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English Language and History

The brief stories below are taken from history, myth or fiction. Each one is accompanied by games and exercises in essential grammar and free composition, based on old school textbooks.

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The School of Difficulty
Music: Johann Baptist Cramer
It is not educational institutions and methods that advance science or the arts, but people.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)

MEN who are resolved to find a way for themselves, will always find opportunities enough; and if they do not lie ready to their hand, they will make them.

It is not those who have enjoyed the advantages of colleges, museums, and public galleries, that have accomplished the most for science and art; nor have the greatest mechanics and inventors been trained in mechanics’ institutes.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Greek Myths’ (30 posts)
page 1
1 Heracles and the Cattle of Geryon
Heracles must get the better of a three-bodied giant and steal his cattle.
2 Heracles and the Girdle of Hippolyte
A princess covets the belt of a warrior-queen, so Heracles is despatched to get it for her.
3 Heracles and the Mares of Diomedes
Eurystheus pits his cousin against a son of Ares and some man-eating horses.
4 Heracles and the Cretan Bull
Heracles seems to be the only one who can keep Poseidon’s rampaging white bull under control.
5 Heracles and the Birds of Lake Stymphalia
Our hero is sent to deal with some man-eating birds, but cannot reach their lakeside refuge.
6 The Tragedy of King Oedipus
Oedipus flees home in an attempt to escape a dreadful prophecy, unware that it is following at his heels.
page 2
7 Heracles and the Augean Stables
Heracles shows his capacity for thinking outside the box, but spoils it by trying to be just a little bit too clever.
8 Heracles and the Erymanthian Boar
Snaring a wild boar turns out to be much less dangerous than keeping centaurs away from their wine.
9 Bellerophon and the Chimera
The wronged hero vanquishes a dreadful monster with the help of a winged horse, but then it all goes to his head.
10 The Sword of Damocles
A reminder that those with extreme wealth and power have everything but the peace to enjoy it.
11 Heracles and the Cerynaean Hind
Eurystheus sends his cousin on another labour, this time hoping the task is too delicate for the big man.
12 Hera and the Boeotian Bride
Zeus employs a little psychology to effect a reunion with his offended wife.
page 3
13 Apple of Discord
Thetis snubs Eris, goddess of Discord, and sets off a series of events leading to the Trojan War.
14 The Siege of Troy: the Abduction of Helen
Paris, prince of Troy, takes the not unwilling Queen of Sparta back home with him, and sparks twenty years of retribution.
15 The Gordian Knot
Alexander fulfilled the letter of a prophecy and he did become ruler of the world, but it wasn’t quite fair.
16 The Midas Touch
An ancient Greek myth about the dangers of easy wealth.
17 Damon and Pythias
A tale of two friends with complete confidence in each other, and loyal to the death.
18 Pygmalion and Galatea
Pygmalion discovered that prudishness is not the same as purity.
page 4
19 Heracles and the Hydra
The Greek hero thinks he has paid off more of his debt to the gods, but an unpleasant surprise awaits him.
20 Phrixus and the Golden Fleece
Long before Jason came to claim it, the golden fleece had already saved a boy’s life.
21 Jason and the Golden Fleece
A political rival sends Jason on a hopeless errand, to fetch the golden fleece.
22 Perseus and the Gorgon
When Polydectes, King of Seriphos, sent Perseus to get the Gorgon’s head, he hoped the boy would never come back.
23 Heracles at the Crossroads
The gods had given Heracles every grace of body and mind, but there was one thing he must do for himself: choose how to use them.
24 Hephaestus and the Love Net
When he caught his wife with her lover, the ugly blacksmith of the gods showed that he was not without his pride.
page 5
25 The Hunt for the Wild Boar of Calydon
Artemis, goddess of the hunt, pursued a bitter and relentless vengeance upon a king who carelessly slighted her.
26 Odysseus Comes Home
The wandering King was alive after all - unknown to his “widow’s” suitors.
27 Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus would lose his beloved wife Eurydice to death not once, but twice.
28 Theseus and the Minotaur
A warning not to be forgetful of others, even in triumph.
29 Heracles and the Nemean Lion
Sending a hero off to ‘certain death’ never seems to work out...
30 Perseus and Andromeda
Wielding the Gorgon’s head, Perseus saves a beautiful maiden from a ravening sea-monster.
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Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Love. After. Poor.
The unsung surveyor from Cheshire, who built railways and made friends across the world.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone explains that a truly ‘exceptional nation’ respects the equality and rights of all nations.
By William Ewart Gladstone
(1808-1898)
William Gladstone warns voters not to leave foreign policy in the hands of interventionist politicians.
By Samuel Smiles
(1812-1904)
George Stephenson won the admiration of French navvies by showing them how a Geordie works a shovel.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Rare’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with FOAL and finish with MARE.
Do you know ‘outrage, public disgrace’ (7 letters), and ‘King David of Israel’s third wife’ (7 letters)?
Do you know ‘glittering crown’ (6 letters), and ‘dark and gloomy’ (5 letters)?
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with SWORD and finish with PEACE.
For each of these things, select the most apposite word of praise.
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
top topics
History (375)
Fiction (80)

letters game

What is the longest word you can make using these letters?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

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numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps Mental arithmetic