Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 98

Hebe, the daughter of Juno, and goddess of youth, was cupbearer to the gods. The usual story is, that she resigned her office on becoming the wife of Hercules. But there is another statement which our countryman Crawford, the sculptor, has adopted in his group of Hebe and Ganymede, now in the gallery of the Boston Athenaeum. According to this, Hebe was dismissed from her office in consequence of a fall which she met with one day when in attendance on the gods. Her successor was Ganymede, a Trojan boy whom Jupiter, in the disguise of an eagle, seized and carried off from the midst of his playfellows on Mount Ida, bore up to heaven, and installed in the vacant place.

Tennyson, in his Palace of Art, describes among the decorations on the walls, a picture representing this legend:

  "There, too, flushed Ganymede his rosy thigh
  Half buried in the eagle's down,
  Sole as a flying star shot through the sky
  Above the pillared town."

And in Shelley's Prometheus, Jupiter calls to his cup-bearer thus:

  "Pour forth heaven's wine, Idaean Ganymede,
  And let it fill the Daedal cups like fire."

The beautiful legend of the Choice of Hercules may be found in the Tatler, No. 97. The same story is told in the Memorabilia of Xenophon.

Chapter XIII

Theseus. Daedalus. Castor and Pollux

Theseus was the son of AEgeus, king of Athens, and of Aethra, daughter of the king of Troezene. He was brought up at Troezene, and, when arrived at manhood, was to proceed to Athens and present himself to his father. AEgeus, on parting from Aethra, before the birth of his son, placed his sword and shoes under a large stone, and directed her to send his son to him when he became strong enough to roll away the stone and take them from under it. When she thought the time had come, his mother led Theseus to the stone, and he removed it with ease, and took the sword and shoes. As the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father's country, by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and the soul of a hero, and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, with whose fame all Greece then rang, by destroying the evil-doers and monsters that oppressed the country, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.

His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt a man named Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage always went armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood in terror of his violence. When he saw Theseus approach, he assailed him, but speedily fell beneath the blows of the young hero, who took possession of his club, and bore it ever afterwards as a memorial of his first victory.

Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. One of these evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher. He had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched their limbs to make them fit it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off a portion. Theseus served him as he had served others.