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Hymenaeus with Amor and Psyche, Cameo of Tryphon


Hymenaeus (Ὑμέναιος) or Hymen (Ὑμήν). The Greek god of marriage and of the marriage-song named after him. He is sometimes described as the son of Apollo and a Muse (either Terpsichore, Urania, or Calliope), who had vanished on his own wedding-day, and was consequently always sought for at every wedding. He is also described as a son of the Thessalian Magnes and of the Muse Calliope, and as beloved by Apollo and Thamyris; or as the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, who lost his voice and life while singing the nuptial song at the marriage of Dionysus and Ariadne. According to Attic tradition, he was an Argive youth who, in the disguise of a girl, followed to the feast of Demeter at Eleusis a young Athenian maiden whom he loved without winning the consent of her parents. Hymenaeus and some of the maidens who were celebrating the festival, were carried off by pirates, whom he afterwards killed in their sleep, and henceforth became the champion of all women and damsels. In art he is represented like Eros, as a beautiful, winged youth, only with a more serious expression, and carrying in his hand the marriage torch and nuptial veil. The marriagesong called Hymenaeus, which is mentioned as early as Homer ( Il.xviii. 493), was sung by young men and maidens, to the sound of flutes, during the festal procession of the bride from the house of her parents to that of the bridegroom. In character it was partly serious and partly humorous. The several parts always ended with an invocation of Hymenaeus


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