The Age of Fable eBook

Thomas Bulfinch
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 1,207 pages of information about The Age of Fable.

The body of Achilles so treacherously slain was rescued by Ajax and Ulysses.  Thetis directed the Greeks to bestow her son’s armor on the hero who of all the survivors should be judged most deserving of it.  Ajax and Ulysses were the only claimants; a select number of the other chiefs were appointed to award the prize.  It was awarded to Ulysses, thus placing wisdom before valor; whereupon Ajax slew himself.  On the spot where his blood sank into the earth a flower sprang up, called the hyacinth, bearing on its leaves the first two letters of the name of Ajax, Ai, the Greek for “woe.”  Thus Ajax is a claimant with the boy Hyacinthus for the honor of giving birth to this flower.  There is a species of Larkspur which represents the hyacinth of the poets in preserving the memory of this event, the Delphinium Ajacis—­ Ajax’s Larkspur.

It was now discovered that Troy could not be taken but by the aid of the arrows of Hercules.  They were in possession of Philoctetes, the friend who had been with Hercules at the last and lighted his funeral pyre.  Philoctetes had joined the Grecian expedition against Troy, but had accidentally wounded his foot with one of the poisoned arrows, and the smell from his wound proved so offensive that his companions carried him to the isle of Lemnos and left him there.  Diomed was now sent to induce him to rejoin the army.  He sukcceeded.  Philoctetes was cured of his wound by Machaon, and Paris was the first victim of the fatal arrows.  In his distress Paris bethought him of one whom in his prosperity he had forgotten.  This was the nymph OEnone, whom he had married when a youth, and had abandoned for the fatal beauty Helen.  OEnone, remembering the wrongs she had suffered, refused to heal the wound, and Paris went back to Troy and died.  OEnone quickly repented, and hastened after him with remedies, but came too late, and in her grief hung herself. [Footnote 1:  Tennyson has chosen OEnone as the subject of a short poem; but he has omitted the most poetical part of the story, the return of Paris wounded, her cruelty and subsequent repentance.]

There was in Troy a celebrated statue of Minerva called the Palladium.  It was said to have fallen from heaven, and the belief was that the city could not be taken so long as this statue remained within it.  Ulysses and Diomed entered the city in disguise and succeeded in obtaining the Palladium, which they carried off to the Grecian camp.

But Troy still held out, and the Greeks began to despair of ever subduing it by force, and by advice of Ulysses resolved to resort to stratagem.  They pretended to be making preparations to abandon the siege, and a portion of the ships were withdrawn and lay hid behind a neighboring island.  The Greeks then constructed an immense wooden horse, which they gave out was intended as a propitiatory offering to Minerva, but in fact was filled with armed men.  The remaining Greeks then betook themselves to their ships and sailed

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The Age of Fable from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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