Ganymede

Name: Ganymede
Title: of Troy
Position: Cupbearer of the Gods
Location: Mount Olympus
City of Residence: formerly, Troy


Ah, Ganymede. Another of those beautiful trojans...

Ganymede was said to be the most beautiful of mortals. The most noted in a long series of exceptionally handsome Trojans, he was the youngest son of Tros and Callirhoe and managed to attract some divine, er, attention as a youth. Out shepherding his flocks on the mountains near Troy, (clearly a tradition for trojan princes) he caught the eye of Zeus.

Before I go any further, let me draw your attention to one of Zeus's favorite habits: philandering. While he was the lord of the universe, he was in many ways more flawed than the average Greek, at least if you look at his cheating record. This supports the theory, posed by some, that the Greeks created their gods to excuse their worst behavior, not to provide them with moral grounding. And, well, I'm not saying anything, but take a look at an abbreviated list of Zeus's affairs.

Io
Europa
Selene
Leda
Leto (this may have been before his marriage, but still)
Danae
Callisto
Alcmene
Laodameia
Maia
Alkmene

And also consider the fact that, while there are twelve Olympian Gods, including Hera and Zeus, only three of them are the children of Zeus and Hera-- the others: Apollo, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, and Hermes, are his children by other women.

So, clearly Zeus was fond of messing around. So when he saw the handsome shepherd boy tending his flocks around Troy, he couldn't help himself. He descended in the form of an eagle (Zeus was fond of turning into birds to snare lovers; he had been a cuckoo for Hera and a swan for Leda) and swept Ganymede, literally, off his feet. Clearly this must have caused some worry to the young man, as he was being carried through the air by a gigantic eagle who appeared to have a romantic interest in him.

Upon his arrival at Mount Olympus, Zeus promptly. . . made Ganymede his cupbearer. This involved some unpleasantness, as Zeus promptly gave the boot to his original cupbearer, the girl Hebe, in favor of the more beautiful young man. However, this was not the only unpleasantness. Poor Tros, Ganymede's father, was beside himself with worry. His son had just disappeared, and there were reports of a giant amorous eagle in the area. (This should have made the Trojans realize something about sending their sons out as shepherd boys onto the nearby hills: BAD IDEA.)

Zeus was moved by Tros's grief (hey, he had what he wanted, and could afford to be generous) and gave the man, in exchange for his beloved son, a team of swift horses fit for the gods. This cheered Tros up considerably. Hey, he'd lost his son, but he had the Sparta derby lined up! Zeus sent him a messenger to inform him that his son was now immortal and had a permanent position on Olympus, and this placated him fully, making him rejoice that his son was so honored.

This myth is often considered an explanation of the widespread practice of pederasty amongst the Greeks-- a vindication, as it were, by attributing the same emotion to the gods. This practice was widespread-- Plato writes casually of it in his dialogues-- and it is interesting to view the myth from this perspective, and important to understand that the Greeks found nothing abnormal in Zeus's desire for the young man. (The Ganymede myth, as well as the common practice of homosexuality, led to the euphemism "Greek love" used in later centuries.)

All right, enough facts. So, the moral of the story is: if you are a Trojan king, and you have an exceptionally handsome son, for Zeus's sake DON'T SEND HIM OUT TO SHEPHERD ON MOUNT IDA IF YOU DON'T WANT HIM (A) JUDGING BEAUTY CONTESTS OR (B) BEING ABDUCTED. THANKS!