The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies

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Ques. Who was Amphi´on?

Ans. He was the son of Anti´ope and Jupiter. He obtained the kingdom of Thebes, which he governed conjointly with his twin-brother Zethus. Amphi´on cultivated the art of music; he was instructed by Mercury, who gave him a golden lyre with which he is said to have built the walls of Thebes, causing the stones to move and place themselves in order, as he played. Amphi´on married Ni´obe, and became the father of seven sons and as many daughters, who were all slain by Apollo and Diana. He is said to have killed himself in despair. The legend of the building of the walls of Thebes, is probably an allusion to the old Dorian and Æolian custom of erecting the walls of cities with public solemnities, and to the sound of musical instruments.




Ques. Who was Atlas?

Ans. He was a king of Mauritania, the son of the Titan Jap´etus, and the nymph Clym´ene; he was, therefore, brother of Prometheus. He is represented as sustaining the heavens on his shoulders. Atlas had been warned that he would suffer much from a son of Jupiter. When Perseus was returning from the conquest of the Gorgons, he arrived in the dominions of Atlas, of whom he claimed the rites of hospitality, declaring at the same time his divine parentage. The king, remembering the prophecy with regard to Jupiter’s offspring, repulsed him harshly. This conduct brought upon Atlas the calamity which he feared; for Perseus, indignant at so much inhumanity, showed him the head of Medusa, and changed him into the mountain which bears his name.

The fable, that Atlas sustained the heavens on his shoulders, has been explained by saying he [130] was an astronomer, who observed the motion of the heavenly bodies from the summit of a lofty mountain, to which his name was afterwards given.

Ques. Who were the children of Atlas?

Ans. By his wife Peli´one, he had seven daughters, who were called Pleiades; they were changed into stars, and form the beautiful group which we admire in the constellation Taurus. Atlas had seven other daughters who underwent the same transformation; they were placed in the head of Taurus, and were called by the Greeks, Hyades, from a word which signifies “to rain.”

The Hesperides, or Western Maidens, were three celebrated nymphs, concerning whose parentage ancient writers are not agreed. Hesiod speaks of them as the daughters of Night, but according to others, they were the offspring of Atlas and Hesperis. At the bridal of Jupiter and Juno, the different deities brought nuptial presents; among these, Juno most admired some branches loaded with golden apples, which were offered by the goddess of the Earth. She begged the Earth to plant them in her gardens, which extended as far as Mount Atlas. The Hesperides were directed to watch these trees, but they proved unfaithful, and frequently plucked the apples for themselves. Juno sent, therefore, a terrible dragon to guard the precious fruit. This monster was the offspring of Typhon, and had a hundred heads, so that it never slept.



Ques. Who was Ori´on?

Ans. His origin is doubtful; according to some writers, he was the son of Neptune and Eury´ale. The accounts given of his exploits and of his death are many and contradictory. According to one legend, Ori´on was a famous hunter; having boasted that he could subdue the wildest and fiercest animals, the earth was displeased at his presumption, and sent a scorpion to sting him. The hero was changed, after death, into a constellation which is known as the most resplendent group in the winter heavens.


Ques. Who was Perseus?

Ans. He was the son of Jupiter, and of Danaë, the only daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos. This prince had been warned by an oracle that his daughter would have a son, who was destined to deprive him of life. Acrisius resolved, in consequence, that Danaë should never marry. To guard against the possibility of such an event, he imprisoned her in a brazen apartment which he had diligently guarded.

Jupiter had seen and admired the young princess, and he now found means to visit her by transforming himself into a shower of gold, which we may take for a poetical manner of saying that he bribed the guards. When Acrisius discovered [132] that his precautions had been of no avail, he enclosed Danaë and her infant son in a coffer, which he cast into the sea. The coffer was carried by the waves to the island of Seriphus, where a fisherman named Dictys drew it ashore in his net. He was much surprised at beholding Danaë and the infant Perseus, and brought them immediately to Polydectes, who reigned in that island. Polydectes received the strangers kindly, but when Perseus was grown, he strove to effect his destruction by engaging him in an expedition against the Gorgons. This adventure has been already related, in the article on Minerva. It was followed by the rescue of Androm´eda, which is too remarkable to be omitted.

Ques. Who was Androm´eda?

Ans. She was the daughter of Cepheus, king of Ethiopia. Her mother, Cassiopeia, had boasted that she was fairer than Juno and the Nereides. The offended nymphs complained to Neptune, who sent a sea-monster to ravage the dominions of Cepheus. The people, in their distress, had recourse to the oracle of Jupiter Ammon, but the god declared that the country could not be freed from this calamity, unless Androm´eda were given up to be devoured by the monster. Cepheus consented to the sacrifice, and his daughter was chained to a rock by the sea-shore, where she was abandoned to her fate.

Perseus, returning through the air, from his conquest of the Gorgons, saw the unhappy maiden [133] and resolved to rescue her. He asked her hand as his only reward, which Cepheus readily promised.

When the sea-monster appeared, Perseus showed him the head of Medusa, and changed him into a rock, which was long famous upon that coast. Phineus, who had been betrothed to Androm´eda, opposed her marriage with Perseus, and changed the nuptial solemnities into a scene of discord and bloodshed.

The head of the Gorgon again procured for Perseus an easy victory. He warned his friends to avert their eyes, and displayed the frightful trophy, upon which Phineus and his followers were changed into stone, in the very attitudes in which they fought.

Polydectes, who had persecuted Danaë in the absence of Perseus, was punished in the same manner. The hero afterwards fulfilled the oracle by killing his grandfather, whom he did not know, by an accidental blow of a quoit.

Perseus, Androm´eda, Cepheus, and Cassiopeia were changed, after death, into the constellations which bear their names.




Ques. Who was Beller´ophon?

Ans. This hero was the son of Glaucus, and grandson of Sis´yphus, king of Corinth. Having accidentally killed one of his relatives, he fled, as was usual in such circumstances, and was received with much kindness by Prœtus, king of Argos. Beller´ophon had not, however, been long at Argos when the king was prejudiced by a calumnious report, and became jealous of the young hero. As he was ashamed to violate the rights of hospitality, he despatched Beller´ophon to his father-in-law, Joba´tes, king of the Lycians, with sealed letters in which he requested that prince to put the bearer to death. Joba´tes was also unwilling to imbrue his hands openly in the blood of a guest; he resolved, therefore, to effect his purpose indirectly, by engaging Beller´ophon in dangerous enterprises.

The first task imposed upon the hero, was the slaying of the Chimæra, a fabulous monster which we have already described, and which was then [135] spreading terror through the kingdom of Lycia. Before proceeding to the combat, Beller´ophon took counsel of the soothsayer, Polyi´dus, who advised him to procure, if possible, the winged steed Peg´asus. For this purpose, he directed him to pass the night in the temple of Minerva. There the goddess visited him in a dream, and gave him a golden bridle, instructing him as to its use. On awaking, Beller´ophon found the bridle in his hand, and repaired immediately to the spring at which Peg´asus was accustomed to drink. The winged steed submitted to the golden bit, Beller´ophon mounted him fearlessly, and was borne through the air to his combat with the Chimæra. When he returned to Joba´tes with the spoils of the monster, the king sent him to fight against certain people, called Sol´ymi, whom he had much difficulty in subduing. He next defeated the Amazons, a nation of female warriors, and destroyed a party of Lycians, who laid an ambush for him on his return. Joba´tes perceived from these exploits that his guest was indeed allied to the gods, and abandoned all further designs against him. He even gave him his daughter in marriage, and declared him his successor in the kingdom.

Beller´ophon might have ended his days in happiness and prosperity, had he not irritated the gods by his pride. He conceived the project of mounting to heaven on his winged steed; Jupiter was indignant, and sent a gad-fly which stung the horse, and caused him to throw the presumptuous [136] rider. Beller´ophon, lame and blind from his fall, wandered in lonely places, avoiding the haunts of men, until death came to relieve his misery.