Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, 7 April 2012


NYMPHS, the name of a numerous class of inferior female divinities, though they are designated by the title of Olympian, are called to meetings of the gods in Olympus, and described as the daughters of Zeus. But they were believed to dwell on earth in groves, on the summits of mountains, in rivers, streams, glens, and grottoes. (Hom. Od. vi. 123, &c., xii. 318, Il. xx. 8, xxiv. 615.) Homer further describes them as presiding over game, accompanying Artemis, dancing with her, weaving in their grottoes purple garments. and kindly watching over the fate of mortals. (Od. vi. 105, ix. 154, xiii. 107, 356, xvii. 243, Il. vi. 420, 616.) Men offer up sacrifices either to them alone, or in conjunction with other gods, such as Hermes. (Od. xiii. 350, xvii. 211, 240, xiv. 435.) From the places which they inhabit, they are called agronomoi (Od. vi. 105),orestiades (Il. vi. 420), and nêïades (Od. xiii. 104).

All nymphs, whose number is almost infinite, may be divided into two great classes. The first class embraces those who must be regarded as a kind of inferior divinities, recognised in the worship of nature.

The nymphs of the first class must again be divided into various species, according to the different parts of nature of which they are the representatives. 1. Nymphs of the watery element. Here we first mention the nymphs of the ocean, Ôkeaninai or Ôceanids, numphai hagiai, who are regarded as the daughters of Oceanus (Hes. Theog. 346, &c., 364; Aeschyl. Prom.; Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 13; Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1414; Soph. Philoct. 1470); and next the nymphs of the Mediterranean or inner sea, who are regarded as the daughters of Nereus, whence they are called Nereides (Nêreïdes; Hes. Theog. 240, &c.).

THE NEPHELAI (or Nephelae) were the Oceanid nymphs of clouds and rain who rose up from the earth-encircling river Oceanus bearing water to the heavens in cloudy pitchers.

Cloud nymphs or Nephelai flit in the sky. The vase may have been inspired by Aristophanes' comedy Clouds. ca 500 - 450 BC 

ELECTRA (or Electra) was the Oceanid Nymph wife of the sea god Thaumas, and the mother of Iris the Rainbow and the storm-wind Harpies.
To view Iris the Rainbow click  here              to view harpies click here
 The second group of Nymphs of the watery element were the nymphs of the Mediterranean or inner sea, who are regarded as the daughters of Nereus, whence they are called Nereid.

Detail of a Nereis riding side-saddle on the back of a dolphin from a painting depicting the delivery of the arms of Akhilleus. ca 425 - 401 BC

The Nereid Thetis was their unofficial leader, and Amphitrite was the queen of the sea. Together with the Tritons they formed the retinue of Poseidon

To view Trition click here

 Detail of Thetis riding side-saddle on the back of Hippokampos (fish-tailed horse) in a painting depicting the delivery of the arms of 425 - 401 BC

 Luis Ricardo Falero, Nymph

THETIS, one of the daughters of Nereus and Doris, was the wife of Peleus, by whom she became the mother of Achilles. (Hom. Il. i. 538, xviii. 35, &c., 52, &c.; Hes. Theog. 244.) Later writers describe her as a daughter of Cheiron (Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 558).

Peleus, the chosen groom, was instructed to ambush her on the beach, and not release his grasp of the struggling goddess as she metamorphosed into a host of shapes. The couple were afterwards married in a ceremony attended by all the gods of heaven, and she bore a son, the celebrated hero Akhilleus.

               Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Jupiter and Thétis

 Füssli, Johann Heinrich, Thetis asks Hephaestus to forge an armor for her son Achilles

 Benjamin West,Thetis Bringing Armor to Achilles I

Benjamin West, Thetis Bringing Armor to Achilles II

 Pompeo Girolamo Batoni, Called Achilles by Thetis and Chiron

AMPHITRITE was the goddess queen of the sea, the wife of King Poseidon. Some say she was one of the fifty Nereids, others an Oceanus.
To view Poseidon/Neptune click here

  Jacob de Gheyn (II) Neptune and Amphitrite

Sebastiano Ricci,  Neptune and Amphitrite

 Frans Francken (II), Triumph of Amphitrite

 Luca Giordano, Allegory of human life and the dynasty of the Medici

 Jacques Prou, Amphitrite. Marble

Clytie was an Oceanid nymph loved by sun-god Helios. When he abandoned her for the love of Leukothoe, she pined away and was transformed into the sun-gazing, purple flower of the heliotrope.
Clytie was probably identified with the Oceanis Clymene, the mother of Phaethon by Helios. Their names both mean "the famous one."

Clymene was an Oceanid nymph loved by the sun-god Helios. She bore him seven daughters, the Heliad nymphs, and a son named Phaethon. The boy was killed when he attempted to drive his father's chariot across the sky, and his sisters were transformed into poplar trees.

To view Phaethon click here

Many of  Nymphs of the watery element presided over waters or springs which were believed to inspire those that drank of them, and hence  the nymphs themselves were thought to be endowed with prophetic or oracular power, and to inspire men with the same, and to confer upon them the gift of poetry. (Paus. iv. 27. § 2, ix. 3. § 5, 34. § 3; Plut. Aristid. 11; Theocrit. vii. 92; comp. MUSAE.) 

THE NAIADS were fresh-water Nymphs who inhabited the rivers, streams, lakes, marshes, fountains and springs of the earth. They were immortal, minor divinities who were invited to attend the assemblies of the gods on Mount Olympus.
The Naiads, along with Artemis, were regarded as the divine nurses of the young, and the protectors of girls and maidens, overseeing their safe passage into adulthood. Similarly Apollo and the River-Gods (fathers of the Naiads) were the patron gods of boys and youths.

A Naiad Nymphe holding a water jug (hydria) rides on the back of a bull-shaped Potamos (River God). ca 350 - 325 BC

 Herbert James Draper , The water nymph

 Jean Henner, Naiad

                                          Henri Fantin-Latour, Nymphs

 Gustave Doré:, Naiads

 John William Waterhouse, A Naiad 

 Sir Edward Poynter,The Cave of the Storm Nymphs

2. Nymphs of mountains and grottoes, are called Orodemniades and Oreiades but sometimes also by names derived from the particular mountains they inhabited, as Kithairônides, Pêliades, Korukiai, &c. (Theocrit. vii. 137; Virg. Aen. i. 168, 500; Paus. v. 5. § 6, ix. 3. § 5, x. 32. § 5; Apollon. Rhod. i. 550, ii. 711; Ov. Her. xx. 221; Virg. Eclog. vi. 56.)

3. Nymphs of forests, groves, and glens, were believed sometimes to appear to and frighten solitary travellers. They are designated by the names Alsêïdes, Holêôroi, Aulôniades, and Napaiai. (Apollon. Rhod. i. 1066, 1227; Orph. Hymn. 50. 7; Theocrit. xiii. 44; Ov. Met. xv. 490; Virg. Georg. iv. 535.)

                                                       Nymph in the woods

4. Nymphs of trees, were believed to die together with the trees which had been their abode, and with which they had come into existence. They were called Dryades, Hamadruades or Hadryades, from drys, which signifies not only an oak, but any wild-growing lofty tree; for the nymphs of fruit trees were called Mêlides, Mêliades, Epimêlides, or Hamamêlides. They seem to be of Arcadian origin, and never appear together with any of the great gods. (Paus. viii. 4. § 2; Apollon. Rhod. ii. 477, &c.; Anton. Lib. 31, 32; Hom. Hymn. in Ven. 259, &c.) 

 Lucas Cranach the Elder, Reclining Nymph
Hercules took Hylas with him on the Argo, making him one of the Argonauts. Hylas was kidnapped by nymphs of the spring of Pegae, (Dryope), that fell in love with him in Mysia and vanished without a trace (Apollonios Rhodios). This upset Hercules greatly, so he along with Polyphemus searched for a great length of time. The ship set sail without them. They never found Hylas because he had fallen in love with the nymphs and remained "to share their power and their love." (Gaius Valerius Flaccus, Argonautica)

 Hylas and the Nymphs" by the Italian Baroque painter Francesco Furini.

  John William Waterhouse: Hylas and the Nymphs 

SYRINX was a Naiad Nymph of the River Ladon in Arkadia (southern Greece). She was pursued by the amorous god Pan and to avoid his embrace was transformed into a reed plant (syrinx). From her plant the god plant crafted his famous pan-pipes.

To view god Pan click here

  François Boucher, Pan and Syrinx

  Nicolas Poussin, Pan and Syrinx

Rubens, Diana and Nymphs

William Edward Frost, Nymph and Cupid

 Sophie Gengembre Anderson, The Head Of A Nymph

THE PLEIADES were seven mountain nymph daughters of the Titan Atlas. Their leader was Maia, the mother of Hermes by Zeus. Five of the others were also loved by gods, becoming ancestresses of various royal families including those of Troy and Sparta. When they were pursued by the lustful giant Orion, Zeus set them amongst the stars as the seven-starred constellation Pleiades. Their name was derived from the Greek word pleiôn, meaning "plenty."

PLEIADES  are called daughters of Atlas by Pleione (or by the Oceanid Aethra, Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1155), or Erechtheus (Serv. ad Aen. i. 744), of Cadmus (Theon, ad. Arat. p. 22), or of the queen of the Amazons. (Schol. ad Theocrit. xiii. 25.) They were the sisters of the Hyades, and seven in number, six of whom are described as visible, and the seventh as invisible. Some call the seventh Sterope, and relate that she became invisible from shame, because she alone among her sisters had had intercourse with a mortal man ; others call her Electra, and make her disappear from the choir of her sisters on account of her grief at the destruction of the house of Dardanus (Hygin. Fab. 192, Poet. Astr. ii. 21). The Pleiades are said to have made away with themselves from grief at the death of their sisters, the Hyades, or at the fate of their father, Atlas, and were afterwards placed as stars at the back of Taurus, where they form a cluster resembling a bunch of grapes, whence they were sometimes called botrus (Eustath. ad Hom. p. 1155). According to another story, the Pleiades were virgin companions of Artemis, and, together with their mother Pleione, were pursued by the hunter Orion in Boeotia; their prayer to be rescued from him was heard by the gods, and they were metamorphosed into doves (Pleiades), and placed among the stars (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 21; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iii. 226; Pind. Nem. ii. 17). The rising of the Pleiades in Italy was about the beginning of May, and their setting about the beginning of November. Their names are Electra, Maia, Taygete, Alcyone, Celaeno, Sterope, and Merope (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 219, comp. 149; Apollod. iii. 10. § 1). The scholiast of Theocritus (xiii. 25) gives the following different set of names : Coccymo, Plaucia, Protis, Parthemia, Maia, Stonychia, Lampatho. (Comp. Hom. Il. xviii. 486, Od. v. 272; Ov. Fast. iv. 169, &c.; Hyades; and Ideler, Untersuch. über die Sternennamen, p. 144.)

Elihu VedderThe Pleiades

Simonides, Fragment 555 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (C6th to 5th B.C.) :
"Mountain (oureias) Maia . . .: Atlas fathered her, outstanding in beauty among his seven dear violet-haired daughters who are called the heavenly Peleiades (Doves)."

                                Halcyone, by Herbert James Draper
Pindar, Nemean Ode 2. 10 ff (trans. Conway) (Greek lyric C5th B.C.) :
"For near the Pleiades, those mountain maids, needs must Orion follow close behind [i.e. amongst the constellations the Pleiades rise with Orion]."

 Interior of the McGraw-Fiske Mansion, Ithaca, N.Y., "Merope" The Lost Pleiade in art gallery.

         William-Adolphe Bouguereau, The Lost Pleiad

Hesiod, The Astronomy Fragment 1 (from Athenaeus 11. 491d) (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or 7th B.C.) :
"And the author of The Astronomy, which is attributed forsooth to Hesiod, always calls them Peleiades (Doves): ‘but mortals call them Peleiades’; and again, ‘the stormy Peleiades go down’; and again, ‘then the Peleiades hide away.’"

Hesiod, Works and Days 383 ff :
"When the Pleiades Atlagenes (born of Atlas) are rising [early May], begin your harvest, and your ploughing when they are going to set [November]. Forty nights and days they are hidden and appear again as the year moves round, when first you sharpen your sickle."