goddesses they not only erected splendid temples and noble statues, but in their honor they held great festivals

and made frequent sacrifices. Every city and town had its special protecting god or goddess, upon whose power it relied for safety. Each household had its gods, to whom, as well as to the souls of their ancestors, parents and children paid religious veneration.

13.The Deeds of the Heroes. The Greeks had myths not merely about the gods but also concerning heroes of olden times. These heroes, they thought, were men like themselves, who had lived and died, but men who possessed wonderful strength and courage and who had done marvelous deeds. In these feats the gods, who loved heroes, had often aided them.

One of their chief heroes was Hercules, the strongest of all men. Unfortunately for him the goddess Juno was his bitter enemy and by her power he was forced to perform twelve gigantic labors, each one of which would have crushed an ordinary man. The labors of Hercules included slaying a huge lion with his hands and destroying a terrible nine-headed water serpent called the Hydra. This monster was difficult to overcome, for every time the hero struck off one of its heads with his club two more heads grew in its place.

Another hero was Theseus. In his day, it was said, the people of Athens were obliged to send every year seven youths and seven maidens to be devoured by a terrible monster living in a place called a "labyrinth." This labyrinth was so craftily built that no one who entered could ever find his way out unaided. But Theseus was beloved by the daughter of the king of that country, and she gave him a sword and a ball of thread which he could unwind as he went along. Thus he slew the monster, escaped from the labyrinth, and returned home to become King of Athens.

Sometimes, it was believed, a whole band of heroes undertook an adventure together. Such an expedition was that of Jason and his companions, who sailed in the stout ship Argo to bring home the "golden fleece.". This wonderful trophy was nailed upon a tree in a far-distant land, and there guarded by a sleepless dragon. Frightful indeed were the perils the brave Argonauts underwent before they at length returned in triumph.

14.The Siege of Troy. But the favorite story of the Hellenes was that told in a wonderful poem, composed, they said, by a blind poet named Homer. If such a man ever lived, surely he was one of the world's greatest poets, for men have never ceased admiring these beautiful verses.

He sang how Paris, the son of Priam, King of Troy, a great city in Asia Minor, stole away the fair Helen, wife of Menelaus, king of the Greek city of Sparta. Then Menelaus called upon all the Greeks to help him win Helen back. Nobly they responded, every city in Greece sending its heroes in their long black ships to share in the war. Foremost among them were the strong Ajax, the clever Ulysses, and the swift Achilles, best warrior of Greece. The commander was Agamemnon, brother of the wronged Menelaus.

But the Trojans were great fighters. Paris, who had caused all the trouble, proved cowardly, but his brother Hector led them with great courage. For nine years the war went on beneath the wails of Troy. But though the heroes on both sides performed wonderful deeds, neither side prevailed. The gods themselves took part in the struggle by aiding their favorites, some helping the Greeks, others helping Hector and his Trojans.

At length Agamemnon, leader of the Greeks, quarreled with Achilles and this brave warrior, retiring to his tent, would no longer fight. Without him the Greeks were defeated, and pursued by the Trojans to their ships. Even these Hector and his stout warriors tried to burn. Seeing his old comrades in such danger, Achilles' best friend, Patroclus, begged that sulky hero to lend him his armor and his followers that he might save the Greeks from destruction. This request Achilles granted, and his friend drove back the Trojans, but was soon afterwards slain by Hector.

Driven by rage at the death of his dear friend, Achilles now rushed forth and, clad in new and wonderful armor made for him by the god Vulcan, carried all before him. At last he and Hector met in single combat beneath the walls of Troy, and the Trojan chief fell before his terrible spear.

With the revenge of Achilles, Homer's great poem ends. Other stories, however, told how Achilles, too, was slain and how at length Troy was taken by a clever trick of Ulysses. The Greeks pretended to sail home, but left behind a great wooden horse which the foolish Trojans dragged inside their city: It proved to be filled with Greek warriors, who at dead of night opened the gates and let in their countrymen, who had now returned. Trov was given over to fire and sword, and Menelaus and the Greeks sailed for home in triumph, bearing Helen with them to be once more Queen of Sparta.

The Greeks never tired of reciting this thrilling story, in which they believed the deeds of their forefathers were set forth.

Almost equal pleasure did they find in another tale which Homer sang, -that of the wanderings of Ulysses. This famous chief thad offended the god Neptune and therefore, when he sailed from Troy, his ship was beaten by storms and for many years he strove in vain to reach his home, the island of Ithaca. Awful perils beset him; his ship and his comrades were lost, but Ulysses, cunning and brave, escaped all danger. In the end he reached Ithaca to find his faithful wife Penelope still waiting his return, and to take vengeance upon those who had tried to win her hand and possess his kingdom. Among all their heroes the Greeks especially loved Ulysses because of his cleverness, a quality which they greatly admired and strove to cultivate in themselves.


The Leading Facts. 1. The first civilized people of Europe were the Greeks. 2. The Greeks have taught all the -world to admire beautiful things. 3. They gave us also the beginnings of most of the subjects now taught in schools and colleges. 4. Greece is a small, mountainous country, every part of which is near the sea. 5. In ancient times the Greeks were brave sailors, and planted colonies on all the neighboring coasts. 6. The Greeks worshiped many gods and goddesses, about whom they told beautiful but curious stories. 7. They had also many stories regarding heroes such as Hercules, Theseus, and Jason. 8. The most famous stories are about the siege of Troy and the wanderings of Ulysses. 9. These are told in two wonderful poems said to have been composed by a blind poet named Homer.

Study Questions. 1. What are some of the things we know which the Greeks did not know? 2. State some things which the Greeks understood better, or cared more for, than we do. 3. Describe Greece. 4. Why do you think the ancient Greeks became sailors? 5. In what places did they plant colonies? 6. Name the chief gods and goddesses of Olympus. 7. How did the Greeks show that their belief in these deities was real? 8. Tell an incident connected with Hercules; Theseus; Jason. 9. Name some of the heroes of the Trojan War. 10. Tell the story of the revenge of Achilles.. 11. How was Troy finally taken? 12. Why did the Greeks especially admire Ulysses?

Suggested Readings. Guerber, The Story of the Greeks, 11-62; Harding, Stories of Greek Gods, Heroes, and Men; Lang, Tales of Troy and Greece, 9-61, 111-129, 159-188; Gale, Achilles and Hector, 13-143; Kingsley, The Heroes, or, Greek Fairy Tales for My Children, "The Argonauts," 87-253; Church, The Story of the Iliad, I-16, 109-155; The Story of the Odyssey, 13-204, 261-307; De Garmo, Tales of Troy for Boys and Girls; Retold from "St. Nicholas": Stories of Classic Myths, 3-68; Buffinch, Age of Fable, or Stories of Gods and Heroes, 1-12, 16 1-170, 178-188, 190-191.

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© 2000 by Lynn Waterman