The Greeks used to tell their children that Deucalion, the leader of the Thessalians, was a descendant of the gods, for each part of the country claimed that its first great man was the son of a god. It was under the reign of Deucalion that a flood took place; and all the people of the neighborhood fled in haste to the high mountains north of Thessaly, where they were kindly received by Deucalion.
When all danger was over, and the waters began to recede, they followed their leader down into the plains again. This soon gave rise to a wonderful story, which you will often hear. It was said that Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha were the only people left alive after the flood. When the waters had all gone, they went down the mountain, and found that the temple at Delphi, where they worshiped their gods, was still standing unharmed. They entered, and, kneeling before the altar, prayed for help.
A mysterious voice then bade them go down the mountain, throwing their mother’s bones behind them. They were very much troubled when they heard this, until Deucalion said that a voice from heaven could not have meant them to do any harm. In thinking over the real meaning of the words he had heard, he told his wife, that, as the Earth is the mother of all creatures, her bones must mean the stones.
Deucalion and Pyrrha, therefore, went slowly down the mountain, throwing the stones behind them. The Greeks used to tell that a sturdy race of men sprang up from the stones cast by Deucalion, while beautiful women came from those cast by Pyrrha.
The country was soon peopled by the children of these men, who always proudly declared that the story was true, and that they sprang from the race which owed its birth to this great miracle. Deucalion reigned over this people as long as he lived; and when he died, his two sons, Amphictyon and Hellen, became kings in his stead. The former staid in Thessaly; and, hearing that some barbarians called Thracians were about to come over the mountains and drive his people away, he called the chiefs of all the different states to a council, to ask their advice about the best means of defense. All the chiefs obeyed the summons, and met at a place in Thessaly where the mountains approach the sea so closely as to leave but a narrow pass between. In the pass are hot springs, and so it was called Thermopylæ, or the Hot Gateway.