One of the most pathetic scenes in the ancient drama is that in which Sophocles represents the meeting of Orestes and Electra, on his return from Phocis. Orestes, mistaking Electra for one of the domestics, and desirous of keeping his arrival a secret till the hour of vengeance should arrive, produces the urn in which his ashes are supposed to rest. Electra, believing him to be really dead, takes the urn and, embracing it, pours forth her grief in language full of tenderness and despair.
Milton, in one of his sonnets, says:
“... The repeated
Of sad Electra’s poet had the power
To save the Athenian walls from ruin bare.”
This alludes to the story that when, on one occasion, the city of Athens was at the mercy of her Spartan foes, and it was proposed to destroy it, the thought was rejected upon the accidental quotation, by some one, of a chorus of Euripides.
The facts relating to the city of Troy are still unknown to history. Antiquarians have long sought for the actual city and some record of its rulers. The most interesting explorations were those conducted about 1890 by the German scholar, Henry Schliemann, who believed that at the mound of Hissarlik, the traditional site of Troy, he had uncovered the ancient capital. Schliemann excavated down below the ruins of three or four settlements, each revealing an earlier civilization, and finally came upon some royal jewels and other relics said to be “Priam’s Treasure.” Scholars are by no means agreed as to the historic value of these discoveries.
Adventures of Ulysses—the
Circe—sirens —Scylla and Charybdis—Calypso
The romantic poem of the Odyssey is now to engage our attention. It narrates the wanderings of Ulysses (Odysseus in the Greek language) in his return from Troy to his own kingdom Ithaca.
From Troy the vessels first made land at Ismarus, city of the Ciconians, where, in a skirmish with the inhabitants, Ulysses lost six men from each ship. Sailing thence, they were overtaken by a storm which drove them for nine days along the sea till they reached the country of the Lotus-eaters. Here, after watering, Ulysses sent three of his men to discover who the inhabitants were. These men on coming among the Lotus-eaters were kindly entertained by them, and were given some of their own food, the lotus-plant, to eat. The effect of this food was such that those who partook of it lost all thoughts of home and wished to remain in that country. It was by main force that Ulysses dragged these men away, and he was even obliged to tie them under the benches of the ships.