|The Story of Greece|
|by Mary Macgregor|
| Stories from the history of ancient Greece beginning with mythical and legendary stories of gods and heroes and ending with the conquests of Alexander the Great. Gives short accounts of battles and sieges, and of the men who made Greece a great nation. Ages 10-14 |
DANAE AND HER LITTLE SON
 THE stories I have told you are about the gods of ancient
Greece; the story I am going to tell you now is about a
When you think of a hero, you think of a man who does brave,
unselfish deeds. But to the Hellenes or Greeks a hero was
one who was half god, half man—whose one parent was a god
while the other was a mortal. So the god Zeus was the
father of Perseus, the hero of whom I am going to tell,
while his mother was a beautiful princess named Danae.
From morning to night, from night till morning, Acrisius,
the father of Danae, was never happy. Yet he was a king.
A king and unhappy? Yes, this king was unhappy because he
was afraid that some day, as an oracle had foretold, he
would be slain by his grandson.
The ancient Greeks often sent to sacred groves or temples to
ask their gods about the future, and the answer, which was
given by a priestess, was called an oracle.
Now Acrisius, King of Argos, had no grandson, so it was
strange that the oracle should make him afraid. He hoped
that he never would have a grandson.
His one child, beautiful, gentle Danae he had loved well
until he had heard the oracle. Now he determined to send
her away from the palace, to hide her, where no prince would
ever find her and try to win her for his bride.
So the king shut the princess into a tower, which was
 encased in brass and surrounded it with guards, so that
no one, and least of all a prince, could by any chance catch
a glimpse of his beautiful daughter.
Very sad was Danae, very lonely too, when she was left in
the brazen tower, and Zeus looking down from Olympus pitied
her, and before long sent a little son to cheer her
One day the guards saw the babe on his mother's knee. Here
was the grandson about whom the king had hoped that he would
never be born.
In great alarm they hastened to the palace to tell the king
the strange tidings. Acrisius was so frightened when he
heard their story that he flew into a passion, and vowed
that both Danae and Perseus, as her little son was named,
should perish. So he ordered the guards to carry the mother
and her babe to the seashore, and to send them adrift on the
waters in an empty boat.
For two days and two nights the boat was tossed hither and
thither by the winds and the waves, while Danae, in sore
dismay but with a brave heart, clasped her golden-haired boy
tight in her arms.
For two days and two nights the boat was tossed hither and thither
The child slept soundly in the frail bark, while his mother
cried to the gods to bring her and her treasure into a safe
On the third day the answer to her prayers came, for before
her Danae saw an island with a shore of yellow sand. And on
the shore stood a fisherman with his net, looking out to
sea. He soon caught sight of the boat, and as it drew near
he cast his net over it, and gently pulled it to the shore.
It seemed to Danae almost too good to be true, to stand once
again on dry land. She thought it was but a dream, from
which she would awake to find herself once more tossing on
the great wide sea.
But there stood Dictys, the fisherman, looking at her in
wonder. Then Danae knew that she was indeed awake.
hastened to thank him for his help, and to ask him where she
could find shelter for herself and her child.
Then the fisherman, who was the brother of Polydectes, king
of the island on which Danae had landed, said that if she
would go with him to his home he would treat her as a
daughter. And Danae went gladly to live with Dictys.
So Perseus grew up in the island of Seriphus, playing on the
sands when he was small, and when he had grown tall and
strong going voyages to other islands with Dictys, or
fishing with him nearer home. Zeus loved the lad and
watched over him.
Fifteen years passed, and then the wife of Polydectes died,
and the king wished to marry Danae, for he loved her and
knew that she was a princess.
But Danae did not wish to wed Polydectes, and she refused to
become his queen, for indeed she loved no one save her son
Then the king was angry, and vowed that if Danae would not
come to the palace as his queen, he would compel her to come
as his slave.
And it was even so, as a slave, that Perseus found her, when
he returned from a voyage with Dictys.
The anger of the lad was fierce. How dare any one treat his
beautiful mother so cruelly! He would have slain the king
had not Dictys restrained him.
Subduing his anger as well as he could, Perseus went boldly
to the palace, and taking no heed of Polydectes, he brought
his mother away and left her in the temple of Athene. There
she would be safe, for no one, not even the king, would
enter the sanctuary of the goddess.
"Perseus must leave the island," said Polydectes when he was
told of the lad's bold deed. He thought that if her son
were banished Danae would be willing to become his queen.
But Polydectes was too crafty to issue a royal command
bidding Perseus leave Seriphus. That, he knew, would
Danae hate him more than ever, so he thought of a better way
to get rid of the lad. He arranged to give a great feast in
the palace, and proclaimed that each guest should bring a
gift to present to the king.
Among other youths, Perseus, too, was invited, but he was
poor and had no gift to bring. And this was what the unkind
So when Perseus entered the palace empty-handed, Polydectes
was quick to draw attention to the boy, laughing at him and
taunting him that he had not done as the other guests and
brought with him a gift. The courtiers followed the example
of their king, and Perseus found himself attacked on every
The lad soon lost his temper and, looking with defiance at
Polydectes, he cried, "I will bring you the head of Medusa
as a gift, O King, when next I enter the palace!"
"Brave words are these, Perseus," answered the king. "See
that you turn them into deeds, or we shall think you but
boast as does a coward."
Then as Perseus turned and left the banqueting-hall the king
laughed well pleased, for he had goaded the lad until he
had fallen into the trap prepared for him. If Perseus went
in search of the head of Medusa, he was not likely to be
seen again in Seriphus, thought the king.
And Perseus, as he walked away toward the sea, was saying to
himself, "Yes, I shall go in search of Medusa, nor shall I
return unless I bring her head with me, a gift for the
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