Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

Page: 163

They now hastened on board their vessel, and Odysseus, thinking himself at a safe distance, shouted out his real name and mockingly defied the giant; whereupon Polyphemus seized a huge rock, and, following the direction of the voice, hurled it towards the ship, which narrowly escaped destruction. He then called upon his father Poseidon to avenge him, entreating him to curse Odysseus with a long and tedious voyage, to destroy all his ships and all his companions, and to make his return as late, as unhappy, and as desolate as possible.

Further Adventures.—After sailing about over unknown seas for some time the hero and his followers cast anchor at the island of Æolus, king of the Winds, who welcomed them cordially, and sumptuously entertained them for a whole month.

When they took their leave he gave Odysseus the skin of an ox, into which he had placed all the contrary winds in order to insure to them a safe and speedy voyage, and then, having cautioned him on no account to open it, caused the gentle Zephyrus to blow so that he might waft them to the shores of Greece.

On the evening of the tenth day after their departure they arrived in sight of the watch-fires of Ithaca. But here, unfortunately, Odysseus, being completely wearied [311]out, fell asleep, and his comrades, thinking Æolus had given him a treasure in the bag which he so sedulously guarded, seized this opportunity of opening it, whereupon all the adverse winds rushed out, and drove them back to the Æolian island. This time, however, Æolus did not welcome them as before, but dismissed them with bitter reproaches and upbraidings for their disregard of his injunctions.

After a six days' voyage they at length sighted land. Observing what appeared to be the smoke from a large town, Odysseus despatched a herald, accompanied by two of his comrades, in order to procure provisions. When they arrived in the city they discovered to their consternation that they had set foot in the land of the Læstrygones, a race of fierce and gigantic cannibals, governed by their king Antiphates. The unfortunate herald was seized and killed by the king; but his two companions, who took to flight, succeeded in reaching their ship in safety, and urgently entreated their chief to put to sea without delay.

But Antiphates and his fellow-giants pursued the fugitives to the sea-shore, where they now appeared in large numbers. They seized huge rocks, which they hurled upon the fleet, sinking eleven of the ships with all hands, on board; the vessel under the immediate command of Odysseus being the only one which escaped destruction. In this ship, with his few remaining followers, Odysseus now set sail, but was driven by adverse winds to an island called Ææa.

Circe.—The hero and his companions were in sore need of provisions, but, warned by previous disasters, Odysseus resolved that only a certain number of the ship's crew should be despatched to reconnoitre the country; and on lots being drawn by Odysseus and Eurylochus, it fell to the share of the latter to fill the office of conductor to the little band selected for this purpose.

They soon came to a magnificent marble palace, which was situated in a charming and fertile valley. Here [312]dwelt a beautiful enchantress called Circe, daughter of the sun-god and the sea-nymph Perse. The entrance to her abode was guarded by wolves and lions, who, however, to the great surprise of the strangers, were tame and harmless as lambs. These were, in fact, human beings who, by the wicked arts of the sorceress, had been thus transformed. From within they heard the enchanting voice of the goddess, who was singing a sweet melody as she sat at her work, weaving a web such as immortals alone could produce. She graciously invited them to enter, and all save the prudent and cautious Eurylochus accepted the invitation.