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MYTHS OF LOVE
Love between God and mortal, and between mortals was common theme in Greek Mythology. It should be stated that the following mythsdo not deal with lustful affairs, such as the many that Zeus had, but, rather,relations that were intended to be more serious, and with deeper feeling.
Eros and Psyche
Aphrodite became extremely jealous of the attention that the beautiful mortal maiden, Psyche, was receiving. Therefore, she instructed her son Eros, God of Love, to shoot a golden arrow into the heart of Psyche when she was on the presence of a base individual, so she would fall in love with him. But, when Eros saw Psyche , he, himself, fell in love with her, since he accidentally pricked himself with one ef the golden arrows. Psyche could not see Eros since he was invisible. Even though Psyche was beautiful. suitors were intimidated. Both her sisters married, and her parents became concerned. Her father consulted the Oracle at Delphi what was in the future for his beautiful daughterr. He was told that he was to leave on the mountainside, and that she would be married to a evil serpent. Knowing that they had to obey the Oracle, the family sadly brought Psyche to the mountainside, in wedding dress, There, she was carried away by the west wind, or Zephir, to a sumptuous palace in the woods. Surely, Psyche thought, this could not be a home to an evil serpent.
That night, Psyche was joined in bed by Eros, her new husband. He instructed her that she was never to look at him in the light, and that, if she did, he would dissapear forever.
All went well for a few nights, but Psyche became homesick fo her family. She asked Eros for permission to visit, to which he reluctantly agreed . Again he re-inforced th warning that she should not let her sisters convinced to gaze upon him in the light. Psyche was carried by the wind, Zephir, to her home. When she told her sisters of the palace she lived in. they became very jealous. The sisters eventually discerned that Psyche had never seen her husband in the daylight . They then convinced that he may be a serpent, and that , when she returned, she should carry a lamp, at night , to his bedside , and dagger to kill him, if he were indeed , a monster.
Psyche followed their instructions, but, when the lamp showed Eros was a beautiful god and not a monster, she knew she had made a mistake.
She then accidentally spilled some drops of wax from the lamp onto Eros, awakening him. True to his word , he silently flew away.
Not knowing what to do , Psyche sought the advise of Demeter. Demeter told her to go directly to Aphrodite. Aphrodite devise a series of almost impossible tasks for Psyche to perform, before she would help with any sort of reconciliation with her son.
The Gods helped Psyceh with the fiirst few tasks. For the last trial, Aphrodite instructed Psyche to go to the Underworld, to obtain a 'box of beauty' from Queen of the Underworld, Persephone. Psyche was told by the Gods to carry two coins in her mouth (obolos), as well as two honey cakes , for her journey.
She entered the Underworld at the city of Taenarus, near Sparta, and came to the river Acheron, where she was ferried across after Charon took one obola from her mouth. At the Gates to the Underworld, she calmed Cerberus with one of her honey cakes. allowing her to pass to meet Persephone, who readily agreed to give her a 'box of beauty' for Aphodite.
Returning by the same route, using the other honey-cake, and obola, Psyche ascended to the Upper World. But, curiosity made Psyche open the box, which put her into a 'Stygian' (i.e., deep) sleep.
By this time, Eros had come searching for his wandering love. Finding her in her sleep, he awoke her, carrying her to Zeus, where he pled to be allowed to be married to her. Zeus agreed, and to confer immortality to Psyche, gave her nectar to drink.
Now that Aphrodite saw that her son was truly in love with Psyche, as well as her now being mortal, she accepted the union, and even danced at the wedding, to the Chorus of the Muses, and the lyre-playing of Apollo.
Orpheus and Eurydice
Orpheus , son of Apollo and the Muse, Calliope, was nurtured to be a bard, becoming an expert at singing and playing the lyre. He accompanied the Argonauts on their quest for the Fleece, quelling many a disturbance with his calming music. Returning from his journey, Orpheus married his sweetheart, Eurydice. Unfortunately , Eurydice suffered a mortal snake bite shortly after the wedding, causing Orpheus to go into a prolonged depressiion. He became determined to try to bring back Eurydice from the Underworld. His lyre-playing did wonders in the Underworld; Charon forgot about the fee of the obolo; Cerberus' vicious barks did not occur; the furies cried; Tantalus stopped his efforts to drink and eat; Sisyphus stopped rolling his stone ; and Ixion's wheel stopped spinning. Even Hades and his wife, Persephone were enchanted by the sweet sounds of his lyre, convincing them to release Eurydice on one condition; that Orpheus lead Eurydice to the Upper World, but that he not look at her until he reached the Upper World.
Just before reaching the Upper World, Orpheus turned around to make sure that Eurydice followed. True to the warning of the King of the Underworld, Eurydice vanished, returning to the depths of the Underworld.
Orpheus proceed to wander the world mad, refusing the advances of all women. Eventually, the Maenads, the drunken, revelling women in the train of Dyonysus, became violently angry with Orpheus for his rejections. They tore Orpheus limb from limb.
Orpheus' head and lyre drifted to the Isle of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea, which sup[osedly, helps to explain why lesbos later became a center of lyric poetry.
Pygmalion and Galatea
Pigmalion, King of Cyprus, and an expert sculptor, found no woman who could measure up to his standars. Therefore, he sculpted a vision of the ideal woman. He became so enchanted with the sculpture, that he fell in love with it. He startedbuying the inanimaatte object flowers, even dressing the work of art in the finest clothes. Eventually, he became depressed that the statuecould not return his love.
He went to a festival of Aphrodite, Goddess of Love, in Cyprus to ask for her help. Aphrodite did not answer his request to be given a woman just like his artwork, but she did one thing better; she converted sculpture to life.
Pygmalion named the stature 'Galatea'. She started returning his love, and they soon wed. They soon had a child, Paphos, for whom the city of the same name exist today in Cyprus.
Endymion and Artemis
Artemis gazed upon Endymion, King of Ellis, while he was asleep on a mountainside, and immediately fell in love. Not wanting Endymion ever to age, Artemis cast a spell of perpetual sleep on Endymion, and placed in a cave sacred to her on Mount Latmus. In this manner, Artemis was allowed to visit Endymion whenever she wanted, and to kiss and gaze upon him, without having to worry about Endymion losing his beauty. Keats, the famous English poet, wrote a famous poem, "Endymion" comparing the early death of a fellow poet, Shelly, to the perpetual sleep of Endymion.
Procnis and Cephalus
Cephalus, son of the King of Thessaly, married Procnis, a nymph of Artemis; train. As a wedding gift, Artemis gave to Cephalus, an avid hunter, hounds and a spear, guaranteed to hit its mark. Eos, Goddess of the Dawn, fell in love wit
h Cephalus, but Cephalus would only remain true to Procnis. Angry, Eos went to Procnis, telling her that Cephalus had been untrue.
Thinking that Cephalus had been true, but wanting to reassure herself, Procnis followed Cephalus in his next hunt. Cephalus, in th emidst of the hunt, paused to rest, as was his custom. He spoke aloud to the wind, saying...
...come, sweet breeze, fan my breast...
Procnis, hiddes in the brush, thought he was speaking to a maiden, and started sobbing. Cephalus heard noises in the bushes, and, thinking it was a wild animal, hurled his unerring spear, mortally wounding Procnis.
Procnis' dying words were that Cephalus not marry his "sweet breeze"
Hero and Leander
Between Asia and Europe in the area of, what is now, Asia Minor lies the "Hellespont", or strait. He fell in love with a priestess of Aphrodite, Hero, who lived on the European side of the strait. Since she was a priestess, Hero could not openly have a romantic relatinoship, but due to love, they carried on a secret affair, where he would nightly swim across to the European side, to visit his love. She would hang a light in the tower to guide the swim of her beloved Leander.
One night, a tempest suddenly arose during his nightly swim, blowing out the guiding lamp, and causing Leander to drown. His body washed up on the European shore of the strait, and was found by his love, Hero. She leapt to her death from the tower, not wanting to live without him. An interesting note of this famous myth is that the English poet, Lord Byron, swan the Heleespont to prove the feasibility of this feat. After doing so, Byron wrote the words exemplifying the theme of love ocurring, in spite of insurmountable difficulties, sometimes ending in tragedy; He could not see, he would not hear
Or sound or sign foreboding fear;
Narcissus and Echo
Echo, a beautiful forest nymph, incurred the wrath of the goddess Hera. Hera was investigating the possibility of Zeus having an affair with one of the forest numphs, and Echo had unknowingly detained her in conversation, having to have the last word, as was her habit.
Hera punished Echo for his delay, by condemning her to only be able to repeat the last words of the person with whom she was speaking. Shortly thereafter, Echo became smitten with a handsome amn, Narcissus. Narcissus, however, rejected her. Echo, in dejection, wasted away, so that only her voice remains in the hills, to repeat the last words of others (hence, the word, 'echo'). Before completely vanishing, Echo asked for Aphrodite to punish Narcissus by forcing him to fall in love with someone who would not return his love. Aphrodite granted Echos's wish. She made Narcissus fall in love with his own reflection in th
e water, so much that he would stop eating, so he continuosly look at his reflection.
Eventually, he, too, wasted away, and was transformed by the gods into a floweer, which today, lives by quiet pools, and is called the 'narcissus'. Also, the adjective 'narcisstis' is retained in the English language to imply excess self-love, derived from this myth.
Atalanta and Meleager
Meleager, son of King Oeaneus of Calydon and Queen Althea, was visited by the Fates shortly after being born. They told Athea that Meleager would only live as long as the log in the fireplace remained intact. Immediately, Althea snatched the log from the fireplace, and hid it in a safe place. Meleager grew up to be a brave warrior, participating in the quest for the Golden Fleece, with the other Argonauts. Shortly after returning home, Meleager found that his hometown of Calydon was being ravaged by a wild boar, sent by Artemis because King Oeneus had forgotten to sacrifice to her. Enlisting the aid of the other Argonauts, as well as a notable female huntress, Atalanta, Meleager set out to capture, and kill the boar. Atalantawas the first to wound the boar, and Meleager finally dealt the animal its death blow.
By awarding to Atalanta the boar's hide, Meleager incited the anger of his uncles.** . Meleager killed them both, after a prolonged battle. Meleager's mother, Althea, did not know what to do. She was torn between remorse for the death of her two brothers, and anger at her son. After much indecision, Althea fetched the log, or brand, from its hiding place, and threw it into the fire. Meleager, as predicted by the Fates, perished shortly thereafter. Althea then hung herself.
Today, an "Althea's brand" is an object which, if revealed, may bring harm, or actual downfall, of a person.
Atalanta and Hippomenes
Atalanta, after being born, was abandoned on a hillside by her father, because he had wanted a male heir. She was raised by bears, and developed excellent hunting skills. not being interested in marriage. As previously stated, she was instrumental in killing the Calydonian boar. After this exploit became known to her father, he brought his daughter home , and planned to have her marry. Atalanta, though, had no interest, but to satisfy her father, agreed that she would wed anyone that could beat her in a footrace. If she won, the loser would be beheaded, and his head place on a pole around the racecourse.
Many died in this manner. Hippomenes, an onlooker in many of the races, resolved to win the hand of Atalanta by beating her. He prayed to Aphrodite, who liked to see marriage and love occur, for help. Aphrodite complied, giving to Hippomenes three golden apples, with which to distract Atalanta during the race.
The race began, and Hippomenes tossed the golden apples off the race course during strategic times, which Atalanta would retrieve to inspect. In this way, Hippomenes won the race, and the hand of Atalanta in marriage.
But, tragically, Hippomenes forgot to sacrifice to Aphrodite, and both he and his wife were transformed into lions for this transgression, forever destined to pull a chariot of the gods.
Glaucus and Scylla
Glaucus was originally a simple fisherman. However, he was converted into a minor sea-god, by accidentally eating a special fish. In this form, he fell in love with a beautiful maiden, Scylla, who did not return his love.
Frustated, Glaucus went to soceress, Circe, for her help. But Circe, herself, fell in love with Glaucus, and became determined to harm her rival in Glaucus' affection, Scylla. Circe concocted a special potion, which she placed into the water in which Scylla bathed. After bathing in this poisoned water, Scylla was converted into a monster with six heads, and twelve feet. This monster took refuge in a cave in the straits of Messina, between Italy and Sicily. There, in ancient times, she plagued, along with the whirpool named Charybdis, passing ships. Scylla was eventually converted into a rock, which is a hazard today to passing ships, in the straits of Messina.
Today, the phrase "theading a course between Scylla and Charybdis" means negociating a path between two different dangers at the same time, trying not to fall prey to either one.
Alpheus and Arethusa
Arethusa was a nymph in the train of Artemis. She, like Artemis, was only interested in pursuits of the forest, like hunting, and not in romance. One day, while bathing in a river in western Greece, she was suddenly confronted with a river god, Alpheus, who had become infatuated with her. Fearful, Arethusa fled, praying to Artemis for help. Artemis converted her into a spring, which still exists today in Sicily.
It is said that Alpheus, now a river in western Greece, communicates subterraneously with this spring in faraway Sicily, to commemorate the love that the river god, Alpheus, has for the nymph Arethusa.
Baucis and Philemon
Zeus frequently visited villages in disguise, to see how mortals were treating each other. On this particular trip, he was accompanied by his good friend, Hermes. They travelled to the area of Asia Minor known as Phrygia, dressed as beggars.
The first thousand homes were inhospitable to the gods dressed as beggars. Finally they came upon the humble abode of Baucis and Philemon, who heartily opened their home to the strangers. Even though they did not have much, they did everything to make the "beggars" confortable, giving them the best food they had in the house.
But Baucis and Philemon noticed something strange; Even though they all had drank much wine, the level in the decanter from which they had poured had not gone down. It was then that they realized they were in the precense of gods. The old couple begged for forgiveness for not being able to give the gods more.But Zeus knew how generous they had been, with that they had. Therefore, led them outside the thatched hut, where they saw that Zeus had caused a flood to cover the entire village, in return for the inhospitable behavior to the 'beggars'.
Zeus then converted the hut to a white shining temple, and told the couple that he wopuld grant whatever two wishes they wanted. True to their generous, humble nature, the coupled asked to serve the gods as priest and priestess in the temple, and that they be able to die together, when the time came. Years later, when standing in front of their temple , they noticed that each was sprouting leaves and branches. The time had come for them to die together, and they were happy
. It is for this reason that there is an oak and a linden tree, side-by-side, on a hillside in Phrygia, today.
Ceyx and Alcyon
Ceyx was king of Thessaly, married to Alcyon, a daughter of the King of Winds, Aeolus. This couple angered the Gods by calling each other Zeus and Hera. Punishment was soon to follow.
Ceyx became worried because his brother had died under strange circunstances. He became determined to find out exactly why . Therefore, he readied to go to Delphi, to ascertain the reason from the gods in their oracle there.
Alcyon, sensing something ominuos, begged Ceyx not to go. But he did go. His ship was caught in a storm , and Ceyx drowned. Alcyon, anxiously awaiting his return, prayed to Hera for his safety.
Hera, feeling sorry for Alcyone, sent Iris, her messenger, to visit the god Sleep, to somehow alert Alcyone of Ceyx's fate. Sleep, in turn, sent her son Morpheus, who had the ability to assume any formed wished. Morpheus changed into the form of Ceyx in a dream that appeared to Alcyon, telling her that Ceyx had drowned.
Alcyon rushed to the shore, where she found the corpse of Ceyx, floating on the gentle waves. Despondent, Alcyon leapt into the sea, where she was immediately transformed by the gods into a kingfisher, as was subsequently done also with her husband, so that they were together, once again. It is said that kingfishers mate during a calm time in the Mediterranean Sea, known as the 'Halcyon Days', named after the queen, Alcyon. The sea is tranquil for a few weeksat this time, since Alcyon's father, Aeolus, the King of Winds, exerts his influence to becalm the winds for his daughter.
Pyramus and Thisbe
Pyramus and Thisbe were two neigboring Assyrians , living in adjoining houses. They fell in love, but were forbidden by their families marry. They secretely whispered to each other through cracks in the coomon wall between their houses, and eventually made plans to elope. They planned to meet on anearby hill, under a white mulberry tree, near a spring.
Thisbe, the wife-to-be, arrived, arrived first at the designated rendevous. She became startled at the site of a lioness, whose jaws had been bloodied from a recent kill, and who was quenching its thrist at the spring. Thisbe fled, dropping her veil. The lioness came upon her veil, tearing it to shreads, before continuing on.
Pyramus the arrived on the scene, to find Thisbe's bloodied veil. Thinking that Thisbe had been killed, and that he had been directly responsible for her death , he plunged a knife into his breast, spraying the white mulberry tree with his blood.
Thisbe returned to find the dying Pyramus. Wanting to join him in death, she also committed suicide. Today, the red mulberry tree is amemorial to their death.