Salmacis (fountain)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Salmacis was a fountain, located near the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus. In classical times, it had:

"the slanderous repute, for what reason I do not know, of making effeminate all who drink from it. It seems that the effeminacy of man is laid to the charge of the air or of the water; yet it is not these, but rather riches and wanton living, that are the cause of effeminacy."Strabo Geography XIV.2.16’'

This was illustrated by Hellenic sculptors, who produced several works depicting a person of dual-gender. The power of the spring was rejected by other Romans, such as the architect Vitruvius

"there is a mistaken idea that this spring infects those who drink of it... it cannot be that the water makes men effeminate"Vitruvius ’’On Architecture’’ 2. 11-12

In Book IV of his poem Metamorphoses, Ovid recounts the myth of how the fountain came to be so in the story of the nymph Salmacis (after whom the fountain is, in this account, named), her attempted rape of Hermaphroditus, and his resultant change into an intersexual being. Scholars such as Károly Kerényi have asserted that Ovid's account was not a classical one and that the story was in fact invented by him.

On the album "Nursery Cryme" by Genesis, the song "The Fountain of Salmacis" tells the story of the attempted rape of Hermaphroditus by Salmacis. In Ovid's story the bodies of Salmacis and Hermaphroditus become eternally fused together, which is mirrored in the song's lyrics: "And then their flesh and bones were strangely merged, Forever to be joined as one".

The concept of the gender-altering Fountain of Salmacis is somewhat similar to "Spring of the Drowned Girl" from Rumiko Takahashi's manga seris, Ranma ½ which causes the male protagonist Ranma Saotome to turn into a girl whenever he is exposed to cold water and can return to male via hot water.