Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources
What liveth there beneath the sky,
Four-footed creature that doth choose
Now three feet and now twain to use,
And still more feebly o'er the plain
Walketh with three feet than with twain?"
And Œdipus made reply:
Four-footed crawleth on his way;
When time hath made his strength complete,
Upright his form and twain his feet;
When age hath bound him to the ground
A third foot in his staff is found."
sphinx, who rests against a large rock, in front of which is a pit containing many human bones." title="ŒDIPUS STOOD BEFORE THE SPHINX" />
After much wandering Œdipus was finally cast into prison. Then the two sons took possession of the kingdom, making agreement between themselves that each should reign for the space of one year. And the elder of the two, whose name was Eteocles, first had the kingdom; but when his year was come to an end, he would not abide by his promise, but kept that which he should have given up, and drove out his younger brother from the city. Then the younger, whose name was Polynices, fled to Argos, to King Adrastus. And after a while he married the daughter of the king, who made a covenant with him that he would bring him back with a high hand to Thebes and set him on the throne of his father. Then the king sent messengers to certain of the princes of Greece, entreating that they would help in this matter. And of these some would not, but others hearkened to his words, so that a great army was gathered together and followed the king and Polynices to make war against Thebes. So they came and pitched their camp over against the city. And after they had[Pg 119] been there many days, the battle grew fierce about the wall. But the chiefest fight was between the two brothers, for the two came together in an open space before the gates. And first Polynices prayed to Heré, for she was the goddess of the great city of Argos, which had helped him in this enterprise, and Eteocles prayed to Pallas of the Golden Shield, whose temple stood hard by. Then they crouched, each covered with his shield and holding his spear in his hand, if by chance his enemy should give occasion to smite him; and if one showed so much as an eye above the rim of his shield the other would strike at him. But after a while King Eteocles slipped upon a stone that was under his foot, and uncovered his leg, at which straightway Polynices took aim with his spear, piercing the skin. But so doing he laid his own shoulder bare, and King Eteocles gave him a wound in the breast. He brake his spear in striking and would have fared ill but that with a great stone he smote the spear of Polynices and brake this also in the middle. And now were the two equal, for each had lost his spear. So they drew their swords and came yet closer together. But Eteocles used a device which he had learnt in the land of Thessaly; for he drew his left foot back, as if he would have ceased from the battle, and then of a sudden moved the right forward; and so smiting sideways, drove his sword right through the body of Polynices. But when, thinking that he had slain him, he set his weapons in the earth and began to spoil him of his arms, the other, for he yet breathed a little, laid his hand upon his sword, and though he had scarce strength to smite, yet gave the king a mortal blow, so that the two lay dead together on the plain. And the men of Thebes lifted up the bodies of the dead and bare them both into the city.