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First published in 1934, Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece has become one of the most popular, enduring--and captivating--retellings of the ancient myths for modern readers. Recognizing the sheer entertainment value of these timeless adventures, world renowned classical scholar W.H.D. Rouse delighted his students at the Perse School in Cambridge, England, with a conversational style and childlike wonder that made the legends ...
First published in 1934, Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece has become one of the most popular, enduring--and captivating--retellings of the ancient myths for modern readers. Recognizing the sheer entertainment value of these timeless adventures, world renowned classical scholar W.H.D. Rouse delighted his students at the Perse School in Cambridge, England, with a conversational style and childlike wonder that made the legends come alive--a rare storytelling gift that continues to engage young and old alike.
Many of the characters in this book are familiar to us--Helen of Troy, Icarus, Zeus, Athena, to name just a few--but rarely have their stories of war and adventure, bravery and romance, been so simply and thrillingly told. From the strong-arm heroics of Heracles, to the trickery of the Trojan Horse, from the seductions of Circe the sorceress, to the terrors of the Cyclops and Minotaur, these legends have outlived the culture that bore them. But while the ancient Greeks may be long gone, their fables and morals, their heroes and heroines, live on today…
I. The Beginning of Things
In the beginning there was Chaos, a great hollow Void, in which the seeds or beginnings of all things were mixed up together in a shapeless mass, all moving about in all directions. By degrees these beginnings slowly sorted themselves out; the heavier parts gathered together, and became Earth; the lighter parts flew up, and became the sky, with air between; and under the earth was a dark place called Tartaros. In the heavens, the sun, moon, and stars appeared one by one; on earth, the land separated from the sea; rain fell, and the rivers ran down from the hills; trees grew up, and the world became something like what we know, and it had the shape of a great round ball, or a disk, like a large plate.
From Chaos, the great Void, came forth many and strange children; but first and most wonderful of all was Eros, or Love, who came no one knows how, and was quite different from all the others; he outlived them all, and still lives, the most mighty of all divine powers. From Chaos came forth also Erebos, and black Night; and their child was the Day.
From Chaos, lastly, came into being Father Uranos, or Heaven; and Pontos, the Sea; and Mother Earth. Heaven and Earth were parents of a great brood of children. These were called, in general, the Titans. The brood began with monsters, but they improved as they went on. Among the monsters were three, with fifty heads apiece, and a hundred hands; their names were Cottos, Gyas, and Briareos. Three others were named the Cyclôpês; Cyclops means Goggleeye, and each Cyclops had one huge eye in the middle of his forehead, with one huge and bushy eyebrow above it. There were others, some of whom we shall meet later; and then came a superior brood of children. I will not tell you the names of all these now, but one was Oceanos, the ocean-stream, which runs like a great river all round the earth; and one was Hyperion, who took charge of the light by night and day. He was the father of Eos, the Dawn, and Helios, the Sun, and Selênê, the Moon. And the youngest of the children of Heaven and Earth was named Cronos: the youngest, but the most terrible of them all.
Now Uranos hated his children, and feared them; and as each was born, he hid them in secret places of the earth, and kept them prisoners in darkness. But Mother Earth was angry to see her children so badly treated: so she persuaded them to rebel, and they did so, and cast down Uranos from the sky. They cast him down into Tartaros, the dark region below the earth. In the fight he was wounded by Cronos; drops of his blood fell on the sea, and from these drops sprang up Aphroditê, who became the goddess of beauty and love. Her name means daughter of the foam, because she came up out of the foam of the sea. Other drops of his blood fell on the earth; and from these sprang up the Giants and the Furies. We shall hear of these later: for the Giants made war on the gods long afterwards; and the Furies used to range about the world, when men were created, chasing and punishing those men who shed blood.
Cronos was leader of this rebellion, and he became King of Heaven in his father’s place. When he became king he cast down his brothers and sisters into Tartaros, except one, Rheia, whom he married. But he was not so careful about their children. Some of them were useful, like Dawn, and Sun, and Moon, so he left them alone. Another of the Titans had five sons. Atlas was one of those sons, and he was made to stand by the gate of Tartaros, and to hold up the sky on his shoulders. Two others of this family were very famous afterwards. Their names were Prometheus and Epimetheus, that is to say, Forethought and Afterthought. Prometheus was the cleverest of all the Titans; and he went to live on the earth. There he used to wander about making models out of mud to amuse himself.
Now at that time things were not quite sorted out from Chaos, and there were bits of life still in the mud or clay of the earth. So when Prometheus made this clay into all sorts of odd shapes, the shapes came alive as he made them, and became worms, and snakes, and crocodiles, and all kinds of strange creatures, which you can see in museums. As he grew more skilful, he made also birds, and animals, and at last he thought he could make something in the shape of the immortals. His first attempt went on four legs, like the other animals, and had a tail like them—it was a monkey in fact. He tried all sorts of monkeys, big and small, until he found out how to make his model stand upright. Then he cut off the tail, and lengthened the thumbs of the hands, and twisted them inwards. That may seem a very little thing, but it makes all the difference between a monkey’s hands and a man’s; just try and see how many things you cannot do, if you tie your thumb fast to your first finger. And if you look at the skeleton of a man in the museum, you will see that you have a tiny tail in the right place, or at least the bones of it, all that is left after Prometheus cut it off.
Thousands of years afterwards, the Greeks used to show in one of their temples lumps of clay, which they said were left over after Prometheus had made the first man. This clay was the colour of mud, and smelt a little like human flesh.
Prometheus was very much pleased with his new pet. He used to watch men hunting for food, and living in caves and holes, like ants or badgers. He determined to educate men as well as he could, and he was always their friend. Cronos did not take notice of what he was doing; and now we must turn to Cronos, and see what he was doing himself.
II. The Gods
Cronos had married one of the Titans, named Rheia; and he was determined that his children should not rebel against him, as he had rebelled against his father, so as soon as one was born, he swallowed it whole. Five he swallowed up in this way; but then Rheia grew tired of this, as she wanted babies to play with, so when the sixth was born, she determined to save him. She took a big stone of the same size as a baby, and wrapped it in swaddling clothes, and presented it to Cronos as the last baby. Cronos promptly swallowed the stone, and was quite contented. This was really a thing easy to manage, because no doubt the gods used to do with their babies just as the Greek mothers used to do; they wrapped them round and round with a long narrow cloth, until they looked like a chrysalis, or a long plum, with the baby’s head sticking out of the end. Then Rheia took the real baby, whose name was Zeus, and hid him on the island of Crete, in a cave which you can still see at this day. He was put in the charge of two nymphs, who fed him on goat’s milk, and the cave was watched by armed guards; whenever the baby cried, the guards made such a din by clashing their spears on their shields, that Cronos heard nothing of its cries.
Rheia bided her time; and when Zeus grew up, she told him how Cronos had swallowed his brothers and sisters, and how she had saved Zeus himself; and they made a plot against Cronos, as Cronos had done against his father. Together they managed to give Cronos a strong dose of medicine. This made Cronos very sick, and he disgorged all the children, one after another. First came the stone which Rheia had made him swallow; and Cronos was very much surprised to see that. You may see the stone, if you wish, for it was placed in the sacred place of Delphi, and it is still there, in the Museum. Then came the five others in order. I must tell you their names now, because they all come into the story; they were Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hadês, and Poseidon. Strange to say, they had all grown up quite well inside their father, and now they were as big as Zeus, and ready to join in the plot. Then they all made war upon Cronos, and the war went on for ten years, but neither party could win.
Cronos got friends to help him, as far as he could, and one of them was the wise Prometheus. As the war went on, Prometheus said, “Sir, I advise you to bring up your brothers from Tartaros.” But Cronos was afraid of his brothers: he said, “No, thank you, no brothers for me.” When Prometheus found that Cronos was too stupid to take good advice, he went over to the side of Zeus. To Zeus he gave the same advice; and although Zeus was not very wise, he was wise enough to take this advice. So he set free the three Cyclôpês, named Thunderer, Lightener, and Shiner; and they were so grateful, that they gave Zeus a gift each—the thunder, and the lightning, and the thunderbolt. They also gave Hadês a cap, which made him invisible when he put it on; and they gave Poseidon a trident, or three-pronged spear. Next Zeus set free the three monsters with fifty heads and a hundred hands. You see what an advantage that gave to Zeus. Each of them was like a quick-firing gun, and could throw a hundred stones for Cronos’s one.
Now Zeus made a feast for his friends. He gave them nectar, the drink of the gods, and ambrosia, the food of the gods, which was the food of immortality; and he said, “Now let us fight, and make an end of this long war.”
Then there was a terrible battle. The three monsters caught up a rock in each of their three hundred hands, and cast them in volleys at Cronos. Zeus thundered and lightened and launched his thunderbolts. The earth shook, the sea boiled, the forests caught fire and burnt, blustering winds made confusion all round. In the end, they conquered Cronos, and bound him in chains, and shut him up in dark Tartaros.
As far as heaven is high above the earth, so deep is Tartaros below the earth. Nine days and nine nights a stone would fall from heaven to earth; nine days and nine nights it would fall from earth to deep Tartaros. A brazen wall runs round it, and brazen gates close it in; there Cronos was in prison, guarded by the Cyclôpês and the three hundredhanded monsters. In front of the gate stands Atlas, immovable, bearing the heavens upon his shoulders. A fearful watch-dog guards the gates, Cerberos, with three heads and three gaping mouths. When anyone goes in, Cerberos fawns upon him, and licks his hands with his three tongues; but if anyone tries to go out, Cerberos devours him up. There Night and Day meet together, and greet one another, as one passes in and the other passes out. Within dwell Sleep and Death, brothers, the children of Night. Sleep can wander over the earth at will, seizing men and letting them go; but Death, once he gets hold of a man, never lets him go again, for there is no pity in his heart.
And there dwells Styx, the lady of the black river of Hate, eldest daughter of Ocean. When quarrels arise among the immortal gods, then Zeus sends his messenger Iris, with a golden jug, to bring some of the waters of Styx, which falls from a high and beetling rock. The gods must swear an oath by this water. If any of them breaks the oath, for one year he lies breathless, and cannot partake of sweet nectar and ambrosia; after that year he is cut off from the meeting of the gods for nine years more, and then only may he come back and join their company.
In that dark place the banished Titans dwell, guarded by the monsters. And the Cyclôpês are always busy, forging the thunderbolts of Zeus.
After the victory, Zeus and his two brothers were ready to fight each other now, which should be King; but the wise Prometheus persuaded them to cast lots, and to share the sovereignty amongst them. So lots were cast. Zeus became King of Heaven, and Poseidon King of the Sea, and Hadês King of dark Tartaros; but the earth belonged to them all.
Prometheus, you may remember, was an inventor, and he had filled the earth with animals of his moulding, amongst them Man. He had made Man’s body to be like the gods; and into him he put a speck of all the creatures on earth which he had already made, to see what would come of the mixture. There was a speck of the lion, and of the deer, a speck of the cow and of the serpent, a speck of the dog and of the fox, of the monkey and of the owl, the dove and the vulture. It was, indeed, a strange mixture, and so are we still, are we not? Sometimes brave and sometimes timid, now calm and now spiteful, truthful or cunning, mischievous or solemn, gentle or greedy! I have often seen boys very much like monkeys, all but the tail. We need a lot of training before we can get all this chaos into order. Prometheus knew that, and he did his best to train up mankind in the way they should go.
He soon found he could not do much without fire. You remember that fire was a great novelty even to the gods; Zeus got it as a gift from the Cyclôpês; and he soon began to use it for cooking and for making things. He set up one of his sons, named Hephaistos, as the blacksmith and goldsmith by appointment to the heavenly court. Hephaistos also became a builder and architect, and a fine workman he was. So Prometheus, when he saw all these things, understood that he must get fire by hook or by crook. But Zeus did not like the idea at all. When he turned his attention to the earth, and saw all the creatures that Prometheus had been making, he thought them a poor lot. “I will not give fire to such creatures as those,” he said. “The earth is a fine place, and it is wasted on them. Let us destroy them, and make a better sort of creatures.”
But Prometheus, of course, would not agree to that. Zeus could not do everything, as you must have noticed, and he could not wipe out mankind off-hand. There is a gap in the story here, and we do not know what happened. But it is clear that there was some sort of war, and that Prometheus did his best to protect his friends; for the next thing we hear of is, that Prometheus is making peace between gods and men. They had come to an agreement of some sort, and as usual when a quarrel was made up, there was to be a solemn sacrifice. Some animal was killed, and the gods were to have part of the animal, and men were to have part. In later days, the gods’ part used to be burnt, because in that way it could go up to heaven in smoke; but at this time there was no fire on earth, so Zeus came to the place himself to receive his part.
Now Prometheus thought of a way to let his beloved men get the best part. He cut up the victim, and put the titbits into a bladder, and wrapped round it a rough piece of hide. Then he put all the bones together in a bundle, and wrapped round it a layer of fat. He knew Zeus was rather greedy, and had a tooth for fat; so he waited to see what would happen.
When Zeus saw the two parcels, he said, laughing, “Why, my good Titan, this is not a fair division at all. What is that dry old bag?” But Prometheus said, “It is quite fair, sir. We are well satisfied; take your choice, I pray you.” As he expected, Zeus chose the enticing parcel of fat. But when he opened it, and saw nothing but bones inside, he was very angry. However, he hid his anger, and pretended he knew about it all the time. “I see this is another of your tricks!” he said. “You are a clever fellow, indeed! Well, never mind.” But he had really been taken in, and he did not forget it. He just waited for a chance to pay men out; and when Prometheus begged again for a spark of fire, Zeus flatly refused.
But Prometheus was not to be beaten so easily; and he thought of another trick. He took a long fennel-stalk, and dried it, and cut it in half; and as he passed by the hearth where the fire was always kept burning, he poked the stalk in, and let the pith catch fire inside it. He carried out the stalk, and fastened the other half to it, and left the pith smouldering in the middle. Then he calmly walked out of Olympos, with the fennel-stalk for a walking-stick, and walked down to earth, and nobody noticed anything about it.
Now he had the fire, he began to teach men in earnest. He showed them how to cook, and how to keep themselves warm, how to bake bricks, and burn pottery, how to melt metals and make tools. Men lived no longer in caves and holes in the earth, but made houses to live in. Prometheus taught them how to write, and how to do arithmetic; he taught them about the stars, and gave them medicine to cure their diseases; and they learnt how to tame the horse and the ass and the camel, that these might carry their burdens; and sheep and cows, to give them milk and meat, and to clothe them with skins and fleecy wool.
In fact, he taught them the beginnings of all the arts; and he gave them one blessing above all others. Hitherto they had known the future; they saw trouble and death coming upon them, and they could do nothing to help it, so they were always miserable. But Prometheus took away from men all knowledge of the future; and in its place he put in their hearts blind hopes, which saw nothing, but made them to be always happy. And he gathered together all the evil things that were in the earth, war and quarrel, hatred and greed, pains and diseases, and put them into a large jar; he put a lid on the pot, and sealed it, and gave it to his brother Epimetheus. “Take care of this, my brother,” he said, “and never leave it out of your charge. And when I am away, be very careful not to receive any gift from Zeus. He is man’s enemy, and I fear he may try to do him a mischief.”
Meanwhile, Zeus had other things to concern him. But when by chance his eye fell upon the earth, what should he see but gleams of fire! How came fire to be on earth? Prometheus must be at the bottom of that! But Prometheus was nowhere to be found; he was busy on earth, as you know. Zeus determined to have his revenge.
So he sent for Hephaistos, the clever craftsman, and told him to make a woman. For there had been only men upon earth so far, and they managed without women as best they could. Hephaistos took a lump of clay and moulded it into the shape of one of the immortal goddesses. He moulded a beautiful creature, like a modest maid; and all the gods and goddesses gave her gifts. The goddess Athena dressed her in fine clothes and taught her spinning, and weaving, and needlework. Aphroditê, goddess of beauty, filled her with grace, and made her such that every man would wish her to be his own. Gold necklaces and bracelets were put upon her, and garlands of flowers crowned her head. Hermês, the crier of the gods, put lovely speech into her mouth, and all sorts of trickery into her mind. They named her Pandora, or All-gifts, because all the gods and goddesses had brought her a gift. Then Zeus sent Hermês to take Pandora down to the earth, and to give her to Epimetheus.
Now Epimetheus was not like his brother Prometheus, who always thought of things beforehand, and looked before he leapt. Epimetheus was a fool, who used to do foolish things first, and afterwards thought, “What a fool I have been!” He was like the man who shut the stable door after the horse was stolen. While Prometheus was busy teaching men, Epimetheus sat at home, taking care of his jar. But when he saw Hermês bringing in this beautiful creature, Pandora, and when Hermês said, “Good day to you! Here is a gift from Zeus, Pandora, to be your wife!” Epimetheus was delighted. He forgot all about his brother’s warning, and thanked Hermês, and took the gods’ gift, Pandora, with her beautiful voice. She became his wife, and she was the mother of all women upon the earth, who were both a bane and a blessing to men: for they were lovely and charming, and yet they were full of deceit. Of course this was in those early days. They have become better since then, as men have.
It was not long before Pandora began her mischief. She was full of curiosity, and wanted to know about the big jar. “What is in that jar, my husband?” she asked. “You never open it to take out corn, or oil, or anything we use.” Epimetheus said, “My dear, that is no business of yours. It belongs to my brother, and he will not have it meddled with.” Pandora pretended to be satisfied, but she only waited till Epimetheus was out of the way, and then she went straight to the jar, and took off the lid.
In a moment, out flew a swarm of horrid things, looking like bluebottle flies, and beetles, and wasps, fat and black and ugly, buzzing and darting about everywhere. She clapped on the lid again, but it was too late. They all went flying over the world: plague, pestilence, and all uncharitableness—the evils of the whole world, which the wise Prometheus had shut up safely in the great jar. And that is how mankind has been so unhappy ever since. And when Prometheus came home, and saw what had been done, all that his brother could say was, “What a fool I have been!”
Prometheus himself was cruelly punished for stealing the fire. For Zeus ordered Hephaistos to carry him far away to Mount Caucasos, and there to nail him to a rock, while an eagle came and gnawed at his liver; whatever the eagle ate in the day grew again at night. And there Prometheus was left, until long afterwards he was set free, as you shall hear in due time.
After that Zeus seemed to be content with his revenge. For he made friends with mankind, and men honoured him, and sacrificed to him; and by degrees gods and men came to depend on one another. The gods would have missed men’s sacrifices and men’s worship; and men looked to the gods for help and the punishment of wrongdoing. Henceforward the histories of gods and men go together.
You remember that Demeter was one of the family of Cronos; and while Prometheus was amusing himself with making clay models, and Zeus was concerned with getting his kingdom in order, you must not suppose that Demeter was doing nothing at all. She was also interested in the earth, as Prometheus was; indeed, her name means Mother Earth, although she was not the same as the old Mother Earth who was her own mother, and the mother of so many strange monsters. The new Mother Earth, if I may call her so, had now a daughter of her own, called Persephonê, who was very beautiful, and Hadês, the King of Tartaros, fell in love with her, but Demeter would not hear of the match. Persephonê used to live in our world, which had become a beautiful place, full of flowers and fruit, and the songs of birds; she had a number of friends, the daughters of Oceanos, the Ocean, who was himself one of the sons of the old Mother Earth. They used to play about in the fields and groves, and plucked the flowers, singing and dancing together.
Now Zeus was in favor of his brother’s wish; and he asked the old Mother Earth to produce a wonderful flower, in order to attract Persephonê to the proper spot where Hadês was to carry her off. There was a meadow in the island of Sicily where all sorts of flowers grew: rose and crocus and violet, iris and hyacinth; and there Mother Earth put forth the best of all, a splendid tuft of narcissus, one hundred blooms upon one stalk, which smelt so sweetly that heaven and earth and sea laughed for joy. The maiden Persephonê put out her hand to take the beautiful flower: but the earth gaped open, and a golden chariot issued forth, drawn by immortal black horses, and driven by King Hadês himself. Out leapt the King, and caught her up, and carried her in his chariot down to his dark kingdom. As he bore her along, she cried loudly for help, but no one heard her cry, except Hecatê, the goddess of the Moon, who heard her voice from her cave; and Helios, the Sun, who saw her from his chariot in the sky; and except her own mother, Demeter, who heard her voice, but saw nothing.
Then Demeter in sorrow sped over land and sea, searching for her daughter; but no man and no bird of course could tell her anything. For nine days she sought her, and found her not; and for nine nights, carrying flaming torches in her hands; but on the tenth dawn she was met by Hecatê, who also bore a torch, and Hecatê said, “I heard her voice, although I saw not where she was, but be sure that Helios, the Sun, who sees all things, must have seen her.” So Demeter sped on, until she found Helios; and standing in front of his horse, she said, “Helios, you see everything. Tell me truly of my daughter; for I heard her voice, but saw not where she was.”
Helios said, “I pity you, Demeter, and I will tell you. Zeus has done this; he gave her to Hadês, his brother, and Hadês seized her and carried her down to his kingdom in the dark. He is no unfitting husband for your daughter, for he is lord of one-third part of the great universe.”
But Demeter was very angry with Zeus, and she would not come to Olympos, but disguised herself and went down among the cities and fields of men. No one knew her, and, in course of time, she came to the town of Eleusis, not far from the city of Athens. There she sat down by the Maidens’ Well, where the women of the place used to come for water.
Four maidens, daughters of Celeos, who was chief lord of that place, saw her sitting by the well, like an old woman, tired and travel-stained. One of them said, “Why do you sit here, mother? Come to our house, and you will be welcome.”
Demeter said, “I thank you, maidens, and I will tell you my story. My name is Doso, the Giver, and I have now come from Crete, not by my will, for pirates carried me off from my home. They have brought the ship to shore not far off, and while they were all making ready their meal, I slipped away from them, and then I wandered until I came here. Now may you all have what your hearts wish; but tell me of some house where I may go, and do such work as an old woman can do. I am a good nurse, and I can attend a young child, or teach the younger women their work.”
One of the maidens answered her, “Mother, what the gods send we must bear; for they are stronger than we. There are many good houses in our town where you could find refuge; but we invite you to our house, where our mother is now nursing her youngest son, but lately born, a child of many prayers. If you can bring him up to be a goodly youth, our mother would give you many gifts, so that other people would envy you. We will go now and tell her.” They did so, and returned quickly, running along, to bid the stranger follow. And Demeter followed, with her head veiled, and wearing a dark cloak; and her heart was full of sorrow.
They entered the portico of the house, and there by a pillar they saw the great lady sitting, Metaneira, holding her youngest son to her breast. The girls ran up to her, and Demeter followed; but as she crossed the threshold, she seemed taller to look at, and full of majesty, and Metaneira rose from her couch, and bade her to be seated. But Demeter would not sit upon the couch, to which she was invited; for her heart was too full of sorrow, and she waited until one of the maidens brought her a stool. There she sat, holding her veil before her face. She spoke no word. She would neither eat nor drink, until an old crone made a merry jest; and Demeter laughed for the first time, and felt cheered in heart. Then she accepted a drink, not wine, which she said was not lawful for her, but meal and water mixed with mint in a posset.
Then Metaneira said, “Welcome, lady, for I can see you are no common woman, so full as you are of dignity and grace. But we must all bear what the gods choose to send us. And what I can give you shall be yours in my house. Take this my son, and nurse him for me; and when he grows up to be a big lad I will reward you, so that you shall be the envy of others.”
Demeter said, “I accept the charge gladly; there shall be no heedlessness in me. No witchcraft shall touch him, and no gnawing worm, for I know charms that are stronger than worms and witchcraft.”
She took the baby, and tended him; and he grew up without food or milk, like something divine. For Demeter would anoint him with the ambrosia of immortality, and she would breathe softly upon him as she held him to her breast; but at night, unknown to his parents, she would plunge him like a brand into the fire. And they all wondered to see him grow so big and strong; he seemed to be more than a mortal babe. Indeed, Demeter would have made him immortal; but it so happened that Metaneira watched, and saw what she did, and cried out, “Demophon, my son, this strange woman is burying you deep in the fire! What will become of me!”
Demeter was angry when she heard this. She caught up the boy out of the fire, and threw him down on the ground, and cried out:
“What fools you mortals are! You cannot foresee either good or evil. And now you have done a mischief past all healing. I would have made your boy immortal, free from death and old age; but now he must abide his fate, and die when his time comes. Yet he shall have everlasting honour, since he has lain upon my knees, and slept in my arms. For I am that Demeter, whom both gods and men delight in. Now let all the people build me a temple here in Eleusis, and I will teach you my holy rites, to celebrate here for ever.”
As she said this, the goddess threw off her aspect of an old woman, beauty spread round about her, and a lovely fragrance was wafted from her robes, and a light shone from her body, and golden hair streamed down over her shoulders, so that the whole house was filled with brightness. And so she went out.
Metaneira remained speechless and amazed, and forgot all about her son, lying on the ground; but he cried pitifully, and his sisters heard him, and ran quickly from their beds. One picked up the baby, and laid him in her bosom; one revived the fire; one looked to their mother: then they gathered about the babe, and washed him; but he was not comforted, for they were less skilful nurses than the goddess.
In the morning they told Celeos what had happened; and he gave orders for a temple to be built, as the goddess had commanded. The temple was built, and there Demeter sat; but she would not be comforted, for she still mourned her lost daughter. She caused a dreadful year for mankind; the seed would not sprout, no fruit would grow, no flowers were to be seen. And famine would have destroyed the whole race of men, out and out; but Zeus observed it, and sent down Iris, the messenger of the gods.
Iris came down to Eleusis, and saw Demeter sitting there in her temple; and she said, “Demeter, I have a message from Zeus, who bids you come to the meeting-place of the gods.” But Demeter said, “I will not come”; nor would she move, although Zeus sent each of the gods in turn to call her, and they made her great promises and offered choice gifts. Still, she declared that she would never set foot on Olympos or let the earth bring forth her fruits, until she should see her daughter once again.
Then Zeus sent his herald and crier, Hermês, down to the realms of Hadês in the dark underworld. And he found Hadês reclining upon his couch with Persephonê beside him, his unwilling bride, sad and sorrowful as her mother, and Hermês said, “King Hadês, I am sent by Zeus to bring up Persephonê to the gods, that her mother may see her again; for she threatens to destroy the whole race of men with famine, and then there will be no one to honour the gods and to do them sacrifice.”
Hadês smiled grimly when he heard the behest of Zeus; and he said, “Go now, Persephonê, and be kind to me; I am no unfitting husband for you, for I am brother to Father Zeus. And while you are here, you shall rule all that lives and moves, and all shall worship you and pay you due offerings, or he shall be punished.” But before she went, he managed to make her eat some pomegranate seed, for he wanted to bring her back again; if she had not eaten, she could have remained with her mother for ever, but she did not know that. Then Hadês brought out the golden chariot and the black horses, and Hermês took the reins, and drove them over land and sea, until they came to Eleusis, where Demeter sat in her temple.
When Demeter saw Persephonê, she ran out, and Persephonê leapt down from the chariot, and they fell into each other’s arms. But as she held her daughter, Demeter’s heart misgave her, and she said, “Tell me, my daughter, did you taste any food while you were away? If you have not, you may live with me and your father among the immortal gods; but if you have eaten anything in the dark underworld, you must go back there. And how were you carried away?”
Posted October 25, 2010
No text was provided for this review.