Episode 26B – The Face that Launched a Thousand Seamen

Episode 26B Show Notes

Source: Greek Mythology

  • This week on MYTH, we’ll be getting to know the famous lady who kicked off one of the great epic wars of the ancient myths through no real fault of her own.  You’ve probably heard of the famous Helen of Troy at some point, if only to know that she was somehow involved in the Trojan War, but there’s a lot to her history even before the war that’s weird, wild and worth a listen.  You’ll learn that women have always been blamed for things that aren’t their fault, that Zeus did some seriously twisted things, and that there’s a surprising amount of crossover between some of these different stories.   Then, in Gods and Monsters, it’s one of the few genuinely sweet loves stories I know from mythology, which felt fitting with Valentine’s Day coming up.  This is the Myths Your Teacher Hated podcast, where I tell the stories of cultures from around the world in all of their original, bloody, uncensored glory.  Modern tellings of these stories have become dry and dusty, but I’ll be trying to breathe new life into them.  This is Episode 26B, “The Face that Launched a Thousand Seamen”.  As always, this episode is not safe for work.
  • When we left the story last time, the lost prince of Troy, had been called upon to judge a heavenly beauty pageant between Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite.  All three goddesses bribe the judge, but Paris likes Aphrodite’s offer the best: the love of the most beautiful woman in the world, Helen of Sparta, who would later be known as Helen of Troy, for reasons that we’ll get into later in this episode.
  • Helen’s beauty was beyond that of any other mortal woman, and part of that was because she wasn’t entirely mortal.  According to most sources, including the Iliad and the Odyssey, Helen is a daughter of Zeus.  She’s not a goddess, though, because as I’ve noted before, sky gods are assholes and Zeus had what would generously be called a wandering eye.  He was married to Hera, one of the three vying for fairest in creation, but he liked him some strange, and he wasn’t ever overly concerned with who he hurt to get it, or minor matters like the woman in question being married or utterly uninterested in his thunderbolt penis.  
  • Such was the case when he saw the Spartan woman Leda one day, seated high above on his throne on Olympus.  She was the daughter of Thestios, the King of Pleuron, who’s not an overly important figure in Greek mythology.  When she reached maturity, she was engaged to be married to King Tyndareus of Sparta, who had been exiled years before by his brother, who had seized power in an illegal coup.  It was only recently that the evil brother, Hippocoon, had been slaughtered by Hercules, leaving Tyndareus to take back his rightful throne.  
  • On the morning of their wedding day, Leda was out taking a morning walk to still her wedding jitters.  Not far ahead, she hears a commotion, and looks up to see a beautiful swan being chased by a gigantic eagle.  The gentle Leda takes pity on the swan and quickly grabs a rocks from the ground.  She throws it at the eagle, yelling “No!  You are not gonna kill that gorgeous swan on my wedding day!  It’s such a pretty bird, and I don’t want one of the most important days in my life to be cursed with such an ill omen!”  The combination of stone and screams startles the eagle, and the swan dives to earth and hides behind Leda.  Frustrated, the eagle sails off in search of easier prey.
  • Leda turned to the glistening swan, and its spotless white plumage.  “You really are a magnificent animal, aren’t you?”  She yawned hugely.  It was early still, so she was surprised she was tired, but maybe it was just the excitement of saving the swan that was getting to her.  She thought about going home to take a nap, but she was far too tired to make it that far.  She decided to stumble over to the comfortable looking meadow under a spreading oak tree and nap there, guarded by the strangely friendly swan.  No sooner had she laid down than she was fast asleep.
  • Here’s where things get very, very disturbing in a whole lot of ways.  As you may have already guessed, the swan is Zeus in disguise, and that whole business with the eagle was a complete ploy to win her sympathy.  Once he was able to get close to her without frightening her, he used his god magic to make her sleepy (or what amounts to a magical rufie).  Once she fell asleep, Zeus got rapey.  He was a little nervous that Hera would spot him philandering yet again, so he stayed in the form of the swan.  With his beak, he pulled back her clothes, exposing the slim, pale legs beneath.  Hooting excitedly to himself, he pulled her skirts all the way above her hips, leaving her utterly exposed since the Greeks didn’t have underwear.  Then he used his beak and his body to spread her legs, giving him access to her very human, very asleep pussy.  He climbed on top of her and thrust his swan penis (having cunningly picked one of the only birds on earth to actually have a penis) deep inside her.  That’s right, Zeus managed to commit bestiality, assault, and rape in a horrifying triple play.  He made loud swan noises as he filled her up with god semen and then, sated, he took wing and flew back home.  This is a favorite scene of Renaissance paintings, as much because it’s super weird and fun to paint as because the artists thought it was bullshit that they could show a woman fucking a swan, and that was cool, but they weren’t allowed to paint a woman fucking a man.  To be honest, it is a pretty crazy place to draw the line.  Anywho.
  • Leda woke up, more than a little confused as to what had happened.  He skirts were bunched around her hips in an uncomfortable way that she didn’t remember doing, but no one else would have been anywhere near her, so it had to be innocent, right?  She didn’t see the swan anymore either, and figured he must have finally felt safe enough from the eagle to take off again.  Full of unanswerable questions, Leda stood, shook off the sense that something terrible and important had happened, and went back to the city to be married to the king.  That night, as was custom (especially in politically arranged marriages), she had married sex with her husband after the wedding.  The poor couple had no idea they were getting Zeus’s sloppy seconds.
  • Fast forward nine months, and Leda is very, very pregnant.  The midwife thinks it might be twins, but the babies just aren’t coming.  To try and get things started, Leda goes for a walk around Sparta with the midwife.  The good news is it works.  The bad news is it’s working right the fuck now.  She’s gonna have this baby immediately.  She lies down in the grass and begins to push.  The labor goes surprisingly quickly and easily.  She sits up and leans forward to see her baby, but she finds something decidedly weird as shit instead.  Sitting on the ground, between her legs, is a pair of large eggs.  
  • Before Leda has time to ask the midwife “what the fuck”, the eggs start to shake and crack.  Both eggs hatch to reveal two babies each, two boys and two girls.  The girls, from one egg, are named Helen and Clytemnestra, and the boys, from the other, are named Castor and Pollux (a pair of names you might have heard before).  Most of the stories agree that Helen and Pollux were the children of Leda and Zeus, while Clytemnestra and Castor were the children of Leda and Tyndareus, but there are some stories that disagree, so feel free to decide for yourself which babies belong to which parents.
  • A slightly different version of the story (presented by the same author, which is weird) states that all four children were born from a single egg.  There is also a less common story that the eggs were actually laid by the goddess Nemesis, though still fathered by Zeus, and that the Spartan queen found the eggs as they were hatching and decided to adopt the babies.  In this version, related in the lost epic poem Cypria, Nemesis was completely uninterested in getting it on with Zeus, particularly given how vengeful Hera could be towards the women he had sex with (which is unfair, to be sure, even if she couldn’t exactly punish the asshole who actually needed punishing since he was the king of the gods and all that).  To try and prevent this, she runs from him, shapeshifting into various animals in a bid for freedom, but he keeps changing into a better animal and catching up.  She finally turns into a goose to try and fly away, but Zeus turned into a larger, faster goose.  He caught up to Nemesis, forced her to land, and then raped the shit out of her.  Yeah, Zeus is a rapey douchebag in a lot of stories.  Personally, I prefer the first version, which is the more common version, so we’ll be going with that one from now on.
  • It wasn’t long before it became clear that Helen was going to be insanely beautiful.  Even as a fairly young child, she drew a lot of attention, not all of it healthy.  Yes, this was ancient Greece, and young wasn’t nearly as young then, but it was still uncomfortably young that she started getting lecherous looks by men way too old for it to be okay.  
  • At this time, in the city-state of Athens (which was also in ancient Greece), there lived two men named Theseus and Pirithous.  For clarity’s sake, it’s probably helpful at this point to note that while Athens and Sparta were both part of what we think of as Greece, there was no cohesive government at the time.  Each of the major cities were ruled by an independent king, who governed the city and an area around it.  The various city-states frequently warred with one another unless there was a bigger outside threat to bring everyone together for the common good (such as the invasion of Emperor Xerxes and the Persians, made famous in the comic book and film 300).  
  • Theseus and Pirithous were both the sons of gods, and decided together that it was only fit that, given their parentage, they should have wives who were likewise semidivine.  Pirithous was a son of Zeus and Theseus was a son of Poseidon (and we’ll get into his whole story in another episode, because he’s pretty important to the mythological landscape).  They made a deal to each help the other abduct a daughter of Zeus to wed (which is gross in and of itself because of the whole kidnapping/rape vibe, but especially considering that Pirithous wanted to marry a half sister).  Pirithous decided to go for the somewhat literally goddamned best and kidnap Persephone, who was kind of already married to Hades, God of the Dead and the Underworld.  Theseus went less crazy but more creepy, and decided to kidnap the still young Helen of Sparta who, bear in mind, was between 7 and 10 years old, depending on whether you believe Hellanicus of Lesbos or Diodorus, since he knew she’d grow into a great beauty.
  • Figuring that abducting a child was the easier heist, the pair went to Sparta first.  With very little fuss, they snatched Helen and brought her back to Athens and left her holed up with Theseus’ mother Aethra (although another version says he left her with his friend Aphidnus at Aphidnae instead). Since the first one went off without a hitch, the two made the journey to the underworld next.  They made is as far as the outskirts of Tartarus, which is the punishment part of Hades.  The Greek underworld contained both their heaven, the Elysian Fields, and their hell, Tartarus.  Although both realms were contained within the greater realm of Hades, they were also both effectively infinite.  
  • The two had wandered around for who knows how long, and Theseus’ dogs were barking.  “Dude, we’ve been down here forever, and we still have no idea where the throne room is.  This might have been a bad idea.”  “You can’t bail now, bro.  We got your child bride, so now we get my goddess.”  “Yeah, yeah, I know the deal, Broithous.  I’m not saying I’m giving up, I’m just saying I need a quick break.”  So saying, he sat down on a nearby boulder with a sigh of relief.
  • It would have turned into a scream, but he felt his entire body growing stiff and immobile.  He tried to stand, but it was already too late.  He was fixed to the rock, unable to rise.  Theseus hoped that his friend would help him, but at that moment, Pirithous began to scream.  In the flickering light of torches, he could see a band of Furies, the chaotic goddesses of vengeance who, you might remember from Episode 1, rose from the blood of the Titan Ouranos’ dick when his son, Cronus, castrated him and threw it into the ocean to get it pregnant with Aphrodite.  They typically listened to the curses of those who were wronged, especially the old mistreated by the young, parents mistreated by their children, guests mistreated by hosts, and citizens mistreated by their leaders.  They are wizened, hideous crones with, depending on the story, some combination of snakes for hair, dog’s heads, coal black skin, bat wings, and blood shot eyes.  They carried brass-studded whips with which to rip the skin from their victims until they died in agony.
  • Pirithous knew their reputation as well as anyone, and his courage failed him.  He surrendered and went with them quietly, leaving Theseus alone in the eternal darkness.  He wasn’t completely sure, but Theseus swore he could hear the scornful laughter of Hades in the soft sigh of the wind through the caves he was trapped in.  Since he’s not the focus of this story, we’ll leave Theseus to rot in the dark for the moment, but he won’t be there forever.  This particular event is the nexus of three different stories, so it will definitely come back again.  What’s important for this tale is that Theseus was out of the picture for a long time, which gave Helen’s brothers Castor and Pollux, collectively known as the Dioscuri, time to go to Aethra and steal the too-young Helen back (which is a little weird since they were the same age as Helen, but this kind of thing happens a lot when demigods are in the mix).
  • Free from abduction, Helen was allowed to grow to adulthood before considering marriage again.  She ended up being just as beautiful as everyone had thought she was going to be.  Many, many powerful and important men courted her favor, including Odysseus, Ajax the Great, Diomedes, Idomeneus, and the brothers Menelaus and Agamemnon.  These are names that are going to come back very soon.  Except for Odysseus, all the men brought many rich gifts to try and win her favor.  According to some sources, Menelaus was too busy to be able to come himself, and asked his brother Agamemnon to make his case in his stead.  Although Agamemnon was infatuated with Helen’s beauty, he loved his brother, and he supported his brother’s claim instead of his own.  
  • Don’t feel too bad for Agamemnon though.  During this whole thing, he met Helen’s half-sister Clytemnestra and the two were wed soon after Menelaus and Helen.  Tyndareus, as Helen’s father, refused to accept any of the gifts from Helen’s suitors for fear of offending them if any thought that the others had bought Helen or, alternatively, that they had the best gift and should have been given Helen’s hand in marriage.  That could easily lead to a fight, and since these men were from many different city-states, that could lead to full-scale war.  Odysseus, the only one to come without a gift, offered something else to Tyndareus.  He asked to see the king in private and the Spartan king, intrigued, agreed.
  • “Okay, king, you’re in a pickle.  Everyone here is powerful and important, and picking any of them could offend the others (except me, of course, because I’m super reasonable).  You don’t know this about me yet, but I’m a tricksy bitch, and I think I can solve your whole problem and let you pick a husband for your daughter without pissing these assholes off in the process.”  “That sounds amazing!  Of course, nothing this awesome comes without a price tag, right?”  Odysseus smiled.  “You’re not wrong, but in this case, the price is pretty low.  All I ask in return is that, after this is over, you support me when I go to Penelope, daughter of your brother Icarius, and try to win his daughter’s hand.  Truth be told, she’s the real reason I came here.  Well, that and I couldn’t be left out of something this important even if I don’t really want to win.  Having the support of the guy’s king and brother could really put me over the top.  What do you say?  Deal, king man?”
  • Tyndareus didn’t have to think very long about that.  It was an easy price to pay to get out of a very thorny problem.  “If you can actually pull this off, I won’t even have to pretend to support your suit for Penelope.  You’ll clearly be a great man.  We have a deal.”  They shook on it in that manly Greek way where they each clasped the other’s forearm, which may have been made up by Shakespeare instead of a real thing, but whatever.  “Okay, here’s what you do.  You bring everyone together, and you flatter the crap out of them.  You tell them how they are each great, powerful, incredible men.  Then you tell them that, since they clearly all love the beautiful Helen, he can imagine no better group of men to defend her against anyone who might seek to do her and whichever of them she chose as her husband than all of them.  Since each of them hopes to be the one picked, and each of them is at least a little worried about having the other powerful broheim decide to pick a fight, they’ll all agree.  To get the ball rolling, I’ll even be the first to say yes, so no one feels like a coward for agreeing.  Once they all swear a sacred oath to defend Helen and her husband against anyone who tries to pick a quarrel with them, she can pick whomever she wants and you’re in the clear.”
  • The more Tyndareus thought about it, the more he liked it.  “Holy shit.  That’s…that’s brilliant!  That could actually work.  You’re a genius, Odysseus.  I’ll call everyone together in the morning, and we’ll get right on it.  Thanks, friend.”  It went smooth as butter, With Odysseus breaking the ice, the others quickly agreed also, and Helen was free to choose her favorite, who turned out to be Menelaus, exiled prince of Mycenae.  The stories say that his father, Atreus, had been feuding with his brother Thyestes over the throne of Mycenae in a sibling rivalry that involved adultery, incest, and cannibalism.  It ended when Thyestes’ son Aegisthus murdered his uncle, leaving Thyestes as the king and Menelaus and Agamemnon as exiles.
  • Menelaus would go on to become the King of Sparta after Tyndareus and Leda abdicated to have a retirement.  Agamemnon, married to Clytemnestra, was supported by Tyndareus in taking back the throne of Mycenae.  And so, it seemed that everyone was happy.  Agamemnon was king with his only slightly less beautiful wife, Odysseus married Penelope, and Menelaus married Helen and had a daughter named Hermione (and if you’re a Harry Potter fan, now you know who our favorite witch was named after). All of the stories agree on their having a daughter, though some say they also had three sons: Aithiolas, Maraphius, and Pleisthenes.  It would have worked too, if not for the unfortunate Paris of Troy.  
  • Troy was a long, long way from Sparta, across the sea, so he didn’t know any of this.  I don’t blame him for falling into the trap laid by the gods, since he didn’t think to ask if the most beautiful woman in the world might already been married.  I do blame him for deciding to cash in his reward once he did know.   Somewhere in the midst of this (although the stories aren’t clear on when or how), Paris finds out his heritage, declares himself to his parents as a true prince of Troy, breaks things of with Oenone (with the ancient equivalent of a breakup text, because he’s already moved on), and becomes close with his older brother Hector.  He tells his brother about the goddess beauty pageant from the last episode, and tells him of Helen of Sparta.  Hector, having been raised as royalty, has heard that she was wed to Menelaus, who was now the king of Sparta.  “Dude, I know I’ve only been your brother for a little while now, but trust me: this is a mistake.  She’s married to a king of a warrior nation.  It would be incredibly stupid to try and go through with this.”  
  • Paris tried to heed his advice, he really did, but he couldn’t help but fantasize about what it would be like to fuck the most beautiful woman in the entire world.  The literal goddess of sex had promised she would be his.  Wasn’t the word of a goddess more important than the marriage vows of a human?  When, not long after, an invitation came to Troy for a diplomatic trip, Paris jumped at the chance.  To try and keep his brother from doing something stupid, Hector went along with him.  
  • As a good host, Menelaus greets the two brothers and invites them to the palace for a feast.  It’s there that Paris first sees Helen.  He’s instantly smitten.  He must have her.  The only problem (other than her being already married with kids, which didn’t seem to bother him) was how to get her home.  His chance came when word arrived that Menelaus’s maternal grandfather Catreus of Crete had died.  With apologies, Menelaus left to attend the funeral, leaving Helen to run Sparta in his absence.  Hector could see the look in his brother’s eyes.  “Dude, no.  This is a terrible idea.  Please don’t do this.”    “Sorry, bro.  I have to.  Aphrodite promised.”
  • That night, he snuck into the royal bedroom to find Helen asleep alone in her huge bed.  This is where things get…murky.  The stories don’t agree on what happened when Helen woke up to see Paris standing there.  In some versions, Helen justifiably freaked out that a strange man was in her bedroom.  She tried to scream and Paris panicked.  He knocked her out and threw her over his shoulder.  No one was expecting guests to do something this heinous, so the guards weren’t watching for someone leaving, and he was able to sneak her out to his ship to carry her away to Troy.  In others, she woke up, saw Paris, and smiled sensuously at him.  She had seen him in the feast hall days earlier and had been fantasizing about him ever since.  Her marriage had gone south lately, and she just wasn’t that in to Menelaus anymore.  She was more than happy to sneak away under the cover of darkness, abandoning her home, husband, and children to run off with this complete stranger.  In still other versions, Helen awakes to see Paris standing there, and, unbeknownst to everyone, Aphrodite worked her sex whammy on Helen and turned fear and outrage into love and lust.  Her marriage forgotten through no fault of her own, Helen left with Paris to go back to Troy.
  • The stories don’t agree on how much blame to place on Helen, but I tend to lean towards story three, or maybe story one.  Aphrodite is definitely capable of making Helen love someone in spite of herself, and she definitely promised that Helen would love him at first sight.  There’s absolutely nothing Helen could have done to stop the goddess from turning her heart, so I don’t think she bears any real blame.  Paris, on the other hand, is a shit head.  You have to understand the context for his shittiness to really set in.  The ancient Greeks placed an incredible amount of stock in the concept of guest right.  If you accepted someone into your home as a guest, you were expected, on pain of divine retribution, to do your guest no harm.  None.  In fact, if some outside threat came for your guest, you were expected to take up arms and defend them.  The same was true if you were invited into someone’s home as a guest.  It made absolutely no difference how you felt about each other.  It didn’t matter if you were the bitterest enemies, guest right was inviolable.  Paris broke that ancient bro code.  This whole thing is a little bit on Aphrodite, because she damned well knew that Helen was married when she made that promise, and she could have promised him the most beautiful single woman if she wanted.  It’s mostly on Paris, who decided to kidnap a married woman because he felt she was owed him for judging a beauty contest.  He’s the original fragile little broflake.  
  • A few weeks after Paris and Helen left, Menelaus came back home to find his wife missing.  Everyone knew she was gone, and everyone knew that the envoys from Troy had left at the same time she did.  It wasn’t hard to put two and two together and get bastard.  He was justifiably outraged that, not only had Paris broken the guest right code, he had kidnapped his wife and run away in the darkness like a little coward.  He sent for his brother to seek counsel.  “What’s the play here, brother?  Do I go kick down the door, or do I try to play nice nice?  Maybe there’s something here I’m missing (though I don’t see how that’s possible).”  “In the words of someone who hasn’t been born yet, making this a huge anachronism, speak softly and carry a big stick.  I think you should invoke the promise we all made when we were vying for Helen’s affections.  This Paris guy definitely violated the terms of the Oath of Tyndareus, so all of those great heroes will be honor bound to help you out here.  You take a huge fleet with you, loaded with the best Greece has to offer, and you ask them nicely to give your wife back, maybe with a nice sack of gold for your troubles.  If they do, we all go home.  If not, we burn that motherfucker to the ground around his ears.”  Menelaus smiled a wolf’s red smile.  “Sounds great.  Let’s do it.”
  • Menelaus and Agamemnon called up all the old suitors and told them what happened.  They all agreed to fulfill their oath, and came to Sparta in their ships to sail as one great fleet for Troy.  In all, the combined Greek fleet totaled over a thousand ships, which is where the famous line from the Christopher Marlowe play Doctor Faustus comes from: “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships and burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”  We’ll leave the story here, with the Greek fleet sailing for Troy to demand the abducted Helen back.  With that, it’s time for Gods and Monsters.  This is a segment where I get into a little more detail about the personalities and history of one of the gods or monsters from this week’s pantheon that was not discussed in the main story.  This week’s story is neither a god nor a monster, but it seemed appropriate given the topic of the main story and the fact that Valentine’s Day is coming up.  It’s the story of Baucis and Philemon, from the Greeks and stolen by the Romans (naturally).
  • Near a swampy lake in Tyana, in Phrygia, there lies a low wall enclosing two trees: a linden tree and an oak tree.  It was a small town, and not overly wealthy.  One day, two poor travelers came to town.  They were traveling far from home on the way to Athens to see an ailing family member.  The sun was already passed its peak, and there wasn’t another town close enough to reach before nightfall, so they decided to ask around and see if they could find somewhere to stay for the night and maybe get a bite to eat.  
  • They knocked on almost every door in town, asking for food and shelter, but all they got for their trouble were curses, a few kicks, and dogs loosed on them a few times.  Beginning to despair of finding anyone in this shithole town who wasn’t an asshole to strangers, they approached a small, humble shack on the outskirts of town as the light was starting to fail.  It was small and run down, but obviously well cared for.  The small farm behind the shack was the same: not the largest or most prosperous, but well tended.  
  • The two poor travelers knocked on the door, and were greeted by an elderly couple.  The wife was named Baucis and the husband was named Philemon.  They gladly welcomed the two travelers in and beckoned them to the table.  It turned out that they were making dinner, and were happy to share.  While the couple bustled around the small home, they shared their humble story with the travelers.  
  • They had married young, with big dreams and big plans.  Things never really worked out for them, though.  They had bought this small farm in this small town and started a family, but the soil turned out to be mediocre at best.  With work, they could scratch out enough to get by on, but they never made enough to put aside any savings.  Their kids had long since grown up and moved out on their own, leaving the tiny town of Tyana to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  Baucis and Philemon had grown old together on the ramshackle farm, poor but still happy and very much in love.
  • While they talked, Baucis kindled a fire and Philemon chopped vegetables and herbs from the garden for stew.  Since they had guests, he added the last meat they had, a rind of bacon to the stew.  They wouldn’t be able to afford more for some time, but they wanted to do what they could to make their guests happy.  It wasn’t long before the simple stew was ready, and they served their guests at the humble table first, and gave them the lion’s share of the food.  As they ate, Philemon cracked open the best bottle of wine they owned, which wasn’t that nice, but it was the best they had.  
  • Dinner was a joyful occasion.  The food, though simple, was hearty and filling, and the wine complemented it well.  They chatted with the strangers cheerfully, drawing them into conversation and just being great hosts. It wasn’t until the meal was almost over that the old couple noticed something…decidedly odd.  The bottle of wine they had opened was still full.  They had poured out multiple glasses for each person at the table, so the bottle should be empty by now.  Instead, no matter how much they poured, the bottle was always full.
  • Baucis and Philemon put two and two together, and came up with gods.  With surprise and more than a little fear, they realized that their guests were no humble travelers, but gods in disguise.  With all the haste their aching joints could manage, they dropped to the floor and prostrated themselves, faces to the dirt.  “We’re so sorry for the humble meal we just served you.  It’s not even close to being fit for a god, but it’s the best we can do.  We should have found a way to provide fitting entertainment for beings as great as yourselves, rather than make you listen to the prattling of an old couple.  I think we can maybe do something to try and make it right, though.”
  • The couple stood painfully, and shuffled outside to the pen where they kept their single goose, which they kept for eggs.  Fully intending to slaughter the goose and prepare it in the fanciest way they could manage, the elderly couple chased the goose around the yard, but it was much quicker and nimbler than they were.  Sweating and exhausted, the couple kept chasing the goose around in a scene that would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.  The two gods, disguises abandoned to reveal Zeus and his son Hermes, herald and messenger of the gods, followed the couple outside.  “Please, Baucis, Philemon, there’s no need for this.  You have nothing to apologize for.  This town has been a complete cesspool, and you two are the only redeeming factors in the whole damned place.  We’ve talked it over, and Hermes and I have decided to destroy this wicked little town and everyone in it, except for you two.  Come with us.”
  • The gods led the elderly couple up to a small rise.  They watched aghast as a lake rose up in the middle of the town, flooding the small valley it sat in along with everyone and everything in it.  Baucis and Philemon were torn about how to feel.  On the one hand, they had just watched everyone they had spent most of their lives around executed by gods.  On the other hand, Zeus and Hermes were right that the town had been full of raging assholes, and the world was probably better off without them.  They decided to trust the gods had made a wise choice.
  • They turned their attention back to the new lake, and saw that their home had been raised up on a small island at the center.  Before their eyes, the humble shack morphed into a beautiful marble temple, complete with elaborately carved columns.  “Thank you, o Zeus.  This is an incredible gift, and we are humbled by it.”  “That?  That was nothing.  We just didn’t want to leave you homeless because everyone else sucked.  I do want to reward you for real, though, for your hospitality.  What do you want?”  
  • The couple stood aside and discussed in emphatic whispers what boon to ask of the gods.  They soon decided.  “We’re humble farmers, and that’s all we’ve ever been, but what we really want is to be priests in your temple.  You’ve done so much for us, and we want to make sure everyone knows the wonderful story.”  “Done.”  “One more thing, if you would be so kind.  We’re all each other has, especially now that everyone in the town is gone.  Our children have left, and never come to visit.  Neither one of us could stand it if we had to watch the other die and go on living, all alone.  When the time comes for us to leave this earth, could you take us both at the same time, so we are not parted in sorrow by death?”  Hermes smiled.  “I think that can be arranged.”
  • Although the couple was already old, they were able to serve as priests in the new temple on the island in the lake for many more years.  They blessed all travelers who came their way on the road to somewhere else, and gave them food to eat and a place to rest for the night.  One night, the two stooped figures were standing in the front yard of the temple when a feeling of stiffness came over their limbs.  Baucis met Philemon’s eyes, and each saw that the other’s skin was growing hard and changing color.  They stood next to each other and a silent understanding passed between them that the end of their lives was here.  Instead of dying though, they were being turned into tall, healthy trees.  Baucis was changed into a slender, lovely linden tree and Philemon transformed into a tall, mighty oak tree.  They stand there still, branches entwined, to remind everyone of the love and kindness of this dear, sweet old couple.
  • This is one of my favorite love stories from mythology, and it’s surprisingly obscure for such a cool tale. This is one that has echoes in a lot of different societies.  It especially is echoed by the story of the angels coming in disguise to Sodom and Gomorrah and being attacked by the town, resulting in the deaths of everyone in town except for the one family who honors the rule of guest right.  It also does a good job of driving home the idea of just how seriously the ancient cultures took the roles of hosts and guests.  It informs why Paris was as reviled as he was by the ancients, and why this sort of thing could possibly lead to such a huge war.
  • That’s it for this episode of Myth Your Teacher Hated.  Keep up with new episodes on our Facebook page, on iTunes, on Stitcher or on TuneIn and now, on Spotify, or you can follow us on Twitter as @HardcoreMyth and on Instagram as Myths Your Teacher Hated Pod.  You can also find news and episodes on our website at myths your teacher hated dot com.  If you like what you’ve heard, I’d appreciate a review on iTunes.  These reviews really help increase the show’s standing and let more people know it exists.  If you have any questions, any gods or monsters you’d want to learn about, or any ideas for future stories that you’d like to hear, feel free to drop me a line.  I’m trying to pull as much material from as many different cultures as possible, but there are all sorts of stories I’ve never heard, so suggestions are appreciated.  The theme music is by Tiny Cheese Puff, whom you can find on fiverr.com.
  • Next time, we’ll be continuing with our epic series on the Trojan war, and we’ll actually be getting into the war itself for the first time.  You’ll learn the true meaning of sacrifice, that Achilles used to dress in drag, and that knowledge can be a hell of a punishment.  Then, in Gods and Monsters, we’ll meet the figures behind one of the most pervasive of concepts in Greek myths: fate..  That’s all for now.  Thanks for listening.