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Myscelus. Croton.


While this was happening, they began to seek
for one who could endure the weight of such
a task and could succeed a king so great;
and Fame, the harbinger of truth, destined
illustrious Numa for the sovereign power.
It did not satisfy his heart to know
only the Sabine ceremonials,
and he conceived in his expansive mind
much greater views, examining the depth
and cause of things. His country and his cares
forgotten, this desire led him to visit
the city that once welcomed Hercules.
Numa desired to know what founder built
a Grecian city on Italian shores.
One of the old inhabitants, who was well
acquainted with past history, replied:

“Rich in Iberian herds, the son of Jove
turned from the ocean and with favoring wind
'Tis said he landed on Lacinian shores.
And, while the herd strayed in the tender grass,
he visited the house, the friendly home,
of far-famed Croton. There he rested from
his arduous labors. At the time of his
departure, he said, ‘Here in future days
shall be a city of your numerous race.’
The passing years have proved the promise true,
for Myscelus, choosing that site, marked out
a city's walls. Argive Alemon's son,
of all men in his generation, he
was most acceptable to the heavenly gods.
Bending over him once at dawn, while he
was overwhelmed with drowsiness of sleep,
the huge club-bearer Hercules addressed
him thus: ‘Come now, desert your native shores.
Go quickly to the pebbly flowing stream
of distant Aesar.’ And he threatened ill
in fearful words, unless he should obey.

“Sleep and the god departed instantly.
Alemon's son, arising from his couch,
pondered his recent vision thoughtfully,
with his conclusions at cross purposes.—
the god commanded him to quit that land,
the laws forbade departure, threatening death
to all who sought to leave their native land.

“The brilliant Sun had hidden in the sea
his shining head, and darkest Night had then
put forth her starry face; and at that time
it seemed as if the same god Hercules
was present and repeating his commands,
threatening still more and graver penalties,
if he should fail to obey. Now sore afraid
he set about to move his household gods
to a new settlement, but rumors then
followed him through the city, and he was
accused of holding statutes in contempt.

“The accusation hardly had been made
when his offense was evidently proved,
even without a witness. Then he raised
his face and hands up to the gods above
and suppliant in neglected garb, exclaimed,
‘Oh mighty Hercules, for whom alone
the twice six labors gave the privilege
of heavenly residence, give me your aid,
for you were the true cause of my offence.’

“It was an ancient custom of that land
to vote with chosen pebbles, white and black.
The white absolved, the black condemned the man.
And so that day the fateful votes were given—:
all cast into the cruel urn were black!
Soon as that urn inverted poured forth all
the pebbles to be counted, every one
was changed completely from its black to white,
and so the vote adjudged him innocent.
By that most fortunate aid of Hercules
he was exempted from the country's law.

“Myscelus, breathing thanks to Hercules,
with favoring wind sailed on the Ionian sea,
past Sallentine Neretum, Sybaris,
Spartan Tarentum, and the Sirine Bay,
Crimisa, and on beyond the Iapygian fields.
Then, skirting shores which face these lands, he found
the place foretold the river Aesar's mouth,
and found not far away a burial mound
which covered with its soil the hallowed bones
of Croton.—There, upon the appointed land,
he built up walls—and he conferred the name
of Croton, who was there entombed, on his
new city, which has ever since been called
Crotona.” By tradition it is known
such strange deeds caused that city to be built,
by men of Greece upon the Italian coast.

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