In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus or Hermaphroditos was the child of Aphrodite and Hermes. He was a minor deity of bisexuality and effeminacy. According to Ovid, born a remarkably handsome boy, he was transformed into an androgynous being by union with the water nymph Salmacis. His name is the basis for the word hermaphrodite.
Hermaphroditus, the two-sexed son of Aphrodite and Hermes – Venus and Mercury – had long been a symbol of bisexuality or effeminacy, and was portrayed in Greco-Roman art as a female figure with male genitals.
Theophrastus’s account also suggests a link between Hermaphroditus and the institution of marriage. Hermaphroditus’s association with marriage seems to have been that, by embodying both masculine and feminine qualities, he symbolized the coming together of men and women in sacred union. Another factor linking Hermaphroditus to weddings was his parents’ role in protecting and blessing brides.
Hermaphroditus’s name is derived from those of his parents Hermes and Aphrodite. All three of these gods figure largely among erotic and fertility figures, and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Ironically, even though Hermaphroditus is commonly portrayed as a female with male genitals, he is referred to as a he, not a she. The same is found in the name; Hermaphroditus, which ends with the Latin male ending -us. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. The phallic god Priapus was the son of Hermes in some accounts, and the youthful god of desire Eros of Hermes and Aphrodite.