Nymphs - Greek mythology and Latin mythology


Sleeping nymph
Canova, London, Victoria and Albert Museum

The nymphs in the Greek mythologythey were inferior deities who personified the different aspects of nature.

Nymphs were said to inhabit rivers, springs, streams, seas, etc. and they were often part of the court of major deities.

The nymphs took on different names depending on the places they inhabited: the Nereids of the sea, the Oceanineof the Ocean, the Agrostine of the fields, the Naiads of the acquedolci, the Winter of the world of the dead, the Oreadi of the mountains, the Napee of the woods, the Auloniadi of the valleys and ravines, the Dryads and theHamadryads of plants, theAlseids of the woods, the Meliadi some ash trees.

The nymphs were not immortal but they had a very long life and remained young forever. They were represented as young and beautiful girls, naked with very long hair.

NIKE: goddess of victory among the Greeks. According to Hesiod she was the daughter of the titan Pallante and of Styx, sister of Zelos (Emulation), of Cratos (Force) and of Bia (Violence). In the battle between the gods and the Titans he abandoned the ranks of his father. He led Heracles to Olympus. But the "victory of sweet gifts", for the Greek spirit the most noble and fascinating aspiration of man, could not but become the daughter of Zeus, a parallel figure of his other daughter, Athena. Honors were bestowed upon her after each victory whether they were victories in war or athletic competitions. In Athens it was partly assimilated by the goddess Athena, in fact the Athenians worshiped an Athena Nice, but this one did not have wings.
Particular importance had the cult of Victory in Roman times. Originally it was only an attribute of Juppiter victor broke away as an independent deity, its cult had great development in the late republic thanks to political leaders and dictators who assumed it as a personification at the same time of their victories and of divine favor: Victoria Sullana, the Victoria Caesaris, and especially the Victoria Augusta, an essential component of empire-based political ideology.
Nike was depicted as a young woman with large eagle wings, with an olive crown on her head and with a palm branch in her hand. Its most famous statues are the Nike of Samothrace and the Nike by Peonio. The first is an outstanding marble work found on the island of Samothrace and was the votive gift for the naval victory that Demetrius Poliorcete brought back over Ptolemy of Egypt at Salamis of Cyprus in 306 BC. C .. The second, the work of the sculptor Peonio, was a votive gift dedicated by the Messenians and the Naupazi after the battle of Sfacteria (425 BC).

NINFE: divine beings of secondary degree and of female sex, who represented the forces of nature and especially personified their vital and procreative character, animated with their invisible presence every manifestation of nature, in particular mountains, waters, woods, trees , and by extension also of places, regions, cities. According to Homer they were daughters of Zeus Egioco other legends made them daughters of the rivers of the regions where they had worship. Unlike the other gods, however, the Nymphs did not enjoy immortality, although Hesiod attributes to them an extreme longevity.
They did not reside in Olympus but inIliad, when Zeus summons all the gods in solemn assembly, all the Nymphs are also present. The names of the Nymphs were made according to their residence, or according to their functions, or according to the specific geographical location where they resided, hence the infinite variety of Nymphs that we know. Gia Homer and the most ancient poets, according to their favorite dwelling, divided them into four great classes: 1 ° the nymphs of the mountains, Oreadi or Orestiadi 2 ° the Nymphs of the fields 3 ° the Nymphs of fresh waters, Naiads 4 ° the Nymphs of the trees, Dryads, Hamadryads, Meliadi. Next to these many others are remembered so the Nymphs of the sea were the Oceanines and the Nereids the Nymphs of the valleys and woods, Napee and Alseidi, similar to the Orestiadi the Ideas took their name from the local cult on Mount Ida of Crete the Pleiades from Mount Pelio.
From the imagination of the Greeks, the Nymphs are presented as free and independent girls. Sometimes they also appear as mothers of heroes. But mostly they are beautiful virgins.
Various gifts and powers were attributed to the Nymphs, not only what they exercised on the vegetation, but also on the men themselves as nurturing deities, so that in some legends, such as those of Hermes and Dionysus they appear as nurses of the children. It was therefore natural that they were considered protectors of the growth of adolescents, and in particular of young girls, who often plunged into the waters of certain springs to achieve fertility on the eve of the wedding, and the women offered them sacrifices as the moment of the wedding approached. childbirth. Prophetic gifts were also attributed to all the nymphs. The gift of healing was the exclusive privilege of the water nymphs.
The cult of the Nymphs was very ancient and widespread throughout the Greek world, however they almost always meet as local deities. Often the Nymphs were associated in the cult with other major deities, such as Apollo, Dionysus, Hermes, Pan, more rarely Artemis and Demeter. They were offered pets, bulls, lambs, kids and fruit, honey, roses. Wine was excluded from the cult, but there were exceptions.
In Rome the number of divinities similar to the Nymphs was somewhat smaller, limiting themselves mainly to the gods of the waters and especially of the thermal springs, the Romans assimilated the indigenous divinities of the springs to the Greek Nymphs. The sources with their god Fontus had a cult in Rome from a very ancient age, of which the feast of the Fontinalia, reported to 13 October already in the ancient calendar of Numa Pompilio. In the Fasti dei Fratelli Arvali there is mention of their temple, set on fire by Clodio, in the Campo Marzio, in which the censorial tables were kept. Only relatively late did they have small temples and nymphaeums, graceful buildings where weddings were celebrated. The designation of Nymphs applied by some to the Furrine, indigenous Roman divinities of an unclear nature, seems arbitrary and to be rejected.
In the figurative arts the Nymphs were represented, in conformity with the Greek conception, as beautiful and slender young girls, with graceful movements, with a graceful head adorned with flowers, with light and fluttering dresses, rarely naked.


In Greek myth, the nymphs (from the ancient Greek Νύμφη, meaning 'girls') are deities of the woods, waters, mountains, in short, of various natural environments, but also of regions and cities. They were immortal beings, or at least with a very long life. According to legend, they are beautiful women and it is no coincidence that they are companions of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. Nymphs can reside in a pond, or on mountains, or hills, or in a lake. The correlation with water is important for these mythological beings.

Nymphs are personification of creativity and the flow of life. Tradition depicts them as beautiful, slender, young women, always dressed in light clothing. Protectors of engaged couples, they fell in love with both humans and gods. From their union with them both gods and seeds of gods were born. Numerous nymphs flock to the Greek tradition, which seemed to love them very much: among them, Calypso, Echo, Egeria, Euridice. The number of nymphs cannot be calculated, as they were very numerous. It is certainly known that they were divided into terrestrial nymphs, water nymphs, celestial nymphs, and other nymphs. Usually they were celebrated by the peasants, with sacrifices of meat, or more often of fruit, flowers and milk and honey.

Nymphs in Greek mythology: characteristics

The Nymphs represent nature or some of its aspects. They are depicted as beautiful, graceful young women, often adorned with flowers and with fluttering robes. They are benefactors of nature and make it fertile. Some of them have healing abilities, like the Naiads, others protect the loving couples who bathe in their springs. In Greek myths, the Nymphs have often been lovers of gods and mortals: from the union with the latter many demigods and heroes were born, while from the union with the gods immortal beings were born.

Famous nymphs were:

  • Echo: Nymph of Mount Elicona, condemned by Hera to repeat the last words spoken by the others
  • Eurydice: wife of Orpheus
  • Calypso: Nymph of the island of Ogygia, loved by Ulysses
  • Thetis: Nereid mother of Achilles
  • Daphne: Nymph loved by Apollo, transformed into a laurel to escape the god

As often happens in these cases, the Nymphs are also present in Roman mythology, in the form of protective deities of rivers, springs and fountains. The rites in honor of the Nymphs included sacrifices of lambs and kids, although they were usually offered milk, oil, honey and fruit.

ECHIDNA: monster of ancient Greek mythology, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, sons of Pontus and Gaia or born from the mysterious Chrysaore and Calliroe, daughter of Ocean or from Tartarus and Gaia. its name means "viper". In the upper part of the body was a young nymph with a beautiful face, with a sweet gaze for the other half it was an enormous snake covered with iridescent colored scales. He once lived in a deep cave among the Arimi ate raw men. Other traditions place her in the Peloponnese: here she would have been killed in her sleep by Argos of the Hundred Eyes, because she used to devour passers-by.
According to Theogony attributed to Hesiod, Echidna in union with Tifeo or Typhon, the terrible adversary of Zeus in the cosmogonic ages, generated several monsters, among which: Ortro, the two-headed dog of Geryon, who lay down with his mother and father. in her the Sphinx and the Nemean lion Cerberus, the three-headed infernal dog an eagle that devoured the liver every day (which was always reborn) to Prometheus a terrible crommy sow that was hunted and killed by Theseus the Chimera, a goat that spat flames , with the head of a lion and the tail of a snake, killed by Bellerophon the Hydra, a water snake with many heads that lived in the swamp of Lerna, where the murders came to purify themselves. This is the origin of the proverb: "A Lerna for the wicked". The dragon Ladone who guarded the golden apples of the Hesperides. According to other traditions, this dragon was the son of Phorcys and Ceto, or a son of the Earth. He had a hundred heads and spoke a human language. He was killed by Heracles. Echidna is also credited with the maternity of the insomniac dragon of Colchis, who guarded the Golden Fleece.

ECHO: nymph of the woods and springs, on whose events there are numerous traditions, we owe the broadest and most exhaustive story to Ovid. According to Ovid Echo, gifted with great gab, she was punished for having distracted Hera with long tales while Zeus's concubines, the mountain nymphs, escaped his jealous eyes and saved themselves. The goddess took her voice away so that she could never speak first, nor be silent when spoken to, being forced to repeat the last syllables of the speeches she listened to. According to another version, also by Ovid, Echo who lived in the mountains and in the woods, fell in love with Narcissus and, unable to tell him of the love he felt, he always repeated the last syllables of the words he spoke. Narcissus pushed her away abruptly and fled: "I will die before you lie with me!" he shouted. "May you lie with me!" Eco repeated plaintively. But Narcissus was gone and Eco spent the rest of his life in solitary valleys, moaning with love and regret, until only her voice remained. Another redaction of the myth of Echo is also due to Ovid: she would have been a nymph devoted to music and singing, but one day she would have rejected the love of Pan who had met her and fell in love with her, and the god, angry, would have raised them against the shepherds who would have cut it in pieces and scattered through the mountains and woods of Echo only the voice would have survived. Other traditions say she is the daughter of a nymph and a mortal, or the daughter of Hera would have joined Pan and had a daughter, Iunge.
Evidently all the different traditions arise from the intent to explain the acoustic phenomenon of echo.

ECUBA: daughter of Dimante, Phrygian king, and of the nymph Eunoe or, according to others, of Cisseo, king of Thrace, and of Teleclea or of the Sangario river and of Metope or of Glaucippa, daughter of Xanthus. Hecuba was Priam's second wife, and fathered nineteen of his fifty children, the others being children of concubines. Hecuba's eldest son was Hector, who some say son of Apollo, the second Paris, nicknamed Alexander, whose birth was preceded by a prophetic dream and then Creusa, Laodice and Polissena Deifobo, Eleno, Cassandra, Pammone, Polite, Antifo, Ipponoo, Polidoro and Troilo.
Among the younger sons of Hecuba were the twins Cassandra and Eleno. These, on the birthday of his father, during the feast that was celebrated in the sanctuary of Apollo Timbreo, tired of playing, fell asleep in a song, while the unwary parents, with their minds clouded by wine, returned home without them. When Hecuba returned to the temple she saw that the sacred snakes were licking the children's ears and screamed in terror. The snakes immediately disappeared, but from that moment Cassandra and Helenus had the gift of prophecy.
According to another version, Cassandra one day fell asleep in the temple and Apollo, suddenly appearing to her, promised to instruct her in the art of prophecy if she agreed to lie down with him. Cassandra, after accepting her gift, refused to keep the pacts Apollo then asked her for a single kiss and while Cassandra kissed him he spat in her mouth to make sure that no one would ever believe what she would have prophesied.
Mell 'Iliad, Hecuba is a secondary character and appears when he invites Hector to rest, and when he mourns the death of Hector with the women of Troy, an omen of the destruction of his homeland and the ruin of his family, and recalls his life calling him the most dear of children. But the figure of Hecuba is magnified above all with the tragic ones. Euripides represents the events after the destruction of Troy in two tragedies, Hecuba and The Trojan women. In the first Hecuba, assigned as a slave to Agamemnon, she witnesses the fulfillment of two new terrible misfortunes that are added to the infinite evils that she has already had to endure. The prina of such misfortunes is the sacrifice of Polyxena on the tomb of Achilles, decided by the Greek leaders: in vain Hecuba begs Agamemnon and Odysseus to spare his daughter and offers to die in her place: Polyxena is torn from her arms and led to death , which she will face with serene courage, as a free and king's daughter, preferring her to a dark life in painful slavery. Hecuba still has not ceased to cry over the corpse of Polissena to whom she wants to give a proper burial, when a slave brings to the unhappy queen the body of her son Polidoro, found on the seashore: he was killed by Polimestore, to whom the mother l 'he had entrusted to escape the dangers of war. At the sight of her son's corpse in Hecuba, a complete inner transformation takes place: from infinite pain she passes to an exasperated fury of revenge, she convinces Agamemnon to help her, making Polimestore come with his children to the camp, then with a deception, while Polimestore hypocritically shows himself saddened by the death of Polyxena and false news of Polidoro, keeping silent about his death, he makes him enter his tent where with the help of the other Trojan prisoners he kills his children and blinds him.
Different is the interpretation of the character in the Trojan women: here Hecuba, who has been assigned as a slave to Odysseus, appears there as the living personification of the infinite pain of the surviving Trojan women in the face of the destruction of their families, the hard fate of slaves that awaits them, the ruin of their city. . Hecuba is the desperate voice of this collective human tragedy: she curses the war and Elena who was the cause, weeps for her daughter Polissena sacrificed on the tomb of Achilles, mercilessly accuses Helen in front of Menelaus, inviting him to do justice to the origin of every misfortune, burial in Astianatte and finally raises the extreme song of death while Troy burns in the last ruin.
There are different versions of Hecuba's death. Odysseus, having Hecuba as a slave, took her to Chersonese of Thrace, where the queen covered Odysseus himself and all the other Greeks with such invectives that it was necessary to put her to death. According to another version, Hecuba was turned into a bitch while being chased by Polimestore's companions, who killed her to avenge their king. The place where she was buried was called "the Tomb of the Bitch".

Greek mythology.

Introduction. The beliefs and ritual practices of the ancient Greeks, whose civilization was formed around 2000 BC. There Greek mythology mainly includes a corpus of narratives and legends concerning the gods and developed fully between the 9th and 8th centuries BC, in the period in which theIliad and theOdyssey of Homer and the Theogony of Hesiod.
There Greek mythology presents some distinctive characteristics: the gods show human appearance and feelings and, unlike ancient religions such as Hinduism or Judaism, it does not contain revelations or spiritual doctrines, even the practices and beliefs were very varied, lacking a sacred text and formal superstructures such as the clergy.

The Greek gods: research

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