Their farm was small, and they could grow only enough to feed themselves. Sometimes conditions made it difficult to coax any crops out of the land, so they often relied on the eggs of the single goose that lived on the farm. The goose not only laid eggs, but it acted like a watchdog, protecting the couple’s meager possessions.
One day, Zeus and Hermes decided to visit Phrygia. Zeus, the protector of guests, wanted to see if the people in Phrygia were being kind to visitors.
Zeus and Hermes wore ragged clothes so that no one would recognize them. They knew that as gods they would be treated royally, but they wanted to see how they would be welcomed as ordinary travelers.
Thus disguised, the gods went from house to house in Phrygia. At the door of each house the ragged strangers asked the owners if they could rest by the fireplace and have something to eat and drink. But each door was slammed rudely in their faces. After this had happened many times, Zeus began to worry.
He turned to Hermes and asked, "How can anyone travel in such an inhospitable country where everyone seems so rude and disrespectful? Are there no people in Phrygia who are kind to strangers? Travelers far from home should not have to go hungry. I wonder how these rude people would feel if they were treated the same way they have been treating us?"
Hermes had no ready answer for Zeus, and the pair trudged along. Finally, after knocking on hundreds of doors and being refused hospitality at each one, the disguised gods found themselves before a hut that was smaller and more rundown than any of the houses they had yet visited.
The house was situated near the bottom of a tall hill, and although the farm around the house was small, the grounds were well-tended. When the strangers knocked on the door of the modest hut, a ragged couple appeared. Immediately and with open arms, they invited the strangers into their home. Ducking under the low doorway, the disguised gods entered into the small but spotless single room.
The couple's names were Baucis and Philemon. Baucis was a small woman with graying hair, a sweet face, and a friendly smile; and her husband, Philemon, was hard-working and strong despite his years. They were kind and happily went to work preparing a meal and trying to make their guests feel comfortable.
Baucis and Philemon asked neither the visitors' names nor their origins; the couple understood that it was up to the visitors to offer this information only if they so chose. With sincere attention to their visitors' comfort, the couple invited their guests to sit near the warm hearth, and Baucis threw a thin pillow over the single hard bench. Then Baucis heated up the fire and began to boil water.
While she cooked the evening meal, Baucis spoke happily with the guests. "We are so glad to have you with us," she said. "We do not have much, my Philemon and I, but we are happy to share whatever we have with our friends." As she said this, her husband smiled and nodded in agreement.
Finally, the meager meal was ready. Baucis propped up their rickety table with a broken dish and served her guests. Philemon made sure that the guests had whatever they might need. The couple were so busy enjoying their company that nothing seemed unusual.
Gradually, however, Philemon and Baucis both noticed that although they had already used up their small supply of wine, the wine jug was as full as ever, even though it had been emptied several times. Clearly, their guests could not be the poor travelers they appeared to be.
Such a miracle must be the magic of immortals. Immediately, the couple fell to their knees, begging the gods' forgiveness for the meager dinner they had served and the shabbiness of their tiny home.
Embarrassed at his poverty, Philemon got up quickly from his knees and ran outside, hoping to catch the couple's goose in order to cook it as a more appropriate dinner offering for the gods. But the goose sensed the old man's purpose and ran away. Finally, the goose ran straight into the house and jumped into Zeus's lap for protection. Zeus laughed, and told the old man to stop his chasing. The god assured the couple that he did not wish to eat their only goose.
Still smiling, Zeus and Hermes said, "Come with us, Baucis and Philemon. You have been wonderful hosts, and you shall be rewarded. However, the rest of the people in this country shall be punished for their rudeness."
Nervously, Baucis and Philemon followed as the gods hiked to the top of the hill behind their house. When they turned to look down at the valley, the couple was dismayed to see that all the houses in the village - except their own - had disappeared under the waters of a huge flood. Now, only the tips of the highest rooftops could be seen peeking out above the raging waters.
The flood had swept in so quickly and so silently that the entire village had been surprised. Baucis and Philemon could not see a soul left in their town. All that was left was their own tiny home, the floodwaters lapping at its doorway.
On the high hill, safe and dry above the flood, Baucis and Philemon looked down again at their farm, unable to speak. Amazed, they watched as their house changed before their eyes into a magnificent temple made of gold and marble. They had no idea why this was happening. When they looked questioningly to the gods for an answer, Zeus smiled kindly and said, "You shall have your reward now. Tell me your wish, and you shall have it."
For a moment, Baucis and Philemon whispered together; they needed only a minute to decide what their wish would be. First, they asked the gods if they could be priests in the shiny gold temple that now stood in place of their house. Then they begged the gods to allow them to die both at the same moment, so that neither would ever have to live without the other.
Zeus granted the couple their first wish right away. Before returning with Hermes to Mount Olympus, Zeus sent Baucis and Philemon off to serve in the great temple that now stood where their farm used to be. The couple lived happily there for many years, growing very old but remaining ever faithful to the gods and to each other.
One day, while standing outside the temple, Baucis saw her husband's body stiffen. Right before her eyes, Philemon's feet grew into the ground, and leaves sprouted out of his hands. Baucis was shocked, but suddenly she realized that her own body was also sprouting roots and leaves.
After this startling event, the people who came to live again in Phrygia always told the couple's story and hung wreaths on the trees that grew twisted together outside the golden temple. In this way, the people of Phrygia honored the spirit of Baucis and Philemon, the kind and faithful couple who were rewarded by the gods for their kindness to others.
Label: Greek mythology