111. Achelous hosts Theseus and his friends

Once upon a time, Theseus and his friends, after participating in the Calydonian boar hunt, were returning to Athens, but the tides of the river Achelous were high, as it had swollen with the rains. The river-god Achelous invited Theseus and his friends to his home, to rest until the swollen waters subsided. Theseus agreed and Achelous was happy to play the host. He offered them comfortable couches to recline on, while pretty nymphs served wine in gem-studded cups and laid a mouth-watering banquet.

After all had eaten, Theseus arose and inquired about a distant island. Achelous recounted how five Naiads had become the five islands, known as the Echinades. Then Achelous pointed to another beautiful island and recollected how the nymph Perimela, had been thrown to the mercy of the sea by her father Hippodamas. Granting the prayer of Achelous, Neptune had changed the fair Perimela to the fair island.
Thereafter, the hero Lelex, related the tale of Baucis and Philemon, who upon their deaths, became a sacred lime tree and a sacred oak tree. Both the trees grew so close that it seemed it was one tree, but having two trunks.

All were amazed at such tales, and Achelous then told how Erysichthon, an impious person, had angered the goddess Ceres, due to which Erysichthon suffered unending hunger, and ate up his own body.

Achelous also narrated how he had changed his form to a bull, and Hercules had torn off a horn of the bull, to win the hand of the damsel Deianira. That horn became sacred to the nymphs and they called it as the Horn of Plenty.

Then a graceful nymph served all of them delicious fruits. Now, as early dawn had appeared, sunlight shone on the golden peaks of surrounding hills, and the heroes saw that the water of the river had subsided. They thanked the river-god Achelous for his warm hospitality, and resumed their journey to Athens.

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