Nymph

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This article is about the creatures of Greek mythology. For other uses, see Nymph (disambiguation).
Image:Rape Hylas Massimo.jpg
A fourth-century Roman depiction of Hylas and the Nymphs

In Greek mythology, a nymph is any member of a large class of female nature entities, either bound to a particular location or landform or joining the retinue of a god or goddess. Nymphs were the frequent target of lusty satyrs.

"The idea that rivers are gods and springs divine nymphs," Walter Burkert remarks (Burkert III.3.3) "is deeply rooted not only in poetry but in belief and ritual; the worship of these deities is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality." Nymphs are personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature, most often identified with the life-giving outflow of springs. The Greek word νύμφη has "bride" and "veiled" among its meanings: hence, a marriagable young woman. Other readers refer the word (and also Latin nubere and German Knospe) to a root expressing the idea of "swelling" (according to Hesychius, one of the meanings of νύμφη is "rose-bud"). The home of the nymphs is on mountains and in groves, by springs and rivers, in valleys and cool grottoes. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities: the huntress Artemis; the prophetic Apollo; the reveller and god of wine, Dionysus; and with rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes (as the god of shepherds).

The symbolic marriage with a nymph of a patriarchal leader, often the eponym of a people, is repeated endlessly in Greek origin myths; clearly such a union lent authority to the archaic king and to his line.

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[edit] Nymph classifications

The different species of nymph are sometimes distinguished according to the different spheres of nature with which they were connected. However, many of these distinctions may not have existed in popular belief at any time, being late inventions. As Rose (1959, p. 173) states, "the fact is that all these names are simply feminine adjectives, agreeing with the substantive nympha, and there was no orthodox and exhaustive classification of these shadowy beings." He mentions (pp. 172–3) dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees, and naiads as nymphs of water, but no others specifically.

Thus, the following is not a Greek classification, but simply a handy modern guide:

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Aquatic deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Nymphs

[edit] Foreign adaptations

The Greek nymphs were spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and the difficulty of transferring their cult may be seen in the complicated myth that brought Arethusa to Sicily. Among the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Cavmentis, Fontus), while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water-goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of name, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The mythologies of classicizing Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cult of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class their sphere of influence was restricted, and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.

[edit] Depictions in popular culture

Unlike mermaids, few nymphs have been depicted on film, in television, or in other forms of mass media and popular culture. Among them are:

[edit] See also

[edit] Footnotes

[edit] References

bg:Нимфа ca:Nimfa cs:Nymfy da:Nymfe (mytologi) de:Nymphe el:Νύμφες es:Ninfa eo:Nimfoj fr:Nymphe grecque it:Ninfa (mitologia) he:נימפה lb:Nymph lt:Nimfa nl:Nimf (mythologie) ja:ニンフ no:Nymfe (mytologi) pl:Nimfa (mitologia) pt:Ninfa (mitologia) ro:Nimfe ru:Нимфы sk:Nymfa (mytológia) sl:Nimfa sr:Нимфа fi:Nymfit sv:Nymf th:นางอัปสร tr:Nymph uk:Німфи

Nymph

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