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Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 151

For ten long years Agamemnon and the other chiefs devoted all their energy and means in preparing for the expedition against Troy. But during these warlike preparations an attempt at a peaceful solution of the difficulty was not neglected. An embassy consisting of Menelaus, Odysseus, &c., was despatched to king Priam demanding the surrender of Helen; but though the embassy was received with the utmost pomp and ceremony, the demand was nevertheless rejected; upon which the ambassadors returned to Greece, and the order was given for the fleet to assemble at Aulis, in Bœotia.

Never before in the annals of Greece had so large an army been collected. A hundred thousand warriors were assembled at Aulis, and in its bay floated over a thousand ships, ready to convey them to the Trojan coast. The command of this mighty host was intrusted to Agamemnon, king of Argos, the most powerful of all the Greek princes.

Before the fleet set sail solemn sacrifices were offered to the gods on the sea-shore, when suddenly a serpent was seen to ascend a plane-tree, in which was a sparrow's [289]nest containing nine young ones. The reptile first devoured the young birds and then their mother, after which it was turned by Zeus into stone. Calchas the soothsayer, on being consulted, interpreted the miracle to signify that the war with Troy would last for nine years, and that only in the tenth would the city be taken.

Departure of the Greek Fleet.—The fleet then set sail; but mistaking the Mysian coast for that of Troy, they landed troops and commenced to ravage the country. Telephus, king of the Mysians, who was a son of the great hero Heracles, opposed them with a large army, and succeeded in driving them back to their ships, but was himself wounded in the engagement by the spear of Achilles. Patroclus, who fought valiantly by the side of his kinsman, was also wounded in this battle; but Achilles, who was a pupil of Chiron, carefully bound up the wound, which he succeeded in healing; and from this incident dates the celebrated friendship which ever after existed between the two heroes, who even in death remained united.


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