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when they offer gifts.” So saying, he threw his lance at the horse's side. It struck, and a hollow sound reverberated like a groan. Then perhaps the people might have taken his advice and destroyed the fatal horse with its contents, but just at that moment a group of people appeared dragging forward one who seemed a prisoner and a Greek. Stupefied with terror, the captive was brought before the chiefs, who reassured him, promising him that his life should be spared on condition of his answering truly the questions asked him. He informed them that he was a Greek, Sinon by name; and that in consequence of the malice of Ulysses, he had been left behind by his countrymen at their departure. With regard to the wooden horse, he told them that it was a propitiatory offering to Minerva, and made so huge for the express purpose of preventing its being carried within the city; for Calchas the prophet had told them that if the Trojans took possession of it, they would assuredly triumph over the Greeks.
Laocoön and the Serpents. — This language turned the tide of the people's feelings; and they began to think how they might best secure the monstrous horse and the favorable auguries connected with it, when suddenly a prodigy occurred which left no room to doubt. There appeared advancing over the sea two immense serpents. They came upon the land, and the crowd filed in all directions. The serpents advanced directly to the spot where Laocoön stood with his two sons. They first attacked the children, winding round their bodies and breathing their pestilential breath in their faces. The father, attempting to rescue them, is next seized and involved in the serpent's coils.'
1 Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes. - Æn. 2:49.
He struggles to tear them away, but they overpower all his efforts, and strangle him and the children in their poisonous folds. The event was regarded as a clear indication of the displeasure of the gods at Laocoon's irreverent treatment of the wooden horse, which they no longer hesitated to regard as a sacred object, and prepared to introduce with due solemnity into the city. They did so with songs and triumphal acclamations, and the day closed with festivity. In the night the armed men who were enclosed in the body of the horse, being let out by the traitor Sinon, opened the gates of the city to their friends who had returned under cover of the night. The city was set on fire; the people, overcome with feasting and sleep, were put to the sword, and Troy completely subdued. : The Death of Priam. Priam lived to see the downfall of his kingdom, and was slain at last on the fatal night when the Greeks took the city. He had armed himself, and was about to mingle with the combatants, but was prevailed on by Hecuba to take refuge with herself and his daughters as a suppliant at the altar of Jupiter. While there, his youngest son, Polites, pursued by Pyrrhus, the son of Achilles, rushed in wounded, and expired at the feet of his father; whereupon Priam, overcome with indignation, hurled his spear with feeble hand against Pyrrhus, and was forthwith slain by him.
170. The Survivors.? — Queen Hecuba and her daughter Cassandra were carried captives to Greece. Cassandra had been loved by Apollo, who gave her the gift of prophecy; but afterwards offended with her, he had rendered the gift unavailing by ordaining that her predictions should never be believed. Polyxena, another daughter, who had been loved by Achilles, was demanded by the ghost of that warrior, and was sacrificed by the Greeks upon his tomb.
1 Hecuba's exclamation, "Not such aid nor such defenders does the time require," has become proverbial.
Non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis
Tempus eget. – Æn. 2: 521. 2 Euripides, – Troades, Hecuba, Andromache.
Helen and Menelaus. On the fall of Troy, Menelaüs recovered possession of his wife, who, it seems, had not ceased to love him, though she had yielded to the might of Venus and deserted him for another. After the death of Paris, she aided the Greeks secretly on several occasions : in particular when Ulysses and Diomede entered the city in disguise to carry off the Palladium. She, then, saw and recognized Ulysses, but kept the secret, and even assisted them in obtaining the image. Thus she became reconciled to Menelaus, and they were among the first to leave the shores of Troy for their native land. But having incurred the displeasure of the gods they were driven by storms from shore to shore of the Mediterranean, visiting Cyprus, Phænicia, and Egypt. In Egypt they were kindly treated and presented with rich gifts, of which Helen's share was a golden spindle, and a basket on wheels.
“... many yet adhere
Too beauteous Helen; no uncourtly gift.” 2 Milton also alludes to a famous recipe for an invigorating draught, called Nepenthe, which the Egyptian queen gave to Helen :
“Not that Nepenthes which the wife of Thone
In Egypt gave to Jove-born Helena,
To life so friendly or so cool to thirst." 3 . At last, arriving in safety at Sparta, Menelaus and Helen resumed their royal dignity, and lived and reigned in splendor; and when Telemachus, the son of Ulysses, in search of his father, arrived at Sparta, he found them celebrating the marriage of their daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, son of Achilles.
1 According to Euripides (Helen), and Stesichorus, it was a semblance of Helen that Paris won; the real Helen went to Egypt. 2 Dyer, The Fleece.
8 Milton, Comus.