Myths of Mount Ida

Mount Ida, as beautiful and as majestic as it is today since the ancient times, must have impressed the people of those times also. That is why its name is frequently cited as the place of Gods in the ancient mythology.

Mount Ida, as beautiful and as majestic as it is today since the ancient times, must have impressed the people of those times also. That is why its name is frequently cited as the place of Gods in the ancient mythology. These mountains either are the home of Gods or other legendary personalities, or they witness significant scenes. The people of the ancient times believed their Gods lived in the highest mountain of Greece; Mount Olympus; drank nectar and ate ambrosia. As for western Anatolia, the most suitable place for the Gods could only be Mount Ida.

In fact, Mount Ida owes its fame to the renowned poet Homer. Homer’s Iliad has made Mount Ida one of the most well-known mountains of the world. Many of the important myths of the Ancient Greek Mythology take place in Mount Ida.

The Origins of the Name Ida

We come across the word “Ida” as attributed to different personalities in different myths. Names “Idaios” and “Idaia” are also referred in the myths. Idaia means ‘that who comes from Ida’ or ‘that who lives in Ida’. There are two mythological figures with this name. First one is a Nymph (nature deity) and this Nymph conceives a baby boy from Skamandros, the River God, and the child is called Teukros. In mythology there are two heroes called Teukros; the important point here is that both Teukroses are related to Troy. There are also many characters with the name of Idaios and they all belong to the Trojan royal family.

Ankhises and Aphrodite

Anchises is the father of Aeneas, the mythological hero believed to have built ships in Antandros after the Trojan War and sailed off to build up Rome. Goddess Aphrodite sees Anchises herding his sheep on the skirts of Mount Ida and falls for him. The Trojan hero Aeneas is conceived as a result of this love affair. Homer in Iliad tells this story as follows: “Of the Dardanians again the valiant son of Anchises was captain, even Aeneas, whom fair Aphrodite conceived to Anchises amid the spurs of Ida, a goddess couched with a mortal man”.

Apollo and the Punishment of Poseidon

An enraged Hera wants to chain Apollo, Athena, Poseidon and Zeus. But this preparation of hers fails. Zeus sentences Poseidon and Apollo to serve the Trojan King Laomedon. While Poseidon works in the construction of Trojan defensive walls, Apollo herds King Laomedon’s flock in Mount Ida.

Aphrodisias Sebasteionu'nda yer alan Aphrodite ve Ankhises Rölyefi
Relief of Aphrodite and Ankhises at Aphrodisias Sebasteion
Ganymede Zeus'u azad ediyor / Eucharides Painter (MÖ 490-480) - New York Metropolitan Müzesi
Ganymede frees Zeus / Eucharides Painter (490-480 BC) - Metropolitan Museum of New York

The Abduction of Ganymedes

Ganymedes is a young man from the Trojan royal family. He is known to be the loveliest born of the race of mortals. Zeus sees Ganymedes while he is tending sheep in the outskirts of Mount Ida and falls in love with him. One version of the tale is that Zeus sends his eagle to bring Ganymede to Olympus; another version is that Zeus himself turns into an eagle and abducts Ganymedes. Then, Ganymedes becomes the wine-pourer of the Gods in Olympus and Zeus gives his father immortal horses in return.

Zeus and Hera Marries in Mount Ida

Zeus is the father of all Gods. He is the God of Gods. Hera is the queen of all Goddesses of Olympus and she is Zeus’s wife. Hera and Zeus wed with a gorgeous ceremony in Mount Ida.

Hera Stalls Zeus in Mount Ida during Trojan War and the Tide Turns

The Trojan War continues heavily and Trojans are about to win. Goddess Hera, siding with Achaeans, prepares a trick to turn the tide of battle. We learn the story in Homer’s great saga Iliad. According to Iliad, Hera meets with Zeus who is watching the battle at the zenith of the Mount Ida.

Using Aphrodite's magic girdle which she tricked Aphrodite to get; Hera seduces Zeus into making love to her and forgetting about the war. Homer describes this girdle In Iliad as follows “…the curiously embroidered girdle into which all her charms had been wrought - love, desire, and that sweet flattery which steals the judgment even of the most prudent”.

Hera finds Sleep and promises the Kharit Goddess he wants most to be his wife in return for a favour. She asks him to put Zeus into sleep after she makes love to him.

Hera then went to Gargaros, the topmost peak of Ida, and Zeus, driver of the clouds, set eyes upon her. As soon as he did so he became inflamed with the same passionate desire for her that he had felt when they had first enjoyed each other's embraces, and slept with one another without their dear parents knowing anything about it.

Zeus wants to make love to Hera; Hera feigns reluctance and as if it is not her who plans all, becomes shy and says that she doesn’t want all the other Gods see them making love. Upon this, Zeus embraces them with a golden cloud. God Sleep does as he was bid and pours sweet sleep into Zeus’s eyes. He then runs to Poseidon and urges him to help the Achaeans, and so the tide of the battle changes. When he awakens Zeus says; “I see, Hera (…) you mischief-making trickster, that your cunning has stayed Hektor from fighting and has caused the rout of his host. I am in half a mind to thrash you, in which case you will be the first to reap the fruits of your scurvy knavery”. (Homer)

Louvre Müzesi'nde yer alan MS 2. yüzyıla ait Hermoaphroditos heykeli resmi
2nd century AD Hermoaphroditos statue in the Louvre Museum

Raising Hermaphroditos in Mount Ida

Hermaphroditos is the son of Hermes and Aphrodite. This extraordinarily beautiful child was raised in the forests of Mount Ida. Hermaphroditos wanders off to see the world when he is 15 years old. When he is in Caria one day, he comes to a beautiful lake side. This lake has a Nymphe (nature deity) called Salmakis and she falls in love with Hermaphroditos. Although she confesses her love to him, she receives no response. So she hides and waits. Hermaphroditos comes to the lakes, enchanted by the beauty of the water, dresses off and enters the lake. Salmakis too enters the water, holds Hermaphroditos tightly and begs the Gods to bind their bodies in such a way that they never leave each other. The Gods listen to Salmakis and bind them together as one human with two sexes.

Doç Dr. Yasemin POLAT

Ege University Faculty of Letters, Department of Classical Archaeology