General Knowledge

Top 10 Romances In Greek Mythology

Love is an infamously risky business. In a world as dangerous and fantastic as Greek mythology, acquiring this ever-elusive feeling often comes with a certain amount of danger and risk. Happy endings are few and far between, with many romance stories ending with one or both lovers facing an undesirable fate. That being said, some stories end in love and happiness.

Regardless, the power of love and all that it entails are on display in this list detailing the top 10 romances in Greek mythology.

Related: The 10 best failed seductions of Greek mythology

10 Atalanta and Hippomenes

Atalanta was a heroine blessed by the goddess Artemis. With a myriad of accolades to her credit, love was the only thing she lacked. Pressured by her father, she agreed to find a suitor on the condition that she could beat her in a race. Those who failed would be sentenced to death.

Hippomenes, in love with Atalanta, accepted her challenge and all the associated risks. Aware of his impressive ability, he sought the help of the goddess Aphrodite, who gave him three golden apples. Hippomenes would throw these apples periodically to distract Atalanta, who found them irresistible and allowed him to beat her. Since he was over her, Atalanta accepted Hippomenes and they were married.

However, in Greek mythology, happy endings are few and far between. Hippomenes did not pay his debts to Aphrodite, who punished him by forcing him to sleep with Atlanta in a sacred precinct. The angry god of this enclosure transformed the couple into lions. Something appropriate for the fierce competitiveness of Atalanta and the lionine bravery of Hippomenes.[1]

9 Apollo and Hyacinth

Greek mythology is full of symbolism, and these symbols often arise due to the strong emotions expressed by its characters. Jacinto’s story is one of those symbolic stories of the jealousy and agony that can come with love.

Hyacinthus was an extraordinarily handsome boy, so much so that he attracted the attention of the god Apollo. The two often spent time together, strengthening their bond. However, the boy’s beauty also attracted the affection of the wind god Zephyrus. Jealousy burned in Zephyrus’s heart and, in his anger, he decided that if he couldn’t have Jacinto’s affections, then neither could Apollo.

One day, Apolo and Jacinto were playing record. Apollo threw the disc from him and as he spun through the air, Zephyr, being the god of the wind, forced the disc to fly towards Jacinto. The puck struck the boy in the head, killing him instantly. Overwhelmed with guilt and grief, Apollo grew flowers from Hyacinth’s accumulated blood, hoping that the boy would continue to live this way.

It is also said that a letter was inscribed on the leaves of these flowers that represented the cries of pain of the child when he was separated from his lover. Today we call these flowers hyacinths, and in that way, it could be said that the child’s soul and love truly lived forever.[2]

8 Odysseus and Penelope

Loyalty is arguably one of the most coveted traits one could ask for in a partner, and no story in Greek mythology emphasizes this aspect of love more than that of Odysseus and Penelope.

Odysseus was one of the most prolific adventurers in Greek mythology and was therefore a difficult man to keep at home. This was fulfilled when he married the Spartan Penelope, a woman whose beauty attracted the attention of countless suitors, especially when her husband went off with the Greeks to fight in the Trojan War.

Countering the advances of all these admirers should have been difficult, but Penelope proved as cunning as she was beautiful and came up with a plan. Every time she approached her, she would say that she was making a shroud for her mother-in-law and that her proposals could only be dealt with once she had completed this task. During the day, she would work on this shroud, only to undo the work she had done during the night.

Upon his return, Odysseus killed all of Penelope’s pursuers for daring to attack his wife and thus ended Penelope’s days of sadness and tedium. It is truly a story of loyalty and the lengths to which people are willing to go to protect their marriage.[3]

7 eros and psyche

It takes an exceptional woman to stop the heart of the very god of love, and Psyche was exactly that kind of woman. Her beauty was so ethereal that the people around her began to worship her as if she were a goddess. This earned him the wrath of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty who, in her jealousy, recruited Eros to curse Psyche and fall in love with only the most horrible partners.

Eros accepted this task but was delighted to witness Psyche’s beauty. He would start meeting her at night in disguise until one day, Psyche got curious and found out her true identity. Eros fled from her chambers, and from then on, Psyche searched endlessly for her lost lover. The search for her led her to the temple of Aphrodite, where the goddess of love would force her to countless humiliations and jobs.

Still burning with love for Psyche, Eros helped her in her tasks. Upon completing Aphrodite’s labors, Psyche was granted immortality and she was welcomed by all the gods, including Aphrodite. She met her lover Eros and they were married in a ceremony attended by all the Olympian gods.[4]

6 Alcyone and Ceyx

“In love and in death.” The sincerity behind these vows often fluctuates depending on the couple reciting them, but King Ceyx and his wife Halcyone (also known as Alcyone) truly embodied this vow. They worshiped each other and often discarded their real names in favor of referring to each other as Zeus and Hera, the king and queen of Olympus. Such arrogance would not go unpunished, and Zeus set out to make sure they were never disrespected like that again.

One day, Ceyx and Halcyone set out on a sea voyage. Zeus caused a storm on his ship, and Halcyone was swept away by the current only to resurface on a nearby shoreline. Ceyx was not so lucky as she perished on her sinking ship screaming for her lost lover. Halcyone would wait several days in the vain hope that Ceyx would wash up on the shore, but he never did.

Wracked with grief and grief, Halcyone threw herself into the sea and drowned. The gods took pity on the couple and transformed their souls into birds that today we call kingfishers or kingfishers. It is said that during the times when these birds congregate to mate, the sea is always calm.[5]

5 Pygmalion and Galatea

One could deduce from these tales that the Greek gods are purely evil and cruel. However, on rare but notable occasions, the gods can be found blessing the mortals who worship them and manifesting their dreams into reality. Such was the case with Pygmalion and the statue of him.

Pygmalion was a gifted sculptor, but despite his skill, he found himself lacking in love. Since none of the women around him aroused his interest, he set about sculpting a woman whose form he found truly irresistible. Upon completion, he fell completely in love with his ivory maiden. Pygmalion spent his days obsessed with the statue and even fondled his creation fondly. Unfortunately, it was ivory and stone, nothing more.

One day, during a festival celebrating the goddess Aphrodite, Pygmalion prayed to the goddess that his maiden-statue would come to life. Aphrodite, recognizing her devotion, decided to grant her wishes. Pygmalion returned from the festival and embraced his masterpiece, discovering that the goddess had breathed life into the ivory and turned it into flesh.

Pygmalion sang Aphrodite’s praises and gave the woman the name Galatea. The two married, and Pygmalion eventually recovered.[6]

4 Aphrodite and Adonis

Adonis was a young man blessed with almost incomparable beauty that earned him the attention of even the goddess of beauty herself. Aphrodite was in love with the young man and sought to make him her lover. Adonis reciprocated these sentiments, but his charming face also made him the wish of the goddess of the underworld, Persephone. Seduced by the dazzling beauty of the young man, Persephone did not sit idly by while Aphrodite had Adonis all to herself.

The goddesses took the matter before Zeus, who divided the young man’s time equally between them. Adonis would spend a third of the year with Persephone in the underworld and another with Aphrodite on Olympus. During the rest of the year, he could spend whatever he wanted. However, Adonis truly loved Aphrodite, and he too chose to spend the remaining third of the year with Aphrodite.

Adonis would later die while hunting a wild boar. Naturally, this meant that he would have to continue living in the underworld. Even so, his love for Aphrodite was so admirable that the gods allowed him to spend six months of the year on Olympus with Aphrodite. When two people share true love, Heaven and Earth can bend to the will of their affections.[7]

3 Ifis and Ianthe

Ifis was born a girl, but her father, wanting a male heir, had ordered that the child be executed if born female. Her mother, Telethusa, prayed to the goddess Isis for guidance, and the goddess advised Telethusa to raise the girl as a boy in order to save her life.

Ifhis was raised as a boy and lived in peace until she found a lover in the form of a girl named Ianthe. The two loved each other deeply, but Ianthe was unaware of Ifis’s true nature, and soon it was time for them to marry. Ifis was plunged in grief because the truth of her identity would be revealed and her union would not be accepted.

Ifis prayed to Isis to save her from her impossible situation, and Isis granted her wish by transforming her into a man, and thus Ifis and Ianthe were allowed to marry. Despite all the challenges Ifis faced from her birth to her marriage, she persevered and found love.[8]

2 Pyramus and Thisbe

Forbidden love stories are often the most tragic love stories, but they are also among some of the most romantic.

Thisbe was a beautiful maiden who had found her lover in the form of a man named Pyramus. The two were madly in love with each other, but unfortunately, their families did not sanction their marriage. Thus, the two were forced to meet in secret, often sharing late-night conversations from an opening in the wall that joined their adjacent houses.

One day, the couple agreed to meet in front of a nearby grave. Thisbe reached the spot first, and on reaching it, saw a lioness devouring an ox nearby and fled, fearing for her life. Pyramus arrived later and found a fragment of her dress covered in ox blood. Convinced that his lover was dead, Pyramus was overcome with grief and ended his life under a mulberry tree.

When Thisbe returned and witnessed Pyramus’s fate, she too ended her life in grief. When her blood fed the roots of the tree, she was told that the mulberry fruit was eternally dyed red. In a myth that inspired the story of Romeo and Juliet, they really did love each other to death.[9]

1 Orpheus and Eurydice

Orpheus was one of the most gifted bards in all of Greek mythology. So incredible was his ability that he even had the power to force death itself.

Eurydice was a beautiful nymph, and she and Orpheus fell deeply in love. The two would eventually marry, but their happiness was short-lived. Shortly after her wedding, Eurydice was bitten by a snake and perished, sinking into the depths of the underworld. Strengthened by her grief, Orpheus wrote pieces so beautiful that they attracted the attention of even the god of the underworld, Hades.

Hades took Orpheus to the underworld and made him perform for its inhabitants. His music was so enchanting that Hades allowed Orpheus to return to the overworld with Eurydice. This was on the condition that Orpheus would not look at his wife again until they reached the overworld. His love had conquered death, but it had also turned out to be his downfall. Overcome with desire, he looked back anyway, and Eurydice was ripped from him and dragged back to the underworld. Orfeo spent the rest of his days singing in pain of his lost love; he really did love her to hell and back. [10]

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