118. Phoebus and Hyacinthus

Once upon a time, Hyacinthus, the son of Diomede and King Amyclas of Sparta, was extremely beautiful, whose beauty was comparable with Ganymedes, Hylas, Adonis, Narcissus, Hermaphroditus, or Chrysippus. The god Phoebus loved Hyacinthus and often accompanied him, on wanderings over the rough mountain ridges.

At one such pleasant wandering during a summer noon, when the sun stood at an equal distance between the arriving and departed night, they began a friendly contest of throwing the discus. Gracefully poised, Phoebus sent the discus whirling through the air, and it fell down on the earth at a good distance, evidencing Phoebus’ skill and strength. For keen glory of the sport, Hyacinthus ran to pick up the discus, but suddenly, it bounced back off the firm earth and struck his face with full force. Hyacinthus lay on the ground bleeding from a grievous wound.

Phoebus rushed and carefully holding Hyacinthus, tried to heal the wound with remedial herbs. But the fatal wound was beyond the power of all curing arts, and nothing could stay the leaving soul. The sorrowful Phoebus was guilt-stricken and reproached his self, for he thought his hand had thrown the discus, which gave an unmerited death to Hyacinthus. Phoebus grieved for his beloved Hyacinthus, who had fallen in his prime, defrauded of his youth. The moaning Phoebus said that his lyre shall pluck songs celebrating Hyacinthus, and a sweet new flower shall grow with markings of his grief.

As soon as the truth-telling lips of Phoebus uttered these words, the ground that was stained by the blood from the wounded Hyacinthus, changed its color, and a beautiful flower, more lovely than the Tyrian dye, sprouted up. On the flower leaves were inscribed the letters AI, AI, resembling Phoebus’ cry of sorrow. In honor of Hyacinthus, the city of Sparta celebrated a solemn yearly festival known as Hyacinthia.

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Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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