So in the previous post, I said that I would pick 3 love stories which I think were the most beautiful ones in the ancient Greek Myth. I already started with my favorite romance of all time, Psyche and Cupid, now I continue with my 2nd pick..
2. Orpheus and Eurydice:
Orpheus was a a very unusual type of character in the Greek Mythology. While most of the tales were about immortal gods or muscular heroes who built their glories upon killing and conquering, Orpheus appeared to be the most peaceful male character in the whole legend. He was a musician, a mortal human being, who used his 9-string lyre and his amazing music talent as weapons, and actually those turned out to be invincible weapons. It was him, Orpheus, not Heracles, Ulysses (Odysseus) or any other famous heroes, that could tame the vicious Cerberus guarding the gate to the Underworld and defeated the Siren‘s bewitching songs to save the life of the Argo sailors. (Sirens: the mermaids in Greek Mythology that lived on three islands in the sea. They often floated on the water singing the praise of the ocean’s beauty to seduce sailors. Their voice was described to be irresistibly enthralling, and if sailors didn’t cover their ears when passing this area they would jump out of the ships to follow the sirens and end up drowning in the sea).
Generally speaking, the legend about Orpheus’s triumph over Sirens as well as the taming of Cerberus and other fierce animals shows the supreme power of music. Sometimes music has the might to enchant, to lure, to kill but in the end it’s still the healer, the peace maker, the conqueror without killing or blood. And that made Orpheus become one of the most influencing characters in the whole Greek Myth. Even now in this modern world we can still see and feel his power whenever we cry or smile with a melody that touches our heart and soul, because that was also what Orpheus did during his time on Earth: to touch deeply within people’s heart, and no, not just people but every creature, from the birds, the tigers to the trees, the rocks and the water.
Orpheus got married to a Nymph named Eurydice. The legend didn’t say how they fell in love, so again I guess the part about how they kept their love alive was more important. They had a happy and harmonious life together. Orpheus loved Eurydice with all his heart and together with music, she was the reason he lived for. They often went together to the wood where Orpheus played his lyre and Eurydice sat by him putting her head on his shoulders and listening to his songs with admiration and certainly, love.
However, tragedy soon came upon them. One sunny day Eurydice went to the wood with her Nymph friends and accidentally stepped on a venomous snake. She got bitten and when Orpheus came she was already dead. Orpheus fell deeply in sorrow and he played such sad and mournful songs that made mortals and gods and all creatures on Earth weep. Then, right after her funeral he decided to go to the Underworld to beg Hades to send his wife back to him.
Overcoming the difficult route Orpheus finally made it to the Underworld where his music brought an extraordinary day to the land of forever darkness. His voice and his lyre tamed all the fierce creatures and vicious monsters in the Underworld including the 3-head guard dog, Cerberus, and also softened the heart of the Underworld King, Hades, a miracle that had never happened before. He didn’t beg to have his wife back forever because they were both mortals and would die someday just like others. His humble wish was for Eurydice to enjoy her full life on Earth till the years came to take them away. Hades sympathized and broke the rule once. He let Eurydice go back to the mortal land with Orpheus but told him that Eurydice had to go after him all the way back and he was not allowed to look at her, or else she would disappear forever. Unfortunately, Orpheus was too worried that his wife couldn’t keep up with him and got lost in the dark, he broke the prohibition before reaching the Earth and turned around to make sure she was still following. And that tragic moment he saw her for the last time and then she disappeared. He tried to turn back to the Underworld but all the gates were closed. Seven days and nights he waited outside but there was no sign of Hades’s sympathy once again.
So he had to return to Earth, alone, feeling guilty that he killed his beloved wife a second time. From that time on he lived a quiet life in his home land singing and creating music about his endless love.
Four years went by, but nothing had changed. Orpheus could never forget Eurydice and he didn’t fell for anyone else. Many beautiful girls admiring his talent came to him and expressed their wish to fulfill his life again but he refused them all. Thus, they called him by an unfriendly nickname “the woman hater”.
Then spring came with all of its vivid colors, all the festivals and all the happy craziness. In one of those festivals, the festival to honor the God of Wine, Dionysus, the women became totally drunk and uncontrollably insane. They were having their march of madness along the roads when they suddenly saw Orpheus sitting in the wood singing about the beauty of nature when spring visited. Being drunk they only saw in him “the woman hater” and his music couldn’t touch their mind anymore. Right there they beat Orpheus to death. Barbaric enough, the mad women cut his body into pieces, threw his head and his golden lyre into Hebrus river and continued their crazy march as if nothing had happened. I wonder when all the alcoholic insanity was gone did they even remember the terrible thing they had just done? They brought the endless pains not only to Orpheus but to all the mortal land because its greatest singer and musician had left the world.. just like that.. Personally speaking, I don’t like to get drunk nor drunken people. What feels good if you can’t control what you are doing, can’t feel or see the beauty in front of your eyes? Look at those women! The music that once saved all the heroes on the Argo, that tamed all the monsters, that softened the heart of Hades couldn’t touch their soul.. I feel pity for them.
The river brought Orpheus’s head and lyre to the sea and winds carried them to Lesbos Island. After that the Muses, the Goddesses of Music and Arts, gathered the pieces of Orpheus’s body and buried him at the foot of Mount Olympus. The golden lyre was taken to heaven and placed among the stars.
While all the gods and mortals were mourning for his tragic death, Orpheus returned to the Underworld, where he finally reunited with his beloved wife, Eurydice. From that time on, he could look at her beautiful face all the time and didn’t have to worry if Eurydice could keep up with him in their long journey. Probably that was still a happy ending after all, because they were together happily in the Underworld, till the end of time..
All photos from the internet.
Read the 3rd story.