The Student's Mythology A Compendium of Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hindoo, Chinese, Thibetian, Scandinavian, Celtic, Aztec, and Peruvian Mythologies
Page: 27The vindictive spirit of Achil´les knew no repose, even in death. After the fall of Troy, his ghost appeared to the Greeks, and commanded them, with fearful menaces in case of refusal, to sacrifice on his tomb, Polyxena, one of the daughters of Priam. The unhappy maiden was torn from her mother’s arms, and immolated by Pyrrhus, the son of Achil´les. Hec´uba learned soon after the sad fate of her son Polydorus. This young prince, who had been commended by Priam to the care of Polymnestor, king of Thrace, was treacherously murdered by that monarch. The bereaved mother planned a terrible revenge. Promising disclosures with regard to hidden treasures, she induced Polymnestor and his children to visit her in secret. Then, aided by her fellow captives, Hec´uba murdered the young princes and put out the father’s eyes. While endeavoring to escape from the vengeance of the Thracians, she was suddenly transformed into a dog.
Ques. Who was Ulys´ses?
Ans. He was king of Ithaca, and had been, like many other princes of Greece, a suitor of the beautiful Helen. Believing that he had no hope for success among so many competitors, Ulys´ses asked the hand of Penel´ope, daughter of Icarus. His suit was granted; but when he was about to depart with his bride, Icarus was so much grieved, that he tried to persuade Penel´ope to remain with him, and not accompany her husband to Ithaca. Ulys´ses bade her act according to her inclination, saying that she was free to remain, if such was her desire. Penel´ope made no reply, but dropped her veil over her face. Icarus urged her no longer, and when she was gone, he erected a statue to Modesty, on the spot where they parted. When the Grecian princes were called upon to revenge the abduction of Helen, Ulys´ses was unwilling to leave his peaceful kingdom, and sacrifice the happiness he enjoyed in the company of [Pg 157] Penel´ope. Hearing that Palame´des had come to summon him to the field, he pretended to be insane. He yoked a horse and a bull together, and began ploughing the sands of the sea-shore, sowing salt instead of grain. Palame´des caused Telem´achus, the infant son of Ulys´ses, to be laid before the plough, and the manner in which the father hastened to remove the child, convinced every one that his insanity was feigned. He was obliged, therefore, to join the expedition against Troy, but he never forgave Palame´des for having exposed his stratagem. The manner in which Ulys´ses revenged himself is not calculated to give us a very high opinion of the hero. During the siege, he brought forward a false accusation against Palame´des, which he supported so well, that the latter was condemned, and put to death.
Ulys´ses distinguished himself during the war, by his wisdom and prudence in council, and his courage on the field of battle. We have already spoken of the part which he took in carrying off the Palladium of Troy. As a reward for his services, he received the armor of Achil´les, which Ajax had disputed with him.
After the fall of Troy, Ulys´ses embarked with the intention of returning to Greece, but he met with so many extraordinary adventures, that it was only after ten years of peril and hardships, that he was permitted to land upon the shores of Ithaca.
The Odyssey, the second of the two great poems [Pg 158] attributed to Homer, is a history of the wanderings of Ulys´ses. After some adventures of minor importance, the ships of the hero were overtaken by a storm which drove them southward for nine days, and as many nights, until they reached the country of the Lotus-eaters. When the tempest abated, Ulys´ses sent some of his companions on shore. They were kindly entertained by the Lotus-eaters, who regaled them with their own favorite food, the lotus plant. This was of such a nature, that all who partook of it forgot home and friends, and were filled with a sort of indolent contentment, so that they had no other desire than to remain always in that country. Ulys´ses was obliged to have these men dragged away by force, and even then, it was necessary to bind them with ropes to the benches of the ship.