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From Roman Sarcophagi Comes The Gospel of Bacchus

by April 9, 2021

Written by Barry Ferst, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Serving as a “billboard” for the faithful, images sculpted on Roman-era marble coffins offer a visualization of the Gospel of Bacchus, a graphic stone bible especially meaningful to devotees contemplating death’s doorway. Since much about the cult of Bacchus remains a mystery, a beautifully-carved frieze on a sarcophagus can go a long way to prying open some of the cult’s secrets.

By 100 C.E. the Bacchus mythos (known alternatively as Dionysus or Liber) had become standardized, i.e., made socially acceptable (the earlier Greek version could instill terror).  The story begins with a double birth, first from Semele whom Jupiter has inseminated, and then from Jupiter’s thigh where the infant has been hidden from Jupiter’s jealous wife Juno. The babe is brought by Hermes to woodland creatures to be tended by them.

There, the young Bacchus is taught by a centaur and recognized as a god. As a young adult he rides in a chariot pulled by panthers or centaurs. He travels to India, which he and his troupe conquer (known as the Indian Triumph). On return, he is given an emperor’s adventus, the circus-like processional proceeded by dancing maenads. When he totters, wine-intoxicated, he is held upright by one or more of his troupe. He marries Ariadne, and he retrieves his mother Semele from the land of the dead. His friends are satyrs, pans, and centaurs.

What is known of the Bacchic rituals are the manic dances of his followers, the bacchants and maenads who play cymbals, castanets, foot clappers, bells, tambourines, and pipes. There is the sacrifice of a goat’s head, and the viewing of a snake rising from a winnowing basket. Devotees carry the thyrsus (a staff decorated with ribbons and topped with a pine cone) and hand out honey-dipped hot cakes. Ritual symbols included the laurel tree, the grape vine, and the ivy leaf. The cult was easily absorbed into Christianity.

Here, then, is a small selection from the seventy-five Bacchus sarcophagi I have personally photographed (excluding the first), each displaying a part of the Gospel of Bacchus.

THE BIRTH OF BACCHUS

Bacchus sarcophagi, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, photo by Anya Leonard

This sarcophagus lid pictures the birth and early years of Bacchus. The twice-born Bacchus (first from Semele) is being taken from Jupiter’s thigh. A Homeric hymn refers to Bacchus as “insewn”:

“Be favorable, O Insewn, Inspirer of frenzied women! We singers sing of you as we begin and as we end a strain, and none forgetting you may call holy song to mind.”

THE INFANCY OF BACCHUS

Sarcophagus, Capitoline Museum, Rome

This frieze on this sarcophagus depicts moments in the infancy of Bacchus. At far left the infant Bacchus stands on a small hill and holds a fennel stalk in his left hand. He looks at seated Silenus, and he is being admired by three woodland divinities. At center left Silenus, a wine skin at his feet, has a hold on a young satyr. In the right half of the frieze nymphs are tending to the care of Bacchus. They are preparing him for his bath, filling the tub with water, and bringing food.

THE RELOCATION OF INFANT BACCHUS BY SAILORS

Frieze, Basilica St. Paul beyond the Walls, Rome

This frieze shows five sailors on a boat accepting the infant Bacchus from a centaur. One sailor has outstretched arms ready to receive the babe, while a second gestures with upraised forefinger. At the rear of the boat a third sailor is holding the handle of the steering rudder. Given the small size of the casket, it may have been for a child, parents imaging their child being carried far away to the Isles of the Blest. The boat carries Bacchus to a distant land where Juno cannot find him.

THE RECOGNITION OF BACCHUS AS A GOD

Sarcophagus, Princeton University Art Museum

The sarcophagus depicts the preparation for the celebration of or the Roman Bacchanalia. At left the aged Bacchus in the form of a herm statue is being raised by four young men. At far right a statue of a young Bacchus, a symbol of youthful male virility is being decorated.

THE EDUCATION OF BACCHUS

Frieze, Terme, National Museum of Rome

In this frieze, twenty-four figures — both human and divine — sweep across the scene. At left sits an adolescent Bacchus, listening to the music played by his teacher, the centaur Chiron. Chiron is holding a lyre in his left hand and a plectrum in his right. According to the Byzantine writer Ptolemaeus Chennus of Alexandria, “Dionysius was loved by Chiron, from whom he learned chants and dances, the bacchic rites and initiations.” Between Chiron and Bacchus is a bacchante holding a thyrsus. At far right two female devotees watch his lesson.

THE WORSHIP OF BACCHUS

Frieze, Cathedral, Cosenza, Italy

This frieze depicts a processional honoring of Bacchus.  A youthful Bacchus with feminine breasts and his hair in curls — an androgynous portrayal — receives devotees while slouching royally on a chair. Euripides called him “This effeminate stranger”. Silenus kneels before Bacchus.

BACCHUS DISCOVERS ARIADNE

Sarcophagus, Glyptothek, Munich

This masterfully-carved panel of a sarcophagus shows Bacchus stepping from his chariot to gaze at the sleeping Ariadne. In this depiction, Bacchas is an old, bearded man dressed like a woman, again indicating the androgynous character of Bacchus.

ARIADNE, WIFE OF BACCHUS

Sarcophagus, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen

By the time this sarcophagus was carved in the second half of the second century C.E., Dionysian rituals and mythos had softened. Hence this exquisite frieze, referring to when Bacchus “fell in love with Ariadne, and kidnapped her, taking her off to Lemnos where he had sex with her, and begat Thoas. Straphylos, Oinopio, and Peparethos” (Pseudo-Apollodorus), shows no kidnapping or raw sexual contact, but rather the happy wedding of Bacchus and Ariadne.

BACCHUS IN HADES

Frieze, Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

This “Bacchus in Hades” cinematic frieze creatively embellishes the story of Bacchus retrieving Semele from the Underworld.

BACCHUS TRAVELS TO INDIA

Frieze, Walters Museum, Baltimore

This frieze has quite the story. In 1885, a cemetery was excavated just north of Rome on the Via Saleria. During the excavation, the tomb of the family of Calpurnii Pisones was uncovered and found to contain ten large sarcophagi. One large coffin entitled the “Indian Triumph”, presents a grand procession marking Bacchus’s victory over the Indians. The scene mimics a Roman emperor’s adventus after a victory.

A BACCHUS PROCESSIONAL

Frieze, Terme, National Museum of Rome

This sarcophagus frieze presents a parade in which devotees would have dressed in costumes to imitate their god and his companions. Could it not also be viewed as a scene of victory over death?

RITES AND RITUALS

Sarcophagus, Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam

The frieze of this large linos sarcophagus completely covers all four sides, showing a raucous Bacchic religious ceremony and Dionysian sacrificial ritual.

VINEYARD

Sarcophagus, Capitoline Museum, Rome

The scene on this lenos sarcophagus displays a rapturous gathering of men and women in a vineyard. Symbols like vineyards, vines and wine form a key part of the intoxication-driven ecstasy of the Bacchus gospel.

A GOD FOR ALL SEASONS

Frieze, Terme Museum, Rome

This frieze shows a drunken Bacchus standing with the help of a satyr at center. Called the “Seasons Sarcophagus”, Spring is represented by the two figures to Bacchus’ immediate left: one holds a rabbit and the second holds a cornucopia above which, on the figure’s shoulder, sits is a baby. With a sheaf of wheat in his left hand and basket of fruit in the other, Summer stands at Bacchus’ right. Fall is represented by the next two figures. One holds a basket of grapes in his left hand while in his right he has a grape vine. An erote (winged god representative of love) is collecting grapes from the vine. The second figure is in the “good shepherd” pose with a sheep on his shoulder. At the far left is a man in a heavy tunic and hood, symbolizing Winter. He holds a brace of geese.

FINAL REMARKS

Taken together, these sarcophagi are a veritable gospel carved in marble. Tracing the miraculous double birth, infancy, education, early and late travels of Bacchus, his love affair, marriage, rites and rituals, they point to the recognition of a “world-wide” and “for-all-seasons” divinity.

Only jubilant stories are found on sarcophagi. The sheer number of Bacchus sarcophagi is proof of the great number of adherents to the cult. Its popularity shouldn’t surprise us — like any deity, Bacchus was believed to have divine powers. He shifts attention away from problems, work and worries and towards the simple act of enjoyment — be it wine, song or passion — reminding us that we, too, have the capacity to surrender to joy.

 

Flora, Goddess of Spring, and Her Festival Floralia

by April 2, 2021

Written by Ed Whalen, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom

Many ancient civilizations had fertility goddesses that played a crucial role in their religion. Rome was no exception. Perhaps the best-known fertility goddess in ancient Italy was Flora. She was an exceedingly popular goddess and every year a major festival, the Floralia, was held in her honor.

The Goddess Flora

Flora from a fresco in Pompeii

The name Flora ultimately derives from the Indo-European word for flower. It appears that the name Flora was a combination of ancient Latin and Oscan, a tongue native to southern Italy. There is also clear Greek influence in the development of this fertility deity. Some scholars believe that Flora’s true origin is a very ancient Italian fertility goddess.

There is some evidence that the Romans incorporated the worship of the goddess prior the foundation of the Republic. This was quite common, as the Romans tended to adopt gods and deities whom they believed would be useful.

There was a magnificent temple dedicated to Flora in the Circus Maximus, testifying to her importance and influence in the Roman world. She was regarded as one of the fourteen most important gods and goddesses and one of the few with her own flamen (priests or priestesses). 

Flora was associated with vegetation and flowering plants. The Romans honored her in order to ensure her continued blessing on their lands. This was crucial for an ancient people dependent on agriculture. The goddess was worshipped throughout the Roman Republic and into the Roman Empire, until the coming of Christianity. 

The Greek equivalent of Flora was Chloris. Her importance to the Romans can be seen in the many coins that bear her image. The goddess’ name has been used as the botanical term flora and is also a popular girl’s name.

Myths About Flora

Flora and Zephyr, by Jan Brueghel the Elder and Peter Paul Rubens, 1617

There are a number of myths about Flora. Most are recorded in the work of the first-century poet Ovid, who wrote that originally the goddess was a nymph who transformed into Flora after being kissed by Zephyrus, the God of the West Wind. She was depicted as having the power to make both nature and humans more fertile.

In one account, she helped Juno to become pregnant with a child in revenge for Jupiter giving birth to Minerva from his head. Flora did this with a magical plant. In some myths, the goddess Flora was associated with Aphrodite, the goddess of desire and love.

The Floralia

Floralia, by Hobbe Smith, 1898

The festival of Floralia was established around 250 BC and soon became one of the most popular in the Roman calendar. The festival was a five-day affair that fell, in our calendar, in late April and lasted until May.

According to legend, the festival was first instituted on the advice of the Sibylline Books, which were considered prophetic. For the Romans, the festival symbolized the cycle of life, birth, and death. It honored Flora and was a time of dancing, gathering of flowers and the wearing of colorful clothes.

The festival was also an occasion to hold Public Games, which were paid for from fines levied throughout the year. These Games lasted six days. The Games and the festival were both administered by the Roman magistrate, the aedile.

Generally, the Floralia opened with theatrical performances, often mimes that could even include a naked actress. Then came the first day of the Games and at night, a ceremonial sacrifice to Flora. There were great efforts made to make the theatrical events around the festivities enjoyable and in 69 AD a tightrope-walking elephant was part of the celebrations!

The festival gained popularity, prompting Julius Caesar to proclaim the Floralia an official holiday. It is considered an important social event in ancient Roman society, as it fostered a sense of community and allowed people to enjoy themselves after the hardships of winter. 

Some scholars believe that the Floralia was the inspiration for the May Day Festival, which is still popular in many Northern European countries. The goddess Flora was also reverenced by humanists in Renaissance Europe, who featured her in paintings, sculptures, and poetry.

The figure of Flora has been painted by some of the greatest painters in the Western tradition, such as Botticelli and Poussin.

Detail of Flora from Primavera by Botticelli, c. 1482

Conclusion

Flora was an important Roman goddess. The worship and cult of Flora are testament to the importance of the natural life cycle for the ancient Romans. The festival of Floralia help unite ancient Roman society as they came together to celebrate the magnificent of nature and the joy of Spring through art and sport.

References:

Berrens, D., 2019. The meaning of flora. Humanistica Lovaniensia. Journal of Neo-Latin Studies, 68(1), pp.237-249.

Ares: The Greek God of War

by July 29, 2020

Written by Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
In the Ancient World, the most powerful forces that shaped human destiny were personified by polytheistic religions in the form of Gods. In this way, the ancients believed that they could influence impersonal forces and powers. One of these was war. In the past, conflict was a constant fact of everyday life, and peace was rare. This is what made the Greek God of War, Ares, so influential in mythology and religion.
The origin of the myth of Ares
Ares was the son of Zeus and Hera, was regarded as one of the Twelve Olympians, and was one of the major deities of the Greek world. The etymology of the name Ares means curse or ruin. Unlike many other religions, such as Roman mythology, the Greeks did not worship war. They were very ambivalent about the God who personified for them the power and bravery needed for victory in war. For the Greeks, he represented the worse in war and conflict.
Ares was worshipped, it appears, by the Mycenaean Greeks from at least 1200 BC. In some sources he was born in Thrace, which was an area populated with fearsome, war-like people. This god was never popular and there were very few temples and shrines to him. He was mainly worshipped by armies who obviously needed his support in battle and on campaigns. There were some archaic practices and rituals associated with this god, such as the sacrifice of a dog in the night.
Ares

Helmeted young warrior, so-called Ares. Roman copy from a Greek original—this is a plaster replica, the original is now stored in the Museum of the Villa. Canope at the Villa Adriana

Ares had a sister named Eris, who was the divine personification of discord and disorder. The character of Ares was not an attractive one. He was touchy and quick to anger and was something of a bully. However, during the war, he always favored those who displayed the greatest courage on the field of battle. The Greeks believed that he provided soldiers with the courage and strength to win in a war.
However, the support of Ares did not always guarantee victory, as is shown in the Iliad. The god of war did not save the Trojans from their catastrophic defeat. While many Greeks were ambivalent about this deity, that was not always the case. In Sparta, which was a society dedicated to war, he was revered as the model soldier and a paragon of manly virtue.
The loves of Ares
The god of war was, like other Greek gods, a serial adulterer. He never married, but his consort was Aphrodite, the Goddess of War. This union was intended to demonstrate that both war and love were forms of strife and struggle. However, Aphrodite was married to Hephaestus, the god of metalworking, a fact that would come back to haunt them.
Ares

Vatican, Rome, Italy. Statue of Ares, Scopas’s influence. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection.

The affair between Ares and the Goddess of Love was public, and the couple had six children. They had the attributes of one or both of their parents. For example, Eros, the God of Sex and Love, was their son and so was Phobos, the personification of fear.
Ares also had affairs with two of the Muses, a Titan, and one of the Furies with whom he had more children. Then he had several affairs and more offspring with semi-divine and human lovers. In one myth, Ares is the father of The Amazons, a race of warrior women, who were probably modeled on Scythian female warriors.
Stories of Ares
There are several tales related to Ares in Greek myths, often disrespectful of the deity of war and prowess in battle. In the Odyssey, Ares and Aphrodite are trapped in an iron net created by Hephaestus, enraged about his wife’s affair with a being he despised.
Ares and Aphrodite

Mars and Venus Surprised by Vulcan (1827) by Alexandre Charles Guillemot (detail).

The Love of Ares and Aphrodite Crowned with flowers …
how the two had first made love in Hephaestus’ mansion,
all in secret. Ares had showered her with gifts
and showered Hephaestus’ marriage bed with shame
but a messenger ran to tell the god of fire—
Helios, lord of the sun, who’d spied the couple
lost in each other’s arms and making love.
Hephaestus, hearing the heart-wounding story,
bustled toward his forge, brooding on his revenge—
planted the huge anvil on its block and beat out chains,
not to be slipped or broken, all to pin the lovers on the spot.

Also in Homer, Ares’ parents, Zeus and Hera, are shown as hating him, because of all the carnage that he caused. He also comes into conflict with Poseidon because his son had raped one of the God of War’s daughters.
Ares played an important role in the Trojan War, fighting alongside the Trojans—his intervention almost helped them to victory. However, Athena, the Goddess of military strategy, with the backing of Zeus, entered the fray on behalf of the Greeks and this forced Ares into a humiliating retreat.
Ares

Relief of Mars Ultor, 26–14 BCE; in the Cleveland Museum of Art. Source: Britannica.

They were not long about beginning, and Ares piercer of shields opened the battle. Sword in hand he sprang at once upon Athena and reviled her […] As he spoke he struck her on the terrible tasseled aegis—so terrible that not even can Jove’s lightning pierce it. Here did murderous Ares strike her with his great spear. She drew back and with her strong hand seized a stone that was lying on the plain—great and rugged and black—which men of old had set for the boundary of a field. With this she struck Ares on the neck, and brought him down. Nine roods did he cover in his fall, and his hair was all soiled in the dust, while his armour rang rattling round him. But Athena laughed and vaunted over him saying, “Idiot, have you not learned how far stronger I am than you, but you must still match yourself against me? Thus do your mother’s curses now roost upon you, for she is angry and would do you mischief because you have deserted the Achaeans and are helping the Trojans.” ~ Iliad, Book XXI
In another myth, Hades, the god of the dead, is outwitted by Sisyphus and imprisoned. With Hades in chains, nobody could die and war thus became meaningless. This, of course, directly affected Ares who rushed to set Hades free, delivering Sisyphus to him.
Ares and his influence
The Greek deity was very important even though he was not popular. For example, the Athenian court, the Areopagus, was built on a hill dedicated to this God. Ares was very influential in the Roman conception of Mars. Over time, the old Latin God of battle and valor in war became identical with the Greek God.
Areopagus

The Areopagus as viewed from the Acropolis.

Ares was often depicted with a helmet and a lance, and his symbol was the dog. The lover of Aphrodite and the personification of war has become a popular figure, appearing in movies, television series, and even video games.
Conclusion
The Greek God of War was one of the most important of all the deities in the Pantheon. He was not a popular God and he represented the worst aspects of war. As a result, the myths are not respectful of this deity and this signifies the hatred the Greeks had for conflict and battle.
References
  • Graves, Robert (1990). The Greeks Myths. London: Pelican.
  • Homer (2000). The Iliad. London: Penguin
 

Morpheus: The God of Dreams

by August 28, 2019

By Edward Whelan, Contributing Writer, Classical Wisdom
Mythology often personifies aspects of nature and life, transferring these elements into gods. It should be no surprise then that our state of repose – something we do for a third of our life – is no exception. In the Greek world, the god of dreams was Morpheus and in some stories and fables he is also associated with sleep or unconsciousness.
He was the son of the god of Sleep, Hypnos, and his mother was Pasithea, the goddess of relaxation but also paradoxically of hallucinations. Moreover, his grandmother was Nyx, the fearsome deity of Night. All of these ‘gods’ contribute and culminate in the characteristics that we associate with dreaming.
Morpheus Sleeping

A painting of Morpheus sleeping in his cave, by Jean-Bernard Restout

Morpheus: The Dream-maker
Hypnos had many children, but he selected Morpheus to be the god of Dreams because of his uncanny ability to assume forms and mimic living beings.
Morpheus was assisted by the Oneiroi (Greek for Dreams) who were all his brothers. They helped him to create the dreams of humans. One sibling, Icelus, made the dreams seem real, while another, Phobetor, was responsible for phobic or terrifying dreams. Then Phantasus, the third brother, created fantastic and surreal dreams. Morpheus was their leader. As a result, he ensured that he alone oversaw the dreams of monarchs and heroes. Moreover, he could even appear to the Gods in Olympus. Unlike his brothers, all of Morpheus’ dreams were true and many prophetic.
Asleep with his half brother

The god of sleep and his half-brother death, by John William Waterhouse

Morpheus is derived from the Greek for ‘form’ or ‘shape’. He came to people in sleep and assumed the forms that people dreamt. Morpheus was an artist of dreams, he could shape images and visions and make them seem alive. He could perfectly imitate a person, their voice, their walk, mannerism, and moods. There was one limitation to Morpheus; he could only transform himself into a male figure.
In the arms of Morpheus
The Ancient Greeks had a saying regarding the ‘arms of Morpheus’. When in the embrace of the god, an individual would enjoy deep, peaceful sleep; they would also dream. These were dreams about the future and upcoming events.
Morpheus did not merely make people dream of simple and everyday things. He was doing so much more. Morpheus was a messenger of the gods and he was transmitting, through dreams, messages from the divinities. The Greeks, and later the Romans, believed that many dreams were portents and omens. As a result, the god of dreams was a very important figure in the classical world and was highly revered.
In the arms of Morpheus

A 19TH Century painting of a girl in the arms of Morpheus

Messenger of the Gods
Morpheus was a winged being. He had two wings on his back that allowed him to travel great distances and at great speed. This allowed him to visit so many bedrooms at night. These wings were a gift from his uncle, Thanthos, the god of Death and one of the most powerful of all the ancient deities. Some Greeks believed that Morpheus was possibly a messenger of death and that he could appear to predict the death of a person.
The god of dreams was very protective of his family. His father, the god of sleep, enjoyed tricking Zeus, which meant he often incurred the wrath of the king of gods. Morpheus would carry Hypnos to safety to a place known to the Greeks as the Dream World.
Dreamworld

Fresco in the gallery of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence: Charon’s boat, the sleep of Night and Morpheus by Luca Giordano (1684–1686)

The Dream World of Morpheus
The place where Morpheus and his family lived was known as the Dream World of Morpheus. Here the god of sleep, his wife and their many children lived. When not appearing to humans in the form of dreams, Morpheus would sleep. A lot. According to the stories, his bedroom was a cave and it was filled with poppy seeds. This was used in ancient times to produce primitive pain killers, which caused drowsiness. The drug morphine is derived from Morpheus.
The only entrance to the world was through the Gates of Morpheus. The River of Forgetfulness and the River of Oblivion, two characteristics of sleep and dreams, were found in Morpheus’ Dream World. The realm of dreams was guarded by two monsters who would appear when any man or god came close to the rivers. However, the Olympian Gods, such as Apollo and Zeus, were allowed to enter the Dream World of Morpheus.
Morpheus: Minor but Powerful
Morpheus was among the busiest of the Gods, as he was constantly forming dreams for men and deities. In most version of the myths, he did not have a partner like most of the other gods, presumably because he was too busy. Some interpretations of the myth have him as the husband of Iris, the goddess of the rainbow and another messenger of the Gods.
Morepheus and Iris

Morpheus awakening as Iris draws near by René-Antoine Houasse (1690)

Morpheus was one of the minor gods, but he was very powerful. This is because he personified the importance of dreams in life and their often hidden messages and insights. The myth of Morpheus allowed the Greeks and Romans to understand dreams and the role that they play in life. The god of dreams still fascinates writers to this day. A character in Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel, Sandman often assumes the name of the deity, and perhaps most famously, the character Morpheus in the Matrix was inspired by the son of Hypnos.

The Greek Gods of the Countryside

by July 8, 2019

Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Athena… these are just a few of the names that Greek mythology lovers know, as they are no doubt aware of the standard Greek pantheon, the Olympians. They get all the air time, after all, with their epic tales of love, murder, incest, revenge…and everything in between.
The Titans, likewise, grab headlines with their creation stories… They gave fire to man, hold up the earth, and father the sun, the moon and the dawn.
While these deities were held in high esteem by the ancients, the Greeks also worshipped smaller, kinder, more…natural gods – the gods of the countryside. Not surprisingly, these represent water, trees and beasts. Some of these you will have heard about, but others, perhaps, are a little less known:
1. Pan
Pan and Daphnis

Pan teaching his eromenos, the shepherd Daphnis, to play the pan flute, Roman copy of Greek original c. 100 BCE, found in Pompeii

This satyr-god is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, and can often be seen with flute in hand. Being a rustic god of mountain wilds, Pan was not worshipped in temples or other built edifices, but in natural settings, usually caves or grottoes such as the one on the north slope of the Acropolis of Athens. Pan is connected to fertility and the season of spring. The ancient Greeks also considered Pan to be the god of theatrical criticism.
The worship of Pan began in Arcadia which was always the principal seat of his worship. Arcadia was a district of mountain people, culturally separated from other Greeks and Arcadian hunters used to scourge the statue of the god if they had been disappointed in the chase.
The word panic ultimately derives from the god’s name, as his angry shouts determined victories.
2. Naiads
Painting of Naiad

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse, 1893; a water nymph approaches the sleeping Hylas.

A type of female spirit, this nymph presided over fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of fresh water.
Naiads were often the object of archaic local cults, worshipped as essential to humans. Boys and girls at coming-of-age ceremonies dedicated their childish locks to the local naiad of the spring. In places like Lerna their waters’ ritual cleansings were credited with magical medical properties. Animals were ritually drowned there. Oracles might be situated by ancient springs.
The Naiads are distinct from river gods as well as salt water gods.
3. Nereids
Nereid Sculpture

Nereid riding a sea-bull (latter 2nd century BC)

Sea nymphs were female spirits of sea waters. The Nereids often accompany Poseidon, the god of the sea, and can be friendly and helpful to sailors, like the Argonauts in their search for the Golden Fleece. Famous examples include the 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris, sisters to Nerites.
4. Oceanids
Oceanides

Les Oceanides Les Naiades de la mer. Gustave Doré, 1860s

Also called Oceanides, they are the nymphs who were the three thousand (a number interpreted as meaning “innumerable”) daughters of the Titans Oceanus and Tethys. The Oceanid nymphs were associated with water, as the personification of springs. Hesiod says they are “dispersed far and wide” and everywhere “serve the earth and the deep waters”.
5. Dryads
Dryad

The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan.

A tree nymph or tree spirit in Greek mythology, Drys signifies “oak” in Greek. Dryads are specifically the nymphs of oak trees, but the term has come to be used for all tree nymphs in general, or all human-tree hybrids in fantasy. They were normally considered to be very shy creatures except around the goddess Artemis, who was known to be a friend to most nymphs.
6. Satyrs
Satyr and Nymph

Ancient relief carving from the Naples National Archaeological Museum depicting a fight between satyr and a nymph, a theme which became popular during the Hellenistic Era

Also known as a silenos, a satyr is a male nature spirit with ears and a tail resembling those of a horse, as well as a permanent, exaggerated erection. They were companions of the god Dionysus and were believed to inhabit remote locales, such as woodlands, mountains, and pastures. They often attempted to seduce or rape nymphs and mortal women alike, usually with little success.

Aphrodite: The Original Honey Trap

by April 23, 2019

There’s a thin line between love and hate, but there’s hardly a crack of daylight between Love and War.
Aphrodite, born from a pair of discarded testicles, had a perfect body, and a magic girdle that made everyone fall in love with her. She also had a libido to rival that of Zeus.
Meanwhile, Ares, with his bad-temper, rippling muscles, blood-lust and love of drink was the dumb jock of Mount Olympus.
Unfortunately for Ares, the problem with being a dumb jock, is that you can easily be outsmarted by your lover’s husband. Especially if he is the God of Smiths, the calf-crippled Hephaestus.
Aphrodite and Ares had been making love all night at his palace in Thrace. Losing track of time, Dawn arose fresh and rosy-fingered followed by Helios, the Sun God. As his warm rays caressed the bodies of the busy lovers, he was given a personal peep-show of two of the most gorgeous creatures in existence locked in a passionate embrace.
With such a red-hot piece of gossip as this to spread, Helios immediately went running to Hephaestus and told him everything.
Aphrodite with Ares

Aphrodite with Ares

Hephaestus, poor lame Hephaestus, wanted to get even. Knowing he couldn’t best Ares physically, he set a trap for him.
Retiring to his workshop he fashioned a bronze hunting-net, as fine as gossamer, but strong enough to hold the wrathful and writhing God of War.
On telling his wife he was off for a holiday to sunny Lemnos, Aphrodite seized upon her opportunity for a bit of ‘how’s your father’ in the comfort of her own home.
Returning from his sojourn at the beach, Hephaestus walked into his bedroom to find his wife and her lover in bed, naked, trapped under the net.
His plan had worked! Brains had bested brawn and the adulterers were at the mercy of the cuckold.
hephaestus aphrodite

Hephaestus and Aphrodite

But what next? You’ve caught the lovers in the act. They’re naked, trapped defenceless and vulnerable. What steps do you take? What demands do you make? What revenge do you enact?
Of course the obvious answer is you invite all of your friends around to have a gawk. And gawk they did!
The gods flocked to the scene and stood around the embarrassed and bemused couple. Zeus was shocked, Poseidon aroused, whilst Hermes and Apollo behaved like the relative juveniles that there were:

“You’d swap places with Ares right now, wouldn’t you?” Sniggered Apollo.
“Too right I would! Even if there were three nets!” Replied the salivating Hermes.

The incandescent Hephaestus refused to release the couple until he had been repaid his marriage gifts. Zeus, in a bout of incongruous prudishness, was so disgusted by the whole affair that he would have nothing to do with it.
Poseidon offered surety that Ares would pay the debt.
“And if he doesn’t, I will expect you to take his place!” Bellowed the outraged Hephaestus.
“What under the net?” Giggled Apollo.
The couple were released.
Ares returned to Thrace – he didn’t repay the debt.
Aphrodite, grateful for Poseidon’s help in releasing her, bore him two sons. And grateful for Hermes’ compliments, she bore him a son too.
Poseidon, happy to marry Aphrodite, didn’t cough up the money. Hephaistos, still in love, didn’t divorce her.
Aphrodite went for a swim in the sea at Paphos, thus renewing her virginity.