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HOW THESEUS FELL BY HIS PRIDE

from Types Of Children's Literature - Myths And Legends





But that fair Ariadne never came to Athens with her husband. Some say
that Theseus left her sleeping on Naxos among the Cyclades; and that
Dionusos the wine-king found her, and took her up into the sky, as you
shall see some day in a painting of old Titian's, one of the most
glorious pictures upon earth. And some say that Dionusos drove away
Theseus, and took Ariadne from him by force: but however that may be,
in his haste or in his grief, Theseus forgot to put up the white sail.
Now Ęgeus his father sat and watched on Sunium day after day, and
strained his old eyes across the sea to see the ship afar. And when he
saw the black sail, and not the white one, he gave up Theseus for dead,
and in his grief he fell into the sea, and died; so it is called the
Ęgean to this day.

And now Theseus was king of Athens, and he guarded it and ruled it well.

For he killed the bull of Marathon, which had killed Androgeos, Minos's
son; and he drove back the famous Amazons, the warlike women of the East,
when they came from Asia, and conquered all Hellas, and broke into Athens
itself. But Theseus stopped them there, and conquered them, and took
Hippolyte their queen to be his wife. Then he went out to fight against
the Lapithai, and Peirithoos their famous king: but when the two heroes
came face to face they loved each other, and embraced, and became noble
friends; so that the friendship of Theseus and Peirithoos is a proverb
even now. And he gathered (so the Athenians say) all the boroughs of the
land together, and knit them into one strong people, while before they
were all parted and weak: and many another wise thing he did, so that
his people honored him after he was dead, for many a hundred years, as
the father of their freedom and their laws. And six hundred years after
his death, in the famous fight at Marathon, men said that they saw the
ghost of Theseus, with his mighty brazen club, fighting in the van of
battle against the invading Persians, for the country which he loved.
And twenty years after Marathon, his bones (they say) were found in
Scuros, an isle beyond the sea; and they were bigger than the bones of
mortal man So the Athenians brought them home in triumph; and all the
people came out to welcome them; and they built over them a noble
temple, and adorned it with sculptures and paintings; in which were
told all the noble deeds of Theseus, and the Centaurs, and the Lapithai
and the Amazons; and the ruins of it are standing still.

But why did they find his bones in Scuros? Why did he not die in peace
at Athens, and sleep by his father's side? Because, after his triumph he
grew proud, and broke the laws of God and man. And one thing worst of
all he did, which brought him to his grave with sorrow. For he went down
(they say beneath the earth) with that bold Peirithoos his friend, to
help him to carry off Persephone, the queen of the world below. But
Peirithoos was killed miserably, in the dark fire-kingdoms underground;
and Theseus was chained to a rock in everlasting pain. And there he sat
for years, till Heracles the mighty came down to bring up the three-
headed dog who sits at Pluto's gate. So Heracles loosed him from his
chain, and brought him up to the light once more.

But when he came back his people had forgotten him, and Castor and
Poludeuces, the sons of the wondrous Swan, had invaded his land, and
carried off his mother Aithra for a slave, in revenge for a grievous
wrong.

So the fair land of Athens was wasted, and another king ruled it, who
drove out Theseus shamefully, and he fled across the sea to Scuros. And
there he lived in sadness, in the house of Lucomedes the king, till
Lucomedes killed him by treachery, and there was an end of all his
labors.

So it is still, my children, and so it will be to the end. In those old
Greeks, and in us also, all strength and virtue come from God. But if
men grow proud and self-willed, and misuse God's fair gifts, He lets
them go their own ways, and fall pitifully, that the glory may be His
alone. God help us all, and give us wisdom, and courage to do noble
deeds! but God keep pride from us when we have done them, lest we fall,
and come to shame!





Next: THOR GOES A-FISHING

Previous: HOW THESEUS SLEW THE MINOTAUR



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