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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 111

Before their departure Jason offered a solemn sacrifice to Poseidon and all the other sea-deities; he also invoked the protection of Zeus and the Fates, and then, Mopsus having taken the auguries, and found them auspicious, the heroes stepped on board. And now a favourable breeze having sprung up, they take their allotted places, [217]the anchor is weighed, and the ship glides like a bird out of the harbour into the waters of the great sea.

Arrival at Lemnos.—The Argo, with her brave crew of fifty heroes, was soon out of sight, and the sea-breeze only wafted to the shore a faint echo of the sweet strains of Orpheus.

For a time all went smoothly, but the vessel was soon driven, by stress of weather, to take refuge in a harbour in the island of Lemnos. This island was inhabited by women only, who, the year before, in a fit of mad jealousy, had killed all the male population of the island, with the exception of the father of their queen, Hypsipyle. As the protection of their island now devolved upon themselves they were always on the look-out for danger. When, therefore, they sighted the Argo from afar they armed themselves and rushed to the shore, determined to repel any invasion of their territory.

On arriving in port the Argonauts, astonished at beholding an armed crowd of women, despatched a herald in one of their boats, bearing the staff of peace and friendship. Hypsipyle, the queen, proposed that food and presents should be sent to the strangers, in order to prevent their landing; but her old nurse, who stood beside her, suggested that this would be a good opportunity to provide themselves with noble husbands, who would act as their defenders, and thus put an end to their constant fears. Hypsipyle listened attentively to the advice of her nurse, and after some consultation, decided to invite the strangers into the city. Robed in his purple mantle, the gift of Pallas-Athene, Jason, accompanied by some of his companions, stepped on shore, where he was met by a deputation consisting of the most beautiful of the Lemnian women, and, as commander of the expedition, was invited into the palace of the queen.

When he appeared before Hypsipyle, she was so struck with his godlike and heroic presence that she presented him with her father's sceptre, and invited him to seat himself on the throne beside her. Jason thereupon [218]took up his residence in the royal castle, whilst his companions scattered themselves through the town, spending their time in feasting and pleasure. Heracles, with a few chosen comrades, alone remained on board.

From day to day their departure was delayed, and the Argonauts, in their new life of dissipation, had almost forgotten the object of the expedition, when Heracles suddenly appeared amongst them, and at last recalled them to a sense of their duty.

Giants and Doliones.—The Argonauts now pursued their voyage, till contrary winds drove them towards an island, inhabited by the Doliones, whose king Cyzicus received them with great kindness and hospitality. The Doliones were descendants of Poseidon, who protected them against the frequent attacks of their fierce and formidable neighbours, the earth-born Giants—monsters with six arms.

Whilst his companions were attending a banquet given by king Cyzicus, Heracles, who, as usual, had remained behind to guard the ship, observed that these Giants were busy blocking up the harbour with huge rocks. He at once realized the danger, and, attacking them with his arrows, succeeded in considerably thinning their numbers; then, assisted by the heroes, who at length came to his aid, he effectually destroyed the remainder.


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