Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hyacinth, Apollo, Zephyr

Zephyr and Hyacinth on a red figure cup from Tarquinia, 480 BC.
Hyacinth was a beautiful Spartan youth loved equally by the god Apollo and the West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns throwing the discus. Hyacinth ran to catch it to impress Apollo, was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and died. A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinth. The youth's beauty caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo's discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinth. When he died, Apollo didn't allow Hades to claim the young man; rather, he made a flower, the hyacinth, from his spilled blood. According to Ovid's account, the tears of Apollo stained the newly formed flower's petals with ai, ai, the sign of his grief.
The mythological hyacinth is the modern iris, marked with Apollo's visible grief. The Spartans are a motherless people who sprung from the ground "...sown as if a crop...":
One of the many roles of Ares was in the founding of Thebes. Ares was the progenitor of the water-dragon slain by Cadmus, and hence the ancestor of the Spartans. From the dragon's teeth, sown as if a crop, arose a race of fighting men, the descendents of Ares.
I love the story, the language, and that representation of possession and the desire for physical possession in erotic admiration. I'd like my wings; they make it so clear.

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