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Sphinx (Riddle of)
The Secret Lovers
Leander was a young man from Abydus. He would take a swim every night to his mistress, Hero. He was guided by a lamp lit at the top of the tower. He traveled as far as 1300 meters in the middle of the night just to see his beloved Hero. At the break of dawn, Leander would return to his city by the same means of transportation. His trip was made through Hellespont. It is said to be easier to cross that body of water from Sestus to Abydus (on his way home) than from Abydus to Sestus (on his journey to Hero) because of water currents.
Hero's Life - Sestus
Before Hero encountered Leander, the young woman lived alone. She would never go to local gatherings or dances. Hero believed that:
"... at the sight of beauty women are envious." (Mus. 37)
This forced her to avoid speaking with girls of her own age. Instead of going out, Hero lived in a old tower by the sea. This tower is where Leander swam to every night to come see his beautiful lady.
The Courage of Leander
Many young men were stunned by the utter beauty of Hero. Many even offered death to be the first to sleep with the beautiful maiden. Some even claimed they would
Hero holding the lamp to guide Leander back to her.
rather marry Hero rather than to be immortal. They also stated that they never got tired of looking at her. Leander, a courageous young man, approached the miraculous Hero and silent gestures. Before they had even said one word, they had grasped each other's hand. This is the outline for many love stories today.
"This is how love often introduces himself; for words are too slow when beauty must find its way to the soul."
A Conversation in the Temple
With his hand in hers, Leander led Hero to the Temple. When they arrived, Leander prayed that Hero could take pity on his desire to be with her. He gave her a nice, hearty kiss on the throat. He told Hero that Aphrodite had no pleasure dealing with virgins, and he was at her feet in the name of Love. At first, Hero did not agree. She threatened him with
things. Then, as if something came over her, she stood there speechless. She was taken aback by his undeniable beauty. Then, she said:
"Stranger, likely with your words you might rouse even a stone."
It was a very nice thing for the man to hear; however, Hero also mentioned that her parents would not allow her to marry a foreign man. She also reminded him that if he stayed in this land as a foreigner that he would not be able to hide their love. All of the sudden, Leander spoke:
"...for the sake of your love I will cross even the wild waves."
At dusk every night, Leander would wait by the shore of Abydus for the lamp to signal him to begin his journey across Hellesport. Leander believed during his swims that Aphrodite, who was born on the sea, would lead him to a safe passage. He would jump completely naked into the sea. He knew his way by the light of lamp, which Hero was protecting with her cloak.
A Nightly Union
When Leander would arrive at Hero's tower, he would stand in front of the portals and wait for Hero to meet him. She would lead him to her chamber. Hero would anoint him with oils when they got there. The scent of the oils would overwhelm the stench of the sea. This was their wedding, and
was not honored. The break of dawn never saw the bridegroom in the marriage-bed. All of the sudden, Leander would jump back into the sea and swim back to Abydus while it was still dark. In fear of her parents, Hero would be playing a maiden by day and a wife by night.
Hero's dead body lies on top of Leander's after she jumped from the tower.
The Death of Leander This arrangement of love did not last more than a summer. When the winter came, the sea changed. Leander's love was never to be stopped by anything, not even the freezing weather. One windy night, Leander found himself caught in the middle of a very strong storm. The light in Hero's lamp was blown out. Leander had nothing to follow, nothing to reach for. Leander got lost and found himself completely exhausted. He could swim no more, and Leander drowned.
Hero's Love Never Dies
One day after, Leander's body washed up on the shore near Hero's tower. Hero witnessed his body lying on the ground, and she ripped off her clothing. She jumped from the tower, and her lifeless body laid right next to Leander's when she hit the ground. Although no human bodies have wings, some say those who go through life together in love and friendship grow a different kind of wings:
"...when they depart from the body, they are not winged, to be sure, but their wings have begun to grow, so that the madness of love brings them no small reward; for it is the law that those who have once begun their upward progress shall never again pass into darkness and the journey under the earth, but shall live a happy life in the light as they journey together, and because of their love shall be alike in the plumage when they receive their wings."
Hero and Leander
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