Nymph

A nymph in Greek mythology is a female minor nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from gods, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis. They are believed to dwell in mountains and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and in valleys and cool grottoes. Although they would never die of old age nor illness, and could give birth to fully immortal children if mated to a god, they themselves were not necessarily immortal, and could be beholden to death in various forms. Charybdis and Scylla were once nymphs

Other nymphs, always in the shape of young maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis. Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities: the huntress Artemis; the prophetic Apollo; the reveller and god of wine, Dionysus; and rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes.

The nymphs were spirits invariably bound to places. Nymphs 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 human. When parents believed their child to be nereid-struck, they would pray to Saint Artemidos.

Classification

Thus the classes of nymphs tend to overlap, which complicates the task of precise classification. Rose mentions dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees, and naiads as nymphs of water, but no others specifically.

Classification by type of dwelling

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

  • Celestial nymphs
    • Aurae (breezes), also called Aetae or Pnoae
    • Asteriae (stars), mainly comprising the Atlantides (daughters of Atlas)
      • Hesperides (nymphs of the West, daughters of Atlas; also had attributes of the Hamadryads)
        • Aegle (“dazzling light”)
        • Arethusa
        • Erytheia (or Eratheis)
        • Hesperia (or Hispereia)
      • Hyades (star cluster; sent rain)
      • Pleiades (daughters of Atlas and Pleione; constellation; also were classed as Oreads)
        • Maia (partner of Zeus and mother of Hermes)
        • Electra
        • Taygete
        • Alcyone
        • Celaeno
        • Asterope
        • Merope
    • Nephelae (clouds)
  • Land nymphs
    • Alseides (glens, groves)
    • Auloniades (pastures)
    • Leimakides or Leimonides (meadows)
    • Napaeae (mountain valleys, glens)
    • Oreads (mountains, grottoes), also Orodemniades
  • Wood and plant nymphs
    • Anthousai (flowers)
    • Dryades (trees)
    • Hamadryadesor Hadryades
      • Daphnaeae (laurel tree)
      • 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)
      • Kissiae (ivy)
      • Meliae (manna-ash tree)
    • Hyleoroi (watchers of woods)
  • Water nymphs(Hydriades or Ephydriades)
    • Haliae (sea and seashores)
      • Nereids (50 daughters of Nereus, the Mediterranean Sea)
    • Naiadsor Naides (fresh water)
      • Crinaeae (fountains)
      • Eleionomae (wetlands)
      • Limnades or Limnatides (lakes)
      • Pegaeae (springs)
      • Potameides (rivers)
    • Oceanids (daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, any water, usually salty)
  • Underworld nymphs
    • Cocytiae, daughters of the river god Cocytus
    • Lampades – torch bearers in the retinue of Hecate
    • individual underworld nymphs:
      • Gorgyra
      • Leuce (white poplar tree), lover of Hades
      • Minthe (mint), lover of Hades, rival of Persephone
      • Orphne
  • Other nymphs
    • Hecaterides (rustic dance) – sisters of the Dactyls, mothers of the Oreads and the Satyrs
    • Kabeirides – sisters of the Kabeiroi
    • Maenads or Bacchai or Bacchantes – frenzied nymphs in the retinue of Dionysus
      • Lenai (wine-press)
      • Mimallones (music)
      • Naides (Naiads)
      • Thyiai or Thyiades (thyrsus bearers)
    • Melissae (honey bees), likely a subgroup of Oreades or Epimelides
    • The Muses (memory, knowledge, art)
    • Themeides – daughters of Zeus and Themis, prophets and keepers of certain divine artifacts

Location-specific groupings of nymphs

The following is a list of groups of nymphs associated with this or that particular location.[8] Nymphs in such groupings could belong to any of the classes mentioned above (Naiades, Oreades, and so on).

  • Aeaean Nymphs (Aeaea Island), handmaidens of Circe
  • Aegaeides (Aegaeus River on the island of Scheria)
  • Aesepides (Aesepus River in Anatolia)
    • Abarbarea
  • Acheloides (Achelous River)
    • Callirhoe, second wife of Alcmaeon
  • Acmenes (Stadium in Olympia, Elis)
  • Amnisiades (Amnisos River on the island of Crete), who entered the retinue of Artemis
  • Anigrides (Anigros River in Elis), who were believed to cure skin diseases
  • Asopides (Asopus River in Sicyonia and Boeotia)
    • Aegina
    • Asopis
    • Chalcis
    • Cleone
    • Corcyra
    • Euboea
    • Harpina
    • Ismene
    • Nemea
    • Oeroe
    • Ornea
    • Peirene
    • Plataia
    • Salamis
    • Sinope
    • Tanagra
    • Thebe
    • Thespeia
  • Astakides (Lake Astakos in Bithynia)
    • Nicaea
  • Asterionides (Asterion River) – nurses of Hera
    • Acraea
    • Euboea
    • Prosymna
  • Carian Naiades (Caria)
    • Salmacis
  • Nymphs of Ceos
  • Corycian Nymphs (Corycian Cave)
    • Cleodora
    • Corycia
    • Daphnis
    • Melaina
  • Cydnides (River Cydnus in Cilicia)
  • Cyrenaean Nymphs (City of Cyrene, Libya)
  • Cypriae Nymphs (Island of Cyprus)
  • Cyrtonian Nymphs (Town of Cyrtone, Boeotia)
  • Deliades (Island of Delos) – daughters of the river god Inopos
  • Dodonides (Oracle at Dodona)
  • Erasinides (Erasinos River in Argos), followers of Britomartis
    • Anchiroe
    • Byze
    • Maira
    • Melite
  • Nymphs of the river Granicus
    • Alexirhoe
    • Pegasis
  • Heliades (River Eridanos) – daughters of Helios who were changed into trees
  • Himeriai Naiades (Local springs at the town of Himera, Sicily)
  • Hydaspides (River Hydaspes in India), nurses of infant Zagreus
  • Idaean Nymphs (Mount Ida), nurses of infant Zeus
    • Ida
    • Adrasteia
  • Inachides (InachusRiver)
    • Amymone
    • Io
    • Hyperia
    • Messeis
    • Philodice
  • Ionides (Kytheros River in Elis)
    • 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 (PactolusRiver)
    • 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)
  • 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)
  • Thessalides (Peneus River in Thessaly)
  • Thriae (Mount Parnassos), prophets and nurses of Apollo
  • Trojan Nymphs (Local springs of Troy)

Individual names of some of the nymphs

  • Sabrina (the river Severn)

 

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