Greek and Roman Mythology > Nisus and Scylla

Nisus and Scylla

Minos, king of Crete, made war upon Megara. Nisus was king of
Megara, and Scylla was his daughter. The siege had now lasted
six months, and the city still held out, for it was decreed by
fate that it should not be taken so long as a certain purple
lock, which glittered among the hair of King Nisus, remained on
his head. There was a tower on the city walls, which overlooked
the plain where Minos and his army were encamped. To this tower
Scylla used to repair, and look abroad over the tents of the
hostile army. The siege had lasted so long that she had learned
to distinguish the persons of the leaders. Minos, in particular,
excited her admiration. She admired his graceful deportment; if
he threw his javelin, skill seemed combined with force in the
discharge; if he drew his bow, Apollo himself could not have done
it more gracefully. But when he laid aside his helmet, and in
his purple robes bestrode his white horse with its gay
caparisons, and reined in its foaming mouth, the daughter of
Nisus was hardly mistress of herself; she was almost frantic with
admiration. She envied the weapon that he grasped, the reins
that he held. She felt as if she could, if it were possible, go
to him through the hostile ranks; she felt an impulse to cast
herself down from the tower into the midst of his camp, or to
open the gates to him, or do anything else, so only it might
gratify Minos. As she sat in the tower, she talked thus with
herself: "I know not whether to rejoice or grieve at this sad
war. I grieve that Minos is our enemy; but I rejoice at any
cause that brings him to my sight. Perhaps he would be willing
to grant us peace, and receive me as a hostage. I would fly
down, if I could, and alight in his camp, and tell him that we
yield ourselves to his mercy. But, then, to betray my father!
No! Rather would I never see Minos again. And yet no doubt it
is sometimes the best thing for a city to be conquered when the
conqueror is clement and generous. Minos certainly has right on
his side. I think we shall be conquered; and if that must be the
end of it, why should not love unbar the gates to him, instead of
leaving it to be done by war? Better spare delay and slaughter
if we can. And, oh, if any one should wound or kill Minos! No
one surely would have the heart to do it; yet ignorantly, not
knowing him, one might. I will, I will surrender myself to him,
with my country as a dowry, and so put an end to the war. But
how? The gates are guarded, and my father keeps the keys; he
only stands in my way. Oh, that it might please the gods to take
him away! But why ask the gods to do it? Another woman, loving
as I do, would remove with her own hands whatever stood in the
way of her love. And can any other woman dare more than I? I
would encounter fire and sword to gain my object; but here there
is no need of fire and sword. I only need my father's purple
lock. More precious than gold to me, that will give me all I

While she thus reasoned night came on, and soon the whole palace
was buried in sleep. She entered her father's bedchamber and cut
off the fatal lock; then passed out of the city and entered the
enemy's camp. She demanded to be led to the king, and thus
addressed him: "I am Scylla, the daughter of Nisus. I surrender
to you my country and my father's house. I ask no reward but
yourself; for love of you I have done it. See here the purple
lock! With this I give you my father and his kingdom." She held
out her hand with the fatal spoil. Minos shrunk back and refused
to touch it. "The gods destroy thee, infamous woman," he
exclaimed; "disgrace of our time! May neither earth nor sea
yield thee a resting place! Surely, my Crete, where Jove himself
was cradled, shall not be polluted with such a monster!" Thus he
said, and gave orders that equitable terms should be allowed to
the conquered city, and that the fleet should immediately sail
from the island.

Scylla was frantic. "Ungrateful man," she exclaimed, "is it thus
you leave me? Me who have given you victory, who have
sacrificed for you parent and country! I am guilty, I confess,
and deserve to die, by not by your hand." As the ships left the
shore, she leaped into the water, and seizing the rudder of the
one which carried Minos, she was borne along an unwelcome
companion of their course. A sea-eagle soaring aloft, it was
her father who had been changed into that form, seeing her,
pounced down upon her, and struck her with his beak and claws.
In terror she let go the ship, and would have fallen into the
water, but some pitying deity changed her into a bird. The sea-
eagle still cherishes the old animosity; and whenever he espies
her in his lofty flight, you may see him dart down upon her, with
beak and claws, to take vengeance for the ancient crime.

Myth Collection

Achelous and HerculesAcis and GalateaAdmetus and Alcestis
Agamemnon, Orestes, and ElectraAmphionAmphitrite
AntigoneApollo and DaphneApollo and Hyacinthus
Aurora and TithonusBacchusBaucis and Philemon
CadmusCastor and PolluxCephalus and Procris
Ceyx and HalcyoneClytieCupid and Psyche
DaedalusDiana and ActaeonDryope
Echo and NarcissusEndymionErisichthon
Glaucus and ScyllaHebe and GanymedeHercules
IbycusIo and CallistoLeucothea dnd Palaemon
LinusMarsyasMedea and Aeson
MelampusMenelaus and HelenMidas
Minerva and ArachneMonstersMusaeus
NeptuneNereus and DorisNiobe
Nisus and ScyllaOrionOrpheus and Eurydice
Pegasus and the ChimaeraPenelopePerseus and Medusa
PhaetonPluto and ProsperinePrometheus and Pandora
PygmalionPyramus and ThisbePython
ThamyrisThe Calydonian HuntThe Camenae
The CentaursThe Golden FleeceThe Graeae and Gorgons
The Griffin, or GryphonThe IliadThe Myrmidons
The PygmiesThe Rural DeitiesThe Sphinx
The Trojan WarThe Water DeitiesThe Winds
TheseusThetisVenus and Adonis
Vertumnus and Pomona

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