Now on the soft green grass or on soft leaves in gauzy dress she lay; now gathered flowers--and, gathering, chanced to see the boy and seeing, saw her heart's desire, Yet though her heart would haste she paused awhile till, dress inspected, all in order placed, charm in her eyes set shining, she deserved to look so lovely, then began to speak: ‘Fair boy you seem--how worthily you seem!--a god, and, if a god, Cupido (Love) [Eros] himself, or if a mortal, happy pair are they who gave you birth; blest is your brother, blest indeed is your sister, if you have one, and the nurse who suckled you, but far, of far, more blest she, your betrothed, found worthy of your love!’ Her prayer found gods to hear; both bodies merged in one, both blended in one form and face.As when a gardener sets a graft and sees growth seal the join and both mature together, thus, when in the fast embrace their limbs were knit, they two were two no more, nor man, nor woman--one body then that neither seemed and both.The ancient artists frequently represented hermaphrodites, either in groups or separately, and either in a reclining or a standing attitude.The first celebrated statue of an hermaphrodite was that by Polycles. "Hermaphroditos (Hermaphroditus), as he has been called, who was born of Hermes and Aphrodite and received a name which is a combination of those of both his parents.Some say that this Hermaphroditos is a god and appears at certain times among men, and that he is born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman, in that he has a body which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but has the masculine quality and vigour of a man.But there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do they have the quality of presaging the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good." "Hear how the magic pool of Salmacis found its ill fame, and why its strengthless waters soften and enervate the limbs they touch. To Mercurius (Mercury) [Hermes], runs the tale, and Cythereia [Venus-Aphrodite] a boy [Hermaphroditos] was born whom in Mount Ida's caves the Naides nurtured; in his face he showed father and mother and took his name from both.
He was numbered amongst the winged love-gods known as Erotes.A Nympha dwelt there, not one to bend the bow or join the hunt or run to win the race; she was the only of the Naides unknown to swift Diana [Artemis].Many a time her sisters chide her: ‘Come, Salmacis, get out your spear or painted quiver; vary your hours of ease with hardships of the chase.’ Yet never spear she took nor painted quiver, nor would vary her hours of ease with hardships of the chase; but in her pool would bathe her lovely limbs, and with a comb of boxwood dress her hair, and, gazing long, take counsel of the waters what style were best.Hermaphroditos was depicted as a winged youth with both male and female features--usually female thighs, breasts, and style of hair, and male genitalia. The name is compounded of Hermes and Aphrodite, and is synonymous with androgunês, gunandros, hêmiandros, &c. § 2), but afterwards as a divine being combining the two sexes, and usually with the head, breasts, and body of a female, but with the sexual parts of a man.He was originally a male Aphrodite (Aphroditus), and represented as a Hermes with the phallus, the symbol of fertility (Paus. According to a tradition in Ovid ( 271.) He had inherited the beauty of both his parents, and was brought up by the nymphs of Mount Ida.
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.