Salmacis

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In Greek mythology, Salmacis was an atypical naiad who rejected the ways of the virginal Greek goddess Artemis in favour of vanity and idleness. Her attempted rape of Hermaphroditus places her as the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon.

"There dwelt a Nymph, not up for hunting or archery:
unfit for footraces. She the only Naiad not in Diana’s band.
Often her sisters would say: “Pick up a javelin, or
bristling quiver, and interrupt your leisure for the chase!”
But she would not pick up a javelin or arrows,
nor trade leisure for the chase.
Instead she would bathe her beautiful limbs and tend to her hair,
with her waters as a mirror."

Ovid, Metamorphoses. Book IV, 306-312.

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, she becomes one with Hermaphroditus, and Hermaphroditus curses the fountain to have the same effect on others. However, it's very likely that Ovid fabricated the entire tale himself - his use of "praetereo, dulcique animos novitate tenebo" could be read in several ways, as "novitate" could be translated as either something strange or something new, which would imply that it was a new tale. Salmacis could also have been intended simply as a contrast to the previous tales in Ovid's Metamorphoses, as others involve a dominant male pursuing an elusive female. [1]

Gallery

Artistic allusions

  • Ovid's story of Salmacis and the boy Hermaphroditus is retold by Francis Beaumont in his epyllion 'Salmacis and Hermaphroditus'. [3]
  • Paintings by Italian artist Roberto Ferri, a set of 3 oil paintings taken from Ovid's myth of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus. [5]

References

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