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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[162] they should take for the punishment of the suitors, and the deliverance of Penel´ope. It was resolved that Telem´achus should proceed to the palace, and mingle with the suitors, as formerly; that Ulys´ses should also go, but in the disguise of a beggar. Such persons were often admitted, in ancient times, to the halls of chieftains and princes, where they entertained the guests with stories of their wanderings, and were regaled with a portion of the viands. On their arrival at the palace, they found the usual scene of riot and festivity. The suitors received Telem´achus with affected joy, although secretly mortified at the failure of their plots against him. As Ulys´ses entered, a dog which lay in the court, half dead with age, raised his head in sudden recognition, fawned upon his old master, and expired. It was Argus, whom Ulys´ses had often led to the chase.

The banquet proceeded, but Telem´achus had much difficulty in dissembling his feelings when the suitors made his father a subject of mockery; and one of them carried his insolence so far as to strike the disguised hero. At length, the time arrived for the contest of skill which was to decide the fate of Penel´ope. Twelve rings were suspended at equal distances, and Telem´achus brought from the armory the mighty bow of Ulys´ses, with its quiver of arrows; taking care, at the same time, to remove all other weapons from the hall.

The first thing to be done, was to bend the bow, in order to attach the string. This Telem´achus [163] tried to do, and was obliged to confess that his strength was unequal to the effort. He passed the bow to one of the suitors, who was compelled to yield it in turn, amid the raillery of his companions. When several had failed in the same manner, Ulys´ses begged that he might be allowed to try his skill. The request was received with shouts of derision, and some would have driven the insolent beggar from the hall. Telem´achus interfered, and remarking, with affected indifference, that they might as well gratify the old man, bade him try. Ulys´ses took the bow, and the suitors were amazed to see him handle the mighty weapon as if it had been a plaything. Their surprise was still greater, when, having adjusted the cord, and chosen an arrow from the quiver, he took such steady aim that the arrow sped unerringly through all the rings; he then exclaimed, “Now for another mark!” and aimed a second shaft at the most insolent of the suitors. He fell dead, and as the others rushed forward, Telem´achus placed himself by his father’s side, with Eumæus and other armed retainers. The suitors, deprived of their weapons, and terrified at the aspect of the injured prince, whom they recognized too late, turned to fly, but Eumæus secured the doors. A desperate struggle ensued, in which all were slain, and Ulys´ses was left master of his palace and his kingdom. The Odyssey concludes with a description of the rejoicings which followed, and the happiness enjoyed by Ulys´ses and Penel´ope after their long separation.




Ques. Who was Orestes?

Ans. He was the son of Agamemnon and Clytemnestra. At the time of his father’s assassination, Orestes, then a child, was saved by his sister Electra, who sent him secretly to their uncle Strophius, king of Phocis. Here he formed a friendship with Pylades, the son of that monarch, which was so true and constant that it passed into a proverb. Orestes was urged by messages from his sister Electra, to avenge the murder of his father, and her counsels were confirmed by the responses of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Orestes, accompanied by his friend Pyl´ades, repaired in disguise to Mycenæ. Here he announced himself to Clytemnestra as a messenger from Strophius, bringing news of the death of her son Orestes. The guilty queen feigned to grieve at these tidings, but Ægisthus made no effort to conceal his satisfaction. Orestes was now seized with horror at the thought of the deed which he was about to commit, but the reproaches of Electra, [165] and the remembrance of his father’s cruel fate, banished every thought of pity, and he slew Clytemnestra and Ægisthus with his own hand. This act, however justified by the guilt of Clytemnestra, and the express command of the gods, was abhorrent to nature, and could not pass unavenged. Orestes was pursued by the Furies, and wandered frantic and despairing from land to land, always accompanied by the faithful Pyl´ades.

The oracle of Apollo was consulted, and the Pythia declared that Orestes would not be delivered until he had visited the Tauric Chersone´sus, and brought from thence to Argos, a certain statue of Diana, from the temple of that goddess. It was the custom at Tauris, to sacrifice all strangers at the altar of Diana; Orestes and Pyl´ades were accordingly seized on their arrival, and carried as victims to the temple. The officiating priestess was no other than Iphigenia, the sister of Orestes, whom Diana had saved when she was about to be immolated at Aulis. Perceiving that the strangers were Greeks, she offered to spare the life of one, on condition that he would be the bearer of a letter to Greece.

This proposal gave rise to a memorable contest of friendship, each desiring to sacrifice himself for the other. Pyl´ades at length yielded to Orestes, and consented to take the letter. His surprise was great on perceiving that it was addressed to Orestes himself; an explanation followed, and Iphigenia resolved to fly from Tauris [166] with her brother. Their plans were so well laid, that they not only succeeded in escaping unobserved, but were also enabled to carry off the statue of Diana, which they brought to Argos.

Orestes reigned many years in Mycenæ, and was married to his cousin Hermi´one, daughter of Menela´us and Helen. Pyl´ades married Electra, the sister of his friend.

The tragic poets add many incidents to the story of Orestes. They say that when pursued by the Furies, he took refuge in the temple of Apollo, at Delphi. By the command of that god, he repaired to Athens, where he was tried by the court of Areop´agus. The judges were divided in their sentiments, but Minerva interfered in behalf of Orestes, and he was acquitted.


Ques. Who was Hector?

Ans. He was the son of Priam and Hec´uba, and the most valiant of all the Trojan chiefs who fought against the Greeks. The Fates had decreed that Troy should not be taken as long as Hector lived. The hero knew that he was destined to fall before the walls of his native city, and that he could at best only postpone the ruin of his country for a little time. Not discouraged by this, he performed prodigies of valor, and slew, with his own hand, Patroclus, the friend of Achil´les. He next went out to meet Achil´les himself, [167] notwithstanding the remonstrances of Priam and Hec´uba, and the tears of his wife Androm´ache. He fell as we have seen, and this event was shortly followed by the overthrow of his father’s kingdom. Hector was not only distinguished as a warrior and a patriot; he was equally admirable as a son, husband, and father; and his character is perhaps the noblest which has been described by any writer of antiquity.

When Troy was taken, Calchas excited much uneasiness among the Greeks, by a prediction, that if Asty´anax, the son of Hector, were permitted to live, he would one day avenge his father’s death, and raise Troy from its ruins. Diligent search was therefore made for the child, who had been concealed by his mother in the recesses of Hector’s tomb. Here he was discovered by Ulys´ses. Disregarding the prayers of the unhappy Androm´ache, the Grecian commanders precipitated the boy from the summit of a lofty tower.