Since time began, the subject of love is talked about and written all over the world with unexpected twists, tragedies and turns to each story. Since this has been the language of love that has existed in stories dating back since time began, its amazing strength has tested time, and many people can remember the names of many who have inspired their fairy tale of love.
Here are what I found to be the top 10 historical love stories that have influenced all of us in some way or another.
1) Romeo and Juliet
One of the most famous of lovers, when the names are mentioned together it strikes the ultimate definition of love in the minds of those that hear them. A tragedy written by William Shakespeare, these two forbidden lovers fight the day old story of feuding families individually to find their untimely death in a brilliant plan to be together. Unfortunately, not only do they unite their families with their death, but they also are found together forever in spirit.
2) Cleopatra and Mark Anthony
Another story dramatized by William Shakespeare the love of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra stood the test of love and brought to us the age-old “love at first sight” scenario. Both powerful individuals in warring countries and against the people’s threats, they married anyway. The ultimate end of this was again the death of the couple. Mark Anthony received false word of Cleopatra’s death and fell on his own sword in battle. Cleopatra hearing of her husband’s death took her own life with the bite of a cobra. Again, these lovers were united in death forever.
3) Lancelot and Guinevere
Arthurian legend brings us the famous tale of these two passionate lovers. Guinevere was initially loyal to her King’s love and her wedding vows but the knight’s of the King suspected their trysts and burst in on them both finding them in an embrace. Lancelot escaped but left poor Guinevere to die at the block accused of treason. As all stories go, Lancelot saved her from the executioner only find them both separated, he was dying as a lowly hermit and Guinevere becoming a nun never to love again.
4) Tristan and Isolde
Isolde, the daughter of the King of Ireland was betrothed to the King Mark of Cornwall. Her travels from Ireland escorted by King Mark’s nephew Tristan brought her to fall deeply in love with Tristan only to watch his love Isolde marries his uncle the King. Tristan left after being banned from Cornwall because of his love for Isolde, and he married another woman of Brittany never to consummate the marriage. Falling very ill, Tristan called for Isolde as he felt her presence would heal him. The story went that if Isolde returned with his ships the ships sail would be white, and if she didn’t they would be black. Tristan’s new wife seeing the white sails lied to her husband, and he died of grief before Isolde could be at his side. She later died too of a broken heart.
5) Paris and Helena
The face that launched a thousand ships is one of the most famous of the Greek legend and the main ‘cause’ of the Trojan War. Both based on fact and fiction, Helena was considered a very beautiful women in all of literature and the King of Sparta. Her husband would go to war to return her to his bed. Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy fell in love with her and snuck her from Sparta home to Troy where a battle ensued by both sides for what some believe to be decades. Upon the fall of Troy, Helena returned to Sparta to live happily with King Menelaus for the rest of her life.
6) Orpheus and Eurydice
Desperate love has never escaped history or literature and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice is no exception. Eurydice was a beautiful nymph who fled from the god Aristaeus, as his obsession with her was not reciprocated. Her fleeing led her to a snake nest and where a fatal snakebite was placed on her legs. Distraught Orpheus was advised to travel to the underworld where some of his sad songs for his wife softened Hades and Persephone, who ultimately agreed to let her return under the deal that he not look back until they return to the upper world. In his anxious travels, he forgot the deal and looked back to see Eurydice’s face where she promptly disappeared again, but this time permanently.
7) Napoleon and Josephine
Despite the union of Napoleon and Josephine being one of convenience and political tactics, Napoleon eventually fell deeply in love with her as she did with him. Their love stood the test of time, but did not forever, as they eventually split because of Josephine’s inability to produce an heir. History has it that despite the split, they loved each other for all eternity.
Odysseus and Penelope
Again, this love story of Greek’s origin shows the power of love and time. Odysseus is taken away from Penelope for 20 long years while at war, and her suitors, anxious to replace her husband, were relentless in that time. Over 100 suitors, it is said that she rejected during those 20 years. Odysseus also remained faithful by rejecting a sorceress and her promise of eternal youth.
9) Paolo and Francesca
This story brings another full circle … Paolo and Francesca were an affair between a woman who was already married to a horrible man, Gianciotto. She tools Paolo as a lover and upon reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere their love blossomed only to be caught by her husband where the tragic end of the story is ended by Gianciotto by ordering their executions.
10) Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler
“Gone with the Wind” a book and then movie that most have seen all over the world, has placed the age-old saying, “timing is everything” into play. Placed in the civil war, Scarlet and flirtatious Southern Belle finds herself undecided between her many suitors. As the war rages on around her, she finally settles on Rhet, but she has already driven him away. The novel ends with Scarlet saying on of loves famous quotes, “Tomorrow is another day,” bringing hope to the reader that the lovers might be reunited.