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La nymphe Salmacis by François-Joseph Bosio, 1826 (Louvre)
The Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus by François-Joseph Navez (1829)
Water Nymph Salmacis, engraving by Philip Galle (1587)

In Greek mythology, Salmacis (Ancient Greek: Σαλμακίς) was an atypical naiad who rejected the ways of the virginal Greek goddess Artemis in favor of vanity and idleness. Her attempted rape of Hermaphroditus places her as the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon (though see also Dercetis).

There dwelt a Nymph, not up for hunting or archery:
unfit for footraces. She the only Naiad not in Diana’s band.
Often her sisters would say: "Pick up a javelin, or
bristling quiver, and interrupt your leisure for the chase!"
But she would not pick up a javelin or arrows,
nor trade leisure for the chase.
Instead she would bathe her beautiful limbs and tend to her hair,
with her waters as a mirror.

— Ovid, Metamorphoses. Book IV, 306–312.

In Ovid's Metamorphoses, she becomes one with Hermaphroditus and Hermaphroditus curses the fountain to have the same effect on others.

Salmacis fountain[edit]


Francis Beaumont, a poet and playwright, wrote a poem Salmacis and Hermaphroditus based on Ovid's work. The poem was published anonymously in London in 1602.[1]

Algernon Charles Swinburne's 1863 poem "Hermaphroditus", based on the Bernini sculpture of the same in the Louvre, makes mention of Salmacis in the final stanza.

A novel of short stories by Italian writer Mario Soldati called Salmace (Salmacis), a title that spans the entire collection. In the story it tells of the transformation of a man into a woman, in a highly metaphorical context.[2]

Within the fictional book "Complacency of the Learned" from the webcomic Homestuck, the name of the androgynous character Calmasis is an allusion to Salmacis.


A sculpture by François-Joseph Bosio, La nymphe Salmacis from 1826, can be seen on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris.[3]

A sculpture by Sir Thomas Brock of Salmacis (aka The Bather Surprised)[4] was designed in 1868. It was modelled and exhibited at the Royal Academy, London in 1869. A variety of porcelain replicas were made from 1875 and an example was exhibited at the Paris Exhibition of 1878.[5]

The Fontana Greca ("Greek Fountain") is a fountain from the Renaissance period located in Gallipoli, southern Italy. The fountain has bas-reliefs depicting three metamorphoses in Greek mythology. The center bas-relief shows Eros flying beside Aphrodite, while Hermaphroditus and Salmacis are shown below laying together and embracing.


A painting of Salmacis in 1877 by French artist Charles Landelle was one of the most admired works at the Paris Exhibition according to The Art Journal of 1878. The painting depicts a startled Salmacis seated among reeds, clutching her drapery to her chest in alarm.[6]

A fresco in Room 10 of the Casa della Venere in Conchiglia (House of Venus in the Shell) in Pompeii depicts Eros standing inbetween Hermaphroditus and Salmacis. The fresco is possibly the earliest (before 79 AD) and the only ancient artwork of the water nymph before her union with Hermaphroditus.[7]


The British progressive rock band Genesis wrote and performed a song entitled "Fountain of Salmacis" on their 1971 album Nursery Cryme. It is an epic 8 minute-long piece which tells the story of Salmacis' attempted rape of Hermaphroditus. At the end of the song, the lyrics state that Salmacis and Hermaphroditus were "joined as one" and forever live beneath the lake from which the fountain appears.


  1. ^ Francis Beaumont, Salmacis and Hermaphroditus -
  2. ^ Soldati, Mario (1929). Salmace. Edizioni La Libra.
  3. ^ Sculpture: The Nymph Salmacis by François-Joseph Bosio, Louvre Museum, Paris
  4. ^ Bather surprised | Museum of Royal Worchester
  5. ^ Sir Thomas Brock | Museum of Royal Worcester
  6. ^ Salmacis: Landelle, Charles - The Art Journal (1878)
  7. ^ Pompeii in Pictures: II.3.3 Pompeii. Casa della Venere in Conchiglia

External links[edit]