Page images
PDF
EPUB

by Homer), that he agreed to influence the Greeks to make peace with Troy. While the hero was in the temple of Apollo, negotiating the marriage, Paris discharged at him a poisoned arrow,1 which, guided by Apollo, fatally wounded him in the heel. This was his only vulnerable spot; for Thetis having dipped him when an infant in the river Styx, had rendered every part of him invulnerable except that by which she held him.2

Contest for the Arms of Achilles. — The body of Achilles so treacherously slain was rescued by Ajax and Ulysses. Thetis directed the Greeks to bestow her son's armor on that hero who of all the survivors should be judged most deserving of it. Ajax and Ulysses were the only claimants. A select number of the other chiefs were appointed to award the prize. It was awarded to Ulysses. Wisdom thus was rated above valor; wherefore Ajax slew himself.3 On the spot where his blood sank into the earth a hyacinth sprang up, bearing on its leaves the first two letters of his name, Ai, the Greek interjection of woe.4

It was now discovered that Troy could not be taken but by the aid of the arrows of Hercules. They were in possession of Philoctetes, the friend who had been with Hercules at the last, and had lighted his funeral pyre. Philoctetes5 had joined the Grecian expedition against Troy; but having accidentally wounded his foot with one of the poisoned arrows, the smell from the wound proved so offensive that his companions carried him to the isle of Lemnos, and left him there. Diomede and Ulysses, or Ulysses and Neoptolemus (son of Achilles) were now sent to induce him to rejoin the army. They succeeded. Philoctetes was cured of his wound by Machaon, and Paris was the first victim of the fatal arrows.

Paris and (Enone. — In his distress Paris bethought him of one whom in his prosperity he had forgotten. This was the nymph CEnone, whom he had married when a youth, and had abandoned

1 Vergil, yEneid 6: 57. • Sophocles, Ajax.

2 Statius, Achilleid 1: 269. 4 See Commentary.

6 Servius Honoratus, Commentary on ^Eneid (3 ' 402). According to Sophocles (Philoctetes), the wound was occasioned by the bite of a serpent that guarded the shrine of the nymph Chryse, on an islet of the same name, near Lemnos.

for the fatal beauty of Helen. CEnone, remembering the wrongs she had suffered, refused to heal the wound; and Paris went back to Troy and died. CEnone quickly repented, and hastened after him with remedies, but came too late, and in her grief hanged herself.

The Palladium. — There was in Troy a celebrated statue of Minerva called the Palladium. It was said to have fallen from heaven, and the belief was that the city could not be taken so long as this statue remained within it. Ulysses and Diomede entered the city in disguise, and succeeded in obtaining the Palladium, which they carried off to the Grecian camp.

The Wooden Horse. — But Troy still held out. The Greeks began to despair of subduing it by force, and by advice of Ulysses they resorted to stratagem.1 They pretended to be making preparations to abandon the siege; and a number of the ships were withdrawn and concealed behind a neighboring island. They then constructed an immense wooden horse, which they gave out was intended as a propitiatory offering to Minerva; but it was, in fact, filled with armed men. The rest of the Greeks then betook themselves to their ships and sailed away, as if for a final departure. The Trojans, seeing the encampment broken up and the fleet gone, concluded that the enemy had abandoned the siege. The gates of the city were thrown open, and the whole population issued forth, rejoicing at the long-prohibited liberty of passing freely over the scene of the late encampment. The great horse was the chief object of curiosity. Some recommended that it be taken into

1 Vergil, ^Eneid. Bk. 2.

[graphic]
[graphic]

the city as a trophy; others felt afraid of it. While they hesitated, Laocoon, the priest of Neptune, exclaimed, " What madness, citizens, is this! Have you not learned enough of Grecian fraud to be on your guard against it? For my part, I fear the Greeks even

[graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »