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Classical Studies 3400E Lecture Notes - Secondary Sex Characteristic, Hermaphrodite, Salmacis

Classical Studies
Course Code
CS 3400E
Chris Piper

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Hermaphrodite. i.e., somebody who has both male and female elements of
genital structure and both male and female secondary sexual characteristics.
Also called an androgyne.
Hermaphroditus is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite (but does not appear to be
divine); in Ovid’s tale originally male. In myth when he is fifteen he is spotted by the
nymph Salmacis, who falls in love and attempts to seduce him (unsuccessfully). When he
swims in the spring one day Salmacis sees him, dives in, embraces him, and during the
violent struggle that ensues, ask that the gods grant her request that the two of them not
be parted. Her wish is granted. Hermaphroditus for his part prays to his parents that the
spring may debilitate (unman) any man who hereafter enters it.
What would the viewer's reaction have been to these unusual characteristics in
the art?
Is it one of double-take or surprise (most Hellenistic hermaphrodites have female
bodies, faces, coiffures)?
Or perhaps it is just simply the fact that the ancients felt sexual desire for men and
women (and hermaphrodites were "two-in-one").
Is the presence of hermaphrodites in art a visualization of the curiosity about the
different sexual experiences of men and women?
Transvestism or Cross-Dressing:
Various theories to do with the Anakreontic vases: so called because one is
inscribed as a portrait of Anakreon the lyric poet.
deliberate transvestitism
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