The youngest son of Tros, eponymous king of Troy, he excelled in physical beauty, and that determined his fate. He was tending flocks or else hunting game one day when Zeus, having fallen in love with him, swooped down in the form of an eagle (or, in a variant, sent an eagle), seized him, bore him to Mount Olympus, and there made him the cup-bearer of the gods–in place of Hebe–and his own ever-youthful beloved. Tros was grief-stricken at his loss, until Zeus sent him some superlative horses as a compensatory gift and the message that his son would never age or die, whereupon his sorrow turned into joy. Hera (the Romans’ Juno) was doubly offended, as mother of the displaced Hebe, also goddess of youth, and as the chief god’s ever jealous wife. But when Rembrandt paints the Rape of Ganymede for a Calvinist Dutch patron in 1635, the Classical erotic overtones are given a scathing twist: the dark eagle carries aloft a plump cherubic baby (Paintings Gallery, Dresden), one who is crying and pissing in fright. This is a pictographic formulation of the ancient condemnation of pederasts – that they prey on little children.
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