Tales of Lovers
Tales of Lovers are concern with myths about love and tragedy. Most of the stories found here come from the work called Metamorphoses by the Roman writer named Ovid, except for the tale of Cupid and Psyche, which was only known through Lucius Apuleius, in the Golden Ass.
|Hephaestus (Vulcan), the smith and craftsman of the gods, was married to Aphrodite (Venus), the goddess of love and beauty.
It was not a happy marriage, because they had no children and Aphrodite was an unfaithful wife, having children with gods and mortals. (Hephaestus was also unfaithful, too.)
Helius, the sun god see most things during the day, as he drove his sun chariot across the sky. It was one of those days that Helius witnessed Aphrodite taking her lover in her bed, while Hephaestus was absent. Helius easily recognised Ares. So Helius went and informed Hephaestus of his wife had cuckolded him.
Hephaestus decided to take revenge on the lovers. The crippled craftsman created an invisible net, which he set over the beautiful bed. Informing his wife that he was going to the island of Lemnos for a while, Aphrodite saw this as an opportunity to spend time having sex with Ares during her husband’s absence.
Once Hephaestus left their home, Ares sneaked into the house and in bed with the naked goddess. In the midst of their lovemaking, the net fell upon them, trapping them in net they couldn’t break free.
Hephaestus immediately walked back to his bedchamber with a host of other gods to witness the disgraced pair. Only the male Olympians appeared, while the goddesses stayed in Olympus, preferring not to witness such indecency. The smith god blamed both of his parents for his marriage to Aphrodite. Hephaestus announced that he would not release them until they return the gifts he had given to Zeus and Hera.
The two younger Olympians, Apollo and Hermes were amused at the humiliation of the naked war god and love goddess. They compared Hephaestus to the tortoise that defeated the hare (Ares) in a race. Hephaestus has certainly outwitted Ares. Hermes admitted that he wouldn’t mind being in Ares’ place, if he could bed with the love goddess, regardless of the consequences.
Only Poseidon wasn’t amused with his two nephews’ jests. Poseidon tried to persuade Hephaestus to release the adulterous pair. At first, Hephaestus refused the request, because he wanted to extract the most out of his revenge, until Poseidon promised that he would pair their fines, if no else will.
Hephaestus released his wife and her love. Ares immediately fled to Thrace, while Aphrodite went to Paphos at the island of Cyprus, where the Graces bathed the love goddess in a sacred pool, before massaging oil on her flawless body.
The Roman poet, Ovid, give us a slightly different ending to this amusing tale.
When Poseidon (as Neptune) saw Aphrodite’s naked beauty, he was filled with lust for the love goddess. So Poseidon’s motive for urging Hephaestus to release his wife was really motivated by self-interest, not to appease the cuckolded husband.
Aphrodite repaid Poseidon by sleeping with him, so she became the mother of Eryx, an Argonaut who sailed with Jason.
Poseidon wasn’t the only god who desired her. Ovid continued the story with Hermes also gaining her favour, and became mother of Hermaphroditus (see Hermaphroditus and Salmacis).
Aphrodite didn’t forget to punish the informer, the sun god Helius. Helius had loved a nymph, named Clytie. Aphrodite made Helius fall in love with another girl, named Leucothoe, daughter of Orchamus king of Persia.
Clytie became jealous of her rival, so she spread a rumour so that Orchamus thought his daughter was seduced by a mortal lover. Orchamus buried Leucothoe alive. Helius vainly tried to save her.
Helius abandoned Clytie, who was madly in love with Helius, lay on the ground, watching his chariot drive through the sky, for nine days, until she wasted away and died.
Leucothoe was transformed into sweet-smelling shrub, while Clytie was turned into heliotrope, where the head of flower always faced the sun during the course of the day.
|According to the earliest mention of Adonis (Ἄδωνις) in the Catalogues of Women (attributed to Hesiod), as well as in Apollodorus’ Library, Adonis was the son of Phoenix and Alphesiboea. But the Catalogues of Women doesn’t speak of his life and death.
Apollodorus also mentioned other possible parents for Adonis. Adonis could possibly be the son of Cinyras, son of Megassares, and of Metharme, daughter of Pygmalion. Adonis also has a brother, named Oxyporos, and three sisters – Orsedice, Laogore and Braisia. His sisters slept with foreigners and lived their lives in Egypt, as punishment from Aphrodite.
But Apollodorus favoured Theias, king of Assyria, being his father, while his mother was Smyrna, Theias’ own daughter. The Roman poet, Ovid, called his father Cinyras, and his mother Myrrha, who was Cinyras’ daughter. The names of Smyrna and Myrrha are the same, and means “myrrha tree”. Whoever was Adonis’ parents, the tales of Apollodorus and Ovid were the same: his daughter had slept with her own father, and the gods hid her from her father’s murderous rage by changing her into a myrrh tree. I will mainly use Ovid, as my source, but will also refer to Apollodorus, where the two versions differ.
According to Apollodorus, Aphrodite punished Smyrna because of her failure to honour her, so the goddess made the girl fall in love with her own father. With the help of a nurse, Smyrna slept with her father.
When the father discovered that the girl he had being sleeping with, was his own daughter, in both grief and anger, she pursued his daughter with a sword. The gods save the girl (Myrrha or Smyrna), pregnant from her father’s seed, by changing her into myrrha tree.
See Myrrha (Smyrna) in the Wrath of Heaven, for the tragic tale of her and her father.
Ten months later, the myrrh tree split opened, revealing a child. The goddess Aphrodite (Venus), who was most likely responsible for Myrrha’s incestuous passion for her father, fell in love with the newborn boy, whom she named Adonis. She secretly hid the child in the chest from the gods, giving the infant to Persephone to care for.
However, Persephone also fell in love with child, when she opened the chest, and refused to give the boy up to Aphrodite. Their father, Zeus, settled the bitter dispute between the two goddesses. Zeus judged that Adonis would live a third of his life as he wished; a third in the Underworld with Persephone, and the other third with Aphrodite. Adonis actually spends his free time with the other third with Aphrodite.
According to another Roman author, Hyginus, Zeus had the Muse Calliope as the judge in the dispute between Aphrodite and Persephone, who decreed that Adonis should spend half of the year with each goddess. Aphrodite was furious with the decision, stirred trouble among the Maenads, who murdered the Thracian singer, Orpheus, Calliope’s son.
When he grew into a beautiful young man, Adonis spent most of his time, out hunting in the woods, with Aphrodite as his companion. Apollodorus mentioned that Artemis was angry with Adonis, and had sent a wild boar to kill Adonis, while he was still a boy, probably because Aphrodite had caused the death of Hippolytus, son of Theseus. But later Apollodorus mentioned that he was killed when he was a young man.
Ovid elaborated further the second scenario. Eros or Cupid had accidentally nicked Aphrodite with one of his arrows her white breast, which caused her to fall in love with Adonis. Aphrodite followed Adonis in his hunting trip, often tried to dissuade him from hunting wild animals in the woods. Aphrodite left the youth, in her chariot pulled by swans, heading towards Cyprus. But the young man refused to heed her warning.
Adonis tracked down a boar, wounding it with a spear. Enraged at being wounded, the wild boar pursued and fatally wounded Adonis in the groins with its slashing tusks. Before Aphrodite reached her island, she heard Adonis dying groan. Distraught, Aphrodite returned quickly to her young lover, but couldn’t save Adonis. She found him lying in a pool of blood.
To ensure that Adonis will not be forgotten, she decreed that a festival, Adonia, would be held that will re-enact his death. Aphrodite had also caused blood-red flower, called anemone, to spring from the Adonis’ blood.
|Originally, this myth was placed under the Roman Deities, under the article of Cupid (Eros, Ἔρως), but I have now moved the article to this page. I have completely revised and rewritten this myth, so it can be told more fully. The only source for this myth about Cupid and Psyche come from one source: Lucius Apuleius in the Golden Ass.
In an unidentified kingdom, the worship of Venus (Aphrodite) was fading away, because the populace thought that the king’s youngest daughter, Psyche (Ψυχή), was more beautiful than the goddess of love and beauty. The populace began to worship the princess as a goddess.
Though, Psyche didn’t ask for this attention from her father’s subjects, the goddess was jealous over the girl usurping her divine position. She called upon her son, Cupid (Eros), the god of love, to make sure no one would marry the young princess, and that she would fall in love with a monster.
However, he had instantly fallen in love with Psyche, the moment Cupid saw the mortal princess. Cupid wanted to marry the mortal girl, so he made arrangement that she would have him.
The king, Psyche’s father, became concerned that many come to worship her daughter, but no suitors would dare ask for the hand in marriage. Her father went to an oracle in Miletus, but heard that his daughter must be left in the mountain, where an evil being (demon or monster) would take his daughter as his wife.
The king and Psyche’s two sisters sorrowfully left Psyche on a high, rocky hill; she bravely waiting for her demonic suitor. She met no one she could see, when Zephyrus, god of the west wind, took her and spirited her off to her new husband’s home.
Instead of demon’s lair in a dark cave, she was surprise to see that her new home was a palace, larger and more splendid than her father’s palace. Her needs were served by invisible servants. Her meals were more delicious than any she had ever tasted.
That first night, her came husband came to her, but she couldn’t see him in the darkness. At first, she felt fear, but his presence reassured her. Her husband (Cupid) told her that this home was hers, and that he loved her. However, he warned her that she must not look upon him in the light.
After the night of pleasure, her husband left in the morning, but each night, he would visit her again, each time in bed under the cover of darkness. Psyche had never seen her invisible husband, nor knew his name.
Psyche had fallen pregnant. Cupid informed her that if she does look upon him before their child is born, then the baby would be mortal. The child would only be immortal if she doesn’t see his face until after birth.
On the fourth night, her husband informed her that her sisters were looking for her on the hill where they had last seen her, thinking that she was dead. Her lover told her that she must not ever see her family again. Though, Psyche enjoyed her time with her new husband, and was happy, she began to pine for her home, and she missed her father and her two sisters. She complained bitterly night after night that she was lonely and that she missed her sisters.
Finally, her invisible husband relented, allowing the two sisters to visit her in the palace. The West Wind (Zephyrus) brought Psyche’s sisters to her home. When her sisters arrived in the magical palace, they were enviously astonished to see the luxury their younger sister enjoyed, and were truly jealous of Psyche’s good fortune.
The two sisters were astonished that heard the reasons why Psyche has neither seen her husband nor know his name. They both secretly wished ill fortune for their youngest sister; they were jealous of her sister’s wealth and secretly hashed a plot to discover his identity and ending his sister’s marriage. Each was motivated that this unknown god would marry her, if he divorced Psyche.
On their second visit, the two sisters told Psyche that she should try to find the identity of her husband, because it was said that he was a monster or demon. Why else would her husband not want her to see him, her jealous sisters told her. If he was a demon, then Psyche should kill the creature.
Psyche finally having misgiving about her marriage decided to act upon her sisters’ advice. While her husband slept in their bed that night, Psyche fetched an oil lamp and a knife; she was determined to see what monstrous husband she had married and slay him in his sleep.
Trembling she held oil lamp in one hand and a knife ready to plunge into her husband’s heart, as she approached the bed. But what she saw in the light, was not a horrifying creature from the depth of hell, but a beautiful young man with golden wings. At the sight of her husband, she forgot that she was holding the oil lamp in her hand, and spilled a drop of hot oil on to his shoulder.
Her husband woke in pain, and saw that his wife had betrayed him. The love god left Psyche. Cupid returned to his mother in Olympus. Psyche was distraught that she had lost her husband, who was none other than Cupid the god of love.
Upon hearing that that Psyche’s husband was a god and he had deserted their sister, the two selfish sisters returned to the crag, each hoping that he would take her as his wife. Both sisters leaped off hill, believing that Zephyrus would carry them to Cupid’s palace. Instead they fell to their death.
Psyche blamed herself for not trusting her husband, because she was a naive girl. She had lost Cupid because of her curiosity and disobedience. She was determined to win her husband back. She prayed to Juno and Ceres, but they didn’t answer, not did Cupid returned. She was hoping that by serving Cupid’s mother as a servant or slave, Cupid would love her once more.
What Psyche didn’t realise is that Venus hated her. The goddess had not forgotten that people from far away have abandoned her, and started worshipping Psyche. She was doubly upset that her son had slept with her mortal rival, begetting a child in Psyche. Now that the foolish girl had burned her son, Venus was determined to punish the girl.
Venus set Psyche a series of seemingly impossible tasks. In one task, she had to sort a roomful of different grains by nightfall. In this, a colony of ants helped Psyche sort the various grains in neat piles. Her next task involved gaining wool from a flock of deadly sheep that could kill any man or woman. The reeds advised Psyche that she could gather the wool that clung to bushes, instead of waking the sheep from their afternoon sleep.
Despite Psyche’s success, Venus set increasingly her more difficult task. She had to fetch the deadly water from the river Styx that flow out from the precipice of Mount Aroanius. She thought that she would die this time. This time, an eagle of Jupiter (Zeus) came to her aid. Taking jar from Psyche, the eagle flew and filled the jar with the water from Styx.
Angry at her success, Venus demanded that Psyche fetch the make-up box from Proserpina (Persephone), the goddess of the Underworld. No mortal could hope to enter the World of the Dead and return. She wanted to end her life now, since there was no hope of her returning or winning Cupid back. She would have leaped off the high tower, but the building spoke, giving her instruction of how to succeed in this quest and return safely. The tower warned her not to open the box containing Proserpina’s ointment.
Psyche entered the Underworld prepared. She crossed the Styx, paying Charon his toll of one obol (coin). She gave sweet honey cakes to the three-headed hound, Cerberus, so that she could pass through the gate of Hades. When she came to Hades’ House, Psyche did as she was instructed to, refusing to sit on the chair and only accepting bread and no other food on the table.
Proserpina then filled the box with her cosmetics. She returned the same way she had come, giving more cakes to Cerberus and another coin to Charon. By the time, she had reached the upper world, exiting the cave at Taenarum.
Once again, her curiosity had brought disaster to her. She had forgotten the tower’s src=”../https://www.timelessmyths.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ing about opening the box. She thought if she applied some small amount of cosmetic, she could possibly win back her husband. The moment she opened the cosmetic box, she had fallen into a deep slumber.
By this time, Cupid shoulder had healed, and he forgot his anger with his wife’s curiosity and disobedience, flew off from home, to find Psyche. He was still in love with her.
Cupid found her, and woke her from her unnatural slumber. Psyche was happy that her husband had forgiven her. Cupid sends her off to his mother and completed her last quest, while Cupid went to Olympus and appealed to Jupiter (Zeus), to make his wife immortal. Jupiter agreed.
Cupid and Psyche lived happily ever after, and became the parents of a daughter named Volupta (“Pleasure”).
As it can be seen in this tale of Cupid and Psyche, it has all the elements of a fairy tale. The magical palace with invisible servants; how creature of all sorts helped her in her seemingly impossible quests. Talking reeds and tower, giving sagacious advice to the naive girl. And lastly, the happy ending.
It is quite possible that this tale did influence later fairy tales.
|Orpheus (Ὀρφεύς) was the greatest mortal musician in Greek myths. Orpheus was the son of the Muse Calliope. His father was either the god Apollo or Oeagrus, the king of Thrace.
Even though he may have the son of the Thracian king, Apollo, who was the greatest musician of the gods, taught him how to play the lyre. Like Apollo, Orpheus’ favourite instrument was the lyre. Calliope and her sisters taught her son the song. His music and voice were so enchanting that wild animal would become tame and the trees and rocks would follow him.
Orpheus was one of the Argonauts who had accompanied Jason in the quest of the Golden Fleece. His music helped to soothe the wearied his comrades, in their long journey. Orpheus most vital role in the Argonautica was that he saved his comrades from the songs of the Sirens. Such was the powerful of his music and voice that he drowned out the songs of Sirens, allowing their ship to pass the island.
His love was tragically short. Orpheus fell in love with a nymph, named Eurydice (Εὐρυδίκη). According to Ovid, she was a naiad (water nymph), but to Virgil, Eurydice was a dryad (tree nymph). Their marriage was short, when a minor pastoral god named Aristaeüs (Aristaeus), lustfully pursued after the nymph. A snake bit Eurydice’s ankle when she stepped on the snake. Eurydice died from the venom.
Orpheus mourned over the loss of his wife. The hero was determined to win back his wife from Hades. With his lyre he descended down towards the Underworld. His music made all the spirits to come and listen. Even those condemned to eternal punishment (like Sisyphus and Tantalus) forgot their torments. Orpheus crossed the Styx without paying Charon for toll on the ferry. The three-headed hound Cerberus allowed Orpheus to pass through the gates without challenge. His song even moved Hades, the lord of the dead, who listened to the music with his wife Persephone.
When Hades heard why Orpheus had come to the world of the dead, the sombre god agreed that Orpheus could have his wife back, on the condition that Orpheus should not look back until they reached the earth surface. According to Virgil, in Georgics, it was Proserpina, the Roman Persephone, who returns Eurydice to Orpheus with this condition.
Orpheus was both joyful and anxious if his wife was following him to his surface. His anxiety made him look back too soon, when he reached the surface. Eurydice was just inside of the cavern entrance, when he turned back to look at his wife. Eurydice was instantly returned to Underworld.
Orpheus was barred from entering the Underworld for the second time, while he was still alive. Orpheus had no choice but to return home. According to Apollodorus, who wrote that it was at this time that Orpheus founded the mysteries of Dionysus. This could only mean Orphic Mysteries.
In Thrace, Orpheus would sit on a rock in the meadow, playing mournful tunes over the loss of his wife. The maenads, the women followers of the wine god Dionysus, wanted the musician to play music of revelry. Orpheus continued to play of music of sorrow. The angry women violently tore him to pieces with their bare hands. The alternative ending was that he was tore apart by the maenads when Orpheus rejected their love.
However, the story ended, the Muses mourned over the death of Orpheus. The Muses gathered the pieces of his body and buried in Piera, Macedonia. The constellation of the Kneeler or Engonasin (the constellation is now called Hercules) had probably represented Orpheus kneeling, while the Thracian women attacked him. Most likely the Muses placed his lyre in the sky as the constellation Lyra.
There are many variations on Orpheus’ death, including in art work. According to some representation in Greek arts, the maenads didn’t kill the bard by rending; the women had used spears, swords and stones to kill him.
The Greek geographer mentioned several possible death of Orpheus. In one unusual account, a thunderbolt had killed Orpheus, because he knew too much about the secrets of the Underworld, which Orpheus revealed in his cultic mysteries. In another he was in Aornos in Thesprotia, and the loss of his wife caused him to commit suicide. Yet, in another version, took place in Dion, a city on Macedonian side of Mount Pieria. The women of Dion murdered him. When the women went to wash their bloody hands in the river Helikon, the stream drained itself underground. The river god Helikon didn’t want the women to use his water to purify murderers.
According to the late classical and Hellenistic religion, known as the “Orphic” cult was based on the poems and songs of Orpheus. His poems and songs were supposed to have formed the foundation of the Orphic texts and belief, though these texts are definitely pseudepigraphical.
Unlike the cults of Dionysus, the Orphic cult required individual abstinent from eating meat, drinking wine and from sexual intercourse. The main objective of this cult is for believers to live righteous life so they could enter Elysium. Yet, the text on Orphic cult revealed the importance of the god Dionysus in part of the creation.
According to the Argonautica, Apollonius wrote that Orpheus sang a song about the Creation that was different from the one told by Hesiod in the Theogony and Works and Days.
One of the most ritual practices in the Orphic cult was mimed dismemberment of limbs; just as the Thracian women had torn off the limbs of Orpheus. Though, there have been some reports of actual dismemberment occurring during such rites.
|Echo (Ἠχώ) was a mountain nymph from Mount Helicon. She appeared in the Homeric Hymn to Pan, where her wails could be heard from the mountain-top.
Echo was an attendant of the goddess Hera, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Echo helped Zeus to hide his frequent dalliance with other nymphs, by her endless chatter, to distract and detain Hera, allowing the nymphs to escape from her wrath. When Hera discovered this subterfuge that Echo was involved in, Hera made Echo suffered from a strange speech impediment. Echo could only repeat the last words from another person.
Like many other nymphs, Echo fell in love with a beautiful youth named Narcissus (Νάρκισσος). Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Leiriope. Teiresias first foretelling was about Narcissus’ fate, when Leiriope asked the seer if he would live a long life. Teiresias only reply that only if Narcissus doesn’t come to know himself. The prophecy came true, though no one understood the seer’s seemingly harmless reply.
However, Narcissus spurned all their advances. Among those whom he had spurns was Echo. Echo wasted away in her longing for Narcissus. Only her voice remained in the mountain.
One day, one scorned admirer of Narcissus, prayed to the goddess Nemesis, to punish the cold-hearted youth.
When Narcissus went to a spring for a drink of water, Nemesis made Narcissus to fall in love with himself. Narcissus would not leave the spot as he looked longingly at his own reflection. Narcissus also pined away from longing.
Shortly after his death, Narcissus was transformed into flower, a yellow centre around white petals.
|Pygmalion (Πυγμαλίων) was the king of Cyprus, and was the father of Metharme. Pygmalion had married his daughter to Cinyas. Not much was known about Pygmalion until Ovid decided to put romantic theme about the king. Instead of being a king, Ovid made Pygmalion into a young sculptor from Cyprus.
Pygmalion could not find any mortal woman he wanted to marry. Pygmalion began carving marble of his ideal woman. This sculpture became his obsessions. When he had finished, Pygmalion had made the perfect woman, both in beauty and grace. Pygmalion would dress the statue in fine dress, each morning. Pygmalion had fallen madly in love with the beautiful statue, which he named Galatea (Γαλάτεια).
Pygmalion began to despair when he could find no woman to match the beauty of the statue he created. Pygmalion prayed to Aphrodite to help him find the woman who looked like his statue. Aphrodite answered the sculptor’s prayer.
One day, Pygmalion kissed the statue on the lips. He found to his astonishment that the lips gradually became soft and warm. Gradually, the entire marble became flesh and bone. Galatea had become a living person.
Pygmalion married Galatea and became the father of a daughter named Paphos. And, oh yeah. They lived happily ever after.
Depending on the sources, Pygmalion was either grandfather or father-in-law of Cinyras.
|Procris (Πρόκρις) was the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens. Procris was the sister of Cecrops, Butes, Creusa, Oreithyia and other unnamed sisters.
Cephalus (Κέφαλος) was the son of Deion, the king of Phocis, and Diomede, daughter of Xuthus. Cephalus came to Athens and successfully wooed Procris.
According to Apollodorus, Procris was an unfaithful wife. One day, Cephalus discovered Procris in bed with her lover, Pteleon. Procris fled to Crete, where Minos fell in love with her. Minos gave her Laelaps, the magical hound that always catches it prey, and an infallible javelin that never miss its mark. Procris fearing the magic of Pasiphae, the wife of Minos, she returned to Athens.
Cephalus and Procris were reconciled, and Procris knowing that her husband loved to hunt, gave Laelaps and the infallible spear to Cephalus. They had a son named Arcesius, who was the father of Laertes.
In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Cephalus was out hunting a couple months after their marriage. Eos, the goddess of dawn, saw him in the woods, fell in love with him, and spirited him away to her home.
Eos tried to seduce Cephalus, which he rejected the goddess’ love. Seeing that she could not win his love, she set him free. However, Eos managed to sow seed of doubt over his wife’s faithfulness. Eos transformed him so that no one would recognise him. Cephalus thought to test his wife’s love and loyalty to him.
Returning home, Procris was weeping over her husband’s absence. Cephalus appeared to him disguised as a stranger. Cephalus foolishly tested her by trying to seduce her and offer her gold. Procris seduce the apparent stranger’s advances, yet when she only slightly hesitated, Cephalus revealed his true identity. Enraged, he accused his wife of being unfaithful to him.
Overwhelmed by his accusation, she fled from home and joined Artemis, as one of goddess’ companions. According to this version, it was Artemis gave Procris the hound Laelaps and the infallible spear.
Cephalus was still in love with her, and realising of his error in accusing his wife, he went to find Procris and apologise to her. The two were reconciled, Procris returned home with her husband.
Whichever version you have read, the ending was the same. They were happy, until one day, he went hunting. Procris followed her husband and hid in one of thickets. See movement in the thicket, Cephalus hurled the magic spear. Cephalus had killed his wife with the very gift that she gave to him.
Cephalus was grief-stricken. Cephalus was put on trial for Procris’ death at Areopagus, and was banished from Athens. Cephalus went to Thebes, where he befriended Amphitryon, the stepfather of Heracles. Cephalus loaned Amphitryon his hound, Laelaps, because Amphitryon was hunting the Teumessus Vixen. Amphitryon gave Cephalus a large island, which he named Cephallenia, which he ruled.
|Ceyx (Κήυξ) was the son of Eosphorus (Lucifer in the Roman myth, meaning “Morning Star”). Ceyx was also the brother of Daedalion. Ceyx told the hero Peleus of the fates of his brother and Chione, the daughter of Daedalion. Ceyx was the king of Trachis, a region in southern Thessaly.
Heracles left Calydon with a new wife, Deïaneira, and lived with Ceyx, in friendship. Heracles had aided Ceyx in the war against the Dryopes and the Lapiths. However, Ceyx could not protect the children of Heracles (Heraclids) against Eurystheus, the powerful king of Mycenae and Tiryns. Ceyx advised Iolaus and the Heraclids to seek refuge at Athens.
Peleus was exiled from Aegina, for murdering his half brother, Phocus. Phocus was the son of Aeacus and the Nereid Psamathe, sister of Thetis. Ceyx was attending his brother’s funeral when Peleus arrived in his court as suppliant.
While as a guest of Ceyx, Peleus’ cattle were attack by a giant wolf, sent by Psamathe. Ceyx would have hunted the wolf with Peleus, but Ceyx’s wife, Alcyone, pleaded with her husband not to go.
It was his prayer to Thetis (Peleus’ future wife) that she persuaded her sister Psamathe to pardon Peleus for the murder. Psamathe transformed the wolf into stone.
Ceyx wanted to find out how his brother had died, from the oracle at Delphi. Rather then journey by land where he will encounter enemies, he decided to go by sea.
Alcyone felt foreboding over her husband’s journey, so she tried to dissuade him from travelling to Delphi by ship. Ceyx refused to let his wife go with him on the voyage, and promised to return within two months. Alcyone was miserable and depressed, weeping over her husband’s absence.
Ovid gives a long account of how the storm wrecked Ceyx’s ship. The ship sank because of the violent sea. Throughout Ceyx’s ordeal, Ceyx’s thought was fixed on his wife. Ceyx could not swim to safety, before one last wave pounded and drowned him.
Every day and night, Alcyone prayed to Hera for her husband’s safe return. Her prayers were muttered in vain. Before the end of the second month, Hera sent Morpheus to Alcyone.
Morpheus arrived in Alcyone’ dream, in the form of her dead husband. Morpheus told Alcyone how her real husband drowned. When she woke, Alcyone was inconsolable. The gods taking pity on Alcyone, so they transformed her and her husband into kingfishers or halcyons.
A less romantic version of the fate of Ceyx and Alcyone is found in Apollodorus’ work. The gods had transformed Ceyx into a sea swallow and Alcyone into a kingfisher or halcyon, as the sign of wrath and punishment, not out of pity. Ceyx and Alcyone had dared to call themselves, Zeus and Hera.
|Pyramus (Πύραμος) and Thisbe (Θισβη) were lovers in Assyria. Their families were neighbours, but were rivals. Both families refused to allow them to marry. A wall was built to separate the two young lovers.
One day the pair agreed to meet at night at the tomb of King Ninus. Thisbe arrived early, and was frightened away by a young bloody lion. In her haste to flee from the lion, she had dropped her cloak. When Pyramus arrived, he thought the lion had killed Thisbe. In despair, Pyramus killed himself with his sword. A mulberry tree grew from the pool of his blood.
Thisbe returned to the tomb, to find her lover, dead. Inconsolable, Thisbe laid on top of Pyramus before using the same sword on herself. Their parents had them burnt on the same pyre, and placed in a single urn.
The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe was one of the works that inspired William Shakespeare to write the tragedy, called Romeo and Juliet.
|Here is another story that can only be found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. This was a story that Lelex, king of the Lelegians, told to Ixion, the impious king of the Lapiths.
Two gods Jupiter (Zeus) and his son Mercury (Hermes) had decided to visit the town disguised as two mortal suppliants. The two gods went into a small town in Phrygia. They go through every home seeking shelters and hospitality. Each household rudely turned the gods away.
Finally they arrived little old hut, where dwelled an elderly couple, named Baucis (Βαύκις) and Philemon (Φιλεμον). They welcomed the wearied travellers, treating their guests with their generosity and kindness. They shared their meagre meal with disguised gods.
The couple then became aware that the cups of wine that their guests drank remained full. Baucis and Philemon were awe-struck that their guests were divine. The gods asked them to follow them to the high hill. When the elderly couple looked behind them, they saw that the inhospitable town in the valley had vanished beneath a lake. The whole town was destroyed and only the cottage of Baucis and Philemon remain untouched.
The gods revealed their identity. The cottage was transformed into a temple. They were made priest and priestess of the temple.
Jupiter asked the couple of what boon they wished. The man and wife asked that they would live the rest of their lives together, and that they would die at the same instance, such was their love. Jupiter granted their wish.
Baucis and Philemon lived the rest of their lives, tending the temple, the moment when they were to die, the gods was gradually transforming them into trees. They said their last goodbye to one another, before the transformations were completed. The trees grew side by side.
|It is believed that this tale was originally written by Hellenistic poet in Alexandria, but it was now lost. The Roman poets of the 1st century BC, Virgil and Ovid had only briefly retold this legend. It wasn’t until the late 5th century, that it was fully treated in the Greek poem of Musaeus, titled Hero and Leander.
According to the legend, a young man, named Leander (Λέανδρος), from the city of Abydos in Mysia (Asia Minor), fell in love with the priestess of Aphrodite, named Hero (Ἡρώ). However, this priestess, whose name was Hero, lived in Sestos, on the other side of Hellespont.
Hero and Leander were determined to meet each night. At the tower in Aphrodite’s temple in Sestos, Hero would light a lamp. Leander used the lamp as his guide, so he could swim across the Hellespont. So each night, they would make love, before Leander had to swim back home at daybreak.
This affair continued, until one ill-fated night. It was now winter, where the winds and water were strong. Yet, as usual, Hero left the lamp in the tower while she waited for her lover. Unfortunately the wind blew out the flame in the lamp.
Leander was already having difficulty swimming across the Hellespont, because of the strong waves. When the lamp went out, the lover lost his way in the darkness, and drowned.
When Hero saw her lover’s body washed to the shore, she was grief-stricken. Hero leaped off the tower and plunged to her death. The locals found her body lying beside the body of Leander.
|In Crete, there was a man named Lidgus who desperately wanted a son, a man of humble family from the city of Phaestus. His wife, Telethusa, was pregnant. Lidgus declared that if his wife gives birth to a daughter, he would put the girl to death.
Her husband’s declaration upset Telethusa, but the Egyptian goddess, Io, daughter of Inachus (or Isis, wife of Oriris), appeared to her in a dream. Io gave her advice on how to save her daughter.
When she gave birth to a daughter, Telethusa had the nurse (midwife) declared that she had a son. Lidgus was overjoyed on having a son, called her Iphis (Ἶφις). We learned that Iphis was a name could be used for a boy or a girl.
Only Telethusa and the nurse know of Iphis’ secret sex, so the daughter was brought up as a boy.
When Iphis reached the age of thirteen, her father arranged the marriage between Iphis and Ianthe (Ἰάνθη), the beautiful daughter of Telestes. The two girls immediately fell in love with one another.
However, Iphis began to despair, as the coming wedding approaches. Iphis wondered, ‘How she could love another girl? How could they start a family?’
Likewise, Telethusa was terrified that her husband would find out their secret, so she postponed her daughter’s wedding, time after time, by making Iphis to fake some sort of illnesses.
Finally the wedding could not be postponed any longer. Telethusa and Iphis feared that Lidgus and Ianthe would find out about their secret. So Telethusa and her daughter prayed to Io or Isis for help. The goddess answered.
As Iphis walked down the aisle, towards her bride, the goddess gradually transformed the girl into a man. Iphis married Ianthe as man and wife, and Telethusa’s old secret was kept safe.
|Hermaphroditus (Ἑρμαφρόδιτος) was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. Hermaphroditus grew to be the most beautiful youth in the world at that time. The naiads (nymphs) had brought up Hermaphroditus at Mount Ida in Lycia.
One day, he left his home, arrived at the spring near Halicarnassus, in Caria. The spring was named after a nymph, named Salmacis. This nymph found madly in love with Hermaphroditus, but failed to seduce him. However, when he was bathing in her spring, Salmacis leaped upon the frightened youth, and clung to him, with arms and legs around his handsome body. Salmacis kissed the boy, who tried to fight her off.
Then, Salmacis prayed to the gods, so that they may never be separated from one another. The gods answered her prayed, by merging and fusing their bodies together.
To Hermaphroditus’ horror, his body now has woman’s breasts and a female genital, as well as his own male genital. Hermaphroditus was upset at this transformation when he emerged from the spring. He prayed to his father and his mother that any man or boy who bathes in this pool would suffer the same fate and transformation as he did: becoming half man, half woman.
This is where the name of hermaphrodite comes from, where a person has the genitals of two sexes. This very rare condition for human beings, and I have not heard of a case of someone being a hermaphrodite. It is more commonly found on plants and invertebrate animals (such as worms or snails).
|Here is another tale of a god loving a mortal youth that goes tragically wrong. Apollo was known to love several young men, most notably Hyacinthus, but here you will find a very short tale of Cyparissus (Κυπάρισσος).
Cyparissus was a boy in living on the island of Ceo. He has stag for a pet. Cyparissus loved this stag so much that he became inconsolable when he had accidentally killed it with his javelin.
Apollo tried everything to comfort Cyparissus, but to no avail. Apollo granted the boy’s wish: to mourn for his favourite stag, forever. Apollo transformed Cyparissus into a cypress tree.