love that conquers death
According to Homer, Alcestis was the most beautiful of the daughters of Pelias, king of Iolcus. The Archaic tradition knows her as a beautiful bride: in order to win her, Admetos, the king of Pherae, had to perform a difficult feat.
Through her self-sacrifice, which formed the subject of Phrynichus' tragedy Alcestis, and also Euripides' work of the same name, Alcestis became one of the most celebrated heroines in Greek mythology.
Apollo promised his friend Admetos that he would escape death if someone else agreed to die in his place. When the critical time came, however, no-one was prepared to do so. Even the king's mother and father, though both aged, refused to agree to exchange their life for that of their son. Only his young wife was prepared unhesitatingly to offer her husband the greatest possible gift, which for her meant the end.
Alcestis is a happy woman, young, beautiful, mother of two young children, daughter and wife of kings, who possess power and wealth and would, after the death of Admetos, certainly find the best man available to marry and continue to live the same tranquil, happy life. Nevertheless, without the coercion of necessity, or misfortune and pain, she decides to give her life to save that of her husband. For, as she herself says at the moment she departs:
Euripides, Alcestis 287 (Loeb edition)
For this man, for whose sake I die today,
Farewell: I hate thee not. Me hast thou slain,
me only: loth to fail thee and my lord
Euripides, Alcestis 177-181 (Loeb edition)
Plato, Symposium 179c (Loeb edition)
From Medea to Sappho - Radical Women in Ancient Greece
Athens, National Archaeological Museum - 20 March - 30 June 1995