By “speaking of Mt. Ida,” I mean to say that Mt. Ida is Phrygian, and thus has a distant connection to Cybele, whose festival just ended two days ago. But, of course, it is more famously connected with Troy, and in particular with an event that preceded the Trojan War by a generation or two: the rape of Ganymede.
Note how I referred to this event: not as an “abduction,” but as a “rape.” There was no point at which Ganymede consented to this union before it happened, nor did his father; but, after compensation was paid to him, things don’t seem to have been an issue any longer.
When did they ask the boy’s thoughts on the matter?
This set of reflections comes as a result of thinking about a comment I left on a blog post of Sannion’s the other day…and that likewise the Thiasos of the Starry Bull is currently celebrating the Anthesphoria which commemorates the rape of Persephone (which I wrote an essay about in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina devotional volumeQueen of the Sacred Way)…and, of course, the Wyrd Ways Radio show earlier this month…and, I’ve certainly written about Ganymede previously as well…
All of this makes me think of two things:
1) The account of Strabo regarding the Cretans, who had a pederastic initiation ritual that involved a kind of mock abduction, and which was connected to the story of Ganymede for many of them. However, note a particular matter in Strabo’s account: the family and friends of the “target” of this ritual consent to it beforehand, and after it occurs, the “target” also gets to tell if the abductor violated his consent at any stage. Thus, consensuality is a very major factor in this situation, which differentiates it from the mythic situation of Ganymede in most accounts.
2) Not surprisingly, the story of Ganymede has a great deal of currency amongst modern gay men (and thus so for many centuries, actually), including in queer theological circles. It almost becomes a blueprint for older men preying upon younger ones, in certain respects, in the ways it has been romanticized and over-idealized, and for violations of consent amongst younger “targets” in a variety of ways.
I am also reminded about what currency Ganymede had within Christianity, in terms of how the Ganymede/Zeus relationship was often an artistic inspiration behind some depictions of Jesus and the apostle John, as portrayed and initially inspired by their portrayal in the Gospel of John. Further, I’m reminded about how the syncretism of Antinous to Ganymede was not something which seems to have arisen within the cultus itself, but instead it arose as a result of the various critics of Antinous’ cult, both Christian and polytheistic: Christians said that Antinous was the Ganymede to Hadrian’s Zeus, and likewise so did Lukian of Samosata in some of his satires that portrayed Antinous as Ganymede in a rather dim fashion. It is impossible to say for certain what the actual nature of the relationship of Hadrian to Antinous would have been, but we should perhaps be wary of simply assuming that the comparison of them to Zeus and Ganymede would be “natural” or “expectable” given that there is a profound element of non-consent present with the mythic couple, to a much larger extent (even in the discussions and framing of that episode) than it is with Persephone and Hades, or Zeus and Europa, or any other such coupling.
Thus, is this comparison in itself, this acknowledgement of the syncretism of Antinous to Ganymede, a kind of rape of Antinous? The mind shudders at this notion…and I personally think that nothing like that would have happened between Hadrian and Antinous, which then makes it all the more problematic that we look at the situation of Antinous in relation to Hadrian, see Ganymede in the former and Zeus in the latter (even though Hadrian and Zeus did get syncretized), and just go “Oh, yeah, that makes sense” relatively easily and without further thought.
These aren’t pleasant thoughts, by any means…but, they need to be thought in order to be honest, and to highlight the problems inherent in some ways that certain members of the gay community have acted and thought, and the ways in which these things get unthinkingly and uncritically accepted into the mythos and ideals of queer theological contexts as well.