8. Hymen

Since the Italian Renaissance Hymen was generally represented in art as a young man wearing a garland of flowers and holding a burning torch in one hand.

According to a later Romance, Hymen was an Athenian youth of great beauty but low birth who fell in love with the daughter of one of the city’s wealthiest men.

Since he couldn’t speak to her or court her, due to his social standing, he instead followed her wherever she went.

Hymen disguised himself as a woman in order to join one of these processions, a religious rite at Eleusis where only women went. The assemblage was captured by pirates, Hymen included.

He encouraged the women and plotted strategy with them, and together they killed their captors. He then agreed with the women to go back to Athens and win their freedom, if he were allowed to marry one of them.

He thus succeeded in both the mission and the marriage, and his marriage was so happy that Athenians instituted festivals in his honor and he came to be associated with marriage.

Hymen 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 of all the deities and their children.

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