Love in Greece continues with the touching story of Orpheus and Eurydice. A spectacular myth from ancient Greece where love conquers death, but lack of patience turns it around. Orpheus loved Eurydice and claimed her back from Hades.
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice
Numerous theatrical plays, movies and lyrics have been based on this myth.
Who was Orpheus?
Son of Thiagros (king of Thrace) and a gifted musician, student of Apollo. Myth says he played his lyre so well that even wild beasts were enchanted. Orpheus participated in the Argonauts Campaign, where he helped Jason (with his lyre and music) to defeat the Sirens. After that campaign Orpheus returned to his native land, Pieria (Northern Greece).
There he met Erydice, while strolling through a forest. They fell in love and eventually got married.
Who was Eurydice?
Eurydice was an oak Nymph. Legend says that she was (maybe) a daughter of god Apollo. Very few things are known for Eurydice, maybe because she was just a Nymph (lower ranking deities).
How their happiness got ruined?
It was Aristaios, a dearest friend of Orpheus, who tried to rape Eurydice. She escaped, but while running through the woods a snake bite her and she died on the spot.
Orpheus was beyond consolation. His music changed to become sorrow and sad. Seems that the impact of such change produced strong emotions for gods since they allowed him to descent to the underworld and meet her.
Orpheus enchanted Cerberus, the guardian of the Gates of Hades, with his lyre and the dreadful three-headed beat let him walk through. Pluto/Hades was enchanted so much that he gave his permission to Orpheus to take Eurydice back to earth (and apparently back to life). That was something profound and unheard, but Pluto had some terms…
Eurydice would be escorted by Hermes on the way back to earth. You may know that Hermes apart from being related to Commerce, he was also called Soul Companion as he escorted souls to their way to the underworld. In this myth Hermes acts in the opposite way. He escorts a dead soul to life.
Orpheus had to walk without looking back at Eurydice soul, until they reached earth. Not even a glance was allowed. If he looked then Eurydice would return to the underworld forever.
What Orpheus did wrong?
Orhpeus agreed, but moments before their exit he turned his head and disaster happened. Eurydice immediately disappeared from his sight…
He was emotionally destroyed. For the rest of his life he wandered in the forests, playing sad tunes with his lyre, remaining distant from all other Nymphs who tried to enchant him. He lost his eternal love due to his desire and weakness to keep the rules.
He was ultimately killed by the followers of Dionysus (Mainades); they torn him to pieces. Myth says his head and lyre were thrown in the river, but ended up to the island of Lesvos.
What is the moral story of Orpheus and Eurydice?
Different things can be discussed for this myth, even for the virtue of patience. On top, someone will see a great resemblance with the story of Lot from the bible and his wife who turned into a salt column because she disobeyed the instruction not to look back to Sodom and Gommorrah.
Seems like myths find their place in stories of different generations.
Here is a great visualization of the myth of Orpheus and Eyridice.
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is depicted in a number of works by artists, including Titian, Peter Paul Rubens, Nicolas Poussin, Corot, and Bracha Ettinger.
Search around and see what all these artists saw in this ancient Greek myth.
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