Definition of the Naiades
Who were the Naiades of Ancient Greek mythology? The meaning and definition of Naiades are as follows: Definition of Naiades: The ancient Greek Naiades were minor goddesses, water nymphs, who were the daughters of the Potamoi (river gods) and presided over freshwater waterways such as streams, brooks, springs, wells, fountains, wetlands, rivers and lakes.
Names of the groups of Naiades
The water nymphs who presided over all the different forms of fresh water were designated the general name of Naiades, however, five distinct groups of Naiades were given specific names:
- The Water Nymphs of Springs were called the Pegaeae
- The Water Nymphs of Marshes were called the Eleionomae
- The Water Nymphs of Lakes were called the Limnatides
- The Water Nymphs of Rivers and Streams were called the Potameides
- The Water Nymphs of Fountains were called the Crinaeae
The Naiades and the Goddess Artemis
Twenty of the Naiades were selected as attendants and members of the retinue of the goddess Artemis. They were regarded as the divine nurses and the protectors of the young. The role of the Naiades included overseeing the passage into adulthood. In ancient Greece coming-of-age ceremonies were celebrated during which the childish locks of boys and girls were dedicated to the local naiad of the spring.
The Naiades were not Immortal
The Naiades had had extremely long lifetimes, but they were not considered to be immortal. They were so closely connected to the body of water they presided over that, if it dried up, the naiad water nymph would also die.
Worshipping the Naiades
The Naiades were worshipped by the ancient Greeks as the suppliers of life giving waters and for the healing powers that were closely associated with springs. Some of the waters they presided over were believed to give poetic inspiration to those who drank from them. The Naiades water nymphs were also believed to have the power of prophecy and divination and were allied to the oracles of Ancient Greece. One of the forms taken in the worship of the Naiades was to make sacrifices, such as lambs, goats and birds, near the waters an individual Naiad presided over. Some were ritually drowned in the waters of the Naiad. These divinities were regarded by the Greeks as special benefactors to mankind and were considered local patrons of poetry and song.
The Naiades - Information about the Naiades
The Naiades are believed to be the daughters of one of the Nine Muses, called Terpsichore and her consort Achelous who was the principle river god of the Potamoi. However, myths changed over time and they are also referred to as the daughters of Poseidon (Roman Neptune). Poseidon was once referred to as ancient river god, rather than sea god, during the period when the ancient Greeks believed that the River Oceanus was a great, fresh-water stream that encircled the entire flat earth. The River Oceanus was believed to be the source of all fresh waters on earth and from its stream all the rivers and clouds drew their waters. The River Styx, which encircled the Underworld, also drew their waters from the River Oceanus. Because of the connection with deep, dark waters the Naiades were both worshipped and feared.
The Naiades - the Water Lily
The name of the Naiades was given to the water lily, which is also called a water nymph, a submerged aquatic plant of the genus Naias. The Naiades water nymphs are therefore connected in idea with those flowers whose broad, green leaves and yellow cups float upon the surface of the water, like the Naiades water nymphs, as though conscious of their grace and beauty.
The Naiades Water Nymphs in Greek Myths - Hylas
The mythology of the Naiades feature in a story about Hercules in a myth relating to the journey of Jason and the Argonauts. The hero Hercules was extremely fond of a young, handsome youth called Hylas. Hylas went to draw water from a beautiful spring. A group of Naiades inhabited the spring and lured Hylas with the sound of their silvery voices. Leaning towards the water he was pulled into its depths by the Naiades and was never seen again. The story of Hylas and the Naiads can be read in the Myth of Hylas.
The Naiades in Greek Myths - Arethusa
The mythology of the Naiad water nymph called Arethusa, tells how the infatuated, lustful river god, Alpheus pursued her. The story of Arethusa can be read in the Myth of Proserpine.
The Naiades in Greek Myths - Undine
Undine was a water nymph who had an unfaithful mortal lover. He swore to her that his "every waking breath would be a testimony of his love". However her lover was unfaithful and she cursed that if he should fall asleep, he would forget to breathe. Eventually, he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion, and his breathing stopped. This myth has found a place as the name for a medical condition. A serious sleep disorder is called Undine's Curse and is fatal if untreated. People afflicted with Undine's Curse classically suffer from respiratory arrest during sleep.
The Naiades Water Nymphs in Greek Mythology - The Seducers and the Seduced
Naiades were accredited with great beauty and, like all nymphs, had strong sexual allure. They featured in many myths and legends of Ancient Greece as both the seducers and the seduced. Mortals and gods who took one of the Naiads as a lover enjoyed the pleasures that they had to offer but care had to be taken with these nymphs as they were both jealous and vengeful. Classical Greek literature contains many myths, legends and stories of their love affairs with gods and mortals and their resulting children. These myths about Naiades provided explanations of the origins of immortals and mortals, including the legendary kings and families. Details of the names of Naiades and their stories and myths are detailed in the following list:
Aegina: The myth of the Naiad Aegina: She was a daughter of the river god Asopus and the nymph Metope. Her two children were Menoetius by Actor, and Aeacus by Zeus.
Aegle: The myth of the Naiades Aegle: She was the most beautiful of all the Naiads, the daughter of Zeus and Neaera, lover of Helios and mother of the Charities.
Arethusa: The myth of the Naiad Arethusa and Alpheus, her unfaithful lover
Batia: The myth of the Naiades Batia: She was the wife of King Oebalus of Sparta, mother of Tyndareus, Hippocoon, and Icarius.
Caliadne: The myth of the Naiad Caliadne: She was a naiad of the river Nile and wife of Aegyptus, bearing him twelve sons. These sons married the daughters of her sister Polyxo, and were murdered by them
Cyrene: The myth of the Naiad Cyrene: She was the daughter of the Naiad, Creusa, and Hypsaeus, King of the Lapiths. the daughter of Hypseus, King of the Lapiths. She wrestled a lion and Apollo fell in love with her and kidnapped her. They had had two sons: Aristaeus and Idmon
Creusa: The myth of the Naiades Creusa: She was the mother of Cyrene and daughter of Gaia
Lilaea: The myth of the Naiad Lilaea: She lived in the Cephissus River. The town of Lilaea in Phocis and the asteroid Lilaea are named after her.
Metope: The myth of the Naiades Metope: She married the river god, Asopus and was the mother of 20 daughters including Aegina.
Minthe: The myth of the Naiades Minthe – Naiad of the river Coctys. After her death Hades changed her into a minth plant.
Nomia: The myth of the Naiad Nomia – Nomia, fell in love with a handsome shepherd named Daphnis and could not do enough for him. He repaid her love with unfaithfulness and she repaid his inconstancy by blinding him. Nomian mountains named after her.
Periboea: The myth of the Naiades Periboea: She was the wife of Icarius and gave him five sons
Polyxo: The myth of the Naiades Polyxo: She was a naiad of the river Nile and wife of Danaus and bore him twelve daughters who married the twelve sons of Aegyptus and her sister Caliadne and murdered them on their wedding nights
Undine: The myth of the Naiad Undine - see above