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The Funeral Games of Anchises

Aeneas called together all his followers, and reminded minded them that a year had now passed since the death of his father. Not of their own purpose, but doubtless by the will of the Gods, they had now returned to the friendly land where his bones had been laid. It was therefore his intention to celebrate funeral games. For eight days there should be feasting, for which Acestes had generously provided two oxen for each ship; and on the ninth day he would give prizes to be contested in the foot-race, in shooting with the bow, and in boxing with the cestus.

Having thus spoken, the hero, according to the custom of that time, placed a wreath of myrtle upon his head and proceeded to the tomb of his father, where he poured out, as a libation to the Gods, two bowls of wine, two of new milk, and two of sacred blood. Then he scattered flowers over the tomb, and offered up a prayer to his father's shade. Immediately there came forth from the tomb a huge snake with glittering scales of blue and gold, which, after tasting of what had been poured out, retired again to the recesses of the vault. Believing this creature to be an attendant on his father's spirit, Aeneas offered rich sacrifices ewes, sows, and bullocks and his companions followed his example.

The eight days of feasting passed pleasantly enough, and the morning appointed for the funeral games dawned bright and serene. A joyous crowd assembled on the shore, some to take part in the contests, and others to watch them. The first of the games was a race between galleys, and four ships had been entered to take part in it [...]; the assembled multitude now proceeded to a grassy plain a little way inland, where thrones were placed for Acestes, Aeneas, and the other leaders. Here the remaining games were to be celebrated, and first of all a foot race.

Among the competitors in this were Euryalus, a Trojan youth distinguished for his personal beauty; Nisus, a brave warrior, who was his constant friend and companion; Diores, Salius, and Patron, three other Trojans; and two Sicilian youths famous for their speed, named Elymus and Panopes. Aeneas announced that he would give two Cretan javelins of bright steel and a carved battle-axe of silver to each who took part in the race, and to the three who came in first other rich prizes: to the first a war-horse with costly trappings; to the second a quiver full of Thracian arrows, with a gold belt and jeweled buckle; and to the third a Grecian helmet.

The runners having been placed in proper order, the signal was given, and they darted forward like a tempest. Nisus led the way, Salius coming second, and Euryalus third, with the rest following close behind. Already Nisus was near the goal, when unluckily his foot slipped at a spot where some victims had been sacrificed for the altar, and the blood soaking into the grass had made it slippery. Down he fell into the puddle, and in a moment his chance of victory had disappeared. But even then, in spite of his disappointment, he was mindful of his affection for Euryalus, and resolved that since he could not win the race, his friend should do so. He rose to his feet just as Salius was coming up, and contrived to stand in his way so as to overturn him. Euryalus, who had still kept the third place, now sprang forward, and was easily victorious amid the applause of the crowd. Elymus came in next, and close behind him Diores.

But Salius loudly demanded that the first prize of right belonged to him, because he had been deprived of the victory by unfair means. The spectators, however, favored the claim of Euryalus because of his youth and beauty; and Diores vehemently took the same side, since, if Salius were adjudged the victory, he would not receive a prize at all.

Aeneas speedily silenced all contention by declaring that the promised rewards should go to the three who had arrived first at the winning-post; but he added that he would show his sympathy for the disaster which had befallen Salius, and therefore bestowed on him the shaggy hide of a Getulian lion, still retaining the claws, which had been gilt. Upon this, Nisus also merrily asked for some consolation, since but for an accident the first prize would have been his, and he showed his face and limbs all besmeared with mud. His chief entered into the jest, and gave him a buckler, finely carved, which had once hung on the walls of Neptune's temple at Troy.

Credits - This story "The Funeral Games of Anchises" by Charles Henry Hanson has been reprinted from the book "The Children's Hour: Stories from the Classics" selected and arranged by Eva March Tappan, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1907.


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