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Nymphs

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The Nymphs
The Nymphs, were certain inferior goddesses, inhabiting the mountains, woods, valleys, rivers, seas etc. said to be daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. According to ancient mythology, the whole universe was full of these nymphs, who are distinguished into several ranks and classes, though the general division of them is into celestial and terrestrial:

  • The Celestial Nymphs, called Uraniae, were supposed to govern the heavenly bodies or spheres
  • The Terrestrial Nymphs, called Epigeiae, presided over the several parts of the inferior world; these were again subdivided into those of the water, and those of the earth.

The Nymphs of the water were ranged under several classes:

  • The Oceanides, or Nymphs of the ocean
  • The Nereids, daughters of Nereus and Doris
  • The Naiads, Nymphs of the fountains
  • The Ephydriades, also Nymphs of the fountains
  • The Limniades, Nymphs of the lakes

The Nymphs of the earth were likewise divided into different classes:

  • The Oreades, or Nymphs of the mountains
  • The Napaeae, Nymphs of the meadows
  • The Dryads and Hamadryads, Nymphs of the woods and forests

Besides these, there were Nymphs who took their names from particular countries, rivers etc. as the Dardanides, Tiberides, Ismenides etc.

Pausanias reports it as the opinion of the ancient poets that the Nymphs were not altogether free from death, or immortal, but that their years wore in a manner innumerable; that prophecies were inspired by the Nymphs, as well as the other deities; and that they had foretold the destruction of several cities: they were likewise esteemed as the authors of divination.

Meursius is of opinion, that the Greeks borrowed their notion of these divinities from the Phoenicians, for nympha, in their language, signifying soul, the Greeks imagined that the souls of the ancient inhabitants of Greece had become Nymphs; particularly that the souls of those who had inhabited the woods were called Dryads; those who inhabited the mountains, Oreades; those who dwelt on the sea-coasts, Nereids; and, lastly, those who had their place of abode near rivers or fountains, Naiads. Though goats were sometimes sacrificed to the Nymphs, yet their stated offerings were milk, oil, honey and wine. They were represented as young and beautiful virgins, and dressed in conformity to the character ascribed to them.

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