Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Legendary love stories 


Pygmalion & Galatea
Pygmalion, probably the most famous from Ovid´s Metamorphoses, was a sculptor, who didn´t like women because of their lascivious life. Despite this he longed for a woman. Well, not like typical women, who he saw as a flawed creatures but perfect for him. He took ivory and created woman. Considering he was a great sculptor, who was able to create wonderful works, his statue was so fair, gentle and realistic. Pygmalion fell in love with statue of woman, who he called Galatea. He could not take his eyes off Galatea and even he knew that it was crazy, he started to giving her different gifts – orient pearls, sparkling stones, lumps of amber, fashionable robes, earrings, necklaces, rings, flowers, pretty seashells, beads etc. As wrote Ovid:

Pleas'd with his idol, he commends, admires,
Adores; and last, the thing ador'd, desires.
He knows 'tis madness, yet he must adore,
And still the more he knows it, loves the more.

His only wish was to give his beautiful statue life. When occurred the celebration of goddes Aphrodite, on the day of festival Pygmalion prayed, beseeching the goddess to turn Galatea into real woman. When Aphrodite took a look on statue, she found out that it looked a lot like herself, so, she brought it to life. When Pygmalion came back home, he noticed a flush on the cheeks of the ivory figurine, when he kissed her, he felt the warmth of her lips. Pygmalion married Galatea and they never forgot on Aphrodite´s help, so, as long as they lived they were bringing gifts to her altar.

Orpheus & Eurydice
Orpheus was the greatest musician and singer. His songs and music were so lovely, that they have power to mesmerize people, soothed birds and animals and calm nature. Legends used to say that Sirens green with envy before his magical voice and even Najad emerge from waves when they heard his songs and music.

His wife was Eurydice, who once upon tearing the wildflowers stepped on a viper. When Orpheus run to her, she was already dead. He was so sad from Eurydice´s dead, so he done something almost impossible. He went to the Underworld and hoped that he will get his wife back. All the inhabitants of the Underworld were impressed by his song of love to his beloved Eurydice. Even Hades, god of the Underworld, and his wife Persephone, who agreed that he could take his wife back. But, they have one condition, Orpheus wouldn´t turn around and look at her. He agreed with this condition and with Eurydice followed Hermes, who led the couple through Underworld.

All the way was Orpheus afraid of Eurydice and when he stepped on the treshold of the earthly world he turned around. But Eurydice was at that time still in Underworld and when Orpeus turned around and looked at her, she disappeared before his eyes. For next seven days was Orpheus searching in the caves and tunnels of Underworld, but without success. 

During next four years Orpheus returned to Thrace and wandering the world through participation in the Argonauts´ expedition. He was killed by hands of the Thracian women, because he did not want to be with different woman anymore. They tored him and thrown into the sea. His body was buried at Olympus. Lyre with his head swam to the Island of Lesbos, where was his head buried in the temple of Dionysus and from his lyre made Apollo constellation on the sky. 

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Yet, even though their beauty, originality, uniqueness and sophistication were breathtaking, they are probably the least explored Wonder of the World. While from the other Wonders of the World preserve at least ruins, the real clue leading to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon remains hidden. Even the ancient artists describing their beauty drew ideas from older sources. However, we can read the description from different authors, for example we can read one from Strabo, who states that:

 „(...) the shape of the garden is a square, and each side of it measures four plethra. It consists of vaulted terraces, raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and the terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.

The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden. For the river, which is a stadium in breadth, flows through the middle of the city, and the garden is on the side of the river."

Different sources further say, that the fields were so high, that plowmen were working over the heads of people and a wonderful large tree roots irrigated water from the fountains. On the outer edge of each terrace grew thousands of climbing plants. Terraces looked as if they were hanging or floated. In parks flowed rivers, even we would be able to find there waterfalls and ponds with ducks or frogs.

Legends says, that the Persian princess Amytis (Semiramis) received them as a gift from her husband Nebuchadnezzar. Gardens should relieve sadness for her home, because she missed vegetation and landscape of mountains in today´s Iran, where she lived before she descended to the hot and arid plains of Mesopotamia. Nebuchadnezzar ordered his soldier to bring diverse plants from their warpaths. Soon were bringing different plants also various merchants.

Overall the person of Semiramis is legendary as well as the gardens. Therefore, many experts believe, that it is only a kind of legend. However, it would be possible that in Babylon, a city that is famous because of Tower of Babel as well as because of massive walls, could once stand also these gardens. In 1989 Robert Koldewey searched 90 km from Baghdad on the banks of the Euphrates River. He were worked there for 18 years and uncovered outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar´s palaces, wide processional roadway, etc. Koldewey also discovered basement with fourteen large rooms with stone ceiling. According to informations from ancient records we know, that only two locations in Babylon had made use of stone and one of these were Hanging Gardens. Also on the base of other tracks was Koldewey convinced that he actually found remains of Gardens. Of course, there are even opponents who disagree and argue, for example, that the site is too far from the river to be irrigated. However, as stated by Bill Price „in the time of Nebuchadnezzar Euphrates flowed through the city, while now is flowing the other direction, west of the ruins.“

Next, there are also other different theories, which says where the remains of Gardens could be located. According to the historians at Oxford University, they can be found in the neighborhood of Mosul. With another theory came Dr. Stephanie Dalley, who think that Hanging Gardens can be located in Nineveh, also known as the New Babylon.

Wherever are remains after these beautiful gardens located, we can safely say that there were the one of the  most courageous constructions, which was inspired by love. 

Omar & Fatima, the Well of Love

It was not so long ago, when at the Trenčín castle (Slovak republic) ruled family Zapolsky. At that time started on the south of the country big war because of Turkish invasion, which was suppressed by the army. Also the enemies were taken into the captivity. Surprisingly, officer, who led the enemies, was a woman called Fatima, whose life were saved from death by Zapolsky´s wife. Chatelaine liked her young prisoner because of her beauty, humility, devotion, etc.

Some soldiers, however, managed to escape. One of them was also Omar, a Turkish pasha, who was after a hard battle almost dead. When he get well, he found out that Fatima, his love, is in captivity at the Trenčín castle. Omar wanted to redeem Fatima and offered to Štefan Zápoľský silver, gold, jewelery also precious Persian carpets and many other things but the lord wanted from him only to dig a well on the rock, where is the castle, because of lack of water. So, because Omar really loved Fatima, he, also at the price of his death, started to work on the well to make the castle invincible. Omar with 300 companions spend there three years diging through the castle rock to find precious water for lord. Even Omar suppressed the rebellion of his men. After years of hard work and also many death men, was Omar succeed. Finally he could took Fatima back home, but at the end of his work he said to the lord:

„Zapolsky, water has thou, but not the heart.“

Legend is further telling that when they were leaving the place, Fatima´s veil trapped at the bushes along the castle road. Because of that is the tavern, which arose in this place in 16th century called „Veil.“ Later, as you can find it also now, the name was changed on „Fatima.“

Shah Jahan & Mumtaz Mahal, Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is a mausoleum made of white marble located on the right bank of the Yamuna River in Agra and built by the order of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 17th century. Complex, which includes a large garden, reflecting pool, mosque, four minarets and also other mausoleums, was built as a memorial of his third wife – Arjumand Banu Begum – who get after marriage name Mumtáz Mahál, what means the Pearl of the Palace. For both of them it was the love on the first sight. However, for political reasons must Shah Jahan married Hindu princess. However, since he could according to law marry up to four viwes, Mumtaz Mahal became his third one. They were together for 19 years, during which she inspired him to acts of charity and was belowed for her loyalty and compassionate guidance. She died during childbirth of their 14 child. After dead of favourite wife, Shah didn´t eat or drink for 8 days, during which was locked in his chambers. After this time Shah, who significantly grown old, commanded national mourning, banned playing on musical Instruments, wearing colourful clothes, jewelry, etc.  

Then, he swore, that in memory of Mumtaz Mahal, will build ostentatious tomb. Construction started in 1632. Although is the official date of comletion of construction dated in 1648, overall is assumed that works lasted for 22 years. On monument, which total height is 171 metres, were working more than 22 000 workers and 1 000 elephants. Different materials, including 30 different variety of semi precious and precious stones, were brought from all over India and central Asia. But, it should be also noted that many of these stones were ripped off from walls during the Indian rebellion of 1857.

Although was Shah Jahan emperor, during whose reign reached empire the greatest political power and cultural flowering, he died as a prisoner. After completion of Taj Mahal, wanted Shah Jahan build on the opposite bank of the river his own tomb made of black marble and link it with Taj Mahal. Arch of the bridge should meant a symbol of love, which can survive also death. But, emperor fell ill and after year was overthrew by his son. After his dead was buried alongside his wife in Taj Mahal.

Also today we can see Taj Mahal in different colours during whole day. From pinkish hue in the morning, through white in the evening, to the golden at night. People used to say, that the changing of colours are depicting different moods of a Woman. 

10 creatures from Greek mythology

In mythologies all over the world we can find, more or less, strange creatures, which can represent the combination of different creatures or combination of animals and people. Anyway, probably the most famous creatures comes from the Greek mythology and even they were probably some kind of attempt to explain natural phenomena or creatures that seemed illogical, they have unshakable place in the world of myths and legends. We´ll look on some of them.


This creature is usually described with body of a lion and with head and breast of a woman, wings of a griffin or an eagle and serpent tail. Hera send this creature as a curse on the city  of Thebes and Sphinx started to guard the only access to the Fort. Anyone who wanted to walk around the place must solve the riddle. If someone didn´t answer it right, Sphinx killed him. The riddle was: What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three at close of the day?

Overall this creature can killed more than thousands of people. Also because of this fact was Sphinx considered as demon of death and bad luck. The hero, who answered right on Sphinx´s riddle was Oidipous, who answered that the creature from the riddle is a man, who as a baby crawls on four legs, then as an adult walks on two legs and in old age walks with crutch as a third leg.

 It should be noted that Oedipus also killed her, because the fate of Sphinx was to don´t survive the right answer on the riddle. After Oedipus answer it, creature jump from the rock into the sea.

Cerberus is overall know from Greek mythology as three - headed dog, but we must also say that although overall had Cerberus three heads, sometimes we can find his describtion with one, two but also with 50 or 100 heads, with a serpent´s tail, mane of snakes and lion´s claws. The main aim of this creature was to guard the entrance into the realm of the dead – Underworld. Only dead may go there, nobody can go away and Cerberus tasks was to prevent souls of people from leaving this place. 

We can find Cerberus in different myths. For example capturing Cerberus was the final labour assigned to Heracles by King Eurystehus. Hercules get to the underworld, where after death go souls of every people, through cave from Taenarum in Laconia. Heracles met Hades, who allowed him to lead the animal to the surface, but only if he will use his power and strength, not weapons. Heracles was succesful, brought Cerberus to the surface, where creature scared Eurystehus, who begged hero to take creature back into the Underworld.

Another hero who met Cerberus was Orpheus, who get into Underworld thanks to music, which makes creature fall asleep. Orpehus was searching for his dead wife Eurydice, but he do not fulfilled one condition – don´t look back. When he did it, Eurydice dissapeared and never returned into live.


Chimera was a fire-breathing creature, which was in fact combination of three animals – goat, lion and a snake. Chimera had the main head of lion, and it also had his strength, body of goat and also its head, which rised from her back, and serpent tail with the snake head. She lived in the mountains of Lycia, concretelly in the gorge of volcano, where she guarded the entrance to the Underworld. From this place, where she dwelt, she was terrorizing surroundings, killing cattle and setting fires. When Chimera felt human, she grind out fire so powerful that it was able to melt also the weapons.

Chimera was at last killed on command of king of Lycia by hero Bellerophon, who was in fact afraid of this creature. Bellerophon received from gods bow, arrows, spear with leaden tip and the winged horse Pegasus, which take the hero to the Chimera. It should be meant that Bellerophon get the Pegasus thanks to Athena´s help, who gave to hero golden bridle, whereby tamed the Pegasus. First, Bellerophon shot arrows at Chimera and when was creature tired, he killed her with the spear.


Sirens are one of the few creatures that are often portrayed quite differently than they were described by myths and legends. Many people can Sirens described as mermaids but in fact they were part women, part birds creatures with beautiful voices inhabiting the rocks on the sea- shore.

Story, which is trying to explain the transformation of beautiful maidens into the creatures of half women, half birds creatures, is talking about time when Hades kidnapped Persephone to the Underworld. Sirens were transformed into these creatures but they could not find her. As people in their search did not help them, they retaliated to them, when they lured sailors, with their beautiful voices, to shipwreck on their coasts without regret.

Sirens are associated also with Argonauts, who sailed around their Island after getting the golden fleece. There were saved from death by Orpehus, whose singing and playing on lyre surpassed Sirens. Another story, where can be Sirens found, is on of the ways of Odysseus, who, on the advise by the sorceress Circe, taped ears of his men by wax and firmly tie himself to the mast. One of the latest stories used to say that after one of these failures, Sirens jumped down from the rocks to the sea (similarly to Sphinx, when someone resisted their songs, their fate was death).


Medusa was in Greek mythology most famoust Gorgon. Overall there were three Gorgon sisters - Medusa, Stheno and Euryale – who had scaly bodies, bronze arms and gold wings. Medusa was unlike her sisters mortal and originally beautiful women with silky hair, but she felt in love with Poseidon and desecrated the Athena´s temple, so she turned her hair into hissing serpents. Medusa is known mainly because of her ability to turn into stone everyone she gazed upon.

Medusa was at last killed by the hero Perseus, who made it on command of King Polydektes. Perseus use the reflective shield, in which he looked to see the reflection of Medusa, curved sword, winged boots and magic helmet. As stated Vojtech Zamarovský Perseus used head of Medusa for three times „first time, when was insulted by giant Atlas, second time when he was attacked by Fíneus (refused suitor of Perseus´ wife) and for third time when he avenge to the king Polydektes for acts, which he committed to his mother Danae.“ Then was the head of Medusa gave to Athena and she fixed it to her breastplate. 


Cyclopes were crude and uneducated giants, cannibals with one eye in the middle of their foreheads living in caves of Hypereia, although they were initially hid by their father Uranus, due to their appearance in the Underworld, but they escape with the assistance of their mother Gaia.

 One of the famous Cyclopes was the Polyphemus, son of the Sea God Poseidon, who is known also because of that he felt in love with Galatea and killed his rival in love. Polyphemus is also mentioned in Homer´s Odyssey, where this Cyclop met Odysseus. Once, Odysseus with his expedition, found himself in a cave, which later proved to be the home of this Cyclop. Polyphemus blocked the entrance to the cave and started to eat the men. Odysseus drunk and blind him and with the rest of his men get away from the cave throgh the attachment to the bellies of sheeps, which backs Cyclop controlled. 

Althought were Cyclopec generally evil, cruel, without respect for the law or gods, they were proficient blacksmiths, who made thunderbolt for Zeus (this weapon concretely made three Cyclops – Brontes, Steropes and Arges), Helmet of invisibility for Hades and they were also metal workers and assist to a blacksmith Hephaestus.


Hydra, ancient serpent-like monster with nine heads. Interesting thing is that one of these heads was immortal and, if somebode cut the other head of Hydra, instead of it grew two more heads. So, for average people it was unreal to kill this terrible creature, which ravaged wide surroundings.  Similarly to Cerberus, killing Hydra was on the Heracles tasks. In fight with creature, which lived in the swamps of Lerna in Argolis, helped Heracles his friend Iolaos and with his sword cut Heracles the immortal head of Hydra. Also, according to Ron Leadbetter when Heracles realized that after cutting of head are growing two heads he „called help from Iolaus (...) who cauterized the open wounds with the flaming torch preventing them from growing again.“  Even Heracles killed the creature, Eurystheus wasn´t satisfied and told Heracles it should not be count as his victory, because Iolaus helped him.

Although it might seem that Hydra, like other mythical creatures dissappeared in the ancient times, it is not true. As reported by Vojtech Zamarovský „nearly seventy times occurs on inscriptions of paintings, plastics and sculptures from ancient times until today. (...) also in the literature we encounter, for example, with Hydra of War, Hydra of bureaucratise,“ and others.


This creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man, was according to the legend son of Pasiphae, the wife of King Minos, and the Cretan bull, to which she fell in love. Maybe because of the danger posed by Minotaur or because his looks, Minotaur dwelt at the center of the Creatan Labyrinth, which was designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of Minos. We should also mention that to Daedalus and Icarus attaches also legend that Minos after the final works on labyrinth for Minotaur , did not want to let them go. So they made wings from bird feathers and glue but, Icarus flew to high, so sun melted the glue and then he fell into the sea, where he drowned.

Another interesting fact attaching to Minotaur is, that he was fed by the human flesh. He was annualy fed by seven (some sources states five or twelve) youth and maidens from Athens. This terrible habit stopped only the hero Theseus, who get help from Ariadne, the daughter of Minos.  Ariadne gave to Theseus the sword and ball of string, which should help him to find the way out of the Labyrinth. Theseus tied the tread to the enter of the Labyrinth. When he heard the terrified screams of one youth, he run to that place to kill the creature. Later, together with others, Theseus came out of the labyrinth where was Ariadne waiting on him. 


Centaurus/hippocentaurs can be best described as a half-man, half-horse. Concretely, Centaurs had torso, arms and head of man and body and legs of horse.  These creatures with wild, savage and lustful nature, dwelt in the mountains and forests of Magnesia, region in Thessaly, but there were more tribes. There are also different explanation of their existence. One of them states that the ancestor of these creatures was a son of Apollo and the nymph Stible, another that it was a son of Ixion and cloud, which looks like Hera, that made Zeus to test wife´s testimony.

Probably the best known Centaur was Chiron, only immortal centaur, which his mother Phylira due to his look rebuffed and care for him tooked god Apollo, who taught him fishing, divining or treating. Even in some cases sources states that he was Hercules´ teacher, other sources states that Hercules poisoned Chiron by arrow dipped in the blood of Hydra what caused serious injury.

Although was Chiron a wise teacher, another well-known centaurs was Eurytion, who was the most strong. With this centaur related unpleasant incident, which was mainly caused by the inability of the centaurs to drink alcohol. According to Vojtech Zamarovský „at the invitation of King of Lapiths Eurytion attended with comrades his wedding (...) where in drunkenness caused the battle and tryed to kidnap the wife of the king. The other centaurs followed his example (...) However, the Greeks protected their women and in fight almost all Centaurs killed.“


Although is probably the most famous dog of myths of Ancient Greece Cerberus, we can meet here also his brother Orthrus, which was a two-headed dog with sharp edged teeth and serpent tail. From his other siblings we can also mention Chimera, Hydra, which were already mentioned. Another sibling could be also Sphinx, but some sources mentioned, that it was her father. Unlike his siblings, who guarded the important building or entrances to the Underworld, Orthrus lived on the Island of Erytheia, where he served to the three-bodied giant Geryon. Orthrus guarded herds of cattle.

Similarly as other less known creatures, Orthrus can be find mainly in the myth of Heracles´ 12 labours, in which on the order of king Eurystheus Heracles should take the herds of cattle, which were guarded by Orthrus, to Mycenae. During this journey Heracles met in Africa giant Antais, the son of Mother Earth, whose Herakles defeated only when he lifted him into the air. Orthrus fiercely resisted cattle and finally Heracles killed him in the battle.