Valentines Day wouldn’t be the same without some tales of love, and the ancients were quite the romantic bunch – creating wars, going to the underworld and building magnificent temples all to declare their hearts. So here’s the top five crazy things the ancients did in the name of lurv..
Number 1: The Trojan War
It lasted 10 years and is one of the most important tales in ancient Greek mythology, all thanks to Homer’s Illiad. But the war began when the goddess Aphrodite made the most beautiful of all women, Helen of Troy, fall in love with the Trojan, Paris.
Unfortunately for Paris, Helen was married and her husband Menelaus – the king of Sparta, wouldn’t go down without a fight, a really long fight. Along with his brother Agamemnon, they lead the Achaean (Greek) troops to battle at Troy to retrieve Helen – 10 years later…
Number 2: Orpheus and Eurydice
Greek mythology again… The musician Orpheus was a whizz on the lyre and made the most beautiful music around. What he loved more than this little instrument though was Eurydice, a beautiful woman. Unfortunately, she was bitten by a snake a died.
Overcome with grief, Orpheus journeyed to the Underworld to confront Hades in order to win her back and restore her life. Softened by his sweet music, Hades agreed to return Eurydice to the land of the living, but with the promise that Orpheus would trust his word and not look back to make sure she was there until they were on earth. Orpheus struggled with this, and just as he was about to reach the top, he looked back, only to see Eurydice being snatched back down to the Underworld.
Number 3: Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal
Nothing says ‘I love you’ like building the Taj Mahal. The 17th century emperor Shah Jahan built the temple as a final resting place for his beloved third wife Mumtaz Mahal – clearly his favourite.
Number 4: Anthony and Cleopatra
It’s a quite a cliche one, but the ancient Roman and Egyptian love affair is too classic to pass up. During the Roman occupation of Egypt in the first century BC, the Roman general Anthony falls head over heels for the Egyptian queen Cleopatra.
Sooner or later everything goes south when Octavian rules that Anthony has become bewitched by Cleopatra, and war is declared in 31 BC. Like most tragic love stories, the pair kill themselves to deny capture.
Number 5: The Butterfly Lovers
The ancient Chinese tale dating back to the Tang Dynasty tells of Zhu Yingtai and Liang. They meet at school and soon fall in love, and secretly marry without her parents approval. When she is sent to marry someone else, Liang dies of heartbreak, and when Zhu finds out, she visits his grave and overcome with sadness she throws herself into the coffin with him.
From there they both turn into butterflies and fly away together to live for eternity.