Hero and Leander

Hero and Leander

Overview
Hero and Leander is a Byzantine myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, relating the story of Hērō and like "hero" in English), a priestess of Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 who dwelt in a tower in Sestos
Sestos
200px|200px|thumb|The Ancient Map of Gallipoli PeninsulaSestos was an ancient Greek town of the Thracian Chersonese, the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. Situated on the Hellespont opposite Abydos, it was the home of Hero in the legend of Hero and Leander, where according to legend...

 on the European side of the Dardanelles, and Leander , a young man from Abydos
Abydos, Hellespont
For other uses, see Abydos Abydos , an ancient city of Mysia, in Asia Minor, situated at Nara Burnu or Nagara Point on the best harbor on the Asiatic shore of the Hellespont. Across Abydos lies Sestus on the European side marking the shortest point in the Dardanelles, scarcely a mile broad...

 on the opposite side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

Succumbing to Leander's soft words, and to his argument that Aphrodite, as goddess of love, would scorn the worship of a virgin, Hero allowed him to make love to her.
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Encyclopedia
Hero and Leander is a Byzantine myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

, relating the story of Hērō and like "hero" in English), a priestess of Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 who dwelt in a tower in Sestos
Sestos
200px|200px|thumb|The Ancient Map of Gallipoli PeninsulaSestos was an ancient Greek town of the Thracian Chersonese, the modern Gallipoli peninsula in European Turkey. Situated on the Hellespont opposite Abydos, it was the home of Hero in the legend of Hero and Leander, where according to legend...

 on the European side of the Dardanelles, and Leander , a young man from Abydos
Abydos, Hellespont
For other uses, see Abydos Abydos , an ancient city of Mysia, in Asia Minor, situated at Nara Burnu or Nagara Point on the best harbor on the Asiatic shore of the Hellespont. Across Abydos lies Sestus on the European side marking the shortest point in the Dardanelles, scarcely a mile broad...

 on the opposite side of the strait. Leander fell in love with Hero and would swim every night across the Hellespont to be with her. Hero would light a lamp at the top of her tower to guide his way.

Succumbing to Leander's soft words, and to his argument that Aphrodite, as goddess of love, would scorn the worship of a virgin, Hero allowed him to make love to her. This routine lasted through the warm summer. But one stormy winter night, the waves tossed Leander in the sea and the breezes blew out Hero's light, and Leander lost his way, and was drowned. Hero threw herself from the tower in grief and died as well.

Cultural References


The myth of Hero and Leander has been used extensively in literature and the arts:
  • Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus
    Septimius Severus , also known as Severus, was Roman Emperor from 193 to 211. Severus was born in Leptis Magna in the province of Africa. As a young man he advanced through the customary succession of offices under the reigns of Marcus Aurelius and Commodus. Severus seized power after the death of...

    A coin of abydos
  • Ovid
    Ovid
    Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

     treated the narrative in his Heroides
    Heroides
    The Heroides , or Epistulae Heroidum , are a collection of fifteen epistolary poems composed by Ovid in Latin elegiac couplets, and presented as though written by a selection of aggrieved heroines of Greek and Roman mythology, in address to their heroic lovers who have in some way mistreated,...

    , 18 and 19, an exchange of letters between the lovers. Leander has been unable to swim across to Hero in her tower because of bad weather, her summons to him to make the effort will prove fatal to her lover.
  • Francisco Quevedo mentions Leander in "En crespa tempestad del oro undoso"
  • Byzantine
    Byzantine Empire
    The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

     poet Musaeus
    Musaeus
    Musaeus or Musaios was the name of three Greek poets.-Musaeus of Athens:Musaeus was a legendary polymath, philosopher, historian, prophet, seer, priest, poet, and musician, said to have been the founder of priestly poetry in Attica...

     also wrote a poem; Aldus Manutius made it one of his first publications (c. 1493) after he set up his famous printing press in Venice (his humanistic aim was to make Ancient Greek Literature available to scholars). Musaeus's poem had early translations into European languages by Tasso (Italian), Boscán (Spanish) and Marot (French). This poem was widely believed in the Renaissance to have been pre-Homeric: George Chapman reflects at the end of his completion of Marlowe's version that the dead lovers had the honour of being 'the first that ever poet sung’. Chapman's 1616 translation has the title The divine poem of Musaeus. First of all bookes. Translated according to the original, by Geo: Chapman. Staplyton, the mid-17th century translator, had read Scaliger's repudiation of this mistaken belief, but still could not resist citing Virgil's 'Musaeum ante omnes' (Aeneid VI, 666) on the title page of his translation (Virgil's reference was to an earlier Musaeus).
  • Renaissance
    Renaissance
    The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

     poet Christopher Marlowe
    Christopher Marlowe
    Christopher Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.A warrant was issued for Marlowe's arrest on 18 May...

     began an expansive version of the narrative. His story does not get as far as Leander's nocturnal swim, and the guiding lamp that gets extinguished, but ends after the two have become lovers (Hero and Leander (poem)
    Hero and Leander (poem)
    Hero and Leander is a mythological poem by Christopher Marlowe. After Marlowe's death it was completed by George Chapman. Henry Petowe published an alternate completion to the poem.-Publication:...

    );
  • George Chapman
    George Chapman
    George Chapman was an English dramatist, translator, and poet. He was a classical scholar, and his work shows the influence of Stoicism. Chapman has been identified as the Rival Poet of Shakespeare's Sonnets by William Minto, and as an anticipator of the Metaphysical Poets...

     completed Marlowe's poem after Marlowe's death; this version was often reprinted in the first half of the 17th century, with editions in 1598 (Linley); 1600 and 1606 (Flasket); 1609, 1613, 1617, 1622 (Blount); 1629 (Hawkins); and 1637 (Leake).
  • Sir Walter Ralegh alludes to the story, in his 'The Ocean's Love to Cynthia', in which Hero has fallen asleep, and fails to keep alight the lamp that guides Leander on his swim (more kindly versions, like Chapman's, have her desperately struggling to keep the lamp burning).
  • Shakespeare also alludes to this story in the opening scene of Two Gentlemen of Verona, in a dialogue between Valentine and Proteus (the two gentlemen in the play):

VALENTINE- And on a love-book pray for my success?
PROTEUS- Upon some book I love I'll pray for thee.
VALENTINE- That's on some shallow story of deep love: How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
PROTEUS- That's a deep story of a deeper love: For he was more than over shoes in love.
VALENTINE- 'Tis true; for you are over boots in love, And yet you never swum the Hellespont.

Hero and Leander are again mentioned in Act III Scene I when Valentine is tutoring the Duke of Milan on how to woo the lady from Milan.

  • Ben Jonson
    Ben Jonson
    Benjamin Jonson was an English Renaissance dramatist, poet and actor. A contemporary of William Shakespeare, he is best known for his satirical plays, particularly Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair, which are considered his best, and his lyric poems...

    's play Bartholomew Fair features a puppet show of Hero and Leander in Act V, translated to London, with the Thames serving as the Hellespont between the lovers.
  • It is also the subject of a novel
    Novel
    A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

     by Milorad Pavić
    Milorad Pavic (writer)
    Milorad Pavić was a Serbian poet, prose writer, translator, and literary historian. He was also a candidate for Nobel Prize in Literature....

    , Inner Side of the Wind;
  • Leander is also the subject of Sonnet XXIX by Spanish poet Garcilaso de la Vega
    Garcilaso de la Vega
    Garcilaso de la Vega was a Spanish soldier and poet. He was the most influential poet to introduce Italian Renaissance verse forms, poetic techniques and themes to Spain.-Biography:...

     of the 16th Century;
  • In the collection of short stories and essays by Lafcadio Hearn
    Lafcadio Hearn
    Patrick Lafcadio Hearn , known also by the Japanese name , was an international writer, known best for his books about Japan, especially his collections of Japanese legends and ghost stories, such as Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things...

    , In Ghostly Japan, the author is told the popular story of a girl that swims to her lover guided by a lantern, and he comments on the similarities with the western story: "—"So," I said to myself, "in the Far East, it is poor Hero that does the swimming. And what, under such circumstances, would have been the Western estimate of Leander?" ";
  • The story has also been briefly alluded to in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

    , both when Benedick states that Leander was "never so truly turned over and over as my poor self in love" and in the name of the character Hero, who, despite accusations to the contrary, remains chaste before her marriage. It was also briefly alluded to in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

    in the form of a malapropism accidentally using the names Helen and Limander in the place of Hero and Leander. The most famous Shakespearean allusion is, however, the debunking one by Rosalind, in Act IV scene I of As You Like It
    As You Like It
    As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

    :

Leander, he would have lived many a fair year, though Hero had turned nun, if it had not been for a hot midsummer night; for, good youth, he went but forth to wash him in the Hellespont and being taken with the cramp was drowned and the foolish coroners of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.' But these are all lies: men have died from time to time and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

  • Leander is mentioned in Dion Boucicault's play 'The Colleen Bawn'. Corrigan refers to Hardress Cregan and his nocturnal boat rides to his secret wife as being, 'like Leander, barring the wetting'
  • The myth is central to John Keats' 1817 sonnet, "On an Engraved Gem of Leander."
  • Myths and Hymns
    Myths and Hymns
    Myths and Hymns is a song cycle by composer Adam Guettel, based on Greek myth and lyrics found in an antique hymnal....

    , by Adam Guettel
    Adam Guettel
    Adam Guettel is an American composer-lyricist of musical theater and opera . He is best known for the musical The Light in the Piazza, for which he won two Tony Awards, for Best Score and Best Orchestrations, and two Drama Desk Awards, for Best Music and Best Orchestrations.-Early years:Guettel...

    , contains a song titled after the pair.

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