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Nymphs

Minor female divinities, the nymphs often served as attendants to greater gods: Hermes, Dionysus, Pan, Artemis, Apollo, and Poseidon all enjoyed the company of these beautiful spirits. And why not ? they are typically described as beautiful, eternally youthful, and amorous.

These "nature spirits" usually resided in a particular place or within a particular object. They seldom travelled far, for each was confined to a localized tree, mountain or spring. Some of the many different kinds of nymphs were:

  • Dryads - Nymphs of the wood who lived in trees.
  • Hamadryads - Inhabited oak trees.
  • Meliae - Lived in ash trees.
  • Naiads - Water nymphs who might be found in springs, rivers,lakes, fountains, or brooks.
  • Oreads - Lived on mountains and in grottos.

In addition to these, some call the Oceanids - the 3,000 daughters of Oceanus and Tethys - sea nymphs, though they roam throughout the sea, demonstrating much more mobility than other types of nymphs. For this reason, the Oceanids might more properly be called deities. The term "sea nymphs", however, does suit their nieces, the Nereids - the 50 daughters of Nereus (the Old Man of the Sea) and Doris (an Oceanid).

All in all, thousands of nymphs inhabitied the natural world of classical mythology. And though a few might be considered dangerous, most of these spirits of nature were friendly, playful, and fun-loving hedonists.



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