| Stories of the Ancient Greeks|
|by Charles D. Shaw|
|Delightful collection of both mythological and historical stories of the ancient Greeks, in language simple enough for younger listeners, yet appealing to all ages. Provides an excellent introduction to ancient Greece, beginning with 32 of the best-known myths, and then continuing with 32 short stories of the historical era, arranged in chronological order. An extensive pronunciation guide is included. Ages 8-11 |
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POLLO had a son named Orpheus, who was a great musician. His
lyre, or small harp, was a present from his father, who
taught him how to play upon it, so that it charmed all
who heard. When he played in the woods the trees began
to dance, rather stiffly to be sure. When he passed
near rocks with his lyre they did not exactly melt, but
their hard hearts were softened. The savage beasts
lost their fierceness, and the timid ones laid aside
their fears. They came out from their dens and
followed him, lions and tigers, wolves and rabbits,
bears and stags.
In his youth he was one of the crew of the ship Argo,
and at his playing the vessel launched herself. He
married Eurydice, and they were very happy, but one day
she trod upon a snake hidden in the grass. It bit her
in the foot, and she died.
Her husband's music changed entirely. Before that he
sang of hope and joy and peace and love. Now his only
song was one of sorrow for his great loss.
He thought if he went down to the underworld he might
coax Pluto to let him have his wife again. He found a
deep cave and went down and down, until through the
deep darkness he saw a dim light. He knew that he had
reached the kingdom of the dead. He played
 to old
Charon and sang of his dead wife, until the boatman
said, "Come aboard! I will take you over!"
He went up to the palace and found king Pluto and his
queen. He played upon his lyre and sang to them.
"Oh, you, who love each other and are happy," he said,
"think of my grief and pity my sorrow. She who was the
light of my eyes is in darkness here. She who made me
happy goes lonely here among these pale ghosts, while I
walk mourning upon the earth. When I sang her sweet
voice answered me; now I hear it no more. Others
praised me, but her praise was dearer than that of all
"I do not come to break up your kingdom. She has died
before her time. We must all come to you, O mighty
king! If you give her back to me now, she and I must
soon return to this world of shadows. But spare her to
me, that we may be happy for a while. Fair queen,
speak for me to your dark lord. Remember how your
mother went sorrowing for you, and have pity on me in
Persephone turned to her husband. Her face was wet
with tears. "O king and lord," she said, "grant this
poor mortal's prayer! We are sorry to be parted from
each other for six months when I go to my mother. How
sad it must be when parting is forever!"
Tears rolled down the thin cheeks of many ghosts. The
kind said, "Mortal, on one condition you may have your
wife again. She must follow you to the upper world,
and you must not look upon her until you are both in
the clear light of day."
 Orpheus was glad indeed. He thanked the king and queen
and went to the river. Charon ferried him and Eurydice
across, and they began to climb upward through dark
caves. They could speak to each other, and that was
pleasant for them and kept them cheerful. When they
had gone a long way Orpheus saw a faint light far
ahead. They were almost in safety. Eurydice could
only follow slowly, for, ghost as she was, her foot
Her husband was so glad to be near the upper world that
he forgot Pluto's warning. "Eurydice," he said, "Do
you see the light? Are you coming?"
He looked around and saw his wife smiling, but only for
a moment. "Eurydice!" he called. A weak voice
answered, "Farewell! Farewell forever!" She was gone;
carried back to the place of shades.
He went to the underworld again as fast as he could.
She had already crossed the river. He tried to get
into the boat, but Charon drove him back.
"You had your chance and lost it," the old boatman
cried. "Those who cannot keep what they get must
expect to lose."
For seven days Orpheus wandered up and down on the
banks of the river until everybody was tired of hearing
him sing and cry. Then he went back to the sunlit
world. All his song was about his loss and sorrow.
The maidens of Thrace pitied him and would have been
glad to comfort him, but he would not listen to them.
One name was on his lips, one darling was in his
thoughts. "Eurydice!" he cried. "So near, so far!
Lost, lost, by my own folly!"
 A feast of Dionysus, or Bacchus, came on. A company of
women went dancing and singing in worship of the god.
"Look!" said one of them. "There is the man who hates
She threw a spear at Orpheus. He struck a few notes
upon his lyre, and the spear did no harm. But the
whole company of women cried out and tore their hair
and ran at him. They took away his lyre, and he was
powerless. With shouts and screams they beat him until
he was dead, then tore him into pieces which they
scattered on the river.
The Muses gathered up his remains and buried them.
Zeus took the silent lyre and placed it among the
stars. The song of nightingales over the musician's
grave was sweeter then anywhere else in Greece.
His shade or ghost went down to the underworld. Charon
said, "Now you have come to stay you may get into the
boat." On the other shore Eurydice was waiting for
him. Thus they were united never again to part.
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