LGBT Info

In Greek mythology, Ganymede /ˈɡænɪmiːd/ or Ganymedes /ɡænɪˈmiːdiːz/ (Ancient Greek: Γανυμήδης Ganymēdēs) is a divine hero whose homeland was Troy. Homer describes Ganymede as the most beautiful of mortals, and in one version of the myth, Zeus falls in love with his beauty and abducts him in the form of an eagle to serve as cup-bearer in Olympus.


The myth was a model for the Greek social custom of paiderastía, the socially acceptable romantic relationship between an adult male and an adolescent male. The Latin form of the name was Catamitus (and also "Ganymedes"), from which the English word catamite is derived. According to Plato, the Cretans were regularly accused of inventing the myth because they wanted to justify their "unnatural pleasures".

Family

Ganymede was the son of Tros of Dardania, from whose name "Troy" was supposedly derived, either by his wife Callirrhoe, daughter of the river god Scamander, or Acallaris, daughter of Eumedes. Depending on the author, he was the brother of Ilus, Assaracus, Cleopatra and Cleomestra.

The traditions about Ganymede, however, differ greatly in their detail, for some call him a son of Laomedon, others a son of Ilus in some version of Dardanus and others, again, of Erichthonius or Assaracus.

Mythology

Ganymede was abducted by Zeus from Mount Ida near Troy in Phrygia. Ganymede had been tending sheep, a rustic or humble pursuit characteristic of a hero's boyhood before his privileged status is revealed. Zeus either summoned an eagle or turned into an eagle himself to transport the youth to Mount Olympus.

Roman-era relief depicting the eagle of Zeus abducting Ganymede, his Phrygian cap denoting an eastern origin, and a river god

On Olympus, Zeus had him granted eternal youth and immortality and the office of cupbearer to the gods, in place of his daughter Hebe who was relieved of her duties as cupbearer upon her marriage to Herakles. Alternatively, the Iliad presents Hebe (and at one instance, Hephaestus) as the cupbearer of the gods with Ganymede acting as Zeus’s personal cupbearer. Edmund Veckenstedt associated Ganymede with the genesis of the intoxicating drink mead, which had a traditional origin in Phrygia. In some literature such as the Aeneid, Hera, Zeus's wife, regards Ganymede as a rival for her husband's affection. In some traditions, Zeus later put Ganymede in the sky as the constellation Aquarius (the "water-carrier" or "cup-carrier"), which is adjacent to Aquila (the Eagle). The largest moon of the planet Jupiter (named after Zeus's Roman counterpart) was named Ganymede by the German astronomer Simon Marius.

In the Iliad, Zeus is said to have compensated Ganymede's father Tros by the gift of fine horses, "the same that carry the immortals", delivered by the messenger god Hermes. Tros was consoled that his son was now immortal and would be the cupbearer for the gods, a position of much distinction.


Ganymede pouring Zeus a libation (Attic red-figure calyx krater by the Eucharides Painter, c. 490–480 BCE)

Plato accounts for the pederastic aspect of the myth by attributing its origin to Crete, where the social custom of paiderastía was supposed to have originated (see "Cretan pederasty"). Athenaeus recorded a version of the myth where Ganymede was abducted by the legendary King Minos to serve as his cupbearer instead of Zeus. Some authors have equated this version of the myth to Cretan pederasty practices, as recorded by Strabo and Ephoros, that involved abduction of a youth by an older lover for a period of two months before the youth was able to re-enter society as a man. Xenophon portrays Socrates as denying that Ganymede was the catamite of Zeus, instead asserting that the god loved him for his psychē, "mind" or "soul," giving the etymology of his name as ganu- "taking pleasure" and mēd- "mind." Xenophon's Socrates points out that Zeus did not grant any of his lovers immortality, but that he did grant immortality to Ganymede.

In poetry, Ganymede became a symbol for the beautiful young male who attracted homosexual desire and love. He is not always portrayed as acquiescent, however, as in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, Ganymede is furious at the god Eros for having cheated him at the game of chance played with knucklebones, and Aphrodite scolds her son for "cheating a beginner." The Augustan poet Virgil portrays the abduction with pathos: the boy's aged tutors try in vain to draw him back to Earth, and his hounds bay uselessly at the sky. The loyal hounds left calling after their abducted master is a frequent motif in visual depictions, and is referenced by Statius: Here the Phrygian hunter is borne aloft on tawny wings, Gargara’s range sinks downwards as he rises, and Troy grows dim beneath him; sadly stand his comrades; vainly the hounds weary their throats with barking, pursue his shadow or bay at the clouds>