Ceyx and Alcyone lived in the region of Trachis near the river Spercheious and loved each other dearly. According to the myth, they both referred to each other as Zeus and Hera which was a sacrilegious act. When Zeus found out, his blood boiled within him and he set out to punish the duo for their blasphemy. This article will explore the origins of Ceyx and his wife Alcyone and what Zeus did to them for cursing him.
The Origins of Ceyx and Alcyone
Ceyx was the son of Eosphorus, also referred to as Lucifer, and it’s not clear whether he had a mother or not. Alcyone, sometimes spelled Halcyon, was the daughter of the King of Aeolia and his wife, Aigeale or Enarete. Later, Halcyon became the queen of Trachis, where she lived happily with her husband, Ceyx. Their love knew no boundaries as the couple swore to follow each other wherever they went– even to the grave.
Alcyone and Ceyx Greek Mythology
According to the myth, everyone, including the deities of the Greek pantheon, admired the love the couple had for each other and were fascinated by their physical beauty. Due to their strong affection for each other, the couple started referring to themselves as Zeus and Hera.
However, this did not sit down well with the gods, who felt that no god, talk less of a human, should compare themselves to the King of the gods. Thus, Zeus had to punish them for this grievous sin, but he had to wait for the opportune time to do it.
Ceyx Loses His Brother
Ceyx had just lost his brother Daedalion after being transformed into a hawk by the god Apollo. Daedalion was known for his courage and harshness and bore a beautiful daughter named Chione.
Chione’s beauty was so enchanting that it attracted the attention of both gods and men. Unable to control their lust, Apollo and Hermes tricked and slept with the young girl and she gave birth to twins; the first child for Hermes and the second for Apollo.
The gods’ indiscretion caused Chione to feel she was the most beautiful among all women. She even boasted that she was prettier than Artemis– a claim that provoked the goddess. She, therefore, shot an arrow through Chione’s tongue and killed her.
Daedalion cried bitterly at her daughter’s funeral no matter how much he was consoled by his brother Ceyx. He even tried to kill himself by throwing himself into his daughter’s funeral pyre but was prevented on three occasions by Ceyx.
On the fourth attempt, Daedalion ran at a swift pace that made it impossible for him to be stopped and jumped from the top of Mount Parnassus; however, before he hit the ground, Apollo and mercy on him and transformed him into a hawk.
Thus, Ceyx lost his brother and niece on the same day and mourned them for days. Feeling anxious over the death of his brother and observing some bad omens, Ceyx decided to consult the Oracle at Delphi for answers.
Conflict and Separation Between the Two
He discussed with his wife his impending journey to Claros, where the oracle was, but his wife expressed her displeasure. According to the myth, Alcyone drenched herself in tears for three days and nights, wondering what was more important than that Ceyx had to abandon her to travel to Claros.
She spoke of how dangerous the seas were and warned him about the harsh weather conditions on the waters. She even begged her husband, Ceyx, to take her with him on the arduous journey.
Though moved by the tears and concern of his wife, Ceyx was determined to go to Delphi, and nothing would stop him. He tried to comfort Alcyone with many words and assure his wife of his safe return, but it all proved futile. Finally, he swore by his father’s light that he would return to her before the moon had twice completed her cycle. The latter moved Alcyone; she allowed her husband to embark on the perilous journey to the Delphic Oracle.
Ceyx then ordered the ship to be brought so he could board, but when Alcyone saw the ship fitted in its full gear, she wept again. Ceyx had to console her, much to the annoyance of the crew members who called on him to hurry up. Ceyx then boarded the ship and waved at his wife as it drifted away on the sea. Alcyone, still with tears, returned the gesture as she watched the boat disappear over the horizon.
Ceyx and the Tempest
At the start of the journey, the seas were friendly, with gentle winds and waves driving the ship forward. However, towards the night, the ocean’s waves started swelling, and the once gentle breezes turned into fierce storms that began to batter the ship. The water started entering the boat, and sailors scrambled for any container they could use to fetch some water out of the boat. The ship’s captain yelled at the top of his voice, but the storm drowned out his voice.
Soon the ship began to drown, and all attempts to save it proved futile as the waters broke into the boat. A giant wave, more significant than any other wave, hit the ship and sent most of the sailors to the bottom of the ocean. Ceyx feared that he would drown but felt a ray of happiness that his wife was not with him, for he didn’t know what he would’ve done. His mind immediately wandered home and he yearned to see the shores of his home, Trachis.
As the chances of survival were dimmer by the minute, Ceyx could think of no one but his wife. He knew the end had come for him and wondered what his beautiful wife would do if she heard of his passing. When the storm was at its highest, Ceyx prayed to the gods pleading with them to let his body be washed ashore so that his wife could hold him one last time. Finally, Ceyx drowns as an “arc of black water” breaks over his head, and his father, Lucifer, could do nothing to save him.
Alcyone Learns of Her Husband’s Death
Meanwhile, Alcyone waited patiently by counting the days and the nights for her husband had promised to be back before the moon had twice completed her circle. She sewed clothes for her husband and prepared for his homecoming, unaware of the tragedy that had befallen him. She prayed to all the gods for her husband’s safety, offering sacrifices in the temple of Hera, the goddess she offended. Hera could not stand the tears of Alcyone any longer and, knowing the fate that had befallen Ceyx, sent her messenger Iris to look for the god of Sleep, Hypnos.
The mission was for Hypnos to send a figure resembling Ceyx to Alcyone in her dream, informing her of her husband’s death. Iris headed to the Halls of Sleep, where she found Hypnos slumbering away under his influence. She woke him up and told him of her mission, after which Hypnos sent for his son, Morpheus. Morpheus was known as a great craftsman and simulator of human forms, and he was assigned the duty of replicating the human form of Ceyx.
Morpheus took flight and quickly landed in Trachis and transformed into the life-like form of Ceyx together with his voice, accent, and mannerisms. He stood over the bed of Alcyone and, appearing in her dream with wet hair and beard, informed her of his demise. He pleads with Alcyone to mourn him as he journeyed to the void of Tartarus. Alcyone woke up and rushed to the seashore as she wept, only to find her husband’s lifeless body washed ashore.
The Death of Alcyone
Alcyone then mourned him for days and went through the proper funeral rites to enable her husband’s soul to pass on to the Underworld. Feeling hopeless and knowing she couldn’t live the rest of her life without Ceyx, Alcyone killed herself by drowning in the sea to reunite with her husband. The gods were moved by such a great display of love between this couple – the kind of love that even death could not tear apart. Zeus felt guilty for taking a rash action against a couple that truly loved each other so to make amends, he turned the lovers into Halcyon birds popular known as kingfishers.
Aeolus Helps the Halcyon Birds
The myth continues that Aeolus, the god of the winds and father of Alcyone, would calm the seas for the birds to hunt. The legend narrated that for two weeks in January of every year, Aeolus would see still the winds on the seas so that his daughter can build a nest and lay her eggs. These two weeks became known as the Halcyon days and eventually came to be an expression.
The Myth of Halcyon Lives on Till Today
The myth of Ceyx and Alcyone gave birth to the phrase Halcyon days which signifies a period of peace and calm. According to the myth, Alcyone’s father calms the waves so the kingfisher can fish and that was how the phrase came into being. The story of Alcyone and Ceyx is comparable to that of Apollo and Daphne since both mythologies are about love.
Themes of The Story
This myth illustrates a few themes aside from the apparent theme of eternal love. There is the theme of sacrifice, retribution, and modesty that this tragic myth captures within its pages.
In a Ceyx and Alcyone reflection, the central theme that this story expounds on is the subject of eternal love as exhibited between the two protagonists of the myth. They loved each other dearly and would go to any length to keep each other alive, just like in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. Ceyx could have, out of his selfish desires, allowed his wife to accompany him on the treacherous journey, but he refused. His decision not to carry his wife along helped save her life for a brief period.
Also, the couple did not allow death to separate them, much to the amazement of the Greek gods. When Alcyone learned of her husband’s death, she mourned him for days and then drowned herself in the hopes of reuniting with him.
Thus, to Alcyone, death was not a barrier to the strong emotions she felt for her husband. Unsurprisingly, this powerful emotion caught the attention of the gods who intervened. They transformed both lovers into Halcyons or kingfishers so their love would continue through the ages.
To date, the eternal love of Alcyone and Ceyx is still in the famous phrase “Halcyon days”. Their love reflects the old saying that love is stronger than death.
Another theme is modesty and humility in the celebration of love. Alcyone and Ceyx shared strong emotions; comparing their love to Zeus and Hera was unpardonable. It was regarded as blasphemy and had to pay with their lives. If they had exercised modesty in celebrating love, they may have lived longer.
The lesson here is always to remain humble regardless of whatever achievements or milestones one has chalked. Pride always goes before a fall; that was exactly what the couple experienced in this timeless Greek myth. Just like the myth of Icarus, son of Daedalus, who flew too close to the sun, pride would bring you crushing to the earth and shattered to pieces. A bit of modesty wouldn’t hurt a fly, after all, a wise man once said that modesty is the key to success.
Zeus sought vengeance against the couple for blaspheming his name – an action that he appeared to regret. According to some versions of the myth, Alcyone and Ceyx did not mean to blaspheme the gods but were just playfully comparing themselves to the deities. With a bit of patience, Zeus would have realized that the couple may have meant no harm in comparing themselves to him and his wife. Though revenge is best served cold, waiting and considering your actions and that of your victim could save lives and regrets.
Alcyone sacrificed her time and efforts for the love of her life when she made daily offerings to all the deities, especially Hera. She even went ahead to make clothes for her husband and prepared some feast on his return. However, no sacrifice was greater than her giving her life to meet her husband once again. She had the option to stay alive and get married to another man and have children with him but she chose her husband.
Alcyone believed in love and did all she could, including sacrificing her life to bolster her beliefs. Most great heroes of the past and present have followed the example of Alcyone by offering their lives to establish their beliefs.
Ceyx and Alcyone Pronunciation
Ceyx is pronounced as |Siks| and Alcyone is pronounced as |al-sayh-uh-nee|. Her other name Halycon is also pronounced as |hal-see-un|. Both terms refer to kingfishers, birds who hunt on the river bodies for food.
Modern Legacy of the Alcyone and Ceyx Myth
As previously mentioned, the story is where the genus of kingfishers called Ceyx derived their name. The tree kingfishers, also referred to as the family Halcyonidae and the genus Halcyon are named after Alcyone. The Megaceryle alcyon is a native North American kingfisher known as the belted kingfisher named after Alcyone.
Other literary works such as T.S Elliot’s The Dry Savages and Rick Riordan’s The Demigod Files draw inspiration from the famous Greek myth.
This article has taken a look at the myth of Alcyone and Ceyx, the various themes it explores, and the modern legacies of the main characters in the story. Here is a Ceyx and Alcyone summary:
- Ceyx was the son of Lucifer, and Alcyone was the daughter of the god of the winds, Aelous, and his wife, Enarete.
- Ceyx and Alcyone were an attractive couple whose feelings for each other amazed all the Greeks, including the Greek pantheon’s deities.
- The couple compared themselves to the King of the gods, Zeus, and his wife, Hera, which angered all the other gods, including Zeus.
- Zeus regarded their actions as sinful. Thus he killed Ceyx by throwing a thunderbolt into the sea, which caused a violent storm that drowned Ceyx.
- When Alcyone learned of her husband’s death, she mourned him and committed suicide by drowning herself in the sea in a bid to reunite with her husband.
The gods, moved by such a great display of love, transformed the couple into kingfishers, additionally known as Halcyon. Halcyon days, a phrase that means a peaceful period was derived from the myth.