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    Chapter 13

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    Chapter 13
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    Chapter XIII
    Theseus. Daedalus. Castor and Pollux

    Theseus was the son of AEgeus, king of Athens, and of Aethra,
    daughter of the king of Troezene. He was brought up at Troezene,
    and, when arrived at manhood, was to proceed to Athens and
    present himself to his father. AEgeus, on parting from Aethra,
    before the birth of his son, placed his sword and shoes under a
    large stone, and directed her to send his son to him when he
    became strong enough to roll away the stone and take them from
    under it. When she thought the time had come, his mother led
    Theseus to the stone, and he removed it with ease, and took the
    sword and shoes. As the roads were infested with robbers, his
    grandfather pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer
    way to his father's country, by sea; but the youth, feeling in
    himself the spirit and the soul of a hero, and eager to signalize
    himself like Hercules, with whose fame all Greece then rang, by
    destroying the evil-doers and monsters that oppressed the
    country, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey
    by land.

    His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt a
    man named Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage
    always went armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood
    in terror of his violence. When he saw Theseus approach, he
    assailed him, but speedily fell beneath the blows of the young
    hero, who took possession of his club, and bore it ever
    afterwards as a memorial of his first victory.

    Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of
    the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious.
    One of these evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher.
    He had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers
    who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he
    stretched their limbs to make them fit it; if they were longer
    than the bed, he lopped off a portion. Theseus served him as he
    had served others.

    Having overcome all the perils of the road, Theseus at length
    reached Athens, where new dangers awaited him. Medea, the
    sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from
    Jason, had become the wife of AEgeus, the father of Theseus.
    Knowing by her arts who he was, and fearing the loss of her
    influence with her husband, if Theseus should be acknowledged as
    his son, she filled the mind of AEgeus with suspicions of the
    young stranger, and induced him to present him a cup of poison;
    but at the moment when Theseus stepped forward to take it, the
    sight of the sword which he wore discovered to his father who he
    was, and prevented the fatal draught. Medea, detected in her
    arts, fled once more from deserved punishment, and arrived in
    Asia, where the country afterwards called Media received its name
    from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his father, and declared
    his successor.

    The Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of
    the tribute which they were forced to pay to Minos, king of
    Crete. This tribute consisted of seven youths and seven maidens,
    who were sent every year to be devoured by the Minotaur, a
    monster with a bull's body and a human head. It was exceedingly
    strong and fierce, and was kept in a labyrinth constructed by
    Daedalus, so artfully contrived that whoever was enclosed in it
    could by no means find his way out unassisted. Here the Minotaur
    roamed, and was fed with human victims.

    Theseus resolved to deliver his countrymen from this calamity, or
    to die in the attempt. Accordingly, when the time of sending off
    the tribute came, and the youths and maidens were, according to
    custom, drawn by lot to be sent, he offered himself as one of the
    victims, in spite of the entreaties of his father. The ship
    departed under black sails, as usual, which Theseus promised his
    father to change for white, in case of his returning victorious.
    When they arrived in Crete, the youths and maidens were exhibited
    before Minos; and Ariadne, the daughter of the king, being
    present, became deeply enamored of Theseus, by whom her love was
    readily returned. She furnished him with a sword, with which to
    encounter the Minotaur, and with a clew of thread by which he
    might find his way out of the labyrinth. He was successful, slew
    the Minotaur, escaped from the labyrinth, and taking Ariadne as
    the companion of his way, with his rescued companions sailed for
    Athens. On their way they stopped at the island of Naxos, where
    Theseus abandoned Ariadne, leaving her asleep. For Minerva had
    appeared to Theseus in a dream, and warned him that Ariadne was
    destined to be the wife of Bacchus, the wine-god. (One of the
    finest pieces of sculpture in Italy, the recumbent Ariadne of the
    Vatican, represents this incident. A copy is in the Athenaeum
    gallery, Boston. The celebrated statue of Ariadne, by Danneker,
    represents her as riding on the tiger of Bacchus, at a somewhat
    later period of her story.)

    On approaching the coast of Attica, Theseus, intent on Ariadne,
    forgot the signal appointed by his father, and neglected to raise
    the white sails, and the old king, thinking his son had perished,
    put an end to his own life. Theseus thus became king of Athens.

    One of the most celebrated of the adventures of Theseus is his
    expedition against the Amazons. He assailed them before they had
    recovered from the attack of Hercules, and carried off their
    queen, Antiope. The Amazons in their turn invaded the country of
    Athens and penetrated into the city itself; and the final battle
    in which Theseus overcame them was fought in the very midst of
    the city. This battle was one of the favorite subjects of the
    ancient sculptors, and is commemorated in several works of art
    that are still extant.

    The friendship between Theseus and Pirithous was of a most
    intimate nature, yet it originated in the midst of arms.
    Pirithous had made an irruption into the plain of Marathon, and
    carried off the herds of the king of Athens. Theseus went to
    repel the plunderers. The moment Pirithous beheld him, he was
    seized with admiration; he stretched out his hand as a token of
    peace, and cried, "Be judge thyself, what satisfaction dost
    thou require?" "Thy friendship," replied the Athenian, and they
    swore inviolable fidelity. Their deeds corresponded to their
    professions, and they ever continued true brothers in arms. Each
    of them aspired to espouse a daughter of Jupiter. Theseus fixed
    his choice on Helen, then but a child, afterwards so celebrated
    as the cause of the Trojan war, and with the aid of his friend he
    carried her off. Pirithous aspired to the wife of the monarch of
    Erebus; and Theseus, though aware of the danger, accompanied the
    ambitious lover in his descent to the underworld. But Pluto
    seized and set them on an enchanted rock at his palace gate,
    where they remained till Hercules arrived and liberated Theseus,
    leaving Pirithous to his fate.

    After the death of Antiope, Theseus married Phaedra, daughter of
    Minos, king of Crete. Phaedra saw in Hippolytus, the son of
    Theseus, a youth endowed with all the graces and virtues of his
    father, and of an age corresponding to her own. She loved him,
    but he repulsed her advances, and her love was changed to hate.
    She used her influence over her infatuated husband to cause him
    to be jealous of his son, and he imprecated the vengeance of
    Neptune upon him. As Hippolytus was one day driving his chariot
    along the shore, a sea-monster raised himself above the waters,
    and frightened the horses so that they ran away and dashed the
    chariot to pieces. Hippolytus was killed, but by Diana's
    assistance Aesculapius restored him to life. Diana removed
    Hippolytus from the power of his deluded father and false
    stepmother, and placed him in Italy under the protection of the
    nymph Egeria.

    Theseus at length lost the favor of his people, and retired to
    the court of Lycomedes, king of Scyros, who at first received him
    kindly, but afterwards treacherously slew him. In a later age
    the Athenian general Cimon discovered the place where his remains
    were laid, and caused them to be removed to Athens, where they
    were deposited in a temple called the Theseum, erected in honor
    of the hero.

    The queen of the Amazons whom Theseus espoused is by some called
    Hippolyta. That is the name she bears in Shakespeare's Midsummer
    Night's Dream, the subject of which is the festivities
    attending the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta.

    Mrs. Hemans has a poem on the ancient Greek tradition that the
    "Shade of Theseus" appeared strengthening his countrymen at the
    battle of Marathon.

    Mr. Lewis Morris has a beautiful poem on Helen, in the Epic of
    Hades. In these lines Helen describes how she was seized by
    Theseus and his friend:

    ----------"There came a night
    When I lay longing for my love, and knew
    Sudden the clang of hoofs, the broken doors,
    The clash of swords, the shouts, the groans, the stain
    Of red upon the marble, the fixed gaze
    Of dead and dying eyes, that was the time
    When first I looked on death, and when I woke
    >From my deep swoon, I felt the night air cool
    Upon my brow, and the cold stars look down,
    As swift we galloped o'er the darkling plain
    And saw the chill sea-glimpses slowly wake,
    With arms unknown around me. When the dawn
    Broke swift, we panted on the pathless steeps,
    And so by plain and mountain till we came
    to Athens, ----------."

    Theseus is a semi-historical personage. It is recorded of him
    that he united the several tribes by whom the territory of Attica
    was then possessed into one state, of which Athens was the
    capital. In commemoration of this important event, he instituted
    the festival of Panathenaea, in honor of Minerva, the patron
    deity of Athens. This festival differed from the other Grecian
    games chiefly in two particulars. It was peculiar to the
    Athenians, and its chief feature was a solemn procession in which
    the Peplus or sacred robe of Minerva was carried to the
    Parthenon, and suspended before the statue of the goddess. The
    Peplus was covered with embroidery, worked by select virgins of
    the noblest families in Athens. The procession consisted of
    persons of all ages and both sexes. The old men carried olive-
    branches in their hands, and the young men bore arms. The young
    women carried baskets on their heads, containing the sacred
    utensils, cakes, and all things necessary for the sacrifices.
    The procession formed the subject of the bas-reliefs by Phidias
    which embellished the outside of the temple of the Parthenon. A
    considerable portion of these sculptures is now in the British
    museum among those known as the "Elgin marbles."


    We may mention here the other celebrated national games of the
    Greeks. The first and most distinguished were the Olympic,
    founded, it was said , by Jupiter himself. They were celebrated
    at Olympia in Elis. Vast numbers of spectators flocked to them
    from every part of Greece, and from Asia, Africa, and Sicily.
    They were repeated every fifth year in midsummer, and continued
    five days. They gave rise to the custom of reckoning time and
    dating events by Olympiads. The first Olympiad is generally
    considered as corresponding with the year 776 B.C. The Pythian
    games were celebrated in the vicinity of Delphi, the Isthmian on
    the Corinthian isthmus, the Nemean at Nemea, a city of Argolis.

    The exercises in these games were of five sorts: running,
    leaping, wrestling, throwing the quoit, and hurling the javelin,
    or boxing. Besides these exercises of bodily strength and
    agility, there were contests in music, poetry, and eloquence.
    Thus these games furnished poets, musicians, and authors the best
    opportunities to present their productions to the public, and the
    fame of the victors was diffused far and wide.


    The labyrinth from which Theseus escaped by means of the clew of
    Ariadne, was built by Daedalus, a most skilful artificer. It was
    an edifice with numberless winding passages and turnings opening
    into one another, and seeming to have neither beginning nor end,
    like the river Maender, which returns on itself, and flows now
    onward, now backward, in its course to the sea. Daedalus built
    the labyrinth for King Minos, but afterwards lost the favor of
    the king, and was shut up in a tower. He contrived to make his
    escape from his prison, but could not leave the island by sea, as
    the king kept strict watch on all the vessels, and permitted none
    to sail without being carefully searched. "Minos may control the
    land and sea,:" said Daedalus, "but not the regions of the air.
    I will try that way." So he set to work to fabricate wings for
    himself and his young son Icarus. He wrought feathers together
    beginning with the smallest and adding larger, so as to form an
    increasing surface. The larger ones he secured with thread and
    the smaller with wax, and gave the whole a gentle curvature like
    the wings of a bird. Icarus, the boy, stood and looked on,
    sometimes running to gather up the feathers which the wind had
    blown away, and then handling the wax and working it over with
    his fingers, by his play impeding his father in his labors. When
    at last the work was done, the artist, waving his wings, found
    himself buoyed upward and hung suspended, poising himself on the
    beaten air. He next equipped his son in the same manner, and
    taught him how to fly, as a bird tempts her young ones from the
    lofty nest into the air. When all was prepared for flight, he
    said, "Icarus, my son, I charge you to keep at a moderate height,
    for if you fly too low the damp will clog your wings, and if too
    high the heat will melt them. Keep near me and you will be
    safe." While he gave him these instructions and fitted the wings
    to his shoulders, the face of the father was wet with tears, and
    his hands trembled. He kissed the boy, not knowing that it was
    for the last time. Then rising on his wings he flew off,
    encouraging him to follow, and looked back from his own flight to
    see how his son managed his wings. As they flew the ploughman
    stopped his work to gaze, and the shepherd learned on his staff
    and watched them, astonished at the sight, and thinking they were
    gods who could thus cleave the air.

    They passed Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the
    right, when the boy, exulting in his career, began to leave the
    guidance of his companion and soar upward as if to reach heaven.
    The nearness of the blazing sun softened the wax which held the
    feathers together, and they came off. He fluttered with his
    arms, but no feathers remained to hold the air. While his mouth
    uttered cries to his father, it was submerged in the blue waters
    of the sea, which thenceforth was called by his name. His father
    cried, "Icarus, Icarus, where are you?" At last he saw the
    feathers floating on the water, and bitterly lamenting his own
    arts, he buried the body and called the land Icaria in memory of
    his child. Daedalus arrived safe in Sicily, where he built a
    temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god.

    Daedalus was so proud of his achievements that he could not bear
    the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under
    his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt
    scholar and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking
    on the seashore he picked up the spine of a fish. Imitating it,
    he took a piece of iron and notched it on the edge, and thus
    invented the SAW. He put two pieces of iron together, connecting
    them at one end with a rivet, and sharpening the other ends, and
    made a PAIR OF COMPASSES. Daedalus was so envious of his
    nephew's performances that he took an opportunity, when they were
    together one day on the top of a high tower, to push him off.
    But Minerva, who favors ingenuity, saw him falling, and arrested
    his fate by changing him into a bird called after his name, the
    Partridge. This bird does not build his next in the trees, nor
    take lofty flights, but nestles in the hedges, and mindful of his
    fall, avoids high places.

    The death of Icarus is told in the following lines by Darwin:

    "---------- with melting wax and loosened strings
    Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
    Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
    With limbs distorted and dishevelled hair;
    His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
    And sorrowing Nereids decked his watery grave;
    O'er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,
    And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
    Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
    And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell."


    Castor and Pollux were the offspring of Leda and the Swan, under
    which disguise Jupiter had concealed himself. Leda gave birth to
    an egg, from which sprang the twins. Helen, so famous afterwards
    as the cause of the Trojan war, was their sister.

    When Theseus and his friend Pirithous had carried off Helen from
    Sparta, the youthful heroes Castor and Pollux, with their
    followers, hasted to her rescue. Theseus was absent from Attica,
    and the brothers were successful in recovering their sister.

    Castor was famous for taming and managing horses, and Pollux for
    skill in boxing. They were united by the warmest affection, and
    inseparable in all their enterprises. They accompanied the
    Argonautic expedition. During the voyage a storm arose, and
    Orpheus prayed to the Samothracian gods, and played on his harp,
    whereupon the storm ceased and stars appeared on the heads of the
    brothers. From this incident, Castor and Pollux came afterwards
    to be considered the patron deities of seamen and voyagers (One
    of the ships in which St. Paul sailed was named the Castor and
    Pollux. See Acts xxviii.II.), and the lambent flames, which in
    certain sates of the atmosphere play round the sails and masts of
    vessels, were called by their names.

    After the Argonautic expedition, we find Castor and Pollux
    engaged in a war with Idas and Lynceus. Castor was slain, and
    Pollux, inconsolable for the loss of his brother, besought
    Jupiter to be permitted to give his own life as a ransom for him.
    Jupiter so far consented as to allow the two brothers to enjoy
    the boon of life alternately, passing one day under the earth and
    the next in the heavenly abodes. According to another form of
    the story, Jupiter rewarded the attachment of the brothers by
    placing them among the stars as Gemini, the Twins.

    They received divine honors under the name of Dioscuri (sons of
    Jove). They were believed to have appeared occasionally in later
    times, taking part with one side or the other, in hard-fought
    fields, and were said on such occasions to be mounted on
    magnificent white steeds. Thus, in the early history of Rome,
    they are said to have assisted the Romans at the battle of Lake
    Regillus, and after the victory a temple was erected in their
    honor on the spot where they appeared.

    Macaulay, in his Lays of Ancient Rome, thus alludes to the

    "So like they were, no mortal
    Might one from other know;
    White as snow their armor was,
    Their steeds were white as snow.
    Never on earthly anvil
    Did such rare armor gleam,
    And never did such gallant steeds
    Drink of an earthly stream.
    . . . . . . . . .

    "Back comes the chief in triumph
    Who in the hour of fight
    Hath seen the great Twin Brethren
    In harness on his right.
    Safe comes the ship to haven
    Through billows and through gales,
    If once the great Twin Brethren
    Sit shining on the sails."

    In the poem of Atalanta in Calydon Mr. Swinburne thus describes
    the little Helen and Clytemnestra, the sisters of Castor and


    "Even such I saw their sisters, one swan white,
    The little Helen, and less fair than she,
    Fair Clytemnestra, grave as pasturing fawns,
    Who feed and fear the arrow; but at whiles,
    As one smitten with love or wrung with joy,
    She laughs and lightens with her eyes, and then
    Weeps; whereat Helen, having laughed, weeps too,
    And the other chides her, and she being chid speaks naught,
    But cheeks and lips and eyelids kisses her,
    Laughing; so fare they, as in their blameless bud,
    And full of unblown life, the blood of gods."


    "Sweet days before them, and good loves and lords,
    And tender and temperate honors of the hearth;
    Peace, and a perfect life and blameless bed"

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