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Hermaphroditus (Ἑρμαφροδιτος), sometimes called Aphroditus was the god of effeminacy and hermaphroditism. According to Ovid, born a remarkably handsome boy, he was transformed into an androgynous being by union with the water nymph Salmacis. His name is the basis for the word hermaphrodite.


Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. Ovid's account relates that Hermaphroditus was nursed by naiads in the caves of Mount Ida, a sacred mountain in Phrygia (present day Turkey). At the age of fifteen, he grew bored with his surroundings and traveled to the cities of Lycia and Caria. It was in the woods of Caria, near Halicarnassus (modern Bodrum, Turkey) that he encounters the nymph Salmakis, who was overcome in lust for him. She tries to seduce him, but he rejected her. Shortly after, Hermaphroditus was bathing in a pool, when Salmacis, who was secretly watching him, jumped into it close to him, and asked the gods to unite them in only one body. From there, there are different versions of what became of Hermaphroditus:


Representation of Hermaphroditus as a statue

  • In the most known, he becomes an androginous being, usually represented as a woman with male genitalia.
  • In another version, his appearance is not exactly of a woman, but not completely male as well.
  • He is also, sometimes, represented as a man who is capable of completely transforming into a woman.

After his transformation, he prayed to his parents, asking them that anyone who bathed in the pool had the same fate as him, and his wish was granted.