| 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 |
WHAT A STRONG MAN DID
HERE was once a baby whom Hera, queen of the gods, hated.
She sent two huge snakes to kill him in his cradle, but
he sat up, caught one snake in his right hand, the
other in his left hand, and choked both of them to
This boy was called Heracles. In the Latin language
his name is changed to Hercules.
When he grew up and was very strong, Hera put him as a
servant in the care of his cousin, who gave him much
hard work to do.
He was sent out to kill a furious lion, which ate men
and women in Nemea. Heracles shot at the beast, but
the tough hide turned the arrows away. He went near,
and struck the lion with a club, but he only laughed if
lions ever do laugh. Then Heracles took the beast's
throat in his strong hands, and finished the battle.
HERACLES AND THE LION
He threw the body over his shoulder and carried it to
his cousin, who told him not to bring such things into
the house, but to leave them outside. Heracles took of
the lion's skin and wore it as a cloak.
He was sent to kill the Hydra. This monster had nine
heads and lived in a swamp. Its breath was so
poisonous that it killed many people in that
neighbor-  hood. Heracles struck off the heads with his
club, but two new heads grew each time. He told his
servant to build a fire, and with a lighted stick to
burn each neck as soon as the head was gone, so that no
new one could grown. In that way he got rid of eight
heads. The ninth was immortal; it could not die.
Heracles cut it off, burned the neck, and buried the
head under a rock.
His next work was to clean the Augean stables.
Thousands of cattle had lived in them for thirty years.
Heracles had not only hands, but a head. He dug two
canals, by which he let two rivers run through the
stables and in one day they were clean.
His cousin's daughter wanted a girdle or belt worn by
the Queen of the Amazons. These were women who were
soldiers. They wore armor and fought fiercely. No men
were allowed to live in their country. Heracles went
to their queen and politely told her what he wanted.
She said that she should be happy to please the young
lady and gave him the girdle. Hera was angry because
he succeeded so easily. She made herself look like an
Amazon and went among the women, telling them that the
stranger meant to carry off their queen. Heracles had
to fight his way back to his ship, but got way safely
with the belt.
He was sent to the far West to bring away the oxen of
Geryon, a monster with three bodies who had a dog with
two heads. Heracles reached the shore of the Atlantic
Ocean, broke a mountain in two, pushed one half over
into Africa, the other into Europe, and made the
Straits of Gibraltar. Those mountains were afterwards
 called the "Pillars of Hercules." He took the
oxen and drove them home to his cousin.
When Hera was married to Zeus the Earth gave her a
wedding present of some golden apples. Ever since,
they and the trees on which they grew had been kept by
the Hesperides, daughters of King Hesperus and nieces
of the giant Atlas. As usual, a dragon helped the
girls keep watch. Heracles was ordered to find the
golden apples and bring them back with him. After much
trouble he found Atlas in Africa. The giant was
holding the sky and all the stars upon his shoulders.
Heracles said to him, "You are better acquainted than I
am with your nieces. Would you kindly go and ask them
to give you some of their golden apples for me?"
Atlas was cross. "While I am doing that who will hold
up this sky? Can you tell me?"
"Why, yes," said Heracles. "I will."
The giant grunted. Heracles stooped down and took the
sky on his shoulder. The jolt caused by the change was
so slight that only a few loose stars fell from their
Atlas stood up straight and was much pleased to be
free. He went off and was gone for a long time, but
when he came back three golden apples were in his
hands. He gave them to Heracles, took the sky again on
his back, and may be found to-day, a mountain instead
of a giant.
After some other labors were finished, nothing would
suit his cousin but that Heracles should go to the
under-  world and bring up the dog with three
heads, Cerberus. He could never have done that alone,
but his friends the gods Athene and Hermes helped him.
They went down together, and asked King Pluto to lend
them his dog. He said, "He is not a house-dog."
Heracles said, "I only want to show him to a friend of
mine." Pluto answered, "He is not very pretty to look
at." "No," returned Heracles. "I will just take him
up to my friend's palace and bring him back here
"You may take him" said Pluto, "but come back as soon
as you can, or my people will all run away from this
The cousin was more frightened than ever when he saw
the three-headed dog following Heracles into the
palace. Cerberus was sent home very soon.
In the underworld Heracles saw his friend Theseus
sitting on a rock from which he could not rise. He had
gone down to help a friend who wished to carry off
Pluto's wife. The angry king caught them both and
seated them on a rock at his palace gate, there to stay
forever. The strong man took Theseus by the hand, and
lifted him loose with one pull, and they went up into
the light together.
When Heracles died his body was burned to ashes, but
the immortal part of him was placed among the stars.
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