Baucis and Philemon

The story of Baucis and Philemon is one of the most beautiful love stories ever. They were an old couple who lived in Phrygia, as Ovid tells us, in his Metamorphoses.

Zeus and Hermes (in Ovid's text, "Jupiter and Atlas' grandson", i.e. Mercury) decided to travel in the land of Phrygia, because they wanted to see if people there had respect for their guests (The ancient Greeks had the religious obligation to be hospitable to travelers, and this obligation went so far as to being unable to kill someone if you had fed him at your table).

Alas, they knocked on a thousand doors and the doors were shut in their face a thousand times. When they arrived at the last house of the village, a small hut made of mud, with a thatched roof, they were almost sure the'd be rejected there, too.

Instead, they had the surprise of being well received by an elderly couple. Baucis and Philemon had lived there ever since they were young, and there they grew old, without being ashamed of their poverty. In their home none was the master or the servant: they both ordered and obeyed.

The two were happy to welcome their guests. Baucis threw an old rug on a bench, to make it more comfortable for their guests. She rekindled the fire and put a kettle to boil, while Philemon cut a piece of smoked ham and tossed it in.

Baucis set the table for the guests, but one of the table legs was shorter, so she put a shard under it. Philemon brought some food: olives, pickled cornel berries, radishes, cheese and eggs cooked in the ashes. He also brought some wine, into which he poured some water, to make it last longer. After that, he brought fruit: nuts, figs, dates, plums, apples and grapes and, in the middle, there was a honeycomb. They served all these together with a lot of goodwill.

But Philemon and Baucis noticed that, whenever they poured the wine, the pitcher would miraculously refill...

For the second part of the story of Baucis and Philemon, click here.




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