Sinful Sunday: Hermaphroditos and yearning for oneness

I found this sculpture of Hermaphroditos in the Palazzo Massimo in Rome. In the myth Hermaphroditos is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite, who – because both gods are a little more magical than most of the Olympians – combined in one person and soul the beauties of both hir parents. 

It’s an image of gender ambiguity, and in our time that’s probably the meaning most often ascribed to the Hermaphoditos myth. But it’s something else as well (all myths have several meanings, or what’s the use of them?): that union of two into one body is what many lovers are yearning for in their deepest and most desperate sex. 

A living Image, which did far surpass
In beauty that bright shape of vital stone
Which drew the heart out of Pygmalion.

A sexless thing it was, and in its growth
It seemed to have developed no defect
Of either sex, yet all the grace of both, --
In gentleness and strength its limbs were decked;
The bosom swelled lightly with its full youth,
The countenance was such as might select
Some artist that his skill should never die,
Imaging forth such perfect purity.

(From The Witch of Atlas)

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