Tuesday, 1 September 2020

divinisation or pompatus of love

We enjoyed reading this short, collective hagiography that profiles several saints named Hyacinth, including one from Fara: “A martyr about whom nothing is known,” but we were more intrigued by the footnote for namesake flower (Giancinto, Jacinto, Hyakithos) and its mythological origins in a handsome Spartan prince and his fatal love-triangle.
Hyacinth was the lover of Apollo, but he had the attention and advances of a host of other suitors including the famous Thracian singer Thamyris, Zephyrus and Boreas—respectively the West and North Winds. Hyacinth preferred the company of Apollo and together in a chariot drawn by swans, they had adventures. While playing a round of frisbee (discus), Hyacinth was struck in the head and perished, the eponymous blossom rising up where his blood was spilled—a trope appropriated by Christianity as a symbol of renewal. Devastated Apollo blamed himself but there is strong suspicion that the winds conspired to punish the prince out of jealousy, and the god wanted himself to become mortal to join him after his healing powers failed him. The Spartan month that coincided with early summer when the flowers bloom was named in his honour and included three days of festivities. Hyacinth was eventually resurrected and joined the pantheon of the gods. This attainment of godhood is apotheosis and usually in Antiquity heroes were accorded local status alone, whereas in Imperial Rome, a deceased ruler was generally recognised by his success, decree of the senate and popular consent—though some ridiculed this practise as it also included the corrupt and inept—satirised by referring to the tradition with another Greek borrowing apocolocyntosis—that is, pumpkinification with accompanying lampoon that features Claudius and Caligula in the underworld.