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Stories of Old Greece and Rome

Emilie K. Baker


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Description

First published in 1913. Chapters include: The Story of Pandora; The Deluge; Minerva; Apollo and King Admetus; Apollo the Musician; The Love of Apollo; Diana; The Story of Endymion; The Story of Cupid and Psyche; The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice; Mars and Vulcan; Pluto and the Underworld; The Story of Proserpina; Neptune and the Sea-Gods; Bacchus; Pan and the Nymphs; The Apple of Discord; and many more.

This book has 233 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1913.

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Excerpt from 'Stories of Old Greece and Rome'

In the days of long, long ago when men built altars, and burned sacrifices, and worshiped their gods in temples of pure white marble, Jupiter, the greatest of the gods, sat upon his throne on high Olympus and looked down upon the doings of men. The topmost peak of Mount Olympus was covered with clouds,—so high it was above all the hills of Greece,—and its slopes were thickly wooded. Just how high the mountain really was could only be guessed, for no man had dared to climb even as high as the first cloud line; though the story goes that once upon a time a wandering shepherd, looking for a strayed lamb, had ventured far up the mountain side and had soon lost his way. He groped about blindly, as the mists began to thicken all around him, and the sound of his own footsteps terrified him in the dreadful silence that seemed to be suddenly creeping over him. Then a mighty tempest broke over his head, and the mountain shook to its very base. From the hand of wrathful Jupiter fierce thunderbolts were hurled, while the lightning flashed and gleamed through the darkness of the forest, searching out the guilty mortal who had dared to climb too high.

No human eye had ever seen the glories of Olympus, no human foot had ever stepped within its sacred halls, where the ceiling was of gold and the pavement of pearl and the thrones of the gods shone with a thousand glittering jewels. Here

"the gods have made,
So saith tradition, their eternal seat;
The tempest shakes it not, nor is it drenched
By showers, and there the snow does never fall.
And in the golden light that lies on all
Day after day the blessed gods rejoice."

Odyssey, Book VI, line 53.

Of the life that was lived among the dwellers on Olympus, not even the poets could claim to know; but sometimes a tired soldier dozing by his camp fire dreamed dreams of this wonderful country where the immortal gods walked by night and day; and sometimes a lonely fisherman, looking across the blue waters of the Mediterranean to the crimsoning sunset, saw visions of youth and beauty and life that lasted for ever and ever and ever.It was long before the memory of man that the gods first came to live on Mount Olympus, and it was still longer ago that all the great powers of the universe fought with each other for the right to rule the world. In this mighty war, which rent the very heavens with the crash of battle, Jupiter at last conquered all his jealous enemies, and made himself ruler of the gods and of the world. On that day he established his dwelling place on Mount Olympus, and set the earth below him for a footstool. From his throne in the high heavens he looked down upon the kingdoms that he had portioned out to each of his brothers; and he saw Neptune, the god of the sea, driving through the waves his chariot drawn by huge, misshapen sea-beasts that beat up the thick white foam until it glistened on the sea-king's beard and on his crown of shells and seaweed. The other kingdom was so far away that even the all-seeing eyes of Jupiter were strained to catch any glimpse of the shapes that moved noiselessly there, for this was the realm of Pluto, god of the underworld, that dread country of darkness and unending gloom, where no ray of sunlight ever came, and where the sad spirits of the dead wept for the lost world of love and light and laughter.

Sometimes the great billows of clouds that rolled at the foot of the red-gold throne shut out for a moment all sight of the earth at his feet; but however thickly the mists gathered, Jupiter could always see old Atlas standing on the shore of Africa with the heavens resting on his bent shoulders. This giant had stood so long that forests of huge trees had sprung up around his feet, and they had grown so tall during the ages and ages that had passed, that their topmost branches reached to the giant's waist and almost hid him from the sight of men. No one offered to relieve him of his burden, not even his two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus, to whom had been given the less difficult task of creating man and placing him in the rich gardens of the earth. There was every kind of plant and animal life in the gardens, and all things were very beautiful in this morning of the world—so beautiful that the gods, who must forever dwell in Olympus, felt sad that no eyes like their own could look upon the green meadows and flower-covered hillsides. So they bade Prometheus and Epimetheus fashion a being which should be like and yet unlike themselves. There was nothing but clay out of which to make this new creature called man, but the brothers spent much time over their task, and, when it was finished, Jupiter saw that the work was good, for they had given to man all the qualities that the gods themselves possessed—youth, beauty, health, strength,—everything but immortality.

Then Prometheus grew ambitious to add even more to the list of man's blessings; and one day, as he sat brooding by the seashore, he remembered that there was as yet no fire on the earth; for the only flame that burned in all the world was glowing in the sacred halls of Jupiter. For a long time he sat on the seashore, and before night fell he had formed the daring plan of stealing some of the divine fire that burned for always and always on Mount Olympus, and carrying it to the earth that men might revel in its warmth and light.

It was a bold thing to dream of doing, but Prometheus forgot the fear of Jupiter's wrath, so determined was he to carry out his plan; and one night, when the gods were in council, seated around the great red-gold throne, he crept softly into the hall, unseen and unheard. The sacred fire was burning brightly on a hearth of polished silver. Some of it Prometheus secreted in a hollow reed and hurried with it back to the earth. Then he waited, with terror at his heart, for he knew that sooner or later the vengeance of Jupiter would search him out, even though he fled to the uttermost parts of the earth.

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