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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

E. M. Berens
Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome - Part II

From, A Handbook of Mythology, New York 1886
{ } = Page Numbers in the print edition,   [ ] = Footnote Numbers

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Page 95


Ion was the son of Crëusa (the beauteous daughter of Erechtheus, king of Athens) and the sun-god Phoebus-Apollo, to whom she was united without the knowledge of her father.

Fearing the anger of Erechtheus, Crëusa placed her new-born babe in a little wicker basket, and hanging some golden charms round his neck, invoked for him the protection of the gods, and concealed him in a lonely cave. Apollo, pitying his deserted child, sent Hermes to convey him to Delphi, where he deposited his charge on the steps of the temple. Next morning the Delphic priestess discovered the infant, and was so charmed by his engaging appearance that she adopted him as her own son. The young child was carefully tended and reared by his kind foster-mother, and was brought up in the service of the temple, where he was intrusted with some of the minor duties of the holy edifice.

And now to return to Crëusa. During a war with the Euboeans, in which the latter were signally defeated, Xuthus, son of AEolus, greatly distinguished himself on the side of the Athenians, and as a reward for his valuable services, the hand of Crëusa, the king's daughter, was bestowed upon him in marriage. Their union, however, was not blest with children, and as this was a source of great grief to both of them, they repaired to Delphi in order to consult the oracle. The response was, that Xuthus should regard the first person who met him on leaving the sanctuary as his son. Now it happened that Ion, the young guardian of the temple, was the first to greet his view, and when Xuthus beheld the beautiful youth, he gladly welcomed him as his son, declaring that the gods had sent him to be a blessing and comfort to his old age. Crëusa, however, who concluded that the youth was the offspring of a secret marriage on the part of her husband, was filled with suspicion and jealousy; {211} when an old servant, observing her grief, begged her to be comforted, assuring her that the cause of her distress should be speedily removed.

When, upon the occasion of the public adoption of his son, Xuthus gave a grand banquet, the old servant of Crëusa contrived to mix a strong poison in the wine of the unsuspecting Ion. But the youth—according to the pious custom of the ancients, of offering a libation to the gods before partaking of any repast—poured upon the ground a portion of the wine before putting it to his lips, when suddenly, as if by a miracle, a dove flew into the banquet-hall, and sipped of the wine of the libation; whereupon the poor little creature began to quiver in every limb, and in a few moments expired.

Ion's suspicions at once fell upon the obsequious servant of Crëusa, who with such officious attention had filled his cup. He violently seized the old man, and accused him of his murderous intentions. Unprepared for this sudden attack he admitted his guilt, but pointed to the wife of Xuthus as the instigator of the crime. Ion was about to avenge himself upon Crëusa, when, by means of the divine intervention of Apollo, his foster-mother, the Delphic priestess appeared on the scene, and explained the true relationship which existed between Crëusa and Ion. In order to set all doubts at rest, she produced the charms which she had found round the neck of the infant, and also the wicker basket in which he had been conveyed to Delphi.

Mother and son now became reconciled to each other, and Crëusa revealed to Ion the secret of his divine origin. The priestess of Delphi foretold that he would become the father of a great nation, called after him the Ionians, and also that Xuthus and Crëusa would have a son called Dorus, who would be the progenitor of the Dorian people, both of which predictions were in due time verified.

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Cf. A Day in Old Athens * A Short History of Greek Philosophy
Toynbee, Ancient Greek History and the West * Livingstone, On the Ancient Greek Literature

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