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Lecture

Hermaphrodite

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Department
Classical Studies
Course
Classical Studies 3400E
Professor
Chris Piper
Semester
Fall

Description
1 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
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