Ganymede, handsomest of mortals,
caught up to pour out drink for Zeus and live
amid immortals for his beauty’s sake
In earlier days, all Greeks were familiar with the tales that told of the many affairs of Zeus, of the ill-fated love of Apollo and Hyacinth, of Achilles and Patroclus, and of many other such passionate friendships between gods or heroes and handsome youths. These stories are not so popular today and many in these modern times have forgotten Ganymede, the most beautiful boy in the world.
Tros, lord of the Trojans, had three unblemished boys. They were Ilus, the founder of Ilium, Assaracus, and the youngest was Ganymede. All of the boys were cared for and loved but it was the laughing, lissome Ganymede who held the biggest plece of his father’s heart.
The youth was spending time at Mount Ida in ancient Phrygia, the setting for more than one story in the early mythic history of Troy, where he was undergoing his necessary rustic education with other young sons of the nobility. Guardians and tutors watched over the boy as he wrestled with companions, or rode to the hounds, or climbed the steep rocks or swam through the warm seas of the Mediterranean.
One day, looking down from his throne on Mount Olympus, Zeus spied Ganymede in the meadows of Mount Ida, and instantly desired the boy. He threw out out his massive thunderbolts and shook the clouds, whipping up a tempest that turned night into day. Then he assumed the shape of an eagle and, under cover of the storm, swooped down and seized Ganymede in his talons. The aged guardians reached out to stop him, the hounds barked, but heedless to the din, the eagle carried the boy up higher and higher until they vanished from sight.
Once safely established in Olympus, Zeus appointed Ganymede as his personal cup bearer. But another held that position, his own daughter Hebe.
As the the goddess of youth, Hebe wandered around Mt Olympus in a sleeveless dress serving the nectar and ambrosia and taking care of small odd jobs like preparing the bath for Ares and helping Hera climb into her chariot. She was not impressed when Zeus replaced her with the beautiful boy.
The other Olympians rejoiced to have the delightful Ganymede among them and welcomed him joyously, almost all of the Olympians, all but one. And that one was Hera, the mother of Hebe.
While the events on Mt Olympus revolved around who was going to serve the drinks at the divine feasts, Tros was filled with sorrow. He frantically searched up and down the slopes, hills and gullies of the mountain, calling out and crying for Ganymede. No one knew where the fierce tempest had taken his boy, no one could tell the demented Tros the whereabouts of his beloved son.
Finally Zeus was moved by this suffering and sent Hermes to tell Tros what had happened. As a consolation he also sent a pair of magnificent white horses, the very same steeds that carry the immortals, a princely ransom for a handsome prince. The gift cheered up Tros, and he rode away in his chariot as fast as the wind.
Zeus made a place for Ganymede among the stars as Aquarius the Water Bearer and there, today, the most beautiful boy in the world still pours nectar for the gods.
Hera, of course, destroyed the Trojans.