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of writing, are said to have originated with the Phenicians. On their arrival in Greece, Inachus and his friends founded the city of Argos, at the head of what is now called the Gulf of Napoli, in the Peloponnesus.
Three hundred years after this event, 1556, B. C., a colony, led by an Egyptian, named Cecrops, arrived in Attica, and founded the celebrated city of Athens, fortifying a high rock which rose precipitously above the site afterwards occupied by the town. Egypt is situated in the northeastern part of Africa. It is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, and is watered by the great river Nile, the periodical overflowings of which, by supplying the moisture necessary for vegetation, render the soil very fertile. From this country, which had, at a very early period, made considerable advances in some of the arts and sciences, Cecrops introduced much valuable knowledge to the rude inhabitants of Attica, whom he had persuaded or obliged to acknowledge him as their chief or king. He placed his rocky fastness under the protection of an Egyptian goddess, from whose Greek name, Athena, afterwards changed by the Latins into Minerva, the city which subsequently arose around the rock was called Athens.
About the year 1493, B. C., Cadmus, a Phænician, founded the city of Thebes in Bæotia ; and, among other useful things which he communicated to the Greeks, he is said to have taught them alphabetical writing, although it is certain that that art did not come into common use in Greece until many centuries after this period.
The city of Corinth, situated on the narrow isthmus
which connects the Peloponnesus with the main land of Greece, was founded in the year 1520, B. C., and from its
advantageous position on the arm of the sea to which it anciently gave a name, but which is now known under the appellation of the Gulf of Lepanto, it very soon became a place of considerable commercial importance. Sparta or Lacedæmon, the celebrated capital of Laconia in the Peloponnesus, is said to have been founded, about 1520, B. C., by Lelex, an Egyptian.
In the year 1485, B.C., an Egyptian, named Danaus, accompanied by a party of his countrymen, arrived at Argos, the inhabitants of which must have been, at that period, in an exceedingly rude state, since it is said that he excited their gratitude so much by teaching them to dig wells, when the streams from which they were supplied with water were dried up with the heat, that they elected him as their king.
More than a century after this period, about 1350, B. C., Pelops, the son of a king of Phrygia, a country in Asia Minor, settled in that part of Greece which was afterwards called, from him, Peloponnesus, or the island of Pelops, where he married the daughter of one of the native princes, whom he afterwards succeeded on the throne. In the course of his long reign, he found means to strengthen and greatly extend his influence in Greece, by forming matrimonial alliances between various branches of his own house and the other royal families of the Peloponnesus. Agamem. non, king of Mycenæ, in Argolis, who was, according to the poet Homer, the commander-in-chief of the Greeks at the siege of Troy, and Menelaus, king of
Sparta, on account of whose wrongs that war was undertaken, were descended from this Phrygian adventurer.
Hercules, a Theban prince, was another of the descendants of Pelops. The numerous and extraordinary feats of strength and valor of Hercules excited the admiration of his contemporaries, and, being afterwards exaggerated and embellished by the poets, caused him at length to be regarded as a person endowed with supernatural powers, and even to be worshipped as a god.
According to the poets, Hercules was the son of the god Jupiter, and of Alcmena, daughter of Electryon, king of Mycenæ. Before his birth, his mother mar
While yet a
ried Amphitryon, king of Thebes, by whom the in. fant Hercules was adopted as his son. child in the cradle, he is fabled to have crushed to death two snakes which the goddess Juno had sent to destroy him. After he grew up, he performed many heroic and extraordinary actions, commonly called his “ labors." Among these was the destroying a dread
. ful lion, by clasping his arms round its neck and thus choking it to death.
Another of the fabled labors of Hercules was his destroying the hydra of Lerna. strous seven-headed serpent, which haunted the small lake of Lerna, now Molini, in Argolis, and filled with terror the inhabitants of the whole of that part of the country. Hercules dauntlessly attacked it, and struck off several of its heads with his club. But these won. derful heads were no sooner beaten off than others grew out, so that it seemed an impossibility to kill a monster whose injuries were so quickly repaired. At last, one of the companions of Hercules having, at the hero's request, seared with a hot iron the necks of the hydra as fast as each decapitation was accomplished, it was found that the heads did not afterwards grow out again, and Hercules was thus enabled to complete the destruction of the reptile.
Another achievement of Hercules, to which allusion is often made by modern writers, was the cleaning of the stables of Augeas, King of Elis, in which three thousand cattle had been kept for thirty years, without any attempt having been made, during all that time, to remove the accumulating filth. This much required purification the hero accomplished by turning into
the stables a river which flowed in the vicinity. Hercules also undertook an expedition for the purpose of carrying off the cattle of Geryon, King of Gades, now Cadiz, in Spain. Geryon is represented as having been a monster with three heads, and a proportionate supply of arms and legs, and to have ruled over the greater part of Spain with the utmost cruelty. He was killed by Hercules, who brought away his valuable flocks in triumph. In this expedition he is said to have formed the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to open a communication between the Mediterranean and Atlantic, by rending asunder Spain and Africa, which had until then been connected together. Two mountains, one on each side of the strait, raised by him in the execution of his task, were called the Pillars of Hercules, and the appellation is not unfrequently made use of even at the present day.
After many adventures in foreign countries, he returned to the Peloponnesus, where he took to wife a lady named Dejanira. For a while they lived happily together, but, at last, believing that Hercules had become less attached to her than formerly, his consort presented him with a tunic steeped in a mixture which she expected to operate as a chạrm in regaining for her his affections, but which was in reality a deadly poison, artfully placed in her hands by an enemy. As soon as Hercules had put on this fatal garment, he was attacked with the most excruciating pain, and being anxious to put a period as speedily as possible to his agonies, he stretched himself upon a funeral pile, and caused a friend to set it on fire. His spirit is said to have ascended to heaven in a chariot drawn by four