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THE DESCENDANTS OF CECROPS AND ERICHTHONIUS.
§ 151. Cecrops' and Erichthonius. — Cecrops, half-snake, halfman, came from Crete or Egypt into Attica, founded Athens, and chose Minerva rather than Neptune as its guardian. His successor was Erichthonius, or Erechtheus, a snake-formed genius of the fertile soil of Attica. This Erichthonius 3 was a special ward of the goddess Minerva, who brought him up in her temple. His son Pandion had two daughters, Procne and Philomela, of whom he gave the former in marriage to Tereus, king of Thrace (or of Daulis in Phocis). This ruler, after his wife had borne him a son Itys (or Itylus), wearied of her, plucked out her tongue by the roots to ensure her silence, and, pretending that she was dead, took in marriage the other sister, Philomela. Procne by means of a web, into which she wove her story, informed Philomela of the horrible truth. In revenge upon Tereus, the sisters killed Itylus, and served up the child as food to the father ; but the gods, in indignation, transformed Procne into a swallow, Philomela into a nightingale, forever bemoaning the murdered Itylus, and Tereus into a hawk, forever pursuing the sisters.*
1 Ovid, Metam. 2: 555; Apollod. 3: 14, § 1; Pausanias; and Hyginus, Fab. 48.
2 Ovid, Metam. 2: 554; 6:676; Homer, Il. 2: 547; Od. 7:81; Hyginus, Poet. Astr. 2:13.
8 For Ruskin's interpretation, see Queen of the Air, $ 38. * Apollod. 3: 14, 8; Ovid, Metam. 6:412-676.
Still, after many years in distant lands,
“Dost thou to-night behold,
§ 152. Theseus." -- A descendant of Erechtheus and Pandion was Ægeus, king of Athens. By Æthra, granddaughter of Pelops, he became the father of the Attic hero, Theseus. Ægeus, on parting from Æthra, before the birth of the child, had placed his sword and shoes under a large stone, and had directed her to send the child to him if it should prove strong enough to roll away the stone and take what was under. The lad Theseus was brought up at Treezen, of which Pittheus, Æthra's father, was king. When Æthra thought the time had come, she led Theseus to the stone. He
1 Matthew Arnold, Philomela.
removed it with ease, and took the sword and shoes. Since, at that time, the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather Pittheus pressed him earnestly to take the shorter and safer way to his father's country, by sea; but the youth, feeling in himself the spirit and the soul of a hero, and eager to signalize himself like Hercules, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.
His first day's journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt Periphetes, a son of Vulcan. This ferocious savage always went armed with a club of iron, and all travellers stood in terror of his violence; but beneath the blows of the young hero he speedily
Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious. Most important was his slaughter of Procrustes, or the Stretcher. This giant had an iron bedstead, on which he used to tie all travellers who fell into his hands. If they were shorter than the bed, he stretched them till they fitted it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off their limbs.
In the course of time, Theseus reached Athens; but here new dangers awaited him. For Medea, the sorceress, who had filed from Corinth after her separation from Jason, had become the wife of Ægeus. Knowing by her arts who the stranger was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband, if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she tried to poison the youth ; but the sword which he wore discovered him to his father, and prevented the fatal draught. Medea fled to Asia, where the country afterwards called Media is said to have received its name from her. Theseus was acknowledged by his sire, and declared successor to the throne.
$ 153. Theseus and Ariadne.? — Now the Athenians were at that time in deep affliction, on account of the tribute of youths and maidens which they were forced to send to the Minotaur, dwelling in the labyrinth of Crete, – a penalty said to have been imposed 19 147.
2 Od. 11:321; Plutarch's Theseus ; Catullus, LXIV.
by Minos upon the Athenians because Ægeus had sent Androgeüs, the son of Minos, against the Marathonian bull, and so had brought about the young man's death.
From this calamity Theseus resolved to de liver his countrymen, or to die in the attempt. He, therefore, in spite of the entreaties of his father, presented himself as champion of Athens and of her fair sons and daughters, to do battle against the Minotaur; and departed with the victims in a vessel bearing black sails, which he promised his father to change for white in the event of his returning victorious. So,–
Rather than cargo on cargo of corpses undead should be wafted 1
Then as the maid Ariadne beheld him with glances of longing,
Locked in a mother's embrace, in seclusion virginal, fragrant,
1 Catullus, LXIV. From the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis. A Translation in Hexameters, by Charles Mills Gayley.
• In what wildering seas ye tossed the impassionate maiden
Not unaided, however, did he undertake the task ; for Ariadne, apprehensive lest he might lose his way in the dædalian labyrinth, furnished him with a thread, the gift of Vulcan, — which, unrolled by Theseus as he entered the maze, should enable him on his return to retrace his former path. Meanwhile, –
Offering artless bribes, Ariadne invoked the Immortals,
Then with abundant laud he turned, unscathed from the combat,
Why should I tarry to tell how, quitting her sire, Ariadne
Gazing amain from the marge of the flood-reverberant Dia,