Docstoc

_ANCIENT GREECE

Document Sample
_ANCIENT GREECE Powered By Docstoc
					           Table of Contents
                                                Pages

           Ancient Greece                           3
           The Creation                             4-6
           Zeus – The King of Gods                  7
           Europa and the Bull                      7
           Demeter and Persephone                   8-13
           Athene – The Virgin Goddess             14-15
           Prometheus                               16-17
           Pandora‟s Box                            18-20
           The Minotaur                             21-30
           Troy                                     31-45
           Achilles                                 46-55
           Cupid and Psyche                        56-64




ANCIENT GREECE

   The ancient Greeks believed that their lives and destinies were governed by a
   great number of divinities, the most important of which were the Olympians, the
                                                                                         2


    gods and the goddesses who lived on Mount Olympus.
    The Olympians were the objects of most popular and widespread cults. Most
    religious ceremonies in their honour took place in sanctuaries dedicated to the
    relevant god or goddess, whose statue stood in a temple. ln front of the temple,
    priests performed sacrifices.
    Temples were important public centres for the expression of local culture. Their
    walls often depicted mythological battles between the forces of civilization
    represented by the Olympians and the forces of barbarity, represented by
    monsters and giants.
    Athenians in the 5th century B.C. possessed two institutions for telling the myth:
    theatre and poetry recital. Athens invented the theatre as a great public
    spectacle, where some 16,000 citizens could see tragedies, which were almost
    always based on myths and legends.
    Education and intellectual life were based on mythology: The myths told by
    Homer and Hesiod were central to the teaching of literacy, and myths were a
    topic for discussion among philosophers, scientists and historians from the 5th
    century onwards.
    The importance of Greek Mythology and its impact on the development of world
    culture- literature, architecture, sculpture, painting, music, philosophy and
    science cannot be overemphasized.
    Hesiod's Teogony is a summary and a skillful retelling of best-known myths
    about the origins of the world and the gods who ruled it.
    Topics for discussion
1. Why were the temples important?
    2. How did the Athenians tell their myths?
3. Why is Greek mythology so widespread?
     4. Who was Homer ?
5. Who was Hesiod ?
THE CREATION

    Hesiod‟s Theogony opens the story of the creation with a simple
    statement: "First of all Chaos came into being.” After Chaos came Gaia or Ge –
    the earth, Tartaros-the underworld, Eros-desire, Erebos-the gloom of the
    underworld, and Night.
    By herself Gaia gave birth to Uranos-the sky-"so that he might surround her
                                                                                     3


     completely and be a secure home for the blessed gods forever ", and then gave
     birth to the Mountains and Pontos-the sea.
    Gaia coupled with Uranos to produce twelve Titans, three Cyclops and three
    monsters with a hundred hands each.
    One of the Titans had several children by Rhea, but he was afraid of being
    overthrown by them, and swallowed each baby as it was born. However, when
    Rhea gave birth to Zeus, she deceived her husband by clothing a stone like a
    baby, which he swallowed instead of the real child.
    Hidden from his father, Zeus grew up and planned his revenge.

    Topics for discussion:
   1. Retell Hesiod‟s version of the creation.
    2. Present a different version of the creation. You may use books of different
        cultures or search the internet for different stories of the creation.
    3. Why did Rhea hide Zeus?
    4. What was Zeus‟ revenge ?
The following story of the creation is taken from the Internet
(www.greekmythology.com) Search this site and draw a map of the creation.




ZEUS – THE KING OF GODS
                                                                                       4




     Greek myth credited Zeus, the King of Gods, with a string of affairs with both
     divine and human consorts. Sometimes, to prevent the interference of his jealous
     wife, Hera, Zeus was obliged to adopt a different form, such as that of a beast, to
     approach the object of his desire.
     In any case, he could not appear before mortals in his full divine splendour,
     because the sight was so overwhelming that it meant instant death.


EUROPA AND THE BULL

     One day Zeus took on the form of a white bull to approach Europa, the beautiful
     daughter of King Phoenix of Phoenicia. Europa was picking flowers with her
     friends in a meadow near the sea.
     The bull's gentleness and beauty overcame her fear, and she was tempted to sit
     on its back. The bull, Zeus, wandered down to the seashore, and suddenly
     plunged into the water and swam away, carrying helpless Europa with it.
     They came ashore near Gortyn on Crete, where Zeus turned into an eagle and
     coupled with the kidnapped girl.
     She later married the Cretan king, Asterius, who adopted the offspring of her
     union with Zeus-Minos.


     Topics for Discussion
  1. Why did Zeus change into different animals?
What do you think of Zeus‟ beheviour as a god? As a husband?
Write a dialogue between the Cretan king and Europa when she tells him of her child.
Search the site www.fizzell.org/Greek/zeusLover.html and print
    another story where Zeus transforms into an animal.




                         DEMETER AND PERSEPHONE
     Demeter was one of the more gentle goddesses who inhabited mount
     Olympus. She did not have jealous rages as Hera, or burning
     passions as Aphrodite. Demeter was the goddess of agriculture and of
     marriage. Her hair was the colour of wheat at harvest time, and her eyes
     were a pastel blue. She delighted in bright colours, often wearing brilliant
                                                                                      5


ribbons and carrying a golden torch.
Only once did she really lose her temper. This was when she discovered
that the beautiful trees in a grove that was sacred to her were being cut
down by a young man. Perhaps he was some sort of an early town planner,
but whatever his reason for this act of vandalism, Demeter appeared to him
disguised as a mortal and asked him if he would be so kind as to stop. His
answer was short and unfriendly.
Then Demeter assumed her own form and punished the young man in a
way that was truly horrible. She condemned him to remain hungry forever,
no matter how much he ate. From that moment on, he seldom stopped
eating. At dinner that same night, he astonished his parents by eating not
only his food but theirs too- as well as that of their seventeen guests. In the
weeks that followed, he ate so much that his weeping father was forced to
throw him out of the house, no longer able to afford his keep. And yet the
more he ate, the thinner and hungrier he got until, in the end, he became a
beggar, shuffling pathetically along in rags, still stuffing himself with the filth
he found in the streets.
This, then, was the full extent of Demeter's anger. But most people would
agree that the young man got only what he deserved. For the unnecessary
destruction of a tree is a terrible crime.
Demeter had a daughter named Core (later on, her name was changed to
Persephone) whom she loved more than anything in the world. Unfortunately,
another of the gods also loved the girl, although in a very different way. This
was Hades, the shadowy lord of the underworld, the god of death. Hades had
spent virtually his whole life underground, and his skin was pale and cold. No
light shone in his eyes, eyes that had seldom seen the sun. And yet he had
seen an image of Core, magically reflected in an ebony pool, and he had lost
his heart to her. So great was his love that he took a rare leave of absence from
the underworld, travelling to Olympus. There he came before Zeus and
demanded that he give Core to him as a wife.
The demand somewhat embarrassed the king of the gods. Although he did not
want to offend Hades, who was his brother, Zeus could not let him have what he
wanted. For Core was his daughter. He had fallen in love with Demeter some
                                                                                     6


years before, and Core had been the result. If he were to send the girl to the
underworld, Demeter would never forgive him. Moreover, it would hardly be fair
to condemn his own daughter to such a gloomy place - for the kingdom of
Hades was such a dull and gloomy land. But on the other hand, what was he to
say to Hades, who was older than he…?
“I'll think about it," Zeus said.
And promptly he forgot all about it.
When it became clear that he was not going to get a satisfactory answer out of
Zeus, Hades decided to take things into his own hands.
"He did not say I could have the girl," he reasoned to himself. "But neither did
he say that I could not. And surely if something is not forbidden, then it must be
allowed. Of course it must ! In which case, Core shall become Persephone,
and as Persephone she will be my wife."
And so it was that two days later, Core found herself kidnapped by the grim god
of death. She was living in Sicily at the time and was out in the fields with some
of her friends, collecting wild flowers for a feast that same evening. Noticing a
particularly bright narcissus, she leaned down to pick it. Suddenly the ground
trembled. As the blood drained from her face and her friends screamed,
dropping their baskets and scattering in all directions, a great chasm appeared
in front of her, yawning like a black mouth. Desperately, Core tried to keep her
balance. But then a white hand that smelled of damp earth stretched out and
grabbed hold of her, pulling her forward. With a hopeless cry, she tumbled
forward, disappearing into the chasm. The ground trembled again, then closed
up as suddenly as it had opened. Only a jagged line, zigzaging through the
flowers, showed what had happened.
When Demeter discovered that Core was missing, her grief was overwhelming.
Almost overnight she changed. No longer did she wear ribbons and bright
colours. No more was her laughter heard in the fields. Covering herself with a
dark veil, she flew around the world on a search that would take her nine days
and nine nights. Not once did she stop for food or for drink or even to rest.
Her only thought was for her daughter. She visited Sicily, Colonus,
Hermione, Crete, Pisa, Lerna ... nobody had seen the girl, nor was there any
sign that she had been there.
                                                                                 7


At last she went in desperation to Helios, the god who every day followed the
sun, riding across the heavens in a golden chariot drawn by four white
horses. Nothing ever escaped the eye of Helios. Soaring in an arc, high
above the world, he could see everything. And what he had to tell Demeter
chilled her heart.
"You must forget Core," he said. "Core exists no Ionger. Look, if you will for
Persephone - destroyer of men - for that is what she has become as wife of
the king of death. Yes ! Hades has stolen her from you. Never again will you
see her. Where she 's now, deep in the shadows of the underworld, she is
lost even from the sight of Helios."
At once Demeter went to Zeus. White with anger and haggard after her nine
days of fasting, she was almost unrecognizable, and the king of the gods
squirmed in front of her.
"I didn't say Hades could take her, " he muttered.
"Did you say he couldn't?"
"Well…”
"I want her back, Zeus. You will return her to me!"
"I can‟t,!" The king of the gods almost wept with frustration. "You know the
rules. If she has eaten so much as a mouthful of the food of the dead, she is
stuck in the underworld forever."
"She won't have eaten. She can't have eaten."
"And anyway," Zeus went on, "you know Hades. There's no arguing with him.
He has to have his own way. . . ."
"Very well," Demeter cried. "Until my daughter is returned to me, no tree on
earth will yield fruit. No plants will grow. The soil will remain barren. The


 animals will starve. Such is the curse of an unhappy mother. Bring her back,
 Zeus. Or humankind will perish!"
 So began a year of unrelenting famine. The crops withered, and even the
 grass turned brown and rotted. As Demeter had promised, the animals, unable
 to find food, died by the hundred, their bloated carcasses dotting the arid
 landscape.
At last the situation became so desperate that Hermes, the messenger god,
                                                                                     8


was sent down to the Underworld to bring Persephone back.
"Never!" Hades exclaimed. "I love her. I will never let her go."
"But does she love you?" Hermes asked.
"She ... she will learn to. In time.”
"But there is no time," Hermes said. "Her mother, Demeter, is destroying the
world in her grief. If you do not release Persephone, mankind will come to an
end."
"Why should the extinction of mankind be of any concern to the god of
death?" Hades asked.
“Because even death depends on life. Nothing can continue without it."
The king of the underworld thought long and hard, but then he nodded his
head. "You speak the truth," he said. "Very well. It seems that I am defeated.
My wife, my Persephone ... she must go."
And he turned his head, bringing his hand up to cover his eyes.
When Persephone heard that she was to be returned to the world of the living,
she was so happy that she laughed and cried at the same time. But one of the
gardeners of Hades, also heard the news, and at once he crept off and
changed into his best clothes. Then he knelt before Hades.
"Oh ghastly and glorious master!" he said, rubbing his hands together in front
of his chin. "Dread lord of the underworld, grotesque king of the dead,
sovereign of the. . .”
"Get on with it!" Hades commanded.
"Of course! Of course!" The gardener laughed nervously. "l just thought you'd
like to know that your wife, the good and delicious lady Persephone, has tasted
the food of the dead."
"That's impossible," Hades said. "She has refused to eat since the day I
brought her here. Not so much as a crust of bread has passed her lips."
"I'm sure. I‟m sure. But something less than a crust of bread has, noble king.
With my own eyes I saw her eat seven pomegranate seeds. In the garden. I
saw her." Then the eyes of Hades lit up. "If this is true,” he said, "you shall be
rewarded."
"Follow her to the surface," Hades said. "Do what must be done."
So when Hermes took Persephone with him in his chariot. The gardener rode
                                                                                    9


on the back, unseen by either of them, dreaming of his new career (for he had
never liked gardening very much), perhaps as secretary to Hades or perhaps
as palace librarian or even-who could say?-as the next prince of Hell. And no
sooner had Demeter received her daughter in a joyful embrace than he stepped
forward with a crooked smile.
"Persephone has eaten the food of the dead," he cried. "She must return with
me to the underworld. There's nothing any of you can do about it. It's the law."
"Is this true?" Demeter asked.
Then tears sprang to Persephone's eyes, and she sank to her knees.
“Yes, mother," she whispered. "I ate seven pomegranate seeds. But that was
all I ate. Although I was one year in that horrible place, that was the only food
that passed my lips. Surely it doesn't count. Surely. . . ."
But by now Demeter was weeping too.
"You have eaten the food of the dead," she said. "Though mankind will die
when they take you from me, there is nothing I can do."
When the gods heard what had happened, they held a great conference to
discuss what should be done. On the one hand, nobody wanted the world to
end. But neither could they allow Persephone to remain in the land of the living.
At last, a compromise was reached and both Persephone and Demeter were
called before the throne of Zeus.
"We've come to an agreement," Zeus explained. "And I hope it satisfies you
because it really is the best we can do. Listen, what would you say if we
allowed Persephone to stay in the world for six months of the year, provided
she spent the other six months with Hades in the underworld?"
Demeter thought for a moment. "Make it nine months with me and three
months with Hades and I will agree,” she said.
"Very well. You've got a deal."
At once the famine ended. Nine months later, Persephone went back to begin
her spell in the underworld, and although she was never a truly loving wife to
Hades, she was never unkind to him.
The miserable gardener never received the reward he had been hoping for.
For Persephone punished him for his treachery by pushing him into a small
hole and covering him with an ornamental rock garden complete with flowering
                                                                                      10


    hibiscus border and fishpond. In this way he was condemned to spend the rest
    of eternity not only in the garden but under it too.
    This myth explains why it is that for three months every year the cold season
    comes, and it looks as though the world has gone into mourning. Then the trees
    lose their leaves, nothing will grow, and, like Demeter, we look forward to the
    spring. For it is only in the spring, when Persephone is released from her dark
    confinement, that the warmth and the colours will return and we can all, gods
    and humans, celebrate the return of life.


    Topics for discussion
    1. Mother‟s love.
    2. Does the punishment of the gardener fit his crime ?
    3. Find another story which describes the power of mother‟s love.
    4. Hermes asks Hades if Persephone loves him, does it matter ?
    5. How did the young man infuriate Demeter ?
    6. Why did Demeter punish the young man so severely ?
    7. Does the young man‟s punishment symbolize anything ?
    8. Why is Core‟s name changed ?
    9. Why did Zeus squirm when he saw Demeter ?
   10. Does love matter ?




ATHENE – THE VIRGIN GODDESS

   Athene was born from the head of Zeus and she is usually represented
   wearing a breastplate and a protective robe. As her unusual birth may
   suggest, Athene was particularly associated with activities of the head: she
   rivalled her father Zeus in wisdom and took after her mother, Metis, in
   possessing “ cunning intelligence". One of her symbols was the owl, the
   wisest of birds.
   Athene was credited with the invention of the potter's wheel, the first vases
   and the flute.
   Athene was the patron of Athens, the centre of her cult. According to the
   myth, she and Poseidon, God of the Sea, quarelled over patronage of the city
   and of Attica, the surrounding region. The Athenians suggested that the two
                                                                                   11


Olympians each invent something practical for Athens: the best invention would
be rewarded with the patronage of the city. Athene and Poseidon agreed
eagerly as they were both interested in attracting more cult followers.
Poseidon hit the Acropolis with his trident and a saltwater spring immediately
appeared there.
Then, Athene touched the Acropolis with her spear and produced the olive tree,
a source of oil and lighting, cooking and perfume. Delighted at Athene's
invention, the Athenians chose her as their patron. Poseidon, angry for losing
the contest, flooded the plain around the city.
In honour of their patron Goddess, the Athenians organized the annual Great
Panathenaia. During this festival, which was the most important and splendid
religious event in the Athenian calendar, leading citizens and representatives
from all the city's territories brought animals to be sacrificed to the Goddess. The
sacrifices took place at the high point of the celebrations, when a great
procession ended in the presentation of a new embroidered robe to Athene‟s
statue in the Parthenon, her chief temple.




Topics for discussion:
1. How was Athene born and how did it affect her intellectual capacities?
2. Give a humoristic description of Athene‟s feelings when she went out of
    Zeus‟ head.
3. Athene was credited for four inventions. What are they and why are they
    important in our civilization?
4. Do you think there is a connection between Athene‟s femininity and her
    invention?
5. Write a legal contract containing the rules of the contest over the patronage
    of Athens between: i. The two gods and the Athenians.
                         ii. Athene and Poseidon.
6. You are the producer of the annual Great Panathenaia. Describe the events
    which are going to take place.
                                                                       12


7. If you were a god, what would you invent?
8. Invent another type of contest between the two gods.
9. If you were a god, how would you like your temple to look like?




                                PROMETHEUS


Zeus, lord of the thunderbolt and the lightning flash, was Master of
the gods and he ruled the world from the top of Mount Olympus.
He achieved this supremacy by dispossessing his own ancestral
kin, the Titans. Although his cousin Prometheus pretended
neutrality during the war with the Titans and was even admitted by
Zeus to the Olympian circle, he harboured in his heart a grudge
against the destroyer of his ancestors and his hatred was like an
itch that needs scratching. He did not have the fearsome weapons
of a sky god such as Zeus, but what he did have was native, born
wit and cunning, and it was with these tools that he sought to
undermine Zeus. Now it so happened one day that all the gods and
people of the earth came together to decide which portion of the
ritual sacrifice, an enormous ox should be offered to the gods and
                                                                         13


which to men, and Prometheus was placed in charge of the
division of the sacrifice. With his quick wit, he immediately saw an
opportunity to make Zeus look like a fool before the whole world.
Having cut up the animal in his own way, Prometheus began to lay
out the portions. On one side, he arranged the juicy flesh, and
other tender delicacies that the sacrifice contained, and these he
covered with the coarse skin of the beast. On the other side, he
placed the carcass and bones, which he disguised under a layer of
rich white fat. Then he invited Zeus to choose which portion he
considered most fitting as a divine offering. Deceived, Zeus
naturally chose the bones. Triumphantly, Prometheus removed
the covering of fat: 'Shall the gods eat bones then?' he said with a
sneer, exposing Zeus, Lord of Heaven and Earth, as a gullible fool.
Now Zeus knew that Prometheus looked with great favour on
mankind, preferring them even to the gods themselves, whom he
regarded as the allies of Zeus. Prometheus loved humans in the
same way people love their pets. He was immensely proud of
everything they did, boasted about them to almost anyone who
would listen, and generally fussed over them in every way
possible. Instead of feeding them with food, however, he fed them
knowledge-scraps of information that he picked up from Athena,
the goddess of wisdom and his only real friend in Olympus. This
was Prometheus' weak spot, and it gave Zeus an ideal target for
his revenge, which was to withhold from mankind the one thing
they needed to keep warm and cook their food and light their way
... he would deprive them of fire.
On discovering Zeus' plan, Prometheus instantly went to the island
of Lemnos, where the sacred flame burned, and stole a few of the
burning embers, and took this gift of fire to the people of the earth.
Zeus could not take back what had been stolen, but he could
punish the thief, and devised for Prometheus a unique torture. He
had him chained to the crest of Mount Caucasus, and sent an
eagle to feed on his liver. All day, the eagle gorged itself, tearing
                                                                                14


at the liver, and all night, the liver grew again for Prometheus was
immortal. And the next day, the eagle would again come to eat,
and the next day and the next, and so on for thirty or thirty
thousand years, and Prometheus would doubtless be there still
had not Zeus finally taken pity on him and sent the hero Hercules
to free him so that he might at last, in peace and reconciliation, join
the company of the immortals.


Topics for discussion
1. To err is human; to forgive, divine. [Alexander Pope (1688-
   1744)]
2. How did man progress and improve his life thanks to fire ?
3. Can you imagine or discribe a situation in which a ruler carries
   out a very crule punishment and nobody objects ?




                           PANDORA'S BOX
There are some who say that the original creator of mankind was
Prometheus, that he made the first man in the image of the gods using clay
and water. Prometheus was willing to do anything to help his creation, and
one day, while Zeus was out having one of his many affairs, he stole up to
Olympus, rode up to the sun and stole a blazing firebrand for mankind.
After Zeus had punished Prometheus in great cruelty he punished mankind
too. But as man had offended him only indirectly, his punishment was of
another sort.
First Zeus commanded to make a woman more beautiful than any woman
ever seen on the face of the earth. He also wanted her to be as perfect as a
goddess. Then he commissioned the four winds to breathe life into her and
asked all the goddesses to help dress her in their finest clothes and jewels.
The result was Pandora.
When Zeus saw the good work he was very pleased and instructed Hermes to
carry her into the world at once. There she was married to a certain King
Epirnetheus, the brother of Prometheus and the only other titan who had not
                                                                                   15


joined in the war against the gods.
Now Epimetheus had been warned never to trust the gifts of Zeus, but seeing
the terrible fate that had befallen his brother, he was too afraid to refuse.
Moreover, he had to admit that Pandora was beautiful. You'd have had to be
insane to think otherwise. When she walked into the room, men fell silent and all
eyes turned on her. Whatever she said, people would agree. When she made
jokes, the laughter would continue for several minutes. Whatever she did was
greeted with applause.
And Epimetheus did feel rather proud to be married to her.
Unfortunately, the things Pandora said were never really worth listening to, for
she was not a very intelligent creature. Her jokes were in truth extremely
unfunny.
She did very little because she was impossibly lazy, and though Epimetheus
was glad to be her husband, she made him a poor and unfaithful wife. For this
was the revenge of Zeus. He had made her as shallow as she was beautiful.
And she was to cause more trouble to mankind than any woman before or any
woman since.
For Epimetheus owned a large, ebony box which was kept in a special room in
his palace, guarded day and night. In this box he had collected and imprisoned
all the things that could harm mankind. It was the one room in the palace that
Pandora was forbidden to enter, and naturally it was the one room that most
aroused her curiosity.
"I bet you keep all sorts of super things in that big black box of yours," she
would say in her syrupy voice. "Why don't you let me look inside?"
"It is not for you, my dear," Epimetheus would reply. "You should leave it alone."
"But ....
"No, no, my love. No one may open the box."
"Then you don't love me," Pandora would say, crossing her arms.
"And I'm not going to love you anymore--not ever!"
They had this conversation many times, until the day when Pandora couldn't
resist her curiosity any longer. For despite everything Epimetheus had told her
about the box, she still believed that it contained some special treat that he
was holding back from her.
                                                                                 16


"I'll show him…" she muttered to herself.
Waiting until Epimetheus was out, she managed to talk her way past the
guards and into the room. She had stolen the key from beside his bed, and
nobody thought to stop her. Was she not, after all, the king's wife and the
mistress of the house? Her whole body trembling, she knelt down beside the
box. It was smaller and older than she had expected. It was also a little
surprising (not to say upsetting) that the padlock that fastened it was in the
shape of a human skull. But she was certain it would contain treasures such
as would make all her own diamonds and pearls seem like mere pebbles,
treasures that would make her the envy of the world. She turned the key and
opened the box ...... and at once all the spites and problems that Epimetheus
had for so long kept locked up, exploded into the world: Old age, innumerable
plagues, sorrow and mischief for mankind. In terror Pandora clapped the lid
down, but too late. One good thing, however, was there- Hope. It was the only
good thing the casket had held among the many evils, and it remains to this day
mankind‟s sole comfort in misfortune.


Topics for discussion
1. Find another story where a perfect woman is created and brought to life.
2. What is your opinion about cloning ?
3. Who is Hermes ?
4. It is mentioned that Pandora caused a lot of damage and changed mankind‟s
   life. Can you think of another female character who changed or dramatically
   influenced mankind ?
5. What kind of padlock did Pandora expect ?
                                                                                     17




                                 THE MINOTAUR

In the days when Athens was not a major city but a small town located on the
edge of a cliff some three miles from the sea, when King Aegeus was on the
throne and the sons of Pallas still ran riot in the streets, a strange thing would
happen once every seven years. Athens appeared to be gripped by some
mysterious disease. The doors and shutters would close. The children would
be forbidden to play. Their parents would sit indoors, their hands clasped and
their faces grim. A stranger, walking through Athens, might think the whole town
deserted. There would be nobody in sight. Nothing would move. But then, as
the first blossoms of spring trembled in a suddenly chill breeze, he might hear a
whisper, carried by the wind along the empty streets.
“Minos…” And then, if he listened carefully, he might hear a second name, a
name that might well have him grabbing his luggage and hurrying on his way.
Throughout ancient Greece it was a name that could inspire only the deepest
dread. “Minotaur…”

                         The Birth of the Minotaur
                                                                                 18


The two names were, of course, linked. Minos was the king of Crete, the Island
of the Hundred Cities. He was one of the most powerful sovereigns in the world,
for there was no island quite like Crete at the time, with its huge harbour.
The capital, Knossos was a mass of colour and life. The Cretan people, aware of
their status, enjoyed the rich market stalls, piled high with luxuries shipped from
the farthest corners of the civilized world. Silks and satins, spices and exotic
foods, ivory and jewels ... while the sun shone, the buying and selling never
stopped. And overhead, the Cretan women in their gorgeous dresses fanned
themselves on their balconies, waiting for the next shipments to arrive.
Yet beneath all this gaiety, there was a darker side to Crete. And even Minos, a
great king and a son of Zeus himself, could not escape from its shadow.
For many years, Minos had sacrificed the best bull from his herd to Poseidon; for
Crete depended on its sea power, and Poseidon was, of course, the god of the
sea. One year, however, the king had decided to hold back his best animal. It
was a huge, white bull, the sort of creature that could sire a whole herd of prize
cattle, and it seemed absurd to waste it on the altar. Instead, he had sacrificed
his second-best bull, hoping that Poseidon wouldn't notice.
Poseidon did notice, and his revenge was as horrible as his anger was great.
He left Minos untouched but turned his powers on the king's wife, making her fall
in love with the white bull. Not knowing what she was doing, the queen stole
away one stormy night to the stables, and it was from this unnatural union that
the Minotaur was born.
Minotaur means, simply, "Minos bull."
As soon as it was strong enough to walk, the Minotaur went wild, destroying
most of Crete and killing many of its inhabitants. Filled with shame and horror,
Minos turned to the Oracle to find out how to avoid the terrible scandal that was
now attached to him. The Oracle told him to build a labyrinth at Knossos in
which to conceal both the Minotaur and his unfortunate wife. This he did. The
labyrinth was designed and built by the court architect, a man of much cunning
named Daedalus. He created a maze so complicated, with so many twists and
turns, so many false starts and dead ends, that no man, once trapped inside it,
would find his way out.
                                                                                      19


Now the king‟s wife had given birth to several children before her disgrace. The
eldest of these, and the favourite son of Minos, was called Androgeus. Shortly
after the Minotaur had been imprisoned. Androgeus set sail for Athens to take
part in the Pan-Athenian games which were held there every five years. He was
a strong, skilful athlete, and he did well, winning several of the events outright.
Soon he found himself being cheered on as the favourite of the crowd, much to
the resentment of the Pallantids, who were then living at the court.
Their gang was fighting in the streets and lounging around the palace. Now,
jealous of the success of Androgeus, they lay in ambush one evening after the
games had ended and fell on him as he walked home to his lodgings.
Androgeus fought bravely but he was heavily outnumbered. They killed him and
left his body on the road.
When Minos heard of this, he was beside himself with grief and rage. At once
he ordered his fleet to set sail, and the next day, when King Aegeus awoke, he
found the town surrounded. Fighting was impossible. The Cretan army
completely encircled the town; and the fleet itself, anchored in the shallows just
off the coast, was larger than the whole of Athens. Aegeus had no choice.
Kneeling before Minos, he surrendered himself and his town to the Cretan king's
mercy.
“I come in search of my son's assassins," Minos said. "Yield them to me and I
will leave you unharmed”. But King Aegeus did not know who they were, and so
the suffering began.
Minos said "I have lost a son. A son of a sort will avenge him. At the end of every
Great Year, which is to say, every seven years, you will send to me your seven
most courageous youths and your seven most beautiful maidens. Do not ask for
what purpose! Just know that you will never see them again. This will be your
tribute to me for the death of my eldest child. Fail, and Athens will burn." So
every seven years, the fourteen Athenians were chosen by a lottery and taken
away by ship to Crete and an unknown death. And in Crete, the Minotaur killed
its victims through the underground maze, a dark secret like a worm at the
island's heart.

                             The Coming of Theseus
                                                                                 20


King Aegeus had left his home for Athens shortly before the birth of his first son,
Theseus, whom he had never seen. Now Theseus arrived at the Athenian court,
his reputation racing ahead of him. For the prince, only seventeen years old, had
chosen to travel on a dangerous road which was usually avoided because of the
bandits that waited along the way. Not only had the young man arrived safely, he
had taken on five of the very worst villains and killed them all. His father
welcomed him to the palace, for Theseus was strong, fearless, good-looking,
and intelligent, in short just about everything he could have hoped for in a son.
His appearance, however, was greeted with something less than rapture by the
Pallantids. Watching him, as he stood beside his father modestly recounting his
adventures on the road, they realized that their days would be numbered unless
something horrible happened to him soon. They decided therefore that it was
time for an open revolt, and so half of them marched against the town from one
side, while the other half went around the back to a place called Gargettus to lie
in ambush. The idea was that once Theseus, Aegeus, and the palace soldiers
had been forced out of the town from the front, the rest of the Pallantids would
surprise them from behind. It should have been foolproof. But, unfortunately for
them, Theseus was no fool. Informed of their plans by a soldier, he crept out of
the city in the dead of night and took the Pallantids by surprise. In a way, their
plan was their own undoing, for it was easier to destroy two bands of twenty-five
men than one band of fifty. By the time the sun rose that morning, the whole lot
of them were dead, and once again the throne was secure.
Then began a great celebration, the likes of which had never been seen before
in Athens. Aegeus embraced his son in front of the whole town and declared
him prince of Athens and heir to the throne. Fires were lit and oxen sacrificed to
the gods.   Tables were set up in the flower-strewn streets, and every man,
woman, and child, regardless of age or class, joined in the feasting. The exploits
of Theseus were sung aloud by the poets as the wine was poured and the food
piled high. The sun shone that day, and Crete and the Minotaur were forgotten.
But as the years passed and the end of the Great Year approached, the shadow
returned. With the coming of spring came the terrible fear of unspoken things.
And one day, when the blossoms were at their most beautiful, the ship from the
                                                                                  21


Cretan court arrived at the coast to collect the tribute of seven men and seven
women.
'The Minotaur ... the Minotaur. . .
Theseus had never even heard of the tribute that King Minos had demanded
and begged his father to tell him what was happening. Reluctantly, Aegeus
explained what had happened twenty-one years before, for this was the third
time that the ship with the black sails had come to Athens.
'It is wrong!' Theseus cried. "Did I not kill the murderers of Androgeus myself ?
We have paid the tribute in full. Enough is enough !”.
King Minos still demands the tribute," Aegeus said.
“I will not allow it!”
"You cannot prevent it. We must pay the tribute until the Minotaur is destroyed,
and that will never happen, for its victims are fed to it without weapons, without
any hope of survival."
"And what does this monster look like?" Theseus asked.
'Nobody has ever lived to describe it."
"Then I will have to find out for myseIf" Theseus said. "I will travel as one of the
seven men, and I will enter the creature's cave and destroy it. Then, perhaps,
Minos will be content." Aegeus tried to dissuade him, but Theseus wouldn't
listen. The unfortunate fourteen had already been chosen, and now he freed one
boy and took his place on the ship. He also released two of the women and put
in their places two young soldiers who, with a little make-up and dresses, could
just about pass for girls. When the day came for them to leave,
Aegeus gave his son a white sail. "I am an old man," he said. "Perhaps there are
not many days left to me. So, if you succeed in this quest, sail home with this
white sail on your mast. That way I will know all the sooner that my beloved son
is safe. But it was with black sails that they departed from Attiens, carried by the
southerly wind to Crete. It took them just two days to reach the island, and a
huge crowd was waiting for them in the harbour. Minos himself was there to
count the victims, to check that Aegeus had not tried to cheat him. As the palace
guards stepped forward, Theseus suddenly spoke, "Is this how the tyrant of
Crete greets his guests?" he shouted so that all could hear.
                                                                                   22


"Is this the sort of behaviour we can expect from a son of Zeus?" At this, Minos
trembled with anger. "And who do you think you are, boy?" he snarled.
"I am the son of Poseidon and the prince of Athens. And I am not afraid of you,
King Minos."
Now what Theseus had said about his birth was true. For although he was the
son of Aegeus, Poseidon had once been fond of his mother, Aethra, and had
told her that he would look on her firstborn child as his own. When he heard
this, however, Minos merely laughed.
"Well," he said, "I can't honestly say that Poseidon was exactly famous for his
good behaviour where the ladies were concerned. But tell me, boy, how do you
account for the fact that the sea god is your father. If you are indeed Theseus,
prince of Athens, I would have thought the wrinkled old Aegeus your natural
parent."
'That is my business," Theseus replied.
'Let us at least see if you are a liar as well as a scoundrel." King Minos took off a
heavy gold signet ring that he was wearing and cast it into the sea. "If Poseidon
is your father, ask him to bring back the ring for me”.
Minos laughed. His laughter was taken up by the crowd until the whole harbour
was filled with the sound of it. Theseus stood alone, pale and defiant, while his
thirteen fellow Athenians waited nervously to see what would happen.
Then, suddenly, there was a loud splashing in the harbour, and a silver dolphin
sprang out of the water, soaring high into the air, twisted, and dived down again.
As the laughter faded away, it leaped up a second time, this time actually flying
in a great arc over the boat.
As it went, something gold dropped from its mouth and landed at the feet of
Theseus. He leaned down and picked it up. It was the king's ring.
“So it seems that you are who you say you are,” Minos said, raising his
eyebrows. "The more is the pity, Theseus. For you have come here as part of
my tribute and tomorrow you must die.” He turned his back on the Athenian ship,
Take them to the palace," he snapped. The guards marched forward. As they
seized Theseus, a young girl, who was sitting next to the king, made as if to run
forward, holding herself back only with difficulty. She had been watching
Theseus with interest from the moment he had defied the king. Her name was
                                                                                23


Ariadne and she was the daughter of Minos. Now, as she followed her father into
the palace, she turned back to look once again at the prince. “Theseus ....” She
made no sound, but her lips formed the word. And she smiled to herself.


                        The Slaying of the Minotaur

She came to him that night, slipping past the guards and using a duplicate key to
open his room. "Theseus," she whispered, once the door was safely locked
behind her. "I am Ariadne, the daughter of Minos. "Then you are no friend of
mine," Theseus said.
"But I want to be! I want to be more than your friend. If you will take me ... as
your wife, I will help you kill my half brother, the Minotaur."
"You can help?”
"Of course.” She said stroking his arm.
“I can take you there now. And see I have a sword."
"But they tell me there is a labyrinth”.
"You have nothing to fear." Her lips were so close to his ear that he could feel
the warmth of her breath. Now her fingers were playing with his hair. "I will give
you a ball of thread. Tie one end to the entrance and unwind it as you go in, and
you'll have no trouble finding your way out. "If you can help me, as you say, then
I will certainly do what you ask." Theseus said.
Ariadne nodded, and taking the sword, he followed her through the sleeping
palace, dodging into the Shadows whenever a guard appeared. He had been
locked in a room on the third floor, and now they descended two stairways, their
path lit by low-burning lamps. At the bottom there was a bare corridor leading to
a heavy wooden door. Ariadne gave him the ball of thread, tying one end to the
handle.
"This is where the labyrinth begins, my love," she said. “I must leave you here.
Be quick.    I want you so much!" "I'll do my best," Theseus said.        He was
beginning to think that between Ariadne and the Minotaur there wasn't a lot to
choose.
Then he opened the door and stepped through.
It was cold on the other side. Far underneath the ground, where the sun had
never shone, a damp chill hung in the air. The walls were built with huge stone
                                                                                24


blocks, and even three paces away from the door, the corridor branched out in a
dozen different directions. Unrolling the ball of thread, Theseus tiptoed forward.
There were no lights, only a ghostly green glow.
Theseus clasped his sword more tightly and continued forward. Despite himself,
he could not but admire the cunning of Daedalus. He knew that without the
lifeline which connected him with the exit, he would be hopelessly lost. He turned
left then right, noticing that he was crossing his own path, for he could see the
thread snaking along the ground ahead of him.
“Where are you?" he whispered to himself. His breath formed a phosphorescent
cloud in front of his mouth. The air smelled of sea weed. He shivered and went
on, no longer caring which direction he took. Every passage looked the same.
Every corner he turned took him nowhere. Every archway he chose led only into
another identical passage. Kicking something loose with his foot, he glanced
down. A human skull rolled against the wall and lay still. He swallowed hard.
The immense silence of the labyrinth seemed to bear down on him. "Where are
you?” he said again, more loudly this time.           The words hurrying down the
corridors, rebounding off the walls.
'Where are you ... where are you ... are you ... ?"
Something stirred.
He heard its breathing, then the scrape of feet on sand. The breathing was
slow, irregular, like an animal in pain.    He turned another corner and found
himself in an open arena, surrounded by open archways. Was this where the
sound had come from? He could see nothing. No. There it was again. He spun
around. A bulky figure stood in one of the archways. It grunted. Then moved
towards him.
The Minotaur was horrible, far more horrible than he could ever have imagined.
It was about the size of a man, but a large man. The creature was filthy-with dirt
and with dried blood. Despite the chill, sweat dripped from its shoulders,
glistening on its skin.
It was human as far up as the neck, its head was that of a bull ... and
grotesquely disproportionate to the rest of its body. So heavy was the head that
its human neck was straining to support it, a pulse thudding next to its throat.
Two horns curved out of its head above a pair of orange eyes. Its teeth were not
                                                                                    25


those of a bull but of a lion, jutting out of its mouth and gnashing constantly as if
the creature were trying to make them fit more comfortably. The whole head was
covered with shaggy hair. It carried a piece of twisted iron, holding it like a club.
Theseus stood where he was in the center of the arena while the Minotaur
approached him. He didn't move as it raised its clumsy weapon. Only at the last
moment, as the iron bar whistled down toward his head, did he raise his own
sword. There was a deafening clash as metal struck metal. The Minotaur
stepped away, filled with surprise, for none of its victims had ever carried a
weapon. Taking advantage of the moment, Theseus lashed forward, but the
Minotaur was too fast. It twisted away, receiving nothing worse than a scratch on
one arm. Then it put its head down and charged. Many young man and women
had ended their lives on the points of its two horns. Their blood still clung to
them in a thick coat. But Theseus had been fighting all his life. With the grace of
a matador, he seemed to glide to one side, then whirled around, bringing the
sword lashing through the air. The blade bit into the creature's neck, cutting
through. The Minotaur shrieked. Then the animal‟s head fell away from its
human body. For a moment it stood, gushing blood, its arms flinging in the air.
Then it collapsed.
It took Theseus a long time to find the strength to move, but then, pulling himself
together, he found the end of the thread and followed it back the way he had
come. At last he reached the door and, with a grateful sigh, let himself out.
He was soaked in the Minotaur's blood, bruised, and exhausted. But he could
not stop yet.
Ariadne had been busy while he was in the labyrinth. She had freed the six
Athenian men from their prison and led them out of the palace. Meanwhile, the
two soldiers who had come to Knossos disguised as girls had cut the throats of
their guards and released the five real maidens. Now they were all waiting on the
ship, and as soon as Theseus had managed to find his way out of the palace
and down to the harbour, they rowed hastily away, escaping under cover of
darkness.
Just three knots remain to tie the loose ends of this tale.
When Minos discovered that the Minotaur was dead, he was so grateful that he
forgave Theseus the death of his two guards and the loss of his daughter. His
                                                                                 26


one great guilt was at last brought to an end, and with it ended the tribute of the
Athenians. Never again were young men and women demanded as payment for
the crime of the Pallantids.
Ariadne never received the reward that she had demanded for, sadly, she fell ill
on the journey home, and although she was well looked after, she died. Or at
least, that is what some versions of the story say.
Others have it that Theseus broke his promise and abandoned her on Naxos,
the first island he came to.
Who is to say which of the two endings is the more likely?
But there was one tragic ending which nobody disputes. So glad was Theseus to
be returning home safely, he forgot what he had been told by his father and
didn't change the colour of the sails. Old Aegeus, watching out for him on the
top of the cliff, saw the black sails when the boat was still miles from the Attic
coast and, believing his son was dead, flung himself into the sea.            Ever
afterwards the sea has been called the Aegean.
Theseus was crowned king of Athens and later on married Hippolyte, the queen
of the Amazons. He was a strong if somewhat severe ruler, wiping out virtually
all his enemies without a second thought. But his actions paved the way for a
secure and flourishing Athens.        He was also the first Athenian king to mint
money. Should you ever find a Thesean coin, you will recognize it easily. For it
is stamped with the head of a bull.


Topics for discussion

1. Who is Poseidon ?
2. Bring a copy or retell a well known story about Deadalus.
3. If king Minos wanted so much to see the creature dead, why didn‟t he devise
   a solution himself ?
4. What do you think really happened to Ariadne ?
5. Labyrinth, mazes - what are they ?
                      - what is their origin ?
                      - where can we find mazes ?
                      - names of games with mazes
                      - intersting stories with mazes
                                                                                   27


6. Find a story from the bible or a historical event where a woman saves a
   man‟s life.




 * While reading the story draw a chart. On one side write the names of the
  Greek characters and on the other side write the names of the Trojan
  characters.


                       The Judgement of Paris


The good name of Troy had been blackened over the years by many of the
gods, who had been wronged by her leaders. These gods held a grudge that
was relaxed only under the shrewd King Priam, who took over the reins of Troy
and allowed her once more to blossom. Priam was a very superstitious and
careful monarch, never erring so that no one should take away the kingdom from
him.
Therefore, when his wife Hecuba dreamt that she had given birth to a firebrand,
the newly born baby boy was sent away and left to die on the heights of mount
Ida.
This child was Paris, but he did not die. He was suckled by a bear and brought
to live with the herdsmen of the mountain, where he grew strong and handsome,
proud and respected by his peers. He grew up ignorant of his noble breeding,
content to live in a humble home. He was called Alexander there, the „helper of
men‟.
One day as he tended his flocks on the sunlit mountains, surrounded by
greenery, and more than content with his simple lot, he was visited by Hermes,
messenger of the gods. There had been a contest he said, looking with awe at
the beauty of this mortal, and three of the loveliest goddesses required a judge
to ascertain which was the fairest. It had been decided by Zeus that Paris was a
man of great wisdom and fair looks, and that this shepherd should be given the
                                                                                         28


task of judging amogst the goddesses.
'Fear not, Paris,' said Hermes, 'Zeus bids you to judge freely which of the three
seems fairest in your eyes; and the father of gods and men will be your shield in
giving true judgement.'
Paris nodded in amazement, excited by the sudden change of his everyday life.
The first goddess to appear to him was Hera, Queen of Olympus. She
explained to the young shepherd that Eris was the only immortal, who was
mistakenly not invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Nonetheless she
appeared at the celebration, eager to cause trouble. She threw an apple at the
feet of three of the greatest of the goddesses, those who thought themselves the
most beautiful in the land - Hera, Athene and Aphrodite. The apple was
inscribed with the words: For the Fairest.
And it was Paris who was chosen to judge, to put an end to the petty quarrelling.
Hera went on to offer him all her queenly gifts, including money and the richest
land on earth. Athene offered him wisdom and success in battle. The third
goddess was Aphrodite, as beautiful certainly as her sisters, but with cunning
that matched her looks. “Choose me, and I promise you, the most beautiful
daughter of men to be your wife,” Aphrodite promised.
And although Paris was already married, he chose Aphrodite, without a
moment's hesitation, and he gave the golden apple to the goddess of love who
thanked him with such a radiant smile that his cheeks were rouged with
pleasure.
It was with this glow of gratification that Paris set off the next day to take part in
the games arranged each year by King Priam to commemorate the death of his
youngest son, Paris. It was his first visit to the city since his birth, and he, was
anxious to test his strength. He excelled at the games, his strength, his passion
and his ambition surpassing even that of his own brothers, the young princes of
Troy. They were greatly angered and offended by him, and plotted to have an
errant arrow sent in his direction, his sister Cassandra, who had a gift of
divination, shouted out, not knowing what she said, 'Do not raise your hand
against your brother.'
The princes were bewildered, King Priam delighted, and it was with open arms
that Paris was reunited with his family and welcomed back to Troy. He was
                                                                                     29


given a great duty to perform for the king, to travel to Greece in order to secure
the return of Hesione who had been borne off by Hercules many years before.
Cassandra alone was strongly against this mission, her prophetic vision showing
her death and destruction that would lead to a great war against Troy. But her
words were ignored, and Paris set off on his voyage, stopping during its course
to visit Menelaus, king of Sparta, who was married to Helen, the most beautiful
woman in the world.
It was this diversion, which led Helen far from her marriage vows, into the arms
of another man in an elopement which would excite the world of Greece and
begin a battle that would run for ten long, blood-thirsty years.


                                 Helen and Paris


Helen was the daughter of Leda and Tyndareus, king of Sparta, and she was
undoubtedly the most beautiful woman in Greece. Theseus took her to Attica,
where she was worshipped as a goddess at Sparta.
As she grew older, she attracted suitors from around the world who wanted her
attention. Men with impeccable records of bravery, with inordinate riches,
wished to become Helen‟s husband, including the wise and cunning 0dysseus.
Helen‟s father, eventually chose, the wealthiest of the princes, Menelaus,
brother of Agamemnon, lord of Argos, who was married to Helen's half-sister
Clytemnestra. 0dysseus suggested that the suitors who had not been chosen to
wed Helen should take a vow, swearing to defend to the death the lucky suitor,
should anyone or anything appear to strip him of his good fortune. And so it was
that Menelaus became king of Sparta, married to the exquisite Helen, who lived
with him in harmony and happiness. He was warmly congratulated by the suitors
who had not been chosen, and bound by their vow, they returned to their
respective homes.
Tyndareus marked the occasion by providing an offering to the gods, but it was
ill fortune indeed that he omitted Aphrodite in his address, an oversight that
would be long remembered and regretted by mortals and gods alike.
Helen gave birth to three children, and all was well in the Iuxurious palace,
where food and drink were plentiful, were Menelaus ruled fairly and kindly, and
                                                                                       30


were Helen and Menelaus grew to find mutual respect and adoration for one
another.
And then, one cruel day, the fates chose to send to Sparta the ship of Paris,
who decided, from the moment he set eyes on HeIen, that he must have her as
his wife. His true wife Oenone was forgotten, lonely on the mount of Ida, and so
too were his sense of honour, his mission, and the commands of his long-lost
father. He called to Aphrodite to fulfill the promise she had made to him on the
hillside, and when honest Menelaus set out on an expedition, he trusted the
lovesick Paris to care for his wife in a manner befitting his status. Before he
could return, Paris had eloped with Helen leaving behind Hermione, her
daughter by Menelaus.
With treasure they had looted from the palace of Menelaus, Paris and Helen
sailed idly, deeply in love that blossomed as they travelled. It was only after
months of true and rich affection, that Paris returned home to Troy, to show off
his prize. On their journey, however, the sea became suddenly calm, as if the air
stood still. An eerie silence fell upon them, threatened to overwhelm them with
its sinister threat of ill-fate. And then, from the sea, rose a creature so fearful,
that Paris thrust Helen below the deck, and with his sword ready, moved forward
to hear its words. The quiet was deafening. The creature spoke not, but laid its
dripping trident across the prow, of the ship and leant forward, its mighty weight
dipping the vessel dangerously close to the edge of the sea. And then it uttered
words that chilled the heart of Paris.
“I am Nereus, god of the sea. Bad omens guide your journey, robber of another's
goods. The Greeks will come across this sea, vowed to amend the wrong done
by you and to overthrow the towers of Priam. So many men and so many horses
I see there, dead for your misdeed. So many Trojans murdered for your sins, so
many Trojans buried under the ruins of their city!” And with that he cast his
trident high into the sky, and disappeared beneath the mirrored sea.
But the deed was done, and fate could not be avoided. Paris was weak in mind
and body, and therefore he would cause disgrace and disintegrate Troy. Sad
and confused he sailed across the waves, breathed in the air that began to
circulate once more. In the name of love, and on the wings of pride, he
continued on to Troy, determined to build a life there with his lady love.
                                                                                    31




                             The Seeds of War


The elopement of Paris and Helen shocked everyone. Menials, gathered
together those men who had pledged an oath to aid him in times of trouble. He
called upon all the great rulers from other lands, men who would take up their
arms to recover his beloved wife, and to punish the violator of his home. He and
his brother, Agamemnon the greatest and most powerful lords of the
Peloponnese, and together they summoned the finest leaders of the land to
bring their ships and their most courageous warriors for war against Troy, and
with great respect for these two great men, all but two answered the call to set
out for Troy.
One of these men was Odysseus, a strong and highly regarded leader of the
small island of Ithaca. Odysseus had recently married his great love Penelope,
who had given birth to their son Telemachus. He had found great happiness with
his family, and hated to leave it for a war which had been predicted as long and
painful. An Oracle had confirmed that he risked twenty years of separation from
his home and his wife if he travelled to Troy, but he did not listen. Instead, he
feigned madness, and when he was visited in person by Menelaus and
Palamedes, he put on a rusty cap and ploughed salt into his rocky land.
But Palamedes was not fooled by this show, and he laid down the infant
Telemachus, in the path of the plough, at which Odyseus was forced to admit his
deceit, pull up the team, and rescue his son from certain danger. And so it was
that Odyseus travelled reluctantly to Troy, where the oracle proved true, but
where he made his name as the most distinguished warrior of all times.
Achilles was also summoned, but had defied the call on the advice of his
mother.
Thetis, who had dressed him in the garment of a maiden and hidden him among
the daughters of the king of Scyros. He was the son of Peleus, a mortal who had
married the goddess Thetis. Achilles was the youngest of many children born to
Thetis, but all had died as she attempted to immortalize them by holding them
over a fire. When Achilles was born, she wished once more to make him
immortal, but cleverly ignored the murderous flames which promised such status
                                                                                  32


and hang him instead over the waters of the river Styx, making him invulnerable
by dipping him into the waters. The heel by which she held him remained the
one vulnerable part of his body, and he was brought up with other heroes by
Cherion, who fed him on the hearts of lions and the marrow of bears. He was a
popular boy, endowed with great powers and skill in war.
His mother knew that the Trojan war would lead to his certain death, and it was
she who hatched the plan to hide him from Menelaus and his men. But it was
0dyseus who found him, and revealed him by disguising himself as a
merchant of fine fabrics and jewellery, which provided great excitement to the
other, young women, but failed to interest the young hero. When cunning
Odesseus laid out a dagger and shield they were leapt upon by Achilles, who
disclosed himself, and came readily with Odyseus.
When King Priam heard news of Paris's activities at Sparta, he sank back in
disbelief. 0dyseus journeyed to Troy with Palamedes and Menelaus, to
demand that Priam return Helen, but Paris had not yet returned to the island
and Priam hated to judge a man before he had had his say. He responded with
courtesy to the request of these great men who had appeared on his shores with
such an urgent mission, but he put them off. When Paris did finally appear with
Helen, King Priam and his sons were so taken by her beauty that they forgave
Paris all his weakness and swore that Helen should remain in Troy forever.
Helen confirmed that she had eloped of her own free will, and that her love for
Paris was greater than any known to man or god before them.
However, the people of Troy were not so excited by their new mistress, since
she brought with her, the threat of war, which would draw into action its many
men, and rob them of their freedom and good name. And when Paris walked
through the streets of Troy, his new bride on his arm, he was followed by
muttered curses. The men of Troy gathered together their troops, led by the
great Hector, and Priam's son in-law, Aeneas, prince of the Dardinians and son
of Aphrodite herself.
Many years had passed since Menelaus first called for assistance, and now
there was an impressive collection of warriors and a thousand ship were
gathered at Aulis, a harbour on the Ruipus. But as they prepared to set forth for
Troy, their sails were met by calm that disallowed even a breath of wind to set
                                                                                    33


them on their course. And so it happened that Artemis was behind the deathly
stillness, for Agamemnon had unwittingly hurt her pride by slaying one of her
sacred deers, and she now demanded the death of Agamemnon's own
daughter lphigenia in return.
Agamemnon was torn by the command and refused to consider it, while the men
of Greece became impatient to begin a war which threatened to be long and
hard. So the great lord listened to his men, and encouraged by his brother
Menelaus, he called his wife to bring lphigenia to the site, where he
promised her Achilles as a husband. And for that reason alone, lphigenia was
brought to the ships, and when she greeted her father with excitement and love,
he cast her aside, daring not to meet her glances. Seeing his unhappiness,
Menelaus swallowed his own sadness and forbade his brother to kill the young
girl, but this sympathy and pity hardened the heart of Agamemnon and he
prepared for the sacrifice.
Clytemnestra was Agamemnon's wife, and she grew suspicious when she saw
him refusing the embraces of his favourite daughter. She went to the tent of
Achilles, who knew nothing of the approaching wedding, and finally revealed
the real purpose of lphigenia's visit to the camp. In rage and distress,
Clytemnstra hurried back to her husband, and found her daughter begging for
mercy at his feet.
And then, as Agamemnon tried to find a solution, which would calm everyone,
lphigenia stood up, and wiping away her tears, said: “Since so it must be, I am
willing to die; then l shall be the honour of Greek maidenhood, who gave my life
for the motherland.” And the brave young woman laid down on the sacrificial
table at the altar of Artemis, gazing heavenward as her peaceful expression
filled her family with great sadness.
Calchas was given the painful duty to kill Iphigenia, but as he lifted his arm to
strike a blow, Iphigenia vanished, taken by Artemis herself who had pitied the
lovely maiden, and borne her away to become a priestess of her temple, at
Tauris, to live in eternal maidenhood. In her place on the table lay a snow-white
fawn, sprinkled with blood, and with great joy, Calchas proclaimed Artemis to be
appeased.
The war would begin.
                                                                                      34


The war began badly, with the death of Tenes, the son of Apollo, before the
invaders had reached the shores of Troy. Achilles had been warned never to
take the life of any child of Apollo, but when he saw a figure hurling rocks at the
ships of the Greeks, who were approaching the walled city of Troy, he struck
him down with one swoop of his mighty sword. Tenes was dead before Achilles
could be warned, and gloom was cast over the ships as they waited idly for
Apollo to strike his revenge.
Then Philtoctetes was bitten by a snake, causing such a wound that the Greeks
had no choice but to leave the warrior on the rocky island, where he was
abandoned and forced to live alone for many years. And while the sombre army
struggled to come to terms with the loss of one of their greatest men,
Protesilaus, a youth of determination and valour, leapt on to the beaches of Troy
where he was slain instantly by Troy's champion Hector, Priam's eldest son.
The war had begun. It had been decided by Zeus himself that mankind must be
punished, and so it was that the gods themselves became involved in a war that
had been sparked by one single mortal woman.
For nine years the Greeks fought the impenetrable walls of Troy, guarded
zealously by fine men of battle, including Hector, who led King Priam's other
forty nine sons in war. Paris joined their ranks, although the fury at this selfish
man was ill concealed by many.
Antenor and Acneas were men of wisdom and Justice, and they too fought for
Troy, although peace was their ultimate goal. The walls of the city had been
built by Apollo and Poseidon themselves, and could not be damaged despite
the best efforts of Agamemnon's army. So the men of Greece attacked the allies
of Troy instead, burning and looting their cities, and exploiting their women. It
was at one such rape that a quarrel occurred which would change forever the
course of the battle.
Achilles and his men had attacked the city of Lyrnessus, taking as their prize
two beautiful young women, Cryseis, who was chosen by Agamemnon, and
Briseis, who became Achilles's. When it was discovered that the maiden
Cryseis was a priestess of Apollo, a plague struck the camp, and Agamemnon
was forced to return her to the temple. This he did, but upon his return, he
stealthily lured Briseis from the camp of Achilles, and took her as his own.
                                                                                    35


Achilles was so enraged and disgusted by this act that he threw down his
armour and swore that he would no longer fight for such men, no better than
pigs as they were.
Achilles was a fighter beyond compare and his absence pressed upon the
Trojans an unexpected advantage. But the years of war had taken their toll, and
the warriors on both sides had grown tired of the hostility. A peaceful end was
sought, and Hector appeared, bravely suggesting that Menelaus and Paris fight
a dual in order to decide the fate of Helen. This course was considered fair, and
the two men engaged in a battle. Swords clashed, and many maidens fainted at
the sight of two such glorious men tempting death so readily, so easily. They
were well matched, but Menelaus had the power of a grudge that had festered
for many years, and with this advantage, he pinned Paris to the walls of his city,
determined to take his self-seeking life.
But Aphrodite could stand the battle no longer, and Paris's life was a sacrifice
she would not allow. With flowing locks and gowns, she descended on the
fighters, her beauty lighting their faces, filling their hearts with surprise and
calm. And then she struck, hiding her beloved behind a cloud and pulling him to
safety behind the city walls. Menelaus, looked on in amazement, so close had
he come after all these years to reclaiming his bride, and here the gods took
them as their playthings, changing the course of fate, of mortal lives, on a
whim. He cried out in rage, a call that was heard by the rest of the gods, and
which opened up a wound that would not be healed until the end of the war was
in sight.
Thetis screamed for justice for her son Achilles, and Apollo helped the
defenders, making them strong. Zeus took the side of the invaders, who in their
eager fury wounded both Ares and Aphrodite, spilling their immortal blood. The
Greeks continued to fight, and in a night raid managed to take the life of
Rhesus, capturing the white horses which he was taking to the Trojans under
the cover of darkness. Apollo swooped down to encourage the Trojan forces,
and they burnt some of the Greek ships, which had been moored in the harbour.
And as the fleet burned and threatened the lives of the Greek army, Patroclus,
the great friend of Achilles, appeared in his friend's armour, and frightened the
Trojans into retreat.
                                                                                     36


Forgetting himself, and confident in the armour of Greece's greatest warrior,
Patroclus leapt to the top of the Trojan walls, sending their army into panic that
was calmed only by Apollo. Once more this great god took the side of the
Trojans, and knowing that this brave warrior was none other than Patroclus, he
winded him, knocking from his body the sword and shield which protected him.
Patroclus called out in anguish, begging for mercy, but Hector stepped in and
killed Patroclus with one single blow.
The roar of the Greeks wakened the slumbering Achilles, who had thrust from
his mind all thought of the battle. Word of the death of his dear friend soon
reached him.
And he sprang into action, crying out for revenge which struck terror in the
hearts of all who heard him. He trembled with rage, his blood coursing through
his veins as he flexed his mighty muscles. New armour was summoned and he
dressed quickly, making his way to Troy without delay.
And again the gods chose to intervene. As the terrified Trojans retreated into
their city, the river god of the Scamander produced a wall of water that held back
the murderous aggressor. This act was met by Hephaestus, who immediately
stepped in to dry the waters with a flaming torch. And with a lust for revenge
more invincible than the brave Achilles himself, he fought on, searching out the
unfortunate Hector and slaying all who crossed his path. Sweat gleamed on his
brow, which was frowned with determination. Achilles presented a picture of
such manly beauty that many of his opponents were stopped in their tracks,
transfixed by this vision of glorious power. And when Hector saw Achilles he too
stopped dead, and bowed down, determined to fight him hand to hand until he
saw that fiery gleam in Achilles' eye and knew that this marauder and his army
meant his own certain death. He turned on his heels, and tried to run, but
Achilles was stronger and more powerful.
Three times they ran around the walls of the city Hector becoming weaker, more
frightened as they ran. And then Achilles caught him, and pinning him like a
rabbit to the wall with his sword, howled a mighty cry then thrust his sword
through Hector and killed him at once.
The Trojans moaned and wailed for their lost leader, stopping the battle briefly
to mourn before swearing vengeance and carrying on more furiously than
                                                                                   37


before.
Achilles was unstoppable. When Penthesileia brought her Amazon women to
help the Trojans, Achilles killed her mercilessly. And then Thersites, the nasty
politician was struck down by Achilles‟ powerful fist. The invincible Achilles
fought on an on, never tiring, never losing his composure, his cunning. Then
Memnon arrived with a troop of Ethiopians, putting the favour of the gods once
more with the Torjans, who allowed their forces to be increased so heavily. But
Achilles, enraged and irreverent, called upon Zeus to judge between himself and
Memnon, to reverse the damage done by these visiting troops.
Memnon was out of favour with the king of gods, and Achilles was presented
with a sword with which to slay the Ethiopian leader. And when he died, his
followers turned immediately to birds, and followed him to his rocky tomb on the
neck of the island.
Achilles continued on, more boastful than ever, never losing a battle, never
missing a stroke with his mighty sword. And then the gods lost patience, and
irritated by his show of pride, they stepped in once again. Apollo had not yet
repaid Achilles for the death of Tenes. Now was his chance. Guiding the hand
of Paris, an arrow was directed to the heel of Achilles, the only part on his
body which was not invincible. He died immediately.
For a time, the Greeks were weakened by the death of their hero, their
determination dwindling, their lust for battle dead. But as they mourned their
forsaken leader, a new resolve grew in their hearts, and after a solemn funeral,
at which Achilles was awarded the highest honours of any warrior, they
regrouped to plan their revenge. If their hearts had been cut from them, their
minds still functioned. They were supremely competent strategists, extremely
confident aggressors. Menelaus appeared to remind them once again of the
reason for their battle, and thus inspired they set about deciding who should
take on the arms of Achilles. Agamemnon chose Odysseus, for his intelligence
and courage, but Ajax the Greater was jealous, knowing his strength was greater
than that of Odysseus, beyond all doubt. He swore to avenge himself against
Odysseus, but Athene, always a friend to Odysseus, persuaded him in another
direction, and thinking he was murdering Odysseus and his troops, he
laughtered instead a flock of sheep. Convinced of his own madness, Ajax took
                                                                                    38


his own life, another untimely and worrying loss to the Greeks.
The war had gone on too long. Zeus had planned it from beginning to end, but
now he stopped to appraise, to ensure that the balance was correct. Troy must
fall, he decreed, but it could not be achieved without the bow and arrows used
by Hercules, and without the presence of Achilles' son, far away in Scyros.
The Greeks moved swiftly. And as they set about summoning Neoptolemus, the
son of Achilles, from his home, they were warned of one final condition, without
which the war could not be won. The Palladium must be removed from the city,
for she guarded the gates and protected her from all invaders. Odysseus began
to plan.
Philoctetes was rescued from his terrible ordeal on Lemnos, his wounds long
since cleared. He had trained his mind and his muscles while he waited
impatiently to be saved, and he was anxious to fight, to use the bow of the
great Heracles in battle. He lifted it now, spitting on his palms as he did so,
and feeding a poisoned arrow into the string of the bow. With a shriek that
released the years of tortuous loneliness and pain, he sent the arrow straight
to its mark at the neck of the handsome Paris, who died at once. And so
Neoptolemus was dressed in his father's armour, a shaking, frightened youth
with no knowledge of war, no interest in fighting, but he took courage from the
dress of his father, and he rose to the challenge, calmly leading his restored
army towards the gates of Troy.
Odysseus was busy elsewhere. Dressed as a miserly beggar, with the help of
Athene and Diomedes, he talked himself through the gates of the great city,
where he fell upon the sleeping guards of the Palladium with such speed and
grace that not one person in the entire city knew of his treachery. And on his
stomach, he crawled from the city, dragging the Palladium with him, through a
filthy drain where he struggled through sewage and mud to reach his army on
the other side, the Palladium drawn triumphantly behind him. Troy was on the
verge of defeat. The Palladium no longer cast its splendid power over the city,
and without that advantage, and with the minds of such cunning men as
Odysseus, there was no hope. But still she stood firm against the invaders, until
Odysseus, with the help of Athene once again, came up with a final plan.
The craftsman Epeius was commissioned to build an enormous wooden horse,
                                                                                     39


the inside of which was hollow to hold fifty warriors. Agamemnon chose his
greatest men to ride in its belly, and then gathering up the remainder of his fleet,
he made as if to sail away, leaving the bay at Troy, but travelling only round the
bend of the land, where he waited with anticipation and many prayers. Sinon
was left behind on land, and as expected, he was taken prisoner by the Trojans,
who wondered at their sudden luck. Sinon feigned fury at his colleagues who
had left him behind, and taking the side of the Trojans, he wormed his way into
their affections, into their grace, so that when he suggested they take into their
walls the wooden horse, they did so, marvelling at its inscription: „A thank
offering to Athene for our safe return home‟.
Again, it was Cassandra who spoke out against the enemy's soldier, proclaiming
that the horse brought nothing but death and final disaster for the city. The
prophet Laocoon agreed with her, but as he made his way to the palace to warn
the king, he was strangled by two serpents who leapt from the sea, and
disappeared once they had finished their deadly task. And the great horse was
dragged into the city, into the temple of Athene, where it was decorated with
ribbons and festooned with garlands of herbs.
The Trojans feasted that night, revelling and celebrating the end of a war that
had taken quite a small toll, despite its very long duration. Inside the wooden
horse, the men of Greece laid quietly waiting for darkness to fall, for their
opportunity to strike. Helen alone remained suspicious, knowing that the Greeks
were too clever, too ambitious to give in before the bitter end, and she held a
grudging admiration for their daring, whatever it may be. She suspected the
horse, and late in the evening, she slipped into the darkened temple and called
out in the voices of the wives of the men inside, tempting them to come out and
be reunited. Only the shrewd Odysseus guessed her trick, and holding his hand
over the mouth of each hero who was addressed in false voice, he kept them
quiet and soon Helen went away.
The Trojan men were drunk and sleepy when the men slid from the horse on
ropes they had prepared earlier. And it was by moonlight, when the city was
glowing with a numbing slumber, that the massacre of the Trojans began. King
Priam was murdered as he crossed his courtyard, Menelaus went straight to the
chambers of his errant wife, who bowed her head and spoke words of such
                                                                                      40


regret, such honest remorse, that the determination in Menelaus was stilled, and
he reached out to her and held her again in his arms, transfixed by her beauty, a
slave to her love once more.
All was forgiven, and he carried Helen to his ship where she was welcomed into
the arms of the Greeks, her fair face disarming them.
The plundering of Troy continued. Women were taken as prizes by the men of
Greece who had for so long been starved of female companionship. Cassandra
was taken by Agamemnon, and Neoptolemus who had grown in his weeks with
the army to become a noble youth, took Hector's widow Andromache. Polyxena
was sacrificed at the tomb of Achilles, to appease his ghost. Aeneas was
wounded fatally, but the gods swooped to him and healed him. Apollo urged
him to challenge the marauders, but Poseidon spoke softly to him, prophesying
a day when he would rule Troy. And so Aeneas left the burning city, losing his
wife in the escape, his subsequent travels becoming the subject of Roman
legends, and Vergil's flawless Aeneid.
Queen Hecabe sat in her tower window watching the massacre, the deaths of
her family, her colleagues, her servants and their children. And when Odysseus
took her as his own, her howls of pure despair reached to the heavens and she
was transformed magically into a dog, whose barks could be heard on the
shores of Troy for all eternity.
Troy was broken, its streets steeped in the blood of generations of warriors, its
walls finally scaled and broken, pouring out the good will and good luck that had
been held in her embrace since the very beginning. She was set alight by
zealous Greeks, a blazing torch-light to all who knew her, her heart beating no
longer.
So it was that Helen returned to Sparta with Menelaus, where they were
reunited. Other great heroes went their separate ways, many returning to glory,
carrying the spoils of their victory in treasure-laden ships. Still others met with
disaster on their voyage home, but those are other stories, legends which were
spawned by the war of Troy. And the great city of Troy was dead, her fires
glowing for all to see, a warning to lovers and to the men of war, which would
live in their memories for the rest of time.
                                                                              41




Topics for Discussion
1. Should leaders consult prophets?
2. On page 37 the story says that the war had been sparked by one single
   woman. Is that true ?
3. Bring a story from the bible where a man‟s wife is taken by another man.
4. Why don‟t they listen to the words of prophecy?
5. Aren‟t Gods supposed to be forgiving?
6. Do you believe in fate? Can it be changed?
7. The attitude towards beauty (both male and female) has been the turning
   point in several places in the story. Mention three of them.
8. People tend to judge others by their appearance. True or false.
9. How do you judge a person before you know him/her ?
                                                                                    42




                          THE ACHILLES HEEL

  This is the story of the greatest of all the Greek heroes. Achilles the fierce.
  Achilles the strong. Achilles the most courageous man who ever lived. It is
  also a story of that most terrible time in the history of ancient Greece about
  fourteen hundred years before the birth of Christ when so many of its noblest
  princes were to fall in the nine long years of war at Troy.
  You must imagine the city, vast and impregnable, its massive walls facing out
  toward a black, tormented sea. Overhead, the sky is thick with the smoke that
  pours out of the funeral pyres and from the forges where the blacksmiths work
  day and night, hammering at swords and shields, sharpening spears and
  arrowheads, fashioning the weapons of death. It is cold. A wind sweeps
  across the fields, and a remorseless drizzle falls, stabbing at the pools that
  have formed in the mud, the water swirling around suddenly red as it mixes
  with the blood from the day's fighting. Between the city of the Trojans and the
  tents of the Greeks nothing moves. Both sides are sleeping.
  This is the scene that was to shape the legend of the life of Achilles. This was
  where he was to meet his death.


                           The Parents of Achilles


Achilles' mother was Thetis, and she was immortal. Thetis was a Nereid one of
the fifty nymphs of the sea who come to the aid of sailors. His father was
Peleus, king of the Myrmidons, but a mortal. The difference between the
parents was to be the ruin of the marriage, for Thetis had been forced to marry
Peleus against her own wishes. There had been a time when Zeus had loved
Thetis, but she had coldly rejected him. In revenge, Zeus had decreed that she
should never marry an immortal, a command that had infuriated the proud
Thetis.
"How can I live with a mere mortal?" she had cried. "See what happens to
mortal men, with the passing of years. Their skin withers and their bellies sag.
Their hair turns gray and their eyes become weak. No more can they run and
                                                                                     43


fight. The passion within them grows cold. Am I to live with a pathetic, senile old
man when I remain young and beautiful? Am I to see my children grow old and
die when I remain alive? It is unjust! It is an outrage!"
The marriage went ahead, but when her first child was born she stole it away
and, holding it by the heel, dipped it in the chill water of the Styx River, which
winds its way through the Underworld. In this way did she make her child
immortal. But she made one mistake, a mistake that was one day to prove fatal.
For she forgot to immerse the heel itself, and that part of the body remained
mortal.
When Peleus found out what his wife had done, he was furious. A mortal
himself, he had wanted his son to grow up the same way. He therefore
snatched the baby away before Thetis had even had time to breast feed it.
For this reason, because his lips had never touched his mother's breast, the
baby was called Achilles, which means "no lips."


                         The Childhood of Achilles


Peleus and Thetis parted company immediately after this, Thetis returning to her
home in the sea. Achilles was then entrusted to the care of Cheiron, to be
brought up among the olive trees on the slopes of Mount Pelion. Cheiron was a
centaur, half-man and half-horse but unlike many of the centaurs, he was both
gentle and wise.
Cheiron loved Achilles as though he were his own son. He fed the boy on the
flesh of lions to give him courage and on sweet honeycombs to make him run
swiftly. Who better was there to teach him how to ride and how to hunt? He also
taught him the arts of pipe playing and healing, and the immortal Calliope, one
of the nine Muses, visited the cave to teach him how to sing. Soon Achilles had
grown into a youth of extraordinary beauty as well as great skill. His body was
broad-shouldered and muscular. His hair tumbled down around his neck in a
mass of golden curls. It is said that at the age of six he could outrun a full-grown
stag and kill it with his own hands.
But while Achilles played in the sun on Mount Pelion, the clouds of war were
gathering. It had been at the wedding of his own parents that Eris, goddess of
                                                                                  44


dispute, had sown the first seeds of disaster in the form of the golden apple that
she had presented "to the fairest." Already Paris had made his choice and
stolen Helen away as his prize. And throughout Greece, warriors and princes
were coming together, forming the great army that would soon sail to Troy.
Now Thetis had been given a prophecy. The prophecy stated simply that if
Achilles sailed for Troy he would never return. Although she had allowed
Peleus to steal her child, she was still devoted to him, and now she hurried to
Mount Pelion in an attempt to save him from his fate that was as vain as it was
desperate. Dressing him up as a woman, she took him to the court of
Lycomedes, king of Scyros, hoping that he would be able to hide there, safe
from the searching eyes of the Greek kings.


                           Achilles Goes to War


While Achilles wasted his days among the women of Servos, the main
protagonists of the Trojan War were coming together and travelling the country
in search of warriors prepared to fight and die with them.
There was Menelaus, king of Sparta and the leader of the Greek forces. For
Helen had been his wife, and it was his honour that had been offended when
Paris had stolen her. With him was his brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae.
Nobody would fight more courageously in the Trojan War. Nobody would die
more dangerously after it. And there was Odysseus, who feigned madness to
try to avoid going to Troy and who would be condemned to wander for ten years
before he saw his home again.
It was Odysseus who came to Scyros in search of Achilles, for an astrologer had
warned that Troy could not be taken without him. Faced with the mild smiles of
the king and a palace that appeared to be filled only with women,
Odysseus was forced to devise a trick. First he presented the women with a
great heap of gifts: jewels, perfumes, and beautiful dresses, but also one sword
and one shield. Then, while they argued over who got what, he gave the signal
for his soldiers outside the palace to sound their trumpets and shout as if an
army had just attacked. At once, one of the "women" threw off her wig and
seized the shield and sword, and in this way was Achilles discovered and
                                                                                    45


recruited to the army. And so Achilles set out for Troy, taking with him a magic
spear that only he could use, a gift from Cheiron, and also a trunk inlaid with
ivory and jewels, and packed with blankets, tunics, and cloaks to protect him
against the wind, a present from his grieving mother. His cousin Patroclus, who
was older than he but neither as skillful nor as wellborn, accompanied him.
Achilles loved him more than anyone else in the world.


                              Achilles at Troy


Achilles was the second Greek to leap onto the Trojan coast. He would have
been the first had Thetis not warned him that the first to land would also be the
first to die. This honour, if so it can be called, was taken by Protesilaus, who
was promptly run through by Hector, the prince of Troy.
The first battle was fought on the beach, and Achilles, leading his father's
faithful Myrmidons, soon proved that he deserved his reputation for
fearlessness. In the heat of the fighting, he found himself confronted by Cycnus,
the son of Poseidon and a ferocious warrior. In the first twenty minutes of the
battle he had killed no fewer than a hundred Greeks, and their blood coated
every inch of his armour and dripped out of his hair.
Achilles threw himself at him, and the two fought furiously. Cycnus was more
like a beast than a man, snarling in anger, his eyes wide with blood desire.
He was seemingly invincible. Achilles would slash at him with his sword, but
either his opponent moved faster than the eye could see or the blade passed
straight through him without so much as breaking his skin. He thrust his spear
at him, but Cycnus caught the point in his bare hands and, with a horrible laugh,
turned it aside.
At last Achilles managed to force him back, using the handle of his sword to hit
him on the side of the head. Cycnus staggered and tripped over. At once,
Achilles was on top of him, spanning him with his legs. Cycnus screamed in
anger. Achilles tore off his helmet. and forced the strap round the Trojan's neck,
squeezing with all his strength. While the Greek army forced the Trojans back
off the beach to win their first victory, Cycnus groaned and breathed his last.
In the weeks that followed, Achilles added victory to victory, death-to-death,
                                                                                     46


until his name was the most feared in the entire Greek army. Priam, the king of
Troy, lost no fewer than three of his sons to Achilles: his beloved Troilus chased
into the temple of Apollo and speared on the very altar itself. With the
Myrmidons behind him, Achilles destroyed the countryside, seizing the Trojan
herds of cattle and sacking the city of Lyrnessus. It was here that he
discovered the beautiful princess Briseis. Her father had died in the fighting,
and Achilles, who had fallen in love with her, took her back to his tent to be his
serving maid.


                           The Wrath of Achilles


It was at this time (in the spring) that Achilles had his second argument with King
Agamemnon. They had almost come to blows once when Achilles had
suggested that the king of Mycenae had entered the war only out of a sense of
guilt and didn't really want to fight at all. Agamemnon had retorted by reminding
Achilles of the time he had spent disguised as a girl, and after that the two had
never been friends.
This new, much more serious, argument concerned Briseis. Agamemnon had
found himself an equally beautiful captive but had been forced to send her back
to Troy when it was discovered that she was a priestess. So now the king seized
Briseis for himself, which angered Achilles so much that he stormed off into his
tent, refusing to have anything more to do with the war.
At first nobody believed that so great a warrior could behave in such a way, but
as the days passed and Achilles failed to appear, they realized he meant just
what he said. The Trojans, when their spies reported the news, returned to the
battlefield with renewed vigour. This was virtually their first piece of good fortune
since the Greeks had landed.
The morale of an army can win a war, and suddenly it seemed that the Trojans
had gained the upper hand. Hector, the eldest son of King Priam, led a daring
sortie and the Greek lines were broken. Both Agamemnon and Odysseus were
wounded in the fighting, and while the Greeks scattered in panic, Hector
pressed on towards their fleet. If he were able to burn their ships and cut the
supply lines, he might well end the whole enterprise but still Achilles refused to
                                                                                      47


fight.
It was Patroclus who saved the day. The flames were already devouring the first
ship, black smoke curling up the masts and brilliant sparks falling into the water,
when Patroclus ran forward, wearing the armour of Achilles, and hurled his
spear into the mass of Trojans. He would have been cut down where he stood
but for the fact that he so resembled Achilles that the Trojans mistook him for his
cousin and fled. Then, while Greek soldiers put out the fire, Patroclus regrouped
the rest of the army and chased the fleeing Trojans towards the walls of the city.
Patroclus had lived his whole life in the shadow of Achilles. Where his cousin
had been admired and praised, he had been ignored. Where his cousin was
famous, he was unknown. Now, for the first and last time, he found himself the
undisputed leader of the suddenly fearless Greek forces and a hero in his own
right. He chased the Trojans right back to the walls, while Achilles, hearing what
was happening, hastily assembled his Myrmidons. But Patroclus relied on luck
as much as skill, and now his luck ran out. A chance blow caught him between
the shoulder blades. His helmet was torn off, and at the same moment, his
spear splintered. Blinded, he staggered away from the wall of Troy, then
screamed and twisted around as a sword was driven into his chest. Dying, he
tried to lift himself out of the mud. That was how Hector found him. One blow
and it was over.
When Achilles came upon the body of his cousin, the Greek soldiers were
fighting furiously to protect it. With a cry of anger and grief he threw himself into
the battle, striking out left and right, forming a bloody circle around the corpse.
At last, as the sun was setting, the Trojans retired, and Achilles was able to pick
up the body of Patroclus and carry it back to the Greek ships that he had saved.
He was buried with full honors beside the sea, the dying sun casting a scarlet
banner across the water. Agamemnon, though wounded, came from his tent,
bringing Briseis, to make his peace with Achilles. And Achilles, standing beside
his cousin's grave, swore revenge on the man who had killed him.
                             Achilles and Hector


If Achilles was the pride of the Greek army, then Hector was his equivalent in
the Trojan. The two men were natural opponents. They were even physical
                                                                                  48


opposites, with Hector's jet-black hair and dark skin. Moreover, although the two
had yet to encounter one another on the field, a deep hatred existed between
them, and each sought revenge on the other, Achilles for the death of Patroclus,
Hector for the loss of three brothers, Troilus and Mestor killed and Lycaon
captured and sold into slavery for the price of a silver bowl.
Hector had challenged Achilles to a single combat once, but that had been at
the time when he was refusing to fight. Now he accepted, and for one day the
war was suspended, both sides standing back to watch the confrontation.
It was a brilliant morning. The waves, hurrying toward the field of combat,
seemed to throw precious stones onto the sand as they crashed against the
shore. A soft breeze brushed across the Greek camp, tousling the hair of the
waiting soldiers. There was a murmur as the gates of Troy swung open and a
single figure stepped out, dressed in black and silver armour, a sword in one
hand, and a spear in the other. Then the flaps of Achilles' tent were pulled back,
and the murmur became a gasp. Thetis had visited her son that night, bringing
with her new armour forged by the immortal Hephaestos himself. Now, as
Achilles stood in the sunlight, he seemed to be carved out of solid gold, and the
reflection of the sun around him was almost blinding.
Perhaps Hector knew at that moment that he was doomed. Achilles was
persistent, unstoppable. Saying nothing, he approached the Trojan, his feet
pounding in the dust. As soon as he was within range, Hector hurled his spear.
Achilles raised his shield, and the spear clattered uselessly to one side. Then
Hector ran, not because he was afraid but because he hoped to tire his enemy.
Three times he circled the walls of Troy, but when he stopped and looked
around, Achilles was still the same distance from him, barely out of breath.
Then, with the shouts of the Trojan forces above them and the Greek forces all
around them, the two men joined in combat. They fought so ferociously that
when sword struck sword the spark could be seen a mile away. Hector was
perhaps stronger. But Achilles was faster, and watching from the walls, the
Trojans let out a great cry when he dodged one blow, carried his sword in low,
and ran their prince through the heart.
Hector crumpled to his knees.
"Achilles!" he whispered, the blood curtaining over his lip'. 'Let my parents have
                                                                                    49


my body. Let me be buried honourably."
"Never!" Achilles cried. He twisted his sword and watched the light in Hector's
eyes go out.
Then he took the body, and while King Priam looked on, helpless and in horror,
he fastened it by the feet to his chariot and rode off around the city. Three more
times he circled Troy; dragging Hector behind him. At last he rode back to his
camp, taking the body with him. But the ordeal was not yet over for the Trojans.
Although they offered their prince's weight in gold for the return of the corpse,
Achilles refused. And every day at dawn he would taunt them with it, whipping
up his horses around the walls, dragging his enemy in a cloud of dust behind
him.
Every day for a week Achilles did the same thing, deaf to the lamentations of the
Trojans and even to the pleas of his own mother. Such was his grief at the loss
of Patroclus. At last, the gates of Troy opened and King Priam himself rode out,
accompanied only by one young soldier and by four servants. Under the flag of
truce, he proceeded to the tent of Achilles and there threw himself onto the
ground.
"Achilles!" the old man wept. "You have proved yourself a great warrior, but
have you the compassion to prove yourself a great man? You have killed my
eldest child, the son I most loved and in whom I had most pride. What times are
these that fine soldiers and princes must perish in the bloom of their youth!
Now, I beg you, show pity to an old man. See, I bring you Hector's weight in
gold. Will you not be moved by a father's tears? Think on your own father and
let me lay the remains of Troy's noblest prince to rest. Let me bury my son."
Then Achilles wept too, for his cousin Patroclus, for the hopelessness of war,
and for the man he had almost become himself. He gave orders for the body of
Hector to be carried back to Troy and called for a truce of twelve days in which
the funeral ceremony could be prepared.


                           The Death of Achilles


The war dragged on. Among those who died were, on the Trojan side,
Penthesileia, queen of the Amazons and one of the few heroines of mythology,
                                                                                    50


and Memnon, the Ethiopian leader whose skin was as black as ebony and who
was said to be the most handsome man alive. The Greeks had their losses too.
Antilochus, young, swift, and courageous, died at the hand of Memnon, and
Thersites, the ugliest soldier at Troy, was actually slain by Achilles himself as
a result of an argument.
But for Achilles too, time was drawing in.
After the death of Hector, he had fought as bravely as ever, the differences
between him and Agamemnon forgotten. On many occasions he came close to
breaching the walls of Troy. But he had made himself the target of too many
enemies, and not all of them were mortals. Poseidon, the sea god, still
demanded vengeance for the death of his son Cycnus, while Apollo continued to
be enraged by the killing of Troilus, which had taken place in his own temple.
So one day in the thick of the fighting, Poseidon whispered to Paris, the man
who, more than any other, had begun the war that Achilles was not invulnerable,
while Apollo guided the arrow in his hand. For the gods remembered how
Thetis had held Achilles when she dipped him in the Styx, and now Paris let
loose a poisoned arrow which struck him in the heel.
At once Achilles fainted and had to be carried off the field by his Myrmidons.
Doctors were called, but already the poison had spread through his blood, and
that night, with Thetis beside him and the stars blazing silver in the sky, he died.
The Greek army mourned for seventeen days and seventeen nights, and the
nine Muses themselves came down into the world to sing his dirge. On the
eighteenth day his body was burned on a great pyre beside the sea.
And as the smoke rose over the crashing waves, the two armies clashed once
again in a war, which was tainted by gray despair, a war that was suddenly less
glorious and less heroic than it had once seemed.


 Topics for Discussion
 1. What made Achilles so cruel ?
 2. According to the story, how old was he when he joined the war ?
 3. How would you describe a hero?
 4. Who is your hero?
 5. On what occasion was the war suspended ?
                                                                             51


 6. Have you heard of any other long wars ? When ? Where ?




                               CUPID


There was once a king who had three daughters, all lovely maidens, but the
youngest, Psyche, excelled her sisters so greatly that beside them she seemed
a very goddess among mere mortals. The fame of her surpassing beauty spread
over the earth, and everywhere men journeyed to gaze upon her with wonder
and adoration as though she were in truth one of the immortals. They would
                                                                                      52


even say that Venus herself could not equal this mortal. As the number of her
worshipers grew, no one gave a thought to Venus herself any more. Her temples
were neglected, her altars foul with cold ashes, her favourite towns deserted
and falling in ruins. All the honours, once hers, were now given to a mere girl
destined some day to die. Venus would not put up with this treatment and as
always turned for help, whenever she was in trouble, to her son. Her son was
the beautiful winged youth, known by some as Cupid by others as Love, against
whose arrows there is no defence, neither in heaven nor on earth. She told
him her wrongs and as always he was ready to do her bidding. “Use your
power,” she said, “and make her fall madly in love with the most despicable
creature there is in the whole world.”
And so no doubt he would have done, if Venus had not first shown him Psyche,
never thinking in her jealous rage what such beauty might do even to the God of
Love himself. As he looked upon her it was as if he had shot one of his arrows
into his own heart. He said nothing to his mother, indeed he had no power to
utter a word, and Venus left him with the happy confidence that he would swiftly
bring about Psyche‟s ruin.
What happened, however, was not what she had counted on. Psyche did not fall
in love with a horrible wretch, she did not fall in love at all. Still more strange, no
one fell in love with her. Men were content to look and wonder and worship –
and then to pass on to marry someone else. Both her sisters inexpressibly
inferior to her, were splendidly married, each to a king. Psyche, the all beautiful,
sat sad and lonely, only admired never loved. It seemed that no man wanted
her.
This was, of course, most disturbing to her parents. Her father finally travelled to
an oracle of Apollo to ask his advice on how to get her a good husband. The
god answered him, but his words were terrible. Cupid had told him the whole
story and had begged for his help. Accordingly Apollo said that Psyche, dressed
in deepest mourning, must be set on the summit of a rocky hill and left alone,
and that there her destined husband, a fearful winged serpent, stronger than the
gods themselves, would come to her and make her his wife.
The misery of all when Psyche's father brought back this lamentable news can
be imagined. They dressed the maiden as though for her death and carried her
                                                                                      53


to the hill with greater sorrowing than if it had been to her tomb. But Psyche
herself kept her courage. "You should have wept for me before," she told them,
"because of the beauty that has drawn down upon me the jealousy of Heaven.
Now go, knowing that I am glad the end has come." They went in despairing
grief, leaving the lovely helpless creature to meet her doom alone, and they shut
themselves in their palace to mourn all their days for her.
On the high hilltop in the darkness Psyche sat, waiting for she knew not what
terror. There, as she wept and trembled, a soft breath of air came through the
stillness to her, the gentle breathing of Zephyr, sweetest and mildest of winds.
She felt it lift her up. She was floating away from the rocky hill and down until
she lay upon a grassy meadow soft as a bed and fragrant with flowers. It was
so peaceful there, all her troubles left her and she slept. She woke beside a
bright river; and on its bank was a mansion stately and beautiful as though built
for a god, with pillars of gold and walls of silver and floors inlaid with precious
stones. No sound was to be heard; the place seemed deserted and Psyche
drew near, awestruck at the sight of such splendour. As she hesitated on the
threshold, voices sounded in her ear. She could see no one, but the words they
spoke came clearly to her. The house was for her, they told her. She must enter
without fear and bathe and refresh herself. Then a banquet table would be
spread for her. "We are your servants," the voices said, "ready to do whatever
you desire."
The bath was the most delightful, the food the most delicious, she had ever
enjoyed. While she dined, sweet music breathed around her: a great choir
seemed to sing to a harp, but she could only hear, not see them. Throughout the
day, except for the strange companionship of the voices, she was alone, but in
some inexplicable way she felt sure that with the coming of the night her
husband would be with her. And so it happened. When she felt him beside her
and heard his voice softly murmuring in her ear, all her fears left her. She knew
without seeing him that here was no monster or shape of terror, but the lover
and husband she had longed and waited for.
This half-and-half companionship could not fully content her; still she was happy
and the time passed swiftly. One night, however, her dear though unseen
husband spoke gravely to her and warned her that danger in the shape of her
                                                                                    54


two sisters was approaching. "They are coming to the hill where you
disappeared, to weep for you," he said; "but you must not let them see you or
you will bring great sorrow upon me and ruin to yourself." She promised him she
would not, but all the next day she passed in weeping, thinking of her sisters
and herself unable to comfort them. She was still in tears when her husband
came and even his caresses could not comfort her. At last he yielded sorrowfully
to her great desire. "Do what you will," he said, "but you are seeking your own
destruction." Then he warned her solemnly not to be persuaded by anyone to try
to see him, on pain of being separated from him forever. Psyche cried out that
she would never do so. She would die a hundred times over rather than live
without him. "But give me this joy," she said "to see my sisters." Sadly he
promised her that it should be so.
The next morning the two came, brought down from mountain by Zephyr. Happy
and excited, Psyche was waiting for them. It was long before the three could
speak to each other; their joy was too great to be expressed except by tears and
embraces. But when at last they entered the palace and the elder sisters saw
its surpassing treasures; when they sat at the rich banquet and heard the
marvellous music, bitter envy took possession of them and a devouring curiosity
as to who was the lord of all this magnificence and their sister's husband. But
Psyche kept faith; she told them only that he was a young man, away now on a
hunting expedition. Then filling their hands with gold and jewels, she had Zephyr
carry them back to the hill. They went willingly enough, but their hearts were on
fire with jealousy. All their own wealth and good fortune seemed to them as
nothing compared with Psyche's, and their envious anger so worked in them that
they came finally to plotting how to ruin her.
That very night Psyche's husband warned her once more. She would not listen
when he begged her not to let them come again. She never could see him, she
reminded him. Was she also to be forbidden to see all others, even her sisters
so dear to her? He yielded as before, and very soon the two wicked women
arrived, with their plot carefully worked out.
Already, because of Psyche's stumbling and contradictory answers when they
asked her what her husband looked like, they had become convinced that she
had never set eyes on him and did not really know what he was. They did not
                                                                                      55


tell her this, but they reproached her for hiding her terrible state from them, her
own sisters. They had learned, they said, and knew for a fact, that her husband
was not a man, but the fearful serpent Apollo's oracle had declared he would be.
He was kind now, no doubt, but he would certainly turn upon her some night and
devour her.
Psyche, felt terror flooding her heart instead of love. She had wondered so
often why he would never let her see him. There must be some dreadful reason.
What did she really know about him? If he was not horrible to look at, then he
was cruel to forbid her ever to behold him. In extreme misery, faltering and
stammering, she let her sisters to understand that she could not deny what
they said, because she had been with him only in the dark. "There must be
something very wrong," she sobbed, "for him to avoid the light of day." And
she begged them to advise her.
They had their advice all prepared beforehand. That night she must hide a
sharp knife and a lamp near her bed. When her husband was fast asleep she
must leave the bed, light the lamp, and get the knife. She must plunge it swiftly
into the body of the frightful being the light would certainly show her. "We will be
near," they said, "and carry you away with us when he is dead."
Then they left her torn by doubt and distracted, not knowing what to do. She
loved him; he was her dear husband. No, he was a horrible serpent and she
loathed him. She would kill him. She would not. She must have certainty. She
did not want certainty. So all day long her thoughts fought with each other.
When evening came, however, she had given the struggle up. One thing she
was determined to do: she would see him.
Then at last he lay sleeping quietly, she summoned all her courage and lit the
lamp. She tiptoed to the bed and holding the light high above her she gazed at
what lay there. Oh, the relief and the delight that filled her heart. No monster
was revealed, but the sweetest and fairest of all creatures, at whose sight the
very lamp seemed to shine brighter. In her first shame at her foolishness and
lack of faith, Psyche fell on her knees and would have plunged the knife into her
own breast if it had not fallen from her trembling hands. But those same
unsteady hands that saved her betrayed her, too, for as she hung over him,
ravished at the sight of him and unable to deny herself the bliss of filling her
                                                                                      56


eyes with his beauty, some hot oil fell from the lamp upon his shoulder. He
started awake: he saw the light and knew her faithlessness, and without a word
he fled from her.
She rushed out after him into the night. She could not see him but she heard his
voice speaking to her. He told her who he was, and sadly bade her farewell.
"Love cannot live where there is no trust," he said, and flew away. “The God of
Love!" she thought. "He was my husband, and I, wretch that I am, could not
keep faith with him. Is he gone from me forever? … At any rate," she told
herself with rising courage, "I can spend the rest of my life searching for him. If
he has no more love left for me, at least I can show him how much I love him."
And she started on her journey. She had no idea where to go; she knew only
that she would never give up looking for him.
He meanwhile had gone to his mother's chamber to have his wound cared for,
but when Venus heard his story and learned that it was Psyche whom he had
chosen, she left him angrily alone in his pain, and went forth to find the girl of
whom he had made her still more jealous. Venus was determined to show
Psyche what it meant to greatly annoy a goddess.
Poor Psyche in her despairing wanderings was trying to win the gods over to her
side. She offered ardent prayers to them perpetually, but not one of them would
do anything to make Venus their enemy. At last she perceived that there was no
hope for her, neither in heaven nor on earth, and she took a desperate resolve.
She would go straight to Venus; she would offer herself humbly to her as her
servant, and try to soften her anger. "And who knows," she thought, "if he
himself, is not there in his mother's house." So she set forth to find the goddess
who was looking everywhere for her.
When she came into Venus' presence the goddess laughed aloud and asked
her scornfully if she was seeking a husband since the one she had had would
have nothing to do with her because he had almost died of the burning wound
she had given him. "But really," she said, "you are such a plain and ill-favoured
a girl that you will never be able to get you a lover except by the most diligent
and painful service. I will therefore show my good will to you by training you in
such ways."
With that she took a great quantity of the smallest of the seeds, wheat and
                                                                                        57


poppy and millet and so on, and mixed them all together in a heap. "By nightfall
these must all be sorted," she said. "See to it for your own sake." And with that
she departed.
Psyche, left alone, sat still and stared at the heap. Her mind was all in a maze
because of the cruelty of the command; and, indeed, it was of no use to start a
task so manifestly impossible. But at this dreadful moment, she who had
awakened no compassion in mortals or immortals was pitied by the tiniest
creatures of the field, the little ants, the swift runners. They cried to each other,
"Come, have mercy on this poor maid and help her diligently." At once they
came, waves of them, one after another, and they laboured separating and
dividing, until what had been a confused mass lay all ordered, every seed with
its kind. This was what Venus found when she came back, and very angry she
was to see it. "Your work is by no means over," she said. Then she gave Psyche
a crust of bread and bade her sleep on the ground while she herself went off to
her soft, fragrant couch. Surely if she could keep the girl at hard labour and half
starve her, too, that hateful beauty of hers would soon be lost. Until then she
must see that her son was securely guarded in his chamber where he was still
suffering from his wound. Venus was pleased at the way matters were shaping.
The next morning she devised another task for Psyche, this time a dangerous
one. 'Down there near the riverbank," she said, " where the bushes grow thick,
are sheep with fleeces of gold. Go fetch me some of their shining wool." When
the worn girl reached the gently flowing stream, a great longing seized her to
throw herself into it and end all her pain and despair. But as she was bending
over the water she heard a little voice from near her feet, and looking down saw
that it came from a green reed. She must not drown herself, it said. Things were
not as bad as that. The sheep were indeed very fierce, but if Psyche would wait
until they came out of the bushes toward evening to rest beside the river, she
could go into the thicket and find plenty of the golden wool hanging on the sharp
briars. So spoke the kind and gentle reed, and Psyche, following the directions,
was able to carry back to her cruel mistress a quantity of the shining fleece.
Venus received it with an evil smile. "Someone helped you," she said sharply.
"Never did you do this by yourself. However, I will give you an opportunity to
prove that you really have the stout heart and the singular prudence you make
                                                                                        58


such a show of. Do you see that black water which falls from the hill ? It is the
source of the terrible river which is called hateful, the river Styx. You are to fill
this flask from it." That was the worst task yet, as Psyche saw when she
approached the waterfall. Only a winged creature could reach it, so steep and
slimy were the rocks on all sides, and so fearful the onrush of the descending
waters. But by this time it must be evident to all the readers of this story (as,
perhaps, deep in her heart it had become evident to Psyche herself) that
although each of her trials seemed impossibly hard, an excellent way out would
always be provided for her. This time her saver was an eagle, who poised on his
great wings beside her, seized the flask from her with his beak and brought it
back to her full of the black water.
But Venus kept on. One cannot but accuse her of some stupidity. The only effect
of all that had happened was to make her try again. She gave Psyche a box
which she was to carry to the underworld and ask Persephone to fill with some
of her beauty. She was to tell her that Venus really needed it, she was so worn
out from nursing her sick son. Obediently as always Psyche went forth to look
for the road to Hades. She found her guide in a tower she passed. It gave her
careful directions how to get to Persephone‟s palace, first through a great hole
in the earth, then down to the river of death, where she must give the ferryman,
Charon, a penny to take her across. From there the road led straight to palace.
Cerberus, the three-headed dog, guarded the doors, but if she gave him a cake
he would be friendly and let her pass.
All happened, of course, as the tower had foretold. Persephone was willing to do
Venus a service, and Psyche, greatly encouraged, bore back the box, returning
far more quickly than she had gone down.
Her next trial she brought upon herself through her curiosity and, still more, her
vanity. She felt that she must see what that beauty-charm in the box was; and,
perhaps, use a little of it herself. She knew quite as well as Venus did that her
looks were not improved by what she had gone through, and always in her mind
was the thought that she might suddenly meet Cupid. If only she could make
herself more lovely for him! She was unable to resist the temptation; she
opened the box. To her sharp disappointment she saw nothing there; it seemed
empty.
                                                                                     59


Immediately, however, a deadly weakness took possession of her and she fell
into a heavy sleep. At this point the God of Love himself stepped forward. Cupid
was healed of his wound by now and longing for Psyche. It is a difficult matter to
keep love imprisoned. Venus had locked the door, but there were the windows.
All Cupid had to do was to fly out and start looking for his wife. She was lying
almost beside the palace, and he found her at once. In a moment he had wiped
the sleep from her eyes and put it back into the box. Then waking her with just a
prick from one of his arrows, and scolding her a little for her curiosity, he bade
her take Persephone's box to his mother and he assured her that all thereafter
would be well.
While the joyful Psyche hastened on her errand, the god flew up to Olympus. He
wanted to make certain that Venus would give them no more trouble, so he went
straight to Zeus himself. The father of gods and men consented at once to all
that Cupid asked, "Even though," he said, "you have done me great harm in the
past, seriously injured my good name and my dignity by making me change
myself into a bull and a swan and so on.... However, I cannot refuse you."
Then he called a full assembly of the gods, and announced to all, including
Venus, that Cupid and Psyche were formally married, and that he proposed to
bestow immortality upon the bride. Hermes brought Psyche into the palace of
the gods, and Zeus himself gave her the ambrosia to taste which made her
immortal. This, of course, completely changed the situation. Venus could not
object to a goddess for her daughter-in-law; the alliance had become eminently
suitable. No doubt she reflected also that Psyche, living up in heaven with a
husband and children to care for, could not be much on the earth to turn men's
heads and interfere with her own worship.
So all came to a most happy end. Love and the Soul (for that is what Psyche
means) had sought and, after sore trials, found each other; and that union could
never be broken.


  Topics for discussion
  1. Why did Cupid let Psyche see her sisters?
  2. The importance of being with people/ The need for company.
  3. Why didn‟t Zephyr take Psyche to the hill to meet her sisters?
                                                                              60


4. Would you say that Psyche lived in a golden prison? Why?
5. Who do the two sisters remind you of?
6. Cinder/ashes/mourning – Is there a connection between them and
   Psyche?
7. Who lets the sisters come so near?
8. What should Cupid have done differently?
9. What is in your opinion romantic love?
10. What kinds of love are there?
11. Which story or stories does it remind you of?
12. Where else is the river Styx mentioned and to which hero is it related?
13. What‟s your opinion about the end of the story?
14. Curiosity – good or bad?

				
DOCUMENT INFO