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Such execution, So stern, so sudden, wrought the grisly aspect Of terrible Medusa, When wandering through the woods she turned to stone Their savage tenants; just as the foaming lion Sprang furious on his prey, her speedier power Outran his haste, And fixed in that fierce attitude he stands Like Rage in marble!" Imitations of Shakespeare
Of Atlas there is another story, which I like better than the one told. He was one of the Titans who warred against Jupiter like Typhoeus, Briareus, and others. After their defeat by the king of gods and men, Atlas was condemned to stand in the far western part of the earth, by the Pillars of Hercules, and to hold on his shoulders the weight of heaven and the stars.
The story runs that Perseus, flying by, asked and obtained rest and food. The next morning he asked what he could do to reward Atlas for his kindness. The best that giant could think of was that Perseus should show him the snaky head of Medusa, that he might be turned to stone and be at rest from his heavy load.
Chapter X Monsters. Giants. Sphinx. Pegasus and the Chimaera. Centaurs. Griffin. Pygmies
Monsters, in the language of mythology, were beings of unnatural proportions or parts, usually regarded with terror, as possessing immense strength and ferocity, which they employed for the injury and annoyance of men. Some of them were supposed to combine the members of different animals; such were the Sphinx and the Chimaera; and to these all the terrible qualities of wild beasts were attributed, together with human sagacity and faculties. Others, as the giants, differed from men chiefly in their size; and in this particular we must recognize a wide distinction among them. The human giants, if so they may be called, such as the Cyclopes, Antaeus, Orion, and others, must be supposed not to be altogether disproportioned to human beings, for they mingled in love and strife with them. But the superhuman giants, who warred with the gods, were of vastly larger dimensions. Tityus, we are told, when stretched on the plain, covered nine acres, and Enceladus required the whole of Mount AEtna to be laid upon him to keep him down.
We have already spoken of the war which the giants waged against the gods, and of its result. While this war lasted the giants proved a formidable enemy. Some of them, like Briareus, had a hundred arms; others, like Typhon, breathed out fire. At one time they put the gods to such fear that they fled into Egypt, and hid themselves under various forms. Jupiter took the form of a ram, whence he was afterwards worshipped in Egypt as the god Ammon, with curved horns. Apollo became a crow, Bacchus a goat, Diana a cat, Juno a cow, Venus a fish, Mercury a bird. At another time the giants attempted to climb up into heaven, and for that purpose took up the mountain Ossa and piled it on Pelion. They were at last subdued by thunderbolts, which Minerva invented, and taught Vulcan and his Cyclopes to make for Jupiter.
Laius, king of Thebes, was warned by an oracle that there was danger to his throne and life if his new-born son should be suffered to grow up. He therefore committed the child to the care of a herdsman, with orders to destroy him; but the herdsman, moved to pity, yet not daring entirely to disobey, tied up the child by the feet, and left him hanging to the branch of a tree. Here the infant was found by a herdsman of Polybus, king of Corinth, who was pasturing his flock upon Mount Cithaeron. Polybus and Merope, his wife, adopted the child, whom they called OEdipus, or Swollen-foot, for they had no children themselves, and in Corinth OEdipus grew up. But as OEdipus was at Delphi, the oracle prophesied to him that he should kill his father and marry his own mother. Fighting against Fate, OEdipus resolved to leave Corinth and his parents, for he thought that Polybus and Merope were meant by the oracle.