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Mr. Reynolds' English Classes

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Love Stories


Yet another instance of a male pig abadoning his faithful companion after she becomes of no use to him. Ariadne was the daughter of the the king of Crete, Minos. Minos had instigated from Athens a sacrifice of seven youths and seven maidens to feed the Minotaur, and the hero Theseus was to be one of the victims. However, Ariadne fell in love with him, and she assisted him by giving him a ball of gold thread to help him in the labyrinth where the creature dwelt. She accompanied him back on the voyage to Athens but he soon dumped her on the island of Dia, or Naxos. The god Dionysus found the wounded girl and made her his wife. He placed her wedding crown, the Corona Borealis, into the heavens as a symbol of their love.

Orpheus and Eurydice

One of the most tragic love stories of Greek mythology. Orpheus was the son of the Muse Calliope and therefore a grand musician. His wife was a dryad, Eurydice, who also attracted the attentions of Aristaeus. Aristaeus pursued her until she stepped on a poisonous snake and was forced into the Underworld. Orpheus was determined to retrieve his beloved. He journeyed down to the underworld, first charming Charon, ferryman of the dead, and lulling to sleep Cerberus, the three-headed watchdog. He encountered Hades, who initially refused to release Eurydice, but Orpheus's music so touched Persephone that she pleaded Orpheus's case, and Hades relented. There was one condition: that Orpheus not look back on their way out. Of course, Orpheus was worried that Eurydice was not behind him, and he fatefully glanced back to see if she was following him. She disappeared back into Hades, and he lost her forever. Unable to live without her, Orpheus spent the rest of his days wandering in aimless sorrow before he was finally murdered by maenads, the drunken followers of Dionysus.

Oenone and Paris

Oenone was the tragic, abandoned first wife of the Trojan prince Paris. He dumped her when he ran off with someone of youth and beauty, Helen, but after the siege of the city and later when he was wounded, he begged her to take him back. She naturally refused but hung herself after she learned of his death.


Danaus was the king of Argos; his brother, Aegyptus was the king of Egypt [go figure]. Aegyptus sent his fifty sons to marry Danaus's fifty daughters; Danaus, not trusting his brother, refused at first; the sons seiged Argos, and Danaus was forced to comply. On the wedding night, however, he gave each of his daughters long, sharp pins to conceal in their hair; at night, they were to kill their new grooms. All obeyed except one, Hypermnestra. Her husband, Lynceus, was good and kind and spared her viginity, and she found that she could not kill him and helped him escape. Danaus, furious, had her tried for life, but she was spared and eventually reunited with Lynceus. Her love also saved her from the fate of her murderous sisters: a lifetime of carrying jars of water with perforations.



There once came a time where Poseidon was feeling extreme loneliness. Full of anger, he was stirring up storms so strong that made the seas and heavens unite...

To combat his sad feelings, Poseidon set out to find a wife. On his way, he stumbled upon the mermaid Amphitrite, a sea nymph with golden hair and shimmering blue eyes, dancing on the island of Naxos with her girlfriends. Captured by her extraordinary beauty, Poseidon couldn't help falling in love with her and asked her to marry him.


Amphitrite, a granddaughter of the Greek Titan of the seas Oceanus and the daughter of the gentle Sea god Nereus, was trying to protect her virginity in any way possible. So she refused Poseidon's proposal, telling him that she disliked his violent nature, and then flew to the Atlas Mountains to escape.


However, Poseidon was determined. So he sent his messenger Delphinus, the king of the dolphins, to locate the mermaid and win her heart.

The dolphin king obeyed and started a long, perilous journey to find the love of his master. When he finally located the maid, he promissed her that, if she married Poseidon, all the energies of Poseidon would balance and tranquility would come to the world of waters. No strong sea would ever do harm to the seamen again.

Touched with emotion, Amphitrite surrendered and she married Poseidon. According to Apollodorus, the couple gave birth to two daughters, the Nymphs Rhode and Benthesicyme, and a son, the merman Triton, with the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish.



What makes for a good story? Love, adventure, and tragedy make a story exciting. The story of Venus and Adonis is one such tale. Here's how it goes: Venus, the goddess of love, fell for the handsome hunter Adonis. Adonis, who was a bit of a snob, believed he was the best hunter in the world and that nothing could ever happen to him.


One day Venus dreamed that Adonis had an accident while hunting. She rushed to try to prevent him from going off to hunt, but Adonis ignored her. He thought Venus was crazy to believe in such dreams. Unfortunately, Venus's dream came true: during the hunt, a wild pig with large tusks killed Adonis. A heartbroken Venus had to watch her poor Adonis die because he did not listen to her warning.


This painting includes some symbols that help tell the story. A symbol is an object that stands for something else, often for an idea or feeling that is otherwise difficult to represent. Here, the two cupids represent love. You are probably familiar with cupids like these from symbols you see around Valentine's Day. The two doves are symbols associated with Venus. They also stand for love and faithfulness. Dogs are also a symbol of loyalty. How do these symbols help us understand what’s going on in this painting?



Apollo and Daphne


Arrows featured largely in the story of Apollo’s first love. He caught the somewhat bratty young Eros (Cupid) playing with his silver bow and arrows. He chastised Eros, telling him to put them down that they were not toys. Offended, Eros cheerfully responded "OK, you can have some of mine then - they’re not toys either!” and shot Apollo with one of his golden arrows that had been dipped in an aphrodisiac that made the victim fall madly in love with the first person they saw.

At that very moment, Daphne, the lovely daughter of a river god, came walking by. Apollo was instantly smitten. With a wicked smile on his lips, the mischievous Eros drew a second arrow from his quiver. This one was made of lead and tipped with a potion that would make love seem repulsive. He took aim and shot Daphne with it.


Daphne ran home and begged her father to swear an oath that she would never have to marry, so repugnant was the very idea of love. Apollo, his heart inflamed with love, pursued Daphne, calling out his pledges of undying love - but she continued to run from him. Horrified when he finally caught up with her, Daphne cried for Mother Earth to strike her dead or change her form so that she would not be appealing and would not have to endure his love. Instantly she turned into laurel tree.


Apollo, heartbroken, tore off a branch of leaves and wove them in his hair, promising Daphne that she would be forever remembered, living on in the wreaths of laurel leaves that would be used to crown kings and victors from that day forward. And so it would be.




In Greek mythology Echo was a wood nymph who loved a youth by the name of Narcissus. He was a beautiful creature loved by many but Narcissus loved no one. He enjoyed attention, praise and envy. In Narcissus' eyes nobody matched him and as such he considered none were worthy of him.


Echo's passion for Narcissus was equaled only by her passion for talking as she always had to have the last word. One day she enabled the escape of the goddess Juno's adulterous husband by engaging Juno in conversation. On finding out Echo's treachery Juno cursed Echo by removing her voice with the exception that she could only speak that which was spoken to her.


Echo often waited in the woods to see Narcissus hoping for a chance to be noticed. One day as she lingered in the bushes he heard her footsteps and called out "Who's here?” Echo replied "Here!” Narcissus called again "Come", Echo replied "Come!". Narcissus called once more "Why do you shun me?... Let us join one another.” Echo was overjoyed that Narcissus had asked her to join him. She longed to tell him who she was and of all the love she had for him in her heart but she could not speak. She ran towards him and threw herself upon him.


Narcissus became angry "Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” and threw Echo to the ground. Echo left the woods a ruin, her heart broken. Ashamed she ran away to live in the mountains yearning for a love that would never be returned. The grief killed her. Her body became one with the mountain stone. All that remained was her voice which replied in kind when others spoke.


Narcissus continued to attract many nymphs all of whom he briefly entertained before scorning and refusing them. The gods grew tired of his behaviour and cursed Narcissus. They wanted him to know what it felt like to love and never be loved. They made it so there was only one whom he would love, someone who was not real and could never love him back.


One day whilst out enjoying the sunshine Narcissus came upon a pool of water. As he gazed into it he caught a glimpse of what he thought was a beautiful water spirit. He did not recognise his own reflection and was immediately enamoured. Narcissus bent down his head to kiss the vision. As he did so the reflection mimicked his actions. Taking this as a sign of reciprocation Narcissus reached into the pool to draw the water spirit to him. The water displaced and the vision was gone. He panicked, where had his love gone? When the water became calm the water spirit returned. "Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” Again he reached out and again his love disappeared. Frightened to touch the water Narcissus lay still by the pool gazing in to the eyes of his vision.

 He cried in frustration. As he did so Echo also cried. He did not move, he did not eat or drink, he only suffered. As he pined he became gaunt loosing his beauty. The nymphs that loved him pleaded with him to come away from the pool. As they did so Echo also pleaded with him. He was transfixed; he wanted to stay there forever. Narcissus like Echo died with grief. His body disappeared and where his body once lay a flower grew in it's place. The nymphs mourned his death and as they mourned Echo also mourned.


The great Greek goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, was born from the foam near the island of Cyprus, for which reason she is referred to as "the Cyprian." Aphrodite was a jealous goddess, but she was also passionate. Not only did she love the men and gods in her life, but her sons and grandchildren, as well. Sometimes her possessive instincts led her too far. When her son Cupid found a human to love -- one whose beauty rivaled hers -- Aphrodite did all in her power to thwart the marriage

How Cupid and Psyche Met

Psyche was worshiped for her beauty in her homeland. This drove Aphrodite mad, so she sent a plague and let it be known the only way the land could get back to normal was to sacrifice Psyche. The king, who was Psyche's father, tied Psyche up and left her to her death at the hands of some presumed fearsome monster. You may note that this isn't the first time in Greek mythology that this happened. The great Greek hero Perseus found his bride, Andromeda, tied up as prey for a sea monster. Andromeda was sacrificed to appease Poseidon who had ravaged the country of Ethiopia, which was ruled by her father, after Queen Cassiopeia had boasted about her own beauty. In the case of Psyche, it was Aphrodite's son Cupid who released and married the princess.

The Mystery About Cupid

Unfortunately for the young couple, Cupid and Psyche, Aphrodite was not the only one trying to foul things up. Psyche had two sisters who were as jealous as Aphrodite.

Cupid was a wonderful lover and husband to Psyche, but there was one odd thing about their relationship: He made sure Psyche never saw what he looked like. Psyche didn't mind. She had a fulfilling night life in the dark with her husband, and during the day, she had all the luxuries she could ever want

When the sisters learned about the luscious, extravagant lifestyle of their lucky, beautiful sister, they urged Psyche to pry into the area of his life that Psyche's husband kept hidden from her.

Cupid was a god, and gorgeous as he had to have been with Aphrodite for a mother, but for reasons known best to him, he didn't want his mortal wife to see his form. Psyche's sister didn't know he was a god, although they may have suspected it. However, they did know that Psyche's life was much happier than theirs. Knowing their sister well, they preyed on her insecurities and persuaded Psyche that her husband was a hideous monster.

Psyche assured her sisters they were wrong, but since she'd never seen him, even she started having doubts. Psyche decided to satisfy the girls' curiosity, so that night she took a candle to her sleeping husband in order to look at him.

Cupid Deserts Psyche

Cupid's angelic form was exquisite, so Psyche stood there gawking at her husband with her candle melting. While Psyche dawdled, ogling, a bit of wax dripped on her husband. Her rudely awakened, irate, disobeyed, injured husband-angel-god flew away.

"See, I told you she was a no good human," said mother Aphrodite to her convalescing son Cupid. "Now you'll have to be content among the gods."

Cupid might have gone along with the de facto divorce, but Psyche couldn't. Impelled by love of her gorgeous husband, she implored her mother-in-law to give her another chance. Aphrodite agreed, but ungraciously, saying, "I cannot conceive that any serving-wench as hideous as yourself could find any means to attract lovers save by making herself their drudge; wherefore now I myself will make trial of your worth."

The Epic Trials of Psyche

But Aphrodite had no intention of playing fair. She devised 4 tasks (not 3 as is conventional in mythic hero quests; this is a feminine story), each task more exacting than the last. Psyche passed the first 3 challenges with flying colors:

1.            sort a huge mount of barley, millet, poppy seeds, lentils, and beans.
Ants (pismires) help her sort the grains within the time allotted.

2.            gather a hank of the wool of the shining golden sheep.
A reed tells her how to accomplish this task without being killed by the vicious animals.

3.            fill a crystal vessel with the water of the spring that feeds the Styx and Cocytus.
An eagle helps her out.

But the last task was too much for Psyche:

4. Aphrodite asked Psyche to bring her back a box of Persephone's beauty cream.

Going to the Underworld was a challenge for the bravest of the Greek mythical heroes. Demigod Hercules could go to the Underworld without much bother, but even Theseus had trouble and had to be rescued by Hercules. Psyche barely batted an eye when Aphrodite told her she would have to go to the most dangerous region known to mortals. That part was easy, especially after the tower told her how to find the entryway to the Underworld, how get around Charon and Cerberus, and how to behave before the Underworld queen.

The part of the fourth task that was too much for Psyche was the temptation to make herself more beautiful. If the perfect beauty of the perfect goddess Aphrodite needed this Underworld beauty cream, Psyche reasoned, how much more would it help an imperfect mortal woman? Thus, Psyche retrieved the box successfully, but then she opened it and fell into a deathlike sleep, as Aphrodite had secretly predicted.

" And by and by shee opened the boxe where she could perceive no beauty nor any thing else, save onely an infernall and deadly sleepe, which immediatly invaded all her members as soone as the boxe was uncovered, in such sort that she fell downe upon the ground, and lay there as a sleeping corps."

William Adlington Translation (1566)

Reunion and Happy Ending to the Myth of Cupid and Psyche

At this point, divine intervention was called for if the story were to have an ending that made anyone really happy. With Zeus' connivance, Cupid brought his wife to Olympus where, at Zeus's command, she was given nectar and ambrosia so she would become immortal.

" Incontinently after Jupiter commanded Mercury to bring up Psyches, the spouse of Cupid, into the Pallace of heaven. And then he tooke a pot of immortality, and said, Hold Psyches, and drinke, to the end thou maist be immortall, and that Cupid may be thine everlasting husband."

On Olympus, in the presence of the other gods, Aphrodite reluctantly reconciled with her pregnant daughter-in-law, who was about to give birth to a grandchild Aphrodite would (obviously) dote on, Pleasure

Acontius and Cydippe

Acontius was a young man from Chios who, at a festival at Delos, fell in love with the Athenian Cydippe. He threw a coin at her, and she picked it up and read, "I swear by the temple of Artemis that I shall marry Acontius..." By saying it aloud, she was obligated to marry him. This myth reiterates how tradition—and male aspirations—took precedence over female wishes, whatever they may or may not be. 


Alcyone and Keyx

Alcyone was the daughter of Aeolus, king of the winds. Her marriage to Keyx was bliss—too happy, in fact. The couple often referred to each other as "Zeus" and "Hera", which naturally infuriated the king and queen of the gods. Whilst at sea, Zeus hurled a thunderbolt at Keyx's ship, drowning the man. He appeared before his wife as an apparition, telling her of his fate. Distraught, Alcyone threw herself into the sea in order to join him. The gods pitied the woeful couple and transformed them into kingfishers. This may be the origins of "halcyon days", seven days before and after the winter solstice when Aeolus demanded the calm of the seas in honor of the couple.


Hero and Leander

This tale is based upon a later poem by Musaeus around the fourth century C.E.. Nonetheless, it follows the tragic theme of two doomed lovers. Hero was a priestess of Aphrodite, and Leander was a lad of Abydos. They were on opposite sides of the Hellespont, but the youths fell in love anyway. At nightfall, Hero would hang a torch so Leander could swim across to her, using the light to guide him. One stormy night, the wind blew the light out; Leander lost his way and drowned. Upon learning of her lover's death, Hero also drowned herself in order to be with him. The story is a favorite among Renassaince artists; Rubens has an especially astonishing portrait.

Galatea and Acis

Acis, a minor river god, loved the nymph Galatea. However, the cyclopes Polyphemus [some say the same one who terrorized Odysseus ] also loved the girl. There really was no competition: Acis was young and handsome, Polyphemus large and ugly. Acis and Galatea carried on a secret love affair, but one day Polyphemus heard Acis singing a love song for her and hurled huge rocks at the two. Galatea transformed him into a river and the stones which Polyphemus threw became the Cyclopian Rocks in Sicily.

Phaedra and Hippolytus

Phaedra was the young princess whom the hero Theseus chose as a new bride. His son, Hippolytus, was from yet another wife whom he had trashed, the Amazon queen Hippolyta. Hippolytus was a rash, impetuous young man who completely scorned the goddess Aphrodite and devoted all his attention to Artemis. Aphrodite, enraged, would not be ignored; she cast a spell which makes Phaedra fall hopelessly in love with her step-son. Hippolytus was repulsed by Phaedra's advances, and she killed herself in agony. She left a note for Theseus that claimed Hippolytus violated her, and Theseus called upon his father Poseidon to take vengence on him. Hippolytus dies, but not before Theseus discovers the truth. This sad tale reveals just how deadly love can be—and how it cannot, and should not, be neglected.


Philemon and Baucis

A kindly, elderly couple from Phrygia who entertained and comforted strangers even though they themselves were impoverished. One set of "bums" were impressed and decided to reward the couple; indeed, the strangers could, for it was Zeus and Hermes, who had been treated rudely in their previous encounters with mortals. A grand palace was created for the kindly couple, and the gods granted their wish that they should die at the same moment. Both were transformed into trees: Philemon the oak and Baucis the lime; their boughs were entertwined, symbolizing their everlasting love.




A rather important story because it represents one of the first significant tales of homosexual love—and how it was not necessarily scorned in ancient Greek culture. Hyacinthus was an exceptionally handsome young man who excited the love of both Apollo and Zephyrus, god of the west wind. Hyacinthus professed his love for Apollo, and the jealous Zephyrus raised his winds so that a discus thrown by Apollo killed the youth. Heartbroken, Apollo had the hyacinth bloom where the young man died.



Pyramus and Thisbe

Actually a Babylonian tale, this involves two lovers in a situation similar to that of Hero and Leander and presents somewhat of a pre-Romeo and Juliet scenerio. They would meet at night, near a mulberry tree outside the city. One evening Thisbe arrived, but fled when she saw a lioness approaching. In her haste, she dropped her cloak. The lioness, fresh from a hunt, mauled the cloth with its bloodstained paws, and retreated. Pyramus soon arrived and discovered the cloak with the blood—and naturally assumed the worst. In agony, he stabbed himself; his blood splattered on the mulberries, which have been red ever since. Thisbe found his body and herself committs suicide.


Penthesilea and Achilles

Penthesilea was the valiant queen of the Amazons. The daughter of Ares, she was an ally to the Trojans, and fought rather heroically against the Achaeans. In battle with Achilles, he [unfortunately] killed her, but upon seeing her dying, fell immediately in love with her beauty and bravery. He was ridiculed by fellow warrior Thersites; Achilles, blinded by anger and love, killed the man.


Pygmalion and Galatea

This is actually a Latin myth, but it is rather amusing, so I'll include it: Pygmalion, king of Cyprus, was extremely dissatisfied with the vain and loose women of his kingdom. Instead of seeking a mate, he spends his time carving from marble his ideal woman, whom he lovingly refers to as Galatea [not the same as the one in a previous entry]. At a festival honoring Cyprus's patron goddess Aphrodite, he prays for a wife like his statute. Aphrodite is charmed by his devotion. When he returns to his home, he embraces the marble to find that it returns his hugs. Aphrodite has granted him his wish—Galatea is alive.


Sappho and Phaon

Sappho hailed from Lesbos and is best known for her poetry of admiration of young women [hence the term lesbian.] Later, it was believed she held an unrequited love for the young lad Phaon; when he repulsed her advances, she jumped from a rock and killed herself. The rock is known as Sappho's leap.

Site updated on March 19, 2018