An intriguing statue of the “sleeping Hermaphrodite” from the collections of the Roman museum Palazzo Massimo Alle Terme. It is a marble copy of an older work made in the middle of the 2nd century CE, found in the ruins of a Roman domus on the Quirinal, near the Teatro dell’Opera.
The hermaphrodite motif was very popular in Greece and Rome. This is not some artistic fad or evidence of ancient Roman decadence, but a representation of a mythical figure. In Greek mythology, Hermaphrodite was the son of Hermes and Aphrodite (hence the name). He was born as a hundred percent man. But one time a nymph fell in love with him. Hermaphrodite, however, despised her affection. The offended nymph asked the gods to punish him – and so Hermaphrodite became a hybrid – half-man, half-woman. Therefore, the reproduction of Hermaphrodite’s character has no erotic overtones – his images were recorded in stone, as were the figures of centaurs, satires, nymphs and other figures populating the mythical lands of the ancient world.
On the other hand, looking from a modern perspective, the figure of Hermaphrodite is very intriguing.
Another beautiful copy of the sculpture of the sleeping Hermaphrodite was found in the Imperial gardens of Salustius (this copy is now in the Louvre in Paris).