Ganymede and Gaia

Copyright G.dallorto

Ganymede, also called Ganymedes, is a Trojan prince, son of Tros of Dardania (founder of Troy) and Callirrhoe, and maternal grandson of river god Skamander. One day, when Ganymede was tending sheep on Mount Ida, he was abducted by Zeus, either by an eagle sent by Zeus or Zeus himself in the form of an eagle.

Tros was overwhelmed by grief, so Zeus sent Hermes with a gift of two horses so fast they could run over water. Zeus also reassured him Ganymede had become immortal and was now the deities’ cupbearer, a position of most great importance. Ganymede was the only one of Zeus’s lovers who was granted immortality.

Zeus gave Ganymede eternal youth, and displaced his daughter/niece Hebe (the goddess of youth) from her position as cupbearer. All the deities but the always-jealous Hera were full of joy to see the beautiful young boy. Hera saw Ganymede as yet another rival for her husband/brother’s affections.

Later, Zeus put Ganymede into the cosmos as the constellation Aquarius. On 7 January 1610, the great Galileo Galilei officially discovered two of the moons of Jupiter, one of which was later named Ganymede. Years earlier, in 365 BCE, Chinese astronomer Gan De observed this moon with the naked eye.

Ganymede may be derived from ganymai (to be glad) and medomai (to plan, to think). The Latin form is Catamitus, from whence the English word “catamite” is derived. A catamite is a teen boy who has an intimate relationship with an older man (i.e., pederasty). I’m not exactly wild about age-gap relationships where the younger party is a minor (since legally that’s rape), but this was a much different era and culture.

Statue of Gaia by Lysá nad Labem Castle, Czech Republic, Copyright V.odchazel

Gaia, also called Gaea, is one of the fifteen primordial Greek deities. She personifies Planet Earth, and is the ancestral mother of all life. According to Greek poet Hesiod, Gaia was the second of these deities to come into existence, after only Chaos. She begot Uranus (primordial god of the sky) by herself, and, since Greek mythology is rife with incest, he also became her husband.

With Uranus, she birthed the Titans, the Cyclopses, the Hecatoncheires (Hundred-Handers), and Giants. According to Hesiod, the Giants were created from the falling blood of Uranus after his and Gaia’s youngest and most terrible offspring, Kronos (father of Zeus), castrated him.

Uranus hated all of his kids, and as soon as they were born, he hid them inside Gaia. This caused her a lot of pain. Gaia made an adamantine sickle for Kronos and told him to wait in ambush for his father. When Uranus came to sleep with Gaia, Kronos castrated him. These drops of blood not only created the Giants, but also the Furies and Meliae (ash tree nymphs). Aphrodite was created from Uranus’s severed testes falling into the sea and creating a white foam.

Painted by Anselm Feuerbach

By another of her asexually-created sons, Pontus (primordial god of the sea), she birthed the primordial sea dieties Nereus, Thaumus, Phorcys, Ceto, and Eurybia. Gaia also raised her grandson Zeus, whose father Kronos knew would overthrow him one day. Kronos’s wife/sister Rhea switched Zeus with a stone wrapped in swaddling clothes, and Kronos swallowed this bundle.

Gaia helped Zeus to defeat the Titans, though she later birthed her youngest son, Tryphon, Zeus’s last rival and a giant who was the most deadly creature in Greek mythology. Continuing to keep it in the family, Gaia also had a child with Zeus, King Manes of Maeonia.

Gaia is a Greek word derived from ge (Earth). It may also come from the Avestan (East Iranian) gaiia (life). Her Roman equivalent is Terra, which also means “Earth.”


5 thoughts on “Ganymede and Gaia

  1. For some reasons, I find the primordial myths of Greek mythology particularly fascinating, maybe because they are mysterious, a lot less obvious than the ‘younger’ myths. I’m particularly intrigued with the myth fo the Titans.

    The Old Shelter – 1940s Film Noir

  2. Pingback: A to Z Reflections 2017 « Onomastics Outside the Box

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