Life would have been a lot easier for Hyacinthos if the Greeks had invented physics. Or, better yet, brains. Yes, Hyacinthos was what is now termed a "dumb jock." Make that "really dumb jock." He compensated for his lack of intelligence only by his extraordinary beauty and great skill as an athlete.
There are many versions of the story of Hyacinthos. They all agree on two things-- he was the lover of Apollo, and he died from an unfortunate case of discus-in-the-head. Keeping those two important facts in mind, hearken to my tale of why Hyacinthos is one of the mythological figures selected for Trojan War Net's Stupidity Week.
Apollo was a fairly desperate god. You'd think that, being a greek god and all, he'd have more success in relationships, but it just didn't seem to be the case. Take Daphne, for instance-- she turned herself into a tree in order to get away from him. Talk about not picking up on body language! I can just picture it now...
Apollo: Daphne, I love you! Won't you be my nymph?
Daphne: Er, no, thanks very much, though.
Apollo: No, you don't understand-- I'm Apollo.
Daphne: No, I do understand. And I'm not interested. Sorry. Better luck with the next nymph.
Most guys would have stopped here, but, being the desperate god he was, Apollo decided to resort to more drastic tactics.
Apollo: I will have to resort to more drastic tactics! (runs after Daphne, who flees him, shrieking) Wait, wait! I have the body of a GOD!
Daphne: No, you don't understand-- I really am not interested. I know you have the body of a god. You ARE a god. You can stop following me now. Please. Really.
Apollo: Wait, Daphne! I love you! Won't you be my nymph?
Daphne: Somehow I sense we've been through this before...
And so Apollo kept following Daphne, who by now was quite fed up with this and beginning to get a little paranoid.
Daphne: Apollo, I mean it. Stop following me.
Daphne: Fine. If you're going to be that way--
So she called on her father, the river god, and asked him to save her from Apollo.
Daphne: Father, please save me from Apollo. (Note from Paris to self: This is why you do not have a scriptwriting career.)
Daphne's Father: All right!
And thus, when she set foot on the sand of the riverbank, Daphne turned into a laurel tree.
Apollo: Gosh, she really did mean it. Oh well, if she won't be my nymph, she can still be my tree! In fact, I'm beginning to get some ideas about those branches...
Daphne: Oh Styx.
Apollo: I MEANT using them as garlands!
Daphne: Oh, sure you did.
And thus ended that relationship. Daphne became Apollo's official tree, and Apollo went on to seek other love. Of course, some argue that Daphne's coldness is due not to the fact that Apollo's chasing her was beginning to spook her a little, but that, when he fired his gold-tipped arrow of love into the heart of Apollo, Eros had fired his leaden arrow of hate into her heart so that she would hate him as much as he loved her. Those who believe that say that the whole episode occurred because Apollo was taunting the boy Eros about his little bow and arrows (Note-- never taunt a boy named Eros, no matter HOW many bad puns you may come up with about his name) and the little god of love wanted retribution. (If you had to fly around in the nude with wings making people fall in love with your arrows, you'd want retribution too.)
But, be that as it may, Apollo soon looked for love in other directions. You see, Apollo (much like his father, Zeus-- see Ganymede) er, swung both ways. And after Daphne turned herself into a laurel tree in a desperate attempt to get away from him, his eye fell on the handsome young Hyacinthos, out doing some sort of athletic frolicking on the hills near Athens. Being the dumb jock he was, Hyacinthos was quite taken by Apollo's conversational skill...
Apollo: I have the body of a GOD!
Hyacinthos: Fascinating! Was he dead when you found him?
Anyway, you get the picture. They had a lovely time frolicking about on the hillsides, wrestling, throwing discuses, etc... But then Hyacinthos had the brilliant idea of a discus throwing contest. So, he tossed his discus, and it went fairly far, considering that he was mortal but not at all bad at throwing discuses, and so he retrieved it and gave it to Apollo to toss. Apollo, being a god, and deciding to impress the boy, threw the discus so far and hard that it hit the sun. Yes, this is physically impossible. But the Greeks had not invented physics yet. If they had, Hyacinthos would certainly not have done what he did next-- run and try to catch the discus. So, to recap: The discus has just hit the sun. The sun, even to a Greek, is very far and very high up. The discus is falling down at an enormous speed, having just hit the sun. And you try to catch this very hot and very speedily falling object WHY? Because you are Hyacinthos, and you are stupid. That's why. So, suffice to say, the discus hit Hyacinthos in the head (No great loss, you say?) and he died.
Apollo was distraught. Yet another failed relationship. Having the habit of commemorating his lovers in plant form, he turned Hyacinthos into-- you guessed it-- the Hyacinth, placing the letters AI on the petals, since that was the Greek expression of lament. And that was that.
But some say that's not quite the way it happened. They say that Zephyrus, the West Wind, was also taken with the handsome, though brainless youth, and that, in jealousy, he diverted the discus so that it struck Hyacinthos in the head. While logic tells us that a discus does not need to be diverted by wind to strike you in the head after hitting the sun, this does add an interesting love triangle dimension to Hyacinthos's story. Perhaps there is more than one reason Apollo couldn't get a date to save his life...
Whatever the reason, however, Hyacinthos died from acute discus-in-the-head, Apollo had to go place another ad in the divine personals, and Zephyrus, if he was involved at all, felt guilty. Thus the story ends.
So, the next time you see a hyacinth, remember: it may be nice looking, but it isn't much on conversation.