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Classical Mythology  
 
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Hyacinthus chose Apollo. One day they stripped and oiled themselves and the divine erastes demonstrated how to throw a discus, but it somehow miscarried and struck his eromenos a fatal blow on the head. In some versions, Zephyrus was so smitten with jealousy that he blew the discus on its killing way.

The death, whether or not accidental, was devastating to Apollo. He was unable to save the boy but caused a flower to spring from his blood--the hyacinth, and traced on its petals were letters, whether his Greek initial Y or else AI AI to signify his lover's cry of "woe."

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Apollo's loves tended to wind up plants. Daphne became the laurel, for another example, and the cypress came from Cyparissus, a boy dear to the god. This eromenos, having accidentally killed a favorite stag, was so distraught that he wished to mourn forever. The gods obliged by changing him into the mourning tree.

As a punishment for slaying the Cyclopes, Apollo once had to spend a year in servitude to Admetus in Thessaly. He burned with desire for the fair young king and made him his beloved. During that year of love, the royal livestock increased phenomenally.

Later Phoebus exerted his supernatural powers on behalf of Admetus, as an ex-lover should, for example in enabling him to perform an impossible task set by Alcestis's father as a condition for marrying her, or in inducing the Fates to spare his life if someone would agree to die in his stead.

But a problem arises over whether the erastes-eromenos relationship can be compatible with that of servant and master. Would the god have been conceived of as socially inferior while sexually on top? Some mythologists recently have doubted that Apollo could have been the erastes. But with no ancient evidence to the contrary, the mythic anomaly remains intact.

Dionysus and Ampelus

The first love of Dionysus (the Latin Bacchus), according to a myth from the fifth century C.E., was a boy named Ampelus. The two wrestled, swam, and hunted together. Ampelus befriended animals, and one day encountering a bull, he mounted it, only to be thrown from it, gored, and killed. The god was heartbroken and shed his first tears, and was comforted only on learning that the beloved body would turn into the vine.

This metamorphic consequence of male-male love both gave the world wine and enabled Dionysus to fulfill his destiny to be its god.

A truly eccentric theistic myth is another one, likewise late, concerning Dionysus; we cannot tell how old it was when Clement of Alexandria recorded it in the second century C.E. Dionysus wanted to go to Hades to rescue his mother Semele but did not know the way. He asked someone called Polymnus for help. The man agreed to direct him there if on his return he would submit to him sexually.

The god swore to do so, but when he came back he could not find Polymnus, who meanwhile had died. Dionysus located his grave, there carved the branch of a fig tree into the shape of a phallus, and sat upon it to keep his promise.

Here the god is decidedly not an erastes, and he breaches the classical Greek pederastic ethic in two ways: by the willingness both to accept anal penetration and to give his body to pay a debt. The tale is no doubt for purists an instance of Hellenistic decadence.

The Satyrs and Pan

Fellatio was just not Greek, except when done by female prostitutes in the social order and by male satyrs in the mythic. The latter were part-human and part-animal figures, with equine tails, ears, sometimes legs, and genitals, which were massive in a culture where the model human physique was graced with a small penis. Satyrs were polymorphous in their sensuality, and their diverse lascivious activities pictured on vases include, besides fellatio, masturbation.

Pan, the pastoral and nature god, with his pipes and the horns, legs, and tail of a goat, would indulge in autoeroticism too; and though a compulsive nymph-chaser, he also liked shepherd boys--in particular Daphnis.

Heracles and Hylas

The boyfriends of heroes generally have the same qualities as those of gods--adolescence and astonishing pulchritude, along with royal blood or divine forebears. Hylas, whose parents were a king and a nymph, had these properties; and Heracles (the Roman Hercules), after slaying his father Thiodamas in a dispute, took him away and became his surrogate father and erastes, teaching him all that a hero should know.

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