his crew to the town, and was
just starting to walk across the island to the swineherd's house, when
the second-sighted man asked what _he_ should do. Telemachus told
Piraeus, one of his friends, to take the man home and be kind to him,
which he gladly promised to do, and then he set off to seek the

The swineherd, with Ulysses, had just lit a fire to cook breakfast, when
they saw the farm dogs frolicking round a young man who was walking
towards the house. The dogs welcomed him, for he was no stranger, but
Telemachus. Up leaped the swineherd in delight, and the bowl in which he
was mixing wine and water fell from his hands. He had been unhappy for
fear the wooers who lay in wait for Telemachus should kill him, and he
ran and embraced the young man as gladly as a father welcomes a son who
has long been in a far country. Telemachus, too, was anxious to hear
whether his mother had married one of the wooers, and glad to know that
she still bore her troubles patiently.

When Telemachus stepped into the swineherd's house Ulysses arose from
his seat, but Telemachus bade the old beggar man sit down again, and a
pile of brushwood with a fleece thrown over it was brought for himself.
They breakfasted on what was ready, cold pork, wheaten bread, and wine
in cups of ivy wood, and Eumaeus told Telemachus that the old beggar
gave himself out as a wanderer from Crete. Telemachus answered that he
could not take strangers into his mother's house, for he was unable to
protect them against the violence of the wooers, but he would give the
wanderer clothes and shoes and a sword, and he might stay at the farm.
He sent the swineherd to tell his mother, Penelope, that he had returned
in safety, and Eumaeus started on his journey to the town.

At this moment the farm dogs, which had been taking their share of the
breakfast, began to whine, and bristle up, and slunk with their tails
between their legs to the inmost corner of the room. Telemachus could
not think why they were afraid, or of what, but Ulysses saw the Goddess
Athênê, who appeared to him alone, and the dogs knew that something
strange and terrible was coming to the door. Ulysses went out, and
Athênê bade him tell Telemachus who he really was, now that they were
alone, and she touched Ulysses with her golden wand, and made him appear
like himself, and his clothes like a king's raiment.

Telemachus, who neither saw nor heard Athênê, wondered greatly, and
thought the beggar man must be some God, wandering in disguise. But
Ulysses said, 'No God am I, but thine own father,' and they embraced
each other and wept for joy.

At last Ulysses told Telemachus how he had come home in a ship of the
Phaeacians, and how his treasure was hidden in the cave of the Naiads,
and asked him how many the wooers were, and how they might drive them
from the house. Telemachus replied that the wooers were one hundred and
eight, and that Medon, a servant of his own, took part with them; there
was also the minstrel of the house, whom they compelled to sing at their
feasts. They were all strong young men, each with his sword at his side,
but they had with them no shields, helmets, and breastplates. Ulysses
said that, with the help of the Goddess, he hoped to get the better of
them, many as they were. Telemachus must go to the house, and Ulysses
would come next day, in the disguise of an old beggar. However ill the
wooers might use him, Telemachus must take no notice, beyond saying that
they ought to behave better. Ulysses, when he saw a good chance, would
give Telemachus a sign to take away the shields, helmets, and weapons
that hung on the walls of the great hall, and to hide them in a secret
place. If the wooers missed them, he must say--first, that the smoke of
the fire was spoiling them; and, again, that they were better out of the
reach of the wooers, in case they quarrelled over their wine. Telemachus
must keep two swords, two spears, and two shields for himself and
Ulysses to use, if they saw a chance, and he must let neither man nor
woman know that the old beggar man was his father.

While they were talking, one of the crew of Telemachus and the swineherd
went to Penelope and told her how her son had landed. On hearing this
the wooers held a council as to how they should behave to him: Antinous
was for killing him, but Amphinomus and Eurymachus were for waiting, and
seeing what would happen. Before Eumaeus came back from his errand to
Penelope, Athênê changed Ulysses into the dirty old beggar again.



Next morning Telemachus went home, and comforted his mother, and told
her how he had been with Nestor and Menelaus, and seen her cousin, Helen
of the fair hands, but this did not seem to interest Penelope, who
thought that her beautiful cousin was the cause of all her misfortunes.
Then Theoclymenus, the second-sighted man whom Telemachus brought from
Pylos, prophesied to Penelope that Ulysses was now in Ithaca, taking
thought how he might kill the wooers, who were then practising
spear-throwing at a mark, while some of them were killing swine and a
cow for breakfast.

Meanwhile Ulysses, in disguise, and the swineherd were coming near the
town, and there they met the goatherd, Melanthius, who was a friend of
the wooers, and an insolent and violent slave. He insulted the old
beggar, and advised him not to come near the house of Ulysses, and
kicked him off the road. Then Ulysses was tempted to slay him with his
hands, but he controlled himself lest he should be discovered, and he
and Eumaeus walked slowly to the palace. As they lingered outside the
court, lo! a hound raised up his head and pricked his ears, even where
he lay: Argos, the hound of Ulysses, of the hardy heart, which of old
himself had bred. Now in time past the young men used to lead the hound
against wild goats and deer and hares; but, as then, he lay despised
(his master being afar) in the deep dung of mules and kine, whereof an
ample bed was spread before the doors till the slaves of Ulysses should
carry it away to dung therewith his wide demesne. There lay the dog
Argos, full of vermin. Yet even now, when he was aware of Ulysses
standing by, he wagged his tail and dropped both his ears, but nearer to
his master he had not now the strength to draw. But Ulysses looked aside
and wiped away a tear that he easily hid from Eumaeus, and straightway
he asked him, saying:

'Eumaeus, verily this is a great marvel: this hound lying here in the
dung. Truly he is goodly of growth, but I know not certainly if he have
speed with this beauty, or if he be comely only, like men's trencher
dogs that their lords keep for the pleasure of the eye.'

Then answered the swineherd Eumaeus: 'In very truth this is the dog of a
man that has died in a far land. If he were what once he was in limb and
in the feats of the chase, when Ulysses left him to go to Troy, soon
wouldst thou marvel at the sight of his swiftness and his strength.
There was no beast that could flee from him in the deep places of the
wood when he was in pursuit; for even on a track he was the keenest
hound. But now he is holden in an evil case, and his lord hath perished
far from his own country, and the careless women take no charge of him.'

Therewith he passed within the fair-lying house, and went straight to
the hall, to the company of the proud wooers. But upon Argos came death
even in the hour that he beheld Ulysses again, in the twentieth year.

Thus the good dog knew Ulysses, though Penelope did not know him when
she saw him, and tears came into Ulysses' eyes as he stood above the
body of the hound that loved him well. Eumaeus went into the house, but
Ulysses sat down where it was the custom for beggars to sit, on the
wooden threshold outside the door of the hall. Telemachus saw him, from
his high seat under the pillars on each side of the fire, in the middle
of the room, and bade Eumaeus carry a loaf and a piece of pork to the
beggar, who laid them in his wallet between his feet, and ate. Then he
thought he would try if there were one courteous man among the wooers,
and he entered the hall and began to beg among them. Some gave him
crusts and bones, but Antinous caught up a footstool and struck him hard
on the shoulder. 'May death come upon Antinous before his wedding day!'
said Ulysses, and even the other wooers rebuked him for striking a

Penelope heard of this, and told Eumaeus to bring the beggar to her; she
thought he might have news of her husband. But Ulysses made Eumaeus say
that he had been struck once in the hall, and would not come to her
till after sunset, when the wooers left the house. Then Eumaeus went to
his own farmhouse, after telling Telemachus that he would come next day,
driving swine for the wooers to eat.

Ulysses was the new beggar in Ithaca: he soon found that he had a rival,
an old familiar beggar, named Irus. This man came up to the palace, and
was angry when he saw a newcomer sitting in the doorway, 'Get up,' he
said, 'I ought to drag you away by the foot: begone before we quarrel!'
'There is room enough for both of us,' said Ulysses, 'do not anger me.'
Irus challenged him to fight, and the wooers thought this good sport,
and they made a ring, and promised that the winner should be
beggar-in-chief, and have the post to himself. Ulysses asked the wooers
to give him fair play, and not to interfere, and then he stripped his
shoulders, and kilted up his rags, showing strong arms and legs. As for
Irus he began to tremble, but Antinous forced him to fight, and the two
put up their hands. Irus struck at the shoulder of Ulysses, who hit him
with his right fist beneath the ear, and he fell, the blood gushing from
his mouth, and his heels drumming in the ground, and Ulysses dragged him
from the doorway and propped him against the wall of the court, while
the wooers laughed. Then Ulysses spoke gravely to Amphinomus, telling
him that it would be wise in him to go home, for that if Ulysses came
back it might not be so easy to escape his hands.

After sunset Ulysses spoke so fiercely to the maidens of Penelope, who
insulted him, that they ran to their own rooms, but Eurymachus threw a
footstool at him. He slipped out of the way, and the stool hit the
cupbearer and knocked him down, and all was disorder in the hall. The
wooers themselves were weary of the noise and disorder, and went home to
the houses in the town where they slept. Then Telemachus and Ulysses,
being left alone, hid the shields and helmets and spears that hung on
the walls of the hall in an armoury within the house, and when this was
done Telemachus went to sleep in his own chamber, in the courtyard, and
Ulysses waited till Penelope should come into the hall.

Ulysses sat in the dusky hall, where the wood in the braziers that gave
light had burned low, and waited to see the face of his wife, for whom
he had left beautiful Calypso. The maidens of Penelope came trooping,
laughing, and cleared away the food and the cups, and put faggots in the
braziers. They were all giddy girls, in love with the handsome wooers,
and one of them, Melantho, bade Ulysses go away, and sleep at the
blacksmith's forge, lest he should be beaten with a torch. Penelope
heard Melantho, whom she had herself brought up, and she rebuked her,
and ordered a chair to be brought for Ulysses. When he was seated, she
asked him who he was, and he praised her beauty, for she was still very
fair, but did not answer her question. She insisted that he should tell
her who he was, and he said that he was a Cretan prince, the younger
brother of Idomeneus, and that he did not go to fight in Troyland. In
Crete he stayed, and met Ulysses, who stopped there on his way to Troy,
and he entertained Ulysses for a fortnight. Penelope wept when she heard
that the stranger had seen her husband, but, as false stories were often
told to her by strangers who came to Ithaca, she asked how Ulysses was
dressed, and what manner of men were with him.

The beggar said that Ulysses wore a double mantle of purple, clasped
with a gold brooch fastened by two safety pins (for these were used at
that time), and on the face of the brooch was a figure of a hound
holding a struggling fawn in his forepaws. (Many such brooches have been
found in the graves in Greece). Beneath his mantle Ulysses wore a
shining smock, smooth and glittering like the skin of an onion. Probably
it was made of silk: women greatly admired it. With him was a squire
named Eurybates, a brown, round-shouldered man.

On hearing all this Penelope wept again and said that she herself had
given Ulysses the brooch and the garments. She now knew that the beggar
had really met Ulysses, and he went on to tell her that, in his
wanderings, he had heard how Ulysses was still alive, though he had lost
all his company, and that he had gone to Dodona in the west of Greece to
ask for advice from the oak tree of Zeus, the whispering oak tree, as to
how he should come home, openly or secretly. Certainly, he said, Ulysses
would return that year.

Penelope was still unable to believe in such good news, but she bade
Eurycleia, the old nurse, wash the feet of the beggar in warm water, so
a foot bath was brought. Ulysses turned his face away from the
firelight, for the nurse said that he was very like her master. As she
washed his legs she noticed the long scar of the wound made by the boar,
when he hunted with his cousins, long ago, before he was married. The
nurse knew him now, and spoke to him in a whisper, calling him by his
name. But he caught her throat with his hand, and asked why she would
cause his death, for the wooers would slay him if they knew who he was.
Eurycleia called him her child, and promised that she would be silent,
and then she went to fetch more hot water, for she had let his foot
fall into the bath and upset it when she found the scar.

When she had washed him, Penelope told the beggar that she could no
longer refuse to marry one of the wooers. Ulysses had left a great bow
in the house, the old bow of King Eurytus, that few could bend, and he
had left twelve iron axes, made with a round opening in the blade of
each. Axes of this shape have been found at Lacedaemon, where Helen
lived, so we know what the axes of Ulysses were like. When he was at
home he used to set twelve of them in a straight line, and shoot an
arrow through the twelve holes in the blades. Penelope therefore
intended, next day, to bring the bow and the axes to the wooers, and to
marry any one of them who could string the bow, and shoot an arrow
through the twelve axes.

'I think,' said the beggar, 'that Ulysses will be here before any of the
wooers have bent his bow.' Then Penelope went to her upper chamber, and
Ulysses slept in an outer gallery of the house on piled-up sheep skins.

There Ulysses lay, thinking how he might destroy all the wooers, and the
Goddess Athênê came and comforted him, and, in the morning, he rose and
made his prayer to Zeus, asking for signs of his favour. There came,
first a peal of thunder, and then the voice of a woman, weak and old,
who was grinding corn to make bread for the wooers. All the other women
of the mill had done their work and were asleep, but she was feeble and
the round upper stone of the quern, that she rolled on the corn above
the under stone, was too heavy for her.

She prayed, and said, 'Father Zeus, King of Gods and men, loudly hast
thou thundered. Grant to me my prayer, unhappy as I am. May this be the
last day of the feasting of the wooers in the hall of Ulysses: they
have loosened my knees with cruel labour in grinding barley for them:
may they now sup their last!' Hearing this prayer Ulysses was glad, for
he thought it a lucky sign. Soon the servants were at work, and Eumaeus
came with swine, and was as courteous to the beggar as Melanthius, who
brought some goats, was insolent. The cowherd, called Philoetius, also
arrived; he hated the wooers, and spoke friendly to the beggar. Last
appeared the wooers, and went in to their meal, while Telemachus bade
the beggar sit on a seat just within the hall, and told the servants to
give him as good a share of the food as any of them received. One wooer,
Ctesippus, said: 'His fair share this beggar man has had, as is right,
but I will give him a present over and above it!' Then he picked up the
foot of an ox, and threw it with all his might at Ulysses, who merely
moved aside, and the ox foot struck the wall.

Telemachus rebuked him, and the wooers began to laugh wildly and to
weep, they knew not why, but Theoclymenus, the second-sighted man, knew
that they were all fey men, that is, doomed to die, for such men are gay
without reason. 'Unhappy that you are,' cried Theoclymenus, 'what is
coming upon you? I see shrouds covering you about your knees and about
your faces, and tears are on your cheeks, and the walls and the pillars
of the roof are dripping blood, and in the porch and the court are your
fetches, shadows of yourselves, hurrying hellward, and the sun is

On this all the wooers laughed, and advised him to go out of doors,
where he would see that the sun was shining. 'My eyes and ears serve me
well,' said the second-sighted man, 'but out I will go, seeking no more
of your company, for death is coming on every man of you.' Then he
arose and went to the house of Piraeus, the friend of Telemachus. The
wooers laughed all the louder, as fey men do, and told Telemachus that
he was unlucky in his guests: one a beggar, the other a madman. But
Telemachus kept watching his father while the wooers were cooking a meal
that they did not live to enjoy.

Through the crowd of them came Penelope, holding in her hand the great
bow of Eurytus, and a quiver full of arrows, while her maidens followed,
carrying the chest in which lay the twelve iron axes. She stood up,
stately and scornful, among the wooers, and told them that, as marry she
must, she would take the man who could string the bow and shoot the
arrow through the axes. Telemachus said that he would make the first
trial, and that, if he succeeded, he would not allow any man of the
wooers to take his mother away with him from her own house. Then thrice
he tried to string the bow, and the fourth time he would have strung it,
but Ulysses made a sign to him, and he put it down. 'I am too weak,' he
said, 'let a stronger man achieve this adventure.' So they tried each in
turn, beginning with the man who sat next the great mixing-bowl of wine,
and so each rising in his turn.

First their prophet tried, Leiodes the Seer, who sat next the bowl, but
his white hands were too weak, and he prophesied, saying that the bow
would be the death of all of them. Then Antinous bade the goatherd light
a fire, and bring grease to heat the bow, and make it more supple. They
warmed and greased the bow, and one after another tried to bend it.
Eumaeus and the cowherd went out into the court, and Ulysses followed
them. 'Whose side would you two take,' he asked, 'if Ulysses came home?
Would you fight for him or for the wooers?' 'For Ulysses!' they both
cried, 'and would that he was come indeed!' 'He is come, and I am he!'
said Ulysses. Then he promised to give them lands of their own if he was
victorious, and he showed them the scar on his thigh that the boar dealt
with his white tusk, long ago. The two men kissed him and shed tears of
joy, and Ulysses said that he would go back first into the hall, and
that they were to follow him. He would ask to be allowed to try to bend
the bow, and Eumaeus, whatever the wooers said, must place it in his
hands, and then see that the women were locked up in their own separate
hall. Philoetius was to fasten the door leading from the courtyard into
the road. Ulysses then went back to his seat in the hall, near the door,
and his servants followed.

Eurymachus was trying in vain to bend the bow, and Antinous proposed to
put off the trial till next day, and then sacrifice to the God Apollo,
and make fresh efforts. They began to drink, but Ulysses asked to be
allowed to try if he could string the bow. They told him that wine had
made him impudent, and threatened to put him in a ship and send him to
King Echetus, an ogre, who would cut him to pieces. But Penelope said
that the beggar must try his strength; not that she would marry him, if
he succeeded. She would only give him new clothes, a sword, and a spear,
and send him wherever he wanted to go. Telemachus cried out that the bow
was his own; he would make a present of it to the beggar if he chose;
and he bade his mother join her maidens, and work at her weaving. She
was amazed to hear her son speak like the master of the house, and she
went upstairs with her maidens to her own room.

Eumaeus was carrying the bow to Ulysses, when the wooers made such an
uproar that he laid it down, in fear for his life. But Telemachus
threatened to punish him if he did not obey his master, so he placed the
bow in the hands of Ulysses, and then went and told Eurycleia to lock
the women servants up in their own separate hall. Philoetius slipped
into the courtyard, and made the gates fast with a strong rope, and then
came back, and watched Ulysses, who was turning the bow this way and
that, to see if the horns were still sound, for horns were then used in
bow making. The wooers were mocking him, but suddenly he bent and strung
the great bow as easily as a harper fastens a new string to his harp. He
tried the string, and it twanged like the note of a swallow. He took up
an arrow that lay on the table (the others were in the quiver beside
him), he fitted it to the string, and from the chair where he sat he
shot it through all the twelve axe heads. 'Your guest has done you no
dishonour, Telemachus,' he said, 'but surely it is time to eat,' and he
nodded. Telemachus drew his sword, took a spear in his left hand, and
stood up beside Ulysses.



Ulysses let all his rags fall down, and with one leap he reached the
high threshold, the door being behind him, and he dropped, the arrows
from the quiver at his feet. 'Now,' he said, 'I will strike another mark
that no man yet has stricken!' He aimed the arrow at Antinous, who was
drinking out of a golden cup. The arrow passed clean through the throat
of Antinous; he fell, the cup rang on the ground, and the wooers leaped
up, looking round the walls for shields and spears, but the walls were

'Thou shalt die, and vultures shall devour thee,' they shouted, thinking
the beggar had let the arrow fly by mischance.

'Dogs!' he answered, 'ye said that never should I come home from Troy;
ye wasted my goods, and insulted my wife, and had no fear of the Gods,
but now the day of death has come upon you! Fight or flee, if you may,
but some shall not escape!'

'Draw your blades!' cried Eurymachus to the others; 'draw your blades,
and hold up the tables as shields against this man's arrows. Have at
him, and drive him from the doorway.' He drew his own sword, and leaped
on Ulysses with a cry, but the swift arrow pierced his breast, and he
fell and died. Then Amphinomus rushed towards Ulysses, but Telemachus
sent his spear from behind through his shoulders. He could not draw
forth the spear, but he ran to his father, and said, 'Let me bring
shields, spears, and helmets from the inner chamber, for us, and for the
swineherd and cowherd.' 'Go!' said Ulysses, and Telemachus ran through a
narrow doorway, down a gallery to the secret chamber, and brought four
shields, four helmets, and eight spears, and the men armed themselves,
while Ulysses kept shooting down the wooers. When his arrows were spent
he armed himself, protected by the other three. But the goatherd,
Melanthius, knew a way of reaching the armoury, and he climbed up, and
brought twelve helmets, spears, and shields to the wooers.


Ulysses thought that one of the women was showering down the weapons
into the hall, but the swineherd and cowherd went to the armoury,
through the doorway, as Telemachus had gone, and there they caught
Melanthius, and bound him like a bundle, with a rope, and, throwing the
rope over a rafter, dragged him up, and fastened him there, and left him
swinging. Then they ran back to Ulysses, four men keeping the doorway
against all the wooers that were not yet slain. But the Goddess Athênê
appeared to Ulysses, in the form of Mentor, and gave him courage. He
needed it, for the wooers, having spears, threw them in volleys, six at
a time, at the four. They missed, but the spears of the four slew each
his man. Again the wooers threw, and dealt two or three slight wounds,
but the spears of the four were winged with death. They charged,
striking with spear and sword, into the crowd, who lost heart, and flew
here and there, crying for mercy and falling at every blow. Ulysses slew
the prophet, Leiodes, but Phemius, the minstrel, he spared, for he had
done no wrong, and Medon, a slave, crept out from beneath an ox hide,
where he had been lying, and asked Telemachus to pity him, and Ulysses
sent him and the minstrel into the courtyard, where they sat trembling.
All the rest of the wooers lay dead in heaps, like heaps of fish on the
sea shore, when they have been netted, and drawn to land.

Then Ulysses sent Telemachus to bring Eurycleia, who, when she came and
saw the wooers dead, raised a scream of joy, but Ulysses said 'it is an
unholy thing to boast over dead men.' He bade Telemachus and the
servants carry the corpses into the courtyard, and he made the women
wash and clean the hall, and the seats, and tables, and the pillars.
When all was clean, they took Melanthius and slew him, and then they
washed themselves, and the maidens who were faithful to Penelope came
out of their rooms, with torches in their hands, for it was now night,
and they kissed Ulysses with tears of joy. These were not young women,
for Ulysses remembered all of them.

Meanwhile old Eurycleia ran to tell Penelope all the good news: up the
stairs to her chamber she ran, tripping, and falling, and rising, and
laughing for joy. In she came and awakened Penelope, saying:

'Come and see what you have long desired: Ulysses in his own house, and
all the wicked wooers slain by the sword.' 'Surely you are mad, dear
nurse,' said Penelope, 'to waken me with such a wild story. Never have I
slept so sound since Ulysses went to that ill Ilios, never to be named.
Angry would I have been with any of the girls that wakened me with such
a silly story; but you are old: go back to the women's working room.'
The good nurse answered: 'Indeed, I tell you no silly tale. Indeed he is
in the hall; he is that poor guest whom all men struck and insulted, but
Telemachus knew his father.'

Then Penelope leaped up gladly, and kissed the nurse, but yet she was
not sure that her husband had come, she feared that it might be some God
disguised as a man, or some evil man pretending to be Ulysses. 'Surely
Ulysses has met his death far away,' she said, and though Eurycleia
vowed that she herself had seen the scar dealt by the boar, long ago,
she would not be convinced. 'None the less,' she said, 'let us go and
see my son, and the wooers lying dead, and the man who slew them.' So
they went down the stairs and along a gallery on the ground floor that
led into the courtyard, and so entered the door of the hall, and crossed
the high stone threshold on which Ulysses stood when he shot down
Antinous. Penelope went up to the hearth and sat opposite Ulysses, who
was leaning against one of the four tall pillars that supported the
roof; there she sat and gazed at him, still wearing his rags, and still
not cleansed from the blood of battle. She did not know him, and was
silent, though Telemachus called her hard of belief and cold of heart.

'My child,' she said, 'I am bewildered, and can hardly speak, but if
this man is Ulysses, he knows things unknown to any except him and me.'
Then Ulysses bade Telemachus go to the baths and wash, and put on fresh
garments, and bade the maidens bring the minstrel to play music, while
they danced in the hall. In the town the friends and kinsfolk of the
wooers did not know that they were dead, and when they heard the music
they would not guess that anything strange had happened. It was
necessary that nobody should know, for, if the kinsfolk of the dead men
learned the truth, they would seek to take revenge, and might burn down
the house. Indeed, Ulysses was still in great danger, for the law was
that the brothers and cousins of slain men must slay their slayers, and
the dead were many, and had many clansmen.

Now Eurynome bathed Ulysses himself, and anointed him with oil, and clad
him in new raiment, so that he looked like himself again, full of
strength and beauty. He sat down on his own high seat beside the fire,
and said: 'Lady, you are the fairest and most cruel Queen alive. No
other woman would harden her heart against her husband, come home
through many dangers after so many years. 'Nurse,' he cried to
Eurycleia, 'strew me a bed to lie alone, for her heart is hard as iron.'

Now Penelope put him to a trial. 'Eurycleia,' she said, 'strew a bed for
him outside the bridal chamber that he built for himself, and bring the
good bedstead out of that room for him.'

'How can any man bring out that bedstead?' said Ulysses, 'did I not make
it with my own hands, with a standing tree for the bedpost? No man could
move that bed unless he first cut down the tree trunk.'

Then at last Penelope ran to Ulysses and threw her arms round his neck,
kissing him, and said: 'Do not be angry, for always I have feared that
some strange man of cunning would come and deceive me, pretending to be
my lord. But now you have told me the secret of the bed, which no mortal
has ever seen or knows but you and I, and my maiden whom I brought from
my own home, and who kept the doors of our chamber.' Then they embraced,
and it seemed as if her white arms would never quite leave their hold on
his neck.

Ulysses told her many things, all the story of his wanderings, and how
he must wander again, on land, not on the sea, till he came to the
country of men who had never seen salt. 'The Gods will defend you and
bring you home to your rest in the end,' said Penelope, and then they
went to their own chamber, and Eurynome went before them with lighted
torches in her hands, for the Gods had brought them to the haven where
they would be.



With the coming of the golden dawn Ulysses awoke, for he had still much
to do. He and Telemachus and the cowherd and Eumaeus put on full armour,
and took swords and spears, and walked to the farm where old Laertes,
the father of Ulysses, lived among his servants and worked in his
garden. Ulysses sent the others into the farmhouse to bid the old
housekeeper get breakfast ready, and he went alone to the vines, being
sure that his father was at work among them.

There the old man was, in his rough gardening clothes, with leather
gloves on, and patched leather leggings, digging hard. His servants had
gone to gather loose stones to make a rough stone dyke, and he was all
alone. He never looked up till Ulysses went to him, and asked him whose
slave he was, and who owned the garden. He said that he was a stranger
in Ithaca, but that he had once met the king of the island, who declared
that one Laertes was his father.

Laertes was amazed at seeing a warrior all in mail come into his garden,
but said that he was the father of Ulysses, who had long been unheard of
and unseen. 'And who are you?' he asked. 'Where is your own country?'
Ulysses said that he came from Sicily, and that he had met Ulysses five
years ago, and hoped that by this time he had come home.

Then the old man sat down and wept, and cast dust on his head, for
Ulysses had not arrived from Sicily in five long years; certainly he
must be dead. Ulysses could not bear to see his father weep, and told
him that he was himself, come home at last, and that he had killed all
the wooers.

But Laertes asked him to prove that he really was Ulysses, so he showed
the scar on his leg, and, looking round the garden, he said: 'Come, I
will show you the very trees that you gave me when I was a little boy
running about after you, and asking you for one thing or another, as
children do. These thirteen pear trees are my very own; you gave them to
me, and mine are these fifty rows of vines, and these forty fig trees.'

Then Laertes was fainting for joy, but Ulysses caught him in his arms
and comforted him. But, when he came to himself, he sighed, and said:
'How shall we meet the feud of all the kin of the slain men in Ithaca
and the other islands?' 'Be of good courage, father,' said Ulysses. 'And
now let us go to the farmhouse and breakfast with Telemachus.'

So Laertes first went to the baths, and then put on fresh raiment, and
Ulysses wondered to see him look so straight and strong. 'Would I were
as strong as when I took the castle of Nericus, long ago,' said the old
man, 'and would that I had been in the fight against the wooers!' Then
all the old man's servants came in, overjoyed at the return of Ulysses,
and they breakfasted merrily together.

By this time all the people in the town knew that the wooers had been
slain, and they crowded to the house of Ulysses in great sorrow, and
gathered their dead and buried them, and then met in the market place.
The father of Antinous, Eupeithes, spoke, and said that they would all
be dishonoured if they did not slay Ulysses before he could escape to
Nestor's house in Pylos. It was in vain that an old prophet told them
that the young men had deserved their death. The most of the men ran
home and put on armour, and Eupeithes led them towards the farm of
Laertes, all in shining mail. But the Gods in heaven had a care for
Ulysses, and sent Athênê to make peace between him and his subjects.

She did not come too soon, for the avengers were drawing near the
farmhouse, which had a garrison of only twelve men: Ulysses, Laertes,
Telemachus, the swineherd, the cowherd, and servants of Laertes. They
all armed themselves, and not choosing to defend the house, they went
boldly out to meet their enemies. They encouraged each other, and
Laertes prayed to Athênê, and then threw his spear at Eupeithes. The
spear passed clean through helmet and through head, and Eupeithes fell
with a crash, and his armour rattled as he fell. But now Athênê
appeared, and cried: 'Hold your hands, ye men of Ithaca, that no more
blood may be shed, and peace may be made.' The foes of Ulysses, hearing
the terrible voice of the Goddess, turned and fled, and Ulysses uttered
his war-cry, and was rushing among them, when a thunderbolt fell at his
feet, and Athênê bade him stop, lest he should anger Zeus, the Lord of
Thunder. Gladly he obeyed, and peace was made with oaths and with
sacrifice, peace in Ithaca and the islands.

Here ends the story of Ulysses, Laertes' son, for we do not know
anything about his adventures when he went to seek a land of men who
never heard of the sea, nor eat meat savoured with salt.




While Troy still stood fast, and before King Priam was born, there was a
king called Athamas, who reigned in a country beside the Grecian sea.
Athamas was a young man, and was unmarried; because none of the
princesses who then lived seemed to him beautiful enough to be his wife.
One day he left his palace and climbed high up into a mountain,
following the course of a little river. He came to a place where a great
black rock stood on one side of the river, jutting into the stream.
Round the rock the water flowed deep and dark. Yet, through the noise of
the river, the king thought he heard laughter and voices like the voices
of girls. So he climbed very quietly up the back of the rock, and,
looking over the edge, there he saw three beautiful maidens bathing in a
pool, and splashing each other with the water. Their long yellow hair
covered them like cloaks and floated behind them on the pool. One of
them was even more beautiful than the others, and as soon as he saw her
the king fell in love with her, and said to himself, 'This is the wife
for me.'

As he thought this, his arm touched a stone, which slipped from the top
of the rock where he lay, and went leaping, faster and faster as it
fell, till it dropped with a splash into the pool below. Then the three
maidens heard it, and were frightened, thinking some one was near. So
they rushed out of the pool to the grassy bank where their clothes lay,
lovely soft clothes, white and gray, and rosy-coloured, all shining with
pearl drops, and diamonds like dew.

In a moment they had dressed, and then it was as if they had wings, for
they rose gently from the ground, and floated softly up and up the
windings of the brook. Here and there among the green tops of the
mountain-ash trees the king could just see the white robes shining and
disappearing, and shining again, till they rose far off like a mist, and
so up and up into the sky, and at last he only followed them with his
eyes, as they floated like clouds among the other clouds across the
blue. All day he watched them, and at sunset he saw them sink, golden
and rose-coloured and purple, and go down into the dark with the setting

The king went home to his palace, but he was very unhappy, and nothing
gave him any pleasure. All day he roamed about among the hills, and
looked for the beautiful girls, but he never found them, and all night
he dreamed about them, till he grew thin and pale and was like to die.

Now, the way with sick men then was that they made a pilgrimage to the
temple of a god, and in the temple they offered sacrifices. Then they
hoped that the god would appear to them in a dream, or send them a true
dream at least, and tell them how they might be made well again. So the
king drove in his chariot a long way, to the town where this temple was.
When he reached it, he found it a strange place. The priests were
dressed in dogs' skins, with the heads of the dogs drawn down over
their faces, and there were live dogs running all about the shrines, for
they were the favourite beasts of the god, whose name was Asclepius.
There was an image of him, with a dog crouched at his feet, and in his
hand he held a serpent, and fed it from a bowl.

The king sacrificed before the god, and when night fell he was taken
into the temple, and there were many beds strewn on the floor and many
people lying on them, both rich and poor, hoping that the god would
appear to them in a dream, and tell them how they might be healed. There
the king lay, like the rest, and for long he could not close his eyes.
At length he slept, and he dreamed a dream. But it was not the god of
the temple that he saw in his dream; he saw a beautiful lady, she seemed
to float above him in a chariot drawn by doves, and all about her was a
crowd of chattering sparrows, and he knew that she was Aphrodite, the
Queen of Love. She was more beautiful than any woman in the world, and
she smiled as she looked at the king, and said, 'Oh, King Athamas, you
are sick for love! Now this you must do: go home and on the first night
of the new moon, climb the hills to that place where you saw the Three
Maidens. In the dawn they will come again to the river, and bathe in the
pool. Then do you creep out of the wood, and steal the clothes of her
you love, and she will not be able to fly away with the rest, and she
will be your wife.'

Then she smiled again, and her doves bore her away, and the king woke,
and remembered the dream, and thanked the lady in his heart, for he knew
that she was a goddess, the Queen of Love.


Then he drove home, and did all that he had been told to do. On the
first night of the new moon, when she shines like a thin gold thread in
the sky, he left his palace, and climbed up through the hills, and hid
in the wood by the edge of the pool. When the dawn began to shine
silvery, he heard voices, and saw the three girls come floating through
the trees, and alight on the river bank, and undress, and run into the
water. There they bathed, and splashed each other with the water,
laughing in their play. Then he stole to the grassy bank, and seized the
clothes of the most beautiful of the three; and they heard him move, and
rushed out to their clothes. Two of them were clad in a moment, and
floated away up the glen, but the third crouched sobbing and weeping
under the thick cloak of her yellow hair. Then she prayed the king to
give her back her soft gray and rose-coloured raiment, but he would not
till she had promised to be his wife. And he told her how long he had
loved her, and how the goddess had sent him to be her husband, and at
last she promised, and took his hand, and in her shining robes went down
the hill with him to the palace. But he felt as if he walked on the air,
and she scarcely seemed to touch the ground with her feet. She told him
that her name was Nephele, which meant 'a cloud,' in their language, and
that she was one of the Cloud Fairies who bring the rain, and live on
the hilltops, and in the high lakes, and water springs, and in the sky.

So they were married, and lived very happily, and had two children, a
boy called Phrixus, and a daughter named Helle. The two children had a
beautiful pet, a Ram with a fleece all of gold, which was given them by
the young god called Hermes, a beautiful god, with wings on his
shoon,--for these were the very Shoon of Swiftness, that he lent
afterwards to the boy, Perseus, who slew the Gorgon, and took her head.
This Ram the children used to play with, and they would ride on his
back, and roll about with him on the flowery meadows.

They would all have been happy, but for one thing. When there were
clouds in the sky, and when there was rain, then their mother, Nephele,
was always with them; but when the summer days were hot and cloudless,
then she went away, they did not know where. The long dry days made her
grow pale and thin, and, at last, she would vanish altogether, and never
come again, till the sky grew soft and gray with rain.

King Athamas grew weary of this, for often his wife would be long away.
Besides there was a very beautiful girl called Ino, a dark girl, who had
come in a ship of Phoenician merchantmen, and had stayed in the city
of the king when her friends sailed from Greece. The king saw her, and
often she would be at the palace, playing with the children when their
mother had disappeared with the Clouds, her sisters.

This Ino was a witch, and one day she put a drug into the king's wine,
and when he had drunk it, he quite forgot Nephele, his wife, and fell in
love with Ino. At last he married her, and they had two children, a boy
and a girl, and Ino wore the crown, and was queen, and gave orders that
Nephele should never be allowed to enter the palace any more. So Phrixus
and Helle never saw their mother, and they were dressed in ragged old
skins of deer, and were ill fed, and were set to do hard work in the
house, while the children of Ino wore gold crowns in their hair, and
were dressed in fine raiment, and had the best of everything.

One day when Phrixus and Helle were in the field, herding the sheep (for
now they were treated like peasant children, and had to work for their
bread), they met an old woman, all wrinkled, and poorly clothed, and
they took pity on her, and brought her home with them. Queen Ino saw
her, and as she wanted a nurse for her own children, she took her in to
be the nurse, and the old woman had charge of the children, and lived in
the house, and she was kind to Phrixus and Helle. But neither of them
knew that she was their own mother, Nephele, who had disguised herself
as an old woman and a servant, that she might be with her children.

Phrixus and Helle grew strong and tall, and more beautiful than Ino's
children, so she hated them, and determined, at last, to kill them. They
all slept at night in one room, but Ino's children had gold crowns in
their hair, and beautiful coverlets on their beds. One night, Phrixus
was half awake, and he heard the old nurse come, in the dark, and put
something on his head, and on his sister's, and change their coverlets.
But he was so drowsy that he half thought it was a dream, and he lay and
fell asleep. In the dead of night, the wicked stepmother, Ino, crept
into the room with a dagger in her hand, and she stole up to the bed of
Phrixus, and felt his hair, and his coverlet. Then she went softly to
the bed of Helle, and felt her coverlet, and her hair with the gold
crown on it. So she supposed these to be her own children, and she
kissed them in the dark, and went to the beds of the other two children.
She felt their heads, and they had no crowns on, so she killed them,
supposing that they were Phrixus and Helle. Then she crept downstairs
and went back to bed.

In the morning, there lay the stepmother Ino's children cold and dead,
and nobody knew who had killed them. Only the wicked queen knew, and
she, of course, would not tell of herself, but if she hated Phrixus and
Helle before, now she hated them a hundred times worse than ever. But
the old nurse was gone; nobody ever saw her there again, and everybody
but the queen thought that _she_ had killed the two children. Everywhere
the king sought for her, to burn her alive, but he never found her, for
she had gone back to her sisters, the Clouds.

And the Clouds were gone, too! For six long months, from winter to
harvest time, the rain never fell. The country was burned up, the trees
grew black and dry, there was no water in the streams, the corn turned
yellow and died before it was come into the ear. The people were
starving, the cattle and sheep were perishing, for there was no grass.
And every day the sun rose hot and red, and went blazing through the sky
without a cloud.

Here the wicked stepmother, Ino, saw her chance. The king sent
messengers to Pytho, to consult the prophetess, and to find out what
should be done to bring back the clouds and the rain. Then Ino took the
messengers, before they set out on their journey, and gave them gold,
and threatened also to kill them, if they did not bring the message she
wished from the prophetess. Now this message was that Phrixus and Helle
must be burned as a sacrifice to the gods.

So the messengers went, and came back dressed in mourning. And when they
were brought before the king, at first they would tell him nothing. But
he commanded them to speak, and then they told him, not the real message
from the prophetess, but what Ino had bidden them to say: that Phrixus
and Helle must be offered as a sacrifice to appease the gods.

The king was very sorrowful at this news, but he could not disobey the
gods. So poor Phrixus and Helle were wreathed with flowers, as sheep
used to be when they were led to be sacrificed, and they were taken to
the altar, all the people following and weeping, and the Golden Ram went
between them, as they walked to the temple. Then they came within sight
of the sea, which lay beneath the cliff where the temple stood, all
glittering in the sun, and the happy white sea-birds flying over it.

Here the Ram stopped, and suddenly he spoke to Phrixus, for the god gave
him utterance, and said: 'Lay hold of my horn, and get on my back, and
let Helle climb up behind you, and I will carry you far away.'

Then Phrixus took hold of the Ram's horn, and Helle mounted behind him,
and grasped the golden fleece, and suddenly the Ram rose in the air, and
flew above the people's heads, far away over the sea.

Far away to the eastward he flew, and deep below them they saw the sea,
and the islands, and the white towers and temples, and the fields, and
ships. Eastward always he went, toward the sun-rising, and Helle grew
dizzy and weary. At last a deep sleep came over her, and she let go her
hold of the Fleece, and fell from the Ram's back, down and down, into
the narrow seas, that run between Europe and Asia, and there she was
drowned. And that strait is called Helle's Ford, or Hellespont, to this

But Phrixus and the Ram flew on up the narrow seas, and over the great
sea which the Greeks called the Euxine and we call the Black Sea, till
they reached a country named Colchis. There the Ram alighted, so tired
and weary that he died, and Phrixus had his beautiful Golden Fleece
stripped off, and hung on an oak tree in a dark wood. And there it was
guarded by a monstrous Dragon, so that nobody dared to go near it. And
Phrixus married the king's daughter, and lived long, till he died also,
and a king called Æêtes, the brother of the enchantress, Circe, ruled
that country. Of all the things he had, the rarest was the Golden
Fleece, and it became a proverb that nobody could take that Fleece away,
nor deceive the Dragon who guarded it.



Some years after the Golden Ram died in Colchis, far across the sea, a
certain king reigned in Iolcos in Greece, and his name was Pelias. He
was not the rightful king, for he had turned his stepbrother, King Æson,
from the throne, and taken it for himself. Now, Æson had a son, a boy
called Jason, and he sent him far away from Pelias, up into the
mountains. In these hills there was a great cave, and in that cave lived
Chiron the Wise, who, the story says, was half a horse. He had the head
and breast of a man, but a horse's body and legs. He was famed for
knowing more about everything than anyone else in all Greece. He knew
about the stars, and the plants of earth, which were good for medicine
and which were poisonous. He was the best archer with the bow, and the
best player of the harp; he could sing songs and tell stories of old
times, for he was the last of a people, half horse and half man, who had
dwelt in ancient days on the hills. Therefore the kings in Greece sent
their sons to him to be taught shooting, singing, and telling the truth,
and that was all the teaching they had then, except that they learned to
hunt, fish, and fight, and throw spears, and toss the hammer and the
stone. There Jason lived with Chiron and the boys in the cave, and many
of the boys became famous.

There was Orpheus who played the harp so sweetly that wild beasts
followed his minstrelsy, and even the trees danced after him, and
settled where he stopped playing. There was Mopsus who could understand
what the birds say to each other; and there was Butes, the handsomest of
men; and Tiphys, the best steersman of a ship; and Castor, with his
brother Polydeuces, the boxer. Heracles, too, the strongest man in the
whole world, was there; and Lynceus, whom they called Keen-eye, because
he could see so far, and could see even the dead men in their graves
under the earth. There was Ephemus, so swift and light-footed that he
could run upon the gray sea and never wet his feet; and there were
Calais and Zetes, the two sons of the North Wind, with golden wings upon
their feet. There also was Peleus, who later married Thetis of the
silver feet, goddess of the sea foam, and was the father of Achilles.
Many others were there whose names it would take too long to tell. They
all grew up together in the hills good friends, healthy, and brave, and
strong. And they all went out to their own homes at last; but Jason had
no home to go to, for his uncle, Pelias, had taken it, and his father
was a wanderer.

So at last he wearied of being alone, and he said good-bye to his
teacher, and went down through the hills toward Iolcos, his father's old
home, where his wicked uncle Pelias was reigning. As he went, he came to
a great, flooded river, running red from bank to bank, rolling the round
boulders along. And there on the bank was an old woman sitting.

'Cannot you cross, mother?' said Jason; and she said she could not, but
must wait until the flood fell, for there was no bridge.

'I'll carry you across,' said Jason, 'if you will let me carry you.'

So she thanked him, and said it was a kind deed, for she was longing to
reach the cottage where her little grandson lay sick.

Then he knelt down, and she climbed upon his back, and he used his spear
for a staff, and stepped into the river. It was deeper than he thought,
and stronger, but at last he staggered out on the farther bank, far
below where he went in. And then he set the old woman down.

'Bless you, my lad, for a strong man and a brave!' she said, 'and my
blessing go with you to the world's end.'

Then he looked and she was gone he did not know where, for she was the
greatest of the goddesses, Hera, the wife of Zeus, who had taken the
shape of an old woman, to try Jason, whether he was kind and strong, or
rude and churlish. From this day her grace went with him, and she helped
him in all dangers.

Then Jason went down limping to the city, for he had lost one shoe in
the flood. And when he reached the town he went straight up to the
palace, and through the court, and into the open door, and up the hall,
where the king was sitting at his table among his men. There Jason
stood, leaning on his spear.

When the king saw him he turned white with terror. For he had been told
by the prophetess of Pytho that a man with only one shoe would come some
day and take away his kingdom. And here was the half-shod man of whom
the prophecy had spoken.

But Pelias still remembered to be courteous, and he bade his men lead
the stranger to the baths, and there the attendants bathed him, pouring
hot water over him. And they anointed his head with oil, and clothed him
in new raiment, and brought him back to the hall, and set him down at a
table beside the king, and gave him meat and drink.

When he had eaten and was refreshed, the king said: 'Now it is time to
ask the stranger who he is, and who his parents are, and whence he comes
to Iolcos?'

And Jason answered, 'I am Jason, son of the rightful king, Æson, and I
am come to take back my kingdom.'

The king grew pale again, but he was cunning, and he leaped up and
embraced the lad, and made much of him, and caused a gold circlet to be
twisted in his hair. Then he said he was old, and weary of judging the
people. 'And weary work it is,' he said, 'and no joy therewith shall any
king have. For there is a curse on the country, that shall not be taken
away till the Fleece of Gold is brought home, from the land of the
world's end. The ghost of Phrixus stands by my bedside every night,
wailing and will not be comforted, till the Fleece is brought home

When Jason heard that he cried, 'I shall take the curse away, for by the
splendour of Lady Hera's brow, I shall bring the Fleece of Gold from the
land of the world's end before I sit on the throne of my father.'

Now this was the very thing that the king wished, for he thought that if
once Jason went after the Fleece, certainly he would never come back
living to Iolcos. So he said that it could never be done, for the land
was far away across the sea, so far that the birds could not come and go
in one year, so great a sea was that and perilous. Also, there was a
dragon that guarded the Fleece of Gold, and no man could face it and

But the idea of fighting a dragon was itself a temptation to Jason, and
he made a great vow by the water of Styx, an oath the very gods feared
to break, that certainly he would bring home that Fleece to Iolcos. And
he sent out messengers all over Greece, to all his old friends, who were
with him in the Centaur's cave, and bade them come and help him, for
that there was a dragon to kill, and that there would be fighting. And
they all came, driving in their chariots down dales and across hills:
Heracles, the strong man, with the bow that none other could bend; and
Orpheus with his harp, and Castor and Polydeuces, and Zetes and Calais
of the golden wings, and Tiphys, the steersman, and young Hylas, still a
boy, and as fair as a girl, who always went with Heracles the strong.

These came, and many more, and they set shipbuilders to work, and oaks
were felled for beams, and ashes for oars, and spears were made, and
arrows feathered, and swords sharpened. But in the prow of the ship they
placed a bough of an oak tree from the forest of Zeus in Dodona where
the trees can speak, and that bough spoke, and prophesied things to
come. They called the ship 'Argo,' and they launched her, and put bread,
and meat, and wine on board, and hung their shields outside the
bulwarks. Then they said good-bye to their friends, went aboard, sat
down at the oars, set sail, and so away eastward to Colchis, in the land
of the world's end.

All day they rowed, and at night they beached the ship, as was then the
custom, for they did not sail at night, and they went on shore, and took
supper, and slept, and next day to the sea again. And old Chiron, the
man-horse, saw the swift ship from his mountain heights, and ran down
to the beach; there he stood with the waves of the gray sea breaking
over his feet, waving with his mighty hands, and wishing his boys a safe
return. And his wife stood beside him, holding in her arms the little
son of one of the ship's company, Achilles, the son of Peleus of the
Spear, and of Thetis the goddess of the Sea Foam.

So they rowed ever eastward, and ere long they came to a strange isle
where dwelt men with six hands apiece, unruly giants. And these giants
lay in wait for them on cliffs above the river's mouth where the ship
was moored, and before the dawn they rolled down great rocks on the
crew. But Heracles drew his huge bow, the bow for which he slew Eurytus,
king of Oechalia, and wherever a giant showed hand or shoulder above the
cliff, he pinned him through with an arrow, till all were slain. After
that they still held eastward, passing many islands, and towns of men,
till they reached Mysia, and the Asian shore. Here they landed, with bad
luck. For while they were cutting reeds and grass to strew their beds on
the sands, young Hylas, beautiful Hylas, went off with a pitcher in his
hand to draw water. He came to a beautiful spring, a deep, clear, green
pool, and there the water-fairies lived, whom men called Nereids. There
were Eunis, and Nycheia with her April eyes, and when they saw the
beautiful Hylas, they longed to have him always with them, to live in
the crystal caves beneath the water, for they had never seen anyone so
beautiful. As he stooped with his pitcher and dipped it into the stream,
they caught him softly in their arms, and drew him down below, and no
man ever saw him any more, but he dwelt with the water-fairies.

But Heracles the strong, who loved him like a younger brother, wandered
all over the country crying '_Hylas! Hylas!_' and the boy's voice
answered so faintly from below the stream that Heracles never heard him.
So he roamed alone in the forests, and the rest of the crew thought he
was lost.

Then the sons of the North Wind were angry, and bade them set sail
without him, and sail they did, leaving the strong man behind. Long
afterward, when the Fleece was won, Heracles met the sons of the North
Wind, and slew them with his arrows. And he buried them, and set a great
stone on each grave, and one of these is ever stirred, and shakes when
the North Wind blows. There they lie, and their golden wings are at

Still they sped on, with a west wind blowing, and they came to a country
whose king was strong, and thought himself the best boxer then living,
so he came down to the ship and challenged anyone of that crew; and
Polydeuces, the boxer, took up the challenge. All the rest, and the
people of the country, made a ring, and Polydeuces and huge King Amycus
stepped into the midst, and put up their hands. First they moved round
each other cautiously, watching for a chance, and then, as the sun shone
forth in the Giant's face, Polydeuces leaped in and struck him between
the eyes with his left hand, and, strong as he was, the Giant staggered
and fell. Then his friends picked him up, and sponged his face with
water, and all the crew of 'Argo' shouted with joy. He was soon on his
feet again, and rushed at Polydeuces, hitting out so hard that he would
have killed him if the blow had gone home. But Polydeuces just moved his
head a little on one side, and the blow went by, and, as the Giant
slipped, Polydeuces planted one in his mouth and another beneath his
ear, and was away before the Giant could recover.

There they stood, breathing heavily, and glaring at each other, till the
Giant made another rush, but Polydeuces avoided him, and struck him
several blows quickly in the eyes, and now the Giant was almost blind.
Then Polydeuces at once ended the combat by a right-hand blow on the
temple. The Giant fell, and lay as if he were dead. When he came to
himself again, he had no heart to go on, for his knees shook, and he
could hardly see. So Polydeuces made him swear never to challenge
strangers again as long as he lived, and then the crew of 'Argo' crowned
Polydeuces with a wreath of poplar leaves, and they took supper, and
Orpheus sang to them, and they slept, and next day they came to the
country of the unhappiest of kings.

His name was Phineus, and he was a prophet; but, when he came to meet
Jason and his company, he seemed more like the ghost of a beggar than a
crowned king. For he was blind, and very old, and he wandered like a
dream, leaning on a staff, and feeling the wall with his hand. His limbs
all trembled, he was but a thing of skin and bone, and foul and filthy
to see. At last he reached the doorway of the house where Jason was, and
sat down, with his purple cloak fallen round him, and he held up his
skinny hands, and welcomed Jason, for, being a prophet, he knew that now
he should be delivered from his wretchedness.

He lived, or rather lingered, in all this misery because he had offended
the gods, and had told men what things were to happen in the future
beyond what the gods desired that men should know. So they blinded him,
and they sent against him hideous monsters with wings and crooked claws,
called Harpies, which fell upon him at his meat, and carried it away
before he could put it to his mouth. Sometimes they flew off with all
the meat; sometimes they left a little, that he might not quite starve,
and die, and be at peace, but might live in misery. Yet what they left
was made so foul, and of such evil savour, that even a starving man
could scarcely take it within his lips. Thus this king was the most
miserable of all men living.

He welcomed the heroes, and, above all, Zetes and Calais, the sons of
the North Wind, for they, he knew, would help him. And they all went
into his wretched, naked hall, and sat down at the tables, and the
servants brought meat and drink and placed it before them, the latest
and last supper of the Harpies. Then down on the meat swooped the
Harpies, like lightning or wind, with clanging brazen wings, and iron
claws, and the smell of a battlefield where men lie dead; down they
swooped, and flew shrieking away with the food. But the two sons of the
North Wind drew their short swords, and rose in the air on their golden
wings, and followed where the Harpies fled, over many a sea and many a
land, till they came to a distant isle, and there they slew the Harpies
with their swords. And that isle was called 'Turn Again,' for there the
sons of the North Wind turned, and it was late in the night when they
came back to the hall of Phineus, and to their companions.

Here Phineus was telling Jason and his company how they might win their
way to Colchis and the world's end, and the wood of the Fleece of Gold.
'First,' he said, 'you shall come in your ship to the Rocks Wandering,
for these rocks wander like living things in the sea, and no ship has
ever sailed between them. They open, like a great mouth, to let ships
pass, and when she is between their lips they clash again, and crush her
in their iron jaws. By this way even winged things may never pass; nay,
not even the doves that bear ambrosia to Father Zeus, the lord of
Olympus, but the rocks ever catch one even of these. So, when you come
near them, you must let loose a dove from the ship, and let her go
before you to try the way. And if she flies safely between the rocks
from one sea to the other sea, then row with all your might when the
rocks open again. But if the rocks close on the bird, then return, and
do not try the adventure. But, if you win safely through, then hold
right on to the mouth of the River Phasis, and there you shall see the
towers of Æêtes, the king, and the grove of the Fleece of Gold. And then
do as well as you may.'

So they thanked him, and the next morning they set sail, till they came
to a place where the Rocks Wandering wallowed in the water, and all was
foam; but when the Rocks leaped apart the stream ran swift, and the
waves roared beneath the rocks, and the wet cliffs bellowed. Then
Euphemus took the dove in his hands, and set her free, and she flew
straight at the pass where the rocks met, and sped right through, and
the rocks gnashed like gnashing teeth, but they caught only a feather
from her tail.

Then slowly the rocks opened again, like a wild beast's mouth that
opens, and Tiphys, the helmsman, shouted, 'Row on, hard all!' and he
held the ship straight for the pass. Then the oars bent like bows in the
hands of men, and the good ship leaped at the stroke. Three strokes they
pulled, and at each the ship leaped, and now they were within the black
jaws of the rocks, the water boiling round them, and so dark it was that
overhead they could see the stars, but the oarsmen could not see the
daylight behind them, and the steersman could not see the daylight in
front. Then the great tide rushed in between the rocks like a rushing
river, and lifted the ship as if it were lifted by a hand, and through
the strait she passed like a bird, and the rocks clashed, and only broke
the carved wood of the ship's stern. And the ship reeled into the
seething sea beyond, and all the men of Jason bowed their heads over
their oars, half dead with the fierce rowing.

Then they set all sail, and the ship sped merrily on, past the shores of
the inner sea, past bays and towns, and river mouths, and round green
hills, the tombs of men slain long ago. And, behold, on the top of one
mound stood a tall man, clad in rusty armour, and with a broken sword in
his hand, and on his head a helmet with a blood-red crest. Thrice he
waved his hand, and thrice he shouted aloud, and was no more seen, for
this was the ghost of Sthenelus, Actæon's son, whom an arrow had slain
there long since, and he had come forth from his tomb to see men of his
own blood, and to greet Jason and his company. So they anchored there,
and slew sheep in sacrifice, and poured blood and wine on the grave of
Sthenelus. There Orpheus left a harp, placing it in the bough of a tree,
that the wind might sing in the chords, and make music to Sthenelus
below the earth.

Then they sailed on, and at evening they saw above their heads the snowy
crests of Mount Caucasus, flushed in the sunset; and high in the air
they saw, as it were, a black speck that grew greater and greater, and
fluttered black wings, and then fell sheer down like a stone. Then they
heard a dreadful cry from a valley of the mountain, for there Prometheus
was fastened to the rock, and the eagles fed upon him, because he stole
fire from the gods, and gave it to men. All the heroes shuddered when
they heard his cry; but not long after Heracles came that way, and he
slew the eagle with his bow, and set Prometheus free.

But at nightfall they came into the wide mouth of the River Phasis, that
flows through the land of the world's end, and they saw the lights
burning in the palace of Æêtes the king. So now they were come to the
last stage of their journey, and there they slept, and dreamed of the
Fleece of Gold.



Next morning the heroes awoke, and left the ship moored in the river's
mouth, hidden by tall reeds, for they took down the mast, lest it should
be seen. Then they walked toward the city of Colchis, and they passed
through a strange and horrible wood. Dead men, bound together with
cords, were hanging from the branches, for the Colchis people buried
women, but hung dead men from the branches of trees. Then they came to
the palace, where King Æêtes lived, with his young son Absyrtus, and his
daughter Chalciope, who had been the wife of Phrixus, and his younger
daughter, Medea, who was a witch, and the priestess of Brimo, a dreadful
goddess. Now Chalciope came out and welcomed Jason, for she knew the
heroes were of her dear husband's country. And beautiful Medea, the dark
witch-girl, came forth and saw Jason, and as soon as she saw him she
loved him more than her father and her brother and all her father's
house. For his bearing was gallant, and his armour golden, and long
yellow hair fell over his shoulders, and over the leopard skin that he
wore above his armour. Medea turned white and then red, and cast down
her eyes, but Chalciope took the heroes to the baths, and gave them
food, and they were brought to Æêtes, who asked them why they came, and
they told him that they desired the Fleece of Gold, and he was very
angry, and told them that only to a better man than himself would he
give up that Fleece. If any wished to prove himself worthy of it he must
tame two bulls which breathed flame from their nostrils, and must plough
four acres with these bulls, and next he must sow the field with the
teeth of a dragon, and these teeth when sown would immediately grow up
into armed men. Jason said that, as it must be, he would try this
adventure, but he went sadly enough back to the ship and did not notice
how kindly Medea was looking after him as he went.

Now, in the dead of night, Medea could not sleep, because she was so
sorry for the stranger, and she knew that she could help him by her
magic. But she remembered how her father would burn her for a witch if
she helped Jason, and a great shame, too, came on her that she should
prefer a stranger to her own people. So she arose in the dark, and stole
just as she was to her sister's room, a white figure roaming like a
ghost in the palace. At her sister's door she turned back in shame,
saying, 'No, I will never do it,' and she went back again to her
chamber, and came again, and knew not what to do; but at last she
returned to her own bower, and threw herself on her bed, and wept. Her
sister heard her weeping, and came to her and they cried together, but
softly, that no one might hear them. For Chalciope was as eager to help
the Greeks for love of Phrixus, her dead husband, as Medea was for the
love of Jason.

At last Medea promised to carry to the temple of the goddess of whom she
was a priestess, a drug that would tame the bulls which dwelt in the
field of that temple. But still she wept and wished that she were dead,
and had a mind to slay herself; yet, all the time, she was longing for
the dawn, that she might go and see Jason, and give him the drug, and
see his face once more, if she was never to see him again. So, at dawn
she bound up her hair, and bathed her face, and took the drug, which was
pressed from a flower. That flower first blossomed when the eagle shed
the blood of Prometheus on the earth. The virtue of the juice of the
flower was this, that if a man anointed himself with it, he could not
that day be wounded by swords, and fire could not burn him. So she
placed it in a vial beneath her girdle, and she went with other girls,
her friends, to the temple of the goddess. Now Jason had been warned by
Chalciope to meet her there, and he was coming with Mopsus who knew the
speech of birds. But Mopsus heard a crow that sat on a poplar tree
speaking to another crow, saying:

'Here comes a silly prophet, and sillier than a goose. He is walking
with a young man to meet a maid, and does not know that, while he is
there to hear, the maid will not say a word that is in her heart. Go
away, foolish prophet; it is not you she cares for.'

Then Mopsus smiled, and stopped where he was; but Jason went on, where
Medea was pretending to play with the girls, her companions. When she
saw Jason she felt as if she could neither go forward, nor go back, and
she was very pale. But Jason told her not to be afraid, and asked her to
help him, but for long she could not answer him; however, at the last,
she gave him the drug, and taught him how to use it. 'So shall you carry
the fleece to Iolcos, far away, but what is it to me where you go when
you have gone from here? Still remember the name of me, Medea, as I
shall remember you. And may there come to me some voice, or some bird
bearing the message, whenever you have quite forgotten me.'

But Jason answered, 'Lady, let the winds blow what voice they will, and
what that bird will, let him bring. But no wind or bird shall ever bear
the news that I have forgotten you, if you will cross the sea with me,
and be my wife.'

Then she was glad, and yet she was afraid, at the thought of that dark
voyage, with a stranger, from her father's home and her own. So they
parted, Jason to the ship, and Medea to the palace. But in the morning
Jason anointed himself and his armour with the drug, and all the heroes
struck at him with spears and swords, but the swords would not bite on
him nor on his armour. He felt so strong and light that he leaped in the
air with joy, and the sun shone on his glittering shield. Now they all
went up together to the field where the bulls were breathing flame.
There already was Æêtes, with Medea, and all the Colchians had come to
see Jason die. A plough had been brought to which he was to harness the
bulls. Then he walked up to them, and they blew fire at him that flamed
all round him, but the magic drug protected him. He took a horn of one
bull in his right hand, and a horn of the other in his left, and dashed
their heads together so mightily that they fell.

When they rose, all trembling, he yoked them to the plough, and drove
them with his spear, till all the field was ploughed in straight ridges
and furrows. Then he dipped his helmet in the river, and drank water,
for he was weary; and next he sowed the dragon's teeth on the right and
left. Then you might see spear points, and sword points, and crests of
helmets break up from the soil like shoots of corn, and presently the
earth was shaken like sea waves, as armed men leaped out of the furrows,
all furious for battle, and all rushed to slay Jason. But he, as Medea
had told him to do, caught up a great rock, and threw it among them, and
he who was struck by the rock said to his neighbour, 'You struck me;
take that!' and ran his spear through that man's breast, but before he
could draw it out another man had cleft his helmet with a stroke, and so
it went: an hour of striking and shouting, while the sparks of fire
sprang up from helmet and breastplate and shield. The furrows ran red
with blood, and wounded men crawled on hands and knees to strike or stab
those that were yet standing and fighting. So axes and sword and spear
flashed and fell, till now all the men were down but one, taller and
stronger than the rest. Round him he looked, and saw only Jason standing
there, and he staggered toward him, bleeding, and lifting his great axe
above his head. But Jason only stepped aside from the blow which would
have cloven him to the waist, the last blow of the Men of the Dragon's
Teeth, for he who struck fell, and there he lay and died.

Then Jason went to the king, where he sat looking darkly on, and said,
'O King, the field is ploughed, the seed is sown, the harvest is reaped.
Give me now the Fleece of Gold, and let me be gone.' But the king said,
'Enough is done. To-morrow is a new day. To-morrow shall you win the

Then he looked sidewise at Medea, and she knew that he suspected her,
and she was afraid.

Æêtes went and sat brooding over his wine with the captains of his
people; and his mood was bitter, both for loss of the Fleece, and
because Jason had won it not by his own prowess, but by the magic aid
of Medea. As for Medea herself, it was the king's purpose to put her to
a cruel death, and this she needed not her witchery to know, and a fire
was in her eyes, and terrible sounds were ringing in her ears, and it
seemed she had but two choices: to drink poison and die, or to flee with
the heroes in the ship 'Argo.' But at last flight seemed better than
death. So she hid all her engines of witchcraft in the folds of her
gown, and she kissed her bed where she would never sleep again, and the
posts of the door, and she caressed the very walls with her hand in that
last farewell. And she cut a long lock of her yellow hair, and left it
in the room, a keepsake to her mother dear, in memory of her maiden
days. 'Good-bye, my mother,' she said, 'this long lock I leave thee in
place of me; good-bye, a long good-bye, to me who am going on a long
journey; good-bye, my sister Chalciope, good-bye! dear house, good-bye!'

Then she stole from the house, and the bolted doors leaped open at their
own accord at the swift spell Medea murmured. With her bare feet she ran
down the grassy paths, and the daisies looked black against the white
feet of Medea. So she sped to the temple of the goddess, and the moon
overhead looked down on her. Many a time had she darkened the moon's
face with her magic song, and now the Lady Moon gazed white upon her,
and said, 'I am not, then, the only one that wanders in the night for
love, as I love Endymion the sleeper, who sleeps on the crest of the
Latmian hill, and beholds me in his dreams. Many a time hast thou
darkened my face with thy songs, and made night black with thy
sorceries, and now thou too art in love! So go thy way, and bid thy
heart endure, for a sore fate is before thee!'

But Medea hastened on till she came to the high river bank, and saw the
heroes, merry at their wine in the light of a blazing fire. Thrice she
called aloud, and they heard her, and came to her, and she said, 'Save
me, my friends, for all is known, and my death is sure. And I will give
you the Fleece of Gold for the price of my life.'

Then Jason swore that she should be his wife, and more dear to him than
all the world. So she went aboard their boat, and swiftly they rowed up
stream to the dark wood where the dragon who never sleeps lay guarding
the Fleece of Gold. There she landed, and Jason, and Orpheus with his
harp, and through the wood they went, but that old serpent saw them
coming, and hissed so loud that women wakened in Colchis town, and
children cried to their mothers. But Orpheus struck softly on his harp,
and he sang a hymn to Sleep, bidding him come and cast a slumber on the
dragon's wakeful eyes. This was the song he sang:

  Sleep! King of Gods and men!
  Come to my call again,
  Swift over field and fen,
      Mountain and deep;
  Come, bid the waves be still;
  Sleep, streams on height and hill;
  Beasts, birds, and snakes, thy will
      Conquereth, Sleep!
  Come on thy golden wings,
  Come ere the swallow sings,
  Lulling all living things,
      Fly they or creep!
  Come with thy leaden wand,
  Come with thy kindly hand,
  Soothing on sea or land
      Mortals that weep.
  Come from the cloudy west,
  Soft over brain and breast,
  Bidding the Dragon rest,
      Come to me, Sleep!

This was Orpheus's song, and he sang so sweetly that the bright, small
eyes of the dragon closed, and all his hard coils softened and uncurled.
Then Jason set his foot on the dragon's neck and hewed off his head, and
lifted down the Golden Fleece from the sacred oak tree, and it shone
like a golden cloud at dawn. He waited not to wonder at it, but he and
Medea and Orpheus hurried through the wet wood-paths to the ship, and
threw it on board, cast a cloak over it, and bade the heroes sit down to
the oars, half of them, but the others to take their shields and stand
each beside the oarsmen, to guard them from the arrows of the Colchians.
Then he cut the stern cables with his sword, and softly they rowed,
under the bank, down the dark river to the sea. But the hissing of the
dragon had already awakened the Colchians, and lights were flitting by
the palace windows, and Æêtes was driving in his chariot with all his
men down to the banks of the river. Then their arrows fell like hail
about the ship, but they rebounded from the shields of the heroes, and
the swift ship sped over the bar, and leaped as she felt the first waves
of the salt sea.


And now the Fleece was won. But it was weary work bringing it home to
Greece, and Medea and Jason did a deed which angered the gods. They slew
her brother Absyrtus, who followed after them with a fleet, and cut him
limb from limb, and when Æêtes came with his ships, and saw the dead
limbs, he stopped, and went home, for his heart was broken. The gods
would not let the Greeks return by the way they had come, but by strange
ways where never another ship has sailed. Up the Ister (the Danube)
they rowed, through countries of savage men, till the 'Argo' could go no
farther, by reason of the narrowness of the stream. Then they hauled her
overland, where no man knows, but they launched her on the Elbe at last,
and out into a sea where never sail had been seen. Then they were driven
wandering out into Ocean, and to a fairy, far-off isle where Lady Circe
dwelt. Circe was the sister of King Æêtes, both were children of the Sun
God, and Medea hoped that Circe would be kind to her, as she could not
have heard of the slaying of Absyrtus. Medea and Jason went up through
the woods of the isle to the house of Circe, and had no fear of the
lions and wolves and bears that guarded the house. These knew that Medea
was an enchantress, and they fawned on her and Jason and let them pass.
But in the house they found Circe clad in dark mourning raiment, and all
her long black hair fell wet and dripping to her feet, for she had seen
visions of terror and sin, and therefore she had purified herself in
salt water of the sea. The walls of her chamber, in the night, had shone
as with fire, and dripped as with blood, and a voice of wailing had
broken forth, and the spirit of dead Absyrtus had cried in her ears.

When Medea and Jason entered her hall, Circe bade them sit down, and
called her bower maidens, fairies of woods and waters, to strew a table
with a cloth of gold, and set on it food and wine. But Jason and Medea
ran to the hearth, the sacred place of the house to which men that have
done murder flee, and there they are safe, when they come in their
flight to the house of a stranger. They cast ashes from the hearth on
their heads, and Circe knew that they had slain Absyrtus. Yet she was of
Medea's near kindred, and she respected the law of the hearth.
Therefore she did the rite of purification, as was the custom, cleansing
blood with blood, and she burned in the fire a cake of honey, and meal,
and oil, to appease the Furies who revenge the deaths of kinsmen by the
hands of kinsmen.

When all was done, Jason and Medea rose from their knees, and sat down
on chairs in the hall, and Medea told Circe all her tale, except the
slaying of Absyrtus.

'More and worse than you tell me you have done,' said Circe, 'but you
are my brother's daughter.'

Then she advised them of all the dangers of their way home to Greece,
how they must shun the Sirens, and Scylla and Charybdis, and she sent a
messenger, Iris, the goddess of the Rainbow, to bid Thetis help them
through the perils of the sea, and bring them safe to Phæacia, where the
Phæacians would send them home.

'But you shall never be happy, nor know one good year in all your
lives,' said Circe, and she bade them farewell.

They went by the way that Ulysses went on a later day; they passed
through many perils, and came to Iolcos, where Pelias was old, and made
Jason reign in his stead.

But Jason and Medea loved each other no longer, and many stories, all
different from each other, are told concerning evil deeds that they
wrought, and certainly they left each other, and Jason took another
wife, and Medea went to Athens. Here she lived in the palace of Ægeus,
an unhappy king who had been untrue to his own true love, and therefore
the gods took from him courage and strength. But about Medea at Athens
the story is told in the next tale, the tale of Theseus, Ægeus's son.




Long before Ulysses was born, there lived in Athens a young king,
strong, brave, and beautiful, named Ægeus. Athens, which later became so
great and famous, was then but a little town, perched on the top of a
cliff which rises out of the plain, two or three miles from the sea. No
doubt the place was chosen so as to be safe against pirates, who then
used to roam all about the seas, plundering merchant ships, robbing
cities, and carrying away men, women, and children, to sell as slaves.
The Athenians had then no fleet with which to put the pirates down, and
possessed not so much land as would make a large estate in England:
other little free towns held the rest of the surrounding country.

King Ægeus was young, and desired to take a wife, indeed a wife had been
found for him. But he wanted to be certain, if he could, that he was to
have sons to succeed him: so many misfortunes happen to kings who have
no children. But how was he to find out whether he should have children
or not? At that time, and always in Greece before it was converted to
Christianity, there were temples of the gods in various places, at which
it was supposed that men might receive answers to their questions.
These temples were called oracles, or places where oracles were given,
and the most famous of them was the temple of Apollo at Pytho, or
Delphi, far to the north-west of Athens. Here was a deep ravine of a
steep mountain, where the god Apollo was said to have shot a monstrous
dragon with his arrows. He then ordered that a temple should be built
here, and in this temple a maiden, being inspired by the god, gave her
prophecies. The people who came to consult her made the richest presents
to the priests, and the temple was full of cups and bowls of gold and
silver, and held more wealth in its chambers than the treasure houses of
the richest kings.

Ægeus determined to go to Delphi to ask his question: would he have sons
to come after him? He did not tell his people where he was going; he
left the kingdom to be governed by his brother Pallas, and he set out
secretly at night, taking no servant. He did not wear royal dress, and
he drove his own chariot, carrying for his offering only a small cup of
silver, for he did not wish it to be known that he was a king, and told
the priests that he was a follower of Peleus, King of Phthia. In answer
to his question, the maiden sang two lines of verse, for she always
prophesied in verse. Her reply was difficult to understand, as oracles
often were, for the maiden seldom spoke out clearly, but in a kind of
riddle that might be understood in more ways than one; so that, whatever
happened, she could not be proved to have made a mistake.

Ægeus was quite puzzled by the answer he got. He did not return to
Athens, but went to consult the prince of Troezene, named Pittheus, who
was thought the wisest man then living. Pittheus did not know who Ægeus
was, but saw that he seemed of noble birth, tall and handsome, so he
received him very kindly, and kept him in his house for some time,
entertaining him with feasts, dances, and hunting parties. Now Pittheus
had a very lovely daughter, named Æthra. She and Ægeus fell in love with
each other, so deeply that they desired to be married. It was the custom
that the bridegroom should pay a price, a number of cattle, to the
father of the bride, and Ægeus, of course, had no cattle to give. But it
was also the custom, if the lover did some very brave and useful action,
to reward him with the hand of his lady, and Ægeus had his opportunity.
A fleet of pirates landed at Troezene and attacked the town, but Ægeus
fought so bravely and led the men of Pittheus so well, that he not only
slew the pirate chief, and defeated his men, but also captured some of
his ships, which were full of plunder, gold, and bronze, and iron, and
slaves. With this wealth Ægeus paid the bride price, as it was called,
for Æthra, and they were married. Pittheus thought himself a lucky man,
for he had no son, and here was a son-in-law who could protect his
little kingdom, and wear the crown when he himself was dead.

Though Pittheus was believed to be very wise, in this matter he was very
foolish. He never knew who Ægeus really was, that is the king of Athens,
nor did poor Æthra know. In a short time Ægeus wearied of beautiful
Æthra, who continued to love him dearly. He was anxious also to return
to his kingdom, for he heard that his brother Pallas and his many sons
were governing badly; and he feared that Pallas might keep the crown for
himself, so he began to speak mysteriously to Æthra, talking about a
long and dangerous journey which he was obliged to make, for secret
reasons, and from which he might never return alive. Æthra wept
bitterly, and sometimes thought, as people did in these days, that the
beautiful stranger might be no man, but a god, and that he might return
to Olympus, the home of the gods, and forget her; for the gods never
tarried long with the mortal women who loved them.

At last Ægeus took Æthra to a lonely glen in the woods, where, beside a
little mountain stream, lay a great moss-grown boulder that an
earthquake, long ago, had shaken from the rocky cliff above. 'The time
is coming,' said Ægeus 'when you and I must part, and only the gods can
tell when we shall meet again! It may be that you will bear a child,
and, if he be a boy, when he has come to his strength you must lead him
to this great stone, and let no man or woman be there but you two only.
You must then bid him roll away the stone, and, if he has no strength to
raise it, so must it be. But if he can roll it away, then let him take
such things as he finds there, and let him consider them well, and do
what the gods put into his heart.'

Thus Ægeus spoke, and on the dawn of the third night after this day,
when Æthra awoke from sleep, she did not find him by her side. She
arose, and ran through the house, calling his name, but there came no
answer, and from that time Ægeus was never seen again in Troezene, and
people marvelled, thinking that he, who came whence no man knew, and was
so brave and beautiful, must be one of the immortal gods. 'Who but a
god,' they said, 'would leave for no cause a bride, the flower of Greece
for beauty, young, and loving; and a kingdom to which he was not born?
Truly he must be Apollo of the silver bow, or Hermes of the golden

So they spoke among each other, and honoured Æthra greatly, but she
pined and drooped with sorrow, like a tall lily flower, that the frost
has touched in a rich man's garden.



Time went by, and Æthra had a baby, a son. This was her only comfort,
and she thought that she saw in him a likeness to his father, whose true
name she did not know. Certainly he was a very beautiful baby, well
formed and strong, and, as soon as he could walk he was apt to quarrel
with other children of his own age, and fight with them in a harmless
way. He never was an amiable child, though he was always gentle to his
mother. From the first he was afraid of nothing, and when he was about
four or five he used to frighten his mother by wandering from home, with
his little bow and arrows, and staying by himself in the woods. However,
he always found his own way back again, sometimes with a bird or a snake
that he had shot, and once dragging the body of a fawn that was nearly
as heavy as himself. Thus his mother, from his early boyhood, had many
fears for him, that he might be killed by some fierce wild boar in the
woods, for he would certainly shoot at whatever beast he met; or that he
might kill some other boy in a quarrel, when he would be obliged to
leave the country. The other boys, however, soon learned not to quarrel
with Theseus (so Æthra had named her son), for he was quick of temper,
and heavy of hand, and, as for the wild beasts, he was cool as well as
eager, and seemed to have an untaught knowledge of how to deal with

Æthra was therefore very proud of her son, and began to hope that when
he was older he would be able to roll away the great stone in the glen.
She told him nothing about it when he was little, but, in her walks with
him in the woods or on the sea shore, she would ask him to try his
force in lifting large stones. When he succeeded she kissed and praised
him, and told him stories of the famous strong man, Heracles, whose name
was well known through all Greece. Theseus could not bear to be beaten
at lifting any weight, and, if he failed, he would rise early and try
again in the morning, for many men, as soon as they rise from bed, can
lift weights which are too heavy for them later in the day.

When Theseus was seven years old, Æthra found for him a tutor, named
Connidas, who taught him the arts of netting beasts and hunting, and how
to manage the dogs, and how to drive a chariot, and wield sword and
shield, and to throw the spear. Other things Connidas taught him which
were known to few men in Greece, for Connidas came from the great rich
island of Crete. He had killed a man there in a quarrel, and fled to
Troezene to escape the revenge of the man's brothers and cousins. In
Crete many people could read and write, which in Greece, perhaps none
could do, and Connidas taught Theseus this learning.

When he was fifteen years old, Theseus went, as was the custom of young
princes, to the temple of Delphi, not to ask questions, but to cut his
long hair, and sacrifice it to the god, Apollo. He cut the forelock of
his hair, so that no enemy, in battle, might take hold of it, for
Theseus intended to fight at close quarters, hand to hand, in war, not
to shoot arrows and throw spears from a distance. By this time he
thought himself a man, and was always asking where his father was, while
Æthra told him how her husband had left her soon after their marriage,
and that she had never heard of him since, but that some day Theseus
might find out all about him for himself, which no other person would
ever be able to do.

Æthra did not wish to tell Theseus too soon the secret of the great
stone, which hid she knew not what. She saw that he would leave her and
go to seek his father, if he was able to raise the stone and find out
the secret, and she could not bear to lose him, now that day by day he
grew more like his father, her lost lover. Besides, she wanted him not
to try to raise the stone till he came to his strength. But when he was
in his nineteenth year, he told her that he would now go all over Greece
and the whole world seeking for his father. She saw that he meant what
he said, and one day she led him alone to the glen where the great stone
lay, and sat down with him there, now talking, and now silent as if she
were listening to the pleasant song of the burn that fell from a height
into a clear deep pool. Really she was listening to make sure that no
hunter and no lovers were near them in the wood, but she only heard the
songs of the water and the birds, no voices, or cry of hounds, or fallen
twig cracking under a footstep.

At last, when she was quite certain that nobody was near, she whispered,
and told Theseus how her husband, before he disappeared, had taken her
to this place, and shown her the great moss-grown boulder, and said
that, when his son could lift that stone away, he would find certain
tokens, and that he must then do what the gods put into his heart.
Theseus listened eagerly, and said, 'If my father lifted that stone, and
placed under it certain tokens, I also can lift it, perhaps not yet, but
some day I shall be as strong a man as my father.' Then he set himself
to move the stone, gradually putting out all his force, but it seemed
rooted in the earth, though he tried it now on one side and now on
another. At last he flung himself at his mother's feet, with his head in
the grass, and lay without speaking. His breath came hard and quick,
and his hands were bleeding. Æthra laid her hand on his long hair, and
was silent. 'I shall not lose my boy this year,' she thought.

They were long in that lonely place, but at last Theseus rose, and
kissed his mother, and stretched his arms. 'Not to-day!' he said, but
his mother thought in her heart, 'Not for many a day, I hope!' Then they
walked home to the house of Pittheus, saying little, and when they had
taken supper, Theseus said that he would go to bed and dream of better
fortune. So he arose, and went to his own chamber, which was built apart
in the court of the palace, and soon Æthra too went to sleep, not
unhappy, for her boy, she thought, would not leave her for a long time.

But in the night Theseus arose, and put on his shoes, and his smock, and
a great double mantle. He girt on his sword of bronze, and went into the
housekeeper's chamber, where he took a small skin of wine, and some
food. These he placed in a wallet which he slung round his neck by a
cord, and, lastly he stole out of the court, and walked to the lonely
glen, and to the pool in the burn near which the great stone lay. Here
he folded his purple mantle of fine wool round him, and lay down to
sleep in the grass, with his sword lying near his hand.

When he awoke the clear blue morning light was round him, and all the
birds were singing their song to the dawn. Theseus arose, threw off his
mantle and smock, and plunged into the cold pool of the burn, and then
he drank a little of the wine, and ate of the bread and cold meat, and
set himself to move the stone. At the first effort, into which he put
all his strength, the stone stirred. With the second he felt it rise a
little way from the ground, and then he lifted with all the might in
his heart and body, and rolled the stone clean over.


Beneath it there was nothing but the fresh turned soil, but in a hollow
of the foot of the rock, which now lay upper-most, there was a wrapping
of purple woollen cloth, that covered something. Theseus tore out the
packet, unwrapped the cloth, and found within it a wrapping of white
linen. This wrapping was in many folds, which he undid, and at last he
found a pair of shoon, such as kings wear, adorned with gold, and also
the most beautiful sword that he had ever seen. The handle was of clear
rock crystal, and through the crystal you could see gold, inlaid with
pictures of a lion hunt done in different shades of gold and silver. The
sheath was of leather, with patterns in gold nails, and the blade was of
bronze, a beautiful pattern ran down the centre to the point, the blade
was straight, and double edged, supple, sharp, and strong. Never had
Theseus seen so beautiful a sword, nor one so well balanced in his hand.

He saw that this was a king's sword; and he thought that it had not been
wrought in Greece, for in Greece was no sword-smith that could do such
work. Examining it very carefully he found characters engraved beneath
the hilt, not letters such as the Greeks used in later times, but such
Cretan signs as Connidas had taught him to read, for many a weary hour,
when he would like to have been following the deer in the forest.

Theseus pored over these signs till he read:

  Icmalius me made. Of Ægeus of Athens am I.

Now he knew the secret. His father was Ægeus, the king of Athens.
Theseus had heard of him and knew that he yet lived, a sad life full of
trouble. For Ægeus had no child by his Athenian wife, and the fifty
sons of his brother, Pallas (who were called the Pallantidæ) despised
him, and feasted all day in his hall, recklessly and fiercely, robbing
the people, and Ægeus had no power in his own kingdom.

'Methinks that my father has need of me!' said Theseus to himself. Then
he wrapped up the sword and shoon in the linen and the cloth of wool,
and walked home in the early morning to the palace of Pittheus.

When Theseus came to the palace, he went straight to the upper chamber
of his mother, where she was spinning wool with a distaff of ivory. When
he laid before her the sword and the shoon, the distaff fell from her
hand, and she hid her head in a fold of her robe. Theseus kissed her
hands and comforted her, and she dried her eyes, and praised him for his
strength. 'These are the sword and the shoon of your father,' she said,
'but truly the gods have taken away his strength and courage. For all
men say that Ægeus of Athens is not master in his own house; his
brother's sons rule him, and with them Medea, the witch woman, that once
was the wife of Jason.'

'The more he needs his son!' said Theseus. 'Mother, I must go to help
him, and be the heir of his kingdom, where you shall be with me always,
and rule the people of Cecrops that fasten the locks of their hair with
grasshoppers of gold.'

'So may it be, my child,' said Æthra, 'if the gods go with you to
protect you. But you will sail to Athens in a ship with fifty oarsmen,
for the ways by land are long, and steep, and dangerous, beset by cruel
giants and monstrous men.'

'Nay, mother,' said Theseus, 'by land must I go, for I would not be
known in Athens, till I see how matters fall out; and I would destroy
these giants and robbers, and give peace to the people, and win glory
among men. This very night I shall set forth.'

He had a sore and sad parting from his mother, but under cloud of night
he went on his way, girt with the sword of Ægeus, his father, and
carrying in his wallet the shoon with ornaments of gold.



Theseus walked through the night, and slept for most of the next day at
a shepherd's hut. The shepherd was kind to him, and bade him beware of
one called the Maceman, who guarded a narrow path with a sheer cliff
above, and a sheer precipice below. 'No man born may deal with the
Maceman,' said the shepherd, 'for his great club is of iron, that cannot
be broken, and his strength is as the strength of ten men, though his
legs have no force to bear his body. Men say that he is the son of the
lame god, Hephaestus, who forged his iron mace; there is not the like of
it in the world.'

'Shall I fear a lame man?' said Theseus, 'and is it not easy, even if he
be so terrible a fighter, for me to pass him in the darkness, for I walk
by night?'

The shepherd shook his head. 'Few men have passed Periphetes the
Maceman,' said he, 'and wiser are they who trust to swift ships than to
the upland path.'

'You speak kindly, father,' said Theseus, 'but I am minded to make the
upland paths safe for all men.'

So they parted, and Theseus walked through the sunset and the dusk,
always on a rising path, and the further he went the harder it was to
see the way, for the path was overgrown with grass, and the shadows were
deepening. Night fell, and Theseus hardly dared to go further, for on
his left hand was a wall of rock, and on his right hand a cliff sinking
sheer and steep to the sea. But now he saw a light in front of him, a
red light flickering, as from a great fire, and he could not be content
till he knew why that fire was lighted. So he went on, slowly and
warily, till he came in full view of the fire which covered the whole of
a little platform of rock; on one side the blaze shone up the wall of
cliff on his left hand, on the other was the steep fall to the sea. In
front of this fire was a great black bulk; Theseus knew not what it
might be. He walked forward till he saw that the black bulk was that of
a monstrous man, who sat with his back to the fire. The man nodded his
heavy head, thick with red unshorn hair, and Theseus went up close to

'Ho, sir,' he cried, 'this is my road, and on my road I must pass!'

The seated man opened his eyes sleepily.

'Not without my leave,' he said, 'for I keep this way, I and my club of

'Get up and begone!' said Theseus.

'That were hard for me to do,' said the monstrous man, 'for my legs will
not bear the weight of my body, but my arms are strong enough.'

'That is to be seen!' said Theseus, and he drew his sword, and leaped
within the guard of the iron club that the monster, seated as he was,
swung lightly to this side and that, covering the whole width of the
path. The Maceman swung the club at Theseus, but Theseus sprang aside,
and in a moment, before the monster could recover his stroke, drove
through his throat the sword of Ægeus, and he fell back dead.

'He shall have his rights of fire, that his shadow may not wander
outside the House of Hades,' said Theseus to himself, and he toppled the
body of the Maceman into his own great fire. Then he went back some way,
and wrapping himself in his mantle, he slept till the sun was high in
heaven, while the fire had sunk into its embers, and Theseus lightly
sprang over them, carrying with him the Maceman's iron club. The path
now led downwards, and a burn that ran through a green forest kept him
company on the way, and brought him to pleasant farms and houses of men.

They marvelled to see him, a young man, carrying the club of the
Maceman. 'Did you find him asleep?' they asked, and Theseus smiled and
said, 'No, I found him awake. But now he sleeps an iron sleep, from
which he will never waken, and his body had due burning in his own
watchfire.' Then the men and women praised Theseus, and wove for him a
crown of leaves and flowers, and sacrificed sheep to the gods in heaven,
and on the meat they dined, rejoicing that now they could go to Troezene
by the hill path, for they did not love ships and the sea.

When they had eaten and drunk, and poured out the last cup of wine on
the ground, in honour of Hermes, the God of Luck, the country people
asked Theseus where he was going? He said that he was going to walk to
Athens, and at this the people looked sad. 'No man may walk across the
neck of land where Ephyre is built,' they said, 'because above it Sinis
the Pine-Bender has his castle, and watches the way.'

'And who is Sinis, and why does he bend pine trees?' asked Theseus.

'He is the strongest of men, and when he catches a traveller, he binds
him hand and foot, and sets him between two pine trees. Then he bends
them down till they meet, and fastens the traveller to the boughs of
each tree, and lets them spring apart, so that the man is riven

'Two can play at that game,' said Theseus, smiling, and he bade farewell
to the kind country people, shouldered the iron club of Periphetes, and
went singing on his way. The path led him over moors, and past
farm-houses, and at last rose towards the crest of the hill whence he
would see the place where two seas would have met, had they not been
sundered by the neck of land which is now called the Isthmus of Corinth.
Here the path was very narrow, with thick forests of pine trees on each
hand, and 'here,' thought Theseus to himself, 'I am likely to meet the

Soon he knew that he was right, for he saw the ghastly remains of dead
men that the pine trees bore like horrible fruit, and presently the air
was darkened overhead by the waving of vultures and ravens that prey
upon the dead. 'I shall fight the better in the shade,' said Theseus,
and he loosened the blade of the sword in its sheath, and raised the
club of Periphetes aloft in his hand.

Well it was for him that he raised the iron club, for, just as he lifted
it, there flew out from the thicket something long, and slim, and black,
that fluttered above his head for a moment, and then a loop at the end
of it fell round the head of Theseus, and was drawn tight with a sudden
jerk. But the loop fell also above and round the club, which Theseus
held firm, pushing away the loop, and so pushed it off that it did not
grip his neck. Drawing with his left hand his bronze dagger, he cut
through the leather lasso with one stroke, and bounded into the bushes
from which it had flown. Here he found a huge man, clad in the skin of a
lion, with its head fitting to his own like a mask. The man lifted a
club made of the trunk of a young pine tree, with a sharp-edged stone
fastened into the head of it like an axe-head. But, as the monster
raised his long weapon it struck on a strong branch of a tree above him,
and was entangled in the boughs, so that Theseus had time to thrust the
head of the iron club full in his face, with all his force, and the
savage fell with a crash like a falling oak among the bracken. He was
one of the last of an ancient race of savage men, who dwelt in Greece
before the Greeks, and he fought as they had fought, with weapons of
wood and stone.

Theseus dropped with his knees on the breast of the Pine-Bender, and
grasped his hairy throat with both his hands, not to strangle him, but
to hold him sure and firm till he came to himself again. When at last
the monster opened his eyes, Theseus gripped his throat the harder, and
spoke, 'Pine-Bender, for thee shall pines be bent. But I am a man and
not a monster, and thou shalt die a clean death before thy body is torn
in twain to be the last feast of thy vultures.' Then, squeezing the
throat of the wretch with his left hand, he drew the sword of Ægeus, and
drove it into the heart of Sinis the Pine-Bender, and he gave a cry like
a bull's, and his soul fled from him. Then Theseus bound the body of the
savage with his own leather cord, and, bending down the tops of two pine
trees, he did to the corpse as Sinis had been wont to do to living men.

Lastly he cleaned the sword-blade carefully, wiping it with grass and
bracken, and thrusting it to the hilt through the soft fresh ground
under the trees, and so went on his way till he came to a little stream
that ran towards the sea from the crest of the hill above the town of
Ephyre, which is now called Corinth. But as he cleansed himself in the
clear water, he heard a rustle in the boughs of the wood, and running
with sword drawn to the place whence the sound seemed to come, he heard
the whisper of a woman. Then he saw a strange sight. A tall and very
beautiful girl was kneeling in a thicket, in a patch of asparagus thorn,
and was weeping, and praying, in a low voice, and in a childlike
innocent manner, to the thorns, begging them to shelter and defend her.

Theseus wondered at her, and, sheathing his sword, came softly up to
her, and bade her have no fear. Then she threw her arms about his knees,
and raised her face, all wet with tears, and bade him take pity upon
her, for she had done no harm.

'Who are you, maiden? You are safe with me,' said Theseus. 'Do you dread
the Pine-Bender?'

'Alas, sir,' answered the girl, 'I am his daughter, Perigyne, and his
blood is on your hands.'

'Yet I do not war with women,' said Theseus, 'though that has been done
which was decreed by the gods. If you follow with me, you shall be
kindly used, and marry, if you will, a man of a good house, being so
beautiful as you are.'

When she heard this, the maiden rose to her feet, and would have put her
hand in his. 'Not yet,' said Theseus, kindly, 'till water has clean
washed away that which is between thee and me. But wherefore, maiden,
being in fear as you were, did you not call to the gods in heaven to
keep you, but to the asparagus thorns that cannot hear or help?'

'My father, sir,' she said, 'knew no gods, but he came of the race of
the asparagus thorns, and to them I cried in my need.'

Theseus marvelled at these words, and said, 'From this day you shall
pray to Zeus, the Lord of Thunder, and to the other gods.' Then he went
forth from the wood, with the maiden following, and wholly cleansed
himself in the brook that ran by the way.

So they passed down to the rich city of Ephyre, where the king received
him gladly, when he heard of the slaying of the Maceman, Periphetes, and
of Sinis the Pine-Bender. The Queen, too, had pity on Perigyne, so
beautiful she was, and kept her in her own palace. Afterwards Perigyne
married a prince, Deiones, son of Eurytus, King of Oechalia, whom the
strong man Heracles slew for the sake of his bow, the very bow with
which Ulysses, many years afterwards, destroyed the Wooers in his halls.
The sons of Perigyne and Deiones later crossed the seas to Asia, and
settled in a land called Caria, and they never burned or harmed the
asparagus thorn to which Perigyne had prayed in the thicket.

Greece was so lawless in these days that all the road from Troezene
northward to Athens was beset by violent and lawless men. They loved
cruelty even more than robbery, and each of them had carefully thought
out his particular style of being cruel. The cities were small, and at
war with each other, or at war among themselves, one family fighting
against another for the crown. Thus there was no chance of collecting an
army to destroy the monstrous men of the roads, which it would have been
easy enough for a small body of archers to have done. Later Theseus
brought all into great order, but now, being but one man, he went
seeking adventures.

On the border of a small country called Megara, whose people were much
despised in Greece, he found a chance of advancing himself, and gaining
glory. He was walking in the middle of the day along a narrow path at
the crest of a cliff above the sea, when he saw the flickering of a
great fire in the blue air, and steam going up from a bronze caldron of
water that was set on the fire. On one side of the fire was a foot-bath
of glittering bronze. Hard by was built a bower of green branches, very
cool on that hot day, and from the door of the bower stretched a great
thick hairy pair of naked legs.

Theseus guessed, from what he had been told, that the owner of the legs
was Sciron the Kicker. He was a fierce outlaw who was called the Kicker
because he made all travellers wash his feet, and, as they were doing
so, kicked them over the cliff. Some say that at the foot of the cliff
dwelt an enormous tortoise, which ate the dead and dying when they fell
near his lair, but as tortoises do not eat flesh, generally, this may be
a mistake. Theseus was determined not to take any insolence from Sciron,
so he shouted--

'Slave, take these dirty legs of yours out of the way of a Prince.

'Prince!' answered Sciron, 'if my legs are dirty, the gods are kind who
have sent you to wash them for me.'

Then he got up, lazily, laughing and showing his ugly teeth, and stood
in front of his bath with his heavy wooden club in his hand. He whirled
it round his head insultingly, but Theseus was quicker than he, and
again, as when he slew the Pine-Bender, he did not strike, for striking
is slow compared to thrusting, but like a flash he lunged forward and
drove the thick end of his iron club into the breast of Sciron. He
staggered, and, as he reeled, Theseus dealt him a blow across the thigh,
and he fell. Theseus seized the club which dropped from the hand of
Sciron, and threw it over the cliff; it seemed long before the sound
came up from the rocks on which it struck. 'A deep drop into a stony
way, Sciron,' said Theseus, 'now wash my feet! Stand up, and turn your
back to me, and be ready when I tell you.' Sciron rose, slowly and
sulkily, and stood as Theseus bade him do.

Now Theseus was not wearing light shoes or sandals, like the golden
sandals of Ægeus, which he carried in his wallet. He was wearing thick
boots, with bronze nails in the soles, and the upper leathers were laced
high up his legs, for the Greeks wore such boots when they took long
walks on mountain roads. As soon as Theseus had trained Sciron to stand
in the proper position, he bade him stoop to undo the lacings of his
boots. As Sciron stooped, Theseus gave him one tremendous kick, that
lifted him over the edge of the cliff, and there was an end of Sciron.

Theseus left the marches of Megara, and walked singing on his way, above
the sea, for his heart was light, and he was finding adventures to his
heart's desire. Being so young and well trained, his foot and hand, in a
combat, moved as swift as lightning, and his enemies were older than he,
and, though very strong, were heavy with full feeding, and slow to move.
Now it is speed that wins in a fight, whether between armies or single
men, if strength and courage go with it.

At last the road led Theseus down from the heights to a great fertile
plain, called the Thriasian plain, not far from Athens. There, near the
sea, stands the famous old city of Eleusis. When Hades, the God of the
Dead, carried away beautiful Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, the
Goddess of corn and all manner of grain, to his dark palace beside the
stream of Ocean, it was to Eleusis that Demeter wandered. She was clad
in mourning robes, and she sat down on a stone by the way, like a weary
old woman. Now the three daughters of the king who then reigned in
Eleusis came by, on the way to the well, to fetch water, and when they
saw the old woman they set down their vessels and came round her, asking
what they could do for her, who was so tired and poor. They said that
they had a baby brother at home, who was the favourite of them all, and
that he needed a nurse. Demeter was pleased with their kindness, and
they left their vessels for water beside her, and ran home to their
mother. Their long golden hair danced on their shoulders as they ran,
and they came, out of breath, to their mother the Queen, and asked her
to take the old woman to be their brother's nurse. The Queen was kind,
too, and the old woman lived in their house, till Zeus, the chief God,
made the God of the Dead send back Persephone, to be with her mother
through spring, and summer, and early autumn, but in winter she must
live with her husband in the dark palace beside the river of Ocean.

Then Demeter was glad, and she caused the grain to grow abundantly for
the people of Eleusis, and taught them ceremonies, and a kind of play in
which all the story of her sorrows and joy was acted. It was also taught
that the souls of men do not die with the death of their bodies, any
more than the seed of corn dies when it is buried in the dark earth, but
that they live again in a world more happy and beautiful than ours.
These ceremonies were called the Mysteries of Eleusis, and were famous
in all the world.

Theseus might have expected to find Eleusis a holy city, peaceful and
quiet. But he had heard, as he travelled, that in Eleusis was a strong
bully, named Cercyon; he was one of the rough Highlanders of Arcadia,
who lived in the hills of the centre of Southern Greece, which is called
Peloponnesus. He is said to have taken the kingship, and driven out the
descendants of the king whose daughters were kind to Demeter. The strong
man used to force all strangers to wrestle with him, and, when he threw
them, for he had never been thrown, he broke their backs.

Knowing this, and being himself fond of wrestling, Theseus walked
straight to the door of the king's house, though the men in the town
warned him, and the women looked at him with sad eyes. He found the gate
of the courtyard open, with the altar of Zeus the high God smoking in
the middle of it, and at the threshold two servants welcomed him, and
took him to the polished bath, and women washed him, and anointed him
with oil, and clothed him in fresh raiment, as was the manner in kings'
houses. Then they led him into the hall, and he walked straight up to
the high seats between the four pillars beside the hearth, in the middle
of the hall.

There Cercyon sat, eating and drinking, surrounded by a score of his
clan, great, broad, red-haired men, but he himself was the broadest and
the most brawny. He welcomed Theseus, and caused a table to be brought,
with meat, and bread, and wine, and when Theseus had put away his
hunger, began to ask him who he was and whence he came. Theseus told him
that he had walked from Troezene, and was on his way to the court of
King Peleus (the father of Achilles), in the north, for he did not want
the news of his coming to go before him to Athens.

'You walked from Troezene?' said Cercyon. 'Did you meet or hear of the
man who killed the Maceman and slew the Pine-Bender, and kicked Sciron
into the sea?'

'I walk fast, but news flies faster,' said Theseus.

'The news came through my second-sighted man,' said Cercyon, 'there he
is, in the corner,' and Cercyon threw the leg bone of an ox at his
prophet, who just managed to leap out of the way. 'He seems to have
foreseen that the bone was coming at him,' said Cercyon, and all his
friends laughed loud. 'He told us this morning that a stranger was
coming, he who had killed the three watchers of the way. From your legs
and shoulders, and the iron club that you carry, methinks you are that

Theseus smiled, and nodded upwards, which the Greeks did when they meant

'Praise be to all the gods!' said Cercyon. 'It is long since a good man
came my way. Do they practise wrestling at Troezene?'

'Now and then,' said Theseus.

'Then you will try a fall with me? There is a smooth space strewn with
sand in the courtyard.'

Theseus answered that he had come hoping that the king would graciously
honour him by trying a fall. Then all the wild guests shouted, and out
they all went and made a circle round the wrestling-place, while Theseus
and Cercyon threw down their clothes and were anointed with oil over
their bodies. To it they went, each straining forward and feeling for a
grip, till they were locked, and then they swayed this way and that,
their feet stamping the ground; and now one would yield a little, now
the other, while the rough guests shouted, encouraging each of them. At
last they rested and breathed, and now the men began to bet; seven oxen
to three was laid on Cercyon, and taken in several places. Back to the
wrestle they went, and Theseus found this by far the hardest of his
adventures, for Cercyon was heavier than he, and as strong, but not so
active. So Theseus for long did little but resist the awful strain of
the arms of Cercyon, till, at last, for a moment Cercyon weakened. Then
Theseus slipped his hip under the hip of Cercyon, and heaved him across
and up, and threw him on the ground. He lighted in such a way that his
neck broke, and there he lay dead.

'Was it fairly done?' said Theseus.

'It was fairly done!' cried the Highlanders of Arcadia; and then they
raised such a wail for the dead that Theseus deemed it wise to put on
his clothes and walk out of the court; and, leaping into a chariot that
stood empty by the gate, for the servant in the chariot feared the club
of iron, he drove away at full speed.

Though Cercyon was a cruel man and a wild, Theseus was sorry for him in
his heart.

The groom in the chariot tried to leap out, but Theseus gripped him
tight. 'Do not hurry, my friend,' said Theseus, 'for I have need of you.
I am not stealing the chariot and horses, and you shall drive them back
after we reach Athens.'

'But, my lord,' said the groom, 'you will never reach Athens.'

'Why not?' asked Theseus.

'Because of the man Procrustes, who dwells in a strong castle among the
hills on the way. He is the maimer of all mortals, and has at his
command a company of archers and spearmen, pirates from the islands. He
meets every traveller, and speaks to him courteously, praying him to be
his guest, and if any refuses the archers leap out of ambush and seize
and bind him. With them no one man can contend. He has a bed which he
says is a thing magical, for it is of the same length as the tallest or
the shortest man who sleeps in it, so that all are fitted. Now the
manner of it is this--there is an engine with ropes at the head of the
bed, and a saw is fitted at the bed foot. If a man is too short, the
ropes are fastened to his hands, and are strained till he is drawn to
the full length of the bed. If he is too long the saw shortens him. Such
a monster is Procrustes.

'Verily, my lord, King Cercyon was to-morrow to lead an army against
him, and the King had a new device, as you may see, by which two great
shields are slung along the side of this chariot, to ward off the arrows
of the men of Procrustes.'

'Then you and I will wear the shields when we come near the place where
Procrustes meets travellers by the way, and I think that to-night his
own bed will be too long for him,' said Theseus.

To this the groom made no answer, but his body trembled.

Theseus drove swiftly on till the road began to climb the lowest spur of
Mount Parnes, and then he drew rein, and put on one of the great shields
that covered all his body and legs, and he bade the groom do the like.
Then he drove slowly, watching the bushes and underwood beside the way.
Soon he saw the smoke going up from the roof of a great castle high in
the woods beside the road; and on the road there was a man waiting.
Theseus, as he drove towards him, saw the glitter of armour in the
underwood, and the setting sun shone red on a spear-point above the
leaves. 'Here is our man,' he said to the groom, and pulled up his
horses beside the stranger. He loosened his sword in the sheath, and
leaped out of the chariot, holding the reins in his left hand, and bowed
courteously to the man, who was tall, weak-looking, and old, with grey
hair and a clean-shaven face, the colour of ivory. He was clad like a
king, in garments of dark silk, with gold bracelets, and gold rings that
clasped the leather gaiters on his legs, and he smiled and smiled, and
rubbed his hands, while he looked to right and left, and not at Theseus.

'I am fortunate, fair sir,' said he to Theseus, 'for I love to entertain
strangers, with whom goes the favour and protection of Zeus. Surely
strangers are dear to all men, and holy! You, too, are not unlucky, for
the night is falling, and the ways will be dark and dangerous. You will
sup and sleep with me, and to-night I can give you a bed that is well
spoken of, for its nature is such that it fits all men, the short and
the tall, and you are of the tallest.'

'To-night, fair sir,' quoth Theseus, 'your own bed will be full long for
you.' And, drawing the sword of Ægeus, he cut sheer through the neck of
Procrustes at one blow, and the head of the man flew one way, and his
body fell another way.

Then with a swing of his hand Theseus turned his shield from his front
to his back, and leaped into the chariot. He lashed the horses forward
with a cry, while the groom also turned his own shield from front to
back; and the arrows of the bowmen of Procrustes rattled on the bronze
shields as the chariot flew along, or struck the sides and the seat of
it. One arrow grazed the flank of a horse, and the pair broke into a
wild gallop, while the yells of the bowmen grew faint in the distance.
At last the horses slackened in their pace as they climbed a hill, and
from the crest of it Theseus saw the lights in the city of Aphidnæ.

'Now, my friend,' he said to the groom, 'the way is clear to Athens, and
on your homeward road with the horses and the chariot you shall travel
well guarded. By the splendour of Lady Athênê's brow, I will burn that
raven's nest of Procrustes!'

So they slept that night on safe beds at the house of the sons of
Phytalus, who bore rule in Aphidnæ. Here they were kindly welcomed, and
the sons of Phytalus rejoiced when they heard how Theseus had made safe
the ways, and slain the beasts that guarded them. 'We are your men,'
they said, 'we and all our people, and our spears will encircle you when
you make yourself King of Athens, and of all the cities in the Attic



Next day Theseus said farewell to the sons of Phytalus, and drove slowly
through the pleasant green woods that overhung the clear river Cephisus.
He halted to rest his horses in a glen, and saw a very beautiful young
man walking in a meadow on the other side of the river. In his hand he
bore a white flower, and the root of it was black; in the other hand he
carried a golden wand, and his upper lip was just beginning to darken,
he was of the age when youth is most gracious. He came towards Theseus,
and crossed the stream where it broke deep, and swift, and white, above
a long pool, and it seemed to Theseus that his golden shoon did not
touch the water.

'Come, speak with me apart,' the young man said; and Theseus threw the
reins to the groom, and went aside with the youth, watching him
narrowly, for he knew not what strange dangers might beset him on the

'Whither art thou going, unhappy one,' said the youth, 'thou that
knowest not the land? Behold, the sons of Pallas rule in Athens,
fiercely and disorderly. Thy father is of no force, and in the house
with him is a fair witch woman from a far country. Her name is Medea,
the daughter of Æêtes, the brother of Circe the Sorceress. She wedded
the famous Jason, and won for him the Fleece of Gold, and slew her own
brother Absyrtus. Other evils she wrought, and now she dwells with
Ægeus, who fears and loves her greatly. Take thou this herb of grace,
and if Medea offers you a cup of wine, drop this herb in the cup, and so
you shall escape death. Behold, I am Hermes of the golden wand.'

Then he gave to Theseus the flower, and passed into the wood, and
Theseus saw him no more; so then Theseus knelt down, and prayed, and
thanked the gods. The flower he placed in the breast of his garment,
and, returning to his chariot, he took the reins, and drove to Athens,
and up the steep narrow way to the crest of the rock where the temple of
Athênê stood and the palace of King Ægeus.

Theseus drove through to the courtyard, and left his chariot at the
gate. In the court young men were throwing spears at a mark, while
others sat at the house door, playing draughts, and shouting and
betting. They were heavy, lumpish, red-faced young men, all rather like
each other. They looked up and stared, but said nothing. Theseus knew
that they were his cousins, the sons of Pallas, but as they said nothing
to him he walked through them, iron club on shoulder, as if he did not
see them, and as one tall fellow stood in his way, the tall fellow spun
round from a thrust of his shoulder. At the hall door Theseus stopped
and shouted, and at his cry two or three servants came to him.

'Look to my horses and man,' said Theseus; 'I come to see your master.'
And in he went, straight up to the high chairs beside the fire in the
centre. The room was empty, but in a high seat sat, fallen forward and
half-asleep, a man in whose grey hair was a circlet of gold and a golden
grasshopper. Theseus knew that it was his father, grey and still, like
the fallen fire on the hearth. As the king did not look up, Theseus
touched his shoulder, and then knelt down, and put his arms round the
knees of the king. The king aroused himself with a start. 'Who? What
want you?' he said, and rubbed his red, bloodshot eyes.

'A suppliant from Troezene am I, who come to your knees, oh, king, and
bring you gifts.'

'From Troezene!' said the king sleepily, as if he were trying to
remember something.

'From Æthra, your wife, your son brings your sword and your shoon,' said
Theseus; and he laid the sword and the shoon at his father's feet.

The king rose to his feet with a great cry. 'You have come at last,' he
cried, 'and the gods have forgiven me and heard my prayers. But gird on
the sword, and hide the shoon, and speak not the name of "wife," for
there is one that hears.'

'One that has heard,' said a sweet silvery voice; and from behind a
pillar came a woman, dark and pale, but very beautiful, clothed in a
rich Eastern robe that shone and shifted from colour to colour. Lightly
she threw her white arms round the neck of Theseus, lightly she kissed
his cheeks, and a strange sweet fragrance hung about her. Then, holding
him apart, with her hands on his shoulders, she laughed, and
half-turning to Ægeus, who had fallen back into his chair, she said: 'My
lord, did you think that you could hide anything from me?' Then she
fixed her great eyes on the eyes of Theseus. 'We are friends?' she said,
in her silvery voice.

'Lady, I love you even as you love my father, King Ægeus,' said Theseus.

'Even so much?' said the lady Medea. 'Then we must both drink to him in
wine.' She glided to the great golden mixing-cup of wine that stood on a
table behind Ægeus, and with her back to Theseus she ladled wine into a
cup of strange coloured glass. 'Pledge me and the king,' she said,
bringing the cup to Theseus. He took it, and from his breast he drew the
flower of black root and white blossom that Hermes had given him, and
laid it in the wine. Then the wine bubbled and hissed, and the cup burst
and broke, and the wine fell on the floor, staining it as with blood.

Medea laughed lightly. 'Now we are friends indeed, for the gods befriend
you,' she said, 'and I swear by the Water of Styx that your friends are
my friends, and your foes are my foes, always, to the end. The gods are
with you; and by the great oath of the gods I swear, which cannot be
broken; for I come of the kin of the gods who live for ever.'

Now the father of the father of Medea was the Sun God.

Theseus took both her hands. 'I also swear,' he said, 'by the splendour
of Zeus, that your friends shall be my friends, and that your foes shall
be my foes, always, to the end.'

Then Medea sat by the feet of Ægeus, and drew down his head to her
shoulder, while Theseus took hold of his hand, and the king wept for
joy. For the son he loved, and the woman whom he loved and feared, were
friends, and they two were stronger than the sons of Pallas.

While they sat thus, one of the sons of Pallas--the Pallantidæ they were
called--slouched into the hall to see if dinner was ready. He stared,
and slouched out again, and said to his brothers: 'The old man is
sitting in the embraces of the foreign woman, and of the big stranger
with the iron club!' Then they all came together, and growled out their
threats and fears, kicking at the stones in the courtyard, and
quarrelling as to what it was best for them to do.

Meanwhile, in the hall, the servants began to spread the tables with
meat and drink, and Theseus was taken to the bath, and clothed in new

While Theseus was at the bath Medea told Ægeus what he ought to do. So
when Theseus came back into the hall, where the sons of Pallas were
eating and drinking noisily, Ægeus stood up, and called to Theseus to
sit down at his right hand. He added, in a loud voice, looking all round
the hall: 'This is my son, Theseus, the slayer of monsters, and his is
the power in the house!'

The sons of Pallas grew pale with fear and anger, but not one dared to
make an insolent answer. They knew that they were hated by the people
of Athens, except some young men of their own sort, and they did not
dare to do anything against the man who had slain Periphetes and Sinis,
and Cercyon, and Sciron, and, in the midst of his paid soldiers, had
struck off the head of Procrustes. Silent all through dinner sat the
sons of Pallas, and, when they had eaten, they walked out silently, and
went to a lonely place, where they could make their plans without being

Theseus went with Medea into her fragrant chamber, and they spake a few
words together. Then Medea took a silver bowl, filled it with water,
and, drawing her dark silken mantle over her head, she sat gazing into
the bowl. When she had gazed silently for a long time she said: 'Some of
them are going towards Sphettus, where their father dwells, to summon
his men in arms, and some are going to Gargettus on the other side of
the city, to lie in ambush, and cut us off when they of Sphettus assail
us. They will attack the palace just before the dawn. Now I will go
through the town, and secretly call the trusty men to arm and come to
defend the palace, telling them that the son of Ægeus, the man who
cleared the ways, is with us. And do you take your chariot, and drive
speedily to the sons of Phytalus, and bring all their spears, chariot
men and foot men, and place them in ambush around the village of
Gargettus, where one band of the Pallantidæ will lie to-night till dawn.
The rest you know.'

Theseus nodded and smiled. He drove at full speed to Aphidnæ, where the
sons of Phytalus armed their men, and by midnight they lay hidden in the
woods round the village of Gargettus. When the stars had gone onward,
and the second of the three watches of the night was nearly past, they
set bands of men to guard every way from the little town, and Theseus
with another band rushed in, and slew the men of the sons of Pallas
around their fires, some of them awake, but most of them asleep. Those
who escaped were taken by the bands who watched the ways, and when the
sky was now clear at the earliest dawn, Theseus led his companions to
the palace of Ægeus, where they fell furiously upon the rear of the men
from Sphettus, who were besieging the palace of Ægeus.

The Sphettus company had broken in the gate of the court, and were
trying to burn the house, while arrows flew thick from the bows of the
trusty men of Athens on the palace roof. The Pallantids had set no
sentinels, for they thought to take Theseus in the palace, and there to
burn him, and win the kingdom for themselves. Then silently and suddenly
the friends of Theseus stole into the courtyard, and, leaving some to
guard the gate, they drew up in line, and charged the confused crowd of
the Pallantids. Their spears flew thick among the enemy, and then they
charged with the sword, while the crowd, in terror, ran this way and
that way, being cut down at the gate, and dragged from the walls, when
they tried to climb them. The daylight found the Pallantidæ and their
men lying dead in the courtyard, all the sort of them.

Then Theseus with the sons of Phytalus and their company marched through
the town, proclaiming that the rightful prince was come, and that the
robbers and oppressors were fallen, and all honest men rejoiced. They
burned the dead, and buried their ashes and bones, and for the rest of
that day they feasted in the hall of Ægeus. Next day Theseus led his
friends back to Aphidnæ, and on the next day they attacked and stormed
the castle of Procrustes, and slew the pirates, and Theseus divided all
the rich plunder among the sons of Phytalus and their company, but the
evil bed they burned to ashes.



The days and weeks went by, and Theseus reigned with his father in
peace. The chief men came to Athens from the little towns in the
country, and begged Theseus to be their lord, and they would be his men,
and he would lead their people if any enemy came up against them. They
would even pay tribute to be used for buying better arms, and making
strong walls, and providing ships, for then the people of Athens had no
navy. Theseus received them courteously, and promised all that they
asked, for he did not know that soon he himself would be sent away as
part of the tribute which the Athenians paid every nine years to King
Minos of Crete.

Though everything seemed to be peaceful and happy through the winter,
yet Theseus felt that all was not well. When he went into the houses of
the town's people, where all had been merry and proud of his visits, he
saw melancholy, silent mothers, and he missed the young people, lads and
maidens. Many of them were said to have gone to visit friends in
far-away parts of Greece. The elder folk, and the young people who were
left, used to stand watching the sea all day, as if they expected
something strange to come upon them from the sea, and Ægeus sat
sorrowful over the fire, speaking little, and he seemed to be in fear.

Theseus was disturbed in his mind, and he did not choose to put
questions to Ægeus or to the townsfolk. He and Medea were great friends,
and one day when they were alone in her chamber, where a fragrant fire
of cedar wood burned, he told her what he had noticed. Medea sighed, and
said: 'The curse of the sons of Pallas is coming upon the people of
Athens--such a curse and so terrible that not even you, Prince Theseus,
can deal with it. The enemy is not one man or one monster only, but the
greatest and most powerful king in the world.'

'Tell me all,' said Theseus, 'for though I am but one man, yet the
ever-living gods protect and help me.'

'The story of the curse is long,' said Medea. 'When your father Ægeus
was young, after he returned to Athens from Troezene, he decreed that
games should be held every five years, contests in running, boxing,
wrestling, foot races, and chariot races. Not only the people of Athens,
but strangers were allowed to take part in the games, and among the
strangers came Androgeos, the eldest son of great Minos, King of
Cnossos, in the isle of Crete of the Hundred Cities, far away in the
southern sea. Minos is the wisest of men, and the most high god, even
Zeus, is his counsellor, and speaks to him face to face. He is the
richest of men, and his ships are without number, so that he rules all
the islands, and makes war, when he will, even against the King of
Egypt. The son of Minos it was who came to the sports with three fair
ships, and he was the strongest and swiftest of men. He won the foot
race, and the prizes for boxing and wrestling, and for shooting with the
bow, and throwing the spear, and hurling the heavy weight, and he easily
overcame the strongest of the sons of Pallas.

'Then, being unjust men and dishonourable, they slew him at a feast in
the hall of Ægeus, their own guest in the king's house they slew, a
thing hateful to the gods above all other evil deeds. His ships fled in
the night, bearing the news to King Minos, and, a year after that day,
the sea was black with his countless ships. His men landed, and they
were so many, all glittering in armour of bronze, that none dared to
meet them in battle. King Ægeus and all the elder men of the city went
humbly to meet Minos, clad in mourning, and bearing in their hands
boughs of trees, wreathed with wool, to show that they came praying for
mercy. "Mercy ye shall have when ye have given up to me the men who slew
my son," said Minos. But Ægeus could not give up the sons of Pallas, for
long ago they had fled in disguise, and were lurking here and there, in
all the uttermost parts of Greece, in the huts of peasants. Such mercy,
then, the Athenians got as Minos was pleased to give. He did not burn
the city, and slay the men, and carry the women captives. But he made
Ægeus and the chief men swear that every nine years they would choose by
lot seven of the strongest youths, and seven of the fairest maidens, and
give them to his men, to carry away to Crete. Every nine years he sends
a ship with dark sails, to bear away the captives, and this is the ninth
year, and the day of the coming of the ship is at hand. Can you resist
King Minos?'

'His ship we could burn, and his men we could slay,' said Theseus; and
his hand closed on the hilt of his sword.

'That may well be,' said Medea, 'but in a year Minos would come with his
fleet and his army, and burn the city; and the other cities of Greece,
fearing him and not loving us, would give us no aid.'

'Then,' said Theseus, 'we must even pay the tribute for this last time;
but in nine years, if I live, and the gods help me, I shall have a
fleet, and Minos must fight for his tribute. For in nine years Athens
will be queen of all the cities round about, and strong in men and
ships. Yet, tell me, how does Minos treat the captives from Athens,
kindly or unkindly?'

'None has ever come back to tell the tale,' said Medea, 'but the sailors
of Minos say that he places the captives in a strange prison called the
Labyrinth. It is full of dark winding ways, cut in the solid rock, and
therein the captives are lost and perish of hunger, or live till they
meet a Thing called the Minotaur. This monster has the body of a strong
man, and a man's legs and arms, but his head is the head of a bull, and
his teeth are the teeth of a lion, and no man may deal with him. Those
whom he meets he tosses, and gores, and devours. Whence this evil beast
came I know, but the truth of it may not be spoken. It is not lawful for
King Minos to slay the Horror, which to him is great shame and grief;
neither may he help any man to slay it. Therefore, in his anger against
the Athenians he swore that, once in every nine years, he would give
fourteen of the Athenian men and maidens to the Thing, and that none of
them should bear sword or spear, dagger or axe, or any other weapon.
Yet, if one of the men, or all of them together, could slay the monster,
Minos made oath that Athens should be free of him and his tribute.'

Theseus laughed and stood up. 'Soon,' he said, 'shall King Minos be free
from the Horror, and Athens shall be free from the tribute, if, indeed,
the gods be with me. For me need no lot be cast; gladly I will go to
Crete of my free will.'

'I needed not to be a prophetess to know that you would speak thus,'
said Medea. 'But one thing even I can do. Take this phial, and bear it
in your breast, and, when you face the Minotaur, do as I shall tell
you.' Then she whispered some words to Theseus, and he marked them

He went forth from Medea's bower; he walked to the crest of the hill
upon which Athens is built, and there he saw all the people gathered,
weeping, and looking towards the sea. Swiftly a ship with black sails
was being rowed towards the shore, and her sides shone with the bronze
shields of her crew, that were hung on the bulwarks.

'My friends,' cried Theseus, 'I know that ship, and wherefore she comes,
and with her I shall sail to Crete and slay the Minotaur. Did I not slay
Sinis and Sciron, Cercyon and Procrustes, and Periphetes? Let there be
no drawing of lots. Where are seven men and seven maidens who will come
with me, and meet these Cretans when they land, and sail back with them,
and see this famous Crete, for the love of Theseus?'

Then there stepped forth seven young men of the best of Athens, tall,
and strong, and fair, the ancestors of them who smote, a thousand years
afterwards, the Persians at Marathon and in the strait of Salamis. 'We
will live or die with you, Prince Theseus,' they said.

Next, one by one, came out of the throng, blushing, but with heads erect
and firm steps, the seven maidens whom the seven young men loved. They,
too, were tall, and beautiful, and stately, like the stone maidens
called Caryatides who bear up the roofs of temples.

'We will live and die with you, Prince Theseus, and with our lovers,'
they cried; and all the people gave such a cheer that King Ægeus heard
it, and came from his palace, leaning on his staff, and Medea walked
beside him.

'Why do you raise a glad cry, my children?' said Ægeus. 'Is not that the
Ship of Death, and must we not cast lots for the tribute to King Minos?'

'Sir,' said Theseus, 'we rejoice because we go as free folk, of our own
will, these men and maidens and I, to take such fortune as the gods may
give us, and to do as well as we may. Nay, delay us not, for from this
hour shall Athens be free, without master or lord among Cretan men.'

'But, my son, who shall defend me, who shall guide me, when I have lost
thee, the light of mine eyes, and the strength of my arm?' whimpered

'Is the king weeping alone, while the fathers and mothers of my
companions have dry eyes?' said Theseus. 'The gods will be your helpers,
and the lady who is my friend, and who devised the slaying of the sons
of Pallas. Hers was the mind, if the hand was my own, that wrought their
ruin. Let her be your counsellor, for no other is so wise. But that ship
is near the shore, and we must go.'

Then Theseus embraced Ægeus, and Medea kissed him, and the young men and
maidens kissed their fathers and mothers, and said farewell. With
Theseus at their head they marched down the hill, two by two; but Medea
sent after them chariots laden with changes of raiment, and food, and
skins of wine, and all things of which they had need. They were to sail
in their own hired ship, for such was the custom, and the ship was ready
with her oarsmen. But Theseus and the Seven, by the law of Minos, might
carry no swords or other weapons of war. The ship had a black sail, but
Ægeus gave to the captain a sail dyed scarlet with the juice of the
scarlet oak, and bade him hoist it if he was bringing back Theseus
safe, but, if not, to return under the black sail.

The captain, and the outlook man, and the crew, and the ship came all
from the isle of Salamis, for as yet the Athenians had no vessels fit
for long voyages--only fishing-boats. As Theseus and his company marched
along they met the herald of King Minos, bearing a sacred staff, for
heralds were holy, and to slay a herald was a deadly sin. He stopped
when he met Theseus, and wondered at his beauty and strength. 'My lord,'
said he, 'wherefore come you with the Fourteen? Know you to what end
they are sailing?'

'That I know not, nor you, nor any man, but they and I are going to one
end, such as the gods may give us,' answered Theseus. 'Speak with me no
more, I pray you, and go no nearer Athens, for there men's hearts are
high to-day, and they carry swords.'

The voice and the eyes of Theseus daunted the herald, and he with his
men turned and followed behind, humbly, as if they were captives and
Theseus were conqueror.



After many days' sailing, now through the straits under the beautiful
peaks of the mountains that crowned the islands, and now across the wide
sea far from sight of land, they beheld the crest of Mount Ida of Crete,
and ran into the harbour, where a hundred ships lay at anchor, and a
great crowd was gathered. Theseus marvelled at the ships, so many and so
strong, and at the harbour with its huge walls, while he and his
company landed. A hundred of the guardsmen of Minos, with large shields,
and breastplates made of ribs of bronze, and helmets of bronze with
horns on them, were drawn up on the pier. They surrounded the little
company of Athenians, and they all marched to the town of Cnossos, and
the palace of the king.

If Theseus marvelled at the harbour he wondered yet more at the town. It
was so great that it seemed endless, and round it went a high wall, and
at every forty yards was a square tower with small square windows high
up. These towers were exactly like those which you may see among the
hills and beside the burns in the Border country, the south of Scotland
and the north of England; towers built when England and Scotland were at
war. But when they had passed through the gateway in the chief tower,
the town seemed more wonderful than the walls, for in all things it was
quite unlike the cities of Greece. The street, paved with flat paving
stones, wound between houses like our own, with a ground floor (in this
there were no windows) and with two or three stories above, in which
there were windows, with sashes, and with so many panes to each window,
the panes were coloured red. Each window opened on a balcony, and the
balconies were crowded with ladies in gay dresses like those which are
now worn. Under their hats their hair fell in long plaits over their
shoulders: they had very fine white blouses, short jackets, embroidered
in bright coloured silk, and skirts with flounces. Laughing merrily they
looked down at the little troop of prisoners, chatting, and some saying
they were sorry for the Athenian girls. Others, seeing Theseus marching
first, a head taller than the tallest guardsman, threw flowers that
fell at his feet, and cried, 'Go on, brave Prince!' for they could not
believe that he was one of the prisoners.

The crowd in the street being great, the march was stopped under a house
taller than the rest; in the balcony one lady alone was seated, the
others stood round her as if they were her handmaidens. This lady was
most richly dressed, young, and very beautiful and stately, and was,
indeed, the king's daughter, Ariadne. She looked grave and full of pity,
and, as Theseus happened to glance upwards, their eyes met, and remained
fixed on each other. Theseus, who had never thought much about girls
before, grew pale, for he had never seen so beautiful a maiden: Ariadne
also turned pale, and then blushed and looked away, but her eyes glanced
down again at Theseus, and he saw it, and a strange feeling came into
his heart.

The guards cleared the crowd, and they all marched on till they came to
the palace walls and gate, which were more beautiful even than the walls
of the town. But the greatest wonder of all was the palace, standing in
a wide park, and itself far greater than such towns as Theseus had seen,
Troezene, or Aphidnae, or Athens. There was a multitude of roofs of
various heights, endless roofs, endless windows, terraces, and gardens:
no king's palace of our times is nearly so great and strong. There were
fountains and flowers and sweet-smelling trees in blossom, and, when the
Athenians were led within the palace, they felt lost among the winding
passages and halls.

The walls of them were painted with pictures of flying fishes, above a
clear white sea, in which fish of many kinds were swimming, with the
spray and bubbles flying from their tails, as the sea flows apart from
the rudder of a ship. There were pictures of bull fights, men and girls
teasing the bull, and throwing somersaults over him, and one bull had
just tossed a girl high in the air. Ladies were painted in balconies,
looking on, just such ladies as had watched Theseus and his company; and
young men bearing tall cool vases full of wine were painted on other
walls; and others were decorated with figures of bulls and stags, in
hard plaster, fashioned marvellously, and standing out from the walls
'in relief,' as it is called. Other walls, again, were painted with
patterns of leaves and flowers.

The rooms were full of the richest furniture, chairs inlaid with ivory,
gold, and silver, chests inlaid with painted porcelain in little
squares, each square containing a separate bright coloured picture.
There were glorious carpets, and in some passages stood rows of vases,
each of them large enough to hold a man, like the pots in the story of
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves in the Arabian Nights. There were tablets
of stone brought from Egypt, with images carved of gods and kings, and
strange Egyptian writing, and there were cups of gold and
silver--indeed, I could not tell you half the beautiful and wonderful
things in the palace of Minos. We know that this is true, for the things
themselves, all of them, or pictures of them, have been brought to
light, dug out from under ground; and, after years of digging, there is
still plenty of this wonderful palace to be explored.

The Athenians were dazzled, and felt lost and giddy with passing through
so many rooms and passages, before they were led into the great hall
named the Throne Room, where Minos was sitting in his gilded throne that
is still standing. Around him stood his chiefs and princes, gloriously
clothed in silken robes with jewels of gold; they left a lane between
their ranks, and down this lane was led Theseus at the head of his
little company. Minos, a dark-faced man, with touches of white in his
hair and long beard, sat with his elbow on his knee, and his chin in his
hand, and he fixed his eyes on the eyes of Theseus. Theseus bowed and
then stood erect, with his eyes on the eyes of Minos.

'You are fifteen in number,' said Minos at last, 'my law claims

'I came of my own will,' answered Theseus, 'and of their own will came
my company. No lots were cast.'

'Wherefore?' asked Minos.

'The people of Athens have a mind to be free, O king.'

'There is a way,' said Minos. 'Slay the Minotaur and you are free from
my tribute.'

'I am minded to slay him,' said Theseus, and, as he spoke, there was a
stir in the throng of chiefs, and priests, and princes, and Ariadne
glided through them, and stood a little behind her father's throne, at
one side. Theseus bowed low, and again stood erect, with his eyes on the
face of Ariadne.

'You speak like a king's son that has not known misfortune,' said Minos.

'I have known misfortune, and my name is Theseus, Ægeus' son,' said

'This is a new thing. When I saw King Ægeus he had no son, but he had
many nephews.'

'No son that he wotted of,' said Theseus, 'but now he has no nephews,
and one son.'

'Is it so?' asked Minos, 'then you have avenged me on the slayers of my
own son, fair sir, for it was your sword, was it not, that delivered
Ægeus from the sons of Pallas?'

'My sword and the swords of my friends, of whom seven stand before you.'

'I will learn if this be true,' said Minos.

'True!' cried Theseus, and his hand flew to the place where his
sword-hilt should have been, but he had no sword.

King Minos smiled. 'You are young,' he said, 'I will learn more of these
matters. Lead these men and maidens to their own chambers in the
palace,' he cried to his guard. 'Let each have a separate chamber, and
all things that are fitting for princes. To-morrow I will take counsel.'

Theseus was gazing at Ariadne. She stood behind her father, and she put
up her right hand as if to straighten her veil, but, as she raised her
hand, she swiftly made the motion of lifting a cup to the lips; and then
she laid on her lips the fingers of her left hand, closing them fast.
Theseus saw the token, and he bowed, as did all his company, to Minos
and to the princess, and they were led upstairs and along galleries,
each to a chamber more rich and beautiful than they had seen before in
their dreams. Then each was taken to a bath, they were washed and
clothed in new garments, and brought back to their chambers, where meat
was put before them, and wine in cups of gold. At the door of each
chamber were stationed two guards, but four guards were set at the door
of Theseus. At nightfall more food was brought, and, for Theseus, much
red wine, in a great vessel adorned with ropes and knobs of gold.

Theseus ate well, but he drank none, and, when he had finished, he
opened the door of his chamber, and carried out all the wine and the
cup. 'I am one,' he said, 'who drinks water, and loves not the smell of
wine in his chamber.'

The guards thanked him, and soon he heard them very merry over the
king's best wine, next he did not hear them at all, next--he heard them

Theseus opened the door gently and silently: the guards lay asleep
across and beside the threshold. Something bright caught his eye, he
looked up, a lamp was moving along the dark corridor, a lamp in the hand
of a woman clad in a black robe; the light fell on her white silent
feet, and on the feet of another woman who followed her.

Theseus softly slipped back into his chamber. The light, though shaded
by the girl's hand, showed in the crevice between the door and the
door-post. Softly entered Ariadne, followed by an old woman that had
been her nurse. 'You guessed the token?' she whispered. 'In the wine was
a sleepy drug.'

Theseus, who was kneeling to her, nodded.

'I can show you the way to flee, and I bring you a sword.'

'I thank you, lady, for the sword, and I pray you to show me the way--to
the Minotaur.'

Ariadne grew pale, and her hand flew to her heart.

'I pray you make haste. Flee I will not, nor, if the king have mercy on
us, will I leave Crete till I have met the Minotaur: for he has shed the
blood of my people.'

Ariadne loved Theseus, and knew well in her heart that he loved her. But
she was brave, and she made no more ado; she beckoned to him, and
stepped across the sleeping guardsmen that lay beside the threshold.
Theseus held up his hand, and she stopped, while he took two swords from
the men of the guard. One was long, with a strong straight narrow blade
tapering to a very sharp point; the other sword was short and straight,
with keen cutting double edges. Theseus slung them round his neck by
their belts, and Ariadne walked down the corridor, Theseus following
her, and the old nurse following him. He had taken the swords from the
sleeping men lest, if Ariadne gave him one, it might be found out that
she had helped him, and she knew this in her heart, for neither of them
spoke a word.

Swiftly and silently they went, through galleries and corridors that
turned and wound about, till Ariadne came to the door of her own
chamber. Here she held up her hand, and Theseus stopped, till she came
forth again, thrusting something into the bosom of her gown. Again she
led the way, down a broad staircase between great pillars, into a hall,
whence she turned, and passed down a narrower stair, and then through
many passages, till she came into the open air, and they crossed rough
ground to a cave in a hill. In the back of the cave was a door plated
with bronze which she opened with a key. Here she stopped and took out
of the bosom of her gown a coil of fine strong thread.

'Take this,' she said, 'and enter by that door, and first of all make
fast the end of the coil to a stone, and so walk through the labyrinth,
and, when you would come back, the coil shall be your guide. Take this
key also, to open the door, and lock it from within. If you return place
the key in a cleft in the wall within the outer door of the palace.'

She stopped and looked at Theseus with melancholy eyes, and he threw his
arms about her, and they kissed and embraced as lovers do who are
parting and know not if they may ever meet again.

At last she sighed and said, 'The dawn is near--farewell; the gods be
with you. I give you the watchword of the night, that you may pass the
sentinels if you come forth alive,' and she told him the word. Then she
opened the door and gave him the key, and the old nurse gave him the
lamp which she carried, and some food to take with him.



Theseus first fastened one end of his coil of string to a pointed rock,
and then began to look about him. The labyrinth was dark, and he slowly
walked, holding the string, down the broadest path, from which others
turned off to right or left. He counted his steps, and he had taken near
three thousand steps when he saw the pale sky showing in a small circle
cut in the rocky roof, above his head, and he saw the fading stars.
Sheer walls of rock went up on either hand of him, a roof of rock was
above him, but in the roof was this one open place, across which were
heavy bars. Soon the daylight would come.

Theseus set the lamp down on a rock behind a corner, and he waited,
thinking, at a place where a narrow dark path turned at right angles to
the left. Looking carefully round he saw a heap of bones, not human
bones, but skulls of oxen and sheep, hoofs of oxen, and shank bones.
'This,' he thought, 'must be the place where the food of the Minotaur is
let down to him from above. They have not Athenian youths and maidens to
give him every day! Beside his feeding place I will wait.' Saying this
to himself, he rose and went round the corner of the dark narrow path
cut in the rock to the left. He made his own breakfast, from the food
that Ariadne had given him, and it occurred to his mind that probably
the Minotaur might also be thinking of breakfast time.

He sat still, and from afar away within he heard a faint sound, like the
end of the echo of a roar, and he stood up, drew his long sword, and
listened keenly. The sound came nearer and louder, a strange sound, not
deep like the roar of a bull, but more shrill and thin. Theseus laughed
silently. A monster with the head and tongue of a bull, but with the
chest of a man, could roar no better than that! The sounds came nearer
and louder, but still with the thin sharp tone in them. Theseus now took
from his bosom the phial of gold that Medea had given him in Athens when
she told him about the Minotaur. He removed the stopper, and held his
thumb over the mouth of the phial, and grasped his long sword with his
left hand, after fastening the clue of thread to his belt.

The roars of the hungry Minotaur came nearer and nearer; now his feet
could be heard padding along the echoing floor of the labyrinth. Theseus
moved to the shadowy corner of the narrow path, where it opened into the
broad light passage, and he crouched there; his heart was beating
quickly. On came the Minotaur, up leaped Theseus, and dashed the
contents of the open phial in the eyes of the monster; a white dust flew
out, and Theseus leaped back into his hiding place. The Minotaur uttered
strange shrieks of pain; he rubbed his eyes with his monstrous hands; he
raised his head up towards the sky, bellowing and confused; he stood
tossing his head up and down; he turned round and round about, feeling
with his hands for the wall. He was quite blind. Theseus drew his short
sword, crept up, on naked feet, behind the monster, and cut through
the back sinews of his legs at the knees. Down fell the Minotaur, with a
crash and a roar, biting at the rocky floor with his lion's teeth, and
waving his hands, and clutching at the empty air. Theseus waited for his
chance, when the clutching hands rested, and then, thrice he drove the
long sharp blade of bronze through the heart of the Minotaur. The body
leaped, and lay still.


Theseus kneeled down, and thanked all the gods, and promised rich
sacrifices, and a new temple to Pallas Athênê, the Guardian of Athens.
When he had finished his prayer, he drew the short sword, and hacked off
the head of the Minotaur. He sheathed both his swords, took the head in
his hand, and followed the string back out of the daylit place, to the
rock where he had left his lamp. With the lamp and the guidance of the
string he easily found his way to the door, which he unlocked. He
noticed that the thick bronze plates of the door were dinted and scarred
by the points of the horns of the Minotaur, trying to force his way out.

He went out into the fresh early morning; all the birds were singing
merrily, and merry was the heart of Theseus. He locked the door, and
crossed to the palace, which he entered, putting the key in the place
which Ariadne had shown him. She was there, with fear and joy in her
eyes. 'Touch me not,' said Theseus, 'for I am foul with the blood of the
Minotaur.' She brought him to the baths on the ground floor, and swiftly
fled up a secret stair. In the bathroom Theseus made himself clean, and
clad himself in fresh raiment which was lying ready for him. When he was
clean and clad he tied a rope of byblus round the horns of the head of
the Minotaur, and went round the back of the palace, trailing the head
behind him, till he came to a sentinel. 'I would see King Minos,' he
said, 'I have the password, _Androgeos_!'

The sentinel, pale and wondering, let him pass, and so he went through
the guards, and reached the great door of the palace, and there the
servants wrapped the bleeding head in cloth, that it might not stain the
floors. Theseus bade them lead him to King Minos, who was seated on his
throne, judging the four guardsmen, that had been found asleep.

When Theseus entered, followed by the serving men with their burden, the
king never stirred on his throne, but turned his grey eyes on Theseus.
'My lord,' said Theseus, 'that which was to be done is done.' The
servants laid their burden at the feet of King Minos, and removed the
top fold of the covering.

The king turned to the captain of his guard. 'A week in the cells for
each of these four men,' said he, and the four guards, who had expected
to die by a cruel death, were led away. 'Let that head and the body also
be burned to ashes and thrown into the sea, far from the shore,' said
Minos, and his servants silently covered the head of the Minotaur, and
bore it from the throne room.

Then, at last, Minos rose from his throne, and took the hand of Theseus,
and said, 'Sir, I thank you, and I give you back your company safe and
free; and I am no more in hatred with your people. Let there be peace
between me and them. But will you not abide with us awhile, and be our

Theseus was glad enough, and he and his company tarried in the palace,
and were kindly treated. Minos showed Theseus all the splendour and
greatness of his kingdom and his ships, and great armouries, full of all
manner of weapons: the names and numbers of them are yet known, for
they are written on tablets of clay, that were found in the storehouse
of the king. Later, in the twilight, Theseus and Ariadne would walk
together in the fragrant gardens where the nightingales sang, and Minos
knew it, and was glad. He thought that nowhere in the world could he
find such a husband for his daughter, and he deemed it wise to have the
alliance of so great a king as Theseus promised to be. But, loving his
daughter, he kept Theseus with him long, till the prince was ashamed of
his delay, knowing that his father, King Ægeus, and all the people of
his country, were looking for him anxiously.

Therefore he told what was in his heart to Minos, who sighed, and said,
'I knew what is in your heart, and I cannot say you nay. I give to you
my daughter as gladly as a father may.' Then they spoke of things of
state, and made firm alliance between Cnossos and Athens while they both
lived; and the wedding was done with great splendour, and, at last,
Theseus and Ariadne and all their company went aboard, and sailed from
Crete. One misfortune they had: the captain of their ship died of a
sickness while they were in Crete, but Minos gave them the best of his
captains. Yet by reason of storms and tempests they had a long and
terrible voyage, driven out of their course into strange seas. When at
length they found their bearings, a grievous sickness fell on beautiful
Ariadne. Day by day she was weaker, till Theseus, with a breaking heart,
stayed the ship at an isle but two days' sail from Athens. There Ariadne
was carried ashore, and laid in a bed in the house of the king of that
island, and the physicians and the wise women did for her what they
could. But she died with her hands in the hands of Theseus, and his lips
on her lips. In that isle she was buried, and Theseus went on board his
ship, and drew his cloak over his head, and so lay for two days, never
moving nor speaking, and tasting neither meat nor drink. No man dared to
speak to him, but when the vessel stopped in the harbour of Athens, he
arose, and stared about him.

The shore was dark with people all dressed in mourning raiment, and the
herald of the city came with the news that Ægeus the King was dead. For
the Cretan captain did not know that he was to hoist the scarlet sail if
Theseus came home in triumph, and Ægeus, as he watched the waters, had
descried the dark sail from afar off, and, in his grief, had thrown
himself down from the cliff, and was drowned. This was the end of the
voyaging of Theseus.

       *       *       *       *       *

Theseus wished to die, and be with Ariadne, in the land of Queen
Persephone. But he was a strong man, and he lived to be the greatest of
the Kings of Athens, for all the other towns came in, and were his
subjects, and he ruled them well. His first care was to build a great
fleet in secret harbours far from towns and the ways of men, for, though
he and Minos were friends while they both lived, when Minos died the new
Cretan king might oppress Athens.

Minos died, at last, and his son picked a quarrel with Theseus, who
refused to give up a man that had fled to Athens because the new king
desired to slay him, and news came to Theseus that a great navy was
being made ready in Crete to attack him. Then he sent heralds to the
king of a fierce people, called the Dorians, who were moving through the
countries to the north-west of Greece, seizing lands, settling on them,
and marching forward again in a few years. They were wild, strong, and
brave, and they are said to have had swords of iron, which were better
than the bronze weapons of the Greeks. The heralds of Theseus said to
them, 'Come to our king, and he will take you across the sea, and show
you plunder enough. But you shall swear not to harm his kingdom.'

This pleased the Dorians well, and the ships of Theseus brought them
round to Athens, where Theseus joined them with many of his own men, and
they did the oath. They sailed swiftly to Crete, where, as they arrived
in the dark, the Cretan captains thought that they were part of their
own navy, coming in to join them in the attack on Athens; for that
Theseus had a navy the Cretans knew not; he had built it so secretly. In
the night he marched his men to Cnossos, and took the garrison by
surprise, and burned the palace, and plundered it. Even now we can see
that the palace has been partly burned, and hurriedly robbed by some
sudden enemy.

The Dorians stayed in Crete, and were there in the time of Ulysses,
holding part of the island, while the true Cretans held the greater part
of it. But Theseus returned to Athens, and married Hippolyte, Queen of
the Amazons. The story of their wedding festival is told in
Shakespeare's play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' And Theseus had many
new adventures, and many troubles, but he left Athens rich and strong,
and in no more danger from the kings of Crete. Though the Dorians, after
the time of Ulysses, swept all over the rest of Greece, and seized
Mycenæ and Lacedæmon, the towns of Agamemnon and Menelaus, they were
true to their oath to Theseus, and left Athens to the Athenians.




Many years before the Siege of Troy there lived in Greece two princes
who were brothers and deadly enemies. Each of them wished to be king
both of Argos (where Diomede ruled in the time of the Trojan war), and
of Tiryns. After long wars one of the brothers, Proetus, took Tiryns,
and built the great walls of huge stones, and the palace; while the
other brother, Acrisius, took Argos, and he married Eurydice, a princess
of the Royal House of Lacedæmon, where Menelaus and Helen were King and
Queen in later times.

Acrisius had one daughter, Danae, who became the most beautiful woman in
Greece, but he had no son. This made him very unhappy, for he thought
that, when he grew old, the sons of his brother Proetus would attack
him, and take his lands and city, if he had no son to lead his army. His
best plan would have been to find some brave young prince, like Theseus,
and give Danae to him for his wife, and their sons would be leaders of
the men of Argos. But Acrisius preferred to go to the prophetic maiden
of the temple of Apollo at Delphi (or Pytho, as it was then called), and
ask what chance he had of being the father of a son.

The maiden seldom had good news to give any man; but at least this time
it was easy to understand what she said. She went down into the deep
cavern below the temple floor, where it was said that a strange mist or
steam flowed up out of the earth, and made her fall into a strange
sleep, in which she could walk and speak, but knew not what she was
singing, for she sang her prophecies. At last she came back, very pale,
with her laurel wreath twisted awry, and her eyes open, but seeing
nothing. She sang that Acrisius would never have a son; but that his
daughter would bear a son, who would kill him.

Acrisius mounted his chariot, sad and sorry, and was driven homewards.
On the way he never spoke a word, but was thinking how he might escape
from the prophecy, and baffle the will of Zeus, the chief of the gods.
He did not know that Zeus himself had looked down upon Danae and fallen
in love with her, nor did Danae know.

The only sure way to avoid the prophecy was to kill Danae, and Acrisius
thought of doing this; but he loved her too much; and he was afraid that
his people would rise against him, if he slew his daughter, the pride of
their hearts. Still another fear was upon Acrisius, which will be
explained later in the story. He could think of nothing better than to
build a house all of bronze, in the court of his palace, a house sunk
deep in the earth, but with part of the roof open to the sky, as was the
way in all houses then; the light came in from above, and the smoke of
the fire went out in the same way. This chamber Acrisius built, and in
it he shut up poor Danae with the woman that had been her nurse. They
saw nothing, hills or plains or sea, men or trees, they only saw the sun
at midday, and the sky, and the free birds flitting across it. There
Danae lay, and was weary and sad, and she could not guess why her
father thus imprisoned her. He used to visit her often and seemed kind
and sorry for her, but he would never listen when she implored him to
sell her for a slave into a far country, so that, at least, she might
see the world in which she lived.

Now on a day a mysterious thing happened; the old poet Pindar, who lived
long after, in the time of the war between the Greeks and the King of
Persia, says that a living stream of gold flowed down from the sky and
filled the chamber of Danae. Some time after this Danae bore a baby, a
son, the strongest and most beautiful of children. She and her nurse
kept it secret, and the child was brought up in an inner chamber of the
house of bronze. It was difficult to prevent so lively a child from
making a noise in his play, and one day, when Acrisius was with Danae,
the boy, now three or four years old, escaped from his nurse, and ran
from her room, laughing and shouting. Acrisius rushed out, and saw the
nurse catch the child, and throw her mantle over him. Acrisius seized
the boy, who stood firm on his little legs, with his head high, frowning
at his grandfather, and gazing in anger out of his large blue eyes.
Acrisius saw that this child would be dangerous when he became a man,
and in great anger he bade his guards take the nurse out, and strangle
her with a rope, while Danae knelt weeping at his feet.

When they were alone he said to Danae: 'Who is the father of this
child?' but she, with her boy on her arm, slipped past Acrisius, and out
of the open door, and up the staircase, into the open air. She ran to
the altar of Zeus, which was built in the court, and threw her arms
round it, thinking that there no man dared to touch her. 'I cry to Zeus
that is throned in the highest, the Lord of Thunder,' she said: 'for he
and no other is the father of my boy, even Perseus.' The sky was bright
and blue without a cloud, and Danae cried in vain. There came no flash
of lightning nor roll of thunder.

'Is it even so?' said Acrisius, 'then let Zeus guard his own.' He bade
his men drag Danae from the altar; and lock her again in the house of
bronze; while he had a great strong chest made. In that chest he had the
cruelty to place Danae and her boy, and he sent them out to sea in a
ship, the sailors having orders to let the chest down into the waters
when they were far from shore. They dared not disobey, but they put food
and a skin of wine, and two skins of water in the chest, and lowered it
into the sea, which was perfectly calm and still. It was their hope that
some ship would come sailing by, perhaps a ship of Phoenician
merchant-men, who would certainly save Danae and the child, if only that
they might sell them for slaves.

King Acrisius himself was not ignorant that this might happen, and that
his grandson might live to be the cause of his death. But the Greeks
believed that if any man killed one of his own kinsfolk, he would be
pursued and driven mad by the Furies called the Erinyes, terrible winged
women with cruel claws. These winged women drove Orestes, the son of
Agamemnon, fleeing like a madman through the world, because he slew his
own mother, Clytaemnestra, to avenge his father, whom she and Ægisthus
had slain. Nothing was so much dreaded as these Furies, and therefore
Acrisius did not dare to slay his daughter and his grandson, Perseus,
but only put them in the way of being drowned. He heard no more of them,
and hoped that both of their bodies were rolling in the waves, or that
their bones lay bleaching on some unknown shore. But he could not be
certain--indeed, he soon knew better--and as long as he lived, he lived
in fear that Perseus had escaped, and would come and slay him, as the
prophetess had said in her song.

The chest floated on the still waters, and the sea birds swooped down to
look at it, and passed by, with one waft of their wings. The sun set,
and Danae watched the stars, the Bear and Orion with his belt, and
wrapped her boy up warm, and he slept sound, for he never knew fear, in
his mother's arms. The Dawn came in her golden throne, and Danae saw
around her the blue sharp crests of the mountains of the islands that
lay scattered like water lilies on the seas of Greece. If only the
current would drift her to an island, she thought, and prayed in her
heart to the Gods of Good Help, Pallas Athênê, and Hermes of the Golden
Wand. Soon she began to hope that the chest was drawing near an island.
She turned her head in the opposite direction for a long while, and then
looked forward again. She was much nearer the island, and could see the
smoke going up from cottages among the trees. But she drifted on and
drifted past the end of the isle, and on with the current, and so all

A weary day she had, for the boy was full of play, and was like to
capsize the chest. She gave him some wine and water, and presently he
fell asleep, and Danae watched the sea and the distant isles till night
came again. It was dark, with no moon, and the darker because the chest
floated into the shadow of a mountain, and the current drew it near the
shore. But Danae dared not hope again; men would not be abroad, she
thought, in the night. As she lay thus helpless, she saw a light moving
on the sea, and she cried as loud as she could cry. Then the light
stopped, and a man's shout came to her over the water, and the light
moved swiftly towards her. It came from a brazier set on a pole in a
boat, and now Danae could see the bright sparks that shone in the drops
from the oars, for the boat was being rowed towards her, as fast as two
strong men could pull.

Being weak from the heat of the sun that had beaten on her for two days,
and tired out with hopes and fears, Danae fainted, and knew nothing till
she felt cold water on her face. Then she opened her eyes, and saw kind
eyes looking at her own, and the brown face of a bearded man, in the
light of the blaze that fishermen carry in their boats at night, for the
fish come to wonder at it, and the fishermen spear them. There were many
dead fish in the boat, into which Danae and the child had been lifted,
and a man with a fish spear in his hand was stooping over her.

Then Danae knew that she and her boy were saved, and she lay, unable to
speak, till the oarsmen had pulled their boat to a little pier of stone.
There the man with the fish spear lifted her up lightly and softly set
her on her feet on land, and a boatman handed to him the boy, who was
awake, and was crying for food.

'You are safe, lady!' said the man with the spear, 'and I have taken
fairer fish than ever swam the sea. I am called Dictys; my brother,
Polydectes, is king of this island, and my wife is waiting for me at
home, where she will make you welcome, and the boy thrice welcome, for
the gods have taken our only son.'

He asked no questions of Danae; it was reckoned ill manners to put
questions to strangers and guests, but he lighted two torches at the
fire in the boat, and bade his two men walk in front, to show the way,
while he supported Danae, and carried the child on his shoulder. They
had not far to go, for Dictys, who loved fishing of all things, had his
house near the shore. Soon they saw the light shining up from the
opening in the roof of the hall; and the wife of Dictys came running
out, crying: 'Good sport?' when she heard their voices and footsteps.

'Rare sport,' shouted Dictys cheerily, and he led in Danae, and gave the
child into the arms of his wife. Then they were taken to the warm baths,
and dressed in fresh raiment. Food was set before them, and presently
Danae and Perseus slept on soft beds, with coverlets of scarlet wool.

Dictys and his wife never asked Danae any questions about how and why
she came floating on the sea through the night. News was carried quickly
enough from the mainland to the islands by fishers in their boats and
merchant men, and pedlars. Dictys heard how the king of Argos had
launched his daughter and her son on the sea, hoping that both would be
drowned. All the people knew in the island, which was called Seriphos,
and they hated the cruelty of Acrisius, and many believed that Perseus
was the son of Zeus.

If the news from Argos reached Seriphos, we may guess that the news from
Seriphos reached Argos, and that Acrisius heard how a woman as beautiful
as a goddess, with a boy of the race of the gods, had drifted to the
shore of the little isle. Acrisius knew, and fear grew about his heart,
fear that was sharper as the years went on, while Perseus was coming to
his manhood. Acrisius often thought of ways by which he might have his
grandson slain; but none of them seemed safe. By the time when Perseus
was fifteen, Acrisius dared not go out of doors, except among the
spears of his armed guards, and he was so eaten up by fear that it would
have been happier for him if he had never been born.



It was fortunate for Perseus that Dictys treated him and taught him like
his own son, and checked him if he was fierce and quarrelsome, as so
strong a boy was apt to be. He was trained in all the exercises of young
men, the use of spear and sword, shield and bow; and in running,
leaping, hunting, rowing, and the art of sailing a boat. There were no
books in Seriphos, nobody could read or write; but Perseus was told the
stories of old times, and of old warriors who slew monsters by sea and
land. Most of the monsters had been killed, as Perseus was sorry to
hear, for he desired to try his own luck with them when he came to be a
man. But the most terrible of all, the Gorgons, who were hated by men
and gods, lived still, in an island near the Land of the Dead; but the
way to that island was unknown. These Gorgons were two sisters, and a
third woman; the two were hideous to look on, with hair and wings and
claws of bronze, and with teeth like the white tusks of swine. Swinish
they were, ugly and loathsome, feeding fearfully on the bodies of
unburied men. But the third Gorgon was beautiful save for the living
serpents that coiled in her hair. She alone of the three Gorgons was
mortal, and could be slain, but who could slay her? So terrible were her
eyes that men who had gone up against her were changed into pillars of

This was one of the stories that Perseus heard when he was a boy; and
there was a proverb that this or that hard task was 'as difficult to do
as to slay the Gorgon.' Perseus, then, ever since he was a little boy,
was wondering how he could slay the Gorgon and become as famous as the
strong man Heracles, or the good knight Bellerophon, who slew the
Chimaera. Perseus was always thinking of such famous men as these, and
especially loved the story of Bellerophon, which is this:

In the city of Ephyre, now called Corinth, was a king named Glaucus, who
had a son, Bellerophon. He was brought up far from home, in Argos, by
King Proetus (the great-uncle of Perseus), who was his foster-father,
and loved him well. Proetus was an old man, but his wife, Anteia, was
young and beautiful, and Bellerophon also was beautiful and young, and,
by little and little, Anteia fell in love with him, and could not be
happy without him, but no such love was in Bellerophon's heart for her,
who was his foster-mother. At last Anteia, forgetting all shame, told
Bellerophon that she loved him, and hated her husband; and she asked him
to fly with her to the seashore, where she had a ship lying ready, and
they two would sail to some island far away, and be happy together.

Bellerophon knew not what to say; he could not wrong King Proetus, his
foster-father. He stood speechless, his face was red with shame, but the
face of Anteia grew white with rage.

'Dastard!' she said, 'thou shalt not live long in Argos to boast of my
love and your own virtue!' She ran from him, straight to King Proetus,
and flung herself at his feet. 'What shall be done, oh king,' she cried,
'to the man who speaks words of love dishonourable to the Queen of

'By the splendour of Zeus,' cried Proetus, 'if he were my own foster-son
he shall die!'

'Thou hast named him!' said Anteia, and she ran to her own upper
chamber, and locked the door, and flung herself on the bed, weeping for
rage as if her heart would break. Proetus followed her, but she would
not unlock her door, only he heard her bitter weeping, and he went
apart, alone, and took thought how he should be revenged on Bellerophon.
He had no desire to slay him openly, for then the King of Ephyre would
make war against him. He could not bring him to trial before the judges,
for there was no witness against him except Anteia; and he did not
desire to make his subjects talk about the queen, for it was the glory
of a woman, in those days, not to be spoken of in the conversation of

Therefore Proetus, for a day or two, seemed to favour Bellerophon more
kindly than ever. Next he called him into his chamber, alone, and said
that it was well for young men to see the world, to cross the sea and
visit foreign cities, and win renown. The eyes of Bellerophon brightened
at these words, not only because he desired to travel, but because he
was miserable in Argos, where he saw every day the angry eyes of Anteia.
Then Proetus said that the King of Lycia, in Asia far across the sea,
was his father-in-law, and his great friend. To him he would send
Bellerophon, and Proetus gave him a folded tablet, in which he had
written many deadly signs. Bellerophon took the folded tablet, not
looking, of course, at what was written in it, and away he sailed to
Lycia. The king of that country received him well, and on the tenth day
after his arrival asked him if he brought any token from King Proetus.

Bellerophon gave him the tablet, which he opened and read. The writing
said that Bellerophon must die. Now at that time Lycia was haunted by a
monster of no human birth; her front was the front of a lion, in the
middle of her body she was a goat, she tapered away to a strong swift
serpent, and she breathed flame from her nostrils. The King of Lycia,
wishing to get rid of Bellerophon, had but to name this curse to his
guest, who vowed that he would meet her if he might find her. So he was
led to the cavern where she dwelt, and there he watched for her all
night till the day dawned.

He was cunning as well as brave, and men asked him why he took with him
no weapon but his sword, and two spears with heavy heads, not of bronze,
but of soft lead. Bellerophon told his companions that he had his own
way of fighting, and bade them go home, and leave him alone, while his
charioteer stood by the horses and chariot in a hollow way, out of
sight. Bellerophon himself watched, lying on his face, hidden behind a
rock in the mouth of the cavern. The moment that the rising sun touched
with a red ray the dark mouth of the cave, forth came the Chimaera, and,
setting her fore paws on the rock, looked over the valley. The moment
that she opened her mouth, breathing flame, Bellerophon plunged his
leaden spears deep down her throat, and sprang aside. On came the
Chimaera, her serpent tail lashing the stones, but Bellerophon ever kept
on the further side of a great tall rock. The Chimaera ceased to pursue
him, she rolled on the earth, uttering screams of pain, for the lead was
melting in the fire that was within her, and at last the molten lead
burned through her, and she died. Bellerophon hacked off her head, and
several feet of her tail, stowed them in his chariot, and drove back to
the palace of the King of Lycia, while the people followed him with
songs of praise.

The king set him three other terrible tasks, but he achieved each of the
adventures gloriously, and the king gave him his daughter to be his
bride, and half of all the honours of his kingdom. This is the story of
Bellerophon (there were other ways of telling it), and Perseus was
determined to do as great deeds as he. But Perseus was still a boy, and
he did not know, and no man could tell him, the way to the island of the

When Perseus was about sixteen years old, the King of Seriphos,
Polydectes, saw Danae, fell in love with her, and wanted to take her
into his palace, but he did not want Perseus. He was a bad and cruel
man, but Perseus was so much beloved by the people that he dared not
kill him openly. He therefore made friends with the lad, and watched him
carefully to see how he could take advantage of him. The king saw that
he was of a rash, daring and haughty spirit, though Dictys had taught
him to keep himself well in hand, and that he was eager to win glory.
The king fell on this plan: he gave a great feast on his birthday, and
invited all the chief men and the richest on the island; Perseus, too,
he asked to the banquet. As the custom was, all the guests brought
gifts, the best that they had, cattle, women-slaves, golden cups, wedges
of gold, great vessels of bronze, and other splendid things, and the
king met the guests at the door of his hall, and thanked them

Last came Perseus: he had no gift to give, for he had nothing of his
own. The others began to sneer at him, saying, 'Here is a birthday guest
without a birthday gift!' 'How should No Man's son have a present fit
for a king.' 'This lad is lazy, tied to his mother; he should long ago
have taken service with the captain of a merchant ship.' 'He might at
least watch the town's cows on the town's fields,' said another. Thus
they insulted Perseus, and the king, watching him with a cruel smile,
saw his face grow red, and his blue eyes blaze, as he turned from one to
another of the mockers, who pointed their fingers at him and jeered.

At last Perseus spoke: 'Ye farmers and fishers, ye ship-captains and
slave dealers of a little isle, I shall bring to your master such a
present as none of you dare to seek. Farewell. Ye shall see me once
again and no more. I go to slay the Gorgon, and bring such a gift as no
king possesses--the Head of the Gorgon.'

They laughed and hooted, but Perseus turned away, his hand on his sword
hilt, and left them to their festival, while the king rejoiced in his
heart. Perseus dared not see his mother again, but he spoke to Dictys,
saying that he knew himself now to be of an age when he must seek his
fortune in other lands; and he bade Dictys guard his mother from wrong,
as well as he might. Dictys promised that he would find a way of
protecting Danae, and he gave Perseus three weighed wedges of gold
(which were called 'talents,' and served as money), and lent him a ship,
to take him to the mainland of Greece, there to seek his fortune.

In the dawn Perseus secretly sailed away, landed at Malea, and thence
walked and wandered everywhere, seeking to learn the way to the island
of the Gorgons. He was poorly clad, and he slept at night by the fires
of smithies, where beggars and wanderers lay: listening to the stories
they told, and asking old people, when he met them, if they knew any one
who knew the way to the island of the Gorgons. They all shook their
heads. 'Yet I should be near knowing,' said one old man, 'if that isle
be close to the Land of the Dead, for I am on its borders. Yet I know
nothing. Perchance the dead may know; or the maid that prophesies at
Pytho, or the Selloi, the priests with unwashen feet, who sleep on the
ground below the sacred oaks of Zeus in the grove of Dodona far away.'

Perseus could learn no more than this, and he wandered on and on. He
went to the cave that leads down to the Land of the Dead, where the
ghosts answer questions in their thin voices, like the twittering of
bats. But the ghosts could not tell him what he desired to know. He went
to Pytho, where the maid, in her song, bade him seek the land of men who
eat acorns instead of the yellow grain of Demeter, the goddess of
harvest. Thence he wandered to Epirus, and to the Selloi who dwell in
the oak forest of Zeus, and live on the flour ground from acorns. One of
them lay on the ground in the wood, with his head covered up in his
mantle, and listened to what the wind says, when it whispers to the
forest leaves. The leaves said, 'We bid the young man be of good hope,
for the gods are with him.'

This answer did not tell Perseus where the isle of the Gorgons lay, but
the words put hope in his heart, weary and footsore as he was. He ate of
the bread made of the acorns, and of the flesh of the swine that the
Selloi gave him, and he went alone, and, far in the forest, he laid his
head down on the broad mossy root of an old oak tree. He did not sleep,
but watched the stars through the boughs, and he heard the cries of the
night-wandering beasts in the woodland.

'If the gods be with me, I shall yet do well,' he said, and, as he
spoke, he saw a white clear light moving through the darkness. That
clear white light shone from a golden lamp in the hand of a tall and
beautiful woman, clad in armour, and wearing, hung by a belt from her
neck, a great shield of polished bronze. With her there came a young
man, with winged shoon of gold on his feet, and belted with a strange
short curved sword: in his hand was a golden wand, with wings on it, and
with golden serpents twisted round it.

Perseus knew that these beautiful folk were the Goddess Athênê, and
Hermes, who brings all fortunate things. He fell upon his face before
them, but Athênê spoke in a sweet grave voice, saying, 'Arise, Perseus,
and speak to us face to face, for we are of your kindred, we also are
children of Zeus, the Father of gods and men.'

Then Perseus arose and looked straight into their eyes.

'We have watched you long, Perseus, to learn whether you have the heart
of a hero, that can achieve great adventures; or whether you are an idle
dreaming boy. We have seen that your heart is steadfast, and that you
have sought through hunger, and long travel to know the way wherein you
must find death or win glory. That way is not to be found without the
help of the gods. First you must seek the Three Grey Women, who dwell
beyond the land that lies at the back of the North Wind. They will tell
you the road to the three Nymphs of the West, who live in an island of
the sea that never knew a sail; for it is beyond the pillars that
Heracles set up when he wearied in his journey to the Well of the
World's End, and turned again. You must go to these nymphs, where never
foot of man has trod, and they will show you the measure of the way to
the Isle of the Gorgons. If you see the faces of the Gorgons, you will
be turned to stone. Yet you have vowed to bring the head of the youngest
of the three, she who was not born a Gorgon but became one of them by
reason of her own wickedness. If you slay her, you must not see even her
dead head, but wrap it round in this goat-skin which hangs beside my
shield; see not the head yourself, and let none see it but your

'This is a great adventure,' said Perseus, 'to slay a woman whom I may
not look upon, lest I be changed into stone.'

'I give you my polished shield,' said Athênê. 'Let it never grow dim, if
you would live and see the sunlight.' She took off her shield from her
neck, with the goat-skin cover of the shield, and hung them round the
neck of Perseus. He knelt and thanked her for her grace, and, looking up
through a clear space between the forest boughs, he said, 'I see the
Bear, the stars of the North that are the guide of sailors. I shall walk
towards them even now, by your will, for my heart burns to find the
Three Grey Women, and learn the way.'

Hermes smiled, and said, 'An old man and white-bearded would you be, ere
you measured out that way on foot! Here, take my winged sandals, and
bind them about your feet. They know all the paths of the air, and they
will bring you to the Three Grey Women. Belt yourself, too, with my
sword, for this sword needs no second stroke, but will cleave through
that you set it to smite.'

So Perseus bound on the Shoes of Swiftness, and the Sword of Sharpness,
the name of it was Herpê; and when he rose from binding on the shoon, he
was alone. The gods had departed. He drew the sword, and cut at an oak
tree trunk, and the blade went clean through it, while the tree fell
with a crash like thunder. Then Perseus rose through the clear space in
the wood, and flew under the stars, towards the constellation of the
Bear. North of Greece he flew, above the Thracian mountains, and the
Danube (which was then called the Ister) lay beneath him like a long
thread of silver. The air grew cold as he crossed lands then unknown to
the Greeks, lands where wild men dwelt, clad in the skins of beasts, and
using axe-heads and spear-heads made of sharpened stones. He passed to
the land at the back of the North Wind, a sunny warm land, where the
people sacrifice wild asses to the God Apollo. Beyond this he came to a
burning desert of sand, but far away he saw trees that love the water,
poplars and willows, and thither he flew.

He came to a lake among the trees, and round and round the lake were
flying three huge grey swans, with the heads of women, and their long
grey hair flowed down below their bodies, and floated on the wind. They
sang to each other as they flew, in a voice like the cry of the swan.
They had but one eye among them, and but one tooth, which they passed to
each other in turn, for they had arms and hands under their wings.
Perseus dropped down in his flight, and watched them. When one was
passing the eye to the other, none of them could see him, so he waited
for his chance and took it, and seized the eye.

'Where is our eye? Have _you_ got it?' said the Grey Woman from whose
hand Perseus took it. 'I have it not.'

'I have it not!' cried each of the others, and they all wailed like

'I have it,' said Perseus, and hearing his voice they all flew to the
sound of it but he easily kept out of their way. 'The eye will I keep,'
said Perseus, 'till you tell me what none knows but you, the way to the
Isle of the Gorgons.'

'We know it not,' cried the poor Grey Women. 'None knows it but the
Nymphs of the Isle of the West: give us our eye!'

'Then tell me the way to the Nymphs of the Isle of the West,' said

'Turn your back, and hold your course past the isle of Albion, with the
white cliffs, and so keep with the land on your left hand, and the
unsailed sea on your right hand, till you mark the pillars of Heracles
on your left, then take your course west by south, and a curse on you!
Give us our eye!'

Perseus gave them their eye, and she who took it flew at him, but he
laughed, and rose high above them and flew as he was told. Over many and
many a league of sea and land he went, till he turned to his right from
the Pillars of Heracles (at Gibraltar), and sailed along, west by south,
through warm air, over the lonely endless Atlantic waters. At last he
saw a great blue mountain, with snow feathering its crests, in a far-off
island, and on that island he alighted. It was a country of beautiful
flowers, and pine forests high on the hill, but below the pines all was
like a garden, and in that garden was a tree bearing apples of gold, and
round the tree were dancing three fair maidens, clothed in green, and
white, and red.

'These must be the Nymphs of the Isle of the West,' said Perseus, and he
floated down into the garden, and drew near them.

As soon as they saw him they left off dancing, and catching each other
by the hands they ran to Perseus laughing, and crying, 'Hermes, our
playfellow Hermes has come!' The arms of all of them went round Perseus
at once, with much laughing and kissing. 'Why have you brought a great
shield, Hermes?' they cried, 'here there is no unfriendly god or man to
fight against you.'

Perseus saw that they had mistaken him for the god whose sword and
winged shoon he wore, but he did not dislike the mistake of the merry

'I am not Hermes,' he said, 'but a mortal man, to whom the god has
graciously lent his sword and shoon, and the shield was lent to me by
Pallas Athênê. My name is Perseus.'

The girls leaped back from him, blushing and looking shy. The eldest
girl answered, 'We are the daughters of Hesperus, the God of the Evening
Star. I am Æglê, this is my sister Erytheia, and this is Hesperia. We
are the keepers of this island, which is the garden of the gods, and
they often visit us; our cousins, Dionysus, the young god of wine and
mirth, and Hermes of the Golden Wand come often; and bright Apollo, and
his sister Artemis the huntress. But a mortal man we have never seen,
and wherefore have the gods sent you hither?'

'The two gods sent me, maidens, to ask you the way to the Isle of the
Gorgons, that I may slay Medusa of the snaky hair, whom gods and men

'Alas!' answered the nymphs, 'how shall you slay her, even if we knew
the way to that island, which we know not?'

Perseus sighed: he had gone so far, and endured so much, and had come to
the Nymphs of the Isle of the West, and even they could not tell how to
reach the Gorgons' island.


'Do not fear,' said the girl, 'for if we know not the way we know one
that knows it: Atlas is his name--the Giant of the Mountain. He dwells
on the highest peak of the snow-crested hill, and it is he who holds up
the heavens, and keeps heaven and earth asunder. He looks over all the
world, and over the wide western sea: him we must ask to answer your
question. Take off your shield, which is so heavy, and sit down with us
among the flowers, and let us think how you may slay the Gorgon.'

Perseus gladly unslung his heavy shield, and sat down among the white
and purple wind flowers. Æglê, too, sat down; but young Erytheia held
the shield upright, while beautiful Hesperia admired herself, laughing,
in the polished surface.

Perseus smiled as he watched them, and a plan came into his mind. In all
his wanderings he had been trying hard to think how, if he found the
Gorgon, he might cut off her head, without seeing the face which turned
men into stone. Now his puzzle was ended. He could hold up the shield
above the Gorgon, and see the reflection of her face, as in a mirror,
just as now he saw the fair reflected face of Hesperia. He turned to
Æglê, who sat silently beside him: 'Maiden,' he said, 'I have found out
the secret that has perplexed me long, how I may strike at the Gorgon
without seeing her face that turns men to stone. I will hang above her
in the air, and see her face reflected in the mirror of the shield, and
so know where to strike.' The two other girls had left the shield on the
grass, and they clapped their hands when Perseus said this, but Æglê
still looked grave.

'It is much that you should have found this cunning plan; but the
Gorgons will see you, and two of them are deathless and cannot be slain,
even with the sword Herpé. These Gorgons have wings almost as swift as
the winged shoon of Hermes, and they have claws of bronze that cannot
be broken.'

Hesperia clapped her hands. 'Yet I know a way,' she said, 'so that this
friend of ours may approach the Gorgons, yet not be seen by them. You
must be told,' she said, turning to Perseus, 'that we three sisters were
of the company of the Fairy Queen, Persephone, daughter of Demeter, the
Goddess of the Harvest. We were gathering flowers with her, in the plain
of Enna, in a spring morning, when there sprang up a new flower,
fragrant and beautiful, the white narcissus. No sooner had Persephone
plucked that flower than the earth opened beside her, and up came the
chariot and horses of Hades, the King of the Dead, who caught Persephone
into his chariot, and bore her down with him to the House of Hades. We
wept and were in great fear, but Zeus granted to Persephone to return to
earth with the first snowdrop, and remain with her mother, Demeter, till
the last rose had faded. Now I was the favourite of Persephone, and she
carried me with her to see her husband, who is kind to me for her sake,
and can refuse me nothing, and he has what will serve your turn. To him
I will go, for often I go to see my playmate, when it is winter in your
world: it is always summer in our isle. To him I will go, and return
again, when I will so work that you may be seen of none, neither by god,
or man, or monster. Meanwhile my sisters will take care of you, and
to-morrow they will lead you to the mountain top, to speak with the

'It is well spoken,' said tall, grave Æglê, and she led Perseus to their
house, and gave him food and wine, and at night he slept full of hope,
in a chamber in the courtyard.

Next morning, early, Perseus and Æglê and Erytheia floated up to the
crest of the mountain, for Hesperia had departed in the night, to visit
Queen Persephone. Perseus took a hand of each of the Nymphs, and they
had no weary climbing; they all soared up together, so great was the
power of the winged shoon of Hermes. They found the good giant Atlas,
kneeling on a black rock above the snow, holding up the vault of heaven
with either hand. When Æglê had spoken to him, he bade his girls go
apart, and said to Perseus, 'Yonder, far away to the west, you see an
island with a mountain that rises to a flat top, like a table. There
dwell the Gorgons.'

Perseus thanked him eagerly, but Atlas sighed and said, 'Mine is a weary
life. Here have I knelt and done my task, since the Giants fought
against the gods, and were defeated. Then, for my punishment, I was set
here by Zeus to keep sky and earth asunder. But he told me that after
hundreds of years I should have rest, and be changed to a stone. Now I
see that the day of rest appointed is come, for you shall show me the
head of the Gorgon when you have slain her, and my body shall be stone,
but my spirit shall be with the ever living gods.'

Perseus pitied Atlas; he bowed to the will of Zeus, and to the prayer of
the giant, and gave his promise. Then he floated to Æglê and Erytheia,
and they all three floated down again to the garden of the golden
apples. Here as they walked on the soft grass, and watched the wind toss
the white and red and purple bells of the wind flowers, they heard a low
laughter close to them, the laughter of Hesperia, but her they saw not.
'Where are you, Hesperia, where are you hiding?' cried Æglê, wondering,
for the wide lawn was open, without bush or tree where the girl might be

'Find me if you can,' cried the voice of Hesperia, close beside them,
and handfuls of flowers were lightly tossed to them, yet they saw none
who threw them. 'This place is surely enchanted,' thought Perseus, and
the voice of Hesperia answered:

'Come follow, follow me. I will run before you to the house, and show
you my secret.'

Then they all saw the flowers bending, and the grass waving, as if a
light-footed girl were running through it, and they followed to the
house the path in the trodden grass. At the door, Hesperia met them:
'You could not see me,' she said, 'nor will the Gorgons see Perseus.
Look, on that table lies the Helmet of Hades, which mortal men call the
Cap of Darkness. While I wore it you could not see me, nay, a deathless
god cannot see the wearer of that helmet.' She took up a dark cap of
hard leather, that lay on a table in the hall, and raised it to her
head, and when she had put it on, she was invisible. She took it off,
and placed it on the brows of Perseus. 'We cannot see you, Perseus,'
cried all the girls. 'Look at yourself in your shining shield: can you
see yourself?'

Perseus turned to the shield, which he had hung on a golden nail in the
wall. He saw only the polished bronze, and the faces of the girls who
were looking over his shoulder. He took off the Helmet of Hades and gave
a great sigh. 'Kind are the gods,' he said. 'Methinks that I shall
indeed keep my vow, and bring to Polydectes the Gorgon's head.'

They were merry that night, and Perseus told them his story, how he was
the son of Zeus, and the girls called him 'cousin Perseus.' 'We love you
very much, and we could make you immortal, without old age and death,'
said Hesperia. 'You might live with us here for ever--it is lonely,
sometimes, for three maidens in the garden of the gods. But you must
keep your vow, and punish your enemies, and cherish your mother, and do
not forget your cousins three, when you have married the lady of your
heart's desire, and are King of Argos.'

The tears stood in the eyes of Perseus. 'Cousins dear,' he said, 'never
shall I forget you, not even in the House of Hades. You will come
thither now and again, Hesperia? But I love no woman.'

'I think you will not long be without a lady and a love, Perseus,' said
Erytheia; 'but the night is late, and to-morrow you have much to do.'

So they parted, and next morning they bade Perseus be of good hope. He
burnished and polished the shield, and covered it with the goat's skin,
he put on the Shoes of Swiftness, and belted himself with the Sword of
Sharpness, and placed on his head the Cap of Darkness. Then he soared
high in the air, till he saw the Gorgons' Isle, and the table-shaped
mountain, a speck in the western sea.

The way was long, but the shoes were swift, and, far aloft, in the heat
of the noon-day, Perseus looked down on the top of the table-mountain.
There he could dimly see three bulks of strange shapeless shape, with
monstrous limbs that never stirred, and he knew that the Gorgons were
sleeping their midday sleep. Then he held the shield so that the shapes
were reflected in its polished face, and very slowly he floated down,
and down, till he was within striking distance. There they lay, two of
them uglier than sin, breathing loud in their sleep like drunken men.
But the face of her who lay between the others was as quiet as the face
of a sleeping child; and as beautiful as the face of the goddess of
Love, with long dark eyelashes veiling the eyes, and red lips half
open. Nothing stirred but the serpents in the hair of beautiful Medusa;
they were never still, but coiled and twisted, and Perseus loathed them
as he watched them in the mirror. They coiled and uncoiled, and left
bare her ivory neck, and then Perseus drew the sword Herpê, and struck

In the mirror he saw the fallen head, and he seized it by the hair, and
wrapped it in the goat-skin, and put the goat-skin in his wallet. Then
he towered high in the air, and, looking down, he saw the two sister
Gorgons turning in their sleep; they woke, and saw their sister dead.
They seemed to speak to each other; they looked this way and that, into
the bright empty air, for Perseus in the Cap of Darkness they could not
see. They rose on their mighty wings, hunting low, and high, and with
casts behind their island and in front of it, but Perseus was flying
faster than ever he flew before, stooping and rising to hide his scent.
He dived into the deep sea, and flew under water as long as he could
hold his breath, and then rose and fled swiftly forward. The Gorgons
were puzzled by each double he had made, and, at the place where he
dived they lost the scent, and from far away Perseus heard their loud
yelps, but soon these faded in the distance. He often looked over his
shoulder as he flew straight towards the far-off blue hill of the giant
Atlas, but the sky was empty behind him, and the Gorgons he never saw
again. The mountain turned from blue to clear grey and red and gold,
with pencilled rifts and glens, and soon Perseus stood beside the giant
Atlas. 'You are welcome and blessed,' said the giant. 'Show me the head
that I may be at rest.'

Then Perseus took the bundle from the wallet, and carefully unbound the
goat-skin, and held up the head, looking away from it, and the Giant
was a great grey stone. Down sailed Perseus, and stood in the garden of
the gods, and laid the Cap of Darkness on the grass. The three Nymphs
who were sitting there, weaving garlands of flowers, leaped up, and came
round him, and kissed him, and crowned him with the flowery chaplets.
That night he rested with them, and in the morning they kissed and said

'Do not forget us,' said Æglê, 'nor be too sorry for our loneliness.
To-day Hermes has been with us, and to-morrow he comes again with
Dionysus, the god of the vine, and all his merry company. Hermes left a
message for you, that you are to fly eastward, and south, to the place
where your wings shall guide you, and there, he said, you shall find
your happiness. When that is won, you shall turn north and west, to your
own country. We say, all three of us, that our love is with you always,
and we shall hear of your gladness, for Hermes will tell us; then we too
shall be glad. Farewell!'

So the three maidens embraced him with kind faces and smiling eyes, and
Perseus, too, smiled as well as he might, but in his eastward way he
often looked back, and was sad when he could no longer see the kindly
hill above the garden of the gods.



Perseus flew where the wings bore him, over great mountains, and over a
wilderness of sand. Below his feet the wind woke the sand storms, and
beneath him he saw nothing but a soft floor of yellow grey, and when
that cleared he saw islands of green trees round some well in the
waste, and long trains of camels, and brown men riding swift horses, at
which he wondered; for the Greeks in his time drove in chariots, and did
not ride. The red sun behind him fell, and all the land was purple, but,
in a moment, as it seemed, the stars rushed out, and he sped along in
the starlight till the sky was grey again, and rosy, and full of fiery
colours, green and gold and ruby and amethyst. Then the sun rose, and
Perseus looked down on a green land, through which was flowing north a
great river, and he guessed that it was the river Ægyptus, which we now
call the Nile. Beneath him was a town, with many white houses in groves
of palm trees, and with great temples of the gods, built of red stone.
The shoes of swiftness stopped above the wide market-place, and there
Perseus hung poised, till he saw a multitude of men pour out of the door
of a temple.

At their head walked the king, who was like a Greek, and he led a maiden
as white as snow wreathed with flowers and circlets of wool, like the
oxen in Greece, when men sacrifice them to the gods. Behind the king and
the maid came a throng of brown men, first priests and magicians and
players on harps, and women shaking metal rattles that made a wild
mournful noise, while the multitude lamented.

Slowly, while Perseus watched, they passed down to the shore of the
great river, so wide a river as Perseus had never seen. They went to a
steep red rock, like a wall, above the river; at its foot was a flat
shelf of rock--the water just washed over it. Here they stopped, and the
king kissed and embraced the white maiden. They bound her by chains of
bronze to rings of bronze in the rock; they sang a strange hymn; and
then marched back to the town, throwing their mantles over their heads.
There the maiden stood, or rather hung forward supported by the chains.
Perseus floated down, and, the nearer he came, the more beautiful seemed
the white maid, with her soft dark hair falling to her white feet.
Softly he floated down, till his feet were on the ledge of rock. She did
not hear him coming, and when he gently touched her she gave a cry, and
turned on him her large dark eyes, wild and dry, without a tear. 'Is it
a god?' she said, clasping her hands.

'No god, but a mortal man am I, Perseus the slayer of the Gorgon. What
do you here? What cruel men have bound you?'

'I am Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus, king of a strange people. The
lot fell on me, of all the maidens in the city, to be offered to the
monster fish that walks on feet, who is their god. Once a year they give
to him a maiden.'

Perseus thereon drew the sword Herpê, and cut the chains of bronze that
bound the girl as if they had been ropes of flax, and she fell at his
feet, covering her eyes with her hands. Then Perseus saw the long reeds
on the further shore of the river waving and stirring and crashing, and
from them came a monstrous fish walking on feet, and slid into the
water. His long sharp black head showed above the stream as he swam, and
the water behind him showed like the water in the wake of a ship.

'Be still and hide your eyes!' whispered Perseus to the maiden.

He took the goat-skin from his wallet, and held up the Gorgon's head,
with the back of it turned towards him, and he waited till the long
black head was lifted from the river's edge, and the forefeet of that
fish were on the wet ledge of rock. Then he held the head before the
eyes of the monster, and from the head downward it slowly stiffened.
The head and forefeet and shoulders were of stone before the tail had
ceased to lash the water. Then the tail stiffened into a long jagged
sharp stone, and Perseus, wrapping up the head in the goat-skin, placed
it in his wallet. He turned his back to Andromeda, while he did this
lest by mischance her eyes should open and see the head of the Gorgon.
But her eyes were closed, and Perseus found that she had fainted, from
fear of the monster, and from the great heat of the sun. Perseus put the
palms of his hands together like a cup, and stooping to the stream he
brought water, and threw it over the face and neck of Andromeda,
wondering at her beauty. Her eyes opened at last, and she tried to rise
to her feet, but she dropped on her knees, and clung with her fingers to
the rock. Seeing her so faint and weak Perseus raised her in his arms,
with her beautiful head pillowed on his shoulder, where she fell asleep
like a tired child. Then he rose in the air and floated over the sheer
wall of red stone above the river, and flew slowly towards the town.

There were no sentinels at the gate; the long street was empty, for all
the people were in their houses, praying and weeping. But a little girl
stole out of a house near the gate. She was too young to understand why
her father and mother and elder brothers were so sad, and would not take
any notice of her. She thought she would go out and play in the street,
and when she looked up from her play, she saw Perseus bearing the king's
daughter in his arms. The child stared, and then ran into her house,
crying aloud, for she could hardly speak, and pulled so hard at her
mother's gown that her mother rose and followed her to the house door.
The mother gave a joyful cry, her husband and her children ran forth,
and they, too, shouted aloud for pleasure. Their cries reached the
ears of people in other houses, and presently all the folk, as glad as
they had been sorrowful, were following Perseus to the palace of the
king. Perseus walked through the empty court, and stood at the door of
the hall, where the servants came to him, both men and women, and with
tears of joy the women bore Andromeda to the chamber of her mother,
Queen Cassiopeia.


Who can tell how happy were the king and queen, and how gladly they
welcomed Perseus! They made a feast for him, and they sent oxen and
sheep to all the people, and wine, that all might rejoice and make
merry. Andromeda, too, came, pale but smiling, into the hall, and sat
down beside her mother's high seat, listening while Perseus told the
whole story of his adventures. Now Perseus could scarcely keep his eyes
from Andromeda's face while he spoke, and she stole glances at him. When
their eyes met, the colour came into her face again, which glowed like
ivory that a Carian woman has lightly tinged with rose colour, making an
ornament for some rich king. Perseus remembered the message of Hermes,
which Æglê had given him, that if he flew to the east and south he would
find his happiness. He knew that he had found it, if this maiden would
be his wife, and he ended his tale by repeating the message of Hermes.

'The gods speak only truth,' he said, 'and to have made you all happy is
the greatest happiness to Perseus of Argos.' Yet he hoped in his heart
to see a yet happier day, when the rites of marriage should be done
between Andromeda and him, and the young men and maidens should sing the
wedding song before their door.

Andromeda was of one mind with him, and, as Perseus must needs go home,
her parents believed that she could not live without him who had saved
her from such a cruel death. So with heavy hearts they made the marriage
feast, and with many tears Andromeda and her father and mother said
farewell. Perseus and his bride sailed down the great river Ægyptus in
the king's own boat; and at every town they were received with feasts,
and songs, and dances. They saw all the wonderful things of Egypt,
palaces and pyramids and temples and tombs of kings, and at last they
found a ship of the Cretans in the mouth of the Nile. This they hired,
for they carried with them great riches, gold, and myrrh, and ivory,
gifts of the princes of Egypt.



With a steady south wind behind them they sailed to Seriphos, and
landed, and brought their wealth ashore, and went to the house of
Dictys. They found him lonely and sorrowful, for his wife had died, and
his brother, King Polydectes, had taken Danae, and set her to grind corn
in his house, among his slave women. When Perseus heard that word, he
asked, 'Where is King Polydectes?'

'It is his birthday, and he holds his feast among the princes,' said

'Then bring me,' said Perseus, 'the worst of old clothes that any
servant of your house can borrow from a beggar man, if there be a beggar
man in the town.' Such a man there was--he came limping through the door
of the courtyard, and up to the threshold of the house, where he sat
whining, and asking for alms. They gave him food and wine, and Perseus
cried, 'New clothes for old, father, I will give you, and new shoes for
old.' The beggar could not believe his ears, but he was taken to the
baths, and washed, and new clothes were given to him, while Perseus clad
himself in the beggar's rags, and Dictys took charge of the winged shoon
of Hermes and the sword Herpê, and the burnished shield of Athênê. Then
Perseus cast dust and wood ashes on his hair, till it looked foul and
grey, and placed the goat-skin covering and the Gorgon's head in his
wallet, and with the beggar's staff in his hand he limped to the palace
of Polydectes. On the threshold he sat down, like a beggar, and
Polydectes saw him and cried to his servants, 'Bring in that man; is it
not the day of my feast? Surely all are welcome.' Perseus was led in,
looking humbly at the ground, and was brought before the king.

'What news, thou beggar man?' said the king.

'Such news as was to be looked for,' whined Perseus. 'Behold, I am he
who brought no present to the king's feast, seven long years agone, and
now I come back, tired and hungry, to ask his grace.'

'By the splendour of Zeus,' cried Polydectes, 'it is none but the beggar
brat who bragged that he would fetch me such a treasure as lies in no
king's chamber! The beggar brat is a beggar man; how time and travel
have tamed him! Ho, one of you, run and fetch his mother who is grinding
at the mill, that she may welcome her son.'

A servant ran from the hall, and the chiefs of Seriphos mocked at
Perseus. 'This is he who called us farmers and dealers in slaves. Verily
he would not fetch the price of an old cow in the slave market.' Then
they threw at him crusts of bread, and bones of swine, but he stood

Then Danae was led in, clad in vile raiment, but looking like a queen,
and the king cried, 'Go forward, woman: look at that beggar man; dost
thou know thy son?' She walked on, her head high, and Perseus whispered,
'Mother, stand thou beside me, and speak no word!'

'My mother knows me not, or despises me,' said Perseus, 'yet, poor as I
am, I do not come empty-handed. In my wallet is a gift, brought from
very far away, for my lord the king.'

He swung his wallet round in front of him; he took off the covering of
goat-skin, and he held the Gorgon's head on high, by the hair, facing
the king and the chiefs. In one moment they were all grey stones, all
along the hall, and the chairs whereon they sat crashed under the weight
of them, and they rolled on the hard clay floor. Perseus wrapped the
head in the goat-skin, and shut it in the wallet carefully, and cried,
'Mother, look round, and see thy son and thine own revenge.'

Then Danae knew her son, by the sound of his voice, if not by her
eyesight, and she wept for joy. So they two went to the house of Dictys,
and Perseus was cleansed, and clad in rich raiment, and Danae, too, was
apparelled like a free woman, and embraced Andromeda with great joy.

Perseus made the good Dictys king of Seriphos; and he placed the winged
shoes in the temple of Hermes, with the sword Herpê, and the Gorgon's
head, in its goat-skin cover; but the polished shield he laid on the
altar in the temple of Athênê. Then he bade all who served in the
temples come forth, both young and old, and he locked the doors, and he
and Dictys watched all night, with the armed Cretans, the crew of his
ship, that none might enter. Next day Perseus alone went into the temple
of Athênê. It was as it had been, but the Gorgon's head and the
polished shield were gone, and the winged shoon and the sword Herpê had
vanished from the temple of Hermes.

With Danae and Andromeda Perseus sailed to Greece, where he learned that
the sons of King Proetus had driven King Acrisius out of Argos, and that
he had fled to Phthia in the north, where the ancestor of the great
Achilles was king. Thither Perseus went, to see his grandfather, and he
found the young men holding games and sports in front of the palace.
Perseus thought that his grandfather might love him better if he showed
his strength in the games, which were open to strangers, so he entered
and won the race, and the prize for leaping, and then came the throwing
of the disc of bronze. Perseus threw a great cast, far beyond the rest,
but the disc swerved, and fell among the crowd. Then Perseus was afraid,
and ran like the wind to the place where the disc fell. There lay an old
man, smitten sorely by the disc, and men said that he had killed King

Thus the word of the prophetess and the will of Fate were fulfilled.
Perseus went weeping to the King of Phthia, and told him all the truth,
and the king, who knew, as all Greece knew, how Acrisius had tried to
drown his daughter and her child, believed the tale, and said that
Perseus was guiltless. He and Danae and Andromeda dwelt for a year in
Phthia, with the king, and then Perseus with an army of Pelasgians and
Myrmidons, marched south to Argos, and took the city, and drove out his
cousins, the sons of Proetus. There in Argos Perseus, with his mother
and beautiful Andromeda, dwelt long and happily, and he left the kingdom
to his son when he died.

       *       *       *       *       *

_The story of Ulysses is taken mainly from the Iliad, the Odyssey, and
the_ Post Homerica _of Quintus Smyrnæus. As we have no detailed account of
the stealing of the Palladium by Ulysses, use has been made of Helen's
tale about his entry into Troy in the disguise of a beaten beggar.

The chief source of 'The Fleece of Gold' is tradition, with the
Argonautica of Apollonius Rhodius; the fight between Polydeuces and the
Giant is best reported by Theocritus.

No epic or tragedy concerning the early fortunes of Theseus and the
history of Perseus has reached us: summaries in Plutarch and Apollodorus
provide the outlines of the legends.

The descriptions of costume, arms, and mode of life are derived from
Homer and from the 'Mycenæan' relics discovered in the last thirty years
by Dr. Schliemann, Mr. A. J. Evans, and many other explorers.

'The Fleece of Gold,' first published in an American magazine, has also
appeared in America in a little volume (Henry Altemus & Co.). It is here
reprinted by permission of Messrs. Altemus, with some changes and

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber's note:

Minor spelling and typographical errors have been corrected without

Some Illustrations have been moved to avoid splitting paragraphs and
make smoother reading.

There are inconsistencies in the use of ligatures in some of the names.
These inconsistencies have been left as in the original text.

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