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Hermaphroditus. 4219: François-Dominique-Aimé-Milhomme 1758-1823: Hermaphrodite. Palais des Beaux-arts, Lille.

Hermaphrodite is called a person who has a double sexual nature, being at the same time, woman and man. But the following is what happened to Hermaphroditus, whose name is a combination of his parents' names:

Hermaphroditus was born a boy, being nursed by NAIADS in the caves of Mount Ida (Asia Minor). When he was fifteen years old, he decided to travel and wander in unknown lands, visiting the cities of the Lycians and the Carians, and somewhere he found a pool with clear water.

In the pool lived the naiad Salmacis, who unlike other NAIADS, was not seen in the retinue of Artemis, since she preferred to gather flowers rather than go hunting. And that is what she was doing when Hermaphroditus approached the pool. On seeing him, Salmacis fell immediately in love and declared openly her love to him, but since he refused both love and kisses, she turned away and left, pretending to accept his rejection. Shortly after, Hermaphroditus, feeling he was by himself, dived into the pool and started swimming. But then Salmacis appeared again in the waters, holding him fast, stealing kisses, and embracing him; and the more he tried to escape, the more she clung to him. While she was thus overwhelming him, she prayed to the gods not to let them ever be separated, and it was then that the gods, having heard the prayer, merged the two bodies in one. From that day they were no more two persons, nor was it possible to call them man and woman any longer, but being one they seemed neither, and yet both.

Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. 0524: Hermaphroditus und die Nymphe Salmacis (1580-82). Bartholomäus Spranger 1546-1611. Künsthistorische Museum, Wien.



Related sections Hermaphroditus in GROUPS: HERMES' OFFSPRING