Who were Orpheus And Eurydice and what’s their story?

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orpheus and eurydice

A large number of the culture of people and the land prospered and gone around the world left only a handful of stories in abundance. Every region has its own fairy tale- tragic or fortunate. Whether they are Romeo and Juliet of Verona, Italy, or Salim- Anarkali of India, dire love tales are always more than just life- narration. Whereas the Greeks are the greatest source of such stories to date! The epic tales of heroics, captivating myths of creation, ballads of life and death, and folklore of comedy and reverse are profoundly present in the legacy of the Greeks.

Today, let us introduce you to the gracious yet saddening tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Centered around the great Gods and Goddesses of Olympus, this tale is an incredible love story taken straight from Greek myths. This story has inspired great painters, such as Peter Paul Rubens and Nicolas Poussin. Several operas, live shows, stage dramas, and movies are made to honour the tale of these two lovers. The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has many versions, yet the most famous and known version is this. 

Orpheus And Eurydice From The Earliest Version Of Ibycus Circa 530 BC

Orpheus is a great legendary man blessed with incredible musical skills. He was the son of Apollo, the king of Thrace and Muse also known as Calliope, an epic poet. Some legends say that Apollo gave Orpheus his first lyre. As a young boy, he mastered the art of lyre in no time. Orpheus was gifted with a seraphic voice, and the melody of his lyre would often make the audience charmed and mesmerized. Myths and legend suggest that no god or human could resist the melody of his voice. Even the trees and rocks would dance to his music!  

Mentioned by Homer (Odyssey), Orpheus joined the expedition of the Argonauts, rescuing them from Sirens by playing his own powerful music. He was also well educated in agriculture, writings, and medicine. Orpheus uses to perform on many occasions and people from far off would come to appreciate his music. On one occasion, Eurydice a beautiful and shy lady came to witness the melody of his voice. Orpheus was bewitched by the enchanted beauty of Eurydice, and she on the other hand felt deeply in love with Orpheus. Something unexpected clutched their hearts- it was love at first sight! Both were so madly in love that staying away for even a moment seemed nearly impossible; hence, they decided to get married.

orpheus and eurydice

Their wedding was full of light and beauty. Hymenaios, the god of marriage blessed the newlywed and the environment was filled with joy and laughter. However, this happiness didn’t last for long and grief awaits their fate. Aristaeus, a local shepherd was too bestowed by the beauty of Eurydice and wanted her for himself. He aimed to kill Orpheus and flee away with Eurydice.

Later on the wedding day, all the guests were gone and the shadows grew large and dark. The couple realized it was time to leave. On their way back home, Aristaeus who was hiding behind the bushes jumped out to kill Orpheus, in vain. As the man made his move Orpheus grabbed the hand of Eurydice and ran inside the dark forest, Aristaeus followed them. For a long time, the game of chase and hide was on until when Eurydice fell. When Orpheus turned back to pick his wife he realized the Eurydice has stepped on the nest of snakes and was bitten by a deadly viper. Orpheus couldn’t comprehend what just happened and just like that his lovely wife passed away in his arms. Witnessing the death of Eurydice, Aristaeus cursed the luck and went away.

A Walk In The Underworld

After the death of his beloved wife, Orpheus was no longer the person he was. His life was filled with grief and sorrow. Even the melody of his lyre was full of despair. But the will to get reunited with Eurydice, Orpheus pleaded Apollo to help him go underworld. Witnessing the pain of his son, Apollo talked to Hades, the god of the Underworld to accept the request of Orpheus- which was agreed upon.

Tugged with his lyre, Orpheus made his way to the underworld. As he stood in front of the god of the dead, he pleaded his request to bring his wife back to life. That day he played his lyre like never before. Hades and Queen Persephone both were deeply moved by his love for the maiden. Even the giant three-headed beast guarding the entry to the underworld, Cerberus’s heart was melted. Seeing the love of Orpheus, Hades agreed on returning Eurydice but only on one condition. He warned Orpheus that for no reason should he look back until Eurydice comes to light. And if not done, that would undo everything. Orpheus agreed and along with his wife made his way to the upper world. As Orpheus moved forward, Eurydice followed him from behind. Joyful on being reunited with his lover, Orpheus made his way to light, when the light finally touched Orpheus he could no longer wait to hug his wife. Unfortunately, as he looked back he realized that Eurydice had not yet come in contact with the light and within moments she was drawn back to the underworld. Heartbroken Orpheus was shattered and shuddering with grief as he rushed to the underworld, where he was stopped by Zeus sent by Hades.  

From then on hopeless Orpheus wandered round the forest in despair and grief. He stopped playing his lyre and his misfortune made him unable to look at any other woman ever again. Even his joyful voice soon turned sad and dejected. Jealous by his love for Eurydice, the maidens of the place decided to kill Orpheus. As he lay above the rocks below the open sky, the irate women made their way to him. Orpheus on the other hand was too despaired that he didn’t even ward off their moves. These women did Dionysus and threw his head and lyre in the river. His body was torn down to several pieces and was thrown here and there. On the other side of the river, a few muses found his head and lyre and gave him a proper burial ceremony. His lyre was then placed in the heaven as a constellation.

The lovers were finally reunited in the underworld and the upper world forever embraced the tragic yet gracious tale of Orpheus and Eurydice.

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