|The Story of the Greeks|
|by Helene A. Guerber|
| Elementary history of Greece, made up principally of stories about persons, giving at the same time a clear idea of the most important events in the ancient world and calculated to enforce the lessons of perseverance, courage, patriotism, and virtue that are taught by the noble lives described. Beginning with the legends of Jason, Theseus, and events surrounding the Trojan War, the narrative moves on to present the contrasting city-states of Sparta and Athens, the war against Persia, their conflicts with each other, the feats of Alexander the Great, and annexation by Rome. Ages 10-14 |
STORY OF DAMON AND PYTHIAS
THERE lived in those days in Syracuse two young men called
Damon and Pythias. They were very good friends, and
loved each other so dearly that they were hardly ever
Now it happened that Pythias in some way roused the anger
of the tyrant, who put him in prison, and condemned him
to die in a few days. When Damon heard of it, he was in
despair, and vainly tried to obtain his friend's pardon
The mother of Pythias was very old, and lived far away
from Syracuse with her daughter. When the young man
heard that he was to die, he was tormented by the
thought of leaving the women alone. In an interview
with his friend Damon, Pythias regretfully said that he
would die easier had he only been able to bid his
mother good-by and find a protector for his sister.
Damon, anxious to gratify his friend's last wish, went
into the presence of the tyrant, and proposed to take
the place of Pythias in prison, and even on the cross,
if need be, provided the latter were allowed to visit
his relatives once more.
Dionysius had heard of the young men's touching
 friendship, and hated them both merely because they
were good; yet he allowed them to change places,
warning them both however, that, if Pythias were not
back in time, Damon would have to die in his stead.
At first Pythias refused to allow his friend to take
his place in prison, but finally he consented,
promising to be back in a few days to release him. So
Pythias hastened home, found a husband for his sister,
and saw her safely married. Then after providing for
his mother and bidding her farewell, he set out to
return to Syracuse.
The young man was traveling alone and on foot. He soon
fell into the hands of thieves, who bound him fast to a
tree; and it was only after hours of desperate
struggling that he managed to wrench himself free once
more, and sped along his way.
He was running as hard as he could to make up for lost
time, when he came to the edge of a stream. He had
crossed it easily a few days before; but a sudden
spring freshet had changed it into a raging torrent, which
no one else would have ventured to enter.
In spite of the danger, Pythias plunged into the water,
and, nerved by the fear that his friend would die in
his stead, he fought the waves so successfully that he
reached the other side safe but almost exhausted.
Regardless of his pains, Pythias pressed anxiously
onward, although his road now lay across a plain, where
the hot rays of the sun and the burning sands greatly
increased his fatigue and faintness, and almost made
him die of thirst. Still he sped onward as fast as his
trembling limbs could carry him; for the sun was
 sinking fast, and he knew that his friend would die if
he were not in Syracuse by sunset.
Dionysius, in the mean while, had been amusing himself
by taunting Damon, constantly telling him that he was a
fool to have risked his life for a friend, however
dear. To anger him, he also insisted that Pythias was
only too glad to escape death, and would be very
careful not to return in time.
Damon, who knew the goodness and affection of his
friend, received these remarks with the scorn they
deserved, and repeated again and again that he knew
Pythias would never break his word, but would be back
in time, unless hindered in some unforeseen way.
The last hour came. The guards led Damon to the place
of crucifixion, where he again asserted his faith in
his friend, adding, however, that he sincerely hoped
Pythias would come too late, so that he might die in
Just as the guards were about to nail Damon to the
cross, Pythias dashed up, pale, bloodstained, and
disheveled, and flung his arms around his friend's neck
with a sob of relief. For the first time, Damon now
turned pale, and began to shed tears of bitter regret.
Damon and Pythias.
In a few hurried, panting words, Pythias explained the
cause of his delay, and, loosing his friend's bonds
with his own hands, bade the guards bind him instead.
Dionysius, who had come to see the execution, was so
touched by this true friendship, that for once he
forgot his cruelty, and let both young men go free,
saying that he would not have believed such devotion
possible had he not seen it with his own eyes.
 This friendship, which wrung tears from the grim
executioners, and touched the tyrant's heart, has
become proverbial. When men are devoted friends, they
are often compared to Damon and Pythias, whose story
has been a favorite with poets and playwrights.
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