Classical Texts Library >> Ovid, Metamorphoses >> Book 8




1. Creation
2. Four Ages of Man
3. Lycaon
4. Great Deluge
5. Python
6. Daphne & Apollo
7. Io & Jupiter


1. Phaethon
2. Callisto & Jupiter
3. Coronis & Apollo
4. Ocyroe & Aesculapius
5. Battus & Mercury
6. Aglauros & Mercury
7. Europa & Jupiter


1. Cadmus & the Dragon
2. Actaeon
3. Semele & Jupiter
4. Tiresias
5. Narcissus & Echo
6. Pentheus & Bacchus
7. Tyrrhenian Pirates & Bacchus


1. The Minyades
2. Pyramus & Thisbe
3. Mars & Venus
4. Leucothea & Clytie
5. Hermaphroditus
6. Athamas & Ino
7. Cadmus & Harmonia
8. Perseus & Atlas
9. Perseus & Andromeda


1. Perseus & Phineus
2. Pyreneus & the Muses
3. The Pierides & the Muses
4. Pluto & Proserpine
5. Arethusa & Alpheus
6. Triptolemus & Lyncus


1. Arachne & Minerva
2. Niobe
3. Leto & the Lycians
4. Marsyas
5. Tereus & Philomela
6. Orithyia & Boreas


1. Jason & Medea
2. Medea & Aeson
3. Medea & Pelias
4. Medea & Aegeus
5. Aeacus & the Myrmidones
6. Cephalus & Procris


1. Minos & Scylla
2. Daedalus & Icarus
3. Calydonian Boar Hunt
4. Althaea & Meleager
5. Perimela & Achelous
6. Baucis & Philemon
7. Erysichthon & Mestra


1. Hercules & Achelous
2. Nessus & Death of Hercules
3. Galanthis
4. Dryope
5. Iolaus
6. Byblis & Caunus
7. Iphis & Ianthe


1. Orpheus & Eurydice
2. Attis & Cybele
3. Cyparissus
4. Hyacinthus & Apollo
5. The Propoetides
6. Pygmalion
7. Myrrha & Cinyras
8. Atalanta & Hippomenes
9. Adonis


1. Death of Orpheus
2. Midas & Bacchus
3. Midas, Pan & Apollo
4. Hesione
5. Peleus & Thetis
6. Chione & Daedalion
7. Peleus & Psamathe
8. Ceyx & Halcyone
9. Aesacus & Hesperia


1. Agamemnon at Aulis
2. Cygnus & Achilles
3. Caeneus & the Centauromachy
4. Periclymenus & Hercules
5. Death of Achilles


1. Ajax & Ulysses
2. Hecuba & Polymnestor
3. Memnon
4. The Oenotrophi
5. Galatea & Polyphemus
6. Glaucus


1. Scylla & Circe
2. The Cercopes
3. The Cumaean Sibyl
4. Ulysses, Polyphemus & Circe
5. Picus & Circe
6. Diomedes in Italy
7. Aeneas in Latium
8. Vertumnus & Pomona
9. Iphis & Anaxarete
10. Romulus


1. Myscelus, Croton
2. Pythagoras
3. Egeria, Hippolytus
4. Tages, Cipus
5. Aesculapius in Rome
6. Julius Caesar



[1] Now Lucifer unveiled the glorious day, and as the session of the night dissolved, the cool east wind declined, and vapors wreathed the moistened valleys. Veering to the south the welcome wind gave passage to the sons of Aeacus, and wafted Cephalus on his returning way, propitious; where before the wonted hour, they entered port. King Minos, while the fair wind moved their ship, was laying waste the land of Megara. He gathered a great army round the walls built by Alcathous, where reigned in splendor King Nisus—mighty and renowned in war—upon the center of whose hoary head a lock of purple hair was growing.—Its proved virtue gave protection to his throne.

[11] Six times the horns of rising Phoebe grew, and still the changing fortune of the war was in suspense; so, Victory day by day between them hovered on uncertain wings. Within that city was a regal tower on tuneful walls; where once Apollo laid his golden harp; and in the throbbing stone the sounds remained. And there, in times of peace the daughter of king Nisus loved to mount the walls and strike the sounding stone with pebbles: so, when the war began, she often viewed the dreadful contest from that height; until, so long the hostile camp remained, she had become acquainted with the names, and knew the habits, horses and the arms of many a chief, and could discern the signs of their Cydonean quivers. More than all, the features of King Minos were engraved upon the tablets of her mind. And when he wore his helmet, crested with gay plumes, she deemed it glorious; when he held his shield shining with gold, no other seemed so grand; and when he poised to hurl the tough spear home, she praised his skill and strength; and when he bent his curving bow with arrow on the cord, she pictured him as Phoebus taking aim,—but when, arrayed in purple, and upon the back of his white war horse, proudly decked with richly broidered housings, he reined in the nervous steed, and took his helmet off, showing his fearless features, then the maid, daughter of Nisus, could control herself no longer; and a frenzy seized her mind. She called the javelin happy which he touched, and blessed were the reins within his hand. She had an impulse to direct her steps, a tender virgin, through the hostile ranks, or cast her body from the topmost towers into the Gnossian camp. She had a wild desire to open to the enemy the heavy brass-bound gates, or anything that Minos could desire.

[42] And as she sat beholding the white tents, she cried, “Alas! Should I rejoice or grieve to see this war? I grieve that Minos is the enemy of her who loves him; but unless the war had brought him, how could he be known to me? But should he take me for a hostage? That might end the war—a pledge of peace, he might keep me for his companion. O, supreme of mankind! she who bore you must have been as beautiful as you are; ample cause for Jove to lose his heart. O, happy hour! If moving upon wings through yielding air, I could alight within the hostile camp in front of Minos, and declare to him my name and passion! Then would I implore what dowry he could wish, and would provide whatever he might ask, except alone the city of my father. Perish all my secret hopes before one act of mine should offer treason to accomplish it. And yet, the kindness of a conqueror has often proved a blessing, manifest to those who were defeated. Certainly the war he carries on is justified by his slain son. He is a mighty king, thrice strengthened in his cause. Undoubtedly we shall be conquered, and, if such a fate awaits our city, why should he by force instead of my consuming love, prevail to open the strong gates? Without delay and dreadful slaughter, it is best for him to conquer and decide this savage war. Ah, Minos, how I fear the bitter fate should any warrior hurl his cruel spear and pierce you by mischance, for surely none can be so hardened to transfix your breast with purpose known. Oh, let her love prevail to open for his army the great gates. Only the thought of it, has filled her soul; she is determined to deliver up her country as a dowry with herself, and so decide the war!

[69] "But what avails this idle talk. A guard surrounds the gates, my father keeps the keys, and he alone is my obstruction, and the innocent account of my despair. Would to the Gods I had no father! Is not man the God of his own fortune, though his idle prayers avail not to compel his destiny? Another woman crazed with passionate desires, which now inflame me, would not hesitate, but with a fierce abandon would destroy whatever checked her passion. Who is there with love to equal mine? I dare to go through flames and swords; but swords and flames are not now needed, for I only need my royal father's lock of purple hair. More precious than fine gold, it has a power to give my heart all that it may desire.”

[81] While Scylla said this, night that heals our cares came on, and she grew bolder in the dark. And now it is the late and silent hour when slumber takes possession of the breast. Outwearied with the cares of busy day; then as her father slept, with stealthy tread she entered his abode, and there despoiled, and clipped his fatal lock of purple hair. Concealing in her bosom the sad prize of crime degenerate, she at once went forth a gate unguarded, and with shameless haste sped through the hostile army to the tent of Minos, whom, astonished, she addressed: “Only my love has led me to this deed. The daughter of King Nisus, I am called the maiden Scylla. Unto you I come and offer up a power that will prevail against my country, and I stipulate no recompense except yourself. Take then this purple hair, a token of my love.—Deem it not lightly as a lock of hair held idly forth to you; it is in truth my father's life.” And as she spoke she held out in her guilty hand the prize, and begged him to accept it with her love. Shocked at the thought of such a heinous crime, Minos refused, and said, “O execrable thing! Despised abomination of our time! May all the Gods forever banish you from their wide universe, and may the earth and the deep ocean be denied to you! So great a monster shall not be allowed to desecrate the sacred Isle of Crete, where Jupiter was born.”

[101] So Minos spoke. Nevertheless he conquered Megara, (so aided by the damsel's wicked deed) and as a just and mighty king imposed his own conditions on the vanquished land. He ordered his great fleet to tarry not; the hawsers were let loose, and the long oars quickly propelled his brazen-pointed ships.—When Scylla saw them launching forth, observed them sailing on the mighty deep, she called with vain entreaties; but at last, aware the prince ignored her and refused to recompense her wickedness, enraged, and raving, she held up her impious hands, her long hair streaming on the wind,—and said: “Oh, wherefore have you flown, and left behind the author of your glory. Oh, wretch! wretch to whom I offered up my native land, and sacrificed my father! Where have you now flown, ungrateful man whose victory is both my crime and virtue? And the gift presented to you, and my passion, have these not moved you? All my love and hope in you alone! Forsaken by my prince, shall I return to my defeated land? If never ruined it would shut its walls against me.—Shall I seek my father's face whom I delivered to all-conquering arms? My fellow-citizens despise my name; my friends and neighbors hate me; I have shut the world against me, only in the hope that Crete would surely welcome me;—and now, he has forbidden me.

[119] "And is it so I am requited by this thankless wretch! Europa could not be your mother! Spawn of cruel Syrtis! Savage cub of fierce Armenian tigress;—or Charybdis, tossed by the wild South-wind begot you! Can you be the son of Jupiter? Your mother was not ever tricked by the false semblance of a bull. All that story of your birth is false! You are the offspring of a bull as fierce as you are! Let your vengeance fall upon me, O my father Nisus, let the ruined city I betrayed rejoice at my misfortunes—richly merited—destroy me, you whom I have ruined;—I should perish for my crimes! But why should you, who conquered by my crime, abandon me? The treason to my father and my land becomes an act of kindness in your cause. That woman is a worthy mate for you who hid in wood deceived the raging bull, and bore to him the infamy of Crete. I do not wonder that Pasiphae preferred the bull to you, more savage than the wildest beast. Alas, alas for me! Do my complaints reach your unwilling ears? Or do the same winds waft away my words that blow upon your ships, ungrateful man?—Ah, wretched that I am, he takes delight in hastening from me. The deep waves resound as smitten by the oars, his ship departs; and I am lost and even my native land is fading from his sight. Oh heart of flint! you shall not prosper in your cruelty, and you shall not forget my sacrifice; in spite of everything I follow you! I'll grasp the curving stern of your swift ship, and I will follow through unending seas.”

[142] And as she spoke, she leaped into the waves, and followed the receding ships—for strength from passion came to her. And soon she clung unwelcome, to the sailing Gnossian ship. Meanwhile, the Gods had changed her father's form and now he hovered over the salt deep, a hawk with tawny wings. So when he saw his daughter clinging to the hostile ship he would have torn her with his rending beak;—he darted towards her through the yielding air. In terror she let go, but as she fell the light air held her from the ocean spray; her feather-weight supported by the breeze; she spread her wings, and changed into a bird. They called her “Ciris” when she cut the wind, and “Ciris”—cut-the-lock—remains her name.


[152] King Minos, when he reached the land of Crete and left his ships, remembered he had made a vow to Jupiter, and offered up a hundred bulls.—The splendid spoils of war adorned his palace.—Now the infamous reproach of Crete had grown, till it exposed the double-natured shame. So, Minos, moved to cover his disgrace, resolved to hide the monster in a prison, and he built with intricate design, by Daedalus contrived, an architect of wonderful ability, and famous. This he planned of mazey wanderings that deceived the eyes, and labyrinthic passages involved. so sports the clear Maeander, in the fields of Phrygia winding doubtful; back and forth it meets itself, until the wandering stream fatigued, impedes its wearied waters' flow; from source to sea, from sea to source involved. So Daedalus contrived innumerous paths, and windings vague, so intricate that he, the architect, hardly could retrace his steps.

[169] In this the Minotaur was long concealed, and there devoured Athenian victims sent three seasons, nine years each, till Theseus, son of Aegeus, slew him and retraced his way, finding the path by Ariadne's thread. Without delay the victor fled from Crete, together with the loving maid, and sailed for Dia Isle of Naxos, where he left the maid forlorn, abandoned. Her, in time, lamenting and deserted, Bacchus found and for his love immortalized her name. He set in the dark heavens the bright crown that rested on her brows. Through the soft air it whirled, while all the sparkling jewels changed to flashing fires, assuming in the sky between the Serpent-holder and the Kneeler the well-known shape of Ariadne's Crown.


[183] But Daedalus abhorred the Isle of Crete—and his long exile on that sea-girt shore, increased the love of his own native place. “Though Minos blocks escape by sea and land.” He said, “The unconfined skies remain though Minos may be lord of all the world his sceptre is not regnant of the air, and by that untried way is our escape.” This said, he turned his mind to arts unknown and nature unrevealed. He fashioned quills and feathers in due order—deftly formed from small to large, as any rustic pipe prom straws unequal slants. He bound with thread the middle feathers, and the lower fixed with pliant wax; till so, in gentle curves arranged, he bent them to the shape of birds. While he was working, his son Icarus, with smiling countenance and unaware of danger to himself, perchance would chase the feathers, ruffled by the shifting breeze, or soften with his thumb the yellow wax, and by his playfulness retard the work his anxious father planned.

[200] But when at last the father finished it, he poised himself, and lightly floating in the winnowed air waved his great feathered wings with bird-like ease. And, likewise he had fashioned for his son such wings; before they ventured in the air he said, “My son, I caution you to keep the middle way, for if your pinions dip too low the waters may impede your flight; and if they soar too high the sun may scorch them. Fly midway. Gaze not at the boundless sky, far Ursa Major and Bootes next. Nor on Orion with his flashing brand, but follow my safe guidance.” As he spoke he fitted on his son the plumed wings with trembling hands, while down his withered cheeks the tears were falling. Then he gave his son a last kiss, and upon his gliding wings assumed a careful lead solicitous. As when the bird leads forth her tender young, from high-swung nest to try the yielding air; so he prevailed on willing Icarus; encouraged and instructed him in all the fatal art; and as he waved his wings looked backward on his son. Beneath their flight, the fisherman while casting his long rod, or the tired shepherd leaning on his crook, or the rough plowman as he raised his eyes, astonished might observe them on the wing, and worship them as Gods.

[220] Upon the left they passed by Samos, Juno's sacred isle; Delos and Paros too, were left behind; and on the right Lebinthus and Calymne, fruitful in honey. Proud of his success, the foolish Icarus forsook his guide, and, bold in vanity, began to soar, rising upon his wings to touch the skies; but as he neared the scorching sun, its heat softened the fragrant wax that held his plumes; and heat increasing melted the soft wax—he waved his naked arms instead of wings, with no more feathers to sustain his flight. And as he called upon his father's name his voice was smothered in the dark blue sea, now called Icarian from the dead boy's name. The unlucky father, not a father, called, “Where are you, Icarus?” and “Where are you? In what place shall I seek you, Icarus?” He called again; and then he saw the wings of his dear Icarus, floating on the waves; and he began to rail and curse his art. He found the body on an island shore, now called Icaria, and at once prepared to bury the unfortunate remains.

[236] But while he labored a pert partridge near, observed him from the covert of an oak, and whistled his unnatural delight. Know you the cause? 'Twas then a single bird, the first one of its kind. 'Twas never seen before the sister of Daedalus had brought him Perdix, her dear son, to be his pupil. And as the years went by the gifted youth began to rival his instructor's art. He took the jagged backbone of a fish, and with it as a model made a saw, with sharp teeth fashioned from a strip of iron. And he was first to make two arms of iron, smooth hinged upon the center, so that one would make a pivot while the other, turned, described a circle. Wherefore Daedalus enraged and envious, sought to slay the youth and cast him headlong from Minerva's fane,—then spread the rumor of an accident. But Pallas, goddess of ingenious men, saving the pupil changed him to a bird, and in the middle of the air he flew on feathered wings; and so his active mind—and vigor of his genius were absorbed into his wings and feet; although the name of Perdix was retained. The Partridge hides in shaded places by the leafy trees its nested eggs among the bush's twigs; nor does it seek to rise in lofty flight, for it is mindful of its former fall.

[260] Wearied with travel Daedalus arrived at Sicily,—where Cocalus was king; and when the wandering Daedalus implored the monarch's kind protection from his foe, he gathered a great army for his guest, and gained renown from an applauding world.


[262] Now after Theseus had destroyed in Crete the dreadful monster, Athens then had ceased to pay her mournful tribute; and with wreaths her people decked the temples of the Gods; and they invoked Minerva, Jupiter, and many other Gods whom they adored, with sacrifice and precious offerings, and jars of Frankincense. Quick-flying Fame had spread reports of Theseus through the land; and all the peoples of Achaia, from that day, when danger threatened would entreat his aid. So it befell, the land of Calydon, through Meleager and her native hero, implored the valiant Theseus to destroy a raging boar, the ravage of her realm. Diana in her wrath had sent the boar to wreak her vengeance; and they say the cause was this:—The nation had a fruitful year, for which the good king Oeneus had decreed that all should offer the first fruits of corn to Ceres—and to Bacchus wine of grapes—and oil of olives to the golden haired Minerva. Thus, the Gods were all adored, beginning with the lowest to the highest, except alone Diana, and of all the Gods her altars only were neglected. No frankincense unto her was given! Neglect enrages even Deities. “Am I to suffer this indignity?” she cried, “Though I am thus dishonored, I will not be unrevenged!” And so the boar was sent to ravage the fair land of Calydon.

[281] And this avenging boar was quite as large as bulls now feeding on the green Epirus, and larger than the bulls of Sicily. A dreadful boar.—His burning, bloodshot eyes seemed coals of living fire, and his rough neck was knotted with stiff muscles, and thick-set with bristles like sharp spikes. A seething froth dripped on his shoulders, and his tusks were like the spoils of Ind. Discordant roars reverberated from his hideous jaws; and lightning—belched forth from his horrid throat—scorched the green fields. He trampled the green corn and doomed the farmer to lament his crops, in vain the threshing-floor has been prepared, in vain the barns await the promised yield. Long branches of the vine and heavy grapes are scattered in confusion, and the fruits and branches of the olive tree, whose leaves should never wither, are cast on the ground. His spleen was vented on the simple flocks, which neither dogs nor shepherd could protect; and the brave bulls could not defend their herds. The people fled in all directions from the fields, for safety to the cities. Terror reigned. There seemed no remedy to save the land, till Meleager chose a band of youths, united for the glory of great deeds.

[300] What heroes shall immortal song proclaim? Castor and Pollux, twins of Tyndarus; one famous for his skill in horsemanship, the other for his boxing. Jason, too, was there, the glorious builder of the world's first ship, and Theseus with his friend Perithous, and Toxeus and Plexippus, fated sons of Thestius, and the son of Aphareus, Lynkeus with his fleet-foot brother Idas and Caeneus, first a woman then a man the brave Leucippus and the argonaut Acastus, swift of dart; and warlike Dryas, Hippothous and Phoenix, not then blind, the son of King Amyntor, and the twain who sprung from Actor, Phyleus thither brought from Elis; Telamon was one of them and even Peleus, father of the great Achilles; and the son of Pheres joined, and Iolas, the swift Eurytion, Echion fleet of foot, Narycian Lelex—and Panopeus, and Hyleus and Hippasus, and Nestor (youthful then), and the four sons Hippocoon from eld Amyclae sent, the father-in-law of queen Penelope, Ancaeus of Arcadia, and the wise soothsayer Mopsus, and the prophet, son of Oeclus, victim of a traitor-wife.—And Atalanta, virgin of the groves, of Mount Lycaeus, glory of her sex; a polished buckle fastened her attire; her lustrous hair was fashioned in a knot; her weapons rattled in an ivory case, swung from her white left shoulder, and she held a bow in her left hand. Her face appeared as maidenly for boy, or boyish for girl. When Meleager saw her, he at once longed for her beauty, though some god forbade. The fires of love flamed in him; and he said, “Happy the husband who shall win this girl!” Neither the time nor his own modesty permitted him to say another word. But now the dreadful contest with the boar engaged this hero's energy and thought.

[329] A wood, umbrageous, not impaired with age, slopes from a plain and shadows the wide fields, and there this band of valiant heroes went—eager to slay the dreaded enemy, some spread the nets and some let loose the dogs, some traced the wide spoor of the monster's hoofs. There is a deep gorge where the rivulets that gather from the rain, discharge themselves; and there the bending willow, the smooth sedge, the marsh-rush, ozier and tall tangled reed in wild profusion cover up the marsh. Aroused from this retreat the startled boar, as quick as lightning from the clashing clouds crashed all the trees that cumbered his mad way.—The young men raised a shout, leveled their spears, and brandished their keen weapons; but the boar rushed onward through the yelping dogs, and scattered them with deadly sidelong stroke. Echion was the first to hurl his spear, but slanting in its course it only glanced a nearby maple tree, and next the spear of long-remembered Jason cut the air; so swiftly hurled it seemed it might transfix the boar's back, but with over-force it sped beyond the monster. Poising first his dart, the son of Ampyx, as he cast it, he implored Apollo, “Grant my prayer if I have truly worshiped you, harken to me as always I adore you! Let my spear unerring strike its aim.” Apollo heard, and guided the swift spear, but as it sped Diana struck the iron head from the shaft, and the blunt wood fell harmless from his hide.

[355] Then was the monster's savage anger roused; as the bright lightning's flash his red eyes flamed; his breath was hot as fire. As when a stone is aimed at walls or strong towers, which protect encompassed armies,—launched by the taut rope it strikes with dreaded impact; so the boar with fatal onset rushed among this band of noble lads, and stretched upon the ground Eupalamon and Pelagon whose guard was on the right; and their companions bore their bodies from the field. Another youth, the brave son of Hippocoon received a deadly wound—while turning to escape, the sinew of his thigh was cut and failed to bear his tottering steps.—

[365] And Nestor might have perished then, so long before he fought the heroes of old Troy, but ever wise, he vaulted on his long lance from the ground into the branches of a sheltering tree; where in a safe position, he could look down on his baffled foe. The raging boar whetted his gleaming tushes on an oak. Then with his sharpened tusks he gored the thigh of mighty Hippasus. Observed of all, and mounted on their horses—whiter than the northern snow—the twins (long afterward transformed to constellations) sallied forth, and brandishing their lances, poised in air, determined to destroy the bristling boar. It thwarted their design by hiding in a thicket intricate; where neither steed nor lance could penetrate. But Telamon pursued undaunted, and in haste tripped up by tangled roots, fell headlong.—Peleus stooped to rescue him.

[380] While he regained his feet, the virgin, Atalanta, took her bow and fitting a sharp arrow to the notch, twanged the tight cord. The feathered shaft quivered beneath the monster's ear, the red blood stained his hard bristles. Flushed with her success rejoiced the maid, but not more gladly than the hero Meleager. He it was who first observed the blood, and pointed out the stain to his companions as he cried, “Give honor to the courage of a maid!” Unwilling to be worsted by a maid, the rushing heroes raised a mighty cry and as they shouted in excitement, hurled their weapons in confusion; and so great the multitude their actions interfered.

[391] Behold! Ancaeus wielding his war-axe, and rushing madly to his fate, exclaimed, “Witness it! See the weapons of a man excel a woman's! Ho, make way for my achievement! Let Diana shield the brute! Despite her utmost effort my right hand shall slaughter him!” So mighty in his boast he puffed himself; and, lifting with both hands his double-edged axe, he stood erect, on tiptoe fiercely bold. The savage boar caught him, and ripped his tushes through his groin, a spot where death is sure.—Ancaeus fell; and his torn entrails and his crimson blood stained the fair verdure of the spot with death.

[403] Ixion's doughty son was running straight against the monster, shaking his long lance with nervous vigor in his strong right hand; but Theseus, standing at a distance called: “Beware! beware, O, dearest of my friends; be valiant at a distance, or the fate of rashly-bold Ancaeus may be yours!” Even as he spoke he balanced in his hand his brazen-pointed lance of corner wood; with aim so true it seemed the great boar's death was certain, but an evergreen oak branch shielded the beast.—Then Jason hurled his dart, which turned by chance, transfixed a luckless dog and pinned him yelping, to the sanguine earth.—

[414] So fared those heroes. Better fortune gave success to Meleager; first he threw a spear that missed and quivered in the ground; but next he hurled a spear with certain aim. It pierced the middle of the monster's back; and rushing in upon the dreaded beast, while raging it was whirling round and round, the fearless prince provoked to greater rage the wounded adversary. Bloody froth dripped down his champing jaws—his purple blood poured from a rankling wound. Without delay the mighty Meleager plunged a spear deep in the monster's shoulder. All his friends raised a glad shout, and gathering round him, tried to grasp his hand.—With wonder they beheld the monster's bulk stretched out upon the plain; and fearful still to touch him, they began to stain their weapons in his spouting blood.

[425] At length the hero Meleager pressed his conquering foot upon the monster's head and said, “O Atalanta, glorious maid, of Nonacris, to you is yielded spoil, my lawful right, and I rejoice to share the merit of this glorious victory.” And while he spoke, he gave to her the pelt, covered with horrid bristles, and the head frightful with gory tusks: and she rejoiced in Meleager and his royal gift.But all the others, envious, began to murmur; and the sons of Thestius levelled their pointed spears, and shouted out; “Give up the prize! Let not the confidence of your great beauty be a snare to you! A woman should not interfering filch the manly honors of a mighty hunt! Aside! and let your witless lover yield!” So threatened they and took from her the prize; and forcibly despoiled him of his rights. The warlike prince, indignant and enraged,—rowed with resentment, shouted out. “What! Ho! You spoilers of this honor that is ours, brave deeds are different far from craven threats!” And with his cruel sword he pierced the breast of rash Plexippus, taken unawares, and while his brother, Toxeus, struck with fear, stood hesitating whether to avenge or run to safety, Meleager plunged the hot sword, smoking with a brother's blood, in his breast also. And so perished they.


[445] Ere this, Althaea, mother of the prince, and sister of the slaughtered twain,—because her son had killed the boar, made haste to bear rich offerings to the temples of the Gods; but when she saw her slaughtered brothers borne in sad procession, she began to shriek, and filled the city with her wild lament. Unwilling to abide her festal robes she dressed in sable.—When she was informed her own son Meleager was the cause, she banished grief and lamentations,—thirsting for vengeance.

[451] She remembered well, how, when she lay in childbirth round her stood the three attendant sisters of his fate. There was a billet in the room, and this they took and cast upon the wasting flames, and as they spun and drew the fatal threads they softly chanted, “Unto you we give, O child new-born! only the life of this; the period of this billet is your life.” And having spoken so, they vanished in the smoke. Althaea snatched the billet from the fire, and having quenched it with drawn water, hid it long and secretly in her own room, where, thus preserved, it acted as a charm to save the life of Meleager. This the mother now brought forth, and fetched a pile of seasoned tinder ready for the torch. She lit the torches and the ready pile, and as the flames leaped up, four times prepared to cast the fatal billet in the midst; and four times hesitated to commit the dreadful deed,—so long the contest veered between the feelings of a mother's breast and the fierce vengeance of a sister's rage. Now is the mother's visage pale with fear, and now the sister's sanguinary rage glows in her eyes. Her countenance contorts with cruel threats and in bewildered ways dissolves compassionate: And even when the heat of anger had dried up her eyes the conflict of her passion brought new tears. As when the wind has seized upon a ship and blows against a tide of equal force, the vexed vessel feels repellent powers, and with unsteady motion sways to both; so did Althaea hesitate between the conflict of her passions: when her rage had cooled, her fury was as fast renewed: but always the unsatisfied desire of blood, to ease the disembodied shades of her slain brothers, seemed to overcome the mother-instinct; and intensity of conduct proved the utmost test of love.

[477] She took the billet in her arms and stood before the leaping flames, and said, “Alas, be this the funeral pyre of my own flesh!” And as she held in her relentless hand the destiny of him she loved, and stood before the flames, in all her wretchedness she moaned, “You sad Eumenides attend! Relentless Gods of punishment,—turn, turn your dreadful vision on these baneful rites! I am avenging and committing crime! With death must death be justified and crime be added unto crime! Let funerals upon succeeding funerals attend! Let these accumulating woes destroy a wicked race. Shall happy Oeneus bask in the great fame of his victorious son, and Thestius mourn without slaughtered ones? 'Tis better they should both lament the deed! Witness the act of my affection, shades of my departed brothers! and accept my funeral offering, given at a cost beyond my strength to bear. Ah wretched me! Distracted is my reason! Pity me, the yearnings of a stricken mother's heart withholding me from duty! Aye, although his punishment be just, my hands refuse the office of such vengeance. What, shall he alive, victorious, flushed with his success, inherit the broad realms of Calydon, and you, my slaughtered brothers, unavenged, dissolved in ashes, float upon the air, unpalpitating phantoms? How can I endure the thought of it? Oh let the wretch forever perish, and with him be lost the hopes of his sad father, in the wreck of his distracted kingdom. Where are now the love and feelings of a mother; how can I forget the bitter pangs endured while twice times five the slow moon waxed and waned?

[501] “O had you perished in your infancy by those first fires, and I had suffered it! Your life was in my power! and now your death is the result of wrongs which you have done—take now a just reward for what you did: return to me the life I gave and saved. When from the flames I snatched the fatal brand. Return that gift or take my wretched life, that I may hasten to my brothers' tomb. What dreadful deed can satisfy the law, when I for love against my love am forced? For even as my brothers' wounds appear in visions dreadful to denounce my son, the love so nurtured in a mother's breast breaks down the resolution! Wretched me! Such vengeance for my brothers overcomes first at your birth I gave it, and again the yearning of a mother for her son! Let not my love denounce my vengeance! My soul may follow with its love the shade of him I sacrifice, and following him my shade and his and yours unite below.”

[511] She spoke and as she turned her face away, she threw the fatal billet on the fire, and as the flames devoured it, a strange groan was heard to issue from the burning wood but Meleager at a distance knows of naught to wreck his hour of victory, until he feels the flame of burning wood scorching with secret fire his forfeit life. Yet with a mighty will, disdaining pain he grieves his bloodless and ignoble death. He calls Ancaeus happy for the wounds that caused his death. With sighs and groans he called his aged father's name, and then the names of brothers, sisters, and his wife—and last, they say he called upon his mother's name. His torment always with the fire increased, until, as little of the wood remained,—his pain diminished with the heat's decrease; and as the flames extinguished, so his life slowly ascended in the rising air.

[526] And all the mighty realm of Calydon was filled with lamentations—young and old the common people and the nobles mourned; and all the wailing women tore their hair his father threw his body on the ground, and as he covered his white hair and face with ashy dust, bewailed his aged days. Althaea, maddened in her mother's grief, has punished herself with a ruthless hand; she pierced her heart with iron.—Oh! if some God had given a resounding harp, a voice an hundred-fold more mighty, and a soul enlarged with genius, I could never tell the grief of his unhappy sisters.—They, regardless of all shame, beat on their breasts; before the body was consumed with fire, embraced it, and again embracing it, rained kisses on their loved one and the bier. And when the flames had burnt his shrinking form they strained his gathered ashes to their breasts, and prostrate on the tomb kissed his dear name, cut only in the stone,—and bathed it with their tears Latona's daughter, glutted with the woes inflicted on Parthaon's house, now gave two of the weeping sisters wide-spread wings, but Gorge and the spouse of Hercules not so were changed. Latona stretched long wings upon their arms, transformed their mouths to beaks, and sent them winging through the lucent air.


[547] And Theseus, meantime, having done great deeds, was wending towards Tritonian Athen's towers, but Achelous, swollen with great rains, opposed his journey and delayed his steps. “O famous son of Athens, come to me, beneath my roof, and leave my rapid floods; for they are wont to bear enormous beams, and hurl up heavy stones to bar the way,—mighty with roaring, down the steep ravines. And I have seen the sheep-folds on my banks swept down the flood, together with the sheep; and in the current neither strength availed the ox for safety, nor swift speed the horse. When rushed the melting snows from mountain peaks how many bodies of unwary men this flood has overwhelmed in whirling waves! Rest safely then, until my river runs within its usual bounds—till it contains its flowing waters in its proper banks." And gladly answered Theseus, “I will make good use of both your dwelling and advice.” And waiting not he entered a rude hut, of porous pumice and of rough stone built. The floor was damp and soft with springy moss, and rows of shells and murex arched the roof.

[565] And now Hyperion having measured quite two thirds of daylight, Theseus and his friends reclined upon the couches.—On his right Ixion's son was placed, and on his left the gray-haired hero Lelex; and others deemed worthy by the Acarnanian-god who was so joyful in his noble guests. Without delay the barefoot nimble Nymphs attending to the banquet, rich food brought; and after all were satisfied with meat and dainties delicate, the careful Nymphs removed all traces of the feast, and served delicious wine in bowls embossed with gems.

[573] And after they had eaten, Theseus arose, and as he pointed with his finger, said, “Declare to me what name that island bears, or is it one or more than one I see?” To which the ready River-God replied: “It is not one we see but five are there, deceptive in the distance. And that you may wonder less at what Diana did, those islands were five Naiads.—Long ago, ten bullocks for a sacrifice they slew; and when the joyous festival was given, ignoring me they bade all other Gods. Indignant at the slight, I swelled with rage as great as ever when my banks are full,—and so redoubled both in rage and flood, I ravished woods from woods, and fields from fields, and hurled into the sea the very soil, together with the Nymphs, who then at last remembered their neglect. And soon my waves, united with the ocean streams, cut through the solid soil, and fashioned from the one, five islands you may see amid the waves, which men since then, have called Echinades.

[590] "But yet beyond you can observe how one most beautiful of all is far withdrawn; and this which most delights me, mariners have Perimela named. She was so fair that I deprived her of a precious wealth. And when Hippodamas, her father, knew, enraged he pushed her, heavy then with child, forth from a rock into the cruel sea, where she must perish,—but I rescued her; and as I bore her on my swimming tide, I called on Neptune, ruler of the deep, `O Trident-wielder, you who are preferred next to the god most mighty! who by lot obtained the empire of the flowing deep, to which all sacred rivers flow and end; come here, O Neptune, and with gracious will grant my desire;—I injured her I save;—but if Hippodamas, her father, when he knew my love, had been both kind and just, if he had not been so unnatural, he would have pitied and forgiven her. Ah, Neptune, I beseech you, grant your power may find a place of safety for this Nymph, abandoned to the deep waves by her sire. Or if that cannot be, let her whom I embrace to show my love, let her become a place of safety.’ Instantly to me the King of Ocean moved his mighty head, and all the deep waves quivered in response. The Nymph, afraid, still struggled in the deep, and as she swam I touched her throbbing breast; and as I felt her bosom, trembling still, I thought her soft flesh was becoming hard; for even then, new earth enclosed her form; and as I prayed to Neptune, earth encased her floating limbs;—and on her changing form the heavy soil of that fair island grew.”


[611] And at this point, the River said no more. This wonderful event astonished all; but one was there, Ixion's haughty son—a known despiser of the living Gods—who, laughing, scorned it as an idle tale. He made a jest of those who heard, and said, “A foolish fiction! Achelous, how can such a tale be true? Do you believe a god there is, in heaven so powerful, a god to give and take away a form—transform created shapes? Such impious words found no response in those who heard him speak. Amazed he could so doubt known truth, before them all, uprose to vindicate the Gods the hero Lelex, wise in length of days. “The glory of the living Gods,” he said, “Is not diminished, nor their power confined, and whatsoever they decree is done. And I have this to tell, for all must know the evil of such words:—Upon the hills of Phrygia I have seen two sacred trees, a lime-tree and an oak, so closely grown their branches interlace. A low stone wall is built around to guard them from all harm. And that you may not doubt it, I declare again, I saw the spot, for Pittheus there had sent me to attend his father's court. Near by those trees are stagnant pools and fens, where coots and cormorants delight to haunt; but it was not so always.

[626] "Long ago 'twas visited by mighty Jupiter, together with his nimble-witted son, who first had laid aside his rod and Wings. As weary travelers over all the land they wandered, begging for their food and bed; and of a thousand houses, all the doors were bolted and no word of kindness given—so wicked were the people of that land. At last, by chance, they stopped at a small house, whose humble roof was thatched with reeds and straw;—and here a kind old couple greeted them. The good dame, Baucis, seemed about the age of old Philemon, her devoted man; they had been married in their early youth, in that same cottage and had lived in it, and grown together to a good old age; contented with their lot because they knew their poverty, and felt no shame of it; they had no need of servants; the good pair were masters of their home and served themselves; their own commands they easily obeyed.

[637] "Now when the two Gods, Jove and Mercury, had reached this cottage, and with bending necks had entered the low door, the old man bade them rest their wearied limbs, and set a bench, on which his good wife, Baucis, threw a cloth; and then with kindly bustle she stirred up the glowing embers on the hearth, and then laid tinder, leaves and bark; and bending down breathed on them with her ancient breath until they kindled into flame. Then from the house she brought a store of faggots and small twigs, and broken branches, and above them swung a kettle, not too large for simple folk. And all this done, she stripped some cabbage leaves, which her good husband gathered for the meal. Then with a two-pronged fork the man let down a rusty side of bacon from aloft, and cut a little portion from the chine; which had been cherished long. He softened it in boiling water. All the while they tried with cheerful conversation to beguile, so none might notice a brief loss of time. Swung on a peg they had a beechwood trough, which quickly with warm water filled, was used for comfortable washing. And they fixed, upon a willow couch, a cushion soft of springy sedge, on which they neatly spread a well worn cloth preserved so many years; 'Twas only used on rare and festive days; and even it was coarse and very old, though not unfit to match a willow couch!

[660] "Now as the Gods reclined, the good old dame, whose skirts were tucked up, moving carefully, for so she tottered with her many years, fetched a clean table for the ready meal—but one leg of the table was too short, and so she wedged it with a potsherd—so made firm, she cleanly scoured it with fresh mint. And here is set the double-tinted fruit of chaste Minerva, and the tasty dish of corner, autumn-picked and pickled; these were served for relish; and the endive-green, and radishes surrounding a large pot of curdled milk; and eggs not overdone but gently turned in glowing embers—all served up in earthen dishes. Then sweet wine served up in clay, so costly! all embossed, and cups of beechwood smoothed with yellow wax. So now they had short respite, till the fire might yield the heated course. Again they served new wine, but mellow; and a second course: sweet nuts, dried figs and wrinkled dates and plums, and apples fragrant, in wide baskets heaped; and, in a wreath of grapes from purple vines, concealed almost, a glistening honey-comb; and all these orchard dainties were enhanced by willing service and congenial smiles.

[678] " But while they served, the wine-bowl often drained, as often was replenished, though unfilled, and Baucis and Philemon, full of fear, as they observed the wine spontaneous well, increasing when it should diminish, raised their hands in supplication, and implored indulgence for their simple home and fare. And now, persuaded by this strange event such visitors were deities unknown, this aged couple, anxious to bestow their most esteemed possession, hastily began to chase the only goose they had—the faithful guardian of their little home—which they would kill and offer to the Gods. But swift of wing, at last it wearied them, and fled for refuge to the smiling Gods. At once the deities forbade their zeal, and said, `A righteous punishment shall fall severe upon this wicked neighborhood; but by the might of our divinity, no evil shall befall this humble home; but you must come, and follow as we climb the summit of this mountain!’

[693] "Both obeyed, and leaning on their staves toiled up the steep. Not farther from the summit than the flight of one swift arrow from a hunter's how, they paused to view their little home once more; and as they turned their eyes, they saw the fields around their own engulfed in a morass, although their own remained,—and while they wept bewailing the sad fate of many friends, and wondered at the change, they saw their home, so old and little for their simple need—put on new splendor, and as it increased it changed into a temple of the gods. Where first the frame was fashioned of rude stakes columns of marble glistened, and the thatch gleamed golden in the sun, and legends carved, adorned the doors. And all the ground shone white with marble rich, and after this was done, the Son of Saturn said with gentle voice, `Now tell us, good old man and you his wife, worthy and faithful, what is your desire?’

[705] "Philemon counselled with old Baucis first; and then discovered to the listening Gods their hearts' desire, `We pray you let us have the care of your new temple; and since we have passed so many years in harmony, let us depart this life together—Let the same hour take us both—I would not see the tomb of my dear wife; and let me not be destined to be buried by her hands!’ At once their wishes were fulfilled. So long as life was granted they were known to be the temple's trusted keepers, and when age had enervated them with many years, as they were standing, by some chance, before the sacred steps, and were relating all these things as they had happened, Baucis saw Philemon, her old husband, and he, too, saw Baucis, as their bodies put forth leaves; and while the tops of trees grew over them, above their faces,—they spoke each to each; as long as they could speak they said, `Farewell, farewell, my own’—and while they said farewell; new leaves and branches covered both at once.

[719] "The people of Tyana (Thynia) still point out two trees which grew there from a double trunk, two forms made into one. Old truthful men, who have no reason to deceive me, told me truly all that I have told to you, and I have seen the votive wreaths hung from the branches of the hallowed double-tree. And one time, as I hung fresh garlands there, I said, `Those whom the Gods care for are Gods! And those who worshiped are now worshiped here.’”


[728] He ceased, and this miraculous event, and he who told it, had astonished them. But Theseus above all. The hero asked to hear of other wonders wrought by Gods. The Calydonian River-God replied, and leaning on one elbow, said to him: “There are, O valiant hero, other things whose forms once-changed as these, have so remained, but there are some who take on many shapes, as you have, Proteus, dweller of the deep—the deep whose arms embrace the earth. For some have seen you as a youth, then as a lion, a furious boar one time, a serpent next, so dreadful to the touch—and sometimes horns have made you seem a bull—or now a stone, or now a tree, or now a slipping stream, or even—the foe of water—next a fire.”


[738] "Now Erysichthon's daughter, Mestra, had that power of Proteus—she was called the wife of deft Autolycus.—Her father spurned the majesty of all the Gods, and gave no honor to their altars. It is said he violated with an impious axe the sacred grove of Ceres, and he cut her trees with iron. Long-standing in her grove there grew an ancient oak tree, spread so wide, alone it seemed a standing forest; and its trunk and branches held memorials, as, fillets, tablets, garlands, witnessing how many prayers the goddess Ceres granted. And underneath it laughing Dryads loved to whirl in festal dances, hand in hand, encircling its enormous trunk, that thrice five ells might measure; and to such a height it towered over all the trees around, as they were higher than the grass beneath.

[751] "But Erysichthon, heedless of all things, ordered his slaves to fell the sacred oak, and as they hesitated, in a rage the wretch snatched from the hand of one an axe, and said, `If this should be the only oak loved by the goddess of this very grove, or even were the goddess in this tree, I'll level to the ground its leafy head.' So boasted he, and while he swung on high his axe to strike a slanting blow, the oak beloved of Ceres, uttered a deep groan and shuddered. Instantly its dark green leaves turned pale, and all its acorns lost their green, and even its long branches drooped their arms. But when his impious hand had struck the trunk, and cut its bark, red blood poured from the wound,—as when a weighty sacrificial bull has fallen at the altar, streaming blood spouts from his stricken neck. All were amazed. And one of his attendants boldly tried to stay his cruel axe, and hindered him; but Erysichthon, fixing his stern eyes upon him, said, `Let this, then, be the price of all your pious worship!' So he turned the poised axe from the tree, and clove his head sheer from his body, and again began to chop the hard oak. From the heart of it these words were uttered; `Covered by the bark of this oak tree I long have dwelt a Nymph, beloved of Ceres, and before my death it has been granted me to prophesy, that I may die contented. Punishment for this vile deed stands waiting at your side.' No warning could avert his wicked arm. Much weakened by his countless blows, the tree, pulled down by straining ropes, gave way at last and leveled with its weight uncounted trees that grew around it.

[777] "Terrified and shocked, the sister-dryads, grieving for the grove and what they lost, put on their sable robes and hastened unto Ceres, whom they prayed, might rightly punish Erysichthon's crime;—the lovely goddess granted their request, and by the gracious movement of her head she shook the fruitful, cultivated fields, then heavy with the harvest; and she planned an unexampled punishment deserved, and not beyond his miserable crimes—the grisly bane of famine; but because it is not in the scope of Destiny, that two such deities should ever meet as Ceres and gaunt Famine,—calling forth from mountain-wilds a rustic Oread, the goddess Ceres, said to her, `There is an ice-bound wilderness of barren soil in utmost Scythia, desolate and bare of trees and corn, where Torpid-Frost, White-Death and Palsy and Gaunt-Famine, hold their haunts; go there now, and command that Famine flit from there; and let her gnawing-essence pierce the entrails of this sacrilegious wretch, and there be hidden—Let her vanquish me and overcome the utmost power of food. Heed not misgivings of the journey's length, for you will guide my dragon-bridled car through lofty ether.'

[799] "And she gave to her the reins; and so the swiftly carried Nymph arrived in Scythia. There, upon the told of steepy Caucasus, when she had slipped their tight yoke from the dragons' harnessed necks, she searched for Famine in that granite land, and there she found her clutching at scant herbs, with nails and teeth. Beneath her shaggy hair her hollow eyes glared in her ghastly face, her lips were filthy and her throat was rough and blotched, and all her entrails could be seen, enclosed in nothing but her shriveled skin; her crooked loins were dry uncovered bones, and where her belly should be was a void; her flabby breast was flat against her spine; her lean, emaciated body made her joints appear so large, her knobbled knees seemed large knots, and her swollen ankle-bones protruded.

[809] "When the Nymph, with keen sight, saw the Famine-monster, fearing to draw near she cried aloud the mandate she had brought from fruitful Ceres, and although the time had been but brief, and Famine far away, such hunger seized the Nymph, she had to turn her dragon-steeds, and flee through yielding air and the high clouds;—at Thessaly she stopped.

[814] "Grim Famine hastened to obey the will of Ceres, though their deeds are opposite, and rapidly through ether heights was borne to Erysichthon's home. When she arrived at midnight, slumber was upon the wretch, and as she folded him in her two wings, she breathed her pestilential poison through his mouth and throat and breast, and spread the curse of utmost hunger in his aching veins. When all was done as Ceres had decreed, she left the fertile world for bleak abodes, and her accustomed caves.

[823] "While this was done sweet Sleep with charming pinion soothed the mind of Erysichthon. In a dreamful feast he worked his jaws in vain, and ground his teeth, and swallowed air as his imagined food; till wearied with the effort he awoke to hunger scorching as a fire, which burned his entrails and compelled his raging jaws, so he, demanding all the foods of sea and earth and air, raged of his hunger, while the tables groaned with heaps before him spread; he, banqueting, sought banquets for more food, and as he gorged he always wanted more. The food of cities and a nation failed to satisfy the cravings of one man. The more his stomach gets, the more it needs—even as the ocean takes the streams of earth, although it swallows up great rivers drawn from lands remote, it never can be filled nor satisfied. And as devouring fire its fuel refuses never, but consumes unnumbered beams of wood, and burns for more the more 'tis fed, and from abundance gains increasing famine, so the raving jaws of wretched Erysichthon, ever craved all food in him, was only cause of food, and what he ate made only room for more.

[843] "And after Famine through his gluttony at last had wasted his ancestral wealth his raging hunger suffered no decline, and his insatiate gluttony increased. When all his wealth at last was eaten up, his daughter, worthy of a fate more kind, alone was left to him and her he sold. Descendant of a noble race, the girl refusing to be purchased as a slave, then hastened to the near shore of the sea, and as she stretched her arms above the waves, implored kind Neptune with her tears, `Oh, you who have deprived me of virginity, deliver me from such a master's power!' Although the master, seeking her, had seen her only at that moment, Neptune changed her quickly from a woman to a man, by giving her the features of a man and garments proper to a fisher-man: and there she stood. He even looked at her and cried out, `Hey, there! Expert of the rod! While you are casting forth the bit of brass, concealed so deftly in its tiny bait,—gods-willing! let the sea be smooth for you, and let the foolish fishes swimming up, never know danger till they snap the hook! Now tell me where is she, who only now, in tattered garment and wind-twisted hair, was standing on this shore—for I am sure I saw her standing on this shore, although no footstep shows her flight.” By this assured the favor of the god protected her; delighted to be questioned of herself, she said, “No matter who you are, excuse me. So busy have I been at catching fish, I have not had the time to move my eyes from this pool; and that you may be assured I only tell the truth, may Neptune, God of ocean witness it, I have not seen a man where I am standing on this shore—myself excepted—not a woman has stood here.” Her master could not doubt it, and deceived retraced his footsteps from the sandy shore. As soon as he had disappeared, her form unchanged, was given back to her. But when her father knew his daughter could transform her body and escape, he often sold her first to one and then another—all of whom she cheated—as a mare, bird, a cow, or as a stag she got away; and so brought food, dishonestly, to ease his greed. And so he lived until the growing strength of famine, gnawing at his vitals, had consumed all he could get by selling her: his anguish burned him with increasing heat. He gnawed his own flesh, and he tore his limbs and fed his body all he took from it.

[879] "Ah, why should I dwell on the wondrous deeds of others—Even I, O gathered youths, have such a power I can often change my body till my limit has been reached. A while appearing in my real form, another moment coiled up as a snake, then as a monarch of the herd my strength increases in my horns—my strength increased in my two horns when I had two—but now my forehead, as you see, has lost one horn." And having ended with such words,—he groaned.