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Nymphs

Νύμφς

The Goddesses of Nature

Nymphs

Different Types of Nymphs
Encounters with Nymphs
Notable Nymphs
Origins of the Nymphs
Where Are They Now?
Immortals Index
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Nymph is a general term for the goddesses who coexist with rivers, springs, mountains or any type of natural life-form. The name Nymph literally means Bride. Although Nymphs can live for a very long time, they are not immortal ... they can die and be killed.

Nymphs were first mentioned in the ancient Greek texts after the mutilation of Ouranos [Heavens]. Ouranos was the son and consort of Gaia [Earth] ... his dominion was supposed to have been restricted to the Heavens but he became presumptuous and infuriated Gaia. She induced her Titan son Kronos to attack Ouranos with a sickle made of flint ... he mutilated Ouranos by cutting off his male members. The Meliae [Nymphs of the Ash Trees] were created from the blood of Ouranos as Gaia absorbed it.

We next encounter the Nymphs in the War of the Titans. After humiliating his father, Kronos became the nominal leader of the Titans as well as the older, less powerful Immortals ... in many respects he was just as oppressive and overbearing as Ouranos. Kronos tried to oppress his own children but his youngest son Zeus rose up against his father and humbled him. Kronos gathered the other Titans and waged war against his children. Zeus called forth all the Immortals that Kronos had wronged and asked them to fight against the Titans ... all of the Nymphs came to Zeus's assistance. From that time onward, Nymphs have been called the Daughters of Zeus even though he was not their actual father.

Nymphs have assumed the form of young, beautiful women with a loving and supportive nature. They have been the consorts of the Immortals and even taken mortal men as their lovers and companions. The children of Nymphs have lived lives as poets, soldiers and ordinary men and women. The role of Nymphs has generally been quite passive but there are instances where they became vengeful and assertive.

Different Types of Nymphs:

 

Nymph

Encounters with Nymphs

Dionysos and Pan

Nymphs have a special affection for Dionysos and Pan ... whenever these two vivacious gods caper through the mountains and woodlands, they will undoubtedly be in the company of Nymphs. Pan is the son of Hermes and Dionysos is the son of Zeus ... their lust for life is contagious and the Nymphs that accompany them are there to help celebrate life and vitality.

Encounters with Nymphs

Lykurgos and the Nysaean Nymphs

Throughout his life, Dionysos [god of Wine] was always accompanied by Nymphs, Satyrs and Maenads but the relationship between Dionysos and Nymphs began when he was very young.

Before he was old enough to enjoy the lascivious behavior of the Satyrs and Maenads, Dionysos was raised by the Nymphs of Mount Nysos, i.e. the Nysaean Nymphs or Nyseides. The location of Mount Nysos is disputed but it is either in Phoenicia near the streams of Aegyptus [the Nile] or in Upper Egypt in Ethiopia. When he grew to adulthood, Dionysos became the god of Wine ... his name means, God of Nysos, i.e. Dios-Nysos.

There was a brutish man named Lykurgos who had proven his fighting skills and strategy but he made a tragic mistake when he attacked the Nymphs of Nysos. Lykurgos raged down the slopes of Mount Nysos with an ox-goad and scourged the Nymphs who cared for young Dionysos. The Nymphs dropped their wands to the ground and fled for their lives. Dionysos was so terrified of Lykurgos that he jumped into the sea to escape the murderous brute. The goddess Thetis saved Dionysos but the assault was not unnoticed or forgiven by the other Immortals. Zeus blinded Lykurgos but Lykurgos did not live long with his affliction because all the Immortals hated him for what he had done to Dionysos and the Nymphs of Nysos.

Encounters with Nymphs

Nymphs of Pelion

Before the Quest for the Golden Fleece could begin, a ship had to be built ... it was called the Argo ... wood from Mount Pelion was used for the construction of the Argo so it seems only fitting that the Nymphs of Mount Pelion would be on hand when the ship set sail on its epic journey ... the Argo was built under the guidance of the goddess Athene and the Nymphs came to do her honor. As the Nymphs watched, they were joined by the Centaur Cheiron ... Cheiron had come to wish the Argonauts farewell and to let the young Achilles see his father Peleus depart.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Abduction of Hylas

One of the most dramatic encounters between a Nymph and a mortal man occurred when one of the Argonauts was abducted by a Naiad, i.e. a water Nymph.

While on their way to the land of Kolchis to retrieve the Golden Fleece, the Argonauts came to the Kianian land by Mount Arganthon, near the outfall of the Kios River, i.e. slightly north of modern Istanbul. Before they could make landfall, the winds failed and the Argonauts were forced to row the Argo. Herakles was trying to inspire the other Argonauts by setting a rapid pace but his zeal and strength snapped his oar in half.

When the Argo landed, Herakles went in search of a tree to make a new oar while his steward Hylas went to get water for the evening meal. Hylas found a spring called Pegae and just as he arrived at the spring, the local Nymphs began their evening songs in praise of the goddess Artemis [goddess of the hunt]. The Nymphs came from the hills and the glens to sing for the goddess and just as a Naiad was rising from the spring, Hylas approached. The moon was full and Aphrodite [goddess of love] filled the Nymph's mind with confusion and desire. When she saw Hylas's youthful beauty and sweet grace as he knelt by the spring, she reached up with her right hand and placed it behind his neck ... she grabbed his elbow with her other hand and pulled him into the water. Hylas was never seen by mortal men again.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Fountain of Kleite

Before the Argonauts could retrieve the Golden Fleece from Kolchis, they encountered various hardships and violent confrontations. One sad event involved King Kyzikos. The king welcomed the Argonauts when they arrived ... he even interrupted his marriage celebration to be a good host. When the Argonauts sailed away they became disorientated and accidentally returned to Kyzikos's kingdom in the dead of night. Kyzikos thought that his barbaric neighbors were attacking and led his army against the Argonauts ... King Kyzikos was killed in the fray.

Kyzikos had just married Kleite and the two young lovers had not consummated their vows ... when Kleite learned of her husband's death, she placed a noose around her neck and ended her life. Apparently, her suicide took place in a wooded grove ... the Nymphs of the grove were so distraught at Kleite's death that a fountain was created from their tears ... the fountain was appropriately named Kleite.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Punishment of Paraebios

When the Argonauts were on the island of Thynias seeking guidance from the blind prophet Phineus, they met a man named Paraebios who told an enlightening story about one of the Thynian Nymphs.

Although Phineus was plagued with blindness, hunger and old age because his offenses against the Immortals, he still gave prophetic council to his neighbors. Paraebios came to Phineus because no matter what he did or how piously he behaved, his life was filled with hardship and disappointment. Phineus perceived correctly that Paraebios was being punished for the youthful arrogance of his father. Paraebios's father had been chopping wood in the mountains when a Hamadryad begged him not to destroy her oak tree. In his prideful disregard for the Immortals, Paraebios's father chopped down the tree and thus killed the Nymph who shared its life. As she died, the Nymph cursed Paraebios's father and his descendants until the proper rituals were performed and forgiveness was granted.

Paraebios was destined to toil without reward until he repented and atoned for his father's despicable actions. On Phineus's advice, Paraebios built an altar and offered prayers and sacrifices to the Thynian Nymph so that he might be relieved of his inherited burden. The sin was forgiven and Paraebios honored Phineus by bringing him food even though he knew that, due to the Immortal's curse on Phineus, the Harpies would steal it from the prophet's mouth.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Seduction of Anchises

Anchises was seduced by Aphrodite, goddesses of Love. When Anchises first saw Aphrodite, she told him that she was kidnapped by the god Hermes while dancing with the mountain Nymphs at her home in Phrygia. Anchises willingly believed her lies and made love to the goddess ... Aphrodite then revealed herself to Anchises and told him that after their son Aineias was born, she would bring the infant to him so that the child could be raised by the Nymphs of Mount Ida.

When Aineias became an adult he fought on the side of the Trojans when the Achaeans laid siege to the city. The Nymphs of Ida apparently did a remarkable job with the upbringing of Aineias because he was one of the very few Trojan survivors of the war.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Burial of King Eetion

An interesting and touching event involving Nymphs occurred after the death of King Eetion of Thebes.

During the ten long years of the Trojan War, the Achaean Greeks raided different cities and islands to supply their army. When Achilles was leading a raid on the city of Thebes, he encountered King Eetion and his seven sons. Being the ultimate warrior, Achilles killed Eetion and his sons ... King Eetion's daughter Andromache was not in Thebes when the carnage took place because she had previously married Prince Hektor of Troy ... she was however unfortunate enough to be a part of the carnage at Troy.

Achilles showed respect for King Eetion by not stripping him of his armor after he killed him. Achilles then burned Eetion's body and made a burial mound for the king's remains. The mountain Nymphs were so moved by Eetion's death, they planted elm trees over the burial site.

Encounters with Nymphs

Odysseus and Kalypso

Kalypso was the Sea Nymph who detained Odysseus on the island of Ogygia. After the Trojan War was over [circa 1250 BCE], most of the victorious Greek commanders returned to their homes without incident ... King Odysseus of Ithaka was not so lucky. After leaving Troy, Odysseus incurred the wrath of Poseidon [lord of the sea] by maiming one of the god's sons. Poseidon swore vengeance against Odysseus but Zeus would not let Poseidon kill Odysseus ... the angry god had to be content with tormenting Odysseus and delaying his homecoming. As part of his ordeal, Odysseus was shipwrecked on Kalypso's island.

Odysseus was utterly without hope when Kalypso found him but his rugged good looks and noble character soon affected the lonely Nymph and she fell in love. Odysseus stayed with Kalypso for seven years but they were long, sad years for Odysseus. He resigned himself to the fact that there was no escape from the island but he still constantly longed for his wife and son.

At the prompting of the goddess Athene, Zeus finally sent Hermes to tell Kalypso that she must release Odysseus. At first she was bitter but eventually accepted the will of Zeus and even swore an oath on the River Styx that she would not hinder Odysseus if he wanted to leave. Kalypso offered Odysseus immortality and eternal youth but he refused to accept her offers. She gave him tools to build a raft and when the time came, provided a fair wind to send him on his way.

During their time together, Kalypso and Odysseus had two sons: Nausithoos and Nausinoos.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Cave of the Nymphs

On the island of Ithaka there is harbor of Phorkys, the Old Man of the Sea ... on the shoreline of the harbor, an olive tree shades a pleasant and sacred cave which was made hallowed by the dancing feet of the Nymphs of the Wellspring.

When Odysseus returned to Ithaka after his prolonged adventures following the Trojan War, he was put ashore near the cave of the Nymphs. The goddess Athene showed him the cave and explained that the Nymphs used the large stone looms in the cave to weave their purple webs, i.e. fabrics.

Odysseus was no stranger to the dancing and singing of Nymphs. Before he arrived home on Ithaka, he had stayed briefly on the island of the Phaiakians ... while there, he had heard young girls singing and likened their sweet voices to the Nymphs of the high mountains, the meadows, rivers and springs.

Odysseus prayed sincerely to the Naiad Nymphs and promised them gifts if they would bless his homecoming. Odysseus did not see the Nymphs of the cave but, again at the advice of Athene, stored the treasures he had accumulated in the cave until he could make sure his kingdom was secure after his twenty-year absence.

Encounters with Nymphs

The Reverence of Eumaios

Eumaios was the swineherd of Odysseus and like Odysseus, very respectful towards the Nymphs of the island of Ithaka. When Odysseus arrived at Eumaios's humble home in disguise, the swineherd prepared a meal for what he though was a stranger ... he also placed food aside for the Nymphs and the god Hermes. When he and Odysseus were walking, they passed a fountain of cool water surrounded by a circle of poplar trees; at the center was an altar of the Nymphs ... a prayer was offered to the Nymphs as the daughters of Zeus.

Nymph

Notable Nymphs

Abarbare

Abarbare was the consort of Boukolion and mother of the twins, Pedasos and Aisepos. Pedasos and Aisepos were Trojan soldiers and both were killed in the final year of the Trojan War.

Notable Nymphs

Adrasteia

Adrasteia was the nurse of Zeus when he was an infant.

After Rheia gave birth to Zeus, she took him to the island of Crete and hid him in a cave so that his father Kronos could not fond him. Adrasteia was one of Zeus's nurses. She is mentioned by name in the Argonautika when Aphrodite [goddess of love] was trying to enlist the help of Eros [the primal god of Love] to help the Argonauts.

Aphrodite promised to give Eros "Zeus's all-beauteous plaything—the one which his dear nurse Adrasteia made for him, while he still lived a child, with childish ways, in the Idaean cave—a well-rounded ball; no better toy will you get from the hands of Hephaistos. All of gold are its zones, and round each double seams run in a circle; but the stitches are hidden, and a dark blue spiral overlays them all. But if you should cast it with your hands, lo, like a star, it sends a flaming track through the sky."

Notable Nymphs

Aegina

Aegina is one of the daughters of the river-god Asopos and the sister of Thebe, Kerkyra, Sinope and Antiope ... the island Aegina was named after her.

Notable Nymphs

Anchiale

Anchiale is the mother of the Idaean Daktyls who dwell on Mount Ida on the island of Crete ... the Daktyls are famous for their skills as metal workers and magicians.

Notable Nymphs

Anigrid Nymphs

The Anigrid Nymphs [Anigriades] dwell in the cave at the source of the sulfur springs of the Anigrus River in the western Peloponnesian Peninsula north of modern Lake Kaiapha. The Nymphs will heal skin diseases such as alphos or leuke if patrons pray and sacrifice before washing and swimming in the waters of the springs.

Notable Nymphs

Arethusa

Anchiale was a Nymph who was changed into a spring by the goddess Artemis to save her when she was being pursued by the river god Alpheios. The spring of Arethusa is on the island of Ortygia in the harbor of Syracuse on the island of Sicily ... Artemis was born on Ortygia and therefore the island is sacred to her. Divine punishment awaits anyone foolish enough to eat the fish that inhabit the spring of Arethusa. In order to still be near Arethusa, Alpheios sent his river from the Peloponnesian Peninsula under the Tyrrhenian Sea and resurfaced on Ortygia. There is also a spring named after Arethusa near the city of Chalkis on the island of Euboia.

Arethusa

Notable Nymphs

Argiope

Argiope was a Nymph who lived on Mount Parnassos until she became romantically involved with a man named Philammon and became pregnant. Philammon rejected Argiope and refused to allow her into his home ... Argiope left Mount Parnassos and settled among the Odrysae in Thrake where she gave birth to a baby boy ... she named him Thamyris. Thamyris grew into a remarkable young man with phenomenal musical skills ... unfortunately his humility was not as keen as his talent. Thamyris boldly challenged the Muses to a musical contest and the results were as predictable as they were tragic ... for his temerity Thamyris lost his ability to play music. We don't know exactly how he was punished ... he might have been blinded, maimed or inflicted with amnesia ... regardless, he was never able to sing or play the lyre again. To lament his defeat, Thamyris threw his lyre in the water of a nearby river that was thereafter named Balyra which was apparently derived from the Greek word ἀποβάλλω meaning, "eliminate or throw away."

Notable Nymphs

Argyra

Argyra is a Sea-Nymph who fell in love with a handsome young man named Selemnus ... each night, she would rise from the sea to sleep by his side. The city and nearby spring took their name from Argyra. After some time, Argyra no longer found Selemnus attractive and deserted him. Selemnus was inconsolable in his grief and died of love-sickness. Aphrodite took pity on Selemnus and transformed him into a river but Selemnus remained hopelessly in love with Argyra and still grieved. Aphrodite intervened again and blotted out Selemnus's memory of Argyra.

Notable Nymphs

Aria

With Apollon as her consort, Aria was the mother of Miletos. Miletos founded a city in Karia in Asia Minor which was named after him.

Notable Nymphs

Asterodeia

Asterodeia was a Nymph from the Caucasus Mountains who became the consort of King Aietes of Kolchis ... Aietes was the keeper of the famous Golden Fleece. For an undisclosed reason, Asterodeia left Aietes and disappeared from the historical record and Aietes married a daughter of Tethys and Okeanos [Ocean] named Eidyia. Asterodeia gave Aietes on son named Apsyrtos who was killed by his half-sister Medeia and Jason after they took the Golden Fleece and fled Kolchis.

Notable Nymphs

Daphne

Daphne was a huntress Nymph who was determined to have no lovers and remain pure. A young man named Leukippus fell in love with Daphne and in an effort to be close to her, disguised himself as a girl and joined Daphne and some other Nymphs on a hunting expedition. While the Nymphs were bathing, Leukippus was discovered to be a man and they killed him. Daphne was later pursued by Apollon but the river god Peneios, who was perhaps her father, saved her from Apollon by turning her into a laurel tree.

Notable Nymphs

Daphnis

It was believed by the people of Phokis that Apollon's Oracle at Delphi was preceded by an Oracle of Gaia [Earth] and that the Nymph Daphnis was Gaia's prophetess.

Notable Nymphs

Echidna

Echidna is the daughter of Kallirhoe ... Echidna is "like nothing human," half Nymph with a fair face and the body of an enormous serpent ... she lives apart from the other Immortals underground ... ἔχῖς means viper. Echidna was joined in love with Typhaon and their hard-tempered children were: Orthos [the watchdog of three-headed Geryon], Kerberos [the savage dog of Hades], and the multi-headed Hydra of Lerna ... all three of which Herakles faced as part of his Labors. The hero Theseus killed a fierce sow that was also the offspring of Echidna and Typhaon ... the sow was named after her keeper, Phaia.

Notable Nymphs

Echo

Echo was a mountain Nymph who unintentionally attracted the desires of the Goat-God Pan ... she did not want to become involved with him and did her best to evade him ... he was relentless ... when she refused to submit to him, he turned her into a disembodied voice that can only repeat the last word spoken to her ... her name literally means "a returned sound."

Notable Nymphs

Eidothea

Eidothea is the daughter of the Old Man of the Sea, Proteus.

When Menelaos and his companions were returning from Troy they became lost and disorientated. They were stranded on the island of Pharos when Eidothea came out of the sea and told Menelaos that he must capture and question her father, Proteus, in order to find out which of the Immortals was responsible for his forced wanderings and what he must do to gain appeasement.

Eidothea skinned four seals and gave the reeking skins to Menelaos and three of his shipmates to use as disguises so that they could ambush Proteus. She then put ambrosia under their noses so that they could endure the terrible stench of the dead seals ... she also showed Menelaos the cave where Proteus came out of the water to sleep. Menelaos and the three men waited until Proteus was asleep and attacked him. Proteus assumed the guise of a lion, a serpent, a leopard, a boar, fluid water and, finally, a tree but Menelaos would not release his grip. Proteus finally gave up the struggle and agreed to answer Menelaos's questions.

Notable Nymphs

Erato

Erato was a prophetess of the Goat-God Pan at his sanctuary near Akacesium in Arkadia ... the sanctuary was noted for its eternal flame. Erato gave oracles in Pan's name and he would reward or punish the supplicants as he saw fit. Erato became the consort of Arkas, son of the Nymph Kallisto, and had three sons: Azan, Apheidas and Elatus.

Notable Nymphs

Ethemea

Ethemea was the wife of King Merops and the mother of Eumelus ... she was slain by Artemis [goddess of the hunt] for irreverence.

Notable Nymphs

Eurydike

Eurydike was a Dryad [tree] Nymph who became the wife of the ultimate musician, Orpheus. Eurydike was pursued by Apollon's son Aristaios and as she was fleeing from Aristaios, bitten by a poisonous snake and died. After her death, Orpheus was so distraught that he ventured into the Underworld in an attempt to bring her back into the sunlight. Orpheus used his wit and phenomenal musical talents to charm Persephone [queen of the Dead] and Hades [lord of the dead] ... they agreed to allow Eurydike return to the surface of the earth provided that Orpheus lead the way and not look back to see if she was following him. At the very last moment Orpheus was compelled to look around and by doing so, Eurydike was returned to the land of the dead and lost to Orpheus until he also died.

Eurydike and Orpheus

Notable Nymphs

Harmonia

When the Nymph Harmonia mated with Ares [the god of War], their daughters became the warlike women known as the Amazons. The Amazons made their home north of the Euxine [Black Sea] and were feared by all who encountered them in combat. Almost every hero and demigod of the ancient world did battle with the Amazons ... we might surmise that their rejection of men infuriated the kings and princes of all nationalities and prompted the hostilities towards the women warriors.

Notable Nymphs

The Hesperides

The Hesperides are Hespere, Erytheis and Aegle ... they are the Nymph daughters of Nyx [Night].

When Hera and Zeus were married, Gaia [Earth] presented Hera with some Golden Apples ... the apples were then placed in the Garden of the Hesperides for safe keeping ... a multi-headed dragon named Ladon also occupied the garden.

It was common knowledge that the Garden of the Hesperides was somewhere in "the west" but its exact location was a well kept secret. The father of the Nereids, Nereus, was one of the few Immortals who knew the way to the garden.

For a mortal or even a demigod to possess the Golden Apples seemed impossible and that is why Eurystheus included Retrieving the Golden Apples of the Hesperides as one of the Twelve Labors of Herakles. Failure or death seemed likely for anyone who tried to take the Golden Apples but Herakles was clever and strong enough to do the job ... he attacked Nereus and forced the ancient god to reveal the whereabouts of the Hesperides. After several almost fatal experiences, Herakles entered the Garden of the Hesperides, killed Ladon and took the Golden Apples.

After the Golden Apples were taken, the Hesperides were without purpose ... they seemed to evaporate into a mist and existed only as phantoms. That is the condition in which the Argonauts found the Hesperides in the Libyan desert. The Argonauts were on the verge of dying of thirst when they came upon the phantom Hesperides ... although they were barely alive themselves, the Nymphs told the Argonauts where they could find water ... their kindness saved the lives of the Argonauts.

Notable Nymphs

The Hyades

Phaesyle, Koronis, Kleeia, Phaeo and Eudora were the daughters of Atlas who were turned into the stars of the asterism Hyades in the constellation Taurus [the Bull]. The name Hyades means Raining Ones and implies that the sisters rise in the sky during the rainy season.

Notable Nymphs

The Ionides

Not far from Olympia was a spring sacred to Nymphs called the Ionides, so named after Ion, the son of Gargettus, who migrated to that area from Athens. Those who bathe in the spring are cured of all sorts of aches and pains by the Nymphs Kalliphaeia, Synallasis, Pegaea and Iasis.

Notable Nymphs

Kallisto

Kallisto was a Nymph who was an attendant of Artemis [goddess of the hunt] and the consort of Zeus. Kallisto was the daughter of Lykaon and lived in Arkadia where she would occupy herself with the wild beasts of the mountains in the company of Artemis. Kallisto was seduced by Zeus and became pregnant. When Artemis saw Kallisto bathing, she was enraged to see that her companion was pregnant and changed Kallisto into a bear. Her child was born and she named him Arkas. Mother and son were eventually captured by some goatherds and returned to her father, Lykaon. Kallisto violated the law by going into the precinct of Zeus and was hunted down by Arkas and other Arkadians. Zeus saw her plight and placed her in the heavens as the constellation the Great Bear. Her name literally means Most-Beautiful.

Notable Nymphs

Korykian Nymphs

The Korykian Nymphs occupied a sacred cave on Mount Parnassos.

Long before Apollon built his temple at Delphi, the Goat-God Pan and his Nymphs occupied a cave on southern slopes of Mount Parnassos. The cave is located approximately 6.8 miles [10.9 kilometers] from Delphi but still quite a distance from the cloud shrouded summit of Parnassos and eventually named after the Nymph consort of Apollon, Korykia. The Nymphs of the cave became known as the Korykian Nymphs. They were the daughters of Pleistos and were present when Apollon fought with the she-dragon for possession of Delphi.

When the traveler/historian Pausanias visited the Korykian Cave circa 160 CE he described the cave thus, "But the Korykian Cave exceeds in size those I have mentioned, and it is possible to make one's way through the greater part of it even without lights. The roof stands at a sufficient height from the floor, and water, rising in part from springs but still more dripping from the roof, has made clearly visible the marks of drops on the floor throughout the cave. The dwellers around Parnassos believe it to be sacred to the Korykian Nymphs, and especially to Pan. From the Korykian Cave it is difficult even for an active walker to reach the heights of Parnassos."

Notable Nymphs

Kretheis

The parentage of the poet Homer has never been established with any surety but the people of ancient Smyrna sincerely believed that Homer was of divine descent and the son of the river god Meles [Meles's river flowed through Smyrna] and a Nymph named Kretheis. The proof for this line of reasoning was quite simple: 1) Homer's talent was so phenomenal that he could not have possibly been a mortal; and 2) his true name was Melesigenes, which denoted his heritage from Meles.

Notable Nymphs

Kyrene

Kyrene was a maiden who lived an idyllic life as she tended sheep along the marsh-meadow of the Peneios River in Thessaly. As she guarded her flock by the river, Apollon carried her off and placed her among the Nymphs of Libya. She and Apollon had a son named Aristaios who was affectionately called Hunter and Shepherd. Apollon transformed Kyrene into a Nymph and she enjoyed a long life as a huntress ... their son Aristaios was given to the Centaur Cheiron for an education.

Notable Nymphs

Lampetia and Phaethousa

As Nymphs and daughters of Neaira and Hyperion, Lampetia and Phaethousa were placed on the island of Thrinakia to watch over the cattle, sheep and oxen of Helios [Sun]. While trying to make their way home to Ithaka, Odysseus and his comrades were stranded on Thrinakia without provisions and were tempted to kill some of the animals. The Dread Goddess Kirke [Circe] had warned Odysseus that killing any animal in Helios's herds would mean certain death for all of his men. Odysseus tried to restrain his men but desperation overcame their reason and they killed some of Helios's animals. Lampetia and Phaethousa informed Helios of the desecration and only Odysseus was allowed to live.

Notable Nymphs

Larissa

Larissa is the Nymph for which the city of Larissa, Thessaly was named.

Notable Nymphs

Leiriope

Leiriope was the Nymph who, in union with the river Kephisos, was the mother of the beautiful and vain man named Narkissos.

Either Aphrodite [goddess of love] or Nemesis [Divine Retribution] punished Narkissos's arrogance by causing him to become obsessed with his own image ... he spent his life gazing at his reflection and finally wasted away. After death he was transformed into a flower that still bears his name, the Narcissus.

Notable Nymphs

The Leukippides

The Nymphs Hilaeira and Phoibe were called Leukippides, i.e. the daughters of Leukippus ... they were worshiped at Sparta where their priestesses were two young maidens who were called "the colts of Leukippus." The name Leukippus literally means White-Horse, therefore Hilaeira and Phoibe were sometimes referred to as the "white-horse maidens," thus their priestesses became "colts." The abduction of Hilaeira and Phoibe by Kastor and Polydeukes resulted in the death and immortalization of the two sons of Zeus.

Notable Nymphs

Libya

Libya was the daughter of Epaphos and Memphis ... she was the consort of Poseidon [lord of the sea] and the mother of Agenor.

Notable Nymphs

Maia

Maia is one of the seven Nymph daughters of Atlas known as the Pleiades. As the consort of Zeus, Maia was the mother of the mischievous messenger god, Hermes.

Maia's father Atlas was of the same generation as Zeus so Maia would have been Zeus's niece. Zeus came to Maia in the darkness of night so that his sister/wife Hera would not know of his amorous intentions towards the lovely Nymph. Maia lived in a secluded cave on Mount Kyllene in Arkadia ... Hermes was born at dawn of the tenth month after Zeus's union with Maia.

While Hermes was still an infant, he tried and failed to outwit Apollon. Apollon was a young adult when Hermes was born but the two gods formed a friendship which made Zeus very proud to have two sons who liked each other so much.

Maia tried to warn Hermes not to try his tricks on Apollon or Zeus but Hermes was a scoundrel from the start ... he stole Apollon's cattle and then lied to Zeus about it. Zeus did not begrudge Hermes his little pranks but warned him sternly about his place in the divine hierarchy.

After the birth of Hermes, the hunter Orion relentlessly pursued Maia and her sisters until they were changed into pigeons by Zeus and eventually put into the night sky as the constellation of the Pleiades. To see the Pleiades from the northern hemisphere, the sisters are located above and to the right of the constellation of Orion in the zodiacal house of Taurus.

Notable Nymphs

Melie

When the Argonauts came to the land of the Bebrykians they were greeted by a haughty king named Amykos ... he thought his divine birth gave him the right to indulge his arrogance ... he was the son of Poseidon [lord of the sea] and the Nymph Melie, or Bithynian Melie as she was called.

King Amykos decreed that no man could depart his kingdom until they faced him in a boxing match ... he was a cruel man and had forced many strangers to fight with him. The Argonauts were not ordinary seaman ... their number included several demigods including Polydeukes, the son of Zeus and Leda. Polydeukes agreed to fight Amykos only after the obnoxious king insulted and berated the Argonauts beyond endurance. The fight was short and brutal ... Polydeukes beat Amykos to death.

Notable Nymphs

Melite

Herakles had many children but perhaps one of the most outstanding was his son Hyllos. After the tragic murder the children he had fostered with Megara, Herakles traveled to the home of Nausithoos and Makris, the nurse of Dionysos, to seek absolution. While there he met and loved the Water-Nymph Melite, daughter of the river Aegaeus ... Hyllos was the result of that union.

Notable Nymphs

Mideia

Mideia was the consort of Poseidon [lord of the sea] and the mother of Aspledon. The city in Boeotia in which Aspledon was born was eventually named after him.

Notable Nymphs

Nephele

Helle and Phrixus were the children of Nephele [Cloud] and King Athamas of Orchomenos. Athamas rejected Nephele for the mortal woman named Ino who then plotted to have Phrixus offered as a human sacrifice. Nephele and the god Hermes devised the escape of Helle and Phrixus on a flying ram with a Golden Fleece ... the youths flew away from Orchomenos on the ram but Helle fell from its back and drowned in the sea ... the Hellespont [Helle's Sea] was named after her. Phrixus flew on the ram to Kolchis and at the magical ram's request sacrificed the animal and placed the Golden Fleece in the Garden of Ares where it remained until Jason and the Argonauts took it.

Notable Nymphs

Oenone

Oenone is a Nymph of Mount Ida who was the lover of Alexandros [Paris] but was deserted by him for Helen. This is but another example of the legendary beauty and charms of Helen of Argos [later, Helen of Troy] ... Alexandros rejected a fully divine Nymph for the affections of the semi-divine Helen ... she must have been truly remarkable.

Notable Nymphs

Oinoie

Oinoie is a water Nymph ... she was the consort of Thoas and the mother of Sikinos. Thoas was a son of the god Dionysos and king of the island of Lemnos circa 1285 BCE ... he was saved from certain death by his daughter Hypsipyle when the women of Lemnos went on a killing spree and killed all the men. Hypsipyle placed Thoas in a waterproof box and cast him adrift in the sea ... he eventually landed on the island of Oinoie. Thoas and Oinoie became lovers and had a son named Sikinos ... Oinoie changed the name of her island to Sikinos to honor her son.

Notable Nymphs

Pitys

Pitys was the Nymph who resisted the affection of the Goat-God Pan and was transformed into a pine tree.

Notable Nymphs

Syllis

Syllis was the consort of Apollon and the mother of King Zeuxippus of Sikyon. Zeuxippus was the king of Sikyon circa 1260 BCE which was just before the Trojan War began. When Zeuxippus died, Hippolytus became king ... King Agamemnon of Mykenai attacked and defeated Hippolytus making him subject to the Mykenaians.

Notable Nymphs

Syrinx

Syrinx was a Nymph who was loved by the Goat-God Pan and was turned into a reed so that she could escape him. To honor Syrinx, Pan made a reed pipe that he would play as he capered through the fields ... the reed pipe was adopted by herdsman and either called a Pan-Pipe or simply a Syrinx.

Notable Nymphs

Thebe

Thebe was the daughter of the river god Asopos and the sister of Aegina, Kerkyra, Sinope and Antiope ... Thebe became the wife of Zethos ... he and his brother Amphion built the foundations and bulwarks of the city that came to be known as Thebes in honor of Thebe.

Notable Nymphs

Thisbe

Thisbe is a Nymph of Boeotia who gave her name to a city near the sea. The city of Thisbe is located midway between Mount Pelion and Mount Olympos and shielded from the sea by the costal mountains ... the land west of Thisbe slopes to a futile plain.

Notable Nymphs

Thoosa

Thoosa was the consort of Poseidon [lord of the sea] and the mother of the Cyclops, Polyphemos. When Odysseus was trying to make his way home after the Trojan War, he encountered Polyphemos with disastrous results ... the Cyclops tried to eat Odysseus and his crew ... Odysseus blinded him. As to how a lordly god like Poseidon and a comely Nymph like Thoosa could have such a barbaric son is difficult to understand but facts are facts and Polyphemos is what he is.

Notable Nymphs

Xynian Nymphs

The Xynian Nymphs reside in central Thessaly and are notable because they gave their name to a lake they frequently visit to bathe ... Lake Xynias. We have no other details about their numbers or their activities.

Lake Xynias

Origins of the Nymphs

There are literally countless numbers of Nymphs. Where did they all come from?

There are several instances where we are told how certain Nymphs were created but that does not account for even a small percentage of the total. The master musician Orpheus sang to the Argonauts about the creation of the earth and "how the mountains rose, and how the resounding rivers with their Nymphs came into being and all creeping things." His song implies that Nymphs were among the first immortal beings to exist on the earth.

The Meliae are the Nymphs born from the blood of Ouranos [Heavens] at the time of his mutilation at the hands of his son, Kronos ... they are collectively called the Nymphs of the Ash Trees. We are not told how many Meliae there are or their names.

Several daughters of Atlas are Nymphs who were placed in the heavens as the star cluster known as the Hyades ... the sisters are: Eudora, Kleeia, Koronis, Phaeo and Phaesyle.

Kalypso is also a daughter of Atlas and is perhaps the most famous Nymph because she was the lover and protector of Odysseus after he became lost on his voyage home after the Trojan War.

Without doubt, the largest number of Nymphs for which we know their parentage are the daughters of Okeanos [Ocean] and Tethys. These Nymphs are called Okeanids, i.e. daughters of Okeanos. There are three thousand Okeanids and we know the names of only a few. They are what seamen sometimes call mermaids. They are the protectors of the oceans and their inhabitants.

Most Nymphs are of unknown origin. They are often referred to as Daughters of Zeus because when the war between Zeus and the Titans began, he called all the Immortals to Mount Olympos and asked for their assistance ... the Nymphs gave their support to Zeus without hesitation and were thereafter called the Daughters of Zeus. That title was also given to Aphrodite [goddess of love] and we know that she was not an actual daughter of Zeus and, in fact, preceded him by at least one immortal generation.

That leaves us with the compelling question ... From where did the Nymphs come? Speculation might be interesting but will in no way answer the question with any lasting satisfaction.

The simple answer is ... We do not know the origins of the majority of the Nymphs.

Grotto of the Nymphs

Grotto of the Nymphs

Where Are They Now?

Nymphs have always been integral to the processes of nature and are readily perceived by the very young and the pure of heart. In ancient Greece, Nymphs were not a common sight but that did not inhibit the belief in their reality or the unwavering devotion of their worshipers. The natural world is fraught with 'strangeness' and Nymphs have made significant contributions to our perceptions and misperceptions of how the 'real' world works.

When the question is asked, "Are Nymphs still with us?" Be assured that most modern people will say, "No ... definitely not ... Nymphs are mythological and in no way real." People who say that sort of thing have probably called upon Nymphs for divine assistance without realizing what they were doing or why they were doing it.

You are surely familiar with the expression, "Knock on wood." Someone will say something like, "I'm sure the weather will be perfect for my vacation" and then realize that they might have jinxed themselves by saying that. They will then say "Knock on wood" as they rap their knuckles lightly on something made of wood ... that combination of word and deed will call forth a Nymph from the wood to act as a protector.

Nature is truly alive and that vitality can take many forms ... Nymphs are simply an expression of the life-force that resides in trees, lakes and even the air we breathe.

So ... are the Nymphs still with us? Yes ... yes they are.

The Romans had deities similar to Nymphs, which they called Numina.

Nymphs and an infant Erechtheus

Nymphs with an infant, perhaps Erechtheus.

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