A contribution to the Davidsbündler site by Numero


Hero is the lovely priestess serving in the temple of Aphrodite at Sestos. It is a temple with a tall tower in which a light is lit on dark and stormy nights to guide ships safely on their way through the narrow strait of the Dardanelles. On the occasion of a feast, Leander, a young man from the coast of Anydos across the strait, meets the beautiful Hero. They fall in love and together roam the beautiful countryside in full bloom. But upon declaring their love to her father he refuses his blessing and his opposition forces Leander to return home.

But love will find a way. Night after night Leander swims the strait of about 7 kilometers guided by the light from the temple tower lit by his beloved Hero. They spend the dark hours together and in time rejoice in the longer nights and shorter days without considering their cause. One stormy night Hero first prays to the gods then lights the lamp and awaits her lover. Unbeknown to her the lamp goes out and somewhere on his way to her Leander loses his way and eventually succumbs to the rough and violent sea. The next morning she finds his body and soon joins him.


Though tragedy struck the two lovers, the strait had been witness to similar incidents in its ancient past, as is evident from its geographical mythology. It is this background that forms an essential context to the poem.

The ancient name for the Dardanelles, named after the town Dardanus, is the "Sea of Helle," also known as Hellespont. Helle, together with her brother Phryxus, in the beginning of a distant past spring, escaped from her oppressive mother-in-law on the back of the golden ram Aries to take refuge in Colchis, the palace of the sungod, Helios. Looking down from on high she became giddy, lost her grasp of the ram and fell into the sea. As with the fate of all who drown, first she met with the sea itself or Tethys, the sea goddess and wife of Oceanus and then with Hecate, goddess of dead, the instant she died.

But the sea is not only a place of death but also of refuge. Leukothea found refuge there when she threw herself and her son into its arms pleading the mercy of the gods, to escape the mad wrath of her husband. Both mother and child were deified by the gods.

Even more insight is given into the ways of the gods with man from mythology. The source of Hero and Leander's love is also attributed to divine influences. More directly an arrow from Cupid the archer, Roman god of love known as Eros by the Greeks, fanned their flames of love. While more indirectly nature's carpeting of seasonal newness, by Hebe the goddess of youth, further inspired their fateful love as they wandered about the hills drinking in the beauty of nature's loveliness. In spite of Hero's father's opposition the love that germinated within them and further inspired by the gods led to Leander's continued feat of crossing the dangerous straits time and time again. It was this natural and divinely touched love that spurred them on to expect keeping their tryst again though on that fateful evening a winter storm brewed.

Love should not be confused with wisdom, only with sometimes conquering the insurmountable, even death. Hero unhesitatingly now joins Leander on that final journey. As he journeyed to her in life, now she journeys to him in death.

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