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The Dryads

Tales beyond belief

Dryads and HamadryadsDiscover fascinating information about the beautiful, supernatural wood and tree nymphs referred to as Dryads who were believed by the ancient Greeks to inhabit the forests and featured in the legends and mythology of Ancient Greece. Dryads were minor goddesses of nature, specifically the forest, woods and groves. The Hamadryads were Tree Nymphs who were born bonded to a particular type of tree.

The Dryads were therefore the patrons of forests and trees in general, and distinguished from the Hamadryads, who each inhabited each a particular tree.

Definition of the Dryads
The meaning and definition of Dryads are as follows: Definition of Dryads: The Dryads were minor goddesses and beautiful nymphs who were depicted as young maidens. Dryads were originally the spirits of oak trees (from the Greek word 'dryos' meaning “tree”) but the name was later applied to all tree and wood nymphs. Dryads were often depicted in myth and art accompanied, or being pursued by, their male counterparts, the satyrs.

Definition of the Hamadryads
The meaning and definition of Hamadryads are as follows: The Hamadryads were supernatural tree nymphs, spirits of nature that took the form of beautiful young maidens who only lived as long as the trees they inhabited. The name Hamadryads derives from the Greek word 'dryos' meaning “tree” and the Greek word 'hama' meaning "together". The Hamadryads were eight Dryad nymph daughters of the forest spirit Oxylos ("He of the Forest") and Hamadryas a daughter of Oreios (“He of the Mountains”).

Tree and Wood Nymphs
The Forest, Tree and Wood nymphs were called the Dryads. The Hamadryads were born bonded to a particular tree. The names given to Hamadryads were:

  • Daphnaeae (Laurel tree)
  • Epimeliades (Apple tree)
  • Kissiae (Ivy)
  • Meliae (Ash tree)
  • Balanos (Oak)
  • Kraneia (Dogwood)
  • Morea (Mulberry)
  • Aigeiros (Poplar)
  • Ptelea (Elm)

Information about the Dryads
According to the ancient Greek Mythology every mountain, valley, plain, lake, river, grove, and sea was provided with a minor god or goddess, whose special duty was assigned by the powerful Olympian gods. These included the Dryads, or wood and tree nymphs, who were believed to inhabit every wood, forest and tree. The beautiful Dryads of the woodlands were considered to be quite fragile as opposed to the Oreads who were the strong nymphs of the mountains who were tougher, tetchier and also immortal. The hamadryad tree nymphs were not immortal and were believed to perish when the tree they inhabited died. The very lives of the dryads and hamadryads were therefore irrevocably connected with that of the trees. Should the tree perish, then the tree nymph dies with it. If this is caused by a mortal, the gods would punish them for the deed. The dryads and hamadryads would also punish any thoughtless mortal who had somehow injured a tree. It was therefore deemed to be an impious act to wantonly destroy a tree, and in some aggravated cases was severely punished, as recorded in the Myth of Erisichthon. Other stories and legends about Dryads taken from Greek Mythology are told in the Myth of Rhoecus, the Myth of Vertumnus and Pomona and the Myth of Diana and Actaeon.

Names of Famous Dryads in Greek Mythology
The names of some of the Dryads mentioned in Greek Mythology are detailed in the following list:

  • Aigeirus was a Hamadryad nymph of the poplar tree.
  • Ampelus was a Hamadryad nymph of the vine.
  • Balanus was a Hamadryad nymph of the acorn tree
  • Chrysopeleia was a Hamadryad nymph rescued from the waters of a flooding river by Arcas
  • Dryope was a Hamadryad nymph who was transformed into a poplar-tree nymph by her Hamadryad sister-in-laws
  • Erato was a prophetic Dryad nymph
  • Hesperides were the three guardians of the golden apples in a beautiful garden
  • Carya was a Hamadryad nymph of the chestnut tree
  • Cranea was a Hamadryad nymph of the cherry tree
  • Morea was a Hamadryad nymph of the mulberry tree
  • Ptelea was a Hamadryad nymph of the elm tree
  • Syke was a Hamadryad nymph of the fig tree
  • Tithorea was a Dryad who gave her name to the town of Tithorea
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