|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 |
POLYPHEMUS THE GIANT
 THE Greek warriors burned and sacked the city of Troy, and then they set
sail for the sunny isles of Greece. But storms overtook some, the gods
sent misfortune to others, so that but few reached their own land in
Odysseus, King of Ithaca, an island on the western coast of Greece,
suffered greater hardships than any other. For ten years he was either
tossed by the gods on stormy seas, or kept a captive in strange
countries. Of some of his adventures I shall tell you now.
When Odysseus and his comrades sailed away from Troy, they were driven
by a fair wind to the shore of Ismarus. Here dwelt a rich and
prosperous people called the Cicones.
The Greeks wished to take much spoil back with them to their homes, so
they resolved to slay the Cicones and plunder their city.
Some of the citizens escaped the sword of the adventurers and hastened
to their kinsmen who dwelt farther from the shore. When they had told
their terrible tidings, their comrades armed themselves and sped to the
shore to punish the strangers.
Odysseus had tried in vain to make his followers go back to their
ships. They had refused to be hurried, and were now sitting on the
seashore eating and drinking, heedless of danger.
Before they were aware the kinsmen of the Cicones had fallen upon them,
and when the sun went down they had
 slain six men out of each of the
strangers' ships. The rest barely escaped with their lives.
Scarcely had the Greeks reached their vessels and sailed away from
Ismarus, when Zeus sent a north wind against them. For nine days their
ships were driven hither and thither. Their sails were torn to shreds,
when on the tenth day the sailors caught sight of land. It was the
land of the lotus-eaters, where the people fed only on the fruit of the
lotus, a fruit that brought sleep and forgetfulness to the eater.
Odysseus sent three sailors on shore to find out what manner of people
the lotus-eaters were. No sooner had they landed than the inhabitants
brought them fruit, which they ate with delight. But the honey-sweet
flowers made them forget Odysseus, their comrades, and their ships.
They had no wish save to stay for ever with the lotus-eaters to share
their magic food.
At length, Odysseus grew tired of waiting for the three sailors to
return, and he himself with a few armed men went on shore to look for
them. He thought that perhaps that had been take prisoners and had
been bound with chains, but he found them lying on the yellow sand,
dreamy and content.
"And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem'd the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam."
When the three sailors saw Odysseus they cried:
" 'We will return no more.'
And all at once they sang, 'Our island home
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.' "
Odysseus and his comrades were offered fruit by the kindly lotus-eaters,
but Odysseus waved it aside and bade his men drag away the
three sailors who had already eaten. The sailors wept sore, for fain
would they have dwelt for ever
 in the land of dreams. But when they
were once more on their vessels and had put out to sea, the breezes
brought back health to their bodies, vigour to their minds. Soon they
were able to rejoice that they had left the enchanted lotus-land far
Westward sailed the fleet of Odysseus, until it reached the island of
Sicily, where the Cyclopes dwelt. The Cyclopes were giants who had
each but one eye, fixed in the middle of his brow.
Odysseus, taking with him only his own crew, landed on the island, for
he wished to see the Cyclopes. He had walked but a little way when he
came to a great cave, in which stood baskets filled with cheeses and
milkpans filled with milk. In this cave dwelt Polyphemus, one of the
sons of Poseidon, and the fiercest of all the fierce Cyclopes.
Into this cave went Odysseus and his comrades. Polyphemus was not
within; he was out on the hills with his flocks.
"Let us take the cheeses and drive away the lambs and the kids that are
here, before the giant returns," said the sailors. But Odysseus would
not do as they wished, for, said he, "I greatly wish to see the giant
shepherd who dwells in the cave."
"Verily," said Odysseus, as he told the tale in after days, "verily, his
coming was not to be a joy to my company."
Evening drew on apace, and Polyphemus, driving his flocks before him,
reached the cave. When he had driven his flocks in before him, the
giant took a huge rock and placed it in the doorway.
Odysseus and his comrades had hidden themselves in the dimmest corners
of the cave when Polyphemus entered. The giant lighted a great fire of
pine wood and began to milk the ewes. Soon the flames lighted up every
corner of the cave, and Polyphemus saw his unexpected guests.
In a voice that struck terror even into the brave hearts of the Greeks,
so gruff, so loud it was, the giant demanded,
 "Strangers, who are ye?
Whence sail ye over the watery ways? On some trading enterprise or at
adventure do ye rove, even as sea-robbers over the brine?"
Boldly then answered Odysseus,
"'No Man' is my name. My ship,
Poseidon, the shaker of the earth, broke it to pieces, for he cast it
upon the rocks at the border of your country, and brought it nigh the
headland, and a wind bore it thither from the sea. But I, with these
my men, escaped from utter doom. Give us, we beseech thee, food and
As you know, Odysseus had not been shipwrecked, his vessel, safely
anchored, awaited his return, nor was his true name No Man. He dared
not tell the giant the truth, lest he should go in search of his ship
and take it for firewood, while he and his companions were kept
prisoners in the cave.
The giant said not a word when Odysseus ended his tale, but he
stretched out his great hand, seized two of the strangers, and devoured
them before the eyes of their horrified companions. Then, well
satisfied with his meal, he fell fast asleep.
In the morning the giant finished his breakfast by eating two more of
his guests, then, moving away the stone at the entrance of the cave as
easily as if it had been a feather, he drove his flocks to pasture. He
did not forget to replace the stone in the doorway before he turned
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics