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The Ethiopian Dragon

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Long ago, Ethiopia was ruled by King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia, who boasted that she was more beautiful than all the Nereids.  Furious at this insult, the daughters of the sea complained to the god Poseidon, asking him to avenge them.  He sent a dragon, who devasted the land and devoured the young people of Ethiopia.  The terrified population consulted the oracle Ammon, who told them that their only hope of deliverance would be to hand over to the dragon the beautiful Andromeda, daughter of the King and Queen.  Cepheus and Cassiopeia were reluctant to surrender their daughter, but pressured by their subjects, they finally agreed to the sacrifice.  The soldiers chained the maiden to a rock in the middle of the sea where the monster lived.


'We are waiting for the dragon to come up and devour her', they wailed.  'If anybody can save our daughter they will earn our gratitude, the hand of Andromeda and the throne of Ethiopia.'  Perseus found their offer most tempting, as the beauty of the maiden chained to the rock was evident, and the King was rich and prosperous.


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Weeping and lamenting, the princess's parents waited on the shore.  It just so happened that the young Perseus, the son of Zeus, was passing that way on his winged horse Pegasus.  On seeing the desperate sovereigns, the hero, who had just killed the terrible Medusa, stopped to ask them what was wrong.  Sobbing, the King and Queen told him their story.


He donned the magic helmet of invisibility, which had been given to him by Pluto, the King of the underworld, slipped his arm into the shining shield which had been a present from the goddes Athena {he was related to both these divinities} and, brandishing the diamond sword given to him by the god Mercury, he rushed at the dragon.  Since the helmet made Perseus invisible, the monster was unable to defend himself, and Andromeda had no idea who was coming to her rescue.  The demigod sliced through the dragon's flesh until he reached the heart and plucked it out.  Then he removed his helmet and showed himself to the beautiful princess.  With one stroke he cut through the chains that bound her to the rock, and then hoisted the maiden up on to his winged steed and headed for the palace.

On reaching the royal palace, however, an unpleasant surprise was in store for him.  Standing at the head of his army was Phineus, Andromeda's former suitor, claiming her as his wife.  Perseus, reluctant to give up his well-deserved reward, took out the Medusa's head from a bag, showed it to his enemies and thus turned them to stone.  And so he was able to marry the beautiful Andromeda unopposed, and they had many children, one of whom was Alcmena, the mother of the powerful Hercules.