Michael Delahoyde, PhD

Professor of English

Hero and Leander

Hero and Leander


The story is a folktale throughout Europe, Egypt, and India. Virgil and Ovid function as precedents for Musaeus’ version in the 5th or 6th century ad. In May of 1810, Lord Byron swam it. With the current, the swim take about 4 hours.

Leander (he) lived in Abydus and Hero (she) at Sestus, two lands separated by the sea. Hero lived in a tower ministering to Aphrodite and Eros. At the festival of Adonis, she met Leander and they fell in love. They arranged that he would swim to her at night by following the light of a lamp lit in the tower. They made love through the summer nights.

Winter came and the sea grew stormy. Due to concerns about the lamp not lighting, they decided that it had become too risky. But Hero invited him anyway, lighting the lamp. Leander began swimming but soon, unbeknownst to Hero, the wind blew out the light. By morning he had not appeared at the tower. Hero searched the coast and found him torn by rocks at the tower’s foundation. She jumped to her death.