9. Salmacis fuses with Hermaphroditus

Once upon a time, the Naiads nursed Hermaphroditus, an infant son of Hermes, and certainly of Aphrodite, as the child looked like them. Moreover, his name resembled the names of the god and the goddess. Years passed and on Mount Ida, Hermaphroditus grew up to be a handsome youth. With the desire to travel, Hermaphroditus left his abode, reached Lycia, and then the edge of Caria, where he came across a beautiful fountain of translucent water.

A nymph named Salmacis lived there, who while gathering flowers, saw him. Passion burned her heart with scorching amorous fires, and without delay, she hotly professed her love to him. But the virgin youth knew not, nor cared for love, and with blushing cheeks as apples ripe, he stood there, while the nymph clung on his ivory white neck, imploring him to kiss her. He told her to stop, else he would leave, and thus, hesitatingly, she retired from his presence, but from behind a shrub, watched him unseen.

Weary from his travel, the youth removed his fleecy garments to have a bath. His naked body swam gracefully in the clear waters, and the greedy eyes of Salmacis secretly devoured him languidly. Unable to restrain her burning passion, she quickly removed her robes, plunged naked in the water, seized him, kissed him, and embraced him in a thousand ways, while he struggled trying to escape. But she tightly wound herself about him, as ivy clings to sturdy oaks. She prayed to the gods, to never let time release him from her, and to never let time release her from him. The gods granted her prayers, and the two entwined bodies fused, neither man nor woman, though seeming both.

When Hermaphroditus felt the change in his body, he lifted his hands and implored in no manly voice, to his immortal parents that any man entering the fount, must leave its waters only half a man. The words took effect and from that day, the Salmacis fountain became infamous, as it softened the limbs of those bathing in it.

Excerpt from the book “Once Upon A Time-II: 150 Greek Mythology Stories” by Rajen Jani

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