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The Nereids

Νηρηίδες

The Daughters of Nereus

A Nereid on horseback

The Nereids in the Iliad [reference]
Other Text References
Immortals Index
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The Nereids are the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris. Their name simply means, Children of Nereus.

They are also called the Daughters of the Sea because that is where they make their homes but they are not sea-creatures in the traditional sense. They are capable of living on the land and flying through the sky as well as staying under water for infinite periods of time. Only Thetis is described in any physical detail so we can assume that her sisters were similar to her in appearance ... therefore, we can safely say that the Nereids do not have gills or fins and are in the form of young women. Hesiod uses adjectives like: comely, rosy-armed, lovely and divine but, in many cases, their names describe their powers, such as: Wave-Receiver, Truthful and Unerring.

A Nereid

Nereus is appropriately called The Old Man of the Sea or The Ancient of the Sea because he is primarily a sea dweller and he is truly ancient. Little is known about Doris other than that she was the mother of the Nereids.

Nereus had the ability to change shapes at will. He could assume the guise of an animal or a force of nature. He was also noted for his wisdom and his gift of prophecy. Nereus encountered Herakles and was forced to fight the hero and reveal the location of the Garden of the Hesperides.

The oldest mention of the Nereids comes from a rather late literary source, Plato. When Plato was describing the Temple of Poseidon on the central island of Atlantis, he said that there was a golden statue of Poseidon with one hundred sculptured Nereids riding dolphins around the base of the statue. He further states that one hundred was the accepted number of Nereids at that time, which would have been prior to 9000 BCE. This is a curious statement because we must assume that Plato was well versed in the writing of Homer and Hesiod who both categorically stated that the Nereids were fifty in number.

Other than a passing reference to the individual daughters of Nereus, the only Nereid to receive any individual attention in the ancient literature was Thetis. As the mother of Achilles and one of the few goddesses to refuse the amorous intentions of Zeus, Thetis was unique. When the Immortals needed the Nereids, they called upon Thetis to rally her sisters for whatever task was needed.

A generation before the Trojan War the Nereids encountered Jason and the Argonauts during their Quest for the Golden Fleece. The goddess Hera summoned Thetis to Mount Olympos and asked her to gather her sisters and help protect Jason from the wrath of Zeus. Jason and Princess Medeia had murdered Medeia's half-brother Apsyrtos in their haste to escape King Aietes with the Golden Fleece.

A Nereid

Zeus was intent on punishing Jason and Medeia but Hera thought that there was the possibility that they might be absolved of their blood-guilt by Medeia's aunt, the Dread-Goddess Kirke [Circe]. In order to reach Kirke's island, Jason had to sail the Argo past the six-headed Skylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, and then navigate the waters of the forbidding Planktae, also known as the Wandering Rocks or the Rovers. The giant stone islands would clash together and destroy anyone and anything caught in their midst. The Planktae were so notorious and dangerous that doves carrying ambrosia to Zeus were killed when they tried to fly between them.

Thetis called her sisters and explained Hera's wishes. The Nereids swam to the Argonauts and a truly amazing spectacle took place. On one side of the sea passage was the steep rock of Skylla and on the other side Charybdis spouted and roared ... further on, the Planktae boomed beneath the sea surge. As the Argo drew near the Planktae, the Nereids surrounded the vessel as Thetis grasped the rudder-blade under the ship. In a way reminiscent of dolphins, the Nereids darted upward and circled around the ship while Thetis guided its course.

When the Argo was about to smash against the Planktae, the Nereids immediately raised the edge of their garments and darted up on the rocky cliffs above the waves and then jumped from one side to the other. As the ship was raised aloft by the waves, the Nereids caught it and toss it to and fro like young girls throwing a ball for sport. The waves rose like towering crags and then plummeted to the depths of the sea ... water poured over the Argo in floods. When Hera saw the ship being bounced and swamped by the waves, she was seized by fear and threw her arms around Athene for comfort. The frenzy continued until the Argo was clear of the Planktae and the Argonauts could catch the wind and sail on.

A Nereid

We next encounter the Nereids at the funeral of Patroklos. In the last year of the Trojan War, Achilles's companion Patroklos was killed. Achilles took Patroklos's death very hard and called out to his mother Thetis for consolation. Thetis and the Nereids rose from the sea and graced the dead body of Patroklos with their divine presence. Thetis promised Achilles that she would protect body of Patroklos from all types of degradation until his body could be burned.

Not long after the funeral of Patroklos, the Nereids again rose from the sea to attend the funeral of Achilles. The death of Achilles was one of the most dramatic events of the Trojan War because he was without doubt the most feared warrior in the Achaean army ... he was of course feared by the Trojans but his own army feared him too because he was utterly ruthless. Also, as the son of Thetis, Achilles's death had a particular significance for the Nereids. When Achilles's body was laid on the funeral pyre, the Nereids marched onto the beach in a solemn procession ... the Muses sang and all the soldiers cried.

The Nereids are often seen riding on sea creatures such as hippocamps or dolphins. Their presence is always a favorable sign to sailors even though Nereus is awesome and forbidding.

Nereid Monument

The Nereid Monument from Xanthos in southwest Turkey.

Individual Nereids in the Iliad

[listed by book and line from four different translations]

[Richmond Lattimore - Loeb Classical Library - Robert Fagles - Robert Fitzgerald]

Agaue - Άγαυὴ  
Agauë - 18.42 [Lattimore] Agave - 18.42 [Loeb]
Brilliance - 18.49 [Fagles] Agauê - 18.47 [Fitzgerald]
Aktaie - Άκταίη  
Aktaie - 18.41 [Lattimore] Actaeë - 18.41 [Loeb]
Headlands’ Hope - 18.48 [Fagles] Aktaiê - 18.45 [Fitzgerald]
Amatheia - Ἀμάθεια  
Amatheia - 18.48 [Lattimore] Amatheia - 18.48 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Amathyia - 18.53 [Fitzgerald]
Amphinome - Άμφινόμη  
Amphinome - 18.44 [Lattimore] Amphinome - 18.44 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Amphinomê - 18.49 [Fitzgerald]
Amphithoe - Άμφιθόη  
Amphithoë - 18.42 [Lattimore] Amphithoë - 18.42 [Loeb]
Whirlpool - 18.49 [Fagles] Amphitoê [typo] - 18.47 [Fitzgerald]
Apseudes - Ἀψευδής  
Apseudes - 18.46 [Lattimore] Apseudes - 18.46 [Loeb]
Truth - 18.53 [Fagles] Apseudês - 18.51 [Fitzgerald]
Dexamene - Δεξαμένη  
Dexamene - 18.44 [Lattimore] Dexamene - 18.44 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Dexaménê - 18.48 [Fitzgerald]
Doris - Δωρἱς  
Doris - 18.45 [Lattimore] Doris - 18.45 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Dôris - 18.49 [Fitzgerald]
Doto - Δωτώ  
Doto - 18.43 [Lattimore] Doto - 18.43 [Loeb]
Bounty - 18.50 [Fagles] Dôtô - 18.47 [Fitzgerald]
Dynamene - Δυναμένη  
Dynamene - 18.43 [Lattimore] Dynamene - 18.43 [Loeb]
Power - 18.50 [Fagles] Dynamthene [typo] - 18.48 [Fitzgerald]
Galateia - Γαλάτεια  
Galateia - 18.45 [Lattimore] Galatea - 18.45 [Loeb]
Calm - 18.52 [Fagles] Galateia - 18.50 [Fitzgerald]
Glauke - Γλαύκη  
Glauke - 18.39 [Lattimore] Glauce - 18.39 [Loeb]
Glitter - 18.45 [Fagles] Glaukê - 18.43 [Fitzgerald]
Halie - Άλίη  
Halia - 18.40 [Lattimore] Halië - 18.40 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Haliê - 18.44 [Fitzgerald]
Iaira - Ἲαιρα  
Iaira - 18.42 [Lattimore] Iaera - 18.42 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Iaira - 18.45 [Fitzgerald]
Ianassa - Ἰάνασσά  
Ianassa - 18.47 [Lattimore] Ianassa - 18.47 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Ianassa - 18.52 [Fitzgerald]
Ianeira - Ἰάνειρά  
Ianeira - 18.47 [Lattimore] Ianeira - 18.47 [Loeb]
Healer of Men - 18.54 [Fagles] Ianeira - 18.52 [Fitzgerald]
Kallianassa - Καλλιάνασσα  
Kallianassa - 18.46 [Lattimore] Callianassa - 18.46 [Loeb]
Glory - 18.54 [Fagles] Kallianassa - 18.51 [Fitzgerald]
Kallianeira - Καλλιάνειρα  
Kallianeira - 18.44 [Lattimore] Callianeira - 18.44 [Loeb]
Master’s Lovely Consort - 18.51 [Fagles] Kallianeira - 18.49 [Fitzgerald]
Klymene - Κλυμένη  
Klymene - 18.47 [Lattimore] Clymene - 18.47 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Klymene - 18.52 [Fitzgerald]
Kymodoke - Κυμοδόκη  
Kymodoke - 18.39 [Lattimore] Cymodoce - 18.39 [Loeb]
Swells’ Embrace - 18.45 [Fagles] Kymodoke - 18.43 [Fitzgerald]
Kymothoe - Κυμοθόη  
Kymothoë - 18.41 [Lattimore] Cymothoë - 18.41 [Loeb]
Race-with-the-Waves - 18.48 [Fagles] Kymothoê - 18.45 [Fitzgerald]
Limnoreia - Λιμνώρεια  
Limnoreia - 18.41 [Lattimore] Limnoreia - 18.41 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Limnoreia - 18.46 [Fitzgerald]
Maira - Μαῑρα  
Maira - 18.48 [Lattimore] Maera - 18.48 [Loeb]
Sparkler - 18.55 [Fagles] Maira - 18.53 [Fitzgerald]
Melite - Μελίτη  
Melite - 18.42 [Lattimore] Melite - 18.42 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Melite - 18.46 [Fitzgerald]
Nemertes - Νημερτής  
Nemertes - 18.46 [Lattimore] Nemertes - 18.46 [Loeb]
Never-Wrong - 18.53 [Fagles] Nêmertês - 18.53 [Fitzgerald]
Nesaie - Νησαίη  
Nesaie - 18.40 [Lattimore] Nesaea - 18.40 [Loeb]
Fair-Isle - 18.46 [Fagles] Nesaiê - 18.44 [Fitzgerald]
Oreithyia - Ὠρείθυια  
Oreithyia - 18.48 [Lattimore] Oreithyia - 18.48 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Oreithyia - 18.53 [Fitzgerald]
Pherousa - Φέρουσά  
Pherousa - 18.43 [Lattimore] Pherusa - 18.43 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Pherousa - 18.48 [Fitzgerald]
Panope - Πανόπη  
Panope - 18.45 [Lattimore] Panope - 18.45 [Loeb]
Eyes of the World - 18.52 [Fagles] Panopê - 18.50 [Fitzgerald]
Proto - Πρωτώ  
Proto - 18.43 [Lattimore] Proto - 18.43 [Loeb]
First Light - 18.50 [Fagles] Prôtô - 18.47 [Fitzgerald]
Speio - Σπειώ  
Speio - 18.40 [Lattimore] Speio - 18.40 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Speiô - 18.44 [Fitzgerald]
Thaleia - Θάλειά  
Thaleia - 18.39 [Lattimore] Thaleia - 18.39 [Loeb]
Blossoming Spray - 18.45 [Fagles] Thaleia - 18.43 [Fitzgerald]
Thoe - Θόη  
Thoë - 18.40 [Lattimore] Thoë - 18.40 [Loeb]
not named [Fagles] Thoê - 18.44 [Fitzgerald]

 

Nereid on a Sea Monster

Other Text References

Individual Nereids in Theogony

[listed by line number]

Agaue - Άγαυὴ - 247 Aktaie - Άκταίη - 249
Alimede - Αλιμηδη - 255 Amphitrite - Ἀμφιτρίτη - 243, 252 and 930
Autonoe - Αυτονοη - 258 Doris - Δωρἱς - 250
Doto - Δωτώ - 248 Dynamene - Δυναμένη - 248
Eione - Ηιονη - 255 Erato - Ερατω - 246
Euagore - Ευαγορη - 257 Euarne - Ευαρνη - 259
Eudora - Ευδωρη - 244 Eukrante - Ευκραντη - 243
Eulimene - Ευλιμενη - 247 Eunike - Ευνικη - 246
Eupompe - Ευπομπη - 261 Galatea - Γαλάτεια - 250
Galene - Γαληνη - 244 Glauke - Γλαύκη - 244
Glaukonome - Γλαυκονομη - 256 Halia - Άλίη - 245
Hipponoe - Ιππονοη - 251 Hippothoe - Ιπποθοη - 251
Kymatolege - Κυματοληγη - 253 Kymo - Κυμο - 255
Kymodoke - Κυμοδόκη - 252 Kymothoe - Κυμοθόη - 245
Laomedea - Λαομεδεια - 257 Leagore - Ληαγορη - 257
Lysianassa - Λυσιανασσα - 258 Melite - Μελίτη - 247
Menippe - Μενιππη - 260 Nemertes - Νημερτής - 262
Neso - Νησω - 261 Nesaie - Νησαίη - 249
Panope - Πανόπη - 250 Pasithea - Πασιθεη - 246
Pherousa - Φέρουσά - 248 Ploto - Πλωτω - 243
Poulynoe - Πουλυνοη - 258 Pontoporeia - Ποντοπορεηα - 256
Pronoe - Προνοη - 261 Proto - Πρωτώ - 248
Protomedeia - Πρωτομεδεια - 249 Psamathe - Ψαμαθη - 260
Sao - Σαω - 243 Speio - Σπειω - 245
Themisto - Θεμιστω - 261 Thetis - Θετις - 244
Thoe - Θοη - 245  
A Nereid

The Histories by Herodotus

The Argonautika by Apollonius Rhodius

Plato

A Nereid

Odes of Pindar

Library of History by Diodorus Siculus

A Nereid
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