The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 980 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

And in Shelley’s “Prometheus” Jupiter calls to his cup-bearer thus: 

   “Pour forth heaven’s wine, Idaean Ganymede,
      And let it fill the Daedal cups like fire.”

The beautiful legend of the “Choice of Hercules” may be found in the “Tatler,” No. 97.

CHAPTER XX

THESEUS—­DAEDALUS—­CASTOR AND POLLUX

THESEUS

Theseus was the son of Aegeus, king of Athens, and of Aethra, daughter of the king of Troezen.  He was brought up at Troezen, and when arrived at manhood was to proceed to Athens and present himself to his father.  Aegeus on parting from Aethra, before the birth of his son, placed his sword and shoes under a large stone and directed her to send his son to him when he became strong enough to roll away the stone and take them from under it.  When she thought the time had come, his mother led Theseus to the stone, and he removed it with ease and took the sword and shoes.  As the roads were infested with robbers, his grandfather 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, with whose fame all Greece then rang, by destroying the evil-doers and monsters that oppressed the country, determined on the more perilous and adventurous journey by land.

His first day’s journey brought him to Epidaurus, where dwelt a man named 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.  When he saw Theseus approach he assailed him, but speedily fell beneath the blows of the young hero, who took possession of his club and bore it ever afterwards as a memorial of his first victory.

Several similar contests with the petty tyrants and marauders of the country followed, in all of which Theseus was victorious.  One of these evil-doers was called Procrustes, or the Stretcher.  He 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 their limbs to make them fit it; if they were longer than the bed, he lopped off a portion.  Theseus served him as he had served others.

Having overcome all the perils of the road, Theseus at length reached Athens, where new dangers awaited him.  Medea, the sorceress, who had fled from Corinth after her separation from Jason, had become the wife of Aegeus, the father of Theseus.  Knowing by her arts who he was, and fearing the loss of her influence with her husband if Theseus should be acknowledged as his son, she filled the mind of Aegeus with suspicions of the young stranger, and induced him to present him a cup of poison; but at the moment when Theseus stepped forward to take it, the sight of the sword which he wore discovered to his father who he was, and prevented the fatal draught.  Medea, detected in her arts, fled once more from deserved punishment, and arrived in Asia, where the country afterwards called Media received its name from her, Theseus was acknowledged by his father, and declared his successor.

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.