Philemon and Baucis

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

Philemon and Baucis understood that their guests were gods and asked to be forgiven for the unworthy food that they had served.

The two gods revealed who they really were: Zeus/Jupiter and Hermes/Mercury. They told the two old people to go to the nearby mountain, because the rest of the village will be punished. For Philemon and Baucis it was difficult to climb the mountain. When they looked behind, they saw just water where once the village was; only their hut had remained unharmed. While they cried bitter tears for their neighbours, they saw how their house turned into a temple with a golden roof and marble floors.

Zeus told them that he would grant them a wish. The two talked a little, then Philemon said: "We'd like to be your priests and take care of your temple. And, as we have spent out life together in harmony, I wish that I may never see my wife's tomb, nor be buried before her".

The wish was granted and so the two kind old people continued their lives as priests of the temple. One day, Baucis saw that Philemon had started to put forth leaves. The same thing was happening to her, too. They managed to say goodbye to each other, then they were turned into trees growing from the same trunk. People then began to come to see these trees and put votive wreaths on their branches.

In some versions, the trees are a linden and an oak, growing miraculously from the same trunk, but I couldn't find this detail in the Latin text. Anyway, it would be a nice touch for this wonderful story about two people who only had each other and for whom poverty was not a burden, because they had a lot of love and they knew how to be happy with what they had.

Philemon and Baucis Pictures

One of the best known paintings is Stormy Landscape with Philemon and Baucis by Rubens, who places them as mere spots in a vast landscape, in order to emphasize the fact that they were living in harmony with nature. We can also see that Jupiter has a dominant position, followed by Mercury and then by the two humans - the woman being the most humble.

Rubens stresses the wilderness of the nature, with broken trees, wind, clouds and waterfalls - the storm he paints is the one which destroyed the villagers who were not hospitable to the gods. Jupiter, with his stretched arm, summons the storm, while Mercury puts his arm around Philemon's shoulder, so as to protect the humans. But in this scene of destruction we alsoo see hope: the bird flying in the sky, the sun piercing the clouds and the rainbow on the left side of the painting.

Thw two gods have red and blue clothes, while the elderly couple are dressed in colours closer to those of the landscape, because they are already blending in, even before they turn into trees. Above Philemon and Baucis we can see two intertwined trees, as a premonition of what they will become after they die.

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Landscape in a Thunderstorm, Philemon...
Peter Paul Rubens

The next painting is more "traditional", as it is set in their humble dwelling.

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Jupiter and Mercury
Adam Elsheimer

In this painting of Bartolomeo Suardi we see simultaneously several scenes: the two old people serving the gods, working, trying to catch the goose and asking for forgiveness from the gods (the only problem is that in the description, the name erroneously appears as "Dhilemon").

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Dhilemon and Baucis, circa 1500
Bartolommeo Suardi Bramantino

Another painting in which we see Hermes (whom we can recognize from his symbols, the winged hat, the winged sandals and the staff) pouring wine to Zeus.

Philemon and Baucis
Philemon and Baucis

Giclee Print
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And the two old people as guardians of the temple.

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Philemon and Baucis, from...
Walter Crane

And finally, after the famous scene where they gave hospitality to the gods and tried to catch the goose (in the background), Philemon and Baucis turn into trees, in front of the temple they have guarded.

Philemon and Baucis
Philemon and Baucis

Giclee Print
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