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HOW DEATH WAS CONQUERED
POLLO had a son Æsculapius, whom he taught to be so good
a doctor that it was said he could even bring the dead
back to life. Pluto was displeased at this, for was
taking away his rights, so he asked Zeus to throw a
thunderbolt at the doctor. That killed him. Nobody
could bring him back to life, and Apollo was very
angry. He went to Mount Ætna, where the Cyclopes
worked at making thunderbolts for the king of heaven.
These were an entirely different family from those
Cyclopes whom Ulysses afterwards met in his wanderings.
There were only three of these, and they were
industrious blacksmiths, who were kept busy forging
bolts for Zeus. Their shop was under the mountain, and
from it came the smoke and fire of the volcano.
Apollo shot his arrows at them and greatly annoyed
them, but he could not kill them. They cried out to
Zeus and asked him to command Apollo not to shoot at
them any more. Zeus called the sun-god and said, "You
must stop annoying my faithful servants. They are not
to blame. They only made the thunderbolts; I cast them
where I please. You must arrange your affairs in the
sun for a year's absence. During that time you must
 be servant to a mortal on the earth. That shall
be your punishment."
"Very well," said Apollo. "Your will is my law. I
have a friend who is king of Thessaly and keeps a great
many sheep. I should like to be shepherd for him
during that year."
It was so ordered. Apollo went, a fine young man, to
Admetus, king of Thessaly, and was given charge of his
sheep. He took good care of them, and they seemed very
happy. He made the fields bright, the river sparkled
when he stood on its banks, and when he was in the
palace it was full of sunshine.
Admetus was himself a young man and he was in love with
Alcestis. She was the daughter of a king, who said to
young men, " Do you see my daughter Alcestis? Should
you like to marry her? You may, on one condition.
Come for her in a chariot; but understand, it must be
drawn, not by horses, or mules, or oxen, but by lions
and boars. When will you come for her—next week?"
Then the young men would go away disappointed and
angry. Admetus was one of them. He told his shepherd
about this foolish saying of the old king. "Is that
all?" said the bright shepherd. "That can be easily
He went out and caught two lions and two boars and
tamed them, for what creature could disobey him? He
harnessed them to the chariot of Admetus and said,
"There is your team. Drive over and get your bride and
bring her home, and let us all be happy together."
 The team did not pull very fast at first. The lions
wanted to eat the boars, and the boars tried to tear
the lions with their tusks. But after a while they
became used to each other, and went off roaring and
grunting in fine style.
When they reached the home of Alcestis her father was
surprised, but kept his promise. She mounted the
chariot with Admetus, and such a wedding procession as
following them from the temple was never before known.
All the countryside turned out to see the wonderful
team of wild beasts.
Admetus and Alcestis were very happy, for they loved
each other dearly. But the young husband fell sick and
was near death. Apollo could not cure him, but went to
the Fates, whom he knew, and begged them to spare the
young king. They promised on one condition,—that
someone else should agree to die in his steed. Admetus
thought he could easily find such a friend. He went
for his soldiers who had fought for him, but they said,
"Oh, no! It is one thing to die in the excitement of
battle, giving and taking fatal blows, but quite
another to die in cold blood for somebody else."
Then he sent for old servants who had but a little
while to live; but they said, "Oh, no! Life is dear to
us as to anybody. Each man must stand in his own
place. When our turn comes we must go, but not
A friend said, "Why not ask your father or your mother?
They love you, and they have not long to live. One of
them will surely die in your place."
 But they said, "Oh, no! Dear son, we love you, but how
can we give up our lives, even for your sake?"
The young king was all the time growing worse. It was
plain that he had not long to live. Alcestis said, "O
cruel Fates, that have no mercy on loving hearts, you
mean to part us! Have, then, your will! Since I must
lose my husband by his death or my own, let it be mine.
He shall live and see the bright sunshine and the sweet
flowers and the pleasant faces of friends. I must
wander in the gloomy fields of the underworld among the
pale ghosts that dwell there."
Admetus was not willing that his darling should die,
but the Fates would not be trifled with. He grew
better but his wife was faint and pale, and near the
end of life.
Just then Heracles came by and heard the sad story.
"I will save her," he said.
He stood outside the door of her room. Death came to
claim his own—himself a monster so frightful that
none could look on him and live. In the dark, Heracles
caught him in his strong arms. They wrestled and
struggled for a long while, until Death called out,
"Spare me, Heracles. The queen is yours. Keep her and
let me go." The hero loosed his hold, and Death went
away. Heracles went into the queen's room and kissed
her thin hand and said, "He has gone. You are to stay
with us. Smile and get well, and be happy with your