Not far from the fountain was a small altar
which belonged to the Muses. Comatas thought
he should like to bring some gift to it; but
he was a slave, and had not a thing in the
world which he could call his own. As he
spent his life in the care of the goats, he
felt that they must belong to him, in part.
So, one day, he took a kid from the flock,
and sacrificed it on the altar.
That night the master counted the goats, and
found one missing. In a violent passion, he
took Comatas and put him into a great chest
which stood in his palace hall. Then he shut
down the lid and locked the chest, leaving
the poor goatherd to die of starvation.
But the Muses had not forgotten their
worshipper. They missed the sound of his
piping, on the grassy slopes of Mount
Helicon. Certain great purple moths used to
flutter around with them in their moonlight
dances. They sent one of these to find out
what had become of the goatherd.
The moth flew straight to the huts of the
slaves, but it did not find Comatas there.
Then it flew in at one of the palace
windows. The master of Comatas was sitting
at a long table, with his friends, drinking
wine. The purple moth took a sip from one of
the goblets, then it fluttered airily round
one of the tall bronze lamps. Next it
crawled over the hangings, where there was a
whole field of flowers, done in embroidery.
Soon tiring of embroidered flowers, which
had no sweetness, it descended to the floor,
where it was attracted by the odor of the
cedar-chest. Crawling up over the side of
the chest, it peeped in at the keyhole, and
found Comatas. Then it flew quickly away to
Mount Helicon, to tell the Muses.
The next day a honey-bee flew in at the
palace gate. It met the master of Comatas,
and gave him a fine sting on the nose. Not
long after, the house-maids or the guards,
if they had been looking, might have seen
the same bee crawling up the carved side of
the cedar-chest, and going in at the
keyhole, which was a door quite large enough
for a honey-bee.
Soon other bees came, with their honey-bags
full. They went in at the same tiny door,
and came out again with their honey-bags
One day, after Comatas had been shut up in
the chest a year, his hard-hearted master
caused the chest to be opened, expecting, of
course, to find nothing but a handful of
bones. There sat Comatas alive and well!
This was wonderful, indeed.
Comatas told how he had been fed by the
bees. His master, knowing that all
honey-bees were the special servants of the
Muses, believed that the Muses themselves
had taken Comatas under their protection,
and thereafter treated him with the greatest
respect and the utmost kindness.
The Legend and Myth of the Muses and Comatas
The Myth of the Muses and Comatas
The story of the Muses and Comatas is featured in the book
entitled Favorite Greek Myths by Lilian
Stoughton Hyde, published in 1904 by D. C.
Heath and Company.