Greek heroes such as Hercules and Perseus both undertook quests to retrieve the golden apples of the Hesperides. The name 'Hesperides' derives from the Greek meaning 'daughters of the west' and is mistakenly transferred to name of the garden itself.
Definition of the Hesperides
Who were the Hesperides of Ancient Greek mythology? The meaning and definition of Hesperides are as follows: Definition of Hesperides: The Hesperides were minor goddesses and nymphs and according to Greek Mythology were the daughters of Hesperus, a goddess of the evening star and Atlas, the god of endurance who held the weight of the world on his shoulders. They were reputed to be the most fair and beautiful of all the nymphs and young goddesses and the and fabled possessors of a wonderful garden producing golden apples that were guarded by a fierce dragon or serpent. The names of the Hesperides were Hespera, Aegle and Erytheis.
The Garden of the Hesperides & the Golden Apples of Immortality
The Garden of the Hesperides was the sacred garden or orchard of Hera that provided the Olympian Gods with the golden apples of immortality. According to ancient Greek mythology eating one of the golden apples made a normal human (mortal) immortal, although they did not possess the powers and gifts of the gods until they tasted ambrosia, the food of the gods. The Garden of the Hesperides was given to Hera by the Titan goddess Gaia as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus as her husband. The imagined location of the blissful Garden of Hesperides was believed to be at the western extremity of the known world near the Atlas mountains in North Africa at the edge of the encircling Oceanus, the world-ocean. The ancient Greeks believed that the River Oceanus was a great, fresh-water stream that encircled the entire flat earth.
The Hesperides were also called the Atlantides
The Atlantides was another name given to the Hesperides. Legend tells that Atlas, was made rightful king of the the island of Atlantis and the "Sea of Atlas" surrounding it (that was called the Atlantic Ocean in his honor). He was given the mountain of his birth and the surrounding area as part of his kingdom. The imagined location of the Garden of the Hesperides the western extremity of the known world near the Atlas mountains in North Africa. This explains why the Hesperides were also referred to as the Atlantides.
Information about the Hesperides - Hesperus
According to ancient Greek legend and mythology the father of the Hesperides was Hesperus the god of the Evening Star, the planet Venus in the evening. He was the son of the dawn goddess Eos and Astraeus the Titan-god of the dusk. Hesperus was the brother of Eosphorus, the god of Venus in the morning (the planet Venus is visible both at dawn and sunset). His daughters, the Hesperides, were named after Hesperus. Many of the groups of nymphs and minor goddesses in Greek mythology were named after their father: the Oceanides were named after the sea god Oceanus, the Nereids were the daughters of the sea god Nereus. The Hesperides were believed to be the half-sisters of Calypso, Hyas, the Hyades, and the Pleiades.
The Hesperides - Keepers of Garden of the Hesperides & the Golden Apples
The three lovely daughters of Hesperus, the Hesperides, were selected by Hera to have the honor of tending her sacred garden. Each of the Hesperides had specific roles in the beautiful garden:
- Hespera: The meaning of the name Hespera is 'Light of Evening'. Hespera was in charge of watering the sacred apple tree
- Aegle: The meaning of the name Aegle is 'light, radiance, glory' in reference to sunrise. Aegle was in charge of polishing the Golden Apples so they shone with Heavenly light
- Erytheis: The meaning of the name Erytheis is 'The Red One', in reference to sunset. Erytheis was in charge of pruning and tending the sacred apple tree
The Hesperides - Ladon the Serpent
The Hesperides were given the task of tending to the grove and spent their time happily singing and dancing when their attention was not devoted to gardening. However, they occasionally plucked the golden apples for themselves. Not trusting them, Hera also placed in the garden a never-sleeping, hundred-headed dragon, or serpent, named Ladon to guard the golden apple tree. The serpent Ladon was the off-spring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna.
Legends about the Garden of the Hesperides
The legend of the Garden of the Hesperides and the golden apples of immortality were the basis of many myths involving the quests of the 'Heroes' of Greek mythology. The Eleventh Labor of Hercules was to slay the guarding serpent and get some of the golden apples. In another myth the Hesperides was visited by Perseus who had been told by the Graiae that the Hesperides could help him find the Gorgon Medusa. Another legend involves Atlas and Perseus. In the Myth of the Apple of Discord, Eris, the goddess of Discord managed to enter the Garden of the Hesperides, pluck a golden apple and inscribe it "To the most beautiful". This started an argument between the Olympian goddesses in effect causing the Trojan Wars.