This week in class we discussed one of the first love stories: the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus, son of the muse Calliope, was a singer, one of the best singers in the world. He played the lyre (a small harp) and when he sang all the people and animals would listen to him. He gained his fame in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts in which Orpheus was one of the fifty members aboard the Argo, helping the young hero Jason find the golden fleece. His greatest contribution to the tale was playing his beautiful music to drown out the siren songs as they sailed past the evil sirens. Odysseus famously also sailed past the island of sirens on his Odyssey.
Once back in Greece, he fell in love with Eurydice, a wood nymph of incredible beauty. Not long after they fell in love Eurydice was chased by another suitor into the woods where she was bitten by a venomous snake and promptly died. Overcome with grief, Orpheus wandered throughout the world playing his sad tunes for all to hear until one day the ground opened up to the underworld. He sang his way to the court of Hades and played a beautifully sad song to all the inhabitants of the underworld. This performance convinced Persephone, Hades’ wife, to free Eurydice. Hades agreed on one condition: Orpheus must not look behind to check that Eurydice was still behind until they were out of the underworld. Of course, right before they made it out of the underworld Orpheus looked behind only to see his beloved dragged back into the depths of Hades.
This tragic story is one of the most well known Greek tales and has only risen in popularity with the Broadway musical Hadestown. I saw Hadestown in January and it was amazing. Highly recommend listening to the soundtrack if you enjoy musicals or Greek mythology!