Ganymede was abducted by Zeus from Mount Ida, near Troy in Phrygia.Ganymede had been tending sheep, a rustic or humble pursuit characteristic of a hero's boyhood before his privileged status is revealed. Zeus either sent an eagle or turned himself into an eagle to transport the youth to Mount Olympus.
In the Iliad, Zeus is said to have compensated Ganymede's father Tros by the gift of fine horses, "the same that carry the immortals",delivered by the messenger god Hermes. Tros was consoled that his son was now immortal and would be the cupbearer for the gods, a position of much distinction. Walter Burkert found a precedent for the Ganymede myth on an Akkadian seal that depicts the hero-king Etana riding heavenwards on an eagle.
In Olympus, Zeus granted him eternal youth and immortality and the office of cupbearer to the gods, supplanting Hebe. Edmund Veckenstedt associated Ganymede with the genesis of the intoxicating drink mead, which had a traditional origin in Phrygia. All the gods were filled with joy to see the youth, except for Hera, Zeus's consort, who regarded Ganymede as a rival for her husband's affection. Zeus later put Ganymede in the sky as the constellation Aquarius, which is associated with that of the Eagle (Aquila). A moon of Jupiter, the planet named for Zeus's Roman counterpart, was named Ganymede by astronomer Simon Marius.
In poetry, Ganymede became a symbol for the beautiful young male who attracted homosexual desire and love. He is not always portrayed as acquiescent: in the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, Ganymede is furious at the god Eros for having cheated him at the game of chance played with knucklebones, and Aphrodite scolds her son for "cheating a beginner." The Augustan poet Virgil portrays the abduction with pathos: the boy's aged tutors try in vain to draw him back to earth, and his hounds bay uselessly at the sky. The loyal hounds left calling after their abducted master is a frequent motif in visual depictions, and is referenced also by Statius.
Photography: Sergio Zavala