| 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 |
THE KINGDOM UNDER THE GROUND
HE Greeks thought that there was a kingdom underground
over which a king reigned whom they called Dis. We
generally call him by his other name of Pluto.
It was a very gloomy world, full of dark caves, and
with black rivers rolling through dimly lighted plains.
On one of the rivers was a boat rowed by Charon, who
met the dead as they came down from the upper world,
and ferried them across the wide stream. He would only
take into his boat those who had been properly buried.
Those who had been drowned, or had fallen in battle and
lain neglected on the battlefield, or any who had
perished on mountains or in deserts, were left to
wander up and down the gloomy banks of the black river.
They had no home either in the world above or the world
below. For that reason the Greeks were very particular
to give their friends a good funeral. Generally dead
bodies were burned, and their ashes gathered up and
These dead people were only shades, or shadows, or
ghosts, very thin and pale, and with faint, weak
voices. Some were punished for their sins. Ixion was
fastened to a wheel which turned around forever.
Sisyphus rolled uphill a heavy stone, which as soon as
it reached the top
 rolled down again, so that his labor never ended.
Tantalus stood in water up to the chin, but when he
bent his head to drink, the water flowed away out of
his reach. Over his head hung branches with apples,
pears and grapes, but when he stretched up his hand to
gather them they drew away, so that he was forever
hungry and thirsty. He was always "tantalized," as we
Thos who had been good and who had done good while on
the earth were happier, but not very happy.
Cerberus, the watchdog of this place, kept the shades
from escaping. He was glad to see those who came in,
but tore in pieces those who tried to run away. He had
three heads, and every hair on his body was a snake.
King Dis, or Pluto, had a black chariot with four black
horses. Once he took a ride up to this sunlit world of
ours. He came to a valley filled with lilies and
violets, and among them, fairer and sweeter than any,
was a young girl filling a basket with the flowers.
Pluto was very lonely in his dark home. He had no
queen to cheer and comfort him. When he saw this girl
he thought, "How bright she would make that old palace
He sent a servant to catch her and bring her to the
chariot. Then he set out for home.
Persephone—her Latin name was
Proserpina—screamed and cried, but the king drove
on and down, and made her queen of the underworld.
This girl was the daughter of Demeter, the
earth-mother, who went everywhere seeking her child.
As she went she wept. The peasants did not know who
 was, but they pitied her and said, "Good woman, come
into our hut, eat bread and drink milk."
But she said, "how can I eat unless I find my child?
Have you seen her?"
They could only sadly answer, "No!"
She went on and on, asking the flowers, the trees, the
rivers, the stars, the men and women and wandering gods
whom she met, if they had seen her child. They had
only one answer, "No. We have not seen her."
One woman asked, "Was she very beautiful?"
"Oh," said the weeping mother, "she was most beautiful!
No star was brighter, no flower was sweeter, no bird
had a more musical voice. If you had seen her you
would not. Earth had not her like, and heaven itself
had nothing lovelier."
The woman said, "No, I have not seen her. My own
littler daughter is very pretty. Did you notice her?"
But Demeter had no eyes for other children, so she went
on and on, over land and sea, calling, "Persephone! My
child, my darling! Are you forever lost to me?"
She reached Sicily, and found the place where Pluto had
gone down with Persephone. She cried, "O wicked and
ungrateful earth! I have made thee rich and beautiful
with grass and grain, and yet thou openest a way for a
monster to carry off my daughter. Thou shalt no more
be fruitful, only thorns and thistles shall grow upon
Arethusa, the river-goddess, said to her, "Do no be
cruel, good mother. I came through the underworld and
saw your daughter there. She is the queen and is
 so afraid, but whether or not she is happy I do not
When Demeter heard that, she went up instantly to Zeus
and asked him to get back her daughter.
The king of the gods said, "If she has not eaten
anything down there, she can be set free. But if she
has taken any of their food she must stay."
Hermes was sent down to bring her back, if possible.
He asked her if she had eaten anything that grew in the
"Nothing, she said, "except a few pomegranate seeds,
but they were very few."
Pluto said, "I claim my rights. You see she has eaten
here, and she must stay with me."
Hermes argued with the dark king, who said, "Her mother
loves her dearly. So do I. Why must I give her up?
It was very lonely here before she came. I cannot live
that way again!"
Hermes said, "Do this! Let her mother have her for six
months; then she shall come back and stay with you for
It was arranged that way. In the spring and summer,
when the flowers were blooming, Persephone lived with
her mother, and they went hand in hand through the
[unreadable in copy]. Through dark autumn and gloomy
winter she sat on the throne by Pluto, and made the
shadowy underworld lighter and happier.
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