| Gods and Heroes|
|by Robert Edward Francillon|
|One of the best introductions to Greek mythology for children. Includes the stories of all the prominent gods and heroes, woven together into a continuous narrative, ending with a full treatment of the twelve labors of Hercules. Ages 8-12 |
THE STORIES OF LATONA AND NIOBE
UPITER once fell in love with a beautiful Titaness
named Latona. This made Juno terribly angry:
so she sent a huge and horrible snake, called Python,
to hunt Latona all over the world. And she went to
Terra, and made her swear not to give Latona a resting-place
or a hiding-place anywhere.
So poor Latona was hunted and driven about by
Python night and day. She also went to our Grandmother Earth,
and begged for a corner to rest in or a
cave to hide in. But old Terra said, "No. I have
sworn to Juno that you shall have no rest in me."
At last, in her despair, she went to Neptune, and
prayed him to hide her in his waters, since Earth had
refused her. Neptune said, "I wish I could, with all
my heart; but what place is there, in the sea or on the
land, where you can hide from the Queen of the Sky?
 But wait—there's one thing that nobody knows of
but me. There is an island under the sea; and this
island is always moving and wandering about, so that
nobody can see it, or tell where it may chance to be,
for it is never in the same place two minutes together.
It isn't sea, because it's
land; but it doesn't belong to
Terra, because it's under the sea, and has no bottom.
I'll tell you what I'll do for you. I'll fix it where
nobody can find it, and you'll be safe there, because
it's neither earth nor sea."
So Neptune anchored the floating island in a part of
the Ægean Sea. The island is called Delos; and it is
there still, just where it was fixed by Neptune for Latona.
Latona went and lived there, safe from Juno and
Python. After a time she had two children, a son
and a daughter. The son was named Apollo, and the
Both were beautiful, but Apollo was the most beautiful
boy ever born. He was a wonderful child in
every way. The very instant he was born he made
a bow and arrow, and went across the sea, and found
Python, and killed him. When he was four years old,
he built one of the wonders of the world—a great
altar to the gods, made of the horns of the goats that
his sister Diana used to hunt and shoot in the mountains.
With two such children to help her, Latona no
 longer felt afraid of Juno. So she left Delos, and
came, with her two children, into a country of Asia
Minor, called Lydia.
Now there was a princess in Thebes named Niobe,
who had fourteen beautiful children—seven daughters
and seven sons. She was very fond and proud of
them, and she did not like to hear people talking
about Latona's wonderful children. "What signifies
a miserable couple of children, when I have fourteen?"
she used to say. "I don't think much of Latona";
and, in her jealousy, she never lost a chance of insulting
the mother of Apollo and Diana.
Of course these insults came to Latona's ears. Apollo
and Diana heard of them too; and they resolved to
punish the proud princess who insulted and scorned
their mother. I scarcely like to tell you of how they
punished Niobe, for I cannot think of anything more
Each of them took a bow and seven arrows. Apollo
shot with his arrows all the seven sons of Niobe. Diana
shot six of Niobe's seven daughters, leaving only one
alive. "There!" said they; "what signifies a miserable
one child, when our mother has two?"
When poor Niobe saw her children killed before her
she wept bitterly, and she could not stop her tears.
They flowed on and on, until she cried herself into stone.
 As for Apollo, he kept on growing handsomer and
stronger until he became a god—the most glorious
of all the gods in the sky. Jupiter made him the god
of the Sun, and made his sister, Diana, goddess of the
Moon. He was also the god of all beautiful and useful
things: of music, painting, poetry, medicine. Several
names were given to him. One of his names is "Phœbus,"
which means bright and splendid like the sun.
"Apollo" means "the Destroyer": people must guess
for themselves why he was called "the Destroyer."
In pictures and statues he is always made graceful,
beautiful, and young. He has no hair on his face, but
wears long waving hair. Sometimes he carries a
lyre—a sort of small harp—and sometimes a bow. Very
often he wears a wreath of laurel. You must take a
great deal of notice of Apollo, or Phœbus, because he
is the most famous of all the gods next to Jupiter. It
will help you to know him if you think of him as
always beautiful, wise, and bright, but rather cruel and
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