In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus (or Hermaphroditos) was a child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He was born a remarkably handsome boy but was transformed into a hermaphrodite (one of only two found in Greek mythology, along with Tiresias), by the nymph Salmacis. His only attestation is in Book IV of Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Hermaphroditus' name is derived from those of his parents, Aphrodite and Hermes. All three of these gods figure largely into the Greek tradition of fertility gods and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. Half-siblings of Hermaphroditus include the phallic god Priapus and the youthful god of desire Eros.
Hermaphroditus was raised by nymphs on Mount Ida, a sacred mountain in Phrygia. At the age of fifteen, he grew bored of his surroundings and traveled the cities of Lycia and Caria. It was in the woods of Caria that he encountered Salmacis the Naiad in her pool. She is overcome by lust for the boy, and tries to seduce him, but is rejected. When he thinks her to be gone, Hermaphroditus undresses and enters the waters of the empty pool. Salmacis springs out from behind a tree and jumps into the pool. She wraps herself around the boy, forcibly kissing him and touching his breast. While he struggles, she calls out to the gods in prayer that they should never part. Her wish is granted, and their bodies blend into one intersexual form. Hermaphroditus, in his grief, makes his own prayer: cursing the pool so that any other who bathes within it shall be transformed as well.
The Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus
NAVEZ, François-Joseph ( 1787 Charleroi - 1869, Bruxelles), 1829, Oil on canvas, 197 x 147 cm Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent
Medieval Greece / Byzantine Empire
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