Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece

Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece

by Gustav Schwab

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From fire-stealing Prometheus to scene-stealing Helen of Troy, from Jason and his golden fleece to Oedipus and his mother, this collection of classic tales from Greek mythology demonstrates the inexhaustible vitality of a timeless cultural legacy. These stories of heroes and powerful gods and goddesses are set forth simply and movingly, in language that retains the power and drama of the original works by Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Homer.

Introduction by Werner Jaeger
With black-and-white illustrations throughout

Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307805188
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/14/2011
Series: The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 768
Sales rank: 1,016,197
File size: 12 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

GUSTAV SCHWAB (1792–1850) was a German writer, educator, pastor, and publisher. Born in Stuttgart, he studied philology, philosophy, and theology at the University of Tübingen. Schwab’s collection of myths and legends of classical antiquity was published in 1838 and was widely used in German schools.

Read an Excerpt

Heaven and earth had been created. The sea ebbed and flowed between its shores, and fish frolicked in the waters; in the air sang winged birds, and the earth swarmed with animals. But as yet there was no creature in whose body the spirit could house and from there govern the world around it. Then down to earth came Prometheus, “Forethought,” a descendant of the ancient race of gods which Zeus had dethroned, a son of Iapetus, whom Gaia had borne unto Uranus. Now Prometheus was crafty and nimble-witted. He knew that the seed of heaven lay sleeping in the earth, so he scooped up some clay, moistened it with water from a river, kneaded it this way and that, and shaped it to the image of gods, the lords of the world. To give life to his earth-formed figure he took both good and evil from the core of many animals and locked them in man’s breast. He had a friend among the immortals, Athene, the goddess of wisdom, who marveled at what this son of the Titans had created, and she breathed the spirit, the divine breath, into his creature which, as yet, was only half alive.
In this way the first men were made, and soon they filled the far reaches of the earth. But for a long time they did not know what to do with their noble limbs or the divine spirit which had been breathed into them. They saw, yet they did not see; they heard, yet they did not hear. Aimlessly they moved about, like figures in a dream, and were ignorant of how to profit from creation. They did not know the art of quarrying and cutting stone, of burning bricks from clay, or carving out beams from the trees they hewed in the forest, or of building houses with all these materials. Like scurrying ants they thronged in sunless caves beneath the surface of the earth. They did not discern the sure signs of winter, of spring decked with flowers, of summer rich in fruits. There was no plan in anything they did. Then Prometheus came to their aid. He taught them to watch the rising and setting of the stars, discovered to them the art of counting and of communicating by means of written symbols. He showed them how to yoke animals and make them share in man’s labor. He broke horses to the rein and wagon and invented ships and sails for journeying over the sea. And he concerned himself with all the other affairs of human life also. Formerly, a man who fell ill knew nothing of herbs, of what to eat or not to eat, what to drink or not to drink, nor did he have salves to ease his pain. For lack of physic men had perished wretchedly. But now Prometheus showed them how to compound mild remedies that would dispel every kind of disease. Then he taught them to foretell the future and interpreted dreams and signs for them, the flight of birds and the omens of offerings. He guided them to explore underground, so that they might find ore, iron, silver, and gold. In short, he introduced them to all the arts and comforts of living.
Now the gods in Heaven, and among them Zeus, who had but lately deposed his father Cronus and established his own supremacy, began to notice this new creation, man. They were willing enough to protect him, but—in return—demanded that he pay them homage. In Mecone, in Greece, mortals and immortals met on a set day, to determine the rights and duties of man. At this assembly Prometheus appeared as man’s counsel, to see to it that the gods—in their capacity of protectors—did not impose too burdensome levies upon men.
On this occasion his cunning prompted him to trick the gods. In behalf of his creatures, he slaughtered a mighty bull and bade the immortals take whatever parts of it they pleased. Now when he had cut up the animal, he made two heaps of the pieces. On one side he put the flesh, the entrails, and the far, covered these over with the hide, and placed the paunch on top; on the other, he put the bare bones cleverly concealed in the suet of the victim. And this heap was bigger! All-knowing Zeus saw through his trickery and said: “Son of Iapetus, illustrious king, my very good friend, how unequally you have divided the portions!” At this Prometheus was sure that he had deceived him, smiled to himself, and answered: “Illustrious Zeus, you, who are supreme among the immortal gods, take what your heart bids you chose.” And Zeus was vexed and felt his anger swell within him, but he deliberately took the white suet in both his hands. When he had pried it apart and saw the picked bones, he pretended only then to have discovered the trick and said dourly: “I know very well, my friend, O son of Iapetus, that you have not yet forgotten the art of deception!”
To punish Prometheus for his knavery, Zeus denied mortals the last thing they needed to perfect their civilization: fire. But the shrewd son of Iapetus improvised a way to provide even this lack. He broke a stalk of pithy fennel, approached the chariot of the son as it spun through the heavens, and held the stalk to its blaze until it smouldered. With this tinder he descended to earth, and soon the first pile of brushwood was flaming to the sky. Pain pierced the soul of Zeus the Thunderer when he saw fire rising among men and casting its radiance far and wide.
To offset the advantages of fire, which could not be taken from men, now that they had it, he instantly devised a new evil for them. He ordered Hephaestus, the fire-god, famed for his skill, to fashion an image in the shape of a beautiful young woman. Athene herself, who had grown envious of Prometheus and withdrawn her favor from him, clothed the image in a robe of shimmering white, placed over her face a flowing veil, which the girl held, parting it with her hands, garlanded her head with fresh flowers, and bound it with a fillet of gold. This was also the work of Hephaestus, who—to please his father—had wrought it with great art and adorned it exquisitely with the many-colored shapes of various animals. Hermes, the messenger of the gods, bestowed language on the lovely mischief, and Aphrodite tricked her out with all possible charms. Thus, under the guise of something most desirable, Zeus had contrived a dazzling misfortune. He named the girl Pandora, which means, “she who has gifts from all,” for each of the immortal gods had given her some baleful gift for man. Then he led the girl down to earth, where gods and mortals were walking about taking their pleasure. And they were all filled with wonder at this incomparable creature, for never yet had men laid eye on a woman. She, in the meantime, went up to Epimetheus, “Afterthought,” the brother of Prometheus, and less wily than he.
In vain had Prometheus warned his brother never to accept a gift from the ruler of Olympus, lest men take harm from it, but to return it without delay. Epimetheus forgot this warning; he received the beautiful young woman with the utmost delight and failed to recognize evil until it was upon him. For up to this time—thanks to Prometheus’ counsel!—men had been free from misfortune and had lived without excessive toil or the long sufferings of disease. But this woman came bearing a gift in her hands, a large box tightly closed. Hardly had she reached Epimetheus when she flung back its lid, and out fluttered a host of calamities that spread over the earth with the speed of lightning. Yet one single good thing hidden at the very bottom of the box: hope! But on the advice of the father of the gods, Pandora shut the lid before it could fly forth, and closed her box forever. And now misery in countless forms filled the earth, the air, and the sea. By day and by night sicknesses prowled among men, secretly and silently, for Zeus had not given them a voice. A flock of fevers beleaguered the earth, and Death, who had been coming to mortals on slow, reluctant feet, now walked with winged steps.
When this had been accomplished, Zeus turned to the matter of taking revenge on Prometheus himself. He handed the culprit over to Hephaestus and his servants Cratos and Bia. Force and Violence. These he bade drag him to the wastes of Scythia and there—above a sinister chasm—forge him to a steep cliff of the Caucasus with stout unyielding chains. Hephaestus carried out his father’s commands unwillingly, for he loved the son of the Titans because he was his kin, his peer, the child of gods, a descendant of Uranus, his great-grandfather. He was compelled to have the cruel order executed, but he spoke of compassion, at which his more brutal henchmen frowned. So Prometheus was forced to hang from the cliff, upright and sleepless, and never could he bend his tired knees. “You will utter many plaints and sighs, and they will all be in vain,” said Hephaestus. “For the purpose of Zeus is unshakable; hard of heart are those who have but lately wrested power from others and taken it to themselves.”
The torments of the captive were intended to endure forever, or for thirty thousand years at the very least. He moaned aloud and called on the winds and the rivers, on the zodiac, from which nothing is hidden, and on Earth, the mother of all, to witness his agony, but his spirit remained steadfast. “Whoever has learned to accept the unshakable power of necessity,” he said, “must suffer what Destiny decrees.” Nor could the threats of Zeus induce him to explain his dark prophecy that new wedlock would bring ruin and destruction to the king of the gods. Zeus was true to his word. Every day he sent an eagle to feed on his captive’s liver, which however much it was devoured, always grew back again. This torture was to last until one came who, of his own free will, would consent to suffer in Prometheus’ stead.
The came about earlier than the son of the Titans might have supposed, considering the sentence Zeus had pronounced upon him. When he had been hanging from his cliff for many a bitter year, along came Heracles, bound on his quest for the golden apples of the Hesperides. He saw the descendant of the gods shackled to the Caucasus and was about to ask him for advice on how to prosper in his search, when he was overwhelmed with pity at his fare, for he observed the eagle perched on the knees of the luckless Prometheus. Heracles laid his club and his lion’s skin on the ground behind him, bent his bow, launched the arrow, and shot the cruel bird from the liver of its anguished host. Then he loosed the chains, delivered Prometheus, and led him away. But to satisfy the conditions stipulated by Zeus, he brought Chiron, the centaur, as a substitute, for even though Chiron had claim to immortality, he offered to die in the Titan’s stead. And to fulfill the judgment of Zeus, son of Cronus, in every point, Prometheus, who had been sentenced to the cliff for a far longer time, had always to wear an iron ring, set with a chip for the story wall of the Caucasus, so that Zeus could boast that his enemy was still forged to the mountain.

Table of Contents

        Jason and Pelias 86
        The Cause and the Outset of the Voyage of the Argonauts 88
        The Argonauts at Lemnos 89
        The Argonauts in the Land of the Doliones 92
        Heracles Left Behind 94
        Polydeuces and the King of the Bebrycians 96
        Phineus and the Harpies 97
        The Symplegades 100
        Further Adventures 101
        Jason in the Palace of Aeetes 105
        Medea and Aeetes 107
        The Counsel of Argus 109
        Medea Promises to Help the Argonauts 112
        Jason and Medea 113
        Jason Does the Bidding of Aeetes 117
        Medea Takes the Golden Fleece 121
        The Argonauts are Pursued and Escape with Medea 124
        The Argonauts on their Homeward Journey 128
        The Colchians Continue their Pursuit 132
        The Last Adventures of the Argonauts 133
        Jason’s End 138
        The Infant Heracles 156
        The Rearing of Heracles 157
        Heracles at the Crossroads 158
        The First Adventures of Heracles 160
        Heracles Fights the Giants 162
        Heracles and Eurystheus 165
        The First Three Labors of Heracles 166
        The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Labors of Heracles 169
        The Seventh, Eighth and Ninth Labors of Heracles 172
        The Last Three Labors of Heracles 175
        Heracles and Eurytus 182
        Heracles and Admetus 183
        Heracles in the Service of Omphale 188
        Subsequent Exploits of Heracles 191
        Heracles and Deianira 193
        Heracles and Nessus 195
        Heracles, Iole, and Deianira. His End 196
        His Birth and his Youth 206
        His Journey to his Father 208
        Theseus in Athens 210
        Theseus in Minos 211
        King Theseus 215
        The War with the Amazons 217
        Theseus and Pirithous 218
        Theseus and Phaedra 222
        Theseus and Helen 226
        The End of Theseus 228
        The Birth of Oedipus, his Youth, his Flight, and the Murder of his Father 230
        Oedipus in Thebes 234
        The Discovery 235
        Jocasta and Oedipus Inflict Punishment on Themselves 239
        Oedipus and Antigone 240
        Oedipus at Colonus 241
        Oedipus and Theseus 245
        Oedipus and Creon 246
        Oedipus and Polynices 247
        Polynices and Tydeus as the Guests of Adrastus 251
        The Heroes Set Out. Hypsipyle and Opheltes 253
        The Heroes Arrives in Thebes 256
        Menoeceus 258
        The Attack upon Thebes 260
        Brothers in Single Combat 262
        Creon’s Resolve 266
        Antigone and Creon 268
        Haemon and Antigone 269
        Creon’s Punishment 270
        The Burial of the Heroes of Thebes 271
        The Heraclidae Come to Athens 277
        Demophoon 279
        Macaria 282
        The Battle 283
        Eurystheus and Alemene 286
        Hyllus and His Descendants 287
        The Heraclidae Divide Up the Peloponneus 292
        Merope and Aepytus 296
        The Building of Troy 299
        Priam, Hecuba, and Paris 302
        The Rape of Helen 305
        The Argives 310
        The Argives Send Priam a Message 315
        Agamemnon and Iphigenia 317
        The Argives Set Out. Philoctetes is Abandoned 328
        The Argives in Mysia. Telephus 329
        Paris Returns 333
        The Argives before Troy 334
        Fighting Begins. Protesilaus. Cycnus 338
        The Death of Palamedes 342
        Achilles and Ajax 343
        Polydoras 346
        Chryses, Apollo, and the Wrath of Achilles 350
        Agamemnon Tries the Argives 356
        Paris and Menelaus 361
        Pandarus 367
        The Battle. Diomedes 371
        Glaucus and Diomedes 382
        Hector in Troy 383
        Hector and Ajax in Single Combat 388
        The Truce 392
        A Trojan Victory 394
        The Argives Send a Message to Achilles 399
        Dolon and Rhesus 402
        Another Argive Defeat 407
        The Fight at the Wall 414
        The Struggle for the Ships 417
        Poseidon Strengthens the Achaeans 423
        Apollo Revives Hector 428
        The Death of Patroclus 435
        The Grief of Achilles 449
        Achilles Newly Armed 452
        Achilles and Agamemnon Reconciled 457
        The Battle of Gods and Men 462
        Achilles Fights the River-God Scamander 467
        The Battle if the Gods 471
        Achilles and Hector Before the Gates 474
        The Death of Hector 476
        The Funeral of Patroclus 481
        Priam Visits Achilles 488
        Hector’s Body in Troy 496
        Penthesilea 498
        Memnon 508
        The Death of Achilles 515
        Funeral Games for Achilles 519
        The Death of Ajax the Great 523
        Machaon and Podalirius 529
        Neoptolemus 533
        Philoctetes on Lemnos 539
        The Death of Paris 544
        The Storming of Troy 547
        The Wooden Horse 549
        The Destruction of Troy 559
        Menelaus and Helen. Polyxena 563
        Departure from Troy. Ajax of Locris Dies 567
        Agamemnon’s Line and House 572
        Agamemnon’s End 575
        Agamemnon is Avenged 579
        Orestes and the Furies 589
        Iphigenia in the Land of the Tauri 597
        Telemachus and the Suitors 609
        Telemachus and Nestor 616
        Telemachus in Sparta 620
        The Suitor’s Plot 623
        Odysseus Leaves Calypso and is Shipwrecked 625
        Nausicaa 629
        Odysseus and the Phaeacians 633
        Odysseus Tells the Tales of his Wanderings to the Phaeacians. The Cicones. The Lotus-Eaters. The Cyclopes. Polyphemus 642
        Odysseus Continues his Tale. The Leather Bag of Aeolus. The Laestrygonians. Circe 651
        Odysseus Continues his Tale. The Realm of Shades 661
        Odysseus Continues his Tale. The Sirens. Scylla and Charybdis. Thrinacia and the Hers of the Sun-God. Shipwreck. Odysseus and Calypso 665
        Odysseus Bids the Phaeacians Farewell 671
        Odysseus Reaches Ithaca 673
        Odysseus Visits the Swineherd 677
        Telmachus Leaves Sparta 682
        With the Swineherd 686
        Telemaches Returns 688
        Odysseus Reveals Himself to his Son 691
        The City and the Palace 693
        Telemachus, Odysseus, and Eumaeus Reach the City 696
        Odysseus, the Beggar, in the Hall 700
        Odysseus and the Beggar Irus 703
        Penelope and the Suitors 705
        Odysseus Mocked Again 708
        Odysseus Alone with Telmachus and Penelope 709
        Night and Morning in the Palace 715
        The Feast 717
        The Contest with the Bow 719
        Odysseus Reveals Himself to the Good Herdsmen 721
        Vengeance 725
        The Servants are Punished 730
        Odysseus and Penelope 732
        Odysseus and Laertes 735
        Athene Calms Rebellion in the City 739
        Odysseus the Victor 741

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“A superb volume, the keystone for any home library.”—The New Yorker

“A book to be grateful for. . . . Schwab retells the legends of ancient Greece with splendid vigor and charm.” —Commonweal

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Gods and Heroes of Ancient Greece 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
we gave this book to my cousin because shes learning about the gods and demigods and after reading this book i learned more then what the simple stories tell us. it helped her create conversations that she probable would not have if she didn't know this information.
JoseS More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hey dad....
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hhos hee
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stop having conversations
CameronC More than 1 year ago
This book has good stories and interesting characters but is too long. Gustav Schwab is a good author. This book has some of the better stories from Greek Mythology, including The Argonauts, Prometheus, and a lot more. I can't say it's the best but it is good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
loved it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi i am the daughter of posiden if you need help with how to handle being a demmie gof then call me i live in yolono illinois and go to the unity jr high
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is Athena not Athene get it right people! Zeus is the of Kronos not that gaint!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Coolist ever pozaz
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im a mage plus my bro devin is a zeus child and is here
Guest More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK IS DREADFUL... it is so long that i hated it..... it was the worst book i have ever read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Im on...