Myths of Greece and Rome Narrated with Special Reference to Literature and Art

Page: 154

Fall of Troy.

In the mean while, the Greeks had been hiding behind Tenedos; but when night came on, they returned to the site of their ten-years’ encampment, and were let into the city by Sinon, who also released their companions from their prison within the wooden horse. Although taken by surprise, the city guards made desperate attempts to repel the Greeks; but it was now too late, for the enemy had already broken into houses and palaces, and were killing, pillaging, and burning all in their way.

“The melancholy years,
The miserable melancholy years,
Crept onward till the midnight terror came,
And by the glare of burning streets I saw
Palace and temple reel in ruin and fall,
And the long-baffled legions, bursting in
Through gate and bastion, blunted sword and spear
With unresisted slaughter.”
Lewis Morris.

The royal family, even, was not exempt from the general massacre; and the aged Priam, who lived to see his last son perish before his eyes, finally found relief in death.

Return of the Greeks.

Their object accomplished, the Greeks immediately sailed for home, their vessels heavily laden with plunder and slaves. But the homeward journey was not as joyful as might have been expected; and many, after escaping from the enemy’s hands, perished in the waves, or found death lying in wait for them by their own fireside.

Menelaus, with his wife Helen, who, in spite of the added ten [336] years, retained all her youthful beauty, were detained in Egypt by contrary winds, sent to punish them for omitting the usual sacrifice to the gods. He at last consulted Proteus, who revealed how the wrath of the gods could best be allayed, and how favorable winds could be secured to waft him home.

As for Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks, he returned to Argos only to be murdered by his wife Clytæmnestra and her paramour Ægisthus.

“‘Ægisthus, bent upon my death,
Plotted against me with my guilty wife,
And bade me to his house, and slew me there,
Even at the banquet.’”
Homer (Bryant’s tr.).

Then, mortally afraid lest Orestes, Agamemnon’s son, should avenge his father’s death, Ægisthus prepared to slay him too; but Electra, the boy’s sister, discovering this intention, helped him to escape, and placed him under the fatherly protection of Strophius, King of Phocis, whose son, Pylades, became his inseparable friend. In fact, their devotion to each other was so great, that it has become proverbial in every tongue.

Electra had not forgotten her father’s base murder, although years had elapsed since it occurred; and when Orestes had attained manhood, she bade him come and punish those who had committed the crime. Orestes came, slew Ægisthus and Clytæmnestra, and then, terrified at what he had done, took flight, but only to be pursued by the Furies and Nemesis, goddess of revenge, sent by the gods to punish him for taking justice into his own hands.