51. Helios and Leucothea

Once upon a time, Helios the Sun god, had showed Vulcan how Vulcan’s wife Venus and her lover Mars, had shamed Vulcan’s love. In anger, Vulcan had trapped the adulterous pair to the laughter of the gods. However, the humiliated Venus brooded for a long time, on Helios’ betrayal of her stolen joys. She thought of torturing Helios in the pains of passion, and thereby, requite the pain that he had caused her. And Lo! Helios who himself burned, started to burn with another flame. Venus made Helios burn for the captivating charms of Leucothea, the daughter of Eurynome and King Orchamas of Persia.

Ardently desiring to meet Leucothea, Helios took the disguise of Eurynome and appeared before Leucothea, who was drawing threads from her spindle, along with her maids. Seeing Eurynome, the maids departed leaving the mother and daughter together. When the maids had withdrawn, Helios told Leucothea that in front of her was the sun-god disguised as Eurynome. In fright, Leucothea dropped the distaff and the spindle. Without any delay, the splendorous Helios assumed his glorious godly form. Leucothea fell in love and joyfully submitted in his arms.

But Clytie, an Okeanid nymph, whom Helios formerly loved and had now abandoned for his love of Leucothea, grew extremely envious of Leucothea’s happiness. She scandalized the secret love of Helios and Leucothea by telling everybody, ensuring that Leucothea’s father also heard the tale. The furious Orchamas cruelly buried her daughter Leucothea in the ground. Buried alive in the earth, Leucothea’s life ebbed away in darkness, while yearning for the bright rays of her beloved Helios.

With all the power of his rays, Helios tried to warm the limbs of Leucothea, but under the dark sandy hillock, she remained only a lifeless body. In grief, Helios sprinkled nectar on Leucothea’s corpse, which dissolved into fragrant juices, and a sprout of Frankincense burst forth.

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

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