5 Mythological Couples to Celebrate This Valentine's Day

Love Wasn't Myth-ing in These Lovers' Lives!

Whether you're a member of a Romeo and Juliet-style doomed duet or a happily-ever-after duo, everyone needs a mythological amour to inspire your gifts this Valentine's Day. From Greek sleeping beauties to Persian passion, here are five couples who went above and beyond roses and chocolate for their loved ones.

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Endymion and Selene

Endymion and Selene on a Roman sarcophagus. Getty Museum Open Content

Endymion was a grandson of Zeus that founded the Greek city of Elis. But he also moonlighted as a shepherd, as princes tended to do. One night, the goddess of the moon, Selene, came upon him asleep on a hillside; thinking he was pretty hot, she fell head-over-craters for him and asked Zeus to make him hers forever.

In Pseudo-Apollodorus’s version, Zeus asked him which option he’d prefer—to live as a mortal or “sleep forever, remaining deathless and ageless”; he chose the latter option, and Selene romanced him as a forever-napping prince. Even though Endymion was sleeping the entire time, Selene had sex with him and bore him fifty daughters

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Zal and Rudabeh

Zal rides to meet his beautiful bride. Old Persian Manuscript of the Shahnama/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Zal was an Iranian prince who was abandoned as a baby and raised by a phoenix-like bird. Eventually returned to the bosom of his royal clan, he set out to learn about his kingdom as a young man. According to the Shahnameh, or the Persian Book of Kings, Zal headed to Kabul, where he feasted with the city's king, Mihrab.

At dinner, a nobleman got up to praise Mihrab's daughter, telling Zal that she was "like unto the slender cypress; her face is brighter than the sun; her mouth is a pomegranate flower." Zal was quite the looker himself, despite having prematurely white hair. Once Zal heard about Princess Rudabeh, and vice-versa, they each fell in love with one another.

​Even though their families, ancient enemies, didn't approve of the match - and neither did the Shah, at first - Zal and Rudabeh were meant to be together. When wise men cast their horoscope, they told Zal's dad, "A clear spring shall issue into the day, a son shall be born to Zal, a hero full of power and glory, and there shall not be his like in Iran.'" And lo and behold, once the two were married, Rudabeh gave birth to the hero Rostam!

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Zhinü and Niulang

The lovers hang out with an ox in the sky in "The Moon of the Milky Way.". Tsukioka Yoshitoshi/Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

Another tale of forbidden love hails from China. The goddess "Weaver Girl," or Zhinü (a.k.a. the star Vega), fell for a commoner named "Buffalo Boy," or "cowherd" (Niulang, identified with the star Altair). Upset at this unequal union, the Queen Mother of the West banished Zhinü to the other side of the Milky Way, which was then on earth.

But Buffalo Boy wasn't going to leave his love alone. He took their two kids and went on a road trip to find the woman he adored with the help of an enchanted buffalo, but the Queen Mama sent Zhinü and the Milky Way up to the sky. Buffalo Boy and the whole family made it to heaven, but the Queen Mother turned the river into a series of rapids to stop them from crossing.

Finally, the Jade Emperor took pity on Zhinü. On the seventh day of the seventh month of the year, magpies would form a bridge over this big river that would allow the family to be reunited. This story is celebrated in China as the festival of Qi Xi, a.k.a. the Chinese Valentine's Day.

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Geb and Nut

The sky goddess Nut arches over her brother-lover, Geb. Print Collector/Contributor/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

 In ancient Egypt, pharaohs did as the gods did (meaning they married their sisters). The Egyptian deities really did love their siblings; witness Geb, god of the earth, and Nut, goddess of the sky. Children of Shu (lord of air) and Tefnut (mistress of moisture), Geb and Nut were so into each other that they wouldn't stop having sex. As a result, there was no room for anything - i.e.,  people - between earth and sky.

Their dad, Shu, eventually blew them apart, holding up Nut in the sky above him and keeping Geb down on the earth below him. This way, there'd be room for all the things in between! But that didn't stop the two from having kids; Nut gave birth to the stars each night and swallowed them during the day. They also had two sons - Set and Horus - and two daughters, Nepthys and Isis. The love-hate relationship between siblings really took on a whole other dimension in the next generation...

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Brunhild/Kriemhild and Siegfried

Brunhild brandishes her spear and winged cap from an illustration of Wagner's 1910 "The Rhinegold and The Valkyrie.". Heritage Images/Contributor/Getty Images

A medieval German epic poem, the Nibelungenlied ("The Song of the Nibelungs") was made popular by Richard Wagner's opera. A fellow named Siegfried defeated the king of the Nibelung people and stole all his gold; in the process, he bathed himself in dragon's blood, becoming invincible except for one spot (think Achilles). Siegfried agreed to help a prince named Gunther win the beautiful Princess Brunhild in exchange for the hand of Gunther's sister Kriemhild. 

But Brunhild was quite the catch herself; she'd vowed to only wed a man who could best her in strength. Of course, Siegfried passed all the tests on Gunther's behalf, but he was wearing a cloak of invisibility, so Brunhild never saw her suitors. She thinks Gunther did the deeds, so she marries him, but soon found out the truth; while an invisible Siegfried was subduing her, the two had sex and Brunhild lost her epic strength. Eventually, a Nibelung tricked Kriemhild into revealing Siegfried's secret vulnerable spot and killed the hero in revenge. 

The story of Siegfried appears in both German and Norse texts. Wagner chose to add in the angle of Brunhild falling for her husband's brother-in-law, but that actually already appeared in Norse versions. To be sure, though, Wagner brought Brunhild's emotions to the forefront as they never had been before.