The Story of the Greeks
Page: 37In vain he struggled, in vain he called. He could neither wrench himself free nor attract any one's attention. Night came on, and soon the wild beasts of the forest began to creep out of their dens.
They found the captive athlete, and, springing upon him, tore him to pieces, for he could not defend himself, in spite of all his boasted strength.[Pg 83]
Near the statue of Milo of Croton stood that of The-ag´e-nes, another noted athlete, who lived many years after Milo. He too had defeated every rival. He was the winner of many prizes, and all envied him his strength and renown.
One of the men in particular, whom he had defeated in the games, was jealous of him, and of the honors which he had won. This man, instead of trying to overcome these wicked feelings, used to steal daily into the temple to view his rival's statue, and mutter threats and curses against it.
In his anger, he also gave the pedestal an angry shake every night, hoping that some harm would befall the statue. One evening, when this jealous man had jostled the image of Theagenes a little more roughly than usual, the heavy marble toppled and fell, crushing him to death beneath its weight.
When the priests came into the temple the next day, and found the man's dead body under the great statue, they were very much surprised. The judges assembled, as was the custom when a crime of any kind had been committed, to decide what had caused his death.
As it was usual in Greece to hold judgment over lifeless as well as over living things, the statue of Theagenes was brought into court, and accused and found guilty of murder.
The judges then said, that, as the statue had committed a crime, it deserved to be punished, and so they[Pg 84] condemned it to be cast into the sea and drowned. This sentence had scarcely been executed, when a plague broke out in Greece; and when the frightened people consulted an oracle to find out how it could be checked, they learned that it would not cease until the statue of Theagenes had been set up on its pedestal again. The superstitious Greeks believed these words, fished the statue up out of the sea, and placed it again in Olympia. As the plague stopped shortly after this, they all felt sure that it was because they had obeyed the oracle, and they ever after looked upon the statue with great awe.
Although the women and girls were not often allowed to appear in public, or to witness certain of the Olympic games, there were special days held sacred to them, when the girls also strove for prizes.
They too ran races; and it must have been a pretty sight to see all those healthy, happy girls running around the stadium, as the foot-race course was called.
One of these races was called the torch race, for each runner carried a lighted torch in her hand. All were allowed to try to put out each other's light; and the prize was given to the maiden who first reached the goal with her torch aflame, or to the one who kept hers burning longest.