Hermaphroditus


Hermaphroditus

In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos (Ancient Greek: polytonic|ʽἙρμάφρόδιτός) was the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. Born a remarkably handsome boy, he was transformed into an androgynous being by union with the nymph Salmacis. [The seer Tiresias had experienced life as a man and as a woman, but not the two at the same time: Hermaphroditus is unique in Greek myth.] His name is the basis for the word hermaphrodite.

Mythology

Hermaphroditus's name is derived from those of his parents Hermes and Aphrodite. [All three of these gods figure largely among erotic and fertility figures, and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. The phallic god Priapus was the son of Hermes in some accounts, and the youthful god of desire Eros of Hermes and Aphrodite.] He was raised by nymphs on Mount Ida, a sacred mountain in Phrygia (present day Turkey). 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, near Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey) that he encountered Salmacis the Naiad in her pool. She was overcome by lust for the boy, and tried to seduce him, but was rejected. When he thought her to be gone, Hermaphroditus undressed and entered the waters of the empty pool. Salmacis sprang out from behind a tree and jumped into the pool. She wrapped herself around the boy, forcibly kissing him and touching his breast. While he struggled, she called out to the gods that they should never part. Her wish was granted, and their bodies blended into one intersex form. Hermaphroditus, in his shame and grief, made his own vow, cursing the pool so that any other who bathes within it shall be transformed as well. "In this form the story was certainly not ancient" Karl Kerenyi noted, as compared the myth of the beautiful "ephebe" with Narcissus and Hyacinthus, who had an archaic hero-cult, and Hymenaios. [Kerenyi, p. 172.]

Literature

His only literary attestation in classical literature is in Ovid's "Metamorphoses", IV.402-533. [] Based on Ovid's telling, Francis Beaumont wrote an "epyllion" in heroic couplets of the story, "Salmacis and Hermaphroditus" (London 1602).

Algernon Swinburne's poem "Hermaphroditus" is subscribed "Au Musée du Louvre, Mars 1863", leaving no doubt that it was the Borghese Hermaphroditus that had inspired his ode, a poem to which Victorian reviewers took offence:
To what strange end hath some strange god made fair
The double blossom of two fruitless flowers?

Art

*The most famous sculpture of this figure is the "Borghese Hermaphroditus".

*The myth of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis was the basis for the early Genesis song, "The Fountain of Salmacis," the final track from the "Nursery Cryme" album (1971), which recounts the myth in some detail.

*"Hermaphroditus" is a song by Frank Black and the Catholics which appears on the album "Dog in the Sand".

Film

Hermaphroditus is depicted in the film Fellini Satyricon as a childlike, very physically weak god who is able to heal humans supplicants afflicted by various ailments (but apparently unable to heal him/herself). It isn't made clear if this pathological weakness has anything to do with Hermaphroditus' intersexed condition.

Hermaphroditus isn't mentioned in the original Petronius novel Satyricon, on which Fellini's film is loosely based. According to one source, the film episode "may be based on a Pseudo-Petronian poem sometimes printed along with the Satyricon". [ [http://www.class.uh.edu/mcl/faculty/behr/empirehand8.htm Fellini-Satyricon by Federico Fellini (1968) -- Why are classicists like directors?] ]

In the Japanese anime "Ranma ½", the main character Ranma Saotome is transformed into a woman after falling into a "cursed" pool.

References

ources

*Kerenyi, Karl. "The Gods of the Greeks". London: Thames & Hudson, 1951.

External links

* [http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/S/SwinburneAlgernonCharles/verse/p1/hermaphroditus.html Algernon Swinburne, "Hermaphroditus"] (e-text)


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  • Hermaphroditus — [hər maf΄rə dīt′əs] n. 〚L < Gr Hermaphroditos〛 Gr. Myth. the son of Hermes and Aphrodite: while bathing, he becomes united in a single body with a nymph * * * Her·maph·ro·di·tus (hər măf rə dīʹtəs) n. Greek Mythology The son of Hermes and… …   Universalium

  • HERMAPHRODITUS — Mercurii et Veneris fil. ut ex ipsa statim vocis compositione apparet. Nam Mercurius Ε῾ρμῆς, Venus Α᾿φροδίτη Graecis dicitur. Hic cum vagabundus in Caria ad limpidissimum fontem, quem Salmacis nymphaincolebar, pervenisset, illa subito eius amore… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Hermaphrodītus — (griech.), in der Botanik, f. Zwitterig …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Hermaphroditus — [hər maf΄rə dīt′əs] n. [L < Gr Hermaphroditos] Gr. Myth. the son of Hermes and Aphrodite: while bathing, he becomes united in a single body with a nymph …   English World dictionary

  • Hermaphroditus — noun Etymology: Latin, from Greek Hermaphroditos, from Hermēs + Aphroditē Aphrodite Date: 1565 a son of Hermes and Aphrodite who becomes joined in one body with a nymph while bathing …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Hermaphroditus — noun /hɚˌmæf.ɹəˈdaɪ.təs/ a) the son of Hermes and Aphrodite who merged bodies with a naiad. b) was originally a male Aphrodite; the Cyprian god Aphroditus …   Wiktionary

  • Hermaphroditus — /hɜmæfrəˈdaɪtəs/ (say hermafruh duytuhs) noun Greek Legend a son of Hermes and Aphrodite who became united in body with the nymph Salmacis while bathing in her fountain …   Australian English dictionary

  • Hermaphroditus — noun (Greek mythology) son of Hermes and Aphrodite who merged with the nymph Salmacis to form one body • Topics: ↑Greek mythology • Instance Hypernyms: ↑Greek deity …   Useful english dictionary

  • hermaphroditus tarn masculo quam feminae comparator, secundum praevalentiam sexus incalescentis — /harmsfradaytas tsem maeskyalow kwaem femaniy kompareytar, sakandam prevalensh(iy)am seksas inkselasentas/ An hermaphrodite is to be considered male or female according to the predominance of the exciting sex …   Black's law dictionary

  • hermaphroditus tarn masculo quam feminae comparator, secundum praevalentiam sexus incalescentis — /harmsfradaytas tsem maeskyalow kwaem femaniy kompareytar, sakandam prevalensh(iy)am seksas inkselasentas/ An hermaphrodite is to be considered male or female according to the predominance of the exciting sex …   Black's law dictionary


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