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Who were the Nymphs?


Dear Reader,

Ancient Greek myths are loaded of incredible creatures all nested together in a fantasy world that has endured for millennia, and today I will tell you everything you need to know about the nymphs. I believe they are the most romantic and soft side of the myths although some of them can defy this image by means of viciousness and vengeance.
They were pictured as very beautiful girls, some were immortals while others were still blessed with long life. They were always playing, braiding their hair and making flower necklaces by a river or lake, in the ocean or by the sea, they loved dancing and perhaps this is why we would often find them accompanying satires and gods.

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They were companions and their character would change depending which god they were alongside with. Dionysus was the God of Wild Nature, of Wine, Grapevine and Drunkenness, so his nymphs resembled the same character: the wild-eyed Maenads or Bacchae were the nymphs accompanying Dionysus, dancing and pouring wine everywhere. When drunk they became increasingly aggressive to the point of killing men passing by. Poor musician Orpheus died by the hand of the inebriated Maenads.

Hylas_and_the_Nymphs_Art_1896

Hylas and the Nymphs” by John William Waterhouse. Hylas was companion and lover of Heracles and in the painting above you see when he he is being abducted by naiads, freshwater nymphs.

Then we have Artemis, the Hunter Goddess who represented the Moon. She was grouchy, very asocial and always accompanied by a band of shy huntress nymphs. Hecate, the Witchcraft goddess was sided by the dark Lampades nymphs of the underworld. Poseidon, god of Seas and Oceans, was escorted by the Nereids and Oceanids.
For those goddesses that preferred a more homey lifestyle up on the Olympus (Hera, Aphrodite, etc) they still had nymphs who attended them as handmaidens.

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The Ancient Greek myths regard the nymphs were the personifications of different aspects of nature. They were minor nature goddesses and as such they were below in rank to any other Olympic deity. They were, however, always invited to attend festines, assemblies and other celebrations up on Mt. Olympus.

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Potamides with a sheperd” by Henrietta Rae. Potamides were those freshwater nymphs (so naiads) that lived next to river streams.

They were many, probably thousands as they presided over various natural phenomena: from springs, to clouds, trees, caverns, meadows, and beaches. They were responsible chiefly for the care of the plants and animals of their domain, and as such were closely associated with the prime gods of nature such as Hermes, Dionysos, Artemis, Poseidon and Demeter. They were the crafters of nature’s wild beauty, from the growing of trees, flowers and shrubs, to the nurture of wild animals and birds, and the formation of grottos, springs, brooks and wetlands.

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Sometimes nymphs were the nurses of the gods including the Idaian nymphs who nursed the infant Zeus, and the Nysian nymphs who cared for Dionysos.

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The alseides were the nymphs of woods and forests.

And there’s more. The Oceanids were the nymphs of the ocean. The Nereids were the ones of the Mediterranean and the most famous ones as they were often mothers to the most known Greek heroes.

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