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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 104

Ares was furious with rage when he discovered that Cadmus had slain his dragon, and would have killed him had not Zeus interfered, and induced him to mitigate his punishment to that of servitude for the term of eight years. At the end of that time the god of war became reconciled to Cadmus, and, in token of his forgiveness, bestowed upon him the hand of his daughter Harmonia in marriage. Their nuptials were almost as celebrated as those of Peleus and Thetis. All the gods honoured them with their presence, and offered rich gifts and congratulations. Cadmus himself presented his lovely bride with a splendid necklace fashioned by Hephæstus, which, however, after the death of Harmonia, always proved fatal to its possessor.

The children of Cadmus and Harmonia were one son, [205]Polydorus, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele, and Agave.

For many years the founder of Thebes reigned happily, but at length a conspiracy was formed against him, and he was deprived of his throne by his grandson Pentheus. Accompanied by his faithful wife Harmonia, he retired into Illyria, and after death they were both changed by Zeus into serpents, and transferred to Elysium.

PERSEUS.

Perseus, one of the most renowned of the legendary heroes of antiquity, was the son of Zeus and Danaë, daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos.

An oracle having foretold to Acrisius that a son of Danaë would be the cause of his death, he imprisoned her in a tower of brass in order to keep her secluded from the world. Zeus, however, descended through the roof of the tower in the form of a shower of gold, and the lovely Danaë became his bride.

For four years Acrisius remained in ignorance of this union, but one evening as he chanced to pass by the brazen chamber, he heard the cry of a young child proceeding from within, which led to the discovery of his daughter's marriage with Zeus. Enraged at finding all his precautions unavailing, Acrisius commanded the mother and child to be placed in a chest and thrown into the sea.

But it was not the will of Zeus that they should perish. He directed Poseidon to calm the troubled waters, and caused the chest to float safely to the island of Seriphus. Dictys, brother of Polydectes, king of the island, was fishing on the sea-shore when he saw the chest stranded on the beach; and pitying the helpless condition of its unhappy occupants, he conducted them to the palace of the king, where they were treated with the greatest kindness.

Polydectes eventually became united to Danaë, and [206]bestowed upon Perseus an education befitting a hero. When he saw his stepson develop into a noble and manly youth he endeavoured to instil into his mind a desire to signalize himself by the achievement of some great and heroic deed, and after mature deliberation it was decided that the slaying of the Gorgon, Medusa, would bring him the greatest renown.

For the successful accomplishment of his object it was necessary for him to be provided with a pair of winged sandals, a magic wallet, and the helmet of Aïdes, which rendered the wearer invisible, all of which were in the keeping of the Nymphs, the place of whose abode was known only to the Grææ. Perseus started on his expedition, and, guided by Hermes and Pallas-Athene, arrived, after a long journey, in the far-off region, on the borders of Oceanus, where dwelt the Grææ, daughters of Phorcys and Ceto. He at once applied to them for the necessary information, and on their refusing to grant it he deprived them of their single eye and tooth, which he only restored to them when they gave him full directions with regard to his route. He then proceeded to the abode of the Nymphs, from whom he obtained the objects indispensable for his purpose.


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