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(mythology) Greece


Lover of Zeus


In the Greek mythology Ganymedes was a young Trojan prince, so beautiful that Zeus (Roman Jupiter), under the aspect of an eagle, kidnapped and brought him on the Olympus, rewarding his father with the gift of two divine horses. Ganymedes, who received the gift of immortality, took the place of Ebe, goddess of youth, as cupbearer and became the lover of Zeus. Later the young man was identified with the constellation of "Aquarius".


"Erichthonios was the richest of mortal men. He had a son, Tros, who was lord of the Trojans, and to Tros in turn were born three sons unfaulted, Ilos, and Assaracus, and god-like Ganymedes who was the loveliest born of the race of mortals."
(Illiad, Book V)

Even the king of the gods burned with love for Phrigian Ganymedes. Deciding to fly down to leafy Ida, where Ganymedes was playing surrounded by his friends and tutors, he took the form of that bird which bore his thunderbolts. Casting shafts of lightning as he flew he caused a fierce tempest to rise and darken the sky. Under the cover of the storm he pounced and grabbed the boy in his talons. His aged guardians in vain stretched their hands to the stars, while the savage barking of the dogs rose skyward.

Lifting Ganymedes on his back the god flew with him to Mount Olympos, where he appointed him cup-bearer and lover, and where he was honored by all the immortals for his beauty, except for his wife, Hera, who greeted Ganymedes with obvious distaste.

On top of that Zeus, to make a place for Ganymedes, sent away Hebe, Hera's daughter and his, who until then had poured the drinks at the divine feasts, with the excuse that she was clumsy and had stumbled while serving. This he did against Hera's will, who took great insult and evermore bore the Trojans a grudge, one that joined with her anger at Paris and cemented her enmity against them during the Trojan war.

"As for Tros, a cruel sorrow filled his heart, and he knew not where the divine tempest had taken his son. He cried endless tears. It came to pass that Zeus felt pity for him, and gave him in exchange for his son a pair of white, brisk-stepping horses, deathless and able to walk on water, the very same that carried the immortals. Zeus sent them with Hermes, the messenger, who also let him know his boy was now among the gods, immortal and forever young. His heart was filled with joy, and he drove his horses as fast as the wind."
(Euripides, The Phoenician Women)

Meanwhile, Hera, ever more jealous of lovely Ganymedes, nagged her husband so much he grew fed up, and promised to send him away. Only later did she find out that he left Olympus to take his place among the stars, as the constellation Aquarius, where he can be seen to this day, still pouring nectar.


Cellini's GanymedesGanymedes is one of the most common art sources. The nature of the affair, indicating ancient Greek's perspective of homosexuality, has supplied with great ideas the painters and pottery makers through the years, and Ganymedes has been presented both during his abduction, and as serving the gods. One of the most interesting ideas, is the symbolization of the fact that life after death, with the gods, might exist if you are innocent and sinless. Ganymedes may symbolize the innocent, sinless person who dies and is carried up to live with the gods. This opinion is demonstrated in the "Portrait of a Child as Ganymedes."

"Ganimede e l'aquila"
by Benvenuto Cellini

Actic cupPainting found on an Attic cup, showing Ganymedes being chased by Zeus. Dated around 480-490 B.C.

wall paintingPainting on a wall, dated 490-480 B.C. located in Louvre, Paris. Zeus has captured Ganymedes, carrying him to Mt Olympus.

Attic trayAnother Attic tray/plate showing Zeus capturing Ganymedes, dated around 460 B.C. Located in National Museum in Ferrara, Italy.

Attic bronze coverZeus in the form of the eagle, takes Ganymedes up to Mt Olympus. Picture sculptured on an Attic bronze cover, dated around 460 B.C., located today in Staatliche Museum, Berlin.

Vatican gray marbleZeus and Ganymedes, sculpture dated around 320-310 B.C. found in Vatican. Gray marble was used.

Tarquinia cupGanymedes with the Gods, cup by Oltos, ca.510 B.C. Found inTarquinia, RC. Ganymedes has been captured by Zeus, he lives with the gods and serves them.

Egypt ivoryCover of casket from Egypt, with Jupiter and Ganymedes, late Roman Period. By an unidentified artist. From the Menil Collection, Houston.

This worn bone panel could be the cover of a small box or casket from Egypt or from a Roman burial. It depicts Jupiter (Zeus) in the form of an eagle carrying Ganymedes to heaven. It would be particularly appropriate for use on a grave as it can refer to the soul flying to immortality after death.

Renaissance bronzeThe Rape of Ganymedes. A bronze plaquette cast from carved rock crystal by Giovanni Bernardi (Italian, 1494-1553), after a drawing by Michaelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564).

This began as a drawing by Michelangelo, presumed lost, which was copied by Giovanni Bernardini in carved rock crystal and then cast into bronze. Michaelangelo's drawings were done for Tommaso Cavalieri, and are said to be a reflection of Michaelangelo's homosexuality.

Maes paintingPortrait of a child as Ganymedes, 1669, Nicholas Maes, Dutch, 1634-1693, Collection f Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert, Florida. It shows a deceased child, being taken upwards by an eagle, symbolizing the flight to eternity - living with the gods, that life after death is supposed to be.

Henriquez engravingAbduction of Ganymedes, 1786-1808, Benoît Louis Henriquez, engraving on paper. Belongs to the Paris Royal Palace museum collection. Shown, is Ganymedes as Zeus' cup bearer, holding the cup, and awaiting two winged figures to fill it in. Zeus is shown as the eagle, and one can see the gods' banquet in the background opening of the clouds.

Corinth lithographGanymedes and the Eagle, from portfolio "Loves of Zeus", 1920, Lovis Corinth, German, 1858-1925, color lithograph on paper. Ganymedes has arrived to Olympus with the eagle that Zeus had sent, Zeus did not go himself in this representation. Propably the figure at the back is Hebe, the gods cupbearer until Ganymedes replaced her. Zeus is watching and admiring the boy's beauty.


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