Page:The Mythology of the Aryan Nations.djvu/337

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.
305
DANAÊ AND AITHRA.
CHAP. II.

tender light; in other words, the Libyan dragon seeks to make Andromeda his prey, as the maiden stands motionless on the rock to which she has been fastened. The monster is soon destroyed, as the Sphinx is soon discomfited by Oidipous; and the awful power of the Gorgon's glance is seen in the death of Phineus, and in the merciful ending of the long labours of Atlas, But the great work remains yet to be done, the avenging of the wrongs of Danae, as the Achaians fought to avenge the griefs and woes of Helen. The vengeance of Perseus must be as terrible as that of Achilleus or the stern chieftain of Ithaka. But when Polydektes and his abettors have been turned into stone and Diktys made king of the land, Perseus yields up his magic weapons to the gods who gave them, and departs with his mother to the old home in Argos. Once more Danae treads her native soil, as Helen graces the halls of Menelaos when Paris the thief has been slain. But the doom pronounced by the Delphian priestess was still unfulfilled; and Akrisios no sooner hears that Perseus is coming than he flies to Larissa. Thither Perseus follows him, not as a foe, but as a friend, and takes part in the games which Teutamidas the chief holds in his honour. Presently a quoit hurled by Perseus lights on the foot of Akrisios, and the prophecy is accomplished which makes Oidipous, Romulus, and Cyrus slay their parents or their grandsires. The sequel is given in

two versions, corresponding to the choice given to Achilleus.[1] In the one Perseus returns to Argos, and there dies in peace; in the other grief and shame for the death of Akrisios drive him to abandon his Argive sovereignty for that of Tiryns, where his kinsman Megapenthes is king. In the latter, he may be compared with Bellerophon wandering in gloom and loneliness through the Aleian plain; in the former we have the tranquil time which follows the great vengeance of Achilleus and Odysseus. Thus as the unwilling destroyer even of those whom he loves, as the conqueror of monstrous beasts and serpents, as toiling for a mean and cruel master, yet as coming forth in the end victorious over all his enemies, Perseus is at once the forefather and the counterpart of Herakles. He is himself born in Argos the bright land, as Phoibos springs to life in Delos or Artemis in Ortygia; but his mother Danae is almost as neutral and colourless as Leto or lokaste or Hekabe or Semele. The Argive tradition runs in a circle, and the Athenian myth, jealously prized as a wholly independent history, is made up of the same materials. The practical identity of the Athenian legend of Theseus and the Argive legend of the son of Alkmene suggested the proverb " Another
  1. Il. ix. 411 ; xvi. 685.