Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Hestia, the Goddess of the Hearth.*

H

ESTIA had fewer temples than any of the other

gods of Mount Olympus, but she was worshiped the most of all. This was because she was the hearthgoddess,—that is, the goddess of the fireside, –and so had part in all the worship of the Greek home.

The Greeks said that it was Hestia who first taught men how to build houses. As their houses were so very different from the ones in which we live, perhaps you would like to know something about them. In the days when these old Greeks were so brave and noble, and had such beautiful thoughts about the world, they did not care much what kind of houses they lived in. The weather in their country was so fine that they did not stay in-doors very much. Besides, they cared more about building suitable temples for the gods, and putting up beautiful statues about the city, than they did about building fine houses for themselves.

So their houses were usually very small and plain. They did not have yards around the houses, but built them close together, as we do in some of our large cities. Instead of having their yard in front, or at the sides of the house, they had it in the middle, with the house built all around it. That is the way many people in other lands build their houses even now; and this inner yard they call a court-yard. Around three sides

* From Greek Gods, Heroes and Men, Scott, Foresman & Co., publishers.

of the court-yard the Greeks had pleasant porches in which the boys and girls could play when it was too hot for them to be out in the open yard. And opening off on all sides from the porches were the rooms of the house.

In the middle of one of the largest of these rooms, there was always an altar to the goddess Hestia. This was a block of stone on which a fire was always kept burning. The Greeks did not have chimneys to their houses, so they would leave a square hole in the roof, just over the altar, to let the smoke out. And as they had no stoves, all the food for the family was usually cooked over this fire on the altar.

Whenever there was any change made in the family they offered sacrifices to Hestia. If a baby was born, or if there was a wedding, or if one of the family died, they must sacrifice to Hestia. Also whenever any one set out on a journey, or returned home from one, and even when a new slave was brought into the family, Hestia must be worshiped, or else they were afraid some evil would come upon their home.

The Greeks thought that the people of a city were just a larger family, so they thought that every city, as well as every house, must have an altar to Hestia. In the town-hall, where the men who ruled the city met together, there was an altar to the goddess of the hearth; and on it, too, a fire was always kept burning. These old Greeks were very careful never to let this altar-fire go out. If by any chance it did go out, then they were not allowed to start it again from another fire, or even to kindle it by striking a bit of flint and a piece of steel together-for, of course, they had no

matches. They were obliged to kindle it either by rubbing two dry sticks together, or else by means of a burning-glass. Otherwise they thought Hestia would be displeased.

The Greeks were a daring people, and very fond of going to sea, and trading with distant countries. Sometimes, indeed, part of the people of a city would decide to leave their old home, and start a new city in some far-off place with which they traded. When such a party started out, they always carried with them some of the sacred fire from the altar of Hestia in the mother city. With this they would light the altar-fire in their new home. In this way the worship of Hestia helped to make the Greeks feel that they were all members of one great family, and prevented those who went away from forgetting the city from which they came.

Helios, the Driver of the Sun.*

THE

sun

HE Greeks did not know that the earth was round.

They believed that it was flat, and that the moved over it each day from east to west. They thought that each morning the goddess of the Dawn threw open the eastern gates of the sky, and the golden chariot of the sun rolled out. This was drawn by twelve swift horses, and was so brilliant that men's eyes could not bear to look at it. In the chariot stood the driver, the god Helios, with the rays of the sun flaming around his head.

It took great skill to drive the chariot on its long day's journey. Helios had to guide it with much care, so as not to drive too near the earth and scorch it. The way during the morning was up a steep ascent. At noon the chariot reached the summit of the course, and began to descend toward the west. The way then was rough, and the descent so steep that the horses were in danger of falling headlong. But the journey was always finished in safety, and the weary horses entered the gates of the Evening.

There were two beautiful palaces for Helios, one in the east at the gates of the Dawn, and the other in the west at the gates of the Evening. To get from his western palace back to his palace at the gates of the Dawn, Helios, with his horses and the chariot of the sun, was obliged to sail underneath the world dur

* From Greek Gods, Heroes and Men, Scott, Foresman & Co., publishers.

ing the night in a golden boat made by the god Hephaestus.

Helios had a son named Phaethon, who wished greatly to drive the chariot of the sun, and begged his father to allow him to guide it for one day. The god at first refused, saying,

“Only my hands are strong enough to drive those spirited horses upon that dangerous road.”

But Phaethon would not be denied. He begged until at last his father consented. Helios placed the young man in the flaming chariot, and fastened the burning rays of the sun around his forehead. Then, as Dawn opened the eastern gates, the horses sprang forward. But they soon felt that their master's hands were not upon the reins. Phaethon was much too weak to guide the twelve strong horses. They dashed from the track downward toward the earth, setting fire to mountain-tops and forests, and boiling the water in the rivers and brooks. Then they whirled up among the stars, burning them, and setting the very heavens on fire.

When Helios saw what terrible mischief was being done, he begged Zeus for aid. To save the world from being destroyed, Zeus hurled a mighty thunderbolt at Phaethon, which struck him, and knocked him headlong from the sky. Then he sent a great rain, which lasted many days. Finally, when the flames were out, the gods saw how great the damage was. Whole countries were left bare and blackened; and though the plants soon began to grow again almost everywhere, some places are still barren to this day. And some races of men were so scorched by the great heat that the color of their skins has remained black or brown ever since.

« ZurückWeiter »