41. Hermes changes Battus to a rock

Once upon a time, Magnes had a son called Hymenaeus, who was of remarkable beauty. Apollo loved the boy Hymenaeus, but unfortunately, Hymenaeus died. In grief, Apollo forgot all about his kine, which consisted of a hundred never-yoked cows, a virile bull, twelve heifers, and many dogs guarding them all. While Apollo was grieving, Hermes swiftly stole Apollo’s kine.

Hermes made the dogs guarding the kine go into a stupor. The dogs lost the power of barking and remained dazed. Thereafter, Hermes fastened brushwood to the tails of the hundred cows, the bull, and the heifers. As the kine walked, their tails swayed and the brushwood tied on their tails, wiped away their foot-marks, leaving no trail behind. Hermes drove the herd through Pelasgi, Achaea, Phthia, Locris, Boeotia, Megaris, Corinth, Larissa, Peloponnesus, Tegea, Lycaean mountains, Maenalus and arrived at the plains of Pylos, where an ancient forester known as Battus, kept a watchful eye.

Battus heard the sound of the cattle. He came out from where he lived at the top of a rock, saw the herd, and immediately knew that they were stolen. Hermes saw Battus and offered a cow as a reward, if only Battus did not tell anyone about the kine. Battus took the cow and pointing to a stone said that if his tongue betrayed Hermes, then that stone would mention the theft. Hermes did not trust Battus, but nevertheless proceeded with the kine on the cliff by Coryphasium, and hid them in a cave that faced Italy and Sicily. Then Hermes changed his features, retraced his steps and approached Battus.

Doubling the reward by offering Battus a bull and a heifer, Hermes asked Battus, if he had seen stolen kine pass by? Battus said they were beyond the hills, and beyond the hills they actually were. Hermes was angry at the double-tongued Battus and changed Battus to a rock, which even now is known as the “Spy of Pylos”.

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Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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