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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?
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