Were the Greek Gods Gay?

 When it comes to Queerness in the Greek Mythos, several names might come to mind. Artemis and Callisto, Apollo and Hyacinthus, Achilles and Patroclus, Dionysus. Just him. There are several people, great people in the mythology that I think should be recognized as queer and not have that part of them buried and written off in history. But then there’s the other side of that. I’ll be straight with you and just say it. See I don’t think that Ganymede and Zeus should be seen as these queer icons because that’s not what they were. We should get something clear, there are so many other people you could choose from in the Greek Pantheon to love because of their shameless relations with those of the same race but please, I’m begging, not this one.

        Right off the bat, the first thing I have to mention: Ganymede was a child. In the original myth, he was a child. There is no other way around that, he was. There was a relationship dynamic in Ancient Greece often referred to as Pederasty, and as messed up as it was it was common and seen as just an alright thing that went on. See, this dynamic was a socially acknowledged relationship between an adult male (the erastes) and a younger male (the eromenos), usually in his teens. I know that I shouldn’t be judging these people through a modern lens because of just how different these cultures were from our own, but come on guys that was just wrong. The older ones, the Erastes, played an educational and instructive role in the lives of their young companions and shared a sexual relationship with their boys. It is important to note that this is what Zeus and Ganymede’s relationship is referred to as and is known as in the Mythos. It’s also important to note that Pederasty was not technically considered homosexuality in the eyes of the Ancient Greeks because of how their ideas of gender were formed during that time. Essentially one of the men wouldn’t be seen as an ‘actual man’, as wrong as that was.

        So let’s talk about their actual myths and the problematic aspects of that. So Ganymede, in a majority of the myths, was a Trojan prince (though in some he’s just some guy from Troy from a well-off family) and according to these, he was described as a beautiful young man. This is what caught Zeus’ attention, though that shouldn’t be too surprising that man paid attention to anyone or anything with a pulse unless it was his wife. Anyway, one day Ganymede was hunting in the woods with a group of older men. Most sources say that these men were advisors and guards to make sure he stayed safe and that he was able to catch something on this hunt, which makes sense considering that in the majority of these myths, he’s a prince. And a child.

        Anyway on this hunt Zeus saw this child and decided that he was so beautiful and he had to have him and he was just madly in love with this adolescent boy. So as any logical not creepy person would do, Zeus turned into an eagle and snatched him up to carry him off to Olympus.

I can only imagine how much stress this kidnapping caused the people he was with. Now see, this is already a series of red flags yet for some reason, we see the act of kidnapping in ancient Greece as romantic and as something that can be forgiven, Hades and Persephone being a good example of horrible acts being romanticized, but that’s a whole other can of worms that I don’t have time to get into right now.

        Now after this act of kidnapping that for some reason, people are just chill with, Ganymede’s father was heartbroken and inconsolable. He was begging for his son back, unable to cope with having him taken in such a way. To fix his heartbreak, Zeus gifted Ganymede’s father a stud of immortal horses as compensation. As if anything was going to make up for his son being taken away from him to never be seen again. Along with this, Zeus told his father that Ganymede would be upheld in Olympus and become immortal to forever serve Zeus as his cupbearer (a very high position in the court that was very well respected). Again, in what way could this possibly make up for losing his son forever? Though the myths say that Ganymede’s father accepted these gifts openly, what else was he supposed to do? This was the king of the gods that he was dealing with, and Zeus was not about to give him back so really he had no choice but to accept this.

        So yeah, Zeus and Ganymede, are not queer icons. It’s kind of disgusting in fact how romanticized this myth is in the modern day and how accepted it is. I mean Zeus’ actions in this myth can’t be excused, he kidnapped an adolescent boy because he thought that he was really pretty, taking him away from his family so that he’d never be able to see them again. In conclusion, there are so many better myths that you could be reading if you want some actual queer mythology. Apollo and Hyacinthus are my first big suggestion followed by Achilles and Patroclus. Artemis and Callisto is always a really good one to read and most myths with Dionysus. Most of them are heartbreaking but they’re better than Zeus and Ganymede.