Hymen in Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
or HYMENAEUS (Γ̔μήν or Γ̔μέναιος), the god of marriage, was
conceived as a handsome youth, and invoked in the hymeneal
or bridal song. The names originally designated the bridal
song itself, which was subsequently personified. The first
trace of this personification occurs in Euripides (Eur. Tro.
311), or perhaps in Sappho ( Fragm. 73, p. 80, ed. Neue).
The poetical origin of the god Hymen or Hymenaeus is also
implied in the fact of his being described as the son of
Apollo and a Muse, either Calliope, Urania, or Terpsichore.
(Catull. 61.2; Nonn. Dionys. 33.67; Schol. Vatic. ad Eurip.
Rhes. 895, ed. Dindorf; Schol. ad Pind. Pyth. 4.313;
Alciphron, Epist. 1.13; Tzetz. Chil. 13.599.) Hence he is
mentioned along with the sons of the Muses, Linus and
Ialemus, and with Orpheus. Others describe him only as the
favourite of Apollo or Thamyris, and call him a son of
Magnes and Calliope, or of Dionysus and Aphrodite. (Suid. s.
v. Θάμυρρις; Ant. Lib. 23; Serv. ad Aen. 4.127, ad Virg.
Eclog. 8.30.) The ancient traditions, instead of regarding
the god as a personification of the hymeneal song, speak of
him as originally a mortal, respecting whom various legends
were related. According to an Argive tradition, Hymenaeus
was a youth of Argos, who, while sailing along the coast of
Attica, delivered a number of Attic maidens from the
violence of some Pelasgian pirates, and was afterwards
praised by them in their bridal songs, which were called,
after him, hymeneal songs. (Eustath. ad Horn. p. 1157.) The
Attic legends described him as a youth of such delicate
beauty, that he might be taken for a girl. He fell in love
with a maiden, who refused to listen to him; but in the
disguise of a girl he followed her to Eleusis to the
festival of Demeter. He, together with the other girls, was
carried off by robbers into a distant and desolate country.
On their landing, the robbers laid down to sleep, and were
killed by Hymenaeus, who now returned to Athens, requesting
the citizens to give him his beloved in marriage, if he
restored to them the maidens who had been carried off by the
robbers. His request was granted, and his marriage was
extremely happy. For this reason he was invoked in the
hymeneal songs. (Serv. ad Aen. 1.655, ad Virg. Eclog. 8.30.)
According to others he was a youth, and was killed by the
breaking down of his house on his wedding-day whence he was
afterwards invoked in bridal songs, in order to be
propitiated (Serv. l.c.); and some related that at the
wedding of Dionysus and Ariadne he sang the bridal hymn, but
lost his voice (Serv. l.c.; comp. Scriptor Rerum Mythic. pp.
26, 148, 229; Ov. Met. 2.683, who makes him a son of Argus
and Perimele; Terent. Adelph. 5.7, 8.) According to the
Orphic legends, the deceased Hymenaeus was called to life
again by Asclepius. (Apollod. 3.10.3.) He is represented in
works of art as a youth, but taller and with a more serious
expression than Eros, and carrying in his hand a bridal
torch. (Hirt, Mythol. Bilderb. ii. p. 224.) - A Dictionary
of Greek and Roman biography and mythology, William Smith,