Hymenaios

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In Greek mythology, Hymenaeus (also called Hymenaeus, Hymenaues, or Hymen) was a god of marriage ceremonies, such as feasts and songs (like wedding hymns). In art, he was portrayed with a marriage feast torch. He was mentioned in the Iliad (Homer), the Aeneid (Virgil) and two plays by William Shakespeare: As You Like It and The Tempest.

He was the son of Bacchus (revelry) and Aphrodite (romantic love) (or, in some traditions, Apollo and one of the Muses).

Another story gives him a legendary origin. According to this tale, Hymenaios was an Athenian youth of great beauty but low birth who fell in love with the daughter of one of the city's wealthiest men. Since he could not speak to her or court her, due to his social standing, he instead followed her wherever she went. In one procession, where only women went to Eleusis, Hymenaios disguised himself as a woman and joined the religious rites. The assemblage was captured by pirates, Hymenaios included. He encouraged the women and plotted strategy with them, and together they killed their captors. He then agreed with the women to go back to Athens and win their freedom, if he were allowed to marry one of them. He succeeded in both the mission and the marriage, and his marriage was so happy that Athenians instituted festivals in his honor and came to be associated with marriage.

In art, he was generally represented as wearing a garland of flowers and holding a burning torch in one hand and wearing a purple vest. He was supposed to attend every wedding. If he did not, then the marriage would prove disastrous, and so the Greeks would run about calling his name aloud.

Hymenaios presided over many of the weddings in Greek mythology, for all the deities and their children.

See Ovid in both Medea and Metamorphoses 12; Virgil's Aeneid 1 and following, and Catullus's poem 62.

See also

fr:Hymen (mythologie) nl:Hymenaeus

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