Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 101

The queen of the Amazons whom Theseus espoused is by some called
Hippolyta. That is the name she bears in Shakespeare's Midsummer
Night's Dream, the subject of which is the festivities
attending the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Mrs. Hemans has a poem on the ancient Greek tradition that the "Shade of Theseus" appeared strengthening his countrymen at the battle of Marathon.

Mr. Lewis Morris has a beautiful poem on Helen, in the Epic of
Hades. In these lines Helen describes how she was seized by
Theseus and his friend:

  ——"There came a night
  When I lay longing for my love, and knew
  Sudden the clang of hoofs, the broken doors,
  The clash of swords, the shouts, the groans, the stain
  Of red upon the marble, the fixed gaze
  Of dead and dying eyes, that was the time
  When first I looked on death, and when I woke
  From my deep swoon, I felt the night air cool
  Upon my brow, and the cold stars look down,
  As swift we galloped o'er the darkling plain
  And saw the chill sea-glimpses slowly wake,
  With arms unknown around me. When the dawn
  Broke swift, we panted on the pathless steeps,
  And so by plain and mountain till we came
       to Athens, ——."

Theseus is a semi-historical personage. It is recorded of him that he united the several tribes by whom the territory of Attica was then possessed into one state, of which Athens was the capital. In commemoration of this important event, he instituted the festival of Panathenaea, in honor of Minerva, the patron deity of Athens. This festival differed from the other Grecian games chiefly in two particulars. It was peculiar to the Athenians, and its chief feature was a solemn procession in which the Peplus or sacred robe of Minerva was carried to the Parthenon, and suspended before the statue of the goddess. The Peplus was covered with embroidery, worked by select virgins of the noblest families in Athens. The procession consisted of persons of all ages and both sexes. The old men carried olive- branches in their hands, and the young men bore arms. The young women carried baskets on their heads, containing the sacred utensils, cakes, and all things necessary for the sacrifices. The procession formed the subject of the bas-reliefs by Phidias which embellished the outside of the temple of the Parthenon. A considerable portion of these sculptures is now in the British museum among those known as the "Elgin marbles."


We may mention here the other celebrated national games of the Greeks. The first and most distinguished were the Olympic, founded, it was said , by Jupiter himself. They were celebrated at Olympia in Elis. Vast numbers of spectators flocked to them from every part of Greece, and from Asia, Africa, and Sicily. They were repeated every fifth year in midsummer, and continued five days. They gave rise to the custom of reckoning time and dating events by Olympiads. The first Olympiad is generally considered as corresponding with the year 776 B.C. The Pythian games were celebrated in the vicinity of Delphi, the Isthmian on the Corinthian isthmus, the Nemean at Nemea, a city of Argolis.