A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities/Hermaphroditus

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890)
Various Authors, edited by William Smith
1518659A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities — Hermaphroditus1890Various Authors

HERMAPHRODI´TUS (ἑρμαφρόδιτος), a hermaphrodite. This conception belongs to art as well as to mythology, and will here be briefly noticed from the former point of view. “The idea itself was probably derived from the worship of nature in the East, where we find not only monstrous compounds of animals, but also that peculiar kind of dualism which manifests itself in the combination of the male and female” (Dict. Biogr. s. v.). The exchange of dresses by Hercules and Omphale, and similar proceedings in Cyprian, Lydian, and Greek worships, are thought to point to the same Oriental origin. The traditional derivation of the name from Hermes and Aphrodite is pronounced doubtful by Baumeister, who thinks that some foreign words may be concealed under it; nothing definite, however, is yet proposed. Hermaphroditus was regarded as an emblem of indissoluble marriage, in opposition to the ready divorces of ancient manners: and chaplets were hung up in his shrine at Athens by widows who desired to testify their fidelity to the deceased (Alciphr. Ep. 4.37). This, according to Baumeister, is also the explanation of the fable of Hermaphroditus and the nymph Salmacis in Ov. Met. 4.285-388.

Five marble statues of this class are extant; the oldest gives its name to the Sala dell' Ermafrodito in the Uffizi at Florence; two are in the Louvre, one in the Villa Borghese, the fifth has lately been dug up in Rome (figured Mon. dell' Inst. 11.43). Of these the Borghese and one of the Louvre statues are the most celebrated, but a strong resemblance runs through them all; in each the figure is lying on its side or face downwards, and the delicate outlines of the back, turned towards the spectator, alone suggest the bisexual form. This type is probably derived from the bronze original of the elder Polycles (Plin. Nat. 34.80), and thus does not go further back than the later Athenian school. Other less modest representations are given by Clarac (pl. 666 ff.). By an obvious symbolism, the hermaphrodite form occurs in reliefs among Bacchanalian dances, Hermae of the bearded Dionysus, and Erotes. (Müller, Archäol. der Kunst, § § 128 n. 2, 392 n. 2; Baumeister, Denkmäler, s. v. Hermaphrodit.) [W.W]