| Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew|
|by Josephine Preston Peabody|
|A child's first book of Greek tales containing many of the shorter myths retold with exceptional literary skill. Relates the stories of Prometheus, who brought to earth the bright-eyed fire treasured by the gods; of Orpheus, best of harpers; of the cunning Daedalus; the ambitious Phaethon; Apollo and Diana, and other gods and heroes of the olden time. Designed to supplement the myths retold by Nathaniel Hawthorne in A Wonder Book and Tanglewood Tales. Ages 8-10 |
II. THE ROUSING OF THE HEROES
When this treachery came to light, all Greece took fire with
indignation. The heroes remembered their pledge, and wrath
came upon them at the wrong done to Menelaus. But they
were less angered with Fair Helen than with Paris, for they
felt assured that the queen had been lured from her country
and out of her own senses by some spell of enchantment.
So they took counsel how they might bring back Fair Helen to
her home and husband.
Years had come and gone since that wedding-feast when Eris
had flung the apple of discord, like a firebrand, among the
guests. But the spark of dissension that had smouldered so
long burst into flame now, and, fanned by the enmities of
men and the rivalries of the gods, it seemed like to fire
heaven and earth.
A few of the heroes answered the call to arms
Time had reconciled them to the loss of Fair Helen, and they
were loath to leave home and happiness for war, even in her
One of these was Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who had married
Penelope, and was quite content with his kingdom and his
little son Telemachus. Indeed, he was so unwilling to
leave them that he feigned madness in order to escape
service, appeared to forget his own kindred, and went
ploughing the seashore and sowing salt in the furrows. But a
messenger, Palamedes, who came with the summons to war,
suspected that this sudden madness might be a stratagem, for
the king was far famed as a man of many devices. He
therefore stood by, one day (while Odysseus, pretending to
take no heed of him, went ploughing the sand), and he laid
the baby Telemachus directly in the way of the ploughshare.
For once the wise man's craft deserted him. Odysseus
turned the plough sharply, caught up the little prince,
and there his fatherly wits were manifest! After this
he could no longer play madman. He had to take leave of
his beloved wife Penelope and set out to join the heroes,
little dreaming that he was not to return for twenty years.
Once embarked, however, he set himself to work in the common
cause of the heroes, and was soon as ingenious as Palamedes
in rousing laggard warriors.
There remained one who was destined to be the greatest
warrior of all. This was Achilles, the son of
Thetis,—foretold in the day of Prometheus as a man who
should far outstrip his own father in glory and greatness.
Years had passed since the marriage of Thetis to King
Peleus, and their son Achilles was now grown to manhood, a
wonder of strength indeed,
 and, moreover, invulnerable. For
his mother, forewarned of his death in the Trojan War, had
dipped him in the sacred river Styx when he was a baby, so
that he could take no hurt from any weapon. From head to
foot she had plunged him in, only forgetting the little
heel that she held him by, and this alone could be wounded
by any chance. But even with such precautions Thetis was
not content. Fearful at the rumors of war to be, she had
her son brought up, in woman's dress, among the daughters of
King Lycomedes of Scyros, that he might escape the notice of
men and cheat his destiny.
To this very palace, however, came Odysseus in the guise of
a merchant, and he spread his wares before the royal
household,—jewels and ivory, fine fabrics, and curiously
wrought weapons. The king's daughters chose girdles and
veils and such things as women delight in; but Achilles,
heedless of the like, sought out the weapons, and handled
them with such manly pleasure that his nature stood
revealed. So he, too, yielded to his destiny and set out to
join the heroes.
Everywhere men were banded together, building the ships and
gathering supphes. The allied
forces of Greece (the Achæans, as they called themselves)
chose Agamemnon for their commander-in-chief. He was a
mighty man, king of Mycenæ and Argos, and the brother of
the wronged Menelaus. Second to Achilles in strength was the
giant Ajax; after him Diomedes, then wise Odysseus, and
Nestor, held in great reverence because of his experienced
age and fame. These were the chief heroes. After two years
of busy preparation, they reached the port of Aulis, whence
they were to sail for Troy.
But here delay held them. Agamemnon
 had chanced to
kill a stag which was sacred to Diana, and the army was
visited by pestilence, while a great calm kept the ships
imprisoned. At length the Oracle made known the reason of
this misfortune and demanded for atonement the maiden
Iphigenia, Agamemnon's own daughter. In helpless grief the
king consented to offer her up as a victim, and the maiden
was brought ready for sacrifice. But at the last moment
Diana caught her away in a cloud, leaving a white hind in
her place, and carried her to Tauris in Scythia, there to
serve as a priestess
in the temple. In the mean time, her kinsfolk, who were at
a loss to understand how she had disappeared, mourned her as
dead. But Diana had accepted their child as an offering,
and healing came to the army, and the winds blew again. So
the ships set sail.
Meanwhile, in Troy across the sea, the aged Priam and
Hecuba gave shelter to their son Paris and his stolen
bride. They were not without misgivings as to these guests,
but they made ready to defend their kindred and the citadel.
There were many heroes among the Trojans and their allies,
brave and upright men, who little deserved that such
reproach should be brought upon them by the guilt of Prince
Paris. There were Æneas and Deiphobus, Glaucus and Sarpedon,
and Priam's most noble son Hector, chief of all the forces,
and the very bulwark of Troy. These and many more were
bitterly to regret the day that had brought Paris back to
his home. But he had taken refuge with his own people, and
the Trojans had to take up his cause against the hostile
fleet that was coming across the sea.
Even the gods took sides. Juno and Athena, who had
never forgiven the judgment of Paris, condemned
 all Troy
with him and favored the Greeks, as did also Poseidon, god
of the sea. But Venus, true to her favorite, furthered the
interests of the Trojans with all her power, and persuaded
the warlike Mars to do likewise.
Zeus and Apollo strove to be impartial, but they were yet to
aid now one side, now another, according to the fortunes of
the heroes whom they loved.
Over the sea came the great embassy of ships, sped hither
safely by the god Poseidon; and the heroes made their camp
on the plain before Troy. First of all Odysseus and King
Menelaus himself went into the city and demanded that
Fair Helen should be given back to her rightful husband.
This the Trojans refused; and so began the siege of Troy.
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