The handsomest youth of Babylon who loved Thisbe, the fairest and most sought-after maiden. They lived in adjoining houses but were kept separate by their parents. Only through a fissure in the wall could they speak to each other and exchange messages. One day they agreed to secretly meet by the Tomb of Ninus, beneath a white mulberry tree. Thisbe arrived there first and encountered a lion. Fleeing from the creature, she lost her veil. The lion, who had just killed some cattle and whose jaws were stained with blood, ripped the veil. When Pyramus later discovered the lion's tracks and the blooded veil, he assumed that the lion had killed his beloved. He blamed himself for her death and sat himself down beneath the tree, drew his sword and plunged it into his side.
Thisbe, still afraid of the lion but not wanting to disappoint her lover, returned to the scene. There she discovered Pyramus' body and the veil, realizing the reason of his suicide. She took his sword, placed the point to her heart and fell forward.
The blood Pyramus and Thisbe shed beneath the tree was absorbed by it, and imbued the mulberries with a dark purplish color.
A parody of this tale appears in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is seldom depicted in ancient Greek art. In Renaissance and baroque art however, it was a popular subject.
- Ovid. Metamorphoses iv, 55 ff.