Ganymede is the young, beautiful boy that became one of Zeus’ lovers. One source of the myth says that Zeus fell in love with Ganymede when he spotted him herding his flock on Mount Ida. Zeus then came down in the form of an eagle or sent an eagle to carry Ganymede to Mount Olympus where Ganymede became cupbearer to the gods.
Upon hearing that Ganymede was to be cup bearer as well as Zeus’ lover, the infinitely jealous Hera was outraged. Therefore Zeus set Ganymede’s image among the stars as the constellation Aquarius, the water carrier. Aquarius was originally the Egyptian god over the Nile. The Egyptian god poured water not wine from a flagon.
All of Zeus’ scandalous liaisons have allegorical meanings. Some sources say that Zeus’ affair with Ganymede was a (religious) justification for homosexuality within the Greek culture, yet others state that this is merely a reflection of Greek life at that time. Before the popularity of the Zeus and Ganymede myth spread, however, the only toleration for sodomy was an external form of goddess worship. Cybele’s male devotees tried to achieve unity with her by castrating themselves and dressing like women.
Ganymedes was frequently represented as the god of homosexual love, and as such appears as a playmate of the love-gods Eros and Hymenaios – the gods for love and marital love respectively.
Apollodorus argued that this myth emphasized the victory of patriarchy over matriarchy. This showed that men did not need women to exist, therefore they did not need the attentions of women. The philosopher Plato used this myth to justify his sexual feelings towards male pupils.
In our present-day astronomy, the name Ganymede is honoured as one of the satellites of Jupiter, the largest moon in the Solar System.