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river. As a means of averting the danger, he imposed upon
Jason the task, deemed desperate, of bringing back to Iolchos
the " Golden Fleece." The result was the memorable Argo-
nautic expedition of the ship Argo, to the distant land of
Colchis, on the eastern coast of the Black Sea. Jason invited
the noblest youth of Greece to join him in this voyage of
danger and glory. Fifty illustrious persons joined him,
including Hercules and Theseus, Castor and Pollux, Mopsus,
and Orpheus. They proceeded along the coast of Thrace,
up the Hellespont, past the southern coast of the Propontis,
through the Bosphorus, onward past Bithynia and Pontus,
and arrived at the river Phasis, south of the Caucasian
mountains, where dwelt iEetes, whom they sought. But he
refused to surrender the golden fleece except on conditions
which were almost impossible. Medea, however, his daugh-
ter, fell in love with Jason, and by her means, assisted by
Hecate, he succeeded in yoking the ferocious bulls and
plowing the field, and sowing it with dragons' teeth. Still
iEetes refused the reward, and meditated the murder of the
Argonauts; but Medea lulled to sleep the dragon which
guarded the fleece, and fled with her lover and his compan-
ions on board the Argo. The adventurers returned to Iolchos
in safety, after innumerable perils, and by courses irreconcil

Chap. XIV.] The Argonauts. 163

able with all geographical truths. But Jason could avenge
himself on Pelias only through the stratagem of his wife, and
bv her magical arts she induced the daughters of Pelias to cut
up their father, and to cast his limbs into a caldron, believing
that by this method he would be restored to the vigor of
youth, and Jason was thus revenged, and obtained possession
of the kingdom, which he surrendered to a son of Pelias, and
retired with his wife to Corinth. Here he lived ten years in
prosperity, but repudiated Medea in order to marry Glance,
the daughter of the king of Corinth ; Medea avenged the
insult by the poisoned robe she sent to Glance as a marriage
present, while Jason perished, while asleep, from a fragment
of his ship Argo, which fell upon him. Such is the legend
of the Argonauts, which is typical of the naval adventures
of the maritime Greeks, and their restless enterprises.

The legend of Sisyphus is connected with the early history
of Corinth. Sisvphus was the son of JEolus, and

ii • tt t • -it Sisyphus.

founded this wealthy city. He was distinguished
for cunning and deceit. He detected Antolycus, the son of
Hermes, by marking his sheep under the foot, so that the
arch-thief was obliged to acknowledge the superior craft of
the JEolid, and restore the plunder. He discovered the
amour of Zeus with the nymph iEgina, and told her mother
where she was carried, which so incensed the " father of gods
and men," that he doomed Sisyphus, in Hades, to the per-
petual punishment of rolling up a hill a heavy stone, which,
as soon as it reached the summit, rolled back again in spite
of all his efforts. This legend illustrates the never ending
toils and disappointments of men.

Sisyphus was the grandfather of Bellerophon, whose beau-
ty made him the object of a violent passion on the „ ,

J J x Bellerophon.

part of Antea, the wife of a king of Argos. He
rejected her advances, and became as violently hated. She
made false accusations, and persuaded her husband to kill
him. Not wishing to commit the murder directly, he sent
him to his son-in-law, the king of Sykia, in Asia Minor, with
a folded tablet full of destructive symbols, which required

164 Legends of Ancient Greece. [Chap. xiy.

him to perform perilous undertakings, which he successfully-
performed. He was then recognized as the son of a god, and
married the daughter of the king. This legend reminds us
of Joseph in Egypt.

We are compelled to omit other interesting legends of the
Solids, the sons and daughters of iEolus, among:


which are those which record the feats of Atalanta,
and turn to those which relate to the Pelopids, who gave to
the Peloponnesus its early poetic interest. Of this remarkable
race were Tantalus, Pelops, Atreus, Thyestes, Agamemnon,
Menelaus, Helen, and Hermione, all of whom figured in the
ancient legendary genealogies.

Tantalus resided, at a remote antiquity, near Mount Sipy-

lus, in Lydia, and was a man of immense wealth,


and pre-eminently favored both by gods and
men. Intoxicated by prosperity, he stole nectar and ambro-
sia from the table of the gods, and revealed their secrets, for
which he was punished in the under world by perpetual
hunger and thirst, yet placed with fruit and water near him,
which eluded his grasp when he attempted to touch them.
He had two children, Pelops and Niobe. The latter was
blessed with seven sons and seven daughters, which so in-
flamed her with pride that she claimed equality with the
goddesses Latona and Diana, who favored her by their friend-
ship. This presumption so incensed the goddesses, that they
killed all her children, and Niobe wept herself to death, and
was turned into a stone, a striking image of excessive grief.
Pelops was a Lydian king, but was expelled from Asia by
Ilus, king of Troy, for his impieties. He came to
Greece, and beat Hippodamenia, whose father was
king of Pisa, near Olympia, in Elis, in a chariot race, when
death was the penalty of failure. He succeeded by the fa-
vor of Poseidon, and married the princess, and became king
of Pisa. He gave his name to the whole peninsula, which
he was enabled to do from the great wealth he brought from
Lydia, thus connecting the early settlements of the Pelopon-
nesus with Asia Minor. He had numerous children, who

Chap. XIV.] Pelops and Cecrops. 165

became the sovereigns of different cities and states in Argos,
Elis, Laconia, and Arcadia. One of them, Atreus, was king
of Mycenae, who inherited the sceptre of Zeus, and whose
wealth was provei'bial. The sceptre was made by Hephaes-
tus (Vulcan) and given to Zeus ; he gave it to Hermes ;
Hermes presented it to Pelops ; and Pelops gave it to At-
reus, the ruler of men. Atreus and his brother, Thyestes,
bequeathed it to Agamemnon, who ruled at Mycenae, while
his brother, Menelaus, reigned at Sparta. It was the wife
of Menelaus, Helen, who was carried away by Paris, which
occasioned the Trojan war. Agamemnon was killed on his
return from Troy, through the treachery of his wife Clytem-
nestra, who was seduced by .zEgisthus, the son of Thyestes.
His only son, Orestes, afterward avenged the murder, and
recovered Mycenae. Hermione, the only daughter of Mene-
laus and Helen, was given in marriage to the son of Achilles,
Neoptolemas, who reigned in Thessaly. Mycenae maintained
its independence to the Persian invasion, and is rendered
immortal by the Iliad and Odyssey. On the subsequent
ascendency of Sparta, the bones of Orestes were brought
from Tegea,' where they had reposed for generations, in a
coffin seven cubits long.

The other States of the Peloponnesus, have also their
genealogical legends, which trace their ancestors to gods and
goddesses, which I omit, and turn to those which belong to

The great Deucalian deluge, according to legend, happened
during the reign of Ogyges, 1796 years b. c, and The Deuca-
1020 before the first Olympiad. After a long liandeI ^ e -
interval, Cecrops, half man and half serpent, became king of
the country. By some he is represented as a Pelasgian, by
others, as an Egyptian. He introduced the first elements of
civilized life — marriage, the twelve political divisions of Atti-
ca, and a new form of worship, abolishing the bloody sacrifices
to Zeus. He gave to the country the name of Cecropia.
During his reign there ensued a dispute between Athense
and Poseidon, respecting the possession of the Acropolis.

106 Legends of Ancient Greece. [Chap XIV.

Poseidon struck the rocks with his trident, and produced a
well of salt water; Athenae planted an olive tree. The
twelve Olympian gods decided the dispute, and awarded to
Athenae the coveted possession, and she ever afterward
remained the protecting deity of Athens.

Among his descendants was Theseus, the great legendary
hero of Attica, who was one of the Arsronauts, and


also one of those who hunted the Calidomian
boar. He freed Attica from robbers and wild beasts, con-
quered the celebrated Minotaur of Crete, and escaped from
the labyrinth by the aid of Ariadne, whom he carried off and
abandoned. In the Iliad he is represented as fighting
against the centaurs, and in the Hesiodic poems he is an
amorous knight-errant, misguided by the beautiful JEgle.
Among his other feats, inferior only to those of Hercules, he
vanquished the Amazons — a nation of courageous and hardy
women, who came from the country about Caucasus, and
whose principal seats were near the modern Trezibond.
They invaded Thrace, Asia Minor, Greece, Syria, Egypt,
and the islands of the JEgean. The foundation of several
towns in Asia Minor is ascribed to them. In*the time of
Theseus, this semi-mythical and semi-historical race of female
warriors invaded Attica, and even penetrated to Athens, but
were conquered by the hero king. Allusion is made to their
defeat throughout the literature of Athens. Although The-
seus was a purely legendary personage, the Athenians were
accustomed to regard him as a great political reformer and
legislator, who consolidated the Athenian commonwealth,
distributing the people into three classes.

The legends pertaining to Thebes occupy a prominent
Theban le- place in Grecian mythology. Cadmus, the son of
een s ' Agenor, king of Phoenicia, leaves his country

in search of his sister Europa, with whom Zeus, in the form
of a bull, had fallen in love, and carried on his back to Crete.
He first goes to Thrace, and thence to Delphi, to learn tidings
of Europa, but the god directs him not to prosecute his
search ; he is to follow the guidance of a cow, and to found a

Chap. XIY.] Cadmus and CEdipus. 167

city where the animal should lie clown. The cow stops at the
site of Thebes. He marries Harmonia, the daughter of Ares
and Aphrodite, after having killed the dragons which guarded
the fountain Allia, and sowed their teeth. From these arm-
ed men sprang up, who killed each other, except five. From
these arose the five great families of Thebes, called Sparti.
One of the Sparti marries a daughter of Cadmus,
whose issue was Pentheus, who became king. It
was in his reign that Dionysus appears as a god in Bceotia,
the giver of the vine, and obtains divine honors in Thebes.
Among the descendants of Cadmus was Laius. He is fore-
warned by an oracle that any son he should beget would
destroy him, and hence he caused the infant QEdipus to be
exposed on Mount Cithseron. Here the herdsmen of Poly-
bus, king of Corinth, find him, and convey him to their lord
who brings him up as his own child. Distressed by the
taunts of companions as to his unknown parentage, he goes to
Delphi, to inquire the name of his real father. He is told not
to return to his own country, for it was his destiny to kill his
father and become the husband of his mother. Knowing no
country but Corinth, he pursues his way to Bceotia, and meets
Laius in a chariot drawn by mules. A quarrel ensues from
the insolence of attendants, and CEdipus kills Laius. The
brother of Laius, Creon, succeeds to the throne of Thebes.
The country around is vexed with a terrible monster,
with the face of a Avoman, the wings of a bird, and the
tail of a lion, called the Sphinx, who has learned from the
Muses a riddle, which she proposed to the Thebans, and on
every failure to resolve it one of them was devoured. But
no person can solve the riddle. The king offers his crown
and his sister Jocasta, wife of Laius, in marriage to any one
who would explain the riddle. CEdipus solves it,
and is made king of Thebes, and marries Jocasta.
A fatal curse rests upon him. Jocasta, informed by the gods
of her relationship, hangs herself in agony. CEdipus endures
great miseries, as well as his children, whom he curses, and
who quarrel about their inheritance, which quarrel leads to

168 Legends of Ancient Greece. [Chap. xiy.

the siege of Thebes by Aclrastus, king of Argos, who seeks to
restore Polyuices — one of the sons of (Edipus, to the throne
of which he was dispossessed. The Argeian chieftains
readily enter into the enterprise, assisted by numerous aux-
iliaries from Arcadia and Messenia. The Cadmeans, assisted
by the Phocians, march out to resist the invaders, who are
repulsed, in consequence of the magnanimity of a generous
youth, who offers himself a victim to Ares. Eteocles then
proposed to his brother, Polynices, the rival claimants, to
decide the quarrel by single combat. It resulted in the death
of both, and then in the renewal of the general contest, and
the destruction of the Argeian chiefs, and Adrastus's return
to Argos in shame and woe.

But Creon, the father of the self-sacrificing Menoeceus,
succeeds on the death of the rival brothers, to the
administration of Thebes. A second siege takes
place, conducted by Adrastus, and the sons of those who had
been slain. Thebes now falls, and Thersander, the son of
Polynices, is made king. The legends of Thebes have fur-
nished the great tragedians Sophocles and Eurijndes, with
their finest subjects. In the fable of the Sphinx we trace a
connection between Thebes and ancient Egypt.

But all the legends of ancient Greece yield in interest to
that of Troy, which Homer chose as the subject of his im-
mortal epic.

Dardanus, a son of Zeus, is the primitive ancestor of the
Troian kin^s, whose seat of power was Mount Ida.

Dardanus. TT . „ . , , .

His son, Erichthom'us, became the richest ot man-
kind, and had in his pastures three thousand mares. His son,
Tros, was the father of Ilus, Assarcus, and Ganymede. The
latter was stolen by Zeus to be his cup-bearer.

Ilus was the father of Laomedon, under whom Apollo and
Poseidon, in mortal form, went through a tempo-
rary servitude — the former tending his flocks, the
latter building the walls of Ilium. Laomedon was killed by
Hercules, in punishment for his perfidy in giving him mortal
horses for his destruction of a sea monster, instead of the im-

Chap. XIV.] The Trojan War. 169

mortal horses, as he had promised, the gift of Zeus to

Among the sons of Laomedon was Priam, who was placed
upon the throne. He was the father of illustrious

tt t t-» Priam.

sons, among whom were Hector and Paris.
The latter was exposed on Mount Ida, to avoid the ful-
fillment of an evil prophecy, but grew up beautiful and
active among the flocks and herds. Is was to him that the
three goddesses, Heise, Athense, and Aphrodite (Juno, Mi-
nerva, andVenus), presented their respective claims to beauty,
which he awarded to Aphrodite, and by whom he was prom-
ised, in recompense, Helen, wife of the Spartan king, Men-
elaus, and daughter of Zeus. Aphrodite caused ships to be
built for him, and he safely arrived in Sparta, and was hosr
pitably entertained by the unsuspecting monarch. In the
absence of Menelaus in Crete, Paris carries away to Troy both
Helen, and a large sum of money belonging to the
king. Menelaus hastens home, informed of the per-
fidy, and consults his brother, Agamemnon, and the venerable
Nestor. They interest the Argeian chieftains, who resolve to
recover Helen. Ten years are spent in preparations, consisting
of one thousand one hundred and eighty-six ships, and one
hundred thousand men, comprised of heroes from all parts of
Greece, among whom are Ajax, Diomedes, Achilles, and
Odysseus. The heroes set sail from Aulis, and after various
mistakes, reach Asia.

Meanwhile the Trojans assemble, with a large body of
allies, to resist the invaders, who demand the re- The Trojan
dress of a great wrong. The Trojans are routed war-
in battle, and return within their walls. After various for-
tunes, the city is taken, at the end of ten years, by stratagem,
and the Grecian chieftains who were not killed seek to return
to their own country, with Helen among the spoils. They
meet with many misfortunes, from the anger of the gods, for
not having spared the altars of Troy. Their chieftains quar-
rel among themselves, and even Agamemnon and Menelaus
lose their fraternal friendship. After long wanderings, and

170 Legends of Ancient Greece. [Chap. XIV.

bitter disappointments, and protracted hopes, the heroes
return to their homes — such as war had spared — to recount ,
their adventures and sufferings, and reconstruct their shat-
tered States, and mend their broken fortunes — a type of wax-
in all the ages, calamitous even to conquerors. The wander-
ings of Ulysses have a peculiar fascination, since they form
the subject of the Odyssey, one of the noblest poems of anti-
quity. Nor are the adventures of iEneas scarcely less
interesting, as presented by Virgil, who traces the first settle-
ment of Latium to the Trojan exiles. We should like to dwell
on the siege of Troy, and its great results, but the subject
is too extensive and complicated. The student of the great
event, whether historical or mystical, must read the detailed
accounts in the immortal epics of Homer. We have only
space for the grand outlines,which can be scarcely more than

Scarcely inferior to the legend of Troy, is that which
The lesrend recounts the return of the descendants of Hercules

of the Her- . ... i t-» i

aciidas. to the ancient inheritance on the Peloponnesus,
which, it is supposed, took place three or four hundred
years before authentic history begins, or eighty years after
the Trojan war.

We have briefly described the geographical position of the
most important part of ancient Greece — the Peloponnesus —
almost an island, separated from the continent only by a nar-
row gulf, resembling in shape a palm-tree, indented on all
sides by bays, and intersected with mountains, and inhabited
by a simple and warlike race.

We have seen that the descendants of Perseus, who was a
descendant of Danaus, reigned at Mycenre in Argolis —
among whom was Amphitryon, who fled to Thebes, on the
murder of his uncle, with Alemenahis wife. Then Hercules,
to whom the throne of Mycenae legitimately belonged, was
born, but deprived of his inheritance by Eurystheus — a
younger branch of the Perseids — in consequence of the anger
and jealousy of Juno, and to whom, by the fates, Hercules
was made subject. We have seen how the sons of Hercules,

Chap. XIY.] Return of the HcraclidoB. 171

under Hyllos, attempted to regain their kingdom, but were
defeated, and retreated among the Dorians.

After three generations, the Heraclidpe set out to regain
their inheritance, assisted by the Dorians. They Their settie-

i i r- n t • -i • munt in

at length, after five expeditions, gained possession Sparta,
of the country, and divided it among the various chieftains,
who established their dominion in Argos, Mycenss, and
Sparta, which, at the time of the Trojan war, was ruled by
Agamemnon and Menelaus, descendants of Pelops. In the
next generation, Corinth was conquered by the Dorians,
under an Heraclide prince.

The Achseans, thus expelled by the Dorians from the south
and east of the Peloponnesus, fell back upon the northwest
coast, and drove away the Ionian?, and formed a confederacy
of twelve cities, which in later times became of considerable
importance. The dispossessed Ionians joined their The wander-
brethren of the same race in Attica, but the dispossessed
rugged peninsula was unequal to support the in- Acll8eans -
creased population, and a great migration took place to the
Cyclades and the coasts of Lydia. The colonists there built
twelve cities, about one hundred and forty years after the
Trojan war. Another body of Acha3ans, driven out of the
Peloponnesus by the Dorians, first settled in Bceotia, and
afterward, with ^Eolians, sailed to the isle of Lesbos, where
they founded six cities, and then to the opposite mainland.
At the foot of Mount Ida they founded the twelve iEolian
cities, of which Smyrna was the principal.

Crete was founded by a body of Dorians and conquered
Achasans. Rhodes received a similar colony. So
did the island of Cos. The cities of Lindus,
lalysus, Camirus, Cos, with Cnidus and Halicarnassus, on the
mainland, formed the Dorian Hexapolis of Caria, inferior,
however, to the Ionian and iEolian colonies.

At the beginning of the mythical age the dominant
Hellenic races were the Achteans and JEolians ; at The Dorians

. ■ . and Ionians

the close, the Ionians and Dorians were predomi- become the

mi t -i -i i • • • leading

nant. ihe Ionians extended their maritime pos- tribes.

172 Legends of Ancient Greece. [Chap. XIY.

sessions from Attica to the Asiatic colonies across the iEgean,
and gradually took the lead of the Asiatic iEolians, and
formed a great maritime empire under the supremacy of
Athens. The Hellenic world ultimately was divided and
convulsed by the great contest for supremacy between the
Dorians and Ionians, until the common danger from the
Persian invasion united them together for a time.

Thus far we have only legend to guide us in the early
history of Greece. The historical period begins with the
First oiym- first Olympiad, b. c. 776. Before this all is uncer-
of'thewttor- tain, yet as probable as the events of English his-
ic penod. tory in the mythical period between the departure
of the Romans and the establishment of the Anglo-Saxon
kingdom. The history is not all myth ; neither is it clearly

The various Hellenic tribes, though separated by political
Grecian ambition, were yet kindred in language and institu-
leagues. tions. They formed great leagues, or associations,

of neighboring cities, for the performance of religious rites.
The Amphictyonic Council, which became subsequently so
famous, was made up of Thessalians, Boeotians, Dorians,
Ionians, Achaeans, Locrians, and Phocians — all Hellenic in
race. Their great centre was the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
The different tribes or nations also came together regularly
to take part in the four great religious festivals or games —
the Olympic, Pythian, Isthmian, and Nemoean — the two for-
mer of which were celebrated every four years.

In the Homeric age the dominant State was Achsea, whose
Early domi- capital was Mycenaj. The next in power was
nant states. Lacedsemon. After the Dorian conquest, Argos
was the first, Sparta the second, and Messenia the third State
in importance. Argos, at the head of a large confederacy of
cities on the northeast of the Peloponnesus, was governed by
Phidon — an irresponsible ruler, a descendant of Hercules, to
whom is inscribed the coinage of silver and copper money,
and the introduction of weights and measures. Pie flourished
b. c. 747.

Chap, xiv.] Historical Importance of Legends. 173

All these various legends, though unsupported by history,
have a great ethical importance, as well as poetic Interestt0
interest. The passions, habits, and adventures of tL^endsof
a primitive and warlike race are presented by the Greece -
poets with transcendent effect, and we read lessons of human
nature as in the dramas of Shakespeare. Hence, one of the
most learned and dignified of the English historians deems it
worthy of his pen to devote to these myths a volume of his
noble work. Nor is it misplaced labor. These legends fur-
nished subjects to the tragic and epic poets of antiquity, as
well as to painters and sculptors, in all the ages of art. They
are identified with the development of Grecian genius, and are
as imperishable as history itself. They were to the Greeks re-
alities, and represent all that is vital in their associations and
worship. They stimulated the poetic faculty, and taught les-
sons of moral wisdom which all nations respect and venerate.
They contributed to enrich both literature and art. They
make JSschylus, Euripides, Pindar, Homer, and Hesiod great
monumental pillars of the progress of the human race.
Thei'efore, we will not willingly let those legends die in our
memories or hearts.

They are particularly important as shedding light on the

manners, customs, and institutions of the ancient Tbeu-Mstor-
' ' ical import-

Greeks, although they give no reliable historical ance -

facts. They are memorials of the first state of Grecian socie-
ty, essentially different from the Oriental world. We see in
them the germs of political constitutions — the rise of liberty
— the pre-eminence of families which forms the foundation for
oligarchy, or the ascendency of nobles. We see also the first

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