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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 149

As a proof of his confidence, the king now intrusted Paris with a somewhat delicate mission. As we have already seen in the Legend of Heracles, that great hero conquered Troy, and after killing king Laomedon, carried away captive his beautiful daughter Hesione, whom he bestowed in marriage on his friend Telamon. But although she became princess of Salamis, and lived happily with her husband, her brother Priam never ceased to regret her loss, and the indignity which had been passed upon his house; and it was now proposed that Paris should be equipped with a numerous fleet, and proceed to Greece in order to demand the restoration of the king's sister.

Before setting out on this expedition, Paris was warned by Cassandra against bringing home a wife from Greece, and she predicted that if he disregarded her injunction he would bring inevitable ruin upon the city of Troy, and destruction to the house of Priam.

Under the command of Paris the fleet set sail, and arrived safely in Greece. Here the young Trojan prince first beheld Helen, the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and sister of the Dioscuri, who was the wife of Menelaus, king of Sparta, and the loveliest woman of her time. The most renowned heroes in Greece had sought the honour of her hand; but her stepfather, Tyndareus, king of Sparta, fearing that if he bestowed her in marriage on one of her numerous lovers he would make enemies of the rest, made it a stipulation that all suitors should solemnly swear to assist and defend the successful candidate, with all the means at their command, in any feud which might hereafter arise in connection with the marriage. He at length conferred the hand of Helen upon Menelaus, a warlike prince, devoted to martial exercises and the pleasures of the chase, to whom he resigned his throne and kingdom.

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When Paris arrived at Sparta, and sought hospitality at the royal palace, he was kindly received by king Menelaus. At the banquet given in his honour, he charmed both host and hostess by his graceful manner and varied accomplishments, and specially ingratiated himself with the fair Helen, to whom he presented some rare and chaste trinkets of Asiatic manufacture.

Whilst Paris was still a guest at the court of the king of Sparta, the latter received an invitation from his friend Idomeneus, king of Crete, to join him in a hunting expedition; and Menelaus, being of an unsuspicious and easy temperament, accepted the invitation, leaving to Helen the duty of entertaining the distinguished stranger. Captivated by her surpassing loveliness, the Trojan prince forgot every sense of honour and duty, and resolved to rob his absent host of his beautiful wife. He accordingly collected his followers, and with their assistance stormed the royal castle, possessed himself of the rich treasures which it contained, and succeeded in carrying off its beautiful, and not altogether unwilling mistress.

They at once set sail, but were driven by stress of weather to the island of Crania, where they cast anchor; and it was not until some years had elapsed, during which time home and country were forgotten, that Paris and Helen proceeded to Troy.


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