Get to Know the Dryads of Greek Mythology
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When it comes to Greek Mythology, there are many different types of creatures that could make an appearance in the stories. The Dryads were amongst those creatures that could have made an appearance. Although they were associated with different stories, they were most well known for having looked after Zeus when he was an infant and in hiding from his father, Cronus. Here’s more information about the Dryads:
About the Dryads
Loyal to the goddess Artemis and known for their quiet, shy personalities, the Dryads of Greek mythology were nymph creatures that lived in various types of trees. Considering Grecian Dryads, the root word Drys in Greek translates to “oak.” This means the original Dryads were thought to inhabit oak trees. However, in more modern terms, the term “Dryad” is often associated with any woodland nymph.
Types of Dryads
There are historically many types of Dryads. The Daphnaie were tree nymphs that inhabited laurel trees. In Greek culture, the laurel wreath was one that was awarded to those who won the Olympic and other athletic competitions. The Epimelides (also known as the Maliades) were nymphs that resided in fruit trees. Typically, these nymphs lived in apple trees, but they were known to be around other various fruit trees as well.
They were tasked with protecting sheep. Among the Epimelides was a special subset of nymphs known as the Hesperides, or the guardians of the golden apple. Another special type of Dryad was the Hamadryad, a Dryad that not only lived among the trees but was literally a part of the trees. The Hamadryad legend prompted those in Greek culture to propitiate the tree nymphs should they need to cut down or remove a tree. In fact, those who killed a tree without carrying out this ceremony were punished.
Meliai – Zeus’s Guardians
In the mythological stories, Cronus, a Titan and former King of the Gods, was concerned that one of his children would overthrow him. In order to prevent this from happening, he ate all of his children. Zeus’s life was spared and as an infant, he was taken to the island of Crete and looked after by the Dryads.
The Meliai were Dryads that had a specific role in the mythological stories. These Dryads lived in ash trees, and they were all sisters. The Meliai were important because they guarded and cared for Zeus when he was an infant stowed in Gaea’s cave on the island of Crete. A final group of Dryads were the Caryatids, which were associated with walnut trees.
Dryads – Guardians of Greek Mythology
The Dryads were typically guardian spirits. Some Dryads simply watched over the trees which they inhabited, but others, like the Epimelides protected sheep. Dryads were always female, and, in some rare cases, they would care for groves (such as the groves where fruit trees grew) or other creatures. The Dryads did have some mystical powers, and they were also considered lesser goddesses; at the same time, they were mortal and could die.
The number of Dryads that existed could be infinite. Dryads inhabited trees; therefore, the number of Dryads living was directly dependent upon the number of trees upon the earth. The Dryad often lived as long as the tree which she inhabited. This meant that they typically had an unusually long life span, even though they were mortal.
The Dryads were typically associated with certain types of trees. For instance, the Meliai were associated chiefly with the ash tree. Mythology holds that, before the first woman was created during the Silver Age, these Dryads wed mortal men and are the mothers of all mankind. A few notable examples of these storied relationships are Atlanteia and Phoebe, both wives of Danaus.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by GreekBoston.com