Part 1 out of 3
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OLD GREEK STORIES
NEW YORK: CINCINNATI: CHICAGO AMERICAN BOOK COMPANY
Perhaps no other stories have ever been told so often or listened to
with so much pleasure as the classic tales of ancient Greece. For many
ages they have been a source of delight to young people and old, to the
ignorant and the learned, to all who love to hear about and contemplate
things mysterious, beautiful, and grand. They have become so
incorporated into our language and thought, and so interwoven with our
literature, that we could not do away with them now if we would. They
are a portion of our heritage from the distant past, and they form
perhaps as important a part of our intellectual life as they did of that
of the people among whom they originated.
That many of these tales should be read by children at an early age no
intelligent person will deny. Sufficient reason for this is to be found
in the real pleasure that every child derives from their perusal: and in
the preparation of this volume no other reason has been considered. I
have here attempted to tell a few stories of Jupiter and his mighty
company and of some of the old Greek heroes, _simply as stories_,
nothing more. I have carefully avoided every suggestion of
interpretation. Attempts at analysis and explanation will always prove
fatal to a child's appreciation and enjoyment of such stories. To
inculcate the idea that these tales are merely descriptions of certain
natural phenomena expressed in narrative and poetic form, is to deprive
them of their highest charm; it is like turning precious gold into
utilitarian iron: it is changing a delightful romance into a dull
scientific treatise. The wise teacher will take heed not to be guilty of
such an error.
It will be observed that while each of the stories in this volume is
wholly independent of the others and may be read without any knowledge
of those which precede it, there is nevertheless a certain continuity
from the first to the last, giving to the collection a completeness like
that of a single narrative. In order that the children of our own
country and time may be the better able to read these stories in the
light in which they were narrated long ago, I have told them in simple
language, keeping the supernatural element as far as possible in the
background, and nowhere referring to Jupiter and his mighty company as
gods. I have hoped thus to free the narrative still more from everything
that might detract from its interest simply as a story.
JUPITER AND HIS MIGHTY COMPANY
THE GOLDEN AGE
THE STORY OF PROMETHEUS
THE STORY OF IO
THE WONDERFUL WEAVER
THE LORD OF THE SILVER BOW
ADMETUS AND ALCESTIS
CADMUS AND EUROPA
THE QUEST OF MEDUSA'S HEAD
THE STORY OF ATALANTA
THE HORSE AND THE OLIVE
THE ADVENTURES OF THESEUS
THE WONDERFUL ARTISAN
THE CRUEL TRIBUTE
PERSONS AND PLACES MENTIONED.
OLD GREEK STORIES.
JUPITER AND HIS MIGHTY COMPANY.
A long time ago, when the world was much younger than it is now, people
told and believed a great many wonderful stories about wonderful things
which neither you nor I have ever seen. They often talked about a
certain Mighty Being called Jupiter, or Zeus, who was king of the sky
and the earth; and they said that he sat most of the time amid the
clouds on the top of a very high mountain where he could look down and
see everything that was going on in the earth beneath. He liked to ride
on the storm-clouds and hurl burning thunderbolts right and left among
the trees and rocks; and he was so very, very mighty that when he
nodded, the earth quaked, the mountains trembled and smoked, the sky
grew black, and the sun hid his face.
Jupiter had two brothers, both of them terrible fellows, but not nearly
so great as himself. The name of one of them was Neptune, or Poseidon,
and he was the king of the sea. He had a glittering, golden palace far
down in the deep sea-caves where the fishes live and the red coral
grows; and whenever he was angry the waves would rise mountain high, and
the storm-winds would howl fearfully, and the sea would try to break
over the land; and men called him the Shaker of the Earth.
The other brother of Jupiter was a sad pale-faced being, whose kingdom
was underneath the earth, where the sun never shone and where there was
darkness and weeping and sorrow all the time. His name was Pluto, or
Aidoneus, and his country was called the Lower World, or the Land of
Shadows, or Hades. Men said that whenever any one died, Pluto would send
his messenger, or Shadow Leader, to carry that one down into his
cheerless kingdom; and for that reason they never spoke well of him, but
thought of him only as the enemy of life.
A great number of other Mighty Beings lived with Jupiter amid the clouds
on the mountain top,--so many that I can name a very few only. There
was Venus, the queen of love and beauty, who was fairer by far than any
woman that you or I have ever seen. There was Athena, or Minerva, the
queen of the air, who gave people wisdom and taught them how to do very
many useful things. There was Juno, the queen of earth and sky, who sat
at the right hand of Jupiter and gave him all kinds of advice. There was
Mars, the great warrior, whose delight was in the din of battle. There
was Mercury, the swift messenger, who had wings on his cap and shoes,
and who flew from place to place like the summer clouds when they are
driven before the wind. There was Vulcan, a skillful blacksmith, who had
his forge in a burning mountain and wrought many wonderful things of
iron and copper and gold. And besides these, there were many others
about whom you will learn by and by, and about whom men told strange and
They lived in glittering, golden mansions, high up among the clouds--so
high indeed that the eyes of men could never see them. But they could
look down and see what men were doing, and oftentimes they were said to
leave their lofty homes and wander unknown across the land or over the
And of all these Mighty Folk, Jupiter was by far the mightiest.
THE GOLDEN AGE.
Jupiter and his Mighty Folk had not always dwelt amid the clouds on the
mountain top. In times long past, a wonderful family called Titans had
lived there and had ruled over all the world. There were twelve of
them--six brothers and six sisters--and they said that their father was
the Sky and their mother the Earth. They had the form and looks of men
and women, but they were much larger and far more beautiful.
The name of the youngest of these Titans was Saturn; and yet he was so
very old that men often called him Father Time. He was the king of the
Titans, and so, of course, was the king of all the earth besides.
Men were never so happy as they were during Saturn's reign. It was the
true Golden Age then. The springtime lasted all the year. The woods and
meadows were always full of blossoms, and the music of singing birds was
heard every day and every hour. It was summer and autumn, too, at the
same time. Apples and figs and oranges always hung ripe from the trees;
and there were purple grapes on the vines, and melons and berries of
every kind, which the people had but to pick and eat.
Of course nobody had to do any kind of work in that happy time. There
was no such thing as sickness or sorrow or old age. Men and women lived
for hundreds and hundreds of years and never became gray or wrinkled or
lame, but were always handsome and young. They had no need of houses,
for there were no cold days nor storms nor anything to make them afraid.
Nobody was poor, for everybody had the same precious things--the
sunlight, the pure air, the wholesome water of the springs, the grass
for a carpet, the blue sky for a roof, the fruits and flowers of the
woods and meadows. So, of course, no one was richer than another, and
there was no money, nor any locks or bolts; for everybody was
everybody's friend, and no man wanted to get more of anything than his
When these happy people had lived long enough they fell asleep, and
their bodies were seen no more. They flitted away through the air, and
over the mountains, and across the sea, to a flowery land in the distant
west. And some men say that, even to this day, they are wandering
happily hither and thither about the earth, causing babies to smile in
their cradles, easing the burdens of the toilworn and sick, and blessing
What a pity it is that this Golden Age should have come to an end! But
it was Jupiter and his brothers who brought about the sad change.
It is hard to believe it, but men say that Jupiter was the son of the
old Titan king, Saturn, and that he was hardly a year old when he began
to plot how he might wage war against his father. As soon as he was
grown up, he persuaded his brothers, Neptune and Pluto, and his sisters,
Juno, Ceres, and Vesta, to join him; and they vowed that they would
drive the Titans from the earth.
Then followed a long and terrible war. But Jupiter had many mighty
helpers. A company of one-eyed monsters called Cyclopes were kept busy
all the time, forging thunderbolts in the fire of burning mountains.
Three other monsters, each with a hundred hands, were called in to throw
rocks and trees against the stronghold of the Titans; and Jupiter
himself hurled his sharp lightning darts so thick and fast that the
woods were set on fire and the water in the rivers boiled with the heat.
Of course, good, quiet old Saturn and his brothers and sisters could
not hold out always against such foes as these. At the end of ten years
they had to give up and beg for peace. They were bound in chains of the
hardest rock and thrown into a prison in the Lower Worlds; and the
Cyclopes and the hundred-handed monsters were sent there to be their
jailers and to keep guard over them forever.
Then men began to grow dissatisfied with their lot. Some wanted to be
rich and own all the good things in the world. Some wanted to be kings
and rule over the others. Some who were strong wanted to make slaves of
those who were weak. Some broke down the fruit trees in the woods, lest
others should eat of the fruit. Some, for mere sport, hunted the timid
animals which had always been their friends. Some even killed these poor
creatures and ate their flesh for food.
At last, instead of everybody being everybody's friend, everybody was
So, in all the world, instead of peace, there was war; instead of
plenty, there was starvation; instead of innocence, there was crime; and
instead of happiness, there was misery.
And that was the way in which Jupiter made himself so mighty; and that
was the way in which the Golden Age came to an end.
THE STORY OF PROMETHEUS.
I. HOW FIRE WAS GIVEN TO MEN.
In those old, old times, there lived two brothers who were not like
other men, nor yet like those Mighty Ones who lived upon the mountain
top. They were the sons of one of those Titans who had fought against
Jupiter and been sent in chains to the strong prison-house of the Lower
The name of the elder of these brothers was Prometheus, or Forethought;
for he was always thinking of the future and making things ready for
what might happen to-morrow, or next week, or next year, or it may be in
a hundred years to come. The younger was called Epimetheus, or
Afterthought; for he was always so busy thinking of yesterday, or last
year, or a hundred years ago, that he had no care at all for what might
come to pass after a while.
For some cause Jupiter had not sent these brothers to prison with the
rest of the Titans.
Prometheus did not care to live amid the clouds on the mountain top. He
was too busy for that. While the Mighty Folk were spending their time in
idleness, drinking nectar and eating ambrosia, he was intent upon plans
for making the world wiser and better than it had ever been before.
He went out amongst men to live with them and help them; for his heart
was filled with sadness when he found that they were no longer happy as
they had been during the golden days when Saturn was king. Ah, how very
poor and wretched they were! He found them living in caves and in holes
of the earth, shivering with the cold because there was no fire, dying
of starvation, hunted by wild beasts and by one another--the most
miserable of all living creatures.
"If they only had fire," said Prometheus to himself, "they could at
least warm themselves and cook their food; and after a while they could
learn to make tools and build themselves houses. Without fire, they are
worse off than the beasts."
Then he went boldly to Jupiter and begged him to give fire to men, that
so they might have a little comfort through the long, dreary months of
"Not a spark will I give," said Jupiter. "No, indeed! Why, if men had
fire they might become strong and wise like ourselves, and after a while
they would drive us out of our kingdom. Let them shiver with cold, and
let them live like the beasts. It is best for them to be poor and
ignorant, that so we Mighty Ones may thrive and be happy."
Prometheus made no answer; but he had set his heart on helping mankind,
and he did not give up. He turned away, and left Jupiter and his mighty
As he was walking by the shore of the sea he found a reed, or, as some
say, a tall stalk of fennel, growing; and when he had broken it off he
saw that its hollow center was filled with a dry, soft pith which would
burn slowly and keep on fire a long time. He took the long stalk in his
hands, and started with it towards the dwelling of the sun in the far
"Mankind shall have fire in spite of the tyrant who sits on the mountain
top," he said.
He reached the place of the sun in the early morning just as the
glowing, golden orb was rising from the earth and beginning his daily
journey through the sky. He touched the end of the long reed to the
flames, and the dry pith caught on fire and burned slowly. Then he
turned and hastened back to his own land, carrying with him the precious
spark hidden in the hollow center of the plant.
He called some of the shivering men from their caves and built a fire
for them, and showed them how to warm themselves by it and how to build
other fires from the coals. Soon there was a cheerful blaze in every
rude home in the land, and men and women gathered round it and were warm
and happy, and thankful to Prometheus for the wonderful gift which he
had brought to them from the sun.
It was not long until they learned to cook their food and so to eat like
men instead of like beasts. They began at once to leave off their wild
and savage habits; and instead of lurking in the dark places of the
world, they came out into the open air and the bright sunlight, and were
glad because life had been given to them.
After that, Prometheus taught them, little by little, a thousand things.
He showed them how to build houses of wood and stone, and how to tame
sheep and cattle and make them useful, and how to plow and sow and reap,
and how to protect themselves from the storms of winter and the beasts
of the woods. Then he showed them how to dig in the earth for copper and
iron, and how to melt the ore, and how to hammer it into shape and
fashion from it the tools and weapons which they needed in peace and
war; and when he saw how happy the world was becoming he cried out:
"A new Golden Age shall come, brighter and better by far than the old!"
II. HOW DISEASES AND CARES CAME AMONG MEN.
Things might have gone on very happily indeed, and the Golden Age might
really have come again, had it not been for Jupiter. But one day, when
he chanced to look down upon the earth, he saw the fires burning, and
the people living in houses, and the flocks feeding on the hills, and
the grain ripening in the fields, and this made him very angry.
"Who has done all this?" he asked.
And some one answered, "Prometheus!"
"What! that young Titan!" he cried. "Well, I will punish him in a way
that will make him wish I had shut him up in the prison-house with his
kinsfolk. But as for those puny men, let them keep their fire. I will
make them ten times more miserable than they were before they had it."
Of course it would be easy enough to deal with Prometheus at any time,
and so Jupiter was in no great haste about it. He made up his mind to
distress mankind first; and he thought of a plan for doing it in a very
strange, roundabout way.
In the first place, he ordered his blacksmith Vulcan, whose forge was in
the crater of a burning mountain, to take a lump of clay which he gave
him, and mold it into the form of a woman. Vulcan did as he was bidden;
and when he had finished the image, he carried it up to Jupiter, who
was sitting among the clouds with all the Mighty Folk around him. It was
nothing but a mere lifeless body, but the great blacksmith had given it
a form more perfect than that of any statue that has ever been made.
"Come now!" said Jupiter, "let us all give some goodly gift to this
woman;" and he began by giving her life.
Then the others came in their turn, each with a gift for the marvelous
creature. One gave her beauty; and another a pleasant voice; and another
good manners; and another a kind heart; and another skill in many arts;
and, lastly, some one gave her curiosity. Then they called her Pandora,
which means the all-gifted, because she had received gifts from them
Pandora was so beautiful and so wondrously gifted that no one could help
loving her. When the Mighty Folk had admired her for a time, they gave
her to Mercury, the light-footed; and he led her down the mountain side
to the place where Prometheus and his brother were living and toiling
for the good of mankind. He met Epimetheus first, and said to him:
"Epimetheus, here is a beautiful woman, whom Jupiter has sent to you to
be your wife."
[Illustration: "'EPIMETHEUS, HERE IS A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN.'"]
Prometheus had often warned his brother to beware of any gift that
Jupiter might send, for he knew that the mighty tyrant could not be
trusted; but when Epimetheus saw Pandora, how lovely and wise she was,
he forgot all warnings, and took her home to live with him and be his
Pandora was very happy in her new home; and even Prometheus, when he saw
her, was pleased with her loveliness. She had brought with her a golden
casket, which Jupiter had given her at parting, and which he had told
her held many precious things; but wise Athena, the queen of the air,
had warned her never, never to open it, nor look at the things inside.
"They must be jewels," she said to herself; and then she thought of how
they would add to her beauty if only she could wear them. "Why did
Jupiter give them to me if I should never use them, nor so much as look
at them?" she asked.
The more she thought about the golden casket, the more curious she was
to see what was in it; and every day she took it down from its shelf and
felt of the lid, and tried to peer inside of it without opening it.
"Why should I care for what Athena told me?" she said at last. "She is
not beautiful, and jewels would be of no use to her. I think that I will
look at them, at any rate. Athena will never know. Nobody else will
She opened the lid a very little, just to peep inside. All at once there
was a whirring, rustling sound, and before she could shut it down again,
out flew ten thousand strange creatures with death-like faces and gaunt
and dreadful forms, such as nobody in all the world had ever seen. They
fluttered for a little while about the room, and then flew away to find
dwelling-places wherever there were homes of men. They were diseases and
cares; for up to that time mankind had not had any kind of sickness, nor
felt any troubles of mind, nor worried about what the morrow might bring
These creatures flew into every house, and, without any one seeing them,
nestled down in the bosoms of men and women and children, and put an end
to all their joy; and ever since that day they have been flitting and
creeping, unseen and unheard, over all the land, bringing pain and
sorrow and death into every household.
If Pandora had not shut down the lid so quickly, things would have gone
much worse. But she closed it just in time to keep the last of the evil
creatures from getting out. The name of this creature was Foreboding,
and although he was almost half out of the casket, Pandora pushed him
back and shut the lid so tight that he could never escape. If he had
gone out into the world, men would have known from childhood just what
troubles were going to come to them every day of their lives, and they
would never have had any joy or hope so long as they lived.
And this was the way in which Jupiter sought to make mankind more
miserable than they had been before Prometheus had befriended them.
III. HOW THE FRIEND OF MEN WAS PUNISHED.
The next thing that Jupiter did was to punish Prometheus for stealing
fire from the sun. He bade two of his servants, whose names were
Strength and Force, to seize the bold Titan and carry him to the topmost
peak of the Caucasus Mountains. Then he sent the blacksmith Vulcan to
bind him with iron chains and fetter him to the rocks so that he could
not move hand or foot.
Vulcan did not like to do this, for he was a friend of Prometheus, and
yet he did not dare to disobey. And so the great friend of men, who had
given them fire and lifted them out of their wretchedness and shown them
how to live, was chained to the mountain peak; and there he hung, with
the storm-winds whistling always around him, and the pitiless hail
beating in his face, and fierce eagles shrieking in his ears and tearing
his body with their cruel claws. Yet he bore all his sufferings without
a groan, and never would he beg for mercy or say that he was sorry for
what he had done.
Year after year, and age after age, Prometheus hung there. Now and then
old Helios, the driver of the sun car, would look down upon him and
smile; now and then flocks of birds would bring him messages from
far-off lands; once the ocean nymphs came and sang wonderful songs in
his hearing; and oftentimes men looked up to him with pitying eyes, and
cried out against the tyrant who had placed him there.
Then, once upon a time, a white cow passed that way,--a strangely
beautiful cow, with large sad eyes and a face that seemed almost human.
She stopped and looked up at the cold gray peak and the giant body which
was chained there. Prometheus saw her and spoke to her kindly:
"I know who you are," he said. "You are Io who was once a fair and happy
maiden in distant Argos; and now, because of the tyrant Jupiter and his
jealous queen, you are doomed to wander from land to land in that
unhuman form. But do not lose hope. Go on to the southward and then to
the west; and after many days you shall come to the great river Nile.
There you shall again become a maiden, but fairer and more beautiful
than before; and you shall become the wife of the king of that land, and
shall give birth to a son, from whom shall spring the hero who will
break my chains and set me free. As for me, I bide in patience the day
which not even Jupiter can hasten or delay. Farewell!"
Poor Io would have spoken, but she could not. Her sorrowful eyes looked
once more at the suffering hero on the peak, and then she turned and
began her long and tiresome journey to the land of the Nile.
Ages passed, and at last a great hero whose name was Hercules came to
the land of the Caucasus. In spite of Jupiter's dread thunderbolts and
fearful storms of snow and sleet, he climbed the rugged mountain peak;
he slew the fierce eagles that had so long tormented the helpless
prisoner on those craggy heights; and with a mighty blow, he broke the
fetters of Prometheus and set the grand old hero free.
"I knew that you would come," said Prometheus. "Ten generations ago I
spoke of you to Io, who was afterwards the queen of the land of the
"And Io," said Hercules, "was the mother of the race from which I am
In those very early times there was a man named Deucalion, and he was
the son of Prometheus. He was only a common man and not a Titan like his
great father, and yet he was known far and wide for his good deeds and
the uprightness of his life. His wife's name was Pyrrha, and she was one
of the fairest of the daughters of men.
After Jupiter had bound Prometheus on Mount Caucasus and had sent
diseases and cares into the world, men became very, very wicked. They no
longer built houses and tended their flocks and lived together in peace;
but every man was at war with his neighbor, and there was no law nor
safety in all the land. Things were in much worse case now than they had
been before Prometheus had come among men, and that was just what
Jupiter wanted. But as the world became wickeder and wickeder every day,
he began to grow weary of seeing so much bloodshed and of hearing the
cries of the oppressed and the poor.
"These men," he said to his mighty company, "are nothing but a source of
trouble. When they were good and happy, we felt afraid lest they should
become greater than ourselves; and now they are so terribly wicked that
we are in worse danger than before. There is only one thing to be done
with them, and that is to destroy them every one."
So he sent a great rain-storm upon the earth, and it rained day and
night for a long time; and the sea was filled to the brim, and the water
ran over the land and covered first the plains and then the forests and
then the hills. But men kept on fighting and robbing, even while the
rain was pouring down and the sea was coming up over the land.
No one but Deucalion, the son of Prometheus, was ready for such a storm.
He had never joined in any of the wrong doings of those around him, and
had often told them that unless they left off their evil ways there
would be a day of reckoning in the end. Once every year he had gone to
the land of the Caucasus to talk with his father, who was hanging
chained to the mountain peak.
"The day is coming," said Prometheus, "when Jupiter will send a flood to
destroy mankind from the earth. Be sure that you are ready for it, my
And so when the rain began to fall, Deucalion drew from its shelter a
boat which he had built for just such a time. He called fair Pyrrha,
his wife, and the two sat in the boat and were floated safely on the
rising waters. Day and night, day and night, I cannot tell how long, the
boat drifted hither and thither. The tops of the trees were hidden by
the flood, and then the hills and then the mountains; and Deucalion and
Pyrrha could see nothing anywhere but water, water, water--and they knew
that all the people in the land had been drowned.
After a while the rain stopped falling, and the clouds cleared away, and
the blue sky and the golden sun came out overhead. Then the water began
to sink very fast and to run off the land towards the sea; and early the
very next day the boat was drifted high upon a mountain called
Parnassus, and Deucalion and Pyrrha stepped out upon the dry land. After
that, it was only a short time until the whole country was laid bare,
and the trees shook their leafy branches in the wind, and the fields
were carpeted with grass and flowers more beautiful than in the days
before the flood.
But Deucalion and Pyrrha were very sad, for they knew that they were the
only persons who were left alive in all the land. At last they started
to walk down the mountain side towards the plain, wondering what would
become of them now, all alone as they were in the wide world. While
they were talking and trying to think what they should do, they heard a
voice behind them. They turned and saw a noble young prince standing on
one of the rocks above them. He was very tall, with blue eyes and yellow
hair. There were wings on his shoes and on his cap, and in his hands he
bore a staff with golden serpents twined around it. They knew at once
that he was Mercury, the swift messenger of the Mighty Ones, and they
waited to hear what he would say.
"Is there anything that you wish?" he asked. "Tell me, and you shall
have whatever you desire."
"We should like, above all things," said Deucalion, "to see this land
full of people once more; for without neighbors and friends, the world
is a very lonely place indeed."
"Go on down the mountain," said Mercury, "and as you go, cast the bones
of your mother over your shoulders behind you;" and, with these words,
he leaped into the air and was seen no more.
"What did he mean?" asked Pyrrha.
"Surely I do not know," said Deucalion. "But let us think a moment. Who
is our mother, if it is not the Earth, from whom all living things have
sprung? And yet what could he mean by the bones of our mother?"
[Illustration: "AS THEY WALKED THEY PICKED UP THE LOOSE STONES IN THEIR
"Perhaps he meant the stones of the earth," said Pyrrha. "Let us go on
down the mountain, and as we go, let us pick up the stones in our path
and throw them over our shoulders behind us."
"It is rather a silly thing to do," said Deucalion; "and yet there can
be no harm in it, and we shall see what will happen."
And so they walked on, down the steep slope of Mount Parnassus, and as
they walked they picked up the loose stones in their way and cast them
over their shoulders; and strange to say, the stones which Deucalion
threw sprang up as full-grown men, strong, and handsome, and brave; and
the stones which Pyrrha threw sprang up as full-grown women, lovely and
fair. When at last they reached the plain they found themselves at the
head of a noble company of human beings, all eager to serve them.
So Deucalion became their king, and he set them in homes, and taught
them how to till the ground, and how to do many useful things; and the
land was filled with people who were happier and far better than those
who had dwelt there before the flood. And they named the country Hellas,
after Hellen, the son of Deucalion and Pyrrha; and the people are to
this day called Hellenes.
But we call the country GREECE.
THE STORY OF IO.
In the town of Argos there lived a maiden named Io. She was so fair and
good that all who knew her loved her, and said that there was no one
like her in the whole world. When Jupiter, in his home in the clouds,
heard of her, he came down to Argos to see her. She pleased him so much,
and was so kind and wise, that he came back the next day and the next
and the next; and by and by he stayed in Argos all the time so that he
might be near her. She did not know who he was, but thought that he was
a prince from some far-off land; for he came in the guise of a young
man, and did not look like the great king of earth and sky that he was.
But Juno, the queen who lived with Jupiter and shared his throne in the
midst of the clouds, did not love Io at all. When she heard why Jupiter
stayed from home so long, she made up her mind to do the fair girl all
the harm that she could; and one day she went down to Argos to try what
could be done.
Jupiter saw her while she was yet a great way off, and he knew why she
had come. So, to save Io from her, he changed the maiden to a white cow.
He thought that when Juno had gone back home, it would not be hard to
give Io her own form again.
But when the queen saw the cow, she knew that it was Io.
"Oh, what a fine cow you have there!" she said. "Give her to me, good
Jupiter, give her to me!"
Jupiter did not like to do this; but she coaxed so hard that at last he
gave up, and let her have the cow for her own. He thought that it would
not be long till he could get her away from the queen, and change her to
a girl once more. But Juno was too wise to trust him. She took the cow
by her horns, and led her out of the town.
"Now, my sweet maid," she said, "I will see that you stay in this shape
as long as you live."
Then she gave the cow in charge of a strange watchman named Argus, who
had, not two eyes only, as you and I have, but ten times ten. And Argus
led the cow to a grove, and tied her by a long rope to a tree, where she
had to stand and eat grass, and cry, "Moo! moo!" from morn till night;
and when the sun had set, and it was dark, she lay down on the cold
ground and wept, and cried, "Moo! moo!" till she fell asleep.
But no kind friend heard her, and no one came to help her; for none but
Jupiter and Juno knew that the white cow who stood in the grove was Io,
whom all the world loved. Day in and day out, Argus, who was all eyes,
sat on a hill close by and kept watch; and you could not say that he
went to sleep at all, for while half of his eyes were shut, the other
half were wide awake, and thus they slept and watched by turns.
Jupiter was grieved when he saw to what a hard life Io had been doomed,
and he tried to think of some plan to set her free. One day he called
sly Mercury, who had wings on his shoes, and bade him go and lead the
cow away from the grove where she was kept. Mercury went down and stood
near the foot of the hill where Argus sat, and began to play sweet tunes
on his flute. This was just what the strange watchman liked to hear; and
so he called to Mercury, and asked him to come up and sit by his side
and play still other tunes.
Mercury did as he wished, and played such strains of sweet music as no
one in all the world has heard from that day to this. And as he played,
queer old Argus lay down upon the grass and listened, and thought that
he had not had so great a treat in all his life. But by and by those
sweet sounds wrapped him in so strange a spell that all his eyes closed
at once, and he fell into a deep sleep.
This was just what Mercury wished. It was not a brave thing to do, and
yet he drew a long, sharp knife from his belt and cut off the head of
poor Argus while he slept. Then he ran down the hill to loose the cow
and lead her to the town.
But Juno had seen him kill her watchman, and she met him on the road.
She cried out to him and told him to let the cow go; and her face was so
full of wrath that, as soon as he saw her, he turned and fled, and left
poor Io to her fate.
Juno was so much grieved when she saw Argus stretched dead in the grass
on the hilltop, that she took his hundred eyes and set them in the tail
of a peacock; and there you may still see them to this day.
Then she found a great gadfly, as big as a bat, and sent it to buzz in
the white cow's ears, and to bite her and sting her so that she could
have no rest all day long. Poor Io ran from place to place to get out of
its way; but it buzzed and buzzed, and stung and stung, till she was
wild with fright and pain, and wished that she were dead. Day after day
she ran, now through the thick woods, now in the long grass that grew on
the treeless plains, and now by the shore of the sea.
[Illustration: "SHE CRIED OUT TO HIM AND TOLD HIM TO LET THE COW GO."]
By and by she came to a narrow neck of the sea, and, since the land on
the other side looked as though she might find rest there, she leaped
into the waves and swam across; and that place has been called
Bosphorus--a word which means the Sea of the Cow--from that time till
now, and you will find it so marked on the maps which you use at school.
Then she went on through a strange land on the other side, but, let her
do what she would, she could not get rid of the gadfly.
After a time she came to a place where there were high mountains with
snow-capped peaks which seemed to touch the sky. There she stopped to
rest a while; and she looked up at the calm, cold cliffs above her and
wished that she might die where all was so grand and still. But as she
looked she saw a giant form stretched upon the rocks midway between
earth and sky, and she knew at once that it was Prometheus, the young
Titan, whom Jupiter had chained there because he had given fire to men.
"My sufferings are not so great as his," she thought; and her eyes were
filled with tears.
Then Prometheus looked down and spoke to her, and his voice was very
mild and kind.
"I know who you are," he said; and then he told her not to lose hope,
but to go south and then west, and she would by and by find a place in
which to rest.
She would have thanked him if she could; but when she tried to speak she
could only say, "Moo! moo!"
Then Prometheus went on and told her that the time would come when she
should be given her own form again, and that she should live to be the
mother of a race of heroes. "As for me," said he, "I bide the time in
patience, for I know that one of those heroes will break my chains and
set me free. Farewell!"
Then Io, with a brave heart, left the great Titan and journeyed, as he
had told her, first south and then west. The gadfly was worse now than
before, but she did not fear it half so much, for her heart was full of
hope. For a whole year she wandered, and at last she came to the land of
Egypt in Africa. She felt so tired now that she could go no farther, and
so she lay down near the bank of the great River Nile to rest.
All this time Jupiter might have helped her had he not been so much
afraid of Juno. But now it so chanced that when the poor cow lay down by
the bank of the Nile, Queen Juno, in her high house in the clouds, also
lay down to take a nap. As soon as she was sound asleep, Jupiter like a
flash of light sped over the sea to Egypt. He killed the cruel gadfly
and threw it into the river. Then he stroked the cow's head with his
hand, and the cow was seen no more; but in her place stood the young
girl Io, pale and frail, but fair and good as she had been in her old
home in the town of Argos. Jupiter said not a word, nor even showed
himself to the tired, trembling maiden. He hurried back with all speed
to his high home in the clouds, for he feared that Juno might waken and
find out what he had done.
The people of Egypt were kind to Io, and gave her a home in their sunny
land; and by and by the king of Egypt asked her to be his wife, and made
her his queen; and she lived a long and happy life in his marble palace
on the bank of the Nile. Ages afterward, the great-grandson of the
great-grandson of Io's great-grandson broke the chains of Prometheus and
set that mighty friend of mankind free.
The name of the hero was Hercules.
THE WONDERFUL WEAVER.
I. THE WARP.
There was a young girl in Greece whose name was Arachne. Her face was
pale but fair, and her eyes were big and blue, and her hair was long and
like gold. All that she cared to do from morn till noon was to sit in
the sun and spin; and all that she cared to do from noon till night was
to sit in the shade and weave.
And oh, how fine and fair were the things which she wove in her loom!
Flax, wool, silk--she worked with them all; and when they came from her
hands, the cloth which she had made of them was so thin and soft and
bright that men came from all parts of the world to see it. And they
said that cloth so rare could not be made of flax, or wool, or silk, but
that the warp was of rays of sunlight and the woof was of threads of
Then as, day by day, the girl sat in the sun and span, or sat in the
shade and wove, she said: "In all the world there is no yarn so fine as
mine, and in all the world there is no cloth so soft and smooth, nor
silk so bright and rare."
[Illustration: "'ARACHNE, I AM ATHENA, THE QUEEN OF THE AIR.'"]
"Who taught you to spin and weave so well?" some one asked.
"No one taught me," she said. "I learned how to do it as I sat in the
sun and the shade; but no one showed me."
"But it may be that Athena, the queen of the air, taught you, and you
did not know it."
"Athena, the queen of the air? Bah!" said Arachne. "How could she teach
me? Can she spin such skeins of yarn as these? Can she weave goods like
mine? I should like to see her try. I can teach her a thing or two."
She looked up and saw in the doorway a tall woman wrapped in a long
cloak. Her face was fair to see, but stern, oh, so stern! and her gray
eyes were so sharp and bright that Arachne could not meet her gaze.
"Arachne," said the woman, "I am Athena, the queen of the air, and I
have heard your boast. Do you still mean to say that I have not taught
you how to spin and weave?"
"No one has taught me," said Arachne; "and I thank no one for what I
know;" and she stood up, straight and proud, by the side of her loom.
"And do you still think that you can spin and weave as well as I?" said
Arachne's cheeks grew pale, but she said: "Yes. I can weave as well as
"Then let me tell you what we will do," said Athena. "Three days from
now we will both weave; you on your loom, and I on mine. We will ask all
the world to come and see us; and great Jupiter, who sits in the clouds,
shall be the judge. And if your work is best, then I will weave no more
so long as the world shall last; but if my work is best, then you shall
never use loom or spindle or distaff again. Do you agree to this?" "I
agree," said Arachne.
"It is well," said Athena. And she was gone.
II. THE WOOF.
When the time came for the contest in weaving, all the world was there
to see it, and great Jupiter sat among the clouds and looked on.
Arachne had set up her loom in the shade of a mulberry tree, where
butterflies were flitting and grasshoppers chirping all through the
livelong day. But Athena had set up her loom in the sky, where the
breezes were blowing and the summer sun was shining; for she was the
queen of the air.
Then Arachne took her skeins of finest silk and began to weave. And she
wove a web of marvelous beauty, so thin and light that it would float in
the air, and yet so strong that it could hold a lion in its meshes; and
the threads of warp and woof were of many colors, so beautifully
arranged and mingled one with another that all who saw were filled with
"No wonder that the maiden boasted of her skill," said the people.
And Jupiter himself nodded.
Then Athena began to weave. And she took of the sunbeams that gilded the
mountain top, and of the snowy fleece of the summer clouds, and of the
blue ether of the summer sky, and of the bright green of the summer
fields, and of the royal purple of the autumn woods,--and what do you
suppose she wove?
The web which she wove in the sky was full of enchanting pictures of
flowers and gardens, and of castles and towers, and of mountain heights,
and of men and beasts, and of giants and dwarfs, and of the mighty
beings who dwell in the clouds with Jupiter. And those who looked upon
it were so filled with wonder and delight, that they forgot all about
the beautiful web which Arachne had woven. And Arachne herself was
ashamed and afraid when she saw it; and she hid her face in her hands
"Oh, how can I live," she cried, "now that I must never again use loom
or spindle or distaff?"
And she kept on, weeping and weeping and weeping, and saying, "How can I
Then, when Athena saw that the poor maiden would never have any joy
unless she were allowed to spin and weave, she took pity on her and
"I would free you from your bargain if I could, but that is a thing
which no one can do. You must hold to your agreement never to touch loom
or spindle again. And yet, since you will never be happy unless you can
spin and weave, I will give you a new form so that you can carry on your
work with neither spindle nor loom."
Then she touched Arachne with the tip of the spear which she sometimes
carried; and the maiden was changed at once into a nimble spider, which
ran into a shady place in the grass and began merrily to spin and weave
a beautiful web.
I have heard it said that all the spiders which have been in the world
since then are the children of Arachne; but I doubt whether this be
true. Yet, for aught I know, Arachne still lives and spins and weaves;
and the very next spider that you see may be she herself.
THE LORD OF THE SILVER BOW.
Long before you or I or anybody else can remember, there lived with the
Mighty Folk on the mountain top a fair and gentle lady named Leto. So
fair and gentle was she that Jupiter loved her and made her his wife.
But when Juno, the queen of earth and sky, heard of this, she was very
angry; and she drove Leto down from the mountain and bade all things
great and small refuse to help her. So Leto fled like a wild deer from
land to land and could find no place in which to rest. She could not
stop, for then the ground would quake under her feet, and the stones
would cry out, "Go on! go on!" and birds and beasts and trees and men
would join in the cry; and no one in all the wide land took pity on her.
One day she came to the sea, and as she fled along the beach she lifted
up her hands and called aloud to great Neptune to help her. Neptune, the
king of the sea, heard her and was kind to her. He sent a huge fish,
called a dolphin, to bear her away from the cruel land; and the fish,
with Leto sitting on his broad back, swam through the waves to Delos, a
little island which lay floating on top of the water like a boat. There
the gentle lady found rest and a home; for the place belonged to
Neptune, and the words of cruel Juno were not obeyed there. Neptune put
four marble pillars under the island so that it should rest firm upon
them; and then he chained it fast, with great chains which reached to
the bottom of the sea, so that the waves might never move it.
By and by twin babes were born to Leto in Delos. One was a boy whom she
called Apollo, the other a girl whom she named Artemis, or Diana. When
the news of their birth was carried to Jupiter and the Mighty Folk on
the mountain top, all the world was glad. The sun danced on the waters,
and singing swans flew seven times round the island of Delos. The moon
stooped to kiss the babes in their cradle; and Juno forgot her anger,
and bade all things on the earth and in the sky be kind to Leto.
The two children grew very fast. Apollo became tall and strong and
graceful; his face was as bright as the sunbeams; and he carried joy and
gladness with him wherever he went. Jupiter gave him a pair of swans
and a golden chariot, which bore him over sea and land wherever he
wanted to go; and he gave him a lyre on which he played the sweetest
music that was ever heard, and a silver bow with sharp arrows which
never missed the mark. When Apollo went out into the world, and men came
to know about him, he was called by some the Bringer of Light, by others
the Master of Song, and by still others the Lord of the Silver Bow.
Diana was tall and graceful, too, and very handsome. She liked to wander
in the woods with her maids, who were called nymphs; she took kind care
of the timid deer and the helpless creatures which live among the trees;
and she delighted in hunting wolves and bears and other savage beasts.
She was loved and feared in every land, and Jupiter made her the queen
of the green woods and the chase.
"Where is the center of the world?"
This is the question which some one asked Jupiter as he sat in his
golden hall. Of course the mighty ruler of earth and sky was too wise to
be puzzled by so simple a thing, but he was too busy to answer it at
once. So he said:
"Come again in one year from to-day, and I will show you the very
Then Jupiter took two swift eagles which could fly faster than the
storm-wind, and trained them till the speed of the one was the same as
that of the other. At the end of the year he said to his servants:
"Take this eagle to the eastern rim of the earth, where the sun rises
out of the sea; and carry his fellow to the far west, where the ocean is
lost in darkness and nothing lies beyond. Then, when I give you the
sign, loosen both at the same moment."
The servants did as they were bidden, and carried the eagles to the
outermost edges of the world. Then Jupiter clapped his hands. The
lightning flashed, the thunder rolled, and the two swift birds were set
free. One of them flew straight back towards the west, the other flew
straight back towards the east; and no arrow ever sped faster from the
bow than did these two birds from the hands of those who had held them.
On and on they went like shooting stars rushing to meet each other; and
Jupiter and all his mighty company sat amid the clouds and watched their
flight. Nearer and nearer they came, but they swerved not to the right
nor to the left. Nearer and nearer--and then with a crash like the
meeting of two ships at sea, the eagles came together in mid-air and
fell dead to the ground.
"Who asked where is the center of the world?" said Jupiter. "The spot
where the two eagles lie--that is the center of the world."
They had fallen on the top of a mountain in Greece which men have ever
since called Parnassus.
"If that is the center of the world," said young Apollo, "then I will
make my home there, and I will build a house in that place, so that my
light may be seen in all lands."
So Apollo went down to Parnassus, and looked about for a spot in which
to lay the foundations of his house. The mountain itself was savage and
wild, and the valley below it was lonely and dark. The few people who
lived there kept themselves hidden among the rocks as if in dread of
some great danger. They told Apollo that near the foot of the mountain
where the steep cliff seemed to be split in two there lived a huge
serpent called the Python. This serpent often seized sheep and cattle,
and sometimes even men and women and children, and carried them up to
his dreadful den and devoured them.
"Can no one kill this beast?" said Apollo.
And they said, "No one; and we and our children and our flocks shall all
be slain by him."
Then Apollo with his silver bow in his hands went up towards the place
where the Python lay. The monster had worn great paths through the grass
and among the rocks, and his lair was not hard to find. When he caught
sight of Apollo, he uncoiled himself, and came out to meet him. The
bright prince saw the creature's glaring eyes and blood-red mouth, and
heard the rush of his scaly body over the stones. He fitted an arrow to
his bow, and stood still. The Python saw that his foe was no common man,
and turned to flee. Then the arrow sped from the bow--and the monster
"Here I will build my house," said Apollo.
Close to the foot of the steep cliff, and beneath the spot where
Jupiter's eagles had fallen, he laid the foundations; and soon where had
been the lair of the Python, the white walls of Apollo's temple arose
among the rocks. Then the poor people of the land came and built their
houses near by; and Apollo lived among them many years, and taught them
to be gentle and wise, and showed them how to be happy. The mountain was
no longer savage and wild, but was a place of music and song; the valley
was no longer dark and lonely, but was filled with beauty and light.
"What shall we call our city?" the people asked.
"Call it Delphi, or the Dolphin," said Apollo; "for it was a dolphin
that carried my mother across the sea."
In the Vale of Tempe, which lies far north of Delphi, there lived a
young girl whose name was Daphne. She was a strange child, wild and shy
as a fawn, and as fleet of foot as the deer that feed on the plains. But
she was as fair and good as a day in June, and none could know her but
to love her.
Daphne spent the most of her time in the fields and woods, with the
birds and blossoms and trees; and she liked best of all to wander along
the banks of the River Peneus, and listen to the ripple of the water as
it flowed among the reeds or over the shining pebbles. Very often she
would sing and talk to the river as if it were a living thing, and could
hear her; and she fancied that it understood what she said, and that it
whispered many a wonderful secret to her in return. The good people who
knew her best said:
"She is the child of the river."
"Yes, dear river," she said, "let me be your child."
The river smiled and answered her in a way which she alone could
understand; and always, after that, she called it "Father Peneus."
One day when the sun shone warm, and the air was filled with the perfume
of flowers, Daphne wandered farther away from the river than she had
ever gone before. She passed through a shady wood and climbed a hill,
from the top of which she could see Father Peneus lying white and clear
and smiling in the valley below. Beyond her were other hills, and then
the green slopes and wooded top of great Mount Ossa. Ah, if she could
only climb to the summit of Ossa, she might have a view of the sea, and
of other mountains close by, and of the twin peaks of Mount Parnassus,
far, far to the south!
"Good-by, Father Peneus," she said. "I am going to climb the mountain;
but I will come back soon."
The river smiled, and Daphne ran onward, climbing one hill after
another, and wondering why the great mountain seemed still so far away.
By and by she came to the foot of a wooded slope where there was a
pretty waterfall and the ground was bespangled with thousands of
beautiful flowers; and she sat down there a moment to rest. Then from
the grove on the hilltop above her, came the sound of the loveliest
music she had ever heard. She stood up and listened. Some one was
playing on a lyre, and some one was singing. She was frightened; and
still the music was so charming that she could not run away.
Then, all at once, the sound ceased, and a young man, tall and fair and
with a face as bright as the morning sun, came down the hillside towards
"Daphne!" he said; but she did not stop to hear. She turned and fled
like a frightened deer, back towards the Vale of Tempe.
"Daphne!" cried the young man. She did not know that it was Apollo, the
Lord of the Silver Bow; she only knew that the stranger was following
her, and she ran as fast as her fleet feet could carry her. No young man
had ever spoken to her before, and the sound of his voice filled her
heart with fear.
"She is the fairest maiden that I ever saw," said Apollo to himself. "If
I could only look at her face again and speak with her, how happy I
Through brake, through brier, over rocks and the trunks of fallen trees,
down rugged slopes, across mountain streams, leaping, flying, panting,
Daphne ran. She looked not once behind her, but she heard the swift
footsteps of Apollo coming always nearer; she heard the rattle of the
silver bow which hung from his shoulders; she heard his very breath, he
was so close to her. At last she was in the valley where the ground was
smooth and it was easier running, but her strength was fast leaving her.
Right before her, however, lay the river, white and smiling in the
sunlight. She stretched out her arms and cried:
"O Father Peneus, save me!"
[Illustration: "SHE TURNED AND FLED LIKE A FRIGHTENED DEER."]
Then it seemed as though the river rose up to meet her. The air was
filled with a blinding mist. For a moment Apollo lost sight of the
fleeing maiden. Then he saw her close by the river's bank, and so near
to him that her long hair, streaming behind her, brushed his cheek. He
thought that she was about to leap into the rushing, roaring waters, and
he reached out his hands to save her. But it was not the fair, timid
Daphne that he caught in his arms; it was the trunk of a laurel tree,
its green leaves trembling in the breeze.
"O Daphne! Daphne!" he cried, "is this the way in which the river saves
you? Does Father Peneus turn you into a tree to keep you from me?"
Whether Daphne had really been turned into a tree, I know not; nor does
it matter now--it was so long ago. But Apollo believed that it was so,
and hence he made a wreath of the laurel leaves and set it on his head
like a crown, and said that he would wear it always in memory of the
lovely maiden. And ever after that, the laurel was Apollo's favorite
tree, and, even to this day, poets and musicians are crowned with its
Apollo did not care to live much of the time with his mighty kinsfolk on
the mountain top. He liked better to go about from place to place and
from land to land, seeing people at their work and making their lives
happy. When men first saw his fair boyish face and his soft white hands,
they sneered and said he was only an idle, good-for-nothing fellow. But
when they heard him speak, they were so charmed that they stood,
spellbound, to listen; and ever after that they made his words their
law. They wondered how it was that he was so wise; for it seemed to them
that he did nothing but stroll about, playing on his wonderful lyre and
looking at the trees and blossoms and birds and bees. But when any of
them were sick they came to him, and he told them what to find in plants
or stones or brooks that would heal them and make them strong again.
They noticed that he did not grow old, as others did, but that he was
always young and fair; and, even after he had gone away,--they knew not
how, nor whither,--it seemed as though the earth were a brighter and
sweeter place to live in than it had been before his coming.
In a mountain village beyond the Vale of Tempe, there lived a beautiful
lady named Coronis. When Apollo saw her, he loved her and made her his
wife; and for a long time the two lived together, and were happy. By and
by a babe was born to them,--a boy with the most wonderful eyes that
anybody ever saw,--and they named him AEsculapius. Then the mountains and
the woods were filled with the music of Apollo's lyre, and even the
Mighty Folk on the mountain top were glad.
One day Apollo left Coronis and her child, and went on a journey to
visit his favorite home on Mount Parnassus.
"I shall hear from you every day," he said at parting. "The crow will
fly swiftly every morning to Parnassus, and tell me whether you and the
child are well, and what you are doing while I am away."
For Apollo had a pet crow which was very wise, and could talk. The bird
was not black, like the crows which you have seen, but as white as snow.
Men say that all crows were white until that time, but I doubt whether
Apollo's crow was a great tattler, and did not always tell the truth. It
would see the beginning of something, and then, without waiting to know
anything more about it, would hurry off and make up a great story about
it. But there was no one else to carry news from Coronis to Apollo; for,
as you know, there were no postmen in those days, and there was not a
telegraph wire in the whole world.
All went well for several days. Every morning the white bird would wing
its way over hills and plains and rivers and forests until it found
Apollo, either in the groves on the top of Parnassus or in his own house
at Delphi. Then it would alight upon his shoulder and say, "Coronis is
well! Coronis is well!"
One day, however, it had a different story. It came much earlier than
ever before, and seemed to be in great haste.
"Cor--Cor--Cor!" it cried; but it was so out of breath that it could not
speak her whole name.
"What is the matter?" cried Apollo, in alarm. "Has anything happened to
Coronis? Speak! Tell me the truth!"
"She does not love you! she does not love you!" cried the crow. "I saw a
man--I saw a man,--" and then, without stopping to take breath, or to
finish the story, it flew up into the air, and hurried homeward again.
Apollo, who had always been so wise, was now almost as foolish as his
crow. He fancied that Coronis had really deserted him for another man,
and his mind was filled with grief and rage. With his silver bow in his
hands he started at once for his home. He did not stop to speak with
any one; he had made up his mind to learn the truth for himself. His
swan-team and his golden chariot were not at hand--for, now that he was
living with men, he must travel like men. The journey had to be made on
foot, and it was no short journey in those days when there were no
roads. But after a time, he came to the village where he had lived
happily for so many years, and soon he saw his own house half-hidden
among the dark-leaved olive trees. In another minute he would know
whether the crow had told him the truth.
He heard the footsteps of some one running in the grove. He caught a
glimpse of a white robe among the trees. He felt sure that this was the
man whom the crow had seen, and that he was trying to run away. He
fitted an arrow to his bow quickly. He drew the string. Twang! And the
arrow which never missed sped like a flash of light through the air.
Apollo heard a sharp, wild cry of pain; and he bounded forward through
the grove. There, stretched dying on the grass, he saw his dear Coronis.
She had seen him coming, and was running gladly to greet him, when the
cruel arrow pierced her heart. Apollo was overcome with grief. He took
her form in his arms, and tried to call her back to life again. But it
was all in vain. She could only whisper his name, and then she was dead.
A moment afterwards the crow alighted on one of the trees near by.
"Cor--Cor--Cor," it began; for it wanted now to finish its story. But
Apollo bade it begone.
"Cursed bird," he cried, "you shall never say a word but
'Cor--Cor--Cor!' all your life; and the feathers of which you are so
proud shall no longer be white, but black as midnight."
And from that time to this, as you very well know, all crows have been
black; and they fly from one dead tree to another, always crying,
Soon after this, Apollo took the little AEsculapius in his arms and
carried him to a wise old schoolmaster named Cheiron, who lived in a
cave under the gray cliffs of a mountain close by the sea.
"Take this child," he said, "and teach him all the lore of the
mountains, the woods, and the fields. Teach him those things which he
most needs to know in order to do great good to his fellow-men."
And AEsculapius proved to be a wise child, gentle and sweet and
teachable; and among all the pupils of Cheiron he was the best loved.
He learned the lore of the mountains, the woods, and the fields. He
found out what virtue there is in herbs and flowers and senseless
stones; and he studied the habits of birds and beasts and men. But above
all he became skillful in dressing wounds and healing diseases; and to
this day physicians remember and honor him as the first and greatest of
their craft. When he grew up to manhood his name was heard in every
land, and people blessed him because he was the friend of life and the
foe of death.
As time went by, AEsculapius cured so many people and saved so many lives
that Pluto, the pale-faced king of the Lower World, became alarmed.
"I shall soon have nothing to do," he said, "if this physician does not
stop keeping people away from my kingdom."
And he sent word to his brother Jupiter, and complained that AEsculapius
was cheating him out of what was his due. Great Jupiter listened to his
complaint, and stood up among the storm clouds, and hurled his
thunderbolts at AEsculapius until the great physician was cruelly slain.
Then all the world was filled with grief, and even the beasts and the
trees and the stones wept because the friend of life was no more.
When Apollo heard of the death of his son, his grief and wrath were
terrible. He could not do anything against Jupiter and Pluto, for they
were stronger than he; but he went down into the smithy of Vulcan,
underneath the smoking mountains, and slew the giant smiths who had made
the deadly thunderbolts.
Then Jupiter, in his turn, was angry, and ordered Apollo to come before
him and be punished for what he had done. He took away his bow and
arrows and his wonderful lyre and all his beauty of form and feature;
and after that Jupiter clothed him in the rags of a beggar and drove him
down from the mountain, and told him that he should never come back nor
be himself again until he had served some man a whole year as a slave.
And so Apollo went out, alone and friendless, into the world; and no one
who saw him would have dreamed that he was once the sun-bright Lord of
the Silver Bow.
ADMETUS AND ALCESTIS.
I. THE SLAVE.
In a little town north of Delphi, and not very far from the sea, there
lived a young man named Admetus. He was the ruler of the town, and hence
was called its king; but his kingdom was so small that he could walk all
round it in half a day. He knew the name of every man and woman and
child in the town, and everybody loved him because he was so gentle and
kind and at the same time a king.
Late one day, when the rain was falling and the wind was blowing cold
from the mountains, a beggar came to his door. The man was ragged and
dirty and half starved, and Admetus knew that he must have come from
some strange land, for in his own country no one ever went hungry. So
the kind king took him into the house and fed him; and after the man had
bathed he gave him his own warm cloak, and bade the servants make a
place for him to sleep through the night.
In the morning Admetus asked the poor man his name, but he shook his
head and made no answer. Then Admetus asked him about his home and his
country; and all that the man would say was: "Make me your slave,
master! Make me your slave, and let me serve you for a year."
The young king did not need another servant. But he saw that the poorest
slave in the land was better off than this man, and so he took pity on
him. "I will do as you ask," he said. "I will give you a home and food
and clothing; and you shall serve me and be my slave for one year."
There was but little that the stranger knew how to do, and so he was
sent to the hills to take care of the king's sheep and goats. For a
whole year he tended the flocks, finding the greenest pastures and the
freshest water for them, and keeping the wolves away. Admetus was very
kind to him, as he was to all his servants, and the food and clothing
which he gave him were of the best in the land. But the stranger did not
tell his name nor say anything about his kindred or his home.
When a year and a day had passed, it so happened that Admetus was
walking out among the hills to see his sheep. All at once the sound of
music fell upon his ear. It was no such music as shepherds play, but
sweeter and richer than any he had ever heard before. He looked to see
where the sound came from. Ah! who was that sitting on the hilltop, with
the sheep around him listening to his music? Surely it was not his
It was a tall and handsome young man, clad in robes lighter and finer
than any king might wear. His face was as bright as sunbeams, and his
eyes gleamed like lightning. Upon his shoulder was a silver bow, from
his belt hung a quiver of sharp arrows, and in his hands was a golden
lyre. Admetus stood still and wondered. Then the stranger spoke:
"King Admetus," he said, "I am the poor beggar whom you fed--your slave
to whom you were so kind. I have served you, as I agreed, for a whole
year, and now I am going home. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"Yes," said Admetus; "tell me your name."
"My name is Apollo," was the answer. "Twelve months ago my father,
mighty Jupiter, drove me away from before his face and bade me go out
friendless and alone upon the earth; and he told me that I should not
turn again towards home until I had served a year as some man's slave. I
came to you, ragged and half starved, and you fed and clothed me; and I
became your slave, and you were as kind to me as though I were your son.
What shall I give you to reward you?"
"Lord of the Silver Bow," said the king, "I have all that any man can
want. I am happy in the thought that I have been of some help to you. I
can ask for nothing more."
"Very well," said Apollo; "but if the time should ever come when you
need my help, let me know."
Then the bright prince walked swiftly away, playing sweet music as he
went; and Admetus with glad heart returned to his home.
II. THE CHARIOT.
From the place where Admetus lived it was only a few miles to Iolcus, a
rich city by the sea. The king of Iolcus was a cruel tyrant named
Pelias, who cared for nobody in all the world but himself. This Pelias
had a daughter named Alcestis, who was as fair as any rose in June and
so gentle and good that everybody praised her. Many a prince from over
the sea had come to woo Alcestis for his wife; and the noblest young men
in Greece had tried to win her favor. But there was only one to whom she
would listen, and that was her young neighbor, King Admetus.
So Admetus went before gruff King Pelias to ask him whether he might wed
"No one shall have my daughter," said the old king, "until he proves
that he is worthy to be my son-in-law. If you want her, you must come
for her in a chariot drawn by a lion and a wild boar. If you come in any
other way, she shall not be your wife." And Pelias laughed, and drove
the young man out of his palace.
Admetus went away feeling very sad; for who had ever heard of harnessing
a lion and a wild boar together in a chariot? The bravest man in the
world could not do such a thing as that.
As he walked along and saw the sheep and goats feeding on the hilltops
near his own town, he chanced to think of Apollo and of the last words
that he had heard him say: "When you need my help, let me know."
"I will let him know," said Admetus.
Early the next morning he built an altar of stones in the open field;
and when he had killed the fattest goat of the flock, he built a fire on
the altar and laid the thighs of the goat in the flames. Then when the
smell of the burning flesh went up into the air, he lifted his hands
towards the mountain tops and called to Apollo.
"Lord of the Silver Bow," he cried, "if ever I have shown kindness to
the poor and the distressed, come now and help me. For I am in sore
need, and I remember your promise."
Hardly was he done speaking when bright Apollo, bearing his bow and his
quiver of arrows, came down and stood before him.
"Kindest of kings," he said, "tell me how I can help you."
Then Admetus told him all about the fair Alcestis, and how her father
would give her only to the man who should come for her in a chariot
drawn by a lion and a wild boar.
"Come with me," said Apollo, "and I will help you."
Then the two went together into the forest, the Lord of the Silver Bow
leading the way. Soon they started a lion from its lair and gave chase
to it. The fleet-footed Apollo seized the beast by its mane, and
although it howled and snapped with its fierce jaws it did not touch
him. Then Admetus started a wild boar from a thicket. Apollo gave chase
to it, too, making the lion run beside him like a dog. When he had
caught the boar, he went on through the forest, leading the two beasts,
one with his right hand, the other with his left; and Admetus followed
[Illustration: "IT WAS A STRANGE TEAM."]
It was not yet noon when they came to the edge of the woods and saw
the sea and the city of Iolcus only a little way off. A golden chariot
stood by the roadside as if waiting for them, and the lion and the boar
were soon harnessed to it. It was a strange team, and the two beasts
tried hard to fight each other; but Apollo lashed them with a whip and
tamed them until they lost their fierceness and were ready to mind the
rein. Then Admetus climbed into the chariot; and Apollo stood by his
side and held the reins and the whip, and drove into Iolcus.
Old King Pelias was astonished when he saw the wonderful chariot and the
glorious charioteer; and when Admetus again asked him for the fair
Alcestis, he could not refuse. A day was set for the wedding, and Apollo
drove his team back to the forest and set the lion and the wild boar
And so Admetus and Alcestis were married, and everybody in the two
towns, except gruff old King Pelias, was glad. Apollo himself was one of
the guests at the wedding feast, and he brought a present for the young
bridegroom; it was a promise from the Mighty Folk upon the mountain top
that if Admetus should ever be sick and in danger of death, he might
become well again if some one who loved him would die for him.
III. THE SHADOW LEADER.
Admetus and Alcestis lived together happily for a long time, and all the
people in their little kingdom loved and blessed them. But at last
Admetus fell sick, and, as he grew worse and worse every day, all hope
that he would ever get well was lost. Then those who loved him
remembered the wedding gift which Apollo had given him, and they began
to ask who would be willing to die in his stead.
His father and mother were very old and could hope to live but a short
time at best, and so it was thought that one of them would be glad to
give up life for the sake of their son. But when some one asked them
about it, they shook their heads and said that though life was short
they would cling to it as long as they could.
Then his brothers and sisters were asked if they would die for Admetus,
but they loved themselves better than their brother, and turned away and
left him. There were men in the town whom he had befriended and who owed
their lives to him; they would have done everything else for him, but
this thing they would not do.
Now while all were shaking their heads and saying "Not I," the beautiful
Alcestis went into her own room and called to Apollo and asked that she
might give up her life to save her husband. Then without a thought of
fear she lay down upon her bed and closed her eyes; and a little while
afterward, when her maidens came into the room they found her dead.
At the very same time Admetus felt his sickness leave him, and he sprang
up as well and strong as he had ever been. Wondering how it was that he
had been so quickly cured, he made haste to find Alcestis and tell her
the good news. But when he went into her room, he saw her lying lifeless
on her couch, and he knew at once that she had died for him. His grief
was so great that he could not speak, and he wished that death had taken
him and spared the one whom he loved.
In all the land every eye was wet with weeping for Alcestis, and the
cries of the mourners were heard in every house. Admetus sat by the
couch where his young queen lay, and held her cold hand in his own. The
day passed, and night came, but he would not leave her. All through the
dark hours he sat there alone. The morning dawned, but he did not want
to see the light.
At last the sun began to rise in the east, and then Admetus was
surprised to feel the hand which he held growing warm. He saw a red
tinge coming into the pale cheeks of Alcestis.
A moment later the fair lady opened her eyes and sat up, alive and well
How was it that Alcestis had been given back to life?
When she died and left her body, the Shadow Leader, who knows no pity,
led her, as he led all others, to the cheerless halls of Proserpine, the
queen of the Lower World.
"Who is this who comes so willingly?" asked the pale-faced queen.
And when she was told how Alcestis, so young and beautiful, had given
her life to save that of her husband, she was moved with pity; and she
bade the Shadow Leader take her back again to the joy and sunlight of
the Upper World.
So it was that Alcestis came to life; and for many years she and Admetus
lived in their little kingdom not far from the sea; and the Mighty Ones
on the mountain top blessed them; and, at last, when they had become
very old, the Shadow Leader led them both away together.
CADMUS AND EUROPA.
I. THE BULL.
In Asia there lived a king who had two children, a boy and a girl. The
boy's name was Cadmus, and the girl's name was Europa. The king's
country was a very small one. He could stand on his house top and see
the whole of it. On one side of it there were mountains, and on the
other side was the sea. The king thought that it was the center of the
world, and he did not know much about other lands and people.
Yet he was very happy in his own little kingdom, and very fond of his
children. And he had good reason to be proud of them; for Cadmus grew up
to be the bravest young man in the land, and Europa to be the fairest
maiden that had ever been seen. But sad days came to them all at last.
One morning Europa went out into a field near the seashore to pick
flowers. Her father's cattle were in the field, grazing among the sweet
clover. They were all very tame, and Europa knew every one of them by
name. The herdsman was lying in the shade under a tree, trying to make
music on a little flute of straw. Europa had played in the field a
thousand times before, and no one had ever thought of any harm befalling
That morning she noticed that there was a strange bull with the herd. He
was very large and as white as snow; and he had soft brown eyes which
somehow made him look very gentle and kind. At first he did not even
look at Europa, but went here and there, eating the tender grass which
grew among the clover. But when she had gathered her apron full of
daisies and buttercups, he came slowly towards her. She was not at all
afraid of him; and so she stopped to look at him, he was so handsome. He
came close to her, and rubbed her arm with his nose to say
She stroked his head and neck, and he seemed much pleased. Then she made
a wreath of daisies, and hung it round his neck. He looked at her with
his soft kind eyes, and seemed to thank her; and in a little while, he
lay down among the clover. Europa then made a smaller wreath, and
climbed upon his back to twine it round his horns. But all at once he
sprang up, and ran away so swiftly that Europa could not help herself.
She did not dare to jump off while he was going so fast, and all that
she could think to do was to hold fast to his neck and scream very
The herdsman under the tree heard her scream, and jumped up to see what
was the matter. He saw the bull running with her towards the shore. He
ran after them as fast as he could, but it was of no use. The bull
leaped into the sea, and swam swiftly away, with poor Europa on his
back. Several other people had seen him, and now they ran to tell the
king. Soon the whole town was alarmed. Everybody ran out to the shore
and looked. All that could be seen was something white moving very fast
over the calm, blue water; and soon it was out of sight.
The king sent out his fastest ship to try to overtake the bull. The
sailors rowed far out to sea, much farther than any ship had ever gone
before; but no trace of Europa could be found. When they came back,
everybody felt that there was no more hope. All the women and children
in the town wept for the lost Europa. The king shut himself up in his
house, and did not eat nor drink for three days. Then he called his son
Cadmus, and bade him take a ship and go in search of his sister; and he
told him that, no matter what dangers might be in his way, he must not
come back until she was found.
Cadmus was glad to go. He chose twenty brave young men to go with him,
and set sail the very next day. It was a great undertaking; for they
were to pass through an unknown sea, and they did not know what lands
they would come to. Indeed, it was feared that they would never come to
any land at all. Ships did not dare to go far from the shore in those
days. But Cadmus and his friends were not afraid. They were ready to
face any danger.
In a few days they came to a large island called Cyprus. Cadmus went on
shore, and tried to talk with the strange people who lived there. They
were very kind to him, but they did not understand his language. At last
he made out by signs to tell them who he was, and to ask them if they
had seen his little sister Europa or the white bull that had carried her
away. They shook their heads and pointed to the west.
Then the young men sailed on in their little ship. They came to many
islands, and stopped at every one, to see if they could find any trace
of Europa; but they heard no news of her at all. At last, they came to
the country which we now call Greece. It was a new country then, and
only a few people lived there, and Cadmus soon learned to speak their
language well. For a long time he wandered from one little town to
another, always telling the story of his lost sister.
II. THE PYTHIA.
One day an old man told Cadmus that if he would go to Delphi and ask the
Pythia, perhaps she could tell him all about Europa. Cadmus had never
heard of Delphi or of the Pythia, and he asked the old man what he
"I will tell you," said the man. "Delphi is a town, built near the foot
of Mount Parnassus, at the very center of the earth. It is the town of
Apollo, the Bringer of Light; and there is a temple there, built close
to the spot where Apollo killed a black serpent, many, many years ago.
The temple is the most wonderful place in the world. In the middle of
the floor there is a wide crack, or crevice; and this crevice goes down,
down into the rock, nobody knows how deep. A strange odor comes up out
of the crevice; and if any one breathes much of it, he is apt to fall
over and lose his senses."
"But who is the Pythia that you spoke about?" asked Cadmus.
"I will tell you," said the old man. "The Pythia is a wise woman, who
lives in the temple. When anybody asks her a hard question, she takes a
three-legged stool, called a tripod, and sets it over the crevice in
the floor. Then she sits on the stool and breathes the strange odor; and
instead of losing her senses as other people would do, she talks with
Apollo; and Apollo tells her how to answer the question. Men from all
parts of the world go there to ask about things which they would like to
know. The temple is full of the beautiful and costly gifts which they
have brought for the Pythia. Sometimes she answers them plainly, and
sometimes she answers them in riddles; but what she says always comes
So Cadmus went to Delphi to ask the Pythia about his lost sister. The
wise woman was very kind to him; and when he had given her a beautiful
golden cup to pay her for her trouble, she sat down on the tripod and
breathed the strange odor which came up through the crevice in the rock.
Then her face grew pale, and her eyes looked wild, and she seemed to be
in great pain; but they said that she was talking with Apollo. Cadmus
asked her to tell him what had become of Europa. She said that Jupiter,
in the form of a white bull, had carried her away, and that it would be
of no use to look for her any more.
"But what shall I do?" said Cadmus. "My father told me not to turn back
till I should find her."
"Your father is dead," said the Pythia, "and a strange king rules in
his place. You must stay in Greece, for there is work here for you to
"What must I do?" said Cadmus.
"Follow the white cow," said the Pythia; "and on the hill where she lies
down, you must build a city."
Cadmus did not understand what she meant by this; but she would not
speak another word.
"This must be one of her riddles," he said, and he left the temple.
III. THE DRAGON.
When Cadmus went out of the temple, he saw a snow-white cow standing not
far from the door. She seemed to be waiting for him, for she looked at
him with her large brown eyes, and then turned and walked away. Cadmus
thought of what the Pythia had just told him, and so he followed her.
All day and all night he walked through a strange wild country where no
one lived; and two of the young men who had sailed with Cadmus from his
old home were with him.
When the sun rose the next morning, they saw that they were on the top
of a beautiful hill, with woods on one side and a grassy meadow on the
other. There the cow lay down.
"Here we will build our city," said Cadmus.
Then the young men made a fire of dry sticks, and Cadmus killed the cow.
They thought that if they should burn some of her flesh, the smell of it
would go up to the sky and be pleasing to Jupiter and the Mighty Folk
who lived with him among the clouds; and in this way they hoped to make
friends with Jupiter so that he would not hinder them in their work.
But they needed water to wash the flesh and their hands; and so one of
the young men went down the hill to find some. He was gone so long that
the other young man became uneasy and went after him.
Cadmus waited for them till the fire had burned low. He waited and
waited till the sun was high in the sky. He called and shouted, but no
one answered him. At last he took his sword in his hand and went down to
see what was the matter.
He followed the path which his friends had taken, and soon came to a
fine stream of cold water at the foot of a hill. He saw something move
among the bushes which grew near it. It was a fierce dragon, waiting to
spring upon him. There was blood on the grass and leaves, and it was not
hard to guess what had become of the two young men.
The beast sprang at Cadmus, and tried to seize him with its sharp claws.
But Cadmus leaped quickly aside and struck it in the neck with his long
sword. A great stream of black blood gushed out, and the dragon soon
fell to the ground dead. Cadmus had seen many fearful sights, but never
anything so dreadful as this beast. He had never been in so great danger
before. He sat down on the ground and trembled; and, all the time, he
was weeping for his two friends. How now was he to build a city, with no
one to help him?
IV. THE CITY.
While Cadmus was still weeping he was surprised to hear some one calling
him. He stood up and looked around. On the hillside before him was a
tall woman who had a helmet on her head and a shield in her hand. Her
eyes were gray, and her face, though not beautiful, was very noble.
Cadmus knew at once that she was Athena, the queen of the air--she who
gives wisdom to men.
Athena told Cadmus that he must take out the teeth of the dragon and sow
them in the ground. He thought that would be a queer kind of seed. But
she said that if he would do this, he would soon have men enough to help
him build his city; and, before he could say a word, she had gone out of
[Illustration: "SOON THEY BEGAN TO FIGHT AMONG THEMSELVES."]
The dragon had a great many teeth--so many that when Cadmus had taken
them out they filled his helmet heaping full. The next thing was to find
a good place to sow them. Just as he turned away from the stream, he saw
a yoke of oxen standing a little way off. He went to them and found that
they were hitched to a plow. What more could he want? The ground in the
meadow was soft and black, and he drove the plow up and down, making
long furrows as he went. Then he dropped the teeth, one by one, into the
furrows and covered them over with the rich soil. When he had sown all
of them in this way, he sat down on the hillside and watched to see what
In a little while the soil in the furrows began to stir. Then, at every
place that a tooth had been dropped, something bright grew up. It was a
brass helmet. The helmets pushed their way up, and soon the faces of men
were seen underneath, then their shoulders, then their arms, then their
bodies; and then, before Cadmus could think, a thousand warriors leaped
out of the furrows and shook off the black earth which was clinging to
them. Every man was clothed in a suit of brass armor; and every one had
a long spear in his right hand and a shield in his left.
Cadmus was frightened when he saw the strange crop which had grown up
from the dragon's teeth. The men looked so fierce that he feared they
would kill him if they saw him. He hid himself behind his plow and then
began to throw stones at them. The warriors did not know where the
stones came from, but each thought that his neighbor had struck him.
Soon they began to fight among themselves. Man after man was killed, and
in a little while only five were left alive. Then Cadmus ran towards
them and called out:
"Hold! Stop fighting! You are my men, and must come with me. We will
build a city here."
The men obeyed him. They followed Cadmus to the top of the hill; and
they were such good workmen that in a few days they had built a house on
the spot where the cow had lain down.
After that they built other houses, and people came to live in them.
They called the town Cadmeia, after Cadmus who was its first king. But
when the place had grown to be a large city, it was known by the name of
Cadmus was a wise king. The Mighty Folk who lived with Jupiter amid the
clouds were well pleased with him and helped him in more ways than one.
After a while he married Harmonia, the beautiful daughter of Mars. All
the Mighty Ones were at the wedding; and Athena gave the bride a
wonderful necklace about which you may learn something more at another
But the greatest thing that Cadmus did is yet to be told. He was the
first schoolmaster of the Greeks, and taught them the letters which were
used in his own country across the sea. They called the first of these
letters _alpha_ and the second _beta_, and that is why men speak of the
_alphabet_ to this day. And when the Greeks had learned the alphabet
from Cadmus, they soon began to read and write, and to make beautiful
and useful books.
As for the maiden Europa, she was carried safe over the sea to a distant
shore. She may have been happy in the new, strange land to which she was
taken--I cannot tell; but she never heard of friends or home again.
Whether it was really Jupiter in the form of a bull that carried her
away, nobody knows. It all happened so long ago that there may have been
some mistake about the story; and I should not think it strange if it
were a sea robber who stole her from her home, and a swift ship with