web counter











THE most ancient name in Attic archaeology, as far as our means of information reach, is that of Erechtheus, who is mentioned both in the Catalogue of the Iliad and in a brief allusion of the Odyssey. Born of the Earth, he is brought up by the goddess Athene, adopted by her as her ward, and installed in her temple at Athens, where the Athenians offer to him annual sacrifices. The Athenians are styled in the Iliad, “the people of Erechtheus”. This is the most ancient testimony concerning Erechtheus, exhibiting him as a divine or heroic, certainly a superhuman person, and identifying him with the primitive germination (if I may use a term, the Grecian equivalent of which would have pleased an Athenian ear) of Attic man. And he was recognized in this same character, even at the close of the fourth century before the Christian era, by the Butadae, one of the most ancient and important Gentes at Athens, who boasted of him as their original ancestor: the genealogy of the great Athenian orator Lycurgus, a member of this family, drawn up by his son Abron, and painted on a public tablet in the Erechtheion, contained as its first and highest name, Erechtheus, son of Hephaestos and the Earth. In the Erechtheion, Erechtheus was worshipped conjointly with Athene: he was identified with the god Poseidon, and bore the denomination of Poseidon Erechtheus: one of the family of the Butadae, chosen among themselves by lot, enjoyed the privilege and performed the functions of his hereditary priest. Herodotus also assigns the same earth-born origin to Erechtheus but Pindar, the old poem called the Danais, Euripides and Apollodorus—all name Erichthonius, son of Hephaestos and the Earth, as the being who was thus adopted and made the temple-companion of Athene, while Apollodorus in another place identifies Erichthonius with Poseidon. The Homeric scholiast treated Erechtheus and Erichthonius as the same person under two names: and since, in regard to such mythical persons, there exists no other test of identity of the subject except perfect similarity of the attributes, this seems the reasonable conclusion.

We may presume, from the testimony of Homer, that the first and oldest conception of Athens and its sacred acropolis places it under the special protection, and represents it as the settlement and favorite abode of Athene, jointly with Poseidon; the latter being the inferior, though the chosen companion of the former, and therefore exchanging his divine appellation for the cognomen of Erechtheus. But the country called Attica, which, during the historical ages, forms one social and political aggregate with Athens, was originally distributed into many independent demes or cantons, and included, besides, various religious clans or hereditary sects (if the expression may be permitted); that is, a multitude of persons not necessarily living together in the same locality, but bound together by an hereditary communion of sacred rites, and claiming privileges, as well as performing obligations, founded upon the traditional authority of divine persons for whom they had a common veneration. Even down to the beginning of the Peloponnesian war, the demots of the various Attic demes, though long since embodied in the larger political union of Attica, and having no wish for separation, still retained the recollection of their original political autonomy. They lived in their own separate localities, resorted habitually to their own temples, and visited Athens only occasionally for private or political business, or for the great public festivals. Each of these aggregates, political as well as religious, had its own eponymous god or hero, with a genealogy more or less extended, and a train of mythical incidents more or less copious, attached to his name, according to the fancy of the local exegetes and poets. The eponymous heroes Marathon, Dekelus, Kollinus, or Phlyus, had each their own title to worship, and their own position as themes of legendary narrative, independent of Erechtheus, or Poseidon, or Athena, the patrons of the acropolis common to all of them.

But neither the archaeology of Attica, nor that of its various component fractions, was much dwelt upon by the ancient epic poets of Greece. Theseus is noticed both in the Iliad and Odyssey as having carried off from Crete Ariadne, the daughter of Minos — thus commencing that connection between the Cretan and Athenian legends which we afterwards find so largely amplified—and the sons of Theseus take part in the Trojan war. The chief collectors and narrators of the Attic myths were, the prose logographers, authors of the many compositions called Atthides, or works on Attic archaeology. These writers—Hellanikus, the contemporary of Herodotus, is the earliest composer of an Atthis expressly named, though Pherekydes also touched upon the Attic fables — these writers, I say, interwove into one chronological series the legends which either greatly occupied their own fancy, or commanded the most general reverence among their countrymen. In this way the religious and political legends of Eleusis, a town originally independent of Athens, but incorporated with it before the historical age, were worked into one continuous sequence along with those of the Erechtheids. In this way, Kekrops, the eponymous hero of the portion of Attica called Kekropia, came to be placed in the mythical chronology at a higher point even than the primitive god or hero Erechtheus.


Ogyges is said to have reigned in Attica 1020 years before the first Olympiad, or 1796 years BC. In his time happened the deluge of Deucalion, which destroyed most of the inhabitants of the country: after along interval, Kekrops, an indigenous person, half man and half serpent, is given to us by Apollodorus as the first king of the country: he bestowed upon the land, which had before been called Akte, the name of Kekropia. In his day there ensued a dispute between Athene and Poseidon respecting the possession of the acropolis at Athens, which each of them coveted. First, Poseidon struck the rock with his trident, and produced the well of salt water which existed in it, called the Erechtheis: next came Athene, who planted the sacred olive-tree ever afterwards seen and venerated in the portion of Erechtheion called the cell of Pandrosus. The twelve gods decided the dispute; and Kekrops having testified before them that Athene had rendered this inestimable service, they adjudged the spot to her in preference to Poseidon. Both the ancient olive-tree and the well-produced by Poseidon were seen on the acropolis, in the temple consecrated jointly to Athene and Erechtheus, throughout the historical ages. Poseidon, as a mark of his wrath for the preference given to Athens, inundated the Thriasian plain with water

During the reign of Kekrops, Attica was laid waste by Carian pirates on the coast, and by invasions of the Aonian inhabitants from Boeotia. Kekrops distributed the inhabitants of Attica into twelve local sections—Kekropia, Tetrapolis, Epakria, Dekeleia, Eleusis, Aphidna, Thorikus, Brauron, Kytherus, Sphettus, Kephisius, Phalerus. Wishing to ascertain the number of inhabitants, he commanded each man to cast a single stone into a general heap: the number of stones was counted, and it was found that there were twenty thousand.

Kekrops married the daughter of Aktaeus, who (according to Pausanias’s version) had been king of the country before him, and had called it by the name of Aktaea. By her he had three daughters, Aglaurus, Erse and Pandrosus, and a son, Erysichthon.

Erysichthon died without issue, and Kranaus succeeded him, another autochthonous person and another eponymous,—for the name Kranai was an old denomination of the inhabitants of Attica. Kranaus was dethroned by Amphiktyon, by some called an autochthonous man; by others, a son of Deucalion Amphityon in his turn was expelled by Erichthonius, son of Hephaestus and the Earth,—the same person apparently as Erechtheus, but inserted by Apollodorus at this point of the series. Erichthonius, the pupil and favored companion of Athene, placed in the acropolis the original Palladium or wooden statue of that goddess, said to have dropped from heaven: he was moreover the first to celebrate the festival of the Panatherinae. He married the nymph Pasithea, and had for his son and successor Pandion. Erichthonius was the first person who taught the art of breaking in horses to the yoke, and who drove a chariot and four.

In the time of Pandion, who succeeded to Erichthonius, Dionysus and Demeter both came into Attica: the latter was received by Keleos at Eleusis. Pandion married the nymph Zeuxippe, and had twin sons, Erechtheus and Butes, and two daughters, Prokne and Philomela. The two latter are the subjects of a memorable and well-known legend. Pandion having received aid in repelling the Thebans from Tereus, king of Thrace, gave him his daughter Prokne in marriage, by whom he had a son, Itys. The beautiful Philomela, going to visit her sister, inspired the barbarous Thracian with an irresistible passion: he violated her person, confined her in a distant pastoral hut, and pretended that she was dead, cutting out her tongue to prevent her from revealing the truth. After a long interval, Philomela found means to acquaint her sister of the cruel deed which had been perpetrated; she wove into a garment words describing her melancholy condition, and dispatched it by a trusty messenger. Prokne, overwhelmed with sorrow and anger, took advantage of the free egress enjoyed by women during the Bacchanalian festival to go and release her sister: the two sisters then revenged themselves upon Tereus by killing the boy Itys, and serving him up for his father to eat: after the meal had been finished, the horrid truth was revealed to him. Tereus snatched a hatchet to put Prokne to death: she fled, along with Philomela, and all the three were changed into birds —Prokne became a swallow, Philomela a nightingale, and Tereus an hoopoe. This tale, so popular with the poets, and so illustrative of the general character of Grecian legend, is not less remarkable in another point of view—that the great historian Thucydides seems to allude to it as an historical fact, not however directly mentioning the final metamorphosis.

After the death of Pandion, Erechtheus succeeded to the kingdom, and his brother, Butes, became priest of Poseidon Erichthonius, a function which his descendants ever afterwards exercised, the Butadae or Eteobutadae. Erechtheus seems to appear in three characters in the fabulous history of Athens—as a god, Poseidon Erechtheus—as a hero, Erechtheus, son of the Earth—and now, as a king, son of Pandion: so much did the ideas of divine and human rule become confounded and blended together in the imagination of the Greeks in reviewing their early times.


The daughters of Erechtheus were not less celebrated in Athenian legend than those of Pandion. Prokris, one of them, is among the heroines seen by Odysseus in Hades: she became the wife of Kephalus, son of Deiones, and lived in the Attic dome of Thorikus. Kephalus tried her fidelity by pretending that he was going away for a long period; but shortly returned, disguising his person and bringing with him a splendid necklace. He presented himself to Prokris without being recognized, and succeeded in triumphing over her chastity. Having accomplished this object, he revealed to her his true character: she earnestly besought his forgiveness, and prevailed upon him to grant it. Nevertheless he became shortly afterwards the unintentional author of her death: for he was fond of hunting, and staid out a long time on his excursions, so that Prokris suspected him of visiting some rival. She determined to watch him by concealing herself in a thicket near the place of his midday repose; and when Kephalus implored the presence of Nephele, (a cloud) to protect him from the sun's rays, she suddenly started from her hiding-place: Kephalus, thus disturbed, cast his hunting-spear unknowingly into the thicket and slew his wife. Erechtheus interred her with great magnificence, and Kephalus was tried for the act before the court of Areopagus, which condemned him to exile.

Kreusa, another daughter of Erechtheus, seduced by Apollo, becomes the mother of Ion, whom she exposes immediately after his birth in the cave north of the acropolis, concealing the fact from everyone. Apollo prevails upon Hermes to convey the new-born child to Delphi, where he is brought up as a servant of the temple, without knowing his parents. Kreusa marries Xuthus, son of Eolus, but continuing childless, she goes with Xuthus to the Delphian oracle to inquire for a remedy. The god presents to them Ion, and desires them to adopt him as their son: their son Achaeus is afterwards born to them, and Ion and Achaeus become the eponyms of the Ionians and Achaeans.

Oreithyia, the third daughter of Erechtheus, was stolen away by the god Boreas while amusing herself on the banks of the Ilissus, and carried to his residence in Thrace. The two sons of this marriage, Zetes and Kalais, were born with wings: they took part in the Argonautic expedition, and engaged in the purrsuit of the Harpie: they were slain at Tenos by Heracles. Cleopatra, the daughter of Boreas and Oreithyia, was married to Phineus, and had two sons, Plexippus and Pandion; but Phineus afterwards espoused a second wife, Idaea, the daughter of Dardanus, who, detesting the two sons of the former bed, accused them falsely of attempting her chastity, and persuaded Phineus in his wrath to put out the eyes of both. For this cruel proceeding he was punished by the Argonauts in the course of their voyage.

On more than one occasion the Athenians derived, or at least believed themselves to have derived, important benefits from this marriage of Boreas with the daughter of their primeval hero: one inestimable service, rendered at a juncture highly critical for Grecian independence, deserves to be specified. At the time a of the invasion of Greece by Xerxes, the Grecian fleet was assembled at Chalcis and Artemision in Euboea, awaiting the approach of the Persian force, so overwhelming in its numbers as well by sea as on land. The Persian fleet had reached the coast of Magnesia and the south-eastern corner of Thessaly without any material damage, when the Athenians were instructed by an oracle “to invoke the aid of their son-in-law”. Understanding the advice to point to Boreas, they supplicated his aid and that of Oreithyia, most earnestly, as well by prayer as by sacrifice, and the event corresponded to their wishes. A furious north-easterly wind immediately arose, and continued for three days to afflict the Persian fleet as it lay on an unprotected coast: the number of ships driven ashore, both vessels of war and of provision, was immense, and the injury done to the armament was never thoroughly repaired. Such was the powerful succor which the Athenians derived, at a time of their utmost need, from their son-in-law Boreas; and their gratitude was shown by consecrating to him a new temple on the banks of the Ilissus.

The three remaining daughters of Erechtheus—he had six in all—were in Athenian legend yet more venerated than their sisters, on account of having voluntarily devoted themselves to death for the safety of their country. Eumolpus of Eleusis was the son of Poseidon and the eponymous hero of the sacred gens called the Eumolpids, in whom the principal functions, appertaining to the mysterious rites of Demeter at Eleusis, were vested by hereditary privilege: he made war upon Erechtheus and the Athenians, with the aid of a body of Thracian allies; indeed it appears that the legends of Athens, originally foreign and unfriendly to those of Eleusis, represented him as having been himself a Thracian born and an immigrant into Attica. Respecting Eumolpus however and his parentage, the discrepancies much exceed even the measure of license usual in the legendary genealogies, and some critics, both ancient and modern, have sought to reconcile these contradictions by the usual stratagem of supposing two or three different persons of the same name. Even Pausanias, so familiar with this class of unsworn witnesses, complains of the want of native Eleusinian genealogists, and of the extreme license of fiction in which other authors had indulged.


In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, the most ancient testimony before us,—composed, to all appearance, earlier than the complete incorporation of Eleusis with Athens,—Eumolpus appears (to repeat briefly what has been stated in a previous chapter) as one of the native chiefs or princes of Eleusis, along with Triptolemus, Diokles, Polyxeinus and Dolichus; Keleos is the king, or principal among these chiefs, the son or lineal descendant of the eponymous Eleusis himself. To these chiefs, and to the three daughters of Keleos, the goddess Demeter comes in her sorrow for the loss of her daughter Persephone; being hospitably entertained by Keleos she reveals her true character, commands that a temple shall be built to her at Eleusis, and prescribes to them the rites according to which they are to worship her. Such seems to have been the ancient story of the Eleusinians respecting their own religious antiquities; Keleos, with Metaneira his wife, and the other chiefs here mentioned, were worshipped at Eleusis, and from thence transferred to Athens as local gods or heroes. Eleusis became incorporated with Athens, apparently not very long before the time of Solon; and the Eleusinian worship of Demeter was then received into the great religious solemnities of the Athenian state, to which it owes its remarkable subsequent extension and commanding influence. In the Atticized worship of the Eleusinian Demeter, the Eumolpids and the Kerykes were the principal hereditary functionaries: Eumolpus, the eponym of this great family, came thus to play the principal part in the Athenian legendary version of the war between Athens and Eleusis. An oracle had pronounced that Athens could only be rescued from his attack by the death of the three daughters of Erechtheus; their generous patriotism consented to the sacrifice, and their father put them to death. He then went forth confidently to the battle, totally vanquished the enemy, and killed Eumolpus with his own hand. Erechtheus was worshipped as a god, and his daughters as goddesses, at Athens. Their names and their exalted devotion were cited along with those of the warriors of Marathon, in the public assembly of Athens, by orators who sought to arouse the languid patriot, or to denounce the cowardly deserter; and the people listened both to one and the other with analogous feelings of grateful veneration, as well as with equally unsuspecting faith in the matter of fact.

Though Erechtheus gained the victory over Eumolpus, yet the story represents Poseidon as having put an end to the life and reign of Erechtheus, who was (it seems) slain in the battle. He was succeeded by his son Kekrops II, and the latter again by his son Pandion two names unmarked by any incidents, and which appear to be mere duplication of the former Kekrops and Pandion, placed there by the genealogizers for the purpose of filling up what seemed to them a chronological chasm.

Apollodorus passes at once from Erechtheus to his son Kekrops II, then to Pandion II, next to the four sons of the latter, Egeus, Pallas, Mins and Lykus. But the tragedians here insert the story of Xuthus, Kreusa and Ion; the latter being the son of Creusa by Apollo, but given by the god to Xuthus, and adopted by the latter as his own. Ion becomes the successor of Erechtheus, and his sons (Teleon, Hoples, Argades and Aigikores) become the eponyms of the four ancient tribes of Athens, which subsisted until the revolution of Kleisthenes. Ion himself is the eponym of the Ionic race both in Asia, in Europe, and in the Aegean islands: Dorus and Achaeus are the sons of Kreusa by Xuthus, so that Ion is distinguished from both of them by being of divine parentage. According to the story given by Philochorus, Ion rendered such essential service in rescuing the Athenians from the attack of the Thracians under Eumolpus, that he was afterwards made king of the country, and distributed all the inhabitants into four tribes or castes, corresponding to different modes of life, — soldiers, husbandmen, goatherds, and artisans. And it seems that the legend explanatory of the origin of the festival Boedromia, originally important enough to furnish a name to one of the Athenian months, was attached to the aid thus rendered by Io.


We pass from Ion to persons of far greater mythical dignity and interest,—Egeus and his son Theseus.

Pandion had four sons, Egeus, Nisus, Lykus, and Pallas, between whom he divided his dominions. Nisus received the territory of Megaris, which had been under the sway of Pandion, and there founded the seaport of Nistea. Lykus was made king of the eastern coast, but a dispute afterwards ensued, and he quitted the country altogether, to establish himself on the southern coast of Asia Minor among the Termilae, to whom he gave the name of Lykians. Egeus, as the eldest of the four, became king of Athens; but Pallas received a portion both of the southwestern coast and the interior, and he as well as his children appear as frequent enemies both to Egeus and to Theseus. Pallas is the eponym of the deme Pallene, and the stories respecting him and his sons seem to be connected with old and standing feuds among the different demes of Attica, originally independent communities. These feuds penetrated into the legend, and explain the story which we find that Egeus and Theseus were not genuine Erechtheids, the former being denominated a suppositious child to Pandion.

Egeus has little importance in the mythical history except as the father of Theseus: it may even be doubted whether his name is anything more than a mere cognomen of the god Poseidon, who was (as we are told) the real father of this great Attic Heracles. As I pretend only to give a very brief outline of the general territory of Grecian legend, I cannot permit myself to recount in detail the chivalrous career of Theseus, who is found both in the Kalydonian boar-hunt and in the Argonautic expedition —his personal and victorious encounters with the robbers Siunis, Procrustes, Periphetes, Sciron and others — his valuable service in ridding his country of the Krommyonian sow and the Maratonian bull—his conquest of the Minotaur in Crete, and his escape from the dangers of the labyrinth by the aid of Ariadne, whom he subsequently carries off and abandons—his many amorous adventures, and his expeditions both against the Amazons and into the under-world along with Peirithous.

Thucydides delineates the character of Theseus as a man who combined sagacity with political power, and who conferred upon his country the inestimable benefit of uniting all the separate and self-governing demes of Attica into one common political society. From the well-earned reverence attached to the assertion of Thucydides, it has been customary to reason upon this assertion as if it were historically authentic, and to treat the romantic attributes which we find in Plutarch and Diodorus as if they were fiction superinduced upon this basis of fact. Such a view of the case is in my judgment erroneous. The athletic and amorous knight-errant is the old version of the character—the profound and long-sighted politician is a subsequent correction, introduced indeed by men of superior mind, but destitute of historical warranty, and arising out of their desire to find reasons of their own for concurring in the veneration which the general public paid more easily and heartily to their national hero. Theseus, in the Iliad and Odyssey, fights with the Lapithae against the Centaurs : Theseus, in the Hesiodic poems, is misguided by his passion for the beautiful Egle, daughter of Panopeus: and the Theseus described in Plutarch’s biography is in great part a continuation and expansion of these same or similar attributes, mingled with many local legends, explaining, like the Fasti of Ovid, or the lost Aitia of Callimachus, the original genesis of prevalent religious and social customs. Plutarch has doubtless greatly softened down and modified the adventures which he found in the Attic logographers as well as in the poetical epics called Theseis. For in his preface to the life of Theseus, after having emphatically declared that he is about to transcend the boundary both of the known and the knowable, but that the temptation of comparing the founder of Athens with the founder of Rome is irresistible, he concludes with the following remarkable words: “I pray that this fabulous matter may be so far obedient to my endeavors as to receive, when purified by reason, the aspect of history: in those cases where it haughtily scorns plausibility and will admit no alliance with what is probable, I shall beg for indulgent hearers, willing to receive antique narrative in a mild spirit”. We see here that Plutarch sat down, not to recount the old fables as he found them, but to purify them by reason and to impart to them the aspect of history. We have to thank him for having retained, after this purification, so much of what is romantic and marvelous; but we may be sure that the sources from which he borrowed were more romantic and marvelous still. It was the tendency of the enlightened men of Athens, from the days of Solon downwards, to refine and politicize the character of Thesuas : even Peisistratus expunged from one of the Hesiodic poems the line which described the violent passion of the hero for the fair Egle : and the tragic poets found it more congenial to the feelings of their audience to exhibit him as a dignified and liberal sovereign, rather than as an adventurous single-handed fighter. But the logographers and the Alexandrine poets remained more faithful to the old fables. The story of Hekale, the hospitable old woman who received and blessed Theseus when he went against the Marathonian bull, and whom he found dead when he came back to recount the news of his success, was treated by Callimachus : and Virgil must have had his mind full of the unrefined legends when he numbered this Attic Heracles among the unhappy sufferers condemned to endless penance in the under-world.

Two however among the Theseian fables cannot be dismissed without some special notice,—the war against the Amazons, and the expedition against Crete. The former strikingly illustrates the facility as well as the tenacity of Grecian legendary faith; the latter embraces the story of Daedalus and Minos, two of the most eminent among Grecian ante-historical personages.


The Amazons, daughters of Ares and Harmonia, are both early creations and frequent reproductions of the ancient epic—which was indeed, we may generally remark, largely occupied both with the exploits and sufferings of women, or heroines, the wives and daughters of the Grecian heroes—and which recognized in Pallas Athene the finished type of an irresistible female warrior. A nation of courageous, hardy and indefatigable women, dwelling apart from men, permitting only a short temporary intercourse for the purpose of renovating their numbers, and burning out their right breast with a view of enabling themselves to draw the bow freely,—this was at once a general type stimulating to the fancy of the poet and a theme eminently popular with his hearers. Nor was it at all repugnant to the faith of the latter—who had no recorded facts to guide them, and no other standard of credibility as to the past except such poetical narratives themselves — to conceive communities of Amazons as having actually existed in anterior time. Accordingly we find these warlike females constantly reappearing in the ancient poems, and universally accepted as past realities. In the Iliad, when Priam wishes to illustrate emphatically the most numerous host in which he ever found himself included, he tells us that it was assembled in Phrygia, on the banks of the Sangarius, for the purpose of resisting the formidable Amazons. When Bellerophon is to be employed on a deadly and perilous undertaking, by those who indirectly wish to procure his death, he is dispatched against the Amazons. In the Ethiopis of Arktinus, describing the post-Homeric war of Troy, Penthesileia, queen of the Amazons, appears as the most effective ally of the besieged city, and as the most formidable enemy of the Greeks, succumbing only to the invincible might of Achilles. The Argonautic heroes find the Amazons on the river Thermadon, in their expedition along the southern coast of the Euxine. To the same spot Heracles goes to attack them, in the performance of the ninth labor imposed upon him by Eurystheus, for the purpose of procuring the girdle of the Amazonian queen, Hippolyte; and we are told that they had not yet recovered from the losses sustained in this severe aggression when Theseus also assaulted and defeated them, carrying off their queen, Antiope. This injury they avenged by invading Attica,—an undertaking (as Plutarch justly observes) "neither trifling nor feminine," especially if according to the statement of Hellanikus, they crossed the Cimmerian Bosporus on the winter ice, beginning their march from the Asiatic side of the Pallus Maeotis. They overcame all the resistances and difficulties of this prodigious march, and penetrated even into Athens itself, where the final battle, hard-fought and at one time doubtful, by which Theseus crushed them, was fought—in the very heart of the city.

Attic antiquaries confidently pointed out the exact position of the two contending armies: the left wing of the Amazons rested upon the spot occupied by the commemorative monument called the Amazoneion; the right wing touched the Pnyx, the place in which the public assemblies of the Athenian democracy were afterwards held. The details and fluctuations of the combat, as well as the final triumph and consequent truce, were recounted by these authors with as complete faith and as much circumstantiality as those of the battle of Plataea by Herodotus. The sepulchral edifice called the Amazoneion, the tomb or pillar of Antiope near the western gate of the city—the spot called the Horkomosion near the temple of Theseus—even the hill of Areiopagus itself, and the sacrifices which it was customary to offer to the Amazons at the periodical festival of the Theseia—were all so many religious mementos of this victory; which was moreover a favorite subject of art both with the sculptor and the painter, at Athens as well as in other parts of Greece.

No portion of the ante-historical epic appears to have been more deeply worked into the national mind of Greece than this invasion and defeat of the Amazons. It was not only a constant theme of the logographers, but was also familiarly appealed to by the popular orators along with Marathon and Salamis, among those antique exploits of which their fellow-citizens might justly be proud. It formed a part of the retrospective faith of Herodotus, Lysias, Plato and Isocrates, and the exact date of the event was settled by the chronologists. Nor did the Athenians stand alone in such a belief. Throughout many other regions of Greece, both European and Asiatic, traditions and memorials of the Amazons were found. At Megara, at Troezen, in Laconia near Cape Taenarus, at Chaeronea in Boeotia, and in more than one part of Thessaly, sepulchers or monuments of the Amazons were preserved. The warlike women (it was said), on their way to Attica, had not traversed those countries, without leaving some evidences of their passage.

Amongst the Asiatic Greeks the supposed traces of the Amazons were yet more numerous. Their proper territory was asserted to be the town and plain of Themiskyra, near the Grecian colony of Amisus, on the river Thermodon, a region called after their name by Roman historians and geographers. But they were believed to have conquered and occupied in early times a much wider range of territory, extending even to the coast of Ionia and Eolis. Ephesus, Smyrna, Kyme, Myrina, Paphos and Sinope were affirmed to have been founded and denominated by them. Some authors placed them in Libya or Ethiopia; and when the Poetic Greeks on the north-western shore of the Euxine had become acquainted with the hardy and daring character of the Sarmatian maidens,—who were obliged to have slain each an enemy in battle as the condition of obtaining a husband, and who artificially prevented the growth of the right breast during childhood,—they could imagine no more satisfactory mode of accounting for such attributes than by deducing the Sarmatians from a colony of vagrant Amazons, expelled by the Grecian heroes from their territory on the Thermodon. Pindar ascribed the first establishment of the memorable temple of Artemis at Ephesus to the Amazons. And Pausanias explains in part the preeminence which this temple enjoyed over every other in Greece by the widely diffused renown of its female founders, respecting whom he observes (with perfect truth, if we admit the historical character of the old epic), that women possess an unparalleled force of resolution in resisting adverse events, since the Amazons, after having been first roughly handled by Heracles and then completely defeated by Theseus, could yet find courage to play so conspicuous a part in the defense of Troy against the Grecian besiegers.

It is thus that in what is called early Grecian history, as the Greeks themselves looked back upon it, the Amazons were among the most prominent and undisputed personages. Nor will the circumstance appear wonderful if we reflect, that the belief in them was first established at a time when the Grecian mind was fed with nothing else but religious legend and epic poetry, and that the incidents of the supposed past, as received from these sources, were addressed to their faith and feelings, without being required to adapt themselves to any canons of credibility drawn from present experience. But the time came when the historians of Alexander the Great audaciously abused this ancient credence. Amongst other tales calculated to exalt the dignity of that monarch, they affirmed that after his conquest and subjugation of the Persian empire, he had been visited in Hyrcania by Thalestris, queen of the Amazons, who admiring his warlike prowess, was anxious to be enabled to return into her own country in a condition to produce offspring of a breed so invincible. But the Greeks had now been accustomed for a century and a half to historical and philosophical criticism —and that uninquiring faith, which was readily accorded to the wonders of the past, could no longer be invoked for them when tendered as present reality. For the fable of the Amazons was here reproduced in its naked simplicity, without being rationalized or painted over with historical colors.

Some literary men indeed, among whom were Demetrius of Skepsis, and the Mitylenaean Theophanes, the companion of Pompey in his expeditions, still continued their belief both in Amazons present and Amazons past; and when it becomes notorious that at least there were none such on the banks of the Thermodon, these authors supposed them to have migrated from their original locality, and to have settled in the unvisited regions north of Mount Caucasus. Strabo, on the contrary, feeling that the grounds of disbelief applied with equal force to the ancient stories and to the modern, rejected both the one and the other. But he remarks at the same time, not without some surprise, that it was usual with most persons to adopt a middle course,—to retain the Amazons as historical phenomena of the remote past, but to disallow them as realities of the present, and to maintain that the breed had died out. The accomplished intellect of Julius Cesar did not scruple to acknowledge them as having once conquered and held in dominion a large portion of Asia; and the compromise between early, traditional, and religious faith on the one hand, and established habits of critical research on the other, adopted by the historian Arrian, deserves to be transcribed in his own words, as illustrating strikingly the powerful sway of the old legends even over the most positive-minded Greeks:—“Neither Aristobulus nor Ptolemy (he observes), nor any other competent witness, has recounted this visit of the Amazons and their queen to Alexander: nor does it seem to me that the race of the Amazons was preserved down to that time, nor have they been noticed either by any one before Alexander, or by Xenophon, though he mentions both the Phasians and the Kolchians, and the other barbarous nations which the Greeks saw both before and after their arrival at Trapezus, in which marches they must have met with the Amazons, if the latter had been still in existence. Yet it is incredible to me that this race of women, celebrated as they have been by authors so many and so commanding, should never have existed at all. The story tells of Heracles, that he set out from Greece and brought back with him the girdle of their queen Hippolyte; also of Theseus and the Athenians, that they were the first who defeated in battle and repelled these women in their invasion of Europe; and the combat of the Athenians with the Amazons has been painted by Mikon, not less than that between the Athenians and the Persians. Moreover Herodotus has spoken in many places of these women, and those Athenian orators who have pronounced panegyrics on the citizens slain in battle, have dwelt upon the victory over the Amazons as among the most memorable of Athenian exploits. If the satrap of Media sent any equestrian women at all to Alexander, I think that they must have come from some of the neighboring tribes, practiced in riding and equipped in the costume generally called Amazonian”.

There cannot be a more striking evidence of the indelible force with which these ancient legends were worked into the national faith and feelings of the Greeks, than these remarks of a judicious historian upon the fable of the Amazons. Probably if any plausible mode of rationalizing it, and of transforming it into a quasi-political event, had been offered to Arrian, he would have been better pleased to adopt such a middle term, and would have rested comfortably in the supposition that he believed the legend in its true meaning, while his less inquiring countrymen were imposed upon by the exaggerations of poets. But as the story was presented to him plain end unvarnished, either for acceptance or rejection, his feelings as a patriot and a religious man prevented him from applying to the past such tests of credibility as his untrammeled reason acknowledged to be paramount in regard to the present. When we see moreover how much his belief was strengthened, and all tendency to skepticism shut out by the familiarity of his eye and memory with sculptured or painted Amazons—we may calculate the irresistible force of this sensible demonstration on the convictions of the unlettered public, at once more deeply retentive of passive impressions, and unaccustomed to the countervailing habit of rational investigation into evidence. Had the march of an army of warlike women, from the Thermodon or the Tanais into the heart of Attica, been recounted to Arrian as an incident belonging to the time of Alexander the Great, he would have rejected it no less emphatically than Strabo; but cast back as it was into an undefined past, it took rank among the hallowed traditions of divine or heroic antiquity, — gratifying to extol by rhetoric, but repulsive to scrutinize in argument.





To understand the adventures of Theseus in Crete, it will be necessary to touch briefly upon Mines and the Cretan heroics genealogy.

Minos and Rhadamanthus, according to Homer, are sons of Zeus, by Europe, daughter of the widely-celebrated Phoenix, born in Crete. Minos is the father of Deucalion, whose son Idomeneus, in conjunction with of Zeus, conducts the Cretan troops to the host of Agamemnon before Troy. Minos is ruler of Knossos, and familiar companion of the great Zeus. He is spoken of as holding guardianship in Crete not necessarily meaning the whole of the island : he is farther decorated with a golden scepter, and constituted judge over the dead in the under-world to settle their disputes, in which function Odysseus finds him —this however by a passage of comparatively late interpolation into the Odyssey. He also had a daughter named Ariadne, for whom the artist Daedalus fabricated in the town of Knossos the representation of a complicated dance, and who was ultimately carried off by Theseus: she died in the island of Dia, deserted by Theseus and betrayed by Dionysos to the fatal wrath of Artemis. Rhadamanthus seems to approach to Minos both in judicial functions and posthumous dignity. He is conveyed expressly to Euboea, by the semi-divine sea-carriers the Phaeacians, to inspect the gigantic corpse of the earth-born Tityus the longest voyage they ever undertook. He is moreover after death promoted to an abode of undisturbed bliss in the Elysian plain at the extremity of the earth.

According to poets later than Homer, Europe is brought over by Zeus from Phoenicia to Crete, where she bears to him three sons, Mines, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. The latter leaves Crete and settles in Lycia, the population of which, as well as that of many other portions of Asia Minor, is connected by various mythical genealogies with Crete, though the Sarpedon of the Iliad has no connection with Crete, and is not the son of Europe. Sarpedon having become king of Lycia, was favored by his father, Zeus, with permission to live for three generations. At the same time the youthful Miletus, a favorite of Sarpedon, quitted Crete, and established the city which bore his name on the coast of Asia Minor. Rhadamanthus became sovereign of and lawgiver among the islands in the Aegean: he subsequently went to Boeotia, where he married the widowed Alcmene, mother of Heracles.

Europe finds in Crete a king Asterius, who marries her and adopts her children by Zeus: this Asterius is the son of Kres, the eponym of the island, or (according to another genealogy by which it was attempted to be made out that Mines was of Arian race) he was a son of the daughter of Kres by Tektamus, the son of Dorus, who had migrated into the island from Greece.

Minos married Pasiphae, daughter of the god Helios and Perseis, by whom he had Katreus, Deucalion, Glaukus, Androgeos,—names marked in the legendary narrative,— together with several daughters, among whom were Ariadne and Phaedra. He offended Poseidon by neglecting to fulfill a solemnly-made vow, and the displeased god afflicted his wife Pasiphae with a monstrous passion for a bull. The great artist Daedalus, son of Eupalamus, a fugitive from Athens, became the confidant of this amour, from which sprang the Minotaur, a creature half man and half bull. This Minotaur was imprisoned by Minos in the labyrinth, an inextricable enclosure constructed by Dedalus for that express purpose, by order of Minos.

Minos acquired great nautical power, and expelled the Carian inhabitants from many of the islands of the Aegean, which he placed under the government of his sons on the footing of tributaries. He undertook several expeditions against various places on the coast—one against Nisus, the son of Pandion, king of Megara, who had amongst the hair of his head one peculiar lock of a purple color: an oracle had pronounced that his life and reign would never be in danger so long as he preserved this precious lock. The city would have remained inexpugnable, if Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, had not conceived a violent passion for Minos. While her father was asleep, she cut off the lock on which his safety hung, so that the Cretan king soon became victorious. Instead of performing his promise to carry Scylla away with him to Crete, he cast her from the stern of his vessel into the sea: both Scylla and Nisus were changed into birds.

Androgeos, son of Minos having displayed such rare qualities as to vanquish all his competitors at the Panathenaic festival in Athens, was sent by Egeus the Athenian king to contend against the bull of Marathon,—an enterprise in which he perished, and Minos made war upon Athens to avenge his death. He was for a long time unable to take the city: at length he prayed to his father Zeus to aid him in obtaining redress from the Athenians, and Zeus sent upon them pestilence and famine. In vain did they endeavor to avert these calamities by offering up as propitiatory sacrifices the four daughters of Hyacinthus. Their sufferings still continued, and the oracle directed them to submit to any terms which Minos might exact. He required that they should send to Crete a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens, periodically, to be devoured by the Minotaur,—offered to him in a labyrinth constructed by Dadalus, including countless different passages, out of which no person could escape.

Every ninth year this offering was to be dispatched. The more common story was, that the youths and maidens thus destined to destruction were selected by lot—but the logographer Hellanikus said that Minos came to Athens and chose them himself. The third period for dispatching the victims had arrived, and Athens was plunged in the deepest affliction, when Theseus determined to devote himself as one of them, and either to terminate the sanguinary tribute or to perish. He prayed to Poseidon for help, and the Delphian god assured him that Aphrodite would sustain and extricate him. On arriving at Knossos he was fortunate enough to captivate the affections of Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, who supplied him with a sword and a duo of thread. With the former he contrived to kill the Minotaur, the latter served to guide his footsteps in escaping from the labyrinth. Having accomplished this triumph, he left Crete with his ship and companions unhurt, carrying off Ariadne, whom however he soon abandoned on the island of Naxos. On his way borne to Athens, he stopped at Delos, where he offered a grateful sacrifice to Apollo for his escape, and danced along with the young men and maidens whom he had rescued from the Minotaur, a dance called the Geranus, imitated from the twists and convolutions of the Cretan labyrinth. It had been concerted with his father Egeus, that if he succeeded in his enterprise against the Minotaur, he should on his return hoist white sails in his ship in place of the black canvas which she habitually carried when employed on this mournful embassy. But Theseus forgot to make the change of sails; so that Egeus, seeing the ship return with her equipment of mourning unaltered, was impressed with the sorrowful conviction that his son had perished, and cast himself into the sea. The ship which made this voyage was preserved by the Athenians with careful solicitude, being constantly repaired with new timbers, down to the time of the Phalerian Demetrius: every year she was sent from Athens to Delos with a solemn sacrifice and specially-nominated envoys. The priest of Apollo decked her stern with garlands before she quitted the port, and during the time which elapsed until her return, the city was understood to abstain from all acts carrying with them public impurity, so that it was unlawful to put to death any person even under formal sentence by the dikastery. This accidental circumstance becomes especially memorable, from its having postponed for thirty days the death of the lamented Socrates.

The legend respecting Theseus, and his heroic rescue of the seven noble youths and maidens from the jaws of the Minotaur, was thus both commemorated and certified to the Athenian public, by the annual holy ceremony and by the unquestioned identity of the vessel employed in it. There were indeed many varieties in the mode of narrating the incident; and some of the Attic logographers tried to rationalize the fable by transforming the Minotaur into a general or a powerful athlete, named Taurus, whom Theseus vanquished in Crete. But this altered version never overbore the old fanciful character of the tale as maintained by the poets. A great number of other religious ceremonies and customs, as well as several chapels or sacred enclosures in honor of different heroes, were connected with different acts and special ordinances of Theseus. To every Athenian who took part in the festivals of the Oschophoria, the Pyanepsia, or the Kybernesia, the name of this great hero was familiar, and the motives for offering to him solemn worship at his own special festival of the Theseia, became evident and impressive.

The same Athenian legends which ennobled and decorated the character of Theseus, painted in repulsive colors the attributes of Minos; and the traits of the old Homeric comrade of Zeus were buried under those of the conqueror and oppressor of Athens. His history like that of the other legendary personages of Greece, consists almost entirely of a string of family romances and tragedies. His son Katreus, father of Aerope, wife of Atreus, was apprized by an oracle that he would perish by the hand of one of his own children: he accordingly sent them out of the island, and Althemenes, his son, established himself in Rhodes. Katreus having become old, and fancying that he had outlived the warning of the oracle, went over to Rhodes to see Althemenes. In an accidental dispute which arose between his attendants and the islanders, Althemenes inadvertently took part and slew his father without knowing him. Glaukus, the youngest son of Minos, pursuing a mouse, fell into a reservoir of honey and was drowned. No one knew what had become of him, and his father was inconsolable; at length the Argeian Polyeidus, a prophet wonderfully endowed by the gods, both discovered the boy and restored him to life, to the exceeding joy of Minos.

The latter at last found his death in an eager attempt to overtake and punish Thedalus. This great artist, the eponymous hero of the Attic gens or deme called the Dedalids, and the descendant of Erechtheus through Metion, had been tried at the tribunal of Areiopagus and banished for killing his nephew Talos, whose rapidly improving skill excited his envy. He took refuge in Crete, where he acquired the confidence of Minos, and was employed (as has been already mentioned) in constructing the labyrinth; subsequently however he fell under the displeasure of Minos, and was confined as a close prisoner in the inextricable windings of his own edifice. His unrivalled skill and resource however did not forsake him. He manufactured wings both for himself and for his son Ikarus, with which they flew over the sea: the father arrived safely in Sicily at Kamikus, the residence of the Sikulian king Kokalus, but the son, disdaining paternal example and admonition, flew so high that his wings were melted by the sun and he fell into the sea, which from him was called the Ikarian sea.

Dedalus remained for some time in Sicily, leaving in various parts of the island many prodigious evidences of mechanical and architectural skill. At length Minos bent upon regaining possession of his person, undertook an expedition against Kokalus with a numerous fleet and army. Kokalus affecting readiness to deliver up the fugitive, and receiving Minos with apparent friendship, ordered a bath to be prepared for him by his three daughters, who, eager to protect Dedalus at any price, drowned the Cretan king in the bath with hot water. Many of the Cretans who had accompanied him remained in Sicily and founded the town of Minoa, which they denominated after him. But not long afterwards Zeus roused all the inhabitants of Crete (except the towns of Polichna and Presus) to undertake with one accord an expedition against Kamikus for the purpose of avenging the death of Minos. They besieged Kamikus in vain for five years, until at last famine compelled them to return. On their way along the coast of Italy, in the Gulf of Tarentum, a terrible storm destroyed their fleet and obliged them to settle permanently in the country: they founded Hyria with other cities, and became Messapian Iapygians. Other settlers, for the most part Greeks, immigrated into Crete to the spots which this movement had left vacant, and in the second generation after Minos occurred the Trojan war. The departed Minos was exceedingly offended with the Cretans for cooperating in avenging the injury to Menelaus, since the Greeks generally had lent no aid to the Cretans in their expedition against the town of Kamikus. He sent upon Crete, after the return of Idomeneus from Troy, such terrible visitations of famine and pestilence, that the population again died out or expatriated, and was again renovated by fresh immigrations. The intolerable suffering thus brought upon the Cretans by the anger of Minos, for having cooperated in the general Grecian aid to Menelaus, was urged by them to the Greeks as the reason why they could take no part in resisting the invasion of Xerxes; and it is even pretended that they were advised and encouraged to adopt this ground of excuse by the Delphian oracle.

Such is the Minos of the poets and logographers, with his legendary and romantic attributes: the familiar comrade of the great Zeus,—the judge among the dead in Hades,—the husband of Pasiphae, daughter of the god Helios,—the father of the goddess Ariadne, as well as of Androgeos, who perishes and is worshipped at Athens, and of the boy Glaukus, who is miraculously restored to life by a prophet,—the person beloved by Scylla, and the amorous pursuer of the nymph or goddess Britomartis,—the proprietor of the Labyrinth and of the Minotaur, and the exacter of a periodical tribute of youths and maidens from Athens as food for this monster,—lastly, the follower of the fugitive artist Dedalus to Kamikus, and the victim of the three ill-disposed daughters of Kokalus in a bath. With this strongly-marked portrait, the Minos of Thucydides and Aristotle has scarcely anything in common except the name. He is the first to acquire Thalassocracy, or command of the Aegean sea: he expels the Carian inhabitants from the Cyclades islands, and sends thither fresh colonists under his own sons; he puts down piracy, in order that he may receive his tribute regularly; lastly, he attempts to conquer Sicily, but fails in the enterprise and perishes. Here we have conjectures, derived from the analogy of the Athenian maritime empire in the historical times, substituted in place of the fabulous incidents, and attached to the name of Minos.

In the fable, a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens is paid to him periodically by the Athenians; in the historicized narrative this character of a tribute-collector is preserved, but the tribute is money collected from dependent islands; and Aristotle points out to us how conveniently Crete is situated to exercise empire over the Aegean. The expedition against Kamikus, instead of being directed to the recovery of the fugitive Dedalus, is an attempt on the part of the great thalassocrat to conquer Sicily. Herodotus gives us generally the same view of the character of Minos as a great maritime king, but his notice of the expedition against Kamicus includes the mention of Dedalus as the intended object of it. Ephorus, while he described Minos as a commanding and comprehensive lawgiver imposing his commands under the sanction of Zeus, represented him as the imitator of an earlier lawgiver named Rhadamanthus, and also as an immigrant into Crete from the Eolic-Mount Ida, along with the priests or sacred companions of Zeus called the Ideai Dactyli. Aristotle too points him out as the author of the Syssitia, or public meals common in Crete as well as at Sparta,—other divergences in a new direction from the spirit of the old fables.

The contradictory attributes ascribed to Minos, together with the perplexities experienced by those who wished to introduce a regular chronological arrangement into these legendary events, has led both in ancient and in modern times to the supposition of two kings named Minos, one the grandson of the other,—Minos I, the son of Zeus, lawgiver and judge,—Minos II, the thalassocrat,—a gratuitous conjecture, which, without solving the problem required, only adds one to the numerous artifices employed for imparting the semblance of history to the disparate matter of legend. The Cretans were at all times, from Homer downward, expert and practiced seamen. But that they were ever united under one government, or ever exercised maritime dominion in the Aegean is a fact which we are neither able to affirm nor to deny. The Odyssey, in so far as it justifies any inference at all, points against such a supposition, since it recognizes a great diversity both of inhabitants and of languages in the island, and designates Minos as king specially of Knossos: it refutes still more positively the idea that Minos put down piracy, which the Homeric Cretans as well as others continue to practice without scruple.

Herodotus, though he in some places speaks of Minos as a person historically cognizable, yet in one passage severs him pointedly from the generation of man. The Samian despot “Polycrates (he tells us) was the first person who aspired to nautical dominion, excepting Mineos of Knossos, and others before him (if any such there ever were) who may have ruled the sea; but Polycrates is the first of that which is called the generation of man who aspired with much chance of success to govern Ionia and the islands of the Aegean”. Here we find it manifestly intimated that Minos did not belong to the generation of man, and the tale given by the historian respecting the tremendous calamities which the wrath of the departed Mineos inflicted on Crete confirms the impression. The king of Knossos is a god or a hero, but not a man; he belongs to legend, not to history. He is the son as well as the familiar companion of Zeus; he marries the daughter of Helios, and Ariadne is numbered among his offspring. To this superhuman person are ascribed the oldest and most revered institutions of the island, religious and political, together with a period of supposed ante-historical dominion. That there is much of Cretan religious ideas and practice embodied in the fables concerning Minos can hardly be doubted: nor is it improbable that the tale of the youths and maidens sent from Athens may be based in some expiatory offerings ordered to a Cretan divinity. The orgiastic worship of Zeus, solemnized by the armed priests with impassioned motions and violent excitement, was of ancient date in that island, as well as the connection with the worship of Apollo both at Delphi and at Delos. To analyze the fables and to elicit from them any trustworthy particular facts, appears to me a fruitless attempt. The religious recollections, the romantic invention, and the items of matter of fact, if any such there be, must forever remain indissolubly amalgamated as the poet originally blended them, for the amusement or edification of his auditors. Hoeck, in his instructive and learned collection of facts respecting ancient Crete, construes the mythical genealogy of Minos to denote a combination of the orgiastic worship of Zeus, indigenous among the Eteokretes, with the worship of the moon imported from Phoenicia, and signified by the names Europe, Pasiphae, and Ariadne. This is specious as a conjecture, but I do not venture to speak of it in terms of greater confidence.

From the connection of religious worship and legendary tales between Crete and various parts of Asia Minor,—the Troad, the coast of Miletus and Lycia, especially between Mount Ida in Crete and Mount Ida in Elis—it seems reasonable to infer an ethnographical kindred or relationship between the inhabitants anterior to the period of Hellenic occupation. The tales of Cretan settlement at Minoa and Engyon on the south-western coast of Sicily, and in Iapygia on the Gulf of Tarentum, conduct us to a similar presumption, though the want of evidence forbids our tracing it farther. In the time of Herodotus, the Eteokretes, or aboriginal inhabitants of the island, were confined to Polichna and Presus; but in earlier times, prior to the encroachments of the Hellenes, they had occupied the larger portion, if not the whole of the island. Mines was originally their hero, subsequently adopted by the immigrant Hellenes,—at least Herodotus considers him as barbarian, not Hellenic.





THE ship Argo was the theme of many songs during the oldest periods of the Grecian epic, even earlier than the Odyssey. The king Aetes, from whom she is departing, the hero Jason, who commands her, and the goddess Here, who watches over him, enabling the Argo to traverse distances and to escape dangers which no ship had ever before encountered, are all circumstances briefly glanced at by Odysseus in his narrative to Alkinous. Moreover, Euneus, the son of Jason and Hypsipyle. governs Lemnos during the siege of Troy by Agamemnon, and carries on a friendly traffic with the Grecian camp, purchasing from them their Trojan prisoners.

The legend of Halus in Achaia Phthiotis, respecting the religious solemnities connected with the family of Athamas and Phryxus (related in a previous chapter), is also interwoven with the voyage of the Argonauts; and both the legend and the solemnities seem evidently of great antiquity. We know further, that the adventures of the Argo were narrated not only by Hesiod and in the Hesiodic poems, but also by Eumelus and the author of the Naupactian verses — by the latter seemingly at considerable length. But these poems are unfortunately lost, nor have we any means of determining what the original story was; for the narrative, as we have it, borrowed from later sources, is enlarged by local tales from the subsequent Greek colonies—Kyzikus, Herakleia, Sinope, and others.

Jason, commanded by Pelias to depart in quest of the golden fleece belonging to the speaking ram which had carried away Phryxus and Helle, was encouraged by the oracle to invite the noblest youth of Greece to his aid, and fifty of the most distinguished amongst them obeyed the call. Heracles, Theseus, Telamon and Peleus, Castor and Pollux, Idas and Lynkeus—Zete and Kalias, the winged sons of Boreas— Meleager, Amphiaraus, Kepheus, Laertes, Autolykus, Menoetius, Aktor, Erginus, Euphemus, Ankaeus, Poeas, Periklymenus, Augeas, Eurytus, Admetus, Akastus, Kaeneus, Euryalus, Pencleos and Leitus, Askalaphus and Ialmenus, were among them. Argus the son of Phryxus, directed by the promptings of Athene, built the ship, inserting in the prow a piece of timber from the celebrated oak of Dodona, which was endued with the faculty of speech: Tiphys was the steersman, Idmon (the son of Apollo) and Mopsus accompanied them as prophets, while Orpheus came to amuse their weariness and reconcile their quarrels with his harp.

First they touched at the island of Lemnos, in which at that time there were no men; for the women, infuriated by jealousy and ill-treatment, had put to death their fathers, husbands and brothers. The Argonauts, after some difficulty, were received with friendship, and even admitted into the greatest intimacy. They staid some months, and the subsequent population of the island was the fruit of their visit. Hypsipyle, the queen of the island, bore to Jason two sons.

They then proceeded onward along the coast of Thrace, up the Hellespont, to the southern coast of the Propontis, inhabited by the Doliones and their king Kyzikus. Here they were kindly entertained, but after their departure were driven back to the same spot by a storm; and as they landed in the dark, the inhabitants did not know them. A battle took place, in which the chief, Kyzikus, was killed by Jason; whereby much grief was occasioned as soon as the real facts became known. After Kyzikus had been interred with every demonstration of mourning and solemnity, the Argonauts proceeded along the coast of Ilysia. In this part of the voyage they left Heracles behind. For Hylas, his favorite youthful companion, had been stolen away by the nymphs of a fountain, and Heracles, wandering about in search of him, neglected to return. At last he sorrowfully retired, exacting hostages from the inhabitants of the neighboring town of Kius that they would persist in the search.

They next stopped in the country of the Bebrykians, where the boxing contest took place between the king Amykus and the Argonaut Pollux: they then proceeded onward to Bithynia, the residence of the blind prophet Phineus. His blindness had been inflicted by Poseidon as a punishment for having communicated to Phryxus the way to Colchis. The choice had been allowed to him between death and blindness, and he had preferred the latter. He was also tormented by the harpies, winged monsters who came down from the clouds whenever his table was set, snatched the food from his lips and imparted to it a foul and unapproachable odor. In the midst of this misery, he hailed the Argonauts as his deliverers—his prophetic powers having enabled him to foresee their coming. The meal being prepared for him, the harpies approached as usual, but Zetes and Kalias, the winged sons of Boreas, drove them away and pursued them. They put forth all their speed, and prayed to Zeus to be enabled to overtake the monsters; when Hermes appeared and directed them to desist, the harpies being forbidden further to molest Phineus, and retiring again to their native cavern in Crete.

Phineus, grateful for the relief afforded to him by the Argonauts, forewarned them of the dangers of their voyage and of the precautions necessary for their safety; and through his suggestions they were enabled to pass through the terrific rocks called Symplegades. These were two rocks which alternately opened and shut, with a swift and violent collision, so that it was difficult even for a bird to fly through during the short interval. When the Argo arrived at the dangerous spot, Euphemus let loose a dove which flew through and just escaped with the loss of a few feathers of her tail. This was a signal to the Argonauts, according to the prediction of Phineus, that they might attempt the passage with confidence. Accordingly they rowed with all their might, and passed safely through: the closing rocks, held for a moment asunder by the powerful arms of Athene, just crushed the ornaments at the stern of their vessel. It had been decreed by the gods, that so soon as any ship once got through, the passage should forever afterwards be safe and easy to all. The rocks became fixed in their separate places, and never again closed.

After again halting on the coast of the Maryandinians, where their steersman Tiphys died, as well as in the country of the Amazons, and after picking up the sons of Phryxus, who had been cast away by Poseidon in their attempt to return from Colchis to Greece, they arrived in safety at the river Phasis and the residence of Aetes. In passing by Mount Caucasus, they saw the eagle which gnawed the liver of Prometheus nailed to the rock, and heard the groans of the sufferer himself. The sons of Phryxus were cordially welcomed by their mother Chalciope. Application was made to Aetes, that he would grant to the Argonauts, heroes of divine parentage and sent forth by the mandate of the gods, possession of the golden fleece: their aid in return was proffered to him against any or all of his enemies. But the king was wroth, and peremptorily refused, except upon conditions which seemed impracticable. Hephaestus had given him two ferocious and untamable bulls, with brazen feet, which breathed fire from their nostrils: Jason was invited, as a proof both of his illustrious descent and of the sanction of the gods to his voyage, to harness these animals to the yoke, so as to plough a large field and sow it with dragon’s teeth. Perilous as the condition was, each one of the heroes volunteered to make the attempt. Idmon especially encouraged Jason to undertake it and the goddesses Here and Aphrodite made straight the way for him. Medea, the daughter of Aetes and Eidyia, having seen the youthful hero in his interview with her father, had conceived towards him a passion which disposed her to employ every means for his salvation and success. She had received from Hekate preeminent magical powers, and she prepared for Jason the powerful Prometheian unguent, extracted from an herb which had grown where the blood of Prometheus dropped. The body of Jason having been thus premedicated, became invulnerable either by fire or by warlike weapons. He undertook the enterprise, yoked the bulls without suffering injury, and ploughed the field: when he had sown the dragon’s teeth, armed men sprung out of the furrows. But he had been forewarned by Medea to cast a vast rock into the midst of them, upon which they began to fight with each other, so that he was easily enabled to subdue them all.

The task prescribed had thus been triumphantly performed. Yet Aetes not only refused to hand over the golden fleece, but even took measures for secretly destroying the Argonauts and burning their vessel. He designed to murder them during the night after a festal banquet; but Aphrodite, watchful for the safety of Jason, inspired the Kolchian king at the critical moment with an irresistible inclination for his nuptial bed. While he slept, the wise Idmon counseled the Argonauts to make their escape, and Medea agreed to accompany them. She lulled to sleep by a magic potion the dragon who guarded the golden fleece, placed that much-desired prize on board the vessel, and accompanied Jason with his companions in their flight, carrying along with her the young Apsyrtus, her brother.

Aetes, profoundly exasperated at the flight of the Argonauts with his daughter, assembled his forces forthwith, and put to sea in pursuit of them. So energetic were his efforts that he shortly overtook the retreating vessel, when the Argonauts again owed their safety to the stratagem of Medea. She killed her brother Apsyrtus, cut his body in pieces and strewed the limbs round about in the sea. Aetes on reaching the spot found these sorrowful traces of his murdered son; but while he tarried to collect the scattered fragments, and bestow upon the body an honorable interment, the Argonauts escaped. The spot on which the unfortunate Apsyrtus was cut up received the name of Tomi. This fratricide of Medea, however, so deeply provoked the indignation of Zeus, that he condemned the Argo and her crew to a trying voyage, full of hardship and privation, before she was permitted to reach home. The returning heroes traversed an immeasurable length both of sea and of river: first up the river Phasis into the ocean which flows round the earth—then following the course of that circumfluous stream until its junction with the Nile, they came down the Nile into Egypt, from whence they carried the Argo on their shoulders by a fatiguing land-journey to the lake Tritonis in Libya. Here they were rescued from the extremity of want and exhaustion by the kindness of the local god Triton, who treated them hospitably, and even presented to Euphemus a clod of earth, as a symbolical promise that his descendants should one day found a city on the Libyan shore. The promise was amply redeemed by the flourishing and powerful city of Cyrene, whose princes the Battiads boasted themselves as lineal descendants of Euphemus.

Refreshed by the hospitality of Triton, the Argonauts found themselves again on the waters of the Mediterranean in their way homeward. But before they arrived at Iolkos they visited Circe, at the island of Aeaea, where Medea was purified for the murder of Apsyrtus: they also stopped at Corcyra, then called Drepane, where Alkinous received and protected them. The cave in that island where the marriage of Medea with Jason was consummated, was still shown in the time of the historian Timaeus, as well as the altars to Apollo which she had erected, and the rites and sacrifices which she had first instituted. After leaving Korkyra, the Argo was overtaken by a perilous storm near the island of Thera. The heroes were saved from imminent peril by the supernatural aid of Apollo, who, shooting from his golden bow an arrow which pierced the waves like a track of light, caused a new island suddenly to spring up in their track and present to them a port of refuge. The island was called Anaphé; and the grateful Argonauts established upon it an altar and sacrifices in honor of Apollo Aegletés, which were ever afterwards continued, and traced back by the inhabitants to this originating adventure.

On approaching the coast of Crete, the Argonauts were prevented from landing by Talos; a man of brass, fabricated by Hephaestus, and presented by him to Minos for the protection of the island. This vigilant sentinel hurled against the approaching vessel fragments of rock, and menaced the heroes with destruction. But Medea deceived him by a stratagem and killed him; detecting and assailing the one vulnerable point in his body. The Argonauts were thus enabled to land and refresh themselves. They next proceeded onward to Aegina, where however they again experienced resistance before they could obtain water—then along the coast of Euboea and Locris back to Iolkos in the gulf of Pagasae, the place from whence they hail started. The proceedings of Pelias during their absence, and the signal revenge taken upon him by Medea after their return, have already been narrated in a preceding section. The ship Argo herself; in which the chosen heroes of Greece had performed so long a voyage and braved so many dangers, was consecrated by Jason to Poseidon at the isthmus of Corinth. According to another account, she was translated to the stars by Athene, and became a constellation.

Traces of the presence of the Argonauts were found not only in the regions which lay between Iolkos and Colchis, but also in the western portion of the Grecian world— distributed more or less over all the spots visited by Grecian mariners or settled by Grecian colonists, and scarcely less numerous than the wanderings of the dispersed Greeks and Trojans after the capture of Troy. The number of Jasonia, or temples for the heroic worship of Jason, was very great, from Abdera in Thrace, eastward along the coast of the Euxine, to Armenia and Media. The Argonauts had left their anchoring stone on the coast of Bebrykia, near Kyzikus, and there it was preserved during the historical ages in the temple of the Jasonian Athene. They had founded the great temple of the Idaen mother on the mountain Dindymon, near Kyzikus, and the Hieron of Zeus Urios on the Asiatic point at the mouth of the Euxine, near which was also the harbor of Phryxus. Idmon, the prophet of the expedition, who was believed to have died of a wound by a wild boar on the Maryandynian coast, was worshipped by the inhabitants of the Pontic Herakleia with great solemnity, as their Heros Poliuchus, and that too by the special direction of the Delphian god. Autolykus, another companion of Jason, was worshipped as Oekist by the inhabitants of Sinope. Moreover, the historians of Herakleia pointed out a temple of Hekate in the neighboring country of Paphlagonia, first erected by Medea; and the important town Pantikapaeon, on the European side of the Cimmerian Bosporus, ascribed its first settlement to a son of Aetes. When the returning ten thousand Greeks sailed along the coast, called the Jasonian shore, from Sinope to Herakleia, they were told that the grandson of Aetes was reigning king of the territory at the mouth of the Phasis, and the anchoring-places where the Argo had stopped were specially pointed out to them. In the lofty regions of the Moschi, near Colchis, stood the temple of Leukothea, founded by Phryxus, which remained both rich and respected down to the times of the kings of Pontus, and where it was an inviolable rule not to offer up a ram. The town of Dioskurias, north of the river Phasis, was believed to have been hallowed by the presence of Castor and Pollux in the Argo, and to have received from them its appellation. Even the interior of Media and Armenia was full of memorials of Jason and Medea and their son Medus, or of Armenus the son of Jason, from whom the Greeks deduced not only the name and foundation of the Medes and Armenians, but also the great operation of cutting a channel through the mountains for the efflux of the river Araxes, which they compared to that of the Peneius in Thessaly. And the Roman general Pompey, after having completed the conquest and expulsion of Mithridates, made long marches through Colchis into the regions of Caucasus, for the express purpose of contemplating the spots which had been ennobled by the exploits of the Argonauts, the Dioskuri and Heracles.

In the west, memorials either of the Argonauts or of the pursuing Kolchians were pointed out in Corcyra, in Crete, in Epirus near the Akrokeraunian mountains, in the islands called Apsyrtides near the Illyrian coast, at the bay of Caieta as well as at Poseidonia on the southern coast of Italy, in the island of Aethalia or Elba, and in Libya.

Such is a brief outline of the Argonautic expedition, one of the most celebrated and widely-diffused among the ancient tales of Greece. Since so many able men have treated it as an undisputed reality, and even made it the pivot of systematic chronological calculations, I may here repeat the opinion long ago expressed by Heyne, and even indicated by Burmann, that the process of dissecting the story, in search of a basis of fact, is one altogether fruitless. Not only are we unable to assign the date or identify the crew, or decipher the log-book, of the Argo, but we have no means of settling even the preliminary question, whether the voyage be matter of fact badly reported, or legend from the beginning. The widely-distant spots in which the monuments of the voyage were shown, no less than the incidents of the voyage itself, suggests no other parentage than epical fancy. The supernatural and the romantic not only constitute an inseparable portion of the narrative, but even embrace all the prominent and characteristic features; if they do not comprise the whole, and if there be intermingled along with them any sprinkling of historical or geographical fact, — a question to us indeterminable, — there is at least no solvent by which it can be disengaged, and no test by which it can be recognized. Wherever the Grecian mariner sailed, he carried his religious and patriotic myths along with him. His fancy and his faith were alike full of the long wanderings of Jason, Odysseus, Perseus, Heracles, Dionysus, Triptolemus or Io; it was pleasing to him in success, and consoling to him in difficulty, to believe that their journeys had brought them over the ground which he was himself traversing. There was no tale amidst the wide range of the Grecian epic more calculated to be popular with the seaman, than the history of the primeval ship Argo and her distinguished crew, comprising heroes from all parts of Greece, and especially the Tyndarids Castor and Pollux, the heavenly protector: invoked during storm and peril. He localized the legend anew wherever he went, often with some fresh circumstances suggested either by his own adventures or by the scene before him. He took a sort of religious possession of the spot, connecting it by a bond of faith with his native land, and erecting in it a temple or an altar with appropriate commemorative solemnities. The Jasonium thus established, and indeed every visible object called after the name of the hero, not only served to keep alive the legend of the Argo in the minds of future corners or inhabitants, but was accepted as an obvious and satisfactory proof that this marvelous vessel had actually touched there in her voyage.

The epic poets, building both on the general love of fabulous incident and on the easy faith of the people, dealt with distant and unknown space in the same manner as with past and unrecorded time. They created a mythical geography for the former, and a mythical history for the latter. But there was this material difference between the two: that while the unrecorded time was beyond the reach of verification, the unknown space gradually became trodden and examined. In proportion as authentic local knowledge was enlarged, it became necessary to modify the geography, or shift the scene of action, of the old myths; and this perplexing problem was undertaken by some of the ablest historians and geographers of antiquity,—for it was painful to them to abandon any portion of the old epic, as if it were destitute of an ascertainable basis of truth.

Many of these fabulous localities are to be found in Homer and Hesiod, and the other Greek poets and logographers,—Erytheia, the garden of the Hesperides, the garden of Phoebus, to which Boreas transported the Attic maiden Orithyia, the delicious country of the Hyperboreans, the Elysian plain, the fleeting island of Aeolus, Thrinakia, the country of the Ethiopians, the Laestrygones, the Cyclopes, the Lotophagi, the Sirens, the Cimmerians and the Gorgons, etc. These are places which (to use the expression of Pindar respecting the Hyperboreans) you cannot approach either by sea or by land: the wings of the poet alone can carry you thither. They were not introduced into the Greek mind by incorrect geographical reports, but, on the contrary, had their origin in the legend, and passed from thence into the realities of geography, which they contributed much to pervert and confuse. For the navigator or emigrant, starting with an unsuspicious faith in their real existence, looked out for them in his distant voyages, and constantly fancied that he had seen or heard of them, so as to be able to identify their exact situation. The most contradictory accounts indeed, as might be expected, were often given respecting the latitude and longitude of such fanciful spots, but this did not put an end to the general belief in their real existence.

In the present advanced state of geographical knowledge, the story of that man who after reading Gulliver's Travels went to look in his map for Lilliput, appears an absurdity. But those who fixed the exact locality of the floating island of Aeolus or the rocks of the Sirens did much the same; and, with their ignorance of geography and imperfect appreciation of historical evidence, the error was hardly to be avoided. The ancient belief which fixed the Sirens on the islands of Sirenusae off the coast of Naples —the Cyclopes, Erytheia, and the Laestrygones in Sicily—the Lotophagi on the island of Meninx near the Lesser Syrtis—the Phaeakians at Korkyra,—and the goddess Circe at the promontory of Circeium—took its rise at a time when these regions were first Hellenized and comparatively little visited. Once embodied in the local legends, and attested by visible monuments and ceremonies, it continued for a long time unassailed; and Thucydides seems to adopt it, in reference to Corcyra and Sicily before the Hellenic colonization, as matter of fact generally unquestionable, though little avouched as to details. But when geographical knowledge became extended, and the criticism upon the ancient epic was more or less systematized by the literary men of Alexandria and Pergamus, it appeared to many of them impossible that Odysseus could have seen so many wonders, or undergone such monstrous dangers, within limits so narrow, and in the familiar track between the Nile and the Tiber. The scene of his weather-driven course was then shifted further westward. Many convincing evidences were discovered, especially by Asklepiades of Myrlea, of his having visited various places in Iberia: several critics imagined that he had wandered about in the Atlantic Ocean outside of the Strait of Gibraltar, and they recognized a section of Lotophagi on the coast of Mauritania, over and above those who dwelt on the island of Meninx. On the other hand, Eratosthenes and Apollodorus treated the places visited by Odysseus as altogether unreal, for which skepticism they incurred much reproach.

The fabulous island of Erytheia,—the residence of the three headed Geryon with his magnificent herd of oxen, under the custody of the two-headed dog Orthrus, and described by Hesiod, like the garden of the Hesperides, as extraterrestrial, on the farther side of the circuinfluous ocean;—this island was supposed by the interpreters of Stesichorus the poet to be named by him off the south-western region of Spain called Tartessus, and in the immediate vicinity of Gades. But the historian Hekataeus, in his anxiety to historicize the old fable, took upon himself to remove Erytheia from Spain nearer home to Epirus. He thought it incredible that Herakles should have traversed Europe from east to west, for the purpose of bringing the cattle of Geryon to Eurystheus at Mycenae, and he pronounced Geryon to have been a king of Epirus, near the Gulf of Ambrakia. The oxen reared in that neighborhood were proverbially magnificent, and to get them even from thence and bring them to Mycenae (he contended) was no inconsiderable task. Arrian, who cites this passage from Hekataeus, concurs in the same view,— an illustration of the license with which ancient authors fitted on their fabulous geographical names to the real earth, and brought down the ethereal matter of legend to the lower atmosphere of history.

Both the track and the terminus of the Argonautic voyage appear in the most ancient epic as little within the conditions of reality, as the speaking timbers or the semi-divine crew of the vessel. In the Odyssey, Aetes and Circe (Hesiod names Medea also) are brother and sister, offspring of Helios. Aeaean island, adjoining the circumfluous ocean, “where the house and dancing-ground of Eos are situated, and where Helios rises”, is both the residence of Circe and of Aetes, inasmuch as Odysseus, in returning from the former, follows the same course as the Argo had previously taken in returning from the latter. Even in the conception of Mimnermus, about 600 BC, Aea still retained its fabulous attributes in conjunction with the ocean and Helios, without having been yet identified with any known portion of the solid earth; and it was justly remarked by Demetrius of Skepsis in antiquity (though Strabo cries to refute him), that neither Homer nor Mimnermus designates Colchis either as the residence of Aetes, or as the terminus of the Argonautic voyage. Hesiod carried the returning Argonauts through the river Phasis into the ocean. But some of the poems ascribed to Eumelus were the first which mentioned Aetes and Colchis, and interwove both of them into the Corinthian mythical genealogy. These poems seem to have been composed subsequent to the foundation of Sinope, and to the commencement of Grecian settlement on the Borysthenes, between the years 600 and 500 BC. The Greek mariners who explored and colonized the southern coast of the Euxine, found at the extremity of their voyage the river Phasis and its barbarous inhabitants: it was the easternmost point which Grecian navigation (previous to the time of Alexander the Great) ever attained, and it was within sight of the impassable barrier of Caucasus. They believed, not unnaturally, that they had here found “the house of Eos (the morning) and the rising place of the sun”, and that the river Phasis, if they could follow it to its unknown beginning, would conduct them to the circumfluous ocean. They gave to the spot the name of Aea, and the Fabulous and real title gradually became associated together into one compound appellation,—the Colchian Aea, or Aea of Colchis. While Colchis was thus entered on the map as a fit representative for the Homeric “house of the morning”, the narrow strait of the Thracian Bosporus attracted to itself the poetical fancy of the Symplegades, or colliding rocks, through which the heaven-protected Argo had been the first to pass. The powerful Greek cities of Kyzikus, Herakleia and Sinope, each fertile in local legends, still farther contributed to give this direction to the voyage; so that in the time of Hekataeus it had become the established belief that the Argo had started from Iolkos and gone to Colchis.

Aetes thus received his home from the legendary faith and fancy of the eastern Greek navigators: his sister Circe, originally his fellow-resident, was localized by the western. The Hesiodic and other poems, giving expression to the imaginative impulses of the inhabitants of Cumae and other early Grecian settlers in Italy and Sicily, had referred the wanderings of Odysseus to the western or Tyrrhenian sea, and had planted the Cyclopes, the Laestrygones, the floating island of Aeolus, the Lotophagi, the Phaeacians, etc., about the coast of Sicily, Italy, Libya, and Corcyra. In this way the Aeaean island,— the residence of Circe, and the extreme point of the wanderings of Odysseus, from whence he passes only to the ocean and into Hades — came to be placed in the far west, while the Aea of Aetes was in the far east,— not unlike our East and West Indies. The Homeric brother and sister were separated and sent to opposite extremities of the Grecian terrestrial horizon.

The track from Iolkos to Colchis, however, though plausible as far as it went, did not realize all the conditions of the genuine fabulous voyage: it did not explain the evidences of the visit of these maritime heroes which were to be found in Libya, in Crete, in Anaphe, in Corcyra, in the Adriatic Gulf, in Italy and in Aethalia. It became necessary to devise another route for them in their return, and the Hesiodic narrative was (as I have before observed), that they came back by the circumfluous ocean; first going up the river Phasis into the circumfluous ocean; following that deep and gentle stream until they entered the Nile, and came down its course to the coast of Libya. This seems also to have been the belief of Hekataeus. But presently several Greeks (and Herodotus among them) began to discard the Idea of a circumfluous ocean-stream, which had pervaded their old geographical and astronomical fables, and which explained the supposed easy communication between one extremity of the earth and another. Another idea was then started for the returning voyage of the Argonauts. It was supposed that the river Ister, or Danube, flowing from the Rhipaean mountains in the north-west of Europe, divided itself into two branches, one of which fell into the Euxine Sea, and the other into the Adriatic.

The Argonauts, fleeing from the pursuit of Aetes>, had been obliged to abandon their regular course homeward, and had gone from the Euxine Sea up the Ister; then passing down the other branch of that river, they had entered into the Adriatic, the Kolchian pursuers following them. Such is the story given by Apollanius Rhodius from Timagetus, and accepted even by so able a geographer as Eratosthenes—who preceded him by one generation, and who, though skeptical in regard to the localities visited by Odysseus, seems to have been a firm believer in the reality of the Argonautic voyage. Other historians again, among whom was Timaeus, though they considered the ocean as an outer sea, and no longer admitted the existence of the old Homeric ocean-stream, yet imagined a story for the return-voyage of the Argonauts somewhat resembling the old tale of Hesiod and Hekataeus. They alleged that the Argo, after entering into the Palus Maeotis, had followed the upward course of the river Tanais; that she had then been carried overland and launched in a river which had its mouth in the ocean or great outer sea. When in the ocean, she had coasted along the north and west of Europe until she reached Gades and the Strait of Gibraltar, where she entered into the Mediterranean, and there visited the many places specified in the fable. Of this long voyage, in the outer sea to the north and west of Europe, many traces were affirmed to exist along the coast of the ocean. There was again a third version, according to which the Argonauts came back as they went, through the Thracian Bosporus and the Hellespont. In this way geographical plausibility was indeed maintained, but a large portion of the fabulous matter was thrown overboard.

Such were the various attempts made to reconcile the Argonautic legend with enlarged geographical knowledge and improved historical criticism. The problem remained unsolved, but the faith in the legend did not the less continue. It was a faith originally generated at a time when the unassisted narrative of the inspired poet sufficed for the conviction of his hearers; it consecrated one among the capital exploits of that heroic and superhuman race, whom the Greek was accustomed at once to look back upon as his ancestors and to worship conjointly with his gods: it lay too deep in his mind either to require historical evidence for its support, or to be overthrown by geographical difficulties as they were then appreciated. Supposed traces of the past event, either preserved in the names of places, or embodied in standing religious customs with their explanatory comments, served as sufficient authentication in the eyes of the curious inquirer. And even men trained in a more severe school of criticism contented themselves with eliminating the palpable contradictions and softening down the supernatural and romantic events, so as to produce an Argonautic expedition of their own invention as the true and accredited history. Strabo, though he can neither overlook nor explain the geographical impossibilities of the narrative, supposes himself to have discovered the basis of actual fact, which the original poets had embellished or exaggerated. The golden fleece was typical of the great wealth of Colchis, arising from gold-dust washed down by the rivers; and the voyage of Jason was in reality an expedition at the head of a considerable army, with which he plundered this wealthy country and made extensive conquests in the interior. Strabo has nowhere laid down what he supposes to have been the exact measure and direction of Jason’s march, but he must have regarded it as very long, since he classes Jason with Dionysus and Heracles, and emphatically characterizes all the three as having traversed wider spaces of ground than any moderns could equal. Such was the compromise which a mind like that of Strabo made with the ancient legends. He shaped or cut them down to the level of his own credence, and in this waste of historical criticism, without any positive evidence, he took to himself the credit of greater penetration than the literal believers, while he escaped the necessity of breaking formally with the bygone heroic world




THE Boeotians generally, throughout the historical age, though well-endowed with bodily strength and courage, are represented as proverbially deficient in intelligence, taste and fancy. But the legendary population of Thebes, the Kadmeians, are rich in mythical antiquities, divine as well as heroic. Both Dionysus and Heracles recognize Thebes as their natal city. Moreover, the two sieges of Thebes by Adrastus, even taken apart from Cadmus, Antiope, Amphion and Zethus, etc., are the most prominent and most characteristic exploits, next to the siege of Troy, of that preexisting race of heroes who lived in the imagination of the historical Hellenes.

It is not Cadmus, but the brothers Amphion and Zethus, who are given to us in the Odyssey as the first founders of Thebes and the first builders of its celebrated walls. They are the sons of Zeus by Antiope, daughter of Asopus. The scholiasts who desire to reconcile this tale with the more current account of the foundation of Thebes by Cadmus, tell us that after the death of Amphion and Zethus, Eurymachus, the warlike king of the Phlegyae, invaded and ruined the newly-settled town, so that Cadmus on arriving was obliged to refound it. But Apollodorus, and seemingly the older logographers before him, placed Cadmus at the top, and inserted the two brothers at a lower point in the series. According to them, Belus and Agenor were the sons of Epaphus, (son of the Argeian Io), by Libya. Agenor went to Phoenicia and there became king: he bad for his offspring Cadmus, Phoenix, Kilix, and a daughter Europa; though in the Iliad Europa is called daughter of Phoenix. Zeus fell in love with Europa, and assuming the shape of a bull, carried her across the sea upon his back from Egypt to Crete, where she bore to him Minos, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon. Two out of the three sons sent out by Agenos in search of their lost sister, wearied out by a long-protracted as well as fruitless voyage, abandoned the idea of returning home: Kilix settled in Cilicia, and Cadmus in Thrace. Thasus, the brother or nephew of Cadmus, who had accompanied them in the voyage, settled and gave name to the island of Phasus.

Both Herodotus and Euripides represent Cadmus as an emigrant from Phoenicia, conducting a body of followers in quest of Europa. The account of Apollodorus describes him as having come originally from Libya or Egypt to Phoenicia: we may presume that this was also the statement of the earlier logographers Pherekydes and Hellanikus. Conon, who historicizes and politicizes the whole legend, seems to have found two different accounts; one connecting Cadmus with Egypt, another bringing him from Phoenicia. He tries to melt down the two into one, by representing that the Phoenicians, who sent out Cadmus, had acquired great power in Egypt—that the seat of their kingdom was the Egyptian Thebes — that Cadmus was dispatched, under pretense indeed of finding his lost sister, but really on a project of conquest—and that the name Thebes, which he gave to his new establishment in Boeotia, was borrowed from Thebes in Egypt, his ancestorial seats.

Cadmus went from Thrace to Delphi to procure information respecting his sister Europa, but the god directed him to take no further trouble about her; he was to follow the guidance of a cow, and to found a city on the spot where the animal should lie down. The condition was realized on the site of Thebes. The neighboring fountain Areia was guarded by a fierce dragon, the offspring of Ares, who destroyed all the persons sent to fetch water. Cadmus killed the dragon, and at the suggestion of Athena sowed his teeth in the earth, there sprang up at once the armed men called the Sparti, among whom he flung stones, and they immediately began to assault each other until all were slain except five. Ares, indignant at this slaughter, was about to kill Cadmus; but Zeus appeased him, condemning Cadmus to an expiatory servitude of eight years, after which he married Harmonia, the daughter of Ares and Aphrodite—presenting to her the splendid necklace fabricated by the hand of Hephaestus, which had been given by Zeus to Europa. All the gods came to the Cadmeia, the citadel of Thebes, to present congratulations and gifts at these nuptials, which seem to have been hardly less celebrated in the mythical world than those of Peleus and Thetis. The issue of the marriage was one son, Polyderus, and four daughters, Autonoe, Ino, Semele and Agave.

From the five who alone survived of the warriors sprung from the dragon’s teeth, arose five great families or gentes in Thebes; the oldest and noblest of its inhabitants, coeval with the foundation of the town. They were called Sparti, and their name seems to have given rise, not only to the fable of the sowing of the teeth, but also to other etymological narratives.

All the four daughters of Cadmus are illustrious in fabulous history. The, wife of Athamas, the son of Aeolus, has already been included among the legends of the Aeolids. Semele became the mistress of Zeus, and inspired Here with jealousy. Misguided by the malicious suggestions of that goddess, she solicited Zeus to visit her with all the solemnity and terrors which surrounded him when he approached Here herself. The god unwillingly consented, and came in his chariot in the midst of thunder and lightning, under which awful accompaniments the mortal frame of Semele perished. Zeus, taking from her the child of which she was pregnant, sewed it into his own thigh: after the proper interval the child was brought out and born, and became the great god Dionysus or Bacchus. Hermes took him to Ino and Athamas to receive their protection. Afterwards, however, Zeus having transformed him into a kid to conceal him from the persecution of Here, the nymphs of the mountain Nysa became his nurses.

Autonoe, the third daughter of Cadmus, married the pastoral hero or god Aristaeus, and was mother of Aktaeon, a devoted hunter and a favorite companion of the goddess Artemis. She however became displeased with him—either because he looked into a fountain while she was bathing and saw her naked—or according to the legend set forth by the poet Stesichorus, because he loved and courted Semele—or according to Euripides, because he presumptuously vaunted himself as her superior in the chase. She transformed him into a stag, so that his own dogs set upon and devoured him. The rock upon which Aktaeon used to sleep when fatigued with the chase, and the spring whose transparent waters had too clearly revealed the form of the goddess, were shown to Pausanias near Plataea, on the road to Megara.


Agave, the remaining daughter of Cadmus, married Echion, one of the Sparti. The issue of these nuptials was Pentheus, who, when Cadmus became old succeeded him as king of Thebes. In his reign Dionysus appeared as a god, the author or discoverer of the vine with all its blessings. He had wandered over Asia, India and Thrace, at the head of an excited troop of female enthusiasts—communicating and inculcating everywhere the Bacchic ceremonies, and rousing in the minds of women that impassioned religious emotion which led them to ramble in solitary mountains at particular seasons, there to give vent to violent fanatical excitement, apart from the men, clothed in fawn skins and armed with the thyrsus. The obtrusion of a male spectator upon these solemnities was esteemed sacrilegious. Though the rites had been rapidly disseminated and fervently welcomed in many parts of Thrace, yet there were some places in which they had been obstinately resisted and their votaries treated with rudeness; especially by Lycurgus, king of the Edonian Thracians, upon whom a sharp and exemplary punishment was inflicted by Dionysus.

Thebes was the first city of Greece to which Dionysus came, at the head of his Asiatic troop of females, to obtain divine honors and to establish his peculiar rites in his native city. The venerable Cadmus, together with his daughters and the prophet Teiresias, at once acknowledged the divinity of the new god, and began to offer their worship and praise to him along with the solemnities which he enjoined. But Pentheus vehemently opposed the new ceremonies, reproving and maltreating the god who introduced them: nor was his unbelief at all softened by the miracles which Dionysus wrought for his own protection and for that of his followers. His mother Agave, with her sisters and a large body of other women from Thebes, had gone out from Thebes to Mount Cithaeron to celebrate their solemnities under the influence of the Bacchic frenzy. Thither Pentheus followed to watch them, and there the punishment due to his impiety overtook him. The avenging touch of the god having robbed him of his senses, he climbed a tall pine for the purpose of overlooking the feminine multitude, who detected him in this position, pulled down the tree, and tore him in pieces. Agave, mad and bereft of consciousness, made herself the foremost in this assault, and carried back in triumph to Thebes the head of her slaughtered son. The aged Cadmus, with his wife Harmonia, retired among the Illyrians, and at the end of their lives were changed into serpents, Zeus permitting them to be transferred to the Elysian fields.


Polydorus and Labdakus successively became kings of Thebes: the latter at his death left an infant son, Laius, who was deprived of his throne by Lykus. And here we approach the legend of Antiope, Zethus and Amphion, whom the fabulists insert at this point of the Theban series. Antiope is here the daughter of Nykteus, the brother of Lykus. She is deflowered by Zeus, and then, while pregnant, flies to Epopeus king of Sicyon: Nykteus dying entreats his brother to avenge the injury, and Lykus accordingly invades Sicyon, defeats and kills Epopeus, and brings back Antiope prisoner to Thebes. In her way thither, in a cave near Eleutherae, which was shown to Pausanias, she is delivered of the twin sons of Zeus—Amphion and Zethus—who, exposed to perish, are taken up and nourished by a shepherd, and pass their youth amidst herdsmen, ignorant of their lofty descent.

Antiope is conveyed to Thebes, where, after undergoing a long persecution from Lykus and his cruel wife Dirke, she at length escapes, and takes refuge in the pastoral dwelling of her sons, now grown to manhood. Dirke pursues and requires her to be delivered up; but the sons recognize and protect their mother, taking an ample revenge upon her persecutors. Lykus is slain, and Dirke is dragged to death, tied to the horns of a bull.

Amphion and Zethus, having banished Laius, become kings of Thebes. The former, taught by Hermes, and possessing exquisite skill on the lyre, employs it in fortifying the city, the stones of the walls arranging themselves spontaneously in obedience to the rhythm of his song.

Zethus marries Aedon, who, in the dark and under a fatal mistake, kills her son Itylus: she is transformed into a nightingale, while Zethus dies of grief. Amphion becomes the husband of Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, and the father of a numerous offspring, the complete extinction of which by the bands of Apollo and Artemis has already been recounted in these pages.

Here ends the legend of the beautiful Antiope and her twin sons—the rude and unpolished, but energetic, Zethus and the refined and amiable, but dreamy, Amphion. For so Euripides, in the drama of Antiope unfortunately lost, presented the two brothers, in affectionate union as well as in striking contrast. It is evident that the whole story stood originally quite apart from the Cadmeian family, and so the rudiments of it yet stand in the Odyssey; but the logographers, by their ordinary connecting artifices, have opened a vacant place for it in the descending series of Theban myths. And they have here proceeded in a manner not usual with them. For whereas they are generally fond of multiplying entities, and supposing different historical personages of the same name, in order to introduce an apparent smoothness in the chronology—they have here blended into one person Amphion the son of Antiope and Amphion the father of Chleris, who seem clearly distinguished from each other in the Odyssey. They have further assigned to the same person all the circumstances of the legend of Niobe, which seems to have been originally framed quite apart from the sons of Antiope.


Amphion and Zethus being removed, Laius became king of Thebes. With him commences the ever-celebrated series of adventures of Oedipus and his family. Laius forewarned by the oracle that any son whom he might beget would kill him, caused Oedipus as soon as he was born to be exposed on Mount Cithaeron. Here the herdsmen of Polybus king of Corinth accidentally found him and conveyed him to their master, who brought him up as his own child. In spite of the kindest treatment, however, Oedipus when he grew up found himself exposed to taunts on the score of his unknown parentage, and went to Delphi to inquire of the god the name of his real father. He received for answer an admonition not to go back to his country; if he did so, it was his destiny to kill his father and become the husband of his mother. Knowing no other country but Corinth, he accordingly determined to keep away from that city, and quitted Delphi by the road towards Boeotia and Phocis. At the exact spot where the roads leading to these two countries forked, he met Laius in a chariot drawn by mules, when the insolence of one of the attendants brought on an angry quarrel, in which Oedipus killed Laius, not knowing him to be his father.

On the death of Laius, Kreon, the brother of Yokasta, succeeded to the kingdom of Thebes. At this time the country was under the displeasure of the gods, and was vexed by a terrible monster, with the face of a woman, the wings of a bird, and the tail of a lion, called the Sphinx—sent by the wrath of Here, and occupying the neighboring mountain of Phikium. The Sphinx had learned from the Muses a riddle, which she proposed to the Thebans to resolve: on every occasion of failure she took away one of the citizens and ate him up. Still no person could solve the riddle; and so great was the suffering occasioned, that Kreon was obliged to offer both the crown and the nuptials of his sister Yokasta to anyone who could achieve the salvation of the city. At this juncture Oedipus arrived and solved the riddle: upon which the Sphinx immediately threw herself from the acropolis and disappeared. As a recompense for this service, Oedipus was made king of Thebes, and married Yokasta, not aware that she was his mother.

These main tragic circumstances—that Oedipus had ignorantly killed his father and married his mother—belong to the oldest form of the legend as it stands in the Odyssey. The gods (it is added in that poem) quickly made the facts known to mankind. Epikasta (so Yokasta is here called) in an agony of sorrow hanged herself: Oedipus remained king of the Cadmeians, but underwent many and great miseries, such as the Erinnyes, who avenge an injured mother, inflict. A passage in the Iliad implies that he died at Thebes, since it mentions the funeral games which were celebrated there in honor of him. His misfortunes were recounted by Nestor, in the old Cyprian verses, among the stories of aforetime. A fatal curse hung both upon himself and upon his children, Eteokles, Polynikes, Antigone and Ismene. According to that narrative which the Attic tragedians have rendered universally current, they were his children by Yokasta, the disclosure of her true relationship to him having been very long deferred. But the ancient epic called Oedipodia, treading more closely in the footsteps of Homer, represented him as having after her death married a second wife, Euryganeia, by whom the four children were born to him: and the painter Onatas adopted this story in preference to that of Sophocles.

The disputes of Eteokles and Polynikes for the throne of their father gave occasion not only to a series of tragic family incidents, but also to one of the great quasi-historical events of legendary Greece—the two sieges of Thebes by Adrastus, king of Argos. The two ancient epic poems called the Thebais and the Epigoni (if indeed both were not parts of one very comprehensive poem) detailed these events at great length, and as it appears, with distinguished poetical merit; for Pausanias pronounces the Cyclic Thebais (so it was called by the subsequent critics to distinguish it from the more modern Thebais of Antimachus) inferior only to the Iliad and Odyssey; and the ancient elegiac poet Kallinus treated it as an Homeric composition. Of this once-valued poem we unfortunately possess nothing but a few scanty fragments. The leading points of the legend are briefly glanced at in the Iliad; but our knowledge of the details is chiefly derived from the Attic tragedians, who transformed the narratives of their predecessors at pleasure, and whose popularity constantly eclipsed and obliterated the ancient version. Antimachus of Kolophon, contemporary with Euripides, in his long epic, probably took no less liberties with the old narrative. His Thebaid never became generally popular, but it exhibited marks of study and elaboration which recommended it to the esteem of the Alexandrine critics, and probably contributed to discredit in their eyes the old cyclic poem.

The logographers, who gave a continuous history of this siege of Thebes, had at least three preexisting epic poems—the Thebais, the Oedipodia, and the Alkmaeonis,— from which they could borrow. The subject was also handled in some of the Hesiodic poems, but we do not know to what extent. The Thebais was composed more in honor of Argos than of Thebes, as the first line of it, one of the few fragments still preserved, betokens.


The legend, about to recount fraternal dissension of the most implacable kind, comprehending in its results not only the immediate relations of the infuriated brothers, but many chosen companions of the heroic race along with them, takes its start from the paternal curse of Oedipus, which overhangs and determines all the gloomy sequel.

Oedipus, though king of Thebes and father of four children by Euryganeia (according to the Oedipodia), has become the devoted victim of the Erinnyes, in consequence of the self-inflicted death of his mother, which he has unconsciously caused, as well as of his unintentional parricide. Though he had long forsworn the use of all the ornaments and luxuries which his father had inherited from his kingly progenitors, yet when through age he had come to be dependent upon his two sons. Polynikes one day broke through this interdict, and set before him the silver table and the splendid wine-cup of Cadmus, which Laius had always been accustomed to employ. The old king had no sooner seen these precious appendages of the regal life of his father, than his mind was overrun by a calamitous frenzy, and he imprecated terrible curses on his sons, predicting that there would be bitter and endless warfare between them. The goddess Erinnys heard and heeded him; and he repeated the curse again on another occasion, when his sons, who had always been accustomed to send to him the shoulder of the victims sacrificed on the altar, caused the buttock to be served to him in place of it. He resented this as an insult, and prayed the gods that they might perish each by the hand of the other. Throughout the tragedians as well as in the old epic, the paternal curse, springing immediately from the misguided Oedipus himself, but remotely from the parricide and incest with which he has tainted his breed, is seen to domineer over the course of events—the Erinnys who executes that curse being the irresistible, though concealed, agent. Aeschylus not only preserves the fatal efficiency of the paternal curse, but even briefly glances at the causes assigned for it in the Thebais, without superadding any new motives. In the judgment of Sophocles, or of his audience, the conception of a father cursing his sons upon such apparently trifling grounds was odious; and that great poet introduced many aggravating circumstances, describing the old blind father as having been barbarously turned out of doors by his sons to wander abroad in exile and poverty. Though by this change he rendered his poem more coherent and self-justifying, yet he departed, from the spirit of the old legend, according to which Oedipus has contracted by his unconscious misdeeds an incurable taint destined to pass onward to his progeny. His mind is alienated, and he curses them, not because he has suffered seriously by their guilt, but because he is made the blind instrument of an avenging Erinnys for the ruin of the house of Laius.

After the death of Oedipus and the celebration of his funeral games, at which amongst others, Argeia, daughter of Adrastus (afterwards the wife of Polynikes), was present, his two sons soon quarreled respecting the succession. The circumstances are differently related; but it appears that, according to the original narrative, the wrong and injustice was on the part of Polynikes, who, however, was obliged to leave Thebes and to seek shelter with Adrastus, king of Argos. Here he met Tydeus, a fugitive, at the same time, from Aetolia: it was dark when they arrived, and a broil ensued between the two exiles, but Adrastus came out and parted them. He had been enjoined by an oracle to give his two daughters in marriage to a lion and a boar, and he thought this occasion had now arrived, inasmuch as one of the combatants carried on his shield a lion, the other a boar. He accordingly gave Deipyle in marriage to Tydeus, and Argeia to Polynikes: moreover, he resolved to restore by armed resistance both his sons-in-law to their respective countries.


On proposing the expedition to the Argeian chiefs around him he found most of them willing auxiliaries; but Amphiaraus—formerly his bitter opponent, but now reconciled to him, and husband of his sister Eriphyle—strongly opposed him. He denounced the enterprise as unjust and contrary to the will of the gods. Again, being of a prophetic stock, descended from Melampus, he foretold the certain death both of himself and of the principal leaders, should they involve themselves as accomplices in the mad violence of Tydeus or the criminal ambition of Polynikes. Amphiaraus, already distinguished both in the Kalychinian boar-hunt and in the funeral games of Pelias, was in the Theban war the most conspicuous of all the heroes, and absolutely indispensable to its success. But his reluctance to engage in it was invincible, nor was it possible to prevail upon him except through the influence of his wife Eriphyle. Polynikes, having brought with him from Thebes the splendid robe and necklace given by the gods to Harmonia on her marriage with Cadmus, offered it as a bribe to Eriphyle, on condition that she would influence the determination of Amphiaraus. The sordid wife, seduced by so matchless a present, betrayed the lurking-place of her husband, and involved him in the fatal expedition. Amphiaraus, reluctantly dragged forth, and foreknowing the disastrous issue of the expedition both to himself and to his associates, addressed his last injunctions, at the moment of mounting his chariot, to his sons Alkmaeon and Amphilochus, commanding Alkmaeon to avenge his approaching death by killing the venal Eriphyle, and by undertaking a second expedition against Thebes.

The Attic dramatists describe this expedition as having been conducted by seven chiefs, one to each of the seven celebrated gates of Thebes. But the Cyclic Thebais gave to it a much more comprehensive character, mentioning auxiliaries from Arcadia, Messene, and various parts of Peloponnesus; and the application of Tydeus and Polynikes at Mycenae in the course of their circuit made to collect allies, is mentioned in the Iliad. They were well received at Mycenae; but the warning signals given by the gods were so terrible that no Mycenaean could venture to accompany them. The seven principal chiefs however were Adrastus, Amphiaraus, Kapaneus, Hippomedon, Parthenopaeus, Tydeus and Polynikes.

When the army had advanced as far as the river Asifipus, a halt was made for sacrifice and banquet; while Tydeus was sent to Thebes as envoy to demand the restoration of Polynikes to his rights. His demand was refused; but finding the chief Cadmeians assembled at the banquet in the house of Eteoklus, he challenged them all to contend with him in boxing or wrestling. So efficacious was the aid of the goddess Athene that he overcame them all; and the Cadmeians were so indignant at their defeat, that they placed an ambuscade of fifty men to intercept him in his way back to the army. All of them perished by the band of this warrior, small in stature and of few words, but desperate and irresistible in the fight. One alone was spared in consequence of special signals from the gods.

The Cadmeians, assisted by their allies the Phocaeans and the Phlegyae, marched out to resist the invaders, and fought a battle near the Ismenian hill, in which they were defeated and forced to retire within the walls. The prophet Teiresias acquainted them that if Menoekeus, son of Kreon, would offer himself as a victim to Ares, victory would be assured to Thebes. The generous youth, as soon as he learnt that his life was to be the price of safety to his country, went and slew himself before the gates. The heroes along with Adrastus now commenced a vigorous attack upon the town, each of the seven selecting one of the gates to assault. The contest was long and strenuously maintained but the devotion of Menoekeus had procured for the Thebans the protection of the gods. Parthenopaeus was killed with a stone by Periklymenus; and when the furious Kapaneus, having planted a scaling-ladder, had mounted the walls, he was smitten by a thunderbolt from Zeus and cast down dead upon the earth. This event struck terror into the Argeians, and Adrastus called back his troops from the attack. The Thebans now sallied forth to pursue them, when Eteokles, arresting the battle, proposed to decide the controversy by single combat with his brother. The challenge, eagerly accepted by Polynikes, was agreed to by Adrastus: a single combat ensued between the two brothers, in which both were exasperated to fury and both ultimately slain by each other's hand. This equal termination left the result of the general contest still undetermined, and the bulk of the two armies renewed the fight. In the sanguinary struggle which ensued the sons of Astakus on the Theban side displayed the most conspicuous and successful valor. One of them, Melanippus, mortally wounded Tydeus — while two others, Leades and Amphidikus, killed Eteoklus and Hippomedon. Amphiaraus avenged Tydeus by killing Melanippus; but unable to arrest the rout of the army, he fled with the rest, closely pursued by Periklymenus. The latter was about to pierce him with his spear, when the beneficence of Zeus rescued him from this disgrace—miraculously opening the earth under him, so that Amphiaraus with his chariot and horses was received unscathed into her bosom. The exact spot where this memorable incident happened was indicated by a sepulchral building, and shown by the Thebans down to the days of Pausanias—its sanctity being attested by the fact, that no animal would consent to touch the herbage which grew within the sacred inclosure. Amphiaraus, rendered immortal by Zeus, was worshipped as a god at Argos, at Thebes and at Orepus —and for many centuries gave answers at his oracle to the questions of the pious applicant.

Adrastus, thus deprived of the prophet and warrior whom he regarded as “the eye of his army”, and having seen the other chiefs killed in the disastrous fight, was forced to take flight singly, and was preserved by the matchless swiftness of his horse Areion, the offspring of Poseidon. He reached Argos on his return, bringing with him nothing except “his garments of woe and his black-manned steed”.


Kreon, father of the heroic youth Menoekeus, succeeding to the administration of Thebes after the death of the two hostile brothers and the repulse of Adrastus, caused Eteokles to be buried with distinguished honor, but cast out ignominiously the body of Polynikes as a traitor to his country, forbidding everyone on pain of death to consign it to the tomb. He likewise refused permission to Adrastus to inter the bodies of his fallen comrades. This proceeding, so offensive to Grecian feeling, gave rise to two further tales; one of them at least of the highest pathos and interest. Antigone, the sister of Polynikes, heard with indignation the revolting edict consigning her brother’s body to the dogs and vultures, and depriving it of those rites which were considered essential to the repose of the dead. Unmoved by the dissuading counsel of an affectionate but timid sister, and unable to procure assistance, she determined to brave the hazard and to bury the body with her own hands. She was detected in the act; and Kreon, though forewarned by Teiresias of the consequences, gave orders that she should be buried alive, as having deliberately set at naught the solemn edict of the city. His son Haemon, to whom she was engaged to be married, in vain interceded for her life. In an agony of despair he slew himself in the sepulcher to which the living Antigone had been consigned; and his mother Eurydike, the wife of Kreon, inconsolable for his death, perished by her own hand. And thus the new light which seemed to be springing up over the last remaining scion of the devoted family of Oedipus, is extinguished amidst gloom and horrors—which overshadowed also the house and dynasty of Kreon.

The other tale stands more apart from the original legend, and seems to have had its origin in the patriotic pride of the Athenians. Adrastus, unable to obtain permission from the Thebans to inter the fallen chieftains, presented himself in suppliant guise, accompanied by their disconsolate mothers, to Theseus at Eleusis. He implored the Athenian warrior to extort from the perverse Thebans that last melancholy privilege which no decent or pious Greeks ever thought of withholding, and thus to stand forth as the champion of Grecian public morality in one of its most essential points, not less than of the rights of the subterranean gods. The Thebans obstinately persisting in their refusal, Theseus undertook an expedition against their city, vanquished them in the field, and compelled them by force of arms to permit the sepulture of their fallen enemies. This chivalrous interposition, celebrated in one of the preserved dramas of Euripides, formed a subject of glorious recollection to the Athenians throughout the historical age: their orators dwelt upon it in terms of animated panegyric; and it seems to have been accepted as a real fact of the past time, with no less implicit conviction than the battle of Marathon. But the Thebans, though equally persuaded of the truth of the main story, dissented from the Athenian version of it, maintaining that they had given up the bodies for sepulture voluntarily and of their own accord. The tomb of the chieftains was shown near Eleusis even ill the days of Pausanias.


The defeat of the seven chiefs before Thebes was amply avenged by their sons, again under the guidance of Adrastus: Egialeus son of Adrastus, Thersander son of Polynikes, Alkmaeon and Amphilochus, sons of Amphiaraus, Diomedes son of Tydeus, Sthenelus son of Kapaneus, Promachus son of Parthenopaeus, and Euryalus son of Mekistheus, joined in this expedition. Though all these youthful warriors, called the Epigoni, took part in the expedition, the grand and prominent place appears to have been occupied by Alkmaeon, son of Amphiaraus. Assistance was given to them from Corinth and Megara, as well as from Messena and Arcadia; while Zeus manifested his favorable dispositions by signals not to be mistaken. At the river Glisas the Epigoni were met by the Theban in arms, and a battle took place in which the latter were completely defeated. Laodamas, son of Eteokles, killed Egialeus, son of Adrastus; but he and his army were routed and driven within the walls by the valor and energy of Alkmaeon. The defeated Cadmeians consulted the prophet Teiresias, who informed them that the gods had declared for their enemies, and that there was no longer any hope of successful resistance. By his advice they sent a herald to the assailants offering to surrender the town, while they themselves convoyed away their wives and children, and fled under the command of Laodamas to the Illyrians, upon which the Epigoni entered Thebes, and established Thersander, son of Polynikes, on the throne.

Adrastus, who in the former expedition had been the single survivor amongst so many fallen companions, now found himself the only exception to the general triumph and joy of the conquerors: he had lost his son Egialeus, and the violent sorrow arising from the event prematurely cut short his life. His soft voice and persuasive eloquence were proverbial in the ancient epic. He was worshipped as a hero both at Argos and at Sicyon, but with especial solemnity in the last-mentioned place, where his Heroum stood in the public agora, and where his exploits as well as his sufferings were celebrated periodically in lyric tragedies. Melanippus, son of Astakus, the brave defender of Thebes, who had slain both Tydeus and Mekistheus, was worshipped with no less solemnity by the Thebans. The enmity of these two heroes rendered it impossible for both of them to be worshipped close upon the same spot. Accordingly it came to pass during the historical period, about the time of the Solonian legislation at Athens, that Kleisthenes, despot of Sicyon, wishing to banish the hero Adrastus and abolish the religious solemnities celebrated in honor of the latter by the Sicyonians, first applied to the Delphian oracle for permission to carry this banishment into effect directly and forcibly. That permission being refused, ho next sent to Thebes an intimation that he was anxious to introduce their hero Melanippus into Sicyon. The Thebans willingly consented, and he assigned to the new hero a consecrated spot in the strongest and most commanding portion of the Sicyonian prytaneium. He did this (says the historian) “knowing that Adrastus would forthwith go away of his own accord; since Melanippus was of all persons the most odious to him, as having slain both his son-in-law and his brother”. Kleisthenes moreover diverted the festivals and sacrifices which had been offered to Adrastus, to the newly established hero Melanippus; and the lyric tragedies from the worship of Adrastus to that of Dionysus. But his dynasty did not long continue after his decease, and the Sicyonians then reestablished their ancient solemnities.

Near the Proetid gate of Thebes were seen the tombs of two combatants who had hated each other during life even more than Adrastus and Melanippus the two brothers Eteokles and Polynikes. Even as heroes and objects of worship, they still continued to manifest their inextinguishable hostility: those who offered sacrifices to them observed that the flame and the smoke from the two adjoining altars abhorred all communion, and flew off in directions exactly opposite. The Theban exegetes assured Pausanias of this fact. And though he did not himself witness it, yet having seen with his own eyes a miracle not very dissimilar at Pionis in Mysia, he had no difficulty in crediting their assertion.


Amphiaraus when forced into the first attack of Thebes—against his own foreknowledge and against the warnings of the gods had enjoined his sons Alkmaeon and Amphilochus not only to avenge his death upon the Thebans, but also to punish the treachery of their mother, “Eriphyle, the destroyer of her husband”. In obedience to this command, and having obtained the sanction of the Delphian oracle, Alkmaeon slew his mother; but the awful Erinnys, the avenger of matricide, inflicted on him a long and terrible punishment, depriving him of his reason, and chasing him about from place to place without the possibility of repose or peace of mind. He craved protection and cure from the god at Delphi, who required him to dedicate at the temple, as an offering, the precious necklace of Cadmus, that irresistible bribe which had originally corrupted Eriphyle. He further intimated to the unhappy sufferer, that though the whole earth was tainted with his crime, and had become uninhabitable for him, yet there was a spot of ground which was not under the eye of the sun at the time when the matricide was committed, and where therefore Alkmaeon yet might find a tranquil shelter. The promise was realized at the mouth of the river Achelous, whose turbid stream was perpetually depositing new earth and forming additional islands. Upon one of these, near Eniadae, Alkmaeon settled, permanently and in peace: he became the primitive hero of Acarnania, to which his son Acarnan gave name. The necklace was found among the treasures of Delphi, together with that which had been given by Aphrodite to Helen, by the Phokian plunderers who stripped the temple in the time of Philip of Macedon. The Phokian women quarreled about these valuable ornaments: and we are told that the necklace of Eriphyle was allotted to a woman of gloomy and malignant disposition, who ended by putting her husband to death; that of Helen to a beautiful but volatile wife, who abandoned her husband from preference for a young Epirot.

There were several other legends respecting the distracted Alkmaeon, either appropriated or invented by the Attic tragedians. He went to Phegeus, king of Psophis in Arcadia, whose daughter Arsinoe he married, giving as a nuptial present the necklace of Eriphyle. Being however unable to remain there, in consequence of the unremitting persecutions of the maternal Erinnys, he sought shelter at the residence of king Acheous, whose daughter Kallirhoe he made his wife, and on whose soil he obtained repose. But Kallirhoe would not be satisfied without the possession of the necklace of Eriphyle, and Alkmaeon went back to Psophis to fetch it, where Phegeus and his sons slew him. He had left twin sons, infants, with Kallirhoe, who prayed fervently to Zeus that they might be preternaturally invested with immediate manhood, in order to revenge the murder of their father. Her prayer was granted, and her sons Amphoterus and Acarnan, having instantaneously sprung up to manhood, proceeded into Arcadia, slew the murderers of their father, and brought away the necklace of Eriphyle, which they carried to Delphi

Euripides deviated still more widely from the ancient epic, by making Alkmaeon the husband of Manto, daughter of Teiresias, and the father of Amphilochus. According to the Cyclic Thebais, Manto was consigned by the victorious Epigoni as a special offering to the Delphian god; and Amphilochus was son of Amphiaraus, not son of Alkmaeon. He was the eponymous hero of the town called the Amphilochian Argos, in Acarnania, on the shore of the Gulf of Ambrakia. Thucydides tells us that he went thither on his return from the Trojan war, being dissatisfied with the state of affairs which he found at the Peloponnesian Argos. The Acarnanians were remarkable for the numerous prophets which they supplied to the rest of Greece: their heroes were naturally drawn from the great prophetic race of the Melampodids.

Thus ends the legend of the two sieges of Thebes; the greatest event, except the siege of Troy, in the ancient epic; the greatest enterprise of war, between Greeks and Greeks, during the time of those who are called the Heroes.





WE now arrive at the capital and culminating point of the Grecian epic,—the two sieges and capture of Troy, with the destinies of the dispersed heroes, Trojan as well as Grecian, after the second and most celebrated capture and destruction of the city. It would require a large volume to convey any tolerable idea of the vast extent and expansion of this interesting fable, first handled by so many poets, epic, lyric and tragic, with their endless additions, transformations and contradictions,—then purged and recast by historical inquirers, who under color of setting aside the exaggerations of the poets, introduced a new vein of prosaic invention,—lastly, moralized and allegorized by philosophers. In the present brief outline of the general field of Grecian legend, or of that which the Greeks believed to be their antiquities, the Trojan war can be regarded as only one among a large number of incidents upon which Hekataeus and Herodotus looked back as constituting their foretime. Taken as a special legendary event, it is indeed of wider and larger interest than any other, but it is a mistake to single it out from the rest as if it rested upon a different and more trustworthy basis. I must therefore confine myself to an abridged narrative of the current and leading facts; and amidst the numerous contradictory statements which are to be found respecting every one of them, I know no better ground of preference than comparative antiquity, though even the oldest tales which we possess— those contained in the Iliad—evidently presuppose others of prior date.

The primitive ancestor of the Trojan line of kings is Dardanus, son of Zeus, founder and eponymous of Dardania: in the account of later authors, Dardanus was called the son of Zeus by Elektra, daughter of Atlas, and was further said to have come from Samothrace, or from Arcadia, or from Italy but of this Homer mentions nothing. The first Dardanian town founded by him was in a lofty position on the descent of Mount Ida; for he was not yet strong enough to establish himself on the plain. But his son Erichthonius, by the favor of Zeus, became the wealthiest of mankind. His flocks and herds having multiplied, he had in his pastures three thousand mares, the offspring of some of whom, by Boreas, produced horses of preternatural swiftness. Tros, the son of Erichthonius, and the eponym of the Trojans, had three sons—Ilus, Assaracus, and the beautiful Ganymedes, whom Zeus stole away to become his cup-bearer in Olympus, giving to his father Tros, as the price of the youth, a team of immortal horses.

From Ilus and Assaracus the Trojan and Dardanian lines diverge; the former passing from Ilus to Laomedon, Priam and Hector; the latter from Assaracus to Capys, Anchises and Aeneas. Ilus founded in the plain of Troy the holy city of Ilium; Assaracus and his descendants remained sovereigns of Dardania.

It was under the proud Laomedon, son of Ilus, that Poseidon and Apollo underwent, by command of Zeus, a temporary servitude; the former building the walls of the town, the latter tending the flocks and herds. When their task was completed and the penal period had expired, they claimed the stipulated reward; but Laomedon angrily repudiated their demand, and even threatened to cut off their ears, to tie them hand and foot, and to sell them in some distant island as slaves. He was punished for this treachery by a sea-monster, whom Poseidon sent to ravage his fields and to destroy his subjects. Laomedon publicly offered the immortal horses given by Zeus to his father Tros, as a reward to anyone who would destroy the monster. But an oracle declared that a virgin of noble blood must be surrendered to him, and the lot fell upon Hesione, daughter of Laomedon himself. Heracles arriving at this critical moment, killed the monster by the aid of a fort built for him by Athena and the Trojans, so as to rescue both the exposed maiden and the people; but Laomedon, by a second act of perfidy, gave him mortal horses in place of the matchless animals which had been promised. Thus defrauded of his due, Heracles equipped six ships, attacked and captured Troy and killed Laomedon, giving Hesione to his friend and auxiliary Telamon, to whom she bore the celebrated archer Teukros. A painful sense of this expedition was preserved among the inhabitants of the historical town of Ilium, who offered no worship to Heracles.

Among all the sons of Laomedon, Priam was the only one who had remonstrated against the refusal of the well-earned guerdon of Heracles; for which the hero recompensed him by placing him on the throne. Many and distinguished were his sons and daughters, as well by his wife Hecuba, daughter of Kisseus, as by other women. Among the sons were Hector, Paris, Daiphobus, Helenus, Troilus, Polites, Polyderus; among the daughters Laodike, Kreusa, Polyxena, and Cassandra.

The birth of Paris was preceded by formidable presages; for Hecuba dreamt that she was delivered of a firebrand, and Priam, on consulting the soothsayers, was informed that the son about to be born would prove fatal to him. Accordingly he directed the child to be exposed on Mount Ida; but the inauspicious kindness of the gods preserved him, and he grew up amidst the flocks and herds, active and beautiful, fair of hair and symmetrical in person, and the special favorite of Aphrodite.

It was to this youth, in his solitary shepherd's walk on Mount Ida, that the three goddesses Here, Athene, and Aphrodite were conducted, in order that he might determine the dispute respecting their comparative beauty, which had arisen at the nuptials of Peleus and Thetis,—a dispute brought about in pursuance of the arrangement, and in accomplishment of the deep-laid designs, of Zeus. For Zeus, remarking with pain the immoderate numbers of the then existing heroic race, pitied the earth for the overwhelming burden which she was compelled to bear, and determined to lighten it by exciting a destructive and long-continued war.

Paris awarded the palm of beauty to Aphrodite, who promised him in recompense the possession of Helena, wife of the Spartan Menelaus,—the daughter of Zeus and the fairest of living women. At the instance of Aphrodite, ships were built for him, and be embarked on the enterprise so fraught with eventual disaster to his native city, in spite of the menacing prophecies of his brother Helenus, and the always neglected warnings of Cassandra.

Paris, on arriving at Sparta, was hospitably entertained by Menelaus as well as by Castor and Pollux, and was enabled to present the rich gifts which he had brought to Helen. Menelaus then departed to Crete, leaving Helen to entertain his Trojan guest—a favorable moment which was employed by Aphrodite to bring about the intrigue and the elopement. Paris carried away with him both Helen and a large sum of money belonging to Menelaus— made a prosperous voyage to Troy—and arrived there safely with his prize on the third day.

Menelaus, informed by Iris in Crete of the perfidious return made by Paris for his hospitality, hastened home in grief and indignation to consult with his brother Agamemnon, as well as with the venerable Nestor, on the means of avenging the outrage. They made known the event to the Greek chiefs around them: among whom they found universal sympathy: Nestor, Palamedes and others went round to solicit aid in a contemplated attack of Troy, under the command of Agamemnon, to whom each chief promised both obedience and unwearied exertion until Helen should be recovered. Ten years were spent in equipping the expedition. The goddesses Here and Athene, incensed at the preference given by Paris to Aphrodite, and animated by steady attachment to Argos, Sparta and Mycenae, took an active part in the cause; and the horses of Here were fatigued with her repeated visits to the different parts of Greece.

By such efforts a force was at length assembled at Aulis in Boeotia, consisting of 1186 ships and more than 100,000 men,—a force outnumbering by more than ten to one anything that the Trojans themselves could oppose, and superior to the defenders of Troy even with all her allies included. It comprised heroes with their followers from the extreme points of Greece—from the north-western portions of Thessaly under Mount Olympus, as well as the western islands of Dulichium and Ithaca, and the eastern islands of Crete and Rhodes. Agamemnon himself contributed 100 ships manned with the subjects of his kingdom of Mycenae, besides furnishing 60 ships to the Arcadians, who possessed none of their own. Menelaus brought with him 60 ships, Nestor from Pylus 90, Idomeneus from Crete and Diomedes from Argos 80 each. Forty ships were manned by the Eleians, under four different chiefs; the like number under Meges from Dulichium and the Echinades, and under Thoas from Kalydon and the other Aetolian towns. Odysseus from Ithaca, and Ajax from Salamis, brought 12 ships each. The Abantes from Euboea, under Elephenor, filled 40 vessels; the Boeotians, under Peneleus and Leitus, 50; the inhabitants of Orchomenus and Aspledon, 30; the light-armed Locrians, under Ajax son of Oileus, 40; the Phokians as many. The Athenians, under Menestheus, a chief distinguished for his skill in marshaling an army, mustered 50 ships; the Myrmidons from Phthia and Hellas, under Achilles, assembled in 50 ships; Protesilaus from Phylake and Pyrasus, and Eurypylus from Ormenium, each came with 40 ships; Machaon and Podaleirius, from Trikka, with 30; Aumelus, from Pherae and the lake Boebeis, with 11; and Philoktetes from Meliboea with 7: the Lapitha, under Polypcetes, son of Peirithous, filled 40 vessels; the Enianes and Perrhaebians, under Guneus, 22; and the Magnetes under Prothous, 40; these last two were from the northernmost parts of Thessaly, near the mountains Pelion and Olympus. From Rhodes, under Tlepolemus, son of Heracles, appeared 9 ships; from Syme, under the comely but effeminate Nireus, 3; from Kos, Krapathus and the neighboring islands, 30, under the orders of Pheidippus and Antiphus, sons of Thessalus and grandsons of Heracles.


Among this band of heroes were included the distinguished warriors Ajax and Diomedes, and the sagacious Nestor; while Agamemnon himself, scarcely inferior to either of them in prowess, brought with him a high reputation for prudence in command. But the most marked and conspicuous of all were Achilles and Odysseus; the former a beautiful youth born of a divine mother, swift in the race, of fierce temper and irresistible might; the latter not less efficient as an ally from his eloquence, his untiring endurance, his inexhaustible resources under difficulty, and the mixture of daring courage with deep-laid cunning which never deserted him: the blood of the arch-deceiver Sisyphus, through an illicit connection with his mother Antikleia, was said to flow in his veins, and he was especially patronized and protected by the goddess Athene. Odysseus, unwilling at first to take part in the expedition, had even simulated insanity; but Palamedes, sent to Ithaca to invite him, tested the reality of his madness by placing in the furrow where Odysseus was ploughing, his infant son Telemachus. Thus detected, Odysseus could not refuse to join the Achaean host, but the prophet Halitherses predicted to him that twenty years would elapse before he revisited his native land. To Achilles the gods had promised the full effulgence of heroic glory before the walls of Troy; nor could the place be taken without both his cooperation and that of his son after him. But they had forewarned him that this brilliant career would be rapidly brought to a close; and that if he desired a long life, he must remain tranquil and inglorious in his native land. In spite of the reluctance of his mother Thetis, he preferred few years with bright renown, and joined the Achaean host. When Nestor and Odysseus came to Phthia to invite him, both he and his intimate friend Patroclus eagerly obeyed the call.

Agamemnon and his powerful host set sail from Aulis; but being ignorant of the locality and the direction, they landed by mistake in Teuthrania, a part of Mysia near the river Kaikus, and began to ravage the country under the persuasion that it was the neighborhood of Troy. Telephus, the king of the country, opposed and repelled them, but was ultimately defeated and severely wounded by Achilles. The Greeks now, discovering their mistake, retired; but their fleet was dispersed by a storm and driven back to Greece. Achilles attacked and took Skyrus, and there married Deidamia, the daughter of Lycomedes. Telephus, suffering from his wounds, was directed by the oracle to come to Greece and present himself to Achilles to be healed, by applying the scrapings of the spear with which the wound had been given: thus restored, he became the guide of the Greeks when they were prepared to renew their expedition.

The armament was again assembled at Aulis, but the goddess Artemis, displeased with the boastful language of Agamemnon, prolonged the duration of adverse winds, and the offending chief was compelled to appease her by the well-known sacrifice of his daughter Iphigenia. They then proceeded to Tenedos, from whence Odysseus and Menelaus were dispatched as envoys to Troy, to redemand Helen and the stolen property. In spite of the prudent counsels of Antenor, who received the two Grecian chiefs with friendly hospitality, the Trojans rejected the demand, and the attack was resolved upon. It was foredoomed by the gods that the Greek who first landed should perish: Protesilaus was generous enough to put himself upon this forlorn hope, and accordingly fell by the hand of Hector.

Meanwhile the Trojans had assembled a large body of allies from various parts of Asia Minor and Thrace: Dardanians under Aeneas, Lycians under Sarpedon, Mysians, Carians, Maeonians, Alizonians, Phrygians, Thracians, and Paeonians. But vain was the attempt to oppose the landing of the Greeks: the Trojans were routed, and even the invulnerable Cycnus, son of Poseidon, one of the great bulwarks of the defense, was slain by Achilles. Having driven the Trojans within their walls, Achilles attacked and stormed Lyrnessus, Pedasus, Lesbos and other places in the neighborhood, twelve towns on the sea-coast and eleven in the interior; he drove off the oxen of Aeneas and pursued the hero himself, who narrowly escaped with his life: he surprised and killed the youthful Troilus, son of Priam, and captured several of the other sons, whom he sold as prisoners into the islands of the Aegean. He acquired as his captive the fair Briseis, while Chryseis was awarded to Agamemnon: he was moreover eager to see the divine Helen, the prize and stimulus of this memorable struggle; and Aphrodite and Thetis contrived to bring about an interview between them.

At this period of the war the Grecian army was deprived of Palamedes, one of its ablest chiefs. Odysseus had not forgiven the artifice by which Palamedes had detected his simulated insanity, nor was be without jealousy of a rival clever and cunning in a degree equal, if not superior, to himself; one who had enriched the Greeks with the invention of letters, of dice for amusement, of night-watches, as well as with other useful suggestions. According to the old Cyprian epic, Palamedes was drowned while fishing, by the hands of Odysseus and Diomedes. Neither in the Iliad nor the Odyssey does the name of Palamedes occur: the lofty position which Odysseus occupies in both those poems—noticed with some degree of displeasure even by Pindar, who described Palamedes as the wiser man of the two—is sufficient to explain the omission. But in the more advanced period of the Greek mind, when intellectual superiority came to acquire a higher place in the public esteem as compared with military prowess, the character of Palamedes, combined with his unhappy fate, rendered him one of the most interesting personages in the Trojan legend. Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides each consecrated to him a special tragedy; but the mode of his death as described in the old epic was not suitable to Athenian ideas, and accordingly he was represented as having been falsely accused of treason by Odysseus, who caused gold to be buried in his tent, and persuaded Agamemnon and the Grecian chiefs that Palamedes had received it from the Trojans. He thus forfeited his life, a victim to the calumny of Odysseus and to the delusion of the leading Greeks. In the last speech made by the philosopher Socrates to his Athenian judges, he alludes with solemnity and fellow-feeling to the unjust condemnation of Palamedes, as analogous to that which he himself was about to suffer, and his companions seem to have dwelt with satisfaction on the comparison. Palamedes passed for an instance of the slanderous enmity and misfortune which so often wait upon superior genius.

In these expeditions the Grecian army consumed nine years, during which the subdued Trojans dared not give battle without their walls for fear of Achilles. Ten years was the fixed epical duration of the siege of Troy, just as five years was the duration of the siege of Kamikus by the Cretan armament which came to avenge the death of Minos: ten years of preparation, ten years of siege, and ten years of wandering for Odysseus, were periods suited to the rough chronological dashes of the ancient epic, and suggesting no doubts nor difficulties with the original hearers. But it was otherwise when the same events came to be contemplated by the historicizing Greeks, who could not be satisfied without either finding or inventing satisfactory bonds of coherence between the separate events. Thucydides tells us that the Greeks were less numerous than the poets have represented, and that being moreover very poor, they were unable to procure adequate and constant provisions: hence they were compelled to disperse their army, and to employ a part of it in cultivating the Chersonese,—a part in marauding expeditions over the neighborhood. Could the whole army have been employed against Troy at once (he says), the siege would have been much more speedily and easily concluded. If the great historian could permit himself thus to amend the legend in so many points, we might have imagined that the simpler course would have been to include the duration of the siege among the list of poetical exaggerations, and to affirm that the real siege had lasted only one year instead of ten. But it seems that the ten years’ duration was so capital a feature in the ancient tale, that no critic ventured to meddle with it.

A period of comparative intermission however was now at hand for the Trojans. The gods brought about the memorable fit of anger of Achilles, under the influence of which he refused to put on his armor, and kept his Myrmidons in camp. According to the Cypria, this was the behest of Zeus, who had compassion on the Trojans: according to the Iliad, Apollo was the originating cause, from anxiety to avenge the injury which his priest Chryses had endured from Agamemnon. For a considerable time, the combats of the Greeks against Troy were conducted without their best warrior, and severe indeed was the humiliation which they underwent in consequence. How the remaining Grecian chiefs vainly strove to make amends for his absence how Hector and the Trojans defeated and drove them to their ships—how the actual blaze of the destroying flame, applied by Hector to the ship of Protesilaus, roused up the anxious and sympathizing Patroclus, and extorted a reluctant consent from Achilles, to allow his friend and his followers to go forth and avert the last extremity of ruin—how Achilles, when Patroclus had been killed by Hector, forgetting his anger in grief for the death of his friend, reentered the fight, drove the Trojans within their walls with immense slaughter, and satiated his revenge both upon the living and the dead Hector—all these events have been chronicled, together with those divine dispensations on which most of them are made to depend, in the immortal verse of the Iliad.

Homer breaks off with the burial of Hector, whose body has just been ransomed by the disconsolate Priam; while the lost poem of Arktinus, entitled the Ethiopis, so far as we can judge from the argument still remaining of it, handled only the subsequent events of the siege. The poem of Quintus Smyrnaeus, composed about the fourth century of the Christian era, seems in its first books to coincide with the Ethiopis, in the subsequent books partly with the Ilias Minor of Lesches.

The Trojans, dismayed by the death of Hector, were again animated with hope by the appearance of the warlike and beautiful queen of the Amazons, Penthesileia, daughter of Ares, hitherto invincible in the field, who came to their assistance from Thrace at the head of a band of her countrywomen. She again led the besieged without the walls to encounter the Greeks in the open field; and under her auspices the latter were at first driven back, until she too was slain by the invincible arm of Achilles. The victor, on taking off the helmet of his fair enemy as she lay on the ground, was profoundly affected and captivated by her charms, for which he was scornfully taunted by Thersites: exasperated by this rash insult, he killed Thersites on the spot with a blow of his fist. A violent dispute among the Grecian chiefs was the result, for Diomedes, the kinsman of Thersites, warmly resented the proceeding; and Achilles was obliged to go to Lesbos, where he was purified from the act of homicide by Odysseus.

Next arrived Memnon, son of Tithonus and Eos, the most stately of living men, with a powerful band of black Ethiopians, to the assistance of Troy. Sallying forth against the Greeks, he made great havoc among them: the brave and popular Antilochus perished by his hand, a victim to filial devotion in defense of Nestor. Achilles at length attacked him, and for a long time the combat was doubtful between them: the prowess of Achilles and the supplication of Thetis with Zeus finally prevailed; whilst Eos obtained for her vanquished son the consoling gift of immortality. His tomb, however, was shown near the Propontis, within a few miles of the mouth of the river Esepus, and was visited annually by the birds called Memnonides, who swept it and bedewed it with water from the stream. So the traveler Pausanias was told, even in the second century after the Christian era, by the Hellespontine Greeks.

But the fate of Achilles himself was now at hand. After routing the Trojans and chasing them into the town, he was slain near the Skaean gate by an arrow from the quiver of Paris, directed under the unerring auspices of Apollo. The greatest efforts were made by the Trojans to possess themselves of the body, which was however rescued and borne off to the Grecian camp by the valor of Ajax and Odysseus. Bitter was the grief of Thetis for the loss of her son: she came into the camp with the Muses and the Nereids to mourn over him; and when a magnificent funeral-pile had been prepared by the Greeks to burn him with every mark of honor, she stole away the body and conveyed it to a renewed and immortal life in the island of Leuke in the Euxine Sea. According to some accounts he was there blest with the nuptials and company of Helen.

Thetis celebrated splendid funeral games in honor of her son, and offered the unrivalled panoply, which Hephaestus had forged and wrought for him, as a prize to the most distinguished warrior in the Grecian army. Odysseus and Ajax became rivals for the distinction, when Athena, together with some Trojan prisoners, who were asked from which of the two their country had sustained greatest injury, decided in favor of the former. The gallant Ajax lost his senses with grief and humiliation: in a fit of frenzy he slew some sheep, mistaking them for the men who had wronged him, and then fell upon his own sword.

Odysseus now learnt from Helenus son of Priam, whom he had captured in an ambuscade, that Troy could not be taken unless both Philoktetes, and Neoptolemus, son of Achilles, could be prevailed upon to join the besiegers. The former, having been stung in the foot by a serpent, and becoming insupportable to the Greeks from the stench of his wound, had been left at Lemnus in the commencement of the expedition, and had spent ten years in misery on that desolate island; but he still possessed the peerless bow and arrows of Heracles, which were said to be essential to the capture of Troy. Diomedes fetched Philoktetes from Lemnus to the Grecian camp, where he was healed by the skill of Machaon, and took an active part against the Trojans—engaging in single combat with Paris, and killing him with one of the Herakleian arrows. The Trojans were allowed to carry away for burial the body of this prince, the fatal cause of all their sufferings; but not until it had been mangled by the hand of Menelaus. Odysseus went to the island of Skyrus to invite Neoptolemus to the army. The untried but impetuous youth gladly obeyed the call, and received from Odysseus his father’s armor, while on the other hand, Eurypylus, son of Telephus, came from Mysia as auxiliary to the Trojans and rendered to them valuable service—turning the tide of fortune for a time against the Greeks, and killing some of their bravest chiefs, amongst whom was numbered Peneleos, and the unrivalled leech Maehaon. The exploits of Neoptolemus were numerous, worthy of the glory of his race and the renown of his father. He encountered and slew Eurypylus, together with numbers of the Mysian warriors: he routed the Trojans and drove them within their walls, from whence they never again emerged to give battle: nor was he less distinguished for his good sense and persuasive diction, than for forward energy in the field.

Troy however was still impregnable so long as the Palladium, a statue given by Zeus himself to Dardanus, remained in the citadel; and great care had been taken by the Trojans not only to conceal this valuable present, but to construct other statues so like it as to mislead any intruding robber. Nevertheless the enterprising Odysseus, having disguised his person with miserable clothing and self-inflicted injuries, found means to penetrate into the city and to convey the Palladium by stealth away: Helen alone recognized him; but she was now anxious to return to Greece, and even assisted Odysseus in concerting means for the capture of the town.

To accomplish this object, one final stratagem was resorted to. By the hands of Epeius of Panopeus, and at the suggestion of Athene, a capacious hollow wooden horse was constructed, capable of containing one hundred men: the élite of the Grecian heroes, Neoptolemus, Odysseus, Menelaus and others, concealed themselves in the inside of it, and the entire Grecian army sailed away to Tenedos, burning their tents and pretending to have abandoned the siege. The Trojans, overjoyed to find themselves free, issued from the city and contemplated with astonishment the fabric which their enemies had left behind: they long doubted what should be done with it; and the anxious heroes from within heard the surrounding consultations, as well as the voice of Helen when she pronounced their names and counterfeited the accents of their wives. Many of the Trojans were anxious to dedicate it to the gods in the city as a token of gratitude for their deliverance; but the more cautious spirits inculcated distrust of an enemy’s legacy; and Laocoon, the priest of Poseidon, manifested his aversion by striking the side of the horse with his spear. The sound revealed that the horse was hollow, but the Trojans heeded not this warning of possible fraud; and the unfortunate Laocoon, a victim to his own sagacity and patriotism, miserably perished before the eyes of his countrymen, together with one of his sons, —two serpents being sent expressly by the gods out of the sea to destroy him. By this terrific spectacle, together with the perfidious counsels of Sinon, a traitor whom the Greeks had left behind for the special purpose of giving false information, the Trojans were induced to make a breach in their own walls, and to drag the fatal fabric with triumph and exultation into their city.


The destruction of Troy, according to the decree of the gods, was now irrevocably sealed. While the Trojans indulged in a night of riotous festivity, Sinon kindled the fire-signal to the Greeks at Tenedos, loosening the bolts of the wooden horse, from out of which the enclosed heroes descended. The city, assailed both from within and from without, was thoroughly sacked and destroyed, with the slaughter or captivity of the larger portion of its heroes as well as its people. The venerable Priam perished by the hand of Neoptolemus, having in vain sought shelter at the domestic altar of Zeus Herkeios; but his son Deiphobus, who since the death of Paris had become the husband of Helen, defended his house desperately against Odysseus and Menelaus, and sold his life dearly. After he was slain, his body was fearfully mutilated by the latter.

Thus was Troy utterly destroyed — the city, the altars and temples, and the population. Aeneas and Antenor were permitted to escape, with their families, having been always more favorably regarded by the Greeks than the remaining Trojans. According to one version of the story, they had betrayed the city to the Greeks: a panther’s skin had been hung over the door of Antenor’s house as a signal for the victorious besiegers to spare it in the general plunder. In the distribution of the principal captives, Astyanax, the infant son of Hector, was cast from the top of the wall and killed, by Odysseus or Neoptolemus: Polyxena, the daughter of Priam, was immolated on the tomb of Achilles, in compliance with a requisition made by the shade of the deceased hero to his countrymen; while her sister Cassandra was presented as a prize to Agamemnon. She had sought sanctuary at the altar of Athene, where Ajax, the son of Oileus, making a guilty attempt to seize her, had drawn both upon himself and upon the army the serious wrath of the goddess, insomuch that the Greeks could hardly be restrained from stoning him to death. Andromache and Helenus were both given to Neoptolemus, who, according to the Ilias Minor, carried away also Aeneas as his captive.

Helen gladly resumed her union with Menelaus: she accompanied him back to Sparta, and lived with him there many years in comfort and dignity, passing afterwards to a happy immortality in the Elysian fields. She was worshipped as a goddess with heir brothers the Dioskuri and her husband, having her temple, statue and altar at Theraptnae and elsewhere, and various examples of her miraculous interventions were cited among the Greeks. The lyric poet Stesichorus had ventured to denounce her, conjointly with her sister Clytemnestra, in a tone of rude and plain-spoken severity, resembling that of Euripides and Lycophron afterwards, but strikingly opposite to the delicacy and respect with which she is always handled by Homer, who never admits reproaches against her except from her own lips. He was smitten with blindness, and made sensible of his impiety; but having repented and composed a special poem formally retracting the calumny, was permitted to recover his sight. In his poem of recantation (the famous palinode now unfortunately lost) he pointedly contradicted the Homeric narrative, affirming that Helen had never been to Troy at all, and that the Trojans had carried thither nothing but her image. It is, probably, to the excited religious feelings of Stesichorus that we owe the first idea of this glaring deviation from the old legend, which could never have been recommended by any considerations of poetical interest.

Other versions were afterwards started, forming a sort of compromise between Homer and Stesichorus, admitting that Helen had never really been at Troy, without altogether denying her elopement. Such is the story of her having been detained in Egypt during the whole term of the siege. Paris, on his departure from Sparta, had been driven thither by storms, and the Egyptian king Proteus, hearing of the grievous wrong which he had committed towards Menelaus, had sent him away from the country with severe menaces, detaining Helen until her lawful husband should come to seek her. When the Greeks reclaimed Helen from Troy, the Trojans assured them solemnly, that she neither was, nor ever had been, in the town; but the Greeks, treating this allegation as fraudulent, prosecuted the siege until their ultimate success confirmed the correctness of the statement, nor did Menelaus recover Helen until, on his return from Troy, he visited Egypt. Such was the story told by the Egyptian priests to Herodotus, and it appeared satisfactory to his historicizing mind. “For if Helen had really been at Troy (he argues) she would certainly have been given up, even had she been mistress of Priam himself instead of Paris: the Trojan king, with all his family and all his subjects, would never knowingly have incurred utter and irretrievable destruction for the purpose of retaining her: their misfortune was, that while they did not possess, and therefore could not restore her, they yet found it impossible to convince the Greeks that such was the fact”. Assuming the historical character of the war of Troy, the remark of Herodotus admits of no reply; nor can we greatly wonder that he acquiesced in the tale of Helen's Egyptian detention, as a substitute for the “incredible insanity” which the genuine legend imputes to Priam and the Trojans. Pausanias, upon the same ground and by the same mode of reasoning, pronounces that the Trojan horse must have been in point of fact a battering-engine, because to admit the literal narrative would be to impute utter childishness to the defenders of the city. And Mr. Payne Knight rejects Helen altogether as the real cause of the Trojan war, though she may have been the pretext of it; for he thinks that neither the Greeks nor the Trojans could have been so mad and silly as to endure calamities of such magnitude “for one little woman”. Mr. Knight suggests various political causes as substitutes; these might deserve consideration, either if any evidence could be produced to countenance them, or if the subject on which they are brought to bear could be shown to belong to the domain of history.


The return of the Grecian chiefs from Troy furnished matter to the ancient epic hardly less copious than the siege itself, and the more susceptible of indefinite diversity, inasmuch as those who had before acted in concert were now dispersed and isolated. Moreover the stormy voyages and compulsory wanderings of the heroes exactly fell in with the common aspirations after an heroic founder, and enabled even the most remote Hellenic settlers to connect the origin of their town with this prominent event of their ante-historical and semi-divine world. And an absence of ten years afforded room for the supposition of many domestic changes in their native abode, and many family misfortunes and misdeeds during the interval. One of these heroic “Returns”, that of Odysseus, has been immortalized by the verse if Homer. The hero, after a series of long-protracted suffering and expatriation, inflicted on him by the anger of Poseidon, at last reaches his native island, but finds his wife beset, his youthful son insulted, and his substance plundered, by a troop of insolent suitors; he is forced to appear as a wretched beggar, and to endure in his own person their scornful treatment; but finally, by the interference of Athene coming in aid of his own courage and stratagem, he is enabled to overwhelm his enemies, to resume his family position, and to recover his property. The return of several other Grecian chiefs was the subject of an epic poem by Hagias, which is now lost, but of which a brief abstract or argument still remains: there were in antiquity various other poems of similar title and analogous matter.

As usual with the ancient epic, the multiplied sufferings of this back-voyage are traced to divine wrath, justly provoked by the sins of the Greeks; who, in the fierce exultation of a victory purchased by so many hardships, had neither respected nor event spared the altars of the gods in Troy; and Athene, who had been their most zealous ally during the siege, was so incensed by their final recklessness, more especially by the outrage of Ajax, son of Oileus, that she actively harassed and embittered their return, in spite of every effort to appease her. The chiefs began to quarrel among themselves; their formal assembly became a scene of drunkenness; even Agamemnon and Menelaus lost their fraternal harmony, and each man acted on his own separate resolution. Nevertheless, according to the Odyssey, Nestor, Diomedes, Neoptolemus, Idomeneus and Philoktetes reached home speedily and safely: Agamemnon also arrived in Peloponnesus, to perish by the hand of a treacherous wife; but Menelaus was condemned to long wanderings and to the severest privations in Egypt, Cyprus and elsewhere, before he could set foot in his native land. The Lokrian Ajax perished on the Gyraean rock. Though exposed to a terrible storm, he had already reached this place of safety, when he indulged in the rash boast of having escaped in defiance of the gods: no sooner did Poseidon hear this language, than he struck with his trident the rock which Ajax was grasping and precipitated both into the sea. Kalchas the soothsayer, together with Leonteus and Polypoetes, proceeded by land from Troy to Kolophon.


In respect however to these and other Grecian heroes, tales were told different from those in the Odyssey, assigning to them a long expatriation and a distant home. Nestor went to Italy, where he founded Metapontum, Pisa and Herakleia: Philoktetes also went to Italy, founded Petilia and Krimisa, and sent settlers to Egesta in Sicily. Neoptolemus, under the advice of Thetis, marched by land across Thrace, met with Odysseus, who had come by sea, at Maroneia, and then pursued his journey to Epirus, where he became king of the Molossians. Idomeneus came to Italy, and founded Uria in the Salentine peninsula. Diomedes, after wandering far and wide, went along the Italian coast into the innermost Adriatic gulf, and finally settled in Daunia, founding the cities of Argyrippa, Beneventum, Atria and Diomedeia: by the favor of Athene he became immortal, and was worshipped as a god in many different places. The Lokrian followers of Ajax founded the Epizephyrian Lokri on the southernmost corner of Italy, besides another settlement in Libya.

I have spoken in another place of the compulsory exile of Teukros, who, besides founding the city of Salamis in Cyprus, is said to have established some settlements in the Iberian peninsula. Menestheus the Athenian did the like, and also founded both Elaea in Mysia and Skylletium in Italy. The Arcadian chief Agamenor founded Paphus in Cyprus. Epeius, of Panopeus in Phocis, the constructor of the Trojan horse with the aid of the goddess Athene, settled at Lagaria near Sybaris on the coast of Italy; and the very tools which he had employed in that remarkable fabric were shown down to a late date in the temple of Athene at Metapontum. Temples, altars and towns were also pointed out in Asia Minor, in Samos and in Crete, the foundation of Agamemnon or of his followers. The inhabitants of the Grecian town of Scyon, in the Thracian peninsula called rankle or Pellene, accounted themselves the offspring of the Pellenians from Achaea, in Peloponnesus, who had served under Agamemnon before Troy, and who on their return from the siege had been driven on the spot by a storm and there settled. The Pamphylians, on the southern coast of Asia Minor, deduced their origin from the wanderings of Amphilochus and Kalchus after the siege of Troy: the inhabitants of the Amphilochian Argos on the Gulf of Ambrakia revered the same Amphilochus as their founder. The Orchomenians under Ialmenus, on quitting the conquered city, wandered or were driven to the eastern extremity of the Euxine Sea; and the barbarous Achaeans under Mount Caucasus were supposed to have derived their first establishment from this source. Meriones with his Keeton followers settled at Engyion in Sicily, along with the preceding Cretans who had remained there after the invasion of Minos. The Elyminians in Sicily also were composed of Trojans and Greeks separately driven to the spot, who, forgetting their previous differences, united in the joint settlements of Eryx and Egesta. We hear of Podaleirius both in Italy and on the coast of Caria; of Akamas, son of Theseus, at Amphipolis in Thrace, at Soli in Cyprus, and at Synnada in Phrygia; of Guneus, Prothous and Eurypylus, in Crete as well as in Libya. The obscure poem of Lycophron enumerates many of these dispersed and expatriated heroes, whose conquest of Troy was indeed a Cadmeian victory (according to the proverbial phrase of the Greeks), wherein the sufferings of the victor were little inferior to those of the vanquished. It was particularly among the Italian Greeks, where they were worshipped with very special solemnity, that their presence as wanderers from Troy was reported and believed.

I pass over the numerous other tales which circulated among the ancients, illustrating the ubiquity of the Grecian and Trojan heroes as well as that of the Argonauts,—one of the most striking features in the Hellenic legendary world. Amongst them all, the most interesting, individually, is Odysseus, whose romantic adventures in fabulous places and among fabulous persons have been made familiarly known by Homer. The goddesses Kalypso and Circe; the semi-divine mariners of Pheacia, whose ships are endowed with consciousness and obey without a steersman; the one-eyed Cyclopes, the gigantic Laestrygones, and the wind-ruler Eolus; the Sirens who ensnare by their song, as the Lotophagi fascinate by their food—all these pictures formed integral and interesting portions of the old epic. After the suitors had been buried by their relatives, he offered sacrifice to the Nymphs, and then went to Elis to inspect his herds of cattle there pasturing: the Eleian Polyxenus welcomed him hospitably, and made him a present of a bowl: Odysseus then returned to Ithaca, and fulfilled the rites and sacrifices prescribed to him by Teiresias in his visit to the underworld. This obligation discharged, he went to the country of the Thesprotians, and there married the queen Kallidike: he headed the Thesprotians in a war against the Brygians, the latter being conducted by Ares himself, who fiercely assailed Odysseus; but the goddess Athene stood by him, and he was enabled to make head against Ares until Apollo came and parted them. Odysseus then returned to Ithaca, leaving the Thesprotian kingdom to Polypcetes, his son by Kallidike.

Homer leaves Odysseus reestablished in his house and family; but so marked a personage could never be permitted to remain in the tameness of domestic life: the epic poem called the Telegonia ascribed to him a subsequent series of adventures. Telegonus, his son by Circe, coming to Ithaca in search of his father, ravaged the island and killed Odysseus without knowing who he was. Bitter repentance overtook the son for his undesigned parricide: at his prayer and by the intervention of his mother Circe, both Penelope and Telemachus were made immortal: Telegonus married Penelope, and Telemachus married Circe.

We see by this poem that Odysseus was represented as the mythical ancestor of the Thesprotian kings, just as Neoptolemus was of the Molossian.


It has already been mentioned that Antenor and Aeneas stand distinguished from the other Trojans by a dissatisfaction with Priam and a sympathy with the Greeks, which is by Sophocles and others construed as treacherous collusion,—a suspicion indirectly glanced, though emphatically repelled, by the Aeneas of Virgil. In the old epic of Arktinus, next in age to the Iliad and Odyssey, Aeneas abandons Troy and retires to Mount Ida, in terror at the miraculous death of Laocoon, before the entry of the Greeks into the town and the last night-battle: yet Lesches, in another of the ancient epic poems, represented him as having been carried away captive by Neoptolemus. In a remarkable passage of the Iliad, Poseidon describes the family of Priam as having incurred the hatred of Zeus, and predicts that Aeneas and his descendants shall reign over the Trojans: the race of Dardanus, beloved by Zeus more than all his other sons, would thus be preserved, since Aeneas belonged to it. Accordingly, when Aeneas is in imminent peril from the hands of Achilles, Poseidon specially interferes to rescue him, and even the implacable miso-Trojan goddess Here assents to the proceeding. These passages have been construed by various able critics to refer to a family of philo-Hellenic or semi-Hellenic Eneads, known even in the time of the early singers of the Iliad as masters of some territory in or near the Troad, and professing to be descended from, as well as worshipping, Aeneas. In the town of Skepsis, situated in the mountainous range of Ida, about thirty miles eastward of Ilium, there existed two noble and priestly families who professed to be descended, the one from Hector, the other from Eneas. The Skepsian critic Demetrius (in whose time both these families were still to be found) informs us that Skamandrius son of Hector, and Ascanius son of Eneas, were the archegets or heroic founders of his native city, which had been originally situated on one of the highest ranges of Ida, and was subsequently transferred by them to the less lofty spot on which it stood in his time. In Arisbe and Gentinus there seem to have been families professing the same descent, since the same archegets were acknowledged. In Ophrynium, Hector had his consecrated edifice, and in Ilium both he and Aeneas were worshipped as gods: and it was the remarkable statement of the Lesbian Menekrates, that Eneas, “having been wronged by Paris and stripped of the sacred privileges which belonged to him, avenged himself by betraying the city, and then became one of the Greeks”.

One tale thus among many respecting Aeneas, and that too the most ancient of all, preserved among the natives of the Troad, who worshipped him as their heroic ancestor, was, that after the capture of Troy he continued in the country as king of the remaining Trojans, on friendly terms with the Greeks. But there were other tales respecting him, alike numerous and irreconcilable: the hand of destiny marked him as a wanderer, and his ubiquity is not exceeded even by that of Odysseus. We hear of him at Aenus in Thrace, in Pallene, at Eneia in the Thermaic Gulf, in Delus, at Orchomenus and Mantineia in Arcadia, in the islands of Kythera and Zakynthus, in Leukas and Ambrakia, at Buthrotum in Epirus, on the Salentine peninsula and various other places in the southern region of Italy; at Drepana and Segesta in Sicily, at Carthage, at Cape Palinurus, Cumae, Misenum, Caieta, and finally in Latium, where he lays the first humble foundation of the mighty Rome and her empire. And the reason why his wanderings were not continued still further was, that the oracles and the pronounced will of the gods directed him to settle in Latium. In each of these numerous places his visit was commemorated and certified by local monuments or special legends, particularly by temples and permanent ceremonies in honor of his mother Aphrodite, whose worship accompanied him everywhere: there were also many temples and many different tombs of Aeneas himself. The vast ascendency acquired by Rome, the ardor with which all the literary Romans espoused the idea of a Trojan origin, and the fact that the Julian family recognized Aeneas as their gentile primary ancestor,—all contributed to give to the Roman version of his legend the preponderance over every other. The various other places in which monuments of Aeneas were found came thus to be represented as places where he had halted for a time on his way from Troy to Latium. But though the legendary pretensions of these places were thus eclipsed in the eyes of those who constituted the literary public, the local belief was not extinguished: they claimed the hero as their permanent property, and his tomb was to them a proof that he had lived and died among them.

Antenor, who shares with Aeneas the favorable sympathy of the Greeks, is said by Pindar to have gone from Troy along with Menelaus and Helen into the region of Cyrene in Libya. But according to the more current narrative, he placed himself at the head of a body of Eneti or Veneti from Paphlagonia, who had come as allies of Troy, and went by sea into the inner part of the Adriatic Gulf, where he conquered the neighboring barbarians and founded the town of Patavium (the modern Padua); the Veneti in this region were said to owe their origin to his immigration. We learn further from Strabo, that Opsikellas, one of the companions of Antenor, had continued his wanderings even into Iberia, and that he had there established a settlement bearing his name.

Thus ended the Trojan war; together with its sequel, the dispersion of the heroes, victors as well as vanquished. The account here given of it has been unavoidably brief and imperfect; for in a work intended to follow consecutively the real history of the Greeks, no greater space can be allotted even to the most splendid gem of their legendary period. Indeed, although it would be easy to fill a large volume with the separate incidents which have been introduced into the “Trojan cycle”, the misfortune is that they are for the most part so contradictory as to exclude all possibility of weaving them into one connected narrative. We are compelled to select one out of the number, generally without any solid ground of preference, and then to note the variations of the rest. No one who has not studied the original documents can imagine the extent to which this discrepancy proceeds; it covers almost every portion and fragment of the tale.

But though much may have been thus omitted of what the reader might expect to find in an account of the Trojan war, its genuine character has been studiously preserved, without either exaggeration or abatement. The real Trojan war is that which was recounted by Homer and the old epic poets, and continued by all the lyric and tragic composers. For the latter, though they took great liberties with the particular incidents, and introduced to some extent a new moral tone, yet worked more or less faithfully on the Homeric scale: and even Euripides, who departed the most widely from the feeling of the old legend, never lowered down his matter to the analogy of contemporary life. They preserved its well-defined object, at once righteous and romantic, the recovery of the daughter of Zeus and sister of the Dioskuri—its mixed agencies, divine, heroic and human—the colossal force and deeds of its chief actors—its vast magnitude and long duration, as well as the toils which the conquerors underwent, and the Nemesis which followed upon their success. And these were the circumstances which, set forth in the full blaze of epic and tragic poetry, bestowed upon the legend its powerful and imperishable influence over the Hellenic mind. The enterprise was one comprehending all the members of the Hellenic body, of which each individually might be proud, and in which, nevertheless, those feelings of jealous and narrow patriotism, so lamentably prevalent in many of the towns, were as much as possible excluded. It supplied them with a grand and inexhaustible object of common sympathy, common faith, and common admiration; and when occasions arose for bringing together a Pan-Hellenic force against the barbarians, the precedent of the Homeric expedition was one upon which the elevated minds of Greece could dwell with the certainty of rousing an unanimous impulse, if not always of counterworking sinister by motives, among their audience. And the incidents comprised in the Trojan cycle were familiarized, not only to the public mind but also to the public eye, by innumerable representations both of the sculptor and the painter,—those which were romantic and chivalrous being better adapted for this purpose, and therefore more constantly employed, than any other.

Of such events the genuine Trojan war of the old epic was for the most part composed. Though literally believed, reverentially cherished, and numbered among the gigantic phenomena of the past, by the Grecian public, it is in the eyes of modern inquiry essentially a legend and nothing more. If we are asked whether it be not a legend embodying portions of historical matter, and raised upon a basis of truth,—whether there may not really have occurred at the foot of the hill of Ilium a war purely human and political, without gods, without heroes, without Helen, without Amazons, without Ethiopians under the beautiful son of Eos, without the wooden horse, without the characteristic and expressive features of the old epical war,—like the mutilated trunk of Deiphobus in the underworld; if we are asked whether there was not really some such historical Trojan war as this, our answer must be, that as the possibility of it cannot be denied, so neither can the reality of it be affirmed. We possess nothing but the ancient epic itself without any independent evidence: had it been an age of records indeed, the Homeric epic in its exquisite and unsuspecting simplicity would probably never have come into existence. Whoever therefore ventures to dissect Homer, Arktinus and Lesches, and to pick out certain portions as matters of fact, while he sets aside the rest as fiction, must do so in full reliance on his own powers of historical divination, without any means either of proving or verifying his conclusions. Among many attempts, ancient as well as modern, to identify real objects in this historical darkness, that of Dio Chrysostom deserves attention for its extraordinary boldness. In his oration addressed to the inhabitants of Ilium, and intended to demonstrate that the Trojans were not only blameless as to the origin of the war, but victorious in its issue—he overthrows all the leading points of the Homeric narrative, and re-writes nearly the whole from beginning to end: Paris is the lawful husband of Helen, Achilles is slain by Hector, and the Greeks retire without taking Troy, disgraced as well as baffled. Having shown without difficulty that the Iliad, if it be looked at as a history, is full of gaps, incongruities and absurdities, he proceeds to compose a more plausible narrative of his own, which he tenders as so much authentic matter of fact. The most important point, however, which his Oration brings to view is, the literal and confiding belief with which the Homeric narrative was regarded, as if it were actual history, not only by the inhabitants of Ilium, but also by the general Grecian public.

The small town of Ilium, inhabited by Eolic Greeks and raised into importance only by the legendary reverence attached to it, stood upon an elevated ridge forming a spur from Mount Ida, rather more than three miles from the town and promontory of Sigeium, and about twelve stadia, or less than two miles, from the sea at its nearest point. From Sigeium and the neighboring town of Achilleium (with its monument and temple of Achilles), to the town of Rhoeteium on a hill higher up the Hellespont (with its monument mid chapel of Ajax called the Aianteium), was a distance of sixty stadia, or seven miles and a half in the straight course by sea: in the intermediate space was a bay and an adjoining plain, comprehending the embouchure of the Skamander, and extending to the base of the ridge on which Ilium stood. This plain was the celebrated plain of Troy, in which the great Homeric battles were believed to have taken place: the portion of the bay near to Sigeium went by the name of the Naustathmon of the Achaeans (i.e. the spot where they dragged their ships ashore), and was accounted to have been the camp of Agamemnon and his vast army.

Historical Ilium was founded, according to the questionable statement of Strabo, during the last dynasty of the Lydian kings, that is, at some period later than 720 BC. Until after the days of Alexander the Great—indeed until the period of Roman preponderance —it always remained a place of inconsiderable power and importance, as we learn not only from the assertion of the geographer, but also from the fact that Achilleium, Sigeium and Rhoeteium were all independent of it. But inconsiderable as it might be, it was the only place which ever bore the venerable name immortalized by Homer. Like the Homeric Ilium, it had its temple of Athene, wherein she was worshipped as the presiding goddess of the town: the inhabitants affirmed that Agamemnon had not altogether destroyed the town, but that it had been reoccupied after his departure, and had never ceased to exist. Their acropolis was called Pergamum, and in it was shown the house of Priam and the altar of Zeus Herkeius where that unhappy old man had been slain: moreover there were exhibited, in the temples, panoplies which had been worn by the Homeric heroes, and doubtless many other relics appreciated by admirers of the Iliad.

These were testimonies which few persons in those ages were inclined to question, when combined with the identity of name and general locality; nor does it seem that any one did question them until the time of Demetrius of Skepsis. Hellanikus expressly described this Ilium as being the Ilium of Homer, for which assertion Strabo (or probably Demetrius, from whom the narrative seems to be copied) imputes to him very gratuitously an undue partiality towards the inhabitants of the town. Herodotus relates, that Xerxes in his march into Greece visited the place, went up to the Pergamum of Priam, inquired with much interest into the details of the Homeric siege, made libations to the fallen heroes, and offered to the Athene of Ilium his magnificent sacrifice of a thousand oxen: he probably represented and believed himself to be attacking Greece as the avenger of the Priamid family. The Lacedaemonian admiral Mindarus, while his fleet lay at Abydus, went personally to Ilium to offer sacrifice to Athene, and saw from that elevated spot the battle fought between the squadron of Dorieus and the Athenians, on the shore near Rhoeteium. During the interval between the Peloponnesian war and the Macedonian invasion of Persia. Ilium was always garrisoned as a strong position; but its domain was still narrow, and did not extend even to the sea which was so near to it. Alexander, on crossing the Hellespont, sent his army from Sestus to Abydus, under Parmenio, and sailed personally from Elaeus in the Chersonese, after having solemnly sacrificed at the Elaeuntian shrine of Protesilaus, to the harbor of the Achaeans between Sigeium and Rhoeteium. He then ascended to Ilium, sacrificed to the Eliean Athene, and consecrated in her temple his own panoply, in exchange for which he took some of the sacred arms there suspended, which were said to have been preserved from the time of the Trojan war. These arms were carried before him when he went to battle by his armor-bearers. It is a fact still more curious, and illustrative of the strong working of the old legend on an impressible and eminently religious mind, that he also sacrificed to Priam himself, on the very altar of Zeus Herkeius from which the old king was believed to have been torn by Neoptolemus. As that fierce warrior was his heroic ancestor by the maternal side, he desired to avert from himself the anger of Priam against the Achilleid race.

Alexander made to the inhabitants of Ilium many munificent promises, which he probably would have executed, had he not been prevented by untimely death: for the Trojan war was amongst all the Grecian legends the most thoroughly Pan-Hellenic, and the young king of Macedon, besides his own sincere legendary faith, was anxious to merge the local patriotism of the separate Greek towns in one general Hellenic sentiment under himself as chief. One of his successors, Antigonus, founded the city of Alexandreia in the Troad, between Sigeium and the more southerly promontory of Lektum; compressing into it the inhabitants of many of the neighboring Eolic towns in the region of Ida, — Skepsis, Kebren, Hamaxitus, Kolonae, and Neandria, though the inhabitants of Skepsis were subsequently permitted by Lysimachus to resume their own city and autonomous government. Ilium however remained without any special mark of favor until the arrival of the Romans in Asia and their triumph over Antiochus (about 190 BC). Though it retained its walls and its defensible position, Demetrius of Skepsis, who visited it shortly before that event, described it as being then in a state of neglect and poverty, many of the houses not even having tiled roofs. In this dilapidated condition, however, it was still mythically recognized both by Antiochus and by the Roman consul Livius, who went up thither to sacrifice to the Iliean Athene. The Romans, proud of their origin from Troy and Aeneas, treated Ilium with signal munificence; not only granting to it immunity from tribute, but also adding to its domain the neighboring territories of Gergis, Rhoeteium and Sigeium—and making the Ilieans masters of the whole coasts from the Peraea (or continental possessions) of Tenedos (southward of Sigeium) to the boundaries of Dardanus, which had its own title to legendary reverence as the special sovereignty of Eneas. The inhabitants of Sigeium could not peaceably acquiesce in this loss of their autonomy, and their city was destroyed by the Ilians.

The dignity and power of Ilium being thus prodigiously enhanced, we cannot doubt that the inhabitants assumed to themselves exaggerated importance as the recognized parents of all-conquering Rome. Partly, we may naturally suppose, from the jealousies thus aroused on the part of their neighbors at Skepsis and Alexandreia Troas—partly from the pronounced tendency of the age (in which Krates at Pergamum and Aristarchus at Alexandria divided between them the palm of literary celebrity) towards criticism and illustration of the old poets—a blow was now aimed at the mythical legitimacy of Ilium. Demetrius of Skepsis, one of the most laborious of the Homeric critics, had composed thirty books of comment upon the Catalogue in the Iliad: Hestiaea, an authoress of Alexandreia Troas, had written on the same subject: both of them, well-acquainted with the locality, remarked that the vast battles described in the Iliad could not be packed into the narrow space between Ilium and the Naustathmon of the Greeks; the more so, as that space, too small even as it then stood, had been considerably enlarged since the date of the Iliad by deposits at the mouth of the Skamander. They found no difficulty in pointing out topographical incongruities and impossibilities as to the incidents in the Iliad, which they professed to remove by the startling theory that the Homeric Ilium had not occupied the site of the city so called. There was a village, called the village of the Ilieans, situated rather less than four miles from the city in the direction of Mount Ida, and further removed from the sea; here, they affirmed the “holy Troy” had stood.

No positive proof was produced to sustain the conclusion, for Strabo expressly states that not a vestige of the ancient city remained at the Village of the Ilieans: but the fundamental supposition was backed by a second accessory supposition, to explain how it happened that all such vestiges had disappeared.

Nevertheless Strabo adopts the unsupported hypothesis of Demetrius as if it were an authenticated fact—distinguishing pointedly between Old and New Ilium, and even censuring Hellanikus for having maintained the received local faith. But I cannot find that Demetrius and Hestiaea have been followed in this respect by any other writer of ancient times excepting Strabo. Ilium still continued to be talked of and treated by everyone as the genuine Homeric Troy: the cruel jests of the Roman rebel Fimbria, when he sacked the town and massacred the inhabitants—the compensation made by Sylla, and the pronounced favor of Julius Caesar and Augustus,—all prove this continued recognition of identity. Arrian, though a native of Nicomedia, holding a high appointment in Asia Minor, and remarkable for the exactness of his topographical notices, describes the visit of Alexander to Ilium, without any suspicion that the place with all its relics was a mere counterfeit: Aristides, Dio Chrysostom, Pausanias, Appian, and Plutarch hold the same language. But modern writers seem for the most part to have taken up the supposition from Strabo as implicitly as he took it from Demetrius. They call Ilium by the disrespectful appellation of New Ilium—while the traveler in the Troad looks for Old Ilium as if it were the unquestionable spot where Priam had lived and moved; the name is even formally enrolled on the best maps recently prepared of the ancient Troad.


Strabo has here converted into geographical matter of fact an hypothesis purely gratuitous, with a view of saving the accuracy of the Homeric topography; though in all probability the locality of the pretended Old Ilium would have been found open to difficulties not less serious than those which it was introduced to obviate. It may be true that Demetrius and he were justified in their negative argument, so as to show that the battles described in the Iliad could not possibly have taken place if the city of Priam had stood on the hill inhabited by the Ilieans. But the legendary faith subsisted before, and continued without abatement afterwards, notwithstanding such topographical impossibilities. Hellanikus, Herodotus, Mindarus, the guides of Xerxes, and Alexander, had not been shocked by them: the case of the latter is the strongest of all, because he had received the best education of his time under Aristotle—he was a passionate admirer and constant reader of the Iliad—he was moreover personally familiar with the movements of armies, and lived at a time when maps, which began with Anaximander, the disciple of Thales, were at least known to all who sought instruction. Now if, notwithstanding such advantages, Alexander fully believed in the identity of Ilium, unconscious of these many and glaring topographical difficulties, much less would Homer himself, or the Homeric auditors, be likely to pay attention to them, at a period, five centuries earlier, of comparative rudeness and ignorance, when prose records as well as geographical maps were totally unknown. The inspired poet might describe, and his hearers would listen with delight to the tale, how Hector, pursued by Achilles, ran thrice round the city of Troy, while the trembling Trojans were all huddled into the city, not one daring to come out even at this last extremity of their beloved prince—and while the Grecian army looked on, restraining unwillingly their uplifted spears at the nod of Achilles, in order that Hector might perish by no other hand than his; nor were they, while absorbed by this impressive recital, disposed to measure distances or calculate topographical possibilities with reference to the site of the real Ilium. The mistake consists in applying to Homer and to the Homeric siege of Troy, criticisms which would be perfectly just if brought to bear on the Athenian siege of Syracuse, as described by Thucydides; in the Peloponnesian war— but which are not more applicable to the epic narrative than they would be to the exploits of Amadis or Orlando.

There is every reason for presuming that the Ilium visited by Xerxes and Alexander was really the “holy Ilium” present to the mind of Homer; and if so, it must have been inhabited, either by Greeks or by some anterior population, at a period earlier than that which Strabo assigns. History recognizes neither Troy the city, nor Trojans, as actually existing; but the extensive region called Trills, or the Tread (more properly Troias), is known both to Herodotus and to Thucydides: it seems to include the territory westward of an imaginary line drawn from the northeast corner of the Adramyttian gulf to the Propontis at Parium, since both Antandrus, Kolenae, and the district immediately round Ilium, are regarded as belonging to the Troad. Herodotus further notices the Teukrians of Gergis (a township conterminous with Ilium, and lying to the eastward of the road from Ilium to Abydus), considering them as the remnant of a larger Teukrian population which once resided in the country, and which had in very early times undertaken a vast migration from Asia into Europe. To that Teukrian population he thinks that the Homeric Trojans belonged: and by later writers, especially by Virgil and the other Romans, the names Teukrians and Trojans are employed as equivalents. As the name Trojans is not mentioned in any contemporary historical monument, so the name Teukrians never once occurs in the old epic. It appears to have been first noticed by the elegiac poet Kallinus, about 660 BC, who connected it by an alleged immigration of Teukrians from Crete into the region round about Ida. Others again denied this, asserting that the primitive ancestor, Teukrus, had come into the country from Attica, or that he was of indigenous origin, born from Skamander and the nymph Idaea—all various manifestations of that eager thirst after an eponymous hero which never deserted the Greeks. Gergithians occur in more than one spot in Aeolis, even so far southward as the neighborhood of Kyme: the name has no place in Homer, but he mentions Gorgythion and Kebriones as illegitimate sons of Priam, thus giving a sort of epical recognition both to Gergis and Kebren. As Herodotus calls the old epical Trojans by the name Teukrians, so the Attic Tragedians call them Phrygians; though the Homeric hymn to Aphrodite represents Phrygians and Trojans as completely distinct, specially noting the diversity of language; and in the Iliad the Phrygians are simply numbered among the allies of Troy from the far Ascania, without indication of any more intimate relationship. Nor do the tales which connect Dardanus with Samothrace and Arcadia find countenance in the Homeric poems, wherein Dardanus is the son of Zeus, having no root anywhere except in Dardania. The mysterious solemnities of Samothrace, afterwards so highly venerated throughout the Grecian world, date from a period much later than Homer; and the religious affinities of that island as well as of Crete with the territories of Phrygia and Eolis, were certain, according to the established tendency of the Grecian mind, to beget stories of a common genealogy.


To pass from this legendary world,—an aggregate of streams distinct and heterogeneous, which do not willingly come into confluence, and cannot be forced to intermix,—into the clearer vision afforded by Herodotus, we learn from him that in the year 500 BC the whole coast-region from Dardanus southward to the promontory of Lektum (including the town of Ilium), and from Lektum eastward to Adramyttium, had been Aeolized, or was occupied by Eolic Greeks—likewise the inland towns of Skepsist and Kreben. So that if we draw a line northward from Adramyttium to Kyzikus on the Propontis, throughout the whole territory westward from that line, to the Hellespont and the Egean Sea, all the considerable towns would be Hellenic, with the exception of Gergis and the Teukrian population around it,—all the towns worthy of note were either Ionic or Eolic. A century earlier, the Teukrian population would have embraced a wider range—perhaps Skepsis and Kreben, the latter of which places was colonized by Greeks from Kyme: a century afterwards, during the satrapy of Pharnabazus, it appears that Gergis had become Hellenized as well as the rest. The four towns, Ilium, Gergis, Kebren and Skepsis, all in lofty and strong positions, were distinguished each by a solemn worship and temple of Athene, and by the recognition of that goddess as their special patroness.

The author of the Iliad conceived the whole of this region as occupied by people not Greek,—Trojans, Dardanians, Lycians, Lelegians, Pelasgians, and Cilicians. He recognizes a temple and worship of Athene in Ilium, though the goddess is bitterly hostile to the Trojans: and Arktinus described the Palladium as the capital protection of the city. But perhaps the most remarkable feature of identity between the Homeric and the historical Aeolis, is, the solemn and diffused worship of the Sminthian Apollo. Chryse, Killa and Tenedos, and more than one place called Sminthium, maintain the surname and invoke the protection of that god during later times, just as they are emphatically described to do by Homer.

When it is said that the Post-Homeric Greeks gradually Hellenized this entire region, we are not to understand that the whole previous population either retired or was destroyed. The Greeks settled in the leading and considerable towns, which enabled them both to protect one another and to gratify their predominant tastes. Partly by force—but greatly also by that superior activity, and power of assimilating foreign ways of thought to their own, which distinguished them from the beginning—they invested all the public features and management of the town with an Hellenic air, distributed all about it their gods, their heroes and their legends, and rendered their language the medium of public administration, religious songs and addresses to the gods, and generally for communications wherein any number of persons were concerned. But two remarks are here to be made: first, in doing this they could not avoid taking to themselves more or less of that which belonged to the parties with whom they fraternized, so that the result was not pure Hellenism; next, that even this was done only in the towns, without being fully extended to the territorial domain around, or to those smaller townships which stood to the town in a dependent relation. The and Ionic Greeks borrowed from the Asiatics whom they had Hellenized, musical instruments and new laws of rhythm and melody, which they knew how to turn to account: they further adopted more or less of those violent and maddening religion rites, manifested occasionally in self-inflicted suffering and mutilation, which were indigenous in Asia Minor in the worship of the Great Mother. The religion of the Greeks in the region of Ida as well as at Kyzilus was more orgiastic than the native worship of Greece Proper, just as that of Lampsacus, Priapus and Parium was more licentious. From the Teukrian region of Gergis, and from the Gergithes near Kyme, sprang the original Sibylline prophecies, and the legendary Sibyll who plays so important a part in the tale of Aeneas. The myth of the Sibyl, whose prophecies are supposed to be heard in the hollow blast bursting out from obscure caverns and apertures in the rocks, was indigenous among the Gergithian Teukrians, and passed from the Kymaeans in Aeolis, along with the other circumstances of the tale of Aeneas, to their brethren the inhabitants of Cumae in Italy. The date of the Gergithian Sibyl, or rather of the circulation of her supposed prophecies, is placed during the reign of Croesus, a period when Gergis was thoroughly Teukrian. Her prophecies, though embodied in Greek verses, had their root in a Teukrian soil and feelings; and the promises of future empire which they so liberally make to the fugitive hero escaping from the flames of Troy into Italy, become interesting from the remarkable way in which they were realized by Rome.