Page images



§ 149. Minos of Crete was a descendant of Inachus, in the sixth generation. A son of Jupiter and Europa, he was, after death, transferred, with his brother Rhadamanthus and with King yEacus, to Hades, where the three became judges of the Shades. This is the Minos mentioned by Homer and Hesiod, — the eminent law-giver. Of his grandson, Minos II., it is related that when aiming at the crown of Crete, he boasted of his power to obtain by prayer whatever he desired; and as a test, he implored Neptune to send him a bull for sacrifice. The bull appeared; but Minos, astonished at its great beauty, declined to sacrifice the brute. Neptune, therefore incensed, drove the bull wild, — worse still, drove Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, wild with love of it. The wonderful brute was finally caught and overcome by Hercules, who rode it through the waves to Greece. But its offspring, the Minotaur, a monster, bull-headed and man-bodied, remained, for many a day, a terror to Crete, — till finally a famous artificer, Daedalus, constructed for him a labyrinth, with passages and turnings winding in and about like the river Maeander, so that whoever was enclosed in it might by no means find his way out. The Minotaur, roaming therein, lived upon human victims. For, it is said that, after Minos had subdued Megara,1 a tribute of seven youths and seven maidens was sent every year from Athens to Crete to feed this monster; and it was not until the days of Theseus of Athens that an end was put to both tribute and Minotaur.2

1 § 128.

a § 15a. Apollod. 3. 1. } 3; 15, § 8; Pausanias, 1. 27. § 9, etc.; Ovid, Metam.

§ 150. Daedalus and Icarus.1 — Daedalus, who abetted the love of Pasiphae for the Cretan bull, afterwards lost the favor of Minos,

and was imprisoned by him. Seeing no other way of escape, the artificer made, out of feathers, wings for his son Icarus and himself, which he fastened on with wax. Then poising themselves in the air, they flew away. Icarus had been warned not to approach too near to the sun, and all went well till they had passed. Samos and Delos on the left and Lebynthos on the right. But then the boy, exulting in his career, soared upward. The blaze of the torrid sun softened the waxen fastenings of his wings. Off they came; and down the lad dropped into the sea, which after him is named Icarian.

"... with melting wax and loosened strings
Sunk hapless Icarus on unfaithful wings;
Headlong he rushed through the affrighted air,
With limbs distorted and dishevelled hair;
His scattered plumage danced upon the wave,
And sorrowing Nereids decked his watery grave;
O'er his pale corse their pearly sea-flowers shed,
And strewed with crimson moss his marble bed;
Struck in their coral towers the passing bell,
And wide in ocean tolled his echoing knell."2

Daedalus, mourning his son, arrived finally in Sicily, where, being kindly received by King Cocalus, he built a temple to Apollo, and hung up his wings, an offering to the god. But Minos, having learned of the hiding-place of the artificer, followed him to Sicily with a great fleet; and Daedalus would surely

1 Vergil, ^Eneid 6:14-34; Ovid, Metam. 8:152-259; Hyginus, Fab. 40, 44.

2 Darwin.



have perished had not one of the daughters of Cocalus disposed of Minos by scalding him to death while he was bathing.

It is said that Daedalus could not bear the idea of a rival. His sister had placed her son Perdix under his charge to be taught the mechanical arts. He was an apt scholar, and gave striking evidences of ingenuity. Walking on the seashore, he picked up the spine of a fish, and imitating it in iron, invented the saw. He invented, also, a pair of compasses. But Daedalus, envious of his nephew, pushed him off a tower, and killed him. Minerva, however, in pity of the boy, changed him into a bird, the partridge, which bears his name.

To the descendants of Inachus we shall again return in the account of the house of Labdacus.



§ 151. Cecrops1 and Erichthonius.2—Cecrops, half-snake, halfman, came from Crete or Egypt into Attica, founded Athens, and chose Minerva rather than Neptune as its guardian. His successor was Erichthonius, or Erechtheus, a snake-formed genius of the fertile soil of Attica. This Erichthonius3 was a special ward of the goddess Minerva, who brought him up in her temple. His son Pandion had two daughters, Procne and Philomela, of whom he gave the former in marriage to Tereus, king of Thrace (or of DauKs in Phocis). This ruler, after his wife had borne him a son Itys (or Itylus), wearied of her, plucked out her tongue by the roots to ensure her silence, and, pretending that she was dead, took in marriage the other sister, Philomela. Procne by means of a web, into which she wove her story, informed Philomela of the horrible truth. In revenge upon Tereus, the sisters killed Itylus, and served up the child as food to the father; but the gods, in indignation, transformed Procne into a swallow, Philomela into a nightingale, forever bemoaning the murdered Itylus, and Tereus into a hawk, forever pursuing the sisters.4

"Hark! ah, the nightingale —
The tawny-throated!

Hark, from that moonlit cedar what a burst!
What triumph! hark! — what pain!
O wanderer from a Grecian shore,

1 Ovid, Metam. 2:555; Apollod. 3:14, § 1; Pausanias; and Hyginus, Fab. 48. a Ovid, Metam. 2:554; 6:676; Homer, II. 2:547; Od. 7:81; Hyginus, Poet. Astr. 2:13.

• For Ruskin's interpretation, see Queen of the Air, \ 38.

* Apollod. 3:14, § 8; Ovid, Metam. 6:412-676.

Still, after many years in distant lands,

Still nourishing in thy bewilder'd brain

That wild, unquench'd, deep-sunken, old-world pain —

Say, will it never heal?

And can this fragrant lawn

With its cool trees, and night,

And the sweet, tranquil Thames,

And moonshine, and the dew,

To thy rack'd heart and brain

Afford no calm?

"Dost thou to-night behold,
Here, through the moonlight on this English grass,
The unfriendly palace in the Thracian wild?
Dost thou again peruse,
With hot cheeks and sear'd eyes,
The too clear web, and thy dumb sister's shame?
Dost thou once more assay
Thy flight, and feel come over thee,
Poor fugitive, the feathery change
Once more, and once more seem to make resound
With love and hate, triumph and agony,
Lone Daulis, and the high Cephissian vale?
Listen, Eugenia —

How thick the bursts come crowding through the leaves!
Again — thou hearest?
Eternal passion!
Eternal pain!"1

§ 152. Theseus.2 — A descendant of Erechtheus and Pandion was ^Egeus, king of Athens. By y£thra, granddaughter of Pel ops, he became the father of the Attic hero, Theseus. ^Egeus, on parting from ^Ethra, before the birth of the child, had placed his sword and shoes under a large stone, and had directed her to send the child to him if it should prove strong enough to roll away the stone and take what was under. The lad Theseus was brought up at Trcezen, of which Pittheus, ^Ethra's father, was king. When /Ethra thought the time had come, she led Theseus to the stone. He

1 Matthew Arnold, Philomela.

a Ovid, Metam. 7:350-424; Plutarch's Theseus.

« PreviousContinue »