Nymph

Nymph
GroupingMythological
Sub groupingNature spirit
Similar entitiesMermaid, hellois, huldra
CountryGreece

A nymph (Ancient Greek: νύμφη, romanizednýmphē, Modern Greek: nímfi; Attic Greek: [nýmpʰɛː], Modern Greek: [ˈniɱfi]; sometimes spelled nymphe) is a minor female nature deity in ancient Greek folklore. Distinct from other Greek goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as personifications of nature, are typically tied to a specific place or landform, and are usually depicted as maidens. They were immortal like other goddesses, except for the Hamadryads, whose lives were bound to a specific tree.

They are often divided into various broad subgroups, such as the Meliae (ash tree nymphs), the Dryads (oak tree nymphs), the Naiads (freshwater nymphs), the Nereids (sea nymphs), and the Oreads (mountain nymphs).

Nymphs are often featured in classic works of art, literature, mythology, and fiction. Since the Middle Ages, nymphs have been sometimes popularly associated or even confused with fairies.

Etymology

The Greek word nýmphē has the primary meaning of "young woman; bride, young wife" but is not usually associated with deities in particular. Yet the etymology of the noun nýmphē remains uncertain. The Doric and Aeolic (Homeric) form is nýmphā (νύμφα).

Modern usage more often applies to young women, contrasting with parthenos (παρθένος) "a virgin (of any age)", and generically as kore (κόρη < κόρϝα) "maiden, girl". The term is sometimes used by women to address each other and remains the regular Modern Greek term for "bride".

Ancient Greek mythology

In this 1896 painting of Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse, Hylas is abducted by the Naiads, i.e. fresh water nymphs

Nymphs were sometimes beloved by many and dwelt in specific areas related to the natural environment: e.g. mountainous regions; forests; springs. Other nymphs were part of the retinue of a god (such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan) or of a goddess (generally the huntress Artemis).

The Greek nymphs were also spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and sometimes this produced complicated myths like the cult of Arethusa to Sicily. In some of the works of the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Carmentis, Fontus) while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of their names, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The classical mythologies of the Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cults of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class, their sphere of influence was restricted and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.[citation needed]

Greek folk religion

The ancient Greek belief in nymphs survived in many parts of the country into the early years of the twentieth century when they were usually known as "nereids". Nymphs often tended to frequent areas distant from humans but could be encountered by lone travelers outside the village, where their music might be heard, and the traveler could spy on their dancing or bathing in a stream or pool, either during the noon heat or in the middle of the night. They might appear in a whirlwind. Such encounters could be dangerous, bringing dumbness, besotted infatuation, madness or stroke to the unfortunate man. When parents believed their child to be nereid-struck, they would pray to Saint Artemidos.

Nymphs and fairies

Nymphs are often depicted in classic works across art, literature, mythology, and fiction. They are often associated with the medieval romances or Renaissance literature of the elusive fairies or elves.

Sleeping nymph

The statue of a sleeping nymph in a grotto at Stourhead gardens, England.

A motif that entered European art during the Renaissance was the idea of a statue of a nymph sleeping in a grotto or spring. This motif supposedly came from an Italian report of a Roman sculpture of a nymph at a fountain above the River Danube. The report, and an accompanying poem supposedly on the fountain describing the sleeping nymph, are now generally concluded to be a fifteenth-century forgery, but the motif proved influential among artists and landscape gardeners for several centuries after, with copies seen at neoclassical gardens such as the grotto at Stourhead.

List

All the names for various classes of nymphs have plural feminine adjectives, most agreeing with the substantive numbers and groups of nymphai. There is no single adopted classification that could be seen as canonical and exhaustive. Some classes of nymphs tend to overlap, which complicates the task of precise classification. e.g. dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees.

By dwelling or affinity

The following is not the authentic Greek classification, but is intended as a guide:

Type / Group / Individuals Location Relations and Notes
Celestial nymphs
Aurae (breezes) also called Aetae or Pnoae,[citation needed] daughters of Boreas
Asteriae (stars) mainly comprising the Atlantides (daughters of Atlas)
1. Hesperides (evening) Far West nymphs of the sunset, the West, and the evening; daughters of Atlas; also had attributes of the Hamadryads
Aegle
Arethusa
Erytheia (or Eratheis) mother of Eurytion by Ares
2. Hyades (star cluster; sent rain) Boeotia (probably) daughters of Atlas by either Pleione or Aethra
3. Pleiades daughters of Atlas and Pleione; constellation; also were classed as Oreads
Maia Mt. Cyllene, Arcadia partner of Zeus and mother of Hermes
Electra Mt. Saon, Samothrace mother of Dardanus and Iasion by Zeus
Taygete Taygetos Mts., Laconia mother of Lacedaemon by Zeus
Alcyone Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotia mother of Hyperes and Anthas by Poseidon
Celaeno Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotia or Euboea mother of Lycus and Nycteus by Poseidon
Asterope Pisa, Elis mother of Oenomaus by Ares
Merope Corinth wife of Sisyphus and mother of Glaucus
Nephele (clouds) daughters of Oceanus and/or Tethys or of Aither
Land nymphs
Alseides (groves)
Auloniades (valley pastures, glens)
Leimakides or Leimonides (meadows)
Napaeae (dells)
Oreads (mountains, grottoes), also Orodemniades
Wood and plant nymphs
Anthousai (flowers)
Dryades (trees)
Hamadryades or Hadryades
1. Daphnaeae (laurel tree)
2. Epimeliades or Epimelides (apple tree; also protected flocks) other name variants include Meliades, Maliades and Hamameliades; same as these are also the Boucolai (Pastoral Nymphs)
3. Kissiae (ivy)
4. Meliae (manna-ash tree) born from the drops of blood that fell on Gaia when Cronus castrated Uranus
Hyleoroi (watchers of woods)
Water nymphs (Hydriades or Ephydriades)
Haliae (sea and seashores)
1. Nereids Mediterranean Sea 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris
Naiads, Naides (fresh water)
1. Crinaeae (fountains)
2. Eleionomae (wetlands)
3. Limnades, Limnatides (lakes)
4. Pegaeae (springs)
5. Potameides (rivers)
Oceanids daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, any freshwater, typically clouds and rain. see List of Oceanids
Underworld nymphs
Lampades Hades torch bearers in the retinue of Hecate
Orphne is a representation of the darkness of the river Styx, the river of hatred, but is not to be confused with the goddess Styx herself nor with Nyx, goddess of night, despite being associated with both. She is the consort of Acheron, (the god of the river in Hades), and the mother of Ascalaphus, (the orchardist of Hades).
Leuce (white poplar tree) daughter of Oceanus and lover of Hades
Melinoe Orphic nymph, daughter of Persephone and "Zeus disguised as Pluto". Her name is a possible epithet of Hecate.
Minthe (mint) Cocytus River probably a daughter of Cocytus, lover of Hades and rival of Persephone
Other nymphs
Hecaterides (rustic dance) daughters of Hecaterus by a daughter of Phoroneus; sisters of the Dactyls and mothers of the Oreads and the Satyrs
Kabeirides daughters of Cadmilus and sisters of the Kabeiroi or of Hephaestus and Cabeiro
Maenads or Bacchai or Bacchantes frenzied nymphs in the retinue of Dionysus
1. Lenai (wine-press)
2. Mimallones (music)
4. Thyiai or Thyiades (thyrsus bearers)
Melissae (honey) likely a subgroup of Oreades or Epimelides

By location

The following is a list of individual nymphs or groups thereof associated with this or that particular location. Nymphs in such groups could belong to any of the classes mentioned above (Naiades, Oreades, and so on).

Groups and Individuals Location Relations and Notes
Aeaean Nymphs Aeaea Island handmaidens of Circe
Aegaeides Aegaeus River on the island of Scheria
Aesepides Aesepus River in Anatolia
Abarbarea
Acheloides Achelous River in Acarnania
Callirhoe, second wife of Alcmaeon
Acmenes Stadium in Olympia, Elis
Amnisiades Amnisos River on the island of Crete entered the retinue of Artemis
Anigrides Anigros River in Elis believed to cure skin diseases
Asopides Asopus River in Sicyonia and Boeotia
Aegina Island of Aegina mother of Menoetius by Actor, and Aeacus by Zeus
Asopis
Chalcis Chalcis, Euboea regarded as the mother of the Curetes and Corybantes; perhaps the same as Combe and Euboea
Cleone Cleonae, Argos one of the daughters of Asopus
Combe Island of Euboea consort of Socus and mother by him of the seven Corybantes
Corcyra Island of Corcyra mother of Phaiax by Poseidon
Euboea Island of Euboea abducted by Poseidon; perhaps the same as Chalcis and Combe above
Harpina Pisa, Elis mother of Oenomaus by Ares
Ismene Ismenian spring of Thebes, Boeotia wife of Argus, eponymous king of Argus and thus, mother of Argus Panoptes and Iasus.
Nemea Nemea, Argolis others called her the daughter of Zeus and Selene
• Oeroe or Plataia Plataea, Boeotia carried off by Zeus
Ornea Ornia, Sicyon
Peirene Corinth others called her father to be Oebalus or Achelous by Poseidon she became the mother of Lecheas and Cenchrias
Salamis Island of Salamis mother of Cychreus by Poseidon
Sinope Sinope, Anatolia mother of Syrus by Apollo
Tanagra Tanagra, Boeotia mother of Leucippus and Ephippus by Poemander
Thebe Thebes, Boeotia wife of Zethus and also said to have consorted with Zeus
Thespeia Thespia, Boeotia abducted by Apollo
Astakides Lake Astacus, Bithynia appeared in the myth of Nicaea
Nicaea Nicaea, Bithynia
Asterionides Asterion River, Argos daughters of the river god Asterion; nurses of the infant goddess Hera
Acraea
Euboea
Prosymna
Carian Naiades (Caria) Caria
Salmacis Halicarnassus, Caria
Nymphs of Ceos Island of Ceos
Corycian Nymphs (Corycian Cave) Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocis daughters of the river god Pleistos
Kleodora (or Cleodora) Mt. Parnassus, Phocis mother of Parnassus by Poseidon
Corycia Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocis mother of Lycoreus by Apollo
• Daphnis Mt. Parnassus, Phocis
Melaina Dephi, Phocis mother of Delphos by Apollo
Cydnides River Cydnus in Cilicia
Cyrenaean Nymphs City of Cyrene, Libya
Cypriae Nymphs Island of Cyprus
Cyrtonian Nymphs Town of Cyrtone, Boeotia Κυρτωνιαι
Deliades Island of Delos daughters of Inopus, god of the river Inopus
Dodonides Oracle at Dodona
Erasinides Erasinos River, Argos daughters of the river god Erasinos; attendants of the goddess Britomartis.
Anchiroe
Byze
Maera
Melite
Nymphs of the river Granicus River Granicus daughters of the river-god Granicus
Alexirhoe mother of Aesacus by Priam
• Pegasis mother of Atymnios by Emathion
Heliades River Eridanos daughters of Helios who were changed into trees
Himeriai Naiades Local springs at the town of Himera, Sicily
Hydaspides Hydaspers River, India nurses of infant Zagreus
Idaean Nymphs Mount Ida, Crete nurses of infant Zeus
Ida
Adrasteia
Inachides Inachos River, Argos daughters of the river god Inachus
Io mother of Epaphus by Zeus
Amymone
Philodice wife of Leucippus of Messenia by whom she became the mother of Hilaeira, Phoebe and possibly Arsinoe
Messeis
• Hyperia
Mycene wife of Arestor and by him probably the mother of Argus Panoptes; eponym of Mycenae
Ionides Kytheros River in Elis daughters of the river god Cytherus
Calliphaea
Iasis
Pegaea
Synallaxis
Ithacian Nymphs Local springs and caves on the island of Ithaca
Ladonides Ladon River
Lamides or Lamusides Lamos River in Cilicia possible nurses of infant Dionysus
Leibethrides Mounts Helicon and Leibethrios in Boeotia; or Mount Leibethros in Thrace)
• Libethrias
• Petra
Lelegeides Lycia, Anatolia
Lycaean Nymphs Mount Lycaeus nurses of infant Zeus, perhaps a subgroup of the Oceanides
Melian Nymphs Island of Melos transformed into frogs by Zeus; not to be confused with the Meliae (ash tree nymphs
Mycalessides Mount Mycale in Caria, Anatolia
Mysian Nymphs Spring of Pegai near Lake Askanios in Bithynia who abducted Hylas
• Euneica
Malis
• Nycheia
Naxian Nymphs Mount Drios on the island of Naxos nurses of infant Dionysus; were syncretized with the Hyades
• Cleide
Coronis
• Philia
Neaerides Thrinacia Island daughters of Helios and Neaera, watched over Helios' cattle
Nymphaeides Nymphaeus River in Paphlagonia
Nysiads Mount Nysa nurses of infant Dionysos, identified with Hyades
Ogygian Nymphs Island of Ogygia four handmaidens of Calypso
Ortygian Nymphs Local springs of Syracuse, Sicily named for the island of Ortygia
Othreides Mount Othrys a local group of Hamadryads
Pactolides Pactolus River
Euryanassa wife of Tantalus
Pelionides Mount Pelion nurses of the Centaurs
Phaethonides a synonym for the Heliades
Phaseides Phasis River
Rhyndacides Rhyndacus River in Mysia daughters of the river god Rhyndacus
Sithnides Fountain at the town of Megara
Spercheides River Spercheios one of them, Diopatra, was loved by Poseidon and the others were changed by him into trees
Sphragitides, or Cithaeronides Mount Cithaeron
Tagids, Tajids, Thaejids or Thaegids River Tagus in Portugal and Spain
Thessalides Peneus River in Thessaly
Thriae Mount Parnassos prophets and nurses of Apollo
Trojan Nymphs Local springs of Troy

Others

The following is a selection of names of the nymphs whose class was not specified in the source texts. For lists of Naiads, Oceanids, Dryades etc., see respective articles.

Individual names of some of the nymphs
Names Location Relations and Notes
Alphesiboea India loved by Dionysus
Aora Crete eponym of the town Aoros in Crete
Areia daughter of Cleochus and mother of Miletus by Apollo
Astyoche one of the Danaïdes, and the mother of Chrysippus by Pelops
Axioche or Danais Elis mother of Chrysippus by Pelops
Brettia Mysia eponym of Abrettene, Mysia
Brisa brought up the god Dionysus
Calybe Troy mother of Bucolion, Laomedon
Carmentis or Carmenta Arcadia She had a son with Hermes, called Evander. Her son was the founder of Pallantium, one of the cities that was merged later into ancient Rome.
Chalcea mother of Olympus by Zeus
Chania a lover of Heracles
Chariclo Thebes mother of Tiresias by Everes
Charidia mother of Alchanus by Zeus
Chryse Lemnos fell in love with Philoctetes
Cirrha Phocis eponym of Cirrha in Phocis
Clymene mother of Tlesimenes by Parthenopaeus
Cretheis briefly mentioned in Suda
Crimisa Italy eponym of a city in Italy
Deiopea one of Hera's nymphs who was promised to Aeolus
Dodone Dodona eponym of Dodona
Echemeia Cos spelled "Ethemea" by Hyginus, consort of Merops
Eidothea Mt. Othrys mother by Eusiros of Cerambus
Eunoë Phrygia possible mother of Hecuba by Dymas
Eunoste Boeotia (possibly) nurse of Eunostus
Euryte Athens mother of Halirrhothius by Poseidon
Harmonia Akmonian Wood, near Themiscyra mother of the Amazons by Ares
Hegetoria Rhodes consort of Ochimus
Hemera mother of Iasion by Zeus
Himalia Rhodes mother of Cronius, Spartaios, and Cytos by Zeus
Hyale belongs to the train of Artemis
Hyllis Argos possible eponym of the tribe Hylleis and the city Hylle
Idaea Crete mother of Cres and Asterion by Zeus
Idaea Mt. Ida, Troad mother of Teucer by Scamander
Ithome Messenia one of the nurses of Zeus
Laodice Argolis (possibly) mother of Apis by Phoroneus
Leucophryne Magnesia (possibly) priestess of Artemis Leucophryne
Ligeia
Linos mother of Pelops by Atlas in some accounts
Lotis pursued by Priapus and was changed into a tree that bears her name
Ma nymph in the suite of Rhea who nursed Zeus
Melanippe Attica (possibly) married Itonus, son of Amphictyon
Melissa Crete nurse of Zeus
Mendeis Thrace consort of Sithon
Menodice daughter of Orion and mother of Hylas by Theiodamas
Methone Pieria mother of Oeagrus by King Pierus of Emathia
Myrmex Attica beloved companion of Athena whom she turned into an ant
Nacole Phrygia eponym of Nacoleia in Phrygia
Neaera Thrinacia mother of Lampetia and Phaethusa by Helios
Neaera mother of Aegle by Zeus[citation needed]
Neaera Lydia mother of Dresaeus by Theiodamas
Nymphe Samothrace mother of Saon by Zeus
Oeneis mother of Pan by Hermes
Oinoie Sicinus mother of Sicinus by Thoas
Olbia Bithynia mother of Astacus by Poseidon
Paphia possibly the mother of Cinyras by Eurymedon
Pareia Paros mother of four sons by Minos
Polydora one of the Danaïdes
Pyronia mother of Iasion by Minos
Psalacantha Icaria changed into a plant by Dionysus
Rhene Mt. Cyllene, Arcadia consorted with Oileus
Semestra Thrace nurse of Keroessa
Teledice Argolis (possibly) a consort of Phoroneus
Thalia Sicily mother of the Palici by Zeus
Thisbe Boeotia eponym of the town of Thisbe
Tithorea Mt. Parnassus, Phocis eponym of the town of Tithorea (previously called Neon)

In non-Greek tales influenced by Greek mythology

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