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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 134

Passing through the woody district of Crommyon Theseus next slew a wild and dangerous sow which had long ravaged the country.

He then continued his journey and approached the borders of Megara, where, on a narrow path overhanging the sea, dwelt the wicked Scyron, another terror to travellers. It was his custom to compel all strangers who passed his abode to wash his feet, during which operation he kicked them over the rock into the sea. Theseus boldly attacked the giant, overcame him, and then flung his body over the cliff where so many of his victims had perished.

Theseus now journeyed on to Eleusis, where he found [261]another adversary in the person of King Cercyon, who forced all comers to wrestle with him, and killed those whom he vanquished; but Theseus overcame the mighty wrestler and slew him.

Near Eleusis, on the banks of the river Cephissus, Theseus met with a new adventure. Here lived the giant Damastes, called Procrustes or the Stretcher, who had two iron beds, one being long and the other short, into which he forced all strangers; In the short one he placed the tall men, whose limbs he cut to the size of the bed, whilst to the short ones he assigned the large bed, stretching them out to fit it; and thus he left his victims to expire in the most cruel torments. Theseus freed the country from this inhuman monster by serving him as he had done his unfortunate victims.

The hero now continued his journey, and at length reached Athens without meeting with any further adventures. When he arrived at his destination he found his father a helpless tool in the hands of the sorceress Medea, whom he had married after her departure from Corinth. Knowing, by means of her supernatural powers, that Theseus was the king's son, and fearing that her influence might be weakened by his presence, she poisoned the mind of the old king against the stranger, whom she represented as being a spy. It was accordingly arranged that Theseus should be invited to a banquet, and a strong poison mixed with his wine.

Now Theseus had resolved to reveal himself at this feast to the father whom he yearned to embrace. Before tasting the wine he put his plan into execution, and drew out his sword so that the eyes of the king might rest upon it. When Aegeus beheld once more the well-known weapon which he had so often wielded, he knew that it was his son who stood before him. He warmly embraced him, presented him as his heir to his courtiers and subjects, and then, no longer able to endure the sight of Medea, he banished her for ever from his dominions.

When Theseus was acknowledged as the rightful heir to the throne he was opposed by the fifty sons of Pallas, [262]the king's brother, who had confidently expected that on the demise of the old king the government of the country would devolve upon them. They therefore resolved to put Theseus to death; but their plans becoming known to him, he surprised them as they lay in ambush awaiting his approach, and destroyed them all.


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