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Article

Katharine T. von Stackelberg

A physical condition whereby a living organism has both male and female reproductive parts, hermaphroditism is a well-established phenomenon in the ancient world. In Greek and Roman literature and art, hermaphroditism in humans had cultural significance as divine portent, erotic subject, mediating or transgressive condition, and symbol of marital union. The most significant literary accounts of human hermaphroditism are found in Plato’s Symposium and Ovid’s Metamorphoses; the greatest concentration of visual evidence is to be found in the environs of Pompeii and Herculaneum.Hermaphroditism is not acknowledged in Greek texts before the 4th century bce, when it is identified in three distinct ways: as a mythical and philosophical concept in Plato’s Symposium (189d–190c); as a natural phenomenon in Aristotle’s Generation of Animals (770b, 30–35); and as an eponymous figure in the title of a lost play by Posidippus of Pella. The earliest physical evidence also dates from the same period as an Athenian terracotta figurine, probably a cult votive, raising the hem of hir skirt in a ritual gesture (see .

Article

Sarah Iles Johnston

Myths were told in a broad variety of contexts by a broad variety of people in ancient Greece. Unlike fairy tales and fables, Greek myths focus on specifically named individuals, such as Heracles and Athena, who interact with other such individuals across a span of different stories, creating a network of stories and characters. Although Greek myths explore many of the same plots and themes as other traditional tales, they were particularly interested in tales of heroes, metamorphosis, and love affairs between gods and human women. Ancient intellectuals interpreted myths as allegories or as distorted versions of real history. Modern scholars have used a variety of approaches to interpret Greek myths, most of which have been anchored in act of comparing them to the myths of other cultures: the ritualist approach, the structuralist approach, the psychoanalytical approach and narratological approaches. In the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in mythography and in the reception of Greek myths.