The Pool of Salmacis 12

Salmacis & Hermaphroditus become one flesh (Andruss)



Hephaestus, the club-footed blacksmith god was thrown down from Olympus after his mother, Hera, rejected him because he was deformed. Needless to say Hephaestus’ skill with forging weapons was so great, the Olympian gods needed him long before he needed them. To soften his heart Zeus, gave Hephaestus Aphrodite as his bride.

The beautiful goddess of love was not pleased and never lost an opportunity for taking her revenge by having affairs; often with other gods. The result of one such tryst with fellow god Hermes was her son Hermaphroditus.

As you would expect of any child whose mother was the goddess of love, Hermaphroditus was a bit of a stunner, but being brought up in secret, away from people and hidden from the gods for fear of reprisal, he was also naive.

Our story begins when Hermaphroditus, hot and tired from the day’s hunting chanced on a pool, deep within a shady glade, and thought to quench his thirst.

As he drank, the water nymph Salmacis spied the youth and overcome by his beauty tried to seduce him. Appalled by her wantonness, Hermaphroditus blushed and chided her to leave him alone. Somewhat taken aback Salmacis retreated. But she did not go far.

Thinking she was gone, Hermaphroditus stripped off and dived into the limpid waters. Aroused by the sight of his naked body Salmacis followed. Unable to control her passions she grabbed him. Clinging to him, entwined around his limbs she refused to let go; no matter how he struggled. Hermaphroditus tried to fight her off with increasing violence. In exasperation, she pleaded to the gods they might never part but remain together forever.

As the old saying goes – be careful what you wish for.

Capricious as always, Zeus took great delight on punishing Aphrodite’s child for his mother’s indiscretion. With a wave of his hand he caused Salmacis to merge with the boy, until they were one flesh. A deformed creature of two sexes crawled from the lake. Disgusted by the affront to nature he had become, the part that was Hermaphroditus prayed to his mother. With bitter tears he begged whoever drank from, or bathed in, the pool should be similarly cursed.

According to Ovid all this took place in the hills outside Halicarnassus, which is modern Bodrum in Turkey.

So beware you weary holiday makers on summer hikes in the hot thirsty pine-clad hills of the Bodrum peninsula…

You are warned!


Echo & Narcissus

What Men Want

Philemon & Baucis


The Great God Pan

The Moon and Endymion

12 thoughts on “The Pool of Salmacis

  1. Reply pjlazos Jun 7,2017 11:16 am

    I’ve never heard this one, Paul. The ancient Gods were a vindictive lot. No wonder humanity could relate.?

  2. Reply Tina Frisco Jun 6,2017 2:13 am

    I wonder just how much truth lies in myth. I’ve been watching the Ancient Aliens series on the History Channel, and it seems a great deal of myth might be based in fact ~ the fact that ETs have been visiting Earth for thousands of years. What many have referred to as gods might actually have been ETs. But I’m hard-pressed to see the fact in this one! Thanks for agitating my little grey cells, Paul 🙂

    • Reply Paul Jun 6,2017 2:15 pm

      Like you Tina, when I look at the gods from the past they do not seem particularly god like(as I think of gods) more like some sort of superbeings which aliens fit into… especially if they have space travel technology. With regards to Hermaphroditus. There is no evidence we was a real myth as opposed to an explanation story to account for inter-gender people. There is not independent tradition of the story other than Ovid. Yet the development of human sexuality from conception to birth is a fascinating subject….Oh Tina… I feel a post coming on!!!!

  3. Reply Sally Cronin Jun 4,2017 5:27 pm

    When I read some of these stories of the gods of the ancient world I keep seeing the headlines for some of our modern fallen idols. Poor Hermaphroditus first to find himself with a name like that and to be so naive as to fall into such a trap.. Still he did get a gender names after him. Another riveting article and fantastic illustration Paul.. thank you.

    • Reply Paul Jun 4,2017 8:11 pm

      Dear Sally, you are right. despite thousands of years passing nothing really changes does it. as for Hermaphroditus…poor bugger. It is like these parents Lee and Anne who call their kids Leanne. I know your children are your immortality but at least give them the courtesy of their own identity! One of the things about the story of Hermaphroditus is that although found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (actually like all the other myths I have picked up on come to think of it) there is no evidence from another source and so leads to the conclusion Ovid made it all up…. if so what a great tale! And am am glad you liked the illustration – rather immodestly I am quite please with it.

  4. Reply Robbie Cheadle Jun 4,2017 4:29 pm

    A fantastic tale, Paul.

    • Reply Paul Jun 4,2017 8:12 pm

      Thanks Robbie it is quite a cool story isn’t it. When I lived in the Bodrum area and found out it came from there I was absolutely thrilled!

  5. Reply patriciaruthsusan Jun 4,2017 10:58 am

    It seems you were worse off after praying to the ancient Greek gods.You can’t beat the stories though. 🙂 — Suzanne

    • Reply Paul Jun 4,2017 8:14 pm

      Well Patricia as least you can’t say the gods didn’t have a sense of humour! In fact it was probably a Greek god who said it would be a miserable old world if you could not have a laugh at someone else’s expense

  6. Reply Shehanne Moore Jun 4,2017 10:45 am

    OOH, I ain’t bathing there. Brilliant post and a story I didn’t know too xxxx

    • Reply Paul Jun 4,2017 8:19 pm

      I know Shey a bit frightening that one.. especially as they were doing a lot of building in the hills facing Bodrum Harbour and traditionally new sites had water supplied straight from local springs.
      It is recommended you don’t drink the water in the area.. some such bullcrap as lots of minerals in it But we know the real reason… NOW!
      And now you know why I never showered for the 5 years I lived there.

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