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horses, which Jupiter, the king of the gods, transmitted to earth for the purpose, and Juno, the celestial queen, gave him her daughter Hebe as his wife. Dejanira, on learning the unfortunate result of her attempt to recover her husband's love, put an end to her life in despair.
Such are the wild fictions which have been handed down respecting Hercules, who was in reality nothing more than a Greek prince of great valor and bodily strength. Having been expelled from Mycenæ by a rival claimant of the throne of that state, he appears to have spent the greater part of his life in wandering about Greece at the head of a band of military followers,
а sometimes attacking and destroying the robber chiefs and petty tyrants, who at a rude and unsettled period abounded in all parts of the country, and on other occasions engaging in predatory expeditions himself.
During the lifetime of Hercules, 1263, B. C., Jason, a prince of Thessaly, made a voyage to Colchis, a country on the eastern side of the Euxine or Black Sea. His enterprise was afterwards greatly celebrated under the name of the Argonautic Expedition, from the Argo, the vessel in which he sailed. This ship is generally referred to by the ancients as the first that ever ventured on a long voyage. It is uncertain what was the real object of the Argonautic expedition, although it seems probable that, as Colchis was rich in mines of gold and silver, Jason and his companions, among whom were Hercules and several other
persons of distinction, were actuated by a desire to rob the country of some of its valuable metals. The poets, however, tell us a different story. Phryxus and Helle, the son and daughter of Athamas, king of Thebes, being compelled, according to the poetical account, to quit their native country to avoid the cruelty of their step-mother, mounted on the back of a winged ram with a fleece of gold, and were carried by this wonderful animal through the air towards Colchis, where an uncle of theirs, named Æetes, was king. Unfortunately, as they were passing over the strait now called the Dardanelles, which connected the Ægean Sea with the Propontis, or Sea of Marmora, Helle became giddy, and, falling into the water, was drowned. From her, says the fable, the strait was in future named the Hellespont, or Sea of Helle.
When Phryxus arrived in Colchis, he sacrificed his winged ram to Jupiter, in acknowledgment of the divine protection, and deposited its golden fleece in the same deity's temple. He then married the daughter of Æetes, but was afterwards murdered by that king, who wished to obtain possession of the golden fleece. To avenge Phryxus's death, Jason, who was his relation, undertook the expedition to Colchis, where, after performing several marvellous exploits, he not only obtained the golden fleece, but persuaded Medea, another daughter of King Æetes, to become his wife, and to accompany him back to Greece.
In the year 1234, B. C., Theseus came to the throne of Athens. He was one of the most renowned characters in the heroic age of Greece, not only on account of his warlike achievements, but from his political wisdom. In the latter part of his reign he is said to have accompanied Hercules in one of his expeditions, and carried off the beautiful Helen, daughter of Tyndarus, King of Lacedæmon. She was recovered, how- . ever, by her gallant brothers, Castor and Pollux, who ravaged Attica in revenge for the insult offered to their sister.
The Lacedæmonian princess who was stolen away by Theseus afterwards became the occasion of a cel. ebrated war.
The fame of her great beauty having spread far and wide, many of the princes of Greece asked her from her father Tyndarus in marriage ; but he, being fearful of incurring the enmity of the rejected suitors, declined showing a preference for any of them. Assembling them all, he bound them by an oath to acquiesce in the selection which Helen herself should make, and to protect her against any attempts which might afterwards be made to carry her off from the husband of her choice. Helen gave the preference to Menelaus, a grandson of Pelops, and this successful suitor, on the death of Tyndarus, was raised to the Spartan throne.
At this period, in the northwestern part of Asia Minor, on the shores of the Hellespont and the Ægean seas, there existed a kingdom, the capital of which was a large, well fortified city, named Troy, or Ilium. Priam, the king of Troy, had a son whose name was Paris ; and this young chief, in the course of a visit to Greece, resided for a time in Sparta at the court of Menelaus, who gave the Asiatic stranger a very friendly reception. Charmed with Helen's beauty, Paris employed the opportunity afforded by a tem.
porary absence of her husband, to gain her affections, and persuaded her to elope with him to Troy. It was not, according to the old poets, to his personal attractions, great as they were, that Paris owed his success on this occasion, but to the aid of the goddess of love, whose favor he had won by assigning to her the palm of beauty, on an occasion when it was contested between her and two other female deities.
When Menelaus returned home, he was naturally wroth at finding his hospitality so ill requited, and, after having in vain endeavoured, both by remonstrances and threats, to induce the Trojans to send him back his queen, he applied to the princes who had formerly been Helen's lovers, and called upon them to aid him, according to their oaths, in recovering her from her seducer. They obeyed the summons; and all Greece being indignant at the insult offered to Menelaus, a general muster of the forces of the various states took place at Aulis, a sea-port town of Bæotia, preparatory to their crossing the Ægean to the Trojan shore. This is supposed to have happened in the year 1194, B. C.
Of the chiefs assembled on this occasion, the most celebrated were, Agamemnon, king of Mycenæ ; Menelaus, king of Sparta; Ulysses, king of Ithaca ; Nestor, king of Pylos; Achilles, son of the king of Thessaly; Ajax, of Salamis ; Diomedes, of Ætolia ; and Idomeneus, of Crete. Agamemnon, the brother of the injured Menelaus, was elected commander-in-chief of the confederate Greeks. According to some ancient authors, this general was barbarous enough to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia, to induce the gods to