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From Myths and Legends of all nations
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by Logan Marshall
Age suitability 8 Plus.
Then he turned to the queen and excused himself that he wept when he
should rather have rejoiced for the marriage of his daughter. And when
the queen would know of the estate of the bridegroom he told her that
his name was Achilles and that he was the son of Peleus by his wife
Thetis, the daughter of Nereus of the sea, and that he dwelt in
Phthia. And when she inquired of the time of the marriage, he said
that it should be in the same moon, on the first lucky day; and as to
the place, that it must be where the bridegroom was sojourning, that
is to say, in the camp. "And I," said the king, "will give the maiden
to her husband."
"But where," answered the queen, "is it your pleasure that I should
"Thou must return to Argos and care for the maidens there."
"Sayest thou that I must return? Who then will hold up the torch for
"I will do that which is needful. For it is not seemly that thou
shouldst be present where the whole army is gathered together."
"Aye, but it is seemly that a mother should give her daughter in
"But the maidens at home should not be left alone."
"They are well kept in their chambers."
"Be persuaded, lady."
"Not so: thou shalt order that which is without the house, but I that
which is within."
But now came Achilles to tell the king that the army was growing
impatient, saying that unless they might sail speedily to Troy they
would return each man to his home. And when the queen heard his
name--for he had said to the attendant, "Tell thy master that
Achilles, the son of Peleus, would speak with him"--she came forth
from the tent and greeted him and bade him give her his right hand.
And when the young man was ashamed (for it was not counted a seemly
thing that men should speak with women) she said:
"But why art thou ashamed, seeing that thou art about to marry my
And he answered, "What sayest thou, lady? I cannot speak for wonder at
"Often men are ashamed when they see new friends and the talk is of
"But, lady, I never was suitor for thy daughter. Nor have the sons of
Atreus said aught to me of the matter."
But the queen was beyond measure astonished, and cried, "Now this is
shameful indeed, that I should seek a bridegroom for my daughter in
But when Achilles would have departed, to inquire of the king what
this thing might mean, the old man that had at the first carried the
letter came forth and bade him stay. And when he had assurance that he
should receive no harm for what he should tell them, he unfolded the
whole matter. And when the queen had heard it, she cried to Achilles,
"O son of Thetis of the sea! help me now in this strait and help this
maiden that hath been called thy bride, though this indeed be false.
'Twill be a shame to thee if such wrong be done under thy name; for it
is thy name that hath undone us. Nor have I any altar to which I may
flee, nor any friend but thee only in this army."
Then Achilles made answer, "Lady, I learnt from Chiron, who was the
most righteous of men, to be true and honest. And if the sons of
Atreus govern according to right, I obey them; and if not, not. Know,
then, that thy daughter, seeing that she hath been given, though but
in word only, to me, shall not be slain by her father. For if she so
die, then shall my name be brought to great dishonor, seeing that
through it thou hast been persuaded to come with her to this place.
This sword shall see right soon whether any one will dare to take this
maiden from me."
And now King Agamemnon came forth, saying that all things were ready
for the marriage, and that they waited for the maiden, not knowing
that the whole matter had been revealed to the queen. Then she said:
"Tell me now, dost thou purpose to slay thy daughter and mine?" And
when he was silent, not knowing, indeed, what to say, she reproached
him with many words, that she had been a loving and faithful wife to
him, for which he made her an ill recompense slaying her child.
And when she had made an end of speaking, the maiden came forth from
the tent, holding the young child Orestes in her arms, and cast
herself upon her knees before her father and besought him, saying, "I
would, my father, that I had the voice of Orpheus, who made even the
rocks to follow him, that I might persuade thee; but now all that I
have I give, even these tears. O my father, I am thy child; slay me
not before my time. This light is sweet to look upon. Drive me not
from it to the land of darkness. I was the first to call thee father;
and the first to whom thou didst say 'my child.' And thou wouldst say
to me, 'Some day, my child, I shall see thee a happy wife in the home
of a good husband.' And I would answer, 'And I will receive thee with
all love when thou art old, and pay thee back for all the benefits
thou hast done unto me.' This I indeed remember, but thou forgettest;
for thou art ready to slay me. Do it not, I beseech thee, by Pelops
thy grandsire, and Atreus thy father, and this my mother, who
travailed in childbirth of me and now travaileth again in her sorrow.
And thou, O my brother, though thou art but a babe, help me. Weep
with me; beseech thy father that he slay not thy sister. O my father,
though he be silent, yet, indeed, he beseecheth thee. For his sake,
therefore, yea, and for mine own, have pity upon me and slay me not."
But the king was sore distracted, knowing not what he should say or
do, for a terrible necessity was upon him, seeing that the army could
not make their journey to Troy unless this deed should first be done.
And while he doubted came Achilles, saying that there was a horrible
tumult in the camp, the men crying out that the maiden must be
sacrificed, and that when he would have stayed them from their
purpose, the people had stoned him with stones, and that his own
Myrmidons helped him not, but rather were the first to assail him.
Nevertheless, he said that he would fight for the maiden, even to the
utmost, and that there were faithful men who would stand with him and
help him. But when the maiden heard these words, she stood forth and
said, "Hearken to me, my mother. Be not wroth with my father, for we
cannot fight against fate. Also we must take thought that this young
man suffer not, for his help will avail naught and he himself will
perish. Therefore I am resolved to die; for all Greece looketh to me;
for without me the ships cannot make their voyage, nor the city of
Troy be taken. Thou didst bear me, my mother, not for thyself only,
but for this whole people. Wherefore I will give myself for them.
Offer me for an offering, and let the Greeks take the city of Troy,
for this shall be my memorial forever."
Then said Achilles, "Lady, I should count myself most happy if the
gods would grant thee to be my wife. For I love thee well when I see
how noble thou art. And if thou wilt, I will carry thee to my home.
And I doubt not that I shall save thee, though all the men of Greece
be against me."
But the maiden answered, "What I say, I say with full purpose. Nor
will I that any man should die for me, but rather will I save this
land of Greece."
And Achilles said, "If this be thy will, lady, I cannot say nay, for
it is a noble thing that thou doest."
Nor was the maiden turned from her purpose though her mother besought
her with many tears. So they that were appointed led her to the grove
of Artemis, where there was built an altar, and the whole army of the
Greeks gathered about it. But when the king saw her going to her death
he covered his face with his mantle; but she stood by him, and said,
"I give my body with a willing heart to die for my country and for the
whole land of Greece. I pray the gods that ye may prosper and win the
victory in this war and come back safe to your homes. And now let no
man touch me, for I will die with a good heart."
And all men marveled to see the maiden of what a good courage she was.
And all the army stood regarding the maiden and the priest and the
Then there befell a marvelous thing. For suddenly the maiden was not
there. Whither she had gone no one knew; but in her stead there lay
gasping a great hind, and all the altar was red with the blood
And Calchas said, "See ye this, men of Greece, how the goddess hath
provided this offering in the place of the maiden, for she would not
that her altar should be defiled with innocent blood. Be of good
courage, therefore, and depart every man to his ship, for this day ye
shall sail across the sea to the land of Troy."
Then the goddess carried away the maiden to the land of the Taurians,
where she had a temple and an altar. Now on this altar the king of the
land was wont to sacrifice any stranger, being Greek by nation, who
was driven by stress of weather to the place, for none went thither
willingly. And the name of the king was Thoas, which signifieth in
the Greek tongue, "swift of foot."