4. Theseus - Perseus
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A volume filled with heroes: Theseus, who saved Athens from the Minotaur; Perseus, who slew the Medusa; Bellerophon, who tamed the winged horse Pegasus; Aeacus the just; Peleus, who wrestled with a goddess and won her for his own, and Meleager and Atalanta, who won eternal fame in the hunting of the Calydonian boar.
4. Theseus - Perseus
Ages: 12 and up
ISBN-10: 9604250752, ISBN-13: 9789604250752
Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae
Acrisius married Aganippe and by her had a daughter, the lovely Danae. But what he wanted even more was a son to succeed him on the throne; and so, anxious to learn if he would ever be blessed with one, he went to the oracle at Delphi.
Apollo’s answer was as follows:
“Hear my words, Acrisius, son of Abas! Though you will never beget a son to hand your kingdom down to, in his place there will rule a mighty hero to whom your daughter shall give birth. But know this: it is written by the Fates that this grandson of yours shall kill you.”
When Acrisius heard the answer he was terrified. Only one thought now possessed him – how to escape his destiny. To do so, he would stop at nothing. His only problem was, how could he make sure that he would never have a grandson?
Driven by fear, he built an underground prison with heavy bronze doors and there he shut up his daughter, Danae. To him, this seemed the perfect way of making sure she would not marry and thus never bear a child.
But Danae was so beautiful that Zeus himself had fallen in love with her, and no jail, however strong, was proof against the desires of the ruler of gods and men.
And so Zeus entered Danae’s dark prison, slipping through the chinks in the shuttered window in a shower of golden rain; and nine months afterwards the daughter of Acrisius gave birth to Perseus, son of Zeus.
A few days later, Acrisius was passing his daughter’s cell when he heard a baby crying. Although he was sure his ears were playing tricks on him, he opened the bronze door and stood rooted to the spot with astonishment when he saw Danae clasping a baby to her breast.
Frightened out of his wits, and unable to imagine for an instant that this infant might be the son of Zeus, his suspicions immediately fell – where else? – upon his hated brother, Proetus. This suspicion soon hardened into certainty, and with it his hatred for his brother swelled. To be revenged upon him, and at the same time rid himself of this mortally dangerous grandson, he decided to kill both his daughter and her child. But at the last moment, his nerve failed him and he held back. In the end, however, a cunning plan came into his mind, and his eyes gleamed craftily as he said:
“Let the foaming waves swallow them up; let the fishes eat them. It will be Proetus’ loss, not mine. If he couldn’t kill me all these years, I won’t let myself sit and be killed now by his son!”
And without further delay, he ordered his plan to be carried out.
A short time after this, on Seriphos, an island which lies across the gulf from Argos, a fisherman named Dictys was pulling in his nets when he saw that a wooden chest was caught up in them. Seized with curiosity, he dragged on the ropes with all his might, and soon the chest was lying on the sand. It was a fine piece of workmanship, sturdily bound in bronze. The more Dictys looked at it, the more curious he became. Where had it come from, and what could be inside?
He tried to open it, but this was no easy task. The chest was firmly sealed. Dictys was a patient man, however, and one by one he prised off the copper binding strips till in the end the lid was freed and the trunk came open. And then, to his astonishment, he saw two human forms, weak and battered by the waves, but still alive – a young woman and her baby. They were Danae and Perseus, of course. Acrisius had shut them in the chest and thrown them into the sea to meet their fate.
Dictys revived the pair and took them to his house. He gave Danae a room of her own and provided her with all she needed to bring her young child up.
Now the king of the island, Polydectes, was Dictys’ brother – a man as hard and pitiless as the fisherman was kind. He hated all women, and had sworn that he would never marry. But as soon as he set eyes on Danae, he was so blinded by her beauty that he wished to take her for his wife. And when Danae refused, he not only persisted in his attentions but began to threaten her, too. All this had quite the opposite effect to what he had intended, and the young mother felt nothing but hatred towards the king.
Perseus cuts off the fearsome Medusa’s head
The years rolled by, and Perseus grew up into a strongly-built young man whom none could match in good looks, intelligence and strength. Polydectes, in the meantime, had never ceased pressing Danae to marry him, but now he had to reckon not only with her own reluctance but the opposition of young Perseus, who defended his mother fearlessly.
In the end, Polydectes decided that Perseus was a thorn in his side that must be removed. As he saw it, this would not only leave Danae without a protector, but the loss of her son’s companionship would grieve her so much that she would no longer have the strength of will to resist the king’s advances. And so he set a cunning plan in motion. He called to his palace all the leading citizens of the island, Perseus among them, and announced:
“I have decided after all not to marry Danae, but to seek the hand of Hippodameia, daughter of king Oenomaus of Pissa. However, since I am but king of a small island, and do not wish to cut a poor figure before the king of mighty Pissa, it seems to me that my best chance of impressing him is by going with rich gifts. For this reason, I would like each one of you to let me have a horse to offer Oenomaus.”
They all assented save Perseus, who replied sadly:
“I have neither a horse nor the money to buy one. Order me to bring you whatever else you wish, however. I am so pleased that you no longer wish to marry my mother that I will even bring you the head of the Medusa if that is your desire.”
Now everyone knew that the Medusa was a fearsome gorgon whose head had the power to turn all those that set eyes on it to stone. This meant, of course, that no one could cut it off. The phrase Perseus had used was common enough and merely showed his willingness to be of service, but as soon as Polydectes heard it, he seized his opportunity and shouted:
“Bravo! Just the gift I wanted! Go and bring me the gorgon’s head and you may rest assured that I will never trouble your mother again.”
Perseus was startled by this unexpected reply, but not shaken. Looking at Polydectes with cold anger, he told him:
“You shall have the head. I am leaving this instant.” And with these words he marched boldly out of the hall, while Polydectes turned to his friends with a sneer on his lips and said:
“I no longer need your horses. Everything has gone according to plan. Perseus has been sent exactly where I intended. Now that Danae is alone, I am sure to make her my wife.”
Indeed, the task Perseus had set himself was not only impossible but meant certain death. For as soon as he set eyes on the fearsome gorgon, he would be turned into a lifeless statue.
The Medusa lived with her two sisters on an island in the great ocean, at the very edge of the world. All three were hideous monsters with great black wings and scaly bodies. Their fingers ended in cruel talons, and instead of hair their heads were covered by a writhing mass of venomous snakes. Their tongues and two great fangs stuck out from their mouths and their whole appearance was so hideous that whoever looked on them was turned at once to stone. How could anyone cut the head off one of these vile monsters, and how could Polydectes not gloat in triumph at sending Perseus on a fatal mission?
But Perseus was the son of Zeus, ruler of gods and men – and Zeus would never let a child of his meet such a fate. Instead, he ordered Hermes and Athena to come to the young man’s aid. Hermes gave Perseus a sword which could sever the Medusa’s head with a single blow. It was made of solid diamond, and was so keen that it could cleave the hardest steel. The goddess Athena gave him a shield so brightly polished it made a splendid mirror.
“Since you cannot look in the Medusa’s face,” she told him, “you must follow its reflection in the shield to cut her head off.”
Next Athena bore Perseus away to the island of Samos, where there were life-sized images of all three gorgons.
“This one is the Medusa,” said the goddess, pointing her out. “I tell you this lest you should make a mistake and try to kill one of the other two – for her sisters are immortal, and you will not only fail to harm them but lose your life in the attempt. Yet even when you try to sever the Medusa’s head you will be in no small danger, unless you are properly equipped. For this reason you must go and find the three Stygian nymphs, who will give you the other things you need to carry out your mission. Where you can find them, however, nor I nor any mortal knows, only the three Graeae, hideous old crones who live near the land of the Hesperides. But they are the sisters of the Medusa, and will not tell you where the nymphs can be found unless you bend them to your will.” Finally, Athena put Perseus on the road he must follow to find the Graeae, adding that he would recognise them because they had but one eye and one tooth in all, which they shared among the three of them.
Encouraged by the goddess’s help, Perseus set off in search of the Graeae.
After a seemingly endless journey he found them – and just at the moment when one of them had taken out the eye to give it to her sister. For that brief instant, not one of them could see a thing – and Perseus seized his opportunity. Placing his palm beneath her outstretched fist, he let her drop the eye into his hand! Closing his fingers around it he shouted:
“There goes your eye – and you will not get it back until you tell me where to find the Stygian nymphs!”
This was an unexpected blow for the Graeae. Panic-stricken and confused, they groped blindly around in the hope of catching Perseus. They had not the slightest wish to tell him where the nymphs might be found, for in their keeping were the winged sandals, the helmet of Hades and the magic wallet Perseus needed for his task. All three Graeae could see into the future, and they knew that whoever acquired these objects would be able to kill their sister, the Medusa.
When they saw their eye was not to be retrieved by force, the sisters next began to beg for it, but Perseus replied:
“Tell me where I can find the Stygian nymphs, or I will fling your eye into the ocean.”
“No, that would be the end for us!” the Graeae wailed in a terrified chorus. “Take pity on us poor creatures and give us back our eye. Do that, and we will help you in any way you want. Only, don’t ask us to tell you where to find the nymphs.”
“That is all the help I wish for – that and no other,” was Perseus’ reply. “Tell me, or you will never have your eye again.”
The three Graeae held a muttered conference, but they could not make up their minds. Again they began to beg him for their eye.
“Tell me what I want this very instant,” Perseus now threatened, “or I’ll grind the thing to pulp beneath my heel!”
So appalled at this dire prospect were the three sisters that they volunteered the information as if in one voice and told him exactly where to find the Stygian nymphs.
“That’s more like it!” cried Perseus. “Now, take your eye – and goodbye to you.”
He soon found the three nymphs, and when he told them of his mission, they gladly handed over the winged sandals which would enable Perseus to fly through the heavens, the helmet of Hades which would render him invisible when worn, and the magic wallet which could expand to hold whatever was placed inside it.
“This is to put the gorgon’s head in,” they told him, “for even when severed from its body, its gaze can still turn those who look on it to stone.”
And with these words they bade Perseus farewell and good fortune.
The young man took his precious gifts and soared upwards. His winged sandals bore him smoothly and swiftly through the sky, and it was not long before he reached the island of the gorgons. Then he put on his helmet and became invisible. From on high, he could make out the three vile creatures. Clustered thickly around them, and scattered all over the island stood stone images of men, worn and pitted by rain and time. Perseus now fixed his eyes on the reflection in the shield, which showed him that all three sisters were asleep. He swooped down closer and immediately picked out the Medusa. In this difficult moment Athena was by his side to lend him courage, and guide his hand if need be. Perseus looked carefully in the mirror, judged the distance to an inch and with a slashing sword-blow struck the hideous head right off. As he did so, from the gaping wound where the Gorgon’s head had stood there sprang first a winged horse, Pegasus, and next a giant, Chrysaor, both fathered on the Medusa by Poseidon and destined by the fates to come into the world only when a hero had beheaded her.
Perseus immediately stuffed the bloody head into his magic wallet and soared into the air, while the corpse of the gorgon writhed like a wounded snake then slowly toppled from the rocks to the sea below. But the splash of its fall awakened her two sisters. Realising that the Medusa was dead, they immediately began a search for her slayer, first on land, then, opening their great wings, in the air above. But Perseus was absolutely invisible, and the two gorgons returned to earth in empty-handed disappointment.
Perseus flew on uneventfully until he came to a place where an astonishing spectacle met his eyes. A huge giant was holding up the heavens on his shoulders! This was Atlas, the Titan who had been condemned by mighty Zeus to bear his crushing burden for all eternity, because he had fought against the gods in that earth-shaking conflict known as The Battle of the Titans.
Filled with wonder at Atlas’ incredible strength, Perseus glided down to earth and walked up to his feet. He wanted to meet the mightiest being in the world in person. The Titan, however, did not give him a warm welcome, for it had been prophesied that a son of Zeus would come to these parts one day and steal the golden apples from the nearby Garden of the Hesperides. Although this garden was guarded by a fearsome dragon named Ladon, Atlas was still very worried about the safety of the apples.
So, when he set eyes on Perseus he stiffened in suspicion and demanded who he was and what business he had in this distant part of the world where no mortal had ever before set foot.
“I am Perseus, son of Zeus, and I have come from...”
But Atlas cut him short. As soon as he heard the words ‘son of Zeus’ his thoughts flew to the golden apples and he roared:
“Thief! You have come to steal our dearest treasure! Get out of my sight before I call for Ladon to tear you into pieces!”
“I am no thief,” replied Perseus, “and I have not come to take anything away from you. I was passing this way because I have been to kill the gorgon Medusa. Here! Her head is in this sack.”
“Not only a thief, but a liar,” retorted Atlas. “The Medusa’s head in a sack, indeed. As if it could ever be cut off!”
“But I did,” said the hero. “Look!” And with these words he pulled out the hideous head and showed it to the Titan. The moment he did so, an awesome change took place before his eyes. Seeing the gorgon’s head, Atlas was turned to stone! His body became a towering mountain, his hair and beard were transformed into forests, and his head was now the mountain’s highest peak. And upon that peak the great arch of the sky has rested ever since. To this very day the mountain is called Atlas.
Perseus, too, was almost petrified when he realized what had happened. He had never imagined that the lifeless head would have the power to turn to stone a being as mighty as the Titan, especially since Atlas was immortal. Sad at heart, he put the head back in the wallet and flew off once again.
At this point, one might ask: but if Perseus changed Atlas into a mountain, how is it that Heracles met him later, still bearing the world upon his shoulders? However, we must remember that mythology was not all the work of one man, and neither did it all originate in a single time or place. The myths of the Greeks are full of contradictions, and perhaps among the most striking is this one involving Atlas. Yet it should not trouble us any more than it troubled the ancients, who had no wish to spoil the wonder of a tale for the sake of mere logic!
Perseus saves Andromeda
Continuing on his way, our hero eventually reached the shores of Ethiopia. From his vantage point in the sky, he suddenly caught sight of a white speck against the dark rocks of the shore. Curious, he swooped down lower.
“What a splendid statue!” he cried out in delight as he drew nearer. “I wonder what great sculptor created this?”
But when he came closer still, he saw the wind ruffling the hair of the “statue” which, of course, was no figure of stone but a living maiden, chained to the rock and sobbing bitterly.
Perseus came to earth and approached the girl. He asked her name and why she had been left there. In a voice still torn by sobs the unhappy young woman told him her tragic story.
“My name is Andromeda,” she said, “and I am the daughter of king Cepheus, who rules this land. Alas! They have tied me to this rock because I must pay for a crime which was not of my doing. My mother Cassiopeia is to blame. She dared to compare her own beauty with that of the lovely Nereids, daughters of old Nereus. She even made a quarrel of it, insisting she was fairer still than they. The sea nymphs were so insulted that they took their complaint not to their father, who never loses his temper, but to the mighty god of all the seas, earth-shaker Poseidon. When he heard them, his anger knew no bounds. To punish us, he loosed a disastrous flood upon our land, and as soon as that had receded, he sent a sea-monster which ravaged what was left of our country. Our people were in despair. And because there seemed to be no end to our troubles, my father consulted the oracle to learn what he must do. There he learned that the evils which had fallen on our land would cease only when the sea-monster had devoured the daughter of the king. For my mother, this was the worst punishment of all, for she loves me more than life itself. But though my parents could never have been persuaded to sacrifice me to the monster of their own free will, the people could bear their sufferings no longer. They rose against my father and forced him to hand me over. Then they bound me to this rock, and here, alas, I wait for the monster to tear me apart.”
By the time Andromeda had finished, Perseus was close to tears. He had already fallen in love with the beautiful maiden and wanted nothing more than to rescue her and make her his wife. He was wondering how to begin to tell her this when she spoke again.
“Save me, stranger – and if you wish, make me your slave. If you do not want me for your own, then just save me, and I will be grateful to you forever. But what am I saying? I am asking for something I cannot allow to happen. For if you take me from here, the monster will go on ravaging our country.” And with these words she began to sob again, weeping bitter tears at her fate.
“Do not cry, unhappy maiden,” said the hero. “I am Perseus, son of Zeus and I can kill the monster first, before I set you free.”
The girl’s face lit up with hope – and not only the girl’s; for at this moment her parents arrived, and hearing Perseus’ words they threw themselves at his feet.
“Save our daughter, stranger,” they begged, “and ask what you will of us in return. Take everything we have – demand our whole kingdom and we shall gladly give it to you.”
“I want none of these things,” was the hero’s reply. “My only wish is to have Andromeda as my wife.”
And then, in their joy, Cepheus and Cassiopeia swore to Aphrodite that they would give their daughter to Perseus if he slew the fearsome monster.
At that very moment the sea began to boil. A long, black hump heaved itself out of the foam, sank back beneath the surface then reared up again, till soon the whole great length of the hideous sea-dragon could be seen above the waves. When Andromeda set eyes upon it, she let out a piercing cry, while Cepheus and Cassiopeia threw themselves terror-stricken into each other’s arms. There was not a moment to lose. The monster was coming closer by the second, leaving a long furrow in its wake. Followed by the bewildered eyes of Andromeda and her parents, Perseus soared into the heavens. Clamping the helmet of Hades upon his head he immediately became invisible, to the even greater astonishment of the watchers below. Then the hero dived unseen on the monster and thrust his diamond-bladed sword into its neck; but so thick and tough was the monster’s hide that the wound did no more than lash it into a frenzy. The huge creature thrashed and writhed, raising waves as high as mountains and preventing Perseus from getting in another blow. The sea-dragon searched frenziedly for its attacker, but there was nothing to be seen in sea or sky. Suddenly, however, it caught sight of Perseus’ shadow on the foaming waves. Deceived, it made a vicious lunge towards it. This was the chance the hero had been waiting for, and he plunged his sword-hilt deep into the monster’s head. And then, as if by magic, the beast uncoiled, rolled belly-upwards on the surface of the sea and lay there bobbing in the waves. Landing on its scaly corpse, Perseus removed his helmet and revealed himself. When Andromeda and her parents saw him standing there, they wept for joy. Once he was sure the monster was stone-dead, he flew over to Andromeda, quickly loosed her chains, gathered her gently in his arms and set her on dry land before her mother and father, who kissed and hugged her as if they would never stop.
The very next day the wedding feast was held. In the great hall of the palace all the lords of the land were assembled. It was a magnificent spectacle. Soon a minstrel, fair as a god, plucked at the strings of his lyre and started to sing. The celebrations had begun. Suddenly, however, the singer broke off in mid-verse and the whole company froze in silent astonishment. For the great doors had burst wide open with a crash and in stalked Phineus, the king’s brother, with a troop of soldiers at his heels.
“What is this?” Phineus cried. “You gave your word that she would be my wife. How dare you give her to a stranger!”
“You call me stranger when I saved Andromeda from certain death?” was Perseus’ retort. “Besides, her parents gave their oath she would be mine!”
“What?” roared Phineus, “You went back on your sacred word?”
Cepheus and Cassiopeia stood there as if struck dumb.
“Listen to me, all of you,” a wise old nobleman declared. “If Andromeda is still alive, it is only because Perseus risked his life to save her. And now Phineus comes to claim his rights. What rights, Phineus? Where were you when Andromeda was chained upon the rock? Why did you not go to kill the monster, but took yourself off without even going to comfort her in her distress? Who broke off the engagement, then, Andromeda’s parents or you, by your own cowardice? With what right do you come here now to take her – and by force, as well? Andromeda belongs to Perseus. But should any of you disagree, there’s a very simple solution: let’s ask the girl herself.”
“Yes, ask!” shouted Perseus.
“Ask!” her parents echoed.
“Father,” Andromeda said, “my life belongs to the man who saved me. He is the one I shall take as my husband.”
“Never!” screamed Phineus. And as the word left his mouth, he flung his spear at Perseus.
The hero had been expecting this. He sprang to one side and was saved. But the shaft lodged in the singer’s breast, and as he fell it struck the strings of his lyre which gave out a last melancholy chord and died along with the young man.
Perseus drew his sword to defend himself, while from among the ranks of the guests many brave young men sprang to his side. Battle was joined at once. One after another, Phineus’ warriors fell dead upon the ground; but he had a whole army with him, and the struggle soon became unequal as Perseus’ supporters were struck down in their turn. Athena herself was alarmed by her hero’s plight and came to his assistance, protecting his body with her shield. But the spears and arrows continued to fall like rain around him, and soon not one of Perseus’ men was left alive. The brave son of Zeus fought on alone. With his back against a column he carried on a battle with no hope of victory, unless...
Then all at once he shouted:
“Those of you who are my friends, turn your eyes aside!”
And with these words he tore the Medusa’s head from its magic wallet and held it up before his enemies. In an instant the warriors of Phineus were transformed into statues, some with their lances poised to throw and others as they charged with sword in hand.
Only Phineus was left. Seeing the fate which had befallen his comrades, he sank in terror at Perseus’ feet and begged for mercy. But the hero instantly thrust out the Gorgon’s head and turned him, too, to stone. And so Phineus was frozen forever in the most degrading posture a warrior could be caught in – grovelling on his knees and pleading for his life.
Perseus took Andromeda to be his wife. He could not stay long in the palace of Cepheus, however, for it was time for his return to Greece. With tears in her eyes, Andromeda bade farewell to her parents and followed her husband.
When they reached Seriphos, Perseus stopped first at the humble dwelling of Dictys in search of his mother. He opened the door and went in.
“I can’t believe it!” cried Dictys when he set eyes on him; and going down on his knees he kissed the hero’s hands.
“And you’ll believe it even less when you hear I have the Medusa’s head,” Perseus replied. “But tell me, quickly, how is my mother?”
“The prisoner of Polydectes!” came the answer.
Perseus waited to hear no more, but rushed off in search of the evil king. He found him on a terrace beside the palace, noisily eating and drinking with a group of friends. As soon as Perseus appeared they all rose from their seats in astonishment. Not one of them had ever expected to see his face again, least of all Polydectes.
“How dare you come back here!” he cried, “I sent you to bring the head of the Medusa.”
“And I have brought it!”
Polydectes greeted this answer with a mocking laugh. His friends hastened to follow suit, and they all cast scorn on the great hero.
“Listen to that, eh?” they scoffed. “So he’s brought the Gorgon’s head, has he?” And holding their sides with mirth, they pointed jeering fingers at him.
Then Perseus put his hand into the wallet and pulled out the vile head.
“Here it is,” he cried, “since you don’t believe me!”
In a flash they were all turned to stone, the mockery stamped forever on their faces. And so, here too, the land was filled with frozen images. If Seriphos is a rocky island today, people say it is because of these stone figures, long since shattered by time and the elements.
As for Phineus and his warriors, there is an even more impressive legend. It is said that in the city of Joppa, in Palestine, men used to point out a spot with a host of tall, upright stones, which the local people claimed were all that was left of Phineus and his troops. A Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius, took some of those which most resembled men and had them set up in Rome as a reminder to his countrymen of the heroic deeds of Perseus.
But let us get back to our story.
Once Perseus had freed his mother, he made Dictys king of Seriphos and returned to Argos with Danae and Andromeda. As soon as he arrived he gave thanks to Athena for her aid, and presented her with the Gorgon’s head, which she placed upon her shield-boss. Then he set off in search of the Stygian nymphs again, to give back the winged sandals, the helmet of Hades and the magic wallet.
By the time he returned to Argos, his grandfather Acrisius was nowhere to be found. Fearing that the words of the oracle would at last prove true, he had given up his throne and fled to Larissa, in Thessaly. With his departure, Perseus became king of Argos.
The prophecy comes true
Some time later, a great athletic contest was held in Larissa which attracted contestants from all over Greece. Perseus, too, went to take part in these games, and competed in the discus event. But the hero’s throw was so powerful that the discus flew right out of the stadium, struck a passer-by on the head and killed him. That passer-by was none other than Acrisius. And so the words of the oracle were fulfilled: that Acrisius would be killed by his own grandson.
Perseus returned to Argos grieved and ashamed. After what had happened he no longer wished to keep his grandfather’s throne, accidental though the killing had been. Luckily, in neighbouring Tiryns, Proetus had been succeeded by his son Megapenthes, and the enmity which had existed between Acrisius and Proetus was only matched by the warmth their successors now showed each other. It was soon agreed that Megapenthes should take the throne of Argos, while Perseus would henceforth rule in Tiryns.
Perseus is also known, however, as the founder and first ruler of Mycenae, the richest, most glorious and mightiest of all the cities of mythical times. Seeing a good site, not far from Tiryns, the hero decided to fortify the position and transfer his capital there. In the building of Mycenae, Perseus was given great help by the Cyclopes. It is said that only these one-eyed giants could have lifted the great stone blocks that form the fortress walls of Mycenae, and they are known as Cyclopean walls to this very day.
Perseus and Andromeda lived for many years and had seven children. Their eldest child, Perses, became the first king of the Persians, and the founder of that great race. Their second son, Electryon, later became king of Mycenae and it was his daughter, Alcmene, who gave birth to Heracles, the greatest hero in Greek mythology.
As we have seen, all these kings and heroes and founders of dynasties sprang from the line of the river-god Inachus, founder and first king of Argos.
And if we wish to place this great line in order, its members are as follows: first Inachus and next Io, and then Epaphus, followed by Libya, Belus, Danaus, Hypermnestra, Abas, Acrisius and Danae, until we reach the hero Perseus. After him come Electryon and Alcmene and last of all Heracles, the mighty son of Zeus. All in all, there are fourteen generations.
Perseus and Andromeda ruled peacefully over Mycenae, and when they died they did not go to the dark caverns of Hades but were raised into the heavens, for such was the will of great Zeus, Perseus’ father. And on a clear night, with the help of a star chart, one can easily find the constellation of Perseus. At its side is Andromeda, and a little further away lie Cepheus and Cassiopeia; for Andromeda died heavy with regret at never having seen her parents again after her marriage, and Zeus, great ruler of the earth and sky, took the couple and placed them in the heavens at their daughter’s side.
Excerpted from "Perseus - Theseus" by Menelaos Stephanides
Copyright © by Dimitris Stefanidis. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
The forebears of Perseus - Lynceus and Hypermnestra - Acrisius and Proetus -
The myth of Sisyphus - Bellerophon and the fatal letter - Bellerophon tames Pegasus and slays the Chimaera 69 Bellerophon’s other feats - The sad fall of Bellerophon
THESEUS, THE HERO OF ATHENS
The birth of Theseus - Theseus’ feats on the dangerous road to Athens - Theseus against the Pallantids - The bull of Marathon - A bloody tribute - Theseus and the Minotaur - The voyage home - Theseus, king of Athens - The downfall of Theseus
AEACUS AND PELEUS
Aeacus the just - Peleus and his troubled story - The struggle with Atalanda - Peleus, a hunter of savage beasts - The wedding of Peleus and Thetis
THE HUNTING OF THE CALYDONIAN BOAR
Atalanta and Meleager - The famous boar hunt - The sad fate of Meleager - Atalanta and Melanion
INDEX OF NAMES
for all volumes