Learn About the Naiads of Greek Mythology
Comments Off on Learn About the Naiads of Greek Mythology
It’s true that many of the Greek Myths and legends involve the gods and goddesses, but there are other characters who are also important in the stories. Besides the gods and goddesses there are also demigods, creatures, and even human heroes. There are also other divinities besides this and among these beings were nymphs, ordinarily portrayed as fetching young women who serve as maidservants to gods and people. The nymphs are almost always helpful and are found among the elements of nature:
Who Are the Naiads?
In Greek mythology, there are different types of nymphs. The naiads were water nymphs, known not only for their service to men, but also their roles as wives and mothers of notable heroes and villains. Inhabiting lakes, rivers and pools, they are also seen ministering to Olympians like Artemis, Hera, Dionysus and Apollo. Nymphs were the objects of desire by gods and mortals alike, the latter comparing them favorably against their familiar and commonplace wives. Naiads appear in a few love stories throughout Greek mythology.
Naiads and Love
An anomaly among the Naiads who served Artemis, Salmacis eschewed her patron goddess’ chaste lifestyle but not her love of the chase. Rather than game, however, Salmacis stalked men for sexual conquest. Beautiful, and knowing it, Salmacis actually raped the son of Olympians Aphrodite and Hermes, Hermaphroditus. Nomia, less wild than Salmacis, was nonetheless not a Naiad to be scorned. When her lover, the shepherd Daphnis, proved to be an unfaithful mate, she responded by blinding and petrifying him.
Hylas was a valet and same-sex lover to the strongest man in the world, Heracles (Hercules when the Romans told it). When traveling with his master in Asia Minor, Hylas caught the fancy of the local Naiads, who collectively abducted him, much to Heracles’ distress and fury. The mighty hero searched for Hylas for a long time. The boy, however, had fallen in love with his captors and evaded Heracles’ search party.
Wives and Mothers
Some Naiads entered into more conventional relationships, birthing famous sons. Perhaps the most famous (and notorious) offspring is Narcissus. His mother was the nymph Liriope, who was warned by a seer that her son would not live long if he ever came to know himself. Astoundingly handsome, Narcissus was desired by every woman countless yet his own reflection captivated him. Accordingly, he pined for his own intangible likeness until his death.
A most famous Naiad wife is that of the god Apollo. Her name was Cyrene and she excited Apollo through her fierce wrestling with a lion. He captured her and made her a queen, installing his new wife as monarch of the North African city that bears her name.
It is tempting to think of nymphs as a collective of little nature sprites. Yet the Greeks portrayed the Naiads as assertive, romantic and resolute females, bold in ambition and vulnerable to human affections.
Categorized in: Greek Mythology
This post was written by Greek Boston