land laid low and helpless. They quickly flayed the beast, and the
heroes who had shared in the hunt divided the flesh among them; but the
head and the bristly hide they offered to Meleager.
"'Not to me does the prize belong,' he cried, 'but to Atalanta, the
swift-footed huntress. For the first wound - the true death stroke,
indeed - was given by her; and to her, woman though she be, all honor
and the prize must be awarded.'
"With these words, he bore the grinning head and the bristly hide to
the young huntress, and laid them at her feet. Then his uncles, the
brothers of Queen Althea, rushed angrily forward, saying that no woman
should ever bear a prize away from them; and they seized the hide, and
would have taken it away, had not Meleager forbidden them. Yet they
would not loose their hold upon the prize, but drew their swords, and
wrathfully threatened Meleager's life.
"The hero's heart grew hot within him, and he shrank not from the
affray. Long and fearful was the struggle - uncles against nephew; but
in the end the brothers of Althea lay bleeding upon the ground, while
the victor brought again the boar's hide, and laid it the second time
at Atalanta's feet. The fair huntress took the prize, and carried it
away with her to deck her father's hall in the pleasant Arcadian land.
And the heroes, when they had feasted nine other days with King Oineus,
betook themselves to their own homes.
"But the hearts of the Acarnanian hunters were bitter toward Meleager,
because no part of the wild boar was awarded to them. They called
their chiefs around them, and all their brave men, and made war upon
King Oineus and Meleager. Many battles did they fight round Calydon;
yet so long as Meleager led his warriors to the fray, the Acarnanians
fared but ill.
"Then Queen Althea, filled with grief for her brothers' untimely fate,
forgot her love for her son, and prayed that her Acarnanian kinsmen
might prevail against him. Upon the hard earth she knelt: she beat the
ground with her hands, and heaped the dust about her; and, weeping
bitter tears, she called upon Hades to avenge her of Meleager. And
even as she prayed, the pitiless Furies, wandering amid the darkness,
heard her cries, and came, obedient to her wishes.
"When Meleager heard that his mother had turned against him, he
withdrew in sorrow to his own house, and sought comfort and peace with
his wife, fair Cleopatra; and he would not lead his warriors any more
to battle against the Acarnanians. Then the enemy besieged the city: a
fearful tumult rose about the gates; the high towers were assaulted,
and everywhere the Calydonians were driven back dismayed and beaten.
"With uplifted hands and tearful eyes, King Oineus and the elders of
the city came to Meleager, and besought him to take the field again.
Rich gifts they offered him. They bade him choose for his own the most
fertile farm in Calydon - at the least fifty acres, half for tillage and
half for vines; but he would not listen to them.
"The din of battle thickened outside the gates; the towers shook with
the thundering blows of the besiegers. Old Oineus with trembling limbs
climbed up the stairway to his son's secluded chamber, and, weeping,
prayed him to come down and save the city from fire and pillage. Still
he kept silent, and went not. His sisters came, and his most trusted
friends. 'Come, Meleager,' they prayed, 'forget thy grief, and think
only of our great need. Aid thy people, or we shall all perish!'
"None of these prayers moved him. The gates were beaten down; the
enemy was within the walls; the tide of battle shook the very tower
where Meleager sat; the doom of Calydon seemed to be sealed. Then came
the fair Cleopatra, and knelt before her husband, and besought him to
withhold no longer the aid which he alone could give. 'O Meleager,'
she sobbed, 'none but thou can save us. Wilt thou sit still, and see
the city laid in ashes, thy dearest friends slaughtered, and thy wife
and sweet babes dragged from their homes and sold into cruel slavery?'
"Then Meleager rose and girded on his armor. To the streets he
hastened, shouting his well-known battle cry. Eagerly and hopefully
did the Calydonian warriors rally around him. Fiercely did they meet
the foe. Terrible was the bloodshed. Back from the battered gates and
the crumbling wall the Acarnanian hosts were driven. A panic seized
upon them. They turned and fled, and not many of them escaped the
swords of Meleager's men.
"Again there was peace in Calydon, and the orchards of King Oineus
blossomed and bore fruit as of old; but the gifts and large rewards
which the elders had promised to Meleager were forgotten. He had saved
his country, but his countrymen were ungrateful.
"Meleager again laid aside his war gear, and sought the quiet of his
own home and the cheering presence of fair Cleopatra. For the
remembrance of his mother's curse and his country's ingratitude weighed
heavily on his mind, and he cared no longer to mingle with his fellow
"Then it was that Althea's hatred of her son waxed stronger, and she
thought of the half-burned brand which she had hidden, and of the words
which the Fatal Sisters had spoken so many years before.
"'He is no longer my son,' said she, 'and why should I withhold the
burning of the brand? He can never again bring comfort to my heart;
for the blood of my brothers, whom I loved, is upon his head.'
"And she took the charred billet from the place where she had hidden
it, and cast it again into the flames. And as it slowly burned away,
so did the life of Meleager wane. Lovingly he bade his wife farewell;
softly he whispered a prayer to the unseen powers above; and as the
flickering flames of the fatal brand died into darkness, he gently
breathed his last.
"Then sharp-toothed remorse seized upon Althea, and the mother love
which had slept in her bosom was reawakened. Too late, also, the folk
of Calydon remembered who it was that had saved them from slavery and
death. Down into the comfortless halls of Hades, Althea hastened to
seek her son's forgiveness. The loving heart of Cleopatra, surcharged
with grief, was broken; and her gentle spirit fled to the world of
shades to meet that of her hero-husband. Meleager's sisters would not
be consoled, so great was the sorrow which had come upon them; and they
wept and lamented day and night, until kind Artemis in pity for their
youth changed them into the birds which we call Meleagrides."
Autolycus was a famous mountain chief who lived in rude state on the
slopes of Parnassus and was noted for his courage and cunning. He was
the grandfather of Odysseus (Ulysses), to whom the story is supposed to
have been related.
THE CHOICE OF HERCULES
When Hercules was a fair-faced youth, and life was all before him, he
went out one morning to do an errand for his stepfather. But as he
walked his heart was full of bitter thoughts; and he murmured because
others no better than himself were living in ease and pleasure, while
for him there was naught but a life of labor and pain.
As he thought upon these things, he came to a place where two roads
met; and he stopped, not certain which one to take.
The road on his right was hilly and rough; there was no beauty in it or
about it: but he saw that it led straight toward the blue mountains in
the far distance.
The road on his left was broad and smooth, with shade trees on either
side, where sang an innumerable choir of birds; and it went winding
among green meadows, where bloomed countless flowers: but it ended in
fog and mist long before it reached the wonderful blue mountains in the
While the lad stood in doubt as to these roads, he saw two fair women
coming toward him, each on a different road. The one who came by the
flowery way reached him first, and Hercules saw that she was as
beautiful as a summer day.
Her cheeks were red, her eyes sparkled; she, spoke warm, persuasive
words. "O noble youth," she said, "be no longer bowed down with labor
and sore trials, but come and follow me, I will lead you into pleasant
paths, where there are no storms to disturb and no troubles to annoy.
You shall live in ease, with one unending round of music and mirth; and
you shall not want for anything that makes life joyous - sparkling wine,
or soft couches, or rich robes, or the loving eyes of beautiful
maidens. Come with me, and life shall be to you a day-dream of
By this time the other fair woman had drawn near, and she now spoke to
the lad. "I have nothing to promise you," said she, "save that which
you shall win with your own strength. The road upon which I would lead
you is uneven and hard, and climbs many a hill, and descends into many
a valley and quagmire. The views which you will sometimes get from the
hilltops are grand and glorious, but the deep valleys are dark, and the
ascent from them is toilsome. Nevertheless, the road leads to the blue
mountains of endless fame, which you see far away on the horizon. They
cannot be reached without labor; in fact, there is nothing worth having
that must not be won by toil. If you would have fruits and flowers,
you must plant them and care for them; if you would gain the love of
your fellow men, you must love them and suffer for them; if you would
enjoy the favor of Heaven, you must make yourself worthy of that favor;
if you would have eternal fame, you must not scorn the hard road that
leads to it."
Then Hercules saw that this lady, although she was as beautiful as the
other, had a countenance pure and gentle, like the sky on a balmy
morning in May.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Some call me Labor," she answered, "but others know me as Virtue."
Then he turned to the first lady. "And what is your name?" he asked.
"Some call me Pleasure," she said, with a bewitching smile, "but I
choose to be known as the Joyous and Happy One."
"Virtue," said Hercules, "I will take thee as my guide! The road of
labor and honest effort shall be mine, and my heart shall no longer
cherish bitterness or discontent."
And he put his hand into that of Virtue, and entered with her upon the
straight and forbidding road which leads to the fair blue mountains on
the pale and distant horizon.
ALPHEUS AND ARETHUSA
In Arcadia there is a little mountain stream called Alpheus. It flows
through woods and meadows and among the hills for many miles, and then
it sinks beneath the rocks. Farther down the valley it rises again,
and dancing and sparkling, as if in happy chase of something, it
hurries onward towards the plain; but soon it hides itself a second
time in underground caverns, making its way through rocky tunnels where
the light of day has never been. Then at last it gushes once more from
its prison chambers; and, flowing thence with many windings through the
fields of Elis, it empties its waters into the sea.
Years ago there was no river Alpheus; the channel through which it
flows had not then been hollowed out, and rank grass and tall bending
reeds grew thick where now its waters sparkle brightest. It was then
that a huntsman, bearing the name of Alpheus, ranged through the woods,
and chased the wild deer among the glades and glens of sweet Arcadia.
Far away by the lonely sea dwelt his fair young wife, and his lovely
babe Orsilochus; but dearer than home or wife or babe to Alpheus, was
the free life of the huntsman among the mountain solitudes. For he
loved the woods and the blue sky and the singing birds, and the frail
flowers upon the hillside; and he longed to live among them always,
where his ears could listen to their music, and his eyes look upon
"O Artemis, huntress queen!" he cried, "I ask but one boon of thee.
Let me ramble forever among these happy scenes!"
Artemis heard him, and answered his prayer. For, as he spoke, a bright
vision passed before him. A sweet-faced maiden went tripping down the
valley, culling the choicest flowers, and singing of hope and joy and
the blessedness of a life pure and true. It was Arethusa, the Arcadian
nymph, by some supposed to be a daughter of old Nereus, the elder of
Then Alpheus heard no more the songs of the birds, or the music of the
breeze; he saw no longer the blue sky above him, or the nodding flowers
at his feet: he was blind and deaf to all the world, save only the
beautiful nymph. Arethusa was the world to him.
He reached out his arms to catch her; but, swifter than a frightened
deer, she fled down the valley, through deep ravines and grassy glades
and rocky caverns underneath the hills, and out into the grassy
meadows, and across the plains of Elis, to the sounding sea. And
Alpheus followed, forgetful of everything but the fleeing vision.
When, at length, he reached the sea, he looked back; and, lo! he was no
longer a huntsman, but a river doomed to meander forever among the
scenes, for love of which he had forgotten his wife and his babe and
the duties of life. It was thus that Artemis answered his prayer.
And men say that Arethusa, the nymph, was afterwards changed into a
fountain; and that to this day, in the far-off island of Ortygia, that
fountain gushes from the rocks in an unfailing, crystal stream. But
Orsilochus, the babe forgotten by his father, grew to manhood, and in
course of time became the king of the seafaring people of Messene.
THE GOLDEN APPLE
RELATED BY CHEIRON THE CENTAUR
"There is a cavern somewhere on Mount Pelion larger by far and a
thousand times more beautiful than this; but its doorway is hidden to
mortals, and but few men have ever stood beneath its vaulted roof. In
that cavern the ever-living ones who oversee the affairs of men, once
held high carnival; for they had met there at the marriage feast of
King Peleus, and the woods and rocks of mighty Pelion echoed with the
sound of their merry-making. But wherefore should the marriage feast
of a mortal be held in such a place and with guests so noble and so
great? I will tell you.
"After Peleus had escaped from a plot which some wicked men had made
for his destruction, he dwelt long time with me, who am his
grandfather. But the days seemed long to him, thus shut out from
fellowship with men, and the sun seemed to move slowly in the heavens;
and often he would walk around to the other side of the mountain, and
sitting upon a great rock, he would gaze for long hours upon the purple
waters of the sea. One morning as thus he sat, he saw the sea nymph
Thetis come up out of the waves and walk upon the shore beneath him.
Fairer than a dream was she - more beautiful than any picture of nymph
or goddess. She was clad in a robe of green silk, woven by the sea
maidens in their watery grottoes; and there was a chaplet of pearls
upon her head, and sandals of sparkling silver were upon her feet.
"As Peleus gazed upon this lovely creature, he heard a voice whispering
in his ear. It was the voice of wise Athena.
"'Most luckless of mortal men,' she said, 'there is recompense in store
for those who repent of their wrong-doing, and who, leaving the paths
of error, turn again to the road of virtue. The immortals have seen
thy sorrow for the evil deeds of thy youth, and they have looked with
pity upon thee in thy misfortunes. And now thy days of exile and of
sore punishment are drawing to an end. Behold the silver-footed
Thetis, most beautiful of the nymphs of the sea, whom even the
immortals have wooed in vain! She has been sent to this shore, to be
won and wedded by thee.'
"Peleus looked up to see the speaker of these words, but he beheld only
a blue cloud resting above the mountain-top; he turned his eyes
downward again, and, to his grief, the silver-footed Thetis had
vanished in the waves. All day he sat and waited for her return, but
she came not. When darkness began to fall he sought me in my cave
hall, and told me what he had seen and heard; and I taught him how to
win the sea nymph for his bride.
"So when the sun again gilded the crags of Pelion, brave Peleus hid
himself among the rocks close by the sea-washed shore, and waited for
the coming of the silver-footed lady of the sea. In a little time she
rose, beautiful as the star of morning, from the waves. She sat down
upon the beach, and dallied with her golden tresses, and sang sweet
songs of a happy land in the depths of the sounding sea. Peleus,
bearing in mind what I had taught him, arose from his hiding-place, and
caught the beauteous creature in his arms. In vain did she struggle to
leap into the waves. Seven times she changed her form as he held her:
by turns she changed into a fountain of water, into a cloud of mist,
into a burning flame, and into a senseless rock. But Peleus held her
fast; and she changed then into a tawny lion, and then into a tall
tree, and lastly she took her own matchless form again.
"Then Peleus held the lovely Thetis by the hand, and they walked long
time together upon the beach, while the birds sang among the trees on
Pelion's leafy slopes, and the dolphins sported in the waters at their
feet. Thus Peleus wooed the silver-footed lady, and won her love, and
she promised to be his bride. Then the immortals were glad; and they
fitted up the great cavern on Mount Pelion for a banquet hall, and made
therein a wedding feast, such as was never seen before. The vaulted
roof of the cavern was decked with gems which shone like the stars of
heaven; a thousand torches, held by lovely mountain nymphs, flamed from
the niches in the high walls; and upon the floor of polished marble,
tables for a thousand guests were ranged.
"When the wedding feast was ready, all those who live on high Olympus,
and all the immortals who dwell upon the earth, came to rejoice with
King Peleus and his matchless bride; and they brought rich presents for
the bridegroom, such as were never given to another man. One gave him
a suit of armor, rich and fair, a wonder to behold, which lame Vulcan
with rare skill had wrought and fashioned. One bestowed on him the
peerless horses, Ballos and Xanthos, and a deftly wrought chariot with
trimmings of gold. And I, one of the least of the guests, gave him an
ashen spear which I had cut on the mountain top and fashioned with my
"At the tables sat Zeus, the father of gods and men; and his wife, the
white-armed Hera; and smile-loving Aphrodite; and gray-eyed Athena; and
all the wisest and the fairest of the immortals. The nymphs of the sea
danced in honor of Thetis their sister; and the Muses sang their
sweetest songs; and Apollo played upon the lyre. The Fates, too, were
there: sad Clotho, twirling her spindle; unloving Lachesis, with
wrinkled lips ready to speak the fatal word; and pitiless Atropos,
holding in her hand the unsparing shears. And around the table passed
the youthful and joy-giving Hebe, pouring out rich draughts of nectar
for the guests.
"But there was one among all the immortals who had not been invited to
the wedding; it was Eris, the daughter of War and Hate. Her scowling
features, and her hot and hasty manners, were ill suited to grace a
feast where all should be mirth and gladness; yet in her evil heart she
planned to be avenged for the slight which had been put upon her.
While the merry-making was at its height, and the company were
listening to the music from Apollo's lyre, she came unseen into the
hall, and threw a golden apple upon the table. No one knew whence the
apple came; but on it were written these words, 'FOR THE FAIREST.'
"'To whom does it belong?' asked Zeus, stroking his brows in sad
"The music ceased, and mirth and jollity fled at once from the banquet.
The torches, which lit up the scene, flickered and smoked; the lustre
of the gems in the vaulted roof was dimmed; dark clouds canopied the
great hall: for Eris had taken her place at the table, uninvited and
unwelcome though she was.
"'The apple belongs to me,' said Hera, trying to snatch it; 'for I am
the queen, and gods and men honor me as having no peer on earth.'
"'Not so!' cried red-lipped Aphrodite. 'With me dwell Love and Joy;
and not only do gods and men sing my praises, but all nature rejoices
in my presence. The apple is mine, and I will have it!'
"Then Athena joined in the quarrel. 'What is it to be a queen,' said
she, 'if at the same time one lacks that good temper which sweetens
life? What is it to have a handsome form and face, while the mind is
uncouth and ill-looking? Beauty of mind is better than beauty of face;
for the former is immortal, while the latter fades and dies. Hence no
one has a better right than I to be called the fairest.'
"Then the strife spread among the guests in the hall, each taking sides
with the one he loved best; and, where peace and merriment had reigned,
now hot words and bitter wrangling were heard. And had not Zeus bidden
them keep silence, thus putting an end to the quarrel, all Pelion would
have been rent, and the earth shaken to its centre in the mellay that
would have followed.
"'Let us waste no words over this matter,' he said. 'It is not for the
immortals to say who of their number is most beautiful. But on the
slopes of Mount Ida, far across the sea, the fairest of the sons of
men - Paris, a prince of Troy - keeps his flocks; let him judge who is
fairest, and let the apple be hers to whom he gives it.'
"Then Hermes, the swift-footed messenger, arose, and led the three
goddesses over sea and land to distant Mount Ida, where Paris, with no
thought of the wonderful life which lay before him, piped on his
shepherd's reeds, and tended his flock of sheep."
Cheiron the Centaur lived in a cavern on Mount Pelion and was
reputed to be the wisest of mortals. All the young heroes of the time,
Jason, Achilles, and others, were his pupils and spent their boyhood
with him. He is sometimes represented as having the head of a man and
the body of a horse; but it is probable that he was only one of a race
of men noted for their skill in horsemanship. This story is supposed
to have been related by him to young Odysseus (Ulysses), who visited
him in his cavern.
PARIS AND CENONE
RELATED BY CHEIRON THE CENTAUR
"On the other side of the sea there stands a city, rich and mighty, the
like of which there is none in Greece. The name of this city is Troy,
although its inhabitants call it Ilios. There an old man, named Priam,
rules over a happy and peace-loving people. He dwells in a great
palace of polished marble, on a hill overlooking the plain; and his
granaries are stored with corn, and his flocks and herds are pastured
on the hills and mountain slopes behind the city.
"Many sons has King Priam; and they are brave and noble youths, well
worthy of such a father. The eldest of these sons is Hector, who, the
Trojans hope, will live to bring great honor to his native land.
"Just before the second son was born, a strange thing troubled the
family of old Priam. The queen dreamed that her babe had turned into a
firebrand, which burned up the walls and the high towers of Troy, and
left but smouldering ashes where once the proud city stood. She told
the king her dream; and when the child was born, they called a
soothsayer, who could foresee the mysteries of the future, and they
asked him what the vision meant.
"'It means,' said he, 'that this babe, if he lives, shall be a
firebrand in Troy, and shall turn its walls and its high towers into
heaps of smouldering ashes.'
"'But what shall be done with the child, that he may not do this
terrible thing?' asked Priam, greatly sorrowing, for the babe was very
"'Do not suffer that he shall live,' answered the soothsayer.
"Priam, the gentlest and most kind-hearted of men, could not bear to
harm the babe. So he called his master shepherd, and bade him take the
helpless child into the thick woods, which grow high up on the slopes
of Mount Ida, behind the city, and there to leave him alone. The wild
beasts that roam among those woods, he thought, would doubtless find
him, or, in any case, he could not live long without care and
nourishment; and thus the dangerous brand would be quenched while yet
it was scarcely a spark.
"The shepherd did as he was bidden, although it cost his heart many a
sharp pang thus to deal barbarously with the innocent. He laid the
smiling infant, wrapped in its broidered tunic, close by the foot of an
oak, and then hurried away that he might not hear its cries.
"But the nymphs who haunt the woods and groves, saw the babe, and
pitied its helplessness, and cared for it so that it did not die. Some