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HYMEN, or HYMENAEUS, originally the name of the song sung at marriages among the Greeks. As usual the name gradually produced the idea of an actual person whose adventures gave rise to the custom of this song. He occurs often in association with Linus and lalemus, who represent similar personifications, and is generally called a son of Apollo and a Muse. As the son of Dionysus and Aphrodite, he was regarded as a god of fruitfulness. In Attic legend he was a beautiful youth who, being in love with a girl, followed her in a procession to Eleusis disguised as a woman, and saved the whole band from pirates. As reward he obtained the girl in marriage, and his happy married life caused him ever afterwards to be invoked in marriage songs (Servius on Virgil, Aen. i. 651). According to another story, he was a youth who was killed by the fall of his house on his wedding day; hence he was invoked to propitiate him and avert a similar fate from others (Servius, loc. cit.). He is represented in works of art as an effeminate-looking, winged youth, carrying a bridal torch and wearing a nuptial veil. The marriage song was sung, with musical accompaniment, during the procession of the bride from her parents' house to that of the bridegroom, Hymenaeus being invoked at the end of each portion.

See R. Schmidt, De Hymenaeo et Talasio (1886), and J.A. Hildin Daremberg and Saglis's Dictionnaire des antiques.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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