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Selene in Greek Mythology
Selene was the Greek goddess of the Moon. According to the poet Hesiod, Selene was the daughter of the Titans Theia and Hyperion, making the goddess the sister of Helios (the Sun) and Eos (the Dawn). However, other ancient sources claim that she was the child of Pallas and Euryphaessa.
Regardless of her ancestry, Selene, as the personification of the Moon, was an influential goddess. One of her best known myths involves the handsome Endymion. The moon-goddess fell in love with this mortal, and she therefore engaged in an affair with Endymion that resulted in the birth of fifty daughters. But Endymion was, alas, human, and so susceptible to aging and eventually death. Selene could not bear the thought of this cruel fate. According to one version of the myth, she made certain that Endymion would remain eternally youthful by casting a spell that would cause him to sleep forever. In this way, Endymion would always live, sleeping through the ages.
It is also important to note that some Classical authors identified Selene with the Olympian goddess Artemis (indeed, in time Artemis was increasingly recognized as a moon goddess in her own right).
Selene was important enough to the ancient Greeks to inspire a Homeric Hymn. The Hymn to Selene describes the beauty and power of the goddess of the moon.
Homeric Hymn to Selene
"Muses, sweet-speaking daughters of Zeus Kronides
and mistresses of song, sing next of long-winged Moon!
From her immortal head a heaven-sent glow
envelops the earth and great beauty arises
under its radiance. From her golden crown the dim air
is made to glitter as her rays turn night to noon,
whenever bright Selene, having bathed her beautiful skin
in the Ocean, put on her shining rainment
and harnessed her proud-necked and glittering steeds,
swiftly drives them on as their manes play
with the evening, dividing the months. Her great orbit is full
and as she waxes a most brilliant light appears
in the sky. Thus to mortals she is a sign and a token."
Selene was called Luna in Roman mythology.
There are different interpretations of Endymion’s myth.
The first states that Endymion was a young and very good-looking shephard. Selene, who personified the Moon, fell in love with him. Her love was so intense that she decided to put him to sleep eternally in a cavern of the Latmo montain for fear of losing him. In this way she could kiss him and gaze at him whenever she wanted. Another legend says that Endymion was Zeus’s son and he could ask him for whatever he wanted thank to Selene.
One day Endymion asked to be put to sleep forever, to become immortal and remain young forever.
A further legend says that Endymion loved Selene intensely even if at the beginning she despised him. Finally she fell in love with him and they had 50 children.
The myth of Endymion and Selene is represented in the "Gabinetto d’amore" or boudoir.
All the room’s paintings are inspired by love themes. Because this room was kept for the duchess. In this room in fact she used to undress, she used to seat and receive her guests and we like to think also she used to gossip with her maids while embroiding Endymion and Selene’s representation is based on one of the three interpretation of this myth:in the foreground there is Juppiter, he seems to float in air, he is holding a torch in his hand.
On the right, there are the two lovers: Endymion is sleeping, he is lying on a rock, while Selene is sitting besides him, she is trying to kiss him.
The background is dark blue because Selene is one of the two Moon’s personification and the scene is set at night.
In Greek mythology, Selene (Σελήνη, "moon") (the Roman moon goddess being Luna ) was an ancient lunar deity, and the daughter of the Titans Hyperion and Theia.
A moon goddess is invariably a major role. If her name is Greek it is connected with selas "light" (Kerenyi p. 197). Selene was eventually largely supplanted by Artemis, thus, later writers sometimes describe her as a daughter of Zeus, or of Pallas. In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, with its characteristically insistent patrilineality, she is "bright Selene, daughter of the lord Pallas, Megamedes' son."
In the traditional divine genealogy, Helios, the sun, is her brother: after her brother, Helios finished his journey across the sky, Selene began her own journey as night fell upon the earth. Her sister Eos is goddess of the dawn. Eos, it will be remembered, also carried off a human lover, Cephalus (Burkert 1985 p. 176).
Apollonius of Rhodes (4.57) tells how she loved a handsome shepherd— or in the version Pausanias knew a king of Elis, or a hunter— named Endymion from Asia Minor. He was so beautiful that Selene asked Zeus to grant him eternal life so he would never leave her: her asking permission of Zeus reveals itself as an Olympian transformation of an older myth: Cicero (Tusculanae Disputationes) recognized that the moon goddess had acted autonomously. Alternatively, Endymion made the decision to live forever in sleep. Every night, Selene slipped down behind Mount Latmus near Miletus. (Pausanias v.1.5). Selene had fifty daughters from Endymion, including Naxos. The sanctuary of Endymionat Heracleia on the southern slope, is a horseshoe-shaped chamber with an entrance hall and pillared forecourt.
Though the story of Endymion is best known today, the Homeric hymns tell that Selene also bore Zeus three daughters including Pandia, the "utterly shining" full moon, and, according to some sources, the Nemean Lion as well. She also had an affair with Pan, who seduced her by wrapping himself in a sheepskin (Kerenyi p 19) gave her the yoke of white oxen that drew the chariot in which she is represented in sculptured reliefs, with her windblown veil above her head like the arching canopy of sky.
In art, Selene was depicted as a beautiful woman with a pale face, riding a silver chariot pulled by a yoke of oxen or a pair of horses. Often, she was shown riding a horse or bull, wearing robes and a half-moon on her head and carrying a torch.
In Rome, Luna ("moon") had a temple on the Aventine Hill. It was built in the 6th century BC but was destroyed in the Great Fire of Rome under Nero.
In the collection known as the Homeric hymns there is a Hymn to Selene Selene is described in Apollodorus 1.2.2; Hesiod's Theogony 371; Nonnius 48.581; Pausanias 5.1.4; and Strabo 14.1.6, among others.
The name is the root of selenology, the study of the moon that corresponds to geology. The name appears in fiction as the character Adam Selene in the novel The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein.