|by Charles Kingsley|
|Stories of the heroes of ancient Greece, told in fine poetic prose. Includes accounts of Perseus who slew Medusa the Gorgon, Jason who sought the Golden Fleece, and Theseus who slew the Minotaur. By preserving the Greek spirit in the retelling of these myths, Kingsley gives us plain strength and seriousness, courage, steadfastness, and beauty. Dozens of attractive illustrations by T. H. Robinson enliven the text. Ages 9-12 |
HOW THESEUS FELL BY HIS PRIDE
 BUT that fair Ariadne never came to Athens with her husband.
Some say that Theseus left her sleeping on Naxos among the
Cyclades; and that Dionusos the wine-king found her, and took
her up into the sky, as you shall see some day in a painting
of old Titian's, one of the most glorious pictures upon
earth. And some say that Dionusos drove away Theseus, and
took Ariadne from him by force: but however that may be, in
his haste or in his grief, Theseus forgot to put up the white
sail. Now Ægeus his father sat and watched on Sunium day
after day, and strained his old eyes across the sea to see
the ship afar. And when he saw
 the black sail, and not the
white one, he gave up Theseus for dead, and in his grief he
fell into the sea, and died; so it is called the Ægean to
And now Theseus was king of Athens, and he guarded it and
ruled it well.
For he killed the bull of Marathon, which had killed
Androgeos, Minos's son; and he drove back the famous Amazons,
the warlike women of the East, when they came from Asia, and
conquered all Hellas, and broke into Athens itself. But
Theseus stopped them there, and conquered them, and took
Hippolute their queen to be his wife. Then he went out to
fight against the Lapithai, and Peirithoos their famous king:
but when the two heroes came face to face they loved each
other, and embraced, and became noble friends; so that the
friendship of Theseus and Peirithoos is a proverb even now.
And he gathered (so the Athenians say) all the boroughs of
the land together, and knit them into one
 strong people,
while before they were all parted and weak: and many another
wise thing he did, so that his people honoured him after he
was dead, for many a hundred years, as the father of their
freedom and their laws. And six hundred years after his
death, in the famous fight at Marathon, men said that they
saw the ghost of Theseus, with his mighty brazen club,
fighting in the van of battle against the invading Persians,
for the country which he loved. And twenty years after
Marathon his bones (they say) were found in Scuros, an isle
beyond the sea; and they were bigger than the bones of mortal
man. So the Athenians brought them home in triumph; and all
the people came out to welcome them; and they built over them
a noble temple, and adorned it with sculptures and paintings
in which were told all the noble deeds of Theseus, and the
Centaurs, and the Lapithai, and the Amazons; and the ruins of
it are standing still.
 But why did they find his bones in Scuros? Why did he not
die in peace at Athens, and sleep by his father's side?
Because after his triumph he grew proud, and broke the laws
of God and man. And one thing worst of all he did, which
brought him to his grave with sorrow. For he went down (they
say beneath the earth) with that bold Peirithoos his friend,
to help him to carry off Persephone, the queen of the world
below. But Peirithoos was killed miserably, in the dark
fire-kingdoms under ground; and Theseus was chained to a rock
in everlasting pain. And there he sat for years, till
Heracles the mighty came down to bring up the three-headed
dog who sits at Pluto's gate. So Heracles loosed him from
his chain, and brought him up to the light once more.
But when he came back his people had forgotten him, and
Castor and Polydeuces, the sons of the wondrous Swan, had
invaded his land, and carried off his mother
 Aithra for a
slave, in revenge for a grievous wrong.
So the fair land of Athens was wasted, and another king ruled
it, who drove out Theseus shamefully, and he fled across the
sea to Scuros. And there he lived in sadness, in the house
of Lucomedes the king, till Lucomedes killed him by
treachery, and there was an end of all his labours.
So it is still, my children, and so it will be to the end.
In those old Greeks, and in us also, all strength and virtue
come from God. But if men grow proud and self-willed, and
misuse God's fair gifts, He lets them go their own ways, and
fall pitifully, that the glory may be His alone. God help us
all, and give us wisdom, and courage to do noble deeds! but
God keep pride from us when we have done them, lest we fall,
and come to shame!
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