Hermaphroditus Differences

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Ovid’s understanding of sexual differences presented in the episode of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus in the Metamorphoses emphasizes character and strength. As scholar Thomas Laqueur claims, men and women’s body parts, especially their sexual organs, were not regarded as fundamentally different in ancient Greece and Rome. Many historical contexts show that ancient Greeks and Romans differentiated men and women by their behaviors and roles in the society instead of their physical traits. Traditional perception of gender at that time characterized women by their weakness and passivity while men were characterized as strong and active. Ovid conforms to the idea that sexual difference is not in the body, but it is a pattern of behaviors. Further,…show more content…
In ancient Greece and Rome, men were supposed to be strong and active. Greek males in particular were not regarded as men until they became warriors. As an adolescent at age fifteen, Hermaphroditus was not yet a real man. The man and woman opposition constructed by contemporary social norms was still presented as an indistinction for him. He showed his warrior-like and adventurous spirit at first when he was “eager to roam strange lands afar” and left home (83). Yet, when he met Salmacis, Hermaphroditus became both passive and weak compared with Salmacis’ activity and strength. When Salmacis made advances toward Hermaphroditus, he acted like an ingenue who was shy and timid, reversing the traditional role ascribed. As Ovid described, “he knew not what love was but blushes well became him” (84). Rather than keeping a warrior soul and standing up for himself, Hermaphroditus chose to quit when he felt intimidated. He said that “...I shall quit this place--and you” when Salmacis was trying to kiss him (84). In addition, Hermaphroditus did not leave the place because he believed that Salmacis had yielded the place to him. He was “charmed by the soothing coolness”, a symbol of femininity, of the water, and decided to bathe himself in it (84). His later resistance was also completely

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