Bulfinch's Mythology The Age of Fable

Page: 117

In The Love of Alcestis, one of the poems in The Earthly Paradise, Mr. Morris thus tells the story of the taming of the lions:

  "—— Rising up no more delay he made,
  But took the staff and gained the palace-door
  Where stood the beasts, whose mingled whine and roar
  Had wrought his dream; there two and two they stood,
  Thinking, it might be, of the tangled wood,
  And all the joys of the food-hiding trees.
  But harmless as their painted images
  'Neath some dread spell; then, leaping up, he took
  The reins in hand and the bossed leather shook,
  And no delay the conquered beasts durst make,
  But drew, not silent; and folk just awake,
  When he went by as though a god they saw,
  Fell on their knees, and maidens come to draw
  Fresh water from the fount, sank trembling down,
  And silence held the babbling, wakened town."


The poems and histories of legendary Greece often relate, as has been seen, to women and their lives. Antigone was as bright an example of filial and sisterly fidelity as was Alcestis of connubial devotion. She was the daughter of OEdipus and Jocasta, who, with all their descendants, were the victims of an unrelenting fate, dooming them to destruction. OEdipus in his madness had torn out his eyes, and was driven forth from his kingdom Thebes, dreaded and abandoned by all men, as an object of divine vengeance. Antigone, his daughter, alone shared his wanderings, and remained with him till he died, and then returned to Thebes.

Her brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, had agreed to share the kingdom between them, and reign alternately year by year. The first year fell to the lot of Eteocles, who, when his time expired, refused to surrender the kingdom to his brother. Polynices fled to Adrastus, king of Argos, who gave him his daughter in marriage, and aided him with an army to enforce his claim to the kingdom. This led to the celebrated expedition of the "Seven against Thebes," which furnished ample materials for the epic and tragic poets of Greece.

Amphiaraus, the brother-in-law of Adrastus, opposed the enterprise, for he was a soothsayer, and knew by his art that no one of the leaders except Adrastus would live to return. But Amphiaraus, on his marriage to Eriphyle, the king's sister, had agreed that whenever he and Adrastus should differ in opinion, the decision should be left to Eriphyle. Polynices, knowing this, gave Eriphyle the collar of Harmonia, and thereby gained her to his interest. This collar or necklace was a present which Vulcan had given to Harmonia on her marriage with Cadmus, and Polynices had taken it with him on his flight from Thebes. Eriphyle could not resist so tempting a bribe, and by her decision the war was resolved on, and Amphiaraus went to his certain fate. He bore his part bravely in the contest, but could not avert his destiny. Pursued by the enemy he fled along the river, when a thunderbolt launched by Jupiter opened the ground, and he, his chariot, and his charioteer, were swallowed up.