Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable
Page: 3Chapter XX
Minerva's Competition.— Paris's Decision.— Helen.— Paris's
Elopement.— Ulysses's Pretence.— The Apple of Discord.— Priam,
King of Troy.— Commander of Grecian Armament.— Principal
Leaders of the Trojans.— Agamemnon Kills the Sacred Stag.—
Iphigenia.— The Trojan War.— The Iliad.— Interest of Dods and
Goddesses in the War.— Achilles's Suit of Armor.— Death of
Hector.— Ransom Sent to Achilles.— Achilles Grants Priam's
Request.— Hector's Funeral Solemnities.
Achilles Captivated by Polyxena.— Achilles' Claim.— Bestowal of
Achilles' Armor.— The Hyacinth.— Arrows of Hercules.— Death of
Paris.— Celebrated Statue of Minerva.— Wooden Horse.— Greeks
Pretend to Abandon the Siege.— Sea Serpents.— Laocoon.— Troy
subdued.— Helen and Menelaus.— Nepenthe.— Agamemnon's
Misfortunes.— Orestes.— Electra.— Site of the City of Troy
The Odyssey.— The Wanderings of Ulysses.— Country of the
Cyclops.— The Island of Aeolus.— The Barbarous Tribe of
Laestrygonians.— Circe.— The Sirens.— Scylla and Charybdis.—
Cattle of Hyperion.— Ulysses's Raft.— Calypso Entertains
Ulysses.— Telemachus and Mentor Escape from Calypso's Isle
Ulysses Abandons the Raft.— The Country of the Phaeacians.—
Nausicaa's Dream.— A Game of Ball.— Ulysses's Dilemma.—
Nausicaa's Courage.— The Palace of Alcinous.— Skill of the
Phaeacian Women.— Hospitality to Ulysses.— Demodocus, the Blind
Bard.— Gifts to Ulysses
Virgil's Description of the Region of the Dead.— Descend into
Hades.— The Black River and Ferryman.— Cape Palinurus.— The
Three-Headed Dog.— Regions of Sadness.— Shades of Grecian and
Trojan Warriors.— Judgment Hall of Rhadamanthus.— The Elysian
Fields.— Aeneas Meets His Father.— Anchises Explains the Plan
of Creation.— Transmigration of Souls.— Egyptian Name of
Hades.— Location of Elysium.— Prophetic Power of the Sibyl.—
Legend of the Nine Books
Stories of Gods and Heroes.
The literature of our time, as of all the centuries of Christendom, is full of allusions to the gods and goddesses of the Greeks and Romans. Occasionally, and, in modern days, more often, it contains allusions to the worship and the superstitions of the northern nations of Europe. The object of this book is to teach readers who are not yet familiar with the writers of Greece and Rome, or the ballads or legends of the Scandinavians, enough of the stories which form what is called their mythology, to make those allusions intelligible which one meets every day, even in the authors of our own time.
The Greeks and Romans both belong to the same race or stock. It is generally known in our time as the Aryan family of mankind; and so far as we know its history, the Greeks and Romans descended from the tribes which emigrated from the high table- lands of Northern India. Other tribes emigrated in different directions from the same centre, so that traces of the Aryan language are found in the islands of the Pacific ocean.
The people of this race, who moved westward, seem to have had a special fondness for open air nature, and a willingness to personify the powers of nature. They were glad to live in the open air, and they specially encouraged the virtues which an open-air people prize. Thus no Roman was thought manly who could not swim, and every Greek exercised in the athletic sports of the palaestra.
The Romans and Grecian and German divisions of this great race are those with which we have most to do in history and in literature. Our own English language is made up of the dialects of different tribes, many of whom agreed in their use of words which they had derived from our Aryan ancestry. Thus our substantive verb I AM appears in the original Sanscrit of the Aryans as ESMI, and m for ME (MOI), or the first person singular, is found in all the verbal inflections. The Greek form of the same verb was ESMI, which became ASMI, and in Latin the first and last vowels have disappeared, the verb is SUM. Similar relationships are traced in the numerals, and throughout all the languages of these nations.
The Romans, like the Etruscans who came before them, were neither poetical nor imaginative in temperament. Their activity ran in practical directions. They therefore invented few, if any stories, of the gods whom they worshipped with fixed rites. Mr. Macaulay speaks of these gods as "the sober abstractions of the Roman pantheon." We owe most of the stories of the ancient mythology to the wit and fancy of the Greeks, more playful and imaginative, who seized from Egypt and from the East such legends as pleased them, and adapted them in their own way. It often happens that such stories, resembling each other in their foundation, are found in the Greek and Roman authors in several different forms.