The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice: Most Famous Greek Myth

SpiritualRay Staff Nov 7, 2018
Most epic love stories end on a tragic note, and so does the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Get acquainted with the most famous Greek myth. Read ahead to know more about this mythological saga of love and separation.
Tragic Inspiration!
The myth of Orpheus and Eurydice was an inspiration for the 1959 movie Black Orpheus.
The story of Orpheus and Eurydice is a tragic love story. It is a beautiful saga of true love. Orpheus was the son of Apollo and the Greek muse Calliope. He was blessed with the power to charm anybody with his songs. Apollo gifted him a lyre, which he mastered as a child itself.
It is said that even the most ferocious of beasts and inanimate objects like trees and stones were enchanted by his captivating music. Eurydice was a beautiful tree nymph. She was known for her divine beauty. How they fell in love, got married, and were separated by fate, almost met again to be separated forever, is what the myth is all about.

Summary of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice

The myth begins with love at first sight for Orpheus. He was mesmerized by the beauty of oak nymph Eurydice. How could Eurydice resist Orpheus when he wooed her with his songs? Both fell in love and got married. Their marriage was blessed by Hymen, the God of Marriage Ceremonies. But unfortunately for the two young lovers, he brought no happy omens.

Death separates the lovers...

Happiness and love was short-lived for the newly married couple. Once Eurydice was dancing and laughing with fellow nymphs in a meadow. A shepherd called Aristaeus saw her. He was enchanted with her beauty and persuaded her. She ran away from him, but was stung by a viper. The bite turned out to be fatal, and Orpheus lost his beloved Eurydice forever.

Pursuit to get her back...

Obviously, Orpheus could not handle this separation from his soulmate. He started crying, and singing songs of sorrow. He was not someone who would let go. He decided to bring back Eurydice from the jaws of death, quite literally! He made up his mind, and undertook the journey into the underworld.
As he descended into the land of the dead, he met many monsters, but all were charmed with his music, and nobody stopped him. Even the three-headed monster guard Cerberus didn't stop him.

The quest

Finally, Orpheus went to meet the King of the Underworld, Hades, and his wife, Persephone. He asked them to give him his life, his one true love back. It is said that such was the power of Orpheus's lyre and songs, that even Hades was moved to tears.
He decided to let Eurydice go, but on one condition; until they reach the outer world, Orpheus won't look back at Eurydice. He was supposed to trust Hades blindly. Orpheus was ready to do anything to get his dear wife back, so he agreed to this condition.

We meet to depart again...

They started the journey; Orpheus was finally happy, and was taking efforts not to look behind. He could not hear Eurydice's footsteps, as she was in a shadow form. But he held on for his love. Finally, he reached the outer world, and immediately turned to look at Eurydice. The unexpected happened, she just disappeared; bidding a last farewell to Orpheus.
Orpheus, in his excitement to look at Eurydice, hadn't realized that although he had crossed over to the outer world, she was still within its boundaries. Thus, he lost her forever. She was taken back to the underworld. He ran behind her and started banging the doors to hell.
All he wanted was Eurydice, and he was ready to go back inside to get her. But no man could enter the underworld twice, not alive at least. All he could do was cry for his love. He is said to have sang songs of sorrow, sitting by the entrance, for seven consecutive days.

An unhappy ending!

He returned, and started spending his time singing, playing his lyre, and wandering around with men. There were many women who were attracted to the handsome and charming Orpheus, but he spurned their advances. Maenads, who were very angry with him, decided to avenge themselves. They threw stones and sticks at him. But, even these couldn't hit Orpheus.
Exasperated, they literally tore his body into pieces, and murdered him in a gruesome manner. His head was thrown into a river, along with his lyre. According to some stories, his head continued to sing songs of agony. The muses found his body parts and gave him a proper cremation.
His lyre was given an honorable place in the sky, as a constellation. That's how the painful story of Orpheus and Eurydice ends. If it's any consolation, it is said that Orpheus and Eurydice finally met and lived together in the afterlife.

What is the moral of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice?

The moral can be as simple as letting go of things that are not in your control. Sometimes, we just have to accept life as is, and move on. It also tells us to be patient; had Orpheus controlled himself for a few more minutes, he and Eurydice would have ended up being together again. Each person can interpret this story in a different way though.
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