Shortly after Iphis marries Ianthe, another marriage takes place in Thrace. Hymen, the god of marriage, attends, but the wedding isn’t a happy one. Just after the wedding, the new bride, Eurydice, is walking through a field when a serpent bites her ankle and poisons her to death. Orpheus, her husband, is overcome with grief and follows her to Hades. He finds the Lord of Hades and says that he hasn’t come to explore the land of the dead. Orpheus knows that, eventually, everyone will live in Hades, but he asks that Eurydice be allowed to live a little longer with him on land.
Ovid follows up the story of Iphis and Ianthe’s complicated yet ultimately successful marriage with a story of a marriage that experiences tragedy. Although Orpheus and Eurydice love each other and their wedding is attended by the god of marriage, Eurydice immediately ends up in Hades. This tragic wedding day portrays love as something that is always susceptible to bad luck, even if the love itself is happy.
Moved by Orpheus’s speech, the Lord of Hades tells Orpheus he may lead Eurydice back to land, but only if he walks in front of her and never looks behind him until he has returned. Orpheus agrees, and he and Eurydice start up the steep, misty slope out of Hades. As they climb, Orpheus grows afraid that Eurydice is slipping and looks back. As soon as he looks back, Eurydice falls back into Hades.
Because he cares about her, Orpheus loses Eurydice a second time. Orpheus is instructed not to look back at Eurydice as they ascend from hell, but concern for her compels him to, with disastrous consequences. This darkly suggests that a person’s love for someone can ironically cause them to lose the person.
Orpheus is overcome with grief for the second time. He wants to cross the river into Hades again, but the ferry driver doesn’t let him. Orpheus sits on the shore for weeks, weeping and refusing to eat. Finally, he walks home. For three years, he refuses the love of women. Instead, he starts sleeping with teenage boys.
Orpheus is so heartbroken over Eurydice that he can’t resume his life as normal. Even once he returns home, he can no longer love women at all, a detail Ovid uses to suggest love’s destructive potential.