Old Greek Stories

Page: 59

"I am not yet strong enough, mother," he said.

"Have patience, my son," said AEthra.

So he went on again with his running and leaping and throwing and lifting; and he practiced wrestling, also, and tamed the wild horses of the plain, and hunted the lions among the mountains; and his strength and swiftness and skill were the wonder of all men, and old Troezen was filled with tales of the deeds of the boy Theseus. Yet when he tried again on his seventeenth birthday, he could not move the great flat stone that lay near the plane tree on the mountain side.

"Have patience, my son," again said AEthra; but this time the tears were standing in her eyes.

So he went back again to his exercising; and he learned to wield the sword and the battle ax and to throw tremendous weights and to carry tremendous burdens. And men said that since the days of Hercules there was never so great strength in one body. Then, when he was a year older, he climbed the mountain yet another time with his mother, and he stooped and took hold of the stone, and it yielded to his touch; and, lo, when he had lifted it quite out of the ground, he found underneath it a sword of bronze and sandals of gold, and these he gave to his mother.

"Tell me now about my father," he said.



AEthra knew that the time had come for which she had waited so long, and she buckled the sword to his belt and fastened the sandals upon his feet. Then she told him who his father was, and why he had left them in Troezen, ands how he had said that when the lad was strong enough to lift the great stone, he must take the sword and sandals and go and seek him in Athens.

Theseus was glad when he heard this, and his proud eyes flashed with eagerness as he said: "I am ready, mother; and I will set out for Athens this very day."

Then they walked down the mountain together and told King Pittheus what had happened, and showed him the sword and the sandals. But the old man shook his head sadly and tried to dissuade Theseus from going.

"How can you go to Athens in these lawless times?" he said. "The sea is full of pirates. In fact, no ship from Troezen has sailed across the Saronic Sea since your kingly father went home to the help of his people, eighteen years ago."

Then, finding that this only made Theseus the more determined, he said: "But if you must go, I will have a new ship built for you, stanch and stout and fast sailing; and fifty of the bravest young men in Troezen shall go with you; and mayhap with fair winds and fearless hearts you shall escape the pirates and reach Athens in safety."

"Which is the most perilous way?" asked Theseus-"to go by ship or to make the journey on foot round the great bend of land?"