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HE Greek poets say that the first men lived in happiness
and innocence for many years. That was the Golden Age.
After it came the Silver Age, when men were not quite
so happy or so good. The Brazen Age followed, with
everything growing worse and worse. Then came the Iron
Age, and wickedness and wrong were everywhere. Nobody
was happy; love was dead; cruelty, murder, robbery, and
war filled the whole world.
Zeus, king of heaven, called a meeting of the gods.
They went to his palace, and he told them of the
wickedness of mankind.
"The sins of men rise up like a black cloud," he said.
"There are not songs of praise, only cries of the
unhappy. No smoke of sacrifice ascends, but the smell
of burning homes comes up and spreads itself through
heaven. Men hate one another and do not love the gods.
I will destroy this wicked race, and bring a better
people upon the earth."
At first he thought he would send lightning and burn up
all; then he considered that water might serve him
better. He sent out the stormy winds, and the sky grew
black with heavy clouds from which rain poured down.
He called on his brother Poseidon to unchain the ocean,
 and soon its waters rolled high over the shores. The
rivers rose, the ground rocked with earthquakes.
Temples and homes fell, valleys filled with water,
beasts and men were swept away. Villages vanished,
cities were seen no more; only the mountains appeared,
and on their tops and sides animals and human beings
were gathered trembling. The wolf stood by the lamb
but did not harm it, the lion crowded close against the
deer, and both were alike afraid. Men did not strike
each other; they lifted up their hands in prayer to the
gods. Women did not look into mirrors; they looked to
heaven for pity and help.
The waters rose higher. The animals were gone, so were
all the men who did not have boats. The waves were
high and fierce. They dashed the boats against the
rocks, and they sank.
Only one mountain stood out of the water. That was
Parnassus. Only one boat floated on the sea, and in it
were a man and his wife, Deucalion and Pyrrha. They
had been good when everybody else was bad, and Zeus had
taken care of them through the storm and the flood.
The winds fell, the rain stopped, the boat rested on
the mountain side. Ocean drew back his waves, the
valleys were filled with roaring rivers that carried
away the water to the sea. Deucalion and Pyrrha
stepped out of the boat and stood upon the ground.
"O, wife," the good man said, "I am afraid we are alone
in the world! All our friends and neighbors are gone.
There is nobody to help us, or tell us what to do!
[...] I am wrong in saying that. There
are yet the gods and we will ask their advice."
 They went down the mountain a little way to a place
where they knew there had been an oracle. The cave was
there, but no altar burned, and no priest stood near.
They went into the cave and knelt down. "O goddess!"
they said, "thou dwellest in the dark, yet seest all
things. Behold two sorrowful creatures who are left
alone in a drowned world! We have nothing, we know
nothing. We pray to thee, O goddess! Tell us what we
ought to do."
A strange, solemn voice answered, "Cover your heads.
Loosen your girdles. Go down the mountain, and, as you
go down cast your mother's bones behind you."
They were frightened and did not understand. How could
they find their mother's bones when everything had been
swept away in the dreadful flood? They were no wiser
than they had been until Deucalion thought, "Why, the
earth is our great mother, to be sure. Her
bones,—why, those must be the stones. Let us see if
that is what the oracle means."
They covered their heads and loosened their belts, and
went down the mountain. As they went they stooped and
picked up stones and threw them back over their
shoulders. Presently they heard a sound of running
feet and of voices. They looked back. Young men were
following Deucalion, holding out their hands to him and
calling him "Bab-ba!" Young girls were running hard
after Pyrrh, trying to catch her dress, and murmuring
Deucalion threw another stone, and watched to see what
would happen. Another young man started up run and
call. Pyrrha threw again, and a new young woman joined
the company of girls.
The old people went down into the valley, and by the
time they reached it they had a large family of
grown-up children, whom they taught to build houses, to
plow the ground, to plant vines, to weave and sew, and
to talk the Greek language. So the world was peopled
again, and all the Greeks look back to Deucalion and
his wife as their great ancestors.