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I remember reading a myth as a child, but have not been able to find it again ever since.

It starts like a typical Apollo myth: Apollo has a young best friend/lover, and they are inseparable. Then the young man's sixteenth birthday approaches (or was it some other day symbolizing the coming of age?), and Apollo wants to give him the best present a mortal has ever had. But he is neither powerful enough to grant the best, nor wise enough to know what the best is.

Apollo then goes to Zeus and asks him to give his friend the best present on his special day. Zeus agrees and Apollo tells his friend, both awaiting the day with happy apprehension. But then, on the birthday, the young boy is struck by lightning.

Apollo is very angry and demands an explanation of Zeus. The explanation: Zeus killed the boy on the happiest day of his life, before he had met the sorrow of the drudging adult routine. This was the best present a mortal could have. Apollo understands this and mourns his friend.


I have forgotten the name of the boy. Upon checking, it's not one of the usual suspects (Hyacinth, Cyparis). I also don't know any more where I have read it, although it's not in the thick Kuhn edition of the Greek myths in my parents' home.

Does anybody recognize the myth? Can you give me more info about the name of the boy, and a source where it is recorded?

  • 2
    please note that I have been searching the net and found nothing to the point. Asclepιos was killed by lightning by Zeus but he was not a lover but a son and he was punished for cheating death. – anna v May 17 '15 at 3:41
  • not sure but just if you are mistaken on the gods side there is a myth where ares kills one of Poseidon sons – Lachi Dunwoodie Apr 5 '16 at 3:43
  • After so much time went on without a myth being found, I wonder if I read some obscure work of fiction which contained a made-up Greek myth. – rumtscho Apr 5 '16 at 10:11
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Your question reminded me of another myth - maybe you mixed up the two?

Herodot describes a dialogue between Croesus and Solon on happiness:

King Croesus is proud of his riches and considers himself the happiest man in the world. He asks the wise man Solon whether he has seen any other man happier then himself. Solon answers that he knows of King Tellos who was not only happy because he ruled over a peaceful and prosperous kingdom but also died gloriously in battle.

King Croesus then asks him who might be the second happiest man in the world, sure that he must be the one. Solon answers that once, there were two sons. Their mother needed to go by cart to a temple but the oxen which were supposed to pull the cart were still on the field and would never make it back on time. So the two sons went and pulled the cart instead to the temple. The whole crowd in front of the temple admired their devotion to their mother and their mother prayed to the goddess to grant her children happiness. All went to sleep but the two sons never woke up. They died in the moment of highest glory. The villagers praised them and built them statues.

Croesus becomes irritated and now asks Solon directly what the wise man thinks of his riches. Solon replies with the proverbial phrase to never judge a person's happiness before one sees how he ends. Croesus becomes angry but indeed, a few days after the wise man leaves, all kinds of disasters strike the king. His son dies in an accident and he loses a battle against the Persian king. Thinking of the wise man's words he cries out his name 'Solon, Solon, Solon!'. The Persian king asks him about the meaning of this, hears the story and is so impressed that he spares Croesus life and even makes him his counselor.

Bottom line: to die in the moment of highest happiness (granted by glory/youth/...) is itself a thing of happiness. Perhaps a variation of this also exists as a myth referring to Apollo. And I think I know of some more variations (athletes who die in the moment of their victory etc.) but can't remember, whether they, too, were an example of Solon or in a separate story.

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