|The Locrian Lelex 1, who some say was among the CALYDONIAN
HUNTERS, told the story of Philemon and Baucis,
whom Zeus and
Hermes visited in
Disguised gods test humans
These gods descended to earth disguised as mortals, and when they were wandering in the region where Philemon and Baucis lived, they sought a place to rest, but no home would receive them until they knocked at the door of this aged couple's humble home. In that cottage, thatched with straw and reeds from a nearby marsh, they had wedded in their youth and grown old together.
Hospitality and Goodwill
Their poverty was not a hindrance for receiving
the visitors, and after setting out a place for
them to rest and lighting the fire, they prepared a
meal for the unknown guests: olives, called
cornel-cherries pickled in the lees of
wine, endives and radishes,
cream cheese, and eggs. The food was served in
earthen-dishes, and the
wine in an earthen mixing-bowl, for that was the noblest material their wealth could afford. And for the second course they served honey, nuts, figs, dates, plums, grapes, and apples. So while the visitors noticed that their hosts
were serving them abounding goodwill, the hosts
noticed that each time the mixing-bowl with
wine was drained it filled
of itself, which should not be so surprising, for
goodwill is often the prelude of things that are
sometimes considered as miracles when goodwill has
not yet appeared.
Their identity revealed
Afraid of what they were witnessing, Philemon and Baucis, fearing the power of their visitors, decided to slaughter their only goose, but old as they were they could not catch it, and finally the bird fled for shelter to the gods themselves, who revealing their divine identity, announced to the old hosts that the wicked neighborhood in which they lived would be punished, and that only them would be exempted.
The wicked punished
With these words the gods took the old couple to
a tall mountain in the vicinity, and when Philemon
and Baucis looked back from the top they saw the
whole country-side flooded with water, but in the
middle of this new large lake their own house still
Thinking of the tragedy that had affected their neighbors they were in tears, for there are those who pity even the most wicked, but while they wept, the gods changed the small cottage into a temple, turning the wooden supports into marble columns, and the straw into gold.
Olive trees growing from one double trunk at Delphi (AD 1983).
The wish of Philemon & Baucis
Having done all these wonders, the gods told
them to ask any boon they wished. They asked to be
the priests of the temple and, since they had spent
their lives in constant company, they prayed to die
at the same time, and Philemon asked:
"... that I
may never see my wife's tomb, nor be buried by
her." (Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.710).
The gods granted their request, for after
spending still many years guarding the temple, one
day they put forth leaves, and no sooner they had
said farewell to each other, they were turned into
trees standing close together and growing from one
What Publius Ovidius Naso says
Lelex 1 told this story, which he heard from staid old men who had no reason to deceive anybody, and he added that having seen votive wreaths hanging from the boughs of the trees, he placed some himself, and Publius Ovidius Naso, who made us acquainted with this man, says that Lelex 1 prayed in front of the tree:
beloved of the gods be gods; let those who have
worshipped be worshipped." (Ovid, Metamorphoses 8.725).