What can be more magical and mystical than the goddess of the moon falling in love with a mortal shepherd boy?
Love is as mysterious as the glowing moon, shining like a silver orb floating across the night sky? Compare the magic of the moon with love. There is no logic, and there are no earthly explanations. Watching the beautiful moon float across the sky is like looking into the eyes of the one you love. Nothing can explain this, and nothing can compare.
Selene, the ultimate Titan goddess of the moon, felt the same as she glanced down one night and saw a shepherd boy on Mount Latmos. She dimmed her shimmering moonlight as she went closer to earth as she did not want to frighten the shepherd boy.
At that moment, the shepherd boy looked up and directly into the eyes of the moon goddess Selene. Selene saw the most haunting blue eyes she had ever seen and felt her heart-melting away into his clear blue eyes. They looked magical, and Selene knew she had to see the shepherd boy again.
The shepherd boy was so enamored by what he had seen, he wiped his face with a cold, wet cloth and decided that he must have been dreaming. The silver goddess with the raven black hair and the crescent-shaped crown on her head, surely she could not be the moon goddess Selene?
Selene knew she could tell no one, and if her father ever found out about this secret adoration of a mere mortal, Selene would be demoted as a goddess. Or be banned to become a mortal.
Because of his profession, the shepherd boy often slept on the mountain, underneath the warm Greek sky, and it was as if every night when Selene passed over him, she fell more and more in love.
One night as she was cloaked in mist, the shepherd boy awoke and said, ‘Oh goddess are you the most beautiful goddess of the night sky? Are you the moon?’ ‘Yes, I am Selene, Titan goddess of the moon; what is your name, shepherd boy?’, said Selene. ‘I am called Endymion, a mere mortal shepherd boy, oh beautiful goddess, what may I do for you?’ said Endymion.
‘Let us just sit and talk for a while; tell me, Endymion, are you married?’ asked Selene ‘No, I am a shepherd tending to my father’s flocks as he is old and can no longer walk these hills. As for the maidens, I have never set eyes on a maiden I wanted to talk to. I prefer to spend my time in the mountains with the sheep and lie and watch as the beautiful moon-goddess crosses the sky each night on her path from west to east.’ Said Endymion
‘Goddess, will you visit again? I have never spent such a magnificent night on the mountain?’ asked the shepherd boy. ‘Yes, Endymion, I will visit every night.’ And with a glimmer, she was gone. Selene didn’t know what she would do as this was an impossible situation. A goddess in love with a mortal. He was not even a king but a mere shepherd.
Selene decided to take her brother into her confidence because there was no way that she could visit Endymion and still drive her chariot across the night skies and think that nobody would notice. She immediately went to Helios while her sister Ersa was still shining as dawn. Helios was only waking and looked at Selene, still in a daze. ‘Helios, I need your help.’ Selene said.
Immediately Helios was wide awake. What could be the matter that his sister would come and wake him so early. ’Are you ok, Selene?’ he asked.
‘Yes, but I am in love with a mortal shepherd boy, and I need your help so that I can spend a few nights with him, just to get him off my mind, and then I will go back to being Selene, the goddess of the moon again.’ pleaded Selene.
‘Alright, dear sister, we will do this for a few nights, but you must forget the boy and resume your duties,’ said Helios.
For a few nights, their plan worked; after Helios put away his chariot, he put on a glimmering cloak of white and crossed the night sky. It looked like the moon goddess Selene to all who did not know. Yet it did not take long for Zeus to become suspicious. He noticed that Helios seemed tired during the day, and at times the sky appeared darker than usual.
After some investigations, he discovered the reason. Although Zeus himself had taken many mortal lovers, he felt that Selene had abandoned her duties as a goddess, especially a Titan goddess. There would soon be fighting and chaos if the other gods and goddesses heard about this dereliction of tasks.
Zeus knew he had to find a solution to this problem, and there are three versions of the solution;
Some legends say that Selene begged Zeus to make her a mortal so that she could spend a mortal life on earth with her love Endymion. Zeus disagreed with this solution.
Another myth says that Selene implored Zeus to save her lover from the ravages of old age and merely put him into a deep sleep so that his body would remain young forever and Selene could go and sit by her lover and just stare upon his beautiful face.
According to some ancient poets, Zeus felt pity for Selene and did not kill him outright but placed him in an enchanted sleep on Mount Litmus in the East so Selene would not have to descend to earth at night to see Endymion.
The final story has a happier ending. Endymion Himself asked Zeus to be placed into an ageless sleep, and he would give up his mortal life so that he would not be parted from his beautiful goddess Selene by death.
Selene and Endymion agreed that this was the best solution as Selene could visit her sleeping love whenever she pleased. She no longer needed to worry that her mortal love would die.
Although Endymion slept for all eternity, Selene bore him fifty children. These children became the Menai. The 50 goddesses of the lunar months. There were 50 lunar months between each Olympic Games, and the ancient Greeks revered and lived their daily lives by these cycles and phases. Selene had her trusted nymphs and goddesses guard over the cave in Anatolia where Endymion was said to sleep, and it became a holy place for Selene. The shelter could be seen as moonstones, and pure white rock marked it from miles away.
That haunted cave [on Mount Latmos] of fair-haired Nymphai (Nymphs) where, as Endymion slept beside his kine, divine Selene watched him from on high and slid from heaven to earth; for passionate love drew down the immortal stainless queen of the night. And a memorial of her couch abides still ‘neath the oaks; for mid, the copses round was poured out the milk of kine; still, do men marveling behold its whiteness. Thou wouldst say far off that this was milk indeed, which is a well-spring of white water: if thou draw a little nigher, lo, the stream is fringed as though with ice, for white stone rims it round.
-Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy 10. 127 ff (trans. Way)
The above is from an inscription found in Troy. Try is located on the Bosphorus river as it joins the Mediterranean sea, on the land the ancients called Anatolia.