Halcyon Days: An Ancient Greek Love Story; Greek Mythology

Alcyone discovers Ceyx's body
Alcyone discovers Ceyx's body

The last two days here in Loutraki have been absolutely idyllic.
Very welcome indeed, as, for the last couple of weeks, the weather has been anything but idyllic!

Could these be the Halcyon days of Greek mythology?
 Days of warm sun and calm seas.

When we think about Halcyon days, our minds usually turn, to the long, lazy days of summer, or we associate them, with the, never to come again, sublime summer days of our childhood.

This is not the case.

Let me tell you a story, a love story:
Alcyone and Ceyx
Alcyone and Ceyx

Long, long ago, in ancient Greece, Ceyx , son of the morning star, and Alcyone, daughter of Aeolus, fell madly in love, a love so passionate, that it became a legend, known all over the ancient lands.

One stormy morning, Ceyx set sail to visit The Oracle at Delphi.

Alcyone knowing all about the treacherous ways of the weather (had she not witnessed the storm clouds and lightening wreaking havoc around her father’s palace?) begged him not to go, or at least, to take her with him.

Ceyx, said not to worry, he would be fine and be home before she knew it.

Alcyone was left alone on the shore to watch Ceyx disappear into the misty, darkening sea.

Ceyx was not long out to sea when tragedy struck, a terrific storm blew up, tossing his ship around in the furious waves, the ship was wrecked and Ceyx drowned, his last dying thought being of his true love; Alcyone.


Meanwhile, Alcyone, not knowing of the terrible fate of Ceyx, prayed to the Goddess Hera, to keep him safe and send him home quickly.

Hearing the prayers, Hera, took pity on Alcyone and, already knowing about the death of Ceyx, sent her messenger, Iris, to Somnus, the God of sleep, to demand that he send a vision to Alcyone, revealing the death of Ceyx.

Somnus then sent his son Morpheus, God of dreams, to Alcyone.

Morpheus appeared at Alcyone’s bedside in the form of Ceyx, wet and naked and recounted the story of the shipwreck and his death.

Morpheus appears to Alcyone in the form of Ceyx
Morpheus appears to Alcyone
in the form of Ceyx

On awakening, and, finding herself alone, Alcyone rushed to the shore, where she recognised something floating in the sea, to be the body of Ceyx.

Alcyone searches for Ceyx
Alcyone searches for Ceyx
Painting:Herbert James Draper

 She threw herself into the sea, but, before she had chance to drown, Zeus, who had been watching the drama from high above, transformed both her and Ceyx into birds.

Alcyone finds Ceyx's body
Alcyone finds Ceyx's body

The two lovers, united again, flew off into the horizon.

Even in the magic of mythology, nothing is ever easy though is it?
Zeus had turned them both into kingfishers.

Painting: Carel Pieter Brest Van Kempen.2004

Zeus ordered that Alcyone would lay her eggs in the winter, on the shore, at the spot where she had discovered Ceyx’s body.
The stormy waves kept washing away her eggs.

Zeus, after watching her crying and praying endlessly, took pity and gave Alcyone fourteen days of good weather, in the middle of winter, in which to safely hatch her eggs.


This then, is the story of the Halcyon days.

 They happen (not every year unfortunately) in Greece around Mid-January, right about now!

Oh, if only Ceyx had listened to his wife, Alcyone!

You can read this beautiful story, and fifteen others, in this wonderful little book that I came across.

Stories of Old Greece Emma M. Firth
Stories of Old Greece
Emma M. Firth

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