The Story of the Greeks
Page: 34There was apparently no way out of this pit except by the opening at the top, through which a bit of sky could be seen; and Aristomenes soon found that the sides were so steep that it was impossible to reach the opening. He therefore went off to one side, away from the heap of dead, and sat down on a stone in that cold, damp, and dark place. There he drew his cloak over his head to wait patiently until he should starve to death. Three days had thus been spent in this place, and his strength was already fast failing, when he suddenly felt a warm breath on his hand.
He softly drew aside his cloak, and, now that his eyes were used to the darkness, he dimly saw a fox prowling around him, and sniffing his clothes suspiciously.
Gently wrapping his cloak around his hand to protect it from the fox's sharp teeth, Aristomenes caught the animal firmly by the tail. Then, in spite of all its efforts to get away, he held it tight; and when it started off, he followed its lead.
As he had shrewdly suspected, the fox knew a way out of the horrible place. All at once it slipped into a hole; and Aristomenes, seeing a little light at the end[Pg 77] of this, let the fox go. With the help of a sharp stone, he soon made the fox's hole big enough to crawl through, and quickly made his way back to the Messenians.
You can imagine how happy they were to see the beloved chief whom they thought dead, and how tenderly they cared for him until he was well and strong again. They never tired of hearing the story of his fall, imprisonment, and escape; and when he proposed to lead them once more against the Spartans, they gladly promised to help him.
In spite of all Aristomenes' courage, however, Messenia finally fell into the hands of the Spartans, and the Second Messenian War came to an end. All the people who wished to escape slavery or death left their native country, and went to Italy or Sicily, where they founded Greek colonies.
The cities that they built soon became very powerful, and one of them they named Mes-si´na in honor of their native land. This city still stands, as you will see by looking at your maps; and near it is the strait of the same name, which separates Sicily from Italy.
Northwest of Sparta, in the country called E´lis and in the city of O-lym´pi-a, rose a beautiful temple for the worship of Ju´pi-ter (or Zeus), the principal god of the Greeks. This temple was said to have been built[Pg 78] by Hercules, the great hero from whom, as you remember, all the Heraclidæ claimed to be descended.
According to the legends, Hercules was a son of the god Jupiter, and had ordered that a great festival should be held here every four years in honor of his divine father.