Philemon and Baucis

Love stories also belong to the old. Philemon and Baucis were elderly peasants in the country of Phrygia. Their story comes from a wish granted to them by Zeus, the god of hospitality.

One day Zeus grew bored on Mt. Olympus. Hermes was nearby and suggested they venture to earth and test how hospitable the people of Phrygia were, but they must first disguise themselves. As poor, wandering travelers they knocked at each and every house asking for food and a place to rest. But each time they were refused.

At last they came to the poor hut of Philemon and Baucis. The old couple cheerfully greeted them and entertained them with great kindness. During the meal Philemon poured wine from a mixing bowl and noticed it kept filling. Suddenly Philemon realized that their guest were not human. The gods revealed themselves and led the old couple to the top of the hill. When they looked around, they saw the town in the valley had disappeared below a lake. Their neighbors had not been kind, but still the old couple wept for them. Their sadness soon turned to wonder as their humble hut was turned into a stately pillared home with a golden roof.

Zeus said, "I will grant you whatever you wish." The old couple whispered to each other, and then Philemon said, "Oh, mighty Zeus, let us be your priests and serve you in this temple. When it comes time for one of us to die, please let us die together." Zeus agreed as the gods assented to Mt. Olympus.

The old couple served a long time in that great temple not missing their small hut and cozy hearth. One day as they were standing in front of the building, they started talking about about the old days. Suddenly as they talked they saw each other putting forth leaves, and then their skin became tree bark. They embraced each other and cried, "Farewell!" Baucis became a linden tree and Philemon an oak, two beautiful but different trees intertwined. People, in wonder, came from afar to admire and hang wreathes on the branches in their honor.