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Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 18

When the two heroes were near enough to see each other, each was so filled with admiration for the beautiful form and the bravery of his opponent that, as if at a given signal, both threw down their weapons and hastened toward each other. Pirithous extended his hand to Theseus and proposed that the latter act as arbitrator for the settlement of the dispute about the cattle: whatever satisfaction Theseus would demand Pirithous would willingly give.

"The only satisfaction which I desire," answered Pirithous, "is that you instead of my enemy become my friend and comrade in arms."

Then the two heroes embraced each other and swore eternal friendship.

Soon after this Pirithous chose the Thessalian princess, Hippodamia, from the race of Lapithæ, for his bride, and invited Theseus to the wedding. The Lapithæ, among whom the ceremony took place, were a famous family of Thessalians, rugged mountaineers, in some respects resembling animals—the first mortals who had learned to manage a horse. But the bride, who had sprung from this race, was not at all like the men of her people. She was of noble form, with delicate[Pg 34] youthful face, so beautiful that all the guests praised Pirithous for his good fortune.

The assembled princes of Thessaly were at the wedding feast, and also the Centaurs, relatives of Pirithous. The Centaurs were half men, the offspring which a cloud, assuming the form of the goddess Hera, had born to Ixion, the father of Pirithous. They were the eternal enemies of the Lapithæ. Upon this occasion, however, and for the sake of the bride, they had forgotten past grudges and come together to the joyful celebration. The noble castle of Pirithous resounded with glad tumult; bridal songs were sung; wine and food abounded. Indeed, there were so many guests that the palace would not accommodate all. The Lapithæ and Centaurs sat at a special table in a grotto shaded by trees.

For a long time the festivities went on with undisturbed happiness. Then the wine began to stir the heart of the wildest of the Centaurs, Eurytion, and the beauty of the Princess Hippodamia awoke in him the mad desire of robbing the bridegroom of his bride. Nobody knew how it came to pass; nobody noticed the beginning of the unthinkable act; but suddenly the guests saw the wild Eurytion lifting Hippodamia from her feet, while she struggled and cried for help. His deed was the signal for the rest of the drunken Centaurs to do likewise, and before the strange heroes and the Lapithæ could leave their places, every one of the Centaurs had roughly seized one of the Thessalian princesses who served at the court of the king or who had assembled as guests at the wedding.

The castle and the grotto resembled a besieged city; the cry of the women sounded far and wide. Quickly friends and relatives sprang from their places.

"What delusion is this, Eurytion," cried Theseus, "to vex Pirithous while I still live, and by so doing arouse the anger of two heroes?" With these words he forced his way through the crowd and tore the stolen bride from the struggling robber.


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