Nymphae or Nymphs
Nymphae Or Nymphs (Gr. νύμφαι) is, in classic mythology, the name of a numerous class of inferior female divinities, though they are designated by the title of Olympian, because they were said to be called to the meetings of the gods in Olympus. They are described as the daughters of Zeus, and were believed to dwell on earth in groves, on the summits of mountains, in rivers, streams, glens, and grottoes (Homer, Odyss. 6:123, etc.; 12:318; II. 20:8; 24:615). Homer describes them as presiding over game, accompanying' Artemis, dancing with her, weaving in their grottoes' purple garments, and kindly watching over the fate of mortals (Odyss. 6:105; 9:154; 13:107, 356; 17:243; Il. 6:420; 24:616). Men offer up sacrifice either to them alone, or in conjunction with other gods, such as Hermes (Odyss. 13:350; 17:211, 240; 14:435). From the places which they inhabit they are called ἀρνονόμοι (Odyss. 6:105), ὀρεστιάδες (Il. 6:420), and νηιάδες (Odyss. 13:104).
The nymphs, whose number is almost indefinite, may be divided into two great classes. The first class embraces those who must be regarded as a kind of inferior divinities, recognized in the workshop of nature. The early Greeks saw in all the phenomena of ordinary nature some manifestation of the Deity; springs, rivers, grottoes, trees, and mountains, all seemed to them fraught with life; and all were only the visible embodiments of so many divine agents. The salutary and beneficent powers of nature were thus personified, and regarded as so many divinities; and the sensations produced on man in the contemplation of nature, such as awe, terror, joy, delight, were ascribed to the agency of the various divinities of nature. The second class of nymphs are personifications of tribes, races, and states, such as Cyrene, and many others. The nymphs of the first class must again be subdivided into various species, according to the different parts of nature of which they are the representatives.
1. Nymphs of the Watery Element. — Here we first mention the nymphs of the ocean (᾿Ωκεανῖναι or ᾿Ωκεανίδες, νύμφαι ἃλιαι), who are regarded as the daughters of Oceanus (Hesiod, Theog. 346, etc., 364; AEschyl. Prom.; Callim. Hymn. in Dian. 13; Apollon. Rhod. 4:1414; Sophocles, Philoct. 1470); and the next the nymphs of the Mediterranean, or Inner Sea, who are regarded as the daughters of Nereus, whence they are called Nereides (Hesiod, Theog. 240, etc.). The rivers were represented by the Polameides, who, as local divinities, were named after their rivers, as Acheloides, Amyrides, Ismenides, Amnisiades, Pactolides (Apollon. Rhod. 3:1219; Virgil, in. v, 3:70; Pausan. v. 5, 6; 1:31, 2;: Callim. Hymn. in. Dian. 15; Ovid, Met. 6:16; Steph. Byz. s.v. Α᾿μνισός). But the nymphs of fresh water whether of lakes, brooks, or wells, are also designated by the general name Naiades, though they have in addition their specific names, as Κρηναῖαι, Πηγαῖαι, ῾Ελειονόμοι, Λιμνατίδες or Λιμνάδες (Homer, Odyss. 17:240; Apollon. Rhod. 3:1219; Theocrit. v. 17; Orph. Hymn. 50, 6; Aryon. 644). Even the rivers of the lower regions are described as having their nymphs; hence Nymphoe infernce paludis and Avernales (Ovid, Met. v. 540; Fast. 2:610), Many of these presided over waters or springs which were believed to inspire those that drank of them, and hence the nymphs themselves were thought to be endowed with prophetic or oracular power, and to inspire men with the same, and to confer upon them the gift of poetry (Pausan. 4:27, 2; 9:3, 5; 34, 3; Plutarch, Aristid. 11; Theocritus, 7:92). Inspired soothsayers or priests are therefore sometimes called νυμφόληπτοι (Plato, Plaedr. p. 421, e). Their powers, however, vary with those of the springs over which they preside; some were thus regarded as having the power of restoring sick persons to health (Pindar, 01. 12:26; Pausan. 5:5, 6; 6:22, 4); and as water is necessary to feed all living beings, the water-nymphs (ὑδριδάες) were also worshipped, along with Dionysus and Demeter, as giving life and blessings to all created beings, and this attribute is expressed by a variety of epithets, such as καρποτρόφοι, αἰπολικαί, νόμιαι κουροτόφοι etc.). As their influence was thus exercised in all departments of nature, they frequently appear in connection with higher divinities, as, for example, with Apollo, the prophetic god, and the protector of herds and flocks (Apollon. Rhod. 4:1218); with Artemis, the huntress and protectress of game, for she herself was originally an Arcadian nymph (Apollon. Rhod. 1:1225; 3:881; Pausan. 3:10, 8); with Hermes, the fructifying god of flocks (Homer, Hymn. in Aphrod. 262); with Dionysus (Orph. Hymn. 52; Horace, Carm. 1:1, 31; 2:19, 3); with Pan, the Seileni, and Satyrs, whom they join in their Bacchic revels and dances.
2. Nymphs of mountains and grottoes are called Ο᾿ροδεμνιάδες and Ο᾿ρειάδες, but sometimes also by names derived from the particular mountains they inhabited, as Κιθαιρωνίδες, Πηλιάδες, Κορύκιαι, etc. (Theocritus, vii; Virgil, AEn. 1:168, 500; Pausan. 5:5, 6; 9:3, 5; 10:32, 5; Apollon. Rhed. 1:550; 2:711; Ovid, Her. 20:221; Virgil, Eclo., 6:56).
3. Nymphs of beasts, groves, and glens were believed sometimes to appear to and frighten solitary travelers. They are designated by the names Α᾿λσηϊvδες, ῾Υληωροί, Αύλωνιάδες and Ναπαῖαι (Apollon. Rhod. 1:1066, 1227; Orpheus, Hymn. 50,7; Theocritus, 13:44; Ovid, Mlet. 15:490; Virgil, Georg. 4:535).
4. Nymphs of trees were believed to die together with the trees which had been their abode, and with which they had come into existence. They were called Δρυάδες, Α῾μαδρυάδες or Α᾿δρυάδες, which signifies not only an oak, but any wild-growing tree; for the nymphs of fruit-trees were called Μηλίδες, Μηλιάδες, Ε᾿πιμηλίδες, or Α῾μαμηλίδες. They seem to be of Arcadian origin, and never appear together with any of the great gods (Pausan. 8:4, 2; Apollon. Rhod. 2:477, etc.; Anton. lib. 31, 32; Homer, Hymn. in Ven. 259, etc.).
The second class of nymphs, who were connected with certain races or localities (Apollon. Rhod. 2:504), usually have a name derived from the places with which they are associated, as Nyciades, Dodonides, Lemnise (Ovid, Fast. 3:769; Met. v. 412; 9:651; Apollod. 3:4, 83; Schol. Ad Pind. 1. 13:74).
The sacrifices generally offered to nymphs consisted of goats, lambs, milk, and oil, but never of wine (Theocrit. v. 12, 53, 139, 149; Serv. Ad Ving. Georg. 4:380; Eclog. v. 74). They were worshipped and honored with sanctuaries in many parts of Greece, especially near springs, groves, and grottoes, as, for example, near a spring at Cyrtone (Pausan. 9:24, 4); in Attica. (1:31, 2); at Olympia (v 15, 4; 6:22, 4); at Megara (1:40,:1); between Sycon and Phlius (2:11, 3), and other places. . Nymphs are represented in works of art as beautiful maidens, either quite naked or only half covered. Later poets sometimem describe them as having sea-colored hair (Ovid, Met, v. 432).