Greek mythology is one of the greatest sources for stories known to man. It can fill our lives with epic tales of heroics, fascinating fables of creation, ballads of life and death, and folklore of comedy and tragedy. At the center of all these larger-than-life narrations, and perhaps the most tragic ones of them all, are true love stories. These tales of love and romance were centered around not only the great Gods and Goddesses of Olympus but their subjects roaming the Earth below. The love stories of Greek Mythology speak of such profound and passionate love, with men and women following their lovers to the after-life, this affection has been the inspiration for designating types of love that still apply today. If you need proof, just take a look at these 5 incredible love stories taken straight from Greek Myths.
Let’s start with a tale that has vengeful Gods, heroics and love at first sight, all the makings of a true Greek love story.
The story begins with Cassiope, Queen of the Ethiopians, boasting to anyone who would listen about how beautiful her daughter was, more so than the Nereids (also know as sea nymphs, or the spirits of the sea). The Sea nymphs, naturally, went straight to Poseidon, God of the Sea, to complain about this insult to their loveliness.
To avenge his pretty Nereids, Poseidon unleashed massive floods onto the land of Cassiope and her people and sent the enraged sea monster Cetus to ravage the kingdom and its people. Fearing for their subjects and their land, the king and queen made a drastic move.
They chained their precious daughter Andromeda, whose gorgeous appearance sparked this sequence of events, to a rock beside a cliff and amidst the raging sea. There she was left as a sacrifice to the violent sea creature.
In a twist of fate and good fortune, Perseus, the son of Zeus and Danae, princess of Argos, had just completed his victorious battle against the gorgon Medusa nearby, and flew right past the struggling and frightened Andromeda.
Perseus was smitten from the moment he laid eyes on the beautiful Ethiopian princess. He knew from that instant he wanted to marry her. However, there were more pressing matters at hand, and he swiftly rescued her. So began an endless love between the two, and thus ended a story that was immortalized in the sky in the form of constellations.
(Apollo and Hyacinth, By Pinkpasty, Wikimedia Commons)
There are only two things in the world of Greek Mythology that can truly doom love: Vengeful Gods (as demonstrated in the story above) and love triangles (to be demonstrated in the story below).
This story revolves around a young and handsome boy named Hyacinth, the child of Clio, the Muse, and King Pierus of Macedonia. Due to his agility, his demeanor, and his attractive appearance, Hyacinth gained the attention and affection of Apollo, the twin brother of Artemis, son of Zeus and God of the Sun, archery, prophecy, healing, and disease, and many other things.
Unfortunately, another suitor of the young man Hyacinth was Zephyr, also known as Zephyrus, the God of spring and the West Wind, and the intermediate between the underworld and the living world.
On one fateful occasion, Hyacinth and his Godly companion, Apollo, were tossing the discus, an activity they enjoyed on a regular basis. On this particular day, seeing them enjoying their game so much sent Zephyr into a jealous rage. He jumped in between the two, distracting Hyacinth who was then struck by the discus.
The blow of the discus was fatal, and the young Hyacinth was no more. His death devastated Apollo, who approached the body of his young lover and used his blood, pouring it onto the earth, to create a flower. The tears of Apollo then stained the petals of the flower, bringing to life a beautiful creation. Thus did the death of Hyacinth, result in the birth of the Hyacinth flowers.
(Morpheus appears to Alcyone as an apparition of Ceyx, Wikimedia Commons)
This story begins with a happy marriage and a beautiful couple. Ceyx, the King of Trachis was married to Alcyone, daughter of Wind God, Aeolus. They were such a gorgeous couple, the most beautiful in their kingdom, that they would often make jokes saying that they were Hera and Zeus. This enraged the King and Queen of the Gods of Olympus.
After the death of his brother, Ceyx was in deep mourning and, against the advice of his wife, decided to journey across the sea to Carlos in Ionia to speak to the Oracle of Apollo. To exact his long-awaited vengeance, Zeus caused a storm by throwing a lightning bolt into the sea.
Ceyx was most certainly going to drown. In his dying moment, he made one final prayer to the Gods for his body to be found by his wife, allowing her to complete his funeral rites and make her peace with his passing.
However, the Gods, fearing Zeus's rage, did not grant him this request. At least not immediately. After poor Alcyone waited and waited, Hera, always the patroness and protector of married women, took pity on her and pleaded with the Gods to grant her some comfort.
Eventually, Morpheus, the God of Sleep and Dreams, created an apparition of Ceyx that appeared in front of Alcyone, likely while she slept, and told her the sad fate of her lover. She then ran to the coast of her kingdom and upon seeing his corpse washed up on the shore, she flung herself on his body, not wanting to leave him.
On seeing this, Zeus found himself feeling a surprising rush of guilt. He then made a decision that, despite their perceived infractions against him, they did not deserve to be torn apart. To allow them to remain together, he turned them into the beautiful heavy-billed Halcyon Kingfisher birds.
(Apollo and Daphne, By Piero del Pollaiolo, Wikimedia Commons)
While Apollo was a God known to ward off evil, he was also a handsome and strong young man, and often could not stop himself from taunting those he believed to be lesser gods. Among these was none other than Eros, God of Love, also known as Cupid. This was an act he would soon come to regret.
The story begins with Daphne, daughter of Peneus, the Great River God and a wanderer of the wilderness, leading a life very similar to that of Artemis, the twin sister of Apollo. Young Daphne was one among many others that caught Apollo’s attention.
The story goes as follows: To get his revenge on Apollo, Eros (Cupid) decided to shoot a couple of arrows their way. but not quite the arrows you'd expect, at least not in both cases. The first arrow was made to hit Apollo. It was a gold-tipped arrow, designed to force him to fall head-over-heels in love with young Daphne.
Now that normally wouldn't seem so bad, because beautiful maidens often crave the affections of a God like Apollo, except Eros had a few tricks up his sleeve. He sent another arrow, this one lead-tipped, to Daphne, which made her completely indifferent to the affections and advances of the Sun God.
There is nothing quite like unrequited love, particularly in the world of the Greek Gods. Naturally, Apollo would not let his love go unwanted and began to pursue Daphne, almost relentlessly, following her through the woods that she had grown up in the entire life. She fled from him in horror and prayed and prayed for her father, the River God, to save her from the obsessed God.
The young woman finally found her escape, but it was an awful escape, that meant the end of her human life. She began to transform into a tree, the sacred laurel tree. That is why the word Dafne in Greek means laurel tree.
As Apollo's affections were the result of being struck by a gold-tipped arrow, his affections could not end quite so easily. The tree itself became sacred to him. The laurel tree has since been used to create the crowns of anyone who has owned honor or achieved a great victory. The laurel tree from that moment onwards has remained a symbol of eternity and immortality.
(Cupid and Psyche, By Anthony van Dyck, Wikimedia Commons)
It is only natural that the God of Love would also experience love himself, but his story is filled with betrayal, great tragedy, and many ups and downs, for both him and the object of his affection. Just like mortal love.
Psyche was a mortal woman, who came from an ordinary family, with two sisters and two loving parents, that was gifted with extraordinary grace and beauty. In fact, her beauty gained her so much attention and admiration, it left the Goddess Aphrodite in a jealous rage.
To deal with this affront to her beauty, Aphrodite sent her son, Eros, the God of Love, down to earth to poison the desire for Psyche out of the souls of men, once again making Aphrodite the most loved and admired. What she did not expect was for her son to fall in love with Psyche himself. However, Eros, knowing his mother would be displeased, kept his affections for Psyche a secret, and only revealed the same to Apollo to seek his advice.
Meanwhile, many years passed, and Psyche had remained unmarried, only wanting to marry her true love. In desperation, her parents went to the Oracle of Apollo, who, at the behest of Eros, informed her family that Psyche’s would-be husband was, in fact, an ugly beast, who was waiting atop the mountain for her, and that she was never to look upon his face.
While her family was completely devastated by this turn of events, their most beautiful daughter marrying a beast, they dared not doubt the word of a God and thus, Psyche was wed to this supposed ugly monster. As she was only able to be with him at night, and heeding the words of the Oracle, she never glanced upon his face but was overwhelmed by the love and tenderness he showed her and the happiness she felt when with him.
After revealing her unexpected joy to her sisters, her sisters, in a fit of jealousy, informed her that the ugliness of the Beast was beyond words and that the Beast would surely kill her if she did not kill him first. Believing her sisters’ words, the next night, armed with an oil lamp and a knife, she went to visit her husband and was shocked to find, not a beast’s face illuminated by the lamplight, but the lovely face of Eros.
Startled by this unexpected discovery, she spilled the oil from the lamp on his face, and Eros was forced to fly away, screaming of her betrayal and accusing her of ruining their relationship. Now that their secret love had been discovered, his mother would not permit them to be together.
No longer able to be with her love, Psyche began searching for him and discovered that he had been imprisoned by his mother Aphrodite. Aphrodite agreed to allow Psyche to see Eros, only if she completed three impossible tasks.
Fueled by love and desperation, and with the unexpected help a certain other Gods, Psyche completed two out of three tasks but found herself facing death while attempting to complete the third. On hearing this news, Eros made his escape from the Palace his mother had trapped him in and pleaded with Zeus to save his love.
Touched by their love and their unending determination to be reunited, he granted Psyche immortality so that this love would never die. For all their struggles, Eros and Psyche were finally given a happy ending.