In Greek mythology, Hymenaios (also Hymenaeus, Hymenaues, or Hymen; Ancient Greek: Ὑμέναιος) was a god of marriage ceremonies, inspiring feasts and song. A hymenaios is also a genre of Greek lyric poetry sung during the procession of the bride to the groom's house in which the god is addressed, in contrast to the Epithalamium, which was sung at the nuptial threshold.
Hymenaios was supposed to attend every wedding. If he didn't, then the marriage would supposedly prove disastrous, so the Greeks would run about calling his name aloud. He presided over many of the weddings in Greek mythology, for all the deities and their children.
Hymenaios was celebrated in the ancient marriage song of unknown origin Hymen o Hymenae, Hymen delivered by G. Valerius Catullus. Both the term hymn and hymen are derived from this celebration.
At least since the Italian Renaissance, Hymenaios was generally represented in art as a young man wearing a garland of flowers and holding a burning torch in one hand.
Hymenaios was mentioned in Homer's Iliad, in the description of the forging of the shield of Achilles:
He wrought also two cities, fair to see and busy with the hum of men. In the one were weddings and wedding-feasts, and they were going about the city with brides whom they were escorting by torchlight from their chambers. Loud rose the cry of Hymen, and the youths danced to the music of flute and lyre, while the women stood each at her house door to see them.
– Book 18 (tr. Samuel Butler, 1898)
as well as in Euripides's The Trojan Women, where Cassandra says:
Bring the light, uplift and show its flame! I am doing the god's service, see! I making his shrine to glow with tapers bright. O Hymen, king of marriage! blest is the bridegroom; blest am I also, the maiden soon to wed a princely lord in Argos. Hail Hymen, king of marriage!
He is also mentioned in Virgil's Aeneid and in five plays by William Shakespeare: Hamlet, The Tempest,Much Ado about Nothing, Titus Andronicus, and As You Like It, where he joins the couples at the end —
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